Come Sit a Spell With Jacob Dobkins – 52 Ancestors #345

Probably 20 years ago, I discovered that Jacob Dobkins (1751-1835) was my ancestor, and began researching in Claiborne County, Tennessee where his daughter, Jenny Dobkins lived with her husband, John Campbell.

In fact, two of Jacob’s daughters married Campbell men. His daughter Elizabeth married George Campbell, believed to be John’s brother, back in Hawkins County before the entire group moved to Claiborne. Jacob lived in Claiborne County in 1801 when the county was formed and he attended the first court session.

Jacob purchased 1400 acres for $100, land roughly a mile wide and about two and a half miles long. That’s a LOT of land. Of course, it was densely forested and no houses or other improvements had been made. Jacob immediately began parceling it out to his sons and sons-in-law, essentially assuring that most of his family would stay nearby.

In the research process, I met other Dobkins researchers, including Bill Nevils, a local historian, and genealogist. He too was descended from Jacob.

In 2006, cousin Daryl talked to Bill who told us he knew where Jacob Dobkins was buried.

Stopped us cold in our tracks. There was no marked grave. No known Dobkins Cemetery.

Say what?

Jacob’s grave?


Cousin Daryl discovered more than that too. She made other calls and the owners in 2006 were family members who had VERY INTERESTING photos of the original cabin.

This very old photo from (probably) sometime in the early 1900s or possibly even late 1800s shows Jacob Dobkins’ homestead, fenced, with a secondary, larger building having been added to the left. Yet another building is shown in the distance and a structure to the rear as well. Notice the fieldstone chimney.

Yes, this is Jacob’s original cabin! Be still my heart.

How can I be sure? The deed work shows that in 1835, when Jacob died, his heirs quitclaimed his property to Betsy Campbell, his daughter who was married to George Campbell. From that point on, her son, Barney, his son Alexander, then his son Arthur lived in this home until Arthur died in 1969. The family had built a new home and retained the property.

Jacob’s cabin in the 1960s or 1970s, abandoned.

Jacob’s cabin lasted for at least another 150 years after his 1835 death before it was purchased, disassembled, and reassembled elsewhere – we think someplace in North Carolina (maybe) in some sort of reenactment or historical park. If you recognize this cabin, please let me know.

Daryl made contact with the lady who owned the farm in 2006:

I just had a lovely conversation with our cousin who owns the property and descends from Barney Campbell. Her family recently celebrated her birthday at the old farm and gave her a photo frame with digital family photos that include the old cabin.

She claims the farm has been in the family since about 1820, but she has never checked it out. Her nephew is the one interested in the family history. Her grandmother, Sally, died when she was about 10 and she heard the story of Barney many times growing up…Barney was a Dobkins, his mother was Elizabeth and he took the Campbell name when Elizabeth married George Campbell.

The original old house was 2 stories, living room & one bedroom on the main floor and 2 more bedrooms upstairs. The kitchen was detached from the original house. I quizzed her a bit, because there were not too many houses two stories in those woods in the late 1700s or early 1800s. She did not know how old the house was, or who the first occupants were. She assumed it was Barney.

The house was moved about 1970. All she remembers is that a man who owned a pottery company, factory or shop bought it. He took it apart and it was to be reassembled at his business in western NC. A cousin in Tazewell was building a house about the same time and he took the chimney/fireplace and connected it to his house. He has since died. She said the old house reminds her of one she saw in the Museum of the Appalachia brochure, the one near Norris Dam.

It’s worth noting that the founder of the Museum of the Appalachia began collecting in 1969, so the timing would be right. Maybe Jacob’s house is there. If so, it’s probably labeled as the Campbell home.

Here’s the cabin from a different view after it was abandoned, but before it was deconstructed.

And here, before it was abandoned, with the “wash” hanging on the line. It looks like a typical home here.

I should mention that this building does not appear, on the surface, to be the traditional log cabin, but is instead a plank or clapboard building. If Jacob did indeed own that sawmill, as was described in the 1819 deed from Jacob Dobkins to John Whitaker, this wouldn’t be too surprising. Regardless, this tells us that a mill was very close by sometime before 1819.

Another story says that this building incorporated the original structure, but was built by Barney Campbell, possibly in the 1830s.

According to family members:

There was a kitchen behind the former house which was converted into a loom house and the previous living quarters used as kitchen facilities when the new house was occupied. The kitchen and dining ell of the present old house is not as old as the living quarters but some of the material of the original house was incorporated into the ell which would indicate that part of the house may date back to 1800.

According to this, the original home was incorporated into the “new” house, a very common practice of that time. Frugal settlers wasted nothing and did not simply “move” to a new house. They added on.

A third story says that Barney built this cabin, but his first wife, then pregnant with twins, died before ever getting to live there. That would have put the origin of this building about 1838 or so. Jacob’s original cabin would have been more than 30 years old by then, and Barney had a passel of kids – something like 17 between both wives, not counting the twins that died when his first wife did! Yes, Barney definitely could have used more room.

But that story doesn’t quite make sense either – because nobody would intentionally build a log cabin and immediately cover it up with lap siding.

Do we have any evidence? Why yes, yes we do.

Aha – this photo of the cabin during disassembly clearly shows a chinked log cabin beneath the clapboard siding.

Here’s the rear during the deconstruction process. Look at those dovetailed logs. Indeed, this is the house that Jacob built from the trees he felled clearing the land. Later deeds also refer to this property as being where Jacob lived.

Barney’s grandson lived here until sometime in the 1960s, so this land never left the Dobkins/Campbell family.

About Barney

Interestingly, we have Y DNA genetic evidence that conflicts with the story about Barney being adopted by George Campbell. Some of Barney’s descendants match the Y DNA of the Campbell line, and some do not. Given that at least one of Barney’s son’s lines matches the Campbell Y DNA, it’s unlikely that Barney was not George Campbell’s son! Not to mention that George was very generous with Barney.

Barney is of course a Dobkins on his mother’s side, so I’m not exactly sure how that original story was intended. It’s ironic that the family story includes an unknown father, but the DNA might disprove that, and prove that a Campbell male was indeed the father – exactly the opposite of what sometimes happens.

Obviously, we have absolutely NO IDEA what actually happened back in 1797 when Barney was born, or later with his descendants.

What I can say is that we could probably resolve this question if male Campbell men descended directly through all males from Barney through the following sons would do a Y DNA test.

Barney had the following sons through his first wife, Mary Brooks:

  • Benjamin Campbell (1820-1882) married Eliza or Louisa Eastridge, born and died in Claiborne County, TN.
  • George Campbell (c1821-1860s) married Nancy Eastridge, lived in Claiborne County and died during the Civil War.
  • Andrew Campbell (c1826-?) married Louisa (Eliza) Campbell, lived in Claiborne County.
  • John Campbell (c 1829-after 1900) married Mary Ann Chadwell, lived and died in Claiborne County.
  • Toliver Campbell (1835-1899) married Sarah Lewis, lived and died in Claiborne County.

Barney had these sons through his second wife, Martha Jane “Jennie” Kesterson:

  • David Campbell (c 1841-1919) married Missouri Williams, lived and died in Claiborne County.
  • Arthur L. Campbell (born circa 1842)
  • Newton J. Campbell (1845-1911) married Lucy Williams, lived and died in Claiborne County.
  • Abraham Campbell (1850-1914) married Nancy Cornelia Williams, lived, and died in Claiborne County.
  • Alexander Campbell (1853-1923) married Sarah “Sallie” Campbell, lived, and died in Claiborne County.

Come On – Let’s Visit Jacob!

Bill Nevils and his mother hosted us for a lovely lunch, but we could hardly wait to set out for the Dobkins land and cemetery, circled in red, above. The house was located near the building with the white roof, halfway between the main road and the cemetery.

Jacob is buried in the Campbell Family Cemetery at 230 A. L. Campbell Lane in Tazewell, although there is no reference to a cemetery on the deed back in the 1800s. Cemeteries were assumed back then and seldom mentioned. It’s still a private cemetery today.

I can’t tell you how much fun Daryl and I had that day. This chimney, at least that’s what I think it is, was probably for the outside kitchen. This chimney was not taken when the cabin was removed – probably because it was not attached to the house. We know that the chimney on the house was moved to Tazewell.

I can only imagine cooking outside in all types of weather, all seasons of the year. Well, actually, I can’t imagine that.

There’s another very early building too.

Look at the size of those logs. This is clearly a very early structure. Is this the building that was converted into the loom house? If so, then it was here when Jacob lived. It’s standing beside that chimney or stone column, whatever it is.

Behind these buildings and the modern-day house, we crossed through the working farm, drove through a gate, and across the field.

This is the same path that would have been followed when a “buryin'” needed to take place. The wagon with the coffin, pulled by horses or mules, would lead the procession of walking family members from the house where the family would have “kept watch” and prepared the body for burial. The wagon wheels would have squeaked under the load. The family knew this was Jacob’s last trip – that late fall day in 1835 – accompanied by a preacher.

Jacob had cleared the field where his funeral procession took place more than three decades earlier. We drove up to the cemetery 171 years after Jacob’s final journey.

Jacob Dobkins Cemetery, Known as the Campbell Cemetery

A fence surrounds the cemetery which is far to the rear of the property, near the Powell River. You didn’t want a cemetery too near a house, or the well for that matter.

Cousin Bill and me before entering this sacred ground. I’m so incredibly glad we made this visit when we did, because Father Bill, an Episcopal priest, has gone on now to meet Jacob. Bill spent years researching this family and I wish he would send a few answers!

A HUGE, massive tree grows in the center of the cemetery.

As we strolled in that direction, Bill told us that it’s believed that both Jacob and his wife are buried under that expansive tree.

That makes sense given that the newer graves radiate out towards the edges. Jacob assuredly wasn’t the first burial here, but he was likely one of the early ones. He would have established the cemetery after he bought the land, as need dictated.

Graves were marked only with rocks. Everyone who needed to know already knew who was buried where. They had stood graveside as the casket was lowered. Neighbors would have come over to help dig the graves and cover them after the service. Perhaps they were marked with a simple wooden cross at the time.

Looking around, we can see Wallen’s Ridge there in the distance.

John Campbell’s land, part of which was apparently originally owned by Jacob, lies across the ridge in this direction. Today’s there’s a cemetery behind Liberty Church, established in the 1850s, on John’s land, but I bet in that time, everyone in the family was simply buried here, in the Dobkins family cemetery. Jacob was the family patriarch.

The photo below connects with the one above at the mountain, looking back over the homeplace, providing a panorama vista of sorts.

Elisha Wallen, the Longhunter, claimed vast tracts of land and sold this farm to Jacob immediately after Claiborne County was formed.

Jane Dobkins Campbell who had married John lived across what is locally known as “Little Ridge.” It doesn’t look very little to me.

I’d wager she’s buried here too.

Jacob would have cleared these fields, tree by tree. Except for that one tree, of course. It was left to shelter those attending funerals. I can’t help but wonder if Jacob did that intentionally. Or maybe he simply started burying family members beneath its branches.

Standing beneath the tree, this is what I see.

I can only imagine the amount of labor that was invested in establishing a farm from the wilderness. By the time Jacob bought this land, he was 50 years old. He did have sons and sons-in-law, but they had their own farms to clear.

Jacob sold the land in the photo below to his son-in-law, George Campbell who was married to Elizabeth.

Even after clearing, Cedar trees aggressively try to reclaim the land for the forest.

You can see that this part of George’s land is very rocky. Impossible to plow after clearing, but reminds me so much of Scotland.

I can see Jacob Dobkins and Elisha Wallen, walking this land together before Jacob’s purchase, discussing the land, and probably so much more. Both men had faced incredible challenges in this new land and somehow survived.

Both had followed what would become the Wilderness Road, when it was wilderness and before it was a road. The only thing there when Jacob and Elisha first arrived was buffalo and Native people, angry at the incursion. Elisha’s first visit was about 1761, and Jacob’s was about 1779 when he arrived at Fort Harrod before the Revolutionary War.

This beautiful stream, Russell Creek, is only about 15 miles, less as the crow flies, from where Jacob traveled back in 1779 between his home in Shenandoah County and Fort Harrod. In 1779, this land was beyond the frontier line.

The area was much tamer 20 years later when Jacob bought this land from Elisha Wallen. Jacob’s service helped to tame the region, making it safe for settlers. Jacob switched from soldiering to homesteading. It’s ironic that Jacob survived the Revolutionary War battles, although bullets ripped through his clothes – but homesteading, which you think would be safer, broke his collarbone and shoulder, disabling him.

Did Jacob look across these ridges from Cumberland Gap and fall in love back in 1779? Did he tell his son-in-law, George about those adventures as they walked this land before Jacob sold him this portion?

Clearly, Jacob wasn’t just buying land for himself, but with the intention of purchasing enough land for his entire family, probably so that his sons and sons-in-law wouldn’t feel the need to “move on.” Best investment ever!

That’s probably the exact reason he sold his land on White Horn Creek near Bull’s Gap and moved everyone to Claiborne County where large tracts of land had become available. Opportunity was knocking.

Of course, Jacob was also establishing a family cemetery whether he initially meant to or not. Every family had one. I wonder if he thought about where would be a good location for a cemetery on his land or if he only thought about that when, due to necessity, they needed to bury someone. Would that first burial have been one of his grandchildren? I would bet so.

Cemeteries were often on higher land so that they didn’t flood and contaminate the water supply. Did Jacob choose this location because of this beautiful tree?

Did he decide that he’d like to be buried right here?

Cousin Bill, dwarfed, pondering beneath Jacob’s tree.

I can’t help but wonder if this tree was already old when Jacob bought this land more than 200 years before.

If only this tree could talk. What stories it would have to tell.

I think this is a maple tree. Medium growth rate for a maple tree is about a foot each year, so this tree must be ancient. Based on the photos, I’m guessing at least 300-400 years and maybe more.

Some gravestones are located beneath its sprawling branches. Bill told us that Jacob is supposed to be buried beneath this tree.

Most of the space beneath the tree consists of unmarked graves. Apparently, there are many, many unmarked graves.

Perhaps Jacob is resting right here in the shade. Surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

Some died in his lifetime. Jacob’s son Reuben died in 1823 at the age of 40.

More unmarked graves.

Many graves weren’t marked, except for field stones, if that, until in the 1900s. A gravestone was a luxury none could afford.

Some field stones remain, but others are clearly gone.

Findagrave shows the Arch Campbell Cemetery with a total of 138 burials, some with photos of the stones.

Barney Campbell’s son Benjamin is listed among the burials. Assuredly, Barney was buried here too following his death between 1853 and 1855, as are his parents who died about the same time, and grandparents who died twenty years earlier.

The day in May that we visited was stunningly beautiful with spring’s warmth not yet giving way to the oppressive summer heat.

Daryl, Bill, and I walked every inch of this cemetery, looking for any clue. Just being with Jacob and our family members for a short time.

I couldn’t help but glance over each fence and picture Jacob standing and doing the same. Of course, his split rail fences would have looked quite different.

Did Jacob go to the far side of his property each day and fell more trees?

Did he stand here pondering life’s unfairness when he buried family members?

I slowly turned in a circle to see what Jacob would have seen.

I can’t help but wonder how all of these people are connected to Jacob. Maybe some aren’t but many appear to have “married in” to the family. After a few generations, these Appalachian families are all related to each other one way or another.

Daryl and I, always the consummate genealogists, photographed gravestones.

This cemetery is not small. Many areas are entirely vacant, signifying unmarked graves. It looks like there are as many unmarked as marked, or maybe more.

While the old burials are near the middle, there are contemporary graves too.

Areas towards the fence had modern burials.

No matter where you look, the mountains are ever-present in the distance. Today, just as Jacob saw them two centuries ago.

By now, there are probably 8 or maybe 10 generations of family members all resting together here. Jacob would probably be quite pleased that his investment in a large amount of common land, enough to share with his sons and sons-in-law, paid such handsome dividends. Indeed, many stayed and continue to stay.

Of his own children, 5 lived out their lives in Claiborne County, two struck out for Texas, and one is uncertain.

Many of Jacob’s descendants still live in Claiborne County, Tennessee, and perhaps some still live on Jacob’s land.



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Jacob Dobkins (1751-1835); Several Bullet Holes Through His Clothes – 52 Ancestors #344

Jacob Dobkins is one of those border ancestors. What do I mean by that? Some ancestors spanned certain events or timeframes. One of these critical junctions was the Revolutionary War and the westward movement from the colonies into the frontier.

What happened during this period was that many men, and some families, traveled westward. Often courthouses were burned during subsequent wars and any documents that did exist were destroyed. Sometimes those documents never existed in the first place.

Many times, we find those men in their new location with no ties backward in time. At least none that we can find.

Where did they come from? Who were they and who were their wives?

Several researchers spent decades trying to piece the life of Jacob together. Fortunately, Jacob served in the Revolutionary War and applied for a pension in Claiborne County, Tennessee, but that certainly was not where he began his life.

One of the challenges tracking Jacob is that the surname is spelled a variety of ways: Dobkins, Dobbins, Dobikins, and more.

Birth and Early Years

Jacob was born about 1751 in Augusta County, Virginia, the portion that became Dunmore, now Shenandoah County, to Captain John Dobkins, also spelled Dobikins, and his wife, Elizabeth whose surname is unknown but rumored to be Moore. (DAR Patriot Index and The People’s History of Claiborne County, Tennessee 1801-2005, Vol. II, page 164). In 1775 Jacob married Darcus or Dorcas Johnson in Dunmore County, Virginia (Marriage Bonds 1772-1850).

Bill Nevils, long time and now deceased Dobkins researcher showed that Jacob was born in Frederick Co., VA, and married in 1775 in Dunsmore Co., VA. Bill’s work was excellent, but I wish he had shared his sources as he wrote.

Jacob’s age is taken from his application for a Revolutionary War pension in 1832 where he states that he is 81 years old. Thank goodness for that declaration, because that’s the only semi-firm birth year we have from Jacob’s own lips.

We first find Jacob listed on the Fincastle, Virginia delinquent tax list in 1773 with one taxable person – himself. Of course, since Jacob was “not found,” he had moved on from wherever he was living by the time the tax collector arrived.

Where was that? Good question.

When Fincastle County was created from Botetourt County in 1772, it included everything to the Mississippi River including the present state of Kentucky, all of West Virginia south of the Kanawha and New Rivers, Virginia west of the crest of the Blue Ridge and essentially south of present Roanoke and Craig Counties.

Dunmore County, now extinct and renamed as Shenandoah County, was created in 1772 from Fincastle. At that time, Lord Dunmore was leading the military opposition to the “rebels” in Virginia and had already issued the infamous Emancipation Proclamation offering to free any slave who fled their Virginia masters and joined the Royal British forces.

Fincastle Co., VA 1773 Delinquent Tax List
Jacob Dobbins Not found – 1

Elsewhere the surname transcribed from this record is spelled Dobins.

In 1777 Fincastle was divided into Montgomery, Washington, and Kentucky counties. Its records were retained by Montgomery County which explains why these delinquent accounts are found among the Montgomery County delinquent lists.

That first tax list is described as a list of inhabitants on the Clinch River which flows through the present Virginia counties of Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise. The second and third lists are not identified as to area and may be compiled lists. The destinations of the delinquents are primarily adjacent counties including Bedford and Pittsylvania east of the Blue Ridge and Augusta County to the north. Since the present state of Kentucky was a part of Fincastle County at this time, the Indian land referenced was probably in Tennessee or Ohio.

In May of 1774, Lord Dunmore’s War commenced when he, as Virginia’s Governor, essentially declared war between Virginia and the Native people. This conflict resulted from escalating violence between white settlers who believed that in accordance with the Treat of Fort Stanwix in 1768 that they had the right to settle the lands south of the Oho, present-day Kentucky, Ohio, and southwest Pennsylvania, and the Iroquois Confederacy who had the right to hunt there.

The Virginia militia, all-volunteer, was called into service. Access Genealogy has transcribed the rosters of the units and the men at the early forts – although some lists are incomplete.

Many units participated in the Battle of Point Pleasant in October of 1774, but some did not. A transcribed list of volunteers in Robert Doack’s Company of Militia who defended the frontier in 1774, but did not participate in the Battle of Point Pleasant include one Jacob Dobler. I strongly suspect this is Jacob Dobkins, his name misspelled. I would like to see the original document.

Jacob married Dorcas Johnson in 1775 in Dunmore County. His brother, Evan, married Margaret Johnson, possibly a sister of Dorcas on January 30, 1775.

Jacob, along with Evin (sometimes transcribed incorrectly as Kevin) and Reuben appear on a Dunmore County militia roster dated May 29, 1775, so we know that they were living in present-day Shenandoah County at that time.

Evin (Evan) and Reuben are both presumed to be Jacob’s brothers given that there are no other Dobkins families living anyplace close. Based on this record, they would all have been born around 1750, give or take a year or two.

Shenandoah County was created in 1776 to replace Dunmore who proved to be an extremely unpopular governor.

In 1776, Jacob’s son, John Dobkins was born. Daughter Elizabeth was probably born in 1777, followed by Jane, also known as Jenny, about 1778. Both Elizabeth and Jenny married Campbell brothers.

Jacob Dobkins enlisted in Captain Todd’s Company at Harrodsburg (eventually Kentucky) in May 1779 and served for two years during the Revolutionary War. In 1780 he joined Captain McGary’s Company of Colonel George Rodgers Clark’s army and participated in the Piqua campaign against the Shawnee Indians of Ohio in the summer of 1780.

Jacob was obviously a VERY long way away from home, but returned to Shenandoah County after the war. However, that itch to move to the frontier had already taken hold.

Jacob’s name, along with John and Reuben Dobkins, appears on the Shenandoah County heads of family census of 1783.  They do not appear on the 1785 Virginia tax list “census” so they must have migrated to the western lands in the spring of 1785.

We have the names of 4 brothers: Jacob, Evan, Reuben and John Dobkins.

What happened to Jacob in the war?

The War

In 1775 Jacob enlisted in the American Revolutionary War in Shenandoah County in local Militia # 6 in Jacob Holeman’s Company (Revolutionary War Records, Vol 1, VA).

In 1780, this unit was mustered out to repel the British Invasion, but Jacob was already serving in Kentucky, so only Reuben and Evin would have been serving with the Holeman unit.

This information was originally taken from Jacob Dobkins’ application for a military pension in 1832 from the Claiborne County Court notes and later augmented by both the original petition and other historical records. The spelling and some punctuation has been modernized to aid in readability. Note that the writer slips back and forth between third-person and first-person as the narrative unfurls as Jacob speaks. I can just see the court clerk writing with his quill pen as Jacob, then an old man, testified, describing events that took place half a century earlier.

Jacob Dobkins, aged 81, …being duly sworn…states that he has not attended any Court of Justice in fifteen years last past and that he is very infirm and decrepit and about fifteen years ago he met with the misfortune of having his shoulder and collar bone broke [sic] which has greatly disabled him from getting about. He also states that he is much afflicted with the phrumatic (sic) pains.

He also states that he entered the service of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein stated. That in the year 1779 and in the month of May in said year he resided in Kentucky at Harrods Burgh when he enlisted in the service of his country under Capt. Todd, which said company was attached to the troop commanded by Colonel Bowman.

(Page 2 of the original document.) Colonel Bowman shortly afterward marched to the Chilicothe towns against the Indians and the company to which this applicant belonged to commanded by Capt. Todd was left to guard the fort at Harrodsburgh where he remained until the spring 1780 and this applicant states that he was then transferred to a company commanded by Capt. McGarry [?] and we marched to the Shawnee Springs where we built a fort and afterwards, the company which this applicant belonged to was ordered to march to the falls of the Ohio with the view of guarding the artillery up the river which we accordingly did and joined the troops commanded by General Clark. Sometime in the month of July in the year 1780 we were then ordered by General Clark to march up the river with a view to kill provisions for the army. We accordingly marched up the river to the mouth of the Kentucky River where we attempted to cross the river to join the main army who were camped on the other side of the river. The Indians made an attack upon us and in the engagement we lost ten of our men. We then marched up the river to Cincinnati where we joined the troops commanded by Colonel Logan. We then built a block house and stationed a guard and the whole of the balance of the army marched to the Chilicothe towns (page 3) and the Indians evacuated the towns and would not give us battle. We then pursued them to the Pickaway towns where we arrived in the month of August in said year. We then found the Indians collected together and we had a very severe battle which lasted about three hours and a half. We killed a considerable number of them, and I think our loss was about 28 men. This applicant states that he did not receive any wounds in the battle but that there was several bullet holes through his clothes and applicant states the whole of the army then marched back to Cincinnati and the company to which I belonged marched back to the Shawnee Springs where this applicant was stationed until the month of August 1781 and during which time we had no general engagements, that a great portion of our time was spent in skirmishing parties through the country. Said applicant states that he actually did serve in the army of the United States putting the whole together more than two years. Applicant states that he does not remember that he ever did receive a discharge and if he did he has lost or mislaid it so that he cannot produce it. He states that he has no documentary evidence of his services nor does he know of any living testimony by whom he can prove his service. He duly relinquishes every claim to a pension or an annuity except (page 4) the present and declares that his name is not on the pension roll of any agency of any state whatsoever.

Signed by Jacob Dobkins

I love that we have Jacob’s actual signature, as shakey as it was. It’s the one personal thing left of him, except for his DNA carried by his descendants.

History Involving Jacob’s Units

What can history tell us about what Jacob was doing when combined with his pension application? Let’s take this apart, piece by piece.

Jacob Dobkins, aged 81, …being duly sworn…states that he has not attended any Court of Justice in fifteen years last past and that he is very infirm and decrepit and about fifteen years ago he met with the misfortune of having his shoulder and collar bone broke [sic] which has greatly disabled him from getting about.

This tells us that when Jacob was about 66 years old, he had some type of painful accident that broke his shoulder and collar bone and never healed correctly. Jacob was a farmer and used mules and horses to plow and for other farm related activities. Of course, horsepower was the only way to get to town, other than walking. I have to wonder if he fell, or something fell on him.

I can only imagine how painful this must have been – not to mention disabling. Thankfully, families took care of one another. We know he lived beside his son Solomon and very near his two sons-in-law, John and George Campbell.

He also states that he is much afflicted with the phrumatic (sic) pains.

I’m presuming here that he meant what is known as rheumatoid arthritis, today.

He also states that he entered the service of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein stated. That in the year 1779 and in the month of May in said year he resided in Kentucky at Harrods Burgh when he enlisted in the service of his country under Capt. Todd, which said company was attached to the troop commanded by Colonel Bowman.

What was Jacob doing in Harrodsburg in 1779? He says he already was living there.

These records published in the Genealogy Trails that apply to Kentucky land entries filed in Fincastle County, Virginia include one John Dobbins who could well have been John Dobkins, Jacob’s father, or perhaps Jacob’s brother John.

Name Date Type Zone Assignee Location Page
Dobbin, John 80.01.11 PW 6 N Elkhorn 126

PW = a presumption of 1000 acres for improving prior to 1778. In 1780, one John Smith appeared and represented the claim of John Dobbin on January 11, 1780, meaning the claim had been sold.

According to Wikipedia, North Elkhorn Creek starts just east of Lexington and flows 75.4 miles (121.3 km) through Fayette and Scott counties, and into Franklin County, where it meets the South Elkhorn at the Forks of the Elkhorn east of Frankfort.

South Elkhorn Creek begins in Fayette County, and flows 52.8 miles (85.0 km) through Woodford, Scott, and Franklin counties to reach the Forks of the Elkhorn. South Elkhorn Creek defines the boundary between Scott and Woodford counties. Beyond the Forks of the Elkhorn, the confluent waters flow north and empty into the Kentucky River north of Frankfort.

Elkhorn isn’t anyplace close to Harrodsburg. The southernmost part of Elkhorn terminates in Elkhorn Lake, near Payne Gap on the northern side of the mountain range between Letcher County Kentucky, and Wise County, Virginia.

In 1779 when Jacob enlisted, Harrodsburg was a small village in the middle of the wilderness, only 5 years old. What is now Kentucky was part of Virginia, and the Shawnee people were very unhappy, caught in the middle, feeling betrayed by both white men and other Native people.

In 1775, the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals (now Elizabethton, TN) was signed between Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Company and the Cherokee people. It opened for settlement the area from the Ohio River south to the Watauga settlement, including Harrodsburg.

The Shawnee people, who inhabited the lands, were not involved in the negotiations and, understandably, refused to accept the terms of the treaty. Hence, they felt betrayed by the Cherokee, that their lands were being invaded, and attempted to repel settlers whom they viewed as trespassers.

The first European settlers were either quite brave or foolhardy, I’m not sure which. Within a few years, attempts were being made to settle the land beyond the few longhunters that frequented the area.

