Can I Get A Witness?

If the opportunity to get old court records ever presents itself, and the circuit clerk asks if you want everything in the file, SAY YES! I am loving these court records. The witness lists have been pure genealogical gold for me.

I overcame being overwhelmed by the handwriting in the indictment of Jacob Myers for Felonious Assault to get to the point where I am starting to make some sense of it. We think of court recorders as being the person with the little machine that they tap as they hear testimony like we see on television. That capability didn’t exist in the mid-1850s; testimony was written in longhand, which might account for the rough handwriting.

Here is an example of some of that testimony. The person being questioned was Susan Myers, oldest known daughter of Jacob Myers. (The name at the top, Emily Branscomb, is another daughter’s mark from the previous page of testimony.)

Susan Myers testimony
Susan Myers testimony1

I finally spotted the q for question and A for Answer in this. That helped me understand what I was seeing.

The discovery that excites me in this court case comes from one of the references to witnesses who were called for the defense.

Witness List case #227
Witness List case #2272

I didn’t notice it at first. It wasn’t until a couple days passed, and I had time to digest all this that my memory of the name Susan Breedlove was activated during one of those golden thought moments that we get before or after sleep or in the shower. Uh, is Susan Breedlove also Susan Myers?

Well, let us see.

Susan Myers marriage record.
Susan Myers marriage record.3

Not enough to confirm, but a start. The date falls within the range of the known dates of the court case.

1860 Census Susan Breedlove
1860 Census Susan Breedlove4

George Minick is a known cousin. This is in Linn County, Missouri, one county is situated between Linn and Putnam. The infant male named Jacob is promising. A look at the 1900 US Census in Putnam County Missouri in Elm Township shows us a Jacob M Myers living with his wife Amanda and their 8 children. Next I found this in the Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1909-1982 on Ancestry.com:

Jacob Myers Breedlove
Jacob Myers Breedlove5

Susan named her first born after her ‘pap’. So, yes, Susan Myers is Susan Breedlove.

The other part of the page that includes the above witness list indicates that both Susan Breedlove and David Myers weren’t found the second time they were summoned. This is for part of the proceeding that took place on a later date. Now we know that Susan Breedlove was in Linn County. Turns out David was also in the same township and range in Linn county as his sister, living with the Minick family in household #99. Bless George Minick’s heart; he was enumerated twice that year, he’s also listed as living with the Minick family. David Myers is also shown as not being found to testify at the trial.

I haven’t found Susan or James Breedlove in subsequent census records yet. It might be that their only child together was Jacob Myers Breedlove. In my next post, I’ll reveal what I learned about the other Breedlove children listed in that 1860 Census. Hint: a pleasant surprise.

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1 Putnam County Courthouse,1601 Main St. Room 204, Unionville, MO 63565, Circuit Court Case #227: Testimony

2 Putnam County Courthouse,1601 Main St. Room 204, Unionville, MO 63565, Circuit Court Case #227: Witnesses for Defense

3 Missouri Marriages, 1750-1920, Family Search.

4 1860 US Census, Missouri, Linn, Township 59, Range 18, pg 625, HH# 169

5 Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1909-1982 on Ancestry.com

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Four Sisters

In my previous post I mentioned some court documents that I was waiting eagerly to get. I’ve received them, and it is going to take awhile to make sense of all of what I have. The indictment against Jacob Myers for Felonious Assault with Intent to Kill on first glance looks more like a ‘he said, he said’ deal. It is easily one of the most difficult to read documents I’ve attempted. The language is colloquial, the spelling is creative, and the handwriting is poor. As for the divorce between Jacob and Amarilla Myers, it was ug-ly. I knew he would have said something bad about her, but I was not prepared for his vitriol. Yikes. It’s easy to guess that this was a thoroughly loveless match from the beginning. Jacob simply did not like Amarilla at all. Sadly there is no mention of children or even a pregnancy.

The court record I’m most capable of making sense of right now is the civil suit that Amarilla brought against Jacob for not paying her the one third of the profit he made from selling land in which she had a one third stake. The amount she claimed he owed was $500, that she claimed he refused to pay. I haven’t yet seen the document that signed that one third stake over to Amarilla after their marriage, but I know from a distant relative that it exists. Legally, she was entitled to that $500. There is no judgment in this file; it is unknown if he was ever forced to pay her what he owed and promised (he told her he would pay her if she signed the deed; she signed the deed; he reneged).  I don’t know if he even appeared because the summons was delivered by the sheriff to “a free white person over the age of 16, a member of Jacob Myers family’ on 1 April 1857 after the Sheriff failed to find Jacob in his county.

