Chasing the “Wild Bunch”—One Woman’s Journey

??????????????????????

Years ago, the name “Mary” caught my attention on my family tree chart. Besides the fact that she was my third great grandmother and the wife of William Stillens (1781-1843), I knew nothing else about her. Some people thought she was born in England. Some people thought she was of Spanish heritage. The only clue to a possible maiden name for her lay in her oldest son’s middle name: John Inghram Stillians (1815-1884). Approximately twenty years ago, I began my search for Mary –a search that took me through the Inghrams of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Deans of Dorchester County, Maryland and Mercer County, Kentucky, and the Stillians families of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Guthrie County, Iowa. That search is now complete.

Mary’s story is told in my recently published book—Chasing the “Wild Bunch”—One Woman’s Journey (Aventine Press, 2014, 856 pages). Divided into three major family groups, the book first discusses Mary’s maternal line: the Inghrams of Southwestern Pennsylvania—their origins and related families. Part Two of the Books focuses on Mary’s paternal ancestors: the Deans of Dorchester County, Maryland and Mercer County, Kentucky. The Stillians families are next discussed and comprise the rest of the book. More information about the book may be found at my website:

http://www.historical-footprints-2010.com

I probably had enough material to write three separate books on this subject and entertained thoughts of doing so. That tactic proved not to be feasible when I discovered family groups from Section One later intermarrying with family groups from Sections Two and Three. The first draft of the book well exceeded 1,000 pages. Needless to say, it was cut to 856 and is guaranteed to provide a long winter’s read!

Needless to say, finding Mary’s true identity was like looking for a needle in the haystack. One discovery led to a new question and that question lead to a new search, often perplexing when existing records were missing! I provide the following example.

Sometime in 1993 I discovered my fourth great-grandfather’s estate file existed in the Washington County, Pennsylvania. We spent our summers in Pennsylvania at that period of time, so I looked forward to going there the following summer. When we arrived at the Washington County Courthouse, I was escorted to a room in a vault in the basement. I remember walking out of the Clerk’s Office with the attendant, riding the elevator down to the vault in the basement and standing there looking at layers of boxes with documents dating back to the late 1700s. She knelt down beside one box and said, “That file should be right here!” –followed by—“Well—where is it?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! She searched through the entire box before announcing, “Someone has TAKEN the file!” She looked through some of the other boxes without success. And she announced her discovery when we returned to the Clerk’s Office: “Can you believe these people drove here all the way from Colorado, and the file she needs is missing!” I told her we would be in the area through the summer. She suggested I check back with her before returning to Colorado, which I did. They had searched through the entire courthouse. The file had disappeared!

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. I grumbled about it on some online discussion board, and about three years later, I heard from a man in Ohio. He was searching for the Stillings or Stallings surname and contacted the Pennsylvania State Archives. He believed he had a copy of the file I was seeking and told me the people were not elated to him. He would like to send the copies to me, and he did! Those copies were a boon to my investigation. I don’t think I would have completed this project without them! I did contact the courthouse, asking whether the originals were ever discovered. No, they were not. The file was definitely missing. And they were happy to learn the Archives had made copies of the file before the snatching. (Getting original records was a common problem throughout this search. Courthouse records were often destroyed by fires or by snatching fingers when people didn’t want others to find them!)

This has been a long journey that has finally ended. After the twenty plus years of searching and after three years of writing and rewriting, I am pleased with the final result!

In the words of Winston Churchill:

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”

The Book is in production

calliopeFinally–after over 20 years of research and three years of actual writing–my book is in production. It has consumed much of my time over the last two years, and now I’m looking forward to seeing it in print. I’m looking for a late September or early October release date, but it could be early November. Information about the book is available on my website: http://www.historical-footprints-2010.com

It seems as though I put one away and start working on another. I have another book in mind that I’ve been working on for years, and have already begun updating my research. Funny how you leave a family line for a while and then discover a whole new framework in process when you return. That is certainly the way it is with my tree. It won’t take me as long to update my information. The book under production involved three major family lines: Inghram, Dean and Stillians along with a number of related groups. So it was a tremendous project. The book I’m working on now will not be as complex and will be quite similar to my first book: The Sum Total: A Search for Levi Clay (1843-1917) and Jesse James (1847-1882). It will also focus on my mother’s side of the family.

