file: HP - 6
revision: May 12,2000
W E ' R E H I L L P E O P L E
THE WESTWARD MIGRATION
OF THE SILBAUGH FAMILY
May 25, 1993
To Colonial America
Between the Muskingum and the Hocking
On to the Bad-Ax
Life on the Kickapoo
Heading Out Once Again
Rediscovering Our Family
It was my second cousin, Violet (Silbaugh) Holman, who gave me the idea, and, as soon as we hung up, I began checking the phone book here in Cleveland, Ohio, for anyone named Silbaugh. She had just told me that while visiting in South Carolina, she had seen our Blihovde ancestral name in the phone book and called that number. To her surprise, the gentleman who answered was a grandson of Olaus, the brother of Great-Grandmother Emma. I discovered there were six Silbaughs in this city.
The first person I called was a Shawn Silbaugh, who, in answer to my questions, told me his family was from Confluence, Pennsylvania, that they were German, and that they originally came into the state from Maryland. That was enough for me to know that our ancestors are certainly the same, but it was his first comment that I found so interesting. "We're hill people," he told me. And I laughed as I informed him that, after two hundred years and three migrations west, our family branch still retains a special attachment to the hills.
It has occurred to me that there could be no more fitting epitaph to this family that I look back on with so much fondness. This narrative is a tale of our ancestors, who, along with our close friends, the Clarks, felt a recurring need to strike out in search of a better life. The events here recorded are undoubtedly similar to those of countless other families that also struggled against seemingly overwhelming obstacles.
All too often, however, family remembrances dim with time and are lost for future generations. Fortunately, a number of family members have shared their stories, letters, even poems--and without these contributions this effort would not be possible. It is, therefore, of great satisfaction to me that these tales can be passed on to all our children and grand- children, so that they may always know of those wonderful and very special "hill people" who went before.
A number of people have made great efforts to trace the various family lines of descent and have contributed much to our knowledge of the Silbaugh family. The original questions which I faced a few years ago when beginning this project, questions about Conrad and Mary’s early years, however, still remain. When did they come to America, how old were they, did they come with other families, where in Germany did they come from, and where did they first settle here in this country?
While I don’t have many more answers to these questions now than I did on the day I began, after numerous conversations and much study I feel I do have some ideas as to where some answers may be found. A book titled GERMAN GENEALOGY/A Guide to World wide Sources and Migration Patterns (Edwin R. Brandt, PH. D, Germanic Genealogy Society, St. Paul, MN, 1995) gives much insight into the background of those who settled in Bedford County, PA back in the mid-1700s.
Plat maps showing the names of fellow settlers, as well as articles on the early history of the area also give a good idea of the national origin of the original inhabitants. And finally, my recent trip into the area gave to me a feeling for the background of the people, certainly less than those who have lived there all their lives, but one, never-the-less, which gives a person the basis to think that certain ideas may be more plausable than others.
The book mentioned above contains much which appears relevant to Conrad and Mary (as well as the other settlers in the area) and should be quoted before getting on with our story. As time goes on, perhaps additional historical insights will bring us even closer to documenting their early years in America.
A large wave of German immigrants came in 1709-11 via England who were generally known as Palatines. While many of them came from the Palatinate, others came from elsewhere close to the Rhine River especially the Middle and Upper Rhine regions. A second colonial wave crested in the 1750s. It seems quite likely that our family arrived in one of these periods.
There were a number of reasons for this large emigration, religious freedom, freedom from compulsory military service, political freedom and others. Another motive, which may have special significance for our family, was the escape from economic hardship and the abundant free or cheap farmland here in America. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) followed by several further wars devastated Germany, causing serious economic hardships for the next 100 years.
In addition, German inheritance laws were of great importance in explaining emigration. Where one son inherited the entire farm, the others were effectively excluded from making a living off agriculture. Where the land was divided among all, the plots soon became too small for subsistence. In areas east of the Elbe River there was little opportunity for land ownership, because much of land was in the hands of a few owners of large estates, especially in Mecklenburg and Pomerania. It is interesting to note that this same problem continued to exist after their arrival in America and is, in fact, partially responsible for the westward migration of part of our Silbaugh family.
Those who came during this period settled mostly near what was then the frontier in New York, Maryland and Virginia (which included present WV), and especially in Pennsylvania, which had about half of the 225,000 Germans in America in 1776. A large percentage of these Pennsylvania Germans came from the southwestern parts of German-speaking Europe, particularly from the Palatinate, Wurttemberg, Baden, Alsace and Switzerland.
At the time of the American Revolution, Pennsylvania was called “the German state” since in 1776 there were 110,000 Germans in residence, compared to only 25,000 each in New York and Virginia, the next closest.
In the case of the settlements west of the Alleghenies, such as Turkeyfoot Township and Harnedsville, a significant percentage of Germans came from eastern Pennsylvania and other seaboard states, rather than directly from Europe. This would lead one to think that the documentation is correct which gives Maryland as Conrad’s former residence.
TO COLONIAL AMERICA
Unfortunately, we know so little about the earliest years of our family here in America. It is merely conjecture, therefore, when we open by saying that sometime during the first half of the 18th century a young German family is thought to have emigrated to the colony of Maryland and perhaps settled, however briefly, in Allegany County.
The family may have had at least three boys, and by about 1760 one of these sons, Conrad, wed a girl we know only as Mary. In 1763, this young couple had the first of four girls, Margaret, followed by Catherine, Mary and finally Elizabeth.
Methodist Church records reveal that Conrad and Mary decided on a move to southern Pennsylvania sometime between 1765 and 1770. They would have struck out north and west into the hills of Bedford (now Somerset) County. The trip probably lasted but a few days or weeks, but must have been difficult in this mountainous terrain, especially with all those small children.
They settled in their new home on Turkeyfoot Road in what was then Turkeyfoot Twp, a short distance southeast of Harnedsville. It was there that Conrad acquired a small, 100 acre farm (which he eventually expanded to 239 acres) near the farm of a William Tissue. Since there were numerous Germans who bought neighboring farms at that time, it is possible that they all came from the same area to the east, and perhaps even from the same part of Germany.
The large settlement of Germans wasn’t limited to the Harnedsville area, however. Conrad’s grandchildren and great grandchildren continued to find German spouses throughout that whole Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia region for years to come.
Though they appear to have arrived at approximately the same time, they did not settle in solid Catholic, Lutheran or Reformed communities, the three “official” faiths in Germany at the time. They seem to have had no single religious demonination, leading one to suspect that they came from neither a Catholic or Lutheran area as did many of the later German immigrants who settled in other parts of the country. (Methodism was yet to arrive on the shores of America, but when it did it found great acceptance among many German settlers, including our Silbaugh family.) The Thirty Years War ended with the Treaty of Westphalia, which included the most unusual religious requirement--that the inhabitants of a state where bound to the same religion as their ruler. This led to much turmoil as large numbers of people were required to change their denomination, not only once, but again if a new ruler happened to have a different faith. For us, however, this situation would appear to permit us to rule out certain areas when searching for Conrad and Mary’s origins.
The only documentation we have of Conrad’s birth place is a census report which states he was born in Prussia. A later census report stated that his son, Philip, was also born in Prussia. It is well known that these early census reports were often inaccurate and I suspect that both of those entries are in error. At that time there was no “Germany”, but a number of individual provinces. In the case of Philip, it could well be that the entry was simply under the wrong person--intended to be for his father. As for Conrad, I feel that someone perhaps didn’t know where his parents or grandparents were from, or a census taker just couldn’t remember what he had been told and knew only of a state called Prussia. If our family were from Prussia, they would be a very small minority since most of the other Germans in Pennsylvania at that time were from western Germany. In addition, the area would have been all Lutheran.
A son, William, was born in 1779, during the middle of the War for Independence. Eventually there were other youngsters as well. A daughter, Jane, is listed in Conrad’s will (though I suspect she really is his grand-daughter).
