John Alexander Springer: Farmer Extraordinaire (52 Ancestors #34)

I knew very little about my third great grandfather, initially.  I suppose that’s the case with most ancestors, really.  What I mean is that he is one for whom I only had a name and dates from my grandma’s pedigree chart, but even grandma wasn’t sure about the name.  She had written down that he was John Alexander Slaymaker Springer, but she told me that she wasn’t sure about the second middle name.

I started my search looking for John Alexander Slaymaker Springer who had been born circa 1836 and died circa 1919.2,3,5,6,7,9,10,14,15  I knew from the chart that he was married to Mary Lindley and had a son named Frank.4,5,6,7,9,10,15,16,17  I began where I usually do when I have a name and approximate dates.  Census records.  I found John A. Springer living with John S. and Lamira Springer in Paoli, Orange County, Indiana in 1850.3  The names I had for his parents on the pedigree chart were John Slaymaker Springer and Susan Lamira Nichols.1,2,3

I then found John A. with his wife, Mary on the 1860 and subsequent census.5,6,7,9,10  All of this was research I had done years ago, before FamilySearch.org was on my radar.  Ancestry.com didn’t have any vital records for John A., so I stopped my search and moved on to a new person.

Last year, I decided to look for John A. on FindAGrave.com.  To my delight, not only was there a photo of his tombstone, but there was also a photo of him!

John Alexander Springer, photo courtesy of Susan Huber, Findagrave.com

John Alexander Springer, photo courtesy of Susan Huber, Findagrave.com

By this time, my library had purchased a subscription to NewspaperArchive.com.  As I was researching Frank Springer, I widened my search to include his parents.  What I found was surprising.  There were several articles in The Paoli Republican about him, all dated near the time of his death.  The first reported that he was over 80, though he didn’t look it, and he had cataracts in both eyes that he was planning to have removed when the conditions were right.11  The second reported that he was looking to sell seven stands of bees.12  I knew he was a farmer.  I did not know he kept bees.

The third article reported that he was seriously ill.13  The fourth article was an obituary and an administrator’s sale notice.15

Obituary for John A. Springer, The Paoli Republican,  Wednesday, 21 May 1919, p. 4, column 1.  NewspaperArchive.com

Obituary for John A. Springer, The Paoli Republican, Wednesday, 21 May 1919, p. 4, column 1. NewspaperArchive.com

The last two articles were land sale notices, which gave the legal description of his land.  These articles also named four of his eight children:  Anna L., Frank, Charles B., and John A., Jr.16, 17

One of my ongoing projects has been to scan all of the photos and documents from the Rakestraw trunk at my grandparents’ house.  As I was doing this, I came across a letter, written by John A. Springer and addressed to Mrs. Rakestraw (Mary E. Rakestraw, whose daughter married John’s son, Frank).  This letter was dated in 1891 and was sent from Madisonville (now part of Cincinnati), Ohio.  In it, John talked about his regret in moving to Ohio and how homesick he was.8  This was an amazing find!  Since we have no 1890 Census, I would never have known he had moved.  By 1900, he was back in Paoli.9

I also came across a letter he had written to his granddaughter, which had a letterhead, and an envelope with a printed return address.

John A. Springer letterhead.

John A. Springer letterhead.

John A. Springer envelope.

John A. Springer envelope.

In addition to farmer and bee keeper, he was also a dealer in coal oil and fertilizer.  It was certainly nice to learn all of these new things about him, but I think my favorite thing about reading these letters was hearing his voice and getting a sense of his personality.


Sources

  1. “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images,FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZC4-PGD : accessed 22 August 2015), John S Springer and Susah L Nichols, 10 Feb 1831; citing , Orange, Indiana, county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 1,316,696.
  2. 1840 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 27 Dec. 2014. Orange, Indiana. p.95. Line 18.
  3. 1850 United States Federal Census. HeritageQuestOnline.com. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. Paoli, Orange, Indiana. p.456. Family #698, lines 21-27.
  4. “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images,FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZCH-GFZ : accessed 15 August 2015), John A Springer and Mary Lindley, 22 Dec 1859; citing , Orange, Indiana, county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 1,316,697.
  5. 1860 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. Paoli, Orange, Indiana. p.120. Family #921, lines 15-16.
  6. 1870 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. Paoli, Orange, Indiana. p.24. Family #176, lines 23-28.
  7. 1880 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. Paoli, Orange, Indiana. p.6B. Family #53, lines 17-25.
  8. Springer, John A. Letter to Mary E. Rakestraw. 08 Feb. 1891. MS. New Albany, Indiana.
  9. 1900 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 27 Dec. 2014. Paoli, Orange, Indiana. pp.8A-8B. Family #165, lines 50-55.
  10. 1910 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. Paoli, Orange, Indiana. p.2A. Family #29, lines 24-27.
  11. “Local News” Paoli Republican 28 February 1916, Wednesday ed.: 5. Print. column 2.  Accessed 27 Dec. 2014, NewspaperArchive.com.
  12. “For Sale” Paoli Republican 09 April 1919, Wednesday ed.: 4. Print. column 2.  Accessed 27 Dec. 2014, NewspaperArchive.com.
  13. “Local News” Paoli Republican 16 April 1919, Wednesday ed.: 5. Print. column 1.  Accessed 27 Dec. 2014, NewspaperArchive.com.
  14. “John Alexander Springer (1836 – 1919) – Find A Grave Memorial.”FindAGrave.com. Glenda Barry, 12 May 2012. Web. 17 Dec. 2014. (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSvcid=546002&GRid=90018053&). Find A Grave Memorial# 90018053.
  15. “Obituary” Paoli Republican 21 May 1919, Wednesday ed.: 4. Print. column 2.  Accessed 27 Dec. 2014, NewspaperArchive.com.
  16. “Land Sale” Paoli Republican 04 February 1920, Wednesday ed.: 1. Print. column 3.  Accessed 27 Dec. 2014, NewspaperArchive.com.
  17. “Land Sale” Paoli Republican 11 February 1920, Wednesday ed.: 1. Print. column 3.  Accessed 27 Dec. 2014, NewspaperArchive.com.

 

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