Filling In the Blanks

One of the seeds of my genealogical research is a set of photocopied Family Group Sheets carefully prepared by my uncle and aunt in the late 1970s and early 80s. They spent more than a decade visiting archives, cemeteries, courthouses, and family members. As they gathered information, they documented their findings by hand on dozens of pages of forms. It was an enormous amount of work …

One of the sheets was for the family of my 3-Great-Grandparents: William Russell & Hester Thrush and their six children. Unfortunately, due to the lack of available records and the quality of the information contained in those records, the entry for Hester was a little sparse:


In the years since those pages were given to me, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time learning about Hester. As records have become more available, I have had the opportunity to fill in some of the blanks in her record and have learned a great deal about her life and family.

Hester A. Thrush was born 03 August 1848 in Croton, Lee County, Iowa; the first child of Abraham Thrush and Rhoda (Anthony) Thrush. Her family lived in the Midwestern United States until 1864 when they migrated to Oregon by way of California in two horse-drawn wagons, arriving in Tenmile, Oregon in the spring of 1865.

Shortly after her arrival in Oregon, Hester married William A. Russell on 31 August 1866 in the home of Aaron Tiller, brother-in-law of her uncle, near Roseburg, Oregon. While living in Douglas County, she and William had seven children:

Joseph A. (b. 07/1868)
Riley Sherman (b. 04/1869
Rhoda Amanda (b. 07/1871)
Marietta (b. 1874)
Sarah Ellen (b. 05/1876)
Louisa Jane (b. 09/1878)
Wallace Edward (b. 09/1886)

To date, no record has been found of William after the birth of their son, Wallace Edward.

On 13 January 1890, Hester was married to Benjamin S. Baker in her home. She and Benjamin separated in February 1894 – Hester went to live with her daughter Rhoda Amanda and son-in-law, Andrew Poole – and they were never reconciled. Unbeknownst to her, Benjamin filed for divorce in Jackson County, which he was granted on the grounds of abandonment in December of 1896.

Rhoda Thrush died in November of 1898 and was buried in the family cemetery in Camas Valley, Oregon.

Hester was enumerated as a widow living in the home of her father in Camas Valley, Oregon, in 1900 and in the home of her son, Joseph, in Seattle, Washington, in 1910. In October of 1914, her father died and was buried next to her mother.

After hearing of Benjamin’s death in 1916, and no longer able to support herself, Hester applied for a widow’s pension based on Benjamin’s former military service. It was through the denial of benefits that she was informed of the divorce granted twenty years previously. Hester sued for a dismissal, which was granted in 1917, on the grounds that the divorce was based on fraudulent information.

Records indicate that Hester was living alone at the time of the 1920 census. Her son, Riley, died in November of 1922 and her daughter, Rhoda Amanda, died in October of 1925. By 1930 her daughter, Sarah Ellen, and brother, William Albert, had moved in with her and were seeing to her care. Sarah Ellen died in June of 1931; two months later, Hester’s oldest son, Joseph died in Seattle. Her brother, William, died in May of 1932, leaving Hester in the care of their younger sister, Mary Susan.

Over the course of the next few years, Hester’s physical and mental health deteriorated, until Mary Susan could no longer care for her, and Hester was admitted to the Oregon State Hospital on 25 January, 1935. Her patient records indicate that she responded well to her treatments at the hospital until she suffered a fall in February of 1936, after which she was confined to bed.

Hester died from “senile exhaustion” on 29 June, 1936 and was cremated on 30 June. Her family was unable to claim her ashes, and they remained in the custody of the State of Oregon until 01 July, 2010 when they were claimed by her third-great-grandson (me). Hester was laid to rest in the Thrush Family Cemetery on 23 October, 2010 next to her parents and son, Riley Sherman.

There are still a few blanks to fill in: I don’t know what became of her first husband, or their daughter, Marietta, as well as a number of other, more minor, details. I look forward to answering those questions and am always excited at what we learn as new records become available, but I will always be grateful for the hard work of those who got me started on this search.

