52 Ancestors: #12 of 52 – The Baxter Sisters: Daisy, Minnie, and Leona

The prompt for Week #12 of the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Challenge is SAME. 52ancestors_2015_12What ancestor is a lot like you? What ancestor do you have a lot in common? Same name? Same home town? I would change this topic a little bit to read: What ancestor are you drawn to? Which one do you have an affinity for? Which one would you like to meet?

If there is a heaven, then I absolutely know that someday I’ll sit down to have lunch with my three great grand aunts, the three Baxter sisters–Daisy, Minnie, and Leona. Although I never met them, I feel like I know these aunts. Here is my tribute to the “Baxter girls”–daughters and sisters, and aunts and wives, but none ever mothers.

They were born in Colorado in the last quarter of the 19th century to my 2x great grandparents, Alonzo and Elizabeth Baxter; and they all died in Colorado in the mid-20th century–or before, in Minnie’s case. Their other sisters were Olive Baxter Fertig and Emma Baxter Witzke, who was my 2x great grandmother, but they are for another day.


The Baxter Sisters, 1926. Back row: Minnie, Olive, Emma; front row: Daisy, Leona. All of these Colorado photos around this time were taken outside, in the bright sunshine. The subjects are always squinting into the sun.

I am so fortunate to have a set of wonderful photos of these women. Some of them came from my mother. I suppose she got them from her mother, the niece of these three Baxter sisters. I used to confuse these Baxter sister stories with stories about Emma Baxter Witzke’s daughters. There were five Baxter sisters, and then one of those sisters, Emma Baxter Witzke, had seven Witzke daughters–a couple of them named for their Baxter aunts–so there were a lot of women to keep track of and reason for confusion. I also have a collection of photos of these three Baxter sisters that belonged to their brother, George Baxter. I only wish I had as many stories about these Baxter sisters as I do photos. High on my Research To-Do List is to find the newspapers from the towns where Daisy, Minnie, and Leona were living as adults and see what small-town gossipy newspaper snippets about them I can find.

Daisy Baxter Jordan Jefferson, 1876-1959

The order of birth for the sisters was Emma, Olive, Daisy, Minnie, and Leona (a sister, Lottie, born between Minnie and Leona, died when she was only 2 years old). Daisy was the oldest of this group of three sisters. She was born in Prowers County, Colorado when her father was still hunting buffalo on the southeastern Colorado plains. I don’t know how much schooling Daisy had, although in the 1940 census she reports that she had two years of college. If she graduated from high school when she was 18 years old, then she graduated in about 1894. I believe the family was living in Trinidad, Colorado at that time, which means she would have graduated from Tinidad High School. If they weren’t in Trinidad yet, then she graduated from Granada High School. Where she completed two years of college, I simply don’t have a clue.


Daisy Baxter, c.1912. Place unknown.

One of the big surprises I had when researching these women was to learn that Daisy was divorced from her first husband, Alexis Jordan, somewhere in California and sometime around 1912. She and Alexis had been married for about 14 years.

The only husband I ever knew she had was Thomas B. Jefferson. My mother always spoke of them as a unit, “Daisy ‘n Tom,” so to learn that she had a husband before Tom was a surprise. Daisy and Tom never had children (and neither did Minnie or Leona, which I find very curious), although in every photo Daisy was almost never without her dog–and it always seems to be the same dog, so she must have been fond of one particular breed.

Daisy lived in Colorado, California, Salt Lake City Utah, and then finally Colorado again. She and Tom worked in retail in Salt Lake: he was a salesman in a shoe store; Daisy was a “sales lady” in a department store. At one point, they may have owned their own store, since my mother always said they “lost it all” during the Depression, which was when they moved back to Colorado.

It does seem that after 1935 Daisy and Tom changed their address a lot. They seem to have bounced back and forth between La Junta, Colorado, where her sister Olive Fertig was living, and Walsenburg, Colorado, where her other sister Leona Lepkovitz lived. They also may have lived for a short time in Pueblo. I’d like to know more about Daisy’s story. Daisy always had a job and so did Tom, so even if they lost “everything” during the Depression (my mother’s shorthand way of saying that they were definitely hurt by the Depression, like a lot of people), they both later continued to have jobs. They didn’t have children. So why does it appear that they were such vagabonds? Daisy was 59 years old in 1935 and Tom was 50. Perhaps her health was poor and she wasn’t able to work? Or maybe it just seemed too late to start over at the age of 59.


Daisy and Tom Jefferson (and of course, the dog), probably taken during the 1946 “big snow” in Walsenburg, Colorado.

Daisy lived until 1959, until the age of 82. What did she do with herself in her 60’s and 70’s when she was (probably) no longer working. This is where research into those small-town newspapers would probably be very fruitful. Was Daisy a joiner, like several of her nieces? Was she a clubwoman? One of my favorite novels is And Ladies of the Club, by Helen Hooven Santmyer, published in 1984. The story is about a group of women in the fictional town of Waynesboro, Ohio who begin a women’s literary club. The book covers the years between 1868 and 1932. If anyone has women they are working on who lived a small-town American life during this period, I highly recommend this book. I imagine that Daisy and her sisters belonged to one or even several clubs, and reading through those newspapers might give me an idea of which ones.

“Aunt Daisy” was my mother’s great aunt–her grandmother’s sister. When my mother graduated from high school in 1943, Daisy sent her this note:

La Junta, Colorado
12 May 1943
Dear Alta,

Thank you for the Graduating card and as I can’t get to town I am wishing you a long and happy life in all the years to come and may riches & health come to you in all the years to come. These two little handkerchiefs were made for me by your Great Grandmother in 1922.


Aunt Daisy’s graduation gift to my mother. The perfect, tiny crochet work is done around the edge of a pink linen square, made by Elizabeth O. Robinson Baxter, Daisy’s mother. Why does Daisy remember the year, 1922, so specifically? Her mother died in 1924; Elizabeth was ill for several years before she died, so perhaps the handkerchiefs were the last thing she made for Daisy. How did Elizabeth see that tiny crochet work?

So you may like them and you may not but they have Great & Wonderful memorys [sic] to me and if they are too old Fashion for this day and age in the years to come they will bring memories of the Past so keep them with our Best Wishes all through life.

Your Uncle Thomas Jefferson and Aunt Daisy


One thing I know that Daisy accomplished during her later years was to publish two articles in Colorado Magazine, a publication of the State Historical Society of Colorado, as it was known then. In 1947 she published a 3-page article titled “Pioneer Conditions in the Arkansas Valley,” a story about her family’s pioneering life in Colorado. The second article was published in 1949, titled “O.H.P. Baxter and Early Pueblo,” an article about her uncle, Oliver Hazard Perry Baxter, one of the earliest residents and co-founder of the city of Pueblo, Colorado. Clearly Daisy, like her brother George Baxter, was interested in the family history and in passing on their stories.

Daisy was widowed at the age of 79, and she was living with her sister, Leona Lepkovitz, also a widow, when she died in Walsenburg, Colorado three years later. Daisy was buried with Tom near her parents and some of her siblings at Fairview Cemetery, La Junta, Colorado.

The second Baxter sister of this trio is next, Minnie Baxter Sanborn.



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Searching for James Baxter, Sr. in Pennsylvania, c.1785-1800

Sources for Research in Pennsylvania

Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania

Cumberland County Pennsylvania Archives

While I doubt I would find anything about my Baxter family at this site, it’s worth noting that it exists. I suppose I might find some land records. Deed books start at 1750.

Cumberland County Historical Society

fold3.com has The Pennsylvania Archives. Elissa Salise Powell, of Powell Genealogical Services, someone whose knowledge and expertise I greatly respect, has this to say:

The only online availability of virtually all of the Pennsylvania Archives is here, with free access, on Fold3.com. . . . The valuable search capability created by Fold3.com provides the key to unlocking previously hidden names and events.

What can I find about “my” James Baxter in the records in Pennsylvania? He was there for about fifteen years, according to family lore about his immigration, marriage date to Rebecca Riddle, and place of birth for his older children. I think the only way to trace him back to his Old Country village, is to find everything I can find about him in Pennsylvania.

about 1785 | The only information I have about James’s immigration year comes from Alfred Baxter’s 1931 letter which he wrote with his 90-year-old father sitting next to him, trying to remember information about the family. The letter was written to a Mrs. Buck, who was evidently a genealogy researcher helping someone in Indiana research the family. Mrs. Buck may have been a D.A.R. member helping to research the book Roster of Soldiers and Patriots of the American Revolution Buried in Indiana, compiled and edited by Mrs. Roscoe C. O’Byrne, chairman, published by the Indiana Daughters of the American Revolution, 1938. From the foreword:

This volume of Revolutionary Soldiers buried in Indiana is presented with the hope that it will materially assist in increasing the membership in D.A.R. Chapters in the State. . . . This volume is not the work of one person, but the work of many.

I found this book at the St. Louis County Library genealogical section; it is now part of the Ancestry.com database. For some reason, probably because of their stated agenda (above) of “materially. . . increasing membership,” the Indiana John Paul Chapter of the D.A.R. of the 1930s decided that this James Baxter fought in the Revolutionary War. This is from page 54:


There are a couple of things wrong here, right off the top: James’s DOB, which they state as 1765 instead of 1769, and his wife “Rachel,” who ought to be Rebecca. I found this record about five years ago when I first started researching James Baxter, and frankly I was surprised to see him listed as a Revolutionary Soldier, since this is the first and only place in the records where I found him linked to that war. On the contrary, the 1931 letter from his great grandson states exactly the opposite:

As far as I know none of the Kerr family, Baxter family or Francis family were ever in the Revolutionary Army.

Albert C. Baxter also has this to say about when James Baxter came to the United States:

He came to this country about a year and a half after the close of the American Revolution. . . .

What I also found curious was that none of the biographies found in the county “brag books” mentioned James Baxter’s service as a Revolutionary War soldier. So what I was finding was a serious disconnect–someone, either the Indiana D.A.R. or the Baxter family–was wrong about James Baxter and “his” Revolutionary War service.

It was easy enough to find all of the sources that the O’Byrne book mentions for James Baxter’s service, so I started there. Clearly someone named James Baxter from Pennsylvania had served in the war. I found what I was looking for in a volume titled Pennsylvania Archives, Fifth Series, Vol. IV, edited by Thomas Lynch Montgomery, published 1906. I found more information in books from the same series, Volumes II, III, and VI. The information in the Montgomery books matches the information from O’Byrne, so it would appear that the 1906 volume was the source for the “proof” that was put forward in the O’Byrne book. From Montgomery:

These cards contain transcriptions of data extracted from original records in custody of the State Archives, concerning Revolutionary War service in the Pennsylvania Militia, Pennsylvania Line, and the Navy. Note that duty after November 1783 is not considered Revolutionary War service. [emphasis mine]

Montgomery mentions a James Baxter, private, who saw service in 1777, 1778-1781, and 1782, all in the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment, Continental Line. I won’t go into details about his company or regiment, since that’s not important here, except to say that in every record, James’s rank is “private.”

So comparing what we know from the Albert Baxter 1931 letter to these records:

Penna Record: James was in the U.S. by 1777.
Family Letter: James came to the U.S. about 1785.

O’Byrne Book: James was born in 1765.
Family Letter: James’s DOB not mentioned.
Gravestone: Newly cleaned gravestone clearly shows year of birth as 1769.

Family Letter: specifically states that James Baxter did not fight in the Revolutionary War.

I imagine it would have been possible to misread the gravestone DOB in the 1930s. It’s not much of a stretch to mistake a “5” for a “9” on an old stone. The gravestone’s 1769 DOB would have been problematic for the O’Byrne book, since that date would have made James eight years old when he mustered in as a private in Pennsylvania. Even the 1765 date recorded in O’Byrne is a bit inconvenient, since while it’s possible that the regiment had very young boys serving as drummers or fifers, in every case in these Pennsylvania records where the person serving is a drummer or fifer, that information is clearly stated in the record. This James Baxter in the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment is consistently noted to be a private. Clearly, even if the family letter is wrong and he emigrated to the U.S. eight years earlier than thought, 12-year-old James Baxter was not a private in the Fourth Regiment.

But putting his age aside (OK, suspending disbelief–maybe James was big for his age or maybe he was taken on as a private of some kind, even at the age of 12), where did the O’Byrne book come up with the “1765” year of birth? What if the O’Byrne book hadn’t misread the birth year from the gravestone, as I assumed, but instead they had access to some other birth record? I was excited to think that maybe someone had found proof of James’s birth that I hadn’t found and that Albert Baxter hadn’t known about. Maybe the clearly readable date on the newly cleaned stone was wrong? This thought set me on a search for the records used for the D.A.R. applications made in the name of this James Baxter.

All of these applications are available at the D.A.R. website by doing an Ancestor Search. James Baxter is Ancestor #A007613, from Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. I cannot quote extensively from these documents, since they are the property of the D.A.R. An application can be purchased on the website. A notation is made for every application about whether or not supporting documentation is available. The supporting information can also be purchased for an additional fee. The application can be purchased and a PDF downloaded immediately; the supporting information must be ordered and is sent by snail mail.

The 1956 Application

The first application I found was dated 1956–a copy found at the Jefferson County Historical Society. Interestingly, this record does not appear on the D.A.R. website for James Baxter. Perhaps this 1956 application wasn’t accepted? I simply don’t know. Also interestingly, this application states James Baxter’s year of birth as 1760–not 1765 as O’Byrne states and not 1769 as the gravestone shows. The application includes a “References for Lineage” page:

Give below a reference to the authority for EACH statement of Birth, Marriage* and Death. If from published records, give names of books and page numbers. If from unpublished records, applicant must file certified or attested copies of same.

