Sunday, December 06, 2015

Gilbert Hahn and Ruth Volzka 65th Wedding Anniversary

My parents sent long newsy Christmas letters to their friends and relatives (and I was apparently infected with the same virus). At Christmas time in 1991 my parents received a card from Gilbert and Ruth Hahn and enclosed was a newspaper clipping describing their 65th wedding anniversary celebration in Racine, Wisconsin. Ruth's mother, Mary Weber (born in 1870), was sister to my Grandfather Herman Weber (who was born in 1879).  Mary Weber married August Volzka.  My Grandfather married Susan Sherwood.  Ruth and my father were cousins.  But the fact that Ruth was married 3 years after my father was born was an example of the fluidity of generations in families that have many children over a long period of time. 

The reference to the 1992 Weber reunion would be to the annual summer event often hosted in Wonewoc, Wisconsin.  And with this news article, when a couple reaches 65 years of marriage, it's enlightening and encouraging to hear their advice on long-term marital success!  Gilbert lived about another four years after this anniversary celebration and Ruth lived about two more years after that until she followed.   

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Gulvin Children Reunited and Family Mystery Solved

A few years ago when I began researching family history, I came across a cousin of my grandmother named Myra Gulvin.  She had never married and moved around quite a bit, often acting as housekeeper for friends and relatives who needed assistance, particularly when mothers had passed away leaving younger children who needed care.  It took quite awhile but slowly I pieced together the fact that she and her siblings had all ended up in various places.  Their parents, Richard and Ann (Towne) Gulvin had disappeared from the census records by 1870 and the children didn't show up together.  I finally realized that they had been orphaned and had been split up.  I did find a letter showing that Myra knew about some of them at least.  This week I came across a letter from Myra to my grandmother telling about a wonderful family reunion that the siblings had had decades after their parents had passed away.  Richard and Ann Gulvin had passed away in 1866 and 1867 respectively.  The oldest of the five children, Martha, was ten when her father died and the youngest child, Richard, was only two.  The reunion of siblings had been written about in the Lafayette paper.  I don't have the exact dates, but the newspaper clipping was in a letter dated July 1934. Following the rest of the newspaper article is the letter that Myra wrote about the event.  
Maywood, Ill
July 17, 1934
Dear Cousin Susan,
            I have just been reading over your nice long newsy Xmas letter and guess we are quite as too negligent and live such a quiet life here that there is so little to write about it seems useless to write.  However I sure enjoyed your letter and this morning it seemed like having a talk with you once again.  I’m glad you all really liked the scrapbook. I really liked it myself when it as all done – it was the very prettiest one out of several that I made last year. I think we must have had the same kind of weather that you had up in Wisconsin. We have had a very dry hot summer so far and in some places the crops are in bad shape.  I have just returned from a most delightful visit in my old Indiana home town at the home of my brother Richard. We had a family reunion at his home.  Sisters Mattie and Grace came and of course brother Charlie lives there so he was with us two or three evenings a week.  We had a picnic in the woods down in Fountain County where we were born.  Besides us five Brother Charlie’s family were with us all but the oldest one, he works for the Monon Rail Road and couldn’t get away.  However there were twenty of us in the family with only two outsiders, two youngsters visiting their sister, the wife of one of Charlie’s boys.  Charlie’s children are all married and he has seven grandchildren, all boys but two.  Well we had a lovely day visiting, taking pictures and doing justice to all the good eats that the various overtook.  It was rather warm but we just forgot that part of it and had a good time.  I am sending you a clipping from a Lafayette paper which will tell all the rest; you might send it out to Salt Lake to George and Dora if you please. I only had three, am keeping one and sent one to your Aunt Marian. I thought your bunch would be the most interested in the occasion of my [family] so that is why.
            The day of the picnic the  daughter of a lady who used to know our father and mother took us girls for an auto ride down through that part of the County where we used to live and we saw the actual spot where the house stood and where our brother Charlie was born and where Father died. And we have found the spot where our parents are buried and the brothers are looking after it. Isn’t it splendid after all these years to know just where they were laid and to be able to feel there will be someone to look after the place in the years that are ahead.
I guess my family are all well at present tho I haven’t heard from any of the Delevan branch for some time.  Sister is with Hattie in the Worth part of Wis on a vacation trip.  I am about as usual, have my ups and downs as the old ladies say. 
            If you think our Salt Lake friends would like to read this letter and you are so minded just send it along for them to read.  I haven’t even made my bed and it is nine o’clock so think I better close at this time.  With love to all
                                                            From Cousin,  Myra J Gulvin
Myra herself has written her age on the bottom of the photo.  The photo was taken two years later, but she lived five more years after this family reunion.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Badger Squab Yards -- Raising Pigeons "Back In The Day"

