The headstone reads "SARAH EASON - 1809-1872".
This small epitaph on the crumbling stone in the tiny Baptist Churchyard Cemetery tells nothing of the life of Sarah Boles Eason.
How often have many of us walked amongst the stones of these old cemeteries and wondered what stories they could tell us if only
we could speak to them. Yet Sarah speaks to us today through her dozens of descendants who continue to pursue daily lives near
her final resting place, and the headstones of many others who have joined her in eternal rest. Her story is one of courage and
endurance, faith and hope, for without these things, she could not have found the strength to face a new frontier, rear her children
alone following the death of her husband and yet survive a Civil War which took two sons, one Confederate, the other Union.
Still she keeps her family close to her heart. Gggg granddaughters and grandsons own the land surrounding the small cemetery,
children and grandchildren lie near her in their own final rest. One must wonder if the unseen forces of a mother's love may reach
from beyond the grave to touch us all.
Sarah Boles was born November 22, 1809, in Stokes County, North Carolina, the daughter of Elizabeth Tuttle Boles and
James Boles. Her maternal grandfather, John Tuttle was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, her paternal grandfather, Alexander
Boles lived near. The families were neighbors and friends and Sarah must have grown up in a house with noisy children and loving
parents. A review of the wills of John Tuttle, Alexander Boles and James Boles indicates much care and concern for their families
and grandchildren. By 1809 all three families were well known in the Stokes County area as farmers and landowners. Also nearby
were Sarah's maternal great grandparents, Michael and Barbara Fry, and three generations of wills indicates them to be a large and
caring family group. It is to be presumed that Sarah's childhood was spent as a member of a large and loving family, though it is
certain all members were taught the skills needed to survive in a world that might seem primitive by today's standards. Though
documents indicate most of the adult men were literate, few female members of the family were able to sign their names. In a world
where homemaking and rearing children were the primary pursuits of women, it was considered far more important to teach the skills
of cooking, sewing and household management. Wills, estate papers and old court records give us many interesting details about the
lifestyles of our ancestors, but it should never be assumed because the women of the time frequently signed their names with an X,
that they were either poverty stricken or unable to learn. Most were highly intelligent and possessed with the common sense needed
as frontier wives and mothers.
According to the Marriage Bonds Recorded in Stokes County, North Carolina, on August 26, 1829, Sarah Boles became
the wife of James Knox Eason, son of Bethenia Davis Eason and deceased Mills Eason.. Since both their families and extended
families resided in Stokes County, it is to be presumed they settled initially near the family group, and during the ensuing nine years,
five children were born to the couple. In late 1837 or early 1838, members of the Eason, Tuttle, Fry, Boles and Dearing (Davis
descendants and relatives of Sarah's husband) families made a decision to migrate to the frontier of Missouri, where settlement was
being actively encouraged by a state which had been admitted to the Union a mere eighteen years earlier. It is unknown whether they
traveled by wagon train or riverboat. Some of the group remained in what is today Moniteau and Cooper Counties. Others came south
to what was then Rives County, now Cedar, St. Clair and part of Henry and Dade Counties. Now twenty nine years old, Sarah gave
birth to her sixth child in Missouri, amidst the hardships of establishing a home and tending the needs of a husband and the older
children. Indians still roamed the streams and woods, and bears, mountain lions and the constant threat of disease, must have caused
The couple first settled in Rives Co. near the confluence of the Sac and Osage Rivers. During the following six years from
1838 to 1844, Sarah gave birth to two more children. By 1844, it became obvious that James' health was deteriorating and a decision
was made to move back to Moniteau County where medical care was available and other family members might provide some
assistance to the family. Since James was becoming unable to manage his own farm, he managed to support the family by doing farm
labor for others for the next few years. In 1849, Sarah became a widow with eight children to rear. The eldest child was eighteen and
married a year later in 1850. According to the petition for guardianship filed by Sarah in Moniteau County, Missouri, which names all her
children as the children of James Eason, she posted a bond of $450, guaranteed by a friend, and was appointed guardian of the
interests of her children. On the 1850 county census of Moniteau County, she is shown living with the eldest daughter, Julia Ann
Hatton and her husband, Frank Hatton, together with the other seven children. It is to be presumed the family was supported by
Sarah's ingenuity and the assistance of the teen-age children and the married daughter. In 1860, a seventeen year old Leonidas is
shown by census as living with a St. Clair County family as a farm laborer.
It is a matter of some debate as to whether Sarah may have married a second time since State and Federal Census Records
are at variance for the year 1850 in Moniteau County. None of her later statements and documents indicate such a marriage and no
records have been found which would prove or disprove either census record. According to Sarah's pension application based on the
service of her son, John W. Eason, she alternated living from Moniteau County to Cedar County between 1850 and 1870. The
beginning of the Civil War found her in Moniteau County, possibly because Cedar County was a "border county" and extremely
dangerous for both Union and Confederate sympathizers. Bushwhackers were numerous in Cedar and Vernon Counties and many sites
of burned cabins remain yet today as mute testament to the violence of those years. It would have been doubly difficult for Sarah in
view of the fact that one son had joined the Confederate Army and four sons were Union soldiers. Imagine a mother's sorrow at the
possibility her sons were shooting at each other! Or that her dead husband's nephews were shooting at her sons! Then came the grief
of learning that both John W. and Leonidas, one Union, the other Confederate, had perished. She had not even the comfort of visiting
their graves to say a last good bye. Sarah must have known the consequences of war, for with a Revolutionary War grandfather, a
father-in-law who died at New Orleans during the battle there in 1814, the family losses had already been great. To be widowed on the
frontier with eight children would tax the strength of even the strongest of women, yet she endured to face even more tragic events in a
life which began with such promises of happiness.
The 1870 Census for Cedar County lists Sarah and her son James Taylor living with or next to her daughter, Julia Ann Hatton
and her children. James had been nearly blinded from measles contracted while on duty with Union Troops. Her pension application
filed in 1870 states that she had been supporting herself by living with her children "first one, and then another" and "working as hard
as I can" which no doubt was the truth. Sarah Boles Eason had been working "as hard as I can" for all of her adult life. The testaments
of friends attached to her pension application bear stark witness to their respect for a woman of character, a woman who never lost her
faith in God and family in spite of the hardships she endured.
In failing health at the time the pension application was filed, Sarah Boles Eason did not live to receive one dime of the
pension so well deserved. She died in 1873. Both James T. and Julia Ann lie a short distance away as well as some of their children,
and several great grandchildren. Her photograph hangs on my wall, a daily reminder of a great lady we can all be proud to call
Grandmother, a symbol of love that spans so many generations.
Here's to you, Grandma Sarah!