The Forgotten Widow

I’ve written about John Wood Jr. before, back when I was first trying him on as a possible ancestor for my William Wood. Recently I’ve been immersed in studying this family as part of that thorough and exhaustive (code for expensive) search genealogists require for an analysis. The recurring theme I’ve noticed during this research is that no one who has worked on this family seems to have cared about his widow Margaret. It’s as if she ceased to exist the moment John Wood Jr. died.

Let’s look at how Margaret became a widow.

“John Wood, the eldest of the brothers that came to Manning’s Station, was one of the early associate judges, and while attending court at Williamsburgh fell ill, dying the next day after he was brought to his home north of Neville.”1

Evidence suggests he was about 49 when he died. Luckily, for all his descendants, he left a Will. Being an associate judge (and he was; there is ample evidence to support that claim), one would think he would have known how important it was to name his executor/trix. He does say he was infirm, so if the above is to be believed, he wrote it in haste, and possibly before he got home. He doesn’t mention his wife, daughters or youngest son by name. He does name his adult sons in this order: Joseph, Absalom, William and John (to whom he leaves horses), as well as a little grand-daughter Margaret (to whom he leaves $25). The remainder of his estate, real and personal, is left to his wife. “…or untill my youngest son becomes of age if she should live so long–But and if my Wife should think it to be best to make sale of my land for the Benefit of the family she is so to do as she may think most proper this previledge I will to remain with her during her Life…2” He goes on to make the provisions of what is to happen after his wife’s decease: the usual boilerplate language of dividing what remains equally among his sons and daughters.

Here’s the thing: she doesn’t die for a very long time. She lives at least another 32 years. Near as I can tell, she remains a widow for that entire time. With regard to the land, she probably couldn’t have sold it even if she wanted to because the family never had a deed to it. The property, situated on the Smith Survey No. 866 was tangled up in legal wranglings for decades, and was finally settled by a land patent granted by the Van Buren administration.3

Margaret Wood, her son Absalom Wood, Joshua Manning and Lemuel Stephenson appeared in the October 1808 session of the Court of Common Pleas. On the 18th of October they collectively put up a $600 bond for the administration of the estate. Margaret and Absalom were named as administrators of the estate.2

Margaret Wood begins appearing in the tax records in 1809.4 She continues to appear in available tax records from 1816-1819 in Clermont County, Ohio.5  Even though she couldn’t sell or partition the land, she was not without means. On 12 May 1817, she purchased 70 acres in White Oak Township, Highland County, Ohio for the sum of $165. This land was on the Francisco survey no. 2042.6 It is unclear when she actually moved to Highland County, since she’s still paying taxes in Clermont County until 1819. Next she appears in the 1820 Census in Highland County. This is tricky because has it transcribed as being Concord Township, Fayette County, but the top and side of the page clearly says Highland County.

1820 Highland County Census

Notice I have arrows pointing to two names: Margaret Wood and Godfrey Wilkins (among several important names on this page). Godfrey Wilkins is later found as the neighbor of and witness to the Will of my William Wood, Margaret’s son, in the 1840 census in Edgar County, IL.

By this time 6 of Margaret’s 7 children are still alive. Absalom has married the widow Buchanan; William married Elizabeth Houston; John Wood III married Margaret Buchanan, the step-daughter of his brother Absalom. All are living in Washington Township, Clermont County, Ohio. Hannah married David Jones and is living in New Richmond (he later becomes the Mayor). Nancy and David are still unmarried and presumably living with their mother in Highland County, even though the census says she has two females aged 16-25 living with her instead of a male and female. (Drives me crazy that it reads that way.) Anyway, just like the history book read, David married Margaret (Peggy) Graham, and Nancy married Peter Collins, both in Highland County.