The passage of a Land Act was an important event of the year 1779. Up to that time land had been acquired without money and practically without price, but in that year the public lands of Virginia assumed a new importance. That naturally was the outcome of the Act by virtue of which Commissioners were appointed to sit as a Court to examine and grant certificates of settlements and preemptions. A Court was held in Harrodsburg on the 13th day of October and all who had claims to land were obliged to attend and state them.

Of some of the happenings of this year E. Foley writes: “We started from Frederick County, Virginia, and settled Bowmans fall 1779 about the middle of December; my mother was the first white woman that was there for some time and our coming was the first settling of station. There was nothing but a camp there till some time in March because it was too cold to work. As soon as we had gotten a good camp Col. Bowman brought his family from Harrodsburg and by Spring we had 20 farms…”

The year 1775 saw an influx of settlers to this section, the new arrivals coming from Virginia and North Carolina, and Harrodsburg received its quota. A number, it is said, clustered around Harrod’s old cabin the rising settlement. This year, too, saw a commencement made in the work of erecting the Fort which increasing numbers and the ever present menace of the Indians rendered a necessity. It is said that on the arrival of the pioneers in the previous year a temporary fort or shelter was established, but I have found no mention of this anywhere, and it may be merely a matter of tradition.

The year 1776 saw the completion of the fort which doubtless was greatly accelerated by Clark’s encouragement and example. One of his schemes at this time was Virginia ownership for Kentucky, deciding to call upon for protection. On June 6 he called a meeting of the settlers at Harrodsburg and they decided to send delegates or deputies to the Assembly of Virginia and Williamsburg with a petition asking the Assembly to establish the County of Kentucky. Clark and John Gabriel Jones, a lawyer, were elected as the delegates.

Clark was in Harrodsburg in 1777 and there he wrote an interesting diary which he had begun in the previous December and which was concluded on March 30, 1778. In this diary he says: “March 6th, 1777, Thomas Shores and William Ray Killed at the Shawnee Spring.”

In the Spring the Court of Quarter Sessions held its first sitting at Harrodsburg attended by the Sheriff of the county and its Clerk, Levi Todd. The first Court of Kentucky was composed of John Todd, John Floyd, Benjamin Logan, John Bowman and Richard Calloway. Just after the Court had adjourned, the Fort was attacked by the Indians and it is said that all the hunters and surveyors were driven from the surrounding country and forced to take refuge in the fort.

This census of sorts, taken from the journal of one of Harrod’s men is enlightening.

Almost every man at or near Fort Harrod was in the service.

In 1779, Col. Bowman left Frederick County with multiple families to settle Harrodsburg.

Given that Jacob says he enlisted at Harrodsburg, he was either already there or was with this group of families. For all we know, his father, John, and brothers may have been among this party as well. Regardless, we know positively that Jacob was in Harrodsburg in May.

The situation with the Shawnee continued to escalate and deteriorate.

Colonel Bowman shortly afterward marched to the Chilicothe towns against the Indians and the company to which this applicant belonged to commanded by Capt. Todd was left to guard the fort at Harrodsburgh where he remained until the spring 1780…

In other words, Jacob spent the majority of a year guarding the fort. The march to Chillicothe took place in May of 1779, the same month Jacob enlisted.

Fort Harrod

We are fortunate that a reproduction of Fort Harrod exists today in the Old Fort Harrod State Park.

By FloNight (Sydney Poore) and Russell Poore – self-made by Russell and Sydney Poore, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The actual fort location is under the Fort parking lot today.

The entire park is only 15 acres.

You can view the inside of the fort, here, and here. Imagine Jacob and all of the families living in this small space along with all of their animals in the corral inside the fort.

The fort housed a militia blockhouse, a family blockhouse, several cabins, a school, minister’s cabin and the leader’s cabin. Furthermore, two freshwater springs were located within the fort.

Those springs served several purposes. Drinking water, of course, but they also removed the need to exit the fort to retrieve water if the Indians were attacking.

Furthermore, the Shawnee would set forts afire to burn the settlers and militia out, but because the water source was within the fort, that tactic never worked at Fort Harrod.

The walls were 14 feet tall, with the bottom 4 feet buried in the ground. The posts measured more than a foot in diameter, so I can imagine the men felling those large trees. Ten foot gates were located on the north and west walls.

Inside the walls, blockhouses sat at the southwest and southeast corners where the upper story extended 2 feet outside the walls to allow the soldiers to shoot along the perimeter of the walls. It was here that Jacob would have spent most of his time while on duty, guarding and watching.

Between the blockhouses were seven 20×20 foot story-and-a-half houses separated by 10 feet. A single-story cabin was built next to the east corner and used as a school and a blacksmith shop was located on the southern wall inside the fort.

You can watch several YouTube videos showing inside Old Fort Harrod with stories told by interpreters here, here, here and here. One of the original rifles at the fort still exists and is mounted on the wall. Jacob would have carried a rifle or long-gun like this, along with the powder horn.

Take a look. Even if your ancestor isn’t involved with Fort Harrod, this provides incredible perspective about the settlement of the frontiers.

Sometime in the month of July in the year 1780 we were then ordered by General Clark to march up the river with a view to kill provisions for the army. We accordingly marched up the river to the mouth of the Kentucky River where we attempted to cross the river to join the main army who were camped on the other side of the river. The Indians made an attack upon us and in the engagement we lost ten of our men. We then marched up the river to Cincinnati where we joined the troops commanded by Colonel Logan. We then built a block house and stationed a guard and the whole of the balance of the army marched to the Chilicothe towns (page 3) and the Indians evacuated the towns and would not give us battle. We then pursued them to the Pickaway towns where we arrived in the month of August in said year. We then found the Indians collected together and we had a very severe battle which lasted about three hours and a half. We killed a considerable number of them, and I think our loss was about 28 men. This applicant states that he did not receive any wounds in the battle but that there was several bullet holes through his clothes and applicant states the whole of the army then marched back to Cincinnati and the company to which I belonged marched back to the Shawnee Springs where this applicant was stationed until the month of August 1781 and during which time we had no general engagements, that a great portion of our time was spent in skirmishing parties through the country. Said applicant states that he actually did serve in the army of the United States putting the whole together more than two years. Applicant states that he does not remember that he ever did receive a discharge and if he did he has lost or mislaid it so that he cannot produce it. He states that he has no documentary evidence of his services nor does he know of any living testimony by whom he can prove his service. He duly relinquishes every claim to a pension or an annuity except (page 4) the present and declares that his name is not on the pension roll of any agency of any state whatsoever.

…and this applicant states that he was then transferred to a company commanded by Capt. McGarry [?] and we marched to the Shawnee Springs where we built a fort and afterwards, the company which this applicant belonged to was ordered to march to the falls of the Ohio with the view of guarding the artillery up the river which we accordingly did and joined the troops commanded by General Clark.

The Captain’s name could have been James McGinty. He and his wife, Anne, established the first ordinary, reproduced within the fort today, and are both buried in the cemetery at Fort Harrod.

However, based on the mention of Shawnee Springs about 6 miles distant from Fort Harrod, land was claimed by Hugh McGary, I’d wager that the man being referenced is Hugh McGary. His required land improvement was probably the fort built by Jacob Dobkins and the other men. That doesn’t seem quite right.

A Backwoods Army on the Move

Jacob Dobkins clearly knew George Rodgers Clark, born in 1752, referenced as General Clark, whose headquarters were at the Falls of the Ohio, now Louisville, KY. Jacob and Clark were about the same age, 27 or 28 years of age. Hard to believe George Rodgers Clark was already a general.

What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall of that stockade as the two men talked.

George Rodgers Clark depicted here sometime before his stroke in 1809 and death in 1818.

Sometime in the month of July in the year 1780 we were then ordered by General Clark to march up the river with a view to kill provisions for the army.

 Jacob, along with other men were hunting to feed the soldiers.

In response to Clark’s orders, an army began congregating at the mouth of the Licking River with July 31 as the date by which all of the companies were to be mustered. Clark had dictated a massive mobilization of Kentucky militia. The Licking River’s mouth is across the River from Cincinnati.

We accordingly marched up the river to the mouth of the Kentucky River where we attempted to cross the river to join the main army who were camped on the other side of the river.

The Kentucky River’s mouth is at Carrollton, half-way between Louisville and Cincinnati.

Of course, by this time the Revolutionary War was well underway, and the Native Americans had sided with the British, hoping to drive the frontiersmen out of their lands.

In 1778 and into 1779, Clark led his men on a winter march to Vincennes in what would become Indiana. While Jacob was not present for this march, the depiction of the mountain men in their brown garb and muskets was probably similar.

In June of 1780, the Shawnee, Delaware (Lenape) and Wyandot Indians invaded Kentucky, capturing both Ruddle’s and Martin’s Forts, along with hundreds of prisoners.

The great panic occasioned throughout Kentucky by the taking of Ruddle’s and Martin’s Stations caused the people to look up to General Clark as their only hope. His counsel and advice was received as coming from an oracle. He advised that a levy of four-fifths should be made of all the men in the country capable of bearing arms, whether inhabitants or strangers, and to meet at the mouth of Licking on the 20th July. Those from Lincoln and Fayette, under the command of Colonel Logan, were to march down Licking. Those from Jefferson under General Clark were to march up the Ohio.

In August, General Clark decided to lead a retaliatory force that would lead to the Battle of Piqua near Springfield, Ohio.

As soon as it was decided that an expedition should be carried on against the Indians. General Clark gave orders to have a number of small skiffs built at Louisville capable of taking fifteen or twenty men, which together with batteaux, the provisions and military stores, were taken by water from Louisville to the mouth of the Licking. The vessels were under the direction of Colonel George Slaughter, who commanded about 150 troops raised by him in Virginia for Western Service.

Were those boats involved with Jacob’s unit? Was Jacob on those boats? He was clearly there.

The Indians made an attack upon us and in the engagement we lost ten of our men. We then marched up the river to Cincinnati where we joined the troops commanded by Colonel Logan. We then built a block house and stationed a guard…

If Jacob Dobkins was at the mouth of the Kentucky River, these boats would have passed by on their way to the mouth of Licking River, at Cincinnati – or picked the men up along the way. But Jacob says they marched.

In ascending the river, it was necessary to keep the vessels close to the shore, some of which were on one side and some on the other; it happened whilst one of these skiffs was near the north side of the river a party of Indians ran down to the water’s edge and fired into it and killed and wounded several before assistance could be obtained from the other boats.

The fact that the boat was attacked, and Jacob also mentions losing men makes me wonder if this is the same event, told from two different perspectives. Jacob says they marched to the Kentucky River, then on to Licking River, and were trying to cross the river when they were attached. The boat doesn’t say anything about marching men, so maybe this was two separate events.

That party of the army commanded by Colonel Logan assembled at Bryan’s Spring, about eight miles from Lexington, and on the following night a man by the name of Clarke stole a valuable horse and went off. It was generally believed that he intended to go to North Carolina. When the army arrived at the mouth of Licking, the horse was found there, when the conjecture was that he had been taken prisoner by the Indians; but it was afterwards discovered that he had gone to the Indians voluntarily in order to give them notice of the approach of an army from Kentucky.

The army rendezvoused and encamped on the ground where Cincinnati now stands, and the next day built two blockhouses, in which was deposited a quantity of corn, and where several men who were sick left with a small guard, until the return of the army.

The division of the army commanded by Colonel Logan took with them generally provisions, only sufficient to last them to the mouth of Licking, as it was understood a sufficient quantity for the campaign would be brought up from Louisville to that place; but when the army was about to march, the provisions were distributed among the men, and was only six quarts of Indian corn, measured in a quart pot for each man, most of whom were obliged to carry it on their backs, not having a sufficiency of pack horses to convey the whole, together with the military stores and the baggage of the army.

Jacob received few provisions before they were marching once again.

The Battle of Pickaway

and the whole of the balance of the army marched to the Chilicothe towns and the Indians evacuated the towns and would not give us battle. We then pursued them to the Pickaway towns where we arrived in the month of August in said year.

We then found the Indians collected together and we had a very severe battle which lasted about three hours and a half. We killed a considerable number of them, and I think our loss was about 28 men.

Battle of Pique map, courtesy of the National Park Service.

Jacob describes this as a very severe battle. The Native warriors were outnumbered, two to one, but they fought valiantly.

Clark, in the Shawnee Expedition of 1780, led a total of about 970 men who had crossed the Ohio River and then marched up the Little Miami and Mad Rivers. They arrived at the village of Piqua (not the current day city in Ohio), the head village of the Shawnee with approximately 3000 inhabitants on August 8th. The village surrounded a small stockade.

The Shawnee were driven off when General Clark used artillery to bombard the stockade from river cliffs above the village. Clark’s men then spent two days burning as much as 500 acres of corn surrounding the village.

Clark reported 27 casualties (14 killed and 13 wounded) which seemed like a victory, but historians have corrected that number to almost three times that based on eyewitness accounts of survivors. However, Jacob also reports the same number as Clark. Perhaps that’s what he was told, although an eye-witness report would seem to be quite credible.

Of course, that number of dead does not include the Shawnee casualties.

The battlefield location today is more than 200 miles north of Fort Harrod, a very long and treacherous march on foot through unknown and dangerous terrain, about 7 miles west of Springfield, Ohio on the Mad River, known as the George Rodger’s Clark Park.

It’s here that Jacob spent those three and a half hellacious hours.

It’s here, along the Mad River that the devastating clash of cultures occurred – and it’s here that Jacob came close to losing his life.

The Shawnee never rebuilt their capitol village that housed more than 3000 people and instead moved to the Great Miami River where they settled just north of what is today the modern town of Piqua, Ohio, naming their village Peckuwe (later anglicized to “Piqua”).

You can read more in the George Rodgers Clark Papers, here and see the Peckuwe battlefield site, here and reenactors, here.

Several Bullet Holes

This applicant states that he did not receive any wounds in the battle but that there was several bullet holes through his clothes…

I just had to stop and let that sink in. Jacob Dobkins came that close. Inches or closer.

“Several bullet holes through his clothes.”

Not one.

Not two.



Jacob’s daughter, my ancestor Jenny was probably born sometime between 1778 and 1780. Based on this, I’m presuming 1778 before he left, or perhaps as he was in the thick of the fighting or even after his return. Regardless, had those bullets been just a hair closer, or he had been unlucky that day, she would either never have been born, or never have known her father.

I’m sure the men acted brave, but Jacob must have been terrified facing more than 450 braves on their own territory. Three and a half hours of intense battle. I’d wager that he never noticed those bullet holes until after everything was over and he had a chance to recover a bit.

He had to have known how close he came as the soldiers took stock of what had happened and buried their dead.

Of course, the soldiers would have been surveying the immediate damage when the fighting ended. Who was injured and needed attention? Who hadn’t been so lucky to only have bullet holes in their clothes? Who was dead? What did they do with injured soldiers and Shawnee? What did they do with the dead in mid August? Did they bury the dead Shawnee too? How would they secure themselves before nightfall to prevent an attack?

Back to Shawnee Springs

…and applicant states the whole of the army then marched back to Cincinnati and the company to which I belonged marched back to the Shawnee Springs where this applicant was stationed until the month of August 1781 and during which time we had no general engagements, that a great portion of our time was spent in skirmishing parties through the country.

Armies march about 15 miles a day, resting every fifth day to recover a bit, and it was roughly 200 miles, maybe slightly less to Shawnee Springs. That march would probably have been somewhat more than 2 weeks, so they would have arrived in September sometime.

Shawnee Springs is assuredly the land claimed by Hugh M’Gary in October 1779 about six miles from Harrodsburg on Shawnee Run. This land was contested, which means the M’Gary name was scattered throughout the records. In one suit, his property was mentioned as being a common stopping place between the fort and Harrodsburg.

Based on his comments about skirmishing parties, Jacob clearly was not always at either fort, the one at Shawnee Springs or Fort Harrod. We have no information about the fort Jacob built at Shawnee Springs, but I suspect it may have been little more than a block house. It certainly was not as large as Fort Harrod.

Said applicant states that he actually did serve in the army of the United States putting the whole together more than two years. Applicant states that he does not remember that he ever did receive a discharge and if he did he has lost or mislaid it so that he cannot produce it. He states that he has no documentary evidence of his services nor does he know of any living testimony by whom he can prove his service. He duly relinquishes every claim to a pension or an annuity except the present and declares that his name is not on the pension roll of any agency of any state whatsoever.

Jacob Dobkins outlived many if not most or maybe even all of the men at Fort Harrod. George Rogers Clark died in 1818. It would have been very difficult to keep in touch with people at that time unless you were related or lived close.

What About King’s Mountain?

Jacob Dobkins is listed on the muster rolls of the men who participated in the Battle of King’s Mountain in Pat Alderson’s book, The Overmountain Men. I wrote about King’s Mountain, here. The Battle of King’s Mountain occurred on October 7, 1780. Based on Jacob’s own testimony, he marched from Ohio in August of 1780 to Shawnee Springs near Harrodsburg where he remained until May of 1781, “during which time we had no general engagements.”

Jacob Dobkins would surely have listed his service at King’s Mountain if he or his unit had participated. Furthermore, he would NOT have said they had “no general engagements.” King’s Mountain was unquestionably a major battle and a turning point in the war.

I think we can take this as evidence that Jacob Dobkins was NOT at King’s Mountain.

Participation at King’s Mountain is difficult to document because there are no muster rolls, so it’s often assumed that any man serving at this time, especially from Virginia, would have assuredly been involved in that battle. Generally, I’d agree, but in this case, I think we can rely on Jacob’s own voice in his pension application.

Jacob’s Path

During 1779 through the spring of 1781, Jacob traveled at least 450 miles – and that’s not counting his journey from and back to Shenandoah County, following the path along the valleys alongside the mountains, sheltering as he could in the forts known as stations along the way. The Wilderness Road.

Jacob would have stopped at Martin’s Station, marked with the red star below, before it was destroyed by the Shawnee.

Martin’s Station wasn’t far from where he would ultimately settle south of Cumberland Gap on the Powell River, some 20 years later, marked with the red pin on Campbell Lane.

By Cmadler – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Perhaps when Jacob sheltered at Martin’s Station, he made a foray over the mountain, crossing through the gap, hiked along the creeks, saw the lands along the winding Powell River and determined that one day, he wanted to live there.

Or, did Jacob stand at the pinnacle of the Cumberland Gap and survey his surroundings, mesmerized by the stunning majesty, and vow to return one day?

Jacob was part of the beginning trickle of pioneers, mostly men, down a dangerous trail. That trickle would turn into a stream and then a flood of pioneers by 1810 when more than 300,000 people had passed through Cumberland Gap on that Wilderness Road on their way to the new frontier and what they hoped would be a better life and more opportunity – specifically, land.

After the War

I wonder how long it had been since Jacob had seen his wife. Did he have a new baby that was by then a toddler? He enlisted in May of 1779 and wasn’t discharged until August of 1781. Some men went home and planted crops, but it’s an incredibly long, and dangerous path from Fort Harrod to Shenandoah County. Not to mention, we already know that Jacob was at Ford Harrod when he enlisted.

I sure wish we knew more of the circumstances surrounding Jacob’s enlistment and how the war changed him. Did his wife know him when he returned? Had it been more than two full years? Did she even know if he was still alive?

Cousin Carol shows a daughter, Dorcas Dobkins, born May 29, 1780 in Shenandoah Co., VA. married Sept. 16, 1796 to Malachi Murphy. She died Dec. 11, 1858. Carol believes that Dorcas is the daughter of Jacob Dobkins and Dorcas Johnson. Her first name would certainly suggest that’s a possibility.

Not that I’m counting on my fingers, but if she was born in May of 1780, that would be more than a year after Jacob had left for Fort Harrod. Of course, birth years were wrong back then, not to mention people often incorrectly stated their own ages. I’ve seen records of men being AWOL long enough to go home and plant crops too, but that’s an awfully long distance.

In 1783, Jacob’s son Reuben was born in Shenandoah County, Virginia and eventually married Mary whose surname is unknown.

In 1783 Jacob appears in the Shenandoah County, Virginia census as head-of-household. His father, John, and brother, Reuben, are also listed in the area.

Jacob’s daughter, Margaret, was probably born in Tennessee in 1785 since the family is no longer listed on tax lists in Virginia. Margaret eventually married Elijah Jones and lived in close proximity to Jacob in Claiborne County.

Jacob already had that itch and the family didn’t remain long in Shenandoah County. With the end of the war and land opening, the exodus had already begun and Jacob, then about 40 years old packed his family into a wagon and joined the stream of frontier families on the Great Wagon Road heading south and west, often together.

In 1785 there was a court document from the state of North Carolina requesting Jacob Dobkins of Shenandoah County, Virginia for a deposition in lawsuit of J. Sevier and A. Bird McCain. Had Jacob gone back to Shenandoah County again? Maybe to pack his family for the journey?

Jacob and Darcus’s daughter Margaret was reportedly born in 1785 in what would become Claiborne County, but based on these records, I don’t think that’s correct. Claiborne had not yet been formed and no settlers were yet living there. They were probably living in the eastern portion of what would one day become Tennessee.

The State of Franklin

The eastern portion of what would become Tennessee was both Virginia and North Carolina at various points in time, along with the proposed (unrecognized) State of Franklin that existed only from 1784-1788. Jonesboro was initially the capital of the State of Franklin, then Greeneville beginning in 1785.

By Brian Stansberry – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

For perspective, here’s a replica of the capitol building in Greeneville based on the dimensions given in historical records.

Nothing was elegant. Everything was simply functional on the frontier.

Unfortunately, very few records exist from this timeframe, and none from the defacto “State of Franklin” itself.

As far as the rest of the colonies were concerned, “Franklin” was just a rogue part of far western North Carolina. The Franklinites thought about themselves very differently and ran the State of Franklin in conflicting parallel with North Carolina. Both entities thought they had sovereignty over those lands and residents.

By Iamvered – I, Iamvered, drew this map myself., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Two factions battled within the State of Franklin: the Tiptonites who were loyal to the state of North Carolina, and the Franklinites, led by Tennessee’s future governor, John Sevier, who desired an entirely separate state.

Washington, Greene, Sullivan and Hawkins County comprised the “Old State Party” who supported staying with North Carolina. The Franklinites did not.

By 1786, the residents of Franklin were negotiating with the state of North Carolina for readmission. Franklin was a mess, suffering from both internal and external conflict. In addition to the political battles, the residents were in conflict with a treaty with the Cherokee that escalated into conflict in 1788.

The book, The Lost State of Franklin provides details and a look into this fascinating time and place.

The residents were tired and frustrated. They wanted to own land and have the protections of a “normal” government of their time.

Two elections in 1786 and 1787 were disputed. In an attempt to resolve the conflict, the poll lists were sent to the North Carolina general assembly, which is the only reason we have that list today.

Jacob Dobkins was listed among the voters in August 1786 at the courthouse in Jonesboro for Washington County, North Carolina (now Tennessee) as was his brother, Reuben.

In 1787, only Reuben is found on the Washington County, NC poll list.

Jacob’s son, Solomon Dobkins was born in Tennessee in 1787 per the 1850 census. P. G. Fulkerson, early Claiborne County historian, says the family was in what would become Claiborne County by 1792. I don’t this is accurate given that Grainger wasn’t formed until 1796. We have a list of Grainger County “Insolvents Living Within the Indian Boundary for the Year 1797,” families illegally living on the Indian lands, which would have been Claiborne at that time, and Jacob isn’t included on that list.

We know that Jacob and his brothers were living in Washington County, in what would become Tennessee in 1787 and 1788. Based on the North Carolina court records, we also know that Jacob was somehow involved in the political intrigue.

The Sevier family was front and center in the State of Franklin, heading up one of the rival sides of the political disputes – the Franklinites.

Washington County, Tennessee Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions

Page 252 – Friday the 6th (think this is May 1785) – ordered the justices of Shenandoah Co. Virginia to take the depositions of Jacob Dobkins, Sylvia Foella and other witnesses in the suit between Valentine Sevier Sr. and Andrew Bird.

Valentine Sevier and Andrew Bird had been neighbors in Augusta County, serving in the same militia unit before moving to the frontier. In 1753, Sevier had sold Bird land in the portion now Rockingham County.

Page 294 – Nov. 5, 1787 – Will of Rudolph Cresslias – executor Elizabeth and John Cathart Cresslias – William Noodling Sr., John Dobbins and Abraham Riffe appraisers.

345 – Jacob Dobkins of John Wier for 100 acres dated February 21, 1788, by Abraham Riffe

358 – Evan Dobkins finds a stray horse on November 13, 1788

Reuben Dobkins (spelled Dobbins) takes part in Martin’s campaign of 1788 against the Cherokee near present-day Chattanooga, Tennessee, also known as Dragging Canoe’s War. Martin, the former Indian Agent, commanded the men from Sullivan County, although there’s no way of knowing whether Reuben served directly under Martin. We do know that the men, when finally paid in 1790, had been from Washington, Sullivan, Green and Hawkins, but some lived in other nearby counties.

The less than straightforward Treaty of Sycamore Shoals with the Cherokee was at the heart of the conflict in this region, and when combined with local emotional politics, the situation boiled over.

Where’s Jacob?

On November 24, 1789, Jacob’s name appeared on the south of the French Broad Petition to the North Carolina Legislature.

The land South of the French Broad River now falls into Jefferson and Sevier Counties. Back then, it was Washington District.

I transcribed the document in its entirety, here. You can hear the desperation and frustration, even from 232 years distance.

Other transcribers of the document provide this information:

This set of documents includes the names of many men who lived in Eastern Tennessee in 1789, names that might not be found in any other records. These men were living on Indian territory that had not been purchased by the United States. They were considered trespassers. Most of them had lived under the State of Franklin, but once that was disbanded, they belonged to no state, no nation. These petitions were written to the North Carolina Assembly, asking for help. Many of these people stayed around and eventually gained legal possession of their land almost 20 years later, but others gave up and left the area, not leaving any evidence behind in county and state records besides their names on these petitions.

Apparently, Jacob is one of those who gave up and moved back to Virginia, but not for long.

Jacob appears on the 1790 census for Shenandoah Co., Va. However, he was in newly formed Jefferson Co., Tennessee in 1792 when he sued Benjamin Wallace and John Sevier. Yes, the famous John Sevier, the man whose case he had been summoned to provide a deposition for in 1785. The families had lived as neighbors in Virginia.

1792 – Historian, Colonel P.G. Fulkerson states “Jacob Dobkins was living in the Claiborne County area in 1792”. In 1792 all but the northeast tip of present-day Claiborne County was designated as Indian Land and remained so until 1796. In Fulkerson’s defense, he was reporting events as they had been told to him from a century earlier, and we’re very fortunate that he committed that information to paper.

When Jacob did move to Claiborne County, he purchased the land north of Wallen’s Ridge above Cedar Fork, but first, Jacob, then in his 40s, settled in Jefferson County.

Jefferson County, Tennessee

Jacob fully intended to settle down and farm. He bought land on the White Horn branch of Bent Creek, near Bull’s Gap in present day southern Hawkins or Hamblen County.

Around 1795 two of Jacob’s daughters married Campbell men, believed to be brothers, probably the sons of Charles Campbell of Hawkins County who lived 8 miles directly down the road near the Holston River. It could be that before Jacob purchased land, he was living closer to the Holston and Charles Campbell.

In 1795 and 1796 we find Jacob Dobkins buying two tracts of land in Jefferson Co., Tn.  Deed book B-210 provides us with the location of Jacob’s land.

Cousin Carol sent photos of this area years ago.

I visited years later, found the location, and took photos after driving from the Campbell land near Dodson Creek in Hawkins County, where it intersects with the Holston River. Raleigh Dodson was the ferryman where the original ford used to be. The Dobkins, Dodson and Campbell families were intertwined.

The Campbell land near Dodson ford to White Horn.

Jacob Dobkins to Henry Cross of Greene Co., June 14, 1796, recorded October 13, 1796, 163 acres, 100 pounds, on the White Oak Fork of Bent Creek adj Col ? Roddy, Abraham Howard, Jacob Dobkins, wit John Goare, John Reed, signed

When I found Charles Campbell’s land, I had to find Jacob Dobkins land too. After all, their children are my ancestors. White Horn from the side road, above, and the main road, below.

Note this entry as well from 1810 – Henry Cross of Greene Co to Jacob Kirkpatrick March 15, 1810, 163 acres on White Horn fork of Bent Creek adj ? Roddy, Graham Howard, Jacob Dobbins, witnessed by Levi Day, Wilkins Kirkpatrick, William Howard proven at the March session 1810.

Lazarus Dodson who had lived by the Campbell family bought land in 1797 on White Horn too. His son by the same name would marry the daughter of John Campbell and Jane Dobkins a few years later after all of these families moved to Claiborne County.

