Cholera’s here…

Henrietta Völks1 is not a relative of mine, although if the fates hadn’t been so cruel she might’ve been. She was my gg grandfather’s first wife whose life was cut quickly short by cholera.

Now fill your glasses to the brim,
And drink with steady eyes,
Here’s to those already dead
And here’s to the next who dies!2

When the ship Eleanore docked at the port of New York on June 23rd of 1852, on board was the married couple Friedrich Wilhelm Jahn and his wife of several years Henrietta. There were no children with them on the passenger list, and we do not know if they ever had any together.

F.W. and Henrietta’s final intended destination was Wisconsin. It is unknown exactly how they eventually made their way there, although, it was probably by steamboat across lake Michigan which was quite a popular route at the time. They most likely arrived in Milwaukee sometime in late July, early August and stayed either with relatives, friends or at one of the many boarding houses that took in the large numbers of recent immigrants.

Milwaukee was becoming quite the large metropolis at this time in Wisconsin’s history. Immigrants were flocking in by the thousands weekly from England, Germany, Ireland. This huge influx of people along with the crowded conditions of the city, poor sanitation and bad water, helped to spread the disease that was part of the worldwide cholera epidemic of 1849, which continued in several outbreaks until 1854.

Image of cholera victims.

The 1849 Cholera epidemic is believed to have arrived in the United States from the German ships arriving in New York and New Orleans, and by the next spring it began its steady spread through out the interior of the country.

The scariest part about cholera for folks at this time was: not understanding how it spread, and the swiftness with which it struck. You could be talking to a friend one day and they would appear to be in the best of health, and the next day you find out they are dead. One of the symptoms of the fear people experienced, was that they fled like rampaging cattle from the disease, in effect making sure of its spread to unaffected areas. If you were a victim of the disease you can be sure that many a family member or friend would abandon you in a heartbeat and leave you to your fate, in the hopes that they won’t catch the disease.

Doctors still didn’t really know what caused it, or how it spread. Newspapers and rumors were quick to use the immigrants as scapegoats. While part of the blame could be placed on these folks who brought it over from Europe, general lack of knowledge about its cause helped it along.

The epidemic re-emerged several times until about 1854. The 1852 epidemic while not nearly as virulent still managed to kill Henrietta. According to family stories, by September (only a few months after she arrived at her new home) she was dead.

At death, the cholera victim was wrapped in a white garment and then put in a wood box, after which the group of men hired to take care of the dead were called upon. They would haul the body off to the sand trenches where all the other bodies were buried. In some cases when a whole family had died, the neighbors would just torch the house with the bodies in it. It is believed that some folks were so desperate to dispose of the victims that there were cases of people being buried while not quite dead.

There is no known headstone or burial place for Henrietta, maybe she is one of the many unnamed victims buried in a potters field in Milwaukee.

So this year, I give thanks for the advances we have made in modern medicine, science, and our understanding of the world around us. I will also raise a glass in honor of Henrietta, whose life was cut brutally and abruptly short.

1 Henrietta’s last name has been seen spelled many different ways including, Voaks, Voeks, Voöks.

2 For further information on this subject I highly recommend this article “Disease and Sickness on the Wisconsin Frontier: Cholera”, by Peter T. Harstad; Wisconsin Magazine of History, Spring 1960, (pages 203-217).


A Piece of Savage Barbarism…


The Civil War in the United States was a tragedy of huge proportions for the citizens of this country. So many lives lost because of misplaced southern pride in outdated and appalling views on ownership, ‘states rights’ and slavery.

James Shaw, born Ohio in 1808, was an older brother of my ggg grandfather the Hon. John Shaw. By the early 1830s James decided to try his fortunes in Texas and moved his family to what is now Milam County. He had married one of the Riggs girls and had several children with her. One of those children was a son, Frank Shaw.

James embraced being a Texian wholeheartedly, even joining the military when they were fighting Santa Anna. He was in the decisive battle of San Jacinto that was one of the determining factors in the future of Texas as a state.

