Tag Archives: Millersburg

Doc James Woods: Character in Jesse’s Story

REVISED October 19, 2016

Illinois Land

Location of Land Jesse bought for Woods. 1847

Last week I wrote about 2 x great grandfather’s  Jesse Morgan’s 1847 purchase and sale of land to James Woods in Illinois. Thanks to the Illinois Archives and the Bureau of Land Management website for public land purchases, I could learn details of that purchase. As I said last week:

The sale coming only one month after the purchase, and Jesse’s mention of Mr. Woods in an August letter to Mary, both indicate that Jesse may have bought the land as an agent for Woods. If so, he made a hefty commission. Did you notice on the index that he bought the land for $200 and sold it a month later for $300? Way to go, Jesse. In August you were scrimping by living in the stable with your horses, and by October, you’ve made $100 with hardly any effort.

See last week’s post for the background, including the deed of sale when Jesse sold the land and a map of the land’s location.

Who is James Woods?

He sold the land to a man named James Woods, which made me curious. Who was this James Woods, also referred to as “Doc” Woods that Jesse mentioned at least three times in letters to his wife Mary as well as serving as Woods’ land agent?

[Warning:  Since I am patching together whole lives from scraps of information, the inferences I draw may be wildly off the mark. I am merely sharing one possible version of the story of Jesse Morgan and Dr. and Mrs. James Woods. Feel free to offer counter-possibilities.]

Since I had so little information–his name, probable occupation and the fact that he must have lived somewhere near Jesse and Mary in Holmes County–a search for James Woods on Ancestry was difficult. I resorted to searching line by line through census reports of the Killbuck village and township in Holmes County and found several Woods. Most of them were farmers, but I finally lit on a physician.

In 1850, the Woods family lived six houses away from Mary Morgan.  In 1840 they had lived in another county, but apparently moved  to Killbuck early in the decade, since Jesse mentioned them in an 1843 letter. Also, James B. Woods was Killbuck postmaster in October 1844, which could have been what motivated the move to Killbuck, and would have guaranteed he was well known in the community.

By 1860 Mary Morgan and her schoolteacher daughter lived with a family next door to the Woods family.

Following the lead on that census, I discovered that one of James Woods’ descendants had a public tree on Ancestry.com. While I do not generally rush to use information from family trees, this one was obviously well researched and sourced.

When I contacted the descendant, it turned out that he had a wealth of information, some of which shed light on Jesse Morgan and his letters.

The Litigious and Influential Mrs. Woods

I sent the Woods descendant copies of Jesse’s letters and asked what he thought Jesse was hiding  in his 1843 letter  when he warned Mary not to tell everything to Mrs. Woods. He replied that Mrs. Woods had a reputation for being litigious. He added that she was well connected and well regarded, so her opinion would definitely count for something.  So Jesse may not have been hiding anything in particular, but just being cautious around this woman of influence.

Sarah Cowan Woods, I learned, had several relatives who were lawyers and a cousin, who although he was a farmer, liked to play lawyer in the Holmes County court in Millersburg. Although Jesse was worrying about Mrs. Woods in  1843, her true colors showed long after Jesse was gone, when she went to court in 1871.

It seems that “Doc” James Woods drank a bit too much. (I know, I know. If this were a novel, the drunk small town physician would be a cliché.)  Besides her understandable frustration at having a husband who drank, Mrs. Woods was no doubt influenced by the Temperance movement, very powerful in the late 19th century. She may have also been emotionally unstable due to the death of a child between 1860 and 1870.

Whatever set her off, she decided to get revenge–and possibly make a few bucks–by suing everyone who ever served or sold liquor to her husband. She was represented by a most distinguished member of her family who was a Princeton graduate, a lawyer of high repute, and a future Congressman among other accomplishments. She won $800 of the $3000 she asked for. Still a considerable sum.

