Sonnystone Saga: The Reeds: Coda

Minnie Reed Olmsted took possession of her family home, now known as Sonnystone Acres, in 1908 upon the death of her mother, Mary Inwood Reed. Mary was the last surviving child of pioneers William and Hannah Inwood, a family that had been integral to the British Settlement established in 1819. I have loved stalking the Inwoods…especially Uncle John and his kids…

In 1910, Minnie Reed Olmsted, 52, and her husband, Goodrich, 60, were living here at the Acres with a “boarder”, William Harper, 14. I believe he helped out on the farm, as their occupation was truck farming. Their oldest daughter, Emma, had married in 1906 and moved to New Albany, IN. Daughter Mary Ella, had married in 1908, and she and her husband, Oscar Hanning, owned a dairy farm on nearby Kratzville Road.

Minnie and Goodrich Olmsted…

Ada Reed Van Dusen, 50, and her husband, Louis, 52, were also empty nesters. Their daughter, Mary Irene, had married in 1901. Her husband was a butcher by the name of Louis Yokel. By 1910 Yokel had opened his own grocery and meat shop on the corner of Main and 7th streets, named Yokel and Sons. The family still lived on Stringtown Road, though, in a house across from present-day Old North UMC that we Almost bought just before we found Sonnystone. Coincidentally, I got to know Mary Irene’s daughter, Marjorie Yokel Copeland, and her grand-daughter, Carol Stremming, when I was attending Old North back in the 80s…

Sometime around 1910, Minnie’s son, Charles Elston Olmsted, and her sister Ada’s son, LeRoy Reed Van Dusen, set out for the West where they bought a farm/ranch in Prairie Springs, Idaho. Cousins! How adventurous!

As for the other Reeds in 1910, Thomas, 64, is still a drayman, still on Goodsell Street with a houseful. Living with him are his sons Harry and Inwood, Harry’s wife and three children, and his daughter, Sadie.

Jack Reed, now 68, is living out on Darmstadt Rd, boarding with Fred and Mary Kaiser. His occupation is “own account” which means he works for himself or has an independent income.

George Childs, 63, was the Postmaster of Chandler in 1910, where he and his wife, Anna, the schoolteacher, resided. Their son, Leslie, still lived with them and his occupation is listed as “gold miner”… Seriously. More likely, he was a coal miner.

Louis Van Dusen died in 1917 and Goodrich Olmstead died six months later in 1918. Per the 1920 census, the two widowed sisters, Minnie, 62, and Ada, 60, were living together here at Sonnystone. They list their occupation as truck farmers…always…

I can’t find a record of the death of Jack Reed, but according to my abstract he died around 1921. I’m not surprised that he wasn’t buried in the family plot. George Childs died in 1923 and he was interred with the rest of the family in Salem Cemetery.

In 1923, Minnie sold the farm, at least that’s what it says on my abstract. Minnie died in 1929 and her death certificate says that the coroner “took her remains” for an inquest. That would mean, I think, that she had died unexpectedly, perhaps in her sleep. It says he came to the scene at 7:30 a.m. and that the informant was Ada Van Dusen. Cause of death was “coronary lesion” — heart attack. Here’s the mystery: the location of her death and of her residence on the certiicate are R.R. 5, Stringtown Road. That would be Here, but then when did the new owners move in…? Why was Minnie here in 1929? Or was she? I’ll work on that.

Ada Reed Van Dusen was the last survivor of the Reedmont days, living until 1943. She died at Regina Pacis Nursing Home.

The New Owners were George Davis Smith and his wife, Albion Bacon Smith. The Smiths placed the “S” on the chimney that inspired me to name the place Sonnystone Acres. They are responsible for the east addition and the garage-without-a-driveway, as well as the leftover kennel pens and the skeet-shooter hidden by brush on the edge of the woods. George and Albion were members of Elite Evansville Society, third-generation wealth.

Their fascinating family stories will take us back to the pioneer days of the British Settlement around McCutchanville and Mechanicsville again, but this time we’ll visit the bustling metropolis of Evansville before we return to “Stringtown Rd. 5 miles out”…

Stay Tuned…

another week-end wrap-up

To celebrate 10 years of blogging, we start a series of Re-blogs…

This is a post from June 27, 2010

Wow!  Ten Years!*…Seems like a Decade!! We could roam around at will, and we did. If everyone would just wear a mask, by next year we could have all our fests back…

* note it was “Before the Trees Fell”…before we screened in the front porch.


