Monday, March 28, 2022

Sins of the Father, Part III

John Henry Daugherty (1852-1939) with granddaughters
Catherine Rieder (1903-1968) and Mary Prestidge (1915-1931),
Kalamazoo, Michigan, c1919. The girls' mother, Bertha Daugherty,
had died the year before in the influenza epidemic, at the age of 36

Note to Readers: This is a narrative. To start at the beginning, click on the "Blog Archive" to the right and click on the last entry, which is the first written, on 18 February 2014. Or simply click here: Hoosier Daddy?: Beginnings. This post follows from Hoosier Daddy?: Sins of the Father, Part II.  We will explore the male Daugherty lineage whose behaviors mirror that of the man I discovered to be my maternal grandfather.

"My dad had limitations. That's what my good-hearted mom always told us. He had limitations, but he meant no harm. It was kind of her to say, but he did do harm."  − Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

John Henry Daugherty

Daniel Daugherty, the enterprising entrepreneur with a knack for disappearing when finances were tight, had farmed out his children by his first wife upon her death in 1846. In the middle of the nineteenth century, widowed men had little to no working knowledge of child-rearing. They needed to work in order to feed themselves, so this act of abandonment is not surprising nor uncommon. But his remarriage to the widow Elizabeth (Lequat) Holstein in 1849 did not create a joyous reunion of his children into the parental home. Daniel's family remained fractured, and Elizabeth's eldest two daughters by her first husband were married off as teenagers shortly thereafter. The only mouth to feed was Elizabeth's youngest son, Silas V. Holstein, who was ten years old at his mother's remarriage. He followed his stepfather and mother to Winona, Minnesota, but he too left the home in his teens to work for the railroad, and later as a millwright and mill builder.

It is hard to say then how the news of Elizabeth (Lequat) Daugherty's pregnancy was received nearly three years into the marriage. Elizabeth was in her early forties, and Daniel was approaching fifty. Was there joy that a child borne of this marriage would be a child of "theirs" rather than of "his" or "hers"? Did Daniel feel remorse for playing a minimal role in the upbringing of his first brood of children and consider this a second chance? Or perhaps more likely it was with reticent acceptance in the rough mid-century Mississippi River shanty towns that a woman's place in the family was to produce children, and so this was no surprise. Business as usual.

John Henry Daugherty began his life on 18 July 1852, in rural New Boston, Illinois. It is quite likely that he was named after his elder half-brother, John Daugherty, who had died of typhoid fever in the barracks of New Orleans in October 1847, seven months into his service during the Mexican American War. He saw no military action or battles. He was 22 years old. Never one to miss a financial opportunity, the land upon which John Henry Daugherty was born was probably the 160 acres about five miles upriver from New Boston that his father had acquired from the United States government as a benefit derived from his late son's military service. A new baby at home was no reason for Daniel to slow his business ventures and stay at home cooing at his new son. He appears in business dealings along a fifty miles stretch of the Mississippi River, signing documents and filing papers in the local courthouses in New Boston, Illinois; Port Louisa, Iowa; Muscatine, Iowa; Rock Island, Illinois; and Davenport, Iowa. Little Johnny was just a toddler when the family relocated to Homer, Minnesota, where his father's general store failed to reap the financial success of which he had dreamed.

John's parents presented him with a little brother, Ira, during their stay in Minnesota. Elizabeth was 46-years-old, and this final pregnancy may have been a surprise as much as a relief that there would likely be no more. But Ira, four years John's junior, would be his only full sibling, as well as being any sibling close in age inhabiting the parental home. Together this family of four left Daniel Daugherty's minimal successes in Minnesota near the end of the Civil War for farmland in Jefferson Township, Poweshiek County, Iowa. Daniel's reasons for moving are unknown although some of his married stepdaughters had preceded him to Iowa, likely informing him of cheap land to be had. Ever the shrewd businessman, Daniel became one of the township supervisors in 1867 and 1868. Although possessed of a farm worth $3000 in 1870, Daniel was never a man of agricultural pursuits. Nearing 70 years of age, he likely was in no shape physically or mentally to pursue a farmer's life. He sold his 80 acres and moved to nearby Guinnville in Benton County, Iowa, in 1871. 

A.T. Andreas' Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875;
Iowa Township, Benton County, Iowa.
Although Guinnville was platted in 1856, and Belle Plaine in 1862,
the railroad stimulated the growth of the latter.
Guinnville was absorbed by Belle Plaine and later ceased to exist. 

The boyhood experiences of John Henry Daugherty are unknown. We can only begin to guess the effects of his father's transient nature upon his son. Moving to rural Iowa as a young teen, he may have sought work as a farmhand on local farms of neighbors and relatives, especially with the void left by husbands, fathers, and sons who would never return from the recent war. The first mention of John in the public record is telling of the man he would become.
MAYOR'S COURT. — City-Attorney Bell's office was the scene Tuesday morning of a trial before Mayor Scott of John Dougherty for intoxication — second offense. He was fined $20 and costs, amounting to in all to $25.85.

The circumstances of this case are such as would seem to deserve severer punishment than comes within the province of the Mayor to inflict. Dougherty went home drunk, abused his father and mother with whom he was living, and finally turned them out doors, severely bruising his father's face and otherwise injuring him. Marshall Thompson with the assistance of three able-bodied men succeeded in capturing him after a stubborn resistance. 

