Wishful Wednesday: Jefferson Springsteen was “Lured by the Sawdust Ring…”

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Jefferson Springsteen's Obituary
Jefferson Springsteen, c1890?
Jefferson Springsteen, c1890? (Click to enlarge.)

One never knows what lurks in the dark back corners of closets.

I had been tracing our family history for years and was stuck at my great-great grandfather, Jefferson Springsteen. I had searched far and wide (in the days before internet genealogy) without success in learning much more than his name and a few dates- he was hard to find. I wished for just one clue…

My mother had asked some of her siblings if they had any family information tucked away, in a closet or their memory, but with no success. She finally asked her oldest brother Edgar if he had any information, and he, although very ill, remembered an old box in a closet. His dear wife pulled it out and there was a darkened clipped obituary of Jefferson Springsteen pasted to a page with information about Jeff and his family. There were three additional newspaper clippings about his death and funeral.

Jefferson Springsteen Obituary
Jefferson Springsteen Obituary (Click to enlarge.)

My hands shook as my mother handed me the copy. “EVENTFUL LIFE OF PIONEER IS ENDED” I read. Oh my, I couldn’t believe what I held in my hands! (Yes, genealogists are weird…)

“Jefferson Springsteen, 90, Whose Career is Interwoven With Early Indianapolis, Dies” continued the headline.

“Carried Mail on Horseback”

“Public Service Began When 16

Over 65-Mile Route–Later

Democratic Politician”

I could not believe what I was reading.My mother thought her family were mostly poor Germans and Irish, and had done nothing ‘important.’

The newspaper obituary stated,

“Jefferson Springsteen, one of the oldest

pioneers of Indiana, died at 8 o’clock yes-

terday afternoon at the home of his

daughter, Mrs. Joseph Beckwith, 1118

Bellefontaine street, closing an eventful

and interesting career of ninety years.

The funeral will be held at the home

Tuesday afternoon with interment at

Crown Hill Cemetery.”

This was the breakthrough I had been searching for, for so long.

“Mr. Springsteen was born at Harrison, O., in 1820.  The love for excitement and adventure seemed to have been born in him. When a very small boy he was lured by the sawdust ring and tented arena and running away from home with a circus, took his first glimpse of Indiana [or may be ‘Indians’- newspaper damaged so cannot determine which it is]. He left the circus life, but never lost the appreciation of a good show. It is said of him that he never missed attending a circus in Indianapolis.”

 These newspaper clippings gave me so much information- I have since been able to learn much more about his life due to those clues, plus of course the incredible breadth of records now online. And the stories in the obit- just priceless! A wish come true.


Tomorrow- More details from the obituary and newspaper clippings.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Family treasure chest photo and documents.


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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Matilda (Mac Elvey) Beerbower

Matilda L. (MacElvey) Beerbower-Headstone. Posted with permission of photographer.
Matilda L. (MacElvey) Beerbower-Headstone in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana. Posted with permission of photographer.


Matilda Louise MacElvey (or Matilda L. McKelvey) was born possibly in Massachusetts or more probably in Missouri on 27 Jan 1823 to unknown parents. At age 16 she married Eleazer John Beerbower (or John Eleazer Beerbower- German folks used their two names interchangeably throughout their lives, and he also was known as E.J. Beerbower); he was 23. They married 07 Mar 1839, and one year later, at age 17, she became the mother of twins on 01 Apr 1840. Son Polaski only lived 10 days, but his twin Caspar, named after Eleazer’s father and grandfather, survived longer, though only to 9 months and 25 days. The twins were buried in Dovel Memorial Cemetery, Pickerington, Fairfield, Ohio, so probably were also born in the area.

In 1842 the family was still living in Ohio where son Samuel T. Beerbower was born on 10 Nov 1842. He may have been named in honor of his paternal uncle, Samuel Beerbower (1824-1890). In August of 1844, at age 21, Matilda gave birth to son George who only survived 3 days; he also is buried in Dovel Memorial Cemetery. How sad it must have been to lose three precious children so early in life!

