Family historians and genealogists and bloggers, be warned. I'd love for you to read this, but I'm not writing it for you. I'm writing this post based on just two or three hours of searching the web, to answer a family mystery. Also, I'm stepping out of my self imposed boundary here and writing about someone other than a direct ancestor. This is a collateral family member, the sister of my great grandfather, and I'm very excited to be able to write a little bit about her story, even though there is still much I don't know.
I had heard my mother refer to "Aunt Esther" and "Cousin Flora" in my early years, but I had no concept of time with them, and didn't realize who these people were, or why they were important to us. I had seen pictures of them taken roughly in the years 1900-1910 but that's all I knew. As part of a major reorganization project, I found those pictures again last week and in my spare time, which hasn't been much, I've been trying to piece together their story.
Fortunately, one of the pictures had "Esther Stanard Dring" written on it and that was my clue. I searched the undeveloped family tree and located Esther Stanard, and I started putting two and two together. Esther was the sister of my great grandfather, Rev. Louis E. Stanard, and they were children of Hiram Stanard and Susan Eddy. There were two other children in the family, Susan and Seba. The children were all born in Illinois, probably Lee County (I told you I didn't have all the information yet, but this is too good to wait). At some point, the family moved to Harvey County, Kansas. Much of the family was there in 1880 and Hiram was there by 1885.
To tell this story, we also need to also go to Parsons Drove, Cambridge, England, where William Dring was born January 31, 1864 to Johnson and Alice Thoday Dring. This family emigrated to the United States in 1872 (steerage, on the ship "Adriatic") and they were in Union Township, Clay County, Kansas in the 1875 state census. In 1880 he was possibly listed twice in the census, once as 17 year old "William Driny" living with his mother and step father (don't know what happened to Johnson yet), John and Alice Chambers at home, and once as 19 year old William Dring, living in the household of William and Ella Allaway. The Allaways were all except the youngest born in England, so it's possible these were relatives. If this is our William Dring, he is listed as being apprenticed to a carpenter. So whether he was a 17 year old "at home" or a 19 year old carpenter's apprentice, he was in Clay County, Kansas. In 1885, "Willie" Dring is listed still with his mother and family, as a single man of 22, and he's a carpenter.
I don't know how he met Esther Stanard, or when or where they were married. (Kansas has very strict laws relating to vital records so there is very little on line. FamilySearch records are not indexed and I haven't had time to go through them yet.) I also don't know William's religious history. We know that Esther was likely Baptist because that's what her family was. So far, this story sounds pretty much like many stories in our family, except that William was an immigrant, and may have spoken with a British accent on the plains of Kansas.
The story is just starting. The next thing we hear of Esther is an article from the Newton (Kansas) Daily Republican on September 22, 1891. "Thinking that the friends of Mrs. Esther Dring, nee Miss Esther Stanard, now a missionary in India, will be glad to hear something concerning her, we give a few facts as learned from a letter received by her parents recently. She and her husband are at present in Tura, Assam, and have charge of an industrial school numbering 110 pupils, 80 boys and thirty girls. Mr. Dring is about to enter upon mission work in the Garo hills. They like the work and are in the hope of accomplishing much good. She wittily remarks that there are about as many flies there as in Mrs. Crater's house, which is known throughout the county to be such a pattern of neatness that no fly dares to enter the door."
So sometime between 1885 and 1891, William Dring, carpenter, became Rev. William Dring (at least I would think he was ordained before they went to India, haven't found records yet) and Esther became Mrs. William Dring. The 1900 census says they were married in 1887. Kansas in the 1880's was not yet a settled place, so why they felt called to go to India is another mystery. Nevertheless, they went, and they stayed. Tura, Assam, India is not in the main part of India. It's in a little area of land north east of what we think of in India, just below the country of Bhutan and just above part of Bangladesh. It is a good thing that they "liked the work" because they stayed from 1891 (not sure, it might have been earlier) to 1917, with only two furloughs in all that time. They apparently were working with a low caste group of people known as the "Scheduled Tribes" and even now the "Scheduled Tribes" have a strong Christian component, so they and others must have done "good work."
