Shattered and Scattered

Week 39: #52 Ancestors – Road Trip

By Eilene Lyon

The Putterer’s great-grandmother, Mary Frances (Stephens) Gee, was orphaned at a young age. She was the eighth of nine children of Granville Allen Stephens Sr. and Sarah Poor. (Sarah was a descendant of Revolutionary War patriot, Amos Poor.) Mary Frances had seven brothers and only one sister.

It seems that the Kentucky deaths of Sarah and Granville ended the family ties to that state. Even before their passing, some of their children had relocated, but they all died in different places around the country. Mary Frances died in Arkansas, but she is buried in Ford County, Illinois, the one place central to most of the Stephens siblings.

Here are some brief bios on the scattered family:

Horizon Lewis Stephens

Born at the close of the Civil War and named for his maternal grandfather, Horizon Jewett Poor, and his paternal grandfather, Lewis Stephens. He usually went by Horace, Harvey or H.L. He moved to Paxton, Ford County, Illinois, where he wed Alice Belle Morgan in 1885. Their first child, a daughter, died as an infant. They had a son and four more daughters, who all lived to adulthood.

H.L. worked as a farmer in Illinois for many years and also sold real estate. In the spring of 1915, he took a job as general manager of the Lund Land Co. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. There he fell ill with acute nephritis (then called “Bright’s disease”) and died the day before his 50th birthday. He is buried in Paxton.1

Horace Stephens and Alice Morgan both standing, probably wedding portrait. Taken in Paxton, Ill.
Horizon L. Stephens and Alice Belle Morgan wedding portrait. (Shared by Sandra Lee Crawford Law on Ancestry)
Granville Allen Stephens Jr.

Very little is known about this son. He apparently died in Kentucky sometime between 1880 (age 12) and 1900. Unsourced trees give the year as 1885.2

Hugh Wilkens Stephens

Hugh was born in 1869 in Pendleton County, Kentucky. He remained there after the deaths of his parents, and married Eva Fields in 1893. They moved to Iroquois County, Illinois, in time for the birth of their second child, Sadie. They had eight children, though two died as infants and a daughter at age seven.

Round head-and-shoulders portrait of Eva Lena Fields, surrounded by a frame that is a photo of a flowery meadow.
Eva Lena Fields (Shared by Wendy Dillingham on Ancestry)

Eva died of cancer in 1914. Hugh moved to Minnesota shortly after, farming as he had in Illinois. He married again to a woman named Lula, who also predeceased him. In 1920, Hugh and Lula were living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Hugh worked for a creamery supply company. They then moved to an unincorporated area called Westview in Pocahontas County where Hugh took a job at the grain elevator.

This final employment resulted in Hugh’s gruesome death at age 57 in 1926, when his shirt snagged on equipment.3

Hattie Belle Stephens

Hattie was born in 1870 and married very young to James W. Cook. She was only 16 when the first of her 11 children was born. The last came when she was 49. Around 1899, the Cooks moved to Chicago where James worked as a janitor. They quickly decided big-city life was not their cup of tea and returned to farming in Kentucky.

They tried Illinois again in 1919, settling in Ross, Vermillion County, a rural area bordering Indiana. Hattie died a few years later in Vermillion County. James lived another 27 years.4

Wedding portrait with Hattie Belle Stephens standing behind a seated James W. Cook
Hattie Belle Stephens and James W. Cook (Shared by Donna Skubic on Find A Grave)
George Winters Stephens

George was born in 1872. In his early 20s, he relocated to Champaign County, Illinois and married Bertha A. Grandey. They had five sons and five daughters. By 1910, George and Bertha moved to Lowell, Michigan. George farmed for many years in both states, then later worked as a machinist at a commercial laundry.

Bertha died of pneumonia in 1918 (possibly influenza?). George remarried in 1922, to a divorcée, Mary E. (Baker) Lewis. George died in Lowell in 1934 of heart disease, age 62.5

John Stephens

Born in 1874, John married Myrtle Fields in Kentucky in 1892. Myrtle was the younger sister of Hugh’s first wife, Eva Lena Fields. Their first child was born in Kentucky, but they moved to Ford County, Illinois, about 1895, where the other five children were born. John worked as a railroad engineer for many years, until he had to retire after being injured on the job.

His WWII draft registration indicates John was 5’ 6” with gray eyes, gray hair, and a light complexion (he was 63 at the time). John outlived all the other Stephens siblings, passing away in Urbana, Illinois, in 1957. Myrtle lived until 1964.6

Albert G. Stephens

Albert was about 14 when he became orphaned. He moved to Ford County, Illinois, to live with eldest brother, Horizon. He married Martha Lintner in 1898, and their daughter, Frances Sarah, was born that same year. They had eleven children who all survived to adulthood.

