When I was a child, occasionally I would ask my mother where our ancestors were from. She would tell me that her father’s father was from England, her father’s mother was from Switzerland, her mother’s father was Irish and her mother’s mother was Pennsylvania Dutch. It was not until I was well into adulthood that I learned that my mother’s grandmother Maggie was not actually born in Pennsylvania, nor were Maggie’s parents born there. It was Maggie’s grandparents who were born in Pennsylvania. Her paternal grandparents (John Adam Bonewitz and Mary Margaret Rider, also called Peggy) were already married when they moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio about 1820, but Maggie’s maternal grandparents (Harman Smith and Barbara Flora) were still children when they moved with their parents to Ohio about 1822 and 1815, respectively.
Subsequently, all of Maggie’s grandparents moved to Indiana. When Harman and Barbara Smith moved from Ohio to Huntington County, Indiana (about 1843), their children were still young, which included Josephine Smith. Late in life (about 1853), John Adam and Peggy Bonewitz moved to neighboring Wabash County, Indiana and their son John Esli Bonewitz moved with them. Somehow, John Esli met Josephine and they married in 1856. They lived in Indiana for a few years, then in the early 1860s, they moved to Fairfield, Iowa, which is where Maggie was born on November 9, 1867.1
When the 1870 U. S. census was taken in Fairfield, Iowa, Maggie, at nearly 3 years-old, was the youngest in a household of three adults and seven children.2 Maggie’s father was 35 years-old and her mother was 32 years-old. She had two older brothers and two older sisters: Orlando, age 13; Harman, age 11; Carrie, age 9 and Emma, age 5. Maggie’s mother’s sister Malissa Griffith and Malissa’s two children William and Viola, age 8 and 7 respectively, were also living in the Bonewitz household.
Little is known of Maggie’s life as a child, but from what is recorded in the 1940 U. S. census it is known that she attended school through the fifth grade.3 Also, from the 1880 U. S. Census, we learn that two more brothers (Claudius and J. F.) were born after Maggie,4 one when she was eight or nine years-old and the other when she was twelve. When Maggie was about ten years-old, her father and eldest brothers traveled 230 miles due west of Fairfield to Omaha, Nebraska and a few years later the entire family moved there.
The annual Omaha city directories reveal information about the occupations and residences of the family. Beginning with the 1878-79 city directory, entries can be found for John, Orlando and Harman Bonewitz. When the 1880 U. S. census was taken, the Bonewitz family was listed in Fairfield, even though the 1880 Omaha city directory has an entry for John.
When Maggie’s family arrived in Omaha, she was 13 years-old. Maggie’s teenage years were filled with many family events, including deaths, marriages and changing residences. Sadly, two weeks after the census was taken in Fairfield, Maggie’s nearly six-month-old brother J. F. passed away. His grave is in Omaha, not Fairfield.5 Less than 10 months later, Maggie’s other younger brother Claudius died at nearly five-years-old.6
Omaha, which “derived its name from a tribe of Indians that were formerly the owners of the soil,”7 was a booming city. It was established in 1854 and immediately experienced rapid development.8 After a brief slowdown due to a financial crisis in the late 1850s, the city resumed its expansion as Omaha became the outfitting center for immigrants to Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.9 An article in the 1870 Omaha city directory identified several factors which attributed to Omaha’s development:
“The mines of the west, the termination of the [Civil] war, and the initiation of the U. P. R. R. [Union Pacific Rail Road] brought back vitality. Capitalists made homes here; railroads one after another came from the east, making Omaha their objective point; a fleet of steamers gave connection with the south; the Government established here headquarters for the army of the West; manufactures sprung into existence; the U. P. R. R. constructed workshops, employing hundreds of hands, and executing every description of work, and prosperity which has known no interruption, returned.”10
The population when John and his sons arrived in Omaha was about 26,215.11 When the Bonewitz family moved to Omaha in 1880, the census report gave it a population of 30,652.12 The population in 1884 was estimated at 55,23013 and in 1887 it was estimated at 96,717.14
According to the city directories the family moved several times. Upon moving to Omaha, the first address of the family was 1314 Jackson.15 The first time that Maggie’s name is listed in the city directory is in 1884. Her residence was at 1623 Dodge, which is the same address listed for her sister Carrie and her father.16 Her father’s entry notes that his occupation was “boarding.” Maggie’s parents ran a boarding house and it is likely that Maggie assisted her parents in this endeavor. In 1885, Maggie’s residence was at 1209 Georgia Avenue17 and in 1886 she lived at 1113 Georgia,18 both of these addresses were listed for her father and brother Harman also.
