Sunday, October 16, 2011

What If?


A few years ago I was walking from my bus stop to work.  As I approached a street where the traffic travelled one way to the north, the “Don’t Walk” signal began flashing.  I heard sirens approaching as I stopped at the corner.  As I stood there, I saw a car speeding on the intersecting street with a police car in pursuit.  The car turned south onto the street I was preparing to cross.  It was a “What If?” moment.  What if my bus had been just a couple of seconds earlier or I had walked a little faster or I hadn’t stopped to let someone exit the bus before me?  I would have arrived at the corner before the “Don’t Walk” signal started flashing and likely been in the middle of that street at exactly the time that car made the wrong-way turn to elude the police. 
Our lives are filled with these What If moments.  However, we are also the result of What If moments in our ancestors’ lives.  It is awesome to contemplate how events in our ancestors’ lives, some seemingly insignificant, resulted in our very existence. 

What if my second great grandfather Peter Ballein decided to remain in Bavaria instead of immigrating to the United States?  What if he settled in New Orleans, where he first set foot in this country, instead of Brown County, Ohio?  What if his first wife Margaret Yochum hadn’t died so young?  There would have been no Hite Ballein, Esther Ballein, Russell Lee Davis, or me.
My dad told me that his parents met at a store near his dad’s home.  Although both Quincy Davis and Esther Ballein lived in Brown County, Ohio, they lived around 11 miles apart when they met.  There were probably a lot of stores between her home and his.  Did that store carry some type of merchandise that other stores didn’t?  Did she have friends in that area?  Why was she there?  I’ll never know what led my grandmother to visit that store, but if she hadn’t, it is unlikely my dad would have been born.

If my grandfather Eddie Earl Donaldson hadn’t moved from Oklahoma to Cincinnati, if he hadn’t found work where he did, if my grand-uncle Charles Dudley hadn’t worked at the same company, if Charles hadn’t introduced Edd to his little sister Mary, my maternal grandparents would have never met, married, and had ten children.
My mom has often pondered what her life would have been like if her father hadn’t died when she was seven years old.  Edd Donaldson was an alcoholic who sometimes abused his wife, Mary Dudley Donaldson.  My mom wonders if she would have graduated from high school, gotten a decent job, or been in church if her father hadn’t died.  If she and her family hadn’t attended the same church as my dad and his family, they most likely wouldn’t have met and married.

As a family history researcher, I typically only learn about the big events in my ancestors’ lives – births, deaths, marriages, military service – and not the decisions, accidents, illnesses, hardships, successes, tragedies, and victories.  However, these things happened to my ancestors just as they happen to all of us and set the course for their lives and, in turn, mine.  I think that’s why it is so important to me to learn more about my ancestors.  In a sense, it helps me understand why I am here.
As amazing as it is to recognize that the events of my ancestors’ lives resulted in my unique existence, I am humbled by the realization that one small change in the course of the life of any one of my ancestors might mean I wouldn’t be here. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Santford and Sarah Ogden

I'm getting lazy.  I will be taking the easy way out this week and instead of writing my own post, I will let the September 7, 1905 News Democrat do the writing for me. 

To provide a little background (well, maybe I'm not so lazy after all), Santford Ogden was born March 19, 1836 in Clark Township, Brown County, Ohio, the son of Alfred and Hannah Harriet Leonard Ogden.  Sarah Steward was born February 17, 1838 to Francis and Catherine Price Steward.  Santford and Sarah were married in Brown County and had at least ten childen, including my great-grandmother, Rosa Ogden Davis.  The article that follows describes their golden wedding anniversary celebration.

The golden wedding of Sanford Ogden and wife of this place was celebrated on Saturday August 26, 1905, with a large dinner and family reunion, their nine living children all being present for the first time in ten years. About the noon hour the ladies began to bring out the baskets and boxes and the men began to prepare a table and when it was finished it was 60 feet long and and 4 feet wide. Among the good things we counted 22 large cakes and other good things in proportion. 115 persons were present - 9 children, 30 grandchildren, 2 brothers of Mr. Ogden and their wives and 74 friends and neighbors. Among those from a distance were W. H. Ogden and little daughter of Dayton, Ohio, Alfred Ogden and wife of Huntington, Mrs. Lizzie Palmer of Dayton, Ohio. Charles Redmon brought his graphophone and Alvin Roots his accordian, and to say we had a good time is putting it mildly. At a late hour we parted, wishing Father and Mother Ogden many such events to brighten their old age. The aged couple were the recipients of many handsome and useful presents.

Sarah died October 16, 1907.  Santford died November 10, 1920 in Pike Township, Brown County, Ohio.  They are buried in the Warner Cemetery in Clark Township, Brown County, Ohio.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Charles Henry Dudley - A Life in Pictures




A few years ago I was looking through a collection of family photographs and mementos.  I was struck by the number of photos of my grand-uncle, Charles Henry Dudley and his family.
 
Uncle Charlie was the eldest son of Jesse and Mary Shaper Dudley and brother of my grandmother Mary Dudley Donaldson.  He was born October 18, 1878 in Clark Township, Clinton County, Ohio.  Below is the earliest photo I have of Charlie. 
 
Charlie grew up in Clark Township with his brothers Lew, Frank, Ab, Tom, and Clarence.  By the time my grandma was born in 1898, Charlie was already a young man.  Just a little over a year later, Charlie married the pretty Anna Dora Meyer and they made their home in Clark Township near his aunt Marietta Dudley Himes and her family.  Charlie worked as a day laborer.

