With this post I continue what I call "The Browning Series." Samuel and Margaret Browning had thirteen children between them and after Margaret's death, Samuel chose a widow named Sarah Ann (Bell) Gaddis for his second wife. The two of them had two more children together. My plan has been to feature each one of the fifteen children in a separate post and finally tie the family together with a discussion of their parents.
I wish I knew more about Ab and Susannah's early life but I don't. I don't really know that much about them at all in comparison to most of his other Browning siblings. Of all Samuel and Margaret's children, Absalom's descendents are the ones I know the least about. Half of what I think I know about this family is suspect as well. I'd love to find any descendants of theirs but once you hear their story you might conclude, like I tentatively have, that there might not be any to find.
I do know that, unlike any of the other Browning family members save Ab's sister Rachel (who married John C. McConnell), Ab and Susannah decided to stay behind when the rest of the family moved to Illinois in the late 1840's/early 1850's. Indeed, Ab chose to remain closer to his wife's Crago family than his own and by early 1849 the couple had moved on to Defiance County., OH, where the Crago family lived.
Absalom wasn't completely cut off from his Browning family, however; his elder brother Elias may have lived in Defiance County for a while with his wife Elizabeth (Susannah Crago's sister) in the mid-1850's and his younger sister Susannah Browning definitely lived there in 1855-1865 with her husband Isaac F. Crago (Susannah Crago's brother.) Isaac F. had made the trip from Defiance County to Crawford County, IL, in 1853-54 to visit relatives and when he returned in early 1855 he brought Susannah Browning home as his bride. However, Elias and Elizabeth had moved to Crawford County by late 1853, and Isaac and Susannah moved on to Noble County, Indiana by 1865 and Labette County, Kansas by 1879.
(For more information on the family and ancestors/descendants of James Crago, refer to the Crago Connections website maintained by Brian Smith. The Crago family is of interest to me because three of James' children -- Isaac F., Elizabeth and Susannah -- married into the Browning family.)
Ab and Susannah settled in Washington Township in Defiance County and were living there when Susannah gave birth to their daughter Sarah Margaret on 22 Mar 1849. In 1850 Absalom was working as a laborer two households away from a Ridenour family (George and Catherine) whose distant cousins, Matilda and Minerva Corderman, would later marry Absalom's younger brothers John Wesley Francis and Asbury Taylor.
Absalom and Susannah lived in Defiance County throughout the Civil War. Absalom was listed as a farmer in the 1860 census as well as in the draft registration records in Washington township (see above) in June of 1863. I feature this notation about him because it is one of only three records (other than census) that I have about the man! Anyway, the couple lived in Defiance County until the spring of 1868, when they moved to Otsego Township in Steuben County, IN. The first sign of their residency in Indiana was a record of their daughter Sarah Margaret’s marriage there to Lafayette Spangle in July of 1869.
In 1870, Absalom and Susannah were enumerated in the census in Steuben County with a young girl named Priscilla Sewell. Priscilla was born on 9 May 1860 in Defiance County and was the daughter of Andrew Sewell and Priscilla Crago, Susannah's sister. The elder Priscilla had died thirteen days after her daughter was born and Absalom and Susannah took their young niece in to raise.
I've never been able to find out whether Absalom and Susannah had any other children but Sarah Margaret. I suspect they did given the time period, and that if they did all their other children likely died. Despite this, Ab and Susannah spent much of their time raising children. I've conducted a search but I've never located any gravestones for Browning children that would match up to the couple. I've located tombstones, all right, but not too many Browning ones....
As I mentioned before, Ab and Susannah had one daughter, Sarah Margaret. Sarah Margaret married Lafayette Spangle, the son of Henry Spangle, on 24 Jul 1869. Lafayette was born around 1844 in Ohio and had served in the Union forces in the Civil War in the 29th Rgt. of the IN Volunteer Infantry.
In 1870 Sarah Margaret and Lafayette were living in Otsego Township in Steuben County. They had three children in very close succession - Franklin 'Frankie' in Aug 1870, Sarah Margaret 'Margie' in Aug 1871, and Belle in Nov 1872. Their marriage was only three years old and they had three beautiful children....and then tragedy struck. Sarah Margaret died a week after little Belle was born. She was buried in the Hamilton Cemetery in Otsego Township in Steuben County, Indiana.
What happened to the children directly after the death of their mother isn't known for sure but I can infer a little from a comment in Susannah (Crago) Browning's obituary that states she "raised...three grandchildren...and one niece." This tells me that soon after Sarah Margaret's death the children went to live with their grandparents. Lafayette was surely reeling from the death of his wife and it wasn't easy for a man to take care of three children under the age of three. Since Absalom and Sarah were available and already taking care of their young niece Priscilla, taking their grandchildren into their household seemed like the best solution under the circumstances.
But tragedy wasn't ever too far away. Little Belle followed her mother into death in July 1873 and Franklin died in Dec 1877. This left only Margie in the house by 1880, as her cousin Priscilla had married. Priscilla didn't live much longer (she died in 1885) and the landscape changed again before 1890 when Margie, the last child of Lafayette and Sarah Margaret, also died. They were all laid to rest in the Hamilton Cemetery next to their mother. While in 1880 Lafayette was still in Indiana, by 1895 he had no children or family in Indiana to stay behind for and so followed his brother Edmund to Kansas.
Oh....before I forget. There is one more tombstone in the Hamilton cemetery that rests next to Susannah (Crago) Browning -- that of a little girl named Effie Spangle. This tombstone is a mystery to me because it doesn't seem to match up, date-wise, to any of the others. The dates are nearly unreadable now, but the transciptions I have from readings taken years ago seem to suggest that this Effie is another daughter of Lafayette and Sarah Margaret. I will take the time soon to explain this in more detail.
Anyway, back to the story at hand.
Absalom and Susannah's house, once full of children, was empty again. I can't imagine how it must have felt to lose your only child and then outlive all your grandchildren as well. Then, as if there hadn't been enough sadness, the final blow came on 24 May 1890 when at age 59, Susannah (Crago) Browning died and was also buried in the Hamilton Cemetery beside her daughter and her grandchildren. If you'll take a moment to read her obituary you can feel the sadness running through it. Absalom - Abner - was well and truly alone.
Absalom lived almost nine more years before he died at his home in Hamilton in Steuben County on 15 Jan 1899. He doesn't seem to have had anyone around that was related to him; his obituary is short and vague on the details. Nothing personal is included. "Aged about 80 years," it says. "Respected by all who knew him." "Unassuming."
Sad, is what it seems to me.
I don't even know where he is buried. He isn't beside his wife. Was he indigent? Did the locals have to bury him? Did they just bury him in an unmarked grave? My only clue is the name of the man who conducted the services (Elder Fred A Thomas) and my hope that Ab was likely Methodist, since most of his other Browning kin were.
He doesn't seem to have left any descendants, does he? For that reason alone I would like to find him and stand in front of his tombstone if there is one. I'd like him to know that at least one person remembers his name.
30 minutes ago