Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Otis and his siblings

So, let's recap a little:

My grandma Genevieve's grandparents were Otis and Fannie Vaughn. Otis's parents were some of the original settlers of Walworth County, coming here in 1837, just one year after the land became available to white men

Otis and his siblings went on to be fixtures of Walworth County in the years as it transitioned from wilderness in the Northwest Territory to a rural pastiche of prosperous, orderly villages. In their lifetimes, they saw some of the biggest changes the modern world would bring: electricity, automobiles, industrialization. They started life in log cabins or westward wagon trains and ended up in comfortable houses on paved streets in fully formed towns that would have been unimaginable in these locations at the start of their lives.

Otis was one of five children (a sixth son, Melvin, died in infancy.) His sister Abbie only lived to be 14; we don't know which childhood illness claimed her life, but sadly this was not an uncommon story in the days before vaccines and antibiotics. His oldest sibling, a brother named Benjamin, was significantly older than Otis; 13 years separated them. Though Ben initially married and had children in Walworth County, he eventually moved his family out to the west coast. (More on Ben and his wife Martha to come in a later post.)

Phebe and Otis, around 1844

Phebe and possibly Abbie, around 1848

It seems that throughout his life, Otis was closest with his two sisters, Delia and Phebe. Delia was eight years older than Otis, and Phebe was only four years older than he was.The three of them lived in Walworth County all their lives; Delia and Phebe ended up living closer to Elkhorn, and Otis eventually moved into Burlington, but they visited each other often and from the newspaper clippings, we know that their families often traveled together.

Phebe poses alone a few years later

The sisters lived in Elkhorn because they both married men from that city. Phebe married Rufus Harriman; Delia married LeGrand Latham.

Delia (back left) and Phebe pose with their husbands. (The couples were arranged diagonally; Rufus is on the left in front.)
In posts to come, I'll delve a little deeper into the lives of Otis's siblings and their families, starting with Rufus and Phebe. In the treasure trove of family history and photographs that I inherited when Corinne passed away, Phebe has the most prominent representation in the collection, (after Otis and Fannie, of course.) It's likely this is related to the sad story of their estranged grandson and heir. With no one to leave her family heirlooms to, perhaps Phebe gave them to her brother's children instead.

But that is a story for next time.

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