How Did He Do That?

I have two documents that create a time conflict for my understanding of when Levi Houston and his family migrated from Maryland to Kentucky.

The first one is a deed of gift from Joseph Schoolfield II to his daughter Sarah Ewell, where he is giving to his daughter and son-in-law three young slaves. One of the witnesses is Levi Houston; the date is 7 Sep 1812.

Worcester County Deed Book AD pg 27 familysearch.org

The second document is a deed dated 15 Sep 1812 in Bracken County, Kentucky where Levi Houston is purchasing land from Lawson Dobyns and his wife Mary.

Bracken County, Kentucky Deed Book D pg 319 familysearch.org

In 1812 it was physically impossible to travel from Worcester County, Maryland to Bracken County, Kentucky in one week. So how did this happen?

Because I was puzzling over this conflict, the dates stuck with me. Then one day I noticed that Levi and Dolly’s son Joseph Houston got married on 27 Sep 1812 in Bracken County to Delilah Weldon. (Ancestry.com. Kentucky, Compiled Marriages, 1802-1850). That strikes me as a short engagement. Then I realized that Levi and Dolly’s daughter Nancy married Thomas Dix on 6 Jul 1811 (Ancestry.com. Kentucky, Compiled Marriages, 1802-1850). Their daughter Sarah Houston married John Secrist on or about 10 Jul 1812. Oh look, here’s Levi as a witness to the marriage license.


Ancestry.com. Kentucky, County Marriage Records, 1783-1965

Ah, see Joseph was already in Bracken County in July, so his marriage to Delilah Weldon in September is looking more realistic. Now I know that at least one member of the Houston family, Nancy, was in Bracken County as early as 6 July 1811. She was only 23 at the time; it is highly unlikely her parents would have allowed her to come alone. Unless this was a whirlwind romance, I think the Houston family was already in Bracken County before that marriage took place.

Looking again at the deed for the land in Bracken County, Levi paid $1400 for 430 acres on the Ohio River. From where did he get this money? Part of it might have come from two land sales on 28 Dec 1810 in Somerset County, Maryland. In Deed Book U, pg 4 is recorded a sale of land for $580 and in the same book on pg 15 is another sale for $256. I didn’t have these documents before because Somerset County, Maryland deeds can only be found by going to the Family History Center, not from home.

It would seem that some time between 28 Dec 1810 and 6 Jul 1811, the entire Houston family moved from Maryland to Kentucky. This still doesn’t solve the time conflict, but it suggests that one of Levi’s sons was entrusted with purchasing the land in their father’s name while Levi was in Worcester County, Maryland witnessing a deed of gift.

Migration is fluid; travel back and forth was common even across the Atlantic Ocean. It pays to be open-minded about family members staying in contact and conducting business over great distances. I’m glad to have more information to support at least a plausible reason why Levi was one place while business was being conducted in his name in another place.

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Plausible Theory

As a genealogy hobbyist, I have found myself drawn to a couple sub-specialties in the field of family research: helping people find Revolutionary War Patriots in their trees, and tracking down family lore. After spending some quality time helping others find more Patriots, I was suddenly without a project. I decided to apply what I’d learned about research to my own family and quickly discovered a new patriot! He is the father of one of my existing patriots, Levi Houston.

What about his wife, Dolly Schoolfield? Could I find some form of patriotic service for her father as well? To clarify, patriotic service does not have to be military in nature. It can take the form of paying a supply tax, swearing an oath of fidelity, serving on a jury, supplying food, clothing, transportation, medical relief, etc. This significantly raises the age of an individual who could be considered for recognition by the DAR. Someone far too old to bear arms could provide any number of allowed types of service with no limit to age. This is why I could contemplate looking for service for Dolly’s father.

Raise your hand if you’ve attached someone to your tree as a result of a shaky leaf hint without doing the research to support the relationship. *Raises hand*. I added Dolly’s parents and their parents years ago to my tree based solely on shaky leaves, then never gave them another thought.

The prevailing belief about Dolly Schoolfield’s parents is that they were John Schoolfield born 1730 in Worcester County, Maryland, and either Mary Richison or Richardson, no info. The vital stats on Dolly that have been accepted by the DAR are: born 25 Feb 1759 in Worcester Co MD, died 12 Feb 1836 in Bracken Co KY, married 1777 in Maryland. The closest I’ve come to a legit source for this data is the DAR. Earlier descendants of Dolly and Levi provided the information with no supporting documentation like a bible or baptism reference. The information had been handed down somehow to descendants of the first known child of Dolly and Levi: George Schoolfield Houston. One of these early applicants was the granddaughter of George Schoolfield Houston, making Dolly her great-grandmother. That’s good enough for me.

