I’ve been wanting to get back to the Koontz genealogy for a while, so here we go. You may recall that our Cicero Baxter Koontz (“Papa”) married Nancy Jane (“Rosa”) Rice in 1886 in Paola, KS. What do we know about her family? Well, not a lot, but we do have some interesting details. Rosa was born in Osawatomie, KS in 1869 to Catherine (Dedrick) and Thomas Desom Rice. We believe this is a photo of Thomas:
Although Thomas was born in Arkansas, his family had come originally from Davidson Co., NC (the same as Papa’s Koontz line), although many years earlier. In 1854 Thomas’ brother, Henderson Rice, and father (Thomas, Sr.) had begun the first settlement in Mound Creek, KS. Here is a photo of Henderson Rice:
We don’t know if Thomas was with them or not, but it is likely that he was. Henderson became the 1st Postmaster there in 1860 and even became a member of the State Legislature by 1862, but Thomas was nowhere to be found in our research. After some searching, we found him in 1860 — in the gold mines of California — he was a stonemason in Kelsey, El Dorado, CA. That apparently didn’t “pan out” for Thomas, because he was back in Kansas to marry Catherine Dedrick by December of 1861.
Henderson was a member of the Kansas Militia and was in the Battle of Westport in 1864. He was opposed to slavery and his political career was geared towards making Kansas a free state. We haven’t found any evidence of Thomas’ involvement in the military, however.
Sadly, Thomas’ life didn’t last very long — when he rode by horseback to a meeting one night, in slightly damp clothing according to family lore, he came down with pneumonia, and died in 1872.
Thomas and Henderson’s father was Thomas Rice, Sr., born about 1800. His wife was Elizabeth Wood, also of Davidson Co., NC. They had moved out of North Carolina by 1825 and lived in various states along the way, it’s been said, in order to vote “Free State” along the way — Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. There is a paper trail on this family all the way from North Carolina to Kansas. All are buried in the Mound Creek Cemetery near Beagle, KS.
Thomas, Sr., was a poet, it seems. We don’t have any of his poems to enjoy his wit from, but apparently his best one was called “Old Royal the One Eye.” It appears that the grandfather was also a Thomas, but sadly, we have not been able to trace the Rice family definitely much in North Carolina, although DNA results show a possible connection to Governor Nathaniel Rice, the Colonial Governor of North Carolina.
Before we leave the Rice family, there is one odd coincidence that I found. Henderson Rice’s granddaughter was Mary Ellen Fresh, wife of Joseph Simon Long. I believe they met in the gold towns of Colorado. They had a son, Edgar Harris Long who married Blanche Graham in, of all places, my home town of Buffalo, WY! That’s right –so we have cousins buried right here at Willow Creek Cemetery! How coincidental is that? In all my family research I never expected to find anyone buried here in this small community. And to make it more interesting, I was already friends with their daughter-in-law, Ruth, whom was just as surprised as I was to find out we were (distant) cousins!