Wood, David and Graham, Margaret marriage cropped

Collins, Peter and Wood, Nancy Marriage cropped

On 1 Mar 1828, David and Peggy purchase 2 plots of adjoining land to comprise 55 acres on the Spear Survey no. 2047 directly south of Margaret’s land.7

Returning to the 1820 Census, here is the bottom part of the page:

1820 Highland County Census bottom

John Graham is married to Elizabeth Partridge, daughter of Robert Partridge. After the death of John Graham, Elizabeth Graham married Godfrey Wilkins (mentioned above). Christenia Collins (widow of Isaac) shows signs of being the mother of Peter Collins, husband of Nancy.

I do have a theory about what brought Margaret to Highland County. See John Partridge on the above census? He was married to Jane Grimes, who is believed to have died around 1816 because he remarried. I’ve seen Margaret Wood as having the maiden name of Grimes on several ancestry trees. Haven’t found anything that proves it yet, but it is intriguing, and dovetails nicely with the known information. Did she move there to be near her own family?

1830 rolls around and things shake up a bit. David is shown on the 1830 census for White Oak Township.8 On 12 Sep 1830 he and Peggy sell their 55 acres.9  Margaret can’t be located on any census in 1830. She sells her land on 1 Oct 1831.10  Absalom has died; his widow Jane remains in Clermont. Hannah stays in New Richmond, Clermont. Margaret and four of her children: William, John, David and Nancy all move to Brouillettes  Creek Township, Edgar County, Illinois. Some of that was documented in my earlier post; there’s lots more I could say, but this post is, ultimately, about Margaret.

1840 Edgar Census David Wood cropped

Above is Margaret’s son David Wood in the Edgar County, IL 1840 US Census, pg 75. Way over in the female 80-89 column is a tick mark I believe represents Margaret: 32 years after her husband died. Remember, David’s mother-in-law Elizabeth is married to Godfrey Wilkin, who appears on page 77, so this can’t be her. Pretty sure it’s Margaret, who lived to be at least 80, still with her family. Her story just needed to be told; I needed for her to no longer be forgotten.


1 Everts, L. (1880). Washington Township. In History of Clermont County, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers (p. 363). Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Company.

2 Will and Probate records of John Wood of Clermont County, Ohio. Copy from Circuit Clerk’s office in Batavia, OH.

3 Everts pg 47

4 Ohio, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1999.

5 Duplicate tax records of Clermont County, Ohio 1816-1838 Images 63, 205 and 338.

6 Transcribed Deed Book 3, pg 474 Highland County, Ohio Deeds

7 Transcribed Deed Book 2, pg 375 and 377 Highland County, Ohio Deeds (some of the deeds are transcribed out of order)

8 1830 US Census, Ohio, Highland, White Oak Twp, pg 52

9 Transcription Book 4, pg 300 Highland County, Ohio Deeds

10 Transcription Book 12, pg 400 Highland County, Ohio Deeds

11 1840 US Census, Illinois, Edgar, pg 75


First Generation American

All four of my great-grandmothers are either First Generation American or Immigrants. All four of them married men who come from families with deep roots in the colonies. Anna Ophelia Horneman Slemmer was the first of her family to be born on American soil.

Horneman, Anna work outfit
Anna Horneman

Friedrich Peter Joachim Simon Horneman married Maria Dorothea Elizabeth Spohn on 12 July 1863 in Wittenberge, Germany.1 In the four years following they had three children; two died in infancy. On the 26th of May, 1869 Friedrich, Maria, Friedrich Jr and the widow Elizabeth Spohn (Maria’s mother) set sail for America from Hamburg, Germany on the Germania.2 Two years and three days later, Anna Otillic Hedwig was born in Minonk, Illinois.

Anna's baptism record from St Paul's Lutheran Church in Minonk, Illinois
Anna’s baptism record from St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Minonk, Illinois

She later changed her middle name to Ophelia.

