My trip with Uncle Willie

In August of 1996, I went to visit my Uncle Willie in Scott Valley, Siskiyou County CA. My family had been visiting the valley at least annually all my life, as this is where my mom grew up. Her parents were born and raised there, and their parents had lived there before them, and even some of their parents had lived there. Everyone in the valley is some kind of relative, it seems.

After my grandmother died in 1993, the visits became fewer, although I stayed in contact with Uncle Willie by mail. Soon a few years had slipped by and I realized I hadn’t been down to see him since Grandma’s death three years earlier. It was time.

On this trip, however, instead of staying there to visit with him in his home, I took him on a road trip. Willie was in his 70s and it was getting harder for him to drive, and this was a trip he’d always wanted to take.

Uncle Willie and I had shared a passion for genealogy for many years. Like me, he enjoyed the mystery, the detective work, the thrill of discovery. Sometimes he seemed to particularly relish finding out bits of information before I did. And of course, those who knew Willie knew he liked to be the one who knew. Sometimes he and I would spar on points of family history. I was the stickler for documentation, and Willie was the one who just knew. When I would ask him what proof he had, he kept his documentation to himself and claimed he just knew it to be true. He trusted his hunches, and sometimes they even paid off. He lived in a remote location on a limited income and was not able to go on genealogy road trips. Despite this, he had amassed an incredible amount of information on the family tree. He corresponded with many people throughout the country in his continual search for ancestors. He honestly did know a lot about the family and had a terrific memory for names and dates. He had collected many, many family photos over the years, and had put together an album of family information and obituaries on the Eastlicks and collateral family lines. He was active in the Siskiyou County Genealogy Society and was the editor of their quarterly newsletter for many years.

One of the goals I shared with Uncle Willie was to find the gravestone of our ancestor, Hannah (Stryker) Eastlick. Hannah’s husband, Jacob Eastlick had died in 1870 in Bureau County, IL. Widow Hannah then moved west with her daughter’s family and ended up in Mendocino County, CA. Many of the Eastlick clan was residing by then in Siskiyou County. Anyway, Hannah died in 1881 and we had always heard she was buried near Philo in Mendocino County.

On Friday morning, August 23, we set out on our 300-mile road trip to Philo, planning to stop first in Ukiah to check records at the Mendocino County courthouse. As luck would have it, “Murphy’s Law” was at work that day. After a hot, six-hour drive, we got to the courthouse to find it closed for the afternoon, due to renovation and the moving of records to a new facility. We couldn’t believe our bad luck!

Undaunted, Willie and I decided to head over the mountains toward Philo to search for Hannah’s grave without benefit of records or directions. The drive was beautiful, through scenic mountains on a twisty road with no guardrails. Without evidence of exactly where Hannah was buried, we simply started exploring cemetery after cemetery, stopping to ask directions along the way. By nightfall we’d wandered through tombstones in three graveyards, finding some relatives, but not Hannah. We headed back to Ukiah and the Thai restaurant.

Saturday morning in Ukiah we found a wonderful historical facility, the Held-Poage museum, which contained a few records on the Harrisons, the family of Hannah’s daughter, Lorinda (Eastlick) Harrison. We also found cemetery listings which revealed the name of the cemetery near Philo where Hannah was buried. Armed with that information, we drove back over the mountain to Philo and the Studebaker cemetery outside of town. We had difficulty finding it at first, but we stopped at a roadside fruit stand for directions and were soon pointed in the right direction. The cemetery was not visible from the road, and in fact, we had to cross over private property to reach it. It was a quiet little burial ground on a wooded hillside. The view out over the valley was breathtaking. There we found Hannah’s headstone, a tall marker with the carving of a weeping willow tree to match the gravestone of her husband back in Bureau County IL, and the inscription:

HANNAH
Wife of
JACOB EASTLICK
Died
June 18, 1881
Aged
86 Years

Headstone of Hannah (Stryker) Eastlick

We had accomplished our goal. Our research at the museum that morning had answered a few questions about the Harrisons and had posed new ones. We had spent those two days in search of Hannah and enjoying each other’s company, talking non-stop. That evening we drove to Yuba City to spend the night with my cousin Kris.  She fixed us dinner and we had a fun time getting caught up. The next morning I drove Uncle Willie home. We spent the rest of our time together on that visit going through documents, letters and photos, discussing family members close and distant. This is the way we nurtured our relationship on so many such visits, sharing an interest that was so important to each of us. I will treasure that time.

My mom’s only brother, Wilburn “Willie” Eastlick, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 1999. He kept the news to himself for some time before telling the family. It may have been partly because of a fear of facing his own death, partly because he didn’t want anyone to pity him. He dealt with his illness in his own private way and with the support of the wonderful staff from the Madrone Hospice in Yreka CA. Hospice nurses made visits to him in his home and helped him deal with the issues and complications of his disease. He weathered the ups and downs of his terminal illness and even began facing the end of his life, making his own final arrangements. I’ll never forget, when I drove south to visit him in the summer of 2000, he had me take him to the funeral home in Yreka to choose his casket and see that his obituary was written in advance.

