One of the Oldest Houses in New York

This image is from Wikipedia page, see source below.

For my last research post of this year, I though I would share this interesting bit of New York state history that I found in my online travels.

As I have hit a pretty sturdy brick wall researching Gertrude Cain’s Irish ancestry, I have moved on to trying to flesh out Gert’s non-Irish side. And over time I have found some pretty interesting history I have been able to share in this regard. So here is another interesting story, it’s about Jan Van Loon (pronounced ‘van loan’) and his house. I plan on telling you more about Jan himself next year, for now we will stick with his house.

Jan Van Loon arrived in New York in 1675. He was a blacksmith who spoke French, and was Catholic. In 1685 he purchased a very large tract of land consisting of thousands of acres, (this property now encompasses Athens and parts of Catskill and Coxsackie). In 1688, as the earliest European settler in the area, Jan decided to name the settlement he started Looneburgh. Or, later settlers named the property in his honor. The story is told both ways. The patent is still known by that name.

Apparently, when Jan built his house for his family in 1706, he built it to last.* According to wikipedia it is now known as one of the oldest extant buildings still standing in the state of New York. Although, if you do a search of a list of the oldest buildings in New York it is about 31 down from the top. But still, that is pretty darned old. The house is located in Athens, the exact address is 39 South Washington Street, on what is also New York State Rt. 385.

In 1932  an historic marker was placed outside the house, as you can see in the image above, which reads:

JAN VAN LOON HOUSE BUILT 1706 BY JAN VAN LOON CHIEF HOLDER LOONEBURGH PAT. 1688. ATHENS VILLAGE FIRST CALLED LOONEBURGH

New York State Education Department

Jan’s place on the family tree is Gert’s 5th great grandfather, on her mother’s side. Gert actually descends from Jan twice, as her great-great grand mother Lena/Helena Van Loon is the daughter of Van Loon cousins.


*Although, technically, only one wall of the original 1706 structure remains unchanged.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Van_Loon_House

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December 26, 1954 William Shepard To Parents

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26 December 54

Dear Dick & Dad:

It is the lull between holidays. We had a cold christmas day with no snow. The package arrived OK and the presents were just fine. Thanks ever so much for the P.J’s as they were needed.

Work here at K-55 in Korea is much different than I have been doing. Im back to communications work and it isnt nearly as interesting as fighter aircraft operations. But it will get me home sooner. If I would have remained in Okinawa I’d come home in April. This way Ill make it in March. In fact I expect to leave Korea sometime during the last two weeks in February. There isnt much news from

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here. I just wanted you to know that I was still kicking. I should be getting my new assignment stateside in a few days of a few weeks at the most. When I know where Im going Ill sent another letter.

Try not to let the cold weather get you down. It is bothering me! No colds or runny nose but I just cant seem to keep warm.

Well, goodbye for now Ill write later.

Your Son
Bill

November 19, 1954 William Shepard To Parents

19 November 54

Dear Mother:

Have been moving about quite a bit so I havent been able to write much. Letters to Lois have been rather light. As you probably know I was supposed to be in Korea, but have been sent for a period of temporary duty to Okinawa – Pen is not too good so excuse the scratches.

The way things are going, I should be back in Korea about 10 December. And I hope to get my christmas boxes there. It is medium warm here on Okinawa – about 50º to 70º with the wind blowing constantly. It was beginning to get cold in Korea – down to freezing quite a bit.

As you mentioned in your last letter, the boys are growing up and I will probably notice a big change in them. Sure miss the little rascals. [apparently his daughter is of no interest]

Im very sorry to hear that Bess is having so much trouble. I hope that she is finished with it now. She certainly has enough trouble as it is.

We are on maneuvers here in Okinawa and I’ve been living in a tent & sleeping bag

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for the past week. There is about two more weeks to go.

So much work to do that I dont have much time to get homesick. But once in a while I do.

Flying is about normal. I finished my 2000th hour last month. I am assigned to the 67th Fighter Squadron now and it is quite some outfit. The squadron insignia is a rooster with a pair of boxing gloves.

We almost caught the last typhoon but it died out just before getting here. Would have been rough on the equipment out in the open like we are.

Dont know just when I’ll get to write agian. But Ill try not to make it too long.

Take care of yourself & tell Dad hello for me
Bill

September 6, 1954 William Shepard to parents

6 September

Dear Dick & Dad:

I suppose that you are still in Canada, so I’ll write there. Everything is going along normal. Work & flying as usual. Time goes by fairly fast. Now I am 1/2  the way  through my time.

