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Simon Fuller Overturf (1827-1913) & Minerva Lake (1830-1904)
Just call me “Dock”
Simon Fuller Overturf, usually dubbed "Dock" (probably because Fuller was the namesake of the family physician), was the second child of George and Jane McLain Overturf. He was born 13 July 1827 in Licking County, Ohio.
In a letter written in 1909, Simon talked about his life as a young boy:
During the early part of my life [Simon Fuller Overturf], all harvesting was done with a reap hook. One man could cut and bind and help shock an acre a day. If you had five acres you got four neighbors to help. We always cut in gangs. The boys carried water, whiskey, and gathered sheaves. I must have been fourteen when I first saw a cradle.
The day I was sixteen I cut two and a half acres to noon. Five acres was a good day’s work and if a man could rake and bind after a good cradler he got double wages. He usually had a boy to help rake. I never saw a load of grain in a wagon bed till I came to Illinois in 1866. We always sacked all the grain. We cut grass with a scythe about a foot longer than the scythes we have now.
I first saw a mower in 1850. The bar was oak 2 inches by 8 inches. A man named Ketchum made them. The guards were iron. A team could not back the machine. They always had to do that with a rail, and a mouse nest would shake it down.
Then came the reaper but the raking had to be done by hand. The first self-rake I saw in Ohio was in 1865. We never saw a corn sheller in Ohio — not even a hand Sheller.
We worked much in the woods and the cross-cut saws made at Columbus were the best I ever saw. We hewed the logs for our cabins, made puncheon floors, and used clapboards for the roof and not a single nail in the whole house. One man named Patterson built a frame for a barn of hewed logs, sided it with inch boards and pinned them on with wooden pins boring the hoes with a gimlet. We had never heard then of a brace and bit.
Simon was mentally as well as physically a strong and powerful man. “Tall and lithe and of darker complexion than his brothers, Hiram and George, he showed much of his mother's qualities.” He is shown in the photograph at right on the left side with his son, John Lake, on the right. “He was a good talker and loved debates and was much inclined to personal narratives. He had a ready memory and high power of imagery. He had the gift that by culture and experience would have made him a good public speaker and debater.”
“Simon admired the beautiful and excellent, had native skills and pride of execution, hence a good farmer; but for high success, he lacked the desire to risk something new. He preferred to prove the value of what he undertook as perfect success by his close and careful attention.”
Simon added in his letter:
The women did all the cooking by the fireplaces fitted up with old-fashioned irons and cranes. They had hooks of different lengths to hang pots from the crane. I well remember the slap-jacks we used to have. They rolled out dough the same as to make biscuits, then raked out hot ashes and laid a cabbage leaf on them and after putting on the dough covered it with another leaf and more ashes. It was the sweetest bread you ever ate. I have eaten many a johnny cake baked on a board before the fire. Much of the baking was done in Dutch ovens, mostly made of cast iron.
We made all our own sugar and molasses from maple trees and made all our own clothes. We raised sheep and took the wool to the carding mills and then made cloth from our own wool. I have spun both flax and wool and woven a great deal of plain cloth but never could weave twilled goods. My wife [Minerva Lake] was an excellent spinner and weaver. I have old coverlets yet that she wove — two before we were married and two afterwards. She could weave any kind of cloth. We always took our own grain to mill, many times on horseback.
We got forty pounds of good flour, a lot of good middlings, and all the bran. They ground corn for every eighth bushel. We lived among the swamps near the heads of the creeks and the Millers there, in a dry time either had to shut down or grind by heads. Then we had to go below Newark or up on Owl Creek near Mt. Vernon and stay overnight to get our grist. About all we needed money for was salt and taxes. It will seem strange to my grandchildren to hear that we thought tomatoes were deadly poison. They were called Jerusalem Apples and were used only for ornaments. They were usually placed on the mantel over the fireplace.
