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.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Sex and the Single Girl?

I've found more information about the Godeffroy family and their shipping dynasty. It's relevant to me not only because I lived in the South Pacific for nearly a decade, but also because finding the ship on which my ancestors crossed the Atlantic to America may require learning a bit more about international shipping in the middle of the 19th century. I've included a link to a chapter from a book I found online called 'War and the Private Investor', written in 1935 by a University of Chicago political economist named Eugene Staley.

Staley's book seems to have carried a fair amount of clout until quite recently when it was apparently superceded by disciples of one of Staley's distinguished University of Chicago colleagues. Chapter 5 presents Samoa as a case study in the dynamics of investment and diplomacy, but it also provides a nice thumbnail sketch of the J. C. Godeffroy & Sons shipping empire which endured for more than a century from 1755 until 1880. The Godeffroy's were Huguenots who left southern France before the end of the 17th century and eventually resettled in Hamburg. Longfellow fans will recognize 1755 as the year in which the Huguenot colony in Nova Scotia was uprooted and scattered to the winds. Investing in ships then was undoubtedly a practical expedient.

Two weeks ago I mentioned finding what looks to be a Huguenot named Toussaint in the 1910 U.S. Census for upstate Wisconsin, a young woman who seems to have served as a caretaker for a geriatric friend of my great great grandfather. She spoke German, not English. She was born in 1884, the same age as my grandfather. She arrived in Wisconsin in 1909, the same year my grandfather went away to seminary in Illinois. The old man she looked after, Ludwig Meyer, died in 1915, the same year my grandfather was ordained.

The most famous Toussaint in the history books was the Founding Father of the Republic of Haiti, the first former colony in the Americas to follow the trail blazed by the United States in its quest for independence.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Freiheitskaempfer und Dichter

I mention on my webpage that my great great grandfather's unit in the Civil War, the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, was commanded by a German immigrant, Colonel Conrad Krez. In addition to being a colonel (and during the siege of Mobile a brevet brigadier general), Krez was also a well established lawyer and a fairly renowned poet. He was described by Wolfgang Diehl, his most recent biographer, as a "freiheitskaempfer" or freedom fighter, as well, mostly on account of his participation in the failed 1848 Revolution and for inciting a war between Prussia and Denmark over Schleswig Holstein, which resulted in his imprisonment, exile and emigration to America in 1851.

Diehl's biography of Krez was published in 1988, just as a former host of the television series 'Death Valley Days' was exhorting the then leader of the now defunct "evil empire" to "tear down that wall". The wall came down shortly thereafter, but it's still not clear that the Soviet Union really did much to bring it about. A previous biography of Krez by Ludwig Finckh was published fifty years earlier, shortly prior to the attack on Poland which plunged Europe into WWII. A bookseller's son and a noted writer of historical romances, Finckh's reputation now rests largely on his "relationship" with Herman Hesse, a contemporary whose works were translated into English and have enjoyed worldwide popularity and literary acclaim.

Neither of the biographies of Conrad Krez have, to my knowledge, yet been translated into English. Finckh's book, 'Ein Starkes Leben'; was published in Germany a year or two after the publication of 'An Mein Vaterland', a volume of the collected poems of Conrad Krez. Finckh's biography of Krez may have been written chiefly to promote sales in Germany of the Krez poems.

My German really isn't very good, but it's all I have and both of the biographies are written in German, so in the absence of a published translation, I've decided to offer my own. The opening chapter of the Diehl biography begins as follows:

Origins and Youth in Landau

"John Baptist Krez, my father, was born in Unterfranken in Wolfsmuenster, in the same village as his
schoolteacher father. He died in Athens of pneumonia far from his family, which he left in poverty.

My mother, Louise Henrietta Krez nee Naas, is from Landau on the Queich. Through long hours of
work, both day and night, a son was allowed to study and this son am I, her first born. I first saw the light of the world on April 27, 1828, in my grandparent's house in Landau. From her other four children only my brother, Paul, survived, who made his living as a salesman. I attended the Latin school in Landau until Class 3 and at age 12 I began writing poems, which at first barely rhymed, then afterward came counted syllables and finally measured lines of varied length and shortness, which I learned from a book that came to hand by accident.

In the last month of 1841 I found an opening at the religious seminary of Speyer where I attended the gymnasium. After a residence of two and a half years I was dismissed, despite my exemplary comportment. Apparently my audacious defense of Schiller's poetry offended some of my superiors."

Diehl notes in German that the last paragraph of this excerpt, quoted from a short Krez autobiography, was originally written in Greek. Conrad's father, John Krez, was conscripted from his schoolteaching duties to serve in a European army that took part in a war to liberate Greece from Turkey, a conflict that is now remembered chiefly through Lord Byron's scathing satire of it in 'Don Juan', certainly the longest if not the best poem in that corpus.