Sunday, 18 January 2015

Barbara Hoover 1834-1890 (52 Ancestors Week 3) Theme: "Tough Woman"

Barbara Hoover, my 2nd great grandmother on my mother's maternal line, was a tough woman to track down. Once found, her life story was a tough one but showed her to be a strong and resilient woman. "Tough" could have been her middle name. And since she went by so many different names during her 56 years, why not add yet another name to the mix?
Unfortunately, I have no photo of Barbara. This is the wedding photo of Barbara's son Charles Francis Edwards and Mary Jane Wescott

Barbara was the mother of my great grandfather Charles Francis Edwards who was born in Keokuk, Iowa on 22 February 1869.  The stories that Charles passed down about his family of origin led us on many a wild goose chase. What we thought we knew about this woman when I first started looking for her 15 years ago:
  • name: Rachel Hoover
  • marriages: 3, first to another Hoover who was a cousin, secondly to an Edwards and thirdly to a Payton
  • religion: devout Quakers
  • children: Sam Hoover from first marriage, twin sisters Minnie and Grace Edwards and Charles Edwards from the Edwards marriage
  • family connections: said to be a cousin of President Herbert Hoover and said to be "Pennsylvania Dutch"
  • death: when she was quite young (Charles indicated that he was orphaned at a young age and essentially raised by older sister Grace in Coffeyville, Kansas)

Wild goose chases led me to spend hour after fruitless hour poring over reels of microfilmed Iowa and Kansas census records at Family History Centers.  I learned about Hinshaw Quaker records and spent hour after fruitless hour trying to find the family in any of the monthly meeting records on microfiche.  Letters were sent off in many directions; responses were always polite but contained no answers. I researched the family of President Hoover and spent many happy but fruitless hours galloping down wrong paths in my attempt to find Charles, his siblings or his mother in this family. Members of the US special interest group at the Victoria Genealogical Society heard my tales of this frustrating brick wall and offered suggestions for additional things to try; one of them even conducted some research on my behalf during a visit to Washington state where Charles had been living when he died, but she also came up empty-handed. I searched and re-searched on the internet, never finding anything pertaining to Charles or his family prior to his marriage to my great grandmother Mary-Jane Wescott in Montana in 1896.   When I obtained their marriage license, I was so excited to see that it finally pointed to some names for his parents, namely Martha Hoover and Louis Edwards. However, my hopes were dashed yet again after months of trying in vain to find any records of Martha and Louis.
An exciting find: Marriage License showing Charles as son of Louis Edwards and Martha Hoover

One problem was that we didn't know if Charles was born in Keokuk County, Iowa or in Keokuk, Lee County, Iowa. I dropped messages onto message boards all over cyberspace. Finally, in desperation, I joined the Iowa Genealogical Society as a way to post queries and try to benefit from local knowledge. Best move I could have made! By virtue of my membership there, I was contacted in 2009 by its webmaster, Alice Hoyt Veen, who indicated that she required one additional case study to complete her professional genealogist accreditation and asked if she could try to break down my brick wall. At no cost to me. Could she? I couldn't type "yes" and hit the "send" button fast enough!

