Thursday, January 18, 2018

Is it him? Or is it not him? That is the question...

                I have pined away for a Revolutionary War Patriot in my lineage for a long time, but have come up disappointed at every turn.  My husband, however, can boast of several.  My best hope for a patriot is my direct-line ancestor Joseph Lair.

                Lair, the son of German immigrants, was born in Philadelphia in September of 1745, and by 1768 had purchased land in Rockingham County, Virginia.  In 1788, he contributed horses to Captain Richard Ragan’s company, so he did at least something toward the effort.  The DAR database confirms his contribution.  Maud Ward Lafferty and Helen Lafferty Nisbet, in their book “Background of the Lair Family,” state that he no doubt served as well, in addition to his brothers, and that his service was likely documented in Virginia.

                I first took up the quest to find information on his service about 15 years ago, long before websites like were available.  I had made note that he attained the rank of Corporal, but did not note the source of that tidbit.  In the limited resources available at the time, I was unable to find much, so I made a few notes and stuck them in a folder.  Now, I’m going through that folder and have picked up the job of looking for his service.

                The first stop was Fold3.  I was pleased to get an immediate “hit” – and discover a Joseph Lair who rose from the rank of Private to Corporal in the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, Continental Troops, commanded by Caleb Gibbs.  Caleb Gibbs was a “right hand man” of George Washington, and it was his duty to not only protect Washington, but to engage in battle as well.   This was a big deal!  Perhaps waiting all these years to discover a patriot was well worth it with a story like this for the family tree!  However, the reference envelope pictured below notes that the cards are filed with “Law, Joseph.”  And herein begins a whole new struggle.

                I looked at every muster roll available for this group, and beginning with July 1777 until July 1780, either a Joseph Lair or a Joseph Law shows up, but never both at the same time.  A few of the listings are clearly “Lair,” more are clearly “Law,” and some could go either way.  This man starts out with the rank of Private, and ends up as Corporal.  Because both “Law” and “Lair” never show up separately, I have to conclude that this is the same man.

That's a nice "Lair"!!

Ugh.  That's a good "Law."  The loop at the end of the "w" is consistent with handwriting in other parts of the document.

                 My Joseph Lair was born in Pennsylvania, but purchased land in Rockingham County, Virginia in 1768, and lived there until at least until 1792.  Caleb Gibbs was associated with the 14th Massachusetts Regiment, but served elsewhere in his capacity with George Washington’s Guard, and since Washington lived in Virginia, it would not be inconceivable that Virginia men, such as Joseph Lair, were involved.  It was noted that after the war, Gibbs returned to Massachusetts.

                So – who was this man?  Was it Joseph Law, or Joseph Lair?  And if it IS Joseph Lair, is it MY Joseph Lair?  These are the problems that stand between me and a Revoultionary War ancestor.

                I wondered if I could document a Joseph Law as having served in the war, so it was back to Fold3 with a new search.  That search brought up a widow’s pension file associated with a Joseph Law who served with a Connecticut regiment under Colonel Chandler, for three years commencing from 1777.  My hopes rose!  Yes, there was a Joseph Law, but he was tied in up Chandler’s regiment during the time in question.  Continuing on through the numerous documents in the file, I found another that stated he was transferred into Gen. George Washington’s Corps of Guards.  Shoot  (no pun intended).  I am back to my previous condition of not having a patriot in my family tree.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Menzie House Hotel - An Early Problem Property

     The town of Huron, in Dakota Territory, was a growing, bustling little town situated along the tracks of the Chicago and North Western railroad.  In the early 1880s, the influx of settlers, businessmen, and railroad workers produced a demand for lodging, and numerous hotels sprang up to fill that need.

     On the corner of what was then First Street and Kansas avenue sat the Menzie House, one of Huron’s many early hotels.  A two-and-a-half-story building, it also included a livery stable further down the street.   Like other hotels in booming towns along the railroad, it saw its share of guests.  And in the case of the Menzie House, it saw its share of trouble, too. 

Above: The red "X" shows the location of the Menzie property, with the hotel to the left, and the livery stable to the right.
Below: the same area, with the red "X" marking the location of the hotel.  

