Lost Arts. The Gregg Method.

My mother was a prolific list maker. They were all over the house and jammed into her purse.  If the season changes and she added a chic new exchequer, the lists made the transfer with her lipstick and wadded up currency and life savers.  They were as constant as the rising sun and the stars in the sky.

Those bits of her streams of consciousness always smelled of TABU and tobacco and sported the inevitable loose speck of her Virginia Slims. Every once in awhile she would cleanse the house of her lists and slowly, but surely the accumulation would begin again. Mostly they were grocery lists, but there were reminders to write her sisters or her brother. She never wrote “Bill”…always “Brother” and the random events…PTA meetings and Christmas parties…birthday notes and something for a neighbor. Her conversation with herself because there was no other adult in the household to share the weight of her thoughts.

I am her.  I have a lifetime of my own lists…and remake them religiously.  I keep notebooks and they are a grand design of random thoughts, tasks, and doodles.

Many of my mother’s lists were simply replays because in the melange the original was ‘somewhere’ and time was wasted sorting through the paper trail to update them.   Besides, I think it was a comfort device for her to put those things down in her flourishing handwriting and begin afresh.  Again…like me.

Except for Christmas lists. Mom was trained in Gregg’s shorthand.shorthand
She knew my sister and I would stumble across one of the months of wish lists and spoil her Christmas Day surprises. Instead there were among the daily wool gatherings that began in October, the purposeful squiggles that we couldn’t decipher…no Google in the 1950’s. It wasn’t driven by today’s nutty Christmas marketing before Halloween.

No, it was about a single mother putting our gifts on layaway and paying on them incrementally until they were freed from their ransom and she could bring them home for her girls.

The only telltale mark that my sister and I sleuthed out was the check mark next to a line of squiggles…some ‘thing’ was paid for.

One elegant purse lives vividly in my memory.  She carried it at my wedding.001  Mom had saved for it and treasured it above others.  Yes.  Elegant.  That was her.   And when she helped me change into my ‘going away dress’, she opened her purse to retrieve a hankie and there in the midst of the familiar tobacco bits, lipstick tubes, crinkled cash and perfume was her latest list of ‘things to do’ the morning of my wedding.

I am so fortunate to have had a wonderful mother who kept lists and loved to be vivacious until her last days.   I bought her a new purse for every birthday and put in a note in lieu of a list…one item.  Thank you, Mom.

Deborah J.  Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright October 2016.  All Rights Reserved.






The Flowery Kingdom

Occasionally genealogists spend research time delving into the nooks and crannies of history to broaden the knowledge of an ancestor’s life.   For some time I have been gathering information on the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  Specifically the Japanese Pavilion under the direction of Royal Commissioner Seiichi Tejima (1850 -1918) and the charming teapot exhibit contributed by my first cousin, Frances Lorinda Heath Eldridge (1847-1930) of Yokohama, Japan.

As described by R.E.A. Dorr in “Arthur’s Home Magazine, Vol 62”.  Published in 1892,


1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Japanese Pavilion. Chicago, IL.

“Of all the countries that will exhibit at the fair, the plans outlined by Japan are now attracting the greatest interest.  The appropriation of $630, 000 by the legislature or parliament of the Flowery Kingdom was a genuine surprise, and there was at once much curiosity to learn how so large a sum was to be expended.   A few days after the appropriation was announced by cable, Mr. S. Tegima (sic), the Japanese royal commissioner, arrived in Chicago.  He was a most courtly, elegant gentleman, who, except on occasions of extreme ceremonial, appeared in European costume.  He was wined and dined at the Chicago clubs and in the most exclusive homes.  He was taken to Jackson Park and shown the exposition grounds and plans of the buildings in process of construction.

Finally Mr. Tegima asked for a business meeting with the director-general and chief of construction.  At this meeting he unfolded a plan of operations for Japan which it is believed will eclipse the plans of any other foreign power.   He demanded space at the north end of the wooded island for a Japanese building to cost $100,000 and for a botanical garden to cost nearly as much more.  He proposed an annual appropriation by his government to keep both in order and repair.  The propositions were both accepted, and Mr. Tegima, having secured surveys of the ground allotted him, left for Japan with the promise to return in July with two hundred native carpenters and gardeners and begin work on August 1st.

The building will be a duplicate of one of the emperor’s most beautiful and ancient temples.  It will be built in Japan in sections, taken apart, sent to America in a Japanese war-vessel, and put together by the emperor’s own workmen at Jackson Park.  The garden, too, will be laid out in Japan, and Mr. Tegima promises that landscape gardening effects will be produced far more wonderful and beautiful than anything before seen outside his own country.  Tons of earth will be brought with the plants, as many of those to be used thrive only in their native soil.

Inside the Japanese palace will be a collection of relics, carvings and other articles showing the implements of industry and the art treasures of this ancient people.  Many of these articles will be loaned by the emperor from his private collection, and from the national museums.  Native attendants and soldiers will have charge of and guard these treasures of the East, and native gardeners will have exclusive charge of the flower beds.  In short, a small section of Japan will be shown at the fair.

Altogether Japan will occupy within the exposition grounds 148, 975 square feet of space.”

Anxious to provide the exposition with the best representation of Japan, the number of items shipped far exceeded by many tons the contracted amount.  The Meiji had heavily invested in the industrialization of Japan and promoting their arts and goods to the world.  The enthusiasm for the opportunity the exposition offered was met with an enormous gathering of exhibit material.  What was excess was sold at the Exposition and shops in Chicago.

