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Finally! Missouri!

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A close-up shot of northern Missouri counties showing Chariton on the left and Ralls on the right.

The Final Chapter in my Missouri Bound Musings

The ancestors of Gillian Virginia Morris, my grandmother’s maternal grandmother, made it to Missouri! That is, if you have followed my previous posts.

To discover how her parents, Peter Philander and Elizabeth Ely Morris, met, we must dig into Place. I use a capital “P” for Place because I consider it key to all historical research. And to understand Place, you need maps, and I do LOVE maps.

But first, a recap:

  • Part 1 and 2: Thomas H. and Malinda Salling[i] Morris(s) moved from Rockbridge County, Virginia by about 1845 and settled in Chariton County, Missouri with their children. One of those children was Gillian’s father Peter Philander Morris.
  • Part 3 and 4: Isaac Ely and Mary Polly Judy Ely travelled from Clark/Montgomery County, Kentucky to Missouri with their children. One of their children was William Scott Ely. They arrived with Isaac’s father Benjamin Ely in about 1820, and bought land in Ralls County, Missouri in 1824.
  • Part 5: Hankerson Adam Utterback and Catherine Pence Utterback moved from Boone County, Kentucky to Ralls County, Missouri via Clay County, MO by about 1824.[ii] In 1829, his daughter Rebecca Virginia Utterback bought land in Ralls County, as well.
  • Part 1: While not a direct ancestor, an important connection is John Salling brother of Malinda Salling Morris. He moved from Rockbridge County, Kentucky to Ralls County, Missouri by 1833.

William’s father, Isaac, had purchased various sections in Township 55 Range 6 of Ralls County.Ralls tsp 55 R6 Elys

Rebecca’s father, Hankerson owned 160 acres in Township 55 Range 7 Section 33, shown below. Note that, geographically, the map below would be to the left of the map above. The bend in the Salt River left incomplete above is completed below.Ralls 55-7 Page_49.jpg Utterbacks Rall county

Living so near, it is clear how William Scott Ely and Rebecca Utterback met and married.[iii] Rebecca had her land and William bought land nearby.[iv]

But how did their child, Elizabeth Ely (her gravestone says Eliza), meet and marry Peter Philander Morris, of Chariton County? How far apart are Chariton County and Ralls County? The map at the top of this post is a close-up of Missouri from the excellent map resource at the State Historical Society of Missouri.[v]According to the map’s scale for mileage, the two counties are about 60 miles apart (Google Maps confirms this). Sixty miles is a fair distance to travel in the 1800’s.

The key, of course, is Peter’s uncle John Salling. The Morris family of Chariton County likely visited the Salling family in Ralls County. So how close was John Salling to the William Scott Ely’s homestead? The plat maps for Ralls County[vi] found at the Missouri Digital Heritage site gives us a clue. I took the land office records[vii] of the families previously mentioned, a spreadsheet of which can be found hereRalls County, Missouri Land Records, and compared it to the plat maps of 1878. Here is a close-up of Sections 54-7. (You saw 55-6 and 55-7 previously.) I’ve circled the land ownership of William and Rebecca Utterback Ely and put a rectangle around the property of John Adam Salling so you can see how near they lived to one another.[viii]Ralls County Tnp 54 R7 copy

A visit, a soirée, a chance encounter? Who knows, but Elizabeth Ely and Peter Philander Morris met—and they married. I have not found a marriage certificate or the exact date of their marriage, but the death certificate of their first child, Thomas, born on June 25, 1856, names them as his parents.[ix] Place…an important push-pin in family history.

[i] Also Sally and Salley
[ii] George H. Utterback, son of Hankerson, helped sponsor the atlas listed below and indicated 1834 as his year of settlement.
[iii] Some say September 24, 1829, but I have not yet been able to verify this.
[iv] See a spreadsheet of the land purchases of all the Ralls County families here.Ralls County, Missouri Land Records
[v] The full map is available here.
[vi] AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORICAL ATLAS OF RALLS COUNTY, MISSOURI Compiled, drawn and published from Personal Examinations and Surveys BY EDWARDS BROTHERS, OF MISSOURI. General Office: 209 S. FIFTH STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1878
[vii] U.S. General Land Office Records, 1776-2015 [various]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.
[viii] Note that John A. Salling died in September 1878 based on Letters of Administration, 1849-1907; Author: Missouri. Probate Court (Ralls County); Probate Place: Ralls, Missouri
His land now appears to belong to his son Samuel I Salling, his daughter Susan, who married Charles H. Phillips, and Stephen Scobee, the father of Ely Scobee, who married John’s daughter Rebecca and died of Typhoid fever six weeks later (based on a find a grave report).


