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.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Death of Campbell Dudley

Several weeks ago, I was exploring and discovered that my second great-grandmother, Lettitia Dudley, had filed a pension application after her son Campbell died in the Civil War.  I am desperate for information about Lettitia and her husband Thomas, so after a couple of days of debating with myself whether I wanted to spend $75.00 to order the pension file from the National Archives and Records Administration, I took the plunge and did it.  My purpose in ordering the file was to hopefully learn more about Lettitia and, in the process, find out more about Campbell’s military service and death while serving in the army.

I have received the pension file and, yes, it provided a little illumination on Lettitia’s life.  I will cover what I learned about Lettitia and her application for a military pension in next week’s post.   The real surprise in the pension file was the story of Campbell Dudley’s death.
Campbell Dudley was born March 25, 1837, the fourth child of Thomas and Iva Lettitia Tankersley Dudley of Clark Township in Clinton County, Ohio.  He was an older brother of my great-grandfather Jesse Dudley.  On October 3, 1861, Campbell enlisted in Company C of the 48th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI).  Company C was composed primarily of men from Clinton and Highland Counties.

According to History of the 48th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry written by Major John A. Bering and Captain Thomas Montgomery, the 48th OVI fought in the Battle of Shiloh, the Siege of Corinth, the Battle of Arkansas Post, and the Battle of Vicksburg.  By late February 1864, Campbell’s regiment set up camp near New Orleans, Louisiana.   On February 29, the regiment re-enlisted as a group for another three year term with the promise of a 30 day furlough.  As the soldiers were preparing for their furlough, they were ordered to Franklin, Louisiana, where the army was organizing for the Red River Expedition.
It was around this time that, according to an unsigned document in the pension file, that Campbell began taking medications prescribed by the regimental doctor.  The pension records indicate that he was being treated for chronic laryngitis, though some of his comrades claimed in their affidavits that he suffered from “camp diarrhea.”  On April 8, 1864, the regiment fought in the Battle of Sabine Crossroads.  In the battle 177 members of the regiment were captured by the Confederates and imprisoned at Camp Ford in Texas.  Most of the captured 48th OVI soldiers remained there until a prisoner exchange in October 1864.

Campbell, however, was not captured and the army fell back to Pleasant Hill, where the Battle of Pleasant Hill was fought the following day.  Campbell lost his clothing, blankets, and knapsack.  On April 10, the army retreated to Grand Ecore.  On April 20, Campbell boarded the steamboat for New Orleans, where he entered Charity Hospital on April 29.  He was discharged from Charity Hospital on May 27.  According to notes in the pension file, Campbell wrote a letter to someone stating that he was “well as common,” “doing bully,” and “having plenty to eat and nothing to do” while waiting for his regiment to arrive in New Orleans for their furlough.  He ultimately rejoined his regiment.
The long-awaited 30 day furlough was finally granted in late July 1864.  Campbell and his comrades boarded a steamboat heading north up the Mississippi River, then east at the Ohio River, then home.  On July 29, Campbell was apparently sleeping with some other soldiers when he got up and, within a few minutes, jumped overboard and was drowned.  I knew that Campbell had died on July 29, 1864 when he drowned in the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge, but the possibility of suicide never crossed my mind.

Why?  Why would a man who two months earlier supposedly wrote to someone that he was “doing bully” and was on his way home for a 30 day furlough jump to a watery death?
The affidavits, letters, and other documents in the pension file suggest a number of possibilities.  An unsigned, undated document in the file suggested that Campbell might have gotten too close to the edge of the steamboat and fallen or even that some of his comrades might have pushed him overboard.  However, no one else suggested this.

 A number of people indicated that Campbell was known to have “peculiar spells” when he seemed to be temporarily insane.   When he had these spells, he seemed indifferent to his surroundings and seemed “troubled in mind.”  In a letter to the Pension Office, comrade Jonathan Pratt described Campbell’s odd behavior at camp in Algiers, Louisiana.  He said that Campbell was normally “of lively disposition,” but had become melancholy and wouldn’t pay attention to what was going on around him.   He wrote that some people thought he had been drinking, others thought he was upset because some money had been stolen from him, and others thought the problem developed because he had re-enlisted.
A common theme in the comrades’ affidavits and letters was Campbell’s illness.  His comrades said he had been afflicted with camp diarrhea for some time, but other documents indicate that the true nature of his ailment was chronic laryngitis.  Some of his comrades suggested that the medications he took for his ailment was the reason for his spells.  The hospital steward pointed out in his affidavit that Campbell hadn’t been on the sick list for two months prior to his death.

Nearly all the affidavits and letters in the file reference Campbell’s drinking.  Many acknowledge that Campbell was known to drink to excess, though not while on duty or in camp.  However, most said that he had not been intoxicated for several weeks and that liquor was not available on the boat.    Others said, though that he had been drinking in New Orleans prior to his furlough. 
In the opinion of regimental surgeon P. A. Willis, Campbell “deliberately sprang” into the river and drowned due to temporary insanity caused by being deprived of liquor after drinking to excess in New Orleans prior to furlough.  Others suggest that Campbell’s bouts of temporary insanity were caused by delirium tremens.  Although there is testimony that Campbell hadn’t had a drink in several weeks, my hunch is that the regimental surgeon is probably correct. 