          Back in the day when my dad was a teenager he started his own business supplying squabs to food suppliers as well as other farmers.   In an addition to the family personal mail box, he created a sign for his business which has now come to me.  Their home, Spring Brook Farm, was just a couple of miles outside of Kendall, Wisconsin (near Tomah or Sparta or further yet to La Crosse -- if you know your way around Wisconsin!).
In 1996, four years before he died, I was able to corral my dad and got him to dictate memories of life on the farm.  One afternoon he discussed his foray into breeding and selling pigeons.
          "When I began high school I started myself another project.  I started raising White King pigeons and selling breeding stock and marketable squabs.  I continued with pigeon raising until after I graduated from high school (about a total of four years).
         "I started out raising pigeons with four pair, bought from a pigeon raiser in Melrose, Massachusetts.  I bred the flock up until I had about 38 mated pairs, plus pairs that I had sold.  I had one big male pigeon that I hand fed when he was pushed out of his nest when he was little.  Normally pigeons lay two eggs at a time, but somehow this pair laid three.  They kept feeding two of them but just left this one aside, so I took him in and started hand-feeding him by chewing up grain and stuff and feeding him with my lips.  While he started out small, he became one of the biggest pigeons in my loft, weighing almost two pounds.  The average male pigeon weighs about 1 and 1/4 lb.  Toby and I became real close.  He liked to ride around on my shoulder or sometimes on the top of my head.  When he would ride on my head I would like to run fast to see if he would get airborne.  I liked to run with him with his wings outstretched.  Sometimes I could do it, get him airborne.
         "Toby was generally a good -natured bird.  My parents raised Silver-Laced Wyandotte chickens, which are rather large, probably averaging about 12-13 pounds for hens and 14 to 16 pounds. for roosters.  Sometimes when we would feed the chickens, Toby would decide, “Hey, there’s a free meal.  I’ll have some too.”  He would saunter up to the long feeding trough and commence to eat with the chickens.  Now if the chickens treated him right and didn’t make any bad moves toward him, he would just eat with them.  But let one chicken forget its manners and peck at that pigeon, and Toby would clear all the chickens away from the feeding trough by just slapping them with his wings.
         "He had powerful wings.  He knocked some of those chickens silly, they’d stagger around the yard because he always hit them in the head.  After he had finished all he wanted, then they could go back and eat.  It didn’t take the chickens long to learn not to make a bad pass at Toby.  That pigeon could really hit hard with his wings.  One time I happened to reach toward one of the chickens when he swung at the chicken and he accidentally hit my hand instead.  It raised a welt on my hand."
My father introduced my mother to his favorite pigeon, Toby and they also became friends. 
Here is mom with Toby at the family's farm and it looks like one of the apparently oft-abused chickens is loitering in the background.
About 25 years later we enjoyed feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square in London -- this photo of my father and brother is one of my favorites!  And it always starts in my mind the full orchestration of the sound track "Feed The Birds" from the Mary Poppins movie whenever I see it.
And even a few decades further, my daughter raised pigeons for a little while and we all had a very fun time with them.  She also hand raised a chick she named Amber.  The pigeons would fly around the neighborhood during the day and would come home in the evening and settle in for the night.  She became interested in pigeons partly by hearing Grandpa's stories but also by reading the Mysteries Through History chapter book called The Night Fliers.  It seems that none of our family pigeon photos are digital, so none are readily at hand.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Heartfelt Birthday Greetings George to His Father, Will Sherwood

