Saturday, March 1, 2014

52 Ancestors- #8 Stephen S. Mapes

A Shoemaker Looking for a Pot Of Gold

Stephen S. Mapes

My great-great grandfather, Stephen S. Mapes, is responsible for bringing our branch of the Mapes family to Wisconsin. He was born 23 June 1811 in Senica County, New York, the tenth of twelve children born to Seth and Julia (Smith) Mapes. When he was a small boy, his family moved from New York to Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where Stephen grew up. 

On 9 October 1832 at Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Stephen (age 21) married Margaret Bright (age 24), daughter of Thomas and Clarissa (Ferris) Bright. Stephen's younger sister Julia married Margaret's brother Curtis Bright just ten months later.

Looking for the Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

Being one of the youngest children in his family, Stephen did not follow the family trade of surveying and map-making, but became a shoemaker instead.This no doubt came in handy with his own large family of children to clothe. Stephen and Margaret had at least 9 children, all born in Ohio. Most of these accompanied their parents in 1853 when they moved westward to Wisconsin, settling first in Sheboygan. They remained there for about 4 years. 

In 1857 Stephen and Margaret moved all their possessions and children 120 miles north to Door County, settling at Fish Creek, in the township of Gibraltar. An account of this is preserved in two Door County histories written by H. R. Holand, "Old Peninsula Days" and "History of Door County, Wisconsin...The County Beautiful": 

"The Fish Creek community is not the product of a high, far planning purpose, such as is the case with Ephraim. It was the accidental meeting place of a number of discordant individuals, unrelated mentally or physically, who were driven thither by fortuitous circumstances. One thing they had in common, however, and that was the bitter struggle of finding their way through the world and battling with a merciless wilderness. With illusionary optimism they moved hither and thither, ever hoping that at the next turn they would find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

As an example may be mentioned STEPHEN MAPES. From Sheboygan he came full of hope moving all his earthly possessions, including fourteen children, for two hundred miles through the timber on a two-wheeled cart drawn by two oxen. When he came to Sturgeon Bay there was neither bridge nor ferry. But he made a raft and managed to get the oxen and all on board. With his wife standing in front of the oxen feeding them corn to keep them quiet so that none of the fourteen children would be spilled out, he paddled them across to the promised land where riches and happiness were soon expected, but which, alas, were never realized."

While some details like the number of children and the distance they traveled were incorrect, the story always fascinated me. Another mention of Stephen was recorded in the Door County Advocate in 1926, related to a visit by son John and Josephine to the newspaper's office: 

"Mr. and Mrs. Mapes are pioneer residents of Door county, as the above record indicates. Mr. Mapes is a son of Steven Mapes, who came here in 1857 and settled in the town of Gibraltar where he worked at his trade of shoemaking."

Stephen's Land Patent in Gibraltar Township

The Mapes family was still living in the Gibraltar area in 1877, when Margaret died at 69, "apparently of old age". Stephen was listed on the 1880 census at Gibraltar, living with his son Calvin's family. He apparently accompanied Calvin to Green Bay during the 1880's. Stephen died on  7 June 1890 at Marinette, Wisconsin. I have not been able to locate a place of burial for him. Perhaps he was brought back to Door County to be buried beside his wife at the Juddville Cemetery.

Stephen S. Mapes' Death Certificate
While Stephen's quest for material riches was never realized, he leaves behind a wealth in the way of descendants and will always remain a part of the history of Door County.

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