Ida Louise Easley

A Documentary of Her Life


Lionel Nebeker

One thing that has been very consistent about Albert Raymond Morton’s documents is that he invariably listed his mother’s name as Ida Louise Easley.  He only gave an estimate of her age in one document, and that was in his “Delayed Birth Certificate” in which he estimated her age to be 18 at the time of his birth, and he thought she was born in Ottawa, KS.  This too was an apparent guess--and he was incorrect on both counts.

We searched for twenty-five years to find any record of this woman, other than those listed by Raymond, and were infuriatingly unsuccessful… until June 2012.  At that point we finally found her in the 1875 Kansas State census, and with that we were then able to find her in the 1870 Kansas federal census in Shiloh, Neosho Co., KS; and in the 1860 Illinois federal census for Macoupin Co., Illinois. 

Ida Louise Easley was born in Oct 1856 (according to the 1900 census for Winslow, Navajo, AZ) in Macoupin County, Illinois.  She was the daughter of Pleasant Easley and Louisa Sinclair, both of whom were born in Tennessee.  Ida was the oldest daughter, but she had seven siblings, all boys except for one younger sister.  She was three years old in the 1860 Federal census for Maucoupin Co., Illinois.  All of the children were born in Illinois before the family moved briefly to Missouri, and then to Neosho County, Kansas. 

She was thirteen years old in the 1870 Federal census for Chetopa, Neosho Co., KS and still living with her parents and siblings at that time.  Her father died in 1872 and her mother died the following year, 1873.  Both are buried in Thayer, Neosho Co., KS.   She was just sixteen when her mother died.

We find her (at age 18) still residing with her siblings in the 1875 Kansas state census, in Neosho Co. 

On 20 April 1879, Ida married Aaron R. Bonham (son of David and Martha Tebow Bonham) in Neosho Co.

In the 1880 Federal census for Lincoln, Neosho, Kansas, we find Aaron and Ida Bonham with a new set of twin boys, just a few months old, Clarence and Lawrence, born in early 1880.  This is followed with an article in The Chanute Times (page 3 of the local newspaper) dated Thursday, August 17, 1880, stating: “Mr. Aaron Bonham, living east of the city, had the sad misfortune to lose both of his twin boy babies on Sunday night.  The cause of death we have not learned, but it was very sudden and unexpected.”

Ida and Aaron then moved south, to Parsons, LaBette Co., KS, where their next child, Ira Elmer Bonham, was born on 10 May 1881 (per  At this time a railroad was being built from Topeka to Texas and it seems likely that Aaron obtained employment by following the progress of the railroad.

At about the same time, Aaron Bonham’s parents had settled in Franklin Co., Kansas, about 80 miles to the north.  The timing and locality is not totally clear but sometime between about 1882-1884 Aaron’s father died, and Aaron and Ida had another child, Margaret “Maggie” Louise Bonham (born Feb. 1883 according to the 1900 Fed census for AZ); and our young Bonham family also moved north to Franklin Co., KS to be near his mother.  The date of Margaret Bonham’s birthday makes it pretty clear that she could not have had a younger brother born in September of that same year, just seven months apart.  So, Raymond’s birth must have come in one of the later years (1884-86) and not in 1883.

After this time, we can find no document to indicate that Aaron Bonham was still alive, but neither can we prove that he had died.  And, without finding Ida Bonham in the 1885 Kansas State census, we cannot tell exactly what her situation was at that time.  We know that Margaret Bonham, was about two years younger than her older brother, Ira Elmer Bonham, and about two years older than her younger brother (half-brother) Albert Raymond Morton, but that would seem to place his birthday in about 1886 (or perhaps late 1885--Sept.)  Then, Ida Easley Bonham had one more child--a daughter, Bernice Blanch Bonham, born about two years younger than our Raymond.  The very interesting thing here is that Bernice always used the last name of “Bonham” and in her own marriage application, she stated that her father’s name was Aaron Bonham.  So, we have six children for Ida L. Easley Bonham--the twins who died when just a few months old, and the four living children, three of which (# 1, 2 & 4) all claim that Aaron Bonham was their father, but #3 (Raymond) always claimed that his father was Ira Morton.

