Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ancient Faces: Edward Ebenezer Sargent

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.


Charles M. Wright said...


I've just discovered your blog and for the past two days have been reading your wonderful stories. i was born in Russell seventy years ago this coming August. Ancestors of my father (the families of Goltry and Roseman as well as Wright) were in Cedar Township, Lucas County before there was a town of Russell, and the family of my mother's mother (the Yertys) settled at LaGrange in the fall of 1877. Although I have lived away from Russell since graduation from high school in 1958, I still regard it as home and one day my cremains will be returned there for burial beside my parents and younger brother Jack.

When I first connected to your blog, I was surprised to see a familiar face. It was the photo accompanying your story about Edward Ebenezer "Squire" Sargent. His first wife, Sarah Ann Wright, was a half-sister to my Great-Grandfather David S. Wright. You can see another image of Squire Sargent (in a four-generation photo) if you will look for him among the burials in the Bethel Cemetery of Lucas County, Iowa recorded at And while at this website, look also at the photos of Sarah Ann Wright's parents Joy and Laura Ann Story Wright and Sarah Ann's half-brother David S. Wright and his wife Mary Ann Roseman Wright.

Your moving story "A Flag for Daniel McDermott" made me think of Great-Grandmother Wright's only brother, Martin Roseman. He undoubtedly knew Daniel for they both served in Company C of the 13th Iowa Infantry during the Civil War. Sadly, both died in that terrible war. Martin is buried in Mound City National Cemetery, Illinois but a memorial to him is engraved upon the stone in the Roseman lot at Bethel that marks the burial place of his sister Louisa Roseman who died at the age of 19 in 1871. A photo of young Martin Roseman in his Civil War uniform can be found on the Findagrave entry for him at Bethel.

In closing, I must share with you that I inherited a small photo album that belonged to my Great-Grandparents David S. and Mary Ann Roseman Wright. It contains photos from the 1860s and 1870s of family members and of some of their friends and neighbors in the Bethel neighborhood. Among these was a photo of Mrs. William (Nancy) McDermott who, with her husband, were long regarded the first permanent settlers in Lucas County. A number of years ago I removed that photo from the album and sent it to the Lucas County Historical Society in Chariton. Also in that album is a photo of a young Dempsey Etheredge, who was a son of your Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Elizabeth (Rhea) Rhea/Etheredge/Sargent. A few years ago I gave this album to the Russell Historical Society for keeping in their museum. You can see it there.

I hope we can meet sometime, Frank. I have stories I'd like to share with you and questions you may be able to answer. In the meantime, please keep writing!

Charles M. Wright
Ankeny, Iowa

Frank D. Myers said...

Hi Charles ---

Great to hear from you. I remeber stopping once when small with my parents at Wright Grocery when the Wright family was gathered around a table toward the back at mealtime (was it at the foot of stairs to the upstairs apartment?) Anyhow, I thought that must be the most wonderful place and way possible to live --- much better than being stuck way out in the country.

And one of the first things I did after starting to work with the photos at the museum was to relocate your Nancy McDermott photo to her own archivally-safe page in an archivally-safe binder box so that she can be located conveniently and kept safe. William McDermott's enlarged portrait is on the wall nearby, given I think by the Chariton Public Library where it once was displayed.

Now I'm anxious to get to Russell to see the Dempsey Etheredge photo. Wow! As you probably know, Dempsey was a conductor who died after either falling under the cars or being trapped between them. His obit is around here somewhere; I need to refresh my memory. So all three of Elizabeth's sons died tragically and prematurely, James of wounds and Robert of disease during the war, then years later, Dempsey in a railroad accident.

It also occurred to me at some point that my great-uncle, A.E. Love (dead long before either of us was born), was a first-cousin of Nelson Lowder/Louder, the young man who was the first to be buried at what now is Bethel Cemetery. It seems like the interconnectedness in Lucas County never ends!

If you're ever down this way, let me know. I can always be reached at