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A couple of months ago, I pulled out some letters from my genealogy archives to read. Apparently, I missed putting one of them back and found it on the table about a week later. It was written by Dorothy Welch (my second cousin once removed) to her aunt (my great-grandmother) Martha Stern Wilt Clawson.

July 19, 1922
113 E. Ave 58
Los Angeles, Calif.
Dear Aunt Martha,
I received your letter and was certainly glad to hear from you.
Some Muncie people by the name of Cites came out here the other day to visit her brother
who is a friend of ours. They brought word to us from my grand daddy Welch.
I am awfully sorry to hear that Nellie is sick again. I wish she could come out to Los Angeles
if she has to come “west.”
I haven’t heard from Uncle Ralph since March either. I’ve wrote several letters to see what
was the matter but I never got a answer.
I bet Vesta’s children are cute I certainly would like to see them.
Leonore is studying her spelling now so she will pass in her grades next term.
What grade is Clifford in at school?
Well I must close this time with love,
Dorothy

The first thing that stood out for me was the date of the letter – 1922. My mother always said that she didn’t meet her grandmother until she was an adult so I assumed that Grandma Clawson had moved west before my mom was born – the fall of 1921. I really think she meant that she didn’t remember her because my mom and her family moved to the Dayton, Ohio area in 1922.  I looked up Grandma Clawson’s address on Google and the street scene shows a parking lot now at 31 W 12th Street in Anderson, Indiana. There’s a church nearby so I wonder if the house was torn down since 1922. It would have been interesting if it had still been standing.

The “grand daddy Welch” that Dorothy mentions would be Americas C. Welch. A.C. Welch married Sarah C Buzzard in 1875 in Huntington, Indiana (according to the database: “Indiana Marriages, 1811-1959″ index on FamilySearch.org). A.C. and Sarah were the parents of Dorothy’s father, George Welch.

Nellie was my grandmother’s younger sister. She was 20 years old at the time of this letter and had been diagnosed with asthma. I had been told by my mother that due to her illness, it was necessary for her to move to the western United States.  She ended up moving to the Oregon/Washington area and lived most of her adult life in Washington.

The “Uncle Ralph” that Dorothy is referring to is her mother’s brother, Ralph Clawson, and my grandmother’s cousin. He was enumerated in the 1920 Census as living in Watertown, Massachusetts in the George C Shattuck household. I know Ralph had gone in the Navy  and he would have been about 24 years old in 1922 when Dorothy was trying to reach him. In June 1923 Ralph married Olive Sundberg in Chicago, Illinois.

Vesta would be my maternal grandmother (Vesta C Johnson nee Wilt). She and my grandfather had already bore three children, my Uncle Glen R Johnson, Jr., my aunt Genevieve V Johnson, and my mom Mary H Johnson.

Leonore was Dorothy’s younger sister. At the time of this letter, Dorothy was age 16. Leonore was probably close to nine.

Clifford, my grandmother’s youngest brother, was born April 20, 1906 making him a little over 16 when Dorothy wrote this letter. The 1940 US Census shows that Clifford only completed the first year of high school (generally 9th grade) – so he was not attending school any longer. If he had remained in school, he would probably have been going into his sophomore year when school began that fall.

I am under the impression that Dorothy wrote this letter as a reply to her Aunt Martha’s correspondence to her. I haven’t run across any other letters written by Dorothy so I don’t think it was a regular occurrence.

I greatly enjoy reading old letters that were sent back and forth from family members. It enables me to glimpse a window into their lives at the time of the letter. I noticed that Dorothy didn’t volunteer very much about herself such as her social activities, friends, work, or suitors.  She also didn’t ask how her grandfather was – as after her grandmother Margaret Ellen passed away, her aunt Martha (Ellen’s sister), married her widower, W. Frank Clawson.

If you have letters or post cards like I do, a good way to understand their deeper message or the lives of the people then, is to do an analysis on them as I did with this letter.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 11: “Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe how did this affect the family.”