In 1870, the Woods were living in Millersburg, but the 1871 trial ended their life together and in 1880 we find J. B. Woods (James Woods) living in a Killbuck boarding house. The census lists Sarah Woods as a widow in Millersburg, where she works as a seamstress. Obviously she is not a widow, but she may wish she were.

This scandalous and well-publicized law suit not only ruined her husband’s reputation, and thus his career and their mutual source of income, but it also ruined their son James, who was just beginning his medical career. He fled town and died two years later.

An Unsavory Political Connection

Another bit of information the descendant shared shed light on a negative side of Jesse’s personality.

The politics that the Woods descendant described to me in an e-mail was a radical wing of the Democratic Party. During the Civil War the group would be called Copperheads–those opposed to Abraham Lincoln and his conciliatory policies toward the South.

James B. Woods was President of a small Democrat political organization in Millersville [Millersburg]. During the Civil War it sponsored speakers like Clement Vallandigham, an Ohio Congressman who supported slavery and the Southern cause. Immediately after the war, Woods’ group called for laws to control blacks, arguing strongly for legal segregation of the races. So, not a nice guy.

I have a letter that a nephew wrote to Jesse mentioning Jesse’s anti-German immigrant stance and the general prejudice against German immigrants. It is easy to believe that the politics of James Woods attracted Jesse. (The Woods’ descendant points out to me that prejudice against the wave of German immigrants in Ohio was widespread at that time, and I agree. See this earlier articleNevertheless, I believe that a tendency to be nativist would also incline Jesse to be among those who believed Negroes were inferior.)

Reunited in Death

James Woods (the father) survived twenty years after the lawsuit, dying in 1891. In 1900, Sarah Cowan Woods could  legitimately list “widow” on the census form in Millersburg.

Woods Tombstone

Tombstone of James and Sarah Woods and their son James.

Despite the tumultuous family life, some later family member decided the Woods and their son belong together in the Millersburg Ohio Oak Hill cemetery.

I do not know what happened to the land that James Woods bought from Jesse Morgan.  He never lived in Illinois. I hope he sold the land at a good profit to sustain him after his wife destroyed his career.


Coming Next

We will finish up Jesse Morgan’s story, by talking about his children, starting with Charles Morgan. But first, I’m going to share one of my mother’s recollections, appropriate for Halloween.   Oooooooo.

Research Notes on James B. Woods

(The first section lists the sources cited by the descendant discussed above on his family tree of James Woods. I did verify them on line through Ancestry.com)

United States Federal Census: 1840 (Union Twp, Putnam County, Ohio); 1850 (Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio); 1860 (Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio); 1870 (Millersburg, Holmes County, Ohio; 1880 (Killbuck and Millersburg, Holmes Couty, Ohio).

Find a Grave, Oak Hill Cemetery Millersburg, Ohio

U.S., Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971, Ancestry.com

“Ohio Obituary Index.” Database. Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. http://index.rbhayes.org/hayes/index/ : 2009.

(My own research sources)

Letters to and from Jesse Morgan 1843-1847. In the author’s possession.

Index of Land Sales, McHenry County, Illinois (portion); and Deed of Sale Jesse Morgan to James Woods, 1847 Holmes County, Ohio; Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb Illinois. Photocopies. Received September 21, 2016.

Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records. On Line http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/search/ Searched August and September 2016.

Personal correspondence from Philip Campbell, September 2016


Amish Buttermilk Cookies

After making some buckwheat pancakes, I had about one cup of buttermilk left over.  In the grandmotherly spirit of waste not, want not, I wondered if there was not a good recipe buttermilk cookies.  Although I could make my Grandmother’s Sugar Cookies with buttermilk instead of sour cream, I was curious about other traditional recipes.

