A Sense of Place: Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Part 4

Read Part 3 here. Some things I mention below refer to that post.

I’ve been back from my trip from Iowa for a few weeks now. I have a lot to record, but life got in the way, and this is the first time I have some time to write down what I’ve discovered. And there were some HUGE finds, but all in good time.

I heard back from the State of Iowa about John Kelley’s death record: They couldn’t find it. They sent back an official piece of paper saying they looked for him in the entire year of 1895 and came up with nothing. The thing is I have his obituary and death notice from the local paper and photos of his grave stone. I know he died in 1895, well after the recording of deaths began in that state. I feel like I just gambled away $33. *Shrug*

As for my trip, my first afternoon in Mount Pleasant was spent in the library. I started by looking through microfiche of the Mt Pleasant Journal. I didn’t come up with anything that hinted to John Kelley and Mary Stewart’s relationship. That particular newspaper was not reliable for printing death, birth, and marriage announcements regularly, and it did not seem to have a Local News feature where they reported on people who visited from out of town or who attended church socials like other newspapers did. Oh well.

I did find this plat map, though:

1859 Henry County Plat Map, Jackson Township

My pen is pointing to the lot John Kelley owned. It must have been pretty prime land wedged there between the Skunk River and the Keokuk Railroad line! I know this is my 2nd great-grandfather because the 1860 census lists him, Eliza, and their children living among all of the neighbors found on this map.

So I discovered exactly where my family lived in Henry County on my first day of researching! I went out to visit the farm the next day. The road it’s on (River Road) is dirt and winds up and down hills as it follows the river. It’s fairly remote, even now, though it’s only about 15 minutes from Mt Pleasant. It reminded me a lot of the land the Kelleys left in Ohio. There was even a little cemetery on top of a hill like Mt Tabor outside Urbana.

I didn’t see a soul—no cars, no cows, not even a crow—on my visit to the Kelley land. Just me and a lot of curious bugs.

Something I’ve learned in these past two genealogy trips is I really enjoy visiting where my ancestors lived. Even all these years later it gives me a sense of what their lives were like, and humanizes the names I see on papers.

Read part 5. Sources for this entry can be found here.

Something About Mary: Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Part 2

I suspect a woman named Mary Stewart is my 3rd great-grandmother. Read Part 1 to find out why. This post is all about me speculating if it could be true. Fun!

Mary Stewart, was born in Windham, Connecticut, on February 9, 1799 to Ozias Hibbard or Hebard and Polly Flower. According to her father’s census records, her family moved to Union County, Ohio, by 1830. Union County borders Champaign and Logan Counties on its west. In other words, the Hibbards lived very close to the Kelleys and Hurds in west-central Ohio.

She married John Stewart in Logan County, Ohio, in 1833. She was 34 years old; he was 55. They had five children: Thomas, Ann, James, Barbara, and Lorenzo. John Stewart passed away in 1855, which probably was the reason the rest of the Stewart family moved to Iowa with the Kelleys and Hurds a year later.

By 1870, the widow Stewart and her family lived in York County, Nebraska. York County had recently been the frontier. The village they lived near was called Stewartville because Mary’s son James was a semi-famous frontiersman who had founded the town. He knew and rode with such historic figures as Kit Carson and Jim Beckwourth. Probably due to James’s wandering nature, the Stewarts didn’t stay long. Mary was buried in Montesano, Washington, on February 12, 1883.

How does her story fit into my 2nd great-grandfather, John Kelley’s?

John was born in 1825, so eight years before Mary married John Stewart. She would have been 26 at his birth, which is plenty of time to have been married to another person and have a family. Mary’s son that I mentioned in Part 1 was 3 years older than my John Kelley. He must have been a step-son from John Stewart’s first marriage.

We’ve established that John Kelley and Mary Stewart were living near Urbana, Ohio, in 1850. They were neighbors in Henry County, Iowa, from 1856 to before 1870. It seems the Kelleys stayed in Henry County longer than the Stewarts. But in 1880, the Kelleys had moved west to Council Bluffs, Iowa, three counties away from the Stewarts in York County, Nebraska. The best part about that census, though, is the fact that John’s mother’s place of birth is recorded for the first time on any document (check the far right column):

So exciting, right? I’ve never been so happy to see the abbreviation Conn for Connecticut! The same state Mary Stewart was born in. But how else can I prove my theory that Mary Hibbard is John’s mother? Who is John’s father? Did John have brothers and sisters?

It wouldn’t be fair to not mention my cousin and friend Cathy and our new friend Kate, a genealogist friend of a Kelley relative. We arrived at different parts of this theory and synthesized the information together. I’m just the one recording it. Thanks, Cathy and Kate!

