Rachel (Roberson) Horne

Rachel Roberson has consumed a lot of my genealogical research time. She is supposed to have been Indian, or perhaps part Indian. I’ve wanted to find some answers but now years of research have given me so much information it seems almost impossible to say anything helpful.

She was Rachel (Roberson) Horne (1847-1944), my grandmother’s grandmother. More exactly, my father’s mother’s father’s mother. Traditions in different branches of the family tell me she smoked a corncob pipe, and she taught beading and basket weaving to her daughters and granddaughters. Rachel’s sympathies were with the South during the Civil War (“She was one of the onriest Rebels there was”).

My genealogy correspondents seem to be aware William Horne’s wife was Indian, but none of them have had any further information except to attribute his nomadic life and extreme poverty to her influence.

The 1850 and 1860 censuses show Rachel as the daughter of Rufus and Elizabeth (Lomax) Roberson. She is said to have had a brother Thomas Skidmore Roberson, as well as an unnamed sister who married a Lakota man. That marriage is implied to have been the origin of the connection between our family and the family of Pete Catches.

There is a curious tradition that Rachel was sold by her parents. It’s not clear whether she is supposed to have been sold to the Robersons by her Indian parents, or she is supposed to have been sold by the Robersons to Wiliam Horne as a wife.

Rachel is shown on censuses as the only child of Rufus and Elizabeth Roberson. This might support the tradition she was adopted but DNA triangulation seems to show she was probably their biological daughter. Her descendants have autosomal matches with descendants of Rufus Roberson’s brothers Benjamin and Craig.

I’ve found no evidence of the brother or sister Rachel is said to have had, except a magazine clipping of a picture of a Lakota boy in traditional dress on which my father wrote, “This is the grandson of Rachel Horn’s sister.” The clipping seems to be from a 1960s or 70s magazine such as Life or Look. I’m relatively certain the boy pictured is Pete Catches, Jr.


Were They Pawnee?

According to a tradition current among some of my cousins, my great great grandmother Rachel (Roberson) Horne (1847-1944) was Pawnee. I don’t think so. Nothing else points in that direction.

I asked my grandmother Evelyn (Horn) Miller one year at Powwow about our Indian ancestry. She said she had always assumed they were Pawnee. A few years later she told her daughter Fern she had lately changed her mind. She now believed they were Cherokee because they owned slaves, which is something the Cherokees did.

I think the idea Rachel was Pawnee was probably just an assumption based on geography. Rachel’s parents lived in Atchison County, Missouri, just across the Missouri River from the Nemaha Half Breed Reservation (established 1830, dissolved 1860), as well as from land ceded by the Pawnee in 1833. Rachel’s family settled in this area in 1839.


When Grandma Ran Away

Grandma Vivian (Luce) Swanstrom ran away from home when she was 25.

Her parents had great ambitions for her, but she had other ideas. They sent her to finishing school in Denver, but she didn’t like it. She came home to the ranch at Big Piney after the first semester, and refused to go back. She was an accomplished pianist, so her parents sent her to University of Wyoming to study music. She decided she wanted to be an actress. Her father told her he’d rather see her dead. That was the end of university.

Her next choice was to become a nurse, like her heroes Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale. Her parents didn’t like that idea either.

Her parents didn’t believe women should work outside the home. They wanted her to marry a rancher. Someone nearby. Someone with money. Someone who could give her a comfortable life.

They arranged a marriage for her, then another, then another. She was engaged five times. She broke off every one. She ended the engagement with “the Alexander boy” by throwing his ring back in his face.

Grandma plotted her escape. She was taking a correspondence course in millinery. She told her parents she was going to spend the weekend at the house in town so she could get some ribbons she needed. Secretly, she packed her saddlebags with everything she planned to take with her. Her cover story would give her a few days to make her escape–as long as her mother stayed at the ranch that weekend.

In town, Grandma boarded her horse at the livery stable, then caught the stage coach to Opal. She kept (and I still have) her stage ticket. In Opal, she caught the train for Rock Springs.

The plan worked. Grandma got away.

In Rock Springs, she went to the hospital to see if they would hire her as a cook. The gods were with her. They didn’t have any openings in the kitchen, but they were looking for young women to enroll in their nurses’ training program.

Grandma was in. She was able to live in nurse’s quarters while she trained. Later, she boarded with Mrs. Josephine Swanstrom, a Swedish woman she knew from back home.

This was 1926. Grandma graduated in 1927. She worked as a nurse in Rock Springs, with a few breaks here and there, until they forced her to retire. In 1966, I think. After that, she snuck in a few more years working as a nurse in Rawlins until bureaucracy caught up with her, they figured out her age, and she really did have to retire.

