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The Titchenal Wives

As you read this saga, I feel the need to ask that you keep in mind the thought, that for all the dreams, risks, hard work, success, failure and glory or disappointments of the Titchenal men that are discribed in this saga, we cannot forget the major part the Titchenal wives played; dreaming with them and helping realize their dream.
The women followed their men into difficult pioneer environments, trying to hold things together while their men (husbands and sons) fought wars, searched for riches in new lands. They helped their men to farm, raise stock, start and run their business ventures or search for gold. All the while enduring the tragedies of the travels and hardships that each new location brought to the family, including pioneer living conditions, difficult childbirths and persevering in spite of the deaths of their children or husbands.

We know little about the colonial life of Mary Charles, Elizabeth Baldwin, or Elizabeth Burgess, the first three generations of Tichenor-Titchenal wives, but their life must have been very difficult compared to our life as we know it today.

We know more about the fourth generation of wives and beyond, women such as Margaret Jackson, Mary Buckalew, Rebecca Harbert, Sarah Ann Dickason, Alice Burton and my mother Dora (Arnett) Keith had a difficult life and deserve our respect and admiration and thanks. For example:

Margaret Jackson (1761-1818) may have had a life of comparative luxury in Morristown, New Jersey, but she had to endure the problems of raising children, run their farm while her husband Moses was away fighting in the Revolutionary War. Then she had to leave the life of comparative luxury in Morristown to move to an unknown frontier community in Virginia where she then helped build a log cabin or cabins to live in, plow and plant a new farms, worry about her son David fighting in the Revolutionary War while serving as a substitute for his father and two other men.

She moved three or four times during the 16 years they lived on the frontier in Virginia and Maryland, each time starting over again. Moses died early, leaving her at age 50 with many business deals under way but not completed, two adult sons fighting over the land and business, a 14 year old son and four young daughters to raise alone. She was forced to remarry in order to raise her children and finish out her life.

Mary Buckalew (1757-1853+) seemed to have had less problems. But her grandfather had been shot as a spy for Washington in the revolutionary war. She was born and lived on the frontier but made fewer moves to new frontier land, she moved only once to Harrison County Virginia. Both she and her husband David lived together to an old age, but they saw three of their sons marry and leave to move to other frontiers in the far west, probably never to see them again. The other children stayed in Virginia.

Rebecca Harbert (1796-1860+) may have endured more than any of the Titchenal wifes. Her grandfather had been killed fighting Indians before she was born. Her father had fought in the Revolutionary war and the Indian Wars and became a wealthy slave owner, then was killed on a trip to the western frontier, possibly by a friend who married her mother to take possession of the land. She and her ten sibling had to sue to get their share. Rebecca moved to the same far western frontier that killed her father. After a few years moved again to even more primitive conditions on the border of the new Indian territory.

She lived and raised 12 children under harsh frontier conditions, saw many Indian and white tragedies. Three children died as babies, one a son was killed by indians as a child, two sons were killed fighting in the Mexican War, one son left to seek gold in California and she never saw him again.

While Fort Smith was still a wilderness, her husband, John Titchenal, was killed or died young after only 19 years of marriage. She remarried, perhaps as a common law wife, and had three other sons. She left her new husband, when she learned he had not divorced a previous wife in a different state with other children. When he died, Rebecca lost her home because the other children from out of state claimed it.
She lived out the final part of her life living with two of her daughters, first with Mary Ellen Falconer, and at the age of 70 she was helping her youngest daughter, Susan Eliza Browne, raise her children, when Susan died at the age of 35 in 1865, while Susan's husband was away fighting in the war.
She lived through the fighting of the Civil War, knowing some of her grandsons were fighting for the Confederacy and one son-in-law and one grandson was fighting for the Union.

Sarah Ann Dickason (1818-1895) grew up under frontier conditions, but lived a little better from 1839-1849, after she moved to Fort Smith with William Titchenal. After 1849, they were on the move constantly, from one frontier country to another. First to Texas, then through the desert to California gold country, where she had to live in wild mining towns. They then moved to Southern California and built the first home in a new city, called Santa Ana. Even though she and her husband became relatively wealthy, she had eleven children, she lost two daughters at child birth, two more before their third birthday, one was buried at sea. Only two of her children lived beyond their 44th year. She outlived all but three of her children.

Alice Burton lived in a more modern time, but her life was still hard. She married my grandfather, John Jackson, at the young age of twenty. He was 23 years her senior, she had to work picking fruit to help raise her family. She was only 45 when he died 25 years later. She lived 30 more years supporting three younger children for a while, then herself, continuing to work, as it was before social security.

My mother, Dora (Arnett) Keith (1893-1988), was born in Indian Territory, fathered by the Cherokee husband of her mothers sister. Her mother (then a single parent) raised her alone for a few years, then married a man who as her step father beat Dora regularly and treated her very badly even after they moved to Santa Monica, California in 1902.

After marring my father Charles Elmer in 1911, her life was much better. My father always had a job even during the depression. Never-the-less while living some of the time with modern city conditions, many times, my mother had to raise her children in small railroad towns, where we lived in houses that were not much better than the pioneer living condition of my great grandparents. No stores, no electric lights or inside hot water, and some times no inside water at all. Always with outhouse toilet facilities, even in the cold snow country.


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