Elijah Carpenter Bliss and Lucy Harmon Bliss By Martha Bliss Ehlers The quiet little cemetery at Smith's Grove is the resting place of one line of the first two generations of the Bliss family in Illinois. Oral tradition says that three brothers came together to this state: Elijah Carpenter, Marshall Williams, and Zenas Randall. It was Elijah, however, who settled near Towanda, Illinois. The beginnings of this branch of the Bliss family in America trace to Thomas Bliss, blacksmith, farmer, and surveyor. He was born about 1588, probably in the village of Preston Parva, Northhamptonshire, England, and came with his wife and three of his children to Boston in about 1638. They settled in Braintree first and then moved on to Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Elijah was born at Rehoboth, Bristol County, November 27, 1822 (the fifth child of eleven born to Elijah Bliss and Sarah Perry Bliss). He was at home until the age of 22 helping his father farm. At that point he learned and worked at the carpenter trade until 1846, as did some of his cousins and brothers in that area. Opportunities and adventure then took him to Havana, Cuba, where he worked in the car-shops for eight months. Back in the States the West was beckoning, so Elijah responded by moving to Jacksonville, Illinois. For ten years he worked at his trade there. One of his projects was helping to build the Hospital for the Insane. Elijah had been so moved by the evils of slavery while in Cuba that he became an ardent abolitionist until it ended after the Civil War. Pictures of Elijah Bliss show a very handsome man with dark hair and very dark brown eyes. He wooed and won Lucy Harmon (daughter of Phineas Harmon and Mary Grosvenor Harmon). She was born June 13, 1830, in Suffield, CT (d. Sept. 11, 1912); they were married in 1852 at St. Louis, MO. In 1861 the family moved to Blue Mound Township (P. O. Towanda) and purchased 160 acres there in 1864. Elijah was a Republican and a member of the Congregational Church. The couple had three children: 1. Herbert Edward, b. May 30, 1854, at Jacksonville, IL, d. July 15, 1921, Towanda, heart attack. 2. Mary Clara, b. Jan. 23, 1858, at New Concord, IL, d. April 2, 1868, spinal meningitis. 3. Leonard Harmon ("Baby Bliss") b. May 4, 1865, Towanda, d. Jan 12, 1912, gas asphyxiation, Bloomington, unmarried. As a girl Anna White (my maternal grandmother) and her parents, the William Whites of Blue Mound Twp., were entertained at the Bliss home for dinner. She remembered years later what a lovely evening it was with pretty dishes, gleaming silver, and a lace tablecloth. Waiting the table for the occasion was the hired girl, Susan B. Owens (b. Feb. 12, 1854, Clinton Co., Ohio, d. Dec. 20, 1945, Bloomington, IL), the daughter of a nearby farming family (Benjamin C. S. Owens and Elizabeth Pendry Owens of Lexington). She was beautiful with fair skin, blonde curly hair, and blue eyes. Apparently, Herbert (my paternal great-grandfather) noticed, too. He married her May 23, 1878, at Lexington, Illinois.
Page 1 of 2
Herbert and Susan had two little girls: Otha, b. Aug. 18, 1881 and Auretta, b. Dec. 11, 1883. When their first son, Emory Oren, was born (Jan. 9, 1886, Towanda, d. Feb. 8, 1956. Normal, IL), Otha was about 4 �; Auretta was just two. Otha became ill with diphtheria and died Jan. 24, 1886; Auretta was lost on Feb. 2, 1886. In less than three weeks this young couple went from having three children to having just a baby son. Their second son, Thurman, was born at Bloomington, June 23, 1888 (d. June 1, 1968). Emory married Georgia Ethel Dunseth (b. July 1, 1886, Delavan, IL, d. Dec. 6, 1986, Normal, IL) at Peoria, Illinois, on June 5, 1907. They had three sons: Raymond Loraine (b. Mar. 26, 1908, Swygert, Livingston Co., IL, d. May 9, 1999, Bloomington, IL), Warren Rolland (b. March 15, 1912, Swygert, Livingston Co., IL, d. Mar. 11, 1981, Bloomington, IL), and Roy Everett. Thurman married Lois Bogardus on March 1, 1910. Their first son, Wayne Dewitt, was born Feb. 11, 1911, Towanda; his brother, Delford Victor was born Nov. 20, 1912, Towanda. Lois and Thurman divorced, and he married Bess Selby (2) on May 31, 1917. To this couple four sons were born: Franklin Edward (b. Nov. 15, 1918, d. Dec. 1987, Bloomington), Rodger Lewis (b. Sept. 11, 1920, d. Oct. 11, 2004, Meadows, IL), James Thurman, and Harlan Eugene. Sources: Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America compiled by Aaron Tyler Bliss, Midland, MI, 1982, Herbert Bliss Family Bible owned by M. B. Ehlers. Written by: Martha Bliss Ehlers, GGGranddaughter of Elijah, Great Granddaughter of Herbert, Granddaughter of Emory, Daughter of Raymond L. Bliss.
Page 2 of 2
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.
Illinois State University, Milner Library, Normal, IL, 61790 - for the Towanda Area Historical Society/Towanda District Library
Towanda Area Historical Society/Towanda District Library
The images in the Towanda Area Historical Society digital library may be viewed, downloaded, and printed for personal or educational use, but any commercial use is prohibited, without permission. Questions may be directed to the historical society at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Towanda Illinois District Library at (309)728-2176.