The George Nebeker Family

of Bloomfield, Edgar Co., Illinois

by Lionel Nebeker

Illinois was part of the “Northwest Territory” claimed by the United States after the Revolutionary War.  The first settlers were primarily southerners from Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina who settled along the Mississippi across the river from St. Louis (St. Clair Co. and Randolph Co.)  Other settlements sprang up slowly along the Wabash River that divides southern Illinois from southern Indiana.  Most of the population was still in the southern third of Illinois when it became a state in 1818.  Edgar County was organized in 1823 while Illinois was still a part of the American frontier.  It chose the town of Paris as it’s county seat.

George Nebeker moved his family to this area sometime in the late 1830s.  Originally the Nebekers were from Newport, New Castle Co., Delaware but in about 1830 the family left Delaware and moved briefly to Ohio where some of George Nebeker’s relatives (his Uncle Lucas Nebeker and his Aunt Elizabeth Nebeker Stidham) were already living together with their spouses and children.  The stay there was very brief and by 1831 these families had moved on to Covington, Fountain Co., Indiana, (which is located on the Wabash River just about fifteen miles east of Danville, Ill.)  Here George farmed for most of the decade.  Here too, their last child, Almira, was born and their oldest daughter, Mary Ann was married, both in 1831.  The two oldest Nebeker sons (John & Aquilla) also married before the family left Indiana.  However, sometime around 1838-39 George Nebeker moved the remainder of his family to Bloomfield, Edgar Co., Illinois, about twenty five miles south of Danville.

{There is no town of Bloomfield today, and even back in the 1840s it was merely a farming community rather than a real town.  It may have had a church or a school house but even that is not certain.  All that remains of the community today is a small sign along Illinois state highway #1 (also known as highway 150), two miles south of the town of Chrisman, Ill. with the word: “Bloomfield.”} 

It is not totally clear just when the family first came in contact with the Mormon Elders.  George’s oldest son, John Nebeker, returned back to Ohio where he married Lurena Fitzgerald on 22 Oct. 1835.  Sometime between 1837-38 this couple relocated to Danville, Illinois to be near the rest of the Nebeker family.  John Nebeker’s family history tells us that it was his wife, Lurena, who first embraced Mormonism and was baptized on 10 June 1840.  Some time passed before others in the family chose to affiliate themselves with this new religion but because of her choice John eventually made a trip to Nauvoo to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  While there he became converted and returned to Bloomfield to share the new gospel with the rest of his family and to tell them of his intent to move his family and join the saints in Nauvoo.  Not only did John move his own  family, but he also convinced three of his brothers to join him in his move to Nauvoo prior to his own baptismal date.  John was baptized in Nauvoo, on 6 Feb. 1846.  This was after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and right at the time that the saints were being driven from Nauvoo.  It was a difficult time for new investigators to want to join this group of outcasts.  It took real conversion and determination to make that choice.

On 24 May, 1838, George’s second son (third child) Aquilla Nebeker married Naomi Wright.  This was about the time that George and his unmarried children left Indiana to move to Bloomfield, Illinois.  Aquilla and his bride settled down in Clinton, Indiana, just about twenty miles north of Terre Haute, where they farmed and raised their family of eleven children.  Our family genealogical records show a baptismal date for Aquilla of 27 Oct. 1877, three years before his death.  This would indicate that another one of George and Susannah’s sons joined the LDS Church although he was too old by then to make a move to the west.

When George Nebeker first moved his family to Indiana, they settled in Covington, Fountain County but then moved on to Edgar Co. Ill before the 1840 census.  However, the 1840 census for Indiana contains the following Nebeker families in two close counties:

          Nebeker, Aquilla          Vermillion Co.          p. 487          a son of our George]

          Nebeker, George           Fountain Co.             p. 177          [not our George]

          Nebeker, Hannah          Fountain Co.             p. 177

          Nebeker, John               Fountain Co.             p. 177

          Nebeker, Richard          Fountain Co.             p. 177

None of these, including the George listed above, were our direct ancestors.  Other than Aquilla, those listed here were a part of Lucas Nebeker’s family: his widow, Hannah and three of his sons.  He also had another son, Lucas Jr., too young to be listed separately at this time; but who was listed in the 1850 census.  Lucas Sr. was our George’s uncle.

