Rufus Harry Darling (1857-1917)

Photo of Rufus Harry Darling

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 26 – Rufus Harry Darling (1857-1917)

Photo of Rufus Harry Darling
Rufus Harry Darling

It is just plain fun to research for some ancestors. I found that my wife’s great-grandfather Rufus was such an individual. Family legend said Rufus Harry Darling was a riverboat gambler and something of a cad so researching him would be interesting.

 Rufus was born on 30 June 1857 to Rufus Holton Darling and Elizabeth Jane Swayze in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the fifth child of Rufus and the sixth child of Elizabeth.[i] His
father was a prominent businessman and one of the early settlers in Kalamazoo. His
mother had a child from a previous marriage, was widowed and remarried.
Before Rufus was born one of his sisters, Eva, had died and another
was disabled. Less than a month after his birth his father died of consumption. His mother never remarried and it appears that he did not have much of a father figure in his life.
He entered the “First Division” (First Grade) of the Kalamazoo public schools in the 1863/64 school year and live in the family home at the northwest corner of Cedar and Rose Streets. It must have been a large
house and must have had several entrances because the address for the residence changes between Cedar and Rose quite frequently. The house no longer exists.
In 1870, Rufus was 13 years old, was attending school and
living with his mother and sister Emily. Rufus continued in school until at
least 1876 when he was not only a student but also worked as a clerk.
His father had the contract for building the Michigan Central railway from Michigan City through to Grass Lake in 1845 and later worked as an abstract clerk for the Michigan Central Railroad (MCRR). We know
that in 1880, Rufus Harry was living in the 42 Rose Street house and was working as a clerk, but we do not know where. In addition, in 1880, Rufus was “away” during the census taking. We do know that in 1887, young Rufus was working as an abstract clerk for the MCRR, as his father did thirty years earlier and
was living at 207 N. Edwards Street (which is probably the parking lot of the current Kalamazoo Beer Exchange).
In June of 1889, Rufus married. We do not know her name nor do we know if they had any children. In any event, for the next few years Rufus bounced between Kalamazoo, Chicago, and Kansas City. Back in the late 1800’s,
there were sometimes floating poker games that were on the trains. This may have been where he started the gambling practice. In 1894, Rufus resigned his position with the MCRR and “went to Texas.” I haven’t found anything that places him in Texas during those years, but he does seem to bounce between Kalamazoo and Kansas City.
In 1898 his wife died and the 1900 census finds him alone in
Kansas City. Sometime between 1900 and 1905, Rufus met the young Hannah McAllister. I say “young Hannah” because she was 27 years younger than Rufus. Family legend says they met down on the docks in Pittsburgh. Young Hannah had a daughter, Elizabeth, by Rufus in March of 1906. She quickly became pregnant again, and in February of 1907 the two married in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, (about 40 miles up the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh).[ii] In August of 1907 their second child Robert Harry was born. It is interesting to note that there was a family legend that Elizabeth had been born on the “wrong side of the sheets” (out of wedlock), an assertion that Elizabeth refuted. It appears that Elizabeth even doctored a copy of the marriage certificate to indicate that Harry and Hannah married in 1905 instead of 1907 as the state’s copy of the certificate indicates.
Marker Rufus H Darling

It doesn’t appear that Rufus was around much. None of the
surviving photos of Anna (who changed her name from Hannah to Anna when she married Rufus so she could sign things “A. Darling”) include Rufus. In addition, the 1910 Census indicates that Rufus is at the Curtis Hotel, 10th & Broadway, Kansas City while his wife and children were roomer in a house in Pittsburgh.

Anna (Hannah) died in 1913 leaving the children to be raised by her mother. Rufus died on June 8, 1917 and was buried at the Mountain Home Cemetery in Kalamazoo. [iii]
In my research, I found nothing to refute the family legend
of Rufus being a gambler and a cad and it certainly appears that he had an
interesting life.
[i] Michigan, Dept of Public Health, Death
Certificate, Rufus H. Darling – Death June 5, 1917. . http://seekingmichigan.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p129401coll7/id/123256.;
Seeking Michigan.
[ii] Pennsylvania County Marriages, 1885 – 1950, FamilySearch.org, Rufus Darling & Anna
McAlister. https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VFWR-89N.
[iii] Find a Grave –  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=30754148

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