Coming Home…a Stranger’s Gift

A Note To My Readers:  What a week! I have been pretty seriously ill with a virus that oddly enough attacked my eyes…scary and painful…and made it really difficult to do any reading or computer work. I toughed it out…with the help of good medication and am on the mend.

 

That said…I did ‘force’ myself to do some genealogical work (I know you all can admit to the same thing…never too sick for genealogy!). Wonder of wonders…I received an email from a complete stranger who told me she had found a cabinet card with a name and date on the back…Grace Trowbridge 1890. She was going through her grandmother’s things in some old boxes and there it was!  Her grandmother and Grace were school girls together. She mentioned it to a friend who happened to know me and who follows my genealogical postings…including some regarding my Jennings and Trowbridge family members.

Would I like to have it? Well, I didn’t hesitate a bit. Of course! Yes! Please! And thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

It arrived on Wednesday.

Grace Trowbridge

Grace Trowbridge. 1890. Auburn, NY.

GRACE TROWBRIDGE (1876 – 1948)

Grace is the daughter of Emily Russell Jennings and John Trowbridge. Emily is the sister of my great grandmother, Lillian W. Jennings Martin. Emily’s husband John and her brother William H. Jennings were business partners in Auburn, NY.  I have, but one picture from my Jennings line…Lillian and Emily’s sister, Harriett Jennings White.  Harriet is in her eighties in the photo standing with my father and his Uncle George (Lillian’s son) and my two older brothers playing at their feet.  Aging has changed her enough to make it a struggle to see distinct family resemblances.   With the picture of 14 year old Grace I can stare into Harriett’s face and I see family characteristics.
I have nothing of  great grandmother Lillian and the mystery is still there about her fate. I have checked with every authority to find a death certificate…cemeteries too numerous to count and all the pertinent newspapers for her obituary. But now I have her two sisters’ images and it makes the melancholy of not ‘finding’ Lillian sting a bit less.  Grace never married…nor did her sister, Emma and I suppose that any Jennings memorabilia that the spinster sisters might have from their mother Emily went the way of most things left behind by maiden ladies…either poof…or to their only brother’s children…their nieces Louise White Trowbridge or Ruth Jennings Trowbridge who hopefully have kept them for family sentiment and passed them down.  And awaiting another discovery in an old box.
Dad, his Uncle George and Uncle George's Aunt Harriett Jennings White. Two of my brothers play at their feet.  Four generations!

Dad, his Uncle George and Uncle George’s Aunt Harriett Jennings White. Two of my brothers play at their feet. Four generations!

Happily…Grace is now tucked among her family members’ images now and I will rearrange the framed pieces to place her next to Harriett.
A big thank you to a generous stranger who understands the power of family and pay it forward.
Deborah Martin-Plugh
Author, Historian & Genealogical Researcher
(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved

The Old Pedestrian Rivalry

A Note to My Readers:  In search of my Frear family ‘comings and goings’ in central New York I am back to reading old newspapers and found an intriguing article in a June 1913 edition of the Auburn, New York Democrat Argus. The story revolves around a promotional photograph purchased by Auburn and Union Springs jeweler, WILLIAM STANSELL LAWRENCE FREAR (1849-1930), the first cousin of my great grandfather, HENRY A. MARTIN (1857-1932) and the rivalry of two old ‘athletes’, Edward Payson Weston and John Ennis.