The News from Sonnystone Acres

this has been a very uneventful week-end.  it’s rather tempting to make up some exotic story to impress and entertain you, but who do you think you are, anyway? if i’m bored, you can be, too.  friday casey was off, so we did the rummage sales and farmers’ market.  he spent the rest of the day getting ready for a Scout biking/camping trip while i gardened and cooked.  the rest of the week-end,  i stayed close to home, gardening, computing, reading, eating…….


casey did have an interesting story when he returned this afternoon.  some caggies brought a large family-size tent (considered wuss-ish by real scouts who sleep in pup tents or some such primitive structure) and were only using it for 2 people, so he just threw down his bedroll in the front part and settled down to sleep.  before he drifted off, he heard something and felt something…

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Sonnystone Saga: The Will

To celebrate 17 years living at Sonnystone Acres, we are publishing  a series of posts chronicling the first three families who lived here, spanning 111 years… This is the fifth installment of the series…

I wonder if his family were aware of the stipulations of John Reed’s Last Will and Testament before he died. The Will starts off quite normally:  Being of sound mind but failing body, Thank the Lord for his Goodness, pay all the debts, etc.  He leaves his beloved wife, Mary, all of his personal property and 1/3 of his real estate.  He dictates that she should keep all the income from all of the property for the first year.  Later in the Will, he names her as executor.

Then it gets convoluted, and of course it’s about Jack.

“I give and devise unto my son, John Reed, a sum of money equal to 1/15 in value and amount of this devise shall be ascertained in the following manner to wit:  Within ninety days from my death, two reputable free-holders of Vanderburgh County, state of Indiana, wholly disinterested and not of kin to any of my devisees shall be selected, one of my said son, John, the other by Thomas Reed, George Childs, Minnie Olmsted, and Ada Belle Van-Dusen, to appraise the whole of the real estate of which I may die seized.”

I don’t think he trusts them..  There’s more…He says if any of them fail or refuse to select an appraiser then one should be chosen by his wife Mary along with the Vanderburgh County Court Clerk…and if they fail to agree with that choice, a third should be chosen and the majority rules… Rather expecting an argument, doncha think?  So once they finally agree and get it appraised, John’s 1/15 is to be a lien on the property of the others and paid in a very specific manner

“Within ninety days from the day of my death and each of every ninety days thereafter on demand, the sum of twenty-five dollars, until the amount is fully paid; said sums so paid to be a credit upon my said son John’s legacy. “

He goes on to say that if the full amount isn’t paid within two years, interest of 4% should be paid to Jack.  If Jack dies before the full amount is paid, the rest is to be given to his grandchildren (Jack’s daughters) Alice and Mary Reed.  He also wills 1/15 of his real estate to Alice and Mary, to be held as joint tenants. No other grandchildren are mentioned.

Thomas Reed, George Childs, Minnie Olmsted, and Ada Van Dusen are each given 9/60 (nine sixtieths).  He stipulates that’s only if they give John his money.

Furthermore, he states:

“It is my further will that in case any of my devisees or legatees shall object to the provisions in this my will made for them and shall institute any legal proceedings for the purpose of setting this my will aside or in any manner interfering with the disposition herein made of any of my property, then and that case the devise of legacy herein made to the objector or objectors shall immediately become null and void and the share, or shares of the objector or objectors shall be divided equally share and share alike among those of my devisees or legatees who are satisfied and content with the provisions herein made for them.”

The will was signed and sealed on 12 January 1881.  John Reed died 14 January 1888, age 72.  Mary Inwood Reed,  was 64.

Phew!  I don’t get it.  It’s obvious something was Wrong with Jack.  Given my Life Experience, I’m gonna guess alcohol is involved. He has run out on his wife and daughters, obviously ran up debts to his cousin James, and — Spoiler Alert! — his life gets no better.  Yet his father writes a Will that forces his brothers and sisters to Support him and gives Jack’s daughters a share of property equal to theirs.  John Reed’s actions are those of a real enabler.

In 1889, Thomas, George, Minnie, and Ada did go to court against Mary, the grand-daughter.  Alice Reed had died before her grandfather.  Mary had claimed that the Will gave she and her sister Each 1/15 and that she was her sister’s legal heir. However, the case was found in favor of the plaintiffs and Mary was given only 1/15…which is what it seems to me that John wanted.  The land is partitioned off in that document, giving Jack’s daughter, Mary, about 14 acres, leaving 100 or so to the Big Four.