I’m fortunate to have this family mentioned in one of those county brag books, so I can check records I find against what was written there.3 There were two subjects of that biography: Anna’s father Fred S who was a prominent business man in the small town of Minonk, and her brother Fred W who was Mayor of Minonk at the time of publication. Sadly her brother Fred W died of Tuberculosis four years after the biography was published.4

Hard work was a central theme with this family and Anna was no exception. Her father is listed as laborer on the Hamburg Passenger list. Years later he had saved enough money to purchase one of the towns four grain elevators. It’s a classic tale of migrating for opportunity and hard work paying off.

Horneman Grain Elevator 2nd from the right.
Horneman Grain Elevator 2nd from the right.5

My mother told me that Anna worked as a secretary at that grain elevator. I believe that the photo of her at the beginning of this post is her work outfit based on the style of the time for work wear for women.  Her younger brother Charles also worked at the grain elevator. Hard work and a strong education were important to the Horneman family. Everyone at the very least completed High School.

Anna’s sisters, Elizabeth Newcomer and Helmina Jeidel graduated from college and got medical degrees. Helmina was among the very earliest John’s Hopkins medical school classes that graduated women. She went on to complete a year of internship at John’s Hopkins and another year in Paris at the Pasteur Institute, then went on to become a noted specialist in children’s medicine.6 Elizabeth Newcomer was a Radiology specialist with a focus on cancer treatment.7 Even though Anna didn’t get a secondary education, she was no slouch intellectually. She belonged to a women’s study group in Colorado that covered a wide variety of topics from comparative religion, Shakespeare, history to food.8 Anna remained intellectually curious her whole life. The younger brothers who lived long enough to have families had a range of occupations: barkeepers, merchants and owning their own shops.

St Pauls Lutheran Church (Defunct?) Minonk, Illinois
St Pauls Lutheran Church (Defunct?) Minonk, Illinois

27 Jan 1892 when she was just 20, Anna married Edmund Charles Slemmer at the same church where she was baptized. Unfortunately, she also contracted tuberculosis. At the time there was a prevalent belief that moving to an arid climate was the best treatment, so she and Edmund moved to Raton, New Mexico.9 They owned their home, and he was a conductor for the Railroad. The cure didn’t work, so one of her lungs was removed. By 1919 they settled on a ranch in Parker, Douglas, Colorado. They got into the dairy business, and were by all accounts very successful at it.

Anna was an avid gardener, and a full partner in the business. She milked the cows every day, hauled the milk, cleaned the barns, repaired the farm equipment…you name it, she did it. All with only one lung. She was one tough bi-lingual German. I’m the first generation of that line to grow up not hearing German spoken in the home.

The fun challenge of writing about ancestors I’ve never met is the amount of research that’s required to cobble together enough information about someone to tell a story. It forces me to review and reevaluate every piece of information I’ve accumulated over the years; put it in context; see the big picture. This process exposes errors and reveals patterns I hadn’t noticed before. It’s taken me several days to write this post.

One pattern I noticed was that of infertility in this family. Yes, Maria and Friedrich had nine children. Seven of them survived to adulthood. Of those seven children only one had more than one child: the oldest Friedrich Jr. had four children. Of the six children born in America: Anna had one child; John died unmarried at age 25; Helmina had no children; Charles, Elizabeth and Robert each only had one child. That strikes me as odd.

Oh well. Anyway, back to Anna. She helped raise my mother for a few years of her early childhood. My mother speaks fondly of her, and with great admiration. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her through this process. After Edmund died in 1936, Anna sold the ranch. It’s a housing development now. She moved to the Olin Hotel in Denver to live out her remaining days. She died at age 74 on 11 Jan 1946 and is buried with her husband. They had been married for 44 years. She is a testament to what we can do if we put our minds to it in this lifetime. I wish I had had the chance to know her.


1 “Deutschland, Preußen, Brandenburg und Posen, Kirchenbuchduplikate 1794-1874,” Database with images, FamilySearch

2 Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934,

3 The Biographical record of Livingston and Woodford counties, Illinois. (1900). Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub.

