Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lima News

I've been reading up on the doings of my grandfather's cousin, Walter, who was born in Lima, Ohio in 1894. It's not that hard to do. His name appears in some ninety different editions of the Lima News between 1915 and 1972. And all of those papers are archived online. You click on the entry and the whole page appears. The hardest part is trying to decide which news item on the page is most likely to mention the indexed name.

It's not that my grandfather's cousin Walter was particularly famous or important or anything of that sort. He was a solid citizen, active in his church and in the local business community as a sheet metal inspector, apparently a veteran of WWI, but he wasn't especially prominent. In the good old days, newspaper editors put your name in the paper at the drop of a hat. He married a girl who wasn't German. Their picture was in the paper when they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1968.

One of the earliest entries was from 1915. Walter played on a church league basketball team for Trinity Methodist Episcopal when he was 21 years old. His team lost to the South Side team, 16-2. He was responsible for scoring Trinity's lone bucket in that game. The team got better as the season progressed. They had three wins and four losses at one point.

Two years later in 1917 Walter was drafted into the National Guard along with quite a few of his buddies from the church basketball league. Later that year, shortly after Walter had passed his physical and completed basic training, his father, Charles, died suddenly at the age of 63 from a heart attack he suffered at the bakery where he worked. I don't know whether or not his father's sudden demise was sufficient to keep Walter from getting sent 'over there', but I'm sure the idea of his only son going to Europe to fight Germans couldn't have helped Charles' blood pressure readings any.

Charles was born not far from Berlin and grew up speaking German. He emigrated to America one hundred and fifty years ago at the age of three when his brother, my great grandfather, William, was still an infant. They grew up in a little village called Beechwood outside of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Their sister, Louise, was born in Wisconsin in 1858. Charles was twelve and William nine when their father, Wilhelm, died in the Civil War in 1865. Their mother, Maria, re-married two years later to their next door neighbor. Their stepfather had a relative who became a prominent businessman in nearby Kewaskum and the boys were apprenticed in the construction trade.

Charles became a millwright. He married Kate in 1877, the daughter of another local German businessman, a business partner of his stepfather's relative. War orphans were quite fashionable during the Grant administration and good for business if you owned a lumberyard. Charles worked for awhile in Kewaskum before moving to Fondulac where he and Kate started a family, three boys and two girls. They moved back to Kewaskum for a few years and then around 1890 they moved to Findlay, Ohio, not far from Lima.

A few years later, in April, 1893, a diptheria epidemic swept through the Lima area and all three sons, Charles, Edward and Elwood, died in the space of less than two weeks. The two daughters, Lena and Tolinda, survived the epidemic. A year later Charles and Kate had another son. They named him Walter.

My great grandfather, William, moved to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, not far from Minnesota, and got married in 1879. His sister, Louise, married his wife's older brother, Carl or Charles. I don't know if William and Louise stayed in touch with their brother, Charles, in Ohio. William died in a sawmill accident in 1897 when my grandfather was thirteen years old. It's quite possible my grandfather never met his Uncle Charles or his Cousin Walter. But he did have a younger brother named Walter, born the same year that Uncle Charles lost all three of his sons.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Earl of Great Grandpa Price

My mother's father, Cleon Virgil Steele, first appeared in the U.S. Federal Census in 1900 when he was ten months old. He lived in Liberty Township in South Bend, Indiana with his parents, Ira and Laura Steele, his grandparents, Alexander and Lydia Anne Price, and his cousin, Earl Price, Alexander's eight year old grandson.

Laura Steele was the youngest daughter of Alexander and Lydia Anne Price. According to the 1880 census she had two older brothers, John F. and Albert, and four older sisters. The two oldest sisters were born in Ohio during the Civil War. The oldest son, John F., was born in Indiana in 1866 right after the war. This indicates to me that the Price family moved from Ohio to Indiana either during or very shortly after the Civil War.

Ira Steele's family moved from Ohio to Indiana in 1864 during the Civil War. Alexander's wife, Lydia Anne Cordray, also moved from Ohio to Indiana during the Civil War. The Cordrays lived in Crawford Township in the northeast corner of Coshocton County in Ohio. Lydia Anne's father, Nathan Cordray, served as enumerator for Crawford Township for the 1860 census. The Steele family lived in Mill Creek Township in 1860, adjacent to and west of Crawford Township. The two families lived within ten miles of each other.

The Price family doesn't appear in the 1850 or the 1860 censuses for Coshocton County. But in 1850 two Price households were listed in Salem Township in Tuscarawas County, immediately adjacent to and east of Crawford Township. One was headed by William Price, a farmer, and the other by Alexander Price, a boatman in Port Washington on the Tuscarawas River, which flows west through Crawford Township to Coshocton where it merges with the Walhonding River to become the Muskingum, flowing south to Marietta on the Ohio. I suspect that Alexander H. Price may have belonged to the William Price household in Tuscarawas County, as William had a son named Alexander born in 1834. Alexander H. Price listed his age as forty-eight in Indiana in 1880 which would mean he was born in Ohio in 1832.

