Dying the Good Death … James Madison Pope

“Do not save your loving speeches for your friends till they are dead. Do not write them on their tombstones. Speak them rather now instead.”    

                                                                                                                                 Anna Cummins

In another post, I provided information about the early life of James Madison Pope. James and his family lived in Blue Mound Township in Macon County, Illinois. James, and his brother Zachariah, gave their lives for their country in a war where brother fought brother.

James’ father Dempsey Pope, and his mother Sarah Edwards Pope had moved to the area in 1827 when James was about three years old. When the family moved there, little did they know that in the future the United States would be torn apart and their family would be changed forever.

Blue Mound is about forty miles from Springfield, the capital of Illinois and fourteen miles from Decatur, the Macon county seat. I can’t help but think that the Pope’s were very aware of the local politics. Abraham Lincoln lived just west of Decatur and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846. Being of voting age, it’s very possible that James may have cast a vote for Lincoln in that election.  Lincoln did not run for a second term but over several years he was very involved in politics eventually running for and winning the presidential election of 1860.’

As James farmed on his quiet acreage in Macon County, Illinois, the union of the United States was slowly falling apart. During the 1860 presidential election, Southern leaders began to lay the framework for secession in the event that a Republican president was elected. After Lincoln was elected, Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861; and thus the Civil War began.

Pope, Zachariah Picture_2

Zachariah Pope, private, 115th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry

The expectation was that the war would end within ninety days with the North being victorious. As the war continued for over a year, in July of 1862, President Lincoln called for 300,000 volunteers. The call was quickly followed by another request for 300,000. In his book, History of the 115th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Isaac Henry Clay Royse wrote, “The later calls came to men of homes and families who loved the quiet of their firesides to go forth in defense of home and country ; to men who had much to sacrifice. The answer came quickly and with enthusiasm, and the cry ran through all the North, ‘We are coming, Father Abraham, 600,000 strong.’ Companies and regiments came forth as by magic. In the midst of their harvests farmers stopped their machines and laid down their implements to go to the recruiting rally, and there enlist for three years or the duration of the war.”²  In answer to that call, James joined the 115th Illinois Infantry Regiment, Company E, on the 13th of August as a sergeant. His brother Zachariah answered the call as well and joined the same day as a private. Willis, the brother born between James and Zachariah, stayed home, most likely to continue to farm his land and help his mother and the wives of James and Zachariah.

Orders came for the recruits to report to Camp Butler on the 25th of August. Tears flowed as the recruits boarded a train on the Illinois Central Railroad  that took them on a ten-mile ride to Decatur, Illinois. Another thirty-five mile ride on the Great Western Railroad took them to Camp Butler where the regiment was officially mustered in.

On the 4th of October the regiment was loaded onto trains that eventually took them to Cincinnati, Ohio where they were marched across the Ohio River to Covington, Kentucky. A good portion of their day was spent on company and battalion drills. From the 18th of October to the 23rd the men marched to Falmouth. On the morning of the 24th they continued their march to Lexington, arriving on October 28th. Rain and snow greeted them along the way.

On the 13th of November the regiment was ordered to Richmond, Kentucky. The march took a heavy toll on the regiment. By the time they arrived in Richmond, one-hundred and fifty were sick. Soldiers sleeping on beds of straw placed on the damp ground contributed to the sickness.  Again, Isaac Royce wrote, “The doleful funeral march was heard almost daily, and many of our most valued men were left in the Danville Cemetery…Measles was the greatest scourge. Great numbers were so afflicted, and many cases turning into pneumonia proving fatal. At one time nearly two-thirds of the regiment were in the hospital or on the sick list in camp.”³

Zachariah Pope was one of the soldiers who died in a hospital in Lexington, dying of measles. James died of measles and cardiac obstruction at a regiment hospital in Danville. So where does dying the good death come in? People of that era expected that if they lived well into their adulthood they would die the good death by dying peacefully at home, among loving family. They would be able to get their affairs in order and, upon death, transition into the hereafter.

The Pope family was lucky. Nearly one-half of the Civil War dead were never identified and many were buried far from home. The bodies of James and Zachariah made it home, most likely by train. James is buried in the Hall Cemetery in Blue Mound. In September of 1938, a military headstone was placed upon his grave. Zachariah is buried in Pope Cemetery in Blue Mound. A military headstone was also placed upon his grave in June of 1938.

Fortunately Dempsey left this earth before he saw fate take two of his sons. But the living were left bereft of their loved ones. Poor Sarah, she lost two sons within a month of each other. Louisa and her six sons, one a baby, were left without their beloved James. Emily, Zachariah’s wife, was left without a father for her children.

I can’t help but wonder would the Pope men have joined the Confederacy had they grown up in North Carolina, the state of their parents birth? Did the fact that they lived so close to the political activity in Macon County have a bearing on their quick response to Abraham Lincoln’s call to defend the Union and their subsequent deaths? We can’t answer those questions, but so we don’t forget, let’s speak of James Madison and Zachariah Pope and all of the others who lost their lives too soon in a war that tore our nation apart.