Charles & Anna Dudley 
On August 14, 1900, Anna gave birth to the couple’s first child, Walter Sherman Dudley.  Sadly, the child died on September 17, 1900.    After Walter’s death, Charlie and Anna had three more sons.  James Logan was born January 25, 1902, Wilmer Matthew was born August 11, 1904, and Charles Henry was born August 19, 1906.  My grandmother was closer in age to her nephews than she was to her brother Charlie.  I love this photograph of my grandma and Charlie’s and Anna’s boys.
Henry, James, Mary, and Wilmer Dudley
In 1910, Charlie and Anna were living in Lynchburg, Ohio.  Charlie was working as a grocery salesman and Anna was a hotel landlady.  They lived in the hotel with their three sons.  Among their boarders at the time of the 1910 census was Charlie’s cousin, Carl Himes.  The photo below is labeled “Dudley Hotel.”  I recognize Charlie in the back wearing a bow tie and his mother Mary Shaper Dudley standing next to him.  I’m not sure, but the lady standing in the doorway between Charlie and his mother may be Anna.  I wonder what occasioned the taking of this photograph; there are some distinguished-looking gentlemen in this picture. 
In the early 1910s, Charlie also did home repair work in Lynchburg.  This was his letterhead:


Some time during the early to middle 1910s, Charlie and Anna divorced.  Their sons continued to live with Anna.  My mom believes that Charlie then moved to Cincinnati and where he found a job.  At work, he met a teenager named Eddie Earl Donaldson.  Charlie introduced Edd to his sister Mary and they were married on December 7, 1915. 

Charlie and his sister Mary, around the time of her wedding.
I’m not sure exactly when and where Charlie met Ida May Boice Ostrander.  Ida was a widow with two children, Helen and Arthur.  I believe she was living in the same area of Cincinnati at the same time as Charlie, so I assume that they met in Cincinnati.  However, they were married in Detroit, Michigan on December 11, 1916.  I don't have any photos of Ida or Helen, but do have this photo of Charlie and his step-son Arthur during World War I.
At the time of his second wedding, Charlie was working as a machinist.  I’m not sure where he was working at that time, but by 1920 he was employed by the Packard Motor Car Company and lived walking distance from the factory.  The 1930 census listed his occupation as an inspector at an auto factory, but said that he had not worked the previous work day.  I’m not sure whether he was still employed by Packard; he was then living a few miles from the Packard factory.   
Charlie (right) and unknown man at the entrance to the Packard factory
Charlie also seems to have had an appreciation for family history.  He compiled the Dudley album, a collection of family information and photographs that is truly a family treasure.  On December 9, 1922, Charlie copied the Dudley family record “through the advice of Jessey Dudley,” his father.  He supplemented the album with additional material through the years.  This album has provided me with so much information that I never would have known otherwise and which is most likely not documented elsewhere. 
Charlie had the opportunity to visit his family in Ohio, though I'm not sure how often.  He made a trip to Lynchburg around 1939, when he was able to visit with his mother Mary Shaper Dudley, his aunts and uncles, and his brothers and sister.
Mary Shaper Dudley and her sons, Charlie, Ab, Tom, and Clarence around 1939
My mom first remembers meeting her Uncle Charlie in 1957, when she travelled by Greyhound bus to Houghton Lake, Michigan with her mom, sister Helen, nephew Eddie, and niece Ruth Ann.   They had a layover in Detroit and Charlie came to the bus station to spend time with them until the connecting bus arrived.  However, she had previously met him when she was a small child at the time of his visit around 1939, as is displayed in the photo below.
Dottie Lea Donaldson, Charlie, Rosemary Donaldson, Mary Shaper Dudley, my mom, and Mary Dudley Donaldson
Charlie visited his sister Mary in the early 1960s.  By that time, Ida had died.  My mom shared this memory of that visit:
I found him to be a gentle, soft spoken man.  He had suffered from colon cancer but was still going strong.  In fact, he climbed a ladder to paint the trim on our house, in spite of his advanced age and physical condition.  He seemed to enjoy his visit and complimented me on the love and care I gave to my Mom.
Charlie and his sister Mary, early 1960s
I believe the last photo I have of Charlie is the Christmas card shown below.  I find it one of the most interesting photos of Charlie.  I like that he is wearing his overalls and posed with his two little dogs.  I wonder if he did the landscaping and planted and tended the garden.  It looks like there was a bird bath nestled in the shrubbery.  Since he used this photo for his Christmas card, I think his dogs and his beautiful yard must have made him very happy.
Charles Henry Dudley died on May 11, 1965 in Detroit.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Detroit.

 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Rusks


This blog has, unintentionally, become the means for me to fill in gaps in my research.  When writing a post, my usual process goes something like this: (1) I choose a subject for my post, (2) I review the information I have on that subject, (3) I realize I don’t have as much information on the subject as I thought, (4) I do additional research on the subject, and (5) I compose the post.    This week’s post certainly fits this pattern. 
James Rusk is my fourth great grandfather (James Rusk – Jane Rusk – James Donaldson – David Donaldson – Eddie Earl Donaldson – my mom – me).  I thought I had sufficient information on him, since I had his Revolutionary War pension file and he had a famous grandson about whom much was written.  But, as usual, once I looked a little closer at my research I realized I didn’t have as much information as I thought.    I even made a mostly unproductive trip to the Main Branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to try to gather more information.  So, although I know I still have a lot more digging to do, here it goes!

I will begin by briefly mentioning James’ famous grandson, Jeremiah McLain “Uncle Jerry” Rusk.  Uncle Jerry , the son of James' son Daniel and his wife Jane Faulkner, was a congressman, governor of Wisconsin, and Secretary of Agriculture during the Benjamin Harrison administration.  Some of the information in this article is from Uncle Jerry: Life of General Jeremiah M. Rusk, Stage Driver, Farmer, Soldier, Legislator, Governor, Cabinet Officer by Henry Casson.  As a disclaimer, I must admit that I am more than a little skeptical of many of the 19th and early 20th century histories and biographies, so I will use information from this book sparingly. 
James Rusk was born in Ireland on March 15, 1754.  I don’t know the names of his parents or siblings.  James arrived in America prior to the Revolutionary War.  According to Uncle Jerry, James arrived at Baltimore and then was “sold in bondage,” as an indentured servant, to pay for his passage from Ireland to America.  Prior to the expiration of his indenture, on March 22, 1777, he enlisted as a private in Captain James Greer’s Company of the First Pennsylvania Regiment. 

