Minnie Bell was my grandfather’s grandmother.
After I went to Saginaw Cemetery and took this photo Saturday, I went to visit my grandfather. He spoke briefly of Minnie Bell. He doesn’t know who her parents were but he said, “She looked full-blooded Indian but back then everyone just wrote “white” on everything. I remember them talking about the Trail of Tears.” He ended with, “Someone ought to be able to find out.”
So I came home and set about finding out.
Working backwards, I started with her death certificate. (Missouri death certificates from 1910 to 1957 are available for free online.)
I immediately noted a problem. Her grave marker says she was born in 1878, but her death certificate says she was born in 1877. But now I have the name of her father.
Next I find her marriage license. It states, “The written consent of the father of Minnie Lewis, Samuel Lewis, is on file at this office.” That gives me two documents that tell me her father was Samuel Lewis, but still no clue who her mother was. It also tells me that she was under eighteen when she married on September 5, 1893, and that her and Jacob both lived in Saginaw at the time of their marriage.
The first United States Census that she appears on is the 1880 census for Shoal Creek Township, Newton County, Missouri. In June 8, 1880, her family looked like this:
- Samuel Lewis, age 44, farmer, born in Tennessee, both of his parents were born in Kentucky
- Elizabeth Lewis, age 41, born in Indiana, her mother was born in Indiana
- Joseph E. Lewis, age 18, born in Missouri
- Nancy W. Lewis, age 17, born in Kansas
- Lucinda J. Lewis, age 14, born in Missouri
- James B. Lewis, age 10, born in Missouri
- Alpha E. Lewis, age 7, born in Missouri
- Minnie B. Lewis, age 4, born in Missouri
- Sarah A. Lewis, age 6 months, born in Missouri
So now we have yet a third year of birth for Minnie Bell. If she was born on November 10th, and was 4 years in June of 1880, then she would have been born in 1875 since she would not yet have had a birthday in 1880 when the census taker came round. But at least now I have the first name of her mother, Elizabeth, and the names of some of her siblings. As a bonus, I see that the family lived next door to a James and Susan Lewis. They are likely related in some way, so I have another tree to shake later.
Since the 1890 census was destroyed, the next time we find Minnie Bell on the census is 1900, still in Shoal Creek Township, Newton County, Missouri. She is now married to Jacob Warren. The family looks like this:
- Jacob Warren, age 29, born Oct 1870 in Missouri, married 6 years, lead miner, father born in Missouri, mother born in Indiana
- Minnie B. Warren, age 23, born Nov 1876 in Missouri, married 6 years, mother of 4 children, 2 of them living, father and mother born in Alabama
- Archie L. Warren, age 2, born Nov 1897 in Missouri
- Thomas Warren, age 8 months, born Sep 1899 in Missouri
So now we have yet a fourth year for the the birth of Minnie Bell. Maybe people didn’t pay as much attention to birthdays back then as they do now. Still it would be nice if two records would agree.
And why does this census say that her father and mother were both born in Alabama when the previous census says her father was born in Tennessee and her mother was born in Indiana? I don’t know.
We also have no way of knowing the names of the two deceased children.
The next census that we find Minnie Bell on is the 1910, again in Shoal Creek Township, Newton County, Missouri. The family now looks like this:
- Jacob F. Warren, age 39, married 16 years, zinc miner, born in Missouri, parents place of birth is not legible
- Minnie B. Warren, age 33, married 16 years, born in Missouri, mother of 11 children, 5 of them living. Father born in Tennessee, mother born in Kentucky
- Archie L. Warren, age 12, born in Missouri
- Thomas P. Warren, age 10, born in Missouri
- Jack R. Warren, age 7, born in Missouri
- Esther M. Warren, age 4, born in Missouri
- Dannie B. R. Warren, age 1, born in Missouri
Minnie is ten years older just as she should be, but the birthplace of her parents have changed again. I now have two votes for her father having been born in Tennessee and one vote for him being born in Alabama. Her mother is in worse shape with one vote each for Alabama, Kentucky, and Indiana.
I see that Minnie Bell has now lost six children. Archie and Thomas from the 1900 census are still living, so we have no idea who the six children that died are. I also now see my great-grandmother, Esther Warren, has made her appearance.
I have now arrived at the 1920 census for Shoal Creek Township, Newton County, Missouri. In 1920, the family looked like this:
- Jacob F. Warren, 49 years old, lead miner
- Minnie Warren, 42 years old
- Jack Warren, 17
- Ester [sic] Warren, 14
- Daniel Warren, 11
- George Warren, 9
- Mary Warren, 9
- Nadine Warren, 6
- Jacob Warren, Jr., 4
- James Warren, 2
Minnie has lost a year this time. She has had 5 more children that we know of, two of them apparently twins. The place of birth of her and Jacob’s parents are listed only as United States on this census.
There is only one census left to look at. In 1930 the family is still in Shoal Creek Township, Newton County, Missouri. The census taker came round on April 21, 1930.
- Jacob F. Warren, 59 years old, 23 years old at first marriage
- Minnie B. Warren, 53 years old, 16 years old at first marriage
- Dan B. Warren, 21 years old, married since he was 19 but no wife listed in household
- George S. Warren, 19 years old
- Nadine E. Warren, 16 years old
- Jake Warren, Jr., 14 years old
- James R. Warren, 12 years old
- Scottie Hackleman, son-in-law, 24 years old, 21 years old at marriage
- Esther Hackleman, 24 years old, 21 years old at marriage
Esther, my great-grandmother, is now married, and my great-grandfather, Scottie Hackleman is living in the household. This poses another puzzler though, because my grandfather was born in 1928 but is not listed on this census. Where is he?
Jacob is now listed as a farmer instead of a miner.
I think I have found everything I can about Minnie Bell Lewis Warren.
She had sixteen children that we know of: Archie, Thomas, Jack, Esther, Daniel, George, Mary, Nadine, Jacob, James, plus six that died whose names we do not know. There might have been more who were born and died after the 1910 census but before the 1920 census. A search of Newton County death certificates did not find any of these children.
Her father’s name was Samuel Lewis and her mother’s name was Elizabeth. I have no reliable information about where they were born.
I decided to go back to the 1870 census and found this in Marion Township, Newton County, Missouri:
Samuel Lewis, age 34, born in Tennessee
Elizabeth Lewis, age 31, born in Texas
Mary B. Lewis, age 12, born in Missouri
William Lewis, age 10, born in Missouri
Joseph Lewis, age 8, born in Missouri
Nancy Lewis, age 6, born in Missouri
Lucinda Lewis, age 4, born in Kansas
James B. Lewis, age 7 months, born in Missouri
These siblings match up with what I found on the 1880 census for Minnie Bell, so I’m sure this is the correct Samuel. Marion Township is right next to Shoal Creek Township, to the east.
I now have four different states that Elizabeth was supposed to be born in, but it’s looking more and more like Samuel was born in Tennessee. I need to remember that my grandfather said Minnie Bell was Native American.
So far I have been unable to find anything else available on the internet and I’m not sure what to do next. Maybe Kate will show up and work her magic, or maybe Peter Wimsey has an old postcard laying around. If nothing else, writing this gives me something to print out and take to my grandfather.
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