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“Facts” in Histories are Suspect

“Facts” in Histories are Suspect

In working with some early histories I noted some interesting differences. I assume much of it has to do with the politics of the time, who was writing the book, etc. Certainly it is evident in many “histories” who the “preferred” families were. And it was not unusual to pay for an “appropriate” mention.

For whatever reason, the “facts” vary from history to history. This example relates to one of the early settlers. I found equally interesting “facts” in the others.

In one Logan County (Illinois) history we learn that John and Hannah Downing came to Salt Creek with their sons Robert and James. Actually it says they are “said to have settled on Salt Creek.” I’m not sure what that means since there are clear records of residence and land purchase.

The 1886 history says the Downings came “between 1824 and 1827 or ’28.” Land purchases came after settlement. Perhaps these editors went on land purchase dates although I find it doubtful they had access to the records then.

A 1936 history (of Mt. Pulaski) written by Judge Lawrence Stringer (an historian of some note, although not always accurate – and definitely a politician) says: “The first permanent settlement in the Salt creek country, in the vicinity of present Mount Pulaski. was made by Robert Downing. With him, came his wife, Jane Morrow Downing, and his parents, John and Hannah Downing. Also about the same time, came his brother and wife, James and Ruth Downing.” Note that Robert brought his family rather than he came with his parents. I do not know if James and Ruth came with the rest of the family or just “about the same time” but James and Robert Downing were brothers and Jane and Ruth Morrow were sisters.

The Downings are believed to have arrived in 1822 from Ohio but there is no black and white proof of the date. In the 1820 census Robert was recorded in Monroe Township, Madison County, Ohio. Robert Downing voted on August 2, 1824, in Union Precinct, Sangamon County. (Logan was part of Sangamon County at that time.)

In 1822 John was 60 and Robert was 28. John and Robert both bought land, much of which remains in the hands of descendants.

The 1936 history says Robert Downing “was a Black Hawk war veteran.” He was a War of 1812 veteran, having served  from Ohio along with his brothers John and Josiah. In addition to the military records, he was receiving a pension for his service at his death. Note is made in his probate file that the government wouldn’t cash his final check. I have not seen evidence he served in the Black Hawk War and he is not listed as a veteran in the state’s records.

Such histories have to be considered clues and not factual evidence.

Graduates

Graduates

Mt Pulaski Class of 1914

These handsome fellows are all the males in the first graduating class of Mt. Pulaski High School in 1914. They are Harry Rothwell, Frank Turley, Alfred Litterly and Floyd Downing. There were females in the class but they took a separate picture. I haven’t seen but have talked to people who said they did.

A Clue in Samuel Downing’s Bible

A Clue in Samuel Downing’s Bible

Samuel Downing was born in Maryland. The family soon moved west. At the age of 18 he served with the Ohio Militia in the War of 1812. In 1818 he married Margaret Matthews in Pike County, Ohio. After her death he married her widowed sister Mary Matthews Day.

Margaret and Mary were daughters of John Matthews, said to be a surveyor. The name of their mother is unknown. The only surviving Matthews child in 1880, William, said on the census that year his father was born in Ireland and his mother was born Pennsylvania.

Samuel Downing keep a record of the family in his Bible. The Bible, definitely a Protestant Bible, was printed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1781. Samuel kept his family records, except his own birth and death, and the Matthews family records in the Bible. The writing appears to be the same hand until Samuel’s death.

In the Bible is this mysterious listing: “Thomas Matthews Deceased January the 17th in the yeare of our lord 1833” and “And Sarah Matthews his Wife Died May the 15th in the yeare of our Lord 1840.”

There is no missing Thomas Matthews. Thomas, brother of Margaret and Mary, died in 1875, and he left a will. The probate documents state he died February 11, 1875, leaving “no widow, nor children, father or mother, but heirs John Mathews, heirs Margaret Downing, heirs Mary Downing, heirs Jane Lawrence and William Mathews.” Those are the Matthews children. The will indicates he was mute. (Matthews is spelled different ways in different places. Samuel Downing was consistent with Matthews.)

There is no hard information as to the name of the the Matthews father. It has always been said his name was John but I find no proof. It is possible it was assumed from the naming pattern of the children.

Samuel and Margaret named their children: George (Samuel’s father), Sarah, Elizabeth (Samuel’s mother), Thomas, Mary Jane (Jane was the name of one of George’s sisters and one of Margaret’s sisters; Margaret also had a sister Mary) and Samuel.

