Genealogy and Ancestor Information, and Personal Memories
of Audrey Doris Jackson Kuhn and Robert Lundquist Kuhn

Ancestor information

History and Highlights of the Bartlett Yancey Couch Family

Bartlett Yancey Couch was born at Guilford, North Carolina, May 6, 1824. Nancy Jane Little was born at Guilford, North Carolina, July 19, 1828.

The Couches and Littles were close neighbors, their land adjoining. When the Couch boys felled a tree, which the Littles claimed, to make shakes for a house they were building, it caused a feud of many years standing.

Bartlett Yancey and Nancy Jane were sweethearts at the very beginning of the feud. Her parents forbade her to ever see him again. However, love laughs at feuds as well as locksmiths, and the courtship continued on its troubled way until they decided to elope. She heard the agreed upon signal, grabbed her sunbonnet off its peg and ran to meet him at the crossroads where he awaited her on horseback and they rode to Guilford in Lockinvar style and were married February 11, 1847.

They returned to the Couch home and lived there until he could build a two room house on the side of the mountain. He was a gunsmith and a mechanic. One room in this humble home was their living quarters and the other was his shop.

Clara Emaline was born there August 12, 1849, as was Jabez Lee, March 13 1852.

There were four sons in the Couch family, Bartlett Yancey, Mesh, John and Milton, and one daughter, Polly, who stayed at home to care for her father and keep house for the family after the loss of the mother.

The Couch boys wanted to go north and west in search of better land and opportunities for their families, but listened to their father's plea to stay as long as he lived. He passed away when Jabez Lee was an infant in long dresses. The family then completed their preparations for the long hard dangerous trek over mountains, rivers, through forests, prairies and Indian country.

Bartlett Yancey rigged out a covered wagon in which was placed their few belongings, homespun clothes, bedding, table linen, a few dishes, black-handled knives and forks, and quite a bit of pewter ware, wooden tubs, pails, rolling pins, butter bowl and paddle, big black iron kettle, small black Iron kettle, iron skillet with lid and long handle, tallow candles and candle molds, corn meal, dried fruit, vegetable seeds, his shop equipment and a few finished rifles which he traded as he went along to help with traveling expenses.

By the time their first baby was born the feud was forgotten and many tears were shed as they bade good-bye to their loved ones and boarded the horse-drawn covered wagon.

They probably left Guilford in early fall of 1853, as they were expecting their third child. They camped in a town in Illinois until spring, 1854. The new baby was George Milton, born in a covered wagon on January 16, 1854.

Bartlett Yancey was very ill for some time at this place. When he recovered they resumed their journey westward and established camp where the city of St. Paul now stands. There he broke land with six yoke of oxen and a 24 inch bottom plow. At this time, a great deal of interest was shown among the emigrants in the Big Woods sixty miles to the southwest. From the information they acquired they decided to move there and if conditions proved favorable they would settle and put in a combination saw and grist mill.

Late fall again; winter with all the fury of storms and low temperatures coming closer and closer every day they could no longer delay embarking on this last lap of their long hard journey to their new home. They loaded up the covered wagon again with the few possessions they had left home with two years before with additional possessions of a new baby, two buffalo robes, a canvas tent and a cow. The covered wagon was drawn by a slower moving oxen instead of the horses they had left home with, they crossed over the Mississippi River, traveled the Minnesota River Valley to within ten miles of St. Peter where they landed on the bank of Cherry Creek stuck in soft snow and mud. It was almost dark and no sign of life until real darkness descended upon them when a light showed up in the distance. Bartlett Yancey went to the house and the man, Mr. Caldwell, returned with him and with brush under the wheels the wagon was released and they went on to the Caldwells for the night. By morning the ground was frozen and the snow was deep. Where the flap of the tent was lifted fine, icy snow flew all over their bed. Since the family had their food and fuel was plentiful the first thing to be considered was food for the oxen and cow. The nearest feed was at LeSeur prairie twelve miles away where homesteaders had settled a few years before, it was a long hard day's work to go for the hay with a yoke of oxen many times the men had to walk to keep from freezing. When the wind blew it would quickly freeze face, hands, and feet.

