Tag Archives: family history

The Old Star Quilt

Family history writing prompt 4 – Choose and artifact that once belonged to one of your ancestors. Write as though you are that object, tell about who owned it and what history the artifact might have witnessed.

It was the star quilt given to me by my Aunt Iva I chose to write about. As I mentioned in writing prompt 1, Margaret Ragsdale Caple called three women mother. The quilt pictured above was made by one of those women. I have been told the quilt could date back to as far as the 1850’s so for this piece I am going to assume it was made  by Margaret’s birth mother.

 

IF I COULD TALK

 

Go ahead take a close look at me. Yes, I am worn and faded. It’s a wonder I’m still around after all I am 160 years old. I was expertly stitched together by the 5th great-grandmother of the child in photo above. Examine me closely  and you will see I’m made of many small diamonds. It wasn’t easy to stitch those and keep my star laying flat. Back then my colors were vibrant and I was given a place of honor on the bed of little girl named Margaret.

I covered her bed when this nation, torn apart by slavery, fought a civil war. Bushwhackers roamed the countryside of Missouri where she lived so her family sought safety elsewhere. But other dangers lurked, soon smallpox robbed Margaret of her adopted mother and sister.

I went with the little girl and her grieving adopted father back to their home in Brookline, Missouri after the war. There I kept her warm at night and watched. Soon her father remarried and once again the house was filled with laughter and children.

I was there when a handsome, dark-haired, blue-eyed widower stole her heart, and they moved with his two children to a farm in Osborn County, Kansas. I graced their bed the night their first-born son, named Samuel after his handsome Papa, was born and when more children followed.

And oh the stories I could tell of the wild west in and around Dodge City, in the 1880’s. But it was the  winter of 1887 and 1888 that was the hardest. I had to work extra hard to keep the little ones warm. It was so cold, come spring the family decided to move west.

At 30, I was already considered old and worn, still Margaret found me good enough to keep her little boys warm as they camped beside the Oregon trail. It was along this trail her little boy, Roy, fell in love with my bright, big star. Sometimes he make a wish upon me before he fell asleep.

I was covering him the night he first lost someone he loved and was with the family when they buried his big sister Ida, somewhere along the trail.

I traveled with the family, always keeping him warm, as they moved from place to place in Eastern and Western Washington and Oregon, no place good enough, until 1894 they decided to join family in Beaver county, Oklahoma.

Goodness the tales I could tell of living in a tiny, dusty sod house with a family of 7. I heard the muffled sobs beneath my star the night Samuel Jr. was carried home after drowning in a flash flood. Such a loss, just as he was on the brink of adulthood.

Times were changing, a new century arrived. Within a couple of years the family sold their Oklahoma ranch and headed back to Washington.This time I rode in style inside a train.

I was in the wagon the day Margaret put her foot down and told Sam she was not moving again – Puyallup was as good as any place. Soon I resided in a fine house, one I would stay in for more than 20 years.

Life for Margaret was changing, too. The children were growing up, her husband traded in his horse-drawn delivery wagon for a new motorized truck.

I watched as the boys reached manhood and began to make their own way in the world. I heard the worries over a coming war and the fears that loved ones would be lost. I listened to  arguments for and against prohibition.I was there to huddle under when the father of the household passed away.

In time Margaret relocated in Orting, Washington. It made me happy she chose to take me along. She kept me on her big feather bed. My best days were when the grandchildren visited and snuggled with her beneath my star.

I was there the sad day she awoke babbling nonsense. I watched as her frightened grandchildren called for help. Soon Margaret was moved to the GAR home in Puyallup and I was left all alone.

The little boy named Roy, all grown up now, arrived to close up the house. He was going to throw me out.

“Too worn to be of any use,” he said.

But memories of our trip along the Oregon Trail and the wishes made beneath my star changed his mind. He took me home to cover furniture stored in his attic.

I still heard the family stories. I knew how hard Roy struggled to provide for his family during the great depression. I heard his wife on the days she coughed and wheezed and couldn’t catch her breath. And oh I how I longed to wrap myself around Roy’s shoulders the day he lost his beloved wife.

I watched as his little boy and girl became adults and left for work in Bremerton. Another war was coming, soon Roy left, too.   .

And I was left in the attic without my family near. From from time to time Roy would come for a stay. Sometimes he’d come to the attic and smile when he touched me, remembering our days together along the Oregon trail, until one day he was gone forever,too.

