Monday, April 8, 2013

But For A Wagon Team


If only all the letters written and received by our ancestors were still in existence, think of all the information, stories, and character traits we would have at our finger tips. I am fortunate to have transcripts and, in some cases, originals of a few such treasured items. The one I address today was transcribed in 1941 by Irene Persons Westling, great-granddaughter of the writer. Without the information in this letter, I would never have known how close we came to having a totally different family tree.
The Joe referenced in the story is my husband’s great-grandfather, Joseph Davey[i], about 12 years before my husband’s grandfather was born. The story also mentions Joe’s brother, John. Both of these men were miners and tended to travel wherever they could find work or to wherever they thought they might find the next great lode. They were from Cornwall, England, having come to America with their father, John Dyer Davey. In 1863, Joe married Mary Louise Stephens[ii] the daughter of the Elizabeth (Letcher Nankivel) Stephens, the writer of the letter. 


A portion of the letter written from Elizabeth Stephens to Thomas Stephens[iii] [her husband] on 9 July 1865 from Platteville, Wisconsin to St. Clare Mine, Eagle River, Michigan:
“Tim[iv] is home from the lake and he have ben down seeing me and Jo is home from oragan and he have ben very sick and Jo’s brother he haven’t ben down yet but he is coming down as soon as he gets better. He come home a weak last Friday. They had a lot of truble coming home with the endians. Jo and another man and Jo’s brother sleep three quarters of a mile wore there was three men kild with the endiens and they dident know it and they got up and went on a little further and meet with some teams and they hasked them awhere they was agoing and they said they wore on they way home and those men that wore in the wigons beg them not to go eny futher for if they went eny futher they would be killed and here was a wagon standing by and they told Jo and Jony to go and look in the wagon and they went and looked in the wagon and they saw three men killed and they heads scalped and to of them was tooleable young looking fellows and the other was an old man. He dident have a tooth in his mouth and they put a walking stick in his mouth and pished it down in his throat and before they bored him it tooked to men to pull it out of his mouth and after that they went on a little futher and meet to endines and they stopped Jo and them and wanted some tobacco and Jo give them som and they told them they had no more and Jo told them they could have what they wanted wen the teams come so they pointed. And wen Jo and them started to walk they would follow them and they had now sooner said that before the teams come in sight and the endines left them and went in the woods and they never seen them eny more. They said if the teams hadent came in sight so soon they would have ben killed.
Times is very dull here…”

So there it is…if the wagons hadn’t shown up when they did and had Joe and John Davey been killed on their way home, my husband’s grandfather would not have been born, nor my husband. What that would have meant to my life, I don’t know but I’m happy things turned out the way they did.
Too bad things were so dull in PlattevilleJ


[i] John Dyer Davey Bible, Iowa County Historial Society, Dodgeville, Wisconsin, Joseph Davey, born April 25, 1843.
[ii] Wisconsin Marriage Records, Wisconsin Historical Society Library, Madison, Wisconsin, Iowa County, volume 1, page 373. Davey, Joseph Son of John Dyer Davey and Mary Ann Davey, miner of Dodgeville, born in Cornwall, England and May louise Stephens, dau of Thomas and Elizabeth Stephens.
[iii] William Stephens, Manuscript and Journals of William Stephens Cornwall 1807-Wisconsin 1893 (written 1853-1883, printed by S. Neely March 1992), Wisconsin Room, University of Wisconsin, Platteville, Wisconsin, page 8. "Thomas his eldest son married a widow woman called Elizabeth Nankivel against the consent of his friends, this woman having three sons by her former husband, caused some unpleasant dissentions between them however, she with her family went to America with him in 1842 and I believe is now at the Lake Superior Copper mines.
[iv] Timothy Nankivel, son of Elizabeth (Lethcher Nankivel) Stephens.

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