Searching For Our "Ancients":
Journeys of the Spirit
DOMINANT MENDELIAN INHERITANCE, PRINCIPAL FACTOR IN
THE OCCURRENCE OF CATARACT AND ECTOPIA LENTIS,
WITH REPORT OF CASES*
HAYNES BUXTON, ,%I.D., LL.D., F.A.C.S.
Professor of -Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat,
University of Oklahoma, School of Medicine, Oklahoma City.
has been tardy in accepting unpleasant facts, especially those that overthrow
preconceived, cherished theories. To many, to sleep is sweeter than to awake to the stern
realities of the laws that govern our life stream. Hence, the study of human heredity has
been confronted with two difficulties, one the immense labor necessary to secure
sufficient reliable data as to the re-occurrence of characters observed in a life current
upon which to establish unquestioned conclusions; the other the opposition to the
acceptance of the evidence gathered, because it too often destroys the airy castles of a
future charming family tree.
*Read in Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat
Section, Southern Medical Association.
Ninth Annual Meeting, Dallas, Tex., Nov. 8-11. 1916.
Nearly all of us in this room, being
older, can repeat the next few words. Perhaps, not so the great majority of Americans,
since they, by our standards, are so young.
Most of us here today not only remember
President Roosevelt's words. We probably remember exactly what we were doing when we heard
that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. We may even remember with feeling.
Dad and I were in the car as he drove
up American Ave. (now Long Beach Blvd.). The news came over the radio on the dash. As an
eleven-year-old, it didn't make much sense. But I knew it was something important,
something big, serious, even a little scary. Dad's mood told me that.
Then came December ]7th, 1941. 1
remember that date even better because it affected me more personally. I'll use that date
as a launching pad to share with you some of our family history and the search for it.
Oh, no' Groan' Boring!
But, I hope some of these stori . es
you might find interesting. More important, by sharing ways by which we have discovered
information, I would hope that could be helpful to anyone who might want to do their own
sleuthing for their "ancients". (By the way, I've always referred to my wife's
"ancestors". When Doris and I were tracking down mine in Kansas a few months
ago, she started talking about them as my "ancients ". What's in a word? At any
rate, that's why "ancients" is in the title.)
Our searching has been based upon
personal memories, stories passed on by family members, records, visiting sites connected
with our past, and the use of microfilm and other helps at our local Latter Day Saints
Church on 5th and Wabash. I am really not a computer person". However, two cousins
and a grand niece have been of huge help in finding family histories on the
"web" --- invaluable information. (First cousin, Bill Burkhalter of North
Hollywood, very distant cousin, recently discovered, Dennis Kelley of Newbury Park, CA., and niece Nikki
Vinson Degn, now living in Washington state.)
History Center at our local Mormon Church has been of tremendous help. The volunteers
there are friendly and know their business.
I have also
attended a few workshops these folk have presented. At one, among the material given us,
was a "Page Devoted to the Lighter Side" of family-hunting. It has excerpts from
actual correspondence received by the Family History Department in Salt Lake City. Such as
--"I would like to find out if I have any living relatives or dead relatives or
ancestors in my family." "My grandfather died at the age of 1"
"Enclosed please find my Grandmother. I have worked on her for 30 years without
success. Now see what you can do." "We lost our Grandmother, will you please
send us a copy." "Our 2nd grandfather was found dead crossing the plains in the
library." "Will you please send me the name of my first wife? I have forgotten
now to December l7th, 1941.
Wednesday afternoon, Dad and I stopped by the Harriman Jones Clinic in Long Beach (on
Cherry Ave., 2-3 blocks from the ocean), to see his Dad --- my Grandfather John--a patient
there. He was 81 and sick, although as we visited he seemed OK to me. His tall, slender,
bony frame was covered with just a white sheet. After awhile, we said "goodbye"
and headed home, first stopping to pick out a Christmas tree. By the time we got home, a
phone call had come. Grandfather had died after we left.
That was pretty
impressive for this little kid. I had just seen him, had just been talking to him. How
could it be" My first real introduction to the mystery of death.
A few years ago,
looking up a word in a dictionary (The Random House Dictionary of the English Language,
2nd edition), I saw another word I couldn't believe at the top of the page in bold print:
"floccinaucinihilipilification". What a great word! I learned it and have had
fun now and then using it. One of the longest words in the English language, it means
"having little or no value, trifling". History, perhaps? The dead? This paper?
Later, I looked it
up again, just to make sure I hadn't imagined it. This time my eye fell on the word just
above it: "floccilation --- a delirious picking of the bed clothes by a patient, as
with certain fevers".
