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Erie Cemetery History Project

Rev. Clara Celestia (Hale) Babcock (1850-1924)
Isreal R. Babcock (1847-1926)

One Sunday morning in 1888, a woman named Clara Celestia (Hale) Babcock spoke in Erie on behalf of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. After hearing her speak, the congregation of Erie Christian Church chose her to be its minister. She was ordained into the ministry that year, and preached in Erie for the next 15 years. She was the first woman ordained in her denomination. This page contains information on Mrs. Babcock and her husband, Isreal, from several sources.

From the Erie Independent (December 19, 1924):

Rev. C.C. Babcock
A Beloved Woman of Erie
Passes Away -- 25 Years in the Ministry

A gloom of sadness was cast over our community last Friday evening when the announcement was made that Mrs. C. C. Babcock had passed away after an illness of seven weeks. These few words chronicle the death of a beloved woman of Erie who gave the best of her life for the salvation of others.

Her life, her work in Erie and elsewhere is the most fitting and lasting eulogy that could be written of this noble woman. Beloved by the community she was always a welcome visitor to their homes or social gatherings as her presence acted as an inspiration to all. She was always ready and willing to assist in any undertaking for the good of the community. As a member of the Woman's club she took great pride in this organization and was ever ready to assist when called on. Her life, her works are a monument that will live in the memory of all who knew her.

To the man, woman or child, saint or sinner, she always extended a cordial greeting, that lent a ray of light to brighten their pathway in the journey of life. She comanded the respect of all sects and classes of people, as the attendance at her funeral verified.

"We bent today o'er a coffined form,
And our tears fell softly down;
We looked our last on the aged face,
With its look of peace, its patient grace
And hair like a silver crown.

Funeral services were held Monday afternoon at the Christian Church which was filled to the limit. The Woman's club, Ladies Aid society and the woman's auxiliary of the K.K.K. attended in a body. The floral offerings were beautiful and profuse. Friends came from Dixon, Ia., Clinton, Sterling, Savanna and other places to attend the funeral. The service was conducted by Rev. A.C. Stoew, pastor of the Christian church at Clinton, Ia., who preached the funeral discourse. Rev. Grimwood read the scripture, Rev. Yemm gave prayer and Rev. Kratzer read the obituary. The singing was by a quartet composed of Misses Cleora Coster and Nettie Hubbart, Fred Sterenberg and Lee Coster, pianist, Mrs. Clara Brown. The bearers were John and Bert Thompson, John and Edgar Florence, Allen Pratt and Franz Hubbart. The Erie K.K.K. escorted the funeral procession from the church to the cemetery. The arrangements were in charge of Turner and Slaymaker.

Mrs. Clara Celestea Hale-Babcock was born in Fitchville, Ohio, May 31, 1850, and passed away at her home in Erie, Ill., Dec. 12, 1924. Her life has been one of service to her Master and her fellowmen. She was ordained to the ministry in 1888, and took up the work in Erie serving as pastor fifteen years, worked with the Thomson church nine years, LeClaire church twelve years, organized a church at Rapid City, served the Dixon, Ia., church nine years and Ellendale, North Dakota, 3 years. She was married to Isreal R. Babcock on Aug. 9, 1865, to this union six children were born, five boys and one girl, of which only one son, Ernest, remains.

She was taken sick in January and obliged to give up her work in Dixon. Regaining her strength she wished once more to be about her Father's business and the church at Savana called her. She took up the work in July and was taken sick at the Sunday evening services after having administered baptism to two candidates, making 1,502 she had buried in baptism, remining, as she said she wished, "in the harness until the end."

Those surviving are: her husband, one son Ernest and wife and 4 children of Clinton, IA., Mary E. Babcock, widow of her eldest son Arthur, and three children, at Fort William, Can., Adelbert Babcock, half brother of Kewanee, Ira Babcock, half brother of Canada, Katherine Perkins of Erie, who has been as a daughter and in whose home she has lived most of the time for the past twenty-five years.