George's father - William Richard Sherwood
In 1920, a little over a year after coming home from fighting in WWI, George Stevens Sherwood was making his way in the world.  He had not stayed long at home after returning and seemed to feel a restlessness and a need to find his own way.  His sister Susan and her husband were co-farmers with their parents and would later take over the farm (buying out their siblings interest).  His half-sister, Dora, and her husband Guy Lindsey, were in Utah.  He headed West with many others during this era and worked at several different jobs.  At the time of this letter there was still a year to go before he met the love of his life.  At this particular time he was working for the Mutual Coal Company in Rains, Utah.  He penned this missive in honor of his father's 61st birthday (he was born August 28, 1859).  This coming week will mark Will Sherwood's 154th birthday anniversary.
Rains[1], Utah – Aug 24 -  20
Dear Dad,
            While I’m not exactly in a nice frame of mind to write a cheerful birthday letter, it’s about the only chance I’ll get I guess, so here goes.  Now I’d better explain why I’m on the peck, so you’ll know none of you are in any wise to blame.  Guess I’ve told you all from time to time about our trouble with the Gen. Man of the company butting into the Engr end of the game.  Now, not having learned anything in the last botch he made, he has come around this afternoon with another change.  Of course as per usual it is the eleventh hour when the whole thing is laid out and work started on it.  I’m afraid my nervous system won’t stand much more of this.  Wish I knew how the drill proposition would turn out, so that I knew where to jump to and I’d quit tonite.  It may look foolish to you as long as it’s not my money or my layout that is getting balled up, but after helping in my small way to get the work laid out right, its more than I can stand to see a bull-headed, pot-bellied hardware merchant come up here and make a mess of it.  It’s killing my interest in the work entirely so I’ll be glad to get out.  I’m seeing clearer every day that I’m too set in my way to work for someone else, but in this case I know we are right, and that’s the appreciation we get for it.  That old bird ought to be in a home for feeble minded instead of Gen Man. Of a new company.  Well, I got the money you sent O.K. and sure hope the drill is a success.  Thank you for your promptness. 
            And now for the Best Wishes for your Birthday.  Wish I could be with you, but in my absence just think of me as you celebrate for I’ll be with you all in spirit if not in flesh.  And “Dad” just remember as you pass this milestone that I’m trusting you will take good care of yourself so that you will be with us for many more.  I’m a little inclined to believe from what sis and mother write you are kind of forgetting to ease up, and I need you, Dad, I sure do.  Are money matters getting so tight you have to work so hard?
            If so, let me know and will try to devise some scheme to ease up the situation.  For you promised to let me know if all was not well.
             It is a damp, chilly, rainy night as I sit here in my cabin writing this and thot’s of home are cheerful so I pen the following:
George Stevens Sherwood - during the time he lived and worked in Rains           

When a fellow’s young and carefree
And the world is mostly joy
He takes his Home for granted
For you see he’s mostly boy.

But when you leave the old home tree
And round the world you roam
You get to dreaming more and more
 Of the love and peace of home.   

Even on shell scarred battlefield,
Crouched in a blood-smeared hole
There comes a fleeting moment
When you search your blighted soul.

Memories flit swiftly past you
As you crouch there all alone;
And the ones that grip you hardest
Are the memories of home

In your billet, tent or dugout
Sky above you painted red
With the flame of ceaseless battle
Gothes droning overhead

When you crawl into your blankets
Lice infested, damp and cold
You go to sleep a dreamin’
Dreams of home and days of old.

Life may toss you like a puppet
Into cities' sordid din
You may drift into a wilderness
Where man has never been

But when you’re feeling lonely
Sorter useless, down and out
And you try to feel more cheerful
Why - its home you think about.

