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Catherine (Ream) Jennings


Catherine Ream was born in 1794 in Ursina, Somerset County, PA, the son of John and (?) Ream. It's possible that her mother was our (?) Minerd

Catherine married David Jennings (1790-1872). 


Map of Ursina, circa 1876

Their children were Isabelle Jennings, Clarinda Jennings and Catharine "Kate" Cullumber Ryan. 

The 1850 census shows this family dwelling in Lower Turkeyfoot Township, Somerset County. That year, David had no occupation.

When the federal census was enumerated in 1860, the Jenningses remained in Lower Turkeyfoot. Also under their roof were 28-year-old spinster Harriet Boucher and her children Allen S. (age 10), Jane (8), Louisa (5) and Mary (2) as well as 64-year-old Sarah Letts. That year, David worked as a farmer and Catherine as a spinster. Teenage daughter Catherine, Harriet Boucher and Sarah Letts also were seamstresses and spinsters.

For reasons not yet known, David relocated during the Civil War era to Doddridge County, WV, settling in the rural community of West Union. They may have followed their future son-in-law to West Union in his work as a telegraphy expert, but this needs to be confirmed.

In West Union, in June 1867, as his daughter Kate was preparing to marry Reuben Henry Ryan, David penned this note at the top of the marriage license document: "To the Recorder of any County in the State of West Virginia, upon the applicatin of R.H. Ryan you will please issue Marriage License for the said Ryan + my daughter Kate. My daughter Kate is of lawful age - but this is to give my full consent for the marriage of the above named parties."

In about 1869 or 1870, the Jenningses relocated west with their married daughter and son in law, Catherine and Reuben H. Ryan. They settled in Iowa in Tama, Tama County. David and Catherine are shown in the Ryan household in the 1870 census.

David died in Tama on May 5, 1872 at the age of 82.  His remains were interred in Tama's Oak Hill Cemetery.

Catherine survived him by 14 years. She passed into eternity in Tama on April 26, 1886, at the ripe old age of 94. Burial was in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Tama. [Find-a-Grave]

She is named in the booklet Reflections: Ursina 1787-1994 and in the 1884 History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania.


Old covered bridge in West Union, West Virginia


~ Daughter Isabelle Jennings ~

Daughter Isabelle Jennings (1836- ? ) was born in about 1836.

~ Daughter Clarinda Jennings ~

Daughter Clarinda Jennings (1838- ? ) was born in about 1838.

~ Daughter Catherine "Kate" (Jennings) Cullumber Ryan ~

Daughter Catherine "Kate" Jennings (1843- ? ) was born on May 12, 1843 in Somerset County, PA. She learned the skill of a seamstress and in 1860, at age 17, lived at home with her parents and was engaged in this work.

Research by Shelley Cardiel suggests that Catherine was twice married. Her first spouse is said to have been Abraham Cullumber (1835- ? ), a native of Hocking County, OH. Rev. Cal H. Lakin performed the ceremony, with witnesses including C.C. Davis, M.B. Jennings, I.N. McCormick, Howard Jennings, H.C. Foley, J.W. Steven and Hiram Jennings.

The couple resided in Somerset County and produced one son, David Ream Cullumber, born in 1861. How or why this marriage ended is unknown, and this all needs to be confirmed.

When in her early 20s, her marriage had ended, and Catherine made her home with her widowed father in West Union, Doddridge County, WV.

On July 1, 1867, when she was 24 years of age, she was joined in holy matrimony with 29-year-old Civil War veteran Reuben Henry Ryan (1836-1927), born in Erie County, OH, on the outskirts of Detroit, and the son of David and Mary Ryan. The ceremony took place in West Union.

At the time of marriage, Reuben was employed as a telegraph operator in the booming Ohio River town of Wheeling, Ohio County, WV. He stood five feet, four inches tall, with light hair, grey eyes and a light complexion. Reuben's father, an immigrant from Ireland, was a well known architect and builder who resided in Cleveland, and the mother was a native of Michigan.

The couple produced at least three children -- Earl Ryan, Charles Ryan and Norma J. Ferguson.


Above: soldiers stringing telegraph wires. Harper's Weekly, Jan. 24, 1863. Below: a field telegraph station during the war, from a stereoview image. Library of Congress.


As a 13-year-old circa 1849, Reuben left home and began to support himself. He learned the occupation of the newly emerging field of operating telegraph equipment for railroads. He is said to have been "one of the first telegraphers in the country to take the Morse code by ear," reported the Des Moines Register. While employed by the Grand Trunk Railway Company, during the Civil War, he learned of the horrific losses at the First Battle of Bull Run and decided to enlist. Said a profile in volume 2 of A History of Tama County, Iowa:


During the first two years and nine months of his service in the Civil war, Reuben H. Ryan was connected with the military, telegraph and signal corps of the army, subsequently joining the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, and although really a member of that command he was detailed at telegraphic work, so that often, for months together, he was not in connection with his regiment. His duties as an operator were often arduous and daring in the extreme, as he was obliged to act both as a telegrapher and a reporter of engagements at the front. It is evident that the government had a high appreciation of the services of this class of heroes, as a bill has been often advocated to retire them as captains, with an appropriate pension.

Including his term with the 8th Illinois Cavalry, Company B, Reuben spent four years and 22 days in the Union Army. While in the service in 1864, using an absentee ballot, he voted for Abraham Lincoln for president and tabulated his regiment's vote. He received an honorable discharge at Benton Barracks, MO in August 1865. "He then returned to his  Ohio home and remained there for only ten days, as he had an important errand which called him to Wheeling, West Virginia," said the History of Tama County. "Upon his arrival there he married Miss Catherine Jennings."