To digress for a few moments, the Tissues had come to this country and made their home in Frederick County, Maryland. While Conrad's new neighbor, William, was only nine years of age, his father, Sebastian, had entered him into a contract of indentured servitude to a Reverend Mr. Samuel Hunter. The terms of this arrangement are most interesting.
the said Boston Tyshew (Sebastian Tissue) hath hereby
put forth as Apprentice and Servant his Son William Tyshew
aged nine years and two months unto the said Mr. Samuel
Hunter ... for and during the Term of Eleven Years and Ten
Months In Consideration whereof the said Samuel Hunter doth
for himself ... Covenant promise and Agree to and with the
said Boston Tyshew in behalf of his Son the said William
Tyshew that he will allow and provide for him during the
said term of Eleven Years and Ten Months all necessary
cloaths meat drink washing and lodging also to learn him
to read write and cast up accounts according to the Custom
of the province, in these cases and a decent suit of apparell
at the expiration of the said term
It would seem that young William fared well during those long years of his youth, and upon completion of the contract, he too decided to move west to Bedford County, where he later became a wealthy and highly respected citizen. He originally purchased a small parcel of twelve acres on both sides of Turkeyfoot Road. Later acquisitions of land in Brothers Valley, eventually up to 600 acres, would indicate his financial success.
He married a young neighbor woman, Mary Hendrickson, and the couple soon had three children, John, James, and an infant daughter. A tragic event, however, took place with the murders of Mary and their daughter. The story has become legend, with differing versions of how the deed took place.
One scenario, as told by Tissue descendant Preston Hinebaugh, has it that the Revolutionary War interrupted their lives when William was offered a commission in the army. He hesitated to accept, on account of his obligation to his family, but eventually solved the dilemma by acquiring the services of a young German "redemptioner" in Baltimore. William agreed to pay his "passage due," in return for his services as a farm hand.
Assuming the family to be in good hands, William accepted the commission of captain in the 1st Battery of the Bedford County Militia. But tragedy soon struck. The farm hand had developed a strong attraction to Mary, and when she repelled his advances, he bludgeoned her to death and dismembered her body. After burying her remains under the house, he set it on fire. Unfortunately, the infant daughter lay forgotten in her crib, and also perished. Their two small boys were taken hostage and before their eventual release, he cut out both their tongues. Neither child was ever normal again after this psychological and physical horror.
A slightly different account states that one day, when Tissue was away from home, the man took advantage of his absence, shut Tissue's two little boys up in a stable, murdered their mother, and robbed the house of a watch and other valuables. Then piling flax on the body of the murdered woman, he set fire to it and fled. He was followed by armed men, overtaken and shot. The shot took effect in his foot, partially cutting off his toes. The murderer then set his uninjured foot upon the wounded toes and wrenched them off. He tried to escape, but-was captured and died in prison.
Yet another account which came from a neighboring farmer was that William was assisting in some work on the nearby "John Keim" farm in Elk Lick Twp. and decided to stay for the night. The distance was less than two miles. During the night he woke up and, noticing a great light in the direction of his house, he quickly headed for home. Upon arrival he found the house destroyed and wife and child dead. This account said nothing about the two boys, but we do know they never married.
At the conclusion of the war, William bought a grist mill at Tub Run. He was elected to the post of Justice of the Peace, a position which also empowered him to sit as a Judge of the Common Pleas and Orphans Court in Turkeyfoot.
He also remarried, his new wife being a local woman, Huldah Rush, whose family name was well-known in the commonwealth. "The Rushes of Pennsylvania" have been traced back to fifteenth century England. The first to come to this country was Huldah’s third great-grandfather, Captain John "Old Trooper" Rush, who had served in the English Civil War, and was said to be a favorite of Oliver Cromwell. Because of persecution for his Quaker beliefs, however, he decided on a major undertaking.
Like a second Noah, John and his wife, Susanna, sold their farm and all their belongings, gathered together their many grown children and grandchildren and in 1683 boarded the ship WELCOME for America. They settled northeast of Philadelphia in the Quaker community of Byberry, founded only two years earlier by William Penn as sanctuary for this persecuted religious minority. Byberry was to remain the family home for five generations.
Here we must digress even further, for it appears that Huldah's grandmother, Elizabeth Lewis Rush, was from the Lewis family of Virginia. During the Colonial period many of the English nobility left England and settled in Virginia in the aftermath of the English Civil War. As a result, the colony developed a class of gentry that was absent in the other colonies, though it must be pointed out that membership here in Virginia was usually gained through wealth and property instead of birth. This class consisted of wealthy plantation owners and businessmen who kept close social ties and often intermarried. They also controlled the various functions of colonial government.
Our Lewis ancestors were also related to the Warner and Reade families that included within their ranks a speaker of the House of Burgesses, members of the King's Council of the colony, and President George Washington. General Robert E. Lee and explorer Merriwether Lewis also had a relationship to these three families.
The Reades, however, had ancestors that far overshadowed these renowned leaders, for they were directly descended from the Plantagenet King of England, Edward III. Scores of other kings and counts from all of Europe are a part of this tree which goes back to Valentinian III of the Roman Empire.
Returning to the Rushes, it was during the Revolutionary War that Benjamin Rush, third cousin to Huldah's father, was appointed physician-general under George Washington. He later became one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, his signature just below that of John Hancock. Benjamin's son, Richard, served President James Monroe as acting secretary of state, where he helped to develop the Monroe Doctrine, and was later appointed the secretary of the treasury. Richard also was selected by John Quincy Adams to be his vice-presidential running mate in the presidential elections of 1828, though they were defeated by Andrew Jackson. The many accomplishments of these two Rush men can be found in any encyclopedia.
The large Rush family didn't remain in Philadelphia very long. Huldah's grandfather, William, the husband of Elizabeth Lewis, was born in Baltimore. New Jersey was the birth place of her father, also named William. Raised in New Jersey, he was a farmer like his father.
He married Elizabeth Ream and moved to Turkeyfoot Twp., part of a group of eighteen or twenty families of Baptists that left New Jersey in the spring of 1770 to settle in Bedford County near the present day Ursina. They headed south to Fort Cumberland and then west along what is now old U. S. Route 40 along southern Pennsylvania.
The book entitled BEDFORD AND SOMERSET COUNTIES compares them to another Biblical event in words that even resemble Old Testament prose:
"Resting here, like the Children of Israel coming out
of Egypt into the promised land, they went out to possess
it. Leaving their families here, these settlers went forth,
each selecting for himself a portion of the land whereon
to build a home for himself and his family. By a mutual
understanding among themselves, each one was to be
limited to such quantity of land as he would walk around
in a single day, at the same time marking its boundaries
by blazing the trees."
Most of these family members are buried in the Old Jersey churchyard near that community. The names Rush, Ream and Tissue may still be seen on a memorial plaque in Confluence that is dedicated to the early pioneers and Revolutionary War soldiers.
Turkeyfoot Township received its name from the Indians who scouted for George Washington on his mission in 1753 to build a fort at Pittsburgh. A portion of the map showing the country Washington traversed, shows the shape of a turkeyfoot formed by the confluence of three bodies of water; The Youghiogheny River, The Cassleman River and The Laurel Hill Creek. This is where the Borough of Confluence, Pennsylvania, in Lower Turkeyfoot Township, was built. It has been reported that William Tissue didn't like the name, however, and was instrumental in eventually getting it changed to Confluence, the present name.
The New Jersey Baptists settled north of the Laurel River on what was the Ream farm, forming the town of Ursina. Their church and cemetery are on top of a large hill just west of town. Jersey Church was the first Baptist church built west of the Allegheny Mountains--of the Regular Baptist denomination.
Those that came in from Maryland, including William Tissue and Conrad Sylbach, settled south of the Casselman River near the town of Harnedsville. Conrad's farm was mostly on the north side of Turkeyfoot Road, situated on a high saddle, flanked by even higher elevations on both sides. In addition to the farm, a school was eventually built for all the children. The buildings were originally right on Turkeyfoot Road, though none of the original structures remain.
The Silbaugh Methodist Church, which is thought to have been next to the school, is now high on the east hilltop alongside the Silbaugh cemetery. The church actually began as a Methodist class between 1825 and 1830. Conrad’s son, William, was one of the first trustees, though services were held in private homes until the frame meeting-house was erected in 1879 at a cost of about nine hundred dollars. The membership in 1884 was about twenty-four in the church and forty-five in the Sabbath school.
William Tissue and Hulda had a long and fruitful marriage. Jane, the sixth of their eight children, was born in 1787, one year before another son, Philip, arrived on the Conrad Sylbaugh farm. The two children must have known each other from earliest childhood and eventually married, whereupon they moved to neighboring Fayette County. This union also produced eight children.
