One of the highlights of last summer was a visit from Jim Rhinehart, a great, great grandson of Noah and Rebecca Rhinehart, the first owners of our home. This was during my little June/July semi-hiatus from the blog. With some help from Jim, and after some additional research on my own, I’ve learned a bit more information about Noah and Rebecca, and I’m long overdue for sharing that information here.
A study of the first property owners in our county reveals that the land our house was built on was purchased from the United States government on June 3, 1822 by Jacob Rhinehart (Noah’s father). Jacob came here from Fairfield County, Ohio and according to family lore died in a barn raising accident shortly after arriving, leaving behind a young widow and infant son Noah. Also according to family lore, Jacob’s widow Susannah remarried and moved "back east" leaving young Noah to be raised as an orphan. Two of the questions raised by my earlier research on the Rhinehart family were who raised Noah? And what became of his mother, Susannah? A little more digging and some answers are starting to piece together.
By the summer of 1830, Noah Rhinehart would have been 9 years old; his mother Susannah would have been 27. The federal census taken that year includes the tiny family of a "Susan Rinehart" living in Rush Creek Township, Fairfield County, Ohio. The household consisted of one female between the ages of 20-30 and two young males, one under 5 years of age and the other between the ages of 5-10. It makes sense that Jacob’s widow would have returned to Fairfield County following her husband’s death, and the enumeration strongly suggests it is for ‘our’ Susannah and Noah, but I’m stumped by the male under the age of 5. If it is a younger child of Jacob and Susannah then Jacob’s death was apparently in the mid-to-late 1820’s rather than the early 1820’s. And what became of this apparent younger brother to Noah? (As usual with genealogy – answer one question and you raise two more.)
As for Susannah, she must have maintained some presence in the area where she and Jacob had bought land and planned to live. Our house is located about 3 miles north of a county line, and records from the county just to our south include the marriage of a Susannah Rhinehart to G.T. Denman on April 14, 1835. Noah was one month shy of 14 years old when his mother remarried. His new stepfather was Gersham Terry Denman, born about 1780. Like Susannah, Gersham had been previously married and had children from his first marriage.
The 1840 census records Gersham and Susannah Denman living in the county of their marriage, with three children in the household: a male between the ages of 5-10 (Gersham’s youngest child from his first marriage, Andrew Denman, born about 1832), a female under the age of 5 (Martha J. Denman, born to Gersham and Susannah about 1838) and a male under the age of 5 (Gersham T. Denman, Jr., born to Gersham and Susannah about 1840). Noah, then barely 19, was not enumerated with the family. At that age, it is quite likely that Noah was living with another family as a hired farm laborer. Out of curiosity, I looked up the family of Benjamin and Anna Huddle (Noah’s future in-laws) in the 1840 census, however there is no male Noah’s age enumerated with their family. But living just three houses away from the Huddles was the Daniel Troxel family, consisting of a male 20-30 (presumably Daniel), a female 20-30 (presumably Daniel’s wife), a female 5-10 (presumable Daniel’s daughter), a male under 5 (presumably Daniel’s son) and a male 15-20 (hmmmm… too old to be Daniel’s son, but a perfect age to be a hired hand). How I wish the 1840 census listed everyone in the household by name!
Noah Rhinehart reappears on the official record on April 6, 1844 when he purchases the land where our house currently stands from Jacob Rhinehart (his deceased father?). Curiously, another deed for the exact same parcel of land was recorded on January 29, 1845, this time transferring ownership to Noah Rhinehart from G.T. Denman and his wife Susannah (Noah’s mother and step-father). Although I have little more than a gut feeling upon which to base this, I believe that our house was probably built during the summer and fall of 1844. Noah was twenty-three years old, and undoubtedly planning ahead for his marriage to Rebecca Huddle which would occur the following spring.
The story of Noah and Rebecca’s years in their stone house remains as told in my earlier post here. Meanwhile, Noah’s mother and stepfather remained living just to the south. By 1850 Noah had four young half-siblings; in addition to Martha and Gersham, Jr., there were now Abner Denman (born about 1842) and Catherine Denman (born about 1844). Sometime in the 1850’s Gersham and Susannah Denman did move, but they moved not "back east" as family lore claimed, but north instead – to Minnesota to be precise.
There is one final interesting note about the Rhineharts. As stated in my earlier post, Noah and Rebecca sold the stone house in 1864 and moved to Shelby County, Ohio. It turns out this was not a random relocation - Noah joined a large extended family in Shelby County, it being the home to his Rhinehart grandparents as well as numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Noah Rhinehart's life is still puncuated by tragedy - particularly his father's death in the 1820's and his son's death in the 1860's - but contrary to my earlier image of Noah as an orphan I now see that he had the support of family throughout his life. Other than a few years just before his marriage, it appears that Noah was raised by his own mother. And Noah and Rebecca's relocation to Shelby County suggests that, in spite of his father's very early death, Noah maintained close contact with his Rhinehart kin. I'm relieved for Noah. That's probably kind of silly since the man passed away more than a hundred years ago, but still, it's comforting to know that the first owner of our home had the love and support of family to fall back on in times of sorrow.