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23 January 2011

Kansas Gunsmoke


From the early days of Newton Earp (older half-brother of Wyatt Earp), the city's first marshal in 1883 who had to deal with loose stock, potholes, collecting taxes, enforcing the dog ordinance, and watering the city's precious trees, to a bleak night in November of 1959 when the grisly murder of four members of the Clutter family took place, the Garden City Police Department protected people and property and along the way created a rich history.

16 January 2011

Lost Daughters

I hardly know what to think of my third-great-grandpa, William Vanderpool. He is an enigma. During his 76 years, he roamed from his birthplace in North Carolina to the Cherokee Nation, zigzagging back and forth and across Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas and Indian Territory. He married two women, sired at least 19 children but unforgivable — to a family historian — he lost two of his daughters along the way.

Yes, lost them. What kind of a father could lose two daughters?

Following the cookie trail of historical record crumbs William left in his dust (or wake, as the case may be, as I have no idea exactly how he travelled from the 1830s to 1880s) he appears to be fairly well educated (he could read and write and served in Missouri State Legislature), was a blacksmith, and a loyal American (he joined the Union Army at age of 54).

This does not appear to be a dysfunctional family — the children of the first marriage kept in touch with each other, during and after the Civil War, as they became adults, married and scattered across the country. Mary “Polly” Fuson, the mother of William’s oldest 10 children, died near Leon in Decatur County, Iowa 18 August 1849. William quickly remarried — much too quickly some descendants grouse — on 3 September 1849 and to a kinswoman, at that. But I find it difficult to judge him too harshly — what was a blacksmith in Iowa to do with 10 children, mostly sons, ranging in ages from 20 down to the baby in whose birth Polly had died?

The only female help William would have had to manage the household were his two daughters — Rachel, then 12 and Artemissa who was only 7 — as apparently the two others girls, Nancy and Elizabeth, had died. It would have been next to impossible for a man to make a living and run a household without lots of help. Food gathering and preparation alone would have been a full-time domestic chore to feed such a large family. Tedious research has failed to find any close relatives (William’s or Polly’s) nearby.

In 1850 William Vanderpool, with his second wife, is enumerated in the U.S. census twice – first in Dade County, Missouri and a few weeks later in Decatur County, Iowa. His daughters listed were Rachel, 15, and Artemissa, 8, in the Missouri census, but in the Iowa enumeration only Rachel, is shown. Evidently William “lost” his youngest daughter Artemissa in the autumn of 1850, somewhere between Missouri and Iowa. By April 1859 William and family are in Kansas Territory with no extant list of names of the household, only the number eight. Rachel Vanderpool may or may not be among them. She married Dr. Abijah Beach in October of 1860 in Geary County, Kansas Territory. However, neither Rachel nor Artemissa is enumerated with their father in the 1860 census, taken at Fort Riley, Davis County, Kansas Territory. Neither daughter has been found in any other household in 1860 either.

We know Artemissa survived because she married Christopher Columbus Pitts (1840-1926) after the Civil War, lived from 1870 to 1932 in Hickory County, Missouri, and had 10 children, but William does not mention her in his surviving early 1860s letters to Rachel.

All I can figure out is that William “lost” Artemissa somewhere in northern Missouri in 1850. Perhaps he left her with relatives or neighbors who “adopted” her. However, I wonder if Rachel fell out of the wagon on the way to Kansas and was rescued by some kind Westward-bound pioneers who found her and took her to her father at Fort Riley. Perhaps that is how she met her husband-to-be?

I know I’m grasping at straws, but how could a man lose two daughters?

09 January 2011

A Western Love Affair

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley

It was love at first sight. I was only 16, when I fell in love with the American West, but my passion for it has never diminished.

It was a hot July day when I viewed the Grand Canyon for the first time and it grabbed me and wrapped me in its spell. I was awe-struck and that was just the beginning of the marvels that I saw on my first trip to the West Coast. I saw the deserts, the snow-capped mountains and the Pacific Ocean. I was dazzled by the huge fir, pine, cedar and redwood trees reaching toward heaven and the palm trees, orange trees, and the many fruit and nut trees of the San Joaquin Valley.

I etched the beauty of Yosemite National Park into my mind’s eye and vowed to return someday. The car ride over the nearly 10,000-foot high Tioga Pass took my breath away and I vowed never to take that route again.