Using the year 1759 as a starting point, Dolly’s father needed to be at least 21, so he had to be born no later than 1738. The shaky leaf hint pointed to a John Schoolfield born 1730, son of Henry Schoolfield and Ann Bozman. I looked at the trees that had attached this person to see if I could track down the source. Nothing jumped out at me, so the search was expanded. Eventually I read a reference to a newspaper article that appeared on page 13 on 8 July 1906 in the Baltimore Sun. I highly recommend any Maryland Schoolfield researcher make the effort to find it on newspapers.com. Here is the part that matters to this topic:

Schoolfield, John b 1730 03

There he is, just like everyone said: John Schoolfield, son of Henry and Ann, b. 3 Feb 1730. Wait, what? Died 12 Feb 1720? Clearly he didn’t die 10 years before he was born; that is a typo. Still, he died when he was 9 days old. This article doesn’t mention the second John born to this couple, but records from Coventry Parish Church in Somerset, MD reveals this family had another son named John.

Schoolfield, John b 1747
Coventry P.E. Church, Somerset Co., MD Parish and Vestry Records, Vol 1 from familysearch.org

This John was born in 1747, making him too young to be Dolly’s (b. 1759) father.

Why are people so sure Dolly’s father is John Schoolfield and Mary Richardson (I have yet to find anyone in Worcester Co MD from that time period with the surname Richison.)? Time to look for any other John Schoolfield married to a Mary Richardson. There are two probable options.

John Schoolfield #1 is the son of Joseph Schoolfield (brother of the aforementioned Henry). His Will, written 13 Jan 1772, can be found on familysearch.org in Worcester Co MD Will Book 4 image 74. In it he acknowledges his wife Mary (Martin) and is very specific to state that she is to inherit any property that was hers before their marriage, and that no part of his estate is to go to pay any of her debts from before their marriage. This suggests that they were married later in life. Indeed, that seems to be the case given that when she died, her 1777 nuncupative Will (Worcester Co MD book JW4 images 203-4) only mentions children from her first marriage to John Richardson.  Neither document mentions Dolly.

John Schoolfield #2 was the son of John Schoolfield #1. He died intestate; a bond was filed on 1 Nov 1796. His wife Mary was named administrator. The documents for this time period were never filmed by familysearch.org. Someone on Facebook recommended I contact the Nabb Research Center for help finding the resolution to this estate. A researcher there found the partition of land for this estate in 1806 that names the heirs-at-law: Nancy, Harrison A, Mary Ann, John, William and minor son Robert. That this Mary Schoolfield is a Richardson is a guess on my part. On 18 Jan 1788 a Will for Robert Richardson was proven in which he names a daughter Mary Schoolfield (Worcester Co MD Will Book 13 image 105). There was a Benjamin Schoolfield who was also married to a woman named Polly. He died in 1799. Either way, that John Schoolfield isn’t Dolly’s father either.

I’ll admit that at one point I began to doubt Dolly was a Schoolfield. Yet evidence began to mount that she belongs in this extended family. Near as I can tell, there were three sons born to the original Maryland Schoolfield immigrant who might have been Benjamin Schoolfield. One son, Benjamin Jr. daughtered out. The remaining sons, Henry and Joseph represent the two branches of the Worcester/Somerset Schoolfield family. Members of both lines chain-migrated to Bracken County, Kentucky from about 1797 to about 1816. Joseph’s grandson Robert Schoolfield was the first to appear in the tax records in Bracken County. Eventually most if not all of the offspring of Henry’s grandson George Thomas Schoolfield followed. The family established the Bracken Academy in Augusta, KY. More than one teacher in the area bore the surname Schoolfield. Dolly and Levi Houston moved to Bracken County as well in 1812. At least some of their known children accompanied them. The question remains: who are her parents?

Well, I have a working theory. Since I’ve accounted for all of Henry’s sons/grandsons who could be of the correct age, that leaves sons and grandsons of Joseph. Robert Schoolfield, the anchor for the chain migration to Bracken Co was the son of John Schoolfield #1 from above. John Schoolfield #1 had a brother Joseph. Joseph died intestate in 1767. His widow Rebecca (Ennis) remarried to William Anderson Parker. Together they settled his estate. That final account leaves behind a tantalizing clue. In Worcester County Accounts Book Liber 60 page 340-1 presented to the court an accounting of the assets of Joseph Schoolfield in 1769 amounting to 71 pounds 15 shillings. After all the debts were paid, what remained was 39 pounds 19 shillings and 11 pence.

