Dedicated to cousin Doug Richards who contacted me in October 2016 and provided a treasure of information, leading to a Quirky Surprise at the End! Clarissa was his great grandmother, Stephen F. Richards was his grandfather.  Sara Ellen was our great grandmother, William McGary 'Mack' was our grandfather.

The twin girls, Clarissa and Sara Ellen, were born on a Wednesday, March 17, 1847 into the Irish family of Felix McGary and Betsy Collins McGary, who were living in Harrison County, WV ... or Illinois.  If they could read,  the news of the day was about the tragic recounting of the Donner Party wagon train's tragic ordeal. Remember, this was during the Mexican American War just days before the Battle of Buena Vista.

*Regrettably, we have no images of either sister, except for a small snapshot of Sara Ellen tucked into William Washington Case's portrait. Through the years both our families blessed us with oral and written histories that have been passed on to us - the younger generation. These stories converged when Doug and I began to compare notes.  Add to that, the US Census results beginning in 1850 confirming the existence of each sister and we have much more confidence than doubt about the validity.  

             Separated before age 13, this map shows lifetime locations of each sister.  Click the map to enlarge.

According to US Census, 1850-1930,  Sara Ellen was first found in 1850 in Wood County, Clarissa in Harrison County. In those days census takers were sometimes barely literate, dealing with thick accents and/or not exactly thorough. And all records of course were hand written.  (In another family I luckily found one child registered at a neighbor's house.) In this case, both sisters at various points in their lives claimed birth in Illinois. Cursory search of Illinois found no birth records, nor existence of Felix or Betsy McGary.

Sara Ellen's family written version
Letter from Aunt Mildred Starcher 1976
(Claud Case's sister)

'I do remember Grandma Jack (Sarah Ellen McGary Case Jack), as I was about 12 or 13 when she died.  She lived in a little house near Dad's store in Halo. (William McGary Case)  She had no foreign accent and knew nothing about the whereabouts of any of her family, as they had somehow become separated during the Civil War.  Itinerant preachers would stay at our house and Grandma Jack was there one time when the preacher's eyes popped out and he said she looked just like one of his members in West Union WV.  She turned out to be Grandma's sister and a reunion was held sometime later.  I was 7 or 8 then.  They looked exactly alike, even dressed similarly.  They were in their 70's at this time.'

Clarissa's family oral version of the history and reunion:

Clairsy lived a long and happy life and was blessed with many grandchildren, among whom was little Joseph whose Mother died when he was young. Clairsy helped raise Joseph and they were very close. One day Clairsy received word that a women living near Cowen West Virginia might be her long lost twin, Clancy. When the horse and buggy pulled up to the house Joseph was sitting beside his Grandmother on the front porch. Later in life he would say, "If I hadn't been beside Grandma, I would have sworn it was her getting out of the buggy."

These two rotund ladies with gray hair had not seen each other since they were five years old and had both raised children and grandchildren. Without a word they simply hugged each other and spent the rest of their lives together.


Clarissa's Daughters



Clarissa's Sons


Sara Ellen McGary Case Jack
17 Mar 1847 - 07 Mar 1930
Adkison Cemetery, Cowen, Webster County
GPS (lat/lon): 38.43784, -80.55161 
Clarissa McGary Richards
17 Mar 1847 - 24 Feb 1933
Mt Olive Cemetery, Salem, Harrison County
GPS (lat/lon): 39.246948, -80.572104 


... thanks to Doug's 'breadcrumb' ...

October 2016
Yes, I see how one gets hooked on this! I've been very fortunate in getting a lot of information in a relatively short time period due to the good work of others, including you and my other cousin, Darrell Richards. There is also extensive information already assembled on the internet for the descendants of John Jacob Reichart (Richards), which I'm sure you know. And spending a lot of your childhood near West Milford I'm sure you're way ahead of me on the Richards Fort story. 

Well no, I didn't know or remember anything about a fort.  I'm pretty sure we played hide and seek in that area when visiting my Daugherty cousins!



West Milford, WV

Click for a slideshow of more information.



*Exciting update 2017:  Doug was sorting through family photos and sent this over for me to ponder on.  We've concluded that this must be both Clarissa and Sara Ellen, taken near Clarissa and surrounded by her 2 daughters and some grandchildren.    


The tragic story of the Donner party began in Springfield, Illinois on May 1846.The tragic story of the Donner party began in Springfield, Illinois on May 1846.