From the Erie Independent, 1926

Laid at Rest
Funeral of I.R. Babcock --- Obituary

Mr. I.R. Babcock, well known resident of Erie, died at the home of his son, Ernest Babcock, in Clinton, Iowa, Tuesday afternoon. The remains were brought to Erie that evening to the undertaking parlors. The funeral was held here Thursday afternoon from the Christian church, the services being conducted by Rev. A.C. Stowe of Clinton. The music was rendered by Mrs. Ebberts and Mrs. Ed Florence with Mrs. Brown pianist. The American Legion members acted as pallbearers and escorted remains to the cemetery where full military services was given. Turner and Slaymaker had charge of the arrangements.

Isreal R. Babcock was born in Truxton, Cortland County, New York, Jan. 15, 1847, died September 7, 1926. He was a son of Benjamin H. and Catherine Mitchel Babcock. He was married to Clara Celestia Hale Babcock on Aug. 9, 1865. She preceded him in death Dec. 12, 1924. To this union six children were born, five boys and one girl, of which only one son, Ernest R. remains. Those surviving are one brother Elon G. and his two children of Fort William, Ontario, son Ernest R. and wife, four grandchildren, Mrs. H.A. Moesinger, James, Sara and Virginia Babcock and one great-grandson Arthur Moesinger of Clinton, Iowa, Mary E. widow of eldest son Arthur and three grandchildren, Roy, Vernie and Florence of Fort William, Canada, two nephews, Ira J. Babcock of Fort William, Canada and Adelbert D. Babcock of St. Johns, Michigan, and Katherine Perkins of Erie, Illinois, who has been as a daughter and with whom he made his home for several years.

He was a Civil War Veteran, enlisted in Co. A 34th Illinois Infantry and served three years.

Researching the Babcocks

By Donovan W. Hannis

The obituaries of Israel and Clara Celestia (Hale) Babcock include an interesting puzzle: Two men listed as brothers on Mrs. Babcock's obituary are listed as Mr. Babcock's surviving nephews. Searching the ancestry of the Babcocks in an attempt to answer this question offers a great opportunity to look at the fortunes of a family that migrated West during Erie's early years.

When she died in 1924, Mrs. Babcock's survivors included two half-brothers, Adelbert Babcock of Kewanee and Ira Babcock of Canada. Mr. Babcock's obituary of 1926 lists surviving nephews Ira J. Babcock of Fort William, Ont., Canada, and Adelbert D. Babcock of St. Johns, MI. The obvious conclusion is that Clara Babcock's mother at some time married her future husband's brother. However, proving that theory is no easy matter.

Mrs. Babcock was well-known in her time, and is even today, as one of the first female preachers in America. One would think that would make researching her ancestry easier. In fact, it confuses the issue. Some early articles about her say she was the daughter of a minister, but that seems incorrect. There was a woman minister named Clara Babcock, daughter of a Unitarian minister, but she was not the Clara Babcock that preached in Erie.(1)

The U.S. Census of 1850 is our first opportunity to find the Babcocks. From the obituaries, we know that Mr. Babcock's parents were Benjamin and Catherine Babcock and that Israel was born in Truxton, Cortland County, NY. Census records confirm that information. Three-year-old Israel is listed in the 1850 census along with his parents. His father's occupation is listed as "cooper." Although relationships are not given in the 1850 census, there are five children in the household of ages consistent with being Israel's siblings: Amos, age 18; Oren, age 15; Mariah, age 13; John, age 11; and Lewis, age 6. Listed as a laborer on a neighboring farm is a 16-year-old named Enos Babcock. While the census does not prove it, he could be Israel's sixth sibling.

The Census from 1860 shows the developing Babcock family. Still in Cortland, there is a new sibling, Elon, age 10. Where is Enos? He has moved to Lee County, IL, where the 1860 census shows he works as a farm laborer in the town of Nelson.

Mrs. Babcock's early years are not so easily traced. There is no Clara Hale in any available census indexes that matches our knowledge of the woman. We do know her birthplace was Fitchville, OH. Checking the 1850 census we find two Hale families in Fitchville, Huron County, Ohio. One is John and Polly Hale, ages 66 and 53 respectively. With them live three younger people, Rebecca, age 30, Luisa, age 17, and Robert, age 15. John is listed as a farmer. Next door is another Hale family, John Jr., age 22, Laura, age 23, and Celestia, age one month. Are Celestia Hale and Clara Celestia Hale the same person? At this point, it is the only lead we have.

