Thursday, July 30, 2015

1st Lieutenant Israel S Stonesifer

Earlier this week I introduced you to Joseph Bernard Stonesifer. Today I'd like to tell Aunt Katherine and you a little about Joseph's father, Israel S. Stonesifer (1839-1928).

Israel was born on 12 April 1839 at the Silver Run community in Carroll County, Maryland. His parents were Benjamin and Susan (Freed) Stonesifer. Israel was baptized at Saint Mary's Lutheran Church in the same community. By 1850 his parents had moved their large family north across the Mason-Dixon Line to Conewago, Pennsylvania.

At the age of 23 he was drafted at Gettysburg into the 165th Pennsylvania Drafted Militia as a 1st Lieutenant, one of five brothers to fight in the Civil War. His term of military service was to be nine months. The regiment moved to Washington, DC, shortly after it was formed and then on to Suffolk, Virginia, in December of 1862 where it remained until December 1863. They likely participated in the siege of the city from 11 April to 4 May 1863 which had been captured earlier in the war and was a federal garrison. The 165th were involved in several other battles and skirmishes in southern Virginia in 1863 before being moved back to Washington, DC, where the officers and soldiers were mustered out.

Israel S. Stonesifer in uniform; photograph courtesy of Find A Grave
volunteer David Hann

Israel returned to Conewago and married Sarah Amanda Walter, Aunt Katherine's first cousin two times removed, on 19 October 1873 at the Sacred Heart Basilica. The couple had four children during the first eight years of their marriage and the family lived for a time in Littlestown, Pennsylvania, where Israel worked as a butcher. He was elected to the town council in 1878.

Later the family settled permanently in Gettysburg. There Israel was elected as the Democratic Register of Wills and Record of Deeds for Adams County. He was re-elected many times without opposition in a staunchly Republican stronghold, a marked tribute to his popularity.

He became the Assistant Superintendent of the Gettysburg National Military Park in 1894, the year before the protected land on which the Civil War battle raged over three days officially became the Gettysburg National Military Park. He served in that capacity until 1920.

Civil War Veterans Picnic, Hershey Park, Pennsylvania, 3 September
1927. Sarah Amanda (Stonesifer is the woman sitting fourth from the
right; photograph courtesy of the Adams County Historical Society

He joined Jack Skelly Post No. 9, Grand Army of the Republic and was active in many veterans' activities before his death on 24 September 1928. He was interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg. He wife died eight years later and was buried beside him.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Corporal Joseph Bernard Stonesifer

During the Lange Cousins Reunion held at our home last month, my 93-year-old Aunt Katherine asked me to look into her father's family history. She said she didn't know anything about it and would like to learn something. However, if there was anything bad, she didn't want to know! I have more than one murderer in my tree and a few criminals and I've blogged about most of them -- the dead ones anyway. So what would Aunt Katherine consider bad? I'm sure lots of things less awful than murder.

The day after the reunion I started researching her father, Millard Aloyius Walter (1899-1974). Right off the bat, I started chasing the wrong Millard Walter. There were two living in Baltimore, Maryland, at the same time: Millard A. Walter and Millard Walter. The middle initial came in very handy.

It turns out her father's four times great grandfather was Nicholas or Nicola Walter, who was born in 1720 in Rhineland-Platz area of what is now Germany, immigrated to Philadelphia in 1751 and died in 1804. Along the road of discovering Nicola Walter, I "met" a lot of interesting members of the very extended Walter family.

Today, I'd like to introduce Aunt Katherine and readers of this blog to Joseph Bernard Stonesifer, Aunt Katherine's second cousin once removed.

Aunt Katherine's connection to Joseph Bernard
Stonesifer. John William Walter was a son of Nicola
Walter; image courtesy of

Joseph was born on 8 November 1879 in Littlestown, Pennsylvania. The town is about 10 miles south and east of Gettysburg, just north of the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. It was originally named Petersburg by German settlers. Joseph's father had moved the family to Gettysburg by 1895.

On 15 February 1898 the battleship USS Maine exploded in Cuba's Havana harbor, killing 260 crew members. News of the disaster splashed across front pages of newspapers everywhere in the country. The United States declared war on Spain and President McKinley called for volunteers.

Typical front page announcing the explosion of the USS Maine;
original source unknown

The 5th Pennsylvania Infantry, a National Guard regiment assigned to the U.S. Army's First Brigade, Eighteenth Division. The regiment's regular soldiers had arrived at Camp George H. Thomas in May. The regiment was ordered to recruit volunteers to enlarge the ranks. Young 18-year-old Joseph Stonesifer responded to the call. He enlisted in July of that year and on 15 July 1898 was stationed at Camp Thomas in Lytle, Georgia.

Lytle is in Walker County just north of Chickamauga, scene of a bloody civil war battle. The volunteers from several different regiments soon numbered over 60,000 raw troops and placed a strain on the Camp. Providing water and enough varied food became problems by the time Joseph arrived. At least two soldiers were shot by irate landowners as they attempted to raid neighboring peach orchards and chicken coops. One soldier wrote:

"Mothers, sisters, and sweethearts did all they could to gladden the hearts of their loved ones at the Park, but their efforts in this line were entirely fruitless, for as fast as the express wagons would deliver the loads of boxes of pies, cakes and pastries, the regimental surgeons would dump it into a sink dug for the purpose." The doctors were attempting to halt the spread of illness but their methods were unpopular I imagine.

