Thursday, April 26, 2012

Did Your Ancestor Know Isaac?

As much fun as researching Isaac has been, researching his neighbors so that I can bring to life the entire community in which Isaac lived has also been interesting.  Some of the surnames were familiar to me, whether because I had heard someone speak of them or because their descendants remain in the community.  Others were unknown, left for me to identify through research.  This post shares some of the remaining riddles I'd love to solve!

William M. Campbell, born in 1846 in Indiana, served in the Civil War before coming to Kansas, and lived in the southwest quarter of section 27 in Albano Township, about half a mile from Isaac.  A member of the Kansas House of Representatives for three terms, first for the Union Labor Party and then for the People's Party, he was asked to run for State Senator and for Governor.  However, the death of his wife Eliza, and eleven months later the death of his baby daughter Jennie, forced him to decline running for further political office in order to turn his attention to his family.  At the time of Eliza's death, there were three children still living at home, along with the infant Jennie.  A few years later, William married a woman named Orpha, and he served as a commissioner on the Kansas Railroad Commission in Topeka.  He and Isaac were neighbors and friends, especially sharing an interest in Populist politics.  Campbell's articles and legislative reports appeared frequently in the County Capital published in St. John.  However, I have failed to locate a picture of this prominent man or learn much about him later in his life.  Surely there are clues I haven't discovered.

Another mystery I am anxious to solve involves Isaac's house.  After his death, Isaac's homestead was sold by his heirs to Jacob A. Degarmo and his wife Addie.  There is a photo post card of my great aunt, Abbie Hall Boylan, with two other young ladies, standing in a tree grove in front of a 2-story clapboard house.  On the back of the picture is written, "Abbie and the Degarmo girls."  From a photograph in the Gray Studio Collection, I have determined that the girls with Abbie are daughters of Jacob and Addie.  The house in the background is not Abbie's home, but it fits the description of Isaac's house as he described it at various places in his journal, and it seems very likely that it is a picture of the Degarmo house which was first Isaac's home.  All I need is someone who remembers that house or someone with other pictures of the Degarmo house to confirm what I believe.  The abandoned house was still on the land when I was a child, but I simply don't remember it.  However, some of Jacob and Addie's children--Ethel Lee, Clyde Francis, Archie Glenn, Jennie May, George D., Annie Myrtle, Iva, and Roe--remained in the general area and raised their own children nearby.  I continue to hope I can connect with a Degarmo descendant or former neighbor who will help me confirm the identity of this house, or, perhaps, provide a better picture of Isaac's home and tree groves.

Immediately surrounding Isaac's homestead and timber claim were families with names like Henn, Curtis, Frazee, Ross, Vosburgh, Shattuc, Gereke, Clouse, Green and Bentley.  Only a mile or two further were Shoop, Farwell, Bonsall, Mayes, Rowe, Loftiss, Frack, Stimatze, Carnahan, Webber, Doc Dix, Hall and Beck.  Further away were Kachelman, Cornett, Tousley, Toland, Tanner, Garvin, Wilson, Dr. Willcox and Searls.  In nearby Pratt County were Goodwin, Moore, Carr, Blake, Eggleston, Brown, Lattimore, Stringfield and Logan.  In St. John were businessmen, lawyers, and bankers--Swartz, Hilmes, Gloyd, Rohr, Burr, Shale, Dixon, Gillmore and Miss Shira, while in Pratt Center were the Blaine brothers, photographer Logan, and horse dealer Sam Jones.  All of these names, and so many more, appear in Isaac's Journal.  My research has been more successful with some than with others, and I have paid my respects to many of them in local cemeteries.  Quite a few gave up on their Kansas farms in hard times and decided to start fresh in the Oklahoma and Washington Territories, and one family settled in Salt Lake City.  Women are especially hard to trace, as they disappear behind a new married name.

I have found names on grave stones, census and courthouse records, and newspaper pages, and I have searched through the Gray Studio Collection, occasionally finding pictures of the young farmers Isaac knew, photographed a decade or two later as distinguished looking elders.  I know there must be old photo albums and scrap books with mementoes pressed between the pages long ago, and as I write the book about Isaac it is hard for me to be satisfied with what I have found, trying to bring each person alive again for just a moment on paper.  American writer, Harlan Ellison, wrote:  "Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike."  That may be so, but Isaac and the people in his life, struggling to build something on the open prairie where they settled, deserve to be remembered a while longer.

If you recognize names among those Isaac mentioned in his journal or have ancestors who lived in that area during the late 1800s, please click on the "comment" box below this post and tell me about them. 

If you have never left a comment, you may visit my post of Feb. 8, 2012 to learn how it is done.  A hint about deciphering the letters to permit you to share your comments--focus slowly on one letter at a time and do not try to make a word of the letters.  Most are only letters that do not make a word, and if you focus on each letter, the black & white shapes within the letter are less confusing.  Good luck!


Nancy said...

Loved this blog and also all the others. They give me some insight of Mother's life (although much later) before she came to Texas. The pictures are wonderful also. Which one is Aunt Abbie? I cannot wait to read the book!

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

Aunt Abbie is the one in the middle. Thanks for the encouragement. Your mother was born too late to know much about Isaac's era, although she probably heard her parents speak of the Dix's place in the north half of our section, and she might have remembered the Degarmo house. I would love to be sharing all of this with her and her siblings--especially my dad.

Alice said...

My paternal great grandparents lived 8 sections north and 13 east. That might have been too far away to be friends. McMillan's had their 10 youngest children with them and eventually owned 11 sections of farmland in the area west of Stafford. I have some photos and stories on my facebook page - in a photo album.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

I quickly checked my surname index of the journal, and McMillian is mentioned in 1885 and 1890. I will follow up to find those references. Thanks!

~Laura~ said...

Lynn, I noticed the Webber name. Abi (maiden Webber) and John Tompkins (my great-great grandparents) lived on the first road south of Byers and a tad back to the east on the south side of the road. Last I was there, there was still concrete from where the house was. John is buried at Byers cemetary. Going back even a little further, my great-great-great grandpa, Lawrence Tompkins is buried at Neeland cemetary. This was John's dad. When I spoke with my grandma tonight, Fern Tompkins, she tells me that there was a girst mill out in the country in that area. She said it belonged to Ezra Webber. She thinks part of it is still there. Ezra was known to help people new to the area by giving loans or seed.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

Laura, I finally realized that your comment had been posted here. My reply is given at the 5-15-14 blog about Isaac's neighbor Tousley. The Webber family is often mentioned in Isaac's journal, particularly Ben Webber.