Ida Louise Easley

Our ancestor, Ida Louise Easley, has been difficult to trace over the years and it has only been in the last few months (2013) that we were finally able to find anything at all.  So, it is very exciting to be able to share what little we know about her in this biographical sketch. 

Her parents were Pleasant Easley and Louisa Sinclair.  Both of them were born in Tennessee, with her father coming from Robertson Co., TN. These two moved, with their families, and prior to their marriage, to Macoupin County, Illinois, which is located about 25 miles NE of St. Louis, Missouri.  Here the young couple married on 18 Dec. 1842.  They were each about nineteen years old, having been born in 1823. 

Their first known child was not born until 1848, so it is quite possible that they may have had earlier children who did not survive infancy.

The first four known children to join the family were all boys, but their fifth child was a daughter who they named Ida Louise Easley.   She was born in Oct 1856.  Then there seems to be a gap of over four years before the family was blessed with a set of twins—one girl and one boy in 1861.

By this time the Civil War had begun and Illinois, the home of Abraham Lincoln, supported the preservation of the Union.  Despite the fact that Ida’s parents and extended family were all raised in Tennessee, Pleasant enlisted in the Union army on 12 August 1862 when his twin babies were less than a year old.  He was a private in Company K of the 124th Illinois Infantry Regiment.  In his military papers Pleasant said he was 39 years old, living in Carlinville, Macoupin Co., Illinois.  He had light colored hair, gray eyes, a dark complexion, and was six feet tall.  His occupation was that of a farmer.  He was mustered into the army on 10 Sep. 1862 at Camp Butler, near Springfield, IL.  At that time his daughter, Ida, was just five years old and it must have been a difficult time for her, and for the entire family, to see their father go off to war.

Pleasant served with three of his brothers and they fought together under General U. S. Grant throughout the entire campaign for Vicksburg, Mississippi, which they won on 4 July 1863.  (For more details of his military campaigns and experiences see the Military Honor Roll in the Memorial Chapel “room” on this web-site.)

Under the remarks section of Pleasant’s military papers it says that about a year after his enlistment he was transferred, on 28 Oct. 1863, to VRC (Veteran’s Reserve Corps--a special regiment comprised of invalids who were no longer able to actively fight, but were still able to help with necessary duties behind the lines.)  Pleasant was suffering with Epigastrocele (a hernia in the upper abdominal wall).    

It appears that he was transferred to the Quincy Hospital in Illinois on 15 April 1864 and may have been discharged in August 1864.  By the time he returned home, Ida was still only about seven years old, and had surely missed her father. 

Sometime within the next six years the Easley family moved from Illinois to Missouri, and then to Chetopa, Neosho County, Kansas where they were living at the time of the 1870 US Federal census.  By then the two older boys were out of the house and “Ida L. Easley” was listed as being 14 years old.  Both of her parents were 47 years old.

Just two years later, on 15 April 1872, Pleasant Easley died.  He was buried in Thayer, Neosho Co., KS.  His wife, Louisa Sinclair Easley, passed away in the same town just over one year later on 16 Sep. 1873, at age 50.  She was buried in the Thayer cemetery near her husband.

In the 1875 Kansas State census, we find the children of this family, without either parent, and still living in Neosho Co., with her older brother, J. C. Easley (age 28) as the head of the household and Ida L. age 18 at that time.

On 20 April 1879, in Neosho County, Ida married Aaron R. Bonham.  He was the son of David and Martha Tebow Bonham.  Although the young couple were married in Neosho County, KS (which is near the SE corner of that state) Aaron’s parents lived about 60 miles north in Franklin Co., KS.  

One year later, in the 1880 Federal US census, Aaron and Ida (Easley) Bonham were living in Chanute, Neosho Co., KS with a new set of twin boys: Clarence and Lawrence.  However, just a couple months later, the following article was published on page 3 of the local newspaper--The Chanute Times.

“Mr. Aaron Bonham, living east of the city, had the sad misfortune to loose both of his twin boy babies on     Sunday night. The cause of death we have not learned, but it was very sudden and unexpected.”

Sadly, this left the young couple with no children.  The railroad was building a line from eastern Kansas to Texas at this time and the pay was good.  It is probable that this was Aaron Bonham’s employer as the young couple then moved to the next county further south--LaBette Co., which is very near the Oklahoma boarder.  It was here that their next child was born in 1881, whom they named: Ira Elmer Bonham.

