Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Special Women

There are two women in my far past that when I think of them, I am astounded by them. The first was Sarah Ann Kirtley. She was just a young thing of 13 in 1822 when she married my great-great-great grandfather, Dr. John Stearns Percival and took on the task of raising his children from his first marriage. I can only trace one of those children on, Egbert Percival. His story is for another time.

In January 1841, Dr. Percival died an untimely death. Sarah was only 31 and left with her four children to raise: Eliza, William, John and Jabez. I know John and Jabez were living in other households in 1850, Eliza was married and William is nowhere to be found. In 1845, Sarah remarried to Lewis Webb and raised his children, while her children learned trades elsewhere. Jabez resided with his sister Eliza and her husband Joseph Oliver, who taught Jabez the blacksmith trade. John lived with another family where he learned the carpentry trade.

By 1856, John had made his way to Missouri, where he met and married Susan Davidson. In 1859, Herbert was born. Unfortunately for them, the Civil War had started and John, a Captain, fought at Wilson's Creek and at the battle of Lexington, Missouri. When his enlistment was up, he returned home to be with his wife when their younger son, John Henry was born in February of 1862. He then re-enlisted, receiving only a Lieutenant's commission. There is speculation that he was promoted to Captain shortly before the battle of Bayou Meto Pass, Arkansas, where he lost his life. At home, his wife held their little family together, teaching to support them.

She, too, eventually remarried, and her children suffered the same fate as her mother-in-law's children, being farmed out to relatives and friends. Herbert lived with his Uncle Jabez Percival in Covington, Kentucky while he attended Medical School. John Henry learned the tinsmith and plumbing trade.

What was so special about these women? One was the fact that they could read and write. It was not a presumption in the time frame from 1808 to 1880 that women were taught to read and write. Let alone support a family by teaching. The other was their obvious faith in God. And they were so pragmatic about death. Even though both lost their husbands tragically early, when writing about life, illness, tragedy and death, they always quoted "The Lord giveth, and the Lord Taketh, blessed be the name of the Lord."

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

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