On This Day: Birth of Matilda Small Russell

Matilda Small Russell was born September 13, 1846, in Bloomington, Indiana.

She was my great great grandmother.

Matilda Russell, like many members of the maternal line of my family, was a descendant of Scottish Covenanters.

For several centuries, this sect of Scottish Presbyterians fought for the right to uphold their own church government and practices rather than those imposed upon them by the Commonwealth of England and the Anglican Church. Many Covenanters were persecuted and even martyred for continuing to practice their faith. For that reason, many Covenanters chose to immigrate to America in the 18th century. Communities were born around such congregations, and one of those enclaves was in Bloomington, Indiana. Matilda and her family were members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Bloomington.

The Covenanters, a group of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians from South Carolina, had settled just outside Bloomington by 1821.  Believing that slavery was a moral evil, the Covenanters acted on their principles and during the Civil War provided a way station for escaped slaves traveling north on the Underground Railroad.

From the website VisitBloomington.com

Each of Matilda’s parents had emigrated from Ireland directly to Bloomington. Her father, John Alexander Russell, married Margaret Fullerton in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1843. Matilda was one of five children that lived to adulthood.

Because of the church’s abolitionist views, many of the early Covenanter immigrants who had originally settled in South Carolina began to question the wisdom of staying in the south. Most of the South Carolina Covenanters in my family chose to relocate to other areas, primarily Indiana and Illinois.

James Faris Curry (1842-1921), who would marry Matilda Russell, came from just such a family.

His great grandparents on his father’s side—Samuel Curry (1752-1811) and Margaret Erwin (1750-1831)—had emigrated from County Antrim in part of the first generation of Covenanter immigrants, settling in Chester County, South Carolina. His great grandparents on his mother’s side—John Smith (1730-1784) and Agnes Faris (1743-1838)—had followed the same path. These four ancestors are my 5th great grandfathers and grandmothers.

Some of the Curry children remained in South Carolina, others went North. The same was true of the Smith family.

One of those Curry children, William Curry (1772-1847) married Margaret Harbison (1773-1845) in Chester County, South Carolina and moved to Bloomington. And one of those Smith children, David M. Smith (1771-1841) married Sarah Neil (1780-1861) in Chester County, South Carolina, and moved to Bloomington. These four ancestors were my 4th great grandparents.

Samuel T. Curry and Sarah “Sally” Smith Curry—my 3rd great grandparents and James Faris Curry’s parents.

And, finally, we get to James Faris Curry’s parents. They were Samuel T. Curry (1810-1882)—a son of William Curry and Margaret Harbison Curry—and Sarah “Sally” Smith (1811-1888)—a daughter of David M. Smith and Sarah Neil Smith.

James Faris Curry in Union Army uniform

James served the Union Army with Company L of the 4th Indiana Cavalry and Company E of the 145th Indiana Infantry. At the end of the war, James Curry returned to Bloomington, and in March of 1867, he and Matilda Russell were married in Bloomington.

The couple and their two young children left Indiana for Jefferson County, Kansas, about 1871. Matilda left behind both of her parents and her three surviving siblings. James’s parents and his six siblings accompanied them to Kansas. James’s brother John Haxton Curry returned to Indiana, staying only one year in Kansas.

Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church. This particular building was erected in 1877 by the congregation of which Matilda and James had been members.

The young couple’s shared faith and the connection of “sister” Covenanter communities in America were surely responsible for giving them the courage to pick up and move West to Kansas. They would have known that a supportive pastor and congregation would be there to welcome them to Winchester—another Covenanter community.

Rachel Agnes Curry Cathcart (1875-1957)

James and Matilda Curry had seven more children after arriving in Kansas, four of them reaching adulthood. Their second oldest daughter, Rachel Agnes Curry, was my great grandmother.

Their other children were Ollie Henry (1870-1958); Vera Addie (1879-1966); James “Cam” Cameron (1881-1950); and John Thomas (1884-1976).

Matilda Russell Curry is buried with her husband and most of her children in the Reformed Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Winchester.

On This Day: Birth of John “Jack” McKeney Taylor, Jr.

Street Scene – Junction City, Kansas – 1874

Born September 10, 1854, in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Jack Taylor was my great great grandfather.

Jack Taylor was born on this day in 1854 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. His parents, John McKeney Taylor, Sr. and Jane White Taylor, had married in their twenties and emigrated from Ireland in 1835. Both John Taylor, Jr., and his brother Samuel were born in Massachusetts in 1854 and 1853, respectively.

Junction City Weekly Union – 17 Mar 1921

I hope to someday determine how it came to pass that this family then came to Geary County, Kansas. From documents I have found, it would appear that the family remained in Massachusetts about fifteen years.