I checked and discovered every reference given on this application. The only stated reference that might have corroborated James Baxter’s year of birth was “Craig Cemetery, Jeff. Co., Deed bk. D-320-321.” In other words, the 1956 application seems to have taken James’s year of birth from the gravestone and misread the date as 1760–which is completely understandable, since the stone was probably all but unreadable in 1956 and a nine could easily be misread as a zero. However, this application shows no other source for James’s year of birth. I haven’t seen this cemetery deed book, so I still don’t know for sure where the applicant came up with the date 1760. All I know is that it wasn’t some remarkable “new” record that no one else had access to.

Applications Found on the D.A.R. Website

So then I checked out the applications found for James Baxter on the D.A.R. website. There are five of them, and I bought all five. Most of them go through his son William, as do I. One of them goes through his son Daniel.

These first two applications, from 1976, were submitted on the same day. The women were apparently sisters, so it’s no surprise that they used the same references.

9 Jul 1976 application (McClain Repp)
James’s year of birth: 1765
The reference she gives for the year of birth is the O’Byrne book and the cemetery gravestone inscription.

9 Jul 1976 application (McClain)
James’s year of birth: 1765
The reference she gives for the year of birth is the O’Byrne book and the cemetery gravestone inscription.

1989 application
James’s year of birth: 1765
For proof of his birth year, this application references the previous 1976 applications.

1991 application
James’s year of birth: 1765
For proof of James’s birth year, the application references “Cem. Recs. from Madison Courier, Madison, IN, Aug. 15, 1940.” So this application also uses the gravestone as evidence for James’s year of birth.

1999 application
James’s year of birth: 1766
For proof of James’s birth, this application references the O’Byrne book and the previous 1976 applications.

Well–how disappointing. There is no “smoking gun” birth record in these applications that would give me any reason to believe that the gravestone birth date is incorrect. So, to recap: James Baxter was born “in the Old Country” somewhere, probably Ireland, maybe County Tyrone, village unknown, since “Gathenaysay” or any similar spelling is not found anywhere in Ireland. (Note: All of these applications, by the way, state that James’s place of birth was “Gathenaysay” in County Tyrone, Ireland–with no evidence.) He was born in 1769–not 1760 or 1765–and so would have been eight years old if he were the James Baxter of the Pennsylvania Revolutionary War soldier records.

Conclusion: Why does the birth year matter? Because it gives clear evidence that there was more than one James Baxter in Pennsylvania, and the one who fought in the Revolutionary War was not this James Baxter.

Which frankly hugely complicates any the search for “my” James Baxter in the Pennsylvania records. So to continue the timeline:

about 1785 | “Settled [with his brother Daniel] in what is now Carlisle, Pennsylvania”–from the Albert Baxter 1931 letter.

He brought with him his brother Daniel, who after two years returned to North Ireland and brought back his father and mother. Ten days after landing they developed a cholera and died, and were buried in Apple Pie Center, New Jersey.

There is an impression in the family that the old people all belonged to what was known as the Scotch Seceders, and really when they moved it was this church movement rather than family.

Scotch Seceders

So does Albert Baxter’s letter mean it was the “Scotch Seceders” movement that caused these families to emigrate? I need to use that as a clue.

This is from Rebels and Revivals: Ulster Immigrants, Western Pennsylvania Presbyterianism, by Peter E. Gilmore:

Those with Irish origins but of Scottish ethnic heritage who were Presbyterian in religion had a significant presence in western Pennsylvania from the beginning of European settlement and became the dominant ethnic group in many areas within the region (33, 34).

The presence of large numbers of recent Irish immigrants sympathetic to political reform in their home country, including separation from Great Britain and a creation of a democratic republic, can be inferred from the newspapers of Pittsburgh and Washington [County] (37).

The Irish Presbyterians, sometimes referred to as “Scotch-Irish,” of western Pennsylvania were strongly opposed to the Constitution. The radicalism of the backcountry Irish Presbyterians had been informed by deeply held religious values, and life in the American backcountry and in the North of Ireland. (“Scotch-Irish,” Gilmore, no page no.). Gilmore suggests a reference for understanding the northern Irish Presbyterians: Ulster and North America: Transatlantic Perspectives on the Scotch-Irish, by H. Tyler Blethen and Curtis Wood, U of Alabama P, 1997. Gilmore continues:

During the revolutionary era, many Irish Presbyterians embraced the American struggle for self-rule and a developing sense of ‘Irish’ ethnicity . . . . The region’s Irish seemed a dismal collection of riotous frontiersmen, runaway servants and uncompromising Calvinists . . . . lowly Irish Presbyterians. . . . squatters. . . .linking Irish origins with poverty, backwardness and contention. West of the Alleghenies, few Presbyterian Irish immigrants had achieved great material success, contrasted with the (apparent) disproportionate prosperity of the region’s Anglo-Irish and Scotts ((“Scotch-Irish,” Gilmore, no page no.).

If this family were living in Cumberland County, Penn. between about 1785 and 1800, and if they were committed seceders, then what church would they have been likely to attend? From Dructor: FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF CARLISLE RECORDS (CUMBERLAND COUNTY), 1785-1920. These records are on microfilm. The minutes book starts at 1816, but you might at least find a list of names going back as far as 1785.

There’s a history of the church on the church’s website. The church was established in 1734 by Scots-Irish from Lancaster County, a meeting house located about two miles west of the Carlisle Public Square. In 1757 the congregation “built the edifice in which we worship today.” The church archives are held at Dickinson College. There was a book written in 1877: A History of the First Presbyterian Church of Carlisle, Pa., by the Rev. Conway P. Wing, D.D. This is a free eBook at Google.

Here’s a sobering thought, when looking for these families:

The most recent estimate is that between 100,000 and 250,000 persons left Ireland for North America from 1700-1775 (from Fitzgerald and Lambkin, 123).

What about LAND RECORDS? Surely if James Baxter and his brother lived in Cumberland County, Penn. from about 1785 to 1800–a period of 15 years, at least one of them would have purchased land? You’ll find deeds going back that far in Cumberland County, Penn. This comes from Robert M. Dructor:

The most genealogically useful land records are not to be found at the State Archives. Private deeds transferring titles to land are maintained at the office of the recorder of deeds for the appropriate county.

What about COUNTY NATURALIZATION RECORDS? This comes from Guide to Genealogical Sources At the Pennsylvania State Archives, by Robert M. Dructor:

LISTS OF PERSONS WHO TOOK THE OATHS OF ALLEGIANCE, 1777-1794 (RG-26 and 27). The emphasis of the record is on the Philadelphia environs, with documents arranged by the date of oath. . . . From 1789 to 1794 the foreigner’s name, occupation, birthplace, age and date of arrival in America are frequently mentioned and in some instances the name, occupation and residence of the alien’s parents are noted. The oaths have been printed in the Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, Vol. III (9).

I found Series 2, Vol. III, “Names of Persons Who Took the Oath of Allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania Between the Years 1776 and 1794” at fold3.com. I started looking at the year 1778, which is about six years earlier than I thought he was there.

If you’re really lucky, this is the kind of thing you can find in the “Oath of Allegiance” records:

James Kierman, Labourer, son of John Kierman, farmer, and Ann, his wife born in the Parish of Cill, in the county of Cavin, in the Kingdom of Ireland last arrived from the town of Waterford, the Kindgom of Ireland, took the Oath of Allegiance on the 22d day of May, 1790.

Some who took the oath had been residing in Pennsylvania for five years or more–“upwards of eight years”–so it wasn’t necessarily something they did the minute they set foot in Penna. Many taking this oath were merchants and seamen. Many others were “gentlemen.” I see some farmers who emigrated from Ireland, but not many. Probably most were living in the city of Philadelphia. Considering that there were tens of thousands who emigrated from Ireland during these years, it just doesn’t seem likely that this James Baxter is going to be found on this list.

The following records are also found at fold3.com.


Captain, Jacob Martin. James Baxter listed as “sick.” There’s no way of knowing if this is the “right” James Baxter. In fact, it probably isn’t. In the First State Tax of Cumberland County for the Year 1778, there is a James Baxter for Tyrone Township, 67 acres, 2 horses, 2 cattle. This is probably the same James Baxter who was the J.B. who fought in the Revolutionary War.

1790 | Federal census. The only “James Baxter” indexed for Pennsylvania, Cumberland County in the 1790 federal census is one with 1 male 16 and over; 3 females–total household members 4, all free white. This is for Hopewell, Newton, Tyborn, and Westpensboro, Cumberland, Pennsylvania–all townships that are fairly near Carlisle, which is where James was said to be living. However, James’s household would have had 1 male 16 and over, 1 male under 16, and 2 females–not 3 females. However, it’s close and this might be the right James.

Note: I have found no Daniel Baxter for Pennsylvania in the 1790 census.

Counties of South Central Penn.


Counties of South Central Pennsylvania.

Townships and Boroughs of Cumberland County, Penn.


Pennsylvania Voter Rolls might be of some help, aka Septennial Census, 1779-1863. These can be found at Ancestry.com. There is a James Baxter and also a Daniel Baxter who show up on these lists, but there’s no way of knowing if they are the “right” Baxters. Also, James and Daniel aren’t living near each other, so that’s not much help. This is from A Guide to Genealogical Sources At the Pennsylvania State Archives, by Robert M. Druchter:

There have been no State censuses in Pennsylvania. The so-called SEPTENNIAL CENSUS RETURNS, 1779-1863 were merely enumerations of taxpayers every seven years for the purpose of determining representation in the General Assembly. Only a few (eleven per cent) of these records have survived, and usually they just list the name and at times the occupation of the taxable white inhabitant (Druchter, 98).

So the fact that a James Baxter does or doesn’t appear in these records isn’t particularly helpful.

before? 1794 | Married to Rebecca Riddle, “probably Pennsylvania.” At the St. Louis County Library, genealogy section: Record of Pennsylvania Marriages Prior to 1810, R974.8 R311. Note: “Exerpted and printed from Pennsylvania archives, series 2, vols. VIII and IX, 1880.” This record is also found online at Fold3. This is the same record found (below) at Ancestry.com. Still no James Baxter.

I found Series 2, Vol. VIII, Part 04 – “Marriages Prior to 1810 at First Presbyterian Church, Carlisle” at Ancestry.com. These are lists of the people who were married, including the date of marriage. There is no “James Baxter” married to Rebecca Riddle in the record. No Baxters on the list; there are two Riddle’s on the list: James M. Riddle m. Elizabeth Weaver, 12 Nov. 1811; and Mary Riddle m. Joseph Latshaw, 21 Nov. 1799. Wow, that’s disappointing.

I found Series 2, Vol. IX, page 534 – “Marriage Record of the Third Presbyterian Church Philadelphia, 1785-1799. 22 Feb. 1787–James Baxter m. Sarah Daniel. Not my J.B. [Record found at fold3.com]

The date is based on the birth date of their first living child, Daniel Baxter, b. 27 Nov. 1794 in Pennsylvania. Stated information about the marriage on the D.A.R. applications:

Give, if possible, the following data: My Revolutionary ancestor was married . . . [filled in] (1) to Rebecca Riddle (at) “Probably Pa., prior to 1794.”

No other evidence is given for the marriage date to Rebecca Riddle on the D.A.R. applications, so they are no help.

1799 | 17 Jul. Born, Nancy Baxter to James and Rebecca, in Pennsylvania. The 1850 census states that Nancy was born in Pennsylvania. This is the last indication in this family of a date for them to be residing in Pennsylvania. Their next child, William, was born in August 1804 in Montgomery County, Ohio. Jame’s brother was apparently married in Montgomery County, Ohio in June 1804.


The upshot is, my only evidence for the James Baxter family being in Pennsylvania is the census records from 1850 on which give “Pennsylvania” as the birth place of James’s children and also the 1931 letter from Albert Baxter. I haven’t as yet found this family in a single record in Pennsylvania.


Druchter, Robert M. A Guide to Genealogical Sources At the Pennsylvania State Archives. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, 1988.

Fitzgerald, Patrick and Brian Lambkin. Migration in Irish History 1607-2007. Basingstoke, Hampshire, 2008.

Gilmore, Peter. “‘Scotch-Irish or Merely Irish’: Brackenridge, Findley, and Contestation of Ethnic Identity in the Early Republic.” From the SHEAR Annual Meeting, 17 Jul 2011.

to be continued. . .

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Researching James Baxter, Sr., Ancestor #11/52

Here is the main post for James Baxter, Sr. (1769-1828), Ancestor #11/52

James Baxter, Sr. in the Records

James Baxter’s family tree through marriage is associated in Indiana with several families, particularly the surnames Riddle, Kerr, Francis, and Wilson. These collateral lines would be hugely useful in researching James Baxter and his family’s activities. However, that research is beyond the scope of this timeline. I need to spend enough time with these families to apply Elizabeth Shown Mills’ FAN principle: look through the records of James and Rebecca Baxter’s Friends, Associates, and Neighbors. From Mills’ website, Evidence Explained:

The evidences we use to reconstruct human lives–all too frequently–are not outright statements of ‘fact.’ For want of those ideal documents, handily left to us by diligent scribes, successful researchers learn to harvest clues. Bits and shards of evidence that prove nothing by themselves can be immensely valuable as pointers to other records or as fragments we can assemble to build a case for whatever question we seek to answer.

