This past weekend, my mom and I traveled to Fort Morgan, CO for my uncle’s wedding. On our return trip, we drove the prettiest two-lane highways through southern Nebraska to see the old Wildrick homestead that had been my 3x great grandparents, John Wesley and Minnie Wildrick’s, and to stop by the cemetery in Cambridge, NE so I could photograph the tombstone of their family plot. We’re planning a return trip because where the sod house and barn foundation would have stood was buried beneath ten feet of weeds. But as we left, it really stirred my interest. What drives someone to leave all they know, their family and friends, their lifestyle, and pack all their belongings onto a wagon, travel hundreds of miles and begin a new life?
John Wesley Wildrick was born about 1852 to George and Abigail (King) Willdrick. He was their third child.
Following the death of his father, George Willdrick, eighteen year old John Wesley left his family home in Colusa, IL and made a new life in Fulton County, IL. He lived with a John and Jane Kutchler. While the census does not list an occupation, I have to assume that he was a farm hand for the Kutchlers. However, the census does list a value for John Wesley. His father’s death left him an inheritance of around $1800, a sum worth around $34,000 today. There was also an additional boy, Thomas Falconer (15) living in the Kutchler home.
Next door, lived another Kutchler family, James his wife Martha, and two of their children. Also residing there were Andrew and Minnie Igle and a Wesley Holliday. Were the combined Kutchler households a boarding house? Or were they distant relation of some kind to either John Wesley or Minnie Igle or both? The search to connect the missing dots continues…
Whatever the circumstances, on 31 Dec 1870, John Wesley and Minnie were married in McDonough County, IL. The young couple lived in Illinois at least for the next two years where their first child, Fannie, was born on 30 Oct 1871. But by 1874, they had moved to Clinton, MO where George Earl Wildrick was born on 8 Jan 1874. A third child, Abbie, was born in 1875, but she passed away shortly after her birth.
By 1880, the family had moved to Western, Buffalo County, NE. They did not remain there long. By 1885, they had moved to Iowa to Fremont County. How long they lived there, I’m not certain. But by 1900, John had purchased land near present day Hendley, Furnas County, NE. They lived on the homestead for the next twelve years, eventually selling thie land and following their son George south to Oklahoma where they lived until John Wesley’s death in 1919.
After her husband’s death, Minnie moved to Long Beach, CA to live with her widowed sister, Kathrine McBride. She remained with her sister until her own passing in 1934. Minnie was laid to rest in St. John’s Catholic cemetery, a part of Fairview Cemetery in Cambridge, Furnas County, NE. John was buried there, and possibly Abbie. Her name is listed on the family tombstone, but the family did not reside in the area at the time of her death, so I have to wonder if she is indeed in the family plot.
Wildrick Family Plot: at what point did John Wesley drop the second “L”, and why?
I love how the sun hit the stone through the trees. It looked like little dancing orbs and made me feel like they were with us.
So what drives a person to leave everything they know? A little bit of wanderlust, a want for adventure, to see and settle unbroken ground? And how brave they would’ve been going into the unknown. But that’s what the American Dream was all about.