Read Part 3. Also, sources are on my Sources page.

A Lead!: Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Part 1

Last October, I visited Urbana, Ohio, to look into my 2nd great-grandparents, John Kelley and Eliza Hurd Kelley. More specifically, I went to figure out who John’s parents were because I was pretty sure they weren’t the couple most Ancestry researchers said they were. You can read about my trip and my ultimate conclusions starting with this post.

I’m getting ready for another research trip to the town John Kelley and his family settled in when they left the Urbana area in 1856 or so. I’m heading to Mount Pleasant, Iowa, which is in the southeastern corner of the state.

I’ve already figured out the people I need to research while I’m there. In addition to the Kelley family, Eliza Hurd Kelley’s father William and his family followed them there by 1859. But the biggest reason I’m going there is to try to find out more about this person:

What does a woman named Mary Stewart have to do with the Kelley and Hurd families?

Oooo. This is the fun puzzle-y part!

Mary Stewart and her husband James were living in the Urbana, Ohio, area in 1850 in the same township where I believe John was living. And she appears in Jackson Township, Henry County, Iowa, in the 1856 Iowa census, five households away from John Kelley. So they probably moved together.

You can’t see it in the picture above, but Mary here is part of a pattern in the census pages. Four households ahead of her is my 35-year-old great-grandfather John Kelley. Two households ahead is William Hurd, John’s father-in-law. And two households after Mary is William Hurd’s oldest son. The every-other house pattern seems to indicate that the census taker was crossing the street zigzag-style as he worked, instead of recording one side and then the other, which means John, William, Mary, and John Hurd were next-door neighbors.

Don’t you think there’s something about Mary living BETWEEN the two Hurd households that hints at a closer relationship than just neighbors?

You probably see where I’m heading here, but just because Mary moved from Ohio with my family doesn’t mean she’s also family. Right? Just looking at this census page, how could a widowed woman with the last name Stewart and a son three years OLDER than my John Kelley be his mother?

Read Part 2. Sources are on my Sources page.

Going There: The Two John Kelleys, Part 14

I’ve been quiet on this research lately because I’ve been preparing to go to the county in which my 3x great-grandparents John Kelley and Eliza Hurd were married.

This is my first time traveling to a location to conduct research, and it’s a lot of work. So many questions have come up. How will I know I will find something new when I get there? What will I need to bring with me? Where are the best places to do my research there? How much time will I need to accomplish my goals?

The answers are all “I don’t know. We’ll play it by ear.”

I’ve found some advice on other researchers’ blogs. Most of them say to make a research plan before you go so you stay on task. That makes sense; it’s easy to get distracted by all of the shiny resources at a new library.

I’ve decided my main question to answer will be “Who are John Kelley’s parents?”

Before I made that my goal, I had planned to visit 6 libraries in 4 counties. I wanted to chase all of the leads. But a second piece of advice—Review the information you have—made me realize that I don’t know much about these two ancestors. Here’s what I know for sure:

• John Kelley and Eliza Hurd were married in Champaign County, Ohio, in 1854 by a justice of the peace.

• Eliza Hurd definitely lived in that county in 1850. She was a local.

Not much to go on. I feel like it’s a pretty safe assumption that John was local, too. It’s at least more likely.

So I pared back the number of libraries and genealogy centers I was going to visit and focused on Champaign County. Because of that, I cancelled my reservation at a nice lake house in Logan County, one county north, and instead booked a very nice apartment in downtown Urbana. Those other locations are still researching possibilities, but I’m going to let what I find in Champaign County tell me where to go.

Another bit of advice was to take stock of the missing research in your records and try to fill in the gaps before you conduct research on site. Like, if you’re missing a census or marriage record, it’s a better use of time to find them online beforehand.

As a result of this advice, I’ve been reading up on Champaign County history. On the Library of Congress web site, I found this landowners map from 1858, four years after my great-grandparents moved to Iowa.

You’re looking at Salem (yellow), Concord (pink), and Harrison (blue) townships in Champaign County. I’ve boxed and circled a few things on the map since the type is so tiny.

The red box toward the top of the map is John Enoch’s sizable farm. Remember that in the 1850 census a John Kelley is listed as a farm hand on the Enoch farm. John Enoch married a woman named Elizabeth Kelley. I suspect this John Kelley is my ancestor because he’s the right age, and I have DNA matches to the Enochs, though I don’t know how John Kelley and Elizabeth Kelley Enoch are related.

