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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Genealogy Research

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.

I don’t know who this child might have been, but this is Nora sometime in the 1940s.

One thing we do know is that somehow, for some reason, Nora was paying property tax on a small place in Florida in 1940. I bet that after her mother died, she spent time there in the 1930s. There’s also that 1913 photo of Nora and Ida in Florida that remains a mystery, as well as this photo of Eloise and Mildred, also in Florida.

Based on their apparent age, I’d guess that this picture was taken in the 1960s. How the Kirsch girls came to be in possession of this property, and what happened to it, is still unknown. Perhaps I should do some deed research work.

Unraveling Nora’s Death

For many years, I knew little about Nora’s death other than I thought I recalled, generally, that she died in Lockport with Eloise. However, the New York death index showed no surname like McCormack, McCormick, Lore or even Kirsch. I actually had no idea what name she was using at that time.

Also, I didn’t know if her first name was recorded as Nora, Ellenora, Ellenore or something similar. I “kind of” knew what to look for, and where, but the index showed nothing remotely close.

Even if Nora had died in New York “with Eloise,” that doesn’t mean she died in the county where Eloise lived, assuming Eloise lived in Lockport in 1949. She did in the 1960s and 1970s, but I can’t vouch for 1949. The local clerk was less than helpful.

Nora could easily have died in a neighboring county where there was a large hospital. I didn’t know if she died suddenly or not, or the cause, but I suspected she had dementia. If so, she could have been in a nursing home. I had little to go on.

The Rushville paper saved me once again, providing the next breadcrumb.

  • Rushville, September 14, 1949

Nora’s funeral was held in Wabash before her remains were shipped to Rushville for burial beside Curt. I didn’t expect that.

The obituary says that Nora was visiting Eloise, not that she was living in New York. Of course, newspaper articles and obituaries are notorious for sending genealogists down the wrong rabbit holes. My own mother’s obit had to be published three times and still wasn’t accurate.

I needed Wabash records and at that point, their newspaper wasn’t yet available online.

Thanks to a friend, I did find a listing of Jones funeral home records in Wabash. Unfortunately, it required a lookup request and we were in the midst of pandemic lockdown. The good news is that the Allen County Public Library had this reference material and very graciously sent it to me as soon as they could. Librarians are boss!

Sure enough, there she was. Nora’s death date is accurate, but her birth location is misspelled, and her birth year is two years later. No matter. I had her.

From Jones Funeral home in Wabash, Nora went to the Todd Funeral home in Rushville, then on to the East Hill Cemetery where she probably had a graveside service of some description.

With the recent addition of New York newspaper articles, I found Nora’s death reported in two publications.

  • Niagara Falls Gazette, September 13, 1949

This article says that she died “at the home of her daughter,” which would have been in Niagara County. One more piece.

Apparently, Nora began life as a Lutheran, attended the Presbyterian Church in Rushville, probably in Wabash given that her daughter was married there, and finally, in Lockport as well. Lockport had become her home.

  • Lockport New York Union-Sun and Journal

In 1949, Nora’s brother, George “Martin” Kirsch had died on January 15th in Shelbyville, Indiana, also of a stroke. He left two children, Edgar and Cecile who wrote letters back and forth to Mother for years.

Nora survived only one sibling. Ida Kirsch, shown here in 1950 would live until 1966. Nora was close to Ida who you’ll remember from that 1913 photo in Florida.

Actually, I like the (unfortunately blurry) photo of Ida and Mom laughing better. Ida had a really, really rough life, married in her 40s to a “mean drunk” for 25 years before he passed away – but you’d never guess any of that from Aunt Ida’s lovely and cheerful disposition.

Ida had no children and few family members lived anyplace close to Cincinnati. She died in a predatory “widow’s home” where the widow signed over their real estate and other property for the promise that they would be cared for for the duration of their life. Ida became senile, lived in a room in the basement in the “home” and could not advocate for herself, even to ask for food. One of her nieces stopped in to see her once and discovered the inhumane circumstances under which she was forced to live.

Ida lived to be 89 and died on March 5, 1966, in Cincinnati. She’s buried with her family in the Riverside Cemetery in Aurora.

Two of Nora’s maternal aunts outlived her as well.

Nora’s Aunt Lou, short for Emma Louise Drechsel passed away just three months before Nora at 90 years of age She outlived three husbands and one of her two children. With Nora’s dementia, she may have been unaware or Eloise may not have told her.

Nora’s final aunt, Theresa Maria, “Mary” Drechsel who had moved to Chicago when she married lived until 1953.

Nora’s Traveling Funeral

The final question to be answered was Nora’s cause of death.

Nora died of a stroke. Her dementia and stroke were likely caused by atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries for the preceding decade. Her mother, Barbara, had died of a stroke too.

Nora was 81 years old when she passed over, closing in on 82. We know from that handwritten letter that Nora was experiencing dementia. I don’t know about Nora, but I certainly want to “walk on” if that happens to me.

Nora’s death certificate reflects that the end came quickly, in the middle of the night, at home.

Death certificates are so interesting. Nora’s father’s first name is not Jack, but Jacob, and her mother’s last name was Drechsel. Drexel was spelled phonetically. Her birth year is only one year too late, as compared to the second funeral home’s information that was two years different. Her birth year had possibly “adjusted” years before, maybe by her mother, to not reflect poorly on her parents.

Nora had a traveling funeral – from Lockport to Wabash to Rushville – apparently all in three days, and assuredly by train. It’s somehow ironic that the Kirsch House held coffins of soldiers who were shipped home, having arrived at the depot, as they “rested,” waiting to be collected by their families.

My interpretation of Nora’s traveling funeral would be that Nora felt that Wabash was “home,” which is why her funeral took place there. I do have to wonder how many people were left in Wabash to attend. I’d wager that Eloise rode with her and that Edith joined in Wabash. I don’t know where Mildred was living at the time – Indiana or Texas – but regardless, I’m sure she too came home one way or another.

The family’s final gathering place would have been the graveside in Rushville, completing Nora’s circle of life.

Nora was truly home, resting eternally beside Curt and Curtis. Grass would grow on her grave in the springtime, joining them seamlessly.

Not Forgotten

The threads of Nora’s life that we’ve been able to weave into a tapestry are truly amazing, even though the final chapters are still a bit fuzzy. I doubt we’ll ever be able to bring them into sharper focus.

Nora left Rushville in late 1916, and most of her friends there had either moved or were likely deceased by the time she made her final return 33 years later.

Nora spent most of the years between 1917 and 1940 in Wabash, so more than 20 years of her life.

Between 1940 and 1944, she lived someplace in Indiana, perhaps Wabash for part of that time. Nora clearly thought of Wabash fondly, in spite of McCormick, given her comments in that 1940 article when she returned to Rushville for a visit.

This is the last photo we have of Nora. She went to live with Eloise about 1944, and this may have been the “goodbye to Indiana” bon voyage photo taken with both of her daughters before their journey to New York began. Mildred and her son Jerry are standing beside Nora. Warren, Eloise’s husband is behind the group, and Eloise had her hand protectively through her Mom’s elbow.

Nora apparently still liked hats. She was dressed in high style, but she has the vacant look of dementia confusion in her eyes. Eloise is observing her mother caringly and protectively. I know Eloise faithfully watched over her for the next half-decade as Nora lived out her final years, hopefully among roses in the garden and fond memories of good times.

McCormick was the catalyst for Nora to leave Rushville, but in reality, he wasn’t in her life for long. From late 1916 to sometime after 1923, but gone before 1930 and dead in 1936. He changed Nora’s life but clearly didn’t ruin it. After what Nora had already survived, McCormick/McCormack, whoever and whatever he was, probably wasn’t much more than an embarrassing annoyance.

Nora seemed quite happy with her life in 1940, living with Mildred, pondering returning to Wabash, and talking about finally being able to do things she missed out on before.

I hope Nora was able to do just that – make up for those lost years. Nora survived and apparently chose to be happy, in spite of everything, everyone, and against incredible odds.

But I’d still like to know what she was thinking…



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Dad’s Wisdom: Navigating This Cascade of Grief – 52 Ancestors #336

It looks like we are, hopefully, emerging from this miserable pandemic and it’s great to see people going about their lives, joyfully. Almost like nothing ever happened, or is happening. I hope they, we, aren’t engaging in risks that we will come to regret.