Wherever you may wander
Whatever you may do
No matter who the fellow is
You’ll find this one thing true

Whenever he gets lonely
His thots turn evermore
To the lovin' warmth and comfort
Of the Home he’s yearnin’ for

                    Stevens Sherwood* -  August 24, 1920
                     [Copyright 2015 KSL]
            Well, if you have lived through that, I’ll ring off and give you a much needed rest.  Excuse the pencil, my pen faded out at the crucial moment, but I didn’t take the hint and lay off.
            Now I’ll close with Birthday Greetings to “The Best Dad in the World.” From
                                                                        His loving son
Love to all
* * * * *
*George Stevens Sherwood AKA Stevens Sherwood apparently liked the idea of using his middle and last names as an alternate pen-name.  Stevens was his mother's family name and his grand parents were David Eastman Stevens and Rosina Jane Richardson Stevens, both born in Topsham, Vermont and married there and then almost immediately moved to Wisconsin..

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Robert A Richardson Writes of Life on Vermont Farm in 1871


 In mid-October of 1871 Robert and Rosina (Healy) Richardson of Vermont, replied to a letter from their daughter and son in law, David and Rosina Jane (went by Jane) Stevens who were living in Iowa at the time.  The family had just heard about the great Chicago fire the week before and were all worried about the several extended family members who lived in Chicago or who had been traveling there recently. 
 Rosina penned a letter all consumed with family and concern about the fire.  Robert wrote his own missive to the children, all about local business, his and theirs.  He remarks that he was becoming deaf so maybe he had not heard about the fire, but more likely he had left worrying about that to his wife and was intent on letting them know what was happening in regards to the family fortunes on the farm and to what he had done with the check they had sent to him. 

 David and Jane owed Dr. Smith money for something – maybe property; maybe past medical care.  The letter doesn’t enlighten us. It sounds like Robert had an additional $5 of their money from the past and added it to whatever they were paying to make the funds go further. But the letter, written by the old farmer, gives a sense of life on a Vermont farm as winter was approaching. And I love how after his recitation, he also tossed in the cat (who no doubt was critical to the success of the farm, specialist in rodent control!).
Topsham Oct 15 1871
Dear Children – I want to see you very much but cannot today - how soon I cannot tell.  I am getting Deaf.  I want but little, the grain crop is light, the wheat crop is from 5-10 bushels from a bushel sowing, oats about the same, corn is light, potatoes is good. They are worth from 20 to 30 cents per bushel.  Corn is worth $1.00, oats 45 cents, wheat $1.50, hay $15 per ton.  There is no sale for that, but tho at any price there is 10 sellers to one buyer.  Cows $25, yearling $14 to 15 this year.  12 to 25 oxen, one third less than one year ago.  Sheep in good demand, wool is rising.  It is worth 60 cents per pound.  Business is dull, money is scarce, but we got enough to eat and we nought to complain. We shall get along some way if it is a hard one.  We raised 55 bushels of oats, 125 potatoes, 20 of corn, 25 tons of hay.  We have 30 sheep, one pig, 7 cattle, one horse, 30 hens, one cat. 
            David and Jane we received your check and went to town to Dr. Smith the next day last. [Paid] up the interest for two years, the interest and bonus amounted to one hundred, $114 19 cents. I had 5 dollars of your money and I paid it.  The interest is paid to last August. The bonus until next August the 20th. I think it is all right. 
                     I am your well-wisher
                                                        R. Richardson
 Robert A. Richardson.  This photo was taken on the occasion of his 80th birthday
 in 1885. He was born in Bath, New Hampshire January 8, 1805
and passed away on the 6th of April 1889. 
His signature from this letter above.
Above left are David and Jane Stevens.
Robert was the son of Robert Fletcher Richardson and Dorcas Hardy Richardson of Bath, New Hampshire.  His maternal grandfather Jesse Hardy, fought in the Revolutionary War under the command of Captain Gates.  His paternal grandfather, Zechariah Richardson former of Francestown, New Hampshire also fought in the Revolutionary War.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Weber Kids Have the Measles!

Bill, Mary, Robert and Carl in 1929, not quite two years after these events.

In 1927 my father, Robert, his sister Mary, and his two brothers, Bill (older) and Carl (younger) all had the measles during November.  My grandmother kept a record of the events for some reason and it is enlightening to read now.  I highlighted below the two best parts of the experience for them!  It looks like the kids had the "hard measles" rather than the "3 day" based on length of time and their aversion to light. 
Bill, Robert, Carl and Mary - around this time period.
Interesting that they were both suffering through the measles -- bad -- and getting electric wiring in their old 14 room farmhouse -- good -- at the same time.   This is a fun trip back in time.

