By Hillary Delaney
The life and work of native son John Uri Lloyd looms large in our area’s history. The chemist, botanist and novelist of Boone County-based novels and short stories is one of our best-known local celebrities, held in very high esteem, but little is written of his wife, Emma Rouse Lloyd. The Rouse family is well-known locally, and Emma is credited as the photographer of many of the photos taken during Lloyd’s turn-of-the-century visit to his childhood stomping grounds in Florence. Nevertheless, her contribution to our area’s history is overshadowed by her famous spouse. Near the end of her life, and at the urging of her children, Emma began to gather and record her memories of her family history and genealogy. The finished product, titled “Clasping Hands with Generations Past”, went to print in 1932, the year of Emma’s death.
In 1933, the story of the adventures of Thomas Rouse, Emma’s father, as told in her book, ran as a featured serial in Kate Milner Rabb’s column in the Indianapolis Star newspaper. Rabb, herself a noted journalist and historian, had come across the book at a friend’s home, and was taken with Rouse’s writing, so much so, she published an exciting excerpt about the life of Thomas Rouse to her own audience. Thomas Rouse was born in Burlington in 1816, and from the start, had a wandering soul. Per his daughter’s memoir, he was a natural pioneer and frequent traveler with a thirst for adventure. In 1841, he left Boone County on horseback, in search of friend who had gone missing, named Albert Stephens.
His path meandered from Boone County through the territories of Indiana, Illinois where he crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri. It was in this wild country that he decided to take a break, so he bought a store, setting up shop for the winter. The story then meanders, rich in detail, with stops at Fort Leavenworth, a rough tavern in a little village which soon became Chicago, a river landing now known as Kansas City and the “small settlement” that was one of the first in Iowa.
Rouse’s horse went missing during his travels, and he was forced to buy another. Perhaps as evidence of his mount’s experience wandering with the adventuresome Thomas, the remarkable horse made his own way back to Boone County several months later. Meanwhile, Thomas Rouse was encountering wolves, displaced Mormons, and even stumbled upon a pow wow between Native Americans and U.S. soldiers at Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Once home, his wanderlust was satisfied by frequent merchant trips on a flatboat, up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. In 1849, Rouse fell victim to the rampant cholera epidemic on one of his trips to the Deep South. His death was prematurely reported in Burlington; yet the remarkable Rouse returned, healthy and hale. Ready to settle down, as much as a man like Thomas Rouse could, he married Nancy Ann Henderson in 1856, in neighboring Grant County. They settled in Union, where Emma the firstborn of five children, came into the world in 1858, destined to tell the family stories.
Clasping Hands With Generations Past by Emma Rouse Lloyd