After this date we have not found any further mention of Ida’s husband, Aaron Bonham.  Her next child though, was named Margaret “Maggie” Bonham, born in Feb 1883, so we assume Aaron Bonham was still alive at that time and that he was the father of these four oldest children.  Two additional children were added to this family after Margaret, and for at least part of their lives they went by the name of “Bonham” but we cannot be sure of whether their father was Aaron Bonham, or someone else.  This continues to be a mystery, which will become even more complicated as our story unfolds.

We have not yet been able to find this family in the 1885 Kansas State Census, but we believe they had moved to Franklin County, probably to the city of Ottawa.  And, we think Aaron may have died, or been working away from home.  Aaron’s widowed mother was living in Franklin County and Ida was probably living near her to have some support in raising her little family that now contained only two young children.   We believe that Ida’s next children--Albert Raymond--was born in September 1885 (but the years is uncertain.)  His birth came after the 1885 States census was completed earlier that summer.  Although “Ray” went by the name of “Bonham” for most of his youth, in his adult life he always said that his father’s name was Ira Elmer (actually Homer) Morton, and after Ray was out on his own, he always went by the surname of Morton for the remainder of his life.  If Aaron Bonham died sometime between 1880 (his last documented experience) and 1885 (the birth year of Ray) then Ida would have had time to meet and marry Ira H. Morton.

However, in that 1885 Kansas State census we can find Raymond Morton’s father, Ira Homer Morton, living in Williamsburg, Franklin Co., KS in the home of his sister, Irene Morton Crankshaw, and her family.  At that time (summer of 1885, a month or two prior to the birth of Raymond Morton) Ira said he was still single, or unmarried.  There is no indication that he had either a wife or any child at that date.  Ira died three years later on 12 Dec. 1888 and was buried in a cemetery about one mile east of Williamsburg, KS.  Eight years later his sister, Irene, was buried beside him in 1896. 

We estimate that Ira H. Morton and Ida L. Easley Bonham met sometime in 1885 but did not marry until that autumn after the state census had been completed.  If so, this would be her second husband, although no document confirming their marriage has yet been found.

It was probably on 27 Sep. 1885 (or perhaps 1886) that this couple had a little boy whom they named Albert Raymond Morton (and he was the father of Irene Gladys Morton McDonald, and the Grandfather of Bette Jo McDonald Nebeker.)  The year of his birth has been estimated here as there are conflicting documents giving his year of birth as anywhere from 1883-1887--but we do not believe he was born prior to 1885 because of the KS state census cited above.  Additionally, Ray had a younger sister, Bernice Blanch Bonham, who was probably born in April 1888, and his father, Ira H. Morton died on 12 Dec 1888.  (Bernice always used the surname of “Bonham” and claimed that her father was Aaron Bonham, so there is a real mystery as to how Raymond had a different father than all of his siblings both older and younger than himself.  Perhaps Ira H. Morton was Bernice’s father as well as Ray’s but we cannot tell that and she consistently use the Bonham name.)

Ray tells us in every document he left behind, that his father’s name was Ira Morton and his mother was Ida Louise Easley.  There was no birth certificate at the time of his birth.  He did have one ‘recreated’ late in his life, but all the information on it was given to the state by Ray and was based solely upon his memory and understanding presented many years after the fact.

By the end of the year 1888, after Ira Morton’s death, Ida’s family looked like this:

Ida L. Easley Bonham, ( perhaps: Morton)

Clarence Bonham  b. 1880;  d. 1880 (twin)

Lawrence Bonham b. 1880;  d. 1880 (twin)

Ira Elmer Bonham    b. 1881

Margaret Louise Bonham   b. 1883

Albert Raymond Morton   b. 1885 or ‘86 (?)

Bernice Blanch Bonham    b. 1888 (?)

After Ira H. Morton died (12 Dec 1888) Ida married her third husband, Mr. A. D. Holmes on 12 April 1890.  He was 22 years older than she was so this may have been a marriage primarily for the sake of providing support for her and her children. 

