Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Soldier's Tale

Michael and Eva Speck Awalt are my 5th great-grandparents on my birth father’s side of the family. I
Image from Find a Grave
ran across their story this week as I was updating some files: Their story involves Michael’s participation in the Revolutionary War and Eva’s attempts at trying to collect her widow’s pension after Michael’s death. This blog will be about Michael, and next week’s blog will be about Eva. 

Michael was born in 1755 in Germantown, Philadelphia County, Province of Pennsylvania, (a proprietary colony). He died April 6, 1835, in Awalt, Franklin County, Tennessee. In an affidavit to procure his pension, Michael stated “that he was born in Pennsylvania, but does not know in what year. He has no record of his age. He calculates his age from the date of his freedom as an apprentice.”[1] 

Google Images
Prior to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Michael moved to Rowan County,
Google Images
North Carolina, where he was an apprentice. (I have not been able to find what his apprenticeship was for.) During his apprenticeship, he was a soldier in the Rowan County Militia commanded by Captain George Barringer and Lieutenant Wendell Miller. As he states in his pension affidavit, “. . . while an apprentice, he was sent by the man to whom he was bound – two trips in pursuit of the Tories.”[2] 

The first trip in 1775, under the command of Lieut. Miller, was to Ninety Six, South Carolina, which is located south of Greenville, South Carolina. Here, the first land battle in South Carolina took place. Major Andrew Williamson tried to recapture ammunition and gunpowder which had been seized by the Loyalists. However, he was outnumbered and reached a truce with the Loyalists.[3] The second trip in February 1776 was to Cross Creek (now Fayetteville), North Carolina, where there “was a hotbed of wartime activity and home of divided loyalties.”[4] 

Google Images
After Michael completed his apprenticeship in 1776, he
General Lincoln - Google Images
volunteered to duty in the Rowan County Militia. Again, from his pension affidavit, he states: “He marched under Captain Cowan to Moore’s Creek in North Carolina. . . camped there for two months when he was ordered to return home. He was ordered to march out again about the first of September to South Carolina and when below Camden [South Carolina], he was put under the command of Major Armstrong. . .and General Benjamin Lincoln.”[5] 

In 1779, Michael was part of two battles: 

(1) The Battle of Brier Creek, fought on March 3, 1779: Brier Creek is in eastern Georgia. The American troops were surprised by the British, and they suffered significant casualties. At this battle, Michael states, “he fired in concert with the American Army about one hour and a half, while the enemy was entrenched. They were then ordered to desist; all was silent until the enemy came into view – when the firing again commenced with considerable effect, but the enemy being reinforced he was commanded by General Lincoln to retreat.”[6] 

(2) The Battle of Stono Ferry, fought on June 20, 1779: Stono Ferry is near Charleston, South
Google Images
Carolina. The British had retreated from their attempt to take Charleston and were able to hold off an assault commanded by General Lincoln. 

General Gates
Google Images
In 1780, Michael served a tour of duty as a substitute for Kilian Keply and saw action at the Battle of Camden, also known as “Gates Defeat.” The Battle of Camden was fought on August 16, 1780. Camden is in South Carolina about 30 miles north of Sumter. In his pension affidavit, Michael states “He overheard Generals Gates and Smallwood arguing about the battle plans,” the formation for the line of battle, and the order of attack. He goes on to state that “he fired the first gun . . .at the line where he was stationed; he fired three times and looked around and the Company he was in had fled, many having thrown away their guns; he made his escape and went home, hungry, fatigued and chagrined.”[7] The American forces, commanded by Major General Horatio Gates, suffered a “humiliating rout, one of the worse defeats in American military history.”[8] 

Google Images
In 1781, he served again, this time as a substitute for George Master, in the Battle of Guilford Court  House. The location today is known as Greensboro, North Carolina. Michael was assigned to drive a wagon, “and his wagon was taken from him by the Tories on the fourth day after the battle.”[9] Again, the Americans lost the fight to the British. However, the British lost almost 27 percent of their men; and because of the high British casualties, the outcome was a “strategic victory for the Americans.”[10] Michael was later discharged by a Major Armstrong.

Michael’s pension petition for his service during the Revolutionary War was granted on March 6, 1833: He received $50 per year.[11] In today’s dollars, that $50 is equivalent to $1,378.56.[12]

[1] The National Archives W326, Revolutionary War Pension Files, Vol. I, A-E.
[2] ibid.
[3] Toulmin, Llewellyn M. "Backcountry Warrior: Brig. Gen. Andrew Williamson," Journal of Backcountry Studies, vol. 7, No. 1, 2012.
[4] North Carolina History Project, Accessed 13 Sept. 2017.
[5] The National Archives W326.
[6] ibid.
[7] ibid.
[8] Maas, Dr. John R.. "The Battle of Camden, August 16, 1780." U.S. Army Center of Military History, Accessed 14 Sept. 2017.
[9] The National Archives W326.
[10] Babits, Lawrence E. and Joshua B. Howard. Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guildford Courthouse. The University of North Carolina Press, 2009, p. 122.
[11] Sherrill, Charles. Revolutionary war Pension Applications from Franklin County, Tennessee.
[12] "1833 Dollars in 2017." Inflation Calculator, Accessed 14 Sept. 2017.

