Rachel Levina Hill began as one of those borderline ancestors. What is a borderline ancestor? Some ancestors, like probably your grandparents, have surnames attached in your family records. Whether they are accurate or not is another matter but they were handed down within your family from someone who personally knew the people who came before who are now dead – so they had a closer connection that we do today.
Then there are the generations of ancestors whose surnames are lost to time and it’s up to us to find them.
Borderline ancestors are those who have surnames in one line of the family, but not in others. It’s not quite the same as going out to shop on Ancestry to see who has a surname for your ancestor, because in this case, the surname was actually handed down in a descendant’s line – in other words, it stands a chance of being true. It’s a great starting point for research.
In my line of the family, all my great-aunt knew was that the wife of Benjamin Lore (whose name was really Antoine Lord, Americanized to Anthony Lore) was Elvira or Elvina. There was no surname attached, but there was a heartwrenching story.
Benjamin aka Anthony died young, drown in the Allegheny River. The wife and a daughter died shortly thereafter, leaving her son, Curtis, as a child of maybe 10 or 12 “to raise himself.” Another comment was that “the children raised themselves” which implied multiple children.
That was it, all I knew about Rachel Levina Hill in the beginning. Not much to go on.
Of course, I had a worse problem to solve first, before I could get to Rachel. Rachel’s son was Curtis Benjamin Lore, but we didn’t know that in the beginning either. Proving that Curtis Benjamin Lore of Indiana was the same Curtis Lore of Warren County, Pennsylvania was no small feat. Neither was proving that he was the child of Anthony Lore/Lord and wife Rachel, especially when you start out looking for parents with the names of Benjamin and Elvira or Elvina.
As cousin Denny Lore and I turned over every rock we could find researching Anthony Lore, we found his descendants in Wisconsin, descended from his son Frank. That family had Rachel’s name recorded as Rachel, along with a surname having been passed down in the family as Hill – Rachel Levina Hill.
The census told us that she was from Vermont.
Since there was no other location to start, that’s where I began.
Vermont records are not organized in a way I’m used to for states and counties. Records like births are not kept at a central county location but kept in each village and township. So if you KNOW that Rachel was born in a certain county, which I didn’t, you would still have to know which town, city, village or township to look in to find her birth record – if one existed. In Addison County, there are 24 separate record locations in which to search.
No, there is no centralized resource, and no, I don’t know why. But I can tell you this, it makes research almost impossible.
That’s why finding Rachel’s birth records was nothing short of a miracle – and I still don’t have an actual copy from the town of Bristol, but I’m hoping to remedy that this summer.
In Addison County, Vermont, Rachel Hill is listed in the town of Bristol birth records which shows her birth as 1814 but the compiled index records for the State of Vermont show the year as 1815.
This record gives us the name of her parents, Joseph Hill and Naby. Naby’s surname would evade me for the longest time, many years, and it would take DNA to confirm what I considered to be no more than rumors. In this case, those rumors were accurate and Naby’s surname is Hall, but finding that tidbit of information is an entirely different story!
Rachel’s birth record at least gave me a location to begin looking, assuming it was the same Rachel. Eventually, I was able to find the marriage record for Rachel as well, to Anthony, but that was quite difficult because not only it is in a different location in Addison County, Starksboro, Anthony’s surname is indexed as Love, not Lore, but it does confirm Rachel’s birth location as Bristol.
If these records are accurate, Rachel was only 16 or 17 when she married Anthony Lore, the Acadian from Canada who was born in 1805, so about 10 years her senior.
Was her family pleased with this? Probably not. On top of a 10 year age difference, and the fact that Anthony was not “from here,” he was Catholic while they were protestant. Notice there was no church wedding. Rachel and Anthony were married by the Justice of the Peace. I wonder if her parents were even in attendance, or if this was a form of elopement. Given her age, I suspect that her father would have had to give his approval, so elopement was probably out of the question.
This JP marriage might have a couple of meanings, or maybe even all of these meanings combined.
One possible reason that there was no church wedding is because it was a “mixed” Catholic/Protestant marriage. A second possibility is that there was no church wedding because her parents did not approve of the marriage for any number of reasons including his age and/or “profession.” Third is that there was no church wedding because she was pregnant, which would have given her parents yet another reason to “not approve” of the older Anthony. Having said that, the oldest child with them in 1850 was born in 1835, so if they had an older child, they either died or had left home by 1850.