After Mary's death, elder son William eventually purchased the farm, which he worked with two of his sons, William and Robert. It is thought that in his later years Conrad moved in next door with his "friend and son-in-law, George Wass."
At this point there is some confusion, for there is documentation that Conrad returned to Maryland where he lived out the last days, or years, of his life. One could assume that he was returning to live with a daughter who was able to take care of him in his old age. After viewing records, however, it s unlikely that any of his daughters had returned to Maryland.
Furthermore, a copy of a receipt shows that an Adam Sembower received from George Wass, Conrad's executor, "seven dollars for making a coffin for Conrad Silbaugh (decesc), also 75 cents for ‘praising’ his property”. The date is December 19, 1824, over a month earlier than our records show Conrad’s death. Now we must question both the place and date of death. We can assume that a seven dollar coffin was not made to be shipped over the mountains to Allegany Co, MD, after he was already dead—unless, of course, the coffin was made in advance.
Adam's official appraisal of Conrad's estate show that he had few material possessions. His belongings included such things as:
1 copy of almanac, 1 pair of shoes, 2 pillers, 1 quilt,
1 fether tick and fethers, 1 blanket, 1 sheet, 4 piller slips,
1 big coat, 1 chest, 1 pair of mittans, 1 razor and box,
3 books, 1 chamber pot, and 1 red fannel shirt.
The total value of all his belongings came to $71.15.
The significance of this document, is that it would appear unlikely that it would have been carried out in Addison Twp. if Conrad were living with a daughter in Maryland. Certainly he would have taken his personal belongings with him.
Another major puzzle is that Conrad's will, which lists his children, does not mention Philip. If, in fact, Philip is Conrad’s son, why would Conrad exclude him from his inheritance, however meager it may be? Three possible explanations come to mind.
It could be that Conrad considered Philip to be more financially secure than the others and in view of his rather small estate, simply decided that Philip had less need.
Another answer may lie in Philip's marriage to Jane Tissue. While Jane's father came from Maryland and settled first in Harnedsville, he apparently did not have a close relationship with that group of settlers. Neither was he a member of the Jersey Baptists--but his wife was. Huldah was a daughter of William Rush, considered by some to be a sort of renegade. We have never been able to determine Hulda's mother--who appears not to be her father’s wife, Elizabeth Ream. In fact, William and Elizabeth had a son the very year Huldah was born.
Though Philip and Jane didn't leave for Ohio until after Conrad's death, it is interesting to note that many members of the group who crossed the Ohio River together were from the Jersey Church. It is the Ursina names that still populate Perry County, Ohio, not the names from Harnedsville. It wouldn't be unusual for Philip and Jane's friends to be more from her people than from his.
In addition, after their marriage Philip and Jane didn't stay in the Harnedsville area, but moved west into Fayette County where they farmed until leaving for Ohio. One could imagine that one or more of these events made Conrad unhappy to the point of disowning his son.
A third, perhaps less likely, explanation might be that Conrad is not the biological father, or that Mary is not the mother. While it is something we don't much consider, studies have shown that historically someone other than the husband has fathered one in ten births. In working with the Jersey Church lists at this time, one discovers a real problem sorting out not only parentage, but the children as well. It is difficult today to imagine the hardships, isolation and lonliness that must have been present in the vast expanse of the hills of Bedford County in the 1700's, where needs were often not fulfilled within the bonds of matrimony.
During Conrad's lifetime we see a number of spellings of his name. It was common to Anglicize foreign names, and the German ...bach, meaning brook, usually became ...baugh. Early records show this transition from “Sylbach”, to “Sylbauch, and eventually “Sylbaugh”, which we find on the warrant map of his final land transaction in 1786. From the book on German emigration quoted in the preface we learn that during this period the letters “i” and “y” were interchangeable--Syl... and Sil... were considered the same. (We also find names beginning with Sel..., but the “e” was a substitue only for the two umlauts “a” and “o”, probably ruling out this spelling as a possibility.) It would appear that Sylbach is perhaps the orginal name.
By the time Conrad died, however, the records all spelled the name "Silbaugh.” Later descendants have used a number of variations, but the majority has retained that spelling to this day.
The tide of emigration westward started into the Northwest Territory with the settlement of Marietta, Ohio, in 1788. After the treaty of Greenville in 1795 had allayed all fears of Indian outbreaks, the stream of immigration into Ohio became steady and ever increasing. During the twenty year period from the turn of the century to 1820 the population of Ohio grew at a staggering pace, from only 45,365 to 581,295. It was during this same time that land was opening up for settlement in the hills of southern Ohio and many families from southern Pennsylvania decided it was time to move on.
While most of these early settlers did not bring affluence with them, they often brought “bold hearts and strong hands, which were infinitely better to reclaim a wilderness.” It is only the men and women resulute and energetic that can nerve themselves to the severing of local, social and family ties, which is the first requisite in a pioneer. The first newcomers were mostly hunters, trappers and explorers who came north from Kentucky. They were a small rough group of individuals who dressed--and perhaps lived--much like the Indians they strove to replace. Their lives were much different from the next generation of Ohio settlers who came with families and settled on land to farm and raise their families
Conrad's first son, William, and wife Nancy remained on the home farm. William and his siblings are the source of numerous descendants throughout that area of Pennsylvania,as well as the bordering counties in West Virginia and Maryland and into northeast Ohio, especially around Cleveland.
Early Ohioians were drawn from all parts of the older colonies. New Englanders settled at Marietta and upon lands of the Ohio Company; Virginians peopled the country between the Little Miami and the Scioto; New Jersey men made their home upon the Symmes tract, Connecticut and New York farmers flocked into the Western Reserve, while large numbers of Pennsylvanians poured over into the hills of the south-eastern portion of the state, known as the “seven ranges” and from there further into the center of the state.
Sometime around the year 1835, however, Philip and Jane felt they and their children should make the move, as did Aaron and Martha McDaniel and their daughter, Doranda, also from Somerset County. While the distance from Somerset County west to the state of Ohio was not very far, their destination of southern Ohio required a much longer and more arduous journey.
A common mode of transportation for many of the Pennsylvanians was a river raft sometimes called “broad horns” or just an “ark”, a large craft with a great steering oar at the rear, intended only for drifting downstream. The journey usually began at Pittsburg and when the journey had ended, the vessel was dismantled and the logs reused for other purposes. From there, the new arrivals scattered throughout nearby Perry, Athens, Morgan, Hocking and Washington counties, where they built their log cabins, began farming, and proceeded to raise their families. It has been stated by Josie Churchill that the Silbaugh family crossed the Ohio River by ferry at the city of Marietta, but I suspect that this was not a literal crossing but rather the place the ended their journey.
The 1850 census survey shows that Philip and Jane settled in Straightsville, Perry County, between the Muskingum and the Hocking Rivers, a rugged country of large hills, dense forests and vast deposits of coal. The town was laid out in 1835, the very year they arrived. Why they chose this town we’ll never know, but we do know that Straightsville was also settled by other of her Rush relatives from Somerset County. Most likely Jane was now still with cousins that she had known since childhood.
Today this area is within the Wayne National Forest, but from the earliest days this area was the center of the region's coal mining industry, becoming the birthplace of the United Mine workers of America. Straightsville's second claim to fame was it's moonshine, still celebrated by an annual Moonshine Festival. In fact, the “old house” that numerous Rush families called home for generations, was where moonshine was made during prohibition.
The original town is Straightsville. A larger, newer community just down the road is presently New Straightsville, but to the locals it's still just "Straightsville." The present access to old Straightsville is a small, narrow road resembling more someone's driveway than a highway between towns. It climbs until arriving at the crest of a large hill with a commanding view. Even at its largest, there was only a post office, a store or two, a tavern and a few homes with never more than a hundred inhabitants. Only a few old buildings and mobile homes reside on that hilltop today
A few years before Philip and Jane arrived in Straightsville, another young couple by the name of Chaney had moved to nearby New Lexington. Ezekial and his wife Sarah (Piper) were one of the earliest families to move from Pennsylvania to this community just a few miles north of Straightsville.
Unlike Philip Silbaugh and the Jersey people who entered the state at Marietta, he appears to have taken a more direct route, going straight across southern Pennsylvania and entering Ohio in Belmont County. He must have decided rather soon that his destination was to be New Lexington, for it was there that he had the great fortune of acquiring a good bit of property directly in the heart of what was to become the county seat of Perry County.