Army officers and their tents at Camp Thomas; photograph courtesy
of the Georgia Historical Quarterly

Two days after Joseph arrived at Camp Thomas, Spanish troops marched out of besieged Santiago, Cuba, and the war was over. Hostilities formally ceased on 12 August 1898 and the treaty officially ending the war was signed in December and ratified by the Senate the following February.

The National Guard soldiers were given a 30-day furlough in September but, even though the war was over, Joseph and the other 5th Pennsylvania Infantry volunteers were transferred to Camp Hamilton near Lexington, Kentucky. Joseph was promoted to corporal in October. Camp Hamilton was abandoned about 15 November 1898 about the time Joseph was released from military service.

When the 1900 census was enumerated, Joseph attended college and lived with his parents in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where his father worked as the assistant superintendent of the Gettysburg National Military Park. Joseph moved to Chicago by 1906 when he married Bessie Sadie Novak, daughter of John L. Novak, senior member of the firm Novak & Steiskal, mortgage bankers, dealers in real estate, loans, insurance, and other financial matters. Bessie's father had immigrated from what is now the Czech Republic but was then called Bohemia and part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

When Joseph registered for the World War I draft on 12 September 1918, he worked as a bookkeeper. His physical appearance was described as being of medium height and build with blue eyes and dark hair. He and Bessie had two children by that time.

Between 1935 and 1940 Joseph and Bessie moved to the northern Virginia area and Joseph worked for the federal government as a guard in the Treasury Building in the District of Columbia.

Joseph died in December 1960 and was interred at the Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Social Security Applications and Claims Index

Last week added an important new data collection to its subscriber-available repository -- the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. The collection includes over 49 million records about people whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA), had a social security number, and would have been over 110 years old if still living. Not every person listed in the U.S. Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, is included in this new collection.

Why is it so important?

The Social Security Application and Claims Index provides additional details about a person not contained on the death index record such as:
  • Applicant's full name
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Date and place of birth
  • Citizenship
  • Sex
  • Father's name
  • Mother's name
  • Race/ethnic description (optional)
  • Names changes filed with SSA
  • Life and death claims filed with SSA
Parents names are not included if the person died within the last 10 years and the social security number is not provided if the person died within the last 75 years.

I have found the database particularly helpful for identifying maiden names and marriages I didn't previously know about (name change filings). I used to submit a SSA Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) claim each time I was unable to find a maiden name through usual sources such as a parent living with a married daughter in a census, obituaries, etc. Each time I submitted a request, it cost $27.00.

This is what I would receive from SSA about a month later:

Application for Social Security Account Number for Mary Inez Muir
(1922-2002); personal collection

This gave me her place of birth, which I did not know at the time.

This is the same form for one of her father's partners:

Application for Social Security Account Number for Eppa (Swan) Childs
(1909-1975); personal collection

I learned Eppa "Eppie" (Swan) Childs' maiden name and the name of her parents, as well as the surname of her first husband. This was crucial information as a later partner's obituary listed her name as Eppie Sevan. From the obituary I didn't know if it was her maiden name, her name from a previous marriage or even if it was correct. And made no progress beyond the incorrect name listed in the obituary until I received this from from SSA.

Let's go back to Eppie's step-daughter, Mary Inez Muir. I contacted one of her granddaughters after finding her tree on Ancestry and she told me Mary Inez had been married nine times, but she didn't know who all the husbands were. She and I worked together to discover five of them. This is how Mary Inez's marriages looked in my tree after we ran out of places to search:

The five husbands and one "almost" husband of Mary Inez Muir. She and
George R. Brewster applied for a marriage license in West Virginia but
never married; from my family tree on

This morning I searched for Mary Inez in the US, Social Security Applications and Claims Index:

Mary Inez Muir's record in the Social Security Applications and Claims
Index; image courtesy of

If you read the Notes field, you will see that Mary Inez submitted several names changes to SSA. Two of the changes I didn't know about: 1) July 1966 changing her surname to STACY and 2) May 1967 changing her surname to CARLISLE. These two "new" marriages bring her known marriage count to seven. So the hunt continues for the two remaining marriages. When I started working on Mary Inez, I knew about two marriages -- her "almost" marriage and her last. Collaboration with her granddaughter and this new record set have been a wonderful addition to my research.

I hope you will have success using the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index as well. But it can be a bit overwhelming to know who in your tree may be included in this collection. To develop a list of candidate ancestors, I ran a Documented Facts and Sources report from Family Tree Maker, and searched for everyone who had a U.S. Social Security Death Index record associated to them. I entered their birth date, name at birth, death date, name at death and social security number, if it was included, into a spreadsheet. Then I sorted the list by birth date and moved everyone who would be less than 110 years old if they still living to another worksheet as they should not be in the Social Security Applications and Claims database. (I have found several of these people in the database, however.)