He heard of a quarter section with a spring on it and the lay of the land seemed a favorable location for a home and mill. He talked to the squatter settled there and traded one of his rifles for his right, and it became their home for life.

Soon neighbors came and the sound of the ax and saw was heard clearing the building spot and getting the logs for the new home which was one room with a fireplace made of sticks and mud which took up half of the rear wall. An opening with a heavy quilt hung over it was the door; one small opening in the wall with white cloth over it let in a wee bit of light. Most of the light was from the burning logs in the fireplace and tallow candles. One-half the floor in this new home was of straight grained logs split in the middle with the split side up, the other half was tamped earth. Their camp equipment furnished this new home with the exception of a shelf near the door for newly strained milk which, when frozen solid, was moved near enough the fireplace to loosen it in the pan, was turned out and stacked just outside the door in a cubby hole, the forerunner of our deep freeze of today.

Were they really settled? Not peaceably settled at least, for they had no sooner moved in than a band of 300 Sioux Indians set up camp in the clearing back of the house. They made the night hideous with their war cries in protest against the white man's encroachment in their domain. The parent's hearts were filled with fear as they comforted their little children who finally fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, but there was no sleep for them until the band of Indians had moved on.

They had many experiences with the Indians. The Sioux and Chippewa were continually fighting. They soon learned that the only emotions ever displayed by the Indians were anger and appreciation. They were never surprised or frightened. Their movements were as quiet as a cat. One could look up most any time and see one near watching him. At last signs of spring began to appear. As soon as a bare spot of ground showed through the melting snow, the little bloodroots burst with bloom, their lily white petals with long orange pistils were a beautiful and welcome sight. The cattle would browse on the swelling buds and tender twigs of the willows as far as they could reach and then Bartlett Yancey went out with his axe and cut willow trees and limbs down so they could continue to feed on them.

As the days began to lengthen, all nature burst into bloom and song. The sap flowed back into the trees of the forest and the pioneers placed spikes in the sugar maples. Every available container was placed to catch the sweet sap which was hauled on little sleds or stone boats to the big black kettle, where it was boiled down to some syrup but mostly sugar which was molded and stacked away in dustproof containers until needed.

Once spring set in things moved fast in this little pioneer family. Bartlett Yancey, with a homemade plow, prepared every cleared spot for a corn and potato patch and a garden. Then Nancy Jane got out the poke of precious seeds and, with songs on their lips and faith in their hearts they together planted them in the black moist fertile earth, and as the days lengthened the temperature rose higher until the nights were as hot as the days and vegetation fairly shot up. Strange climate this; corn heard growing in summer and timber heard cracking in winter. The offspring of the mustard, which was a favorite dish of the Southland took such a liking to the Big Woods it never more had to be planted and cared for. It soon became native and had to be fought like any other weed.

The garden produced abundantly and the forest was alive with wild life. Deer, cottontail rabbits, red and gray squirrels, quail, grouse and in the fall, wild duck and geese, and three or four out of the thousands of lakes for which Minnesota is famous were close by and teeming with fish--sunfish, bass, pickerel, walleyed pike. The Couches soon learned to cure and smoke fish, using hickory wood for smoking. He built a milk house with an oak trough in which Nancy Jane placed the crocks of newly strained milk in the pure cold, running water from the spring. What a blessing the cold rich milk was to the whole family in the hot summer. Father, mother and children found it delightfully refreshing. Cream was churned into butter and the surplus was packed in stone jars, and stored in the milk house for next winter’s use. She started the lye leaches going and soon made soap with the lye and fats saved from the wild game that had provided them with winter meat.