The hotel was opened by New York native John W. Menzie in 1883, and was described in the local newspaper as “well-kept and furnished, with large, bright rooms.”  Mr. Menzie, the article elaborated, “takes pains in making his house inviting in its arrangements, its cleanliness and the splendid table regularly set before his guests.   As a host Mr. Menzie has the happy faculty of making his guests feel at home, and pays strict attention to the many details that help to make a hotel a success, and which disregarded are sure to bring failure.”  But, at some point details were indeed disregarded.

What brought the Menzie family to Huron isn’t known, but their tenure in the town, and in the hotel business, was about 10 years.  And in that time, they lost a barn to fire, a child to death, had another child abducted, had one employee kill another, had a patron claim to be drugged and robbed, and another patron died refusing to divulge his identity.  In addition, Mr. Menzie was arrested several times on charges relating to his operation of the hotel.

Perhaps good help was hard to find in those days.  Or perhaps Mr. Menzie wasn’t particular about his employees.  It was in August of 1886 that Menzie’s livery employee, Nathan Freeman, described as easily angered, killed Joseph Kessler, another Menzie employee.  Kessler, also described as  “high-strung and quick-tempered,” was in charge of the general operations at the hotel.  Kessler was critical of Freeman’s handling of the horses, and his expletive-laced “suggestions” to Freeman were not well-received.  An argument with “coarse words” and a scuffle broke out, but they eventually separated with little physical harm done, except for a scratch on Kessler’s face which infuriated him.  Kessler made some threats, and threw a punch.  Freeman headed for the hotel building to find Mr. Menzie, intending to resign, but by the time he got there he decided to go home to have his mother sew his ripped shirt and return to his duties in the livery.  Before returning to work, however, he grabbed a revolver and took it back to work with him.  Back at the livery, witnesses say that Kessler continued to harass Freeman, and Freeman could be heard telling Kessler, “Don’t come near me – keep away from me!”  But Kessler continued toward him, so Freeman took out his gun and raised it to fire, but Kessler hit Freeman’s hand to try to knock the gun from it, and it discharged, entering Kessler’s left temple.  He fell to his knees, then prone to the floor.  Dr. Huff did all he could do, but the bullet was lodged deep in Kessler’s brain, and he  never regained consciousness.   He died a few hours later.  Freeman was arrested for murder, but was later acquitted of the charge.

The site of the old Menzie Livery, where Joseph Kessler was killed.

A few years later, the Menzie’s four- year-old adopted daughter, Edith, was abducted.   Mrs. Menzie had been out shopping, and picked up a letter at the post office from the child’s birth mother, Ada Hawthorn, telling her that she “need not be surprised should Edith disappear at any time.”  In fact she might be gone before the letter even reached Mrs. Menzie.  Ms. Hawthorn clearly stated numerous reasons why the child should no longer remain in the Menzie family, but the primarly reason was that the Menzie House was not a proper home for her.  It was late in the afternoon when Mrs. Menzie got the letter from the post office, and returning home, she began looking for Edith, but no one had seen her “for some time.”  The police were summoned and felt confident that the child would be found and returned, and apparently at some point in time she was indeed returned to the Menzies.

In 1893 J. Rosenthal took over the Menzie House and dubbed it “Hotel Columbia” and let the town know that it had been “thoroughly cleaned and repaired, and will be kept in first-class order.”  What, exactly, happened after that isn’t clear, but it appears that John Menzie was back at the helm a short time after that.

In January of 1895, Menzie House was raided, and beer and other liquors were found.  The house was closed “by injunction” and the Menzie family was forced to find shelter elsewhere.  The police had been watching the hotel for some time and the local paper commented, “One would think that the frequency with which Menzie and his establishment get into trouble that he would become tired and cry ‘give us a rest.’”  But there was no rest.  Menzie was arrested at least once for selling liquor without a license, was fined at least twice (and his wife and son each at least once) for “keeping a disreputable house.”   After his wife’s arrest, Menzie “sniffed trouble” and left town, despite having his own similar charge pending in court.  Said the local newspaper, “Menzie left for parts unknown on a former occasion and remained away from Huron for two or three years.  The moral atmosphere of the town was not improved by his return.”