The daughter knew her father loved me, so she took me to live in a drawer in her attic. A new century arrived.

Another Margaret came to visit, a great grand-daughter of Margaret. The daughter took her to the attic and pulled me out of the drawer. She told the story of how I had kept her Grandpa Roy warm on the Oregon trail.

“Would you like to have it now?” she asked.

The new Margaret said she loved old quilts like me. She took me to her house. No longer do I sit in an attic.

It’s been a long, long time since the loving hands that stitched me together left this earth.  The little girl whose bed I graced, her little boy who slept under me on the trail and his little girl are all gone, too. But their memories live on in the threads that bind me to them and future generations.

 

 

 

 

Matilda Fowler Smith

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Matilda Fowler Smith taken about 1852. Possibly just before or after moving to California .

Family history writing prompt 3 – think of  an ancestor as character in a novel and describe their life in a few paragraphs. For this prompt, I have chosen Matilda Fowler, my third great grandmother from my Father’s maternal line. Her real life story reads like a great historical the one without a happy ending.

Matilda Fowler Smith

 Matilda walked him to the door, “Thank you for coming. I don’t know if I will ever be able to pay you.

The doctor stepped onto the porch. “Don’t worry about it. I just wish there was more I could do. It shouldn’t be long now.”

She nodded and watched until he reached his horse and buggy. She closed the door and walked across the room to where a chest stood. Bending down she slipped her hands into the bottom drawer and rummaged under the linens until she found what she wanted – a frame and an old knotted handkerchief. 

With slumped shoulders she walked over to the rocker next to her sleeping husband. She sighed as she lowered herself onto the seat and began to undo the knot. The pulled back edges of fabric revealed three tiny gold nuggets, the frame an image taken just after they married. They’d been so young, so full of hope for their future, now this was all that remained.

“Oh, Isaac, she whispered.  “What happened to our dreams.” 

Tears leaked from her eyes, instead of rich they were penniless, and soon Isaac would join the five babies she’d already buried.

 She closed her eyes, “What’s to become of us?” she murmured. How will the  boys and I go on without you?”

_________________________________________

Born a twin, Matilda and her brother William, were the 8th and 9th children of Phoebe Hockett and John Fowler. At age four her family moved from Ohio to Henry County, Iowa. In 1845, at the age of ten, her father died. The family moved to Tama County, Iowa in 1850.

Matilda matured fast, at the tender age of 15 she and Isaac Smith eloped. The following spring the pair set off to “see the elephant” having caught gold fever. They had big dreams of becoming rich in California.

The trip couldn’t have been easy. Cholera and other diseases loomed across the trail and although they caused no problems the Native Americans always watching, frightened Matilda.

By October the couple had only made it as far as the area of Salt Lake City. There Matilda gave birth to their first child, a boy they named William. Two days later they buried him and had to move on. How hard it it must have been for them to face this loss alone without the help of extended family they’d left back home. The hardest part of the journey still lay ahead. Exhausted the couple finally arrived in the gold fields in December of 1852.

In the next few years Matilda gave birth to 5 more children. Twins who died shortly after birth and two others who died of childhood diseases. Only the oldest my great great grandfather, William R. Smith, survived.

By 1860 she was pregnant again and longed to be back in the safety of her mother’s arms. So she set off alone, to sail home, while her husband and son traveled back by wagon train. That summer she gave birth to a healthy baby boy in her mother’s home. They named him James Wesley Addison Smith.

The couple moved to Benton County, Iowa, where Isaac rented a farm, and they struggled to make ends meet. Isaac’s health was already suffering when he joined the Civil War effort, enlisting in 28th Iowa Regiment, in December of 1863. Most likely he joined to get a bounty to help support his family. That summer he lay ill in a Washington D.C. hospital. Discharged in 1864, due to disability, he died at home in April of 1865.

Matilda was left with their two young sons to raise alone. Penniless she was able to collect a small pension but it wasn’t much.

In 1866 she married Amos Werner and they had 3 more children. I wish I could say her marriage to Amos had a happy ending but he turned out to be a drunk and she divorced him.

In 1881 Matilda married for the third time to James Small. One can hope this union was happier. In 1895 James passed away and Matilda moved in with her son, Samuel Werner.

