From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Winner of the "Most Colorful Ancestor" Award

Robert Henry Vining (1848-1888)


Robert Henry Vining was my great-great grand-uncle on my dad's side of the family -- a  younger brother of my great-great grandmother Martha Alameda (Vining) Mapes. Henry's parents moved from Pennsylvania to Henry County, Illinois, in the 1840s, and Henry was born there in 1848. He spent his boyhood years on the family farm on the Illinois prairie.

Kennesaw's Bombardment '64
Sketch by war correspondent Alfred Waud
In 1864, at the age of 16, Henry enlisted as a Union soldier (Company H, Illinois 112th Infantry Regiment). He lost a leg in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain near Marietta, Georgia, and was discharged in 1865.

Henry Vining came to Republic County, Kansas, in 1868, and settled in the Elk Creek valley along with Ashbel Mapes (Ashbel was Henry's brother-in-law and my great-great grandfather), three Willoughby brothers, and William Oliver. All of these men were relatives or connected by marriage. They and their families were among the first white settlers of the Elk Creek area.

Henry was a member of the Salt Creek Militia that was formed in 1868 to protect Republic County settlers from the Indians. He also served as the Republic County sheriff that year.  On January 1, 1869, he married Martha Oliver -- the first marriage in Republic County, Kansas.

Henry's missing leg didn't slow him down too much. He was proud that he had given a leg in the service of his country. People called him Peggy, because he had a peg leg.  He served as a marshal in the little communities of Clyde and Concordia, Kansas, during the 1870s. Later, he was the manager of the Western Detective Agency of Clyde (a bounty hunter?), and he also ran a saloon in Clyde which was destroyed in a business district fire on January 25, 1881. (See Belleville Telescope p. 3, Feb. 3, 1881)

In June of 1881, Henry got into a bad fight. Apparently he and the schoolmaster in Clyde had already disagreed about something. Then, the schoolmaster slapped Henry's son on the ear for fighting with another boy. Henry found the schoolmaster in a store and, after an exchange of words, gave him a punch that knocked him to the floor. The schoolmaster knocked or kicked Henry down, and they scuffled.

The schoolmaster might have won the fight, being wiry and more agile with his two legs, but Henry pulled a gun. It misfired the first time, and the second shot went into a trunk. The schoolmaster abandoned the fight and rode to the county seat to file a complaint with the marshal. Henry was arrested and charged with "assault with intent to kill". I don't know what happened after that, but I'm very curious.

The editor of the Clyde Democrat, who also happened to be the schoolmaster's friend and roommate, wrote a sensational newspaper account of the above event (See "A Murderous Assault," Belleville Telescope, p. 2, June 16, 1881) .  He stated that Henry Vining was a drunkard, which may or may not have been true. The report is clearly slanted in favor of the schoolmaster -- perhaps rightfully so.

Henry Vining seems to have been well-liked by most people and was well-known in the area, so I suspect that the charges were eventually dropped, or that he was not convicted, or that if he was convicted, the sentence was light. That's just my hunch, not a proven fact. I'm still researching -- I'd love to know the rest of the story!

The Clyde Democrat ceased publication in mid-1882. I think the editor probably left Clyde at that time, and probably his friend, the schoolmaster, left too.

Henry Vining died unexpectedly in 1888 at the young age of 40. He had an agreement with his long-time friend and fellow veteran Jacob Sohlinger that, if one of them died, the other would see that he was laid to rest, wrapped in the flag. Jacob Sohlinger kept his promise, and Henry Vining went to his grave embraced by the flag and declaring his patriotism to the end.

US Flag with 38 stars.
In use 4 July 1877–3 July 1890.

This article was written by Genevieve L. Netz and originally published as a blog post at http://prairiebluestem.blogspot.com/2011/11/winner-of-most-colorful-ancestor-award.html . Copyright 2012 Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for attaching this article to Vining family trees as long as this entire notice is included. Any other use requires written permission. gnetz51@gmail.com .

5 comments:

Keely said...

I still think he sounds like something out of a Western Novel.

Collagemama said...

Fun story and interesting character. Reminds me of the many times I've driven through Concordia on Thanksgiving trips to Lincoln, NE. It is an interesting old town.

Stitchy Mc Floss said...

I love reading your blog because I always learn something new with each and every post.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Blessings always :)

Sammie said...

Very interesting! How did you find out all this information? How much did you know about it before doing research? Sammie

Genevieve said...

I didn't know anything about Robert H. Vining a year ago -- not even his name. I learned the various details in this story of his life little by little. Some things I found on Ancestry.com and some things I found by searching for him elsewhere online -- Google Books, familysearch.org, Belleville (KS) Public Library newspaper archives, etc. As I learned different things about him, it became evident that he was quite an interesting guy.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.