Amish Buttermilk Cookie

Amish Buttermilk Cookies out of oven

And look what I found!  The perfect buttermilk cookie recipe. It is labeled an Amish cookie, and comes directly from Holmes County, Ohio where so many of my relatives grew up.  I’m about to turn to Ken’s family in my ancestor search, and although they were one county over, in Wayne County, Ohio, they were definitely solidly in Amish Country.  So although I have no direct evidence, I strongly suspect that his grandmothers might have made buttermilk cookies, too.

Googling led me to an inn in Holmes County Amish country, and recipes in their blog. I contacted the owner of The Barn Inn, situated in the heart of Ohio Amish country between the county seat of Millersburg and the “capitol of Amish land”, Berlin (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable).   She gave me permission to use her recipe verbatim.

The Barn Inn

The Barn Inn, Holmes County, Ohio

My ten-year-old granddaughter and I tested the recipe and loved the results: a soft, pillowy, comforting cookie.  Although it is traditionally finished with icing, I tested it without, first.  My 8-year-old grandson declared that it did not need frosting. What better cookie expert do you need than a 8-year-old boy?

Amish Buttermilk Cookies

Amish Buttermilk Cookies, with plain frosting and with nuts.

However, my husband, Ken, thought the buttermilk cookies were too bland. He wanted a little crunch. It was too late to add something on the inside of the cookie, so I put a lemony glaze on top and scattered nuts on–proving this is an adaptable cookie, with possibilities to suit everyone.

Amish Buttermilk Cookie

Serves 48
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 12 minutes
Total time 27 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Website The Barn Inn
Amish Buttermilk Cookies are a soft cookie that are traditionally frosted with a brown sugar icing.


  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 3/4 cups flour--white or half white and half wheat.
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder


1. In large bowl, beat softened butter and sugar together until fluffy.
2. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
3. In second bowl, whisk together flour, soda and baking powder.
4. Mix the buttermilk alternately with the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.
5. Drop by large teaspoonfuls, about 2" apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 10-12 minutes until brown on edges.


When my grand daughter and I made the Amish Buttermilk Cookies, we used half wheat and half white flour, which did not affect the quality, but added a little nutrition.

I did not ice them at first, but my husband wanted some crunch, so I glazed some and scattered chopped pecans on top. (A few I frosted, because I like frosting more than he does.) I used a simple lemon juice, water and confectioners sugar glaze.

The frosting suggested by The Barn Inn is 2 1/2 Tablespoons butter, 5 Tablespoons brown sugar, 12 Tablespoons (3/4 cup) milk mixed with sifted confectioners sugar to the right consistency.

While you’re munching on an Amish Buttermilk Cookies, check out accommodations at The Barn Inn between Berlin and Millersburg, Ohio. What an appealing place. Now, should I go in the fall to see the leaves? Around Christmas for the Christmas Cookie tour of Inns? In the summer for the green, green hills?


52 Ancestors:#22 Susan Kaser Kerr and Daughter Elsie

Susan/Susannah Kaser (Kerr) 1849-Some Time After 1910

I am working my way through introductions of the brothers and sisters of my grandfather, Clifford Kaser. These are the aunts and uncles of my father.  The only one that he seemed to really know was Emma Kaser Sutherland, whom I introduced earlier. And recently, I traced the sad story of Clifford’s younger brother, Edward, who along with Emma stayed at home with his mother until he was in his thirties.

Now I am going back to look at Clifford’s oldest sister, Susan. Susan, born in 1849, was eighteen years older than Cliff, and was married when he was only seven years old, so they probably did not have very much of a relationship.

Susan first shows up in the 1850 census when she is one year old. That census report shows her father Joseph and mother Catharine and their baby girl living next door to Joseph’s father George Kaser, and near other relatives in the area of Bloomfield (later called Clark–Coshocton County), Ohio.

Five siblings are born by 1870, when Susan is apparently no longer living at home.  In 1872, she marries George W. Kerr . They live in nearby Killbuck, Holmes County) Ohio and in January 1873 has her first child, son Henry.

