The Sad History Surrounding Joe Bucklin

Joseph C. Bucklin, circa 1909. I remember when I first saw his photo, I thought he looked handsome and prosperous and that this might have led to him having things go his way rather regularly. I learned otherwise.

I’ve already written A Sad Story about Joe Bucklin.  He was my great uncle.  Or was he my great great uncle?  Whichever he was, he was my great grandfather Louis Charles Bucklin’s older brother.  And boy did he have a sad story to tell.  I wrote the first story about it three years ago, then followed up on it a year later with a Surplus Sunday about the Bucklins, the Ausmans, the MacVeys.  The second story talked about Joe Bucklin’s history, but then veered off into some other family history.

This time I want to keep the focus on Joe.  He does seem to be the center of a large number of tragic events in both the Bucklin and Ausman families.  Joe was married to two of the Ausman sisters.  Both of the sisters died, as did young daughters by each of them.  Since I wrote those other two stories, I have collected more and more information about the Bucklin and Ausman families.  I have no relation to the Ausman family, but I was intrigued with all of the misfortune that befell them and our poor Joe.  Recently I’ve gotten some answers to things that I had been wondering about, so now is the time for the story I’ve been planning.

Joe Bucklin was born in Massachusetts in 1861 to James Bucklin and his second wife Mary Ann McGrath Bucklin.  He had an older half-brother and half-sister by his father and his father’s first wife.  He also had an older sister Jennie by James and Mary Ann.  The family moved to Iowa around 1863 and a year later James and Mary Ann had another son named Edd.  In 1866, the family moved to Delaware County in Iowa.  My great grandfather Lou was born there in 1873.  The 1880 Census shows the family still living in Delaware County.

The Ausman family was from Canada.  By 1873 Samuel and his wife Jane had eight children: Phillip, John, Jennie, Evaline, Lambert, Minnie, Aggie, and Ida.  At that point they decided to move to the United States, and they too picked Delaware County in Iowa as their new home.  They had their sixth daughter, little May Ausman, in Iowa.  I’m assuming that the Ausmans and the Bucklins must have met each other at this point. 

If they did meet each other and become friends, that didn’t keep the Ausmans from moving to Nebraska in the late 1870s.  Once they were there, they had their fourth son.  His name was Willie and he was the last of a total of ten children.  Sadly, there was only a two year period when all ten of the siblings were alive at the same time.  In April of 1881 the first of several deaths occurred when 18-year-old Evaline died.  The only connection to Joe Bucklin was that the families probably knew each other at this point.  Joe was almost two years older than her, so they were peers.  The next few deaths become much more personal to Joe.

About five years after the Ausmans move from Delaware County, the Bucklins moved to Jefferson Davis Parish in southern Louisiana.  James, Joe, and Jennie were able to obtain homesteads in 1884.  Lou was still too young, though he and his future wife would be the ones who would care for the farm for many years to come.  Those first few years were a lot of hard work involved with clearing the land and building roads and bridges.  I’m not sure of James’ participation in all of that.  He was likely involved, though for only a few years.  He died in 1890 at the age of 69.  Joe was 29 at the time and I’m sure it hit him hard.

I’m not sure how, where, or when the Ausmans and Bucklins came back together again, but there are clues.  In Samuel Ausman’s obituary it said that he had spent some time farming in Louisiana.  His daughter Jennie got married to Charles Henry McKague in Nebraska in 1882, but by 1892 they were living in southern Louisiana.  The families must have lived close by, because in 1893 Lou Bucklin mentions the McKague name in his journal.  In the letter that May wrote to Lou in 1893, she talks about the cold weather in Iowa and how it is a different cold than in the south.  They had just recently moved to Iowa again, so it could be that they had just moved from the south.  So if Samuel did farm in Louisiana, it had to have been in the early 1890s.

That would explain why the McKagues moved there.  It would also explain how Joe and Aggie got together.  Joe and Aggie were married in December of 1892.  This was just a few months before another tragedy befell the Bucklin family.  Joe’s older sister Jennie died in June of 1893 at the age of 36.  That is such a young age to die, yet his wife and four of her sisters never reached that age.  Evaline had died in 1881 at the age of 18, and the next one to die in the Ausman family was Jennie.

Jane Ausman (in the middle) with daughters Minnie, May, Ida, and Aggie. This was taken around 1897. Two of Jane’s daughters had died previously, and three more would die in the next six years. Such tragedy for the Ausman family. They were left with only one daughter: Minnie. Seeing three of her sisters die in southern Louisiana made her steer clear of the place. She ended up living in Clear Lake, Washington, about the farthest place in the continental United States from Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana. She lived into her sixties.

Jennie was 34 years old when she died around 1896.  She was the mother of six children 13 years old and younger.  When I was finding out more about the Ausman family, I had wondered if there were descendants alive today.  With so many tragedies back then, I didn’t know.  So I did a little exploring with the family and found some descendants.  The most surprising thing I found was for the descendants of Jennie.  I actually graduated from high school with one of her descendants!  You just never know.

Around this same time Joe and Aggie moved from Lake Charles, Louisiana, to Jennings.  They also had their second daughter named Gladys.  (Though Gladys may be the daughter of Ida Ausman MacVey and an unknown father.)  Joe and Aggie’s first daughter Leola was born in 1893.  They had a son named Harold on July 15, 1899, during the few years of calm they had.  But that calm came to an end not long after he was born.

