For the final month of 2023 the prompt is “New Horizons”. The first person who popped into my head is a relative who is not a direct ancestor for myself, but someone I’ve been curious about learning more about. Her name is Rachel Snell Morgart, she is the younger sister of my 2nd-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart. She was born in Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania and made her way to North Dakota to teach.
Rachel Snell Morgart was born 24 February 1863 to Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal in Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. She was named after her father’s older sister, Rachel Morgart, who married William Snell. Rachel was the 8th of 10 children to her parents, her siblings including Katherine Amanda, George Washington, Mary Elizabeth, Rebecca Jane, Arabelle, James Henry, Sarah Ellen, William Baltzer, and Ida Florence.
When Rachel was just 7 years old, her father died 19 August 1870.
Not much is written about Rachel in the newspapers to find out what her life was like after her father died. I did find an article from 13 September 1881 stating that she scored a 91 3-5 attending the Prof Bachtel English and Classical Institute.
I then decided to find out what kind of school this Institute was, and so I found this, and it may have been a similar article in the newspaper that convinced Rachel to attend.
The other puzzle is how Rachel ended up undergoing instruction in Bedford County, Pennsylvania and ending up in North Dakota as the next document I can find her in is the 1885 Dakota Territory Census where she is listed as a teacher. In the 11 April 1883 the Everett Press lists how they had received a copy of the North Dakota version of the Daily Minnesota Tribune to review. I tried to see if this was a part of Newspapers.com or even Genealogybank.com but I did not find the newspaper listed. I was curious to see if there was any sort of advertisement for teachers.
By continuing to use newspapers I was able to discover that Rachel taught at the Ypsilanti and Montpelier schools in what was originally the Dakota Territory as North Dakota did not become a state until 1889. I found her with the following timeline:
- 1885 – Listed on the Dakota Territory 1885 Census
- 1886 – Teaching at Ypsilanti
- 1887 – Teaching at Montpelier School #5
- 1888 – Teaching at Montpelier School #2 (she had 15 students)
In the Dakota Territory school began in late April and went for 6 months. In some winters Rachel attended the Valley City Normal School for additional instruction, in the winter of 1887 she returned to Pennsylvania and visited with her family.
Marriage & Family
On 31 July 1895 Rachel Snell Morgart married Daniel Halfpenny.
After getting married children came, daughters to be exact, 4 of them over the course of 10 years. First was Dorothy Evangeline who was born 8 June 1896, then Ruth Morgart born 1 April 1901, and finally twins born on 7 May 1906 Margaret Rebecca and Mary Kathryn.
All 4 girls took on teaching as their vocation at some point in their lives. Ruth Morgart and Mary Kathryn lived their entire lives in the North Dakota area, (Mary Kathryn actually lived her final years in Montana). Dorothy Evangeline and Margaret Rebecca both ended up moving to the San Diego area.
Reverend Daniel Halfpenny died on 21 January 1928 at the age of 75. Within 10 years on 29 September 1937 his bride would die from injuries she sustained in a car accident earlier in the month when her back broke in two places.
Ever since I discovered a couple of years ago from a distant cousin who descended from Rachel Snell Morgart of her journey, she has intrigued me. I wish I had more information in regard to her move to North Dakota, it amazes me that no newspaper was impressed with her moving across the country. I tried to see if she had any siblings that may have gone that way and maybe she tagged along, but that is not the case. Her brother, William Baltzer, does end up settling in Idaho, but was living in West Virginia in the 1880’s when Rachel moved to North Dakota. Such gumption she had to do such a thing. And it was a decade before she married, simply amazing!
Did you have any sort of “pioneers” in your family tree? If you do I’d love to know where they went, and if they didn’t go anywhere, maybe they did something that made them a pioneer. Share your ancestor in the comments.