Thursday, September 4, 2014

Who are these people?

This photo is from the collection owned by the late Mary Virginia Switzer of Fountain County, Indiana. I can't determine the age of the photo; the people look to my untrained eye as belonging to the first half of the nineteenth century. It's also difficult to gauge the age of the subjects. Are they in their 40s? 50s? Older than that? Does the woman appear to be younger than the man? 

I wonder if they are David White, Sr. (ca. 1777-1851) and his second wife Jane (1799-1858). I can't say for certain that the woman looks 20 years younger than the man.

It would help in dating the photo to know when Hayes' Gallery and Short's Block existed. It'd also help to be able to date the style of clothing they're wearing. Can anyone help? 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thanks, Karen!

Wanted to give a shout out to Karen Zach, the intrepid administrator of the Fountain County, Indiana GenWeb site, for being so kind as to link to this blog. Thanks very much, Karen!

Fountain County was settled by families from Clermont County, Ohio, including my 3g-grandparents, Alexander and Hannah White, who moved there in late 1836 or early 1837. If you have Clermont County ancestors you should look in Fountain and neighboring counties for their descendants.

If you don't already know it, the Fountain County GenWeb site is a rich source of information very regularly updated by Karen. She and her platoon of volunteers are constantly collecting, transcribing and adding source material to the site. Check it out!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Found him! George R. White (1849-1922)

Of the eleven children of Alexander and Hannah White, one has eluded me for some thirty years: George R., their third son. In the mid-1980s I read obituaries preserved by family descendants of his siters Margery (Spinks; d. 1911) and Nancy (Grubbs; d. 1919), both of which named their brother George. Margery's obituary only names George; Nancy's says that George was living in California.

The last federal census in which I can find George R. is 1870, when he was enumerated with his parents in Wabash Township, Fountain County, Indiana (his place of birth). His father names him in his 1884 will, bequeathing him a buggy.

Based on his sister's obituaries, I thought that George R. had gone west and disappeared. Perhaps he had changed his name, died in a place where nobody knew him, had enlisted in the military, or even gone to Canada or overseas. None of these options had yielded anything. I cannot claim to have been able to make an exhaustive search of the relevant records, as my residence abroad itself has limited my access to the pertinent records.

And then, when visiting my family earlier this month, I had the luck to discover that the local LDS Family History Center had access to one of the major online historical newspaper sites. That site had a portion of Fountain County, Indiana newspapers from the late 1880s to the early 1930s.

When I conducted a search for George White, lo and behold (Covington Republican, Friday, 10 November 1922, page one):

Naturally, the obituary appears in one of the less-well-preserved pages of the paper! But that I was able to find it at all, and without traveling to Indiana to pore through reel after reel of microfilm . . .

I felt quite foolish when I read the obituary, for it is clear that George was buried in the same cemetery as his parents and sisters. I had not located his marker in my search of the cemetery in the 1980s. I had made an unwarranted assumption that he had left the county. I ought to have tried to locate burial records for the church. I could easily have missed the marker; perhaps it had been lost over time, or perhaps one never existed. He died unmarried; there were no immediate family in the area to mourn him and perhaps to foot the cost of a marker. At the time of his death, one brother (William) lived in southwestern Missouri; the other (Albert) in Kern County, California.

As I searched for more references to George White in the local Covington papers, I learned that it had been reported in a local newspaper that in late 1910 he had applied to the newly-built state sanatarium in Rockville, Indiana. Another article published in February 1911 noted that he had been refused admittance because of the advanced state of his tuberculosis. It went on to say that his Knights of Pythias lodge had given him the means to go to New Mexico for treatment.

The above obituary notes that George died in Hot Springs, Arkansas but had lived in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Both cities have tuberculosis hospitals; I wonder if he died in one of the Hot Springs hospitals. I have located what looks like his Arkansas death certificate, which I will order the first chance I get.

According to family tradition, his brother David, my great-great grandfather (1834-1879) had gone west on doctor's orders. Was the climate in western Indiana particularly conducive to tuberculosis?

I've now accounted for all of the known children of Alexander and Hannah White. I feel a little sad at the closing of this chapter in my research; he was the "mystery man" of my family. Apparently the only one for whom he was a mystery was me. This discovery has brought home to me yet again the importance of searching all possible local sources for information about a person. There are more lessons for me to draw from my search for George Riley White. For now, I'm simply happy to have found him at last.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

White family home

I purchased this photograph in (if I remember correctly) 1989 from a Mr. Coleman living near Perrysville, Indiana. The owners at the time of the house built by Alexander and Hannah White had told me that an elderly gentleman nearby owned a very old photo of the house. More on this structure, and the people standing in front of it, in the near future.

Erasmus P. White

My great-grandfather (1861-1915). The photo is a copy of what my great-aunt Omega White (my great-Uncle Ted's wife)  told me was originally a postcard. She understood the photo to have been taken at haying time, around 1914. It is the only photo of him our branch of the family has.

According to my great-aunt Anna Mae (White) Ranus, her father "Ras" White was a blacksmith and owned a mill in Tipton Ford, Missouri, after he stopped farming. She also related to me (in a 1976 letter) that he taught music (voice and theory) in the local school, and that in his cousin Ray Busey's (mayor of Phoenix, Arizona in the mid-1940s) opinion he ought to have gone into politics. Anna Mae said that he read everything he could get his hands on.