A turn of events came in October of 2000, when the pick-up he was driving went off the highway and was totaled in a one-vehicle accident. Although Willie sustained no major injuries, the accident left him feeling beat-up and sore. Within a few days he became unable to care for himself at home. He went to live at the Hospice House. 

At that point, continued pain and difficulty led to the diagnosis of pneumonia. Once again he seemed to be weathering the ups and downs, coping with each new blow.

On October 25, one of the Hospice nurses phoned me at home in Washington State to tell me Uncle Willie’s condition was worsening. She had the gut feeling that his body was giving out, and said that he seemed like a person preparing to die. Within a couple of days, the family gathered around his bedside at the Hospice House to visit with him and say goodbye. At Willie’s request, my brother and I sang an impromptu concert there for him, with the relatives gathered around his room and the nurses looking in from the doorway. Willie always loved to hear us sing. At moments throughout the weekend, he was very much with us, able to converse and even make jokes. At other times he was very far away. 

Willie Eastlick died in the wee hours of the morning on October 31, 2000. He was buried in the family plot at Fort Jones Cemetery, near his parents Lester and Irene (Bottoms) Eastlick and not far from both sets of his grandparents, Obed and Eva (Crouch) Bottoms and Willard and Crete (Conner) Eastlick. Even his great-grandparents, Jacob and Constantia (Stephens) Conner lay at rest in that very cemetery, not to mention aunts, uncles and cousins of all kinds.

Uncle Willie was one-of-a-kind. Coming up on the tenth anniversary of his death, I think about all the time we spent together talking genealogy. That last year of his life he was so delighted to get an internet connection and use email. If he was alive today, I have no doubt that he would be on Facebook and Ancestry and have his own blog! I miss him.

Posted in Bottoms, Conner, Crouch, Eastlick, Stephens, Stryker | 4 Comments

Newman A. Easlick

There is a story in our family which has tugged at my heart ever since I first became aware of it a few years ago. I believe Ed Easlick of Richmond first told me about it. David and Lucy Easlick of Naples FL sent me a packet of information that mentioned it. It was also referenced briefly in a book on Michigan soldiers in the Civil War. And in 1997, my parents retrieved a mother’s pension application file from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., which detailed the tragic story.

Newman A. Easlick was born September 18, 1837 to William and Sarah (Olds) Easlick, the third child in a family of nine. His parents had married and resided in Steuben County, New York, then migrated to Crawford County, Pennsylvania, in the late 1830’s, along with William’s older brothers Cornelius and John and their families, and those of their sisters. In fact, the whole clan seems to have uprooted and left New York at about the same time, including the elder parents, William and Phebe.

In about 1849, William and Sarah, sometimes called Sally, moved with their growing family to Macon Township, Lenawee County MI. By 1850, their brood consisted of Alexander, age 17, Eliza, age 15, Newman, age 13, Robert, age 11, Wilder, age 7, and Sarah, age 4. They had lost a young son, Lewis, who died in 1848 while they were still in Pennsylvania. The next two children, Phebe and William, were born to the family in the 1850’s, after the move to Michigan.

In 1852, Newman’s brother Alexander married Louisa Spaulding. Sister Eliza married Elias Olds. By the time of the 1860 census, Newman was 23 years old, single, and living at home with his parents in Macon, Lenawee County MI, working on the family farm to help support his parents and five younger siblings. 

But trouble was brewing for the country, and for many of our relatives. The Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861. When the time came for Michigan boys to enlist in the army and fight for the Union, Newman answered the call, as did his younger brother Wilder. Newman A. Easlick enlisted at Adrian MI on February 20, 1862, and was enrolled as a private in Company G, 4th Regiment of the Michigan Volunteer Infantry. At this point I do not have a history of the regimental action seen by the Michigan 4th, but I do know that the unit was engaged in the battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 2, and 3, 1863. Newman Easlick was captured at Gettysburg on July 2, and held as a prisoner of war at Richmond, Virginia, through 1863. Then the Confederates finished constructing a more isolated prison camp, called Andersonville, located far from Union lines in the heart of Georgia. It was Newman’s misfortune to be taken there in March, 1864.  

Most students of history are well aware of the horrors of the Civil War. Brothers fought against brothers, families were torn apart. Six hundred thousand young men died on both sides as a result of injuries or sickness. Ken Burns produced a documentary series on PBS which brought the violence and despair back to us on a level we can understand, from the personal letters and journals of those involved.