In 1817 their log house, located on the east corner of the main intersection directly opposite the county court house, was the third house built in the community. In that year he sold it to Jacob Barnd, who enlarged the structure which then became known as the "Temperance House," so named because Jacob opened a tavern, but refused to have a bar. In future years this block was called the Horahan block, though no one in town that I spoke to recognized the name.
The Chaneys appear to have had a son, also named Ezekial, who bought a small farm down in Coal Twp, a short distance south of Straightsville, down what is now County Route 18 on the border of Perry and Hocking Counties. He wasn't married at the time, and may have enticed a sister, Sarah, to come and keep house for him. The elder Chaney had died, and daughter Sarah was probably living with her widowed mother in New Lexington when the young fifteen or sixteen year old girl decided to help out her brother.
Within three years, in 1840, Philip and Jane's second son, Isaac, and the young Sarah Chaney were married. They eventually had eight children, the third being, Sebastian C., who was my great-grandfather. To this day, I am aware of no one knows what the C. is for, but it is real coincidence that, with a separation of four generations, both his gr.-gr.-grandfather, Sebastian Tissue, and Sebastian C. went by the name of "Boss".
The Clark family can also be traced from the East Coast. It would appear that wife Mollie was one of those hardy pioneer women who are the source of legend, leading a life that leaves us in awe at their strength and perseverance. Mollie and her husband, John, were from Culpepper County, Virginia, very near to Mt. Vernon, where it is said they became friends with the servants of that great plantation. John farmed and fished for a living, but died young of "bloody fluxe", leaving his wife to raise two young sons,Robert and Alfred.
Years later, Robert has related how, "as small boys, he and Al accompanied their father to Mt. Vernon when he delivered fresh oysters. They had to wait on the back steps while their father conducted his business in the kitchen. Usually a servant brought them cookies while they waited. Sometimes there would be a young negro child there too."
I don't think it is stretching the point too much to suggest that here at Mt. Vernon is where, for the first time, the Silbaugh and Clark paths may have touched, however slightly. Both George Washington and Philip Silbaugh (through his great-grandmother's family, the Lewises) are the descendants of Robert and Mildred Reade, who lived in the early seventeenth century. During the years that John and his sons were in the Mt. Vernon kitchen, some members of the Lewis family were living there with widow Martha Washington.
Mollie had relatives in the southern Ohio town of McConnellsville, Morgan County, on the banks of the Muskingum River, and in about 1836 she decided to take the boys, ages about 10 and 12, by train for a visit. The railroad most likely followed the Potomac Valley west, the same route the Conrad Sylbaughs followed some fifty years earlier. She never returned to Virginia.
It was during this time that canals were in their heyday, connecting the growing urban areas in northern Ohio to the Ohio River, thus permitting trade and commerce all the way south from Cleveland and Akron to New Orleans. Far to the west of McConnellsville, the main canal followed the Scioto River down through southern Ohio from south of Columbus, down to Portsmouth. A second branch of the canal followed the Muskingum to Marietta. It is our understanding that Mollie worked as a cook on the canal boats for about thirty years, most of the duration that the canal was in existence. We have no record of her life or death, other than that she married a George Pickering after the Civil War. Her sons were both married there in southern Ohio.
After their move from Pennsylvania, Aaron and Martha McDaniel had settled in nearby Athens County, perhaps moving later to McConnellsville, since Robert Clark married their daughter, Doranda, in 1849. The McDaniels were Catholic, but Robert first saw Doranda in the river where she was being baptized by the Dunkards, or Dunkers. This name was given to a sect that originated in Germany and came to America in 1719, spreading quickly throughout rural Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the Shenandoah Valley. The group practiced baptism by trine, or triple forward immersion and taught pietism and a simplicity of life.
Alfred was also married in 1849 to a girl who was born in Virginia like himself, Mary Jane Priest. Eventually both families made their home in Athens County. The descendants of the two brothers and the Silbaughs continue to intertwine to the present time.
One can assume that the years in southern Ohio were not especially happy years, for there is no reason to believe the move from Pennsylvania bettered their life in any way. An early history book published in 1912, describes a pamphlet of the day in which “a stout, ruddy, well-dress man, on a sleek, fat horse, with a label, ‘I am going to Ohio,’ meets a pale, and ghastly skeleton of a man, scarcely half-cressed, on the wreck of what was once a horse, already bespoken by the more politic crows, with a label, ‘I have been to Ohio.”
Our family remained in the state for a period of less than thirty years. While that may certainly seem a long time, especially in that wild frontier, there appears to be a certain temporary quality to their stay in Perry County. Marriages were performed, and children were born, but it is interesting to note that we are unaware of even one death in that large extended family. There is no Silbaugh Cemetery in Ohio, nor is there any family farm to see or even family members to visit.
There was great poverty throughout the entire state, which at that time was wholly rural. When word spread of new land that was opening for settlement in west-central Wisconsin, many families again looked forward to a better life further west. Once again a difficult decision had to be made. It is interesting to note that the family names in southern Ohio during the mid 1800's remind one of a Vernon County, Wisconsin phone book over a century later.
All of the Silbaugh families, some with members who had moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio as small children, eventually decided to push on. Philip and Jane, who by now were getting up in years, probably considered long and hard before deciding to follow their offspring on yet another major move west. Jane's death, in fact, did come rather soon after she reached Wisconsin.
Others, who decided to move a few years later, found their plans
interrupted by the Civil War during the first half of the 1860's. Once the war had ended, however, the migration
continued, and now Robert and Doranda Clark, with all their children decided it
was time for them to leave. Alfred died in Athens County in 1879, but soon
after his death his wife, Mary Jane, and all their children except two married
daughters, Caroline and Mary, decided to stay in Ohio with their new families.
ON TO THE BAD-AX
The hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, southeastern Ohio and west central Wisconsin were all spared the ravages of the most recent Ice Age. While the glacier stopped short of the first two, however, an event of Old Testament epic proportions occurred in Wisconsin. As the glacier pushed south through the state it suddenly stopped, the ice flow parted and continued on, sparing an area about 75 miles in diameter. Almost as if God had looked down and seen the beauty that he had created, He then decided that these hills and valleys should be saved.
One can drive just a few miles south out of Sparta on Highway 27, park in the rest area at the crest of the first hill, and view a most unusual geographical feature. That hill was deposited by the glacier as it stopped. Looking north, a person sees flat land, sandy soil, jack-pine, scrub oak, and sparse ground cover, the result of that early devastation. Turning south, however, reveals the sight of hills and valleys with deep, rich, black soil that supports forests of hardwoods and lush, green vegetation. Geographers call this the Driftless Area, but locally it is known as the Coulee Region. And through this area flows “the Kickapoo”.
The river derived it's name from the local Indian tribe. Unlike the Black Hawks, the Kickapoos were friendly to the new settlers. It was to the tributaries of this river that the immigrants came, and the small towns of Bloomingdale, Avalanche and Dell (originally Prestonville) sprung to life. From the bustling little logging town of La Farge on the east, to the ridge between Westby and Viroqua on the west, once again land had to be cleared and log cabins built. These new families began to be affectionately known as Kickapoogians, as they are to this day.
The various Silbaugh families, children of Philip and Jane, moved in different years. Edward and wife Catherine left in 1853. The obituary of their daughter, Mary Ann, quotes her as saying the trip was made by covered wagon. In the 1884 Vernon County History Book, Edward informs us that they settled first in Franklin Twp. for a year, then moved to Viroqua Twp. and farmed until he purchased a 160 acre farm in the same township. It ends with a biographical note, "Mr. Silbaugh had but little of this world's goods, but now has a comfortable home and well-improved
Sebastian and Nancy left a year later under most trying circumstances as a baby daughter was born enroute, in Wood County, Ohio, just south of Toledo. Fortunately, both mother and baby, Huldah, survived the ordeal. Their fourth child, Abner, eventually became the first sheriff of Vernon County, WI.
William and wife Nancy apparently brought their family of nine boys along much later. The 1860 census showed them still in Straitsville, but by 1864 two of their sons met death while in the Civil War. Their eldest son, James, enlisted in the military and was killed in Fayetteville, North Carolina, leaving behind a wife and baby daughter, Nancy. After his death the grandparents petitioned for legal guardianship. The fourth son, Philip, was drafted into the Wisconsin 6th Division and died of illness at the age of 21. He is buried in the Cyprus Hill Cemetery, New Bern, North Carolina.
