Revisiting Topeka

Three weeks ago, having left Philadelphia early to avoid Hurricane Sandy, we found ourselves driving through Indiana with a bit of time to spare. In my opinion, unscheduled, meandrous travels are times of serendipitous happenstance. This trip was no exception.

We got off the I-80/90 freeway at the Indiana-Ohio border and headed 30 miles southwest on country roads to Swan, Indiana. This is where our Amos and Holmes ancestors settled.

Swan, Indiana

Swan is a small cluster of houses on Old State Road 3, just off Highway 3 (it doesn’t even show up as a village on the map, but is listed as a township). If we let our imaginations run, we could wonder if the old building in the background was Charles Wesley Amos’s carpenter shop.

Just south of Swan, the Swan Cemetery is at the intersection of Old State Road 3 and E 300 S (creative street naming at its best). Here the Holmes and Cramer families are buried—if you remember, these are names from the Amos Boys’ Grandmother Beatrice’s side of the family.

Because it was cold and raining (thanks to Hurricane Sandy) and because there are over 900 interments in the Swan Cemetery, we were not about to get out and search for gravestones. Mark that down for next time, along with some advance research!

Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan, Noble Co. Indiana

Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

We did, however, find the Bethlehem Cemetery, a much smaller, quaint, country cemetery located a few miles west on Swan Road. And here is the Amos family!

Charles Wesley and Elizabeth Amelia (Jarrett) Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Charles Wesley Amos military marker, 5 IND Battalion, G.A.R. Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Charles and Elizabeth (Jarrett) are the Amos Boys great-grandparents. On the gravestone it reads 5 IND BAT. G.A.R. for Charles’ military service during the Civil War.

Andrew and Catharine Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Our son, Jonathan, needed to be in South Bend later that week. Not trusting the flights out of his town of Philadelphia, he hitched a ride with us. Jonathan’s middle name is Amos so spending 3-4 hours with his parents on a cold, rainy legacy tour was especially meaningful…right, Jonny? (Thanks again, Hurricane Sandy, he says.)

Andrew Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co., Indiana

Catharine Mottinger Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Andrew and Catharine (Mottinger) Amos were Charles Wesley’s parents. If you recall, Andrew was born in Hanover, Germany. At some point, he immigrated to America and settled in Ohio, where he married Catharine. Together, they raised their family in Swan.

From here, we loaded back into the car and headed westward. We drove past Corunna, a town my father Duane has often mentioned; and Kendallville, where Duane remembers, as children, he and Bruce went shopping every Friday with their Grandmother Beatrice.

Late in the afternoon, we arrived in Topeka.

Amish buggy in Topeka, Indiana

In some ways Topeka is the same town I remember as a child. It still has only one stop light. There still is a hardware store on the corner. And there still are Amish—in fact, there are lots of Amish!

Just as Duane described on the phone, if you turn west at the street light (Main and Lake St) and go one block to Babcock St., there on the corner is the building that was their grandfather Wm. Arthur Amos’s blacksmith shop. Interestingly, it still looks somewhat the same. It’s now the Eastside Harness and Tack Shop, and here is a blog with lots of photos of the shop.

I later called Eastside and left a phone message. The owner called back and also left a message. He said Arthur Amos was before his time, however his father remembered such a blacksmith shop. I’m still trying to connect with him.

209 S. Babcock, Topeka, Indiana

Does this house look familiar? It’s 209 S. Babcock St., in Topeka, and it’s where Arthur and his second wife Hazel lived. Many of us may remember coming here when we were young.

How’s this for fun…the house is currently for sale and it’s listed on this realtor’s page. You can see the interior rooms and imagine how they looked decades ago.

On the outskirts of Topeka is Eden Cemetery. Here, Wm. Arthur and his first wife Beatrice are buried. I’ve marked this cemetery for a return-trip-to-do list but in the meantime, you can check out their gravestone on this page.

So that was our trip. In spite of some nasty weather, it was still lots of fun and very special. Definitely one to do again on a nicer day!

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Finding Culture Within the Family

Last week, we studied the Amos side of our family tree and once again we learned of our German roots. This week, let’s look at Beatrice Holmes, the grandmother from Topeka who took care of Duane and Bruce. We know so very little of her and her family. But perhaps, just by her English surname, we can imagine a bit of cultured decorum that counterbalances the stodgy stubbornness so often associated with our Kraut-iness (although, surely we have none of that).

So, let’s take a look at Beatrice and her family.

From our family records, we know Beatrice was born in 1880 in Swan, Indiana, to (Eugene) Milton and Mary Alice (Cramer) Holmes. Her father Milton drilled wells for a living and was originally from Ohio. We don’t know much more about his family.

Thanks to Ancestry.com however, we know quite a bit about Beatrice’s mother’s family. The Cramers were from Swan, Indiana—in fact they settled the town. That means we have another founding for which we can claim credit (so what if it’s only an unincorporated community within the township of Swan).

According to the 1860-1870 census records, Beatrice’s grandfather, Ephraim Cramer, ran a dry goods and grocery store there in town. According to this website on Indiana cemeteries, her great-grandfather, Conrad, was the community’s first settler. On that site, check out his list of children: six from his first wife, Magdalina, before she died at the young age of 32, and 12 from his second wife, Lydia. The Cramers were a town, just of themselves!

But wait a minute, Cramer—is that an English name? It could be, according to this Ancestry.com family fact page. Or, it could be Dutch, German or Irish, depending on its original spelling.

We have more surnames that pop up on Beatrice’s side of the family—names like Broughton, Rickard, Timmerman, Sitts and Haus. All these people, as far back to the mid-1700s, were born here in the United States. We’re like founding fathers within our country!

Interesting, huh? I wonder where we’ve immigrated from and when?