Newspaper Auburn NY  Democrat  Argus 1912 - 1913 - 1243. WSL Frear Headline

Auburn NY Democrat Argus Headline June 1913

The present “hike” of Edward Payson Weston, the veteran pedestrian, who is now plodding his way Westward along the Southern Tier on his way from new York to Minneapolis, Minn., where he is to lay the cornerstone of the new Minneapolis Athletic Club building, recalled to W. S. L. Frear, the Market Street jeweler, the fact that he had in his possession a photograph of the aged hiker when he was a youngster in the game half a century ago. The Citizen herewith presents the picture, and as many Auburnians are familiar with the striking physique of the Weston of today they will be astonished to note the similarity of carriage despite the effects of 50 years on the famous walker. As he walked through Port Byron two years ago on his “Frisco-to New York hike he bore himself in the identical erect manner and his short cane was carried in the same stiff manner, convenient for an occasional automatic smite on his right flank.
Bought Picture in 1867.
Mr. Frear bought the picture from Weston’s agent who accompanied him on his first important “hike,” from Albany Edward_P_Weston_1861to Chicago, in 1867, as Weston was passing through Newark (Wayne county New York). Then as on his walk across Cayuga County two years ago, Weston went through Port Byron and Weedsport, following the old New York Central lines and the Albany-Buffalo turnpike. At that time Weston walked alone, but his agent rode in a buggy and besides selling photographs of the walker, the drive carried articles to be used in an emergency. Today Weston is accompanied by an automobile. Then he was 22, today he is 76. The original picture has been put on display in the window of the owner in Market Street.
Corning gave a hearty welcome to Weston and John Ennis, 71, who has set out to beat the easy schedule set by Weston, when they passed through Corning together yesterday.
Have made 300 Miles.
“Corning marked the completion of the first fifth of the 1,500 mile journey which the two men have undertaken on foot. It is 292 miles from Corning to New York City by the lines of the Erie Railroad which the walkers are following along parallel highways. Before leaving New York City the pedestrians had walked seven miles, so that they had walked 299 miles when they reached Corning. Weston, despite his delay of the past two days, reached Corning a full day ahead of schedule he mapped out before leaving New York City and he was in an optimistic mood. Ennis, too, was highly elated. He had predicted that he would pass Weston before Buffalo was reached although Weston had 24 hours the start of him, and he had succeeded sooner than he had anticipated, thanks to Weston’s poor limb. The four or five years difference in age is also in favor of Ennis.
Not a Race, Says Weston.
Ennis is bent upon forcing the public belief that there is a race on between the two men. This Weston denies and he refuses to be forced into a race with Ennis. Weston mapped out a schedule and published it long before Ennis was heard of in connection with the trip. Weston states that he is simply following the schedule and not attempting to extend himself.
“Although I have allowed 60 days for the trip to Minneapolis, I could cover it in 45 days if I wanted to extend myself,” said Weston to a Corning reporter.
“Ennis has been my competitor only once – that was in England in 1879 when we were competing for a belt offered by Astley for a 100 mile walk,” said Weston. “Ennis was in the race one day and then dropped out. I take Ennis’s action in starting out on this walk after I had planned as just a joke. He is trying to get a reputation from reputation, and by doing what he calls beating me, he hopes to make money giving lectures on this trip.
“As an instance of how ridiculous he is making himself is the statement that he is reported to have made that in six days he walked 348 miles between North Platte, Neb., and Rock Springs, Wyoming – a route through the worst kind of roads in the United States. This is an impossibility. Ennis also claims that he walked from Toledo, O., to Bryan, O., in one day, a distance Ennis gives as 72 miles. The chief of police of Toledo told me that the distance is but 57 miles. If things turn out as I hope and expect there be some fund for the people here when Ennis and I come back.
“I am making this walk to lay the corner stone of the Minneapolis, Minn., Athletic Club’s new house on August 2. I am not making this walk as a race – and I will not be forced into a race. I am making the walk to show that at 76 I can walk more than half the distance that I could at 50 years. I am now making about 158 miles a week, and I am going to average a little more than 26 miles a day. I am not extending myself to see how far I can walk in a day.  My schedule was made out for 60 days but cutting out the Sundays the walking will be but 52 days.

Calls Walk a Picnic.
“I am being shown such courtesies by everybody along the route that the walk is proving no labor, but a picnic.
“I live very carefully whether on or off the road. We I am off the road I eat but two meals a day – breakfast and supper. On the road I eat but one meal a day, breakfast. For breakfast I generally eat three poached eggs and bread and butter and two or more cups of coffee with occasionally a glass of milk. Along the road about once an hour I am given liquid refreshments of egg and milk beaten together with sugar added. I also have vichy water and milk. Occasionally I take sarsaparilla and ginger ale. In the evening I take ice water and sometimes bread and milk.
“When I left New York’s week ago last Monday noon I had a 36 inch waist line. It is now reduced to 34.”
Weston carries with him a cane that was given him 30 years ago by Lord Algernon Lennox, a son of the Duke of Richmond, while he was in England. Weston also has a belt from the same donor.
Weston walks without a coat or hat. A towel wrung out in ice cold water is worn by him in place of a hat. An automobile proceeds him, and occasionally ice water is supplied him from the auto and he is given liquid refreshments. From time to time he stops during the heat of the day in the shade of a sheltering tree for brief refreshments and rest. At times members of the part traveling with him pace him.

Doctor Cobb Accompanies Weston.
When Weston left Corning at 4 o’clock this afternoon for Addison, he was accompanied by Dr. W. S. Cobb of that city. When Weston was on a walk 36 years ago from Portland, Me., to Portland, Ore., Doctor Cobb’s father, George Cobb of West Stockbridge, Mass., walked with Weston from West Stockbridge toward Albany. George Cobb is still alive at the age of 85. Doctor Cobb took the walk yesterday to make the acquaintance of his father’s old friend. (NOTE: The article’s writer incorrectly stated that the walk was from Portland, Maine to Portland, Ore.  The route was from Portland, Maine to Chicago, Illinois.  Thanks to reader, Paul Marshall for catching the article’s error.)