And so I begin another project as the completed endeavor makes it debut.

Here’s hoping!

The Book of John

john_e_stillians_adair

A Pisces, John E. Stillians was born February 27, 1857 in Woodbine, Jo Daviess County, Illinois to William M. Stillians, Jr. and Rachel E. Dilley. William Stillians was my second great grandfather and John is my great grand uncle and half brother of my great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Stillians (Clay) (1849-1915). He would become Mary’s favorite brother (she and her sisters Sarah Jane and Agnes spoiled the dickens out of him)–and he would also become my grandmother, Adelia Viola Clay Inman’s favorite uncle! He would be the oldest surviving son of the Stillians-Dilley marriage. By 1870, the Stillians family moved from Woodbine and settled in North Branch, Guthrie County, Iowa. As a boy, John was trained as a carpenter by his uncle, Samuel Stillians (1817-1899) of Page County, Iowa. If astrology indicators can be believed, the following chart should describe John Stillians’ personality:

Zodiac Facts
Twelfth sign of the zodiac; mutable, fruitful, feminine and moist

Key Characteristics
Loving, sensitive, intuitive, spiritual, idealistic, victimised and moody

Compatible Star Signs
Aries, Taurus, Cancer, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn and Pisces

Mismatched Signs
Gemini,Leo,Virgo,LibraandAquarius

Affirmation:
I offer my love to all, but I am grounded (See: http://www.astrology.com.au/astrology/12-signs-of-the-zodiac/pisces.html)

charles_john_stillians

[Note to Self: If John Stillians were alive today, my Taurus side would get along quite well with him. But I was born on the cusp between Taurus and Gemini. Gemini could cause some problems! And as far as his spoiling sisters go, Mary was a Cancer, Agnes was a Taurus and Sarah Jane was an Aries! My grandmother was born on the cusp between Scorpio and Saggitarius. John’s father was a Capricorn. The two locked horns frequently!]

john_e_stillians_6

John was an experimenter and pursued a number of interests. He moved to Walsenburg, Colorado in 1880, where he worked in a carpenter shop, and he stayed in Colorado for several years. During that period of time, he performed in a circus.

marianna_pritchettjohn_e_stillians_7

About 1883 or 1884 he met his first wife, Marianna Augusta “Mamie” Pritchett (1868-1958). She was the daughter of Alexander Norman Pritchett (1842-1872) and Eunice Ann Adams (1850-1904). She was also a singer, a dancer, and an actress who was not about to give up her career! They were married June 24, 1886 in Pueblo, Colorado, and they relocated to Gainesville, Florida, where John became a partner in an architectural firm called McKeever & Stillians. While in Gainesville, he became a member of the local Masonic lodge, and he also became a member of the Sons of Temperance. Two children resulted from that marriage: John Alexander Stillians (1887-1968) and Margaret Anne “Maggie” Stillians (1889-1956).

margaret_anne_maggie_stillians_pritchettjohn_a_stillians_3

annie_bachmannjohn_e_stillians_3

After their divorce in 1891, John returned to Iowa and settled in the town of Adair, where he opened his photography studio and where he met and married his second wife, Anna “Annie” Bachmann (1875-1893). She was the daughter of Caspar Peter Bachmann (1832-1876) and Anna Barbara Hamers (Lienhard) (1844-1891). They were married in Greenfield, Adair, Iowa on November 21, 1892. Annie died in childbirth in 1893, and the child died as well. John’s photography studio was an active business in Adair, Iowa from 1893 until the great Adair fire destroyed it August 6, 1894. By 1898, John and his children were in Dayton, Ohio, where John re-established his photography business. By 1899, he closed his photography business and returned to the life of a carpenter. He would remain a carpenter and a project manager the rest of his life.

john_e_stillians_2

In 1902 John relocated to the Oklahoma Territory, where he met and married a Native American by the name of Mary Shook. She died in childbirth in 1905.

