Living in an age when women have their own identity it bothers me that so many of our women ancestors have little identity, not like our male ancestors. They may be listed in wills and probate documents and possibly in deeds. You might be able to find out when they were born, married, and died. But many times they and their maiden names are lost to time.
The further back you go there are no photos to capture their essence on a certain day and time in their lives. My husband’s great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Ellen Smith was fortunate to have had her picture taken, albeit later in life when the bloom had faded from her cheeks. E
Elizabeth Ellen Smith was born in Illinois on 5 December 1849. She was born to Eliza Ann (Ellen) Armstrong and Colby/Coalby Smith. The family had moved from Kentucky about 1842 to Chatham, Sangamon County, Illinois where the family was enumerated in the 1850 census. There were five children in the family ranging in ages from ten to under one year. James was the oldest and the only boy. Elizabeth was the youngest of four girls. Her three older sisters were Harriett Isabelle, Martha, and Mary. Another boy, Joseph, was born three years later.
In 1855 the family experienced great loss when their mother Eliza Ann died. Elizabeth was six years old. On 24 September 1866, her father married Melvina Thompson. From this union came five additional children, Noah, Lucy, Clara, Agnes, and Alma.
In the early 1860s, the family lived on a prosperous farm. James most likely helped Colby with the farming and the older girls helped with household chores while attending school.
At the age of sixteen, Elizabeth left home marrying William David Pope on 24 September 1866. They were so young and, like most youngsters, filled with hope for the future. The future looked bright when Minnie Alice, their first daughter, was born on 13 December 1868 when Elizabeth was eighteen. Heart-break would descend upon the family when one month-old Minnie died on 19 January 1869, followed by the death of Elizabeth’s sister Mary on 1 July. Like her husband William, she would know loss several times during her lifetime.
Perhaps because of the loss of their child, or perhaps because her father and step-mother were going to Kansas to start a new life, Elizabeth and William packed up their belongings sometime in 1869 and headed to Kansas where they settled in Franklin, Bourbon County, Kansas.
Mary Louisa, Elizabeth’s second child, was born in Kansas on 28 April 1870 followed by Annettie Bell in 1872, and Hattie Lu Ella in 1874. On 20 March 1877, Walter Colby, her first son, was born. Elizabeth would know sorrow again when Walter died on 20 February 1879. She was twenty-nine and had lost her mother, her sister, and two babies.
For reasons unknown, the family was back in Blue Mound in 1880. The farm was profitable based upon the 1880 agricultural census. The accounting of the usual farm animals, cows, horses, pigs, and chickens appeared on the census. However there were one hundred and fifty chickens producing approximately three hundred dozen eggs per year. That’s a lot of chickens and eggs. Besides the household chores of cooking, washing, tending to the children and the family garden, most likely Elizabeth was responsible for the chickens as well. Perhaps the older children helped. With that many chickens they would have had a huge egg hunt every day. And Elizabeth was pregnant, delivering Arthur Lee on 14 August.
Again the family was on the move sometime after Arthur’s birth. This move landed the Pope’s in the Fort Scott area of Bourbon County, Kansas where they stayed. Their last daughter Lola Devin, my husband’s grandmother, was born 5 April 1883.
The area where they lived was close to the Missouri-Kansas border. Elizabeth made sure the children attended school, sending them to Clarksburg School. Both Arthur and Lola graduated from this school.
In 1900, Hattie, Arthur, and Lola were still living at home. By 1910 all the Pope children had fled the nest but living with William and Elizabeth was a ward named Silas Hoffman. On 13 April 1911, Elizabeth’s married life came to an end when William, her partner for forty-four years, died. His confidence in her showed when he appointed her executrix for the estate.
We don’t know how long Elizabeth lived on the farm. A search of deeds would probably tell us. But like most widows at that time they went to live with their children, sometimes staying with one, and sometimes moving between children. In 1920 Elizabeth was living with her daughter Hattie in Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon. Hattie had married Walter Ferguson. Lola, her sister, had married Walter’s brother Thomas.
On 2 December 1929, Elizabeth Ellen Armstrong Pope died at the age of seventy-nine at the home of her daughter Lola and son-in-law Tom Ferguson. They lived at 679 Clark Avenue in Webster Groves, Missouri. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage with contributing factors of high blood pressure and old age.
Tom Ferguson worked for the railroad and most likely was responsible for shipping Elizabeth’s body back to Kansas where she is buried with her husband, the man she shared both good times and bad, in Maple Grove Cemetery in Fort Scott, Kansas.