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Since this post was published, I’ve located more information – see below for the update!

A wealthy man and a postmaster
An argument over a ditch
A revolver came out and several shots fired
Some of them never hit
A shed to hide
A suicide

The story of the attempted murder of John James Johnson by Coleman Hawkins in a nutshell.  Just who were these men?  Were they more than just neighbors?

John James Johnson
John J. Johnson, oldest son and third child of Jacob and Ann (Shields) Johnson, was born on October 8, 1821 in Byrd Township, Brown County, Ohio.  He moved with his parents and siblings to Rush County, Indiana by 1840 and married Dolly Mullis on March 4, 1848 in Union Township of that county.  Dolly was the sister of Amanda Mullis, wife of John’s brother, James Wilson Johnson. 

The couple were enumerated in the 1850 US Census living in Marion Twp in Rush County with their one year old daughter, Ann M. Johnson.  John, 27, listed his occupation as a Farmer.  They aren’t easily found in the 1860 Census but they had moved to Stoney Creek, Madison County, Indiana by 1870.  Two children are living with them – Rosa, age 12, and John, age 7.  Dolly’s siblings, Sophia (age 55) and Thomas (age 42) are also residing in their household.  By 1880 Rosa had married and was widowed.  She and her son, Edward Milburn, age 3, were living with John and Dolly as well as brother, John. 

Elizabeth Blazer
Elizabeth was born to John and Mary Ann (Nelson) Blazer in the mid-1840s.  She was enumerated with her parents on the 1850 Census living in Fall Creek, Madison County, Indiana.  For a long time she was “missing”.  She would have been more than 20 in the 1860 Census and probably married, yet the name of her husband was unknown.  Unbeknownst to me – I had found her in the 1870 and 1880 Censuses – I just didn’t know it yet!

Coleman Hawkins
This man was born about 1832 in Virginia.  I only knew about him through newspaper articles and biographical data from “The History of Madison County”.  He is living in Stoney Creek Twp, Madison County, Ohio in the 1870 Census.  His residence was adjacent to the John James Johnson family.  He had a wife and eight children.  In the 1880 Census, Mr. Hawkins and his family are living in the same spot.  Seven of the older children are still living there along with two that had been born since the 1870 Census.  Coleman Hawkins would not see another census.

The Incident
Historical sketches and reminiscences of Madison county, Indiana (John L. Forkner, Byron H. Dyson; Publisher: Forkner; 1897; pages 965-968) recounts that Coleman Hawkins, a very wealthy man, had been a resident of Stoney Creek township for a number of years and lived close to the postmaster, John J. Johnson.  The Midland Railway – near Johnson’s Crossing, was in the vicinity of their homes.  Hawkins and Johnson had maintained a good relationship for many years until 1888.  At that time a ditch had been constructed that ran through the neighborhood.  On December 5, 1888 Johnson took a mail pouch to the train and saw Mr. Hawkins there.  Once the train had left the station, Hawkins inquired whether his neighbor could stop the construction of the ditch.  Apparently similar conversations had occurred prior for Johnson told him that he’d already answered that question.  Hawkins obviously wasn’t happy with that answer and pulled a revolver on Johnson, who turned and walked away – possibly not believing that the other man would really fire at him.  Yet Coleman Hawkins did just that.  

“. . .  the shot taking effect in the back just left of the spinal column and below the shoulder blade. Johnson ran into the stationhouse and closed the door after him. As he shut the door another pistol shot was fired, the ball just passing the door. Hawkins then rushed to the window, about six feet from the door, broke out a pane of glass, and fired four or five additional shots, two of which took effect in Mr. Johnson’s body, one on the left side of the face and the other in the forearm. One shot passed through the stove pipe in the room and another through the ceiling. Johnson now opened the door and ran out past Hawkins into a field that led to his residence. Hawkins, having emptied the chambers of the revolver, drew a second one and resumed pursuit of his victim. He fired four additional shots, one of which lodged in Johnson’s right shoulder. Four bullet holes were found in his coat in different places where his body had escaped injury. Johnson ran until his strength was fast failing, when he turned upon his pursuer and clinched him, forcing him to the earth.”

At that time Rosa Johnson, John’s daughter, ran toward the two farmers after she had heard the gunshots.  Without thought to her own safety, she wrangled the gun out of the hands of Coleman Hawkins.  Another neighborhood resident had heard the commotion and came to the two men.  Both men agreed to let each other go.

