Tuesday, January 28, 2014

52 Ancestors: #4 Ellen Rebecca Miller [Preston]

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
52 Ancestors: #4 Ellen Rebecca Miller [Preston]

This year, Amy Johnson Crow has issues a new 52 weeks blogging challenge:

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor. Not only should this get me blogging more, but also to take a deeper look at some of the people in my family tree.

My approach: I plan to make this a Tuesday Theme, and, use it to enhance my WikiTree ancestor profiles. That is, focus on a different ancestor on my WikiTree list of profiles, each week (include possibly adding new profiles), Great idea! Thanks to Randy Seaver's post for bringing this to my attention!

#4 Ellen Rebecca Miller (1850-1912) is #11 on my Ancestor Name (Ahnentafel) List, and is my great-grandmother. She married #10 James P. Preston (1835-1906) my great-grandfather.
I am descended through:

* their daughter, #5 Ellen (Ella) Rebecca (Preston) Ballard (1880-1923), who married #4 William (1869-1939)
* their son, #2 Delbert Leverne (Pete) Smith (1915 - 1977), who married #3 Mary Eileen Kinnick (1918 - 1999)
* me, #1 William Leverne Smith (1939- …)

This ancestor has been perhaps the most [I had tragic - sad is probably a better term] sad, is some respects… or, perhaps, my judgement is colored by this only photo I have of her, the stories I know about her. It seems she had little control over critical events in her life, and I see it in her eyes… or, I imagine it. ;-)

I think of her as "the farmer's daughter" - and western cowboy swept into town, and carried her away to his ranch in the far west, to validate his homestead and give him children. Notice the mix of happy and sad, good and bad, words and inflections in just that one sentence. I know they had good times together. I know she had happy times. I know they had a great set of children who did well in life, in spite of some difficulties (or because of them?!), perhaps. I shared some of these stories last week.

Ellen grew up the daughter of a relatively affluent farmer near Bryan, Williams County, Ohio - the far northwest corner of the state. She was the youngest of four daughters - and four sons (plus two who died as youngsters). She would have been 20 years of age when James Preston came back to Ohio in that winter of 1870-71, presumably partly drawn by the need to finally settle his father's estate, that had dragged on for many years. It appears he also felt the need to take a wife back with him to "finalize" his ranch homestead, as well. At least, we know he did that, whether it was his intent, or not. [Again, you can read 'the rest of this story' in last week's post]

To assure, in his mind, at least, that his daughter remained in Iowa, with or near her brother, rather than getting 're-involved' with James, he bought 4 one-hundred-and-sixty-acre farms. This was generally rich farmland around Coon Rapids where they lived, in the names of the four grandchildren (skipping over his daughter, not to mention her ex-husband, and father of the four children), and naming the four as owners outright at his death, and owners in trust (trust managed by the banker son) during his lifetime. This was with a stipulation that their mother, Ellen, received from the trust, rents from each of the lands to provide support for her. I have give the general details of his intent and actions - the specifics no doubt varied in some details.

This was a fascinating story, shared with me by my parents, and verified independently from the records, since. This was the 160 acre "Homeplace" were my Dad grew up. I spoke about it recently in my post on my Mom's 75 Years Ago Today diary entry a week or so ago! [I wrote this some time back, with a copy of the will.]

We'll never really know the whole story, of course. She lived out her life with her children and some grandchildren around her. Perhaps it was, as we would hope, a happy life. We also know, however, that there was plenty of reason for there to be some bitterness, or regret, in her life. This was passed on to (at least some of) her grandchildren, for sure, in one form or another, whether intended or not. I hope it was the former. I'll try to give her the benefit of any doubt, letting the past lie, and live on its own.

P.S. Later in the day, cousin Rebecca Tribby kindly came up with photo of Ella on her front porch in her Coon Rapids home... I have is somewhere, as well. THANKS, Becki!

Next week, we shift to Maternal great-grandparents. ;-)

Families are Forever! ;-)

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