Monday, July 23, 2012

The First Jabez Burns McPherson:My Story of The Jabezes, Part 5

Note: In the past, I have written about the Housel family in Springdale, and then about the Sad and Untimely Death of Mary McPherson; both stories relate to this Jabez {Jabez Burns McPherson> James Peter McPherson>Peter McPherson}, the third son of James P. and Mary B. McPherson. In fact, this Jabez was the genesis of The Story of My Jabezes because I found myself in a tangle of Jabezes. The original piece on Jabez Burns McPherson {Jabez Burns McPherson> James Peter McPherson>Peter McPherson} was quickly done, in part to complete the story of the family left by Mary Housel McPherson's death. Now, I am only focusing on this the first Jabez Burns McPherson.

Jabez Burns McPherson (1847-1924)
{Jabez Burns McPherson>James Peter
McPherson>Peter McPherson}

1906 Jabez Burns McPherson
Courtesy of Margaret B. (McPherson) Burmeister Family

        Jabez Burns McPherson, the first of this name, was born in New York City on August 12, 1847, five years after James Peter (J.P.) and Mary stepped off the sailing ship Medora and onto the soil of their new land. He joined his two older brothers, William Burns McPherson, now five years old, and James Burns McPherson, three years old.

        By the time Jabez was two years old, his mother, pregnant with the first sister of the three boys, was busy helping her husband plan for their trek westward from New York City to Wisconsin. They left New York City on April 1st, 1850 and after spending two months going up the Hudson River by steamer, through the Erie Canal by horse drawn canal boats, and on the steamship Globe across lakes Erie, Huron and Michigan to Milwaukee, they finally reached their destination of Springdale, Wisconsin.

        The first year was difficult; no money reserves meant their mother and father had to do whatever jobs came their way, so they barely had time to get their log house ready for occupancy by coming of winter. The family moved into this log house, or one very much like it, on December 17th, 1850. They had a fire pit dug into the dirt floor of the cabin for heat and cooking; Smoke drifted out through the thatched roof. The family had been in the house less than a month, when a fierce Wisconsin storm hit, and at a freezing cold wind blew off a good portion of the thatched roof . Jabez was just over three years old,when he, his brothers and baby sister were taken in, along with their parents, by neighbors until the roof could be repaired.

This may have been the original McPherson
log house; According to J.P. McPherson's diary
Tom and Ann Adamson did not
arrive in Springdale until the early 1860s and
by that time McPhersons were living in a
frame house.
Courtesy of Margaret B. (McPherson) Burmeister Family

        J.P. McPherson kept a diary which provided an insight into how the family lived and how the farm grew.  However, there were very few times when he. mentioned his boys by name, at least until they reach a working age.  He mentioned them a few times when he made clothes for the boys. The first winter of 1850-51, he noted that he "mends the children's clothes,” which meant the three boys' clothes. In 1852, the November 27th entry, reads, "Making pants for Jabez,"  who was then 5 years old.  In fact, up through the late 1850s,  J.P. carefully noted for whom he made clothing, including neighbors, friends, the boys, and himself. However, most of the time, he just referred to them as "the boys,"  By the time each son turned 10 or so, J.P. sometimes mentioned them by name and the job they are doing, and for whom.

        Billy, the oldest, and then James, helped their father clear land, plant, tend and harvest crops, and care for the farm animals they began to acquire. Billy, grew to manhood and prepared to move out and on his own, but was called to serve in Co. E, 8th regiment of Wisconsin Infantry, the Eagle regiment, in the Civil War. After he returned from the war he married Rozetta Miles,. the daughter of their neighbor. Then James and Jabez shouldered most of the farming, until, in 1872, these two brothers marry two Springdale girls;  James Burns McPherson marries Henrietta Elizabeth Ireland; Jabez Burns McPherson marries Mary M Housel.

        Jabez and his wife Mary stayed close to their Springdale families in the first year of so of their marriage and their first born, Jabez Burns McPherson, Jr. {Jabez>Jabez>James Peter>Peter} was born in Mt. Vernon, about 10 miles from their family homes in Springdale. By the time of the 1880 Federal Census, Jabez and his wife Mary lived in Dodgeville, Iowa County, Wisconsin where they would make their home for the next decade. They are listed with their two oldest children,  Jabez, Jr., age 6, and Margaret, age3.  Jabez reported working in a grist mill.

