SUSAN GAMBO, a hearty pioneer woman who smoked a corncob pipe, mothered three generations of Hoosiers during her 91 years of life. She was born February 17, 1803, in the days when her fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States. Her granddaughter Mary Jane noted that date in a scrapbook, and the Spear family bible verifies it.
The scrapbook gives Susan’s place of birth as Winchester, Virginia, which is in Frederick County today. Other sources say she was born farther south, near the in Albemarle County courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Spear bible offers no help.
Samuel Gambo and the former Catherine Chisholm were her parents. The family, heavily feminine, appeared on the 1810 census of Fredericksville Parish of Albemarle County. By 1830, though, Sam had packed everybody off westward to Franklin County, Kentucky.
It was there that on February 8, 1833, Susan married John Fitzsimmons. She was 29; he apparently was underage. Why else would he have presented a note to the county clerk? It read: "Franklin County [word illegible] Feb. 8th 1833. The Clerk of the County Court of the County afsd is hereby authorized & required to issue a licens, authoriting the marriage of my son John Fitzsimmons to Susan Gambo. [signed] Richard (x) Fitzsimmons. Teste: Willis Rdgers."
Richard and Willis were cousins, both grandsons of Revolutionary War soldier Mesheck Pierson. Willis, 22, had married Rhody Gambo in 1826. Neither Richard nor Willis wrote the note of 1833, though. Willis, after signing his name, obviously went back and inserted the letter D in his last name. But he didn’t insert the missing O.
John got the marriage bond that same day, marking his signature with an X. Willis, the bondsman, was listed as "Rogers" but signed "Rodgers." The bond notes that Willis swore that Susan was of age and that Richard Fitzsimmons had acknowledged the note. John's parents, Richard Fitzsimmons and Sally (Pierson) Fitzsimmons, lived in adjacent Shelby County.
Susan’s father, Sam Gambo, died in Franklin County, apparently in early 1837. By then, Susan and John had moved to Indiana. When Susan was pregnant with their five child, John became ill with typhoid, the common scourge of the frontier. In 1841, four months after John died, Susan gave birth. She named the baby John.
She was left with five children under eight years of age:
1) Surrelda, born January 4, 1833 (according to the Spear bible) in Kentucky.
2) William, born in 1835 in Scott County, Indiana.
3) Richard, born in 1837, apparently in Jackson County, Indiana.
4) Sarah Catherine, born in 1839 back in Scott County.
5) John, born in 1841 in Scott County. (Young John was Jennie Meranda’s grandfather. In 1865 he died in a railroad mishap.)
Despite the hardship, she never remarried. She likely lived with relatives for more than a decade. It’s unclear where she was when the 1850 census was taken.
Finally, on Oct. 10, 1853, daughter Surrelda married Jim Spear, a relatively prosperous farmer in that hard-scrabble area. He took in mother-in-law Susan. Even after Surrelda died in 1856, Susan remained in the Spear home. She helped raise, first, Surrelda's daughter Mary Jane, then Jim Spear's children by subsequent wives.
Spear married four times after Surrelda’s death. Here are the children Susan helped raise:
1) Mary Jane Spear, born in 1854; she was Susan’s real granddaughter.
2) Moses Ryan, born about 1855, an orphan Jim Spear took in.
3) Surilda Catherine (called “Cassie”), born in 1860; the former Armilda Newkirk was her mother and apparently didn’t object to naming her baby for Jim's previous wife.
4) Birdie May Spear, born in 1884 to Jim’s fifth wife, the former Mary Eleanor Clark.
5) James Blaine Spear, born in 1886 to the fifth and last wife.
6) Benjamin Harrison Spear, born in 1888 to the last wife.
Susan likely helped with Cassie (Spear) Whitsitt’s daughter Goldie, too, because Cassie and her husband didn’t always live together. She might also have helped briefly with Marshall, Aurilla, Allison and Augusta Peacock, children of Jim Spear’s fourth wife, Angeline (Fitzsimmons) Peacock, and with Roy and Addie Peacock, Angeline’s adopted grandchildren. (This was an especially twisted situation because Angeline’s half-brother had been married to Susan.)
Fitzimmons cousin Jennie Meranda said in the 1970s that Grandma Simmons "was especially helpful to the last wife, who was so young, so slow and so particular." But that wife died in 1889 at age 34, meaning Susan’s job wasn’t done.
