Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dock of the Bay

My German immigrant great great grandfather, who I discovered on the internet during the past two years, spent the last six months of his life on the Gulf Coast in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas in the final months and aftermath of the American Civil War. He took part in only one real battle, the assault on Spanish Fort and Fort Blakeley, the forts on Mobile Bay that kept Mobile from falling into Union hands until after Robert E. Lee had already surrendered in Virginia in April, 1865.

A few weeks ago I mentioned a recent book by Andrew Ward called 'River Run Red', an account of the Fort Pillow Massacre, which took place on the Mississippi River north of Memphis in April, 1864, an event about which I knew nothing until I encountered Ward's book. To be honest, I had never even heard of Fort Pillow, an incident in which surrendering Union soldiers, mostly 'colored troops', were given no quarter and slaughtered by their Confederate captors. But I have since uncovered a few articles about the fall of Mobile which suggest that the memory of Fort Pillow figured prominently in the battle that delivered Mobile to Union occupation.

Michael Fitzgerald, a history professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, wrote an article published in 2001 in the Alabama Review entitled 'Another Kind of Glory: Black Participation and Its Consequences in the Campaign for Confederate Mobile.' According to Fitzgerald nearly one fourth of the 50,000 or more Union troops assembled for the assault on the forts defending Mobile were "colored troops", largely freed slaves from southern plantations recruited and trained specifically for the siege of Mobile.

"Remember Fort Pillow," was apparently the battle cry heard from the 'colored troops' massed along the river on the right flank at Fort Blakeley as they charged the Confederate lines a full half hour before the signal to attack was given. So many of the Confederate defenders in the trench line around the fort had moved to the flank to repel the premature charge, according to Fitzgerald, that the center of the line offered little resistance when the main attack ensued.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Another Manila Sunrise

These are a few snapshots I took a few weeks ago on a day when I got up early enough for a round of golf. The pictures were taken at about fifteen minute intervals between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m.. The view is of the Makati highrise district along the midpoint of the Epiphanios De Los Santos, more commonly known as EDSA. Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of them.
I received several e-mails since my last post, one from a woman in Virginia with roots in Indiana who wanted permission to send copies of one of my early posts, Not Quite White, to family and friends in Indiana for Christmas. She thinks she might also have some native American ancestry from the Indiana frontier and seemed to think I must have a sense of humor.

Another e-mail was from a neighbor of someone I mentioned in a more recent post about relations and in-laws I discovered through census records and who still lives in Bloomer, Wisconsin. I plan to follow-up on that one, but I'm not yet sure how.

The third e-mail I got this week came in today.
It's from Lowell Schake, whose book about life on the Missouri frontier in LaCharrette Village has now been published. I'll have to keep an eye out to see if it turns up in any of the bookstores here in Manila.

That's about all I've got for now.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

River Run Red

When I was on home leave in Seattle several months ago I finally had an opportunity to meet the author, Andrew Ward, in person. My wife taught in the same department at the university as his wife a dozen or so years ago, so I had known about him for quite some time and had read several of his books. He told me had written another one, this time a book about an incident from the Civil War. It hadn't yet been published then, but it has now and I was able to buy it at a bookstore here in Manila last week. It's not yet out in paperback (don't hold your breath), but it's well worth the hardbound price. Ken Burns himself wrote the blurb on the back cover.

Ward anatomizes a Civil War battle fought in western Tennessee in April, 1864, known as the Fort Pillow Massacre. The book deals with the efforts of the Union army to enlist what were known then as "colored troops" after the slaves in the southern states had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation early in 1863. I haven't yet read the whole book, so I won't try to review it here, but much of the story revolves around a Confederate cavalry general and local slave dealer, Nathan Bedford Forrest, who many people regard as the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. The reputation he developed and the methods he employed in that massacre do much to explain how the Klan came into being and has managed to persist for nearly a century and a half.

The book is particularly interesting to me because my German immigrant great great grandfather served with the 27th Wisconsin Infantry, a unit that spent most of the war in Arkansas, directly across the Mississippi River from Fort Pillow. My ancestor didn't join the unit until early 1865 as a replacement troop. He was in Arkansas for only a few days or perhaps a week or two at most before the unit went downriver to New Orleans in preparation for the siege of Mobile, but the men of his regiment had spent the previous two years in circumstances almost identical to those painstakingly described in Ward's book.

A primary mission for the Department of Arkansas under General Frederick Steele was to recruit, organize and train "colored troops" from among the many freed slaves in Arkansas. When the forts fell in Mobile in April, 1865, the fortifications there were breached by "colored troops" while my great great grandfather's unit and many others were held back in reserve.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

House That Ruth Built

When I was about six years old my family drove from Kansas to South Bend, Indiana, for a summertime visit to my mother's family. Bud and Carlie Steele were the only grandparents I ever knew, as my dad's parents in Wisconsin had passed on before I was born.

The year was 1959. It was the last time the White Sox went to the World Series until just last month. My dad was a big Sox fan then, as my folks had gone to college in Chicago about ten years earlier. At age 6 I was already a Yankee fan, which my dad considered heretical. But in those days, televised baseball consisted of the Yankee powerhouse and whatever collection of bums they happened to be playing that Saturday. Dizzy Dean and PeeWee Reese provided color commentary and play-by-play every week. The Yankees had Mantle and Maris in the outfield, Kubek and Richardson up the middle, Boyer and Skowron at the corners and the battery of old Whitey Ford and Don Larsen throwing the pill to old Yogi Berra, backed up by the young rookies, Mel Stottlemyer throwing to Elston Howard.

I met my great grandparents on that trip, Ira and Stella Ruth. They were about eighty-five years old then and living independently in a three-story rooming house that my great grandfather had built back when automobiles were still a novelty item. I remember lots of wooden stairs and a living room with countless porcelain knickknacks and my mother was quite concerned that I might break some of them if I wasn't careful. My great grandparents walked with canes; they didn't hear well and their memories were going. My great grandfather had developed a habit of going out for morning walks and getting lost on his way back home and this was mostly what my mother and her mother talked about while my sisters and I eyeballed the antiques we were enjoined from damaging.

My mother passed on about six years ago and her mother died ten years before that in 1990 at the age of 90. I never really learned much from them about the Ruths except that it seemed they had always lived in South Bend, although in fact I don't think they moved there until after the turn of the century. Since joining and gaining access to the census records a few weeks ago, I've already learned more than my mother or my grandmother ever told me about them. I really had no idea what their history was.

My grandmother's father, Ira Ruth, was living in LaGrange County in Indiana in 1900, which is about thirty miles east of South Bend. He and Stella and their first child, Carlie, my grandmother, lived in Van Buren Township practically on the stateline between Indiana and Michigan. My great grandmother was listed as Mary Ruth in 1910 and in 1920, but in 1900 she called herself Stella. She was born in Indiana. Her husband, Ira, called himself a farmer then. My grandmother was a newborn infant, one month old, in 1900. The family moved to South Bend between 1900 and 1910 and moved again to the 7th Ward in Portage Township in downtown South Bend between 1910 and 1920. By then Ira called himself a carpenter and I suspect he had already built the three-story boarding house I visited in 1959.

Before 1900, Ira Ruth had lived in Michigan where he was born in 1874. His parents were Augustus and Sarah (Andre?) Ruth. They were apparently both born in Lower Mt. Bethel Township in Northampton County in Pennsylvania, very close to the New Jersey stateline, about ten miles north of Easton, PA.. Augustus Ruth was the son of John Ruth, a wheelwright in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, who was born in 1817. John and Anna Ruth moved to Michigan with their sons Michael and Augustus in 1867 and the family lived in Park Township in St. Joseph County, Michigan, where they were listed as farmers in 1870.

Augustus and Sarah (Andre) Ruth were married in Michigan shortly after 1870. Both of their families had lived in eastern Pennsylvania for perhaps more than a hundred years in a predominately Swiss-German community that had settled there when the land was still occupied by Delaware Indians. The arrival of Germans in the 1750s had helped to precipitate the French and Indian War. I don't yet have a name for John Ruth's father or grandfather, but his milieu suggests that his ancestors were part of the same wave of immigration that brought my grandfather's family, the Steeles, to Pennsylvania in the 1750s.

My understanding is that the baseball player, George Herman Ruth, was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1895 and raised in an orphanage, according to a biography that I read many years ago, written by the late great sportswriter, Bob Considine. He seems to have been named after his father who was also a George Herman Ruth, but beyond that not much is known about the Bambino's ancestry. Baltimore is certainly close enough to Philadelphia that it is possible for the Babe to have been a distant relative. His father would have been born shortly after the Civil War, just at the point when my ancestors were moving west to Lake Michigan.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Well, I've had a field day with online access to the U.S. census records and I've learned a few things. One of the main things I've learned is that before 1910 my Boettcher ancestors spelled their name with one "t", as Boetcher, instead of the more usual spelling with two "tt"s.

I found my great great grandfather, John Boetcher, living in "Heman" township in Dodge County in Wisconsin in 1860, along with his wife, Minnie, and their children, Charles (Carl), Auguste, Herman and Hanna. The family immigrated in 1856, arriving in August according to my aunt, and that explains why Carl and Auguste were born in Prussia, while Herman and Hanna were born in Wisconsin. Dodge County has no records of a town or township called "Heman", but it did, like Sheboygan County, have a Herman Township that was popular with Prussian immigrants.

