Grandma Fisher’s Ancestors

Facts (and family stories) about Grandma Fisher’s ancestors ~ via Roger Straw

Elizabeth Ann Dillon Fisher was born on 28 Jan 1889 in McCameron, Martin County, IN. She died at age 60 on 10 Mar 1949 in Grand Rapids, Kent County, MI. Her mom Margaret Girdley Dillon died just after her first birthday, on 10 Feb 1890. So Elizabeth was raised by Margaret’s mom, Jane (Sargent) Girdley.

Elizabeth’s father, William Riley Dillon, was born 1847 or 1848 in Indiana, according to 1850 census of Daviess Co, IN. He died after baby Elizabeth was conceived, but before she was born, at about age 40 sometime between 12 May 1888 (when he borrowed $70.86 from William W. Catron) and 17 Aug 1888 (when an Administrator’s notice was published in the Martin Co. News concerning his estate [Wm. R. Dillon Estate, Probate Box 494, Martin Co. Clerk]). Burial: Probably in Old Salem Cemetery (near former Burns City), Crane Naval Center, Crane, IN. (A cemetery blueprint shows a William Dillon, no marker.) Elizabeth’s mother was Margaret Girdley Dillon, born 10 Oct 1863, married William Riley Dillon 20 Mar 1881, and had three children (William Bradford Dillon b. Jan 1884, Jane (Jannie) Dillon Huff b. Aug 1886, and our grandma Elizabeth Ann Dillon Fisher, b. 28 Jan 1889). She died at age 26 on 10 Feb 1890.

Our family elders passed down tidbits of a story concerning the death of William Riley Dillon supposedly at the hand of his son by a first marriage, John H. Dillon Jr., named after William R. Dillon’s father, John H. Dillon Sr. It is said that William and his 15 or 16-year-old son dueled, with the son killing the father. There is a lot of speculation about the duel, but no confirming documentation. The family story has it that the duel was fought over William Riley Dillon’s second wife (!) Margaret Girdley, who was pregnant with Elizabeth at the time! It is also reported that after killing the father, the son may have subsequently taken on the role of provider or even husband to Margaret, and that he eventually looked after young Elizabeth like a father. (This despite records that indicate Elizabeth and her sister and brother grew up in the home of her grandmother, Jane Sargent Girdley. [Will of Margaret Girdley, Probate box 529, Martin Co Clerk; also the 1900 Census.]) To summarize, William Riley Dillon died mid 1888, baby Elizabeth was born in January of 1889, and then Margaret died about a year later, Feb. 1890.

Margaret’s three children, 1-year old Elizabeth, 3½-year-old Janney and their 6-year-old brother William went to live with Grandma Jane (Sargent) Girdley, who was 53 years old at the time. It is said that the young John H. Dillon supported Elizabeth through college. We have speculated that if the duel story is to be believed, it is possible that William Riley Dillon may not have been Elizabeth’s father – her father’s son by a prior marriage, John Jr., her own half brother, may have also been her father – a plausible cause for a duel!

William Riley Dillon’ first marriage was on 12 Aug 1869 to Phoebe Sharpless. Phoebe’s father was James Sharpless, b. 1816, England; her mother was Nackey Sharpless, b. 1813, Ohio. Phoebe, (also spelled “Pheba” [on stone]), b. 1853, died young, age 27 on 31 May 1880, buried in Old Salem cemetery. William Riley and Phoebe had 4 children: Nancy, b. 1869; Nackey,
named after Phoebe’s mother, b. 19 Aug 1876, d. 16 Aug 1896; John H. Jr., (of the duel) named after William Riley’s father; and Wilhelmina, b. 16 Dec 1876. Nancy and Nackey both died young, (Nancy at age 16 in 1885, and Nacky at 25 in 1896). Wilhelmina died before age 1 in 1876. John H. Jr. married Sarah E. Sargent in 1892 when he was 19 – they had at least 2 kids, Daniel W., b. 1893, and Roy, b. 1899.