What should have been the end of the violence – was not.  Apparently Hawkins was either still enraged or looking toward the future of being tried for attempted murder, that he entered a barn on his farm and shot himself.  His wife and son, Rufus, had tried to follow him when they saw him go toward the barn but they didn’t reach him in time.

The ditch that seemed to lay at the center of the quarrel had been awarded by the court so that Johnson could drain his land.  He had requested Hawkins give him an outlet for three to four years but had been refused.  So Johnson had turned to the court and the court had forced the construction of the ditch through Hawkins’ land.

It was also discovered that the pistols that Hawkins had used to fire upon Johnson and to commit suicide had been purchased the day prior to the incident at the railway station.

The conclusion of the story read,  “The remains of Coleman Hawkins were interred in the Anderson cemetery, over which was erected a handsome granite shaft that can be plainly seen from the Alexandria road as the traveler turns to the right after passing out of the iron bridge crossing White river.  The widow of Coleman Hawkins yet resides on the old farm, and has earned for herself the reputation of being one of the best farm managers in the county, having carefully preserved the fortune left her by her husband.”

George Hawkins
The son of Coleman Hawkins born about 1860 ended up marrying the niece of John J. and Dolly (Mullis) Johnson on July 30, 1881.  Olive Belle Johnson was born in August 1865 to James Wilson and Amanda (Mullis) Johnson.  The couple had three children – Urmine, Vesta and Lucy.  It is believed that George died between 1884 and 1887 since Olive married again.

John Lafayette Johnson and Katie Blazer
My maternal great-grandparents resided in and married in Madison County, Indiana.  Katie’s father, Franklin Blazer, had died when she was a small girl.  I found her uncles, John and George Blazer but her aunts – Mary Jane and Elizabeth still remained elusive.  Or were they? 

I re-read a letter my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson (son of John and Katie), had sent to my cousin’s mother.

glen_letter

“My uncle on my mother side Uncle Cole Hawkins shot Uncle John Johnson and then killed himself.  My mother was a young girl at the time this happened and she worked for Aunt Lib Hawkins and Uncle Cole.  Uncle John Johnson did not die from being shot but he carried the bullet in his body until he died several years later.”

Somehow Coleman Hawkins and his wife, “Lib” (Elizabeth), were related to my grandfather through his mother.  Could Elizabeth Hawkins be Franklin Blazer’s sister, Elizabeth?  I didn’t have enough documentation to say for sure but I was going on the assumption that she was.  I couldn’t find any other relationship other than through the Johnson side and the marriage of my grandfather’s aunt to the Hawkins’ son, George.

I had spent some time earlier in my research to dig up information on the children of Coleman and Elizabeth in case I could verify any other relationships.

Mary Jane Blazer
Then I ran across a listing in the 1870 US Census for an “MJ Webb” living next door to Franklin’s brother’s family.  “MJ” and her husband, Marion, were enumerated with four children.  The only reason this jumped out at me is because in the George and Amanda Blazer household is “Jas Webb, blacksmith”.  Going back to the Historical sketches and reminiscences of Madison county, Indiana, I located an entry about Jasper Webb as a blacksmith.  The Blazer family obviously had close ties with the Webb family.  Could “MJ” Webb actually be Mary Jane Blazer?  The 1880 Census for the Webb family lists Marion Webb, age 40, living with his wife, Mary J. Webb, age 38, and children, Tena, Rufus, Lydia, Wilson, and Horace.  By the 1900 Census, Mary J. Webb is widowed and lists herself as a mother of 6 children – all living.  Living with her is her son, Horace, and daughter, Maud.  Mary J. Webb is also found in the 1910 Census and living with her is her daughter, Maud, with husband and small daughter.  The last census she is found is the 1920 Census living with her widowed son, Rufus.  The Indiana Room at the Anderson Public Library shows that Mary J. Webb’s obituary was published in the June 7, 1929 edition of the local newspaper.

