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.

Dorm rooms ain’t what they use to be…

A short while ago I was perusing my flickr site to refresh my memory of the pictures I had uploaded a few years ago. I ran across a picture of a gentleman sitting in what looked like a college student’s bedroom.

Herbert Hatch in his bedroom
Herbert Hatch strumming a musical instrument.

There was a school pennant hanging from the bed canopy and the word Denison on a pillow. I was pretty sure that the image was from our Hatch side of the family, so I checked online for a Denison College in Ohio, assuming of course that that is where the Hatch family member would have gone to college.

There is a Denison College in Ohio. So I contacted the archivist there to see if they might have information on which Hatch son, Herbert or Harry, was in the picture.

This is the response I received:

Herbert attended Denison’s prep school (like a high school) called Doane Academy, then took 1 college math class here. So he’s not a Denison college grad. I can’t help you with the photo, as I have no photo of Hatch to compare it to.”

Drowning in Brooks…

Almyra Brooks

Okay, it was a bad pun. But when you have a surname like Brooks in your family you have to have a little fun with it.

I have been doing a lot of research on Almyra Brooks’ family. Why? Because she is one of those women’s lines that has been pushed to the side in other people’s research because it required a little too much effort to figure them out.

But not me. I am very persistent and tenacious when it comes to these kinds of puzzles, and I love a good challenge.

When I started this research all I knew about Almyra’s parents was mostly just their names and a few other details. So what have I been able to find out so far? Almyra’s father John, jr. was born in Albany, Albany County, New York a week after his father John, sr. died of illness in the Buffalo area of the state (after having joined the Army to fight in the ‘War of 1812’). John, jr.’s mother, Diana Smith Brooks (who was born in England), was left with five children to raise on her own. The eldest of those children was Peter, and he was not even her own. Peter was born during what I am quite sure was John’s first marriage. What’s that you say, John Brooks, sr. had a previous marriage? Oh yeah. And I am the one who figured it out.

The guardianship file for John Brooks, sr. indicates all the children along with their ages. Using a wonderful device called a calculator, I was able to figure out that Peter was born before Diana and John were married, a good indication that John was married previously to Diana. The guardianship case also named a Peter Brooks, Diana’s brother-in-law, as guardian. So not only do I now have the names of all the children of John, sr., I have a brother for him too.

While in Salt Lake City, I looked at a film of burial records of the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany on the off chance it might have something of interest for me. I found two intriguing records. One was ‘John Brooks’ child’ burial costs and the date of August 1802, the other one was an entry for ‘John Brooks’ wife’, burial costs and a date of October 1805. These entries were intriguing because of the dates, both of which were before John married Diana in 1807 which strongly suggested a connection. So I made note of the entries.

When I came home and started going through my research data, I looked over the above records and decided to check other online databases of the Reformed Dutch Church records. I found three very interesting entries in the marriage and baptismal records. The first was a marriage for a John Broocks to a Hannah Groesbeck in 1801. The second was the baptism of a daughter Elizabeth in 1802. The last and in my mind most convincing evidence that this marriage was my John, sr.’s first one, was a baptism for a Peter in 1804, the same year that the eldest son Peter was born.

Put together with what I already know, I am convinced that John’s first wife was Hannah, they had a daughter Elizabeth who died at a few months of age, and then had a son Peter. Hannah died about 10 months after Peter’s birth. John then married Diana. They named their first born Elizabeth after John’s first daughter.

So my next question is, who are the parents of John, sr. and Peter Brooks?

The best source would be the same Dutch Church records I looked at previously online. These records along with a website dedicated to the history of Albany have given me information that makes me lean towards the theory that John Brooks b1783-d1815, brother to Peter Brooks b1780-d1825 are both the sons of Peter Brooks and Frances Wendell. I know Peter and Frances had a child named Peter, as I found a baptismal record for one in 1780. John Brooks named his eldest Peter. John had a brother named Peter. (There are not a bountiful amount of Peter Brooks in the directories or census records.)

