Revisiting Sugar Creek: Stormy Nights, Buried Treasure, a Bushwhacker Murder, and a Family Mystery

I woke up early this morning to discover that the overnight storms had knocked out the power.  I have no internet to continue researching today’s blog post either so I decided to use the remaining power in my computer to go ahead and type out the blog post and also to charge my phone which was almost dead by the time I got up this morning.  I can’t afford to be without an alarm clock/flashlight/contact with the outside world! So, even though my current research isn’t finished, I’m giving you an update as to where it stands right now.

Several years ago I took a DNA test and was fortunate enough to get my parents, daughter, one sibling, and a great uncle to test as well. Later, a second cousin and his daughter also tested. It was fun to see origins details and I’ve blogged about that here and here. In the 3 years following the receipt of my results, I haven’t gotten very far in advancing my family history. I have tons of matches and for a few of those with family trees online, I can see how we were related.  For those without trees, I made efforts to contact some of them. Sometimes people responded and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes their response was that they didn’t know their family history.  Overall, I’ve made disappointingly little progress in the 3 years following my DNA results. This frustrates me. My goal was to further my genealogy. Why spend the money if it didn’t further my genealogy?

About 3 weeks ago I decided either the DNA could help my genealogy or it couldn’t and I was going to find out. I formulated a theory that perhaps I could match a particular chromosome to a particular  surname and if I could do that then maybe I could tell which line of the family I needed to be looking into for those DNA matches who matched on a certain chromosome but didn’t have family trees online.

I began with a male match to my dad’s line.  The guy descended from the second wife of my ancestor and my dad and I descend from the first wife so I thought perhaps it might be easier to find a specific chromosome for the male ancestor’s line and without worrying about genetic interference from the female’s line.  I spent some time working on that angle and moved on to other surnames as well. It was more confusing than fruitful. My document looked like this for 2 pages of surnames:

Matching chromosomes to surnames.

I spent 2 weeks working sporadically on that project and I was about to give up when I listened to a podcast about an adoptee who didn’t know a single person or even a name of his biological family.  He sent in his DNA and was able to find his parents, siblings, and extended family. I told myself I have thousands of names and this guy had none yet he got somewhere with DNA and if he could, then surely I could too! I formulated a new plan and set to work. I can’t say I’ve gotten where I wanted to be, but I made some exciting advances that I’d like to share with you.

My first tactic was to change course. I decided to start with the stronger/closer DNA matches.  I chose a woman named Joyce. As it turned out, I had tried to contact this person a few months back (long before I started this project I’m writing about today) to ask about her family tree and see if I could figure out how we were related. She had no family tree on Family Tree DNA.  Her Ancestry tree had less than 5 people on it and none of the surnames matched my family. Her husband messaged me back. He said Joyce had passed away recently and he didn’t know anything about her family tree. She was an only child and all of her family was deceased and he was sorry but he couldn’t help me. I sent my condolences for his loss. I attempted to find more information online but was unsuccessful and set it aside at that time. Based on her Ancestry tree, I could see that the line she was focused on at her death was a Schell family. This Schell family came from a location where my family had lived in recent history (my grandparents lived in that area until their deaths) and it was a place I was very  familiar with. On top of that, they’d lived for a while on Sugar Creek which I recently visited and blogged about here! However, I could find no connection to my family. I narrowed down my thousands of matches to only those who also matched Joyce in some way. Based on the shared matches, I could tell that somehow she connected to me through my paternal Baker family (the same family as the guy above who descended through the second wife instead of the first).

I reset the search and focused on just Joyce. We were matched at a 2nd -4th cousin level which meant we shared a great, 2nd great, or 3rd great grandparent (or possibly a 4th great grandparent depending on DNA recombination). I didn’t want to consider half-cousin levels as I was already feeling overwhelmed so I stuck with the above. I found all other matches who shared the Schell surname with Joyce. I was able to figure out her tree that way. I wrote down as many of her great, 2nd great, and 3rd great grandparents as I could find (which was most of them, thankfully). I then made a list of all my great, 2nd and 3rd great grandparents. Out of all those names (and there were a lot!) I could only find a  single surname that I recognized which simplified the process greatly. And, as luck would have it, it was a surname that I have struggled with for 30 years – to the point that I wasn’t even sure if I had the correct surname. So already I was very excited about the process. The surname is Bear/Bare/Bair (depending on who was doing the spelling). Several decades ago when I first began researching my family history, my grandmother told me that my 3rd great grandfather Jehue Baker’s parents were Bets and Mary (Bair) Baker. I have yet to prove that or to definitively prove who exactly “Bets” Baker was. There is a Baker who marred a Mary Betts but the details don’t fit. There is a Jesse Baker who married a woman named Mary (who sometimes went by Polly) and they are the only couple I’ve found in the right area and timeframe who have a son named Jehue so I’ve listed them as his parents because I’ve found no other viable possibilities at this point.  But now, I had this exciting new DNA lead that matched me to a BEAR/BARE/BAIR family!

