Sunday, July 31, 2011

Phineas, Enos, and Wesley Stevens - still tracking!

At last, I've found the tombstone of my 4th great-grandfather, Phineas Stevens III (born 7 Nov 1785 in Nova Scotia). To make a short story long, I'll relate here what I've been up to in tracking down my elusive relations, descendants of the "Hero of Fort #4, Charlestown, NH" Capt. Phineas Stevens (who is Phineas Stevens I in my line).  Since 1 June 2002 I've had a clue gleaned from the Chautauqua Co Genealogical Society at Fredonia, NY: Nineteenth Century Death Notices Extracted from 'Fredonia Censor by Lois Barris, 1994:  Stevens, Phineas  --died 27 Jul 1846 -- Obituary in FC 18 Aug 1846:   "...In Rock Prairie Co., Wisc...short illn. ac 61.  For many yrs res of Chaut. Co....Methodist."  I couldn't figure out why Phineas III might die in Wisconsin when one daughter, Lucinda, and a son, Phineas IV (the Civil War Captain) lived in Chautauqua Co., NY.    I must say, that "Rock Prairie Co, Wisc" confused me for a long time because there is a Rock County, a Rock and a La Prairie township in Rock County and a Prairie du Chien city in Crawford Co, but no Rock Prairie County, Wisc.  Where did Phineas Stevens die?  It doesn't take much  to confuse me!
   Through the years I found that a half-brother of Phineas III, named Wesley Stevens had married a Mary Pember who died when they lived in Marysville, CA during the gold rush era.  From land records and census, I found the Pembers were Phineas's neighbors in Chautauqua Co since about 1820, and they were early members of the Blockville Methodist Episcopal Church together.   I did find Pembers mentioned in Rock County, Wisc. histories, so I figured that indeed, Phineas III could have ventured to Wisconsin if his son's family had migrated there. Finally, while I was at the Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS) Jamboree at Burbank, last June, I visited their library and looked at a book Family Maps of Rock Co., Wis by Gregory A. Boyd.  There I found many Stevens in Rock Co, but only one, an Enos Stevens, in the same township and section as any Pembers This Enos bought land from 1844-1848 in  Secction 15 and 32 in Johnstown Twp, Rock Co., Wisc.  The city of Janesville is nearby.  So I should zero in on Johnstown Township.
    But who is Enos Stevens???   Enos is a common name in my Stevens line. One Enos Stevens, the well-to-do uncle of Phineas III, was doing great things at Barnet, Vermont, a town founded in large part by the Stevens family.  That Enos had fled NY Long Island to Nova Scotia with Phineas II, his brother and fellow Loyalist, after the Revolution.  The Stevens had children there (Phinas III was one) before returning to their Yankee homes in Vermont.  But just who was the Enos Stevens buying land in Rock Co., Wisc. where my Phineas III is noted as dying?  I pondered and minimally researched this for awhile.
     The mystery of Enos Stevens was solved last night, when I decided to put my other studies aside and look further into Rock County.  
I entered Enos Stevens at the seach site and through the "web sites" choice I selected the Johnstown Center Cemetery link and read:
     STEVENS, Enos      --born?---   Died: ___. 20, 1851 Son of Phineas STEVENS; Aged 33 Years 
     STEVENS, Phineas ---born?--   Died:   July 27, 1846    Aged 62 Years

Wow!  Here is Phineas III and he has a son, Enos, who I never knew about!  Eureka!
 How easy it all is when you know where to search! 
Phineas Stevens - the final resting place of my 4th gg-father 1785-1846  Johnstown Center Cemetery, Rock co. WI