Some say the fate of those held as prisoners of war, whether Union or Confederate, was perhaps far more terrible than for those who died of battlefield wounds. Andersonville was known as one of the most horrible of all prisons. Designed originally to hold a maximum of 10,000 prisoners in the rectangular, 17-acre camp, it was later expanded to almost 27 acres, but with as many as 30,000 confined at any one time. During the course of its one-year operation, 45,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned at Andersonville. Of these, some 12,000 died. Conditions were severe. There was no shelter from the rains of winter nor the summer sun, save the crude tents the men erected from scavenged wood scraps and pieces of clothing and whatever other gear they still possessed by the time of their imprisonment. Often they dug holes in the ground to shield themselves from the biting wind. Lice and disease were rampant, food supplies inadequate, hygiene and medical care sub-standard. It is said that anyone admitted to the prison hospital had a slim chance of emerging alive. Our Newman was admitted to that hospital in early June, 1864. A month later he was released, still alive. I have personally seen his name on the hospital records, which have been microfilmed and are available to the public at the National Archives and its branch locations.

Mercifully, the war ended in April 1865. Newman had survived Gettysburg. He had survived Andersonville. The long war was over! Andersonville prisoners were sent by crowded trainloads to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where they were to be paroled and sent home. Many were little more than skeletons after sickness and starvation had ravaged their once-healthy young bodies. Newman was paroled at Vicksburg on April 21, 1865. From there, the men were taken, again by the trainload, to the waterfront to be boarded onto steamships heading north on the Mississippi River. Many wrote letters from camp awaiting their trip home to freedom and the family they had not seen in months or years. Many dreamed of the simple things they would once again be able to enjoy–safe, dry shelter, home-cooked meals, love of family, sweethearts and wives and children left behind.

The Sultana was a wooden-hulled steamer designed to hold 376 passengers. It had recently undergone patchwork repairs on one of its four boilers. Docked at Vicksburg, it took on hundreds of released Union troops, while two other steamers left empty. This was partly due to miscommunications about the number of troops in each trainload, partly to the greed of persons interested in acquiring the $5 per head paid by the U.S. Government for transport of troops north. Whether the reasons were greed, indifference, criminal misconduct or gross stupidity, the number of men placed on the Sultana for their journey north was close to 2,300, four times the intended capacity. Witnesses and the men themselves were concerned about the overloading. Those who knew of the recent problems with the boilers were concerned about the safety of continuing without proper repairs. Nonetheless, the Sultana steamed away from the wharf and headed upriver in late April of 1865.

Just north of Memphis, Tennessee, during the wee hours of the morning of April 27, 1865, the boilers on the Sultana finally gave way. They blew up in an explosion seen for miles in the night sky. Some of the passengers were killed instantly by the impact of shrapnel tearing up through the decks as the boilers blew to bits. Some were scalded by the boiling water showered upon them. Some were crushed by the weight of collapsing timbers. Some were burned when the coal-fired flames under the boilers consumed the wooden steamship. Most drown in the mayhem of men and horses flung into the icy, flooded waters of the Mississippi. We do not know exactly how many men were killed, as the bodies were not all recovered, and there was no master list of names of those aboard. In the haste to load the ship, proper rolls were postponed until after boarding and the trip was underway. It is believed some 700 people may have survived the explosion and the night in the river. Of these, some 300 died within days from their injuries. Newman was never seen again.

The Sultana disaster was big news, yet it was crowded from the front pages of newspapers by other stories. Lincoln had been assassinated. Four years of civil war was finally over. John Wilkes Booth had been captured the day before the Sultana departed from Vicksburg. Many families were informed of the loss of their son, husband, or father in the Sultana disaster months later when the military finally notified them.

Back home in Michigan, Sarah Easlick had her hands full. Two of her sons were off fighting the rebels. Another son, Robert, was disabled from scrofula, and was able to work only “with great inconvenience.” What a blow to the family to learn of Newman’s death. Perhaps they did not yet know, when in April of 1865, Sarah’s husband, William Easlick, was severely injured after being thrown from a wagon by a runaway team, striking his back on a low stump. At the time of the accident, he was taken to a neighbor’s house and treated by a doctor there for several days, then carried home on a stretcher where treatment continued. But William never entirely recovered from the injury. Due to his disability, the family was forced to sell the farm in 1866 and move to Saline, in nearby Washtenaw County, Michigan. William died of Bright’s disease on May 8, 1877, immediately following which the property was probated, sold and proceeds divided among the children, except Sarah’s dowry, the income from which was not sufficient for her comfortable support. She applied for, and was granted, a mother’s pension based on Newman’s service. Sarah died in 1895.

With all the attention given lately to the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, especially since the release of the major motion picture by the same name, it amazes me that so few people are aware of the Sultana disaster, which claimed over 1700 lives, exceeding the death toll of the Titanic. To this day, the Sultana explosion stands as the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history.