1890 Jabez Burns McPherson Family
Furman, William Phillip, Jabez, May, Jabez Jr., Mary, LeRoy
Courtesy of Margaret B. (McPherson) Burmeister Family
        Jabez' wife Mary Housel McPherson died after the birth of her sixth child, on July 20, 1891. Understandably, not much was said about Jabez in the obituary, except that he was left to mourn her death, a "beloved companion who has borne the joys and sorrows for so many long years together ..."  His McPherson family came to the funeral in love and support. In attendance were Jabez' parents and brother James and his wife coming from Verona; younger sisters, Mary Jane Blair coming from Brooklyn, Wisconsin, and Emma Ireland and Maggie (Margaret) Burmeister from Madison.

       A sad time for this family, and little information survived the next decade, leaving more questions than answers. At the time of Mary's death, Jabez was 42; their son, Jabez Jr.,19; Maggie May,14; William Phillip, 10; LeRoy, 8; Furman, 5; Baby James Berdetta died four months after his mother.  The children marry and can be followed in later census reports, but there is no indication of what happens to them between the death of their mother and 1900. Who cared for them? Where did they live? Were they all together, or parceled out amongst relatives? What part did their father Jabez play in their lives after their mother's death? All, as yet, unanswered questions.

        However, this first Jabez Burns McPherson seemed to be rather alone after the death of his wife. There was little evidence to indicate his role with his children. In 1900, he worked as a miller and boarded in the home of Allen Storrs in Fennimore, Wisconsin. 1905 found him back in Dodgeville, working as a miller and boarding in the home of John F. Johns. By 1920, Jabez had made his way to the West Coast and worked as a placer miner. He boarded with Charles and Lula Blake, who lived in San Bernadino, California. Blake also worked as a placer mine and he and his wife were both from Vermont.

1921 Gathering of McPherson Siblings
Peter, Margaret B. Burmeister, Jabez, Ann A. Foye, James B., & William B. McPherson
Courtesy of JGH & Roots'n'Leaves Archives

        In about 1920, Jabez was at a family gathering, as seen by the above widely disseminated family picture of the four McPherson brothers (Peter, Jabez, James and William), and two of their sisters (Margaret Burns McPherson Burmeister and, most likely, Ann Adamson McPherson Foye). The picture must have been taken in about 1920, and was a last gathering of this group, as Ann Foye died in 1921, Jabez B. died in 1924 and William B. McPherson died in 1926. This family gathering most likely took place in Madison, Wisconsin, as Peter and Margaret's homes were there, and Ann Foye often visited her son who lived in Madison.

       Before or by the spring of 1924, Jabez  made a trip east to Vermont.  It appears that he went to visit, and perhaps stay with, Charles and Lula Blake, whom he met and boarded with in California.  Jabez Burns McPherson died in Windsor Hall, Bethel, Vermont,  on April 7, 1924.  He was only at Windsor Hall, but 2 days before he died of liver cancer.   . According to the locals, Windsor Hall was a hotel, but the Death Certificate indicated that Windsor Hall was a "hospital or institution."   So maybe he had been staying with the Blakes and then admitted to the hospital/saniforium.  Or perhaps he had just arrived in Bethel and checked into the hotel. 

       At this point and with the information available, there are some perplexing questions:  When did Jabez arrive in Vermont?  Did he just come to visit or did the Blakes invite him to stay during his last days?  Did he live with the Blakes?  If so, how long?

     We do know that the Blakes returned to South Royalton,Windsor County, Vermont, by 1920 and remained in Vermont for the rest of their lives.  Also Charles Blake provided fairly detailed information for the death certificate. 
        Jabez Burns McPherson {Jabez Burns McPherson>James Peter McPherson>Peter McPherson} died in Bethel and was buried in South Royalton, Vermont, far from his Wisconsin roots and family.

Centennial History of the Town of Springdale, Dane County, Wisconsin, 1848-1948
Funeral card for Mary Housel McPherson
Obituaries for Mary Housel McPherson
1880 Federal Census, Dodgeville, Iowa County, Wisconsin
1900 Federal Census, Fennimore, Grant, Wisconsin
1905 Wisconsin State Census, Dodgeville, Iowa County, Wisconsin
1910 Federal Census, San  Bernadino, San Bernadino, California
1920 Federal Census, South Royalton, Windsor, Vermont
1924 Bethel, Vermont, Death Certificate for Jabez Burns McPherson
Pictures, courtesy of the Margaret B. (McPherson) Burmeister Family and the JGH/Roots'n'Leaves Archives. 
~ ~ ~
 © Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications


  1. So this would be great-great-grandfather James B. McPherson.

    1. Actually, this is your great-great grandfather's brother and uncle of the Jabez Burns McPherson that was your great-grandfather. Does that make sense? I know the Jabezes nearly drove me to distraction.

  2. So this would be great-great-grandfather James B. McPherson.