Next, I opened the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, using Search >> Card Catalog from the navigation menu on and began searching. If I found a record for the correct person, I saved it to that person, then analyzed the record to see if it included any new information. If it did, I recorded that information on my tree and entered YES into my spreadsheet indicating I had successfully found the record. If I did not find it, I entered NO into my spreadsheet so I would not be repeating the same search at a future time.

I'll be working on this for weeks and a large portion of my Muir book will have to be extensively rewritten in light of all the new information I am finding.

Happy hunting!

Unraveling Henry's Children: Mary Inez Muir (1922-2002)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

52 Ancestors #30: Proving James Harvey Beard's Father

Ancestor: James Harvey Beard (1780-1869) and a host of other Beard men!

I always knew my four times great grandfather Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815) served during the American Revolutionary War because my grandmother and father mentioned it often whenever our family history was talked about around the dinner table. I had no idea when I took over Dad's genealogy research that I had another patriot ancestor. At that time I didn't even know his name.

When Dad was unable to continue researching due to health reason, he had recently learned the name of his paternal grandmother, Effie Davis (Beard) Jennings. Her name was where I started my Beard research.  I didn't have much luck with Effie -- a 1900 census when she was already married to my great grandfather, and two Find A Grave memorials. I found nothing that revealed who her parents may be.

So I looked at public family tree matches for clues. Using those trees, I was able to find a possibility for Effie's father, a David Fleming Beard, Sr., and her grandfather, James Harvey Beard. I was able to confirm who these men married and that they were son and father but couldn't get any further back than James Harvey Beard or definitively connect Effie as the daughter of David Fleming Beard, Sr.

One of my fellow genealogy bloggers wrote a post about Virginia Chancery Court records. There, I found pay dirt -- a case where Effie's half-sister sued she and her siblings over land owned by her father. There were fifty pages of documents related to the case, which drug on for ten years. I now had the proof Effie was David Fleming Beard, Sr.'s daughter.

Case No. 3555, which proves David F. Beard was the father of Effie
Beard; image from the Library of Virginia.

Now, I had to get to work on the parents of James Harvey Beard. He was born in 1780 so I surmised his father might have been the right age to serve in the Revolutionary War. I went to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Genealogical Research System (GRS) and searched for any Beard patriots from Bedford County, Virginia. There were eleven but only one from Bedford County and one with no county listed. With the information about those two patriots listed on the search results page, I started learning about those two men.

The one from Bedford County, Virginia, was John Beard (1705-1780). I found his last will and testament, which listed his wife, a couple of his children, and several grandchildren. Once I had sorted out who they all were, their relationship to each other, and entered them in my tree, I got more hints. All that led me to suspect, Samuel Beard (1750-1814) was James Harvey Beard's father.

I went back to DAR GRS and purchased the application for Samuel Beard. After downloading it, I saw why it had a "Future applicants must complete" message.

DAR GRS search results for Samuel Beard

The application included a lineage but no dates or supporting documentation! Applying to DAR was a heck of a lot easier in the 1960s than it is today!

DAR application for May Julia Jopling, who used Samuel Beard as her
patriot ancestor.

It wasn't particularly helpful other than giving me a clue about the unit in which Samuel Beard served. I had taken a class by Craig R. Scott about researching ancestors in the Revolutionary War period. I contacted him and he recommended two books that were very helpful in adding additional details about Samuel Beard's military service all of which was later confirmed by 30 pages of muster rolls and pay stubs as well as his wife's war pension application.

I learned by searching for all the Beard last will and testament documents listed in Rowland D. Buford's book entitled Bedford County, Virginia: Index of Wills, from 1754 to 1830 that Adam Beard was the son of John Beard and father of Samuel Beard. Adam (1725-1777) predeceased his father, which was why he was not mentioned in John Beard's will. In Adam Beard's will he stated:

"Item. I give and bequeath to my son Samuel Beard all of my lands of [illegible] and south of Lurray I now live upon together with my Negro GEORGE and his mother [illegible] to him and his heirs and assigns forever."

And there is where the connections between generations ends. I have no documentation that proves James Harvey Beard is the son of Samuel Beard and Mary Mitchell.

Simplified family tree showing where I have an issue in
my research trying to prove my lineage to Samuel Beard

I have proof that I descend from my father, Charles Theodore Jennings, Sr., who descends from Marvin Edward Jennings, Sr., who descends from Effie Davis (Beard) Jennings. She descends from David Fleming Beard, Sr. and he descends from James Harvey Beard. All this I have proven.

I also have this index record of James Beard's death, which lists his parents as Samuel and Mary Beard. The wife listed is James' second wife, which is not Effie Beard's mother. However, James' middle initial is incorrect. I have ordered a copy of this microfilm record from the Family History Library. If it is for the correct James Beard, I believe I have enough to prove Samuel Beard is my direct ancestor and that he served in the Revolutionary War.

Death index record for a James S. Beard, which may be my James Harvey
Beard; record courtesy of

If not, I will plan a road trip to Bedford County to visit the genealogical and historical societies as well as the county courthouse. If that fails, I will go to Richmond to visit the Virginia Historical Society and the Library of Virginia.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Challenging.