Sometime after the civil war started James’ son Frank, feeling the fever of youthful righteousness in a cause, joined up. On the side of the South. This decision had the unfortunate effect of ending Frank’s young life quite abruptly. His father wrote this letter to the paper, mostly likely as a way to help himself work through his grief:


Editor Gazette:

Permit me through the columns of your weekly paper, to make known to the civilized world and to Texian soldiers in particular, the death of my unfortunate son, Frank Shaw, a native Texian, who was brutally murdered by Federal troops in Louisiana, on the 3d day of November last. The circumstances are substantially as follows: My son was Orderly Sergeant in Captain Waterhouse’s Company, Lane’s Regiment, Majors’ Brigade of Cavalry. In the morning of the Borbeaux battle, his (Waterhouse’s) and Johnston’s companies, who had been on picket, a mile from the Federals encampment, marched up to a bridge on Bayou Borbeaux fronting the Federals, and were ordered to dismount and take trees. My son with two or three others, seeing a good position across the bayou, some eight or ten steps in advance of our line, ran to it, and after having fired three or four rounds each, the order was given to fall back to their horses, who having further to run by being in advance, they were captured before they got back.

At this critical moment Gen. Green and Majors came dashing up at the head of their victorious columns from the right, and repulsed the enemy, who after having taken my son some four hundred yards, fearing his recapture, brutally and inhumanly murdered him by shooting him in the head with a pistol!

I have not written this account hastily and from the impulse of the moment; but have waited patiently for the last four or five weeks hoping the first account of this sad affair which I received from my nephew, A. P. Perkins, might possibly prove incorrect as I could not believe, that there was a nation on the face of God’s habitable Globe, especially one professing to be foremost in civilization and Christianity, that would have acted so barbarously: notwithstanding the poet has long since said:

“But look for ruin when a coward wins, For fear and cruelty were ever twins.”

My son had met them honorably previously on many battle fields. Mr. James Holland, a member of the same company, has lately arrived at my house, with his horse and baggage. He was taken prisoner a short time previous to my son; but he saw while in New Orleans, before his escape, the prisoners who were captured with him, with whom he was well acquainted, and they informed him that they saw Frank shot in the cowardly manner described above, and for the only reason, that his feeble health would not permit him to keep up afoot, with their retreating cavalry.

I have been thus particular in detailing facts for this purpose of making it publicly known to our brave Texian troops in the field, that these same thieves and murderers under Gen. Banks, are now polluting our Southern borders with their unwelcome presence, and I now leave it with them to decide whether or not, so cowardly and dastardly an enemy deserved the treatment of a brave and magnanimous foe?

James Shaw
Lexington, Jan. 13, 1864.1

There is no getting around the fact that war is an ugly and violent affair no matter how you look at it and Frank was a casualty of that ugliness. The manner of his death, if accurately reported (remember we only have one version of what happened), is unfortunate and it is understandable that James’ view will be prejudiced. In my, admittedly prejudiced, mind his son was fighting to preserve slavery under the misguided guise of state’s rights. Where was the honor in that?  But the fact is, one side had no more claim to honor and heroism than another, as both the North and the South committed acts of barbarism, compassion, and heroism at many times during the war.

1 Published in the [Texas] Galveston Gazette, January 13, 1864.

Another Goble murder…

Stephen P. Goble
Stephen Porter Goble, Stephen, senior’s son with his first wife, Elizabeth Brown. (1832-1866).