SOURCES:
Mother’s pension file of Sarah Easlick, based on service of Newman A. Easlick.  National Archives, 5/97.
The Sultana Tragedy, by Jerry O. Potter, Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, 1997.
Andersonville, by MacKinlay Kantor, The World Publishing Company, New York, 1955.
Dancing Along the Deadline, The Andersonville Memoir of a Prisoner of the Confederacy, by Ezra Hoyt Ripple, edited by Mark A. Snell, Presidio Press, 1996.
The Sultana Remembered, Association of Sultana Descendants and Friends Official Home Page, http://sultana.org/ [THIS LINK APPEARS TO BE BROKEN as of 9/13/10].
Death on the Dark River, The Story of the Sultana Disaster, American Heritage magazine, October 1955.
The Generations of Easlicks from David & Lucy Easlick, 10/97.

Also of interest:
Gettysburg, a Turner Pictures film, 1993.
Andersonville, a Turner Pictures film, 1996.
Both of these movies are very well done and give the viewer a good representation of the situations that Newman Easlick would have experienced.

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Samuel R. Young of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa and Kansas

SAMUEL R. YOUNG was born in Pennsylvania around 1800. We do not know who his parents were, but they may have resided in Beaver County, PA, where Samuel was married to ANN WYLIE in about 1827. Later census records indicate the birthplaces of their children, so we know they lived in Pennsylvania until the 1830s, and then moved to Ohio. The Samuel R. Young family appears on the 1840 Federal Census in McArthur Township, Logan County, Ohio: 

Male 40-50, Female 30-40, Female 10-15, Two Females 5-10, Male 5-10

Samuel’s wife, Ann (Anna), died and was buried in the Northwood Cemetery, McArthur Township, Logan County, OH. Her headstone indicates that she died on 27 Dec 1843, aged 37 years, 3 months and 5 days. Her parents, John and Elizabeth Wylie, had moved from Beaver County PA to Logan County OH by 1840, as did Samuel and Ann Young. John Wylie’s will was written in October 1845, naming his grandchildren, “Eliza Jane Young and Margery An Young Nancey Young and Mary Young, Heres (heirs) of Samuel R Young and Ann Young deceased wife of Samuel R Young.”

When the Federal Census takers came around on 30 July 1850, Samuel and three daughters were living in Richland Township, Logan County, Ohio. Also listed was an infant boy (Nancy’s son, based on later census records). Daughter Margaret was not living at home, but a daughter Mary had been born since the previous census (about two years before her mother’s death). The son listed in 1840 had likely died, since he was not mentioned in John Wylie’s will (or perhaps it was not a son at all but another child living with the Youngs in 1840).

Sam’l R. Young, 50, M, farmer, $550 property, born PA
Eliza J. Young, 22, F, born PA
Nancy Young, 19, F, born PA
Mary Young, 9, F, born OH, in school
Jno T. Young, 8/12, M, born OH

Also in Logan County, Ohio, enumerated on 25 July 1850, was the other daughter, Margaret A. Young. The head of the household was Campbell F. Hynman with his wife and children, but many other unrelated individuals were residing in what appears to be a hotel in Richland Township, District No. 87:

Margaret A. Young, 19, F, born PA

Daughter Eliza J. Young (Elizabeth J. Young) married Ephraim Leasure in Logan County, Ohio on 24 October 1850. They moved to Illinois soon after that, as indicated by their children’s birthplaces on subsequent census records, all four children being born in Illinois from 1852 to 1857. At least one child, Margaret A. Leasure, was born in Kane County, IL, according to her obituary.

Eliza’s sister, Margaret A. Young married Denton Leasure in Kane County, Illinois on 11 January 1853. So it appears that sisters Eliza and Margaret were both living in Kane County during the 1850s.

In about 1854, Samuel and his two unmarried daughters, Nancy and Mary, moved from Ohio to Iowa. They were enumerated in Washington Township, Washington County, Iowa on 18 July 1856, when a state census was taken. It indicated that Samuel had lived in Iowa for two years by that time.

Samuel R. Young, 56, M, Widowed, Farmer, born PA, owns land
Nancy Young, 23, F, born PA
Mary Young, 15, F, born OH
John T. Young, 6, M, born OH

Samuel sold a parcel of land in Washington County, Iowa, for $100.00 as reflected in a deed signed 15 May 1858. The parcel was described in Land Mortgage Book D as “the North East quarter of the North East quarter of Section No. twenty seven (27) in Township No. seventy five (75) North of Range No. Seven west.” Even though he sold land, however, Samuel Young and family remained in Washington County, IA for several more years. The 1860 Federal Census found them in Washington Twp., Washington County, Iowa on 14 July 1860:

Sam’l R. Young, 60, M, farmer, born PA
Nancy Young, 28, F, born PA
John T. Young, 10, M, born OH
Fred Paybugh, 36 , M, born Baden

Also in Washington Twp., Washington County, IA on 14 July 1860 lived the sisters Eliza and Margaret, next door to each other. Ephraim Leasure was gone by this time. Was he dead? Were they divorced?