The 1850 census shows that Aquilla (the son of our ancestor, George) was still in Vermillion Co., Indiana.  In addition, George (not our ancestor), John and Lucas (Jr.) Nebeker were all in Fountain Co., Indiana.  Each of these last three said they were born in Ohio with birth years being 1814, 1806 and 1819 respectively.  These were the cousins of our George.

George’s next son was Henry Nebeker.  Henry was actually a twin but his brother, William, died in childbirth back in New Castle, Delaware.  Henry was about twenty years old and still single when the family moved to Bloomfield.  However this was remedied when he married a local girl by the name of Florence Wood on 20 Aug. 1843 [see Edgar Co. IL. marriage records in the county courthouse at Paris, Ill.  License procured on 17 Aug. 1843--(book SA p. 67 #1059); marriage performed on 20 Aug. 1843 by Garrard “G. W.” Riley, M.G. (Baptist Minister) who also lived in Bloomfield--(book LA p.176.)] 

Florence was the daughter of William Wood, Sr. (born 27 Feb. 1792; died 25 May, 1870 and buried at the Bloomfield Cemetery, two miles south of Chrisman, Edgar, Ill.).  This man and his wife, Sarah _________ (born 13 Apr. 1797; died 23 June, 1851) lie buried at the same Bloomfield Cemetery.)  Sarah, however was the second wife of William Wood Sr. and was not the mother of his children.  William Wood had the following children with his first wife who were living with him and his second wife in 1850 in Bloomfield (per the 1850 Edgar Co., Ill. US census):

              Name                        Age                    Job/sex                      Birth County & St.

            William Wood Sr.       58 (b. 1792)     Blacksmith                   Fayette Co.,  Pa

            Sarah Wood                54 (b. 1796)      Female                                “              “

            Eliza Wood                 33 (b. 1817)      Female                        Clermont Co. Ohio

            L. S. Wood                  31 (b. 1819)     Blacksmith                            “              “

*          Florence Wood (deceased, born 1821) wife of Henry Nebeker         “             “

            Enoch A. Wood          27 (b. 1823)      Farmer                                   “             “

            Lettitia Wood              23 (b. 1827)      Female                                  “             “

           William Wood, Jr.       20 (b. 1830)       laborer                                  “             “

            Oliver Wood               18 (b. 1832)       laborer                          Edgar Co.      Ill.

            James Wood                15 (b. 1835)       laborer                                  “             “

*  Florence Wood Nebeker died prior to this census so was not listed but is listed here to show her position in the family.  The remainder of those shown above were listed in the 1850 census for Edgar Co., Ill.  L.S. Wood and Enoch Wood were both married and living nearby with their families but from the ages and place of birth we can tell that they were indeed a part of this family.  The oldest daughter, Eliza, was still living at home with her father. 

We also find the tombstones of William and Sarah Wood next to his daughter, Florence Wood Nebeker, in the Bloomfield Cemetery.  In the above census taken just one year before the death of Sarah Wood, she gave her age as 54, but on her headstone her age was recorded in 1851 as being 54 years, 2 months and 10 days.  Tombstones are not always more accurate than census records but this one seems to be quite specific as to her age and so we assume her birth was in 1797 rather than 1796.

It is quite possible that there was another member of this family who was about 25 years old and away from home at the time of this census as there is a four-year gap between Enoch and Lettitia whereas all the other children came at very regular two year intervals.  However, nothing is currently known about any other members of this family.

Three other children of George and Susannah Nebeker were married in Edgar Co., Ill.  Their records can be found at the county courthouse in Paris:

          Nebecker, Washingtonmd. McClain, Susan

                  Lic.        31 Dec. 1844     Bk SA     p. 75   #1182

                  Marr.        1 Jan.  1845     Bk LA    p. 186

          Nebecker, Samuel  md. Wilson, Permelia Jane

                   Lic.          9 Sep. 1847     Bk SA    p. 87   #1390

                   Marr.     12 Sep. 1847      Bk LA   p. 198

           Hodge, William md. Nebecker, Almira

                    Lic.       12 Feb. 1853      Bk SA    p. 127   #2002

                    Marr.    13 Feb. 1853      Bk LA    p. 234

The marriage of Henry Nebeker and Florence Wood was of short duration, less than two years.  We know of no children for this couple.  Her tombstone is located in the Bloomfield Cemetery near her parents but also near her parents-in-law, George and Susannah Nebeker.  It is beautifully scripted on a tall but thin slab of stone that in 1997 was lying flat on the ground.  This author stood it upright and propped it against a large tree next to her father’s tombstone to help it endure the weather.  The spot where it was lying is about 15 feet to the east of that tree and just northeast of George and Susannah Nebeker’s headstone.  It says: “ Florence Nebeker was born November the 19th 1821.  Departed this life Apr. the 27th 1845.  Age 23 years, 5 months, 8 days.” 

The Bloomfield Cemetery would be difficult to find.  It is located about 1.5 miles south of Chrisman, IL. and about half a mile north of the Bloomfield sign on Illinois State Highway #1.  At that point there is a farm on the east side of the road that owns the ground surrounding the cemetery and that keeps the records of those who are buried there.  The cemetery is located about a quarter of a mile east of the highway, back in the farmer’s corn field.  The only road into the cemetery is a private dirt road going behind the farmer’s barn and through his fields.  There is a large tree in the cemetery and it is surrounded by smaller trees.  There are about 100 graves in this cemetery but most of the stones are broken, lying down, well worn and difficult to find, let alone read.  A few years ago two different attempts were made to transcribe the engravings on the headstones of this cemetery.  Then someone tried to reconcile the differences between the two attempts.  Errors were made on the original readings and more errors were made when they tried to guess at the reconciliation.  In some cases, where the two records did not match both entries were included which gives the impression that two people were buried where only one really existed.  The farmer and caretaker of the Bloomfield Cemetery has a copy of this register, (a copy of which is attached to this document as Appendix A.)   In defense of the people who did the work, the stones were extremely difficult to read in most cases.  At this point I will summarize the Nebeker entries that appeared in that cemetery record as they appear in Appendix A.  I will follow that with the corrections that appear justified based upon my own personal examination of the tombstones when I studied them in November of 1997 and again in February of 1998.  I had the cemetery records in my hand as I worked on these stones so was able to determine at the time whether the information recorded really matched the stones or not--often it did not.

Summary from Bloomfield Cemetery Records as appears in the cemetery records:

NEBEKER, Edison                Sep 1852                                 4m (months)

NEBEKER, Florence             d 18?5                                      age 23

NEBEKER, George               d 27 Feb 1852                          age 67

NEBEKER, Mary                  dau of Samuel & Permell         24 Mar 1850 - 16 Jul 1850

NEBEKER, Sally                   dau of G W & B

NEBEKER, Susan                  wife of W. NEBEKER             8 Jul 1852

NEBEKER, Susannah            dau of George                           d 10 May 1851          3y  5m  20d

NEBEKER, Susannah            wife of W                                 16 May 1851            39y  5m  20d

Information as I found it after spending many hours studying the tombstones:

Edson Nebeker          died  Sep. 5th, 1862             4 ms(?)

[His age is very difficult to read.  Who is this Edson?  (Note the spelling of his name is different than given in the cemetery records.)  There is no indication of who his parents were.  The best estimate for his parents would be Washington Nebeker, the son of George and Susannah.  Washington and his second wife, Emily Douglas, had four known children with the youngest being born about 1860.  It would therefore be easy to have yet another child born in 1862 without any further record of this child after his untimely death.  In addition, by this time all other Nebeker families had moved from the area.  There is no record of the parentage for this child but the above logic seems sufficient to assign him to this family group.  He was not listed with the family in the 1860 census, which also helps to confirm the date and age on his tombstone although it is difficult to read.]

Florence Nebeker was born November the 19th, 1821.  Departed this life Apr. the 27th, 1845.  Aged 23 yrs  5 ms  8 ds.  

[This was the 1st wife of Henry Nebeker]

Mary Nebeker  [I did not find this stone but there were many stones in deep grass and difficult to read.  The above note indicates that she was the daughter of Samuel & Permell Nebeker.  George’s son, Samuel married Permelia Jane Wilson.  This was their oldest known child and she died very young.  The dates of her birth and death as given on her tombstone do not match that recorded in the “Nebeker Family Book” but the tombstone is probably more accurate as it was made at the time of her death.  She was born on 24 Mar. 1850 but lived less than four months and died on 16 July 1850.]