Friday, September 8, 2017

A Grandmother Remembered

Sunday, September 10, 2017, is National Grandparents Day. We all have two sets of grandparents and memories of those grandparents. I saw my mother’s parents, Richard and Draxa Numbers Swinburne, yearly when we traveled to Bagley, Minnesota, for summer vacation. My parents would stay with Richard and Daraxra while my brother and I stayed with an aunt and uncle (Neal and Opal Swinburne Stave) and cousins on the Stave farm. So, I really saw very little of my maternal grandparents and have few memories. 

However, it is quite a different story with my paternal grandmother. Camilla Elizabeth “Libbie” Swarthout Newhouse was born 12 May 1883 in Pine Island, Minnesota, a small town about 17 miles northwest of Rochester, Minnesota (home to the Mayo Clinic). She married her husband, 
about 1905
Fritz Valentine Newhouse, a dentist, on June 15, 1905. He was also born in Pine Island on February 14, 1880. He died on February 13, 1923, in Rochester.

I grew up in Rochester and saw Elizabeth (her preferred name) on a weekly basis, if not more. We always had Sunday dinner at her house. We would be seated around her walnut dining room table that had matching chairs. I remember her furniture in the living, the bedrooms, and the front porch. I remember her peddle Singer sewing machine. I remember sitting at her dressing table and trying on her jewelry. (See previous blog about the Glove Box.) 

When my parents would take a trip during the school year, she would come to stay with my brother and me. Apparently, we were not too much work for her as she always came back. Our friends thought our grandmother was rich - she would give the two of us 50¢ each to spend at the corner grocery store about two blocks away. As it was the time of penny candy, we could buy enough candy for ourselves and our friends. 

When I reached the 7th grade, I started attending what was then junior high school. My grandmother lived within walking distance from the school, and it became a common practice for me to stay with her for a week at a time. She was an avid bridge player, and she was teaching me the game (but I never really learned). We also played lots of other card games with much laughter involved. When it was nice outside, we would sit in the backyard in lawn chairs and later compare our arms to see who had a better tan. 

Every time I think about my grandmother, I smile.

Friday, September 1, 2017

A Shared Birthday

Our birthdays are September 1. She was born in 1909; I was born in 1946. She was my mother-in-law, Alvina Bertha Forster Oliver. 

Alvina, 18 months old, 1910
Alvina was born in Greenbush Township, Mille Lacs County, Minnesota – the oldest of five children, and a granddaughter of German and Norwegian immigrants. 

Her education, and that of her siblings, stopped after the 8th grade. Her father, a farmer, felt that education was not necessary, especially for girls, after 8th grade. Perhaps that was because he only completed the 6th grade and had done well with his grade-school education. My husband, Alvina’s only child, thinks it was because he was a such a strict German. 

Alvina married Robert George Oliver (1906-1975), a local farmer,  on October 16, 1935, in Princeton, Minnesota. 

Alvina liked to cook and bake, and she loved to share her talents with others. When friends and
Alvina in 1943
neighbors would drop in for a visit, she always had goodies on hand: bars, cookies, cake, pie. When we visited and it was time to go home, she would send with us a load of sweet treats for the kids – which they absolutely loved.

She loved making things. She made rugs, intricate quilts, colorful afghans, beaded Christmas ornaments, cross-stitched tablecloths, and anything else that piqued her interest. 

When I married her son, James Robert Oliver, I remember her saying, “I can now die in peace as I know that he’ll be taken care of after I die.” She was a gentle soul who died on October 5, 1989.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Civil War POW

Originally known as Camp Sumter, Andersonville was a Civil War POW camp located in southwest Georgia from February 1864 to the end of the war in April 1865. Of the nearly 45,000 captives - soldiers and civilians, 30,000 died of starvation, scurvy, diarrhea, dysentery, and exposure to the elements – more than 30 a day during the time Andersonville was operational.1 William Chatfield was one of those unfortunate beings.
William was born 1842 in Quebec, Canada. In 1851, the Canadian census has him living in Dunham, Missisquoi County, Quebec, which is just north of the Vermont-Quebec border. In 1861, William ventured south to Vermont and volunteered for the Vermont Infantry. He was a corporal in Company F, Regiment 10. Whether it was for a sense of adventure, political ideology, having relatives in the “North,” or something else, it was not uncommon for young Canadian men to venture to the United States and volunteer to fight in the Civil War. 

William was captured in Virginia on October 11, 1863, by the Confederate Army. The Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Generals Meade and Lee respectively, were involved in the “Bristoe Campaign” - a series of battles in Virginia. William was probably captured at Brandy Station, Virginia, as that is the location of Meade’s troops on October 11, 1963. Since Andersonville did not begin operation until February 1864, William obviously was kept elsewhere before ending up at Andersonville. 