Jefferson County, Tennessee, Court Notes 1792-1798

Page 11 – Jacob Dobkins vs Benjamin ? Wallace and John Sevier. Plaintiff prays for appeal to Superior court of the district of Washington County.

I sure would love to know what this was about. I wonder if this further affirms that Jacob was supportive of this part of Tennessee remaining part of North Carolina and not becoming the State of Franklin? Were hard feelings left from earlier days between the men?

69 – Deed from Jacob Dobkins to Henry Cross

Barnett Campbell was born to Jacob’s daughter, Elizabeth and George Campbell in 1797, according to the 1850 census.

We don’t know much about Jacob Dobkins’ religious leanings, but most people in that time and place attended church. If he was Scots-Irish, then he was probably Presbyterian, but most families attended the church of opportunity.

The Reverend Tidence Lane founded Bent Creek Church, supposedly preaching under the old tree in the Bent Creek Cemetery.

This is probably where Jacob attended church, under this tree.

Tidence Land moved up to Claiborne County too. Maybe they all talked about that under the tree as well.

Claiborne County

Grainger County was born in April of 1796 and Claiborne in October of 1801.

Jacob Dobkins did not stay in Jefferson very long as we find him in the newly formed county of Claiborne County in 1801 where he spent the rest of his life. Jacob was about 50 years old when he made this final move. Maybe he was getting tired of the exhausting work of felling trees and homesteading.

Claiborne County lies in the northern portion of East Tennessee and borders both the States of Kentucky and Virginia. The famous Cumberland Gap is situated near the middle of its northern line. The principal waterway in the county is the Powell River, with the Clinch River forming its southern boundary. The land has a variety of hills, mountains and valleys. For the most part, the soil in the valleys was good, although the hillsides were rocky. In many places, the mountains were unpassable. Jacob and his family, along with other settlers, had to deal with Indian troubles and several forts were built. The pioneers suffered much from savage depredations and conflict, especially in the early days, seemed everpresent.

The act to erect a new county from portions of Hawkins and Grainger was passed October 29, 1801. It was name Claiborne in honor of William Charles Cole Claiborne, one of the first judges of the superior court, and the first representative in Congress from Tennessee.

In 1801 Jacob Dobkins was appointed as a member of the Grand Jury for the First Court of Claiborne County, Tennessee after it was formed from Grainger, so he was already living here at this time.

The court of pleas and quarter sessions was organized at the house of John Owens December 7, 1801.

The next term of the court was held at the house of John Hunt, who lived on the site of Tazewell. The grand jury empaneled included Jacob Dobkins.

The third term of the court was held at the house of Elisha Walling, and it was not until 1804 that a small frame courthouse was erected. It stood near the site of the present courthouse. In 1804, the jail was built and remains today.

At the March court session in 1802, Jacob Dobkins “proved” a deed for 300 acres in court that was conveyed from Alexander Outlaw to John Campbell who was married to Jacob’s daughter, Jenny.

On June 07, 1802, Jacob purchased four hundred acres from Elisha Wallen, the famous longhunter, on the north side of Wallens Ridge. Jacob owned the land north of Wallens Ridge near Cedar Fork – Deed Book “A” June 07, 1802.

At the September Session of the Claiborne Court of 1803, Jacob Dobkins and his neighbor, Abel Lanham reported to the court as members of the “Jury on the road from Powels Mountain to Cumberland Gap”.

Jacob was also ordered to serve at the December term as a juror.

In 1803 and 1805, Jacob purchased additional land.

About 1808, Jacob’s son Solomon married Elizabeth, surname unknown.

Sadly, in 1809, Jacob Dobkins purchased four enslaved people. This hurt my heart, although it wasn’t uncommon.

“I Jesse Cheek hath bargained and sold unto Jacob Dobkins 4 negroes names Aneker or Anekey, Mitilty, Jiary, Amelyer for the consideration of $130 in hand paid.”  March 29 1809 Jesse signs, registered July 30, 1809.  John Campbell and Solomon Dobkins are witnesses.

Jacob’s son and son-in-law were witnesses.

Jacob buys and sells land in 1812, 1813, 1814, 1819 and 1821.

In 1812, Jacob was serving as a juror again, along with John Campbell and George Campbell, his sons-in-law, and laying out roads.

1814 brought war again to the Dobkins family. Jacob’s son, Solomon Dobkins served as a Captain in the War of 1812, also known at the Creek War. Solomon served for three months from January 17 to May 9, 1814 in the 2nd Regiment of East Tennessee militia under Colonel Bunch.

Andrew Jackson’s official report of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (27 March 1814) mentions that:

“A few companies” of Colonel Bunch were part of the right line of the American forces at this engagement. More than likely, some of those companies included Captains Francis Berry, Nicholas Gibbs (who was killed at the battle), Jones Griffin, and John McNair. In addition, muster rolls show some casualties from this battle in the companies led by Captains Moses Davis, Joseph Duncan, and John Houk. Other men from this regiment remained at Fort Williams prior to Horseshoe Bend to guard the post — provision returns indicate that there were 283 men from Bunch’s regiment at the fort at the time of the battle.

This regiment was in General George Doherty’s Brigade and many of the men stayed after the enlistment expiration of May 1814 to guard the posts at Fort Strother and Fort Williams until June/July. The line of march went through Camp Ross (near present-day Chattanooga), Fort Armstrong, and Fort Jackson.

Jacob must have been greatly relieved when Solomon returned home and walked up to his house, probably hungry, bedraggled and exahusted. Other men from Claiborne County weren’t as fortunate. Jacob was probably trying NOT to think about those bullet holes that ripped through his own clothes at the Battle of Piqua.

In 1814 Jacob sold seventy acres to his son-in-law, George Campbell and three hundred and twenty acres to son-in-law, Elijah Jones.

1817 – The accident that broke Jacob’s collarbone and shoulder occurred.

March 17, 1819 – Jacob Dobkins to John Whitacre, $400, 20 acres on the waters of Powels River beginning on the ridge near the head of a large spring known by the name of Hunt’s spring running west crossing a small branch and a few steps above the head of the said spring…crossing the branch below the mill…Jacob signs, Solomon Dobkins and George Campbell witness. February session 1820 Solomon and George swear to the conveyance and prove the deed.

Does this tell us that Jacob Dobkins owned a mill? A small tract of 20 acres would be a respectable-sized mill tract. Jacob may have given up on his shoulder healing by this point, and decided it was time to sell.

In 1823, Jacob’s son, Reuben died and his widow, Polly, served as his administrator. It must have been incredibly difficult for Jacob to lose an adult child.

The 1830 federal census in Claiborne County lists Jacob and Dorcas living next to their youngest son, Solomon. They are also living 3 doors from Abel Lanham who witnessed Jacob’s Revolutionary War pension application, and 5 doors from his son-in-law George Campbell. Jacob owned 4 slaves, 2 males ages 10-23, one female 10-23 and one female slave child under age 10.

In 1832 Jacob applied for and received a pension for his Revolutionary War service. His friend and neighbor, Abel Lanham, recommended him.

In 1833, Jacob, living beside his son Solomon is again shown on the Claiborne County tax list.

Jacob’s pension packet shows that his benefits stopped on March 4, 1833, which was his presumed date of death. But there’s more.

The next court session in Claiborne County occurred on March 18, 1833 where we find an entry referring to a Jacob Dobkins, Jr. If Jacob Sr. was still living, then there would be no need to address Jr. as such.

Ordered by the court that Jacob Dobkins Jr. be appointed overseer of the road from ? Henderson’s shop to the old Hawkins line in room and stead of William Laughan and have the same hands.

We find Jacob Jr. mentioned again in December of 1833 and March 1834.

Another record shows Jacob’s death in late 1835.

On this pension payment record, Jacob is shown as paid through 1835. He would not have been being paid if he were deceased.

And in this next one as well, so perhaps he did not die until in the fourth quarter of 1835. These records are not consistent, but they are close.

However, according to a deed index, in 1835, real estate transactions were taking place between individuals designated as Jacob’s heirs in deed book L, page 177. However, deed book L is missing, and according to FamilySearch, volume M resumes in 1836. Of course☹

In March of 1838, Jacob Dobkins in the court records is no longer referenced as Jr. suggesting that Jacob Sr. is gone, as is confirmed by the above records. However, the Claiborne County court notes reflect nothing about an estate or his death.

Without a court entry date or those deeds, it’s safe to say that Jacob died sometime between March 1833 and the end of 1835.

Based on when Jacob Jr. is no longer referred to as Jr., in March 1834, and the final payment vouchers, I would say that Jacob Dobkins died in the fourth quarter of 1835.

By 1850, two of Jacob’s slaves had been freed, one registered in the court records in 1850, apparently after filing suit.

October 5, 1850 – “I Solomon Dobkins do this day free my negrow boy Jefferson and doe agree to gave to said boy Jefferson a good hors and saddle and bridal on theas conditions that the said Jefferson doath dismiss his suit in chancery at Tazewell for his freedom and relinquish all claim on me for my laber sens my oald master Jacob Dobkins deceist, giveon under our hands and seals this the 5 day of October 1850”.  Solomon signs and Jefferson (+) Dobkins, wit Jacob Dobkins, Nathaniel Brooks and John C. Dodson filed Dec 3 1850, personally appeared before me Thomas Johnson Solomon Dobkins and Jefferson Dobkins with whom I am personally acquainted and who acknowledged the execution of the above deed for the purpose therein contained upon the 7th of October 1850.

I wonder if Jefferson continued to use the surname Dobkins. I didn’t find him in the 1860 census.

Jacob’s Path

Jacob’s path AFTER the Revolutionary War – from Shenandoah County, to Jonesville, back to Shenandoah, then on to Bull’s Gap and finally, to Claiborne County was not a short journey. Those years were filled with conflict, probably far more conflict than we can even begin to imagine.

Jacob was probably extremely grateful to actually purchase land, farm and stay in one place. From 1801 when he bought land and settled in Claiborne County on the Powell River, until his death in the 1830s, Jacob never moved again.



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Unraveling the Odd Fellows Lodge Meeting in Claiborne County, Tennessee – 52 Ancestors #343

I have absolutely no idea where I got this newspaper clipping, but I found it buried among some papers as I was sorting through a box. I’d much rather go down this rabbit hole than sort and clean any day, so I felt compelled to see if I could figure out when this mystery photo was taken.

Why am I so interested?

My grandfather, William George Estes, known as Will, is pictured in the center of the second row.

I “thought” Will was probably a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge near Springdale in Claiborne County, but I wasn’t sure.

Springdale, the bottom red star, is more like a named area and not a village or town per se. It’s a crossroads stop along the old buffalo trail, now 25E, marked by a few houses, a gas station today, and the primitive log cabin Big Springs Baptist Church which was already more than a century old by the time this photo was taken.

The Estes family lived in a holler a couple miles down Little Sycamore, the intersecting road heading east from Springdale.

The winding back roads intersect with Little Sycamore Road near Pleasant View Baptist Church. Once there, you follow around the church and up a dirt road around the cemetery where most of the family is buried, until you turn, cross a creek and travel back up into the hollers “till you can’t go no further.”

The Estes Holler “road” turns into a two-track, or less, crosses the mountain, and exits on the other side of the ridge into Vannoy Holler. There’s no turning around or backing up, so once you start over the mountain, you’re going all the way. Trust me on this one.

Back in the WPA days in the 1930s, the first actual road through the county was an amazing 16 feet wide, with three inches of gravel. Before that, dirt and mud.

Some of the other men in this picture are my relatives too and they all lived down Little Sycamore, which is the name of the stream and the road that runs along it, both.

Of course, as a genealogist, I’m curious as to when this photo was taken, and where.

I love the women’s fine hats as they sat on the porch. It looks like a warm day and I’m not sure I’d want to be wearing those long skirts, long sleeves, and bonnets. I can tell you those women probably arrived in wagons or buggies, not riding horses sidesaddle individually. Some may have walked. The home looks well-cared-for and lovely.

According to an old newspaper article, including a photo, there was a fine plantation-style home near “Roundtop,” the “hill” that actually defines Springdale. Unfortunately, I can’t tell if this is the same home, but given the fancy dresses and the location, it surely might have been.

Every man, except my grandfather, was wearing a hat. Not sure what that says about my grandfather, but I’d wager it wasn’t good. If he wasn’t wearing a hat for a photo like this, I’d bet he didn’t own one. Life was difficult for my grandparents back then. In the 1900 census, Will reported 6 months of being unemployed, but none of the rest of the men on that page reported anything near that.

My first guess would be that this picture was taken about 1910 based on a few pieces of information about my grandfather. He was born in 1873 and looks to be around 30 here, more or less. After he married Ollie Bolton in 1894, they moved to Springdale, Arkansas for several years, returning to Tennessee between June 1898 and 1900, before the census.

I know my grandparents moved to Indiana approximately 1912, sometime after the 1910 census and before 1913. I also know my grandfather moved back to Tennessee 1915ish, apparently got divorced, and was living in Claiborne County in March 1916 with his second wife who happened to be his first wife’s cousin. Suffice it to say there was bad blood between Will and the Bolton family.

Sometime after the 1920 census, he moved to Harlan County, Kentucky.

Based on this information, this photo was probably taken sometime between 1900 and 1910, or after 1915 and before 1920, although he does not look 40+ in this photo.

Let’s see what kind of information we can discern based on the names of the men provided.

Front Row, left to right:

Allen Hodge – Born in 1846, he died in 1925 on Lone Mountain. He looks to be about 65 or so in this photo. According to the census, he was 73 in 1920. Lone Mountain is the name of the road at the Springdale crossroads that heads west, while Little Sycamore goes to the east.

Willie Hodge – Son of Allen, Willie was age 26 in the 1900 census and looks to be maybe 30 in this photo. He was born in 1873 and died in 1961.

Worth Epperson – Worth Epperson lived in Estes Holler beside Will and was married to Cornie Estes, my grandfather’s sister. Worth was born in 1873 and died in 1959. He looks to be about 30, maybe 35 in the Odd Fellows picture.

Photo of Worth Epperson, at left, standing with Will Estes in their later years.

Milt Dalton – Born in 1880, he married in 1900 and was living in the Springdale area of Claiborne County in the 1900 census near the Venables, Campbells, and Hursts.

Lee Day – In 1900, Lee Day, born in 1862, was living off of Little Sycamore Road just beyond Estes Holler, near the Plank Cemetery, beside the Boltons and Venables. He married Cora McNiel in 1899. Cora was the daughter of John Anderson McNiel, the great-nephew of my 3 times great-grandmother, Lois McNiel who married Elijah Vannoy. In other words, Lee’s wife was my grandfather’s 2C1R. These families all clustered a couple of miles east of Springdale, between the Pleasant View Church and Liberty Church.

Pryor Carr (holding child) – I wish they had given the name of the child which would make dating this photo significantly easier. Pryor Carr was born in 1869 in Springdale, the area where Little Sycamore Road intersects with now 25E, but formerly the Kentucky Road. He died in 1926 in Madison County, KY. Pryor only had two sons, Shelby born in 1903 in Lee County, and James born in 1905 in Springdale. By 1910, this family had moved to Rose Hill, Virginia.

Willie Vannoy – Born in 1877 in Vannoy Holler, he died in 1950 and looks to be about 35 in the Odd Fellows photo.

Willie and Pearlie Shumate lived “up to Lone Mountain” which is the same road as Little Sycamore, but west of Springdale. Willie Vannoy and my grandfather were first cousins.

Jim Hodge – uncertain, but Hodge family members lived near Estes Holler on Little Sycamore.

Jim Bolton – Two Jim Bolton’s from this time frame are first cousins, born in the early 1870s, and live near each other on Little Sycamore. Will Estes was married to Ollie Bolton who was also first cousins with both Jim Boltons.

Arch Bartlett – Born in 1883, married in 1906 to Lillie Painter whose parents lived in the middle of several Bolton families.


Row Two:

Joe Campbell – If this is the correct Joe Campbell, he was born about 1845 in Claiborne County, the grandson of George Campbell and Elizabeth Dobkins and a double third cousin to William George Estes’s grandmother. Joe would have been about 55 in this photo. The Campbell family members lived all up and down Little Sycamore Road.


Bill Cunningham – Born in 1872, it’s unclear who Bill’s parents were. However, the Cunningham family lived near the Estes family.

Thomas Sulfridge – One Thomas Sulfridge was born about 1855 and lived in Claiborne County, although this may not be the same person. By 1912, he was living in Kentucky.

Bob Ferguson – Born in 1869, in 1900, William Mack Ferguson was living in this part of Claiborne County.

Will Estes – In 1900 and 1910 my grandfather was living in Estes Holler by the Cunningham and Hodge families and Worth Epperson. Sometime after 1910, the family moved to Indiana, but after 1914 and before 1916, he had moved back to Claiborne County and remarried. His daughter, Irene was born in March 1916 in Shawnee which is in the North part of the county. I don’t believe Will ever lived in the Springdale area again and eventually moved to Harlan County, Kentucky.

Martin Venable – William Martin Venable was born in 1881. The Venable family married into the Estes family and was living beside Milt Dalton and the Cook, Bartlett, and Campbell families in 1900. Martin was a 3rd cousin to Will Estes through his mother on the McNiel side.

Milt Bolton – Two Milt Boltons were alive during this time. The younger man was born in 1884 which would mean he would be between 20-30 in this photo. The man in the picture is clearly an older man.

The older Milton Halen Bolton was born in May 1844 and died in 1907, a half-uncle to Ollie Bolton, the wife of Will Estes. Milt’s wife, Narcissus “Nursey” Parks was also Ollie’s first cousin, twice removed on her mother’s side.

We also have a newspaper clipping of Milt Bolton’s funeral. Unfortunately, most of the people are unrecognizable, but the photos look similar and the actual funeral is very interesting.

Mont Carr – a physician born in 1870 and who lived in the neighborhood. I’d say he looks to be about 50 in the picture. He died in 1937. I can’t help but wonder if this photo was taken at his home.

Howard Friar – Howard, born in 1875 and his wife, Mary Ann “Ropp” Bolton were the best friends of Will Estes and Ollie Bolton Estes.

Both couples moved to Indiana as tenant farmers at some time after 1910. Will Estes, at left with Ollie, took their photos together in Indiana.

In 1920, Ropp and Howard were still living in Indiana, but moved back sometime before 1930. Ropp was Ollie’s first cousin. The fact that Howard was in the Odd Fellows photo pretty much eliminates the photo dates in the 19-teens.

Back Row:

Willie Bartlett – If this is the right person, Wiley Bartlett in 1910 was living near a Carr family.

George McNeil – Named after our common ancestor, this George was born in 1866 in Claiborne County, lived by the Bolton families and died in 1934. He married Nervesta Estes, a first cousin once removed to Will Estes. George McNiel was also Will’s third cousin through his mother, Elizabeth Vannoy.


Is there any wonder why I match the DNA of almost everyone from this part of Claiborne County?

So, When Was the Picture Taken?

By process of elimination, we have bracketed these dates:

  • Pryor Carr only had two sons, assuming he is holding his own child. Shelby was born in 1903 in Lee County and James was born in 1905 in Springdale. Given the Odd Fellows vest, the child had to have been a male. By 1910, this family had moved to Rose Hill, Virginia. Based on this, we can fairly confidently say that this photo was taken sometime between 1905 and 1907 when one of those babies was about 18 months old. We know this had to be taken before 1910 when the Carr family was no longer living here.
  • The cincher here is Milton Bolton’s death year of 1907, although unfortunately, we don’t have an exact date.
  • Based on this combined information, the photo had to have been taken between 1905 and 1907, before Milton Bolton’s death.

My grandfather, Will, would have been turned 32 in March of 1905 and 34 in 1907. He and Ollie had brought either 7 or 8 children into the world by then, having lost either 3 or 4.

At least two children died after 1900, Robby perishing in a fire when their cabin burned to the ground between 1904 and 1907. A third was likely born and died about 1900, based on a telltale gap between children.

Will doesn’t look very happy in the Odd Fellows photo, but then again, smiling for photos wasn’t a “thing” back then. I’m actually surprised that Will didn’t take the actual photo. He was a photographer. My Aunt Margaret said that he had his camera “rigged up with some kind of timer.”

Will always looked concerned in the family photos he took, so maybe he was worrying about whether the camera would work without him behind the box. He’s in the back row at far right in this 1913 photo where he looks somewhat older than in the Odd Fellows picture.

Other than Ollie and William George to the right in the back row, Ollie’s cousins, Clara and (the younger) Mont Bolton are at far left, and possibly family friend Ted Barnes is third from left in the tie. Beside Ollie is Elizabeth Bolton, sister of Mont and wife of George Smith. Apparently a family group had gone on a great adventure, visiting Ollie and Will in Indiana.

One of Will and Ollie’s sons, Joseph, was missing in this photo, reportedly at scouts. My father, William Sterling Estes is the youngest male in the front row on the left beside his brother, their oldest son, Estle. Beside Estle at the right of the front row are cousins Lee and George Smith. The blonde female is their daughter, Minnie, born in 1908 and the brunette is Margaret born in 1906.

If Will had been responsible for taking the Odd Fellows photo, I would have thought that he would have been standing in the front row, not behind. But he wasn’t in the above family picture. Margaret was in this photo, so she should have known about how they took photos of the entire family, including her dad. In fact, I specifically asked.

Or maybe, just maybe, Ollie, my grandmother took the Odd Fellows photo. Maybe she went along to whatever event was happening and was dressed in one of those long dresses. Maybe she wandered off the porch long enough to do the honors.

Cameras and photographers were quite scarce at that time which is why we have so very few photos. Photographers had to develop the film and print the final pictures. Will may have been the only photographer in the county. I know he was sought after to attend many family reunions to record the event, his black camera on the tripod in tow with the black curtain that went over his head. He even took along his own quilted backdrop, seen in the photo of Ropp and Howard Friar with their baby.

I’m grateful for this picture, along with the men’s names and this stroll down memory lane with my grandfather and his kin, one warm summer day long ago.



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The Old Vannoy Homeplace, and Cave – 52 Ancestors #342

It’s amazing what you discover going through old, dusty, boxes.

Joel Vannoy, my ancestor, was probably born in 1813 in Claiborne County, the portion that would become Hancock County some three decades later. One record shows his birth in North Carolina. Regardless, the family moved to Claiborne County about this time.

Joel’s father, Elijah Vannoy settled his family up in a holler, not too far from the intersection of Mulberry Gap Road and Little Sycamore Road today, on a small spring tributary of Mulberry Creek. I found the land grants and the land itself several years ago now, but the old homeplace was long gone and no one living knew exactly where it stood.

Joel had a rough life, as did his father, Elijah, who homesteaded that land. By that time, the good, flat, land was already claimed. By 1834, Elijah was in financial trouble, the family had little, and Joel was trying to help keep his father, and the family, afloat. Both men struggled to keep their land.

Elijah died sometime after 1850.

Joel married Phoebe Crumley in January of 1845 and commenced raising a family.

Their first child, Sarah, arrived on the first day of December, that same year, followed by another daughter, Elizabeth, known as Bettie, my great-great-grandmother, in June of 1847.

Like clockwork, every two years or so, one by one, three more children were added, another daughter and a son before James Hurvey Vannoy arrived in February of 1856.

One final child, Nancy, joined the family in September of 1859. Of course, there is a suspicious gap or two, suggesting that perhaps a baby or two was buried in the family cemetery.

The Old Homeplace

The family lived on the old homeplace before and during the Civil War. The house was probably located someplace in this clearing, near the small stream where the family would have drawn fresh water. This land was anything but flat, ascending up the side of the mountains.

Family legend tells of the family hiding, with the chickens, in a small cave someplace up the mountainside on their property.

As you can see, part of the mountainside that Elijah owned is wooded yet today, with lots of craggy rock features. A cave could be hidden anyplace – and thankfully so. Otherwise, the family might well have not survived and, well, I wouldn’t be here.

Joel told the story about how they could hear the soldiers ransacking their house and farm, hunting for food, or pretty much anything they could use. Clearly, the family wasn’t hidden far from the house. They probably prayed that no child or animal made a noise.

The soldiers, like the mountain people, were desperate for food. The armies and marauding soldiers from both sides frequented this area.

It was only a few years after the Civil War when Joel moved his family from the land near Mulberry Creek on down Little Sycamore Road, into the portion of Claiborne County that would remain Claiborne when Hancock was split off. They probably didn’t want to move, but Joel and Elijah had lost the land in Hancock County to debt.

Joel’s mental health issues had probably already become apparent by this time because even though they moved, the deeding of the new property was “unusual,” and eventually, his wife owned their land in her name alone.

Joel, about 50 years of age, didn’t serve in the Civil War, but many of his neighbors did. Perhaps the war exacerbated Joel’s issues. We didn’t have either mental health care or medication at that time. Joel’s demons worsened with age and he eventually became institutionalized. In fact, right after the State Hospital opened in Knoxville in 1886.

Sadly, we don’t have any photos of either Joel or his wife, Phebe, even though Joel didn’t die until 1894 and Phebe didn’t pass away until 1900. Their grandson, William George Estes was a photographer, and the fact that we have some photographs of their children is very likely the result of his occupation. Thanks Will, but why oh why did you NOT take a picture of your grandparents, or your wife’s parents or grandparents for that matter. But I digress…

James Hurvey Vannoy

Yes, that’s Hurvey, not Harvey.

James was born to Joel Vannoy and Phebe Crumley in 1856, so he would have been a young child during the Civil War when the family was hiding in the cave up the mountain. I bet that’s one adventure he never forgot.

He would have been about 14 or 15 when they moved down to Little Sycamore.

James, who was eventually known as “Old Jimmy,” lived a long life, to age 92, and married three times.

He was also quite photogenic.

In this portrait, Jimmy looks to be maybe 40 years old. I don’t see any gray hair yet. Maybe a touch in his mustache.

In 1876, Jimmy married Matilda Jane Venable and had 5 children. She died in July of 1885, leaving him with 5 children under age 8, including a 3-week-old baby.

In April 1888, Jimmy married Martha Ann Lewis. I’m surprised he didn’t marry sooner.  They had 4 additional children.

This photo shows Jimmy and Martha Lewis, with four children. This photo looks to have been taken the same day perhaps as that portrait. In fact, the portrait may be a cleaned-up, cropped version of this same photograph.

Sometime, maybe around the turn of the century or slightly after, Jimmy’s photo was taken with his two sisters.

Nancy Vannoy, born in 1856, who married James Nelson Venable, the brother of Jimmy’s first wife, is on the left side of this photo.

Elizabeth “Bettie” Vannoy, my ancestor, born in 1847 who married Lazarus Estes is standing on the right side of the photo, meaning actually standing to Jimmy’s left.

We know this photo was taken before October 1918 when she died.

I’d say that Elizabeth looks to be about 60, which would date this photo to about 1907. That would make sense too, because Will Estes was still in his heyday as a photographer before the family moved North to Indiana a few years later. Jimmy would be about 50 and Nancy, 48.

Martha Lewis died in 1916, leaving Jimmy with children ranging in age from 16-24 in addition to his children from his first marriage.

We don’t know when this photo was taken, but I’d wager it was another 10 years later – maybe 1916 or 1917. Jimmy looks to be in his 50s or early 60s.

In December of 1917, at age 61, Jimmy married Minnie Magnolia Saunders, pictured with him above. She was significantly younger, 23, born in 1894. They would have three children, born from 1918-1927.

If this is their youngest son, George Dewey, at right, born in 1927, James would be in his early 80s here. The daughter would have been either 17 or 20.

It’s thanks to this third family who still lived in the northern part of Claiborne County, near Shawnee, in the 1980s that we have much of the information about this branch of the Vannoy family. I remember walking out to see the garden where Jimmy had lived with Minnie and the garden edge was lined with cannon balls from the Civil War. They lived within literal sight of Cumberland Gap where so many battles were fought.

Jimmy Visits the Home of His Childhood

On either Easter or “Decoration Day” in 1929, Jimmy Vannoy and his sister, Nancy Vannoy Venable visited the old homeplace in Hancock County. While soldiers scavenged here more than 65 years earlier, in 1929, Jimmy drove one of the early automobiles back to visit his childhood home.

Lucky for us, someone with a camera took pictures.

The tradition in the south is to “decorate” the graves and clean up the cemetery on Memorial Day, hence, the name “Decoration Day.” Often, families gathered in the cemeteries, had picnics, visited and shared stories and memories as they maintained the graves. Sometimes something a little stronger than sweet tea was present too.

Given the flowers in this picture, I’d guess that Jimmy, then 73, and his sister, Nancy, went to put flowers on the graves of their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They may have had siblings buried there too.