“The Japan Daily Mail” revealed that the “Ho-o-den” – the pavilion- was so jammed with items “as to be well-nigh bewildering”.  The pavilion, known to westerners as the Phoenix Pavilion, was given to the City of Chicago as a permanent showcase of Japanese art and a gesture of good will and the city maintained it thus for 120 years.

The pavilion was lost to fire in 1946, but many of the individual items remain and revitalization is underway.  Just last year three two-sided panels called fusuma were found in a Chicago Park facility.  Yoko Ono has contributed a major piece of art to the project.  The garden in Jackson Park has been re-designated as “The Garden of the Phoenix” and promises to restore the grounds, install a pavilion and once again inspire visitors to the site.


Seiichi Tejima.

It is worth noting that Seiichi Tejima is a venerated figure in modern day Japan.  Mr Tejima was curator of the Tokyo Educational Museum.   He had relationships with many collectors and museums and as Dr. James Stuart Eldridge (my cousin’s husband) was favored by the Meiji emperor and was a collector of Japanese art, artifacts and antiquities, it would be no small leap to think that Mr. Tejima went to Frances and asked her to contribute her collection of rare Japanese pottery teapots.

Since my cousins…the Eldridge’s direct descendants…did not know of the exhibit, but do have letters and Japanese artifacts, it might be fun to have them go through what they have in order to find mention of Mr. Tejima and together perhaps we will be able to connect the 123- year-old dots.


Deborah J.  Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright September 2016.  All Rights Reserved.


Photograph of Mr. Tejima courtesy of Tejima Seiichi Sensei Den (手島精一先生伝), Published in 1929.


Edward Gray. Clam Chowder and Genetic Memory.

I have lived in several different areas of the country other than my beloved New York State Finger Lakes region over the years and some places had that inexplicable sense of ‘home’ almost immediately. None so much as living in Rhode Island. It was instant and heartfelt. I could never put my finger on it until in my later years I began to research my heritage and discovered my deep roots in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

When I return now to research, it is with a heightened awareness of my heritage and love of the New England coastline. I fondly recall the drive through Tiverton and heading south to Newport and the anticipation of a steaming bowl of clam chowder at the Black Pearl and a leisurely afternoon strolling through the grounds of one of the grand mansions.

And always the smell of the sea.

Perhaps there is something to the scientific theory that we have genetic or ancestral memories.

Plimoth Plantation is part of my heritage with both Mayflower passengers John Billington, Edward Fuller and Reverend John Robinson and a plethora of Great Migration settlers as well. As I have been working these lines for some time now, it occurs to me that like my New York State family, a New England nexus is present so I am building a graphic to illustrate the connections and to show the disbursement points westward. A much more daunting task than the New York State project because of the sheer number of ancestors in New England.

So what…or should I say WHO compelled me to begin this New England project?

My paternal 8th great grandfather -The English immigrant EDWARD GRAY, SR. (1629-1681) of Plymouth, Massachusetts

“where he settled as early as 1643, and died in June 1681. He received a grant of a double share of land at Plymouth, June 3, 1662, and was made freeman, May 29, 1670. He received a grant of one hundred acres at Titicut (located at a bend of the Taunton River), March 4, 1674, was grand juryman, 1671, and deputy to the general court in 1676-77-78-79. He was appointed a member of a committee, July 13, 1677, to examine the accounts of the various towns on account of the recent Indian war. He had nine-thirtieths of a tract of Tiverton lands, purchased with other, March 5, 1680, for eleven hundred pounds.” [i]

“Before Europeans arrived, the Pocasset people fished and farmed along the eastern shore of the Sakonnet River in what is now Tiverton. Forests, swamps, and streams provided fresh water, game, wood products, berries, and winter shelter. In 1651, Richard Morris of nearby Portsmouth purchased the Nannaquaket peninsula from its native inhabitants. There is no evidence of Morris settling here, so he may have used the peninsula to grow crops and graze animals. In 1659, Morris’ claim was recognized as legitimate by Plymouth Colony, which at that time included the Tiverton area as part of its holdings.

Strapped for cash by King Phillip’s War (1675 – 1676), Plymouth sold a tract of this land in 1679 for £1100 to the Proprietors of Pocasset. The “First Division” of the Pocasset Purchase created thirty large lots, with the northernmost edge close to the present-day Fall River-Tiverton border and the southern boundary at the Tiverton-Little Compton line.

Edward Gray (1667 – 1726) held nine shares along the southern boundary of this purchase. The 237-acre tract now known as Pardon Gray Preserve passed to Edward’s grandson, Pardon Gray (1737 – 1814), who farmed the property. During the Revolutionary War, Pardon Gray became a Colonel in the Rhode Island militia, and he was placed in charge of the local commissary, which he ran from his home. Colonel Gray supplied 11,000 militia and Continental troops stationed at Fort Barton prior to the Battle of Rhode Island in 1778. Marquis de Lafayette briefly used a house nearby as his headquarters. Pardon Gray died at the age of 78 in 1814, and he is buried alongside his wife, Mary, in the family cemetery.”[ii]

That land purchase in Tiverton caused his son EDWARD GRAY, JR (1666-1726), my 7th great grandfather, to migrate there and like his father was a merchant who traded between Plymouth and Newport. His many descendants and my ancestors were born, lived, married and toiled along the coastlines in Tiverton and Newport, Rhode Island and Dartmouth and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Edward Gray, Jr. is buried on his former property in Tiverton.  The house was on the main road (Route 77) in Tiverton between Newport and Boston, and not far from the intersection known as “Four Corners.” (Routes 77 and 179)   The grave is not marked. On an old Tiverton map the location is indicated by a cross.  (Plat 15, Book 1, Town Hall. Notation: Old Edward burying place.  Tiverton Town Hall Land Records).