My 2nd great-grandmother, Charlotte (Reed) Amore, born August 4, 1828 to Zachariah Reed and Margaret Pope died at the age of 34 years 2 months and five days on May 15, 1862 in Coshocton, Ohio. She had been married to William Amore for a little over 11 years and had borne him five sons – all but two died as young children or infants. She died a year after their youngest son died. Charlotte was not able to watch her two oldest sons grow into men or see them marry or hold her grandchildren. I don’t have any information about her death. I wonder if she was pregnant with another child but died in childbirth. If so, perhaps William didn’t even consider listing the child on a gravestone. Perhaps she caught an illness that killed her. Unless I find a news article about her death, I probably won’t ever what the circumstances were for her death. After Charlotte died, William married Elizabeth Spencer three months later. Elizabeth raised my great-grandfather, William Henry, and his brother, George Washington, along with the seven children she and William had together (one son died as a child, one at 5 months, and another at 15 days).

My maternal aunt, Genevieve Vesta (Johnson) Steffen, died from an inoperable brain tumor on May 2, 1958 a month before her 38th birthday. She was a wife of 16 years to John Steffen, mother to three ages 14, 13, and 12, and was working as a nurse. She was the middle child of my grandparents. My grandmother documented her daughter’s medical problems in letters sent to my mother in Japan. When things took a turn for the worse, a telegram was sent dated April 25, 1958.

telegram_genhealth

Genevieve operated on today
Tumor cannot be revoved
Doctor gives no hope of recovery
but may linger on for
sometime
Mailing tape with complete information
M
other Dad

My mother left for the states in order to be with her family. A few days later, she sent this telegram to my dad.

telegram_gendeath

Genevieve passed away
Funeral Monday morning
Love Dad and Mary Helen

Aunt Genevieve’s death left a void in the family. My grandparents had to lose another daughter (their baby died when only a few weeks old), worry about their three grandchildren who were left without a mother, and do what they could to make sure their son-in-law knew that he would always be a part of the family. I never met my aunt since she died several years before I was born but through all the written words of my grandparents, audio of the tape they sent my parents while she was recovering in the hospital after one of her surgeries, pictures, and the stories told by my grandparents, mom, and my cousins, I feel as if I would have really loved her. I have missed her even without knowing her. I also wish I could have witnessed the family dynamic between my mom and my aunt!

My paternal grandmother’s sister, Julia Ann (House) Tuttle, also died at a very young age. I wrote about her in Meeting Juila.

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 8: “Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or collection of letters? Share an entry or excerpt.”

As I’ve reported many previous times, I have a large – (read that LARGE) collection of letters that include:

  • My grandparents (Glen and Vesta Johnson) wrote to each other during their courtship.
  • My grandparents wrote to each other during the time my grandfather was in training with the Signal Squadron and overseas in France during WWI.
  • My grandparents wrote to each other whenever they were apart (for military or visiting other relatives).
  • My great-grandmother (Martha Stern Clawson) wrote to my grandmother (Vesta).
  • My grandmother’s (Vesta) brothers and sister wrote to her as they lived in Oregon/Washington and my grandmother was somewhere else (usually Ohio).
  • My parents and my grandparents (Glen and Vesta) wrote to each other when my parents were stationed in Japan in the 1950s.
  • My grandparents (Glen and Vesta) wrote to my parents when my grandparents were stationed in Germany.
  • Postcards several members of the family sent to each other.

washington d.c. postcard

Postcard my grandfather sent to my parents on January 28, 1951 from Washington D.C.

paris postcard

Postcard from my grandfather to my parents on December 6, 1950 from Paris, France

I feel immensely fortunate that I have this collection of letters from the past because it gives me a glimpse into their lives during a time before my birth.

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Anillos

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 5: “How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?”

I do know how my parents met – mom was working at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) outside of Fairborn, Ohio (back then it was Fairfield) in Greene County, Bath Township. She met my dad in early 1941 when he was stationed there. They spent the next couple of years dating until they married in December 1943.

On Easter Sunday 1916 (April 23), my maternal grandparents, Glen R Johnson and Vesta C Wilt, met at church. Life would never be the same for either of them again! Such began months of daily correspondence for even though they lived in the same town, they sent letters to each other every day – and since the mail service ran twice a day – it wasn’t just one letter they sent, but two! Luckily for me, I have each and every one of those letters. To me they are priceless! A window into their lives that helped me witness them falling in love with each other (although I suspect, it was love at first sight for both of them!).

glen_vesta_eastercherry_hill

The following is parts of a letter from my grandfather to my grandmother that he wrote to her on May 31, 1916 – a little over a month after their initial meeting.

