IAGenWeb ~ Decatur County IA Biography ~ Henry and Jane Sinco



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Biography ~ Henry and Jane Sinco
Decatur County, Iowa

By Ora Scott Foltz
together with

Go with me to one of our southern states – South Carolina – and there look upon a large plantation, with its dense woods of oak and other beautiful trees, surrounded by its rail fences. In the vast open spaces corn and cotton grow. The happy, indolent Negroes tilling the soil with their crude tools, wooden plows, with their yoke of oxen; Negroes and oxen alike in never being in a hurry. Near the bank of a river was a beautiful home of colonial design, built of logs with its huge white columns and its broad porticos, enclosed by a white picket fence; the kitchen some distance from the main house, and farther away the cabins where the Negroes lived.

The sloping lawn of green grass with its overhanging trees lent an air of hospitality as only southern homes can. In this home lived a tall, vigorous couple and their family, a home ruled in a gentle way. This southerner and his wife on this plantation were our ancestors, our Grandmother Sinco’s father and mother, whose name was Bennett. Jane Bennett’s mother’s maiden name was Daffern and her mother’s name was Avery. She was born in Wales and died at the age of 105 years. Jane Bennett’s father was a Virginian and his people were from England and were wealthy. Henry’s father was from Germany. Our Grandmother’s name was Jane and she was one of a large family. Some time later the family moved to Bloomfield, Indiana, where Jane grew to womanhood and when she was eighteen years old she married Henry Sinco.

Henry Sinco was born near Richmond, VA, Feb 13, 1800, and grew to early manhood there at the age of twenty. He went to Kentucky and made his home there for some time with a family by the name of Davis to whom he became attached. It was there that he probably learned his trade as plasterer and builder of chimneys. He knew the trade thoroughly, always had work and had plenty of money.

While yet a young man he went to New Salem, Ill, where he bought and conducted a grocery store. It was here where he first knew Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln clerked in an adjoining grocery store owned by a man named Beery. Lincoln and Henry Sinco became friends and occupied the same room and bed in Rutledge Hotel. It was a log structure. It and their grocery stores of logs, are now preserved by the State of Illinois.

After the marriage of Jane Bennett and Henry Sinco, they lived more than a hundred miles from her parents. In those days that was a long distance to go and Jane became very homesick to see her people, but it was several years before she was privileged to make this visit, then went on horseback. Her brother, John Bennett, came for her and brought two horses. She mounted one and with her baby in her arms and little Henry behind her, made the trip home to her parents. A happy, joyful homecoming for the parents and daughter who had been separated for so long.

For several years Henry and Jane lived in New Albany, Indiana where their four oldest children were born, Henry, John, Columbus, and Mary. This was in the early half of the nineteenth century. In those days of frontier life, real hardships were endured. Not a moment to lose, for there was spinning and weaving cloth to make garments for the family from the cotton and wool that had been raised, knitting socks, stockings and mittens, making their own lights with a rag dipped in grease or oil, then later the luxury of tallow candles molded by the housewife in frames, cooking on a fireplace, not only frying and boiling, but baking bread in what was called a Dutch Oven.

Despite all these hardships, as they seem to us, perhaps, not to them, they learned of this new territory, Iowa, and decided to go there, where they might enter land and have a home and educate their children. It took real courage to face this unknown land not knowing how it would come out. The Indians roamed through this territory ready to scalp the whites. Fortunately, none of them were encountered on the way.

The prairies were abundant with tall wild grass five and six feet high, and it was easy to get lost if you missed the trail. At night their camp was near a stream of water. The oxen were turned loose to graze. Often they wold stray far from the camp, then in the morning there would be a long hunt for them, Jane left at the wagon with her four little children, not knowing when Henry and the missing cattle would return, if ever, as the Indians might get them. Undaunted by all of this, and thinking of the home ahead of them, their indomitable courage led them on and they crossed the Mississippi river in 1845, and were in Iowa, the land of their dreams.

God was surely with them on this journey, as he was with the children of Isreal at the river Jordan. They were nearly a month on the way. Their equipment was a covered wagon, a yoke of oxen, and a few household goods.

They made their way to Jefferson county and entered land near Glasco (now-Glasgow), close to the Cedar river. It cost $1.25 an acre, and they paid $300 for 160 acres. It proved to be good land and is Sections 29-20. It is on record in the Jefferson county courthouse. The records also show that Henry Sinco and wife, Jane Sinco, sold this farm to John Russell in 1851. We read in this dead (sic) that, "I, Jane Sinco, of my own free will and not under compulsion of my husband, affix my signature to this deed." These early pioneers were paving the way to woman suffrage, though they didn’t know it.

After buying this farm, they moved on it and lived there five or six years. When not busy with the farm work, Henry Sinco found plenty of work at his trade. After the farm was sold they moved to Birmingham, Iowa, and purchased a new wagon. Henry took his own and all the other small children in town for a ride in this bright new wagon. It must have been a real thrill for them.

There were now seven children in the home, Henry, John, Columbus, and Mary, who were born at New Albany, Ind., and Martha, Caroline and Ottie, In Jefferson County, Iowa.

Grandmother often sent her children on errands into Glasco while in the country and one time John was to go and Grandmother thought it a good chance to get rid of some kittens. She put them into a sack and John started to town. He was to drop them on the way, but forgot until he was close to town. Turning them out, they followed him and he had some embarrassing moments when some of his friends called to him and said, "Johnnie, where did you get your cats?"