Did her parents ever forgive her for running away? Grandma never said, but I think they must have. When the story of her life resumes, Grandma has a 1927 DeSoto Roadster, yellow with red wheels, that her dad gave her. That says forgiveness to me.

Follow the Route

A few days I was looking at an old 1903 map of Wyoming. I realized it was showing me Grandma’s route. The ranch at New Fork to Big Piney to Opal to Rock Springs:

If you want to follow along, open the map. You’ll want to enlarge it for easier viewing.

We’re looking at the map on the right, along the left edge. Big Piney should be easy to find. It’s almost right on the county line. The Luce ranch was east of Big Piney, in the area between New Fork and Big Piney. The stage (postal) route runs south from Big Piney to Opal, then the railroad runs east from Opal through Green River to Rock Springs.

Online trees

Are online trees worth it? I’m not so sure. I was a volunteer curator at Geni.com for many years but ultimately left because of the breathtaking incompetence of some of my fellow curators (as well as a pervasive homophobia). The strongest and most vocal users are often those peddling fantasy. It wouldn’t have to be a problem but they’re abetted by curators with mediocre genealogy skills but with a strong need for social approval. Look at the area around Pocahontas if you doubt me.

I thought maybe WikiTree.com would be better, but it turns out they have no will to correct errors. There is simply no way to remove information that is unsupported if the current manager likes it.

I did get a good story out of WikiTree, though — when I first became active there I received a series of messages from one of the admins advising me to get help before working further on my husband’s account. (What!?) Because they assumed I was a woman getting confused by all that hard DNA stuff. I was on the receiving end of quite a bit of mansplaining before I figured out what was going on. Then the admin huffily explained that he thought I was a woman because men don’t change their names. No apologies (and that seems on-brand for WikiTree).

They say the online trees will eventually coalesce into one massive online tree. From what I’ve seen so far, I imagine it will be a tree filled with massive and insolvable mistakes and pretensions.

The one I have the most hope for is FamilySearch.org. It has more than its share of silly mistakes right now but I see it as less commercial and therefore more likely to make the hard decisions that lead to good genealogy. The others are handicapped by the need to pander to a paying public.

I welcome engagement on this subject.

More Information

Revised Sept. 22, 2021 to add link.

Genealogical Standards

Reflecting on genealogical standards. This is an area that could use a lot of work, maybe get some modernization going. I’m not optimistic. Seems like genealogists as a whole are not a self-reflective bunch. The rules are the rules and we’ll burn you as a heretic if you don’t agree.

I’m not sure entering place names in the form current at the time of the event really makes sense, for example. The standard was created as a time and in a culture where knowing the older names and jurisdictions was the easiest way to find where records might be located now. This was a particular problem for Americans moving west, with new towns, counties, territories, and states being created all sides as families moved through the landscape to find new opportunities. It doesn’t make so much sense when the Internet makes it easy to find the history of any particular location.

Names are also problematic. The standard has been to record the name given at birth. That makes sense in a modern, Euro-centric culture where names are fixed at birth by custom and bureaucracy. It doesn’t make as much sense in cultures where a birth name is not the same as someone’s adult name, where a person might name might change due to adoption, where a person’s name might change routinely through different stages of life, where surnames might take the form of patronymics, or surnames might be fluid or event absent altogether. Prosopographers, being academics, have a much better handle on names. In prosopography, names are not essentialist badges of identity but rather transactional. This is the name that denotes the person in this record, and this other, perhaps similar or even identical name, is attached to the person in this other record. Major and minor variations are to be expected. We can choose one name to represent the person in our database. Call it the “best known as” name. Think of it as the “encylopedic standard”. It makes more sense to enter Bill Clinton as William Jefferson Clinton rather than William Jefferson Blythe, III. His adoption and name change is not headline.

This is a subject that interests me greatly. It’s hard to find anyone who wants to discuss, debate, and explore, so I’m mostly over here on the sidelines noticing little pieces here and there. I hope to write more on this topic in the future.

More Information

Legend of Earl Durand

I wonder what I can say about Earl Durand that won’t throw me back into the family storm. Again.

Supposably, Earl Durand was my grandfather. But I don’t believe it. On good days I think of him as a sort of ancestral godfather. On my bad days I think of him as just a PR piece for my dad’s very romantic life.

I found a letter a few days ago from my dad. He wanted me to change my name back to Durand. I don’t think I’m going to do that, but it looks like I’m going to have some angsty guilt for awhile.