December 17th came
back with a rush. While we visited Grandfather, he kept troubling the sheet over his
chest, puzzled that he was seeing little, black spots there. I was fascinated, since I
couldn't see them. Over a half-century later I learned what he was doing --floccilating.
later, my wife, Doris, and I moved to Redlands. Except for a quick visit in 1959, I didn't
remember being in the town before. But I had been ...when I was a child back in the `30s
and early `40s. My brother, John, told me recently that our family would drive through
Redlands on the way to the mountains ...in fact on Colton Ave through the University, and
within a block of where Doris and I have lived since 1963.
About 1930, when I
entered the world, Grandfather had a stone house built at what we always called
"Forest Home" (now Mountain Home Village) ...built by stone mason Martin
Fagerstedt. The family owned the house until World War II days when gas rationing forced
the sale of "the cabin". (Later, the "LODGE MOORE" sign came down,
replaced by "IGO'S", the new owner.)
Hanging on a wall
in our home today are two photos. In one, my brother, John, and I are posing in the snow
in front of "the cabin" (36916 Kilkare). John was a young teen, I about three,
putting the date at about 1933. In the other picture our son, Bob, and our two
grandchildren, Travis and Layme, are posing at the same spot, this time in the summer
shade of 1998. Behind them, the same rock-solid cabin, the very same large, beautiful
sycamore tree. These two photos mean a lot to me because of good memories from some sixty
years ago, and "just-the-other-day" memories of loved family. (See Appendix)
1 was eleven when
Grandfather died. I remember him well. Now, so many years later, and with a big interest
in family histories, I realize I didn't really know him as a human being, and knew next to
nothing of the story of his life. Frankly, I never cared that much. Now I do. But it's
late to try and learn. Too late, for the most part. I regret that.
Having been a
teacher of U.S. History for some thirty years, my interest in family history is not
surprising. There is, of course, a transition from the famous to the unknown, to the
"everyman". But as a teacher I long ago came to realize that every person's life
story is interesting and of value.
Many of O'Henry's
(William Sidney Porter's) short stories were based upon the people he met on the streets
of New York City --- peddlers, seamstresses, "waifs'". He said, "I would
like to live a lifetime on each street in New York. Every house has a drama in it."
(Smithsonian, Jan. 1997, p. 98).
William R. Ferris,
Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, said, "When an old man or an
old woman dies, a library burns to the ground."
Thornton Wilder observed, "I am interested in those things that repeat and repeat and
repeat in the lives of millions --- in other words, in the hurnan heartbeats and the
spiritual searches" (Memoirs of the Spirit, Edwin S. Gaustad, ed., Eerdmans, 1999).
In the personal
"unknowns" may be found human, universal gifts of the spirit.
for the `Ancients"' didn't begin with the Moores. Rather, with Mom's family, the
Buxtons, especially with her father, "Papa" Buxton. (I'll return to the Moore's
Buxton died in 1924, six years before I was born. But I can remember Mom talking about him
often. It was obvious she loved hirn dearly, and was proud of him.
Buxton entered the world in 1859 in the small village of Londonderry, Vermont.
In 1975, Doris,
Susan and young Bob and I took a nine-week car trip to the East Coast. Among our
destinations was Londonderry, where Papa was born and grew up into young manhood. On the
drive east we stopped to see Buxton relatives in Oklahoma. We learned from some who had
made the trek to Vermont that a few of the old buildings existed still, including the
house where Papa was born and the tiny, white-frame school where he taught for a year.
Most interesting was an artist's painting of the modest, two-story, red-frame house where
Papa's parents and grandparents had lived. We were told to see the house for sure.
When we arrived
in Londonderry that July morning, we began the search for it. I soon realized that I
hadn't paid enough attention to the directions. Finally, the hunt seemed --- to my
Knowing we would
probably never be back, I wondered, "What can we do?" It was a long, long shot;
but, maybe someone here might remember the Buxton name. Likely after more than a century?
No. But, maybe.
We drove over to
the village post office. The young woman postal clerk shook her head. I turned to walk
away. Before reaching the door, and mentally grasping for straws, I suddently remembered a
family story. One more try. I went back to the counter and began to give the bare-bones of
it to the clerk.
An ancestor ---
it was later learned to be great-great grandfather Nathan Buxton --- left his Londonderry
home for Rhode Island as a young man. The village then had no tanner (of tree bark for
dye), Nathan's vocation. After awhile, Nathan was contacted and asked to return home. If
he did, the townspeople would build him a house. He agreed. Through the winter snows, he
brought his wife and two very young children back to Londonderry (about I 820).
As she listened,
to my complete amazement --- and joy --- the clerk said, "Oh, I've heard a story like
She called a
woman in town who she thought might know something about the Buxtons. We drove to her
hilltop home. She was extremely kind and friendly. She knew the house exactly, and the
current owners. Another phone call made a visit possible.