Just east of Salem Township in Tuscarawas County the river flows through a town in Clay Township called Gnadenhutten, the site of an infamous massacre that occurred during the American Revolution. Nearly all of the inhabitants at that time were Native Americans resettled from Delaware who had converted to Christianity and were making earnest efforts to adopt the white man's ways.

I found an item on the web a few days ago concerning the Price surname in the history of Pennsylvania Dutch culture. I thought it was interesting as my mother always attributed our Native American ancestry to her grandmother, Laura Steele nee Price.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Strike The Tent ....

Great news! I've been blogrolled again!

So I've taken the liberty of adding a reciprocal link to Andy's Civil War Blog aka Strike The Tent ..... Andy's blog is dedicated to his great great grandfather, who fought with the 5th New York Cavalry and died at Andersonville Prison during the Civil War. The blog is regularly updated with news about Civil War history, battlefields, monuments, museums, archives, reenactments, documentaries and history books. His blog is all Civil War all the time, so I feel honored and privileged to be included on his blogroll.

I haven't updated in quite some time, more than a month, in part because I've been traveling lately. I went to the U.S. for a week or two and I brought back some forms I had ordered that should allow me to obtain copies of my great great grandfather's military service records and of his widow's pension application which should be on file at the National Archives in Washington D.C.. I'll get the forms sent off and should have a reply of some sort within the next few months.

I also brought back two family trees that my grandmother gave to my mother some time ago. I found them while poring over some old photo albums. The trees are blank except for three or four strategically placed penciled in notes, clues, if you will, that only make sense to someone like me who has filled in some of the blanks around them. I now have part or all of more than thirty names from my mother's line, extending back three, four and sometimes even five generations. My mother died seven years ago and my grandmother more than fifteen years ago, so it's almost like getting a postcard from the Great Beyond.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

White Eyes

The only grandparents I ever knew were my mother's parents, Bud and Carlie Steele. I remember my grandfather as someone who was almost always physically attached to a camera of one sort or another, more often than not a movie camera. He had seventeen grandchildren and I'm sure that quite a bit of what little time I spent with him is now part of some massive home movie archive in the hands of my mother's younger sisters.

Bud Steele was the only son of Ira Steele. The Steele line is easy to trace because of a genealogy called The Descendants of George Steele, put together by William Welfley in 1909. That genealogy contains precious little information about the women married to this long line of Steeles.

Bud wasn't really my grandfather's name. He was born in 1899 and all of the census and other official records list his given name as Cleon Virgil. He sometimes used his initials, C.V., but mostly people called him Bud. He had a younger sister named Gladys. His father, Ira, described himself as an "Evangelical Clergyman" in the 1930 census, although I think he earned his living as a carpenter. The name Gladys makes good sense for the daughter of a 'clergyman' I guess, but I think it's difficult to make a case that Cleon Virgil really qualifies as a Christian name.

I did some research into the name Cleon and I find it a little hard to believe that many people at the dawn of the 20th century were all that familar with the history of Athens during the Pelopponesian War. I got out a battered old copy of the plays of Shakespeare and looked up Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Cleon had a good-sized part in that play. He was Pericles' main rival, a fairly light-weight villain, seriously overshadowed by his wife, Dionyza, the sort of woman who hires a hitman to rub out her daughter's competition for a spot on the cheerleading squad.

Ira, the Evangelical clergyman, married a woman named Laura Price. Laura was the youngest daughter of Alexander H. and Lydia Anne Price. The Price family, like the Steeles, appears to have moved from Ohio to South Bend, Indiana during the Civil War. My mother, who passed on seven years ago today, was always convinced that she possessed some small portion of Native American ancestry and she used to have a picture that was taken of her grandmother, Laura (Price) Steele, along with Laura's older sister, Emma. She showed me that picture a number of times. The complexion and bone strucure of the Price girls was such that they could easily have passed as perhaps half Native American.

My mother and her older brother, John, both had dark hair, brown eyes and complexions with enough melanin to tan quite readily during Indiana summers spent swimming in Lake Wawasee where the family owned a lakeside cottage. Their younger sisters have brown hair and much lighter complexions, taking more after the blue-eyed Swiss Germans on my grandmother's side. The story my mother would often tell about Grandma Steele was of returning to South Bend after a summer on the lake. Grandma Steele took steel wool to the skin on my mother's elbows, back and neck, trying to remove all of that 'dirt' she'd accumulated over the summer.