Missouri Bound Part 5: The Utterbacks

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A side note: I am neck deep in my fiction! I just finished the first edit of my upcoming American Historical Fiction novel set in Pennsylvania and Ohio after the Revolutionary War. I’m editing my second novel based on records of New Haven Colony. AND I’m researching my third, which takes place in the area around Bennington, Vermont during the American Revolution. Oh…almost forgot, I just finished a short prequel to my upcoming book #1.

I had to pull my fingers loose from my fictional world and found myself procrastinating in a whirlpool of research and digression. One thing lured me back—the chance to pull out all my plat maps to explain how Harry met Sally (well, really, how Peter met Elizabeth).

Before I can do that, however, I must get the Utterback’s to Missouri. So, with the worst of puns, I am utterly back.

The Utterback Family

The last of the pertinent families to the ancestry of Gillian Virginia Morris(s) Ison is the Utterback family. The majority of the information regarding birth, death, marriage, and progeny comes from the much-cited Utterback, William Irvin, The history and genealogy of the Utterback family in America, 1622-1937. Huntington, W. Va.: Gentry Bros. Printing Co., 1937. I cannot verify this information but admit to including it in the family sheets for Gillian’s ancestors, found here. Here is what I can verify:

  • Herman (Harmon) Otterbach (later the name was spelled Utterback) arrived in Virginia in 1714, from Musen in Westphalia, Germany. He came with his family and eleven other families. They came to work the iron mills at Fort Germanna, Virginia under the sponsorship of Governor Spotswood in 1714. By 1720, the families, disenchanted by their treatment, relocated to Germantown, Virginia.[i]
  • Herman Otterbach/Utterback came to Virginia with his sons John Philip, John, and daughters, one of which was Anna Margrete[ii]Little Fork culpepper Cty, VA Otterbach
  • Son, John Philip Utterback appeared on Rent Rolls 1751-1754, Prince William County, VA; 1764, Culpeper County, VA.
  • Henry, son of the above John Philip and father of Hankerson Utterback, died by January 1799, based on index of probate for Culpeper County, Virginia (The actual record does not exist as far as I can tell. I went through each page of the actual records and there is a huge hole for this time period. Also checked Library of VA Chancery Records for the county and neighboring counties.)

As our land gained footing a separate nation, records expanded and more research information is available. Consequently, the records for Hankerson Utterback are more numerous.

  • Hankerson Utterback shows up on the 1810 census for Boone County, Kentucky and again on the 1820 census for Burlington, Boone Cty, KY. Marriages of his children Adam (m. 1814), Joseph (m. 1823), and Elizabeth (m. 1823) are all documented for Boone County in the Kentucky Compiled Marriages on Family Search.
  • By 1827 Hankerson had moved to Clay County, Missouri[iii]and by 1828, he had bought land in Ralls County, Missouri.

So, now Hankerson Utterback and his family (I’ve found records for Adam, Joseph, George, Rebecca, Abraham, Elizabeth, and Emily) have made it to Missouri. (I seem to always set myself down in the past like it’s the present.)

But what is monumental to me, is that on April 1, 1829,[iv] Rebecca Utterback purchased a deed for land in Ralls County, five months before her September 24, 1829, marriage to William Scott Ely. Monumental, first, because the land is deeded to a woman, likely a way for her father to protected her future. But monumental, second because of how the plot of land figures prominently in how Gillian’s father, Peter Philander Morris, meets his future wife!

I love land records! Next week’s post finally gets to the place all these Missouri Bound ramblings were heading—Ralls County and Chariton County, and how “the twain shall meet.”