Shockler was an artist, whose painting of the house we had seen in Oklahoma. He and his
wife invited us in and told us what they knew of the history of the house. After awhile,
he took me up into the attic and showed me the roof beams with the rough adze marks made
the by townfolk as they made good their promise to build Nathan his house. Talk about the
past coming alive! It was a moving experience of the spirit --- of the sacred, really.
the Shocklers told us that great-great grandparents Nathan and his wife, Elizabeth
Griswold Buxton, had eight children. Son Martin died in infancy. The three daughters died
of disease here in this house. Of the remaining four sons, three died between 1863-1865 in
the Civil War. Of the eight, only my great grandfather Stephen survived and lived a normal
life-span. Yet another reminder of the mysteries of the slender threads of the past that
have allowed us to be. And of gratitude for life! Of the sacred journey of life.
(By the way,
cousin Gary Buxton of Oklahoma City bought the house a few years ago; so it's back in the
That noon Doris
and the kids and I ate a sack lunch beside the wide stream flowing through town. I sat on
the rocks, watching the water rush by. The words of a hymn came to mind --- "0 God,
Our Help in Ages Past": "Time, like an ever-flowing stream, bears all its sons
away." My "ancients", and one day, me ...us. A sober thought. But not
pessimistic. A reminder of our connectedness as a human family, and of gratitude for that.
And of hope for the future in God's plan and care. Another experience of the spirit --- of
retirement, in September 1996, Doris and I flew to Oklahoma City to visit with Buxton
cousins and try to learn some family things. (That included the Southwest flight out of
Phoenix where I boarded the wrong connector, one bound for Las Vegas. My wife had to send
aboard a Southwest agent who rescued me, much to the fun of nearby passengers')
We had a great
time with the clan --- some new, sorne old.
"must-see" site for us was Guthrie, the site of one of the "Sooner"
land rushes of a century ago, and the old territorial capital of Oklahoma, a few miles
north of "The City". That's where Papa brought his young family in 1891.
In the last year
of his life, he wrote out "Autobiography of L Haynes Buxton. M.D., LL D,
F.A.C.S." It was only two pages. Doubtless, he intended to write more; but strength
and time ran out. He tells a bit of his life in New England, of the move west to Iowa, but
never gets to Guthrie.
Here are excerpts
from his paper:
largely self-educated... when sixteen years old I passed the Teacher's examination and
taught a country school" (Londonderry). He says he "Boarded `round' on the Grand
List ....In one instance I was the guest of a young maiden lady in her lovely little farm
house, in another I bunked with a crowd of woodsmen in a saw mill settlement. I had to
walk through winter snows from one fourth to two miles to reach my boarding places. I
janitored my own school house, building tires, etc ....I was baptized `through ice' in
West river, South Londonderry, in the winter of 1871, together with quite a large number
of others. A section of the ice which was 18 inches thick was cut from the bank out into
the stream and each candidate walked out into the icy river and was baptized. At this
baptism, a girl on crutches, was carried into the river by the minister." He says
these winter baptisms were customary and "no sickness ever resulted from this cold
immersion in freezing weather."
He tells of his
love of literature --- English and American, Greek and Latin --- and of the importance of
elocution (public speaking) in his later life.
He studied law for
a time with his uncle in Plattsburgh, New York.
Greek and Latin at a college prep school in Redford, N.Y., he met Ella Hooey, daughter of
Irish immigrants. They were married on Christmas Day, 1882, in Plattsburgh.
At some point he
decided he wanted to go into medicine. The couple returned to his parent's home in
Londonderry, where, he says, "I worked on the farm and learned my anatomy. The walls
of my room were covered with names of bones, muscles, nerves, etc. upon great sheets of
Leaving his wife and new-born baby
with his parents, he went to study medicine for a year at the University of New York City.
He called it a "wonder year". The following year he studied at the University of
Vermont. He says he was "the happiest of men".
Ready to begin practice, "I had no
money ...I purchased a lame horse and buggy on time. Loaded up enough furniture `to do'
and was off for Plymouth Union, Vermont, to open an office... We lived only a short
distance from the home of President Coolidge then a mere boy of thirteen years. I was
often in their horne and `Cal' brought in the snow and helped us to hot maple sugar when
the sugar season was on."
He then briefly tells of seeing an ad
for a doctor in Fulton, Iowa; so he heads west. Once again he leaves wife and young son
behind; they join him six months later.
There the "Autobiography"
For many years I wondered when he wrote
this. It became clear on a closer reading of his paper. He mentions `Cal' and
"President Coolidge". He became President on the death of President Harding, on
August 4, 1923. Papa died October 4, 1924. So he came to the decision to write his life
story not long before his death. Then time ran out.
After a time in Iowa, Papa brought his
family to Guthrie, Oklahoma, in 1891, to live there until 1899 when they moved to Oklahoma
City. Cousins Tom and Sue Buxton drove us up to Guthrie. Doris and I had such a good time
that we drove back again the next day.