The Menzies made their way to Indiana, where they opened a used furniture store in Muncie, and opened another "Menzie House" hotel in Matthews, as well as adopted another daughter.  By 1910, they had moved to Ashtabula county, Ohio, where Mr. Menzie died in 1922.

The current site of the old Menzie House hotel, on the corner of what is now
Market Road and Kansas ave.
By 1896, the hotel building in Huron was owned by Richards Trust Company, and the business was being advertised for rent with the statement, “A good chance for a good man.”  By 1898 it briefly housed the “Farmers Home” and in 1899 was purchased by James McWeeny and dubbed  the “McWeeny House.”

Sanford Fire Insurance Map of Huron, South Dakota 1884 - 1898
The Daily Huronite – numerous issues from 1885 - 1936
Sioux Falls Argus Leader - Nov. 19, 1890; Jan. 5, 1895; Jan. 26, 1895; March 13, 1895.
1900, 1910, 1920 Federal Censuses
Muncie, Indiana City Directory 1899-1900
The Star Press, Muncie, Indiana, Aug. 28, 1905
“Huron Revisited”
Google Earth

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Big, Stinky Moneymaker on the Hill

Yes, I'm talking about Armour and Company, sitting on the hill just east of town.  Others who grew up in Huron will relate to the "stinky" description.  Let's just say that depending on which way the wind was blowing, the air drifting through town could get fairly aromatic. But it kept the lights on and food on the table in many local households. 

While the Armour plant did not open until 1925, its roots actually go back to 1919, when a co-op of citizens and local farmers decided that the area could benefit from a meat packing plant, and money was raised to construct it just outside of town.  However, it didn't take long for them to realize that besides producing the meat, they needed a way to market their product as well, so the plant was dead in the water before it even opened the doors.

Armour and Company, however, had not only the ability to produce the meat, but had the necessary connections to market their product efficiently.  They purchased the building as it was, but had to make a substantial investment in equipment before opening for business on November 2, 1925.  They processed cattle, hogs and sheep.

They had two clubs for employees, the Armour Athletic Club and the Armour Men's Social Club.  The former sponsored a bowling league, and provided a kittenball diamond on Armour property.  They kittenball team they sponsored in 1938 won the South Dakota state championship.

I was an "Armour's Brat," enjoying the benefits of my father's employment there, as were many of my cousins and friends.  My grandfather, Adolph Hammer, started working there in December of 1950, and my father did as well after his military service, and made a career of it.  Several of my uncles did as well.  We paid $1 for our prescriptions for a long time, and I remember the consternation when the price went up to $2.  The money must have been good, but the work was hard.  I remember many extremely early mornings, when my dad would eat his breakfast around 4 a.m. before leaving for work, or talking about being cold all day when he worked in the freezer.  I remember his back pain, and his sore muscles.  I also recall the stories of practical jokes and all the friendships made with other Armour employees.  The Marvels, Connors, Gundersons, Boghs, Magers ... we all grew up together.

But all good things must come to an end.  The plant closed in the early 1980s, and since then the population of the town has been on the down-slide.  The once impressive, imposing building deteriorated and was eventually torn down, leaving only part of one of the structures.  The empty, gaping hole where it once stood still looks shocking to those of us who had never seen the landscape without it. 

But time marches on. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

And if you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you…

[Note: George Knutz was my great grandfather's brother]

The year was 1906.  The place was Sedalia, Missouri.  George Knutz, ill after a dog bite, was taken by the night train to Dr. L. E. Stanhope in nearby Nevada, Missouri.  There were plenty of doctors in Sedalia, but none like Dr. Stanhope.  He had a madstone.

George Knutz
Knutz, a carman on the Third street line in Sedalia, was bitten by a local dog known only as “Tramp” on Friday.  By Monday night, his symptoms worsened to the point where he and friend Fred Koyl took the Monday evening train to Dr. Stanhope, who, for $35, would treat him with the controversial stone.