There isn’t any news, but I wanted to let you know I was still kicking. The weather has turned cool, thank goodness. It was too hot in August 95 to 100° every day, and almost 100% humidity. However this month has been very pleasant.

The weather has turned cool, thank goodness. It was too hot in August 95 to 100° every day, and almost 100% humidity. However this month has been very pleasant.

We are finishing a three day holiday (Labor Day) and I have had plenty of rest. I’ve been playing chess and cribbage until I’m tired of it. Tomorrow I’m going up to the front lines again for several days, perhaps 8 or 10. It is for screwing in with the Army does. We understand what they do, we can get better close support with our fighter bombers. And two, it is a break in the monotony to go to a different place for a while.

And two, it is a break in the monotony to go to a different place for a while.

Hunting season starts here on October 1. Probably duckies and present. None of these

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Koreans have guns, so it’s all ours to hunt. I may get to get out a few times.

It is a good time to be in Ohio, during the autumn. Wish I could see it. Especially the trees. We only have a few scrubby ones in South Korea. Up north there are forests, but down here nothing but rice patties. And that your stink. I’ll never get homesick for this place.

It is a good time to be in Ohio, during the autumn. Wish I could see it. Especially the trees. We only have a few scrubby ones in South Korea. Up north there are forests, but down here nothing but rice patties. And that your stink. I’ll never get homesick for this place.

As I said before, I haven’t any news. So I’ll close for now. Right when you get time.

Your son Bill

Happy Thanksgiving

Just a small post to say that I am giving thanks to all my readers out there. I appreciate your feedback and hope I can continue to keep finding stories to share.

Also, I am having a few issues with my new website upgrade, so don’t be surprised if you can’t access it. I am working on it. — ALL FIXED! Although if you run into any weird glitches while visiting the site, let me know.

Door County Connections

Fred Hamm, my great grandfather, died in Door County in 1951. According to his obituary he is buried in a cemetery at Bailey’s Harbor. (Hubby and I went to find his burial plot a few years back, but no luck finding a headstone in the cemetery for him; had a great brunch in town though.)

For those of you who don’t know, Door County in Wisconsin is one of the ‘go to’ places for tourists, which means if you live in Wisconsin, you avoid it like the plague. Plus, purchasing and owning property up there is extremely expensive. And according to newspaper research, Fred and his son Arthur owned land, possibly together, in the area. I only know this because there were several foreclosure notices in the newspaper regarding Bernice, Arthur and Fred, which culminated in the property being sold at auction.

Arthur’s disappearing act no doubt contributed to the money problems that lead to the eventual sale of the property. It looks like Fred was getting some kind of assistance, according to the article below, but not enough to make a difference.

Of course now I was curious as to where exactly this property was located in Door County. So I did a little digging. (Sometimes it is very hard to find plat maps online.) The property is described as being:
SW 1/4 NW 1/4 S15 T27 R26

Finally found a decent plat image. The section of interest has been marked in red.
This is a current satellite view of the property, according to the land description form the newspaper. Somewhere along Canal Road. (A directory could give me a house number which would help narrow it down more, if the original house is actually even still there.)

The fire mentioned in the article above happened in March of 1949, Arthur ‘disappeared’ in April, Bernice divorced him in July, the property started showing up in the paper regarding foreclosure proceedings August 25th, and continued in the paper until the sale in 1952. Fred died in 1951. Poor Bernice was left to deal with the mess.

Well it is not a very exciting post, but I was curious about where Fred was living up in Door County all this time. Now I know. Driving around up there will certainly be a lot easier then heading up to Canada to see the old Shepard cottage, as long as we avoid tourist season. Plus, I know a great place to get brunch.

October 31, 1954 William Shepard To Parents

letter_shepardw_to_shepardwr_1954_10_31


31 Oct 1954

Dear Dick & Dad:

Just after writing you a letter, I received yours of the 15th. In fact Im not sure if I received yours before or after I wrote last. Anyhow this letter will bring you up to date.

I am now at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa for several weeks, after which I shall return to K-55 at Osan Korea.

The outfit moved here to Kadena, and I was transferred out just prior to their leaving. I will be as Headquarters 5th Air Force at K-55 when I return, about 12 November.

The cool weather had just started when I left K55. Here at Hadena it is windy, but not cold. About 60º-65º.

Sorry to hear about Bess. Hope that she is alright by now.

Give Doshi & Burch my regards, and dont work so hard.

Looks like Ill be home early in March. So Ill try to write a few more times before then. But remember that I was behind the door when the pens were passed out. — Bill

October 24, 1954 William Shepard To Parents

 

24 Oct 54

Dear Dick & Dad:

I havent forgotten you. Havent been writing anyone very much lately. Work has been real heavy the past month. 14 to 16 hours a day. Altho there hasnt been much flying.