Upon his arrival at Andersonville, he would have observed the scene as described by Robert H.
Kellogg, sergeant major, with the Connecticut Infantry:

"As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eyes that almost froze our blood with horror, and made our hearts fail within us. Before us were forms that had once been active and erect . . . now nothing but mere walking skeletons, covered with filth and vermin. . . . In the center of the whole was a swamp. . . and a part of this marsh. . .had been used by the prisoners as a sink and excrement covered the ground, the scent arising from which was suffocating."2

As soldiers and civilians died, they were buried in trenches without formality. On September 14, 2015, a funeral was held for 13,000 soldiers. Today, Andersonville is a National Cemetery. Andersonville has also become home to the National Prisoner of War Museum.

Corporal William Chatfield died on May 20, 1864. The official cause of death was diarrhea. He is buried in grave 1228. William Chatfield is my adoptive father's (Frank Newhouse) 4th cousin two times removed.

1 - Gast, P. (2015, September 18). Funeral for 13,000; Andersonville prison dead brings closure. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from
2 - Kellogg, Robert H. Life and Death in Rebel Prisons. Hartford, CT: L. Stebbins, 1865.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Zest for Life

He traveled through the Oklahoma/Indian Territories, Texas, Kansas, and South Dakota as a cowboy and a stonecutter; he farmed; he served with the U.S. Army when the United States was having problems with Pancho Villa; he fought in World War I; he was a county sheriff; he volunteered, at the age of 61, for the U.S. Army during World War II; and he served as a city alderman. He was Elmer J. Dent. 

Did Elmer have wanderlust or was he an adventurer? According to the Urban Dictionary, wanderlust is “a very strong or irresistible impulse to travel” and an adventurer is “a very brave person who is willing to put his life in danger for the right thing.” Elmer Dent certainly fits these definitions. What is undisputed, he had a zest for life.

As one of seven children, Elmer was born to James S. Dent (1831-1906) and Lemyra Jane Oliver Dent [1] (1845-1929) on January 5, 1876, in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and died on March 24, 1965, in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Today, Menomonee Falls and Waukesha are part of the greater metropolitan area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

The Dent family moved from Menomonee Falls to Waukesha when Elmer was 10 years old. He
Stonecutter's Tools
Google Image
attended the local schools through 8th grade; he then became an apprentice at the Oscar Knie Stone Company to become a stonecutter. A stonecutter is one who cuts stone from quarries and shapes and carves the stone for use in buildings.  After his apprenticeship, Elmer continued to work for the stone company, cutting stone and helping to build the county courthouse, the city library, the YMCA, and some churches in Waukesha. Dent is quoted as saying, “I worked 10 hours a day for 50 cents a day, to start with. And, after the first year, I got $1.50 a day.” [2] 

When Elmer was 23, his wanderlust kicked in, and he went “west” seeking adventure. He shows up in the 1900 U.S. census as a stonecutter in Line Creek, Iowa (southeast of Waterloo, Iowa). Then, his adventures took him through many states and Indian Territory plying his skill as a stonecutter. In 1905, he landed in South Dakota where he worked on a ranch that had 2,000 head of cattle and 200 horses. Ranch work kept him busy, especially in the fall with round-ups and in the winter with breaking captured horses. [3] 
Pancho Villa

After his father’s death in 1906, Elmer found his way home, and the 1910 U.S. census shows him farming with his brother Willis in New Berlin Township, Wisconsin. Now back in Wisconsin, Elmer ran for county sheriff as a Republican and served for one term, 1911-1912. In 1913, he joined the Wisconsin National Guard. In 1916, the National Guard was called up, and as a member of the First Wisconsin infantry, he participated in the Texas-Mexico border expedition against Pancho Villa. 

In 1918, now 42 years old, Dent found himself in the U.S. Army’s 32nd Infantry Division (Red
Google Image
Arrow) which was formed by the Army National Guard units from Wisconsin and Michigan. They fought in major offensives - fighting on five fronts, losing over 14,000 soldiers, capturing over 2,000 prisoners, and never yielding ground to the enemy. [4] 

During their combat in France, the 32nd Infantry acquired the nickname Les Terribles, referring to its ability to cover ground and move forward where others units could not. They were the first to go through the defensive Hindenburg Line: Historically, this is considered the defining moment that became their now common shoulder patch: a line shot through with a red arrow. This design signifies the 32nd's tenacity in piercing enemy lines. Today it is known as the Red Arrow Division. [5] 

After World War I, Elmer returned to his work as a stonecutter in the Lannon Stone Quarry in Sussex, Wisconsin; and then, ever the wanderer and adventurer, went on to work in Chicago, Milwaukee, Seattle, and New Orleans. 

Not yet done with his need for adventure, Elmer tried to enlist for the U.S. Army during World War II: He was in his 60s. He was turned down. When he was 71, he was elected as an alderman for Waukesha, an office he held for eight years. 