Sonnystone proper belonged to Mary Inwood Reed as part of her 1/3.  It consisted of the house and about 60 acres.  Thomas Reed and George Childs sold their share of the land to their sisters and George bought a place in Chandler, IN.   The Van Dusens and Olmsteds pretty much stayed in the homes where they’d always lived and continued to farm through the decade of the 1890s.

By 1900, Charles and Minnie Olmsted and their three teenagers were living at Sonnystone with Mary, age 77.  Louis and Ada Belle Van Dusen lived just down the road and Louis’s 84-year-old mother lived with them.  Both families had a servant living with them.  Both men are listed as gardeners…!

George and Anna Childs were still in Chandler.  George is listed as an “agent machines?”.  The machine part is pretty clear, but I can’t read the first word well. Son John, 25, was a schoolteacher like his Mom.  19-year-old son Leslie was a day laborer.

Thomas Reed was still on Goodsell Street, still working as a drayman.  He had a houseful: four children, Harry, 24; Ben (also called Inwood), 21; Thomas, jr., 18; and Sarah Belle, 13;  and one niece, Ella, 30 (daughter of cousin James Inwood, who had died in 1884).  But that’s not all..  Thom’s wayward brother, Jack Reed, 55-years-old, is also living with him, not working… What a guy…

Mary Inwood Reed died 17 April 1908.  Her death certificate states cause of death as senility.  She was 85-years-old.  The following month court papers were filed stating that Thomas Reed, George Childs, and Ada Van Dusen gave up all their claim to Mary’s property and giving it to Minnie Reed Olmsted.  It is the first time that I see the property listed as our address on Stringtown Road, though it is still a rural route.

Minnie Reed  Olmsted was now the proud owner of her family home, Reedmont, aka Sonnystone Acres.

Stay tuned…






The Sonnystone Saga: The Reeds Again

To celebrate 17 years living at Sonnystone Acres, we are publishing  a series of posts chronicling the first three families who lived here, spanning 111 years… This is the fourth installment of the series…

When the enumerators returned to Reedmont, aka Sonnystone Acres, in 1870, John, now 54 years old, and Mary, 47, still had four of their children living with them:  Sarah Childs, 27; George Childs, 23; Minnie, 14; Ada, 12.

By the time of the 1870 census, Jack Reed was 28 years old and married to Jane Sutton.  His occupation is listed as “laborer” and he owns his own home in Evansville valued at $1100 with personal property $200.  Living with him are his father-in-law, William Sutton, a laborer, and his brother-in-law, Joseph Sutton, an insurance clerk.  Mr. Sutton and his family had arrived from England in 1853 when Jane was 11 years old.

John’s ex-wife, Sarah Inwood  Green, 50,  was living with her sons, William, 15, and Benjamin, 13, in downtown Evansville near the home of her brother, William.  She says she is a widow, keeping house.

Regarding the rest of the Inwood siblings, John had retired from farming and was also living in downtown Evansville.  John evidently thought a lot of the Reeds, as he named one of his sons Thomas Reed Inwood…very confusing because he and Thomas Reed are nearly the same age.  Uncle George Inwood is still living on the farm nearby Reedmont and has a servant by the name of Anna Davidson living with him and his wife,

The decade of the 70’s brought many changes, particularly weddings…

Thomas got the ball rolling in 1873 when he married — get this– his cousin, Amelia Inwood, one of his Uncle John Inwood’s daughters!  So Thomas Reed and Thomas Reed Inwood were cousin/brothers-in-law…weird…

In 1874, George Childs, 27, married Anna Georgianna Davidson, 22.  Anna is the same servant who had been living with Uncle George Inwood, but she is subsequently listed as a schoolteacher.

Early in 1878, Uncle John Inwood died and was buried in the McCutchanville cemetery next to his wife, Harriett.

1878 saw the wedding of the youngest Reed, Ada, who was also called Belle.  She was 18 when she married Louis Van Dusen, 22.  Louis was the son of Martin Van Dusen, a wealthy farmer who lived in nearby Kratzville.  His mother was Abby Olmsted, daughter of Judge William Olmsted, one of Vanderburgh County’s first magistrates.  Judge Olmsted, who had come to Evansville in 1818 from Ridgefield, Connecticut, was not “learned in the law”, but he was scrupulously honest, unlike many judges at that time.  He was also County Commissioner and a well-respected public servant.

