Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Mystery of the Basswood School

Peter Smull > Peter Smull > Oscar Smull > Archie LeRoy Smull

Oscar Smull was born in Rock Grove township in Stephenson County, Illinois and spent his early life on the farm of his parents, Peter Smull and Rebecca Cronoble. On 02 Oct 1887, he married Miss Cora Stites who passed away in 1895. They had three children:  Lucy Amanda, Archie LeRoy, and Florence. After Cora's death, Oscar moved in with his cousin Thomas Newton Smull's family with the girls. Son Archie moved in with his aunt and uncle John W. and Ella McDaniel. McDaniel was a wealthy farmer. The later fate of Archie's living situation may well have been determined by the testimony Archie provided in a notorious trial held in Stephenson County in 1908 because I can imagine John was none too pleased with Archie during the trial.

The story began as far back as 1901 when John McDaniel purchased the land adjoining the land where the Basswood School near McConnell, Illinois, was located. McDaniel disputed the land boundary and insisted the school had been built on his land - a survey was completed and the results presented to the school board. His request that the boundaries be adjusted were rebuffed. It sounds like to McDaniel, this inaction started a series of skirmishes that would not end until 1908, dividing the townspeople like the Hatfield's and McCoy's. Numerous attempts to do away with the school were made, including a mysterious fire that burned it to the ground in 1905. In July, the following year, the walls of the new school were blown up in the middle of construction.

The final tale related to the Basswood School dispute occurred in 1908. In March, McDaniel was indicted by two grand juries and charged with "procuring dynamite and having guilty knowledge of its presence in the Basswood School," A bag of forty pounds of dynamite had been found in the school building, fortunately, unexploded.

The star witness for the prosecution was young Archie Smull, his ward, who testified that his uncle had shown him where the dynamite was located in a field and told him to place it in the school and light the fuse. The defense attempted to make Archie look like less than a stellar witness and provided disputing witnesses who provided an alibi for McDaniel and/or other testimony that put a big dent in the case. In the end, the jury could not reach a verdict but tilted toward conviction, but a second trial was ruled out. After reading all the articles available, my guess is John did indeed have ill intent with that bag of dynamite and got very lucky.

Archie Smull by age 19 was a farmhand working in Green County, Wisconsin. He married Hazel Keller in 1914. They had six children. He operated a dairy farm for decades. Archie died in Green County on 22 Mar 1980.

Oscar married again in October, 1907 to Lena Gerbitz. They had four additional children: Oscar James "Jim," Edrye, Francis, and Marjorie. He served as the Superintendent of the County Home for many years before retiring. He died 11 Dec 1945, his daughters Florence and Marjorie preceding him in death.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Founding Families of Poyner Township

Zachariah Holler > John Holler > George Holler married Lucy Robertson 

George Elam Holler was the son of Johannes "John" Holler and Margaret Low. He was born about 1803 in Rowan County, North Carolina and traveled west with his family; first to Ohio, then to the Washington County, Indiana area.

George married Lucy H. Robertson in Washington County, Indiana on 18 Feb 1823. Recently, a death record was located that says George died 02 Feb 1841. He had died prior to the death of his father and was referenced in his will. In about mid-1853, John and his mother, his sister Sarah and husband David Owens (David was also born in North Carolina), her brother John, and sister Edna and husband William Wheeler and their families left Indiana and moved to Black Hawk County, Iowa, stopping briefly in Illinois along the way.

Nancy, Lucy, and Nathan Poyner are
buried on a section of Nathan's property
now the Poyner Twshp Cemetery
Nathan Poyner, of North Carolina, was a Baptist traveling preacher who had preached to pioneer flocks all over the country under shade trees. In the early 1850s, he located, along with his oldest son Thomas, to Linn County, Iowa.

Thomas purchased 200 acres of land in southeast Black Hawk County in 1851 for $102. He purchased another 160 acres for $228 the following year. Horatio Sanford, a land speculator who had purchased the land from the government a short time before using land warrants, made both sales. The Poyner's settled in southeast Black Hawk County in 1853.

The pioneers to this area built log cabins and began clearing land. Poyner preached to its residents under old shade trees as he had before. Settlers trickled in and the township, named Poyner township in honor of Nathan, was organized by order of the county judge in 1854. Nathan's wife, Nancy Johnston, was the first death in the township. She died in 1853 and was buried on a portion of Poyner land. This location is now part of Poyner Township Cemetery.

Mrs Lucy Holler then married Nathan in the summer of 1854, joining together two of the founding families of the township. In 1856, Poyner son James also moved from Linn County and purchased land in the township.  Nathan Poyner died 16 May 1867. His wife Lucy died 19 Aug 1889.

