As stated in the preface, there were many factors that prompted my becoming involved in a genealogical search. And I want to share with my readers what a delightful experience this has been. The endeavor has taught me more American history than I ever learned in high school, and has added to the research and analytical skills that were obtained in my doctoral program. The whole undertaking has been highly educational, wonderfully entertaining, and personally gratifying.
This chapter will provide, for the reader who may be interested, the progression of events that led to my search for the Rubottoms as well as some of the more pleasurable experiences I had along the way.
My mother believes that I was always the "family historian." As a youngster, I faithfully attended to the family photo albums--those of my own family as well as both sets of my grandparents. I also took copious notes on the family history, which were tucked away in a small spiral-bound pocket folder for later use. Somehow, through a twenty year time span and multiple moves, I managed to hold on to that little folder.
My grandparents and great-aunts were very patient and provided as much information as they could recall. On one occasion, my Aunt Grace rode to a family reunion in Arkansas with my husband and me. With an unbelievably remarkable memory, she elucidated names, dates, and events so rapidly, I could barely get it all down. Aunt Grace was especially good at providing anecdotes; those colorful stories that show the more interesting side of life.
In December 1991, while on an afternoon excursion, my husband Mark and I were driving by the Oklahoma State Capitol building when I noticed the Oklahoma Historical Society and Museum off to our right. We stopped in to explore, and I was amazed at the contents of the Research Library. Given that this treasure was so close to my home, I decided to give the family search a try. And let me tell you, it did not take very long to become "addicted."
The first few months were spent doing general explorations and searches on multiple sides of the family. I experienced a number of immediate successes, each one renewing my energy for continued inquiry. I was particularly interested in learning of my Rubottom ancestors because of curiosity about the origin of the surname and because I knew very little about that particular branch of the family. Information provided by Aunt Grace led me to search the Indiana-Illinois area, where I found about fifteen Rubottoms living in the early 1800s. Although I suspected that they were all related to each other, I could not seem to find any substantiating proof. Until one Saturday. . . .
In the Indiana section of the bookshelves rested a set of books that I had glanced over many times, but had never opened. They were entitled Abstracts of the Records of the Society of Friends in Indiana, in the series Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy and were edited by Willard Heiss, a renowned genealogist in Indiana. I had overlooked the fact that the set of books was accompanied by a hard bound index that listed alphabetically all of the surnames that were included in the volumes. On one particular Saturday, I finally pulled the index off the shelf, and, EUREKA!--the Rubottoms were there, in mass.
The day I discovered that the Rubottoms were Quakers was the day this book began. The Quakers, due to their belief in strict discipline, kept meticulous records--births, marriages, deaths, and relevant church-related activities. I soon learned that Quakerism was more than a religion, it was a community. These persons, Rubottoms and other allied surnames, were bound together tightly for over one hundred years.
The next phase of the search became more paced and followed fairly routine procedures--collecting data, analyzing the information, developing a new list of questions, collecting more data, etc. It was sometimes a tedious process.
But the fun part occurs when you have the opportunity to go "on-site" to search for clues. This finally occurred in October 1992 when Mark and I were able to go to Indiana and Illinois to extend the family search.
In the month of October 1992, I was required to be in Indianapolis for a business meeting from Friday through Sunday noon. We extended our stay through Wednesday by taking annual leave from our jobs. At the close of my business meeting on Sunday, we left Indianapolis in a rental car, heading due west for Parke County. We couldn't have selected a better time to be in southwestern Indiana. In October the scenery was simply magnificent. Although the grass was still green, the trees displayed all the Autumn colors of crimson, yellow, and orange. The sunlight sometimes reflected off the golden foliage in such a way as to create a halo around the trees. It was breathtaking.
