52 Ancestors #1: Nellie Marie Cole Sawdon

This is a brand new blog, so a challenge designed to give me 52 things to write about in the next year seems like a good idea. Enter the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, although I’m already a week behind for 2015.

Nellie Marie Cole Sawdon was one of the first ancestors I knew anything about, outside of my living, immediate family. My grandmother had a small trunk that had belonged to her grandmother. Rather than collecting dust on a shelf, it was a regular part of our play as a treasure chest, holding all sorts of small goodies. My grandmother sent it home with me after a visit once, and it still holds an assortment of treasures – everything from a key to my first new car, to the letter my daughter wrote to Santa last year.There’s a label in the back in my grandmother’s handwriting: “This trunk belonged to Nellie Marie Cole Sawdon (b) December 17,1874. She was the maternal great grandmother of [my father’s name].”

Nellie Marie Cole was the youngest of four children born to Samuel Delaney Cole, farmer, and his wife Margaret Francis Wheeler in Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana. She had two siblings who were significantly older – Carrie, born 1861, and James Denton, born 1863 – and one brother closer to her own age, John Elmer, born 1871. The Coles had a family history in Dearborn County. Nellie’s grandparents and great grandparents came to the area in the early 19th century. I don’t know much about her mother, but she appears to have been born in Dearborn County and orphaned at a young age.

Nellie lived her entire life in Aurora, marrying Robert Adin Sawdon on September 25, 1895. She was 20, he was 24. They started life as farmers like their parents, apparently working a portion of the land that belonged to one or both of their families. On the 1900 census, there are three households listed in a row: Adin’s parents George and Anna Sawdon, Adin and Nellie, and Samuel and Margaret Cole. George and Samuel owned their property, but Adin was listed as a renter. Eventually, though, Nellie and Adin struck out on their own and moved to town.

By 1910, Adin was listed as a merchant of hardware on the census. They had three daughters, Mildred, Ruth, and Frances. In this History of the City of Aurora, Indiana written in 1915, Sawdon & Schooley is listed in the business directory in the categories of Harness and Hardware. You can also find a J E Cole listed under Dentists – this was Nellie’s brother John. There is also a mention of a Samuel Cole as part of a list of businessmen known to be active in the town in 1848; this would have been Nellie’s grandfather, as her father was only ten years old then.

Nellie and Adin continued to operate the store throughout their lifetimes. My grandmother grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and would come back to spend summers with them, playing and working in the store. Adin died on November 5, 1942, and Nellie died on February 13, 1947 at the age of 72. They are buried in the Riverview Cemetery in Aurora, along with daughter Frances who died in 1931.

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