Like a lot of us entering our twilight years with a little extra time on our hands, we begin to develop an interest, or in my case, an obsession with our family history. Now that we have the likes of Google and the online genealogy websites, the task of researching our family trees becomes mere child play. Or is it?
Let me start by saying that I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s believing that I was one-quarter Native American – Blackfoot to be specific. My sisters and I were quite proud of this fact as it gave us certain bragging rights not accorded to our friends and classmates. After all, we were the true Americans and everyone else was just an immigrant. Besides that, it was really cool to be able to check off that box on all those applications stating that we were of Native-American ancestry. Surely that fact would give us an edge over the competition from those immigrants.
Our other claim to fame that we enjoyed was that our great great uncle was none other than that famous cowboy movie star from the silent-screen era, named Jack Hoxie. Surely you have heard of him. After all he paved the way for the likes of Hoot Gibson, Lash LaRoo, and Hopalong Cassidy. Still stumped? Well, if you’re stumped but interested, here is a link to his life history.
So, as I navigated through the branches of my family tree, I ran into a contradiction that is still unresolved despite logging countless hours of research to reconcile my predicament – a predicament which, as you will see, forms the basis for the title of this narrative.
It seems that there were two Joseph Hoxies that can each lay some historical claim to being the father of John Hartford “Jack” Hoxie and, incidentally, his older brother William Manon Hoxie, my great grandfather. The one fact that seems to be consistent and resolved is the identity of their mother. Her name was Matilda Emeline Quick, a half Nez Perce Indian, and my great great great aunt. That throws out the Blackfoot theory.
There is very little ancestral documentation on the first Joseph Hoxie. According to various online historical sites his name was Joseph H. “Bart” aka “Doc” Hoxie. He was a veterinarian born in 1824 and died in 1885 due to a horse accident just weeks before the birth of his son Jack. The only official corroborating evidence that I was able to uncover to verify the existence of “Doc” Hoxie is the 1880 US Census. That census listed a Joseph Hoxie as the married head of the house, age 56. His wife Matilda Quick Hoxie, age 18 was listed along with “Willie”, age 2, and Crawford, age 6 mos. It looks like Doc and Matilda got hitched when he was 53 and she was only 15. If this account was accurate, “Willie” would have been William Manon, my great grandfather. Aunt Matilda would go on to marry twice more, first to Calvin Scott Stone, and later to Oscar Jenkins. Before her passing in 1942, she had 5 more children, presumably with Calvin Stone.
Now it gets interesting. The second Joseph Hoxie was Dr. Joseph M. Hoxie, MD. All records indicate that he was born in 1839 and died in 1909. Most every family tree found in Ancestry.com lists Joseph M as having been married three times. The first marriage was to Maria Cecila Rust around 1859. They had 5 children.
Joseph M’s second wife is listed as (guess who?), Matilda Emeline Quick around 1877. They are shown as parents of the same three little Hoxies as those that Doc and Matilda claimed to have parented, with one more for good measure, which was George Edward.
Around 1886 Dr. Joe met and married his third wife – Henrietta Marie Graham. Together they had 5 children, the last one being Marvel R. Hoxie in 1900. Dr. Joe died in 1909 so he would have been 61 years of age at the birth of his last child. So if we are to believe that Dr. Joseph M. Hoxie was married to all three women as described above and sired all of the children listed in the various family trees, his total offspring count would have been 14. He was a busy guy.
There are a number of different scenarios that one could speculate on to reconcile this confusion. One semi-plausible one is that Dr. Joseph M did not marry Aunt Matilda at all and he just had the two wives, Maria Rust and Henrietta Graham. That would have meant that he only had 10 children between them, none of which would be related to me or my siblings. But if that is the case, how does one explain the childless gap between 1873 and 1887 for Dr. Joseph M?
The other scenario is that Joseph H. “Bart” aka “Doc” Hoxie did not exist at all. But it is that 1880 census data that keeps me believing that there is more than a shred of truth in the legend and existence of Bart “Doc” Hoxie, despite any record of his previous ancestors.
Then there is another scenario. Could Joseph H. and Joseph M. be the same guy? Did Bart “Doc” Hoxie really die in that horse accident in 1885? Could he have faked his death and go on to marry Henrietta Graham a year later in 1886? Did he alter his birth date from 1824 to 1839 when he met Henrietta? If so, he would have actually been 85 at his death in 1909 instead of 70 as previously supposed. Then there is that childless gap between Maria and Henrietta that somewhat supports the Matilda era.
So there you have it. The mystery remains unsolved. Unfortunately, those that may add some clarity to the two Josephs and Aunt Matilda story have all passed on. However, my dogged intellectual curiosity will not allow me to just let go and accept. But at least it’s nice to know that there is some smidgen of Native American blood in me, even though it has been reduced to 1/32 from ¼. And as my sister recently pointed out, the Nez Perce tribe was among the most peaceful Indians well known for the timely refuge they provided to the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1806. Thank you Aunt Matilda, wherever you are.