Friday, April 23, 2010

Send Me Your Pictures, Please

Family Pictures.  How important are they? Are they worth a special effort to preserve? Where do you keep them? Are they all identified? Why spend the time to identify them?  I know who they are. I can go on and on with such questions but the simple answer is--you bet they are important. Human memory, while excellent in some regards, remembering precisely how someone looked even a few years ago is difficult to almost impossible without some sort of an aid---a picture. Over time, pictures can reveal a lot of information about someone and if that someone is a long-ago, deceased ancestor, say a hundred and fifty years ago, without a picture you haven't the foggiest notion of their physical appearance, what their face looked like, kindly, friendly, fat, skinny, happy or sad.   A picture that has been preserved of that person almost lets you know them.
The individual farthest back in time of any of my genealogical lines of whom I have a picture is that of Elizabeth Windle, b25 Oct, 1796, daughter of Eleanore Holt and Francis Windle. With regard to my oldest direct ancestors I have a picture of William Humphrey Holt, born in 1806. He is one of only three of the 16  great, great Grandparents of whom I have pictures.  He appears to be friendly, tall, well built, not skinny or fat, obviously dressed for the picture taking occasion and I got the feeling that he was a competent person from his countenance.  How about his wife, Mary Noss? I know little or nothing of what she looked like, was she  tall or short, skinny or fat, dressed well or was sloppy. All I know is my Grandfather Holt described her as being small, fairly agile, enjoyed sitting on her front porch in the evenings smoking a small, white-clay pipe.  A picture of her would be worth more than a thousand words of description.  The other two you haven't seen yet: Jeremiah Smith b1831, and his wife Rebecca Evans, b l844, are the only pictures I have of any of my sixteen great, great Grandparents.
I am fortunate I have pictures of five of my eight great Grandparents, Mary Ann (Taylor) Holt, John and Fanny Bell (Smith) Thornhill and John and Agnes Baxter (Ecoff) Childs. I would really appreciate getting pictures of the other three, Samuel Jacob Holt and Joseph and Sarah Ann (Kennedy) Davis.  Unfortunately, few people smiled for their picture taking in the early days of photography, it took too long to take the picture, so most were solemn, almost pensive, while they waited for the blinding flash and the photographer to say okay. But that doesn't matter, I can still form an image of what they looked like if I have a photo of them.
If any of you out there have photos of any of the folks listed above, or their ancestors or descendants, I would really appreciate having a copy. I'll happily pay for the reproduction. I'd just like to know what they look like. I don't want to restrict my desire for photos to just my direct ancestors, I'd like photos of any of their descendants right up to today. Photos can be exchanged via the Net without any cost. If I publish a photo that you would like a copy of, just ask and it will  come flying your way. I promise you I will not publish a photo of any living person without that person's consent.  I'll wait awhile and then publish the pictures I have as a group.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lorenzo Childs, my Great Great Grandfather

Lorenzo’s birth place has long been an enigma for me. I first find him in the 1830 Brooklyn, Kings County, New York Directory as proprietor of his own store. He does not show up there in the 1830 census. Why?, Who knows? It was here that Lorenzo met the love of his life, Ann Caroline Marshall. She was born 8 May, 1813, the fifth child of John Marshall and Sarah Dayrell, all of whom were born in Barbados, British West Indies. Both John and daughter Ann Caroline were born in St. Thomas Parish and Sarah was born in St. Michael Parish, Barbados. As an interesting aside, back along the Dayrell line one of the Dayrell women was the mother of Jane Seymore, one of King Henry the 8th's many wives.
In those years Barbados had a large population of black slaves who from time to time revolted resulting in many deaths of both whites and blacks. Several years after one such revolt and with rumors flying of another, John, in 1821, moved his family to the United States, settling in Brooklyn, New York. It was in Brooklyn where Lorenzo and Ann Caroline met. At some point, John and Lorenzo decided to joint-venture Lorenzo’s grocery store and in the 1833 Brooklyn Directory, the store is listed as “Childs & Marshall Grocery.” Tragedy struck soon after the joint venture was consummated.  John Marshall died..

