This is a multi-post series about the Blessing Sisters. Anna Eliza Blessing Winney is my 3rd great grandmother. You can see all of the posts in the series here: Blessing Sister Stories
Note: As of November 26, 2019, I was given access to 6 original letters from Abraham Blessing to his family in Ohio, I will be updating this post to reflect the new information about their move to Missouri.
The Ohio-bound Blessings weren’t the only Virginians to feel the urge to move. Starting in mid-1825, when James Monroe’s presidency ended, Virginians were surprised by an unfamiliar status. “Four of the first five presidents were Virginians who guided the nation through its first three decades. But now, the political stature of Virginia declined on the national stage when no successors of ability emerged to replace the Founding Fathers.
The state had lost power in Congress because of population shifts. ‘What has become of our political rank and eminence in the Union?’ worried Benjamin Watkins Leigh. ‘Virginia has declined and is declining.’ (10)
The Virginia Museum of History & Culture also talks about the migration from Virginia as a result of these events. “In 1830, John Randolph complained that Virginia’s landscape was ‘worn out.’ Pioneers eventually pushed to the farthest reaches of ‘the West.’ …Kentucky and Illinois––first as Virginia counties and later as states––also beckoned, along with Indiana and Missouri.” (11)
Abraham Blessing Leaves Virginia
Abraham and his family seemed to have joined this second wave of those seeking new land and opportunities. We can narrow down the time frame of when they left Virginia to between 1827 and 1831 by two known events: Anna’s birth in August 1826, and Abraham’s military duty in Wisconsin starting in May of 1832.(12)
Passed down family lore has them going to Missouri first – and walking! I haven’t found definitive proof that they went to Missouri first, or that they walked. If they did, though, can you even imagine six-year-old Elizabeth and three-year-old Anna walking the 250-mile trek from Virginia to Missouri? And then another 500 miles to Wisconsin just a year or two later?
I don’t have any record of where Abraham’s wife died, but their daughter, Elizabeth Blessing Basford’s obituary in December 1890, offered a potential clue: “Mrs. Basford was born in the county of Withe, West Virginia…She removed from there with her parents to Missouri. After her mother’s death, she came with her father, in 1836, to the lead mining region of Wisconsin.”
We may never know where Abraham’s wife passed away. No official or family records mention a mother or wife in the family once they reach Wisconsin, so we can safely assume it was either Virginia or Missouri. There is a mistake in Elizabeth’s obituary about when they came to Wisconsin. Abraham is in Wisconsin as early as 1832, so the 1836 date is isn’t correct. After nearly 60 years passing from the event, the error is understandable.
It did make me wonder, if they got that wrong, did they also get her mother’s place of death wrong?
An excerpt from a letter that Polly Patterson, Great-Granddaughter of Elizabeth Jane (Blessing) Basford, wrote to Michael Winney echoes the family stories I’ve always heard:
“Anna Eliza Blessing Winney and Elizabeth Jane Blessing were definitely sisters, Anna being the youngest. Their father was Abraham Blessing. He was a widower and he and the two girls (all children that we know of anyway) walked to Wisconsin Territory from Missouri and Virginia in the 1830’s to work in the lead mines around Grant Co. When gold was found in CA, he left for the gold fields and died there. There is no further record of him after he left Grant Co.”(13)
Abraham Blessing in Wisconsin 1832
As those of European descent pushed westward to expand the United States, Native Americans were driven from their homes and land. Treaties between the Native Americans and U.S. Government weren’t always honored, leading to friction, and sometimes battles.
One, the Black Hawk War, was “a brief conflict between the U.S. and Native Americans led by Black Hawk, a Sauk leader” that occurred between May and August 1832, in southern Wisconsin, Illinois, and northern Missouri along the Mississippi river.(14)
Abraham was a private in Price’s Company of the Iowa Mounted Volunteers during the Black Hawk war.(15) His service record doesn’t show where he was living when he joined, but I’m assuming it’s Cassville the muster roll shows that “this company was stationed…at Fort Cass, at the town of Cassville, on the Mississippi River.”(16)
Elizabeth would be ten years old, and Anna seven. Who is taking care of them while Abraham is in the Army?
I hope that they were attending school since Cassville’s “first schoolhouse was built previous to 1836.”(17) Within a few years, the girls started attending church. Elizabeth’s obituary notes that she became a member of the Methodist church of Cassville when she was fourteen years old.
Fully cited sources can be found on the Blessing Sisters Story Cited Sources page. Below are the footnotes for Part 2 of the series. I’ve continued the numbering from Part 2 to make it easier to follow.
10. (Virginia Museum of History & Culture, “Establishing a Nation” )
11. (Virginia Museum of History & Culture, “Political Decline and Westward Migration” )
12. (U.S. Army Indian Campaign Service Records Index, 1815-1858, entry for Abraham Blessing)
13. (Michael A. Winney 2007, pg 44)
14. (Wikipedia, “Black Hawk War,” 2019)
15. (U.S. Army Indian Campaign Service Records Index, 1815-1858, entry for Abraham Blessing)
16. (US Army Insignia)
17. (Consul Wilshire Butterfield 1881)