Slave Name Roll Project
Slaves of John Beard
The Court Doth Adjudge, Order and Decree
Newly Discovered Photos
The Mother Nobody Knew
George Washington Spoke to Him

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Worldwide Genealogy: Working with Land Patents and Plat Maps

I am reprising my post about working with land patents and plat maps at Worldwide Genealogy -- A Genealogical Collaboration today. I hope you'll click over and read it if you haven't already and are struggling to learn where your homesteading ancestors lived.

My great grand aunt, Jane (Muir) Beck, was the youngest child of James and Margaret (Semple) Muir. My grandmother always called her Aunt Janie. Janie's grandfather, father, and most of her brothers were coal miners but Janie married a farmer, Herbert Bartist Beck on 20 June 1912 at Lebanon, Illinois. Herbert had been living and working on his brother, John's, farm. They had two children in Illinois, Thelma Christena and John Wesley Beck.

Herbert's brother had been out west with his uncle. He and his wife decided to move to Montana and homestead land in 1918. Herbert and Janie followed them a few years later. They took a train from Illinois and arrived in Roy, Montana, on 7 April 1923.

Roy, Montana, circa 1916; photograph courtesy of the Bureau of Land

In two separate transactions with the General Land Office, Herbert Beck acquired nearly 425 acres of land in two counties.
  • 17 October 1928: 
    • Southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 27 in Township 20 north, Range 24 east
  • 26 September 1928: 
    • South half of the northeast quarter of section 34 in Township 20 north, Range 24 east
    • Southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 31 in Township 20 north, Range 25 east
    • West half of the southeast quarter of section 32 in Township 20 north, Range 25 east
    • East half of the southwest quarter of section 32 in Township 20 north, Range 25 east
    • Southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 32 in Township 20 north, Range 25 east
    • Lot 4 of section 5 in Township 19 north, Range 25 east
    • Lot 1 of section 6 in Township 19 north, Range 25 east
Learn how I used this information to locate where the land is and what it looks like today.

A first-hand account of what life was like on a homestead in Montana may be found here. It was written my Herbert and Jane (Muir) Beck's daughter.

This post was originally published on Tangled Roots and Trees as a 52 Ancestors post.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The CCC and Lake Mattamuskeet

Earlier this week I wrote about Percy Carawan, who lived most of his adult life near Lake Mattamusket. I thought I would write about the lake since Pete and I visited it earlier this year. It was the first time my Yankee husband had seen it and he was pretty impressed, especially as we talked about the lake's history as we continued on to New Bern to visit my Dad.

Bald Cypress growing in Late Mattamuskeet; photograph taken by me in
June 2015

Lake Mattamuskeet is the largest natural lake in North Carolina. It is a shallow (average water depth is 2 to 3 feet), coastal lake on the Albermarle-Pamlico peninsula. The lake is home to Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, one of the major wintering sites for waterfowl along the Atlantic Flyway. The lake has a very interesting history.

A map by John White of the Albermarle-Pamlico peninsula. Paquippe is
today's Lake Mattamuskeet; image courtesy of the Trustees of the British

No one really knows how the lake was formed. Because the lake bed is 3 to 5 feet below sea level, many believe it is the result of a meteor crashing to Earth a millennia ago. Indian legend attributes its formation to a peat fire that burned for thirteen months. There are numerous other theories.

In 1585 the lake covered 120,000 acres, about three times its size today. It was also about 6- to 9-feet deep then. There was interest in draining the lake during Colonial times as people thought the lake bed would provide some of the richest farming soil in the colonies. Soil experts have compared the loam to the rich land in the Mississippi and Nile river deltas. However, it wasn't drained for the first time until 1837. A canal to the Pamlico Sound was dug using slave labor from neighboring Hyde County plantations. The canal 40-feet wide and 8-feet deep and drained most of the lake until the size of the remaining lake was 55,000 acres.

Because the farmers were so successful farming the former lake bed land, North Carolina wanted to drain the entire lake. They built a series of canals and pump houses and drained the lake in 1916, 1920 and again in 1926. The last time the land was kept relatively dry for five years. The entire enterprise went bust during the Depression. President Roosevelt had plans for the area -- to re-establish Lake Mattamuskeet and preserve the native wildlife that used to frequent it.

Civilian Conservation Corps workers near Lake Mattamuskeet; photograph
courtesy of NC GenWeb

A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was established in Hyde County and CCC workers spent nine years working on various projects to create the Mattamuskeet and Swan Quarter Waterfowl Refuges. An old pumping plan was transformed into Mattamuskeet Lodge and is a memorial to the workers of the CCC. It opened on 26 November 1937. During its heyday guests included governors, senators, congressmen, doctors, and lawyers.