Maybe the name of the parents of the Matthews children was never a mystery. Maybe Samuel told us their names: Thomas and Sarah.

A Farmer is Born

A Farmer is Born

On this  date 128 years ago in a farmhouse three miles northwest of Mt. Pulaski in Logan County, Illinois, Eliza Harding Downing gave birth to her second son, Ellis. The couple already had an 18 month old.

When Ellis was two he got another brother.  This picture was taken when he was about 4, just before his maternal grandparents, their other daughter and three sons, none of whom were married at the time, moved to Iowa. His father’s father had served with his mother’s father during the Civil War. His paternal grandfather died in Arkansas as the war ended of “typhoid pneumonia.”

William H. Downing family

Apparently there was good rail service between north central Iowa because there seems to have been visiting between Eliza in Illinois and her family in Iowa.

The fourth and final son came when Ellis was 8. The family was complete. Or they gave up hope of ever having a girl.

The family had been living on land which William had inherited from his grandfather as his father’s heir when he came of age. Now he was able to purchase more of it. With the help of his sons he cleared the land. They wore high leather boots to protect them from snakes. They built a new house half mile east. Things were going well.

Then, in the fall of 1903 tragedy, struck. The oldest son, Clarence, caught typhoid. Then Ellis got it. William nursed Ellis while Eliza cared for the younger boys and the recovering Clarence. Then William got typhoid. Both of the boys survived but William did not. Just before Christmas he died leaving a widow and four minor sons.

It was not the plan for Ellis to be a farmer. He went to business school. But, in the end, Ellis was the one who stayed on the land and farmed while his brothers went their  ways. Each of his brothers and their wives had one son. Ellis and his wife had three sons. After 11 years he had a daughter – and then another one.

He died two weeks after his 90th birthday.

 

More Revolutionary War Veterans

More Revolutionary War Veterans

I know about the prior four Revolutionary War Veterans buried in Logan County, Illinois, because I descend from all of them.

There is at least one more and possibly three more.

One is Henry Kimes. According to an early work on Illinois veteran burials, he was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and served in the Chester County Militia in 1780, 1781 and 1782. It says he went to Logan County, died and “is buried near Lincoln.” Actually he is buried in Atlanta Cemetery. I have seen a photo of his stone. I have never run across a descendant. Source given for the information is Pennsylvania Archives.

The same book lists a Peter Borders who “served in the South Carolina troops.” It says he was from Newberry County and went to Sangamon County but died in Logan County. I have never seen evidence that he is buried in Logan County nor have I run across a descendant. Source given for the information is “Pension Records.”

Finally there is William Patterson. There have been various references to his Revolutionary War service. I have talked to descendants looking into a DAR membership based upon his service. I have not seen their research. He was born in Virginia in 1757. His first child was born in Botetourt County. We know he was in Ohio by 1809 when his son Thomas married there. From Madison County, Ohio, he came to Logan County with his son Moses before 1840. He died March 16, 1840.

Patterson was born in Virginia in 1757. His first child was born in Botetourt County. We know he was in Ohio by 1809 when his son Thomas married there. From Madison County, Ohio, he came to Logan County with his son Moses before 1840. He died March 16, 1840.*

I know more about him because one of his sons married Elizabeth Morrow, a daughter of James Morrow and Hannah Downing. A daughter married a William Frakes, brother of Hannah Frakes who married John Downing. These people are from the Downing line which is buried at Bowers-Templeman. For some reason, William Patterson was buried in Downing Cemetery, final resting place of the other Downing line.

 

 

John Downing, Revolutionary War Veteran

John Downing, Revolutionary War Veteran

John Downing was born about 1762 in Maryland. Thanks to DNA testing we know he saw service in the Washington County, Maryland, militia. He was a Private, 5th Class, in Capt. Basil Williams Company, 2nd Battalion, in 1778. For many years he was believed to have served in Pennsylvania. See John Downing’s Elusive Service.

As far as we know, he did not apply for a pension which is part of the reason his service was elusive. As a result we don’t have a written version of his travels across the country. We know in 1783 he was living in Marsh Hundred, Washington County, Maryland. By 1786 he was living in Hopewell Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. In 1790 he is on the first federal census there. By 1808 he was in Jefferson Township, Monroe County, Ohio. A history of Madison County says he was “a native of Virginia.” It also tells us that in 1822 he moved to Logan County. In another error, it places Logan County in Ohio.