The bonus is that although the house is clearly overgrown and abandoned, it is the old homeplace. Probably the only glimpse we’ll ever get of the home that sheltered three generations of this family for roughly half a century before, during and after the Civil War.

Years later, a second photo surfaced, taken the same day which confirms the age and location.

On the back were written the names of the people, confirming the oral information from the first photo. The ink is smeared, but still legible. It’s my writing from back in the 80s during one of my exploratory visits. (Yes, I know NOW that I shouldn’t have used ink, but at least I did record the information.)

Pearlie Vannoy Bolton was Jimmy’s daughter with his first wife. She married Joseph Daniel Bolton and the year can be confirmed based on the birth year of the child she is carrying.

There’s one more photo that looks to have been taken the same day, based on Nancy Vannoy Venable’s clothes.

The perspective of the cabin is slightly different here. There appears to be no door, and the cabin is clearly small. The distance from the door to the end of the structure is about the same as the height of the door. If the cabin was 20 feet or 24 feet long, that would have been considered a LARGE log cabin for that timeframe.

Just think, Elijah raised 10 children here, and Joel raised 6 or 7.

Just a Glimpse

I’m oh-so-grateful for these old pictures. That family outing, fortuitously recorded for posterity on film is the only visit to that old home place that we’ll ever be afforded.

While we don’t know what Phebe Crumley and Joel Vannoy looked like, we do have photos of three of their children.

Perhaps Jimmy looked like Joel. Maybe Betty and Nancy, who look very much alike, resemble Phebe. At least I have photos of three of their children.

It may be only a glimpse, but it IS a glimpse back into a long-ago time up on the ridge above Mulberry Creek.


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9-11 Twenty Years On: Let’s Roll – 52 Ancestors #341

9-11 seems both like it happened a long time ago and that the trauma occurred just yesterday.

Two decades have passed.

That day both broke us and buoyed us as Americans. It also terrified us.

I remember, vividly, in the midst of unimaginable despair watching the bipartisan members of congress gather on the steps of the Capitol, after having been evacuated, and spontaneously breaking into song – God Bless America.

Here’s the C-Span clip.

That gave me hope.

Fear, anger, shock, and a sense of vulnerability washed over every American. We were hurt, angry and we suddenly had a new enemy that we didn’t exactly know how to identify. They had been moving among us, and suddenly, we viewed everyone as suspicious – with reason. We were under attack, caught off guard, vulnerable in a way we never imagined.

How could this happen in America?

How could anyone do this on purpose?

Why would anyone hate us this much?

Both as a nation and as individuals, we struggled to understand, to comprehend the incomprehensible, and to cope.

Personal Stories

The personal stories of the victims and their families dwarf the stories of the rest of us. Their pain, then as now, is incomprehensible. The waiting, the fear, the horror.

Yet, every American, even those far removed from danger, has that day seared into their collective consciousness.

9-11 changed lives – almost everyone’s life in one way or another.

We know exactly what we were doing, where we were, who we thought about, and how it made us reevaluate our lives. It moved all of us in different ways.

Twenty years on, two full decades, I remember sitting at a red light. On the car radio, an announcer broke into a song, saying a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I wondered how a private plane (my assumption) managed to get close enough to crash into the World Trade Center.

That seemed really odd. Probably an accident…but. I called my husband. He had already been informed by his employer and was scrambling.

When the second plane crashed into the building, I realized instantaneously that this was no accident. So did he. Various of my family members sprang into action. I wouldn’t see them again for days or weeks.

As the day unfolded, we had no idea of where the next strikes would be or how many there were. I was with government officials that day and the next – days of planning and strategizing I will never forget. Suddenly, everything was a potential target and vulnerable.

Personal Choices and Tiny Actions

We, collectively, didn’t know what to do. Flights were canceled for days. People just wanted to get home. You couldn’t rent a car for love nor money. Strangers paired up to drive cross-country. Gas was short, priced outrageously, and unavailable in some places.

“Who” was coming after us? Every car became suspicious as did any box. Were bridges going to be blown up, water supplies poisoned? We were collectively on edge.

I had family members in police and emergency services. They could well be in danger – targets more than normal. We all felt like targets, or maybe more like powerless sitting ducks.

Some people reached out to those with whom they had previously been estranged – realizing those differences really didn’t matter. That life was short and precious and might end unexpectedly at any moment.

Were we actively at war and didn’t realize it yet? Military enlistments boomed that day. Those people are eligible to retire today, assuming they survived the resulting wars.

Many people checked on loved ones and neighbors. “How are you doing? Do you need anything?”

People with family members in NYC and DC and on planes in the air were frantic.

Others served in one way or another. The heroism of police, firefighters, paramedics, and volunteers at the crash scenes are legendary.

And those heroic passengers on United Flight 93 who clearly knew they were sacrificing their lives to protect the rest of us. Todd Beamer’s “Let’s Roll” became an immediate call to action and cultural creed. The last words of a hero that inspired us all to action. But what action? We didn’t know.

I doubt those brave people on Flight 93 knew the extent of the plans of those hijackers – targeting the Capitol.

The majority of us couldn’t do much of anything, so we did what we could.

We worried, we donated, we offered shelter, and we planted flags in our yard.

We became ultra-patriots overnight.

In the hours and days that followed, we volunteered. Firefighters, construction workers, volunteers, and specially-trained dogs traveled cross-country to the crash scenes in order to save as many lives as possible, and then recover as many bodies as possible. People made and donated food and water. Everyone wanted to help, to be a part of the solution.

We were collectively in shock.

Hope didn’t die. Neither did our resolve. We would not be defeated in this undeclared war. Yet, we didn’t know how or whom to fight.

What Did I Do?

I was in the car, driving, when the first plane struck. Then the second. Then the Pentagon. Then the first tower fell. A plane crashed into the field in Pennsylvania, and the second tower fell a few minutes later. All of this in less than two unbelievable hours. I was living in a slow-motion audiobook unroll, except this was all too real. Surreal, actually.

It would get even worse, more shocking when I eventually saw the videos.

As I drove to my destination, a governmental conference a few hours away, I realized the horrific magnitude of what was occurring, although we still didn’t know the scope. Everything was still unfolding. How much more was coming? And where? Was anyone safe?

The attack could have been much more widespread and massive than it turned out to be – we had no idea and suddenly, everyone needed to prepare. I started to present my conference session after lunch, but no one was listening. We decided, instead, to have preparatory round-table sessions. That made a lot more sense. Attendees filtered in and out, watching the TVs in the lobby to see if anything else had happened. We were as nervous as that proverbial long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Cell phones were ringing like crazy.

I stopped on the drive to the conference to check on a family member in public service, law enforcement, and a firefighter. I left a personal message, just in case. We didn’t know what was coming, how widespread whatever was happening would be, or who would be affected. Were there coordinated attacks planned in cities and towns across the nation?

Earlier that morning, everyone expected to see their loved ones again too – and thousands never would.

A shortened, uncertain version of “forever” was staring every American in the face.

I spent the next couple of days working with municipalities. Multiple family members were involved in various ways.

On my way home, you couldn’t find flags anyplace. I finally located a few and purchased a handful of small flags, about a foot tall and lined them up along the curb in my yard. That seemed so inconsequential in the face of a massive problem, but God Bless America just the same.

I wanted to volunteer on the scenes, but by that time, they had enough volunteers and I settled for working with local authorities. I made “doggie booties” to protect the feet of the search and rescue dogs along with “care quilts” for the victims’ families. I mailed them to organizations for distribution as needed. I have no idea who received those quilts, but I hope they brought the recipients some modicum of comfort – just knowing that some unknown person, someplace, cared.

Processing the Trauma

Quilters began doing what quilters do. We process many things, good and bad, through the act of quilting.

Exhibits occurred in many places around the country, including in New York today. Many quilts honored the victims and expressed hope. Others, grief.

I made a trauma quilt too. Well, sort of.

I’m sure you recognize this image, that iconic skeletal grid standing after the attack.

I cut the black pieces of fabric and ironed them to the background. The edges are raw and in some cases, “sharp.”

The background is smoky red.






Overwhelming Grief

I was going to hand quilt an outline of the eagle crying, another iconic image of that day, in the blank space to the right.

But I never did.

This piece, as is, still hangs on the wall of my quilt studio, held in place with pins – not beautifully finished and bound like a piece of art. Just hanging there.

For a long time, I felt it was unfinished, no batting, no backing, no quilting. Just the small “top,” as you see it, hung with inelegant straight pins.

I felt guilty for not finishing it, but just this past week, I realized – it is finished.

It’s not beautiful or completed in a traditional way. It’s raw, the edges unsewn, incomplete – but it conveys, exactly as it is – everything that needs to be said.

Some things are never finished.

Some wounds never heal.

Life is short, uncertain, raw, and sharp.

It’s brutal and we bleed.

Nothing is guaranteed.

Sometimes life blows up in our face.

Or someone blows it up.


I look around, taking stock today – of the raging pandemic and this country. We’re not fighting an external enemy anymore, but fighting those demons of hatred, burning just as hot and even more dangerously – within our own population and our borders.

We can’t recognize this enemy today either, because it’s us – the people who live on our street and in our community – and the hatred that has been slowly fueled and bred in the last two decades.

Hatred, that’s our enemy now – as it was then. But in 2001 we identified the enemy as the foreign terrorist organization Isis and its leaders who recruited and radicalized people willing to die to damage us. It wasn’t “us” back then, it was “them.”

I so desperately want our congressional representatives and elected officials to stand on the Capitol steps and sing together again, and to put the horrific bipartisan backstabbing that is destroying this country aside. We desperately need to heal, not be driven further apart until we literally view our neighbors as the enemy.

The increased and increasing violence and threats of violence tell that story.

Those terrorists tried to destroy us 20 years ago. They failed. Did the fear and undirected hatred emanating from those attacks plant the seeds of what is happening today?

They don’t need to attack us directly again. In fact, that would probably unify us. They certainly don’t want that. Right now, we are destroying ourselves. All they have to do is wait.

We can, we must, do better – or we, as a country, will not survive. They will have indirectly won.

We have work to do.

Let’s roll.

The Final, Really, Really Final Goodbye – 52 Ancestors #340

The final goodbye might not be what you think it is, or when. It certainly wasn’t what I expected.

I thought the final goodbye was when I buried my loved one. Or maybe the final goodbye was the goodbye just before they died when I was saying farewell, in person, for the last time. At least in this realm.

Of course, we might not know when we talk to them the last time that it is indeed the final time. That depends on how, when and where they pass over to the other side.

It Depends

My biological father died unexpectedly when I was a child. I had no concept of a ”final goodbye” at that age. I presumed he would live forever.

I didn’t get to attend his funeral either – so there was no closure at all until I was an adult. In other words, there was no final goodbye other than the last time I saw him which I thought was a “normal” goodbye. Maybe we are all better off that way.

Final, when we do know, just seems so…well…final. So much left unsaid – so many feelings we just can’t put into the right words. Feeling the need to say everything we can think of that maybe we should have already said. After all, we know we’re not going to get another chance.

Sometimes We Know 

I definitely knew the last time I saw my older brother, John, that it was the last time. He was suffering from end-stage cancer. He, however, had not accepted that he was approaching death – so for him it was definitely NOT the final goodbye. And because he was still fighting, I couldn’t exactly say goodbye either. I certainly wasn’t going to steal his hope, but I knew nonetheless.

My brother, Dave, died just a few months before John. That goodbye was torture. We BOTH knew – and our time together had been so short. We had only found each other as adults and had grown extremely close – only to be ripped apart by death.

I wanted that discussion to be anything BUT goodbye – yet there we were. He was fighting a losing battle and knew it. We spoke words of gentle love one final time. I assured him that I would see to it that he did not suffer. Trust me, you did not want to be the people who tried to stand in the way of that promise.

The Grim Reaper Knows No Justice

My brave sister, Edna, had survived breast cancer, complete with a double mastectomy and multiple rounds of debilitating chemo. We thought she was finally in the clear and then the sucker punch happened.

A heart attack followed by her death about 24 hours later. Edna and I had never said “goodbye” but she was no fool and realized as she endured her cancer therapy that chances weren’t good that she would survive. So while we tiptoed gingerly around the topic, we both knew what was going on.

Finally, finally, ever so tenuously we celebrated reports that Edna was cancer-free. We both began to breathe again. Edna and her husband decided to move to the mountains. Their life was back on track, or so we thought.

Edna was a realist.

Edna had just visited the doctor for a checkup again when she came home and insisted that they needed a vacation. Not later – now. Edna knew something she wasn’t sharing with the rest of us.

In a small Arizona mountain town, a few days later, Edna had a heart attack. Cancer is known to cause blood clots.

She died the next morning.

I never made it to Arizona in time to say goodbye, yet I knew when she passed. And I mean exactly when. I was on the phone with the nurse, because I knew something was very wrong. Then she coded. I literally sat there listening to the hubbub at the nurse’s station as they tried to revive her.

I knew she was gone.

While Edna and I left life unlived, we hadn’t left things unsaid.

I didn’t want to see Edna suffer from more cancer treatments. When I found out that her cancer had recurred, I knew that Edna’s exit was timely and exactly what she would have wanted.

Laughter as the Last Memory 

The last memory of my mother before her stroke was laughing.

I called Mom often as I drove home from work (hands free, with headset.) That spring day, I had stopped in the road to shepherd a mother goose and her goslings out of the road.

I quickly told Mom I was stopping and why. She admonished me to be careful and said she knew I would rescue the vulnerable and helpless, no matter what. She heard me “shooing” them because I left the cell phone laying on the seat of the car. I also realized later that if something “bad” had happened, she would have heard that too.

But the “bad” thing didn’t happen to me – it happened to her.

The next morning I received a call from my sister-in-law, Karen, that Mom had fallen. In reality, Mom fell because she had experienced a stroke, but we didn’t know that yet. Karen stopped to check on Mom and found her on the floor.

That’s the call no one ever wants to receive. I left work immediately, quickly packed a bag, and left for the hospital.

Hours and hundreds of miles later, Mom could still squeeze my hand, slightly, I think. I realized when she opened her eyes reflexively that she was blind. She couldn’t speak nor could she move. Then, Mom lapsed into a deeper coma. Two miserable weeks later, she FINALLY transitioned. So yes, I got to say many words of goodbye, but I doubt she heard them – at least not with her earthly ears. And if she did, her brain probably couldn’t process them.

Looking back, I’m so incredibly grateful that our last communication before that fateful call was us laughing at the goose escapade.

A Loving Transition

My wonderful step-father, Dad, knew he was ready and wanted to go on. We both knew he was leaving soon, a result of worsening chronic disease.

At that time, my life was a total MESS, in all caps, with my (former) husband having experienced a massive, debilitating stroke at age 47. Needless to say, I found myself in a position as complete bread-winner with extreme medical bills following his 6-month hospital stay, caregiver to a paralyzed man with neurological deficits, and a parent with two children who were suffering terribly in their own right. I was only able to get away one time for a few hours to visit Dad. There was no help on my end and we lived 6 hours apart.

Dad smiled broadly when I entered the hospital room. As ill as he was, love and joy radiated from his face when he saw me. He had a tracheostomy and could talk, at least a little. We both knew time was short.

We shared with each other how lucky we both were to have found each other as family, and how much we loved each other. Dad has never left me, even though he left this earth.


His son, Gary, my step-brother, died unexpectedly in very difficult circumstances the day after Thanksgiving six years after Dad passed away.

His death was so horrible that I’m not sharing the details with you. The only thing worse than getting “that call” at 5 in the morning is for “that call” to be “that kind” of death.

My step-brother’s death was entirely unexpected and there were no goodbyes at all other than standing in shock, graveside, as something containing the words “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” was read. I have blocked much of that week from my mind.

As much as I thought these were all final goodbyes, they really weren’t.

The Final Resting Place

Of those people I just mentioned, three, my Mom, step-Dad and step-brother are all buried within sight of each other in the quaint country cemetery down the road a few miles from the farm. I attended all of their funerals and said goodbye, sobbing, sitting on white folding chairs under a make-shift tent in the cemetery.

There is no comfort in funerals for me.

I said goodbye to John graveside as we buried him in a cemetery near where he lived, just a week or so after we didn’t say goodbye in his room at “rehab” that was really hospice.

My biological Dad is buried near the house in Dunkirk, Indiana where he lived with my step-mother. The process of filling in the blanks in his life, setting his gravestone and finally, just 4 years ago, visiting his grave accompanied by a supportive friend provided the closure I had never achieved previously.

One stiflingly hot summer June day in 1990, I stood by my sister, Edna’s grave at her service and tried to read a poem. It took three of us, me plus two of her grandchildren to get all the way through that reading. We would read until we couldn’t anymore, then pass it to the person beside us.

The poem, “A Little Step Away” (by O. J. Hanson) was found in Edna’s Bible and she had read it at her son-in-law’s funeral a few years before.

I found some modicum of comfort in the closing stanza:

It cannot be, for they live on
A little step away.
The soul, in everlasting life,
Has found a better day.

Today, Edna’s granddaughter lives across the road and other family members are close by, so I know she’s not alone.

That goodbye seemed so unfair. It was a cruel joke for her to suffer so, believe she was cancer-free, and then be gone so soon.

I said goodbye to my wonderful brother Dave when the preacher didn’t show up at his funeral and I unexpectedly gave an impromptu eulogy. I still laugh at that and Dave would have too.

Dave was cremated and never buried, so there is no “place” to visit to commune with him. There may have been ashes to ashes but those ashes are still transitory someplace. I just talk to him from time to time.

Dave took this photo through his semi-truck window someplace on the road on one of his last runs. To me, this is where Dave “is,” aside from watching over me.

For my daughter, Rachel, who was born prematurely, died a few hours after birth and was “disposed of” by hospital personnel, there will never be closure. As part of me, she accompanies me wherever I go. Like Dave, there is no “place” to say goodbye or visit – so she just travels along in my heart.


While funerals don’t bring me comfort, the cemetery is at least a place to go to reflect, honor, and sometimes to talk to our departed family members.

It’s a place to visit after that “final” goodbye. Even though we know the essence of who they “were” isn’t “there” anymore – we go anyway. For them. For us. To grieve. To honor their life. To take flowers. To perform whatever loving maintenance we can do for them. Pull a weed or two. Plant something. Anything.

To tell them we are so sorry they aren’t here with us any longer in the flesh and that we had to say that goodbye in whatever form it manifested.

But those…those were not the final goodbyes – even though I thought they were at the time. In fact, I thought they were right up until this summer.

The Tombstone

There is ying and yang to everything in life.

A grave and tombstone marks the location of the last remains of our loved ones. We can stand or sit on the grave and be just 5 or 6 vertical feet away. We purchase a marker in tribute so our family members will never be forgotten. Our last “thing” to do for them – something intransient that remains with them forever, or at least until the ravages of time erode their names on those stones.

Of course, that’s just for graves in cultures where gravesites are not reused. For those whose graves are later shared with another, who are cremated or never buried for some reason, we have to adjust our thinking to something else. Find another way to memorialize and honor both their lives and absence. There won’t be any place for their descendants, if they have any, to search for, find and visit in another hundred years, or two. There is no tombstone which gives us at least the illusion of permanence.

Of course, sooner than later, their tombstone, or lack thereof, will be irrelevant to us. We’ll have joined them. Maybe it’s not just the funeral that’s for the living, but the grave too.

The Final, Really, Really Final Goodbye

I hadn’t been back to Mom and Dad’s graves in two or three years. They aren’t exactly on the way to anyplace. The last time I visited, I told them I didn’t know when I’d be back again.

Clearly, that was with the expectation that I would return. I did, a few weeks ago, but this time was very different.

This time is the final, really, really final goodbye.

I know I’m likely never returning. I know better than to say “never” in the absolute sense. Why would I never return to my parents’ and brother’s graves?

One of three things:

  1. My own time is limited
  2. I’m unable to return for some reason
  3. I’m moving even further away with nothing to bring me back

I’m fine. It’s number 3.

I’m excited for this new chapter to begin, but I never, ever expected the emotional response of that the final really, really final goodbye.

That Last Visit

I needed to make a final trip to Indiana and decided to take Mom and Dad a special bouquet of flowers this time. Normally, I purchase bouquets of live flowers, but I wanted something to last a little longer – even though I know they will be thrown away a few months from now.

Two bouquets of silk flowers have lived in my house for years. My favorites. My daughter gave me a hand-made gift a year or so ago that was gifted in a basket. I arranged the silk flowers for my mother in the basket as I didn’t want to leave a glass container in the cemetery.

I knew my daughter would want to be included.

When Mom was so ill, my daughter took off work, which she could ill-afford at the time and stayed with me at Mom’s side those final incredibly difficult days waiting for Mom to pass. I was extremely grateful and I know Mom, somehow, knew she was there.

The day that I went to the cemetery the last time was part of an emotion-filled weekend with multiple goodbyes in different ways.

By the end of the weekend, I felt I had been put through the emotional shredder.

Back Roads and Corn Fields

It had been three years since I had returned to Galveston, a tiny crossroads village with a 4-way flasher on the way to exactly no place.

I made my way across the back roads of Indiana and realized that the corn is as tall as me, or taller. A tractor was mowing hay. Kids were playing in the sprinklers in yards. It smelled like summer.

An old gas station was frozen in time at an even tinier intersection with maybe 10 houses.

Nothing much had changed. The hazy mid-summer Hoosier countryside is timeless.

While the real estate market in the rest of the country is smoking-hot right now, not so in rural Indiana. For sale signs that have clearly been planted in the front yard for months based on the unmowed grass around the signs and the washed-out words tell the tale that no one wants to move there.

The center lines of the small roads are worn off by years of local traffic. Many intersections have crosses and flowers strapped to the posts of stop signs – signaling a fatal accident took place there.

I remembered my own accident at one of those crossroads when another driver ran the stop sign. The corn was too high to see them approaching and I only caught the briefest glimpse of them before that horrible crash some 40 years ago.

On this particularly hot summer day, I was glad to finally arrive at the cemetery – as a visitor.

The cemetery where Mom rests used to be a cornfield and is two or three blocks long and maybe half as wide. Those are city blocks, not country blocks😊

I have a permanent note in my phone so I can locate exactly where Mom and Dad are buried without driving around and feeling like an idiot. I can always get close but never seem to remember exactly.

The note didn’t matter much this time. It’s unfair to cut trees down in a cemetery.

I realized as I was updating that note that I really didn’t need to do that because this was my last visit. But I did it anyway, just in case. Never say never.

My Mom is buried just to the right of Dad with her own gravestone. His first wife is buried on the other side, and beside both of them, his daughter, Linda, with a tiny baby-sized tombstone.

Linda would have been my step-sister, but she died as an infant, right after Christmas. She’s still my step-sister, technically, but I never knew her.

I always remember her for Dad, since he can’t anymore. And his first wife, Martha, gets to share his flowers too.

I pulled into the grass near the hand pump for water, opened the back of the car, and arranged the bouquets.

It was beastly hot and humid with the sun beating down. Just like I remembered life on the farm. You started to sweat the minute you moved and you were sticky within about a minute. Drenched within 10.

I stayed an hour or maybe more. I lost track of time.

I needed to talk to my parents – to fill them in about a few things.

And yes, I mean talking out loud.

It’s OK if you think I’m crazy. I embraced that years ago😊. And both of my parents already knew that – in spades – so it’s not news to them either!

I purchased a small Lunchable type snack at the local convenience store at the crossroads, spread my car quilt out on the ground, and sat down to break bread with Mom and Dad.

One last picnic together. Well, me, them, some ants and a box of Kleenex.

One last hot summer lunch with no AC and not even a fan. Just like time travel.

Yes, I could have sat in the car, but it wouldn’t have been the same. Things look different from the ground-level perspective.

Besides, I was closer to them, to the earthly loam that Dad plowed.

I could see that pesky Morning Glory that I always thought was a flower and Dad insisted was a weed. Now the Morning Glory gets to mock Dad and grow right in front of his tombstone and there’s not a doggone thing he can do about it.

I shared turkey and cheese with both Mom and Dad.

Mom didn’t like peanuts, so Dad got her share of those. That was always our special shared snack.

I explained to them that I was leaving and not coming back. For good this time. I explained that just like when I left Indiana all those years ago, I was alternating between excited, hopeful, and terrified.

Leaving everything behind that you’ve ever known is daunting, to put it mildly. There’s always the nagging voice asking if you’re SURE you’re doing the right thing or making a grievous error. I remember Dad encouraging me before when no one else did – and he would be now too.

I know that I’ll die far from their resting place and far from anyone else in the family as well.

I had a few other things to catch them up on too. It has been a while.

I asked for their help on a couple of matters if they have any agency whatsoever in that direction.

You might notice the Hershey Bar. Mom loved those and I bought that as a special treat for Mom. We found a huge one for her last Christmas. Of course, we didn’t know it was her final Christmas at the time. We gave it to her as a joke, along with a hammer and chisel, but she loved it and consumed it entirely in about 3 weeks. It might just have been the best gift she ever received!

Mom will always be remembered for Hershey Bars and her first, second and third desserts😉

I’m sure the local ant population loved everything too. It didn’t matter. I did what I needed to do.

I took a few flowers from Mom and Dad’s bouquet and placed them on Linda’s grave.

I always tell Linda how much Dad loved her and how I wish I had known her. We were close in age and would have been such good friends. Some people squander opportunities. She never had one.

I’m glad Dad is with her now. He grieved her death his entire life. His final goodbye to her was a hello, I think.

Gary is buried closer to both roads. I always take Gary a single flower, generally a rose. That’s the tradition and has been for the more than two decades since he died. Gary’s life always feels so incomplete to me – artificially cut short.

You can see Gary’s stone from Dad’s and vice versa.

I know that doesn’t make any difference either, but still, I’m glad they are buried in close proximity so that Gary is not alone. I hope Gary is at peace. He was not in this life.

They Are Free

I know their souls and spirits have all flown. I know their bodies are inanimate.

I expected that the final farewell had taken place when I said goodbye to their mortal presence, or maybe when we buried them – not years and decades later when I said my last goodbye at their grave.

I thought my grieving was done.

It wasn’t.

I cried.

I sang.

I danced.

I played both I Hope You Dance and Amazing Grace.

For them.

For me.

For peace.

The final, really, really final goodbye.


Countless times I have looked back at my ancestors’ lives in awe – at what they endured and survived. I’ve often wondered how they did it. Often those women had no choice in the family decision about leaving for another location and saying that final goodbye in the cemetery.

Many, MANY women left not only their parents, grandparents, and siblings buried in unmarked graves, locations burned forever in their hearts, but they left rows of babies behind as they moved on.

One of my German ancestors buried all but one child.

Two more buried children “at sea” which means throwing the bodies overboard after they died in their arms. I can only imagine the agony of those poor mothers and the rest of the family. The crossing for new opportunities would always be marred by that memory.

Others had lost spouses that remained in another country or state. Almost everyone left living family members that they knew they would never see again in this lifetime.

Of the women, most never had the opportunity to choose or even influence their destiny. All they could do was to say their goodbyes, one way or another.

They said a grief-stricken goodbye to each family member as they drew their last breath, lovingly washed and prepared their body for burial, cried in the church at the funeral, and mourned as the dirt hit the wooden casket in the grave.

They too discovered that, as painful as that was, it wasn’t the end of grief and that there was yet one more final, really, really final goodbye to be said before the ship sailed or the heavily-laden creaking wagon rolled out for the new frontier. A piece of their soul stayed behind.

Part of me will forever rest in the cornfield in Indiana that’s now a cemetery where my family members sleep.

I’ve done what I can.

Rocks and a Penny

On my Mom’s stone rests a rock from where her father, John Ferverda, was raised on his father’s farm, and another from the farm where our immigrant Ferverda ancestor settled.

On the way, I found a lucky penny – a tiny message from the universe perhaps. I tucked it in. Maybe for a visitor in the future.

Mom’s work is done here.

So is mine.

I hope that someday, someone else will put flowers on Mother’s grave.



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Robert Vernon Estes: Still Missing, But Not Forgotten – 52 Ancestors #339

Today was an incredible day – one I’ve been working towards and looking forward to for more than a year. One that Robert Vernon Estes earned more than 70 years ago.

Robert was a POW, captured in Korea on November 30, 1950.

Bobby is still MIA since he was never officially reported as either captured or known dead through official channels and his body was never returned.

He was declared dead, however, in 1954 after a fellow POW after release reported that Robert had died sometime around January 31, 1951.

This military photo in the Monticello paper is the only known photo of Bobby and we wouldn’t have that were it not for an incredibly tenacious volunteer at the White County Historical Society. I can’t thank her enough.

Our family has dispersed to the wind. Bobby is my father’s brother’s child. Bobby’s parents divorced as did my parents. I knew Bobby had died in the military, but had no details. Bobby’s father was involved in some type of accident that caused brain damage.