Lake Mattamuskeet pumping station at New Holland; photograph courtesy
of the Mattamuskeet Foundation

The structure was closed in November 2000 when corrosion was found on the steel beams supporting the structure. In 2006 the United States Congress gifted the lodge to the State of North Carolina. The state has been renovating the lodge since then though the work has been on hold due to budget issues. Only Phase III remains to be completed. The Mattamuskeet Foundation has been established to engage in research and educational activities to preserve and publish stories about the history and ecology of the lake and Eastern North Carolina.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Decoy Carver of Lake Mattamuskeet

The Carawans have been in eastern North Carolina since at least the early 1700s. The extended family is part of the fabric of one of my favorite regions in the United States -- Down East Carolina. Alvin Percival "Percy" Carawan was born in Lowland, North Carolina, on 16 April 1910 to Alvin Rufus and Sarah Elizabeth (Potter) Carawan. He was one of eighteen children. He spent his life around the Pamlico sound living in Pamlico, Beaufort, Dare, Craven and Hyde counties. He died on 13 January 2005 at the age of 95.

Percy Carawan; photograph originally shared by member

You might say Percy is a collateral of a collateral on my family tree. But that doesn't begin to describe my connection to a man who was described in a 2000 article that appeared in Life on the Pamlico as "...a seemingly youthful, active man who graciously shares with all, loves and respects nature and humankind, and lives his life to the fullest every day."

I knew about Percy Carawan before I knew I had a tenuous connection to him.

Connection between Percy Carawan and myself (lower right)

On one of my trips to visit my family, who had moved to Pamlico County in 1978, I purchased a decoy carved by Percy, who was then famous throughout the region for his carvings. I paid a pretty penny for it at the time. Sadly, it was lost during a move from Virginia to Michigan in the winter of 1984 when the moving truck went off the road during a snow and ice storm and several of my boxes were lost.

Percy was a boat builder, hunting guide, trapper, and decoy carver. He described making decoys to Bill Mansfield, who included it in his book Song of an Unsung Place: Living Traditions by the Pamlico Sound:

"I just make a working decoy. I don't make a fancy decoy. I'm not good enough to make real fancy decoys. A wooden block -- a decoy -- a wild goose will come to it quicker than he will a boughten decoy. I don't care how pretty they are...are too light and bob around too much. A wooden decoy...they lay on the water like a goose. When a bunch of geese comes in with them just sitting there, nodding in the water, they look like geese. It's because of the way they set on the water and hang to the lines. Real geese knows more than the man -- unless the man's got experience."

Canada Geese decoys in the process of being finished by Percy Carawan;
photograph from Percy Carawan: Decoy Maker of Lake Mattamuskeet by
Sandy Carawan

"I go in the woods and go in a black gum swamp. You'll find these roots that come up out of the ground, turn and go back down. Then I get this crook. If you put a head up there sawed from a board, it will split right off. If you hit it, it will split. A gum root won't. My daddy always made them out of gum roots. I make them out of roots."

Percy on Lake Mattamuskeet holding his working decoys; photograph
from NC GenWeb

Percy Carawan was featured in the March/April 1991 issue of Decoy Magazine as well as Jack Dudley's book Mattamuskeet & Ocracoke Waterfowl Heritage. In the 1991 article, he described surviving the Depression by working for the WPA earning $0.50 a day as a hunting guide on Lake Mattamuskeet, which had opened as a wildlife refugee in 1937. He could earn another $7.00 a day in tips from four hunters. And if you were a hunter, you always wanted Percy as your guide.

According to the article in Decoy Magazine, "...upon approaching his blind you would see his magnificent decoy rig, consisting of four swans, 60 ducks and 60 geese. Percy's geese were his favorite decoys and he was a master at carving them. The juniper bodies were large and well-shaped. Most had holes in the bottom for occasional use as stick-ups. Leather straps were placed in the front and rear to enable him to tie them end to end. The geese had large, flat bottoms to ride well in rough water. All of Percy's decoys had black gum root heads. The gum roots came from a swamp on Oyster Creek Road. The gum roots grew in an upside down 'U' shape in the swamp water. He chopped out the basic form of the head pattern while it was still attached to the stump..." so he wouldn't have to haul any excess wood out of the swamp. "The roots added strength to the neck and bills because of the continuous grain throughout the head, plus they created an endless variety of head positions and attitudes."

Percy Carawan after a successful day of hunting
in 1954; photograph courtesy of Sandy Carawan

The same article described why Percy was such a favorite among hunters for his knowledge of waterfowl behavior was second to none:

His blind was located in some cypress trees 80 yards out in the lake. "I would always put out the geese [decoys] blind and the ducks were put out to the leeward of the geese." Ducks typically feed on grasses or spoils pulled up by the larger geese. Often hunters would want him to rig the geese in front of the blind. He responded, "Don't geese normally land 60 to 100 yards short of their feeding are and swim in?" The hunters would agree. "Then that should put them right near the blind."

That made the geese the hunters brought down in the lake much easier for the dogs to retrieve and return to the blind. Waterfowl hunting season in North Carolina occurs from October through January. No one wants their dog to freeze in the cold waters, nor do they want their dog shaking that cold water off his body in the blind. So Percy had a separate, smaller blind just for his dog, which the dog would return to after delivering the game to the entrance of Percy's blind.

I continue to stalk eBay and several decoy auction houses for another Percy Carawan decoy.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

52 Ancestors #29: Grandpa's Bands

Ancestor: Gustav "Gust" Lange (1888-1963)

I have very few memories of my maternal grandfather, Gustav Lange. I was five years old when he died of a heart attack while living with us. Most of what I know of him came from my mother. Researching his family is one of my main genealogy goals as my mother only knew the names of his parents and nothing about any earlier generations.