Their next door neighbor in "Heman" was a couple named John and Albertine Backhaus. John Backhaus was 46 and his wife, Albertine, was 24. Their oldest son was William, aged 13, which suggests that John had a previous spouse, unless Albertine gave birth at age 11. I haven't located either family in the 1870 census, but in 1880, John and Minnie Boetcher lived at Eagle Point in Chippewa County and their daughter, Hanna, was also there, married to my great grandfather, William Lubach. John and Minnie's next door neighbor in 1880 was the widow, Albertine Backhaus. I didn't find John Backhaus, which suggests he must already have passed on at that point.

More than 2,500 people lived in Eagle Point in 1880, according to the census. The town was named after "Old Abe", the war eagle who served as a mascot for the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, a part of the "Iron Brigade", easily the most celebrated of all of the Wisconsin units that served in the Civil War. Old Abe was purchased upriver from some Chippewa (Ojibwa) Indians and raised as a pet by members of the McCann clan who settled in Eagle Point shortly after the Blackhawk War of 1832. Members of the McCann family had known and worked with Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, when he was a young lieutenant and later a captain during the Blackhawk War.

The McCann clan essentially built Chippewa Falls from the ground up. They were the lumber business on the Chippewa River. During the 1870s farmers began arriving there, many of them German, Scandinavian and Bohemian or Slovakian. Tilden, where my ancestors established their homestead, Woodmohr, was not yet a township in 1880, so it appears that records for this influx of farmers were maintained at Eagle Point. The 1890 census for Wisconsin was destroyed in a fire, but in 1900 many of the families listed as living in Eagle Point in 1880 had long been settled in Tilden Township. Among the settlers listed at Eagle Point in 1880 was John Boetcher's father, Christian Boetcher, who was born in Prussia in 1794.

I mention Albertine Backhaus here because in 1860 my great grandfather, William Lubach, was living in Sheboygan County not far from Lake Michigan. He was four years old and lived in Scott Township. His neighbors on one side were the Ludwig and Henrietta Backhaus family and on the other side were Wilhelm and Maria D. Ebert and their family. The next nearest neighbors on that side were August and Sophia Heise. William's father, Wilhelm Lubach, fought in the Civil War along with August Heise in Company F of the 27th Wisconsin Infantry. August Heise returned; Wilhelm Lubach didn't.

Wilhelm Ebert's son, William, joined the 12th Wisconsin Infantry on February 22nd, 1864, when he was twenty years old. He was severely wounded at Bald Hill on July 21st, and saw some of the fiercest fighting in the Battle of Atlanta. He was discharged in January 1865 and returned to Scott Township where he was declared an invalid in February so that he and his wife, Fredericke, could receive a disability pension. According to the government he collected that pension until 1916. He and Fredericke raised a family in Scott Township. A blogpost I published in December last year, headed Gone With The Wind, details some of William Ebert's Civil War experience.

Wilhelm Lubach's widow, Maria, according to government pension records, married her next door neighbor, Ludwig Backhaus. I don't know what happened to Ludwig's wife, Henrietta, but I do know that in 1870 , a child named Edward, born in 1862 or 1863, was part of the Ludwig and Mary Backhaus household. I suspect that Henrietta may have died giving birth to Edward. The 1865 state census for Wisconsin lists only three children for the Lubach family, Carl, William and Louise. I would think Edward would have been listed as a fourth child if he was actually born a Lubach. He was listed as a Backhaus in the U.S. census of 1870.

Edward Lubach doesn't appear in the 1880 census and the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, but in 1900 he and his wife, Catharine A. (Luhn) are living in Scott Township, along with a son, Edward, age 12, and five daughters. Also included in the household is his mother-in-law, Catharine Luhn. The 1860 census has her married to Jacob Luhn, a Prussian who was part of the same cluster with the Ebert, Lubach, Backhaus and Heise families. Catharine was from Hessen Darmstadt. The family disappears again in 1910, except for two of the children, Alexander, 23, and Ella, 19, who are listed in nearby Lynden Township as servants in the Charles Sibley household. Edward and Catharine appear again in 1920 in Scott Township with two more daughters who were not yet born in 1900. Their next door neighbors in 1920 are Alexander and Selma Lubach, who have recently blessed them with a granddaughter, Arline, and a grandson, Edward.

My great great grandmother, Marie Lubach, experienced a little trauma during the Civil War. A German emigration record suggests that Marie had a sister named Sophie and that they were the daughters of Wilhelm and Maria D. Ebert, their next door neighbors. Sophie was married to August Heise, who went off to war on the gulf coast with Wilhelm Lubach in January, 1865. A month later, William Ebert, the Ebert sisters' younger brother, returned from the war early with a severe wound and a disability pension. Two years later, Marie was a grieving widow married to her next door neighbor and raising a child whose mother, most likely, had died during the war. Her sons, Carl and William, don't appear in the 1870 census, but in 1880 Carl has married Catharine (Guth) up north in Fondulac. They will live in nearby Kewaskum for a few years before moving to Ohio where they will lose three sons to a diptheria epidemic in 1893. William has married Hanna (Boetcher) way out west in Chippewa. Marie's daughter, Louise, age 12, is still at home in Scott in 1870. She married Carl Boetcher in Sheboygan County in 1880, shortly before they also moved west to Chippewa.

Two months ago I published a post on this blog headed Bloomer Advance with a link to a letter written by Vernon Kressin earlier this year. The letter indicated that he and his wife, Lois, had visited the grave of Wilhelm Lubach, who fought in the Civil War and died in St. Louis. Vernon Kressin's ancestors are listed living in Eagle Point in 1880. Lois Kressin is the daughter of Carl and Louise Boettcher's son, Edwin, who was born in Tilden Township. If her claim to be the great granddaughter of Wilhelm Lubach is true, it virtually cinches my claim that Hanna (Boetcher) Lubach was the younger sister of Carl Boettcher and that Louise (Lubach) Boettcher was the younger sister of William Lubach.

Most of the people in America with my surname, Lubach, live in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. I don't think any of them are related to me, but some of them do have an an ancestor who was raised by my great great grandmother.

The town of Kewaskum is five or ten miles south of Scott Township in Sheboygan County and ten or twenty miles east of Herman Township in Dodge County. If you visit Kewaskum do take a tour of the cemeteries. You'll see world class gothic monuments. Roughly a third of the people buried in those cemeteries are named Backhaus. I don't know yet exactly how Ludwig Backhaus (b. 1815) in Scott Township and John Backhaus (b. 1813) in Herman Township were related, but I'll bet you a hundred dollars they were.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

In a Dark Time

Well, I've done it now. I finally broke down and shelled out the bucks for an membership. Nearly all of the information I've accumulated and posted about my family history on my webpage in the past three years, and here on my blog in the past year, has come from the internet free of charge. So why am I now willing to part with the big bucks? Am I selling out? Do the pay sites suddenly have vital information worth more than ten dollars a month to me? I don't think so, on either count.

The main thing you get with a membership is comprehensive access to several main sets of database records, the largest and most important of these being the U.S. Federal Census Records and the Social Security Death Index. You can search these records without being a paying member; you just can't see the results. Instead all you get is an indication of the number of hits on your search item in those databases. But simply knowing that there are hits can be a very useful clue. When there are hits, the specifics can often be accessed elsewhere free of charge.

Rootsweb and U.S. GenWeb are large free database projects that make relevant portions of the federal census records and other databases available to localized free genealogy websites. Most counties in America have one or more websites that exist solely for the purpose of making records available to people whose roots are in that locality. So if you know what you are looking for and where to look for it on the web, you can usually find it. What and other paysites sell is convenient and comprehensive access.

I guess what's happened to me is that I've reached the point where I've decided I don't mind paying for convenient, comprehensive access. First, I can afford it. Second, it's a worthwhile product. And third, I've reached a point where I can start to make use of some of the vast quantity of information that is related less specifically to my particular ancestors. Comprehensive access allows you to make better generalizations based on peripheral data.

I'm fortunate to have at least one fairly distinctive surname to trace. My last name is not one that you encounter everyday. If you were to canvas all of the phone books in America, you would find fewer people with my surname than you would find listed under Smith or Jones in any one small town in America. And with only a few hundred or perhaps one or two thousand total listings to draw on, it's not that hard to eliminate those that are probably not directly related to me.

While the items that I have found and posted on my webpage are not necessarily always the proverbial "smoking gun" of definitive proof, they are often enough sufficient evidence on which to base an assumption or a supposition. And when a supposition leads directly or even indirectly to a subsequent find, it indicates something about the validity of that supposition.

Now for something completely unrelated, I've added another reciprocal link to my blogroll.

In a Dark Time features some terrific wildlife photography and some excellent commentary and personal reflections on poems by many of the most significant modern American poets of the past century. I include it here because of the entries on Theodore Roethke and Nelson Bentley.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

"I Shall Return"

Ruins of the Mile Long Barracks on Corregidor. The portion in the foreground had served as MacArthur's office until the Japanese Air Force redesigned it as a rock garden.

A bronze statue of the late American Caesar, General Douglas MacArthur, on a bluff above the beach at Corregidor, the island fortress he commanded at the mouth of Manila Bay. Across the water behind him is the Bataan Peninsula. His famous motto, "I shall return," is inscribed on the stone block to his left. The guns of Corregidor delayed the Japanese conquest of the Philippines for nearly six months at the beginning of American involvement in WWII. Less than three years later, early in 1945, MacArthur did return to Corregidor in preparation for the Battle of Manila.

