1800’s: Bradford County, Pennsylvania
My maternal grandmother, Alice Lauretta Lathrop Ford [Loretta Ford], was born 121 years ago (March 7,1895), about 265 miles north of my home in southern Maryland. Wyalusing (“the good hunting ground”), her birthplace, was a small village in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and the town and its name remain there today.
The 1891 county map on the left is significant to me because I found more of my grandmother’s family (born in or moved from/to) in Bradford County places like Asylum and Tuscarora. While I’m at it, I also should add that before 1750 the Wyalusing settlement was known as Gahontoto–home to the Tehotachsee tribe of Native Americans. This small tribe would eventually be completely wiped out by the Cayuga tribe and the town rebuilt in 1792 by the chief of the Cayugas and about 20 other families. Bradford county was created on February 21, 1810, from parts of Lycoming and Luzerne counties. Originally called Ontario County, it reorganized and separated from Lycoming County on October 13, 1812, and renamed Bradford County for William Bradford, who had been a chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and United States Attorney General–yet another member of my family’s lineage.
Emigration of the Lathrop Family Into Wyalusing and Surrounding Areas
William Lathrop Jr. (1798-1868) was born in a cabin along the Wyalusing Creek near present day Rush. At the time, the area had no formal name. Rush was an unsettled wilderness within the large northern part of Pennsylvania which was simply called “Luzerne County”. William’s father (William Sr.) had moved to Pennsylvania from Unadilla, New York, as a young man with his wife and daughter Catherine. William Sr.s’ mother and stepfather, Ebenezer Whipple, with his oldest brother Ezra and his family, had moved to Pennsylvania, but the exact date is unknown. Their move was perhaps as early as other 1790.
Over the next 20 years, as William Jr was growing up, his father built the first church in Rush, the “Rush Baptist Church” (now defunct). William Sr. served as its deacon and elder of the small congregation. William Jr. became its first pastor.
William Jr. married Sybil Lathrop from the neighboring township of Bridgewater in Susquehanna Co., PA. She was his 4th cousin once removed. Sybil’s brother Ezekiel III also married into William’s family by marrying William Jr’s sister Lorinda.
It was in the 1800 Wyalusing Census records that I found the first Lathrop’s–my 5th great-uncle, Ezra Lathrop, Esquire, son of Ezra Lathrop, II and Susannah Gates, my 5th great grandparents from Norwich, New London, CT. From the limited information available on this year’s form, Ezra’s household included himself and three others: one male and one female under the age of 10 (I assume his children) and one female (aged 16-25).
Susquehanna River from Wyalusing Rocks
There was a second Lathrop household listed: William Lathrop–he would have been my 4th great grandfather. He headed up a household of 5 people, he was born in Norwich, New London, CT., too, and died in Susquehanna, PA. His household listed: two males under 10, one female under 10, one female 16-25, and himself, 16-25; which I am interpreting to be husband and wife, possibly his first wife Rebecca Huntington, and their three children, (Rebecca died in 1812 at age 39).
But, Why to Wyalusing?
Throughout the 1800s, Wyalusing served as a hub for shipping logs down the Susquehanna River and grew as a commercial center for the surrounding farms. The Welles Mill Company, established along the Wyalusing Creek in 1820, was a prime reason settlers came to live in the town and farm the surrounding countryside.
As the town grew, it became a shipping center on the North Branch Canal which followed the Susquehanna River through this region and crossed the Wyalusing Creek by way of an aqueduct. Still later, in the mid-1800s, the railroad built through this area and Wyalusing became a main shipping point for livestock, grain, lumber and flagstone. The town’s business section, built mainly between 1820 and the early 1900s, has been fortunate in escaping any serious fires like those that swept through other towns in this area. Consequently, the charming, old storefronts still exist today as they were more than a century ago.
Now, when William Bernard Lathrop (my maternal great grandfather) was born on July 3, 1847, in Wyalusing, his father, Serrel, was 26 and his mother, Harriet, was 24. William had three daughters with Mary Janette Gray. The U.S. Censuses of 1850 and 1860 show him living in Asylum and then Wyoming townships, respectively. In the 1870’s and ’80s he lived in Herrick and Wilkes-Barre townships.
Loretta’s Mysterious Estrangement from Family
One of the mysteries that remains in our family is what caused the estrangement between my grandmother, Loretta, and her parents/family when she was a young adult. Because the Lathrop’s were originally among the first puritan founders in the colonies and came from England and had strong religious commitments and beliefs, we felt there must have been some sort of “shunning” that took place. This might be very reasonable to assume, given my grandmother’s strong faith, will, and determination to reach her goals in life, whatever they were at the time for herself and others. But, the generations who might have known about such an estrangement have long since passed.
One of my more recent finds, however, is that William, Loretta’s father, while living in Wilkes-Barre, on Friday, January 23, 1874, went to the home of Elder Mr. Rutten, along with 14 others. There, he affirmed and made his confession of faith and participated in Holy Communion performed by Reverend R. B. Webster, one of the founders of the Presbytery in Pennsylvania in the mid-1800’s.
By 1889, I found that William had moved back to Wyalusing with his new bride Lydia Malvina Westler. They had 13 children together–my grandmother, Loretta, being their 9th child.
Lydia died on May 5, 1910, in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, at the age of 49, from typhoid fever. She was buried in Wyalusing Borough Cemetery (although the death certificate and other sources indicate this to be her burial site, the cemetery does not include her interment among their database (?) My grandmother, Loretta, would have recently turned 15.
Loretta’s father, William Bernard Lathrop died from colon cancer. Loretta would have been 23. He died on September 5, 1918, in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, at the age of 71. But, we are not sure where she was at the time of his death or when or how she ever learned of it.
In the U.S. 1910 Census, Loretta was 15 and living on Third St. in Wyalusing with her parents, her younger brother Harry (age 12), and her twin sisters Virginia and Virgilia (age 9). In the U.S. 1930 Census, she was living at 855 Morton Place, in Washington, DC with her husband, Robert Gideon, “Roy,” and their two children; John (age 4) and Norma (age 2). I’ve searched census records and can find only one Alice Loretta Lathrop Ford or Alice Lauretta Lathrop Ford. This person in the 1920 Census shows up in Sioux City, Iowa, as a boarder–could it be? Will we ever know???
As for the rest of Loretta’s life, I’ve written a lot about her and her Ford family in my earlier posts. And, yes, she remains my guardian angel and was no doubt my biggest human influence throughout my life–although she died at age 72 soon after my 21st birthday. I would have loved for my children to have spent some time with her. But in a way, her influences on me and my life have carried over into how I raised them and instilled the importance of family upon them.