In 1879, Minnie Faye Reed married Charles Goodrich Olmsted, Jr., a cousin of Louis VanDusen,  and another grandson of Judge Olmsted.  His grandfather wasn’t his only claim to fame, though.  His father, Charles,Sr. was 37 years old with four children when he joined the Union Army in 1861.  He was captain of the 42nd Indiana Volunteers, and by all accounts an excellent leader.  He died at the head of his command at the Battle of Perryville, KY.  He was a Hero to the residents of Vanderburgh County.  His widow kept his farms in Mechanicsville near Reedmont and raised the children there.  Charles, Jr. went by the name “Goodrich”…

The Reed-Olmsted nuptials were held right here at Sonnystone…

In 1880 John Reed’s property was a compound of four families.  John and Mary Reed lived in Sonnystone house with George and Anna Childs and their son, John Reis Childs; next door were the Van Dusens, Ada and Louis, and their daughter, Mary Irene; next door to them were Goodrich and Minnie Olmstead who were newly-weds.  All the men were farmers and Anna is a schoolteacher.

Thomas and Amelia Reed, living on Goodsell Street in Evansville, had two sons by 1880, Harry, 4, and Benjamin, 11 months.   Thom’s sister-in-law/cousin, Mary Inwood, (daughter of the late John Inwood) was also living with them, working as a schoolteacher.

Where’s Jack?  In 1880 Jack was living with his cousin, James Inwood, son of the late Uncle John.  He was not listed as a cousin, however.  Instead, his relationship to James was “servant” and his occupation was listed as “servant/farm laborer.  Jack is divorced.  His ex-wife, Jane Sutton Reed, and his daughters, Alice and Mary, were living with her brother, Joseph, and his family.

Jack seems a little troubled, doesn’t he?  He probably blamed it on the divorce…  I have reason to believe that he didn’t get along well with his half-siblings…

Sarah Inwood Green,  ex-wife /sister-in-law of of John E. Reed,  died in 1884 and was buried in the Inwood family plot at McCutchanville Cemetery.  I continue to look for her sons, the Green boys, to no avail.

In 1886, George Inwood, Mary’s last surviving brother, sold his farm adjacent to Reedmont and moved with his family to Kansas.

John E. Reed died on January 14, 1888 at the age of 72.  He left a Last Will and Testament that is a doozey…  It sits prominently at the front of the Abstract of Sonnystone, so it caught my eye immediately as I started my research.  Anytime you end a Will with the warning that anyone who objects to it should be disinherited you figure you’ve got a Feuding Family…

Stay Tuned…


Sunday Report

It has been my pleasure to have my stay-at-home-life unexpectedly interrupted by a visit from my Aunt Shirley and Cousin Kim,  Aunt Shirley is my mother’s sister, the lone survivor of the nine Eatons.  She has always been my favorite.  Several years back when she was half-mad at me for not coming to see her I was sweet-talking her and told her she was my Favorite aunt.  She retorted “I’m your Only aunt.”

But she was my favorite even back when she had a lot of competition from Aunts Thelma, Clara, Almeda, and Joyce.  After she chastised me, I never again went to Disney without heading over to Melbourne, and I had visited her when we were there to celebrate my birthday in February. She was living alone with significant help from her daughter and home health, and spent her days taking her dog, Leo, out for short walks.

Me and Aunt Shirley, February 25, 2020

Me and Aunt Shirley, 2/25/2020

In late March she fell, cracked her clavicle and twisted her feet in a knot that put her walking days behind her.  She moved in with Kim and was total care for several weeks. During that time she shrunk down to about 100 pounds, had hallucinations, and things were looking bad. They got the hallucinations under control and  started physical therapy.  Increasingly, she wanted to see her “boys” who live up here in Grayville, IL, the town where Shirley grew up, about 40 miles from Sonnystone.  As they worked through the really out-of-it days, she begged more and more to go back “home”.

After a couple of months, Shirley was getting a little more mobile so Kim decided try to get her on a plane and over to Illinois.  They missed the first flight!, turned away at the airport because of some boarding pass fiasco.  The next morning, Shirley woke up and told Kim she was going to die that day.  She got on the phone and called her other four children and told them how bad she felt and that she was going to die.  Well, that got their attention.  Her oldest daughter flew in two days later from Texas and stayed for three days.  Daughter #2, along with her daughter and grandchilren, arranged a caravan from North Carolina to Grayville for the week-end of her visit.

Later that day  for the first time since her fall, Aunt Shirley got herself out of the bed and wheeled herself in to the living room where Kim sat,astounded…  “I thought you were going to die today.”  Shirley laughed and said, “Not Today!”