MacArthur's father, Arthur MacArthur Jr., still in his teens, served in the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War and won a Congressional Medal of Honor leading a charge up Missionary Ridge in the Battle of Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. Thirty-five years later he commanded an army unit that took possession of Manila in the Pacific theatre of the Spanish-American War. The 24th was one of only a handful of regiments that trained at Camp Sigel in Milwaukee. Others included the 9th, the 26th, the 27th and the 45th. The 26th was nearly all German and served along with the 24th at Missionary Ridge. Arthur MacArthur died from a heart attack in 1912 while attending the 50th reunion of the 24th in Milwaukee.

MacArthur's grandfather, Arthur MacArthur Sr. , was a lawyer in Milwaukee. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1856, but served as governor while the outcome of the gubernatorial election was in dispute. After the Civil War he served as a federal judge in Washington D.C.. The governor of Wisconsin who was elected in 1862 drowned shortly after taking office while surveying Union casualties at Shiloh in Tennessee. His term was served out by a German, Edward Salomon, whose brothers, Charles and Frederick, both commanded Wisconsin regiments during the war.

My great great grandfather died serving in the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, commanded by Konrad Krez, a prominent German lawyer and poet from Sheboygan. Krez also commanded the 28th Wisconsin at the brigade level in the latter stages of the war.

The pictures above were taken yesterday on my second visit to Corregidor. My first visit there was five years ago shortly after I arrived in Manila. On a clear day I can look out over Manila Bay from my living room and see "the Rock" thirty miles away on the horizon.

I don't think I'm responsible for the spam barrage in the comments below.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

You Have Mail

Two e-mails came in this week from people who found my blog and webpage while searching online for their ancestors.

I heard from a great great grandson of the Reverend Alonzo Miller, a man who served in Company B of the 27th Wisconsin. One or more of my posts had mentioned the letters Alonzo exchanged with his wife, Mary, during his one year stint as a replacement with the Union Army in the last year of the war. I had a look at a few of the letters when I visited Milwaukee in June this year. The descendant still hasn't seen them, but vows that someday he will.

My great great grandfather served in Company F of the 27th. Both he and the reverend signed on as replacements in October, 1864. They underwent training together at Camp Sigel in Milwaukee, and no doubt rode on the same train down to Little Rock to join up with their regiment early in 1865. They took a boat from there down the Mississippi to a part of New Orleans called Algiers, directly across the river from the French Quarter, where they made camp for about a week before sailing across Lake Pontchartrain and transferring to another boat that took them along the Gulf coast beyond Mobile Bay to a spot near Pensacola on the Florida panhandle. Then they marched overland to their assigned positions along the Tombigbee River where they laid siege to the rebel armories at Fort Blakely and Spanish Fort, the last major battles of the Civil War. Upwards of fifty infantry regiments from nearly a dozen different states took part in that siege. After the battle the men in that unit spent more than a month in Mobile and in New Orleans, enjoying a little southern hospitality, before they were shipped to Brazos Santiago in June to take possession of Brownsville, Texas on the Rio Grande. I'm told that one of the delicacies served to the good reverend at the home of a fine southern lady was actually rat poison. Apparently the portions were so generous they didn't stay down.

The other e-mail was from a woman in Australia whose maiden name, Lubach, is also my surname. Her great great grandfather emigrated to Queensland in 1877 at the age of 56. He had lived in a village in Germany less than thirty miles from the village where my great great grandfather lived before emigrating to Wisconsin in 1856. Could they have been cousins or perhaps even brothers? Her ancestor was about six years older than mine. Her great grandfather also emigrated to Queensland in 1877. He was born in 1850 and died in 1950 at the age of 100. Would his recollections of childhood in the old country have included an uncle and some cousins who moved to America when he was about six years old? I guess that remains to be seen.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

LaCharrette Village

Several months ago I got an e-mail from a visitor to my webpage. The visitor left a short message along with a link to a blog that he had just started. It only had one or two posts at that point, which generally outlined what he had planned for his blog. And I got the impression then that the "success" of my blog had at least to some degree inspired him to try his hand at blogging.

After three months he has now added a number of posts and he's adhered fairly well to the idea he originally outlined. I had offered him some encouragement in my reply and a suggestion or two, along with noting that he had something of an advantage on me in that he had already written and published the book about which he planned to blog. I've now added his blog to my blogroll. I suppose the only real connection between my blog and LaCharrette Village is that my great great grandfather had the misfortune to die in the Civil War and is buried near St. Louis.

LaCharrette Village was located a few miles up the Missouri River between St. Louis and Kansas City. It was the hometown of my fellow blogger, Lowell Schake, and, while it still existed, it was the oldest continuous European settlement in the U.S. west of the Mississippi, dating back to the middle of the 17th century or earlier. Actually, I'm a little skeptical about that claim. My understanding is that several small settlements along the upper Rio Grande in what is now New Mexico were founded by Spanish soldiers who accompanied the conquistadors, Cortez and Coronado, in the 16th century.

Even so, what has made LaCharrette a roadside attraction in recent years is it's unique location and the records Lowell Schake has found of visits to that site by explorers and frontiersmen whose status has since become legendary, if not mythic. We don't get to watch PBS out here in Manila, but apparently the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition has put LaCharrette back on the map, at least temporarily.

By 1860 quite a few people were living west of St. Louis in Missouri, many of them Germans. When the Civil War began in 1861 the military engagements that took place were small and usually confined to only a few limited areas, in part because the U.S. only had one army at that time. The war had been going for nearly nine months before many of America's professional soldiers had even decided on which side they would fight. The Missouri Valley west of St. Louis was one of the Civil War's major flash points. Visitors to my webpage will find links to some of the Germans in Missouri who took an active part in these early skirmishes, ensuring that both North and South had reasons to mobilize.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

News From Chippewa

I haven't seen it yet, but I'm told that my dad on the west coast received a packet of papers last week from his sister in Wisconsin, including some genealogical records, a few obits and some news clippings she's collected over the years.

I haven't actually seen these items and probably won't for awhile, but there is some interesting news. I had known that my great grandfather died young at the age of forty-one and that it seemed to be unanticipated, as his youngest child was born several months after he died, but I hadn't ever heard anything about how or why he died. One of the clippings sent was an obituary, indicating that he was killed while operating heavy machinery at the sawmill or planing mill where he worked at that time. I don't have the exact quotation, but apparently he was struck by a chunk of wood flung out by a piece of machinery in an industrial accident.

Condolences aren't obligatory here. After all, it happened a hundred and eight years ago, fifty-six years before I was born. I'm sure the event triggered terrible grief at the time, as he had a wife, five children, and a sixth on the way. But by the time I was born the shock had worn off. I suppose that the reason I am intrigued by this news is that my father is still chugging along fairly well these days, several years past normal life expectancy. Until I came along, no one in my line of descent had yet reached puberty with a father still alive. Or at least if they did, the last time it happened was fifty years before the eruption of Mt. Krakatoa.

So I guess the point of all this is that in my family there are no long standing traditions for looking after your father in his declining years. But I figure that if I go back far enough I may yet find some precedents. I was able to obtain the name of my great grandmother's father, Johann Boettcher, who came to Wisconsin in 1856, and those of his parents, Christian and Caroline Boettcher, who apparently remained behind in Pomerania instead of emigrating to America.

It seems both my father and my grandfather were named after Johann Boettcher, a man who was still alive in 1924 at the age of 94. He moved to Chippewa County during the Civil War and lived there for more than sixty years.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Old Main

I mention on my webpage that my grandfather was only 13 when his father died. The family apparently sold the homestead in Tilden and moved to nearby Chippewa Falls where my grandfather dropped out of school and worked at a sawmill for the next ten years. I point out that he wasn't listed on the 1910 census for Chippewa because in 1910 he was in Illinois attending classes at the seminary that ordained him as a minister in 1915.

A few days ago I found a website online that provides an "unauthorized history" of that "seminary" and the small liberal arts college that grew up around it. It was located in Naperville, Illinois, and according to the official history of the college it wasn't referred to as a seminary then. It was an institute known as the Evangelical Biblical Union, run by the old Evangelical Association which consisted of people who had a limited tolerance for seminaries and seminarians.

A portion of the Association eventually merged with the United Brethren and later with the Methodist Church to become United Methodists, and what was left of the Biblical Union, as I understand it, was swallowed up by the seminary at Northwestern University on the lakeshore in Chicago. But the liberal arts college, North Central, is still there in Naperville. My parents both attended that college and that's where they met. All four of my grandparents went to school there and that's where they met. My mother's brother went to school there, as did both of my dad's sisters and their husbands.

The "unauthorized history" of that college was put together by a real estate agent/genealogist in Atlanta, Georgia, named Pat Sabin, a woman whose ancestors settled in Plainfield and Naperville during the Blackhawk War of 1832 when Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were both junior officers in the same unit, chasing Chief Blackhawk all over northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin until they finally drove him across the Mississippi near the border between Iowa and Minnesota and slaughtered most of his band. Their successful collaboration at that time was considered one of the crowning achievements of the movement known as Jacksonian Democracy.

The Evangelical Biblical Union was established in 1860 in Plainfield near Joliet, Illinois, a city immortalized by Dan Akroyd and John Belushi in a movie called the Blues Brothers. Shortly after Lincoln and Davis settled their differences the Union moved a few miles north to nearby Naperville where Old Main was built when Northwestern College was established. The name apparently changed eventually to North Central to avoid confusion with Northwestern University on the shore of Lake Michigan.

The Sabin site shows the names of all of the school's graduates from 1860 until the turn of the century and has profiles of all of the early faculty members and administrators. Through 1877 the school conferred degrees on less than ten graduates each year and until the turn of the century fewer than twenty students graduated annually. One of the more interesting features of the school is that it was co-educational from its inception for both its faculty and students. The first president of the college, the Reverend Augustine Smith, had previously taught at Oberlin College in Ohio and was married to a woman, Elizabeth Cowles, whose family helped to establish that school in 1833.