Now, until next week, I dive back in…to editing my fictional past. Maybe a post on editing is coming soon???

[i] Raleigh Travers Green. Genealogical and Historical Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia. Embracing a Revised and Enlarged Edition of Dr. Philip slaughter’s History of St. Mark’s Parish. Culpeper, Va, USA: Regional Publishing Co., 1900. [accessed 11-19-13]
[ii] Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2012. Source Bibliography: Breitbard, Gail. Some Early Virginia Immigrants. In The Lost Palatine, no. 5 (1982), pp. 4-5. Ancestry. Com [accessed 5-14-17]

Missouri bound Part 3: The Ely Family heads to Kentucky

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Kentucky 1793

This map is from 1793, about the time the Ely Family moved to Kentucky. Want a close up version? You can find it at The Library of Congress Maps Division.

There is safety as well as security in numbers, and before the advent of the railroad and adequate communication systems, most families moved in groups, an important consideration when researching. The Ely, Judy, and Utterback families were no exception. As I continued cleaning up my information (in anticipation of a hiatus from fact finding to focus on fiction) the probing of proximity became my go-to tool.

First, a reminder, my current cleanup centers on the family of my great-great grandmother Gillian Virginia Morris who married Gabriel Ison. They are the parents of my grandmother Mary Elizabeth Ison. The two previous posts (Parts 1 and 2) outlined new and reviewed information on the Morris and Salling (Sally) family who ended up in Chariton and Ralls County, Missouri. Gillian’s parents were Peter Philander Morris and Elizabeth Ely. So what do we know about this Ely family?

Isaac Ely arrived in Hampshire County, (West) Virginia by 1767. He purchased a land grant from Lord Fairfax on either side of the Cacaphon (Cacapon) River at this time, this according to many genealogies providing very accurate detail. Lord Fairfax was “Baron of Cameron in that part of Great Britain called Scotland” so most of his grants were given to those loyal to him, usually of Scottish descent. I have yet to find the document for this land grant. Still, Isaac’s will, which I will discuss later, verifies the information.

On or about 1777, Benjamin Ely, Isaac Ely’s only son, married Mary Scott whose father was also a landholder in Hampshire County. William Scott’s will, dated November 22, 1767, divided his estate equally between Mary and his wife Sarey (Sarah).[i] Isaac Ely witnessed the will. On February 9, 1779, Sarey and Mary transferred the rights to 96 acres on both sides of Little Cacapehon, which had been surveyed on May 22, 1755, for Mary’s father William Scott.[ii] Benjamin had also purchased 30 acres on both sides of Little Cacapehon Creek on July 29, 1778,[iii] and 426 acres on the waters of the Old Road Run and Buffaloe Gap Run on December 6, 1778.[iv]

Three important asides regarding research in general:

  1. I discovered Benjamin’s grants at the Library of Virginia website while looking for the 1767 purchase under the NECK… Never underestimate the value of the University of Virginia site for VA research. It is invaluable.
  2. The Ohio Genealogical Society offered a one-year FREE subscription to Find My Past to all members. The more sites to search the better. Have I told you lately how much I love OGS?
  3. The New Newberry Library Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is back on-line. This fabulous interactive resource helped me determine the following Bourbon County/Clark County link.

By 1791, based on the Kentucky Early Census Index, Benjamin Ely move his family to Bourbon County, Kentucky. It is no wonder that his father gave 1/3 of his Hampshire County Estate to his wife Sarah, a sum of 10 pounds to his only son Benjamin, and the rest of his estate to William, IF he stayed on the Hampshire land grant. It was William alone who registered his grandfather Isaac Ely’s will in the county court on February 15, 1796, soon after his death.[v]

The 1800 Kentucky Tax List includes Benjamin Ely on the Clark County rolls as well as Isaac Ely. This Isaac was Benjamin’s oldest son next to William. Isaac was also his grandfather’s namesake and my 3x great grandfather. He had just married a Mary Polly Judy in 1798.

