Life is Hard…But Worth It

This week’s theme is “good deeds” and can be interpreted as good acts or deeds of sale, etc. I decided to write about my fourth great-grandmother, Lavina (PILGRIM) DRAKE. I previously analyzed a Deed of Sale she and her husband (Ervin Alonzo DRAKE) were involved in so I thought this might be a nice spinoff. The previous deed analysis can be found here: Anatomy of a Move Using a Deed of Sale. Whereas that blog was “research-y” as my daughter would say, this one will be more of a story, I hope. (The previous blog entry does have some interesting links to information so if you don’t read the research, you might want to click the links.)

The Main Parties:
Ervin and Lavina were the paternal grandparents of Poppy Lonzo DRAKE (Ervin Alonzo “Poppy” DRAKE). Ervin’s pension records describe him as 6’1 with black hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. Lavina was born in Dubois County, Indiana in December, 1821. I don’t know exactly who her parents were. Neither do I know anything about her life prior to her marriage to Ervin. On 1 October 1839, she married Ervin Alonzo DRAKE. Together they had 9 children that I know of- Martha, Silas, Mary Ann (called Polly), George Washington, Margaret, William (my ancestor), Nancy, Henry Arthur, and Jefferson. In 1870, a 6 year old girl named Martha Young lived with the family but I am uncertain of this girl’s connection to the family.

Their Story:
Lavina lived in Orange County, Indiana from 1839 until sometime between the 1860 and 1870 census dates. All her children were born there. The majority of her life was lived there.

Ervin and Lavina were blessed with their first child, Martha, right away. Martha was born in 1840. The following year Silas was born. Two babies under the age of two must have been exhausting. By 1845 Lavina had four children ages 5 and under with the additions of Mary Ann (called Polly) in 1843 and George Washington in 1845. It was shortly after this time that the Mexican American War began. And so it was that about June of 1846 Lavina watched Ervin march away with a group of men that would become Company B, 2nd Regiment of Indiana Volunteers. The men assembled in Paoli, Orange County, Indiana and marched to New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana- a distance of about 42 miles on today’s roadways. One account says the men were escorted out of town by “the brass band of Paoli and a large delegation of sorrowing relatives and friends” some of whom went with the men all the way to New Albany. (Indiana in the Mexican War).

I can only imagine what she must have felt as she watched her husband march away while trying to keep four toddlers by her side or in her arms. She did have family in the area to help her but I’m sure that didn’t replace her husband. The DRAKE, PILGRIM, and FLICK families intermarried frequently and all lived in the same general area so Lavina would have had a large extended family to call on in times of need. Nonetheless, it must have been a long and difficult year without him. Ervin mustered in on 19 June 1846 at New Albany, Indiana. He mustered out a year later on 23 June 1847 at New Orleans, Louisiana. I have not been able to find much information online about the 2nd Indiana Volunteers. One post I found online stated that this is because of the disgrace of their actions during the war- those actions being that many of them abandoned the battle instead of fighting. I am sure not everyone ran away and I would assume that Ervin did not since he was not given a dishonorable discharge or anything like that. I encourage you to learn more about this war at or, if you want the short version look it up on Wikipedia.

One of the battles fought while Ervin was enlisted was the Battle of Monterey (20-24 September 1846), a depiction of which is seen in the painting above by Carl NEBEL. It was fought in Monterey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. It was said about this battle, “The battle ended with Americans fighting door-to-door within the city of Monterey…”. It was a “bloody three-day battle”. (

The Battle of Buena Vista was fought 22-23 February 1847 in Buena Vista, Coahila, Mexico, between American General Zachary TAYLOR (among others) and Mexican General Santa ANNA (among others). It was an intense battle. Here is an image depicting the battle:

and a painting by CURRIER and IVES depicting the battle:

On the eastern coast of Mexico in the city of Veracruz, the Battle of Veracruz was fought for nearly the entire month of March, 1847. Mexico was forced to surrender Veracruz to the Americans. Here is a painting by Henry WILLIAMS depicting the battle:

On 18 April 1847, 20 miles east of Jalapa, the Battle of Cerro Gordo was fought between American General Winfield SCOTT and Captain Robert E. LEE (among others) and Mexican General Santa ANNA (among others). Over 3,000 Mexican soldiers were captured in this battle. Below is one more painting by Carl NEBEL depicting this battle:

Paintings and battle information can be found at

Finally, in June of 1847 Ervin arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana, and made his way home. I wonder if Lavina ever knew of the battles he fought and the horrors he must have witnessed in this hand-to-hand combat. On 1 July 1863, Ervin signed up for the Civil War Draft. I have not found any evidence that Ervin fought in the Civil War so perhaps the Mexican War was his only combat experience. In any case, Ervin arrived home and in 1848 Ervin and Lavina had Margaret and two years later they had my ancestor, William. The family can be found in the 1850 census in Jackson Township, Orange County, Indiana, where Ervin was farming and owned $100 in real estate. In the years between 1850 and 1860, Ervin and Lavina would have their last three children- Nancy (1854), Henry (1857), and Jefferson (1859).

In Orange County, Indiana during the time that Ervin and Lavina’s children were of school age, the schools were “subscription schools”. There was no free public education in the area. If children attended school at this time and in this area, parents paid $1.50 per pupil for a 3-month term of education. The first “free schools” weren’t opened until about 1856-1857 in Orange County, Indiana. A school year during this period was considered 4-5 months per year. If the DRAKE family went to church, they likely went to Cane Creek Christian Church, although I have found no records to support this. Ervin’s brother, Charles DRAKE, and many of the FLICK family attended church here. The church was organized in 1825. Like the schools of the time, the first church building was also a log building built by the area residents.

On 1 April 1859 Ervin filed a land patent for 80 acres in Section 19 of Township 1N, Range 1W in Orange County, Indiana. In 1860, the family was enumerated for the census at French Lick, Orange County, Indiana, where Ervin was still farming. He now owned $400 in real estate and his personal estate was worth $250. French Lick, Indiana, is now a resort area.

In the fall of 1868 the family owned 80 acres of land in Orange County, Indiana, which they sold to John J. CONDRA on 19 September 1868**. Shortly afterward, they moved to Kingsville, Johnson County, Missouri, which is now a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. Sometime between 1870 and 1875, the family moved on to McDonald County, Missouri.

I wonder if Lavina ever regretted the move to Missouri. What lay ahead of the family would not be easy. In Missouri they would survive the economic panic of 1873, followed by an unusually harsh winter in 1873-1874, followed by a very hot and dry Spring in 1874, followed by the Great Locust Invasion in 1874. An interesting account of the locust invasion can be found at It was said the locusts “…beat against the houses, swarm[ed] in at the windows, cover[ed] the passing trains. They work[ed] as if sent to destroy.” This succession of events sent many settlers scurrying back east where they had come from. The DRAKE’s chose to stay. In addition to these hardships, there was a nationwide Influenza epidemic from 1873-1875. Lavina died in Coy, McDonald County, Missouri, on 1 September 1875. I don’t know whether the Influenza epidemic claimed her life or she died of other causes. It is said she is buried at South West City Cemetery in South West City, McDonald County, Missouri, but there is no grave marker there and no record or her burial there. Ervin would go on to remarry and the family would carry on but Lavina’s personal story ends here- even though a part of her lives on in her many descendants.

Don’t forget to check out my sister-in-law’s genealogy blog where she is also doing the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Blog Challenge. This week she talks about her ancestor, Zula Jane ACORD STEPP.

**NOTE: I am presuming that Ervin and Lavina stayed in Indiana until 1868. Ervin’s second wife, Elizabeth MITCHELL DRAKE, stated (in her papers requesting a widow’s pension for Ervin’s military service) that the family moved in 1866. However, time has a way of shifting memories and Elizabeth was not at that time a part of the family so I am going with 1868 as the date Ervin and Lavina left Indiana.

Also, Ervin’s pension paperwork noted that he lived in Echo, Delaware County, Oklahoma. There was a town called Echo. It is currently under what is now Grand Lake. You can read about this in my blog post at The Dam Drakes.

On Ervin’s Civil War Draft registration it says he was blind in one eye. This would likely account for why he did not fight in the Civil War.

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