Other family events that occurred in the first half of the 1880s included the birth of another brother (Sidney) in January 1882.19 Maggie’s sister Emma married John C. Thompson in May 188320 and her sister Carrie married Charles P. White in 1884.21 The next year, tragically, Maggie’s eldest brother Orlando passed away. In the Omaha city directory, he is in the list of “the most prominent persons who have died within the city of Omaha during the year 1885,” and is given the date of death of August 27.22 (This may actually have been the date of his burial.) Not long before Orlando’s death the Bonewitz family posed for a family portrait.23 Based on how old Sidney appears to be, the photograph may have been taken in late 1884 or early 1885. Maggie, standing on the left, would have been about 17 years-old.
When the 1885 census of Nebraska was taken, Maggie along with her father, mother and three brothers lived on 28th street.24 Maggie’s sister Emma and brother-in-law also lived in the household and they had a daughter, Josephine, who was one year old. In addition, there were five boarders in the household. Another marriage took place in December 1886. Maggie’s brother Harman married Cornelia Higley.25
In the newspaper Omaha Daily Bee, an announcement was placed describing Maggie’s 20th birthday:
“Wednesday evening a large number of young friends assembled at the residence of Mr. John E. Bonewitz, in West Side, and passed a very pleasant evening, the gathering being in honor of the twentieth birthday of his daughter, Miss Maggie. Quite a number of invitations had been sent out and as a result the house was filled with merry, fun-loving young people. Some very nice and costly presents were bestowed upon the young lady, who made an admirable hostess on this occasion. At 11 o’clock a very fine lunch was served, after which the assembled friends were entertained with music and games. Those in attendance were G. L. McIlvane and Miss Robertson, J. E. Hardy and Miss Emma Lyman, A. S. Gantz and Miss Anna Higley, Charles Roberts and Miss Hannah Roberts, George Ritchie and wife, T. W. Smith and wife, C. P. White and wife, H. N. Stump, Ernest Gantz, Mr. Christ, of Sac City, Ia.; John Collins, Rockport, Mo.; John C. Thompson and wife and the parents of the young lady.”26
Besides Maggie and her parents there were 20 people in attendance at her birthday party. Some of the guests were:
- A. S. Gantz (Argola) who was Maggie’s 18 year-old cousin, the son of her mother’s sister Joannah. The Gantz family had been living in Fairfield, Iowa at the same time that the Bonewitz’ family lived there in 1880.27
- Ernest Gantz is possibly a relation of Argola. There was another Gantz family that lived in Fairfield in 1880 which included a young person named Ernest.28
- Argola accompanied Anna Higley who was probably the 17 year-old sister of Maggie’s sister-in-law Cornelia. The Higley family was also living in Fairfield in 1880.29
- C. P. White and wife were Maggie’s brother-in-law Charles and her sister Carrie.
- John C. Thompson and wife were Maggie’s brother-in-law and her sister Emma.
- H. N. Stump was a carpenter living in West Side.30 (Maggie’s father was a carpenter at the time.)31
The newspaper article notes that the Bonewitz family lived in West Side. This was a newly developing area about three miles west from the post office and was near the West Side train depot grounds. It would later be described as an area of workers’ cottages.32 This is the area that members of Maggie’s family would reside for the next 30 years.
- Shaw-Messer Chapel, “In Memory of Maggie O. Daily” (Watertown, South Dakota: Shaw-Messer Chapel, March 15, 1947).
- “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDVC-DFR : 17 October 2014), Maggie O Bonewits in household of John E Bonewits, Iowa, United States; citing p. 5, family 37, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 545,898.
- “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9M1-5855?cc=2000219&wc=QZFM-WRZ%3A791611401%2C793270701%2C793367301%2C793379401 : accessed 5 July 2020), South Dakota > Codington > Watertown City, Watertown, Ward 3 > 15-24B Watertown City Ward 3 bounded by (N) 4th Av S; (E) Maple, ward line; (S) city limits; city limits, ward line > image 3 of 24; citing Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012.
