An American Family History

Orpha Fox


Orpha Fox was born on January 10, 1880 in Benton Township, Lucas County, Iowa. She was the daughter of John Newton Fox and Sarah Jane Ricketts. She was four months old when the 1880 census was taken.  

From the age of twelve Orpha had to make her her own living. She (Orphie Fox) appeared in the 1900 census in Chariton, Iowa. She worked as a housekeeper in the Jewell home.

The civil action brought by Fred Wood and Bony Fox against John N. Fox which was concluded in Squire Buffington's court Monday evening, was one of the most remarkable cases coming under the jurisdiction of a Lucas county justice, for many a day. Suit was brought to recover $10.22, an amount expended by plaintiffs for the necessary clothing and comfort of defendants minor child, Orpha Fox.

From the testimony of three defendants children and other witnesses, it was shown that Orpha, now aged 15 years, had been compelled by her father to find a living away from home for about three years past, and that when appealed to for assistance a few weeks ago her father refused to furnish needed clothing and support. Her brother, Bony Fox, and brother-in-law, Fred Wood, secured necessaries to the amount of $10.22 for the child and this suit was brought to recover the same.

The decision of the court was that defendant pay the $10.22 and costs, amounting to about $16. The case was hard fought and much bitter feeling was rife among the parties.  The law as expounded by Esq. Buffington, specifically requires that where a parent fails to clothe and care for a minor child and a third party furnishes the actual necessities for said child, collection may be enforced against negligent parent, and Justice Buffington found strong Supreme Court decisions in support of his ruling.

article courtesy of Frank Myers

Orpha Fox and "A Ghastly Find"

On last Friday morning two of the city officers, armed with a search warrant, marched to the depot where they were authorized to examine the contents of "one" trunk. Complaint had been made that a strong and disagreeable odor emanated from the trunk and was a menace to public health. The officers accordingly proceeded to search the big trunk, thinking they might unearth a corpse or something else that would startle the world, but they were hardly prepared for the ghastly sight that met their eyes. Instead of a corpse they found the mangled and badly decomposed remains of three large crabs and several shrimps, also a quantity of clothing. The trunk had been checked to Chariton from Seattle, Washington, and later in the day was claimed by Miss Orpha Fox of Seattle, formerly of this city, and who is at present visiting in Chariton with relatives and old friends. She had placed the crabs and shrimps in the trunk to exhibit to her friends here, having been assured that they would be all right when they reached Chariton. (The Chariton Democrat, 11 February 1904, article courtesy of Frank Myers)

At the time of her father's death in 1915, she was living in Chariton, Iowa. She appeared in the 1920 census in Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa and was a laundress in an orphanage. She was still in Des Moines in 1930. At that time she was living with Her sister and brother-in-law, Mae and Mac McKelvey.

Her sister Eliza Fox Smith's granddaughter, Virginia Smith Miller related that she had a glass eye and worked in a "Ladies Laundry." 

In the early 1930s, Orpha moved to Omaha, Nebraska to take care of her nephew, Elmer Smith's, children after his wife Emma died.

In about 1934, according Orpha's niece, Maryon White,

Orpha was farming with Andrew Jack Smith. Orpha provided the money and did the housework and Jack was to do the farming and be the general slave. Gus and Twyla Mae always liked Aunt Orpha, Jack and Twyla and Maryon and Donald did not agree. As an old maid myself, I feel entitled to judge her and there was never a more typical spinster than Orpha Fox. Jack must have led a dog's life because she was so overbearing. Twill says those farming leases are usually for at least three years. I don't know how they survived without violence.

She died on July 13, 1958.  She was buried near her mother and sister Mae in the Glendale Cemetery at Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa.


Children of:
John Newton Fox and
Sarah Jane Ricketts
  • Clara Fox Wood
  • Eliza Fox Smith
  • Bonham Fox
  • Merrit Fox
  • Orpha Fox
  • Etta Fox O'Dea
  • Mae Fox McKelvey

    Isabelle Solinger
    and R. Groves
  • Edward Groves
  • Isabelle Solinger
    and John Shelton
  • Clyde D. Sheldon
  • Leonard William Shelton
  • Maud May Shelton Netherow
  • Thomas Del Shelton
    John Fox and
    Isabelle Solinger
  • Earl Fox
  • Chariton is the county seat of Lucas County, Iowa and is in Lincoln Township.

    Nebraska was not settled by many European-Americans until 1848. In the 1860s, the government took Native American land and opened it for homesteaders. Nebraska became the 37th state on March 1, 1867,

    The Foxes are Mayflower descendants: Samuel Fuller, Hannah Fuller Bonham, Hezekiah Bonham , Amariah Bonham, Christian Bonham Fox, Bonham Fox, Levi Fox, John Newton Fox

    A plaintiff (plt, plte, plt) or orator is the person who brings a case against another.
    A defendant (def tf) is a person accused of a crime or someone challenged in a civil case.

    In the 1830s settlers began arriving in Iowa from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. Iowa became a state in 1846.

    Lucas County is in south central Iowa. It was founded in 1846 and the county seat is Chariton.



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