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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, no. 32—Ann Kirkham (1782?-1869)

Ann Kirkham, my 3rd great-grandmother, pursued the hard life of a pioneer but lived to a ripe, old age nevertheless. She must have been made of tough stuff.

Her actual birth place, date, and year have not been proven as far as I know. Records agree that she was born during the month of August, but the date varies as 1782 or 1783. Some sources say she was born in Kentucky; others report her birthplace as Pennsylvania.

By 1806 she lived in Nelson County, Kentucky when she married Thomas Reed. They wed on November 24 and then relocated to live near Thomas’ family in Spencer County. There the couple had five children: Robertson Mitchell (1808), Eliza (1810), Jane (1817), Caleb (1818), and William (1822). Given the long spaces between Eliza and Jane, and again between Caleb and William, perhaps there were other children who died young.

In 1829, Thomas Reed sold his Kentucky holdings. He and other family members struck out for newly opened lands in Indiana and Illinois. Thomas and Ann chose the latter, settling in Coles County, Illinois after the new year in 1830. They took along as much of their household goods as they could, including Ann’s spinning wheel.

Early Coles County families faced a primitive life. They built cabins of unhewn logs with puncheon floors. Chimneys were made of sticks and clay. Perhaps Ann could enjoy some time quilting or sewing with nearby women-folk while Thomas and the other men constructed the first homes.

The couple built a financially successful life in Illinois, but personal tragedy struck periodically. Ann made the trip to the fresh graves of family members many times over the years:

  1. In 1836, her son-in-law John Mitchell McAlister (Eliza’s husband), died,
  2. In 1845 her son William passed away,
  3. In 1852 her husband Thomas died, leaving her a widow,
  4. In 1853 her daughter-in-law Nancy McAlister Reed, who was Robertson’s wife, died,
  5. In 1854, her grandson and Caleb’s third son, Thomas B. Reed, died in infancy,
  6. In 1855, her granddaughter and Caleb’s oldest daughter, Mary C. Reed, died at the age of eight,
  7. In 1856, her granddaughter Susan McAlister Galbreath (Eliza’s daughter) died from complications of childbirth,
  8. In 1864, another grandson, Caleb’s son James N. Reed, died in infancy.

During her latter years, after Thomas’ death, Ann made her home with her son Caleb and his family. When she reached her mid-80’s her life was drawing to a close. Ann passed away on 3 February 1869. She was buried beside Thomas in the Reed-McAlister Cemetery in Coles County, Illinois.

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