The Degman and Akles Families, by George Edmondson

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Records contributed for use in the KYGenWeb by George Edmondson.

Chapter One - The Akles Family

Descendants of Jake and Dicey Akles

My maternal Great, Great Grandparents were Jake and Dicey Akles who lived in Brown county, Ohio prior to the Civil war. I have no information on them prior to that time. The 1860 census reports Jacob Akles was born in 1815 in Pennsylvania and Dicea Chaffin was born in 1810 in Virginia. They were married on 14 October 1833 in Batavia, Clarmont county in Ohio.


In 1982 my wife and I were in Higgensport, Ohio, seeing that county for the first time. At that time I did not know who the parents of my maternal grandfather, Peter Akles were. We drove around the county quite a lot, tramping through cemeteries, but found nothing that related to me. While there we met an old man in his nineties who told me the following story.

'I never knew these people myself, but heard it from old people in the county. Jake and Dicey Akles lived in a holler up north of here.- (Higgensport)! Jake had an appetite for whiskey. One day a fella went up there with a jug which they proceeded to drink. The next morning when they woke up, Jake's wife, Dicey, was dead. Jake was arrested and tried, found guilty and hanged. That's not the end of the story though. Years later when the fellow was on his death bed over in Maysville, Kentucky he admitted that he had killed Dicey.'

This story may or may not be true. I tend to believe it, at least part of it. I had not known of Jake and Dicey Akles before speaking with the old fellow. Later I found that was indeed, a couple called Jake and Dicey, so I guess the old man did know something about them.

Since writing the above paragraph I have pieced together the following story. The Akles (Akels) family in Brown County consisted of Jake Akles, his wife Dicey or Dicea (Chaffin) Akles and two sons, Peter and John. John was disabled or crippled and Peter helped to send John to college, I presume in Cincinnati.

In 1862 my maternal great-grandfather, Jake and Dice's son, Peter Akles, enlisted in the 89th Ohio regiment of the Union army and went off to war, leaving my great grandmother Amanda (Morford) Akles and their two daughters, Melinda and Margaret, in Higgensport, Ohio. Grandfather Akles never returned. He was captured in the battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, sent to Belle Isle which is in the middle of the river at Richmond, Virginia and later he was sent to the Union prison at Danville, Virginia. He died there of variola (smallpox). There is a Union cemetery at Danville. Peter Akles name is not listed as being interred there in the records of the cemetery, but his service record states that is where he died. In other words, he is buried in an unmarked grave. My mother was quite put out when I informed her of this. The family tale was that Peter Akles had died in the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia.

Peter Akles wife, Amanda Moreford was left with two daughters, Margaret and Melinda. Amanda then married James Cochran of Brown County, who had some children of his own. They moved to Brownville, Nebraska. Cochran turned out to be a shiftless, lazy, drunk. Amanda would spend the remainder of her life living a hand to mouth existence supporting her new husband and daughters as a cook in various hotels in the area.

In the meantime John Akles had become a teacher in Cincinnati. He offered to educate Amanda's two girls. Amanda could not bear to part with both girls and since Margaret was considered more intelligent, she went to live with John Akles and Melinda remained with her mother at Brownville. Later Margaret attended college at Peru State Normal school at Peru, Nebraska.

The 1880 census of Cincinnati shows John Akles as Principal of a school in the city. His mother Dicey is living with them so Jake Akles did not murder his wife after all. John Akles died around 1925 or 26, leaving a small fortune to be divided among his descendents.

Chapter Two - The Degman Family

Descendants of Peter Degman I

In 16th century Europe lived Germanic race of people on the Rhine river between Germany and France. The place or people were called Palatines. This was a time of constant warfare in that part of Europe. Armies from France and Germany swept back and forth through the Palatines raping, killing and stealing from the people of that area. Finally the people of the Palatines decided they had had enough. They built rafts and floated down the Rhine to Holland and the sea. From there they immigrated to England, Ireland and to America where they became what is now know as Pennsylvania Dutch. This much is true and historically documented. Now comes the speculation.


The records we have state that Peter Degman I was born in Ireland in 1749. We do not know who his parents were nor where they lived. The name Degman is not Irish, but seems to be German. I think there is a possibility that his parents were Palatines who immigrated to Ireland. The first known reference to him is in the last will and testament of John Ponder of Milton, Delaware in which he leaves the family bible to his daughter Levenia. Levenia had married Peter Degman I. They had a child whom they named after his father. Peter Degman I died in Sussex County, Delaware in 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence.

Peter Degman's wife, Levinia Ponder, could trace her ancestry back to 1674 when her great Grandfather, John Ponder arrived at Annapolis, Maryland. He is listed as a passenger aboard the ship Charles of London. I have a copy of the passenger list and the name of the ship's captain who was given tobacco in exchange for transporting the passengers from England. The John Ponder we are concerned with here was a merchant and boat builder in Milton, Delaware. It is reasonable to assume that Peter Degman I worked for him as a boat builder. His son, Peter Degman II, claimed boat builder as his profession when he and Levenia removed to Mason County Kentucky.

