I don't know when I first saw the photographs. They had been in an old family album that existed in our home when I was born, and I vaguely recall wondering what those people were like. They were my father's maternal grandparents, Josiah Clark Redfield and Hannah A. Nichols. The names had been written on the back of the photos.
A half-century passed, and somehow I had acquired the albums and kept them through many moves that began in Detroit and ended in Las Vegas. When I realized that I was -- as Frank Sinatra croons so beautifully -- in the autumn of my years, a desire to record the family history for my grandchildren arose. That desire led to an intensive, consuming, and most successful family genealogy search.
Josiah and Hannah's photos saw daylight again. I was able later to pin down the dates of the photos as the early 1860's. He is clean-shaven and handsome; she wears a dress with huge sleeves, and is hauntingly beautiful.
Their daughter -- my grandmother -- is long dead; my father passed away 35 years ago. But my aunt Dana was still strong at 81, and although miles away in Indianpolis, I began a correspondence with her. Alas, she knew little of her grandparents, except that they were early Kansas pioneers, and that Josiah once was a sheriff there, "maybe around Wichita, because that's where Mom was born."
Internet e-mail queries led me to information that a book on the Redfields had been written in 1860, The History of the Redfield Family in the United States. I purchased a reproduction of the book, and found that Josiah was listed as "residing in Allen County, Kansas."
Later, I found the electronic transcript of Cutler's History of the State of Kansas on the KanColl site. Going into the Allen County history, I confirmed that Josiah Clark Redfield was the sheriff of Allen County from 1860 to 1865.
Now I know that Josiah was born 27 Apr 1831 in Twinsburg Twp., Summit Co., Ohio. He was one of four children. The 1850 census for Twinsburg shows him at 19 with the occupation of "farmer." About 1857 (sources differ) he married Hannah A. Nichols, also of Twinsburg (b. 4 May 1834), and they joined the "Geneva Colony" and removed to Allen County, Kansas. The 1860 census shows them in Geneva, KS. During that year, according to Cutler, he served on the District Grand Jury. This led to his election as Sheriff for Allen County in 1860, resulting in a move to Humboldt, then the county seat. A new election was held in 1861 when Kansas attained statehood, and he retained his office, serving until 1865. He then was elected Treasurer of Humboldt, serving until 1869. In that year, he was elected to the State Legislature from that district, serving two years. At the end of that term, he was appointed Receiver of Land Grants, causing his removal to Wichita.
Sometime in the mid 1870's, he left public office and involved himself in merchandising in Wichita. The 1880 census shows them on Emporia Street in Wichita, with the occupation of "dry goods merchant." In the late 1890's, public office again beckoned, and he served as a Commissioner on the Sedgwick County Commission. When I reviewed the 1900 census for Wichita, you can imagine my surprise to find his signature at the top of the census page....he was the enumerator for his district! Public servant to the end!
Finally, I located the following obituary from the Humboldt, KS Union dateline April 29, 1904:
A Wichita dispatch tells of the death of J. C. Redfield at Cincinnati Wednesday, wither he had gone on a visit. J. C. Redfield came to Allen County in 1859 from Ohio and in 1860 was made sheriff, serving five years. In 1870 and 1871 he was Representative from this county. He and John Francis and T. S. Stover were the first class taken into the Humboldt Masonic Lodge. Mr. Redfield moved from Humboldt to Wichita where he took charge of the Land Office. Recently, he resigned as County Commissioner of Sedgwick county to go to his old home for a visit. Deceased was a brother of R. R. Redfield, of Humboldt.
Josiah and Hannah had six children, one dying in infancy. Their last born, Pearl Redfield, was my paternal grandmother, and I loved her dearly. I understand from an aunt that she positively adored her father.
I only found one disheartening item in researching Josiah and Hannah. After Josiah's death, Hannah returned to Ohio, and was cared for by a daughter. Cemetery records show the cause of death as "senile dementia," or, in today's terminology, Alzheimer's disease, in 1907. Both were returned to Kansas, and lie side by side in Highland Cemetery, Wichita.
And a mystery remains: the aunt mentioned above (alert at 81) insists that Josiah served during the Civil War. Yet he was sheriff in Allen County throughout the war, and searches at the National Archives have been negative. On the other hand, his two brothers, Richard R. Redfield and Orrin S. Redfield (who also followed him to Kansas after the war) both served in the Civil War, and their records have been obtained from the Archives. Did Aunt Dana have the family mixed up? Perhaps. Or perhaps Josiah was simply a Jayhawker, without formal enlistment. These are the things that make searching for your roots never ending!
After finding the information in The History of the State of Kansas, I wrote to the current sheriff of Allen County, Ron Moore, inquiring if he'd be interested in having a photo of his early predecessor. Serendipity on both sides -- he is trying to acquire photos of all the previous Allen County Sheriffs! Josiah was the fourth such; preceeded by three short-timers.
During the first week in May, I shall drive from Nevada to Iola, Kansas, where, on about May 6, an 8x10 framed copy of the old photo will be presented to Sheriff Moore. On the back of the frame, I'll add a copy of the photo of Hannah. The photo will hang in the sheriff's office.
Josiah and Hannah will have returned home, thanks to the Kansas Collection.