Gustav Lange went by the nickname Gust. He was born in what is now Zamosty, Volyn', Ukraine. At the time of his birth that area of Europe was part of the Russian Empire ruled by Alexander III. His birth certificate listed 31 January 1888 as his date of birth:

Gustav Lange's birth certificate. While the form is in some version of
Cyrillic, the handwriting is German; personal collection.

Russia still used the Julian calendar at the time of Gust's birth. When he moved to Essen, Germany, which used the Gregorian calendar, he converted his date of birth to 12 February 1888. His parents were Carl August and Karoline (Ludwig) Lange and Gust was their oldest child. His father died when he was still quite young. It was why Gust moved to Essen -- better opportunities to find work and send money home to his mother.

This photograph was taken right before Gust left Russia for Essen. He is
standing to the right of his mother, holding a book; personal collection

Five years after moving to Germany, he boarded the White Star Line's S/S Teutonic in Liverpool and arrived in Quebec on 20 August 1911. Then traveled on a Canadian Pacific Railway's train to Winnipeg where he settled, renting a house at 386 Thames Avenue. Sometime or another he met Wilhelmina Schalin, who was visiting a sister in Winnipeg. After she returned to Alberta, he sent her a letter, asking her to marry him. The letter also included her train fare back to Winnipeg. Wilhelmina, who went by Minnie, asked her employer what to do. He said, "Minnie, the man sent your train fare. He means business." So Minnie went to Winnipeg and married Gust on 9 April 1915.

They had their oldest child in Winnipeg before immigrating to the United States. They worked in Sanilac, Michigan, for a short time as sharecroppers on a sugar beet farm. Two children were born there. In 1919 they moved to Prince George's County, Maryland, and bought a farm. Their next six children, including my Mom, were born in Maryland. Every one of their children had very special memories of their childhood, growing up on that farm.

Gust, or Grandpa Lange, was the musician in the family and entertained his children with music after the evening meal when all the farm chores were done. He played a violin and a trumpet, and perhaps more instruments. My Uncle Herbert got his violin and Aunt Iva framed it and it hung in a place of honor in their living for many years. I do not know where his trumpet is. I have the pitch pipes he used to keep his instruments in tune.

According to my cousin, Steve, Grandpa played in a theater orchestra in Washington, DC, before films had sound. He loved the opportunity to do so that he felt wouldn't have been provided to him in Russia. He also played in a marching band. Mom said he enjoyed dressing up in his band uniform -- the more gold braid, the better. So I leave you with two photographs of Grandpa's bands:

Gust Lange is third man from the left in the middle row 

Gust Lange is in the second row (not counting the women kneeling),
seventh from the left (there is a man out of uniform with glasses just
over his shoulder)

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Musical.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Alternate Theories

I just hate loose ends. Sometimes, though, there is nothing you can do about them; and all you can do is hope a future genealogist will find the elusive record the proves or disproves the theory. Joseph Hutchison was my first cousin twice removed and he may have been married once or twice. The obituary for his known wife, Ruth Anna Richardson, indicated they were married in Missouri in 1938 and those records are available from several sources. However, no record of their marriage has been found.

A first marriage is the theory. Did he marry and divorce Edna L. Ridgeway? Was her son, Harold Lee Hutchison, the known son of Edna's, an illegitimate child by a man she met before Joseph Hutchison? Did did he assume the last name of his step-father? Or was Joseph his father?

Known Life Story

Joseph Hutchison was born on 12 February 1901 at the family home on New Street in Stonehouse, Scotland. His parents were Alexander and Janet "Jessie" (Semple) Hutchison. His father worked as a coal miner at the time of Joseph's birth. When the 1901 census was enumerated, the month after Joseph's birth, the family lived at 31 New Street in Stonehouse.

On 21 July 1904 Joseph, his parents and siblings boarded the Anchor Line's S/S Furnessia in Glasgow. They arrived in New York City on 1 August and stated their destination was Kirksville, Missouri, which was where Jessie's mother lived.

In 1910 the Joseph Was 9 years old and lived with his family in Novinger, Missouri, and continued to do so for at least the next twenty years. By 1920 Joseph was 19 years old and worked as a coal miner along side his father and two older brothers, Alexander and James. I have been unable to find Joseph in the 1930 census.

By 1935 Joseph had moved to Springfield, Illinois, though he continued to work as a miner. According to Ruth Anna (Richardson) Hutchison's obituary, they in married 1938 in Missouri, and then lived at 519 South Edwin in Springfield after their marriage. In 1948 the couple lived at 2441 South 5th Street in Springfield. At the time of his death, he and his wife lived a 6 Bel Air Drive. He had left the mines and was working as a state government employee, beginning as a clerk and later becoming an accountant for the State of Illinois, Department of Revenue. The couple had no children.

Illinois State Capitol; photograph courtesy of the Brookens Library

Joseph died in December 1966 in Macon, Georgia, and was buried at Rochester Cemetery in Rochester, Illinois.

