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 fate of Ruth Black’s “soddy”

1905?Another of the finds that my cousin Sharon Black sent along to me earlier this week is a newspaper account of Ruth Black’s old sod house. I had heard tales of the old sod house from my grandparents, Vernon and Dorothy Black, and I have several artifacts from the sod house that they brought back with them from various trips to Kansas in the 1950s through 1970s.

It’s always been a hope of mine to one day see the old sod house, but as I don’t know of any living person who’s been inside the old sod house, or even knows where the sod house is, l figured that the old family house has long since returned to the earth. The following transcription of a 1932 newspaper article that Sharon sent to me appears to support this unfortunate conclusion.

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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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An old coffee grinder

Overview of box millIn the 1970’s, my parents were given a number of antiques from my paternal grandfather’s side of the family. These were said to be old objects from the sod house that my adoptive great-great-grandparents, Lewis J. Black (1839–1901) and his wife Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black (1841–1915), built in Jewell County, Kansas. My grandparents made a trip back to that area in the 1970s with their motorhome and came back with these and other items.

I’d like to take a closer look at these items to see what I can learn about their origins and history. The items include a coffee grinder (the subject of the current post), a chopping knife or ulu, a coin purse, a rocking chair, a kerosene lamp, and two pendulum clocks—a schoolhouse regulator style clock, and and a tabletop style clock. They’re all in rather poor condition and would have almost no value as antiques, but to me, they’re priceless.

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Civil War era photo album, part 2

In part 1 of this post, I introduced a Civil War photo album that had been owned and put together by Lewis and Ruth Black, sometime around the Civil War or just afterwards. The album has spaces for 24 photos, and 23 of these spaces are filled with cartes de visite photos.

In order to determine when, where, and why the album was put together, I carefully removed each of the contained photos and scanned each of them, both front and back sides, to look for clues. In this post, I’ll present the resulting scans and will try to determine who these people are, and when and where the photos were made. Continue reading

A Civil War photo album, part 1

A couple of years ago, along with a boxful of other family history items from the Black, Edel, and possibly Shearer/Scherer lines, my father passed on a 19th century photo album filled to capacity with what appear to be Civil-War-era photographs.

The album has spaces for 24 photos—cartes de visite, to be precise, or CdVs—and all but one of these spaces is filled with a CdV. Several of these CdVs are mass-produced images of Civil War military leaders, but the rest appear to be photos of family members and/or friends.

I’d like to show you the album and then try to determine who is pictured among its pages, when the album was created, and who might have owned and/or created the album. This post will serve as the record of my research efforts towards answering these questions. Continue reading

Ruth Black and her sod house

This will be another quick post, just to present another couple of gems I found in my family history archives.

Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black is my step great, great grandmother, the wife of Lewis J. Black, a civil war veteran. She and Lewis were born in Fairfield County, Ohio, and when he returned from the war, they settled there and had their first two children in Bremen, Ohio: Ida May (born November 22, 1865) and Perry Commodore Black (born August 4, 1867). In either late 1867 or early 1868, they started heading west.  On May 23, 1878, their son Frank Walter Black was born in Norwalk, Iowa. By June 1, 1880, they had taken a homestead in Jewell County, Kansas. It was on this homestead that they built their sod house. Continue reading

A Civil War letter to Ruth Tucker, part 1

Ruth Jane Tucker is my step great, great grandmother. She married Lewis J. Black, a civil war veteran, and they had four children, including Frank W. Black. Frank Black was the mature, abstinent, hardworking, soft-spoken blacksmith that my great grandmother Lena Edel married after Ray Shearer left her and her three young children to fend for themselves. While not my biological family, I consider Frank Black and his parents to be just as much as part of my family and heritage as if he were my biological great grandfather.

Five months before she married Lewis Black in February, 1864, Ruth Tucker got a letter from William A. Brown, a friend of hers who was serving in the Union army in the Civil War. This letter was clearly important to her, as she kept it all her life. On her death, it passed to her son Frank Black, and on his death it passed to his widow, Lena Edel. When Lena died in 1978, it passed to my grandfather Vernon Black. On his death, it passed to his widow, Dorothy Black, and on her death it passed to my father. As I’m the family historian, my father did me the favor of not making me wait until his death to take possession of this wonderful letter.

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