In 1869, both sons and their parents moved to Kansas Falls, located several miles outside of Junction City.


On December 1, 1878, Jack Taylor married Meta Christina Asmussen, aged twenty. She had arrived in Junction City at about the same time as Jack. She and her family had emigrated from Germany.

The Junction City Tribune – 19 Dec 1878

Meta Asmussen Taylor in the early 1940s

The couple had ten children, eight of those children surviving to adulthood. One of their children was my great grandmother Jennie Taylor Harding.

Junction Weekly Union – 23 Oct 1915

Jack was a farmer, corn being at least one of his crops. He also had livestock and made his son a co-owner of the farm.

Junction City Weekly Union – 12 Sep 1891 

Apparently Jack—and, later, two of his sons—enjoyed local celebrity status for the spoils of their fishing expeditions.

Junction City Daily Union – 27 May 1918

Jack and Meta Taylor lived out their lives in Junction City and are buried there in Highland Cemetery.

On This Day: Birth of Jennie “Jen” Nell Taylor

Jennie and younger sister Violet Mae Taylor

Born August 30, 1886, in Kansas City, Kansas 

Jennie Taylor Harding was my great grandmother.

Jennie Taylor Harding was one of nine children born to John McKeney Taylor, Sr., born in Massachusetts, and Meta Christina Asmussen Taylor who was born in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Meta immigrated to Kansas with her family around 1870.

The Junction City Weekly Union – April 12, 1907

On January 1, 1907, Jennie married Reginald Harding in Junction City, Kansas. The couple spent their early years of marriage touring with various musical and theatrical troups, and in fact their first child, Gladys, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, during a tour of the Western states.

Pencil drawing of Jenny Taylor Harding as drawn by her daughter Maxine.

Jennie and Reginald had three children–two daughters and a son: my grandfather, Clifford Lorraine Harding.

Jennie and Reginald had seven grandchildren, four of whom can be seen to the left.

BACK ROW, l-r: Jennie Taylor Harding holding my mother, Sandra Joyce Harding; Reginald Harding holding Barbara Reid;

FRONT ROW, l-r: Bill Deppish and sister Donna Deppish.

Jennie Taylor Harding with granddaughter Sandra Joyce Harding–my mother


FOUR GENERATIONS: Seated is Meta Asmussen Taylor; standing to her left is her daughter, Jennie Taylor Harding; daughter Jennie’s son Clifford Lorraine Harding stands on Meta’s other side; Clifford Harding’s daughter, Sandra Joyce Harding–my mother–stands in front of Clifford.
Siblings Sandra Joyce Harding and Clifford Lee Harding with both their paternal grandparents–Reginald and Jennie Taylor Harding–and their maternal grandparents–Tom and Agnes Curry Cathcart.

Jennie Taylor Harding passed away on March 2, 1953, in Junction City, Kansas. She is buried in Highland Park Cemetery in Junction City, Kansas.

On This Day: Birth of Reginald Harding

Born August 29, 1886, in England

Reginald Harding was my great grandfather.

Reginald Harding and his siblings and parents emigrated from England to Kansas when Reginald was about three years old.

The Harding family’s arrival in Junction City, Kansas, made quite the big splash, even warranting a write-up in the social pages.

A pencil sketch of Reginald Harding drawn by his youngest daughter, Maxine.

Reginald Harding grew up in Junction City, Kansas, and married Kansas native Jennie Taylor on January 1, 1907.

The couple had three children–two daughters and a son: my grandfather, Clifford Lorraine Harding.

It seems that Reginald led an interesting life, finding work in various unrelated ways.

He raised poultry.

He worked in a cigar store in Topeka.

He was a performing artist.

His singing and acting talents were utilized in performances and tours in which Jennie was also involved. In fact, their oldest daughter, Gladys, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, during one of the couples’ tours.

He was employed by and later owned and managed a Standard Oil gasoline station in Wakefield, Kansas.

The Junction City Weekly Union – August 19, 1915
The Junction City Daily Union – February 16, 1915
BACK ROW, l-r: Jennie Taylor Harding, holding my mother, Sandra Joyce Harding ; Reginald Harding, holding Barbara Reid; FRONT ROW, l-r: Bill Deppish and sister Donna Deppish.

Reginald Harding passed away on January 2, 1956, at the age of 70. He was predeceased by Jennie.

Surviving were his three children and seven grandchildren, four of whom are pictured here.

Reginald Harding is buried in Highland Cemetery in Junction City, Kansas.

Newspaper clippings from The Junction City Daily Union and The Junction City Weekly Union.