Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Prince among Gypsies or a chief of the Cherokees? (Part 2)

The following continues a line of thought begun here on June 6 regarding John Rinehart, who died near Chariton in 1881, and the legends surrounding him. Part 2 will make more sense if Part 1, which is here, is read first. Eventually, I’ll combine the two parts into one and repost the result. FDM.


A good many difficulties impede efforts to explain John Rinehart and his family and friends. While there is no reason to doubt the old chief’s Cherokee blood, he and his family were entwined with Gypsies of English birth or descent, sometimes called Romanichals, most notably the Joles. That is a fascinating mix, but a research nightmare.

Relatively few early Native American and even fewer Roma resources are available. Roma research is further complicated because these families, often known as travelers, were on the road much of the time. Births, deaths and marriages could occur anywhere and census takers often missed them.

The traditions of both Native Americans and the Roma were oral --- they were story-tellers rather than story-writers, at the mercy of people who wrote about them, often with skewed vision and often with malice.

And there were those Roma families who identified themselves with intent to mislead as “Indians,” when they weren’t, because they felt with justification that “Indian” was more acceptable to the standard Euro-American than “Gypsy.” This sentence from a 1902 Chariton Herald article dealing with visitors to John Rinehart’s grave is a good example of why: “The Indians who were here look fully as much like Gypsies as Indians, but they attend to their own respectable business which Gypsies do not.” See what I mean?

While the threads of relationship that united the Rinehart family were evident to its members not that long ago, they mystify outsiders today. There are members of this interesting family out there and John Rinehart’s story may remain theirs to tell. Peculiar and destructive ideas created and repeated by majorities about minorities, ideas that have discouraged story-telling outside closed circles, are dissipating. Hopefully, we’ll all benefit from that --- before the last story-teller is gone.

I can tell you neither the full story of Lucas County’s fabled Cherokee chief nor that of his extended family, only report on a few of the signs they left behind as they traveled and make a few guesses.


Consider “Sahria” Mason, 98, identified by The Chariton Leader of July 24, 1923, as a daughter of John Rinehart, whose body was brought to the Chariton Cemetery on Sunday, July 22, 1923, for burial. This probably was the “Salria” Mason who died in Douglas County in central Minnesota on July 19, 1923, according to the Minnesota Death Index, a Minnesota Historical Society online database.

If Sahria/Salria were indeed 98 she would have been born during 1825 and could not have been John Rinehart’s daughter unless he had been unusually precocious. A calculation based upon his tombstone inscription (died Jan. 2, 1881, age 66 years, 2 months and 17 days) produces a birth date of Oct. 16, 1814. John would have been 11 when she was born.

It is a human tendency to knock off a few years at first and then when extreme old age becomes a badge of honor to add a few. Still, it is likelier that Sahria/Salria was a daughter of Rinehart’s wife, Rachel, by an earlier marriage. Rachel seems to have been at least 14 years older than John and so would have been of an age to have children in 1825.

Efforts to clarify the situation by finding a Sahria/Salria Mason in 1920 and earlier census records produce enigmatic results in 1920 and nothing at all before. When the 1920 census was taken, an Ellen Mason, age 95, was living with her widowed son, Jess, 41, and grandchildren Earl, Lilly, “Plu” and Dow in Beltrami County, Minnesota. All were identified as “Indians.”

But Beltrami County (in far northern Minnesota) is the homeland of the Ojibwe people and of the Red Lake Reservation and according to the census Ellen and her parents all were born in Minnesota, as was Jess. Based on this, it would be logical to conclude that Ellen is not our Sahria/Salria, but a venerable Ojibwe. However, according to the census, her grandchildren were born in Missouri (Earl), Kansas (Lilly and Plu) and Minnesota (Dow) to a father born in Minnesota and a mother born in Missouri. This suggests that the Masons were travelers.

It is possible some of these questions might be answered by obtaining a copy of Sahria/Salria’s death certificate, then again perhaps not.


A little insight into the band camped with John Rinehart near Chariton during the winter of 1880/81 can be achieved by backtracking to Minneapolis, where census-takers found them during June of 1880. The encounter seems to have distressed the principal census-taker, T.R. Newton, who scribbled several explanatory notes on the record.

