Thursday, March 24, 2011

Let's Play “Follow Along...”

Elon Phay was my 4th great grandfather. He married Loraine Rowley. Loraine Rowley was my 2nd Great Grandmother. It was the third marriage for him, and the second marriage for her. They had no issue together.

Stay with me...

If you spend several decades with these folks, as I have, it's quite simple to understand. Elon Phay was first married to a woman named “Lydia.” Her maiden name has not been discovered yet – I have a 'theory' (loosely based) that her maiden name was 'Rowley', and that she was a sister of Loraine Rowley (her successor), but that is not proven. Lydia Phay had seven or eight children with Elon Phay, their third child, a daughter born in Ohio about1820, was Laura Rebecca Phay.

Lydia Phay died about 1845, and in 1846 Elon Phay married Flavia (or Flavilla) Dell. I would say very little is known about her, but I have no idea how little, or how much, is known about her – because I haven't researched her. So far, she plays only a passing, short term roll in my “Back Story.” (I call all the trials, trails, and tid-bits of my ancestral tales a “Back Story”, 'cause they're stories that go way back. Cute?

Oh, well... about Elon Phay.

I don't know what happened to Flavia, but by 1852 she's out of the picture and Elon marries Lorain (Rowley) Foote. He was about 17 years older than she was, and remember, if I'm correct, his first wife and the mother of his children, Lydia, could possibly have been Loraine’s sister. Loraine may not have found this to be a very unusual situation, or she may have thought it to be deja vu, because her first husband, Charles Foote, was also married to a woman thought to be a Rowley, another sister of Loraine’s, possibly Lucinda (Elihu and Chole Rowley gave all their girls names starting with “L.”) When Charles Foote's first wife died, following the birth of their fourth child, he quickly married Lorain Rowley – if Charles' first wife was Loraine’s sister those four children, and later Elon's seven or eight (11-12 total), were her nieces and nephews/step-children. And with Elon Phay she would have been on her second “Sister Hand-Me-Down!”

Now Loraine was no stranger to adversity. Her divorce pleadings from Charles Foote read like a bad, trashy novel. She left that marriage with about $500 and custody of their son, Martin Van Buren Foote, both dearly fought for, and still not enough in my book! Speaking of which, I could write a book about Lorain (Rowley, Foote, Phay, Kelly,) Brooks – and I just might, but it's more likely that I'll blog about her in more depth - later.

So, now, 1852, Loraine is married to Elon. Most of the kids are grown and on their own, her Martin V. Foote is 12 years old and, best of all, Elon is pretty, darn well-off! He had pioneered farming in Ohio as early as 1820. He had bought and sold land, he had lived well and prospered! Now he was slowing down, selling off bits and pieces of land, or giving some to his children. And then Elon and Lorain Phay move to Porter County, Indiana – and about March, 1861, in that place, Elon Phay died.

I spent a delightful day in the courthouse in Valparaiso, Indiana several years ago and the division of Elon's estate was an exercise in pure 'how to keep your sanity' and “...but I thought that son was dead, can he still inherit?” Fortunately, I was accompanied on that trip by my uncle (my mentor, and the greatest genealogist I have ever known!) who just happened to be an expert in land and plat research – enough that he taught advanced real estate law, as a guest lecturer, across the country. So I ended the day with a good understanding of what Lorain inherited, and what the various children and grandchildren inherited. The most amazing thing about that day was that my uncle and I were tunnel visioned on Loraine (Rowley, Foote) Phay – she was his great grandmother, and my gg- grandmother, all we wanted to know about Elon Phay revolved around his marriage to Loraine. At that point in our research we had not discovered that Elon Phay was also our ancestor!! As a result I learned a new lesson – but I didn't learn it for a few years after the trip – take notes, get copies, record sources on everything and everyone in your ancestors immediate 'circle'. It could be invaluable information in the future.

End of story? Not quite...

Remember Elon and Lydia's third child, Laura Rebecca Phay? Well, back in Ohio, in 1836, when she was 16 years old, she married Allen Freeman McKenzie. By January, 1849, Laura and Allen McKenzie (and many of Laura's siblings) were settled in Porter County, Indiana. So, here was the probable reason for Elon and Loraine Phay choosing to retire there.