I discovered beauty in Nevada near Elko where the Ruby Mountains sparkled in the sunrise and then marveled at the Great Salt Desert in Utah. But it was Yellowstone Park that contained the most magnificent sights my young eyes had ever seen. I knew someday I’d be back to see it all again and spend time at the rustic lodge and camp by the Yellowstone Lake and explore gorgeous Jackson Hole.

From Wyoming we went to Colorado Springs and Pike Peak and then to my home in western Kansas. I was exhausted and my diary was crammed with notes and thoughts.
It would be nine years before I saw the West again — this time via my little red Volkswagen that I drove from Texas to Seattle with stops in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Montana along the way.

On a crisp October dusk more than 89 years after the Battle of the Little Big Horn was fought I spent the night at a motel on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana and saw the battlefield of Custer’s Last Stand. There, with a brisk western wind dancing through the tall grasses of the undulating prairie, history came vividly alive to me. I wandered among the 220 markers with the names of those who perished there, wondering if any of my family members had participated in that conflict. It was an evening that would affect me for the rest of my life — it was then I became an aficionado of American Western history and also a genealogist with a passion to learn more about and see the West and to discover more about my family’s journey across it.

In the years to come I would explore the Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark’s trip from Saint Louis, Missouri to Washington and Oregon in 1804-1806 and hundreds of localities in the Western states.

Whether at a famous tourist sight, such as Crescent Lake in Oregon, Mount Rainier in Washington, or in the obscure Nevada town of Tonopah where Wyatt Earp and his wife, Josie, spent some of their latter years, the thrill of seeing and learning about this incredible land never ceases.

Sometimes the history and wonder is so real to me that I can hear the hooves of the fast ponies of young fearless riders as they gallop across Nevada on the loneliest road in America on the Pony Express trail.

Next time you visit the area between Austin and Eureka, Nevada, take time to listen for the ponies. You may hear them, too.

04 January 2011

Creating More Than a Genealogy

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley

I want to create more than a genealogy — something other than hatched, matched and dispatched facts and genealogical charts. I want to create a family history that incorporates some of the genealogy along with stories, photographs and I want to include some historical facts and settings. After all it was being aware that one of my great-grandmothers (Elizabeth Connally) was a teenager living near Atlanta when General William Tecumseh Sherman took the city and then made his famous march to the sea in 1864 which launched me on the genealogical trail to learn about my ancestors and see if I could sort facts from family lore.

Is it possible to do so without creating a monster-size tome that will never be read or valued by my family? I’m not sure of my organizational abilities to create such a work and at this point I do not have a master plan for such a creation — just an idea. My goal this winter of 2011 is to write some more memoirs about those I actually knew and to write about some of the characters in my family tree and see where this all leads.

A good story almost always starts with an interesting character and I certainly have uncovered a few during my research. Let’s start with one of my 2-great-grandfathers — Randle Hensley.

Randle Hensley went to the courthouse that warm spring morning in Alabama in 1875, but his heart was heavy. He was going to mortgage his 40 acres in order to post the $500 federal bond to get his son Francis Marion out of jail.

Times were tough in northeast Alabama. But he and his wife, Clementine, had survived tough times before. They had been married 45 years. Randle was 68 years of age and ten of their 15 children were still living. However, their son Francis Marion had had one trouble after another, it seemed. He served in the Confederate cavalry and survived the Civil War as well as time as a prisoner of war in Maryland. He had walked home from North Carolina after the war ended — looking like a skeleton when he showed up on their Georgia farm.

Francis Marion’s first marriage to a neighbor gal ended when his wife (Nancy Catherine Pruitt) and their second son died out on the prairie in Kansas where he had gone to find some free land to homestead, but it turned out the land was only for Union veterans. So Francis Marion and his young son, Lee, had removed to Etowah County, Alabama where Randle was farming, having given up on their devastated land in Cherokee County, Georgia.

Just three years ago Francis Marion had fallen in love with and married the dark and feisty Araminta Awtrey. Now Francis Marion was in trouble again arrested on the Coosa River while tending a still — for his father-in-law.

02 January 2011

Wading into a new world in 2011

I've resisted blogging for a number of reasons -- primarily because I wasn't sure it would serve a useful purpose worthy of my valuable (retired) time. But I'm adventuresome, if nothing else, so here goes. I haven't a clue to what I'll blog about -- other than it probably will have a genealogical slant since that is my hobby and passion. Perhaps I'll share some of my writings as I'm taking a class in memoir writing. Perhaps I'll find some cousins out there in BlogLand who will share information and pictures with me.
So here goes . . .