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by Mildred V.

My great-great grandfather was Elisha Jefferson (Jeff) Rhoades, who was the son of Elisha Jefferson Rhoades and Sally Rhoades (?).  Jeff had two brothers named Samuel and Bob (Robert). He was born August 6, 1810 in Tennessee. He was said to be half Choctaw and it is said that he lived many years with the tribe in Mississippi. He was reputed to be related to the principal chief of the tribe.

 

Jeff and his first wife, Catherine Hayward (born 1815), lived in Mississippi during the 1830s where three of their five children were born. By 1838, Jeff and Catherine were living in Johnson County, Arkansas where their two younger children were born. The children were Robert A. in 1832; George W. in 1834; Amanda in 1835; William H. 1838; and Martha E. in 1840.  Catherine Hayward Rhoades died Johnson County in the early 1840s between the age of 25 and 30 years.

 

Jeff next married my great-great grandmother, Nancy Bowen, who was born about 1820 in Tennessee. Sometime before 1850 the family moved farther south to Scott County, Arkansas where Jeff had a farm and other business interests.  Six children were born of this marriage: Aluna Permelia in 1846; John H. in 1848; Elisha Jefferson, Jr. in 1849; Samuel Russell in 1852; Elmira Elizabeth in 1854 (my great-grandmother); and Mary Jane in 1856. Jeff's first set of children would have ranged in age from 14 to six when Nancy and he began having children. Nancy Bowen Rhoades died about 1856-1857 in Scott County, Arkansas.

 

Jeff's third wife, Susan Armstrong Yates (born in 1824), was a widow with four children. The first of her Yates children was born in 1842 and the last born in 1852.  Jeff and Susan married in the late 1850s, and by 1859 a son named Charley Rhoades had been born. By this time the two oldest Rhoades' sons were adults living independently away from the family. The oldest daughter, Amanda, married Peter Sparks, a neighbor in Scott County.  In 1859 Martha married Jasper Newton Gibson, a school teacher and Christian minister.   Martha and Jasper were married at Jeff's home.

 

An unproven story about Jeff is that he was briefly married either between wives #1 and 2, or wives #2 and 3.  One daughter, Rose, was born, but he thought this wife to be unkind to his children so he divorced her.

 

In the spring of 1860 the large family left Arkansas for Texas. Jeff carried with him a statement signed by members of the Christian Church in Boon Township, Scott County, attesting to the full fellowship of their beloved brother and sister (Jeff and Susan), and recommending them to members of the Christian Church elsewhere. 

 

Jeff settled  in Austin and was in some type of business by 1861. On June 25, 1862 his last child, Jasper Lytton Rhoades was born in Austin.  Soon thereafter, in 1862 or 1863, Jeff reportedly died. The exact date and cause were not recorded or passed down in the midst of the Civil War.

 

After the death of Jeff Rhoades, his widow remained in the Austin vicinity with her Yates children and two young Rhoades sons.  Of the eleven other Rhoades children, only the two eldest, Robert and George, were not accounted for in Texas.  At the time of the family move from Arkansas to Texas Amanda was married to Peter Sparks. Amanda and her husband, along with her brother William H. Rhoades (called Whig), then still single at age 22, went directly to Bastrop County where relatives and allied families-many from Scott County, Arkansas-had settled prior to 1860.  Amanda and William shared the responsibility of caring for their younger half-brothers and sisters-the children of Jeff and Nancy Bowen Rhoades.

 

This large, interconnected family was unique; first because of its size, make-up and the strong bonds that held the children together through moves, changes and adversity. Secondly remarkable was the loyal dedication to the welfare of the younger half-siblings evidenced by the older Rhoades and Yates children. Nancy and Jeff's elder daughter married a Yates step-brother, further linking the family.

 

Elmira Elizabeth and Mary Jane Rhoades were orphaned at a very early age.  Elmira lived with William, called Whig, and Mary Jane lived with Amanda.   Sadly, Amanda did not live to see the marriages of the two young half-sisters she had mothered nor her own two daughters.  She died at age 35 in Bastrop County, Texas.  Elmira Elizabeth and Mary Jane Rhoades married brothers, Jacob Beckwith Gould and William Gould.  Whig's closeness to the half-sisters he helped to rear continued throughout their lives.  In 1888 he moved from Bastrop County, Texas to Otero County, New Mexico where his two half-sisters and their growing families had migrated. (By 1900 his wife had died, perhaps before he left Texas.) Whig had five sons.

 

Nancy Bowen reportedly had a sister younger by 23 years named Parizade (Parie) Bowen Bilton. Parizade was born December 3, 1843 in Ark. and died Oct.4, 1920 in Lampasas, TX.  I have so far been unsuccessful in tracing Nancy beyond her birth, but I hope eventually to learn the history of her ancestors.  Reportedly, Parie married a Jacob Pevehouse and then Thomas Bilton by whom she had five children.  Her death certificate lists her mother as Parizade Bowen with no father cited.

 

My great-grandmother Elmira received a pension in her later years, reputedly because of Indian ancestry.   However, I believe there must be some misunderstanding as I have a copy of the application she made to the Dawes Commission. Official recognition as a member of the Choctaw tribe was denied. 

A grand daughter of Elmira was well and living independently at age 95 in Silver City, New Mexico until June 2005 when she passed away subsequent to a stroke.  Other direct descendants of Elisha and his wives are scattered throughout Texas.



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