“These families have been camping in the city for some weeks,” he wrote. Then, “Some of them claim to be Cherokee Indians. Others claim to be Gypsies. I think perhaps one man may be an Indian. The women are all darker than the men. They may be Gypsies and Indians mixed.” And finally, “Further information I was unable to obtain from these families with regard to birth places” Clearly, T. R. was having a confusing day June 15. The “may be an Indian” probably was John Rinehart.

The group included 41 men, women and children --- more than the “some 30 persons in all” attributed to the Rinehart party by The Patriot in January of 1881 when John died near Chariton, but not everyone camped together in the summer necessarily planned to travel south together in the fall.

It’s a popular misconception that travelers were homeless. In one sense, the road was their home. But in another, most had home bases where they spent at least part of the year, often owned property, joined lodges like the Masons and Odd Fellows and attended church. Trades practiced on the road were their livelihoods, however, and life on the road a part of their culture.

The Rinehart family as camped in Minneapolis consisted of four people, but they were enumerated as “Hunt” or “Hart” --- penmanship was not Newton’s strong point --- rather than as Rinehart. It’s impossible to say if they actually were using another name or if the census-taker, dealing with people he found disconcerting, just got it wrong.

The John Hunt/Hart family included John himself, age 66, identified as an Indian born in Indian Territory; his wife, Rachel, also an Indian born in Indian Territory, age 80; and two “daughters,” Isabel, age 24, and Roney, age 14, identified too as Indians born in Indian Territory. The census stated that John was ill with consumption and that tells us what claimed his life in Lucas County the following January. Neither Isabel nor Roney could have been Rachel’s daughters, providing her age is accurate here, but could have been John’s by a previous marriage --- or they could have been grandchildren.

Other than the John Hunt/Hart/Rinehart family, the most significant member of the party for Lucas County purposes was Ephraim Joles, age 40, born in England, whose household included his three children, Hannah, 17, Richard, 16, and Minnie, 12, all born in Ohio according to the census taker, and a black “servant,” George W. Flynn, age 14.

As sometimes happened with mobile people, Ephraim and his family were enumerated twice in the 1880 census. Another census taker, Bradley Phillips Jr., had found the family camped separately a few days earlier, on June 5, in St. Anthony Township, Hennepin County. This census entry, which spells Ephraim’s name “Ephrian Joels,” gives slightly differing information. “Hannah” is listed as “Anna,” age 18 rather than 17; Richard again as 16 and Minnie as 12. Ephraim’s age is given as 37 rather than 40. In both instances he is listed as a widower. Where the Minneapolis entry had listed the birthplaces of all the children as Ohio, here Anna’s birthplace was given as Ohio; Richard’s, as Canada; and Minnie’s, as Indiana. According to this record, both of their parents were born in England.

“Are what are generally called traveling gypsies living in tents,” Phillips wrote on the St. Anthony Township census page.

This Joles family is significant because, referring back to the May 1934 Chariton Herald report of what may have been the final visit by members of the extended Rinehart family to John’s grave, Dolly Frier, who identified herself as John Rinehart’s granddaughter, also said that her father was Ephraim Joles and that he had married one of Rinehart’s daughters.

Other members of the Minneapolis party, some of whom also almost certainly accompanied the family south in the fall, included Ephraim and Nellie Warton, ages 22 and 24 respectively. These were almost certainly the Ephram Worton and Merilla Joles, married 28 September 1878 in Sangamon County, Illinois, according to Illinois marriage records. Merilla actually was known as “Mellie” not “Nellie.” The Joles family seems have been headquartered in Springfield, Sangamon County, and Mellie in all likelihood was closely related to Ephraim Joles.

Other members of the party were Fred and Sarah Meyers and their six children; Andrew and Dorah Ward and their three children; George W. and Elizabeth Ward and their seven children; Fred and Susan Rinehart and their three children; and Walter and Hester Cooper and their son, Elias. Fred Rinehart’s age was given as 32 and his birthplace as Kansas. It is possible that he was a son of John Rinehart. Fred and his family were the only members of the Minneapolis party bearing the Rinehart surname --- at least according to the census taker.


