Is Almira’s mother Cornelia?

In my ever vigilant search for information on Almira Johnson Brooks’ parents, I have come across an interesting puzzle.

Almira’s death certificate/registration indicates that her parents were Catherine and Samuel with no last name (we do not know who gave the information). Almira and John Brooks’ son John, jr. has his mother listed as Almira Johnson on his death registration, with no indication of who gave the information. Another child of theirs has Almira’s surname as Johnston. So it has always been assumed by me that Almira’s mother was Catherine _____ Johnson/Johnston.

Something interesting popped up when I was looking into this matter recently. In the 1840 and 1841 city directories for Albany, New York, Diana/Dinah (Smith) (Brooks) Little is living at the same address as a Cornelia Johnson. Cornelia is also found in the 1840 census and, as would be expected as they are living in the same household, she is listed right after Diana Little in the entries.

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Then Cornelia disappears. Meaning I can find no further record of Cornelia in Albany. At all.

When I first created my ‘directory’ database for all the relevant surnames of my Albany ancestors, I was looking for patterns, and I did this by sorting the information on different parameters. That’s when I found the entries for a Cornelia Johnson at the same address as Diana Little (along with her son John and his wife Almira). My first thoughts were that Almira Johnson Brooks, had a sister Cornelia who was also living with the Little/Brooks family. And these thoughts stayed pretty much the same until recently, when I decided to check the 1840 census for Cornelia.

When I found her entry, I was a little taken aback, because both Diana, and Cornelia are listed as 50-60 years of age, a little old to be a sibling to Almira. Could this mean that Cornelia is actually Almira’s mother? Why else would an elderlyish women with the surname of Johnson be living with Almira’s mother-in-law?

If Cornelia is Almira’s mother, then her father Samuel probably had died before 1839 and it is possible that Cornelia died by 1842, as no further record can be found for her after 1841 (yet).

It is an interesting puzzle waiting to be solved.

Up in smoke…

Fire in some way or another has made its appearance often in my ancestor’s lives. The most devastating one being the Peshtigo Fire of 1871, a much nastier event than that little dust up they had in Chicago the same day. Most of the other fires seem to have been house or chimney fires of which I can count at least 6 having occurred to various ancestral families, so far. For the David Brooks family we have the following account.

David Brooks was John Brooks’ elder brother. He was born about 1812 in Albany, Albany County, New York. Both John and David lived with their mother until sometime after 1841 when we can find John at his own address in the city, as well as David.

David most likely trained or apprenticed as a tin smith in his early years, an occupation he continued throughout his life.

Sometime between 1855 and 1860 David and his wife Margaret packed up the tin smith business and the family jewels and headed to Otsego County, New York. Cherry Valley to be exact.CVSCAPE

 

The family wasn’t in the area long before we find this newspaper article in their county paper:

fire

The Freeman’s Journal, July 13, 1866, Page 3.

It doesn’t appear that any lives were lost in the fire, but the family most likely did lose a goodly amount of their possessions and possibly even their tin business for a short time.

David and Margaret continued to stay and raise their family in Cherry Valley. Together they had at least 5 children. Their son Andrew is the only one to take on the tin smith trade.

I can find information on only three of their children. Andrew who married and had one daughter who died without any heirs. Sarah who married and had 9 children, all Woodwards. Benjamin married and had one daughter and has descendants from her. There appears to be no sons that carried on the Brooks surname in his line.

David died in 1882 at the age of about 70. Hopefully this was the only nasty event to occur to the family.

Off to Academy…

According to John Brooks, jr.’s obituary, printed in the 1898 Albany paper, another item of interest was mentioned: that he had attended the Albany Academy.

The Albany Academy was chartered in March of 1813 “to educate the sons of Albany’s political elite and rapidly growing merchant class” (according to wikipedia). In the case of John this would appear to be true because his occupation and trade was cigar manufacturer,  definitely of the merchant class.

As the Academy is actually still a functioning school, I was able to contact the archives to try to find more information regarding its academic program, and if there were any record of John Brooks having attended.

Unfortunately at this time, no records have been found that can corroborate this claim. I don’t doubt that it is true, but can’t confirm. According to the gentleman who contacted me in response to my inquiry:

“The youngest students of the 1820s were about 10 years old. Their programs were anywhere from a few quarters to eight years. They selected either a classical or “English” program.”

Albany_Academy_1907

This the original building, which is now used as the Joseph Henry Memorial.