Denton Lasure, 36, M, farmer, born PA
Margaret A., 30, F, born PA
Mary E., 4, F, born IL
John H., 2, M, born IL
Sam’l R., 8m, M, born IA
Eliza J. Lasure, 32, F, domestic, born PA
Sam’l G., 8, M, born IL
Wm H., 7, M, born IL
Margaret A., 5, F, born IL
Martha A., 3, F, born IL

By 1870, Samuel R. Young was still living in Washington County IA (14 July 1870), but had three more of his grandchildren living with him. They were children of Margaret (Young) Leasure, who had apparently died by 1870:

Young, Sam’l R., 71, M, W, farmer, 1400, 250, born PA
—, Nancy, 37, F, W, keeping house, born PA
—, Theadore, 20, M, W, farmer, born OH
Leasure, Mary, 15, F, W, born  IL
—, John, 12, M, W, born IL
—, Samuel, 10, M, W, born IA

Margaret’s widower, Denton Leasure had remarried and was living in Richland Township, Logan County, OH (enumerated 16 June 1870). They had a son James at home and a girl who was likely his wife’s by a previous marriage:

Leasure Denton, 46, M, W, works on farm, born PA
Leasure Nancy, 40, F, W, housekeeping, born OH
Leasure James, 1, M, W, born OH
Hughes Allie, 12, F, W, at home, born IN

Within a few years, Samuel R. Young moved to Jewell County, Kansas. He and some family members first appeared on a county census record there in 1874, the first year county census records were kept for Jewell County. His daughter, Nancy Young, along with her son John Theodore Young, were there, and also the Leasure grandchildren, Mary, John and Samuel.

Samuel Young died on 11 September 1876 and was buried in Shaffer Union Cemetery, Section 22, Harrison Township, Jewell County, Kansas. Pete and I visited his gravesite in 2002 and by then his stone was broken and laying flat to the ground.

John T. Young was committed to Kansas State Asylum on 31 October 1879. Eliza J. Leasure was committed to the Asylum in Topeka, Kansas on 19 June 1888, and died there on 7 December 1889. Nancy Young died around 1888, probably in Jewell County, KS.

In the late 1890s, a legal matter generated records in Jewell County, KS, as members of the Young and Leasure families attempted to settle ownership of Nancy Young’s land in that county. After her son’s death, her nieces and nephews were her only heirs. The paper trail left by the court documents was quite helpful in understanding relationships between the various members of the family.

Leslie Lewis, 4 October 2008

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Minnesota tragedy and modern-day opportunity

There has been considerable interest over the years in the events of the Dakota Conflict of 1862, which involved a branch of the Eastlick family. John Eastlick and two of his sons were killed in an Indian attack upon settlers at Lake Shetek in southwestern Minnesota on August 20, 1862. His wife, Lavina, and two sons, Merton and Johnny, survived the attack. Another son’s fate is unknown, although family lore says he survived but was never reunited with his family.

In 1997, after hearing about Lake Shetek for so long, Pete and I wanted to go there on our road trip. We were on a tight schedule having made a commitment to meet up with relatives in central Iowa by dinner time. We had to decide between visiting the lake itself, not knowing if there was anything there to see, or going to the museum in New Ulm, which reportedly had a whole floor devoted to the events of the Dakota Conflict. We were driving south from relatives in Park Rapids that morning, and had to be in Des Moines by nightfall. I turned to Pete and said, “So, which do you want to see? We won’t have time to do both.” He said, “We’ve GOT to see the lake…” So at the last minute we made the decision to continue on to Murray County. I’m SO GLAD we did!!

As we crossed the county line, we realized what day it was…August 20th (please imagine “Twilight Zone” theme here). It was the 135th anniversary of the Lake Shetek massacre TO THE DAY!!

I literally had goosebumps as we made our way to the State Park at Lake Shetek. At the entry, a grand monument stood sentry over the mass grave of the murdered settlers. Inside the park there was much to see, including a replica cabin and mapped, self-guided tour information to such places as the Eastlick cabin site and the Eastlick Marsh, complete with observation deck for viewing wildlife. The park is used as a picnic and camping site, as well as being a memorial to the events of 135 years ago. It is a beautiful area.

The high point of the day was when we happened to meet Paul Carpenter, a Sioux Falls cardiologist who is the great-grandson of Charlie Hatch, another settler who survived the violence (the one who hurried to warn other settlers on the lake of the impending danger). It was so remarkable to meet Dr. Carpenter, as he only happened to be there that day hoping to run into others connected with Lake Shetek history. Over lunch he said I was the first Eastlick he’d met!  He’d known of the Eastlicks all his life, as his great- grandfather had written a poem about the massacre, which mentioned the Eastlick family by name.  He had grown up reciting that same poem.