You told me that you were not cold last night but I think you were. I am afraid you (my little girl) will be sick. But I hope not. Do not work to hard to-day. I hope you had a good time yesterday. I did I know. So good-bye Dear
I still remain yours forever
                                       Glen
To the one I love best Miss Vesta Wilt signed Glen

Later that summer – apparently after my great-grandmother, Martha, had words about Glen with my grandmother, he was very scared and wrote the following to my grandmother:

Vesta Dear I am afraid your mother will make me quit going with you. Oh! I can’t stand to think of it. I have cried all evening. But listen Dear you have a good time, don’t think of me. Whatever happens I will take it as best I can, I can go west or some other place and die. But I never will forget the Little girl of Mine. Vesta. The dearest girl there ever was. Hoping you will forgive me for all I have said and done. I will never do them again. After I leave you can forget me and find some one just as good and better than I am. Hoping you will not think hard of me for all this talk, but I think it will happen. I had a dream I never told you of. I don’t know whether I will tell you now. I think you can guess it. And just think I caused it all I am simply crazy. Well dear I have told you all I know and more to. I will be there Sunday morning if I am alive. Hoping you will not worry. Let me do all the worrying. I will close. Forgive the writing. I will close again with lots of love and kisses.
I still remain your lover and sweetheart, bit I am afraid never yours to be.
                    Glen
                 The broken hearted boy.  9:30 P.M.
5:30 A.M. Aug. 4, 1916
P.S. Well Dear I past through the awful night. I got about one hour sleep. I was thinking or crying the rest. Crying the most. Well Dear I guess I will try and work to-day. I don’t know whether I can or not.
                    Glen

My grandfather needn’t have worried because just a few short months later, they were engaged and married on Christmas Eve 1916 – eight months after they met. They were married 67 years before my grandmother passed away. My grandfather wait a year and then joined her. I am so very fortunate to have boxes and boxes of their letters to each other that allows me to feel their deep abiding and eternal love for one another.

I don’t have any idea how my paternal grandparents met – that is something I will have to ask my dad about! (Took a 15 minute break and called my dad!) Loyd W Amore and Ella M House were introduced to each other by his brother Isaiah H (Zade) Amore and wife, Lula (St. Clair). Lula was a sewing teacher and was teaching my grandmother how to sew. She asked my grandma if she wanted to meet someone and she said that would be ok (or as my dad said “Whatever they said back then.”) So they were introduced about 1901-02 and were married on April 11, 1903 in the Presbyterian Manse in Coshocton, Ohio.

Photos: Wedding rings from Wikimedia Commons. Glen and Vesta Johnson – photographer: Wendy Littrell, original and digital photo in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for private use).

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Addressing Christmas Cards

As Christmas approaches, I realize that soon I will need to write my annual Christmas letter and get the Christmas cards addressed for the mail.  I have a list of addresses I use for my holiday cards, adding and removing from year to year.  That led me to wonder how technology has changed the way we send Christmas greetings and how we store addresses.

My approach each year is to pull up the previous year’s Christmas letter that I save in my word processing program.  I use that as the template for the current letter as it keeps me on track.  The letters are printed out on special 8.5×11 holiday stationery. Some of my Christmas cards don’t require letters – generally those go to church friends or others who I see on a regular basis and know what my yearly activities have been. Distant family members and friends get a letter and a card.  Then I pull out my address book to address all the cards.  There are those who have moved and lacking a current address, I attach my Christmas letter to an email.

So I have mixed both current technology – computerized Christmas letters -and old-school address book to complete the Christmas card task.  There are some people who have all of the addresses and information in their smart phones or tablets. If their phone gets lost or suffers major damage, all of that information could be lost. Future generations would never have an old-fashioned address book to look through, perhaps with clues as to their parents’ or grandparents’ friends or relatives.

I’m fairly lucky in that respect. My mom had kept my grandparents’ address books after they passed away. When my mother passed away, I got her address books and those of my grandparents.  In those pages are names that I know, reminding me of times in the past.  There are also names of people I had never heard of, which gave me pause as to what the relationship was.  There are also notations by names – death dates, the word “cousin”, etc. Those clues have proven very useful in my family research.

I worry that the digital age will change all of that. As our ancestors kept journals or diaries – we write blogs and websites. In high school we passed notes in class and between classes. Today, students text each other. My grandparents and mom wrote letters daily and weekly when they were apart due to military transfers. We write emails or update our Facebook status.  Even if everything in cyberspace will remain for eons, there is no tactile experience.  The feel of the leather address book covers, the brittle onion skin typewriter paper, or the embossed stationary can bring the past into the present.  The handwritten words of a beloved ancestor or family member long since passed can shed light on what was important to them at that time in their life.