4 Woodford County, Illinois Clerk & Recorder’s Office, death certificate #23922

5 Photo courtesy of the Minonk Historian Jari Lynn Onckyn

6 Obituary, Denver Post, Denver, Colorado, 10 Aug 1939, pg 8

7 Obituary, Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Colorado, 4 Aug 1952, pg 5

8 Record Journal of Douglas County, various issues, Surname file at Douglas County Historical Society.

9 1910 US Census, New Mexico, Colfax, Raton, Ward 3, ED 39, pg 7A, HH# 160

Jonathan S.

I consider myself very fortunate to have a number of ancestors with unique names. Jonathan Sanborn Basford used his middle initial to distinguish himself from his father Jonathan Basford. In the two principle counties where he lived, I can be assured that any records from the right time period with Jonathan S. or J.S. Basford on them belong to him. That’s a luxury; I never have to worry if the many records I find for him belong to someone else. There are a lot of them, too.

If I were limited to two words I could use to describe Jonathan S., those two words would be: Land Deals. I’ve spent a few hours at the Family History Center recently pouring over a reel of microfilm of deed indexes from 1845-1870 for Nodaway County, Missouri and just for the time from 1858-1870, there are 30 deeds, mortgages and patents listed with his name on them. I still have 25 years left to search! That doesn’t include the numerous deeds from his time in Edgar County, Illinois. His father had a similar penchant for buying and selling land. I’ve begun to see evidence that Jonathan S. was teaching his sons the “family business” for lack of a better term.

Jonathan S. was born 8 Jun 18111 in Franklin, Vermont.2 In 1826, when Jonathan S. was 15, his parents moved the family to Edgar County, Illinois.3

The first thing of note that he did was sign up to fight in the Black Hawk War along with his brother-in-law Samuel Jones. He served as a Private in Captain Jonathan Mayo’s Company of the 1st Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the Illinois Mounted Volunteers.4

This company was organized at Paris, Edgar county, on the 10th day of May, 1832; took up the line of march for Hennepin on the 4th of June, the place where it was ordered to rendezvous, and reached that place on the 11th of June, and was mustered into the United States service at Wilbourn on June 19, 1832. — J. Mayo, Capt.5

Jonathan S. spent his 21st birthday on a 186 mile march from Paris, Edgar, IL to Hennepin, Putnam, Il. Look who re-enlisted on June 16th at Fort Wilbourne.6

Fort Wilbourn Historical Marker

I’m not saying Abraham Lincoln and my 3rd Great Grandfather were buds or anything, and Mr. Lincoln could have well been out on a scouting detail when my Jonathan S. mustered in, but they could have been in the same area at some point. I’m allowed to imagine that they were.

The closest I can come to speculating about action Jonathan S. might have seen is near the end of the war. Jonathan Mayo’s company served under Colonels Blackburn and Archer. This entry is from August of 1832.7

pg 224

On Aug 15th the name Bassford, Jonathan S. appears on a muster roll as having been mustered out. It’s significant to me that when Captain Jonathan Mayo was interviewed for the History of Edgar County, Illinois, he recalled by name those who served in his company. His recollection included Sanborn Basford and Samuel Jones.8

Shortly after he returned home, he married Guly M. Allen on 23 December 1832 3 Jan 1833, and then straight away they began their family.9 It was an inauspicious beginning. Their first child, a son, Delana was born 6 October 1833. Less than 10 weeks later he died. Four of their twelve children are buried next to one another in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Edgar County–all boys. We only know of 10 of the 12, and only 2 of them are girls. We know from obituaries and census records that this couple also raised 6 of their grandchildren; both the daughters died in their twenties leaving behind 5 of those grandchildren. In addition to all these children, they also raised two adopted children. I’m thinking they liked children. Even though Guly could not read and write, Jonathan S. could, and between them they made certain all their children and grand-children could as well. Sadly only two of their children survived them.