The Pardon Gray Preserve

I am excited to visit this historic preserve and visit the old Gray Family cemetery and perhaps get that tingle of ancestral memory.

The 230-acre Pardon Gray Preserve was purchased and preserved as permanent open space by the Tiverton Land Trust in 2000. It is an active farm and forest preserve adjacent to Main Road in South Tiverton and contiguous with the 550 acre Weetamoo Woods Open Space. The property, originally part of the Pocasset Purchase signed in 1676, contains many colonial artifacts including the Gray Family Historical Cemetery, an old well house (restored as a visitors’ kiosk) and original stonewalls. The Tiverton Land Trust stewardship program focuses on protecting open space, agricultural lands, historic sites and wildlife habitat. (Sakonnet Historical Society).

Edward Gray Burial Hill Plymouth monument stereoptocon

Stereopticon Card Image of Edward Gray Monument. Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Edward Gray, Sr. is buried in Plymouth in Old Burial Hill. His restored monument still stands.






[i] NEW ENGLAND FAMILIES, Genealogical and Memorial.  A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealth and the founding of a Nation.   Compiled under the Editorial Supervision of WILLIAM RICHARD CUTTER, A.M. THIRD SERIES. Volume 1.  New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company.  1915.

[ii] History of Pardon Gray Preserve By Tiverton Land Trust with research support from Tiverton Land Trust.

Deborah J.  Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright August 2016.  All Rights Reserved.


The Lost Son

A Note to My Readers:  Genealogists understand that researching entire families, siblings, in-laws, aunts and uncles and cousins more often than not reveal the human history of our ancestors and indeed are likely to break down brick walls.  In my nascent days of genealogical research, I called this kind of research “sideways”.  I believe the scholarly term is “indirect evidence”. I still say “sideways” out of habit, but I am finally channeling my instinctive and self-taught methods into developing a more academic approach to accepted standards set by the Board for Certification of Genealogists®

I may need more than a modicum of patience for myself and the discipline of BCG reportage.   Still I have learned a great deal from historians, archivists and fellow genealogists and the satisfaction of continuing to improve on my knowledge and skills keeps it all so very interesting.

And, pardon the pun.   Relative.

The Long Lost Son. Walter George Lounsbury (aka Downing).

For several years I was trying to find out what happened to Medorah Rogers, daughter of the prominent veterinary surgeon from the village of Cayuga and Rochester, NY and his wife Mary J. Downing.  Medorah had a son, Walter George, but due to a misspelling of her his last name (Longsby) an error in transcription in the 1875 New York State Census, I could not find her or her family. Today I discovered that the name was Lounsbury not Longby and with that I was able to create the life and circumstances of  Walter George Lounsbury Rogers Downing.


As is my practice, I often go back to enigmas and check to see if I might find a new source of information that has come to light.  This time it was to once again see if I could find out what happened to Medorah Rogers Longsby and her son Walter George.  Medorah is an unusual given name and using it and the advantage of Soundex, there might be hope for discovery.  I have been back to these individuals countless times with no luck, but if I have one trait, it is tenacity. Or maybe I am just a cock-eyed optimist.   It paid off when I found Walter’s death claim and the complicated research data came together.

U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007


Name Walter George Lounsbury
SSN 565035802
Gender Male
Race White
Birth Date 28 Oct 1874
Birth Place Tonawanda, New York
Type of Claim Original SSN.
Signature on SSN Card WALTER DOWNING
Relationship of Signature Signature name differs from NH’s name.
Notes May 1937: Name listed as WALTER GEORGE LOUNSBURY
Household Members
Name Age
George Lounsbury
Medora Rogers
Walter George Lounsbury

It was time to work backward and sideways.  Create a timeline and analyze my research.   Still using my own wonky vocabulary as you see.

How and why did Walter George Lounsbury become Walter Downing?

According to his Social Security record, Walter was born in 1874 in Tonawanda, Erie county, New York.  His professional biographies state that he was born in Rochester, New York.  The confusion is understandable since Walter’s father, George, was from Tonawanda and his mother from Rochester.  Sometime shortly after his birth, his mother died. His father moved back to his hometown of Tonawanda, working as an Express agent or ‘cartman’ and traveled constantly.  He left Walter with his late wife’s parents, Dr. George G. Rogers and Mary J. Downing in Rochester, New York. Walter’s father continued on with his occupation and subsequently remarried and adopted a young German orphan girl, naming her Carrie after his sister. Walter was raised by his mother’s parents in Rochester, New York.

In the New York State Census of 1875 the infant boy was enumerated in his grandparents’ Rochester, New York household as their grandson, Walter G. (transcribed incorrectly as Longby which I have since reported to Ancestry.com).

Walter continued to live with his grandparents and was enumerated in the 1880 Federal Census in Rochester, New York as their 6 year old son “Walter G. Rogers”.   In the New York State 1892 Census, Walter was living with his now widowed grandmother in Rochester and still enumerated as her son, “Walter G. Rogers”.

