By J. L. Starkey
Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow,
but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.
-Leo Tolstoy, Author/Beekeeper
“You have to see this,” I said to my husband. “This is Jesse Rowe’s estate inventory . Four hundred pounds of pork?”
“I guess the man really liked bacon, huh?” my husband said with a laugh.
“And look at this,” I continued. “He had four colonies of bees and eight empty hives. My third-great-grandfather liked bees? How did that happen?”
“Are you sure he was actually related to you?” my husband asked.
He had a good reason for his skepticism. You see, no one in my family likes bees. Seriously…not one person. If there is a “not bothered by buzzing insects” gene, then we were born without it.
My aversion to bees is so extreme that it’s almost comical. I don’t run very well, for reasons discussed in a post about hurricane, a cemetery, and a bit of New Orleans magic. But if chased by a bee, I would hurdle a car like Flo-Jo to get away from that horrible buzzing.
My sisters and several other family members share this strange aversion to bees, wasps, and hornets. We all figured it was the family curse. And it was, until Jesse Bascom Rowe came along.
Just who was this third-great-grandfather of mine? He raised my great-great-grandfather, the unforgettable Morris B., so he had to be stubborn, opinionated, and fearless. But why did he start his life over at age 63? Why did he decide to sell everything in Ohio and start from scratch in Missouri?
Was there a story hiding in those beehives?
Fighting the Good Fight
Born on 15 December 1804 in Louisa County, Virginia, Jesse Bascom Rowe was destined to follow in his ancestors’ footsteps . After all, farming was what the Rowe men did, and Jesse probably never questioned that fact .
By the 1820s, Jesse’s family was farming in Fayette County, Ohio . In 1825, he married Delaware native Sarah Morris, and the newlyweds began improving land that Jesse inherited from his grandmother .
Over the next three decades, Jesse and Sarah would raise ten children on their Fayette County farm . The years were good to them, and Jesse was happy to have his children nearby as he cultivated the land he loved.
But when the country entered the Civil War, his happiness was replaced by tragedy, grief, and loneliness.
In 1861, Jesse’s son Daniel died of consumption at age 26 . Just ten months later, his daughter Alice Rowe Adams passed away at age 23, leaving her husband Peter to raise their infant daughter alone .
Jesse and Sarah found a way to move forward in their grief, and surrounded by his family, Jesse continued to fight the good fight. But his losses continued, and his grief seemed to have no end.
Finishing the Course…Or Maybe Not
The Civil War left few families untouched, and the Rowes were no exception. Four of Jesse’s sons were eligible to serve, and all four answered the call of duty . His son-in-law Peter Adams also enlisted, but he would not return home. Tragically, Peter was killed in action, leaving his daughter orphaned and in the care of her grandparents .
Grief was a constant companion during those years, and for the Rowe family, the mourning never ended. In 1863, Jesse’s father James passed away. Just two years later, his mother Elizabeth died shortly after the end of the war .
The nation was united again, but for Jesse, the victory was bittersweet. He was one of the lucky ones, wasn’t he? After all, his sons all returned home when the war was over.
But the home they returned to was not the same as the one they left. It was now forever changed – by grief.
Indeed, it seemed that grief would never leave the Rowe’s Fayette County home. In November 1867, Jesse’s wife Sarah passed away . Just five months later, he faced yet another tragedy when his daughter Mary Catherine died at age 23 .
What had happened to his charmed life? Jesse’s parents and his wife were gone. He had buried three children and a son-in-law, and in the midst of it all, his children were leaving home. One by one, they packed up and left Ohio, hoping to make a fresh start in Missouri.
At age 63, Jesse found himself at a crossroads. The life he once had was over. What was left? Where was he supposed to go now?
I wonder what Jesse said as he considered his options. It’s purely conjecture, but I suspect that he thought things through, paused, and then simply said: “Sell it. Sell it all. I’m done here.”
Finishing the Course…Again
Change was coming, and it was coming soon. The ad that ran in February 1868 was proof of that fact . Jesse sold his personal property just four days after he sold his Fayette County farm .