I've recently learned quite a bit more than I had expected to know about my great grandmother, Laura Steele nee Price, thanks to online census records. Her mother's maiden name was Lydia Anne Cordray and she was born in 1834. According to the 1850 census, she appears to have been the oldest daughter of Nathan C. and Mary Cordray, who lived in Crawford Township in Coshocton County, about twenty miles north of Zanesville, Ohio. She was sixteen in 1850. Her father, Nathan, was born in 1799 in Upper Old Town, Allegany County, Maryland. His parents were Isaac and Mary Cordray, who resided in Coshocton in 1850 with Nathan and his family. Census records for 1800 in Upper Old Town, Allegany, Maryland, list Isaac as an inhabitant between 30 and 40 years of age. He was born in 1769 and his wife, Mary, was born in 1772.

It's not clear when the family first arrived in Upper Old Town or when exactly they moved from Maryland to Ohio. Up until 1803, when it entered the Union as a state, Ohio was a place where you and your friends could paddle your canoe instead of carrying it. Upper Old Town, near present day Cumberland, was where the Potomac narrowed enough so you could cross without getting your moccasins wet. George Washington established a fort there and used it as his headquarters while he and General Braddock tried to persuade the French army to abandon their forts in western Pennsylvania and Ohio during the French and Indian War. The Potomac at Upper Old Town marked the border with West Virginia, though it was only a handful of miles from there to Pennsylvania. Bedford, PA, where the Steele family settled originally, is on the Juniata River about twenty miles north on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line.

Coshocton, Ohio, is where two smaller rivers join to form the Muskingum River which flows south through Zanesville into the Ohio at Marietta, the first permanent American settlement in the Ohio Territory, established by the Northwest Ordnance of 1787. The fort at Marietta gradually extended its reach up the Muskingum to Coshocton. Many, if not most, of the original settlers in this area were people who were promised land grants in the Northwest Territory as compensation for military service in the Revolution and later in the War of 1812. The entire Muskingum basin was initially designated as Washington County, not to honor George Washington, but because the development of that region was his personal project.

By 1850 Washington County had been subdivided a number of times and the area around the town of Coshocton had become Coshocton County, which was divided into about 24 separate townships. The census of 1860 shows Nathan Cordray and his wife, Mary, were still there in Crawford Township along with their youngest daughter, Mary B. Cordray, age 10. Grandpa Isaac and his wife, Mary, were no longer part of the household. Isaac would have been 91 in 1860 if he had lived that long. Lydia Anne, at age 26, had long since met and married Alexander Price in 1860. They, along with Lydia Anne's three brothers were all living elsewhere. And Crawford Township had grown to more than 1,500 inhabitants, many of them newly arrived German immigrants. By 1870, Nathan and Mary were living with their oldest son, Edward, in South Bend.

Something else is noteworthy about the 1860 census. If you look carefully at it you'll notice that the person listed as the enumerator for Adams, Crawford, Mill Creek, Oxford and White Eyes Townships is someone named Nathan C. Cordray, my great great great grandfather. The document I've linked is a mortality table. Part of the enumerator's job was to compile a list of everyone in the township who died within the previous year. If you look real carefully, you'll notice that Nathan Cordray's task was perhaps complicated by the fact that Lucius Howard, the doctor over in Keene Township, was murdered in January by a jealous husband. Nathan recorded 42 deaths in the five townships he enumerated, all from natural causes, although one poor child, a three year old, did die from burns suffered when he was scalded by an overturned pan of boiling water on the stove.

One of the townships Nathan Cordray enumerated was called White Eyes. The township was named after George White Eyes, a Delaware Indian, who founded Coshocton as an Indian village during the French and Indian War. Coshocton was White Eyes' name in the Delaware language. George was one of the very few chiefs who sided with the Americans during the American Revolution. Most of the chiefs favored the British. The Continental Congress thanked White Eyes for his efforts in 1778 after he proposed that Ohio should enter the Union as its 14th state, reserved exclusively for native Americans.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum

My mother's great grandfather, Michael Steele, married a woman named Charlotte Stradley, the daughter of a man who described himself as a "physician" in the 1850 census for Wabash, Indiana. That would be my great great great grandfather, Dr. Daniel W. Stradley. His grandfather came to America from England around the time of the Revolution and settled in Baltimore. Charlotte Stradley is the first ancestor I know of who was not either of German or Pennsylvania Dutch descent.

I recently located biographical records for her brothers, Dr. Ayres Stradley and Dr. Daniel N. Stradley, who both practiced medicine in and around Denver, Colorado at the dawn of the 20th century. The brothers attributed much of their expertise in medicine to training they had received from their father while growing up in Wabash. But they also cited lectures they had attended at established medical schools and apprenticeships they had served under the tutelage of other respected medical practitioners.

I try to imagine the frontier medicine practiced by this ancestor of mine, first in Zanesville, Ohio and then at age 35 in Wabash from 1849 on, where he spent the last forty-five years of his life, but I find it's quite a leap. Medical science made huge strides in his lifetime.