Her family said her hard life had made her thrifty and honest with a strong sense of right and wrong. She spent her last years enjoying her corncob pipe, quilting and piecing braided hairpieces for extra money. She was 82 at the time of her death in 1917 and is buried in the Reading cemetery, Farmhamville, Calhoun County, Iowa.

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Matilda at age 76

In Search Of The Father

My sister and I turned onto the short dead-end road and parked the car.

“It’s over there,” she said pointing to a small overgrown patch of land.

I opened the door amazed my search for my Caple ancestry had brought me to this tiny family cemetery in Carroll County, Maryland.

I last left the story in search Caple ancestry with the discoveries that my great grandfather, Samuel H. Caple’s, father was Jacob and in turn his father was, Samuel Caple Junior of Richland County, Ohio. I had learned both men had roots in Maryland. Now I was in search of Samuel Junior’s parents.

Over the next few weeks, I spent my spare time, pouring over the census records of Maryland for Caple and Caples. I concluded Samuel Caple of Baltimore County, Maryland (now Carroll County) was my most likely candidate. Could he be the same Samuel Caple I’d found in references to the Revolutionary War?

Back when I had first started my Caple quest a cousin, also researching the family, mentioned  she had corresponded, via the  internet, with a woman who was a descendant of this Samuel. At the time we knew nothing to connect us, but now we did.

I got her phone number and called. She lived in Maryland and knew of the Samuel I spoke. She was a descendant through one of his daughters.

“Yes,” she  told me,”there were three sons.”

One named Samuel born in 1783 (the right time frame to be my Samuel). The other two, William, born in 1784 and  Jacob born. in 1790.

Her family lore stated, Samuel Caple Junior had moved to Ohio after a disagreement with his brother William over slavery, and was never heard from again. A story  that sounded much like the story my grandfather had told. This had to be the right family.

She also told me Samuel Senior had been buried in the family cemetery which still existed on a portion of his land. And there were family stories that said Mary Cole might be a Native American or maybe it was Samuel Senior’s mother who was the Native American. Then again, she said, they might just be stories.

But she added, “there is a problem. Samuel and his wife Mary Cole didn’t marry  until 1793, 10 years after their first son was born.”

Earlier researchers had assumed Samuel Caple Senior had previously been married  and the  boys were from this marriage. But a a new document had been found. One showing Samuel and his wife, Mary Cole, had appeared in Court on Nov. 9, 1809 and swore the three boys were Samuel’s and that he wished for them to carry the Caple name and have the rights to inheritance.

The record helped establish my Samuel belonged to this group but it also spelled the beginning of my biggest genealogical puzzle.

Why had Samuel and Mary Cole waited 10 years, after the birth of their first son, to marry?  Who were Samuel and Mary’s parents and was Native American ancestry part of their story?

To be continued…..

Cole to Caple

 

DEAR MARGARET-FAMILY HISTORY CHALLENGE -PROMPT 1

November is family history month. I am taking FAMILY HISTORY MAGAZINE’S challenge to write from a daily writing prompt. I plan to post them here on my blog but don’t expect me to get them done in a month.

Prompt one – Choose an ancestor you never knew that you wish you could talk with to learn more of their life history. After mulling it over I decided to write to the ancestor I was named after for, Margaret Ragsdale Caple, my great-grandmother.

Margaret Malinda Ragsdale Caple

DEAR MARGARET- FAMILY HISTORY CHALLENGE- PROMPT 1

Dear Margaret,

You and I share the same first name. My father, your grandson spoke fondly of you. Both he and his sister told me about the fun they had sleeping in your big feather bed.

My Aunt Iva loved the tea parties you had together. She gave me your teapot, it sits on a shelf where I see it daily. I wish we could sit and talk while sipping some of your delicious sarsaparilla tea. There is so much I’d like to ask.

For instance, how did you meet my great-grandfather Samuel Hugh Caple when he lived Jasper County, Iowa and you in Green County, Missouri? Was the age difference between you ever a problem? What was it like traveling the Oregon Trail?  What was it like living in a sod house? Which of your three mothers made the big star quilt I now own?  Which  brings me to the question I most want answered. Who were your birth parents?  I’m sure you knew. Your children said your parents died when you were an infant during a measle or small pox epidemic and you were adopted by cousins.