Tena Stanley
I’ve had a photograph in my possession for quite sometime of Elizabeth Hawkins and Tena Stanley.  Trying to figure out how Tena Stanley fit into my family tree, I’d contacted the Indiana Room for Tena’s obituary.  They emailed me four news accounts.  I went back over each one.  The one published in the Anderson Herald on April 8, 1942 listed her survivors as one brother, Horace Webb, and a sister, Maud Peterson. BINGO! 

tena_stanley

That was more documentation that Tena Stanley had once been Tena Webb.  And with the picture I had of Tena and Elizabeth – that led me to believe that Tena and Elizabeth were related – which it appeared that Elizabeth was Tena’s aunt – sister of Tena’s mother, Mary Jane Blazer Webb.  

tenastanley_elizabethhawkins

So the tangled family tree looks like this:
Katie J. Blazer: My maternal great-grandmother’s uncle by marriage, Coleman Hawkins, who was married to her father’s sister, Elizabeth Blazer, shot her husband’s (John Lafayette Johnson) uncle, John James Johnson.  My great-grandfather’s aunt, Olive Belle Johnson, married Coleman and Elizabeth’s son, George HawkinsTena Webb married for the last time to Nelson Stanley, and was the niece of Elizabeth Blazer Hawkins and Franklin Blazer and first cousin to my great-grandmother, Katie J. Blazer.

So what happened to John James Johnson?  He lived four more years after being shot by Coleman Hawkins, dying from heart disease in an instant. 

UPDATE: Not only did Olive B. Johnson marry into the Hawkins family, but so did her cousin, John Marshall Johnson, son of John James Johnson - the man Coleman Hawkins shot!  Marshall – as he was known – married Hawkins’ daughter, Rosa Jane.  There was probably quite a bit of tension in the Marshall and Rosa Johnson household after the shooting incident – yet the couple, who married on December 17, 1881, remained married until Marshall’s death in 1921.  Their union produced seven children – Walter, Roy, Grover, Alta, James Leroy, Georgia and Arris. 

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Sneak Peak

As most of you have learned, I recently returned home after being away for over a month.  I had gone to Ohio for a week over Easter while my mother was in the hospital and returned the end of April just before she passed away.  I spent most of May cleaning out her home and trying to make sense of what she had kept for so many years.

I wrote many months ago about some of the treasures I had come across early in my genealogy quest – letters my grandparents wrote to each other, old photos, and more.  And I incorrectly assumed there wouldn’t be much more to add – boy was I wrong!

Not only did I find more old photos, but I found my grandparents’ framed marriage certificate that had hung on their bedroom wall most of my growing up years, as well as marriage certificates of my great-grandparents!  It will take me quite a while to go through all the documents I discovered not to mention the hours of scanning that will be involved.

First, I must clean out my own clutter.  I’ve made a head start on that – but have much more to do before I feel that I’ve accomplished the goals I’ve set for myself.  And due to that reason, I’ll be slow to post some of my exciting finds.

I also want to write a multi-part post about my recent experiences as I navigated the whole death, dying, saying good-bye, final preparations, and the Ohio legal system.  Stay tuned – and thanks for sticking around!

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Which is where I’ve been for the last week!  As I was “googling” and searching for some information, I decided that some more “clean-up” of my gedcom was in order.  Or more precisely – better documentation.  Since I was doing research on the Goul (and for all of those not in the know – it rhymes with Owl!) line of my tree, that is where I focused my work. 

I don’t have subscriptions to any of the online “pay” genealogy sites, so thought I’d work with what I could.  I started on HeritageQuest – which I can access from home thanks to my local library.  I wanted to find every single census record I could that included a member of the Goul family in order to “source” it in my family file. 

While doing so, I ran across “extra” Goul folks so added them into the family file as non-related people just in case.  The documentation took quite a bit of time.  Not only did I add the information on where everyone was in the Census records but the Series, Roll and page numbers. 

After I finished with HeritageQuest, I went to FamilySearch labs and entered information I found from there.  Then on to Rootsweb family trees and the Social Security Death Index.  Then I did a Google search to see what “distant” cousins had entered. 

In the middle of all of this, I received an email from a distant cousin – one who had posted some queries awhile back to one of the message boards.  We wrote back and forth and she mentioned that she had some things to mail to me.  I received the package on Saturday and it was a rather large package with quite a few family group sheets, copies of letters she had received from another distant cousin (who has since passed away).  One of the letters was actually a letter written to this other cousin that he had sent to her, and you’ll never believe who the author of that letter was – my grandfather!  Talk about the “circle of genealogy”!  This is the second time a cousin has sent me copies of letters my grandfather had written to other people. 

My week’s worth of work has been very productive and successful. I’ve been able to attach some of those non-related people to my line.

Even though I’ve used every combination of spellings to find the Goul family in the census, I’m not quite done.  I’ve located them under the variations of Coul, Gowl, Gaul, Gowell, and Goule.  But I’m sure there’s more!

