From Blue Mound to Fort Scott Kansas…the Life of William David Pope

Pope, William D Picture

William David Pope

William David Pope, my husband David’s great-grandfather, was born to a family of early pioneers who settled in the Blue Mound area of Macon County, Illinois about 1827. He was born on 8 October 1848 to James Madison Pope and Louisa Hanna Taylor Pope. William was the oldest of six boys: Thomas John, Charles Willis, Millard Fillmore, James Franklin, and Zachariah Taylor. A sister, Sarah, died in infancy. He, like his ancestors, was a farmer all of his life.

The family land was flat with the exception of a cone-shaped hill in the distance that took on a blue hue. The area was called Blue Mound. Mosquito Creek, a narrow rivulet of water, ran through the farm. At one time the family farm had forests but, whether as a means to stay warm or a way of making extra money, a great deal of the forest slowly faded into memory. The land was rich and productive. And his father James was a successful farmer and a good role model for his children.

No doubt William had a normal childhood. He attended school and most likely helped his father with the farm. All of that ended at the age of fourteen when his father and uncle Zachariah left home in August 1862 to serve in the Civil War. Four months later in December his father was dead, dying of measles and cardiac obstruction at Camp Butler in Sangamon County, Illinois. About the same time his uncle, Zachariah, died in the same camp. Two lives wasted to disease, neither one able to serve their cause. Being the oldest boy a good deal of the burden of running the farm fell to him and his mother. Fortunately he had a large extended family to help out, but the shadow of the deaths of his father and uncle settled over the family during this time.

William’s life would change again 24 September 1866 when he married Elizabeth Ellen Smith. He was seventeen and she was sixteen. They were two youngsters, no doubt eager to make their way in the world. Two years later this young couple would experience loss when their one month-old daughter Minnie Alice died on 19 January 1869. She is buried in Pope Cemetery in Blue Mound.

This young couple must have been fearless as they set out for Kansas in 1869 where they settled in Franklin, Bourbon County. There is evidence that Elizabeth’s father and step-mother left Illinois about the same time and settled in the same area as the young couple. Perhaps they traveled together. No matter the circumstances it took a lot of gumption to leave the known behind.

Their second child Mary Louisa 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, their first son, was born. Again sorrow filled the family home when Walter died on 20 February 1879. At the young age of thirty, William knew heart-ache. He had lost his father, his uncle, his little sister, and two children.

Sometime between 1874 and 1880, William and Elizabeth were back in Blue Mound, Illinois with their three girls. William, like his father, was a prosperous farmer. His farm included sixty-three acres of land that was tilled or fallow and three acres of land in permanent pasture. The value of land, equipment, and livestock was close to $3,000, a goodly sum for that time period. He had two horses, two milk cows, one cow, two calves, fifteen swine, and one-hundred fifty poultry. The farm produced eggs, sixteen hundred bushels of Indian corn, one-hundred twenty-five bushels of oats, four-hundred seventy-four bushels of wheat, and forty gallons of molasses. It appears that he did this with the sweat of his own brow and the help of one hired hand. William was thirty-one. And of course Elizabeth helped when not tending the family garden and seeing to the children.

During 1880, Arthur Lee, their only surviving son was born on 14 August. Sometime after Arthur’s birth, probably early the next year, the family was on the move again. Who knows why the Pope’s decided to move away from their established farm and extended family. Perhaps the fertility of the land in Illinois was failing or the wide-open spaces were calling. Whatever it was, the Pope’s landed in the Fort-Scott area of Kansas and stayed. Their last daughter Lola Devin, my husband David’s grandmother, was born 5 April 1883.