When Walter G. Rogers married Katherine Ellsworth on October 15, 1897 in Rochester, New York, the marriage license listed his parents as George and Mary Downing Rogers and he was an insurance agent.  By 1900 Walter had relocated to Auburn, Cayuga, New York living on 87 East Genesee Street with his mother, Mary J. and a second wife enumerated as Mary, an actress. George continued selling insurance.

After  his mother Mary died in 1902, Walter G. Rogers left Auburn and I chased him by all three surnames all over country.  Born circa 1874 in New York State. Parents born in New York State.  Occupation: Insurance.  Wife: Mary who was an actress.  I found some promising information here and there, but nothing with that ‘slam dunk’ factor.

Since Walter’s social security records confirmed that he also used the surname of DOWNING, his maternal grandmother’s last name as his ‘stage name’, I went searching and found one Walter Downing. Actor. In Hollywood. With a wife named Augusta.  An actor that was in bit parts…mostly in ‘oaters’.

Working backward, in the 1930 Federal Census I found a stage actor named Walter Downing born in New York circa 1874 with parents who were born in New York , but with a wife, Augusta.  Just possibilities, so I went into industry sources to find more on Walter Downing.


Walter Downing’s IMDB bio states:

Walter Downing was born on October 28, 1874 in Rochester, New York, USA. He was an actor, known for Two-Fisted Sheriff (1937), The Hidden Light (1920) and One Man Justice (1937). He died on December 21, 1937 in Hollywood, California, USA.

The bio also indicates that he began his film career in 1915 though I found him in Broadway productions in the 1920’s.  So Walter was bi-coastal.

His brief biography in “The Stars of Hollywood Forever” by  Tony L.Scott fills in more information which indicated that Walter was in New York City performing.

DOWNING, Walter (b. October 28,1874 Rochester, NY d. December 21, 1937 Hollywood, CA-  Veteran western actor, Downing appeared in two Broadway productions: Taboo in 1922 starring Paul Robeson and Ruth Taylor and The 19th Hole starring Marion Abbott, Kitty Kelly and Howard Sidney.

Subsequent research into film titles in “The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion  Pictures;


Walter Downing as ‘Newspaper Editor Bill’ in “Kentucky Blue Streak”

Feature Films (1931 -1940)” include Walter’s listing in such films as “Helldorado“(1934),  “Kentucky Blue Streak” (1935), “Code of the Range“(1936),  “Two Fisted Sheriff” (1937) and ironically, “The Case of the Missing Man“(1935).  “Kentucky Blue Streak” is available to view online at no cost. Walter is cast as ‘newspaper editor Bill’.

In a 1920 Broadway show cast list, Walter Downing was cast as ‘Chief of Police’ in the comedy production of “Outside Looking In” starring James Cagney.

And what about “The Lost Son”?

New York NY Clipper 1890-1891 - 0671 E O Rogers display adWalter was never lost. He never ran away from home. He always lived with his mother’s parents and without much doubt spent time with his uncle, Edgar O. Rogers, the great showman and actor from Rochester, New York.   His father couldn’t have failed to know exactly where his son was. Dr. Rogers was prominent in his field of veterinary surgery specializing in horses and was listed in Rochester directories for all to see.  After the death of Walter’s grandmother,  it seems logical that the reason I lost track of him after 1902 was that he was offered a position with his uncle’s traveling emporium of actors and circus entertainment. Edgar’s wife who was a celebrated actress and his business partner died suddenly in 1903 and uncle and nephew found comfort together as a newly minted family and show business entity.  Goodbye, insurance and hello to the hurly burly of limelight and the romance of stage plays and life on the road.

All The Life’s A Stage

My favorite area to research is old newspapers. When I had nailed down the primary sources of censuses and death records and directories and noted secondary sources for further research, I settled down to the tried and true method of boolean searching for Walter George Lounsbury Rogers (on occasion Rodgers) Downing.  Two newspaper articles popped up concerning one George A. Lounsbury of Tonawanda who ‘found his long lost son’ in 1905. Walter would have been on the road with E. O. Rogers at most only three years at that time.
North Tonawanda NY Evening News 6 Oct 1905 Grayscale Walter Lounsbury gone 15years with E O Rogers

North Tonawanda NY Evening News 6 Oct 1905

According to the article, George thought Walter had died until one day in 1905 he read the posted bills of E. O. Rogers Repertoire Company that was posted in a public place with  the words ‘under the management of Walter G. Lounsbury’ and in a flash of recognition, found his long lost son.   What no doubt caught his attention was the fact that his son was listed as managing his uncle’s traveling acting troupe. George Lounsbury would have known his brother-in-law and putting two and two together and approaching his 60th year, he wanted to see his ‘long lost’ son.

Walter died in 1937 and is buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery (formerly Hollywood Memorial Cemetery).   Walter’s wife Augusta died in 1944.  There is no evidence that Walter had any children from any of his marriages.
Author’s Note:  Mary J. Downing Rogers is the sister of my maternal 3rd great grandmother.   She and her husband, Dr. George G. Rogers are buried in Lakeview Cemetery in the Village of Cayuga.  The research is the ‘easy’ part.  The ‘fun’ part for me.  I travel the individual’s history with them in kind of a time machine and always with a sense of visiting family.   My imagination and my practical fact finder detective brain work that way together.  Note taking and citing are on autopilot.  It is when I have to abandon my time machine and report the work academically that I chafe.   All those citations.

