Friday, July 13, 2012

Buried in a Nebraska Cornfield

Tombstone of Georgie Nowell 1882-1890

Buried in cornfield in south central Nebraska is a child named Georgie Nowell.  The stone marking the place of burial is almost three feet high and for generations has been left untouched in the cornfield.  Year after year, the farmers have disced, planted, mowed and harvested around it.  The grave is located on a farm south of Hershey in Lincoln Co., Nebraska.  Dates on the tombstone are 21 April 1882-24 July 1890 with “Rest sweet child in peace” at the bottom.  
Fred and Emma Nowell were in the county in 1880 when they are shown as being enumerated at O’Fallons, Lincoln County.  Fred was 24, born in New Hampshire and a stock grower.  Emma was 23, born in Massachusetts, keeping house.  There were two boarders living with them.  Eventually the township where they lived in Lincoln County was named Nowell Township.  Today very few people realize it was named after the Nowell family.
Looking for vital records on the couple, I was able to determine that Frederic D. Nowell married Emma Augusta Basford on 15 January 1880 in Boston.  He was born in Portsmouth, Rockingham Co. New Hampshire, son of Thomas and Lydia Nowell and a stock raiser.  Their marriage was also recorded in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  
Fred Nowell obtained land under the Homestead Act.  In July 1880, he settled on the land and on 31 May 1881 made application for the land.  It was the South 1/2 of the Northwest 1/4 and Lots 3 through 4, Section 4, Township 13 North, Range 32 West, 165 acres.  He obtained proof on the land on 5 June 1886 and received his final certificate on 9 June 1886.  
He built a stone  house with a board and sod roof 35 feet by 15 feet, with an addition 18 feet by 24 feet. There was a stable, shed, corral, granary, wells, fencing and he planted trees.  The papers in his Homestead file indicate that he was absent from the property for five months due to the sickness of his wife and three children.  They moved to North Platte and he accompanied them, but visited the property several times in that time period.  
Because of the loss of census enumerations between 1880 and 1900, we can only rely on information from the 1900 US Census where Frederic D. Nowell and family are in Juneau, Alaska Territory, living on Third Street.  Fred is shown as coming to Alaska in 1890 from Boston, Massachusetts.  He was born in July of 1855 in New Hampshire.  His occupation was stockman and mining.  Emma B. was born in Massachusetts in September 1861.  The children were Ethel who was 11 years old, born in July 1888 in Nebraska and Marion (daughter), 8, born November 1891 in Massachusetts.  From this information it appears the Nowell family left Nebraska and returned to Massachusetts sometime before 1892 when another daughter was born.  
Records of the United States Patent Office for patent No. 763,572, application dated 26 February 1903 and patent dated 28 June 1904 show that Danivill W. Starrett of Oakland, California was the assignor of three-fourths to Frederick D. Nowell, Juneau, Alaska Territory.  The patent was for a water-wheel governor, which was used in mining to maintain a constant rate of speed irrespective of the variations of the load.  
The Nowell family left Alaska before 1910 when they are shown living in the 24th Ward of Boston, Massachusetts in “The Peabody” on Ashmont Street.  Frederick is shown with his own income.  His wife, Emma, is shown as having had six children with only four living.  The others in the household, all single are Florence E., 29, b. MA, Frederick D. Jr.. 25 b. NE, Ethel P., 21, b. NE, Marian 18 single b. MA and nephew Ames, 17 b. MA.   
By 1920 the Nowell family had left Alaska and were living in Berkeley, California.  Frederick D. Nowell, as head of the household, was renting and was a mining engineer.  In his household was his wife Emma B., son Frederick D. Nowell, Jr., age 35, single, born in Nebraska, a secretary.  His daughter Ethel Nowell was 31, single and an artist.   
Alumni records of Harvard University indicate that Frederick Drown Nowell, Jr. graduated 1908-1909 and was living at 2814 Derby St. in Berkeley, California.   The World War I Draft Registration provides more information on Frederick Drown Nowell, Jr.  He was living at 924 N. Curtis in Alhambra, California and working as an account for Ventura Refining Company.  He was born 26 December 1884 and his mother is shown as a contact person.  The registration form was filed in Los Angeles County on 12 September 1918.  
Nowell residence in 1930
The 1930 US Census shows the Nowell family living at 478 Vernon in Oakland, California.  They were renting for $65 a month.  Frederick is shown as the operator of a mine.  Florence E.  was 49, single an a teacher in the public schools.  Frederick Jr. was 45 and a sales manager.  He was also single.  Living in the household was Frederick Sr.’s son in law, George F. Ware, director of a crude oil company and his daughter Alexine B. about 4 1/2 years of age.  George’s wife, Marian, was deceased by 1930.  By the time the 1940 US Census was taken George F. Ware had married his late wife’s sister, Florence.   

From all indications, the Nowell family remained on the west coast.  The only visible trace of their time spent here in Nebraska is the tombstone of their first born son, Georgie. 

1 comment:

  1. Sad to think of all the lonely graves, in particular of children left behind in the early west. So many are not marked and lost to time, nice to see the land owners are showing a bit of respect to this one!