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.
Elizabeth Blessing Marries
On 23 May 1839, Elizabeth married a local merchant, Luther Basford, in Cassville, Grant County, Wisconsin.(18) She was sixteen years old, and he was twenty-four. Perhaps immediately, but definitely within the year, twelve-year-old Anna went to live with the newly married Basfords.
The information in the 1840 Census shows 1 adult male, 1 adult female, 1 female under five years (their daughter, Caroline), and 1 female between five and nine years old.(19) This is probably Anna, who would have been fourteen years old. However, the counting is done by putting a tick mark in the column with the corresponding gender and age range, and there are no lines or grids, so the census taker could have made a tick mark in the wrong column.
In that same census, Abraham is living not too far away, also in the Western Division, Grant, Wisconsin, employed in mining. (20) Working in the lead mines, he wasn’t in much of a position to take care of Anna on his own. Or, as Polly Patterson put it in her letter, “I think [Abraham] was very transient and maybe even a rough sort of individual, unsettled in his ways, especially since losing his wife and so forth, moving westward with the various westward movements.(21)
The Wisconsin Mines section of the Mining Artifacts website notes that, “In 1847, the Mineral Point Tribune reported that the town’s furnaces were producing 43,800 pounds of lead each day.”(22)
Seeing the pictures of the lead and soot covered miners hand picking for lead made me more sympathetic to Abraham leaving his daughter Anna in the care of her sister.
The Basford and Winney Families
With an eye toward a better future, Elizabeth and Luther Basford started a family almost immediately. Caroline, the first of their six children, was born on 19 Jun 1840. Martha came in June 1843; Adelaide followed in September 1845; and Alice in 1849.
Anna lived with her sister’s family until she was nineteen, when she married William James Winney on 23 October 1845 in Grant County, Territory of Wisconsin.(23) Wiliam had arrived in Wisconsin from Michigan in 1842.(24) Elizabeth Wegman provided Michael Winney with a copy of the handwritten marriage document.
I can’t speculate on whether Abraham saw his daughters or grandchildren often, but he wasn’t completely absent from their lives. On 1 May 1845, Abraham bought 160 acres with his son in law Luther Basford through the Land Act of 1820 that provided for the sale of public lands that were less than 160 acres. The lot was in Grant County, Wisconsin, and labeled as Section 13.(25)
Abraham Leaves His Daughters
The Blessing sisters had endured loss and hardship early in their lives, but were working to create secure and happy homes. The 1850 and 1860 US Censuses show them living close to each other and their husbands doing well.
In 1850, Luther and Elizabeth are three dwellings away from William and Anna in District 24 (Cassville), Grant County.(26) Cassville sits on the banks of the Mississippi in the southwest corner of Wisconsin just across from Iowa. Luther is a farmer, with a real estate value of $2,000.(27) William is also listed as a farmer, but isn’t assigned a real estate value.(28) Perhaps he helped out on his brother in law Luther Basford’s farm.
Both families are stalwarts of the local community. Cassville was established in 1849, whereupon Luther was appointed to a committee to make nominations for the town offices. At the same time, William was appointed as a Constable.(29)
Over the next ten years, with the exception of 1857, Luther would hold the titles of Supervisor and Treasurer of Cassville, while William would hold the titles of Constable and Supervisor.(30)
With a sparse record trail, Abraham remains a mystery to me. I don’t know if he built a house on the land he bought in 1845, or where he’s living. He’s absent from the 1850 Census, although land records show he’s still in Wisconsin.
On 3 April 1852, a land patent was issued to him for Section 23 in Grant County, Wisconsin, near the land that he was issued in 1845. According to the ScripWarrant Act of 1850, anyone who served at least one month in an armed conflict could be granted forty acres, so Abraham parlayed his brief service in Black Hawk War into expanding his real estate holdings. (31)
That is the last record I have for Abraham. At fifty-eight years old, he still has one adventure left in him.
Sometime after that last land grant, Abraham left for the California gold mines. Along with Polly Patterson’s letter referenced previously, Abraham’s move west in search of gold was also noted in a 1901 biographical sketch of Elizabeth’s husband, Luther M. Basford.(32)
While Polly’s letter said that he was never heard from again, Anna’s great great granddaughter, Nancy Marsh Brown shared the story from her mother, Florence Scott Brown, that Abraham had died while climbing a mountain.(33)
Abraham was in good company! The Wisconsin Mines section of the Mining Artifacts website says that “Lead mining in the area went into decline during the 1850s, and many…moved on to the…gold mines of California. [D]uring the period, some 700 people left for California from Mineral Point. On one particular day, 60 wagons left, all headed west.”(34)
Fully cited sources can be found on the Blessing Sisters Story Cited Sources page. Below are the footnotes for Part 3 of the series. I’ve continued the numbering from Part 2 to make it easier to follow.
18. (“Wisconsin, Compiled Marriages for Select Counties, 1835-1900” 2000)
19. (1840 US Census, entry for Luther Basford household 1840)
20. (1840 US Census, Abraham Blessing household 1840)
21. (Michael A. Winney 2007, pg 44)
22. (Mining Artifacts, “Wisconsin Mines”)
23. (Ibid, pg 42)
24. (Michael A. Winney 2007, pg 41)
25. (Records of the Bureau of Land Management, entry for Abraham Blessing and Luther Basford 1845)
26. (1850 US Census, entry for Luther Basford household 1850; 1850 US Census, William Winney household 1850)
29. (Consul Wilshire Butterfield 1881, p 845)
30. (Ibid, pp 845-846)
31. (Records of the Bureau of Land Management, entry for Abraham Blessing 1852)
32. (Higginson Book Company 1901, pp 42 – 44)
33. (Michael A. Winney 2007, pp 45 – 46)
34. (Mining Artifacts, “Wisconsin Mines”)