Between 1850 and 1860 something dramatic happened to the two Hale families, but we do not know what. In 1860 there is no trace of John Sr., his wife, Polly, or children Luisa and Robert. To find Rebecca, we have to search the listings for the Huron County, OH, poor house. There resides 40-year-old Rebecca Hale, who is listed as a weaver. There is another Hale at the County Poor House, 7-year-old Augusta Hale, but we do not know who her parents are. Is she Rebecca's daughter?

John Hale Jr. also disappears in the 1860 Census. But only a few doors away from the Huron County Poor House we find Celestia Hale, now age 10. She lives in the home of a farmer, named Scott Beals, age 53. Also living there is a 29-year-old woman named Laura Greenleaf. Is Laura Greenleaf the same person as Laura Hale, Celestia's mother? Probably, but if it is just a coincidence, we can add one more to the list: Living next to Celestia and Laura are Oren Babcock, age 24, and his 19-year-old wife, Harriett.

From Civil War records, we know that Israel Babcock served in the Union Army, enlisting in 1865 in Nelson, Lee County, IL, the same county where we found Enos Babcock in 1860. We know that Israel and Clara were married August 9, 1865, shortly after Israel mustered out of the Army on July 12, 1865.

By 1870 we find most of our characters in Illinois. Benjamin Babcock, his wife Catherine, and their children John, Jane and Louis all live on a farm at Nelson. We have not yet tracked Clara and Israel for that year. We do find that Enos has married. Still living as a farmer in Nelson, Enos has a 39-year-old wife named Laura, and a 6-year-old son, Ira. Also living in the household is 72-year-old Scott Beals. This is more than coincidence. Celestia Hale's mother, Laura Greenleaf, must have married Israel Babcock's brother, Enos.

We find Clara and Israel Babcock in the 1880 census for Coloma Township, Whiteside County, IL. Israel, 33, and Clara C., 30, have two sons, Arthur, age 14, and Earnest, age 3. Also living with them is Israel's brother, Elon G., and both men work for the same manufacturing company. The Lee County census for that year shows Benjamin Babcock living with his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Oleander Haswell.

Some time around 1900, many of the Babcocks from Illinois resettled to Ft. William, Canada. Enos' son, Ira, and his wife moved there and raised a family. An obituary of Ira Babcock from 1847 states that he worked 27 years as a motorman on the street railway. That obituary mentions that Ira Babcock was survived by two brothers, A.D. of Clinton, MO, and Ernest of Ida Grove, IA. A.D and Ira are clearly two of the Israel and Clara's listed survivors, but now there is a new puzzle: Who is Ernest? It is possible the Ernest mentioned in the obituary may be the son of Clara and Israel, who lived for some time at Fort William. But why would he be listed as a brother instead of a cousin?

An obituary of Miss Mattie Babcock of Thunder Bay, Ont., from 1971 shows that her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Elon G. Babcock, moved from Whiteside County to Fort William about 1900 and farmed.

We also know that Israel Babcock was living in Canada in 1909 when he filed for his Civil War pension.

Most of the 1890 census was destroyed by fire, so we are unable to use that resource to help clarify the movements of the Babcock family.

Tracking the Babcocks has brought up as many questions as it has answers. The most striking is the fate of the Hale family between 1850 and 1860. What happened to so disrupt this farm family? How did the Babcock and Hale clans meet? What prompted the families to move West? Who is Scott Beals and how is he related to these families? Could he be Laura Babcock's father? Why did Celestia Hale change her name to Clara? The more we learn, the more we want to know.

(1) Chapter XIII of the book Daughters of America describes the life of Clara Maria Babcock, daughter of the Rev. Wm. Babcock, a Unitarian minister. She was married to a Rev. Herman Bisbee, and after his death, was ordained to the ministry. (This source is available on