I hugely recommend her book by the same title, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 2nd Ed., Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 2009. Please note that I have not cited Elizabeth’s website correctly in this post. I rarely give a full citation of my sources here–so sue me. One of the reasons I don’t cite sources and notes correctly as if I were writing an article for publication is because of the klugey nature of WordPress. Unless I upgrade to “Premium,” which costs money, I’m stuck with the basic toolbar that won’t allow me to automatically number my sources. It just isn’t worth it to do it by hand.

This is a photo of a whiteboard chart I made of these families several years ago. I need to get back to this research:


James Baxter and collateral families.

1769 | 6 Jun. James Baxter born in Gathenaysay or Gatheneysay, Tyrone County, Ireland. The problem with the village name is that there doesn’t seem to be any name like that in Ireland. So I’m not sure where to go with that.

James Baxter’s gravestone has been cleaned and repaired within the last 2-3 years. Below is the “before” (taken about 2010) and “after” (taken by me in 2014). The stone had broken off above James’s wife’s name, “Rebecca Baxter.” This is an important artifact, because it was evidently the source of information for James Baxter’s DOB that was used in DAR lineage applications since it was apparently the only source for James’s DOB.


James and Rebecca were buried at Craig Cemetery. Their son, William Baxter, was also buried at Craig. Their son Daniel, although buried at a different cemetery, lived in the same township where William Baxter lived. Their sister Nancy Baxter Morgan also died in Madison County, Indiana. So likely the stone that says “Our Father and Mother” was put up by siblings William and/or Daniel and/or Nancy. The DOB is specific, including a day and month, suggesting that the date was taken from a record they had in their possession.

I also have in my possession a copy of a letter written in 1931 by James Baxter’s great grandson, Alfred Crum Baxter (the lineage is Alfred, his father Hiram Baxter, Hiram’s father William Baxter, William’s father James Baxter). It was apparently written in response to someone doing genealogy research on the Baxter family, a Mrs. John Buck. In 1931, Alfred’s father, Hiram Baxter, was still living, although frail and in his 90s. James Baxter died in 1828 and Hiram was born in 1840, so Hiram didn’t know his grandfather personally, although surely he grew up hearing stories about him. From the letter:

My dear Mrs. Buck:

James Baxter’s father was Daniel Baxter and his mother was Mary Tudor, a distant relative of the famous Mary Tudor. James Baxter was born near the village of Gatheneysay, Tyrone, Ireland, of Scotch parentage.

I have not been able to identify the village of Gatheneysay in County Tyrone, Ireland.

about 1785 | Immigrated, James Baxter and his brother Daniel Baxter. From the Alfred C. Baxter letter noted above:

He [James] came to this country about a year and a half after the close of the American Revolution, and settled in what is now Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He brought with him his brother Daniel, who after two years returned to North Ireland and brought back his father and mother. Ten days after landing they [the parents] developed a cholera and died, and were buried in Apple Pie Center, New Jersey.

I haven’t yet found any records that corroborate this information in Alfred Baxter’s letter. Don’t even bother looking for passenger lists this early on. In 1820 the U.S. Congress passed a bill requiring that lists be made of all people coming into the country. From that date we have fairly complete passenger lists. Before that date we do not.

“Gathenaysay” and its variants seems to be incorrect (assuming it’s a village), but that’s not to say that Tyrone County is incorrect. If the Baxter family was from County Tyrone, then remember that Tyrone is a county of the province of Ulster. So where records refer to “Ulster,” that’s the area that you’re looking for.

“Apple Pie Center, New Jersey”–where would that have been and what was Daniel doing there with his parents? From an article about Ulster place-names in Pennsylvania, 1700-1820:

Tens of thousands of immigrants from the north of Ireland arrived at Delaware River ports in the eighteenth century (Gilmore, no page no.).

I’m assuming that Apple Pie Center, New Jersey would have been one of these Delaware River ports. Admittedly, I don’t have a clue about Delaware River geography. The Delaware River is the state boundary between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. There’s nothing on modern maps called “Apple Pie Center,” New Jersey. I’m just guessing here, but I think the route they would have taken to get to Carlisle, Penn. would have been from Philadelphia to Carlisle–about 125 miles. If Apple Pie Center, New Jersey was a Delaware River port, then it presumably wouldn’t have been far from Philadelphia.

What can I find out about him in the Pennsylvania records? I’ve decided to start a post for James Baxter that focuses on his Pennsylvania years, c.1785-1800.

The fact that I can’t confirm an Irish village for James Baxter’s birth (by “can’t confirm” I mean that I can’t find a name place anywhere in Ireland that matches, with any variation of spelling, the village where James was supposedly born–“Gathenasay”) means that I need to question everything about what I supposedly “know” about James’s Irish birth. James’s oldest son Daniel belonged to a Presbyterian church, so that may be a clue to helping me find James. Rebecca Baxter’s obituary says that she was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, organized in 1842, Monroe Twp., Indiana. I would guess that if James were a member of any church when he lived in Pennsylvania, then it would have been Presbyterian. For sure he wasn’t Catholic.

James and his brother Daniel must have had a reason for choosing Cumberland County. Were there people from their [Irish village] who had already settled there? That seems to be the most likely guess.

about 1792 | Married, James Baxter and Rebecca Riddle in the Borough of Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. From the Alfred C. Baxter letter:

James Baxter married Rebecca Riddle in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the date I do not know, nor do I know the name of her father and mother.

Carlisle is located in the Cumberland Valley and was settled by Scots-Irish immigrants. The Borough of Carlisle in Cumberland County was established in 1783. Are there early marriage records for Cumberland County? I need to know more about “Mother Cumberland”–nicknamed the Mother of Counties because Cumberland is the parent of five other Pennsylvania counties. There’s a lot I need to learn about doing genealogy research in Pennsylvania. It’s interesting to note that “Tyrone” was a township of Cumberland County when James lived there. It’s intriguing to think of the possibility that three generations later someone in the Baxter family might have confused Tyrone Township, Pennsylvania with County Tyrone, Ireland. I’m not saying that’s the case, simply that it’s something to think about when researching the early years of James Baxter and when relying on his great-grandson’s 1931 letter.


I have a note that says James’s wife, Rebecca Riddle Baxter, was born 27 Nov 1865 in Carlisle, Cumberland Co., Pennsylvania. I’ve found no record to corroborate the place of her birth.

1794 | the Whiskey Rebellion. If James Baxter wasn’t part of the Revolutionary War, was he possibly part of the Whiskey Rebellion where Penna and New Jersey troops assembled in Carlisle under the leadership of George Washington. GW worshipped in the First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Hanover Street and High Street.

One way to track the residence of James and Rebecca Baxter is to follow the birth place of their children.

1794 | Nov. Born to James and Rebecca Baxter, Daniel Baxter. Unfortunately for the hypothesis that James & Rebecca remained in Pennsylvania for several years at the beginning of their marriage, the 1850 census indicates that Daniel was born in Ohio. I would say that the census is very likely wrong. The 1860 and 1870 census records list him as born in Pennsylvania.

1799 | Jul. Born to James and Rebecca Baxter, Nancy Baxter. The Pennsylvania birthplace is confirmed in the 1850 census.

1800 | U.S. federal census. Where is James Baxter in the federal census? There is a James Baxter living in Tyrone, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. However, the age of this James is “45 and over.” My James Baxter would have been 31 years old in 1800. Also, there are no Riddle families found in Carlisle, Cumberland, PA in the 1800 census. If Rebecca Riddle’s family was from Cumberland, PA, then why aren’t there ANY Riddles in the 1800 census?

1803 | Montgomery County, Ohio was formed from Hamilton County.

1804 | 10 Jun. Married, Daniel Baxter Jr. (James’s brother) and Ruth Barker, in Montgomery County, Ohio. From the Montgomery County Marriage Records, Vol. A., pg. 3. I believe this is the first notation I’ve found of Daniel Baxter in the records. It shows he was in Ohio with his brother very early on. Common sense says that Daniel and James migrated from Pennsylvania to Ohio together. Daniel and Ruth had three children together, all born in Ohio: Mary, about 1805; Peggy (probably Margaret), about 1807; and Anna, about 1810. Their names appear in Daniel’s probate record.

1804 | 1 Aug. Born, William Baxter, son of James and Rebecca, in Ohio, my 3x great grandfather. This is from an 1889 county souvenir history:

The subject of this sketch was born near the Little Miami, Ohio, in 1804, and came to Jefferson County with his father when quite young, and spent his youth and manhood days, and died August 25, 1861. He was a farmer, and by careful saving of what he made by his industry, he was enabled to own 360 acres of land at the time of his death.

1804 | 28 Dec. Daniel Baxter witnessed another man’s agreement to pay $100 in whiskey or horses. Mikesell, Vol. II, pg. 21.

1807 | 9 Jan. James Baxter was part of a Jury. Mikesell, Vol. II., pg. 43.

1807 | 1 May. James Baxter was part of a Jury. Mikesell, Vol. II., pg. 63.

1809 | 3 Jan. Daniel Baxter was a buyer at a public sale. Estate of John Stuart of Dayton Twp., 8 Oct. 1808. Mikesell, Vol. II., pg. 126.

1810 | Daniel Baxter and James Baxter both appear on a tax list for Dayton Twp., Montgomery County, Ohio. The federal Ohio census was lost except for Washington County.

The little village (Dayton) at the convergence of three rivers grew quickly. A population of 383 in 1810 supported five stores, three saddlers’ shops, two cut-nail factories, a wagon maker, and six taverns.

1810 | 7 Jan. Daniel Baxter was a buyer at a public sale. Estate of Thomas Davis by Mary Davis. Mikesell, Vol. II., pg. 129.

1810 | 5 Apr. Born, James Baxter Jr. to James and Rebecca Baxter, in Ohio. The birth place is confirmed by the 1850 census.

1811 | James and his brother Daniel Baxter paid taxes in 1811 in Dayton Twp., Montgomery County. They were “resident proprietors” of  Montgomery County, Dayton Twp. Mikesell, Vol. I., pg. 142.

about 1812 | Born, Daniel Baxter III, Daniel and Ruth’s fourth and last child. He was born in Montgomery County. His name appears in Daniel’s probate record.

1812 | 18 Feb. Land patent signed by James Baxter of Montgomery County, for the north 1/2 of Sec. 25, Twp. 2, Range 7. This is land lying between the Great Miami River and the Virginia reservation. This was in the same section as the land later bought by James Riddle in 1818. Common sense says that this James Riddle was related in some way to James Baxter’s wife, Rebecca Riddle Baxter.

1812 | 1 May. James and Daniel Baxter, buyers at a public sale, estate of George Fryberger. Mikesell, Vol. II., pg. 135.

1814 | Resident proprietors of Montgomery County, Dayton Twp. Present owner, Daniel Baxter; original patent to, James Baxter. For R7 / T2 / S25. Mikesell, Vol. I, pg. 149.

1814 | Sep. Administrator of estate, James Baxter for Daniel Baxter. Daniel died sometime before September, 1814. One of the appraisers of the estate was James Riddle–brother?–of Rebecca Riddle Baxter, wife of James. Mikesell, Vol. II., pg. 152.

1815 | Deed signed. James & Rebecca Baxter signed over their land located at Sec. 25, Twp. 2, R 7 to Samuel Boogher. I don’t have a more specific date. Mikesell, Vol. I., pg. 101.

1815 | 5 Jan. James Baxter was part of a jury. Mikesell, Vol. II., pg. 155.

1815 – 1816 |  James Baxter bought several parcels of land in Jefferson County, Indiana. Among them were: Twp. 5N, R10E, Sec 21, NE 1/4; 5N, R10E, Sec 22, NW 1/4; Twp. 5N, R10E, Sec 22, NW1/4. This information comes from and Indiana land records search.

1816 | Dec. It looks as though Daniel Baxter’s widow, Ruth Barker Baxter, remarried. John Huston was appointed guardian of the Baxter minor children: Mary, age 11; Peggy, age 8; Anna, age 5; Daniel, age 3. Mikesell, Vol. II, pg. 173. Also pg. 115.

1820 | 7 Aug. U.S. federal census for 1820, Jefferson County, Indiana, township not stated. This is the James Baxter household.

1 male under 10 (James Baxter Jr.)
1 male 10-15 (William Baxter)
1 male 45 and over (James Baxter Sr.)
1 female 16-25 (Nancy Baxter)
1 female 45 and over (Rebecca Riddle Baxter)

1827 | James Baxter found on the Jefferson County Tax Assessment list for Lancaster Twp., Indiana. James’s farm was in Lancaster County–later Monroe Twp. (1842).

1828 | 17 Jan. James Baxter wrote his will. James was 58 years old. It wasn’t unusual for someone like James to die intestate, so the fact that he had a will tells me that he was ill at this point and knew that he didn’t have long to live. That’s only speculation.

1828 | 31 Aug. Died, James Baxter, on his farm in Lancaster Twp. (later Monroe Twp.), Jefferson County, Indiana. He was buried in Craig Cemetery. The first known burial at Craig Cemetery was in 1819. The land was deeded to the trustees of the burying ground in 1831. His gravestone says: Aged 59y 2m 23 d. Craig Cemetery was originally located on the Craig Farm, Sec. 19, Twp. 5N, R10E in Monroe Twp. The cemetery was moved to Madison Township as part of the Jefferson Proving Grounds program by the U.S. government in 1941.

