Thursday, March 1, 2012

Always Looking – Two-Families Love Story

By John I. Blair

With A Valentine

In genealogy, one is always looking for compelling stories; and early this year I was presented one virtually on a platter.

My great-great Grandma Blair was born Sarah Elizabeth Linville, the daughter of Zachariah Linville and Nancy Cash. (Yes, apparently I’m a distant cousin of Johnny Cash, but that’s another story.)

Sarah grew up with four brothers and five sisters there in northwestern Missouri, where her father was a farmer and a popular self-taught minister to several congregations in the frontier area where they lived, having migrated there from North Carolina via Kentucky and Tennessee. Among her siblings were Henderson, Byram, Rebecca, and Verlinda.

Nearby lived another family, the Days, headed by Valentine Day and Elizabeth Adams. The numerous Day children included sisters Mary, Elizabeth, Ursula, and brother Pleasant Day. (I love his name.) Considering the place, the times, and what transpired, the Days were almost certainly members of one of Zachariah’s congregations.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was noodling around with family history and re-visiting the Linville branch, I noticed that a single person had posted flower tributes on several related Linville memorial pages in Find A Grave. Being curious I sent an e-mail to ask what their relationship might be.

Turned out the poster of the floral tributes was actually the wife of a modern Day family member, living in Idaho, who had spent several years researching her husband’s family. She has proven a goldmine of information and source documents, and I have finally realized (having had the information in front of me for some time but just not registering) the Days and Linvilles of that generation had a very special relationship. Two of Sarah Linville’s brothers – Henderson and Byram – had married Day sisters Ursula and Elizabeth – and one of Sarah’s sisters – Verlinda – had married a Day brother, Pleasant. A total of three siblings in each family married three from the other family.

What a group wedding that would have been if they’d all wed at the same time (which they didn’t – not quite). What a humorous coincidence (or was it?) that the father of one family was named Valentine! What courting, no doubt shy and discreet, must have gone on in that rural frontier community, perhaps with trysts in horse-drawn wagons on shady country roads. What happy family gatherings must have later taken place between the two intricately intertwined clans.

There was even a fourth link – another of the Linville girls, Rebecca (she was the eldest of the Linvilles), had married a neighbor named Humphrey Posey Allison early on. When Rebecca died in 1852, Humphrey remarried to a local widow – Mary Day Carnes, another sister of Ursula, Elizabeth, and Pleasant Day. Perhaps he figured marrying a Day was the next closest thing to marrying a Linville!

Each of the Linville-Day couples had long and productive, but different, lives.

Henderson Linville, Tennessean by birth, had moved to northwest Missouri by 1840 where at 24 he met and married Ursula Sublette Day on June 17, 1840, in Buchanan County (St. Joseph). They later moved again, first to Gentry County, Missouri, then to Rawles Township, Mills County, southwest Iowa (near the little town of Tabor) by 1870. Henderson and Ursula lived the balance of their lives in Mills County, farming on the rich loess hills soil that makes that area such wonderful farmland. They are buried side by side in Pleasant Hill cemetery, a peaceful rural place that holds many of my family members.

There once was a small church next to the cemetery, but it is long gone, although another rural church just a couple miles down the road is still in existence and recognized as the oldest church of any denomination in Mills County. Several Blairs and Linvilles are listed among its founders. Henderson and Ursula had five children: Nancy Elizabeth, Abraham Dawson, Barbara Q., Zachariah Franklin, and Minerva; plus many grandchildren and further descendants. A Civil War veteran, Henderson first served in Company F, Regiment 15 Iowa Infantry but was discharged for illness. Later he re-enlisted and served as a sergeant in Company H, Second Regiment, Nebraska Cavalry Volunteers, GAR. He enlisted October 23, 1862, and was mustered out December 8, 1863. Henderson is described in his Civil War record as being 5' 8 1/2" tall, light in complexion, with blue eyes and dark hair. When he died in 1900, he was 84. Ursula, about whom we know less, was 90 at her death in 1913. They had been together for 60 years.

Wildflowers in Mills County, Iowa, the verdant countryside where Henderson
and Ursula Linville settled.

Byram Linville was the son and fourth child of Zachariah and Nancy Linville. Some think he was born in Kentucky. Byram, age 20, married Elizabeth Day in 1841, a year after Henderson and Ursula married. They had children including Jasper, Pleasant Day (named for his uncle), Valentine (named for his grandfather), Parmelia, Ida Mable, and Clement R. At some point the couple moved from Missouri to Sonoma County, California, and raised their family there. Their numerous descendants still mostly live in California. The two are buried at Cloverdale, on the Redwood Highway, in a picturesque cemetery atop a hill overlooking some of the famous Sonoma County vineyards. Byram lived to be 80 by the time of his death in 1901; Elizabeth, who was born in 1825 (and had married at age 16), lived until 1920 – 95 years old! They also had been together 60 years.

Vineyards near Cloverdale, Sonoma County, California, where Byram and Elizabeth Linville settled.

Verlinda Linville married Pleasant M. Day 11 November 1840 – just a few months following the marriage of Henderson and Ursula and only a few months before Byram and Elizabeth. William Allison, minister of the gospel, performed the ceremony. (Pleasant’s sister Mary was to become Humphrey Posey Allison’s second wife following the death of his first wife, Verlinda’s sister Rebecca.) Clearly in 1840-41 the spirit of love was in the air in the Pleasant Hill, Iowa, neighborhood. Sadly, unlike the long-lived Linville boys, Pleasant Day’s days were relatively brief. He died some time before 1855, probably in his early to mid 30s, leaving Verlinda a widow with a small child. Following the death of her first husband, Verlinda in 1856 remarried to V. Dunnegan. She lived to be 90 years old and spent the last several decades of her life in the household of her son Quintus Vernile Pleasant Day in Middletown, Lake County, California, her second husband presumably also having died young.

Vineyards in Lake County, California, near where Verlinda Linville Day Dunnegan spent the last several decades of her life, with her son.

So of the three youthful Linville-Day couples who all got married within less than a year at the start of the 1840s, one settled down in Iowa, while the other two joined the mass migration to California taking place in the mid 19th century. I’m sure they kept in touch out there, so far from their roots in Missouri and Iowa. Cloverdale and Middletown are only about 25 miles apart across a low mountain range, with a connecting road through Calistoga. And I trust they managed, somehow, to correspond with their families back in Iowa and Missouri. And now, nearly 100 years since the last of them died, a couple of their descendants/kinfolk have managed to put the six of them back together again, along with their romantic story of the year of love, 1840-41, when six brothers and sisters from two families got married, no doubt under the approving eyes of Father Valentine.

Click on John I. Blair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

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