Click here for the John Martin Family home page. 3rd Generation - Rachel VanNess 

Rachel Jennie (VanNess) York, the second child of Moses and Lucinda (Martin) VanNess, was born near Camargo, Illinois, about 1850.  (Age is listed as “6/12” in the 1850 census, so she could have been born in late 1849 or early 1850.)  Her family moved to Fremont County, Iowa, when she was 3 years old, and then on to Nodaway County, Missouri, when she was in her teens.

About 1870, apparently, she married Levi James York in northwestern Missouri, probably in Nodaway County or the adjacent county of Atchison.  I have found no official, contemporaneous record of the marriage.  The 1880 census shows “L. J.” and “R. J.” York living in Adair County, Iowa, along with 9-year-old Alphonso York, 3-year-old Jasper York, and Rachel’s brother Jasper VanNess.  In addition, a marriage license issued for J. C. (Jasper) York in Monona County, Iowa, in 1895, identifies Levi James York and “Jennie VanNess” as the parents of the groom.  Hence, it appears that Rachel may have been better known by her middle name Jennie.

Various researchers assert, without attribution, that Levi and Rachel married on 13 February 1870.  However, the census record collected in June 1870 shows Levi still living in a household with his mother and siblings, and without Rachel, so the marriage date of 13 February is questionable.  On the other hand, the birth of their son Alphonso in 1871 suggests that they probably married very soon after that census, in the latter part of 1870.

Levi had been born at Oblong, Crawford County, Illinois, probably on 22 November 1851.  (A birthdate of “Nov. 22, 1853” is shown on his tombstone, but census records show his age as 9 in 1860, 18 in 1870, 28 in 1880, and 48 in 1900, and the 1900 census also lists his birth month as Nov. 1851.)  He was the son of Archibald Franklin York and Zerelda (Watts) York.

As already mentioned, the 1880 census shows the couple in Adair County, Iowa — specifically in Grand River Township — but they could not have been living there long, as the census also reports that both of their sons, ages 9 and 3, had been born in Missouri.  Thereafter, they apparently moved back to Missouri, as their two youngest children were also born there in 1884 and 1888.  Rachel and Levi had a total of four children together:

  • Alphonso York, 1871–????.*
  • Jasper Charles York, 1877–1974 (married Mrs. Nancy Katherine (Palmer) Clingenpeel).
  • Floy Myrtle York, 1884–1971 (married David DeRoos).
  • Earl O. York, 1888–1908.

Rachel evidently died after giving birth to Earl (or perhaps in the course of that birth).  However, I have found no documentation of the exact time or place of her death or burial.  What is known is that Levi married Rosa Loe on 20 January 1892 in Stanton County, Nebraska.

Levi and Rosa settled at Osmond, in Pierce County, Nebraska, and had three children together (all daughters).  Then a bizarre and tragic accident claimed the lives of both Levi and his son Earl on 21 April 1908.  A storm arose while the two men were plowing, and they sought shelter, along with their seven horses, in the lee of a haystack.  A bolt of lightning struck, instantly killing four of the horses and also setting the haystack on fire.  Levi and Earl were pinned beneath two of the fallen horses.  Earl, apparently, was immediately crushed to death, but Levi lived on, struggling to escape and calling for help until the flames overtook him.  A story in The Norfolk Weekly News-Journal described the accident in greater detail.  The father and son are both buried in the Osmond Cemetery.

After Levi’s death, Rosa moved to Kit Carson County, Colorado, where she married Henrick K. Aaberg in June 1911.  They had one son together, and over the next 28 years she moved with him to Texas, then to Iowa, and eventually back to Nebraska, where Henrick died in 1939.  Rosa lived on until 10 May 1945, when she died in Portland, Oregon.  Her body was returned for burial at the Norwegian Cemetery in Stanton County, Nebraska.

If you can suggest any corrections to the information above or provide any further details about the lives of Rachel, Levi, and their descendants, please contact me at the address shown in the image below:

Pete at John Martin Family dot org

     —Pete Martin

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*Several family histories state that Alphonso died “about 1884,” but they provide no documentation.