Later information and family stories cause me to wonder if maybe Rachel’s parents might have not approved of this marriage for other reasons of well, if Anthony truly was a river pirate – he may have begun these illicit activities earlier on Lake Champlain, also known for pirate activity, which is Addison County’s border to the west. As far as Rachel’s parents would have been concerned, that might have been just one more nail in his coffin. Of course, if he was a “pirate,” he would have been very exciting to young Rachel, especially if he looked anything like his son, Curtis Benjamin Lore, who was exceptionally handsome. Those same qualities would have served as a dire warning to her parents – and the quintessential battle of forbidden love may have ensued. If that’s the case, and at this point, this is all speculation, it would explain a wedge being driven between Rachel and her family, and might also explain why she would have been all too willing to leave Vermont with her new exciting husband on the adventure of a lifetime for points unknown. Ahhh, young love.
Rachel was born in Bristol, which encompasses more area than the actual town of Bristol, and was married in Starksboro, which is not far distant.
Bristol is shown on the map below, with Starksboro just north
It’s 8 miles from Bristol to Starksboro. Keep in mind that Bristol means that entire area, which in other states would constitute a township. Starksboro means the same, shown below.
It’s not far between Bristol and Starkesboro, the towns, assuming that they lived in the towns, which may not have been a valid assumption at all. Depending on where you lived in relation to the line between Bristol and Starkesboro, you could be neighbors, yet live in different towns.
Regardless, this is where Rachel was born and grew up, someplace in this 9 mile range.
After their marriage in 1831, the stage goes dark on Rachel and Anthony. In fact, it’s not until 1850 that we find them again, and can piece some of their earlier lives together based on the census, which is consistent, and the information from their children’s lives.
The 1850 census tells us that their oldest child was born in 1835, in New York.
Now I don’t for one minute believe that their first child was born four years after their marriage. A 16 year old female is a as fertile as a guppy and most brides were pregnant and had delivered their first child well before their first wedding anniversary, even those who weren’t already pregnant when they married.
William Henry Lore was born in December of 1835. This tell us the sad tale that Rachel lost at least her first two children, and possibly her first 3 or even 4, depending on how rapidly she got pregnant after the birth of a child, and if the child died immediately following birth or later. Typically, nursing mothers did not get pregnant again right away, not until they stopped nursing at about 9 months. Children during that time were spaced between 18 months and 2 years, assuming the child lived. If the child did not live, babies often arrived within a year of each other.
If Rachel got pregnant immediately after marrying, the first child would have been born in roughly August of 1832, the second child 2 years later in August 1834 and the next child, William Henry, 16 month later in December 1835. If either of those two children born in 1832 or 1834 died as infants, then there is room for another one or two children.
Losing any child is devastating. But thinking about Rachel being so young, probably in a distant area without family and certainly without her mother, and losing at least two children just makes my heart ache for her. Believe me, when a crisis like that happens, it doesn’t matter how big a tiff you had with your mother over your marriage, you just want your mother.
By December of 1835, Anthony and Rachel were living someplace in New York.
Only one of Rachel’s older children, meaning the ones born in New York, told us where they were born, and that was Frank, aka Francis, aka Franklin. His family indicated that he was born in Jamestown, New York. Looking at a map, Jamestown is almost directly north of Warren County, PA, just 20 miles or so, and is located on Chautauqua Lake, which in turn is near Lake Erie.
This is the only hint we have. Franklin was born in 1843, so I was hopeful that we could find the family in the 1840 census. I read each page of the Chautauqua county census and Anthony Lore, by any spelling, is not there. So they might have been living in or near Jamestown in 1840, or they could have been living elsewhere. Regardless, the 1840 census index does not show them in any location.
Warren County, PA
By 1850, Rachel and Anthony were living in Warren County. The 1850 census shows the family together. If they had children born before 1850 that lived, they could potentially have already left home, but there are no other Lore candidates in Warren County.
In the 1850 census, they are living in Columbus Township, which is north of Spring Creek, where we know they lived later. Anthony lists himself as a laborer.
Columbus Township reaches all the way to the state line and borders Chautauqua County on the north. So they may not have so much moved from New York to Pennsylvania, as in a big more, as much as they just moved down the road which may have just happened to be into the next state.
The 1850 census shows the family living among lumbermen, a mill operator, a merchant, a carpenter, a blacksmith, a cabinet maker, a wagon maker, a shoemaker, a physician, an innkeeper, a stage driver, a tailor, a miller, a couple of farmers and several laborers. In other words, this does not appear to be the remote boondocks, but a village or area wherein commerce is taking place.
