Ancestor Appreciation Day – September 27, 2015

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Today (September 27, 2015) is Ancestor Appreciation Day. The ancestors I’ve chosen to remember today are my great-grandparents John McWherter and Jennie Toledo Cox. I didn’t get to meet them, but I grew up hearing stories about them and their lives.

John was born on February 5, 1865 in Clyde, Jasper County, Iowa to Aaron McWherter and Martha McQuiston, the 2nd of 11 children. He spent most of his early years in Iowa but the family did go back to his father Aaron’s hometown of Elkhart, Noble County, Indiana for a time around 1880. In 1895 however, John is living in Jasper County, Iowa. In the 1900 Federal Census John is listed as a farmer and living with his brother-in-law James Hale.

Featured imageOn November 23, 1904, 39 year old John McWherter married 18 year old Jennie Toledo Cox. Jennie was born November 10, 1886 in Braymer, Caldwell County, Missouri to George W Cox and Malinda Jane Lee. Not long after the marriage the couple moved from Missouri to St. Anthony, Fremont County, Idaho where their first child, Virgel Irene was born on October 19, 1905, the first of 13 children born to John and Leda as she is known in our family.Featured image

John died on April 6, 1951 in Blackfoot, Bingham County, Idaho and Leda followed him on June 19, 1954. They are buried in Grove City Cemetery in Blackfoot, surrounded by family members.

I grew up knowing or having met all of those children except Florence Roseline who died in 1949. Every year my family would travel from Southern Nevada (where my father had been stationed in the Air Force) to different parts of Idaho (one year in Wyoming) to attend the McWherter Family Reunion. All of the brothers and sisters and their families would be there and stories would be told and we would catch up on the news of the previous year.

John and Leda were hard-working farmers raising a family that has stuck together through the years. I still keep in touch with second cousins and third cousins or first cousins once and twice or even three times removed. John and Leda built a home and a family. I’m sure that one reason I have such a love of family and a desire to know as much as I can about my family and those who went before me is due in part to ancestors such as John and Leda.Featured image

A Tale of Two Trees

I’m sure I’ve said it before, my mother passed the genealogy bug to me. I was living in Kentucky when I first became really interested and began doing my own research. Far from my family in Nevada. Not wanting to completely reinvent the wheel, I asked my mother to send me a gedcom of her existing tree so I could install it on my computer. Once I had that tree installed I set off doing research on my father’s lines. Meanwhile, my mother focused on her own lines. We would talk on the phone frequently, sharing updates on our individual progress.

In theory, this should have worked well for us, two different trees focusing on different parts of the country and different heritages. Or so we thought! One night my mother called to tell me about a story she had stumbled upon regarding Abraham Lincoln and the possibility that he might have been fathered by an Abraham Enloe and that an Enloe woman was the midwife at his birth. The reason this was interesting for my mother is that her 3rd great-grandmother was Rachel Enlow, also from Kentucky, Rachel would be related to those Enloes supposedly involved with Lincoln’s birth.

So, while my mother was telling this story, I opened my program to search for those Enloe/Enlow names so I could have a point of reference. I found Rachel and her father Joseph Enlow, but I didn’t have parents listed for him. A conundrum for me since the index showed many other Enloes listed on my family tree. Confused, I interrupted my mother and said, “Something doesn’t look right”. I told her I couldn’t find those Enloes and I said, “Let’s start with the first Enloe so I can see what happened with my tree”.

She said the immigrant Enloe is Hendrick born about 1632 in the Netherlands. “Odd,” I said, “I have Hendrick and he has a daughter Hester”.

“No,” she said, “He has a son Abraham”.

“That’s weird” I said. “Who’s Hester then?” I looked down through Hester’s line until I recognized the names Christiana Ditto and Nicholas Day Amos. “Oh oh!” I said. “Mom, I’m looking at Dad’s family. Dad is descended from Hendrick’s daughter Hester and you are descended from Hester’s brother Abraham. You’re cousins!” (Interjection: I had to shiver and go eww for a moment, because let’s be honest here, who wants to learn their parents are related?)

What did we do about our tree problem? Well, my mother and I combined our two separate trees into one large tree, finding two other instances where my parents have shared ancestors. To make it easier to know which line we are following, my mother and I have come up with a naming system that works for us. My father’s line has capitalized last names i.e.: Mildred MCWHERTER and my mother’s line has both names capitalized i.e.: KENNETH CHAFFEE. On those lines where they share, I’ve tried to be funny by listing the names oppositely i.e.: JAMES Draper.

Going back to Abraham Lincoln though, even if the Enloe connections are unproven, my mother does get to say she is related to him through her 10th great-grandparents Obadiah Holmes and Kathryn Hyde, making Abraham Lincoln my mother’s 6th cousin, 4 times removed.

I know there are many researchers who have separate trees for each family line, but I find it difficult to track all the ancillary people when they intersect my other lines in so many places. Working with just one tree helps me to better see the patterns that one needs to keep in mind when doing any kind of research.

From Farm Boy to Cult Leader

I’ve started this post many times but have found myself unable to complete the task. What is so difficult you might ask? Well, I find it hard to write about a man that I see as a user, a deceiver, a man who abandoned his family. And I think it is that last item that bothers me the most. I abhor the idea of men and women, mothers and fathers abandoning their children and when I find it happening in my family as I research my ancestors it bothers me.

Hiram Erastus Butler was born July 1841 in Lee, Oneida County, New York to Solomon Butler and Sarah Duel. He grew up on a farm in Oneida County and had little formal education. Hiram was the first cousin of George Robinson Duel, my 3rd great-grandfather. Although George might have known of Hiram, I see no evidence that they would have ever met.

Hiram, or H.E. Butler as he was also known, served in the U.S. Army during the American Civil War. He suffered some kind of injury because he is in a hospital in Pennsylvania where he is nursed by one Sophia Agnes Wilson, they marry about 1864. Their son Elmer is born in Pennsylvania in 1865, daughter Olla Elutheria is born in Delaware in 1867, and daughter Sophia Agnes is born in Pennsylvania in 1870. And in 1870, H.E. Butler has left his family and is living in New York beginning his new life as an Occultist and Spiritual leader. For a scholarly and more in depth look at H.E. Butler and his beliefs read Mark Demarest’s blog at

H.E. Butler created the Society for Esoteric Culture and preyed on women first in Boston and run out of that town for what the local newspaper euphemistically alleges as sexually assaulting the students, he heads next for San Francisco and tries once more. It is the 1890’s and so his previous dealings in Boston are quickly found out causing H.E. Butler to leave town once more and so he finds himself in Applegate, Placer County, California. Near Sacramento, Placer County is the home of the 1849 Gold Rush and in the 1890’s is still a wild, unsettled place. Here Hiram purchases land and creates his lasting legacy, The Esoteric Fraternity. What? You’ve never heard of it? I promise that you have most likely participated in it at some time. Don’t believe me?

Hiram Erastus Butler, user, deceiver, abandoner, maybe even a rapist, wrote a book in 1897 entitled, “Solar Biology” and that book and his beliefs are the foundation for today’s horoscope as found in most daily newspapers and many magazines in the United States. H. E. Butler left his children to grow up in a Home for Abandoned Children, apparently thinking only of himself, I think he has received his “just desserts” in that he created something that is used around the world and yet no one today remembers his name.                                                                                                                                       Esoteric Foundation