Great Uncle George’s grave marker in Utah
This much I know about Hannah Smith…two sisters, Vesta and Parmelia, her daughter Fanny, and her mother Rachel all appear to have died with lung issues. Hannah’s mother Rachel’s death certificate says she died of lung fever. Hannah’s sister Parmelia died in a sanitorium in NY. Although Vesta outlived her husband Benjamin Nichols who survived the Civil War, she eventually died of consumption. Hannah’s daughter Ellen, my second great-grandmother (my paternal grandmother’s grandmother) died at age 42. I am still searching for Ellen’s death certificate, but she had two of her 16 children a few years before her death.
Hannah Smith’s brother George travelled west settling in Woodruff, Rich County Utah. The census does not identify his religion, but given Mormons settled this area and he apparently had several wives simultaneously, I think he was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. George seems to have acquired female household members with children. Given they are in the generation that fought the Civil War, where so many men died, it almost seems that in the early days of this church, some men took widows with children as additional wives (like the Old Testament?).
Generally, social change arises from demographic and economic considerations. When they could, family members took the widows and orphans under their wings. There were many instances of this in my family.
Before the government became big brother, families made arrangements for their own members. And not just the orphaned children. When George left for Utah, Rachel Smith, who had lived with her son, stayed in New Hampshire with daughter Vesta Smith Nichols until she died. Vesta’s SIL Lois Jackson Nichols (Thomas’ wife) travelled back to New Hampshire from Wisconsin to live with her brother Warren Jackson and his wife Fanny Nichols Jackson (Thomas’ sister). When Warren died, Lois stayed on with Fanny and her son (Lois’ nephew Luvill) until she died. (This confuses me too, but writing about it helps me explain it to me.)
All these families identified as farm families in the censuses of agriculture, however, small industries, paper mills and the like were present from the gitgo. Many people worked in these mills and maintained homes in farm communities.
All this disappeared in the twentieth century. In 1975, when I visited what was a town over 150 years ago, I found pine trees and road markers identifying the place. Today this area is a nature preserve owned by businessmen from New York and Boston. Its nice the land is green again, probably protected by the Nature Conservancy, but what became of the people? The children scattered to the four winds, across the USA and overseas. Today, people don’t take in widows and orphans, the state does. Is this the progress we live with?