Born in 1815, it's not clear from his sons' accounts if he began life on the eastern seaboard in Baltimore or if his parents had by then already moved west to Ohio. Dr. Stradley's wife was also of English descent. Ayres Stradley III described his mother's father, Abner Bell, as a "hero of the War of 1812" and as a "minister of the gospel" .... "connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church." Ohio was certainly still very much life on the frontier in 1815, but much less precariously so after the War of 1812.

The Stradleys couldn't have picked a more interesting or exciting time to move to Wabash. The town was the last stop going up river before the series of more than a dozen locks along the Wabash and Erie canal connecting the headwaters of the Wabash with the headwaters of the Maumee in Fort Wayne. By 1850 a few of the packets and liners plying the canal were already powered by steam instead of mule drawn as they all had been when the canal first opened for business in 1835.

The Wabash and Erie meant that cargo and passengers could be moved entirely by boat between Lake Erie and any of the cities on the Mississippi, the Ohio or the Gulf of Mexico without braving the waves of the Atlantic. Canal boats could travel from Toledo on Lake Erie to Evansville on the Ohio near the junction with the Mississippi in about eight days. The canal era was to American transportation what the word processing and fax era is to the internet. Wholly obsolete in only four decades, the canal was George Washington's great dream of American progress. As a federally funded public works project, it was the 19th century's Hoover Dam.

The information concerning my great great great grandfather is a story in itself. I ran a Google search on the name Stradley shortly after writing my previous post about the death of Michael Steele's brother, Abraham Steele, at Andersonville. I knew that Michael Steele had married a woman whose maiden name was Stradley. The search led me to a site called Portraits and Biographical Records of Denver and Vicinity 1898. It was one of a number of books owned by Pam Rietsch, who transcribed and put them online as part of something she calls the Mardos Collection. She and her associates are active proponents of USGenNet, which apparently has made quite a bit of genealogical and historical information freely available online.

If Michael Steele's brother, Abraham, had survived his incarceration at Andersonville, he might very well have fulfilled his ambition to become a doctor. His father, Elias Steele, was married to a woman named Elizabeth Bickel. Her brother lived next door to Dr. Stradley in Wabash. When the Steele brothers moved from Ohio to South Bend, Indiana in 1864, their mother, Elizabeth, directed Michael and his oldest brother, Jeremiah, to go to Wabash and build a barn for her brother. They did. Dr. Stradley saw the barn, admired their work and asked the boys to build him a house. Michael had work to do in South Bend and couldn't stay, but Jeremiah remained in Wabash long enough to build the house for Dr. Stradley. A few years later, Charlotte moved to South Bend and married Michael.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Chattanooga Choo Choo

My mother's great grandfather had a brother who died at Andersonville Prison during the Civil War. I know because my grandmother told me so nearly forty years ago, around the time that my grandfather died. I didn't know any of the details so it really didn't mean much to me at the time. Today on the internet so much more information is readily accessible than at any time in the past and what I've found so far is fairly fascinating, at least to me.

The census of 1850 shows Abraham Steele living on a good-sized farm in the Mill Creek township of Coshocton county in Ohio with his parents, Elias and Elizabeth Steele, his older brother Jeremiah, four younger brothers, including my great great grandfather, Michael Steele, and a younger sister. Abraham was fifteen years old in 1850. The family had moved to Ohio from western Pennslyvania a few years before he was born. According to my grandmother, Abraham had planned to become a doctor. He enlisted in 1861 at the age of 26 as a private in Company H of the 80th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Abraham Steele died at Andersonville in Georgia in April, 1864, and is buried there. Diarrhea was listed as his cause of death. He was taken prisoner at Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863. A soldier in the Union army for more than two years, he spent most of that time as a prisoner of war. He was first captured in 1862 at the Battle of Corinth in northern Mississippi, shortly after the Union victory in nearby Shiloh. When Vicksburg fell in 1863 prisoners were exchanged and he was released and returned to his unit following a full year in captivity.

The 80th Ohio was transferred from Mississippi to Tennessee in the autumn of 1863 and became part of Sherman's "veteranized" Army of the Tennessee a month or two before Missionary Ridge, the dramatic climax of the Battle of Chattanooga. Many Civil War buffs consider Missionary Ridge to have been a major strategic turning point in the entire war. Union forces led by Grant and Sherman won the Battle of Chattanooga and took more than six thousand rebel prisoners. The Confederate forces under Braxton Bragg successfully retreated into Georgia from their key position in control of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, the prize for their victory at Chickamauga, but they took less than 500 Union prisoners with them when they withdrew, one of them Abraham Steele.