That said, this past 18 months, give or take, has been an utter living hellscape. It’s been a cascade of one grief event on top of another.

How do we even begin to navigate this into the future? How do we overcome what we’ve lost and will yet lose? Graduations, weddings, birthdays, holidays that will never happen? Not just stolen by death, but also by estrangement.

What does that future look like without our family members? Without closure for so many unnecessary and unexpected deaths? How do we navigate a divided country and world – cleaved clean in half not just by a virus – but the politicization of that virus and science?

And what do we do about families that are irrecoverably fractured – even if they haven’t died in the physical sense? They are still dead to us – removed and permanently alienated by irreconcilable differences. That’s an entirely different kind of pain than death – maybe even worse because it’s by unilateral choice. People and relationships tossed away, like soiled masks.

I can’t help but recall my ancestors divided by severe religious differences – think the 1755 Acadian Expulsion in Nova Scotia, the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in France, the Holocaust in the 1940s in Europe and the edicts removing the Jews from England in 1290 and Spain in 1492. Today we marvel at these historic differences, but entire groups of people characterized the “other” as enemies. The result being that the weaker group was expelled, their property confiscated, and the people often murdered.

These last few months feel like a mass casualty event with more than 600,000 dead and that’s just in the US. It’s also not counting Long-Covid or the effects of living under lockdown and fear for 18 months. I’m positive I’m not the only one who feels this way.

That’s not considering the other, comparatively minor losses – well minor as compared to Covid. Lost jobs, school disruption, not seeing friends and family, church, weddings, missing conferences, just being able to socialize.

I’m not going to detail my personal losses, but trust me, there are many – including both close and more distant family.

In the Past

Twice before in my life, I’ve experienced what I would view as cascading grief events – defined as events that arrive so fast that you can’t recover from one or more before the next ones occur and pile on top. Think of a many-layered cake.

These layers could be deaths that happen close together or other life-altering and fork-in-the-road events.

In my case, one cascade series included the death of my sister, my (former) husband’s horrific stroke which, in addition to him of course, dramatically affected both of my children and the household income. That was followed shortly by the illness of my child and the death of my beloved step-father.

Another cascade series of grief events included the deaths of both of my brothers just a few months apart after concurrent battles with cancer, followed shortly by my nephew.

During this past 18 months, between Covid and other things, the number of family members lost is approaching 20 and that doesn’t include friends and their families. My husband lost his oldest and best friend.

I fear we aren’t finished yet. One of my close family members is gravely ill and her brother just died a month ago. My God, will this ever end?

Not to mention events that should have been celebrations have turned out to be anything but. This past month has been awful, just when I thought we were about finished.

Other people must be overwhelmed too. It’s like we’ve been in a war with a microscopic virus, then we began battling within our own ranks.

As I see other people out having fun, I want to be carefree like that too. While the pandemic is receding, at least somewhat, the grief and shock of what happened in the blink of an eye during the past 18 months have not. Someone said to me today that seeing people acting like nothing has happened just causes them to feel even more isolated in their grief.

Life will never be the same, or even close, for millions of people.

How do we cope?


So, I have to ask myself, how did my ancestors deal with situations like this? Many of them buried several children and they, themselves, survived pandemics of typhoid or worse, Bubonic Plague. Many, if not most had multiple spouses due to death. The church registers are full of deaths attributed to “the Pest.”

In the 1600s, war raged for 30 consecutive years in Germany, killing millions and depopulating much of the country.

WWMAD? What would my ancestors do? It seems like I’m always looking backward for inspiration and grounding.

I mean, they managed to make it, or I wouldn’t be here. Surely I have some of their mettle in me!


I didn’t know my biological father as an adult. He passed away when I was a child.

I was very fortunate that my mother married a wonderful man who earned the name, “Dad.” He was everything a father could have been, and more.

Dad was a quiet man, which was probably a good thing because my mother and I were not. He used to tell us we chattered like chickens.

I adored him. As a late teen and young adult, he was my advocate and constant cheerleader. As I age, I grow to appreciate him and Mom even more and look back across their lives to search for parallels.

It’s not like I can ask for their opinion or advice anymore. I guess that’s why we spend as much time with family as possible, so we are able to “hear” the answers and their voice in our minds as we navigate shark-infested waters later in life.

My Mom experienced at least one cascade of grief when both of her parents died within a couple of years, and she and my biological father separated, followed by his death. As jolting as that was, it’s also normal for parents to die before children.

My Dad’s situation, on the other hand, was another matter altogether.

Dad was a Rock

Dad married his first wife in 1950. Three years later, a son joined the family, and five years later, a daughter, in July of 1958.

Everything seemed perfect on the Indiana prairie farm, but it wasn’t.

Martha gradually became ill. It started with her skin and slowly began to affect her mobility.

Linda, the baby had something “wrong” as well. Linda never learned to sit up as babies normally do, and two days after Christmas in 1959, she died of pneumonia at 17 months of age.

Dad and Martha had taken Linda to the hospital on Christmas Day. Dad was never, ever OK with Christmas after that, but he hid it well. That lasted right up until I had to take my daughter to ER on Christmas morning one year.

There were always tears at the holidays that Dad tried to hide. He spent a lot of time in the barn, alone, “checking on things.” Of course, now I know what he was doing.

Dad didn’t tell me for a very long time – and then he gave me Linda’s crib blanket when my daughter was born. I think that was his most valued possession and I will treasure it to my death. That is the language of love.

He once nonchalantly explained, passing through the kitchen, that when he married my Mom, he got his daughter back – although clearly, no one could ever replace Linda. What he meant was that he had a place for the daughter-love to go😊

And I had a father to love too.

Martha’s Decline

Over the next few years following Linda’s death, Martha became increasingly ill. Dad was very worried, and with cause. Eventually, Martha was diagnosed with a very rare, fatal disease – Schleroderma. He carried a short newspaper article about it in his wallet for years. Martha was apparently one of the early people diagnosed and they allowed research on her body after her death. Today, it’s treatable, at least somewhat, but still not curable. Then, there was no treatment or relief. Just slow progression.

Dad added an inside bathroom, built a frame around the tub, toilet, and bed to help Martha.

Dad explained to me that Martha had “turned to stone – from the outside in.” Schleroderma is a disease where the autoimmune system replaces normal tissue with thick, dense collagen. And yes, it begins on the skin and works its way inside, then slowly through the other organs until it kills you. Her death certificate says she died of renal failure and had Schleroderma for 2 years – but Dad said she had early symptoms before Linda was born.

That might well have contributed to Linda’s health problems too.

For years, Dad watched Martha suffer. He farmed, took care of their son, and increasingly, Martha too. He became an overworked, grief-stricken, caregiver. He knew Martha would never “get well,” even though he didn’t know how long she would be with him. He hoped against hope for a very long time, but eventually the inevitable became clear.

The chronic stress was taking a toll on his health too. He developed bleeding ulcers that required 8 or 9 emergency surgeries over the years to save his life. His belly looked like he had been in several sword fights – and lost.

In 1962, his mother died. By this time, Martha was only 40 years old, but in significant pain and nearly immobile. Dad bathed and fed her, propping her up and tried to keep her comfortable.

Their son was 10 years old.

Dad told me that he was “OK” so long as he could talk to Martha, but as the illness consumed her, she became less and less cognizant and eventually, she lapsed into a coma. The machines kept her going artificially, at least for a while.

Dad finally removed the machines – a final act of kindness. In his words, “she was already gone.”

On a late June day in 1968, instead of plowing and farming, Dad sat by Martha’s side as she passed from this world – only 45 years old.

He buried the second person in the family plot he had purchased a few years earlier when Linda died.

Their son did not cope well with his mother’s illness or death. In retrospect, I can’t help but wonder if Martha already had the beginning of the disease when she was pregnant with him. His life, too, was unexpectedly short.

The 1968 Cliff

Dad was 48 years old and had spent almost his entire adult life married to a spouse he loved deeply, but who would slip away from him inch by inch as he bore silent witness for someplace between 10 and 15 years of their 18-year marriage.

This is the definition of living Hell. Also of love.

Oh, the irony.

