52 of 52 Challenge: Week 1
Whenever I’m asked who my “favorite” ancestor is, Dianthe is always one of the first to come to mind. I believe she must have a been a strong woman. She was certainly a survivor – having had 3 husbands and 7 children, she outlived all of them except for one son, my great-great grandfather, William, who lived only 6 years longer than she did.
Dianthe was born in August of 1827. I’ve seen other dates listed by other genealogists, but this is the date that tracks most consistently with what is on her census and other vital records. She was born sometime between the 17th and the 21st, but the exact day is harder to pin down. Dianthe was the oldest of 5 children born to Peleg Arnold Dawley (1805 – 1879) and Abigail D. Northup (1808 – 1898). Born in Rhode Island, the place varies depending on the record. Some say North Kingstown, some say Westerly, but the 1905 RI census, her 3rd marriage record, and her death certificate all give the town of Exeter.
On 25 Oct 1844 at the age of 17, Dianthe had her first child, a daughter named Dianthe C. Williamson. The baby died 13 Nov 1845 and is buried in plot #128 of the Elm Grove Cemetery on Tower Hill Road in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Her cemetery marker says that she is the daughter of “John D. and Dianthe C. Williamson”.
Dianthe’s second child was a boy, born around the 29th of December 1845. His cemetery marker, which is located in the same plot as baby Dianthe, gives his date of death 6 Nov 1854. His name is given as William E. Powers, “son of John D. and Dianthe C. Powers.”
No birth or death records have been found for either of these children, and William has not been found on the 1850 census.
Another boy, Dianthe’s 3rd child, was born in 1846. The year has been calculated from his age given at the time of his death on 27 Jul 1864. George died in Greenville, Louisiana, of a disease contracted while serving in Company G of Rhode Island’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War. His cemetery marker gives his name as “George A. Powers”, while his military records say, “George H. Powers”. The 1850 Rhode Island census gives his name as George Williamson, born in Connecticut, and he was living with his grandparents, Peleg and Abigail Dawley. No birth record has been in found in Connecticut or Rhode Island (or anywhere else).
In Westerly, Rhode Island, on Sunday, 14 Jul 1850 at the age of 22, “Mrs. Dianthe C. Williamson, dau of Peleg E. Dawley” married “John D. Powell of Morris D., of Bristol, Eng.” No records of Dianthe’s marriage or divorce to John D. Williamson have been found. No records of Mr. Williamson’s death have been located, either. He is not buried in the family plot with his children in Elm Grove Cemetery.
On 7 Dec 1854, Dianthe has her 4th child, a girl named Mary Dianthe. Five and a half months later, my great-great grandfather, William Wilbur, was born on 21 May 1855, also in Westerly. His birth was not registered until 26 Jan 1856, which could explain the discrepancy in the date.
Child number six, a boy named John Arnold was born 13 Aug 1859. He died a year later on 2 Sep 1860.
In the 1860 Rhode Island census, John, Dianthe, George, Mary, William, and John are enumerated together in Westerly, Rhode Island.
Dianthe’s seventh child, also a boy, was born on 31 Aug 1861; however, his name was not recorded, so it is not known whether he survived infancy. If he did, he was not alive in 1900, according to the Rhode Island federal census.
I have not been able to locate the Powers family in the 1870 federal census or in the 1875 Rhode Island state census, other than finding Mary, age 16, living with her grandparents, Peleg and Abby Dawley in 1870.
It is not known what happens to John D. Powers. It is possible that he served in the Civil War, as there are several men with this name in various records, but not enough detail is given to conclusively prove one of them is the right John Powers. All that is known is when Dianthe turns back up in the 1880 Rhode Island census, she is listed as a widow, working as a housekeeper in the home of brothers Eben and Enos Sweet in Crompton, Warwick, Rhode Island.
On Sunday, 16 Sep 1883, in Crompton, Dianthe C. Dawley Powers, born Exeter daughter of Peleg A. and Abby married Eben W. Sweet, a farmer born in Exeter. This is Eben’s, age 66, second marriage, and Dianthe’s third. Her age is given as 55.
In the 1900 census, Dianthe is living with her son, William, and her grandson, Willet, in Warwick, Rhode Island. She is listed as the mother of 7 children, 2 of whom are still living. (These two would be her son, William Wilbur, and her daughter, Mary Dianthe Mattison Prew. Mary died in 1907, and William died in 1915.)
Dianthe Church Sweet, a widow, died on Tuesday, 15 Dec 1908 in Centerville, Warwick, Rhode Island. Her age is given as 81 years, 3 months, and 26 days.
Although Dianthe buried four of her children in the same family plot in Elm Grove Cemetery and provided them all with carved stone markers, it is not known where Dianthe is buried or whether she has a stone.
I would like to meet Dianthe. I would like to know what happened to her first two husbands, both named “John D.” and what happened to all of her children. Mostly, I would like to let her know that stone or not, her memory lives on.