Rachel is now 39 years old and Anthony is 40. A bit of revisionist history perhaps. Rachel is actually 36 or maybe 37 and Anthony was actually 45.
All of their children were born in New York including the youngest who is 2 years old.
Based on the spacing of these children, Rachel lost more than the children born before William Henry in 1835. There is a 10 year gap between William and Francis.
Then there are two 5 year olds, one 4 year old, and two 2 year olds.
Were there really 2 sets of twins, or did Rachel have two sets of children less than a year apart?
Given this spacing, it looks like Rachel bore the following children.
- 1832 – died
- 1834 – died
- 1834 – William Henry – lived
- 1836 – died
- 1838 – died
- 1840 – died
- 1842 – died
- 1844 – died
- 1845 – twins Francis and Nathaniel lived to 1850
- 1846 – Mariah – died in 1892
- 1848 – twins Mary and Minerva, lived to 1850
That’s a lot of heartache and burying babies in a dozen years. I would think it would be very difficult to move away from those little graves.
I checked for land transactions for Anthony Lore in Warren County and he never owned land, which is consistent with the census data.
The 1860 census shows the family maturing. They have moved to a different area, Spring Creek where their neighbors on the adjoining two census pages are now a grocer, a cooper, several laborers, farmers, a mason, lumbermen and 3 labeled as “Sawyer” which I thought at first said “Lawyer.”
Anthony lists himself as a farmer, but owns no land.
Rachel’s children are now accounted for as follows:
- William – born 1839 – lives to 1914
- Franklin – born 1843 – male – lies to 1913
- Francis – born 1845 – female in1850, male in 1860 – dies before 1870
- Maria – born 1846 – NY – died 1892
- Mary – gone
- Minerva – gone
- Tunis – born 1849 or 1850 – Pennsylvania – probably dies before 1870
- Adin – born 1852 – lives to 1913
- Simon (Solomon) – born 1854 – lives to 1914
- Curtis – born 1856 – lives to 1909
- Marilla – born 1859 – dies before 1880
There could have been another child born between Curtis and Marilla, given that Curtis is born in April.
Notice I didn’t label Mary and Minerva as “dead,” although it certainly appears by their absence in the census when they should have been about age 12 that they died. The names of Minerva and Mary show up later as a wife to Henry Ward and the wife is shown as Minerva or Mary Lore. I have no idea if this information is sourced, or if someone simply looked in the census for a Minerva born at the right time and “gifted” the surname of Lore. Some people even show Henry married to both Mary and Minerva Lore, because one census gives his wife’s name as Minerva and one as Mary. So the fates of Mary and Minerva Lore are uncertain.
Rachel has likely had a total of 16 children, if not 18 by 1860 and 19 before she was done.
The Decade From Hell
Between 1860 and 1870, Rachel’s life fell apart. Not a little bit, not a time of trials and tribulations, but fell entirely, completely apart. Sadly, we don’t know any details, but the snippets we do have tell of a devastating time.
Rachel would have her last child, Alonzo, probably in 1860 after the census or maybe in 1861. We only know this by other family records and inference. For example, Alonzo appears in the 1880 census as age 18. Curtis reports having a brother that his children called “Uncle Lawn.” If Rachel was born in 1814 and Alonzo was born in 1862, Rachel was 48 years old when she had her last child.
On June 2, 1862, Rachel’s husband, Anthony, would apply for citizenship in Warren County, so we know he is living in 1862.
On August 12, 1862, Rachel’s daughter married Elisha Stephen Farnham. Their first child in the 1870 census is shown as being born in 1867, so it stands to reason that Rachel’s daughter lost her first couple of children as well during this time.
Rachel’s son, Franklin Lore as well as her son-in-law, Elisha Farnham served in the Civil War in Company C, 16th Regiment, PA Cavalry. This unit was organized between September and November of 1862 at Harrisburg, PA and mustered out August 11, 1865.
The Civil War would have been a time of great concern to Rachel, both for her daughter, son-in-law and her son. Not to mention, you had no assurances that battles would not come to be fought where you lived or that roaming troops would not devastate and terrorize the region as well. At best, the Civil War was a time of turmoil, and at worse, a time of terror.
Anthony would have been eligible for his naturalization to be complete and his citizenship to be effective in June of 1867, 5 years after his original application date, but Anthony never returned to complete his paperwork.
He had died sometime between June of 1862 and June of 1867.
Curtis Benjamin Lore tells us that his father drown on the river, that the family was in dire straits, that his mother and younger sister subsequently died, and that the children, in essence, raised themselves.