To understand a little more about the puzzles surrounding our Ephraim Joles, father of Dolly Frier and identified by her as a son-in-law of John Rinehart, it’s necessary to take a look at the Stanleys --- the “royal family” of the American Roma.

King and queen of the Gypsies are not terms I’m exactly comfortable with because I’m not sure those titles had any particular significance for the Roma themselves. One of the “kings,” Levi Stanley, reportedly said the title was purely honorary, based on respect and trust, and reflected no particular power. Although the Stanley kings and queens were without doubt revered in the Roma community, Coyote may be at work here and it’s useful to remember that in many instances the Roma were willing to allow outsiders to believe what they would. So kings and queens of the Gypsies may be as much Euro-American romantic fancy as Roma fact.

The first of these kings and queens, Owen and Harriet (Worden) Stanley, came to the United States from England with many other English Roma families in the 1850s. Like all other emigrants, they came in search of opportunity.

The Stanleys came first to Miami County, Ohio, then moved on to Dayton, which became their home and headquarters for the extended family. A farm was purchased for use when family members were not traveling. Upon Owen Stanley’s death in 1860, he was succeeded by his son, Levi. Levi’s wife was “Queen” Matilda Stanley, identified as a daughter of an Ephraim Joles, undoubtedly related in some manner to our Ephraim Joles.

Matilda, born 1821, conceivably could have been an elder sister of our Ephraim, born ca. 1837. Aunt and nephew and several other degrees of relationships are possible.

To get some idea of the prominence the Stanleys enjoyed, it’s useful to read newspaper accounts of the funeral of Matilda (Joles) Stanley, who died 15 January 1878 at Vicksburg, Miss., and was interred in the large family lot at Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery during September of that year. The funeral of this “queen of the Gypsies” drew a crowd estimated at 25,000, including hundreds of Roma mourners and thousands of curious non-Roma spectators.

Although the American Roma practiced many portable trades, the Stanleys and their kin were renowned horse traders, the principal source of their income.

I may not know exactly how our Ephraim Joles was related to the Stanley family, but I do think the relationship probably was present in more than one degree. It seems likely to me that Ephraim was married at least three times and that his first wife had died prior to May 19, 1872, when an Ephraim Joles married Jente Stanley, then apparently in her mid-30s, in Sangamon County, Illinois.

The three children enumerated with him in 1880, Hannah/Anna, Richard and Minnie, probably were products of his first marriage.

I do not understand Jente’s place in the larger Stanley family, but her relationship (or Ephraim’s) was close enough to ensure a burial place near Owen and Harriet Stanley on the Stanley Woodland Cemetery lot in Dayton, now something of a tourist attraction, after her death only three years after the marriage to Ephraim.

Because several months separated her death from burial, it seems likely that she died far from Dayton and that a good deal of effort was involved in arranging for her burial there. The same was true for all members of the Rinehart family buried in Chariton except John. Non-Roma families most likely would not have gone to the trouble.

According to Woodland Cemetery records, Jente, or Jeantie, born in England, died April 6, 1875, age 38, at an unspecified location, and was buried at Woodland on Nov. 13 of that year. The inscription on her tombstone reads, “Jeantie, wife of Ephram Joles, died April 6, 1875, aged 38 years.”

Also buried on Nov. 13 at Woodland, perhaps with Jeantie, was Henry Joles, age 1, who died April 9, 1875, according to Woodland records.

Three other Joles children are buried in a close grouping near Jeantie: Temperance, age 15, died Feb. 3, 1876; Jessie, age 2, died Feb. 11, 1876; and Walter, age 4, died Feb. 16, 1876. All were buried, according to Woodland records, on Feb. 18, 1876. A fifth Joles child, Louisa, died June 27, 1872, age 2, and was buried on July 3 of that year.

Henry, Temperance, Jessie and Walter probably all were children of Ephraim, although the only visible inscription, “son of E. & J. Joles,” is on Jessie’s tombstone.