John Ennis "King of Pedestrians" advertising card.

John Ennis “King of Pedestrians” advertising card.

Ennis An Irishman.
Ennis was born at Richmond Harbor, County, Longford, Ireland, June 4, 1842. He celebrated his 71st birthday the day after he took the road with the intention of beating Weston to Minneapolis. Ennis’s home is at Stamford, Conn. He served in the American Civil War in the Army of the Cumberland Engineering Corps. He has a record as an athlete. For 14 years he held the world’s long distance skating record and he has also held records as a rifle shot.
“I left the College of the City of New York, Tuesday, June 3, at noon – just 24 hours to a minute after Weston left the same spot,” said Ennis. “I predicted that I should pass Weston by the time Buffalo was reached – and I have more than made good my prediction,” continued Ennis with a broad grin. “My purpose in making this walk is two fold. First, I desire to clean up an old dispute with Weston and shiw him that I am his superior as a walker, as I have previously demonstrated, and second to show people that all a man of 70 needs to do to be able to as active at that age as most men are at 40 is to to keep exercising – keep doing hard work.

An Ocean to Ocean Walk.
“Three years ago I beat Weston’s coast to coast record by 25 days. Weston walked from New York, to San Francisco in 105 days. I made the journey in 80 days. I bathed in the waters of the Atlantic off Coney Island before leaving New York and I plunged into the waters of the Pacific in Golden Gate Harbor completing a truly ocean to ocean walk. I have been in contests with Weston for upwards of 35 years, and I have beaten him or his records on many occasions. It was my intention in seizing upon this opportunity to prove once and for all that I am Weston’s superior. I am not walking to Minneapolis for a prize or anything when I get there – I am walking to beat Weston, and I am going to do it.

Calls Weston “Sly Fox”.
“Weston is as sly as a fox. He has been doing his best to cover his trail and to keep me off the scent, but I have managed to follow his trail all right, and now I’m ahead of him and he will have to follow mine. I am not unfolding my plans as to where I’ll be tonight, and I leave town quietly when I go. Weston wants the whole town to know about it when he leaves a town. You can say I passed through on the way toward Minneapolis. I suppose I shall follow about the same route that Weston has mapped out. I am going through Addison at any rate this afternoon.
“Yesterday I walked from Owego to Elmira -50 miles. I reached Elmira at 8 o’clock last night and stopped at the Hotel Langwell. I left Elmira at 6 o’clock this morning, and came through to Corning without stop. The first man to walk with me from the time I left Elmira was the Leader reporter. No one travels with me. My son goes ahead of my by train with my luggage. He carries a coat which I use on cold days, and also an umbrella which is the only protection I use on rainy days.”
Ennis is a man of very rugged appearance. He walks in his shirt sleeves, with a long swinging stride. He has a sense of humor and a pleasant smile which wins him a welcome anywhere.

The Auburn New York Democrat Argus, June 1913.

W.S.L. Frear Jeweler Ad 1887.  Courtesy of The Frontenac Museum.

W.S.L. Frear Jeweler Ad 1887. Courtesy of The Frontenac Museum.

Author’s Note:  WILLIAM STANSELL LAWRENCE FREAR was born in Arcadia, New York to JOHN LAWRENCE MYERS FREAR and JUDITH O. STANSELL.    In addition to his jewelry and clock repair business in both Union Springs and Auburn, William and his brother, CHARLES HENRY FREAR owned and operated the ASTORIA HOTEL in Unions Springs.   It is so easy to narrow down research focus and forget the history revolving around our ancestors…or to go ‘too big’ and think national or global…wars, economic news, politics.   Every once in awhile I come across a local or regional story that reminds me about the character of the day and my family’s humanity becomes so very real.  Like the rivalry between two old ‘pedestrians’.

 

A Family Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Note To My Readers:  Yesterday I spent hours in Brooklyn, NY…via my laptop that is.  I have been haunted by the fact that I cannot determine the fate of my paternal grandfather’s mother.   I know I am not alone in the family secret category.  Dad’s family seemed to be one with all manner of voids.  Almost like a scatter of chain links.  There they are in front of me clearly related…isn’t the material of the same making?  And the fabrication distinctly of the same hand?  One by one I pick up the pieces and rebuild the chain, noting the beginnings and the endings…watching for the telltale scars and scratches to match the partners.  On occasion several links have stayed fast.   And inevitably I come to the link that fails to close.  Lillian W. Jennings, my paternal great grandmother is that link.

