Monday, July 25, 2011

She Wrote for Newspapers -- in the early 1900s

Ionia Thompson, wife of William R. Jones,
was my great-grandmother.

Ionia Thompson in 1900

Newspapers were important to Ionia and Will. However, subscriptions were an expense which they could not afford on their meager income farming a 40-acre plot near their 13-acre home place on the Lee/Henry County line in Iowa. So for many years, Ionia exchanged weekly reports of community activities in exchange for free subscriptions to several Iowa newspapers. They managed to subscribe regularly to The Kansas City Star, the West Point Bee, the Salem weekly, the Burlington Gazette, and the Ft. Madison newspaper.

Born in Iowa in 1866, Ionia Thompson was the daughter of Charles A. Thompson and Mary Elizabeth James, who met in Illinois. In the midst of the Civil War, Charlie Thompson enlisted in the Union Army on July 4, 1862,  at Winona, Marshall County, Illinois. Thompson served in  the 70th Illinois  Regiment  in Company F which was organized and mustered into the service at Camp Butler. At the depot in Winona, Mary James was there to see him off, and they decided to marry. This had not been planned, but when others were getting married, they decided they would, too. He gave her his gold watch in place of a ring and official ceremony. A marriage license is recorded at Lacon Twp., Marshall, Illinois, 17 June 1863.
Charlie and Mary had nine children, Ionia being their third child. The family lived in various places in Iowa and Missouri, then  moved by 1879 to  Kansas, first to Republic County and soon after the 1885 census to Thomas County.  It was at about this time that Ionia suffered a period of blindness. She and her Normal School classmates were  poring over their books, working on a long reading assignment. She was weary; the words grew dim and she rubbed across her eyes. When she saw only a blur, she rubbed them again.  Her vision was gone. A shrill cry broke the silence in the room as she leaped to her feet in terrorized disbelief, “I’m blind! I’ve gone blind!” An older relative  took her by train to meet with a doctor in New York City. Tests completed, and with a guarded prediction of eventual return of partial vision, they returned home. Ionia’s six-year-old sister became her “eyes.”  Months went by, and slowly her sight returned. Eventually, she had full vision.

Both Ionia and her father homesteaded land in western Kansas as did a young farmer from Iowa named William Ransom Jones. Will and Ionia married on December 1,1889 in Gilmore, near Colby, Kansas. I found the announcement of their marriage in  microfilmed newspapers in the archives of the Kansas Historical Society.  In the Tribune for Dec. 5, 1889: “Marriage notice given! for Wm. R. Jones and Iona Thompson.” In the Colby Free Press for Dec. 12, 1889, “Matrimonially speaking, Colby is getting there. One wedding this week. Two or three more are on the tapis, and if you keep a sharp eye you can successfully conjuecture who the parties are.”

Ionia’s obituary (1939) states that she taught school in Kansas for about five years.  Family records and her autograph book usually show the spelling of her name as Ionia or her nickname Ona. Her husband called her Onie. Thomas County newspapers faithfully reported the names of its schoolteachers, and even the grades they earned at Normal School while learning how to teach. I found her listed as the teacher at Gilmore in 1888-1889, her name spelled in a variety of ways – Ona Thompson, Iona Thompson, and finally on December 19, 1889, almost three weeks after her marriage, “Teachers in Thomas County, all of Colby,  . . .  Iona Jones.” Perhaps she was allowed to continue teaching even after marriage, but that would have been unusual in that time frame.

Ionia’s first child, a daughter Versa Bell, was born in March of 1891 in Thomas County, Kansas; she died in Iowa at the age of 2 1/2. The winter blizzards and the summer droughts had compelled the family to return to southeastern Iowa, where Will Jones had family and a desire to farm near them. Ionia's parents and siblings went further west, a move that separated Ionia permanently from them.

Will and Ionia, 1892

A second daughter, my grandmother Annetta May Jones, was born in Iowa in November of 1894. Three sons followed, one of whom died at the age of 21, another at 34. Nettie’s brother Lloyd was almost exactly two years younger than Nettie, her birthday being November 24 and his on November 25. They often combined their birthday celebrations with a holiday gathering for Thanksgiving, bringing their entire families together. And in the tradition of small town newspapers, these occasions were reported by a succession of community news reporters, carrying on Ionia’s tradition.
--genieBev (genealogist Beverly)
For ideas about how to do Family History, visit:

No comments:

Post a Comment