The Pounds Family in Mason County
1846 - 1907


A history of the POUNDS family in Mason County might well begin at Mt. Zion Cemetery, where sixty years later it also ends. Mt. Zion Cemetery and Church are easily reached by taking Highway 78 south of Bath, then turning back two and a half miles east on the Kilbourne Road, then a half-mile back south. The church stands on the west side of the unpaved road and the cemetery on the east in a clearing of oaks. When I visited there toward dusk in the late August of 1991, the heat of the day had passed and the shade from the oak trees brought to mind the phrase from Thomas Gray’s Elegy, “the short and simple annals of the poor.” The shade also brought out mosquitoes, the sting of their bites troubling the rural tranquility.

Near the center of the graveyard the weathered and darkened stones of five Pounds children lean awry at various angles, and a little distance away stands one much taller and more ornate bearing the name Samuel Pounds. The more recent stones in the graveyard stand facing west toward the church across the road, but the children’s stones face east, as though they looked toward the past and the land their parents had left behind rather toward the future. The stones, dark with lichens and moss and worn with the erosion of wind and rain, still offer a faintly legible record:

John Pounds, son of B & S Pounds, d. Sept. 19 1846, ae. 26 days.
Isaiah Pounds, d. March 14 1850, ae. 11-2-11
Hessy Pounds, dau of B and S Pounds, d Mar 26 1850, ae. 2 yrs-1 mo-25 days
Lewis B. Pounds, d. Oct. 23 1852, ae. 1 yr-8 days
Pounds, ____, 9-?-1870, ae. 26 days

John and Hessy were clearly the children of Benjamin and Sarah Pounds, for the initials “B & S” mark them as such. Isaiah and Lewis, surely are also, for there there were no other parents living in the area to attribute them to. The child with no given name could be Benjamin and Sarah’s, but he could also belong to their oldest son Elias, who had married Nancy Jane WALLACE in June of 1856. Near the five children's stones is yet another, the large red-granite stone of their sister Rachel POUNDS WALLACE, who returned to Mason County from Kansas toward the end of the century and died there in 1907. The large ornate stone marked Samuel Pounds is the mystery stone, to which we will return.

Stone of Lewis Pounds

Benjamin (1817-1896) and Sarah POUNDS (1816-1884) and their sons, Elias, Isaiah, Thomas, and Benjamin Jr. had moved from their home in Guernsey Co. Ohio to Mason County by 1846. The date is established by the death of the infant John above. Of the children born in Illinois, the first to reach adulthood was Rachel, born in 1848 in Bath Township, which would be the family’s residence until about 1870.

In August of 1854, Benjamin bought a hundred and sixty acres two miles north and one mile west of the village of Kilbourne, about eight miles south of Havana, the county seat (E 1/2 of SE 1/4 of Sec. 17 and the N 1/2 of SW 1/4 of sec. 16, twp 20, R 8W). The property, for which he paid $2600, was comprised of adjoining eighties from two different sections placed at right angles so as to form an L, with the eastern eighty facing what is now Highway 97. This property may well be "the old Pounds place" referred to by Benjamin’s great-nephew Col. Alexander COOPER, who wrote a family history based on the memories of Benjamin’s sister, Naomi Pounds COOPER. Col. Cooper thought that Benjamin's nephew Robert ANDERSON (son of the Methodist circuit-riding minister Robert ANDERSON and Charity POUNDS, another sister) was still living there at the time he was writing his history, about 1940. I have not been able to confirm this.

Benjamin was involved in several property transactions, and when he left Mason County in 1859 to go to Ray County Missouri he also left a tangled web among the records of the small-claims court. It began in 1858, when Benjamin made a loan to C. S. THOMPSON in the form of a Bond for Deed, with a piece of property as collateral for the loan. Shortly after the loan, the Sheriff offered the parcel for sale for payment of a debt, with Benjamin's name appearing on the lien even though the debt was not his. The parcel was sold to the highest bidder, R. S. MOORE. Moore later gave a quit-claim deed back to Benjamin, after which the Sheriff again sold the parcel, apparently for back taxes due from C. S. THOMPSON. Finally, Thompson acquired a certificate of redemption, evidently showing he had paid off the back taxes and got clear title to the property. Apparently, Benjamin was involved in this parcel in name only, never having lived on the premises.

