52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Frightening

What is frightening lies in the heart of the beholder as some authors have observed. A meaning of frightening can be that which brings anxiety…that which is outside one’s comfort zone…that which creates uncertainty and discomfort in one’s mind, heart, and soul. Did these ancestors of mine know the meaning of frightening as such?

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George Soule was an indentured servant who came with the Winslow family aboard the Mayflower in 1620. The ship was originally headed to the Virginia Colony so that they could settle north of Jamestown; however, the ship was blown off course. Was George one of the puke stockings about whom the sailors jeered and teased? Was this new journey in his life perceived as frightening?


Hannah Frost Mears was the wife of Benjamin Dows (Dowse). On April 19, 1775, her husband joined other Minute Men when the call was sounded to go to Lexington. The men were joining forces against King George’s soldiers. What would this truly mean for their future lives? Was this rebellious action in their lives grasped as frightening?



Maria Magdalene Kramer had come to America in the early 1840s from France. She was a school girl raised in a convent. At the tender age of 15, she married 25 year old Amos Howell Boultinghouse who swept her off from Manhattan to the plains of Illinois. She became a farmer’s wife. When they had been married less than 20 years, her husband enlisted in the Union Army…55th Illinois, E Company. She was left to take care of her children and a farm with an uncertain return of Amos. Did she feel isolated? Was this time of her life felt as a frightening hardship to try her soul?


Andrew Earl Storer lived with his wife Isabella Mary Boultinghouse and two young daughters on a Kansas farm at the start of the Depression. Income was unsteady. Dust storms were ravaging the fields. His father suffered from emphysema which affected his ability to farm. Several of his brothers and sisters were moving their families to the golden state of California. Andrew’s family and his parents decided to stay rooted to their farms and wait it out. Was this decision a frightening fear of the unknown?


Merna Mae Storer had grown up on that mentioned Kansas farm. She was determined to move to the city of Topeka. She was also determined that she would not be staying and doing man’s work. After graduation at the age of 17, she packed her suitcase and rode the train to the state capital. She had gotten a job as a secretary. World War II had begun, and women were needed to fill men’s shoes. Did she find it frightening to venture out and grow quickly into adulthood?

These grandparent ancestors along with my mother overcame a form of fright to create new visions and life goals. Can frightening lead to fortifying and defining? Family history has proven it to be true and beautifully so.



52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Cause Of Death


Well, here is the true story about Crazy Bill. He earned a place among the famous and infamous of Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He was the last of his kind. Yep, his last photo that was taken in 1912 hangs in a historical society’s board room to remind bers of his last days on Earth. How did Bill meet his Maker?

William F. Reed, according to the 1910 Federal Census, lived with his wife Sarah in Quincy Township. He was a laborer in a foundry. He and Sarah had been married for one year, and Sarah’s eight year daughter lived with them as well. Well, some of that information was not true: Bill and Sarah were not married.

In the spring of the next year, Sarah took a job at the Pennsylvania State Forestry School in the nearby township of Mont Alto. She worked in the kitchen and  lived at the school. She and Bill had split up. Bill was not happy about that. One morning in May, he took the trolley to Mont Alto. He wanted to see Sarah, and he wanted the pictures and letters he has sent her back. He intended to confront her that very day and get back his property. When he arrived, he found her in the kitchen. He told her what he wanted. She replied that the articles were in her room, and she would get them. When she returned and handed him what he came for, he told her that some letters and pictures were missing from the stack. She informed him that she had burned the missing pieces. Bill became enraged. He took out a gun and shoot her three times. He left the school and reboarded the trolley home. He told the conductor and passengers that he had just hurt his girl…she was hurt bad…

Over a hundred years later, I would meet William F. Reed. I was working on my husband’s family tree as I added his 2nd great uncle. Ancestry had a copy of his Pennsylvania Death Certificate. As I read it over, my eyes opened wide. The primary cause of death was hanging and fracture of vertebrae. The secondary cause was listed as legal execution. I started a newspaper search to find out exactly who William F. Reed was…he was the last man executed by hanging for murder in Franklin County. Sheriff Walker maintained that Bill went to the gallows in a calm manner. Before his final walk, he asked that everyone forgive him…he had already forgiven those who hurt him. So, Crazy Bill passed into Eternity with forgiveness in his heart.

Note: In the above picture, Bill’s hands are bound with handcuffs as he awaits trial.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Ten



Why is it that some ancestors remain a true mystery as to character and personality until a little detective work is done? Finding just the right resource to add the Sherlock to Holmes does the trick! I found answers in a weekly newspaper printed in Osborne County, Kansas…Osborne County Farmer which was published each Thursday. My second great grandparents James and Mary Emily (Weaver) Nickel came to life on those pages. Small town newspapers are a treasure filled with little happenings of local interest. Here are ten of those happenings that I found that brought this couple to life for me.