So Kim, Shirley, and Kim’s children flew into Evansville Thursday, the 11th.  The family had a big party at her grandson’s old Victorian home in Grayville, the porch and lawn filled with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren on a beautiful Saturday.  Everybody got along and nobody got any drunker than usual.  I wasn’t there, but I’m told that at one point Shirley looked around and asked “What are all these people doing here?” and immediately answered herself, “Oh, that’s right, it’s my dying party.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Aunt Shirley came over to spend the night and I was able to see how deep her self-care deficits are (deep).  As she puts it, her feet are frozen.  It takes an act of great will to move them.  Transfers from wheelchair are Work for anyone involved…and scary.  It’s such a Big change from when I saw her just four months ago.  She was still glowing from the Love at the Dying Party…or maybe it was tears from the Farewells as she left Grayville.  I’m glad I got to spend some time with her.

Aunt Shirley at her Dying Party 6/13/2020

So I’m messed up on my schedule for blogging the Sonnystone Saga.  Though I have worked ahead on these articles, I still need to write up several more.  When I do genealogy I end up following more people than I need to and I read the history of the times in which they lived.  Fascinating stuff, but it’s also time-consuming.  Gardening is prioritized over research/writing, as is cooking/eating, so I’m at least a week behind.

Cleaning the house is usually at the bottom of my priorities, but it is Officially Filthy in here, so it has surged to the top…  I’ll get back to the Sonnystone Saga, publishing when I can, as I know you are waiting with bated breath for each installment, all six of you, so don’t despair.  We have 50+ more years to go!  I will put it on a Page soon, so you can read it in the proper order and at your leisure…

It’s a beautiful rainy day and my plants are drenched…


Sonnystone Saga: Meet the Reeds

To celebrate 17 years living at Sonnystone Acres, we are publishing  a series of posts chronicling the first three families who lived here, spanning 111 years… This is the third installment of the series…

John L. Reed was born in England in 1815. Try as I might, I find no record of his parents or when he arrived. Because his life is intricately entwined with the Inwoods, I have reason t believe that upon his arrival he settled in with the British community that had been established in the 1820s around McCutchanville.

William and Hannah Inwood were from Godalming, Surrey, England and were among the earliest settlers here in Southern Indiana.  When they arrived in the USA in 1821, they already had three children: Harriett, b. 1815; John, b. 1817; and Sarah, b. 1820.  They had three more children after their move to Indiana:  Mary, b. 1823; George, b. 1826; and William, Jr. b. 1828.  William and his family settled land between Mechanicsville and McCutchanville along the state road, now Petersburg Road.  Hannah died in 1835, age 47.  William lived another 20 years, dying in 1855.  His children were grown by then and he had already conveyed his land and wealth to them.

In 1841, John Reed married Sarah Inwood, the daughter of William, Sr. and Hannah.  He and Sarah had three children together:  John “Jack”, b. 1842; Thomas, b. 1846; and Mary J., b. 1849.  The 1850 census shows that the family lives in Kratzville, a small community near Stringtown.  John was working for a trucking service as a drayman (driver of a beer truck). He owns real estate valued at $1100.  The kids were ages 7, 4, and 1.

Something very unexpected occurred between 1850 and 1860…John and Sarah Inwood Reed divorced.

Divorced?! you say, Divorced in the 1850’s?!  Unheard of.  I don’t have record of the actual divorce as those are hard to come by, but I discovered — to my amazement — that divorce was not as uncommon as I thought in those years.  In fact, Indiana had such lax divorce laws in the 1850s that coming to the state was a popular quick way to shed your spouse.

From “The Indiana Magazine of History” : [From 1852 ] until 1873, Indiana used to have one of the most liberal divorce laws in the country, and unhappily married individuals flocked to the Hoosier state in order to bring their unions to a quick—and relatively painless—end. According to Garber, in those days judges were inclined to grant a divorce decree “as a matter of course in every case where the defendant did not appear and oppose it.” The applicant had only to provide “proof of residence” and swear under oath that there was “statutory cause” for their petition.

Still, Divorce was considered quite scandalous in polite society… It appears that Sarah Inwood Reed was the first to stray which was even more sordid.   Sarah gave birth in 1856 to a son named William Green and in 1858 had another son, Benjamin Green.  I have no clue who their Daddy was, though I’ve looked everywhere for him.  The only candidate I’ve found would be a married man!  I’ve not ruled it out…

In the meantime, John Reed had moved to Richmond, Indiana and married — get this –his ex-wife Sarah’s younger sister, Mary Inwood Childs!!

Mary had married Stephen Childs in 1842 and they had three children:  Sarah, b. 1843; George, b. 1847; and Mary, b. 1849. I do not see a record of Stephen Childs’ death — or his life, for that matter, other than the record of his marriage to Mary, but let’s just assume that he died because one divorce is all I can handle.

