Rodica Rentfrow was born 3 August 1798 in Buncombe, North Carolina to Hickman Hensley (1759-1816) and Elizabeth Rentfrow (1774-1873).
When I started researching the Rodica Rentfrow family I was confused as to why all of Hickman Hensley’s and Elizabeth Rentfrow’s children took their mother’s maiden name. While I want this blog to be primary about Rodica I feel that I need to explain what I suspect about her parents. According to the U.S. and International marriage record, 1560-1900 Hickman Hensley married Agnes Fisher in Virginia. This is not an original document and I have not located the original yet. Other researches have stated that Agnes was Elizabeth’s niece but I have not proven that. It is suspected that Elizabeth was Hickman’s mistress. What I do know is that I have proof that all of the children used Elizabeth’s maiden name, Rentfrow.
I plan on writing a blog going into more detail of the life of Hickman Hensley and Elizabeth Rentfrow, I just wanted to do a short explanation on why Rodcia did not have her fathers surname.
Rodcia married Richard Cohea in 1815 in Maury, Tennessee. Richard served in the War of 1812 and you can read about that here https://ellajaneanne.com/2019/12/03/richard-cohea-and-the-war-of-1812/. Richard and Rodcia would have seven children: James born 2 May 1816, Elizabeth born 24 June 1818 in Hickman, Tennessee, Margret born 10 October 1824, Rhoda born 15 July 1828 in Illinois, Henry born 11 Nov 1830, Tabitha born 4 November 1834 in Effingham, Illinois, and Alexander born 1837 in Effingham, Illinois.
I found the Cohea family on the 1850 U.S. Census living in Effingham, Illinois with their three youngest children, Margert, Tabitha, and Alexander. Richard is listed as 60 years old and being born in Maryland. There is a mark in the second to last column and that is to indicate that you are over 20 years old and can not read or write. Richard, Rodica and Margret all had that column checked next to their name.
The next document I find lists the death of Richard Cohea as 5 March 1854 in Effingham, Illinois and Rodica is filing for his War of 1812 Pension. Richard was 64 years old when he passed away.
In a biographical sketch published in History of Effingham County, Illinois it says “Richard Cohea, who was born in Maryland and was living there when the War of 1812 began. He entered the United States service when but a lad, and continued in it until the close of the War. He and a comrade started out for Hickman County, Tenn., but on the way the latter died. He requested Mr. Cohea to carry his gun and other possession to his family, and his wishes were complied with. Mr. Cohea was so pleased with the country that he settled there. He met with a serious accident, being bitten by a snake, but while being nursed back to health by Rodisia Rentfrow, he fell in love with her and they were married. In 1820, they went to Clay County, Ill., where they made their home until 1827, when they came to Effingham County, settling on Green Creek, on land now owned by Anotn F. Jansen. He there built a little log cabin, but later, as the site was too much exposed to the wind, he built another cabin across the creek under the shelter of the hill. He was the first settler in this part of the county. Realizing the need of a mill, he built one operated by hand, and farmers came from the surrounding country to get their corn ground. Mr. Cohea began building a water mill on the Little Wabash, but having taken ill, the idea was abandoned, though later was taken up by a Mr. Ramse in 1831 or 32. Richard Cohea was a natural mechanic, and could make almost anything in the way of house furnishings. Not only did he supply his family with furniture, buckets, barrels, and like articles but his neighbors as well, and his son James, who inherited his talent, continued the work. Richard was a noble, high-minded man, and when he died March 17, 1852, the whole county mourned his passing away. He was a man who had a deep sympathy with the under dog, and did not hesitate to express his opinions about matters. No one ever called upon him for help in vain. He fed thousands in his day for which he never took a cent. Both he and his excellent wife were members of the Methodist Church, and they carried their faith into their everyday life. In the early days, meetings where held in their home. Mrs. Cohea survived him until 1892, when she died. ”
On 3 August 1888 an article was placed in the Effingham Democrat to celebrate Rodcia’s 90th birthday, this is also when the picture of Rodcia above was taken. The article said “Grandma Cohea, who was in our city last week to sit for a photograph, has lived to a good old age. Her maiden name was Rodcia Rentfrow, having been born in North Carolina in May 1800. At the age of five she came to Tennessee with her parents and while living there was united in marriage to Richard Cohea at the age of 16. By this union eleven children were born, her oldest son, James Cohea, of this township, being still alive at the advanced age of 71. Mrs. Cohea’s Husband died in 1854, since which time she has remained a widow. She is now in good health and seems to greatly enjoy her advanced years, surrounded as she is by five generations of her family. Grandma Cohea is living to her advanced age by simply keeping up the record of her family for longevity, her mother having lived to the age of 99. Many others of her blood and name have almost become centenarians. These patriarchal pioneers deserve the respect of the entire public as they go about carring with them their fullness of years and honors.” This was published in the EffCoGenSoc. Vol XVIII No. 3 Page 16.
Rodcia lived almost 40 years after Richard passed away. She died on 29 March 1892. According to her pension document she lived on the $12.00 a month she earned from her husband’s War of 1812 pension. The last payment she received was on 4 January 1892. In her obituary, pictured above, published in the Effingham Democrat. It said about Rodcia “Mrs. Rodica Cohea, the oldest person in the county, died Tuesday, at the residence of her daughter, Lizzie Dillman, in Ewington, at the advanced age of 96 years. Her ailment was simply old age. Grandma Cohea had remarkable vitality and up to within a few weeks of her death she was able to be up and about and to tend to her daily duties. Her mind was bright in her old age and her recollections of pioneer days were entertaining in the highest degree. The deceases was a native of Tennessee and had resided in this county since 1827. Her husband died in 1853 and since that time she has remained a widow and she drew a pension of $12 per month as his widow. She was the only pensioner of that war in the county. There are living in this county 25 of the fifth generation of this remarkable family. The remains of Grandma Cohea were laid to rest yesterday in the Rentfrow Cemetery beside her husband.”
A couple of notes about the Cohea family. I have seen the Cohea name spelled a variety of ways but choose to only use one for this blog. Same thing with Rodcia, I have seen it spelled a variety of ways but to make things easy I only spelled it one way. Secondly, there are several discrepancies about the year that Richard passed away, I will say that I do not have one date that matches so I used the date from his pension record. This seems would be the most accurate since it was most likely provided by Rodcia. I also have two different years that Rodcia could have been born, in her bible it says 1798 and in the article above it says 1800. I use the one from her bible page as it is most likely correct. I have traveled to Effingham, Illinois several times to research the many ancestors I have from there. However, I have never been to the Rentfrow Cemetery and have never seen the graves of Richard and Rodcia, my fifth great-grandparents.
I am always amazed at the things I learn about my ancestors and their lives. While I do not have many details of Rodcia’s life after her husband passed away, knowing she worked until she could no longer work, gives me great insight into the person she was. I have learned so much about her and her life and wish I could have known her. While that may not be possible, I love that I can get to know her by researching her and her life. One day I will go back to Effingham, Illinois and I will visit the Rentfow Cemetery to visit Richard and Rodcia.