Sunday, September 25, 2011

Backward Glance - William Silas Bemiss

Most of the biographical information we have about William Silas Bemiss comes from his daughter-in-law, Maud (Morgan) Bemiss. In 1964, Maud shared her knowledge of the Bemiss family with her daughter, Virginia, who then put it in typed format. We, the family, are the grateful recipients of that effort.

William was born in Pennsylvania, probably Erie County, on May 19, 1854. He was the son of Silas T. and Keziah (Nason) Bemiss. He lived with his parents and sister, Phoebe, in Union Township and Union City, Erie County, Pennsylvania, until the time of his marriage. He was shown as working in a handle factory in 1880, at least five of which were in the area at the time: Stetson's Handle Factory, North East Township; Dodge's Handle Factory, Harbor Creek; Dodge's Handle Factory, Harbor Creek; Westcott's Broom Handle Factory, Union City; Wattsburg Handle Factory (1884 History of Erie County, PA).

On January 2, 1878, William was married to Olive Orrel Webster in East Green, Erie County. Olive was born in 1855 in Michigan, the daughter of James and Jane (Shreve) Webster. Their first two children, Fredrick James and William Henry, were born in Pennsylvania. The family removed to Kansas by January 22, 1884, when an unnamed daughter was born who did not survive. Three more children were born to them in Kansas: Nellie May, Chester Andrew and Charles Edward.

William's family located on a homestead north of Grinnell, Gove County, Kansas, just south of the Saline River across from a spot called 'Haverkamp Grove.' After proving up on the homestead, they moved into Grinnell, living just north of the train depot. The Union Pacific depot building was removed to Oakley, Kansas.
On June 26, 1905, according to Maud, a picnic was planned out at the Haverkamp Grove. William was driving a wagon with his wife and Maud's mother, Virginia Caroline (Topping) Morgan. The team ran away as they were approaching a canyon. William was thrown out but hung onto the reins and was dragged to his death. The women escaped with only bruises. William was 51 years old at the time of his death. He is buried in the Grinnell Cemetery.

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