Ten years earlier Dr. Carpenter had helped to organize a reunion of settler descendants with those of a small band of Lakota men who rescued the captive women and children taken at Lake Shetek. These men were never officially thanked for the danger in which they placed themselves. Nor were they reimbursed by the government for the goods they gave up in barter for the safe return of the two women and six children who had been held captive for several weeks. Dr. Carpenter has taken on the cause of reconciliation between whites and Native Americans, realizing that what happened at Lake Shetek that day, and throughout the region during that time period was the tragic result of an escalation of tensions between a people spreading westward, as they believed was their rightful destiny, and a people attempting to protect the region they had inhabited for centuries. So many such sad stories of American expansion west resulted from this clashing of cultures and objectives.

Dr. Carpenter later wrote that he had gone back to the monument that day after lunch with us in nearby Currie. There at the ranger office he was told two Indians had come into the park for a ceremony. He met up with them and found out that one of them was a descendant of Santee who had attacked the Lower Sioux Agency at the beginning of the conflict. They had come to smoke the peace pipe, hoping to promote peace at the site of previous conflict. Paul joined them in smoking the peace pipe near the monument. He hopes that we can remember the past but commit ourselves to better relations with the Native Americans in the future.

 

 

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Ancestors

In the course of genealogical research, we can develop an acute sense of ownership of the ancestors we study, so I often have to remind myself that I don’t “own” them any more than anyone else does!  By sharing information that will illuminate the lives of these individuals, we will all be richer for it.

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Seeking Mary Reeves

When I first set out on my fabulous genealogy road trip in the summer of 2009, I had a wish list of information I wanted to find in various counties across a dozen or so Midwest states. One of these goals was to break through the long-standing brick wall on the family of Mary Reeves, mother of our John Perry Crouch.

To give you the background I must step back a few years. When I first started my genealogical adventure in 1973, one of a handful of documents to which I had access was a short paper written by my mother years earlier in one of her high school classes. It contained a chart showing her grandmother Eva (Crouch) Bottoms, and Eva’s parents John Crouch and Margaret Leisure (sic).

Over the next few years I found out more. Eva’s birth affidavit revealed her father’s full name was John Perry Crouch, and his birthplace was Washington, Iowa. A location is everything in genealogy, so I had a place to start. I came across the name of John’s father, Montgomery McCall Crouch, through census records. But I didn’t have the full picture. It was only through correspondence with fellow Crouch researchers Glenn Crouch and Charles Lilly that I learned John’s mother was actually Mary M. Reeves, the second of three wives of M. M. Crouch. The 1850 Washington County IA census revealed that Mary was born about 1817 in OH. A deed of sale from Washington County named her in September 1850, but she died soon after that, within a year or two. Her widower husband married Susannah Williamson on 14 March 1852. For the next several years, I still had no idea where in Ohio she was born or who her parents were.

Then, in 2009, the brick wall came tumbling down. As I traveled through Iowa, I visited the Washington County Genealogy Society collection housed upstairs at the public library. I had hoped to find a cemetery listing for my Mary (Reeves) Crouch, but there was none to be found. Also in that county I was seeking anything I could find out about Samuel R. Young and Ephraim or Denton Leasure on Margaret Leasure’s side of the family.

Tax records listed M. M. Crouch and Denton Leasure. Samuel R. Young’s tax record included a property description which enabled me to find his land on a hand-drawn reproduction of an 1859 property owner’s map. It was exciting to spot “S. R. Y.” written on his parcel. Would anyone else have known it was him with just these three initials on the parcel? I made copies of that and other maps showing townships and parcels with landowners’ names.

At the courthouse I found deeds for Montgomery Crouch, Samuel R. Young and Denton Leasure. One document detailed a sale of land by one John S. Reeves to M. M. Crouch. This caught my eye. Could John S. Reeves be related to Montgomery’s wife, Mary (Reeves) Crouch?

Although I had to leave Washington County to head for my next stop, I wanted to find out more about this John S. Reeves. A day or two later I looked him up in Iowa census records online. I found out he was a bit younger than our Mary Reeves. Could he be a younger brother? Every genealogist knows you sometimes have to seek information on collateral relatives to find out about your own line. I was fortunate to find his biography online in an 1887 mug book, “Portrait and Biographical Album of Washington County, Iowa.” This revealed he had been born near Portsmouth, Ohio. His parents were Thomas Reeves from Fleming County KY and Mary Hoskinson from Cumberland County MD. The book said John was the only one of five siblings still living. It also said his father had been married previously, with a family of twelve children by his first wife, none of whom survived. No siblings were named, nor the first wife of Thomas. Was Mary a sister of John S. Reeves? And if so, was she born to the first wife or the second wife of Thomas?