Elmer J. Dent is my husband’s (Jim Oliver) 1st cousin two times removed.

[1] Jim Oliver's 2nd great-aunt.
[2] Rickert, T. (1956, Jan). "Former Alderman Dent Celebrates 80th Birthday; Recalls Experiences." Waukesha Daily Freeman
[3] Ibid.
[4] Nolan, Jenny (13 Sep 1997). "The Red Arrow Division: Fierce Fighters of the First World War." The Detroit News. Retrieved 17 Aug 2017.
[5] Hubbuch, Chris (11 Nov 2008). "Remembering Wisconsin's Citizen Soldiers." Las Crosse Tribune. Retrieved 17 Aug 2017.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Shared Losses

They were six siblings: three boys, three girls. They were born between 1919 and 1930 to James
abt 1932
Front (l to r): Jimmy, Mary Ellen, Clara Lou, Charlie
Back (l to r): Minnie Mae, Bob, Etta
Thurman Evans (Sr.) and Etta Belle Bridgewater Evans. Their names: Robert Douglas, 1919-2011; Minnie Mae, 1921-2009; James Thurman (Jr.), 1923-2007; Charles Wallace, 1926-2009; Clara Lou, 1928-2017; and Mary Ellen, 1930 - .

James Sr. was born in 1896 in Lynchburg, Tennessee; Etta was born in 1895 in Scottsburg, Indiana. In 1917 they married in Indianapolis, Indiana, and lived there during their married life. At various times, James worked as a mechanic, a machinist, and an auto body painter.

During the month of July 1935, Etta contracted typhoid fever and died on August 5, 1935. 

By 1935, typhoid fever was not very common. A vaccine had been developed in the 1920s. The death rate was dropping dramatically; in fact, the death rate in the United States was less than 20 per every 100,000 population.*  But somewhere, somehow, Etta contracted the virus which is spread by an infected person sneezing or coughing or sharing saliva through kissing or sharing a drink. Wherever or however she contracted the disease, James Sr. was left to take care of six children aged five years old to 16 years old. 

Soon after Etta’s death, Etta’s mother, Della May Everhart Bridgewater, thought it would be in the
Children's Home Administration Building
children’s best interest to place the children in the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home in Knightstown, about 38 miles east of Indianapolis. The only child not to go to the Children’s Home was Robert. He was the oldest at 16 and went to live with his uncle and aunt Ezra and Lulu Evans. He continued to live with them through the early 1940s. The other children, who lived at the Children’s Home, graduated from the Home’s high school. 

Despite the early loss of their mother, all the children went on to live a successful life, marry, have children; the men served in the military. However, lurking in the background was another loss to be suffered by all, but occurring only to four of the siblings: Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Back: Charles, James, Roberts
Front: Clara, Minnie, Mary
• Robert’s symptoms began around 2001. He was officially diagnosed in 2003 and died in 2011.
• Minnie Mae’s symptoms began around 1997. She was officially diagnosed in 2000 and died in 2009.
• James’ symptoms began around 2003. However, it was determined in 2004 he had Parkinson’s Disease and died in 2007.
• Charles’ symptoms began around 2005. He was officially diagnosed in 2007 and died in 2009.
• Clara Lou’s symptoms began around 2003. She was diagnosed in 2004 and died in 2017.
• Mary Ellen, who is still living, is symptom-free.

The siblings with Alzheimer's were diagnosed as having Late Onset Alzheimer's Disease.

At the suggestion of Minnie Mae’s neurologist, all six of the siblings were enrolled in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The purpose of the study: identify, evaluate, and follow families who have multiple members with Late Onset Alzheimer's Disease. The goal: identify genetic factors that contribute to the disease. 

James Sr. and Etta are my biological paternal grandparents. Robert is my biological father. The rest of the siblings are my aunts/uncles. I did not know them, but this little slice of history of their shared double loss helps me to know them.

Back: Charles, James, Robert
Front: Mary, Clara, Minnie

* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012, August 24). Incidence of Typhoid Fever, by Year - United States, 1920-1960. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Quakers Persevere

Salem Witch Trial - Google Image
Salem, a village in the Massachusetts Bay colony, is known for its infamous witch trials during the years of 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of being witches, and 20 were executed (including two dogs). Eventually, the Massachusetts Bay colony admitted the error in having these trials and compensated the families of those convicted. [1] 

Samuel Gaskill and his wife, Provided Southwick, my children’s 8th great-grandparents, lived in Salem at the time of the witch trials: They were Quakers. 

Quakers did not have the same religious beliefs as the Puritans, and it was not a crime to be a Quaker.  However, they were subjected to persecution and harassment – even to the extent of being considered heretics. Quakers could be flogged, branded, imprisoned, banished, or deported. They faced confiscation of all their property - both real and personal. One Quaker had his ear cut off. A few were executed for “ignoring and defying orders of banishment.” [2] This is the atmosphere in which Samuel and Provided lived - as did their parents.  