Cynthia Ann, the first white child born in Cleveland Township arrived August 4, 1856. When she was two weeks old her father yoked up the oxen again and made the sixty mile trip back to St. Paul where he purchased the saw and grist mill. With his work as gunsmith and mechanic and all-round rustler, he had prospered to the extent that he could not only buy the mill but also shoes for the whole family and the hired girl as well. Nancy Jane for the first time had the satisfaction of having the help of a hired girl for a few weeks. The family had worn moccasins or gone barefoot in summer and had wrapped their feet in linsey woolsey rags in the winter. These shoes were the first the children had ever had. Jabez Lee was then four years old, but he never forgot the thrill of the moment when his father placed the new shoes on his little feet. These shoes were given the best of care, which meant they were regularly oiled with deer tallow and carefully dried when wet away from the fireplace. They were handed down as the younger children grew into them.

These pioneer parents were not only carving a home out of a wilderness but were by precept and example inculcating the ideals of Christian living and good citizenship in the lives of their children without which no home or nation can long survive. How busy can one be? Working from sunup to sunset was Bartlett's daily task, but Nancy Jane worked night after night by candlelight sewing whole garments by hand as well as mending the worn ones. She cared for the growing family raising a garden, saving seed for next year's planting, gathering wild raspberries, elderberries, grapes which were dried and hung in the white homespun linen pokes to the walls of this already crowded home.

With his gunsmith and general mechanic work Bartlett Yancey was kept busy; on top of this was his task of clearing a site for and assembling the mill. At last everything was ready for the great event. People came from miles around to witness the opening of the mill. He was engineer and Mr. Caldwell was sawyer. The mill started in fine style but the well supplying the water soon ran dry. What a terrible disappointment! It was no time to give up now so he moved the mill to another spot; water proved plentiful and everything pointed to success until a colony of Irish Canadians moved in on dog sleds and took up adjoining land. The dogs came by night and ate the raw hide laces on the belts. One morning when the family awoke there was a dead dog in the yard and the mill was burned down. After surveying the ruin Bartlett Yancey went to the house and laid down on the bed saying he felt like he could never get up again. Nancy Jane went to him and said "Bart, don't give up. We have each other and the children and we are well; there will be some way to have another mill". If she could be so brave in the face of such disaster, surely he could go forward with hope for success in the near future. So he got up determined that it should be. He built another mill which was a success and ran for many years. It was there that Jabez Lee learned the sawmill business.

In the Autumn, with the mild beautiful days of Indian Summer, Nancy Jane left the children, except Jabez Lee, who insisted he could gather cranberries too, with Clara and went into the bogs, that only last May were a sea of shining green leaves and rose tinted blossoms--now were a flood of crimson berries. To make space for the cranberries the trundle bed was taken from its daytime resting place under the full sized bed and placed on the floor not far from the fireplace. The space under the bed was boarded up, one board at a time as the cranberries were filled in until it was full to point of running over.

Indian Summer, that period of mild beautiful weather that gave man and beast a rest from the hot summer days just passed, and the whole country side was one vast picture of beauty with the oaks, maples, birch and many shrubs decked out in their red, golden, and green leaves dancing in the gentle breeze. These rugged pioneers would pause in their hard struggle for existence and marveled at God's handiwork and silently from the depths of their hearts thanked Him. Day after day the children would gather butternuts and hazelnuts, placing them on boards to dry, then would begin the race between them and the red squirrels. They would rob the squirrel's nests and the squirrels would steal them from their boards. The little red fellows with their bushy tails brought squeals of delight and laughter from the children as they spiraled up the trees and sat safely on a limb where they would scold and scold the children for stealing their stockpile of food. Indian Summer gave way to approaching winter; its forty below temperatures and snowstorms that many times developed into howling blizzards that neither waited nor ceased for birth or death.

Nancy Jane was from her early childhood a devoted Christian having united with the Methodist Church when nine years old. She later joined the First Day Adventists and she heard of the Restoration Movement started by Thomas and Alexander Campbell with its plea for Christian Unity, founded on the Lord's Prayer that his disciples might be one "That the world might believe," she joined that movement, which was called The Christian Church and was faithful to that teaching as long as she lived.