In 1856, with six of their known children in tow, they moved to Nodaway County, Missouri,10 presumably for the cheap, fertile land. He was, after all, a farmer.11


And a hotelier, and a merchant, a self-styled attorney (seriously, I get a chuckle from him being shown as an Esq. I didn’t think he was that pretentious), a land wheeler-dealer, and overall entrepreneur. The whole real estate, owning a hotel, selling crops, self-promoting…these are all business ventures and qualities I can assign to my own father over his lifetime.

I get the feeling I’m just scratching the surface when it comes to understanding this man. He certainly left enough paper behind, only a small portion of which I’ve gathered so far. I’m still waiting, for instance, to see if NARA can find and copy the pension he filed in 1890 for his deceased son David Calvin, who died young and as a result of illness contracted during the Civil War. Jonathan and Guly had three sons in that conflict, and Jonathan served in the Home Guard for Nodaway County during its brief existence.

I have grown to admire this man. He was married to the same woman for more than 60 years. I can find no evidence that he didn’t pay his bills. He provided for a lot of children and even though he had reversals of fortune, he seems to have been honest and forthright and a good citizen. He passed on 17 May 1895 at the age of 83, and was survived by his wife Guly and two of his sons. I can think of no more fitting tribute to this interesting man than this comment from the above cited obituary: He was a man of an iron constitution and will power, full of wit and humor and was well and favorably known by every old settler in the Northwest Missouri.


1 Find-A-Grave memorial 15391984

21850 US Census, Illinois, Edgar, District 19, 165A, ln 33

3 United States. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records. Automated Records Project; Federal Land Patents, State Volumes. Springfield, Virginia: Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States, 2007. Accession # IL0340__.074

4 Elliot, I. (1902). Record Of The Services Of Illinois Soldiers In The Black Hawk War 1831-32 And In The Mexican War 1846-48 (p. 33).

5Elliot, I. (1902). Record Of The Services Of Illinois Soldiers In The Black Hawk War 1831-32 (p. 34). Chicago, Illinois: Journal Company, Printers And Binders.


7 Stevens, F. (1903). The Black Hawk War: Including a Review of Black Hawk’s Life (p. 224). Chicago, Illinois: Self Published.

8 Le Baron Jr, W. (Ed.). (1879). The History of Edgar County, Illinois (p. 228). Chicago, Illinois.

9 Dodd, Jordan. Illinois Marriages to 1850 His pension file from NARA #521714 and 458132

10 Basford, J.S. (1895, May 17). An Old Pioneer Sleeps. Nodaway Daily Democrat. From Arza Bozwell’s Collected Obituaries from Ravenwood, MO area, unpublished.

11 (1876, September 21). Nodaway Democrat, p. 1. Repository: The State Historical Society of Missouri.

Vetting History

When came out with their new DNA Circles (free video to learn more) I was prompted to find out more about the ancestor who was the first one to appear for me as a DNA Circle: William Wood. I’d never paid any attention to him in the past; he was just sitting there like a forgotten toy.

The first thing I did was check my ignored hints. That’s where the Ancestry Member Trees live in my world. I went through the interesting trees to see what was there just to get a sense of what might be available for me to use as a finding aid. Spend any time at all on Ancestry following hints and we all see them: 15 family trees that are all over the map about spouses and children. One thing they all had in common was that William’s father was John Wood who died in 1807-8 in Clermont County, OH. I decided to take John Wood out for a test drive by adding him as William’s father with generic birth and death dates. Then I rummaged through the family tree hints for him. One finding aid kept appearing—it was a transcription from a history of Clermont County, OH. I Googled one of the sentences from it to find the book so I could see the quote in context.