Sally Nebeker  [I found no such person nor headstone in my search.  I am convinced that this is a significant error.  Below the listings of the Nebeker family members there are listings for the Riley family members.  Included among these is the following]:

            RILEY, Sally     dau of G W & B      d. 30 May 1858     3y  5m  16d

Notice the similarity between the two entries.  I am convinced that whoever transcribed this information misplaced this Riley child among the Nebeker family.  Note too that there is no known GW & B Nebeker family for whom this child could be a daughter.

Susannah Nebeker     wife of W. Nebeker     died July 8, 1859

[This was Susan (or Susannah) McClain, the wife of Washington Nebeker (son of George Nebeker.)  The year of her death is very difficult to read but appeared to be 1859 although the cemetery record listed it as 1852.  In the genealogical and historical society in Paris, IL, a record was found of her obituary in July, 1859.  It says that she died in Paris at the age of 26 and was the wife of “W. Nebeker.”  Her age is within a year of what we understood Susan McClain Nebeker’s to be.  It also says that she left behind three daughters and that information also matches with our understanding of the wife of Washington.  We are sure this is the marker for this person.  Washington married his second wife, Emily Douglass on 15 Apr. 1854(?).]

George Nebeker          died Feb. 27, 1852       Age 67 yrs              [This is our direct ancestor]

Susannah, wife of George Nebeker     died May 16, 1851     age 59 yrs 5 ms 20 ds      [This is our direct ancestor]

Their stone is well worn and difficult to read.  Note the errors made on the cemetery records.  Having misread her age at the time of her death as “3 yrs  5 ms  20 ds” the recorder then assumed that she must be the “daughter” of George rather than trying to make out the faint word “wife.”  They recorded the date of death as: 10 May 1851 rather than 16 May 1851, which is a very easy error to make.

This couple share the same headstone.  The Nebeker Family Book indicates that Susannah died on either the “9th or 16th of May, 1851.”  This tombstone seems to clarify that it was really on the 16th.  The same book also indicates that she died in Chrisman and leaves the place of her burial blank.  Both of these should probably say: “Bloomfield” and she is definitely buried next to her husband as they share the same marker.  After her death, George went to spend the last year of his life with his son, Aquilla who was residing in the Clinton, near Terre Haute, Indiana.  When he died, his body was returned back to Bloomfield for burial beside his wife.

The final Nebeker entry in the cemetery record is for another “Susannah Nebeker, wife of W.  16 May 1851     39 y  5 m  20 d.” 

This is not for another person but is a mixture of the other two Susannahs.  It seems apparent that different people were gathering information from the various tombstones and when they later tried to reconcile the differences they felt the information was so different that there must be three different Susannahs.  The first part of this third entry is from one Susannah Nebeker, the wife of W. Nebeker and the second half of the information is a more correct date from the stone for Susannah Nebeker, the wife of our George Nebeker.  It even has the correct death date but misread the age as 39 years whereas she was really 59 years old.  In other words, where the cemetery record lists a Sally and three Susannahs (or Susan) there was really no Sally and only two Susannahs, one the wife of “W” (Washington) and the other was the wife of George Nebeker.

We will add here the information from two more tombstones from the Bloomfield Cemetery that are of interest to us.  One of them was recorded correctly in the cemetery and the other is missing entirely, although they are near to each other.  They are for William Wood Sr., the father of Florence Wood Nebeker (Henry Nebeker’s wife); and for Sarah Wood, William’s wife, the step mother of Florence Wood Nebeker:

          William Wood Sen.                  Died May 25, 1870          Aged 78 ys  2 ms  28 ds

          Sarah, wife of Wm. Wood        Died June 23, 1851          Aged 54 ys  2 ms  10 ds

William Wood’s grave was just to the east of the large tree in the middle of the cemetery and his wife’s grave was just to the east of his.  Their daughter, Florence Nebeker’s grave was just to the east of Sarah’s and to the northeast of George and Susannah Nebeker’s graves.  As mentioned earlier, the author moved Florence’s beautifully engraved stone that was unable to stand up by itself and leaned it against the tree just to the west of her father’s grave.