It is my theory, for now at least, that the Ephraim Joles enumerated twice during 1880 in and near Minneapolis as a widower was the husband and father of Jeantie Joles and her children buried at Dayton a few years earlier. There is a reference I cannot track to its source of Jeantie’s husband mourning the loss of both his wife and “all” his children, although “all” in this instance probably meant all of his children by Jeantie.


The fact that virtually all of the 1890 census records were destroyed in a fire produces a 20-year gap between 1880 and 1900 that makes it extremely difficult to track people. Many things could happen in 20 years. And finding a mobile people like the Roma in census records even when the records are intact is problematic.

However, when the 1900 census of St. Paul, Minn., was taken James D. Harris found on June 7 “Ephriam Joels,” age 63, and “Dollie Joels,” age 8, living with Leonard and Philla Wells and their two children, Robert and Ida M., in tents along a street called University.

The occupations of both Ephraim and Leonard were given as horse traders. Ephraim and Dolly are listed as boarders and their relationship to each other is not specified, but this surely must be our Ephraim Joles and his daughter, the Dolly (Joles) Frier, who paid what may have been a final visit to the Rinehart graves at Chariton in 1934.

Ephraim told the census taker that he had been born in England in January of 1837, that he was a widower and that he had emigrated to the United States in 1855 but had never been naturalized.

Dollie, according to the census, was attending school and had been born during January of 1892 in Minnesota to a father born in England and a mother born in Canada.

So it seems likely that our Ephraim had married again after 1880 and that the product of that marriage had been our Dolly (Joles) Frier, the striking woman who spoke with a local reporter near Chariton during 1934. Was his third marriage to one of John Rinehart’s daughters? Ephraim knew. Dolly knew. I don’t.

I have not found our Ephraim in subsequent records, although Dolly said during 1934 that he had died three years earlier in Minneapolis, age 94. If that is the case, his death was not recorded.


Life changed dramatically during the next 30 years for the Roma people, as it did for everyone else. Horse-trading declined as an occupation as the road and fields were claimed by vehicles with internal combustion engines. The Joles and other families became more settled.

Several members of the extended Joles family settled down in Wisconsin and their descendants remain there today. But the tradition of Cherokee heritage remained.

In 1930, according to census records, Dick Joles, age 64 and born in Canada of parents born in England, was engaged in general farming on land that he owned near the village of Hallie in Chippewa County, Wisconsin. This probably was Ephraim Joles’ son, Richard, enumerated twice during June of 1880 in the Minneapolis area.

Dick’s wife, Libby, age 65, was born in Illinois. Living next door was Richard Joles, probably the son of Dick and Libby, age 44, born Wisconsin, and his wife, Elizabeth, age 33, born Minnesota, and their four children.

The 1930 census asked each person enumerated where his or her parents were born, and in the case of the Joles family the census-taker did an odd thing. After carefully writing in a state of birth for the parents of everyone, he crossed out the names of those states of birth in every instance except that of Dick Joles and wrote “mixed blood” for father’s place of birth and “Cherokee” for mother’s place of birth.

Also in that year, on April 8, 1930, census-taker Mrs. Myrtle Giese, found living in an “Indian Camp” in Honey Creek Township, Sauk County, Wisconsin, a family of 13 including it seems highly likely our Dolly Frier, daughter of Ephraim Joles and reportedly a granddaughter of John Rinehart. This almost without a doubt is the same family, no doubt with additions and deletions, who camped in 1934 near Chariton.

Dolly, who gave her age most likely inaccurately as 27, told the census taker that she had been born in Minneapolis to parents born in Oklahoma and was “full Cherokee.” Her husband, Joe Frier, age 30, had been born in Wisconsin to a father born in Germany and mother born in Oklahoma. He was a “mixed Cherokee.”

The Frier family was headed by Charles Frier, age 61, born in Germany of parents born in France, and his wife, Anna, age 70, born in Oklahoma of parents born in Oklahoma. She was described as “full Cherokee.” Children listed as members of their household included sons Rudolph, 25, Tom, 20, and George, 16, and daughters Daisy, 21, and Ada Hart, 26.