During James’ service with the First Pennsylvania, the regiment was involved, in part or in full, in the battles of Brandywine, Paoli, Germantown, and White Marsh.  After spending the winter of 1777 – 1778 encamped at Valley Forge, some or all of regiment fought in the Battles of Monmouth and Stoney Point.  In January 1780, the First Pennsylvania joined other regiments in the Pennsylvania line in a mutiny at Morristown, New Jersey.   The troops were demoralized because of the poor conditions, poor food, and lack of pay.  The mutiny failed, but many troops were discharged.  According to James’ pension filed, he was discharged at Trenton, New Jersey in 1781.
Around 1781, James married Ann Robb, who was born in Maryland on January 31, 1760.  I also don’t know who Ann’s parents were.  James and Ann settled in Fallowfield Township in Washington County, Pennsylvania.   James appeared on the 1783, 1784, and 1793 Fallowfield Township tax lists.  He made his living as a farmer.  James and Ann were the parents of nine children, all of whom were born in Pennsylvania – John (born about 1782), Nancy (1784), Daniel (1786 –about 1845), Samuel  (1790), Sarah (1792), William (1795 – 1850), James (1797 – 1863), Margaret (1801), and Jane (1804).

Some time between Jane’s birth in 1804 and his application for a Revolutionary War pension in 1818, the Rusk family moved to Clayton Township in Perry County, Ohio.  In 1820, the Rusk household was comprised of James, Ann, and their daughter Margaret.   In James’ pension file, Ann was described as “feeble” and unable to perform housework.   Because Margaret was his adult daughter, he stated that he was obligated to pay her. 
At that point, James’ property consisted of 100 acres of ”3rd rate land” and 40 acres of cleared land.  They had a three year old colt, two cows and one heifer, two yearling calves, and eight sheep.  As far as household goods, they owned a regular pot, a small pot, a Dutch oven, knives, forks, spoons, pewter plates and dishes, a desk, and four chairs.  James also owned a handsaw, two augers, and a mattock (a tool similar to a pick axe).

By 1823, James claimed that he had given much of his property to Margaret as compensation for caring for her parents.  He sold 100 acres of land to his son, William in 1821 or 1822 in exchange for paying off his debst and paying an annuity to James and Ann for their lifetimes.  The annuity consisted of 30 bushels of wheat, 20 bushels of rye, 20 bushels of oats, and 60 bushels of corn.  The survivor would collect half of the annuity after the death of the spouse.  In 1823, James still owned a horse, a cow, a calf and some household goods and furnishings.
Ann died in Clayton Township on August 26, 1838.  James died July 1, 1839.  They are buried in the Unity Presbyterian Cemetery in Somerset, Perry County, Ohio.

On May 29, 1844, the Rusks’ loyal daughter, Margaret, went from the frying pan into the fire.  She married William McKittrick, a Morgan County, Ohio widower with several children.  After William’s death, Margaret lived with my twice-widowed third great grandmother, Jane Rusk Donaldson Greer in Morgan County, Ohio.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You?


Last week I shared my memories of the days surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  This week, I have asked family members to help me out by sharing their memories of other modern historical events.   The family members who were kind enough join me in sharing memories are my mom, my cousins Mary and Sue, and my niece Alyssa. 
In my early years of researching my family history, I tried to better understand my ancestors’ lives by considering the historical events during their lives.  However, I found that it wasn’t really meaningful to me because I had no idea how these events directly affected my ancestors or their feelings about these events.  Hopefully, this blog will survive the current generations of my family be meaningful to future generations of our family.


Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day), August 15, 1945
My mom shared the following memories of V-J Day:

When Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, I can remember hearing all the church bells ringing.  We lived on Bedford Street in Fairfax, Ohio at the time.  I was only nine years old, so I don’t have too many memories.  I do recall thinking that my brothers Clarence (who fought in France) and Edward (who fought in the Philippines) would soon be coming home.  They were both part of what is now called “The Greatest Generation.”  V-J Day is celebrated in the United States on September 2, because that is when the surrender ceremony was held.
World War II Memorial, Washington, DC

The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, November 22, 1963
My mom remembers:

On the afternoon of November 22, 1963, I was sitting at my desk at Mead Board Sales in Oakley, Ohio, where I worked as Secretary to the Sales Manager. 
It was like any other day until my sister, Helen, called and told me that President Kennedy had been shot.  I was in a state of shock, since nothing like this had ever happened in my lifetime.  
My cousin Sue recalls:

I had graduated from high school that year and was working at Inner Ocean Life Insurance Company in Cincinnati.  We had music that played all the time with no breaks.  The day President Kennedy was assassinated, they broke in and said he had been shot.  I will not forget the shock that went through that office.  Everyone was crying, even the men.  We were all glued to the radio and the TV later when we got home.  It was a very sad time for our country.
Eternal Flame, John F. Kennedy Gravesite, Arlington National Cemetery

First Moonwalk, July 20, 1969
My mom shared her thoughts on the first moonwalk:

When I was a child, I can remember looking at the moon and thinking that it seemed like it had a face.  I was told “that’s the man in the moon.”  Little did I know that 25 to 30 years later I would actually see men walking on the moon.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were those men.  I am in awe of those amazing men and their journey into space and walk on the moon.  They did something I could not even comprehend.  When I hear the words Neil Armstrong uttered, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” it’s still hard to believe that it happened in my lifetime.

Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, January 28, 1986
I had an off day from work on January 28, 1986 and was glad.  I had a stomach virus and was able to spend the day in bed.  The television in my room was tuned to Good Morning America.  I watched the now-famous footage of the Space Shuttle Challenger crew, including Christa McAuliffe who was to be the first teacher in space, walking to board the shuttle.  I then dozed off.