I’m not sure whether it was before or after John’s death, but Lorenzo and Ann Caroline married April 30, 1833 in the Episcopal Church, Jamaica, Long Island, New York. The family continued to reside in New York where the two boys, William O., August 1836 and John Worrell Marshall,  1 January 1838, were born. The family left Brooklyn in 1839, going first to Cleveland, Ohio then on to Pittsburgh and finally, settling in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

In the 1840  Beaver County census I find Lorenzo enumerated with an adult female and two young males under ten. The family then moved to Fallston to take advantage of the waterpower provided by a lively set of falls on the Beaver River. The third child, Nancy Anna, was born  5 December, 1840, a nice Christmas present. Unfortunately, Ann Caroline never really recovered from Nancy’s birth and tragically died the following 21st of March, 1841.

A few years later, Lorenzo married Sarah Mehaffey and had two more children, Charles C, born in 1844 and Caroline in 1847. Tragedy struck Lorenzo’s life again when Sarah died on the 28th of April 1859. Several years later, he married Deborah E. Green, and had two more children,both of whom died in infancy. I can’t imagine such a string of sorrows.
In 1861 the Civil War broke out and in 1862, William, Lorenzo's oldest son marched off with the local regiment. Upon leaving, he had Lorenzo made Guardian of his children. He fought in many battles but was wounded in the face in the battle of Spotsylvania. He eventually was transferred to a hospital in Pittsburgh. About that time Lorenzo contracted the deadly scourge, Small Pox. Within weeks, it proved fatal and he died in Bridgewater, Pennsylvania, 19 August, 1864. William immediately went AWOL because of his children and never returned to his unit. That cost him a pension in later years.

Lorenzo was obviously a hard worker and a hustler, trying all kinds of things to make a living. In many ways he had a good and successful life. He went into the machinery business with considerable success, establishing his operation in Smith’s Ferry, Pennsylvania. Another of his entrepreneurial ventures was drilling for oil, interestingly, it was at the same time as Colonel  Drake, who was credited with bringing in the very first oil well anywhere. Drake made his momentous discovery near Titusville, Pennsylvania, not far from where Lorenzo’s efforts were taking place. As they say, close counts only in the game of horseshoes.

One of the long standing enigmas in my research on Lorenzo has been identifying whom his parents were and where he was born. In the 1850 census in Beaver, Lorenzo stated that he was born in Massachusetts . Surprisingly, in the 1860 census he stated he was born in Vermont. I have a bit of data from his son William’s research into where Lorenzo was born and he came up with Vershire, Orange County, Vermont. Unfortunately, he gave no indication where he found such data. I’ve queried both Orange County and Vermont historical entities and they have no record of a Lorenzo Childs born there, or that he ever lived there. But, there are two other items of interest. Lorenzo named his oldest child William. And living and enumerated in Thetford, Vermont, not far from Vershire, in both the 1810 and 1820 census, is a William Childs. The only catch,  in censuses prior to 1850, dependents are listed in gender and age brackets only, not named. And discouragingly, there was nothing listed for Lorenzo's age bracket as we think it was. Or, could he have been born after the census was taken. I don't have a verifiable birth date for him, however, there were two males in the next bracket up. Could one of them have been Lorenzo? And lastly, in the 1841 issue of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania City Directory, there is listed a "Lawrence Childs, Machinist." Remember, he was in Pittsburgh just before going to Beaver.  Makes you think about the fact that the name Lorenzo was popular in those days and he just started calling himself, Lorenzo.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rhetta Hogan: Teachings Best of the Best

My Early School Years

We lived in the rural part of western Pennsylvania when my brothers and sister and I were growing up and our early schooling was in a small, one-room, red brick schoolhouse in Brighton Township, Beaver County known as Eakin School. First through eighth grade was taught by only one teacher. In fact, everything pertaining to that school from sweeping the floors, washing the windows, keeping the stove fired up in the winter and meting out punishment to an errant youngster was handled by that same teacher.

Those teachers, in Rural America who taught all eight grades by themselves had to be saints beyond belief. One such teacher whom I remember well and who lived about two miles from us and had been raised next door to my Grandfather, Frank Holt, was Miss Rhetta Hogan. Miss Rhetta, who had taught almost countless years in such schools and would often substitute for our regular teacher. She herself, had gone to Eakin School as a youngster. She continued her education finishing up at nearby Piersol Academy in Bridgewater, Pennsylvania. She died 21 November, 1945. She was a first generation farm lass who never married.

