Monthly Archives: November 2016

Matilda Fowler Smith

2016-11-05-23-44-26

Matilda Fowler Smith taken about 1852. Possibly just before or after moving to California .

Family history writing prompt 3 – think of  an ancestor as character in a novel and describe their life in a few paragraphs. For this prompt, I have chosen Matilda Fowler, my third great grandmother from my Father’s maternal line. Her real life story reads like a great historical the one without a happy ending.

Matilda Fowler Smith

 Matilda walked him to the door, “Thank you for coming. I don’t know if I will ever be able to pay you.

The doctor stepped onto the porch. “Don’t worry about it. I just wish there was more I could do. It shouldn’t be long now.”

She nodded and watched until he reached his horse and buggy. She closed the door and walked across the room to where a chest stood. Bending down she slipped her hands into the bottom drawer and rummaged under the linens until she found what she wanted – a frame and an old knotted handkerchief. 

With slumped shoulders she walked over to the rocker next to her sleeping husband. She sighed as she lowered herself onto the seat and began to undo the knot. The pulled back edges of fabric revealed three tiny gold nuggets, the frame an image taken just after they married. They’d been so young, so full of hope for their future, now this was all that remained.

“Oh, Isaac, she whispered.  “What happened to our dreams.” 

Tears leaked from her eyes, instead of rich they were penniless, and soon Isaac would join the five babies she’d already buried.

 She closed her eyes, “What’s to become of us?” she murmured. How will the  boys and I go on without you?”

_________________________________________

Born a twin, Matilda and her brother William, were the 8th and 9th children of Phoebe Hockett and John Fowler. At age four her family moved from Ohio to Henry County, Iowa. In 1845, at the age of ten, her father died. The family moved to Tama County, Iowa in 1850.

Matilda matured fast, at the tender age of 15 she and Isaac Smith eloped. The following spring the pair set off to “see the elephant” having caught gold fever. They had big dreams of becoming rich in California.

The trip couldn’t have been easy. Cholera and other diseases loomed across the trail and although they caused no problems the Native Americans always watching, frightened Matilda.

By October the couple had only made it as far as the area of Salt Lake City. There Matilda gave birth to their first child, a boy they named William. Two days later they buried him and had to move on. How hard it it must have been for them to face this loss alone without the help of extended family they’d left back home. The hardest part of the journey still lay ahead. Exhausted the couple finally arrived in the gold fields in December of 1852.

In the next few years Matilda gave birth to 5 more children. Twins who died shortly after birth and two others who died of childhood diseases. Only the oldest my great great grandfather, William R. Smith, survived.

By 1860 she was pregnant again and longed to be back in the safety of her mother’s arms. So she set off alone, to sail home, while her husband and son traveled back by wagon train. That summer she gave birth to a healthy baby boy in her mother’s home. They named him James Wesley Addison Smith.

The couple moved to Benton County, Iowa, where Isaac rented a farm, and they struggled to make ends meet. Isaac’s health was already suffering when he joined the Civil War effort, enlisting in 28th Iowa Regiment, in December of 1863. Most likely he joined to get a bounty to help support his family. That summer he lay ill in a Washington D.C. hospital. Discharged in 1864, due to disability, he died at home in April of 1865.

Matilda was left with their two young sons to raise alone. Penniless she was able to collect a small pension but it wasn’t much.

In 1866 she married Amos Werner and they had 3 more children. I wish I could say her marriage to Amos had a happy ending but he turned out to be a drunk and she divorced him.

In 1881 Matilda married for the third time to James Small. One can hope this union was happier. In 1895 James passed away and Matilda moved in with her son, Samuel Werner.

Her family said her hard life had made her thrifty and honest with a strong sense of right and wrong. She spent her last years enjoying her corncob pipe, quilting and piecing braided hairpieces for extra money. She was 82 at the time of her death in 1917 and is buried in the Reading cemetery, Farmhamville, Calhoun County, Iowa.

2016-11-05-23-40-50

Matilda at age 76

Advertisements

In Search Of The Father

My sister and I turned onto the short dead-end road and parked the car.

“It’s over there,” she said pointing to a small overgrown patch of land.

I opened the door amazed my search for my Caple ancestry had brought me to this tiny family cemetery in Carroll County, Maryland.

I last left the story in search Caple ancestry with the discoveries that my great grandfather, Samuel H. Caple’s, father was Jacob and in turn his father was, Samuel Caple Junior of Richland County, Ohio. I had learned both men had roots in Maryland. Now I was in search of Samuel Junior’s parents.

Over the next few weeks, I spent my spare time, pouring over the census records of Maryland for Caple and Caples. I concluded Samuel Caple of Baltimore County, Maryland (now Carroll County) was my most likely candidate. Could he be the same Samuel Caple I’d found in references to the Revolutionary War?

Back when I had first started my Caple quest a cousin, also researching the family, mentioned  she had corresponded, via the  internet, with a woman who was a descendant of this Samuel. At the time we knew nothing to connect us, but now we did.

