Anytime I am lucky enough to have a family photo passed along to me, I get excited. It helps me connect a little more with an ancestor. I can look onto the face of this person and see beyond just knowing their name. Add to that the fact that I have walked where they have walked, seen the fields they have worked, and personally lived in a semi-close vicinity to where they have lived.
Levi Thrasher, grandson of David and Phoebe Thrasher, was born 4 Mar 1827. It is believed that he was born in Maine, and when just a few years old, made the trip to Delaware County, Ohio via an ox-team and covered wagon with his parents and five siblings, as the family appeared there as early as the 1830 census. He lived and was raised on what was known as the “Sugar Tree Farm” in Trenton Township, called as such because of the large number of maple trees.
Levi was one of only two boys in the family, accompanied by seven sisters. Certainly he was taught early in life the responsibility of working and improving the farm that his father owned along the banks of Rattlesnake Run creek. When he came of age, he was wed to Miss Sarah Chalfant, the daughter of William and Phoebe (Talley) Chalfant. They were married on 5 May 1853 in Delaware County.
Upon the death of his father in 1871, Levi and his brother were each willed 100 acres from their father. This land was transferred in February of 1873 to another party – Mr. William N. Wilson – nearing the time that Levi would move his family. On 5 May 1875, along with his wife and family, Levi Thrasher left his cabin in Delaware County and set out for his new home in Paulding County, Ohio.
According to Amanda Lee Thrasher in her family history, Brown Township in Paulding County, Ohio was a “wild, woodsy, and plaguey” place when they settled there:
“Hardships were many for this large family coming from a well-settled county, with practically no financial resources, to a land that required levelling of the forest, draining of the soil, and combating of the prevalent diseases.
Sarah Chalfant Thrasher was a typical example of the pioneer wife raising her family in the rude cabin in the midst of the woods. The three beds, stand, and dresser, brought with them in the old Conestoga wagon, constituted the furnishings for the “room”; the lean-to kitchen served as dining room and center for any social activities. Married at the age of 17, she devoted 42 years of her life to her family bearing the burdens with courage and fortitude accompanied with the hope that the new country afforded a brighter chance for her children.”
Of Levi and Sarah’s nine children, six of them remained in Paulding County. The greatest tragedy perhaps coming in 1894 when their second son, Thomas, who had left Ohio to work as a linesmen for Western Union in Reno, was killed in an avalanche in Nevada. The scene was described in the Reno Journal:
“The snowslide was not upon a side hill as generally supposed, but had run its terrible course down a steep canyon. At the head of this canyon upon the right side a small knoll,…once stood the two cabins inhabited by the unfortunate men. Above the head of the canyon rises a steep mountain where the snow had its inception. It swept down the mountain side 40 feet high as shown by the nakedness of the trunks of the trees from which it had torn the limbs, plunged over the brow of the canyon, and split in two upon the [knoll], the greater volume going down the right side. The two cabins were where the left portion struck after its plunge, and it crushed them as a hand can crush an egg shell, rolling on down the canyon following its every curve for about a mile and quarter. Great boulders were torn from their beds, and carried in its track, trees were twisted off, the two woodsmen’s cabins wiped from the face of nature as though they had never been.”
Thomas was eventually located lying under 4 feet of snow, still lying upon the bed where he was when the disaster hit. “Beneath him were the blankets and two mattresses and under his head was the pillow which the avalanche, in its wild progress, had not displaced. His body showed no marks or bruises, and death, so far as ever will be known, came to him instantly and painlessly.”
I can not begin to imagine the sadness and devastation felt by Levi and Sarah upon receiving word of their son’s death. They were most certainly unable to attend the funeral given the distance needed to travel and the expense involved, but the newspaper reported that their son’s funeral was filled to utmost capacity with almost 2,000 in attendance. His life was well remembered in the absence of his family.
After grieving the sudden and tragic loss of his son, Levi would soon grieve the death of his wife, Sarah, in 1905. On 16 February 1912, Levi Thrasher succumbed to simply “old age” as per his death certificate. The two of them are buried together at the Prairie Chapel Cemetery – Oakwood, Paulding County, Ohio.