According to a family group chart composed by his sister Abby White Baker (1873-1968), he was born in Abingdon, Vermilion County, Illinois. I cannot find a town or village by that name in Vermilion County, although there is one in Knox County. As his father and mother were listed in the 1860 federal census of Illinois as living in Vermilion County (which lies in extreme eastern Illinois, on the Indiana border near Fountain County), my guess is that the county of his birth is correct but that the town is not. I know of no reason why the family would have moved to Knox County; I know of no family members who were living there at the time.

Baptist roots: Maine, Ohio, Indiana

According to one nineteenth-century history of Fountain County, Indiana, Alexander White was an ordained deacon in the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Fountain County, Indiana. My family preserves a tradition that his son, David W. White (d. 1879), and his son, Erasmus P. White (d. 1915), were Baptist deacons. My grandfather, Ray White (d. 1977), continued the tradition.

The Mount Carmel church was closely connected to the White family, so much so that it is also known to this day as White's Chapel. Although Alexander and Hannah White did not found the church by themselves, they were among the founders. The church is located adjacent to Alexander and Hannah's farm, and the same history I mentioned above states that Alexander gave land for a cemetery (which appears under the name White's Chapel Cemetery in FindaGrave). In his 1884 will, Alexander left money for the fencing of the family graves.

Why were they Baptists? So far I have found nothing associating David White, Sr. with any church in Clermont County, Ohio. His son, daughter-in-law, and other family members are buried in the cemetery of the Mt. Pisgah church (now United Methodist). Methodism has a long history in Clermont County, going back at least as far as 1805.

However, Hannah White's family were Baptist. She is recorded in the minutes of what is now the Amelia Baptist Church as receiving a letter of transfer from what was then the Second Ten-Mile Baptist Church. It has been claimed (but without substantiation) that her grandfather, the Revolutionary War veteran John Wheeler (d. 1844) was a Baptist lay preacher. The history of Baptists in Bowdoinham, Maine (where Hannah was born, and to which her grandfather had moved with his family in 1762) goes back to the foundation of Bowdoinham itself. My guess is that the Baptist heritage entered the family through Hannah.

The Mount Carmel church belonged to the Tippecanoe Association, a so-called "Missionary Baptist" association. My family's tradition was that in Indiana we were "Hardshell" or Primitive (i.e., Calvinist) Baptists. But unless there were other family members who were Primitive Baptists, this particular tradition seems to be incorrect. The Franklin College Archives contains minutes of annual meetings of the Tippecanoe Association in the nineteenth century. Alexander White appears as early as 1846 as a messenger to the annual meeting. In the 1880s his son Albert H. appears as the clerk of the church and head of the Sunday school, and his son George R. appears as a messenger from 1882 to 1885.

The natural place for baptisms would have been the Wabash River, which flows about a mile west of the Mount Carmel church. The liturgical scholar in me would like to know what their baptisms were like: how they processed to the river, what they wore, what they sang, what they preached, what they ate together afterwards.

Moving west: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado

These States (or colonies, in the case of Pennsylvania) are the points on the trajectory of my own family's history in North America. It isn't the only trajectory in the larger family. One point of divergence is Indiana. My 2g-grandfather and his three brothers (William, George, Albert) all headed west from Fountain County, Indiana but they and their descendants took different paths from there.

David W (1834-1879).: Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, California

William P. (1842-1924): Indiana, Kansas, Colorado, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, California, Texas, Washington

Albert H. (1854-1928): Indiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, California, Idaho, Nevada

George R. (ca. 1848-?): Indiana, California

Both David and William ended up in southwest Missouri, on the edge of the Ozarks. David died in 1879 in Newton County, on the Kansas border. William moved from Springfield to Walnut Grove to Mountain Grove, Missouri (in Wright County). He died in 1924 in Minneola, Kansas, where he was living with his daughter and her husband. I wonder if David's and William's descendants in Missouri knew of each other. It would not surprise me if they did, although I have no direct evidence of it. I would love to discover correspondence between and among them.

Each brother had a different reason for moving west. The tradition in my family is that David W. was advised by doctors to move to a healthier climate. Perhaps he had tuberculosis; he died quite young, at 44.

I cannot be certain about the reason or reasons for William P.'s move west. He had married in 1865 and had two daughters before divorcing in 1873 (according to his Civil War pension application). He remarried in 1875 and apparently lived in Kansas before they moved to Missouri. In 1880 he is enumerated as a miner in Independence, Colorado, while his wife and four-year-old son are enumerated in Vermillion County, Indiana.

Albert H. headed west some time after the death of his wife in 1903. As the youngest child of the family, he had stayed on the family farm in Indiana. His family has preserved the tradition that he first moved to Oklahoma, then to New Mexico, then finally to Kern County, California where his son Albert R. had moved some years earlier.

I know the least about George R. When his sister Nancy died in 1919 her obituary stated that George was living in California. I have no firm information about what happened to him. He doesn't appear in the California death indexes, nor can I find him in the Great Registers. Repeated searches in census records from 1880 to 1940 have failed to find him. He was alive in 1884, when his father's will was written: there, he is left a buggy by his father. If I could get to Fountain County I would read the local newspapers, check probate records, church minutes.