Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Stormy Life-Katherine "Katie" M. Fox (52 Ancestors #10)




This week’s challenge is “Stormy Weather”.  I chose to write about Katie Fox who, at least on paper, appeared to have a stormy life, with circumstances all out of her control.

Katherine M. Fox was born in July of 1874 in Kickapoo, Peoria County, Illinois to William and Mary Smith Fox.  Mary Smith was a sister to my great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Smith Murphy (making Katie my 1st cousin 3 times removed). When Katie was born, she had a brother, Patrick, who was almost eight years older than her, a sister, Rosa, who was about four years older than her, and a sister, Mary Elizabeth, who was about two years older than her.  (The oldest child born in the family, Rosanna, had been born in 1865, but died fifteen days later).

In 1876, when Katie was two years old, both Patrick and Mary Elizabeth died, about a month apart (both buried in Kickapoo, Illinois).  A couple of months later, Katie’s brother, William, was born.  So now, the family consisted of Katie’s parents, and children Rosa, Katie and William.

Katie’s mother died on the 25th of September in 1878 at the age of forty-two, leaving Katie’s father with three small children (ages eight, four and two).  It would be interesting to know how Katie’s father, William, dealt with this.  His wife, Mary, had a lot of family in the area, so my guess is that Mary’s family helped or even took the children in to live with them.

In the 1880 Peoria, Illinois Census the three children, Rosa, Katie and William were listed as boarders at the Bradley Hospital (which eventually became OSF Medical Center).  At the time of the census, there were thirteen nuns listed as running the hospital.  There were eleven children listed there and twenty-six adults in the hospital.  The census does not give an indication of why the children were there.

Meanwhile in 1880, William Fox, Katie’s father, was working as a hired hand and living about one hundred and twelve miles away, in the Crescent City, Iroquois County, Illinois area.  He was working for Edwin and Ellen (Murphy) O’Neill, his wife’s sister’s husband’s sister (complicated I know). It appears that William remained in Crescent City because in 1882 he applied for an increase in pension and was still living there at the time he applied.  Neither William nor any of his children were listed in the 1888 Peoria, Illinois Census, so I assume that William was still in Iroquois County.   Who knows where the children were?  Based on later information, I would assume that Katie was living with her aunt and uncle (Peter and Rosa Smith Hill) in Peoria.  My best guess is that William could not care for the children and left them with his wife’s family.

By 1891, Katie’s father was listed in the Peoria City Directory living at Peter Hill’s address.  His address was listed at the same place in 1894.  It’s not until 1894 that any mention of Katie has been found since the 1880 census.  Her father applied to the Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy Illinois in April of 1894 and in the application he stated that he had “one child living, a daughter, 19 years.”  The application stated “That he desires that Katie Fox of Peoria be notified of his illness or death; that in case of death his personal effects be sent to Katie Fox 303 Butler St. at Peoria.” (Peter Hill’s address).  William was accepted into the Home. Sadly the application indicated that Katie’s brother William and sister Rose had died sometime after 1880.

The Peoria City Directory for 1895, 1896, and 1897 listed Katie working at three different households, as a cook and as a domestic.

From records of the Soldiers Home were copies of the following:

27 October 1897 form sent to: Mr. Wm. Fox
Cottage 17
Soldiers Home, Quincy, Ill.
Stated that his wife died Sept 25, 1878 and he did not remarry. Stated "I have one child living, Kattie Fox and is now of the age of 23 years".

16 May 1898 Telegram to Illinois Soldiers Home: "Wm Fox dead. buried Wednesday" signed Peter Hill.

23 May 1898-letter from Peoria, IL: "Mr. E.L. Higgins. Dear Sir: A card was received from you asking the cause and date of the death of my father, William Fox. Heart failure was the cause, and date Monday evening at 5:30 May 16, 1898. Yours truly, Katie M. Fox 303 Butler St. Peoria IL"

18 June 1898 from Register paper: "Died on furlough at Peoria May 16, 1898. All papers sent Katie M. Fox-4757 Kenwood Ave Chicago."

The above are the last known records of Katie.  Interestingly, Katie was not mentioned in either obituary found for her father’s death.  It makes me wonder if she chose to not be mentioned.  He had been living away from her since she lost her mother about twenty years before.  Katie was four years old when her mother died and twenty-three years old when her father died. So at age twenty-three, Katie had lost both parents and all of her siblings. 

Katie’s aunt Rosa Smith Hill died in 1906 and Rosa’s husband, Peter Hill, died in 1910.  I have not found an obituary for Rosa Hill.  Peter Hill’s obituary did not name Katie at all.

Various other records found for Katherine Fox do not indicate that they are for this specific Katie Fox.

There is a Katherine Fox listed in the 1900 Peoria Illinois Census as age 25, working as a servant. 

I have also found listings for a Katherine Fox in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 Quincy, Adams County, Illinois Censuses.  This Katherine Fox was working for Sylvanus B. Montgomery in all three listings as a servant.  She was listed as single, born in 1874 in Illinois.  She was not listed with this family in 1930. 

Speculation: perhaps Katie knew the Montgomery family from when her father lived in Quincy?  In 1898 Sylvanus was vice-president of a bank in Quincy. The Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index is from 1916 to 1947, and Katie is not listed in those records, so I am assuming that she must have lived after 1947.  Or perhaps she died before 1916.  Or did she marry?  Her father and siblings were buried with her mother in Kickapoo, Illinois.  Where is Katie?

I have always been struck with what a hard life Katie Fox was put in…it makes me wonder, who was there for her?  I hope that extended family was, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to know.  Stormy life indeed!








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