Next, I found an online family tree that connected John S. Reeves to a father Thomas and siblings named Elijah T. and Joseph Reeves. The name Elijah instantly caught my eye, as that was also the name of John Perry Crouch’s younger brother. The fact that Montgomery and Mary Crouch named three of their children Thomas, John and Elijah was a pretty strong clue that this Reeves family was probably connected to our Crouch family. Plus, this tree noted a migration from Ohio to Delaware County IN to Washington County IA. Earlier research told me our M. M. Crouch was born in Ohio, married Mary Reeves in Delaware County IN, and then moved to Washington County IA. So the migration paralleled ours! Although the man who posted the tree answered my email right away, he did not have any further information on the Reeves family. He descends from the Custer family that married into the Reeves family.

I wish I had known about Thomas Reeves when I visited Washington County just a few days earlier! But even though I couldn’t check in person, I emailed the Washington County Genealogy Society to request probate records for Thomas Reeves. They answered right away with a cemetery listing for Thomas Reeves in the Custer cemetery. They also sent a typed abstract of his probate record, listing heirs John Reeves, Margaret Reeves, oldest son Joseph Reeves, Elijah Reeves, Susanna F. Hodges, Mary M. Crowell (sic) and Delilah Harman. Executors were John S. and Margaret Reeves. (Will Book B Page 145). The Mary M. Crowell transcription error was obviously made by someone unfamiliar with the Crouch name, or perhaps due to illegible handwriting. Such great information allowed me to flesh out the families of Mary M. Reeves’ siblings following census data and cemetery records online.

Census records placed Thomas Reeves and family in Delaware County IN in 1830 and 1840. I also found collateral Reeves marriages in both Delaware Co IN and Washington Co IA. Following the location of Portsmouth OH given in John S. Reeves’ bio, I discovered Thomas Reeves’ marriage to Polly Hoskinson in Scioto County OH. Polly, of course, is a nickname for Mary. There were also marriage records in Scioto County for some of the older children of Thomas Reeves, which helped prove the match.

Then I found an online family tree with Mary (Feurt) Reeves, daughter of Joseph Feurt and Mary Davison, who died in Mar 1819, Scioto Co OH. Our Mary (Reeves) Crouch was born about 1817; it would appear that she was a daughter of this first marriage of Thomas Reeves to Mary Feurt. And the fact that Thomas’ eldest son was named Joseph in the probate record made sense, as an older child would typically be named for the maternal grandfather.

There are many published references to Joseph Feurt, which I am beginning to collect now. He was a Revolutionary War soldier who fought in the Somerset County NJ militia during the war and later settled with his family in Scioto County OH in the 1790s.

The epic story of my family journey now has a fascinating new chapter. My Thomas Reeves moved from Fleming County KY across the border into Scioto County OH where he married Mary Feurt around 1800. Their family included a daughter Mary Reeves who moved with her father and his second wife, Mary (Hoskinson) Reeves to Delaware County IN. There Mary Reeves married Montgomery Crouch. The Crouch family later went on to Washington County IA, with at least part of the Reeves clan. Now I am beginning to find out so much more about the Reeves and Feurt families, it amazes me! Kind and helpful volunteers at Washington County IA and Scioto County OH have supplied more documentation as the web of my family tree grows ever wider.

Posted in Crouch, Feurt, Leasure, Reeves | Comments Off on Seeking Mary Reeves

Lucinda gets a surname

In genealogy there are always dead ends, or brick walls. Some of our dead ends right now include Alexander Eastlick, Caleb Lewis, Jacob Conner, Mary (Ward) Goodykoontz, Nancy (Carr) Spencer and Ephraim Leasure. But in recent months and years we have successfully broken through other brick walls. Mary (Reeves) Crouch, Ann (Wylie) Young and Lucinda (Parrish) Smith are all examples of brick walls that have been knocked down and carried back one or more generations. In some cases, this has resulted in a flood of information which in retrospect had been held back by one weak link.

LUCINDA

For years, Wilson Spencer’s mother Polly Smith was a dead end for us. Where to start, with a name like SMITH? We knew the Spencer family came from Herkimer County, NY before moving to Crawford County, PA, but had nothing on the Smiths (well, we did have a transcript of the information in Polly Smith’s Bible, but this did not show her parents and siblings, only her own marriages and offspring).

Fortunately, amongst the various slips of paper I inherited from Cousin Vera Spencer in the 1970s was a scrawled note handwritten by her grandfather (my great-great grandfather) Wilson Spencer, listing his mother’s brothers and sisters:

My mothers Brothers name
John Smith
Rufus Smith
Rosel Smith
Elisher “
Grandma Smith 85 years
Sisters of my mother
Mrs Elig Hotun Manda
Polly Spencer my mother

Wilson Spencer's notes listing his mother's siblings

Although it took a little deciphering and some trial and error, from this scant information Dad and I were able to follow up on the siblings of Polly (Smith) Spencer. We found Amanda (Smith) Houghton, Roswell P. Smith, John Smith,  Rufus Smith and Elisha K. Smith in various census records around Herkimer County, New York. This established a rough chronological record of the Smith family. Then we found an elderly woman named Lucinda living with Elisha K. Smith in 1850, and with Rufus Smith in 1860. Although census records before 1880 do not reveal relationships to the head of household, we suspected Lucinda was the mother of the Smith siblings, the “Grandma Smith” that Wilson Spencer mentioned in his list. Those two census enumerations gave us her birth date (ca. 1777) and birthplace (Connecticut) but not her maiden name or her deceased husband’s first name.