It is cool here now. Frost in the evenings. Clear blue skies. The days are warm. Typical October weather at home I guess.

I quit work today (Sunday) at 1200 noon. A party of us went hunting pheasants. I shot one. Only had one shot. We saw a lot of them, but they would get up just out of gunshot. They are ringnecks like the ones at home. The Koreans dont hunt, so there are lots of them here. A lot of ducks and geese too.

If I stay here this fall I will probably get to do a lot of hunting. I heard from Ruth yesterday, and she says that everything is going O.K. Havent heard from you folks lately, but I imagine everything is alright too.

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Lois writes every few days that one of the kids is spending a night with you. I know that they enjoy it. And Im happy that I brought the family back to Westerville while I am overseas.

According to the calenday, it is 128 days to go. That is, if I stay in Korea. If I should move elsewhere it would be about 180 days. In any event Ill be home before school is out.

Take good card of yourselves & write when you have the time.

Your son
Bill

Private Clayton Webb Shaw

I thought this Veteran’s Day that I would talk about an uncle of mine who was a soldier for the Union Army during the Civil War and died in 1862 at the age of 22, having had no chance to leave much of a legacy.

Clayton Webb Shaw’s short life consisted of: being born, which happened on the 8th of May, 1840 in Clermont County, Ohio, (he was the oldest son of John Shaw and Idea Webb); growing up; volunteering in 1861 in the 5th Ohio Cavalry O.V.C., Company M (as a musician); dying.

Reports of his death are a bit confusing.

The regiment that he joined was organized at Camp Dick Corwin, at the end of 1861, and the men who signed up were in for a three-year stint. The regiment was composed mostly of men from Hamilton and Clermont counties in Ohio.

On February 26, 1862, the 5th received orders to report to Brig.-Gen. W. T. Sherman in Paducah, Kentucky. So off they went.

On the night of March 15 the regiment dropped down to Pittsburg landing and the next evening an expedition, consisting of six squadrons of the regiment, was ordered in the direction of Corinth and when 5 miles from the landing, in front of Shiloh chapel, was suddenly fired upon by a considerable body of the enemy. A charge was immediately made, in which several prisoners were taken. 

On April 4 the second battalion of the regiment had a sharp skirmish with Confederate cavalry, infantry and artillery at Crump’s landing, in which the battalion had 2 wounded, but brought in 14 prisoners. 

At the battle of Shiloh the regiment was constantly under fire. Gen. Grant giving direct orders to it and assigning it various difficult and dangerous duties and positions in the field. The behavior of officers and men throughout their virgin battle was highly commended by both Gens. Grant and Sherman. The regiment advanced with the army in the slow “siege” of Corinth, and had its share of picket duty and other exposure.1

Here is a list of their battles, skirmishes, etc.:
March from Danville to Savannah, Tennessee, March 10-11, 1862.
Expedition to Mobile & Ohio Railroad to destroy bridges March 14-15.
Beach Creek Bridge, Tennessee, March 13.
Near Eastport, Mississippi, March 14.
Burnsville March 14-15.
Reach Pittsburg Landing March 15.

Skirmish Pittsburg Landing March 16.
Reconnoissance toward Corinth March 16.
Black Jack Forest March 16 (Detachment).
Near Shiloh Church March 24 (1st and 2nd Battalions). 
Expedition to Chickasaw, Alabama, and Eastport, Mississippi, April 1.
Near Monterey, Tennessee, April 3.
Crump’s Landing April 4 (Detachment).
Battle of Shiloh April 6-7.
Corinth Road April 8.
Beech Creek Bridge April 13 (3rd Battalion).
Affair with Cavalry April 14.

Advance on and siege of Corinth, Mississippi, April 29-May 30.

Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 8.34.26 AM
Map of Shiloh and battle lines.

So right away Clayton’s company was pretty much thrown into the blender. Okay, so far we can see Clayton’s company’s activities up to and beyond Shiloh. And then Clayton dies. This is where things get a bit confusing. According to the ‘Graves Registration Card’ found at ancestry.com, Clayton died at Shiloh, Tennessee, KIA on May 22, 1862.

military_shawclaytonwebb_gravecard

But…the Battle of Shiloh occurred April 6-7. The Union Army was advancing to, and sieging at Corinth, Mississippi from April 29-May 30. So how did he die at Shiloh? Maybe he was in a picket type situation, or they were reconnoitering in the area and there was a skirmish he died in.