Samuel’s parents, Edward and Sarah Parker Gaskill (Gascoyne), emigrated from County Lancashire, England, in 1636, landing in Salem, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, a crown colony. Edward had a “10-acre lot in the Great Cove.” [3] Samuel was born in Salem, June 7, 1639, and died in Salem, October 6, 1720. He married Provided on October 30, 1662, in Salem. 

Provided’s parents, Lawrence and Cassandra Burnell Southwick, also from County Lancashire, England, landed in Salem about 1627. Provided was born on October 6, 1641, and died in Salem, December 4, 1727. 

The Quaker religion first appeared in England between the years of 1642-1651. So, it’s my thought that Samuel’s and Provided’s parents (my children's 9th great-grandparents) became Quakers after arriving in the Massachusetts Bay colony.

Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick were persecuted by John Endicott, Governor of Massachusetts,
Southwick Home/Google Images
for their religious beliefs. Even though it was not a crime to be a Quaker, it was a crime to not attend church, to not observe the Sabbath, to not pay tithes, to criticize the government’s cruelty.

John Endicott/Google Image
The Southwicks suffered: [1] In 1657, Cassandra was jailed for seven weeks and fined 40 shillings. [2] In 1658, Lawrence and Cassandra, and a son Josiah, were jailed for 20 weeks for being Quakers. [3] In 1659, Provided and a brother Daniel were sentenced to be sold as slaves in the Barbados Islands for unpaid fines relating to being Quakers and non-attendance at church. Fortunately, the sentence was not carried out. However, the entire family agreed to leave Salem and went to Shelter Island, New York, where Lawrence and Cassandra died the following year in 1660 within three days of each other. [4] 

Fast forward to 1692. A woman, Abigail Soames, lived with Samuel and Provided. She may have been a relative or a friend; however, she was also a Quaker and per her examination in court, had been bedridden for a year. A warrant for her arrest was issued on May 13, 1692; she was described as a “. . . Single Woman, now Living at the house of Sam’l Gaskill in Salem; who stand accused of Sundry acts of Witchcraft donne or Committed by her Lately on the Body of Mary Warren. . . .” 

Despite all that happened to the Gaskills and the Southwicks, Samuel and Provided remained steadfast in their religious beliefs. When John Procter, the first white male to be accused of witchcraft in 1692 and his wife, Elizabeth, were jailed, Samuel and Provided were among many who signed a petition asking that they be released from jail. [5] 

When I first discovered the story of Samuel and Provided and what the Quakers had to endure in the Massachusetts Bay colony, I was both amazed and appalled. It’s hard to believe what our ancestors had to endure; but I am grateful they surmounted their difficulties and perservered.

[1] Blumberg, J. (2007, October 23). A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials: One town’s strange journey from paranoia to pardon. Retrieved August 3, 2017, from
[2] Mullet, Michael (2004). Curwen, Thomas (c. 1610-1689). Retrieved August 3, 2017, from
[3] Anderson, R. C. (2013). The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635. Retrieved August 3, 2017, from
[4] Caller, James Moore (2005). Genealogy of the Descendants of Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick of Salem, Mass.: the original emigrants, and the ancestors of the families who have since born his name. Retrieved August 3, 2017, from
[5] Benjamin Ray and The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (2002). The Salem witchcraft papers, Volume 3: Verbatim transcripts of the legal documents of the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692. Retrieved August 3, 2017, from http://salem.lib.virginia.eduss

Friday, July 28, 2017

Finding Peder

A recent news story reminded me of a similar story in my husband’s family. The story was about finding skeletal remains of a man who had been missing for ten years. A skull, next to a pair of hunting boots, was found; and using DNA, it was determined that it was “7.9 billion times more likely to have originated from a biological sibling” than not. [1] After ten years, this man had been found. There was, and is, speculation about his mental health at the time of his disappearance.

In 1918, DNA was not available to identify skeletal remains. However, a pair of boots and a jack knife were used to identify the remains of Peder Marten “John” Pederson, my husband’s great-uncle.

Peder was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1886 to John V. and Randi Iverson Pederson. He had 
a brother, Iver, who died in 1887, less than a year after being born, and a
Peder & Sophie about 1892
sister, Sophie, born in 1888.

Peder’s parents were both born in Norway. His father, John, worked as a mailman in Minneapolis; and sometime after 1900, John purchased land in Greenbush Township, Mille Lacs County, Minnesota, which became the “family farm.”

Peder and Sophie were close growing up, and Peder served as the best man at her wedding to Henry Foster on October 20, 1908, in Mille Lacs County. Sometime after that date, Peder disappeared, not to be found until May 1918.

On May 16, 1918, the Mille Lacs County Times published the story of finding Peder with this headline:  Remains of John Pederson, Who Disappeared 9 Years Ago, Found in Swamp in Greenbush Township - Skeleton of Young Man Identified by Boots and Jack Knife Found on the Ground by the Remains. 