Bobby’s mother died before he was declared dead. I don’t know what happened to his step-father. Bobby’s brother went his own way and a generation or two later, the family had scattered to the winds.

Bobby died at 19, never married and had no children.

Seventy years later, I am Bobby’s closest remaining family member and as such, was the Gold Star Family representative at today’s memorial service. I think officially Gold Star family members are limited to immediate family – but my invitation addressed me as a Gold Star family member and I filled in for others now deceased.

I’m honored to represent Bobby, the first cousin I never knew, but who I’m named after.

I have written about Robert Vernon Estes twice.

Indiana War Memorial Foundation

The Indiana War Memorial Foundation had planned to honor Indiana’s Korean War MIAs in 2020, but had to postpone the event until this summer.

Today dawned hot and humid – a typical Indiana summer day with the exception of the high level smoke that made the atmosphere hazy in addition to hot and humid. The one blessing is that there was at least a hint of a breeze.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The Soldier and Sailors Monument, dedicated in 1902 sits dead center in the middle of Indianapolis, dead center in the middle of Indiana.

alexeatswhales, CC BY 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

Bricks, many engraved with the names of veterans, pave the circular street and sidewalks surround the towering monument.

As I turned the corner to hunt for a parking garage, the monument loomed above the city in front of me. You can’t miss it.

The streets were blocked today and families, having traveled from from all over the country were instructed to arrive early.

The ceremony would begin at 10.

I noticed the man on the motorcycle and thought to myself that he must be awfully hot.

After parking and walking the couple blocks to the circle, I discovered why the bike was present.

Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder is an advocacy group of bikers who are veterans founded in 1995. Their membership is committed to accounting for all POW and MIA soldiers from all wars.

You may remember Rolling Thunder to the Wall in Washington DC in 2010 and the blessing of the bikes.

The last Washington DC ride took place in 2019, but the local and state chapters are still extremely active in their support and advocacy.

I walked straight up to these men and thanked them for both their service and for joining us today. One veteran reminded me of my brother, and it was all I could do to keep my voice from cracking and try not to stare.

We will see these guys a bit later:)

Signing In

As each family signed in, we noted the name of our soldier and our relationship. I was one of the early arrivals and noticed both “sister” and “daughter.” Siblings were still alive, but all of the parents, born about 1910 or earlier, would be gone now. Every single one of them passed away without closure about what happened to their son.

Bobby’s mother died before he was declared dead, but not before she received a small box with a few of his belongings. I hope they brought her at least some level of comfort.

Today, in Indy, bricks laid in honor of our family members who never came home would be unveiled to honor their service and sacrifice.

Family Packets

Not to say that it was hot or anything, but in the packets provided for each family were the quintessential “funeral fans.” Now I don’t suppose everyone called them funeral fans. They were always stuck in the back of pews with the hymnals at church when I was growing up.

Everyone at funerals always nervously fanned, AND, often funeral homes bought the fans – for advertising of course. Jesus praying was always on one side and the funeral home’s name was always on the other.

A lovely brochure was also included in the packet with the scheduled events of the day.

Of course, honoring these brave men was the purpose of today’s somber event.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Before I go any further, I need to thank a number of anonymous people. I took many of these photos and videos, but not all. Our families had been assembled by virtue of common tragedy which provided us with an immediate bond. We talked, thanked the veterans and men in uniform present, shared photos, messaged back and forth, air-dropped and asked random people to please take our pictures in front of something or with other family members. By the time the ceremony actually began, we were on a first name basis and sharing stories.

In fact, perhaps the most amazing thing of all is what happened afterwards. You’re not going to believe this. But let’s get through the ceremony first.

Settling In

As people began to get settled, I stepped back far enough to get a photo of the tent that had (thankfully) been set up for the families in front of the Memorial. I had to stand back a LONG way. It’s HUGE!

As I kept backing up further to get this shot, I realized there was something going on in the street behind me.

Firetrucks and the Flag

Clearly security was a consideration for an event like this, and the streets were blocked off. The circle itself and the block leading to the circle.

I heard some commotion and turned around.

What are they doing?

Oh, look, it’s one of those huge flags.

I was excited to get to witness this. Look at the one guy literally “holding the bag.”

I remembered that my phone has video capability. Forgive the amateur behind the camera here – I had to flip it sideways at the end. It was quite an endeavor to keep the flag from touching the ground.

The flag was unfurled with a little help from one of the Rolling Thunder guys. Notice the firefighter with the now-empty bag. I wonder how they get the flag back in that bag.

I have to say, the flag being raised with synchronized ladders is an amazing sight and makes you feel really small and awestruck.

The flag was raised high above the street. I would love to have gone up to the observation tower in the Memorial and taken a look, but that building (ironically) wasn’t open, and besides, I didn’t want to miss anything outside.

I scoped out my seat near the end of the first row. People were milling around, but beginning to take their seats.

Preparations were taking place on the stage area and Rolling Thunder veterans were everyplace.

I happened to look back at the tent and saw the flag. You couldn’t miss the flag!

I was making my way to my seat at far left, above, and then I spotted “trouble.” The good kind of trouble:)


You’ve all been my readership family long enough by now to know that I cannot go anyplace without some adventure finding me or me getting in some kind of trouble. When trouble fails to find me, that’s how I’ll know I’m dead.

You may recall, my brother-who-was-not-my-brother was a long haul trucker, a biker and a wounded Vietnam Marine.

Trust me, if you’re ever in real trouble someplace, find one of these guys.

Standing near my seat was another group of Rolling Thunder guys. I swear, they were the security detail. I mean, who’s going to mess with anyone with legions of these guys around. No sane person, that’s for sure!

I thanked these men for their service AND what they do today. The voice of remembrance when it’s all too easy to forget.

We talked about the MIA and POW men still unaccounted for and I told them that even though Bobby is officially MIA, we know he’s deceased, of course. Everyone shook their head in agreement. One of the men asked me his name. Then I explained it is my name too, I’m named for Robert. And I kept Estes too. Then I told them about Dave.

Not a dry eye in the place. A bit of shoe shuffling, allergies and hugging.

Let’s just say we bonded. Notice my special friend to my left who is modeling my bag. These guys were so doggone much fun to visit with and explained more about what Rolling Thunder does, how they participate, and their commitment. Trust me, no one rides bikes, wears leather and hangs out in the intense mid-summer heat if they aren’t either related or committed.

Before sitting down, I decided to grab one picture of the families and the flag from the memorial steps.

The Ceremony Begins

I had a great seat with a wonderful view of the Memorial itself. All those years I lived in Indiana and I never really paid attention. I’m not sure I had ever seen the Memorial other than from a distance.

The Indiana National Guard’s 38th Infantry Brass Quintet, in full dress uniform, was located to the right.

I can only imagine how miserable they must have been. You would never have known it from their lovely music.

The dignitaries begin delivering remarks.

The flags are ceremonially escorted into the stage area by a color guard – you’ve guessed it. Rolling Thunder again.

Remember that I mentioned there was, blessedly, a breeze?

The most shocking thing happened a minute or two later.

The breeze blew the American flag right over, onto the ground with a resounding thud. An audible gasp emanated from the crowd. Everyone knows that the flag is never supposed to touch the ground. When I was younger I thought a flag had to be destroyed if it touched the ground. I wondered what would happen, not eventually to the flag, but in this instance. In the middle of a ceremony honoring a special class of our veterans.

Two men from Rolling Thunder walked up behind the dignitaries, picked up the flags and proceeded to stand for the duration of the ceremony holding the flags upright. What a beautiful picture.

The National Anthem was sung, acapella, by Staff Sergeant Ronald Walker, also in full dress uniform. This man is both brave and amazing!

Unveiling the Bricks

Next, the bricks were unveiled. I had been unaware that the blue tarp was actually covering the bricks.

I don’t have to tell you who did the unveiling do I?

I was pleased to see that the bricks for the Korean POW/MIAs had been placed together, not scattered around the plaza.

My neighbor had a better view than I did and kindly shared his video with me.

The unveiling of the bricks was followed by the wreath laying.

The wreath laying is a respectful tradition associated with either funerals or memorial services.

The Roll Call

I didn’t know about the concept of Roll Call before. Now I’ll never be able to unhear it.

The name of the soldier still missing is read. A veteran, in this case, a Rolling Thunder member, steps forward and says, “Still missing, Sir,” then steps back.

This was repeated 195 times as the names were read in alphabetical order.




Each family member in attendance had been given a sign with their soldier’s photo, if one was available, and asked to stand and hold the photo facing the crowd when it was their turn.

The veteran sitting next to me knew the name of my soldier and filmed this, then gifted it to me.

I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am.

I was saddened to notice how many men did not have representative family members present.

As the Roll Call finished, and the Rolling Thunder men exited, a bagpiper played Amazing Grace. One of two songs I can never get through dry-eyed.

Followed, of course, by the next song I cannot get through dry-eyed.

The flags or colors were retired in the same way they had been presented initially.

After the Ceremony

Robert Vernon Estes and his 194 comrades never received a funeral. Their families never had closure. Regardless of what happened to those men in Korea, it’s clear that they are not still living today.

It was sad that we needed to have this service, but it was beautiful and somber and cathartic. It may not be closure for the immediate family, but it’s at least recognition that these men have not been forgotten.

After the ceremony, there was a palpable sense of gratitude and relief. The camaraderie of sharing this experience with others was so meaningful and important. I’m struggling to find the right words to convey the mixture of sad and glad and relief still mixed with prayers that one day, at least some of these men’s remains will be returned for burial. A real funeral, with taps, and the 21 gun salute, and everything else that they deserve. Not an empty hole of nothingness.

I’m so filled with gratitude for the many people who made this possible.

Some, but not all of the volunteers who made this lovely ceremony possible for the veterans and the Gold Star families. Thank you so very much.

The beautiful wreath standing by the bricks.

The only other wreath-laying ceremony I have ever attended was when the DAR set the stone for my Revolutionary War ancestor on another beastly hot summer day.

The Rest of the Story

I attended the ceremony alone. The people sitting in the row behind me seemed friendly enough. As we waited for the ceremony to begin, we chatted pleasantly about our respective family members that we were honoring.

They did not know much about the history of the unit in which their family member had fought. I was trying to explain about obtaining records from NARA, and declassified unit records – in essence what I had done for Robert Estes.

I had noticed that someone representing the Indiana senator’s office was sitting two seats from me. I turned around and told the man behind me that he needed to talk to the person from the senator’s office and ask for liaison assistance.

After they spoke, our group began talking again, and I told him I think that the unit his family member served in fought with the unit Robert served in.

Their family was fortunate to have several people in attendance, while I’m the only one left in my generation in my line. By this time, it was noon and miserably hot – on the north side of 90. The committee had provided rollups and ice cold water while the families visited afterwards, but everyone was ready for something more.

They invited me along to eat with them. I hesitated, not wanting to be a third wheel and hoping they didn’t feel obligated to invite me. They said, “hey, you’re family,” and you know, it felt like family. We decided we would just all be family, at least for today. I was so grateful for the invitation and felt like we had a common bond. Maybe it was the emotion of the day – I can’t explain it.

We managed to find the absolute worst Italian restaurant I’ve ever eaten in – but the companionship was wonderful and we had a room in the back to ourselves.

After we finished, I mentioned that I had to go back to the memorial because somehow I had forgotten to find Bobby’s brick and take a picture – and I wanted a picture of me with the brick too.

They said they had to walk back that way anyway, so we went together.

The stage area was clear and everyone was gone, of course.  Only a few flowers remained. But those bricks are permanent and will still be there long after we are gone!

I was so very pleased to be present for the one thing of permanence that will remain of Bobby.

I wanted to photograph the rest of the bricks, together.

That’s When It Happened!


Robert Minniear is the other family’s MIA soldier. He went missing on November 30, 1950,

So did Bobby.

Both men’s families were from the same part of Indiana.

We just stared at each other dumbstruck with the realization of our discovery. Our family members indeed had gone missing the same day. Likely in the same battle in Korea. Spoiler alert – I came back to my hotel and did indeed verify that the two units were fighting together on that day.

Did our family members know each other? Before, or after they were captured, or both? Were they held as POWs together, or was their Robert killed during either the fighting itself or the horrific conditions immediately after?

Can the information I’ve found about Bobby’s unit help their family gain closure?

What are the chances that this would happen? That we would all attend this ceremony, sit together, strike up a friendly conversation, feel a bond, go to lunch, discover our common roots in the same town, then the revelation of the same MIA date? Did I mention that one of these men is also named Robert, born the same year I was and named for his Robert too?

I’d swear, if I didn’t know better, that the Robert’s were sort of nudging us.

As Mike, my new family member was reading the dates on the rest of the bricks, he noticed several other men who were MIA that same day and remain so:

  • Gene Ruby – PFC USMC
  • Everett W. Leffler – CPL US Army
  • Robert L. White – SGT US Army
  • Robert Lee White – CPL US Army (I hope these two men aren’t closely related – that poor family.)
  • Donald K. Mitchell – CPL US Army
  • James Mishler – PFC US Army

Maybe, just maybe, this story isn’t quite over just yet. Maybe information about one of our soldiers is information about all of our soldiers…

Maybe there’s a chapter yet to be written.

Acadian Refugee Households at Camp d’Esperance 1756-1761 – 52 Ancestors #338

Anyone with Acadian ancestors knows that the Acadian families were forcibly deported from Nova Scotia beginning in 1755 by the English military in retaliation for refusing to sign a loyalty oath to the British king. This event was known as the Grand Derangement or Expulsion, along with other terms, I’m sure. You can read more about the expulsion, here, and view an Acadian timeline, here.

The expulsion began with the destruction of farms, burning of homes, and murder or “arrest” and deportment of the Acadian residents. Families were intentionally and cruelly separated, often permanently with no idea where other family members had been taken, or even if they were still alive. Questions about what happened to their family members and where they were taken haunted the survivors for the rest of their lives. It’s only through combing through historical records, and DNA of course, that we can post-humously reunite some of them today.

What Did Happen to the Acadians?

Many of the roughly 13,500 Catholic Acadians whose families had lived in this region for almost 150 years were simply killed outright.

Ships with captive Acadians were sent to the 13 American colonies, Britain, France, and the Caribbean. People were deposited a few at a time in unfamiliar places – broken and left at the mercy of people who didn’t want the burden of refugees who had nothing and couldn’t support themselves.

Other families hid in Quebec, where about one-fifth of those refugees died during a smallpox outbreak in the winter of 1757-1758.

Some found at least a temporary reprieve in New Brunswick or on Prince Edward Island.

Some hid in the woods among the Native Mi’kmaq people with whom they had a good relationship and in many cases, were related.

Another group found their way to little-known Camp d’Esperance where roughly one-third would perish from starvation.

A decade later, some families made their way to what is now Louisiana, founding the Cajun culture. Others melded into the communities where they found themselves or somehow, miraculously made their way to Quebec. 

The Ancestor Hunt

For descendants, figuring out what happened to our ancestors during this period of upheaval is quite challenging.

  • In some cases, we can trace our genealogical lines back to our ancestors were where they resettled a decade later. That’s how we discover we have Acadian ancestors.
  • Sometimes we know who their parents were in Acadia – but we have no idea what happened to the rest of their family, or where they lived during the decade or so between 1755 and 1765.
  • In other cases, we know who their parents were, but have no idea what happened to the ancestors found in Acadia. The trail simply goes cold which suggests they may have been killed or died during the 10+ years they were in exile.
  • In yet other instances, we can only find one or a few of their children. Families were often scattered, so finding their children might not tell us where those ancestors were, assuming they lived past the original depredations. However, it might also be a breadcrumb.

It would be another decade before the Acadian families could resettle in other locations. Some returned to different portions of Canada. Some stayed where they were, and yet others set sail for new horizons like Louisiana.

If you’re thinking to yourself that Acadian genealogy is complex and confusing – you’d be right! Plus, there’s that same name thing going on along with those “dit” nicknames.

Let’s look at an example of tracing our way backward.


In one of my Acadian families, the parents were “remarried” by the priest after they eventually made their way to Ste. Marguerite de Blairfindie, a small village known as L’Acadie in Quebec.

Acadians were Catholic and didn’t have had access to a priest in “New England” where various records state that this family was living before arriving back in Canada.

The good news is that combing through the children’s records tells us that they were born in “New England.” The bad news is that not one record tells us where.

The parents’ records often tell us when they were born and sometimes identify their parents – allowing us to find their baptism records back in the Acadian homeland.

The Forgotten Refugees

One group of Acadian families left Nova Scotia, but settled, at least for a while, on the Miramichi River, north about 250 miles overland but much further by water. On the map below, today’s Annapolis Royal was Port Royal during the expulsion.

Recently, the blog of the Association des Acadiens-Metis Souriquois published an article accompanied by a list of known refugees who sought shelter to the north.

  • The Acadian Refugee Camp on the Miramichi, 1756-1761” by Ronnie-Gilles LeBlanc (January, 2018)
  • “List of Refugee Acadian Households at Camp Espérance on the Miramichi, 1756-1757,” appendix to “The Acadian Refugee Camp on the Miramichi, 1756-1761” by Ronnie-Gilles LeBlanc English translation & glossary of place names by John Estano DeRoche, published with the author’s permission.

Please click here to view the article, list, and blog.

The first link is the historical article authored by Ronnie-Gilles LeBlanc. I strongly recommend reading this well-written and heavily sourced paper if you have history anyplace in this region.

The second document lists households in index format for easy access. They are in alphabetical order, but searching with your browser search finds spouses surnames and such.

By Lesfreck (talk) (Uploads) – Own work, CC BY 2.5,

The group of Acadians who spent the winter, hungry and cold at Camp d’Esperance (Camp Hope) numbered about 1,700. About 400-500, including “all the (nursing) children,” perished due to the grim challenges they faced – the primary of which was food and shelter, followed by the scourge of smallpox that ravaged the survivors again the following year.

The Acadians and their Native allies ate moccasins, hides of deer, cattle, beaver, and dogs. The meat had already been consumed months earlier. They were down to anything that could be digested. Many still succumbed to starvation.

The winter of 1759-1760 ushered in another food shortage as severe as the winter of 1756-1757 had been.

This bay where the camp was located sure looks peaceful today. It was much different during those horrific winters.

Acadian Ancestors

In Acadian research, we have a saying, “If you’re related to one Acadian, you’re related to all Acadians.” The Acadian community was founded by a small group of French families who settled on the Island of Nova Scotia beginning in 1603. They intermarried for the next 150 years, with each other, the local Native population, French families and soldiers who arrived later, and probably with a few English soldiers stationed at the fort.

Fortunately, for the most part, the Acadian families have been successfully reconstructed, thanks to Catholic church records, tax lists and some very dedicated researchers.

Karen Theriot Reader, a professional genealogist, has compiled an extensive genealogy, complete with sources, and made it free to all researchers on Geneanet, here.

You can find Y DNA and mitochondrial information about Acadian ancestors at the Acadian Amerindian project at FamilyTreeDNA, here. One of our goals is to document each Acadian paternal Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA line. Both of those are critical to identifying which ancestors are Native American. For European ancestors, these tests help track the lines back to their origins overseas. 

If you don’t carry the Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA of Acadian ancestors, that’s fine. We want to reunite all Acadian descendants. Everyone, males and females, can take the Family Finder test or transfer an autosomal test from another vendor and join the project. Please do! You probably have lots of cousin matches waiting!

Creating a Chart

I created a chart of my known Acadian ancestors who would have been alive in 1755 when the expulsion began or born during the shadow decade or two following the expulsion. I completed as much as I know about where they lived in Nova Scotia, during the deportation purgatory decade (or so), and where they resettled later.

The deported Acadians would not have traveled directly to L’Acadie up the St. Lawrence River as drawn on the map above. They were first deported to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and other places further south. I added reference locations on the map that are mentioned in the chart, below.

Please note that my research is not extensive, so I recommend confirming this information if these are your ancestors too.

After completing the chart, I then checked to see if they are on the Camp d’Esperance list.

Note that Acadia means someplace in the Acadian region on or near Nova Scotia, but the exact location is unknown. L’Acadie, noted as a resettlement area, is slightly southeast of Montreal and about 25 miles north of the Vermont border.

Name Birth-Death Comment Nova Scotia Deportation Location Resettlement Location
Jacques dit LaMontagne Lord (Lore, Laure, L’Or) 1678-1786 Born Port Royal, NS, died Nicolet, Quebec Port Royal New York in 1755 Quebec about 1766
Marie Charlotte Bonnevie 1706-1758 Born Port Royal, died at sea, married to Jacques Lord Port Royal Died at sea (I can’t help but wonder where they were taken from and to in 1758.)
Francoise dit d’Azy Mius Circa 1683-? Born Acadia, mother Native, death unknown, mother of Marie Bonnevie Port Royal Unknown, death not shown before 1755
Honore Lord 1742-1818 Born Port Royal, died St. Luc Parish, Quebec, father of Honore Lord born 1766 Port Royal Married c 1765 in New England, possibly New York St. Our, Quebec before 1771
Appoline dit Hippolyte Garceau 1742-1788 Born Port Royal, died L’Acadie, married to Honore Lord born 1742 Port Royal Married c 1765 New England St. Our Quebec before 1771
Daniel Garceau 1707-1772 Born Port Royal, died Yamachiche, Quebec, father of Appoline Garceau Port Royal Apparently, New England where Lore family was living Yamachiche, Quebec, probably before 1768
Anne dit Jeanne Doucet 1713-1791 Born Port Royal, died Sorel, Quebec, married to Daniel Garceau Port Royal Apparently New England St. Our, Quebec before 1771
Rene dit Laverdure Doucet Circa 1678-? Born Port Royal, death unknown, father to Anne Doucet Port Royal Unknown death not shown before 1755
Marie Anne Broussard Jan 1686 – ? Born Port Royal, death unknown, married to Rene Doucet Port Royal Unknown death not shown before 1755
Honore Lord 1766-1834 Born New England, died L’Acadie, father of Antoine Lord (Lore) New England New England St. Ours by 1771, then L’Acadie by 1777
Marie Lafaille 1767-1836 Born New England, died L’Acadie, married 1789 L’Acadie, to Honore Lord born 1766 New England New England L’Acadie by 1788


Francois Lafaille (Lafaye, Lafay) 1744-1824 Born Acadia, died L’Acadie, father of Marie Lafaille Acadia?, parents unknown Pledged their troth on Nov. 10, 1767, in the colonies L’Acadie by 1788 when children baptized by a priest
Marguerite Forest (LaForest, DeForet, Foret, Forais) 1748-1819 Married to Francois Lafaille 1767, remarried in 1792 in L’Acadie by a priest, died in L’Acadie, married to Francois Lafaille Port Royal Pledged their troth on Nov. 10, 1767, in the colonies L’Acadie by 1788 when children baptized by a priest
Jacques Forest 1707-? Born Port Royal, death unknown, father to Marguerite Forest Port Royal In 1763 on Connecticut census
Marie Joseph LePrince 1715-? Born Port Royal, married in 1734, death unknown, married to Jacques Forest Port Royal Husband on 1763 Connecticut census
Jean LePrince Circa 1692-after 1752 Born in Acadia, died after July 3, 1752, father of Marie Joseph LePrince Acadia Unknown, died after July 3, 1752
Jeanne Blanchard Circa 1681-? Born Port Royal, possibly deceased Port Royal, married to Jean Leprince Port Royal Unknown, may have died in Port Royal

Please note that the people listed as born in “Port Royal” were baptized there. They could have been born elsewhere. I know the priests did travel, but I don’t know how extensively, or how often.

Well, crumb, none of my ancestors are on the Camp d’Esperance list. However, I should check their children or siblings who aren’t my ancestors – especially if their siblings/children were old enough to be married.

Clearly, my ancestors might have been separated from the rest of their family, but then again, maybe not. Gathering every shred of evidence is always a good thing and the effort is never wasted – even negative evidence. Now I at least know where they weren’t.

What about you? Do you have Acadian ancestors? Where were your ancestors during and after Le Grand Derangement? Are they found at Camp d’Esperance?



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Nora Kirsch Lore: Girlfriend, What Were You Thinking? – 52 Ancestors #337

I didn’t know much about my great-grandmother, Nora Kirsch when I was growing up, or when I first started researching my genealogy. She passed away in 1949, long before I was born.

I knew that Nora was an amazingly talented quilter, representing the State of Indiana at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, as described in my first article featuring Nora. That’s her legacy within the family. I think creating beauty and warmth for generations to follow is an absolutely WONDERFUL way to be remembered. But there was a LOT more, just waiting to be discovered.

I came to learn that Nora was born to German immigrant parents and had grown up at the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana. Mom and I eventually went to find the Kirsch House.

Genealogy is sort of like begetting where one thing just seems to beget another.

I was told that Nora made her own wedding dress and married incredibly handsome Curtis Benjamin Lore in 1888, descending the stairs at the Kirsch House into the parlor. That’s swoonworthy.

I knew Nora was eventually widowed and that C. B. Lore had died of Tuberculosis. That was a tale of lost love within the family.

I learned that tragically, Nora’s daughter, Curtis, had died of the same disease not long after. Life is simply not fair.

Then Nora’s life just sort of became a blur until, “and she died.” I didn’t know when, of what, or where.

Thankfully, newspaper articles from various locations have helped to remedy that and let me peek into her everyday life. Not just when she’s specifically mentioned, but also based on what is going on where she lived. Even the ads are amazing!

While your first reaction may be that some of these news snippets are very mundane and boring – simply reporting who visited whom – when assembled as the pieces of a puzzle, they tell the day-to-day story of Nora’s life.

It’s like sitting at her kitchen table.

And there are clues buried everyplace!

I had already scoured the Rushville newspapers, but now I’ve added Aurora, the town where Nora grew up, Greensburg where she lived when first married, and Wabash, Indiana, where she moved after Rushville. The story of how she got to Wabash…well…that’s the unexpected secret revealed here.

Photos and Newspapers

One note about photos before we embark on Nora’s spellbinding journey.

MyHeritage has dramatically improved their photo enhancement, which clarifies and brings photos into focus, photo colorization and photo repair over the last year or so. I decided to use that technology on my old photos in order to bring Nora to life as much as possible. It made a HUGE difference.

I do feel compelled to tell you that these photos aren’t the original black and whites – so I’m explaining that here instead of interrupting Nora’s story.

If you like what you see, you can try it for yourself.

Everyone can enhance or repair several photos at MyHeritage for free, but you can do as many as you want and connect them to the appropriate people in your tree with a full subscription. Other subscribers may have atached photos that you don’t have so you may get lucky there too.

Some of the newspaper articles used for this article are from MyHeritage too. You can sign up for a MyHeritage subscription with a free trial, here.

The Journey Began

Yes, this part of the journey to find Nora did actually begin in the cemetery. Odd, I know.

Mom and I traveled to Rushville, Indiana in the 1980s and located Nora and Curt’s graves. Before Mom said we needed to go there, I had never heard of Rushville, let alone know that we had any connection. It was just nice to be road-tripping with Mom and my daughter.

Mom had been to this cemetery at the time of and shortly after her grandmother Nora’s burial, in 1949, but hadn’t returned since. Rushville wasn’t exactly on the way to anyplace. Here’s Mom, looking quite sad, standing by Nora’s grave, not long after burial because no grass had yet grown where she was buried.

In the 1980s, I never thought about what Nora did after Curt’s death and before her own. I was only a fledgling genealogist back then and like all genealogists, wish desperately I had asked more questions when I had the chance.

Nora’s youngest child, Eloise, was still living and didn’t pass away until 1996. Eloise was in her 90s and had become quite frail, not to mention blind. It was Aunt Eloise who had provided most of what we knew. Eloise, thankfully, also sent Nora’s lovely quilts to Mom.

Eloise revealed a few additional pieces in the puzzle of Nora’s life, but not everything by any stretch. I’d wager that Eloise knew some things that she held close to her vest and that there were yet other secrets that Nora took to her grave – never sharing those with anyone.

As time elapsed and I began researching Nora’s parents, Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel, as well as Nora’s husband, Curt Lore, I began to piece together at least some of the rest of Nora’s story. The shadowy twilight decades of the 1930s and 1940s.

Perhaps Nora didn’t want them to be too clear.

A Letter from Nora

Ironically, it was at RootsTech in 2019, as I sat in the audience listening to Steve Rockwood deliver the keynote that important documents arrived, unsolicited, on my phone. Silent buzzing alerted me that a message had arrived.

A cousin had sent a handwritten letter from Nora herself.



I couldn’t help but look, given what it was, as Steve’s voice drifted into the background. (Sorry Steve.)

It would be that very letter and accompanying receipt that led me to learn more about Nora’s twilight years.

The newspaper digitization projects have allowed me to fill in so many gaps for Nora and Curt, both, in the past year or so.

