Monday, November 18, 2013

Martha Bell

I always knew my Grandpa was born in Kentucky and his family came from there.  He moved with his parents to Giltner, Nebraska when he was about 16.  But I was very surprised when I found that his Grandmother, Martha Bell, had also moved to Nebraska and died in Giltner. She was buried in the Giltner Cemetery only 30 miles from where I live.  I don’t even think my Mom knew that, but she did know there was something about someone in the family not being married.  Martha had 3 children, but she was never married.  My Great Uncle Virgil Bell, her grandson, didn't know who the father was.  He said it was something they never talked about.  He thought Martha may have told her daughter Laura Alcorn.  If Laura never told her daughters, the secret has gone to the grave.  I’m not desperately seeking to find the answer. 

In Wayne County, Kentucky in 1870 Martha is 25, still living with her parents, most of her siblings and "Siserow" - or "Simon" as Ancestry has it - who because relationships aren't noted in the census looks to be another sibling, but is in fact Cicero, her son.  That's what I believe (I've ranted about this one before in my post ""Cicero's Census").  

In the 1880 census, I can only find Garner, Elizabeth and Emily in Wayne County.  John Silas had died, and Rutha, Martha and her 3 children should be there somewhere.  I've searched page by page, I've searched the Soundex for both Kentucky and Texas for the children and I cannot find them.  Texas because by 1900 Elisha Bell had moved to Smith County, but I haven't found him in 1880 either.  

In 1900 Rutha, Martha, and Laura are living together.  This is the year with the question of how many children were born and how many living.  There is no mention of children on Martha's line there.  Rutha answered that question as 2 children born and 2 living and Laura is listed as her Granddaughter.  Cicero had gotten married and moved to Smith County, Texas. 
After Rutha's death in 1907, Martha lived with Carson & Laura Alcorn and family.  They moved to Ionia, Kansas, by 1910.  In 1920 she is listed as Eveline, age 79, Carson Alcorn's mother-in-law again in Ionia.  By 1925, Carson moved his family, including Martha, to Giltner.  Carson & Laura Alcorn are on my MOST WANTED PHOTO list.

John William Bell was a mystery.  In 1920 he was also in Ionia, Kansas, then there was the mention of him in Martha's obit where he was in Huntington, West Virginia in 1928, but nothing more.  Uncle Virgil didn't know whatever had happened to him either.  On Rootsweb's Mailing List for the Bell surname, I posted a message in January, 1998 with all I knew about him.  In April, 1999, I got an email from Carla Smith who was the Great Granddaughter of John William Bell.  It was such a thrill to find a descendant of his!  Uncle Virgil was thrilled too.  Carla filled me in on John, who died in Jamestown, Kentucky in 1938, and I filled her in on Martha and her ancestors.  She sent me this copy of a photo of John, it's from a tin-type.  He reminds me a little of my Grandpa.  Carla & I kept in touch for a long time, but as it goes, I can't reach her anymore.  Emails bounce and snail mail gets returned. Carla I hope we reconnect someday!

My husband has family in Marion County, Kentucky and on a trip there in 1996, he and I took a day (not near enough time!) and drove down to Wayne County.  We spent some time in the Monticello Public Library and found a few records in books and on microfilm to copy.  There were cemetery listings and the librarian gave us a map to help look for them.  So we ventured around the county finding cemeteries, some of which were off the beaten path.  We stopped at one house to get a little more help finding one cemetery and got invited onto the porch for some iced tea (but we declined).  They gave us explicit directions that included “turn down there where the store used to be.”  They apparently didn't notice our Nebraska license plates.  Seriously, there was nothing but a cement slab that I assumed "used to be" the store.  Must have been, we found the cemetery.

All of these facts from census records are interesting, but I have nothing that tells me what Martha was like.  She went to school, and I think she could read and write, although that answer varies on census records and she just "made her mark" on the Deed.  What was her favorite recipe, her specialty dish, or did I get my lack of interest in cooking from her?  Did she ever see a movie?  I liked "Sunrise" from 1927, wouldn't it be something if she saw it when it came out?  (Note to self:  check local movie ads in old papers)  To my knowledge there are no family heirlooms that were handed down to anyone from Martha's old trunk in the attic.  Newspapers in Wayne County weren't printed much before 1904. Ionia, Kansas might be a place to look for some gossipy news.  Maybe she was active with a local social group there.  My Grandpa died when I was 8 so I only vaguely remember him, but I think he was a quiet person.  Maybe he was like his Grandmother.

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