Monday, August 19, 2013

B.F. and Martha Vaughn

As we've learned, my grandmother's grandfather Otis Vaughn was the youngest of six children born to Sam and Sarah Vaughn (who I've recently learned was sometimes called Sally.) Their second child, Melvin, died in infancy in 1831. We've met Otis's sister Phebe already. So now let's meet his oldest sibling, B.F. (I like to call him Ben, though there's no evidence anyone else did during his lifetime.)

No labeled photos of B.F. exist, so this may or may not be a picture of Benjamin Vaughn.

Benjamin Franklin Vaughn was born in 1828 in Carver, Massachusetts, where Sam and Sarah were living at the time with Sam's younger brother David. Sam and David were trained as carpenters, but were also farming. When B.F. was around one year old, they packed up their things and moved west, most likely in search of better opportunities and better farmland. They first landed in Tecumsah, Michigan, which is about 30 miles southwest of Ann Arbor. By the time B.F. was 7, they had moved again to Franklin, MI, about 70 miles north of Tecumseh. It was a short-lived move.

In March 1837, when B.F. was 8, his sister Delia was 4 and sister Abbie not yet 2, Sam and Sarah hitched up a team of oxen and traveled around Lake Michigan, passing through Chicago the year it was incorporated from a village to a city, and landed in Spring Prairie, WI, "in those early days when the Indian and deer still roamed the prairies," according to B.F.'s obituary. (Though it's likely both Indians and deer were scarce when they made the trip: The winter of 1836-1837 was particularly brutal, and it was still very much winter in March when they came.)

B.F. attended one of the earliest one-room schoolhouses in Walworth County at a time when there weren't even roads to get there, and going to school required walking across the neighbors' lots: "when it meant a walk of six miles across lots back and forth each day in quest of the 3 "R's", then the specialty of the county schoolmaster"  according to his obituary again.

Perhaps because he had done so much traveling and pioneering when he was under the age of 10, B.F. displayed a wanderlust all his life. It is probable that Otis didn't know his older brother very well; by the time Otis was born, B.F. was already 12. In February of 1850, when B.F. was 21 and Otis just 9, B.F. left Spring Prairie to join the hordes of gold-seekers in California. He went by ship around Cape Horn at the very southern tip of South America, a journey of six months, landing in California in August of 1850. He spent six years seeking his fortune on the west coast, but eventually returned to Spring Prairie, this time taking the shorter "Isthmus" route across Panama. (The train route connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic across the Panama isthmus had been completed just one year earlier, reducing what had been a six-month journey to a 30-day trip.)

Shortly upon returning to Spring Prairie, he married Martha Vaughn, who lived in Honey Creek, the next hamlet over. (Where Otis's wife Fannie also came from.) It is possible that B.F. and Martha thought they were not related to each other, despite having the same last name, though two Vaughn families ending up in such close proximity to each other in southeastern Wisconsin, and having similar first names recurring throughout both lines might indicate they did in fact know they were distant relations. (We'll probably never know what they knew.) Modern internet research reveals that B.F. and Martha did in fact share a common ancestor six generations back: Joseph Vaughan of Middleboro, MA, who was born in 1652 and died in 1734.

Martha Vaughn was the daughter of Erastus and Olive Vaughn. (Erastus's middle name was Otis; you can see the similarities between the two Vaughn families.) She was 10 years younger than B.F. They were married on Dec. 9, 1856 and settled again in Spring Prairie. They had four children, all girls: May was born in 1858, Sadie born in 1862, Olive born in 1865, and Grace (who was evidently nicknamed "Birdie") born in 1871. A fifth child, a boy, died in infancy.

May Vaughn West, oldest daughter of Ben and Martha

B.F. Vaughn served as the town clerk of Spring Prairie from 1861 through 1877. Sometime after that, most likely in 1878, B.F. and Martha and the three younger girls moved west to Sundown, MN, in the southwestern part of the state not far from South Dakota. (Oldest daughter May had married Henry P. West and moved with him to Ripon, Wisconsin.)

By the 1900 census, they had moved west again to Yakima, WA. (The history of the city of Yakima is rather interesting. According to Wikipedia: "When [Yakima was] bypassed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in December 1884, over 100 buildings were moved with rollers and horse teams to the nearby site of the depot. The new city was dubbed North Yakima and was officially incorporated and named the county seat on January 27, 1886.") The 1900 census lists B.F.'s occupation as "landlord" and indicates that his home in Yakima was a farm and was owned free.

Sadie Vaughn Robertson, second daughter. She went on to have eight children of her own.
B.F. died in Yakima in 1910 at the age of 81. Martha went to live with her daughter Olive, who was married to a man named James Berry; they lived in Stockton, California. Martha died in 1921 there.

Olive Vaughn Berry
B.F. and Martha had several grandchildren. Birdie remained single all her life and seems to have lived in Portland, Oregon. But the other three girls were prolific: Sadie and her husband Middleton Robertson had eight children, Olive had three boys, and May had four children.

Frustratingly, I have no labeled photos of B.F. or Martha. There is one daguerreotype from the late 1850s or early 1860s in the collection that belonged to Sarah Vaughn (Otis and B.F.'s mom) of Otis seated with a mystery person. I strongly suspect that this is B.F., but I have no way to know for sure. (If it is him, wouldn't you expect him to pose with his wife and baby rather than his brother? Though if it isn't him, I can't imagine who else it might be.)

Otis (on the left) and very possibly B.F.?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Otis and Fannie Vaughn's Burlington house

We've been talking about the siblings of my grandma Genevieve's grandfather Otis a lot lately, but let's go back to Otis and Fannie for a moment, because I had the good fortune to stop by the Burlington library one day last spring when the resident town historian was there, and he helped me track down the house that Otis built in town when they moved off the farm in 1889. (It was a little trick to find the house because Burlington renumbered its streets in the 1960s.)

 I was able to go back to Burlington recently and get some pictures of the house, which is still in great shape, though it's been converted to a duplex now.

The house Otis Vaughn built in 1888-1889, on Lewis Street just off of 36 downtown.

You'll remember from Corinne's scrapbook that there were a few newspaper clippings regarding Otis building the house:

"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."

The stone foundation that my great-great-grandfather Otis laid in 1888.
"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."

The house as it looked when it was first built. Note the barn behind the house and the size of the tree in front.
Otis and Fannie moved into the house in 1889, though they maintained ownership of the farm in Spring Prairie at the same time. (I assume they rented it out.) In 1918, their oldest daughter Hattie lost her husband to the Spanish flu, and she and her two young daughters moved in with Otis and Fannie to the house in Burlington. Five years later, in 1922, Otis passed away. Hattie and Fannie and the two girls lived in the house together until Fannie's death in 1931. This is the house where Corinne would stay when she was a little girl visiting "Grandpa and Grandma Vaughn."

Today the barn has been torn down and there are houses close on either side. The little tree has grown much taller.
Remarkably, other than a paint job, the exterior of the house looks almost identical to the way it looked when it was first built. I assume that is a testament to the craftsmanship of the house itself, which was built entirely by hand by my great-great-grandfather. The barn behind the house is gone now, and there are houses right next to the house that weren't there when it was first built (though I suspect they were built not too long afterward, judging by their age and appearance.) Though the double mailbox out front and the double addresses indicate it is being used as a duplex, you can't tell that from the outside, so the conversion was commendably unobtrusive.

It is a piece of my family's history that is still a living, contributing part of the community in Burlington, Wisconsin. I hope that someday the people who live there now will read about Otis and learn to appreciate his handiwork the way I do, 125 years later.