Peter Degman II and Ruth Killin were married in Delaware and in 1789, moved to Mason County,Kentucky. At that time there were two major routes to Kentucky. One was via the Cumberland Gap in Virginia and the other was to float down the Ohio river by flatboat from a site near the Pennsylvania border. Probably Peter Degman chose this route since he had experience as a boat builder. Peter Degman II taught school in Manchester, Ohio in 1814. I have a certificate of appreciation from the City Fathers of Manchester, Ohio, which is across the Ohio river from Maysville, Kentucky. He purchased land at Springdale, Mason County, Kentucky on Cabin Creek and built a home they called Maplewood.

He had two wives. The first was Ruth Killin whom he married in Delaware on 1 March 1792 . He sired 14 children by her and when Ruth died, he buried her on the family farm and went across the river to Georgetown, Ohio and, at age 74, married 20 year old Rose Ellen Love on 20 July 1840. My Mother, Muriel Degman Edmondson thought that Rose Ellen had been the family maid. If so I don't understand why Peter went to Georgetown and married Rose Ellen there. It may have had something to do with marriage laws in Kentucky. I say this because I know that many people of that time went from Kentucky to Ohio to be married.

I found a copy of Peter Degman's will at the Mason county court house. In it he disinherits his children by his first wife saying that they were all doing well and that one of them (Julius Cesar Degman) had not lived up his agreement to take care of him, (Peter) in his old age.

Peter and Rose Ellen had five children. Last born to them was Howard Sylvester or Sylvester Howard (Ted) Degman who would be my grandfather. On the death of Peter Degman II, Rose Ellen married William Hall who was also a boat builder.

My maternal Grandfather, Howard Sylvester (Ted) Degman was born in 1850, at Springdale, Mason County Kentucky. His father was Peter Degman II and his mother was Rose Ellen Love, who was Peter Degman's second wife. I know nothing about Howard Degman's boyhood, but he showed up at BrownviIIe, Nebraska, shortly after the Civil War. There he met and married my grandmother, Melinda Melvina Akles. Melinda and her mother, Amanda were from Higgensport, Ohio across the river from Maysville. How Ted Degman or for that matter James Cochran and Amanda came to move to Brownville, Nebraska, I do not know.


Ted Degman was a blacksmith, a Justice of the Peace who also managed the theater, a self educated man who was apparently well liked in Brownville. At first he and Melinda did quite well in the new boomtown on the Missouri River. My Grandmother gave birth to four girls. Bess, Grace, Alice and the youngest, Muriel who was born in 1898 and who would later become my mother.

About this time something happened to my grandparent's relationship. The story goes that one morning Ted got up and said that he was going down town to get the paper and he failed to return for fifteen years. Whether the story is true or not, he did leave and bummed around the gold fields in Colorado and Alaska serving as a tool sharpener and blacksmith. Grandmother Melinda had lost their only son at birth or soon after. The story goes that Ted was angry and disappointed over that. The break up left Grandmother Degman to support four young daughters.

Grandmother earned a living by cooking in various hotels in Nemaha county Nebraska. Ted returned to Brownville in later years and tried for a reconciliation with Melinda, but she would have no part of that. He then returned to Kentucky where he later died. I don't know the year. I have a copy of a letter written by him to his daughters, Bess and Alice from Kentucky in 1912. I think he died soon after that.

My Aunt Bess married a local fisherman named Richard Ponn. They had no children. Aunt Alice married a man named Omer Van Nest. They had three daughters, Phyllis, Imogene and Gloria. Aunt Bess and Aunt Alice lived in Brownville for the remainder of their lives. My Aunt Grace got involved with a carnival worker who was passing through town and was raped by him. I believe Uncle Rich and some of the local men hanged the carnival worker. Aunt Grace then ran away from home and ended up in San Antonio, Texas, where rumor has it that she became a prostitute. She died sometime in the 1940s. I remember she came back for a visit when I was about nine and took me fishing in the Nemaha river that was a mile or so east of Auburn, Nebraska where we were living at the time.

My mother Muriel Tempesta Degman, spent her childhood in Brownville, Nebraska. She was forced to quit high school at Auburn, Nebraska in her sophomore year and go to work. She worked at first as a telephone operator in Brownville and later in Nebraska City, a town about thirty Miles to the north. Later she got a job as Contometer (business machine) Operator.

By this time my grandmother Melinda Degman was too old and ill to work and my mother supported the two of them. About 1919 my mother, Muriel Degman met George Edmondson who was to be my father.

Degman Family Bible Records

About This Family Bible, by George Edmondson, April 2004

My mother was a Degman. Her father was the son of Peter Degman by his second wife Rose Ellen Love whom he married when he was in his seventies and Rose Ellen was 20!!!!! Mom had lost touch with the family, but she always talked about the Degman family and about Maysville so I feel it is my home town in many ways.

After I had been researching the family for many years I found a Peter Degman who had the family bible. I have lost touch with him. His last address was 2945 Koepke Rd. NorthBrook, ILL. 60062.

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page 1
Bible, Inside Cover
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Bible, Frontispiece
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Bible, Frontispiece 2
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Bible Records, Page 1
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Bible Records, Page 2
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Bible Records, Page 3
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Bible Records, Page 4


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