Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tracking down Beverly Searcy


Beverly and Rhoda (Lane) Searcy

Beverly Searcy is another of those pioneer Lucas Countyans who got away --- in the sense that he was here in the beginning, was influential for a time and then moved along to pursue other interests. Among other achievements, he built the first county courthouse for $359 --- after "knocking off" $15 from his original bid of $374.

I got interested in tracking him down after this somewhat battered but still remarkable photo of Beverly and his wife, Rhoda (Lane) Searcy, turned up among family history files at Ancestry.com. Although descendants, as it turns out, actually know relatively little about the Searcys they did hold on to the photo. It is almost unheard of to be able to see what someone really looked like during Chariton's first decade. Obviously, the photographer was somewhat challenged here by the disparity in heights between Beverly and Rhoda.

According to Lucas County's 1881 history, the Searcys and their children arrived at Chariton Point during 1849, the same year Buck Townsend (who may actually have gotten here in 1848) and Jonas and Nelson Wescoatt hitched their wagons to the rising star of a new county. By some family accounts, Beverly built the first house --- a cabin --- in Chariton, but there are other contenders for that distinction.

Born about 1824 in Anderson County, Kentucky, and therefore about 25 when he arrived in Chariton, Beverly was a son of Edmond and Winifred (McMinnamy) Searcy. He was perhaps about 6 when his father died and his mother, soon thereafter, married Rowland Ingham. He had one full brother, Hardin Searcy.

Beverly grew up in Anderson County and married Rhoda Lane there on Sept. 3, 1843, Their first two children were born in Kentucky, Elizabeth in 1844 and Beverly Jr. during 1846, Beverly Sr. enlisted for service in the Mexican-American War from Anderson County during 1846.

Following his discharge, the family moved north to Iowa --- probably during 1848. Beverly's mother, stepfather and their blended family had moved north earlier, settling first in Davis County ca. 1844 then moving very soon thereafter into Monroe County. It is very likely that the Beverly Searcys joined their family in Monroe County before continuing west to Lucas and their daughter, Mary, quite likely was born there.

When the 1850 census of Chariton was taken, Beverly, 26, was enumerated as a laborer, head of a household that included Rhoda, Elizabeth, Beverly and Mary. He owned real estate, probably that log "first house" his family recalled, valued at $250, not an inconsiderable sum in that day. The Searcy home apparently also included a store, since Beverly's occupation was listed as "merchant" in the 1856 census and David D. Waynick, who also arrived in Chariton during 1849, recalled later that his first job was as a salesman for the Searcys, then operating "one of the first stores ever established in Chariton."

According to the 1881 Lucas County history, 1850 was a busy year for Beverly. During April and May, he assisted with a resurvey of Chariton and on May 15 was awarded the contract for building the new courthouse. Also during early 1850, he was appointed Lucas County's first county assessor and during August he was the Democratic candidate for sheriff (Whigs prevailed in that election and Beverly was soundly defeated).

In April of 1851, Beverly was appointed by the state Legislature to locate Osceola, the seat of newly formed Clarke County, along with James Graham of Warren County and S.D. Bishop, of Monroe.

Beverly seems also to have been gaining a degree of political influence during this time, perhaps in part due to his friendship with Henry Allen, Chariton hotel operator and recently elected state representative. During Iowa's Fourth General Assembly, commencing on Dec. 6, 1852, in Iowa City, Beverly was nominated by Allen to be sergeant-at-arms of the House --- and was elected to serve.

During 1853, the state land office was moved from Fairfield to Chariton and found a home in the Searcys' building on the southwest corner of the square. By 1855, Beverly had been appointed postmaster, probably running that establishment in conjunction with the family store; and during the April 1856 election, he finally was elected sheriff, defeating L.M. Duckworth 309 votes to 284. He served in that position until 1857.

By the time the special state census of 1856 was taken, Rhoda and Beverly had added Permelia (born ca. 1851), Hardin (ca. 1853) and John (ca. 1855) to their family

According to family stories, Beverly secured an appointment as U.S. marshal soon after 1856 and because of that, moved his family from Chariton to Burlington, then Iowa's premiere city. When the 1860 census of Burlington was taken, the Searcys were enumerated there --- including the seventh and eighth of their children, Alice, born ca. 1858, and Rosa, just three months old on the census date, June 25.

Soon after that census date, Rhoda died --- probably in Burlington. We can date her death only because of a reference to daughter Permelia in a turn-of-the-century biographical sketch that states she was nine years old when her mother died.

Left with eight children ranging in age from under 1 year to 16, Beverly seems to have moved his family from Burlington to Monroe County to be near his mother, brother Hardin and other family members. According to Permelia, much of the responsibility for raising the younger children fell on the shoulders of the eldest, Elizabeth, then 16.

Beverly was living at Albia on July 14, 1861, when at age 37 he enlisted as first sergeant in Co. C, 6th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, for service during the Civil War --- leaving his large family behind. Promoted immediately to sergeant major, he was promoted again on Feb. 24, 1862, to second lieutenant. Somewhat earlier, on May 6, his son Beverly Jr., had lied about his age to enlist as a private in Co. K, 2nd Iowa Volunteers. Although the younger Searcy gave his age as 18 he was, at the most, 16.

Beverly Sr. served until July 21, 1865, some months after the war had ended, when he resigned and returned home to Iowa.

He then apparently securied work on the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, which had been stalled at Ottumwa by the Civil War but moved rapidly west across the state after it ended, reaching Chariton for example during 1867,

When the 1870 federal census was taken, Beverly, then age 46, headed a household that included his son, Beverly Jr., and Beverely Jr.'s young family in Red Oak in far southwest Iowa. The senior Searcy's occupation was given as railroad employee; the younger's, as farmer. His daughter, Elizabeth, who by this time had married Peter Turner, also was living in Red Oak and other children seem to have lived there for a time as well.

Beverly's trail cools off and then grows cold after 1870. He may have remarried --- a Montgomery County  record shows that Beverly Searcy and Jemima Lane were married at Red Oak on June 19, 1870. A Chariton newspaper report from February of 1873 tracking former Lucas County residents states that he still was living in Red Oak during that year. But there is no trace of him in 1880 or later census records.

His daughter, Jemima, reported that "he later went to Kansas where his final days were passed." And for the time being, that statement represents the end of the trail for Beverly Searcy.

No comments: