1828 versus 1875
Destruction and Devastation
“Water, water everywhere! There are few of our citizens who do not know of the extent to which the classic Wabash has, in past years, risen, and but few who have not felt the effects of it in a greater or lesser degree; but such an occurrence as the present rise – the magnitude of which has never been witnessed by any one living – claims more than just a passing notice. January and June freshets used to be looked for in times past, as regularly as those months came round, but for such a rise as the present to pour down upon us in August, is unprecedented and will probably never again be witnessed. The well-remembered rise of 1828 is no longer a data, as the rise of August, 1875, which reached its highest point last Tuesday, saw it and went twelve inches better. The flood of 1828 can now step down and out, and those old citizens who boasted of having seen the Wabash at such height as has never been reached since, and probably never before, will have to keep in the shade and yield to their descendants the “glory” they have themselves so long enjoyed. At this writing, Wednesday evening, or town is surrounded with water…”
Thomas John Hackathorn, my great-grandfather, was a boy of ten years old when his family was caught in the midst of this flood. You can read more about the family’s experience here in the week three posting of the 52 Ancestors Challenge. I am trying to imagine the destruction of the flood through the eyes of a boy and wonder if he was scared, or if he found it exciting, or perhaps a bit of both? It is a little difficult reconstructing Thomas’ life after the flood. We know that his father, Jacob, contracted smallpox and died within ten months of the flood. The oral history account of this time given by Thomas’ younger sibling, and only sister, Jennie, states that they were able to keep the family together after the flood, but what happened after the death of their father in June of 1876 is pretty much unknown.
As was mentioned in week three, Christian had remained in Kansas when the family started their journey back East after successive years of crop failures. James married the Ickes neighbor, Lyde in 1879. At the time of the 1880 census, we find James and Lyde living not too far from James’ mother, Mary, in Vigo County, Indiana. We also find Mary with two of her sons, Jacob and William. Silas is working as a farm hand and boarding there, also in Vigo County. But where are the three youngest children, including Thomas? Thomas, Crawford, and Elizabeth Jane (Jennie) are nowhere to be found. I have searched the 1880 census for years looking for some clue to where they might be. I looked for those children in the households of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, West Virginia, and Ohio. I’ve undertaken what amounts to a door-to-door search in Vigo County, Indiana thinking that they might have been farmed out to neighbors. I’ve searched orphanages and asylums without finding a trace. I don’t know if, perhaps, they had been placed under some sort of guardianship after the death of their father or not because I have not found any documents or newspaper articles to that note. They just…disappeared.
This is not the first time that I’ve had problems finding this particular family. I have yet to find them in the 1870 census. After searching for many variants of the Hackathorn surname, including, but not limited to, Heckathorne, Hagglehorn, Hickenhorn, Hackleborn, Hakeltorn, and Headstrom (yes, indeed, Headstrom), I have convinced myself that the family was probably traveling in their covered wagon somewhere in Missouri or Kansas at the time of the census in 1870. What we have are about 30 years where we know almost nothing about where the family was living and what they were up to.
Thomas John Hackathorn was born on Sunday morning, 16 April 1865. It was Easter day and the nation was still in shock at the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Just the week before, Lee had surrendered to Grant, the Civil War was winding down, and Jacob and Mary were itching to leave Ohio and try their fortune out West. In 1866 they began their westward trek with their older sons and year old Thomas in tow.
Until we can fill in the missing years after the flood in Indiana, we can pick up the siblings’ lives again when they have all reappeared back in Ohio – with the exception of James, who remained in Indiana. We know that, at least, William was back in Ohio when he married in 1884. Silas married in 1886. Widowed Christian was back in Ohio from Kansas and married in July of 1893. Jennie married in 1893 also, followed by Crawford in 1895, and Jacob in 1898. Thomas’ mother, Mary, passed away in Bergholz in December of 1896. Thomas John married Florence D. Paisley on 18 June 1893 in Jefferson County, Ohio.
Thomas and “Flora” were married just weeks shy of 24 years when Florence died in childbirth with her 15th child, who was born premature. Of their children, only nine survived to adulthood. After his wife’s death, their oldest daughter, Mary, 23 and a teacher, assumed the role of caring for the eight younger children. His entire adult life, Thomas had been a coal miner and, apparently, a moonshiner and bootlegger. Perhaps the rest of the family knew this fact, but I did not until a few years before my grandmother died. One Saturday we were at Grandma’s apartment because my son had to interview someone for a project at school. He chose his great-grandmother. I was sitting on a footstool glancing at a book and listening with half an ear (because I had already heard a lot of the stories) when my son asked what her father did and she revealed this little tidbit. Surprised is not the word for my reaction. I jumped up and said “Grandma, why haven’t you ever told us this before?” And she replied that it wasn’t something that you usually mention in polite company and how did we think that her father fed nine kids? Not from the coal mines…
It appears from talking with various cousins that the production of whiskey was something of a family affair and that there was most certainly a connection to the Whiskey Rebellion in Western, Pennsylvania. (But, that…is another story.)
Thomas died 25 April 1949 of a cerebral hemorrhage at 84 years of age. He is buried in the Bergholz Cemetery.
This is my Week #10 post for Amy Johnson Crow’s
52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Challenge.
The optional theme for this week was “Stormy Weather”.
“Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-12456-7689-20?cc=1307272 : accessed 11 March 2015), 1949 > 22101-25300 > image 2399 of 3533
Year: 1880; Census Place: Sugar Creek, Vigo, Indiana; Roll: 318; Family History Film: 1254318; Page: 184A; Enumeration District: 199; Image: 0370
“The Flood.” New Harmony Register 14 Aug. 1875: 3. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
“Pleads Not Guilty.” Zanesville Times Recorder 29 May 1939: 6. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
“Several Plead Guilty Before Federal Judge.” Elyria Chronicle Telegram 13 June 1939: 1. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
7 Replies to “52 Ancestors: #10 ~ Thomas John HACKATHORN ~ After the Flood”
I love how you tie together your family’s story with what was happening in the world. Great post! And great story.
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Thanks, Dana. I’m somewhat of a history buff, so the references are there because I like to try to figure out what my ancestors were really like and how they were living. We know how some things affect us when they’re going on the world, but unless we have diaries or something similar from the ancestors, we can really only guess at their lives. I do a lot of guessing… 😉
Very interesting story! I have relatives who sold moonshine also, and one “Revenuer” in the family who chased them! LOL
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Helen, that’s very funny! I bet that situation made for a lot of good stories! It’s always good to look at both sides of a story, at least, I think so. After doing a lot of reading about the farmers in western Pennsylvania and the Whiskey Rebellion, I am having a hard time not siding with the whiskey makers and the decision to distill their grain in order to have some kind of an income (given that it was difficult to transport goods to market in the east). It seems to me that it is akin to selling your fruits and vegetables from the back of your truck. For a nation that was pretty much settled by farmers, it’s odd that farmers had, and continue to have, such a hard time making a living.
It is so amazing to be able to discover information about these natural disasters and able to learn how they effected our ancestors’ lives.
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It is amazing! I love old newspapers. It’s a little embarrassing how much time I spend reading them (even when they have nothing to do with my ancestors).
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