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.