The Postman

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My 2nd great-uncle, Erastus Laban Tower, served a number of years as the postmaster in Uniontown, Indiana. I wanted to find out more about his time as postmaster which at first I thought spanned from 1886 to 1911 (his obituary).

Then I found that he was appointed on January 13, 1892 (U.S., Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 on Ancestry.com).

The 1900 census listed him as a farmer but perhaps being postmaster did not pay well enough so he combined farming and postal work. In his wife’s obituary, it said she served as assistant postmaster. There was a 1903 list with the compensation for being a postmaster. It listed Erastus L. Tower as receiving $103.87. I believe that amount was the total annual payment, not a monthly payment.

Laban and Clarvina Tower

The USPS site gave this information on how a person became a postmaster:

From 1836 to 1971, postmasters at the larger Post Offices were appointed by the President, by and with the consent of the Senate. Postmasters earning less than $1,000 per year were appointed by the Postmaster General, generally upon the advice of the local congressman or townspeople. Regulations required that postmasters execute a valid bond and take an oath of office. Prior to 1971, it was also required that postmasters live in the delivery area of their Post Office. 

I’ve shared some information about Erastus Laban Tower on this blog and also on a page at a site called Hubpages. Below is his obituary which I found in a library when we visited Indiana some years ago.

The newspaper mistakenly put an “s” on Tower.

This post is part of my participation in the Sepia Saturday blog challenge. They post a photo each week which sets the theme. Here’s their picture for this week, a postman in Sweden. I doubt that small town postmasters in the U.S. had official looking hats like that.

Sepia Saturday Theme Image (P) Postman, Swedish National Heritage Board

Those Old Towers

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It impressed me when I saw the advanced age that my 2nd great-grandfather lived to be. Born in 1837, he lived until 1930 after surviving the Civil War and 6 months in Andersonville as a prisoner of war. It gladdened me to have such a hardy soul on my family tree.

Abraham Bates Tower

I knew that his granddaughter, Bertha McGhee lived to the age of 96, so I searched further on the longevity of his children and grandchildren. Quite a few lived into their eighties, but I was hunting nonagenarians. Here’s what I’ve found so far.

Tower Descendants Who Lived 90+ Years

  • daughter – Melissa “Malissie” Angeline TOWER 1878–1970 (91 years)
  • daughter – Viola Matilda TOWER 1873–1964 (91 years)
  • granddaughter – Daisy Rachell FISCUS 1913–2006 (91 years)
  • granddaughter – Nancy Melvina TOWER 1899–1993 (94 years)
  • granddaughter – Bertha MCGHEE 1903 – 1999 (96 years)

I like to think that longevity may get passed along in our genes and hope that some of those Tower genes are strong in me.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Week 40 Topic: Oldest

The Marriages of Mary Louisa Tower

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The theme this week was “multiple” and since I don’t have many twins or triplets on my family tree, I’ll explore the multiple marriages of Mary Louisa Tower. She is the older sister by seven years of my great-grandmother, Viola Matilda Tower McGhee. There were 10 children born to Abraham and Nancy Angeline Tower, but two died very early in life.

Mary Louisa was their first child after Abraham returned from the Civil War. Mary’s older siblings (Laura Ann and Erastus Laban) were born before the war in Indiana, but Mary Louisa was born on July 31, 1866, in Linn County, Missouri. There were cousins there too and Alta May Williams was closest in age to Mary Louisa.

The family moved to Arkansas in 1876. By 1881, they were back in Indiana where Abraham and Nancy Tower grew up. There 20-year-old Mary Louisa met and married Peter Rudolph Newton, Jr. in Birdeye on January 1, 1884. He was the son of the minister who started the Reformed Methodist Church there. He died twelve years later leaving the widowed Mary Louisa with five children. The oldest was just 10.

