Posted by: Beth | June 5, 2012

MRIN-19 Robert Gore Ball and Susan Jane Brock

Updated 23 Jun 2018

Robert and Susan are my 3rd great grandparents through their son, William Tracy Ball

Robert Gore Ball was born on November 8, 1836 just outside of Thorntown in Boone County, Indiana. He was the second of twelve children born to Joseph Ball and Ingabo McDaniel. His family moved to Illinois in 1854 where his parents died when he was a young adult leaving his younger siblings as orphans. I’m sure that Robert and his other siblings did what they could to help raise the younger ones. The youngest being only seven years old at the time.

Susan Jane Brock was born on January 19, 1841 in McLean County, Illinois to Sherwood Brock and Nancy Jane Hand. She too lost her father at a young age. She helped her mother as much as possible and soon after she and Robert married they brought her mother, who had gone blind, into their household where she lived for the rest of her days.

Just months before they were married we find Robert and Susan just a few houses down from each other in the 1860 census. Robert was living in the household of Caroline Talbor and Susan was in the household of William and Amelia Stringfield. Both households were in Randolph, McLean County, Illinois

1860 census snip for Robert Gore Ball

At this point I’m unsure if Caroline Talbor’s household was anything other than an employer offering room and board to Robert. I’m not sure who Mathew E. Ball is and how he may be related to Robert. He could possibly be a nephew.

1860 census snip for Susan Jane Brock

I’m not sure who the Stringfield family were in relation to Susan. So far I haven’t found any other connection, but I also have not begun to trace any of her siblings or their families. They could have simply just been employers who offered room and board while Susan also maintained residence at her mother’s home (below) in Old Town, McLean County, Illinois.

Capture1860 census nancy jane brock household

Robert and Susan married on December 26, 1860 near Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois. Five months later on June 16, 1861, Susan gave birth to twin girls, Emeline and Caroline, the first two of thirteen children they would have together. Their third child, Oliver Perry Ball, was born in 1862.

In 1863, when he was 25 years old, Robert, along with his younger brother John, filled out their draft registration for the Civil War. At that time they were residents of Downs, McLean County, Illinois.

snip of civil war draft registration for Robert Gore Ball

U.S. Civil War Draft Registration

Robert served in the Union Army as a Private in the 128th Regiment, Indiana Infantry. This unit was mustered in on March 18, 1864 and marched out of state on March 23rd. At that time, Susan was eight months pregnant with their fourth child, Charles Edward. The 128th Regiment fought many battles before being mustered out on April 10, 1866. About six weeks later Susan gave birth to their fifth child, Mary Ellen.

At this point I haven’t found many Civil War documents for Robert, including any pension papers. I don’t know his story/experiences or durational served during the war, only that of the regiment which you can read about here.

After returning home from the war in 1866, Robert and Susan moved their family, along with her mother, to the Foosland Prairie where they became part of the new settlement. When the Ball family came to Foosland there were only three crude houses and the virgin prairie seemed boundless. They built their home in Brown township just outside of Foosland and farmed in an area that would later be known as Foos Farms (Foosland Farms), which Robert managed for about 20 years. Their family grew with their children; Ida born in 1868, Corley born in 1869, Sherman born in 1871, William Tracy born in 1873, David born in 1875, Nora born born in 1877, Hattie Ethel born in 1879, and Alice born in 1881.

1870 census snip for Robert and Susan Ball household1870 Census 

1880 census snip for Robert and Susan Ball1880 Census 

 About Foos Farms at Foosland. R.G. Ball managerA 1903 article about Foos Farms and Robert as the long time manager

All thirteen of Robert and Susan’s children lived to adulthood which was no minor feat back thenR.G. Ball Family2

Circa 1895-1890, United Photo, Bloomington, Ill. Left to right, all rows.
Top row: William Tracy, Oliver Perry, Ida, Charles Edward, Mary Ellen, and Sherman.
Middle row: David, Caroline, Robert Gore, Susan, Emeline, and Corley.
Front Row Hattie Ethel, Nora, and Alice.
The Ball family portrait and descriptions were provided by Ronald H. Ball, grandson to Oliver.

At age 53, Susan had fallen ill for a few days and died unexpectedly in her home on August 23, 1894. Her funeral was held at Mount Hope Church where one of the largest congregations that ever gathered at the church on such an occasion came to pay their respects. She was buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery. Although the three newspaper articles that I’ve found about her death were worded very nicely, the information within was more about her religion and her church than about herself and her family. Her own name did not even appear once in these articles, referring to her only as Mrs. R.G. Ball. Her full name and that of her children was printed in the obituary of her husband. Nevertheless, in these articles it’s very apparent that she was loved and respected by her family and her community.