Before going to Oklahoma, I had
corresponded with the state Historical Society in Guthrie, and with the local Guthrie
historian, Mrs. Helen Holmes. Mrs. Holmes was of particular help,
and really went the second mile in researching Buxton information for us. When in town, we
took her to lunch and came to realize what a treasure of information she was. (We learned
from her daughter that she died the following spring, which made us all the more grateful
for the special time we had with her.)
Guthrie is handsomely restored, with
all its early Western flavor. A great pictorial book of those days
helped us to locate family sites.
This includes the building where Papa
brought his family to live, a two-story brick structure. It was another special time for
me as I imagined my mother learning to walk on those streets and play there with her
siblings and friends.
This building was more than a home. For
a few months it housed a school, Oklahoma University (more like a high school, really),
founded at roughly the same time as the University of Oklahoma down in Norman. Papa's
brother, William Albert, was the founder and President. "Uncle Albert" was
arrested, jailed and charged with the fraudulent raising of funds. After a short time, he
was released. The scandal died away, but so did the University.
I can remember as a boy, Mom talking
about, "Uncle Albert, the black sheep of the family." That was all. I never knew
why until 1996.
Uncle Albert spices up the family
However, Mrs. Holmes, who investigated
the story, said it was more complex than that. She said that Uncle Albert was probably not
guilty as charged, but unwise in his soliciting money. Shucks!
As for Papa, we saw where his medical
offices were. He became Territorial Superintendent of Public Health, and a member of the
Indian Territorial Medical Association. A family story has it that he swam the Canadian
River to bring medical care to an Indian tribe.
According to Mrs. Holmes, he apparently
had responsibility for a farm south of Guthrie where there were "tents and cabins for
tuberculosis sufferers" (letter, 31 July 1995). She includes in the letter an excerpt
from Gov. Cassius Barnes' report (p. 36) in which Dr. Buxton is quoted: "There is no
better land under the sun for the consumptive or person with lung trouble... We will not
banish you to a desert, uninhabited plain; to bleak, barren mountain region, exiled from
the sympathizing hands of humanity, but welcome you to our boundless, undulating
prairies, dotted with churches and schoolhouses, and invite you to find employment and
enjoyment, to eat of the bounty of our grainladen fields, sit under your vine and fig
tree, and become one of our intelligent and prosperous citizens" (Ibid.)
I believe that in the "OU"
fight song are the words, "Boomer - Sooner". Papa was both!
Papa continued his medical career
after the move to Oklahoma City in 1899. He is described there as "L. Haynes Buxton, M.D.,
LL.D.,...Chairman of the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Section of the Medical Association of
the Southwest; Professor of Opthamology in the Epworth College of Medicine; Oculist to the
Baptist Orphans' Home of Oklahoma, etc."
He was a religious man. A descendant of Buxton Baptists back,
at least, into the 18th Century, he was a pillar of the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma
City. He was Sunday School Superintendent both in Guthrie and in Oklahoma City for some
fifteen years. One of the proudest experiences of his life was to be a delegate to the
International Sunday School Convention in Jerusalem in 1904.
Finally, as related to Guthrie, in an
earlier Fortnightly paper ("Surely, the Lord is in This Place", 10-22-98), I
mentioned Summit View Cemetery. This is where Bill Doolin of outlaw fame is buried. It is
also the burial site for Elmer McCurdy, slain bandit whose body went unburied for some
sixty years, having been discovered, mummified, at a Long Beach, CA., amusement park fun
Summit View is where my
great-grandparents lie buried --- Stephen A. (the man who lost his seven siblings) and
Laura Haynes Buxton. Standing at their tombstone was another sacred experience, seeing
chiseled in the Vermont granite the words, "In Christ", a reminder of what a
debtor I arm to those who have gone before me, given my personal religious beliefs and
While visiting in Oklahoma City in
1996, cousins Tom and Sue drove us by 1021 N. Robinson where the Buxtons lived, and where
Mom and Dad were married on St. Patrick's Day, 1915. They also showed us where the Moore
home had stood at 401 W. l3th St.
While both sites
are parking lots now, photos of the two homes feed the imagination of how it might have
been "back then". I mention this because Oklahoma City is where the Buxtons and
Moores came together about a century ago.
published a pamphlet called "The Buxton Family". In it he cites from
"Burke's Peerage" that Bertram de Buxton "accompanied William the Conqueror
from Normandy to England in 1066" (p.1). How accurate that is, is open to question.
As for American roots, Anthony Buxton (born 1601) came from England (probably the town of
Buxton) to Salem, Mass. in 1637. The first three generations lived in Salern. The next
three resided in Smithfield, R.I. (could this be the source of the Baptist connection?).
Then great-great grandfather Nathan, the tanner, moved to Londonderry. Because of this
booklet, we have always known our ancestry on the Buxton side. Our generation in America
is the eleventh. My middle name is Buxton. I only buy Buxton wallets!