On August 6, 1831, he purchased 80 acres of federal land in Chester Township.

John Downing and his wife Hannah Frakes had eight children, seven of whom survived childhood. Three served in the War of 1812 while they lived in Ohio. One died in battle and one died not long after returning home. The third died in Logan County at the age of 94. Another son continued on to Iowa and another eventually went to Kansas. A daughter married and left for Oregon but got delayed in Kansas. Another daughter died in Logan County before her father.

Downing died on December 18, 1838, in Salt Creek Precinct, Sangamon now Logan County, Illinois. Less than two months later Logan County was officially formed. There were various early courthouses but the final one is in Lincoln. Almost immediately after all files were transferred to the new courthouse it burnt. There is no probate file nor any other records.

Unlike James Turley and Humphrey Scroggin, we know exactly where he is buried – in Bowers Templeman Cemetery.

French’s Chapel – Methodist Church

French’s Chapel – Methodist Church

For 81 years French’s Chapel served the residents of a rural area in Logan County. It was located on the south side of Salt Creek and just west of the Primm Road, a little over seven miles northwest of Mt. Pulaski, five miles east of Broadwell, seven miles south of Lincoln.

The church was built in 1870 on land originally owned by Asa and Hannah Clark French. Hannah was the daughter of John Winans Clark. Her uncle David Clark and her brother-in-law Richard Clark were Methodist Ministers and her cousin Dr. John Clark had been instrumental in the founding of the Mt. Pulaski Methodist Church.

Asa and Hannah had been holding services for the Methodist Episcopal Church in their home since about 1840. Caroline Alexander, the wife of Asa and Hannah’s son Ezekiel, had been converted at a meeting and was a devout member for the rest of her life. At her death they found a sugar bowl full of coins she had been saving to build a church.

The surviving French sons Daniel, John and Ezekiel were among the leaders in building the chapel. Ezekiel kept a record of expenses — the largest sum paid was $800 to G. Downing, presumed to be the contractor on the project. George Downing was a brother of Hannah Downing who married Daniel French, another son of Asa and Hannah. The total cost of the church was $1,650. The church was dedicated September 11, 1870.

The final service was held June 3, 1951. For many years a foundation remained but that is now gone. The French family no longer owns the land. No trace remains of French’s Chapel.

Who Is Buried in Humphrey Scroggin’s Grave?

Who Is Buried in Humphrey Scroggin’s Grave?

Humphrey Scroggin Stone

This is a photo of the marker on the grave of one Humphrey Scroggin in Steenbergen Cemetery, Mt. Pulaski Township, Logan County, Illinois. But does it mark the grave of Humphry Scroggin, Revolutionary War veteran?

Humphrey Scroggin, the RW veteran, was born about 1763 in Culpepper County, Virginia. According to his pension application he was drafted twice to serve out of Henry County, Virginia. After the war he bought land in District 96, South Carolina, in 1784, is found in Warren County, Kentucky, in the 1800 census and in 1814 bought land in Gallatin County, Illinois. Before 1830 he was in Sangamon County, Illinois, which became Logan County in 1839. He died there in July 1845. But where was he buried?

Several genealogists have suggested that the stone in Steenbergen does not mark the grave of the veteran and that this Humphrey Scroggin was in fact buried at Carlyle Cemetery. One of those was the late Dalen Shellhammer who, with his genealogist wife Sandra, managed Steenbergen Cemetery for years and oversaw the restoration of the Scroggin stone. They had heard or found enough to question but had neither the time nor the inclination to pursue an investigation at that point.

In the southeast part of what is now Logan County there were five Revolutionary War veterans living in 1835: John Downing (1838), Abraham Lucas (1841), William Patterson (1840), Humphrey Scroggin (1845) and James Turley (1836). The date after their name indicates the year of death. They all died within a 10 year span.

In 1917 and subsequently, the DAR published a list of RW veterans buried in Illinois. They didn’t know about all of them. Of the above group they only knew about Scroggin and Turley. Turley is listed as buried in Carlyle Cemetery which was then known as Turley. Scroggin is listed as buried “near Mt. Pulaski.” Both Carlyle and Steenbergen are “near Mt. Pulaski.” In fact, they are only a few miles apart.

Stones exist for Downing (Bowers Templeman), Lucas (Steenbergen) and Patterson (Downing). There is no stone for Turley or Scroggin at Carlyle. Stones exist from the period.