Isaac and Sarah made the move in 1854. Presumably, they struck out from Ohio, heading west until reaching the Tri-city area near Moline on the Mississippi River. By choosing that course they stayed on the rolling prairie of Illinois rather than struggling to traverse more than a hundred miles of rugged Wisconsin bluff country, and at the same time avoiding the necessity of crossing the broad Wisconsin River.
After reaching the Mississippi they boarded a flatboat and headed upriver to La Crosse. This era was the "Golden Age" of river steamboats that carried people and cargo on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. While these craft often had luxurious quarters for the wealthy, the conditions for deck passengers were usually bad, with not even a place to sleep except what space could be found in the cargo holds. Many passengers helped load cargo or fuel to help pay for passage. It would appear, however, that even these bad accommodations were too extravagant for the young Silbaugh couple.
Upon arrival in La Crosse, they purchased a team of oxen and a wagon and completed the final, and perhaps the most difficult, leg of the journey. From La Crosse they struck out east up the broad and beautiful Mormon Coulee. After ten miles, however, they had to ascend a high ridge and then face a treacherous descent into Coon Valley down the Ramsrud Hill. Over five hundred feet from ridge to valley floor, this hill was so steep that neither horses nor oxen could pull a loaded wagon to the top. From Coon Valley they could go up either the Spring Coulee or the Timber Coulee roads into Westby.
Isaac and Sarah homesteaded a 160-acre farm east of Westby on Salem Ridge, Webster Township, overlooking the tiny hamlet of Avalanche. It was here that both my grandmother and father were born, and three generations of Isaac's off- spring were buried in the quiet, hilltop cemetery.
Asbury Ridge, a few miles to the south, was chosen by his parents, Philip and Jane, for the site for their new home. It was on this ridge that the other Silbaugh children and grandchildren grew to adulthood. So many descendants are buried in the Asbury Ridge Cemetery that it has been labeled the Silbaugh home cemetery.
(The original church is long gone, and nobody has been buried there for decades. The township still keeps the cemetery in excellent condition. Many of the stones have been vandalized, but the township has reset them all in concrete. Philip and Jane’s stone appears to be among the oldest. The quality of stone is poor and the inscription is badly eroded, but their names can still be seen. The cemetery is on North Asbury Road, east of State Rt. 14 and south of the Seas Branch (Avalanche) Road, between Westby and Viroqua.)
The original name of the county was Bad Ax, later Bad Axe, after the river of the same name that flows west and empties into the Mississippi River south of Genoa. The name was eventually changed to the present Vernon County.
Family after family arrived from Ohio and settled in the close, hilly confines so similar to their old home. Buckeye Ridge still reminds us of their state of origin. At the same time, however, another migration was occurring as numerous families came in by prairie schooner from the area around the Tippecanoe battlegrounds of central Indiana and settled in the Kickapoo area of Vernon County and Richland County further south. Hoosier Hollow is a legacy of these folk frequently intermarried with our Ohio folk.
It is perhaps not coincidental that the Kickapoo Indian tribe also resided near that Indiana battleground. (But no longer. For, sad to say, by the end of the century all the Kickapoos were forced from the Great Lakes region and scattered throughout the Southwest--Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and even Mexico. To this day, however, they retain their Kickapoo names as well as well as their language.)
One of those pioneers who settled along Hoosier Creek was James Wilson, who operated a tannery. The tanner was undoubtedly an important person, as good leather was always an important necessity on the farm. A wonderful little poem gives insight into the lives of these Indiana settlers as seen through the eyes of a young, impressionable lad.
A PAIR OF SHOES
The hill was steep and rocky,
And faced the northern sky;
The sides were covered thick with trees,
With all their limbs awry.
Jim's house was near the summit,
Above, below it, hill:
But there it stood, within the woods,
Up from the tan-bark mill.
One side the house stood in the dirt,
The other stood on pillars;
But still it stood, as best it could.
House of the tan-bark millers.
Far down below, with even flow,
And motion slow and still,
Ran Hoosier Creek, without a leak,
Down past the tan-bark mill.
James Wilson was the tanner's name
He tried to make good leather;
Rose with the lark and pounded bark
In every kind of weather.
From Breakfast down, at dinner up,
He climbed that rocky hill;
And did his best, and took his rest;
"Jim", of the tan-bark mill.
When father dressed the spotted calf,
As was his manner, he
Took tail and hide, and fast did ride
To Wilson's tannery.
The bargain made, awhile he stayed,
And chatted, as men will,
About the weather, crops and trade;
'Round went the tan-bark mill.
The hide was tanned "on shares" by Jim;
Then half of it was his.
My father got the rest of him;
"Enough," said he, "of this.
For it is long, and thick and wide;
Good leather, as you will."
And father took it home with pride,
Back from the tan-bark mill.
Then took it down to Peter Bobb,
Shoemaker of the town,
And said, "Now Peter, make a job
Of shoes to fit all 'round."
The war broke out, my father went,
A brave young volunteer;
Far south was sent, on battle bent,
To save his country dear.
For eighteen months he wore those shoes,
And marched o'er swamp and hill;
And never fled, nor turned from lead,
Back t'ward the tan-bark mill.
And when at last the war was o'er
And peace had come to stay,
To quick drum beat, my father's feet
Came marching home one day.
The soldier's shoes were full of holes,
But yet he wore them still,
He carried them, they carried him,
Back to the tan-bark mill.
John Henry Fazel, Wichita, Kansas
(Thanks to Marilyn Silbaugh, Onalaska, WI)
(On my Grandfather Olson's side of the family, Gr.-Gr.-Grandfather
Halvor Johnson was the first shoemaker in Avalanche. He used to walk
almost forty miles to La Crosse, taking a number of days, in order to
carry home good leather. But that's another story, one well-told by Gr.-Gr.-
Aunt Nettie Johnson, called REMEMBRANCES OF MY FATHER.)
It was Great-Grandpa Sebastian's younger brother, Frank, who wrote a most wonderful description of the conditions his parents faced after they arrived from Ohio.
"It was all woods at first. The first thing they done was
to cut logs and built a loghouse with a fireplace. They then
started to clear up the land. They raised some corn and some
wheat. He cut the wheat with a sickle and bound it by hand.
There coffee was wheat coffee. There meet at first was mostly
wild meet, such as deer, bar, and squarels. They finally got
some cows. They would churn butter in an old fashioned churn.
Big at bottom and little at the top and the dasher inside would
go flipit flop.
The light they had at night they would take a pan and put
some greece in it and put a rag in the greece. That was there
light. The beds they had at first they take a 2 inch orger, bore
holes in the wall, put long sticks in, put boards on them and put
straw in a tick, that was there bed but they diden't do that for
long till they made a bed and used ropes instead of springs.
People in the early days went through many a dark hour to get
through this world."
(Thanks to Vanita Reinbold)
Young Frank also informs us that they "fried their meet in coon greece,"
Isaac died on the 18th of December, 1865, when their youngest child was only two years of age, and Sarah was left to raise Sebastian, Frank, and the other seven children. One source of income was her digging of "seng" roots on the steep hillsides during the summer months. The roots were chopped out of the ground with a sharp mattock, dried, taken to town, and eventually shipped to China, where they were considered to promote health and potency. Ginseng was often the most important cash crop for these early settlers, who carried on the tradition from generation to generation in Appalachia and then into the Midwest.
Though she was a small woman, it was said that she ruled her brood with an iron hand. She also smoked a corncob pipe. A log cabin was the only home she knew until the last two years of her life, when she went to live with her youngest son, Frank, in the first house ever built on Salem Ridge. A photo shows her standing in front of the partially completed structure with Frank and his wife, Effie, and all the grandchildren scattered around. Her young grandson, Beuford, was perched high on the scaffolding.
Though strong and hardy, Sarah must also have been tender, caring, poetic and certainly religious. The death notice in the local newspaper of her husband, Isaac, includes a poem ascribed to her.
He is gone and will no more return
He is gone and left us here to mourn
He is gone, he is gone to join the host--
I trust he’s gone to eternal rest.
Drest for the grave he smiling lies;
How can I stop my streaming eyes?
Death has not vanished all his charms,--
Composed he lies in Jesus’ arms.