Dad was a farmer, an occupation that is a 24x7x365 job. You don’t get vacations or breaks. Ever.

He told me one time that was probably a blessing, not a curse, because it occupied his mind and forced him to go on.

He also had a son to raise who had watched his mother deteriorate for his entire life.

Other men would have succumbed someplace in that nightmare, but not Dad.

Now that Martha was gone, he had a decision to make. He chose donuts!


I met Dad after he joined Parents Without Partners after Martha’s death, sometime around 1969 or 1970. Dad found himself living alone and reached out for human companionship. I’m sure those walls closed in on him after a while.

Dad navigated those grief-filled waters by giving back. He fixed everything for everyone. He would finish his chores on the farm, change out of his “farm clothes” and drive to town. He bought boxes of donuts and dropped in on people with a snack and tools to fix whatever was broken.

There were enough people in the Parents Without Partner’s Club that he visited each household maybe once a month or whenever someone needed help with something. Often, the homeowner asked him to dinner in exchange. Everyone benefitted.

And – he developed a crush on Mom. I probably gained 10 donut-pounds and our house was never more well-maintained😊


Mom and Dad’s wedding in September 1972

Mom and Dad were married in September of 1972 at Judson Baptist Church, the little neighborhood church on the corner. Before they married, Dad talked to his son who was hospitalized, and me – kind of asking our permission.

Dad got a wife and daughter, Mom got a husband and son, and I got a Dad and brother. We were all happy – our little blended family.

Life was good once again on the farm. However, there were reminders everyplace. I would ask about something, and the answer would be that Dad made it for Martha, or that baby photo was Linda. I didn’t realize how painful those questions must have been for Dad.

But I surely do now.

Every Memorial Day, as well as other times, Dad would slip away to the cemetery. I think he went to talk to Martha and Linda. I bet he talked with Martha before asking Mom to marry him. I surely am glad that she agreed😊

Dad’s Wisdom

While my losses over the past 18 months or so are different than Dad’s, grief salad is still grief salad. Dad also never had to deal with social media hatefulness or a pandemic on top of everything else, thankfully.

His Hell lasted for roughly 15 years. This has been much shorter but involves more people. Grief can’t really be compared.

Dad didn’t have the opportunity to recover from one event before the next one arrived. Those events were connected and overlapping, possibly due, at least in part, to Martha’s horrific illness.

Fifteen years of living in a constant state of grief is an overwhelming burden for anyone to bear. I still can’t believe it didn’t consume him. If his bleeding ulcers are any indication, it nearly did.

Yet, he never talked about it. I had NO IDEA of the magnitude of what that man withstood and somehow recovered from until after he was gone and I began looking back, piecing things together from tidbits in my own search for answers.

In 1993/1994, I too was incredibly overwhelmed with my spouse’s stroke, two children who were not doing well, one who left the family, Dad’s terminal illness which made Mom a wreck. I did talk with Dad from time to time, even though he was hospitalized, drifting in and out of consciousness and I was trapped in another state.

Thankfully, I was able to visit him in person towards the end. Dad was still Dad, bemoaning the fact that he was not healthy enough to help me with my situation. He was also a realist and knew exactly what was happening.

Truth be told, he helped me far more than he knew:

  • Dad told me to take care of myself – because you can’t take care of anyone else otherwise. He would surely know.
  • He told me to put one foot in front of the other every day and just keep moving forward. Some days, that defines success.
  • He told me to rebuild my life with the tools I have at hand – because no one is going to do it for me. He assured me I could do it. I wasn’t convinced.
  • He told me that this “chapter” would end and I would be happy again someday. At that moment, I seriously doubted that I would ever be alright.
  • He explained that anyone who isn’t good to me isn’t worthy of me and it doesn’t matter who in life you’re talking about. That also applies to children and animals. He was dead-on right.
  • He told me to find small things that bring joy and wonder, because they lead to more joy and wonder. I can’t help but think of him looking over his fields and sitting outside under the tree.
  • He told me not to look backward – that the future is not in that direction, the past can’t be changed, and it would only make me sad. And that is not taking care of myself.
  • He told me that either I would consume “it,” integrate “it,” and go on in spite of “it,” or “it” would consume me. I’m pretty sure “it” is grief. Although maybe “it” is generic.
  • He told me it comes down to sink or swim, and the decision is mine to do either.
  • “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” He never swore in front of Mom, so this piece of wisdom was reserved for when she was not present. I still laugh when I hear this.
  • He told me it’s OK to be tired, and discouraged, and to take a break. But DON’T GIVE UP.
  • Never give up.
  • He assured me several times that I could do anything I set my mind to.
  • The damaged places become the strong places. As a teenager, he used to show me welds on farm machinery to prove his point. He explained about iron and fire, something about the strongest steel being forged in the fires of Hell. I just rolled my eyes. He laughed and gently pecked me on the head with his finger, saying “don’t forget.” At that time, I had absolutely NO IDEA what he was really telling me. I get it now, in spades.
  • The last time I saw him, he told me he was proud of me and always had been. I felt like I was failing miserably at the cascade of grief events that I was navigating poorly. He assured me otherwise.
  • He gave me a tattered, folded copy of Invictus, also out of his billfold, folded and tucked behind my picture. I was trying not to cry in front of him, but that did me in.
  • He said, “Don’t ever forget that I love you. I’m the luckiest man on earth to have two wonderful wives and two wonderful daughters.” I wondered aloud about his miserable years watching Martha die. He told me that he had been honored to be able to care for her, that he loved Linda, and that they had gotten him to me and Mom. And he loved us beyond this lifetime.
  • Love is forever.
  • And, “I will always walk with you.”

And he has too. Like, now, for instance.

The Transition

We both knew he was leaving soon. I thought I would die. My heart was crushed, then, as it has been recently, but I kept repeating his words over and over to myself at his funeral. He gave me hope for the future, and at that moment, I had none.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that his interminable sense of humor showed through then too. He was literally late for his own funeral. I laughed and cried at the same time. How is that even possible?

After the funeral, I went back to the farm and dug up a few phlox plants and ferns that live in my yard today, having moved twice and multiplied prolifically.

Dad’s ferns have filled my garden, just as his love fills my heart.

Dad is with me every time I look at these with joy and wonder and remember his ferns beside the house at home.

These would make Dad happy. They make me happy, and I’ve passed them on as well.

Thank You Dad

Never give up, he said. I need to hear those words in the darkest of nights. Never give up doesn’t always mean staying on the same path. Sometimes it means to row steadily – but in a different direction.

Family is not always about blood, but about who we choose to spend the future with – who we choose to love and integrate into our lives. Who we choose to cherish – and those who cherish us.

Clearly, I survived what I came to call the “Decade from Hell” – the 1990s.

That’s when I began making care quilts for others with my wonderful friend Connie who had also lost a child.

I eventually moved and remarried too, a decade later, just like Dad had.

I re-immersed myself in genealogy, then genetic genealogy as my youngest child transitioned into adulthood.

Yet, here I am again, awash in an avalanche of concatenated grief events – overwhelmed by the immensity, depth, and duration of it all.

Maybe this is one of those “rhythm of life” things. Waves in the endless ocean.

Perhaps grief is a season.

The Path Forward

I find myself seeking out and following Dad’s wisdom once again. It seems timeless and ageless. I’m not at all sure that he was talking to the me of that time and place. It feels like he was talking to a future me that would need to hear his message.

I’m still making care quilts and writing articles to help people. Don’t worry, I don’t plan to stop researching my ancestors or writing anytime soon.

And I’m absolutely focused on looking forward and creating a modified future – although grief events keep rearing their ugly heads like blood-seeking sharks. I will survive this too.

Once again, I’m not going to remain where there are constant reminders. It’s time for this chapter to close and another doorway to open.

I’ve begun the process of cleaning out, purging, throwing away, giving away, and selling things. I’m finding the process cathartic even if it’s a bit overwhelming. How did I accumulate so much stuff? And what do I do with all of these genealogy files? I’ll figure it out.

I’m going to step into the next chapter, someplace else, lighter and less burdened. There are so many things I won’t be doing any more that I haven’t enjoyed for a long time. The pandemic has made me reconsider a lot. 

There will be a rebirth, a new beginning. The Phoenix rising from the ashes of the old.

