“Genealogy is an account of one’s descent from a man who did not particularly care to trace his own.” -Ambrose Bierce
I was named after my late father Joseph Howard Manning, which makes me a junior. My mother was afraid that I might be called “Little Joe,” so I was known as Howard, and soon as Howdy. When I was about seven years old, the Howdy Doody Show became a big hit on TV, and well, you can guess what happened. It didn’t help that I had red hair and lots of freckles.
I hated my name, and not just because I was compared to a marionette. When I was thrown into the deep end of the pool of adolescence, I thought that Howard sounded square. When I went off to college, I didn’t correct people when they called me Joe, and soon my new name was as comfortable as an old pair of jeans. I liked Joe.
For the past several months, I have been researching my family history, and I made a wonderful discovery. My father was named after his grandfather, Howard Butcher, a man I never knew or even heard of until just recently. Before I tell you about him, let me explain a little about my father’s family.
My father was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1911, the son of James Gordon Manning and Jennie Christa Butcher. After moving to Mason City, Iowa, his parents divorced, and Jennie (now called Jane) married Joseph Power of Mason City. My mother thinks that James Manning returned to Kansas, and tells me that my father only saw him once after the divorce.
Jane and Joseph Power were accomplished musicians, cello and violin respectively. They played in symphony orchestras and toured in vaudeville for many years. When my father moved to Washington, D.C., in 1938, he helped them buy a house in nearby Beltsville, Maryland, and they turned it into a tourist home. Later, Jane’s mother, Eveline Jane Butcher, came to live with them. She was widowed and already in her eighties.
My mother, Mary Elizabeth Chaney, born and raised in Washington, met my father in 1939, and they were married six months later. When I was born, my father was in the Army and was soon to be headed overseas to serve in World War II. My mother and I moved in with his parents in Beltsville, and stayed there until my father came home in 1945.
Consequently, I became very attached to my grandmother Jane and my step-grandfather Joe Power. For several years, I also knew my great-grandmother Butcher, but she moved to Kansas to live with another daughter around 1949, and died soon after. One of my few memories of her is that she raised chickens in the backyard. Jane and Joe Power died when I was in my early teens. It wasn’t until my father passed away in 1981 that I realized that I knew almost nothing about their family history; and as it turns out, neither did my mother.
That’s why my family research has concentrated so far on grandmother Jane’s ancestors, and I have already identified more than 500 persons. How did I do this so quickly?
After taking a genealogy course at Greenfield Community College, I looked at the Mormon-sponsored website called FamilySearch.org. Using the name search feature, I was able to locate a Howard and Eveline Butcher and several children in the 1880 US Census. They were living in Blue Mound, Kansas.
How did I know they were really the right people? For one thing, the names of the children listed were identified by my mother as being Jane’s siblings. Also, my mother remembered that Eveline Butcher used to tell the story about how she married as a teenager, left home to go west in a covered wagon, and wound up in Kansas. And finally, Eveline’s given year of birth (1857) was right on the money. The census data noted that Howard’s parents (not named) were born in Indiana.
Using the resources of RootsWeb.com, I found a Howard Butcher from Indiana in a family tree that had been posted on the Internet. Within seconds of clicking on that site, I found Howard, his family, and the ancestors of both his mother and father back to the 1700s in Germany. It included the information that Howard had married Eveline Jane Minnick of Indiana, in 1874.
He was the son of Levi Butcher and Elizabeth Etter, who had nine other children. It was Levi’s second marriage. He had six children by his first marriage. Levi’s father, Barnabas, emigrated from Germany to Tennessee at the age of four with his father, Johann Metzger, whose last name means “butcher” in English. Howard married Eveline when he was 19 and she was 17.
However, that’s where the information stopped on Howard. Apparently, the family who posted their history lost track of him after he left Indiana. But by the next day, I found the website of the Anderson County Historical Society (where Blue Mound is) and emailed a woman named Dorothy (not the one in The Wizard of Oz). She replied almost immediately and told me she had a lot of information which she was going to mail to me right away.
A week later, I had Dorothy’s four-page letter, which included the text of about 30 small news items about the Butchers that had appeared over a 10-year period in the county paper, and Howard’s obituary, which I quote below.
“Howard Gunn Butcher died at his home in Mason City, Iowa, December 16, 1915, from lagrippe and pneumonia. The body was brought to Greeley for funeral at the United Brethren Church, and burial made in Greeley Cemetery.”
“He was born in Springville, Indiana, January 28, 1855. He married Eveline Jane Minnick, November 4, 1874. Two years afterward, they moved to Blue Mound, Kansas, and lived there several years. They moved to West Plains, Missouri, and shortly afterward to Sugar Lake, Missouri. Poor health and misfortunes caused them to leave and return to Blue Mound and Kincaid, Kansas. About 14 years ago, they moved to Greeley and lived on the Griffith farm. After three years, they moved to California, then returned to Greeley after 18 months.”
“He commenced the carpenters trade. His reputation as a finish carpenter grew rapidly. Up to his last illness, he was doing finish work on a magnificent public building in Mason City. While he lived in Greeley, he organized the Fairview Sunday School and was superintendent, and he was with Greeley UB Church Sunday School for some time.”
“While here, he also built the new house on East Brown as a wedding present for his daughter Edith when she married Ernest McClure. The house was moved by team and horses to the McClure farm just east of town about 1917. Howard is survived by his wife, four daughters, his brother, Daniel Butcher of Blue Mound, and a sister.”
Dorothy wants me to come to Greeley and see where Howard lived. She also wants me to see her house. Why? Because she lives in the very house that Howard built for his daughter exactly 100 years ago. And wouldn’t you know it! I recently found a picture of Howard in my mother’s collection of family photos. I’m going to frame it.
For the first time in my life, I like the name Howard. I’m proud of it, and my great-grandfather Butcher has become one of my heroes.
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” -Bishop Desmond Tutu