Thursday, July 31, 2014

52 Ancestors: #24 Cyrus Ebon Trees, Once the Wealthiest Man in Rush County

Cyrus Trees' birthplace in Manilla, Indiana.  The house was built by his grandfather, Jacob Mull, who was one of the founders of Manilla.  (Photo was taken from the book, In Old Kentucky, a History of My Forbears, written by William DePrez Inlow.)

My great-great-great grandfather Cyrus Ebon Trees was born August 4, 1848 in Rush County, Indiana, the third son of James Whitlow Trees and Catherine Mull.  His father was a physician for a short while, but later became a dry goods merchant.  He received a common education in nearby schools and went on to attend Northwestern University in Illinois.

Cyrus Trees was married to Annie Inlow in Manilla, Indiana on May 4, 1869. They had only one child, Lavanche.  But when their daughter was only six years old, Annie suddenly died of an unknown illness.  Cyrus remained a widower for nearly two years, then he remarried in 1877.  His second wife, Charlotte Macy, was just eleven years older than his young daughter.  Cyrus and Lottie had two children, Lee and Mary Catherine.

Shelbyville Democrat published May 21, 1881
In his early career, Cyrus was unusually prosperous, always thinking of ways to expand and progress. Associated with his father in the grain business,  he built a name for himself and also helped to make Manilla one of the best grain markets in Indiana.  By 1883, he was running his grain elevator night and day.  Cyrus was also a merchant in both the livestock and the lumber trades.  I'm sure his lumber company (Trees and Mohler) used his befitting last name to drum up business.

In addition to all of these business ventures, Cyrus Trees was actively involved in politics.    One Shelbyville, Indiana newspaper described "Cy" as "a red hot Democrat."  He held his beliefs firmly and was slow to change his views.

In the 1880's, Cyrus engaged in land investments in Kansas, and encouraged everyone he knew to do the same.  He became the vice president and director of the Kiowa Land Investment Company.  And if all this wasn't enough,  Cyrus started something completely new; he organized the First Manilla Bank in 1895.  Eventually, the strain of all this responsibility caused serious repercussions and robbed him of his sanity and health.

Land investors in Haskell County, Kansas.
The beginning of his troubles started in the late 1890's.  Cyrus had invested largely in land ($80,000 to be exact) in Haskell County, Kansas.  It appeared to be a great success. New settlers were enticed by the glowing accounts and came in throngs with hopes of becoming successful ranchers.  But with the influx of settlers and the breaking of sod, it soon became apparent that the range would be spoiled.  Adding to the rancher's problems were the discouraging prices and the long drive to market.

Although Haskell County had enjoyed a boom in the 1880's, it suffered an even larger bust in the 90's.  The county's population plummeted, and Cyrus' investments were gone.  When he received the news that the whole enterprise had collapsed, Cyrus underwent a nervous breakdown.  In September of 1899, Cyrus, now seriously ill, was admitted to a sanitarium in Martinsville, Indiana.

The Indianapolis Journal published February 10, 1901
On Christmas Day, 1900, Cyrus Trees was declared of unsound mind and was committed to a private sanitarium in Indianapolis.   The Manilla bank had to be closed for six weeks until someone could take it over.  A relative, John Blessing, was chosen as guardian for the unfortunate ex-banker.  To pay off Cyrus' debts, which amounted to $66,000,  Blessing sold his ward's land in several counties and also sold the Manilla bank.

However, not all of the debts were paid off.  Dr. John D. Green, son-in-law of Cyrus, filed a complaint against Blessing, asking $8,000 for services rendered as a physician to Cyrus and his family.  The doctor stated that, in 1897, his father-in-law had become so ill that he required someone to look after him constantly.  Cyrus proposed that his son-in-law might abandon his practice as a general physician and devote his entire time and attention to himself and his wife and daughter, promising to pay him what his services were reasonably worth.  Dr. Green agreed to the plan, but was not reimbursed.  Cyrus, now a resident of the Richmond Insane Asylum, was powerless to pay him.  A settlement was reached, and the doctor accepted payment of $3,500.

