Friday, March 13, 2020

2020 Prompt - Strong Women - Phebe Arbogast

Phebe Arbogast, 1795-1889 - my third great grandmother
Nancy Simmons to Paul Simmons to Walter Simmons to Andrew Simmons to Phebe Rexroad to Phebe Arbogast

I come from a family of strong women. My daughter, my sisters, my mother, all amazing and very strong women. Phebe Arbogast, my third great grandmother was a very strong women. She had to be strong since she was born in 1795 during a time when life for women was very difficult. Hardships were expected and one was not a child very long before marriage, birthing and household responsibilities consumed a women’s life. Phebe died in 1889[1] at the age of 94. You had to be strong to survive!

Phebe was the sixth of seven children born to Henry and Sophia Wade Arbogast on February 1, 1796[2].  She was born of German descent, her grandfather Michael Arbogast was born in Baden, Germany in 1732[3] and was in the American Colonies by 1754 and eventually settled in Crab Bottom in the county of Highland , Virginia by 1776[4] where Phebe was born.

Crab Bottom, Highland County, Virginia
Rexroad farm just north of Crab Bottom in Pendleton County

Phebe's mother Sophia, probably fell victim to the leading cause of death for women at that time, dying about 1803 due to childbirth.  Phebe was about five-year-old with six other siblings all under the age of eleven when her mother died. In 1805, as was the custom at that time, her father married a nineteen-year-old women, named Elizabeth Seybert. Phebe's stepmother proceeded to birth 12 children in the next 22 years with only one child dying as a small child.  Phebe now had eighteen siblings!  Yep, eighteen brothers and sisters! With that many children in a household you can understand why Phebe probably married at age 17 to John Rexroad on May 15, 1815 in Pendleton County.[5] When Phebe married she left 11 siblings living in the Arbogast household and then watched as seven of her half siblings were born at the same time as her first five children. Phebe had a total of nine children with her husband John Rexroad. 

Pendleton County, Virginia Marriage Record
John Rexroad to Phebe Armoncast - May 15, 1815

When Phebe married John Rexroad, he was 25 years-old and had just participated in the War of 1812. According to John's service records he had been a private in Captain Jesse Henkle's Company Virginia 5th Regiment Militia.[6] Phebe had five sons and four daughters, birthing her first child in 1817 and her ninth child, my 2nd great grandmother, in 1835. 

War of 1812 Service Record for John Rexroad & Phebe Rexroad

Life in rural western Virginia in the early 1800s was very isolated. Many German settlers had bought land in the 1760-1770 and Phebe was the second generation of Arbogast born in Pendleton County.  Because of their isolation there were many craftsmen. Her husband's family were from a long line of blacksmiths and the community had coopers, tailors, hatters and a sickle maker.  The county also produced over 50 tons of maple syrup and was quite independent of sugar and other commodities.[7] Almost every farmer raised sheep and grew flax to make their clothing. Phebe surely learned to spin flax as a child and clothed her children in this means. The South Potomac river provided streams for mills and the valley had a saltpeter works and a few distilleries. The lack of a railroad caused them to live within their means.
Spinning flax to make clothes

There was a movement in the mid-1800s to move west and in 1845 John and Phebe moved their family to Lewis County, in north central Virginia; West Virginia was not created till 1863. The 1850 Lewis County federal census[8] list John and Pheby with their three youngest children; William, Pheby and Sophia.  After 15 years in Lewis County, John and Pheby moved back to Pendleton County just before the outbreak of the Civil War.  In the 1860 federal census[9] John and Phebe are living with their daughter Margaret who married Nicholas Harper and their five Harper children.
1860 Federal Census Pendleton County, Virginia
John & Phoebe Rexroad living with daughter Margaret Harper

Pendleton County was pretty much isolated from the Civil War but on May 8, 1862 the battle of McDowell[10] was within ten miles of the Harper family.  Most Pendleton men were southern sympathizers including the Harpers who had three sons fighting for the south. Stonewall Jackson 's General Milroy took on Union Federalist, General Schenck, at the battle of McDowell and as Schenck withdrew to south of the town of Franklin, General Stonewall pursued and had to have marched quite close to the Harper family farm. Not only were three of Phebe's grandson fighting for the Confederacy but also all five of her sons. When the war over she had lost one son who died in a Confederate hospital in Richmond.
Battle of McDowell
The Harper farm was just a few miles north of Monterey

Two and half years after the war, Phebe's husband of 52 years died about 1867.  After losing her husband Phebe watched five of her remaining eight children leave Pendleton County and head west; heading to Ohio, Missouri and Kansas. Prior to the war her daughter Phebe, my direct ancestor, had married Aaron Simmons and moved to Ritchie County, West Virginia.

Phebe continued to live with her daughter, Margaret Harper, another 22 years and died November 14, 1889[11] at her daughter's home. She died at 94 years which is amazing and is probably buried in the Harper Cemetery.
Harper Cemetery in Pendleton County, West Virginia

[2] Ibid
[3] Virkus, Frederick Adam; editor, The First Families of America, Volume VII, 1942, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968, page 196.
[4] Morton, Oren F., A History of Highland County Virginia, The Stone Printing and Manufacturing Company, 1911, page 87.
[5] Virginia, Marriages, 1740-1850, Ancestry[6] U.S., War of 1812 Service Records, 1812-1815, Ancestry
7] Morton, page 96.
[8] 1850 District 30, Lewis County, Virginia Federal Census, page 99A, Ancestry.
[9] 1860 Pendleton County, Virginia Federal Census, Page 46, image 52, Ancestry.
[10] Morton, pages 112-113.
[11] West Virginia Research Records, Deaths, Pendleton County, 1889, line 26, Phoebe Rexroad

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