Finding the October 13, 1798, marriage record for Isaac Ely and Mary Judy[vi] was a major accomplishment—well, actually it was pure serendipity. While painstakingly sifting through the Clark County, Kentucky records for 1798 one-by-one, I discovered it, with oddly spelled surnames.Mary Juda and Isaac Raly marriage 1798 copy

On another note of serendipity, my own nearly marriage of nearly 47 years began on October 13th just like Isaac and Mary Polly Judy Ely.

The Ely family and the Judy family lived just miles apart, both in Clark County. As I’ve said many times, place matters.

Next week: the Judy family and the Ely family’s move to Missouri.

Meanwhile, I’ve completed my update to the Morris(s), Ely, Judy, and Utterback family sheets. You can find them here and on the new Convergence on Missouri tab at the top of the page.

[i] William Scott will, 22 November 1767 image 1037-8 Wills; Author: Hampshire County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court; Probate Place: Hampshire, West Virginia West Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1724-1985 [2017]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
[ii] Grant
[iii] Grant
[iv] Grant
[v] Isaac Ely will, posted 15 February 1796 image 1037-8 Wills; Author: Hampshire County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court; Probate Place: Hampshire, West Virginia West Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1724-1985 [2017]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
[vi] Isaac Raly and Mary Juda Marriage 13 October 1798 image 90; Kentucky County Marriages, 1797-1954 FamilySearch database with images; Madison County Courthouse, Richmond.

Using Missouri Plat Maps to Find Your Ancestors

chariton-mo-1876page_46-detailThe Missouri History Museum does great things, has a great website, and offers an excellent newsletter. Check them out here.  But of everything it offers, the map resources are my favorite. So, as promised, below are my step-by-step instructions for finding the land of your ancestors. It isn’t much, because it is SO EASY.

First, organize your research. The plat maps are for 1875-1930. Consequently, you should determine the last name of any relations you think may have lived in Missouri during that time frame. Do you know in what county in Missouri each of them lived? Jot that down beside their name. Knowing the township provides even more information. Your research sheet might look like this. I use my family as an example.

Name County Township Timeframe/Notes
Thomas Morris[s] Chariton Rothville? Died between 1870-1880
Peter P. Morris[s] Chariton Salt Creek b1832-1916
William S. Ely Ralls Salt River? b1805-1877
Harmon Utterback Ralls Perry? b1812-1888 brother to Rebecca wife of above
Schulyer Ison Bates Summit Arrived after 1860-1883
Gabriel Ison Bates Summit Left after 1884

Second, go to the plat map search page found here.  It looks like this.missouri-digital-library

Now you have a choice. You can search by typing in the last name only of your ancestor and find the county of residence. The search box is at the top of the site. (See arrow #1) If the surname is unusual, this option may be best. Let’s try it with Utterback. I put the name into the search and this came up.utterback-search

Right at the top of the list is “an illustrated historical atlas for Ralls County.” If I hover my curser over the title, I am given all citation information for the item. Click on it and it carried me to that record. Now, I had to do a bit of work to find what I wanted. But here are my results in the “text” tab.text-results-of-utterbackNotice the column above the rectangle. It includes a tab for “image,” “text,” and two up down arrows noting the number of Utterback’s found in the document (11). I went to text, arrowed to where I found Harmon Utterback. Now, if you look in the upper right hand corner, you find some cool options: “view image and text,” “download,” and “print”. The last two items are pretty self-explanatory. But when I hit “view image and text,” I got a plat map showing where the brother of my great, great, great grandmother lived. (township 55 north range 7 west of the 5th principal meridian) It took a little adjusting by left clicking to hold down and move the map but…pretty wonderful. Here is that imagemap-of-utterback

Your second option, if you are pretty sure of the county and even the township (perhaps gathered from a census record from the timespan of the records), is to use the county search feature (plat map search page:arrow #2). It then allows you to search the county records over time. I chose Chariton County and got plat map results for 1876 and 1897. With a little searching I found the map for 1876 showing Peter Philander Morriss (P.P. Morris detailed at the top of the post.). Not only did I find where my great, great grandfather lived, I also discovered no Thomas Morriss, a good indication that I can narrow his death to between 1870 when he appeared on the census in Chariton and 1876 when he disappear from land ownership. There may be another explanation, but the clues keep compounding. And with a little detective work—who knows?