The drive to Parke County from Indianapolis would normally have taken a little over an hour, but due to a couple of minor interferences, our trip took about two hours. First, we took the wrong road out of Indianapolis. The mistake sent us in a southwesterly direction, rather than due west, as we needed to go. But it turned out to be a fortunate mistake because we were able to drive through Plainfield, Indiana, one of the early Quaker communities of which I had read. The Plainfield Friends Meetinghouse still stands, and appears to maintain an active and full membership. It is designated the Western Yearly Meetinghouse and has been the location of the annual meeting of the Society of Friends since 1858.
The old churchhouse is a large rectangular brick building with white, wooden trim. It sits on, what appears to be, about a five-acre piece of land that had the appearance of a park. It was well-maintained and was filled with beautiful old maple trees full of orange and golden leaves.
After stopping to walk through the churchyard and to take photographs, we corrected our course by heading north to locate State Highway 36. Two trains attempting to switch tracks delayed our progress about 15 minutes. After locating Highway 36, we proceeded west through a number of small rural communities and much farmland. As we approached Parke County, the flat farmlands gradually changed into rolling hills covered by a thick blanket of trees.
Parke County greeted us with an "Information Station" located in the old train depot in Rockville, the county seat. We stopped to pick up maps, purchase tee-shirts, and converse with the locals. Then we drove north on Highway 41 to Bloomingdale, home of the Rubottoms for nearly 100 years.
Bloomingdale, a very small town that appeared more like a hamlet, was very quiet on a Sunday afternoon. Other than a few children playing outdoors, there were few people to be seen. My greatest excitement came as we drove by, what was unmistakably, the Bloomingdale Friends Meetinghouse. Like Plainfield, it was situated on a generous piece of land covered with majestic old trees. The wood frame church was painted white, and, mysteriously, all of the doors stood wide open.
That was all the invitation I needed to peek inside. Mark and I walked the grounds and then peered through the front entrance into a very old, but newly redecorated church facility. As we were strolling back to our car, a lady drove into the gravel parking lot and stopped beside us. Without even inquiring as to our intentions, she smiled and said, "Would you like to come inside?" This lady was representative of all the kind individuals we met on our trip.
As we toured the churchhouse, I explained to our guide the purpose of our travels to Bloomingdale. She told us that she was not familiar with much of the church history and insisted on telephoning the Pastor, who, she said, could share much more information. Within about 10 minutes, we met Darlene Newby, the Pastor of Bloomingdale Friends Meeting. She brought with her a file folder filled with historical information on the church and the community. She made a photocopy of its contents as we chatted about the church. Much of the information Pastor Newby shared with us was used to develop the early chapters of this book.
After our visit to the church, Mark and I drove south about one-half mile to Bloomingdale Cemetery. The original church once stood along the front corner of the grounds where the cemetery is located. The cemetery grounds were well-kept and were filled with lovely, large trees. Without a cemetery map to guide us, Mark and I set out on foot to attempt to locate the headstones of Rubottom ancestors and allied family members. Mark worked the grounds to the right, while I covered the left side. Within about 15 minutes we found the headstone of David Rubottom, who we later found had died of consumption at the young age of 35. We had located the gravesites of about 27 ancestors by the time we left the cemetery around 5:00 p.m.
We had just enough sunlight remaining to drive the northwesterly "covered bridge" route. The covered bridges are Parke County's claim to fame. There are 34 bridges, all built between 1856 and 1920. Annually during the month of October, Parke County hosts the "Covered Bridge Festival" an attraction that draws over one million visitors. The festival features driving tours, entertainment, arts and crafts, and Indiana home-cookin'. We were fortunate to have missed the festival by one week. Although it would have been a memorable experience, we would not have had access to many local resources, like the Rockville Township Library, which closes during the festival.
But back to our covered bridge tour. . . The Parke County covered bridges can be viewed by travelling on routes mapped out and available at the visitor's bureau. There are also signs posted to direct traffic. We opted to travel the yellow route as it was the nearest to us from Bloomingdale. This route allowed us to cross over or view five covered bridges. Many times along the way the road narrowed to one lane. For that reason traffic always flows one direction only. The covered bridges were spectacular in their simplicity, and the scenery had an accompanying beauty of its own.
