Saturday, March 29, 2014

52 Ancestors: #13–Harriet Searle Van Brocklin - Doing God’s work on the Prairie

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.  This post was originally published in 2010, but since I can’t do better telling her story, I am re-publishing it for this series.

Harriet Searle Van Brocklin3 Nestled between cornfields southwest of Freeport, Illinois, sits a lasting reminder that Harriet Van Brocklin was there, and that she had faith.

It takes a special kind of person to be a pioneer.  Harriet’s husband, Conrad, was that kind of person, and while he stands out in his community’s history, it’s clear that Harriet was his kindred spirit in that respect.  Not just any young woman would leave “civilization”, as well as her family, and take her two babies to what was at that time the western frontier, and live among Indians and wolves.  But Harriet did, in the spring of 1836.  She was taking herself, and her children, to an area where there were no doctors, no neighbors, and what you had was what you brought.   For some time, the Van Brocklins were the only settlers in Florence township, in sparsely settled Stephenson county, Illinois.  It would be a year and a half before another settler moved into the area.  How lonely she must have been!

But Harriet had brought faith with her.  She became a Christian as a child in New York, and her relationship to God was vitally important.  The Van Brocklins held their own religious services, and had public services as early as 1846 in an old log school house near their home.  In 1852, Harriet organized a Methodist congregation, and by 1860 it was part of a circuit of 5 churches with two ministers.  In 1866, the Van Brocklin church building was completed, built on land donated at least partially by the Van Brocklins, with money raised by subscription.   In more recent history, services were still held every other week, sharing a minister with another congregation.  Harriet has long since gone, but her work lives on.

Van Brocklin's Day 

On Yellow Creek they built a Church
And enemies said, "'twill be left in lurch,"
For the waters were high and the debt was large,
And God, they said, was against the charge. 

But the day was bright and the sun shone clear,
And a pontoon bridge they crossed without fear;
And though the feet slipped the heart was true,
And they walked on ice to see the thing through. 

The Elder preached well of Christ and love,
And carried our thoughts to temples above;
And when he stopped, Brother Best did write,
And soon the debt was out of sight. 

Yea, more than asked, with a hearty will,
Because our God their thoughts did fill;
And thanks to friends and God we'll give --
Praise here, and then go home to live. 

May angels often come and see
Repentant sinners bend the knee,
And new-born souls begin the song
They sing in heaven's assembled throng. 

--J. Wardie
Freeport, Feb. 20, 1883




 Van Brocklin Church,~2009

Sunday, March 23, 2014

52 Ancestors: #12 - A Curious Probate for Casper Kluthe

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.
Casper Kluthe was a German immigrant who seemed to live an upright, and straightforward life.  He was born in Germany in 1836, and left there early in 1872 with his sister Angela and cousin Theresia, headed for St. Louis to his brother, Conrad.  A few years later, Casper headed for Nebraska to homesteaded land. 
There he married a widow, Mrs. Maria (Heimann) Koester, who had three children – daughters Mary and Theresa, and son John.  Casper and Maria went on to have two sons.  The ages of the Koester girls aren’t known, but John Koester was two years old when his mother married Casper Kluthe, and he was eight years old when she died.  I don’t know what became of the Koester children, but they did not continue on in Casper’s household after the death of their mother, and I’m guessing they were reared by grandparents or other relatives.
Three years later, Casper married Katie Kleine, herself a German immigrant, and she raised his two sons from his first marriage in addition to the couple’s son and daughter.  Casper died in 1902, age 66 from asthma, and his youngest child was 14.  He named his wife as executrix of his estate.  Simple, right?
In May of 1910, eight years and one month after Casper’s death, up pops John Koester, filing a claim against the estate for $500.  His claim indicated that this was the amount due him from his mother’s estate, but did not mention any property that his mother may have brought into the marriage to Kluthe.  Katie Kluthe objected to the claim, and a court date was set.  When the day of the hearing finally rolled around, no one was showed up for court, and the hearing was rescheduled.  This time, Katie Kluthe and her attorney were present, but John Koester did not appear.  After an hour, they proceeded without him, and it was ruled that Koester was in default, evidence showed this was not a just claim, and the claim was barred by the statute of limitations.  Koester was ordered to pay court costs.
         This raises a few questions -

         What does this say regarding the relationship between John Koester and the Kluthes?
What was Koester’s point in filing this claim and then not showing up for court, twice?