Joseph Bates Noble

I’m reading Joseph Bates Noble: Polygamy and the Temple Lot Case (2009). Goodreads says:

“In 1892, a deposition was taken in a Salt Lake City courtroom to gather evidence in a land ownership battle between two offshoot branches of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) The dispute centered on ownership of land purchased to build a temple, known as the Temple Lot property, in Independence, Missouri. Although a key witness at the deposition, Joseph Bates Noble had little knowledge of land purchases dating back to 1832, yet his testimony was critical for validation of standing for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (RLDS) or for the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). In fact, at the age of 82, Noble had been thrust into the limelight of LDS Church history because of his claim to have presided over the first polygamous marriage of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.

“Noble officiated at the marriage in 1841 that united his sister-in-law with Smith, an event now cited as the beginning of the practice of polygamy in the church. His testimony would either validate Joseph Smith’s polygamist background for the Temple Lot Church or expose his recollections as falsehoods for the RLDS Church.”

Fun book, but marred for me by the tiniest of flaws — author David L. Clark doesn’t know who Anna Noble was. He mentions her as “an enigmatic child” when discussing the organization of the pioneer company that included the Noble family (p. 117). He says her Noble was a captain of the 1st Fifty in Jedidiah Grant’s company. His wife Mary Adeline (Beaman) Noble and other relatives, including Anna, travelled with Josiah Miller, captain of the 5th Ten. The company left Winter Quarters on June 12, 1847 and arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley on October 2 and 10, 1847.

In a footnote, the author gives a bit of additional information” (p. 189n4). Anna “appears as a member of the family in the list of those traveling from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City (‘Journal History’, June 11, 1847).” She is said to have been born at Montrose, Iowa. That entry shows her “brother” Edward Noble, the same age, was also born at Montrose. “Her name also appears on Noble’s list of his family in Salt Lake City in 1848 as well as in the 1850 Utah census, where she is eight years old and identified as a member of the Noble family.”

But then Clark goes off the rails. He identifies Anna with Susanna Ann Noble, daughter of Enoch Barker Noble and Margaret McGrew. He says Enoch and Joseph Noble were “distant cousins”. I’ve provided links here to this other branch of the Noble family on FamilySearch.org, although the information there is not as complete as that given by Clark. For example, Clark says Susanna was born in 1842 in Montrose, Iowa but FamilySearch has her born 1844 in New Brunswick, Canada. Clark seems to be using information for Anna Noble and attributing it to Susanna Noble. There is no indication at FamilySearch that Enoch Noble and his wife were at Montrose, Iowa. Clark says Susanna married James Emerson Hall in 1861 when she was nineteen. He doesn’t know, he says, what took her from Salt Lake City back to Iowa. In FamilySearch, the two women are different (unmerged). “Sue Anna”, the wife of James Hall, gives birth to three of her four children before her supposed 1861 marriage.

As a descendant of Anna Noble, this is familiar territory for me. So, how did Clark go so far astray? The Mormon Overland Travel database correctly lists Anna as Anna Noble, “the orphan daughter of John and Elizabeth Quamby who was adopted by Joseph Bates Noble.” She married first, Williams Washington Camp in 1857, divorced him in 1858, and married secondly, Wilford Luce, about 1861.

She received a commemorative pin in 1897 as one of the pioneers of 1847. The Book of the Pioneers shows her as Annie Noble Luce, born in England and living in Big Cottonwood, Utah (1897, Book 1, p. 410). According to her statement, “I was born in England. Am the daughter of John and Elizabeth Quamsby, who died in Nauvoo leaving me an orphan at the age of four years. I was adopted by Joseph B. Noble and emigrated to Utah in his company, Oct. 10th, 1847. (signed) Annie Noble Luce.” Her death certificate and gravestone also show her name as Annie Noble Luce.

Annie’s statement tells us exactly who she was. And, the surviving evidence supports her statement. John Quarmby was apparently an English convert, seemingly a recent immigrant in 1845 when he died at Nauvoo.

I’m not aware of any evidence about Annie’s mother beyond Annie’s own later statement. It seems almost certain Elizabeth Quarmby died sometime before June 1847 when Anna appears in the Noble household. Noble was bishop of Nauvoo 5th Ward from 1842. Mormon bishops had responsibility for the poor in their ward. Probably, Annie’s mother was living in the 5th Ward when she died. The responsibility to care for Annie would have fallen on Joseph Noble. If (perhaps) Annie’s mother died during the exodus from Nauvoo, it might not have been possible in the general confusion to find another family to take in Annie. Mormons began leaving Nauvoo in February 1846. The Noble family left by April. So, we can say Elizabeth Quarmby perhaps, maybe, probably between about February and April 1846.*

I can’t say how or why author David Clark got it so wrong, or why he thought there is any mystery. I made a concerted effort to find him, but no luck. I wish I could have passed along this information privately and now be linking to his blog post instead of writing my own.

