Friday, February 12, 2010

Midwestern genealogy from Vermont!

With some labor I have finally assembled all six installments of the mega-article by Joan A. Hunter, CG, "An Overland Journey from Vermont to Illinois as Recollected by Mary Holton (1793-1874) with a Genealogical Summary," published in Vermont Genealogy (full citations at end of post, back issues available for sale). These New Englanders were long-lived, prolific, and accomplished, so it will come as no surprise that Mary Holton's account occupies the first eight pages, and the genealogical summary the remaining 68! (For those with particular interest in the Holton family, the summary involves the children, grandchildren, and (in child lists) great-grandchildren of Joel Holton5 (1738-1821) of Northfield, Massachusetts and Westminster, Vermont.)

I don't know when I ever would have found this if I hadn't happened across an extra copy of Vermont Genealogy in the Porter County Public Library in Valparaiso, Indiana (which, by the way, does a far better job of making recent issues of regional and national genealogical publications available than many libraries with bigger names). The article covers family members in Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, California, and Oregon, including early settlers of places as far removed as Ashland, Oregon, and Crown Point, Indiana.

The heart of the story is in McDonough County in west-central Illinois. In the fall of 1835, eighteen Holtons made the 14-week overland journey there from Westminster, the adults being William (son of Joel) and Olive Holton, then in their 60s, and their sons William Jr. and Isaac with their families, ages six months to 64 years. Everyone made it, even though two of the babies were not expected to survive the trip; one account says they would move the baby to see if it was still alive.

Isaac had prepared well ahead of time, having purchased 160 acres in Tennessee Township, McDonough County, in 1833. (The land was in the Military Tract set aside for veterans of the War of 1812; suffice to say that Isaac did not buy it from the original veteran.) In 1849 one branch of the family acquired the first piano in the county, which people came from miles to see.

As any genealogical research will, this one finds facts that don't fit the expected historical generalities. The Holtons did not use the Erie Canal; many of them settled in McDonough, but several went back east and many others later continued on west. In other ways, they are familiar in their enthusiasms: some family members embraced Universalism and Spiritualism; another, whose story is not told or followed, apparently married the utopian experimenter John Humphrey Noyes. Another was memorialized as a founder of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. No summary can do justice to these many gathered facts. My main wish is that the article were longer (!), as the author did not make use of the agricultural schedules of the US census.

I am grateful that Vermont Genealogy saw fit to print such a wide-ranging tale, big enough to occupy two entire issues of the magazine if it had been published all at once. It will be a good day when genealogy can support a respected publishing venue that could make an article of this type readily available in one place. Here are the citations for those who choose to seek it out. You won't be sorry.

"An Overland Journey from Vermont to Illinois as Recollected by Mary Holton (1793-1874) with a Genealogical Summary," Vermont Genealogy
10(4):183-209, October 2005
12(3):110-123, July 2007
12(4):164-171, October 2007
13(2):84-96, April 2008
13(3):116-123, July 2008
13(4):174-179, October 2008

1 comment:

Debbie V. said...

I love this kind of find!