Wrightsman, Samuel, Sr. - Macoupin County Illinois
©1996-2009 Dwayne Wrightsman

Descendants of Samuel WRIGHTSMAN, Sr.

submitted by Dwayne Wrightsman

Samuel Wrightsman Sr. died in Roanoke County, Virginia, in 1855. A tombstone in the Brubaker Cemetery, just north of Salem, inscribed S. Wrightsman, probably marks Samuel's final resting place. The cemetery includes the names of many of Samuel's neighbors, names such as Brubaker, Garst, Naff, Riffey, and Ronk. These families, along with the Wrightsmans, were members of the Peters Creek German Baptist Brethren Church on the northern outskirts of Salem, Virginia.

In 1857, the 171 1/2 acre Wrightsman family farm, bounded by farms of George Garst, John Brubaker, and others, was deeded by Samuel's widow Anna (nee Houtz) and six of the children of Samuel and Anna--Polly Wrightsman Riffey, Elizabeth Wrightsman Ronk, John Wrightsman, Anna Wrightsman Peffley, Sallie Wrightsman (unmarried), and Susan Wrightsman Naff--to Samuel Wrightsman Jr., second oldest son of Samuel Sr., deceased. Samuel Jr. paid $15 per acre and gave his mother a life estate, i.e., a home with him during her lifetime.

Two children of Samuel Sr., deceased, and Anna, widow, who were not parties to the deed were the oldest son Daniel L. Wrightsman and a daughter Catharine Wrightsman Garst. Daniel L. had married Catherine Good and had moved to Ohio to live with the extended Good and Houtz families. Leonard Houtz was the patriarch of the Houtz family in Ohio, and father of Anna Houtz Wrightsman. Except for Anna, who was married to Samuel Wrightsman Sr., all of Leonard Houtz's children followed him from Virginia to Ohio. After Leonard died, his daughter Anna deeded her share of her father's land in Ohio to her son Daniel L. who was living there. Catharine Wrightsman, daughter of Samuel Sr. and Anna, had married Jacob Garst in 1838. After the marriage, the young couple had moved to Tennessee. Catharine died there the following year, possibly in childbirth, as her son, Samuel S. Garst, was born in 1839.

By late 1867, virtually all the families of the children of Samuel Wrightsman Sr., deceased, decided to move from Salem, Virginia, to the Virden, Illinois, area. The exception was the family of daughter Elizabeth Wrightsman Ronk. The Ronks never left Virginia. Their sister's family aside, the remaining six Wrightsman siblings and their families were all part of the decision to move from Salem to Virden.. The widow, Anna Houtz Wrightsman, was also included in the move, as she was in the care of her son Samuel Jr.

The details of the Wrightsman migration to Illinois are unknown, but two events mark the earliest possible departure from Virginia and the latest possible arrival in Illinois. Samuel Wrightsman Jr.'s oldest son, John W. Wrightsman, married his next-door-neighbor, Sarah C. Garst, on December 19, 1867. The marriage was recorded in Roanoke County, Virginia. The trip probably didn't start until after the new year, 1868. The Wrightsmans arrived in Virden, Illinois, sometime before May 14, 1868. That was the date that Martha Wrightsman, the two-year-old daughter of John and Mary (Fisher) Wrightsman, died. She was the first Wrightsman to be buried at the Pleasant Hill Brethren Cemetery in Virden.

The 1870 Virden census gives us a descriptive account of each Wrightsman family that moved there. The largest household was that of Samuel Wrightsman Jr. His age was given as 53, occupation farmer. His farm was located on the banks of Sugar Creek in North Otter Township (west of Virden) on land that would later pass down to son John W. Wrightsman, and then to grandson George Wrightsman, and finally to great-grandson Okal Wrightsman, the present-day owner. Samuel Jr.'s wife Annie (nee Wertz) was age 48. Their unmarried sons were Noah age 21, Anthony age 17, Riley age 14, Amos age 12, and Gideon age 7. Also living in Samuel Jr.'s household was Annie (Houtz) Wrightsman, widow, and mother and grandmother to all the Wrightsmans who moved to Virden. Samuel Jr. had made good on his word to provide a home for his mother.

