|Stone in Neelands Cemetery of Harriet Tousley|
Sometimes the adventure of documenting facts while researching Isaac B. Werner and his neighbors is a story in itself! The serendipity of a discovery may seem too implausible to be believed, but here is one of those stories.
During some recent construction, my husband and I were at Lowe's for supplies. As Larry was loading our purchases in the bed of our pickup, a gentleman noticed our Stafford County tag and struck up a conversation. Since the man's interest dealt with history, my husband suggested that he speak with me, where I was waiting inside the store out of the cold. We had a brief conversation and exchanged business cards, and I promised to check my list of surnames mentioned in Isaac's journal to see if his family surname might be among them.
It wasn't, and after e-mailing him that information I expected nothing further. He did, however, forward my blog address to his cousin in Idaho because he thought she might find my blog about the suffragettes interesting.
Four days later he received a reply from his cousin, reminding him that a common ancestor named Tousley had lived in Stafford County. She asked him to relay her interest in Stafford County history to me and to inquire whether I could add her name to my weekly reminder list. He forwarded her request to me, along with her comment about their ancestral link to the Tousley settlers in Stafford County. I immediate recognized the names she mentioned as familiar from Isaac's journal.
|Harriet Gerst Tousley|
Many surnames appear in Isaac's journal, with neighbors arriving in the community and struggling to survive on the prairie for a year or so before giving up their claims and moving on. Joseph Tousley's name first appeared in the journal in 1885, and although there was no mention the following year, the Tousley name appeared frequently from 1887 through 1891 when the journal ends.
One name stood out for me because during my search for Isaac's grave (See "Finding Isaac's Grave, at 1-13-2012 in the blog archives) I had noticed a stone nearly identical to Isaac's gravestone, with the following engraving: "Harriet G. Tousley, wife of J.C. Tousley, Died April 17, 1883, Aged 38 Years."
The 1880 Federal Census identified Joseph G. Tousley, his wife Harriet, and their three children, George (age 11), Carl (age 7), and Alice (age 4), and I knew from the gravestone that those young children had lost their mother only three years later. Eager to learn what the descendant in Idaho might share with me about her ancestors (just as she was eager to learn what I knew about them), I began corresponding with her, and now I have a photograph of Harriet, believed to have been taken near the time of her marriage to Joseph.
Joseph Tousley and Isaac were friends through their involvement in the Populist Movement, and they shared a curiosity about the co-operative farming colony in Sineola, Topolobampo, Mexico. I had found a Passenger Manifest for Joseph Tousley from 1907 showing his arrival in Tampico, Mexico, and the 1900 Federal Census showed George and Carl, by then in their mid-twenties, living in Oklahoma. Since I knew the family had left Kansas, I wondered if Joseph had finally visited the farming colony in Mexico that he and Isaac had discussed so many times. I had also discovered that by 1893 Alice had married in Lawton, OK.
Some of the information I had gleaned from these records was confirmed by my Idaho correspondent, who shared what she knew from family records and oral history. Joseph and his family did go to Oklahoma, where he had a newspaper for a while and continued his activity in politics. I learned that Alice and her husband raised a family, and my correspondent was a descendant of the little girl I had worried about being raised in a male household after her mother's death. My correspondent confirmed that Joseph had gone to Mexico, her understanding being that he had some sort of contract to sell government horses there. I had found a Joseph Tousley living in a Soldiers' Home in Idaho in the 1910 Federal Census, and she confirmed that in the early 1900s he was in Idaho, very active in the GAR as an Ohio veteran of the Civil War.
I was particularly curious about the older son, George Tousley, since he had worked as a hired hand for Isaac in his late teens. Now, because of a chance conversation with a stranger in a Lowe's parking lot, I have photographs of Isaac's close friend, the woman whose grave I had visited, and the young man who worked on Isaac's farm, planted a small plot of ground there to raise his own crop, and borrowed Isaac's horses not only to hire out as a laborer but also to travel to social engagements.
As I have mentioned in other blogs, (See "Isaac as Photographer" at 6-27-2012 in the blog archives) I know that neighbors came to Isaac's prosperous farm to have their pictures taken when their own farms were too impoverished to use as a background. I know that pictures of Isaac's neighbors working their cooperative potato field on his land were taken. I believe many photographs of early settlers who lived near Isaac Werner in Stafford County, KS and northern Pratt County near the Byers community must exist--if only their descendants knew how much I would love to locate those photographs!
I cannot give up hope that if a stranger in a different city managed by happenstance to lead me to these images of the Tousley family, perhaps others will appear to provide a path to more neighbors' stories and photographs!
(Please go to "Did Your Ancestor Know Isaac?" at 4-26-2012 in the blog archives if you had an ancestor living in the south part of Stafford County or the north part of Pratt County. That blog contains a partial list of Isaac's neighbors. If you find a family surname or know that your ancestor lived in the area during the late 1800s, and you have a photograph or story to share with me, contact me at email@example.com or leave a comment at the end of this blog.)