Friday, July 13, 2012

The Decker Family Who Disappeared

When doing your family history, sometimes you come across some things that peak your curiosity. Maybe there were many in one family who all die within days, weeks or months of one another, or they took off for parts unknown and you haven’t been able to figure out where they went to.

In the case of multiple deaths within a family grouping in a short period of time, you can probably trace the cause (even without death certificates for proof) to what was going on in that time frame in that particular part of the country. Epidemics of diseases, such as plagues, small pox, yellow fever,or scarlet fever would claim the lives of many in one family, along with those of their neighbors. Natural catastrophes, such as floods, earth quakes, tornadoes or hurricanes as well as the droughts which caused “The Dust Bowl” era can also be researched on line and could be the reason.

I am going to share with you the mysterious disappearance of one of our own families in the hopes that just maybe there could be some descendants still alive out there who can help shed some light on what happened.

This is the story as it has been passed down to family genealogists.
There were three brothers, Aaron, James and William Decker who all married and left the area of Stony Brook which is near Patterson New Jersey in Passiac County to travel  to Crawford Co, Ohio, settling there in 1828.

We know that Aaron and James were twins and born in 1783 in Stonybrook. There is also a good chance that William was actually a triplet but we do not know that for sure since William was stolen by Indians as a child. He was brought back as a young man by the Indians and identified by his mother by a scar on his foot.

Aaron married Mary Vandroof or Vandrehoof. (there are several spellings of her last name)  We know that they had the following children: Frederick born 1812, Mahalan born 1818 , Maria born 1822, Alexander born 1827, Emaline born 1829, Caroline or possibly Caty , Jane born 1819, James A born 1810 and Sally Ann 1816

James (Jacobus) Vanderveer , nicknamed “Cobe” married Jane Luke. Her parents were Abram or Abraham Luke and Ann Ryerson.  At some point in time Abraham changed his last name to Decker but so far none of our family researchers have been able to locate any official documents as to when that was done nor why he would take that step.

James and Jane had David, born 1809, Harriet (Julia), John born 1818, Martin born 1816, Charles , Catherine born 1817, Aaron born 1820, William born 1828, Eliza, Jeremiah, Ann  Jeannetta, Emma born Sept 1827, Mary Ann and four others who died in infancy.
Most of their children were born in New Jersey, .

William married Harriet Luke, Jane’s sister.  We also know that he married at least three times and that Altye or Altia Meyers (Marten) was also another possible wife.  We know that there were at least three children born of the marriage between William and Harriet, Johnson, Julia and Mary Ann. There are another 18 children but their names are unknown at this time, as is which woman of the other marriages are their mother.  We do not have ages on the children of William and Harriet’s children but we have to assume they were approximately the same ages as those of William’s brothers children.

We have no idea exactly when they all formed their wagon train and left New Jersey, or the exact month in which they arrived in Crawford Co. Ohio. The closest I can estimate would be July 1828 , since we have James & Jane’s son William being born in Crawford Co OH on that date. We also do not know what prompted the move away from their father and other family members in the first place.

The three brothers and their families all arrived in Crawford Co. Ohio and William and his family returned East immediately. It is said that the family was lost sight of in Pennsylvania.  It is also noted that their son Johnson, died among the Indians at Council Bluffs, Iowa.

What happened upon arrival in Ohio after such a long and tedious trip to make William and his family turn around immediately to return east?  Did Johnson leave his father, mother and sisters to travel to Council Bluffs Iowa by himself? He would have probably been in late teens or early twenties, certainly considered a man by that day’s standards but to go off by himself in unknown territory to me does not seem likely although certainly possible. The wording “died among the Indians” also fascinates me. To me it suggests that he was living among the Indians there in Council Bluffs and that he wasn’t killed by the Indians. I’ve not been able to locate a burial site for him, but then again, if he was living “among the Indians” that would also suggest that he might have married an Indian or at least taken on the Indian customs of cremation burial. We have no information as to if he married, or how long he lived in Council Bluffs before he died or if he didn’t go there directly upon leaving Ohio but maybe went to another state on the route back east with his parents and stayed for awhile before returning to Council Bluffs.

William would have been approximately 45 years of age when they made the trip to OH and returning back East alone, with his wife and two daughters, also seems highly unlikely.

Between 1846 and 1852, Council Bluffs ( then known as Kanesville) and  was the headquarters for a substantial LDS presence in western Iowa as they later migrated to Utah.

There were Indian uprisings beginning in 1831 with the Black Hawk Wars and those skirmishes and wars went on for several years. We know that there was gold and silver discovered in and around Council Bluffs in the 1850’s which lured many men to come to the area in the hopes of striking it rich. 

With the family “lost sight of” in Pennsylvania, we have to assume it was in the latter part of 1828 to early 1829. Were William and Jane attempting to get back to where they originally came from in New Jersey?  Did they decide to start afresh in a totally new area? We have no answers and so far all researching for records have met with the proverbial brick wall! 

Please if anyone out there happens to be from this family or knows anything about their history, contact me!