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 John Okins

John Okins

Bedford, Bedford Borough, Bedfordshire, England
Death 9 Feb 1878 (aged 44)
Sacred Heart, Renville County, Minnesota, USA
Burial Renville County, Minnesota, USA
Memorial ID 33275424 · View Source
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John Okins was born in Bedofrd, England in 1834 to Eli and Charlotte (Porter) Okins. His surname was originally Akens and had been changed to Okins by his grandfather William, who was a farmer.

In 1850, John's father Eli left England and arrived at Albany, New York. He was later joined by his family, including his wife and six other children besides his son John: Josiah, Mary Ann, Maria, Sarah, James, and Lucy. The family is listed in the 1855 Census for Albany, New York.

In 1856 the family started for Minnesota. They came by train as far as La Crosse, then took a steamboat from there to Reed's Landing. They traveled by foot and by ox team the rest of the way to Olmsted county, where they pre-empted 160 acres at Oronoco, 10 miles north of Rochester. It was mostly timber land and there were no buildings on the place. A small frame building was erected, 12 by 16 feet, but later replaced by a better dwelling. Eli and his sons began with an ox team and cleared the land, improving the farm. In the 1857 Census for Olmsted County, Eli and his son John are listed as separate heads of the household. By this time, John was working on his own as a laborer.

In 1861, the US Civil War broke out. John had registered for the draft and on on Oct. 11, 1861, he mustered into the service as a Private in Company K of the 3rd Minnesota Infantry.

He was transferred to Company K of the 23rd Veteran Reserve Corps on Nov. 18, 1863. By this time, his younger brother James was 18 years of age and enlisted in the service. On Feb. 26, 1864, he was mustered into the same company and regiment John had originally joined -- Company K of the 3rd Minnesota Infantry.

Sometime during April of 1864, John was transferred to the Invalid Corps at Ft. Snelling in Minneapolis, Minn. That fall, on Oct. 27, 1864, he married his sweetheart Armina Keziah Jenne at Oronoco, Minn. Their daughter Bertha was born Feb. 11, 1866, and their son Elliott Marvin was born on Nov. 6, 1869.

John had to file for his Civil War pension on Dec. 26, 1871 as an invalid. This same year, the grasshopper plague began in Minnesota and destroyed all the crops. The "grasshopper years" lasted until 1874. By this time, John and his family were living in Northfield, Minn., where they were recorded in the 1875 census. John's father Eli had moved to this area in 1864, but had relocated to section 14 of Sacred Heart township in the spring of 1868. Eli built a log house on this land and lived there until his death in 1873. His son James and his family lived in this same area.

During his final years, John and his family apparently moved to the Sacred Heart area as well. He died in Sacred Heart township on Feb. 9, 1878, and was buried at the Vicksburg Cemetery in Renville County.

The small town of Vicksburg had been founded during the 1860's near Renville, Minn. The town got its name from the Battle of Vicksburg, which took place at Vicksburg, Mississippi during the Civil War. Little Vicksburg was one of the earliest villages established in Renville county. It had a church, a school, a post office, general store, wagon shop, sawmill, and blacksmith shop. When you needed to cross the Minnesota river, you could take the ferry, which was located where the bridge now stands.

The town church was the First Christian Church, built on the hill north of the town site on land donated by Simeon Burch. The post office was open from 1871-1901. Once the railroad bypassed the town, it no longer flourished. Gradually, the remaining settlers and businesses moved to Renville, where the railroad ran through, or to other nearby communities. By 1906, the town was completely abandoned. After services were discontinued, the church building was converted into a home.Today, only the small cemetery remains. Cement slabs where buildings once stood can be seen at the town site, which is now part of Vicksburg County Park, formerly named Renville County Park #2.

For years after the town was abandoned, the cemetery was not maintained. Youth from the local small towns liked to tell ghost stories about the town or cemetery. These stories persisted through the next generations. Today, a Google search will result in web pages that list Vicksburg as a ghost town and the cemetery as paranormal or haunted. This contributes to disrespect and vandalism of the site by people who visit the cemetery for the wrong reasons.

Descendants of pioneers such as John Okins who were buried in the cemetery are still living. The family of John Okins had recently worked with the US Veterans Administration to have a military marker installed at his grave site. By the time a photograph had been taken of his marker at the Vicksburg Cemetery, it had already been destroyed by vandals.

Sources: Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1879-1903 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. 1841 England Census.Class: HO107; Piece: 7; Book: 1; Civil Parish: Bolnhurst; County: Bedfordshire; Enumeration District: 7; Folio: 3; Page: 2; Line: 3; GSU roll: 241195, Eli Okins and family. 1851 England Census, Class: HO107; Piece: 1751; Folio: 6; Page: 5; GSU roll: 87674-87675, John Okins.

Curtiss-Wedge, Franklyn. History of Renville County, Minnesota, Vol. 1, H. C. Cooper Jr, & Co., Chicago (1916), pages 311-312.

Curtiss-Wedge, Franklyn. History of Renville County, Minnesota, Vol. 2, H. C. Cooper Jr, & Co., Chicago (1916), pages 1331, 1333.

Minnesota Censuses: 1857 Territorial Census, Olmsted, Minn. (Eli Okins and John Okins), 1860 Minn. Census for Oronoco, Olmsted County (Ely Okins), 1865 Minn. Census for Oronoco, Olmsted County, Minn. (John Okins); 1875 Census for Northfield, Rice County, Minn. (John Okins)

National Archives and Records Administration. U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000. (John Okins, James Okins)

National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006 [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: National Cemetery Administration. Nationwide Gravesite Locator.

US Federal Censuses: 1855 Albany, Albany County, New York (Eli Okins and family)

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  • Created by: Cindy K. Coffin
  • Added: 26 Jan 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 33275424
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Okins (19 Jan 1834–9 Feb 1878), Find A Grave Memorial no. 33275424, citing Vicksburg Cemetery, Renville County, Minnesota, USA ; Maintained by Cindy K. Coffin (contributor 47084179) .