Like, for example, Curt was involved in quite the scandal involving thoroughbred horse racing at the turn of the century – meaning 1899/1900 – THAT century. Lordy, Lordy that had to have been incredibly embarrassing and humiliating for Nora. It was never discussed and, truthfully, I doubt Nora’s daughters ever knew about it.

The Lore couple had become socialites in Rushville, Indiana among the families with “horse money,” although Curt and Nora never owned their own home which I found very odd. Curt did, however, own several racehorses and associated with the moneyed movers and shakers.

Curt was truly a jack-of-all-trades. He had his hand in anything and everything that might make money – an early entrepreneur. I think most of it was legal and aboveboard – but nothing would surprise me at this point. He often seemed to be treading on marginal ground.

Curt, orphaned at a very young age in Pennsylvania had become a wildcat oil driller. He learned how to do just about everything and translated that skill set into opportunity at every turn. In essence, Curt, warts and all, succeeded in spite of everything, including an exceedingly difficult beginning that would have doomed lesser men.

He was also benevolent, a member of various lodges, a comedian, and tough as nails. Curt, in many ways, seemed to be a walking contradiction. I’m sure Nora loved him, although some days she probably wondered why.

Before we reveal Nora’s final chapter, let’s go back to Aurora where she grew up and fill in pieces of her early life.

What made Nora the person she became?

Aurora Growing Up

Nora, the firstborn child, arrived on December 24, 1866. She was the perfect Christmas gift to her mother, a traditional German woman who clearly celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve that year, as was the German tradition.

Nora grew up with her three sisters and two brothers at the Kirsch House, a hotel, tavern, and restaurant in Aurora, Indiana.

In 2008, the Kirsch House didn’t look much like it looked in an earlier era, but it was recognizable.

The Kirsch House wasn’t always the Kirsch House. Proprietors named establishments after themselves. In August of 1875, Jacob Kirsch bought the French House and the Kirsch family moved in. As luck would have it, the Dearborn County Atlas was published the same year.

It’s easy to spot the L-shaped building beside the train depot.

The business directory referred to the establishment alternatively as a hotel, hotel and saloon, and as “fine accommodations for travelers.” The Kirsch House was located right beside the B&O train depot and just a few blocks north of the pier on the Ohio River. The foundry, barrel factory, carriage factory and warehouses were located either adjacent or nearby. Clearly, this was prime real estate for traveling businessmen.

We don’t know much about those years, but the local newspapers provide some information.

School Days

Nora’s earliest years would have been spent helping her parents at the Kirsch house, delivering orders with her sisters in their wagon, and playing with her first cousins who lived nearby. She would have attended weddings and funerals, even burying a few of her cousins and playmates because someone was always being born and dying – especially before the days on antibiotics. Thankfully, none of Nora’s siblings passed away, at least not that we know about.

Every Sunday, the family attended the German Lutheran church and Nora went to school on weekdays.

Nora was an excellent student, as was reflected in the newspaper.

  • November 15, 1877 – Honor Roll, Aurora Public Schools for the month ending November 2, 1877 and had a grade of 90 and above in attendance, deportment, and scholarship: Nora Kirsch in Room 4, with a grade of 91.

I thought that Nora attended the Lutheran School, but apparently not. The Lutheran Church was nearby, but perhaps the church didn’t include a school at that time, or tuition was charged.

The 1875 Atlas of Dearborn County shows us the location of the Public School at the lower right.

The school was quite a distance from the Kirsch House, at upper left. The Kirsch children would have walked to and from school.

This building, eventually known as the Southside School in Aurora opened in 1867 and stood until 1974, more than 100 years.

High School commencement was initially held at the Methodist Episcopal Church, but by 1879, it was held at the Opera House on Second Street, newly built in 1878. Admission was 10 cents.

Nora would have attended this school and probably graduated about 1884 or 1885 on the Opera House stage. The Opera House was located just a block or so from the Kirsch House on Second Street. The excited family would have walked together to the joyful event.

The first floor housed commercial businesses, but the second and third floors of the opera house seated 950 people. You can read more about the Opera House and the history of Aurora, here.

Nora’s parents ran the Kirsch House and her father, Jacob, dabbled more than a little in local politics. He was also a crack shot. The Aurora newspaper is full of stories about the pigeon shooting (hopefully clay) matches and Jacob’s winnings as he traveled far and wide.

  • September 18, 1879

I’d wager there was some betting, back-slapping, and celebratory drinking going on as well.

  • Lawrenceburg Register, October 16, 1879

Nora’s mother, Barbara, was surprised with a 31st birthday party when the establishment was still known as the French Hotel. What kind of gifts did she receive? Who attended?

The family lived at the Kirsch House, which meant, of course, that Barbara Kirsch and her daughters cooked incessantly, probably from before sunup to after sundown, washed never-ending dishes, changed beds, and did laundry – not just for the family – but for everyone staying at the Kirsch House.

Think bed and breakfast on steroids. I can’t imagine.

One newspaper article informed us that Jacob Kirsch did hire a bartender. That, of course, was the one job that would have been deemed “improper” for the women and he could unquestionably have done himself.

  • Lawrenceburg Register, July 15, 1880

In 1880 there was an accident at the Kirsch House. Children were playing outside, but thankfully, none were injured when a horse and runaway wagon tore the awning posts and awning off the front of the building. I would wager that Nora and her siblings were some of those children. Life could have changed in the blink of an eye. My entire family line might not be here.

That 1875 map shows that the Kirsch House was L-shaped, with a garden in back. The Kirsch children would have played in the garden area and out front on the sidewalk. There wasn’t anyplace else.

Aunt Eloise told me that Jacob Kirsch was extremely proud of his paved, covered sidewalk. He apparently felt that was the mark of a high-class establishment, differentiating his hotel from others.

You can see a later awning above, as unknown children play next door at the depot, probably in the early 1900s. The freight and ticket office was the red awning and bumpout behind the child dressed in white.

This early parade photo shows the Kirsch House with its awning in the background and the depot, at left.

Nora was on the honor roll again in 1880 and would turn 14 on Christmas Eve.

  • November 11, 1880 – Public school honor roll for students with 90 or above in attendance, deportment, and scholarship. Norah Kirsch with a grade of 91, Carrie with a grade of 90.
  • January 6, 1881 – George Phillips, Jake Kirsch and Ed. Mulbarger of this city were out on a hunting expedition near Poston, Indiana last week. Kirsch froze his ears during the hunt.

Jacob’s ears were frostbitten. OUCH!

  • Also, same day, under the heading of “Ida Londen’s Concert” we find that Ida’s pupils performed at the Opera House on Tuesday evening. Ida was a pianist and music teacher. “Nora Kirsch gave us a piano solo entitled La Balliena.”

So, Nora performed in the Opera House as well. That’s interesting to know. How fun! I can close my eyes and see her strolling across the stage, sitting down at the piano and commencing to play.

  • Lawrenceburg Register, February 2, 1882 – Jacob Kirsch signed a petition to organize a Public Library Association as an incorporated body for general circulation in the city.

While the original Aurora library consisted of books gathered in a local jewelry store (smart move on the part of the jeweler), Jacob was instrumental in founding and funding the library which was eventually moved into the City Building, shown above today. Nora assuredly utilized those services.

Nora’s parents spoke German, but Nora clearly read and spoke English quite well. Perhaps the library helped Nora become fluent in English, as German was the native language of her parents and was spoken at home. Although as hosts at the Kirsch House, Jacob and Barbara clearly spoke at least some English, and Jacob spoke English well. My grandmother, Nora’s daughter, understood German, but I’m not sure if she could speak the language.

  • Lawrenceburg Register, May 4, 1882

While the family lived at the “hotel,” probably in private living quarters, they certainly did normal family things – like have birthday parties. Nora’s dad, Jacob Kirsch turned 42.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that there was no private eating area. The family probably ate in the dining room with everyone else. I could not discern an internal “apartment” area when I visited.


  • Lawrenceburg Register, August 30, 1883

True to the identity that Jacob Kirsch established for the Kirsch House as the best accommodations in Aurora, the newspaper covered this “gala reception” hosted at the Kirsch House – complete with band. How I would have loved to attend, just to see the Kirsch House in all its splendor!

There’s another tidbit buried in this article. Jacob’s nickname was Jake.

My mother, daughter, and I visited the Kirsch House in the 1980s and I have no idea how they managed to fit 50 people, a band, and dancing in the public areas of the building – but they clearly did. The entire building, both floors, is 4256 square feet, so the downstairs that includes the tavern where we are standing, kitchen and restaurant areas, plus a parlor would have been about 2100 square feet.

Nora would have been 16 on the night of the party, and if she didn’t have to work that evening, which she probably did, she surely enjoyed herself as well. Maybe there were some young men present. 😉

  • September 10, 1885 – Miss Josie Young, an accomplished young lady of Osgood is the guest of Miss Nora Kirsch of this city.

I don’t know when Nora graduated from high school, exactly, but I’d wager it was in 1885. I base that opinion in part because she would have been 18 – and also because she was hosting a friend in September of that year when students would have been back in school.

  • June 3, 1886 – Miss Nora Kirsch is visiting Covington, KY.

By 1886, Nora has spread her wings somewhat and began to travel. She apparently went to Covington alone – likely on the train. I sure wish the paper had told us what Nora did in Covington. I suspect she had a friend that lived there.

Just a few weeks later, however, life for the Kirsch family would change, in an instant, and dramatically.

Two Deaths in 30 Minutes

August 19, 1886, was a dark day indeed. The news was reported in the Jeffersonville newspaper, and newspapers across the country, but the event took place right in Aurora.

  • Jeffersonville (Indiana) Daily News – August 19, 1886

What? A stabbing.

Followed by a lynching?

You might be wondering what this has to do with Nora or the Kirsch family. This article certainly provides no clue. Nor does the coroner’s inquest a few weeks later.

  • September 16, 1886

William Watkins stabbed Louis Hilbert to death and was then hung by a group of “excited men.”

There’s more to the story of course.

Hilbert had employed Watkins, an itinerant bricklayer who had a chronic habit of drinking too much. Hilbert paid Watkins and dismissed him for being drunk on the job, but Watkins returned – even more intoxicated and angry.

Warm words let to hot tempers and Watkins stabbed Hilbert to death. The surrounding men on the job site restrained Watkins. The local Farmer’s Fair was taking place, so the streets were full of people. A crowd gathered, becoming enraged when they realized what had just occurred.

The local constable arrived almost immediately and attempted to remove Watkins to the next town for his own safety, realizing Watkins would not be safe in the local town hall jail – but to no avail. The now enraged crowd swarmed the Constable’s buggy, removed Watkins to the nearby distillery yard, and immediately hung him.

How was the Kirsch family involved?

Jacob Kirsch was among the men who hung William Watkins shortly after Watkins had murdered Louis Hilbert. I do want to be very clear, Watkins was white. This incident was not connected to race.

Although the local papers didn’t name names, every single soul within a hundred miles knew who was involved and in what capacity.

For the most part, the sentiment seemed to be that Watkins certainly deserved what he got. But that sentiment was not universal, by any means, based on the fact that Watkins was afforded no trial and vigilante justice is a dangerous precedent.

While this seems like it might have been all-consuming for the Kirsch family, it apparently was not.

In 1917, the local paper printed a memory from February 1887 that gives us a peek into Nora’s life six months after the murders.

  • February 1, 1917 – Thirty Years Ago (dating to February 1, 1887) – Miss Norah Kirsch is entertaining Mrs. Lou Riddell and sister of Covington, KY.

This probably explains why Nora had been traveling to Covington, as well.

I would think that this incident would have caused Jacob to become somewhat of a pariah in Aurora, perhaps ending his career and the Kirsch House, but it didn’t.

Federal court records and the Indianapolis newspaper tell us that Jacob was subsequently, unsurprisingly, embroiled in a lawsuit.

  • March 3, 1887, Indianapolis News

Watkin’s estate administrator filed a lawsuit where we find the list of men involved in the lynching.

  • Versailles Republican

Although Jacob isn’t named in the Aurora newspaper, he was in the lawsuit that put both Jacob Kirsch, and the Kirsch House in jeopardy. $10,000 was a massive amount of money at that time – more than Jacob and the Kirsch House were worth.

This is a civil suit, and I’m actually quite surprised that criminal charges were never brought, but they weren’t filed against any of the men involved.

In 1887, Jacob Kirsch transferred the deed to the Kirsch House to his wife, Barbara. In essence, Barbara owned the property in fee simple, without Jacob, for the rest of her life.

I’d wager that the entire family was suffering under the weight of Jacob’s actions, including the six children who ranged in age from 10 to 20. Not only were they now reviled by at least some people, I’m sure this affected the family income given that they ran a tavern, restaurant, and hotel – not to mention that the entire family now stood to lose everything thanks to Jacob’s hot head.

  • October 7, 1887 – Greensburg, Indiana newspaper

It’s important to remember when reading political commentary from long ago that both political particles have changed dramatically since that time. Still, politics was utilized as an interpretation tool then too.

This connection to Greensburg may be relevant because Greensburg is where Curt Lore was living or at least transacting business about this time.

I don’t know how much of a social outcast the Kirsch family became. I’d wager that at least some number of Aurora families, even if they didn’t openly condemn Jacob’s actions certainly shied away.

Nora’s paternal grandmother, Barbara Lemmert Kirsch, then an 80-year-old widow was living with the family, along with Nora’s uncle Philip who was disabled during the Civil War.

Did Nora lose friends over this? Was she shunned? This would be particularly difficult for a young woman of marriage age.

Perhaps Nora could confide in her grandmother. Perhaps her grandmother Kirsch helped all of the children cope. I hope so. She wouldn’t be around much longer.

Curt Checked In and Never Checked Out

We know that Curt Lore, Nora’s eventual husband, was living in Warren County Pennsylvania in 1884 and 1885.

  • Warren County (Pennsylvania) Mail – November 21, 1884, January 13, 1885, April 21, 1885, and several other dates. – Set for Trial Curt Lore vs Jacob Davis
  • October 11, 1885 – There was a verdict for $159.38 for Plaintiff.

During this time, Curtis Benjamin Lore, a well-driller, checked in at the Kirsch House and never checked out of the family. We don’t know exactly when Curt arrived in Aurora, but by May 1887, there was a letter in the dead letter office for him.

  • Aurora Spectator – May 19, 1887 – The following is a list of letters remaining in the Aurora post office not called for: Mr. Curt Lore.

This suggests that Curt was actually living in or at least visiting Aurora for long stretches at or before this time. Curt would have known that Jacob Kirsch was a crack shot AND that he had been a member of the mob who hung Watkins. Everyone knew both of those things.

Note Jacob Kirsch’s competitive shooting scores just below Curt Lore’s letter notification. The irony is not lost on me. Might not have been lost on Curt either.

Whether Nora confided in her grandmother or not, she fell hard for Curt, an extremely handsome somewhat older man – ten years Nora’s senior.

Curt accidentally discovered the Blue Lick (artesian) Well in Aurora when drilling for gas, and he also discovered the beautiful daughter of the proprietor of the Kirsch House.

One of the attractive aspects of Curt might have been that he was not from Aurora, seemed a bit mysterious and he perhaps offered a ticket out.

Curt, as it turned out, wasn’t entirely honest, either about his age or his marital status. He failed to mention that pesky detail of a wife and 4 children back in Pennsylvania, the youngest still a baby – born in June of 1886.


The next piece of information we have about Nora is an unusual announcement in the neighboring city’s newspaper the day AFTER Nora and Curt were married.

  • Lawrenceburg Register, January 19, 1888 – Invitations are out for the marriage of Miss Nora Kirsch, eldest daughter of Mr. Jacob Kirsch of Aurora to Mr. Curtis B. Lore of Findlay, Ohio.

Their engagement was not reported in the Aurora newspaper, nor was the wedding.

Nora, by then a couple months pregnant, probably desperately wanted to leave Aurora for more than one reason.

Curt desperately wanted to leave too, before his soon-to-be father-in-law who just happened to be a marksman AND apparently had no qualms meting out justice discovered that pre-existing wife and four children issue.

Nosiree – Curt wanted to get the hell out of Dodge, well, er, Aurora before those beans somehow got spilled.

Nora and Curt’s first child, Edith, was born someplace in Marion County, near Indianapolis, on August 2, 1888.

New Beginnings

By October, Nora and Curt were living in Greensburg where no one knew about Nora’s connection to Jacob or the fact that Edith arrived a bit early. No one knew about Curt’s past either, not even Nora.

Greensburg was a great place to start over.

Two and a half months after Edith was born, Nora’s mother and sister came to visit.

  • October 25, 1888

The sisters took a bonding trip as well, although this surprises me given that Nora would have been nursing Edith who wasn’t three months old yet.

Nora and Carrie, her 17-year-old sister, traveled to Cincinnati to attend the Centennial Exhibition. Maybe their mother, Barbara, stayed in Greensburg with baby Edith. What grandmother wouldn’t love that!

In 1888, Cincinnati hosted the Centennial Exposition of the Ohio Valley and Central States. You can view the exhibit catalog, here. Those young women would have enjoyed the Exposition immensely, along with each other’s company.

One of the major attractions was the “Electric Light Plant.” A few years later, Curt Lore would be one of the investors in the first electric light plant in Rushville, Indiana.

We don’t know, but I imagine that Nora went home to Aurora over the holidays and again when her grandmother, Katharina Barbara Lemmert Kirsch passed away at the Kirsch House on February 1, 1889.

  • June 27, 1889

Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s sister, Mary had married, moved to Chicago, and was expecting her third child in July.

The Aurora newspaper reported that Nora’s parents came to visit in June of 1889. Jacob and Curt were apparently bonding – and that’s not all. According to Aurora articles later, Jacob bought a racehorse that Curt was training for him.

  • December 5, 1889 – Mr. and Mrs. Lohr are the guests of the Kirsch House, from Greensburg.
  • January 9, 1890 – Miss Carrie Kirsch was visiting her sister, Mrs. Curt Lore, at Greensburg several days last week.
  • January 23, 1890 – Jake Kirsch was visiting his daughter, Mrs. Curt Lore, at Greensburg, several days last week.
  • April 10, 1890 – Mrs. Curt Lore of Greensburg is visiting her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Kirsch.
  • June 12, 1890 – Jake Kirsch was on the sick list several days last week. Miss Lulu Kirsch is visiting her sister, Mrs. Curt Lohr, at Greensburg.

While most of these snippets came from the Aurora newspaper, some were found in Greensburg.

  • Greensburg Standard – August 6, 1890 – Curt Lore, Charles Belser, and Charles Evans and wives picnicked at Banta’s Thursday and reported a delightful time.
  • August 14, 1890 – Mrs. Curt Lohr of Greensburg visited her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Kirsch several days this week.

Nora may have gone home to attend the funeral of her mother’s sister, Margaretha Drechsel Rabe who died in Cincinnati, probably related to childbirth. Margaretha was only 38, yet had already buried two sons and a third would pass away in 1893.

  • September 25, 1890 – Mrs. Curt Lore of Greensburg is visiting her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Kirsch this week.
  • November 27, 1890 – Miss Carrie Kirsch is visiting her sister, Mrs. Curt Lore at Greensburg, this week.
  • Miss Carrie Kirsch has been visiting relatives in Greensburg the past week.
  • December 25, 1890 – Ed. Kirsch and sister Lulu are spending this week with their sister, Mrs. Curt Lore at Greensburg.

Obviously, Nora’s siblings visited her often. The railroad depot being located adjacent the Kirsch House was very convenient.

Nora probably wasn’t going much of anyplace because she was “in a family way” again.

  • Greensburg, March 14, 1891

  • Nora gave birth to another daughter, baby Curtis, clearly named after Curt, in March of 1891.

The Greensburg newspapers provide details about their life.

  • May 16, 1891 – A valuable mare belonging to Curt Lore was dangerously hurt Monday morning by coming in contact with a barb wire fence on Charles Evans’ farm. She is recovering.
  • September 2, 1891

Curt doesn’t seem to have the best of luck with horses. Seems that once again, Curt narrowly avoided disaster.

Also, under “Fair Notes” we discover more about their Curt’s racehorses.

For some reason, this just cracked me up. “Fancy goers.” It’s interesting that Curt owned at least 7 horses, and possibly more including Almont. It’s ironic. I can’t confirm when either of his parents died, but I know Curt’s horses’ names.

All might not have been well at home though.

In October of 1891, this notice appeared in the Greenburg newspaper saying that Curt and Nora were breaking up housekeeping. But apparently, at the end of the year, they were still living in Greensburg. “Breaking up” could have been interpreted a couple of different ways.

  • December 31, 1891

I had no idea that Carrie lived with Nora at any time. This close relationship between the sisters might explain why Carrie was married a few years later at Nora’s home. Well, that and the fact that Carrie’s parents didn’t care AT ALL for her husband. Turned out that they were right!

Sometime in early 1892, Nora and family moved to Rushville, about 20 miles north of Greensburg, which in turn was about 40 miles northwest of Aurora. I wondered when I found the original mention in the Greenburg newspaper whether their marriage was on the rocks based on the commentary that Nora would stay with her parents. But the December newspaper article suggests otherwise and tells us that Carrie was living with Nora there in Greensburg.

Curt was traveling a lot – drilling wells in other locations in both Indiana and Kentucky. This might explain the unexpected visitor some 20 years later, one that would haunt Nora.


Sometime before June of 1892, Curt and Nora rented a house in Rushville where they would live for the rest of their married life.

  • August 29, 1892

Curt was very clearly becoming more and more involved in horse racing. Now we know two of his horses’ names!

  • Aurora, September 8, 1892 – Mrs. Curt Lohr and children, from Rushville, are visiting her parents here at the Kirsch House.

A few days later, Jacob Kirsch’s life would change forever. In fact, Nora nearly lost her father.


  • Cincinnati Enquirer Friday Morning, October 28, 1892 (Warning – graphic description in article.)

Jacob was gravely wounded and was not expected to live. Nora was likely notified by telegram and probably returned home at once. It’s odd that neither the Rushville nor Aurora newspapers covered this news, although technology-based scanning and indexing is far from perfect.

The family believed that Jacob Kirsch fought in the Civil War, but there is little evidence to support this. Furthermore, Barbara knew him at the time and applied for his pension after he died. There were multiple Jacob Kirschs in southern Indiana who were likely confused and, I believe, conflated with their military files intermixed. However, the reference to Jacob as Captain Kirsch surely makes me wonder why he would be referred to as such otherwise.

All newspapers are very quiet for the rest of 1892. I suspect that Jacob’s recovery was slow, painful, and far from certain.

Life Returns to Normal

Life seemed to have returned to normal. Articles from the Rushville paper were published in Curt’s story, here. The Lore family maintained ties to Greensburg, and those articles add more meat to the bones.

  • Greensburg – August 18, 1893 – Curt Lore of Rushville was circulating among friends here on Saturday.
  • March 22, 1894 – Miss Carrie Kirsch is the guest of friends at Rushville, Indiana.
  • Aurora Dearborn Independent – July 5, 1894 – Mrs. Curt Lore and children, of Rushville, are visiting her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jake Kirsch.

1894 saw Curt become an entrepreneur, building an ice plant and electric power plant in Rushville. Of course, he continued horse-trading and well-drilling too. It seems Curt never stopped doing anything – he just added more.

The Rushville paper reported that Nora and the girls spent most of the month of December 1894 in Aurora.

  • Aurora, November 28, 1895 – Miss Lida Ruese left Wednesday afternoon for Rushville to spend Thanksgiving with her friend, Miss Carrie Kirsch, who has been the guest of her sister, Mrs. C. B. Lore for the past two months.

Carrie was obviously spending a lot of time in Rushville. Carrie and Nora were very close, born just over 4 years apart.

  • Greensburg, January 10, 1895 – Miss Carrie Kirsch is visiting her sister, Mrs. Curt Lore at Rushville.
  • August 2, 1895 – Curt Lore of Rushville spent Sunday here with friends.
  • October 25, 1895 – Curt Lore, of Rushville, spent the latter part of last week with friends here.
  • October 30, 1895 – Curt Lore of Rushville is here attending the gun shoot.
  • April 1, 1896 – Mrs. Curt Lore entertained a company with euchre last Saturday afternoon.
  • May 17, 1895 – Curt Lore and Wood Study rode down here Sunday evening from Rushville in one hour and 27 minutes, at a rate of over 13 miles an hour. Good. They made the trip on their wheels.

I’m not exactly sure what “on their wheels” means. Had Curt purchased an early automobile? Motorcycle?

In June 1896, Curt and Nora, including Nora by name, were both sued for a debt of $4,768 in connection with the ice house endeavor. Published in the paper, a sheriff’s sale was ordered to confiscate the lot where the ice house was located. A separate contract for $12,000 existed as well. Nora must have been worried sick.

Suits involving the ice house, the land the ice house was built on, and the equipment inside the ice house bounced back and forth in the courts for years. It’s difficult if not impossible to figure out who did what, or didn’t do what, to whom.

Life seemed to go on as normal for Curt. These setbacks seem like water off of a duck’s back for him. Nora, on the other hand, often went for “an extended visit” with her parents.

  • July 10, 1896 – Curt Lore of Rushville was here attending the ball games this week.
  • September 9, 1896 – Mrs. Curt Lore and daughters, Edith and Curt, of Rushville, returned home Saturday afternoon having spent the week with R. N. Wise and family.
  • December 23, 1896

Satin suspenders. I wonder if Curt wore satin suspenders.

I can’t help it, I just love the period ads in newspapers. They put the lives of our ancestors in perspective.

Carter’s Little Liver Pills will, apparently, cure anything that ails you😊

Oh wait, if an enemy vagrant current of air stole into your house last week, well, maybe this salt cure will undam your blood.

  • Connersville Times, July 16, 1897

In 1897, Curt took on a rather unusual “job,” assuming this was paid – baseball team manager. Who knew?

I suspect that the solicitation of subscriptions might have something to do with how Curt was paid. Curt certainly excelled at talking to people.

I wonder what Nora thought about all of Curt’s activities.

  • Greensburg Standard, September 8, 1897 – Mrs. Curt Lore and daughter, Miss Edith, returned to their home at Rushville Thursday after a pleasant visit here with Miss Stella Wise. They were accompanied by Miss Wise.
  • December 25, 1897 – Mrs. Curt Lore and charming daughters Curtis and Edith, of Rushville, are spending the holidays with Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Kirsch.

Where was Curt Lore during the holidays?

Turn out, Curt might actually have already been at the Kirsch House. In mid-November, the Rushville paper reported that Curt had contracted to “fit up an Aurora Hotel with a hot water heating apparatus.”

In 2008, when I last visited Aurora, the Kirsch House was undergoing a structural evaluation. The old “hot water heating apparatus” pipes that heated the structure were still in evidence in the hallway beside the stairway into the parlor, as you can see above. Curt’s handiwork, more than a century later.

  • May 13, 1898 – Curt Lore and daughters of Rushville spent Monday here.

In 1898 and 1899, Nora and Curt’s social status star seemed to be rising. According to the Rushville paper, they were increasingly engaged in social functions and Curt was a delegate to the Congressional Convention.

On April 8, 1899, Nora gave birth to their third child, another daughter, Mildred Elvira Lore in Rushville although it was never mentioned in the Rushville paper.

  • October 5, 1899 – C. B. Lore of Rushville is here attending the street fair this week.

Curt Lore had purchased a Warograph machine, which in essence showed early movies. He then formed the Cineograph Electric Advertising Company and then The Warograph Company.

He began taking his “show on the road” (pardon the pun) to carnivals and street fairs. I wrote about Curt’s many endeavors in this article. Let’s just say that his life was never dull or without drama. Within a month, he had started two new businesses, in addition to the ones he already had and lost one business partner.

I need a dance card to keep up with this man. Nora probably did too. When he did come home, she was probably just waiting for the next chapter in the “Drama of Curt.”

Of course, this is only the drama we are aware of because it made it into the newspaper.

  • Greensburg – December 26, 1899 – Curt Lore of Rushville was here this morning en route home from a visit with relatives at Aurora.

At least this year we know Curt was with Nora in Aurora, although he may have returned early.

1900 – A New Millennium

The new millennium dawned with Nora and Curt still living in a rented home in Rushville, moving in the horse-racing social circles. According to the census, two female servants lived with them. Their neighbor was Nora’s best friend, Ethel Coverston, wife of the railroad agent. Except for some bumpy patches, life seemed good – at least from this perspective.

In August, Nora’s paternal aunt, Katharina Barbara Kirsch who had married Johann Martin Koehler died. She had outlived at least three of her four children.

  • September 26, 1900 – Curt Lore and family, of Rushville, drove down last night and after spending the night here with friends, left this morning for Aurora for a few day’s visit.