Enos Stevens, son of Phineas III, 1818 - 1851 Johnstown Center Cemetery, Rock co. WI
     But what about Phineas Steven III's brother Wesley and all the Pember in-laws?  Well, I was delighted to find at the SCGS Library last June, in a Wisconsin book:  Marriage-Janesville Gazette Index, that Wesley had married Mary Pember in Wisconsin, not New York.  They were married 26 Nov 1846 in Rock Co., Wisc.   I'm guessing Phineas III must have gone to Wisconsin with the Pembers and other Chautauqua Co. homesteaders, gotten married, then returned to New York! Or, since his father died in July 1846, Wesley may have traveled to Wisconsin to take care of his father, met his childhood friend, Mary Pember, married her and returned to Chautauqua Co., NY by the 1850 census! His step-mother, Sarah Knight Stevens, was also back in NY, or perhaps never left!  
    The Gold Rush had begun a couple years after Wesley married.   The gold bug must have bitten him  and they mortgaged their NY land in 1851 (which I discuss later) probably to get money for travel. Because of a book I found in 2002 at the Buffalo and Erie Co NY Public Library the Transcribed Journal of Wesley Stevens - 1852-1857  I knew that Wesley had sailed from New York around Cape Horn, to San Francisco and was a part of the Gold Rush.  In this gem of a journal, Wesley noted: "Aug 26, 1852 - Landed at San Francisco August 26 making 155 days out.  Took steamer for Sacramento at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.  Arrived at the latter place the morning of the 3r.  Took stage to Marysville. There got letters from Phineas. "    
     Yes!!!   Letters from Phineas!!  Another link to my Stevens family.  In fact, Wesley Stevens' sister, Lucinda, had married John Howard Akins in Chautauqua Co., NY, and I have a letter written by Wesley's nephew, Perry Akin who had borrowed money in Jamestown, NY to go to the gold rush (loan documentation found in the Chautauqua Co., NY court records).  In this 1853 letter from California, Perry Akin asks   "i won to now wither Uncle Wesley Stevens came out hear or not."    So the pieces are falling into place.  I'm connecting the dots in the genealogy splatter-picture!  
      After almost two years alone, and much lamenting in his journal, Wesley Stevens was joyous to learn of his wife, Mary's, arrival in Sacramento (probably with a child) on Dec 2, 1853 he wrote in his journal  "they arrived in Sacramento City." Wesley then left his place at Cache Creek, Yolo County, Calif.,  and set up housekeeping in a rented home in Sacramento at 8th and O Streets.  The entries stop until his terrible entry:  "My companion died Feb 28th ult (1857) happy in God.  Am alone with my two children and a lonely time it is to."   So Mary Pember Stevens had died.  Who are the children?  One is named Carrie Stevens, born in California, but the older child, probably born in Wisconsin or New York, is only surmised to be named George Stevens. 
     Confirming  the journal entry, I found at google books, in the Portrait and Biographical Album of Rock County, Wisconsin, ACME Publishing Co. Chicago, 1889 that Mary's brother, Reuben T. Pember was an "ex-sheriff of Rock County, and a leading farmer residing on section 28, Johnstown Township, ... born on the 15th day of August, 1826. " His younger sister, Mary "who wedded Wesley Stevens, a merchant of Marysville, Cal., died in that city in 1858, leaving two children."
     In a public auction notice I found at  Wesley and Mary Stevens took out a mortgage on land in Chautauqua Co on Oct 31st, 1851.  Evidently this was to finance his sailing trip to San Francisco starting Feb 1, 1852.  But just before Mary's death in California, their 21 acres of land and house in NY, goes to public auction for default of over $800.  I know from Wesley's journal that he is often without money and food before Mary arrives in California.  The journal doesn't give much more information on the last years in California.   If their land "back home" was at public auction, I doubt if the picture was too rosy in California.
     I am trying to learn more about Marysville, Calif. from 1854 to about 1864.    I found a 1864-1865 tax record on that indicates he had lived near Marysville:  Annual: U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918:  "Stevens, Wesley  -- Location: State Range --Occ: Ret Dealer [I think retail dealer] - No. in abstract: 234 - Tax Total: $10.00."     I think the "State Range" is near Marysville; other locations on the same page are located near Marysville, including Long Bar, and Oregon C---.
     In a letter I have in my possession from another Akin relation, Rhoda Akin Davis of Bloomfield, PA, she wrote to her brother Marshall Akins 30 Jun 1864:  " Uncle Wesley Stephens and wife just went from here he is married again.  I like his wife very much."
     So Wesley Stevens left California, by 1864 and has remarried to Suzanna Skidmore and settled just south of Chautauqua Co., NY in Corry, Erie Co., Pennsylvania.  There in the 1870 US Census Wesley is listed as a grocer with his new wife, Susy, and one child, Fanny.  However by 1880 his wife and three young children (ages 12, 8, and 3 yr) all born in Pennsylvania, are now living near the Akin family in Goodhue Co., Minnesota and yet Wesley is living with his widowed sister, Caroline Steward, and California-born daughter, Carrie Stevens.   By 1900 Wesley is living alone in Pennsylvania.  What happened to his 2nd marriage?  Did they try homesteading in Minnesota and then Wesley had to leave his wife Suzanna and three children there and return to his sister and oldest daughter back East?     More needs to be figured out.  But the family of Phineas Stevens III is slowly getting sorted out.  :-)


George Fraser said...

I am a decendent of Wesley Stevens' son Daniel and have a some information that can help you.

Thank you for all of your work and answering may questions.

How do I contact you?

Donna Hague Wendt said...

Dear George! I am so happy you have found my blog and are connected. I had a census possibility that Wesley had a son, D. P. Stevens, and guessed it was a Daniel Phineas Stevens, but not sure. Please e-mail me at I am intrigued by the Stevens side of the family!!l Please send me an e-mail and we can share. Thank you, Donna