Monday, December 24, 2012

The Mystery of Eliza Jane Dillon

As winter begins to sink in again, I've resumed research into my ancestry, picking away at the many threads of my bloodline.  Although I have mapped out a fairly extensive list in many regards, there is still much to do, and lingering lines that will forever remain lost in the fog of time.  I was looking at one dead-end in particular not so long ago, that of my great-great-great grandmother, Eliza Jane Dillon (or Denny).

Her maiden name, itself, is sometimes disputed. Depending on which descendant researcher you run across, some say her last name was Dillon, and others list it as Denny.  She was born 17 April 1836 in Zanesville, Ohio.  On 1 January 1852, she married Frederick Stark, a German immigrant almost 10 years her senior.  They moved out to Indiana, then later to Illinois, and together they had 3 children, Henry Irving Stark, James Franklin Stark, and my great-great grandmother, Mary-Etta Stark, the future wife of Charles W. Bailey.  Fred Stark died in 1867, and Eliza remarried twice (Sampson Cantrell in 1868, and Josiah S. Fletcher in 1893).

Eliza died on 19 August 1914 in Fort Scott, Kansas.

Mary-Etta Stark, daughter of
Eliza Jane Dillon/Denny
Trying to find Eliza's parents has been an arduous process, and I have made little progress.  To my knowledge, nobody alive currently knows who her parents were, and census data isn't that helpful, either.  Their alleged birthplace varies with each census Eliza took.  In 1880, they were from Virginia and Ohio.  In 1900, they were from France, and in 1910 they were from Maine.  I've confirmed beyond a doubt that all of these census reports are for the same woman, yet she clearly didn't feed the census takers the same information each time they came around (or whoever was answering for her didn't know and/or made stuff up).  This has led me to wonder if the truth about her parents might even be different than any of these claims.

In my continuing quest to unlock the secret of Eliza's origins, I came across an interesting 1850 census form for Zanesville, Ohio (actually two, since the household started at the bottom of one page and continued on another).  This census report was for the household of Moses & Mary Dillon.  They had 4 children listed, and two other individuals living with them:  Mary A. McCormack and Elizabeth Denny.  I find this to be a very compelling coincidence, indeed.  Since Eliza is known by both names, Dillon and Denny, it could be that she was born Denny, and was "adopted" by the Dillons.  The 1850 census didn't ask for all that much information, and didn't even list a person's relation to the head of household, so it is unclear if this Elizabeth Denny was an adopted daughter or not.

Another curiosity with this record is Elizabeth Denny's birthplace.  On this form, it's listed as Germany, and this gives us more circumstantial evidence to consider.  We know that Frederick Stark was from Germany, and it is possible that his wife had her origins there, as well.  She may have come over very young, or perhaps she truly was born in Zanesville, Ohio, as is consistently reported.  She may have been born to German parents shortly after their arrival, giving some people the impression that she was also "from" Germany.  Either way, it seems logical that Eliza may have had a similar origin/background as that of the man she wed at the tender young age of 15.

The truth of Eliza's parents may never come to light, though I continue my pursuit.  New possibilities continue to emerge, leaving renewed hope that the answers are out there to be found, eventually.


  1. Rebecca Nelson Van LiereJanuary 23, 2013 at 3:06 AM

    Eliza Jane Dillon was my Great-Great Grandma. My Great Grandpa was her son, James Franklin. The story I heard was that her parents died when she was very young (around 2 years old) and she was placed in an orphanage. During those days, wealthy people would take the young girls from the orphanage into their homes to do housework. She was "adopted" by the Moses Dillon family, so took on their name. They lived next door to a farm where Frederick Stark worked, so that is how they met. I had also heard from my grandmother that Charles Bailey (who married Mary Etta Stark) gave phoney information to the census takers (as if he was trying to hide something). I think grandma (Clara Stark) said he was a preacher.