The day after Christmas in 1899, Mary Louisa Tower Newton married Daniel W. Waller. Apparently, that didn’t work out, as six months later, she and the children are listed in the census with no mention of Daniel Waller. A mention in The Herald of Jasper, Indiana on April 27, 1900, told of a Dan Waller in the Dubois County jail which might explain his absence from the home.  “Dan Waller, an insane prisoner in the county jail, tore the cock off the water pipe Wednesday, and let the water run in the room.” A plumber was called to solve the problem.

An earlier article shed more light on Waller’s state of mind.

Dan Waller insane on religionDan Waller insane on religion Fri, Apr 13, 1900 – 5 · The Jasper Weekly Courier (Jasper, Indiana) · Newspapers.com

I don’t know if the marriage was annulled or if it ended in divorce. In 1910, her last name is listed as Waller in the census. Her 72-year-old father was living with her, and some of her children.

It wasn’t until 1912, that Mary Louisa was willing to take the plunge and marry again. On December 23rd of that year, she wed Daniel C. Vibber. Her new spouse was a barber and had his own shop. Both had lost a first spouse to death and a second spouse to divorce or annulment. Mary Louisa was 46 and Daniel Vibber was 48. Each had children still living with them.

mary louisa tower and Daniel Vibber from Alan Vibber - Ancestry

Mary Louisa and Daniel Vibber (photo from Ancestry from the collection of Alan Vibber)

Their marriage lasted thirty years before Daniel Vibber died. Mary Louisa was widowed for six years before dying herself on December 22, 1948, at the home of her son, Ralph Newton. Left behind to mourn her were two other sons, Rudolph Newton and John Newton; three daughters, Mrs. Bertha Combs, Mrs. Cora Cook, and Mrs. Nora Atkins. She had 29 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren. Burial was at Floral Park Cemetery in Indianapolis.

mary louisa tower

Mary Louisa Tower Vibber (photo courtesy of cousin Gwen Boylan)

One little oddity, many of the important dates of her life centered around Christmas and the New Year.

  • January 1, 1884 – marriage to Peter Newton Jr.
  • December 26, 1899 – marriage to Daniel Waller
  • December 23, 1912 – marriage to Daniel Vibber
  • December 22, 1948 – Mary Louisa Tower Vibber died

 

D Is For Deaths in Indiana

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In searching for Crawford County, Indiana information that might help me with my ancestors, I found an interesting list of causes of death for that area. My Tower ancestors lived in the small town of Leavenworth, Indiana, along the mighty Ohio River.

The earliest date was from 1872 and the newest was 1919. Unfortunately, my direct ancestor Abraham Bates Tower and his wife Nancy Angeline Long left there after the Civil War, so the list didn’t really shed much light on them and their way of life prior to his departure. I had to resort to other sources to find out about Tower family deaths. Here’s one that I tracked down.

 Laban and Vina Tower

Abraham’s oldest son, Erastus Laban Tower was born in Indiana August 7, 1861, but grew up in Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas as the family moved around. Later he returned to Indiana, became a postmaster, and died there September 30, 1939, in Oriole, a town in Perry County.

I found his cause of death in a newspaper clipping in the files at the Tell City Library in Perry County which is adjacent to Crawford County. He died of apoplexy, an old-fashioned term for a stroke. Another clipping told of his widow, Clarvina Viola (Cox) Tower, dying after being ill for five weeks in 1943, That’s a little vague, so it could have been cancer or a stroke or who knows what.

laban tower and wife Clarvina or Vina Cox

You can read more about Laban’s life in an article on Hubpages.