If indeed this connection is true, it has been indicated that Peter Brooks who married Francis Wendell in 1772, was the son of Jonathan Brooks and possibly Rebecca Tatten, (Jonathan’s will names his wife Elizabeth, so I am unclear about this information). Jonathan is considered the patriarch of the Brooks of early Albany.

There is still research to do on this line, but it is starting to look up. It is still unclear if the Brooks are of Dutch or English descent. But I am looking forward to finding out.

It all started with a membership to NEHGS

My grandmother Lois Shaw comes from a long line of New Englanders, many of whom arrived in the new world in the 1600s. So when the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) had a sale on membership last fall, I thought it would be prudent to join.

The Shaw book that was put out by Evelyn Shaw Mason in 1997 for the reunion, has a good amount of information in it on our Shaw family. But some lines, usually the female ones, were not pursued at length.  One of those lines is Almyra BROOKS’, a family I have been trying to learn more about for quite a while now. A few months ago I decided to use the NEHGS site to check into my BROOKS who hailed from Albany, Albany County, New York before moving to Burlington, Vermont in the 1860s.

I knew that Almyra’s paternal grandparents John Brooks and Diana Smith were married in Albany, Albany County, New York in 1807, I had the church record to prove it. But that was about all I knew about them. Well that, and the fact that Diana Smith was born in England. From previous research I had also deduced that Almyra’s father John had a brother David, a tinsmith, who moved his family to Cherry Valley, Otsego County, NY.

So off I went to the NEHGS search engine looking for Brooks in Albany. My first find was a major one. It was an abstract from a probate record for a John Brooks dated 1817. In it was a list of the following children: Peter, b. 1804, Elizabeth, b. 1808, Thomas b. 1809, David b. 1812, and John b. 1815. John’s widow, Diana, was being granted guardianship of the children, along with her brother-in-law Peter Brooks.

Wow. This was a great find and that one little abstract told me a lot. First it told me this is the John I am looking for. This information was confirmed by the widow’s name being Diana, and the last two children being David and John, both born exactly as my previous research had indicated. The probate also mentioned one other very important item of interest. John was in the US Army. The light bulb that went off in my head said War of 1812.

My next step was to see if I could find a War of 1812 pension record for John and I did. Diana Little, his widow was the applicant. This has to be the Diana I was looking for, the coincidence was too great to pass up. So I ordered the pension file and it arrived three weeks later.

This is what the pension file told me: John Brooks died 31 May 1815 at Black Rock, NY of disease. Black Rock was a naval port during the war of 1812, and is now part of Buffalo, NY. He had enlisted in the US Army 4th Rifles on March 30, 1814 for a term of 5 years. As the war ended in December of that year, he probably participated in a few engagements with the British.

One curious bit of information from the abstract was the fact that the eldest son Peter was born about 1804, which is before John and Diana were married. So was Peter their son, or was John married before Diana? According to Diana she had lived in Albany for about 54 years, before that she was living in New Scotland, NY which is not far from Albany. So maybe New Scotland had records of interest and that is where John and Diana met.

Diana married Robert Little about 1817/18. Robert died in an almshouse in 1845, which could mean he was infirm in some way, an alcoholic, or mentally unstable. Diana/Dinah was living on her own for quite a while as can be seen in the census records. She eventually ends up in the household of William and Jane Cassidy – Jane might be a daughter she had with Robert, as she was born about 1818.

Diana, born in 1785 in England and died 11 April 1872 in Albany. She is buried in the Cassidy family plot.

I still don’t know where in England Diana hails from or who her parents are. But I do know a little more about her than I did before. The same goes for John Brooks. John could be a descendant of the Brooks of Massachusetts or the Dutch Brooks of Albany. There is still a bit of mystery left. But at least I now know he had a brother Peter.

One last interesting bit of information I found in the pension file was a letter sent by a women researching her Brooks family and hailing from Burlington, Vermont. She is a descendant of our John and Almyra of Vermont. Using this information I have found a living relative still in Burlington. I will be sending a letter this week.