Healthy children, thankfully, then followed every few years to join their sibling Samuel T. Beerbower: Stephen Russell Beerbower was born in 1845 in Ohio; James M. Beerbower on 02 Mar 1848 in Ohio; Edgar P. Beerbower was born 28 Jun 1849 in Pinkerington, Fairfield County, Ohio. (He is your ancestor if you are descended from Anna May Beerbower Helbling; he was sometimes called Edward P. Beerbower instead of Edgar.)

In 1849, the family moved to Delaware, Delaware County, Ohio; in 1850, they uprooted again and moved to Marion County, Ohio. Eleazer was a saddle and harness maker there, a trade he had learned as a young man.

A daughter was finally born into the family: Mary Emma Beerbower, born 10 Mar 1852 in Marion, Ohio, followed by another son, Eleazer John Beerbower, named after his father, on 10 May 1858, also in Marion County, Ohio.  Matilda had given birth to a child every 1-3 years previously, before this six year gap. Matilda was just 35 when their ninth child was born.

In 1866, John (Eleazer John Sr.) moved to Indianapolis for a new job, but Matilda and the family stayed in Marion for one year before joining him. We have been unable to find a record of the family in the 1870 US Federal Census in Indianapolis, but the indexing of the name has some pretty creative spelling; hopefully they will turn up one of these days. They were found again in the Indianapolis 1880 census, with John working in the upholstery business.

Matilda’s husband John died at age 67 in Indianapolis on 24 Oct 1882.

The biography of son Samuel T. Beerbower states his widowed mother was living in Indianapolis in 1883. The Indianapolis City Directory of 1885 lists Matilda as the widow of Eleazer J., living at 5 Vine St.

Matilda is found again in the 1900 US Federal Census taken 9 June 1900. She was the head of household and living at 605 East Pratt St. in Indianapolis with her divorced son, Edgar Peter Beerbower (our ancestor- they got back together though and remarried- a story for another day). The census also notes that Matilda was born in June 1828, had 9 children, 6 still living, and that her parents were born in Maryland.

Matilda L. (MacElvey) Beerbower- Death Notice in The Indianapolis Journal_v50_n200_p8_c1.
Matilda L. (MacElvey) Beerbower- Death Notice in The Indianapolis Journal. (Click to enlarge.)

Matilda (McKelvey) Beerbower died about 5 weeks after the census, on 18 Jul 1900, at the age of 77. She had suffered from heart trouble for a number of years. (Understandable with the loss of so many loved ones!) She was laid to rest in Crown Hill Cemetery, Section 32, Lot 202, on 21 Jul 1900. Two of her dear sons, Edgar Peter and Stephen Russell, were later buried in the same lot.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Polaski  Beerbower Memorial on Find A Grave:

2) Caspar Beerbower Memorial on Find A Grave:

3) Samuel T. Beerbower on Find A Grave, which includes a bio of his parents. Have been unable to yet find the source of the FAG info.

4) 1860 US Federal Census: Source Citation: Year: 1860; Census Place: Marion, Marion, Ohio; Roll: M653_1006; Page: 326; Image: 123; Family History Library Film: 805006.

5) 1880 US Federal census: Source Citation: Year: 1880; Census Place: Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana; Roll: 295; Family History Film: 1254295; Page: 227B; Enumeration District: 113; Image: 0156.

6) 1900 US Federal census: Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana; Roll: 387; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0044; FHL microfilm: 1240387.

7) US City Directory for Indianapolis, Indiana: Source Information: U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

8) Matilda L. MacElvey Beerbower Memorial on Find A Grave:

9) “Found Dead in Bed, Mrs. Matilda Beerbower, an Old Resident of the City,” in The Indianapolis Journal, July 19, 1900, Vol 50, Number 200, Page 8, Column 1.——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-+Beerbower—–#. Indiana newspapers may also be found on the Chronicling America website.

10) The History of Marion County, Ohio…Leggett, Conaway, & Co., Chicago, 1883, pages 531, 555-6: 

11) See our Beerbower Family Tree Page by clicking this link.


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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.