In those days, slogans were as popular as they are today. The Campbells coined a few and soon other preachers added more. Some were; No Creed but Christ; Where the Bible speaks we speak; Where the Bible is silent we are silent; Not only the Christians, but Christians only; Neither Catholic nor Protestant, only Christians. She was shocked and deeply hurt when Bartlett Yancey announced his intentions of joining the Free Masons Lodge. She had for so long prayed that he might joint that great and glorious institution founded by Christ, the Church. The Church, all inclusive, "Who so ever will may come." How then could an exclusive organization find acceptance in his heart? But it did and he was a charter member in the Cleveland, Minnesota, Lodge.

She could not and never did understand it but loved him none the less. The first religious services in that community were held in the Couch home and the Post Office was located there for some time. Like Hannah of old, she prayed earnestly that one of her sons might enter the ministry. Her prayer was answered 21 years after the birth of a new son, Joseph Orin, March 19, 1858, when he was ordained in the Christian Church at Cleveland, Minnesota. He married and later with his family moved west where he was neighbor, friend, and spiritual leader to many pioneers in the Territory and later the state of Washington.

Spring of 1860 found the work of other days being repeated and the new house began. It was for any pioneer community a large house, consisting of a large parlor separated from the front and rear bedrooms by the hall with the stairway leading to four bedrooms upstairs. A door opened from the upstairs hall onto the upper porch. A large one story room annexed to the parlor was kitchen and dining room combined.

Bartlett Yancey bartered much of his work for help in building and the family moved in before winter. The trundle bed was abandoned and rock-a-bye cradle found a place in the new home. Home-made slat beds were fitted with strawticks, topped with feather beds which were things of beauty when dressed up in tufted counterpanes and coverlets woven from homespun wool dyed in home made colors from indigo, hulls of nuts and bark of trees. Copperac and cochineal, snailtrail and chariot wheel were common patterns. The white cotton pillow shams with hem-stitched hems and mitered corners greeted one with Good Morning and Good Night embroidered in red. One framed sampler with the Motto, "The Lord is the Head of this House", in red, green and blue hung just above the front bedroom door and another over the door in the parlor just off the kitchen whose motto was "Home Sweet Home". Other pictures, prints, were framed in paited reed or bark material and painted jet black, one such was a boy in a torn straw hat, blue blouse and black trousers.

Spring, 1861, with the promise of renewing life and the rumble of Civil War abroad in the land excitement ran high. The Couches were the only people in the neighborhood who took a weekly paper. Neighbors would gather at their home upon its arrival and husband and wife would read it to them. Then President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to crush the rebellion, they talked it over and Nancy Jane consented for him to enlist. He went to the recruiting station and offered his services to his country but was rejected on account of poor eyesight. He came home and continued to run the saw and grist mill doing repair work of all kinds, sowing more seeds as more land was cleared. As the days began to warm up and mornings greeted the family with "sugar snow", he would take the four older children to the maple grove where Clara, Jabez, and Milton could help carry the sweet sap and keep the fire going under the big black kettle. Cynthia Ann would wear herself out trying to catch the tantalizing redbreast robin that always managed to fly just when she felt sure she would catch him this time.

When the older ones could be spared from the sugar making task they would take off to the edge of the pond and day after day watch the successive development of tadpoles into frogs, sugar-made, candles molded, soap made, fruit and vegetables stored away, corn in crib, nuts in a dry place, Indian Summer past and gone and winter closing in once more, when Hugh was born November 21, 1861, followed by John, born January 21, 1864. The parents realized the importance of play in a child's life and saw to it that the children always had toys, all home-made. Hugh’s favorite ones were a pair of popguns which his father made from small parts of elderberry branches with the pith pushed out. The children would place a wad in the cylinder with a little oak or maple plunger quickly push it out and it would pop. He became ill and would lie in bed with his little toys and sing the songs he learned in Sunday School. He had one little popgun on the bed beside him and the other in his soft baby hand while he sang "Bring the Little Ones to Jesus". He passed away with this song on his lips, January, 1865. His sister, Lucy McClure, now living in Spokane, Washington has those little popguns. Who will care for them when she passes away and who will treasure their history?