It is very interesting to note here that Ida used her “Bonham” name rather than “Morton” in the marriage record.  Since Kansas did have a marriage register in those years, and since we have not been able to find any record of her marriage to Ira Morton, and because she still seemed to be using the Bonham name in 1890, it seems questionable as to whether she ever actually had a wedding ceremony with Ira Morton.  Still, based upon Ray’s consistent comments that he was the son of Ira Morton, we will continue to present his parentage in this manner.  What is left unknown is the question of who was the father of Ray’s younger sister, Bernice?

The 1890 US Federal census was destroyed, but Kansas again conducted another State Census in 1895.  That is a very interesting one.  By this date Ida’s latest husband, A. D. Holmes was not listed with the family.  He either died prior to this date or was away at work someplace else.  He would have been 60 years old and it is probable that he was no longer living.  Ida did not have any children by this husband.

Remember that since about 1883, Ida and her family had been living in Franklin Co., KS, and near where her Bonham in-laws were living.  There are two census records that we will present for 1895.  Note the name below of “Ray Holmes”.  This is surely our grandfather and the only early record (not merely a later statement by himself) where a “Ray” is shown living in the home with Ida L. Easley Bonham Holmes.  It is also interesting to note that all of the children are shown here with the surname of “Holmes”.  It is possible that they all adjusted their surname to reflect whichever husband their mother had at that time; or more likely, the census taker merely made an assumption that all of the children probably shared the same surname as their mother without even asking what their last names were.

  1895 KS state census -- Franklin Co., KS  lists the following: two entries:

       Ottawa City 4th Ward (shown above):

              Holmes, Mrs. Ida       age 37       female     white     Illinois (birth state)

                   "        Ira                       13       male        white     Kansas 

                   "        Maggie               12       female     white          "

                   "        Ray                      9        male        white          "         

                                (Ray would have been born about 1886 to be 9 years old)

                   "        Bernice                7       female      white          "  

But there is another entry in the same county just a short time later--still in 1885:

       Harrison Twp, in Franklin Co., KS

              Bonham, Martha               65      female      white       Ohio

                   "         Frank                 43       male        white       Ohio

                   "         Mattie                 27      female      white       Illinois

                   "         Ray                    10       male        white       Kansas   

                                 (Ray would have been born about 1885 to be 10 years old)

Note that “Ray Bonham” was listed living with “Grandma Martha Bonham” and he is listed here with the “Bonham” surname.  Martha was a widow but she has two of her children living with her: Frank and Mattie.  It appears that in the year 1895, for some unknown reason, Ray, who had been living with his mother and siblings, suddenly moved into Grandma Martha Bonham’s home, where he lived for many years.  He never again returned to live with his mother.

Now, if we go back to some “Family lore” we remember Ray’s daughter, Irene Morton McDonald, relaying the following little impressions about her father as she vaguely remembered them:

  1. 1. Ray’s parents names were Ira Elmer Morton and Ida Louise Easely.

  2. 2.Ray’s parents died when he was very young [it turns out this was true only for his father]

  3. 3.Ray went to live with his grandparents for a time after being orphaned [But his Easley grandparents had died before he was born; as had the Morton grandparents whom he never knew.]  But he did go to live with Martha Bonham.

  4. 4.Ray may have even gone by a different name for a time--that of his grandparents [we had assumed this was his Easley grandparents and that he may have used the name of “Raymond Easley”--but now we see that he probably went be the name of “Albert Raymond Bonham” for a time and lived with Grandma Martha Bonham.]

  5. 5.He ran away from home as a young man when he felt he was not well treated.

In the 1900 Federal US census, we find that Ida L. Easley was now a widow again, and living in Winslow, Arizona.  Her last name was listed as “Hamilton” but Mr. Hamilton was not there, and presumably she had now been widowed for the 4th time (Bonham, Morton, Holmes & Hamilton).  The only children she has with her are her two daughters, Margaret Bonham and Bernice Bonham.  It is interesting that both girls are using the “Bonham” surname.  Neither of her sons were living with them at this time.

In that censes we are not sure where her older son, Ira Elmer Bonham was living; but we have now found her younger son, “Ray Bonham” was still living with Grandma Martha Bonham and her son, Frank Bonham, but they had moved to Stafford Co., KS. and Ray was about 14-15 years old.  His move to Martha Bonham’s residence appears to have been a permanent one and he also seems to have lost track of his mother and her whereabouts.  There is no indication that he ever again made any contact with her or any of his siblings.