Moores, we have genealogical lines tracing back to England, Ireland, Germany, and France
for certain branches of the family --- the Mannings, Stelles, Smalleys (a variation of
Smiley), and some others.
But nothing like
that for the Moores. The earliest story I know about Grandfather John (born 1860) is the
one about the family driving from Oklahoma City, across the desert wilderness, to
Pasadena, CA., in his Oldsmobile open touring car in 1914 (see earlier Fortnightly paper,
"Aunt Irene Looking for Her Steinbeck", 12-17-81; see also Appendix). As for his
parents --- their names only. Beyond that, a blank.
I asked my
siblings about Grandfather's past. "What about his parents? Did he have brothers and
sisters?" They answered, "We don't know. He never talked about his family."
struck me as odd. Why didn't he? It seemed a little mysterious. Curiosity pushed me to
search for answers. It became more involved detective work than I had imagined.
We have always
known that Dad was born in Hiawatha, KS., Oct. 7, 1891. Written family records tell us
that his mother, Minnie Reed Smalley, was born in Galesburg, IL., in 1869. Grandfather
John was born in Hamersville, Ohio, in 1860. Hamersville --- a name vaguely familiar for
years, from family records. Totally uninteresting ...but about to come alive. The
detective work was about to begin in earnest.
Where to start?
I had heard about
the Family History Center at a local Mormon Church (5th and Wabash). 1 began to use it on
a regular basis. The folk there have been extremely knowledgeable, courteous and of great
The first search
was for Grandfather, born in Hamersville, Brown Co., Ohio, in October 1860. The U.S.
census for that year was ordered. I had my first taste of scrolling the microfilm, and of
learning what an endurance test that can be. Names are handwritten, sometimes very dim, or
even invisible, and not alphabetized.
The patience was
worth it. I got excited every time I saw the name "Moore", and wrote down all
the information --- for awhile. But there were too many. (Cousin Bill Burkhalter later
told me that he had read the Moore is the ninth most common narne in the U.S.)
But --- all the
eye-strain, discomfort, tedium and persistence paid off. After a long time, there at the
bottom of a page was --- "Sidney Moore 28 real estate value $3800 personal property
$700 (no state of origin given)" --- and at the top of the next page --- "Malven
(i)a (the longhand is hard to read) Moore 24 F(emale) Ohio Mary 5 Ohio William 3
Ohio". (Because Grandfather John was born in October, and the census was taken in
June, his name isn't there.)
My excitement was
great! In my notes beside this information I wrote, "YES!!" There they were!
What to do next?
I checked the 1870
Brown Co. census. They were not there. Sometime between 1860 and 1891 the family moved to
Kansas. So began a search of the Kansas census records, starting with 1870.
Coincidentally, Hiawatha is in another Brown County (no connection). No luck there. A
helper at the Family Center suggested trying the county immediately to the east, as it was
on the Missouri River, a route of entry into Kansas.
So, the Doniphan
Co. census was ordered. I clearly remember my skepticism about finding the family. But,
after another long search, there they were again! "Moore, Me(a)lven(i)a 35
, milliner Ohio (no real estate) personal property $200 , Mary F W(hite) at home John 10 M
W George 6 M W"
But ...where was
husband and father, Sidney Moore? And son William (about 12)? Had they died? Were they
still in Ohio ...or sornewhere else in Kansas? (Further examining of the census revealed
William living in Domphan Co. with other Moores, doubtless a brother of Sidney and his
wife.) Also, notice the severe decline in financial fortunes of Melvina.
I began a
correspondence with volunteers at the Brown Co., Ohio, Genealogical Society, Dorothy
Helton and L' Vera Seipelt, in Georgetown, the county seat. They were of great help and
gave leads which were to be critical. (see Appendix)
Not satisfied with
mail and phone calls, I felt I wanted to go to Hamersville and sleuth about myself. So, in
June 1999, I flew to Cincinnati, which is about 35 miles west of Hamersville and
Georgetown. Frankly I didn't expect to learn much after nearly a century and a half. Was I
I poked around
several area cemeteries. There were lots of Moores. None of them connected for sure. But,
maybe they were kin. I took plenty of notes.
Society was in a very old building on the square in Georgetown where the courthouse stood.
The room was crowded with materials. Dorothy and L"Vera were friendly and helpful.
A third volunteer
came in after awhile. Her name was Margaret Burbage.
Our written family
records said that great grandmother Moore, Sidney's wife, was "Melvina Boble".
At the Family History Center in Redlands I looked and looked and could find no Ohio
Bobles. The folks there said that since mis-spellings were very common, perhaps the name
was "Noble". Sure enough there were Brown Co., Ohio, Nobles.
looked at my papers. When she saw the name Noble, she, startled, said, "That was my
great-grandmother's name. You don't suppose we are related? When I go home I'll look in
our family tree."
