Roxy Wheeler Armstrong Earl (1816-1912), Ancestor No. 47

I’ve decided to just call her Roxy.  There are so many versions of her name – pretty much a different one for every resource and tree she pops up in. Roxanne… Roxanna… Roxy Ann… Roxa Ann… she was my 4th great-grandmother on my maternal grandmother’s side.

Roxy is the focal point in the only Five-Generations photo I have in my collection.

Armstrong family c1910

Pictured with her here are (1) her son, Samuel Armstrong, Jr.; (2) his daughter Mary Olive Armstrong Anderson Zentmire; (3) her daughter Kate Belle Anderson Phillips; and (4) her son George Donald Phillips. Judging by little George’s age, I date the photo to about 1909.

Olive-Wm Earl c1910

Over the years, I have run across just two photographs of Roxy. She looks very similar in each, if a bit hardier in the second – but the room looks the same, near as I can tell. In the second, she is flanked by her two youngest children – Olive (Earl) Lewis and William Fletcher Earl, who still had that mustache when he died in 1943. At the time of the photo, these were the only two of the ten children she had with H. H. Earl who were still alive. Ollie and Willie.

Roxy was born June 25, 1816 in Cortland County, New York to Jesse and Nancy (Tucker) Wheeler. When Roxy was about eight years old, Jesse died and Nancy moved the family off to Ashtabula, Ohio. There in about 1825 she met and married Hiram Hough, and they were still married when Nancy died in 1879.

Roxy also married in Ashtabula. I’m not sure just who her husband Samuel Armstrong was – but I think he was from Ireland, and I know he too died very young, after just four years of marriage. Roxy then met Harmon Hubbell Earl – they married in 1838 in Windham, Ohio.

Harmon and Roxy moved off to Southern Illinois with a bunch of Earl and Depue cousins for a time, returned to Windham, then left again for southwestern Wisconsin. By the time they truly settled there, there were seven children in the family, with three more yet to come. The eldest, Samuel Armstrong, Jr. (the guy with the long beard in the top photo), was in his late teens.

Samuel Jr. fought in the Civil War as part of Company B of the 33rd Wisconsin Infantry. He was wounded in the left hand at Vicksburg in late June of 1863, about ten days before Union forces finally took the city.

Sam, the poor guy, had a terrible run of luck when it came to wives. He married five times, and was widowed four times. He was part of the family group who lived for a time in southern Illinois – a town called Salem, in Marion County. Oddly, late in life, he and lucky Wife #5, Nancy, relocated to Oregon, and he died in a town called Salem, in Marion County.

My 3rd great-grandfather George Earl was the fourth child of Harmon and Roxy. He was in the Civil War as part of the 12th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. His was definitely a hard-luck regiment. They left Wisconsin in January 1862, and:

[p]roceeding by way of Chicago to Quincy, IL, and finding the river impassable and the railroad track to Palmyra destroyed, Colonel Bryant marched his command to a point twenty-two miles below Quincy, in order to cross the river, arriving opposite Hannibal at 4 P. M. Spending the night in the best manner they could, with the thermometer twenty degrees below zero, and without tents and but little shelter, the regiment crossed on the morning of the 15th to Hannibal, where they were furnished with open freight cars, without any means of keeping warm, and rode 236 miles to Weston, where they arrived next day, having suffered much from the severity of the weather, and the want of rations, those which they carried being frozen. Remaining at Weston until the 15th of February, they moved to Leavenworth City, and went into camp. Here the regiment was assigned to form part of General Lane’s “Southwest Expedition,” the troops for which were to concentrate at Fort Scott. The Twelfth took up its line of march, and arrived there on the 7th of March, where it remained until the 27th, when, owing to difficulties connected with the command of the expedition, the War Department abandoned the project, and the 12th Wisconsin regiment was ordered to march to Lawrence, Kansas; thence, they proceeded to Fort Riley in Western Kansas, where they remained with the expectation of being sent to New Mexico. This project was also abandoned and the regiment returned to Leavenworth on the 27th of May. Here they received orders to embark for Tennessee.

– Borrowed, with minor edits, form “Military History of Wisconsin”, published 1866.

George didn’t go to Tennessee. Near the end of the nightmare related above, he fell ill, was delivered to a military hospital in St. Louis, and then honorably discharged for medical reasons on June 10th. Whatever the ailment was, I think he never fully recovered. He married Libbie Brown in Columbiana County, Ohio, just after Christmas 1865, and died back in Fennimore in February 1867, a few weeks before the birth of his and Libbie’s daughter, Lula.

And there’s another story… from one of those often factually-challenged county history books that came out between, say, 1885-1910. The History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa included a biography of Hiram Hough, Roxy’s half-brother – and the bio included this story about their grandfather, Josiah Tucker, a Revolutionary War veteran. Josiah, so the story goes, came out to Ohio from Oxford, Connecticut – near New Haven – to visit to Nancy and the family. (There is no date given for this journey – nor reference to where in Ohio they were living, which would have helped me date it.) Whatever – either before he got there, or on his way back home, he drowned at the town of Lockport, New York – presumably in the Erie Canal. So I know where he died.  And how he died.  But not when.

Josiah Tucker’s granddaughter Roxy lived a good long life, dying at age 96 in 1912, when her granddaughter Lula (the baby whose father died before she was born) was 45.

Lula died at age 97 in 1964, when her great-great-grandson (that is, me) was 5.  I wish we had met… I like to think my little kid brain would have had it together to ask her a whole bunch of really, really good questions.

Postscript:  As a genealogist, I find something especially engaging about stories passed from grandparent to grandchild. And even though the scraps of information I got from my own grandparents were not always particularly accurate, I love unraveling the mystery of how even the wonkiest stories (Luxembourg?) might have originated. I wish I’d asked more questions. If this post feels heavy with grandparent presence, I guess that’s why.

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