Friday, September 22, 2017

The Soldier's Wife

I previously wrote about Michael Awalt, my fifth great-grandfather, a Revolutionary War soldier. 
Five years after her husband’s death in 1835, his wife, my fifth great-grandmother Eva Speck Awalt, started her bureaucratic journey to collect her widow’s pension. In the record below, FC stands for Franklin County, Eva is sometimes referred to as Evy and Eve. The misspellings and other obvious errors have been left intact.    
  • 20 Dec. 1840, Franklin Co. Mrs. Evy AWALT aged 78 states that her husband Michael AWALT died 6 April 1835, that they were married in Mecklenburg County, N.C., 17 April 1778 but she has no record of their marriage or the births of their children, having lost or mislaid it.
  • Nathaniel BORUM testifies to the identity of Evy AWALT.
  • William RIAL aged 73 states he was married to Molly SPECK, a sister of Evy AWALT. Molly RIAL aged 79 also appeared before the justice. Each deponent originally came from Mecklenburg (Rockingham crossed out) Co., N.C. They state that Michael and Evy AWALT from the time of their marriage until his death in FC lived together in utmost peace and harmony.
  • 17 May 1841, FC. Sophia HISE, widow of Coonrad HISE deceased, originally a resident of Mecklenburg Co., N.C., and now of FC, aged 86, states that her husband went in company with Michael AWALT and her sister Evy SPECK and saw them married by Parson WIRTMAN (STARK crossed out) in Mecklenburg Co., N.C., in April 1778. She recalls the month and year because she herself gave birth to a son the following February 1779.
  • William RIAL states he was not at the wedding but lived with the couple for six months after their marriage. He also lived with Coonrod HISE and his wife Sophia SPECK in N.C. and frequently heard HISE say he was present at the marriage.
  • 15 Dec. 1845, FC. Evy AWALT states that Michael AWALT received a discharge from his commander but sold it to another gentleman. States she was married April, 1781, in Rowan Co., N.C. She is unable to appear in court and gives her deposition before John ROLMAN, J.P.
  • Solomon LIMBAUGH aged 45 states he was present on 6 Apr. 1835 and saw Michael AWALT die, and that Evy AWALT has not remarried.
  • 16 Dec. 1845, FC. Sophia HISE aged 89 states that her husband Coonrod HISE, Sr., has been dead more than 25 years.
  • William RYAL aged 75 states he was present more than three years ago to hear Magdalane RYAL state she helped to prepare the wedding dinner when Eve and Michael AWALT were married. Said Magdalane RYAL has been dead more than two years
  • 22 Dec. 1845, Murfreesboro, Tenn. Cover letter sent by John BRUCE to accompany deposition of Evy AWALT and supporting documents. To the Commissioner of Pensions. “Sir, It cannot be expected that the widow can recollect all the facts and circumstances which were related to her by her husband in his lifetime, after a lapse of fifteen or twenty years. Statements are frequently made by the husband to his wife by the fireside and go in at one year and out at the other. Or if the wife actualee by motives of curiosity or otherwise sets down those statements well in her own mind, yet in the course of ten or fifteen years the recollection of those statements will fade and die upon the memory. Dear sir, at this time I bring before you the case of an old lady eighty-two years old, late in the afternoon of life, who in her husband’s lifetime was entirely independant and had plenty of the good things of life, but since his death has been reduced to a state of indigence, and thrown upon a cold hearted and uncharited world for a support. Dear friend, I rely upon the good judgement of the Department and hope for a decision in her favor. “I am, my dear sir, with sentiments of great respect, your friend and obedient servant, John BRUCE.”
  • 15 March 1846, FC. Hon. Stephen ADAMS of Mississippi states he was acquainted with Michael AWALT for many years and AWALT’S oldest son is between 55 and 60, and his grandchildren near 40 years of age
Eva dies on August 2, 1848.  Apparently, in order to settle her estate, efforts to collect the pension were continued by her son Jacob Awalt as can be seen below.
  • 25 Apr. 1851, Cabarrus Co., N.C. Clerk states he can find no record of the marriage of Evy SPECK and Michael AWALT.
  • 24 May 1851, FC. William RIAL aged past 80 years states that he knew Michael and Evy AWALT from his boyhood to their deaths.
  • Jacob AWALT of FC, son of Michael AWALT, states his mother and father were married in Cabarrus Co., N.C., about 1786. His mother Eva AWALT died 2 Aug. 1848, leaving the following named children and heirs at law: Catherine WEBER (or WEVER?), John AWALT, Barbary TIPS, Sophia WEBB, Nancy (or Naomi) LIMBO.
  • John TRAVIS, J.P of FC, testifies that Jacob AWALT is about 62 years old, having been considered an old man for some years past. John ROLMAN, J.P., testifies he has known Jacob AWALT for 30 years and that he himself is 49 years old and supposes AWALT is 62. He was acquainted with Michael and Eva AWALT. He is also acquainted with Mrs. Catherine WEVER, sister of Jacob AWALT, whom he has always understood was older than Jacob AWAL
  • 2 Dec. 1851, Knoxville, Tenn. Taze W. NEWMAN, attorney, is unable to provide physician’s or undertaker’s certificate that Eva AWALT is dead, because one is dead and the other has moved to Texas. This is in the case of Jacob AWALT who lives on Hurricane Creek in FC.
  • 25 June 1852, Marshall, IL. W. MANLY inquires as to the status of Eva AWALT’S claim for pensions.
I could find no record as to whether or not the Awalt family was ever successful in collecting the pension due Eva.

Source: Sherrill, Charles. “Revolutionary War Pension Applications from Franklin County, Tennessee.” Franklin County TNGenWeb, http://www.tngenweb./org.franklin.revolutionary-war-pensions-from-franklin-county. Accessed 21 Sept. 2017.

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
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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
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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.