Tombstone Tuesday: Josephine Tewksbury Williams Wheeler

Josephine Tewksbury William Wheeler tombstone

For many years we had no idea where my great-grandmother, the woman born Nancy Josephine Tewksbury, was buried. The only information we had was that she died somewhere in California.  Thanks to information received from distant relatives we were able to locate her grave and my parents were able to visit it. My dad took pictures there, including the one shown above, which provide a sense of closure.

Nancy Josephine Tewksbury was the only child of Thomas and Matilda Slater. Her surname is spelled correctly in the book but her father’s name was spelled “Tewksberry” in the same record. She was born October 6, 1872 in Scipio Township, Meigs County, Ohio.  [1]

Josephine, as she was known, lived throughout her childhood near the line between Meigs and Athens counties. Her maternal grandparents both died about a year before she was born and her paternal grandmother died when she was three years old. Her Grandpa Tewksbury died when she was almost 10 years old.  She had several aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of her family that lived in the towns and nearby farms. At least once she crossed the county line into Athens to visit town-dwelling family as The Athens Herald gossip tidbits relate that “Miss Josephine Tewksbury visited her aunt, Mrs. Cowan, of this place last week.” [2]


Pearley and Josephine. Portrait taken in Perry County, OH, circa 1900.

On Christmas Eve, 1892 “Phenie” Tewksbury married Pearl Williams, age 18, the Rev. N.E. Musser officiating. [3]  Josephine’s father died the following March. [4] Her mother later remarried but was buried next to Josephine’s father. (See my post at my other blog about Matilda Slater and the difficulties I encountered trying to find her trail after Thomas’s death.)

The babies began coming, uh, fast and furiously. The first child was born in August, 1893 and there would be a total of 10 births, 9 children that grew to adulthood, before they were finished procreating. Sometime between the birth of the third child in October, 1896 and the birth of the fourth in November 1898 the family moved to Perry County, Ohio. [5] They stayed in that area only a few more years, but long enough to have another child in December, 1899. [Ibid.] They were living in Bearfield Township, Perry County at the time the 1900 census which was taken on June 19th. Josephine’s mother and step-father were enumerated on the same page, but Pearley’s father and mother had left Ohio and settled in Arapahoe District, Furnas, Nebraska by that time. Pearley and Josephine would soon follow the Williams family on a journey throughout the midwestern and western United States.

Between the years 1902 and 1910 there were four more children born that could be documented. I cannot find another one but Josephine stated in the 1910 census that she had given birth to 9 children and that 8 of them were living. This census was taken just 8 days before Josephine gave birth to their last child, the tenth birth and ninth living child. [6]  In September, 1902 they had a child born in Nebraska; in September, 1904 they lived in Missouri; in March, 1906 they lived in Iowa; and in May, 1910 they lived in Laramie, Wyoming. It seems likely that the child that died was born between 1906 and 1910 but exactly where and when would be hard to determine.

Josephine with 3 of her youngest children, perhaps circa 1915

Josephine with 3 of her youngest children, perhaps circa 1915

The family seems to have continued the nomadic life for a few more years as they attempted to make a living and a life. They were in Iowa at the time of the 1915 census but were in Omaha, Nebraska  on South 32nd Street by the time of the draft registration in 1918. Pearley and the older boys registered. [7] This much we could establish before losing the trail.

Then the marriage between Pearley and Josephine fell apart and the couple separated. Some of the children remained in Nebraska, some moved to California, and one came east with Pearley and his parents. My grandpa was separated from his mother and apparently never saw Josephine again.  The information that was passed down was sketchy and heartbreaking.

Thankfully, about 30 years after the family had fragmented some of the children reconnected with each other and criss-crossed the country getting reacquainted. Just a few years ago one of my aunts contacted one cousin for more information since we could not find any death records online for Josephine Williams in California that fit our relative. One of the Nebraska cousins knew that she had remarried to a man by the last name of Wheeler and even knew the cemetery where she was buried.

Remarriage meant a divorce decree so I contacted the Douglas County probate to see if there was any record of it there.  There was, but it breaks my heart to read it.

Pearley-Josephine divorce decree edit

Due to extreme cruelty and non-support as the direct result of intemperance, Josephine filed for divorce on February 19, 1920 and was granted an absolute decree on April 23, 1920. She asked for custody of the five youngest children – and then changed her mind about this, evidently – thus a marriage tragically ended after 27 years and a son lost all ties to his mother.

After I received the divorce decree  I contacted Nebraska for a copy of the marriage report between Josephine Williams and Truman W. Wheeler. I received a copy of this document also. Their marriage took place on 15 February, 1921 in Omaha and the officiant was C. W. Savidge. It was Mr. Wheeler’s second marriage also.

Thanks to the fine newsletters received regularly from NEHGS I was made aware of several of the Omaha records that have indices online. The following link lists the marriage between Josephine and Mr. Wheeler: Although I already have this information there are links to many databases in the area that I intend to explore further.

The last document that puts the final touch on Josephine’s life is her death certificate obtained from Los Angeles, California. I also received a transcription of her husband’s death certificate courtesy of a kind genealogical volunteer. Josephine’s husband, Truman, died on July 3, 1923 of what I think was kidney failure. He was working in real estate and they had lived in California for 2 years. Josephine died just a few months later on Septermber 27th of carcinoma. They were buried next to each other in Inglewood Park Cemetery.Truman Wheeler tombston


[2] The Athens Herald, February 26, 1891 edition under the heading ALBANY ECHOES, page 1.
[3] I saw the original record in Meigs County, OH marriage records Volume 9, page 97 many years ago, but the original books were closed to copying. The reference is also found in the book MEIGS COUNTY OHIO MARRIAGES 1819-1913, compiled by Wes Cochran in July 1991, page 390. I viewed a copy of this book in the Ohio University Library.
[4] MEIGS COUNTY PROBATE DEATH RECORDS, Volume 1, 1867-1908, page 316.
[6] 1910 Census, LaGrange, Laramie, Wyoming, taken 16 May 1910.
[7] 1915 Iowa State Census and World War 1 Draft Registration abstracts obtained courtesy of

About pitman6

I love genealogy! I also love helping others trace their genealogy. I am a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Society of Mayflower Descendants, and a volunteer researcher with the Hamilton County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society.
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