ada_shookjohn_e_stillians_5

John next relocated to Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, where he married his fourth wife Ada M. Shook (1870-1935). She was the daughter of John H. Shook, Sr. (1836-1925) and Melvina Amanda Hughes (1835-1905). Ada was also the third cousin of his deceased wife, Mary Shook. John and Ada were married in Fort Smith in 1907 and had two ceremonies: one in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and the second in Adair, Iowa. Three children resulted from this marriage: Fredericka “Freddie” Stillians (1908-1910); William “Billie” Michael Shook Stillians (1909-1975); and Winifred/Winnifred Elva Stillians Bodenhammer (1909-1905).

john_e_stillians_4

In 1916, the family relocated to Port Arthur, Texas, where John became a project manager. From there, they moved to Beaumont, where John and Ada spent the rest of their lives.

john_e_stillians_1

John died in Beaumont July 14, 1929 of arteriosclerosis and according to his death certificate, he was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Beaumont on July 15, 1929. There is no marker on his grave. His wife, Ada, has a marker on hers, so in all likelihood they are buried together.

[For the Find-a-Grave entry, see http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=129887712%5D

From Father to Son: Charles to Harry

chas_and_harry_stillians

Some years ago when I finally acquired all of my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s photo albums, I spent time searching through the pages. When I arrived at the end of one of the albums, I found two tiny instant photo machine pictures of a man lighting a cigar and enjoying it.

“So, who’s that?” I wondered. These photos were inside one of the Stillians albums, so I presumed the fellow was a member of the Stillians family. Then I found a note close to the photos bearing the name of “Harry!”

Still perplexed, I put the pictures and the note back in their original slot in the album and went on about my business. “Harry” remained a mystery until a recently discovered 1930 Census record disclosed one Harry Stillians, born in Texas in 1886. What follows is the rest of the story.

The Father: Charles Wesley Stillians (1862-1895)

Charles Wesley Stillians’ story is told in an earlier article I wrote: [See The Search for Charles Wesley Stillians (1862-1895)–Life With Barbara–April 13, 2014]. The son of William M. Stillians, Jr. (1826-1907) and Rachel Dilley (1834-1905), Charles left home in 1880. He appears on a census record that year working on a farm in Louisa County, Iowa. Charles didn’t want to return to Guthrie County, Iowa. Instead, he began looking for a new location. It wasn’t long before he traveled to the Great State of Texas, where he worked as a ranch hand on a number of ranches.

About 1884 or 1885, Charles became involved with a young woman. Their son Harry was born about 1886. Apparently after his son’s birth, Charles moved on to another ranch. In all likelihood, he planned to send for the mother and their child as soon as he could do so. But the lure of the smelting business in Denver proved too strong.

Charles moved to Denver in 1889, where he worked as a laborer in the Grant Smelting Company for at least a year. Subsequently called the Omaha-Grant Smelting Company, the smelter was situated on the edge of Globeville in the Denver area, so Charles probably lived in Globeville while working there. But in 1890, Charles left Denver for California, where he worked for a huge smelter in Redding, Shasta County.

In all likelihood, he contracted cancer while working in one or both smelters. The smelter in Denver stopped doing business in 1902. It would take almost 50 years before they completely dismanted the buildings, the stack being the last thing to go in 1950. Both smelter sites in Denver and in California have been labeled Superfund sites. As noted in the earlier article, the smelter in California killed all the trees and vegetation in the area. One or both smelters had a part in killing my great grand uncle, Charles Wesley Stillians. About 1893, Charles went home to die!

Charles’ brother, John, stopped to see him in 1895 before John’s departure to Dayton, Ohio. A professional photographer, John took the last picture of Charles, which is posted here. And it was then when Charles shared his secret with John: he had a son named Harry somewhere in Texas who was born around 1886. The mother had subsequently died. Charles had no idea what became of his son.

Charles died shortly after that visit. As for John, he was on his way to Ohio with no present plans to move to Texas. Eventually, John moved there. But since he had only a name–Harry Stillians–he had no idea where to begin looking. John and his family moved to Texas from Arkansas around 1913 and settled in Beaumont.