One of the students at Northwestern College kept a diary during his student years. The transcription of it includes several entries with a short description in 1871 of the Great Chicago Fire, viewed from a distance of nearly thirty miles.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bloomer Advance

I came across a letter a few days ago concerning my great great grandfather that was published online at the end of May in the Bloomer Advance, an online edition of the community newspaper in Bloomer, Wisconsin, which is the nearest town to the Chippewa County homestead in Tilden where my great grandparents settled around 1880.

The letter was written by Vernon Kressin, whose wife, Lois, it seems, is a long lost cousin of mine. You can read his letter if you click on the link. It's only a few short paragraphs. I'm not sure exactly how I'm related to his wife, although my guess would be that she's the daughter of one of my grandfather's sisters. The letter reveals that Vernon and Lois actually visited my great great grandfather's grave at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis and that to date she is perhaps the only one of his descendants who has done so.

Vernon's letter mentions that my great great grandfather, William Lubach, fell ill with the flu while returning from the war, but that's not entirely accurate. He died and was buried on July 27th, 1865, while the rest of his unit was still stationed on the island of Brazos Santiago at the mouth of the Rio Grande, two months after the war had officially ended. His unit, the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, marched on Brownsville on the 1st of August that year. The rebels there surrendered a few days later and the unit was mustered out of service in Brownsville during the last week of August. My guess is that my great great grandfather fell ill in July and was evacuated to the hospital at Jefferson Barracks, which was reputedly the best military hospital in the western theatre at that time. An aunt recently sent me an e-mail which suggests that he died of yellow fever.

I'm not sure exactly when Vernon and Lois made their pilgrimage to St. Louis. I think it's nice that they did, but it seems to me that it's also an indication that my family back in Wisconsin knew about my great great grandfather's Civil War service. So why is that important?

I have two brothers and three male cousins. So there are six of us capable of passing my great great grandfather's surname along to a sixth generation since his arrival in America in 1856. One of my cousins is older than I am. My youngest brother is only 36. Among us we have sired three daughters and no sons.

I guess what I am wondering is why I had to learn about this situation by putting the pieces of the puzzle together on the internet instead of hearing the news directly from my extended family. My website has been up and running for a whole year now and Vernon's letter is the first published acknowledgement I have had from any of my relatives, by blood or by marriage, that I am on the right track.

If you click on the Obituary link on the Bloomer Advance site and run down the list, you might notice that Vernon's brother, Norbert, died about a month ago at the age of 82. I assume Vernon is roughly the same age as his brother. If you are reading this, Vernon, please accept my condolences on the loss of your brother. And thank you, God bless you, in fact, for spilling the beans after all these years.

Oh, and by the way, my wife and I are celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary today. Cheers.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Back Online

Home leave is over, so I can go back to blogging after a five week hiatus. I was able to get online a few times during my travels, but not long enough to put together a post. And I think it was good to get away from it for awhile, as it gave me a chance to gain some perspective and consider ways to both broaden and focus my appeal. My wife and I got together with family members and with quite a few friends in the U.S. who we rarely get to see. Even those experienced with using computers had a hard time comprehending the world of blogging.

People who read blogs are mostly people who also write them. I tend to write my posts to share information with people I already know who don't generally read blogs and in most cases don't even know what a blog is. Perhaps that will change over time, but I think I might get more response if I focus on the people who actually read my blog instead of those who I think might or should read it. Only one reader commented on my blog while I was away, but that comment was important as it came from the person who transcribed and posted online the cemetery that was the point of departure for both my webpage and my blog. I just wish her comment had included some indication of how she managed to find my blog.

I was also able to get an e-mail address and exchange e-mails with my Aunt Vera who lives in Chippewa Falls. She's eighty-eight years old and may have some recollections of some of the people buried in the Tilden cemetery along with my great grandparents. On the plane ride from Tokyo to Minneapolis I was able to translate three or four pages of the biography of my great great grandfather's commanding officer in the Civil War, the Poet-General Konrad Krez, which is a recent book, published in 1988, but written in fairly technical academic German. Sometimes plane travel can actually enhance concentration. And in Milwaukee I met my mother-in-law's next door neighbor, a retired music teacher who it turns out is also a Civil War and genealogy buff. He's good with computers and has an membership which he can use to access census records I would have to pay to see.

I tried to get in touch with Lance Hertigan, a writer who has published several books on the Civil War. He has been the director of the Civil War Institute at Carroll College which I visited in Milwaukee. But that visit wasn't real productive as the Institute is currently being merged with another museum in Pewaukee that will be expanded to serve both Milwaukee and Chicago. I was, however, able to meet another writer a few weeks later in Seattle, Andrew Ward, who told me that his next book, already in progress, will be about an incident from the Civil War.

I spent an afternoon at the Golda Meir Library at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Campus. I had an hour or two to look at a collection of letters exchanged between the Reverend Alonzo Miller and his wife during the Civil War while he was serving in my great great granfather's regiment, the 27th Wisconsin Infantry. I made photocopies of some of the letters, and I'll be able to read the parts that are easily legible. Much of the handwriting though is in faded ink and will require close perusal with a magnifying glass and two or three weeks of daily access to the originals to decipher. One thing I did learn is that the unit didn't march on Brownsville until several days after my great great grandfather died, so it's clear that he wasn't done in by the rigors of that march.

My home leave visit two years ago resulted in a terrific and unexpected breakthrough which provided enough information so that I felt a need to pull it all together on a webpage and to start my blog as a means to continually update my findings. Nothing on this trip really qualifies as a breakthrough in my book, but I did get a chance to check some things out and to consider different ways of moving forward on this project. I'm gaining some momentum, but it's a slow train coming.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

On The Road Again

Like a pair of gypsies we soar down the skyway. Home leave is not yet offically underway until next week as my wife has an annual meeting to attend, so we're stuck here in Hawaii on duty travel for a few days until I can get re-adjusted to driving between instead of astride the white lines, stopping at red lights, going on green and remembering that it's considered rude to enter a stream of traffic by nosing one's bumper into the path of an oncoming vehicle. The aforesaid maneuvers are all considered standard in Manila. There you can even drive the wrong way on one way streets or back up into the intersection where you had meant to turn. No harm, no foul.

The problem with home leave is that after twelve years overseas, home isn't really home anymore. It's just someplace where you used to live, a house that you still own that is occupied by tenants you've never met and probably won't; parents who, through time-lapse photography, keep getting two years older every time you see them; and friends from way back when whose toddlers, you remember, have now made their parents empty nesters . It's a full month of squeezing every one you once cared about, and always will, into molds that no longer quite fit. Catching up is more fun when it's serendipitous.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Nick of Time

Watching a movie on television is a little different when someone you know is in it. Last night I saw the suspense thriller 'Nick of Time' on television for the first time, not realizing until midway through that that's what it was. But by the end of the movie it became clear to me that this was the movie I had read about on the internet several years ago. I had googled it up because someone I knew was in it, an actress I met some twenty years ago, a gospel, jazz and blues vocalist who eventually won significant parts in a number of local stage productions in Seattle. I learned from the internet a few years ago that she spent much of the 90s in Los Angeles, getting bit parts in episodes of a dozen different television series and in two movies.

Her role in 'Nick of Time' was like most of her bit parts, one or two lines of dialogue and a handful of seconds or less actually on screen. It went by so fast that I wasn't able to spot her on the cable broadcast, so today I went to the video store and bought the VCD. Her line is "Here's your Jack and Coke, sir." She plays a cocktail waitress. She sets down a cocktail napkin, delivers her line and the drink, then taps her fingernail three times on the cocktail napkin. The hero, played by Johnny Depp, picks up his drink and notices, as a result of the fingertaps, a three word message written on the cocktail napkin. The information on the napkin is not just vital; it's crucial to the action and the outcome of the story. Depp's character is at a point of desperation, lapsing into despair, but the message alerts him to the fact that his plea for help has been heard and a plan is in the works that gives him hope and perhaps even a fighting chance to extricate himself from a dire situation. It's actually the turning point in the movie, the point at which his role in the movie subtly shifts from hapless victim to action hero.

Reviews for the movie when it was made ten years ago were disappointing considering the quality of the cast and the skill of the director. The story was deemed too improbable to justify ripping off Alfred Hitchcock's techniques for generating suspense. But reviews have steadily improved in recent years. Perhaps events since 9-11 have rendered a little less passe the sometimes hoky premises Hitchcock so famously and successfully exploited early on in the Cold War era.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Band of Brothers: The Lost Patrol

The news here in Manila over America's Memorial Day weekend is that two octogenarian veterans of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during WWII may finally be ready to surrender. The soldiers, Yoshio Yamakawa, 87, and Tszuzuki Nakauchi, 85, apparently decided to remain on the island of Mindanao and take their chances in the jungle rather than return to Japan when the rest of the Japanese forces withdrew in 1945. Both men have been officially dead in Japan since shortly after the war.

Stories on the men were carried by MSNBC, A.P. and Reuters and attracted enough worldwide attention to bring a large international press contingent and some government officials from Japan to the southernmost island in the Philippines, but while rumors about the men abound, according to a Manila Bulletin story, neither of them has yet made a public appearance. Some officials are even calling the story a hoax.