One of the pandemic’s gifts has been that we now realize that we can work from just about any place with a decent internet connection. One less thing to bind us and one more avenue to free us.

Thank you, Dad, for your incredible example of courage and resilience. Your life-well-lived lessons in the face of adversity are ever so much more effective than any words could have ever been.

But mostly, thank you for choosing me as your daughter, being my forever Dad, and walking with me.

I love you.

Happy Father’s Day.

Two Rudolf Muellers Born on the Same Day in the Same Year in the Same Place – What? – 52 Ancestors #335

Seriously – only me. This would only happen to me. And I thought three Michael Kirsch’s living in the same village were bad.

We’ve been following Rudolph Muller’s life where we found him as an adult in Grossheppach, Germany.

click to enlarge images

In the Grossheppach records, cousin Wolfram in his one-place study of Grossheppach had discovered information indicating that Rudolph was from Switzerland, and more specifically, Stein am Rhein.

Wolfram also discovered a notation that Margretha, Rudolph’s wife, was from Kanton Zurich.

They were naturalized in 1662 and became citizens of Grossheppach.

Of course, this left us with many questions and only breadcrumbs reaching back to Switzerland.


The information in the Grossheppach records was recorded many years later. As genealogists, we’re all familiar with official records that contain incorrect information. I can’t even begin to tell you how many rabbit holes I’ve been down with those.

So, was Rudolph and Margretha’s information correct? If so, what more can we discover? Canton Zurich is a big place. Why was there no more specific information?

Before we continue to unravel this unbelievable puzzle, I need to thank several people, without whom this would NEVER have been solved:

  • My cousin, Tom
  • My cousin, Pam
  • My cousin, Wolfram
  • My village cousin, Chris (I’ll explain about village cousins in a separate article.)
  • Henry, the Stein am Rhein historian

And for the record, only Wolfram is related on this particular line. I’m just blessed with knowledgeable and generous cousins.

I’ve tried to give appropriate credit where credit is due, but there were probably 100 emails flying back and forth, so if I’ve omitted or confused credit for something, I just apologize in advance. In some cases, two people found the same thing about the same time because they are just that good!

We also unraveled more information about Margretha, Rudolph’s wife during this same exchange, but that will have to wait.

In the beginning, it looked like there wasn’t much of a mystery.

Famous last words…

It Looks Like Tom Solved the Riddle

From Tom:

I found a baptism of a Rudolf Muller, son of Jacob Muller and Ursula Muller on 8 Feb 1629 in Stein am Rhein Evangelical Church.

Hot diggity Tom. Great find. Rudolph Muller was born on February 22, 1629. From the Grossheppach records, we thought he was born about 1630 so this fits perfectly.

I sent this on to cousin Wolfram who speaks German as his native language.

From Wolfram:

Where is the baptism from?

I can translate for you the 4th entry incl. headlines. It is clearly readable:

Getauffte Kinder, im Jahr  // baptized children in the year

    1. DC. XXIX. I/ 1629

Monat und tag deß empfangenen Tauffs. / Namen. / Vatter. / Mutter. / Tester. //  Month and day of the baptism / Names. / Father. / Mother. / Godfather(&-mother)

    1. / Febr. / Rudloph. / Jacob Müller. / Ursula Müller. / H. Benedict Gulding[er]: Ellisabeth Win(t)zin. // this I do not have to translate 😉 But what is clear, the surename of the mother Ursula was also Müller. So her Father was “Müller”.

So, if this is the baptism record of Stein am Rhein, then it looks really quite good! As long there are no other Rudolph Müller in this book, either before (then the parents have to be checked or a later record Rudolph Müller (1640 latest).

Yes, we surely do need to check for another baby by the same name, but what are the chances? Rudolph isn’t a terribly common name. Plus, it’s not even preceded by Johann, so it’s even more unique.

It does bother me a bit that in the Grossheppach records, he’s mentioned, at least in some cases, as Johann Rudolph Muller. But not much. Often men were called by their middle name throughout their life, and of course, Muller and Mueller were interchangeable. Johann s the official first name of probably 90% of the German babies born during this timeframe, so he would have been called by his middle name. Even if his first name wasn’t actually Johann, the people in Grossheppach might well have assumed that it was.

A Marriage

In the meantime, Tom unearthed more:

I found a 1616 marriage also for this person’s parents.

Jacob Muller from Turbenthal

Ursula Muller from Nussbaumen

7 July 1616 in Stein am Rhein

I’ve gathered the family group: Jacob Muller and Ursula Muller, their marriage and the baptisms of their children.  There is no further evidence that they stayed in Stein am Rhein.

Perhaps they all relocated to Germany.

If this is your crew, I will translate them for you.  Let me know what you think at your convenience.  Exciting though!

I’m was happy, basking in family discovered, and I would remain happy for a few hours, right up until I checked my email again.

Pam’s Discovery

Cousin Pam who studied overseas was searching at the same time and found a transcribed record in a German local family book about Stein am Rhein. Local historians often volunteer their time to create these documents. Bless their generosity is all I can say.

click to enlarge

Rudolf Mueller born on February 22, 1629. That’s wonderful, confirmed Tom’s work, and would save Tom from translating those children’s records.

But then, Pam found another record from the same place that looked promising.

Hans (short for Johann) Rudolf Mueller.

Wait? What?

This is not the same family that Tom found?

This Johann Rudolph Mueller was born and baptized on May 22, 1629, in Stein am Rhein to different parents.


We really do have two babies by nearly the same name, in the same place, born three months apart – just like Wolfram mentioned. Is he psychic?

How is this even possible?


I skipped the hiccup which made this situation even more confusing.

The original records that Pam found showed the two babies born on the same day, but attributed to different parents. It appeared to be an erroneous entry in the family book, but as it turned out, the error was in the baptism date, not the record itself.

Yes, there were actually two babies born with the same or very similar names to two Muller/Mueller families.

I’m only showing the correct records here because I don’t want to confuse anyone else.

Trust me, we were very confused and so was the historian, Henry, who had compiled the website. He was kind enough to go back and check the original records.

Of course, since Tom had found the marriage of the parents Jacob Mueller and Ursula Mueller, I made the logical deduction that was the correct entry, and the entry for George Mueller and Magdalena Schnewlin was in error.

Wolfram Finds the Second Baptism

As it turns out, there WERE two babies by the same name, baptized in the same place, and they were both in that original record on the same page in the church book. Wolfram spotted it.

O.K. This is now really difficult and I am not sure, if we can surely say who was our Ancestor Johann Rudolph because the other baptism is below in line 13. With the parents Jörg Müller and Magdalena. This is really a pity. Furthermore according to the online family book neither the one nor the other has married. So for a definition there would be a marriage-record needed or some documents of local authorities which shows who has moved (if something like this is available at all…)


Tom concurred. Finding the marriage document of Rudolph Mueller or Hans Rudolph Mueller or Muller to Margretha/ Margaretha whatever her last name was would be crucial to determine which baby was our Rudolph Muller. Or was either baby our baby?

Now, I’m doubting everything.

The Census

From Wolfram:

I can’t get this topic out of my head. I checked the online family book of Stein am Rhein again. Henry Straub, who created the book included sources for the data. And on the page of the one Hans Rudolph Müller who was born in May 1629 (father: Georg Müller) he noted a “Bevölkerungsverzeichnis” as a source for the baptism, which is basically a CENSUS. And not only one but three. As I read correctly they are from 1634, 1637 and 1640. This source has not been noted with the one which was born in February 1629 (father: Jakob Müller). That indicates for me, this second one was not alive anymore even there is a minor option, that this family has moved away after 1630. So the probability seems to be high, that the first-mentioned (born in May and father Georg Müller) is the Johann Rudoph Müller we are searching for.

I think it is worthwhile and I will get in contact with Henry, the Stein am Rhein historian, and ask about his opinion. And I think he will be happy to have another connection outside of Stein am Rhein.

Henry Digs Deeper and Hits Paydirt

Henry, the historian replied to my email asking about the dual entries showing both baby Rudolph’s born on the same day.

Dear Roberta,

It seems that I made a serious mistake: there is only one Hans Rudolf Mueller (Müller) born/baptized in Stein am Rhein May 22, 1629, to Georg (Jörg) Mueller and Magdalena.