Through my research, I know you were born in 1858. Two years later in the 1860 census you were living in the home of Richard Jordan Ragsdale, age 52 and his first wife Jincy, age 49. You are listed after their children, a niece and her infant and Richard’s brother William Ragsdale. Your name, Margaret, is easy to read but the word after it, beginning with M, is not. It could be your last name, perhaps Munda or it could be Melinda, which was your middle name.

Some researchers think you might have been the granddaughter of Richard Jordan’s sister Lavina who married Edwin Adams. When they died, leaving three young daughters, Sally Merritt Ragsdale their grandmother cared for them and after her death, Richard Jordan and Jincy took over. If you belonged to one of them, it would have been natural for them to raise you. I can find no information on what happened to two of the girls so it could be true but you would have been Richard Jordan’s great-niece not cousin.

You could also have been a cousin of Jincy and I guess the Adams girls were her cousins for she and Richard shared the same ancestry. Jincy’s grandfather was Richard’s great grandfather and their mothers were sisters. Was all that as confusing for you as it is for me?  Or maybe you never knew about it because in 1863, when you were five, Jincy and her daughter died of smallpox. It was during the Civil War and the family had moved to Rolla, Missouri for safety. I wonder if this is where the story of your losing your parents in a smallpox epidemic comes from, I guess I’ll never know. Richard remarried a widow in 1865 giving you a third mother and she and Richard went on to have nine more children.

By the time the 1870 census was taken, you were listed as one of the Ragsdale’s with no distinction made between you and the other children. It’s clear in a letter Richard Jordan wrote you in 1888 (now in my possession) that he thought of you as a daughter. And you named your youngest son after him.

Recently I had my DNA tested, something you never heard of. Perhaps one day it will help unravel the mystery of your parents. In the meantime, I will have to content myself with knowing my DNA suggests a link, to the Ragsdale tree, the same tree, Richard Jordan and Jincy belong on.

Sincerely your Great-granddaughter.

Margaret

 

 

 

Which ancestor would you like to talk to?  Why?  Please, feel free to let me know in the comment section below.

 

 

Samuel Caple Senior -Revolutionary War Patriot Dies

 

Writing Prompt 2- Family History Challenge – Write a modern day obituary for one of our ancestors.

              SAMUEL CAPLE REVOLUTIONARY WAR PATRIOT DIES Samuel Caple Senior, age 96, of Carroll County Maryland, passed away Sept 12, 1846.

Born May 12, 1752 in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, Samuel was well known in his neighborhood and respected by all. He took the Oath of Fidelity and Support on March 1778 and served in the company of Capt. Stephen Gill, Regiment of Col. Gist, Select Militia of Baltimore, MD, Upper Gunpowder Battalion during the Revolutionary War. He spent his entire life never living more than 20 miles from his birth place.

He was preceded in death by his wife Mary Cole Caple who passed away in 1836. He is survived by his children, Samuel of Ohio, William Janelle (Margaret), Jacob (Ruth Ann), Mary, Sally, Nancy (Wagers), Matilda (Flater), Sarah Ellen (Edmonson), Hyantha (Blizzard) and many grandchildren.

He will be buried in the Caple Family Cemetery loacated at 1824 Deer Park Road, Carroll County, Maryland.

 

THE WILL OF SAMUEL CAPLE

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I held the will for Samuel Caples in my hand and struggled to read the writing.  The will was recorded before a probate judge  on May 17, 1869.

The synopsis follows:

I give and bequeath to my wife in lieu of her dower 800 dollars. I device and bequeath to my son Jacob Caples, one dollar, my son Nimrod Caples, one dollar, my son Samuel Caples, 800 dollars, my son Andrew Caples, 800 dollars, my son Robert Caples, 800 dollars, to my daughter Rebecca married to David Grimes, 400 dollars, to my daughter Elizabeth married to Joseph Evans, 400 dollars, to my daughter Ruth married to Abraham Linnard, 400 dollars, to Keisa married to Henry Crabbs, 400 dollars, to Amy Church, James Church and Ann Church one dollar each, Emeline Caples, daughter of William Caples one dollar.

I was elated. I had found Jacob’s father. It wasn’t just that his name was listed as a son but also the mention of a son named Nimrod. Nimrod was the name my aunt had found while researching the family in  Monroe, Iowa. The same town where Jacob had lived. The name Rebecca Grimes was also listed which matched what Daisy Lee Grimes had said in her query in that old book in the used book store.

