Aug. 23, 1890 Bellefonte Boone County Arkansas, USA
Henry "Rufus" Preston, the son of John & Christina Preston, was born in OH on April 10, 1849. His siblings were: Joseph, William Smith, Sarah, Maryetta, & John Foster, Jr. & Samuel Taylor (twins).
Henry's parents moved to MO with six children & one grandson hoping to escape the harsh winter climate of OH. Their 15 year old son, William, had died in OH in the fall of 1863. In 1870 they lived in Otterville, Cooper Co, MO.
It was here that Rufus met Alzona Bell, an attractive young teenage girl. Alzona Faye, the last of James & Caroline Bell's 12 children, born in AR in 1854.
Rufus, as he was known, and Alzona were married on July 28, 1870, by Rev. J.H. Ross. He was 21, & she was 16. Rufus and his younger brother, John, worked as drovers herding cattle from Texas to MO. They were so impressed with the vast expanse of TX, & no doubt the warm weather, that they soon influenced their parents to move there. It can be assumed that Rufus & Alzona accompanied his parents to TX, since they were there when their first child, Nettie, was born in 1872.
They were all impressed with this vast new land that seemed to stretch on forever & was perfect for raising cattle. They settled near Henrietta, in Clay County, where Rufus's father found 160 acres. It was here that the Prestons built their new home & new life.
Rufus & Alzona moved back to MO, perhaps so she could be near her parents when he was away on long cattle drives, sometimes as long as three months. Sedalia, a few miles from Clifton City in Pettis County, was the end of the line, & he could stay with her between jobs before going back to Texas on another trail drive.
She gave birth to two more children (Irvin & Taylor) before Rufus received word late in the fall of 1875, that his mother had burned to death in a field fire.
Rufus and Alzona returned to Henrietta in the fall of 1877, taking Alzona's niece, Cynthia Vance, with them. John and Rufus settled on land near their father's ranch and worked ranching.
In 1878, Alzona gave birth to a daughter they named Ada. Two years later, Levi was born. Their sixth child, Wesley, was born in 1883. Alzona had kept in touch with her sister, "Hollan" Sharp, who lived near Bellefonte in Boone Co, AR. Just as she had done with her parents, Hollan encouraged Alzona to move near them & engaged her husband's help in her endeavors. Her husband, Ed, thought a little friendly persuasion was in order. His enthusiasm about hunting & fishing in their area encouraged Rufus & his brother, John, to make several trips to Arkansas, & they found it to be everything he had claimed.
Alzona gave birth to their seventh and last child, Alfus, in January 1884. By this time the Sharps had finally persuaded them to move to AR. That spring, when the weather was warm, & traveling was easier, they packed a wagon with their belongings & said goodbye to relatives & neighbors. It was about 335 miles northeast to Bellefonte.
They all loved their new surroundings, & Alzona enjoyed being near her sister. It was a happy time for both families. Sadly, tragedy struck the family, & their happiness was cut short a few years later when death claimed the lives of Rufus and their daughter, Nettie.
Rufus died on August 23, 1890, at the age of 41. He was buried in the Sharp plot in the Bellefonte Cemetery. On the day he died, Ed Sharp applied to the Boone County Probate Court for guardianship of Rufus & Alzona's six minor children: Wesley, Levi, Alfus, Ada, Irwin, and Taylor. Nettie's name wasn't listed. No ones knows if this was Rufus's dying request or the wish of Alzona. More likely, Ed was beseeched by both Rufus & Alzona, who were worried about the future of their children.
Sometime later, a house fire took the life of their oldest daughter, Nettie, the day before her wedding, & Alzona was badly burned while trying to save her. She was unable to recover & died in May 1891.
Around 1967, about 77 years later, Rufus and Alzona's granddaughters, Bonnie and Odessa (daughters of their son Levi), bought individual tombstones for their graves. They were inscribed with the year that they died. At that time they didn't know about their aunt, Nettie, who was buried beside her parents.
Edited from my book titled "The Family of James and Caroline Bell"