“Drove down” – does that mean a buggy or a car? Surely not a buggy – all the way to Aurora? In 1900, wealthy people purchased some of the early automobiles for comfort and prestige. Few cars existed and the ones that did were hand-assembled and cost about $1000 each. I would think if Curt purchased an automobile, that might have been newsworthy in and of itself.

On August 2, 1900, Nora’s paternal aunt, Katharina Barbara Kirsch Schnell, 67, died in Aurora. Katharina had outlived her first husband, who was also her first cousin, Johann Martin Koehler, by decades, at least three of her four children, and at least one grandchild. Life was tough.

  • October 23, 1900 – Curt Lore of Rushville is visiting friends here today.
  • October 24, 1900 – Judge Frank Hall and Curt Lore of Rushville are attending court here today.
  • October 27, 1900 – Curt Lore and Frank Hall who have been attending court here for several days returned to Rushville this morning.

In November of 1900, news broke that Curt was embroiled in the granddaddy of all horse-racing scandals, noted as “the greatest fraud ever perpetrated” when it hit the national news. In September of 1899, an entire day’s race tickets that affected the standing of various horses were submitted to the national racing association for races that never occurred. The Rushville and national papers covered the scandal, but Greensburg and Aurora where several people lived who were involved did not.

Nora must have wanted to bury her head in the sand.

It was about this time that Curt’s focus shifted from horse racing to obtaining local construction contracts for bridge repairs and street sprinkling. The horse-racing scandal seems to have ended or at least dramatically reduced that part of Curt’s career, but he was still drilling for wells in Kentucky and elsewhere.

  • October 2, 1903

We know from this article that Curt worked with his brother and owned a motorcycle which at that time was pretty much a bicycle with a motor. I wonder if Nora rode his motorcycle too. Nora was no shrinking violet.

I love this picture of her some years later.

Nora with her three daughters; Eloise, Mildred, Nora, Edith (white hair), probably between 1930 and 1940.

Curt continued to travel a great deal with his oil drilling and to some extent, horse racing. It was on one of these trips that Nora suspected that he contracted Tuberculosis.

In July of 1903, Curt formed the C. B. Lore Drilling Company with two other men.

Nora was otherwise occupied.

On October 8, 1903, Nora gave birth to their fourth and last child, Eloise Lore. Curt had only returned from his trip a few days earlier. Perhaps now I understand why Nora had 2 servants in the 1900 census.

Less than three weeks later, Curt’s well-drilling paid off. He hit paydirt – one of the strongest and best wells ever sunk in that region. On land owned by the local liveryman.

Curt was back on the road soon, while Nora cared for their four children at home in Rushville.

By 1904, Curt’s well-drilling expertise was in much demand for both gas and water wells.

  • Versailles (Indiana) Republican, April 6, 1904

  • Versailles Republican, June 8, 1904 – Curt Lore, the gas driller, entertained a part of Aurora relatives at the Niebrugge home one day last week.

Apparently, Curt was at least temporarily living in Versailles while drilling this well. Nora and the girls were living in Rushville.

  • Greensburg, June 24, 1904 – Curt Lore of Rushville was here Wednesday on his way home from Dillsboro where he has been drilling gas wells.
  • Versailles Republican – September 7, 1904 – Frank Johnson, President of the Dillsboro Oil and Gas Company gives the Republican a statement that work will be resumed on the wells soon. No new well will be drilled, as has been reported, but drilling will begin at the depth which had been reached by Curt Lore when he claimed he struck saltwater.

Does this mean Curt was done drilling in Versailles? Does that mean he spent more time at home with Nora and the girls? If so, did he have an income? The newspapers often tell us just enough to spawn many more questions.

  • Greensburg, August 25, 1905 – Curt Lore, of Rushville, was here yesterday.

Nora’s uncle, Philip Kirsch, the disabled Civil War veteran who never married and lived at the Kirsch House with her family passed away on September 9, 1905. It was thanks to his will that we identified several of Nora’s aunts and uncles, especially the ones who had moved away, and their children. Philip tells us, among other things, that his brother John is deceased and has two children whose names he can’t remember.

Other than money left to his siblings and their children, Philip (left, above) bequeathed everything to “my dear brother Jacob Kirsch being for the kind treatment which has always been given me by him and all of his family.”


Beginning in 1906, Nora’s life was coming progressively more unraveled. It’s obvious that Curt is gone more than he is at home.

Someplace along the way, Curt contracted Typhoid, was ill for weeks on end, and nearly died. He did at least somewhat recover.

Nora’s maternal grandmother, Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel, died on January 3, 1906. Nora and the girls spend the holidays in Aurora and returned home the following day, apparently before her grandmother’s funeral.

By 1906, their eldest daughter, Edith Lore, was graduating from High School and received a scholarship, even at that day and time. Edith was scheduled to attend Business School in the state capital in Indianapolis when Typhoid struck the family in Rushville.

Nora did her best to protect her family. She sent three daughters to her mother’s in Aurora. One child, Curtis, remained at home to help Nora care for Curt. Curt survived Typhoid but remained ill, perhaps unknown to the family, with TB.

His behavior changed or maybe he simply had less patience and restraint. He managed to get himself arrested for “provoking the Marshall.”

Not to be deterred, Curt bid on and was awarded bridge repair and other contracts in and arround Rushville. He tried desperately to support his family, although according to Eloise, he was unable to fulfill those contracts and Nora had to somehow settle those affairs after his death. Eloise also said that at some point, Nora quietly approached the “powers that be,” or were, and asked that Curt not be awarded any additional contracts. Nora had clearly seen the writing on the wall, even if Curt hadn’t or didn’t want to believe the message.

On September 4, 1906, Nettie Giegoldt, Nora’s first cousin, her aunt’s daughter, died of Tuberculosis in Aurora at 26 years of age. The family had been caring for her for two years.

Nora’s mother and family were devastated, but this string of deaths wasn’t over.

  • December 5, 1906 – Curt Lore who has been working in the contracting business on the southern extension of the I. C. & S. traction line has returned from Scottsburg.

Wait? What? Curt’s working on the train line? What happened to well-drilling? When did this shift take place?

  • January 4, 1907 – Curt Lore of Rushville visited friends here Tuesday.
  • September 6, 1907 – Curt Lore of Rushville spent Wednesday here.

Nora’s maternal grandfather, George Drechsel, died in February of 1908 at 85 years of age.

Nora did receive a small respite in the summer of 1908 when she visited the new amusement parks in Indianapolis – although in those long skirts she must have roasted to death.

Nora’s sister, Louise, and her husband Todd Fiske had come to live at the Kirsch House with Nora’s parents after Todd lost his job as a civil engineer. On Halloween night, 1908, Todd took his own life in the garden at the Kirsch House by shooting himself as a party was taking place inside.

A couple of days later, the politician that Edith Lore worked for in Rushville, attempting to get him elected, was defeated. Edith who had planned to work for him in Washington was devastated.

A week later, on November 9th, Edith traveled by train to visit her grandmother at the Kirsch House. The entire family was devastated by Todd’s death and the manner in which it occurred. Edith stayed about a week and returned home to Rushville.

Whatever happened in Aurora profoundly changed the trajectory of Edith’s life.

None days later, on November 18th, Edith, Nora’s oldest child, unexpectedly married John Ferverda, at the minister’s house in Rushville.

  • November 20, 1908

It’s unknown whether Nora or Curt were in attendance, although if Nora had any inkling, she would have been at that wedding, come hell or high water. What we do know is that Curt was ill again and Nora was probably exhausted after months of illness, death, and uncertainty – on top of 4 children to care for.

Clearly, Nora and Curt both knew something was very wrong. Curt deeded his portion of Lot 5 to Nora for $1 on April 15, 1909. That must have been one very sad day for Nora. No more pretending.

Nora went about her activities, taking the girls to church and trying to make things as normal as possible for her children.

In June of 1909, Nora’s sister, Carrie came to visit, bringing devastating news. Carrie had married Joseph Wymond after eloping to Rushville in 1902, probably against the wishes of her parents. But Joe had a horrible secret. He had either before their marriage or shortly thereafter contracted syphilis – in turn giving it to Carrie. Wymond died in an institution in July of 1910, but Carrie would suffer until 1926 when she passed away of the same disease.

Truthfully, I’m surprised Jacob Kirsch didn’t kill Wymond.

Curt was ill for at least a year before his death in November 1909, meaning throughout all of 1909 as well as the end of 1908. He tried desperately to work, oiling the streets in June. This was probably their only source of income by this time.

The newspapers reveal that family members are somehow all deciding to come and visit. They too know what’s in the offing.

Another source tells us that Curt was actually ill for three years – which would include the Typhoid outbreak. I suspect that he was ill with both Typhoid and TB, concurrently. It’s nothing short of a miracle that he recovered at all, even if not completely.

It’s possible that both Curt and Nettie, Nora’s great-niece who died of TB in September of 1908 contracted TB during the family’s Christmas gathering in Aurora at Christmas 1906. Tuberculosis was quite contagious and far more widespread than we realize today, so that could simply have been an unfortunate coincidence.

Life continued to unravel. Nora and the girls had no income when Curt became ill and then died, and they would be slowly descending into both depression and poverty.

Two months before Curt’s death, Nora’s sister Carrie’s husband, Joe Wymond, was committed to a sanitorium where he would eventually die.

Nora and her sister were both devastated, and Nora knew what her sister’s fate would follow that same horrific path.

The end of 1909 was the bleakest of times.

1910 – A Downsized Life

Immediately after Curt’s death and prior to the 1910 census, Nora moved to a much smaller house and found a job.

I heaved a huge sigh of relief – especially about the job.

Now Nora could begin healing. Right?

Begin the next chapter of her life. Right?


Curtis, Nora’s daughter that helped care for Curt had also contracted TB. The young people in the community, Curtis’s friends, embraced the family and began holding fundraisers.

In January 1910, John Ferverda, Edith Lore’s new husband, the local railroad station agent was transferred from Rushville to Silver Lake, Indiana. Nora lost another cog in her support system when her daughter and son-in-law moved away.

Nora, despite everything that had transpired, still needed to raise two younger daughters, Mildred who turned 11 in 1910, and Eloise who turned 8.

In July of 1910, Joseph Smithfield Wymond, Carrie’s scoundrel husband died. I don’t know if Nora was furious or relieved, or maybe some of both. Mostly, she would have been very concerned about her sister, Carrie, who had the same disease. Carrie and Wymond were still legally married, but Carrie lost most of his estate to his family.

However, in August, Nora enjoyed a much-deserved respite. Along with her sisters, Nora visited her daughter and best friend who had also moved to Northern Indiana. Three of Nora’s sisters had been widowed within 18 months. They needed to smile and laugh together.

It’s a good thing Nora took this opportunity because it was likely the last time the Kirsch sisters and their daughters were all together. I hope this was a joyful, carefree time. It sure looks like they were enjoying themselves. Curtis is Nora’s daughter, of course. Aunt Cad is Carrie. I don’t know but suspect Nora’s sister Ida is obscured behind her sister, Lula. I don’t know the identity of the woman in the water, but it could have been John Ferverda’s sister – Edith’s sister-in-law. It doesn’t look like Nora to me. Nora probably took the picture. Oh, and by the way, these aren’t dresses, they are bathing suits.

In November 1911, Nora’s daughter, Curtis, entered a TB sanitarium, hoping for improvement.

By January 1912, the young people in the community, Carrie’s friends, were frantically fundraising.

On February 7, 1912, Curtis died, a month before her 21st birthday. Two years and three months after Curt had died.

The newspaper tells us that Nora’s best friend returned home for Curtis’s funeral. God knows Nora would have needed that.

A few days later, Curtis, so young and full of promise was laid to rest beside Curt.

Will this tale of tragedy and grief NEVER END for Nora? How much can one woman take?

You know it’s bad when you look backwards in time, and the “bad old days,”  retrospectively, look great.

Picking Herself Up – AGAIN!

Nora had to pick up and put herself back together. Again. She had no choice. Nora STILL had two daughters at home who were both grieving too.

Nora’s life had been anything but easy. Curt’s past and his hellish death would haunt Nora, as well as the knock that would come on the door one day.

Nora had been through unremitting, utter living Hell.

That woman was made of iron forged in the hottest of fires.

I Need a Breath

I truly cannot even begin to imagine what Nora was going through. She was now positioned at the proverbial fork in the road and there was no turning back.

There was also little opportunity for widows in the workplace. Women were supposed to get married and stay that way.

Had Nora tried to make the best of a marginal marriage – one based on a foundation of dishonesty? Truthfully, I don’t know. She truly seemed to love Curt and wanted to be buried beside him, with his surname. Not being buried with her “current” surname was a huge social departure at that time. I’m proud of her spunk. She had already faced down the most horrible situations possible – a triviling thing like a nonconformist surname was like, “pppssshaw.”

Regardless of what transpired within their marriage, she and Curt put smiles on their faces, raised their lovely daughters, and played their roles in polite society.

They never owned a home, so Nora had no assets to sell. The racehorses were probably gone years before – back when Curt was ill for so many months and couldn’t work.

Nora was only 46 years old, but she probably felt like she had lived a long century. Her husband who had been absent so much was now truly gone and never coming back – leaving her entirely alone.

Curt suffered terribly for about three years before his death. Nora and her girls had to bear witness.

Nora tried desperately to protect herself and her children from those dread diseases – both Typhoid and TB.

Nora’s oldest daughter, Edith, had married and moved away.

Nora’s best friend had moved away.

Her sisters had been tragically widowed.

Daughter Curtis had caught TB and passed away too.

Nora still had two daughters to raise and no form of income.

What were her options?

The Fork in The Road

Nora could probably have gone back to the Kirsch House, except her parents were aging by this time too. Nora knew that their time at the Kirsch House was limited.

This family photo taken about 1908, before Curt’s death, with Jacob in the white beard at upper right and Barbara in the black skirt shows that they are aging. Hotel work is neverending and exhausting – and the family had to do everything. They must surely have been chronically tired.

In 1912, when Nora’s daughter, Curtis, died, Nora’s father and mother were 71 and 64, respectively. Both at or beyond “retirement age” and both still working in a labor-intensive occupation.

Nora’s entire life for the past quarter-century had unfolded in Rushville. She didn’t want to leave what little stability and social support structure she had. She certainly didn’t want to move back to Aurora to a situation that would be dissolving sooner rather than later.

Nora picked herself up, dusted herself off, and managed to find a job.

The Way Forward

  • March 14, 1912

By spring, Nora had taken a position as a sales lady in the local department store selling hats in their new millinery shop. Life had to go on and Nora was one determined, resilient lady!

“Hats, why yes. Of course I can sell hats!”

These ads don’t tell us, but the Rushville 100th Anniversary edition newspaper published on October 22, 1940 reveals that the Mauzy’s Department Store after 1910 was a three-story brick building at the northeast corner of Third and Main.

While this is not the building, the photo on this postcard was taken half way between 2nd 3rd on Main. One of the tall buildings on the right at the next intersection would be the Mauzy’s Building. Nora would have walked up and down this sidewalk daily, wearing a stylish hat of course!

This 1913 postcard shows the business section of Rushville on North Main. One of those three-story buildings has to be Mauzy’s.

  • March 26, 1912

Just look at that hat!

Trust me, the British with their Fascinators have nothing on 1912 women in the US. I’d wager these hats weren’t cheap, either.

This Rushville building is labeled the “Bliss Bros” and is located on the north part of Main Street.

  • April 12, 1912 – Nora Lore to Jas. C. Clore part lot 5 in the original plat of Rushville, $300.

Nora sold the lot that Curt deeded to her before his death. I originally thought it had probably represented their dream together of building a home, but that wasn’t the case at all. This was the deed to Curt’s portion of the icehouse property. He had also been drilling for gas wells there.

This seems to have been Curt’s last-ditch effort to do what he could to provide Nora with an ace in the hole. Regardless, she surely could use that $300.

This lot is located at Morgan and Water today and looks to be unbuildable due to its proximity to the river. It was probably unbuildable then too – but more valuable for what you could potentially DO with it..

This 1879 Rushville map shows the lot number.

The lot to the left of Curt’s lot, now Nora’s, seems to be the old mill, although I can’t read it entirely. Notice the church in the block behind.

This postcard from 1912 shows the frozen mill race in about 1912, with the church steeple in sight. The old mill location is abandoned today, but I think Lot 5 would have been on the right-hand side of the photo, perhaps outside the picture.

Below, the lot at Morgan and Water today.

Riverside Park, the original horse racing track, is right next door, on the left and lot 5 is the parking lot with the red star. Nora and Curt lived at the red star in the upper right hand corner, and after Curt’s death, Nora moved to the green star on First Street.

Always on the lookout for an opportunity, maybe Curt hoped to build a tavern or an establishment that would leverage the racetrack traffic.

  • October 17, 1912 – Mrs. John Ferverda of Silver Lake is the guest of her mother, Mrs. Curt Lore.
  • November 20, 1912 – Mrs. John Ferveda of Silver Lake is the guest of her mother Mrs. C. B. Lore and family.

Fortunately, as Nora readjusted to her new normal, Edith came home often.

However, another challenge was soon to follow.


1913 didn’t start out well, at all.

Rushville was located along Flat Rock Creek which didn’t just look to be flood prone, it was. Although this beautiful stream looks deceptively gentle.

Just how badly Flat Rock could flood was something that Nora and everyone else in Rushville would soon come to understand very well, just two days after Easter in the spring of 1913.

This photo, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, shows downtown Rushville, much further from the river than Nora’s lot. Late March of 1913 ushered in what would become known as the Great Flood of 1913 when rivers throughout Indiana and the central US flooded due to a combination of snow runoff and rainfall. Areas closer to the river in Rushville saw loss of life.


The 100th anniversary issue of the Rushville Republican Newspaper in October 1940 called the March 25, 1913 event the “worst flood ever.”

I’m sure beyond a doubt based on this description that Nora was anything but high and dry, although if she was lucky, maybe the flood waters only reach her door, not inside. Maybe it depended on how many steps into the house. Perhaps Nora’s years in Aurora weathering the Ohio River floods had prepared her. Maybe this flood wasn’t nearly as difficult for Nora as others.

Maybe after all Nora had been through, this was “only a flood,” said in my most dismissive voice😊

It’s not like Nora didn’t already have enough to deal with. I’m sure Nora couldn’t help but think about the East Hill Cemetery where Curt and Curtis rested being inundated with floodwater too.

In this photo of Nora, taken in 1913, she does not look happy.

Nora may well have been modeling a hat and coat for her millinery position, but she looks intractably sad to me.

Fortunately, Edith came to visit again soon after the flood.

  • May 2, 1913 – Mrs. John Ferverda visiting with her mother, Mrs. C. B. Lore and family.

Somehow, in 1913, according to the date on this photo, Nora and her sister Ida went to  Florida.

Was that Nora’s favorite necklace. She’s wearing it in later 1920-era Chicago photos too. Nora apparently likes hats – maybe that’s why she got that millinery position.

Nora looks sad, but then again, she had just buried her daughter after burying her husband a couple years earlier. She has a right to be sad.

For a long time, I discounted this photo and didn’t think more about it – but Florida comes up again in 1940. Somehow, the Kirsch girls had a long association with Florida.


  • February 12, 1914 – Birth of Lincoln is Remembered – A girls quartet sang a medley composed of national airs. The girls who composed the quarter were <names omitted> and Mildred Lore.

Mildred is now 11.

  • February 24, 1914 – High School Observes Washington’s Birthday – …The next number scored a big hit with the audience. It was a girls quartet composed of Mary Louise Bliss, Mary Louise Poe, Esther Anderson and Mildred Lore. They sang a selection, “The First History Lesson” which contained historical facts, in a confused form – all of the great events taking place in the year of 1492.  This number caused a roar of laughter.  As an encore the girls sang, “They put Rushville upon the map in 1492, The boys quartet was singing yet, in 1492, Our team was playing basketball and winning games, but not quite all, The faculty was teaching then, in 1492.”
  • February 27. 1914 – The Misses Mildred Lore and Freda Hiner went to Milroy this morning to visit the schools of that place. They will remain over tonight to see the Rushville-Milroy basketball game.
  • March 11, 1914 – Mrs. John Ferverda has returned home to Silver Lake after spending a few days here with her mother Mrs. Curt Lore.
  • March 25, 1914 – Mrs. J. W. Ferverda has returned home to Silver Lake after spending time with her mother Mrs. Curt Lore.
  • May 2, 1914 – Mildred Lore sang in a comic opera.
  • June 1, 1914 – Mrs. Nora Lore and daughters Eloise and Mildred left this morning to spend the summer in Winona Lake, Indiana.

What happened to Nora’s millinery job? And how is Nora affording to spend the summer in Winona Lake? I’d wager, she is spending time with friends or maybe with Edith, but she still has to eat and pay rent on her home in Rushville.

  • September 19, 1914 – Mildred Lore (and others) gave a wiener wrist roast at the dam, north of this city, last evening and was followed by a theater party at the Princess.
  • October 2, 1914 – Mrs. Carrie Wymond returned this morning to her home in Aurora after spending a few days here with Mrs. Nora Lore.
  • October 15, 1914 – Mrs. Theodore Reed and…entertained at bid euchre yesterday afternoon at the home of Mrs. Reed in North Main street. There were 7 tables. An elegant dinner was served late in the afternoon. Mrs. C. B. Lore (and 2 others) served. In the evening, the husbands of some of the guests were entertained at dinner.

This is one of the few examples of Nora being involved with her former friends. I hope she was able to play cards too, and wasn’t just relegated to being a server. Was it difficult for Nora when the other husbands joined, emphasizing Curt’s absence?

It’s challenging to exist as a single person in a world made for couples.

  • October 17, 1914 – Miss Mildred Lore entertained last evening with an oyster stew, the following guests…(list omitted.)
  • October 20, 1914 – Mr. and Mrs. Will Coverston of Goshen arrived last night to be the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Curt Lore in west Second street.

Nora now lives on West First. I wonder if the reporter just typed incorrectly. Also included “Mr.” Ouch!

  • October 21, 1914 – Mr. and Mrs. Ed. L. Beer entertained at 6 o’clock dinner last evening Mr. and Mrs. Will Coverston of Goshen and Mrs. Curt Lore.

Nora’s best friend came back for a visit again.

  • November 25, 1914 – Miss Nora Lore spent the day with friends in Milroy.
  • November 26, 1914 – Mrs. Nora Lore spent the day with relatives in Indianapolis.
  • November 30, 914 – Miss Nora Lore was among the passengers this morning to Carthage.
  • December 12, 1914 – Mrs. Nora Lore was in Milroy on business today.

What was the business that Nora was “attending to” in Milroy? Who lived there. Beginning at this point, she went to Milroy a lot for quite some time. Based on what Eloise said, Nora had a clothing construction and alteration business out of her home.


  • February 15, 1915 – Mrs. Nora Lore was a passenger this morning to Milroy.
  • February 17, 1915 – Mrs. Nora Lore spent the day in Milroy on business.
  • February 24, 1915 – Mrs. Nora Lore spent the day in Milroy on business.
  • March 2, 1915 – Mrs. Nora Lore visited friends this morning in Milroy.
  • March 4, 1915 – Mrs. J. W. Ferverda returned to her home this morning in Silver Lake after visiting her mother, Mrs. Nora Lore in this city.
  • March 8, 1915 – Mrs. Nora Lore spend the day with friends in Milroy.
  • March 15, 1915 – Mrs. Nora Lore was in Milroy and Carthage today on business.
  • March 29, 1915 – Mrs. Nora Lore was in Carthage this afternoon on business.
  • May 4, 1915 – Mrs. J. W. Ferverda returned home this morning in Silver Lake after a visit with her mother, Mrs. Nora Lore of this city.

This would have been a joyful visit, with Edith now pregnant for Nora’s first grandchild and sharing the news. Things are definitely looking up for Nora!

  • June 5, 1915 – Mildred Lore performed “O Mother Dear Jerusalem” and “In the Upper Garden There” for a special Presbyterian church performance.
  • June 11, 1915 – Mildred Lore sang a duet, “Allegiance to Two Flags” for a Children’s Day church observance.
  • June 16, 1915 – Mildred Lore joined a group of girls being entertained.
  • June 25, 1915 – Patriotic Service to be Held – Program at First Presbyterian Church Sunday Night Calculated to Arouse Patriotism – No Sermon to be Preached – “Tenting Tonight” by Missed Kathleen Hogstett, Mildred Lore and Male Chorus.
  • July 6, 1915 – Mrs. W. R. Coverston of Goshen is spending a few days with Mrs. Nora Lore of this city.

Good, Nora’s best friend is visiting again.

Edith and Eloise were separated by 15 years – nearly a generation. Curtis was Edith’s best friend. After Curtis died, Edith became close lifelong with her sister, Eloise. After Edith’s death, Eloise, who had no children, became a “second mother” to Mom and a second grandmother to me.

  • July 9, 1915 – Miss Eloise Lore left today for Silver Lake where she will spend the summer. Miss Nora Lore left today for a visit in Goshen, Indiana. Mrs. W. R. Coverston returned today to her home in Goshen after a week’s visit with Mrs. Nora Lore of this city.

With Nora visiting in northern Indiana, who was taking care of 12-year-old Mildred? Perhaps Mildred was staying alone, or with friends. She seemed to be traveling on the train alone.

  • July 22, 1915 – Miss Mildred Lore was the guest of Miss Juanita Massey in Connersville last evening.
  • July 29, 1915 – Miss Mildred Lore went to Indianapolis Thursday for a short visit with friends and relatives.
  • August 25, 1915 – Miss Mildred Lore has returned from a short visit with friends and relatives in Indianapolis.

Carrie Kirsch Wymond lived in Indianapolis for some time. I suspect that’s who Mildred went to visit.

  • September 15, 1915

And here’s the answer. A woman way ahead of her time, Nora, clearly a very talented, resourceful seamstress now owns her own business.

This ad actually ran several times and includes the first mention of a phone which is a bit ironic since Curt, along with others, founded the local phone company.

  • November 2, 1915 – Mrs. Nora Lore was a visitor in Milroy today.
  • November 4, 1915 – Mrs. Nora Lore was a visitor in Milroy today.

I can’t help but wonder what Nora did in Milroy. Milroy is close by and she visited often.

November 24, 1915 – Edith Lore Ferverda gave birth to her first child, a boy, Harold Lore Ferverda. Nora’s first grandchild. She must have been thrilled.

  • December 4, 1915 – Word has been received here that a baby boy has been born to the wife of John Ferverda, formerly Miss Edith Lore of this city, at their home in Silver Lake.
  • December 21, 1915 – Miss Mildred Lore was part of the program given by 11 young ladies at the Old Melodies concert to be used for charity at the Graham Annex auditorium.
  • December 22, 1915 – Mrs. John Ferverda of Silver Lake, Indiana arrived today for a short visit with her mother, Mrs. Nora Lore of this city.
  • December 27, 1915 – Mrs. Nora Lore and her daughters, Mildred and Eloise went to Aurora to spend the holidays.
  • December 31, 1915 – John Ferveda of Silver Lake arrived today to make a short visit here.

Bringing the baby home to meet grandma. This would have been pure joy.

What a wonderful way to end the year.


Things seem to have stabilized for Nora and the girls and are looking bright for John and Edith.

  • January 8, 1916 – J. W. Ferverda, Big Four agent at Silver Lake and well known here has purchased a hardware store there in partnership with R. M. Frye. He has resigned his position with the railroad company. Mr. Ferverda married Miss Edith Lore of this city.

Before discovering this announcement, I didn’t know when John purchased the hardware store. Sadly, he would eventually lose the store. He was too kind-hearted and granted too much credit that could never be repaid.

  • January 10, 1916 – Miss Mildred Lore returned this morning from a visit of several weeks in Aurora.

I’m baffled about how a child in school could spend several weeks during the school year visiting. Mildred would have been 16.

This photo of Mildred was probably taken about this time.

  • January 13, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore and Mrs. John Ferveda of Silver Lake who have been visiting relatives in Aurora returned this morning.
  • January 17, 1916 – John Fervada returned to his home in Silver Lake this morning after spending the weekend in this city with his wife who is visiting her mother, Mrs. Nora Lore.
  • January 25, 1916 – Mrs. John Fervada left today for her home in Silver Lake after an extended visit with relatives in this city. She was accompanied by her mother, Mrs. Nora Lore.

Nora went home with Edith to help with the 2-month-old baby. Was Mildred, age 16, watching Eloise?