This series of transactions suggests Benjamin initially had a little cash which he tried to increase by lending it out. Another series of loans, however, may have left a stain on his reputation. He had collected several personal notes from individuals for sums varying from $35 to $250 and amounting to a total of $925. At the same time he had gone in debt to Benjamin and John M. BEELSEY, "partners in trade under the name and style of B. & J. M. Beelsey," a firm which did a double business in general supplies and loans. For the years 1857 and 1858, Benjamin's personal loans amounted to $767.25 plus $11.74 interest, the sums borrowed ranging in size from $1.50 to $165. His charge account, which Elias and his family also used, was $237.53 in arrears by the end of 1858.

Benjamin apparently paid his debts by reassigning the personal notes he was holding, but when his creditors tried to collect on them some of the original signers defaulted or disappeared. In January of 1859, in Benjamin's absence--for by this time he and Elias and their families were sojourning for a year in Missouri--the Chancery Court found against him for the sum of $489. Whatever the nature of the claims against him, Benjamin must have cleared them up upon his return from Missouri in mid or late 1860, for after this date there is no further record of them.

An itemized list of the food and clothing that Benjamin, Elias, and their families made with B. and J. M. BEELSEY during 1857 can still be viewed in the records of the Court of Small Claims, offering a vivid glimpse into farm life in the 1850s, but the list is too long to insert here. Benjamin left one further record in Mason Co. before moving to Kansas. Along with Elias’s brother-in-law Benjamin Franklin WALLACE, who moved to Jewell County Kansas with the Poundses about 1870, Benjamin had to declare bankruptcy in 1867, as reported in the court-news section of The Illinois State Journal for 1 November. It isn’t known what their joint business venture was, but whatever it was they failed.

B. F. WALLACE must have learned a lesson from the experience, for in Jewell County he prospered and became a prominent citizen. By 1871 he was prosperous enough to donate land for Jewell City’s first cemetery. It would subsequently be called Wallace Cemetery, and it remains functional to this day. Benjamin, it would seem, did not learn, and his life in Kansas, like that of his sons who accompanied him, was characterized by toil and hard times. Within a year after arriving there, he and his wife applied for a pension on the basis of their son Benjamin Jr.’s death in the Civil War, pleading financial need.

Both the WALLACE couple and the POUNDS couple are buried in Wallace Cemetery, a few miles outside of Jewell City. The Wallaces have an unpretentious stone that has weathered the years well. Sarah Pounds has a large flat stone decorated with joined hands. Tradition says that Benjamin lies beside her, but the fact remains that his grave is unrecorded and unmarked.

To return to Mt. Zion Cemetery, the large ornate stone marked Samuel Pounds remains a mystery. According to the most recent inspection of it, it reads: “Samuel POUNDS, d. Dec. 30 1856, ae. 10 (?)-6-24.” If the deceased lived 10 years, 6 months, and 24 days, it could be a child belonging either to Benjamin or to Elias. But would a child’s stone be so large and ornate? No, surely not. There is a widespread tradition that the graves of small children should be marked with small stones, and even without that tradition the family’s low fortunes would have dictated something small. What is going on?

The large stone has an elaborate iconography that is meant to tell a story. It shows two columns, the one on the left broken and covered by a willow tree rising above it, the one on the right taller and apparently not broken off but like like a flame that has been snuffed out. The tall column that is broken off represents the head of a family who has died. The snuffed out flame is an image of death, while the willow tree represents mourning.

