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South Texas Living

Mariah Zook, a woman of sorrow

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Rainy Days and Starry Nights
January 16, 2013 | 2,925 views | Post a comment

This is Mariah’s story. Mariah was my great-grandmother and married my great-grandfather, Samuel Zook, in 1856 in Franklin County, Pa. I have tried to learn as much as I can about them. Even though they were very prosperous farmers, they experienced much sorrow.

They were of the Amish or Mennonite faith and were a part of the church called the River Brethren, or Brethren in Christ. They lived near a town called Orrstown in Pennsylvania.

They had two little girls by 1860, Anna, 3, and Sarah, 2. My great-grandfather was a successful farmer owning a lot of land. Mariah stayed at home taking care of the house and children. Late that summer, Mariah had a baby boy, named Noah. She was very happy with baby Noah. The two little girls were probably giggling and playing around the farm and wanting to help their mother with the new baby.

But then the next summer, tragedy came. The little girls got sick with a fever, and Sarah died on June 13, 1861, and Anna, the next month on July 31, 186l. Such a tragic time for Mariah, burying two little girls that summer. She focused then on the boy Noah, who was still a baby, not yet 1 year old.

The War Between the States started that year too. What a hard year that was for Mariah and Samuel. I found Samuel’s name listed in the men who were drafted on Sept. 2, 1863, in Franklin County. But I find no record of his going to fight in the war.

Many Mennonites and Amish were conscientious objectors. They were a peaceful family. Samuel Zook was also a minister and bishop of the River Brethren Church in Franklin County.

During the war, Mariah lost another little girl -- named Mary -- who died in 1866 at the age of 1. I don’t know what she died of. Mariah suffered another death of a child. By 1870, which was after the war, they had five children, Noah, 9; Catherine, 8; Aaron, 6; Fanny, 3; and Samuel, who was 1 year old. Samuel was my grandfather. He was the Samuel Zook who moved to Texas and eventually moved to Floresville and founded El Mesias Methodist Church. Mariah was his mother.

The war ended and Samuel Sr. continued farming and acquired more land. They were still living in Franklin County when a girl, Christina, was born in February 1874, but died two weeks later on Feb. 18. Mariah had buried four baby girls. In 1878, their last child, Emma, was born.

In 1879, evidently Samuel felt God calling him and his family to settle in Kansas, along with several hundred River Brethren from Pennsylvania. I found this in some history of Kansas.

“1878-1879 - A colony of several hundred (Susquehanna) River Brethren from Pennsylvania arrived in the old-time corrupt cow town of Abilene, Dickinson County, Kansas, to organize homes and fields on virgin land purchased from the Kansas Pacific Railroad. Quite a few people settled in Buckeye Township Kansas, in the spring of 1879.”

My great-grandparents were part of this group. Samuel Zook and Mariah had eight surviving children with them when they moved to Kansas in 1879.

My great-grandfather’s faith was important to him. This was in the Hutchinson Kansas Daily News, Tuesday, June 13, 1899. Abilene, Kan., June 13. “The River Brethren held their annual love feast at Zion meeting house Sunday, hundreds from all parts of central Kansas being present. Bishop Samuel Zook, who has just been made editor of the church paper, delivered the sermon and the quaint ceremony of feet washing was observed.”

But then three years after they came to Kansas, another tragedy struck the family. On the afternoon of Aug. 4, 1882, their youngest daughter, Emma, age 3, perished in a fire that destroyed several large farm buildings. So this sad mother lost five daughters to death. I am sure it was difficult for Samuel, too, but I am looking at this through the eyes of a mother. How much can a mother stand? She must have had very strong faith. I don’t know how I would cope with such tragedy! I have strong faith, but not that strong.

Mariah died in 1898, when she was 64 years old. Thank God, she never had to bury another child. That is why I call her “a woman of sorrow.”

Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at

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