All our schools were private. [Unreadable] man would appear in the settlement to get up a school. The best educated men would question him to see if he were qualified. Then, if they could get signers enough, they would start a school. The teacher usually got $13.00 per month.
To make windows we cut out a log on three sides of the house and set in upright sticks tightly about a foot apart and pasted greased newspapers on them. This was all the light we had. We could get old newspapers at the store for two cents apiece. The benches were made of slabs with the round side down. We drove round legs in auger holes and there was no back, a fact which often caused the small children to cry with backache.
Desks for writing were made by driving pins in holes bored in the wall and laying boards on them. The fireplace took eight foot wood. Spelling was the principal study and we had to furnish our own books. The first reader we had in our school was a history of the United States. Sometimes people held church services in the school house but this was usually at a private home. I attended several times when there was a stack of guns in the corner. This was mostly for protection against wild animals. We had a few circuit riders but mostly we had local preachers who had no pay.
This post card, written to his grandson, reveals some of Simon Fuller’s character and beliefs.
Simon marries Minerva in 1848
Simon and Minerva, before they were married, had lived on adjoining farms in their childhood. Minerva Jane Lake was born in Licking County, Ohio, on 14 January 1830. She was the daughter of Jesse Lake and Elizabeth Cook English. They were married on 28 July 1848; Simon was 21 and Minerva was 18.
The date of the picture of Minerva at the left is unknown. It is the only known photograph of her.
Simon wrote about Minerva and her family in the letter in 1909. It said:
I [Simon Fuller Overturf] was born July 13, 1827 and was married July 28, 1848. I used to say that I was just fourteen days a free man. Mother’s name before we were married was Minerva Lake and here I will digress long enough to tell what I know of her family history. Her father was Jesse Lake. His farm joined father’s. He came from Virginia to Ohio when 16 or 17 years old. He married Elizabeth Ann Cook English. He [Jesse Lake] was French with black eyes and hair. She was Scotch-Irish, with the emotions and fighting qualities of that particular cross.
He was deacon of the old New Light Church, an off-shoot of the Christian Church. In politics, he was a democrat through and through. He [Jesse Lake] gained considerable local distinction as a boxer. He had a very strong dislike for whisky and the hate of using it. He had a brother in Indiana named Vince. Mother Lake was born in a little town just across the river from Columbus. Once while he was out fighting Indians, he put the family beneath the puncheon floor of the cabin and they stayed there two days.
For more information about Jesse Lake and Elizabeth Ann English see The Lakes.
Simon and Minerva moved from Ohio about 1866 or 1867 to Knox County, Illinois. 2 Simon hoped he could find a better life for himself and his family. They had friends and relatives residing in Knox County and thought they might find success there.
Simon and Minerva had four girls and three boys, all born in Licking County, Ohio. Simon Fuller tells us that they gave each child only the first name and let them choose their middle name later in life. The comments after some of the children were written by their father in a letter in 1909:
- Jane Edna b. 27 Sep 1848 d. 17 Dec 1908. "She married Elmus Corbin, Grandma Sheldon’s brother. They moved to Augusta, Kansas. Their children were John and Flora. Flora had three children — Genevieve, Mabel, and Sybil Stewart. Jon has three children. Flora and Jane are both dead. Flora died several years ago. Jane died at the home of John Lake Overturf on Dec. 17, 1908."
- John Lake Overturf b. 25 September 1850 d. 5 January 1911. Married Alzina Sheldon. 3
- Mary b. 16 October 1852. d. 17 July 1871. "She married Harris Corbin, a brother of Grandma Sheldon. His only child was Sybil, now the wife of T.S. Baird of Elk Creek, Neb, and the mother of four children: Harry, Jesse, Dale, and Mary. Sybil’s mother died July 17, 1871. Her father died when she was five years old, and mother and I raised Sybil from infancy."
- Adeline b. 16 Oct 1854 d. 1 Jan 1874. Married William H. Irons.