Henry A. Martin and Lillian W. Jennings

My paternal great grandparents, 26 year old Henry A. Martin and 25 year old Lillian W. Jennings,  left Henry marries Lillian Jennings 1884 news and DemocratAuburn, New York in 1884 within days of their July 16th marriage by the Trinity Methodist Church pastor and settled in what is now known as Clinton Hill.  They set up household in one of the old brownstones on Waverly Street and Henry went to work as a stenographer.  The Brooklyn Bridge had been completed in 1883 connecting the boroughs and Henry rode the trolley into Manhattan.

Sag Harbor NY Corrector 1910 Ernest Martin diesHenry’s brother, Ernest had married another Auburnian, Emma Grace Kilmer,  the year before and they, too, had made their home in Brooklyn where Ernest worked as a stenographer and then began selling typewriters in the New York Metro area.   Ernest became very successful and with Emma and their two daughters lived in a lovely building in Prospect Park.   A long life for Ernest was not to be.  He died suddenly on Long Island beside the train tracks after collapsing from a massive stroke.  Emma and her daughters, Edna Mae and Grace Harriett,  did not stay in Brooklyn, but rather packed up their household and moved to Hempstead, Long Island where the girls grew up and married.

And Henry?   And Lillian?

The research began with the Federal and NYS censuses supported by Brooklyn directories and newspapers.   Addresses were pinpointed in directories in 1887, 1888, 1890 and 1897 and the NYS 1892 census shows the family, Henry A., Lillian W., Al H. and George E. living on Halsey Street in Brooklyn.    By 1900 Henry was living in Brooklyn as a ‘widower’ with their four children, Albert, George, Howard and baby Lillian on Jefferson Avenue according to the enumeration in the Federal Census.

Just yesterday I found that Lillian had borne another child – a girl – in Union, Hudson, New Jersey (now West New York, New Jersey) on August 12, 1888.  My grandfather would have been just a year and half old.  But why New Jersey?  All the other children were born in New York.  Since the child was not in any subsequent census, I can only assume she did not survive.

By the 1905 NYS Census, Henry and his children, Albert “Bertie” (my grandfather), George, Howard and Lillian,  lived in another brownstone this time on 236 Reid Street.  Henry was enumerated as “head” and living with the family was the children’s caregiver “servant”, Henrietta Fischer, a 35 year German immigrant.  No marital status category was provided in that census.  Henrietta was as close to a mother figure as little Lillian would have.  The two travelled together periodically.

In 1907 young Howard died in Brooklyn at the age of 14.  I never sent away for his death certificate.  Perhaps the knowledge of why he died might provide a clue.  Or add to the mystery.

By 1910 Henry had finally set up a permanent residence at 691 Halsey Street and that year married widow, Mary Giddings.    The Martins attended the Janes Methodist Episcopalian Church on Monroe Street. Over the years Henry threw himself into church and civic organizations.  At the Janes Methodist Church Henry ran the men’s bible study and served in several capacities with The Valley Forge Council, Jr. O.U.A.M.  76 and the Janes Social Union.

George continued to live with his father and stepmother on 691 Halsey until he went off to fight in the 49th Infantry inBrooklyn NY Standard Union Wed 14 Aug 1918 George E Martin Over There WWI in 1917 at the age of 26.  Uncle George was in the parlance of the time “a perennial bachelor”.  I vividly remember his auburn hair…curly and topped with a jaunty beret…sipping tea with my mother and my father’s sister in the big farm kitchen in the 1950’s.   He visited…motored was the term at the time…from his Murray Hill home quite often.  Always quiet and shy, he was almost delicate.  And I thought exotic (he was from NYC!)  and kind.  After my father’s death, he sent me a set of oils and brushes because he knew that I like to paint.   He is pictured in the blog banner with my father and his mother’s sister,  Harriet Jennings White.  George is buried next to my grandfather, Albert, and sharing a headstone in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York.  His footstone is the only tender sign of affection I have found.

Beloved Brother.  Rest In Peace.

And baby Lillian?   She married Leo Franklin Leonard in 1922 and had three children – all before her father’s death in 1932.  She lived within walking distance of her father and stepmother and yet when Henry died in 1932, the only survivor listed in the Brooklyn Eagle obituary was his second wife.  No George.  No Lillian.  No grandchildren.   He was referred to as her beloved husband.  Odd and sadly detached.  And there is no stone marking his grave.

