(52 Ancestors #40 – Ten)
(52 Ancestors #39 – On the Farm)
For the “On the Farm” theme, I want to talk about a farmer in my family tree and the area in which he lived and farmed. James Henry Wells, my great-great grandfather, was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia on August 4, 1840. He married Mary Ann Clark on September 2, 1864 in Henry County, Virginia. By the 1870 Federal Census, they were living in Horsepasture, Henry County, Virginia and had 3 children. James’ sister Eliza, a widow, was also living with them with her 2 children. He was a farmer who could not read or write. In 1880, they were living in Horsepasture with 7 children and James was listed as a farmer again.
From Pat Ross and Fran Snead on the Bassett Historical Center’s “History Corner” blog from Sept. 6, 2007:
Horsepasture had no recorded name until a group of Northerners traveling South passed through this part of the county riding thin mares, undernourished and overworked. The men of this group struck bargains with the people living in the area, trading their rides for new Virginia stock – two mares for a stallion, a mare and a colt for another mare, etc.
The Yankees rode southward that Spring, but during the Fall of that same year they returned North to their homes, traveling through this very same area. The horses that they had traded were now grazing on the high quality grass of this very fertile area. The Yankees continued home, shaking their heads in disbelief as they remarked that this little area was about the best ‘horse pasture’ they had ever known. The name stuck and the local Horsepasture Christian Church was founded in 1832. There was a post office at Horsepasture from 1833 to 1906.
James’ wife Mary Ann died of a fever in 1894 and James re-married in 1898 to Sallie Lou Koger. A little over a year later, Sallie moved back to her parents and gave birth to a daughter, Maggie. Oddly, in the 1900 census, James lists his deceased wife Mary Ann as living. Sallie was living with her parents and her daughter. James farmed with two of his sons, Robert (my great-grandfather) and Edward, as his farm laborers. In 1901, James filed for divorce on the grounds of Sallie’s desertion and it was finalized in June 1903. James died March 6, 1904 and was buried in Mount Hermon Church of the Brethren Cemetery in Bassett, Henry County.
(52 Ancestors #38 – Unusual Source)
Tombstones aren’t too unusual as a source, but sometimes they aren’t highly accurate. And often they only give names and birth and death years. But sometimes they have additional information that can be useful and point your research in the right direction. I’ll post some examples from my own family below.
(52 Ancestors #37 – Closest to your Birthday)
I was born on what would have been my great-great grandfather Arthur Belknap’s 110th birthday. He was born May 23, 1869, probably in Fulton County, Ohio, to Thomas Belknap and Polly Ann Farr. He was their last child. His father was 66 years old when Arthur was born.
In the 1870 U.S. census, Arthur was living in York Township, Fulton, Ohio with his parents Thomas and Polly, his half-brother Francis, and his siblings Myron, Lucelia, Lucretia, Thomas and Lucina. He had another brother, Zera, who was living with the Stillman Biddle family in York, as a farm laborer.
In 1880, 11-year-old Arthur was living in Dover, Fulton, Ohio with his parents and his brother Myron and sister Lucina.
On March 5, 1890, Arthur married Martha Gisel in Fulton County. Martha already had a child named Minnie, who had been born in 1887. On August 14, 1891, their son Floyd was born in Dover. On April 9, 1895, a son Earl was born in Gorham Township. On March 18, 1899, their daughter Belva was born.
In 1900, the family was living in Franklin Township, Fulton, Ohio. Arthur was a farm laborer and rented his home. On August 18, 1901, their son Orville was born in Franklin. On August 18, 1903, their last child Kennard was born.
In 1910, the family was living in Gorham Township, and Arthur was listed as a laborer. In 1913, Arthur’s first grandchild, Velma, was born in Wauseon, Ohio. Velma was my grandmother.
In 1920, Arthur, Martha, Orville and Kennard were living on Gorham St. in Gorham Township. Arthur was a laborer at a lumber company, while the boys were farm laborers.
