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?


  1. Sounds like quit a mystery that will be fun or a headache to solve. I hope you find the answers some day. You might also consider looking at boarding schools or even orphanages along the way. He may have thought that he couldn't give his daughters the proper raising they needed to be proper women.

  2. There are several incidents of children being sent to live with other families in our background. While the motives aren't known, some of the circumstances included older couples without other children in the household (perhaps they needed household help or simply longed for a child) and widows either with young children or themselves elderly (again assuming a need for help). I suspect a girl of 8 in 1850 was considered old enough to be household help.

  3. The girls were old enough to be servants. As with Clinton Hamlin, in one census he is listed as his uncles child. When he was a nephew and only farm help. worked for 50 cents a day.
    They could be listed the same way or went by a second name.