My great great grandfather, Allen Spencer and my great great grandmother, Lydia Quackenbush Potts Spencer were married on February 22, 1850 in Canastota, New York. It didn’t take them too many years to decide that New York was not where they wanted to be. So, in the spring of 1855, after the birth of their second child, Ida, who was born June 11, 1854, they packed up their belongings and their two children, and headed west. They had their hearts set on Iowa. It would be a long journey, traveling on dirt roads, camping underneath the stars, cooking over a campfire, and often going for days without seeing other people. They would have had to cross rivers with no bridges, traveling for miles sometimes before finding a place where it was safe to take the covered wagon across. Then traveling back to where they had been before. They would have most likely crossed the Mississippi at Prairie Du Chien, which was the only place north of Saint Louis to have a ferry at that time. I imagine that it seemed very odd to be around what seemed like so many people again. Then, probably after a few days, they set off again for their dream home…Iowa. It is unsure if they arrived in Iowa in 1855, or if they wintered in Prairie Du Chien before going on in the spring of 1856, but apparently Iowa was not quite what they expected, because it was not long before the family would again move…this time to Wisconsin. My great grandfather, William was born in Iowa on August 27, 1857, but by the time their next child, Luther was born on May 18, 1858, the family was living in Wisconsin.
Having driven through Iowa recently, I can say that it is pretty flat, and at least to me, not very interesting. I suppose it was a matter of what you were looking for. Farming country wasn’t exactly what this city girl had in mind for life, which is probably why I chose to stay in Wyoming…country enough to be small and city enough to have things to do. Still, Iowa does appeal to a lot of people and in the end, it must have appealed to my great great grandparents again, because Webster City, Iowa would be where my great great grandfather, Allen Spencer would pass away, and where he is buried. My great great grandmother, Lydia Quackenbush Potts Spencer would again move on, this time to Fay, Oklahoma, where her sons lived and would pass away there twenty three years after the passing of her husband, Allen Spencer, and after seeing her many grandchildren.
I don’t know if they found the winters in Wisconsin too harsh, the growing season too short, or exactly what drew them back to Iowa, but I guess it was their dream in the beginning and their dream in the end…or at least until Allen’s death. Then maybe Lydia could no longer bear to stay, or maybe she only left because of her sons. I’ll probably never know for sure, but I can relate to being near family…especially after a loss, so that is my guess as to what my great great grandmother would have wanted.