Why did John Koester wait 8 years to file his claim against the estate?
Why did Koester feel he and his sisters were entitled to any part of the estate?  Did their mother leave assets that became the property of Casper Kluthe  after her death? 

Checking land records might help in determining if Maria Heimann Koester’s first husband owned property.

Did Casper Kluthe maintain a relationship with his step-children?  Was the claim filed because they were disappointed to have been left out of the will?
I would love to have ten minutes to talk to these people…

Friday, March 14, 2014

52 Ancestors: #11: John Quincy Adams of Vermont, Illinois, and Iowa

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.


John Q. Adams
John Adams always impressed me as a real “go-getter.”  Of course, it’s in his genes.  His great-grandparents, James Callender Adams and Submit Purchase Adams, were the first settlers in what would become St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Their son Martin Adams was also one of the pioneers of St. Johnsbury, and also of Duncansboro (Newport), Vermont, and was barely 17 when he enlisted in the Vermont Militia as a drummer in the Revolutionary War. Martin’s son Abial, the first white child born in Newport, served as town clerk and along with his wife Irene, raised 15 children.  It’s no wonder that John Adams had a tendency to go after what he wanted, and was not afraid of working to get it.
At the age of 16, John left home bound for Burlington, Vermont, to attend college there.  He paid his own way by teaching school in the winter terms.  He studied there for two years (1847-1849) before returning to his father’s house where he, along with the older boys in the family, helped on the farm.

Early in 1851, he once again left home, this time headed for Stephenson County, Illinois, where he taught school and worked as a carpenter for two years.  He was 22 years old when he boarded a steamer for California, hoping to jump-start his future in the Gold Rush era.  He was there five years, and went back to Stephenson county in February of 1858 with $1000 in his pocket.  He wasted no time purchasing 240 acres of land south of Florence, Illinois, and within two weeks had married Miss Julia Van Brocklin, daughter of prominent Stephenson county pioneer Conrad Van Brocklin.   He farmed this land for the duration of his many years there, except for a short time he kept a store in Freeport.

JohnJuliaHeadstone2 JohnAdamsLand2_WatermanTwp
Above, left: John and Julia’s headstone in Waterman cemetery.  Left: Their land in O’Brien county, Iowa.

While he started out ambitious, the remainder of his life seems to be relatively quiet, at least as far as the paper-trail he left would indicate.  In 1902, he sold his farm, and purchased another farm in O’Brien county, Iowa, as well as two pieces of land in nearby Sutherland.  His wife died on 24 Feb 1905.  He died on 16 Nov. 1907 of pneumonia in Hampton Iowa, where their daughter Hattie Wolfe and her family lived.  John and Julia are buried in Waterman Cemetery, just outside of Sutherland.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This is Where…

Back in 2006, we took a trip back to my grandparents’ home in South Dakota.  The last of them, my grandfather, passed away in 1996, and my mother continued on there for another 9 years before moving in with us in another state.  The house sat vacant.  It had seen better days – wonderful days – of lots of family chatter, savory aromas from the kitchen...  it was a safe haven where love and protection permeated the entire house.  Everything good about life I learned in that house.  And now we were going back one last time to pack things up and to say goodbye.  Take a tour with me, if you will.

lilacs2 This is where I would start to get excited – coming around the corner, seeing the warm light coming from the kitchen window.  The lilacs are lovey now, Grandma would have liked them; but they did not hide the house back then.  When we were dropped off in the early morning hours of winter, I could almost feel the warmth from the open oven door and the smell of hot chocolate radiating out the window with the light.

This is where I’d watch the squirrels clamoring to get to the squirrel feeder as Grandpa restocked it every day.