In contrast, words in an email – sentence fragments, texting language, upper caps “shouting”, and short messages don’t say much about the writer, other than they used technology.  Even in this hurry up world we live in, perhaps it is important to revisit our ancestors’ (even parents’) use of the handwritten word – especially when it comes to addressing our cards, keeping our address books, and a long distance letter or two.

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And the journey continues . . .

In my previous post, Moffitt Mystery, I told about how I discovered that the family of C.C. (Christopher Columbus) Moffitt was related to my maternal line, the Johnson family. I found the reunion minute book and the letter I wrote about. I also found another letter in the book that I had forgotten about.

In a letter from Bess Lukens, daughter of C.C. Moffitt and Elenora Johnson, and wife of Ben Lukens, written on August 21, 1940, to those at the reunion and addressed to my grandmother (who was secretary of the reunion committee at the time), she said:

Dear Johnson & Shively,
Would like very much to be with you this year and enjoy the day, but am sorry to say it will be impossible to do so.  Will send you the names of my children and their families. My eldest son, Robert, his wife Jane and children, Bobby, Billy and Janene, then my daughter Doris Dalrymple, her husband Lawrence and their daughter Carol Ann – they all live in Knightstown.  My youngest son Eugene is in the Marine Corp at Great Lakes, Ill.
Hope this will help you out, should you wish any more information that I can furnish you, please write me.  Hope to with you all some day.
I remain, a cousin
Bess Lukens
Knightstown, Ind.

That letter provided me with other names I had seen in the past – either connected to the Johnson-Shively reunion or letters of my grandparents.  It didn’t tell me anything other than somehow Bess was related to the Johnson family. It would take more information for me to discover just who she was.

On August 28, 1941 a letter was written – also addressed to my grandmother – from Helen Land who lived at 217 N.W. 5th St., Richmond, Indiana.  She was Bess’ sister and the youngest child of C.C. and Elnora.  She wrote:

Dear Johnsons:
We received the card announcing the Johnson – Shively reunion and are so sorry we won’t be able to attend, as our plans were made for over Labor day, for several wks. prior to receiving the card, but it is much to my regrets that I can’t be with ou all, and enjoy that scrumptous dinner, you Johnsons and Shivelys can prepare, and to mingle with my mother’s people again.
In some way or another the Johnson blood tie is very dear to me. I believe Mother must have been a typical Johnson. She was surely a fine woman and tho’ she’s been gone most twelve years (will be Oct 26) I miss her every day & miss her companionship. Our Dad has been  gone away now two yrs. last July 8. His last few years were very declining and his going was a great relief to himself & I really miss him – for I was my “Daddy’s baby” and was for 37 yrs and that was a long time you know to be loved so tenderly as he always did me. (Now I told my age.) ha!
Well so much for that. The rest of the girls are well. Our oldest sister, which some may remember, attended the reunion with us several yrs back, when held at Riverside at Anderson, is now located at Goble Oregon and I had a letter not long since & they are well & happy.
Our one and only brother seems to be doing quite well for himself. He is a general contractor in Waldport Oregon. He has two grand children and four children in the west too.
One sister, Elva, whom I really think has never attended a reunion lives at Lafayette. Lena, whom you all know, lives here in Richmond and I see her and her family quite often. Her daughter’s husband (Ernest Fletcher) whom you’ve all met died suddenly a yr. ago last Mar 22 and that was quite a shock to all of us. Lena said to tell you, that they should like to have been with you, too, had like wise made previous plans for over Labor Day.
Bess, Ethel and Hazel all live at Knightstown and Hazel had the misfortune to lose her son Howard Price almost 3 1/2 yrs ago. Bess is a widow now too.
Well now all eight of us are taken care of I think – only to tell you that I think I have three nice kiddies & of whom I’m real proud. My oldest girl is 19. My son most 17, and my baby girl is nost 13, and they are all quite large. Phyllis is working, having graduated in ’40. Weldon will enter the 11A class in Senior Hi. this fall.  Ruth Eleanor will enter the 7A. class in Jr. Hi. Carlos, the husband and daddy is well and working hard on the defense work in the shop and as to myself since having had several surgical operations and one thing and another have gained back a lot of that weight that I used to carry around but I do feel well and why should I let a few pounds worry me. Eh? Anyway mama was stout and I was proud of her & people tell me I look like my mom so why should I let it worry me – I say.
I am wanting to know why and when the Reunion was changed to the last Sun. in August? Was supposed it was over with or  there just wasn’t any anymore. The Moffitt’s have their reunion on the first Sun. of Aug. now. We didn’t attend it this yr either. As to the J-S’s reunion if there should be another, I hope to be able to attend it, and would have this year if I had known about it just a few days earlier but we had made other plans for over Labor Day and again I’m sorry but know you’ll all have a nice time & altho’ I won’t be there in person, I’ll be thinking of you and send all my Love and best wishes to you (all) and hope to be with you next year.
Sincerely yours
Helen M. land
I should be glad to have some of you write to me.
I always will remember the swell times I always used to have with all of you.