First, James and Mary settled on a farm in Tilden Township. James’ father John lived with their family. John had obtained the land through the Homestead Act. I learned their reason for coming to Kansas from Ohio…free land.

Second, James was a successful wheat farmer who sold one harvest of 500 bushels for 77 cents/bushel. He was a successful horse trader. He purchased a thresher and helped his neighbors cut their wheat and corn. I learned he was hard-working and resourceful

Third, on Mary Emily’s 50th birthday, he planned a surprise party for her. Remember that small town papers infuse articles with little tidbits and asides. The couple was touted as “real good people and pioneers to the area”. As the report does, James wanted to fry up chicken for the party; however, he could not bring himself to behead the chicken. He called upon his neighbors who were invited to the party to “help fix the grub”. I learned that Mary Emily and James enjoyed planning parties and get-togethers. He was thoughtful of his wife. He could not clean a chicken to fry.

Fourth, on his dad John’s 70th birthday, he again planned a surprise party. At that time, to turn 70 was quite the honor. John’s elderly pals were invited. They toasted to being some of the oldest men who were once the pioneers of the county. I learned that James honored his elders.

Fifth, James volunteered to take care of a section of the county road. I learned that to be a citizen volunteer was valued by him.

Sixth, when Mary Emily died in 1903, her obituary spoke of her virtues as a loving wife, mother, and neighbor. She was a member of the Eastern Star, where she volunteered for many duties. She was praised as being faithful. I learned Mary was well-loved and honored.

Seventh, James lived by himself for several years after Mary’s death. His father lived with him. Together, they took care of one another until Papa John passed. He decided to rent his farm and move into town. He was a caring son to this father in old age. James decided to rent his farm and move to town.

Eighth, as James went to rent his farm, it was discovered that he did not actually own the land. His father did not have a will so the land was divided among James and his children. One of James’ son stated that he owned the farm from a transaction with Papa John that had never been recorded. It turned into a legal battle that involved the whole family. The trial went to jury. The verdict was that each surviving family member would receive a section of the land since the “buyer” could not produce a record of the sale. It was a legal mess that produced fractured relationships. I learned that every family has its battles…some settled in court.

Ninth, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Osborne County, the newspaper helped publish a remembrance book, The People Came. The local historical society lent a huge hand in helping to organize the layout of the book. Those who wished could write about their pioneer ancestors. Pictures could be included. The book would be arranged by the names of the township with families in alphabetical order. Most biographies contained birth, marriage, and death dates along with names of children…very factual with some snippets and stories. James and Mary Emily’s “couple biography” was included. Included was a picture of the couple, which had been cropped from a family picture. How wonderful to see their faces! Sadly, the faces of their grown children had been edited out. The entry told of the couple’s lives devoted to one another. The entry did leave out one important fact…

Tenth, when fleshing out Grandpa James, I finally located his obituary from 1923. According to what I knew, James had been a widower for 20 years. Surprise, surprise, surprise…his obituary stated that he had a widow. He had married for a second time. What?! He had remarried. Strange that entry in The People Came made no mention of her. His great grandson had submitted the biography. A new mystery: why was the second wife never included in James’ biography?

A story for another day presents itself…I bet Osborne County Farmer will bear no clues to help solve that one.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Down On The Farm



As I ambled down that farm lane in Maine, I readied myself to come face to face with my 4th great grandfather. I knew few facts about him. He was born in 1752 in a coastal Massachusetts town. He and his young wife migrated to New Hampshire before the start of the American Revolution. He was a private in a Patriots’ regiment. He signed an oath pledging his life and fortune to the cause of independence from the mother country. He and his family moved to a settlement in a part of Massachusetts that would soon form a new state, Maine. His name was Joseph Story. When he went to claim that land, the clerk entered his name as Joseph Storer. Many in that family would keep that spelling for generations to come, including my grandfather and my mother.

As I ambled down that farm lane in Maine, I walked off that path. I went in a different direction. Before I could meet up with Joseph, I wanted to know more about him. I discovered that most of those Maine farmers grew crops and raised livestock to care for their own families. Those men did other jobs so they could trade, barter, earn a few dollars. What did Joseph  do as his side job? I could not find the answer. My initial findings indicated that he and his wife Rachel raised ten children. Later, I found four more children for a total of 14. Several died in infancy. Many of them would survive into old age.

As I ambled down that farm lane in Maine, I rounded a bend and prepared myself to meet Joseph and Rachel. Surely, they will surprised that I can see into the future. What will be the expression on their faces when they find out that they will pass on this gift of wanderlust to their sons, to their sons, and to their sons? The Storers will wander from Maine to California…from sea to shining sea.