While John and Mary rode out the scandal in Richmond, they had two children together: Minnie, b. 1857; and Ada Belle, b. 1859.  I do not know if John’s sons with Sarah, Thomas and John, jr., went with them, but their daughter Mary disappears during that decade.

So it was that in 1860, John and Mary Inwood Reed returned to Center Township, Vanderburgh County. Post office of McCutchanville, and bought Sonnystone land and home from Jacob Miller.  The family had moved in by the June, 1860 census and it shows that the property is valued at $2700, personal property $120.  They had a full house:  Sarah Childs, 17; George Childs, 13; Thomas Reed, 14; Minnie, 3; and Ada (Belle), 7 months.  John, Jr., 18, is also counted as living with them, working as a farmhand.

John and Mary Reed named their estate Reedmont. They owned their farm and are surrounded by Mary’s family.  Mary’s brother, John Inwood and his family lived on the farm just south of them.  Her brother, George, lived two farms north.  Welcomed back into the fold?  By some, perhaps, but the Inwood family reunions must have been a bit awkward…

1860 census reveals that Sarah Inwood Green and her two sons, ages 5 and 3, are living with her youngest brother, William, a grocer who lived in downtown Evansville.  Guess who else is counted as living there?  John Reed, Jr., heretofore called Jack, is listed as a drayman…

I can’t find a record of Jack serving in the Civil War, though he was just the “right” age for it.  Thomas Reed was only 15 in 1861 when the War started, but he managed to get in at the very end, joining the Indiana 42nd Regiment, Company A in February of 1864.  The 42nd met up with Sherman to fight the Battle of Jonesboro and were part of the March to the Sea and the Siege of Savannah.

The decade of the 1870’s was a bright one for most of the Family of Reedmont/Sonnystone Acres…

Stay Tuned…




The Sonnystone Saga: The Millers

To celebrate 17 years living at Sonnystone Acres, we are publishing  a series of posts chronicling the first three families who lived here, spanning 111 years… This is the second installment of the series…

Jacob Miller was born 1812 in the Electorate of Hessia.  It’s unclear when he came over from Germany and finding a Jacob Miller/Muller/Mueller in the plethora of German immigrants who swarmed into Vanderburgh County in those days is like finding a needle in a haystack.

What’s certain is this particular Jacob Miller was 26-years-old when he married Maria Klein in 1838.  He bought his first 20 acres of land in Center Township in 1840 and opened a blacksmith shop, one of many in Mechanicsville,  on the north corner of Sonnystone, near the State Road (now Stringtown Road).  Just up the hill, they built the original Sonnystone house, and the hand hewn logs that Jacob placed as a foundation still hold the place up quite nicely today.

Maria and Jacob had five children:  Henry was born in 1840; Conrad, 1842; John, 1844; Jacob, Jr., 1846; and Mary, 1848.  The 1850 census reports that Jacob’s property is worth $2000.  That’s about middle of the property value of his neighbors.

The Miller children were educated in the schools of the time.  John died before 1860, probably right here at Sonnystone  None of the sons became blacksmiths, but they made their own way.

In 1860 the Senior Millers sold Sonnystone and moved the blacksmith shop south of Pigeon Creek near downtown Evansville.  His sons were grown and his daughter had married.

Oldest son Henry was working as a Post Office clerk in 1860, living down near the Ohio River. When the Civil War started, he found work on the steamboats and was a  Union Army Captain by the end of the war.  He married a lady from Nashville, TN in 1868 and together they had three daughters.  Henry died in 1874, just 34-years-old.

By 1870 Jacob,Sr. had retired from the smithy and the couple were living with Conrad and Jacob Jr., all of them rather wealthy according to the census.   Conrad and Jacob, Jr. started work as store clerks, but by 1871 they established a business together: Miller Brothers Dry Goods.  Maria died in 1879.  Jacob, Sr. died in 1883.

In 1885 the Miller Brothers erected a building on Main Street that was the Largest dry goods store in the state at the time and for many years thereafter.

In 1886, Conrad withdrew from the business and moved to Boston and engaged in the same sort of business, becoming a successful merchant there. After Conrad left Miller Bros. Jacob joined in with W.S. Gilbert and the name of the business became Gilbert-Miller Dry Goods.

Jacob, Jr. never married, but has a lengthy biography in the aforementioned “History of Vanderburgh County” (1889) that gushes over his character and accomplishments. He served for a year in the Civil War, 136th Regiment of Indiana Volunteer Infantry and was also a city councilman for several years.