We will return now to our history of the Nebeker family in Bloomfield.  In February of 1846, at the height of the Mormon persecutions in Nauvoo, John Nebeker was baptized into the Church and decided to move his family west with the saints.  He was accompanied on this move by three of his brothers: Henry, Peter and George Jr.  Henry was still mourning the loss of his dear wife, Florence, who had died less than a year earlier.  None of these brothers had yet joined the Church but they all seemed to be impressed enough to pack their belongings and head west with their brother and sister-in-law.  At the time they left their parents in Illinois, John was 33 years old, married and had five children.  Henry was 28 and a widower; Peter was age 24 and single; and George Jr., was age 20 and single.  They arrived at Nauvoo just in time to join the exodus from that city and cross Iowa in the bitter weather conditions that have been documented in other narratives.  They endured the epidemics, deaths and privations that afflicted so many of the saints in the summer and winter of 1846 in Winter Quarters on the Missouri River.  Cholera devastated so many families while they waited to make arrangements for the trek to Zion.

In this temporary community, Henry Nebeker met a young woman by the name of Harriet Ann Van Wagoner Havens.  She, her parents and siblings (but not her prior husband) had joined the LDS Church in New Jersey.  Her husband was opposed to her new religion and became abusive. She left him, took their two surviving (of three) children and, with her parents and their family, moved to Nauvoo to gather with the saints.  They too had arrived there only to find it was necessary to evacuate and to move across Iowa in that bitterly cold winter and spring.  This family endured many hardships but the most difficult came when both of Ann’s parents died due to illness on Dec. 4, 1846 in Winter Quarters.  This left Ann feeling even more alone as she worried about how she would care for her two small children alone.  Evidently, she had already met Henry Nebeker and they had courted during that winter.  Now she turned even more to him in her time of loss.  This couple decided to marry but Ann, having previously been married to a non-member, wanted to make sure Henry would embrace her same faith.

Henry Nebeker was baptized on a cold Jan. 1st, 1847 and he married Ann Van Wagoner on Jan. 4, 1947.  There didn’t seem to be any adoptive system for children in those days on the frontier but Henry took Ann’s two children as his own, gave them his surname and raised them as his own from that point on.

Ann was not the only pioneer woman to insist that her husband be a good member of the Church.  On Mar. 5, 1847 Peter Nebeker was baptized into the Church.  We do not have a marriage date for Peter and Elizabeth Davis but we assume it was very shortly thereafter.  As yet, their younger brother, George Jr. was still traveling with them but was not yet a member.

In the spring of 1847 Brigham Young began forming the saints into companies for the trek west.  The Nebeker group was formed into one of the early companies.  The following is from a record of the roster of pioneers:

“Capt. Geo B. Wallace Book of Record pertaining to his Fifty, Organized on the West Bank of Horn River Omahaw Nation June 17th 1847 in the Fourth Hundred under the Directions of Capt. Abraham O. Smoot, Journing in the Wilderness in the Company of Three other organized Hundreds under the directions of Daniel Spencer, Edward Hunter and Jedediah Grant, Which Composes the Whole Camp of Israel Now Journing in the Wilderness under the care of Directions of Two Apostles Parley P. Pratt & John Taylor.

The names of Each Company of Tens in the Above Named Fifty, Male & Female As Follows:

          1st  Ten          Geo B. Wallice...

          2nd Ten          Saml Rolfe, Capt...

          3rd  Ten          Joseph Mount, Capt...

          4th  Ten          John Nebeker, Capt.               Geo Nebeker

                                 Lurena Nebeker                      Peter Nebeker

                                 Wm. P. Nebeker                     Elizabeth Nebeker

                                 Ira Nebeker                             Henry Nebeker

                                 Aaron Nebeker                       Ann Nebeker

                                 Ashton Nebeker                      Wm. H. Nebeker

                                 Rosetta Nebeker                     Mary Ann Nebeker

                                 (and others...)