Robert was left with his three youngest daughters, all teenagers, to raise, Nora was seventeen and the eldest of the three. She helped her father, as I’m sure each of the girls did, with companionship and keeping up of the home. She also took on the role of counseling her younger sisters into their adulthood.

Tragically, on January 7, 1895, just five months after Susan’s death, Robert had to suffer the loss of one of his children, Mary Ellen. The first of three children that would precede him in death.
Obituary of Mary E. (Ball) Gibbens

In 1909 Robert lost two more adult children. Emeline on February 21st

Obituary of Emmaline Ball Ritchie

and Charles Edward on June 27th

Obituary of Charles Ball

In September of 1909, Robert took a much needed month long trip to Kansas and Colorado in the company of his siblings, Florida (Ball) Caton and John Ball

It appears that in 1910, Robert sold his home to his daughter and son-in-law, Caroline and King David Boyd. He may have been renting it out for awhile prior to a Herbert Marshall.
K.D. Boyd bought R.G. Ball house

Robert continued with his duties of managing Foos Farms until he retired in early 1913 at age 76. His son-in-law, William Shields took over for him. In June of that year, he was knocked off of a wagon during a celebration. He was riding on a chair in a spring wagon when the wagon struck a small ditch and he was thrown over the side. He was shaken up, but was not too badly injured.

Robert was 3 weeks into a visit with his adult children in Colorado when he died suddenly on July 29, 1914 from apoplexy at the age of 78. His body was brought back to Foosland where his funeral was held in the Foosland M.P. Church. Burial was next to Susan in the Mount Hope Cemetery.

In those days the church bell was used to convey messages for miles around. If there was a death, the bell tolled the news, with it’s slow, sad tones of one tap a minute for the age of the deceased. Robert Gore Ball was the last person for which the bell tolled. It took an hour and a half to toll his age.

Cemetery Marker of Robert Gore Ball and Sarah Jane Brock Ball - resized

Photo credit goes to Michael D. Used with his permission

There was a very nice and informative obituary printed for him on page 2 of the Gibson City Courier on 07 Aug 1914. Unfortunately, the paper was damaged and the parts about his parents, his early life, places he lived, and names of his children was lost. This is what that page looks like. There is some information in the salvageable part

Obituary for Robert Gore Ball

One part survived that gives a glimpse into the kind of person he was

He was a devoted husband, a loving father, a kind neighbor, a useful citizen and an exemplary Christian. His whole make-up was honesty, truthfulness and uprightness, with a force of character that stamped his individuality, not only upon his children who rise up and call him blessed, but upon the whole community.

Fortunately there was a death notice placed in another local paper that, although not as informative as the obituary above was, still had a good amount of information.

R.G. Ball is dead



    1. U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 (Pay site. Image is above in bio)
    2. National Park Service, The Civil War, Soldiers and Sailors Database
    3. The Civil War, Union Indiana Volunteers, 128th Regiment, Indiana Infantry
    4. Illinois Statewide Marriage Index 1763-1900
    5. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 (Pay site)

    6. United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
    7. Gibson City Courier Newspaper 1874-2015 – Gibson City, Illinois
    8. The Pantagraph Newspaper 1857-2016, Bloomington, Illinois (Pay site)
    9. The Daily Chronicle Newspaper 1895-2016, De Kalb, Illinois (Pay site)
    10. Mount Hope Cemetery, Brown Twp, Champaign County, Illinois
    11. Hillcrest Cemetery, Rocky Ford, Otero County, Colorado
    12. Mansfield Cemetery, Mansfield, Piatt County, Illinois
    13. Saint Patrick Catholic Cemetery, Rochelle, Ogle County, Illinois
    14. 1850 United States Population Schedule (Federal Census)
    15. 1860 United States Population Schedule (Federal Census)
    16. 1870 United States Population Schedule (Federal Census)
    17. 1880 United States Population Schedule (Federal Census)
    18. 1900 United States Population Schedule (Federal Census)
    19. 1910 United States Population Schedule (Federal Census)
    20. 1920 United States Population Schedule (Federal Census)
    21. 1930 United States Population Schedule (Federal Census)
    22. 1940 United States Population Schedule (Federal Census)


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