1828 | 22 Sep. James Baxter’s will was proved. The will mentions Wife Rebecca; Sons James, Daniel, and William; Daughter Nancy. Land NE Sec 21 Twp5 R10. James Jr. to inherit land after his mother’s death (Rebecca Baxter). He is to care for Rebecca until her death. From Will Record C / 1827-1832.

to be continued. . .


Gilmore, Peter. “From Rostrevor to Raphoe: An Overview of Ulster Place-Names in Pennsylvania, 1700-1820.” This article was available for download at academia.edu. Downloaded 3/16/2015/. Gilmore is a faculty member at Carlow University. He has many articles about the Scotch-Irish from Ulster.

Early Settlers of Montgomery County, Ohio. Genealogical Abstracts from Land Records, Tax Lists, and Biographical Sketches. Compiled and edited by Shirley Keller Mikesell. Vol. I Heritage Books, Westminster, Maryland, 1991.

Early Settlers of Montgomery County Ohio, Vol. II. Genealogical Abstracts from Common Pleas Court Records, Civil and Probate. Compiled and edited by Shirley Keller Mikesell. Heritage Books, Westminster, Maryland. 1992.

Early Settlers of Montgomery County Ohio, Vol. III. Genealogical Abstracts from Marriage and Divorce Records, 1803-1827; Early Deeds Recorded Late; Election Abstracts; Obituary of an Early Settler. Compiled and edited by Shirley Keller Mikesell. Heritage Books, Westminster, Maryland, 1993.

[All of the Mikesell books found at the St.L.Co.Lib.]

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Getting Started in Irish Genealogy

Ireland_CountyTyroneMapThis post is an effort to pull together “how-to” tutorials about Irish genealogy. I have Irish ancestors, my maternal 4x great grandparents, probably from County Tyrone. I don’t know anything about researching the records in Ireland, so this is my attempt to learn something.

A great place to start is always FamilySearch: Getting Started in Irish Genealogy, a 16 minute get-acquainted lesson.

Other lessons found at FamilySearch:
Ireland Beginning Research Series Immigration Part 1: Strategies (21 minutes)
Ireland Beginning Research Series Immigration Part 2: Famine and Post Famine Sources (31 minutes)
Ireland Beginning Research Series Immigration Part 3: Ulster and Scots Irish Sources
(27 minutes)
Ireland Beginning Research Series: Church Records (39 minutes)
Ireland Beginning Research Series: Civil Registration (34 minutes)
Ireland Census and Census Substitutes (20 minutes)
Irish Emigration to North America: Before, During, and After the Famine (47 minutes)

The Wiki pages at FamilySearch are also a great source of information: Ireland Genealogy
I’m particularly interested in County Tyrone Genealogy

I’ve found that belonging to facebook genealogy groups can be very helpful. I just joined this one: Irish Genealogy. It’s a closed group, so you have to sign up to join. There are a lot of Irish genealogy facebook groups.

On that facebook page, someone recommended this site as one of the best, especially for trying to find old records: Roots Ireland. This is a pay-for site. A 1 month subscription costs $28.

I belong to Ancestry.com, so that’s a good place to find records. Civil registration in Ireland did not begin until 1845 for some records and 1864 for others, so I will need to find this family using church records. Here’s a good place to start at Ancestry.com: Discover the Irish in You.

This is a list of free genealogy links compiled by Ulster Ancestry.

Then of course there’s always Cyndi’s List: United Kingdom & Ireland.


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52 Ancestors: #11 of 52 – James Baxter, Sr., 1769-1828

52ancestors_2015_11The prompt for Week #11 of the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Challenge is LUCK OF THE IRISH. Do you have a favorite Irish ancestor?


James Baxter, Sr. (1769-1828) is my maternal 4x great grandfather, born 6 June 1769, possibly in County Tyrone, Ireland. James’s parents may have been Daniel Baxter and Mary Tudor. James died 31 August 1828 in Jefferson County, Indiana. Let me admit right away that until about ten years ago I had NO IDEA I had any Irish ancestors. I need to learn about researching early Irish records, but so far I don’t know anything about working with records in Ireland; therefore, my narrative of James’s life begins after he immigrated to the United States.

One of the reasons this James Baxter interests me is because I believe I’ve found a huge error in the records for him that allowed his descendants to use him as an ancestor for their Daughters of the American Revolution lineage applications. I don’t believe this James Baxter served in the Revolutionary War, and I would like to see his DAR patriot file corrected and closed, pending further evidence that would show his service. Simply put, I think they have the wrong James Baxter. As someone in the DAR genealogy department said to me, “Some of our older applications, perhaps due to more difficulty in getting ahold of some records, are not as precise.” Well, based on the applications that I ordered for James from the DAR–these “older applications”–to say that they’re “not as precise” is an understatement. I don’t think there was fraud involved with the older applications; however, I think, at the very least, these applicants were looking at the information with a “hopeful eye.”


Cleaned and repaired gravestone for James Baxter and Rebecca Riddle Baxter. I took this photo in Craig Cemetery in 2014.

Here is a bare bones biography of James Baxter, Sr., to provide context. It is believed that James Baxter was born to Daniel Baxter Sr. in County Tyrone, Ireland in 1769. Sometime around 1785 he immigrated to America with his brother Daniel and settled in Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania where he was married in about 1792 to Rebecca Riddle.

James and Rebecca can be followed in the records by mapping the births of their children: Daniel Baxter, born 1794 in Pennsylvania; Nancy Baxter, born 1799 in Pennsylvania; William Baxter (my 3x great grandfather), born 1804 near Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio; James Baxter Jr., born 1810 near Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio.

The pertinent federal census for 1810 for Montgomery County, Ohio has been lost; however, James and Daniel Baxter appear in the 1811 tax list for Dayton Twp., Montgomery County, Ohio.

In 1814, James Baxter’s brother Daniel died in Montgomery County, Ohio. James and Rebecca were Daniel’s heirs. They last appear in Montgomery County, Ohio in 1815, and then next appear in land records for Monroe Twp., Jefferson County, Indiana in 1816.

James last appears in 1827 on a Jefferson County tax assessment list for Lancaster Township. The farm he owned would later (but not until 1842) become part of Monroe Township, an important fact when looking for James’s descendants.

James died on 31 Aug 1828 in Jefferson County, Indiana and was buried at Craig Cemetery. James’s headstone survives and has recently been cleaned and repaired. James wrote a will, leaving his farm to his namesake, James Jr. His children Daniel, William, and Nancy and his wife Rebecca are also mentioned in the will.

Here’s this limb of my family tree:


Related posts
Getting Started in Irish Genealogy

Researching James Baxter, Sr. (1769-1828)

Searching for James Baxter, Sr. in Pennsylvania, c.1785-1800

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52 Ancestors: #10 of 52 – Alonzo Hayden Hayes Baxter, 1845-1930

The prompt for Week #10 of the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Challenge is STORMY WEATHER: What ancestor endured a particularly severe storm?52ancestors_2015_10

Alonzo Hayden Hayes Baxter, my maternal 2x great grandfather, is the ancestor who immediately came to mind when I saw this week’s prompt for the 52 Ancestors Challenge, created by Amy Johnson Crow. One of the participants in the challenge has been using guest bloggers to write the posts for some of the weeks. I’m going to do that this week as well, but with a twist. My guest blogger is my great grand uncle, Alonzo’s son, George A. H. Baxter of Prowers County, Colorado (1872-1949). Along with being a rancher in southwestern Colorado, George was a Prowers County amateur historian, an amateur in the best sense of the word, in that, as one of the longest-living residents of the area, he was passionate about the history of his family and the other pioneer families of Prowers County and loved passing on what he knew. Sometime in the 1940s, George Baxter wrote an “as told to” column for the local Lamar, Colorado newspaper that included some 80 entries, telling stories about the lives of the pioneers of the area. If George were alive today, I have no doubt he would be writing a fascinating genealogy blog.

A word about how I came to know about George and his stories. I was contacted by someone who read my family tree at Ancestry.com. Being a family historian herself, someone in her husband’s family had given her a huge box of family papers, including hundred of photographs, old postcards, letters, original deeds–an absolute treasure–originally belonging to George Baxter. This woman’s husband was only marginally connected to George, to she set out to find someone connected to his family. I was the lucky person she found, and she turned over the entire box to me. She has my undying gratitude.


Alonzo Hayden Hayes Baxter – what an interesting life, and such a handsome man!

Here’s a short biography of Alonzo Hayden Hayes Baxter, just to give some context to George’s story. I will definitely return to Alonzo another week to write about him more fully. I’ve already written here about Alonzo’s wife, my 2x great grandmother, Elizabeth O. Robinson Baxter. Alonzo was born in 1845 in Jefferson County, Indiana to William Baxter and Jane Kerr. Like just about everyone else in Jefferson County at that time, they were farmers. After surviving four years on the Union side in the Civil War, Alonzo evidently decided the safe path of farming his father’s land wasn’t for him. I found this in an introduction to the book The Life and Adventures of “Billy” Dixon of Adobe Walls, Texas Panhandle, published 1914. Billy and Alonzo were contemporaries, born about five years apart, and I’m imagining that Alonzo Baxter might have seen the world very much the same as Billy Dixon:

I fear, said Billy Dixon, half humorously, that the conquest of savagery in the Southwest was due more often to love of adventure than to any wish that cities should arise in the desert, or that the highways of civilization should take the place of the trails of the Indian and the buffalo. In fact, many of us believed and hoped that the wilderness would remain forever. Life there was to our liking. Its freedom, its dangers, its tax upon strength and courage, gave a zest to living especially to young men, unapproached by anything to be found in civilized communities (Dixon, no page no.).

At the age of 24, Alonzo set out to stake his homestead in southeastern Colorado Territory. It didn’t take him long to find what he was looking for, and he returned to Indiana to pack up his young family and take them by ox cart to their new home. That was 1870, making Alonzo Baxter and his family, including George, one of the early pioneering families of the area.


This photo comes from George Baxter’s collection. I don’t have a year for it, but I imagine it is c.1890. Alonzo and Elizabeth Baxter would have driven a wagon and ox team from Indiana to Colorado similar to this one.

The following is a story written in about 1940 by Alonzo’s son George about his father and one of the last buffalo hunts in southeastern Colorado and the Coldest Winter of 1878-79.

Note: George’s story was published in the Lamar newspaper, “as told to,” and the newspaper version has been moderately edited. I’ve chosen to use his original typed version that I found in his personal papers, thus avoiding any copyright issues that might still exist with the newspaper article. I think George’s typed version also has more personality than the published version. I’ve edited this only slightly–mainly punctuation–for easier reading. The blue text is my annotation of George’s narrative.

A.H.H. BAXTER, 1878-1879

Nov. 20th, 1878. Dad and old Rube Irwin [throughout the text, George alternately spells his name Irwin/Irvin] went South on a Buffalo Hunting trip to the Canadian River, North and South forks, for a load of Buffalo Meat, taking two wagons and two trail wagons. They couldn’t have picked a worse winter to venture forth, but it’s impossible to predict the future. Baxter and Irwin chose to go to the Adobe Walls along the Canadian River, in the breaks, as buffalo were practically extinct in their home area of Old Las Animas, Colorado.

Alonzo and Rube Irwin started out from their homestead near Granada, Colorado. The Adobe Walls mentioned by George was a place on a small tributary of the Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle. This is a description of the original Adobe Walls from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell, published 1933. Alonzo Baxter had been hunting buffalo for the ten years that he had lived in the area, so this Adobe Walls must have been familiar to him.

During May of 1874, several buffalo hunters from Kansas and elsewhere, reached the Panhandle of Texas to pursue their chosen profession. The weather was delightful and the buffaloes were moving northward. To accommodate the hunters, two stores, a blacksmith shop, and a saloon were established not a great distance from the original Adobe Walls, built by the Bents [of Bent Fort fame] many years before. This new location, also known as Adobe Walls, was about one mile from the mouth of Bent Creek, and in a northerly direction from the present town of Miami.


Alonzo Baxter and Rube Irwin started out from their home in Granada, Colorado. As buffalo hunters in the area for the past decade, Baxter and Irwin must have been familiar with the Adobe Walls settlement.

Unfortunately for Alonzo Baxter and Rube Irwin, the weather that November of 1878 for their trip to Adobe Walls was far from “delightful.”

Accompanied by Rube Irvin of Old Las Animas, Colo., they loaded up with supplies and in about two weeks they reached their destination. The weather was very bad.

Let Billy Dixon add to the description of a prairie winter. This is from Life and Adventures of “Billy” Dixon of Adobe Walls, Texas Panhandle, by Olivia Dixon, published 1914:

There are few sights more chilling and somber than the Plains in winter, stretching brown and dead under a leaden sky, with the wind moaning and roaring from the north (Dixon, no page no.)

A Blizzard came up, such as they have in the Dakotas, sending the thermometer below the zero mark and drifted the snow in the hills and draws to a point where progress was exceedingly slow. But the storm drove the Buffalo into the breaks along the river and bunched them up more. The two men were lucky to find a fairly large herd, and they quickly made a good kill. They were doing what had to be done–skinning and dressing out the meat, stretching out the hides on the ground to dry out some, and getting the meat into shape to load into the wagons–no little job. When they finally had what meat they had ready to load into the wagon, and had loaded about two-thirds of the total, another snow came up and with it bitter cold, forcing the men to hole up in camp for several days.

After some delay on account of the bad, snowy weather, they were ready to start back with their load of Buffalo, Meat and Hides. The snow continued very bad, forcing them to lay around camp for the next month.

