Born, raised and lived here

Tragedies followed this Montgomery Countian through life The Ball commonality seems to equal blue eyes

The Ball family in MoCo has indeed been my subject before; however, this is the first I’ve researched this particular one and may even be the first I’ve heard of him.

His father, Thomas Zopher Ball was a farmer in Union Township for decades as were some of his brothers, including Elihu Crane, Lafayette Zopher and Cyrus. At least three sisters rounded-off this family (Nancy, Almira Jane and Mary Ann). Solomon was twice married, the mother of my subject, Zephaniah Mitchel Ball, being Lucetta Banks Crane. The Balls didn’t stop there, either, as Solomon was blessed with guardianship and of raising his brother Zopher’s children: Benjamin, Aletha, Martha, Malissa and Hester.

Solomon Ball was born in Marietta, Ohio in 1803 and married Lucetta (daughter of Elihu and Mary (Clark) Crane) on the last day of January in 1828, being a fairly early union in our county. He took out land on December 2nd, 1830 (Sec 31, 19N, 5W). Online in several places, the Balls can be found back to the early 1700s. Solomon’s kind of unique look peeks at ya’ on many Ancestry family trees.

Where Zephaniah Ball got his interest in the drug store business I’m not sure but several of his cousins were doctors and seeing the perils of the Civil War first hand may have prompted it. Speaking of the CW, Zephaniah was a 1st Lt. in Company I, 49th Colored Infantry, a Louisianan unit. It was not unusual a white person would volunteer to serve as an officer in these companies. More than one from here did so. Earlier, he had been in the 11th Indiana, Company G out of Ladoga so he had experience, as well. Zeph left Wabash to join the 11th. In the 49th, he was well liked by this group and vice-versa. Assume the same in the Indiana unit. He volunteered April 15, 1864 at Crawfordsville and was discharged March 22, 1866 at Vicksburg, Mississippi; however, another source says October 23rd in 1865 and I would guess this one to be the official for him personally whereas the unit itself was mustered out the next March. His constant diarrhea contracted at Vicksburg likely pushed him somewhat ahead. He would have bouts of this for the rest of his life and suffer greatly his last few years. Luckily, he received his first pension 10 July 1888 and had several raises thereafter as there were times his problems made it impossible to work. Somewhere along the way he seems to have gotten the nickname Dick, which is odd as it sure isn’t a nickname for Zephaniah or Mitchel.

On May 6th in 1869 here in Montgomery County Dick married Louisiana Noble Smock, daughter of Cornelius and Elizabeth Adams Smock, Cornelius being quite well known in the community having been an elder of the Center Church for 45 years, all of his children also members. Lou and Dick had three children, Howard Noble who was tall, slender, red headed and served many years as a probation officer in the Indianapolis courts and was also a mail clerk. He married Inez Sullivan. At Wabash he was a Phi Delta Theta as was his brother Alan Cornelius. Howard graduated from there. Not sure if Alan did but he attended there and then went on to graduate from the Central Dentistry School in Indianapolis and was a well-known dentist in the capitol city for years. He did not look like his brother, but instead was medium height, stout, brown headed but they also both had the blue eyes. He married Jennie Nisewander (not positive of that last name) and neither brother had children. Alan and Howard were also joined by Lizzie (Elizabeth Mary) who was loved by everyone in Crawfordsville. Healthy, bright, full of fun, she got sick and passed away May 15, 1895 at about 14 years. It was devastating to the whole community, especially the family.

Other tragedies followed Dick Ball. Not long after his marriage, they moved to Waveland where he went into the drug business in a rented room, then in May of 1872, he upped to the “finest room in Waveland and was filling it with newly purchased furniture.” However, in October of the next year most of downtown burned, beginning with a small fire in the back of Ong’s bakery that quickly had each and every building ablaze even jumping alleys to the next group of buildings, which was the situation with Ball’s. Give this man credit, though, as the others were standing around scratching their heads about what to do he already had fine boards out and ready to rebuild by the next day which wasn’t an easy task since his hands and face were so badly burned. He had one of the heaviest losses of all as he was working to save the building versus carrying his supplies outside and no insurance. Some of the others had it but none was enough to cover the losses which amounted to over $30,000 in all, a great deal of money for the times.

He did rebuild and remained in Waveland a few years before going to Crawfordsville where his children mainly grew-up (boys born in Waveland, Lizzie in Cville). By the 1880 census, he is working as a druggist living on Washington Street. He had retired by 1887. Lou passed away at their Washington Street home 31 January 1899 after a brief illness with congestion of the lungs that took her rapidly. Buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

After her death, Dick went downhill quickly and by 1906 he was living at the Danville Illinois soldier’s home. In those records, he was described as 5’9” with light complexion, gray hair and those proverbial blue eyes. Born in Montgomery County, he was listed as a druggist when he went into the home but thereafter had nothing in the occupation category in census and other documents. The two sons were listed as his next of kin and his pension was $24. On June 4, 1926, Dick was transferred from Danville to Hampton, Virginia where he died the upcoming February on the 16th. Oddly, the one who had suffered with an emaciating health problem for years lived to be 86, born 12 Feb 1841, died 16 Feb 1927 and ironically isn’t buried with his wife or children, parents or brothers/sisters but alone in the Hampton National Cemetery (photo by John Hall, FindAGrave). Rest In Peace, dear Zephaniah Mitchel “Dick” Ball and thanks for fighting for your country!

Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County. You can reach her at Karen@