A “madstone,” as the name implies, was used to treat bites that might potentially transmit rabies, or “hydrophobia” as it was also known.  These porous stones were found in the stomachs of cud-chewing animals, but not all of these stones were created equally.  A stone from a white deer was said to be more effective than a stone from a brown deer, for instance.   The stone was boiled in sweet milk until the milk turned green, indicating all poison was removed from the stone.  It was placed hot on an open wound; if the wound had scabbed over, it was re-opened first.  The stone would then adhere to the wound, and draw out any “poisons” that might be present.  When the poison was gone from the wound, or when the madstone was full, it would drop off, and then it could be re-boiled to start the process all over again until the patient was purged of whatever poison had been in the wound.

The process had to be followed exactly, and there were additional caveats.  If the owner of the stone tried to sell it, it would negate the healing power; also, the patient had to come to the owner of the stone, and not vice versa.  Many folklore testimonials can be found attributing miracles to these madstones, while others suggested it was simply placebo, although no amount of placebo can stop rabies.

George Knutz had the madstone attached to the calf of his leg for nine and a half hours, afterward feeling so well that he returned to working his streetcar route on Friday morning.  Dr. Stanhope told him if he had waited another day, his outcome may have been very different.

“There are a great many so-called madstones that are bogus, and, of course, worthless,” stated Dr. Stanhope.  “I have a madstone that has been thoroughly tested, which I apply to bites at a reasonable price, with perfect confidence that it is a sure cure for hydrophobia.”  Besides his usual fee of $10 for the first hour plus $5 for each additional hour, Dr. Stanhope was offering stock in his madstone for the price of $1, which entitled the whole family the lifetime privilege to have the stone applied free of charge for all poisonous bites.

There was no word on the health of the stray dog, Tramp, who bit Mr. Knutz.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Those Bad Vibes

I love genealogy road-trips.  I especially love walking through cemeteries.  It’s so peaceful and quiet, walking past the graves and reading the headstones, and imagining the lives that were lived.  From time to time a family historian will tell of looking for a grave among hundreds of them in a cemetery, and will suddenly find themselves right there  – and they attribute it to their ancestor guiding them to the correct place.  What a lovely, warm-fuzzy, feel-good story.  But have you ever experienced the opposite?

I was doing some research for someone, and took a short day trip to take some cemetery photos.  I love going to new towns and poking around to see what’s there, but from the moment we pulled into this small town, I got the creeps.  Bad vibes.  I was fairly uncomfortable, but there was no obvious reason for having that feeling.  We easily found the cemetery, and I looked forward to getting out of the car and doing some stretching, enjoying the fresh air, etc., and most of all shaking off that creepy feeling. But the bad mojo only got worse at the cemetery.  Typically when visiting a small graveyard, we’ll walk the whole thing and photograph it for Find-A-Grave, but this feeling was so unpleasant that we found the graves we needed, photographed them, and got out of there as quickly as possible.

My research continued at home.  As I learned more and more about the family, I discovered that two of them had terrorized their families and eventually taken their own lives, some 50 years apart.  While both of these men were buried elsewhere,  many of the family members they left behind lived in this town and were buried in this cemetery.    

That is one town, and one cemetery where I’ll never go again.

Similar experiences?

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Perfect Storm

 [Note: The Conductor of Train #412 was my great-great uncle, E. E. Hittle of Huron, South Dakota.  He was married to Maude Graves, sister of my great-grandmother Elvirta Knutz.  As far as I know, he walked away from the crash without injuries.


                Webster defines the term “Perfect Storm” as a critical or disastrous situation created by a powerful concurrence of factors.  And that is precisely what culminated on the morning of Sunday, April 25, 1937, when Chicago and North Western passenger Train #412 plowed into the rear of Train #504 just west of De Smet, South Dakota, killing one and injuring several others.

                It was described as a “freakish late-April storm” that rolled into the area on Saturday, April 24, bringing strong north winds of 60-65 mph.  Only an inch of snow was deposited in the city of Huron, but massive drifts high enough to cover the fence line could be found east of Huron between Iroquois and De Smet.  Highway 14 was quickly impassable, with dozens of cars stalled and abandoned near Manchester, as their inhabitants made their way into town to catch the eastbound train to their destinations.