At the close of the day, Mark and I found lodging at a small motel in Rockville. Monday was to bring many more discoveries in our search. After breakfast on Monday morning, we headed straight for the Rockville Township Library, a lovely brick edifice just two blocks from the town square. I entered the library and immediately inquired as to the "whereabouts" of the local history materials. Again, we were very fortunate because the library housed a large genealogical collection in the front section of the first floor. What started out to be a two or three hour search took the entire day. The only break we took was for lunch at an old-fashioned soda fountain on the town square.
The Rockville librarians were most generous with their time. They provided us with new materials and resources throughout the day. By the time we left, Mark and I had perused marriage record indexes, cemetery records, abstracts of wills, guardianship abstracts, local newspapers (on microfilm), county history books, and a number of family histories. Mark also went to the courthouse to obtain copies of marriage certificates. We spent the night in Terre Haute, about 15-20 miles south of Rockville.
On Tuesday we intended to drive to Greene County to expand our information on the families of Joseph and John Rubottom. We drove south out of Terre Haute on Highway 41, which would intersect Highway 54, the road leading to Greene County. I was the trip navigator. About 20 miles south of Terre Haute, I commented to Mark that we were only about 15 miles from the Indiana-Illinois state line, and that Hutsonville, one of the towns where my ancestors had lived, sat right across the river on the Illinois side. Couldn't we, please, just take a short side trip and drive through Hutsonville? In the past, this type of impulsive behavior had led us to tremendous good fortune, and it did so again. (I probably needn't tell you that we did not make it to Greene County on Tuesday!)
Fifteen miles to the west, we crossed the bridge over the beautiful Wabash River, left the state of Indiana, and entered the great state of Illinois. Hutsonville sits along the edge of the Wabash River and extends a couple of miles to the west. It was a small town, mostly consisting of residences and a few small businesses.
We passed an historical sign to our left that announced the location of "Hutson Cabins." Out of curiosity we took the left turn and drove a couple of miles south where we came upon a semi-circular arrangement of log cabins built to resemble a small town. Chains were up across the entrance, so it was obvious that the place was closed that day. But apart from the main entrance stood an elderly man talking with a younger man and woman and a small girl. We stopped to asked the people what the Hutson Cabins were all about. That is when we met Mr. Colliflower, the older person and a long-time resident of Hutsonville. He explained that the Hutson Cabins were a memorial to the first family who had come to Illinois, but had been killed in an Indian raid. Multiple cabins stood, forming a U-shape, in the middle of a large section of land. Each cabin was built to represent a different type of functional structure. To the best of my recollection, there was a church, a town store, a blacksmith shop, and cabins representing residences. Mr. Colliflower told us that the buildings had all been built specifically for the memorial. We asked him if he had participated in building the cabins. He smiled broadly and announced, "I know ever' log in ever' cabin in the place."
Although the memorial was, in fact, closed, Mr. Colliflower insisted on showing us the inside of the old church building. Inside the small church both Mark and I felt a spirit of quiet solitude and reverence. Each pew in the building had been donated by one of the old churches in the area. They were marked by a small metal plaque attached to the upper corner of the pew. Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Quaker and other denominations had donated to the small log church. On the wall inside the door, a schedule of services was posted. Each denomination in Hutsonville took turns conducting services in the church. All services were open to the community.
After viewing the church building, we asked Mr. Colliflower if he was familiar with the Rubottoms. He pondered the name for a few minutes and replied, "You know I haven't thought o' them folks since I was a little boy. Yes, ma'am, I believe they lived down by the river." He gave us directions to the area where the Rubottoms had lived, and, after thanking him very much, we took off in the direction of the river. We probably did not find the exact spot where the a section lineRubottoms had lived, but we did see the general vicinity. We drove along through flat farmlands with many rows of harvested corn. The area along the river was tree-lined.