The last officially recognized Japanese soldier found serving in the Philippines, General Hiroo Onoda, returned to Japan in 1974 after his former commanding officer told him officially and in person that the war was over. A large contingent of Japanese soldiers had occupied Mindanao during WWII, but the province has always been problematic as it lies close to parts of both Malaysia and Indonesia and roughly half of its population is Muslim. The Spanish and American colonial governments of the Philippines never really established complete control over Mindanao and the province has remained a hotbed of unrest since the Philippines became independent in 1946. Communist and Muslim separatist groups both have active guerrilla insurgencies in the jungles where the Japanese veterans are alleged to live. Some people speculate that there may have been as many as forty undischarged Japanese veterans living in the province.

I mention it here because living memory of WWII is now on the verge of fading to black, just as living memory of the Civil War in America did during the decade leading up to WWII.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Brazos Santiago Revisited

One of the earliest posts on this blog concerns the outpost on the island of Brazos Santiago where I'm convinced that my great great grandfather was stationed when he fell ill. He was apparently sent from there across the Gulf of Mexico and up the Mississippi to the hospital at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis where he died and was buried among the Civil War casualties on July 27, 1865, shortly before Jefferson Barracks became a National Cemetery.

I mention it again here because a few days ago I found a website put together by a descendant of another soldier who was stationed on Brazos Santiago and managed to survive the war. If you scroll a little more than midway through Al Shelton's Family Album you can see a nicely reproduced photo that features the wife and family of Miles Whitehall, a former slave from North Carolina whose Colored Infantry regiment served much of the two years of his enlistment on Brazos Santiago. Al Shelton's web page indicates that Miles Whitehall was 33 years old in 1864 when he enlisted and his absence from the family album suggests that he was no longer alive in 1910. If he had lived that long he would have been 81 years old. His family apparently collected a monthly disability or death benefit as the result of "scurvy" that he suffered from during and presumably after his enlistment. Much of the information Al has about his family comes from the paperwork filed in order to collect that pension.

My great great grandfather, Wilhelm Lubach, didn't survive the war, but it appears that his brother-in-law, August Heise, did. They both served in the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Pension records for Civil War veterans in Sheboygan County in 1883 show that August Heise was collecting ten dollars a month in disability compensation for the "chronic diarrhea" that no doubt served as a reminder of his Civil War adventure nearly twenty years earlier.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Height and Depth of Everything

A little more than two years ago on a Google search I came across a cemetery near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, that had been transcribed and posted online. Virtually everything I have been able to discover about my father's family in those two years has now been posted on this blog or on my website and none of it would have been possible without the online transcription of the Tilden Emanuel Cemetery where my great grandparents are buried. That cemetery was my point of departure, the solid lead I needed to find more leads and to confirm or verify other possibilities.

The person who transcribed that cemetery, Katherine Haake, is thanked and credited on my website for her effort. I also wrote a personal e-mail thanking her and I received a fairly prompt reply from her. She told me I could thank her by passing it forward, doing something with the information she had provided that might in turn be useful or helpful to someone else. I hope my website qualifies.

I didn't think to ask her who she was or why she might have been inspired to transcribe and post the Tilden cemetery. But I am fairly certain that she is the same Katherine Haake who is mentioned in a Rain Taxi review article written in 2002. I've read the review, but I haven't yet read her book, The Height and Depth of Everything. I plan to have a copy of it waiting for me in Seattle when I visit home a little more than a month from now.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Me on my webcam. Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Row Row Row Your Boat

I haven't been getting enough comments on my blog lately, so I've decided to do something a little more interactive this week. Two years ago I found a site for a cemetery with a listing for someone I thought might be my great great grandfather. A little more than a year ago I was able to confirm that that listing was in fact my great great grandfather. Nearly all of the research I have done has involved information from sites I was able to locate and access via the internet.

Prior to finding these digital records of my ancestors I knew who my grandparents were, but I had only the vaguest idea who their parents or grandparents were and I had very litle interest in learning anything more about them. Despite the alleged popularity of online genealogy, I suspect that most people don't really spend much time thinking about who their ancestors were and what they did or didn't do while they were alive here on planet earth.

So I've got a proposition to make. If you know the name of one of your great great grandparents and can tell me where exactly they are buried, leave a comment and let me know. It's alright, you can tell me. I won't go to the cemetery and dig them up. But if you have a blog I will visit your blog and add your blog to my blogroll.

If you don't know the names of any of your grandparents' ancestors and haven't a clue where they might have been buried, you can still leave a comment. Tell me why you think it is that you don't know. Was that information deliberately withheld from you? Were your parents or grandparents careless, inconsiderate or absent-minded? Or is there some other reason they might not have been able to pass that information along to you. Please let me know. If you do, I promise, I'll visit your blog and leave a comment on your current post.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Is Blogging A Liberal Art?

I once had a Greek landlord, a few decades ago, one who had a penchant for suing people. His litigiousness, in fact, knew few if any bounds. He never sued me because I was usually far enough in arrears on my rent as to be useful on an ongoing basis as an unremunerated property manager, occasional paper server and blue moon propagandist. My extended exposure to the liberal arts had revived feudal notions of noblesse oblige that added value to my worth as a mere tenant.

One of the parties sued during my vassalage was a law firm, whose fee for a suit my landlord won was more than twice the amount of the settlement. He lost the suit against the law firm that had represented him, but appealed the ruling to the state supreme court and won, claiming that the state's consumer protection act could and should be applied to the practice of the state's legal profession.

I mention the suit here because the case established a legal precedent and I'm inclined to wonder if the basis on which it was argued might not have some implications for bloggers to the extent that blogging may be construed as a "liberal art or learned profession". The state supreme court asserted exemption from consumer protection provisions on the basis of the federal Sherman Anti-Trust Act as a "learned profession" with the prerogative of establishing and maintaining standards and discipline for its own practitioners, but it held that certain aspects of legal practice, particularly advertising, consist in the sale of services that do constitute "trade or commerce" and may require consumer protection when issues of "public interest" are at stake.

I'm certainly no lawyer, but as bloggers everyday are becoming more and more viable in purveying information that does impact the public interest and, to the extent that it is consumed by the public, one must wonder, do consumer protection rules apply and do those bloggers fortunate enough to make blogging their livelihood need Sherman Anti-Trust protections if consumers can demonstrate they've been misled?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

News From The Front

This summer I'll be visiting the U.S. again, and the trip, as usual in odd-numbered years, will include a few days in Milwaukee to see my mother-in-law. I'm looking forward to it. Seeing my mother-in-law again is, of course, always a joy. She's 84 now and still gets around pretty well, but the reason I'm really excited is that about a year ago I googled up an item on the net that I've been wanting to have a look at, just to see what I can see. We're talking documents here that are even older than my mother-in-law.

My great great grandfather served in the Civil War with the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He didn't make it back from the war and by the time my great grandfather died in 1897, nearly all living memory of my great great grandfather had vanished into the mists of time. Twenty years ago a collection of letters, written before, during and after the Civil War, were donated to the library at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. A minister's wife in Sheboygan, named Mary Abbott Miller, apparently carried on a lively correspondence during the war with both her husband, the Reverend Alonzo Miller, and her brother, Martin Abbott.

Alonzo Miller served in Company B of the 27th along with my great great grandfather, who served in Company F. They enlisted at the same time and would have gone through training together at Camp Randall in the last months of 1864 and joined up with the regiment in Little Rock, Arkansas in the first few months of 1865. They would have traveled together from Little Rock to New Orleans and from New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama and taken part in the sieges of Fort Blakeley and Spanish Fort in April and gone from there in June to the supply depot at Brazos Santiago at the mouth of the Rio Grande where they marched on and captured Brownsville in July and August. There probably won't be any specific mention of my great great grandfather's tragic demise in late July that year. But then again, there might be. Who knows?

The wartime correspondence between Mary Miller and her brother, Martin Abbott, should also be fairly fascinating. Martin Abbott signed on early in the war with the 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. It was essentially an all German unit and one of the first regiments organized in Wisconsin. They took part in the battles at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg in a division commanded by Carl Shurz, a German immigrant regarded by Mark Twain as one of the truly great Americans of the 19th century. The unit also took part in the battle at Lookout Mountain and ended the war under Sherman in the capture of Atlanta and his famous march to the sea. Schurz had close ties to Lincoln, so the 26th had a high profile and was often embroiled in controversy.

Mainly I'm hoping that the wartime letters will provide me with some new leads for researching the first decade my immigrant ancestors spent in America. I'll let you know how it goes when I've got the goods.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Big Town

I didn't find time to surf member blogs on Blog Explosion this weekend so nearly all of the visitors to my blog the past two days have been the result of people hunting up terms on search engines like Yahoo and Google. One visitor who Googled in was searching the terms "Wawasee+country+kennel". I can't imagine what they were looking for, but my blog was the fifth listing on the first page of their search. I mentioned Lake Wawasee a few weeks ago in a post about South Bend, the town in Indiana where my mother was born and raised.

The fourth listing on that search was headed 'The Big Town'. It's either a long story or a short book by Ring Lardner. The subtitle, "How I and the Mrs. go to New York to see life and get Katie a husband," tells what the story is about. Katie is the younger sister of the Mrs. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but from what I've seen so far it doesn't seem fictional enough to be a novel and there's too much story in it to call it an essay. It's mostly just Ring Lardner being Ring Lardner.

What I hadn't realized is that Lardner was born and raised in Niles, Michigan, a few short miles north of South Bend, just across the Michigan state line. He actually began his career as a journalist on a paper in South Bend and if 'The Big Town' is as autobiographical as it seems to be, then the resort on Lake Wawasee where my mother worked summers in high school as a lifeguard, not far from where my grandfather was born, was a favorite haunt of Ring Lardner's in the early days of Prohibition.