Here is the story as told by his brother James:

James F. Shaw ….son of John and Ida (Webb) Shaw…Five children were born to this union:…Clayton, enlisted at the beginning of the Civil war in the Fifth Ohio Cavalry and died at Pittsburg Landing soon after the battle…2

So according to his brother, Clayton died at Pittsburg Landing, which is also what the Battle of Shiloh is called, shortly after the battle. (You can see the landing on the map above.)

But then we get to his headstone, the one that was applied for that honors his service:

headstone_shawcw_CivilWar

It reads:

He volunteered in Co. M 5th
O.V.C. October 3, 1861
Was in the battle at
Shiloh Fields.
Sent home sick, arrived
May 9, died on 22, 1862
Aged 22 years 19 days3

His headstone states that he died at home due to illness. However, it doesn’t specifically state what kind of illness. Was he recovering from wounds received in battle? Did he catch one of the prevalent diseases that killed many his fellow soldiers? Regardless of what illness killed him, it looks like he was not actually killed in action, but died at home surrounded by his family–I guess if you have to go, it’s not as bad as dying in a muddy, bloody field of battle.

In the end, despite the confusion on the details of his final days, Private Clayton Webb Shaw died in service to his country. So I thank him, and am only sorry that he is one of many young men whose life was cut so brutally short by war.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is a slide show of three of the only decent images I could find online regarding Shiloh, or the 5th Ohio, (the company is unknown in that image though). Found these at the National Archives.


Sources:

  1. From—5th Ohio Cavalry Soldier Roster – Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, Volume 11, by Ohio Roster Commission (Joseph B. Foraker, Governor, James S. Robinson, Sec’y of State and H. A. Axline, Adjutant-General), 1886.

The Johns Own a Hotel

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Mary Schaal and August C. Johns in Minneapolis. About 1900.

August C. Johns*, FW John’s younger brother, moved to Iowa about 1884 from Dodge County, Wisconsin. Once there, August and his wife Mary bought themselves the Milwaukee Depot Hotel in Algona, Kossuth County.

The John families had a history of owning boarding houses and small hotels, but I do not know if that was the reason for this move. Mary and August were definitely very invested in their business, because over time they: shored up the building’s foundation, added on — to make more room, and made major improvements in the interior, as can be read in the following newspaper article transcriptions…

—A.C. Johns, proprietor of the eating house at the Milwaukee depot, finding his present building too small to accommodate his trade, has an addition well under way which, when completed, will be 22×32 feet on the ground, and the front half of it 16 feet high.1

Mr. Johns is putting his Milwaukee eating house on a new stone foundation and fitting it up for the winter.2

The Johns hotel at the Milwaukee depot has undergone a general overhauling this spring. The finishing touches were put on by Painter Orr last Friday. The inside and outside are painted throughout, new paper, and other changes have added to the beauty and convenience and our popular Milwaukee landlord has one of the finest eating houses along the line.3

1875-map-copy
Way up at the top left to middle you can see a trail of smoke coming out of a train smoke stack – that area is about where their hotel was located. Image provided by Kossuth County researcher.

They ran this hotel for 15 years eventually trading it for farm land nearby. No doubt because they were getting on in years, and found the business of hoteliers to be too difficult. Also, all their children, (who happened to be daughters), were married and had moved away from home, so were no longer around to help out.

In their 15 years of running the hotel there were no doubt many an interesting tale they could tell. One of those interesting tales I mentioned in a post a while ago: regarding a counterfeiter in town. Here is another I found that was told in two different local newspapers:

 

 

Below is a transcription, if you find the articles too difficult to read.

TOOK MIKE FOR A TARGET
Midnight Marauders Shoot at Hubbard, but Without Producing Serious Results…
Mike Hubbard experienced an unpleasant sensation yesterday morning about 2 o’clock. He had been cleaning some vaults and had just got home with his team. As he had finished un-harnessing and was turning towards the house he saw two men in the alley running from Mr. Johns’ hotel. The men did not see him till quite close, and then he called out to them. Both turned off to the north and one of them whipped out a revolver and fired at Mike, coming uncomfortably close to him. They then ran away and were lost sight of.

It turned out in the morning that they had tried to break in at Mr. Johns’ and had just been scared away. They opened the cellar door first and took out some fruit, etc., and ate it. Then they began to remove a pane of glass with a big chisel. Mr. Johns heard the noise and thought at first it was mice, which the girls had been complaining of for some days. But after a while he made up his mind that it could not be, and got up. When the burglar saw him he dropped his chisel and ran, it was thus that they came on Mike and scared him out of a good night’s sleep.4

TRAMPS AT WORK.
The N.W. Depot and John’s Place Both Entered.
Last Monday night tramps or sneak thieves entered the ticket office at the Northwestern depot, drilled two big holes in the safe, but did not succeed in getting the door open and if they had would not have got anything for their work as there is not money left there. Nothing else was molested and the thieves were undoubtedly frightened away before the job was completed.