Interesting Crawford County Deaths (Not My Relatives)

The people listed here are not ancestors of mine, but just ones I found interesting.
Some died in fairly ordinary accidents. One person was killed by a falling rock (there’s a large bluff by the river with a winding road leading upwards) and another killed by falling out of a boat on the Salt River (a 150-mile long river in Kentucky). William Corbett died in 1891 after being struck by lightning.
It doesn’t give the age of the individuals but I’m guessing some are children. One died from choking on beans and 3 girls died by drowning in the Ohio River, all on the same date. That is likely to have been a boating accident.
Some are quite odd.
►Walter Eldridge was killed by an elephant in 1916. Was a traveling circus in town? It turns out that he left Indiana to join the circus. After further research, it seems the incident happened in Tennessee. You can read more about the sad situation which resulted in the elephant being killed.
►Elizabeth Deuchars died by fire from her pipe. I’m guessing that she was smoking and a cinder fell on her skirt setting her on fire. Her death was in 1909 and it does list her age as 94.
►Alva Hooten committed suicide in 1913 and the note by his name said “He was to be Married Saturday.”
►Will Hughes and his father Sherman died in 1897 from eating wild parsnips. I searched on that and found that they can be mistaken for poison hemlock.
Some people think genealogy is just boring research. I find it fascinating, even the incidental information like this.

B Is For Billy Tower

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Little Billy was actually William Lee Tower. Since his father was William Warren Tower, I’m sure it simplified things to call the youngster, Billy.

billy tower (3)

In the 1925 Kansas census, we see the blended family that he was born into. His mother Emma Hill had two children from her marriage to Isaac Newton Roberds (James age 14 and Francis age 9). After Isaac Roberds died in 1922, she married William Warren Tower. W.W. Tower had two daughters still at home (Pearl age 20 and Edith age 14). So, baby Billy had Roberds half-siblings and Tower half-siblings.

billy tower (2)

At age 4, Billy lost his mother. So, in the 1930 census, we see Billy living with his father, William Warren Tower and a different assortment of siblings. W.W. Tower’s daughter Myrtle (Tower) was living there with her husband Floyd Casey and her daughter Maxine Casey. It’s likely that Pearl and Edith left when they each married, so Myrtle came to raise Billy.
Billy’s half-sister Francis (Roberds) age 14 was still part of the family as well. Myrtle’s daughter, Maxine, at age 7 was the aunt of Billy, age 5.
These photos are from Viola McGhee, my great-aunt’s album.
Here are Myrtle and Floyd Casey.

floyd casey and myrtle tower casey - learn more about them on my blog

William Warren Tower’s daughter, Myrtle and her husband, Floyd Casey.

Seeking Laura Tower

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I’m back to work on my ancestor-hunting. Family Search has added Indiana marriages for a wide range of years, so I pounced on that database.

Putting in my key ancestor, great-great-grandfather Abraham Bates Tower, I found a number of marriages where his name appeared. No, he wasn’t married a number of times, it was on his children’s marriage records that I found him.

That led me to pursue his daughter, Laura A. Tower through her marriage on 11 March 1886 to William Lewis Taylor. I already had that date, but the record provided me with his parents’ names. Always helpful to have that.

I already had a daughter for the couple, Rhoda Taylor, born the next year. Still, I needed more. I had no date of death for Laura. I hunted up some census records for William Taylor in Dubois County, Indiana. He shows up in 1900 with daughter Rhoda, some other children and a new wife, Eva.

Rhoda Taylor Grigsby and husband Tom - Laura towers daughter

Laura Tower’s daughter, Rhoda Taylor. Rhoda’s husband is Tom Grigsby. (photo provided by another genealogist, kiss110418, on Ancestry) 

Oh oh, that could mean that Laura died prior to 1900 or they got divorced. In 1899, William Taylor married Eva Taylor (former name, Eva Thomas?) and Rhoda now has an older step-brother Everett Thomas born in 1871 1892.

William Taylor has 2 additional sons in that census, Herman Taylor born December 1889 and about 10 years later, William T. Taylor born March 1900. Could Herman be Laura’s son and she died in childbirth or did she die sometime later before 1900?

I’ll be searching further for some clues on this and to find out what happened to Abraham’s daughter Laura.