Accounts of the battle from a number of different sources indicate a limited number of Confederate opportunities for taking Union prisoners at Missionary Ridge. The fact that Abraham Steele was captured means that he must have been at Tunnel Hill, a railroad tunnel at the northern end of the ridge where the main thrust of the assault was launched by Sherman's forces. That assault was repelled by the brilliant generalship of Patrick Cleburne, whose account of the battle describes several surprise bayonet counter charges by his Texan defenders at Tunnel Hill that resulted in the capture of nearly five hundred Union soldiers.

Cleburne was winning his end of the battle, but the southern end of the ridge was also under attack from General Hooker's men who had captured Lookout Mountain a day earlier. The assaults at opposite ends of the ridge weakened the defense of the western slope in the middle portion of the ridge, where Grant's forces, led by the men under General Thomas, were able to advance in a frontal assault against withering fire from three tiers of trenchline, eventually securing the top of the ridge. Once the center of the ridge fell, the Confederate forces at either end were caught in a deadly crossfire and could only retreat down the eastern slope of the ridge.

I visited Atlanta about five years ago, a month after the collapse of the World Trade Center. I saw the Stone Mountain monument there and I think that visit piqued my interest in the Civil War. But it doesn't become real for you until you've located a few ancestors, relatives and in-laws and tried to make sense of the part they took in that conflict.

Living in Manila in the enormous shadow cast by the figure of Douglas MacArthur, it's easy to forget that much of MacArthur's reputation as a soldier was a product of his efforts to live up to the legendary exploits of his father, Arthur MacArthur Jr, who siezed his unit's regimental flag from a fallen soldier halfway up the ridge and planted the colors of the 24th Wisconsin at the crest of the hill during the frontal assault on Missionary Ridge.

I don't know if any of Abraham Steele's five brothers participated in the Civil War, but I do know that the year he died, 1864, was the same year that the rest of his family moved from Coschocton, Ohio to South Bend, Indiana.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

New Orleans -- February 1865

I've translated another poem by Konrad Krez. This one was written during the two or three weeks when the poet-general and my great great grandfather's unit, the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, were stationed in Algiers, directly across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter of New Orleans, a staging area where thousands of Union troops were massed, awaiting transport to the battles planned for Fort Blakeley and Spanish Fort near Mobile, Alabama.

The poem wasn't published until 1875, so I don't think he gave away any military secrets by jotting a few impressions of his surroundings. It's possible that my translation is the first time this poem has ever been rendered in English.

Illustrious city, daughter of the sea by the father of waters,
As the goddess her love, so wash your waves on the shore
Where you lodge praying in the lap of eternal youth.

As a fairy-tale you appear to the northern foreigner,
Who arrives from the news-hungry, snow-bound lands,
Where a gloomier heaven with smoking cities is stored,
As bewitched he gazes above through the silvered clouds,
To the blue of heaven's secret, and glimpses an earth
Where the sun heaps its gold on the land and the water.

Midway in winter he greets the dark leaf of the oranges,
And marvels at the glorious tree with the golden apples,
Whose unfurled blossoms the ripe and ripening fruit adorns.

Astonished, he considers those from these houses with such planted elegance,
And out of the leaves stalks the refined stem of the banana with blades
Like fluttering fans cradled by the breeze.

Joyful and serene, these people delight in their fortunate ease,
As the bird in the forest volunteers heaven's gifts.

Lovely it is to live here, and tied with no strings
Stronger than the earth's girdle, mine on the cold Wisconsin,
Where the cedar grows and the sap seeps from the sycamore.

I could gladly in the sunny fields of Louisiana
Build a cottage in the country, where the roses
Never weary to bloom, where the figs and the myrtle grow,
And the mocking bird nests in the pomegranate bush.

Fertile soil here richly rewards manly labor;
A few handfuls of maize, with modest effort early in the year,
After planting the summer before, springs up wild corn,
Giving me bread enough; the forest's flying bees
Lead me lightly to the hive, where their honeycomb lies;

My kitchen supplies the hunt, a single shotgun round
In the drunken clouds where sunshine besotted pigeons
Lay in abundance about the feet, both wild and tame
Teem in the woods, where quick as a shadow, scurrying turkeys
Follow an alluring call, to the black-watered bayou
The thirst of the evening conducts the languishing stag,
And the opossum tricks its pursuer with the semblance of death.

Far from life's sorrows and far from torturous labor
I wander in the shadows of always green oaks,
Tall cypresses and lovely beloved magnolias, whose blooms
The color of snow, shed a fragrance to shame the lindens.

Meanwhile the men of the north, who toil in halved years,
Arrive to defend their misery and coldness.

I consider this a provisional translation. Comments or suggestions for ways to improve it would certainly be welcome, especially from readers whose first language is German.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Jefferson Barracks

One hundred and fifty years ago my great great grandfather left his home in East Brandenburg and brought his wife and two small sons on a ship to a new life in the new world in a farming community near Sheboygan in the state of Wisconsin. Less than ten years later he was buried at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. He was thirty-eight years old when he fought and died in the American Civil War.