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

©May 2016   All Rights Reserved.

The Luck of the Irish

Researching my Irish third great grandparents, Anthony Curry and Bridget Grant over the past few years has been a piecemeal effort. I was thrilled when I found their names in Francis J. Curry’s Civil War documents and his actual birth date, April 12, 1829. In New York State and Federal Censuses his birth place was enumerated each and every time as “Free Ireland”. That is one generous and complicated research pool. And what was “Free Ireland”?

It was time to delve into Irish history and learn about the timeline of Francis’ life and have context for why a seventeen year old would migrate alone across the Atlantic Ocean to a young country. The big question remained. How do I narrow down where to search for Anthony and Bridget Curry? After the usual Boolean attempt and finding nothing, I went back to their son to see if there could be a clue in some document.

F J Curry Death Certificate rFirst, I ordered his death certificate from New York State Vital Records. Francis died in 1887 on his farm in Montezuma, Cayuga County. Though New York State began death certificate registration in 1880 and 1881, I found that was no guarantee that one had been filed. Especially in rural areas. It wasn’t until 1913 that compliance was reliable and complete. Luck of the Irish, his death certificate was filed with the state and unlike some others, the information was complete and the handwriting quite legible. And the clue I needed was there. Not “Free Ireland”, but County Clair (sic).

Back to online Irish sources and I went to County Clare Library to see what types of records were available. The first easy step was to “search this site” with the surname Curry and I expected to find either mountains of Curry families or none at all if the records were sparse. First hit was Anthony Curry in the 1855 census transcript in Ennis and there was a Bridget Curry in Ennis as well. The Parish was Drumcliff, but there were place names like Ballyfaudeen and Killaspulgonane and Clonroad and Drumcaurin. Another source stated that in County Clare, a processor named Anthony Curry, worked on documenting the poor. A third document showed an Anthony Curry living in Drumcliff Parish on ½ acre of land in the town of Drumcaurin. I clearly need to learn more about geopolitical boundaries and geography and social, political and religious aspects of County Clare before I try to parse records. Search isn’t research without having a set of valid parameters and all I had was the location of County Clare, but I am not researching with enough basic understanding of its community.

What I am beginning to understand is its history and the event known as “The Great Famine” or the “Irish Potato Famine” and its implication in the migration of my seventeen year old great great grandfather to America. I am also catching on to the continuing reference of “Free Ireland” versus just stating “Ireland”.

Frank Curry arrived in his new home in 1846 and in 1850 Frank was working on the farm of James and Abbie Tyler Jenney in Springport, Cayuga, New York. It is where he would fall in love with and marry Deborah Jane Tyler, Abbie’s younger sister. Debry, as she was affectionately known by her family, was part of the large Tyler family who came to Cayuga County in 1793 and collectively owned some of the best farm land along Cayuga Lake.

By 1855 Frank, Deborah and their two infant sons, William and Henry Eugene, were living in1856 Naturalization Record p1 the village of Cayuga and farming. In 1856 Frank’s father-in-law, Lonson Tyler took him to the Cayuga County courthouse and there Frank became a naturalized citizen. Both men signed the document. Frank was literate not just a poor tenant farmer’s son with no education. He could write. Another clue toward Frank’s life in Ireland. Free Ireland. County Clare.

By 1860 the Curry family included my great grandmother, Kate C. Curry and they were living on their own modest farm in Montezuma where they had an apple orchard and cows and chickens.

Frank enlisted in the NYS 111th infantry Company in August of 1864, kissed his wife and two sons and two daughters goodbye and went to fight in the Army of the Potomac. When Lee surrendered at Appomattox, the 111th was there. He mustered out in Alexandria, Virginia in June of 1865 and with his fellow New Yorkers made the journey home. Like his fellow veterans, his health was fragile the rest of his life and he died at the age of 57 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

My notes are better populated with avenues to research and I am hoping that the Anthony Curry I found in Drumcliff is my ancestor and I have the Luck of the Irish working for me.

Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat.


Deborah Martin-Plugh
Author, Writer and Genealogical Researcher
© Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Beyond the Black and White Image

I was talking with some genealogical researchers today and we were discussing physical traits of our grandparents East Gallery Walland great grandparents. Because I was born late in my parents’ lives, I did not know my grandparents and my kids barely knew theirs. There are records that give physical descriptions…mostly for men as they are military…that state height, hair color, eye color and ‘build’. On occasion there is a traveler who gets a passport that gives us our female ancestor description. Kids, you have seen my heritage portrait wall of black and white photos, but that doesn’t specify the details or the histories and I realized that I am your link to know about those facts.

So. Because my kids never knew him…their grandfather (my dad) was barely 5′ 3″ and though I know he was pretty slim, I don’t know his specific weight. Look at my brother, their Uncle David Martin…that is pretty much our dad. I do know that my father had straight, reddish blonde hair with a receding hairline and that he had (my) blue eyes. Oh…and though this is not genetic…he smelled wonderful of Old Spice and starch and just a whiff of lemon drops. He had his brilliant white shirts done at (pardon the politically incorrect language) the Chinese laundry and to hide his road tipple of whiskey, he sucked on lemon drops in an attempt to hide it from my mother. It never worked, but that is another story.