I'm not sure yet if F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were actually part of the life he and the Mrs. saw on their trip to the big town. The leaders of The Lost Generation were still youngsters then, in their early twenties, but I understand both of them did acknowledge reading and being influenced by Lardner early on in their careers.

Lardner is often quoted on the subject of genealogy for having said that "the family you come from isn't as important as the family you're going to have." Some people think that Ring Lardner Jr. was a good illustration of that principle. He wasn't quite as famous, but he sure lived a lot longer than Hemingway and Fitzgerald. His one-liner to the HUAC during the Hollywood witchhunts, "if I did, I'd hate myself in the morning," earned him two years in prison and ten years on the blacklist, but it also brought down the House.

I don't have any kids, but if I did I think I'd recommend that they read Lardner's book I do have a niece and later this year she'll be going off to school in The Big Town.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

On The Blink

I have two television sets. One of them is on the blink. It has been that way for about six months. It's a Sharp 14" Multi-System that we bought about ten years ago and we only use it now on those rare occasions when there are two worthwhile things on television at the same time. We keep it in the bedroom and pay for a second cable connection, so I figure it might as well be hooked to a television that works.

The Master's, live from Augusta, Georgia, will no doubt be aired here in the Philippines a week from now and, golf nut that I am, I'll want to watch every minute of it. The live coverage will air between midnight and six a.m., but the replays from the previous day's rounds will be shown in primetime. So last week I went to the appliance store at the mall, found a salesperson where the new Sharp flat-screen models are on display and obtained a telephone number for the Sharp repair center. They have telephone books here in the Philippines, very thick ones, but they're utterly useless.

The technician came out to look at the set wearing a blue nylon jacket that was three sizes too big. It did say Sharp on the back which was reassuring. Yes, here in Manila television repairmen do indeed make house calls. He opened it up and pulled out three big circuit boards and went to work with his makeshift voltmeter, testing the solid-state circuitry. He spent most of his time cleaning and re-soldering some of the dodgier connections. After about half an hour he came up with his diagnosis. Two parts, he said, IC unit, capacitor. I had tried earlier without success to establish some dialogue, but until that point he hadn't uttered a word. And that was when it occurred to me that my tech's grasp of English was limited almost entirely to the jargon of solid-state technology and kitchen electronics. Tagalog does not contain words for these things, so there is no point in translating the technical manuals. How in the hell did he learn this stuff?

Tomorrow he'll return with the parts and fix it in about five minutes. A week from now my wife can sit on the couch in front of the Trinitron in the living room and watch dramas on the Hallmark channel while I try to follow the flight of Tiger's tee shots on that little fourteen inch screen in the bedroom. I paid the tech his 250 pesos, the front end of his housecall fee. In American money that's less than five bucks. He'll collect the other half when the set is working again.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Black Duck

I only met my Great Uncle Leonard once that I can recall. He was married to my grandmother's younger sister, Aunt Ethel. My father's mother died the year I was born so I never met my grandmother. And by then my grandfather had been dead for twenty years. He had been an Evangelical minister in lower Wisconsin during the Prohibition era. His parishes were in several small towns in south central Wisconsin, towns like Lomira, Jefferson and Juda, Wisconsin, where my father was born. My grandfather wrote his sermons in German and delivered them twice, first in German then in English.

My grandmother was raised in a small town called New Richmond, near the stateline between Wisconsin and Minnesota. I'm not sure where Aunt Ethel met Leonard, but I suspect that the fact that my grandfather was a minister had an influence on Leonard's career choice. He had driven a truck for my grandmother's brother, Aaron, during the Prohibition era. Leonard was German, of course, a Markwitz, so it would have seemed natural for him to hook up with German Evangelicals like my grandfather, but for some reason Leonard decided he would rather be a Presbyterian minister. I'm not sure I've ever heard of any other German Presbyterians.

When I met Uncle Leonard about forty years ago he was recently retired. He'd been serving the church in a small town in Arizona where they lived then and he and his wife were touring the west coast to see some things while they could still get around well enough to visit their various relatives and in-laws. They visited my Uncle Roy and his family in Moses Lake and then crossed the mountains with Roy and his wife in tow to visit us in western Washington. Uncle Roy owned a Mayflower moving van then and our family was seriously contemplating a major move from Washington to the Texas gulf coast.

I learned then that Uncle Leonard had spent much of his ministerial career with my grandmother's sister in a small town in upstate Minnesota called Black Duck. I hadn't thought about my Uncle Leonard for quite awhile, but last week when I heard on the news about the shooting on the Indian reservation at Red Lake High School, he came to mind. I ran a Google search on Black Duck and sure enough, it's about fifteen miles southeast of Red Lake. I imagine it's the sort of place where families from the Twin Cities like to go for a weekend or maybe even a week or two or a month during the summer to rent a cabin for some fishing on Black Duck Lake. Red Lake is a much bigger lake and quite close by, but all of the lakeshore on that end is on the reservation. Black Duck is as close as you can get to the reservation without being on it.

Readers who have visited my homepage know that my father's family settled near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, not far from the Minnesota border about ten years after the American Civil War. They were Germans from the area around Berlin who came to America shortly after the failed 1848 Revolution. Some people view German participation in the American Civil War as an attempt to realize the aims of the 1848 Revolution in America. If that Revolution had succeeded, Germany would have been established as a nation-state operating on the principles laid out in the Communist Manifesto, written specifically for that purpose in 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. But events unfolded a little differently so that Germany didn't became a nation-state until two decades later under Bismarck. The ideology Marx developed for Germany went east and finally took hold in Russia early in the 20th century.

Now when I heard on CNN about a teen-age Chippewa Indian with a German surname shooting his grandparents and going on a rampage at his high school ala Columbine before killing himself, I was in the process of writing my previous post. In fact, I mentioned it in that post as it fit right in with the train of thought I had meant to pursue. I gather that the boy who did the shooting got his German surname, Weise, from his mother who was injured in an automobile accident that happened a year or two after the boy's father, who had a French surname, Lussier, committed suicide following some kind of stand-off related to his duties as a law officer on the reservation.

I have not heard any reports indicating if the boy's mother is white or part-Indian or why the boy had his mother's surname and not his father's. If, as it seems, the couple had planned to raise their son in the Twin Cities, an Indian with a German surname might have been thought to sound a little more mainstream among all of the countless German surnames in downstate Minnesota. I suspect, however, that a German surname may have proved less advantageous when circumstances placed him under his grandfather's care in school on the Red Lake reservation.

Be that as it may, the boy acted out his darkest fantasy, committing suicide but not before taking with him a number of people he perhaps viewed as contributers to his state of torment. He needed help and didn't get it. None of his victims deserved to be the object of his wrath. The anguish and the grief of their families and friends must surely be unbearable. The community has become the focus of unwanted national and international attention for an incident that doesn't reflect what that community is about anymore or less than the incident at Columbine, which happened in the prosperous white middle-class suburb of Littleton, Colorado.

Much has been made of the shooter's 'Goth' getup and posts he placed on neo-Nazi websites where he vented some of his distresss and attempted to express the feelings of alienation he experienced. What is sad is that even with the powerful tool of the internet at his disposal he wasn't able to establish any real sense of connection with the outside world and to find enough glimmers of hope to overcome his sense of alienation.

I figure that through my mother I'm roughly about three per cent native American by volume, but so far I still can't prove it. Her family never acknowledged the fact that we have Indian blood, although my mother was quite certain of it. I am still hopeful that some day I will find proof. I'm fifty years old at this point and still trying to come to terms with what it means to have a German surname in America. That's what my blog is about and I do it hoping to overcome some of the same kind of alienation Jeff Weise was dealing with, but at a much more manageable level of intensity.

How is a Chippewa Indian teenager supposed to sort out his German heritage when German-Americans, the mainstream of American culture, have gone to such great lengths to subsume their ethnic identity into the myth of the American melting pot so that all that remains is a few pretzels and polka bands at one end and neo-Nazi skinheads at the other? Aren't Christmas trees a German tradition? Halloween? Walpurgisnacht? And all those fairy tales by the brothers Grimm? America's holiday calendar is laced with German paganism. Even the English language itself is predominantly Anglo-Saxon which is essentially a bastardized low German. The Germanic tribes that invaded Europe three thousand years ago and brought the Roman Empire to its knees also invaded North America. The Spaniards wanted gold, the French came for fur and the English found their contentment in tobacco, but the Germans, they wanted land.

When you look at American history from the perspective of the Native Americans, you find that the Indians, despite being almost constantly at war, managed fairly well for a century and a half, negotiating their differences and conducting trade with representatives of the French, English and Spanish crowns. Germans who came to America in the 18th century, however, were a bit unwieldy. Those who settled in Pennsylvania had to anglicize their names and swear allegiance to the governor of the colony and to the British or in the case of Penn the Dutch crown, but because they spoke German and generally lived on the frontier among the outlaws and the Indians, they played by a different set of rules. They didn't come to America to make a quick fortune so they could go back to England and take a seat in the House of Lords. They came to stay, permanently. And they kept coming until there were enough on hand so that the colonial rebels could field an army, one substantial enough to send the Redcoats running, all the way to the Straits of Molucca.

My dad tells me he went to Black Duck once on a bus when he was ten years old. That would have been 1937, shortly before Hitler invaded Poland. He went there with his mother to tell Uncle Leonard about her plans to manage a motel down in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She planned to go with my dad and her brother, Aaron, who wanted to start a trucking company there. They needed to know if Uncle Leonard could take a few weeks from his busy schedule as a Presbyterian to drive them down to Pascagoula in his truck.