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Last summer I found a large quantity of postcards that had once been in my grandfather’s collection which my mother had put away.  I brought them back home with me.  Most of them showed scenes of World War I or buildings in Europe.  Most were black & white.  A few, however, were tinted.  The following three postcards show (what appears to be the same) soldier and young woman “pining” for each other.

lmm122

“Cette lettre contient
mes plus tendres
baisers!”

“Find in this Letter
my sweetest
Kisses!”

lmm123
“Ton image cherie
est constante
a mes yeux!”

“I always have
in my Eyes your
beloved Face!”

lmm121

“I’m thinking of you”

On the bottom right of the first two are: DIX  975.  The bottom left of the last one is: FURIA 2071.

Apparently, these cards were made in Paris, but with the American Flag in the third one, leads me to believe they were American Patriotic cards produced for the Americans fighting in France to send home to their sweethearts.

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lmm124

Found in my grandfather’s postcard collection.  Scene of “La Porte Rivotte” in Besancon, France.

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The 65th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is “The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy” and will be hosted by Becky Wiseman (one of my distant cousins!) of Kinexxions.

I’ve had several “Oh, Yeah!” moments.  One of them I wrote about in A Goldmine – about discovering a box of letters written by my grandparents to each other when they were courting in 1916 and during 1918 when my grandfather went to Signal Corps Training and during his overseas duty during WWI.

Another moment I had was when I was looking for my maternal 2nd great-grandfather, Emanuel Bushong Stern.  As I was going through the 1850 Census looking for him in order to get information on his parents and siblings, I wasn’t having any luck.  Obviously, they had disappeared during the Census.  And then just by chance, I came across Peter Sterne living in Clay Township, Hamilton County, Indiana.  The last name was spelled wrong – with an “e” at the end of the surname but the names for known siblings was correct.  I think I jumped out of the computer chair at this find!

Another “happy dance” moment came a couple years after I had posted a query on a message board giving names of my paternal g-grandfather’s half-siblings and their children.  I received an email from the daughter of one of his nieces.  She had quite a bit of information about the Johnson line including the first wife of the man I was researching (James Wilson Johnson) who was my 2nd great-grandmother.  And my cousin was actually descended from James’ 2nd wife.  Since that time several years ago we have exchanged (with a couple other Johnson cousins) more information.

It doesn’t take much for me to do the Happy Dance!  Each tiny rock I turn over or piece of information I find that leads to bigger and better finds, is reason for me to stand up and shout “Oh Yeah!”.

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In Searching for Buried Treasure I listed my course of action to find some “buried treasure” in my genealogy files/ephemera.

My search took me a little off course – which is nothing unusual for me.  Before I actually pulled out the box of letters that I was going to look through, I noticed a box on my vanity that I’d only looked inside of one time.  That was a few years ago when my dad first gave it to me.  So I decided to open it back up to see exactly what was inside of it.

Upon opening the clasp and lifting a lid, there was an envelope on the top of the stack.  It was addressed to my grandmother, Ella Amore, and was from the US Army Recruiting Office at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio.  Apparently it was sent upon my dad’s enlistment in the Army Air Corps and wanted to make sure that all of his statements were true.

  

Behind that were other envelopes containing pictures I had actually sent to my dad many years ago as the kids were growing up.  He returned the pictures to me.

Next were two handkerchiefs.  One was sent from my dad to his mother when he was stationed in Iceland and the other was one that he had given to her when he was a young boy.

Underneath the hankies was a Webster notebook.  My dad had used it in 6th grade.  Apparently it was for History as he had pasted a photo from a magazine, book or newspaper on one page and opposite that wrote a brief explanation that related to history.

On the right hand side next to the books and documents were a horseshoe, a film canister filled with sand that was labeled White Sands, New Mexico 1933, a tiny lapel or tie pin that was labeled with my Uncle Paul’s name, a small lock, a watch without the wristband, a mother of pearl handled pocket-knife, a ceramic ashtray and a football with something inside.  My dad told me that he hasn’t opened that football in over 50 years.  He thinks there is a pecan or a nut inside the football. 

 

Underneath the notebook was a book on Agriculture.  I think my father either had an Ag course in high school or he bought it to read.

This gave me just a small glimpse into my dad’s younger life.  Items that he thought were important – or at least important to him.  And if they were important enough for him to keep in a trinket box, then they are important enough for me to hang on to in order to always have a part of my dad with me in the years to come.

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