Would Campbell have ended his life had he spent the years of 1861 to 1864 back home in Clinton County?  My guess is he probably wouldn’t.  Most of us can only imagine the hardships and horrors he and his comrades and millions of fighting men and women have experienced through the centuries of warfare.  Campbell no doubt saw friends, possibly men he grew up with, injured, killed, and taken prisoner.  He fired at the enemy and may have wounded or killed Confederate soldiers.  He saw battlefields strewn with the mangled bodies of young men.  He endured weather extremes, hunger, and dirty drinking water.  How did he cope?  Through drinking to excess?  Through zoning out?  Maybe he was just not able to cope.   Perhaps his excessive drinking and suicide had nothing to do with his war experience at all. I don’t know and most likely never will.  Regardless of how or why Campbell Dudley’s life ended, we should still honor the three years of service he gave to his country. 

Civil War Memorial, Lynchburg, Ohio

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Robert Hamilton

Robert Hamilton was my fifth great-grandfather (Robert Hamilton – Elizabeth Hamilton Dunn – Robert Dunn – Lulu Dunn Wardlow – Dora Elma Wardlow Ballein – Jennie Esther Ballein Davis – Russell Lee Davis – me).  He was born in Ireland on May 16, 1760, but came to America as a teenager and soon thereafter joined the Pennsylvania Line of the Continental Army. 

Robert first married Susannah Kean, my ancestor, on April 30, 1781.  They had three children, Elizabeth, Robert Jr., and Joseph.  After Susannah died, Robert married Ann Hays on February 23, 1792.  Robert and Ann had one child, William Hays Hamilton.  The Hamiltons moved from Pennsylvania, ultimately settling near Lebanon in Warren County, Ohio.  Robert worked as a blacksmith.
Robert Hamilton
As I am writing this, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of a Civil War pension file from the National Archives on an ancestor on my maternal grandmother’s branch of the family.  Military pension files are interesting not only because of the information they provide on an individual’s military record, but also because they can provide glimpses at an ancestor’s everyday life. 

Robert first received a military pension in 1818.  Below is an excerpt from his pension file, which not only summarizes his Revolutionary Way experience, but also provides a schedule of his property as of the date of the document, August 22, 1820.  Pension files are often difficult to read, so hopefully my transcription is fairly accurate.
Robert Hamilton a resident of [Warren] County aged sixty one years next May, who being duly sworn according to law doth on his oath declare for the purpose of obtaining the provision made by the acts of Congress of the 18th of March 1818 & the 1st of May 1820.  There the said Hamilton enlisted for during the war, on the     day of December 1776 in the State of New Jersey at Trenton in company commanded by Capt. Matthew Henderson in the Reg. commanded by Colonel Richard Butler of the ninth Pennsylvania Regt. in the Pennsylvania line on Continental Establishment.  He continued to serve in said corps to the close of the war when he was discharged from said service in Pennsylvania at Carlisle; he was in the battle of Brandywine & received a wound; - in the Battle of Germantown, Battle of Monmouth & at the taking of Stony Point & at the taking of Genl Cornwallis, also in a great number of skirmishes which I do not particularly now recalled.  This declarant has no other evidence in his power of his services . . . .

. . . I have not nor has any person for me in trust any property or securities, contracts or debts due to me nor have I any income other than what is contained in the schedule hereto annexed & by me subscribed to wit.
80 Acres of land, 30 of which is cultivated, value $800.00
1 Horse creature     35.00
2 Cows     30.00
1 Steer 2  years old     10.00
2 Yearlings     8.00
2 Calves     4.00
3 Sheep     6.00
9 Hogs     15.00
1 Bible hymn book & a few religious tracts     10.00
House furniture     40.50
1 Mans Saddle     8.00
1 Womans ditto     23.00
1 Wheel & reel     3.00
1 Loom & Gears     12.00
1 Wooden Clock & Case     20.00
Farming Utensils     15.75
20 Geese     7.50
Robert Hamilton    $1047.25

Reading the inventory of Robert’s property, I can imagine the Hamilton homestead.  The sights, sounds, and smells of the farmyard.  Robert tending the animals and working in the fields.  Ann seated at the loom or cooking or cleaning.  The evening meal with the ticking of the wooden clock, which might have been their most cherished possession.  Mostly, though, I envision years of hard work in the frigid winters and the heat and humidity of southwestern Ohio summers.

Robert Hamilton died February 24, 1841 near Lebanon, Ohio.  After his death, Ann applied for and received a military pension.  Ann died January 26, 1845.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ralph Waldo Ogden

My dad and his dad James Quincy Davis were storytellers.  We used to kid my dad about the stories he told us over and over again.  One sad story passed from Grandpa Davis to my dad and then to my sister, brother, and me was the story of the tragic death of Ralph Waldo Ogden.