Go ahead—explore Missouri from your laptop. It’s easy!

Of Schuyler Ison and Mary Ann Overstreet and Children


Detail of 1895 Plat Map for Summit Twp, Bates Cty, MO showing family parcels of Schuyler and Mary Ann Overstreet Ison

New records appear on-line regularly, so revisiting ancestors often uncovers bits of gold. Considering the new probate records available on, I decided to take a break from my “should dos” and plug in some names to see what might be new.

First—a little clarification. My grandfather, Justus Leonice Croy, whom I never met, married my grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Ison, a woman for whom I hold just a few very special memories. (More regarding them here.) Grandmother’s parents were Gabriel Ison and Gillie (Gillian) Virginia Morriss (Morris, Morrison).[i] I write this post specifically regarding Gabriel Ison’s father, Schuyler Sterling Ison and mother, Mary Ann Overstreet. [ii]

Why? In my search, I found Schuyler’s probate records![iii] The single page application lists the names of each child and his/her residence:

  • James W Ison, administrator of the estate, residence Bates County, Missouri
  • Mildred Robinson of Bates Cty, MO
  • Heirs [not listed] of William Ison dec. of Magoupin [Macoupin] Cty, Illinois
  • Jane Ison of Bates Cty, MO
  • Elizabeth Ison of Bates Cty, MO
  • Jasper Ison of Bates Cty, MO
  • Gabril [Gabriel] Ison of Bates Cty, MO
  • Heirs[not listed] of Emma Parrine dec. of Magoupin [Macoupin], Illinois
  • Ulisses [Ulysses] Ison of Bates Cty, MO

Schuyler’s wife is listed as Mary Ison. He had no will and the probate application was dated 28 February 1883. Findagrave shows his death date as 24 February 1883.

So what does this clear up, or not?

  • First, it defines precisely the names of all children and the married names of two daughters. The Federal Census, 1880, Summit Twp, Bates County, Missouri[iv] lists Mildred as an Ison and includes five more children listed as his sons and daughters, Nora, F, age 14; Floyd, M, age 11; Schuyler, M, age 9: Dora, F, age 5; Viola, F, age 2. It always seemed suspicious since Schuler and Mary were 62 and 59 respectively at the time, but…now we know they were not their children.
    • So whose children were they? I had long ago checked the Ison boys given the children were listed as Ison. This time I rechecked the married surnames of the daughters listed in probate. Under James Henry ROBERTSON [not Robinson] in the 1870 census,[v] I found Mildred with children SoNORA and James in Grand River Twp, Bates Cty, Mo. While I had this record in my files, I could now confirm the relationship. I found James Henry Robertson in Findagrave where his death certification is included along with a wealth of added information including Mildred’s second marriage to Stephen S. Varns, 22 May 1884.
  • I was unable to find any children or father of Emma Ison Parrine.

And THEN! I figured I’d check to see if Mary Ison had a probate record. No luck, but I found an 1895 Plat Map showing exactly where Mary Ison’s land was in Bates County, MO. Here is a detail of a colored version available through the Missouri State Historical Society…Sections 18 and 19 of Twp 40, Range 30, Summit Township. Gabe Ison is listed here; first I’ve seen the nickname though I suspected it. (Conrad Grape-husband of Elizabeth, Frank Cuddeback-husband of Sonora, Mildred Varnes, U.S. Ison, and Jasper Ison are all family mentioned above.)

So keep looking, keep wondering, and trying new avenues of discovery. You never know what you might find.

[i] Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 [accessed last 26 Aug. 2013 ]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.Original data: Missouri Marriage Records. – Microfilm (1852-1910). Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives. Microfilm
[ii] Kentucky, Birth Records, 1847-1911 [accessed last 24 Sept. 2016 ]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.Original data: Kentucky. Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records – Microfilm (1852-1910). Microfilm rolls #994027-994058. Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky.
[iii] Administrators, Executors, Guardian’s Bonds and Letters, 1854-1914; Author: Missouri. Probate Court (Bates County); Probate Place: Bates, Missouri. Missouri, Wills and Probate Records, 1766-1988 [accessed last 26 Sept. 2016]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
[iv] Year: 1880; Census Place: Summit, Bates, Missouri; Roll: 673; Family History Film: 1254673; Page: 154B; Enumeration District: 156; Image: 0618 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [Last accessed 26 Sept. 2016].Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[v] 1870 ; Censusu Grand River, Bates, Missouri: Roll: M593_75B; Page: 55B; Image: 115; Family History Library; [accessed 15 April 2013, last accessed 26 Sept 2016]