Al loses finger in accident at Beacon Mill AccidentAt the age of seventeen my father lost his right pointer finger and half of his index finger when his hand was caught in a piece of machinery when he worked at Beacon Milling in Cayuga (now part of Cargill). I held his hand without a hesitation when we tromped through the high grasses along Cayuga Lake while we looked for walnuts and butter nuts…and a handful of Tiger Lillies and Bittersweet for my mom. When he would pose for pictures, he hid his hand. Mostly in his suit coat pocket. Dad was nearsighted and had gold-rimmed spectacles that he would habitually remove and clean and replace in the same fashion. Left ear…nose…right ear…in such a familiar gesture that I can still see him doing it some 50 years later. His pockets were always filled with NECCO wafers or LifeSavers and he would share them with me while I sat on his lap.  I spun the sweet candy idly around my mouth, dreamily listening as he spun odd tales in a ritual we called “The Big Lie”. It was mostly a deliberately garbled rendition of various fairy tales spiced with his inventive imagination and twist and turns that left us breathless laughing.  Those were the good times.

A E Martin 5yrsHe was a complicated man arisen from a 5 year old boy who witnessed his father committing suicide by swallowing carbolic acid. Dad was brilliant and entrepreneurial and could take anything mechanical apart and put it together again without one ounce of doubt. On occasion when he hit a snag, he might utter a ‘dammitall”, but he was persistent and by golly, it never failed to run. It was kind of a magical genius.

Human beings were another thing.

I was four when Dad was first committed to Willard State Hospital for alcoholism. I have a letter from his doctor that my mother tucked in the pages of the family bible. It spoke of a man who doubted his faith in being loved. He was in his late forties and to everyone else he was a successful self-made man.  Dad had thrived during the Great Depression and WWII. He owned an airplane and a valuable piece of Ithaca real estate on State Street in the 1940’s that has since ‘disappeared’ into urban renewal. He also had a mistress…one Harriet “Hattie” Daniels.  Mom always knew about Hattie.  I can’t imagine what it was like for her.  Dad would take the plane and fly down to D.C. on the weekends to see Hattie.  The affair lasted for decades until I was born.  You can imagine that Hattie lost it and told him to take a hike.  Then my father’s unraveling truly began and we lost everything. Our home. Everything.  While Dad was hospitalized, his business manager cleaned out the assets.  When my mother and father came back to the business, it was an empty building.  The inventory was gone and the office equipment including my little pink wicker chair that played nursery rhymes when I sat on it.  The bank accounts were almost empty.  Just enough was left to keep the accounts open.  And the business manager had fled the country.  The authorities including the FBI bumbled around and called the trail to South America ‘cold’.    Years after my father’s death, my mother shared the story with me so I knew what happened to our Ithaca life and I suppose so she could mourn the loss with a sympathetic child.

To say that ‘Daddy” – I call him that to this day- had a difficult and complicated history is an understatement. But when I attempt to describe him with ‘my blue eyes’ and a slight build…it overly simplifies it all.

I have come to the conclusion that you cannot create a biographical profile in a sterile box and with just a physical description. That said, “what did my grandfather look like” is the question. We family historians cannot resist to fill in with the other senses and emotions.

Still and all, he was my ‘Daddy’ and that means something to my child self.

When my brother, Rich died this year, we sat by his grave…next to my father’s in Lake View Cemetery in the little village of Cayuga, NY…and I allowed myself to grieve for them both.  I will return next summer and place flowers like I always do and choose to remember “The Big Lie”.


Deborah Martin-Plugh
Author, Writer and Genealogical Researcher
© Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.

That’s Philip Stein.

A Note to My Readers:  Recently a fellow historian and Auburnian, Lydia Rosell and I were communicating about a photo that she had found on eBay several years ago.  Lydia collects some intriguing items relating to Auburn, New York and Auburn Prison and posted on FaceBook that she hadn’t been able to find anything about the murder case involving the man in the photograph…”Philip Stine.”  As any historical researcher knows that is like waving a red cape at a fierce bull and shouting “Toro”.   Thus I was off to see what I could find.  The first thing I did was consider a name variation.  As soon as I made it “Philip Stein”, the story of a troublesome criminal life culminating in the murder of William Jones unfolded.   I also found the tale of intrepid Police Officer Benjamin B. Roseboom and the capture and conviction of Philip Stein.

Winter weather was in full force in central New York and Auburnians had their homes secured against the blustering and chilling December winds and the inevitable snowfall. Sleighs had been readied with newly waxed runners and reins had been inspected and treated with saddle soap. The folks in central New York needed no lesson in being prepared to tackle Mother Nature. They just didn’t count on the likes of career criminal Philip Stein.

Stein hailed from Rochester, New York and though he committed many of his crimes in that general area, he held no prejudice for where or whom he victimized. He was an opportunist. His father, Peter, had been a shoemaker and his Uncle Philip was a grocer in Rochester in 1860 and young Philip and his siblings were surrounded by family in a section of Rochester filled with immigrant tradesmen with a strong work ethic. Philip’s father had died and his mother, Johanna, remarried to another “Prussian” immigrant. Stein’s older siblings were off on their own in 1870 and 14 year old Philip and his 12 year old sister Maggie were part of the newly blended household. His stepfather, Franz, was a grocer and Philip was an apprentice carpenter. All in all, it seemed that the young boy had a clear path to make a good life for himself.
Something went very wrong. At 19 years of age, Philip was an inmate at the Monroe County Penitentiary, married and declaring his trade as butcher in the 1875 New York State Census. His life of crime had clearly begun in earnest. Five years later in the 1880 Federal Census, Philip was a convict at Auburn Prison. Still married and still claiming his occupation as butcher, it seemed more likely that crime had become his true vocation. In New York State prison records, his crime at that time is recorded as receiving stolen goods.

