Tuesday, November 29, 2011

JAMES RYLAND - 1820 - 1902

Thanks to my cousin Kenny Ryland in Kansas, I have this lovely photo of my great-great grandfather.

One of the first things genealogists hope for in starting their research is a published biography on their ancestor from an old county history book. We all know that what we find will only be partially true, but it certainly gives us a beginning framework and it is imperative that we must prove each statement either correct or incorrect. Outrageous lies have been printed in these bios (though thankfully not in this fellow's) so early on we learn to use them merely as a theory. So let's see what this one, from the History of Noble County, Indiana, says about James Ryland:

James Ryland was born in Belmont County, Ohio, March 31, 1820. He is the son of Samuel and Hannah (Myers) Ryland, both natives of the Keystone State. They had two children - James and Matilda. They moved to Belmont County in an early day, where the father died when James was about four years of age. After her husband's death, Mrs. Ryland went to live with her parents in Wayne County, Ohio. Here she was married to Thomas Appleton, and after some years they moved to Summit County. There James was reared, receiving but a limited education. He was married to Miss Charlotte Bond, April 20, 1841. This lady was born in Genesee County, New York on December 25, 1820. In 1847, Mr. Ryland moved with his family and settled on the place he now owns in Allen Township. The land was covered with timber, but they were frugal and industrious and soon were comfortably situated. In their family were six children, viz.: Francis M., James A., George W., C. Albert and Alfred A., living, and Olive C., deceased. Francis M. went out as a private during the late war, and was promoted to a Lieutenant. Mr. Ryland owns 159 acres of well-improved land, which he and wife have obtained by their own endeavors. They are reading, intelligent people, and have given their children good educations. Four of the sons are experienced and successful school teachers.

Now just a few words to update and correct the above paragraph, 1)Though it would appear otherwise, Matilda was the older of the two children by two years; 2) James and Charlotte moved their family to Noble County, Indiana, in 1847; 3) George W. suffered a brain injury in his youth and was handicapped for the rest of his life; Alfred A died at age 31, never having been married; 4) Olive died at 1 year of age. No one has yet to discover the full story of Hannah Myers Ryland Appleton, though it hasn't been for lack of trying! She did have Appleton children, but that fact never made it into the Ryland legacy that was left for us.

This marriage record shows our James, age 21, marrying Charlotte Bond. Charlotte's father was an "exhorter" in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and James joined that church at age 18 and never changed. An interesting discovery is that in their youth I found all of James' sons held membership in the Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church, not the ME church of their parents. James Ryland's farm abutted that of Ephraim Myers, and Ephraim was an early deacon in that Lutheran church. Since James' mother was a Myers, there may have been a family connection that drew James' boys to that denomination.

The death of old James in 1902 generated an early death certificate, showing as #59. Rarely do we find death certificates that early. Also this certificate is unusual in that Charlotte, his wife, was the informant and every single piece of information she gave is correct. It is amazing how wrong some informants' information is, but not hers.

And while early obituaries often spoke in extra-flowery language, his obit shows how he lived his life, and as near as I can tell, it shows a true measure of the man.

He commenced his life with no help but his own energy and industry. He succeeded well, educated his children, left them a legacy of sterling honesty, integrity and honor. His word was always as good as his bond. No one ever heard him profane or falsify. Among his many prominent characteristics his humaneness was striking. He would never turn anyone away from his home hungry or in need of a resting place. He has been known to entertain strangers overnight and then to remain up all night in order to guard his home from being plundered. If he found a tramp in an outbuilding he would bring him in and entertain him. He would never willingly permit a stranger to depart on Sunday. Were any of his neighbors in need at any time, they would find his best at their service. Another characteristic was his scrupulousness. He was close in his dealings, but exact and honest. On one occasion a merchant took his word as to the number of bushels in a load of corn, and was surprised later to receive money which a subsequent measurement of his wagon by Mr. Ryland showed to be due. This was the man.

Friday, November 11, 2011



James "Jim" Alexander Dobbins, oldest son of Robert B. and Catherine Alexander Dobbins, asked for and received a letter of Dismission in 1856 from his home church in Fulton, Illinois (Bennington Presbyterian Church in Ipava) and headed off somewhere with his family, according to church minutes left by his pastor father. He and his family left no family bible and no one at a Dobbins family reunion in 1911 left any notes about him. He died long before Death Certificates had come into use. Documenting his life has been hard, frustrating, and mostly unrewarding.

He had a wife, Elizabeth, and four children - Robert Gaston, Paulina Jane, Elizabeth Caroline and James Sellers. I can tell you interesting stories about all of his children, but not about him. The picture was given to me by Percy Dobbins, my dad's cousin, and it had been handed down to him from his father. At the time I received it, no one in the family even knew what his name was or anything at all about him. Even if I haven't found out much about his life, at least I now have a name for him.

Jim was the first child of Robert and Catherine, born in Ohio in 1805. His father was a circuit-riding Presbyterian minister whose territory encompassed Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. While he was out ministering, it was up to his wife and children, (predominately Jim, being the oldest) to run the family farm in Clermont county, which provided for their needs and also provided money to sustain his father's ministry.

In 1826 the Clermont County marriage books show the following:

In 1835 Rev. Robert Dobbins bought acreage in Fulton County, Illinois, and he and his now-mostly married children moved there. Rev. Dobbins retired from the circuit riding but he established a local Presbyterian church, composed mostly of his own family members, and in 1837 the church records show that Jim's youngest son, James Sellers Dobbins, was baptised by his own grandfather, the Rev. R. B. Dobbins.
Those same records indicate that at two different times Jim asked for and received a request to remove the family from the church in good standing. The first time was in this same year (1837) and they were gone for four years before returning. In 1851 Jim's oldest son died. In 1856 Jim asked for and received a letter of dismission again; this was after the old Rev. died, and I'd guess Jim now felt free of the burden required of the oldest child. He took his family, just as his own father had, and traveled west, settling in the tiny town of Prairie City in Kansas, just a tinch southwest of Lawrence. No sooner did he get established there than his wife died, his oldest daughter died in childbirth, his second daughter married and headed east with her husband, and his youngest son associated himself, by his own admission, with old John Brown.

It is at this point that James Alexander Dobbins pretty much disappears off my screen. Many of the Douglas County records are missing because of all the problems that area had during the early settlement of Kansas, but it was in one recorded deed in the Douglas County Deed book that I was able to find him again. In 1871 he sold property he owned in Lawrence to the leaders of the Presbyterian Church and the deed showed he was in Maineville, Warren County, Ohio; the deed also showed he had a wife named Eliza Dobbins. A subsequent check of the marriage record showed that he had, in 1861, married the widow Eliza Gant.

Jim died in 1873. I know absolutely nothing of those final years. I have always had the feeling that this fellow, my great-great grandfather, did not have such a happy life. Too many deaths. Too many burdens. And I have always hoped that he found happiness with Eliza; nothing would make me happier than finding an obituary that said so -- but he is as remote at the end of his life as he was during it.

The one thing I have always treasured is a hand-written family chart that was sent to me many years ago by a distant relative I found back in Illinois. It is dated 1922 and is the only record I have that places James Alexander Dobbins in with the rest of the Robert B. Dobbins kids. It's not the kind of proof I would like, but I do believe it to be factual. This fancy chart was drawn then from a simple chart that had been generated at the 1911 reunion; on the older one, James Dobbins was called "Jim." So I've always felt confident that I could put my finger on the name "James" and say "He's mine!" And because of the picture, know what he looked like.