"Yes, would you believe, we are cousins!" Distant for sure, but cousins all the
same. The line goes back to the early 1800s, via the name "Colthar" (pronounced
"coal-tur"). The common Colthar ancestor was John Phillips Colthar, Sr., from
Kenny, drove his pick-up across a farmer's field to a small wooded strip. We got out, and
he led me to a tiny burial plot in the brush. There were several broken gravestones about.
Two were our mutual great-great-great-great grandparents: John Phillips, Sr. (1744-1830)
and wife, Barbara (no last name), died 1830. What a sobering thrill! It felt like holy
ground, based on gratitude for the chain, and gift, of life. (see Appendix)
Back visiting with
Margaret in her farm home, she said that another distant cousin, also from California, had
been by a few years earlier --- Dennis Kelley of Newbury Park. I e-mailed Dennis when I
got back home. His profession is in computers. He sent a full print-out of our family
lines back to John and Barbara Colthar. How terrific that was!
I had gone to Ohio
hoping to learn something about the Moores. Here was a totally unexpected gift ...a family
name completely unknown by any of us before.
But, there was
more yet to come on the Moores, too.
Our family has had
the name "Sidney Moore" as Grandfather's father. (Sidney became my Dad's, and
then my older brother's middle name.) But no Sidney Moore was to be found in the Brown Co.
records. In a letter written some time before my trip to Ohio, Dorothy Helton had
mentioned a "J.S. Moore" she had found. I ignored it as the wrong person. But
looking at that letter again, I saw that he married a Melvina Noble in 1854. The puzzle
pieces were fitting together. Further findings in Ohio showed that, indeed, our Sidney was
Joseph Sidney Moore. It was to be a crucial find.
One evening I went
by the Georgetown Public Library. I was told that they had very little genealogical
material there, which was true. Once again my expectations were low. As I was about to
leave, a man returned a book he had been using to the shelf where I was, right under my
nose. It turned out to be the "Brown County, Ohio, Marriage Licenses,
1818-1850." I picked it up and looked through it for Moores. Lo and behold! Here was
a man whose son was Joseph Sidney! Everything fit. This man was George C. Moore of
Virginia. Pursuing that information, I was able to find that he was from Amelia County, a
little southwest of Richmond, and born in 1786 or 1787. Here was a name, and a generation,
we had never known before: our great-great grandfather! (We have not yet found his wife's
name; but, now know of several of Joseph Sidney's siblings who moved with the family to
Ohio in the early 1840s.) We also learned that George C. had been a justice of the peace
in Amelia Co., VA., and was in Brown Co., Ohio, after the move. He died there in 1864, and
is among those listed as buried in the Hamersville Cemetery.
Another person who
was of great help in Georgetown was Mary Watson, Clerk of the County Board of
Commissioners. We had corresponded. Now she took me to the small archives room, filled
with records --- huge old, heavy, leather-bound volumes. (see Appendix)
So many books. So
little tune. I was leaving that day. Where to look?
I came to feel
that there must have been an unseen, guiding hand. Almost at random I pulled down a record
book: "FINAL RECORD NO. 10 BROWN CO. COMMON PLEAS".
And here was
listed in the index George C. Moore and the cases over which he presided in the 1850s and
There were also
two other cases I found indexed to J.S. Moore. The first gave the plaintiffs as "G.W.
and J.S. Moore". The date was 12 Nov. 1859. The Moores (found to be brothers, later)
brought the defendant to court suing for wrongful charges for plaster and mason work in
the laying of a hearth.
In the other case,
dated 19 Mar. 1866, the plaintiff was Samuel McBeth and the defendants, this time, were
the same G.W. and J.S. Moore. McBeth was suing the Moores for an unpaid debt in a
situation where he had been hired as a Civil War substitute. Reading the several long
pages of the case, written in large, flowery hand-writing, all of a sudden were these
words: "...it appearing that the said defendant J. Sidney Moore has died since the
commencement of this suit...". A little farther down the page, Ma(e)lvina Moore
becomes the defendant. I re-read this several times to make sure I was getting it right.
Dramatic moment! So this is why great grandfather is missing the the 1870 Kansas census.
He died in Ohio, at age 33. He left Melvina and her four small children.
Why did they go to
Kansas soon after? Did they go alone? How did they get there?
Whatever --- they
left husband and father behind. How did he die? A farm accident? TB? An epidemic? A recent
Brown Co. Genealogical Society newsletter contains a list of epidemics in the U.S. during
the mid-19th century. For 1865 - 1873: smallpox, cholera, typhus, typhoid, scarlet and
A special memory
of Ohio I will always cherish is of the small, beautiful, Hamersville Cemetery, just a few
hundred yards to the north of state highway 125. An area about the size of a football
field, surrounded by farmland and a grove of tall trees. Quiet. Serene. Sacred.
There were a
surprising number of Moore headstones, none that could be directly linked to our family.