October 30th
Robert ill in bed with earache and stomach.
October 31st
Started wiring for electric lights
November 1st
Mary brought home from school with headache
November 2nd
Billy in bed with headache
November 3rd
Had doctor for Robert. 
Billy & Mary went to school.
November 4th
Mary ill when she came home from school
November 5th
Billy and Mary “drooped” around all day. 
Mary started breaking out late at night.
November 6th
Mary broke out in measles Saturday and Sunday at night. 
Billy started breaking out Sunday afternoon.
November 7th
Billy started breaking out Sunday and Monday at night
November 11th
Rash practically all gone on Mary. 
Carl was very restless during night
November 12th
Carl had high fever during night.  Very quiet all day.
Billy and Mary up around house
November 13th
Robert had high fever during night.  Carl vomited after supper, coughs a great deal.
November 14th
Wire men came to finish wiring of house.
Carl not well – looked as if he were going to break out.
Men had doors open a great deal and day was cold.
Carl had several blotches on face by supper time.
November 15th
Kept Carl and Robert both in bed.
Men finished wiring and left
Carl broke out some of face and body.
November 16th
Carl pretty well broke out except feet and hands.
Robert also pretty well broken out. 
Carl can’t stand light.
November 17th
Both broken out pretty well all over. 
Don’t want any light.
Thurs, Fri, Sat
Nov 17, 18 & 19
Very restless and hard to care for. 
Don’t want me out of sight a minute. 
Can’t stand light, especially Carl. 
Robert had earache and passed blood in stools as he did after earache of Oct 30th tho not so much.
Sunday & Monday
Nov 20 & 21st
Felt pretty good and were hard to keep in bed.
I had a pretty good sleep Monday night, the first good sleep in weeks.
Rash pretty well gone 
November 22nd
They were dressed and played on the beds.
November 23rd
Billy and Mary went downstairs toward evening.
November 24th
We are all thankful to be able to eat Thanksgiving Dinner together.
November 25th
Herman’s Birthday and all getting along fine
December 1
All out of quarantine
December 3rd
All went to town. Got Billy suit ($11) at Schankes;
Robert overcoat ($6), cap ($1) and mittens ($.50) at Schankes; Carl mittens ($.50) at Schankes; and
Mary black oxford shoes at Doyles.  End of entry. 

   Good reminder of the childhood diseases that families faced simply because there were no vaccines for them yet available. The one drawback of the magnificent vaccines that we have is that rarely do people see what the disease looks like -- whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, mumps.
 Susan, the writer of these events, working on some task.

Friday, July 03, 2015

James and Annie (McIntyre) Vandervort Enjoy Golden Anniversary 100 Years Ago

150 years ago today my great-great grandparents got married, partly as a result of the Civil War.
Anna Mary's parents, David and Louisa (Huff) McIntyre were both born in Maine and married in Boston, Massachusetts.  After a three year whaling adventure, David joined the Navy and ended up on a ship that participated in the Mexican War.  When he got out of the Navy back in Massachusettes in 1849 he and his wife moved first to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and later to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. There they had two daughters and Anna was the eldest.  Her official name may have been Mary Anna, but everyone knew her as "Annie."

James was the next to the last of five children born from second marriage of both James Robert Vandervort and Mary Baker Moon.  Both of his parents were born and married in New York State. Before he was 10 years old his family  moved to Wisconsin and when he was 19 and living in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin the Civil War began.
James Baker Vandervort enlisted as a private in Co. B, 16th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers at Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on Oct. 18, 1861.   He looks SO young in this photo. At that time he was described as having gray eyes and brown hair, 5'7" tall and worked as a Farmer in Waukesha county. A typed and transcribed newspaper article (no attribution) said that he was discharged on Jan 4, 1864 at Treadbone [likely Redbone], Mississippi. He then reenlisted with Company A 16th Wisconsin Volunteers.  During his four years in the service, he apparently was involved in Siege of Cornish,MS; Bumpkin's Mills, GA, Chattahoochee River, GA, Siege of Atlanta, GA; Decatur, GA, Jonesboro, GA, Lovejoy's Station, GA, Siege of Savannah, GA; Pocatalico, SC; Whippy Swamp, SC; Orangeburg, SC; Columbia, SC; Bentonville, NC; Capture of Atlanta and March to the Sea.  The newspaper article  noted that when asked about his time in the War, he felt his most important service to the country was at the battles of Shiloh and Bald Knob and the capture of Atlanta. 