Map of pertinent area in eastern South Dakota, courtesy of Google Maps.

                Late Saturday evening, Train #504 left the depot at Huron for its eastward run, hauling a passenger car plus five other cars, with a gas-electric motor coach that was hitching a ride, or “deadheading,” to Tracy, Minnesota, at the end.  All was uneventful but for a few small drifts until they were within three miles of De Smet, when the train met its match in snow and became stalled.  Conductor Arthur Howard, of Huron, and his Engineman Mr. Key, thought the train might have a better chance without the deadheading motor coach, so it was detached and they attempted to thrust the train through the deep snow, but this effort was unsuccessful.  The crew then attempted to get the detached motor car back to Manchester to summon help, but the high winds and heavy snow only allowed about 50 feet of movement before it, too, was stuck.  Engineman Key sent out the flagman to the rear of the train, and they made the decision to have Conductor Howard try to walk the three miles to De Smet for help and to notify the proper people of the stall.

                The Flagman Mr. McIntyre sprang into action to minimize a very dangerous situation.  This area of track was single-rail; trains were operated on a timetable, with train “orders” and a manual block-signal system during the day.  During other times, “time spacing rules” were in effect to prevent accidents.  Flagman McIntyre situated a red fusee (very similar to a flare) about 500 feet behind the train, and continued walking until he found another clear spot on the rail on which to put torpedoes to alert any oncoming trains.  Continuing, he put another two torpedoes down about 1/4 mile from the train, then went back to the train to warm up.  He went out a second time, this time 3/4 mile from the train.  Overnight, he made several trips back and forth, standing guard to get the attention of any approaching train, and returning to his train when his eyes and face were covered with the freezing heavy snow.  In the early morning hours, he and baggage man Fred Behrens, of Tracy, decided to try to get to a nearby farm house in hopes of being able to contact the depots in Huron and De Smet to let them know of their predicament, and bring back some food for the passengers, despite their conductor already being on the way to summon help.  In his absence, Flagman McIntyre enlisted Baggageman Venard to take his place as flagman.  Although Venard’s 16-hour “tour of duty” would soon be expiring, McIntyre did not consider it of importance during an emergency situation, and departed with Behrens. They were ultimately not successful in locating the farmhouse, and leaving Behrends behind, McIntyre proceeded to De Smet. 

                Meanwhile, Venard acted as flagman, but informed Conductor William Innes, who was in charge of the deadheaded motor car, that his 16 hours were nearly up, expiring at 7:40 a.m.  According to Venard, Innes replied that he would take over the flagging duties at that time.  When 7:40 rolled around, Venard came back to the train, and made a sign to Conductor Innes, who nodded back.  Venard took this as a sign that Innes would take over, and he proceeded to the mail/baggage car and went to sleep.

                Sharing responsibility with Innes for the deadheaded motor coach was Engineman Frank Carpenter, also of Tracy.  He and Conductor Innes alternated going to the engine for coal.  Carpenter was preparing for his turn and Innes went to the passenger compartment of the motor car, located at the rear, apparently having no knowledge that there was no longer anyone at all acting as flagman.


Depot and Rail Yard of the Chicago and North Western Railroad at Huron

                Meanwhile, at the Huron Depot, the crew of passenger Train #412 was preparing for its run.  Dispatcher Kelley came on duty at 6:30 a.m., and discussed the situation with the night shift dispatcher, who informed him that all communication east of Huron was down.  However, he had no reason to believe that the previous nights’ train, #504, had not been successful in reaching its destination.  As Dispatcher Kelley was preparing to issue orders for the outgoing train, he was distracted by a train patron inquiring about shipping animals, and he inadvertently issued the conductor a clearance card reading “block clear” rather than issuing a caution order. 

                At 8:18 a.m., Conductor Hittle and crew left the depot 13 minutes behind schedule.  Engineman J. C. Shephard noted the severity of the storm, but the visibility was at least good enough to see the front of the engine, and the train had no trouble attaining its regular speed.  But all that changed as they went through Manchester; the snow on the tracks caused the train to lose speed, and Fireman Hoffman expected a stall, but Engineman Shephard was able to use more steam to get the speed back up and keep the train moving.  Their speed was up to about 20 mph, but visibility was so poor that the front of the engine was now a blur in the blizzard conditions.  


