|Portraits of Otis and Fannie Vaughn, painted from photographs in my collection|
So who were Fannie and Otis Vaughn?
Well, let's start with Fannie. Frances Ann Vaughn was born on April 11, 1847 in Lincolnshire, England. She was named after her grandmother, Frances Brittain, and she was the third of five children born to William and Elizabeth Sutton (Betsey) Brittain. She had a brother named John and a sister named Hannah (both of whom were older) and two younger brothers: William and Samuel. Around 1855, when her youngest brother was only about a year old, and Fannie herself was only 8, the family moved from England to Wisconsin, and they settled in Honey Creek, just a few miles away from Spring Prairie.
|Fannie as a young woman|
As I continue to go through the stories of my family, I am alternately awed by and in disbelief of a family's willingness to sell everything they owned except for what they could carry, and board a ship for a journey of several weeks across an ocean with very young children, only to face a long overland journey or a smaller boat trip to end up in the middle of the United States, a place they had never seen even in photographs before. It speaks to the quality of their character, and their sense of hopelessness in their home country. And I can't help but think, every time I read about a journey like this, that they must have had no idea exactly what they were getting into.
So, in the case of Fannie's family, why Wisconsin? Well, they came here because Fannie's uncle, Samuel Brittain, had come to America 20 years earlier, in 1834. After living in upstate New York, then Michigan (with short stops in Chicago and Milwaukee as well,) he finally landed in Walworth County in about 1837-1838. He was one of the earliest settlers of the county, which was only settled by white men for the first time in 1836 (more on that later.) He established a farm of 80 acres in Honey Creek and stayed there all his life. Two years later in 1839, his brother M.R. moved to Honey Creek as well. In 1855, their brother William brought his family, including Fannie, and so
At the same time that Fannie's uncle Samuel was settling in Honey Creek, Otis Vaughn's parents, Samuel C. Vaughn and Sarah H.M. Vose Vaughn, were establishing a farmstead in the fledgling village of Spring Prairie just a mile or two away. They came in the spring of 1837 with three children and had two more once they had moved here; Otis, the youngest, was born on March 29, 1841 in Spring Prairie. (One of the five children, a girl named Abbie, would die as a teenager. Lots more on Sam and Sarah, and Otis's early life, to come in a later post.)
|Otis as a young man|
Though I don't know exactly how Otis and Fannie met, it's safe to assume that since it was such a small community and they lived just a few miles from one another that Otis knew Fannie's uncles and probably met Fannie shortly after her arrival in the county. On December 6, 1864, when Fannie was just 17 years old, Otis Vaughn and Fannie Brittain were married in Spring Prairie. (The date is striking to me for taking place during the Civil War. There is a family rumor that Otis took advantage of the fact that you could pay someone to take your place in the Union army, probably because his aging father had already turned over most of the farming duties to Otis, and to lose the de facto head of the farmstead would have been a great hardship on the family.) Otis's father died just a few years later in 1868, leaving farmstead to Otis and Fannie. Otis's mother Sarah continued to live with them as well.
|Otis and Fannie's wedding portrait, difficult to scan because of the daguerrotype case it's in|
Otis and Fannie had their first child in 1870, a daughter they named Julia Augusta, but sadly she survived less than a year. (Her early death is a reminder of the tragic toll childhood diseases used to take on families in the days before vaccines were available.) In 1873, Hattie was born. Edna came in 1877 and Ora in 1884; there was an 11-year age difference between Hattie and Ora.
The scrapbook is overflowing with tales of Otis and Fannie's life, so much so that I feel like I know them. The picture of their life together that is painted by these news items is that of a very full life, one full of social events, community service, travel, close friendships and love and responsibility for family near and far.
|Fannie, in the photo the portrait is drawn from|
Here are some of the news items:
"MARRIED: At Burlington, December 6th, 1864, by Rev. S.H. Batteau, Mr. Otis E. Vaughn, of Spring Prairie, and Miss Fannie Brittain, of Honey Creek."
"(Date unknown): The ice cream social on the lawn of Otis Vaughn Wednesday evening was largely attended. The Young Ladies' Guild netted a good sum from the sale of cream."
"(Date unknown): Otis Vaughn, of this city; G.A.Palmer, of Vienna; and E.F. Buttles, of Waterford, are the jurors from this neighborhood who will serve for the May term of the United States circuit court in Milwaukee."
"(Date unknown) From the Elkhorn Blade: Otis Vaughn and family, of Burlington, Peter Howard and wife and L.G. Latham and wife (Otis's sister Delia - Ed.), journeyed northward on Saturday afternoon until they came to Idlewild at Lake Lauderdale, where a week will be spent in pleasure and resting. 'Dad' will keep the larder well supplied with fish."
"(Date unknown) Mr. Otis Vaughn finds his family increased by one -- a very small one."