Not much mention about Henry’s central New York roots in his Brooklyn life.  No notices of visiting his family.  Except for a Brooklyn Eagle news article at the death of his first cousin, Will Cruttenden, in 1928 who Henry A Martin in will of W H Cruttenden 1928 cropleft him and his central New York cousins to share in a hoarded stash, he seemed removed.  Henry’s spinster sister, Harriett Cornelia Martin, kept the family ties together attending weddings and funerals as ambassador of sorts and she traveled to New York to visit her brother.    Henry’s daughter, Lillian,  was named in Harriett’s obituary.  Apparently Henry kept to Brooklyn.  And my grandfather, Albert,  didn’t.   In 1905, Albert Henry was sent back to Auburn to his Martin family and met and married my then 15 year old grandmother, Sarah Leona Penird.  In six years, the young father of three was dead by his own hand at the age of 24.  A troubled mind.

What happened to my paternal great grandmother, Lillian W. Jennings Martin?

Genealogists are accustomed to gaps in information the further we go back in our research, but there are occasions when a more recent generation has ‘mystery’ written all over it.  And family secrets.

Henry did not remarry until 1910, but relied upon two German sisters who lived in their building to care for the children while he went to work in Manhattan. Why was he single for so long a time? Is THAT a clue?  Was Lillian really dead? Did she run away? Was she ill in an institution? I found a Lillian W. Martin in a state mental hospital in the 1900 Federal Census and her statistics were fairly close.  The age was off by a very few years and this Lillian’s mother was born in Massachusetts and father in NY and my Lillian’s information was the reverse – mother was born in NY and father in Massachusetts.  Genealogists understand that a slight variance doesn’t constitute a wrong conclusion.  It just puts up a flag.  “Caution.  Proceed with Care.”    But proceed I must.  With Care.   I cannot ignore the fact that I know that Lillian’s maternal grandmother, Orinda Bennett James,  died in an insane asylum in Whitestown, Oneida County, NY in 1852 and my grandfather was so troubled that he took his own life by swallowing carbolic acid in 1911.  Pathology…hard as it is…might be this genealogist’s evidence.    HIPAA laws might get in the way of acquiring information and researching the Lillian W. Martin in what was Long Island State Hospital at King’s Park .  Still….

Earlier this year I sent a request out to the Vital Records Department that covers the NY metro area…and no death certificate is there for her…not before 1900.    I have poured over Brooklyn newspapers and Auburn NY papers for some kind of death notice for years now. Nothing. She is not listed in the Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn where Henry is buried. Alone. The North Street Cemetery in Auburn, NY has suffered from neglect and record loss…a shameful history story there…so I don’t know if her body was buried in the Jennings family plot.  But there were other Lillian Martins who died in the New York metro area and I dismissed them because the death date didn’t neatly fit into Henry’s statement of widowhood in 1900.

With this possible clue…this painful clue…the next step is to ascertain if there are burial records for the patients of Long Island State Hospital at King’s Park.

I will keep looking in every nook and cranny. It would be like abandoning her if I didn’t.

My education on Brooklyn is just beginning…I have two history books on the area since family members on both sides left central New York in the 1880’s to live and work in Brooklyn.   Just to get a feel for the Brooklyn of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.    But the personal history is as black and white as the old photos and so very full of shadows.     I knew my Grand Uncle George…my grandfather’s brother…and I own one of his lovely landscape oil paintings and my brother has one of his pastels…”The Three Cherubs”…that Uncle George created to celebrate my three brothers.   But so very little of his mother, Lillian W. “Lillie” Jennings Martin.

Bits and pieces.  Art and void.  And perhaps madness.

 

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian & Genealogical Researcher

http://www.facebook.com/thegenealogistsinkwell

 

 

Becoming Smithsonian; Discovering Personal History

A Note to My Readers:  Victorian Advertising Cards. Chances are if your ancestor was a merchant during that period in history, they used this print method of advertising. My paternal great grandfather (Albert S. Martin) advertised his sewing machine business with several styles of this type of card.   I found one for sale on eBay and put in a bid to purchase it.  At a cost of a modest $5.99 plus shipping, it has taken its place in the family memorabilia.  Another set is archived in the Smithsonian.  Most of these cards were…in the parlance of advertising…a co-op item. Typically the manufacturer printed up thousands of them and the merchant bought them blank and had the back printed up by a local printer.  According to collectors some rare cards can be worth several thousand dollars.  

