I recently wrote about how my Landry family came to southern Louisiana. That was 250 years ago and it was before the United States was formed. My mom’s side of the family came here more recently. Not all at the same time, but pretty close. The main lure was the opening up of this area by railroad and an offering of land for homesteading.
I found some documents online last week that show when the homestead papers were filed for some of my ancestors. They keep putting more and more historical information online. Of course, I have to look in the right places to find those things that are already there. So I was excited to find these records that I hadn’t seen before. They pretty much support the information I had concerning when my ancestors arrived in southern Louisiana. The first group to arrive here was the Bucklin family.
The names on the register start with my great, great grandfather James Bucklin. He and two of his children – Joseph and Jennie – filed for homestead claims on April 2, 1884. They had come from Hampden County, Massachusetts, by way of Coffins Grove, Iowa. Even though her name is not on the register, my Irish great great grandmother Mary Ann McGrath Bucklin was involved with the whole endeavor as well.
My great grandfather Louis was only 11 years old at the time and was not able to file a claim of his own. He did work on the claim and kept a journal for many years about the day to day farming that was done. I remember seeing the name of Shoesmith in that journal and now I see it on this homestead register.
According to the information I found, the next to show up in the area was Martha Ann Keys. Her claim was filed on November 11, 1887. She was born in England and had arrived in America with her five children just four months earlier. I know they lived in a chicken house for a while (thank you Thomas Lord MacVey!), but I’m not sure how long it was before a house was built. A photo of the house they lived in has information on the back that says the house was built in 1888. Another factor that comes into play was the second husband of Martha Keys.
“What’s that?” you ask, “Another husband? Say it isn’t so!” Yes, there was another husband that isn’t talked about much. It was in the days before social media, after all. She and William T. Davis were married for only a short time because she got rid of him. It was said that she did not like the way he treated the kids. (Maybe they had gotten in the habit of scratching the floor with their toes – you know, like chickens! – and it drove him crazy and he’d send them to the barn.) Whatever the issue was, they didn’t stay together.
This next part doesn’t make sense to me. In the family history book it says she lost her claim because of this marriage. In the register you can see that the claim was “cancelled for relinquishment” on November 13, 1889, which is just over two years after the start of the claim. She never divorced Mr. Davis, but did not take his name. Details have a way of being lost with the death of a few generations. (An interesting name on this page in the register is Thomas Buller, who I think is the great grandfather of Pam Buller.)
Our next arrival was the Hine family from Indiana. This claim was dated February 10, 1896, though other information says they arrived in Louisiana in 1894. The name on the register is George H. Hine, my great great grandfather. He came was his wife Sue and their six children ranging in ages from 10 to 20. The oldest was my great grandmother Addie.
To help out with the family or possibly to earn some money on her own, Addie would help people with chores around the house. One of these people that she helped was Mary Ann McGrath Bucklin, whose son Lou just happened to be the right age for marrying. (Lou’s journal entry for July 6, 1896 – I went over & got Miss Hines to help mother, she commenced work at noon.) Addie and Lou were married in 1898. (Notice the name in the register under George Hine. It is Henry Kohl, an ancestor of Joseph Connors.)
That leaves the Phenice side of my mom’s family. That generation of the Phenice family did not immigrate to southern Louisiana. They were from Pennsylvania and had homesteaded in Nebraska. One brave son name Harry – my great grandfather – came to Louisiana seeking his fortune. Why he came to Louisiana is a mystery. But he arrived in 1898 at the age of 24.
He did not homestead. At least I have never heard of him homesteading and did not find a record of it. And according to the verse he wrote in Daisy Keys’ autograph book, he found his fortune in a little English girl. He said she was “all to me.” They were married in 1900 and lived in the China/Hathaway area for the rest of their lives. Though they did spend a year in Colorado hoping to find that monetary fortune at a gold mine at Cripple Creek.
So that’s how those families came together to bring about my maternal grandparents and my mom. They came from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Indiana, England, and Ireland with dreams and ready for hard work. I, for one, am glad they did.