Thursday, March 13, 2014

William Graves of NC, OH, IL

William and Rebecca (Stretch) Graves
William Graves and his wife Becky Stretch will always be special to me, though I never even came close to meeting them.  Back in the late 1990’s, when my interest in genealogy became re-kindled, it was with them that I began my research. 

Bill Graves was born 20 Nov 1820 in Chatham county, North Carolina to John and Elizabeth (Freeman) Graves, the fourth of twelve children.  The following year, his family removed to Ross county, Ohio, where many of his father’s siblings had already gone.  There he married Ann Ratcliff, daughter of Simon and Rachel (Dixon) Ratcliff in 1842, on his 22nd birthday.

In 1844, Bill’s brothers Thomas and James had sojourned to Stark county, Illinois to see if the grass was greener there.  It was, they determined, and sent for their parents and siblings.  As John and Elizabeth prepared for the trip by
covered wagon, John took ill and died.  Elizabeth painfully continued the preparations and continued westward.  Everyone went except Bill and Ann – Bill owned about 210 acres of land in Liberty township, nearby that of his father-in-law, Simon Ratcliff.  They continued on in Ross county with their children Simon, b. 1844; Martha Madaline, b. 1846; and Saran Ann, b. 1855.  Their third child, James Newton, lived less than a month and was buried at Friends Church Cemetery near Londonderry, Ohio.
Six months after the birth of her youngest child, Ann died, and was buried near her son.  Six months after her death, Bill married Rebecca Stretch, daughter of Thomas and Rebecca (Rains) Stretch, who had helped out with the children after Ann’s death.  About 1864, Bill, Becky, and their family set out to join the rest of Bill’s family in Illinois.  Simon and “Madaline,” as she was called, went with their father, and Sarah Ann (“Annie”) stayed behind to be raised by her maternal grandparents.  In addition to these two children, Bill and Becky’s family consisted of Cynthia (4) and Thomas (2),   They purchased a farm in Peoria county, Illinois, just across the border from Stark county, and there they prospered.  Their twin sons, Oscar and Austin, were born in 1870.  Bill eventually had purchased enough land to give each of his children, including the girls, an 80-acre farm. 


William apparently retired at a fairly early age, as the younger children didn’t remember him working.  According to his granddaughter, Myrtis, William never hurried at anything, and was an easy going man.  He “made it a point to be out at the gate when he saw a wagon coming, which in those days of slow driving was not hard to do,” she said.  He always went to bed before dark, never smoked, drank, or kept late hours, and lived a long life to show for it.  He was also interested in his family’s history, and kept many of the birth and death dates in his Bible.  Though his people had been Quakers, Bill never professed any certain religion himself, and saw no need to “pay a preacher to tell people how to live.”  This perturbed his wife to no end, having been brought up in a church-going home, and the daughter of a choir-master.  He did, however, insist that his children attend Sunday school.

IMG_6506 Eventually their children grew up and left home – Simon sold his farm to younger brother Oscar and went to Nebraska; Madaline married Monroe Cox of Stark county; Annie married Monroe’s brother Charles Cox, also of Stark county; Cynthia married David Evans of Peoria County; Thomas also sold his farm to his brother Oscar and moved to South Dakota; and Austin did likewise, settling in Minnesota.  Oscar’s descendants continued on the farm, with his grandson still owning it as of at least 2008, making it eligible for designation as a “Centennial Farm”".”


Rebecca suffered a fall, breaking her thigh bone, and died a month later, the official cause of death being tuberculosis.  She passed away on 26 May, 1905 at the home of her daughter Cynthia.  Bill then lived with his son Austin at Stringtown, just across the border in Stark county, where he died on 16 Jun 1908.  Both Bill and Becky are buried at Sheets Cemetery in Stark county. 

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