Monday, May 27, 2013

Rebecca Jane Evilsizer Bissett Zirkle

I am a little late with the May posting. I thought I would change things up a little, and try to generate a little more interest from family members in the blog. So instead of fretting about trying to put all my info in a book (which I still want to do!), I am going to try to share with you stories as I put them together instead. Please drop me a note and let me know what you think.  Today's blog is inspired by Jackie, a friend of mine in our wonderful Facebook group. Thank you, Jackie!  Check out her blog, Voices of Yesteryear, and the entry that inspired me here.

Today I will tell you about Rebecca Jane Evilsizer Bissett Zirkle. That's a mouthful, isn't it? Rebecca was my great-great-grandmother. Here's a visual so you know how she relates to you:

She was born 9 September 1840 in Johnson Township, Champaign County, Ohio, one of 11 children born to Esquire ("Squire") and Christina (Comer) Evilsizer. (A transcription of Ohio county birth records made by the Champaign County Genealogical Society indicates her birth year as 1840; however, her tombstone indicates 1842. Either year is possible, in those days birth records weren't kept and most people didn't really know how old they were.)

The Evilsizers were well known pioneers that came from Virginia to Mad River Township in Champaign County, OH, in 1815; and  Squire and Christina were married 24 May, 1835 in Mad River Township.

They were farmers. In the 1850 census, the family was living in Johnson township, and Rebecca (age 10) is listed as living with her parents and her sister, Mary A Evilsizer, age 13; her brother, Solomon Evilsizer, age 12;  another brother, Lewis Evilsizer, age 8; sister, Eliza Evilsizer, age 6;  and twin brothers John and Isaac Evilsizer, aged 2. (She had a brother Jasper that was born 1837 and died shortly thereafter, he does not appear in the 1840 census.)

In 1860, Rebecca and her brother Solomon are listed as living in two places - first in June 1860 with Mary and James Dye in Concord Township, Miami County, OH; and second in July 1860 with her parents and siblings in Mad River Twp, Champaign, OH. Mary Dye is Mary Evilsizor, Rebecca's oldest sister. Her husband James Dye was also a farmer, and Rebecca is listed as a domestic servant and her brother Solomon as farm laborer. Perhaps Mary and James needed help on their farm, they had 3 small children at the time, and Squire and Christina had all their other children to help out.

Sometime while Rebecca was living with her sister's family, she meets a Railroad Engineer named Joseph Jeremiah Bissett. He was from Pennsylvania, and I imagine that he was dashing and exciting to a young Rebecca. They fall in love - or at least in lust! - because their son Joseph Calvin was born 13 May 1861 (or 1862 -- records indicate 1861, tombstone says 1862). Either way, Rebecca and Jeremiah were not married until 16 January 1862. Joseph Calvin Bissett was hardly 4 months premature! :)

"State of Ohio, Miami County: I certify that I have this day solemnized the marriage of Jeremiah Bissett with Rebecca Evilsizer, witness my hand this sixteenth day of January 1862. JJ Thompsen, Esq." 


 Another indicator that Joseph Calvin Bissett was born in 1861 not 1862, is that his sister, Rebecca and Jeremiah's second child, Ida Belle ("Lida" or "Ida") was born 12 November 1862. Now, one source I have says she was born in Pennsylvania, another says Ohio. I like to think they moved back to PA to be close to Jeremiah's family, and so a PA birth makes sense.

All while Rebecca and Jeremiah are meeting and falling in love and setting up house, the Civil War is tearing apart the country. And soon it tears apart this family, as well. On 20 January 1864, Jeremiah joins the Union Army as a private in Company F, the 85th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

On 21 October, 1864, as the company was moving from the front to their discharge, Jeremiah was left at Fort Monroe, Elizabeth County, VA, and died there of chronic diarrhea. 