I found an article about the Great Assam Earthquake of 1897 online, and presumably Esther and Rev. William were there when it hit. The intensity of this was 8.5-8.7, so it was huge. Fortunately, we know that Tura wasn't hit terribly hard because another Baptist missionary in Tura wrote to Brother Duncan that the damages to the mission building were less severe because it was built of brick.
In 1900, Esther and a 10 year old daughter Flora were back in Kansas, in Ottawa, Franklin County, living with her brother Louis and his family. This may have been her first trip back home so that the family could get to know Flora. There may have been another reason for the visit, but this makes sense to me. The next information I've found is that in 1906, William and Esther were in Australia for a family reunion with the Thoday's, part or most of Alice Thoday Dring Chamber's family. If you Google "Images" and type in Rev. William Dring, you should be able to pull up a picture of about 36 people. William and Esther are the first two people in the back row. At this point they were in their early 40's. (I don't put pictures on this blog because of copyright considerations, but I sure love it when other people have put pictures out there!)
The next documentation I found was a U.S. Consular Registration Certificate for Rev. W. Dring filed on Jun 9, 1914. I don't know why they registered at this time. Perhaps the US government had asked that all Americans make themselves known (American? Was William naturalized-need to check!), as this was about the time that World War I was just getting underway in Europe. The Ottawa, Ks. Daily Republic reported on August 26, 1914, "From the Orient-Miss Etta Jo McCoy has received a letter from Mrs. Esther Dring, missionary for the Baptist denomination, at Tura, Assam. Mrs. Dring writes that in parts of Assamand Bengal, there is dreadful famine, caused by a failure of the rice crop. In her locality, happily rains were plentiful and the crop was normal.".
In 1917, William applied for an emergency passport. Whether his was lost or expired or whatever the reason, we don't know but it's easy to tie it to the further events in World War I. We know that he arrived in Honolulu Hawaii in 1917 on the ship Ecuador, and that Esther was with him but I haven't found Flora yet. The Ottawa Herald reported on April 27, 1917 that "Mrs. F.H. Stannard today received a message that her sister, Mrs. William Dring and Rev. Dring had arrived at San Francisoc. Mr. and Mrs. Dring who were missionaries at Assam left Hong Kong March 28, landing in San Francisco yesterday. For the last twenty-seven years Rev. Dring has been a missionary in India and has had only two furloughs in that time. During the last four years there he has been in ill health much of the time. Though he is improved now he will not return to India. After a visit in San Francisco Mr. and Mrs. Dring will go to Colville, Wash., to spend several weeks with a brother of Mrs. Dring, Mr. L. E. Stannard."
I haven't located them in the 1920 or 1930 census yet, but in 1940 they were in Denver, Colorado, owned their own home and had lived at the same address in 1935. William is listed as having attended college for one year, and he was 77 years old, Esther was 74. William died December 22, 1942 in Denver, Colorado according to a tree on Ancestry. I haven't found a death date for Esther yet. Flora, their daughter, married and had a family and died in 1970.
This is as much as I've found about Esther Stanard Dring but I would love to find more. I didn't know we had a missionary in the family. I put Aunt Esther high on the list of people I would love to sit down and talk with, to find out more about her life. I'm sure she wrote lots of letters home but I have no idea what happened to them.
If someone reading this knows more, please contact me! The email is happygenealogydancingATgmailDOT com. You know what to do with the AT and the DOT.
Update: I found a little more information. Esther was born March 7, 1865 in Perkins Grove, Ill. and died August 30, 1950 in Concordia, Kansas. My hunch is that she was living with or near her daughter Flora, but I haven't been able to confirm that yet. It sure is strange to think that this lady with the wonderful story was living when I was just a baby. How did I miss hearing about her, anyway?