The odd thing (to me) was that there they all were, they had all inherited some land and money, the area was lush and productive – and yet, by the mid 1860's nearly all of them, and a fairly large contingent of neighbors/in-laws, picked up and moved west to central Minnesota. They went to an area that was rugged and vicious – populated with very upset Native Indians, and 2-3 days journey to anything resembling the comforts of civilization they had known in Indiana. Why? Free land possibly, because of the 1862 Homestead Act, and 'War Weariness' for many who had either fought in the Civil War, or were simply tired of the country moving too fast for them in the post-was era. Everyone has a theory. Sadly for me, my ancestors did not leave written accounts that I have as yet located – if they exist.

Now, Laura (Phay) and Allen McKenzie were among those who held back for a bit, but in 1869 they also headed to the northern prairie, with their children, one a babe in arms, and their grandchildren. One of their married children, was their daughter Mariah. She had been born way back in Ohio, in 1839. She had married Alexander T. Newman while living in Porter County, Indiana in 1855. They had nine children.

Martin V. Foote had a wife and four daughters when he took his family to the new Minnesota settlement in 1869. They were farming next door (not exactly an accurate term) to the Newmans, and a stones throw from the McKinzies according to the 1875 Minnesota Territorial Census. It seems like Loraine (Rowley, Foote) Phay was about the only one who stayed on in Indiana (where she married twice more!)

Is everyone still following along? Questions?

That summer of 1875, when the Territorial Census was taken was not among the best they had known. It rained far more than normal and crops suffered. By fall the fields were water logged, the mud so deep that even the crops that had not drowned out or rotted were nearly impossible to harvest. Everyone had to be praying for a mild winter.

They didn't get one. They got a fiercely cold, bitter winter, with heavy snow and winds. And then the sicknesses started. By the Spring of 1876 every single family had lost at least one member. Martin Foote's wife, Abigail died on February 6th – just one month after they had buried their 14 year old daughter, Rosetta, who had died on New Years Day, 1876

Three year old Forrester Newman had died the day before, on December 31, 1875. Four year old Owen McKenzie died on January 19th , and two cousins left the Phay family: little six monyh old Ora Ellen Phay died on April 3rd, and Charles Phay, nine months old, died on April 5th. There were more, of course, striking nearly every home and farm on the prairie. The “causes” of death (most of which weren't recorded until months later) covered most of the “known” illnesses of the time: consumption, diphtheria, pneumonia, an unusual number of cases of “Inflammation of the bowel.” I doubt that many of them had been attended by a physician. In fact, I'm not sure if there even was a physician living or practicing within 20 or 30 miles. And in that country, at that time of year, 20 miles might as well have been 200 miles!

When summer finally came they went about the business of starting their lives over, or carrying on. For Martin V. Foote life had grown especially difficult; he had three surviving children and no wife. His farm had produced near to nothing the previous year and he lacked money for a new crop. He took a job as a hunter for the railroad, providing fresh game to the crews that were constantly moving north and west laying the tracks and bringing more people. But that kept him away, often for 2 to 3 weeks. So along with taking the new job, he took a new wife – Fanny Newman, great-granddaughter of Elon Phay, who had been his mother's second husband!

Fanny Newman gave Martin V. Foote three sons. Their youngest son was Lewis L. Foote, and he had three sons, the oldest being Lynol L. Foote. And Lynol Foote had four daughters, the youngest being Catherine Foote.

Catherine Foote told her older sisters one day, that they had a great-great-grandmother who was married to their great-great-great-great grandfather and the the two of them had no children together. Her sisters looked at each other with that, “..there she goes again!” look, and said, “We are here to have dinner and a movie; we are not going to talk about the Second World War, the Civil War – or Dead People!!

They wouldn't let me tell them the story – they didn't have the patience to “Follow Along”. So I told the story to you. Did 'ya get all that?



  2. Hmm..and I thought some of my family tree was convoluted!