Alternate Theory

It is entirely possible that Joseph was married and divorced once before he married Ruth Anna Richardson. If so, his first wife was Edna L. Ridgeway (1905-1976) and they likely married between 1925 and 1930. In 1925 Edna lived in Hannibal, Missouri, and worked at a shoe factory. By 1930 a Joseph and Edna Hutchison were living in Chicago. He worked as an assembler for Western Electric and she she worked as an assembler at a toy factory. They boarded at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Markl on 2153 Adams Street. This Joseph Hutchison was born in Scotland, his parents were born in Scotland, and he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1904, which would be correct for our Joseph Hutchison.

In 1932 Joseph and Edna lived in Taylorville, Illinois, and Joseph worked as a miner, which was an occupation more in keeping with his past history.  It should also be noted that James Hutchison, Joseph's brother, also lived in Taylorville. However, by 1935 Edna was back in Hannibal, Missouri, and worked for International Shoe Co. No husband was listed at the same address. In 1940 Edna lived with her parents and listed her marital status as divorced. So the time frame for the divorce was likely between 1932 and 1935, which would also make it possible for this Joseph Hutchison to be our Joseph.

What makes this theory interesting is that Edna had a son named Harold "Hank" Hutchison. In 1930 he lived with his maternal grandparents, Samuel and Sarah (Whitaker) Ridgeway, in Hannibal. He was listed as six years old on the 1930 census. It is possible the he was an illegitimate son of Edna's born before she married Joseph Hutchison or it could be his child. We just don't know because no birth record has been located. According to the Social Security Death Index record for Harold, he was born on 3 September 1923.

Edna (Ridgeway) Hutchison died in 14 December 1976 in San Francisco, California. Her son, and possibly Joseph's, married Virginia Martin on 25 March 1950 in San Francisco. They had one child named Jana. Harold died on 16 August 1991 in Sweet Grass, California.

In order to conclusively determine if Joseph Hutchison, son of Alexander and Janet (Semple) Hutchison, was the same Joseph Hutchison that was briefly married to Edna Ridgeway, a marriage record needs to be located. The date of the marriage would also indicate whether Harold Hutchison might be Joseph's child. What weighs against this theory is no child was mentioned in Joseph Hutchison or his wife Ruth Anna (Richardson) Hutchison's obituaries.

So what do you think? One wife or two?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday -- Tralee, West Virginia: A Coal Camp

According to my grand aunt, Henrietta Muir's obituary, she was born in 1920 in Tralee, West Virginia. Tralee was a coal camp, established to house the miners who worked for the Harty Coal Company or Bakers Creek Coal Company. These mines were operated under the leadership of the John C. Sullivan, who named the town after his hometown in England. In addition to the two companies named above, Mr. Sullivan was also the general manager of the Mead-Pocahontas Coal Company, Wood-Sullivan Coal Company, and the Pickshin Coal Company.

Harty Coal Company store and office located on Barkers Creek.

Side view of the amusement hall.

Timber was cut from the land, sawed into boards, and shipped to Huntington,
West Virginia, where prefabricated houses were constructed; the wall sections
were shipped back to Tralee and constructed onsite.

Four-room hip-roof houses along the railroad tracks. The horse-drawn
wagon was the transportation of the day.

Houses along the railroad tracks and Barkers Creek.

Houses on the hillside.

All the photographs and text comes from Coal Towns of West Virginia: A Pictorial Recollection by Mary Legg Stevenson. These are the only photographs I have of where Robert Muir and his family lived in West Virginia.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

52 Ancestors #28: Last of the Covered Wagons: The Black Canyon Rim

Ancestor: Clarence Mern Beard (1885-1960)

My AncestryDNA test results have led to many interesting discoveries but one of the earliest connections I figured out was with a fifth cousin once removed. Her tree included many wonderful old photographs of her mother's Beard family, the line we share, and letters they wrote. Perhaps, the most treasured outcome of this cousin connection was the gift of friendship. My "new" cousin has shared many things about her life, including a book her uncle, Clarence Mern Beard, wrote about his family's trip west in a covered wagon at the turn of the century. Railroads already linked east and west so the trip was unusual in that the family was still traveling by covered wagon in the late 1890s. She has graciously allowed me to share portions of the book on my blog.

Clarence Mern Beard, his parents and siblings had spent two winters in the San Louis Valley area of Colorado but their living expenses were exorbitant and to meet them they had to work long hours. This left no time to improve any land they might decide to homestead or purchase. So they set off in their covered wagon in 1898 to continue on to California. The following excerpt from Clarence Mern Beard's book, Last of the Covered Wagons, describes a small portion of the leg of their westward migration.

"The next morning we moved comfortably down a splendid road and entertained the hope that it would only be a matter of miles before we should reach our destination. But the hills began to encroach up on our little valley and the waters turned into a racing, foam-crested torrent. After crossing a bridge, we notice that the river began to drop below us and that the road was threading its way across the face of a cliff. To our right were steep mountains and to our left was a sheer drop of thousands of feet, for we were crawling along the rim of the Black Canyon!