I posted this to the Tower family group on Facebook and got this input from another Tower descendant: “There’s a Grigsby family association, too! (Which I am also a member of. And Du Bois. Ancestry is fun! :)) National Grigsby Family Society. Looks like Eva Thomas had two kids with Taylor, William Thomas Taylor and Alpha Taylor then ran off and married John F Thorn (according to the 1920 census listing Eva Thorn and the Taylor kids). Everett Thomas (later adopted the Taylor name?) was 8 in 1900, so born in 1892, not 1871, transcription error there! No help for tracking down when Laura died or where she was buried though.”

Homer Tower’s Wife

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You might think that genealogy is easy these days. Just go online and find all your ancestors and add them to your family tree. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

Admittedly it is easier and faster than in the days when my mom and grandmother visited courthouses and cemeteries to track down relatives. My subscription to ancestry.com is worth every penny in the time it saves me and the names and dates that I’d never find otherwise.

Despite that, finding your roots is a laborious, consuming project. Here’s an example:

I’m tracking the descendants of my great-great-grandfather, Abraham Bates Tower who was born in 1837. Don’t confuse him with the other Abraham Bates Tower who happens to be his uncle and who lived in the same county in Indiana.

One of Abraham’s grandsons is Theodore Homer Tower, son of Erastus Laban Tower. To complicate the search, both Theodore and Erastus went by their middle names. I noted that Homer’s wife was Ilena or maybe Ina Ilena but had no idea on her maiden name.

laban and clarvina tower family

The older couple (center) are identified on Ancestry as most likely Clarvina Viola (Cox) and Erastus Laban Tower. The others are probably children and grandchildren but are not identified.

She is the wife of my 1st cousin 2x removed.

As I added more details for Homer from various census and the marriage record, I found more variations of Ilena’s name. Ilenna, Ilean, Ilene and Ina I. I’ve assembled the evidence here.

►1900 census – Ilenna Parr, age 6, was listed as the granddaughter of Sarah and Ruffus Parr. Also in the household are the couple’s daughters, Ruth Parr age 21 and Lisia Ann Parr. age 12. I’d guess that Ruth Parr was Ilenna’s mother, but she could be the daughter of a brother or sister of Ruth’s. If Ruth is the mother, was she unmarried?

►1910 census – Ilean Riddle, age 16 is living with grandparents, Sarah and Rufus Parr. Also in the household are Ruth Riddle and Luke Riddle, ages 39 and 43. There’s a younger child, Chester Riddle, age 4. My deduction from this is that Ruth is Ilean’s mother and she has married Luke, probably in 1905 or 1906. Chester is Ilean’s half-brother. Maybe/maybe not. Ruth and Luke may have adopted Ilean or just gave his last name for the child to the census taker.

►1914 Marriage Certificate – Ilean Parr and spouse, Homer Tower. Very curious, what happened to the Riddle last name? Ilean’s birthdate is given as 25 January 1893. She is 21.

►1920 census – Ilene Tower, age 25 is listed with husband Theodore H. Tower and daughter Hilda. The neighbor on one side is Erastus Laban Tower, wife and also son, Dorris. This is Homer’s parents and younger brother. Next to them is a family of Riddles.
On the other side in the census is Ruth and Abraham Riddle with Abraham’s mother-in-law, the widowed Sarah Parr. It took some further sleuthing to discover that Luke was the middle name for Abraham, so not a separate person or new spouse for Ruth.

►1930 census – Ina I Tower, age 35 lives with Theodore H Tower and their 15-year-old daughter Hilda Marie. Homer’s widowed mother-in-law, Ruth P. Riddle, age 59 now lives with them. This verifies that Ruth is Ilean’s mother.

►1940 census – Ilean and husband Homer Tower, ages 46 and 47, now live alone. It would take further research to find out what happened to Ruth (probably died) and Hilda (probably married).

I can’t even begin to tell you how much time I spent verifyng Ilean’s name. Unfortunately, I’m still not sure but have listed her on the tree as Ina Ilean Parr Riddle.