P.S. — Since the above was in type Dougherty, through the aid of outside parties obtained a saw and an ax and made his escape. [The Belle Plaine Union, Thursday, 1 August 1872, page 4.]
John was 20 years old. His mother would be dead by the following spring. His younger brother died shortly thereafter.

John's whereabouts as a young man are unknown. He appears to have not remained in the Belle Plaine area. After all, he was technically an escaped criminal and a wanted man now. His father, having a penchant for finding economically advantageous widows, remarried to Galetsy (Gowey) Wright in 1874. She was a Civil War widow with some modest means and real estate. Two years later after "divers unhappy disputes and differences having arisen between" them, they "agreed to live separate and apart from each other during their natural life." A document on file in Benton County, Iowa, states that both parties would retain ownership of any property they brought into their marriage, and neither would claim such upon the death of the other. Daniel would not benefit financially from this final marriage, although the 1880 federal enumeration of Guinnville, Iowa, shows Daniel and Galetsy living together in his Guinnville home, where 77-year-old Daniel was working as a gardener.  His then 27-year-old son John H. Daugherty is nowhere to be found.

Perhaps Galetsy had moved back in with Daniel to care for him in his final illness. He had made his will on 4 February 1880, and he died on 2 November 1880. Although he played a minimal role in the upbringing of his children by his first marriage, he provided for those still living, but he left his youngest surviving son John H. Daugherty $175.00 above and beyond what his other children received. This is no small sum. That sum in 1880 is comparable to nearly five thousand dollars today. Did John need it? Did he deserve it? Or was he merely his father's favorite child despite his drunken beating at his son's hands years earlier? And where was he anyway?

John H. Daugherty's obituary from 1939 states that "he attended college in Illinois for three years" without naming the institute or location. Two descendants living today from separate families relay a similar story of John's early adulthood. One states that he was a college professor who was fired for having an affair with another professor's wife, while the other states he fled college as a student because of a similar affair. Knowing his deep Daugherty roots, this behavior seems entirely plausible. Having escaped the enumerator in the 1880 federal census, we find John Daugherty accepting the disbursement of funds from his father's estate in Muscatine, Iowa, in the Spring of 1881. There is nothing surprising in this finding, as John had a half-sister in Muscatine, and this river town would not have been completely foreign to 27-year-old John.

Tracking a John Daugherty through the Midwest isn't as difficult as a John Smith or John Miller, but it's not much better. The name is common, and it is difficult to discern the footprint left by our John versus the many other John Daughertys in the area, but the 30 September 1878 entry of The Muscatine Journal is likely our man, differentiating him from another man of the same name in the community of good standing:
The Police Court was the liveliest place in the city Saturday evening. First came John Dougherty with a plain drunk. He was sent up to work out $8 worth. Note: — This John is not the other John Dougherty — remember that now.
John H. Daugherty's childhood and young adulthood, although sparsely documented, reveal a pattern that repeats over and over again throughout his adulthood. How he met his wife is shrouded in mystery. How she remained married to him is an even bigger one.


  1. I have wondered how to tell the stories of my ignoble kinfolk. You give me a model. Thank you.

  2. Keep it up! We all want more of the story.

  3. Nice to hear more of this story. Thank you Michael.

  4. It's so good to be reading your story again. Thank you.

  5. Thank you for continuing this!

  6. So good to get an update. Thank you!!

  7. Michael--so very happy to see your new post. I have wondered, worried about you over the years and was delighted to see your email.

  8. Thank you! Wonderful to see you continue your story .

  9. So glad to see you've decided to tell the rest of your story. As I read about all your biological ancestors, I wonder how you and your mother ended up avoiding much of what would have appeared to be your destiny. Nurture v nature?

  10. I am so glad to see the story continuing! Hope to see the posts a little more frequently. :)

  11. Michael, I’m so glad you are able to pick up this story. In one way or another, it’s a story for all of us. I appreciate your research and your honesty.

  12. I guess it’s too early in the morning for me to figure out how to post non-anonymously again. At any rate, I’m glad to be following this saga again. Ron Springsteen

  13. Time goes quickly, it has almost been two months since this posting. Sincerely hope you will continue posting chapters regularly like you did when we began this with you. Thank you!!

    1. DITTO! I have so patient for the last few years... and pretty much knew we wouldn't get the whole story in a short time span...but was really hoping there would have been another post by now.... :(

    2. Patience! I do plan to continue writing, but it will be regularly irregular in its timing. I am lecturing and practicing medicine again, so time is a rare commodity. There may be gaps in time, but there will always be a "next post"!

    3. I have learned a lot from your blog my great uncle Joe was my grandmother's brother and John D.was my grandmother's stepdad however she believed he was her biological father. When she was an older woman she told me and my dad her son that John was not her biological father. A man, that was a politician, in the upper peninsula of Michigan was her biological father. It's sad to see the the depth in which drunkenness and alcohol abuse has affected my family. Maybe John was my grandmother's biological father because of the attributes that are so similar throughout my family.

    4. Joe who? Who was your grandmother? This John Daugherty was nobody's stepdad, as he only had one wife. I am not sure I follow...