We have not been able to find any: death/divorce record for Aaron Bonham; marriage record for Ira Morton; birth record for Bernice Bonham; nor the 1885 census record for Ida L. E. Bonham’s family.  Any of these documents would be extremely helpful in trying to figure out this family.  But we are currently a bit stymied.  Remember that we did find Ira H. Morton in the 1885 census and he was still single that summer.

Here are a few possible scenarios, but none can yet be proven. 

  1. 1. Aaron and Ida could have divorced, she then quickly married Ira Morton in the fall of 1885 (after the census) and they could have had a son, Raymond, the following year--Sept 1886.  We know Ira died in 1888, and Ida could have been reconciled to Aaron and remarried him with Bernice born to them in 1888.

  2. 2.  Aaron could have been away for an extended period and Ida could have met Ira Morton and had a child out of wedlock before Aaron’s return.  Then they reconcile and had a daughter, Bernice Bonham, in about 1888.

  3. 3. Aaron may have died in about 1884.  Ida could have married Ira Morton in the fall of 1885 (after the census) and then had both Raymond (1886) and Bernice (1888) prior to Ira’s death on 12 Dec. 1888, and then just have those two younger children use the same surname as the two older children.  However, this scenario has a problem in that Bernice not only used the Bonham name throughout her life, but at the time of her wedding, when asked for the name of her father, she specifically stated it was “Aaron Bonham”--her CA death certificate calls him “Abner Bonham.” 

As a grown man, Ray never equivocated on his parentage.  He consistently gave his mother’s name as “Ida Louise Easley” and his father’s name as “Ira Elmer Morton.”  {Note: Ira’s middle name was not “Elmer” but rather it was “Homer.”  The two names are fairly similar, and when one considers that Ira died when Ray was just an infant, and unknown to him personally; and when one also remembers that Ray had an older brother whose name was Ira Elmer Bonham, it is easy to see how a young boy could have made that mistake and understood his father’s middle name to be slightly different than it really was.  Still, in his adulthood, he never used the name of Bonham... as a child, however, he was known by that name, as were all of his siblings.}

Now, keeping that dilemma in mind, let’s proceed with the other documents that we have been able to find for Ida L. Easley. 

In, Kansas Marriages, 1840-1935, we find the following record:

Groom’s name:  A. D. Holmes  (age 55)

Bride’s name:  Ida Bonham (age 33)

Marriage date:  12 April 1890

Marriage place:  Ottawa, Franklin Co., KS

LDS film # 14515456

Note that at the time of this marriage, she was still going by the name of “Bonham” -- not Morton.  This adds credence to the supposition that she may not have actually married Ira H. Morton.  In searching the same record, we found no entry for Ira Morton’s marriage.  At this time Ida was a young woman needing to support her four living children.  The man she married was 22 years older than she and one wonders if this poor woman married out of the need to have someone help in the support of her little family.

The 1890 Federal census would have been very helpful to us here, but unfortunately, it was destroyed.  So the next document we have is the 1895 Kansas State census for Franklin Co.  By this time, it appears that Mr. Holmes was either away from home, or had already died.  We find the following in that record:

State census for Ottawa City Ward 4, Franklin Co., KS -- 1 March 1895

     Name                     Age      Sex     Place of birth

Holmes, Mrs. Ida          37         F               IL

     “        Ira                   13         M             KS

     “        Maggie           12         F              KS

     “        Ray                  9          M             KS

     “        Bernice            7          F              KS

We would never have thought to search for this record under the names of “Holmes” without first finding the record of her marriage--above.  Note that the census taker listed each of the children with the name of Holmes.  We don’t know if they actually used that name, or if the census taker merely assumed that the children had the same name as their mother.    Note too that this is the very first document that we have actually been able to find that mentions our “Ray” at a time when he was in his early youth.  This also establishes him right in there in the middle of the family with the mother he said he had, and with the siblings we have identified.  This however, is the first, and the last document that has him actually living with his immediate family.