Over the months, Alice provided me with tantalizing bits of information based on her painstaking research, slowly building up a case for having at last found a mother for Charles.  The following is a brief summary of what Alice was able to piece together:
  • Her name was Barbara Hoover, not Rachel Hoover nor Martha Hoover.
  • Barbara was born to Christian Hoover and his wife Mary (Green) Hoover in Plum Creek Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania about 1834.
  • About 1854, Christian Hoover moved his family west to Henry County, Illinois as part of a large group of Pennsylvania folks making this westward migration.
  • Barbara married William Hoover in Illinois on 15 March 1855 and had a son Samuel Hoover on 5 December 1855
  • Much of the family moved to Decatur County, Iowa between 1855 and 1858.
  • William died in Decatur County on 18 April 1858, leaving Barbara a 24 year-old widow with a 3 year-old son. 
  • Barbara was part of the extended Hoover family and probably moved with them to Kansas in 1858 after William's death. (This move may have been prompted by Hoover abolitionist sentiments. Alice found an 1891 Kansas news article about Christian Hoover in which he recalled with much pride the fact that he had camped out two nights with old John Brown.)
  • At the outbreak of the Civil War, Barbara and her family were back in Henry County, Illinois. (Her father Christian Hoover enlisted in Company C of the 11th Illinois Cavalry.  He gave his age as 42 but he was actually 52.)
  • Barbara married second husband Lewis Edwards on 24 October 1861. (Lewis enlisted less than a year later; it appears that his war effort resulted in his developing serious lung problems, being hospitalized and finally sent home to Orion, Henry County, Illinois in February of 1865.  He received a disability discharge and remained confined to his bed until his death from "consumption" on 18 February 1866.)
  • Barbara gave birth to twin daughters Mary and Martha Edwards on 28 November 1865 (or 1866) at the home of her sister Susannah Hoover Pierce Bleakney in Jasper County, Iowa. The year of their birth is inconsistent in various records, sometimes erased and re-written, and may have been slanted to the earlier year in order to establish Lewis as their father for purposes of Civil War minors' pensions. They were also often referred to as Minnie and Grace rather than Mary and Martha. If they were born in November of 1865, it begs the question of why Barbara would have been giving birth in Iowa some 130 miles from her dying husband in Illinois.  If they were born in November of 1866, Lewis Edwards could not have been there father.
  • Widowed Barbara gave birth in Iowa to son Charles Francis Edwards 29 February 1869 (no proof of date and no evidence that she was married at the time). Lewis Edwards is clearly not his father.
  • At the time of the 1870 census, she is found with her parents in Keokuk, Iowa. She is listed as B.E. Edwards, age 36, born PA. Children are listed as Saml L Edwards age 14, born Iowa, MM Edwards age 4 b. IA and Rbt F age 1, born IA.  I had actually located this record on National Archives microfilm 593 on 18 January 2000, but had noted and then dismissed it because there were too many discrepancies. It wasn't until Alice made other discoveries about Barbara (not Rachel) and her extended family that it became apparent that this was indeed the right family for Charles.
  • Barbara married third husband George Payton 18 August 1873 in What Cheer, Keokuk County, Iowa. For some unknown reason, the marriage record is in the name of Margaret Alice Edwards. (Surprisingly, given the thorough documentation required for a Civil War widow's pension, this name discrepancy did not get questioned when she applied for a pension as the widow of Lewis Edwards.) George was twenty years older than Barbara and knew her father.  He had also taken part in the Civil War and had contracted smallpox which left him blind.  It may well be, as Alice postulates, that this marriage was one of convenience, giving George a care-giver and Barbara the much-needed respectability of a husband.  Still, marriage to an older blind man could not have been an easy situation for her. There would also have been at least six children between the ages of 3 and 7 to care for.
  • At the time of the 1880 census, the combined Edwards/Payton family is in Elk County, Kansas.  She is listed now as "Barbary Payton", wife age 45 born PA.  Living with them are Martha and Mary Edwards (age 14, born Iowa) and Charles Edwards (age 11, born Iowa), along with George's children Robert (14), Jacob (12) and Mary (10).
  • Barbara died 22 November 1890 in Independence, Montgomery County, Kansas at the age of 56.
The afternoon of Barbara's death, Charles sent the following abrupt telegram to Barbara's parents, Christian and Mary Hoover: "Dr. C. Hoover: Mother died at 12:50 this afternoon. - Chas. Edwards."

The following day, Sunday 23 November 1890, her death notice appeared in "The Morning Reporter" in Independence, Kansas: "Mrs. Peyton, wife of George Peyton, who resides on North Eleventh Street near the Quaker Church, died at noon yesterday from a tumor, from which she has been suffering a long time. Mrs Peyton was fifty-six years of age. She was the mother of Charlie Edwards, clerk of the Caldwell House. The funeral will probably take place tomorrow forenoon from the family residence, but the time had not been definitely settled last evening, as friends and relatives at a distance were to be heard from."