Happy 2015

I decided to do this just for fun. Once I sunk neck deep into the exercise I began to doubt my concept of fun! Anyway, just to put the new year into a genealogical perspective:

Today I have direct family ranging in age from 7 to 95, all living in California,


One hundred years ago today, January 1, 1915 my direct ancestors lived in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri and ranged in age from 2 to 83. There were eight individuals.

My father, Ralph Lewis Croy was 2 years old. He lived in Henryetta, Oklahoma with

my grandfather, Justus Leonice Croy, age 35,

and my grandmother, Mary (Mollie) Elizabeth Ison Croy, age 32.

Also living in Henryetta were

my great grandfather, Calvin Harrison Croy, age 64,

and my great grandmother, Sarah Angelina Smith Croy, age 61.

 My maternal great grandfather, Gabriel Washington Ison, age 59,

and my great grandmother Gillian (Gillie) Virginia Morriss Ison, age 54,

lived in Potosi, Linn County, Kansas.

 AND at 83, my great, great grandfather Peter Philander Morriss still lived

near Rothville, in Salt Creek Township, Chariton County, Missouri.

Now, ready to get crazy? I did, figuring this out…hope I got it.

Two hundred years ago today, January 1, 1815, living direct ancestors spread across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia. They ranged in age from 4 to 92. Nineteen people in all, if I counted correctly.

In Ohio:

My great, great grandfather Jacob Croy was 4 years old. He lived in Stark County (to be Carroll County,) Ohio with

my great, great, great grandfather, Andrew Croy, age 34,

and my great, great, great grandmother, Susanna Oswalt Croy, age about 30.

Little Jacob had yet to meet my great, great grandmother Margaret Pugh (Croy) age 1. Her history is unknown.

Jacob’s grandmother, my 4X’s great grandmother, Mary Huston Croy (Roberts,) 53 at the time, lived in Plain City, Union County, Ohio. (His grandfather and namesake had died sometime after 1805 and any history before him is unknown.)

Susanna Oswalt’s father, my 4X’s great grandfather, Jacob Oswalt II, age 49,

and my 4X’s great grandmother, Sarah Huston, age about 49, lived in Rose Township, Stark County(to be Carroll County,) Ohio, as well.

Great, great grandfather Henry Smith was about 12 and living in Southeastern Ohio. (His history before then is unknown.)

Meanwhile, 3X’s great grandparents Zerah Payne and Amy Felch Payne, ages at the time 36 and 27 respectively, lived in Coshocton County, Ohio.

In Virginia:

My 3X’s great grandfather Thomas H. Morriss, age 16, and my 3X’s great grandmother, Malinda Salling (Morriss), age 11, lived in (likely Rockbridge) Virginia.

Thomas’ father, my 4X’s great grandfather, Allison Morriss, age 38, lived in Amherst County, Virginia with my 4X’s great grandmother Nancy Peters Morriss, age 36.

4X’s great grandfather, George Salling, age 44, and 4X’s great grandfather Matilda Caroline Carter Salling, age 40, lived in Estillville (what would be Gate City,) Scott County, Virginia on the Cumberland Gap.

Oh, and the Ison’s? 3X’s great grandparents Isaac Sterling Ison and Charity Ingram (Ison) both were living in Estillville (what would be Gate City,) Scott County, Virginia on the Cumberland Gap as well. They were 16 and 11, respectively.

And in Pennsylvania, amazingly…

In Londonderry Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania,

my great, great, great, great, great (that’s 5 greats now) grandfather,

Jacob Oswalt, age about 92, still lived.

(Great, great grandmother Sephronia Payne Smith, great great grandfather Schuyler Ison, great great grandmother Mary Ann Overstreet Ison lived between these two milestones.)



