Great Great Grandpa Allen SpencerThere are many ways for a family to be spread across the country. Most times, these days anyway, it is a choice to move to a different place or climate, but other times, people move for work or education. People used to leave family and friends to head out west to search for gold or to get a piece of land that they could homestead on. But, sometimes the reasons a family gets spread all over the country are very different, and much more sad.

My great grandfather’s family traveled by covered wagon to Wisconsin in 1879. The rest of the family lived in Iowa, so it is my assumption that my great grandfather and his wife, my great grandmother moved in the months following their marriage. My grandfather was actually born in that covered wagon, in Eu Clair, Wisconsin. That said, he was already out of the home when the moves of the rest of his family took place.

My great great grandfather passed away in Webster City, Iowa on January 13, 1883, at the young age of 56 years. His loss would be devastating to the family. As often happened in those years, with the loss of the bread winner, the children had to be farmed out to the relatives. Such was the case in my great great grandmother’s family. Her family would never be the same. Her oldest daughter, Ida, who was also married and wasliving in Washington state, took her younger brother, Allen to live with her family. Her daughter Teressa went to live in Rushville, Nebraska. She and her sons, Luther and Cornealius went to live in Oklahoma.

With travel being more difficult, I don’t know if my great great grandmother ever saw some of her kids again, and if she did, I’m sure it was not often. She would live out her life in Lydia Quackenbush Potts SpencerOklahoma, with her son Luther and his family, and would live to the good old age of 75, on April 6, 1906. While her life was long, especially for that time period, I still have to wonder if it was also filled with a great degree of sadness and loneliness since so many of her children lived so far away. Because women didn’t have the ability to make enough money to properly raise a family in those days, they had little choice but to depend on the charity of family members to make it. These days are different, of course, and many women have been single moms and fared very well. Still, I think it took a great amount of courage to send her children to live with family, not knowing how they would do in life. I’m sure it took a great deal of worry too.

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