A S Martin Victorian Business Card FrontUp to this point I had only the digital images of scanned newspaper advertising -blurred and ‘muddy’ – to add to my research base and upon discovering the card set being archived at The Smithsonian, I kept an eye out just in case one might be ‘floating’ about some antiquarian or dealer’s hoard.  It was brought to my attention by someone on my hometown Facebook page that one was up for sale on eBay.  Quicker than a flash, I was on the site and put in a bid and held my breath for five days.  The email notice came in that I had won the bid.   I posted to my Facebook page that I was awaiting my treasure’s arrival with the hash-tag #dancing to the mailbox.    A S Martin Victorian Business Card Back

When it arrived, I was one happy genealogist.  The colors are bright and crisp and it appears the delicate paper has been stored carefully.

Out of curiosity I checked out other collectibles from my hometown area and found another piece available and put a bid of $3.00 in for it…again with bated breath awaiting for the bidding to close.  Once more I was a genealogist in waiting and for the next few days I was at the mailbox before the red, white and blue jeep could pull up.  It put me in mind of the childhood experience of sending away for a Captain Midnight secret decoder ring and the giddy sense of anticipation.

Trowbridge and Jennings 1876 Exhibition CardMy latest eBay treasure arrived in yesterday’s mail…an advertising piece for Trowbridge and Jennings of Auburn, New York. William H. Jennings is the brother of my great grandmother, Lillian W. Jennings Martin and her sister is Emily R. Jennings, wife of John J. Trowbridge. The brothers-in-law went into business with one another in 1869 when William was just 21 years old. William had opened an art store in Oswego when he was just 19 and when the partnership was formed, the pair moved the store to Auburn. They had great success and the business continued to operate and thrive until the death of John J. Trowbridge in 1926.

The photo on eBay was very low resolution and I couldn’t quite make out the detail…though it promised to be a beautiful piece. Inspecting it this morning, it is indeed a piece of art…and something more. It appears this might be part of the catalog and trading cards of the International Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876.   There was nothing imprinted on the back as was the practice and that is a bit of mystery.

Fortunately for me, the Library Company of Philadelphia founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731 has a wonderful collection of Exhibition materials including the catalogs and loose advertising materials and that fact calls for a day trip in to the city for me to view the collection and speak with the librarians about reviewing the David Doret Collection. A grand research adventure to learn about the experience of two young men from Auburn, New York who participated in The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World’s Fair in the United States!

Under it’s official name – the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine, it attracted about 10 million visitors which was about 20% of the population of the United States at the time. Auburn was a growing city of over 18,000 souls. It must have been quite a heady experience for the two young men.

While a collector’s definition of treasure might be measured in dollars, my family finds have a different value scale for me as an historian and genealogist.  It is a sentimental bit of personal  family history and a priceless addition to my own Smithsonian effort.

Deborah Martin-Plugh
Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

Divinings, Wonder-Working Providence

A Note to My Readers:   I suppose we all find a piece of ourselves in some ancestors as we discover a talent or a life experience or a physical feature that we share in common.  It is particularly easy when we are working on parents or great grandparents as time and distance haven’t diminished the gene pool or the propensity to prefer apple pie to chocolate cake.    However, when you go back as many as seven or eight generations and you find a musician or a poet or a soldier or come across a beautiful sampler or a portrait of an ancestor that gives you that instant sense of connection, that discovery will make any genealogist’s heart leap.   It is kind of a spiritual DNA affirmation.  Transcendent, but oddly very real.

CAPTAIN EDWARD JOHNSON (1598-1672)

Born in Hernhill, Kent, England, Edward Johnson (my paternal 8th great grandfather) was part of the earliest migration to New England sailing with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630 and settling in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Totaling seventeen ships carrying Puritans who left England after being disaffected with the Church of England, they elected John Winthrop as Governor of the Fleet and the Colony.  (Winthrop Society).   Edward reported in his 1654 publication “Wonder-Working Providence of Sions Saviour in New England”  that

the expense of transporting ‘the Swine, Goates, Sheepe, Neate (cattle) and Horse’ that accompanied the initial wave of colonists to be ‘twelve thousand pound beside the price they cost’ to purchase.

Captain Edward Johnson Historical Plaque Woburn MAGathering information on this group called the Winthrop Fleet and in particular my Johnson family members, I found  that Edward was of landed gentry and in his will he left an estate in England and that he was reportedly a jack of all trades – an early explorer and surveyor, a clever businessman, a farmer, a soldier ‘during the Indian wars’ better known as the Pequot War, an explorer of sorts, a Puritan stalwart and a man of considerable influence in the colony at large, holding a number of offices primarily in Woburn.   In  1665, the Captain was appointed by the General Court to make a map of the Colony along with William Stevens.   He was also Governor Winthrop’s man.