In the 1905 KS state census Raymond was no longer living with Martha Bonham in Stafford Co., KS.  We have looked at the 1910 Federal US census and have not found Raymond anywhere in that year.  Frank Bonham was still living in Stafford Co., KS and had finally married.

In the 1910 Federal US census for California, we find that Ira Elmer Bonham (Ray’s older brother) was living in Richmond, Contra Costa County, CA; and his mother and two sisters were also living near by in that same county.  Ida’s oldest daughter, Margaret Bonham, had married a man by the name of Kelly and she had two boys, but she was widowed young.  One of her two boys was given the middle name of “Raymond” so there were fond feelings toward this missing brother.  Ira E. Bonham also married in Contra Costa Co., CA; and had two children, one of which lived--Harry Bonham.  Bernice Blanch Bonham was also married there in 1926 to a Mr. Samuelson.

In the 1920 census Ida had moved to Bakersfield, CA where she died after 1930.

What became of Albert Rayond “Ray” Morton (Bonham)?  Why was his name listed as: Holmes, Bonham and then as Morton at different times in his life?  Why did he leave his mother’s home and move in with Grandma Martha Bonham when he was only about 9-10 years old and never go back to live with his mother again?  This is especially interesting if he was not really a “Bonham” at all and may have been born out of wedlock.  What happened that he then left Martha Bonham’s  home when he was between 15-20 years old and go out on his own?

Due to the fact that he named his second daughter, Irene, after his Aunt Irene Morton Crankshaw, who died in Franklin Co., KS in 1896, when Ray was only about 10 years old, he must have known by that time that he was a “Morton” or it is unlikely that he would have visited her to learn something of his father.  But, for some reason, perhaps purely for convenience in the family, he seems to have continued to use the Bonham name throughout his minority. 

There is a lot of speculation in the above two paragraphs but we are merely trying to figure out what might have been.  We know that he did not go to seek out his mother and siblings, although he had a close enough feeling toward his younger sister and his mother that he eventually named his oldest daughter--Bernice Jane Louise Morton after his sister and his mother. 

We are not yet sure where Ray was living in 1910 but we believe he traveled much of the country just looking for work.  There is some indication that he may have spent time in Ohio since, on his Canadian Military enlistment papers, he listed a man with a Columbus, OH address as his “next of kin” and then stated that this man was just a “friend.”

We also found an interesting document for a “Raymond Morton” in 1912 who was seeking to cross the boarder into Canada, and who was rejected.  On his application he stated that his home was in Rhode Island.  We cannot confirm that this was our Ray Morton, but it seems to fit since we know that by 1914 he was in fact, living in Canada.  He enlisted as an American in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces for World War I in Toronto, but said his home, at that time, was in Calgary, Alberta.  At some point he had worked as a steam-fitter on the Trans-Canadian Railway.  Ray only served in the army for a few months before being discharged for being physically unfit for military duty. 

After that point we have better information about his life as recorded elsewhere.  He returned from his brief sojourn in the Canadian military to Alberta where he got a job working in the mines near Tabor, AL.  Here he met Lillian Florence Bailey and they were married in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  Ray and Lillian had three daughters: Bernice, Irene and Shirley.  He was a good father and provider during the great depression and throughout his life, but he was a quiet man and kept his thoughts to himself.  He rarely spoke of his early life and everyone got the impression that he had seen some hard times and didn’t wish to share any of his early memories.  Neither did he not talk about his extended family and it does not seem that he ever made any connection with any of them in his adulthood.  His daughters grew up with absolutely no knowledge of having any aunts, uncle, or cousins.  Ray was just a very private man. 

Pleasant Easley grave marker

(Father of Ida L. Easley)

Thayer Cemetery in Thayer, Neosho Co., Kansas

Louisa Sinclair Easley gravemarker

(Mother of Ida L. Easley)

Thayer Cemetery in Thayer, Neosho Co., Kansas

William P. Easley Grave

(Father of Pleasant Easley)

Buried in Christian Co., Illinois.

Jane W. Perry

(Mother of Pleasant Easley, and wife of William P. Easley)

Buried in Christian Co., Illinois

Rebecca Parks Sinclair

Mother of Louisa Sinclair Easley

Grave marker is in

Litchfield, Montgomery County, Illinois


Ida Louise Easley            -- Mini Bio