Joyce’s ancestor, Philip Schell, married a woman named Eliza Jane BEAR. Her parents were Henry and Margaret Jane McChristian Bare. I have searched this family ten ways from Sunday and still can’t find how they connect to my family but DNA doesn’t lie and I’m still looking. I was able to connect with a DNA relative of Joyce’s, Gayle Foster, who knows the Schell/Bare family history and I’ve been corresponding with her trying to figure all this out. For now, I’m forced to be content with the fact that finally, after 30 years, I have learned we do indeed belong to a Bear/Bare/Bair family. This information is one of the few remaining things my Mam told me that I haven’t been able to back up so I was very excited to not only have confirmation of one more thing she told me but also to find the very elusive Bear family at last.  I did make a couple of interesting revelations while trying to figure out the family connection though. Let me tell you about those. As I’ve said in a previous post, at my funeral I want the song I’ll Fly Away to be played. Interestingly enough, that song was written by Albert Brumley who married into the Schell family AND who lived in the area my grandparents lived – McDonald County, Missouri. I went to church every Wednesday and Sunday of my childhood at a little country church that borders McDonald County called Poynor Baptist Church. So many memories!

An Easter Sunday at Poynor Baptist with some of my cousins. I would have been about 7 o 8 in this photo. I miss those Easter sunrise services.
Back row: Rick Drake holding my youngest brother Jared Drake, Robert Drake, Chris Bennett, me, Mechelle Drake. Front row: Bradley Drake, Allen Drake, my other brother Cortney Drake, and Gina Drake.

It always amazes me how connected everything is in this world. The Schell family was one of the pioneer families of McDonald County, Missouri. Schell’s were connected to Nichols. Nichols brothers were the owners of the grocery store in Southwest City, Missouri for many years- they were a prominent family in that area.  Nichols also connect to my family.  Additionally, one of the Schell sisters, Nancy, married James Littrell. One of my ancestors also married into the Littrell family.  There are so many connections between the Schell’s and my family that I’m stunned as to how I have still not solved the mystery of exactly which two people connect my Bear/Bare/Bair family to the Schell family.  

Shell Knob, Missouri, was named after this family.  Henry Schell, the original Schell family member to come to McDonald County, was murdered by bushwhackers.  I also learned that there’s a legend about the Yocum silver dollars which I believe is related to Henry’s murder.  Henry was married to Elizabeth Yocum. By the way, I just learned that Gayle Foster (with whom I’ve been corresponding to figure out this family mystery) wrote a book about the Schell family.  You can purchase it on Amazon at

If you have any suggestions about how I might speed up the discovery of who, specifically, I’m related to in the Bear family, please let me know.  It’s been a struggle to get this far and I don’t have another 30 years left to let it sit. Perhaps in the end, it will be up to the next generation researchers to figure it out but I’d love to do it myself if I can or at least see someone else solve it before I leave this Earth. 

 I know I gave you very little new information in this post but I hope it’s been interesting for you to see how I got to where I am right now.  By way of apology for the lack of content, I’ll leave you with a photograph I found online.

Philip and Eliza Jane (Schell) Bear family. Seated on the far left is Elizabeth Yocum Schell. Next to her is Philip Schell and the woman sitting to the right of Philip is Eliza Jane Bear Schell. Photo was shared by Jim Barnett on Ancestry.

By the way, if you like podcasts and you’d like to listen to the podcast I mentioned above, you can go to Ohio Mysteries‘ website to download/listen to the episode.  It’s an interesting story. I’ve enjoyed binge-listening to the Ohio Mysteries podcasts. The beginning ones are not the best as far as sound quality (as is common in podcasting). I’d recommend starting with the most current episodes and working backward.  

Wishing you all the Yocum’s legendary buried treasure,

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog

One thought on “Revisiting Sugar Creek: Stormy Nights, Buried Treasure, a Bushwhacker Murder, and a Family Mystery

  1. Pingback: Fortunes Won, Fortunes Lost, and Fortunes Seized by the Gubbamint | Days of Our Lives

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