Samuel Jr.'s oldest son John W. was married to Sarah Garst. The 1870 census shows that they had their own home, occupied by John W. age 23 (farmhand), wife Sarah age 22, and son George age 1. George Wrightsman was born in the fall of 1868, just a few months after the Wrightsmans arrived in Virden. He was in the youngest generation of the four generations of Wrightsmans to be counted in the 1870 Virden census. He was also the only child that John W. and Sarah Wrightsman would have.

A third Wrightsman household in the 1870 Virden census was that of John Wrightsman (Samuel Jr.'s brother, not to be confused with Samuel Jr.'s son, John W.). John Wrightsman, age 42, was a carpenter. His wife Mary (nee Fisher) was age 39. They had a daughter Sarah who was age 7. Their daughter Martha (mentioned above as the first Wrightsman to die in Virden) would have been about age 4 had she survived.

The rest of the Wrightsman families in the 1870 Virden area census were the families of the daughters of Samuel Sr. and Anna Houtz Wrightsman. They were listed by their married names. The oldest Wrightsman daughter, Polly, was married to Minor Riffey. Minor, age 58, was a farmer. Wife Polly was age 54. Their two daughters living at home were Elizabeth age 16, and Susan age 12. Their older children, Samuel Riffey age 20 (who was single at the time) and Mary (Riffey) Riffey age 23 (who was married to Henry Riffey) were in households of their own. Henry and Mary Riffey's baby son, Matthew, was just eight months old.

The youngest Wrightsman daughter, Susan, was married to David Naff. The 1870 Virden census gives David's age as 36, and his wife Susan as 35. Their three daughters at the time were Liddie (nickname for Lydia) age 10, Virginia age 5, and Laura age 2. Laura was born in the summer of 1868, just after the Wrightsmans arrived in Virden. She was probably the first Wrightsman descendant born in Virden.

The remaining two Wrightsman daughters who lived in Virden, namely Anna Wrightsman Peffley and Sallie Wrightsman, were not included in the 1870 Virden census. In the case of the Peffleys, the reason is simple. Daniel and Anna Wrightsman Peffley first moved to Woodford County, Illinois, before making their final move to the Virden area. They moved to Virden sometime between 1870 and 1878. Daniel Peffley died in Virden in 1878 and was buried at the Brethren Pleasant Hill Cemetery. In 1879, Martha E. Peffley, daughter of Daniel and Anna, also died and was buried at Pleasant Hill. Over the years all of the Peffleys, except one, died in the Virden area and were buried at Pleasant Hill. Anna Wrightsman Peffley survived her husband by 30 years. She was buried at Pleasant Hill in 1908.

Although Sallie Wrightsman, unmarried daughter of Samuel Sr. and Anna Houtz Wrightsman, was not listed in the 1870 Virden census, she was listed in all the Virden censuses from 1880 until her death in 1915. She lived in the residential section of town. In 1880, she lived in the Jacob Groves home, on Hobson Street, working as an "Assistant." She was listed as age 40 in 1880, age 65 in 1900, and age 70 in 1910. When she died, single, in 1915, her tombstone at Pleasant Hill revealed that she was born in 1832. She obviously rounded off her age to her advantage for the census takers.

When Sallie died she left her estate to her siblings and their heirs. Consequently, her estate settlement of 1917 (two years after her death) has turned out to be one of the most important and revealing documents that we have for learning about the children and grandchildren of Samuel Wrightsman Sr. The document came into the possession of Wrightsman researcher, Roxann F. Rhea, as a gift from Galen Ronk, now deceased, who was the great-grandson of Elizabeth Wrightsman Ronk.

