Plat books are treasure maps that show exactly what lands an ancestor owned. How many acres did he/she own? What waterways were on or near the property? Did any railroads pass through the township? Who were that particular person’s neighbors? Where was the school house? Where were the cemeteries? Many questions tout the answers when viewing these maps.
Locating a plat book for Osborne County, Kansas, that was published in 1900 was a great find for me. I located both my great grandfather’s (W.I. Storer’s) and my second great grandfather’s (William Henry Stevens’) farms. W.I. and family lived in Tilden Township on lands his father had sold to him. W.I. owned 240 acres with easy access to the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The little village of Bloomington was close by where the post office was located along with a small general store and cafe. His brothers Willard and Charles lived on neighboring farms. They, too, had bought lands from their father. W. I.’s wife Sarah Almina lived near her brothers. The families were close in proximity if not also in reach. W.I. and Sarah had donated land from the southeast corner of their property to create the Bloomington Cemetery. (The location of this cemetery is marked on the plat.) By 1900, the Storers had lived in the county for almost 30 years.
William Henry Stevens’ farm also had 240 acres, but it was located in Kill Creek Township (which is south of Tilden Township). The Will and his wife Isabella had been obtained the land through the Homestead Act of 1862. A portion of Kill Creek went across his farm. Some of his daughters had married nearby neighbors. Part of his family remained close by while others lived hundreds of miles away. By 1900, the Stevens family had lived in the county for almost 30 years. (By 1900, the county was 33 years old. These two families were some of her pioneer families.)
Plats are, indeed, treasures and treasure maps. Gold and precious gems of information are contained within their drawings. They aid in mapping out one’s research.
It would definitely be a mistake to underestimate her…a mistake to ignore her internal strength. Little is known about her real struggles and challenges, or the way she perceived them. The paper trail she left behind is almost nonexistent. No mistaking that Rhoda Howell was a pioneer woman who was left widowed on the plains of Illinois in 1823. Her husband Daniel Boultinghouse had died at the age of 48. Rhoda was his third wife. Together, they had two children: Amos Howell Boultinghouse and Matilda Boultinghouse. Daniel had left behind 11 other children from his previous marriages; some were adults while the rest needed raising. That fell to Rhoda and her mature stepsons. There is no evidence that she married again so she could have the companionship of a man as devoted to surviving pioneer life as she was.
Evidence does show that she appeared at the White County, Illinois, courthouse three years after her husband’s death. Bearing her letter as administrator of his estate , she had come to settle his debts. Daniel had died without a will so this may have placed certain burdens on her. She received a widow’s dower of $40. In the probate report, it recorded that she had sold personal property to cover some of the debts. How was she going to care for her 12 year old daughter and 8 year old son plus several stepchildren? How would she feed and clothe them? How could she be both mother and father to them?
After the 1820 census where her life was documented by a tick mark, she is not found again even in looking at her stepchildren’s families on the census…no tick marks found that could possibly be Rhonda. Who protected and cared for her in her final days? Where was she buried?
No mistake that a testament to her ability to raise resilient and strong children was evident in her son Amos Howell Boultinghouse. Amos would enlist in the Army at the age of 19, start a family at 25, reenlist in the Army during the Civil War at the age of 43, and settle on a farm in Kansas at the age of 53. Yes, it would be a mistake to discount her strength and steadfastness.
Her little freckled face was styled in a frown. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Soft sobs emitted from her throat. Her auburn ringlets touched her shoulders that shook as she cried. Why would she be so upset on this most glorious of days? It was our first day of kindergarten at Saint James Catholic School, Falls Church, Virginia! We wore our new school dresses. We had old cigar boxes filled with pencils and crayons. We received coloring sheets. Our teacher Mrs. Doyle was smiling and beckoning to us to listen to a story. I was in kindergarten heaven, but what about my table mate? I reached over and put my arm around her shoulder so I could comfort her. I asked her her name. She told me that she was Dodi. From that moment on and the rest of kindergarten, Dodi Driscoll would become my best friend.
During that school year, we learned to write our names. I could spell/write Dodi’s name before I could write my own. Together, we mastered those sweet little kindergarten skills of becoming good listeners, becoming well mannered little ladies, and becoming ready to read and do math. Those half days of school gave us the gift of spending time as best friends. On the weekends, I was invited to play at Dodi’s. Her father was a photographer for The Washington Post so he was camera ready to snap pictures of us. He also took great pictures of our graduation day. At the end of the school year, my family was moving away. It was my first experience in leaving a best friend.
Now 60 years later, I wondered what happened to her. I found her parents’ memorials on FindAGrave. Oh, no…on the page was written that their daughter Dolores Mary (Dodi) had died in 1999. How could that be? I searched for an obituary and found one. Dodi had never married, and she was dearly loved by her nieces and nephews. She was a dedicated children’s physical therapist. She had died of cancer against which she struggled for several years. As I read her obituary, my face was styled into a frown. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Soft sobs emitted from my throat. My dear school days friend was now tucked away in heaven. Dodi, you are remembered.
Wanted: Individuals with patience, perseverance, private eye skills who can work for hours at a time in assembling and documenting facts. Must know fundamentals of citing sources and references. Organizational and planning strategies are essential. Willingness to share research with others who may or may not be related to them. Allowance for travel time. Flex time schedules are available. Apply in person at your local historical or lineage societies, libraries, online interest groups.