Benjamin M Ely, brother of William Scott Ely, and the Battle of Kirksville, MO

Benjamin M Ely, brother of William Scott Ely, and the Battle of Kirksville, MO

In 1863 the United States government put Benjamin M. Ely on trial for crimes of war. His statement in his defense is a fascinating window into the time. The United States vs. BM Ely

In 1860 Missouri, the ousted Governor Claiborn Fox Jackson refused to step down and attempted to use the Missouri Militia for the southern cause. Governor Gamble who backed the Union sympathizing idea of military districts and a State Guard finally replaced Fox. The State Guard and military districts were established in response to the May 10, 1861 incident in which Confederate sympathizing Missouri Militiamen were taken prisoner. Rioting ensued and soldiers, prisoners and citizens were killed.

Using local anger over the trouble, Confederate Colonel Joseph C. Porter began recruiting a reported 1,500 to 2,000 confederate sympathizers in the area of Missouri known as “Little Dixie.” The name came from the large settlement of farmers, many of them slave owners, who came from Kentucky and Virginia. This included Rall, Chariton, and Adair Counties, all counties where the Ely, Morris, and Utterback families resided in the 1860’s. Based on Civil War records, the Morriss family somehow managed to evade any commitment to either side of the war.  They represented a popular stance in Missouri supporting neutrality in a state that voted overwhelmingly for Douglas who had supported the Missouri Compromise. The Ely families, according to records, were divided in their sympathies but mostly supported the Confederate cause so when Porter came recruiting, Isaac Ely watch many of his grandsons march into the center of the maelstrom.

On August 8, 1862 the Battle of Kirksville, Missouri in Adair county commenced at 11 AM and ended by 2 PM.  The confederates occupied homes and the courthouse in Kirksville where they used sniper fire to hold off the Union troops. Meanwhile, Union Colonel John McNeil who led the 2nd Missouri Cavalry advanced on two flanks making use of artillery fire that overwhelmed Porter’s ill trained recruits. Many retreated to behind a rail fence where, after a brief rally, they were overwhelmed. Reports varied, stating that from 150 to 200 of the Confederate Missouri farm boys were killed with double that number wounded. Union casualties were minimal. Fifteen Confederates were captured and eventually executed for treason. The reputation of Colonel John McNeil spread as a notorious and cruel Union villain through his actions at Kirksville and at Palmyra two months later. Many of these bitter and marginalized men went on to become the “bushwhackers” of Missouri, such as Quadrille’s Rangers and the James Gang. Many Missourians had been pressured into signing a pledge to not bear arms against the Union. This document became evidence of treason in future trials of captured Confederates in Missouri. Confederate sympathizers often lost their lands and lives.

Two sons of William Scott Ely, great-grandfather of Gillie V. Morriss Ison, died in the time of these conflicts. The first was Issac Ely who died in 1862 at 18 years of age, and the second was Benjamin Ely who died in 1865 at 15 years of age. Colonel Porter recruited Benjamin M. Ely, the nephew of William Scott Ely. Benjamin brought his brothers Stephen, David, James, and William into the conflict. After becoming a Captain in July of 1862, he was captured and brought to trial. His brother Isaac died in the battle, and his brother James K. P. was taken prisoner and removed to Alton, Illinois. Benjamin may have been trying to connect with this brother by going into Illinois where he was taken prisoner. The results of the trial are not known, but Benjamin worked at blacksmithing to raise his family after the conflict, and eventually headed to California after 1880. He died in Santa Cruz, California on January 1, 1912.

Solving Family Mysteries

While not positive, a likely picture of Gillie V. Morriss Ison, Gabriel Ison, and their child, Bea?

While not positive, a likely picture of Gillie V. Morriss Ison, Gabriel Ison, and their child, Bea?

For me, solving a mystery provides a little rush of excitement and an almost embarrassing sense of accomplishment. As with my last post, I have uncovered a new link to the past and a better understanding of our nation’s history. I now know more about the parents of Gillian Virginia Morriss Ison, my great, great grandmother. I have also uncovered details regarding their children and their background. I’ll get back to that in a moment but first, the process…which is the fun part.

