Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Severe Trials and Responsibilities of Pioneer Life

On March 21, 1830 - 187 years ago this week - my fourth great-grandmother Nancy Catherine was born the ninth child of John Anthony and Catherine (Schall/Shaull) Rosenberger in Seneca County, Ohio.

On April 3, 1848, when she was 18 years old, Nancy obtained a license to marry John Bair. In the April 15, 1848 issue of the Whig Standard, a notification confirmed that Nancy and John Bear (sic) were married on April 4, 1848.

Nancy Catherine Rosenberger and John Bair's marriage license/certificate (top) and
marriage announcement from Whig Standard (below).

Much of what is known about John and Nancy Bair comes from two memorial biographies sketched after their deaths. The providence of these remembrances are unknown, and have been passed down through the family as typed transcriptions.

Manifest Destiny: Wagons Westward
From John's memorial, we learn that "John and Nancy came to Iowa in 1853 from Ohio. They traveled by covered wagon in a wagon train lead by John Anthony Rosenberger [Nancy’s father]. They began their move 5 September 1853, at Bascom, Ohio and arrived at Marengo, Iowa the 28 of September 1853, a distance of 520 miles made in twenty three days – three which were the Sabbath which they rested, so they averaged 26 miles a day for 20 days. There were 26 wagons in all and they bought government land at $1.25 an acre. They settled four miles south of Ladora, Iowa and northwest of the Genoa Bluffs settlement. After they arrived in the wilderness they established a church known as the Ohio Church and also the Ohio Cemetery named for the state they left.”

We have brief insight into what John and perhaps Nancy thought of their new home. On December 8, 1853, Nancy's uncle Henry Rosenberger wrote to her father John Anthony that, "Mr. John Bear (sic) speaks very favorably on some sections of the state he passed through. He seen some very nice timber-land, but does not like it around Merengo (sic), and indeed does not speak very well of Iowa County."1

Lonely Days and Hard Struggles
Four years after the arduous prairie journey, tragedy struck the young family. 

“John Bair died 19 October 1857 [at age] 34 years 11 months at Ladora, Iowa County, Iowa. John fell from a hay stack and broke his spine while making hay on the Old State Road.”

Nancy was a young widow left to raise their five young sons, including my third great-grandfather Michael Theodore Bair.

Photo courtesy of Richard Weston
From Nancy's memorial sketch, we learn: “After John’s death the trials and responsibility of pioneer life began in earnest. Her parents and relatives helped but many lonely days and hard struggles were bravely met and overcome by her.”

On October 30, 1860, Nancy encountered more hardship when her youngest son William ("Willie") passed away and was buried beside his father.

Early in the new year, Nancy turned a page in life and married John Clyde. They had three daughters and lived, it would seem, the next several decades without incident. 

However, in September 1898, John passed away, and just two months later in November her son Jacob Bair died. It proved too much for her.

“The blow came to her suddenly and being in poor health she sank beneath her burden of sorrow and calmly she fell to sleep in Jesus where she is now at rest.”

Nancy, just shy of her 69th birthday, was buried beside her husbands in the Ohio Cemetery that was established decades earlier - a single stone marker commemorating each of their lives.

1 Craig, Lois, and Mildred Shaull Rudasill. Erasmus Rosenberger and his families in Germany and America. Kepler & Clark Printing, 2008. 

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