Schoolfield, Joseph account

It helps to know that the term infants was what we call minors. People up to the age of 20 could be called infants. As it happens, Dolly would have been 9 years old at the time of this accounting. Was she one of the two children of Joseph and Rebecca Schoolfield? There is no mention of her in the Will of William Anderson Parker. He names children, but not her. Dolly would have been married 11 years by the time William A Parker died in 1788. I’m still looking to see what happened to Rebecca.

What could account for the persistent belief that Dolly’s parents were John and Mary Schoolfield? Part of my theory involves the possibility that when Rebecca remarried to William A. Parker, she farmed her first two children out to Joseph’s family to raise. Like, say, for instance John Schoolfield #2 who might have married Mary Richardson? There are other options, of course, but this one, given what I’ve learned so far, is at least plausible.

Like all theories, they stand or fall over time based on new evidence. I’ll happily abandon this theory if better information appears. For now I can find nothing to support the belief that Dolly’s parents were John and Mary Schoolfield.

 

100 Years Ago Today

William Mitchell Watson
William Mitchell Watson

My great-great-grandfather was William Mitchell Watson. His death certificate, Civil War Pension file and obituary all confirm his birth date was 17 Mar 1842, in Neshannock, Lawrence (formerly Mercer), Pennsylvania. He died 12 July 1915 in Trinidad, Las Animas, Colorado. His parents were Alexander Johnston Watson and Susannah Mitchell; he had four younger brothers and two younger sisters. He was raised as a Presbyterian on the Watson farm/orchard/pottery factory. His Scotch-Irish family was active in the church.

He enrolled into Company H of the 100th PA Infantry (aka the Roundheads) on 28 Aug 1861 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Roundheads were ordered to Port Royal Harbor on the coast of South Carolina. After a storm-tossed voyage they arrived on November 5th of 1861. Following fighting in such battles as Secessionville and Bull Run, William’s military career was unceremoniously ended at Chantilly, Virginia on September 1st, 18621 when he was shot in the backside by either a musket or mini ball. He was taken to the Emory hospital in Washington DC, and discharged honorably from there on December 23rd, 1862.

He returned to the New Castle, Pennsylvania area and began 51 years of marriage to Miss Anna Belle Gibson on 28 April 1864.

Anna Belle Gibson Watson
Anna Belle Gibson Watson

They remained in the New Castle area until at least 1876 where they had six daughters and one son who all survived to adulthood.

I haven’t sorted out all the places that William lived yet. The Civil War pension has details about his whereabouts that conflict from one telling to the next. They seem to have gone back and forth between New Castle, Pennsylvania, Wilson, Kansas and various points in Colorado. All this migration will probably warrant its own post, but that’s for another time. It seems clear what made all this movement possible: the railroad. Wilson, Kansas was a favored destination of Texas cattle drovers wanting to get their beef to market by train, free of harassment by settlers complaining about their crops being trampled.2 The Watsons settled north of the Kansas Pacific railway tracks in Highland Township, Lincoln, Kansas. They were farmers, but William is also listed in the 1885 Kansas State Census as an engineer. I’m going to guess that meant on the railroad. His brother Cornelius was an engineer, too.

In addition to working for the railroad and being a farmer, I’ve found listings for his employment as a stationery engraver, a silver miner and he worked in a laundry, probably the laundry my great-grandmother ended up owning. It’s been fun reading the list of Colorado mining towns he worked in: Carbondale, Caribou, Red Cliff, Leadville, Freedland and Cripple Creek. Some are ghost towns now, which is kinda cool.

I admire him and his wife for keeping their family together the entire time, no matter what was going on in the world, or where they were in it, they remained close. Respectability was important to him. So was patriotism. He was one of the charter members of the Grand Army of the Republic Post #25 in Trinidad, Colorado. His military service was a great source of pride for him.

1913 Trinidad, Colorado. William is the man walking between the rail tracks.
1913 Trinidad, Colorado. William is the man walking between the rail tracks.

Anna Belle was the author of his obituary. She was proud of him, and about him she wrote:

On the fourth of this month, though scarcely able to stand he placed a number of large flags about the Hindman home and spent the greater part of the day under their tri-colored folds.

You see that bullet was never removed from its place next to his tailbone. He lived with it and the pain (from the resulting rheumatism) his entire married life. A few days after the Fourth of July he was released from that pain and buried with military honors in the Masonic cemetery. Six months later Anna Belle joined him there. I visited the cemetery a few years ago. It is still lovingly maintained by the community.

