Saturday, November 13, 2004

Joseph Chamberlain

This is an undated photo of Joseph Chamberlain, my great-great grandfather. Unfortunately, I do not have much information regarding Joseph's birth or death. I did ask my Aunt Sandy (my dad's sister) what information she had about Joseph. She said: "I know Joseph had two different wives and a ton of kids and I know Grandpa George had to leave home at an early age and start making it on his own because there were too many children to be fed at home."

"Grandpa George" is George Chamberlain, Joseph's son who was the father of May Chamberlain Cornelius, my paternal grandmother. (God this gets confusing!)

In May 1987, the Grant Tribune-Sentinel wrote an article about the pioneer families of Perkins County. The following is excerpted from the article:

George and Mary Jane Chamberlain were two of the earliest settlers of Perkins County, Nebraska. Their story is one of hard work and determination that was typical of pioneers of their time. George Chamberlain was born in Memphis, Missouri on January 4, 1855. Mary Jane Black was born in Butler County, Pennsylvania on December 2, 1860. Mary Jane was working as a domestic when she met George. They were married in Craig, Missouri on February 4, 1886 and [shortly thereafter] moved to Nebraska. George came to Ogallala, Nebraska in 1886 on an immigrant train with the early Perkins County settlers. Mary Jane followed in a few weeks. They settled on a tree claim 5 1/2 miles southeast of Madrid where they built a sod house and planted hedge apples and yellow plum trees. Some of these trees are still growing. [Steve's note: I picked some of these hedge apples when I visited the site two years ago!] Six children were born in the sod house:
  • William (4/28/88)
  • Jennie (3/27/90)
  • Bertha (1/31/92)
  • Fred (1/23/94)
  • May (5/21/00)
  • Galen (4/16/02)
At one time, George and Mary Jane had a large jar of rattlesnake rattles. The story goes that when Mary Jane was picking up buffalo and cow chips to burn, she would come upon rattlers and kill them. She saved the rattles and put them in the jar. They had good crops for a few years, but in 1892, a seven-year drought came. So, in 1904, after 18 years of farming, they rented their farm out, had a sale and moved to Madrid. They bought a livery barn, a butcher shop and a hotel called "The Madrid House." In 1919, Mary Jane's health began to fail. In 1920, they sold the hotel and bought a farm one mile west of Madrid. Mary Jane died March 8, 1922 of sugar diabetes. Insulin was discovered the year she died. George continued to live on the farm until 1939 when he had a farm sale. He lived with one daughter and then lived with May and Floyde Cornelius until January 1928 when he went to California to visit his children, Jennie Morgan and Galen Chamberlain. He got ill and died there October 13, 1938.

George and Mary Jane are buried in the Chamberlain family plot at the Madrid Cemetery.