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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Sever Severson’s craftsmanship

Severson CradleI like to think I’ve got pretty darned good internet search skills, but I have nothing on my wife. She’s got the magic touch. As evidence of that, I’d like to share with you a discovery that she made earlier tonight—a child’s cradle made by Sever Severson himself, perhaps for his own children or for a niece or a nephew.

Sever and his wife Martha had five children together—all girls. Their oldest daughter, Anne Mary, was born around 1856, Julia was born around 1858, Ellen Caroline (“Carrie”) was born in 1859, Selina was born in 1862, and their youngest, Cecila M (“Celia”) was born six weeks after her father died of dysentery in Atlanta, Georgia, while serving as a Union soldier in the Civil War. If the 1855 date for the cradle (written on the back of a photo of the cradle from 1920) is correct, then he almost certainly made this for his own children. If the 1846 date on the headboard is correct, perhaps he made this for the children of an older brother or sister, as it would date to 10 years before his first child was born.

My wife found this little gem on the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. The information displayed there was provided by the institution charged with preserving and caring for the cradle, the Mt. Horeb Area Historical Society.  Here are some extracts of what they have to say about the cradle:

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Draft transcription of Sever’s 1864 diary

Sever Severson kept a diary in 1864, writing in it every day from January 1 until September 26, four days before he succumbed to dysentery. He remarks almost daily on the weather and the productivity of his wagonmaking business, and also comments on his travels, local elections, visits to friends and family, his sales, his purchases, and the amount of cash he had on hand.

Sever’s spelling is variable and phonetic, as was common through the middle of the 19th century in the U.S. For instance, instead of “stayed”, he will sometimes write “Stad” while at other times writing “Stayd”, “Staed” or “sted”. Sever also only infrequently used punctuation, leading to confusion in a few cases. To help better understand his diary, I have provided edited versions of his entries.

Although Sever wrote his diary entries in English, his Norwegian education is evidenced in a couple of ways. He commonly slips into the Germanic convention of capitalizing nouns, common in Norwegian orthography until the 1907 reform of the language. He also occasionally slips into Norwegian; for example, on July 10 he writes “at Meeting in John Fjelds Kirke Church” (“kirke” is Norwegian for “church”). In other ways, however, he seems to be pushing himself to break with Norwegian; for example, rather than using the word “begin” (the cognate of the Norwegian “begynne”), he opts to use the word “commence.”

There are many entries along the lines of “L 1 day H 1 day A ½ day”. Sever employed several men to work for him in his shops and on other projects, and it appears these notations were his way of recording the time each man worked on that day for purposes of payroll.

What follows is a first draft of a full transcription. Please let me know of any mistakes you find, or if you can interpret words that I have not been able to understand. Red type face indicates words and names I have not yet been able to decipher. Green type face indicates transcribed words or names for which I do not have full confidence.

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Sever Severson’s 1864 diary, part 1

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As I mentioned in previous posts, my newly discovered cousin Anne dropped a bombshell on me about six weeks ago when she mentioned that Sever Severson kept a diary in 1864, the year he died while serving the Union Army in the Civil War. She had a faint photocopy of it that her mother had made, and she recalled that it had been passed down to another branch of the family. She tracked down these cousins and found they still had the diary. One of these cousins, Charlie, lives only two and a half hours away, and Nancy lives in Spain, but just so happened to be visiting over the last two weeks (the curious coincidences of this encounter could fill a post on their own).

A little over a week ago, I drove out to the Sierra foothills to meet Nancy and her father Charlie.  Nancy and her father are also descendants of Sever Severson, and they’re also passionate about family history. Nancy and Charlie are descended from Celia Severson, the sister of my great-great-grandmother, Carrie Severson (making Nancy and I third cousins, one removed, and Charlie and I second cousins, twice removed). After a talking for a while, Nancy took me upstairs to where their family history files are kept and showed me the diary.

It was smaller than I imagined (4.9 x 3.25 inches; slightly larger than an iPhone), and in much better shape than I expected it to be. Nancy and I both put on our cotton gloves to look through the diary, and I couldn’t help thinking that Sever would be happy to see the grandchildren of his grandchildren (or, in my case, the great-grandchild of his granddaughter) being brought together after all these generations by the diary he wrote 149 years ago.

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