On August 8, 1899, Agnes “Aggie” Ausman Bucklin died at the age of 28.  This third Ausman sister death was definitely the most difficult one by far for our Joe.  It was his wife of only a short seven years!  Yet to make matters worse, their 6-year-old daughter Leola died on December 28, 1899.  The next few months must have been difficult for Joe.  It was so difficult that his mother Mary Ann went to stay with him to help out.  In another tragic twist, his mother ended up getting sick with the flu and she died April 10, 1900.  Poor, poor, Joe.

Willie Ausman, with Ida, May, and Jane Ausman. Circa 1897. This was taken during a short interval between the death of Janet “Jennie” Ausman McKague in late 1895 or early 1896 and the death of Ella “May” Ausman on Sept. 8, 1900. During that time, all three of these Ausman children got married. Willie Ausman got married to Edna O’Neal on October 16, 1899. They were witness at his sister May’s wedding the following day. Edna signed her name as “Mrs. Willie Ausman.” May and Bert did not live to see their first anniversary. Willie and Edna were married for over 45 years. Ida married Joe Bucklin on November 15, 1900.

Meanwhile, May Ausman had gotten married to Bert Lukenbill  on October 17, 1899.  When I tell you that, you may think that I’m leading this story to something more positive and upbeat.  But I’m not.  This is one of the most recent facts that I have discovered.  I knew that May had died before 1910;  I reported that previously.  But I didn’t know the particulars of where, when, and how.  Now I do.

When the Lukenbills got married in late 1899, they decided to move south for health reasons for Bert.  They ruled out southern Louisiana, maybe because two of May’s sisters had already died there.  So they decided to try somewhere new.  As Ausman luck would have it, they decided on Galveston, Texas.  Does anyone know what happened in Galveston in 1900?  I’ll tell you.  There was a huge hurricane that hit the city on September 8.  The city was hit hard and thousands of people died.  The newspapers reported that “everything between M and P streets had been wiped away by the tidal wave…”  Bert and May lived on O street and they were never seen alive again.  May was 25 years old at the time.

Oh, the choices we make!  If May had decided to move to Jennings, Louisiana, where her brother-in-law Joe lived, she may have lived a long time.  Or if she had decided to marry Lou Bucklin instead of dropping him like a hot potato in 1893, she also might have lived a long time.  But if that had happened, I wouldn’t be here writing this terrible tale.  So here I am writing about her untimely death.

Newspaper article from Sept. 18, 1900, about deaths in Galveston, Texas.

When Bert and May’s parents heard about the destruction and didn’t hear from their children, they decided that they needed someone to go into the devastation and seek out any information.  So who did they contact?  Why Joe Bucklin of course.  What’s a little more death and tragedy to deal with for him?  He’s used to it.  So he headed to ground zero shortly after disaster struck.  He was unable to find any trace of them.   A month later the Lukenbills received a telegram saying that Bert’s body had been found and buried. 

What a year for Joe.  During that yearlong period his wife died, his daughter died, his mother died, his sister-in-law and brother-in-law died and he was sent to search for any sign of them.  But do you know what else was going on during this period?  He must have been seeing Ida Ausman, because he got married to her on Nov. 15, 1900.  Did they fall in love while grieving over the deaths of family members?  Stranger things have happened.

So Joe and Ida settled in Jennings.  Joe and his brother Edd had a business called “Bucklin Bros.” in downtown Jennings that seemed to be very successful.  Things calmed down…for a short time.  You know where this is leading.  You might be thinking, “If he’s still writing, more tragedy is coming.”  And you’d be correct.

And by telling you that Joe and Ida welcomed a bouncing baby girl in July of 1903, that shouldn’t convince you to let your guard down.  They named their little girl Ida May after her mother and her most recently deceased aunt.  Two months later, on September 5, 1903, Ida Ausman Bucklin died at the age of 30.  Joe must have had the worst case of deja vu ever.  Four years after his first wife died, his second wife (and sister to his first) died.  And like that terrible year in 1899, a few months later it was followed with the death of a daughter.  Little Ida May Bucklin died on December 16, 1903, at just five months old.

Dec. 17, 1903, issue of the Jennings Daily Times Record.

What a painful story to write!  Can you see why I became so intrigued with the Ausman family that intertwines with my Bucklin family?  Every bit of information I would find would bring a new glimpse of some painful event in their lives.  My great grandfather witnessed all of these event and it must have been difficult for him to see his brother going through all of that. 

Joe would go on to get married again two years later.  He did not father any more children.  His brother Edd died in 1911, and after that the Bucklin Bros store eventually closed.  Joe and his wife moved out of state and he died of the flu in 1918 at the age of 57.  His son Harold moved to North Carolina where he died in 1926 at the age of 27.  He was the last in the line of Joseph C. Bucklin.


  • Wow, that was a hard story to tell with so many tragedies.

  • Who could imagine such a life of tragedy ?
    It was a little difficult to keep up with all of the characters ; but, I wondered how each died. Disease ? Accidents ?
    So next time I grieve for sadness in my life I’ll remember poor Joe Buckin and wonder how he dealt with so much sadness.
    My mother’s grandparents (Issac Andrus – Andrus Cove) settled in Jennings in the late 1800’s & I imagine they knew poor Joe

  • Wow. He couldn’t escape tragedy. Certainly helps you keep perspective in your own life!

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