(Thanks to Nancy Albrechtsen)
I do believe that if I had the option to meet only one of my ancestors, that person would most likely be Sarah. Whether hiking through the woods, doing the normal household chores, or just sitting and smoking our pipes, I feel she would have been a most fascinating person.
As always, life was difficult and these families worked hard. They raised their children, who in turn often found their spouses in the families next door, just as their forbears had done in Pennsylvania and then again in Ohio. The 1915 plat map of Webster Twp. shows that two of my great-grandmothers, Mary (Olson) Melvin and Emma Silbaugh, owned farms almost within sight of each other on Salem Ridge, just east of Avalanche.
Fortunately, the chronicles of these "hill people" have been beautifully told by Josie Clark Churchill, grand-daughter of Robert and Doranda Clark. Doranda, herself, was a great story-teller, and because of her interest Josie heard them over and over again. Other family members dismissed most of the tales as "witch stories," the result of superstition and little education, but Doranda always insisted on their truthfulness, saying they had been passed on to her by her mother and grandmother.
Josie wrote a series of articles for the LA CROSSE TRIBUNE that describes the lives of her friends and relatives in such poignant detail that one can almost smell the fire in the old wood stove and hear the slight twang of their mountain dialect. These articles were then published in two books, DIRT ROADS and AMONG THE HILLS, by the same Wisconsin newspaper. The Clarks built farm after farm in the valley between Bloomingdale and Dell, while the Silbaughs preferred the ridge tops of Asbury and Salem Ridge.
(Actually, these preferences weren't something new to the families in Wisconsin. Deciding whether to live on the ridge or in the valley was never an issue. Since colonial times, one family always chose the ridge while the other always could be found in the valley. Conrad's farm in Pennsylvania, Philip's town of Straightsville, Ohio, and now the ridges in Vernon Co, were always the highest places around. I am eager to find the location of their home in Allegany County, Maryland. On the other hand, from the banks of the Potomac in Virginia and the Muskingum in Ohio, to the tributaries of the Kickapoo in Wisconsin, the Clarks always chose the valley.)
Climbing those hills in search of ginseng with her father or her Grandma Widner was one of Josie's favorite childhood activities. In her first story, however, she tells of a sad childhood trip across the Kickapoo River to Grandma Widner's house. It was Christmas time, and Josie was to spend the day with her cousin, Ida. Ida was the grandchild of Sebastian and his first wife, Mary, and was now living with Grandma Widner because of the death of her mother, Jane. Jane had married Perry Widner, and before her early death, the couple had the one daughter. It was hoped that spending a day together, playing with their new dolls, might bring some consolation to the poor child.
Jane was one of the six children of Sebastian and Mary Bowman, who also had grown up on Salem Ridge. Unfortunately, a short time after the birth of their last child, Mary also died at the young age of 33. Two years later, Sebastian married Emma Blihovde, a widow who lived close by.
As a youngster, Emma had come from Norway with her parents, a younger brother, Olaus (mentioned in the introduction of this narrative), and two small sisters. The Blihovdes first settled in Iowa, but soon decided that Wisconsin should be their home. They made the move in a covered wagon pulled by a yoke of oxen. Her first marriage was to Peter Frydenberg, a union which produced three children. Peter was killed when he was stepped on by his horse while out clearing land.
One can imagine life on the new farm, where Sebastian and Emma now raised his children (by Mary), her children (by Peter), and seven youngsters of their own. Their third child, Alice, was my grandmother.
Though Emma was a small, rather frail woman, her grandson Orval has told a story which shows that, when the safety of her family was at stake, she had a lot of fight. In those days, a trip to town usually required an overnight stay, so with Sebastian gone for the night she was left at home with the small children. Bears, wolves and cougars still roamed the forests of central Wisconsin, and when an animal began "a chawin' and a chawin'" at the front door she took down the big, old, muzzle-loading shotgun, cocked the hammers, raised the gun, and sent a blast right through the front door. The "chawin'" stopped, and when Sebastian returned the next day he found the dead "critter" on the front porch.
Tragically, Emma was dealt another severe blow when Sebastian also suffered a fatal accident. He was over at the Williams farm, helping to move a house, when the rollers slipped and he was crushed. He lived for three weeks before dying of complications as pneumonia set in. I suspect that it was her strong, devout faith that helped see her through these adversities. I knew her well, since in her later years she lived with my Great-Aunt Eunice and Uncle Carl just a few houses from us in Westby. She was one of the sweetest, gentlest persons I have ever known.
During this time her back was badly hunched and one hip protruded, making her appearance even smaller than usual. "Probably from carrying around all those kids on her hip while she worked," my mother often remarked. She did, however, have some help in bringing up her large family. The eldest son, Elmer, helped bury his father on Christmas Day, 1902, and then took upon himself the responsibility of helping his mother raise and support his younger siblings.
HEADING OUT ONCE AGAIN
The Kickapoo area is not very large, nor were the farms. Since most families had many children, it wasn't long before the young people were forced to look elsewhere for their livelihood. Many of the young men went to Minneapolis to find work during the winter months. At the onset of spring, they would return and help out on the farm all summer, often sleeping in the haymow. This movement became so common that it began to be called the "Minneapolis Express."
Watching their children leave for the city was no doubt an unhappy experience for these poor, rural folk who had never known city life. A song of the time is probably an accurate indication of their feelings of worry.
Come boys, I have something to tell you,
Come near, I would whisper it low,
You are thinking of leaving the homestead,
Don’t be in a hurry to go;
The city has many attractions,
But think of the vices and sins,
When once in the vortex of fashion,
How soon the course downward begins.
You talk of the mines of Australia,
They’re wealthy in gold without doubt,
But there surely is gold on the farm, boys,
If only you’ll shovel it out.
The mercantile trade is a hazard,
The goods are first high and then low,
‘Tis better to risk farming longer,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.
The great busy West has inducements,
And so has the busiest mart,
But large wealth is not made in a day, boys,
Don’t be in a hurry to start.
The bankers and brokers are wealthy,
They take in their thousands or so,
Ah! Think of the frauds and deceptions,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.
The farm is the safest and surest,
The orchards are loaded today,
You’re as free as the air in the mountains,
And monarch of all you survey;
Then stay on the farm a while longer
Tho’ profits come in rather slow,
Remember, you’ve nothing to risk, boys,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.
(from a songbook published in 1882)
Sebastian's younger brother, Granville, was a carpenter who built many homes in both Vernon and Monroe Counties, but eventually decided his family must make the move to Minneapolis. Another of Josie's stories tells of her mother having to leave the family over Christmas to be with her sister, Belle (Widner) and Granville, since Belle was expecting their fifth child and needed someone to be with her. Belle was the grand daughter of James Wilson (of the tan-bark mill). Both of Belle's parents were from Indiana families.
On December 25, 1909, she gave birth to a girl, Gladys. All appeared to go well and Josie's mother returned soon after the birth. Sad to say, the little girl died while still a small child.
Death was a common and often unexpected occurrence to these pioneers, whether it be from illness or accident. One afternoon Granville took his children, Cleitus and Maude, out to the pasture to find their milking cow so it could be sprayed for flies. It was such a hot day he decided to stop for a cold drink, so he sent the children home and went over to the neighborhood saloon. While he was inside, there was an acetylene gas explosion when someone lit a match, causing the entire building to blow up. Belle identified her husbands' remains by a sock she had just mended. Cleitus last saw his father sitting on the saloon porch, drinking a beer and slicing a cucumber that had been purchased from a Sheeney (peddler). It was his favorite treat.
Belle was carrying their seventh child, Helen Gay, at the time of his death. For a period of time she ran a grocery store in her living room, but eventually took Helen, Cleitus and Jack to the Sullivan Ranch in Onida, SD, to work as a cook. After a few years she returned to Minneapolis where she married her childhood sweetheart, Charlie Appleman, who had recently lost his wife.
Charlie and Belle farmed his father's homeplace, the one with the round barn on Sugar Grove Ridge. Cleitus continued the Silbaugh-Clark relationship by marrying Alice Clark. It was on their farm near Salem Ridge that my father came close to adding another tragic event to the family history. While making a delivery on a winter day, he fell off the top of his ice-coated oil truck and sustained a severe injury.
