Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Of birthdays and bearded men

She must have been quite a woman. Married and widowed three times, she was the mother of eight sons. In her 40s, she was said to have travelled with her husband and all those youngsters, on foot, from Delaware to Indiana.
Sons of Elizabeth Morgan Wright Cain Holland

Elizabeth Morgan’s obituary said she was born May 7, 1779 -- 235 years ago today.  The daughter of Thomas Morgan and Elishua Finsthwait, she was first married to John Wright, who died before 1805, leaving her with a young son, Marcellous. In 1806 she married again, to John Cain.  From this union came seven more boys (and, one article  has it, a daughter who died in infancy). Property records show that in March, 1827, she and John sold their Kent County, Delaware, property. In November of that same year they are recorded in far-off Brookville, Indiana.

John Cain died soon after, “from over-lifting a sawlog,” according to one of his sons. But Elizabeth and her fatherless brood survived and seemed to have flourished. Her first husband's, son, who took his stepfather’s surname, moved to Benton County, Tennessee, where his descendents still live. John’s offspring chose to stay closer to home, settling in various Indiana counties. Among their occupations, as recorded in census records, were farming, papermaking, carpentry, shoemaking, and tailoring; one became a physician. (Marcellous was said to have been a stagecoach driver;  he married an innkeeper’s daughter named Sinda Rilla.)

Longevity was the norm in this clan. At least four of the sons lived into their late 80s and early 90s. Elizabeth, who is my great-great grandmother, died January 30, 1875, at the venerable age of 95.  A third marriage, to a man named John Holland, lasted only a few years, leaving her once again a widow.

The four longest-lived Cain brothers, staunch and bearded, are pictured in a group portrait taken in 1899, probably in Connersville, Indiana, where at least one of them was living. Prints of the original photograph have been handed down through the generations, and a cousin and I have been able to identify all four men by comparing notes.

Recently, however, I came across a copy of the picture evidently clipped from an unnamed newspaper and posted on Ancestry. As with so many images and factoids on that site’s family trees, it has been copied here and there with little or no attribution. Who posted it in the first place? In what publication did it originally appear? Was there an accompanying article? I’d love to find out.

The copies I saw had identification for only two of the men, and I’d be delighted to provide more information in exchange for answers to my questions.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Morgan Wright Cain Holland! Your sons must have been proud of you.

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