When I awoke less than an hour later, I saw video of a plume of smoke and learned that the space shuttle had broken apart a few seconds after liftoff.  I was feeling sick to my stomach, but it wasn’t only from the stomach virus.  It was a horrible day.
Challenger Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery

The September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks
My niece Alyssa remembers:

I was sitting in my first grade class where my teacher was reading us a story when our principal walked quickly into our classroom and said to our teacher, “Turn on the television.” Our teacher quickly walked over to the television and on the screen was the image of a tall tower with a great amount of smoke around it. Our teacher just stood there in a shocked awe. Our class then proceeded to talk amongst ourselves, about what, I cannot remember. A few minutes later, our principal announced on the PA system that we were all to be sent home. As I was walking home with my mother, she told me “A bunch of bad men did some bad things and killed a lot of people.” A few years later, I found a journal of mine from that time. It said “Mom said that some bad guys hit towers and killed a bunch of people.”
My cousin Mary recollects:

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was at work at the PromiseLand Church in Austin, Texas. Someone came running to my office to let me know what was going on. We have a Television Studio just down the hall from where my office was at the time, so all of us were standing, watching on the large television screen with utter disbelief at what we were witnessing. We cried together and could not do anything but continue to watch and saw so much more than any heart can understand. The total destruction of the Twin Towers, and the other two crashes that took place on that dreadful day. Today, September 11, 2011, we remember that horrible tragedy even after 10 years past. It is a day that all of us will never soon forget.
Sue remembers:

I turned on the TV that morning and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  All the years of feeling safe and comfortable changed in just a few minutes.  Our country was under attack.  My husband and I had already purchased tickets for a trip to Hawaii in the beginning of October.  I wanted to cancel, but my husband said “no,” we were going. 
We had been to Hawaii several years before, but the trip that followed 9/11 was a totally different experience.  The first time we were there, it was crowded everywhere we went.  On this trip, we walked on the beach at Waikiki all alone.  We went to Pearl Harbor and this time you couldn’t take a purse or diaper bag.  Every place we went had security.  We stayed for three weeks.  Two of those weeks we stayed in a cabin owned by the military.  It was beautiful, but I remember being on the beach with one other woman.  It made me very aware that everything had changed.  I was not really comfortable being away from home at the time and can remember being very scared to fly.  I was so happy to get back home. 

Many thanks to my mom, Mary, Sue, and Alyssa for sharing their memories.   I would like to encourage everyone to record memories and impressions of the historical events that occurred during their lifetime.   Future generations of your family will appreciate it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Modern History


I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone that next Sunday is the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  I’m also sure that each of us has a story to tell about the 9-11 attacks.  As I do my genealogical research, I am often frustrated that it is only possible to get small glimpses of my ancestors’ lives and not really get to know the person.  I would like to know how their lives were impacted by what we now consider history.  I hope this blog will survive in some form for a long time and that someday future generations of our family will be interested in how major historical events impacted our lives.  Today, I will share my recollections of September 11, 2001.  Next week, I hope to share other family members’ memories of the major events of our time.
My 9-11 memory actually begins before September 11, 2001.  It starts on Sunday September 2, 2001, the day before Labor Day.  There is a carillon in Mariemont, Ohio with concerts every Sunday and on holidays.  Although I had often heard parts of these concerts from time to time, I had never actually gone to Dogwood Park (or “the Bell Tower” as it is more frequently referred) for the purpose of listening to one of the concerts.  September 2, 2011 was the first time. 

My then-six-year-old niece Alyssa joined me for the concert.  She played in the playground while I watched her and waited for the concert.  I saw the mostly elderly crowd – “the greatest generation” - drag their lawn chairs into the park.  The concert began and, as I recall, it was mostly patriotic and traditional American music.  Toward the middle of the concert, The Star-Spangled Banner was played.  I looked around me.  The woman sitting next to me was speaking on her cell phone.  A couple of young mothers were chatting.  I glanced over toward the area where the concert-goers were seated.  Around half were standing in respect to their country and the national anthem.  Many of the older crowd – most of whom were able to carry their lawn chairs into the park – didn’t seem able to stand for two minutes for the playing of the national anthem. 
I was at work on Tuesday September 11, 2001.  That morning, I heard a coworker say that a plane had struck the World Trade Center.  At first, I thought that a small plane  had struck the building in a terrible accident and didn't think much of it.  That assumption didn’t last long, as word got around that a second plane hit the World Trade Center. My mom called me and asked if I heard about the terrible events in New York.  I then heard that the Pentagon had been hit.  After a while, I couldn’t bear to just sit at my desk.  News was slow in appearing on the internet.  So, I went to the associate lounge where there was a television.  I watched the video of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center as Dan Rather emphasized that this was actual video and not an animation.  Dozens of associates stood in the lounge area in silent astonishment.

I returned to my desk and, although it seems silly now, wondered if I would ever see my family again.  It was obvious that the country was under attack and no one knew at that point what else might be in store.  News came in that a jet crashed in Pennsylvania and that there was a bomb threat at the State Department.   It was truly a frightening day.  I made it home that day, of course, and fear turned to sadness and anger as we watched hour after hour, day after day of news reports about the attacks.
I live near Cincinnati’s municipal air field, Lunken Airport, and we didn’t hear the almost constant sound of aircraft overhead for several days, since air travel was suspended.  Many companies closed for the next few days out of safety concerns and to allow their employees time to mourn.  At work, I didn’t receive a call from outside of the company for the rest of the week.  A day or two following the attacks I learned that one of my high school classmates perished in the World Trade Center. 