A week ago I visited a website called Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. I looked up a volunteer in St. Louis who had offered to take photographs of tombstones in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. I don't know much about Karen Kuhlman beyond the fact that she got back to me quickly, asked to know exactly what I wanted and then picked a beautiful day to take her pictures of my great great grandfather's grave.

I know of only one relative who has actually visited this grave. Lois Kressin, a granddaughter of my great grandfather's sister, Louise, went on a pilgrimage to St. Louis with her husband, Vernon, to see the grave. Their trip was mentioned in a letter Vernon wrote last year to his local newspaper, the Bloomer Advance. Vernon passed on a few months ago at the age of 84. The information in his letter helped to confirm my theory that his wife's grandmother was in fact my great grandfather's sister. It also demonstrated to my satisfaction that my great grandfather's wife and his sister's husband were also brother and sister.

The marriages of William Lubach to Hannah Boettcher in 1879 and of Louise Lubach to Hannah's older brother, Carl Boettcher, in 1880, appear to have been an integral part of their move across the state of Wisconsin from Sheboygan County on the shore of Lake Michigan to Chippewa County near the Minnesota stateline. All four of them are buried in the Tilden Emanual Cemetery in Chippewa County.

According to my dad's older sister, Carl and Hannah's father, John Boettcher, settled in Chippewa County during the Civil War. I suspect that the two families may have met crossing the Atlantic aboard the same ship.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The March

I finally finished reading 'The March', E.L. Doctorow's PEN/Faulkner Award winning novel about Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's infamous swath of destruction from Georgia, through South Carolina and into North Carolina during the last six months of America's Civil War.

My wife read most of it in one sitting on an eight hour plane flight from Hong Kong to Sydney. She said it was good, but she doesn't remember much about it. I chipped away at it at the rate of an hour or two a week for nearly two months. I made a point of savoring it and I'm glad I did. I didn't want it to blur on me and I think it would have if I'd read it straight through.

It was only about three years ago that I first began to suspect that I might have a Civil War ancestor. Only a few months have passed since I was finally able to confirm my hunch through correspondence generated by this blog with relatives and inlaws in upstate Wisconsin. My great great grandfather, William Lubach, enlisted a few weeks after the March to the Sea began, but he wasn't actually deployed until after the march was essentially completed.

I'm fairly certain, though, that his wife's younger brother, William Ebert, was either on the march or would have been if he hadn't been incapacitated at Bald Hill during the Battle of Atlanta which preceded the march. His unit, the 12th Wisconsin, was part of the march. He was wounded in July, 1864, and mustered out disabled in January, 1865. The rest of the 12th mustered out in June, 1865. My guess is that if his wounds were severe enough to muster out five months early, they were probably also severe enough for him to have spent the duration of Sherman's March confined to a hospital. But I really don't know at this point.

A little less than a year ago I spent several hours in the manuscript room of the Golda Meir Library at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. I had a chance to examine some of the wartime correspondence between the Reverend Alonzo Miller and his wife, Mary Abbott Miller. Alonzo Miller served in my great great grandfather's unit, the 27th Wisconsin. He was 38 when he enlisted, the same age as my great great grandfather. They both enlisted at the same time in October, 1864. The letters he sent to his wife recount his activities going through training in Milwaukee, a train ride to Little Rock where the replacement troops joined up with the regiment, a boat ride from Little Rock to New Orleans and the staging area across the river in Algiers where they camped for several weeks, then another boat across Lake Pontchartrain and along the Gulf to Mobile Point where they disembarked and began their march through a dense pine forest on the forts north of Mobile, Alabama.

The letters tell about the battles of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely and about the several weeks spent in Mobile celebrating victory in those battles. A ship full of armaments hit a mine in Mobile Bay while they were there, the blast breaking windows in the shops and homes along the harbor. They heard the news of Lee's surrender, participated in parades and mourned when the news came that Lincoln had been assassinated. They spent the month of May in a few miles outside of Mobile, waiting to hear if they would be mustered out when the war officially ended or reassigned for further duty.

On the first of June they sailed for Brazos Santiago at the mouth of the Rio Grande and were stationed there for almost two months until they marched on Brownsville in the first week of August where the unit mustered out at the end of the month. But by then my great great grandfather was no longer with them. He fell ill at some point in July and was evacuated to an army hospital at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis where he died and was buried in what, one year later, became one of America's first national cemeteries.