Harry Stillians (1886-aft. 1930)

Harry Stillians would still be a mystery had it not been for John Alexander Stillians (1887-1968)–the oldest son of Charles Stillians’ brother, John. By 1920, John Alexander relocated to Houston, Texas from Oklahoma, and he settled in the Sixth Ward. The area where he settled was a sea of activity. A carpenter by trade, John Alexander was quite busy. He appears on a list of lodgers in Ward 6 in Houston on the 1920 Census. Since John Alexander was recently divorced, two of his sons resided with his parents in Beaumont, while his oldest son remained in Oklahoma with John’s ex-wife. The list of lodgers on the census record with John Alexander came from all walks of life.

Records do not recite how John Alexander met Harry, or exactly when Harry moved into Ward 6. They were about the same age. I believe that John ran into him about 1925 or 1926 and realized how much he resembled his uncle, Charles Wesley Stillians. (John Alexander remarried in 1921; I do not know when he divorced, but it was before 1929.)

Harry had no clue about any of his origins. He didn’t know his father’s name–just that the last name was Stillians. His mother had died. Since then, he had been passed around from family to family–some of them good to him–some of them not so good to him. All he had was a name–Harry Stillians–and he was born in 1886.

“Not too sure of the month ‘n day–” he told John, “–but purty sure of the year.”

John Alexander called his father and the following weekend, John Alexander and his new friend arrived at the John Stillians home in Beaumont. And John Stillians probably received a jolt when he saw Harry. Before returning to Houston that evening, Harry gave John the tiny photos I have posted above. The pictures have been damaged. Harry had been carrying them around inside his wallet.

“Naw, you kin keep ’em,” he told John. “I got more and kin get more.”

John Stillians sent the pictures to his niece, Viola Clay Inman, who was living in Charles City, Iowa about this period of time. Yes, she remembered Uncle Charlie, she wrote back. The man in these photos definitely resembled him. John told her to keep the photos in the Stillians album, which she did and which is where I found them!

John Stillians died in Beaumont in 1929. His grandsons moved to Houston, where they lived with their father John Alexander that year. Then John Alexander left Houston and in 1930, his two sons are shown on the census in Ward 6. Harry Stillians appears on the census record in the same location.

The 1930 Census for Ward 6, Houston, Texas is the last record I have been able to find for Harry Stillians. Since he worked in the oilfields, he was constantly on the move. He may have been killed in an oilfield accident, or he may have left Texas and wandered on to an oilfield in another state. The only two records I have of his existence consist of the 1930 census and the two pictures posted above.

No doubt, these pictures were taken in a photo machine in Ward 6. Those machines were introduced in this country in 1925; their popularity spread quickly after that. Harry probably had these pictures taken on a Saturday night in Houston–he appears to be wearing his Saturday night suspenders. He is certainly proud of that cigar. And he appears a little inebriated.

For a brief moment, he stepped forward to claim his identity. And then as quickly as he appeared, he vanished. I can find no further record for him.

And so, the speculation continues.

The Search for Charles Wesley Stillians (1862-1895)

Image

My heart went out to Charles when I recently discovered his last photograph in my great grandmother’s photo album. The healthy, robust, happy Charles was so emaciated! His sad eyes drew me into the picture.

What in the world happened to Charles?

My great grand uncle, Charles Wesley Stillians, was born October 8, 1862 in Woodbine, Jo Daviess County, Illinois—a younger son of William Michael Stillians, Jr. (1826-1907) and Rachel E. Dilley (1836-1905). Aside from two wonderful childhood photos I found for him, and two taken in 1880 on his trip to Jo Daviess County with his sister, Henrietta and brother, Albert, Charles disappears from records. Piecing his life story together was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Part of that relates to transcriber difficulties with Charles and with Stillians.

In 1880, William Stillians contracted tuberculosis (labeled “consumption” on the federal census for that year.) The family had been living in Bear Grove Twp., Guthrie County, Iowa since 1870. A country doctor and Methodist minister, William was able to treat it, but he didn’t want to pass it all around the household. So, he sent his family elsewhere until it was safe for them to go home.

