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Sarah Dibra

Using primary documents gathered during the historical marker research process, IHB staff further explored these topics on the IHB blog Marking Hoosier History. The following is an archived post from the blog.

Indiana’s list of accomplished women is long and illustrious. There are names of writers, artists, and those who have fought for noble causes and against all odds won the battles. The list contains names of brilliant scientists, entrepreneurs, and even a Roman Catholic saint!  All of these women should be remembered and celebrated. However, there is another group of women who seem to have been forgotten–the pioneer housewives. These women  left their homes and families, joining their husbands on the trek into the dark forests of early Indiana.  It is impossible to fully appreciate the hardships they endured in those primitive times.

Sarah Dibra was one of thousands of women who helped to settle Indiana. She came to Monon, White County in 1840 and died at the age of 101 years, out-living  her husband, daughter, and two sons. Her name does not appear in history books, no statue immortalizes her, and no historical marker stands in her remembrance. However, her lengthy obituary, printed in the February 22, 1912 issue of the Monticello Herald, gives us a glimpse of her simple, yet extraordinary, life and the great respect in which she was held.

“The venerable Mrs. Sarah [Dibra] died at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Marion Sluyter Wednesday, February 14, 1912, at 2:30 a.m., aged 101 years and 16 days. The end came almost imperceptibly to her ever-watchful attendants, who unstintingly indulged her very possible wish to the close of a most remarkable life. . . Her funeral was held at the Christian church in Buffalo . . . having united therewith at the age of eighteen . . . A large concourse of friends and admirers, including the pupils and teachers from the Buffalo schools, who attended in body, contributed to a very credible mark of respect to the venerable deceased. To witness the last rites accorded a citizen and neighbor having passed her 101st birthday is by no means the usual lot of man . . . She was born Jan. 28, 1811, in Newberry county, South Carolina, being one of a family of six sisters and four brothers. When eight years old she moved with her parents to Columbus, Tenn., and in 1830 to Miami county, O., . . . These journeys were made in wagons over bad roads and occupied many days. . . In 1832 she married Jacob [Dibra], and to them were born one daughter, Elizabeth, and two sons, Samuel and David. In 1840 they moved to this county, entering 200 acres of land near the present site of Lowe’s bridge. Here they lived in a rude hut while building a more substantial log house, the material for which they cut and prepared for themselves from the timber on their land . . . Her son was one of the earliest Union volunteers and died in 1861 at Bardstown, Ky., from measles contracted in service. The other son Samuel, died at Oxford Ind. Her living decedents are seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.”

Eight generations of Sarah’s descendents have lived in Indiana, including Paula Bongen of the Indiana Historical Bureau staff, the author of this post. That’s quite a legacy from “just a housewife.”