Ralph Waldo Ogden was born December 17, 1907 in Pike Township, Brown County, Ohio to Santford Morton and Bessie Ralston Ogden.  Santford was the son of my second great-grandparents Santford and Sarah Steward Ogden and brother of my great-grandmother Rosa Ogden Davis.  On June 4, 1908, Bessie died and Waldo was sent to live with Rosa and her family.  My grandpa was a little over a year older than Waldo. My dad said that grandpa referred to Waldo as his “little half-brother.”   At the time of the 1910 census, Waldo was living with the Davis family, while his older siblings, Ivah, Paul, and Sarah were living with Santford and his second wife, Lucinda.  By 1920, Waldo was living with his father again.
I have often wondered about Waldo’s name.  It seems unlikely that the Methodist Ogdens were admirers of Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose religious views were a considered radical in his time.  Perhaps they just liked the name.

I wish I knew more about Waldo than how he died.  I know from his obituary (I only have a clipping, so I don’t know the source) that he was a member of the Mt. Nebo Methodist Episcopal Church and "active in church work."  He was a junior at Clark Township High School in Brown County at the time of his death.  The obituary described him as "thoughtful" and "earnest."

The story passed down in my family was that grandpa and Waldo were out hunting one night.  They “treed a ‘coon,” Waldo climbed into the tree, and fell, causing his death. 
A distant cousin told me she spoke to several people who related a similar story.  A group of boys were out one night and “treed a ‘coon.”  (It’s interesting that the same terminology was used by both sources.)  The boys didn’t have guns and Waldo climbed the tree to try to catch the raccoon.  The raccoon attacked Waldo and he fell out of the tree.

According to his obituary, Waldo died the morning after his fall, on November 23, 1924.  The obituary doesn’t give details about how he died, except that “on the last evening of his life while engaged in boyish sport, he received a dangerous fall.”  The obituary states that he was still conscious when his father reached his side, but died a few hours later.
Ralph Waldo Ogden was buried in Warner Cemetery in Brown County, Ohio on November 25, 1924.

I am intrigued by people in my family tree who had no descendants, like Waldo, my maternal grand-uncle Lewis Dudley, my great grand-uncle also named Lewis Dudley, and the many “maiden aunts” I have discovered.  I hope that others are intrigued as well.  I may not be directly descended from these people, but they were part of my ancestors’ lives and each person has a story that needs to be shared and preserved. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mystery Photo No. 1

I am titling this post "Mystery Photo No. 1" because I have many old photographs that are a mystery to me.  I plan to share more of these pictures in the future and hope that readers will post comments to help answer some of my questions.

I will begin by admitting my ignorance of rural life.  I have always lived in the suburbs and have spent over 20 years working in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.  So, please forgive me if I am unable to identify some objects in this photo that are obvious to you.  Just roll your eyes at my ignorance and post a comment to help me out!  Enough about my shortcomings; here's the photo:

We are almost certain that this photo is from my maternal grandmother Mary Jane Dudley Donaldson's family.  The photo is printed (not mounted) on cardboard and there is no photographer's mark.  The photo as it appears above has been cropped, but there is a white border of approximately one-half inch above the picture.  The picture is not a postcard.  It is 6 3/8 by 4 1/4 inches in size, but the top and right side edges appear to have been trimmed by hand.  "TAKEN-64-YEARS-AGO   1958" is written on the back of the photo.  My mom doesn't recognize the handwriting, but does not believe it is her mother's. 

An older man, two younger women, and a dog are pictured.  The man is holding a violin or fiddle.  There is a rake and a shovel leaning against the building.  My guess is that the photo was taken in either Highland or Clinton County, Ohio because that is where the Dudley and Shaper families lived.  That's about all I know.

Here are my questions about this photo:
  • Who are these people?  If I had to guess, I would say they were my second great-grandfather John Shaper, his daughter Emma (on the left) and his second wife Lydia Williams Shaper (on the right).  If this photo was, in fact, taken in 1894, John would have been 58, Emma 16, and Lydia 22.   I have other photos of Emma and this could certainly be her, but I can't be sure.
  • Is the building a house?  There is no chimney and no windows are visible. Granted, there could be a window in the rear, but I would expect to see one on the side as well.  As I recall from a visit to a living history site several years ago, back in the old days, windows were usually placed opposite other windows or doors to create cross-ventilation and cool the house.  If it is a house, how was it heated and how did they cook without a fireplace?
  • What is the object that appears to be a box made of wood slats on the left side of the building?
  • What's up with that piece of wood sloped against the front left side of the building?  I thought perhaps it was used to collect rainwater coming off the roof, but there is no receptacle in which to capture it.  Also, would you divert the rainwater to accumulate right next to the door?
  • Why are there big hoops hanging on the building and for what were the hoops used?
  • To the right of the house, in front of the man and the dog, is a log propped atop V-shaped wood legs.  I kind of looks like a sawhorse missing a couple of legs.  Is this a sawhorse or something else?
  • I am completely perplexed by the thingamabob in the lower right side of the photo.  It appears to be something store-bought rather than homemade.  It looks like a little horizontal ladder-shaped object with wooden dowels running through it vertically.  What in the world is it?
I would love to solve the mystery of this photo.  I can't tell you how much time I have spent puzzling over it.  Can you help?