There were five groups of “ten” (meaning about ten wagons) in this “4th Hundred” (meaning the 4th wagon train to pull out of Winter Quarters.)  John Nebeker was the Captain of the fourth group of “ten” wagons and he was accompanied by his three brothers.  The above listing shows John and his wife, Lurena and their five children; George Jr. as a single man; Peter with his new bride Elizabeth; and Henry with his new wife, Ann and her two children by her previous marriage to John Havens.  Note here that these two children (William Henry Havens Nebeker and Mary Ann Havens Nebeker) were already known as “Nebekers.”  This group arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on Sunday, Sept. 26, 1847, just two months after the very first pioneers.

After arriving safely and deciding he was here to stay, young George  Nebeker Jr. also joined the LDS Church in Salt Lake on 10 Dec. 1847.  He lived for a time with his brother John until his own wedding to Elizabeth Dilworth on 13 Feb. 1851, which marriage is said to have been performed by Brigham Young in the office of the President of the Church.

In the Spring of 1851, the mother of this family, Susannah Meredith Nebeker became ill and passed away on 16 May 1851.  She was 59 years old.  She was buried in the Bloomfield Cemetery.  Her husband, George, Sr. went to live his last year with his son, Aquilla near Terre Haute, Indiana.  It was just about at that same time, in the spring of 1851, that yet another brother, Lewis, decided to head west to the Oregon Territory.  On his way he stopped off in Utah to see his four brothers that summer and while visiting he became converted and was baptized into the Church on 1 Dec. 1851.  Also, like his older brothers, there may have been a beautiful young girl who influenced him in his decision for he was married to Catherine Thomas on 21 Dec. 1851 in Salt Lake City and remained in Utah for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, back in Bloomfield, Ill. family tradition says that another brother, Washington Nebeker also joined the LDS Church but he was persuaded that the Reorganized Church had the more correct ideas and he chose to align himself with them rather than to go west with the saints.  He remained in Illinois where he and his first wife, Susan McClain had three daughters.  Susan died in 1852 and Washington married second, Emily Douglas on 15 Apr. 1854.  By her he had five more children, including the little boy, Edson (or Edison) who died when just 4 months old.  As mentioned earlier, we cannot prove that he was a member of this family but Washington’s family was the only Nebeker family left in Edgar Co., Ill in 1862.  After the death of his last child, Washington eventually moved his family away from Edgar Co., and to another part of Illinois.

The father, George Nebeker Sr. outlived his wife by less than a year.  He died in Terre Haute, Indiana on 29 Feb. 1852, at the home of his son, Aquilla Nebeker.  He was about 66 years old and was brought back to be buried next to his dear wife in the Bloomfield Cemetery.  The single stone marker that commemorates both their graves is lying flat on the ground there today and is now very difficult to read.

With both of his parents now gone, Samuel Nebeker and Washington were the only Nebeker brothers left in Illinois.  Family tradition says that Samuel too joined the LDS Church but instead of going to Utah, he made it all the way to the Willamette Valley of Oregon in October of 1852.  He and his wife, Permelia Wilson, had two children born to them back in Illinois; seven more who were born in Oregon and then in 1870 they moved to Modoc Co., California where they had two more children.

Thus the Nebeker family passed in and out of the little village of Bloomfield, Illinois and only some worn stones among the tall grass in a hidden graveyard are left as a witness to their passing.  As their descendants this is sacred ground to us and deserves to be remembered and honored by their posterity.

Main street in Chrisman, Ill.

Town square in Chrisman, Ill.

“Bloomfield” sign by the side of Ill highway 150; 2 miles south of Chrisman, Ill.

Looking NE from the “Bloomfield” sign.  Cemetery is by tallest tree in center of picture.

1/4 mile north of “Bloomfield” sign on highway 150; cemetery is due East under tall tree.

“Bloomfield Cemetery” where George, Susannah and Florence Nebeker are buried.


Bloomfield, IL cemetery, looking north. 

The stone lying flat on the ground, just beyond the broken stone in the center of the photo,

is that of George Nebeker and his wife, Susannah Meredith

Looking NW.  George and Susannah’s headstone is lying flat in center of photo with the shadow just touching the top.

Their daughter-in-law, Florence Nebeker’s stone is leaning against the tree in the distance, on the left.

Grave marker for both George Nebeker and his wife, Susannah Meredith Nebeker

Grave marker of Florence Nebeker, first wife of Henry Nebeker and daughter-in-law of George and Susannah Nebeker