Adin’s daughter, Georgia, wrote a letter stating that her grandparents, meaning Anthony and Rachel, had died young, that relatives raised the children, and that the children seemed to be strangers to each other.
Let’s say that Anthony died in 1864 or 1865, half way through the 5 year waiting period. What would Rachel’s life have looked like at that point in time, in the middle of the Civil War?
Rachel and Anthony owned no land, and as best we can tell, Anthony’s livelihood was somehow attached to the River, perhaps as a lumberman, a trader, a rafter, or perhaps as a pirate, as one of the family stories reveals. Regardless of whichever of these is accurate, Rachel had no capacity to take up where he left off. Had they owned land, she could have worked the ground with her children, or hired it done, or rented the land out, or raised livestock, or sold the property, but it looks like Rachel was left with no resources and several hungry mouths to feed.
Based on what we do know about Anthony Lore, the land where they lived was not cleared for farming, so that wasn’t how they were earning a living. In fact, it was extremely remote and remains so even today.
The area in this satellite shot, above Punkey Hollow, is likely where they lived. Today, the cleared area is an abandoned farm, shown below in 2004.
In 1865, Rachel would have had the following children in varying circumstances:
Married or Gone From Home
- William Henry Lore – married before 1865
- Franklin – serving in the Civil War
- Maria – married in 1862 – probably living with her parents while her husband served in the Civil War
Uncertain or Dead
- Francis born 1845 probably dies between 1860 and 1870, in 1865 he or she would have been about 15 or perhaps already dead
- Mary born 1846 – uncertain, may have died
- Minerva born 1846 – uncertain, may have died
- Tunis – born 1850, died between 1860 and 1870, so in 1865 either age 15 or dead
- Adin – age 13
- Solomon – age 11
- Curtis – age 9
- Marella – age 7 or 8, died after 1870
- Alonzo – age 3 or 4
Rachel’s oldest two male children, who could have helped her the most were either married or serving in the military. On top of the seven children Rachel had already buried, she loses at least two more and possibly four more.
Rachel is now responsible for taking care of and providing for five children age 13 or under, and possibly a few more depending on death dates. She has no husband, no family, no land and no resources.
I’d say Rachel was probably pretty much a wreck. The future simply held no hope, and neither did the present.
The 1870 census shows us that Rachel is living with her daughter’s mother and father-in-law, keeping house for them. The Farnhams did own land. Rachel’s daughter Margaret, called Marilla in the 1860 census, is living with her. However, the rest of the children are all missing.
Curtis is the only child I can find, and he, at age 14 is hired out as farm labor, in the same county.
However, that leaves 4 other children, under the age of 15. Where were they, including the baby, Alonzo? We know at least 3 of them lived into the 1900s, so they aren’t dead.
When Anthony died, did Maria’s in-laws feel sorry for Rachel and take her in?
I simply can’t imagine Rachel not keeping her children with her, at all costs – especially the youngest ones. In 1865, Alonzo would only have been age 3 or maybe 4. This situation had to be beyond Rachel’s control and was probably further devastating for her.
This rather suggests to me that perhaps Rachel was unable to care for those children, and I mean beyond money and food. Perhaps with the cumulative deaths of her children and probably her first grandchildren by Maria, followed by the death of her husband in such traumatic circumstances, Rachel herself had some sort of breakdown. Or, conversely, at roughly age 45+, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Rachel had some sort of physical disability or illness, especially after bearing at least 16 children, if not more.
We will never know what, but I suspect that something was wrong with Rachel or she would have been living in some fashion with her children.
This situation also begs the question of why she didn’t just pack those kids up and head for her parents who were still living and where she had at least two adult siblings. Indeed, that’s not something one wants to do at age 45-50, but it’s better than starving, which, from the description given by Curtis may have indeed been, literally, what happened. Had Rachel severed all ties with her parents? Granted, Rachel’s parents were elderly in 1865, roughly 75 years old, but still, living with her parents, Rachel could have fed her children and kept them together. This makes me wonder if Rachel simply wasn’t capable at that point of doing any more than she was doing which was keeping house for the Farnham family. And “keeping house” may have been their way of attempting to gain some compensation for Rachel and her daughter living with them. Keeping house in exchange for room and board. Or maybe the Farnham’s were simply kind-hearted people, extending charity to their son’s wife’s mother and sister in a time of extreme need.
By 1880, both Rachel and Marilla/Margaret are gone.