 Helen Land’s letter gave me the clues that her mother was a Johnson – and even though that is such a common surname – she was part of this Johnson clan; information about her siblings, children, and spouse; and how regretful she was that she wasn’t able to attend the reunion.  From her sentence about how long her mother and father had been gone, I knew about what year they had died – which corresponded to the date of death for C.C. Moffitt that I’d found in the reunion book.  I also learned the correct spelling for her maiden name – as I have also seen it spelled “Moffett”, “Moffit”, “Moffatt”, and “Moffet”.  Two “f”s and two “t”s and an “i” – not an “e” or “a”.

My research has been online (as I am not able to travel to see the actual documents).  What I found for C.C. Moffitt’s and Elenora Johnson’s children are as follows:

1. Ancestry had census records for the Jesse Virgil Kenworthy family – which confirmed that Myrtle Moffitt (oldest daughter of C.C. Moffitt and Elenora Johnson was his wife.  The 1900, 1910 and 1920 U.S. Census recorded them living in Oregon.  They had two sons.  The 1930 U.S. Census showed that the family had moved to California.  I also found a marriage record on Familysearch in Indiana. They married on August 8, 1899 in Rush County, Indiana.  Interestingly, I found another marriage record for them on June 21, 1925 from Gooding County, Idaho.  So sometime between the recording of the 1920 U.S. Census and then, they divorced but got remarried.  Another mystery – what happened?  Jesse Virgil died on April 16, 1956 in Clackamas, Oregon and Myrtle died on December 12, 1970 in the same county.  So the couple returned to Oregon from California.

2. Lena Moffitt’s married Earl B. Atkins in Knightstown, Indiana on February 12, 1902.  Her mother’s first name is spelled Elnora.  It also shows that this was the first marriage for both.

3. Elva Moffitt married Harry F. Griffith in Henry County, Indiana on March 31, 1909.  Her birth place is listed as Rush County, Indiana.  Mother’s name is listed as Ellen Johnson. Elva and Harry are found in the 1920 U.S. Census living in Deer Creek, Carroll County, Indiana with their two children – Kathryn and Paul.  They are in the same area in the 1930 U.S. Census and Paul is the only child at home.  Harry died in September 1971.  Elva died in April 1979.

4. Carl A. Moffitt – only son of C.C. and Elenora – married Clenna Marie Smith on November 25, 1909 in Henry County.  His place of birth is listed as Rush County. The family is found in the 1910 U.S. Census on Ancestry in Rush County, Indiana.  There are no children.  The World War I Draft Registration Card for Carl is in Missoula County, Montana.  In the 1920 U.S. Census they are in Wayne Township, Henry County, Indiana with their two oldest children – Donald and Juanita. In the 1930 U.S. Census they are living in Portland, Oregon with their three sons and 1 daughter: Donald, Juanita, David and Dick. The Social Security Death Index shows that Carl died in August 1971 with his last residence in Lincoln County, Oregon.

5. Bessie Pearl Moffitt married Benjamin Lukens in New Castle, Indiana on November 26, 1912.  Bessie was born in Rush County, Indiana.  This was the groom’s second marriage and Bessie’s first.

6. Ethel Fay Moffitt married Horace E. Worth in Henry County, Indiana on December 14, 1910. Her place of birth is listed as Henry County, Indiana.  Mother’s name is listed as Ellen Johnson.