There are numerous suggestions on information byways regarding how to break through genealogical brick walls. Still, it seems, humans (at least this one) learn best through the trials of self discovery. From my recent detective work, I offer these three take-aways.  1. Find kindred spirits in your extended family. 2. Sometimes going through a backdoor takes you to the right room.  3. Place matters! Here is my “Gillie” example.

First, my dear “cousin-in-law” sent a disc including all the pages from a beautiful family history album she created. Included among many treasures that I plan to share at a later date, I found a page from the Ison bible.  bible isonThat led me to where, with birth dates, I filled in some holes in the information about Gillie and Gabriel Ison’s children. It also started me wondering. I had previously research Gillie, born in 1860, with no luck. I wasn’t even sure of her name. Vital records recorded Gillie’s name variously as Gillia Ann Morrison, Gillie V. Morris, and, in an obituary posted on, Gillie V. Morrison. As an aside, the obituary also mentioned that she was born in Rothville, Chariton County, Missouri where a sister and two brothers still resided at that time (no names given.) In a middle of the night epithany, I decided to search Rothville census information narrowing in on the time period she was there, using only the last name Morrison which I was convinced was her maiden name because of the obituary and marriage record. No luck until I tried Morris and searched every variation for 1860, no luck, and 1870…pay dirt! (See how excited I get!) “Gilian Morriss,” daughter of Peter P. Morriss and Eliza E. lived in Chariton County in 1870. The 1860 record listed her as Julie!  In those times it seems that if you couldn’t read or write that you were at the mercy of the hearing and spelling skills of whoever recorded the information. Thus Gillian Virginia Morriss’ name altered into so many different versions over time, even unto her death.

So now we know that Gillian Virginia Morriss, nickname Gillie with a soft “g” sound, was fathered by Peter Philader Morriss (1831-1916) born in Virginia and Elizabeth “Eliza” Ely (1836-1928) born in Kentucky. They married in 1855 at Rothville and had 5 children. I also am researching their parents’ and their children’s history. I will post that information after I exhaust my research which won’t happen until after our Pennsylvania trip coming up next week. Meanwhile,  it may be interesting to note that this is the first of our family that held slaves and had family members that fought on the Confederate side and believed in that cause. Kansas and Missouri were infamous for the “border wars” of the 1860’s and our family would have been either involved or caught up in the events of that time. Check out the two sites below to learn more about that place in time…it matters.

via Chariton County, Missouri – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Chariton County was settled primarily from the states of the Upper South, especially Kentucky and Tennessee. They brought slaves and slaveholding traditions with them, and quickly started cultivating crops similar to those in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky: hemp and tobacco. Chariton was one of several counties settled mostly by Southerners to the north and south of the Missouri River. Given their culture and traditions, this area became known as Little Dixie and Chariton County was at its heart. It was heavily pro-Confederate during the American Civil War.[3]

About Us. Bates County Archaeology regarding Kansas-Missouri Border Wars


The Family of Mary Elizabeth Ison, wife of Justus Croy

C Croy Family copyThis photograph is a new find from a cousin of mine. It is one of my favorites for which I am very grateful. It shows most of Calvin Croy and Sarah Payne Smith Croy’s family, probably in Pleasanton, Linn County, Kansas before moving to Oklahoma. I think it is at the wedding of Justus Croy and Mary (Mollie) Elizabeth Ison, who is also pictured. Mollie’s family originated in Virginia and included John Ison and Margaret Hough, John Ison (2) and Rebecca Jones, Thomas Corr and Averilla Roane, Charles Ison, Mitchell Overstreet and Elizabeth Ramsey, John Corr and Francis Campbell, Mitchell Ramsey Overstreet and Martha Corr, Isaac Sterling Ison and Charity Ingram, Schuyler Sterling Ison and Mary Ann Overstreet, Gabriel Ison and Gillie Morrison. Kentucky Family Pages a PDF document

A note to the family members who received the book: There is much more information on the Ison family here. I was able to definitely link the family location before Schuyler Ison moved to Oldham County, Kentucky to Estillville (now Gate City,) Scott county, Virginia located at the gateway to Kentucky.