Stone of Samuel Pounds

The size of the stone and the story that it tells suggest that it honors the patriarch Samuel. Pounds, but there are two problems with this theory: the dates and the location. The “1856” death year is easily read, but the “10-6-24” for the age is very faint. The stone has been broken and repaired in recent history, making some of the numbers more difficult and some even impossible to read. The cemetery book--compiled about 1980 when the stone may have been slightly more legible--states, "Samuel Pounds died 30 Dec. 1856" and gives his age as "10 yrs, 6 mos, and 24 days." When I was there in 1991 the stone was lying face down and could not be read. Lola Clark, a Guernsey County historian whom I hired in 1993 to investigate, wrote to me: "I read Samuel's broken stone this way: "POUNDS, Samuel - d. 30 Dec 1856, Age 101 y 6 m 24 d. Couldn't believe it, & re-checked it!" At the time Ms. Clark made her visit, the stone was still off its pedestal but evidently lying face-up on the ground. However, no later investigator has been able to confirm her reading. Which then is correct, 10 years or 101 years? Only scientific inspection could decide that question, so we will probably never know definitely.

The second problem is location. Col. Cooper plainly states that Samuel Pounds was buried in Hancock County, but there is no trace of his death there, and the story stone stands firmly in Mason. In spite of these problems, my co-worker sister and I believe that the stone belongs to the patriarch Samuel Pounds. There appears to be no one else it could be assigned to. Even if the iconography didn’t declare this to be the stone of a patriarch, we have found no trace of a 10-yr-old Samuel Pounds in Mason County in this period. He would have to have been in the 1850 federal census and the 1855 IL State census, which enumerate the rest of the family, and he is not. Nor have we seen a Samuel listed as a son of Benjamin in anyone else's Pound/s family tree.

To review what is known about Samuel Pounds’s latter years, the last firm record we have is the census for 1850, which shows him residing with Robert ORR and his family in Madison Township, Guernsey County, Ohio, where he had lived for decades. He is absent from the censuses in Ohio and Illinois for 1860 and 1870, but in 1855 there is an Illinois State Census for Mason County Illinois that records an 80- to 90-year-old male living with Naomi Pounds and her husband Theodore COOPER (misspelled “Thedor Coopper”). Beside the notation on the record, the enumerator has written "87". That this elderly male was Naomi's father Samuel Pounds seems likely. Given his age, it is reasonable to think he had gone to Illinois stay with his daughter, who had no children of her own. If this is the case, he should be buried in Mason County.

To conclude the matter, it seems probable that the story stone in Mt. Zion Cemetery covers the bones of the Samuel Pounds who was born in Chatham County North Carolina in 1778 and lived for many years in Guernsey County Ohio. Although we do not know with certainty the year of his death or how old he was, the generally accepted 1878 death year (which derives from Col. Cooper) is probably wrong and should be corrected to 1856.

The final episode of the Pounds family in Mason County also left a marker in Mt. Zion Cemetery--that of Benjamin and Sarah’s eldest daughter, Rachel POUNDS (1847-1907). Rachel had married Jack WALLACE (1844-1924) in Mason County in 1870, and they had gone to Kansas with the rest of their families. Shortly after her father’s death in 1896, she left her husband and returned to Mason County. She made her home with Oscar B. and Lena B. HARRIS in the village of Kilbourne, near the area where she had grown up. In the will which she had made the year before her death, she left all her property to the Harrises as part of an agreement that they should furnish her a home and care for her in her declining years.

On December 20, 1906, eight years after she left John Wesley Wallace, she filed for divorce, itemizing her husband’s long years of abuse. Six months earlier, she had made her will; in another thirty-seven days, she would be dead. The divorce suit, then, was the last public act of a dying woman. Had her motive been only to remove the ties of a burden grown onerous, she would surely have done it years earlier. She must have wanted to make sure she did not leave this world bound to Jack Wallace, nor be buried with his name on her tombstone. If the latter was the case, she was to be disappointed. When she died on January 27, 1907, the divorce had not been finalized, and thus her stone reads not Rachel Pounds but Rachel Wallace.

She was buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery among the graves of her small siblings who had preceded her by half a century. Her substantial stone of speckled red-granite stands above the small blackened stones of her siblings like a Rock-Island hen over her fledgling brood, another Rachel gathering her children, as though she found at last the little ones to love that her life had not granted her.

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