In his early twenties, E.P., as he was usually known, headed west as many young men did and landed in Leavenworth, Kansas where he began the foundations of Great Western Manufacturing which still exists there today. The first few years he focused on his business, living either at the foundry itself or in boarding houses. Perhaps it was his 30th birthday in 1862 that set his mind to thinking of marriage and family as on 18 October 1863, shortly before his 31st birthday, he married Helen Fairchild.
Helen Fairchild was born 21 August 1837, perhaps in Ulster County, New York. As a girl the family moved west, first to Cincinnati in Hamilton County, Ohio, and then to Leavenworth. I have a reference that there was a deed or other instrument from Edward Payson Willson to Helen five days before their marriage but I have yet to locate the deed itself although I am quite curious as to what it included.
Early in my research on E.P. Willson I found this first marriage and then her 1864 death notice, "Died this morning, July 6th, at 6 o'clock, of consumption, Helen, wife of E.P. Willson and daughter of William Fairchild, Esq." At that point I left it and moved on to other research.
Several years laterI was researching the Willson family's burials there in Leavenworth including obtaining the lot and interment records from the cemetery office, not just the tombstone information. It was here that I learned that the lot was jointly owned with E.P. Willson using the north half and William Fairchild using the south half.
I also discovered that although there were 6 stones in the Willson plot, there were actually 7 burials, the seventh being Helen Julie Willson died 18 June 1864 of "debility" age 9 days. So the mother possibly already weakened by her consumption had delivered the child, possibly too early, and both had soon died.
All this fits in with the usual in family research but then I noticed that in the adjoining Fairchild plot, there were only four headstones but there were nine burials. The stones were for Helen's parents, William and Barbara (Hunt) Fairchild and for her brother DeForrest and his wife Josie. But, who were the other five people buried in that plot? The cemetery records give us Marietta Mildrum age 37 in 1875, Helen Fairchild, age 18 in 1884, William Edmund Pierce, age 19 in 1888, Edwin DeForest Pierce, age 15 in 1889, and Claudius B Pierce, age 73 in 1902.
From here the research took off into the Fairchild family ultimately going back another couple of generations and into Helen's siblings. The last four were fairly easy:
Helen Fairchild was the only daughter of DeForest and Josie (Creter) Fairchild. Obviously named for her aunt Helen Fairchild Willson who had died the year before, she was born 23 Dec 1865 in Leavenworth, dying there of consumption on 31 August 1884.
William Edmund Pierce and Edwin Deforest Pierce were sons of Helen's sister Mary and her husband, Claudius Buchanan Pierce. William died 31 Oct 1888 of spinal miningitis [sic]. Edwin (who had a twin brother Edward), drowned 14 Feb 1889. I have yet to have the opportunity to pursue newspaper research to find out how he drowned.
Claudius B Pierce was husband to Mary Fairchild and father to the two above boys. He died of a fever in 1902 in nearby Kansas City, Missouri. His wife, ten years younger than he, did not die until 1932 and is buried in Alta Mesa, California.
The fifth unmarked burial was a bit more difficult. Helen's father was William Fairchild, whose father was Benjamin. Among Benjamin's other children was a daughter Maria who married Andrew Mildrum. About 1838, they had a daughter Marietta in Hunter, Greene County, New York. This is the Marietta Mildrum who died of consumption 3 Mar 1875 in Leavenworth at the home of her uncle William Fairchild.
Four years later, E.P. Willson married Olive Sinks, sister of Tiffin Sinks who had also come early to Leavenworth to make his fortune. Tiffin was a doctor and pharmacist as well as an investor and civic figure. He never married and is buried in the Willson plot. E.P. and Olive had four children, one being Martha Ann, their oldest, who died in 1872 of "congestion of the spine." She is also buried in the Willson plot, as are E.P. and Olive.
The Willsons had three more children, all surviving into adulthood: Hiram (1874-1948), Lida (my great grandmother, 1877-1959), and Olive (1881-1960). This last married Thomas Logan Rithie and it is their second son, James Logan Ritchie, dying shortly after his first birthday, who fills the final grave in the Willson plot.
Well, this was intended to be more about the Fairchilds but has digressed itself into more of a discussion of the unmarked graves in the two plots .. oh well, that was probably the cause of the original digression anyway. One final small note, Helen Fairchild Willson and her daughter Helen Julie were originally buried at Greenwood Cemetery and were moved to the Mount Muncie plot 23 April 1867.
At least unlike some of my digressions, the Fairchilds left descendents although not poor Helen.