Not surprisingly, Susan became known as "Grandma Simmons." (Many of the Fitzsimmonses dropped the "Fitz.") Susan, the ever-faithful surrogate mother, is remembered as a cheerful woman who usually wore a black dress and cap and smoked a corncob pipe.
She died early in 1893. The Spear bible says it happened at 4 a.m. Thursday April 6, 1893. (April 6 was in fact a Thursday. Mary Jane Phillips probably owned the bible then and might have made the notation.) Ray Phillips says that Mary Jane left a notation elsewhere that Susan died on a Wednesday at Cassie Whitsitt's home 1 1/2 miles east of Wesley Chapel. Some relatives give the date as April 3 (a Monday), but her death certificate says "March":
Mrs. Simmons - Retired - Death Date: March 1893
Widow - American - Place of Death: Scott Co. IN.
Cause of Death: Old Age Record #53 page 48
Book 1-1882 to 5-1896
She’s buried on the west side of Wesley Chapel Cemetery near Alpha, Indiana. She was married only eight of her 91 years.
The Lindsey descendants in the Toledo area have Jim Spear's bible. There's no doubt that Susan Gambo and John Fitzsimmons were married February 8, 1833 in Franklin County, Kentucky. It's in official records there.
Obviously this throws Surrelda’s date of birth into question. Were John and Susan living together while awaiting a circuit-rider, as some pioneers did? Or are the dates erroneous? This confusion has kept two of the Lindseys from joining the DAR through Revolutionary War comrades Meshack Pierson and Thomas Fitzsimmons.
Photocopies of the bible show quite a few additions in handwriting other than Jim’s–probably Blanche Phillips’–and some of the writing has been retraced; probably it had faded. The January 1833 date is in much darker handwriting and the word “January” obviously has lighter writing under it. One wonders if someone entered the wrong date. The Lindseys, who have the original, think so. Strangely, there was a similar problem with Susan Gambo’s parents, Samuel and Catherine. It’s been reasonably established in their case that a descendant entered some incorrect dates in a bible.
A notice in the Jan. 2. 1857 edition of the Rockford Herald stated: “Died near Courtland, Dec. 14, Mrs. Surrelda Spear, aged 23 years.” That would indicate that Surrelda was likely born Jan. 6, 1834.
Florence (Fitzsimmons) Meranda told daughter Jennie that Susan was born near the courthouse in Charlottesville. Florence, known as “Fonnie,” adored Grandma Simmons, Jennie said, and considered it an honor if she could fill Susan’s pipe for her.
No photos of Susan have ever turned up. Mary Jane’s daughter Blanche Phillips (1879-1977) often prefaced remarks with the words "Back when Grandma Simmons was alive . . ." Too bad people didn’t ask her more about her great grandmother Susan.
SAMUEL GAMBO was born between 1770 and 1780, judging by census records. He married Catherine Chisham on December 23, 1796 in Orange County, Virginia. John Chisham, father of the bride, consented by sending a note to the clerk: "this is to [illegible] that I give up [illegible] darter Cathron to be marryed to Sammuel Gambo December 23, 1796. [signed] John Chissam." John Dawson was surety for the bond, which was dated December 23, and James Taylor Jr. witnessed the bond. Taylor spelled the bride's name "Catharine Chisholm." Both John Dawson and Sam seem to have signed their own names.
Sam and his family appear on the 1810 census of Albemarle County, Virginia. They lived in Fredericksville Parish. He is listed as aged 26 to 45. The only other male in the family was 10 to 16. There were six females. The oldest was 16 to 26, indicating that perhaps Catherine lied about her age; two were 10 to 16 and three were under 10.
Samuel Gambo appears in federal military records for the War of 1812. He was in the 1st Regiment (Yancy's) of the Virginia Militia. He entered as a private and was discharged a private.
The 1829-30 tax list of Franklin County, Kentucky, shows Sam had moved there and owned land in the "South District" worth $400. There were no other Gambos in the county.
He and his family appeared on the 1830 census of Franklin County. The enumerator noted that they lived "on land alloted to Stafford." Sam, between 50 and 60, was the only white male in the household. There were three white women: one aged 50 to 60, one aged 20 to 30 and one aged 15 to 20. There was one male slave listed as older than 100, plus two free colored females, one 36 to 55 and one under 10.
Larkin Chism was listed next. He was between 30 and 40 and the only white male in his household. There were three white females: one between 20 and 30 and two under five. There was a male slave 24 to 36, plus three free black females, all aged 36 to 55.