(There are two other Silbaugh-Clark marriages in which grandchildren of Isaac and Sarah found mates with the grandchildren of Alfred and Jane Clark. Stacy Sano Silbaugh, son of William and Mary, married Lylas Clark, daughter of Alfred Jr. and Sarah, and Ella Silbaugh, daughter of Sebastian and first wife, Mary, wed Zern Clark, son of James and Annie Belle Clark. All four were born in Wisconsin.)
The continuous migration west wasn't, however, always for economic reasons. In spite of the beauty of the land in Vernon County, the choice of that locale was definitely not because of climate. The area is often excessively hot in summer, very cold in winter, and humid most of the year. It was common for the people living in those cold, damp cabins to develop severe respiratory problems, and anyone who was unfortunate enough to succumb was advised to move to a drier climate.
Young Frank Silbaugh, who wrote about eating bars and squarels and the churn that went flipit flop, married Effie Recob, Belle's aunt and the sister of Josie Churchill's Grandma Widner. Effie was still a young woman, however, when she came down with the dreaded TB. She went west in hopes of a cure, and became a patient in a Denver sanitarium. Apparently she began to recover, and the couple decided that Frank should bring their children west. They found a temporary home in remote Sully County, South Dakota, just east of the Missouri River.
In 1905, Effie wrote a long letter from Denver, instructing Frank about the things she needed and what to do with items that had to be left behind. Some of the things she requested were the quilting frames that she had stored up overhead in the granary, her kraut cutter, churn and six gallon jar, some small butter jars so she could strain milk in them, since they wouldn't be as heavy to handle as milk crocks, and finally,
"Bring the milk cupboard for I will have to have it. I wont
have no cellor or ice but you bring a lot of your gunny sacks.
Bertha says in Washington they wet them and wrap them around
the water jugs for the men in the field and they keep the water
cool. I am going to try wetting to nicest ones and tack them
on the outside of my milk cupboard doors to keep the milk cool
so bring them you have."
(Thanks to Vanita Reinbold)
Frank and Effie lived in South Dakota only a couple of years, during which time Beuford married a girl from back home in Wisconsin, a girl who was friends with his two sisters, Belva and May (who remained in Wisconsin and married local boys). It would also seem that the clear western air didn't provide a complete cure for Effie. Frank had purchased an entire section of land (640 acres) and built a house, though she and their son, Beuford, slept outdoors in a tent the entire time they were there. They moved back to their home on Salem Ridge, where she died in 1909, just four years after writing the letter from Denver. I wonder if she ever did use those quilt frames and the kraut cutter again. The families of Beuford and Belva continued farming in Sully County and became permanent residents.
After Effie's death, Frank rented out the Salem Ridge farm and went back to South Dakota where he helped Beuford on the farm. After a few years, however, he returned to Wisconsin to live the remainder of his life.
My parents, Carmen and Harriet (Hagen) Olson, also moved west for health reasons. Returning to Westby after two years in the South Pacific during the Second World War, Dad developed severe sinus problems. At that time there were no cures such as we have today, and the ultimate medical advice was to "Either leave now with your health, or leave later without it," so we left Westby and moved to Powell, Wyoming, just forty years ago. From there, my younger brother, Monte, headed further west to the state of Washington, where he has been a school teacher for some thirty years. But he wasn't the first Silbaugh descendant to reach the West Coast.
Willard Silbaugh and his wife, Alvina, were probably among the earliest of our family to make that final move. He was born on Salem Ridge in 1880, the first son of Sebastian and his first wife, Mary. We could probably consider Willard to be one of the "Minneapolis Express" (actually St. Paul), for it was there that he met his German-born bride and they raised their five children. The family later moved to Santee, San Diego County, California, where he lived until his death in 1944.
Another who made that early move to California was Elmer, eldest son of Sebastian and Emma, and his first son, Paul. Elmer was their only offspring not to remain in the Kickapoo area his entire lifetime. While hardly out of his teens, he left Salem Ridge for Miles City, Montana, to work on a ranch. During the winter months he continued his ranch employment as a bounty hunter, helping the ranchers rid the area of wolves and mountain lions that preyed on their livestock. It was common, during this period, for young men to move west, in search of employment on the railroads or other ventures which were mushrooming in the early years of this century. Other men on both sides of my family did the same.
Elmer had been in Miles City no more than a couple of years when, at age 23, he married Emma Burrell. Emma had gone to a normal school and then headed west to teach in Miles City. They soon married and eventually decided to move to St. Paul, where they raised their two sons, Paul and Orval.
Orval is a wonderful story teller with a great sense of humor. Some of his tales are contained in this account. His parents were Elmer and Emma, his wife was Ruth Evangeline, and their five children were named Elmer Edward, Evangeline Emma, Earl Everett, Elbert Eric and Elaine Elizabeth. After the birth of their children, Orval and Evangeline moved the family west to Montana, where he still resides today.
In addition to telling about Great-Grandma Emma shooting through the front door, and reminiscing about digging and eating wild ginger root at Battle Creek, near his boyhood home in St. Paul, he also recalls this delightful little event of his childhood.
"I was 2-3 years old, my cusin about 13-14, when a lot
of us would play - hide & seek. She would have me hide with
her as I was to small to know how to hide. When we were hid
good she would stoop over & have me feel her brest & say isn't
that nice but dont tell anyone. Well I didnt tell, I forgot
for 68 years, till now."
(One evening I was able to locate Orval on the telephone and we had a long chat. I asked him about many things, but sadly, he had once again forgotten playing hide & seek. I know I shouldn't even wonder who that "cusin" might be.)
It was his older brother, Paul, however, that moved to California back in the late thirty's, where he met Elynore Williams, a girl from Berkeley. After being married in Reno, Nevada, they settled in Berkeley, and it was in that city, in the year 1945, that twins Suzanne and Nancy were among the earliest Silbaugh children to be born on the West Coast, two centuries after Conrad landed on the opposite shore.
Elmer had planned to retire from his job with the railroad and move to northern Wisconsin, but perhaps it was the sight of those twin girls that caused the new grandparents to change their minds. They may have decided that living near their grandchildren in California was preferable to spending cold winters in northern Wisconsin, and they moved west. Elmer died in Oakland, California, in 1951. His remains, however, were returned to his old home, and he was buried in the town of Hannibal, Chippawa County, Wisconsin.
REDISCOVERING OUR FAMILY
While I have had the pleasure of writing this narrative, the credit for much of the information goes to other Silbaugh descendants, and most certainly Josie Churchill, who have spent years to uncover documents which relate to our family. I have not only benefited from the information they have provided, but have also come to learn of some wonderful family members.
After a childhood of close contact with so many of my Silbaugh relations, it was a surprise to realize that few remained in the Coulee Region, and to discover that, outside of my immediate family, I knew of only two other descendants, Violet Holman, now living in Atlanta, Georgia, and Great-aunt Eunice Villand in Viroqua, recently deceased. To suddenly find myself the recipient of all this family material has been quite overwhelming.
After learning that Josie Churchill's daughter, Janet, was back in a new home on the family land near Dell, I called her one evening to ask for ideas. (I was later reminded by a school classmate that Janet was our fourth grade teacher in the Westby Elementary School back in 1943, exactly fifty years ago. The Silbaugh and Clark paths cross again, but with different family names.) She was helpful in answering my questions, and suggested that I contact Lyall and Marilyn Silbaugh in Onalaska, Wisconsin.
Little did I realize just how much they knew and how much they would help me in our search. Lyall is the gr.-gr.-grandson of James Wilson, the tan-bark miller. Granville (the Minneapolis explosion) and Belle (Widner) are his grandparents, and his parents are Cleitus and Alice Clark. Between the Silbaugh, Widner, Clark and Wilson families, Lyall is not only related to a good number of the residents of the Kickapoo, he is related to many of them two or three different ways. Marilyn has been very interested in the family information, and between the two of them, I doubt that there is anyone who knows more about our family in Wisconsin. Her contributions to this endeavor have been, and continue to be, extensive.
Another call I made was to Violet in Atlanta, asking if she had anything to share. What soon arrived by mail was beyond what I could have hoped for. After the death of her mother, Helen, back in 1981, Violet received some unopened mail which had been sent to her mother in Viroqua, and was then forwarded on to her. One of these envelopes contained Silbaugh family information that had been sent by a Vanita Reinbold in Kalamazoo, Michigan. What luck! In all likelihood, if Vanita's letter had arrived in Viroqua much earlier, or a little later, Violet might never have received this information.