In the meantime (1887), Conrad, age 45 and now living in Boston, MA,  married Anna “Annie” Jenness who is a famous lady that I’d  never heard of.  She was a “dress reformer”…huh?

From Wikipedia:  Anna “Annie” Jenness Miller (January 28, 1859—August 1935) was a pioneering clothing designer and an advocate for dress reform, as well as an author and lecturer.  She basically loosened the corsets and invented “leglets” for women, making it easier for them to ride bicycles.  I think we call them pants today.    She was really cool, a member of the Massachusetts Women of Letters alongside the likes of Louisa May Alcott, Julia Ward Howe, Lucy Stone and that was before she married Conrad (17 years her senior) at age 28.  You can read more about here here.


During the 20 years that the Millers lived at Sonnystone the area had faltered commercially.  Evansville’s population, which had declined between 1840 and 1850 to only 3,235, surged to 11,484 in 1860 and businesses there were growing strong.  The areas around Sonnystone — Mechanicsville, Kratzville, and McCutchanville — were mostly farms.

John Reed bought the estate in 1860 and he and his family farmed here for 63 years.

The Reeds have a convoluted story to tell…

Stay Tuned…



The Sonnystone Saga: Intro

Introduction to the Intro

To celebrate 17 years living here at Sonnystone Acres, today we start a series of posts chronicling the first three families who lived here, spanning 111 years…this could take a while.

In 2003 we bought a falling-down old house on 4 acres of property, just about a mile from where we were living in Evansville IN.  We were new empty-nesters and had been looking for a fixer-upper with some land for a while. This one fit the bill and was less than a mile from the neighborhood where we’d lived and raised our children for 18 years.

We bought the house from a couple of 80-somethings who had lived here for 30 years. The lady was ill and he was old and it fell into disrepair.  They had no children and when the gentleman died a nephew moved her to St. Louis.  About a year after we moved in, we received a package from the nephew that contained the property’s original paper abstract, a collection of legal documents that chronicles transactions associated with the land, including references to deeds, mortgages, wills, probate records, etc.

The abstract is only about the property and though its owners are named, it gives me no clue as to what was built here, e.g. homes, barns, businesses.  It’s full of measurements using chains and rods and stones that interest my husband, but I was more intrigued by the presence of a Last Will and Testament and a couple of court records, as well as recognizing the surnames of some of the former owners who have streets around here named after them.

I had already been curious about the “S” on the chimney outside…what did it originally stand for?  (Smith)  There is a name carved in a stone step (with a boot-scraper embedded) that sits at our front door.  Who was that? (John E. Reed) The answers in the Abstract only led to more questions, and nearly 15 years ago I collected some info at our Historical Society. The venture was sidelined for years until I subscribed to ancestrydotcom. Recently I started a Sonnystone Acres Family Tree and uncovered all new info about the first three families, stretching from 1846 to 1957.

We’ll start, though, with the original land patent.  On March 26, 1821, the northwest quarter of Section 5. Town 7 south, Range 10 west, containing 169.2 acres according to Government survey was entered at the U.S. Land Office at Vincennes, Indiana, by William Hampton.

This land is located in Vanderburgh County, Center Township, specifically in an area once known as Mechanicsville.

From “A History of Vanderburgh County, from the Earliest Times to the Present”, published in 1889:

{referencing Center Township}: The principal village in the township is Mechanicsville, commonly called Stringtown, because its houses are strung along the road.  At a very early date, the point where the Petersburgh road left the State road was selected as a good place for a smithy and wagon shop. It was a busy place in early times…

Mr. Ira Fairchild, who came with his family from New York to Indiana in 1818, thus pictures the early days of this village : “In 1829 my father removed’to Mechanicsville and opened a blacksmith’s shop …  which was a famous institution in its day. This house was built of heavy hewed logs, 30×40 feet square, had five forges and worked a force of seven or eight hands. All the livery horses of Evansville were brought there to be shod, and all sorts of iron work was done. At this time Mechanicsville seemed in a fair way to outstrip Evansville in the race for position. Thomas Smith had built a saw-mill on Pigeon creek, and on the hill where he afterward kept tavern he carried on a cabinet shop, … and supplied the demand for furniture for miles around. The village also boasted of a well-kept hotel, a’ wagon shop, and country store, and was withal a place of very considerable local importance.”