But, in the green grass close to the trees and next to Moore headstones are three flat,
stone markers, about 8" x 4" each, forming a rectangle, maybe 8' x 6', a stone
at three of the corners. Naturally, I can't help but wonder if George C. and Joseph
Sidney, father and son, might be buried there. At any rate, the spot remains in my memory
and spirit, very special.
A final look at
the Ohio experience.
A few miles south
of Hamersville and Georgetown is the town of Ripley on the banks of the truly beautiful
Ohio River. Across the water is Kentucky, with historic Maysville a few miles up-stream.
Ripley was well-known as an important station on the Underground Railroad. Abolitionists
were active there in rescuing runaway slaves.
One of the
best-known was the Rev. John Rankin, Presbyterian minister in Ripley for many years, after
having been driven from Kentucky for his outspoken views. He not only spoke out in sermon
and speech, he was an organizer of the Railroad. Living in Ohio did not protect him. His
barn was set afire, his children shot at. The small Rankin home sits on a high hill
overlooking the river and Kentucky, the path up from the river used by the fugitives
well-marked. The home is an historic site, open to the public and well worth a visit. A
Bible in the house is opened to Psalm 62: "He is my defense, I shall not be moved.
Trust in Him at all times."
Also in Ripley,
right on the waterfront, is a home in restoration which belonged to African-American John
Parker. Parker was born a slave in Virginia, and later became a freedman. From his home in
Ripley he crossed over the river night after night to shepherd slaves to freedom. It is
estimated that he "personally led more than 1000 away" ("Freedom
Town", Los Angeles Times, 5-10-98). W.W. Norton republished his autobiography, I
Promised Land, in 1996.
Walking about this
historic town I stopped at a two-story waterfront house at Mulberry and Front Streets,
noting a plaque on the wall: "This tablet marks the home of THOMAS COLLINS,
Englishman, cabinet-maker, chief conductor on the underground railroad. Its portals were
always open. Through this door stole refugees innumerable. The night was never too dark
for the journey, too long for its owner to issue forth, leading the helpless across the
hills to freedom."
I found a
restaurant on the riverbank and twice had evening meals there. Looking across to hilly,
wooded Kentucky, my imagination was filled with thoughts of the desperate and courageous
fleeing slaves and of the brave people who helped them.
I have had a
life-long sensitivity to racial injustice, discrimination, racism, and a years-long
interest in African-American history. Where did that sensitivity and interest come from?
Family? Yes. Church and religious faith? Yes.
One of my most
valued possessions is an original 1853 copy of A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. Harriet Beecher
Stowe was assailed by many as a bleeding-heart liberal who didn't know what she was
talking about when it came to slavery. Papa Buxton gave the book to his daughter, my
mother, who passed it on to me. In A Key Stowe cites "chapter and verse", at
great length, giving the sources of her information.
Our book has lost
its original cover. On the weathered frontpiece, faded, is the signature of great
grandfather "Stephen A. Buxton". On the next page are written these words:
"This Book as the name on outside cover shows is from the Library of Stephen A.
Buxton Both sides of our family were the Foes of Slavery This is a sample of Anti-Slavery
literature L. Haynes Buxton" (grandfather).
A strange coming
together here in southern Ohio of our Moore and Buxton "ancients".
By the 1850s this
Buxton clan was clearly anti-slavery.
What about the
Moores? Same as the New England Buxtons? Not likely. Great-great grandfather George C.
Moore was born and raised in Virginia and didn't move to Ohio until he was about 50 or so.
What about his children, including great grandfather Joseph Sidney, all born in Virginia?
Why didn't Joseph Sidney fight for the Union in the Civil War --- in fact, hired a
substitute? Was he a Southern sympathizer? A Copperhead? Or maybe, like some others,
didn't want to get involved? Or was it mainly the fact that he had a wife and three very
young children, including a fourth born in 1864?
Our Moores and
Buxtons don't meet up for another fifty years or so. But what effects had these roots on
their descendants? Many things to ponder.
The trip to Ohio
had been of greater importance than I could ever have imagined. Flying home from
Cincinnati, I had time to think about my good fortune of what had been learned and
experienced. Also, a time to be grateful for all of those good people who had made this
bug remained alive and well; so in September of the same year, 1999, Doris joined me as we
flew to Kansas to explore what happened to the Moore "ancients" as they moved
west and settled in the extreme northeastern corner, on the banks of "the wide (and
wild) Missouri". Once again, I was sure that too much time had passed since the move,
1866-1870. Once again, I was wrong ...very wrong.
I hope that
there may be a Part II to this paper one day, to share the Kansas adventures and
"finds"...as well as other that have followed, from Ireland to up-state New
York, to Omaha, Nebraska, to Pasadena, California, and even back hone to Redlands.
another unexpected "find" that sheds light on the Moore's move from southern
Ohio to Kansas. It also speaks to the migrations west of so many others.
