Will the real Lewis Black please stand up?

Lewis Black? photo #3My adoptive great-great-grandfather Lewis Black took on the air of an almost mythical ancestor when I was young. No one I’ve ever known knew Lewis personally (he died in 1901), but everyone seemed to know things about him and have things inherited from him. There’s no question he was a real person—I’ve got loads of research to back that up—but I’ve started to wonder if everything I’ve seen and heard about the man can truly be traced back to just one man—Lewis Black.

I started to suspect this a couple of decades ago, when any question I had about the original owner of any of several heirlooms from our Kansas roots was met with the same answer: “I’m pretty sure that belonged to Lewis Black.” And then came the photos.  Continue reading

Luke McMurry and the University of Illinois

The Elephant, 1870Luke Robinson McMurry was a well-travelled and multifaceted person who had his fingers in a great many pies, as I continue to learn. I’ve noted elsewhere his childhood journey overland from Kentucky to Indiana, his migration to Illinois after marrying Elizabeth Miller, his appointment to the Executive Committee of the Agricultural Society of Effingham Countyhis wholesale millinery and straw goods business in Chicago, his founding of a narrow-gauge railroad in Effingham, Illinois, in 1867, his mysterious departure to Arkansas with his family, and his journey to the Washington territory with his sons several years after his wife died.

Thanks to an unexpected find—an entry for Luke in the University of Illinois’ 1916 publication, University of Illinois Directory: Listing the 35,000 Persons who have ever been Connected with the Urbana-Champaign Departments including Officers of Instruction and Administration and 1397 DeceasedI’ve recently learned of another enterprise he was involved in—the founding of the University of Illinois. In this volume, I found Luke’s name enumerated as a Trustee of the University of Illinois from 1867 to 1873:

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Ruth Black’s childhood home (part 1)

Charnton House, Columbia, TennesseeIn a recent post, I presented my recent discovery (thanks to cousin Sharon Black) that my adoptive great-great-grandmother Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black was a southern girl who fell in love with a wounded Yankee soldier (Lewis Black) and then ran away from her childhood plantation to elope with Lewis and start a new life in the north. Since writing that post, I’ve been wondering about the location of the plantation and the identity of the family that she left behind, never to be reunited with either.

While it may seem like an impossible task, there are enough clues to make the attempt to find her family and her plantation worthwhile.

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The unexpected life of Ruth Tucker Black

My adopted great-great-grandmother Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black lived most of her adult life in a humble sod house in Jewell county, Kansas. Like nearly all of the citizens of Jewell county at that time, she was not born there, but immigrated from elsewhere. I had thought that Ruth was born in Ohio, as that was what she (and later, her son Frank) reported on numerous federal and state censuses. Oddly, though, I was never able to find a record of Ruth before she was married. Thanks to my cousin Sharon Black, that’s no longer the case.

Earlier this week Sharon sent me a couple of stories that she found in the course of her research. One of these is an utterly charming recollection of a woman named Winnie Bonecutter Riemensnider, who took Ruth as her adopted grandmother. Winnie’s mother died when Winnie was only a year and a half old. Winnie (born Winifred Alice Bonecutter on January 8, 1896) was 54 years younger than Ruth, and when Ruth died on February 15, 1915, Winnie was only 19 years old. Clearly, however, the two had a close and abiding relationship.

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Who was Anora Lee Horan Prettyman?

In my previous post, I concluded that my 3rd-great-grandmother Anna/Annie Horan and Anora Lee Prettyman (the wife of my 3rd-great-uncle Francis M Prettyman) were the same person. In this post, I’d like to present what I know about who Anora Lee was and where she came from. I’ll focus here on her pre-marriage years, as I’ve already written a bit on what she did once she got married and had kids.

Anora (aka “Anna”, “Annie”, and “Anny”) Lee was born in Wayne Township, Randolph County, Indiana. Modern Wayne Township has a population of 4,611, and includes the western two-thirds of Union City, as well as the small towns of Harrisville and South Salem. Wayne township used to be the location of five towns: Bartonia, Harrisville, Randolph, Salem, and Union City. Randolph ceased being a town before 1850 according to the History of Randolph County, Indiana.

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Veterans Day

US_Flag_BacklitNinety-five years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed with Germany to cease fighting the Great War. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the day would be called Armistice Day, to honor those who fought in World War I. More than three decades later, after the “war to end war” gave way to World War II and to the Korean War, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day, and was intended as a day to honor all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

In today’s post I’d like to honor all of my family members who served in defense of our country.

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Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 3

P1000926In part one and part two of this post, I introduced and discussed a trio of oil paintings that I had last seen back in the 1990s. These paintings were reportedly done by my great-great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller McMurry, who died near Carlisle, Arkansas, on February 6, 1876, when she was only 47 years old. I was told by my first cousin twice removed, Art McMurry, the owner of the paintings at that time, that they were painted by Elizabeth while she and her husband were traveling west by wagon. If that were indeed the case, then these canvases would have been painted at some point between Elizabeth and Luke’s marriage in 1851 and Elizabeth’s death in 1876.

Last month I traveled to Olympia, Washington, to see my father and do some family history research. Thanks to the help of my cousin Crystal (Art’s great-granddaughter), a fellow family historian, I was able to locate and visit two of the three paintings. These two—the pastoral scene and the still life with flowers—were in the home of Crystal’s grandmother Carole (Art’s daughter). The last time I had viewed the paintings, the rain had prevented me from being able to take good photos of the paintings. For the five days I had been in Washington before meeting with Crystal and Carole, the weather had been mild and clear. On the day I was to meet Crystal and drive out to her grandmother’s house, the sky opened up and we had torrential rain as well as thunder and lightening; even the locals were surprised by the volume of the downpour.

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