There is an interesting history of Meigs County, Tennessee here. Organized in 1836, Meigs County is in the middle of the Tennessee Valley and lies along the Tennessee River, which makes up its western border. In the south, it is divided by the Hiwassee River. The Bouchers and the McClanahans lived near the Hiwassee River. This area belonged to the Cherokee Nation and was not available for settlement until 1836. It is the scene of the tragic Trail of Tears that displaced this people from their ancestral home.
Image credit for Trail of Tears by Robert Lindneux, 1942, to the Granger Collection, New York.
Hester and Elisha Boucher were married on 6 March 1845, probably in Meigs County or a nearby county in Tennessee. They had four children: Anna Jane, born 23 August 1846; William Robert, born 21 February 1848; Amanda Malvina born August 1852; and Samuel White, born 22 April 1854. Samuel is our ancestor.
Our first encounter with Hester is on the 1850 U. S. Census for Meigs County, Tennessee, as the wife of Elisha Boucher. The other McClanahan families living in the area were Mason and John, who were probably brothers to Hester and Hannah. In 1850, Elisha and Hester were living next door to his parents, William and Anna. It is interesting that he named his first two children Anna Jane and William. On the 1860 Limestone, Meigs County census, Elisha was still living next door to William. Elisha's personal property was valued at $375, while William had property worth $2000 and personal property of $942. It appears that William owned the land and they worked together to farm it.
They were still living in Meigs County during the Civil War. Tennessee seceded from the Union in 1861, although East Tennessee where they lived, did not favor the decision. There were few slaveholders in their area. Many men from Meigs County, like Elisha Boucher, enlisted in the Union Army. Elisha served from 1862 to 1865. Meigs County was not the scene of any battles, but it was the route used by both armies as they moved back and forth. Since it was located along the Tennessee River, and the river with its steamboats was important to the war, there was always an army marching through and camping in the area. Elisha's decision left Hester to care for the family and their home. It was a difficult time in that county, and when the war was over, the land was worth nothing, having been trampled down by both armies, every available piece of wood used for camp fires and not much of value remaining. The good news was that Elisha returned home to his family when the war was over.
On 24 February 1867, daughter Anna Jane married Joseph Romine in Bradley County, adjacent to Meigs County. Amanda and Harrison Hickman married on 20 March 1870. Harrison was from Bradley County.
Like many other Meigs County families who struggled after the Civil War, the Bouchers decided to move west. On 26 April 1870, Elisha deeded 135 acres of land in Meigs County to Robert Boucher. Then he took his family who were still living at home and joined a wagon train to Missouri. They started their trip on May 2nd. Along the way, he wrote letters to his children in Tennessee, telling them of the trip and encouraging them to also move to Missouri so that the family could remain together. He had a good team and wagon, and the resources, probably from the sale of his land, to pay the necessary fees and costs along the way. Their destination was Howell County, Missouri, where Joseph and Hannah McClanahan Bracket lived. One such letter was written on 15 May 1870 from Sumner County, Tennessee and is included here. Punctuation and capitalization have been added for easier reading, but the spelling is as he wrote it.
Dear son and daughter, with pleasur I take the present opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know that we are well at present, hoping these few lines may reach you and find you all well and doing well. We started the 2nd day of May. We have been hindered some on the way. There is 7 waggons in our train. Miller has 4 and George Russel one, Martin Turner one and me one. We are 9 miles past Galiton on the Red River road. My expences has been more than I expected. Turnpikage cost me 25 cts evry 5 mile. I paid 435 turnpikes, feed for my team cost about 125 cts per day, beside the family. We travel from 14 to 18 miles a day. The fore part of las week was very wet. We got our thing wet. We are resting to day and suning our things that is wet.On the 1876 state census for Texas County, in South Central Missouri, Hester was living with her son, Samuel. Elisha got his family to Missouri, where he died on 14 March 1871. All of their children had come to Missouri as well. Joseph and Anna Jane Romine had six children and eventually settled in Willow Springs, Howell, Missouri. Amanda and Harrison Hickman were also near Hester on the 1876 census for Texas County. They had a large family of nine children and settled in Crawford County, Missouri. Samuel married Rossea Whitlock Wellington on 27 May 1877 in Texas County where she lived with her father, George Whitlock. She was a divorced woman with a daughter named Pearl. They had three sons together, one who died; and they also ended up in Willow Springs. Samuel and Rossea are our ancestors. William married Alberta Moore on 17 March 1878 and they had three children.
Well I want you to write us and direct your letter to Joseph Brackett, West Plains PO, Howel Co, Misouri so we can hear from you as soon as we get there. We expect to stop in Howel Co and look at the country. If we like and can get land to suit us we will stop there. If not we will go further.
Well Jo, I want you and Jane to not go to any expence to fix for housekeeing untell you find out how things is in Misouri. If I like in MO I want you to come. Billy will come. Harry and Manda says they will come next fall. I want all my children together where I can see them once more. That is one cause of my sellout and move. It is ahard toil on me and Hetty.
We have 2 good yoke of young steers and a good waggon. We are getting along tollerable well. Will rest evry Sunday if we can get feed for our stock so we can stay. I wrote to Mandy last Sunday.
Well Jane, your mother is taking a great toil on herself to try to get to her children. Says she don't know how she can stand it tell fall and not see you and the children and Billy, but I don't see any chance for her to see you before fall. I will not have money enough to bear my expence further than Misouri. I will write to you when I get to MO and I will tell you what I think that country.
If I have no bad luck and you want to come to us I will come after you with my waggon. I have a good cover and tent cloth so we can sleep dry of a wet night. Write soon as you get this. I want to hear from you as soon as we get to Jo Bracket's. So I must close for this time. I have to write a letter to Billy to day.
Elisha & Hester Boucher to Jo & A. J. Romines-
Show this to Fate and Frank.
Hester lived to see all her children married. She died on 23 May 1879. Both she and her husband were Methodists all their lives.