"(Date unknown, but sometime between 1877 and 1884) Mr. O.E. Vaughn of Spring Prairie, accompanied by his wife and two daughters (Ora wasn't born yet - Ed.), Mrs. Chas. Loomis, of this place (Fannie's sister Hannah), and Miss Noble, of Rochester, took their departure yesterday forenoon for Jewell County, Kansas, where they will remain three or four weeks, visiting friends and relatives. They go via. Freeport and Rock Island, and will arrive at their destination this afternoon. We wish them a pleasant journey and a safe return." (The relatives they are going to visit here are Fannie's brother William and his family, who had moved to Kansas after the Civil War.)
|Fannie a little later in life|
"(Date unknown) O.E. Vaughn has been repairing his barn, house and other buildings this summer, not having anything else to do, and he now has them fixed up in good shape. He thinks he would not like a job of tearing off plastering that lasted the year round."
"1884: Mr. and Mrs. O.E. Vaughn of Spring Prairie, celebrated the twentieth anniversary of their wedding, or China wedding, on Monday evening of last week, which proved a very enjoyable occasion from first to last. There was a very large attendance of friends, and neighbors, and a few from this village, and the bride and groom of twenty years ago were made the recipients of many fine presents of China ware."
"(Date unknown) Mr. and Mrs. Otis Vaughn, of Spring Prairie, returned to this village over the Central Railway last Wednesday morning after an extended trip to Canada and the East, having been absent two weeks. They visited relatives near Toronto, Canada, and attended an agricultural Fair at Toronto, which Mr. Vaughn says, compares very favorably with our fairs. He says the horses on exhibition were the finest he ever saw. The people are slow, but exceedingly polite. They stopped at Niagara Falls long enough to view the wonderful scenery of this gigantic cataract."
"(Date unknown) Mrs. Otis Vaughn and little daughter of Spring Prairie visited relatives and friends in Elkhorn last week."
"(Date unknown) Otis Vaughn and Main Hubbard filled their ice houses early last week and just in time too, it seems."
"(Date unknown) O.E. Vaughn has sold his trotting horse, "Black Prince."
"(Date unknown) Mr. O.E. Vaughn of Spring Prairie exchanged greetings with the [Elkhorn] Independent on Friday last."
"(Date unknown) Mr. Otis Vaughn and family, of Spring Prairie, moved into the village yesterday and today will make Burlington their permanent home. They now occupy the P.H. Cunningham house on the East side of the Fox River, but early next spring, Mr. Vaughn will build a fine residence on his lots on the corner of Washington and Dyer streets, at the rear of the Opera House.
We welcome Mr. Vaughn and family as citizens of Burlington and hope their home in our midst may be pleasant and long continued."
"1888: Mr. Otis Vaughn is hauling stone for the foundation of his new residence to be built early next spring on his fine corner lot at the rear of the Opera House, opposite the old 'Sawyer property' on Washington and Dyer streets."
"1889: Mr. Otis Vaughn and family moved into their new house on the corner of Washington and Dyer streets last week, and will soon be comfortably settled in their fine, cozy home."
"(Date unknown) Mr. Otis Vaughn is making wagons in the shop formerly occupied by Geo. Stohr, deceased. Mr. Vaughn is a thorough mechanic."
"(Date unknown) Mrs. Harriman and Mrs. Latham, of Elkhorn, made their brother, Mr. Otis Vaughn and family in this village, a pleasant visit last Friday, returning to the quiet village of Elkhorn in the evening after a days' pleasure viewing the sights of this bustling city. They thought our new Court House and electric lights were very fine. They don't see such modern improvements in the smaller villages."
|Fannie in later years|
"(Date unknown) About sixty were present at a progressive euchre party given by Mr. and Mrs. Joe Vaughn (Otis's first cousin and his wife - Ed.) Tuesday evening. Mr. Chas. Peck and Mrs. Hettie Hicks carried off head prizes, and the booby prizes were won by Herman Harris and Mrs. Otis Vaughn. All reported a very pleasant time."
|Fannie and Otis and a dog|
"(Date unknown) Mr. and Mrs. Otis Vaughn visited relatives in Elkhorn last Wednesday evening and a portion of Thursday, returning to their home in this village last Thursday afternoon."
"(Date unknown) Otis Vaughn and family visited at W. Merrick's Sunday."
"(Date unknown) Otis Vaughn is in Milwaukee this week doing duty as a juror in the U.S. District Court."
"1905: There isn't a happier man in town than Otis Vaughn. the cause of it is that he wears the title of grandpa since Saturday, Jan. 7, 1905, when a bright baby girl arrived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Cheeseman (Hattie - Ed.) in Chicago."
