Tuesday, November 25, 2014

52 Ancestors: #47 James Whitlow Trees, Still a Democrat

Portrait taken from 1888 History of Rush County
J. W. Trees, of Manilla, was in town today on his way to Indianapolis.  He is still a democrat.  (Columbus Daily Herald; Columbus, Indiana; 5 Apr 1892)

I was amused when I ran across this article about my 4th great grandfather, and I can only guess at what the writer was implying.  A biographical sketch of James W. Trees also mentions that "he was ever a democrat." (History of Rush County, Part II)  It seems that he readily expressed his political views.

James Whitlow Trees was born March 21, 1818 in Clermont County, Ohio.  Adam Trees and Mary Ann Hill were his parents.  His middle name came from his Irish grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Whitlow.  James migrated with his family to Rush County, Indiana on March 27, 1823.

At the age of 20, James decided to pursue a career of medicine.  He went to the small town of Milroy, Indiana and studied under Dr. Samuel Barbour, who was one of the earliest physicians of Rush County.  While he underwent medical training, he also was a clerk at a dry goods store. James received his physician's license from the Indiana Medical Institute in May of 1841.  A few months later, James set up his own medical practice in Manilla, Indiana.

He married Catherine Mull on September 18, 1842 in Rush County, Indiana.  The couple had six children together, but only three sons lived to adulthood: Ethan Allen, Leander Mull, and Cyrus Ebon.  The three youngest children -- Lavanche, Maggie, and Marshall -- all died at a young age.

Around 1852, James W. Trees entered into a mercantile partnership with Jacob and Cyrus Mull, his father-in-law and brother-in-law.  According to William DePrez Inlow, author of In Old Kentucky, "It was common at the time for physicians to engage in business in addition to their profession."

By 1864, Dr. Trees had sold his medical practice to his son-in-law, Dr. J. J. Inlow, and was operating his own dry goods store in Manilla. "By strict attention to his profession, he amassed a goodly fortune.  He and his two sons, Ethan A. and Cyrus E., were of the staunchest business men in the county." (The History of Rush County, Part II)  According to the Indianapolis Journal, the store was robbed in 1875; the burglars got away with $500.

An early map of the town of Manilla, Indiana.  The land Dr. Trees owned is highlighted. 
In 1872, the small town of Manilla received state-wide attention when James W. Trees discovered several fossilized bones of a mastodon on the farm of his neighbor, A. J. Westerfield. (You can see the farm in the map shown above.)  The Indianapolis Journal reported that the fossils "were in a remarkable state of preservation."

The residence of Dr. James W. Trees in Manilla, Indiana.
On April 25, 1895, a Shelbyville newspaper stated that James W. Trees was dangerously ill. He died a short while later, on May 4, 1895, and was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Shelbyville, Indiana.

Recently, I made an interesting discovery.  There is a subdivision in Manilla, Indiana named after James W. Trees!  Looks like I need to make a trip to Manilla so I can see his house (shown at right) and his subdivision!  {Update:} I visited the Trees house in Manilla on July 5, 2015 with my family.  The current owners told us that when they renovated the building, they found an underground passageway that connected the house to the doctor's office across the street.  One of the front rooms in the house was fitted out for a funeral parlor.  When a patient died, the body was discreetly brought into the house via the tunnel.

July 5, 2015.  My brother and I in front of James W. Trees' house in Manilla, Indiana.

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