Special thanks to my fellow researchers whose efforts contributed to my understanding of Hester’s life:

  • Richard C. Younger (1999)
  • Donald P. Thrush (2001)
  • Juliane J. Burbach (2002)
  • Cheryl L. Laffranchi (2010)
  • Barbara W. Thrush (2010)

Hester can be found in the following census records:

  • Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Lee County, Iowa, (District 29); Dwelling 1197, Family 1203, Microfilm Publication M432, Roll 186, Page 466, National Archives, Washington.
  • Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Scotland County, Missouri, (Harrison Township); Sheet 153, Dwelling 1108, Family 1080, Microfilm Publication M653, Roll 646, Page 941, National Archives, Washington.
  • Ninth Census of the United States (1870), Douglas County, Oregon, (Canyonville Precinct); Sheet 7, Dwelling 56, Family 40, Microfilm Publication M593, Roll 1285, Page 273, National Archives, Washington.
  • Tenth Census of the United States (1880), Douglas County, Oregon, (District 45); ED 45, SD 110, Sheet 17, Dwelling 154, Family 158, Microfilm Publication T9, Roll 1081, Page 536, National Archives, Washington.
  • Twelfth Census of the United States (1900), Douglas County, Oregon, (Camas Valley Precinct); ED 55, SD 220, Sheet 4A, Dwelling 75/77, Family 77/79, Microfilm Publication T623, Roll 1346, Page 121, National Archives, Washington.
  • Thirteenth Census of the United States (1910), King County, Washington, (Seattle); ED 210, SD 1, Sheet 13B, Dwelling 283, Family 299, Microfilm Publication T624, Roll 1660, Page 154, National Archives, Washington.
  • Fourteenth Census of the United States (1920), Douglas County, Oregon, (Canyonville Precinct); ED 138, SD 1, Sheet 1A, Dwelling 5, Family 5, Microfilm Publication T625, Roll 1494, Page 29, National Archives, Washington.
  • Fifteenth Census of the United States (1930), Douglas County, Oregon, (Tiller Precinct); ED 10-57, SD 6, Sheet 2A, Dwelling 46, Family 48, Microfilm Publication T626, Roll 1943, Page 239, National Archives, Washington.

The following local government records were obtained from their respective agency archives:

  • William A. Russell & Hester A. Thrush, (31 August 1866), Marriage Certificate: Douglas County Courthouse, Roseburg, Oregon.
  • Benjamin S. Baker & Hester A. Russell, (13 February 1890), Marriage Certificate: Douglas County Courthouse, Roseburg, Oregon.
  • Jackson County, Oregon Divorce Record B01#18, Baker, Benjamin S. vs Baker, Hester A., 1896–1917; Oregon State Archives, Salem, Oregon.
  • Abram Thrush, Camas Valley, Douglas, Oregon Death Certificate Reg. #2797 (1914), Oregon State Board of Health, Oregon State Archives, Salem, Marion, Oregon.
  • Riley S. Russell, Roseburg, Douglas, Oregon Death Certificate Local Reg. #128, (1922), Oregon State Board of Health, Oregon State Archives, Salem, Marion, Oregon.
  • Rhoda Amanda Poole, Medford, Jackson, Oregon Death Certificate Local Reg. #112, State Reg. #236 (1925), Oregon State Board of Health, Oregon State Archives, Salem, Marion, Oregon.
  • Sarah Allen Archambeau, Tiller, Douglas, Oregon Death Certificate Local Reg. #67, State Reg. #126 (1931), Oregon State Board of Health, Oregon State Archives, Salem, Marion, Oregon.
  • State of Washington, “Washington State Death Certificate Index,” Washington State Digital Archives, Joseph A. Russell.
  • Oregon State Hospital Patient File: Hester A. Baker, Patient # 5965 (25 January 1935 – 26 January 1937).
  • Hester A. Baker, Salem, Marion, Oregon Death Certificate Local Reg. #266, State Reg. #587 (1936), Oregon State Board of Health, Oregon State Archives, Salem, Marion, Oregon.

Details of Hester’s early life and her family’s journey to Oregon were taken from “Reminiscences of Southern Oregon Pioneers: an Interview with Mary Susan Thrush” (13 October 1938).