He was in the Civil War for most of it's duration and near the end came down with a fever (Yellow, Malaria, Dengue, Encephalitis?? -- no idea). He was hospitalized and ended up convalescing at the Swift Hospital facility associated with Fort Crawford at  Prairie du Chien. The Swift hospital was one of three hospitals in Wisconsin to care for wounded and ill Civil War soldiers. It opened in the fall of 1864 and closed September 1865. In the one year that soldier's convalesced there, the hospital served 1468 men from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.  There he somehow met Annie McIntyre.  We can only conjecture how that happened.  Did she work or volunteer at the medical clinic?  Did their local church send parishioners to visit soldiers and comfort them while away from home?  Did they have mutual friends who introduced them?  No way to answer those, but we do know that on July 3, 1865 they were married in Prairie du Chien. He was discharged from the service on July 29, 1865 in Madison, Wisconsin. James and Annie moved to LaGrange, Wisconsin where his extended family then resided.  They farmed there for 25 years and then moved a short ways to Tomah, Wisconsin. They had six children together, five of which lived to adulthood.  They include Sarah (Brown); Dora (Root), Charles, Earnest and Otis.   Their last child, Clinton, lived less than a year.  I was so glad when another family history buff shared the photo at the top of this entry because it included little Clinton.
Annie was described by their grandson Charles F. Vandervort, based on recollections of Annie's son
Ernest and Maude as a "lady with a good sense of humor, the kind with the twinkle in the eye."
On their 50th wedding anniversary they had a celebration at their home which was attended by their children and his Grand Army of the Republic Post and her Ladies Relief Corps members.  At 8:00 in the evening their pastor of the Methodist Church, Rev. Mr. Hoisington, performed a ceremony repeating their vows and joined in celebrating this wonderful milestone.  According to the newspaper article, Annie was attired in a gown of tan silk poplin and carried a bouquet of yellow roses.  Their porch and lawn were "decorated in the national colors" as befits a celebration of a wedding brought together because of his service to help save the Union and their 50th anniversary taking place on the Independence Day weekend.
 This later photo of their home in Tomah includes  from left to right Mary Anna McIntyre Vandervort, Kathryn Mae Vandervort, Ida Radloff Vandervort (2nd wife to Charles L Vandervort and stepmother to Kathryn), Charles Lorenzo Vandervort, Isaac Vandervort and James Baker Vandervort. I love these Italianate homes and particularly enjoy the personality added to the photo by the faithful dog and the horse and buggy.  Charles was my Great-Grandfather, Ida his second wife, and the young Kathryn was my wonderful maternal grandmother.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Uncle Robert writes to Aunt Nellie with help of daughter Florence