The death of this child brought the children their first experience of real sorrow and left the parents broken-hearted, but time and work must go on and they tied the broken threads and continued to weave their life's pattern. Baby John, with his need for care and affection proved to be a blessing in this crisis.

As Nancy Jane watched her little sons at play she realized they would soon be doing a man’s work. They felled little trees, trimmed them into logs, skidded them to their play mill, in imagination, sawed them into lumber, built houses, log ones, too. When the Dodd Road was being built past their home they went into road building. Clara was a young lady now and Cynthia Ann fast growing up. Not many years would they be home and so when a little daughter was born September 4, 1868, she named her Lucy Thankful. Thankful! It is easy to understand why, thankful that she would have a little girl close to her playing with her rag dolls, caring for them in health, nursing them in illness, and giving the new babies saffron tea to bleach them out. A little girl to teach the need of wearing a sunbonnet, the care of her complexion by always using a homespun white wool cloth, to teach her that she was a child of God and God's will for her.

Even with more comfortable surroundings hard work continued to be the lot of Bartlett Yancey and Nancy Jane. It was beginning to tell on him. The men would come to the mill with their grist and logs. They noticed it and would say, "Couch, you are working too hard" and he always reply "I would rather wear out than rust out." They were prosperous, alert people. The older children were attending school in District No. 44. Luke Keough, one of the Canadian Irish, had given the land for this schoolhouse. Singing schools were very popular and all of the Couch children were very good singers.

The last member of this family, B.Y. short for Bartlett Yancey, was born March 13, Jabez Lee's birthday, 1870. About this time a grasshopper plague descended on that part of the state and continued for three consecutive years, destroying all crops. The people were becoming desperate and destitute. The Governor proclaimed a day of prayer. At the appointed hour Nancy Jane with her son Orin walked to the little log church and with other believers joined with them in prayer that the curse of the grasshoppers might forever be removed. The next day the grasshoppers were still there and the scoffers said “I told you so”. But on the morning of the third day, the settlers looked on a land free from the pests. When or where they went no one ever knew. The state furnished seed and once more the land produced abundantly and the people were released from fear of famine.

The spring of 1873 found an epidemic of measles sweeping the neighborhood. Bartlett Yancey had never had them and so he was stricken along with the children. Clara had married and was living close by. Her husband, Sam Nichols, stepped into the Couch home and helped care of the sick. Little B.Y. succumbed to that dreaded disease March 9, 1873 and Bartlett Yancey was sick unto death; the measles would not break out and he was burning up with fever. Sam was working night and day with Nancy Jane caring for the sick. They had given him up and he had also become resigned to death. One treatment for measles those days was to refuse the sick cold water. He called Sam to his bedside and said, "Sam, I have just one last request to make of you. Go get a pitcher of cold water, step out on the porch, (he was upstairs), place some icicles from the roof in the pitcher, let me have one more drink of good cold water". Sam, believing it was the one last favor he would ever ask granted it and after drinking his fill he began to break out and recovered. At the time of little B.Y.'s death some member of this family were just recovering and some were still bedfast and the well ones were worn out keeping vigil at their bedsides. Some did not have the strength to mourn his passing at the time but did later on when the full significance of their loss came to them. Whether the measles promoted Bartlett Yancey's ill health or not, he continued to decline.

He tried to work at his familiar and loved tasks, but would soon tire out and go to the house. He would lie down and say, "Jane, bring the Good Book" and she would get the Bible, sit by his side and read. He especially liked Revelations 21:4,. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain."