    1. Thank you for sharing. It is always good to have another piece of the puzzle, and to hear from fellow descendants. Indeed, Charles Bailey was a Methodist preacher for much of his very long life.

      I've found inaccuracies on many census records, so feeding the census takers inaccurate information wasn't all that uncommon. I think a lot of people back then felt the government didn't have any business asking so many questions, and rebelled slightly by changing a birthday or a place of birth. It can make research a little tricky at times.

  2. Thanks for the response. What child of Mary Etta's were you descended from? I heard she had about 8 kids. Where did they live?

    1. I'm descended from Lois Hazel Bailey, who married George Sylvester Counts, a prominent college professor. Charles & Mary Etta Bailey spent most of their lives in eastern Kansas and raised their children there. They had 9 (4 sons, 5 daughters) but Etta Mae died a month shy of her 19th birthday. The other 8 lived long lives, and most had children of their own. There are a lot of cousins out there, though I've only heard from a few of them.

  3. Muskingum The county got its name from the Native Americans
    By the 1850s nearly all Native American tribes lived to the west of the Mississippi River.
    Not saying some didnt 'hide out' or 'blend in' as they certainly did,
    (even marrying ancestors) indians would not have any records so it cannot be traced any farther but being Native caused fibs too (oh if anyone would find out!) IDK but Thought Id share it
    I know still today finding an Indian in the closet doesnt fit in some circles but it did happen .... just a thought

    Dillon State Park
    In 1803, Moses Dillon purchased the land bordering the Licking River where the present lake is located.
    He built and operated a local iron foundry, founded the village of Dillon Falls and dammed the Licking River to provide water power for the community.
    Moses Dillon is probably most noted for his contributions toward the design and construction of the world-famous "Y" bridge just east in Zanesville.

    Dillon Reservoir was completed in 1961 the park was dedicated in August 1968. Irville, Dillion and "downtown" Nashport were removed (and or abandoned) for the creation of Dillon Lake.
    In 1959 at least some of the village of hanover was also forced to move due to flooding and the dam.
    Later unfortunately, the reservoir formed by the dam completely submerged Claylick and required that most of the town of Toboso be torn down as well.
    The Gardner-Trap Cemetery was moved to Irville Cemetery due to Dillon Lake (146 & Creamery Road)
    A stone walled family (VanVorhis) Cemetery is in a farmers field near 146 & 586 one stone here seems from 1790s a Randall, Mary VanVorhis b. Washington, PA Mar. 10, 1809 d. Apr. 19, 1884
    seem to cross two lines of my family names but they are not spelled that way any more? huum....Her husband is here to but his birthplace then Virginia is now today West Virginia ....thats crazy
    and on so it seems time changes history ANYWAY

    The Old Quaker Cemetery still exists as Dillon Memorial Cemetery near the underpassage of I-70 on Licking road.
    Its said severe vandalism in its past brought about the decision to set the remaining pieces in a cement mound in the center of the grounds.
    But an elder man once told me this was all moved graves "from under the lake" He in fact worked on this project and recalled the days of the moving -
    BP near Dillon State Park on 146 sits in front of the road (I forget what cr?) they used -but you'll find it terminates in the lake!
    200' or so feet out the water on a jut of land 300' more of the road remain, 150' feet cross the water to the other side of the water about 600' more of the road remain visible (some underwater depending on water level).
    I used google maps for better measurement - but that road went to whatever was left of the town Under the lake and he seems sure this happened in 1960 so The Old Quaker Cemetery may well have been moved as he said.
    But I now wonder exactly which town the road went to under the lake!?

  4. I am a great - great granddaughter of Eliza Jane Dillon. My Line comes through James Franklin Stark. WE have found a 1850 Liberty Ohio census, with a Eliza J Dillon living in the household of Samuel Armstrong at the age of 13. I think this could be our Eliza J. Dillon. Still no luck on finding any parents. I did have my DNA taken and I do have a very small amount of Native American. HUMMMMMMMM!

    Barbara Stark Lewis