Thank you for your service to our Union, great-great grandfather William. May you rest in peace.

________

1 http://pa-roots.com/pacw/infantry/100th/100thorg.html

2 Guide Map of the Best and Shortest Cattle Trail to the Kansas Pacific Railway: with a concise and accurate description of the route: showing distances, streams, crossings, camping grounds, wood and water, supply stores, etc. from the Red River Crossing. Kansas Pacific Railway Company. Ramsey Millett & Hudson printers, Kansas City, Mo. (Date unknown) http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101074863513;view=1up;seq=4

(I’ll come back later to fill in the rest of the citations. This post is time-sensitive.)

Check The Children

One of the skills we learn in genealogy is to revisit information we’ve gathered from before. Looking at information in my tree that has been there for awhile, or even recent finds with a fresh eye is essential. One group of information I’m guilty of overlooking (frequently) is the birthplaces of children of people I’m researching. From time to time I use the birthplaces to create timelines so I get a clearer picture of where to look for someone in records. I did this with James Henry Myers a long time ago. Then forgot it was there. Now that I realize I have only one census record for him because all the ones I had before belonged to someone else, I have to start fresh looking for him.

On Twitter the other day I asked Crista Cowan if it was likely that someone could spend 80 years in the US and only appear once in the census from 1860-1930. She said it was close to impossible…that he was probably some place I didn’t expect him to be. Not that I planned to write about this guy again any time soon, but I’m intrigued by what I found and wanted to share it. What I get is that when I find anything at all that seems to confirm this new set of parents I found for him, I’m so astonished by it that I need to write about it to make it seem real.

I revisited the timeline I created for him and right off realized I didn’t know where his first known child was born.

Marietta Myers Grant Hughes
Marietta Myers Grant Hughes

Marietta Myers was born in Kansas in 1890, according to all the census records I’ve found for her. For the longest time that was all I knew about her birth place. Kansas isn’t that difficult to get death certificates from, so I thought I’d order hers to see if I could learn just where in Kansas she was born. I remember that I always wondered what were James and Elisa Myers doing in Kansas at that time?

I saved myself the expense of ordering the death certificate by digging through the Ancestry Family Trees that I had attached to her way back when. One of the families with her in their tree listed her place of birth, plus a photo I’d never seen before. I got the sense that this was a family who knew more about Marietta than me (not hard to do), so I decided to accept the place of birth at face value for now: Jamestown, Cloud, Kansas on 15 (or 13) Dec 1889. What on earth were James and Elisa doing in Jamestown, Cloud, Kansas in 1889?

It would seem that family might have had an affect on their temporary migration to that rural area. Just like when I discovered that the birthplace of their third known child (my grandmother) in Putnam County, Missouri was significant, Jamestown has a Myers family connection as well.

Branscomb, Emily 1915 Kansas census cropped

Here’s James’ half-sister Emma (Emily) Branscomb neé Myers 25 years after Marietta was born, living in that same small but resilient town in 1915. The Branscomb family lived many places in Cloud County, Kansas over the years, and Emma is buried in Jamestown.

Emily Myers Branscomb
Emily Myers Branscomb

Could there have been close ties between James and his half-sister? Is this why his third known daughter is named Emma? I’m inclined to say yes on both counts.

So far this hasn’t helped me locate James in any more census records (my original intent), but it does give a plausible reason why Marietta was born in Jamestown, Kansas. Added bonus: another data point proving the relationship of James to his father Jacob.

Next up, I suppose, is to ponder why the family then moved briefly to Union, La Grande, Oregon where Amarilla was born on 5 July 18911. Gold maybe?

_______________

1 Oregon, Births and Christenings, 1868-1929, Index, FamilySearch.

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

Beet

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. http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/. 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.

6 http://www.historyillinois.com/files/Markers/marker.php?marker_id=138

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 Ancestry.com 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.

Accidental Discovery

I know, I know, I’m supposed to have a research plan; I just can’t ever seem to make one or follow one. I get side-tracked easily for that very reason. Sometimes, though, that actually works in my favor. Like yesterday, for example. I’m working on a couple Pioneer Certificates for Missouri and Illinois. That means I need to go back and document information I had already done for the DAR. I was in for a little surprise when I started tracking down what I needed. In the interim years since I last documented this line, certain things are no longer on my computer. Like an important obituary I need. Lucky for me, I have a resource now that I didn’t have back then: Newspapers.com. Moments later I had the needed obituary.