As train transportation continued to expand at the end of the century, the Pope’s traveled back and forth to Macon County. They attended the funeral of William’s mother, Louisa, in 1896 and traveled to a family reunion in September of 1897. The reunion was covered by The Daily Republic Newspaper in their 20 September 1897 edition and read:

“Pope Family Reunion

Pleasant Gathering Sunday at House of Z. T. Pope on West Main Street

On Sunday there was a pleasant family reunion at the home of Zach T. Pope, district manager of Singer Sewing Machine Company, 1765 North Main Street. There are six brothers in the family, and all were present except Charles Pope, of Morrisonville, whose absence was greatly regretted. Those present were William D. Pope and wife, of Ft. Scott, Kan.; J. F. Pope and family of Morrisonville; Thomas J. Pope and wife, of Blue Mound; Zach T. Pope, of Decatur and family; and Uncle Willis Pope, of Lincolnville, Kan., the total number present being 21. A splendid dinner was served and all day the families were at the home engaging in social converse, and listening to stories of the early days in Macon county and life in Kansas, related by Uncle Willis.  The Pope brothers will probably visit the state fair at Springfield next week. It was the first time the brothers had met at one place since the death of their mother a few years ago. All of the brothers except Zach are farmers and are doing well.”

William died on 13 April 1911 at the age of 62 and is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Fort Scott. He and Elizabeth were married forty-four years. As a testament to her, he appointed her as the executrix for his estate. He left each of his children $500 with the remainder of the personal property to Elizabeth and at her death the land was sold and proceeds divided among their children.

Pope, William D - 1900 United States Federal Census

William was an enumerator for the 1900 US Federal Census for Scott Township. His handwriting was neat and readable.

Not only was he a successful farmer, but during his lifetime William was a member of the Mason’s Rising Sun Lodge No. 8 in Bourbon County. Was he a pillar of the community? No one knows, but given how well he managed his farm and took care of his children and his wife, he would have been judged to be a success.

 

I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

Lola with Mildred

Lola with Mildred

Within two years after the birth of their first daughter Mildred, the young Ferguson family moved to Sedalia, Missouri. While in Sedalia, Tom took a job with the U.S. Postal Service as a railway mail clerk. This job provided a good middle class income for the family that would see them safely through the Great Depression of the 1930s. His route went from Sedalia, Missouri to Parsons, Kansas. While in Sedalia, their second daughter Dorothy, was born May 2, 1908. Clyde followed shortly being born on May 7, 1910.

In June of 1911 the family moved to Webster Groves, Missouri. Tom was transferred to St. Louis where he worked on the St. Louis to Sedalia line. Mary Elizabeth Baker, Tom’s mother, lived with the family in Sedalia and moved to Webster Groves with them. She stayed until the early 1920s when she moved back to Fort Scott, Kansas. Russ was born December 12, 1912 and Mary was born June 13, 1915.

Railway postal clerks spent long periods of time away from home. They loaded the mail onto the car, sorted, cancelled, and filled sacks with the mail for delivery to post offices across the U. S. The postal rail car, officially known as the Railway Post Office (RPO) car, located behind the locomotive, was in a precarious position in the event of an accident. In early days they were made of wood making the cars vulnerable to fire. Because postal rail cars carried mail containing money, jewels, and other valuables, they were often the focus of robberies. I’m sure Tom carried a shotgun with him while working. Railroad postal clerks were looked upon as the elite of the postal service and Tom Ferguson was one of them.

    Sorting the Mail on the RPO

Sorting the Mail on the RPO

Starting a New Life Together…the First Years of Tom and Lola’s Marriage

Tom and Lola Ferguson

Tom and Lola Ferguson

In the early years of the twentieth century, the Ferguson’s started their new life together in Kansas. Automobiles were not being produced for the general public so the main mode of transportation was via horse, wagon, or train.

 Family stories show that sometime after their marriage the couple went to Colorado where Tom became a hired hand on a ranch. Because Kansas was the crossroads for several train lines Tom and Lola most likely traveled by train. Tom grew up on a farm so he was probably used to the hard work, but we are not sure just what he did on the ranch. And no one knows the circumstances, but Lola wound up cooking for the ranch hands.

 According to my husband Dave, his Grandmother’s cooking was plain but good. She made great fried chicken and saved the hearts and livers for him. We make meatloaf using her recipe and Dave has fond memories of her Buckwheat pancakes. This has carried over into our life as Dave makes Buckwheat waffles for our grandchildren when they spend the night.