While in Domphan
Co., Kansas, Doris and I stopped by a small museum of Indian history off the main road in
a wooded glen. Originally, it had been the site of an early Presbyterian mission to the
Indians. (James Michener mentions it in his novel, Centennial.
In the gift room
I picked up a paperback, Thimble of Soil A Woman's Quest for Land, Historical letters
1854-1860, by Linda K. Hubalek (Butterfield Books, Lindsborg, Kansas, c. 1996). Title and
date interested me. The author had been researching her great-great grandmother, but says
her aunt, Margaret Ralston Kennedy, "kept popping up in files at museums, libraries,
and family records ...Digging deeper into her life, I found out she was a widowed mother
of thirteen children who made the trek from Ohio to the Kansas Territory with eight of her
children in 1855" (ix).
Ohio --- Kansas
--- a widow and her children --- only a few years before great grandmother Melvina headed
consists largely of Margaret's letters. She begins her story by telling of receiving a
wax-sealed letter from her son, "Bridge", who had left Ohio in search of good land to the west.
The envelope is heavy. She hears something sliding around inside. "I smiled as I
broke the seal of the letter and grains of sod filtered out. It was Bridge's way of saying
he had found land" (p. I).
In this 1854
letter he says, "We found an area that will accomodate all the Kennedy and Curless
families that want to move. We came across a pocket of land in the eastern part of the
Kansas Territory that was to our liking" (p.2). He describes a small river,
"thick stands of large timber on its banks, thinning out to rich bottom land" (i
i . ). He refers to it as a ``peaceful area" (ibid.). This is to prove ironic, for
the area is where Lawrence, KS., was to stand. In a few years this was to be a scene of
rage, violence and death, as ante-bellum arguments led to "Bleeding Kansas",
forerunner of the Civil War.
on --- "This peaceful area is large enough to allow each man to have 160 acres of
prime land at $1.25 an acre. By law, widows are allowed to buy land, too, if you so
desire" (i i .).
Naturally, I had
to keep reading.
in her journal tells how four of her children had moved west, into Illinois. Her two
youngest sons "are itching to move" (p.3). Her husband had died nine years
before. Bridge's letter arrived on her wedding anniversary. Was this a sign from him to
move on? She simply and poignantly tells of her desire to stay put, of all she will leave
behind if she moves, of the risks involved. "Panic creeps in with my thoughts"
(p.4). But she decides to do it: "I'm going to start a new life on the plains of
These words were
so alive to me, thinking of Melvina and her family. But there was more to come.
tells of her preparations to leave. What few things can she take? Most must be left
behind. Leaving loved ones was the hardest
On March 20,
1855, she relates seeing and hearing a rattling wagon approach the farm --husband, wife,
children, furniture. The young, excited new owners. "They have spied the swing in the
old apple tree that Hugh hung years ago for our children. I used to watch the children in
that swing from my front windows. I can smell the spring apple blossoms just thinking
about it. But I'll never smell that scent again" (p.11). Memories: "I kept
seeing the past" (p.12). Her husband, her children. "Suddenly, I can't face the
new family that is taking over my farm. I hate to seem impolite, but right now I'll break
to them. And I don't want my sadness to mar their happiness ...I'm leaving my home of
"John and Sarah are taking us to Hamersville to meet the afternoon stagecoach"
Whoa! Just a
minute! I wondered where in Ohio Margaret lived, and had no idea. I couldn't believe my
eyes. Hamersville! Home of our family roots! Neighbors of our "ancients"! They
must have known each other.!
Back to her
account. She climbs into the wagon. "I whisper a hoarse, `Let's go' to John"
(ibi . ). A little ways off by the orchard, she jerks the reins, climbs down, looks back
at the house, trying to remember every detail. Into a little bag of mementos she puts her
hand, pulling out her grandmother's thimble. She walks over to the swing by the old apple
tree. Kneeling, she pushes the thimble into the moist soil and packs it down into the
"Then I could
leave the home I've loved" (p. U). ).
She tells of
family members waiting in town (Hamersville) at the stagecoach stop. Of more memories, of
goodbyes, and tears. The stage arrives. It's late. They hurry off. "Turning to lean
out the window, all I could see through a veil of tears was a group outline of my family,
disappearing into the dust of the road. My life in Ohio is over" (p.14).
leaves them in Cincinnati, some forty miles away. There they board the train for
Indianapolis. "I don't recall most of the train ride, my mind being back in
Hamersville or on our farm" (p.15).
could be told millions of times by people on the move. Simple. Poignant. Powerful.
Arizona postcard shows a tornbstone from old Tombstone. (There is a replica of it at
"Boot Hill" at Knott's
Berry Farm in California.)
The words read
FROM A .44
So --- no more on the Moores for now.
Maybe more later!