I had her only as a frequent substitute. When she was there, she would ring the bell promptly at eight to bring us all in from playing outside. She would quiet us down by going to the front of the room, turn around and stand, ramrod-straight, with an open Bible cradled in her hands just above her waist. There was always a wisp of iron-gray hair curling like a coiled spring over her heavy eyebrows, which shaded two of the most piercing, steely, blue eyes you ever saw. Those eyes would rivet all thirty-two of her first-to-eighth grade students to full attention as she recited, from memory, passages from the divine book that ruled her life. Next came the Lord’s Prayer. That completed, she would make a half-turn, lift her eyebrows slightly, and as one, she and the obedient class would pledge allegiance to that great symbol of this bold, brash, young country we all loved.

Rhetta was then, when I had her, a seventy-five year old spinster who had taught school for fifty-eight years and would never have dreamed of opening a school day without that ritual. Her entire career was lived out in one-room schoolhouses. Many generations of local Brighton Twp kids were drilled in the three R’s by this stern but gentle, caring woman. Farm born and raised by immigrant Irish parents, Thomas and Hannah (Mullins) Hogan, she lived, worked, and died within one county, Beaver, in western Pennsylvania. When she first started teaching, school was reached by either walking or driving a buggy. When she died, the skies over Europe and Japan were alive with angry, roaring airplanes.

Stories were legion around Beaver county about how this wiry, little woman managed to maintain discipline over pupils, some of whom towered over her by as much as a foot. Everyone, including students, referred to her with typical country familiarity as Rhetta, but no student dared to be so bold to her face. It was either “ma’m” or Miss Hogan.

I remember one warm, spring day when all the windows were open, and except for lesson recitations by students standing around Miss Rhetta’s desk, not a sound could be heard. Suddenly, titters interrupted the silence. Heads turned, first toward the sound and then toward Rhetta. The cause of the tittering was a wasp, with a string hanging from its waist, flying level, about eye-high, around the room. At one point, it flew straight toward a giggly little girl who let out a piercing screech that ignited screeches from half of the other little girls in the room. Pandemonium broke loose. Instantly Rhetta was on her feet and the clack! clack! clack! of her eraser against the black-slate blackboard restored order. Smoke seemed to curl from her eyes and up from her collar as she glared at the bib-overall clad boys one-by-one until something told her this was the culprit.

How did she know? I suppose the pink flush from cheeks or ears, the downcast eyes, or the bare toe scribing circles on the floor had something to do with it. The young man’s demeanor abruptly changed when he was commanded, by a deep, authoritarian voice, to report immediately to the front of her desk. Your obedient servant, who had been thoroughly chastised in front of everybody, was then dispatched to the woods behind the school to cut an appropriate switch with which to have the dust whacked not-too-gently from the seat of his pants.

Woe betide the clown who had the temerity to bring in an inappropriate switch. He would be nailed to his desk for the entire day for a week. His parents would be summoned for a conference and to mete out the required punishment in front of the class. She didn’t fool around and everyone knew it.

This caring woman, who dedicated all of her productive life to teaching had passively but positively, influenced a long line of young people, was of the last and best of the old. I count myself exceptionally fortunate to at least have had her from time to time as a substitute teacher. Also, I went to school with her niece and nephew, twins, Leona and Leo Hogan. Leona was a WAVE during WWll. In the summer I use to earn a little money by picking strawberries on the farm where she lived with her brother, James Hogan, Atty at Law, and his family. What wonderful memories.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