From  History of the Eighty-Fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865, by Luther Dickey, pp. 419

(I highly recommend reading this book for an in-depth look at what this regiment was going through during the war. It's a free ebook in Google books)

Jeremiah is buried at Hampton National Cemetery, Cemetery Road at Marshall Avenue, Hampton, VA 23669, Section E-H Site 1319. See here for photo of his headstone and of the cemetery.

Jeremiah left behind a widow and 2 young children, who at this point leave Pennsylvania to return to Rebecca's hometown and family in Mad River Township, Champaign, OH. It’s hard to say what happened to them, but likely Rebecca and her children lived with someone in her family, perhaps she went home and lived again with Squire and Christina. 

On 4 October 1869, Rebecca marries Joshua Benton Zirkle. The Zirkles are another pioneering family in Mad River Township. I like to think that their similar backgrounds brought them together. Both families came from Virginia to Ohio. Maybe Squire knew Joshua's parents Noah and Lydia, maybe even Josh and Rebecca knew each other prior to her marriage to Jeremiah. Their family farms were not far from each other. Maybe Josh promised to take care of Rebecca and her children, and that is what she needed to hear at this time.

Either way, Josh, Rebecca, and her two children Joseph and Ida Belle are next found in 1870 living in Mad River Township, Champaign, OH and they also have with them Lydia Zirkle (Josh's mother), and Harvey and and Hannah Zirkle, Josh's two youngest siblings. The 1870 census is dated July 17, and on July 25 Rebecca gave birth to their first child, Rosa Minter Zirkle. I like to think that Josh's mom was living with them to help out with the family, because by 1880 she is living on her own with her son Harvey and her granddaughter Antoinette. Also by 1880, Rebecca and Josh have moved to German township, Clark County, OH, and their family has grown to include  Sarah Viola, Mary Almeda (“Allie”) and Charles Bertram. They have also lost a son, Henry F., who only lived a year (1871-1872).   

  These years of raising children are hard times. The country is trying to rebuild itself after the Civil War.  Rebecca’s two children from her first marriage are not again listed in any censuses with Rebecca, but they do live with her for different periods of time, based on the probate record entries.  Ida Belle is listed in 1880 as a servant in the Arbogast household in Springfield, Clark County, Ohio. I have not located Joseph anywhere in 1880, but at this time he would be 18 or 19 so could be anywhere, and likely a laborer for another family.  

During the late 1880s and 1890s Rebecca and Joshua’s children all get married. Joseph Calvin Bissett married Emma Johnson in 1884; Rose married Aaron Winfield Shaffer on 16 November 1886 in Springfield, Clark County, Ohio; Ida Belle Bissett married John Mason Flarida on 11 February 1886 in Springfield, Clark County, Ohio; Sarah Viola married Clement Benedict on 14 January 1892 in Clark County, Ohio; and Mary Almeda (“Allie”) married Clyde Lee in 1894. 

By 1900, Rebecca and Joshua moved back to Mad River, Champaign Co., OH, and the only child still at home with them is Charles. He helps his father on the farm.  On December 5, 1906, he married Letha Etta Furrow. Unfortunately, they were only married 4 months before she passed away.

At some point before 1909, Rebecca and Joshua move to 44 College Avenue, Springfield, Clark County, Ohio. Here’s what it looks like today:

Photo by Susan Hartman Thompson

On 28 January, 1909, Rebecca Jane Evilsizor Zirkle passed away in this house. Cause of death was listed as “apoplexy” – probably a stroke. She was buried in Terre Haute cemetery, Champaign County, Ohio. You can see her grave here. There was a newspaper article:

from Springfield Daily Times 30 January 1909

Josh lives another almost 20 years in this house, after Rebecca's death, his stepdaughter Ida Bell (Bissett) Flarida and her husband move in with him. On July 19, 1926, he passed away in this house as well. He is buried next to Rebecca in Terre Haute. You can see his grave here. His life will be a topic for another blog or the book. :)

Happy Memorial Day everyone!  Thank you for your service Jeremiah Bissett. You gave the ultimate sacrifice. And because of that, I am here.