Prior to the attacks, my mom and I had made arrangements to visit Washington, DC at the end of September 2001.  We debated for several days whether to keep our reservations.  I would awaken in the mornings and feel determined to stick to our plans and visit DC.  I didn’t like the idea of terrorists controlling my life.  But as the day wore on and I heard more and more rumors and news reports, I would end the day wanting to cancel our reservations.  This continued for several more days until my mom and I decided to postpone our trip until September 2002.  When we finally made it to DC the following year, I was able to visit the September 11th exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. 
On Friday September 14, 2001, there was a prayer observance on Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati.  My employer allowed time off for associates to attend.  Thousands of people crammed the square.  It might have been the only time in my life I felt like I was truly part of “one nation under God, indivisible.”  As I took my evening walks in the coming days, I was struck by how much friendlier people seemed as we passed  each other in the streets.   There was a feeling that we were all on the same team.  This was the positive that came out of an almost unimaginably tragic and violent situation. 

In the days that followed September 11, 2001 and quite often since then, I have thought back to that day at the Bell Tower.  I wondered if the national anthem had been on the program for the September 16, 2001 concert if the young mothers would have stopped talking, if the lady would end her phone call, or if more people would have stood to honor the playing of the national anthem.  I believe they would have because we had all changed, mostly for the better.  But, sadly, it was only a temporary change.  If the national anthem were to be played at today’s concert, I believe the reaction would be much as it was ten years ago.  We should never forget, but it seems we always do.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Happy Sylvester Shaw


From the November 28, 1875 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer:

HAPPY SYLVESTER SHAW, of Russellville, Brown County, Ohio! On Tuesday he celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday in company with his twenty-one children. After dinner he took them out to the mud road in front of the house, and the old man left them all in a scrub race of a hundred yards. The ole man then showed his wondering offspring what boys could do when he was young. He jumped a nine-rail fence without touching his hands, climbed a branch of the apple tree nineteen times, climbed to the top of the well-pole hand over hand, threw a bull calf over the house, and ripped the back seam of his pants in the effort, and told the old woman "if she didn't fix 'em afore mornin' he'd knock the socks off of her!" Hale old SYLVESTER SHAW! Long live the oldest inhabitant!

What a man!  This incredible specimen of manhood was my fourth great-grandfather.  Sylvester Shaw was born November 19, 1800 in Rensellaer County, New York.  In the early 1800s, Sylvester's parents Russell and Johanna Reynolds Shaw moved their family to what would later become Brown County, Ohio.  There, Russell Shaw established the town of Russellville.
Sylvester married my fourth great-grandmother Elizabeth Hatfield on November 29, 1821 in Brown County.  Their first child was born and died in 1822.  My third great-grandmother, Elmina Shaw Dunn, was born in 1823 and was their first child to survive to adulthood.  Sylvester and Elizabeth had a total of ten children.  Elizabeth died August 22, 1851.
Sylvester married Sarah Jane Wire on June 24, 1852 in Spencer County, Indiana.  I don't know how they met.  Did Sylvester have business in Spencer County?  Was she a mail order bride?  Anyway, they got hitched and Sarah Jane got a house full of kids.  Sylvester's passion obviously didn't subside with his second wife.  He and Sarah Jane had eleven children.  Sylvester had his first great-grandchild before his youngest child was born in 1868! 
Sylvester was a man of many interests.  Early in his life, he made his living as a carpenter.  He was also a farmer, with an apple orchard, cornfield, cows, pigs, and sheep.   He was known as a veterinarian and developed a "throwing harness," so horses could be thrown without injury to the horse. 
So, I wonder what the real story was with his 75th birthday celebration?  Although he had 21 children, a few had died and others had moved away, so he didn't spend his birthday with all 21 children.  I wonder who counted how many times he climbed the apple tree.  I think it would have become a little tedious after about the second time he had done it.  Plus, I would probably be feeling a little downhearted after losing to him in the 100 yard dash. 
I'm most curious about Sylvester's hurling the calf over the house.  I have heard of throwing cow chips, but not calves.  How would one go about doing that - grab the calf's legs and then do sort of a modified hammer throw?  Obviously, his concern with the wellbeing of horses didn't extend to his livestock. 
Even though Sarah Jane was more than 20 years younger than Sylvester, she was the "old woman" whose socks Sylvester planned to knock off if she didn't mend his busted seam by morning.  Ultimately, Sarah Jane's body (and, no doubt, patience) wore out and she died on October 11, 1879.

Sylvester, however, still had some life in him, not to mention a house of teenagers.  He married Mariah Sowers on October 6, 1881.  I don't know much about Mariah, except that she was a "hired girl."  Their marriage record refers to her as "Mrs. Mariah Sowers," so she must have been married before.  As far as I know, Sylvester and Mariah had no children, but given Sylvester's history, I'm not making any assumptions.

Sylvester Shaw died February 27, 1884 and the bovines of Brown County all breathed a little easier.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Clearing the Air


I’ll always remember the day I stood in the Wardlow Cemetery, looking at my great-grandfather Hite Ballein’s grave and telling my parents that if I would ever do any family history research, I would like to research the Ballein family.  At that time, I was most interested in the Ballein family for a couple of reasons.  First, I bear a resemblance to my grandmother, Jennie Esther Ballein, who died when I was a toddler and whom I don’t remember.  Second, I was intrigued with the unusual Ballein surname, as well as the name Hite. 
Of course, I did begin researching my family history, starting with my paternal grandmother’s branch of the family, which includes the Balleins.  I then branched out to the other side of my dad’s family and later to my mom’s family also.  Along the way I have met a lot of distant relatives with whom I have shared information and am always excited when I meet a “new” relative.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much success with the family that inspired me to start this journey, the Balleins.   Although I have corresponded with a couple of descendants of the siblings of my great-grandfather Hite, I have struck out with the descendants of Hite’s children, my grandmother’s siblings.  I have tried to write to a couple of my dad’s cousins with no response.  There have been other situations when I have made contact with Ballein relatives who initially seemed quite interested in sharing information, but from whom I never heard again.  I couldn’t help but wonder why this happens, when most people I contact or who contact me are happy to share information.
I know there are a lot of reasons they might not have responded.  They might not trust me, be interested in their family history, or have any information to share.  Maybe they didn’t have time to respond, had difficulies in their lives, or didn’t want to go to any trouble for someone they didn’t know. 