The only sibling of Sallie's who was still alive, in 1917, was John Wrightsman, who was no longer living in Illinois, but in California. He had been living in the Virden area during the 1880 census, next to his brother Samuel Jr., in North Otter Township. His children at the time included daughter Sarah age 17, who married John H. Flory in Macoupin County in 1883, and son Henry age 10, who married Leah Cable in Bond County in 1893. Henry and Leah lived for twelve or more years in Auburn, north of Virden, before moving to Indiana and Michigan. Their son Ralph was born in Auburn in 1905.

Except for John, all seven of Sallie's siblings were dead by the time of her 1917 estate settlement. Sallie Wrightsman's brother, Samuel Jr., had died in Kansas in 1892. Samuel Jr.'s oldest son John W. was also dead, leaving John W.'s son George Wrightsman, of Virden, as heir to "Aunt" Sallie's estate. Four of Samuel Jr.'s other sons, Noah, Anthony, Riley, and Amos, were still alive in 1917, and thus they received their fair shares of the estate, but not one of these four was living in the Virden area when Sallie died. A look back at the 1880 Virden census reveals that Noah and Susannah (Brubaker) Wrightsman (married 1875) were living in Virden. Anthony and Madelene (Riffey) Wrightsman (married 1877) were probably living in Sangamon County, just north of Virden. In 1880, Riley Wrightsman married Louisa Douglas, and Amos Wrightsman married Susanna Shively. Riley and Louisa started their married life on the Wrightsman farm four miles west of Virden. Amos and Susanna settled into Susanna's home town of Cerro Gordo, Illinois, 70 miles northeast of Virden. As the 1880s unfolded, Noah, Anthony, Riley, and Amos cut their ties to Virden. Samuel Jr.'s sixth and youngest son was Gideon Wrightsman. Gideon married Eliza A. Brubaker in 1883, but he died early on, sometime before 1893. Consequently, Gideon's share of Sallie's estate went to his children, Asa E. and Anna L.

Six days after Sallie Wrightsman died, her nephew John W. Wrightsman (oldest son of Samuel Wrightsman Jr., deceased) also died. The deaths were in the week of December 15-21, 1915. Thereafter, the George Wrightsman family was the only family left in Virden with the Wrightsman surname. Nevertheless, there were other Wrightsman descendants still living in and around Virden with Riffey, Peffley, and other Wrightsman-related surnames.

Minor and Polly Wrightsman Riffey both died in 1878, the same year that Mother Anna Houtz Wrightsman passed away. All were buried at the Brethren Pleasant Hill Cemetery. Three of the Riffey's four children were still alive in 1917, the year of Aunt Sallie's estate settlement. The three were Susan Riffey Ohmart, Elizabeth Riffey Wagner, and Samuel Riffey. Each received quarter shares of their mother's share. Since the fourth child, Mary (Riffey) Riffey died in 1914, her quarter share was divided by her four children, Matthew Riffey, Elmer Riffey, Marion Riffey, and Edgar Riffey. The Riffeys were Brethren. Those who died in Virden were buried at Pleasant Hill.

The Peffley children also stayed on in the Virden area. Since Anna Wrightsman Peffley died in 1908, her share of Sallie's estate went to her children, James Peffley, George Peffley, Jennie Peffley Wagner, Mary Peffley Buckingham, and Barbara Peffley Bechtold. Barbara's husband Jacob Z. Bechtold was the administrator of Aunt Sallie's estate. Like the Riffeys, the Peffleys and their descendants were Brethren, and they were buried at Pleasant Hill.

