Telling my family's stories
Cynthia was born at the beginning of 1860, just a year before the Civil War started, in Michigan, a state she lived in, as far as I know, all her life Her parents were living, as they had for the previous 15-20 years, in the township of Hudson in Lenawee County. Lenawee County is in the southeastern corner of Michigan; if you drew a line from Detroit to Fort Wayne, the little towns of Adrian and Hudson would be almost perfectly halfway between them.
On the 1860 census, Cynthia was just six months old, and appears with her family in Hudson township. The head of the household is actually her uncle Silas Williams (mother’s brother), who’s a blacksmith. Her mother Cynthia Ann (Williams) Hinds, for whom she was named, is ten years older than her father William Hinds, and young Cynthia has two older half-sisters from her mother’s previous marriage to Stephen Graves: Rhoda, age 12; and Delia, age 11. Her father has no personal or real estate to be valued, according to the census, nor does he have an occupation — but these are only listed for heads of household on this census, so I’m not sure what to take from that, Although I’m pretty sure they weren’t very wealthy, since they’re living with relatives, after all! This is the only time we have a record of Cynthia with both her parents; in March of 1864, when Cynthia had just turned four, her mother died, possibly in childbirth, leaving Rhoda, Delia, Cynthia, and an almost-three-year-old son, William Henry Jr.
William quickly remarried, to another widowed parent, Jerusha Chilson (her married name), and by the time Cynthia was ten she had two half-brothers, Elias Edward and James C., as well as a step-sister, Lorena Chilson in the household. In the late 1880s, William married again, to Mary Kingsley, and had three more children, Mary E., Horace, W., and Carrie Louise. I don’t know where many of their descendants went – if you’re out there, I’d love to hear from you!
I sometimes wonder if Cynthia might not have gotten along so well with her step-mother — or perhaps she just wanted to see the world; but at some point in the 1870s, when she was just a teenager, she moved west across the state to the village of Paw Paw, in Van Buren County. I do know some of her mother’s family, the Williamses, were living in Van Buren County during the 1870s, so it’s definitely possible that she went with them — in fact, she may have been living in one of their households during that decade.
In Paw Paw, Cynthia was employed as a household servant in Alfred and Florena Mills’ family. I don’t know if she had some relation to the Mills family, but she ended up naming her eldest son Alfred, so I suspect they were close.
Cynthia also did sewing work for a local seamstress in the area, a woman named Caroline Waite. One day, Caroline’s nephew, Edgar Foster, who was a school teacher about Cynthia age, came to visit while Cynthia was working there, and they hit it off. On December 4, 1882, in Henry and Caroline’s house, Edgar and Cynthia were married.
Over the next seven years, four children were born to Edgar and Cynthia: Alfred James (b. 29 October 1883, d. 19 July 1947); Neita Cora (b. 6 June 1885, d. 15 December 1964); Nina Rose (b. 4 January 1887, d. December 1969); and Caroline Elizabeth (my great-grandmother, b. 21 May 1889, d. 10 May 1983). Shortly after Caroline’s birth, the family got their picture taken in Paw Paw:
Cynthia appears to have struggled for a long time with tuberculosis. Although they were active members of the Baptist Church in Paw Paw, with Cynthia serving in a variety of capacities, the family eventually left that church to become members of John Alexander Dowie’s faith-healing movement in Zion, Illinois in a desperate attempt to find healing for her. Although many new members moved to the communistic city, the Fosters did not until after Cynthia’s death in August of 1898.
Her death certificate list her cause of death as consumption; under “disease causing death, the doctor states “can not state positively.”
Consumption is also mentioned in her short death notice in the August 17, 1898 edition of The True Northerner newspaper.
Cynthia was buried in Prospect Hill cemetery in Paw Paw township, on the edge of town. Edgar subsequently moved to Zion and Chicago, and the children spread out across the country, so as far as I know, she is buried alone, which always makes me kind of sad.
I mentioned that Cynthia was named after her mother, Cynthia Ann Williams. You can see Cynthia-the-younger’s mother’s name in several places, including the 1860 census and the death certificate above. As it turns out, this was an old family name that comes down through the matrilineal line. Cynthia was the daughter of Shirley B. (I think the B. stands for Burr?) Williams and Hannah Bowker. For a long time, I had no idea who Hannah’s family was, but two of her children’s names – Cynthia, and Cynthia’s brother Silas Orsemus – gave a very large hint that Hannah was one of the unaccounted-for daughters of Daniel Bowker and Azubah Gregory. Daniel and Azubah had a daughter named Cynthia, and Daniel had a sister, and at least a couple of nieces, as well as more distant relatives, all named Cynthia.
For those of you interested in genetic genealogy: this hypothesis has been corroborated by recent DNA testing, with one of Cynthia (Hinds) Foster’s daughter’s daughters matching a descendant of one of Azubah Gregory’s sister’s descendants, via both autosomal and mtDNA testing. 🙂
Anyway, Cynthia’s brother, William Hinds, named his daughter Cynthia, and Cynthia’s daughter Caroline, named her youngest daughter Cynthia as well, a name she has always worn with honor as a family name! I really enjoy how the name has been passed down for over two centuries now!