In April of 1881 Philip was released from Auburn Prison and made his way back to his wife and child in Rochester. Within hours, he was in serious trouble again. The young Mrs. Stein had supported herself and their child during his incarceration and according to the authorities, had ‘an unblemished reputation”. Her errant husband begged for forgiveness and asked to let him stay with her. His promise of acquiring gainful employment went unmet and his young wife’s supporters advised her to be rid of him. She stood her ground and told him to leave immediately. Angry and resentful, Philip left. Feeling content that she once again had the peace of her own humble life, the young woman put her child to bed and settled down in her parlor which also served as her bedroom. At 10 PM her reverie was broken with the harsh report of a pistol. Two shots were fired,

“the balls passing through the window, burying themselves in the bedding”.

Alarmed, she dashed to the door in time to see Stein running away. Securing the young one, she ran to the nearby police headquarters and an arrest warrant for Stein was issued.

Newspaper Auburn NY News & Bulletin 1882 Philip StineIn February of 1882, Philip Stein was back in Monroe county jail awaiting transfer to Auburn Prison for the crime of Grand Larceny in the second degree. He was arrested in Rochester, tried and convicted and was due to be returned to Auburn Prison to serve out an eight year sentence. Once again his crime was outrageous and showed a disturbing state of mind. He had entered a barn in Parma, Monroe, New York where he killed twenty sheep, skinned them and sold the pelts for $26.50. Seems that his trade of butcher was indeed accurate. Within no time after being incarcerated, Stein had proved himself again handy with tools by jimmying a lock with a pen knife and escaping into the Monroe County countryside. On February 15th Stein jimmied open a lock to a dungeon cell and acting as the ringleader, along with his fellow convicts drilled a hole through a three foot thick wall. The dungeon cell led to a chicken coop in the jail yard where the convicts found a hand ladder and scaled the wall.

The alarm went out to the Rochester officials who knew Stein on sight after dealing with him for over a decade. Disguising himself by shaving his mustache and wearing civilian clothes, he prowled Rochester to find shelter and perhaps seeking another crime opportunity. As he walked down Front Street, a vigilant sheriff spied him and arrested him on the spot. The sheriff questioned Stein to determine the details of his escape and his evasion, but Stein refused to cooperate. Still mum, Stein was taken to Auburn Prison and placed in a cell with a lock that offered no chance of tinkering. His reputation in central New York was becoming infamous as he was dubbed “The Sheep Killer”.

Stein did not serve the full eight years of his sentence and that sealed the fate of William Jones of Erie, Pennsylvania. State Prison records for Auburn Prison report that Stein’s sentence was commuted for good behavior and he was released on August 15, 1887. This time Stein did not return to the Rochester area and he would surely be under the watchful eye of Auburn police. He went instead to Erie, Pennsylvania.

Philip Stein

Philip Stein, courtesy of Lydia Rosell

William Jones was the proprietor of the St. Cloud hotel in Erie. In November of 1877 he had taken Stein in out of pity and gave him shelter from the bitter cold and provided him a warm meal and board. Stein was allowed to stay for a few days. A desperate man, Stein rewarded Jones’ generosity in a most heinous gesture. On December 1st, as Jones sat alone in the hotel with Stein, Jones drew him a beer and went about his evening routine. Stein crushed the top of Jones’ head with a blunt object described as an ice pick or a mallet or a bung starter. Jones lingered for the month of December and finally died of his injuries on December 31st.

“While Jones lay quivering in his life blood, Stein took a wallet containing $60 from Jones’ pocket and turning out the lights fled to Auburn.”

Once again the Rochester and Auburn police departments were on notice to watch out for Stein. A $250 reward was offered and the citizens were unnerved after learning of the nature of the crime. Stein had graduated from a thief to a murderer. Stein was accustomed to evasion and kept a low profile and yet he returned to Auburn where his face was well-known. He learned that the police were actively pursuing him in Auburn and began to make his way into the countryside. He would not make it out of the city. “an old prison official”, spotted Stein on Dill Street and alerted the Auburn police. The entire force was mobilized, but they could not seem to catch up with Stein. Days later, he was spotted on North Street and Officer Roseboom answered the call. He secured a horse and buggy and pursued Stein as he attempted to flee on Grant Avenue. Brandishing a gun, Roseboom commanded Stein to stop. Knowing he couldn’t outrun a buggy on foot, Stein turned and drew his knife. Staring down the barrel of Roseboom’s gun, Stein threw down the knife and a bottle of sulphuric ether and surrendered. He had been on the run for eleven days.

Philip Stein Arrest Record December 11, 1887

Philip Stein Arrest Record December 11, 1887.  Courtesy of Lydia Rosell

Auburn police officer Benjamin B. Roseboom and police reporter Charlie Rattigan and Erie, Pennsylvania Detective J. P. Sullivan and Captain Grant had their hands full transporting Stein. Despite Stein’s calm demeanor, he was shackled hand and foot as they were acutely aware of his wiliness and his earlier escape. They also had to worry about the enraged citizens of Erie. When the Lake Shore train reached Westfield, Chautauqua, New York on December 17, 1887 a telegram from Erie District Attorney Baker was given to Captain Sullivan. Throngs awaited the arrival of the train and along with a steady snow, shouts and curses filled the air. A plan was formulated to take Stein to another part of the train and disembark away from the mob. They no sooner had stepped down onto the remote platform than a shout went up.