Stephen Goble and his first wife Elizabeth had, according to online trees, seven children. Sadly only one, a son, lived to adulthood and had a family of his own, Stephen Porter Goble, who was born in 1832. When Stephen senior died in 1889 his will left all his property to his 5 daughters (whom he had with his second wife Alice), clearly indicating that none of his son Stephen’s heirs were to receive a farthing:

Item 2nd — It is now considered by me that my deceased son Stephen P. Goble, having in his lifetime received his full share and proportion of my estate and assets, It is my wish and will that his heirs viz; the heirs of the said Stephen Goble, deceased, shall not inherit or have any part or portion whatever of my said estate, or of any estate or assets of which I may die seized.1

As one can see in the reading of the will, there was actually nothing nefarious going on, Stephen had already given Stephen Porter his share of the estate, probably when he had married. The fact that Stephen Porter’s heirs are mentioned instead of Stephen Porter himself also clearly indicates that his son had died previous to 1889, so of course I was curious as to why he had died before his father. The possibility of it having happened during the civil war was pretty high as he was of an age to have enlisted.

I found one online tree that had this to say regarding his passing: ‘met his death in 1866, by a shot fired from the gun of a trespasser.’…and that was it. All I could think was – ‘Seriously, that’s all you wrote? Weren’t you curious about the details?’ But this did give me a clue that he probably wasn’t killed in the war. The Goble family website has the following entry for Stephen Porter:

“Stephen Porter Goble died May 30, 1866. He and a farm hand were going through his farm on the lane when they saw a stranger walking through the wheat field. This would cause the wheat to be mashed down so that it could not be harvested. They called to the stranger who turned and shot Stephen P. Goble. The farm hand took Stephen on the farm sled to the house and a doctor was sent for. Stephen P. Goble died, leaving a wife, Frances S. (Ashburn) Goble, and three young children and a farm.”

The above story being shared by a descendant of Stephen Porter had been passed down for several generations through the family. However, thanks to the good old internet, and those great folks who are digitizing newspapers as fast as they can, here is the story as found in a Minnesota newspaper just days after the event3:


At this time, I can find no record of the perpetrator of the crime having ever been caught.

This event is an interesting and excellent example of how family stories change over the years, where the basics of the story turn out to be mostly true, but the details get all muddied up at each telling.

The murder of his son and the loss of 6 children with his first wife, were not the only devastating things to happen to the family. I caught this horrible bit of news in an 1885 paper:

The house of Stephen Goble, near New Richmond, O., was destroyed by fire.4

Who knows what precious heirlooms were lost to the family. Thankfully no lives were. So, we can be relieved that this wasn’t a Goble doing the murdering, but a Goble getting murdered. Although I am sure Stephen Porter would have preferred to have not been the subject of this gruesome post.

  1. Will probated April 10, 1889, Wills of Clermont County, Ohio, 1800-1915, Book P, p. 512-517 [image on FHL digital images of these wills is 303-305 of 669].
  2. Told to Jean E. (Coddington) Bogart by her mother Marguerite (Frey) Coddington and her Aunt Dorothy E. (Frey) Lanter.  Goble family website
  3. A Horrible murder…, Taylors Falls Reporter, June 2, 1866, page 23, col. 4; Stillwater, Minnesota weekly.
  4. Newark Daily Advocate, Saturday, September 5, 1885, Newark, Ohio, page 1, column 7.

Steam boating on the Ohio…

Replica of the New Orleans, (built in 1911), the first steamboat that traveled on the Ohio in 1811.
Replica of the New Orleans, (built in 1911), the first steamboat that traveled on the Ohio in 1811.

The introduction of steamboats on the Ohio River in 1811 revolutionized river travel during the first half of the nineteenth century in America, and by the 1820s the Ohio was bustling with more boats than you could shake a stick at. Early travelers using the river for transportation spent much more time and energy getting from place to place because they had to power the boats themselves. This technology made travel on the water faster and more efficient. The only drawback was the steamboat’s tendency to explode, but this drawback was more than made up for with the speed they could achieve to meet tighter schedules, traveling against the current, and by being able to take more passengers and higher value cargo upstream.

Although most of the earlier steamboats came from Pittsburgh or Wheeling, it wasn’t long before Cincinnati also emerged as a significant player in the industry. “Cincinnati shipyards launched twenty-five steamboats between 1811 and 1825, and the number only increased after that period. The industry and the transportation system that it developed helped Cincinnati to become one of the most important cities in the West prior to the Civil War.”