So far I can not say what went wrong (and might never find out).

There were two Rudolf Müller born in 1629 one “Rudolf” bapt. February 22nd and the “Hans Rudolf” bapt. May 22nd. The error was that I made a wrong connection to the parents.

The family of Jakob Müller and Ursula Müller apparently left Stein am Rhein, they were not registered in the census of 1634.

The 1634 Census

Henry provided the census record information.

Important other sources for Stein am Rhein exist, a kind of early census, made from 1634 till 1702. Georg (Jörg) Müller, his wife and children (still alive and not yet married) were last recorded in 1643:

“Das Dorf (hamlet, village) Hemishoffen

Nr. 8 Jörg Müller H
Hans – dienend
Magdalena Schnewli
Christen  –  dienend
Rudolf –  dienend

«dienend» indicates that they were not living any longer in the household of their parents. With other words that their parents had only a small farm and could not feed a larger family. The following census (1650) only contains the recently wed Hans Müller, his wife Anna Fischer(in) and their child Margret (1 year old).

Oh, this is heartbreaking. I can’t help but wonder what happened to Rudolph’s parents and where he lived. Who raised those children? Where did they go?

There are no further records in Stein am Rhein concerning Jörg Müller and any of his 3 other children.

Emigration (or immigration) were not always a one-step move; if nothing important (birth, marriage, or death) happened, no records were made. Unfortunately shortly after the 30 years’ war (1618-1648) in many of the parishes in Germany records were not kept or the precision is missing. Sometimes also the new arrivals preferred not to reveal much about their past.

If you like to have copies of the original records, please let me know, I recorded many documents with a digital camera.


And, of course, all if this is happening as the Thirty Years War raged throughout Europe. It’s amazing that there WAS a 1643 census AND that it still exists, along with church records from that timeframe.


Jorg, short for George, lived in house number 8 in Hemishoften, literally, right next door to Stein am Rhein on the Rhine River.

The old buildings in Hemishofen are well-preserved today.

Hemishoften was probably just a wide spot in the road paralleling the Rhine, then as now.

This little hamlet is too small to have its own church, so the people who lived there would have traveled the mile or so to the church in Stein am Rhein.

At that time, these properties would have been the “cheap seats,” in part because they were outside of the city walls where no protection was afforded the residents. Any marauding soldiers approaching on the Rhine would have made quick pickings of isolated farmers with no protection.

It stands to reason that if they were already poor, and something happened, Jorg and Magdalena would not be able to support their children. But is this the right family?

Or, was our Rudolph the son of Jacob and Ursula?

Jacob Muller and Ursula Muller’s Family

Tom made me laugh with his next comment.

The only “saving grace” if you can call it that, is that if you find nothing else, it will make another interesting story.  THIS IS REALITY GENEALOGY AT ITS BEST!

Is that ever an understatement. How do you tell a super confusing story without it being super confusing?

Tom was already on this, unraveling the threads.

I mentioned yesterday that I gathered all of the records for the family: Jacob Muller & Ursula Muller.

The baptism of Anna Muller in 1622 indicates that Jacob Muller was then living in Biberach. An important point.

The death of Rudolf Muller, son of Jacob Muller of Biberach on 24 May 1629 (the year labeled the Pest Year), solves your problem.

Your Rudolf would seem to be this family: Georg Muller & Magdalena Schnewlin

Indeed, Tom solved this puzzle. Given that Jacob’s son, Rudolph died in 1629, five days before our Rudolph was born back in Stein am Rhein – our Rudolph must be Johann Rudolph Mueller, the son of George Muller and Magdalena Schnewlin. The couple living in Hemishofen in 1643, without their children.

Stein am Rhein

Now that we’ve confirmed that our Rudolph was indeed born ar at least baptized in Stein am Rhein, let’s bask for a minute in the beauty of this village on the Rhine River, located on the border between Switzerland and Germany.

Rudolph would have walked these very streets and seen these exact buildings as he grew up.

According to Wikipedia, in or about 1007, Stein am Rhein was a sleepy fishing village on the Rhine River. However, it occupied a strategic location where major road and river routes intersected. Emperor Henry II moved St. George’s Abbey to this location and granted the abbots extensive rights over the village and its trade so that they could develop it commercially.

This endeavor was quite successful. During the Reformation, the abbey was taken over by Zurich. Today, the abbey, 3 churches, the castle, city walls, tower, and gate along with many historic buildings remain and are extremely well cared for.

By JoachimKohlerBremen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Rudolph’s ancestors may have lived in this village someplace. It’s actually very unusual that they lived in the countryside, especially during the war. People were either merchants or farmers. German and Swiss farmers lived inside the city wall and tended their fields outside. The city walls provided protection from invaders.

To a poor peasant boy who probably seldom got to town, Stein am Rhein would have been a sophisticated city and full of magic. I can’t help but view this through the eyes of an awed child as he entered through the city gate, above.

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The beautiful town hall.

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

These frescoes are original. Imagine what they looked like when Rudolph visited these shops.

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I supposed it goes without saying that I desperately want to visit Stein am Rhein. Of course, I say that about all of the locations where my ancestors lived.

You can enjoy more photos, here.

By Hansueli Krapf – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Rhine passes the quaint village of Stein am Rhein, providing lifeblood. But Rudolph wouldn’t have sailed away on the Rhine River. Instead, he would have struck out overland for Grossheppach and a new life.



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Jacob Dobkins and the Battle of Kings Mountain – 52 Ancestors #334

The temperature peaked someplace in the 90s on the Friday before Memorial Day in 2012, and the humidity was stifling. No one else, except one runner, was crazy enough to be hiking on Kings Mountain that day.

If Jacob Dobkins could fight for his life here, I could certainly hike in the heat.

I hiked the Kings Mountain National Military Park battlefield trail which the park service has conveniently marked with signs. There was also a cell phone audio tour where visitors call a phone number, enter the stop number, and a recording explains what happened there.

My ancestor, Jacob Dobkins, who we think was living in Virginia at that time served at Kings Mountain.

The decisive battle occurred on October 7, 1780, and amazingly, only lasted for a single hour. For some, though, it was a lifetime.

Jacob Dobkins

Jacob Dobkins was born in 1751 in Augusta County, Virginia to Captain John Dobkins and Elizabeth. I have not been able to confirm Elizabeth’s surname.

At Kings Mountain, Jacob would have been 29 years old, married to Dorcas Johnson for just over 5 years, and had 2 or 3 small children at home.

We don’t know a lot about his early life, other than he grew up and lived on the frontier.

In 1773, Jacob was found in Fincastle, Virginia on a delinquent tax list. It’s possible that he had moved on which is why his taxes were delinquent. However, Fincastle County, Virginia included a huge territory – land surrounding the Clinch River in what would become Tennessee, part of western Virginia, and what would become the state of Kentucky. Who knows where Jacob actually lived.

When Jacob Dobkins and Dorcas Johnson married on March 11, 1775, they lived in Shenandoah Co., Virginia.

Jacob’s Revolutionary War pension application says that in 1779 he enlisted in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. After the war, he appears on the 1783 tax lists in Virginia, then in the Shenandoah Co. Virginia census in 1790. He is living in Jefferson Co., Tennessee by 1792 when he sued John Sevier, also a veteran of Kings Mountain. John was at that time a member of the House of Representatives from North Carolina and would become the Governor of Tennessee in 1796.

Jacob bought land in Jefferson County, Tennessee in 1795, but by 1802 had purchased land in Claiborne County where he spent the rest of his life.

A humble man, Jacob never owned more than a log cabin – yet he and 1000 other men collectively changed the course of history.

Jacob passed away on March 4, 1833, an old man, with a Revolutionary War pension. Jacob’s pension application does not state that he was at Kings Mountain, but he is listed in Pat Alderson’s book, The Overmountain Men as has having served in that battle.

Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive roster.

The Over Mountain Men

There’s a difference between militia units and men who enlisted to serve in the Revolutionary War. It’s certainly possible to be both and it’s clear that some men who fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain were indeed enlisted.

A depiction of the gathering of militiamen at Sycamore Shoals prior to the Battle of Kings Mountain, from 1915.