Do you remember young Frank, who wrote about the hardships of his parents in their new home in Wisconsin; the same Frank who moved to South Dakota because his wife, Effie, was ill; and then their son, Beuford, who married and remained in Sully County to raise his family? Frank and Effie were Vanita's grandparents, and Beuford was her father. Vanita grew up in South Dakota. She had begun collecting information on the family, including those priceless letters, many years earlier, and graciously sent all this material on to me. Vanita informed me, however, that there was another who had done a great deal of work and had a lot of material, a Suzanne Mitton, who lived in Wasilla, Alaska, but they had been out of touch for years, and she knew neither Suzanne's address nor phone number.
From Alaska Information, I received the phone number for the single Mitton residence in Wasilla, and when a woman answered, I immediately knew from her voice that she was a Silbaugh. Suzanne informed me that she and her twin sister, Nancy Albrechtsen, are the granddaughters of Elmer, my Grandma Alice's oldest brother. It was Elmer who helped Great-Grandma Emma raise her family after Sebastian's death. Suzanne and Nancy have worked for more than twenty-five years to gain information on the family and they have an incredible amount of material.
Once again, it seemed as if fate had dictated my call, for Suzanne informed me that in two weeks they were leaving Alaska, in which case I might never have known who she was or where she lived. Both sisters now reside in Utah. They have been most kind and generous, having sent to me much information, including two audio tapes from Nancy that were made by their Uncle Orval, the story-teller.
I have come to realize that I have developed an almost personal kinship with all these ancestors. I think of them often and call them by their first names, and what interesting names they were: Delphine, Garnet, Maybelle, Maude, Jenus, Pansy, Letitia, Creda, Ashum, Almyen, Isreal, Abner, Leonidus and Lycurgus. It becomes easy to share their joys and their sorrows, and to agonize with them on the decisions they had to make in their westward trek.
While it is their tragedies that are usually documented, these wonderful people demonstrated a boundless energy and enthusiasm that enabled them to always push ahead. At times, there must have been a tremendous air of excitement created by the frequent building and moving. But, after two generations each in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin, the quest is now over and we are dispersed.
How could one help but feel a certain nostalgia? Only our memories remain. There was the baseball game and ice cream social on a warm Sunday afternoon at the Sugar Grove church out past Bloomingdale, in which my home run was the result of a lost ball in the weed patch behind third base. There was the obligatory stop at the small, one-room cheese factory in Dell, when as a child I rode along with my father as he made his daily rounds in his big, red, oil truck. The proprietor would pull out his knife and slice off a delicious piece from a large brick, which we would eat as he and Dad exchanged pleasantries--and the air was always pungent with the odor of ammonia.
But perhaps best of all was to sit motionless beside a small trout stream with my Grandpa Clarence and Uncle Rob when dusk gradually turned to darkness. As our sense of sight diminished, the evening sounds of the valley and hillsides took over, first the chorus of frogs and cicadas, later the occasional splash of an unseen trout taking something off the surface, and finally the incessant calls of the whippoorwills that floated through the darkness from one hillside to another. Are they still there, singing to other fishermen?
"There's scarcely a trace left now of those passageways
carved out by those iron-hard people who lived before me.
I'd like to follow those trails again through that virgin timber,
where undergrowth was shaded out, and to stop for a drink
of cold water at one of those gushing springs that traveled
on to join the rivers.
But the paths of our lives never turn back..."
Josie Churchill, DIRT ROADS, p. 55
While this effort has now come to a close, it is not the end of the story. Undoubtedly, there are others who could add new anecdotes, or expand on the stories and events contained herein. In that sense, I consider this a story without end, and I look forward to hearing from some future reader.
It is my intent to continue the story of our family by tracing the maternal ancestors of Isaac Silbaugh from the English Civil War to the American Revolutionary War and will include such things as the Virginia Colony House of Burgesses, the Bacon Rebellion, and Lewis and Clark, as well possible links to Presidents Zachary Taylor and James Madison and to Robert E. Lee.
This endeavor is going to require much historical research, however, and therefore must wait until the effort has been completed and the facts verified.
During a wonderful visit with Vanita Reinbold in August, 1993, she showed me what is perhaps the only photo of Great-Grandma Sarah in existence. It was taken during the construction of Frank's new house. Frank, Effie and Sarah stood below, while the kids were climbing all over the scaffolding. It was Vanita told me that this was the first house to be built on Salem Ridge.
While Josie Churchill's books were published by the La Crosse TRIBUNE, Marilyn Silbaugh informed me that the first edition of DIRT ROADS was published with the TRIBUNE by the students at Western Wisconsin Technical College, followed by Crescent Printing of Onalaska. AMONG THE HILLS was; published by Hynek Printing of Richland Center.
It is my understanding that at the present time, March, '95, Marilyn is working on a third collection of Josie's stories. In September, 1996, Marilyn inform me that Janet has turned over to her all of Josie’s materials.
A most interesting conversation with a Somerset Co. resident gives added insight into the lives of our Pennsylvania ancestors. I was told that the residents of Confluence and surrounding area are a close-knit group whose area has a well-defined border, and that to this day they still refer to themselves as "mountain people".
When choosing the title for this narrative, I had no idea of the significance of the words, other than in a broad, descriptive way. I am quite sure that Shawn used the words "hill people" in our first conversation.
As to the cause for this closeness, I can only surmise, that living two centuries in a rather secluded area, with relatively little influence from urban centers is one factor. Quite likely, the fact that the original settlers were close-knit religious groups of Baptists, Quakers and Church of the Brethren (Dunkers) may also have an influence to this day.
I write this having just completed a week in southern Ohio and Pennsylvania with the Silbaugh twins from Utah, Nancy Albrechtsen and Suzanne Mitton. During the first week in June, 1996, we visited numerous court houses, historical societies and individuals in search of information on the Silbaugh family and their ancestors.
I believe they had a trip like this in mind for a long time, so when we first became acquainted about four years ago and I suggested they come here and we go together, they were eager. We found a great amount of information, visited the Old Jersey Church, found Conrad's farm and even the Silbaugh Church and cemetery. We also ate dinner in the restaurant in Confluence that was owned by Ray Silbaugh. After a lengthy conversation with him we spent a wonderful evening with his uncle, Paul Silbaugh. We learned a lot from Paul, who gave us copies of some maps showing the Silbaugh District of Lower Turkeyfoot Twp, and Conrad's farm. I don't know how we could have done more or found any greater than we did in the time we were there.
As important as all the documentation is to us, however, the trip gave to us something I feel to be just as important. To actually see their towns and farms, walk the same roads they walked and visit the churches and cemeteries where they worshipped and now rest, adds a certain perspective to all this genealogy business, and makes the feeling of family all that much stronger.
I can't emphasize enough how much Nancy and Suzanne have contributed to the knowledge of our family. Much of this narrative is directly the result of their earlier efforts. Watching and participating with them during these day was an educational experience for me, and I must say that it is really nice to learn from the pros. The five days went quickly, and I could easily have gone on a few more. There is still much more to find--perhaps another time.
Portions of a letter from a Clark descendant.
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 97 00:54:32 UT
From: "Jeri Newman" <Glimfirstname.lastname@example.org>
I was born in Viroqua, Wis in 1943 to Kenneth Newman and Marian Klein, both from LaFarge, Wis. I spent a lot of time on the Kickapoo river with my grandfather when I was a child. Reading your stories on your sons web page brought back a lot of memories--even brought tears--so thank you.
I am a direct descendant of Aaron McDanial and Martha Crawford thru Robert and Doranda Clark. My Grandfather was one of their twin boys, Miles Detro Clark. My father’s mother, Agnes May Clark, was one of his daughters. On my mothers side, her brother Francis married Nellie Widner from LaFarge. My mother’s sister, Fern Klein, married a Leonard McDanial, who was also a descendant of Robert and Doranda.
I just recently found out about the Rush side of my family I had no idea about Benjamin Rush until Michele Hayes answered my E-mail. When I was about 15 years old my Grandfather Klein, mother’s father, was trying to talk family history to me and told me that I should be very proud of my ancestry because our family had come to America shortly after the Mayflower with the Pilgrims. I recently found the Rush name belonged to his mother and am so sad that I did not take the time to listen more carefully to his stories
Sincerely, Jeri Newman
1287 Irene Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124