In 1839, William Hampton and wife conveyed to John H. Craig 89.2 acres.  The next year, 1840, John H. Craig sold 20 of those acres to Jacob Miller and another 20 acres to Jacob Winkleman.  Mr. Winkleman sold his 20 acres to John Hardy in 1845.  In 1847, Hardy and his wife sold those acres to Jacob Miller.  Miller now owned about 40 acres of the original William Hampton land patent.

Jacob Miller and his wife Maria (Mary) were Sonnystone’s first residents.

Stay Tuned…




This Girl


Emma Magnolia Mayne Jose graduates from 8th grade today.  Emma’s my first grand-daughter, my #1 who Named me Jojo.  I am so proud of all she has accomplished in her 14 years. We’re tuning into the Town School ceremony via livestream, buckets of tissues nearby, to listen to her speak.  I’m so glad we could attend in this way, but I’d rather be in NYC…



Coincidentally, Ten years ago today I posted my first blog on “The News from Sonnystone Acres”.   I started the blog “Sonnystone Acres” in June, 2004. I can’t access those stories anymore, though I did find about four years of them.  It’s cringeworthy stuff, but I liked blogging.  In 2010 I came across the free WordPress site and started the garden blog, Growing Every Season.  The platform was so much easier to use that I re-started The News to chronicle my life– good thing, too, since we often have to go to the blog to remember when we went where, or what year something happened, so it’s now essential.

Anyway, the first blog post on The News brought along my following of about 12 people.  I had just returned from a trip to NYC to visit with Emma..  It is All Emma, 4 years old, radiating charm…  I adore this girl…

All together now?

Thank-you for following me!  I want to tell you all about my recent trip to NYC………

Sunday morning tap class:

Melissa sang beautifully at a recital that afternoon (tears from Mom) and we supped at Maz before she went off to sing a Mass.  Eric, Em, and I stopped by Merrion Square for a short snort, then grabbed the car, picked up Mel and we went down to the HighLine.  Remember when I went there in November?  It sure looks different now with all the plants in bloom.  I took tons of pictures of the flora and fauna, but you’ll have to check those out over at the garden blog.   Here’s some people pix:

From there we walked to Bill’s for a coldass beer.  It is this kind of backdrop that makes me feel like I’m on a movie set when I’m walking the streets of New York.

The next day, we took Emma to school and ran some errands.  After school, she and her buddies (and her mom’s buddies) went over to the park and play, play, played:


On Tuesday, the City opened up all the museums along Museum Mile for free, closing off the streets for an Art Fair.  As we arrived, lo and behold, there was de la Vega, an artist I have long revered (I have 2 t-shirts, that’s how much I revere him) chalking his art from 103rd down to 80-something where the Met is:

Emma picked up a piece of his chalk (he carried a bagful, and would hand it to the kids or leave it to be picked up when he finished) and began to do her own art all the way down the street (until her chalk was gone):

The finale was a sneak preview of  the St. Joseph end-of-school Show, to be presented next week, but kindly practiced on stage just for a visiting Grandma…thanks to Andermanis….

The songs were great and not your usual kids song, and the best: All You Need is LOVE.  As they stressed the LOVE, they put their hands in the air…..I love Emma’s school.  I love her whole life, actually, and it’s so fun to watch and be a part of it!!





Sunday Report

What a Week we’ve Experienced… We watched as Americans came out of their homes and onto the streets in Huge numbers to peacefully protest police brutality against African-Americans, calling for changes within the police system.  For a bit there, all we saw  was fire and looting and elected officials called in the National Guard and imposed mandatory curfews.  Hundreds of Thousands of people continued to protest, peacefully, literally Everywhere across our country, Every Day.  Amazing!  Frightening!  Inspiring!

I haven’t been to our town’s protests, but I’m so impressed by how many have turned out.  I’m still leery of Covid — remember that? — so I’ll leave it to the young -uns for now, but I’ll find a way to support this Cause.  We can’t just leave it up to politicians.  It should not be the burden of only the black and brown people.  If we want to see systemic change across the board, then we woke middle-class white people must use whatever we have to continue to Speak Up.

We’re all suffering from Crisis Exhaustion, but Be Strong…

To celebrate the 17th Anniversary of the day we moved into our current abode, I’ve worked up a few posts dealing with the history of the families who lived here, starting in 1846.  It is also the 16th Anniversary of the Blog known as Sonnystone Acres, so I will share some “Best of” posts.  16 years of Blogging?!? Crazy, huh?  Time to celebrate..

Grandie #1 graduates from 8th grade this week — where has the time gone?  I hope when she’s my age there is a much more Just and Safe America.