Sarah Holler, daughter of George and Lucy Holler, married David Owens while in Indiana, an early pioneer who joined the original seven families in the area. David was born in North Carolina and had also resided in Indiana. They had nine children, the middle of whom was Lucy Jane "Lizzie" Owens. Sarah died 20 Feb 1864. David married Elizabeth Brown on 21 Aug 1864 and she died 09 Jun 1866 in Poyner Township. Lucy married Ira S Miller (my 2nd great grandparents) 04 Nov 1869 and they resided in Polk Township, Benton County, Iowa for the remainder of her life. David Owens remarried once more, moving to nearby Barclay Township to farm, and then moved on to Davison County, South Dakota where he died 18 Feb 1909.

Edna Holler, Sarah's younger sister, had married William M Wheeler in Washington County prior to 1850. William had two children by his first marriage who both died as young adults and were buried in Poyner Township. Edna gave birth to eight children: William H., Mary, Emma, Thomas Grant, Albert, Lucy Ann, Henrietta, and Sarah J. Edna cared for her mother Lucy in her declining years until her death. The Wheeler’s remained in Poyner Township for the remainder of their lives. William died 10 Jun 1896 and Edna on 09 Sep 1895.

John B Holler married Harriet in about 1857 in Indiana. They had four children: Eliza, Hattie, Granville, and Edward. They lived in Poyner Township for the remainder of their lives. John died
31 May 1918 and Hattie in 1917.

A little family drama:  Nathan and his first wife had help raise a ward in addition to their children. James B. Edwards, who was born in Rappahannock County, Virginia, 11 Mar 1839. When a child, he came with his parents to Illinois where he was left an orphan at the age of 3 years.  Nathan and Lucy raised an additional ward, Isaac Walter Hollar, who was the orphaned son of Wesley Hollar (another son of Lucy & George Holler) of Indiana. It was reportedly Nathan's wish that the boys share equally in Thomas' land. Thomas, who never married, had a major hand in raising James who ended up farming Thomas' land after his death. After reaching his majority, Isaac struck out on his own in the Muscatine, Iowa area. In 1908, he brought suit in Iowa court over the land. Since no articles were found referencing the case after the suit, one might presume some sort of settlement was reached or the suit was dropped.

What isn't clear is what the original connections was between the Poyner and Holler families, which very well could extend for decades from their North Carolina origins, despite the serpentine nature of how all of them arrived in Poyner Township.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Where There's a Will

Zachariah Holler > Johannes "John" Holler 

Rowan County NC 1780
I was kind of surprised to find a "Southerner" in my family line. The sprawling Holler/Hollar family still has a strong presence in what is now Catawba and Iredell Counties in North Carolina. And, of course, many of them married fellow southerners - some of whom were slave owners and fought for the Confederacy. This Holler, however, left the lands he purchased while a youth and went on a quest for more cheap land out west.

In 1742, Zachariah Holler arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Reportedly, the Hollers were originally from Asbach, Baden-Wurttemberg. According to a family member, they lived in Holland prior to coming to America and launched from Rotterdam. Eighteen years old, he established himself in the Bucks County and farmed with his wife, the former Anna Wannemacher. The Holler (and there are many variations including Hollar) family quickly grew to at least 10 children. Among these was Johannes "John" Holler.

John was born in 09 Nov 1763 in Bucks County.

The war record of John Hollar states that he served twice post-Revolutionary War from Lynn Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. He saw service in the war for 2 months in the fall of 1780 in a company drafted and called out under Captain Statler, being stationed on the frontier of what was then Southampton County, PA, to guard against the Indians, serving from October until a few days before Christmas. He served again in 1781 under Captain Greylow but saw no action. In both stints he served in the place of a drafted person who didn't want to serve - Philip Kisler in the first, and for Jacob Saunder in the second. Family legend has it that two of his brothers crossed the Delaware River with George Washington, but which brothers, or if in fact this is true and not a tall tale, isn't known.

He reportedly married Sally Shue in about 1781 in Northampton, Pennsylvania and the removed to Rowan County, North Carolina (the then largest county, it is now Catawba and Iredell counties). They had four living children:  John, Jr., Sarah, Christeaner, and Andrew Jackson. Sally died before 1794 and was buried in North Carolina.