Image

Rachel and the youngest son, Levi Fosnot Stillians, went to Adair, Iowa and stayed with the Levi Clay family. Levi Clay’s wife, Mary Elizabeth, was my great grandmother. (This is a photo of the Levi Clay house in Adair, Iowa.)

Image

(Levi Fosnot Stillians and his dog. He was the youngest surviving son of William Michael Stillians and Rachel Dilley.)

Image

The oldest son John went to Colorado, where he is found on the 1880 Census in Walsenburg, Huerfano County in a carpenter’s shop. This photo is of Charles and his brother, John.

Image

(L-R: Albert Spencer Stillians, Henrietta Stillians, Charles Wesley Stillians. I love this picture! Henrietta is adorable standing on that box!)

ImageImage

Charles, Albert and Henrietta decided to head back to Jo Daviess County, Illinois to visit family members still residing in the area. Pictures taken on that trip verify their presence in Jo Daviess. These photos are part of a larger photo of their visit with the Jeremiah Clay family in Jo Daviess County. Jeremiah Clay was a brother of Levi Clay. Charles and Henrietta are in the photo on the left. Albert is in the photo on the right. They also spent time with Elisha and Sarah Jane Stillians Lacock, their uncle and aunt.

Image

Shortly after his trip to Jo Daviess County in 1880 with Albert and Henrietta, Charles spent the summer working on a farm in Concord, Louisa County, Iowa.(1) He didn’t return to Guthrie County while his father was still battling tuberculosis! And during the time he spent in Southeast Iowa, he was able to meet some relatives who lived there. For Charles, it was a summer of fun—something he remembered and enjoyed talking about. And then he made a decision that would end his life. [Note: This photo was taken on the 1880 trip to Jo Daviess County. I found it with individual pictures of Albert and Henrietta taken by the same photographer in Galena. Charles had grown a mustache!]

Image

By 1890, Charles went to Redding, Shasta County, California, where a photograph was taken of him by a local photography firm called Franklin & White. In order to verify Charles’ time in Redding, I had to track down these photographers. Fortunately, I found an item that gave me the connection:

“John C. Franklin photographs

PH200_127: 0.01 lin. ft./1 container

John C. Franklin was a photographer operating in Redding, CA 1890-1893. He partnered with Howell in Yreka (1891) and Redding (1891-1893), with White in Redding 1890, and with Darlington in Redding 1893.”(2)

Franklin & White were partners only in 1890; their logo appears at the bottom of the photograph, thereby verifying the time Charles was in Redding. No doubt, he had the picture taken shortly after his arrival there and sent it to his parents back home in Iowa. He was probably full of optimism when he first arrived. He had no idea what he was getting into!

In 1890, Shasta County, California was the setting of a number of large mining operations. One mine in particular, the Iron Mountain Mine, was one of the largest copper mines in the country, and Charles probably worked there. In describing the scene at Redding, the Wikipedia site notes:

“Redding was incorporated in 1887 with 600 people. By 1910, Redding had a population of 3,572 supported by a significant extraction industry, principally copper and iron. However, with the decline of these industries, which also produced significant amounts of pollution damaging to local agriculture, the population dropped to 2,962 in 1920.”(3)

The smelters were chief among the mining problems, a situation described by The Shasta County History Page:

“The copper smelters processed the copper ore. However, the processing of the ore created and caused great environmental hazards and problems. The surrounding forests were cut down for the needed timber in the mine tunnels as well as for building fires under the mountainous piles of ore for open-air roasting.

Ore was burned or heap roasted at the smelters and the process created poisonous sulphur dioxide gasses which moved with the wind and killed whatever it touched as it moved along.

All of the smelters were located in a horseshoe shaped area from Iron Mountain on the west, around to Bully Hill, and finally to Ingot on the east.

Fruit orchards with fruit ready to be picked as far away as Anderson and Happy Valley were known to be completely destroyed overnight because they were unlucky enough to be in the path of the toxic smoke as it blew through their area.