Robert Fletcher Richardson II when he was in his 50's. 
Robert Fletcher II was named for his paternal grandfather, also Robert Fletcher Richardson.
His father was Robert A. Richardson -- no Fletcher, so the name skipped a generation.
I would love to know where the Fletcher name came from!  This is a transcription of a letter.
Waterbury, VT, Jan 5, 1921
My Dear Aunt:
            Father was much pleased to get your letter and I will write for him as his hand trembles so he can’t write lately.  Don’t know when you heard from him last.  He went out to Washington [VT] a few weeks last summer.  My girl kept house for him, then he decided to come back here and stay.  Can only walk a few steps with crutches.  Early in the Fall he had a very sick spell but is a good deal better now. He stays in bed most of the time for he naps.  His hip pains him less when he lays quiet than when he even sits up.     
            He says his eyes are not as good as a little while ago but I think they are wonderful for one of his age for he reads his daily paper and about two library books a week.  Just sits up in bed with pillows back of him.
            Tell Ella I received her card. Wish I might know her and the rest of my unknown relatives out your way. We haven’t heard from Aunt Julia for over a year.  Then she was very poorly and living with Fred’s wife.
            Father says tell you that he was 88 years old last September.  Think you must have forgotten his age by this time.  It has been very warm so far this winter for which I am very glad as it takes less wood and is better for me to be out.  I have so much barn work to see to every day.
                                                Your loving niece,
                                                            Florence Wallace
Florence Ida Richardson was the youngest of the five children born to Robert Fletcher Richardson II and Rosetta Dexter Richardson.  Florence was born on March 2, 1875 in Washington, Vermont.  Florence married James Moses Wallace and they lived in Waterbury, VT. At the time of this photo, taken on the occasion of her parents 50th wedding anniversary in 1907, they already had four of their seven children. Their eldest, their daughter Lelia, was sitting in front of her grandparents when the photo was taken and is not in this photo.  The ones in the photo are their first three boys, Robert, William and George.  Many thanks to my cousin Barb for this photo!  Florence was about 32 years old when this photo was taken and in her mid-40's when she penned this letter for her father.  Her husband had died in October of 1918 a little over two years before.  His death certificate notes that he died of Influenza and pneumonia. 
It appears he was one of the victims of the severe flu pandemic of 1918. 
This is Florence when she was a little girl.
The recipient of this missive was the youngest and the only remaining of Robert's siblings, his sister Eva Irene Richardson.  Eva married George Thompson and was always known as Nellie from that time on.  Nellie was also born in Topsham, Vermont and later lived in the Dakota Territory and later  yet in the Washington Territory in the Palouse.  When her husband died she returned to Wisconsin to live near her niece,  Ella Jane Stevens Sherwood. It took quite a while to figure out that Nellie and Eva were the same person as she was referred to as Eva almost exclusively when young and then as an older adult was  always Nellie.  At the time this was written, Robert and Nellie were the only two siblings left of the original eight.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Searching for Grandpa Joseph Steel

When we visited Washington, New Hampshire a few years ago we traced and contemplated the various family lines that converged at that significant spot.  I had previously heard that grandfather Church Tabor and his father Joseph had come during the 1780s to help construct the Washington, New Hampshire town meeting hall. This was also reported to be the second town meeting hall they had helped built, the first being the Town Hall at Nelson, New Hampshire.  However, on his later military pension application  affidavit, Church states that he moved to Washington, NH in 1776.  He had served in the military from May  1, 1775 to Jan 1, 1776 and a second time beginning in February 1, 1776 for two additional months.
About that same time the John and Mary (Wight) Healy family and children had come pioneering from Newton, Massachusetts.  Her parents were the Joseph and Mary Wight featured in the previous post, MA.  Mary and John lived in Newton, MA after their marriage and according to the book The History of Washington, New Hampshire, arrived in Washington in 1778. Their son Nathaniel was born there in 1785.

William Steel and his brother John had also moved to Washington from the Amherst area of New Hampshire.  Elizabeth was the daughter of John Steel and Jane his wife and was one of five siblings.  Elizabeth was born in Wilton, New Hampshire in 1764.  William, her uncle, became one of the leaders of the new community. 
All three of these families arrived in Washington for different reasons and apparently separately. Church Tabor and Elizabeth Steel met in Washington and married in September of 1782.  We have yet to find a maiden name anywhere for her mother Jane which impedes our efforts to trace her family back to or beyond their arrival in New England.  Unfortunately the original town hall and records of Wilton burned many years ago and the original records were lost.  Fortunately the history of the town had been completed previously, so much of the genealogical records remain in that form.  Church and Elizabeth's daughter, Jane Tabor, was born in Washington in 1786.  Twenty years later Nathaniel Healy and Jane Tabor were married on December 22, 1807. 