In September 1925, Arthur’s wife, Martha died in a car accident. See this post from March 2011 for details of her death.
In 1930, Arthur was living alone in Fayette, Ohio, working as a laborer at odd jobs.
By 1940, Arthur was living with his daughter and her family in Nankin, Wayne County, Michigan.
In the 1947 and 1953, Lincoln Park, Michigan city directories, Arthur is listed as living with his son Earl at 617 Cleophus.
(52 Ancestors #36 – Working for a living)
My grandfather Edward Lee Wells (1905-1955) worked in various capacities for Timken-Detroit Axle Company from the 1920s until his death on June 19, 1955. The company started on Clark and Fort Streets in Detroit in 1909.
Edward, his mother Nannie, and his siblings Willis, Mary, William, and Jesse came to Detroit from Virginia in about 1923. He married my grandmother Velma Belknap on November 23, 1932. On the marriage license, his occupation was factory work.
In 1933, Edward and Velma were living in Lincoln Park, Michigan and he was a truck operator at Timken-Detroit Axle Company. In the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Edward, Velma and their four children were living in Allen Park and his job was as a stock chaser at the axle company. His income was $1600 and he had worked 50 weeks out of the year. In 1947, now with seven children, the family was living in Melvindale and Edward was a press operator at Timken Axle. In 1953, with eight children, Edward was listed in the city directory as a mechanic at Timken. In 1954, the last directory before his death, Edward was a service representative for Timken.
In the 1950s, my grandfather had to travel a lot to Chicago and back for his job.There is a family story that my grandmother once visited him there and that is where my youngest uncle was conceived (he was born March 31, 1953). Edward died ten days shy of his 50th birthday of a heart attack.
(52 Ancestors #35 – School Days)
Mildred Wade was the wife of my 1st cousin 4x removed, William I. Bolt. She was born July 22, 1856 in Hillsdale, Michigan. Both her parents died by 1870 and she went to live with her grandmother in Geneva, Ohio. In 1877, she married William I. Bolt in Jackson, Michigan. William was my great-great-great grandfather William D. Bolt’s nephew and the son of Isaiah Bolt. William was a plumber and Mildred was a teacher of elocution in Detroit. They lived at 1191 Jefferson Ave. In 1888, she founded the Detroit School of Expression and became its principal.
In what must’ve been the annual back-to-school issue on Wednesday, August 29, 1906, the Detroit Free Press devoted a large section to “Schools and Colleges of the Northwest.” The paragraph describing Mildred’s school is as follows:
Mrs. Mildred A. Bolt, principal of the Detroit School of Expression, is not only a teacher of the highest ability, but she possesses those invaluable qualities of earnestness and enthusiasm which seem to be transmitted to her pupils, inspiring them to greater diligence and higher aims.
Mrs. Bolt studied elocution with Prof. Moses True Brown, of Boston; attended lectures under Prof. S. H. Clarke, at Chicago University and graduated from the Detroit Training School, where she studied under Mrs. Edna Chaffee Noble.
Under her immediate direction is a staff of highly efficient teachers, who assist her in conducting the classes in elocution, English literature, Delsarte, philosophy, Shakespearian study, voice training, dramatic reading, criticism, physical culture, deportment and general literature.
Five new teachers will be added to the faculty this year, making it possible to give an increased amount of personal attention to each student. The Detroit School of Expression is located in one of Detroit’s finest residence sections, 1191-1195 Jefferson avenue, and was established by Mrs. Bolt in 1888.
William died at the age of 50 in 1907. Mildred’s home continued to be at 1191 Jefferson until at least 1920. Mildred was well-known in Detroit society and was involved in the Detroit Shakespeare Club. She died of uterine cancer on July 24, 1922 at 3578 Joseph Campau, which was the home of Dr. and Mrs. Siefert. Louise Siefert was the Secretary-Treasurer of the school. I’m glad Mildred had a friend to go to at the end.
Mildred and William were buried in Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery.