Sonnystone Saga: Before and After

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 fourteenth and final installment of the series…

When we moved in, the house was clapboard with old crank-out windows that were covered with sheets of plastic.  The fireplaces were covered and sealed with wood.  It was drafty and old Mr. Casler, who was a math professor at UE, had pushed old mimeographed test papers into the gaps in the windows.  The radiator-heating worked fine, but it needed a boost, so we put a woodburner in the front fireplace and a gas stove in the back the first winter, but our utility bills were outrageous until the following year when we put in new windows and siding.

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The laundry room is in the old garage that we call the Shed (we added a Real garage later), about 15 feet from our kitchen door.  We brainstormed for years to figure out how to connect them, finally arriving at a solution just three years ago…  It is now a fully enclosed covered room that connects the two buildings.

Walkway between house and laundry room/shed


The Big Tree in front of the south porch, where the Bird/Peace Garden is now, was a Big reason I fell in love with this house.  It was huge, seriously huge, and the first year we had a family of raccoons that lived in a hollow at its base; the babies were darling, but Casey moved them on.  After a few year, a monstrous branch fell — I can’t find the picture, but it was nearly as tall as I am — and I began to see that if I didn’t remove it, it would surely fall on my house.  I’m talking Large Tree that gave shade all the way over the house to the area where the pool is now.  It killed me (and my pocketbook) to have a crane come in and take it down.

It was a good move, though.  Just three years later 70mph straight-line winds blew in and felled the two large trees that were in the front.  They grazed our porch and took out part of the original garage roof where the pool is now.  I think the Huge tree would have smashed our whole house if it had still been standing.

the trees that fell

The hostas and ferns became a thing of the past…it’s all full sun now…and that’s why we screened in the front porch…

Over the last 17 years, the interior has been painted and carpeted a couple of times, different furniture, different arrangements.  I took very few before pictures…no phone cameras back then.  All of these “before” pictures were taken the day we first viewed the home and show the Casler’s decor…

We use the back “bedroom” as a family room…

There was a Lot of wallpaper…  We painted the cabinets 4-5 years after we moved in… I’m ready to repaint them now…this winter…

The middle room that was used as a bedroom was open to the back door–I mean, you walk in and there’s my bed and you had to walk through my bedroom to get to the fam room…  That had to change.  We put up a half-wall and made an entry area and a cozy bedroom…

The entryway formed by the half-wall changed the shotgun-house effect…

There is an entire upstairs, but we do not have “before” pictures.  It’s a cool area with two bedrooms and a full bath that features a clawfoot tub.  We’ve done work up there, but it doesn’t really show…

Some oddities:

The weird door?   It’s very small, maybe original to the cabin, but the locks are…strange…

The trap shooter… There is a foundation behind it that we’re still exploring, possibly where the shooters stood?  It is all wooded now, just to make the study challenging…

It’s been fun writing this genealogy of our home and I thank you for following along.  It isn’t just my love of the house that has motivated all this work, but also my love of historical research.

The Investigations continue!  I’ll be writing stories about my Own Ancestors and others, posting them every Monday here at Sonnystone Acres.

Stay Tuned…

Sunday Report

I guess that nostalgia got to me…last week I was in a bit of a funk.  I went off on a tangent of thought and decided that we needed to buy a full-size van, something like the one we’d owned back in the 90s: a 1987 Ford Econoline 150 that was the scene of many good times. I pictured us throwing a tent in the back, loading up a cooler, and hitting the road.  I jumped right into the rabbit-hole that is the FB marketplace and searched out a couple of contenders, newer and more up-to-date, and messaged the owners. I figured it was a good sign that they were available, though 87 miles away in Paducah, Kentucky.

We were looking for a day-trip anyway, so off we set early Friday morning.  We stopped in Madisonville to pick up cash, sure we’d be making a purchase.

Of the two that I found, I felt the first one was the obvious choice with less miles, a new transmission, brakes, tires.  The owner was a mechanic, which I felt was an advantage, and the vehicle could be viewed at his Auto Repair Shop.

The van was out front of the garage when we arrived and we looked it over.  There were some flaws that weren’t mentioned in the ad, but hey.  Up in the auto bay, a guy spotted us from under a car and grabbed a rag to wipe his hands.  We asked for “Mike”; he was “Mike”.  He went to get the keys and as he brought them to us, he pulled a Marlboro 100 out of the pack in his pocket and placed one in his mouth, where it remained…  He never lit it, but he proceeded to talk with this cigarette dangling and bobbing with every word.  I was fascinated, watching the ciggie move as he spoke, impressed with the guy’s lip flexibility.  I couldn’t really understand what he was saying, but he was talking to Casey, not me.

As we opened up the doors to the van…what a sight to see…there were greasy smears of black on the carpet with a toolbox sitting in the center of the floor; other mechanical items were piled on the seats.  There were floor mats thrown under the passenger seat that were way too big and nearly fell out when I opened the door.  A large baby seat sat like a throne on the back bench seat with a play station laying beside it.  Clothes were hanging from a rack in the back…  I felt like I had walked into the guy’s bedroom.

We climbed in to take it for a drive and just as we were backing out, the owner, unlit-smoke still hanging from his lips, ran back out and stopped us.  Leaning in the driver-side window, he mumbled something I didn’t catch to Casey and pointed to something between the front seats…his gun.  Casey handed him the revolver and the guy contorted a smile, Marlboro to one side now, and said, “I take it everywhere I go.”

Uh, not really, buddy.  If your business were robbed while you were working, your gun would be in the freaking car, idiot.  We drove to a shady spot and said, WTF?  It didn’t even run that well, kind of rough, and so we returned it to the shop.  The owner, now cig-free, shrugged and said, I’ll just keep driving it…  Then why did you run an Ad to Sell it, dolt?

We were more surprised than disappointed, and since we were in the vicinity, I sent a message to another van-owner who lived about 30 miles away in Golconda, IL, a little town that is kind of on our way home.  That van had an impressive FB marketplace ad with lots of pictures.  It was newer, less miles, more bells and whistles, but the owner was very candid about the rust along the running boards. I’d ruled out looking at it because the owner’s asking price was Firm.  How can you deal with someone with a Firm price?  But we were there, so I figured we’d check it out…

“We’re in the area and would like to look at your van. Is it still available?”  I messaged.  The reply:  “You can come by if you want.  It needs a battery and new brakelines and is not driveable.”

Whaa????   What about that Firm price? What the aitch is wrong with people???

We really don’t need a van, you know.   I was just wishing for the Way Things Were; thinking about the days when our old van was full of boy scouts every month (who left a smell of dirty-socks); remembering the family all piled in and heading out on vacations to Shenandoah or South Dakota, or Disney World; picturing when it was “just us” camping at Harmonie and Lincoln State Parks.

Back in the Present, we just shook our heads and steered the Minivan toward Eville, returning via a scenic Southern Illinois route. We tooled along the backroads and enjoyed the conversation and the silence, two old people with a bag of cash, trying to buy back the past…  You live and learn, eh?


P.S.  Before the pandemic, I took the Jr girls to the mall every Saturday.  Yesterday, eight months after our last visit, we returned…(of course we wore masks inside, though many around here still don’t)



Sunday Report

What a week!  We spent a couple of days cleaning up the travel trailer, returning it to its default appearance and taking out all of our personal items.  When we finished, I was amazed that it looked so brand-new—even smelled new!   We were starting to get cold feet and discussed keeping it, but we figured it probably wouldn’t sell right away, so Thursday we put out the “For Sale” sign.

Thursday just happened to be the 39th birthday of my son, Michael.

my son’s FB profile pic

He worked a long day, so we decided to celebrate on Saturday.

By Friday, we’d had a couple of calls and texts re: the trailer and one lady made an appointment for 5:30pm to tour it.  Well, wouldn’t you know?  The couple bought the trailer, full price..!  We were stunned.  Saturday morning, the gentleman brought us a stack of cash and drove our Retirement Dream out the Driveway.  Crazy, huh?

While Casey was giving the new owner a walk-through and helping him load and hook up, the Jrs. were here for the birthday celebration.  Michael and Jessica ate lunch with us and returned home, leaving the kiddos here to play.

After we took the girls home, Casey and I were feeling a little down…  We walked Memory Lane, casting our mind back to the trips we’d taken, laughing at our mistakes and marveling at how much we learned.

We talked about the places we’ve visited and the places we’d like to go; discussed buying another trailer, too.  I didn’t expect to feel so sad…but then, I didn’t expect it to sell so quickly…

Weirdly enough, yesterday was Derby Day and I had been preparing all week.  I won a little change betting the fillies in the Oaks on Friday, but the Derby always overwhelms me, even in September.  I chose my usual half-the-field, but managed to bet the top two ponies…!

I wore a hat, drank the bourbon, won some money…

but it just made me more nostalgic.

As Summer wanes and Autumn waxes, it seems a proper time to feel sentimental.  We’ve got two “pool days” planned for next week before the temperatures drop, then it’s time to take it down.  Much of the vegetable garden is ready to be pulled up.  Migratory birds are joining our residents at the feeders, a sure sign that it’s time to change.

So that’s what we do, isn’t it?  Gently carrying pieces of our past, we move hopefully into our future…


Sunday Report

Well, hey there, Sonnystoners!  It’s been a six weeks since I’ve reported the News from here at the Acres.  I hope you’re enjoying reading the Sonnystone Saga as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Since the last report 42 days ago, my Aunt Shirley died.

Me and Aunt Shirley, February 25, 2020

If you’re a regular reader, you remember that she had her Dyin’ Party  back in June.  There was another fall after she returned to Florida and things went downhill.  She passed on August 13.  I was in close communication with the cousin who was her caregiver and the whole process has had me on the phone more than I have been in Years.  Talking on the phone drains me and I don’t know why I liked it so much in my younger years; maybe back then I had more energy to drain.

Just after Shirley’s death, we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with a trip in the trailer to Harmonie State Park.  We’ve spent many an anniversary camping there and it’s always relaxing, yet invigorating.  I’ve reflected over the last 40 years and come up with no enduring complaints.  We are very happy together and grateful for each other.

That may have been our last trip in the travel trailer… I’m sad, but our original intent is quite different from the current reality.  We had planned to spend a couple of months each winter down in Melbourne, FL, near Aunt Shirley and my Cousin Kim.  Florida State Parks are so cheap and beautiful, but it was impossible for me to get reservations during the snow-bird months.  There are plenty of other nice campgrounds, if you can get in, but they cost much much mucho more $.  We’ve gone down there for the last three winters trying places out, but nothing pleased us…that we could afford.

Of course, we’d also planned to do the out-West stuff, like the NM trips, but decided last year that we didn’t want to haul the trailer up into the Rockies.  Making it all the way to California would take days and mega gallons of gas (the gas consumption is much higher than we thought).  There, too, it’s not easy to find affordable campgrounds.

So we’re putting everything back into the trailer just the way it was when we bought it,  ugly upholstery and all.  When Casey’s got it shining, we’ll put a for sale sign in the yard and see what happens.  If it doesn’t sell this fall, we’ll cover it up and put it away until next year.   If you know anyone who might be interested in buying a well-kept 2017 Coachmen Catalina Legacy, send me a message.

The Anniversary trip was supposed to be to Disney World, but we opted against masks all day in 100degree, muggy weather.  We did renew our Annual Passes, though, and feel that it’s safe enough to go sometime this fall.  We’ve booked our rooms for 2021 Spring Break with the Jrs., showing our hope for the future.  It’s hard to make plans right now; everything seems uncertain, like standing on shaking ground.

The Bright Spot in my Days lately has been researching and writing The Sonnystone Saga.  I could go on and on, so I have decided I will.  I have another blog, All My Ancestors, where I have written about my greats and Casey’s illustrious kin. There are still several branches of the families to pursue, so after I finish up the Saga, I’ll dig in to those roots. I’m going to post those on Mondays, here on Sonnystone.  I’ll return to sharing the Weekly Report on Sundays and not get so far behind!

Did you know I have a gardening blog, too?  I post a photo/journal entry there every week on Thursdays.  I’m going to “move” those posts over to this blog starting this week.  For now, that will be posts on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays.  I’m excited..!

The Twelfth installment of The Sonnystone Saga will be published tomorrow.  Thanks for Reading!


Sonnystone Saga: Sisters

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 tenth installment of the series…

Mary Erskine Fellows only stayed at her Dad’s farm for a couple of years after the death of her husband and daughter in 1865. By 1870, she had returned to Evansville and was living on Gum Street with her three daughters and her sister, Anna Erskine, who was teaching school. She owned real property worth $5000 and personal property of $600, and the enumerator records her as “Mary E. Fellows, widow”. She never really cared for the city, though, and around 1873 she left again, this time building a house next to her father’s. Two of her brothers, Levi and James Erskine, lived on either side of the home on Erskine Lane, just a stone’s throw from the Methodist chapel built back in 1848. There she stayed for the next eight years.

From the 1880 Vanderburgh County Atlas…just under No5 Erskin Bros, it says “Mrs. Fellows” just next door to the “M E Church” …

Community life in the village of McCutchanville revolved around the church and the school. Mary was a very devout Christian and raised her daughters to be the same; they were in church every time the doors were opened and attended every Revival.

McCutchanville residents had built their first schoolhouse, a log-cabin affair, in 1852, not far from the Fellows’ home. In 1874, a brand new two-story, brick school building was erected. The new school had two school rooms and an upstairs auditorium that also served as a community meeting place. But the village had no streets, no stores, and the post office was the private home of Samuel McCutchan, where mail was delivered weekly. It was far from the bustle of Evansville, away from the smoke stacks that blackened the city skies, but still only an 8-mile buggy ride into town to visit with family or to shop.

Lura, Mary’s oldest daughter, went away to attend the University of Wisconsin in 1875. Her younger daughters, Annie and Allie (as Albion was nicknamed) were inseparable. They had ten cousins living close by and in addition to attending school and church together, they spent much of their childhood years together taking part in the seasonal activities of farm life: planting and harvesting, sheep-shearing, sorghum and cider-making, wheat-threshing, There was always something to be done.

In addition to attending McCutchanville School, Mary taught the girls at home where Allie and Annie read everything they could get their hands on and memorized long poems. They took to writing and when the girls were 16 and 14, they each had one of their poems published in a magazine, “Gems of Poetry”. It was a great thrill for them. Though they didn’t try to get anything else published for a long while, they continued to write and were members of “The Literary Society” a group that met in the community hall in the schoolhouse, where they shared their efforts.

In 1877, Mary’s father, John Erskine, died. Born in Ireland, Erskine was one of the original settlers of the British Settlement. He divided his assets among his many descendants.

17-year-old Annie Fellows began teaching at McCutchanville for the 1880-1881 school year. Allie had just finished elementary school, and was excited to begin Art lessons in Evansville.

Albion and Annie Fellows, circa 1880 — from the Albion Fellows Special Collection, Special Collections, Willard Library

The biggest excitement of 1880 came when their older sister, Lura, married George P. Heilman on November 2. The Heilmans were a prominent Evansville family who owned a large foundry, Heilman Plow Works, as well as other business interests. After a honeymoon in Europe, the couple moved into a beautiful home on Chandler Avenue and started their family.

Annie Fellows went off to college in 1881-1882, attending the University of Iowa where a paternal uncle was a professor. Mary and Albion moved back to Evansville that same year, moving in with Lura and George Heilman. Allie attended Evansville High School, graduating in just two years in 1883. Albion was salutatorian of her high school class and wrote the words and music to the class song, as well as delivering a stirring speech at the commencement ceremonies.

Annie returned after a year at University, and began to teach in the Evansville School System in 1883, a job she continued for the next three years.

Later on, Albion wrote that she was “crushed” that she was unable to attend college to pursue a study of Art and states that her mother’s monetary resources were scarce. I seriously question that explanation. For whatever reason, though, she did not attend, instead taking a job as a secretary in her Uncle Asa Igleheart’s law office. She learned shorthand and quickly became a well-respected court stenographer. She admitted in later years that this experience–often being the only woman in the courtroom, traveling to different counties to record trials, learning how laws are made and tested– prepared her for her future more than a college education could have. She also continued to write and had several poems published in magazines. She joined Trinity Methodist Church (where her father had laid the cornerstone) and was active in various women’s clubs with her sister, Annie.

By the mid-1880s, Allie had moved out of the Heilman house and was living at her Uncle Asa’s house at 1003 Upper Second St. Quite the independent young lady, she had several beaus, though she and Annie were still as inseparable as two working women could be.

One of the gentlemen who courted Albion was Hilary Bacon. Hilary lived just two doors down from Uncle Asa, boarding with his half-brother, Dr. Charles Parke Bacon. The doctor and his wife had helped Hilary set up a dry goods business with three partners, starting out as Keck-Miller, and Co. Thanks to a lot of hard work, it was very successful. By 1887, two of the partners sold out and the store was called Keck-Bacon, located at 207 Main, where it remained for the next decade.

Hilary was enamored of Albion, but so were several other gentlemen. She had at least one declined proposal, and wasn’t particularly inclined toward marriage. She and Annie had grand plans to travel to Europe, though their mother was pressuring them both to marry.

Then Uncle Asa died suddenly in 1887. He was mourned throughout the State of Indiana, and was sorely grieved by his niece Mary Fellows, and her two daughters. He had been their benefactor, as well as a stable, secure source of wisdom and strength to the little family.

After Asa’s death, their mother, Mary, increased the pressure on her two youngest daughters to marry. Annie and Allie gave in, and in December, 1887, they announced their engagements and plans for a double wedding. Albion was to marry Hilary Bacon and Annie was to marry William Johnston. Johnston was their cousin (cringe), son of Kitty Igleheart Johnston, who had died when he was just 9. Johnston had been raised by the old pioneer Charles F. McJohnston up in McCutchanville. He was 12 years older than Annie, a widower with three children, and an established pharmacist (then called a druggist) in Evansville. The wedding was planned for fall of 1888.

But before they married, the sisters insisted on embarking on an adventure which they had planned since they were little girls in McCutchanville: to travel abroad together. Their Grand Tour began on May 21, 1888, and they traveled for three months, seeing as many wonders as they had dreamed of in their childhood.

Returning at the end of the August, Albion and Annie Fellows began to plan their wedding in earnest and set the date for October 11, 1888.

Stay tuned…

Sonnystone Saga: the British Settlement

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 seventh installment of the series…

Soon after the death of his wife in 1817, Charles McCutchan-Johnstone sold his businesses in County Longford, Ireland, gathered up his seven children, and set out for the USA.  They arrived at Pittsburg, PA, where Charles (hereafter the family name is McJohnston) bought flatboats and traveled down the Ohio River to Evansville, IN.  Eville had little to show for itself in 1819, so McJohnston continued past it and up the Pigeon Creek until he reached Stringtown Hill road where he disembarked.  He had brought with him, besides household goods, a wagon, horses and plenty of pounds sterling…  He headed northward along Stringtown Road Ridge.  In 1819 the “road” was nothing more than a winding path through the forest from which the saplings and underbrush had been cut, but which had giant forest trees standing in its center along its entire course.

Instead of following the road northward and on toward Vincennes and Princeton, as earlier arrivals had done, Mr. McJohnston struck out eastward on an Indian trail about a quarter mile past Sonnystone, now called Petersburg Road.  The family crossed the valley, and climbed the next ridge of hills where they stopped. The land had been government property since the Indian treaties and was open to claim. He registered approximately one thousand acres at the Vincennes Land Office.  Upon those acres lay the future village of McCutchanville.

There was an influx of settlers who followed the McJohnstons.  Do you remember the Inwoods?  William Inwood, father of both of John Reed’s wives, also arrived in 1819 with his family; his son John married one of McJohnston’s daughters.   There were the Erskines, the Wheelers, the Maidlows, the Hornbecks.  McJohnston’s brother, William McCutchan, came later.  The area around McCutchanville was known in those early days as the “British Settlement”. By the end of 1820 there were 53 families who owned 12,800 acres of land and capital of $80,000…about 1.2 million today.  Not a bad start.

It was 1823 before Levi Igleheart, Sr. arrived with his family.  The Igleheart family had come to Maryland from Germany in 1740.  Levi’s father, John, had fought in the Revolutionary War and owned plantations in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  Levi and his wife were Woke!  They decided slavery was wrong and sold their slaves (you could not actually Free slaves in those days; there were Laws against free black people living in the slave states).  However, they found they couldn’t farm the property without the slaves, so they sold their land to relatives and pioneered west.  After a stop in Kentucky, they finally settled on the outskirts of McCutchanville along the eastern edge of Vanderburgh County.

The community was tight-knit.  There was a lot of work to be done clearing and building homes, barns, and mills.  Though of varying denominations, there was a circuit rider that began to visit the village in the early 1820s. The homes most often visited were those of Charles McJohnston, Sr., Levi Igleheart, Sr., Mark Wheeler, John Erskine, Sr. The preacher came on Saturday night, sometimes traveling for a month to get there. Two services were held on the Sabbath, morning and afternoon. The living room was cleared, beds were removed and slabs were brought in and set up for seats. The “congregation” had traveled anywhere from 5 to 10 miles on horseback, in wagons, and on foot. They brought cold lunches with them that were supplemented by cooking done the day before by the homeowner.

The village built their first schoolhouse in 1832.   Girls were given the same consideration for education as the boys. It was 1845 when Samuel McCutchan (McJohnston’s nephew) was appointed the first Postmaster and the community was named after him.  That same year, ground was broken to build a Methodist-episcopal church-building with $300 old Charles McJohnston had willed for that purpose.

From McCutchanville to the Evansville Court House it was about 8 miles.  The only way to get there was down Petersburg Road to Stringtown Rd, past Sonnystone Acres and down the hill across Pigeon Creek to the flatland.  We are situated about about halfway between the two places, so the residents of McCutchanville passed by Sonnystone on a regular basis on their way to town.

100 years after McJohnston blazed that trail, one of the descendants of those early settlers, Albion Mary Smith, moved into Sonnystone and she and her husband, George Davis Smith,  placed the S on the chimney.

But first, let’s meet Mrs. Smith’s ancestors…

Stay Tuned…


Sunday Report

It’s Closing Day of Camp Sonnystone 2020 and I’m preparing a feast of summer foods. It seems like I’ve not taken enough pictures, so when the Jrs arrive we’ll go into a frenzy of snapping pics for this year’s Movie.

Like All of 2020, it’s been a different kind of camp– No field trips, No restaurants, No visiting or visitors, just a lot of pool-time, dancing, painting, playing, and relaxing.  Eliza is a Donut Bank Fiend, so most days began with a drive-through there for coffee and sweets — especially the free cookies that she Loves.  The Jr. kids have been here every other day and we’ve had dinner from every fast-food place in town, plus a few carry-out restaurants.  We’ve had plenty of ice cream to keep us cool in this record-breaking heat and humidity.

The New Yorkers have been in school every morning Mon-Fri and I’ve sat in to read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” with Eliza, as well as “Stamped” with Emma.  They’ve also continued to practice their Irish Dance on the Dance Floor Pawpaw set up for them.

Our Theme this year is Together and our Theme Song is “We’re All in this Together” from Disney’s High School Musical.  Emma studied the choreography and taught it to the her sister and cousins…and me.  Wait ’til you see my moves…

Eric drove back to NYC two weeks ago and returned yesterday evening.  During those two weeks,  Evansville’s Covid-19 cases have quadrupled from 250 to over 1,000 and the mayor is begging people to wear a mask.  Please.

The Jose’ Fam will head home tomorrow, leaving me to my memories… The Quiet is always deafening after they are gone…  This year’s video will be Great, if I do say so myself, and I’ll share as soon as it is complete.


Sunday Report

The Jose’ Fam arrived Friday evening!  Eric already drove back to NYC as he has to be present for some court cases next week (he’s a paralegal).  Melissa, Emma, and Eliza will be here for a couple of weeks.  I am in heaven.

We’re not doing a Traditional Camp Sonnystone, but of course we’ll be making a sign or two.  Michael’s kids will join us often and we’ll dance, sing, paint, and play.  The pool is cool, the corn hole game is corny, and the next weeks will be full of fun.

I’ll keep you posted…


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…