What does this have to do with four sisters? The juicy bit of this file is the list of witnesses Amarilla had called to testify on her behalf. I’m inserting this census record from the previous post to refresh our memory about who are these sisters.

1850 Cox family in Clinton County, KY
1850 Cox family in Clinton County, KY1

The father is John S, the mother is Martha (G), the sisters are Lucrecy C., Winey A., Lucinda P. and Leann E. I speculate that Winey A is Winey Amarilla.

Here are the marriage records I found on Family Search

Cox, Lucretia married Ashlock, Francis P Cox, Lucinda married Summers, Richard

Myers, Jacob married Emariler CoxCox, Leann E married Soloman Wisman

Lucretia first married Francis P Ashlock, Amarilla married Jacob Myers, Lucinda married Richard Summers, and Leann (transcribed Sean, mistaking an ‘L’ for an ‘S’) married Solomon J S Wisman. At the time of the civil suit–17 Sep 1856-Apr 1857, Leann was still a girl living at home.

Witnesses called in Myers v Myers civil suit.
Witnesses called in Myers v Myers civil suit.2

The first name that jumped out at me from the list was Lucretia Ashlock. The next name of prominence was M. G. Cox. This is Lucretia’s mother; we know from the 1860 census that Martha’s middle initial was G. On paper, she is probably Amarilla’s mother too, as well as the mother of Lucinda and Leann.

When the witnesses were called Lucinda and Richard Summers had just been blessed with their second known child Preston Summers, so neither of them were called. However, three of Richard Summers’ siblings were called: Simon Summers, Jonathan Summers and Luanna Morrow, wife of William Morrow. From the 1860 census for Putnam County, Missouri, it appears there are close ties between the Morrow, Summers and Logsdon families. Isaac Fowler and his wife Mary Logsdon are next door neighbors of Martha and John Cox in 1860. Benson Williams might be Phillip B. Williams who lived two households away from Scott B. Wright, also close neighbors of John and Martha Cox. The people on this list of potential witnesses are poster children for FAN: Friends Associates and Neighbors.

Clearly Amarilla knew these people well enough to call upon them as witnesses for her claim and quite possibly her character. If Amarilla isn’t a biological child of John and Martha G Cox, then she’s at the very least a cousin. I think she’s one of four sisters. Now if the DNA would just support that belief, I’d be in business.

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1 1850 US Census, Kentucky, Clinton, District 2, pg 188A, HH# 62

2 Putnam County Courthouse,1601 Main St. Room 204, Unionville, MO 63565, Circuit Court Case #31

Brick Wall Paper

Autosomal DNA testing is such a miracle. How did people do genealogy before this technology was introduced? You know what else is a miracle? Ancestry message boards. Well, genealogy message boards in general. Third miracle? The Family History Library. Well, the Mormon church with all their dedication to preserving our heritage on microfilm. It’s like the holy trinity of ancestor worship.

Too much? I effuse about all three things coming out of Utah right now. I would not have gotten as far as I have with tracking down the ancestors of my James Henry Myers without all three of these capabilities. Bored of him yet? I wouldn’t blame you if you were, but honestly, this story just keeps getting better and better, and promises to get even better. I’m having too much fun right now.

Quick refresher from previous posts: DNA results led me to the father of James Henry Myers: Jacob Myers. Ancestry Discovery and FHL digital marriage image led me to a possible biological parent for Jacob Myers (James’ father) in John Naylor. FHL digital search gave me the marriage record for Jacob to Amarilla Cox.

One of the problems with breaking down one brick wall is that there is another brick wall right behind it. Never thought in a million years I might figure out who were the parents of Amarilla Cox. On paper, I may have found them.

Let me see if I can adequately recap the timeline of how this progress came about. I performed a Google search for Emarilier Cox, the name on the marriage record. I discovered a message board post asking for information from her descendants. Lucky for me the individual who posted it is still a member of Ancestry, so I was able to send a message to her; we began corresponding. She has a wealth of information about Jacob Myers. I learned from her that he, and subsequently his ‘widow’ had a Civil War pension file, which I ordered. My first reading from it didn’t give much new information since I’m not descended from his last wife, but it does present me with the ability to create a timeline of where he was and when from 1850 until his death in 1888. This is valuable for many reasons, primarily because he’s so difficult to pin down in Census records, and there might be another Jacob Myers in Putnam county around the same time. She also told me about a record where Jacob had transferred ownership of some land to Amarilla Cox after they married.

Meanwhile I requested the index to court records for Putnam County from Family Search. Armed with case and page numbers from the index, I ordered the reel with the first two volumes of court records and read through the references. The index showed me a tantalizing Myers v. Myers file that I was eager to learn more about. My thought was that it might have been a divorce record for his first wife Elizabeth Minick. Imagine my surprise when I found that he had initiated divorce proceedings against Amarilla! He married Amarilla on 18 May 1856. What do I find for 18 Oct 1856?

