Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Reuniting Tommy and Rebecca (Hart) Boswell

I've been wanting to tell a little story about another virtual family reunion made possible by Find A Grave, that online service that now indexes roughly 107 million burials and recently was acquired by the same folks who bring you Ancestry.com. Ancestry, very much in the business of making money, assures us that Find A Grave usage will continue to be free. I hope so. Just renewed my Ancestry membership. Ouch!

The principal characters are Thomas W. Boswell, youngest brother of my great-grandmother, Chloe (Boswell) Prentiss/Brown; his wife, Rebecca (Hart) Boswell; and their infant son, Edward, only nine months old when his father died at age 20 near Corydon on Nov. 10, 1869. 

So I stopped at the Corydon Cemetery Friday to take a couple of tombstone shots. Uncle Tommy (top) is buried on the Boswell family lot not far southwest of the Sproatt mausoleum right next to the road to Corydon Lake Park in the original part of the cemetery, which dates back to the city's earliest days.

Also buried on the lot are Tommy's and Chloe's parents, Peachy Gilmer and Caroline (McDaniel) Boswell, in unmarked graves; Moses Prentiss (above), Chloe's first husband and the father of her four oldest daughters; and Elizabeth (Douglas) Boswell, wife of Uncle Ellis Boswell, and four of their children (below) who died young. Ellis is buried in a newer part of the cemetery --- the old family lot was full when he died --- as is William Reed Boswell, a fourth Boswell sibling, and his wife.

Two of Tommy's other siblings, Jane (Boswell) Ratcliffe and America (Boswell) Cox, are buried at Hogue Cemetery, southeast of Cambria; Frances Susan (Boswell) Garnes and her husband, Robert, moved west from Wayne County to Leoti, Kansas, where they died and are buried. My great-grandparents, Joseph and Chloe (Boswell/Prentiss) Brown are buried at Columbia Cemetery, near the Marion-Lucas County line northeast of Chariton.

Tommy was born April 8, 1849, near Point Pleasant, along the Ohio River in Mason County, (West) Virginia, and came west either that fall or early in 1850 with his parents, siblings and other members of the extended Boswell family. They settled first in Van Buren County, but by 1854 had relocated to a claim on Wildcat Creek, just north of Corydon.

Just before his 19th birthday, on April 5, 1868, Tommy married Rebecca Jane Hart, a daughter of  David and Rebecca Hart, who lived up near New York. 

Their son, Edward, was born on Feb. 18, 1869, and then nine months later Tommy died. According to family stories, he died of consumption, now known as tuberculosis. Tommy and Rebecca were so poor that he was buried at county expense. W. Holstein was allowed $21.40 by the county supervisors for providing the coffin, according The Corydon Monitor of June 15, 1870.

The latter half of the 1860s had not been kind to the Boswells. Chloe's first husband, Moses Prentiss, was killed July 6, 1865, when the boiler of a steam engine being used to power a sawmill exploded, leaving her a widow with four young daughters. Peachy Boswell died during August of 1868; then little more than a year later, Tommy died, too.

Chloe managed to place a tombstone at Moses's grave and I suspect --- but cannot prove --- that she was responsible for the stone marking Tommy's Grave as well. Both have endured. Although it's beyond legibility now, the inscription at the bottom of Moses's stone is one of the more popular used at that time:

Remember friends as you pass by,
As you are now so once was I.
As I am now so shall you be,
prepare for death and follow me.

Tommy's widow, Rebecca, and little Edward moved in with her parents at New York after Tommy's death and it apparently was through her elder brother, John Hart --- then living in Lucas County --- that she met Benajah Brown, whom she married on March 25, 1871.

They moved west almost immediately to Seward County in southeast Nebraska, and I was able to track them there using census records. By 1880, it appeared, little Edward had died. And Rebecca herself had died prior to March 3, 1887, when Benajah returned to Chariton to marry as his second wife, Sophia Samuelson.

That's where Rebecca's and Edward's story stood until Find A Grave came along and while poking around I found their tombstone in Prairie Grove Cemetery at Utica in Seward County. 

As it turned out, Edward had died on Aug. 25, 1872, age 3; and Rebecca, on July 2, 1885, age 37.

Benajah apparently erected the stone at left to mark the graves of Rebecca and Edward as well as those of two of his children with Rebecca, an infant son who died May 5, 1881, and Clifford Brown, who died Feb. 21, 1885, aged 5 months. There's no sign of a burial place for Benajah himself, or Sophia.

I wish that I'd found out that Edward and Rebecca lived long and happy lives after things got off to such a rough start in Wayne County, but that wasn't to be. At least we know now how it ended.

And as a footnote, I should add that Erma Boswell, widow of Glen, who like myself was a great-grandson of Peachy and Caroline, died Sept. 22 in Corydon at age 98. She was the last person bearing the surname Boswell related by blood or marriage to Peachy and Caroline to live in Wayne County.

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