William Humphry Holt & Mary Noss: 1803 through 1896

        Together, they lived almost the entire 19th century. Mary was the longest lived, 8 may 1803 to 8 August, 1896, 93 years and 3 months to the day. She entered this world during Thomas Jefferson's firtst term and left during Grover Cleveland's term just 4 years short of the beginning of the 20th century.
     William Humphrey Holt (left) and his twin sister, Dorcas, of whom, unfortunately, I have no picture, were the only children of Thomas Holt Jr. and Elizabeth (Humphrey?) Walker. Thomas was a batchelor for 44 years and was 45 when the twins were born. It is thought, but is by no means certain, that Elizabeth, who was the eldest daughter (?) of William and Jane Humphrey,  had been previously  married to a fellow named Walker who had died. It appears that Thomas, for whatever reason, gave the  twins to his in-laws(?), William and Jane Humphrey. They apparently kept Dorcas to raise  and William was raised by  their daughter, Margaret and her husband, Thomas Fritz. William's twin sister Dorcas married Francis Windle and moved to Ohio. At some point in William's youth he was "bound" out for his keep. To whom is not clear. What is known is that when Margaret Humphrey, wife of William Humphrey, died, she mentioned in her will her daughter Peggy, wife of Thomas Fritz, and "bound" boy William Holt, to who she left a sum of  money. William named his first male child Thomas Fritz. Could he have been bound to Thomas? Probably.
    William married Mary Noss, daughter of Jacob Noss, on 2 September, 1828 in McVeytown, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. I have  made the assumption that Mary was the daughter of the Jacob Noss who died in the Mifflin County, McVeytown area c1820 without a will. I make that assumption because she named one of her sons Samuel Jacob. Unfortunately, Mary could neither read nor write. She was described by her grandson,  Frank Holt, as a small, very active individual, who in her declining years loved to sit on her porch and smoke her small, white-clay pipe. I would love to have a picture of her.
     William's life span was a little shorter. He came along during Jefferson's second term,  4 June 1806 and lived to 31 July 1877, 71 years and 27 days. Both he and Mary lived through the War of 1812,  Andrew Jackson's two turbulent terms, the Mexican War, and the  very trying times of the Civil War. During that time, communication took a giant leap forward with the advent of the telegraph. William died one year after Ulysses S. Grant's  administration came to an end.
     Mary, most of whose life was lived during the period when candles were the primary source of illumination, lived to see the very beginning of the use of electricity for lights and the very begining of the shift from the horse and buggy for transportation to that new fangled thing called an automobile. They lived through one of the most dynamic centuries of all times.
     William and Mary Noss were married on the eve of the beginning of Andrew Jackson's tumultous two terms as President of the United States. It is my understanding that in those pre-Civil War days, the Holt males voted Democratic. If that was the case,William, if he voted, voted for one of the country's most dynamic, and controversal, President's of all time.   They didn't waste much time in consumating their marriage as their first child, Mary Jane was born the 22nd of June, 1829. She was followed by Thomas Fritz Holt (at left) on 26 October, 1830.
     The family then moved to Vanport, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Living in Vanport, at that time was a Jacob Noss whom I believe was one of Mary's brothers. I have no proof of this however. I suspect the family may have lived with Jacob while William was building their cabin home several miles away in the then wilderness of Mudlick Hollow. As I stated previously, I had a grade school chum, Bill Bailey, that I visited regularly,who was raised about 300 yards from that cabin. I frequently passed the remains of the old cabin on my way to visit Bill, totally unaware of its family significance to me, and would occassionally poke around the old crumbled logs and tumbled down fireplace stones.  It wasn't until I began doing the family genealogy some forty years later that I became aware of its significance.
     On November 24, 1834, in the family's newly constructed cabin, a set of twins, John C and Samuel Jacob Holt were born. It was nine years later,17 November 1843, before the next child, Rachel Ann, was born. Then last but not least, Dorcas was born 13 May 1848. Tragedy struck the very next day when one of the twins, John C., now 13,  died. I have never been able to determine the cause of his death.
     If anyone reading this has a picture or pictures of anyone mentioned in my blog along any of the family lines at any time, or anyone related to anyone in this blog, I would greatly appreciate a copy of that picture. I would gladly pay the cost of duplication and mailing. Also, if anyone has additional information on anyone or their descendants please do not hesitate to send me that iformation.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring is in the air

     "Spring has sprung, grass has riz where last year's wreckless driver's is."  Compliments of an old Burma Shave add of 70 or 80 years ago. Another old proverb fits this year in central Arizona; "March roared  in like a lion but is sliping out like a lamb." Beautiful weather these last few days.
     I've been working on several family histories to publish here over the next several days. Much to my sorrow,  I don' have photo's for a lot of the folks I will be writing about. For example, I have a photo of William Humphrey Holt, Sr. but not of his wife, Mary Noss. I have a photo of their son's, Samuel Jacob, wife, Mary Ann Taylor, but not of Samuel Jacob. And of their children I have photo's of only Smith (Richard), Mary, Frank and Clyde. I'm sure pictures exist for William and maybe, Jane and Jeffrey, the two who died a day apart and are buried together. And if any of you have pictures of any of the older generations,  and would like to share them, I'll run a special edition devoted to family pictures. I would like photo's of all lines, Holt, Davis, Childs, Thornhill etc., especially those going back to the Civil War time and this way, say up through at least 1950.  You can send them to me via email at . If you would prefer to "snail mail" them drop me a line via email and I'll give you my mailing address. They tell me I shouldn't put my "snail mail" address on such a public forum as my blog. Sigh!!!! what a society we have become.