We were nearly lost at this point and decided to drive south along the section line until we came to the next small town named Palestine. As I checked the map to determine our distance from Hutsonville, I noticed we were about six miles from Robinson, the county seat. Well, since this was such a free-flowing excursion, why not go there and check out the county court house? And that is exactly what we did.
The Robinson County Courthouse, much like the other courthouses we had passed along the way, was a multi-story structure located in the center of the town square. We went directly to the County Clerk's office. Not having had much experience in a courthouse, I asked if they would search for one specific marriage record, that of Charles Fletcher Hindman and Frances May Rubottom. The 1900 U.S. Census had them in located in Hutsonville near her sisters Margaret Elizabeth (Rubottom) Givens and Mary (Rubottom) Lee. The census also stated that they had been married for two months. As we had not yet located their marriage license, we thought this county might represent a likely spot.
The worker in the County Clerk's office searched her records and returned to tell us that no marriage license for those names could be found. She asked if we wanted to double-check the marriage records ourselves. Being admitted to the vault containing all of the county records is like finding a gold mine. The walls were lined with old registers containing marriage records, birth records, death records, land records and the like. Mark and I mapped out our strategy. He would search marriage records, while I would scan the other records available. After about five minutes, Mark commented, "Danene, I can't find Frances May and Charles Fletcher Hindman, but does Samuel Rubottom and Sarah Spivey ring a bell?" I was so excited that I jumped up and down. These persons were Frances May Rubottom's parents, and I had no idea that they had married in Illinois. Mind you, we had come in search of Rubottoms. We found a few who had resided in Crawford County, but our primary discovery for the day was identifying the county of residence for the Spiveys.
After spending a few hours in the courthouse collecting numerous types of family records, we were referred to the township library for further assistance. Mark and I decided that after lunch we would spend some time in the library. As we were walking out the door to leave the courthouse, an elderly lady stopped us and asked what families we were researching. "Rubottoms and Spiveys," we replied. She then declared, "Well, you should walk across the street to the insurance company and ask for Bonnie Wright. You know, she was a Spivey!"
Mark was hungry, but patiently waited while I went in to visit with a long-lost cousin. (Actually, as she was in her home county, I suppose that I was the long-lost cousin!) We had a good visit and shared addresses and some family information, after which Mark and I found a place to eat lunch.
The afternoon was spent in the Robinson Township Library. It had a special room devoted strictly to local history and genealogical holdings. The librarians were more than helpful, supplying us with new materials about every 15 minutes.
By the time we left Crawford County, at the end of a very long day, we were loaded down with materials that would take weeks to sort through. We headed for Greene County, Indiana, where we found lodging for the night.
Wednesday was spent in a manner similar to the previous two days. We worked in the Greene County courthouse and in the local library. Again, we located some Rubottom information, but our primary find was the family of Charles Fletcher Hindman.
About 2:00 p.m. that Wednesday we hurried back to Indianapolis to catch our flight home. On the jet, and while waiting in Kansas City to take a connecting flight, we poured over the voluminous data we had collected on the trip. It would take many weeks of work to compile and pull together the interconnecting pieces.
Many other, not as exciting, but equally beneficial searches were conducted in libraries across the country. In my work-related travels, I spent many evenings searching available resources. Dallas, St. Louis, Tulsa, and Chicago were but some of the cities that maintain wonderful genealogical collections. And, all are open and available to the general public. In February 1993 I was finally able to search the collection in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The genealogical collection is vast! Plan to stay a few days if you search in our nation's capitol.
This discourse could continue for many pages, but time is of the essence and the volume thickens each day. I will conclude by encouraging the reader who may be interested to broaden and expand the search for our family roots. Every new piece of information adds color to the family bouquet. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to add to the materials collected. Together we can make the family chronicles more rich and full for those who will follow.