The surviving descendants of Susan Wrightsman Naff also received their fair shares of Aunt Sallie's estate. David and Susan had at least three daughters. A daughter, Virginia, died at age five, in 1871, and was buried at Pleasant Hill. There may have been other children who died young, but we don't know for sure. Fortunately, the Naffs had two daughters who lived to maturity. One was Laura Naff Brubaker, wife of John W. Brubaker. She lived until 1947, so she received half of her mother's share of Sallie's estate. The other daughter was Lydia Naff Ohmart, wife of Marion Ohmart. She died in 1911, so her share of the estate was divided among her four children, Bertha, Avey, Lester, and Lovey (who married a Zook).

Except for daughter Virginia, the Naffs and their descendants are not to be found at Pleasant Hill Cemetery. This indicates that the family left the Virden area. Certainly this was the case with Laura Naff Brubaker, who, with her husband and family, moved permanently to Iowa. It was also the case with Lydia Naff Ohmart, as she and her family eventually settled in Kansas. The burial places of David and Susan Wrightsman Naff are unknown. Perhaps they too went to Iowa, or to Kansas.

The remaining Samuel Wrightsman Sr. descendant in Illinois to receive a full share of Aunt Sallie's estate was Samuel S. Garst, only child of Sallie's sister, Catharine Wrightsman Garst, deceased. Although Samuel S. Garst was born in Tennessee, he came to the Girard-Nilwood area, just south of Virden, in 1859. He thus preceded his grandmother, his uncles and his aunts, and his cousins to Macoupin County. He served in the Civil War, including a stint in the Andersonville Prison, and returned to the Girard- Nilwood area, finishing his life on the family farm. He was not a Brethren, but belonged to the Baptist Church instead. He was not buried at Pleasant Hill, but at the Girard Cemetery, just two miles south of Pleasant Hill. However, Samuel S.'s father, Jacob Garst, and his step-mother, Fanny Sherfey Garst, were Brethren, and they were buried at Pleasant Hill. The Jacob Garst family of Tennessee had moved to Illinois around the same time as the Wrightsmans, about 1868.

The only family excluded from Sallie's estate settlement was that of her oldest brother, Daniel L. Wrightsman. Daniel L. had moved very early on from Virginia to Ohio. The reasons for his exclusion are unclear, which has made for interesting speculation among Wrightsman family researchers. It was not because Daniel L.'s family did not live in Illinois. The Ronks never came to Illinois; they lived in Virginia, yet the Ronk family received its fair share of Sallie's estate. Elizabeth Wrightsman Ronk died in 1899, so her share of Sallie's estate was divided equally among her three living children, Henry Ronk, Noah Ronk, and Elizabeth "Eliza" Ronk Brubaker.

Sallie's decision to exclude her brother Daniel L.'s family from her estate was not a great monetary loss for his family. The total amount of Aunt Sallie's estate was $112.46. Each of the seven families that were included in the settlement received an amount of money totalling somewhere between $16.05 and $16.09. The total amount would have been the same for each family except that the amount going to each designee within a family had to be rounded off to the nearest penny. Checks were written and distributed to thirty-one designees in all, with twelve receiving $1.34 or less.

To a large extent, the Virden area of Macoupin County, Illinois, was just a place, a rest stop, for many of the Virginia Wrightsman families to pass through on their way westward. The Wrightsmans were but one of countless Brethren farm families who migrated from Virginia and Ohio to the Virden area during the 1860s, in search of better opportunities, only to pull up stakes and search again for even greater opportunities. Both of the sons of Samuel Sr. who lived in Virden, namely Samuel Jr. and John, did not die in Virden. They died in Kansas and California. Except for son John W., all of the sons of Samuel Jr. disappeared from the Virden scene. Nonetheless, the legacy of Samuel Wrightsman Sr.'s family lives on in the Virden community. One can see it in the inscriptions on the Wrightsman, Riffey, Peffley, and other family tombstones in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery. The Wrightsman presence is also felt by the fact that John W. Wrightsman's only son, and all of his grandsons, and all of his great-grandsons bearing the Wrightsman name, never left Virden, except for one.

Dwayne Wrightsman
Lee, NH
November 2001

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