- Emma b. 15 November 1856 d. 27 December 1873
- George b. 17 March 1860 d. 23 December 1878
- James Milton b. 5 December 1863. d. AFT 1913. "Married Minnie Young of Elk Creek, Neb. They have two children Ray and Russel and live at present  in Graham County, Kansas."
Sadly, most of the children died before their parents — Mary in 1871 while giving birth to her daughter, Sybil; Adeline in 1874, also possibly in childbirth; Emma just days before her sister, Adeline, at age 17; George at age 18 in 1878. Jane and John Lake died after Minerva's death but before Simon's. When Simon passed away in 1913, only one son remained, James Milton; he is in the photograph (above right at the top of the page) with his father.
Minerva joined the church when she was about 15 years old. Simon did not become a member of any church until after he moved to Illinois in 1866; he then joined the Christian Church.
Minerva’s death in 1904
Minerva died on 17 June 1904 at the age of 74.
The following obituary was in the local newspaper:
Minerva Jane Lake was born in Licking County, Ohio, January 14, 1830. Here she grew to womanhood and was wooed by S.F. Overturf. She was reciprocal in the love bestowed upon her and on July 28, 1848, was united in marriage to that gentleman.
They made that state their home until the year 1866 when they moved to Illinois and later, in 1887, decided to move to Nebraska. They came and took up their residence upon the farm east of this place that has since been their home.
During their union seven children were born — four sons and three daughters. Of that number, only three remain. They are John L. and James M. Overturf, who reside east of town, and Mrs. Jane Corbin, a resident of Wichita, Ka.
On the morning of June 11 Mrs. Overturf was stricken with paralysis. Medical attendance was procured and everything done to prolong life but it was not the wish of her Maker, and on the evening of June 20 [discrepancy in date noted] she passed to the great beyond.
Funeral services were held at the residence at 2 o'clock on Tuesday, conducted by Rev. A.S. Reeves of the Long Branch Baptist Church, after which the remains were conveyed to and laid to rest in the Mt. Zion cemetery.
Mrs. Overturf was a good woman, kind hearted and the possessor of a cheerful disposition. She was loved by all who knew her.
To the sorrowing husband and children the deepest sympathy is extended.
Below is Minerva Lake Overturf’s death certificate:
Simon lives nine years as a widower
Simon lived as a widower for nine years. He died [dates differ] probably on 27 December 1913, in Johnson County.
The following is his obituary from the Elk Creek, Nebraska newspaper:
Simon F. Overturf, one of our city's oldest men, passed away last Saturday at the home of his granddaughter, Mrs. T.S. Baird, aged eight-six years, five months and fourteen days, the cause of death being disease incident to old age.
Mr. Overturf was born in Licking County, Ohio, July 13th, 1827. On July 28th, 1848, he married Miss Minerva J. Lake of Licking County, and to them were born seven children, three boys and four girls. These with the mother have preceded him to the better him to the better land with the exception of one son, J.M. Overturf, who lives in Todd Creek precinct.
Mr. Overturf and family moved in 1866 from Ohio to Knox County, Illinois, where they resided until 1887, when they came to this county.
After the death of his wife, which occurred June 17th, 1904, the deceased made his home with his children, six years with his son, John, of Nemaha county, one year with his grandson, John H. Overturf, and three years with his granddaughter, Mrs. T.S. Baird, at whose home he di ed.
Mr. Overturf leaves one son, three grandchildren, twenty-seven great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, and a wide circle of friends to mourn his death.
He was a good man, a lifelong Christian, having been a member of the Christian Church for more than forty years.
The funeral was held Monday, Dec. 29th, at the M.E. Church in Elk Creek, and the body was interred in the Mt. Zion Cemetery east of that town.
Below is Simon Fuller Overturf’s death certificate:
Much of this information comes from Dorothy Cunningham after researching the German ancestry of the Overturf family. She wrote about it in The Overturf Family, published in 1988 and revised in 1995.
[This page researched and written by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a descendant of Simon and Minerva. Page last updated on July 8, 2019.]