Ferguson, Glennie Button

A button from an article of Glennie Ferguson’s clothes

 How long the job on the ranch lasted can’t be determined. The Ferguson’s most likely returned to Kansas prior to the birth of their first child Glennie who was born on November 3, 1903. I can’t imagine losing a child, especially a young child, but Glennie died on August 15, 1905. How heartbreaking. Glennie was one year and nine months old when he died; Tom was twenty-five and Lola was twenty-two. How poignant is the button, taken from a piece of Glennie’s clothes, one of the few remembrances of that short life that remains one hundred and four years later. And as Glennie’s life ended, the life of a new child was forming within Lola, probably unbeknownst to the young couple at the time.

Lola Pope Ferguson

Pope, Lola and Arthur_Fixed

Arthur Pope and Lola Ferguson

I remember Grandma Ferguson as a tiny, spunky woman. I met her when she was eighty-two, well on in her years. I met her for the first time sometime after I started dating her grandson, my future husband, David. She was still living in her family home with her daughter Dorothy. They both gave me a warm welcome. Sometime later she and Dorothy moved to an apartment in Webster Groves. I remember that apartment more than any other place she lived. While small it was cheerful and bright and well-kept. Grandma and Aunt Dorothy were always happy to see us when we went to visit them.

Grandma Ferguson was a tiny woman. The last of seven children, she was born April 5, 1883 in Bourbon County, Kansas to William David Pope and Elizabeth Ellen Smith Pope. The 1880 census showed that the family was living in Blue Mound, Macon County, Illinois. By 1883, when Lola was born, the family was in Fort Scott, Bourbon County, Kansas. The picture is of Lola and her brother Arthur.

Born Lola Amanda Pope her name changed to Lola Devin Pope by the time she was eleven years old. I know that she had a grand-aunt by the name of Amanda who was the sister of Lola’s great-grandfather David Taylor. Amanda later married Michael Devin. There is a connection, but who knows what.

Lola attended the Clarksburg School located close to the Missouri-Kansas border. From the eulogy given at her funeral “It was told that she rode a horse to school every day. She would mount up and ride from the house. Upon arrival at the school yard she would dismount and send the horse home.”

Lola graduated on May 24, 1899 at the age of sixteen. Her class of nine girls each gave presentations. Lola’s presentation was on the Philippine Islands. The Philippine-American War broke out in February, 1899 making this a current topic for the time. It’s interesting that her daughter Mildred was stationed in the Philippine’s during World War II when she served as a WAC.

Ferguson_Pope Marriage License

Tom and Lola applied for a marriage license on August 18, 1901.

Where personal information was lacking, census records really helped to fill in the details of Lola’s early life. It’s very clear from the 1895 Kansas Census and the 1900 U.S. Federal Census that Lola and her future husband, Thomas Carrol Ferguson, were neighbors and knew each other. On the 18th day of August, 1901 a marriage license was issued to Thomas Ferguson and Lola Pope. He was twenty-one and she was eighteen. The marriage license doesn’t indicate the date that the marriage took place or who solemnized the marriage. This fifty-six year marriage would produce seven children, six of whom would live to adulthood.

The Genealogy Bug

The Genealogy Bug

I really can’t remember what started me on my search for my ancestors and those of my husband. Retired, I have several hobbies that I enjoy. Perhaps I became bored with those hobbies; all I know is that I am now addicted to genealogy and the intimate details of the lives of my ancestors.

I have to thank my sister-in-law Judy for her help in getting me started. She has been searching for information about the Ferguson and Pope families for many years and gladly shared what she had with me. Judy was fortunate to have been stricken with the bug while my husband’s grandmother, Lola Pope Ferguson, was alive. Although grandma Ferguson was late in her years she furnished Judy with information to get her started. Through time Judy collected information the old-fashioned way via snail mail and eventually with a subscription to Ancestry.com.

And to my benefit, Judy shared her data and pictures with me and sent me on my own journey into Ferguson land. For the next year I gathered information, followed blogs, attended genealogy seminars, and honed my skills. That work on all fronts continues today.