It’s about here in George’s story when I start thinking of Alonzo’s wife Elizabeth and Rube Irwin’s wife, if he had one, waiting for them back at home. Knowing that Alonzo had started out with provisions for a two-week trip, what did she think when he still hadn’t shown up more than six weeks later–in the middle of winter? How did she survive what undoubtedly was also a bad winter for her and the children in their two-room frame house? Did she have help caring for their livestock? How did she do it? George never mentions Elizabeth waiting back at home, but that’s typical of the way most history is written–the men go out and “do”; the women stay home and “wait.”

Finally they started out for home, but later they were caught in another Blizzard on the Cimarron River, on Palladora Trail, going South to Doba Walls North to Old Fort Aubery Kansas, two or three miles east of where Coolidge Kansas is now. They were on their way back to the Arkansas River, where we lived near the Holly Ranch.

Unpacking that paragraph a little bit, I believe George is referring to the Palo Duro Trail. There is a Palo Duro State Park near Amarillo, Texas, but that’s in the opposite direction from Alonzo’s home going from the Adobe Walls, so the trail he mentions was probably farther north. But if we follow the present-day route from Miami, Texas to Cimarron National Grassland (through which flows the Cimarron River) to the Fort Aubrey Ranch to Coolidge, Kansas to Holly, Colorado, then I think what we find is the approximate route that George describes in the above paragraph (although of course the men would go in a more directly northwest direction). The 2015 Google map at least gives a sense of the area that George described.


The distance from the present-day Cimarron National Grassland to Holy, Colorado is about 90 miles.

When they left the breaks of the Cimarron River and got out on the flats, the snow got so deep their Teams could hardly pull the loads of Buffalo Meat and Hides, as the snow was wheel-hub deep. Consequently, they had to go into Camp on Bear Creek and wait for the storm to break and the snow to settle some.

The Cimarron Breaks is an old term which refers to the broken ground that transitions from the High Plains to the north down towards the Cimarron River on the south. “Cimarron” is the Spanish word for wild or unruly.

It was a cold, long wait; the bitter cold and deep snow were Fearful. After a long, hard pull, they finally got to the Arkansas River, south of Lakin, Kansas, or where it is now [present-day Syracuse, Kansas is near the Arkansas River, south of Lakin] and went in Camp, near the old Heart M Ranch in the Big Timber, or where the Big Timber was then.

About here I was wondering how these two were able to navigate through the snow and bad weather without getting lost. Or did they get lost? Probably not, for a couple of reasons, one of which is that they were familiar with this area south of the Arkansas River. The other is explained by Charles Goodnight, one of the most prosperous cattlemen in the American West:

Above all things, the plainsman had to have a sense–an instinct–for direction. . . . Few men have this instinct. Yet in the few it is to be trusted as absolutely as the homing instinct of a wild goose. . . . I never had a compass in my life. I was never lost (Ward, 240).

Baxter and Irwin stayed [at the camp at Big Timbers] until the spring thaw, in March, some 40 or 50 miles down river from our Ranch, Mouth of Two Butte Creek. They had been gone about three months before reaching the river. More snow fell, and the wagons were again up to their hubs. When the horses couldn’t pull the loads any longer, they camped in the Timber along the River until their flour and coffee began to give out.


Present-day Granada, Colorado to Lakin, Kansas is approximately 60 miles. The route follows the Arkansas River.

A detailed map of the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail (known as the Raton or Bent’s Fort Route during Trail days) shows that, according to George’s description, Baxter and Irwin were essentially following the Mountain Route of the Trail to get home.


On this map, along the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail, can be seen the landmarks mentioned by George Baxter: Larkin, Kansas, Fort Aubrey, and the site of Old Granada which was near Alonzo Baxter’s ranch. Click to enlarge.

From Billy Dixon:

Travel was not made certain and continuous until countless feet and hoofs and wheels had worn trails. The making of trails is one of the most primitive acts of man, and it seems incredible that this should have been done within such recent times in this country. The most noted of all these trails was the Santa Fe Road or Trail that led to Santa Fe, New Mexico,  from Westport, Mo., where it was joined by smaller highways from points in the surrounding country. The heart swells with emotion at remembrance of the wild, free life along those old trails, and knowledge that they have vanished forever brings a feeling of deep regret. . . . something worthwhile has been lost, at least to those who found joy in braving dangers and in overcoming the obstacles of primitive conditions. What a living, moving panorama stretched along the old trails! How vast the wealth that rolled past! The end came when the Santa Fe railroad reached Raton in 1880.

Finally they abandoned the camp, leaving behind the wagons and Buffalo Meat, but NOT before they had made arrangements with the Boss on the Heart M Ranch to look after their Buffalo Meat and wagons which was easily done by giving the ranch all the Fresh Buffalo Meat they could use until Baxter and Irwin could get back for their Out-Fits. Then packing some of the Horses with a hind quarter or so on each of them, the two men set out towards home on horseback.

“Home” for Alonzo Baxter in 1878-79 was a ranch located five miles east of Old Granada, Colorado (called simply Granada until “New” Granada was created in 1886) where he had two claims of 160 acres each. He built his first frame house in 1874 in the vicinity of Ella, Colo., a community 15 miles upstream from Old Granada (Ella is not on any current map). This map is from the Las Animas Leader, 30 Oct. 1874. Originally the land was part of Bent County; in 1883 Alonzo’s part of Bent County became Prowers County. He had built his frame house, size 16′ x 18′ by 1874 which cost him $150 to build. The materials to build the house would have come by rail.


Alonzo’s land was just west of the tiny town of Ella; his companion, Rube Irwin, lived in West Las Animas. Neither place would be found on today’s map.

The period that I call the “old west” or the early days came between 1873 and 1885. I guess that was because that was the time when I was growing up. The population was transient. The Civil War had been over for just a few years, the railroad was moving west into the free lands, and naturally there were a lot of young men going west to seek their fortune. My father was one of them.

Back in those early days, when my father first came to Bent County, the first settlers found not barren plains, dry washes, and an almost empty river. The country was green, not gray, and the Arkansas River ran bank full the year round. On both sides of the river was timber–not the half-dead stunted cottonwoods that are seen here today, but giant cottonwoods with full crowns extending over a mile from each bank. Under the sheltered canopy were miles and miles of wild plum patches, grape vines, and choke cherry thickets. Here and there were trails made by the red deer that inhabited the region. There were also raccoons, wild cats, wolves, coyotes, skunks, and rabbits. The river fairly teemed with fish, muskrat, and beaver. There were no irrigation ditches then to draw water from the river, so the water was deep enough to require a horse to swim across. The banks were much higher than they are today, and a body had to look long to find a spot for his horse to cross. After December, the river was usually frozen solid enough to cross on the ice.

The town of Old Granada was built in 1872, when a man by the name of T.B. Nolan opened a general store and commissary on the site. New Granada’s reputation as a “wild” town has stuck with it through the years, though it is tame today [1940] compared with the old town in the 1870s. Within two weeks from the time the first railroad car reached Granada, the town had three restaurants, a hotel, and about a dozen other places. A post office was established in August 1873.

Between 1873 and 1875, the western terminal of the Santa Fe Railroad was located in Old Granada. By then town had approximately 1,500 residents, mostly gamblers, buffalo hunters, employees of the commission firms, and railroad construction gangs. By 1874, the town had a public school and three grocery stores. The streets had coal oil lamps to light the way by night. The town’s two mercantile firms received their freight by rail. That’s how my father and others in the town came by the lumber to build their houses.

The town was “wide open,” and of course there was no such thing as prohibition. The saloons in those days were for men only. Everyone held the view that if women were to drink, they should do it at home, and women seeking employment never applied for a job in a saloon unless they didn’t care about their reputations.

Old Granada, Prowers County’s only town of the seventies [which was actually still Bent County until 1889], offered a good example of life then. Everyone, literally, displayed a shingle. Everyone then knew who was who. The saloon keepers, bar tenders, and gunmen didn’t try to pose as model citizens. In the town’s most prosperous era, 1873-1875, there were four saloons, three dance halls, and one gambling joint. But I do believe there was less drinking there than there is today [c.1940], and even less than in Prohibition days. The saloons enjoyed their best business on Saturdays when the cowboys, badmen, and settlers came to town, since many of the workers were given the afternoon off. Some of the notorious outlaws who were in Old Granada in those days included “Mysterious Dave” Mather, “Doc” Holliday, Charles White, “Chalk” Beason, Frank Boggs, George Curry, Clay Allison, Jack Allen, Charles Bassett, Ben Thompson, and Ed & Bat Masterson. As there was no jail in town, those who violated the law were told to get out. If they refused, they were generally shot, but very few refused the order. Practically all of the townspeople treated the badmen with the consideration they gave rattlesnakes. As long as they didn’t provoke them, there was little trouble.

Other business establishments in Old Granada during its boom period included a few restaurants and hotels, general merchandise stores, and Wright and Rouths Hide Buyers. The town had no newspapers, mayor, or legislative body, and law enforcement was left to the marshals. Lest I give the wrong impression, Old Granada was not altogether “bad.” Sunday school classes were held every week by the Methodists, and they attracted a goodly number of the women and children. School was held in an old frame building with Mrs. W.W. Jones as teacher, the only school between Granada and Pueblo at the time.

Presumably our author, George Baxter, was a product of the teaching of Mrs. Jones. Good job, Mrs. Jones!

When the Santa Fe railroad pushed on west in 1875, Old Granada was suddenly de-populated. Many of the cowboys and badmen who hung around the area went to South Dakota–to the Deadwood area–where there was a gold rush and things were “new.”

George says nothing about the happy reunion that happened sometime in March 1878 between Alonzo and his family, waiting at home, a family that included his wife Elizabeth, daughter Emma, age 11, son George, age 7, daughter Olive, age 5, daughter Daisy, age 4, and daughter Minnie, age 1.


The Alonzo Baxter family, about ten years after the “Coldest Winter” buffalo hunt. Alonzo is seated, at center; his wife Elizabeth is seated at the left. The couple is surrounded by some of their children. Our “guest blogger,” George Baxter, is the tall one in the back, age about 18.

Later, after the snow thawed, and my father and Rube Irwin went back after the meat and wagons. The snow had covered the range for so long that Thousands of Cattle & Horses died. The Wild Horses, Antelope, and Deer came to the corrals, driven by hunger past the point of being frightened at the sight of a man. Even the Wild Horses crowded in near the settlements along the River.

Those Wild Horses got as tame as your Old Saddle Horse. They came into the corral if you left the gate open. My uncles George and Frank Robinson [brothers of his mother, Elizabeth Robinson] who were staying at our Ranch that winter on account of Dad being gone Buffalo Hunting.

Oh thank God! Elizabeth had her brothers to stay with her and help her at the ranch while Alonzo was gone. I wondered how she coped.

My uncles quickly saw their opportunity and made use of it. They lured at least 90 to 100 Wild Horses into the corral by scattering hay on the snow, where we were feeding our stock. Then they turned loose some of their gentle saddle horses which the wild horses followed into the corral. They sold those wild horses the next spring in St. Louis at $25 per head.

This all happened during the coldest Winter ever recorded in Southeastern Colorado and Western Kansas–known forever by all the Old Pioneers as the Deep Snow and Coldest Winter of 1878-79.

~end of George Baxter’s article about his father, Alonzo Baxter~

OK, So Let’s Deal With the “Buffalo Hunter” Issue

Probably everyone, if they do genealogy long enough, will run into an ancestor who is, shall we say, less than politically correct by today’s standards. To that I say, thank God for interesting ancestors! But just as we can’t choose our relatives, we also can’t choose the issue that makes our ancestors “colorful.” buffaloBuffalo Hunter would definitely not have been high on my list for occupations I would have wanted my ancestor to be involved with–it’s about as anti-PC an issue as you can find, but that’s not why it bothers me. Just google “Buffalo or bison slaughter.”  Reading about the near-destruction of the species gives me such a heavy heart. What were they thinking?

Actually, “What were they thinking?” is the wrong question to ask, a question prompted by an anachronistic environmentalist agenda. Some scholars suggest that the buffalo weren’t wiped out because someone “wasn’t thinking”; the buffalo were a primary source of food, clothing, and shelter for the Plains Indian. Get rid of the buffalo–and control the Indian (Wooster, 171). Like Billy Dixon’s memoir, I like the accounts of people who lived during those times. If Alonzo had written a book, he might have written one like the one by Homer W. Wheeler: Buffalo Days: The Personal Narrative of a Cattleman, Indian Fighter and Army Officer or one like the journal written by John Gibbon, Adventures on the Western Frontier.

Alonzo Baxter’s son, George Baxter (I almost wrote, “Even Alonzo Baxter’s son,” which would have been totally condescending) touched on the issue of the wholesale slaughter of the buffalo in another one of his 1940 newspaper columns about the history of Prowers County, Colorado:

The question is often asked if the settlers here in the ’70s ever thought of conservation of wild life. They thought the buffalo and antelope herds were inexhaustible, and before they quite realized it, they were all gone.

I can’t say his explanation makes me feel any better, but like I said, we don’t get to choose. My 2x great grandfather, Alonzo Baxter, hunted buffalo not just in that winter of 1878, but also in the decade preceding that bad winter, from about 1870. If what’s on Wikipedia is true {{rolls eyes}}, then Alonzo would have been well aware of the Adobe Walls settlement, since to find “good buffalo country” after about 1874, the hunters would have had to go south to the Canadian River, “in hostile Indian country” (Dixon, no page no.).

