John Simpson Green was born to Joseph and Catharine Green on their family farm in Jennings County Indiana.  It was November 12, 1840 and  John S.'s father, Joseph Green, would probably have been in the process of taking over the family farm from his father - James Green.  In those days, ownership of the family farm was generally passed down to the oldest boy and Joseph had an older brother named John, herein referred to as Judge John.  However, according to Judge John's biography he only spent five years farming then he left home to become a lawyer.  Judge John was probably named after their great grandfather, Rev. John Green, who fought in the Revolution.  John S. Green's prominent uncle Judge John was probably the reason he was always so careful to use his middle initial on all documents and correspondence.  His Uncle was very well known in Indiana as a State Senator and Judge.  

Judging from the 1850 census it looks like Joseph had completed taking over the farm because he is listed as the owner of the 400 acres and Grandpa James and his wife Catherine were listed as retired and living on the same farm.  There is some information that John S. had an older brother named Jacob who would have been 13 in 1850 but he doesn't show up living at home in the census.  He may have died or he may have been off to school.  I'm guessing that Joseph might have been out working in the field when the census taker came by because his age is off by two years - Catherine, or one of the kids probably  just guessed.   Soon after the census there were two more boys added to the family - Erasmus Darwin in 1851 and Henry Clinton in 1854.  Both of these boys ended up moving to Okobojo after John S. moved there in 1883.   

I think it's interesting that Joseph and Catherine named one of their children after Erasmus Darwin - Charles Darwin's grandfather.  He was a noted physician, poet, philosopher, botanist, and naturalist in eighteenth century England.  According to what I've read Erasmus actually developed the theory of evolution long before his grandson Charles made it famous in the book "The Origin of Species".  Erasmus Darwin Green was named 8 years before "The Origin of Species" was published and made Darwin a household name.

Sometime around 1859 or 60 young John S. moved to the Flora Township in Clay County Illinois.  This would have been about the time Abraham Lincoln was campaigning for President from his office in Springfield, just 100 miles north.  I'm not sure what made John S. decide to leave the farm, but I suspect it was a pretty young girl - Sarah Jane McGannon.  Sarah's mother died in 1837, the same year she was born.  We don't know the exact dates but it's likely that it may have been related to Sarah's birth.  According to her step mother's obituary they moved from Indiana to Illinois in 1860.   John S. may have tagged along.

In May of 1864, at age 23, John S. and some other local boys, including Sarah's 19 year old half-brother Alexander, volunteered to serve with the 40th Illinois Infantry.  They then headed for Atlanta to fight in the war between the states.  Like so many Civil War soldiers, Alexander never lived to see 20.  He died of disease later that year in Nashville.  John S. was in many battles including Kenesaw Mountain and the battle for Atlanta.  He was also with Sherman's army on the famous "March to the Sea" which culminated in the Siege of Savannah (coincidentally, so was a young John Wesley Glessner, but that's another story).  

John S. kept a diary during the war but he must not have had much time to write because almost every entry is "Marched 12 miles and camped for the night...Marched 16 miles and camped for the night" etcetera.  He did write a little about "skirmishes" with the "rebs" but he gave very little insight into his feelings or the trials and tribulations of a soldier.Pennsylvania Avenue, May 24th 1865  I really enjoyed reading the memoirs of Dr. John T. Hunt who was also in the 40th.  He is a much better writer than John S. and I found his description of army life with the 40th Illinois to be very colorful and expressive.  

Read John S.'s Diary

Read the History of the 40th

On May 24th 1865, with victory in hand, John and the 40th Illinois paraded through the streets of Washington on Grand Review.    Check out this timeline based web site with pictures of the Grand Review

The 40th was highly complimented for their gallant service.  Of the 443 who joined, only 182 had survived (reference). 

John S. was discharged on August 3, 1865 and he returned to Illinois to marry his sweetheart. 

Sarah and John were married in a small church service on December 7, 1865, in Flora Illinois.  On November 26th 1870 they had my great-grandfather - William Henry Green. They called him Will. 

John Simpson Green, Sarah Jane Green and a young Will GreenAccording to Cathie Green's Memoirs...

"He was the fifth child of his parents, four sons having died in infancy. Only Sherman and Grant lived long enough to be named.

When Papa was five years old, Grandpa put his sick wife and small son [They actually had two boys with them, Will, age 4 and Hugh, who would have been less than a year old] in a covered wagon and headed west again, with a cow tied behind the wagon. "You'll bury your wife beside the trail!" their families predicted as they set out."                  - From Frances (Cathie Green) Wilder's memoirs.  

They were determined and they made it to the promised land - the Dakota Territory (South Dakota wouldn't become a state for fourteen more  years).   I suspect it was quite a journey.  My parents, Bill and Kay Green, still  have some of the possessions that they carried with them in the covered wagon, including a large glass serving bowl  and cover with a detailed glass lion handle made by Gillinder in Pennsylvania. 

John S. Filed a homestead claim on 160 acres in the Olivet township in 1875.  They were not far from Walnut Grove where an eight year old Laura Ingalls was  living in the now familiar "Little House on the Prairie".  General George Custer had just discovered Gold in the Black Hills and Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok were in their prime tearing up the streets of Deadwood.  Hickok, and Custer would both be killed in The Dakota Territory within a year.  Dakota was the wild west in the 1870's. 

The Greens settled next to the Charles Branch family who had also traveled from Illinois the same year - they may have traveled together.  Soon the Greens had another son and named him Charles Branch Green.  Charles Branch must have been a very good friend of the Greens.

I've spent many hours trying to figure out why a farmer would move his young family from the fertile fields of Illinois to the remote and barren prairies of Dakota.  Why would anybody try to grow corn and wheat on land like that?  From the looks of things, they were the only ones that ever did because even with today's modern machinery, automated irrigation, genetically designed seeds and high-tech fertilizer that land it  is still good for nothing but grazing cattle. 

My theory is that John desperately wanted to have his own farm - like his father.  But farms were generally handed down to the oldest son, and he had two older brothers.  Clearly, John would have to buy his own land or move to a place like the Dakota Territory, where land was free...if you were willing to work hard enough for it.   Work hard they did.  

In March of 1883 The land at Okobojo was opened to settlers.  Sarah's Father, Hugh McGannon, moved from Flora to Okobojo to steak his claim.  John S., his wife Sarah and their three sons moved west with them.   They were among the first to settle Okobojo.  


Read one of Hugh McGannon's grandchildren's memories of the trip from Yankton.

Read an excerpt from "75 Years of Sully County History" about their early days

             John S. Green 1906 age 66