I suspect, though, that it could be related to events following the death of my grand uncle Oscar Ballein.  I won’t go into any details - I don’t know most of the details.  However, there is one thing I can state with no hesitation or doubt.  Neither my father Russell Lee Davis nor I had anything to do with what transpired.
My dad spoke kindly of his mother’s family, his grandparents, aunt and uncles, and cousins.  Like all families, this family has a story needs to be preserved and shared.   There is so much more I need to know.  I would also love to have at least one photograph of Hite Ballein – I suspect there has to be one somewhere.  I hope that someday a Ballein family member will find this post and contact me through the Post a Comment section on this blog so we can share information. 

I feel that those of us in possession of family photographs, documents, and bibles are not owners of these items, but only caretakers.   I look forward to meeting a lot more distant relatives in the future and sharing photos, information, and family stories with them.  And maybe, just maybe, one of them will be a Ballein. 
I would like to end by stating that the purpose of this post is not to complain about, blame, or embarass anyone.  My intention is simply to reach out to these family members and clear the air in the event there has been some misunderstanding in the past.  If any family members are uncomfortable about this post, please contact me through the Post a Comment section and I will remove it.  Your comment will not be visible to the public.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What's in a Name?


My recent posts have been a little depressing with tales of hardship and tragic death.   This week, I would like to take on a lighter subject – the interesting names of some of the people in my family tree.  Now, I realize that some of these names weren’t too unusual in the era in which they were bestowed upon my family members, but they sound a little strange now.
·         ELIHU EMBREE                                  Elihu Embree was the grandson of my fifth great-grandfather Moses Embree and nephew of my fourth great-grandmother Rebekah Embree Hockett (Rebekah – Prudence Hockett Lamb – Nathan Lamb – Mary Lamb Donaldson – Eddie Earl Donaldson – my mom – me).  Elihu was born into the Quaker Embree family on November 8, 1782, the son of Thomas and Esther Coulson Embree.  If you wish to research Elihu, you will have little trouble finding information, since he holds the distinction of publishing the first abolitionist newspaper in the United States, the Manumission Intelligencer.  Elihu died at the age of 38 on December 4, 1820.

·         PLEASANT LEROY HIMES               Roy Himes was my grandmother Mary Jane Dudley Donaldson’s cousin, born to Marietta Dudley and Jeremiah Himes on December 1, 1888 in Lynchburg, Ohio.  Roy initially worked as a blacksmith in his father’s shop.  After his parents died, Jeremiah in 1911 and Marietta in 1912, Roy married Jessie Coffman and moved to Springfield Township, Hamilton County, Ohio.  There, he made his living as a machinist.  He lived with my grandparents for a while, probably after he and his first wife Jessie were divorced and before he married his second wife Mary.  From what my mom has told me, the name “Pleasant” fit him well – she really liked him. 

Pleasant Leroy Himes and his first wife, Jessie.  We believe Roy is the man
on the left.  We aren't sure who the other man is.
·         EXPERIENCE DAVIS REYNOLDS   This isn’t the only Experience in my family tree, but the first I discovered in the course of my research.  Experience was born April 9, 1751 to William and Elizabeth Gifford Davis in West Greenwich, Rhode Island.  She married Joseph Reynolds on October 31, 1771.  Experience is my sixth great-grandmother (Experience – Johanna Reynolds Shaw – Sylvester Shaw – Elmina Shaw Dunn – Lulu Dunn Wardlow – Elma Wardlow Ballein – Esther Ballein Davis – Russell Lee Davis – me).  At some point after their marriage, Experience and Joseph moved to New York.  Experience and Joseph had 15 children.  By 1799, they had moved to Limestone (now Maysville) in Mason County, Kentucky.  Shortly thereafter, they crossed the Ohio River and settled in what later became Jackson Township, Brown County, Ohio.  Their community became known as the Yankee Settlement.  Experience died November 11, 1832, surviving her husband Joseph by almost nine years.  

·         THE PURCELL FAMILY                     My great grand-aunt Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ballein and her second husband Simon Purcell hold the distinction in my family tree for having the children with the most unusual names.  Their children were my grandmother Jennie Esther Ballein’s cousins.  Ready?  Laura Ina (OK, that name’s all right), Ethel U. (Ethel isn’t unusual, but what could the U stand for?), Cleta Q., Rhemi Olen, Philo Uscana, Euchus Orien, and Seanthus.  Unfortunately, I don’t know much about this family but I would love to hear about them.

·         NIMROD PRICE                                 I remember when I announced to my parents that there was a Nimrod in our family tree on my dad’s side of the family.  My mom commented “Now it’s all starting to make sense!”  However, this Nimrod wasn’t anyone’s fool (and neither was my dad or I, Mom).  Nimrod was the brother of my fourth great-grandfather Jeremiah Price (Jeremiah Price – Catherine Price Steward – Sarah Steward Ogden – Rosa Ogden Davis – James Quincy Davis – Russell Lee Davis – me).  In the early 1800s, he settled with his parents Daniel and Catherine Preisch in a settlement known as Germany in Hamilton County Ohio.  By the time of the Civil War, Nimrod was a fairly successful farmer.   However, during the war his land became valuable for another purpose.  The Union Army established Camp Dennison, a military recruitment and training camp and hospital in Germany.  He leased his land to the government for an estimated $12 to $20 per acre per month.  After the camp was deactivated, the name Camp Dennison stuck and the town continues to be known by that name. 
Nimrod Price died in 1874 and is buried in the Waldschmidt Cemetery
in Camp Dennison, Ohio

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Donaldsons on the Frontier

I have to admit that it wasn’t easy for me to become excited about researching the Donaldson family, my maternal grandfather’s family.  Maybe it was because until my grandfather, Eddie Earl Donaldson, moved here in the 1910s, none of my direct Donaldson ancestors lived in southwestern Ohio.  So, information on the Donaldson family wasn’t as easy for me to come by as it was for other branches of my family.