From Billy Dixon, writing about his work supplying the U.S. Army forts in Kansas in 1869:

Between the Arkansas River and Medicine Lodge we were met by a number of noted Indian chiefs, mounted upon their finest horses. . . .They carried themselves with dignity and in every feature revealed their racial pride and their haughty contempt of the white man. Among them I recall [Kiowa Chief] Satanta. . . . It was because of his complaint that the order had been issued against the killing of buffaloes–a complaint that lay at the very heart of the grievances of the Indian against the white man in frontier days. He declared . . . to destroy the buffalo meant the destruction of the Indian. Leading a nomadic life, which prevented his tilling the soil, even if he had wished to engage in agriculture, which he did not, the Indian saw that he would be deprived of his principal and most necessary food–buffalo meat–if the buffaloes were killed (Dixon, no page no.).

Just why Alonzo Baxter and Rube Irwin had to travel so far from their home to hunt buffalo in 1878 is explained in an earlier article by George Baxter. I imagine they were hunting buffalo to provide food for their families, although it seems like, from George’s description of lands surrounding the family acres, there would have been plenty of other game they could have lived off of. Maybe Alonzo just liked getting away from everything during the winter–who knows? Also, missing from George’s narrative is any other description about his father’s normal hunting habits outside of this one winter when he went on his “last” buffalo hunt. George also never mentions any interactions his father might have had during those years of killing buffalo with the Plains Indians. They simply do not exist in George’s narrative, but it’s impossible to believe that they had no impact on Alonzo and his family during the years from 1868 to 1878 and beyond.

In 1871 when Colonel R. I. Dodge of Ford Dodge rode up from the Kansas line to a point 25 miles west, about midway between the present towns of Granada and Lamar, he reported that he saw a total of 500,000 buffalo. That may sound hard to believe, but the figure has since been corroborated by several authors as authentic. What is still more amazing is that in the space of nine short years, the buffalo were extinct in the same area that Colonel Dodge traveled over.

From the time my father moved to the country in 1869 to the time the railroad was extended to his home near Old Granada in 1873, there were practically no buffalo hunters in the area. But the railroad brought with it hundreds of nimrods eager to cash in on the easy money. Skilled hunters killed dozens of the animals daily and sold the hides at an average price of one dollar each. The most profitable years were 1873 and 1874; that’s why by 1876 there were practically no buffalo left south of the Arkansas River. What remained north of the river was the remnant of the south herd that had been divided in 1870 by the Union Pacific Railroad.

From Billy Dixon:

In 1866, at Fort Harker [Kansas] Black Kettle [of the Cheyenne] had made a speech of great eloquence, asking the government not to permit the building of railroads through the Indian country, as it would drive away the buffaloes and leave the Indians to starve. This fear of the change that would follow the building of railroads across the Plains was night and day in the heart of the Indian. No chief made a speech in which he did not refer to it (Dixon, no page no.).

Billy Dixon was a witness to history on the morning of October 28, 1867 at their camp at Medicine Lodge Creek. This was the day of the signing of the Medicine Lodge Treaty, which was supposed to be a treaty to end all treaties. I’ve read various estimates of the number of Native Americans who gathered at Medicine Lodge that day, between 5,000 and 10,000. Here is Billy Dixon’s description:

I shall never forget the morning of October 28, 1867. At a distance of about two miles from our camp was the crest of a low swell in the Plains. For a moment I was dumbfounded at sight of what was rising over that crest and flowing with vivid commotion toward us. It was a glittering, fluttering, gaily colored mass of barbarism, the flower and perfection of the war strength of the Plains Indian tribes. The resplendent warriors, armed with all their equipment and adorned with all the regalia of battle, seemed to be rising out of the earth. Their number was estimated at 15,000, but I cannot vouch for its accuracy (Dixon, no page no.).

It’s hard to know in 2015 all of the issues surrounding the Medicine Lodge Treaty that were agreed to that day. Frankly, today’s books and textbooks are infected with the childish simplicity of the politically correct: the evil United States government represented by the Army on the one hand, and the noble tribes of Native Americans on the other. What seems to me to be true about this meeting and this treaty is that it’s hard to imagine that the members of the different tribes who were there that day–the Kiowa, Comanche, Kiowa-Apache, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe–all understood what was put forward in the treaty. It’s said that there was one interpreter, and he spoke only Comanche. Is that account true? I can’t imagine that it is. However, even if there had been perfect communication between the two sides, it would still be ridiculous to think that the Indians agreed to all the nuance and complexities of the treaty–which sounds like it was written with what today we would call a “gotcha” agenda. Whoever wrote this thing–whatever government group cobbled it together–had to know that it would be impossible for the Indians not to violate the terms of the agreement. Just read the thing–it’s found at the link. The details are simply irrational. On the other hand, there’s no rational reason to believe that the Indians who were there that October day in 1867 planned to keep to the terms of the treaty, even if signed. It was a sort of Kabuki Theatre between both sides, full of performance and posturing. Here’s an example from Kiowa Chief Satanta’s speech that day [I don’t know how it was documented or translated that day, if indeed no one could translate anything but Comanche, but for what it’s worth this is an excerpt of what he supposedly said]:

All the land south of the Arkansas belongs to the Kiowa and Comanche, and I don’t want to give away any of it. I love the land and the buffalo and I will not part with it. I want the children raised as I was. I have heard that you want to settle us on a reservation near the mountains. I don’t want to settle. I love to roam over the prairies. This building of homes for us is all nonsense.

In 2015, most school children are taught that the U.S. government broke the treaties agreed to by the Native Americans. Period. What Chief Satanta said that day hardly sounds like “agreement.” It would be good to find one–just one–excellent text that explains the complexities of the issues without a political agenda. Is that too much to ask? Many may have heard of the Sand Creek Massacre, a battle that took place near the Sand Creek River where Alonzo Baxter had his land, although it took place in 1864, several years before Alonzo came to the area. The issues surrounding the Sand Creek Massacre (now a National Historic Site, helping to “restore the public memory” and often compared to My Lai in Vietnam), are beyond the scope of this essay; however, regardless of how monolithic or one-sided that episode is now taught in the schools (it seems to be a favorite one for teaching students at every level a one-sided lesson), there were two sides to that story, and a fine book has been written that tells both sides by Gregory F. Michno, titled Battle at Sand Creek: The Military Perspective. From Michno’s Introduction:

‘The American demagogue is a loathsome creature at best, but when he plays the role of using massacres. . . for his personal aggrandizement, it becomes satanic.’ So wrote Joseph P. Allyn in September 1863. Allyn was then heading west on the Santa Fe Trail through Kansas to Colorado on his way to Arizona Territory as a newly appointed associate justice. An astute observer, Allyn was speaking specifically of how politicians used the recent massacre at Lawrence, Kansas, to fan the flames of hatred to further their own ends. . . . The episode [of the 1864 Sand Creek incident] has been passed down through history as an epic battle between good and evil. This study, however, finds that the white hats and black hats were more often toned in shades of gray, and the hat colors of some characters have been completely reversed (Michno, 1).

Given the choice, what I would really like is to be able to sit down with Alonzo Baxter and have him tell me all about those years. I have a book on my shelf that’s full of fascinating photographs–The West: An Illustrated History, by Geoffrey C. Ward, published 1996 (I highly recommend this book, if for nothing more than the photographs, although I think the text is good). I looked up the Medicine Lodge Treaty, and this is what I found in Ward’s book from the chapter about the railroads, “The Grandest Enterprise Under God, 1865-1874”:

One by one the chiefs agreed to sign the treaty. . . . All were eager for a halt to years of sporadic violence and pleased by the gifts the commissioners distributed among them. But few fully understood what was being asked of them, and fewer still could imagine abandoning their old ways. “I remember in particular one Indian who looked disdainfully on the white man’s gifts,” one officer recalled. “There was apparently nothing among the paraphernalia of the white man that Kick-a-Bird wanted. Nothing until his eye chanced upon a high silk hat that seemingly delighted him. Setting his symbol of a conquering civilization firmly on his oiled hair he strutted for hours up and down for the amusement of his grinning companions. But presently he grew tired of his selection, and the last we saw of the glossy, high silk hat, Kick-a-Bird and his companions were contemptuously using it for a football” (selection quoted in Ward, 235, 236).

In Billy Dixon’s memoir, he says that the chiefs agreed on the terms of the 1867 treaty, the main point of which was this:

the Indians should keep south of the Arkansas River. I had reason to remember this particular provision in subsequent years, as did many another buffalo hunter. To venture south of the Arkansas for buffalo was to risk falling into the very jaws of the lion, as the Indians fought jealously for the preservation of the right which they declared had been given to them at Medicine Lodge (Dixon, no page no.).

If by the winter of 1878-79, Alonzo Baxter wanted to hunt buffalo, he would have had to travel a considerable distance from his home–to this same area south of the Arkansas River. The Red River War, a military campaign by the U.S. Army to remove the Native American tribes from the Texas Panhandle and other parts of the southern Plains, began in 1874 and lasted until mid-1875 when the last group of Plains Indians surrendered. The war marked the end of free roaming Indian populations on the southern Plains and opened the area to settlement by farmers and ranchers. Therefore, Baxter and his friend Rube Irwin were probably beset only by the weather, and not by Indians.

“Only the weather”–it’s amazing to think that the two men were able to survive that winter. In his memoir, Billy Dixon has many tales of experience with the “killing cold” of the Plains winters. He writes about one winter, in 1871, where he was caught up in one of the worst blizzards he had ever seen:

The storm struck them just as they went into camp for the night, after the stock had been turned loose to graze. When the storm broke, every man turned out to help hold the stock, and many of them were soon lost in the blinding swirl. One man, the cook, managed to find his way back to camp; he was found dead in his wagon, frozen stiff. where he had tried to make a fire in the bottom of the wagon could be plainly seen. He had burned the endgate in his vain efforts. The wind blew with such terrific force that the fire was blown away in all directions. Though surrounded with enormous quantities of wood, all within easy reach, the poor fellow perished for want of fire (Dixon, no page no.).

The Old Forts

It’s logical to assume that Baxter and Irwin would have been taking shelter in some of the old forts in the area as they made their way back home. From a website titled Genealogy Along the Rockies: Bent’s Forts & Trading Posts comes this information [actually, from the book 1873-1973 Granada Centennial: The First One Hundred Years] :

Colonel William Bent had a trading post on the site of Granada in 1844. [Other references state] that there was a log stockade at Big Timbers. Since Granada, Prowers County, is located in the Big Timbers area (at one time Big Timbers encompassed land of about 40 miles east to west along the Arkansas River), it is possible the reference was made to the trading post at Granada. . . . The trading post on the Canadian River was known as Adobe Walls (Binder, from the Introduction, no page no.).

George made reference to at least two forts or trading posts in his article: one on the Canadian River known as Adobe Walls, and the other a log stockade at Big Timbers. Adobe Walls was located on the Texas Panhandle.

Both of these were apparently established by one or the other of the Bent brothers, Charles and/or William, who also established the forts which bear their name: Bent’s Old Fort, an active trading post from 1833 to 1849, north of the Arkansas River, eight miles east of present-day La Junta on Colorado 194; and Bent’s New Fort, one mile west of the present-day Prowers-Bent county line on U.S. Highway 50, operated by William Bent from 1853 to 1860, when he leased the site to the U.S. Army.

George Baxter writes about William Bent and the building of the first fort, Bent’s Old Fort:

This fort was built on the north side of the river and was constructed of adobe bricks. It was 180 feet long and 135 feet wide; the walls were 15 feet high and four feet thick, with the principal gate facing the east. In the back of the fort was a corral, the walls of which were also built of adobe bricks with cactus planted over them to prevent anyone from climbing over. Over the main gate was a square watch tower and belfry.

William Bent himself exercised a very great influence over the Indians of this region, not only because he was married to a Cheyenne Indian woman, but also because he was fair and honest in his dealings with them. In the twenty years the fort was occupied, until 1849, no serious trouble with the Indians was ever experienced.

This old fort constituted a place of rendezvous for all of the traders, trappers, and hunters who came and went within the Plains and the Rocky Mountain regions. Had a Visitors’ Register been kept, it would have included the names of every well-known frontiersman of the early west. Among those associated with the fort or the Bents themselves were Kit Carson, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Bill Williams, Lucian Maxwell, “Uncle Dick” Wooten, and others. Every traveler in the west who left a record of his journeys mentions Bent’s Fort.

No one knows for sure why William Bent abandoned Bent’s Old Fort in 1849. A cholera epidemic was sweeping the plains that year, spreading from the emigrant wagons and decimating the Plains Indian tribes. This may have been just the final blow of many, that caused William Bent to burn the old fort and move 40 miles down the Arkansas River to the site of Bent’s New Fort. Cholera was a terrifying disease, spread by contaminated water, but in 1849 the thinking was that it was caused by “bad air.”

From Billy Dixon:

While in this camp, cholera began raging at Fort Harker, which struck terror to many who stood in no fear of other dangers to life. Many of our men deserted, and two died of the dread disease. I witnessed the death of one of our men, Finkum, and shall never forget his agony. Men who were apparently in the full vigor of health at sunrise lay dead by night. The authorities kept the number of dead secret as much as possible. The burials were usually at night (Dixon, no page no.).

William Bent died on his ranch near Las Animas in 1869 and is buried at the Las Animas Cemetery, Las Animas, Bent County, Colorado.