Following marriage, Reuben obtained a telegrapher position with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and in 1869, they dwelled in West Virginia, where their son Earl was born.

Circa 1869, Reuben decided to leave telegraphy, and the young family made the decision to migrate to the midwest, taking along Catherine's aged parents. The three-generation extended family moved to a new home in Iowa in Tama, Tama County. There, the 34-year-old Reuben earned a living as a merchant and quickly was elected mayor of the town. Census records for 1880 show them in Washington, Marshall County, IA, with Reuben continuing his work as a merchant, and Catherine's now-widowed mother remaining in the household.

Over the years, he was a Republican in politics, was a town councilman and school board director, and a member of the Masons of Belle Plaine, IA; the El Kahir Shrine of Cedar Rapids; and the DeMolay Consistory of Clinton, IA. He was commander and adjutant of the Theodore F. Bradford Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans organization, and belonged to the Methodist Church.

For 17 years, Reuben worked as a merchant and invested in his community. He is known to have provided funds as an incorporator of the Tama Hydraulic and Manufacturing Company in February 1874 to improve the quality of water drawn from the Iowa River. In 1886, he sold the business and returned to telegraphy with a new employer, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. He remained with the CM&SP for a dozen years, retiring in 1899.


Reuben's profile in the History of Tama County


He is named in the 1883 book History of Tama County, Iowa: Together with Sketches of Their Towns, Villages and Townships (Springfield, IL: Union Publishing Company).

Sadly, Catherine died at the age of 45 on Dec. 6, 1888 in Tama County. Her remains were lowered into repose in Oak Hill Cemetery in Tama. [Find-a-Grave]

The widowed Reuben returned to Tama in 1896, and census records for 1900 show him living there with his 20-year-old daughter Norma, a student. He made a living that year as a landlord.

On July 6, 1899, Reuben was awarded a federal military pension for his wartime service. [Invalid App. #1.231.323. - Cert. #1.041.511, C #2.538.925] Active in veterans' affairs, he was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and was one of scores of old soldiers to volunteer as "aides" to Department Commander D.J. Palmer.

During the presidential campaign of 1924, when candidates Calvin Coolidge and Charles Gates Dawes came through Tama on what newspapers called a "ballyhoo caravan," Reuben was asked to sign the roll of attendees. He was photographed doing so, and the image was published in the Des Moines Register.

By 1910, the 74-year-old Reuben made his home in Tama with his married daughter and son in law, Norma and Harry J. Ferguson. He was profiled at length in volume 2 of J.R. Caldwell's book A History of Tama County, Iowa (Chicago and New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1910).

When Reuben turned 90 in April 1926, a dinner was held at the home of his daughter Norma Ferguson, attended by "some of Mr. Ryan's 'boy friends'," reported the Des Moines Register. "Most of them were 'buddies of '61' and included past national G.A.R. commander, Judge James W. Willet of Toledo. Other guest included one man older than Mr. Ryan. He is Mayor Chauncey J. Stevens of Montour, who will be 92 on May 10." Other Civil War veterans attending the dinner were John Bard, commander of the T.J. Bradford Post of the GAR in Tama, John Winters, Hiram Bissell, Henry Dee, Andrew Harrison, L.H. Branne, J.M. Boardman and Matthew Quick.

Reuben passed away in a local hospital in Tama at the age of 91 on April 7, 1927. Burial was in Tama's Oak Hill Cemetery, with a one-paragraph obituary appearing in the Des Moines Register.

Son David Ream Cullumber (1861- ? ) was born in about 1861 in Somerset County.

Son Earl Ryan (1869- ? ) was born in about 1869 in West Virginia, likely in Wheeling. He is said to have married Sarah (?) and to have migrated back east to New Jersey and/or New York, where he earned a living as a broker.

Son Charles D. Ryan (1871- ? ) was born in 1871 in Iowa, probably in Tama, Tama County. He allegedly married Jessie (?) and had two sons. They seem to have relocated to New York but in 1910 were in Tonopah, Nevada, where he worked as a mining broker.


Harry's profile in the History of Tama County


Daughter Norma J. Ryan (1879- ? ) was born in December 1879, most likely in Washington, Marshall County, IA. At the age of 22, in about 1902, she was united in marriage with attorney Harry J. Ferguson ( ? - ? ), originally from New York, and the son of A. and Anna (McNair) Ferguson of Clarence, Cedar County, IA. They lived in Tama, where Harry began practicing law in 1901 following graduation from the University of Iowa, having earlier obtained a degree from Cornell College of Mt. Vernon, IA, and having taught school in Tama from the fall of 1896 to the spring of 1899. His first law office was in Sioux City, IA from July 1901 to November 1902, when he entered into a partnership with F.W. Sargent. The Fergusons had two known children, Jean Cathleen Ferguson and Robert Ryan Ferguson. In 1910, he was profiled at length in volume II of the book A History of Tama County, Iowa, compiled by J.R. Caldwell (Chicago and New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1910). Harry was a member of the Masons, the Modern Woodmen of America and the Methodist Church.

  • Granddaughter Jean Cathleen Ferguson (1907- ? ) was born in about 1907 in Iowa, probably in Tama, Tama County.
  • Grandson Robert Ryan Ferguson (1908- ? ) was born in about 1908 in Iowa, likely in Tama.


Copyright 2002, 2009, 2012, 2014-2016 Mark A. Miner