Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rhoda Ann Vredenburg Rowley: Following In Her Mother's Footsteps (52 Ancestors #14)

Rhoda Ann Vredenburg was born March 4, 1818 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Her father was Reverend Hackaliah Vredenburg, her mother Sarah Kniffen. She was the second daughter born to the couple, and one of nine children. Rhoda's father was a circuit rider for the Methodist ministry and was often gone for long stretches of time. Her childhood in the wilderness of Indiana was one of hardship, scarcity and lack.

In September 1840 Rhoda married Reverend Rossiter Clark Rowley. Rossiter was a fresh young Methodist circuit rider from Ohio who had, sometime after 1838, been assigned to preach in Putnam County, Indiana.

The newly married couple made their home in Greencastle, Indiana "for a season", which based on the birth of their first two children was at least 5 years. It is recorded that Reverend Rowley was called to missionary work in Illinois, and their youngest child was born in Peoria in 1857.

I can only imagine the life Rhoda must have had up to this point. Growing up in the desolate wilderness of a brand new State, being cold and hungry for much of her young life. She was a devout Christian which must have been the appeal to marry a man just like her "dear old dad". She learned at the heels of her mother how to be a preacher's wife, so I imagine the role came naturally to her when she began her own married life. The big city of Peoria, Illinois must have, at first, seemed strange and frightening.

Rhoda and Rossiter had five children in all, but research to date has only uncovered three named children. The assumption is that two children died in childbirth or early infancy.

By 1853 Rev. and Mrs. Rowley had acquired 20 acres of land a mile outside of Peoria and had built a "neat little cottage".  There is an account of the virgin land being plowed by a team of oxen and a considerable orchard being planted. Rhoda must have been very happy at this seemingly idyllic life after so much hardship in her youth.

Sometime around 1860 Rhoda's husband transferred his membership to the Presbyterian Church and was performing missionary work once again. The family is found in Galesburg, Illinois until the 1870's.

In 1876 the family uproots again. This time to Adams County Iowa. Rev. Rowley was in charge of organizing the Presbyterian churches in Brooks and Nodaway, Iowa.

Nothing is written of Rhoda's life, save for her obituary, so I must tell her story through the documentation of her husband. In Rhoda's later years she was an invalid. Often during her years of suffering physicians despaired, as did her friends. It is recorded that Rhoda bore her suffering with Christian fortitude and uncomplainingly.

Rhoda died in her home on December 10, 1890. She was 72 years old. Her last days were spent pain free and she died as if falling asleep. Her last words were "come Jesus, come".

footnote: all of the accounts recorded her were the collected writings of my grandmother during her genealogical research work - all credit goes to Elizabeth Twining Potwin Thomas. 

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