Alonzo's wife, Mary, was also getting letters from her brother, Martin Abbott, who served with the 26th Wisconsin, a unit comprised mostly of Germans that also took part in Sherman's March. Martin Abbott had one of his thumbs shot off during the war. It didn't keep him from writing letters and his letters make clear that he was there with 'Uncle Billy'.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

April, the cruelest month

Six or eight months ago I threatened in one of my posts to translate parts of several books I had then recently acquired from an antiquarian bookseller in Germany. The books concern the life and poetic works of Colonel Konrad Krez, the man who commanded the regiment in which my German immigrant great great grandfather fought and died during the American Civil War.

I am pleased to report that I have not only translated a portion of one of those books; I now have it published online. I've translated the Foreword to 'An Mein Vaterland', a slim volume that contains the collected poems of Konrad Krez. The Foreword was written by Ludwig Finckh in 1938, a point in time in which he was one of the better known living writers in the German language. He also at least appears to have been a fairly well-heeled member of the National Socialist Party.

Konrad Krez died on March 9, 1897, the same year that my great grandfather died at the age of 41 in an industrial accident. Ludwig Finckh wrote an historical novel in 1936 about Krez, the 'Forty-Eighter', who escaped from Germany to America in 1850 after the failed 1848 Revolution and rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The 'fictional' account created enough of a stir in Nazi Germany to justify publication of the Krez poems two years later and to effect a reconciliation between the ghost of Konrad Krez and Landau in the Pfalz, the city and province from which he had unceremoniously departed eighty-eight years earlier.

My unauthorized translation of Ludwig Finckh's 'Foreword' and of the title poem, 'An Mein Vaterland', can be viewed at the Wiki-En German Genealogy website, not formally affiliated with the Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Schloss Sanssouci

I visited Germany several years ago and spent the better part of a day in Potsdam after a short train ride from Berlin and a much longer walk than I had anticipated. I got off the train one stop too early and walked for about an hour and a half or more, across a bridge and along a river, in what I thought must be the general direction of the Schloss Sanssouci. It took a while, but I found it, although I entered the park at a point that was nearly as far as you could get from the main buildings. I had only taken a few pictures when the battery light started flashing. If I had known what to expect I would have made sure the battery was fully charged. The pictures I did get were of some smaller buildings that were put up to house, protect and display some of the ancient Roman ruins on the park grounds. If you click your mouse on the pictures once or twice, the buildings I did shoot get quite a bit bigger.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Fredericks of Brandenburg

I don't know yet if Johann Georg Lubach was an ancestor of mine, but in investigating that possibility I've found that he led what looks to have been quite an interesting life and from what I've learned so far I don't think I'd object to having him as an ancestor. I'm not sure how he'd feel about me as a descendant.

He was born in 1672 in the town of Moeckern near Leipzig in Saxony and was apparently raised as an orphan. His status as an orphan didn't prevent him from attending the University of Halle. Completing his studies in 1697 at the age of 25, he took a job on campus straight out of college, supervising orphans and teaching at a school for them that officially opened its doors the following year in 1698. He worked there for about fifteen years, then in 1714 he moved from Halle in what is now Saxony Anhalt to Brandenburg where he settled in a town east of Berlin called Wriezen and took a job as a Kantor. He stayed there for about eight years before moving to Garlitz/Rathenow, west of Berlin, where he worked organizing churches and schools until he retired. John George Lubach eventually died in 1752, at the age of 80, in a town called Goerlitz on the Neisse in Upper Lusatia, not far from Dresden.

I don't know his wife's name or how many children he had, but it looks as if one son, Godofroy, born in 1713, had a chance to teach for awhile at the orphan school in Halle in 1736. Godofroy seems to have been a Cantor by trade. He might well have even been personally acquainted with Johann Sebastian Bach, someone who also worked as a Cantor in and near Leipzig in that era. Bach was also raised as an orphan and was about a dozen years younger than Godofroy's father.

Godofroy appears to have had two sons, Daniel, born 1741, and Gottfried, born 1744. Their father seems to have died before they attended the orphan school at Halle. They were both listed as orphans from the village of Gartz on the Oder, a little north of Schwedt, and their father's profession was listed as Cantor. They were in Halle between 1756 and 1763. One of them must have had a son at some point because another Lubach, Gotthilf, was enrolled at Halle in 1797. I don't have a birthdate or a home village for Gotthilf, but I would guess he was born around 1780 or a little after.

My ancestor, Wilhelm Lubach, was born around 1827 and he emigrated from a village in Brandenburg called Wrechow in 1856 with his wife and two small sons. Wrechow is just across the Oder about ten or twelve miles from Wriezen. A number of orphans from both villages were enrolled at the orphan school in Halle during the 18th century, so it would appear likely that the Pietists who ran the school at Halle had established churches in both villages.

One of the most interesting things about Johann Georg Lubach is that he lived to be eighty years old. Prussia was ruled by the Great Elector, Friederich Wilhelm, from 1640 up until 1688 when the orphan, Johann Georg Lubach, was sixteen years old. He died in 1752, twelve years into the reign of Frederick the Great. Between 1688 and 1740, two other Fredericks ruled Prussia, Frederick I and his son, Frederick William I, each of them for about twenty-five years.