A sad day came to them when their oldest son, Henry, ten years of age, was bitten by a rattlesnake and only lived a few days. There were plenty of blackberries growing wild and he asked his mother if she would make him a a pie to take to school and he would pick the berries. It was some distance from home. After he was bitten he ran home to his mother and told her. The weather being warm, nothing could be done to save his life and he passed away July 4, 1849, and was buried in a cemetery near Glasco.

Later they decided to go farther west and Henry Sinco, with his son John, just a small lad, walked to Garden Grove in Decatur County. There he bought a farm near High Point. This farm is now known as the Lewis Sears farm. He then hired a man with two yoke of oxen to go back to Birmingham for his family.

John went with him to drive one of the teams. When they arrived at Birmingham this man told Grandmother he was in a hurry and was only going to stay one night, and for them to be ready to leave the next morning. Columbus was away from home and Grandmother told him she wouldn’t go and leave her little child. This man said he wouldn’t wait, but he did, and after all her family were together they started on another slow, tedious journey, though not so far, but with a mean, cranky fellow. He wouldn’t give Grandmother time to cook their meals on the way. She stood for her rights, and told him she’d take time necessary to cook for her family. She had to make and bake enough biscuits of mornings for their dinner, as well as breakfast, and feed this man, too. After they crossed the river at Eddyville, Iowa, he insisted he had too much of a load and made her leave part of her household goods.

After several days travel they arrived at High Point where Grandfather awaited them. They lived there some time on their farm. One child was born to them at this place, Margaret Sinco, now Mrs. W. M. Barnes. They sold this farm for $1,600, then bought land in Riley Township, Ringgold County, and added to the original farm until they owned nearly 600 acres. They built a very substantial log house of three rooms, that likely was the envy of all their neighbors, as most houses had only one room. With their large family of growing boys and girls, this home was the scene of many happy times. Outside interests were spelling bees, and singing schools. No wonder they were all good singers. Also quilting parties and candy pulls with preaching on Sunday in the log school houses.

Mary and Margaret Sinco were both teachers. The children all married and established homes of their own, not far from their parents. The father, Henry Sinco, passed away in 1873. After his death his wife and two daughters, Ottie and Maggie, continued to live on the farm. Some time later Ottie was married and Maggie taught school. Grandmother was a capable manager and her farm showed good attention to all the details of farm life, with cattle, hogs, and chickens and renting of the land she had a good income. She had a large apple orchard, with its Red Junes that were the most luscious ones I ever ate, and a great variety of winter apples.

She was a fine horsewoman and knew how to sit in the saddle, very erect. It was a pleasure to see her ride. She often would mount Dobbin and ride to our home, a distance of seven miles. Someone came one night and stole her horse and she was lost without him, but he was never found.

One of the bright spots in our young lives was when Father and Mother would take us some Saturday evening and go to Grandmothers to stay all night. We loved the ride through timber before we got there, and when we came to a gate one-half mile from the house we knew we were almost there and became very excited. She had a frame house built near the old log house and moved into it. The people to whom she rented her land lived in the log house so she was not alone.

In the new home was a real, honest-to-goodness parlor, shut up tightly, blinds drawn, and that nice musty smell peculiar to parlors closed tightly, hot in summer and cold in winter. What did that matter to us if we could get a look in, and see the bright red ingrain carpet all padded with straw, the pretty lace curtains so long they spread on the floor, hard on little feet that chanced to get in to look in awe at these wonderful furnishings. In one corner stood the tall walnut bookcase and writing desk, another corner the old organ, scattered around the room a walnut table, six can-seated chairs, and one rocking chair. If Aunt Maggie were home she would take us into this wonderful parlor, if our feet were clean. I often have wondered how Harl and Herbert Scott and John Sinco ever got in. We would sit gingerly on the edge of our chairs while Aunt Maggie would open the organ and play and sing for us. To our childish minds there was nothing like it, listening to her sweet voice singing, "Silver Threads Among The Gold", "Mollie Darling", and "Little Brown Jug". Our favorite song was "Up on the Housetop, Click, Click, Click; Down Through the Chimney Old St. Nick". She and Aunt Ottie often sang it together. About the time we had moved back comfortably in our chairs, Aunt Maggie would close the organ and we would have to leave this enchanted place. I’m sure all the cousins could tell about being entertained in this same way in Grandmother’s parlor.

There was a fence built around the house and it was like the Temple of Jerusalem, in that it had three gates. The one on the west had posts made of an old mahogany bedstead that our grandparents had brought with them from Indiana. We may not boast that our ancestors came across the water in the Mayflower, but we can boast that they had gate posts made of mahogany. About 1885 this frame house burned down one cold winter night with snow three or four feet deep, with drifts everywhere, and two women alone far from their neighbors. Grandmother forgot all danger and worked fast and with the help of Maggie Bell Mark, who lived with her, saved part of the household goods. You who like antiques would perhaps have quarreled over the walnut dining table that went up in smoke. It was very beautiful, with its wide leaves reaching almost to the floor – a real gateleg table. This fire necessitated a change, and Grandmother bought a home in Kellerton where she spent many happy days, interested in Church, her many friends and children living not many miles away. Our Mother told us many things of her life, some we have remembered, some forgotten. One thing she said was "Mother had a bright, keen mind and was always interested in the topics of the day and had a remarkable memory. She was a good neighbor and friend, active in mind and body until her death". She passed away in 1898, mourned by her children and grandchildren.

To us the stalwart old father and calm-faced mother could have belonged to but one generation, the generation that came to our prairies, building with youthful courage and tremendous pride in their achievements, a new commonwealth on the raw land.

The contribution to civilization of these worthy ancestors of ours, Henry and Jane Sinco, and other early pioneers, have given to us a keener insight to better the standards of life, as well as greater material advantages. We honor and revere them.

by Ora Scott Foltz