Monday, January 18, 2010

A History of "Pioneer Sarah" - Part One

For some time, I have wanted to share about Pioneer Sarah. She is an ancestor who has inspired me, even though I know very little about her. Over the next couple of blog posts, I'm going to transcribe an article written by my grandmother, Lucile Fox Osgood's, third cousin, Vida Soyez Vinduska. I hope other descendants of this great lady find the story interesting. This photo of Sarah's final resting place actually was something that inspired me while in labor with my daughter, Isabelle. Knowing I came from such strong stock helped me through the difficult times!

The beautiful tribute to "Pioneer Sarah" in the Marion County Record of May 25 is greatly appreciated by her family, and, though it is wished that her grave could have been surrounded by kinfolk, she has always been in their hearts as is exemplified by the stone erected to her memory by her great-grandchildren, among whom are the children of Miles Elsworth Sampson and John Wesley Sampson. The stone was especially the project of William Thomas Sampson who supervised its production and installation.

For more than twenty years I, Vida Soyez Vinduska, have periodically worked at learning the history of Rachel/Sarah, and about five years ago two cousins joined in the search. Beulah Fisher Boyer and retired Lt. Col. Edward E. Sampson, an excellent researcher, have helped to gather some interesting lore.

Over the years, we have puzzled over how she became known as "Sarah." Col. Sampson found her in an Indiana (1850) census as Rachel, 53, born in West Virginia. her husband, Henry Fordyce, was listed as aged 49, born in New Jersey. her children at that time were listed as Jane, 20; Mary, 18; Mahala, 14; and William H., 12; all born in Ohio. Also living in the household were a daughter, Ann, and grandchildren, Elvira Allen, 4; and Emore (Elmore?) Allen, 3.

A Kansas death record for her daugher, Mahala Fordyce Sampson, who died in 1931, gave her mother's maiden name as Clark. In the Kansas census of 1870, she is listed as Rachel, 71, born in West Virginia. On a recent (April 1983) visit to the Mormon Archives in Salt Lake City an 18 Jan. 1838 birth record for William Henry Fordyce gave his parents' names as Henry Fordyce/Rachel Stackhouse.

Family tradition has it that Rachel was married twice, but we have not been able to find her marriage records which would help sort out which name, Clark or Stackhouse, was her
maiden name. Mrs. Grace Soyez of Marion remembers her grandmother, Mahala Fordyce Sampson, telling her that her mother was married twice, having had 15 daughters during her first marriage, and that Mahala and William Henry were born to the second, or Fordyce, marriage.

A descendant of Rachel/Sarah Clark Stackhouse Fordyce, whose name was Rebecca Fordyce Deardorff of Ellendale, North Dakota, and who was a granddaughter of Rachel/Sarah wrote a Fordyce family history which gave the information that Henry Fordyce married Rachel Clark, of Dutch descent. She had no information on the possibility that Rachel/Sarah was married twice, but did relate that she had 17 children, 16 daughters and one son, William Henry Fordyce, born 1 Jan 1838 in Clinton Co., Ohio. The daughters she named were: Betsey, b. 15 March 1821; Jane, b. 5 Oct. 1829; Mary b. 1 June 1833; Mahala b. 18 Feb. 1836,and she gave Sarah, Ann, and Annie, whose birth dates she did not know. Rebecca related that the other nine girls died in childhood.

In 1847, Henry Fordyce and his brother James decided to move their families from Ohio to Indiana, and in oct. of that year the two families arrived in Wabash County, Indiana. The trip, made in oxen-drawn covered wagons, had been slow. There were no roads. Often they had to cut down trees to make a road so they could get through. At their destination in Wabash County, they had to cut down trees to build a small log cabin where both families lived until they could build a second cabin...

Life could not have been easy for Rachel/Sarah. Born on the frontier of West Virginia in 1799, she was to make homes in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, possibly Illinois, and Kansas before she died. She had buried nine little daughters by the time she was 32. In all she bore 17 children. The last was her only son, William Henry, born Jan 1. 1838, when she was 40. When she was 62, she saw both her handsome young son and her husband, aged 60, march off to fight in the Civil War. Henry was enrolled as a private in Company C, 40th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers at Peoria, Ill., on the 13th of Nov. 1861, by Capt. Leaming and was mustered into the military forces of the United States at Lafayette, Indiana in December 1861 for a period of three years. His physical description: eyes, grey; hair, grey; height, 5 foot 8 1/2 inches; complexion, light. His nativity, New Jersey, Essex County, occupation, farmer. He was discharged at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, March 17, 1863. Reason: disability.

The son, William Henry, told of a severe eye infection he himself contracted during the
war. The best the medics could do was to tie him hand and foot to railroad rails so they could pour a solution of lye into his eyes to fight the infection. There was some damage to his eyes. But, still sighted, he wrote a letter to his sister, Mahala Fordyce Sampson, in 1915.

The photo here is of Rachel/Sarah's son, William Henry in his military uniform. Much thanks to Loretta Klose (another descendant) for this picture.

Stay tuned to my next post for the continuation of the story!


  1. Thanks Tonya, I can't wait for the rest of the story. Love ya, Aunt Carol

  2. Hello,
    It is really interesting to see "Slavonic" surname Vinduska here !!
    I have tried to found more information about the family and make family tree due to fact that this surname is not so common in Czech Republic - Europe and I have found your blogspot... :o)
    Warm regards
    Jan Vinduska