After I spent some time digging into and researching family history, I considered it a gift when I come across an ancestor with a unique name. After trying to find a “John Ryan” and a “John Hayes” among seemingly hundreds with the same name, I was happy to come across a “Sylvanus”. However, while unique to me, it was not uncommon in the mid 1800’s…and, as a family name, there were several within the extended White family.
Sylvanus Crosby White, also called “Veen” or referenced as “S.C.”, for some reason, left Shabbona Grove, IL where he lived with his mother and siblings, and came to Sheldon, Iowa in the early 1880’s. By the 1880 census, he did have an aunt (Samantha White Peck) who had moved to Sheldon (Franklin Township) with her family. By April 1884, Sylvanus was in Sheldon and married my gg-grandmother Margaret Donohue in the local catholic church, St. Patrick’s, in Sheldon, Iowa. It was through my research into Sylvanus’ background (who my grandmother only knew as “Grandpa” and did not know his name), that I found the link to the Mayflower.
I was floored. There was never any mention by any maternal relative about my grandmother being a direct descendant of a Mayflower passenger. As many stories do, it just stopped being mentioned and soon no living descendant knew. It has been my quest since, to prove the connection via the documented path through the Mayflower Society. The first 4 generations are clearly documented by the Mayflower society. The 5th generation (Hosea White) was not documented, and the remaining generations, 6th through 11th (me) are documented. So, as soon as I can verify in an established record that Hosea White was a son of Caleb White, I will be able to officially verify the Mayflower link. Until then, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the path back to William White and Susannah Fuller White, the Mayflower passengers, along with sons Resolved (my direct ancestor) and Peregrine, who was born on the Mayflower.
Sylvanus was born in Whitestown, Boone County, Indiana in 1857 to Lemuel White and Nancy Morrow White. Lemuel and Nancy had met and married in Preble County, Ohio and had the first four of seven children while living in Jackson, Ohio. In 1851, Lemuel and Nancy moved to Indiana (Boone County) where their remaining three children were born. Unfortunately, two of the seven children died before the age of 3. The family was prosperous in Indiana, donating land to established and grow the town... and, there is some dispute over the naming of their small town of “Whitestown” as being named after Lemuel or after a Railroad President. I, of course, choose to believe it was named after Lemuel. His son Ovando’s obituary notes that it was named after Lemuel, so if the direct family thought it so, then I choose to believe it so as well.
Lemuel and Nancy were very involved in the Latter Day Saints in the 1850’s and 1860’s and had interacted with several notable figures in Mormon history in the Illinois/Indiana areas. It appeared that just this generation was involved in the Latter Day Saints, so I am not sure if this was a small or great area of difference for the family. In the Mormon Church archives, the Saints Herald (Volume 2) noted that the Indiana and Illinois churches were laboring to "spread the truth" and "planting the seeds" of the Mormon church.
|Sylvanus Crosby White, date unknown|
With Sylvanus’ move to Sheldon, O’Brien County, Iowa, he remained connected to the Catholic Church as his wife, Margaret, and her family were strong Irish Catholics. They were married at St. Patrick’s just a few years after it was built in 1880. Sylvanus and Margaret’s 5 children were baptized, raised, and some married in the same Catholic Church: Helena Agnes, Francis Parnell, Florence Rose, Leo, and Marie Margaret.
Sylvanus’ two older sisters (Philena and Melissa) both married but died young before having children (one dying in childbirth along with the baby). His older brother Ovando remained in Shabbona Grove, IL where his parents moved in 1865. Sylvanus’ younger sister, Miranda Clarissa “Clara”, moved out to Southern California after her parents died; she never married or had children and worked as an artist until her death in 1945.
Sylvanus, who at one time worked as a railroad section boss, was killed by a train as he was walking along the Omaha railroad yards track on a very cold day. His obituary reports that he “…was walking through the yards, and as the night was very cold he had his head and ears well protected from the severity of the weather, consequently he did not hear the approach of a box car until it was upon him. As a result both feet were so terribly crushed that immediate removal to the Grain hospital was deemed necessary. This was at once done, but the shock proved too great for the system to endure, and the end came on Thursday morning.” An awful way to go, he died on January 17, 1918 at the age of 60.