             In De Smet, Train #504 Conductor Howard discovered that communication lines were down in the whole area.  He knew he would not be able to contact the depot in Huron, but was at least hoping to contact someone in Iroquois to warn of the stall.  He stayed in De Smet until 5 a.m., then headed back toward his train, but discovered the drifts had become 2-3’ deep and was forced to return to De Smet.  He was surprised shortly after that when his Flagman McIntyre showed up at the De Smet depot.  When Howard inquired who was doing the flagging, he was told that Venard was handling it.  They were in the train station when the mail clerk came over and told them that the unthinkable had happened.


                There was nothing the crew of Train #412 could have done to stop the crash.  They heard no torpedoes, and saw neither fusees nor a flagman.  After the accident, Train #412’s Flagman Shanahan went to the rear of the train to flag, and found an unexploded torpedo about a half mile behind the train – his train had slid right over it.1  He walked the 6 miles back to Manchester, and his face became covered with ice in the nearly 3 hours it took to get there.

                The deadheading motor car with Conductor Innes and Engineman Carpenter was the first to be hit, and it was hit hard.  Made of steel, it was crushed like a piece of aluminum foil, “telescoping” it.  Conductor Innes was in the rear part of car, and was critically injured.  Engineman Carpenter, in the front part of the car, sustained a broken nose, numerous head lacerations, and bruises.  After the motor car was hit, it propelled into the main train, partially derailing it and causing minor injuries among the passengers.  Had the motor coach not been detached, the situation would have been much more serious than it already was.

                A plea was immediately made in the passenger car for anyone with any medical skill to help.  A young Huron College student, Paul Besselievre of Pierre, was traveling to Irwin, South Dakota to preach a Sunday sermon, and his scouting experience gave him some basic first aid skills.  A nurse, Miss Beulah Vostad of Rapid City, was also aboard.  Nurse Vostad attended to the more seriously injured Conductor Innes while Besselievre cleaned and dressed Engineman Carpenter’s wounds, stating that the hardest part was keeping Mr. Carpenter still – he was compelled to go to the main train to see what he could do to be of service, despite his wounds and dazed condition.  Unfortunately there was not much that could be done for Conductor Innes other than an injection of morphine to ease his pain.  He was talking coherently Sunday night, but took a turn for the worse and passed away the following day.

This was the Perfect Storm of conditions – snow, wind, lack of visibility, downed phone lines, and a number of critical human decisions that went wrong.  The investigation questioned why the flagman would leave his job, which was paramount to the safety of everyone on the train, to duplicate the efforts of his conductor.  His replacement went “off-duty” in an emergency situation.  The next replacement apparently did not know he was expected to act as flagman in addition to what he was already doing.   In a moment of distraction, the depot clerk did not caution the outgoing crew of a potential problem down the line.  These were all factors that came together resulting in a large amount of damage and most importantly, the loss of Conductor William Innes’ life.


1Pg. 63 of Accident Bulletin, Issues 63-82, by United States Federal Railroad Administration, Office of Safety.
                “When a train is stopped by an accident, obstruction, or from other cause, the flagman must immediately go back with stop signals to stop any train moving in the same direction.  At a point one-third of a mile from the rear of his train, he must place one torpedo on the rail; he must then continue to go back at least one-half of a mile from the rear of his train, and place two torpedoes on the rail, 60 feet apart (two rail lengths), when he may return to a point one-third of a mile from the rear of his train, and he must remain there until recalled by the whistle of his engine; but if a passenger train is due within 10 minutes, he must remain until it arrives.  When he comes in he will remove the torpedo nearest to the train, but the two torpedoes must be left on the rail as a caution signal to any following train.  At night he will also leave a green fuse burning on the track.  If there is not a clear view for one-fourth mile to rear of train, the train must start before calling in the flagman, and move ahead at a speed of not less than 4 miles per hour until it reaches a point where the view is unobstructed for one-fourth mile in its rear.”