Larkin Chism reappears in the 1850 census of Franklin County. He was 49 and wife Mildred 38. The children listed were Lucy A., 23; Elizabeth, 18; Samuel, 17; William, 15; Susan, 12, and Robert, 10. A two-year-old child, Bartholomew Watson, also lived in the home. Everyone was listed as having been born in Kentucky.
Judging by the censuses, Sam had he following children:
1) a son between 1795 and 1800 (obviously William)
2) a daughter between 1795 and 1800.
3) a daughter between 1795 and 1800.
4) a daughter Susan in 1803.
5) a daughter between 1800 and 1810.
6) a daughter between 1800 and 1810. (probably Mildred).
No one named Gambo or Gamboe appears on the grantor or grantee indices for Franklin County.
Sam probably was in his early sixties when he died intestate. His estate in Franklin County was appraised on February 15, 1837 and recorded on pages 142-144 of Franklin County's Inventory & Sales Book A.. The long appraisal list is not included here. James Johnson was the administrator. On March 8, 1837, an estate sale was held. Those buying items from the estate: Jackson Hewlett, Elijay Lay [?], Larken Chisholm, Joseph Hewlett, Harrison Allison, Bowling Kendall, Thomas Hewlett, Nancy Gambo, James Moon, William White, David Haggerty, Eli Rogers, John Pilcher, James Kesler, James Hartley, James Johnson, A.G. Duncan, Harrison Perkins, Green Chisholm, John Brauner, J.M. Hartley, George P. Ransdell, Richard Landford and Sally Yount. The sale totaled $131.99. No administrator's settlement was filed.
A "Mrs. Gambo" is listed on the 1840 census of Franklin, but not the 1850. The marriage books aren't indexed by the brides' names, so there is no easy way to tell if Sam's widow remarried.
A Samuel Gambo appears on old immigration records of the U.S. District Court for New York (81688); this likely was not the person we've been discussing herein. The record card, found on line, was undated and had no information other than name and number. Researcher Cheryl Ranes investigated and learned that this Samuel Gambo was from Italy.
WILLIAM THOMAS GAMBO was born December 18, 1792, according to a record in his family. But this seems erroneous. (See below.) He likely was born several years later, or perhaps he was Samuel's son by an earlier wife. Mrs. Spears, a correspondent, says William married Edith Aldridge in Clark County, Ky. His children: Greenburgh in 1825, Harriet M. in 1827, Clifton T. in 1830, Samuel Nicholas in 1831, Catherine in 1834, Polly Ann in 1836, Honour Edith in 1839 and John f. in 1842. William died Aug. 5, 1843 in Clark County, Kentucky.
SUSAN GAMBO was born February 17, 1803 near Winchester, Virginia, according to a notation in grand daughter Mary Jane (Spear) Phillips' scrapbook. Other records say Susan was born in Albemarle County, Virginia. (Winchester is in Frederick County today.)
On February 8, 1833, she married John Fitzsimmons in Franklin County, Kentucky. Susan was 29; John apparently was underage. He presented a note to the clerk that read: "Franklin County [word illegible] Feb. 8th 1833. The Clerk of the County Court of the County afsd is hereby authorized & required to issue a licens, authoriting the marriage of my son John Fitzsimmons to Susan Gambo. [signed] Richard (x) Fitzsimmons. Teste: Willis Rdgers."
Neither Richard nor Willis actually wrote the note. Obviously after Willis signed his name, he went back and inserted the letter D in his last name, but did not insert the missing O. John got the marriage bond that same day. Willis, the bondsman, was listed as "Rogers" on the bond but he signed his name "Rodgers." John marked his. The bond notes that Willis swore that Susan was 21 and that Richard Fitzsimmons had acklowledged the note, or certificate.
John was a son of Richard Fitzsimmons and, apparently, of Sally (Pierson) Fitzsimmons, of nearby Shelby County. Richard's note underlines the probability that John was not 21. (Some believe that Sally was a step-mother.)
Susan and John had Surrelda in 1833 in Kentucky, then had William in 1835 in Scott County, Indiana. Son Richard is said to have been born in Jackson County, Indiana, in 1837 and daughter Sarah Catherine in 1839 back in Scott County.
But typhoid killed husband John four months before Susan had a son named John in 1841 in Scott County.
Susan didn't remarry. She lived with daughter Surrelda and son-in-law Jim Spear. Even after Surrelda died in 1856, Susan remained in the Spear home. She helped raised, first, Surrelda's daughter Mary Jane, then Jim Spear's children by subsequent wives.