“Hang him to that post!”

Stein was tossed into the waiting carriage arranged by D. A. Baker and the men were off to the Erie jail at a tear. The mob had been in full pursuit and as many as 25 people reached the carriage, but it had a good start and soon the enraged citizens were left behind and the lawmen and the suspect were on their way unencumbered.

Though the circumstantial evidence of his culpability was powerful, Stein maintained his innocence throughout his arrest and trial. Appearing in Erie court in May of 1888, Stein was dressed neatly in black and his previously shaven mustache had been grown back. He was cool and confident and represented by two of the best defense lawyers that money could buy. Stein’s brother-in-law, Phillip Christman, a well-to-do butcher and grocer from Rochester, footed the bill. Christman had married Stein’s sister, Maggie. When pressed by an Erie reporter about Stein’s case, Christman stated that he believed Stein to be too cowardly to commit such a crime and that his forte was stealing. He also stated that Stein had never attempted to hurt anyone. Mr. Christman clearly hadn’t considered the incident when Stein attempted to shoot Mrs. Stein.

Erie District Attorney A. Elverton Sisson

Erie District Attorney A. Elverton Sisson

At the trial no defense was offered, but rather the attorneys battered the court with procedural sparring. Objections flew at every point. They tried to get the jury dismissed on the grounds that it was drawn for the second Monday of the term instead of the first which would have considerably delayed the case. The judge denied the motion and the jury, consisting of eleven farmers and one ‘city’ man, was seated. The prosecution team of District Attorney A. Elverton Sisson and his predecessor, Cassius Leland Baker and Captain J. P. Sullivan worked the arrest and trial so as no fault would bring about a verdict of not guilty. A precise prosecution strategy was in place.

The prosecution swore in between forty and fifty witnesses and their testimonies solidly refuted Stein’s statement at his arrest. Jones’ leather wallet Stein had stolen was produced as evidence. It had been found along the tracks where Stein was spotted fleeing. The circumstantial evidence mounted and confident that they had made their case, the prosecution rested. At the close of the trial, the defense pulled their trump card. Laying claim on a common law case tried fifty years earlier, they demanded to open AND close the argument phase of the trial. The prosecution’s hands were tied and the defense proceeded with their strategy. Observers thought the defense might be able to sway the jury for an acquittal. Baker, however, had a compelling close and was a deft and eloquent speaker. With the advantage of giving the final argument of the case, defense attorney and ex-Congressman Samuel Myron Brainerd held the floor handily.  Brainerd had also served a three year term as District Attorney for Erie county before his stint in Congress.   It was a battle of wits and experience between the three men who served the same office.

Thanking the jury, the judge sent them off to deliberate the case.

After five hours of deliberation, the verdict was pronounced. Guilty of second degree murder punishable by imprisonment for life. Trial attendees and reporters noted that Stein’s escape from a verdict of first degree murder was a direct result of that defense strategy. A defiant Stein demanded a new trial.

Officer Roseboom and Rattigan of Auburn and Chief Detective Hayden of Rochester left that night after staying in Erie for the duration of the trial having been the guests of  the county of Erie.

It appears that Stein’s demand for a new trial went unmet and Stein was imprisoned in Pennsylvania to serve out his life sentence. No trace of him appears in later official records or newspaper accounts. Stein’s infamy came and went as he served his time in Erie, Pennsylvania prison.  Christman returned to Rochester to run his market and raise his family.

Twenty-two years later, a Rochester lawman, Chief Hayden, remembered Philip Stein.

In 1888 Hayden received a telegram from Erie, Pa., which read: “Wanted for assault and attempt to kill, an American, 28 or 30, five feet, ten inches, 165 pounds. Evidently American. Had one weak and watery eye.”
“That’s Philip Stein, “Hayden said to Chief Cleary and Captain McCormick. “The fellow who was convicted awhile ago of stealing sheep from a Parma farmer, and has been out of Auburn only a short time.”

Philip Stein never left the thoughts of Roseboom and Rattigan either.  When 70 year old Roseboom was interviewed in 1915 in his cozy home at 3 Sumner Street in Auburn, New York, the journalist wrote

Pointing out the window toward Lansing Street, he mused: “Right back of that house I took a murderer, a fellow named Stein, way back in 1887.  And he’s sworn revenge on me and Charlie Rattigan, a police reporter at that time, whose testimony down in Pennsylvania sent the man up for a dozen years.  But Charlie and I are here yet.”

Author’s Note:  The mystery remains…Philip Stein was given a life sentence and Roseboom mentions a dozen years.  Since I fail to find Stein after his incarceration…did he die before 1900 in a Pennsylvania prison while in his mid thirties?  Seems unlikely that in light of his crime, Stein would have been released.  But then Officer Roseboom’s light-hearted comment seems to tell us that Philip Stein is safely tucked away.  Dead or alive.  And no threat to Roseboom, Rattigan or the citizenry of Auburn, New York.

Deborah Martin-Plugh
Author, Writer and Genealogical Researcher
© Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.