Family Stories

Who wants to read about someone else's ancestors? Probably not many of us. So my apologies to any of you who aren't my offspring!

Dear sons and daughters,

Last weekend I was able to drop in on part of the Mabel and Rutherford Laughlin reunion, and I learned so many stories that I wanted to share with you! In looking back into our family heritage I can see both some wonderful examples of godly forerunners and also some traits and sin-tendencies that we still fight against.

Mabel and Rutherford were my great-grandparents, and I only have vague memories of them in their last years. Mabel was Grandmother Ellis's mother, and she is the one who pieced the two quilts that are in Amanda's room. But I'll tell you more about them later.

When I was growing up, I didn't pay all that much attention to the various stories my mom told of her Greene County relatives. But as I've gotten older, these men and women from past generations have become more interesting to me. Hearing some of their stories this weekend helped bring them to life, and I wanted to share with you some of the things I learned.

The man in the picture above was the Reverend James Ingles, and he was the family patriarch. He  is my great-great-great-grandfather. Even though he died a dozen years before Grandmother Ellis was born, he figured large in her life, and even in my mom's, and I heard bits and pieces about him as I grew up. Now that I've learned more about him, I'm understanding why.

James Ingles was born in Beaver County in western Pennsylvania on Sept. 10, 1821. That was the year that James Monroe began his second term as president. (He was the fifth president of the U.S.) Soon after, the Ingles family moved about 100 miles west to Millersburg, OH. The Ingles' family originally hailed from Scotland (the original one), and they were good Presbyterians. So when it was time for James to go to college, he set off for Franklin College in New Athens, OH.

Franklin College, New Athens, OH

This school had been started by an abolitionist Presbyterian minister in 1818 "to instill religious and abolitionist beliefs in the students." During most of its history, only a few dozen students attended at a time, but a bunch of future politicians ended up coming out of this place. James Ingles graduated in 1845, and then he headed to the theological seminary at Cannonsburg, PA to train for the pastorate. This reformed seminary had been started to prepare American pastors so Presbyterian churches would not have to be dependent on pastors trained in Scotland.

After seminary James taught for four years at Antioch College, somewhere in North Carolina. (Names change over time, making tracking down old institutions difficult.) He was said to love study, as part of his obituary from 1902 records:

His scholarship was broad and deep and was a source of great comfort to him. He was a master of the Greek, Latin and Hebrew languages, was recognized as authority on many subjects and so extensive was his general knowledge that he was known as the “walking encyclopedia.”

Next James became pastor of the United Presbyterian Church in Freeport, Illinois where he served for four years.

By this time James was 35 and still single! But he had previously fallen in love with the young Martha Black, who reportedly had been a student of his when she was 17. Her family was one of wealth, and maybe they didn't quite approve of the match, because the marriage didn't take place until Martha was 24 years old. Yes - this is a theme that seems to recur in every generation in my mother's family - parental disapproval of a marriage. Yet each time the star-crossed lovers eventually have their way, and end up marrying. (Sometimes they have to go to the extreme of running away with the groom's father - a preacher - in tow! But you already know that story!)

About this time James was reportedly offered the job of a college presidency, but he turned it down. His heart was to serve the local church. And at this point in his life, James had earned enough (plus he had a wealthy wife), so further income was not really necessary. This put him in a great position to go wherever there was a need, so he asked the Presbyterian denomination to send him to a church that could not afford a pastor. They decided to place him in the little town of Scotland, IN.

Martha, apparently though, wasn't too keen on the idea, being used to a more sophisticated life than she expected to find in southern Indiana. (Ahem!) But James told her he would build her a lovely home, and to Scotland they moved. He served as the pastor of the United Presbyterian Church there for 45 years until his death in 1902 at age 80. The townspeople were said to have greatly loved him. (They found Martha, though, to be "uppity." Ouch. I'm afraid you can see some remnants of this kind of pride in later generations, too.)

James and Martha had four children: Nettie (died at age 10), Edward (our forefather), Jennie, and Anna.

Here's a bit of the obituary, written when Pastor Ingles died:

When death called the Rev. James INGLES, of Scotland, to his eternal home, Friday, March 21, it could be truly said that Greene County lost one of her oldest as well as one of the worthiest and most highly respected of her citizens. He was the enemy of no one, looked upon everyone as his friend and brother and all who knew him respected and honored him

I love the account the obituary gives of the day of his death:

Friday night, March 14, he retired in his usual health, but on arising the next morning at his accustomed hour—four o’clock—he fell by the bedside unconscious from a stroke of paralysis. Before he died he regained consciousness and recognized his wife and the other members of his family. 

And then the funeral, recorded in the flowery language of a century ago:

The funeral took place at Scotland Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock, the Rev. J. N. BLUE, pastor of the M. E. church at Newberry officiating. A large crowd of neighbors, friends and acquaintances was in attendance to pay the last loving respects to the memory of a good man.
And so the pioneer preacher was laid to rest, but the memory of his devoted life will remain as an inspiration to those among whom he so patiently and so conscientiously labored.

Well, that's about all I know about our great-great-great-  ancestor. I was glad to discover these things, and I hope you might be interested as well. Maybe I'll tell you some of the other stories I learned at a later time.

With love,


Kristen Wegener said…
Hey, I got Tacy in Millersburg Ohio! Thanks for sharing these stories mom. I've enjoyed learning more about our history.
Anne said…
I knew Millersburg sounded familiar, but I couldn't think why! Glad you enjoyed reading these family stories. ;)
Cindy P. said…
I found this very interesting since my maiden name is Laughlin. My dad and his family were from western PA. My grandfather, Harry Laughlin was a former Presbyterian. You might want to discuss this further with my sister, Janet Sands.

Cindy Paakkonen
Anne said…
Hi Cindy!
What a neat connection! Perhaps we are distant cousins? My son, Paul, had mentioned that Rob told him he had Laughlins in his family, but I didn't remember him saying that that was Janet and your maiden name. It will be fun to talk with Janet about this some time.

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