Amarilla Myers responding to Divorce suit.
Amarilla Myers responding to Divorce suit.1

The cad. The birth month and year I have for James Henry Myers is May 1857. Uh. Hmmm. Anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? Was this a shotgun wedding? Was James conveniently told he was born in 1857 rather than 1856? Luckily the index gave a case number for this petition. I called the Putnam County Circuit Court this week and learned this file still exists! I’m excited to learn what, if anything, might have been said about Amarilla when the copy is received. (On a side note: the woman who helped me with this is super nice.) I do know from these records and the clerk that the divorce was not granted.

I haven’t captured an image of it yet, but on that same reel is a reference to another case where Jacob was indicted for Felonious Assualt with Intent to Kill! I suspect that is going to be another post all by itself. I’m on pins and needles waiting for the copy of that file! Key in the record was mention of a witness named Martha Cox. It doesn’t take much to guess how little time transpired between me getting home from the Family History Center and searching the 1860 Census for Martha Cox2.

Possible parents for Amarilla Cox

I love my life. This thing is so tantalizing and has so many possibilities. James H. Cox aged 5. None of the people who have saved this image to their Cox lines have a clue who that is, or the set of two-year-old twins on the page. I can’t stop myself from speculating that James H. Cox is really James H. Myers, and that he is living with his grandparents. If James really was born in 1856, then he would have just turned four when this census was taken. If he really was three, this is a stretch, but not unheard of if the informant was John Cox. A forty-seven-year-old male not knowing how old his grandchildren are is hardly news.

Enter the Message Board Miracle, part deux. Back in 2001, a message was posted asking for descendants of John T. Cox from the 1860’s. Other people might remember when Heritage Quest had superior transcriptions for census records before Ancestry ruined it. Back then I could have found this record myself. Bless this person’s heart for transcribing this to make it so I could find it now, because Ancestry’s transcription of it is way off.

1850 Cox family in Clinton County, KY
1850 Cox family in Clinton County, KY3

John T. Cox 35 KY (the initial is actually an ‘S’)
Martha Cox 35 KY
Lucrecy C. Cox 15 KY
Winey A. Cox 13 KY
Lucinda P. Cox 10 KY
Leann E. Cox 6 KY
Jeremiah Cox 4 KY

These are significant names. That same Missouri marriage database that gave me the Cox-Myers marriage record also has the three other girls on this census: Lucinda married Richard Summers. They are living next door to Margaret and John in the 1860 Census. Lucretia married F.P. Ashlock; Leann E married Solomon Wisman. Amarilla married Jacob Myers…all of them took place in the 1850’s in Putnam County. Is Amarilla that Winey A. Cox? The age is plausible; the proximity to the other Cox girls is supportive. James’ 1900 Census record reports that his mother was born in Kentucky. I’m prepared for this to fall apart. Not for the first time with this family. I will probably have to wait to see if a descendant from one of these other children gives me a DNA match I need for proof, but I’m hopeful that I’ve made some serious progress on this family thanks to some 14-15 year-old message board posts, FHL and Ancestry DNA.

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1 Court records v. A-B 1855-1867 Putnam County, FHL Film # 1010790

2 1860 US Census, Missouri, Putnam, Liberty, pg 346, HH# 35

3 1850 US Census, Kentucky, Clinton, District 2, pg 188A, HH# 62

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.

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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.)

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.

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

2 Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934, ancestry.com

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

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?

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

Who is James Henry Myers?

For all the time I’ve been spending trying to find out who his parents are, I haven’t really spent that much time on James Henry Myers and his life. He’s worth re-visiting for me because what I believed to be true about some of his circumstances turned out to not be true because I had the wrong set of parents and had constructed a narrative that fell apart when I did the DNA research. So I’m going back to the fundamental exercise that I learned from Crista Cowan’s videos: What do you know, and how do you know it?

James H Myers is my great-grandfather. He and my great-grandmother Elisa (Lizzie) Kuck applied for a marriage license in Holt County, Missouri on 12 Dec 1888.1 Kuck is pronounced Cook. I suppose it’s possible to think Elisa is pronounced Louisa. Anyway, I know she was living in Craig, Holt, Missouri, and this lines up with when they started their family, so I feel confident this is the correct record.

Myers, James H marriage license cropped

The 1910 US Census indicates that she had 7 children, 5 of whom were still alive.2 The five living offspring were all daughters: Marietta, Amarilla, Emma, Louvre and Faye. My uncle told me there had been a little son, Benji (Benjamin) who everyone loved very much, but he died young (choked on a marble I think). The 7th child is unknown to us.