- “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MD2G-RHC : 13 July 2016), Maggie Bonewitz in household of J E Bonewitz, Fairfield, Jefferson, Iowa, United States; citing enumeration district ED 81, sheet 409D, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0347; FHL microfilm 1,254,347.
- Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 19 July 2020), memorial page for Freddy Bonewitz (Jan 1880–Jul 1880), Find a Grave Memorial no. 170992635, citing Prospect Hill Cemetery, Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, USA ; Maintained by SRGF (contributor 47487065) .
- Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 19 July 2020), memorial page for Claudius Coan Bonewitz (7 May 1876–23 Apr 1881), Find a Grave Memorial no. 170992581, citing Prospect Hill Cemetery, Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, USA ; Maintained by SRGF (contributor 47487065) .
- Collins’ Omaha Directory (Omaha, Nebraska: Charles Collins, Publisher, June 1866): 19.
- Collins’ Omaha Directory: 21.
- Collins’ Omaha Directory: 24.
- Omaha Directory for 1870 (Omaha, Nebraska: J. M. Wolfe, Publisher, 1870): 17.
- J. M. Wolfe, publisher, Wolfe’s Omaha City Directory 1878-1879 (Omaha, Nebraska: Herald Publishing House and Book Bindery, 1878): 27.
- J. M. Wolfe, publisher, Wolfe’s Omaha City Directory 1881-1882 (Omaha, Nebraska: Herald Printing, Binding and Electrotyping House, 1881): 11.
- J. M. Wolfe, publisher, Omaha City Directory 1884 (Omaha, Nebraska: Herald Printing, Binding and Electrotyping Establishment, 1884): 9.
- Omaha City and Douglas County Directory 1887 (Omaha, Nebraska: J. M. Wolfe & Co., Publishers, 1887): 2.
- J. M. Wolfe, Wolfe’s Omaha City Directory 1881-1882: 116.
- J. M. Wolfe, Omaha City Directory 1884: 100.
- J. M. Wolfe, publisher, Omaha City and Douglas County Directory 1885 (Omaha, Nebraska: Herald Printing, Binding and Electrotyping House, 1885): 102.
- Omaha City and Douglas County Directory 1886 (Omaha, Nebraska: J. M. Wolfe & Co., Publishers, 1886): 113.
- State of California, California Death Index, 1940-1997 (Sacramento: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics): http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=cadeath1940&h=709689&ti=0&indiv=try&gss=pt .
- Marriage license of John C. Thompson and Emma V. Bonewitz (State of Nebraska, Douglas County, May 6, 1883).
- Marriage license of Charles P. White and Carrie Bonewitz (State of Nebraska, Douglas County, June 12, 1884).
- Omaha City and Douglas County Directory 1886: 15.
- A descendant of Josephine Smith Bonewitz’ brother Obediah Smith contacted the author through Ancestry.com and subsequently supplied this photograph which her grandmother had labeled John and Josephine Bonewitz.
- “Nebraska State Census Collection, 1860-1885,” (Online publication – Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009): http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=nestatecensus&h=1420813&ti=0&indiv=try&gss=pt .
- Marriage license of Harman F. Bonewitz and Cornelia B. Higley (State of Nebraska, Douglas County, December 29, 1886).
- Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Nebraska, November 20, 1887): 11, https://www.newspapers.com/image/149885912.
- “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYV-9P9W?cc=1417683&wc=XHBX-4WL%3A1589394762%2C1589396075%2C1589395491%2C1589396321 : 24 December 2015), Iowa > Jefferson > Fairfield > ED 80 > image 17 of 23; citing NARA microfilm publication T9, (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., n.d.)
- “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYYV-9R3L?cc=1417683&wc=XHBX-C68%3A1589394762%2C1589396075%2C1589395491%2C1589396695 : 24 December 2015), Iowa > Jefferson > Fairfield > ED 81 > image 60 of 64; citing NARA microfilm publication T9, (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., n.d.)
- “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYYV-9RN5?cc=1417683&wc=XHBX-C68%3A1589394762%2C1589396075%2C1589395491%2C1589396695 : 24 December 2015), Iowa > Jefferson > Fairfield > ED 81 > image 19 of 64; citing NARA microfilm publication T9, (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., n.d.)
- Omaha City and Douglas County Directory 1887: 660.
- Omaha City and Douglas County Directory 1887: 75.
- Dennis Mihelich, ed., Ribbon of Destruction (Omaha, Nebraska: Douglas County Historical Society, n. d.): 8.