October Ancestry Challenge – Martha Ellen Rodgers

oct ancestry challenge-001 October Ancestry Challenge 2013

23 posts – 23 days – 23 ancestors

Ancestor #19 – Martha Ellen Rodgers 

Martha Ellen Rodgers is my cousin. Her father and my 3rd great grandmother were siblings.



James daughter Martha Ellen Rodgers MeekShe was born in 1853 in Lauderdale County, Mississippi to James Rodgers and Martha Sanderford Rodgers. She had a five-year-old brother and a two-year-old sister, and two more children would follow. She grew up in a farming community, surrounded by loving grandparents and more than a dozen aunts and uncles, along with their respective spouses and children. Her father and a slave named Bill built the log home she grew up in. Her childhood was ideal.

In 1861, Mississippi seceded from the Union and Civil War broke out. Though she had many uncles go off to fight in the war, her brothers were too young and her father was too old, so they remained safely at home with her.

But all would not remain ideal, as during the fall of 1862, a typhoid epidemic invaded her community, killing her grandparents, many aunts, uncles, and cousins, and both of her parents. Her father died October 12, 1862. Her mother died a few short weeks later.

She was nine.

Her given name was Martha Ellen Rodgers, but she was simply known as Ellen.

Hays Rodgers Jr and wife Lucinda GrahamShe and her siblings were placed in the custody of the eldest male in the family, their uncle Hays Rodgers Jr. (photo with wife Lucinda), but he was off fighting in the war, so she was raise for a time by her aunt Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter (Ancestor #17). When Hays Jr. returned home from the war, he sold his farm and moved to Alabama. Ellen went with him. Her other aunt, Aunt Elizabeth Rodgers (photo with husband George), was also there, and when Aunt Elizabeth died in 1875, Ellen returned to Mississippi. rodgers elizabeth and husb george malon graham, daug of hays g

She stayed in Mississippi for a while with her two sisters, but eventually went to Texas. Her two brothers had moved there years earlier, and I imagine she only went out for visit, though the thought of a young woman traveling alone in the 1800s seems dangerous to me. When she got there, everything changed for her.

When she arrived, she met her brother’s wife’s brother, Sam Houston Meek. She and Sam married in 1885. They had twin sons in 1886 who both died. Then they had a daughter Olive Lee in 1888. When Olive Lee was two, Ellen had another girl in 1890, but the baby girl died, and sadly, Ellen died of complications within the week. She was 37.

rodgers martha ellen rodgers meek, dau of james rodgersShe is buried in Nolanville, Bell County, Texas at Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

My book, AN ORPHAN’S HEART, is her story.

6 responses to “October Ancestry Challenge – Martha Ellen Rodgers

  1. Nolanville Is less than 2 hours from me (which for Texas, is close). I think I’ll take a side trip there to pay respects the next time I head to College Station. I love to visit cemeteries. If you have any other relatives that need a tombstone picture, please let me know.

    • That is so sweet of you. Thank you. If you get out there, you can also see her twin sons (one marker that looks like an open book with the boys written on either side) and the marker for her baby daughter (who was named Martha E Meek). He husband and daughter Lee are buried elsewhere. You should read the book first! 🙂

      • My other blog, MrsPadilly.com is a Texas travel blog. I love taking road trips, even for the day. Maybe I can tie in a story with this, tied back to your blog. 🙂

        • The thing that attracted me to her story was the travel. As far as I could figure, she took one train line from Meridian, MS to Mobile, another to New Orleans, then a third through TX. I ran into a part of the story where she was at one house in TX and needed to go to another, but it was 9 days by wagon. It almost destroyed my story line. Texas is a big state, even bigger before cars.

          The little girl who survived, Olive Lee…I spoke to her granddaughter a few times as I was writing the book. She is 75 and lives in Abilene. Gawd, I love history!

          • A VERY large state, and I’ve driven to almost every corner, except Big Bend. Surprisingly, it is not a very train friendly state, which is sad because I LOVE traveling by train (probably from growing up in Chicago).

            I can envision first hand what your ancestor had to contend with – its wild but beautiful country!

  2. Pingback: A to Z Challenge – U is for U.S. Military | a day in the life of patootie

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