I got her phone number and called. She lived in Maryland and knew of the Samuel I spoke. She was a descendant through one of his daughters.

“Yes,” she  told me,”there were three sons.”

One named Samuel born in 1783 (the right time frame to be my Samuel). The other two, William, born in 1784 and  Jacob born. in 1790.

Her family lore stated, Samuel Caple Junior had moved to Ohio after a disagreement with his brother William over slavery, and was never heard from again. A story  that sounded much like the story my grandfather had told. This had to be the right family.

She also told me Samuel Senior had been buried in the family cemetery which still existed on a portion of his land. And there were family stories that said Mary Cole might be a Native American or maybe it was Samuel Senior’s mother who was the Native American. Then again, she said, they might just be stories.

But she added, “there is a problem. Samuel and his wife Mary Cole didn’t marry  until 1793, 10 years after their first son was born.”

Earlier researchers had assumed Samuel Caple Senior had previously been married  and the  boys were from this marriage. But a a new document had been found. One showing Samuel and his wife, Mary Cole, had appeared in Court on Nov. 9, 1809 and swore the three boys were Samuel’s and that he wished for them to carry the Caple name and have the rights to inheritance.

The record helped establish my Samuel belonged to this group but it also spelled the beginning of my biggest genealogical puzzle.

Why had Samuel and Mary Cole waited 10 years, after the birth of their first son, to marry?  Who were Samuel and Mary’s parents and was Native American ancestry part of their story?

To be continued…..

Cole to Caple

 

DEAR MARGARET-FAMILY HISTORY CHALLENGE -PROMPT 1

November is family history month. I am taking FAMILY HISTORY MAGAZINE’S challenge to write from a daily writing prompt. I plan to post them here on my blog but don’t expect me to get them done in a month.

Prompt one – Choose an ancestor you never knew that you wish you could talk with to learn more of their life history. After mulling it over I decided to write to the ancestor I was named after for, Margaret Ragsdale Caple, my great-grandmother.

Margaret Malinda Ragsdale Caple

DEAR MARGARET- FAMILY HISTORY CHALLENGE- PROMPT 1

Dear Margaret,

You and I share the same first name. My father, your grandson spoke fondly of you. Both he and his sister told me about the fun they had sleeping in your big feather bed.

My Aunt Iva loved the tea parties you had together. She gave me your teapot, it sits on a shelf where I see it daily. I wish we could sit and talk while sipping some of your delicious sarsaparilla tea. There is so much I’d like to ask.

For instance, how did you meet my great-grandfather Samuel Hugh Caple when he lived Jasper County, Iowa and you in Green County, Missouri? Was the age difference between you ever a problem? What was it like traveling the Oregon Trail?  What was it like living in a sod house? Which of your three mothers made the big star quilt I now own?  Which  brings me to the question I most want answered. Who were your birth parents?  I’m sure you knew. Your children said your parents died when you were an infant during a measle or small pox epidemic and you were adopted by cousins.

Through my research, I know you were born in 1858. Two years later in the 1860 census you were living in the home of Richard Jordan Ragsdale, age 52 and his first wife Jincy, age 49. You are listed after their children, a niece and her infant and Richard’s brother William Ragsdale. Your name, Margaret, is easy to read but the word after it, beginning with M, is not. It could be your last name, perhaps Munda or it could be Melinda, which was your middle name.

Some researchers think you might have been the granddaughter of Richard Jordan’s sister Lavina who married Edwin Adams. When they died, leaving three young daughters, Sally Merritt Ragsdale their grandmother cared for them and after her death, Richard Jordan and Jincy took over. If you belonged to one of them, it would have been natural for them to raise you. I can find no information on what happened to two of the girls so it could be true but you would have been Richard Jordan’s great-niece not cousin.

You could also have been a cousin of Jincy and I guess the Adams girls were her cousins for she and Richard shared the same ancestry. Jincy’s grandfather was Richard’s great grandfather and their mothers were sisters. Was all that as confusing for you as it is for me?  Or maybe you never knew about it because in 1863, when you were five, Jincy and her daughter died of smallpox. It was during the Civil War and the family had moved to Rolla, Missouri for safety. I wonder if this is where the story of your losing your parents in a smallpox epidemic comes from, I guess I’ll never know. Richard remarried a widow in 1865 giving you a third mother and she and Richard went on to have nine more children.

By the time the 1870 census was taken, you were listed as one of the Ragsdale’s with no distinction made between you and the other children. It’s clear in a letter Richard Jordan wrote you in 1888 (now in my possession) that he thought of you as a daughter. And you named your youngest son after him.

Recently I had my DNA tested, something you never heard of. Perhaps one day it will help unravel the mystery of your parents. In the meantime, I will have to content myself with knowing my DNA suggests a link, to the Ragsdale tree, the same tree, Richard Jordan and Jincy belong on.

Sincerely your Great-granddaughter.

Margaret

 

 

 

Which ancestor would you like to talk to?  Why?  Please, feel free to let me know in the comment section below.