A copy of the Academy Statutes was provided to me and it makes for some light amusing reading regarding expected behavior of the students. Below is a page pulled from the statutes giving an example to some rules. They seem pretty consistent with rules for students today, with some exceptions, of course.

AAStatutes1829

John probably took the mercantile course which lasted four years and included the basics along with mercantile studies – ex.: accounting, book-keeping, etc.

merchantile

Here is the page covering the 4 year Mercantile course. The whole Academy pamphlet makes for interesting reading.

The family was in the business of cigar manufacturing until John passed way in 1898. His son John was a saloon and pool hall owner. I don’t think he was much interested in continuing the trade. His daughter Almyra married a furniture manufacturer and had moved to Ohio. The other children had died before John, or were daughters who married and moved away, so the business pretty much died when he did.

Fun little note: Andy Rooney attended the same academy as did Theodore Roosevelt III.

A musical interlude…

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 2.09.11 PMThanks to my very generous nephew-in-law and his musical talents – I have an excellent update I can make to my Albany Burgesses Corps post.

As I mentioned in my little history of the Corps, they had a quick step written for the organization and played it at many a celebration. I approached my niece and her husband, because they do ‘music’, and I have zero musicality – although I am told my voice won’t break eardrums. Troy was finally able to make time in his busy schedule to put this ditty together for everyone’s enjoyment.

Bateaux’s Quick Step

 Of course now I want to know what the steps were to this little piece.

Albany Burgesses Corps…

When John(2) Brooks (John1) died in 1898 in Burlington, Vermont, his obituary appeared in two cities, his hometown of Albany, New York and his adopted home of Burlington.

It was only recently that I found John’s Albany obituary and in it were several very interesting items. Neither mention anything about his parents (too bad), but the Albany paper did have this to say:

John Brooks, a former tobacco merchant of this city and the last surviving charter member of the Albany Burgesses Corps., died in his home in Burlington, Vt., Tuesday morning, aged 83 years.

“Last surviving charter member of the Albany Burgesses Corps.” What on earth was that?

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The Albany Burgesses Corps was organized in October of 1833 as an independent, volunteer member, quasi-military unit (militia), complete with elaborate uniforms. The name ‘Burgesses’ was in honor of the original governors of Albany. The organization participated in civic ceremonies and acted as parade escort to visiting dignitaries. They were, for many years, a familiar site in the Albany city parades. Its membership consisted of many of the local merchants and professionals, several of whom held political office. The organization was similar to modern service organizations, in that it raised money for various causes all the while providing political connections for merchants.

Th following was found in the Annual Reports of the War Department, United States. War Department: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1908:

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If John was a charter member then he joined in October of 1833 when they first organized or shortly thereafter. He would have been about 18 or 19 years old at the time. And his membership is confirmed in a February 1838 issue of a local paper:

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February paper The Albany Evening Journal, unknown page, unknown date.

In the above notice from the Albany Evening Journal, John Brooks is mentioned as one of the managers of the upcoming 3rd Annual Ball being given by the Burgesses in honor of George Washington’s birthday.

The first parade the Corps participated in was July 4, 1834 their contingent consisted of 45 muskets and 5 officers. On July 25th of the same year, the Corps assisted in the torchlight obsequies of General Lafayette. The pall-bearers were his revolutionary war companions. The ordinance captured by Lafayette from Yorktown was also in the procession.
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The Albany Burgesses Corps uniform, which was changed from blue to scarlet in 1841 (apparently after much lively debate). I don’t know how those boys kept those things on their heads.

Although the Corps spent much time entertaining visiting Corps and dignitaries, and visiting other corps themselves, they were, for all intents and purposes, a militia organization. It was in this capacity  that they were used to help quell the anti-rent riots in 1839. The Corps along with several other military companies from Albany and Troy marched to Helderberg Mountain, under command of Major Bloodwood. The formidable appearance of the troops in their colorful uniforms had the desired effect of intimidating the rioters. The Corps also participated in the 2nd Helderberg War.

In 1844 the Corps acted as escort at the dedication of Albany Rural Cemetery, where several of our ancestors are now buried. There is a whole section in an Albany History book on the Corps many activities through the years. On a fun side note, the Corps also had a song commissioned as a tribute for its officers and many members.

