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.