Last year we passed through Bisbee, Arizona, pausing at the huge pit left by the now-almost idle copper mine, and threading our way through the winding hillside streets. This year we returned to see what we could learn about Elsa's great-great-aunt Ellen.
William and Peggy Jones Rowe came to America from St. Austell, Cornwall, England, in 1865 or 1866. They were part of the large influx of Cornish miners looking to cash in on the growing U.S. mining industry. They brought their family of eight children, landing in New York. William and son Tom first went to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, apparently found work in the mines there, and brought the family to join them.
After a year the family moved west to Lafayette County, Wisconsin, and in 1870 moved again to Franklin County, Iowa. Like so many others, they chose farming over mining and had begun to purchase the land on which many of the family members would spend the rest of their lives (Son Tom was an exception: continuing his move westward, he settled in Kansas, but that's another story).
Ellen Rowe, born in 1850, was one of the children who came from Cornwall in 1865 or 1866, and moved to Iowa with her parents. The only mention of her in family records after that is a reference or two to "Mrs. Ellen Maston of Bisbee, Arizona."
After spending a day and a half in Bisbee, first at the historical museum and then at the courthouse, we have built an outline of her adult life. We believe that either in Wisconsin or in Iowa she met and married a miner named Nichols and moved with him to Colorado. As Mrs. Nichols she had four children.
[Note: later, in the Salt Lake City LDS Library, we used the 1880 census to find that Ellen and James Nichols lived in Nevadaville, Gilpin County, Colorado, with their then three children -- Annie, Esmeralda (Rillie) and Nellie. And yes, James was a mner.]
Her first child, Anna, was born in 1870 in Colorado (we know this from a 1900 Census record). Nellie Nichols was born in Iowa in 1877 (Did Ellen return for a visit? was there a problem with the marriage?) Another daughter, Rillie, was grown and gone from home by the time of the census, so we know even less about her. The first son, William, was born in 1880, again in Colorado.
In 1887 Ellen turned up in Tombstone, Arizona, as Mrs. William Maston. Arizona was still a territory, and would remain so until 1912. The Mastons bought a town lot which they later sold at a loss. Then they moved to Bisbee, which is near Tombstone and at that time a thriving, booming copper mining town. The Phelps-Dodge Mining Company virtually owned the town, built schools, supporting businesses, leased homes and land. Ellen and William once again buy some land and all seems well. In 1888, Ellen had her last child, Gilbert, whose father is W. S. Maston.
By 1900, however, Ellen is a widow. Starting in 1904 she ran a boarding house, leased from the Phelps Dodge Company and located on Quality Hill in Bisbee, where she provided for four (probably Cornish) miners and her family. She is listed in the Bisbee city directory as late as 1916-17, but probably died soon thereafter.
Gilbert joined the Navy in 1918 and served until the end of the war, attaining the rate of Electricians Mate, Second Class. By 1920 he had married someone named Marguerite.
So we have made some progress on Ellen Rowe Nichols Maston. But we have no idea when or where Mr. Nichols or Mr. Maston or Ellen herself died or is buried. So, as always with this kind of work, there are loose ends. We are optimistic that we'll continue to find little pieces of data, and will eventually fill in the blanks of the life of this rather adventurous woman.