Susan is remembered as a cheerful woman who usually wore a black dress and cap and smoked a corncob pipe. She died early in 1893. Grand daughter Mary Jane recorded that Susan died on a Wednesday at Cassie Whitsitt's home 1 1/2 miles east of Wesley Chapel.. Relatives give the date as April 3 (a Monday), but her death certificate says "March." It states only:
Mrs. Simmons - Retired - Death Date: March 1893
Widow - American - Place of Death: Scott Co. IN.
Cause of Death: Old Age Record# 53 page 48
Book 1-1882 to 5-1896
She was married only eight of her 91 years. Several generations of descendants remember her as "Grandma Simmons." She's buried on the west side of Wesley Chapel Cemetery near Alpha, Indiana.
As a boy--even a teenager--I remember my Aunt Blanche preceding many stories with: "Back when Grandma Simmons was living . . ." I wish I had asked Blanche more about Susan.
Census of Hendricks County, Indiana, in 1850: John C. Gambo, 44, carpenter, NC; Nancy, 42, NC; Levi S., 19, NC, machinist; Louisa C., 16, NC; Mary Jane, 13, Ind.; Josephus (?), 11; Ind.; Jasica E. (?), 8, Ind., and Cynthia Ann, 4, Ind.
There is a Gambo Creek in King George County, Virginia, but the clerk reports no deeds are registered for anyone named Gambo or Gamboe, 1721 on.
Franklin County, Kentucky, marriages: Samuel Gamboe and Nancy Yount; bond by Jno. Tracey; April 1, 1835.
Thomas Gamboe, 82, died in Pioneer, Ohio. His obituary ran in the newspaper May 7, 1981. He is known to have been a descendant of Samuel Gambo.
Abstracts from Mrs. Spears: "My handwritten papers in pencil were in Gamboe Bible recently given to me. The regular pages of Bible are in my father's writing, William Smallwood Gamboe, a brother to John Tecumseh Gamboe, Tom's father [that is, John was father of Tom Gamboe of Pioneer, Ohio]. The loose papers written in pencil start [some confusing names are inserted but appear to be irrelevant] 'William Gamboe son of Samuel Gamboe and late Catherine Chisam was born 18 Dec. 1792,' and later -- last of paper -- died Aug. 5, 1843. That is as far back as I have . . . I was told by my parents that our ancestors Gamboes migrated into Ky. from Virginia Culpepper Co."
A more formal compilation sent by Mrs. Spears shows William Thomas Gamboe married Edith Aldridge in Clark County, Ky. and died in 1843 in Clark County. His children: Greenburgh in 1825, Harriet M. in 1827, Clifton t. in 1830, Samuel Nicholas in 1831, Catherine in 1834, Polly Ann in 1836, Honour Edith in 1839 and John f. in 1842.
From American Prisoners of the Revolution, by Dandridge, publishing by Genealogical Pub. Co. of Baltimore: Prisoners aboard the old Jersey: Peter Gambo, among 8,000 others. (This was the infamous prison ship the British used for POWs in NYC during the Revolution. The records are British records and there is nothing else on these men; the British did not note if they lived or died.)
There are no Gambo deeds in Orange Co. Va. before 1743.
There are no Gambo weddings in Anderson Co. Ky. 1835-1860.
CLARK COUNTY, KENTUCKY RECORDS
Wills, 1792-1832: John Alexander Chisham 1 June 1825 mentions Alsy, Susanna, Thomas, Nancy, Caty, Polly, Sercy, Milly and Elizabeth, daughter and grandchildren of James Dawson or Sawson, and daughter Elizabeth's children. Exrs: Thomas and grandson James Dawson. Wit: Thomas Phillips, and others. Note Thomas Phillips almost certainly was from Dorchester Co. Md., via Orange Co. NC.
Weddings 1792-1851: Saml Chism-Nancy Haggard 1816; James Chism-Francis Harlow 1816; Calvin Chism-Jane Goosey 1850; Roland Chism-Elizabeth Turner 1821; Thos Chisolm-Elizabeth Tipton 1827; Thos Chasolm-Lucy Grim 1797; Larkin Chisholm-Milly Gambo 6-10-1824; Wm Gamboe-Eda Alridge 2-20-1825; no bride index.