Stephen Goble, Senior, sometime in the late 1870s to early 1880s, as he died 1884.
Stephen Goble, Senior, probably taken sometime in the 1880s.

One of those early pioneers of this revolution in river travel was my 3x great Grandfather Stephen Goble, Sr.. Stephen was born in 1804 in Clermont County, Ohio the son of William Goble and Ruth Beck. He was named after his paternal grandfather. The lure of the Ohio River called to him, and one can easily imagine the appeal to a young man of the early 1800s, watching the hustle and bustle of the steamboats traveling up and down the Ohio at all hours of the night and day, with many heading to St. Louis and New Orleans. It must have been quite a sight to see.

The thrill of adventure was so alluring to Stephen, that at the age of 15 he had left his family in Bethany and eventually ended up working on the steamboats running the river. By 1826, at about the age of 22, he had become an engineer on the first two lever engine boat that started in Cincinnati, the Wm. Tell.I found the following wonderful news articles in the Ohio papers. They give us a hint of his early adventures.

River News, Daily Port Register. Arrivals. Personal.
Several weeks ago we noticed the death of Capt. Embree,…Capt. Embree was one of the earlierst steamboat captains in the west…In the year 1828 he built a boat at New Richmond, Ohio, on which such venerable steamboatmen as Captain John Conner, Robert Davis, and engineers James Temper and Stephen Goble, Sr. each served terms as youthful engineers.4

Shipping News: Miscellaneous —
Stephen Goble probably the oldest river engineer living, was here Thursday. He was on the Wm. Penn[Tell], the first two lever engine boat that started from Cincinnati, and also on the Marion the second of the same class. He is now 84[78] years old, hale, hearty and in possession of every faculty. He lives up the river near New Richmond, and made the trip on the Bonanza as the guest of his old frine Mac Ketchum. He was greatly interested in the changes that have occurred since his day.3

River Intelligence: Personal.
Stephen Goble, an old time engineer, was on the Wm. Penn, the first two lever engine boat, that started out from Cincinnati and also on the Marion, the second of the same class. He is now eighty-four years old, hale and hearty and in possession of every faculty. He lives up the river near New  Richmond.5

River Intelligence: Personal.
A correspondent at New Richmond writes us that the item in the Gazette a few days ago in regard to Stephen Goble was not altogether correct, he being in his seventy-eighth year. The Wm. Tell was the first steamboat he went out on as engineer from Cincinnati, in the year 1826.6

We don’t know exactly how long Stephen worked on the river as an engineer although one paper reporting his death indicated that he was involved with the river for over 40 years and other sources say until he retired, which could be at any time.7 newspaper_goblestephen_deathIn the 1840 census he is listed as being engaged in agriculture, so he was probably involved with both occupations during his lifetime. He was now an adult and had settled down with his first wife with whom he had married in 1824, Elizabeth Brown. His second wife was Alice Brown (sister of Elizabeth), our ancestress, whom he married in 1841. She was about 14 years younger than him. Together they had five daughters of whom Sallie is my gg grandmother, and one son.

Goble—March 24[1889], Stephen Goble, at New Richmond, O, aged 85 years.8

It is a pity that we can’t go back in time and relive Stephen’s river adventures with him. It must have been a thrilling time.


  3. Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, Cincinnati, Ohio 04-02-1881, page 7, col. 1
  4. Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, Ohio 12-03-1870, page 4, col. 2
  5. Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, Ohio 04-02-1881, page 3, col. 2
  6. Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, Ohio 04-15-1881, page 3, col. 2
  7. Wednesday, March 27, 1889; Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, Indiana), page 3, col. 6. The article indicates that he was involved with the river for over 40 years, but I do not know how accurate the information is because they also state he left a widow. Alice had died a few years earlier. It is possible that he both farmed and still was involved with the river over the years.
  8. Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, Cincinnati, Ohio 03-25-1889, page 4
  9. History of Clermont and Brown Counties, Ohio: Biographical…, by Byron Williams; p342-343