April 3, 2011

Caroline Delph

When I look back at my post on my mother’s great-uncle, Cecil Delph, and his story of teaching Native American students in Kansas and South Dakota, I realize now that he was just following in the footsteps of his aunt Carrie Delph, who also was a missionary teacher. 
Caroline Delph, great-great grandfather Philip Delph’s youngest sister, born in January 1848, was quite young when she lost both her father and mother.  Sometimes she was referred to as Carrie or Callie in various documents.

We don’t know where she was immediately placed after her parents’ deaths, but by 1860, Caroline Delph  was living with the Andrew Conn family in Van Wert, Ohio.  The family consisted of Andrew and his wife, Margaret, four grown children above the age of 20, one 6 year old and Caroline, whose age was 12.  No relationship is given between Caroline and Andrew and Margaret, so I am unsure how or why she was placed in this home, but this family raised her and made sure she had an education.
According to The History of Van Wert County (p. 758), “Andrew Conn was for a long period a very prominent citizen of Richland County, where he served as county treasurer.  He was engaged there in a banking business.  In 1855 he moved from Mansfield to Van Wert, and in 1860, he was elected treasurer of Van Wert County.  After completing this public service, he retired and his death took place in 1877.  He was the father of seven children.”

In 1870, she was still with the Conn family and she was working as a school teacher.  Her age was given as 23.  By 1880, after the death of Andrew Conn, she moved back to Crawford County where she lived with her sister, Margaret, husband Caleb, and their four children.  Perhaps she obtained a job there as her occupation again was listed as school teacher and her age was 34.

Without the 1890 census to guide us, we can only speculate the turn of events between 1880 and 1900, but we do have a few hints to help us.  We do know that by 1889, Carrie was teaching in the Sitka Industrial Training School, a missionary school in the territory of Alaska, sponsored by the Presbyterian Church.  The school was originally started around 1877 specifically for Tlinget Indian boys to educate them and to teach them various trades, such as carpentry, shoe repair, blacksmithing, baking and laundering.  Girls later were included.  Miss Carrie Delph was assigned to a schoolroom in 1889.  According to one source, the salary for a teacher was about $800 a year at that time.
Sitka Industrial Training School

One letter from Caroline has been found from 1889 in which she describes her experiences.

Carrie writes:
“I have been very much pleased with my school work here.  I found everything more in advance than I expected. I was surprised to see the children in the school, whom I had imagined before leaving home as savages, so polite and courteous, and so much advanced in various ways; all of which not only shows the efficient instruction of the teachers in the different departments, but is eveidence there must also be aptness on the part of the pupils.  It takes our white children fully as long to gain the same amount of knowledge, without having a strange language to contend with at the same time.
My work with them convinces me more and more that my first impression was correct.  By being careful to take the steps, very gradually, from the known to the unknown, excellent results can be obtained.
Owing to their being quite apt and eager to learn, one never tires in teaching them.  Never before have I seen children so anxious to learn about their Saviour as to catch the words in one’s mouth before they are fully uttered.  Surely the children in the East who save their pennies each week and carry them to Sunday-school, giving them that these hungry people may learn of Jesus, will receive their reward.”
Home Mission Monthly, Vol. 3, Issue 10, Presbyterian Church, 1889, p. 251.

To think that this female ancestor, a spinster by the standards of the day, took herself to the wild territory of Alaska in the late 1800’s to teach is remarkable.  I wonder about the modes of transportation that she had to take to even get there.  Could she take the railroad all the way west and then travel by ship to Sitka?   I think about the primitive living conditions, the isolation from family, the challenges to teaching to those who speak a different language. 

However, now I have to report that she met her husband there and married him in 1890.  Orville Tracy Porter was the U. S. Deputy Marshall of Alaska when Caroline Delph, the teacher, met him. 
 Orville had been married before to Matilda Biddle.  In the 1880 census, Orville and Matilda Porter were living in Harrisburg, Linn County, Oregon with their children: Walter B., 14; Nettie E., 12; Arthur E., 8; Alice A., 6; Estelle N., 3, and Orville T. 9/12 born July.  One older child was away from home and I have not been able to locate him in 1880 on the census: Tracy Darrow Porter who was born in 1863 and would have been about 17.  An eighth child was born in 1884, Chester Arthur Porter.  I would guess that Orville and Matilda divorced sometime between 1884 and 1890 when he married Carrie. Matilda died in 1927.

By the time Orville met Caroline, she was in her early 40’s and he was about ten years older.  All of his eight children were older, except for the last, Chester Arthur Porter,  who was about 6 at the time.   My mother had given me the clue that she married a Porter and had a child named Chester, although I didn’t know that it wasn’t Caroline’s biological child.  Prior to moving to Alaska, Orville, born in New York,  moved West to Oregon where he worked at various jobs, including editor of a paper and as a teacher.
Carrie’s days as a teacher in Alaska were short-lived as she and Orville moved back to Oregon by 1900 and there they lived the rest of their lives.  Carrie never taught again as far as we know.  Orville wrote a book of poetry about Alaska. 

In the 1900 census for Albany City West, Linn County, Oregon, taken on June 1st, Orville T. Porter,  a day laborer, and his wife, Carrie D. were enumerated.  They were in the same place in 1910 at 614 Elm Street, with the information that Orville was married twice, but to Carrie for 20 years.  Hence the marriage date was assumed to be 1890. In this same census, Orville’s ex-wife, Matilda is listed with son Chester A., 15, also in the city of Albany.  Matilda was 54 and she called herself a widow.
 Orville died January 30, 1916, and Carrie took in one of his daughters, Alice Azalea Cockerline, also a widow, to the Elm Street residence.  In the 1920 census, Alice was listed as head of the household there with Carrie, step-mother, and Alice’s sixteen year old daughter, Dorothy.

In the 1930 census, Carrie Delph Porter, at 85, lived as a lodger on Broad Street in Albany, Linn County, Oregon with Rosa Muths, head of the household, a single 59 year old, born in France and with French as her language, and another lodger, Clara Denny, 63 and single.   Carrie Porter died on January 16, 1933.

Unfortunately, no photo has been positively identified as Caroline.


  1. How awesome! Orville Porter was one of my 3rd great-grandfathers. I had figured out much of what you posted here about Caroline within the last year when I developed my tree on Ancestry. My mom was adopted so we never knew about these people until now. It's so fun to find someone else who is interested in a long forgotten ancestor!


  2. Oh, I'm so glad you commented! How neat that you have a connection with Mr. Porter! I love the stories behind the people, don't you?