Ramblings of a writer/columnist/genealogist who's in love with the American West. By Myra Vanderpool Gormley℠
Certified Genealogist by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, 1987-2012, retired 2012. Retired "Shaking Your Family Tree" columnist and feature writer for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and former editor of RootsWeb Review.
Researching: Autry (Awtrey), Bankston, Connally, and Vanderpools.
Your kind favor is just received finding us all well
except myself. I met with a misfortune a few minutes before I received your
letter. I told you that I had taken a mill and was running it. My misfortune
was a hole broke in the boiler and the steam covered me and scalded my arms,
ankles and face, although not serious my body not being hurt. So that I hope in
a few days to be able for business again.
You wanted to know how near I lived to transportation and
that you could come to see me. I wish you would come. You can come to Chillicothe
[Missouri] by railroad and then the hack runs 3 times a week from there to
Princeton, 18 miles from here. Then you could get a conveyance to Pleasant
Plains and then you are in four miles of me.
Rachel Vanderpool Beach ca 1864
I got the likeness you sent. The weather here dry and
warm. General health, good. I just got a letter from James. He talks of
bringing his wife up here to stay with me. I want you to come if you can.
This Civil War-era letter reveals much but, it only tells
a part of the story of this family’s involvement and what all was going on.
Rachel Vanderpool was the eldest daughter of William
Vanderpool and Mary “Polly” Fuson, and obviously there was affection between
father and daughter. Rachel’s mother had
died in 1849,
when she was about 12 years of age. Her father re-married shortly thereafter to
a kinswoman, and while there is no story or indication of any animosity between
Rachel and Mahala, the stepmother was only seven years older than Rachel — and Mahala
was younger than two of her older stepsons.
Rachel was not with her father and stepmother in the 1860
Kansas Territory census when her father was working
at Fort Riley. Rachel’s younger surviving sister, Artemissa (born about 1843),
was not with them either, which has led to fruitless searches, so far, to find
where William left these two daughters between 1851 and 1860. Rachel met her
husband, Dr. Abijah Ives Beach, in the spring of 1860 in Kansas Territory, evidently while her father
was at Fort Riley. She married Dr. Beach in October 1860 in Junction City, Geary
County, Kansas Territory.
At the time of the letter, Rachel was a mother of two
young children. Her husband was serving as an assistant surgeon in the 9th
Kansas Cavalry somewhere in Kansas, Missouri or Arkansas during the Civil War.
The picture is from a Daguerreotype, but where and exactly when it was taken is
unknown. This might have been Rachel’s wedding dress, but we have no
The trip from Kansas to Iowa, as outlined by her father,
is greatly simplified. The distance was about 350 miles and even today, with
Freeways and fast cars, it would take more than 5.5 hours. In 1864, travelling
by trains, hacks and conveyances it would have taken much longer and probably
would not have been a pleasant trip with a couple of toddlers. She had no
family nearby. Her oldest brother, Francis Marion Vanderpool, was in Oregon,
having gone out on the Oregon Trail in 1852. Her brother, James [mentioned in
the letter] was a captain in the Union Army and was trying to get his family and
Union-sympathizing neighbors out of Confederate-held Arkansas. Her brother,
John Anthony, was also serving in the Union forces in Missouri. Her younger
brother, Daniel Boone, had disobeyed his father and joined the Union Army. He
caught the measles and died in November 1862 at the age of 18. Her two younger brothers
were too young for military service and were with their father in Iowa. Where
her sister, Artemisia, was is anyone’s guess.
Was Rachel afraid? Lonely? Apparently she was alone on the
Kansas prairie in Beach Valley of what is now Rice County, Kansas, where the buffalo
still roamed as did Indians and travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. Her husband and
his father had pioneered the area establishing the Ranch at Cow Creek Crossing, but in 1864 no one was there
except Rachel and perhaps some hired help. No record has been found as to whether
or not she went to Iowa in 1864. Dr. Beach was back home in Kansas in 1865
after the war was over. He, Rachel and their children remained there until
sometime between 1875 and 1880 when they removed to Port Blakeley, Kitsap
Newsletter IV:1, p. 9. Letter in possession of Rachel’s granddaughter, Marion
Damiano, of Turlock, California in 1977.
 Beach Family Bible,
Bible and genealogical records of Abijah Beach, of Renton, Wash. The New
Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, translated out of the original
Greek and with the former translations diligently compared and revised by His
Majesty's Special Command. Printed at Clarendon Press by Samuel Collingwood
and Co., printers to the university, 1830); owned in January 1987 by Marion
Hall Damiano (1918-2011) of Turlock, California. [Hereafter Beach Bible and
 Marriage Certificate
issued by Office of Clerk of the Circuit Court and Ex-Officio Recorder,
Sullivan County, Missouri, in Milan, Mo. Copy in possession of writer. William
and Mahala married 3 September 1849. It was recorded 1 Oct. 1849.
 1860 U.S. census.
Davis County, Kansas Territory, population schedule, p. 818 (penned), dwelling
662, family 662, post office Fort Riley; Ancestry.com [database on-line].
Provo, UT, USA: Images reproduced by Family Search. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 March
2014) from National Archives microfilm M653, roll 347. Entry for Wm. Vanderpool,
blacksmith, age 52; date of enumerator’s visit was 23 August 1860.
 1880 U.S. census. Kitsap
County, Washington Territory, population schedule, Port Blakeley Precinct,
Enumeration District [ED] 35, p. 315 [stamped], dwelling 43, family 44. A. J.
Beach; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [database
on-line], 2010. Family History Film: 1255397, Original data NARA microfilm
publication T9, roll 1397, p. 315C.