We don’t know where Rachel is buried, and here are no markers for any Lore family members, but the cemetery where the Farnham’s and other local residents are buried is called Spring Creek. It’s the only cemetery in the area.
I’m sure that this is where Rachel and her children who died after arriving in Warren County are buried. I found these three unmarked graves in the cemetery when I visited, so I think of these as Rachel’s and two of her children. There are a lot of graves there with no stones as all. In reality, Rachel and her children who died in Warren County are probably among those with only green grass marking their final resting place.
Anthony’s body was never recovered, so his grave is the river.
Rachel’s mitochondrial DNA would have been passed to her daughters who in turn would have passed it to their daughters as well. Women pass their mitochondrial to children of both sexes, unmixed with any DNA from the father. However, only females pass it on, so to carry Rachel’s mitochondrial DNA, you have to be descended from Rachel through all females to the current generation. In the current generation, males can test too because they received their mitochondrial DNA from their mother who descends from Rachel through all females. Only two of Rachel’s daughters are known to have survived and had female children. And of those two, one is iffy.
- Rachel’s daughter Maria married Elisha Stephen Farnham and had one daughter, Jennie Mae Farnham who married a Goss and had one daughter, Ethel Goss, born in 1894. Ethel Goss married Earl Wickwire and had daughter Ethel, born in 1916, Elizabeth born in 1917 and Virginia born in 1925. Ancestry accounts indicate Virginia married James Roden had female children that may well be living today.
- It’s possible that Mary or Minerva survived childhood and did marry Henry Ward. I’m not sure that Minerva/Mary Ward was indeed Mary or Minerva Lore, because if the Lore girls were living, they would have been age 12 in 1860 and should have been living with their parents in the census. However, if Henry Ward’s wife was indeed one of the Lore women, their daughters would carry her mitochondrial DNA. They had Lillie Ward born in 1874 who married a Hilden, Myrtle Ward about whom nothing further is known, so possibly died and Daisy Ward born in 1883 who married Amos Snyder and had two daughters, Altheta and Leora. Lastly was another daughter whose name is unknown but who married Jessie Clemm.
If a descendant of Mary/Minerva and Henry Ward were found, I’d like to do an autosomal DNA test to be sure that Mary/Minerva was indeed a Lore. Unfortunately, the census is confusing about Henry’s wife’s name, calling her Minerva in one census and Mary in another, which is why someone may simply have found Mary and Minerva Lore and decided that was a good fit. Mary/Minerva’s death certificate or an obituary might hold the key to the mystery.
Out of all of the children Rachel brought into this world, it’s hard to believe that there are only 2 potential females who survived to adulthood and produced offspring.
I have a DNA testing scholarship for the first person directly maternally descended from Rachel Lore.
No Light at the End of the Tunnel
As humans, those of us who tend to see the glass half full tell ourselves over and over that “things will be alright.” But you know what? Sometimes they just aren’t alright, and never will be. You can either adjust to the “new” or you’re going to be miserable.
The problem is, of course, that it appears that Rachel couldn’t adapt or adjust. She was a the end of her resources with no one else to ask. She lived with her daughter’s in-laws, and then a decade later she and her daughter were both gone. According to family members her unfortunate circumstances and ultimate death left the children to raise themselves or be raised by others. Perhaps Rachel was ill on top of everything else.
The death of her youngest daughter, Marilla, seems such a cruel and unnecessary blow on top of everything else Rachel had endured. Maybe Rachel died before Marilla and didn’t have to witness her daughter’s death, but then it would have been Marilla who suffered watching her last parent pass away under terrible circumstances, before succumbing herself.
I wonder, why did Rachel keep Marilla with her and not Alonzo and the other younger children? Perhaps Marilla had something wrong with her too – with Downs Syndrome coming to mind immediately, given Rachel’s age.
So, I have to ask myself, what did you do in a day without welfare and public assistance programs when your husband died, your older sons are grown and gone, you have no family in the area and you still have small children to raise and no resources with which to do it? If your husband had been a pirate, no one would be reaching out to help you, that’s for sure.
Of course, we’ll never know exactly what happened or why Rachel made the choices and decisions that she did. Perhaps she had very few options, if any, and her choices were very limited. She simply had to live the best she could under the circumstances. It’s unlikely that a lost diary will come to light now and even if one did, I’m sure there would be no happy ending. Perhaps just a better understanding of what happened.
All I can say is that I hope that whatever concept of Heaven that Rachel believed in is true – at least in her world. Hopefully life on the other side is better than the hellish one she had here, where there simply was no light at the end of the tunnel.
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