Archive for November, 2011

I’ve taken a few weeks off to be involved in a Pioneer Wagon Train Re-Enactment. This particular Wagon Train celebrated 150 years since Pioneers went to Southern Utah to settle the St. George area.

Pioneers to Southern Utah

As I rode in the wagon across bumpy, dusty trails, and even as I drove the mule team, [yes I was a mule skinner for a time] I thought about my Pioneer ancestors, and particularly about my great grandmother Lydia who traveled as a pioneer for the second time in her young life.

Lydia Mariah Stout was born 16, April 1849 in St. Joseph Missouri. The only record of this event that we have is in the journal of her father Allen Joseph Stout ..” until April the 16th 1849, when my wife brought forth a daughter and we called her name Lydia Mariah Fisk “. Her mother Amanda (Fisk) Stout eventually had 14 children and gave each of her children the middle name of Fisk. I love Amanda for that because it makes identifying her children easier.

We can then track Lydia for several years, where she appears in a census record with her parents in 1850 in Iowa, and as a pioneer in 1851 where she travels with her parents in the James W. Cummings Company [a wagon train company]. We find her next in 1860 in a census. Lydia was with still with her family when they became pioneers in 1861 to Southern Utah.

Now the records become scarce, and we have to rely somewhat on oral traditions. A church record, show Lydia married at age 17, and her father’s journal also records that marriage and the birth of her first child in 1868. We now go to the family story, which has been passed down:

Her husband deserted her and their son and left for the gold fields in California. One day her Uncle Hosea Stout came for a visit to Southern Utah. He was the State Attorney General for the Utah Territory and when she told him of her plight he ‘wrote her out a divorce’. We have yet find a place where the divorce was officially recorded.

The story of how Lydia met her second husband Norman Bliss is interesting, involves a runaway pig and is too complicated to tell here. Her father’s journal is silent on her second marriage to Norman Bliss, and on the births of some of her children, but does mention the death of a son, the death of her husband Norman, and 3 days after Norman’s death, the birth of her last child.

We now have to go back to church records, which give us the dates of birth and ages of her children, and tells of the family’s move, after the death of Norman, from Toquerville to Rockville, Utah to be near her parents.

Her death, in 1888, is documented by the cemetery records, and again by an entry in her father’s journal. There is also some mention of her in histories of her siblings.

Journals are wonderful sources of information, where they exist. If your ancestor didn’t keep one, you might look for other family members, or neighbors to see if you ancestor is mentioned. Oral traditions are not always totally accurate, but in this case the tradition fits the timeline of actual provable events. While it is always preferable to find actual birth, marriage and death records, it is not always possible. Sometimes they simply were not kept. In these cases we should try to locate as much information as possible, and evaluate it to be certain it makes sense.

Early pioneer settlements were most concerned about staying alive, not necessarily keeping records. In the case of Lydia it took, a journal, a wagon company record, several census records, several church records, cemetery records, and a history or two, along with the family oral traditions to piece together her life.

Incidentally if you are ever in Southern Utah and are traveling north of Kanab on Highway 89, you will see a sign marking the road to Lydia’s Canyon, which was named after her by her father.

Read Full Post »