Militia units were assembled locally to protect the homes and property of the community. Militia service was unpaid. Men provided their own gun and supplies and were obligated to show up and practice on the muster field where they lived.

Sometimes men from militia units did enlist in the war but being in the militia did not necessarily equate to military service. Militiamen stayed home unless there were extraordinary circumstances where they were called to action or unless they joined the military. Men who enlisted did not stay home, but they did visit from time to time.

By Brian Stansberry – Own work, Public Domain,

The Over Mountain Men gathered in several locations prior to departing for King’s Mountain where they would coalesce on October 7th.

Before my trip to the Kings Mountain Battlefield Park, I didn’t realize that militia units from different locations had stayed together and fought together during that conflict. That does make sense since those men had trained together and understood their commander well. If you’re wondering about your ancestor and Kings Mountain, look for evidence of other men from his community having fought there.

I also didn’t realize that the Over Mountain Men were primarily Scotch-Irish and that they had planned to stay neutral until Patrick Ferguson, the Loyalist/British commander, threatened to “come over the mountain and lay waste their land and homes to fire and sword.” Not only did Ferguson threaten the men directly, but their wives and children. That was a very, very poor choice.

Hence, Ferguson inadvertently gave birth to their name, in part because they did indeed come from “over the mountain,” west of the Appalachians, the colonial boundary.

As the ranger said, those mountain men were born fighters and they were angered into action. Especially since the battles of Buford, known as Buford’s Massacre, and Camden had been so horrid. The British slaughtered men on the battlefield under the flag of surrender.

As the Over Mountain Men charged up the side of Kings Mountain, they shouted Buford…the leader of the massacred men.

Never underestimate the power of enraged, determined people. Not only did they win the battle, decisively, but they turned the tide of the war and showed the British that they could and would win.

The Battle of Kings Mountain was a decisive inflection point in the Revolutionary War.

Patrick Ferguson’s “Advantage”

Patrick Ferguson was so confident of his superiority over those backwoodsmen that he isolated himself on the top of the mountain with no defensive plan. He simply planned to shoot the men as they crested the hill. He did shoot a few, but what he didn’t anticipate is the sheer number – almost 1000 – men who were charging like Indians, not like the regimented English soldiers in formation.

The Over Mountain Men swarmed Ferguson with no warning, from every place all at once.

Ferguson’s hilltop “advantage” soon became a problem, and then turned into a trap from which he and his men could not escape. The British and their Tory supporters fell, and even after they surrendered, many died at the hands of the Over Mountain Men in retribution for what they had done to Buford and at Camden.

Some Tory soldiers were killed on the battlefield and others were lynched for treason. Then, within a day, the mountain men dispersed, disappearing back into the silent hills from whence they came….never to be forgotten. Names included Campbell, McDowell, Edmondson, and others.

My ancestor’s brother, Nathaniel Vannoy from Wilkes County, North Carolina was present as was his sister’s husband, Col. Benjamin Cleveland, depicted below leading the Patriot militiamen back home after battle.

By Don Troiani – Allan Jones personal collection, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Reverend George McNiel, the “elderly” minister, age 60 or so, another ancestor, accompanied the Wilkes County men as a volunteer chaplain. Sadly, his services were needed, although there is no comprehensive list of who died on either side.

Comparatively few fatalities occurred to the Over the Mountain Men, but many Tories died that day.

The Battlefield Path

The path today at Kings Mountain is paved and circles the actual battlefield which is on top of the mountain. Locations of interest are marked. The circular path is at the base of the hill.

Come along for a walk. Bring a cold drink – it’s hot😊

Glancing up the hill, above, and along the paved pathway, below.

The ranger told us that the land has been logged since the battle and the original forest was much more mature. The soldiers reported that they could see each other clearly through the trees, so the undergrowth is a function of regrowth.

Some of the area was craggy and remind me of the pictures of the Scottish highlands. Our Scotch-Irish ancestors probably felt very much at home. Many of the Highland rebels left Scotland after the 1745 Battle of Colladen Moor. These men and their sons were born fighters, ingrained in both their blood and culture.

Men were buried on Kings Mountain where they fell if they were actually “buried” at all. Anonymous fieldstones were marked with honoring plaques later, as we see below. Paths up and down the hillsides lead to the graves. Men were killed all over the hill, not just on top.

It’s hard to believe this beautiful, tranquil location was the site of such a monumental battle. Although, I can feel their presence in the silence.

Countless men lost their lives here and many more were wounded. It’s amazing that such a decisive battle was won by only 1000 or so backwoodsmen, virtually untrained, pitted against highly-trained soldiers and their backcountry brethren.

Nooks and crannies on the walkway hold stones marking fallen soldiers.

Today, on Memorial Day, we honor these men and their service. This is the Appalachian version of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier along with many more whose graves have been lost to time.

As I proceed around the mountain, the hillside becomes significantly steeper, and the woods deepen. These signs placed along the pathway were immensely helpful.

Can you imagine seeing red-coated men charging at you with bayonets?

The Patriots were longhunters, armed only with hunting rifles. Similar men had been slaughtered just weeks before. No one really expected this to be different.

The Over the Mountain Men charged the British three times and faced those bayonets. By the time bayonets were useful, the guns themselves were not.

Were they brave or foolhardy?

That third charge was successful.

The grave below is that of Major William Chronicle.


It rained the night before the battle. Wet leaves mute and absorb sound.

The Tories were confidently waiting but didn’t expect to be ambushed in silence. The Over Mountain Men had the advantage of understanding nature. They left their horses tied a mile away and approached on foot, like Indians. They fought the Indians on the frontier, but they had also learned from them. Very effectively, it seems.

Their final approach up the hill was with full-fledged war screams. The Tories found it every bit as disconcerting as did the Europeans when the Indians descended on them with war whoops.

Today, the only sound is the slightly babbling brook.

Up this hill they ran – shooting and shouting and whooping. “Buford,” they screamed with all their might.

Today, birds chirp. But on that day, the men from Virginia, North Carolina, and the area that would become Tennessee joined forces to survive the advance and crest the top of Kings Mountain. They fought their way up that hill, tree to tree. The bark was literally shot off the trees by the Loyalist’s guns.

Yes, into that horrific assault from above, the Over Mountain Men still continued to advance.

Would these men have ever dreamed that they turned the tide of the war and therefore the fledgling nation, tree by tree, as they inched up that hill? Today, the possibility for any 1000 people to have that kind of a profound effect seems nearly impossible, but it wasn’t then.

I’m sure those men never even pondered the idea that someday this would be an honored battlefield, or that their descendants would come here to honor them, their service and sacrifice, and to be with them in whatever small way we can be. That this place would one day be peaceful was incomprehensible on that October day.

Back then, there were no honored battlefields. Only bloody farmers’ fields where men were wounded and died. Honor and commemoration would come much, much later.

The Over Mountain Men were stubborn to a fault. They didn’t take orders well, if at all. Their commanders understood this – because they too were one of those men. Each man was instructed to be his own officer and do the best he could.

Family Against Family

Not everyone agreed that the colonies should become their own country. Some believed that revolting against England was wrong, for any number of reasons. Like during the Civil War that followed some 80 years later, the populace was divided.

The hardest part of this battle was probably that it turned family members against each other. In some cases, brother against brother. It’s told that one man, a Tory, was injured and asked his brother-in-law, a Patriot, for help. The reply he received was to ask his friends.

In many ways, this battle wasn’t really about sovereignty, it was about what Buford had done, under the truce flag, to the Patriots in two earlier battles. It was about Ferguson’s threat to destroy the homes, family, and farms of the formerly neutral men of Appalachia. It was about revenge and justice.

It was not a good day to be a Tory, or Ferguson.

Colonel William Campbell

Colonel William Campbell, from Augusta County, Virginia rallied the Over Mountain Men to return after they had begun to retreat and to charge the Tories once again.

He was known to the Loyalists as the “bloody tyrant of Washington County” due to his harsh treatment of Tories, but was a hero to the mountain men. He instructed them to, “Fight like Hell and shout like devils.” He was promoted to General in 1781, but died shortly after of a heart attack.

Somehow my Campbell line is related to his line, but I have been unable to identify exactly how. It’s certainly possible that my Charles Campbell was at Kings Mountain with his kinsman, Colonel William Campbell whose father’s name was also Charles Campbell.