1810 Census: Thomas Chism 01010-40201-1.
In 2004, someone auctioned a 1940s matchbook cover bearing an advertisement for Gambo Flying Service, John Rogers Airport, Honolulu. This outfit offered flying instructions and charter flights.
disc 66 on 1/24/84
rev. 12/18/88, 11/30/2007
A Problem With Dates
Our link in the Pierson family goes like this: Meshack Pierson, Sally Pierson, John Fitzsimmons, Surrelda Fitzsimmons, Mary Jane Spear, Fred/Welly Phillips.
Our link in the Fitzsimmons family is Thomas, Richard, John, Surrelda, Mary Jane Spear, etc.
In rechecking this material, I discovered that one problem was that I was just beginning genealogy when I did these families. Basically, I did them before doing the Phillipses because Jennie Meranda (1894-198?) began writing me and knew most everything about the Fitzsimmons family.
She had much first-hand knowledge but did have Darlene Dittmer’s research at hand. So this muddies the waters a bit. I did the first Pierson booklet about 1980. It was generally based on family knowledge. My dad's grandmother, Surrelda Spear, had died in her early twenties. Dad and other oldtimers in the family said she was born a Fitzsimmons. Some of these oldtimers remembered Surrelda's mother "Grandma Simmons," who lived until 1893.
The family knowledge aspect is important. My dad was born in 1889, my uncle Welly in 1873, Jennie Meranda in 1894, and Aunt Blanche in 1879. Granted, none of them identified John Fitzsimmons by name, but all agreed that Surrelda was a Fitzsimmons.
The Fitzsimmons and Pierson books grew with subsequent editions. They were intended primarily for family enjoyment. Then several relatives wanted to join DAR and SAR. When these organizations asked for more documentation, the problem with Jim Spear’s family bible came up. He’d married Surrelda. But his dates didn't gibe, and the membership applications were denied. I feel a little guilty, although I hadn't anticipated the book being used in this way.
Specifically the problem arises in the John Fitzsimmons-Surrelda Fitzsimmons link. John Fitzsimmons and Susan Gambo were married February 8, 1833 in Franklin County, Kentucky. It's in official records there. But Jim Spear’s bible record shows that Surrelda was born Jan. 6, 1833.
There seem to be only four possible explanations:
1) The county record is wrong–unlikely.
2) The bible record is wrong.
3) John and Susan were awaiting a circuit rider.
4) John was merely Surrelda’s step-father.
Photocopies of the bible show quite a few additions in handwriting other than Jim Spear’s–probably Blanche Phillips’–and some of the writing has been retraced; probably it had faded. The January 1833 date is in much darker handwriting and the word “January” obviously has lighter writing under it. One wonders if someone entered the wrong date. The Lindseys, who have the original, think so. Strangely, there was a similar problem with Susan Gambo’s parents, Samuel and Catherine. It’s been reasonably established in their case that a descendant, stretching his memory too far, entered some incorrect dates in his family bible. This is apparently common. My mother-in-law altered so many dates in her family bible that she forgot when she really was born. I have a Kirkpatrick bible (my mother’s side) with many altered dates.
Notice in the Jan. 2, 1857 Rockford Herald: Died near Courtland, Dec. 14, Mrs. Surrelda Spear, aged 23 years.
So, if Surrelda really was born Jan. 6, 1833, she would have been 23 years old when she died.
Glue on other links:
A minister’s return of 1811 notes that he’d married “Richard Simeons and MesheckPierson’s daughter Sally. Meshack’s will of 1846 mentioned heirs of “my deceased daughter Sally Fitzsimmons.” Unfortunately, we have no probate documents identifying those heirs.
The Sally-John link is implied. Sally’s husband wrote a note identifying him as John’s father. Perhaps we could turn up Mesheck’s probate, which likely would identify John.
There might be further links that I’ve forgotten. I should re-read the whole text.
The Mormons have added data: Jenny May Meranda, died Jan. XX, 1985.in Johnson County, Indiana.
Jennie says Surrelda was 16 in the 1850 census, which is the one I have somewhere but can’t find.
She did spell her name Jennie, not Jenny.
New Pierson info: Mesheck m. Mary Jennings (1758-1820). He supposedly had an uncle Henry who was a Continental officer.
One of the great names in our family: Inky Ravenscroft, who appears near the end of the sixth generation in our Fitzsimmons book
Lee: if you want to set up a table of how one generation links to another, we can pass it back and forth and grow it. Fitzsimmons, Pierson, Spear, Skiles, etc. I think I have your recent document to add.