The first moving picture my father ever saw was a Shirley Temple movie. The second one was the classic 'Gone With The Wind'. Both were movies that he saw in Mobile, Alabama, with his mother and his uncle during the two years they spent in Pascagoula. Strangely enough, he didn't learn that his great grandfather died in the Civil War and took part in the siege of Mobile until I told him about it within the past year. People in the south remember the Civil War like it happened the day before yesterday. By the time Grant got elected, Germans from up north had already learned that for them it was better to try and forget that the Civil War had ever happened.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Wabash and Erie

Some readers may have noticed that not all of the sites listed on my Blogroll are actually blogs. A few are websites that I think are particularly worthwhile and might be of interest to people who aren't totally bored by the things I write about. Lately I've been checking out my mother's family tree, also known as the 'Descendants of George Steele', and trying to make some sense of the massive amount of information it contains.

When you have a relatively large family tree, some 20,000 individual names grouped among more than a thousand different surnames, one way to make sense of it is to look at the surnames on the list with the most entries. More than 800 entries are found on my tree with the Steele surname. After Steele, the surnames that occur most frequently are Conner, Hoover, Puderbaugh and Studebaker. While I am a distant relative of both Herbert Hoover and John Studebaker, the relation is distant enough so that neither of them are among the descendants of my great great great great great grandfather, George Steele.

I had not been aware of a relation to anyone named Conner until I examined the tree in this way. And I didn't know of anyone with the name Conner who was in any way famous. But that changed abruptly when I Googled up the name Conner a few weeks ago. I found a site called Conner Prairie - History Online which is now listed on my sidebar. The site has a tremendous amount of information on the early history of Indiana and the role William Conner played in it. I have no doubt that I am related to William Conner, but I can't say how exactly on the basis of my family tree alone. One thing that is clear, though, is that without William Conner, the Hoovers wouldn't have reached Iowa where Herbert was born and John Studebaker would have had to build cars in Pennsylvania instead of Indiana.

William Conner was quite directly involved in the process of removing Indians from Ohio and Indiana to reservations farther west so that pioneers pushing west from the eastern seaboard could settle in those states and beyond. He did so by raising two families, the first by his Indian wife and the second by a white woman who he married after his first family had been removed to the reservation. The article on William Conner is a must for anyone interested in knowing how the west was really won. Other articles on that site I find fascinating are those on the building of the National Road from Wheeling, West Virginia nearly to the Mississippi and a series of articles on the other half of the Erie Canal known as the Wabash and Erie, which opened vast tracts of densely forested land to settlement along the Wabash River between Fort Wayne and Lafayette. Those were America's first great public works projects and they aren't often mentioned these days because they are so closely associated with the process of Indian removal.

Another site I've added to my sidebar is the 'wea-indian-tribe', a site put together by Brenda Lindley with amazingly detailed recollections of American history and genealogy passed down by oral tradition among the tribes that were removed from Ohio and Indiana.

I suppose what I'm offering is just a little something to think about when the news media starts to square the events at Columbine High School in Colorado a few years ago with a more recent incident on a reservation in upstate Minnesota.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Yankee Doodle Dandy

My mother was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. Her family had lived there since the Civil War, but they also had holdings downstate in Fulton County between the Wabash and the Tippecanoe where my grandfather was born. While not rich by any means, her family had been reasonably prosperous until the Great Depression, which began before my mother reached school age. All four of my grandparents were college graduates, as were both of my parents.

I've been to Indiana several times, but only twice that I remember. We went there on family summer vacations when I was six for about a week and again when I was thirteen to visit my grandparents and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws, but I haven't been back since. The last time I was there was almost forty years ago. My grandparents had a house in South Bend where my grandmother had run a nursery school for many years, on a street lined with elm trees that led directly to the golden dome at Notre Dame. They also had a cottage out in the country at Lake Wawasee where we went fishing with grandpa and waterskiing with my uncle. We also pulled mussels out of the creek, ate watermelons, shot B-B guns with my cousins up at the gravel pit and went swimming at the old hotel where my mother had worked summers as a lifeguard years earlier.

My grandparents came to visit us a number of times, once or twice while we were still in Kansas and several times in the '60s in western Washington. One of those visits was shortly after my grandfather died and that's when my grandmother told me about Welfley's Steele family genealogy. But I had never actually seen the family tree until just a few years ago when I found it online. The link to it is on my sidebar. If you'd like to have a look you can pull it up, but you have to fill in a few blanks to see it. Just type Steele on the surname line, George on the first name line, Bedford County PA for place of death and 1801 for year of death. Hit search and a page will come up. Scroll down to the George Steele posted by PA State Genealogy and click enter.

When I was nine years old we lived out in the country in the Skagit Valley, a mile or two from a mental hospital where my father worked as a project administrator. The nearest road was a quarter of a mile away, but shortly after we moved in my mother thought she saw someone peeking in a window at her through the curtains one evening. Probably just a harmless Peeping Tom, but my folks decided it was time to get a watchdog. So we went shopping for a German shepherd. We found one through a local dog breeder, a six-week old pup that we named Schar von Regental. My father claimed it meant Star of Rain Valley, but my New Cassell's tells me now that Schar was probably short for 'der Scharwaechter', which is German for sentry. Scharr with a double r means scratcher or scraper, which was aptly descriptive as our fierce guard dog would urinate and scratch furiously at the screen door anytime a visitor approached. But selecting a name was important as she was a pedigreed pooch, a direct descendant of Rinty von Rin Tin Tin, and the purchase price from the kennel was contingent on obtaining a pedigree and making her available for breeding at the kennel's request. Schar developed hip displasia, a genetic defect common in overbred shepherds and had to be destroyed. We exchanged her at six months for another pup from the same litter. The story I was told was that she'd chased after a bear one day and never returned. All I remember now is how fascinated I was by the extent of her very detailed pedigree.

I've never been to Ohio or to Pennsylvania. In fact, I haven't been to any of the states east of Michigan and north of Virginia. But I've been to all the rest except for Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee. I flew over Ohio on a flight from Detroit to Atlanta three years ago, less than a month after 9-11. I drove from Georgia through both the Carolinas to Virginia and back on that trip. All the pick-up trucks on the highway still had shotguns mounted in their cab windows, but they were flying Old Glory instead of the Southern Cross. I visited the monument at Stone Mountain, a place that I've since learned was where someone wounded in battle one hundred and forty years ago may have been my great great grandmother's brother. Union sacrifices, though, aren't usually associated with Atlanta. For those you have to go to Pennsylvania.

I spent some time today looking at Pennsylvania. But I wasn't looking at Gettysburg or even at the Civil War. When you aren't from the east coast and haven't ever been there, the battlefields of the American Revolution seem pretty remote. You learn in school about the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Bunker Hill, "one if by land and two if by sea" and "don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes", but when you come from the western U.S. the landscape and the timeframe of the revolution is all just a blur. At least it is until you start looking at the pedigree and realize that one of those ancestors may have fought in one of those countless battles in one of those obscure places that can't be found anymore because the landscape has been so drastically altered over the past 230 years and the names of all the places have been bent, twisted, stretched and mangled into so many other times and places that it is all just a hopeless tangle. But then perhaps it's not all that hopeless after all. Nowadays we have computers.

My pedigree, 'The Descendants of George Steele', says quite plainly, "George served as a private under Captain Charles Maclay in the 1st Battalion of Cumberland County, Pennylvania Militia during the Revolutionary period." Nothing beyond that or at least not much. But how much more do you need with a computer at your fingertips. Who was Captain Charles Maclay? Google him up. His brother, William, was the first U.S. senator ever elected from the state of Pennsylvania. His other brother, Samuel, was also a senator. Charles didn't get involved in politics because he got killed along with many of the men in his company at the Battle of the Crooked Billet, fought near Hatboro, Pennsylvania, on May 1, 1778, about halfway between Philadelphia, then occupied by General Howe's Hessian mercenaries and his British regulars, and Valley Forge, where General Washington and his troops were recovering from a long, hard, cold winter by doing close order drills under the the expert tutelage of our new 'Old Europe' allies, the Marquis de Lafayette of France and the Baron von Steuben of Prussia.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

On A Roll

Last week I threatened all of my reader(s?) with the possibility that I might start rolling my blog. Picture me rolling a tire down an empty highway on my way to repair and/or replace a tire that has left my vehicle stranded miles from nowhere along the shoulder of the road. This, in fact, was the second time I have leveled this threat, so lest readers start to suspect that I am all bluff and no bite, I made an effort to follow through. Pasting the code onto my template took a dozen tries before I met with even limited success and I still haven't figured out how to give it a proper heading with 'Blogroll' written out in that snazzy Verdana cursive script as I had wanted to do, but at least it's functioning. Hubcaps are overrated. The links are there and they work.

Some of the links are to bloggers who have posted comments on my blog. Others are to blogs on which I've been known to leave comments. Several links are resources I visit frequently and make use of as a mine for materials to fashion posts for my blog. A few are sites that inspired me to begin writing my blog or have contributed in some way to the shape it has taken.

Last week I began looking at the family tree on which I am listed only as 'Living Lubach'. My mother's brother, John Steele, was the last in my branch of the Steele tree to carry the Steele surname. He was the seventh generation in the Steele line to carry that name, directly descended from George Steele, colonial era immigrant and Son of Liberty . An English teacher at a military academy, my uncle was an only son's only son, who never married and suffered the progressively debilitating effects of MS throughout the latter half of his life. A church organist for many years and a chaplain's aide on a supply ship in the navy during WWII, his middle name, Richard, became my youngest brother's middle name. Needless to say, the past half century has not boded well for American males whose chief inheritance is an incumbent, unspoken onus to find a way to preserve the family line.