It seems that a farmer, who was rebuilding a fence along his property line, found the remains in a marshy swamp that was part of his property. The marsh happened to be dry due to a dry season; thus, the ability to find the skeleton. However, the skull was missing. The nature of his death was never determined. 

The newspaper describes the initial search as follows: Searching parties were organized and the whole country side was carefully searched in an effort to find some trace of him but without avail.  It was finally decided that he must have left the country, probably under a spell of mental weakness, as he had been troubled with severe headaches, and it was thought his mind might have been affected.  At times rumors of his having been seen in various localities reached his parents, but they were unable to locate him.[2]

Peder’s father died without knowing what happened to his son. 

Peder was buried in the West Branch Cemetery, in Greenbush Township, just outside the cemetery boundary line, and without a headstone. Unless you know where to look (there’s a depression in the ground), there is no evidence that Peder ever existed.

L to R: Henry Forster, Peder Pederson, Sophie Pederson, Randi Pederson
October 20, 1908

[1] Powers, Pamela. "Missing Dunn County man's remains ID'd." N.p., 26 July 2017. Web. 26 July 2017.
[2] “Remains of John Pederson, Who Disappeared 9 years Ago, Found in Swamp in Greenbush Township.” Mille Lacs County (MN) Times, May 16, 1918 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Out of the Box with Facebook

Have you ever hit a brick wall? Not physically, of course; but, you just could not go forward with whatever it was you were trying to accomplish.  In genealogy research, there is always that brick wall lurking, just waiting for you to run into it with a splat. I hit that brick wall several years ago; however, I did break through a section of a wall recently with a stroke of good luck. (I have more than one brick wall in my research.)

Henrikus Niehues
Let’s back track. My 2nd great-grandfather Henrikus Niehues (born in 1803 in Holland) immigrated to the United States in 1844 with his wife, Francisca Maria Goddjin (born in 1817 in Leiden, Zuid-Holland) and two children: my great-grandfather George Henry Newhouse (born in 1838 in Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland) and Herman Jacob Newhouse (born 1843 in Leiden, Zuid-Holland). A daughter, Franciska, died before the trip to America. The family’s last name was Americanized to Newhouse, and their first and middle names were given the English equivalents.

I wanted to get past the immigration date, working backward in time, to see if I could find any ancestors or historical background on this family. The immigration date is documented in several newspaper articles written about both George and Herman Newhouse.  The immigration, however, pre-dates Ellis Island, so those records were of no use. I scoured through ship manifests for the years 1843-1845, to no avail. I kept searching on and off for several years.

I decided to give George’s and Herman’s brothers and sisters – who were born in the United States – 
some scrutiny with the hope that angle of research would yield me some answers. This research led
George Newhouse
me to the descendants of Herman; specifically, Iris Simon Newhouse, the wife of Herman’s grandson Everett Newhouse. Iris filled me in on the family history giving me names, dates, and some information on Francisca Goddjin 2nd great-grandmother). Additionally, she sent to me the Bible that came with the family from Holland as I had descendants I could give it to while she did not.

Well, after getting that information, I again hit a brick wall. I had many questions answered, but I still was not able to get backwards into Holland; and, there is where I stayed for over six years.  Fast forward to the 2017 and Facebook. 

I never thought about using Facebook for my own personal journey. I do “follow” certain genealogy sites, and I guess because I do, a recommended site appeared one day called “Dutch Genealogy.” After reviewing the postings, I decided to ask for help.  I posted what information I had on my 2nd great-grandparents; and, within a number of hours, I had information on my 2nd great-grandmother’s family. There was no information on the Niehues family, but I had more than I had before.

There had always been a question as to whether our ancestors were German or Dutch. It turns out they are Belgium and Dutch – at least on the Goddjin side of the family. I wish I had thought outside of the box and turned to Facebook earlier.  There are probably other similar groups on Facebook for other nationalities tied into genealogy.

Here’s the lineage I now have thanks to Facebook’s Dutch Genealogy group:

Francisca Maria Goddjin (1817-1906) – 2nd great-grandmother
Jacobus Goddjin (1793-1836) – 3rd great-grandfather
Jacobus Goddijn (1760-1847) – 4th great-grandfather
Abraham Goddijn (1735-xxxx) – 5th great-grandfather
Jacobus Goddijn (1688-1757) – 6th great-grandfather
Abraham Goddijn ( 1660-1708) – 7th great-grandfather
Jacob Goddijn (1615-xxxx) – 8th great-grandfather
Abraham Abrahmszen Goddijn (1585-1643) – 9th great-grandfather
Abraham Goedijn – 10th great-grandfather

Along with the grandfathers’ names I also have the wives’ and children’s names. 

So, if you are doing family research, think out of the box and use “non-traditional” resources.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Professional Wrestler

She died in her third professional wrestling match at the age of 18.

