Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Born on the 4th of July ....

I'm not sure that Uncle John Rosa would have identified as a Yankee Doodle Dandy, but if birth on the 4th of July is among the criteria, he qualified. And if his middle name were "Washington," as some suggest, that would be icing on the star-spangled cake (the only source for the name "Washington" that I've found, however, is an entry in Chariton Cemetery records; otherwise he was always known as just "John W.").

I set out earlier in the week to look for occupants of the Chariton Cemetery who were born on the 4th of July and John turned up first. And that's fine --- his is a fairly typical American story.

John was the eldest surviving son of German Immigrants Anna Margaret Redlingshafer and John W. Rosa Sr., who married on June 12, 1850, in Pennsylvania and almost immediately headed west, locating first in St. Louis, then at Pekin in Tazewell County, Illinois, then at Princeton in Bureau county, Illinois, and finally --- during 1865 --- in Chariton. Anna Margaret had arrived in the United States with her family during 1848; John Sr., reportedly, during 1849. He was by trade a tailor and tobacconist.

John Jr., born during 1857 and most likely at Pekin, had two younger siblings who survived childhood, Adam Rosa, born Oct. 9, 1860; and Anna Margaret Rosa (Schreck), born July 24, 1862. 

The Rosa family arrived in Lucas County during 1865, traveling by train to the Des Moines River (where rail construction had been halted by the Civil War), crossing at Eddyville and continuing west to Chariton by stage coach. Three of Anna Margaret's siblings had settled on farms in nearby Benton Township during the 1850s --- John G. Redlingshafer (my great-great-grandfather), George W. Redlingshafer and Margaret Anna (Redlingshafer) and Aaron Hupp.

John Rosa Sr. went into business in Chariton, but died two years later, on Oct. 23, 1867, of typhoid fever --- most likely caused by a contaminated water supply. A fourth child, Lot, died about the same time, aged 18 months, of causes unknown. They were the first to be buried on the Rosa lot in the then-new Chariton Cemetery --- Lot at the north end of the lot; John, at the south.

John W. Jr. was only 10 when his father died, but his mother was a very capable businesswoman and set out initially to raise her children alone, opening the family home just off the northeast corner of the square to boarders. She also invested almost immediately after John Sr.'s death in a Benton Township farm near those of her siblings.

A little more than a year later, on Nov. 28, 1868, Anna Margaret married as her second husband another immigrant from Germany, Joachim Wulf, who had arrived in Chariton with crews involved in extending the Burlington & Missouri River rail line west from Ottumwa through Chariton to Council Bluffs.

They settled on her farm in Benton Township, where John and his brother, Adam, helped their stepfather farm and completed their educations in nearby rural schools.

John was a highly competent farmer and businessman in his own right and during the next few years acquired a 160-acre farm adjacent to those of his mother and uncle, John G. During 1889, he was one of three trustees named to raise funds for and organize the construction of Otterbein Church, United Brethren in Christ, near the Rosa farms. John G. Redlingshafer and John P. Sellers were the other two trustees.

In no apparent hurry to tie the knot, John was in his mid-30s when he married my aunt, Sarah Minerva Chynoweth, on May 6, 1891 (she was a half-sister of my great-grandfather, Cassius C.M. Dent). They became the parents of two children, George Edward and Dorothy (Elson). Later on, they became surrogate parents to my paternal grandmother after her mother died in far northwest Iowa.

The Rosas were extremely active in Otterbein Church, where John served as Sunday school superintendent, class leader, janitor and, according to his obituary, "whatver else the Lord called him to do." According to a family story, John even mortgaged 40 acres of his farm in order to make a substantial donation toward building a United Brethren in Christ church in Chariton during 1903.

John also served as president of the Lucas County Mutual Insurance Association from 1909 until 1947, when he retired because of failing health; and he also was an organizer of Lucas County Farm Bureau. He served at times as Wolf Creek correspondent for the Chariton newspapers and, according to his obituary, "never missed voting at his precinct polling place, the Myers School, once during 70 years and had voted by the time he died in 17 presidential elections."

John was 91 when he died at home on the farm on Jan 4, 1949 --- an American success story, born on the 4th of July.

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