As a result, the irate farmers organized and sued the mining and smelting companies. Falling market prices combined with the lawsuits eventually put most of the mines and smelters out of business. Those that continued to mine had to ship their ore as far away as Martinez for processing.”(4)

Charles sucked that poison and other toxic substances into his lungs. His death was slow and agonizing. He returned to Guthrie County to die. His father (a country doctor) could only make him as comfortable as possible and pray for him. There was no way to reverse the death sentence. Charles’ last picture taken in Adair by his brother, John,–who had a photography business in Adair, Iowa at the time–shows an emaciated young man with sad eyes. It was probably used at his funeral.

Charles Wesley Stillians died in Bear Grove Twp., Guthrie County, Iowa in 1895 at the age of thirty-three. He is probably buried in old North Branch Cemetery with other family members.

As for the Iron Mountain Mine in Shasta County, California—it last operated in 1963 and has since been abandoned. Today, it is the site of a superfund project, vividly described as a “hellhole” in an article by Peter Fimrite:

“Today, dirt roads snake over and around the mountain. Treatment plants, holding ponds and dams are scattered about to catch the toxic runoff. The entire area is carved up. Rubble and large areas of bare reddish dirt pock the hills.

The primary source of the acid is inside a shaft on the side of a steep, barren hillside known as the Richmond Mine. The group that trekked into the bowels of this shaft was one of the first to ever go that deep; it included news media and other observers not directly involved in Superfund research.

Inside, the sound of bubbling and burbling is everywhere as water drips onto superheated rocks and turns into vapor. The chemical steam heats up the cavern and emits a strong odor. One visitor is told it might not be good to breathe the air there for extended periods of time.

This is what Sugarek calls “the belly of the beast,” a place so hot and lacking in oxygen that it has to be pumped full of air so workers and visitors don’t pass out.(5)

That “hellhole” with its smelter and toxic pollution not only killed all the vegetation in the area, but it also killed Charles Wesley Stillians!

References

(1)1880 United States Federal Census about Chas. Stielen (Stillian), Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: March 10, 2014. Available online at: http://www.ancestry.com

(2) Photograph of Charles Wesley Stillians by Franklin & White Photographers, Redding, Shasta, California (1890). Now in the possession of Barbara Inman Beall

(3)Abstracts of Photograph Collections, Special Collections and University Archives, Knight Library, 2d Floor North, University of Oregon. UO Libraries Web Page. Date Accessed: April 12, 2014. Available online at: http://library.uoregon.edu/speccoll/photo/abstracts.html

(4) “Redding, California” from the Wikipedia Site. Last modified: 7 April 2014. Date Accessed: April 9, 2014. Available online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redding,_California

(4) Dottie Smith, “Copper Mining and the Toxic Mining Smelters,” Shasta County History.com website. (2009).Date Accessed: April 12, 2014. Available online at http://ShastaCountyHistory_com – Copper mining and the toxiccopper smelters.htm

(5) Peter Fimrite, “Inside a Toxic Hellhole, Iron Mountain Mine. SF Gate Website. Published August 10, 2010. Date Accessed: April 12, 2014. Available online at:  http://www.sfgate.com/green/article/Inside-a-toxic-hellhole-Iron-Mountain-Mine-3254595.php

 

On the Trail of a Circuit Rider’s Watch

Image

Approximately twenty years ago in the month of May, Howard and I set out on our annual summer journey for the East Coast. As customary, we routed our trip through Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a few days with my mother. The month of May also signals the arrival of my birthday and on this particular trip, Mom had something waiting for me.

“Would you like to have this?” she asked as she presented me with a small box.

Opening it, I found a beautiful gold pocket watch on a chain.

“Yes, I would like to have it!” I told her.

“That’s your birthday present!”

Realizing the watch was old, I wanted to know the story about it. I vaguely remembered my mother wearing it to church when I was really small.

“It was Grandma Inman’s watch,” Mom told me. “She always carried it in her purse to church on Sundays. She gave it to your dad. He put it on the chain and gave it to me for Christmas one year. It came from her family.”