For quite a while, I wasn’t able to trace any further back than my fourth great-grandfather, Ebenezer Donaldson and his wife, Rebecca Hillis Donaldson.  Then one day I came across A History of the Donaldson Family and Its Connections by Alexander Donaldson on Google Books.  The story told in this book of Ebenezer’s parents and grandparents, if accurate, is quite incredible.  Personally, I am a bit of a skeptic about some of this story, since much of it was passed on through family tradition.  I have found additional information from other sources, some that corroborates the information in the Donaldson history, and some doesn’t.  This is the story I have pieced together from the various sources.
Jacob Donaldson (Ebenezer’s grandfather and my sixth great-grandfather) was born in York County, Pennsylvania and ultimately settled in the area of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.  He and his wife Janet had six children, Margaret, James, Jane, Mary, Elizabeth, and James.   Margaret first married a Mr. Stewart. I’m unclear where the Stewarts lived in Pennsylvania.   According to the obituary of one of Margaret’s sons, during the French and Indian War, she and Mr. Stewart left their children in their home while they went to a spring to get water.  Margaret and Mr. Stewart were attacked by Indians, who killed and scalped Mr. Stewart and captured Margaret.  While prisoner, Margaret gave birth to her third child whom her captors reportedly killed because of its crying. 

Margaret was later given to a different tribe that treated her more kindly.  She was away from her home for six or seven years before she was finally released.  When she returned home, she learned that another of her children had died while she was gone.  Later, she married Robert Orr and had five more children.  The Orr family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1798. 
Jacob Donaldson was killed in battle against the Indians prior to the Revolutionary War, possibly during the French and Indian War.  At the time his estate was settled in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania in 1762, his eldest son James was also dead.  By this time, Margaret had apparently been captured and released by the Indians, since she was referred to in the estate documents as Robert Orr’s wife.

Jacob’s son Isaac was my fifth great-grandfather.  He and Martha Reynolds were married around 1769.  Isaac served in Captain John Rea’s militia company of the First Battalion of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War according to documentation contained in Pennsylvania Archives, Fifth Series, Volume VI.   Jacob purchased land in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania and settled there with his family.
 By 1780, Isaac and Martha had five children, James, Ebenezer, Sarah, Margaret, and Isaac.  The Donaldson History says that in the summer and fall of 1780 there were Indian attacks in the area.  Back in those days, there were stockade forts where settlers could take refuge from such attacks.  Isaac, Martha, and their young family took refuge at Fort Wallace, moved onto Fort Ligonier (more likely a nearby stockade fort, Fort Preservation, rather than the military fort used during the French Indian War), and back to Fort Wallace.

In the spring of 1781, Isaac, returned to work on his property and Martha and the children remained at the fort.  The Donaldson history states that Isaac boarded with a “George Pumroy.”  Old Westmoreland: A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution by Edgar W. Hassler indicates that Isaac was working for Colonel John Pomeroy.  Sources differ slightly on what exactly happened on the morning of Sunday April 1, 1781.  The Donaldson history states that Isaac walked a little distance from the house when the Pomeroy family saw Indians attack.  The Hassler account says that Pomeroy and three hired men were working in a field when the Indians attacked.  One man (Isaac) was killed, two ran for help, and Pomeroy ran back to the cabin to hide his children and fight off the attack with his wife.  When help arrived the following morning, they found Isaac’s scalped body and buried it.
Martha was now widowed with five children.  The Donaldson history describes her story as follows:

Shortly before [Isaac’s] death, [Martha] was bitten on the foot by a copper-head, and her oldest son dug a hole in yellow clay and buried her foot in it, and then poured cream around it until the cream assumed a greenish color, and the poison was extracted.  On the day when [Isaac] was killed, . . . she was crossing a stream on a log, carrying her youngest son, an infant, when, losing her balance, she fell into the water, and again the oldest son ran for help, and secured their rescue from a watery grave.
According to the Donaldson history, these events and her husband’s death caused Martha to descend into mental illness.  Her sister, Sarah Reynolds, took over the childrearing duties.  Martha died in late 1782. 

In April 1783, Martha’s brother John Reynolds returned to the area where Isaac was killed and took four of the five Donaldson children with him.  The exception was Ebenezer, who lived with family and acquaintances in York County, Pennsylvania.  Since Ebenezer is my ancestor, I would like to know why he didn’t go with the rest of the family and with whom he lived.
Ebenezer apparently lost contact with his brothers and sisters.  During the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, James Donaldson scraped together enough money for a trip to the Pittsburgh area, surmising that Ebenezer might be among the troops President Washington sent from eastern Pennsylvania counties to put down the insurrection in southwestern Pennsylvania.  After making some inquiries, James found his brother and the family was reunited.

Unbelievable story, isn’t it?  The stuff that movies, not my family history, are made of.   Maybe someday I’ll be able to determine how accurate it is!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Putting Things in Perspective

Last week I wrote about what I learned about Campbell Dudley’s death from the military pension application filed by his mother, Lettitia Dudley.  My primary objective in ordering the pension file was to learn more about Lettitia.  Most of what I knew about Lettitia and her husband Thomas I learned from the Dudley album I received from my great-uncle Clarence Dudley’s step-grandson a year and a half ago.  I have gleaned other information from the usual genealogical sources, mostly census records. 
Iva Lettitia Tankersley was born January 18, 1811 in Virginia.  There is a Virginia marriage record that indicates that a Thomas Dudley married a “Malitia Tankesley” in Pittsylvania County, Virginia on November 17, 1830.  However, the Dudley album states that Thomas and Lettitia were married in 1829 and moved from Virginia to Ohio.  The Dudleys’ first child, Matilda, was born on October 11, 1830 and died June 24, 1831.  They then had ten more children, Absalom, Robert, Campbell, William, John, Jane, twins Jesse and Berryman, Mary Etta, and Lewis.