Janet Georgia Boyer Wolfe was born on June 13, 1933, to Cyril and Selma Johnson Boyer of Orr, Minnesota, which is about two hours northwest of Duluth, Minnesota.  Janet wanted to become a professional wrestler and became a protege of Tony Stetcher, a Minneapolis wrestling trainer who has been inducted into the Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame.  

Janet was not a very big girl. When she first contacted Tony Stetcher, wanting to train with him, she was 5’3” and only weighed 120 pounds. [1]  He was reluctant to take her under his wing as he thought she was too small. She was able to increase her weight to 137 pounds, which he found to be more acceptable. In working with Stetcher, she showed an ability to possibly become a champion in women’s wrestling. [2]  Enter Billy Wolfe. 

Billy Wolfe was the manager of Mildred Burke, his wife, the current woman’s wrestling champion.  Because Janet showed such promise, she was sent to Billy and his wife in Columbus, Ohio, to be groomed for the professional ring.  In fact, Billy and Mildred adopted Janet before she turned 18; this was done with her mother’s permission. (Cyril Boyer died in 1946.) Thus, her professional name became Janet Boyer Wolfe.  

Janet’s professional career began in June 1951. She was one of 44 women who staged wrestling shows throughout the United States.  Prior to her death on July 28, 1951, Jane had won one match and lost one match. It was not unusual for women wrestlers at that time to have more than one match during the evening of the wrestling show; sometimes they were tag-team matches.

In her third professional appearance, she had been pinned in a bout with Ella Waldek and afterwards
complained about a headache. However, the "show must go on" as she was scheduled later that same evening for a tag-team match with Eva Lee as her partner against Waldek and Mae Young.  During the match, Janet was body slammed by Waldek; so, she tagged her partner, and upon leaving the ring proper, collapsed outside the ring on the apron. She died four hours later of a ruptured vein in her stomach and a blood clot between the brain and the lining of the brain in East Liverpool, Ohio. 

Waldek, Lee, and Young were arrested for Janet’s death with a pending charge of manslaughter. However, Janet’s death was ruled accidental.

Janet is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery, Duluth, Minnesota; she is my husband’s, Jim Oliver, 3rd cousin. 

[1] "Janet Wolfe." The Team, n.d. Web. 14 July 2017. 
[2] "Girl Wrestler Killed in Bout." Minneapolis Tribune, 27 July 1951.

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Coalminer's Daughter

She is by no means a coal miner’s daughter, but she is a great-granddaughter, a grandniece, and a great-grandniece of coal miners. I am talking about my daughter-in-law Melissa Murphy Oliver, and she is well acquainted with the dangers coal miners face.

Last week one of the people I highlighted was coal miner James Bernard Murphy – he died in a mine explosion in Everettville, a small town about seven miles southwest of Morgantown, West Virginia, and 82 miles straight south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

On April 30, 1927, at 3:20 p.m., an explosion destroyed Federal No. 3 mine in Everettville, West
No. 3 Mine Explosion
Virginia, killing over 100 mine workers; only nine miners working that day managed to escape. After two weeks the fires, a result of the explosion, were finally put out and rescuers were able to recover the bodies still in the mine. It was determined that the explosion started as a result of an "storage-battery locomotive" ignited an accumulation of methane gas and coal dust.(see last photo). The mine was owned by the New England Fuel and Transportation Company.

Explosion Aftermath

In 2011, a memorial was dedicated to the memory of the coal miners – not only those that died on April 30, 1927, but also those that survived.  The names are inscribed on the 7.5 ton memorial overlooking the former mine site. There are a total of 149 names with the year of their death listed. Every year since the original dedication, there has been an annual memorial service. At this year’s memorial, United Mine Workers of American district 31 vice-president, Mike Caputo, made the following remarks:

            “When you’re a coal miner, like me and so many of us around, you consider folks like this heroes because if maybe they wouldn’t have died so tragically on the job there would never have been a day that helped safety become a priority in the work place and it would be the obligation for coal operators to provide us a safe place to work.”*

Four of those heroes have the same last name: Murphy.
  • James Bernard Murphy, Melissa’s great-grandfather
  • James Lewis Murphy, Melissa’s great-uncle and the son of James Bernard Murphy
  • George Bernard Murphy, Melissa’s 2nd great-uncle and brother of James Bernard Murphy
  • Kenny A. Murphy – died five years after the explosion in 1933. I presume there is a relationship, but it has yet to be established.

 Not only did James Bernard, James Lewis, and George Bernard all die on the same day – April 30, 1927, but they were all buried on the same day – May 7, 1927, in Saint Michael's Cemetery, Frostburg, Maryland. 

If you are interested, here is the link to the government report on this mine disaster. (click here)

Mine entrance before the explosion

Mine before the explosion

All that is left of No. 3 Mine

Note:  All photos are from the Everettville (WV) Historical Association

*Goodrich, Sarah. "Miners remembered as 'heroes' at Federal No. 3 service.", 30 April 2017, 2daa5098-2d79-11e7-99cb-07ed20410f7d.html. Accessed 7 July 2017.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Bow Tie Lives!