At the time, I immediately thought of Grandma’s Clay line. Her father worked for the railroad when it was just getting established in Adair, Iowa in 1873. I thought perhaps the watch belonged to Levi Clay. At summer’s end when we returned from Pennsylvania, I discovered something interesting about the watch.

“This is a minister’s watch!” I told Howard.

“What makes you think so?”

“Well, look at the design on it. There’s a dove in the middle and a cross on each side of the dove!”

Howard looked at it and handed it back.

“Wasn’t your grandfather a minister? It was probably his.”

Yes, my Grandfather Inman was a Baptist minister. But when my mother gave it to me, she mentioned Grandma Inman’s family. So, if it didn’t come from Grandma’s Clay side of the family–then it had to come from her mother’s side–the Stillians line. And my grandmother’s grandfather was a Methodist Circuit Rider!

***

Image

William Michael Stillians, Jr. was born December 29, 1826 in Hampshire County, Virginia, and he died October 13, 1907 in Guthrie County, Iowa. He was born into a family of Methodist circuit riders, beginning first with his father William Michael Stillians/Stillens, Sr. (1781-1840) and passing down through William Jr.’s brother, John Inghram Stillians (1815-1884). John Inghram Stillians was the oldest son; the mantle fell upon him. Not only did he become a Methodist circuit rider, but he also practiced medicine and law. William was the youngest surviving son in the family and the last child to leave home. Unlike his brother who underwent a more formal instruction, William Jr. learned from his father. William not only learned how to preach and became a licensed itinerant preacher, but he also practiced law and medicine as well. When the elder William passed on, the younger William took over his father’s operation, including preaching at a small Presbyterian Church called Shepherd’s in Cumberland Twp., Greene County, Pennsylvania. It was the oldest church in the area, and it always seemed to be without a preacher.  Not many seminary-trained Presbyterian ministers wanted to serve at a small church in the woods. They preferred a more civilized setting.

Image

Frustrated over the lack of available ministers, the members of Shepherds looked around and discovered the Methodist circuit riders.

“Why can’t we do something like that?” They said. “Why can’t we utilize these men who travel a circuit?”

At first, the powers in control in Philadelphia told them no. When the members continued pestering them about it, Philadelphia finally relented.

“All right! You can use a Methodist when a Presbyterian is not available. And remember–you are Presbyterians!”

So William Sr. began preaching at Shepherds. Eventually, his regular route extended from Pennsylvania to Virginia (today West Virginia), Maryland and Delaware. But whenever he was back in the area, he was certain to preach at the little church in the woods. He was then succeeded by his son.

After William, Jr.’s marriage to my second great grandmother, Catherine Lee, William settled in Cumberland Twp. He operated a mill, practiced medicine and law, and he preached at Shepherds. He was probably there for almost ten years. During that ten-year period, he fathered two daughters, lost his wife (she died in childbirth with the second daughter), married a second time (his second wife’s name was Rachel Dilley), fathered a son and began looking at a westward direction.  Eventually, he decided upon Jo Daviess County, Illinois, and the Stillians family planned to relocate there around 1856-1857. William’s departure from Shepherds marks the beginning of the story about the watch!

Image

The members at Shepherds hated to hear the family was leaving. They had grown accustomed to the family’s presence–first with the father and next with the son. It would be difficult to find another minister who appreciated their rural culture. In gratitude, the congregation gave William a gold watch, something he treasured the rest of his life. [You can see his watch chain in this picture!]

William moved his family to Jo Daviess County. When the Civil War broke out, he became in charge of a local militia unit (hence the uniform he is wearing in this picture.) His unit patroled the river because Illinois was afraid the Confederates would sneak up the Mississippi and cause all sorts of destruction along the way. Also in the 1860s, William was placed in a number of postmaster positions in Jo Daviess County. He served as a justice of the peace, practiced medicine, and he also continued to preach. By 1870, the family left Illinois and relocated to Bear Grove Twp., Guthrie County, Iowa.Image

William spent his life being dedicated to his medical practice as well as to his church. There was just one problem with all of that: None of his sons followed in his footsteps! One of his granddaughters, however–my paternal grandmother, Adelia Viola Clay Inman (1869-1951)–married a Baptist minister. And Adelia Viola was the daughter of William’s oldest child, Mary Elizabeth Stillians (1849-1915).  This photo of William Stillians is probably the last photograph taken of him ca. 1907. He is sitting beside my great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Stillians (1849-1915)–the only surviving daughter of his first wife, Catherine Lee. The young woman in the middle is one of Mary’s daughters, Lorene, whose nickname was Lulu.