The blue box underneath is a farm owned by Colonel David Kelly. I should say that there was no difference between Kelly and Kelley back then. This is all taking place before the spellings of names were standardized. After combing through the map, David is the only Kelly listed as a landowner in this county. I have DNA matches to two of David Kelly’s sons. These Kellys have Osborn relatives, and there are several women named Arietta among David’s nieces and granddaughters. Osborn and Arietta are names John and Eliza gave to two of their children.

The green circle is where I believe Eliza Hurd lived, based on her father’s listed neighbors in the 1850 census. So Eliza and this John lived pretty close together, right? They easily could have met in town or at church.

I don’t know if the John Kelley on the Enoch farm is my dude. I don’t know how the Enochs and David Kelly are related to me; I just know that it can’t be a coincidence that I have genetic ties to both of these families. So, this is my researching starting point:

• Try to find a John Kelley, born in 1826, in bibles, wills, and tax records of the county.

• Visit the cemetery where the Kellys and the Enochs were buried. Most of them were buried at Mt Tabor church on the property just north of David Kelly’s farm on the map. It’s a Methodist church, the denomination I know John and Eliza were involved with in Iowa when they were older. Seeing where Kellys and Enochs were buried and who they were buried near might give me some more clues.

• Dig into the David Kelley family tree. There were so many John Kelleys in that family. Hopefully, it won’t be hard to find my guy.

David Kelly and John Enoch were both considered early pioneers of the county, so I’m hoping there’s a lot of documentation on their lives at the library. Eliza’s uncle, John Hurd, is listed as a prominent member of the community in that same county history book. I also learned that the Hurds were pioneers of Clark County, Ohio, the county to the south of Champaign. Hopefully there’s a lot of records on them as well.

And that’s my plan. I hope to also visit the Ohio Caverns near the old Kelly farm and the Piatt castles while I’m there. And I’m going during my favorite time of year, so I hope to visit an orchard and score some cider house donuts!

The Crime of Writing Tall Tales, My Notes on Bayliss Park

I wanted to jot down some of my research for my story Bayliss Park before I forget what’s true and what’s not. The genealogist in me feels guilty posting something without proper documentation. I’m already wanted by the Genealogy Police for crimes involving my flagrant use of embellishment while inventing my ancestors’ lives.

It started with this funeral notice I found on Ancestry.com for my 2nd great-grandfather:

The funeral of Josiah James will take place this afternoon at 2 o’clock from his late residence near Wickham’s Brickyard in the northwestern part of the city. Friends invited to attend. Mr. James has been here only about three weeks, and he was stout and hearty until Thursday last when he took sick. He came from Harrison County, MO. He leaves a wife, and ten children.

(source: Daily Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Sunday, 02 April 1882, Page 5, Column 1)

Iowa as a state didn’t have a law for keeping death records until 1880, and the law wasn’t enforced consistently until 1924. So I don’t hold out any hope of seeing Josiah’s death certificate and determining what he passed of. Instead, I began looking into what could have brought down a “stout and hearty” man so quickly. He was obviously feeling strong enough to move his wife and six youngest children 150 miles from Missouri to Iowa just a month or so prior.

I found the article below in my process of scanning the newspapers of towns from the time in which my relatives lived there. It’s a great way to gauge a community’s world view and it’s cool for me to think that my forefathers probably read and reacted to the very same pages. Chronicling America, the Library of Congress’s free online collection of historic newspapers, is usually my first stop.

typhoid case
(source: The Weekly Graphic, Kirksville, Missouri, 4 Nov 1881)

“Let others come forward in the same manner at once.” Love it. It’s this kind of demand that makes me nostalgic for a time I never lived in. Can you imagine just leaving money at the WalMart and trusting that it would be applied to the sick man’s cause? Parts of me want to write the story of Arment and Mrs. Rudolph, even though they aren’t family. A clear example of how researching genealogy can inspire fiction.

So, Arment’s story is what sparked the idea that Josiah passed of typhoid fever. The article verifies that the disease was in the area at the time. I learned that it was common for people to contract it while traveling. If it was typhus that killed him, perhaps Josiah’s health was already compromised by the stress of starting new at the age of 54. I’ll never know; so I wrote the story to fill in some gaps. Add to my family’s lore. Genealogy Police be damned.

Olivia JamesIt occurred to me that his wife Olivia was a newly single mother in 1882, after just arriving in a new city. Thankfully, all 4 of their older children were living in Council Bluffs and could support her. Josiah and Olivia moved, it seems, to be closer to them. Still, she must have been a strong woman; it’s this fact that made me characterize her as I did. And that picture of her. I love it, but it initiates so many questions: Why is she sitting in a fancy chair outside? Who took the picture? Why does it look so staged? The interview format was a way for me to explain these questions. For more on Olivia, read my post Delano, Herbert Walker, and Hussein; or The Stories Middle Names Tell.

