Before my grandmother died, my Uncle encouraged her to write out her life
story, which was a very good idea. She wrote about 100 pages of her
history, what life was like growing up on a farm in West Virginia, and as
much family history as she knew.
A couple years ago, I transcribed her handwritten sheets and started doing
some genealogical research to flesh out her descriptions. My eventual
goal would be to put it into book form, with copious annotations and a
comprehensive family tree.
There is a particular relative that she talks about a fair amount, and
that is Henry Dunkle, my great-great-great grandfather.
The story she tells is that he was born to a woman whose name was probably
Sarah Edens (daughter of Edward Edens, Sr., one of the first settlers
there) and a man who may have also been named Henry Dunkle. The father
ran off as soon as he discovered “Sarah” was pregnant. Henry grew up to
be a schoolteacher. He eloped with a 15 year old student in a rowboat
down the Ohio in January. She died from pneumonia 3 days after they were
married. He returned to the Davis Creek area of West Virginia and
continued as a schoolteacher. He is mentioned as being the first county
superintendant of the first Barboursville Free School in a history of the
area in 1867. He married a “distant” cousin, Catherine Edens, and had some
kids. He died during the 1913 flood of the area. His journal he had kept
his entire life was washed away in that flood as well.
So that’s my grandmother’s story.
However, on the web, I found someone who had transcribed all the
tombstones in the Edens and Dunkle cemetary in WV, and it says that Henry
C. Dunkle’s (1838-1913) parents were James and Permilia(?). It also says
that his wife, Mary “Catherine” Edens was the daughter of Edward Edens,
So either he married his aunt and they got his parents wrong on the
tombstone, or my grandmother got some wires crossed.
So, I really want to solve these 150 year old mysteries. Who were Henry’s
parents? Did his father skip town? Who was the 15 year old he eloped
with? Why on earth would the school system hire this guy (who ran off
with one of his students to her eventual demise) to be superintendent?
Were they that hard up for teachers?
And if my grandmother is mixing up her stories, who do the stories
My first step was to write a letter to the West Virginia Archives in
Charleston, WV requesting a copy of the West Virginia School
Journal from 1867, which is supposed (according to my grandmother) to
have a picture of Henry and an article about him. Perhaps they have an
explanation of why they hired a pedophile.