Wagon train traveling along a canyon road; source Union Pacific 

Much of that road had been blasted out of solid rock; and it represented such a difficult undertaking that we had the feeling that we might round a sharp turn, only to find that the road makers had abandoned the task altogether!

Except of an occasional wide place made for passing, this was strictly a one-way road. We wondered what would happen if we should chance to meet another vehicle on one of these extremely narrow stretches. We found the answer when we came face to face with two women who were in a buggy, driving what was fortunately, a gentle team. And this was perhaps the most unpromising section of that whole high cornice drive! But those ladies were Colorado born and appeared to be undisturbed by the situation. They helped us to unhitch their horses, which we led single file by our wagon. We then actually balanced their light buggy over the edge of the cliff, while mother drove our rig past the spot. After this, we dragged their buggy back on the road and re-hitched their team, thus we made a safe and successful meet on an impassable highway!

From those dizzy heights, we looked down at the foot of the gorge, upon what seemed to be toy trains gliding along a track, which fought to find room to wind its way beside the foaming river. Father threw a heavy stone out as far as he could and timed its fall by his watch, in an effort to estimate the depth of this chasm, which we were told measured over 3,000 feet.

This sheer drop was accentuated by the heavy shadows from the opposite wall, which at times closed to within 400 years of our side of that mighty rift. A feature of this canyon is the cathedral-like spire of solid granite, which towers over 1,000 feet above the canyon floor. From our precarious positions, we looked down upon this Curecanti's Needle, but in comparison with the massive walls, this impressive monolith was dwarfed. This whole region had been widely advertised as a scenic wonderland, but to us it brought breath-taking hazard."

Curecanti Needle as it might have looked in Clarence Mern Beard's time;
image courtesy of Detroit Photographic Co.

So the place on the map that today is considered a scenic tourist destination made for very hazardous travel conditions nearly 120 years ago. I find that quite thought provoking.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Road Trip.

Clarence Mern Beard was a born on 7 November 1885 in Ansley, Nebraska, to William Adam and Emma Elizabeth (Ellison) Beard. He was the second of nine children and their eldest son. Between 1895 and 1898 the family migrated west to Colorado and two years later to California. In 1912 Clarence married Helen May Banker and together they had two sons. Clarence died in on 29 August 1960 in Oakland, California.

Last of the Covered Wagons: Duck and Cover
Last of the Covered Wagons: Meeting a Rattlesnake

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Project Greek Island: The Bunker

This post includes history, but no family history about which I am aware. We toured the facility this past Memorial Day weekend and found it fascinating!

Project Greek Island was the code name for the Government Relocation Facility located under the West Virginia wing of the Greenbrier hotel. The facility is more familiarly known as the Bunker, though 58 different bunkers were built within a 300-mile radius of Washington, DC, during the Cold War.

It was a top secret of the Cold War designed to accommodate both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in the event of a national emergency. Planned by the Eisenhower Administration, in cooperation with the leadership of the U.S. Congress, the facility was built under the Greenbrier between 1958 and 1961. Once completed, it was maintained in a state of readiness by a small cadre of government employees working as Forsythe Associates, the company responsible for the audio and visual needs of the Greenbrier resort.

Construction of the bunker and West Virginia wing. Since a project this
size could not be hidden from satellites, it was hidden "in plain sight."
The Greenbrier issued a press release indicating they were adding another
wing and underground conference facilities to the resort; photograph
courtesy of the Greenbrier

During the life of the facility, continual updating of communications and other equipment and recycling of supplies was affected so that the facility was always in a current full-operation status.

One of the 18 dormitories. The facility housed 1,100 people. After each
election the beds were reassigned. The senior member from each state
got the bottom bunk; photograph courtesy of the Greenbrier.

The secrecy of its location, paramount to the facility's effectiveness, was maintained for more than 30 years until 31 May 1992, when The Washington Post published a story effectively exposing it. The day after the story was published, the facility began to be phased out, a procedure that was finalized in July 1995 with the termination of the lease between the U.S. government and the Greenbrier. During the phase-out period, almost all of the equipment and furnishings were removed from the shelter and reassigned to government facilities around the country.

One of the blast-proof steel-and-concrete doors,
which weigh tons; photograph courtesy of the

The former U.S. Government Relocation Facility is a protected substructure (bunker) buried 720 feet into the hillside under the West Virginia wing of the hotel. It is surrounded by ceiling and walls that are three- to five-feet thick reinforced concrete. In addition, there is 20 to 60 feet of dirt cover between the substructure and the West Virginia wing.

The facility has three entrances, each protected by a large steel and concrete door designed to withstand a modest nuclear blast approximately 15 to 30 miles away, and to prevent radioactive fallout from entering the facility when it is sealed off. Both the West and East entrances are vehicular tunnels into the facility; a third entrance is through the Exhibit Hall Foyer. Included in the facility are 44 separate locations with 1530 rooms making up a total of 112,544 square feet.

Schematic of the Government Relocation Facility under the West Virginia
wing; drawing courtesy of the Greenbrier

If you ever find yourself in southern West Virginia, I highly recommend taking this tour.

The text for this post is from the Project Greek Island: The Bunker brochure produced by the Greenbrier.

Memorial Day Traditions