And from the outside, this is where Grandma and I would wave to each other as I was leaving.  Every time I left her house, except once, she was at that window; and every time I’ve left that house since her death more than 20 years ago, I could still see her standing there, smiling and waving at us.
Grandma's View kitchen window
100_3636 This is where I’d stand and contemplate – contemplate if the wonderful things stored in the attic were worth risking my very life to get to.  Yes, the attic was full of mysterious things both good and bad.  Boxes of old clothes, makeup samples from my mother’s time as an Avon lady, old toys… and monsters, for sure.  Lots of monsters.  Plus, Grandma told me, if I stepped in just the right place I’d fall down in between the walls, and “even Grandpa won’t be able to get you out.”  It worked.   Even now, I get a little chill down my spine at this sight.

This is where I sometimes slept when I spent the night there.  It was a tiny second bedroom with a magical trundle bed unlike anything I had ever seen.  Grandma would put a blanket on top of the mattress to make it more snuggly, and my sister and I would curl up under a big gray blanket with big red strawberries embroidered all over it.
This is where the black rotary dial phone sat, neatly in the little nook between the kitchen and the dining room; and where my grandmother would pull up a kitchen chair every night at 9:30, waiting for her mother-in-law to make her nightly “check in” call.

And, one more, if you don’t mind…

This is where I’d watch Grandpa walk in the morning, dressed in his overalls, and he'd back his blue and white car out of the garage.  He’d put his lunch pail in, wave goodbye, and head westward to his farm where chores awaited. 

I miss these days.  We are now raising our first generation of the family who never knew this place, and never knew these people.  I suppose we are now the ones whose responsibility it is to make the memories…

Friday, March 7, 2014

52 Ancestors: #10–Michael Joyce: The Man Who Can’t be Pinned Down

MichaelCatherineJoyce Michael and Catherine Joyce When you’re researching a man named Michael Joyce from Ireland, you have to expect that things aren’t going to be easy.  Probably much like researching a man named John Smith from New York City, I’m assuming.  I have been able to prove Michael and his wife, Catherine Finnerty, back to 1850, but no further.  With a date of birth, emigration from Ireland, death date, etc., I was hoping for a way to differentiate him from all of the other Michael Joyces out there, and find his immigration information as well as maybe trace him back to to Ireland.

Ah… we can always hope…

So, when and where was Michael born?  His obituary states that he was born in 1829 in Fraemstown, County Gall, Ireland.  However -

     -1855 Massachusetts State Census indicates 1830
     -1870 Federal Census indicates 1830
     -1880 Federal Census indicates 1831
     -1900 Federal Census says Sept. 1830
     -1910 Federal Census indicates 1830
     -his obituary says Sept. 29, 1830
     -his death certificate says Oct. 2, 1829
     -his original headstone says Sept. 29, 1829.

And regarding his place of birth – there is no county in Ireland by the name of Gall, and “Fraemstown” appears to be nonexistent.  The general vicinity for the Joyce family in County Galway has been established, but an 1781 map of the area doesn’t show “Fraemstown” or anything similar, which is a bit troubling.  His wife was still living at the time of his death, and came from the same area of County Galway, so if it were she who supplied the information, one would have to give it some sort of credibility.

Michael supposedly emigrated from Ireland aboard the “Victoria” but I have not been able to find a ship by that name operating in the appropriate time and place.  And when did he emigrate?

     -1848, per his obituary
     -1846, per the 1900 census
     -1849 per the 1910 census

He married Catherine Finnerty in 1851, according to his obituary.  Their first child was born in May of 1852, so this seems to fit – for a change.

They supposedly relocated from Massachusetts to Wisconsin in 1851, but birth places of their children make 1855-1857 more feasible, and a Michael and Catherine Joyce with two children by the appropriate names appear in the 1855 Massachusetts State Census, making the 1855-1857 time range more likely.

And his death? At least it’s either October 5 (death certificate and probate papers) or October 6 (original headstone).  Ironically, his obituary never exactly states when he died.

My conclusion is that Michael Joyce just dropped out of the sky and landed in the United States, and from thence we all sprang.  Seriously, the only solid information (I’m making a big assumption here) are the names of his parents from his death certificate.  Unfortunately, his father has a common name as well (Patrick) and his mother is Rose “Maden” – or perhaps Madden.  There are plenty of Maddens in the same area of Ireland as the Joyces, but no Madens that I have been able to find.  Hopefully, I'll be able to find a solid piece of information that will set him apart from the others, and help me to work back back a generation or two.