Over Christmas break in 2008 while on vacation at Mom and Dad’s, I stumbled upon online cemetery records of Herkimer County, New York. Finding a John Smith and Lucinda his wife was pretty exciting! Now Mr. Lucinda had a name, John. It took a whole year after that, Christmas break 2009 to go even further. Once again at Mom and Dad’s, we decided to dig further on Lucinda. Because her eldest son was named Roswell P. Smith, I had begun to suspect that perhaps her father might be Roswell P., with the P being the first letter of their last name. I consulted the 1790 census index (Ancestry.com) for Connecticut and looked up all the Roswell P. names. There were eight or ten listed, from Roswell Palmer to Roswell Prior. Then I performed a vital records search within Connecticut using one of those surnames, Parrish, attached to Lucinda. Up came the 1797 marriage record for Lucinda Parrish of Preston to John Smith Jr. of Chatham, New York.  BINGO!

With this exciting discovery, and the wonderful Barbour collection of records out of Connecticut, I nosed around to see if I could flesh out Roswell Parrish’s family, including daughter Lucinda Parrish. There were baptism records of some Parrish and Parish famiy members shown on the LDS site, FamilySearch.org. That led me to order microfilm records through our local LDS Family History Center. In the Congregational Church records from the Preston/Griswold area, I found Lucinda’s christening record, along with four siblings, as well as the original marriage record and the death record of Lucinda’s mother Anna. Either these records on the Parrish family have not been spread widely, or no one else is seeking them; my online tree became the first on Ancestry.com to post a public tree that contained a surname for Lucinda. 

Once we figured out that Lucinda’s maiden name was Parrish, and proved her link to father Roswell Parrish, we were able to access his ancestral lineage in published sources. 

Baptism record, Preston CT, 1792 listing children of Roswell Parrish

Posted in Parrish, Smith, Spencer | 1 Comment

I love my life!

Funny how much pleasure you can get from new discoveries. For me, I love shining a light on individuals and families from the past, my past. Yesterday I sat in the local LDS Family History Library where I viewed microfilmed deeds and probate records from Fleming County, Kentucky, ranging from 1814 to 1818 or so. What fun to find the names of my people in the index and see the old documents on microfilm! In some clerk’s 1817 handwriting, there was a deed listing “all the lawful heirs of Elijah Reeves, deceased” including Spencer Reeves, Elijah Reeves, Benjamin Reeves, William Roys (Rice) and Elizabeth his wife, Peggy Reeves, Rody Reeves, Thomas Reeves, Anthony Worley and Jenny his wife, all of Fleming County Kentucky except Thomas Reeves and Anthony Worley and his wife of Ohio. My Thomas Reeves and family were living in Scioto County, Ohio, at the time, just over the border from Fleming County, Kentucky. His sister Jane (Jenny) Reeves Worley and her family had also moved to Scioto County.

Another deed transferred the land, which was part of Mosby’s 30,000 acres (a new lead to follow!) conveyed to the said Elijah Reeves by Elijah Reeves, Senr and Peggy his wife by deed bearing the date 13 Jan 1812 (deed book E page 7) on Foxes Creek, 114 acres… another document to secure.

And finally, from the Fleming County Kentucky Wills Book A, 1798-1816 was an estate inventory for Elijah Reeves, dated 26 Feb 1813.

I will go back to the Family History Library before my microfilm rolls need to be returned to Salt Lake City, so that I can secure copies of these images for my files. My ever-growing files!!

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Journey into the past

I hope to use this site to share my journey into the past. I have been researching my family tree since 1973 when my 8th grade English teacher gave our class an assignment to find out about our family history. Starting the “old-fashioned way,” I gathered together what information my parents had at home, then wrote letters to relatives and governmental agencies to collect information and documents. Now, with the internet, we have instant access to so many records on-line. I love the detective work! I have also enjoyed meeting distant cousins and other researchers around the U.S. who share a passion for genealogy. And the best part is going there in person… seeing for myself the homes, towns, churches and cemeteries that my ancestors knew. I’ll tell you about a few of those marvelous road trips.

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Just getting started…

Hello, everyone! Be patient with me as I develop my new site. Should be up and running in a few days. And boy, am I excited!

Posted in General | 1 Comment