Horatio Howe & Polly Vargason

Towanda today
Photo by B. Sugden

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.)

Bradford County, PennsylvaniaWikipedia.com

Bradford County, Pennsylvania

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.)

Michigan in 1830
From Michigan Censuses 1710-1830 under the French, British, & Americans
Edited by Donna Valley Russell

Tioga County, PennsylvaniaWikipedia.com

Tioga County, Pennsylvania

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.

Fayette County, IowaWikipedia.com

Fayette County, Iowa

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’s signature
from consent for Francis
to enlist in Civil War

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's tombstone Springfield Cemetery Photo by R. Vargason

Polly’s tombstone
Springfield Cemetery
Photo by R. Vargason

Polly died in Dakota Territory on November 28, 1875, probably living with or near her daughter Hannah Howe Button and her son George Washington Howe.  The Niobrara Pioneer, published in Niobrara, Knox County, Nebraska, on December 2, 1875, states that she died at Mineral Springs.  The Springfield Times for December 2, 1875, says, “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.


12 thoughts on “Horatio Howe & Polly Vargason

  1. Barbara,
    I am so impressed! What a wonderful presentation, and so thorough. Thank you so much for your perserverance and your attention to detail with all the information. I look forward to seeing what else you discover!
    Alice Vargason Anderson

  2. Biographical History of Northern Michigan, 1905, Bowen, page 485-486 has a long write up on Uriah Howe Vargason. Thanks for the clarification on who he really is. There was another Uriah Vargason born approximately the year. This cleared it up for me. Thanks.

  3. Uriah Vargason.

    This worthy old pioneer is one of the few remaining links in the chain that connects the present age to a period almost buried in the mists of the past. He enjoys the distinction of being one of the oldest living settlers of Kalkaska county and has been a witness of its development from the virgin forest to its present prosperous condition as one of Michigan’s most advanced and enlighted counties. Homes and villages have sprung up on every hand since he first saw the county in its primative wildness and beauty; forests have disappeared before the ax wielded by the strong arm of the woodman; farms, with fertile, well-tilled fields, fine orchards, comfortable dwellings and all the adjuncts of civilization, have taken the place of the tangled wilderness which sheltered numerous beasts of prey and, at no very remote period, the red man.

    Mr. Vargason is a native son of the old Keystone state of the Union, having been born at Towanda, Bradford county, Pennsylvania, on July 8, 1837. He is the son of Horatio and Polly (Vargason) Vargason. The mother’s death occurred in Running Water, Nebraska, while the father, who came to Kalkaska county, Michigan, in 1867, died in Clearwater township, the following year. The subject of this sketch was about two years old when his parents moved to Tioga county, Pennsylvania, where he remained until he was about fifteen years old, receiving a fair education in the common schools. He then went with his parents to Fayette county, Iowa, where he remained about three years, the following three or four years being spent as a trader with the Indians in South Dakota. Going then to St. Joseph, Missouri, he was for a year engaged in buying mules for Pike’s Peak expeditions, and then went to Calumet, Indiana, where he remained about eighteen months. He afterwards operated a wood store in Chicago, Illinois, and in the fall of 1866 he came to what is now Kalkaska county, Michigan, and located ontract of land which now comprises his fine and well-improved farm. He was the fourth settler in the township of Clearwater and is thus clearly entitled to distinction as one of the earliest pioneers. He has, almost without interruption, followed farming since coming here and has accumulated a comfortable competence as the result of his years of earnest and consistent effort. His farm comprises one hundred and twenty acres, of which he cultivates about fifty-five acres and has also devoted about five acres to an orchard, which is stocked with choice and standard varieties of fruit of all kinds. He is diversified in his farming operations, raising all the crops from which the soil and climate are adapted. He has a neat and substantial residence and all the buildings on the place are well adapted to their several uses.

    Mr. Vargason was married, in Allegan county, Michigan, in the early ‘sixties, to Miss Eliza Thomas, a native of New York state, and whose death occurred in Clearwater township in September, 1904, in her sixty-first year. The children are briefly mentioned as follows: Elsie is the wife of Robert Morrison; Achela is the wife of William Granger; Clifford; Myrtle is the wife of Charles Harris; Grace is the wife of Hugh Miller; Raymond G. and two children who died in infancy. Mr. Vargason has not been a seekerafter honors or emoluments of public office, but about thirty years ago he was chosen to the office of justice of the peace and his services have been so charactertized by fairness and sound judgement that he has been retained in the office ever since. He has also held several school offices, having maintained a keen interest n educational matters. His fraternal relationship is with the Masonic fraternity and the Patrons of Husbandry. Before concluding this sketch, it is worthy of special note that Mr. Vargason was one of the first men in Kalkaska county to engage in the raising of fruit and had done much to stimulate and encourage this industry among other farmers of the county. His present orchard is one of the best selected and cared for in the community and produces some fine fruit in season. Personally Mr. Vargason enjoys no small degree of popularity; his friendships are firm and loyal and he aims to discharge his duty, public and private, in such a way as to merit the confidence and good will of his fellow citizens. (source: Biographical History of Northern Michigan: Containing Biographies of Prominent Citizens; 1905; B. F. Bowen & Company Publishers; pages 485-486)

  4. Thanks so much for this interesting website. I am traveling through PA and couldn’t remember where GW Howe was born, I found this site with the answer! Thanks! GW Howe is my G G grandfather and I love learning new things about the family.

  5. Many thanks for your thorough research. I had missed a few Issacs and Nathaniels in my Ancestry tree. I’ve always wondered why Uriah went by Vargason. We have some ‘business’ records left by George Washington Howe in Nebraska that includes customer names and items purchased.

  6. Hello Found your Blog through Geneabloggers! Great site. I have Pa research myself. I’m still learning. All my Roots from Pa are mainly in Newville Cumberland County. So I enjoy this! Great Research!

  7. I’m glad that I found this website that talks about the Howe family. Rebecca Howe Ducker is my great, great grandmother. Her daughter Lucile Ducker Brandstiter is my great grandmother. My brother and I called her grandma grandma (Lucile Brandstiter) she died on August 29, 2006 she was only 95. She always said that she wanted to live to 100 years old like her grandfather George Washington Howe.

  8. A clarification of Polly’s place of death. According to Uriah’s biography in History of Northern Michigan: Containing Biographies of Prominent Citizens; 1905; B. F. Bowen & Company Publishers; pages 485-486) his mother died at Running Water, Nebraska. Running Water is actually in South Dakota, Bon Homme County, about 7 miles south southwest of Springfield. They both sit on the Missouri River just north of Nebraska.

  9. My great grandfather was James Andrew Vargason, he was buried 1921 in Owensboro, Daviess, Kentucky.Earlier in life lived in Stephensport, Breckenridge, Kentucky. Was married to Mary Frances Maybe my. His father was William Nathaniel Vargason and mother was Emily Ann Stewart. If they also lived in Kentucky not sure where, maybe came from Pennsylvania or Connecticut, if anyone has made this connection please let me know. Thanks, Sharon

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