Sunday, July 09, 2006

The tragic life of Sanford Kirkland

In doing research on the Kirkland branch of my family, I came across a cousin who seems to have had a mysterious and sad life. I thought I'd share it in the hopes that someone who knows more of the story will come across this page and be able to add to the tale.

Sanford Kirkland was my 1st cousin, 3 times removed [Me > Harlan Geyer, Jr > Ila Bear > Samuel Bear > Margaret Kirkland > Hugh & Nancy (Morrison) Kirkland < William Kirkland < Sanford M. Kirkland].

Sanford was the only child of William J. Kirkland (born 1840 in Ohio) and Rebecca Dulaney (born 1838 in Pennsylvania). From what I can piece together, their families both settled in Wetzel County, West Virginia in the 1840's, where they grew up. According to the 1910 US census, they married around 1861. Sometime before 1870 they settled in Walnut township, Wayne County, Iowa, where Sanford was born on 25 Nov 1870.

When Sanford was seven years old, tragedy struck; his father had disappeared:

A LOST MAN. -- On Wednesday, June 6, l877, WILLIAM KIRKLAND, a farmer, started from his home, five miles west of Seymour, Wayne Co., Iowa, to go to Seymour, and took a train at Kniffin Station, and has not since been heard of. His friends think he was not in his right mind when he left. He was a man six feet high, and slender, with black hair, dark sandy whiskers and hazel eyes. He had on a dark mixed cassimere suit and a black, broad-brimmed hat.

Any information of him will be thankfully received, and all necessary charges paid by the wife.

Address by mail or telegraph REBECCA KIRKLAND, in care of E.R. Clark, Seymour, Iowa.

Source: "A Lost Man," Chariton Leader 30 Jun 1877; posted by David <> on 11 Mar 2004,
transcribed by Nancee (McMurtrey) Seifert on 8 Mar 2004, IAGenWeb Project <>.

I don't know whether William was ever found. In the 1880 US Census he is listed with his family, in the 1900 US Census, his wife is "widowed", then in the 1910 US Census he is listed with the family again, and finally in the 1920 US Census, he is gone and his wife has no marital status given (which is not typical). Maybe he came home, or maybe Rebecca lost hope that he would return by 1900 and considered herself a widow, then heard something which made her change her mind. We may never know for sure, although I guess that if he returned it would be news, so a closer look at the local newspapers should be the next step here.

Sanford became a high school teacher, probably at Seymour High School. He was active in the community, being mentioned often in the local newspapers in connection with meetings of the local school board, but by the time of the 1930 US Census, he had changed careers to be a secretary for the telephone company. I wonder if, before he left teaching, he might have taught my grandmother, who graduated from Seymour HS in 1932.

On September 4, 1910, shortly before his 40th birthday, Sanford married Clementine Drake, two years his junior. It was the first marriage for both. It must have been a surprise, and I assume a joy, when in the second year of their marriage she became pregnant. But tragedy struck again; she and the child died during childbirth on December 4, 1912.

Sanford lived with his mother until her death in 1921, then when Clementine's father Joseph died in 1930, Sanford lived with his mother-in-law Selena (Clinesmith) Drake. From undocumented family trees on the web, I've found that she died in 1944 and Sanford died on April 8, 1959.


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