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