The Odd Brothers

Week 10: #52 Ancestors – Bachelor Uncle(s)

By Eilene Lyon

The grown children of Robert Ransom and Emma Jenkins, my 2nd great-grandparents, really stump me at times. My great-grandmother, Clara Ransom Davis, was the youngest of the lot. She had one surviving sister and four brothers: James, William, Arthur, and Fred. The sister married in Kansas and had two children before dying at 28, but that’s a story for another time.

Clara and all her siblings were born in Blackford County, Indiana. They moved to Independence, Kansas, in 1880 after Robert’s bank failed. His oldest son, James Henry (named for his two grandfathers), married in Kansas at the age of 31 and had four children. The other three sons didn’t seem keen on getting hitched. Arthur finally married at age 38.1 He and his wife, Iva Brown, never had children of their own, but they did adopt a baby girl.2

RansomArthur1
Arthur Ransom as a young man. (University of Idaho)

In the 1880s, Arthur and his brother, William, were both working for the railroad. I wrote a bit about Arthur’s experience earlier. Arthur ended up in Idaho around 1887 and his mother followed about 1891, along with Clara and Fred. These two youngest children were still in their teens.

It seems that Clara was probably closest to Arthur. Here’s an interesting contrast, though: Clara was involved in the temperance movement and detested tobacco, but Arthur for many years owned a pool hall/lunch counter in Moscow. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some alcohol and tobacco use going on there!

About 1899, Arthur decided to homestead some land near Orofino, Idaho. He encouraged Clara to file a claim, too. Arthur never received a patent, but Clara kept up the requirements and received her 160-acre patent in 1904.3 She received another patent on 80 acres in the same area in 1908.4

This land comes into play with regard to Clara’s brother, William. The family never passed along any stories about William or the youngest brother, Fred. These two never married or had children (that we know of), thus I have two bachelor uncles from this family. I suspect they were considered the “black sheep” of the family.

RansomFred1
Albert Frederick Ransom as a young man. Known as Fred. (University of Idaho)

I haven’t been able to learn much about Fred, but he moved to Los Angeles where he registered for the World War I draft. He died there on February 9, 1937, still a bachelor.5 According to his draft registration, he was of medium build and height and missing the last digits on the third and fourth fingers of his left hand. He had blue eyes and black hair. He named Clara as his next-of-kin.6

RansomWR crop
Clipped from the feature image – the only known photograph of William R. Ransom.

The last official record I have for William (born in 1863 and 14 years older than Clara), is the 1900 census. At that time, he was living on Clara’s homestead claim near Orofino, raising poultry. He told the enumerator that he owned the land, but he did not have any known property deeds.7

(Last year I did a story about Dr. William C. Ransom, who is this William’s uncle, and quite the opposite of a bachelor!)

I found a number of articles about William in the Kansas news, but only one (possible) from Idaho.

18861210 IDR p4
Independence Daily Reporter, Dec. 10, 1886, p. 4.

Evidence that William worked at the railroad depot in Independence. He may have been following in his younger brother’s footsteps (Arthur).

18870527 Weekly Star and Kansan p5
The Weekly Star and Kansan (Idependence), May 27, 1887, p. 5.

At least one young woman in Independence had her eye on William! And apparently he did go back there for at least a short time…

18870723 IDR p4
Independence Daily Reporter, July 23, 1887, p. 4.
18870920 IDR p4
Independence Daily Reporter, August 20, 1887, p. 4.

Here we see that William has moved on to Alva, Oklahoma (“Indian Territory”). When he went from there to Idaho is uncertain.

18910826 SKT p3
Southern Kansas Tribune, Aug. 26, 1891, p. 3.

The entire Ransom family in Moscow has been visiting Indiana and Kansas, but oddly, there’s no mention of William. There are several other notices in the Independence papers about the Ransoms in Moscow through the early 1890s, but William is never mentioned by name. Usually there is just a note about “the Ransom brothers.”

19071016Lewiston evening teller p4 - ChrAm
The Lewiston Evening Teller, Oct. 16, 1907, p. 4.

This last piece is a big mystery. It appeared in the Lewiston, Idaho, newspaper on October 16, 1907. Lewiston is far south of Mullan, Orofino, and Moscow. Also note – it doesn’t say when the theft occurred. What’s weird is that, according to family records, William died on October 10, 1907, supposedly in Sandpoint, Idaho, even further north than Mullan.

Odd, don’t you think? It was a week before his 44th birthday. Why on earth would William have been in Mullan or Sandpoint? My research did turn up one other William Ransom in Idaho in the 1900 census. He was counted twice in two different places, so he may have been a drifter. He was in his early 20s in 1907, a much more likely age to try such a lame stunt.8

William Ransom was buried in the Moscow Cemetery, but the cemetery has no information about the death or interment. Idaho began keeping death records statewide in 1907. Do you suppose there’s one for William? Nope!! In addition to looking for a death record, I checked the court records for September and October 1907 for Wallace, county seat of Shoshone County. Nothing. I checked the probate records. Nothing.

My last hope is that something will turn up in the Moscow newspapers when I visit there this summer (not available online). I really want to know the story of this odd bachelor uncle of mine.

Feature image: William and Arthur Ransom with Henry McGregor and an unknown man, in the railroad depot at Moscow, Idaho, in the 1890s. (University of Idaho)

All newspaper clippings from Newspapers.com, except the Lewiston Evening Teller, from Chronicling America (Library of Congress).


  1. A L Ransom and Iva L Brown. Ancestry.com. Washington, Marriage Records, 1854-2013 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. 
  2. “Adoption: Supt. Howland, of the Lewiston Home, left a tiny daughter at the home of A. L. Ransom this week. Mr. Ransom is setting up the treats over the new arrival.” Possibly from the Moscow Star-Mirror, Sept. 27, 1918. Abstract from the collection of the Latah County Historical Society. 
  3. https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=ID0310__.172&docClass=STA&sid=uqrccslq.ccn 
  4. https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=0787-185&docClass=MV&sid=uqrccslq.ccn 
  5. Fred Ransom. Ancestry.com. California, Death Index, 1905-1939 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. 
  6. Albert Frederick Ransom. Registration State: California; Registration County: Los Angeles; Roll: 1530910; Draft Board: 16 – via Ancestry.com. 
  7. William Ransom. Year: 1900; Census Place: Oro Fini, Shoshone, Idaho; Page: 14; Enumeration District: 0103; FHL microfilm: 1240234 – via Ancestry.com. There are no land records for William Ransom in Shoshone County. By looking for patents for the neighbors listed next to him in the census, I determined he was living on Clara’s homestead claim. 
  8. William Ransom, age 16, born Nov. 1883, Utah. 1. Year: 1900; Census Place: Cleveland, Bannock, Idaho; Page: 3; Enumeration District: 0139; FHL microfilm: 1240231 (a Hyrum Ransom also listed on this page). 2. Year: 1900; Census Place: Liberty, Bear Lake, Idaho; Page: 15; Enumeration District: 0013; FHL microfilm: 1240231 – both via Ancestry.com. 

11 thoughts on “The Odd Brothers

Add yours

  1. Social Media of the early 1900’s is about as accurate as social media of today. She said/He said! I love the clipping that states Arthur “is now a full grown man” Hope you manage to find more information on your uncle William and clear his name on that robbery!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Mrs. Ransom is quite well pleased with her new home.” What a wonderful way of saying she liked it.

    William might have been the one the girl wanted, but I think Fred is handsome. I wonder if there was more or less of a stigma on bachelor men back then? A rhetorical question.

    Liked by 1 person

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