Horatio and Polly spent at least some of their childhood years on farms in the hills, near the rivers, of Bradford County, Pennsylvania—not too far from the lovely village of Towanda. Horatio was born in 1800, likely in Rutland County, Vermont. Certain records show Connecticut as his place of birth, but the Howe family moved from Connecticut to Vermont before 1800. They moved again to Pennsylvania about 1808, settling on a farm in Orwell, just outside Towanda.
The Vargason family (Polly’s grandfather Ezekiel and most of his sons) moved from Connecticut to Bradford County, Pennsylvania, about 1791. Polly was born there in 1806. In the tax records of Wysox Township, Bradford County, Pennsylvania for 1812, 1814, 1818, and 1819, she is included in a list of children whose parents could not afford schooling. (Note that the Free Schools Act did not bring universal public education to Pennsylvania until 1834, so schools in Polly’s day were private institutions. The first Pauper Education Act in Pennsylvania was passed in 1802 to provide education for those too poor to pay tuition.)
From the tax records, it appears that Polly grew up as part of an extended family on grandfather Ezekiel Vargason’s farm. Ezekiel’s sons David, Rufus, Isaac (Polly’s father), and Daniel raised their families there. In 1812, David owned two houses, had 25 acres of improved land, 105 acres of unimproved land, 2 oxen, and 2 cows. Rufus had one house, 22 acres of improved land, 63 acres of unimproved land, 1 horse, and 1 cow. Isaac had 4 acres of improved land, 46 acres of unimproved land, and 1 cow. Daniel had no taxable property. Frame houses were taxable; log cabins may not have been.A marriage record for Horatio and Polly has not yet been located. A Bradford County Courthouse fire in 1847 may have destroyed this and other valuable records.
The Howe Family Files at the Bradford County Historical Society say that Horatio, along with his brother Isaac Howe (not to be confused with Isaac Vargason) and Isaac’s wife Sarah, went to Ohio before 1830 to visit their parents. In 1830 and 1834, Horatio and a woman of Polly’s age as well as Isaac Howe and his family are found living in Ypsilanti Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan Territory. Horatio and Polly’s first two children were born in Michigan: Hiram about 1831 and Edward about 1833. (Isaac and Sarah’s first child was born in Ohio in 1826 and their remaining children were born in Michigan, revealing the probable migration path of the two families.)
Horatio and Polly returned to Pennsylvania, and their remaining children were born there between 1835 and 1845. George Washington Howe and Uriah Howe (Vargason) were born near Towanda in 1835 and 1837 respectively. The family appears in the 1840 and 1850 federal census records in Elkland, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, indicating a short move from Bradford to nearby Tioga County sometime between 1837 and 1840. Hannah was born there about 1841 and Francis about 1845. Horatio is listed as a carpenter in the 1850 census.
With true pioneer spirit, the family moved again about 1854, this time to Fayette County, Iowa. In the Iowa and U.S. census records, they are shown in Auburn in 1856 and in Douglas in 1860. They were not alone there. Horatio’s brother Isaac had moved to Fayette County about 1852, and several of the Vargasons had moved to nearby counties. According to the 1860 census, Horatio was a farmer in Iowa.The Civil War took its toll on this family. At age 31 eldest son Hiram enlisted to serve the Union in G Company, 38th Infantry Regiment, Iowa, on September 9, 1862. He died of disease on September 14, 1863, and is buried at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Youngest son Francis enlisted at age 18 on February 4, 1864. He was on his way home on sick furlough when he died at DeVall’s Bluff, Arkansas, on October 3, 1864. (Edward enlisted in Michigan’s 13 Infantry Regiment on March 3, 1865, and mustered out at Louisville, Kentucky, on July 25, 1865.)
Horatio (and very probably Polly, too) went to Michigan, in 1867, either to live with or to visit son Uriah in Rapid River, Kalkaska County. (Edward lived in Casco, Allegan Township, Michigan, so it is possible that they also spent some time with him on this trip.) Horatio died in Rapid River on September 17, 1868. Because Uriah was now using Vargason as his last name instead of Howe, and he, no doubt, provided the information for his father’s death certificate on June 16, 1869, Horatio Howe’s name is listed as Oratis Vergeson, his birthplace as England, his marital status as widowed—all not true, but information that would have concealed Uriah’s name change. Horatio’s burial place is unknown. It is likely that he is buried on Uriah’s farm or in potter’s field next to the cemetery in Williamsburg in Whitewater Township, Michigan, both of which were common in that day.
At the time of the 1870 federal census, Polly was living in Washington, Buchanan County, Iowa, with her brother John Vargason and his wife Betsey Dalton Vargason.
Polly died in South Dakota on November 28, 1875, probably living with or near her daughter Hannah Howe Button and her son George Washington Howe. The Springfield Times for December 2, 1875, states, “Mrs. Howe, mother of George Howe, died last Sunday morning, of pneumonia, and was buried on Monday. Brief services was held at the church in this village when the remains were deposited in our cemetery.” Polly is buried in Block 19, Lot 10, Grave 1, Springfield Cemetery, Bon Homme County, South Dakota. In the same lot are the graves of James Spangler, Mrs. James Spangler, and William H. Spangler. Her relationship to the Spanglers, if any, is still being sought. Descendants of George Washington Howe replaced her aging grave stone with a new one that is easily read.