The signs were all around him. It was time to move on.
What were his thoughts as he prepared to start a new life? Did he play it cool as he accepted payment (in gold!) for his farm, stored that gold securely in his belt, packed his belongings, and said farewell to Ohio forever? Did he wipe away a tear as he looked back one final time?
He may have done just that. But I hope that he also said a prayer, looked to the west, and allowed himself to feel a long-absent emotion: hope.
Keeping the Faith
In April 1868 Jesse Rowe put down roots in Jackson County. His new home was situated on 670 acres, and it commanded an asking price of almost $17,000 (an amount equal to about $300,000 today) .
Did Jesse make the right decision? Would he find new meaning and purpose in his life?
He would, and quickly.
Jesse wasn’t getting any younger, and he had big plans.
In spring of 1869, he began selling his Jackson County land. Maybe he was thinking of his grandparents as he outlined the terms of the sale, or maybe he just wanted to keep his family together. Regardless of his reasons, Jesse made sure that his children wouldn’t find a better land price anywhere else in the world.
The asking price was identical for each of his children, and that price was just one dollar .
“Well,” the children may have said, “you know dad. He always was happiest with all of us kids nearby. It’s all he ever wished for.”
In the final years of his new life, Jesse finally got his wish…again.
Jesse Rowe died on 30 January 1881. He left no will, perhaps knowing that his children would settle his estate according to his wishes.
Over the years, Jesse’s property changed hands several times, and eventually passed out of the family entirely. Today, it is valued at over twenty-five million dollars.
But of course the Rowe children did not know that as they settled Jesse’s estate. They only knew that their father had left a legacy for each one of them.
Still, the question remained: How could they honor their father’s legacy?
For Moses Truman Rowe, the answer was easy.
He knew that his father was never one to miss an opportunity. He also knew that he was a lot like his father, and that he could easily afford a seven-dollar startup fee.
His decision made, Moses headed to the late residence of Jesse Rowe on 9 May 1881. He had to see a man about some beehives.
Dad would have wanted it that way.
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith.– 2 Timothy 4:7, KJV
Next: Who was the Bee Man of Jackson County?
- Rowe, Jesse B., Probate. “Missouri Probate Records, 1750-1998,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9L9-19DV-R?cc=2399107&wc=QZ9D-C6D%3A1328185701%2C1331820802 : 22 September 2014), Jackson>Estate case files, series 2, box 65, no 7-43,>images 654-734 of 1966; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.
- Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 October 2019), memorial page for Jesse Bascom Rowe (15 Dec 1804–30 Jan 1881), Find A Grave Memorial no. 62119456, citing Blue Springs Cemetery, Blue Springs, Jackson County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Leonard Louis Meador (contributor 46801557).
- For more information on the Rowe family’s history in Virginia, see “The Rowe Saga” at http://lilliespond.blogspot.com/.
- 1820 U S Census; Census Place: Jefferson, Fayette, Ohio; NARA Roll: M33_92; Image: 046. Ancestry.com. 1820 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
- “Ohio Marriages, 1800-1958,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XDF1-TP5 : 10 February 2018), Jesse Rowe and Sarah Morris, 10 Feb 1825; citing Fayette, Ohio, reference; FHL Film 0292630 V. A-C. (See also: “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-91SG-5X?cc=1614804&wc=Z51L-RM9%3A121345801%2C121345802 : 15 July 2014), Fayette>Marriage records 1810-1831 vol A> image 60 of 102; county courthouses, Ohio.)
- “United States Census, 1840,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYY1-V5S?cc=1786457&wc=31SK-7S9%3A1588669308%2C1588666049%2C1588667165 : 24 August 2015), Ohio>Fayette>Concord Township>image 7 of 12; citing NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). (See also: 1850 U S Census; Census Place: Concord, Fayette, Ohio; Roll: M432_678; Page: 135A; Image: 275. Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.)
