My great-grandfather George W. was born in 1852 in Crawford County, IN, the sixth of eight children born to William and Margaret Osborn Eaton. When he was 11, his brother Samuel died, a casualty of the Civil War. Another brother, James, survived his four years in the Union Army. A younger brother died at age 11 in 1870 when George was 18.
I can’t fill in much more between b. and d. for great-grandpa George. I know that he lived in English, Crawford County, IN. The town of Hartford that had been platted out in 1839 changed its name and incorporated as English in 1884, just after the Air Line Railroad came through town. The railroad provided a much-needed outlet for timber, which became the county’s chief product. The forests were decimated by the logging operations…. Today these lands have been re-forested by the USDA Forest Service and provide a lovely recreation area called Hoosier National Forest… From their site:
Southern Indiana boasted some of the finest hardwoods in the world. With the advent of the sawmill in 1860, extensive commercial forest clearing operations began. During the period following the Civil War, thousands of sawmills operated in Indiana.
In 1899, Indiana led the nation in lumber production. Though most of the good farm land had been cleared and settled in the early 1800s, the steep hills and valleys which today make up most of the Hoosier National Forest, was harvested between 1870 and 1910. Cut over lands sold for approximately $1 per acre.
The type of cutting that occurred in the late 1800’s had a profound effect on the composition of the present forest. The areas were often burned repeatedly to clear the brush.
Population during the 1800’s peaked in the 1890s, and then, in the Forest area, began to steadily decline as many farmers gave up…
Though some of my greats from English did work in the sawmills and logging, not George. He owned his farm and remained a farmer.
There was one other thing, a big thing according to my research, that occurred in Crawford County in those days. I’m actually rather horrified by this history, but it would appear to be something that the county is “famous” for.
White caps were groups involved in whitecapping who were operating in southern Indiana in the late 19th century. They engaged in vigilante justice and lynchings and in modern times are often viewed as engaging in terrorism. They became common in the state following the American Civil War and lasted until the turn of the 20th century. White caps were especially active in Crawford and neighboring counties in the late 1880s. Between 1860 and 1910, at least 68 people were lynched; twenty were blacks and forty-eight were whites.
WTF? What made people want to go around acting like that?
White caps groups began to spring up across the state over the next decade. The groups were most prevalent in the southern part of Indiana, and especially so in Harrison and Crawford Counties. Many of the groups started as enforcers of morality. They were known to target alcoholics, people believed to be idle, and men who did not provide for their families. Such people were often abducted and flogged.
They soon began to target women who were not believed to be adequately caring for their home and children, children who were truant from school, and people who shirked from civic duty like working on road projects. By the late 1870s, the groups were beginning to target criminals for punishment, and continued to carry out sporadic lynchings.
Whaa???? Targeting people believed to be idle?? Flogging? Thankfully, I do not (yet) have any indication that my ancestors were involved in these activities, either lyncher or lynchee… But ya gotta wonder…
Anyway, That’s the kind of world it was in Crawford County when 21-year-old George married 16-year-old Amanda Almeda Harris in 1873. They commenced to having children. Amanda later states on a census that she had given birth to eight children, but I have found only five who survived:
William was born in 1876; Lillie in 1878; Myrtle, 1881; Emma, 1886; and Clarence, my grandpa, in 1890. The children attended school at the loghouse in English, all of them completing at least the 4th grade, able to read, write, cipher.
By 1900, Lillie and Myrtle had married and were living nearby. Still left on the farm with George and Amanda were William, age 24; Emma, age 14; and Clarence, age 10.
Hard times…very hard times. were ahead…
On April 28, 1905 Emma died, age 18, of TB. On July 16, 1905, George W. died of typhoid fever. His death certificate says that it was of 16 days duration.
On August 18, 1905, Myrtle’s daughter died of gastroenteritis of 2 weeks duration. She was 18 months old.
On June 24, 1906 Myrtle died, also of TB, leaving no living children.
Lillie gave birth to a daughter, her fifth child, on April 27, 1907. Lillie died on June 2, 1907 ( of TB) and her little daughter died 12 days later, June 14, 1907.. Lillie was survived by her 3 sons, and a 4-year-old daughter, Rosa.
Doesn’t that just break your heart? Tuburculosis was the leading cause of death in the United states in those years and so many families were affected.
George W. Eaton’s estate in 1905 was valued at $353, about $10,000 2019 money and Meadie stayed on.. The 1910 census shows Meada, her son, William (still single at 34), and Rosa, Lillie’s daughter, living on the farm.
My grandpa, Clarence Wordie Eaton, was 17, almost 18, by time all the dying ended…and that is where I lose him.
I catch up with Grandpa in 1915, and I’m still a little confused…