* Although Annie’s statement says her parents died at Nauvoo, some descendants believe her mother either died at Winter Quarters or on the way to Winter Quarters. Although the timing would be a bit different, the story remains the same. Noble was bishop of Winter Quarters 13th Ward, then when the settlement was reorganized, bishop of the new 20th Ward. This would change the date but not the basic story.

Gärdserum Church

A few days ago I wrote about the Baptist church in Champaign, Illinois where my great grandparents Wilford Luce and Essie Wilson were married in 1898. Almost immediately I ran across a bookmark where I saved a link to information about the (Lutheran) church in Gärdserum, Sweden where another set of great grandparents Adolf Svanström and Josefina Klasson were married in 1886.

You can see a picture of the Gärdserum church here. and some cool pictures from inside the church here. The Gärdserum church was built 1851-1854, which means the present building is the one where my great grandparents were married. It replaced an older church, going back to the 13th century. Gärdserum was originally a ridkyrka or “riding church” because it was an annex to the church at Ukna and the priest rode over to conduct services.

When I was looking for the church in Champaign, there were the usual issues with American churches. That often involves, as it did for me, trying to figure out the church from a partial record. I had the marriage license and the name of the minister, then I had to work from there to find the church.

In Sweden, as often in Europe, the search is simpler. This marriage was recorded at Gärdserum, so I know it was solemnized in the church at Gärdserum. Gärdserum is an old, historic church so there was a high chance it still exists, and so it does.

Champaign Baptist Church

My great grandmother Essie (Wilson) Luce was raised in the Baptist church. She married Wilford Luce in 1898 in Champaign, Illinois, then moved west to Wyoming to take up life on his ranch.

I was curious about the church where they got married. I was fairly certain it would have been a Baptist church, but Essie later became an Episcopalian and her mother Elizabeth (Mallory) Wilson later became a Methodist, so maybe not.

Tp find out, I checked Essie’s marriage record. I have a copy, but if I didn’t already have one I could have looked for a copy at FamilySearch.org. It’s there, already linked to her profile. The certificate is signed by W. H. Stedman, a minister. A quick Google search tells me he was minister at the 1st Baptist Church in Urbana. With some additional searching, I find the church was organized in 1838 and Rev. Stedman was called in 1875.

Now I see a problem. The Wilsons lived in Champaign. This church was in Urbana. The two cities are close neighbors but it doesn’t seem likely someone would travel from one to the other to go to church, particularly not a common denomination like Baptist. Okay, maybe if the person and the church were both close to the boundary.

I seem to have a problem but it’s easily resolved. A bit more searching and I find Rev. Stedman resigned at Urbana in 1882. He served several other churches, then was called to the 1st Baptist Church at Champaign in 1894. So, yes. Exactly right to have officiated at Essie’s wedding in 1898.

Finally, can I find a picture of the church? Yes, but sadly it was demolished in 1980. If I had asked this question in my early 20s I would have had a chance to travel there, and see it in person.

According to the The Biographical Record of Champaign County Ill. (1900), the new church was Pastor Stedman’s project (p. 196). It took three years; two years of persuading the congregation and a year in building, at a cost of $22,000. That would mean the church was completed about 1897. It would have been relatively new when Essie was married there in 1898.

You can see a picture of the church here, from the digital collection of the University of Illinois. The Gothic Revival style is no surprise. The style was a peripheral effect of the Oxford Movement in England and America; an Anglo-Catholic renewal movement that idealized traditional liturgies, architectures, and theologies in a way that often equated embracing tradition with social standing.

It’s no coincidence that Essie’s mother moved from Baptist to Methodist, and Essie moved from Baptist to Episcopalian. In two words: upward mobility.

Tartan Scarf

I was thinking what I could do to treat myself right now. I’ve been a good and obedient citizen during the pandemic.

I knew immediately–all winter, every morning when I put on a coat and scarf to go out, I think it’s odd that I don’t have a tartan scarf. At my age. Imagine.

My new scarf has been completed and it’s in the mail. I’m looking forward. Late March, winter in Colorado is nearly over but now I’ll be set for next year.

Swanstrom Tartan Scarf

The Swanstrom tartan has been registered with the Scottish Tartan Authority, STA Ref. 7222.