- Staunton Cemetery Records, Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Fayette County, Records Consisting of Guardianship and Wills, Bloomingburg Church Records, image 135 of 144. Retrieved from ancestry.com. (See also: “Died,” Washington Fayette County Herald, 7 Feb 1861, p. 5, col. 2. Retrieved from newspaperarchive.com.)
- Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 October 2019), memorial page for Jane Adams (1839–12 Nov 1861), Find A Grave Memorial no. 132009549, citing Staunton Methodist Church Cemetery, Staunton, Fayette, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Dave (contributor 46499754). (See also: Staunton Cemetery Records, Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Fayette County, Records Consisting of Guardianship and Wills, Bloomingburg Church Records, image 128 of 144.).
- Civil War Service Records for Rowe, Morris B.: Box: 552; Extraction: 92; Record: 2710; Retrieved from Ancestry.com. (See also: Service records for James J., William E., and Moses T. Rowe, Historical Data Systems, comp. U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.)
- Civil War Service Records for Adams, Peter, Historical Data Systems, comp. U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. (See also: Burial Ledgers. The National Cemetery Administration, Washington, D.C. Original records transferred to NARA: Burial Registers, compiled 1867-2006, documenting the period 1831-2006. ARC ID: 5928352. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773–2007, Record Group 15. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Ancestry.com. U.S., Burial Registers, Military Posts and National Cemeteries, 1862-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.)
- Staunton Cemetery Records, Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Fayette County, Records Consisting of Guardianship and Wills, Bloomingburg Church Records, image 135 of 144. Retrieved from ancestry.com. (See also: Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 October 2019), memorial page for Elizabeth Rowe Rowe (11 Oct 1780–8 Sep 1865), Find A Grave Memorial no. 106671703, citing Staunton Methodist Church Cemetery, Staunton, Fayette County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Innocent Bystander (contributor 47689633).)
- Staunton Cemetery Records, Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Fayette County, Records Consisting of Guardianship and Wills, Bloomingburg Church Records, image 135 of 144.
- Staunton Cemetery Records, Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Fayette County, Records Consisting of Guardianship and Wills, Bloomingburg Church Records, image 128 of 144. (See also: Find A Grave, database and images, https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 October 2019), memorial page for Mary C Cannon (1844–29 Apr 1868), Find A Grave Memorial no. 106755076, citing Staunton Methodist Church Cemetery, Staunton, Fayette, Ohio, USA; Maintained by Innocent Bystander (contributor 47689633).
- “Jesse B. Rowe,” Fayette County Herald, Washington, Ohio, 20 Feb 1868, p. 3, col. 3. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
- Record of Deeds, Fayette County, Ohio, Vol. W., 1878-1868, Image 243 of 690. Retrieved from FamilySearch: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C375-QSGS?i=242&cat=233016.
- Deed of Trust. White, William, to Jesse B. Rowe. Jackson County, Missouri, Instrument 1868I0057331, 13 Apr 1868, Book 57, p. 331. Retrieved from http://aumentumweb.jacksongov.org/RealEstate/SearchDetail.aspx.
- Warranty Deed. Rowe, Jesse B., to M. T. Rowe. Jackson County, Missouri, Instrument 1873I0106489, 3 Oct 1873, Book 106, p. 489. Retrieved from http://aumentumweb.jacksongov.org/RealEstate/SearchDetail.aspx.
- North West Publishing Co, and Balliet & Volk. Plat book of Jackson County, Missouri: compiled from county records and actual surveys. Minneapolis: Northwest Pub. Co, 1904. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, ,www.loc.gov/item/2007626974/>.
My dear family history Enthusist, if you find family in the Green Mountain state, I now know you won’t be visiting my homestead. We are beekeepers! I was thrilled the day I found bee colonies in two of my ancestors probate papers. I had no idea that I was keeping it in the family! I look forward to, Moses introduction to honeybees. 🐝
Jesse’s continual losses tug at the heart strings. As always your story telling draws the reader in — I hope your extended family finds your writings.
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My son has decided to explore beekeeping as a hobby. He said surely someone in our family inherited that love of bees! I’ll invest in earplugs if he asks for my help!
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