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James Marshall Rice


Posted By: R. Rouse
Date: 7/14/2022 at 19:55:25

Emigration from Ohio to Iowa was very heavy in the pre-war years. In 1853, Fortner Mather moved from Union County, Ohio to Clayton County to become pastor of a Methodist Episcopal Church. Four of his brothers - Darius, Sterling, Esquire and John - followed as did their aunt and uncle, Joel and Sarah Rice, with their six children - George, James, Carolyn, Robert, Tero and Marshall. Following the Rice family, or at least Carolyn, was Jim Bethard. Carolyn and Jim were married in 1858 and, on October 1, 1861, her brother, Jim Rice, married Elizabeth "Lib" Stevenson.

In the fall of 1862, with casualties from wounds and illness mounting, President Lincoln called for 300,000 volunteers. On August 11th, Jim Rice, his cousin John Mather and his brother-in-law Jim Bethard enlisted in the infantry at the Grand Meadow depot (between Luana and Postville). With three others, they called themselves "the Robert Creek crowd." They were mustered in as part of ninety-nine man Company B on August 18th and, on September 9th, ten companies were mustered in as the 21st regiment of Iowa's volunteer infantry.

On a rainy September 16th, members of the regiment walked from Dubuque's Camp Franklin to the levy at the foot of Jones Street where they crowded on board the four-year-old steamer 'Henry Clay' and two barges tied alongside and started south. After transferring to the 'Hawkeye State', they reached St. Louis on September 20th and Rolla, by rail, on the 22nd. Jim Bethard wrote weekly letters to Caroline ("Cal"), always sharing news of her brother and cousin so Cal could share the news with Lib and other family members. From Hartville, Missouri, on November 15th, he said her brother "Jim and John and I have discovered that it [tobacco] is a nautious weed and therefore we abstain from the use of it." On December 13th they were in Houston during a heavy rain when Jim wrote that "there is no less than four writing in the tent and Jim Rice is laying with his feet against my back trying to sleep and every once in a while, he gives me a punch in the back with his feet."

From Houston they moved to Hartville, then back to Houston, south to West Plains and northeast to Ironton, Iron Mountain and Ste. Genevieve before being transported downstream to Milliken's Bend where General Grant was organizing an army to capture Vicksburg. Still west of the Mississippi, they walked south on roads, across plantations and through swamps and bayous. Along the way, Jim Bethard became sick and was left behind, but Jim Rice, John Mather and others able for duty continued south and, on April 30, 1863, crossed the river to Bruinsburg.

On May 1st they fought in the Battle of Port Gibson and on the 17th participated in an assault at the Big Black River. On May 22nd, Jim Rice, but not John Mather, participated in an assault at Vicksburg. Jim Bethard caught up with the regiment on June 4th and told Cal her brother was well. On the 15th, he wrote that "James Rice has had rather a bad streak of luck having lost his pocket book containing all his money which was about $17." On June 19th, John Mather died from the debilitating effects of chronic diarrhea.
The siege at Vicksburg ended with its surrender on July 4, 1863. The regiment had suffered 31 killed in action, 34 who sustained fatal wounds and at least 102 who received non-fatal wounds during the campaign, but "the two Jims" were well and participated in the regiment's next campaign, an expedition to and siege of the capital at Jackson. They arrived back in Vicksburg on July 23rd and, on the 26th, Jim Rice was granted a thirty day furlough to go north. On August 23rd, with the furlough nearing an end, Jim Bethard wrote to Cal that "I suppose Jim is beginning to think about packing his duds to start back," but that was not the case since her brother had become ill. "I am sorry to hear of Jims illness," Jim Bethard wrote on September 13th. "I think it is curious that he has that diarrhea so much at home after having his health so well in the army it was lucky for him that colonel Merrill was at McGregor to give him leave to stay ten days longer." The furlough stretched beyond the ten days and it was November 4th before Jim Rice reached the regiment then at Camp Pratt in southwestern Louisiana. Jim wrote to let Cal know her brother "was as tickled as a stray dog that has just found his master when he came to the company and the boys were all equally as glad to see him."

In late November they were transported across the Gulf for service on the coast of Texas where James Rice was promoted to 5th Corporal. He had some minor health issues ("neuralga in the head") and was worried about "large bills for house rent and meat," a concern made worse when others received two months' pay but he didn't. The money was due, but there was an apparent problem with muster rolls during his prolonged furlough months earlier. In April, Jim told Cal that he and her brother were healthy and "out on the beach last week as far as we could get." After returning to Louisiana in June,1864, they saw more service west of the river and along the White River in Arkansas where "Jim Rice traded some sugar for two chickens." Jim Bethard cooked the chickens "and made some soup and dumplings and we had a splendid dinner...Jim said it tasted old fashioned." They were both "hearty as bucks" and "in high spirits over the prospects of the election of Old Abe." The regiment's final campaign was in Alabama where they occupied the city of Mobile and "took a stroll around the city." They were mustered out at Baton Rouge on July 15, 1865.

After being discharged at Clinton on the 24th, Jim Bethard left for Sigourney where Cal had moved with her parents, but Jim and Lib Rice had other plans. In October they sold eighty acres they owned in Clayton County and in the spring of 1867 moved to Wright County as two of its early homesteaders. Unfortunately, "through some oversight in the numbers of his land at the land office, he settled on the wrong piece and had, after building and making his improvements, to remove the buildings to the proper location in the section, all of which caused him considerable loss of time and money. But with a true, stout heart he went to work and commenced all over, finally gaining for himself and family a desirable home" in Vernon Township.

Three children were born after the move to Wright County: Sarah Evelyn "Eva" Rice on June 23, 1867, Helen Isobel "Nellie" Rice on July 8, 1871, and Lenora "Nora" Mae Rice on November 10, 1875. On February 28, 1877, from Dry Lake in Section 16, Lib wrote to Jim's parents in Sigourney. Jim "has gone to the timber for a load of wood," she said, and the "ground is in good rig to put in wheat & oats." Eva (9) and Nellie (5) were anxious for their grandparents to visit, but "don't see why grandma wants to call Nora a little stranger for that she aint a stranger." Jim "don't calculate to do any braking this summer he is going to put in a lot of corn and stay at home and tend it."

An Odd Fellows lodge was formed in Dows and Jim was one of the members, but the following month, on June 8, 1882, Lib died. She was buried a few miles to the south in Blairsburg Cemetery. Eight months later Nellie would be buried in the same cemetery.

In February 1883, forty-five year old Jim married Mary Ann Valley on the 15th and prepared for spring work on their farm and apple orchard. In September, the 'Monitor' reported that he "handed us samples of Duchess apples grown in his orchard this season, and finer looking or tasting fruit it would be difficult to find in any locality. Mr. Rice tells us that he will have thirty bushels of apples, about one-fourth of the crop he would have had only for the late frosts in the spring."

Children born to Jim and Mary Ann were Pearl Rice born November 11, 1883, Maud Rice born April 8, 1886, and Harry Rice born February 11, 1889. Jim continued his Odd Fellows membership, joined the Grand Army of the Republic and was still working his farm when a fire destroyed the commercial district of Dows in 1894. Like most veterans who fought for the North, Jim applied for an invalid pension, a pension granted at $12.00 per month.

Mary Ann died in 1915 and was buried in Dow's Fairview Cemetery. Jim applied for and received periodic increases to his pension and was receiving $40.00 when he died "on or about" August 7, 1919. Jim was buried in Fairview Cemetery.


Franklin Biographies maintained by Rose Rouse.
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