Bent’s Old Fort is now a National Historic site, “faithfully” reconstructed and open to the public; only foundation ruins outline the post of Bent’s New Fort. The original site of Bent’s Old Fort was under the stewardship of the La Junta (Colorado) Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution until they turned the care of the remains over to the National Parks Service in 1976. Without the work in the first half of the 20th century of the La Junta DAR, there would have been nothing for the Parks Service to conserve. Strangely, the “Colorado Legends” website leaves out the role played by the DAR: “Early in the 1950’s the Colorado State Historical Society acquired Bent’s Old Fort and soon arranged for archeological investigation to determine the fort’s general outlines. The site was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960.” The La Junta DAR website says that the chapter owned the site from 1926 to 1954, when the land was deeded to the State of Colorado for the use and benefit of the State Historical Society for the sum of $1.00. During the Depression, four and a half acres of land that contained the remains of the Fort were deeded to the La Junta DAR chapter by the owner of the site. In 1924, the chapter immediately began to preserve the site by fencing it in, covering the remaining adobe walls with burlap, restoring grave sites, building a road to it from County Road 174, bringing in electricity, and clearing debris from the site. They also began paying taxes on the land–all during the Depression. This small chapter of the DAR had little money, yet they did it anyway.

Another local chapter of the DAR is located about 60 miles from the La Junta chapter in Larmar, Colorado, named the Fort William Bent Chapter, commemorating Bent’s New Fort.

The Rest of the Story

A History of Bent County, published in 1881, tells of Alonzo Baxter and his family living on their ranch a few miles east of Granada.

He has 160 acres of land, mostly in grass, which he cuts and bales for market. He has been a School Director of District No. 8, and Secretary of the Board for three years before the district was divided in 1879. He is much pleased with Bent County, and expects to make it his permanent residence.

So it’s a bit surprising that by 1900, at the age of 55, Alonzo and his family are found in the town of Trinidad, Colorado where Alonzo was working as a laborer. How that came to be illustrates the trials and tribulations that were common to the life of the pioneer. Alonzo spent much of his time in later years organizing local units of the Grand Army of the Republic, or G.A.R., a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union side of the Civil War. He lived for many years in La Junta, Colorado with one of his daughters, and lived his out his last years with another daughter in Cañon City, Colorado where he died in 1930 at the age of 85. Alonzo and Elizabeth are buried together at Fairview Cemetery, La Junta, Colorado.

I plan to revisit Alonzo Hayden Hayes Baxter in future posts, and when I get around to telling the stories of collateral descendants, Alonzo’s son George Baxter will be one whose story I particularly look forward to telling. 


Binder, Sue. “Granada, the First One Hundred.” Granada Centennial, 1873-1973. Published by Robinson Printing, Lamar, Colorado. A pamphlet, published for the Granada Centennial celebration. No page numbering. This pamphlet is in the author’s possession.

Dixon, Olivia. Life and Adventures of “Billy” Dixon of Adobe Walls, Texas Panhandle, by Olivia Dixon, published 1914. Kindle edition, no page numbering.

Gibbon, John, Major General. Adventures on the Western Frontier. Ed. by Alan and Maureen Gaff. Indiana UP, Bloomington, 1994.

Michno, Gregory F. Battle at Sand Creek: The Military Perspective. Upton and Sons, El Segundo, California, 2004.

Wooster, Robert. The Military and the United States Indian Policy 1865-1903, Yale UP, 1988.

© 2015 Becky Roorda Mihelich

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Henry Eston Lovelace, 1900-1965

Henry Eston (“H. E.”) Lovelace, 3 Sep 1900 – 9 Jun 1965

Henry Lovelace was my maternal grandmother’s second husband, Margarite Witzke Denton Lovelace. She had been a widow for more than ten years when she married him at the age of 55. I really don’t know that much about Henry, so this is an attempt to see what I can learn. I know absolutely nothing about researching in the Georgia records, nor do I know anything in particular about Georgia geography or history.

1900 | 11 Jun. U.S. census record for Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, Georgia. Clyde Lovelace, son-in-law, age 24, b. 1876, Georgia (both parents also b. Georgia); Mary Lovelace, daughter, age 17, b. Georgia (both parents b. Georgia). Clyde and Mary (Townsend) Lovelace are living with her parents, Wm. B. Townsend (head of household), age 44 and Rebecca Townsend, age 44. William Townsend’s occupation is “Editor”; Rebecca’s occupation is “washerwoman.” Also in the household is Lizzie Townsend, daughter, age 22; Emma Townsend, age 23, daughter, and Fannie Walker, mother-in-law, age 80. Everyone born in Georgia.

Henry’s mother, Mary Townsend, was the daughter of an editor–William B. Townsend. That sounds interesting. Another thing about Mary is that she was only 17 years old when she got married and had her son Henry.

1900 | 3 Sep. Born, Henry Eston Lovelace, to Henry Clyde Lovelace and Mary Townsend Lovelace, in Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, Georgia. His name is spelled both “Loveless” and Lovelace in the records, although the Loveless version seems to be found in the earlier records. I remember that my grandmother pronounced his name that way–Loveless.

1902 | Born, Goldie Lee Lovelace, to Henry Clyde and Mary Townsend Lovelace.

1910 | U.S. Census record. Henry Lovelace, age 9, b. Georgia, living with his parents, Henry and Mary. His father Henry is a laborer in a gold mine; his mother Mary is a washerwoman–“at home.” The couple has been married for 10 years and has had 2 children–and have 2 living children in the census. The other child is Henry’s sister, Goldie Lee, age 8.

1918 | 12 Sep. WWI draft registration card. Henry Eston Lovelace, b. 3 Sep 1900, age 18; present occupation, Student at N.G.A. College (North Georgia Agricultural College in Dahlonega, Georgia); nearest relative, “Father and Mother.” His gravestone says: PVT STU ARMY TNG CORPS WORLD WAR I, which translates to Private, Student, Army Training Corps. I don’t find a record for him at Fold3.

1920 | 8 Jan. U.S. Census record for Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, Georgia. (All b. Georgia) Head of household, William B. Townsend (Henry’s grandfather), age 64, occupation Newspaper Editor; Beckey Townsend, wife, age 64; not able to read, occupation Farmer, general farm; Emma Townsend, daughter, age 44, single, occupation Laborer, Home farm; Mary Lovelace, daughter, age 27, no occupation; Clyde Lovelace, son-in-law, age 44, occupation Miner, copper mines; Eston Lovelace, grandson, age 19, single, attending school, no occupation; Goldie Lovelace, granddaughter, age 17, single, no occupation; Glover Townsend, grandson, age 16, single, occupation Miner, copper mines.

1921 | 14 Aug. An ad in the Atlanta Constitution for North Georgia Agricultural College


1924 | Henry E. Lovelace and Laura Eleanor McLaughan/McLaughlin, married, probably in Georgia. Record not found. She’s the daughter of James R. McLaughan/McLaughlin and Mamie, b. Georgia.

1928 | 21 Nov. Born to Henry E. Lovelace and Laura Eleanor, Robert Henry Lovelace. Born in Georgia.

1930 | 7 Apr. U.S. Census record for Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, Georgia. (All b. Georgia) Head of household, Henry C. Lovelace, age 54, he owns his home, occupation Mechanic; Mary T. Lovelace, age 45, occupation Helper, printing office (her father was a newspaper editor); Goldie Lee Lovelace, age 38, single, occupation Telephone operator. Henry’s only sibling, Goldie Lee, drops out of the records at this point.

1930 | 2 Apr. U.S. Census record for District 52, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. Henry E. Lovelace, head of household, age 29, married at age 24, occupation Traveling salesman, road machinery; Eleanor M. Lovelace, wife, age 23, b. Georgia, occupation None (the family has one roomer); Robert H. Lovelace, son, age 1 4/12, b. Georgia.

about 1931 | Born, to Henry Lovelace and Laura Eleanor, Jerry Lovelace. B. Georgia.

1935 | 3 Jan. Died, Henry’s father, Henry Clyde Lovelace, Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, Georgia. Buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, find-a-grave memorial #14327612.

about 1938 | Born, to Henry Lovelace and Laura Eleanor, C. Patton Lovelace. B. Georgia.

1940 | 18 Apr. U.S. Census record for Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, Georgia. Mary Lovelace, Head of household, age 57, Widow, no occupation; Emma Townsend, Sister, age 64, single, no occupation. Mary Lovelace owns her own home.

1940 | Apr. U.S. Census record for Clayton, Rabun County, Georgia. (All born Georgia.)  Henry E. Lovelace, head of household, age 39, completed 4 yrs. college, occupation Resident Engineer, Highway Dept.; Eleanor Lovelace, age 33, completed 4 yrs. high school, occupation None; Robert, son, age 11; Jerry, son, age 9; C. Patton, son, age 2. The family is renting their home.

1942 | City Directory, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Henry E. Lovelace (Eleanor M. Lovelace), Chattanooga, Tennessee, occupation Engineer.

c. 1954 | Mrs. Margaret Lovelace, desk clerk, Hotel McClellan, Wichita, Kansas. It’s not clear when Henry and Margie met, but I’m guessing they met when she was working at the Hotel McClellan.


1955 | City Directory, Wichita, Kansas. Lovelace, Henry E (Eleanor) clk Wilson & Co r229 E William.

1955 | City Directory, Wichita, Kansas. Denton, Margt M desk clerk McClellan Hotel r110 N Estelle.

1955 | May. Divorce, Henry E. Lovelace and Eleanor M. Lovelace, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. [I didn’t find them in the 1950 city directory for Tuscaloosa, the closest one to 1955. His mother is still living, in Tuscaloosa, in 1965 when Henry died, according to his funeral notice.]

1955 | June. Margie saved quite a few of these “on the street” photos. This is the earliest one of them with Henry and Margie together. Margie was tall–about 5’9″–and in Henry she had finally found a man who was taller than she was, even when she was wearing her heels. In one letter to her, written about this time when she evidently left Wichita and Henry to visit family, Henry called Margie “My Honey-Chile,” darling, honey, sugar, sweet girl, and precious. He obviously wooed her and won her.


In the same (undated) letter, he also wrote:

Honey, you have it all wrong about the telephone call from Sister. Whatever I’ve ever asked Mother for, if it at all was possible she would do for me gladly. So don’t fret about that Sugar. I was only worried about what they were thinking and above all it was most time for you to leave me.

The letter seems to indicate that both his mother and his sister, Goldie Lee, were still alive in 1955. [Henry would find out, if he hadn’t already, that to ask Margie not to fret would be like asking the sun not to shine or water not to be wet.] The letter also indicates that Henry hadn’t been introduced in Margie’s family yet:

Enjoy your visit, see all your people and give them my love. Express my desire to them to meet them and know them better. I know I would love them because they are related to such a sweet girl.

1955 | 3 Sep. Married, Henry E. Lovelace and Margaret Denton. Below is the marriage announcement that my grandmother Margie carried in her wallet. It was probably from the Wichita newspaper, but I don’t know which one. I’ve never seen pictures of their wedding. It wouldn’t surprise me if neither one of her daughters thought to take a camera with them to the wedding.

Henry E. Lovelace, Mrs. Margaret Denton (9/3/55)
Mrs. Margaret Denton of Wichita, formerly of Hutchinson, exchanged marriage vows with Henry E. Lovelace of Tuscaloosa, Ala., in a 3 p.m. ceremony Saturday. Rev. David Miller officiated in the Presbyterian manse in Wichita. Among wedding guests were the bride’s daughters, Mmes. C.W. Embick and family, 226 West 17th, and R.K. Roorda and family of Denver.

Mr. Lovelace is employed in Wichita as a construction engineer, and his bride is employed there by the McClellan Hotel. After a short wedding trip they will be at home at the Shirkmere Hotel, Wichita.

Henry Lovelace was 55 years old when he married Margaret Denton, so he was still working, employed as a “construction engineer,” according to the newspaper account of their wedding. Neither Henry nor Margaret had ever owned a home of their own. Henry and Margie were “hotel people”–they lived together in residence hotels during the ten years they were married.

1955 | Fall-Winter. Henry and Margie visiting Margie’s sister, Emma Beacham and her family in Newton, Kansas. “The heart wants what the heart wants.” Margie looks about as happy as I’ve ever seen her look in a photo, with the exception of the very early days with her first husband, Cecil Denton.


1955-1962 | The dates aren’t clear to me, but Henry Lovelace and Margie moved from Wichita, Kansas to Kansas City, Kansas to Albuquerque, New Mexico. They probably moved to Albuquerque in 1962, since Henry’s funeral notice says that they had lived in Albuquerque for three years.

1956 | From the Polk’s Wichita City Directory, 1956: 

Lovelace, Henry E (Margt) supt Overend-Boucher & Assoc. h256 N Topeka Ave. apt 311. (No Eleanor Lovelace in the city directory.)

1957 | Christmas. Henry and Margie came to Denver for Christmas to visit. I think this outfit is Margie’s attempt to “do casual.” She wasn’t very good at it, always preferring to be dressed more formally. Maybe she was trying to get along at our house. I think Henry was really trying to like Margie’s “people.”


1957, Henry & Margie in Denver

1959 | Feb. Visiting her daughter in Denver, Colorado. My mother Alta, my grandmother Margie, and me, along with “Grandpa Henry.” Henry doesn’t look too friendly in this photo. There was always tension when my grandmother was visiting, and I think the tension escalated after she married Henry. She and my dad didn’t get along, and I can imagine that Henry wouldn’t have been too disposed to think kindly of anyone who wasn’t on the side of his “Honey-Chile.”