Based on where the daughters were born, they moved around some before they settled down in Missouri again. At one point they lived in Kansas, and in 1891 they lived in LeGrande, Union, Oregon. In 1897 they were living in Unionville, Putnam, Missouri, where my grandmother was born. None of us ever knew why they were living there. Could this have been the one place James thought of as home? He might have been born there since his father lived there for most of his adulthood.

About 1898, ten years after the license was obtained, and presumably the marriage was solemnized, this studio portrait was taken.

Amarillo, James, Emma Jane, Eliza, Louvera and Marietta
Amarilla, James, Emma Jane, Elisa, Louvre (infant) and Marietta

By 1900 the family was living in Craig, (Union Twp.) Holt, Missouri again.3 Craig was a natural place for Lizzie to live. Her family immigrated from Germany and ultimately settled there. This census record is now the only census so far where I have found James listed. What do I know now? He was born May 1857 in Missouri. This record shows his father was born in Missouri (not true) and his mother was born in Kentucky (probably true). He was employed as a stone mason and they were renting their home.

I also learned from my uncle that James had a drinking problem. He relayed an interesting story about how one night James came home bruised and battered and drunk (a brawl?), once again, and it got on Lizzie’s last nerve. When he passed out, she sewed him into his bed sheet. She then proceeded to wallop him with either a belt or buggy whip. This was meant to make him stop drinking, which my uncle said worked. I’ve read that women in the early 20th century were expected to keep their men on the straight and narrow; that they were responsible for the moral fiber of the family. Today we’d call this behavior domestic violence. If James had done this same thing to Lizzie, we would be appalled by it, and believe that she would have had had every reason to leave him if circumstances had been reversed. So maybe there really was a reason why James left. I have read the half-page divorce decree that is dated 7 Jan 1905. Alas it doesn’t go into the details of the complaint. It only states that James didn’t respond to the summons and that Lizzie was awarded custody of the children. She was strong enough to bring up the girls as a single mother from the time James left until she remarried in 1909.

I do know that the only person to forgive him for abandoning the family was my grandmother. She is the reason we know anything at all about this man. She reached out to him as an adult and maintained a relationship with him. From her we learned that in the end he said he only had one daughter. This signals to me that he was hurt by being shunned by his other offspring. My grandmother was his only advocate in his later years. She visited him periodically in St. Joseph, Missouri.

If I’ve found the correct death certificate for him, then he was very ill before he died alone and impoverished in 1937 at the age of 79. His occupation was a Cigar Maker, and he was buried in a pauper’s cemetery.4 I suspect the only person who was sad about this was my grandmother. She was the only link to this entire branch of the family. She is the one who knew his mother’s maiden name was Cox (see previous post). Her ability to forgive, and the importance she placed on family history saved that important detail that led to my discovery all these years later.

Now for another update on this mini-saga: James might have been a Myers in name only. Yes, his father was Jacob Myers. I now have found ample DNA evidence to support that claim. Jacob Myers, on the other hand, might have been a Naylor. And THAT might be the connection to the Ancestor Discovery. I’ve got three cousin matches with Jacob Myers as an ancestor through descendants of two of his other wives. However when I was investigating Daniel Myers (named in the history book as the father of Jacob), I found someone who is descended from Daniel Myers through his second wife Sarah, who had taken the DNA test, and who does not match. Through correspondence I learned that Jacob Myers’ tombstone in Putnam County, Missouri, indicates that he was born 9 Dec 1815. Daniel married Elizabeth, widow of John Nailer on 1 Aug 1817.5

Myers, Daniel married Elizabeth widow of John Nailer cropped - Copy

One of my Ancestor Discoveries is the daughter of an Elizabeth Naylor (John’s sister, perhaps?). When I track this family through other people’s trees, this Naylor family came from England. The Daniel Myers line might well be German, as our family believed, but if James was really a Naylor…then not German. That also tracks with the ethnicity for me and my uncle, which is heavy on Great Britain, and thin or non-existent from Europe West. I never would have gotten this far without the DNA cousin matches and now, the Ancestor Discoveries, frustrating as they can be.

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1 Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805-2002 Ancestry.com

2 1910 US Census, Missouri, Holt, Craig, ED 117, pg 7A, ln 2

3 1900 US Census, Missouri, Holt, Union, ED 94, pg 5B, ln 68

4 Missouri Digital Heritage Death Records, Certificate #19502

5 “West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FRTM-YJD : accessed 17 May 2015), Daniel Myers and Elizabeth Nailer, 1817; citing Lewis, West Virginia, United States, , county clerks, West Virginia; FHL microfilm 825,112.