I ponder this possibility as I walk. I can’t help but wonder how many of my ancestors fought, here, at Kings Mountain.

This tree has grown over a large rock. Was this rock a fieldstone serving to mark the grave of a quickly-buried soldier?

The previous photos were all taken at the base of the hill and slightly ascending.


Beginning here, the photos are from the top of the hill. This is where Ferguson and many of his men were killed. They thought that they could simply wait there for the Over the Mountain Men and pick them off with bayonets as they crested the hill. Their bayonets were “high” and did not have the effect they wanted. Bullets travel much further than bayonets and red-coated men made great targets.

On the top of the hill, which was cleared at the time, today stand two markers.

This monument is the Centennial Monument, built in 1880 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle.

This stone does not mark a grave, but honors Colonel Asbury Coward who planned the 100th Anniversary celebration and raised the money for the commemorative statue.

We are now looking down the hill. The mountain men charged up this hill, towards Ferguson’s soldiers and Tories waiting for them, about where I’m standing.

Who Was a Tory?

It was difficult to tell who was who, well, except for the English soldiers who wore those distinctive red coats. Ninety percent of the Loyalists, known as Tories, were friends and neighbors.

Emotions ran perilously high. Family members felt betrayed and couldn’t understand how their kinsmen could feel otherwise – strongly enough to want to kill them.

The Tory Oak in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, also known as the Cleveland Oak, was the tree in which Colonel Benjamin Cleveland hung at least 5 Tory traitors in 1779, three of whom had attempted to kidnap him.

Pretty much, a Tory was someone on top of the hill trying to kill you. Once there, it was almost impossible to tell the difference.

Is an unknown soldier buried under some of these rocks?  The dead had to be buried someplace here – their graves now lost to time.

The Tories and the English soldiers were pinned on top of the mountain. Some Loyalists attempted to either escape or switch sides, but I fear their lot had already been cast given that they had already shown their true allegiance. A “conversion” under duress is likely not genuine and the Over Mountain Men knew that.

But what would those men, on either side, have done if they discovered the person they were trying to kill was a family member or neighbor?

US Obelisk Monument

This beautiful white granite monument on the top of Kings Mountain is a smaller version of the Washington Monument.

Plaques on the sides list the commanders and known dead Americans. You can read documentation about the battle, here.

The plaques honor the fallen at Kings Mountain. I was so hoping for a complete roster of all the men who participated in this battle, but no such luck. Historians have been piecing this information together for years.

This beautiful white monument is located in the center of the top of the hill.

This nearby stone honors Colonel James Hawthorne who took command after another officer was wounded. However, this is one of the LEAST remarkable things about James Hawthorne. This man was made of steel and grit.

Ferguson’s Demise

Engraving depicting the death of British Major Patrick Ferguson who was shot from his horse, but he didn’t actually fall off entirely. With his foot still in the stirrup, he was dragged to the patriot side.

According to Patriot accounts, when a militiaman approached the Major for his surrender, Ferguson drew his pistol and shot the man. Probably not a good idea.

Other soldiers reacted in kind and 7 or 8 musket holes later, Ferguson was dead. Many, many men reported that they had fired the fatal shot. Militia accounts said his body was stripped of clothing and the men urinated on him before burial, near where he died. The militiamen hated this man who had wrought so much indignity and pain.

I don’t know who marked Ferguson’s grave, or when, but initially it was marked only by a pile of stones.

Major Patrick Ferguson isn’t very likable. He recruited Tories from among the residents of the Carolina backcountry and commanded several devastating Revolutionary War battles.

He’s not a hero by any measure, but we must give the devil his due. You can’t help but respect Ferguson. He embodies all that people love about the Scotch-Irish – the same traits that the Over the Mountain Men used to defeat him.

Ferguson was bullishly stubborn. His elbow was shattered in a previous battle by a musket ball, and he learned to ride with his other hand, write with it, fence with it, and used a silver whistle to command his men since he didn’t have the second hand he needed. He had to hold on to the reins with something. Obviously, that last stubborn shot he fired, surely knowing he would be killed immediately as a result, was fired with his one good hand.

Patrick was a one-armed commander in the Battle of Kings Mountain but never considered himself in any capacity disabled.

He was also a bit of a renegade, and the more established commanders basically abandoned him to face the Over the Mountain Men alone. Maybe they thought, “so much the better,” if Ferguson were killed, but little did they dream the magnitude of that victory would also mean their defeat.

There just seems to be some karmic justice lurking in that situation.

Ferguson famously traveled with two women, both named Virginia, leading to many untoward jokes about his ability to remember the right name in the heat of the moment, so to speak. One Virginia died on the mountain with him and was buried in the same grave.

One escaped, the Over the Mountain Men parting ranks to let her through. I can’t even begin to imagine how those women wound up on that hilltop.

Some reported that it was as Virginia escaped that she told them Ferguson was wearing a red and white plaid shirt. His men could easily distinguish him, but after that prize piece of information, so could the Over Mountain Men.

The location of Ferguson’s death is marked on the top of Kings Mountain.

Ferguson’s grave is nearby in a “can’t miss it” location right beside the path.

Marked with the original cairn and now a stone as well, it’s actually quite beautiful.

You know, the great irony is that Ferguson, born in Scotland, was probably related to at least some of these men.

The Over Mountain Men are Victorious

This stone, tucked away down a little path, commemorates the service of Colonel Frederick Hambright, a German born Patriot who urged his men to continue fighting after Ferguson famously claimed that “all the Rebels from hell” would be unable to drive him away.

Clearly, Ferguson was mistaken, as proven by Hambright and his men.

That Night

Imagine the night after the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Men of both sides would have been terribly on edge.

They would have been trying to rest, as best through could, among the moans and groans of the wounded. Men probably died during the night.

Neither side knew what the morning would bring, and both sides were afraid of each other. Other than the men in red coats, it was difficult to determine who was on which side.

The Tories/ Loyalists/Redcoats knew the Whigs/Patriots/Over Mountain Men would like nothing better than to hang them. The feeling was clearly mutual, based on past behavior at previous battles.

The Over Mountain Men knew that Loyalist reinforcements couldn’t be far behind.

Neither contingent could move under the cover of darkness.

I’d wager no sentry fell asleep that night – and neither did most of the other men.

Even burying the dead would have been risky.

The Tory/Loyalist Prisoners

It was reported that the militiamen had captured more than 700 Loyalists, be they English soldiers or Tory sympathizers. By the time they reached the Moravian settlement of Bethabara, near Winston-Salem, three weeks later, they had 300 prisoners, and by early December, only 130. A month later, they had 60. What happened to the missing men?

Some were likely hung. Some found a sympathetic ear among relatives or neighbors and were paroled or simply allowed to go home. Some could have been wounded and either left behind or died someplace. The Moravians reported that some escaped. More than 200 were reported to have been consigned into the Patriot militia but had since defected and rejoined the British to fight against the Patriots another day.

Returning Home

The British clearly hated these men who would not be subdued.

Hearty, brave, and having succeeded against all odds, the Carolina backwoodsmen and the Over Mountain Men returned to their homes, crossing the high mountain range through snow.

They would wait for the next volley from the British, prepared to meet them once again where they must. But the tide had turned, thanks to the incredible bravery of 1000 out-gunned, untrained, angry, Patriots.

The Battlefield Today

In order to protect the battlefield, it had to be purchased and then designated a National Historic Landmark. This occurred in 1930 when President Herbert Hoover, along with 70,000 people, visited Kings Mountain.

From the location above, marked by a rock, Hoover gave a speech that set the wheels in motion for the park today.

Hoover’s speech, above, marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain.

I can’t even begin to imagine 70,000 people gathered at Kings Mountain. Seventy times as many people as there were 150 years earlier on that same day.

Kings Mountain

This then is the story of Kings Mountain, a narrative not only of military victory but the tale of a vendetta “paid” as well.

After winning this battle, these mountain men, not soldiers, but fathers, husbands, and brothers turned around, returned home, and resumed their life on the frontier. It was fall – time to lay in meat for the winter and chop wood for the stove.

They needed to tell the wives and mothers of the men who would not be returning – those who remain on Kings Mountain. The community would help those widows and families survive.

