I've been neglecting my own stash of vintage photos and dusty documents lately while preoccupied with the much larger Lucas County Historical Society collection, beginning work this week with hundreds of photos and other paper memorabilia related to county schools both town and rural.
But the most exciting find was a substantial chunk of the Chariton Public Library's Lucas County collection, deaccessioned and shuffled off to obscurity long ago when that fine institution decided local history no longer was part of its mission. That can't be helped now, but was a shame then because it scattered and destroyed the context of a once-coherent collection that I remember using as a kid when it was housed neatly in library file cabinets.
Parts of it went to the Lucas County Genealogical Society, which pulled its part of the collection apart and filed information by family. But files related to the first Lucas County Historical Society, which also was Iowa's first, went to the current Lucas County Historical Society, reincarnated in the 1960s, and has been safely stored since. So it was a thrill to find it, slightly mislabeled and therefore made very obscure.
Although the collection fills only a small file box, there are some fairly amazing things in it --- hand-written letters from a daughter and son-in-law of Lucas County's first settler, John Ballard; hand-written accounts by such pioneers as Thomas Braden, the first to settle at Chariton Point as the Mormon pioneers who had over-wintered here in 1846-47 were preparing to continue west; and so on. So I'm looking forward to inventorying the collection, perhaps even transcribing parts of it --- we'll see about that end of things.
But on the home front, Edward Ebenezer Sargent, who was the third husband of my great-great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth (Rhea) Rhea/Etheredge/Sargent, has been perched beside me here, waiting to be scanned and filed. So here he is:
Edward Ebenezer Sargent, born Sept. 14, 1831, in Berkshire, England, was the third husband of Cedar Township pioneer Elizabeth Rhea, born June 13, 1811, in Barren County, Kentucky, and therefore 20 years his senior. Her first husband was Richard Rhea (my great-great-great-grandfather), a farmer and Baptist preacher who died too young on Nov. 17, 1839, in Sangamon County, Illinois; her second, Thomas Etheredge, who with Elizabeth brought their blended and expanding family to Iowa in 1849 or 1850.
Also in 1850, when he was 19, Edward came to the United States, sailing from Liverpool to New Orleans, then traveling up the Mississippi to Davenport, Scott County, Iowa, where he settled. On Aug. 6, 1853, he married Sarah Ann Wright of Rockingham Township, Scott County. They had two children, Rowena, born Oct. 2, 1854, and John Joy, who died in infancy.
Sarah Ann, the only child of Joy and Laura Ann (Story) Wright, was born ca. 1834 in Ohio and died Oct. 15, 1861, in Rockingham Township. Rowena, then 7, was taken to raise by her grandparents, Joy and Laura Ann, although she remained close to her father.
In the fall of 1862, the Wrights moved to Cedar Township, Lucas County, Iowa, where Laura Ann's son, David S. Wright, had settled during 1857, taking Rowena with them. Two years later, in the winter of 1864, Edward followed.
Edward, who came to be known as "Squire" by his friends and neighbors in Lucas County, seems never to have had enough money to purchase land and worked both as teamster and farm hand. It is possible that he met the recently widowed Elizabeth, whose second husband, Thomas Etheredge, had died Dec. 24, 1862, by going to work for her. She had lost her two elder sons, James M. Rhea and Robert Etheredge, to death during the Civil War and would have needed hired help to cope with the farm labor.
Whatever the case, Elizabeth, then 59, and Edward, then 39, were married on Sept. 12, 1870, at her home by Joseph G. Wilson.
Despite the difference in their ages, it seems to have been an amicable marriage. Squire Sargent began a long career as justice of the peace and farmed Elizabeth's acres, inheriting her home and a third of her land and other property upon her death 18 years later, on 7 August 1888 at the age of 77.
Edward apparently lived contentedly alone in his wife's home for 20 more years, until his own death 20 years later, on Feb. 25, 1908, at the age of 77.
He was fondly remembered as "Grandpa Sargent" by my grandfather, William Ambrose Miller, 32 at the time. Granddad recalled that the funeral was on a day so cold and icy that the coffin was transported from the house to Bethel Church and Cemetery, just down the road west, on a sled.
Edward was a Methodist, holding official membership in the Russell Methodist Episcopal Church, and a member of the Chariton Masonic lodge, widely valued for his good humor and stock of stories. He was directly survived by his daughter, Rowena, who had married Frank Haywood, and their children, all of whom lived in Russell.
Edward is buried between Elizabeth and her mother, Mary (Rhea) Rhea/Hickman, in the Bethel Cemetery, where a substantial tombstone marks all three graves.