7. Mary Hazel Moffitt married Otto B. Price in Henry County, Indiana on February 10, 1914.  Hazel was born in Henry County, Indiana.  In the 1930 U.S. Census on Ancestry, the family is living in Knightstown, Henry County, Indiana with their two children, Howard and Janice.  Also in the household is Hazel’s father, listed as Columbus C Moffitt, age 75.  He is listed as a widower.

8. Also on Familysearch I found the marriage information for Helen Moffitt (spelled “Moffett”) to Carlos E. Land in Rush County, Indiana on July 24, 1921.  The bride’s mother’s name is listed as Ellenora Johnson and the bride is listed as being born in Henry County, Indiana on November 9, 1902.

There are more records to research – still no idea how Elenora is related to my Johnson’s.  I’ll take a look at Jacob and Ann (Shields) Johnson’s children next to see if Elenora was a child of one of them.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

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Many, many years ago (around 10), as I was posting queries to message boards searching for information on my paternal Amore side of the family, I ran across a woman who I began an email relationship with.  She was the granddaughter of my great-uncle Clarence Amore and his first wife, Nellie Buchanan.  Sharon shared some pictures and what information she had, and I returned the favor.  We were both of the same generation, both great-granddaughter’s of our mutual ancestor William “Henry” Amore and Mary Angelina (Annie) Werts (or Wertz – depending on how they were spelling it at the time).  I believe that would make Sharon and I second cousins.  Her grandfather, Clarence, and my grandfather, Lloyd, were brothers.  The really cool thing (for me) was that Uncle Clarence and Aunt Mary (his second wife) had spent several days visiting us in our home.  I was only a small child, but I remember him very well and would always get a hug from him at the big Amore-Baker reunion held every summer in Coshocton, Ohio.  Not only did we share family history information but we shared stories about our immediate families. 

The communication between Sharon and I slowed in the last five years or so.  Once the initial “newness” of the family history search wore off, we weren’t corresponding as much as we had because the information we found didn’t come as quickly as before.  Sharon’s husband was very ill and needed treatment for cancer, so she spent quite a bit of time with him instead of traveling to find records.  She had written in December of 2004 to let me know that her husband’s cancer had returned and he was to start his chemo treatments as soon as his radiation treatments were over.  Two months later Bob Brittigan passed away.  Now that I think about it, she didn’t email to let me know and I was remiss for not contacting her with better frequency.  I know I’ve emailed her since then, but I’m sure that in her grief and stress that happens after a death (will, taking care of personal issues), it wasn’t important enough for her to contact me. 

Last week I thought I’d see if she was on Facebook – I’d looked before without any luck – and couldn’t find her so I did a google search of her name.  That’s how I discovered that her husband had passed away in February 2005.  I also ran across a listing in the Social Security Index for a “Sharon Brittigan”.  Not my cousin! was my first thought.  But the year of birth seemed correct and the state of issue would have been right.  Finally, I hit upon her obituary via Ancestry.  Sharon died on July 9, 2009.  No cause of death listed other than she died at her home.  I couldn’t tell if she was cremated because it listed the time for her memorial service as well as interment.  I don’t know if she had been ill for awhile.  I have no way of contacting her sons or siblings to express my condolences.  I feel as if I lost a cousin – even though we had never met in person. 

Picture from her obituary in the Washington Post

Sharon Lynn (Amore) Brittigan, widow of Robert Lee Brittigan, Sr. born on January 18, 1943 died on July 9, 2009 at her home in Virginia.  She is survived by two brothers, one sister, two sons, and six grandchildren.  Sharon was preceded in death by her parents, Theodore William Amore, on December 2, 1981 and Dorothy Belle (Moran) Amore on February 13, 2003. Sharon was buried next to her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.

In an email she wrote to me in January 2002, she said, “I’m working on a combined family book that incorporates the history of the times they lived in. It’s a challenge, but I’m learning an awful lot about what all the forebears lives must (or could) have been like. I’ve been to many of the places they came from and can describe those locales as a part of the history.”  I hope that if there really was a beginning family history book, that her children have preserved and kept it instead of abandoning it to that “black hole” where so many ancestral stories, documents, and pictures have gone.  I hope that one day, one of her sons or grandchildren will be searching the web and run across this blog, and get in touch with me.  I’d love to have copies of what she wrote.  What better way to remember her memory then to put her notes and words to use in helping our future Amore generations learn about their ancestors.

Rest in peace, Sharon.

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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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