This make-shift army of volunteer men changed the course of history and shaped this country in a way no others ever would, vanquishing their enemies who laid waste to their kinsmen under the flag of truce.

It’s ironic that we don’t even know the names of the men largely responsible for America becoming a democracy as opposed to continuing as subjects of the British crown.

Had the British and their Tory compatriots not angered these men into a boiling rage, who knows, we might live under the British flag yet today. That trajectory changed, thanks to the utter bravery and sheer stubbornness of a few hardy backwoodsmen, the Over Mountain Men, brandishing axes, knives, and hunting rifles in the face of soldiers with bayonets.

Jacob Dobkins was probably among those stalwart men. Perhaps your ancestor was too.



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Camstra Burials: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way – 52 Ancestors #333

In last week’s article, The Camstra Trail, I was gifted with the beautiful miniature photo of Douwe Baukes Camstra and his wife and subsequently found the burial location of the couple, at least in general terms.

It’s interesting how publishing something like that opens the floodgates. Well, maybe not floodgates in this case, but definitely the faucet.

Three things happened.

  • Another photo of Douwe surfaced
  • We found the burial locations of Douwe Bauke Camstra who died in 1869
  • We found the burial location of his father, Bauke Douwe Camstra who died in 1866

Douwe’s Actual Burial Plot

As it turns out, I actually HAD more information about Douwe that had been previously provided by Yvette Hoitink. Of course, I made this discovery right AFTER I hit the publish button.

Yvette unearthed a letter written almost a century ago.

Ybeltje Camstra – a granddaughter of Douwe Bauke Camstra wrote in May 1923:

“My grandfather was somebody of fairly large mental gifts. He appears to have been a good mathematician, in that we had in our family an antique silver tobacco jar with an inscription, which read that this tobacco jar was given to him for important services, rendered to the City of Leeuwarden; these services were regarding calculations that he was required to do. This tobacco jar disappeared during the theft that took place in Maartensdijk around 1895, which is a shame.”

On 12 May 1846 the family Camstra settled in Leeuwarden. For years, the family lived in the house at the Grote Kerkstraat nr. 262. From this marriage were born six children, while the family Camstra-Kijlstra also took care to raise a niece Anna Elisabeth Camstra.

Also in the house lived Catharina Proost, school teacher, charged with teaching the children. Servant was Berbertje Koopal.

The couple Camstra-Kijlstra lies buried on the old Cemetery at the Spanjaardslaan in Leeuwarden, section 3, row 26, nr. 11.

There you have it. If I were Douwe’s direct descendant, I’d be placing a FindAGrave request for a photo – even if there is no marker and even if he’s currently sharing a grave with a few of his neighbors.

Yvette provided additional information about Douwe too.

After he married, Douwe B. Camstra was first head teacher in Drachten for several years, but was later appointed arrondissementsijker [district calibrator].

He was joint founder of the “Selskip foar Fryske Tael en Skrifekennisse [Society for Frisian language and writing knowledge]” and for many years was a member as “earste skriuwer [first writer]”. Douwe also wrote Frisian novellas, of which 12 were published in “Idu[…]” and “De Swanneblom.”

In regards to his appointment as district calibrator in Leeuwarden we find the following in the Resolutiën van Burgemeesteren der Stad Leeuwarden [Resolutions of the City Leeuwarden]:

28 February 1846 – Was read a resolution of the Provincial Executives of Friesland of 24 February 1846 nr. 29 regarding information about the transfer of district calibrator D.B. Camstra from Heerenveen to Leeuwarden, to replace the fired assistant calibrator G.M. Cahais, as well as determining the time for the calibration of the measures and weights, over 1846 and all the Cities and Municipalities of the province etc. This resolution has already had the required effect, so was decided to consider as notification.

By C messier – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Douwes Bauke Camstra would have been very familiar with “The Waag,” or weigh house in Leeuwarden where all types of goods were weighed, located on the canal center city, a few blocks from where Douwe was born.

Speaking of a Descendant

My cousin, a descendant of Douwe, dropped me a note immediately after he read last week’s article. He had been gifted with a copy of the same photo in 2013 along with another one of Douwe apparently taken a few years later.

Courtesy of cousin Glenn

Douwe looked to be a bit older and his black eye seemed to have healed. So my speculation that Douwe might have been blind was clearly wrong. Now I wonder if what we thought was a black eye was an artifact of very early photography.

These two photos provide secondary confirmation of the identity of this man.

Burial Location of Bauke Douwes Camstra (1779-1866) and Anna Elizabeth Jonker (1778-1856) 

I surmised in the article that since Douwe Bauke Camstra and his wife were buried in the Spanjaardslaan cemetery in 1869, that his parents were surely buried there too. That seemed reasonable, given that his father only died three years before Douwe and since there was no other cemetery in Leeuwarden following the 1827 edict that burials could no longer occur in churches and churchyards for sanitation reasons.

Then, I received this from Yvette:

About Bauke’s burial place, all the way back in 2013, I did a research report for you with the inventory of the estate of Bauke Douwes Camstra, created on 21 July 1866, after his death.

Among the estate was:

“Graves: Four graves at the churchyard in Goutum, the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grave from the church in row 18, with the two grave stones, valued at fl. 20 Deducted for maintenance and prohibition to open the two graves in which the deceased will be buried within 20 years.”

So Bauke was buried in Goutum just south of Leeuwarden. I once had a McDonald’s picnic dinner there and sent you a photo.

Yvette to the rescue once again, and my bad for not rereading the Camstra reports. The great irony here is that I was very excited about receiving that picnic photo from Yvette at the time and remember it well.

Courtesy Yvette Hoitink

I even managed to find the photo on my computer.

Yvette continues:

They owned 4 graves on the churchyard in Goutum, a small hamlet just south of Leeuwarden. They owned graves 4, 5, 6 and 7 in row 18.

Of course, this begs the question of who was intended to be buried in the other two graves, and if anyone in the Camstra family actually was ever buried there. I also thought his wife predeceased Bauke. I need to do some more reading and digging. Actually, what I need to do is write their own individual ancestor articles where I review everything.

That has to be on the north side since the south side doesn’t have 18 rows. I made a guess that they started counting the rows from the tower and indicated the location of these graves on the Google Map.

Yvette even marked their grave locations.

Google Streetview drove by the churchyard as well, but the trees were so full of leaves you can hardly see anything.

The estate bill included a provision for maintenance of the graves of Bauke and Anna Elisabeth for 20 years, so that’s long gone by now as many graves are cleared in the Netherlands after 20 years, I do not think these graves are still there. There is a small chance that they still exist because this was an owned grave, not a rented grave.

The graves at the Goutum cemetery are listed at Graftombe but the Camstra grave is not among them so it was probably cleared.

You can see the area where they are/were buried from the street beside the church. They are near the rear of the church, just the other side of the trees.

Why Was Bauke Buried in Goutham?

OK, so my logic was sound, but it was also wrong.

It made perfect sense that Bauke was buried in the only cemetery in Leeuwarden when he died. It made sense, especially since his son was buried there three years later.

In fact, now I wonder why Douwe wasn’t buried in Goutum with Bauke.

Furthermore, why WAS Bauke buried in Goutum?

After all, Bauke was a deacon in the Grote of Jacobijnerkerk Dutch Reformed church in Leeuwarden, just down the street from his home. He didn’t attend church in Goutum.

The beautiful new Leeuwarden cemetery park was just across the bridge, outside the city wall, much closer than Goutum.

This doesn’t make sense, at least not at first glance.

The church in Goutum (Buorren 23) is just south of Leeuwarden, about 3 miles as the crow flies from Bauke’s home church. Bauke would certainly have been familiar with the churches surrounding Leeuwarden.

My bet, at this point, is that Bauke was NOT in favor of being buried in a grave outside of a churchyard. There were gravesites available at the church in Goutum, and Bauke took advantage of the opportunity to purchase four. I think this comes under the category of, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Bauke found a way to be buried in a churchyard, even if it wasn’t his home church or even inside the city of Leeuwarden. It didn’t matter. The churchyard in Goutum is where he rested until at least 1886 when his 20 years was up.

Were it not for the purchase noted in Bauke Douwe Camstra’s estate record, we would never have known.



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