Martha Lintner and Albert G. Stephens (Shared by Lance and Irene Stephens, posted on Ancestry by Adam_Croy)

Albert worked at farming, first in Illinois, then moved on to Murray County, southwestern Minnesota, about 1903. He then went to the far north part of the state and settled in Middle River, Marshall County. He continued farming for a time but worked as a laborer for hire by 1920. In 1930, he was a dray line operator (moving merchandise to and from the railroad). In 1940 he worked as a carpenter in the construction industry.

His oldest son, Walter E., died in Yakima County, Washington, in 1946. Albert went to Yakima, the farthest from their origins of any of the siblings. Perhaps he wished to help his daughter-in-law and his many grandchildren. There he passed away in 1948.7

Walter and Emma Stephens at the Albert Stephens farm in Minnesota (shared by Adam_Croy on Ancestry)
Edward Stephens

The youngest sibling, Edward, was just ten when orphaned. He lived with his brother, John, in Kentucky for a time, then moved in with the eldest brother, Horizon, in Illinois. At 19, he worked as a farm laborer at the Kenney property in Wall, Ford County. He married Anna Kief in 1901 and their only child, Geneva Pearl, was born the following year. The family relocated to farm in Calhoun, Iowa, in 1911.

Carte de visite portrait of Edward Stephens in May 1899, age 18.
Edward Stephens at age 18. (Shared by decantersfun on Ancestry)

The beloved only child died following a stillbirth, just shy of her 24th birthday. She left a husband and two young children.

Edward filled out his WWII draft registration on April 27, 1942. It indicates he was 5’ 10” with gray eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion. He was also blind in his right eye. I have not found any notation about the cause of this blindness or when it occurred. Edward passed away soon after, in October that year.8

Feature image: The Albert G. Stephens family portrait c. 1920. (Shared by Pat Brown on Find A Grave)

  1. Harson Stevens.  Year: 1900; Census Place: Wall, Ford, Illinois; Roll: 301; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0073; FHL microfilm: 1240301 – via; “Sudden Death of H.L. Stephens” The Paxton Record (Paxton, IL) September 23, 1915, p. 1 – via 
  2. A. Granville Stephens. Year: 1880; Census Place: Flemingsburg, Fleming, Kentucky; Roll: 413; Page: 515C; Enumeration District: 031 – via 
  3. Hugh Stephens. Year: 1900; Census Place: Pigeon Grove, Iroquois, Illinois; Roll: 308; Page: 14; Enumeration District: 0026; FHL microfilm: 1240308 – via; Hugh Stevens. Year: 1920; Census Place: Cedar Rapids Ward 11, Linn, Iowa; Roll: T625_500; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 128 – via; “Mrs. Hugh Stephens Dies” The Paxton Record June 11, 1914, p. 3 – via; 
  4. Hattie Cook. Year: 1900; Census Place: Chicago Ward 22, Cook, Illinois; Roll: 272; Page: 12; Enumeration District: 0681; FHL microfilm: 1240272 – via; Hattie B. Cook. Year: 1920; Census Place: Ross, Vermilion, Illinois; Roll: T625_412; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 202 – via; Hattie Belle Cook. Illinois, U.S., Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011; Find a grave – James W. E. Cook
  5. George Stephens. Year: 1900; Census Place: Kerr, Champaign, Illinois; Roll: 240; Page: 12; Enumeration District: 0014; FHL microfilm: 1240240 – via; Georg Stephens. Year: 1910; Census Place: Lowell, Kent, Michigan; Roll: T624_655; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 0128; FHL microfilm: 1374668 – via; George Stephens. Year: 1930; Census Place: Wyoming, Kent, Michigan; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0145; FHL microfilm: 2340740 – via; Bertha A. Stevens, State of Michigan death certificate. Influenza is crossed out and replaced with pneumonia; Illinois, U.S., Marriage Index, 1860-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015; Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952; Film: 162; Film Description: 1922 Genesee-1922 Kent; “West Michigan Deaths: George W. Stephens” Grand Rapids Herald May 5, 1934, p. 3. 
  6. John Stephens. Year: 1900; Census Place: Button, Ford, Illinois; Roll: 300; Page: 9; Enumeration District: 0061; FHL microfilm: 1240300 – via; The National Archives At St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration), For the State of Illinois; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147; Series Number: M2097 – via; Undated/unsourced obituary clipping “John Stephens” 1957. 
  7. Albert Stephens. Year: 1920; Census Place: Middle River, Marshall, Minnesota; Roll: T625_844; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 86 – via; Year: 1930; Census Place: Middle River, Marshall, Minnesota; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0031; FHL microfilm: 2340841 – via; Year: 1940; Census Place: Middle River, Marshall, Minnesota; Roll: m-t0627-01936; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 45-31 – via; Washington, U.S., Select Death Index, 1907-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. 
  8. Edward Stevens. Year: 1900; Census Place: Wall, Ford, Illinois; Roll: 301; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0073; FHL microfilm: 1240301 – via; The National Archives At St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) For the State of Iowa; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147; Box or Roll Number: 0na – via; “Death Summons Mrs. William Fink” The Paxton Record April 8, 1926, p. 1; “Attend Funeral Rites in Iowa for Edw. Stephens” The Paxton Record October 22, 1942, p. 6 – via 

