The Age Defying Levi H. Gorrell

Levi Henshaw Gorrell, Oldest resident at Kansas Masonic Home
Levi H Gorrell and Christopher F Chester, 1922 oldest and youngest residents at Kansas Masonic Home.


My second great grandfather, Levi Henshaw Gorrell, must have been an interesting guy to know.  He lived a long , active life that’s well documented in the Iola, Kansas newspapers.  Even at age 99, he was out working the farm, riding horses and being a worry to his children!  He was at varying times a blacksmith, a veterinarian and held numerous civic positions.  There are so many news clippings about him. He’s a genealogists dream. Almost. You see, there’s something about his age that just doesn’t make sense.  In 1922 the Masonic Home in Wichita Kansas was home to both the oldest and the youngest residents of Masonic homes in the state.  That’s Levi in the photo, at 100 years old.  They even threw him a big birthday party that made the paper. He made the paper again on his 104th birthday. The problem is that  Levi died on June 23, 1926.  In his obituary, his birthday is listed as Oct. 8, 1832. That makes him 94, so in 1922 he would only have been 90.  Still, pretty darn old for the era, but not exactly a centenarian.

Levi H Gorrell 104th Birthday Photo ClippingSo far, I’ve not found any documentation on his birth but what I I have seen include census records and newspaper articles with various dates; 1822,1831,1832, 1833,1838.  Now, I know our ancestors sometimes played fast and loose with dates, just like the spelling of names but this is just silly.  I keep looking for a birth record. One day it will turn up. In the meantime, I think of him as having a good laugh at us in 2014 trying to solve an old man’s birth date.

Rice C Darnell’s War of 1812 Service

My sister Janice (she’s my cohort in genealogy hunting) discovered our ancestor Rice C Darnell’s War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files at It’s a large 11 page file that answers several questions.

Rice enlisted  on the fourth Monday in July 1814 ( July 25th) at the Orange Courthouse as a private in Captain William Smith’s company of the Virginia Militia’s 1st Regiment, Crutchfield’s division. He was discharged on December 19, 1814 in Fredericksburg, VA without written documentation.    His brother, James F enlisted just days later in the same company.

But what about that mysterious connection to Anthony Wilkerson? On page five of the file, is a notation that Rice has become a substitute for the mysterious Anthony Wilkerson on October 10 1814. I’m not sure just how this might have worked at the time, but at least we now know the Rice was the substitute. Still no clue who Anthony is or why Rice became a substitute.

And as it always happens when doing research, discovering Rice’s file leads us to more questions. For instance, there is a document from 1855 involving one of the Ohio land bounty claims given to Rice. It’s witnessed by Archibald Darnell.  He appears no where in our family tree, well at least that we know of yet! Is he a relative? Did he just happen to be in the office when they needed a witness and isn’t connected at all?  Always something more….


Rice C Darnel of Orange County, Virginia

One of the challenges to documenting my Darnold ancestors  in the 1800s and earlier is that everyone seems to have just spelled names however they heard them. So there are many variations, all for the same family group. Take my 4th great grandfather Rice, for instance. I’ve found him as Darnel, Darnal, Darnell, Donald and even Daniel. Even his siblings have variations within the same documents!  By the time the name reached me, it’s now Darnold for my direct line.  Having lived in as many places as I have, I can easily hear the pronunciations of Darnell with varied accents.

Anyway, however it’s spelled or transcribed, there are lots of Darnell’s in Orange County, Virginia in the 1800’s.   But back to Rice.

Rice C Darnell is a very tricky man to hunt down.  Rice is the son of Moses Darnell and Frances Clarkson, born in about 1784 in Orange County, VA.  He married Mary “Polly” Ahart on Dec 25, 1804.   I suspect his middle name is Clarkson, following the tradition of naming first sons with the mother’s maiden name, but that’s just my hunch at this point.

Today I found muster cards and a pension record for him! There is just something about finding images of the actual paper that makes my heart sing.

Rice C Darnel War of 1812 Pension Record
Rice C Darnel War of 1812 Pension Record
 But now there is another rabbit hole to explore.

Darnel-Rice C War 1812 2 Service Cards

Who the heck is Anthony Wilkerson?  Is Anthony is a hired substitute?