In the very same year, and census, for the same county, we find that by the time the census taker had moved on to the home of Martha Bonham (the widowed mother of Aaron Bonham--and mother-in-law of Ida L. Easley Bonham) we find that Ray had also moved over to this same household, and so, he was counted twice that year:

State census for Harrison Township, Ottawa P.O., Franklin Co., KS -- 1895

     Name                       Age       Sex     Place of birth


Bonham, Martha       65        F            OH

      “        Frank         43        M           IL

      “        Mattie        27        F            IL

      “        Ray            10        M           KS

Now, this census was just a very short time after the previous exhibit (above) but here, Ray is listed as being 10 years old, and with the surname of “Bonham.”  It is the same young boy.  He is never again shown with his mother’s family in the succeeding census records.  Whether he moved because of hard feelings with his family, or with his step-father, or due to difficult financial circumstances is not known. 

Over the next five years, Mr. A. D. Holmes died and Ida married again, this time to a Mr. Hamilton (no marriage record found) and for the rest of her life she was known as Mrs. Ida Hamilton.  However, in the 1900 census, her new husband must have been away from home also.  He too was probably a railroad worker as a new Southern Pacific RR line was being constructed across the Southwest.  We find Ida and her two daughters living in Winslow, Navajo Co., AZ at this time. 

Federal census for Winslow, Navajo, Arizona -- 9 June 1900

     Name             Relation   Sex   Birth       Age  Status  Yrs md  children  living      birthplaces

Hamilton, Ida L.    head       F    Oct 1856    43     md         4            6          4         IL      TN    TN

       “     Maggie L   dau       F    Feb 1883    17      s                                                KS     OH    IL

       “     Bernice B.  dau      F    Apr 1887    13      s                                                 KS     OH    IL

Here again her two daughters are listed with the same surname as their mother.  Ida stated that she had had six children, and four were still living.  That would match the newspaper record we found of her first two little twin boys dying in Kansas when just a few months old.  Neither of her two living sons were there in Winslow with her.  We do not know where Ira Elmer Bonham was at this time, but we have found Ray, who was still living with Martha Bonham, although they had moved to Stafford Co., in central KS, by this time. 

Federal census for Stafford Township, Stafford Co., KS -- 15 June 1900

     Name             Relation   Sex   Birth       Age  Status  Yrs md  children  living      birthplaces

Bonham, Martha   head        F   May 1829   71     wd         --            10          4       OH    NJ    NY

      “        Frank       son        M  Oct  1851    48     s                                                 OH     IN    OH

      “        Ray       g-son       M  Sep  1884    15      s                                                 KS     IN    OH

Even though Ray’s mother had moved west, to Arizona, Ray continued to live with Martha Bonham.  Here he gives a specific month and year for his birth and it could be correct, but it is different from some of the other dates he gave elsewhere.  He said that his father was born in “IN” (Indiana) but in reality he did not know where his father was born, and it appears the census taker may have just used the same locality for Ray’s parents, as he did for Frank Bonham’s (above).

The question must arise, that if Ray was born ‘out of wed-lock‘ while Martha’s daughter-in-law was still married to her son, Aaron, one might think that of all of the children, Ray may have been the least likely of the children for Martha Bonham to take into her home to raise.  Whatever the circumstances, Martha Bonham must have been a very good woman.  In this record, Ray is listed as a “grandson” of Martha Bonham. 

Whether Ray was actually going by the Bonham name, as indicated above, or whether the census taker once again made an assumption of that, is not known.   This is the last record we have found for Ray in Kansas.   