Samuel Hurd was the son of a Council Bluffs family. He would have been just 16 when the James brothers probably came down to Harrison County, Missouri, to help their parents move. Later, Sam would marry Lena James (the pictures are really them), as his cousin Martha would marry Lena’s older brother, Noah, my direct descendents. That family tie makes me think the Hurds and the Jameses knew each other well. So it’s not impossible that 16-year-old Samuel helped them move. What is impossible is that Lena and Sam would be courting soon after Josiah passed. Lena was only 9 at the time of the move. I aged them up for the sake of the story.

Bayliss Park


The following transcript details three interviews conducted between May 16th and 18th, 1909, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Only excerpts pertinent to my father, SAMUEL HURD’s melancholic state are enclosed.

Wallace Hurd


(Interview: LENA HURD, alone, in her parlor on Eighth Street.)

Q6: When did you first regard a change in your husband’s disposition?

Lena Hurd:
Leona JamesThat evening in Bayliss Park. We were walking hand-in-hand by the fountain. Spare me that look, son, long ago your parents were young and carefree. We came across your grandmother sitting alone on a bench knitting. I remember being touched by the sight of her there, so calm just days after Father’s [pause] ceremony. I looked behind me when I felt my hand pull back and found your father rigid, gaping, as if turned to stone by Medusa, yet still clutching my hand. I thought it a jest at first. I waited for him to say something amusing. It wasn’t until I stepped toward him that I noticed a tear falling from his jaw. Mother looked up then, saw our queer tableau. She thrust her knitting needles into a skein of yarn and plodded off—I presume back to the house. I coaxed Sam to a bench to get his bearings, then we walked home, and have never talked of it since.


Samuel Hurd(Interview: SAMUEL HURD, same day, also quite alone. I began by reading his wife’s response to the question above.)

Q1: Do you remember the encounter of which your wife speaks?

Samuel Hurd:
Clear as day.

Q2: Do you remember what upset you so?

SH: The sweater your grandmother was knitting that night reminded me. [He stares at his splayed left hand.]

Interviewer: I don’t understand.

SH: It was the same color red and the same knit as the blanket I wrapped him in. After. The coward that I am chose to stay with the body instead of facing your mother, your grandmother. Not when I knew I was responsible for his death. Just weeks after moving his family hundreds of miles. And your grandmother having all those young mouths to feed.

Interviewer: Respectfully, sir, the typhus took him. He drank bad water is all. Some tainted creek along the way, I expect.

SH: No one else fell, boy! Only men in our caravan. And it was my hand that done it. I’m sure of it. I was the cook. I’d just recovered from the fever myself. Didn’t think twice about making supper until after we’d arrived. A father and son fell soon after, the McDevitts, then your uncle Noah and your grandfather. We were lucky to only lose the one.

Interviewer: If what you say is true, Father, no one blames you for it.

SH: Your grandmother does. Starting that very night on the park bench. The poor woman was mourning her husband’s death in solitude and we come in prancing about like songbirds. Oh, the way she looked at me. As if I were Death himself coming to collect her.


Don't be fooled by her humble expression. This woman is a troublemaker.

(Interview: OLIVIA JAMES, in her side yard on Avenue D. She shucked corn throughout the interview.)

Q3: Do you remember an evening when Father and Mother happened upon you in Bayliss Park?

Olivia James:
I always set [sic.] in the park after dinner, Acey. All of Council Bluffs has occasioned upon me there at one time or ‘nother.

Q4: This was just after Grandfather’s wake. You were knitting a sweater? Mother said it was the day she realized Father’s black mood.

OJ: Now, I do remember one time lookin’ up to see your father eyein’ me right good. He was wantin’ some time with your mother. I had jus’ set [sic.] down and had to get right back up so’s they could court without this old hen clucking about them.

Q5: Father said you gave him a queer look?

OJ: Oh, Acey, I’m sure as shellfish I did. Back then, I could only get away from that house once in a blue moon. It was prob’ly the first time I’d been by myself in weeks.

Q6: Did you notice any changes in Father’s mood after that night, Meemaw?

OJ: They were both so forlorn after Josiah passed. I was glad to see them at ease after an ungodly week of undertakers, corsets, and house guests. Your mother eventually stopped treatin’ me as if I were a crystal decanter, but Sam was never the same again.


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