Families now are much smaller than they were a century ago when most Americans were farmers and farmwork was nearly always a viable option. A family then couldn't have enough sons to handle all the chores. Fathers who were still alive and able to work productively at age 50 were not yet the norm, so oldest sons often owned or had primary responsibility for the family homestead by the time they were old enough to need a spouse. Creating possibilities and opportunities for younger siblings was part and parcel of managing the farm.

Family trees are inherently conservative and thus able to nurture the excesses of liberalism. They are an engine for maintaining a sense of continuity between the past and the future by means of the present. My mother's line has dead-ended and my branch of my father's line faces extinction as well, though both names through other lines will continue well into the future. No matter how much I might like to think that the collective gene pool needs what I could contribute, the fact is the gene pool will get along just fine without my seed. But I feel as though one thing I do have to offer the future is a sense of history. It may be that my sense of history, and its capacity for embracing diversity, is enough at odds with the official version to have compromised my willingness to make my genes available for future use.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Puterblaugh or Bloggerbaugh?

I've been blogging for nearly six months now. Generally I've maintained my focus on online genealogy and the Civil War and so far I haven't generated much of a following, despite the fact that after pornography, music downloads and, more recently, blogging, those subjects are among the most popular uses for the internet.

So far only one other blog has bothered to list my blog on their blogroll. It's occurred to me that the reason for that may be that I haven't gotten around to putting a blogroll on my blog, something which probably tends to discourage reciprocation. Today I signed up with and I now have the 'code' to modify my 'template' for blogrolling, but I still don't have a clue where exactly I should paste it and I'm worried that if I paste it in the wrong spot I'll permanently deform my glorious blog, so I'm waiting patiently for the e-mail with expert assistance from Blogspot support.

I mentioned in last week's post that my maternal grandfather was born in Akron, Ohio. On closer inspection of the family tree I've discovered that he was actually born in Akron, Indiana, a small village a little north and mostly east, ten or fifteen miles up the Tippecanoe, from Logansport. Until today I hadn't realized Indiana has an Akron and the entry I had seen just said Akron, so I had assumed it meant Ohio as my grandfather's family came to Indiana from Pennsylvania by way of Ohio. They lived in Coshocton County in Ohio for about three decades before moving farther west to Indiana. But Coshocton is more than a hundred miles from Akron, Ohio, so it occurred to me to check. Sure enough, Indiana has its own Akron and that's where he was born.

Writing about my father's line is fairly easy because there are a quite limited number of facts that I've been able to establish and build upon. My mother's line is actually much more challenging as the family tree was put together originally in 1909 by a fellow named William Welfley and published as a book called the 'Descendants of George Steele'. Welfley was deaf during his later years and I suspect that may have helped his concentration. I don't have a copy of the book itself, but sometimes I'm able to access it online. It's hosted by Pennsylvania State Genealogy, which I assume is the university, but when I link to it the links often go dead. The site seems to be in a sort of twilight zone between Rootsweb, a project that tries to make genealogical information freely available to the public online, and which is a private paysite that likes people who subscribe in order to get access.

Welfley's book was published in 1909, just as the Studebaker Company was successfully making the transition from producing horse-drawn wagons to producing automobiles. It was the only American company to make that transition. The genealogy has more than 20,000 entries, including more than 800 people with the Steele surname. Nearly 300 Studebakers are on the tree. The only other surnames with more than 200 entries are Hoover, Conner and Puderbaugh, a name which is sometimes rendered as Butterbaugh.

The problem for me, as a strictly amateur genealogist, lies in trying to reconcile such a glut of information. I haven't really looked at it carefully for the past two years as I've been working more on my father's line. I like to think that progress I've made on that line and things I've learned about drawing inferences will enable me to make more sense of all of the information on my mother's line.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Not Quite White

The Negro, who earnestly desires to mingle his race with that of the European, cannot do so; while the Indian, who might succeed to a certain extent, disdains to make the attempt. The servility of the one dooms him to slavery, the pride of the other to death.

Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America

My mother's family had been in America for a hundred years when my father's family arrived. George Steele (Johannes Georg Staehl), my great great great great great grandfather, got off the boat in Philadelphia in 1754 as a young man in his early twenties. He came on a ship called the Friendship with 120 other young men who had German names. They were all described as French Protestants. France had recently annexed a German border area they called Franconia and young men who spoke German there were apparently considered a liability. They arrived just in time for the French and Indian War, although it's not clear what part, if any, they took in it.

Twenty years later, during the American Revolution, George fought for independence. Family lore has it that he was promised a homestead in the Northwest Territory as compensation for his efforts, somewhere in a place called Indiana. They called it that because that's who lived there then. While waiting for the tenants of their new abode to vacate the premises, they settled in Bedford County in Pennsylvania which was about as far west as you could go then without getting your insurance cancelled. George died in 1801.

George had a son named Phillip who was born in about 1756. He was reputedly a wagonmaker. He and his wife Susannah were still in Bedford PA when their son, Elias, was born in 1811. That was the year that the War of 1812 was fought, at least the part of it that was fought in Indiana. That part came right after the part that was fought in Illinois. Apparently there was a fort near the southern tip of Lake Michigan called Fort Dearborn and some intrepid settlers had decided to build a little town around it. But they forgot to obtain a building permit with a valid fire inspection sticker attached and duly stamped. When they learned that their dwellings posed a serious fire hazard the settlers agreed to go to Fort Detroit to get their paperwork properly notarized, but somehow the guide they hired to lead them to Detroit got lost and they never arrived. Apparently there was another fort they should have gone to in Indiana that was much closer than the one in Detroit. And that's when Benjamin Harrison decided to check the fort in Indiana to see if the settlers might have gone there instead. But when he got there the fort with the funny French name he was looking for had been turned into a religious theme park called Prophetstown and it was unmistakably clear that the Indians running the place, some Potawatomi, some Shawnee, some Miami, some Cherokee and even a few Kickapoos, were selling liquor without a license. So he butchered every last one of them except for the ones that hightailed it off into the woods. It took a few months before news of all this reached Washington D.C., but when it did, the shit really hit the fan.

Eventually the folks in D.C. got things sorted out with Britain and France and a few years later Phillip and Susannah and their son, Elias, and the rest of the kids put all of their stuff on a wagon that Phillip had built and they hauled it over to Pittsburgh, put it on a raft and poled their way down the Ohio River. It wasn't the choice bit in Indiana that the Continental Congress had promised to Grandpa George, but at least they were across the river and in the Old Northwest, although by this time Ohio, Indiana and Illinois had all been declared states even though nobody lived there yet. They moved to a place that didn't even have a name so at first they called it New Bedford, but now they call it Akron, Ohio, the place where the rubber meets the road.

The family seems to have done some traveling back and forth between New Bedford in Ohio and their family and friends still back at Old Bedford in Pennsylvania, and they also seem to have made a few trips out west to look around and try to locate Grandpa's land. But it wasn't until 1861 when Elias finally pulled up stakes at the age of 50 and settled in South Bend, Indiana, with his wife Elizabeth and their five sons and who knows how many daughters. It was a good time to move to South Bend. One of their cousins had moved there a few years earlier, a blacksmith named John Studebaker. The Studebaker family had been making Conestoga wagons during the 50s and shipping them by boat down to St. Louis for people going west to California on the Oregon Trail. But it turns out that that was small potatoes because in 1861 they landed a government contract to make wagons for the Union army.

Elias settled his family in Liberty Township in South Bend that year. His oldest son signed up to fight for the Union army and it seems he was taken prisoner and died at Andersonville. The second son, Michael Steele, was my great great grandfather. One account I've seen refers to him as the family teamster which would seem to suggest that his work involved wagons in one way or another. He married a girl named Charlotte Stradley, who was born in Liberty Township in 1844. South Bend was a pretty small settlement up until 1840. Before that most of the people living there were either Catholic priests or Potawatomi Indians. The Treaty of Chicago was signed in 1833 and the terms of that agreement were that the Potawatomi would move within five years to a reservation next to the Shawnees just north and east of Topeka, Kansas. In 1838 there were still nearly a thousand Potawatomi living between the Tippecanoe and the Wabash rivers. They were rounded up at gunpoint in 1838 and marched nearly a thousand miles on foot across the plains of Illinois and Iowa to their new home on the reservation, an event still remembered as the Trail of Death.

I don't know much about Charlotte Stradley. I suppose she might have been part or even all Potawatomi. There were a few white settlers there before 1840 who were tolerated because they had married into the tribe. Michael and Charlotte Steele had a son named Ira Steele who was born in North Liberty in 1874. He married a woman named Laura Price who was born there in 1876. I've seen pictures of Laura Price, my great grandmother. My guess, based on her picture, would be that she was at least half Potawatomi. She died in 1916 at the age of forty. Ira lived until 1932. My grandfather was born in 1899 in Akron, so at the turn of the century it seems they were still in contact with family back in Coshocton County in Ohio and probably with family back in Bedford County in Pennsylvania as well. Ira and Laura had quite a few relatives in South Bend, but they also had a farm down on the Wabash River near Logansport, just a few short miles up the river from Prophetstown.

I was born in Lawrence, Kansas, on the same date as the signing of the Treaty of Chicago 120 years earlier. The kid in the incubator next to mine was a full-blooded Shawnee Indian. My mother used to call me Chief Hiawatha because she was never quite sure if she'd brought home the right kid.