I got a whole lot more than that. For some reason, this time, I added the middle initial for this person in the search box, and goodies appeared that haven’t in past searches. It was lots of fun and, of course, very distracting. Sure I got the obituary right off, but I didn’t want to lose these results. I set about reading them all to see what I might learn. Near the end of the results these two obituaries lined up like little presents from the genealogy gods.1

Doran, Agnes obit Maryville Daily Forum 15 Apr 1937 Drum, Mary Obit Maryville Daily Forum 28 Jan 1936 pg 1

I had already learned Clark was the middle name of John Smith; it was nice to have it confirmed by these obituaries for two of his daughters, Agnes Doran and Mary Drum. I knew he had moved with his family to Conception, Nodaway, Missouri from Reading, Berks, Pennsylvania, but I didn’t know why. I’ve done a modicum of research on John Clark Smith–I have his Will and know where his remains are, and learned a little about his second wife. That’s about it. He represents a mental black hole for me: John Smith who came to America from Ireland during the Potato Famine. Yeah, I’m not touching that. I have too much fun with other lines in my family.

Even still, this was too tantalizing to pass up, so I turned to the Google machine and asked it to tell me about the Reading Colony in Conception. Strangely I chose to purposely use the misspelling from the Doran obituary, Redding, just to see what might appear. I’m very glad I did, or I wouldn’t have found this delicious history paper (PDF) written about this very topic. From what I can tell it is an extract from the Master’s Thesis written by Father Joachim Schrieber, O.S.B. in which he outlines in great detail a history of what Catholics got up to in Reading, PA, the conflict between the German Catholics and the newly arrived Irish Catholics at St. Peter’s Church in Reading, the solution to begin a new colony out West to resolve the conflicts, and the very complex land dispute in Missouri that resulted beginning in 1855.

History isn’t my strong suit. I know just enough to appreciate it and keep things in some kind of context, so to read about a specific place and time with this level of depth was a treat. It is not often we get to have such a clear illustration of what prompted an ancestor to migrate from one place to another…to learn what the push and the pull were that motivated someone to pull up stakes and move to another part of the country.

I did learn that my ancestor was not among the original group of people who left Reading for Nodaway County. There were only about a dozen adults and a few children who completed the journey. Most of the first wave of colonists got as far as St. Joseph and decided to stay there. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t part of the effort, though. A plan was hatched to buy land out West…government land being sold at very reasonable prices. There was a subscriber list to help finance the venture. I now want to see that subscriber list to see if my John was on it.

In 1860 John, his second wife Elizabeth, his son from a previous marriage and daughter with Elizabeth were living in the working class neighborhood of Spruce Ward in Reading.2

Smith, John 1860 Census cropped

He was fairly well off compared to his neighbors, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suspect that he might have given money at some point to support the creation of the colony even though he didn’t move there until after 1864, the year his daughter Anna was born. A deed search is in order here since he left a nice amount of land to his widow when he died in 1875. Now I really want to know when the family moved to Missouri.

There were more than conflicts with the German Catholics that made life in Reading unappealing. Labor problems and unemployment were rife, especially where the railroads were concerned. Even though there was a strong Catholic presence in Reading, they were not always welcomed. Religious intolerance played role in pushing these parishioners westward.  The struggle to purchase the land played itself out against a backdrop of the battle for Missouri to keep it a free state rather than a slave state. In the end the colonists prevailed and carved out a slice of freedom from the fertile northern Missouri landscape. To which my ancestor John Clark Smith was drawn.

UPDATE 2/4/15

I was studying the history paper more and made a connection I didn’t see before.

Seventeen of the fifty-eight original members of the expedition persevered on their plan of establishing a colony. They parted from their companions at St. Joseph at 10:00 am on Friday morning, April 16, 1858; the colonists consisted of the following:

William Brady, John McCarthy and his wife and two boys, four and one respectively, Philip Growney and his wife, Jeremiah Sullivan and his wife and their three children, Michael Fagan and his wife Margaret; John Growney and the two brothers, Thomas and Edward Reilly. (pg 23)

Philip Growney and Thomas Reilly are two of the witness on John Clark Smith’s Will.3

Smith, John Clark Will cropped

So at the very least they knew each other.

1The Maryville Daily Forum Doran: 15 Apr 1937 pg 1; Drum: 28 Jan 1936 pg 1.

21860 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania, Berks, Reading, Spruce Ward, pg 998, ln 36.

3Nodaway County, Missouri Probate Records, Will Book C pg 147