Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rhoda Ann Ellis Williams

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Ancestor #1
Amy Johnson Crow has posted a challenge on her blog "No Story Too Small" - I just found her blog today and will have to play catch-up. I will begin with my maternal great grandmother.


"Rhoda Ann is my name and
with my pencil I write the same
Art thou not dear unto my heart
Oh search my heart and see
And from my bosom tear that part
that beats not true to thee
Behold my album is begun
and when tis finished will be none
Minnie Lee
Remember me remember me"

The poem was written on the 
inside cover of Rhoda's photo album.
The album was a gift from her husband in the late 1800's.
It contains a wealth of information about the family: birth dates, marriages, and deaths.

Rhoda's life was turbulent from the time of her birth. Rhoda Ann Ellis was born March 18, 1857 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. Her parents were Jonathan and Mary Elizabeth Ritter Ellis. There is very little information about her father. He disappeared from the records after her birth and presumed to have died. Rhoda wrote no information about him in her album.

Rhoda and her mother moved to Sevier County, Arkansas where they are found living with her mother's father Lewis Franklin Ritter. She is listed on the July 1860 census as Rhoda Ann Ritter age three. This would not be the only census with the wrong surname for her. 

In November 1860 Rhoda's mother married Henry Stallings. He died about 1863. Her mother then married Jesse Skinner. They are found on the 1870 census living in Scott County, Arkansas. Once again Rhoda's name is wrong: Rody Skinner.

Rhoda wrote in her album "Mary E. Skinner mother of Rhoda died January 22, 1873".  She was sixteen at the time of her mother's death. Her next move was to Falls County, Texas where she lived with her mother's brother and his family. It was here that she met and married James David Williams, Sr. and for the first time ever her name is correct. The marriage license shows "Miss Rhoda Ann Ellis".

Rhoda and James had nine children: Orange, James Jr., Minnie, Mary, John, Alice, Patty, Paul, and Fairie. Their first two sons, Orange and James, were born in Falls County, Texas. Minnie, Mary, John, and Alice were born in Sevier County, Arkansas. Patty and Paul were born in Chicasaw Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Fairie was born in Falls County, Texas. Alice and Patty were born ten months apart. The family moved from Arkansas, to Oklahoma, to Texas, and back to Oklahoma in less than ten years.

Their daughter Patty died in 1894 before she was a year old. It was at this time that Rhoda begin to suffer from depression. Her depression became more severe after the death of their son Paul in 1900. 

In late 1901 Rhoda and the youngest children boarded a train leaving Oklahoma and heading for Lott, Texas. Rhoda was completely beside herself to a point of not knowing who she was, where she was going, or where she had come from. This newspaper article explains it better than I can.

I inherited Rhoda's photo album. We all knew she had died from suicide but
we didn't know the circumstances. It was a hush-hush topic among the family.
Today's medical knowledge probably would have spared Rhoda's see....
Rhoda suffered depression associated with early menopause. She was only forty-four. 

Rhoda was chosen as my first ancestor for the challenge because she is the one who inspired me to start a family tree and learn the many different stories of my ancestors.

Beam me up Cathy --(back to top)

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