The Scroggin stone at Steenbergen is very near the stone for Lucas. There is also an existing stone for Lucas’ wife. There is no stone for Scroggin’s wife although there have been some DAR markers added.

Who is the candidate for burial if not the RW veteran? Humphrey Scroggin did not have a son named Humphrey but he did have a grandson named Humphrey. Grandson Humphrey died in 1859, not so much after his grandfather. His wife Sarah Lucas survived him by more that 40 years, remarried and is buried in Macon County with her second husband. Sarah was the granddaughter of Abraham Lucas, buried oh so close to the Scroggin marker, and the daughter of James Lucas (1827) and Hannah Bowman Lucas (1843). James Lucas’ stone is gone but Hannah’s remains, also right there near the Scroggin stone. No other stone is known for the grandson.

Makes you go hmmm.

John Downing’s Elusive Service

John Downing’s Elusive Service

Originally, John got a Revolutionary War marker based upon his service in the company of Capt. James Scott, 3rd Battalion, Washington County Militia, Pennsylvania. He was a private 5th Class and can be found listed in the Pennsylvania Archives. DAR agreed. Later John and his extended family and friends traveled to Ohio and on to Sangamon now Logan County, Illinois. They even brought along James Scott. 
 
(When I looked into this I couldn’t find anything about the James Scott except he traveled with John Downing. About the same time a James Scott joined the Lake Fork Predestinarian Baptists before dying in neighboring Macon County, Illinois. I could not swear it is all one person but it seems likely. Not that it mattered.)
 
Then it was determined that was not the right service for this John Downing. Nope. His service was in Capt. Timothy Downing’s Company, Washington County, Pennsylvania, militia. At least the location was correct. And probably the two Johns are related. A new marker was added to the old on at Bowers Templeman Cemetery just north of Salt Creek. The DAR participated in the ceremonies. That was 1977. 
 

 
Then the DAR decided that wasn’t correct either. And the timing really was off. After the war John moved back east in Pennsylvania instead of continuing on west? That could not be explained.
Recently, DNA testing allowed Mary Lou Cole of Ohio to follow a theory. John Downing didn’t serve in Washington County, Pennsylvania, but Washington County, Maryland. Mary Lou is not a descendant of this particular Downing line but she was determined. There were naysayers, including me. She continued on.
On September 5, 2013, the DAR notified Mary Lou that they agree with her conclusions (and documentation of course) and John Downing is now officially recognized as having his Revolutionary War service in Maryland.
John Downing has three stones. He has his original, which goes with the stone of his wife Hannah, to go with the two in the photo. Will he get a fourth, this time with the correct service? 
FindMyPast

FindMyPast

When I first saw FindMyPast I was particularly struck by the maps which show you the person’s location on that census. I could see many uses for that. And the census maps in FindMyPast would be useful — IF they were dependably accurate. But they aren’t. And there are too many I know aren’t to trust those I don’t know.

Robert Downing arrived in Illinois and settled along Salt Creek in the center of the state in 1821. I know what land he bought and where it is. It hasn’t moved since.

In the 1830 Census for SANGAMON County, Illinois, I found Robert Downing. There he is on a page with the folks that were his neighbors at the time, many of whom, or their descendants, would continue as his neighbors the rest of his life. With the transcription is the map of his location. He is found somewhere north of the Decatur airport. Decatur is in Macon County, Illinois.

From the 1840 census for Mt. Pulaski Precinct, LOGAN County, Illinois, I find Robert Downing. He didn’t move. In 1839 Logan was created from Sangamon. The transcript is correct. I know it is the right person, right neighbors, etc. Yet according to the map he is now northeast of Paris in EDGAR County, Illinois, just west of the Illinois-Indiana border. In 1850 he is in the same location in Edgar County. When I began to look for the 1860 census for him FindMyPast crashed.

In 1870 Robert is still farming but he is doing so from a house in the town of Mt. Pulaski according to the map. The census sheet show his neighbors, all those farmers. Amazing that they all moved to town together isn’t it? In 1880 Robert, now a man of 86, retired farmer, living with his wife, son, daughter in law and grandchildren, is again located in the town of Mt. Pulaski according to the map. Unfortunately the actual census page shows his neighbors to be people living on farms. At this point it crashed again. It seems to do that a lot.

FindMyPast also has the Social Security Death Index. The searches I did returned what I expected. You can get the SSDI free at FamilySearch.org though.