John Wood, the eldest of the brothers that came to Manning’s Station, was one of the early associate judges, and while attending court at Williamsburg fell ill, dying the next day after he was brought to his home north of Neville. He had five sons and two daughters, – Joseph, who married Mary Hodge and died in Tate sixty years ago; Absalom, the husband of the widow Buchanan; William removed to Illinois, as did also John and David; one of the daughters married David Jones, and the other Peter Collins, of Highland County.1

William moving to Illinois sounded promising. William was married in Bracken County, KY. I have the marriage bond courtesy of a cousin. Bracken County, KY is just across the Ohio River from Clermont County, OH, so he didn’t stray far. Lucky for me five of the remaining six referenced children have marriage records that can be found on Family Search as digital images. The daughter who married David Jones was Hannah; the daughter who married Peter Collins was Nancy. That marriage between Peter Collins and Nancy Wood proved to be key.2

Collins, Peter and Wood, Nancy Marriage cropped

Peter Collins is living in Washington Township, Clermont County, Ohio in 1830; they have two boys and two girls.3 By 1840, Peter is out of the picture and Nancy is the head of household in Edgar County, Illinois; she has three boys and two girls. Enumerated on that same page is my William Wood.4 When 1850 rolls around Nancy is shown living with two of her sons, Andrew and Arza Collins.5 The history book makes no note of Peter and Nancy also joining the three Wood brothers in Illinois.

What of the three Wood brothers who removed to Illinois?

Wood, William land patent cropped

Wood, David Land Patent cropped

Wood, John land patent cropped

Wasn’t it just sweet of them to state where they were from in 1831 when these patents were issued?6 Note that all three are located in Township Fifteen North of Range Eleven West, which is Brouilletts Township. Based on the way the townships are numbered in Illinois, they are neighbors.

William Wood died in 1841, leaving a Will that names his wife and children, one of whom is George Wood.7

Wood, William Will cropped

John Wood died in 1861, leaving his widow Margaret to carry on without him. David Wood is found in the 1850 Mortality Schedule; he died of rabies, leaving behind his widow Peggy.8 Nancy Collins died in Edgar County in 1855.

Whatever happened to Peter Collins, Nancy’s husband? In the course of this process, I was attempting to learn more about Township fifteen north of Range eleven west, so I Googled it and this9 turned up:

Wood, George H law cropped

My interpretation of this is that William Wood had been made an administrator of Peter Collin’s estate (this has been confirmed for me by the Edgar County Circuit Court), and he died before he could finish the job, so his son George H. Wood (my ancestor) had to get permission to complete the process of transferring the land held by Peter to Godfrey Wilkin(s). Godfrey Wilkin was well known to the family. He’s living next door to William in the 1840 Census and is a witness on his Will. There is other evidence that supports the belief that John Wood is my William’s father such as deeper connections to Godfrey Wilkin over a longer period of time, and Nancy’s sons living with or next door to William’s offspring.

I’ve had encounters with “History Books” (or Brag Books) having it wrong before. These sources are only as good as the information that is provided to them by the people living at the time. In this case, however, I think whoever provided the information to the author(s) of this Clermont County, Ohio history got it right. I think I’m in the clear calling John Wood the father of William Wood.


1Everts, L. (1880). Washington Township. In History of Clermont County, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers (p. 363). Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Company.

2Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1997,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 3 January 2015), Peter Collins and Nancy Wood, 26 Feb 1822; citing Highland, Ohio, United States, reference 173; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 570,622.

31830 U.S. Census, Ohio, Clermont Co, Washington Twp, pg. 248

41840 U.S. Census, Illinois, Edgar Co, pg. 77

51850 U. S. Census, Illinois, Edgar Co, District Nineteen, pg. 116B, Family 40

6United States. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records. Automated Records Project; Federal Land Patents, State Volumes. Springfield, Virginia: Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States, 2007; Accession # IL0380__.481, # IL0370__.334, # IL0360__.477

7I didn’t record where I got this Will years ago. It probably came directly from Edgar County Circuit Clerk.

81850-1885,U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, Illinois, Edgar, District Nineteen, pg. 215, ln 14

9Laws of the State of Illinois passed by the Fourteenth General Assembly at Their Regular Session and Held at Springfield, Dec 2nd, 1844 (p. 270). (1845). Springfield, Il: Walters & Weber, Public Printers.