"1917: A little son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Potter (Ora - Ed.) at their home in the town of LaFayette on Friday, Dec. 28th, 1917. It is needless to say that Grandpa and Grandma Vaughn are pleased over their first grandson."
|Fannie (second row, far right) and Otis (third row, third from right I believe) pose with several other people in 1917, at the celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of William W. (Billy) Vaughn and his wife Mary Clark Vaughn.|
"1921: Otis Vaughn has received notice of the death of his brother Benjamin's widow, Martha Vaughn, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Olive Berry, at Stockton, Calif., on November 29, 1921. She was born July 4, 1838, and was a sister of Sumner Vaughn, of Honey Creek. The family formerly lived at Spring Prairie, moving to Minnesota and later to the Pacific Coast. Her ashes were buried beside those of her husband at Yakima, Wash." (Lots more Otis's siblings and the confounding relationship between Ben and Martha Vaughn to come in a later post.)
Otis passed away in 1923. This court notice appears shortly thereafter: "Waller & Ruzicka, Attorneys, County Court, Racine County, In probate: In the matter of the last will of Otis E. Vaughn, deceased. Notice is hereby given, that at a special term of the country court to be held in and for the said county at the court house in the city of Racine in said county on the third Tuesday, being the 15th day of January, A.D. 1924, at the opening of court on that day the following matter will be heard and considered: The application of Fannie A. Vaughn, executrix of the will of Otis E. Vaughn deceased, late of Burlington in said county for the examination and allowance of her final account, and for the assignment of the residue of the estate of said deceased to such persons as are by law entitled thereto; and that the court find and determine whom the real estate owned by said deceased vested upon the death of said deceased, and for the determination and adjudication of the inheritance tax if any, payable in said estate. Dated December 18, A.D. 1923, By the court: Walter C. Palmer, County Judge."
|Fannie as a widow, in front of the house at 602 Lewis St. in Burlington|
Three years later, Fannie's sister Hannah died. "1926: Funeral services were held at the home of Mrs. Otis Vaughn on Lewis St. last Friday afternoon for Mrs. Charles Loomis, one of the well known matrons of this vicinity, who died the previous Wednesday, July 21, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. S.W. Hollister, at Oshkosh.
Hannah Brittain was born in Lincolnshire, England, July 16, 1843. When a girl she came to America with her parents who settled near Honey Creek. In 1865 she was united in marriage with Mr. Loomis, and they settled on a farm south of the city where they lived until twenty-five years ago when they moved into Burlington. Mr. Loomis died in 1913 and for the past few years, Mrs. Loomis has spent the winters with her daughter, Mrs. S.W. Hollister*, at Oshkosh. One sister, Mrs. Otis Vaughn, and one brother, John Brittain, of Wasco, Calif., besides the daughter survive. Also one grandchild, Miss Edith Hollister."
Fannie died in 1931. Presumably her daughter Hattie was still living with her in the house in Burlington after moving back due to the untimely death of Hattie's husband in 1918. Fannie and Otis are both buried in the Hickory Grove Cemetery in Spring Prairie.
Long after they were gone, Otis and Fannie occupied a place of high esteem in the hearts of their family. In her letters, Corinne often spoke fondly of "Grandma and Grandpa Vaughn," -- it was clear that even in her 90s, she still felt the sun rose and set by them. And it was because of Corinne's annual summer trips to Burlington to visit Otis and Fannie that she and Genevieve were as close as they were.
Of all of the ancestors I have had the good fortune to "meet" through the process of researching my family history in Walworth County, Otis and Fannie are the ones I feel most connected to, and the most compelled by. They lived during such a pivotal part of Wisconsin history; Otis was born here seven years before Wisconsin was even admitted to the United States. (It was the 30th state to be admitted.) They watched Wisconsin develop from infancy through the Progressive era of the 1920s. Their lives were typical of the lives being lived all over the state -- small farming giving way to life in small cities as the state became more urbanized toward the end of the 19th century. They were members of the generation that transitioned Wisconsin from wilderness to organized community.
Their lives undoubtedly involved a lot of hard work, but they also seem to have taken much pleasure from their rich friendships within their extended families and their close-knit farm community. They appear to have lived full, rich lives and had a great effect on everyone who knew them. And really, what more could any of us hope for from our lives?
*An interesting sidenote: When she was a child, Hannah Brittain Loomis' daughter Lottie (the Mrs. S.W. Hollister mentioned here) looked eerily like me as a child. More to come on that in a future post.
Update (2/16/14): I have tracked down more records from Lincolnshire and I now know that Samuel, William and Deacon Brittain were actually the three youngest of the Brittain family of Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire. They had five older siblings: Richard, John, Thomas Caswell, Robert and Mary, all of whom presumably remained in England. Their parents, John Brittain and Frances Caswell (or Casswell) were married on 11/25/1802 in Horbling, Lincolnshire.