The domino effect reverberated through the events of my 2nd great aunt’s life and that of her family. Mary A. Boultinghouse would live only 28 years, yet a ton of tragedy would envelop her and those she loved.
Mary grew up on the plains of Illinois on a farm with her parents and nine siblings. Her father was born in that state while her mother was born in France. Did her mother teach her French phrases? Her mother was skilled in needlework. Did she pass that on to Mary? Her life there would seem idyllic compared to what would be her future.
Sometime during the Civil War, she became the sweetheart of Daniel H. Warden, who was a sergeant in the 20th Illinois Infantry. He was eight years older and hailed from the county in which she lived. Did they exchange letters and a vow that they would marry upon his return? He suffered a foot and a hand wound in the Battle of Shiloh that hindered his ability to walk…yet he remained with his company. Five days after he was discharged from service, they married in DuPage County, Illinois. At some point, they moved to Chicago where he was employed as a carpenter-joiner. How did the couple struggle because of his disability?
In the summer of 1871, Mary and Daniel decided to migrate to Osborne County, Kansas, where they would claim land under the auspices of the Homestead Act. They traveled by covered wagon along with Mary’s parents and siblings. Mary and Daniel were accompanied by their children Anna Laurie (age 5) and Peter Tecumseh Sherman (age 3)…sadly, their infant daughter Gertrude had died the year before. How did they manage to travel with Daniel’s disability? Life was harsh on the prairie, but they managed to build up a small homestead. Their son Walter was born within the next year. Then in 1873, tragedy struck. Daniel noticed ducks had landed on their pond, and he asked Mary to bring him his rifle. While Mary was carrying the gun, it discharged…”Oh my God, I have shot myself.” She died within moments. She was buried on her parents’ homestead. A few months later, the Warden house burned down.
Two years after her death, the tragedy in Mary’s family continued when her son Peter was bitten by a poisonous rattlesnake. He lived a few days and was buried near his mother. Daniel decided that he could no longer remain on the farm so he moved his family to Leadville, Colorado. He earned his living with his carpentry skills. At some point, he realized that he could no longer care for his children. He adopted out Anna and Walter to strangers. Anna was taken to Chicago and Walter to Kansas. All of this became too much for Daniel…he died of a gunshot wound in 1879.
As a postscript to this story: their daughter Anna Laurie lived to be almost 90 years old. She lived most of her life far from the Kansas plains in New York. In her obituary, it stated that Anna would give talks to school children about being a child during the Great Chicago Fire…that fire happened in October 1871…Anna and her family moved to Kansas in the summer of 1871. Also, she talked about witnessing Indian raids…the last recorded raid in Osborne County was in 1870. Did her imagination cover up the tragedies of her life?