When Governor Winthrop and Massachusetts Bay Colony and the controversial preacher Samuel Gorton were in deep dispute over Gorton’s preaching and defiance of authority,   Gorton and his followers were banished and migrated to Rhode Island where Gorton became embroiled in further political troubles.  Landing in Pawtuxet in 1642 and once more finding trouble, he migrated to Shawomet (now Warwick, Rhode Island) which was under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts Bay Colony.  When Winthrop summoned Gorton to answer charges they had swindled two sachems, Gorton replied with “whole paper of beastly stuff”,  Winthrop sent Edward Johnson in 1643 to capture Gorton and bring him and two followers to court to answer for his blasphemy.

With their homes burned to the ground and their cattle slaughtered or stolen for profit by Bay Colonists in arms, Captain Edward Johnson chained Gorton and eight of his followers for the march to Boston and a capital trial before the magistry.

(Fire under the Ashes: An Atlantic History of the English Revolution. John Donoghue.  2013)

According to several sources, Edward Johnson had traveled without his wife and children for the first voyage, establishing himself as a freeman on May 18, 1631 and bringing his wife, Susan, and their seven children and three servants to Massachusetts in 1637.   During those years Edward resided in Charlestown in what was to later become Woburn in 1642 and was involved in much of the early efforts of settling in the New World and acquainting himself with his ‘new neighbors’, the native Americans of the area.  In 1643 Edward published “New Englands First Fruits” (London:printed by R.O. and G.O. for Henry Overton) “in the first half of which he gives a vivid account of the virtual unattainability of the ultimate Christian experience professed by, and self-confidently embodied in, the immigrating well-accoutered new neighbors and recorded and a bit uneasily handled as a topic by Johnson.” (Divinings: Religion at Harvard: From its Origins in New England Ecclesiastical History to the 175th Anniversary of the Harvard Divinity School. 1636-1992.  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Page 26.)

Among many other things, the Captain was a writer and historian and is credited with being the first general historian of New England.    His most noted work is “Wonder-working Providence of Sion’s Saviour in New England”, the first printed history of New England.  The lengthy and much studied publication is written with first hand knowledge and is filled with Puritan zeal characterizing the wilderness as the place where the colonists would “re-build the most glorious Edifice of Mount Sion.”

His prose is complicated and stylized and with a definite Puritan perspective on his world, but as the Captain’s eighth great granddaughter who fancies herself a historian and writer with some perspective of my own,  I suppose we share that love of words and sharing our stories with others.  Our spiritual DNA perhaps.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

http://www.facebook.com/thegenealogistsinkwell

 

 

 

 

Hoss Flesh and Cow Tails

A Note to My Readers:  Researchers find information in so many sources to fill in a biography…censuses, wills, land purchases and birth, marriage and death records.  Sometimes there are personal documents and memorabilia such as letters and family bibles to provide a detail or two.  Nine times out of ten these types of records give us timeline events and relationships, but few and far between give us the slice of life stuff.  Of course that leaves most of us tingling with curiosity and with little or no way to touch that personality.   But…controversy shows up in newspaper articles like the village gossip inviting you to sit a spell and listen to a yarn or two.  

And so it is with Lewis Purdy, Jr. (1840-1923)

Goodness me. I long had the gist that Lewis Purdy, Jr., the half-brother of my maternal 2nd great grandfather, Samuel D. Purdy (1818 – 1898) of Enfield, NY was a bit of a character with a life of highs and lows, but today’s research tells me that ‘bit of a character’  isn’t exactly an apt description.

Samuel’s mother, Rachel died in 1839 when he was a young man and his father, Lewis, Sr (1791- 1875). remarried a much younger woman named Sarah J. and had several more children.

Lewis, Jr. was born in 1840 so Lewis, Sr. had wasted no time. Sarah died in 1863 and left behind several daughters who as young girls were farmed out to various families in Tompkins county working as house help.  Lewis, Jr. was off to fight in the Civil War with the 109th Regiment that year. When he returned and mustered out in 1865, he married Miss Olive Sholes of Newfield on February 5th in Enfield. Probably under the watchful eye of  his staid and respectable brother, Samuel.  Olive and Lewis initially lived with her parents in Newfield. The Sholes were neighbors of Lewis, Sr. and his third wife, Esther Eddy Purdy.