John Holler arrived in Rowan and Lincoln countries in approximately 1783. (Catawba and Iredell Counties were formed from these counties). He was about 20 years old when he came to North Carolina. Because John was under age when his father died in Lynn Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, his eldest brother, Adam, administered the property.
After Anna Haller (John's mother) died, Adam (John's older brother) distributed the money among her heirs. John probably traveled to North Carolina with his brother Zachariah, Jr., who also settled in Lincoln and Rowan Counties. Both brothers were involved in land transactions as early as 1795 in Iredell County. John's presence in this region was early as can be traced through records in St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Conover. The Church recorded the births of three or possibly four of John's children: John Jr., born in 1783, and Sarah born in 1785. A third record could be that of Andrew. John and his brother may have been attracted to North Carolina because of Federal or State land grants. John's interest in acquiring land may also have been the reason for his departure for the Midwest in about 1813. It is also true that Catawba County's terrain is very similar to Northampton County. 
"The Holler Family of Catawba and Iredell Counties, North Carolina", by Joanne Holler Atay 
The Rowan County Marriage Bonds records indicate that John Holler and Margaret Low had bonds taken on October 19, 1794. The bondsman was listed as Martin Basinger and the witness was May Troy. When John and Margaret married he would have been almost 29 and Margaret 17. They became the parents of at least nine children: Zachariah, George, Absalom, Israel, Zahariah, Catherine, Elizabeth, Anna, Isaac, Margaret, and Israel.

After living in North Carolina for about 30 years, the Hollers - with the exception of the John Holler, Jr., Andrew Holler, Sr, and Christeaner, children from the first marriage - packed up and moved to Franklin County, Ohio where they lived for about four years before moving on to Washington County, Indiana. John Holler died in Brown Township, Washington County (now Jefferson) February 8, 1849 at the age of 85.

His wife, Margaret, died April 27, 1852, in her 74th year. Both are buried in the Prowsville Cemetery about 5 miles northeast of Campbellsburg.

John left a detailed will and so much about him and he relationship to his children can be taken from its contents:
I, John Holler of Washington County and the State of Indiana do make and publish my last will and testament, hereby revoking and making void all former wills and testaments by me at any time heretofore made;
and first, I direct that my body be decently interred and that my funeral be conducted in a manner corresponding with my estate and situation in life; and as to such worldly estates as it has pleased God to entrust me with I dispose of the same in the following manner, to wit:
my funeral expenses first paid, I direct and bequeath that my sons John Holler and Andrew Holler and my daughter Christeaner have of my estates two hundred and twenty five dollars equally divided between them (ed note: A whopping $75 per child!).
and further; I will and bequeath to David Taylor, the legal heir of my daughter Sarah twenty five dollars if he can be found and if not, twenty five dollars of what I bequeath him shall be equally divided between the three above-named heirs; (ed note: this presume David took a scarper for good and Sarah, the remaining child of the first marriage, most likely was deceased by this time)
and I further direct that my sons Zachariah Holler, George Holler, Israel Holler, Absalom Holler and my daughters Catharine, Elizabeth and Ann have an equal portion of all my estate hereby bequeathed to them at my decease except as herein directed, to wit::
I have paid sixty dollars to John Kelly for my son George and that amount shall be deducted from his portion at the time of my death and of the division;
and further I direct that forty three dollars shall be deducted out of Catharine's part of my estates as I have paid her that amount some time in the year 1848,
and further I direct that my Executor take as much as seventy dollars and purchase land for my daughter Elizabeth and her children;
and I further direct that my daughter Ann have a certain lot of land lying and being situated in Washington County, it being the South East fourth of the South East quarter of Section No. six in township No. 3 north of Range three East;
and I further direct that my daughter Ann have thirteen dollars to purchase a cow;
and as for my son Israel Holler I have paid him in full in land and he has received in full of his portion of all my estates except one dollar before the date hereof; (Anna Holler Enochs was the mother of eight children)
and further I direct and bequeath to my beloved wife Margaret Holler two beds and bedding, one cow, one side saddle and one trunk; (mighty big of him!)
and further I direct that my Executor use lawful means to obtain some money due me in the State of Ohio and if it, or any portion of it can be had shall divide the same among any heirs according to the above will and testament;
and further, I have appointed Jacob Banta my Executor of this, my last will and testament. In testimony whereof, I John Holler, the testator herein have herewith set my hand and seal this twentieth day of January, AD. 1849 

Conspicuously absent was any mention of Isaac "Crock" Holler. Isaac resided in Wayne County, Illinois while the rest of the family resided in Indiana.