In 1901, Cyrus was transferred for the third time to a sanitarium in Oxford Ohio, his last residence.  He died in the asylum on February 18, 1902, at the age of 53.

"Cy was one of those warm hearted, generous, whole souled persons whom it is always a pleasure to meet, of a most sociable disposition, honest and faithful to his friends.   He was enterprising, shrewd, and progressive.  In his death his family is called upon to mourn the loss of a kind hearted and affectionate husband and companion." (From his obituary in the Shelbyville Democrat)

Monday, July 14, 2014

52 Ancestors: #23 Susanna "Anna" Kimmel, Grandmother of Red Skelton

Susanna "Anna" Kimmel was born around 1860 in Olney, Richland County, Illinois.  She was the tenth and last child of Jacob Kimmel and Nancy Tombaugh.  At the age of seventeen she became the wife of Asa M. Fields.  Their marriage took place on December 23, 1877 at the home of the bride's father.  Anna's brother-in-law, Samuel Forney, performed the marriage ceremony.  Their first daughter, Stella, was born in 1880.  Around 1881-1882, the family relocated to Nebraska, where four more Fields children were born: Mary Kathryn (born in 1882), Ida Mae (1884), and twins Eddie and Freddie (1888).  Ida Mae was the mother of Richard "Red" Skelton.

The Fields were affiliated with a German Baptist church in Kearney, Nebraska. The Wood River Church was organized May 28th, 1881 at the residence of Moses Snavely. At the first meeting, there were just 13 members present, among them: Minister Samuel Forney and Asa and Susanna Fields. However, on February 11, 1882, Asa and Anna left the congregation, as recorded in the minute books from the church. 

Vincennes Sun Commercial, February 20, 1939
Around 1890, Asa and Anna moved their family again, this time to Vincennes, Indiana.  My great-great grandmother, Carrie, was born there in 1891, and the last of Asa and Anna's children, Robert Hergel, was born in 1899. 

 I am unable to find an obituary or death certificate for Asa, but I think he died sometime around 1900.  In a letter to her brother, Lewis Kimmel, dated May 5, 1938, Anna wrote that she had been a widow for 38 years.  She said she had two sons and three daughters living out of 14 children, 25 grand children and 13 great grand children. Her pension was $11.00 a month. She was living in one room all alone. Her youngest son (Robert) was married and lived on the same lot with her. Her address was shown as 702 Upper 11th, Vincennes. 

In 1939, Anna (called Susan in the newspaper) attended a luncheon honoring her famous grandson, Red Skelton.

Anna Fields died March 17, 1945 and is buried at Fairview Cemetery in Vincennes. 

Indianapolis Star, March 20, 1945

52 Ancestors: #22 John B. Davis, Beekeeper of Allison Prairie

John B. Davis was born January 22, 1846 in Knox County, Indiana.  He was the oldest of nine children. His parents were Edmund Davis and Lucinda Gilmore.  Edmund Davis was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

John married Emily "Millie" Shreck on May 20, 1866.  They had three children: Elizabeth, William, and Charles.  Sadly, sometime after 1870,  Emily and two of the children caught a fever and died.

John and his only surviving son William moved to Allison Prairie in Lawrence County, Illinois.   There he met his second wife (my 3rd great-grandmother), Margaret Jane Price.  They were married on the last day of January, 1875.  The couple had six children: Mary Jane, Leonidas (my 2nd great-grandfather), Samuel Hendricks, John M., Dora M., and Viola Mae.  According to his obituary, John and Margaret had three other children that did not survive past infancy.

John Davis' former residence in Lawrence Co., IL

His middle initial "B" may have been a nickname because he raised bees. His gravestone says: John 'Bee-John' Davis.

"He was born and reared in a Christian home.  When he grew to manhood, he made the choice of the Church of the Brethren.  He was a kind and devoted husband and father, and was always interested in the welfare of his children physically and spiritually.  He expressed himself as ready and willing to cross over." (From John B. Davis' obituary.)

John B. Davis died on Oct 8, 1922 from heart failure.