The Dudleys first lived about two miles north of Lynchburg, Ohio.  In 1849, they moved to the “Old Dudley Homestead” in Clark Township, Clinton County Ohio.  The Dudley album states that this land was a gift to Thomas and Lettitia for naming their twins after Jesse and Berryman Hundley.  I haven’t been able to confirm it yet, but I think the Hundleys and Dudleys might have travelled from Virginia to Ohio together.
Although I suspect that Lettitia never had an easy life, the 1860s must have been nearly unbearable for her.  Berryman died on November 29, 1860 and Thomas on March 11, 1861.  A month after her husband’s death the Civil War began.  By this time, Lettitia’s eldest son Absalom had left home and Robert married and was living in his own home.  Lettitia was a widow with seven children at home.  Her sons could help her earn a living, but their services were also in demand by their country.  Campbell Dudley enlisted in the 48th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on October 3, 1861.  William and John also served in the Union army.  Campbell died by suicide while on his way home on a furlough on July 29, 1864. 

An affidavit from Isaac Foster stated that Campbell worked for his father Christian Foster, a Lynchburg, Ohio farmer, prior to the war.  His wages were paid to Lettitia in the form of corn for “breadstuff.”  Dudley neighbor Amos Fisher’s affidavit also stated that Campbell Dudley worked for him before the war.  Fisher indicated that he paid Campbell’s salary to Lettitia in meat, flour, corn, and wheat.  At the time Campbell enlisted, Amos Fisher owed him a half month’s pay, which Campbell asked him to give to his mother.   In Lettitia’s affidavit, she stated that she had included five letters from Campbell which indicated that he was sending her money while he was in the army.
Letters and affidavits in the pension file describe Lettitia’s poverty.  She owned ten acres of what was described as “swamp land” with one log house and no outbuildings.  The land couldn’t be farmed because it was too wet.  She owned a cow for a while, but had to sell it.  In an 1877 letter to the Pension Office, she stated that she was "supported by the cold charities of the neighborhood in which I live.”  Even a Pension Office document described her as an “unquestionable [sic] deserving claimant.”

Lettitia first applied for a pension on January 2, 1865.  The Pension Office obtained an affidavit from P. A. Willis, the 48th OVI’s regimental surgeon.  Dr. Willis stated that Campbell committed suicide due to “temporary insanity” due to alcohol deprivation.  The Pension Office denied Lettitia’s application on September 23, 1865, stating that Campbell’s death wasn’t due to his military service.
In response to the denial, Lettitia’s son Absalom and Clinton County farmer William West submitted an affidavit testifying to Lettitia’s poverty.  They testified that as an old woman with rheumatism she was unable to support herself.  The Pension Office obtained an affidavit from regimental commander J. R. Parker, who confirmed that Campbell jumped from the steamboat.  He said that he didn’t know why Campbell jumped, but that he “overheard” that he was intoxicated.  The pension rejection was reaffirmed on July 24, 1870.

On January 4, 1877, Lettitia wrote to the Pension office that her attorney, R. E. Doan of Wilmington, Ohio, wouldn’t give her information on her application.  On August 15, 1878, Lettitia hired attorney Isma Troth of Lynchburg, Ohio to represent her.  In September, her application was rejected yet again.
At this point, it appears that someone went to work, either Mr. Troth or nationally prominent pension attorney George Lemon, who had also been engaged to handle Lettitia’s claim.  Two of Campbell’s comrades submitted very similar-sounding affidavits stating that Campbell was not intoxicated at the time of his death, that he was sick with “camp diarrhea,” and that his insanity was caused by the medications he was taking.  The application was denied again on October 6, 1880.

Less than two weeks later, George Lemon sent a letter to the Pension Office asking that they make a decision based on the documentation on record and blamed the delay in submitting evidence on the claimant, Lettitia.  Apparently, he hadn’t received notification of the denial.  It sounds like he was ready to rid himself of a case that was unlikely to result in payment of his contingency fee. 
29-year-old Lewis Dudley, Lettitia’s youngest son, now became involved in her case.  At the time of the 1880 census, Lewis was residing in the household of widow Mary J. Young, who was a storekeeper at Farmer’s Station in Clark Township, Clinton County, Ohio.  His occupation was listed as “clerk.”  Lewis later became a pension attorney himself.

Lewis sent a letter to the Commissioner of Pensions on December 19, 1881 asking for a favor with his mother’s claim.  Lewis pointed out that in his capacity as assistant postmaster he had often been asked by the Pension Office to attest to the standing of others in the community.  He wrote that George Lemon was doing nothing for his mother’s case and that it had been difficult for his mother to obtain testimony from Campbell’s comrades because most of them had been imprisoned at the time of his death. 
Over the next 16 months, four more of Campbell’s comrades submitted affidavits with noticeable similarities.  The Pension Office followed up with letters to these four men.  In some instances the affidavits and the veterans’ responses to the Pension Office letters contradicted each other.  Neither the similarities between the four affidavits, nor the contradictions between the soldiers’ affidavits and letters escaped the notice of the Pension Office and Lettitia’s application was denied again on July 17, 1884. 

The final notation regarding Lettitia’s pension application was that that the rejection was affirmed on February 13, 1890.  Lettitia never received a military pension for Campbell’s death and died five years later on January 26, 1895.  The Dudley album indicates that she is buried at Troutwine Cemetery in Lynchburg, Ohio.  If this is correct, her grave is not marked.

I often find myself thinking of my ancestors when I am unhappy over some perceived hardship or setback in my life.  I can’t say that the comparison of my life to Lettitia’s stops me from complaining, but I know it should.   It at least helps me to put the events of my life in perspective.