Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Gammons in Iowa

Dozier Brawner Gammon is my 4x-great grandfather. The line, without spouses and siblings, looks like this:

Dozier → James W. → Newton → James M. → Howard → James H. → ME!

His family looks like this:

Dozier and his wife Lavina did not have an easy life. They married in Knoxville, Tennessee when he was 25 and she was 26. In 1819 their first child, a son they named George Washington Gammon, was born there. In 1821 a second son, John W. Gammon was born. And then in 1823, a daughter - Minerva Jane Gammon. Sadly, she died that same year. The following year, John passed away at the age of three. From there, it seems their luck improved. In 1825, with only their eldest child still living, James Wilkerson Gammon was born. Another son, William Eaton Gammon, came in 1827. The family moved to Putnam, Indiana and two more boys joined the family - Hugh Gammon in 1829 and Lee Harris Gammon in 1832.

By 1850 three of the boys had married and George already had seven children. The entire family relocated to Decatur County in Iowa, which had become a state only four years earlier. Dozier bought up a bunch of land and so did some of his sons; they parceled it out amongst themselves and some renters and all settled on farms. James married in 1852 and by 1853 Hugh was the last brother to settle down.

The Gammon boys had a LOT of children out there on the farm. George and his wife Martha had eleven children, six boys and five girls. James and his wife Armilda also had eleven children, eight boys and three girls. William and his wife Caroline had seven children - five girls, a surviving boy, and a son that died in infancy. Hugh and his wife Evaline produced only three children - all boys. The youngest brother, Lee, had eleven children with his first wife Ema - five girls and six boys. Two of the boys died in childhood. He also acquired a young step-daughter when he married his second wife, Martha, after his first wife died.

That's a grand total of 43 biological children between five brothers - 40 that survived childhood, plus a step-daughter.

Let's put that into perspective. The farthest back I can find statistics for is 1890, by which point the youngest of those 40 kids was in his late teens. At any rate, in 1890 the average household size in America was 4.93 people - meaning you could expect a family with both parents living to have three children. The average American household these days is about 3 people - that's one child per family. By today's standards, those five brothers collectively had eight times the expected number of offspring. Do keep in mind, however, that they were living in an agricultural community, which would traditionally be expected to exceed the average - more kids means more help on the farm. I suspect this may still be true today, although I would be surprised to find a family of thirteen even in the middle of Nebraska.

In 1866 the house of Dozier Gammon was purchased by the county to form the Decatur County Home for the "feeble-minded" and "nonviolent insane." At the time this included orphans and the poor. I'm not sure where Dozier went to live after selling his home, though he only lived three more years. His wife had died in 1856.

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