Sam’s father moved his family back to Arkansas and wanted him to move back too, so he went first, Clara and the children went later. Nancy Jane was desperate and hoped against hope that an overland trip in a covered wagon would improve Bartlett Yancey’s health. So John, grown man now, outfitted a covered wagon and after several weeks on the road, they arrived at Clara’s home. He grew steadily worse and in a very short time passed away. They laid him at rest in a shady spot, placed a stone at the head of the grave and John made shakes and enclosed the grave. This was in Woodruff County, Arkansas, December 4, 1883.

The broken-hearted mother with son John and daughter Lucy stayed until spring was well on its way up north when they bade Clara and family goodbye and started on the long lonesome trip back home. She continued to live on the homeplace until sometime in 1890 when she came west to Griffith Corners, not far from Ritzville, Washington, to make her home with her son Orin and family. About 1900 her sons John and Jabez and daughters Clara and Lucy took up homesteads at Cunningham, then Scott, Washington, John and Lucy's land adjoined. Cabins were built on their own land but were almost close enough to be one building. In July, 1903, Nancy Jane went to visit her children there. She became ill and asked for her children to stay near. Most homesteaders used condensed milk because it kept so well. She asked for a cup of coffee with cream. She said that if Jabez knew she wanted cream she would get it. He lived a short distant way and when John went to telegraph Orin of her illness he stopped on his way to tell Jabez, and of her wish for cream. He took cream and went over.

The next day, with daughters Clara and Lucy, sons Jabez, Milton, Orin, and John with her she asked them to sing the hymn "Oh, sometimes the shadows are deep and rough seems the way to the goal, and sorrows, how often they sweep like tempests, down over the soul. Oh, then let me fly, let me fly to the Rock that is higher than I". They sang the hymn and she prayed, remembering all her children and grandchildren, praying that they might believe that Jesus is the Savior and that believing they would be saved to eternal life with God, their heavenly father. Breathing a soft Amen, she passed from earth into eternity, July 29, 1903. She rests in the Ritzville Cemetery.

Compiled by Martha Jane, Jabez's daughter, (1880)

Audrey Kuhn's son, Robert, had this history typed into Microsoft Word, from a photocopy of the original typewritten history. To preserve the history, as written, no grammar, punctuation, or spelling changes were made to the original typewritten history.

Audrey Kuhn's genealogy research:

Clara was born August 12, 1849. Clara Emaline Couch married Samuel Nichols November 30, 1867, in Cleveland, Minnesota. They were married by T.P. Brown, Justice of the Peace. This is in the LaSeuer County (Minnesota) records.

Their son, Samuel, was born in 1884. He enlisted in the Army. Other members of the Couch family said he was an alcoholic, and committed suicide about 1905.

Clara Emaline Couch Nichols Davis died on April 7, 1949, in Portland, Oregon. She was buried on April 10, 1949, in the Multnomah Park Cemetery in Portland.
Samuel Nichols (Clara’s husband) died May, 1898, in Ritzville, WA.

Horace Lee Nichols (1868-1958) and Joseph Bartlett Nichols (1873-1954) outlived her. Clara Maud (1870-1879), Claude (Jan, 1870-April, 1870), infant son (1871) and Samuel L (1884-1905) all pre-deceased her. I don’t have death dates for Jay L. or Orin Conley.

Nancy Jane Little Couch (Clara’s mother) died July 29, 1903, and is buried in the Ritzville, WA, cemetery.

Bartlett Yancey Couch (Clara’s father) died December 24, 1881, and is buried in Woodruff County, AR).

Cynthia Ann Jackson Couch died July 12, 1932, in Minneapolis, and is buried in Savidge Cemetery, Cleveland, MN.

My father (Chester Jackson) spoke of "Jabe" Couch and his sons, Redden and George. I Interviewed both of them.

Clara was four months short of 100 years when she died. In Jabe’s family, Gertrude Dilley was 101 years old when she died. I think Redden and George lived to be 100, but I don’t have the deaths years for them.


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Audrey Doris Jackson Kuhn and Robert Lundquist Kuhn

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