Life on the Farm

George W. must have been a good catch.  His father, also named George, owned a farm in 1870 with 110 acres of improved land and 90 acres of woodland near in Killbuck Township, Holmes County.  And ten years later (when Susan and her George have been married for eight years, they have a 60 acre farm in the same area.  (Perhaps a portion of father George’s farm.)

Although the amount of acreage is not high compared to surrounding farms, the production is higher than most, and the “Non-Population Schedule of June 1880” shows that Susan’s husband hired laborer during five weeks of the year, so he must have been doing quite well.

He grew corn, oats, and wheat. Additionally he had 60 apple trees and 50 peach trees as well as 1/2 acre of potatoes and wood to cut, sheep, swine, 40 chickens and two milk cows. This indicates that Susan probably also was a very busy farm worker. Chickens and the milk cows to take care of, probably a vegetable garden. Definitely baking and canning fruit. By the way, the Anderson farms nearby had many fruit trees, too, and a history of Holmes County points out that fruit trees were a major source of income in the County.

In 1876, Susan’s gave birth to daughter Ada and in 1884 she had her last child, Elsie.

George died some time between 1900 and 1910, because in the 1910 Census, Susan is listed as a Farm Manager and a widow. I know that Susan was still around in 1911 because that is when her mother died and Susan is listed in the obituary as a survivor, but I don’t know how long she lived after that.

I was interested to notice that she lived very close to my Anderson Relatives, Ben and Nettie Anderson.

Susan’s Daughter Elsie

I complain frequently about the fact that my father did not seem to stay in touch with his aunts and uncles and cousins.  One exception was Susan’s daughter Elsie.  I grew up hearing the name Elsie Fritz (her married name), particularly as a visitor at the home of my aunt and uncle Blanche and Keith Kaser in Millersburg.  I always thought Elsie Fritz was a relative of my Aunt Blanche rather than a cousin of my father and his brother Keith Kaser.

Researching Susan Kaser Kerr, I discovered that her daughter Elsie Kerr, born May 15, 1883, married Albert F. Fritz and lived in Millersburg, where she ran a beauty shop for many years. Elsie was a guest of the Keith Kaser family frequently, as reported in the Millersburg personals column in the Coshocton Tribune.  She even was one of a handful of people they invited to honor my mother and father when they were married in 1938.

So there WAS one cousin at least that my family had some contact with.  I do not recall being told when she died, so it was not a close relationship with our family,  but her obituary says she died nine years after her husband, in August of 1962 and was buried at the Oak Hill cemetery in Millersburg.

 How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser who is the son of
  • Clifford Kaser who is the brother of
  • Susan Kaser Kerr

Notes on Research

The “Kaser Genealogy” (aka Green Book or G. B.) referred to is The Kaser History: A History of Dates and Other Interesting Facts (1994) edited by Deborah D. Morgan and others. Out of print. I obtained information from a cousin who owns a copy of the book.

Census records from 1850 (German Twp, Holmes Co. Ohio); 1860 (German Twp, Holmes Co, Oho); 1880 (Killbuck, Holmes Co. Ohio); 1900 (Killbuck, Holmes Co.. Ohio); 1910, (Killbuck, Holmes Co., Ohio) ;1920 (Killlbuck, Holmes County, Ohio) ; 1920 (Millersburg, Holmes County, Ohio); 1930 (Millersburg, Holmes Co., Ohio); 1940 (Millersburg, Holmes Co., Ohio) *

Coshocton Daily Times, Wednesday, February 1, 1911, Page one. “An Aged Mother Goes to Reward”, obituary of Katharine (sic) Kaser lists surviving children, including Mrs. Susan Kerr.*

Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-2007 Ohio Department of Health. Index to Annual Deaths, 1958-2002. Ohio Department of Health, State Vital Statistics Unit, Columbus, OH, USA.*

Coshocton Tribune, various articles mentioning Elsie Kerr.*

*These records accessed at Ancestry.com.

Find A Grave website for some death records and burial places.