Next up is the life of the descendants of George Elam Holler, John Holler's son.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Sad Turn in the Tale of the Cunningham Family

Jacob Smith > William Custer Smith & Mary Ann Munson > Ella Mae Smith Cunningham

I've spent considerable time researching the middle child of William Custer Smith and Mary Ann Munson but finally this past weekend visited Moberly, Randolph County, Missouri to start putting all the pieces together of the records and stories I've compiled over the months.
624 W Rollins St

Ella Mae and Howard's basic story was told here. Their lives in Missouri were like the lives of many average families. The father went to work each day, the mother kept house. In 26 Mar 1918 Howard died of "mitral regurgitation," basically, a leaky heart valve. He'd had heart trouble for some years, but not so bad he needed to stop working as a conductor on the Wabash Railroad. They had moved "uptown" to this house after years of hard work. After Howard's death, Ella moved in with her daughter, Effie Mae and her husband, L. I. Bouque at 514 Taylor St.

514 Taylor St
In reading the paper over the years, I'd discovered that Ella Mae had fainting spells and hospitalizations for unknown causes made me think there may have been some mental health issues - especially after her stay in the Baptist Sanitarium many years before.

Mrs HS Cunningham of West Coates St, who is in St Louis taking treatment at the Baptist Sanitarium, is much improved. Her many friends hope for an early and permanent recovery.
Moberly Democrat March 19, 1899, pg 5
I have to say when I finally found the death certificate, I was still shocked and saddened. Ella Mae ended her life with a pistol shot to the head on 21 Jun 1924 at the age of 57 in her daughter's home. No obituary was published. She was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Moberly, next to her husband, Howard. What caused her despair we will never know.

The Long Road to Moberly, Missouri

The two fellows at the Randolph County Historical Society, whom I met with Saturday morning in Moberly, Missouri, made the nearly 5-hour drive down so worthwhile. I poured through directories, photos, and various records until I hit upon the golden prize - railroad records from the Wabash railroad.
Moberly Train Station - Rail Side
Sadly, torn down in the 1990s

Seems about 20-something years ago, after the railroad offered the town the train station for $1 and having said offer turned down, the building sat unused for seven years and then it was decided it would be torn down. History-minded citizens raced into the building and purloined every piece of paper they could get their hands on to rescue the records from the bulldozer. They ended up at the Historical Society and lack of manpower has meant none of those records have been gone through. Until Saturday - in small part. Some records for my relatives were found but I have a feeling so much more is there to be found.

Bordello Bedroom
I got a special tour of the replica bordello room on the 3rd floor. Apparently, the cat house district thrived in Moberly across from the police station for a long time. I also picked up a copy of "Madams, Painted Ladies and Johns" written by a local history professor so I could learn more.

War Veterans Memorial
After visiting the Oakland Cemetery I wanted to scream. They have a little information booth, but it's a huge cemetery, the records of burials are incomplete and finding your way down the multiple additions is impossible without a non-existent map in hand because rows are not marked. The only guide is a large map on the wall of the info center, which I had to keep driving back to so I could get my bearings. Fortunately, my records are now complete on that front - after a way-too-long search.

General Omar Bradley was born in Clark, MO, just down the road from Moberly. In the same park space in Moberly, they honor veterans of all wars - including the battle K-9s. It's a nice little site, but I stumbled across it by accident. The Chamber doesn't seem to be interested in making it easy to find things to see and do in town.

Moberly is also home to a number of architecturally interesting buildings.

Built in 1913, the 4th Street Theatre opened on February 9, 1914 as a 1,000-seat vaudeville and movie house. The beautiful theatre was elaborately decorated with much gold leaf, rich in coloring and velor curtains. It had rich mahogany swinging doors, wainscoting of white marble, ornate terra cotta trimmings in beautiful colors. Alterations were carried out in March 1924 by architect Carl Boller of the Boller Brothers architectural firm, and the theatre reopened on April 25, 1924. Alterations included the enlargement of the balcony. Last operated by B & B Theatres, they had renamed it Cinema, and they closed the 4th Street Theatre in March 1997.
Most of the terra cotta is intact and is being restored. It had a free standing ticket booth in the entrance way which will be restored. The stage, dressing rooms and orchestra pit are still there.
Contributed by Carolee Hazlet, Michael Childers,

The Municipal Auditorium was built in 1939 and is purely art deco in its design. It is still in operation.

As in many smaller cities across the country, Andrew Carnegie bestowed money upon the town to build a library. This Carnegie library, like many, also needed to be enlarged. Unlike many unsightly and poorly planned additions, the addition on the Moberly library looks and feels much like the original building. Wish I'd been able to shoot the whole thing.

I hope to have the time to publish some of my findings in the coming weeks. The weather has been great, so the traveling has been easy and the simple fact that is being made abundantly clear to me is if I want the real story on these people of the past, I have to go there.