Rendered Fat Content


Sidney E. Morse: Iowa (1842 - 1845)
Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division
New York Public Library

" … only a little more than one-sixty-fourth of my DNA."

When she died in 1826, my fourth great-grandmother, Rachel Parker Jackson, left behind a four-year-old son with a high falutin' name, Nathaniel Parker Jackson. His paternal grandparents would raise him and his two surviving siblings to maturity near the Ohio River in Miller Township, Indiana. Shortly after his twenty-first birthday in 1843, he would head West toward Iowa territory in an oxcart with his new bride, Elizabeth Jane Teas. There were rumors that his grandparents had been stern replacements for his deceased parents and that he was anxious to get out on his own. I've always wondered why he set out so late in the year, for starting a westward journey in the Spring was more common. They left late in the year and made it only as far as the Burlington, Iowa, Mississippi River ferry crossing before disaster struck. Elizabeth slipped on the ferry and fell into the freezing river. She contracted pneumonia and died on her honeymoon, buried in Burlington, Iowa.

Ferries then were not yet steam-powered.
They had advanced beyond over-burdened canoes with stock swimming beside but had yet to evolve into mechanical monsters that could hold a dozen and a half fully loaded Conestoga wagons, their teams, and passengers. Nat and Elizabeth might have hired a flatboat powered by a crew pulling wing-like paddles. Whatever the craft, the crossing was perilous even in the best weather, and December doesn't usually present the best weather for crossing the Mississippi River.

I have no idea how a young man recovers from such a loss. In 1843, much of Iowa Territory had recently been considered Indian Country. Following a series of annexations after such conflicts as The Black Hawk War a decade earlier, it had been opened up for settlement. The United States was just ramping up its eventual strategy for relocating native tribes away from attractive lands. In Iowa, the Territorial Governor and the Feds bought a bunch of land from natives with questionable title. When the remaining natives complained, the militia crushed those complaining and forced the remaining off their land and further West. This strategy hadn't yet become a pattern, but with iteration, it would. The Black Hawk War convinced the US Army they'd need mounted soldiers to fight mounted native warriors. The US Cavalry was born out of those battles.

Nat continued westward, claiming a homestead near the present town of Lovilia, Monroe County, Iowa. He would live a long and remarkably productive life, outliving two wives to be survived by a third, Elizabeth Dillinger, who would bear an additional twelve of his children before living until 1942, when Nat would have been a hundred and twenty years old. He fathered twenty-two children, overall, among them, my mother's doppelganger and grandmother, his fourth child, Sara Adeline Jackson, born March 3, 1851, her mother, Nat's second wife Lovey Elizabeth Hammer, my third great grandmother, bore him ten children before she died in 1864, probably in childbirth. Nat fathered children until he was sixty-five.

Nat, like many pioneers, was no slacker. He reportedly built an enormous barn that featured a three-foot-tall stone foundation and attracted sight-seers for years before it ultimately burned down. He quarried that stone and sawed the timber himself. He and his sons dug a new well when he was in his seventies. Monroe County featured excellent farmland perfect for corn cultivation and ten-foot-thick coal seams open to the sky in some places. Nat was known as a good white man by the local natives and recognized as generous. When the dinner bell rang, travelers reportedly timed their passages to find themselves near his farm. Anyone appearing then would be invited for supper and to spend the night. He was hospitable.

Two of his daughters died on the same day, Rachel, aged twelve, and Clarissa, aged ten, on September 15, 1865. Four-year-old John had died just two weeks before. Childhood mortality was astronomical by today's standards. Then, it's said people had so many children because they would lose so many. Six of Nat's twenty-two died as children. One lived well into the nineteen-seventies. Nat died when he was seventy-five, in 1897. By then, his daughter Sara had already successfully brought her family to the Walla Walla Valley. The trail he followed by oxcart had become a railroad. Bridges crossed the Mississippi in multiple places. Coal mining was the principal industry in Monroe County. He was a genuine pioneer who left a lasting legacy. On my better days, I imagine he would have been proud to know me. I feel I know him, though he represents only a little more than one-sixty-fourth of my DNA. I will have more to say on Nathaniel Parker Jackson's legacy in upcoming stories.

©2024 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver