11 March 2014

#10 52 Ancestors: Rachel Vanderpool Beach

#10 52 Ancestors: Rachel Vanderpool Beach (1837-1902)

Reading between the Lines

19 July 1864

Spring Valley, Iowa


To: Rachel P. Beach


Dear Daughter,

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.

Signed: Wm. Vanderpool[1]

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,[2] when she was about 12 years of age. Her father re-married shortly thereafter to Mahala Vanderpool[3], 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[4] 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,[5] evidently while her father was at Fort Riley. She married Dr. Beach in October 1860 in Junction City, Geary County, Kansas Territory.[6]


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 documentation.

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.[7] 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,[8] 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 County, Washington.[9]

[1] Vanderpool Newsletter IV:1, p. 9. Letter in possession of Rachel’s granddaughter, Marion Damiano, of Turlock, California in 1977.
[2] 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 Records]
[3] 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.
[4] 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.
[5] Beach Bible and Records.
[6] Ibid.
[7] http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=49956518. Tombstone of Daniel Boone Vanderpool at Jefferson Barracks, National Cemetery, Oakville, Saint Louis County, Missouri.
[8] Barry, Louise. "The Ranch at Cow Creek Crossing." Kansas Historical Quarterly Winter 1972: 416-44.
[9] 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.

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