Image

William Stillians died October 13, 1907 in Guthrie County, Iowa. He is buried in the Sunnyhill Cemetery in Adair, Iowa beside one of his granddaughters, Mary Tift. Before he died, he gave his minister’s watch to Mary Elizabeth.

“Keep this as long as you like,” he told her. “But eventually, I want it to go to Viola. She’s married to a minister.”

Mary died in September 1915 in Adair, Iowa. Before she died, she gave the watch to her daughter, Adelia Viola, who in turn gave it to her husband, Loren Waiste Inman (1870-1942).

Grandpa wore the watch the rest of his days. And when he died, the watch went back to my grandmother. She carried it in her purse when she went to church and put it away in her dresser after she arrived home.

Grandma died June 14, 1951 in Cedar Rapids, Linn, Iowa. Before she died, she gave the watch to my father Gordon Loren Inman (1908-1974). Dad, in turn, gave it to my mother for Christmas one year after putting it on a chain. My mother wore the watch to church, then she put it away in her jewelry box. 

Fast forward to May 1993-1994: Mom gave the watch to me, and it is still in my possession.

Image

April 6, 2014; I wore the watch to church today since Howard and I became new members at a local Presbyterian Church.

Funny thing how the Presbyterians initiated the trail of this watch by giving it to a Methodist, who in turn gave it to another Methodist, and who in turn gave it to a third Methodist–and that Methodist passed it on to three or four Baptists only to return to the Presbyterians again!

The watch has traveled full circle!

 

 

 

 

Am I Finished???

exhausted

Several days ago, I completed the rough draft of the book I am writing. What a relief!  I didn’t think I would ever reach this point and almost abandoned ship several times!  Something drove me to the finish line, however. I couldn’t give up since I had too much time, energy, effort and money invested in the project. So now what?

 

The research portion of this project began over twenty years ago during the summer months I spent in Pennsylvania. Had I not been in Pennsylvania at that period of time, I do not believe the project would have ever taken shape. The lack of records and conflicting stories made this a long, winding road to travel.  I would hate to count all the times when I exclaimed: “THIS CAN’T BE DONE!!!” Often such exclamations were followed by complaints about how I could handle so much material! Sometimes not enough information can be overwhelmed by too much information. Then the decision quickly became a choice of what to include and what to ignore. Other people had tackled the project before me. Their response was to provide a sanitized version of one line, ignoring the rest. Some of these early pursuers decided to pull materials from courthouses so that future pursuers could not find them, thereby denying people access to the full stories. Thank goodness State Archive personnel copied the records before the snatchers took them away!

 

To make a long story short: I decided to tell the full story. That’s why it has taken me over twenty years to research and accumulate the material. I didn’t start writing the draft until three years ago and was then forced to put it aside due to a number of interruptions. But with three major lines involved in the book–Inghram, Dean and Stillians—I had to keep plodding along. One question always led to another. Finally, with all my questions answered, I could draft my effort on paper and see it to the end.

 

Am I finished? No. The revising/polishing stage is now in process. Amazing how everything came to a standstill while I was writing the draft. My daily walk was placed on hold. My blog has been silent, or not as active as I would like to see it. My email responses have been hit and miss. Now with the pressure eased, I can take an occasional break. However, my night visitors still appear in my dreams, and I awaken each morning with a new idea for the book!

 

Do I have a self-imposed deadline? Not really. I’m looking at fall—September or October—whenever I can finally release it from my clutches and ship it off to the publisher. Until then, I will be writing—revising—rewriting—revising—writing–