A separate household in the family was made up of Sam Frier, 31, born in Wisconsin to parents born in Germany and Oklahoma; his wife, Lilly, age 21, born in Wisconsin to parents born in Oklahoma, and described as “full Cherokee,” and their two children, Bennie and Delores.

The occupations of eight of the adults was listed as “herb collector” for a “private concern” owned by Sam and Charles Frier.


Four years later, it seems likely, the Friers were camped near Chariton. Mary Ruth Pierschbacher is not old enough to remember the visit, but clearly recalls stories about it told by family members because the “Indian Camp” was on her Grandmother Holmes’ farm, in timber near a spring just over the hill west of Holmes/Waynick Cemetery on the downslope toward the Chariton River.

It would be interesting to know if this were a traditional camping place, perhaps even where John Rinehart died.

Mary Ruth recalls that the people who visited the camp thought highly of its occupants and of the cures they sold.

And this is where my part of the story ends. It would be possible to find out more, I think, and perhaps I’ll work on that, but not right now.

I’ve not answered the original question, prince among Gypsies or a chief of the Cherokees?, because I can’t, although I hope there are those who still can. It seems likely that John Rinehart was neither prince nor chief but undeniable that he was highly respected among people, be they Roma or Native American or both, who placed great value on family.

Flowers still appear sometimes 130 years after John died at the Rinehart graves there just inside the gate beside the open road on Chariton's south edge, perhaps placed by romantically-inclined Lucas Countyans caught up in the legend. Or perhaps not ….

Photographs of Jeantie Joles' tombstone at Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio, are taken from the "Find a Grave" online collection.


Anonymous said...

I would be interested to see where the Native ancestry is believed to have come from, really study it. In my family, with very close ties to just about every name mentioned here (including the author Meyers)...

ALL Native stories have led to "gypsies" who allowed others to believe they were Native American.

I have the classic NC to KY to IN and beyond American family. We have a lot of "unexplainable" dark people throughout our line.

DNA has shown less than 2% POSSIBLE Native American markers.

In essence, someone may have been Native 300 years ago...but that isn't where the root digging and old Appalachian practices came from.

I've studied 1,123 family lines (about 250,000 people). I have found three people who MIGHT be Native...and 249,997 people who perfectly fit the various Romani groups that were sent here from Wales, England, Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany.

The other thing... For some reason "Gypsies" and Natives did not see eye to eye. Despite the many things they had in common they thought very little of each other.

"Gypsies" made sure to live NEAR Natives or Spanish speaking people in Florida and Texas...but rarely (almost never) did the live with them.

It was a way of hiding in plain site.


steve said...

i come from richard and elizabeth joles they were my grandparents i personally dont believe that there is any indian in us no disrespect to indians, i think where our people sold herbs and such we called it drab, that they called there selves indian like indian doctors, and the public could deal more with indians than gypsies. just sayin

Anonymous said...

Richard Joles passed away recently. The obituary is very interesting. Read it on the Eau Claire Leader Telegram website.

Alisa Rodriguez said...

I believe I am a descendant of John Reinhart. He would be my 3rd Great Grandfather if he had a daughter named Dora (Reinhart) Ward, grandson named Leonard Ward, great grand daughter named Mildred (Ward) Bullard, great great grand daughter named Nilene (Bullard) Lung, and great great great granddaughter ME, Alisa (Lung) Rodriguez.

I will need to read these stories many more times before I can understand all these details. I am fascinated! I appreciate this history so much. Thank you!

Alisa Rodriguez said...

I believe I am a descendant of John Reinhart. He would be my 3rd Great Grandfather if he had a daughter named Dora (Reinhart) Ward, grandson named Leonard Ward, great grand daughter named Mildred (Ward) Bullard, great great grand daughter named Nilene (Bullard) Lung, and great great great granddaughter ME, Alisa (Lung) Rodriguez.

I will need to read these stories many more times before I can understand all these details. I am fascinated! I appreciate this history so much. Thank you!

Unknown said...