This eighty year stretch in European history was the period in which Prussia went from being an obscure dukedom on the Baltic Sea to an empire that extended from France all the way to Russia. The orphan school in Halle where Johann Georg Lubach taught was supported by all four of these Fredericks and the students the school produced were nothing less than instrumental in making Prussia an empire.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Rose By Any Other Name

A year or so ago I found a webpage called the Archiv der Franckeschen Stiftungen zu Halle. I didn't know quite what to make of it at the time. But I did find it curious as there were several people listed with my surname. Those people are still listed there and, in point of fact, one more person with my surname has been added to the list.

If you click on the link you should get a long list of German surnames that start with the letter 'L'. My surname is near the bottom of the list, filed alphabetically. I won't bore you with the details of my personal concerns. The question is, what in the world is this list all about? A year ago I found it quite confusing. But the site has been updated a little in the interim and now every name on the list is a link to personal details about each of the names on the list. All of them were dead by the time America's constitution was ratified.

Halle is a city near Leipzig in the state of Saxony Anhalt, one of half a dozen or so new states established as part of the recently reunified Germany. It used to be part of East Germany and for almost half a century the information on that list would probably have been accessible to STAASI, the East German secret police.

If I had gone to East Germany when I finished graduate school during the last days of the Reagan era, someone in the state police there would probably have been obliged to consult this list. My surname is fairly unique. Simply by finding my surname on this list they would have known more about me than I know about myself.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A House On Baltic Avenue

I signed up for Blogshares a few days ago after finding out that one of my visitors had purchased 25% of the imaginary shares in my blog. I joined so I could buy up 50% of the imaginary shares and a controlling interest with imaginary money that Blogshares gives you for signing up. I figured that at 37 cents a share it was too good a deal to pass up.

The bad news is that my blog is valued at less than B$2,000.00. The good news is that some of the other Blogshares investors were so impressed by my business acumen that they have given me shares in three other blogs worth nearly B$9,000,000.00, so now I have the wherewithal to invest in other blogs.

If you think your blog might be a good investment, do let me know. I've got imaginary money to spend. Their link is at the bottom of my blogroll. I also signed up for Adsense, but so far they haven't found any ads that make sense for my blog.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Mr. Ed

I exhanged e-mails over the holidays with a third cousin once removed, a granddaughter of my great grandfather's sister. My cousin verified that she lived in the same house with her grandmother for a number of years up until her grandmother's death at age 77 in 1935, when she was twelve years old. She said that her grandmother's brother from Kewaskum came across the state of Wisconsin and stayed with her family in Chippewa county for a few days during the funeral. She didn't recall the name of her grandmother's brother, but that doesn't matter because I already know who it was that visited, but until now I couldn't prove it. It had to have been my great grandfather's step-brother, Ed or Edward Lubach.

My middle name is Edward. It is also my father's middle name and before that it was my grandfather's middle name. My grandfather, in fact, was known by his middle name and not by his first name. I can't prove it, but I have no doubt that my grandfather, my father and I all have the same namesake. We all got our middle initial from my great grandfather's brother, Ed, who at age 72 attended the funeral of my cousin's grandmother in 1935. I'm fairly certain that Ed was a brother by marriage and not by blood.

When my great great grandfather died in the Civil War in 1865 he left behind a widow and three children. His widow remarried in 1867. Her new husband's youngest son, Edward, was then four years old. By 1880 all three of her children, Charles, William and Louise, had married and moved away. Edward and his parents, his father and his stepmother, remained in Sheboygan county, a few miles north of the town of Kewaskum, for the rest of their lives. Edward adopted the surname of his stepmother's first husband who had died in the war.

When I put together my family history webpage a year and a half ago I had a vague hunch that this could be the case. I viewed it as an interesting possiblilty, one worth exploring, but now I have no doubt whatsoever.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Santa's Chimney

I spent at least part of my Christmas holiday thirty feet off the ground with my rear end in a sling.

My wife and I went to a resort in Palawan, one of the least developed provinces in the Philippines. The island is long and narrow, extending most of the way from Luzon to Borneo on the westernmost side of the archipelago.

The resort, El Nido, offered rock-climbing as one of its numerous diversions and naturally I couldn't resist. The picture was taken by one of my climbing guides, a 23 year old Filipina who was on the ground attached to the other end of my rope, patiently waiting for me to lose my grip. Somehow I managed to get back on the ground without doing any permanent damage to myself or the rock face. The painful part was hearing how impressed my guide was that someone my age, fifty-two, would attempt something so strenuous. Two or three days later I could nearly raise my right arm over my head.

Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions. I've got more if you'd like to see them.