 

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The Brooks family left Albany for Burlington around 1852. But John did return to his home town in 1883 to help celebrate the “Semi-Centennial” of the Corps, which occurred October 8th and 9th. There were balls, parades and banquettes, even Governor Grover Cleveland attended with his staff. Maybe they played the quick step.

burgessescoins
Source:
Bi-centennial History of Albany: History of the County of Albany, N. Y., from 1609 to 1886, edited by George Rogers Howell, Jonathan Tenne: W. W. Munsell & Company, 1886 – Albany (N.Y.). Vol. 4, Page 714-716.

Talk about snail mail…

In September of last year I sent a letter to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, Vermont regarding a marriage between a Samuel Johnson and Elizabeth Fox. The reason for the request was I wanted to find out if this Samuel was a brother of Almyra Johnson Brooks.

Well, nine months later I finally got a response. Samuel Johnson was the son of John Johnson and Margaret Fing. So, no he is not Almyra’s brother. Now he has been relegated to a possible cousin.

Great, this means I have to add another line of research to my Johnson quest, hopefully it won’t lead to another brick wall.

One thing leads to another…

Recently I have been doing a lot of directory research and creating databases in an attempt to unravel the mystery of the Johnson family, as it related to Almyra Johnson who married John Brooks. I have to say intriguing and tantalizing bits of data have come to light, but still nothing but a lot of strings that aren’t connected. Yet.

Yesterday, in the midst of my research, I realized that I hadn’t attempted to find the name of the shop that the Brooks owned in Burlington. So I spent a little time trying to suss it out, but it appears that they merely manufactured cigars at the address and employed several people to help with the business. Including a William and Samuel Johnson at one time. I would venture to guess that these two gentlemen might be brothers of Almira Johnson Brooks. Samuel I have mentioned before.

Another bit of data I uncovered was about their daughter Almyra Brooks who married Dillon Franklin Hatch in 1873. D. F. partnered up with his brother-in-law, David Walker, and they ran a furniture factory, the nature of which changed over time. Walker and Hatch was the name for the most part eventually adding another name when they partnered up with another man.

For a while D. F. and Almyra Hatch lived right next door to her parents, at 85 King Street. If you look at the address now, on Google maps, it is the King Street Center.

Above is the Hatch entry in the 1881 Burlington directory. They lived at this address for a few years before moving to 181 St. Paul [st.]. By 1900 the Hatch family had moved to Ohio.

Here is an ad for the furniture business from 1879:

Update to this entry: I was going over Almira’s probate record to day and saw that there were several Walker grandchildren receiving part of the estate, they were all children of Anna who married a Walker and died before 1901 when the estate was being divvied out.

A little corner shop

Brooks’ former store, King Street is the one going off to the left in the picture, Pine Street is the one going off to the right.

Sometime around 1855 Almira and John Brooks headed on over to Burlington, Vermont to live. At this time I am not sure exactly when the Brooks started their store in Burlington, but I do know that by 1868 they were living and working at this address which was called ‘corner of King and Pine’ it didn’t have an exact address until sometime between 1872-1882. In this picture it is currently clad in hideous vinyl. It would be nice to see it in its original dress. According to records in 1890 Almira is the owner of the building, and John is still alive. He didn’t pass until 1898. So now the question is why is she the owner of the building and not both of them. Hmmm. Inheritance? She also owed the building next door at 176/178 Pine Street. Which I believe they lived in or used as a home at one time  or another.

The Historic Burlington: University of Vermont website describes the house as:

“This 2 1/2 story, wood frame building, which is clad in vinyl siding and has a pyramidal, slate-clad roof and a 2-story octagonal oriel on its northwest corner, was probably built between 1877 and 1886, although it may be of an earlier date.”

The family actually lived at 79/81 King Street for a year or two, according to city directories. Which is part of the building, see the door off towards the left with the small awning. According to the Historic Burlington: University of Vermont website a birdseye view of Burlington in 1877, apparently, clearly shows no buildings at that location, and the ‘massing’ of the 79/81 King Street building make it doubtful that is was built in the 1860s. I am not sure what we can say about that other than land records would likely clear the matter up along with tax rolls. The address would be considered 174 Pine Street if one numbered it from that side of the streets.

The building was used as a commercial business for a large portion of its life, the lower part being used as a shop of some kind or other, the top being used as apartment rentals. It wasn’t until sometime after the 1970s that the bottom was boarded up.

You can still see the building using google street view. Not very pretty, but it is one of the few remaining older buildings in the town.

I even have an update.