William Steel and John Healy had significant differences about how the town should be run and often found themselves in opposition. Ironically,  in our later generation veins, the blood lines of all the families flow mingled together and their disputes and rivalries having been laid to rest over 200 years ago.    
The Washington town historian gave us directions to the road leading to the farms where the Healy's and the Tabors lived during their tenure in Washington.  This road does not appear to have EVER been improved.  My brother and his family had fortunately come with us on this journey and we had all piled into their Suburban in order to travel together. The Suburban mastered the road.  Our small rental would have been much the worse for wear!  Those rocks are formidable!  I can't imagine that horses had any affection for this road either!  And going over them in a cart or wagon without good suspension would have been miserable.  Even with the suburban my brother got out to check and see how much worse the road might become.  All that is left there, we heard but did not see, were old foundations scattered in the forest.
Hardy folk, these pioneers.  I really admire their strength and ability to withstand the hardships in spite of which they continued to thrive.  Moving on horseback  and wagons and walking for miles on undeveloped roads through forested areas full of animals, Indians and traders.  They formed a community for companionship and security, but when the sun went down it was dark, except for a lantern or a distant candle in a window marking the way home. A long way between neighbors so a lot of self-sufficiency was required.  No antibiotics.  Few doctors.  Amazing people all of them. 
So we learned a lot on that past visit to Washington.  But new questions were raised as well.  There was the grave of Widow Sarah Steel, mother of William Steel and of John. She was Grandpa John's mother.  Why was she buried there and who was her husband?  Where did she come from.  Later research brought to light that she was a Putnam, born in Salem, Massachusetts.  It turns out that her father was Deacon Edward Putnam Jr. and her mother was Sarah Miles.  Her grandfather was Deacon Edward Putnam Sr. and her grandmother was Mary Hale. Her paternal grandfather was Thomas Putnam and his wife was Ann Holyoke.  Sarah's great- great grandfather John Putnam.  A link that provides detailed information on the Putnam Genealogy even goes back another twenty generations in England.  It appears that the Putnam name in the US was a shortened and phonetic version of the name that originated in Puttenham, England.  Those would be fun to track down! But another task for another day!  This brings up other questions -- how did Joseph Steel and Sarah Putnam meet?  This currently remains a mystery.
The father of brothers William and John Steel (they had many other siblings that don't enter into this narrative) was Joseph Steel of Amherst, New Hampshire. The location of his life and death was very surprising as my brother and sister-in-law have lived for many years in Amherst and their home is our base of operations on our East Coast family history travels. They have sort of moved full circle back to the beginning of our family history.  On that trip, we couldn't find his final resting place, but a year or two later my brother and family stopped in Mont Vernon, a town that historically was previously a part of Amherst, and there just inside the gate was Grandpa Joseph.  This spring, because we knew he was found, one of our goals was to visit him at long last.
It was a cold and windy morning so it was nice that we didn't have to search headstone to headstone.  There he was, just inside the gates.  Since he is, as far as we know, buried without family members, it is fitting that he has the very close embrace of the tree to keep him company, especially in the long, cold winters of New England.
The angle of the morning sunlight made reading the headstone a bit challenging. 
 As usual with these old Puritan stones, we are exhorted to remember the fate of us all and to live accordingly ~~.  It is not just that we all die, but we after we do that we still have to give an accounting of to the One who created us for His Own purposes.  Our lives are not our own.
I love the wording -- "In memory of Mr. Joseph Steel, who after the laudable exertions of a useful life, died on the 27th day of February, 1788 in the 82nd year of his age." 
His will reads, "June 29, 1787, "I Joseph Steel of Amherst in the County of Hillsboro and State of New Hampshire, Yeoman being far advanced n years but of sound mind and memory and calling to mind the mortality of my body that it is appointed until all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last will and Testament principal and above all I recommend my soul into the hand of God that gave it and my body from the earth from whence it was taken there to be buried in a decent Christian manner at the discretion of my executors, nothing doubting but that I shall receive the same again at the general resurrection by the almighty power of God and as touching the temporal estate that it hath pleased almighty God to bless me in this life, I do give and bequeath in the following way and manner, that is to say my funeral charges and just debts being first paid."  From there is lists his bequests. 
Rest in peace Grandpa Steel until the last trumpet sounds that will call you and all of us to stand before the God of all the earth.  Thank you for faithfully passing on the torch of faith from the generations before you to the ones that followed.  You have not been forgotten.