Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ella Augusta Burt Potwin: A Well Educated Woman (52 Ancestors #16)

Ella Augusta Burt had an interesting life. Ella was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 10, 1850. She was the second child and first daughter born to Hermes and Jane Burt. Hermes was a wool merchant, family lore says he owned woolen mills in the Cleveland area. That rabbit trail however, will be a story for another day. Today we are looking at Ella's life.

In 1862 when Ella was just 12 years old, her father enlisted in the army to fight for the Union in the Civil War. In December of that same year he died of an illness contracted on the battlefield.

Jane Burt, Ella's mother, received a widow's pension and moved her young family to Ellington, New York. In 1865 Ella, her mother and her siblings are found living in a wood frame house owned by Jane Burt.

Ella attended the Ellington Academy and studied art, literature and music. It was there she met her future husband, her mathematics professor, Monroe Augustus Potwin, thirteen years her senior. The couple married on New Year's Day 1866. Ella was just 15!

Ella and Monroe had their first child, a daughter, on August 1, 1867. Their second child, another daughter, was born in Feb of 1869. Shortly after the birth of their second child the couple decided to head West. They set their sights on Des Moines, Iowa.

During the journey in the hot summer month of July, Ella's first born died en route to their new home. She was buried in Ottumwa, Iowa.

At some point on the journey the couple changed their plans and ended up settling in Corning, Iowa where they purchased a "big white house on a hill" which became their home for almost a third of a century.

I do not know what faith Monroe and Ella grew up with, but upon arrival in Corning they joined the Presbyterian church. The couple became very active in church affairs, teaching Sunday school and doing missionary work. Ella sang in the choir and was a charter member of the Women's Club.

The Iowa years were mostly good for Ella. She had three more children, all sons. Her husband took up house "decorating", he was a house painter who was in high demand for his exceptional work.

1n 1885 Ella lost another child, her first son, drowned at the age of twelve.

Shortly after the birth of her final child in 1892 Ella began to feel run down, tired, ill. Her daughter, a professional musician living in New York City, came home to care for her.

Ella was diagnosed with cancer. She traveled to Chicago for an operation in the fall of 1901. It was not a success.

Ella died March 26, 1902. She was just 51 years old.

Ella Augusta Burt Potwin was buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery alongside her son.

Her husband would follow 16 years later.

footnote: in researching this ancestor I again referred to my grandmother's extensive body of genealogical work. Ella's parents were brick walls for her. Thanks to modern technology, online records, the Google empire and Facebook, I was able to bust her brick wall in a matter of hours, and had taken the family back 8 more generations ...... all without the use of A very good weekend of ancestor archaeology!

Grandma would be so excited ......

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