In looking over the website mentioned above, I found two plat maps that have the home listed on them. Which is curious because according to the University’s research the building isn’t there in the 1877 birdseye view map. That may be so, but it shows up on these two:

This plat is from 1853. The family is probably not living here at the time, but as you can see the building is there on the corner of King and Pine.

This map is from 1869. The family is definitely there now, as can be plainly seen by the J. Brooks entry on the map.

The building as it looked in 1933 just barely in the picture on the left edge of image.

Regimental Riflemen

John Brooks, Sr. was about 34 years old when he died of an illness at Black Rock, New York during the war of 1812. His death left behind a wife and five very young children. There are no family stories of why he decided to join in the war effort, at least none that this writer is aware of. Money, patriotism, dreams of wartime glory. We can only speculate.

While his death is not the stuff of wartime dreams, at least his service in the war was something he could be proud of.

The 4th Riflemen Regiment, which was John’s, was formed in March of 1814 possibly at Geneva or Utica, New York.

John Brooks, Sr.’s enlistment entry. There is a description of him along with where he was from, and his assignment. I will assume that he was assigned to the riflemen because he was good with a gun. But that is only speculation.

The formation of the riflemen was the military’s first conscious effort to create an elite corps of men. These particular regiments even had different uniforms than the regular army. The regular army wore blue and carried muskets, the riflemen wore green jackets with black collars and cuffs and they carried the new Harpers Ferry Model 1803 rifle. It was a short weapon that could shoot with deadly accuracy to 250 yards. The riflemen were the precursor to the special forces or Green Beret’s found in today’s military.

Within three months of John’s enlistment, sometime about June, the troops started their march to Buffalo, all 133 men. They marched through dense forests with thick underbrush, swollen rivers, deep mud, searing heat and other harsh weather conditions, but they did finally make it.

This map shows a larger view of the state of New York and the lake area.
Close up of top of Lake Erie. You can see Ft. Erie, Buffalo and Black Rock in more detail. These are the areas where John spent a bit of time during the war.

The first engagement of the 4th was at Conjocta Creek, a battle that was apparently never fully appreciated by American’s historically. As described by Maj. Kearsley, a force of about 1300 British men had landed on the American shore below Conjocta at about 1:00 in the afternoon. Having been appraised of the British landing on Squaw Island before heading to the American shore, Maj. Morgan had silently marched the riflemen through the woods to a bridge that crossed the Conjocta. The bridge was quickly made unusable and a breastwork was created with logs. The riflemen then continued on to Black Rock, still hiding from the enemy. Once they arrived at Black Rock, the men then made for Buffalo making as much noise as possible using musical instruments and loud voices, all to attract the attention of the British troops. The intent of course to convince the British that Buffalo was their final destination. Once they arrived in Buffalo, they had a quick meal then secretly headed back to the breastworks at the bridge on the Conjocta. There they hunkered down and awaited the British.

The British arrived at the bridge about 12-1 in the morning. Seeing its demise, men were sent forth of replace the planks that had been removed by the riflemen. Because the night was clear with no moon, the riflemen were in an excellent position to see and not be seen. Once the British arrived at the bridge to repair it, the signal was given by Maj. Morgan. With the blow of his whistle, every rifle was discharged with precision and the head of the British advance was ‘literally decapitated’ with not a British soldier in view left standing.

The British fell back and returned fire, but the riflemen did not reciprocate, this happened twice more. Each time the riflemen did not return fire. The reason being that because of the small force of riflemen, it was possible that the British would discover their location. And because the British had already fallen back twice, they were now out of targeting range. The final consequences of the skirmish was a retreat of the British back to Squaw Island, not knowing the enemy’s strength and being at a disadvantage at the bridge they felt is more prudent to end the conflict. This decision was of major import to the American soldiers at Fort Erie, because the supplies and provisions they needed came from Buffalo and it was the British intent to cut off this supply line. So the defeat of the British at Conjocta saved the entire American Army and prevented the fall of Niagara.

The 4th remained in the area and engaged in transporting the supplies needed for the soldiers at Fort Erie to a place of greater safety near the lake shore and above the mouth of Big Buffalo Creek. It was believed that the British would renew attempts to destroy the supply line so they were making sure the provisions were safe. They spent three days transporting the supplies across the river in a flat boat or scow and during the night they slept in the marsh without tents and in the grass, or worked on removing the bridge completely.