The same evening A. C. Johns at the Milwaukee depot drove two sneak thieves out of his cellar. They were loading up in great shape when Mr. Johns happened to hear a racket in the cellar and proceeded to investigate matters, armed with an ugly-looking gun. He would have peppered their skins for them had they not escaped just as they did. Mike Hubbard attempted to run the fellows down with a pichfork as a weapon but one of the two would-be-thieves fired a couple shots at Mike and he let up on the chase pretty quick. He was pretty badly scared and told Mr. Johns that he had been shot at but didn’t know just where he had been hit. After examining himself he found that a bullet had plowed a furrow through his coat-tail. It was a close call for Mike.5

Very exciting stuff. August and Mary moved to Minneapolis in 1899. Their age and ill health made it more convenient for them to be closer to family. When they died though, they were both buried in Algona.6, 7 It must have been their home of the heart.

*NOTE: August/us spelled his John surname with an ‘s’. Our family spelled it without. German records show the name as Jahn — no one in the family spelled it that way once they arrived in America.

Here are more newspaper articles regarding the hotel and the Johns:
1895-10-23, Wednesday Page 8, col. 3, of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: Walter Stebbins has leased the Johns hotel at the Milwaukee depot and has taken possession. Mr. and Mrs. Johns, we understand, will visit in Minneapolis and take a well earned vacation. Walter will make a number one landlord and keep up the excellent reputation the hotel has enjoyed.

1896-1-31, Friday Page 5, col. 2, of Algona Courier, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: Mr. and Mrs. Jas. Ryan will take hold and run the Johns’ hotel, at the Milwaukee depot. Mrs. Stebbins who has been running it for some time has taken his old position in the Wilson Mill.

1896-5-8, Friday Page 5, col. 5, of Algona Courier, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: Mr. A. C. Johns has traded his hotel property for a farm near Hartley. The new owner will take possession of the hotel soon. For some time past it was quite successfully run by Mrs. James Ryan.

1896–5-13, Wednesday Page 4, col. 5, of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: J. L. McNamee of Hartley has bought the Johns hotel at the Milwaukee depot and is now in charge. He traded a farm near Hartley for the property. Mrs. Ryan and son, who have been running the hotel, have rejoined Mr. Ryan. Mr. Johns will not leave Algona.

1917-4-19, Thursday page 7, col. 2 of Algona Courier, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: Mr. E. J. Murtagh went to Minneapolis last Friday to see his old friends, Mr. and Mrs. A. C. Johns, the former being very enfeebled with age, he being now 88 years old. Mr. and Mrs. Johns lived in this town for many years, and Mr. Johns served on the council as a member for the Third Ward for several terms…

1923-6-7, Thursday, Page 1, col. 2 of Kossuth County Advance, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: PIONEER ALGONA LANDLADY VISITS OLD FRIENDS HERE Mrs. Mary A. Johns, of Minneapolis, has been a guest at the E. J. Murtagh home for some days. Forty years ago Mr. and Mrs. Johns conducted the “Johns Hotel” at the Milwaukee depot. The house did a big business for passenger trains then stopped here for meals, and all the railroad men were patrons of the house.

The hotel, which stood on the north side of  the track, was burned down some years after Mr. and Mrs. Johns left Algona…[they left in 1900]

Those were the boom days at the Milwaukee depot….The Dehnert hotel, now north of the courthouse, at that early day was also serving the public, but stood just south of the Milwaukee depot. It was moved to its present location 35 years ago…

1925-2-19, Thursday, Page 1, col. 6, of Kossuth County Advance, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-resercationcom]: MRS. MARY A. JOHNS DIES; TO BE BURIED HERE TOMORROW… She and her husband the late A. C. Johns, ran the Milwaukee hotel here in 1884, when it was thought that the main part of the city would be located near the Milwaukee depot…

Thanks to organizations that are digitizing local newspapers, and making them available to search on-line we now have a wonderful timeline and history of Mary and August’s time in Algona.


Sources:

  1. 1885-5-13 Wednesday Page 4, col. 3, of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]
  2. 1889-10-16, Wednesday Page 4, col. 1, of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]
  3. 1890-5-21, Wednesday Page 4, col. 3, of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]
  4. 1894-6-20, Wednesday Page 4, col. 6 of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]
  5. 1894-6-22, Friday Page 4, col. 6 of Algona Courier, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]
  6. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/66278024/augustus-c.-johns
  7. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/66278025/mary-a.-johns