Margie, Henry, Alta and me. Where did I get that coat? I can’t imagine my mother letting me wear that thing ever, let alone wear it in a picture with my grandmother.

1959 | Mar. Just a month after the one above. Did Margie & Henry visit Gladys? Henry looks pretty good in this picture–certainly happier than he was in February at my parents’ house. This might be the best picture I have of him. Margie looks awful. It’s possible that she was just caught with her eyes half closed, and I may get in big trouble for saying this, but this is the part that we get into “warts and all,” and I think it was this photo that caused me to begin to wonder if just maybe Margie was a (secret) drinker. I have a suspicion that she might have been one of the millions of women in the 1930s who took “patent medicines” that contained somewhere between 12 and 20% alcohol.


Henry & Margie, March 1959

One of Lucille Ball’s most famous skits on I Love Lucy was the “Vitameatavegamin Girl.” It was a hilarious skit where Lucy had to make take after take of a commercial while saying the line “It’s so tasty, too!” In the multiple takes she takes spoonful after spoonful of the tonic, and she ends up drunk. It’s a hilarious skit, but the dark side of that humor may be that there were a lot of women who became alcohol-addicted to their “vitamin” compound.


“Spoon your way to health.”


“It’s awful hot in here; it must be the lights!”

If Margie had gotten herself addicted to “health” or “nerve” syrup sometime in the 1930s or even 1920s, she would have had a lot to choose from. There was Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, marketed until sometime around 1968; there was Nervine Syrup; there was “Viava,” a compound marketed to “strengthen blood.” nervineThere was even something that contained morphine, Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. I don’t mean to belittle my grandmother, and even though I may seem to be making light of the issue, I don’t think it was a joke–not for a lot of women who unknowingly became alcohol impaired and addicted. My grandmother was skinny as a stick in 1935 and looked just dreadful. Her husband had been having a very public affair with a divorced woman. She was very much disposed to be “nervous”–the sound of someone chewing was more than she could bear; the smell of a piece of burned toast could ruin her whole morning. She was an absentee mother for both of her daughters. There really wasn’t very much she was interested in beyond playing bridge, reading romance magazines, and listening to her “stories” on the radio and later on TV. All her life, Margie had what I would call an addiction to sweets; when we were little kids, a visit from Grandma Margie meant candy (Henry called her the “cookie queen”). For years she was also addicted to laxatives–more self-medicating– probably the result of a terrible diet and lack of any sort of exercise. 1960_Margie_detailMostly I remember–and I was a little kid at the time, probably around 5 years old–I remember that Grandma Margie bothered me. Her smile never touched her eyes. She was a nervous, anxious woman with affected mannerisms, and she made people around her uncomfortable. So to think that maybe she self-medicated with something like Nervine Syrup to make herself feel a little better is not much of a stretch. Several years ago I visited with a cousin I don’t see very often, the daughter of Margie’s other daughter, Gladys. This daughter was shocked–shocked!–when I mentioned Margie’s liver cancer. “That’s crazy,” she said to me. “Grandma Margie died of stomach cancer.” Nope, she didn’t, and I have the memory of her biopsy and her death certificate to prove it. What I find interesting about that statement was that “someone” (undoubtedly her mother, Aunt Gladys) told my cousin it was stomach cancer, not liver. Why? Was it one of those “little white lies” people tell to sanitize a story? I honestly have no idea, but I do believe that my Aunt Gladys was savvy enough to know the difference between a stomach and a liver. Maybe like “insanity,” liver cancer back then had a negative connotation.

Below is an earlier photo, but it demonstrates my point about being “bothered” or maybe worried by my grandmother. It was taken at her home, probably in Wichita, probably the year before her marriage. This is Margie and her three grandchildren (I’m the little one with the terrified look), and I call it the “firing squad photo”–Margie lined up with her grandchildren.


Margie and grandchildren, 1954 or 1955

1960 | Here’s Henry Lovelace and Margie visiting Margie’s granddaughter, Gladys’s daughter. I always assumed that Margie visited Gladys’s family all the time–that it was easier for her to visit with Gladys and her only child and Gladys’s husband, whom she liked, instead of coming to our house with four loud kids. So I was surprised to hear from my cousin that Margie visited her family’s house very rarely. This must have been one of those rare times, maybe some sort of graduation, since my cousin seems dressed up for something special.


Margie, Henry, and my cousin, 1960

What strikes me about this photo is how absolutely awful Henry looks, compared to only a year or less earlier. He doesn’t seem to have his false teeth in, so that would make him look older, but beyond that he looks like he’s quite ill. He’s 60 years old, but he could easily pass for 80. And of course–the ubiquitous cigarette. Margie, on the other hand, looks good–better than usual.

1960 | Dec. This is a picture of Margie with some of her siblings. The occasion was the 50th wedding anniversary of Emma Witzke, her sister, and Frank Beacham. This was taken in Newton, Kansas. It would seem that Henry Lovelace had a positive effect on Margie, encouraging her to visit her “people” as he had put it to her in the earlier letter.

What about Henry’s own family? Did he ever visit them during this time? Henry had three grown sons who were all a little bit younger than my mother. In 1960 they would have been 32, 29, and 22. His mother, Mary Townsend Lovelace, was also alive. She was 77 years old in 1960. I haven’t been able to find his sister, Goldie Lee, in the records, although she was apparently still alive when Henry and Margie were married in 1955, since he mentions her in the earlier letter. Goldie Lee would have been 57 years old in 1960. Had Henry also split with his family, the way Margie had split with hers? It’s easy to imagine that Henry’s divorce from Laura Eleanor could have created hard feelings within the family.

Mary Townsend Lovelace, Henry’s mother, died after he died, in 1972. I don’t know where she was living when she died, but she was buried with her husband in Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, Georgia. I’ve found two people (so far) in the records in Henry’s family: his oldest son, Robert Henry Lovelace, who died in New Smyrna Beach, Volusia, Florida in 2009; and his ex-wife, Laura Eleanor McLaughan/McLaughlin Lovelace, died Laura M. Lovelace, 16 Nov. 1992, Los Angeles, CA.


Dec. 1960, Newton, Kansas. From left to right: Margie, Emma Witzke Beacham, Robert Witzke, Erne Witzke Messer, Unknown.

This photo illustrates the split that existed among Margie and her siblings, one that seemed to involve both age and geography. These are the older siblings: Erne, Emma, (George isn’t here), Margie, (Leona isn’t here), Robert and (Ted, who didn’t make the trip to Newton either). They all lived in the Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico area. Then there was Dorothy (Dot), Nina, and Violet, the younger girls who all ended up living in Florida with their mother.

1962 | April. Margie’s mother died in Miami where she was living with her daughters, Leona, Dot, Nina, and Vi. This photo shows the other half of the sibling split. It’s interesting that Margie’s sister Emma seems to have been able to negotiate both groups, the older “western” siblings and the younger “Florida” siblings. For years I thought Margie wasn’t in this photo because she chose not to go to her funeral. However, after hearing from a daughter of one of Margie’s brothers, who says that her father wasn’t told about his mother’s death until after the funeral, I’ve changed my mind and think that it’s certainly possible that Margie also wasn’t told until after the funeral. If that was the case, then I can see that Margie would have been angry with her sister Emma for not telling her, since clearly Emma is sitting in the middle of this group, so she knew. The rift between Emma and Margie, at least on Margie’s part, was permanent and lasted until after Margie died. I think it started here. It’s very sad, because the sisters had been so much a part of each other’s lives for years.


April 1962. Emma Baxter Witzke’s casket can be seen in the background. From left to right: Dorothy, Leona (standing), Emma, Nina, and Violet.

This means that by 1962, of Margie’s six sisters, she was still speaking to only one of them, Erne, the oldest sister. This comes from a memoir by Sharon O’Brien, Family Silver. It certainly reminds me of the dynamics of the seven Witzke sisters.

When the six Quinlan sisters were aggrieved they simply ceased speaking to each other, forming shifting alliances with other sisters, to whom they complained about the rest. Over the decades one or two sisters were always on the outs with one or two others; it was hard to keep track. Sometimes sisters went thirty years without speaking, and often the precipitating causes were bizarrely trivial; whatever the spark was, it must have tripped off some frozen, hidden childhood rage or deprivation (O’Brien, 102).

The rift was real. About ten years ago I was in contact with one of Emma’s grandsons who grew up next door to Emma and Frank Beacham. Unfortunately, he was short on details about what had happened between Emma and Margie:

Ah, yes. The long-forgotten family “falling out.” It seems as though I vaguely remember something about Margie’s death, but I would have been in Jr. High. We lived right smack next door to grandpa and grandma (Frank and Emma) until I was in the third grade. Grandpa was already retired by the time I was born, so I spent HOURS at their house. Grandma was always frail. She talked all the time about Margie and Ted [Theodore, Emma & Margie’s brother]. Emma also had a sister Ernie (Messer) who lived in Newton for quite a while. I will have to call my mom to see if she remembers anything about the “falling out.”

Why does it matter after all these years? Sharon O’Brien tells us why it matters:

Family patterns have a way of getting passed down, despite our best intentions. They change shape, they mutate, they persist.

Some people believe that the untold stories of your ancestors get passed down in your blood and bones, generation after generation, without your even knowing it. You can feel your great-great grandfather’s sorrow, you can dream your great-grandmother’s dreams. . . . I am one of those believers; I think that we inherit our ancestor’s emotional histories, particularly their unexpressed stories of suffering, exile, and yearning.

1962 | I don’t know when Henry and Margie moved to Albuquerque, but his funeral announcement says that he had lived there for three years, so it must have been sometime in 1962 that they moved. Why the move from Kansas City to Albuquerque? Margie had a brother who lived there, Robert H Witzke. That’s the only connection I can think of with Albuquerque. It could also be that Margie wanted to be closer to her daughter Gladys and her family who were living in Hobbs, New Mexico–about 5 hours by car from Albuquerque. Henry probably needed a town large enough to have a V.A. hospital–although I’m sure Kansas City had a V.A. hospital. So did Denver where my mother lived. He probably already was symptomatic with the emphysema he had at the end of his life, three years later. Henry was the kind of dedicated smoker who would take off the oxygen so that he could smoke a cigarette. Everybody smoked back then and they all smoked all the time.

1963 | Dec. This photo of Henry Lovelace comes from my Aunt Gladys’s collection of photos. I’m not sure why Margie would take such a photo and send it to her daughter Gladys, but it documents what Henry and Margie had come to have to deal with by 1963. Henry is still smoking, even in the hospital, even with emphysema.


December 1963, Henry Lovelace

1965 | Spring. Margie never dated her letters, but internal evidence says that this letter was written not too long before Henry died in early June. Margie was writing to my mother. Obviously she was very stressed over Henry’s illness, but I think the emotional tone of the letter is more typical of Margie than not. She writes this to her daughter, “Dearest Alta”:

Just a short note before I got to the hospital as I do every morning at 11 A.M. Henry is no better or worse but he cries so much it breaks my heart. He hardly knows anyone, it is so heartbreaking. He calls for his children, which is also heartbreaking too. I am so worn out and Erne is still here [Margie’s sister, Ernestine], but she is so childish and won’t go up and down stairs more than once a day, so I have to do all the running. It’s got to be automatic with me anymore.

In 1965, Erne was 74 years old, almost ten years older than Margie. Maybe rather than “childish,” Erne simply wasn’t able to do the stairs more than once a day. She was in Albuquerque helping Margie. It doesn’t seem that any of her other siblings were lining up to do the same.

1965 | 9 June. Died, Henry Eston Lovelace, in Albuquerque, Bernalillo, New Mexico. Henry was buried at Fort Logan Cemetery in Denver, Colorado. I don’t know why this cemetery was chosen, except that Margie’s daughter lived in Denver, this military cemetery was available, and Henry was eligible, because of his World War I service, to be buried at the military cemetery. Funeral and burial expenses would have been a consideration for Margie, since her funds at this point were minimal.

From an Albuquerque newspaper:

H. E. Lovelace Funeral Saturday

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Strong-Thorne chapel for Henry E. Lovelace, resident here three years, who died Wednesday at a local hospital after an illness. He was 64.

Mr. Lovelace, who lived at 1410 Central SE, was a member of the Presbyterian Church and a former resident of Kansas City.

He is survived by his widow: two daughters, Mrs. [Gladys] of Hobbs [New Mexico], and Mrs. [Alta] of Denver; his mother, Mrs. C.A. Lovelace, Tuscaloosa, Ala., and five grandchildren.

I guess the “five grandchildren” were Margie’s five grandchildren–Alta’s four and Gladys’s one. No mention of Henry’s children; no mention of Henry’s grandchildren. I’m frankly surprised that his mother is mentioned, since this funeral notice must have been written by Margie. I wonder if Margie notified Henry’s mother of his death? I hope so. I don’t remember anyone from our family going to Henry’s funeral in Albuquerque. Margie came to Denver shortly afterwards to see to Henry’s burial. The only people who attended his burial were my parents, me and my siblings, and Margie.


Henry E Lovelace, Fort Logan Cemetery, Denver, Colorado

Margaret Witzke Denton Lovelace died less than a year later, 9 March 1966. At her request, she was buried with Henry Lovelace.


O’Brien, Sharon. The Family Silver: A Memoir of Depression and Inheritance. U of Chicago P, Chicago, 2004.

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