When was the last time you saw someone wearing a bow tie? I do watch the reality TV series 48 Hours, and one of the featured detectives wears a bow tie. He always stands out from the rest of the detectives because of his elegant sartorial difference. However, this is not why I’ve been thinking about bow ties: It was a very recent family picture that made me wonder about the bow tie and who in the family might have worn them. Now, I use the term “family” loosely, as I also include in-laws as part of the group. I decided to look at photographs I have accumulated to see if I could find men wearing bow ties. But first, some information on bow ties.

There is more than one spelling for bow tie. The site “Bow Ties 101: An Introduction to Bow Ties” spells the term with two words. However, the site “Bowtie Origin and History” spells the term as one word. Whether you spell it as one word or two, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a bow tie as “a short necktie tied in a bowknot.”

So, how did the bow tie come to be? According to the site “Bowtie Origin and History,” the bow tie developed in the 1600s during the Prussian wars (the Prussians fighting the Swedes and Turks for territory). The Croat mercenaries needed to keep their shirts closed, so they used a scarf tied around their necks. The French upper class adopted this “fashion statement” calling it a “cravat” – the French term for “Croat.” From this humble beginning in the 1600s, we now have the necktie and the bow tie.

Now that I had some background on the bow tie, I started going through family photos to see if I could find any men wearing bow ties. I found more pictures than anticipated; however, more often than not, the men were wearing neckties. I had to wean the list to make it manageable. It was hard to pick, but I finally chose six men: two each from my husband’s family (Jim Oliver), two from my daughter-in-law’s family (Melissa Murphy Oliver), and two from my family. Plus, there is one extra-special surprise at the end of this blog:  It is the photo that inspired these musings.


Richard Lee Taylor (Jim’s 4th cousin 6 times removed) 1744-1829. Taylor was born in Virginia and died in Kentucky. In 1769 he explored the Ohio River and Mississippi River from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. During the American Revolution he fought in the battles of White Plains, Trenton, Brandywine, and Monmouth:  He was a lieutenant-colonel. Additionally, he was the father of Zachary Taylor, the 12th president of the United States, and the father of Joseph Pannell Taylor, a general in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Francis Dale Knippling (Jim’s uncle by marriage) 1916-2011. Knippling was born in Iowa and died in Texas. He attended Michigan State University and graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1950. In addition to being a practicing veterinarian, Francis worked at Merck Pharmaceuticals in their research laboratories, as a USDA meat inspector, as a professor at the Tuskegee Institute, and as a quarantine inspector in Hawaii.


Walter Perry Weyand (Melissa’s 3rd great-grandfather) 1853-1931. Weyand was born and died in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. According to the 1880 U.S. census, Walter started out his working life as a cooper in Somerset County. A cooper is an individual who makes and/or repairs wooden casks, tubs, and barrels. By 1900, per the U.S. census, Walter had settled on farming in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and continued in that profession through the 1920s.

James Bernard Murphey (Melissa’s great-grandfather) 1882-1927. Murphey was born in Maryland and died in West Virginia. James enlisted with the U.S. Army on October 7, 1904, for a three-year stint; and, in the process, the Army change the spelling of James’ last name to Murphy. He was stationed at Fort Douglas, Utah, which had been built to protect the overland mail route and telegraph lines. In 1906 he was transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas. He was discharged from the Army, at Fort Riley, on May 23, 1906. James returned home and became a coal miner. Coal mining was, and still is, a dangerous profession. James died in a coal mine explosion at Federal Mine 3 in Everettville, Monongalia County, West Virginia.


Herman Jacob Newhouse (Linda’s 2nd granduncle) 1843-1919. Newhouse was born in Holland and died in Idaho. Herman arrived in the United States with his parents in 1844. He enlisted February 1864 in the U.S. Army, Co. H, 8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. On May 15, 1864, the regiment made a trip across the plains after the Sioux Indians. In the fall of 1864, the regiment came back to St. Paul, Minnesota, and was ordered to go south to join Sherman’s Army. On July 11, 1865, the regiment was discharged at Charlotte, North Carolina, and came home to St. Paul. Newhouse then mustered out and headed for home in Pine Island, Minnesota. Before and after the war, Herman was a farmer.

Frank George Newhouse (Linda’s father) 1906-1972.  Frank was born in Goodhue County, Minnesota, and died in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Newhouse was an attorney and examiner of real estate titles. He was also a “Special State Attorney” for the State of Minnesota (1939-1940), a municipal judge (1945-1951), and a county attorney (1951-1954). He was also in the U.S. Army from 1942-1944. Despite neckties being the fashion of the day, Frank always wore neckties; and, they were always some shade of red or a red pattern.

And now, the reason for the title of this blog “The Bow Tie Lives!”: Tyler Gabriel Oliver.

Tyler is the son of Patrick and Melissa Murphy Oliver. He is Jim’s and my grandson. He loves bow ties!