This post is in response to the challenge of posting about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks by Amy Johnson Crow
Zenah Ann Strait was born March 15, 1851 in Somerset, Wabash County, Indiana to Bennett and Mary Catherine (Oyler) Strait. Five years later (according to the Iowa State Census) they lived in Quincy Township, Adams County, Iowa and the family had increased with the addition of James Lewis (another daughter Esther Jane had died at less than a year old). Some time between 1856 and 1858 the family moved to Harrison County, Missouri. In 1858 tragedy struck when less than a month after the birth of brother Warren Miller in July, Zenah’s mother died on August 11, 1858.
By 1860 the family had somewhat split up; Bennett and the two boys were living with his father James and mother Perthenia in Sugar Creek Township, Harrison County, Missouri and Zenah was living with her aunt Sarah (Bennett’s sister) and her husband David Pottarf, also in Sugar Creek Township. I’m not sure why Zenah was with an aunt and uncle but at seven years old she certainly was too young to care for an infant and a three year old after her mother died. How long they remained split up I don’t know but it couldn’t have been easy on anyone.
In February of 1861 Bennett married Louisa Elizabeth Springer and in 1870 Zenah was again with her family: father, stepmother, two brothers and four half-sisters near Bethany in Sugar Creek Township. This is one time I’d really like to be able to talk to either Zenah or her husband Merritt. I’d like to know how an almost 33 year old man from southern Indiana gets to northern Missouri, meets and then marries a 23 year old young lady from that area. I don’t really know when Merritt came into the area but according to the 1870 US Census he was living at his father’s home in Indiana. On October 29, 1874 Zenah married Merritt. Zenah was obviously a strong woman and the family story is that prior to marriage she made Merritt promised that she could be the boss!
The 1880 US Census lists Zenah with Merritt and their two older children, Mabel and Pearl (my grandmother), in Marshall Township, Clay County, Nebraska. Mabel was born in late 1875 and is listed as born in Nebraska. Zenah and Merritt must have moved to Nebraska soon after the marriage. I wonder if it was the “boss” who made that decision? However, in a 1938 article, Zenah states that she, her husband and two year old daughter moved to the Edgar, Nebraska area. Perhaps they lived elsewhere in Nebraska before moving to Edgar.
In 1900 they were still living in Marshall Township and by 1910 their four children were either married (Mabel and Pearl) or adults capable of living on their own (Elsie and Cecil). In an earlier post I described the next few years; 1910 back in Missouri, 1911-1912 in Muskogee, Oklahoma and in 1913 Merritt’s death in Comfort, Kendall County, Texas.
By 1920 Zenah lived in Ong, Clay County, Nebraska with her daughter Elsie and her husband and by 1930 she lived next to her oldest daughter Mabel in Edgar, Clay County, Nebraska. In 1935 and until her death she lived in Edgar in the same house as daughter Mabel. I’m sure that during all that time she enjoyed being the matriarch “watching” over her kids and grandkids. In fact, my mother says that as the grandkids played they would keep an eye out and soon one would hiss, “Watch out, Z’s a comin’ !”
“Z” died August 28, 1946 in Edgar and was buried beside Merritt in the cemetery at Ong, Nebraska.
1. Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Microfilm of Iowa State Censuses, 1856, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 as well various special censuses from 1836-1897 obtained from the State Historical Society of Iowa via Heritage Quest.
2. Various United States Federal Census records, United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.