Lewis and Olive went off on their own buying a farm at Van Etten (Swartwood Station) in Chemung county, New York.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Immediately Olive gave birth to daughter Fannie in 1866 and in 1870, son Freddie was born. Death came to the Purdy household in 1873 and both children perished. In 1882 Olive gave birth to daughter, Murtie, but she, too perished, dying at the age of 7 years old. All three children are buried in Trumbull Corners in Newfield.

Life goes on as they say and Lewis seems to have followed a dark and angry path.  He was in conflict with his neighbors…far beyond verbal, many set-tos turning to violence.  In 1888 after another angry dispute, Lewis suffered a “body execution” upon being sued by Lewis Smith and so his brother, Samuel had to travel to the jail to retrieve him.  In one 1893 fray, Lewis sued a Mr. Thompson for false representation of ‘hoss flesh’.

But it was the bitter feud between James R. McKay that festered and boiled over and by 1910 the duo were in Chemung court after 70 year old Lewis was assaulted by Mr. McKay.  He was dragged to the ground from a wagon by Mr. McKay, his clothes torn and two teeth broken and one loosened causing Lewis to purchase false teeth.  Before you want to dig up Mr. McKay and yell at him, the court testimony states that

Mr. Purdy is a man of violent temper, of a quarrelsome nature and given to brawling and fighting; that prior to April 1 the defendant was forced to eject Mr. Purdy from the defendant’s hotel in Van Etten and on April 1 was forced to remonstrate with Mr. Purdy because the man was using profane language in the presence of a woman with whom the defendant was conversing.

While I did not find the conclusion of the court case, I did find that the quarreling men were not done with one another.  No, sirree.

Ithaca NY Daily News 1911 Lewis Purdys Cow Loses TailIn 1911 they were back in court when Lewis sued James McKay…oh, I can hardly type this without shaking my head….because Lewis’  Holstein lost her tail to the jaws of Mr. McKay’s dogs.    The saga went on for six weeks, calling 23 witnesses and finally going to the jury.

Lewis lived to be 83 years old passing away in 1923 at the Old Soldier’s Home.  He had been widowed since 1916 when patient Olive went to her peaceful reward.

Lewis and Olive Sholes Purdy Monument

The Purdys are buried in the family plot in Trumbull Corners with their three children – a quiet and bucolic spot where matters of  ‘hoss flesh’ and cow tails are of no consequence.

 

 

 

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

http://www.facebook.com/thegenealogistsinkwell

 

The Eye of the Beholder

Our mail carrier KNOWS I love her arrival. At the sound of the truck making its way down the street…I am out to the mailbox like I have been shot out of a cannon. Not all of the time. But, when I am awaiting a book or article regarding my genealogy research, it is akin to Christmas at my house.

“What is it today, Deb?”, Barb says leaning out of the USPS vehicle. It is spring at last and I am not bundled up and she happily has her window open to catch a warm April breeze. And me? I am content to open the envelope right then and there…not risking frost bite…and oblige her curiosity (and mine).

I found three different collectible objects on eBay last month and ordered all three. Coming from three different sources, they were mailed separately thus spreading out the anticipation and joy. All of the items directly relate to my central New York ancestors and have antiquity.

Order of Sons of St. George, General Gordon Lodge, Auburn, New York.  Circa 1896

Order of Sons of St. George, General Gordon Lodge, Auburn, New York. Circa 1896

First, my paternal 2nd great grandfather’s portrait (circa 1896) with his fellow members of the Order of the Sons of St. George; General Gordon Lodge, Auburn, NY. The seller was from the Binghamton area. I was over the moon.

Yesterday’s mail brought the Victorian Trading Card from his son’s Auburn, NY business, “Coy and Penird… from around the late 1880’s. The seller was in the Sacramento, California area. WOW!  How things do ‘travel’!

I opened this envelope to show my mail carrier my latest treasure and inwardly laughed when I saw her polite and puzzled expression that clearly said,

” Just a piece of cheap paper advertising “Coy & Penird” All * Kinds * Of * Rags”.

Coy & Penird; Victorian Trading Card.  Circa late 1880's.

Coy & Penird; Victorian Trading Card. Circa late 1880’s.

But, we genealogists and historians have seen that look before…

Stereopticon Slide.  Taughannock Falls.

Stereopticon Slide. Taughannock Falls.

The third item is a stereopticon slide of Taughannock Falls (Ithaca, NY) and in lovely condition. My 5th great grandfather built a log cabin there in 1790 and the falls are a great part of my family history. I can’t wait to have it arrive. Perhaps Barb will find this item a bit more charming. Or confirm that I am collector of odd bits.

What can I say…

 

 

 

 

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

http://www.facebook.com/thegenealogistsinkwell