  • January 31, 1916 – A merry group of girls assembled yesterday in response to the invitations given out by Mrs. George Craig who entertained at dinner complimentary to the 18th birthday of her daughter Naomi. The pretty bevy of girls completed an effective picture as they gathered about the bedecked table, the center of which was embellished with a huge floral design of narcissuses banked up with ferns, that twined out upon the white linen. Four courses composed the delicious dinners, the appointments of which were charming. Those participating in the festal occasion were <names omitted> and Mildred Lore.
  • February 21, 1916 – Mrs. W. R. Covertson returned to her home in Goshen this morning after a visit with Mrs. Nora Lore of this city.
  • February 24, 1916 – Mrs. W. R. Coverston returned to her home in Goshen this morning after a visit with Mrs. Nora Lore of this city.
  • 28, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore was among the passengers this morning to Milroy.
  • March 6, 1916 – Mrs. John Ferveda (sic) of Silver Lake is the guest of her mother, Mrs. Curt Lore on West Second street.
  • March 6, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore spent the morning in Milroy.
  • March 13, 1916 – Mrs. John Ferverda of Silver Lake is the guest of her mother Mrs. Nora Lore.
  • March 21, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore visited in Milroy today on business.
  • March 24, 1916 – Miss Mildred Lore was a visitor in Indianapolis today.
  • March 28, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore spent Monday in Milroy.
  • April 3, 1916 – Mrs. Curt Lore will entertain a small company of friends at her home on West second street honoring Mrs. Will Coverston of Goshen who formerly resided here.
  • April 10, 1916

  • April 17, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore spent the day in Milroy on business.
  • April 29, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore went to Indianapolis this morning.
  • May 1 & 2, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore visited in Carthage this morning on business.
  • May 12, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore visited in Indianapolis today on business.
  • May 27, 1916 – Miss Eloise Lore will spend Sunday in Indianapolis.
  • June 2, 1916 – Miss Mildred Lore went to Brookville today for a visit of several weeks.
  • June 8, 1916 – Miss Mildred Lore has returned from a visit with relatives in Brookville.

Who lived in Brookville, Indiana?

  • June 9, 1916 – At the Charity Ball, Miss Mildred Lore and Fred Osborne and Miss Josephine Kennedy and Danning Havens as second couple led the grand march which was beautiful as the figures were made.
  • June 12, 1916 – Miss Mildred Lore went to Indianapolis this morning to spend the day.
  • June 13, 1916 – Miss Ruth Miller of Milroy is giving a house party for several of her girlfriends this week at the home of her uncle and aunt. Mildred Lore attending.
  • June 17, 1916 – Miss Eloise Lore went to Indianapolis today for a visit.
  • June 20, 1916 – Miss Mildred Lore has accepted a clerical position at the traction station.

I suspect this means that Mildred graduated from high school in 1916.

The traction station was across from the Presbyterian Church where Nora and the girls attended.

  • June 22, 1916 – Miss Eloise Lore is with relatives in Indianapolis for an extended visit.
  • Miss Mildred Lore went to Winona Lake this morning to spend the summer.

How did Mildred go to Winona Lake for the summer if she accepted a clerical position at the traction station two days earlier?

  • June 22, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore of this city and Mrs. W. R. Coverston of Goshen are visiting in Seattle and other points in the state of Washington, where they will stay for the remainder of the summer.

This, I find utterly baffling. How did Nora manage to take a trip to Seattle? How was she living? When one thinks of a poor widow woman, one thinks of someone who works every day. Maybe Nora wasn’t as poor as everyone thought? Maybe her business was doing well, although that’s not exactly the portrait Eloise painted.

Or maybe the train ticket was free because Mrs. Coverston’s husband worked for the railroad, as did Nora’s son-in-law – and they were going to visit someone’s relatives?

When Nora came home, she went to Lake Winona, probably with her sisters.

  • August 16, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore of this city will be visiting at Lake Winona for several days.
  • September 11, 1916 – J. W. Fervada (sic) of Silver Lake, formerly employed at the Big Four railroad station here, who married Miss Edith Lore of this city, sustained a fractured rib while unloading manure spreaders one day recently, according to word received here.
  • September 20, 1916 – Miss Mildred Lore has accepted a clerical position at the traction station.
  • October 2, 1916 – Miss Mildred Lore spent the weekend with friends in Indianapolis and saw “The Bird of Paradise” Saturday evening.
  • October 3, 1916 – Men organizing the Social Club [in 1896] were…C.B. Lore.

I wonder if this article startled Nora as much as it did me.

  • Aurora, October 5, 1916

  • Rushville, October 20, 1916 – Phi Delta Kappa Dinner Dance in Newcastle. Members of the fraternity from Anderson, Knightstown, Muncy and Rushville attended. A party motored from this city <names omitted> …and Mildred Lore.


Life had settled into a rhythmic, rather normal routine again, so what followed was QUITE the shock.

  • October 30, 1916 – Mrs. Nora Lore of this city and Thomas H. McCormack of Wabash were quietly married Saturday afternoon by the Rev. D. Ira Lambert. They will make their home in Wabash where Mr. McCormack is a foreman in a machine room.


Where did this come from?

“Quietly married?” What the heck does that mean?

Until I really LOOKED at their marriage license a second time, I never realized something very important. I had always wondered why this marriage was so hush-hush in the family. I presumed it was because it ended, at least functionally, when McCormick or McCormack abandoned Nora. They never officially divorced because you can’t divorce someone you can’t locate. He quite literally ran off.

While that may be partly the case of why this marriage was a taboo subject, that’s likely not the entire story. The fact that this marriage even occurred was so hush-hush that I literally did not know that her legal name was not Lore. That made tracing her 1933 World’s Fair quilt at the Exhibition impossible until someone spilled the beans.

There is more than a hint of scandal surrounding this marriage itself. Thomas McCormack was divorced THE SAME DAY he and Nora were married.


So he did what? Go directly from one courthouse to the other. He was divorced for a total of maybe, what, 6 or 8 hours? Start the day married to one woman and end it married to another? I can think of all kinds of bad jokes but I’ll restrain myself.

The same day. Yep, that’s what their marriage application says.

Furthermore, on the top of the application, it says, “Please do not publish.”  You think?

Imagine how unhappy they were when this was published anyway.

Also, and I have no idea if this is significant, but his surname is spelled elsewhere as McCormick, not McCormack. He signed as McCormack here too. Was he trying to cover something? Maybe it’s nothing at all, but now I’m on the lookout for everything.

How did Nora even meet this man who was living and working in Wabash?

It’s 90 miles from Rushville to Wabash. The train does pass through Wabash on the way to Silver Lake where Edith lived, but passengers don’t disembark in Wabash.

How long had Nora known McCormick/McCormack?

I found at least a partial answer to that question. Thomas McCormack and his family are living in Rushville in the 1900 census. His daughter was born in 1890 there, meaning that Nora’s children and his would have been the same age.

McCormack was a machinist in the 1900 census, but this Rushville newspaper entry on December 1, 1896 was quite interesting.

  • Arthur B. Irvin has received a letter from Thomas McCormack, who, with Joseph Phillips has located at Monkey River, British Honduras, Central America. They arrived there on the 19th of this month and have commenced raising bananas and coffee on a farm already purchased.

Apparently, he had a bit of the same adventurous spirit that Curt had. He’s also noted as a “wheelman,” going on bicycle excursions with groups of men.

  • January 8, 1897 – Thomas McCormack and Joseph Phillips who have been in Central America for the past two months returned home last Wednesday to stay. McCormack went on the Kennard, Henry county where his family are living.
  • February 15, 1901 – Thomas McCormick moved his family to Owensboro, Kentucky last Saturday where he is engaged in the manufacturing business.

By 1906, McCormack’s daughter was married in Kentucky where he was in the census in 1910.

What did Mildred and Eloise think of their new step-father?

What did Edith and John think of him?

I have so very many questions, but this is one of those topics where there is no one left to answer. This was the hush-hush taboo topic!

I suspect that Nora was both embarrassed and humiliated by how McCormick or however you spell his name treated her.


Ahem. Nora, girlfriend, what were you thinking?

Maybe Nora was lonely and didn’t want to be alone.

Maybe McCormick wasn’t honest with Nora either. Curt hadn’t been.

Maybe Nora was simply in love or thought she was.

This photo of Nora and Thomas McCormick was taken about 1920 in Chicago.

Nora doesn’t look happy here, either. In fact, she looks outright pained.

According to family members, Nora was anything but happy. It appears, that Nora had gone from bad to worse. Jumping from the frying pan into the fire. I just want to hug this poor woman.

I am sure that Nora’s marriage to McCormack left her friends and family all shaking their heads. One day in the not too distant future, she would be shaking hers as well.

Eventually, McCormick would abandon Nora but she looks miserable in the 3 photos we have that include them both.

In the 1930 census, Nora is living in Wabash, Indiana, listed as a widow, living with her mother, so he was absent by then and apparently, not coming back.

“Widow” was often used to cover the social embarrassment of either divorce or abandonment – both of which, at that time, reflected on the woman far more than the man.

What possessed Nora to get married literally hours after his divorce? Why?

How long was this planned?

Was Nora in a desperate financial situation?

Did Eloise even realize her mother had gotten married on October 28th?

  • November 1, 1916 – The surprise arranged last evening by Mrs. Silverton Bebout was in honor of her daughter, Helen, who was greatly surprised to be greeted by a number of her girlfriends. The home was decorated with Halloween ideas carried out in an original manner. After an evening spent playing games, and refreshments were served, the guests went on a serenading party. Guests included <names omitted> and Eloise Lore.
  • November 18, 1916 – Miss Mildred Lore went to Wabash today to join her mother, Mrs. Thomas H. McCormack, and make her home there.

What did Mildred and Eloise think about all of this?

I have SO MANY questions!


The Rushville paper continues to cover recent residents, even a year later.

  • June 28, 1917 – Miss Eloise Lore of Wabash is visiting friends and relatives here over the weekend.

On July 26th, 1917, Nora’s father, Jacob Kirsch died of stomach cancer in Aurora. She assuredly went home to help her mother and be with her family.

  • November 5, 1917 – Marriage of Miss Pauline Coverston of Goshen to Richard D. Wangelin of Indianapolis. Miss Coverston lived here formerly. Nearly a hundred guests were present including Mrs. Thomas McCormick and Miss Mildred Lore of Wabash.

Nora’s best friend’s daughter was married. Nora and Mildred were present, but her husband was not.

  • July 20, 1918 – The Misses Mildred and Eloise Lore of Wabash, formerly of this city, are visiting friends here.

By 1918, Eloise would have been 15, probably about the time this picture was taken.


Not all of the Wabash Plain Dealer papers are digitized, but many are and we can follow Nora’s life in Wabash through newsprint as well – at least to some extent.

Let’s start with McCormack. What can we discover about him?

  • January 15, 1914 – Tom McCormack was arrested by the police last night for public intoxication and locked in the Wabash County jail. He was arraigned in police court this morning on the charge and owing to the fact that this was his first offense, he was given his freedom.

This may not be “our” Thomas McCormack/McCormick. I saw another entry a few years later for a Tom, not a Thomas or T. H. McCormack and that seems to be a different person.

  • October 19, 1916 – In the divorce suit of Thomas H. McCormick vs Ellen McCormick, the defendant was called and defaulted and the evidence was heard.

Here’s the divorce action in the paper. We see that Thomas is the plaintiff, meaning he filed, and Ellen is the defendant. At that time, there was no such thing as “no fault” divorce. The actual pleadings, if they still exist, would be more explicit. However, I’ve discovered that normally they either claim adultery or extreme cruelty, because that’s the only grounds upon which one could obtain a divorce.

Divorce was quite rare. McCormick and Ellen had three children, born in 1885, 1887, and 1890. By 1916, they would have all been adults.

Ellen never remarried. McCormick remarried the same day the divorce was final. Was Nora somehow involved in this mess? I’m still baffled.

  • May 16 and 17, 1917 – For rent – large furnished rooms. Modern conveniences 279 East Main. Phone 69. Mrs. T. H. McCormack

McCormack and Nora lived on East Main and they were renting out rooms. The house still stands today.

I noticed a realtor sign in the yard and discovered that the home has 2776 square feet with 2 baths (today) and 4 bedrooms, but it’s stated that it could have 5 or 6 bedrooms. I love finding properties that are for sale, with photos!

I don’t know if McCormack owned this property or not, and it really doesn’t matter. This is where Nora lived.

The hardwood floors are original as are the staircase and windows. Nora walked here, slept here, and raised her daughters here, at least for a while. I can stroll through her home.

  • May 30, 1918 – T. H. McCormack on the list of subscribers to the Red Cross Fund for $10.
  • June 1, 1918 – Mrs. T. H. McCormack will leave Sunday on an extended visit in the southern part of the state.

Nora is clearly going to Aurora and probably Rushville too.

  • August 15, 1918 – Mrs. Louis Fisk of Indianapolis is visiting at the T. H. McCormack home.

Nora’s sister has come to visit.

  • August 17, 1918 – Mrs. Lou Fisk of Indianapolis is the guest of Mrs. T. H. McCormack on East Main Street for several days.
  • October 11, 1918 – Mrs. W. R. Coverston has returned to her home at Goshen after visiting with Mrs. T. H. McCormick.
  • October 16, 1918 – Thomas McCormick noted on the master list.

But it doesn’t say what the master list is for.

  • December 14, 1918 – Mr. and Mrs. John Ferverda and son, Lore, from Silver Lake will spend Sunday with relatives in this city.
  • Miss Mildred Lore, who has been seriously ill with influenza at her home on East Main street is improving.

They are still living on East Main.

  • April 17, 1919 – Mrs. John Servad (sic) and son, Lore, of Silver Lake are visiting at the home of T. H. McCormick on east Main Street.

This photo of Nora with her grandson, Harold Lore Ferverda was taken about 1920, based on his apparent age, possibly during this visit. Note the car in the background.

1920-1930 – Wabash, Chicago, Wabash

By the census in 1920, they had moved to Chicago. Nora lived in the house on East Main from late 1916 or early 1917 until sometime in 1919 or early 1920 – so between two and three years.

More baffling still, it appears that Mildred did not leave Wabash.

  • June 3, 1920 – The marriage of Miss Mildred Lore of this city, daughter of Mrs. T. H. McCormick of Chicago and C. F. Martin of this city, son of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Martin of LaFontaine took place this noon at 1 o’clock at the Presbyterian Manse. The young couple will make their future home in Wabash.

In September of 1921, McCormack and Nora moved back to Wabash

  • September 29, 1921 – Mr. and Mrs. T. H. McCormack of Chicago will make their future home in this city at 141 West.Hill Street. Mr. McCormack was formerly with the Cardinal Company and has returned to resume his former position.

This home no longer stands.

  • October 25, 1921 – Mrs. T. H. McCormack has returned to her home on West Main Street after visiting with friends and relatives in Aurora, Indiana for the past several weeks.
  • November 6, 1921 – Mrs. George Aultman who has been the guest of Mrs. T. H. McCormack for the past several days has returned to her home in Rushville.
  • November 16, 1921 – Mrs. George Aultman who has been the guest of Mrs. T. H. McCormack for the past several days has returned to her home in Rushville.

Mrs. Aultman is the lady from Rushville that accompanied Nora to see Carrie in the tuberculosis sanitarium all those years ago.

  • December 21, 1921 – Miss Eloise Lore of John Marshall High School, Chicago, will spend the holidays with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. T. H. McCormack on West Hill Street.

Now, it looks like Eloise stayed in Chicago! Who was she living with?

  • May 17, 1922 – Wabash Daily Plain Dealer – Mr. and Mrs. T. H. McCormack were visitors at Silver Lake yesterday.
  • June 21, 1922 – Miss Eloise Lore of Chicago will arrive in the city today to spend the summer with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. T. H. McCormack on West Hill Street.
  • June 21, 1922 – Mrs. Barbara Kirsch and Mrs. Carrie Wymond of Aurora, Indiana are visiting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. T. F. McCormick, West Hill Street.

Nora’s mother, Barbara, finally sold the Kirsch House in 1921 and officially retired, freeing her to see her family and enjoy life. She would have been 74 years old and probably quite relieved to be rid of that responsibility and work.

Photo enhanced and colorized at MyHeritage.

This 4 generation photo of, left to right, Nora, Mildred holding her son Jim Martin and Barbara and baby Jim Martin was taken in 1922.

  • June 21, 1922 – Mr. and Mrs. George Aultman of Rushville visited here yesterday at the home of Mr. and Mrs. T. H. McCormack on West Hill Street.
  • August 12, 1922 – Mrs. T. H. McCormick will go to Chicago, Monday.

Nora had moved with McCormick back to Chicago. They lived in Wabash less than a year the second time.

  • August 31, 1922 – Mrs. T. H. McCormick won an auction at the Dry Cleaner in Wabash.
  • December 22, 1922 – Mrs. T. H. McCormick will arrive in the city Saturday from Chicago to spend a few days with relatives and friends here. She will go on to Silver Lake for a visit before returning home.

My mother, Nora’s granddaughter was born a few days later. Nora came home for Christmas and to be with her daughter when the baby was born.

  • January 2, 1923 – Mrs. T. H. McCormick has returned to her home in Chicago after spending the holidays in the city with relatives and friends.
  • February 9, 1923 – Eloise Lore is visiting her mother in Chicago.

I suspect that Eloise was living with Mildred and her husband.

  • February 27, 1923 – Miss Eloise Lore returned last evening from a week’s trip to Chicago where she visited her mother. Mrs. T. H. McCormick.
  • June 29, 1923 – Mrs. T. H. McCormick of Chicago will arrive in Wabash tomorrow to be the guest of her daughter, Miss Eloise Lore until Sunday. She will go to Silver Lake Sunday afternoon to visit over the Fourth of July.

Nora visited Silver Lake often where her picture was taken with her three grandchildren, Mom as a babe in arms, her brother Lore looking at Mom, and cousin Jim Martin holding the handlebars.

At this point, Eloise, based on the way the newspaper snippet is written, appears to be living on her own in Wabash.

There are a total of 52 entries for Eloise between 1919 and August 1923. Then, silence. Mildred is found in the newspaper until her marriage to Claude Martin on June 3, 1920. Eloise married in 1929.

Mildred and Eloise were both stenographers.

Other than the fact that McCormick deserted her in this timeframe, we know little about Nora’s life between 1923 and 1930 with a few exceptions.

Nora’s brother, Edward, died at 54 of paralysis, likely a stroke, in July of 1924 in Edwardsport, Indiana. Two of his children had died as infants in the 1890s, but he left two children. Ed’s death was unexpected and must have hit Nora hard. He was her younger sibling, and her first sibling to pass away.

Nora’s beloved sister, Carrie, died a horrific death in 1926 of syphilis thanks to her unfortunate marriage, having been institutionalized for two and a half years. Carrie had no children. Only Nora’s two brothers had children, two each, that survived to adulthood.

In 1927, Nora’s parent’s younger siblings would begin to pass away as well, with John Kirsch who lived in Indianapolis dying in 1927.  Anna Maria Kirsch Kramer who had moved to Collinsville, Illinois when first married, the last of Nora’s paternal aunts and uncles left this mortal realm in October of 1929. It feels like the end of an era when that last person passes on.

The 1930s – Quilting in the Little House in Wabash

In 1930, Nora is once again found in the census living in Wabash. She is recorded as a widow, although she isn’t. Her elderly mother is living with her.

My mother had fond memories of visiting her grandmother and great-grandmother at “the little house” in Wabash and watching the women hand quilt on a quilt frame extended from the living room ceiling with pulleys.

Years later, Mom showed me the home and indeed, it matches the location on the census and on Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s death certificate. Mom said she remembered Barbara Drechsel Kirsch sitting on this porch, inviting Mom to come and sit beside her when she was a little girl.

Nora’s mother, Barbara, died of a stroke on June 30, 1930, at home with Nora at 123 West Sinclair. Ironically, even though Barbara lived with Nora after she sold the Kirsch House and left Aurora, Nora said that she regretted that she could not help her mother more “when she needed it.” She meant at the Kirsch House, especially after Jacob died in 1917, I’m sure. Nora had absolutely nothing to regret. She had more on her hands than any human could have been expected to deal with, without factoring in Barbara’s situation.

I know Nora’s sisters helped as much as they could. Carrie lived at the Kirsch House for a long time after her husband’s death but had moved to Indianapolis by 1917. All of the Kirsch children moved away from Aurora, the last one leaving in 1920.

I suspect that like many quilters, Nora salved her grief by quilting.

In 1933, Mom’s family took Nora to the Chicago World’s Fair where her “Climbing Vine” quilt was on display in the Sears Pavillion, representing the state of Indiana. Of course, the country was in the throes of the Great Depression and the family could not afford to spend the night, so they drove round trip in one very long 24 hour day, taking food along for picnics. They would have picked one very excited Nora up at this little house in Wabash where she created award-winning quilts for the world to enjoy.

In the late 1980s, a full half-century later, Nora’s quilts were once again displayed and honored – but this time as a group in a national show hosted at Rockome Gardens in Illinois.

Me, my daughter and Mother celebrated Nora’s accomplishments together at the show. Mother was thrilled. Such an emotional day with Mom sharing her memories of Nora. Now, of course, mother has joined her.

That jacket Mom is wearing, her favorite, hangs on the back of a chair in my sewing area – just so I know she’s close. Kind of an unusual way to get a long-distance hug and reinforcement from Mom, but it works.


Nora translated the beauty of flower gardens into her many quilts. This one was named “Picket Fence.” Nora gave many quilts to her daughters, their children, and other family members.

In retrospect, I think that the 1930s in Wabash were, in many ways, Nora’s happiest years. Nora was in her mid-60s, her three living daughters were grown, married and doing well, and McCormick was gone. Nora enjoyed her grandchildren who lived nearby and came into her own as an artist, expressing her creativity through quilting.

Life wasn’t all roses though. I have no idea how Nora earned income and survived the Great Depression, although I suspect she continued to make clothes and other items, probably including quilts, for customers. I know she quilted during this time. This pink and green quilt is from fabric in colors that are now known as “Depression Pink” and “Depression Green” because they were produced during that time. It’s also telling that Nora was able to purchase enough of two fabrics to make a quilt. She wasn’t using just leftovers or scraps.

In 1938, Nora’s maternal Aunt Lina, short for Caroline, passed away in Kendallville. Lina’s life was somewhat of a mystery. What we do know is that she married a man named Johannes Gottfried Heinke in 1895 when she was about 40. She had one child who had died by 1900. Lina herself lived to the ripe old age of 84. Many women in this family lived into their 80s – if they could just get past those treacherous childbearing years.

Aunt Lou and Arthur Wellesley

Nora’s sister, Margaret Louise Kirsch, known as Lou, died of myocarditis in Cincinnati on June 1, 1940. Aunt Lou, the widow of Todd Fisk who had committed suicide at the Kirsch House in 1908 married secondly to Arthur Wellesley on October 27, 1920, in Aurora.

I don’t know where or how she met him, but my guess is at the Kirsch House given that they married in Aurora.

Arthur Wellesley seems to be quite the character. On their marriage license, he lists his home as Chicago, his birth location as Sydney, Australia and his occupation as “orthopedic specialist.” He doesn’t say anything about being a doctor.

However, over time, let’s just say his story evolved. Eloise and Mom said that he “treated people’s feet on Miami Beach,” which I found very odd – but indeed he did. I found that too in the newspapers.

However, there seems to be much, MUCH more to this story.

Arthur Wellesley appears to have been somewhat of a shyster. Over the years, his story seems to “evolved,” with him becoming increasingly “qualified.” He adopted the title of “Doctor” someplace along the way too.

In the 1930 census, the first census where I find any hint of him, he says he was born in Illinois and was first married at age 41, which would have been to Lou in 1920. His parents were from England. He lists himself as a physician and that he is a chiropodist, a profession similar to a podiatrist.

In the 1940 census, his education level is C7, which I believe means college 7 years.

A 1963 article published when he died paints an incredibly heartrending tale of bad luck.

Wait? What?

He was born in Chicago but his parents left in 1871 after the great fire?

But his marriage license to Lou said he was born in Australia.

His parents should be listed on the 1870 census, taken in April, but there are no Wellesleys there or anyplace close.

Ok, maybe a fluke.

Next, the family somehow went to the Australian outback where he grew up on a ranch?

Then he went to London to medical school in the 1890s? Medical school had to be the 1890s, because the Boer War and Boxer Rebellion both started in 1899 and lasted through 1901/1902 and his story places medical school before the wars.

Did he go to England in the 1890s? I did find a record in the UK Lunacy Admission Registers for one Arthur Wellesley who was committed for about 5 weeks in 1892. Arthur Wellesley is not a unique name, but it’s also not crazy common either.

After earning his medical degree and serving in two wars, he was a surgeon in India? The British commander, Sir Arthur Wellesley did indeed serve in India in 1911 and 1912.

Then, Arthur immigrated to San Francisco where his wife and two children died in the earthquake of 1906? Subtracting, that suggests that he had been married for perhaps 4-5 years, minimally, at that time.

How awful. So much loss and devastation for this poor unfortunate man. However, there’s no Wellesley of any kind on the list of people who perished in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, here. Nor is there any mention of his name in the newspaper there or in the surrounding area in 1906.


He’s also not in any census before 1920, anyplace in the US that I can find.

And then, there’s the little matter of the Australian man by the name of Arthur Robert Wellesley who was arrested for theft in 1912 and convicted in February 1913 to two years of hard labor. An earlier conviction by a man with the same name, in 1899, stated that his parents were from England. Australia’s convict records have been published on Ancestry.

And there’s that mental health admission during the decade he was claimed to be in England.

Are these men by the same name the same man as the Arthur Wellesley that Aunt Lou married?

If Arthur did arrive in the US about 1915, that would square with the end of his two years of hard labor. He could easily have “morphed” into a doctor in a location where no one knew anything about his past, and had no avenue to make that discovery. In the early 1900s, there was no standardized testing or licensing for physicians. You didn’t even have to go to medical school. His ads in the Miami papers said that he had come to that area in 1920 and set up shop. That would map to the year he married Lou.

Eloise always seemed suspicious and tight-lipped about Wellesley and “what happened to Aunt Lou.” But she wouldn’t talk about that either – just like she wouldn’t discuss the topic of Nora and McCormack.

Well, what did happen to Aunt Lou?.

In 1940, Lou and Arthur Wellesley had been vacationing in Cincinnati where she was admitted to the hospital with a heart condition. Her death notice in the Miami paper said she was hospitalized for two weeks before she died, but her death certificate stated that she had been suffering from heart issues since the previous fall. Of course, that information was provided by her husband, the doctor.

Lou died in June and was buried in Aurora beside Charles “Todd” Fisk, her first husband, in the Kirsch plot in the Riverside Cemetery. In September, the Miami paper printed a notice that Arthur Wellesley had returned from an extended vacation to Cincinnati and Hendersonville, NC, mentioning absolutely nothing about the fact that his wife had died during that trip. Nothing about his being bereft or grieving, just that he was returning from vacation.


His wife’s death didn’t even disrupt that vacation.

How does a doctor take an extended, months-long vacation? What happened to his practice?

In November, announcements in the Miami newspapers stated that Wellesley was reopening his practice in a new location.

I cannot help but wonder about Wellesley’s history, his apparent grandiose “over the top” lies about his former life, a possible conviction and prison sentence, possibly a mental health admission, and mention of a former wife and two children that died. That’s to mention the inconsistencies in his stories about this birth location, the Chicago Fire, and the San Francisco earthquake. Was anything he said the truth?

Today, looking back, I’m very, very uncomfortable with this scenario and can’t help but wonder about the circumstances surrounding Aunt Lou’s death. Was life insurance involved? Was her death more than it appeared?

Apparently, the Kirsch sisters were *at least* uncomfortable too and suspected something.

1940 – Visitations

Nora is shown in the 1940 census in Wabash, but beside her entry is a note that the information was provided by a neighbor. This explains why her age is incorrect. Maybe Nora was traveling.

A newspaper article from Rushville when she returned for a visit in September of 1940 with Mom, Eloise, and Edith provides us with a bit more information about Nora’s life and what she had been up to.

Nora, 74 years old in 1940, about the time this photo was taken with Mildred (left rear) and Eloise (right rear), said she was living in LaFontaine, Indiana where “Eloise is also living at present,” but that Eloise is “of New York.” Nora said all four of her girls were born in Rushville. [Actually, only 2 were.] She said, “Though at present I am living with my daughter. Mrs. Claude Martin, in LaFontaine, I think of returning sometime to Wabash. My husband’s death occurred some years ago and now that my daughters are married and have their own homes, I am more or less free to do some of the things I missed in my younger life.”

That’s probably a massive understatement.

Nora is smiling and looks happy in this photo, in the garden with her daughters, Eloise at left and Mildred at right.

It’s unclear where Nora lived between 1940 and 1944, but she went to live with Eloise in New York about 1944 and passed away in 1949.