Monday, January 2, 2017

The 1880 Agricultural Schedule Sheds Light on William Graves

Years ago, I found digital copies of the 1880 Agricultural Schedule for my direct-line ancestors, William Graves and Lawson Lair in Peoria County, Illinois.1  The headings of the schedules were impossible to read, and I wasn’t terribly sure how valuable any of the information would be, so I stashed them to deal with later.  Yesterday I decided to put the effort into seeing exactly what was on those schedules.

William Graves
I was able to find a document online with information on the agricultural schedule and blank forms for several years2; then began the work of going back and forth between the blank form and the schedule until I had extracted the information.  I repeated the process on the second schedule I’d downloaded for Lawson Lair – but discovered that William Graves was also listed on that schedule as well!  Princeville Township only had one William Graves during that time period, so I assumed he had a second farm somewhere in the township.  I was aware that William, through thrift and hard work, had given each of his children (including his daughters) their own 80 acre farm when they became adults.  I began looking at plat maps for various years, and looking at neighbors both on the plat maps and on the agriculture schedules to determine which schedule entry pertained to which of the farms he owned.

As it turns out, one schedule entry notes that William does not own this particular farm, but is leasing it for a share of the profits produced.  Looking at the other entries on the schedule and comparing them to neighbors listed on the plat maps for 1873 and 1896, I was able to determine the farm was located in Section 4 of Princeville Township, land that William owned in 1873 and his daughter Sarah A. Cox owned in 1896.  Sarah was married to Charles Cox in 1874, and may have been given that farm at that time, or at least prior to 1880.

1873 Plat map of Princeville Township, Peoria County, Illinois.  The red "X" in the upper left corner shows the location of land that would later belong to William's daughter Sarah; the green "X" toward the center shows the location of William's farm, with land he'd later give to Tom and Oscar; across the road, denoted by the purple "X" is the land that would later belong to Austin.

The second entry is a bit harder to explain.  Again, looking at those around him both on the schedule and on the various plat maps, this farm appears to be his personal farm.  William had purchased land that was clustered around his primary farm in the western half of section 2 and the eastern half of section 3.  On the earlier 1873 plat map, the section 2 land had been divided into two farms – one owned by his daughter, Martha Cox, and the other in his name.  Later that land would go to his son, Austin, who was just 3 at the time this map was created.  Across the road, in section 3, he owned a 240 acre farm, which would by 1896 have been divided into thirds – 80 acres for his son Oscar, 80 acres for his son Tom, and 80 acres for himself.  But this does not explain the findings on the 1880 agriculture schedule – William’s farm was described as 80 acres.  Twins Austin and Oscar would have been just 10 at the time of the schedule, and Tom would have been 18.  It is conceivable that Tom had gotten his farm by 1880, but unlikely that Austin and Oscar’s would have been in their names.  Perhaps these 240 acres of unaccounted-for land was rented out and appears on the schedule under the renter’s name.  Thus, William’s second appearance on the schedule with 80 acres of land would make sense.

William Graves' land, photo taken about 2007 by author.
Regarding the specifics of William’s farming, he tilled 79 of the 80 acres on Sarah’s farm, but only 30 of his own, keeping the remainder as meadow or pasture.  Each farm produced about $700 for the year in profits.   He kept horses, pigs, and chickens at both places, but also kept cattle on his own farm – 2 cows for milking and 16 others to sell or slaughter.   Butter was produced on his home farm – 150 pounds in 1879. 

Crops grown on both farms include Indian corn, oats, and Irish potatoes (as opposed to sweet potatoes).  100 bushels of apples were sold from the orchard on Sarah’s land, and 125 gallons of molasses were produced from there as well.

Besides an interesting snapshot of what a typical workday for William may have looked like, finding these two entries on the agriculture schedule really forced me to take a good look at William’s land ownership and how his land acquisitions were divided among his children, and when that may have occurred.

I have one question I wish I could ask William’s wife: Who really churned all that butter??

Both these men were great-grandfathers of Bill Knutz Jr.  William Graves’ son Tom married Lawson Lair’s daughter Nettie, and they were Bill’s grandparents.