 


¹Abraham Lincoln. (2016, April 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:49, April 20, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Abraham_Lincoln&oldid=714382089

²Isaac Henry Clay Royse, History of the 115th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Regiment, PDF download, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/historyof115three00roys : downloaded 19 Apr 2016), 12.

³Ibid., 46

Elizabeth Ellen Smith Pope

Smith, Elizabeth Ellen Blog

Elizabeth Ellen Smith Pope

Living in an age when women have their own identity it bothers me that so many of our women ancestors have little identity, not like our male ancestors. They may be listed in wills and probate documents and possibly in deeds. You might be able to find out when they were born, married, and died. But many times they and their maiden names are lost to time.                                     

The further back you go there are no photos to capture their essence on a certain day and time in their lives. My husband’s great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Ellen Smith was fortunate to have had her picture taken, albeit later in life when the bloom had faded from her cheeks.                                  E

Elizabeth Ellen Smith was born in Illinois on 5 December 1849. She was born to Eliza Ann (Ellen) Armstrong and Colby/Coalby Smith. The family had moved from Kentucky about 1842 to Chatham, Sangamon County, Illinois where the family was enumerated in the 1850 census. There were five children in the family ranging in ages from ten to under one year. James was the oldest and the only boy. Elizabeth was the youngest of four girls. Her three older sisters were Harriett Isabelle, Martha, and Mary. Another boy, Joseph, was born three years later.

In 1855 the family experienced great loss when their mother Eliza Ann died. Elizabeth was six years old. On 24 September 1866, her father married Melvina Thompson. From this union came five additional children, Noah, Lucy, Clara, Agnes, and Alma.

In the early 1860s, the family lived on a prosperous farm. James most likely helped Colby with the farming and the older girls helped with household chores while attending school.

 At the age of sixteen, Elizabeth left home marrying William David Pope on 24 September 1866. They were so young and, like most youngsters, filled with hope for the future. The future looked bright when Minnie Alice, their first daughter, was born on 13 December 1868 when Elizabeth was eighteen. Heart-break would descend upon the family when one month-old Minnie died on 19 January 1869, followed by the death of Elizabeth’s sister Mary on 1 July. Like her husband William, she would know loss several times during her lifetime.

Perhaps because of the loss of their child, or perhaps because her father and step-mother were going to Kansas to start a new life, Elizabeth and William packed up their belongings sometime in 1869 and headed to Kansas where they settled in Franklin, Bourbon County, Kansas.

Mary Louisa, Elizabeth’s second child, was born in Kansas on 28 April 1870 followed by Annettie Bell in 1872, and Hattie Lu Ella in 1874. On 20 March 1877, Walter Colby, her first son, was born. Elizabeth would know sorrow again when Walter died on 20 February 1879. She was twenty-nine and had lost her mother, her sister, and two babies.

For reasons unknown, the family was back in Blue Mound in 1880. The farm was profitable based upon the 1880 agricultural census. The accounting of the usual farm animals, cows, horses, pigs, and chickens appeared on the census. However there were one hundred and fifty chickens producing approximately three hundred dozen eggs per year. That’s a lot of chickens and eggs. Besides the household chores of cooking, washing, tending to the children and the family garden, most likely Elizabeth was responsible for the chickens as well. Perhaps the older children helped. With that many chickens they would have had a huge egg hunt every day. And Elizabeth was pregnant, delivering Arthur Lee on 14 August.

Again the family was on the move sometime after Arthur’s birth. This move landed the Pope’s in the Fort Scott area of Bourbon County, Kansas where they stayed. Their last daughter Lola Devin, my husband’s grandmother, was born 5 April 1883.

The area where they lived was close to the Missouri-Kansas border. Elizabeth made sure the children attended school, sending them to Clarksburg School. Both Arthur and Lola graduated from this school.

Pope, Lola Birth Place Ft. Scott KS

A picture of the family homestead many years after the farm was sold.

In 1900, Hattie, Arthur, and Lola were still living at home. By 1910 all the Pope children had fled the nest but living with William and Elizabeth was a ward named Silas Hoffman. On 13 April 1911, Elizabeth’s married life came to an end when William, her partner for forty-four years, died. His confidence in her showed when he appointed her executrix for the estate.

We don’t know how long Elizabeth lived on the farm. A search of deeds would probably tell us. But like most widows at that time they went to live with their children, sometimes staying with one, and sometimes moving between children. In 1920 Elizabeth was living with her daughter Hattie in Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon. Hattie had married Walter Ferguson. Lola, her sister, had married Walter’s brother Thomas.

On 2 December 1929, Elizabeth Ellen Armstrong Pope died at the age of seventy-nine at the home of her daughter Lola and son-in-law Tom Ferguson. They lived at 679 Clark Avenue in Webster Groves, Missouri. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage with contributing factors of high blood pressure and old age.

Tom Ferguson worked for the railroad and most likely was responsible for shipping Elizabeth’s body back to Kansas where she is buried with her husband, the man she shared both good times and bad, in Maple Grove Cemetery in Fort Scott, Kansas.