That Jacob and Nimrod had only received one dollar in inheritance suggest they might have had a falling out with their father, however I think it is more likely they had already received their share, perhaps in the sale of the land Jacob had handled for Samuel.

And there was another Samuel mentioned. No wonder my great-grandfather insisted on being called Samuel Hugh. He had an uncle and grandfather sharing his name.

The S on the end of Caple didn’t bother me. I’d learned in the 1800’s people weren’t as concerned about how things were spelled. Even within the land documents Jacob had sold his name appeared with and without the S in the same document.  Samuel Hugh’s pension files had him listed both as Caple and Caples.

Now it was time for me to see if this Ohio, Samuel Caple was connected to the revolutionary war Samuel Caple, from Maryland. Time to start looking at the early census records in  Maryland and connect to those who had more information about the Maryland Caple family via the internet.

IN SEARCH OF JACOB CAPLE’S Father

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Jacob Caple, born about 1816, Carroll County, Maryland

Synopsis:  Through family stories and my Great Grandfather, Samuel Hugh Caple’s Civil War pension records, I had discovered Samuel H. Caple was born in 1845 in Knox County, Ohio. His parents were Jacob Caple and Sarah Garey.  Jacob had been born in Maryland but married in Knox county, Ohio in 1841. Around 1857 Jacob had moved his family to Monroe, Jasper county, Iowa. Land documents there, led me to believe, he was connected to Samuel Caple of Richland County, Ohio. Census records in Ohio revealed that a Samuel Caple had lived there and had also been born in Maryland. He was the right age to be Jacob’s father.  Now I needed a will or other document to prove a connection

 

IN SEARCH FOR JACOB CAPLE’S FATHER

Shortly after mailing my request for a will for Samuel Caple of Ohio, my husband and I visited a used bookstore. As I gazed at a shelf of fiction, my husband rounded the corner.

“I found something for you to look at.” he said.

He handed me a thick book of  genealogical queries. He pointed to an entry –  “CAPLE, SAMUEL.”  A Daisy Lee Grimes was looking for more information about her great-grandfather, Samuel Caple, born in Maryland and who had lived in Ohio. I was fairly certain this was the same Samuel Caple I was looking for.  I would have called her right then and there except the book was from the 1940’s, it was unlikely that now in the 1990’s, Daisy was still alive.

The following week I perused the shelf containing family genealogies at my local library. I knew there was no way I was going to find a Caple genealogy, still I looked. My eyes scanned the titles for surnames beginning with C – “History And Genealogy Of The Caples Family And Allied Families Of Maryland.” Surprised, I pulled the book off the shelf.  Could this be my family, Jacob was from Maryland.

I opened the thin, hand bound book. It had been written in the 1960’s. The Caple’s in this book were from the earliest days of colonial Maryland. I still had a lot of work to do before I could discover if we connected to this family. But how had this hand typed copy from Maryland ended up in a Tacoma, WA library?

The following week I went to the Seattle National Regional Archives to work on another branch of my family tree. I was re-winding a microfilm when the archives announced it would be closed in 30 minutes. I gathered my things and went to slip the film back into its place in a file cabinet. Bent over, I glanced sideways, the words – CAPLE, SAMUEL – jumped out at me.  It was the first entry for a drawer full of Revolutionary War pension files.  Why was I suddenly finding the name Caple everywhere?

Never mind the archive was about to close, I had to see what was on it. I hastily threaded the microfilm onto the machine. I scrolled forward, the file was long. Quickly I skimmed, the old, difficult to read, cursive writing. Fortunately the pages deemed to be the best source of genealogical facts had been placed at the beginning of the file. This Samuel Caple had been born in Maryland. He hadn’t mentioned children by name but did say he had sons. And since he was born in 1752, he could easily be Samuel Caple of Ohio’s father. But it was too soon to jump to such conclusions.  I left hoping someday I would have reason to return and inspect this film in detail, in the meantime I had to prove or disprove Jacob was the son of Samuel Caple in Ohio. Only then could I begin to look for a link for someone in Maryland. Now more than ever I was anxious to find Jacob’s father.

On a rainy day a few weeks later, I pulled a thin envelope postmarked Ohio out of my mailbox. It looked much too thin to contain the information I wanted. With shaking hands I ripped the envelope open and pulled out the  will for Samuel Caple of Richland County, Ohio.  I began to read the difficult to decipher writing ; fingers crossed it would contain Jacob’s name.