In the 1905 KS State census we again find this family still living in Stafford Co., KS with Frank Bonham now showing as the head of the household, and Martha was still alive at age 78, but Ray is no longer living with them.  By this time Ray would have been about 20 years old and had departed their home sometime between the ages of 15-20 to live on his own.  

By 1910, Ida and her daughters had moved on to Richmond, Contra Costa Co., California.  She said she was again widowed from Mr. Hamilton and was living with her oldest daughter, who by this time was also a widow.  Her son, Ira Elmer Bonham, was living in the same town and working for an oil company.  Here we find the following census record:

         Name             Relation   Sex  Age  Status  Yrs md  children  living       birthplaces

Kelly, Margaret L.   head        F     27      wd        --             2            2         KS    IN    IL      

    “      William R.      son        M      8       s                                                   CA  Can.   KS

    “      Frederich R.    son        M      6       s                                                   CA  Can.   KS

Bonham, Bernice B.   sis          F     22       s                                                   KS    IN     IL

Hamilton, Ida L.      mother      F     53     wd        --             6             4         IL     KY    KY

It is interesting that Ida stated that her parent were born in KY, because in prior census records she had always correctly stated they were born in Tennessee.

On another page in the same town...  (but difficult to read) we find:

     Name             Relation   Sex   Age  Status  Yrs md  children  living          birthplaces

Bonham, Ira E.      head        M     29     md          6                                        KS    IN     IL

     “         Juella      wife        F      25     md          6            2           1             CA    IN     IN

     “         Harry      son         M       5      s                                                       CA    KS    CA

It is interesting that Ida is listed above as a widow.  Shortly after this, she moved to Bakersfield, CA.  There, in the 1915 city directory, there is a listing for Ida L. Hamilton, and her spouse, J. A. Hamilton.  It could be that, for personal safety reasons, she listed the name of her deceased husband as if he were still living.  There is another listing, with the date of 30 Nov. 1916, for a James A. Hamilton who at that date was working as a boilermaker for the Southern Pacific Railway.  This may be a totally different man, and it is not clear just where he was residing at that time.  It seems most probable that Ida’s husband had died prior to this date. 

In the 1920 Federal census for Bakersfield, Kern Co., CA we find the family still in this community.  Here Ida was keeping a boarding house.  We will not bother listing the boarders as none of those names seem to connect to our family.

     Name             Relation   Sex   Age  Status       birthplaces

Hamilton, Ida        head        F       63     wd        IL   TN   KY   

Kelly, Margaret     dau         F       36     wd        KS  OH   IL

Bonham, Bernice   dau         F       32      s          KS  OH   IL

Kelly, Raymond   g-son       M      18      s          CA Can.  KS

    “     Frederick   g-son       M      16      s          CA Can.  KS

Note that Margaret Bonham Kelly had named her oldest son, William Raymond Kelly, with his middle name being a remembrance of her younger brother, Albert Raymond Morton. 

Not long after this, Bernice Bonham moved back near her older brother, Ira E. Bonham, as she was married in Contra Costa Co., CA on 5 Oct. 1926 to Elmer Samuelson.  In her marriage license, she said that her father was “Aaron Bonham.”  Since she was a younger sister of our Raymond Morton, this really throws an interesting twist into the parentage of the two younger children of this family. 

We have heard that Ida Louise Easley Bonham (Morton) Holmes Hamilton passed away in Bakersfield, CA in the 1930s but we do not have a specific date for her death at this time. 

Appendix:  Documents for Ida Louise Easley: 

1905 Kansas State census – Stafford PO, Stafford Co., KS

(Starting with the 4th person listed on right page)

Frank Bonham      52   M   W

M.          “               78   F   W

N L      Tisnlin (?)   45  M  W

Mattie    “              37  F   W

1920 Federal census for Bakersfield, Kern, CA

Bernice Bonham & Margaret Bonham


Bernice Blanch Bonham Samuelson

County map of Kansas

highlighting thouse counties in which Ida Easley & Raymond Mornton lived.