22 thoughts on “Shattered and Scattered

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  1. Whenever we curse the fates for our current plight- which is easy to do some days- we should take heed of that line “they all survived to adulthood”.

    It means we have time and plenty of it to do better, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Horizon L. Stephens and Alice Belle Morgan wedding portrait! Those are just kids in that photo. They look so innocent. As for Hattie Belle, she looks like a force to be reckoned with. [And isn’t interesting how I’m making an assumption about her merely by how she looks!]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These big families! Imagine starting child-bearing at 16 and not finishing till 49 – I can’t. “My” suffragette Jessie Stephen was the oldest of 11 and when her mother was still having babies at 42 (and her father didn’t think it was natural to do anything about it) she sent off for a book from the Worker’s Birth Control Group to give her mother advice. It worked – no more babies even though she didn’t have the menopause till she was 54. Jessie later lectured for the group – go Jessie!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hmm, I have several Sarah Poors in my maternal ancestry in northern Mass./southern NH. The two I have details about did not live happy lives, one dying of smallpox, her daughter dying in prison at age 16 after bearing two children as the result of rape.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The thing that stands out most in your stories is how much people moved. I think I’ve told you that I live on land that has been in my grandmother’s family since 1848. My family, like many others in Appalachia, simply don’t move.

    I have family and friends who will move twenty miles away but just as many stay within a mile or two of where they were born. Many who lgo far away do so for education and simply never return.

    In the year 2022 it is still a big deal when friends leave the state and people wonder why they would want to live somewhere they don’t know anyone. Haha. What if they get sick? That’s a common question. And that’s with the benefits of technology like phone, internet and FaceTime! Thanks to technology, we are never that far apart.

    So, I read your stories through a different lens and marvel at how people in 1900 without Zillow, Google or an automobile could just pack up and move to another state.

    I hope to not always be rooted here and my desire is to retire someplace else so I’m always interviewing communities when I travel! Haha.

    Anyway, as always, I love your stories and these vignettes are a sad snapshot of what happens to a family when the parents die.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I realized you had that longevity of place. I come from a long line of people on the move. Going back many generations, I find only my great-grandfather Gusso was born and died in the same county (living there 90 years).

      I wonder if you will really enjoy living somewhere else when you retire, or will find you miss the places that are oh-so-familiar and almost ingrained with who you are.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I often wonder but would love to try. I have always wanted to leave here and start fresh somewhere else. Alas, I’m an only child and my overprotective parents would be heartbroken if I ever moved. I even commutes to Ohio University because it was clearly going to be hard for them if I left.

        Now I live next door.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. My goodness – what a slew of deaths that you have uncovered in this poor family Eilene. That was a gruesome death for Hugh when his shirt snagged on equipment – probably no OSHA rules and regs in place back then. I often see how young these people or kids were when they died in your posts. It must have been a rough existence or they worked their fingers to the bone which caused their premature deaths.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well we’ve come a long way health-wise and how we toil (not so backbreaking work for most of us), although when you look at all the comparisons of the COVID pandemic to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, maybe not so much.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I’m pretty sure Covid is not done with us yet. My neighbor had/has Long Covid and I saw him recently and he told me had a heart attack back in April. He got Covid before we really knew what it was. A woman at work came into the plant sick. Her husband was sick and she wanted her holiday pay – she contaminated most of the plant workers. He was very sick through Christmas/New Year’s 2019 and never returned to work. Doctor said he had a bad flu but it lingered on, then in March 2020 we all learned about Covid. He is only 61 years old now. I knew two other people who got very sick before Covid was a household name and had the same symptoms as my neighbor.

        Liked by 1 person

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