I am a Joles,my Father was Jearld Joles son of John Henry Joles and Mae Beard Joles,my Great Grandfather i beleave was Issac Joles who was considered a King of a Gypsy tribe,im working hard to find my family heritage and find this information. My Father Jeardl Joles has a baby brother that pasted as a toddler 1-2 yrs old and he had a brother Sam Joles who passed i beleave in his early 20s. My Grandmother and Grandfather John and Mae joles are buried in Iuka ,Il. cematary but there children that had passed are not,im not sure how to find out where they are buried,any more information you have would be amazing.Thank you My name is Janet Joles Loman

Frank D. Myers said...

Hi Janet --- Thanks for your comment here. You might see if there are burial records for the Luka cemetery. I know that the Rinehart band went to extraordinary lengths to bring those closely related to John to Chariton for burial and many other bands did the same for other burial places. It's possible the youngsters are at Luka, but in unmarked graves. Beyond that, I don't have many ideas other than if not buried at Luka they more than likely were buried in cemeteries near where they died, but finding out where they died will be a challenge. Frank

Unknown said...

Thank you,My GRANDFATHER jOHN hENRY Joles passed before i was born but was raised with my Grandma Mae Beard Joles and i remember as a child going to Iuka ,Il to put flowers on his Grave once a yr with my Granny and when she passed we Buried her next to my Grandpa in Iuka Cematary.Im going to try and find out if i can get a record for Iuka cemetery and start there.and yes finding where they lived before they bout the family farm in Belle Rive,Il. Can you tell me where Charito is?? Is it in Il?? Thank you so much for you help!!! Also can you tell me if the Rinehart Band that went to such lengths to be those closely related to John are you speaking of my Grandfather John Henry Joles??

Untangled Family Roots said...

I am the third great-granddaughter of Sahria Rineheart and Frederick Mason. Sahria was the daughter of John Rineheart and Rachel. My mother, who is John's thrid-great granddaughter has 0% Native American. It surprised me at first because I've been doing genealogy research for a dozen years. I knew from my research that her great-grandmother was Rachel Mason, the wife of Jonathan Jossiers Roe. They were enumerated in the 1910 census in Otoe Township, OK on the reservation, which also makes the comment above stating that the Gypsies had nothing to do with the Native American interesting, clearly my Gypsies lived with them. In that census, she claimed to be half French Canadian and half Chippewa Indian, so imagine my surprise when my mother's DNA test comes back with 0%. I'm not a novice to Native American DNA. My father-in-law is very heavily documented as the 5th great grandson of Jesse Chisholm, and he shows 5% Native American, so I expected my mother to have a similar percentage.

I've been researching this line lately now that my mother's DNA has finally helped me make a breakthrough by connecting to so many Gypsie descendants, and I don't believe they were Native American at all. I believe it is more likely that they accepted that title from white people who did not understand them because it was easier to pretend to be Native American in the late 1800 and early 1900's than to make people understand that they were, in fact, Romani Gypsies.

I'm going to keep researching my Gypsie roots. I had no idea. It was never shared with even my mother's generation. I wonder if my grandfather even knew that his father started out living a Gypsie life. I know the Gypsie life ended with him. I'm interested to learn so much more about my Gypsie roots. Thanks for sharing this.

Frank D. Myers said...

Hi Amy --- I think you're spot on. There was a good deal of prejudice against Romani people that simply went away when they were perceived of as "Cherokee." As I tried to make clear in the posts, Lucas Countyans had a long and congenial relationship with the Rinehart band but a major factor in that relationship was the fact Lucas Countyans perceived of them as American Indian, an identity which by that time had been romanticized by white folk. Who could blame the Rineharts for encouraging the fiction? They knew who they were, but I've noticed in conversations with other descendants that as the generations advanced the Romani identity was allowed to slip away just because grandparents and parents wanted their children to have easier lives. I'm glad that some, like you, are reclaiming it! Frank

Unknown said...

Hmmmm...lets say I'm Irish, and my son-in-law is Mexican. How the hell would that make me Mexican. That's what I get from all of this. Grasping at straws to try and prove something or someone wrong.
Great Great grand son of John

Anonymous said...

i learned so much about my distant family from these 2 articles ... also, thank you for helping me find Dolly Frier family too ...