A few days later on 27 November, another death notice appeared in the "Osage County Reporter" in Burlingame, Kansas with a few more details: "Mrs. Peyton, daughter of Doctor C. Hoover, and sister of Mrs. Morris Kelleher, died last week at her home in Independence, Kas. Mrs. Peyton was at one time a resident of Burlingame, her husband having kept the Bratton house several years ago."

One final notice about "Mrs. Barbara Peyton" was printed in the Osage County Times on 28 November 1890 and provides more interesting details: "Died. At Independence, Kansas, November 22nd, 1890, Mrs. Barbara Peyton, aged 59 years.  The deceased was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. C. Hoover and sister to Mrs. M. Kelleher.  While she had been complaining for some time she was not considered dangerous by her relatives, and the blow was a hard one on the aged parents when they received last Saturday afternoon, about three o'clock this message: "Independence, Kansas, November 22nd - Dr. C. Hoover: Mother died at 12:50 this afternoon. Chas Edwards."  Mrs. Peyton will be remembered by a great many people of Burlingame, having lived here a short time eight or nine years ago in the capacity of landlady of the Commercial Hotel - the Bratton House.  She was a good hearted, and very ambitious woman. The parents and all relatives of the deceased have the sympathies of all who knew them in their sad affliction.  Notice was received of the interment at Independence before any of the relatives here could arrange to be present."

Charles appears rather cold and callous in his dealings with his grandparents and extended family at the time of his mother's death. Even for a telegram, the message was very perfunctory.  Was he in shock? Was this indicative of his nature? He would have been 21 years old at the time of her death and perhaps lacking in mature judgement and compassion. Did he not love his mother? Was she difficult to love, notwithstanding the description of her as "good hearted"? Perhaps the description of her as "a very ambitious woman" is indicative of someone who was pragmatic, business-like and hard-nosed rather than warm and caring.

Also notable by its absence is any discussion of the role of her husband George Peyton in any of these announcements. George survived her by three years and is buried in Burlingame, not in Independence where she rests. Did he take any part in the funeral arrangements? Were they still living together at the time of her death or was she living alone with her son Charles? Was George one of the "relatives" from Burlingame who didn't have time to arrange to be present for her funeral? 

Charles spent a lifetime hiding the truth about his mother. Stories about being orphaned and raised as a Quaker were clearly not true (although it is possible that his birth father could have died and thus been unable to marry his mother).  Nor is it true that he was a cousin of President Hoover's, unless it was quite distant, but his Hoover family was indeed Pennsylvania Dutch (early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania). The three marriages were as he said.  He no doubt used this mixture of truth and fabrication to cover up his illegitimacy. If he ever knew who his father was, he certainly didn't leave that information for his descendants. His cover-up stories made his mother very tough to find.

In addition to the names Rachel and Martha that Charles had provided, records for Barbara are in the names of Barbary and Margaret Alice and sometimes the initials B.E.  Her age is also inconsistent and we still don't know her exact birth date. Attempts to find her burial location have been unsuccessful but based on the behaviour of Charles at the time of her death, if left up to him, there would quite possibly be no grave marker to find.

I have a great deal of compassion both for Charles who obviously suffered from the circumstances of his birth as well as for his mother Barbara who was widowed twice in ten years and left with four children to raise during the tumultuous period of the Civil War and frequent westward migrations of her family. Her final years married to an older blind man, caring for him and his children and then suffering and dying from cancer at a relatively young age are a tough ending to a tough life.

Update September 2016

Thanks to recent correspondence with Richard Lemon, another descendant of Barbara's, I can now include the following photograph of Barbara that he so generously provided.

Barbara Hoover Edwards Payton
Probably 1880's


  • Cascade County, Montana, Marriage License 1141, Charles Edwards and Mary Wescott
  • Various sources, including census records, marriage records, newspaper records, Civil War entlistment records, widow's and minors' Civil War Pension applications including numerous affidavits, copies of which were provided to me by Alice Hoyt Veen, CGSM, Prairie Roots Research of Bouton, Iowa, whose website can be found at 

No comments:

Post a Comment