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.?

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