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Sarah Ellen Ward Ridley Branson

  • Birth 1852
  • Death 1879
  • Burial Non-Cemetery Burial, Specifically: Buried on what was the Ridley farm in Walnut Creek Township, (now Horton) Kansas
  • Memorial ID 15937346

Sarah Ellen Ward Ridley is a great mystery to me. She was my great, great grandmother, and in my genealogy research, I've found a lot of conflicting information about her, and, unfortunately, I've exhausted all leads and will probably never know more about her. In fact, there's very little evidence that she ever existed.

The only thing I'm certain of is that she and David Branson had three children: Hiram A. Branson B: 1879 MO; George Irvin Branson B: Jan. 7, 1873 D: May. 8, 1921; William H. Branson B: Mar. 19, 1876 D: Oct. 5, 1916.

According to Federal Census records, she was born in California; however, other records list Kansas as her place of birth. Even her maiden name is a mystery. On her son George Branson's death certificate, informant Mertie Defields, George's wife, said that Sarah was born in Kansas and that her maiden name was "Ward." However, Sarah married David Branson in Denver Worth County, on 02 Apr 1867 and on that record, her maiden name is listed as "Gridley."

However, She and David were living in the home of Ruhás and Elizabeth Ridley in Brown County, Walnut Creek Township, Kansas, according to the 1870 Federal Census, so the logical assumption is that her maiden name was Ridley.

Ridley, originally from Maine, could have been her father or he might have adopted her in or along the trail to California. Like so many others, he went out West looking for gold. Still, I strongly believe that Sarah was Native American. Look at my Grandfather's photo, and you'll see why. Also, there are a lot of Wards on the Cherokee registry who descended from the famous Nancy Ward. In my research, I also learned that a Sarah Ellen Ward (Loomis) was orphaned along the Oregon Trail when her mother died in childbirth and her father drowned in the river, but I recently learned from her descendents that this is not the same Sarah Ellen Ward.

And who "my" Sarah was--a Ward, a Gridley, or a Ridley--remains a mystery. Her identity has perhaps been purposely hidden due to Native American ancestry or maybe due merely to the poor record keeping of the time. A lot of people were illiterate, including David Branson, which accounts for some of the discrepancies in the records.

I recently went to Hiawatha, Kansas, the Brown County seat, hoping to learn more about Sarah, or the Ridleys whom she lived with, but I came away empty-handed. No records about her or the Ridleys existed.

Unfortunately, early Kansas records are scarce, and most of the tombstones in the small cemeteries that were scattered through out Brown county were destroyed by vandalism. Some of the graves from these small cemeteries were later moved to Dunkard Cemetery.

All I know is that Sarah died before 1880 at a very young age, probably from child birth or an infectious disease such as cholera. Ruhas Ridley probably died before 1880 as well, as he too disappears from all records after that time.

David Branson was living in Washington, Brown, Kansas, according to the 1880 Federal Census, as a farm laborer at another household, and he'd sent the children home to Denver, MO, where they lived with family. In 1883, he married Nancy Walker; however, she didn't live long either. In 1900, David was living in his son George's home in Denver, MO and is listed on census records as a widow.

David died in 1909 and was buried at the Hoblett Cemetery in Denver, Mo. The inscription on his tomb says: "Son of Valentine and Sarah."

With his death, Sarah's history was lost as well. She's buried somewhere in Walnut Township (now part of Horton, Kansas) on what was the Ridley Farm, and she has no tombstone or grave marker. This bothers me very much, and so I wanted to tell the world about her here so that, though her body is lost, she and her life will be remembered.

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  • Created by: Bobette
  • Added: 29 Sep 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 15937346
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sarah Ellen Ward Ridley Branson (1852–1879), Find A Grave Memorial no. 15937346, ; Maintained by Bobette (contributor 46842310) Non-Cemetery Burial, who reports a Buried on what was the Ridley farm in Walnut Creek Township, (now Horton) Kansas.