About the first of August they headed to Fort Erie to join back up with the 1st Riflemen. Shortly after their arrival the commanding officer, General Gaines, issued an order for an attack upon one of the pickets and batteries of the enemy, which had been annoying the American pickets. And so commenced a series of warmly contested skirmishes, which continued almost daily. Thus were the riflemen engaged for many days. The result being many good men were dying everyday for no good cause. It enabled General Gaines to appear to be gallantly defending the Fort that was being constantly besieged by the enemy.

The riflemen were ordered to “feel the enemy” by shooting, at their own discretion, into the British lines that were hiding in the woods around the fort. No reinforcements were sent to support the riflemen and they could not advance further forward. With the larger force on the British side, they were fighting against impossible odds.

The whole American force in Fort Erie was 1500 men, the British were 3 times that. The men were in constant expectation of a British attack and it was on the night of August 15th that their expectations were finally met.

Repulsion of the British at Fort Erie, August 1814.

The riflemen were stationed behind the breastwork near what was called ‘Towson’s’ battery. Because of the constant firing of their guns upon the British who were trying to get through line, the riflemen created a lighting affect that became known as ‘Towson’s Lighthouse’. Any British who attempted to land and penetrate the line were met and killed or taken prisoner by the riflemen. After the fighting had been going on for about 20-30 minutes the British sounded the retreat of one of their lines and the riflemen were ordered to move in support of the infantry there. Their new position was attacked multiple times by the British. It was a barrage of retreating, reforming lines and attacking.

The battle ended when the British Col. Drummond gained hold of an American gun position and in attempting to turn it around to fire on American troops, accidentally set the munitions ablaze with a slow match that had been laying in the wrong place at the wrong time. Immediately upon the explosion the riflemen entered the fort through the gates which were opened. They removed the unwanted British soldiers. The battle was now pretty much over.

The nature and frequency of the conflicts in which the riflemen are engaged in the last 2-3 months left only 38 men still alive in the 4th riflemen the next morning. John Brooks was one of those men. We do not know if he was injured in the fighting.

Later that day the riflemen were ordered by Gen. Gaines to again ‘feel out the enemy’ and with the infantry at their backs proceeded into the forest to head to the British line. However, once the infantry entered the dense woods, they became lost and confused and were ordered back to the Fort. The riflemen received no such order and proceeded ahead. They came upon the British and commenced firing while waiting for their infantry backup to arrive. Shortly, they began hearing guns back at the Fort. Maj. Kearsley was afraid the British had found out about the attack and had headed to the Fort expecting to take it over. So he ordered a retreat, and upon arrival back at the Fort the riflemen learned that the American infantry was merely discharging their guns by firing their shot. A lesson in the bouts of incompetence that showed up quite a bit during this war.

The riflemen were considered one of the few American military formations capable of beating the British units on the field. The 4th proved it in several decisive battles.

Directories are the new census…

There are some names in genealogical research that are hair-pulling nightmares. Johnson is one of them. As is Smith, John, Brooks all of which we are blessed with. In this case I am researching Almyra Johnson, who married John Brooks, and her parents Samuel and Catherine in Albany, New York.

I have had no luck whatsoever in finding any of Almyra’s family in Albany County. I have tried many databases in some cases many times over, and had zero luck over the years. So I decided to try a new tact. Directories.

My first thought in my new line of research was why did the Brooks family move to Vermont in the 1850s. What was the draw? Did Almyra have family there? So I proceeded to check the Albany directories first just in case Samuel and Catherine show up. Needless to say it was a fruitless endeavor, as I can’t tell if any Samuel or Catherine listed is actually related to Almyra because none of the addresses appeared to clear the matter up. So I moved my efforts to Burlington, Vermont directories.

As I have already done the research on the Brooks in the directories in Vermont, I was comparing any Johnsons found to the same address or close. I hit pay dirt. I found a Samuel Johnson living at the same address as Almyra and John. A check of the census records about the same time period told me that this was most likely a brother of Almyras, due to his age in the census record. Samuel, jr worked with the railroad in town and there are a couple of other Johnsons working at the same railroad company living in Burlington, but at different addresses. Most likely all related. I have not found her parents yet, but the research is still young and I don’t have access to some of the records I need to continue with the leads. Just another item to put on the SLC research list.

I continued to research Samuel and his family in the hopes of finding something else of interest or a more tangible link, but so far nothing has turned up. It appears that he moved his family to Springfield, Massachusetts. Just a few miles down the road from our Shepard ancestors. They pretty much stayed there until they died.

It was a nice feeling to finally find some family for Almyra, hopefully future research will complete the picture for her.