Monday, December 7, 2009

The value of a good pair of horses

This is the story of my 3rd great grandfather on my mother's side, Thomas Jasper Sampson. He was known as "T.J."

This is a photograph of some of his children taken in 1886, about 7 years after Thomas died. Their son, Miles E. is in my family line. He is the first man standing on the left. He married Caroline Kline, the daughter of Karl and Amelia Kline. (See previous posts with my musings on them!)

TJ and his wife Mahala lived on the Kansas prairie in Marion County during the 1870's. Prior to living in Kansas, they lived in Wabash, Indiana and Wapello, Ohio. They had fourteen children between the years of 1853 and 1879. Three daughters died before reaching adulthood. Sarah was 11 months old when she died in 1854. Rachel was 3 years old when she died in 1868 and Mahala was 15 when she died in 1877. I am in awe of how strong this couple must have been to have so many children-and be able to move interstate with so many! My family just moved 3 miles away with 3 kids. It was one of the most difficult things we have ever done as a family. But moving from Iowa to Kansas, probably in a covered wagons, with 8-10 kids!? I am convinced we do not know difficulty these days.

According to the 1870 census, the Sampson's were a farming family. The value of his real estate is reported as $1,100 and personal estate $837. They lived near Mahala's elderly parents, Henry and Rachel Fordyce. (Otherwise known as Pioneer Sarah.)

On a blustery March day in 1879, a 46 year old Thomas hitched a team to the wagon and set out for Council Grove for supplies. On the way home a dust storm caught him, and T.J. feared for the lives of his valued horses. He removed his jacket and tied it around "Kit's" head. next he removed his shirt and wrapped it around "Kip's" head. Evidently, he had no other piece of cloth to protect his own lungs from the dust laden cold March wind. A week later he was dead of dust pneumonia. His youngest child, Maggie May, was only 2 months old.

This just goes to show how valuable a good team of horses was to a farmer on the Kansas prairie.


  1. This is such a compelling story. It's hard for us to understand in this day and age, but horses were so very important to them back then. Anyone who stole a horse could be hung for the offense.

    Little can compare in our lives today. I believe TJ was a fairly young man when this happened.

  2. He was 46--YES, that is YOUNG! I would love to know what that inscription on his old tombstone says. Whenever I go, I plan on doing a rubbing of it. Anyone else know?