Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘ancestors

Wagon Wheels

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All these years, I’ve been walking past them. Mounted as handrails on either side of the steps to our front door are two wagon wheels.

They don’t actually make for great handrails, so I’ve never been all that enamored with them. In fact, I suspected they were simply replicas. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve never really looked at these wheels closely, despite shoveling snow around them every winter.

Last week, when Matthew was here sealing the logs of our house, he pointed out that the wheels deserved some attention, too, and that they were simply screwed into the steps with three lag bolts each. He advised I remove them to sand each one down and put a couple coats of sealer on them myself.

So, I removed them.

It didn’t take long for me to discover these are REAL wagon wheels. Given the fantastic discoveries this past February that three families of my ancestors lived just about ten miles south of here in the 1860s-70s, and that my 2nd-great-grandfather, Stephen W. Hays was a wagon maker who managed a factory that manufactured wheels… having my hands on these beautiful relics is synchronous to an exponential degree for me.

I doubt it would be possible to verify the provenance of these wagon wheels, but I’m happy to just marvel over the weird coincidence of my working on these genuine wheels, given all I’ve learned about what was happening here 150-years ago that my ancestors’ hands were involved in creating.

I’ve got a second coat of sealer to apply and then I will remount these two to the front steps, and I will never walk past them again with the same cavalier regard as I had before.

Of all the features to find mounted on the front steps of a house we bought while entirely clueless about the history of the region and my ancestors’ contributions to it… It just boggles my mind.

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2020 at 6:00 am

Property Search

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I vaporized a few hours in the Pierce County courthouse again yesterday. It took a couple tries to get past the clerk keeping the “gate” because she couldn’t find my application to research genealogy. When I figured out what she was looking for, we were able to establish I hadn’t filled out an application the week before because it wasn’t needed to search land records.

I already have the vital information they were being cautious to guard. I was simply seeking to locate land descriptions for property my ancestors might possibly have owned. In the days that have passed since last posting about finding a second family of past relations living nearby in Pierce County, I discovered that there was a third family here at the same time.

It probably shouldn’t be all that surprising that proximity contributed to marital relationships. The 1875 census for the township of Hartland tallied a mere 1,170 people. There likely were limited numbers of qualified partners from which to choose. Evidence reveals more than one of the ladies in these nuptials were still in their teens, so the definition of “qualified” was a bit different back then.

In addition to 2nd-great-grandfather, Stephen W. Hays, and the Church family of my great-grandmother, Minnie, there was the family of Joseph Sleeper, a mechanic, sawmill operator, and civil war era soldier sharpshooter. Joseph is a 3rd-great-grandfather, the father of Minnie’s mother, Sarah who married Charles F. Church.

So, there was Stephen Hays (b.1829) the wagon maker, Joseph Sleeper (b.1824) the sawmill operator, whose daughter married Charles Church (b.1845) one-time teacher, mechanic, and factory worker, whose daughter married Stephen’s oldest son, John W. Hays (b.1860). Given the nature of their occupations, it is easy to imagine the possibilities of their coming to know each other within the few miles where records show them all living.

How about an exercise in locating a plat of land?

In the book of Grantees for the time span of my interest, I found three records of Grantee Joseph Sleeper purchasing a warranty deed in 1861 and 1862 for land in Hartland Township. The cropped image from the platbook for Hartland in Pierce County in 1877-78 shown above includes sections 14-15-16 (counting right-to-left) and 21-22-23 (left-to-right).

Joseph’s property is in section 15. Those sections are first divided into quarters of 160 acres each, and then each quarter is repeatedly divided into quarters again for plots of land that go down to 40. Half-divisions will render plots of 80 acres and 20 acres, respectively. Cyndie and I purchased a 20-acre subsection up in the Martell Township about 12-miles north of what is shown here.

See if you can spot a 40-acre parcel that Joseph bought from Selah Strickland in the SW1/4(40acres) of the SE1/4(160acres) of Section 15.

Find section 15. Visualize the SouthEast quarter of that section. Finally, focus on the SouthWest quarter of that space.

Hint: It says, “GRIST MILLĀ  SAW MILL”

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Surprisingly Close

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It didn’t take me long to find the 1880 US census record for my 2nd-great-grandfather, Stephen W. Hays in Pierce County. In an almost comical confirmation of the unreliability of name spellings when doing research, the record I found was listed for “Stiven” Hays. I’m not clear whether that was attributable to an initial misspelling, the handwriting of the actual census recorder, or the loose interpretation by the subsequent person(s) scanning and labeling the originals into digital form.

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The Hays family of Stephen and Judith and two of their sons are counted on the pages for Esdaile, Wisconsin. I was stunned to find this previously-unknown-to-me community is on the equivalence of 650th Street just about 13 miles south of our current home. Our driveway is also on 650th Street, which is an amazing bit of synchronicity and surprisingly close, in my opinion.

This opens up the next level of investigation, as I strive to discover just exactly what address they resided at during the thirteen years from 1871 to 1884 that they were in Pierce county, as reported in Stephen’s obituary article.

I don’t have deep knowledge of this period of history, but my intuition senses that relocating as often as the article indicates they did probably wasn’t an insignificant feat. It’s possible that it wasn’t as big a deal for them as I imagine, but I doubt I would be up to that frequency of big moves. At the same time, if it was actually a huge task for them, it begs the question to me of why they moved as often and as far away as they did.

The 1880 Census lists Stephen’s occupation as “Wagon Maker.” A quick review of wagons and wainwrights reveals that the 1880s were a boom time for that mode of horse-drawn transporting of both humans and goods so maybe Stephen was simply following opportunities in his field.

The accompanying portrait of the man evokes more of a Lincoln-esque stature than the shorter, rounder impressions of male Hays faces going back from me to my dad, to his dad, all the way to Stephen’s son, my great-grandfather John W. Hays. Maybe it’s the beard. I couldn’t grow something like that if my life depended on it.

Maybe there was more influence on appearance from the maternal sides of those generations after Stephen.

Cyndie and I hope to take a drive to explore the properties around Esdaile this weekend to see if we stumble on anything that looks over a hundred years old. If I see any antique-looking wagon wheels propped up somewhere, you can bet I’ll start asking questions.

I’ve ordered a historic map from the Pierce County historical society and plan to do some research on land records. As long as we’ve discovered they lived this close, it would mean a lot to me to also learn if they owned property that I could now visit knowing my forefather had once walked that same land, too.

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Written by johnwhays

February 5, 2020 at 7:00 am