Who knew…a johnny reb wanna-be

Well it finally happened, something so unexpected I almost hate to share. It looks like we have ourselves a little confederate wanna-be in our family tree.

Fold3 is a great website for researching military history, and like other sites of the same nature they are always adding new content. So I was checking into a lesser researched ancestor by the name of Dallas Lemasters. This gentleman is of French Huguenot descent and married Mary Headlee in 1834, in West Virginia. Their daughter Lydia married Thomas R. Stackpole.

When the Civil War started in 1861 Dallas was in his 50s, so a little too old to be joining the ranks of soldiers to fight for his cause. Instead he and his brother Septimus along with Septimus’ son Jasper decided to join a party of civilian guerillas, whose intent was to fight the enemy, that being the Union Army, on their own. Unfortunately, for them, they were captured by the Union and imprisoned at Camp Chase in Ohio. At the time of their parole hearing, several citizens in the area Jasper was from recommended that Jasper stay imprisoned as they considered him a very dangerous man. Dallas and Septimus were released on their own recognizance in November 21, 1862 after signing an oath to protect and preserve the Union.

So far I haven’t been able to find out anything more about this turn of events, but I will keep on working at it.

Camp Chase in Ohio, Civil War prison camp for Confederates.

Heading to Salt Lake City, Utah again…

The first week of June I will be heading my way southwest to Salt Lake City, Utah for another bout of mainlined research. I have been spending most of my weekends making my lists and checking them twice. The research this time will focus on two families, mainly the Brooks of Albany, New York and the Shepard lines of Westfield, Massachusetts. I am more interested in the Brooks, but I also don’t want to neglect those lines related to the Shepards in Westfield. There are quite a few, Dewey being one of the big ones.

I don’t know if we are related to Melvil Dewey the guy who invented the Dewey Decimal System, but we are related to the guy to created the Webster Dictionary, he is a distant cousin, our common ancestor being Governor John Webster of Connecticut.

Lots of interesting tidbits have been popping up in my research lately. Especially when checking into those old New England surnames on the Shaw side of the family.

Of special note are three surnames in our ancestry who were somehow involved in witch trials in Long Island and Connecticut in the 1600s. In one case our ancestral husband and wife were witnesses, the accused was found not guilty. In another case two of our ancestors were jurors in the same trial, they found the accused husband and wife guilty; they were sentenced to death. So we have a couple more ancestors who can be called murderers, all in a good cause of course.

Postmaster in the house…

The JOHN family has a few postmasters in its background. This position was due to two of our ancestors working with the rail system, Frederick William in Gillett and Victor Hugo in Wabeno and the surrounding area. Victor was in fact station agent in Wabeno for many years.

Ancestry.com just this week uploaded their postmaster appointment database with image and I decided to look for both of the above named gentlemen. The top image is FW John’s appointment and the bottom image is Victor Hugo’s (just click on the images to see a larger version). Here is a description of the collection from Ancestry:

This is a database of post office appointments stretching from 1832 until 1971. The records are mostly a register of people appointed to run post offices, but opening and closing of post offices, as well as Presidential appointments and Senate confirmations are included. The records primarily include name, appointment date, vacancy cause, vacancy date, post office location, state, county, and volume.

I looked for William A. Shepard in the database, but did not find him.

Society of the Cincinnati…

I have been doing a little reading about Shay’s Rebellion. Why you ask? Well as my ancestor General William Shepard was one of the major players in this incident, I thought it might be relevant to my research.

I won’t be going into the rebellion as this time, but in my reading of the incident I ran across an interesting tidbit about William. He was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati.

The Anderson House where the Society’s archives and main branch resides.

According to Wikipedia and the Society’s own website this organization was created in 1783  at the Continental Army encampment at Newburgh, New York. The concept was started by Henry Knox and would consist of only those officers who has served 3 years and were above a certain rank. It is the nation’s oldest patriotic organization, founded by officers of the Continental Army and their French counterparts who served together in the American Revolution. Its mission was to promote knowledge and appreciation of the achievement of American independence and to foster fellowship among its members.

William joined the Massachusetts group.

There was some controversy when the organization first started as many Americans were fearful that the group was trying to create an hereditary aristocracy. The group was a bit shocked by the accusations, and decided to change a few of it’s policy’s and rules to alleviate some of the fears of the American citizens, the main one being it’s restriction of hereditary membership to the eldest son.

The group continues to this day. If you want to read more about them check out wiki or go to their web site: http://societyofthecincinnati.org/.

A little cemetery visit…

Seeing as it is close to Halloween, (my favorite holiday), I thought this bit of news was very appropriate to share.

I have been going over Shaw research the last week or so as you can tell from my previous post where I found Montral and Charlotte’s marriage record. So here is a little cemetery visit without having to leave the comfort of home.

Below is a link to the Shaw Cemetery on Jett Hill in Clemont County, Ohio. The local genealogical society has taken pics of all the headstones found in the cemetery along with a few landscape shots. This is where John and Idea (Webb) Shaw are buried, along with other related family members.


Courtesy of the Clermont County Genealogical Society

Back in the saddle again…

Well I took off a whole summer to rejuvenate and renew. That will be why you saw very few posts for the last few months.

But here I am back with a little tidbit. I have been doing a little housekeeping of my genealogy software starting with me and going back each generation. I am making sure that I actually have documents to back up my findings for me, my parents, my grandparents, etc. It’s easy to know the dates and places from such recent events, but in the process one has to still back all the information up with actual documents.

So here my first effort, a marriage record for Montral Goble Shaw and Charlotte Hatch, from Cayuhoga County, Ohio found online at Ancestry.com:

Montral G. Shaw and Charlotte Hatch marriage license

It is surprising how many documents one thinks one has when they are working with their more recent family history. Now is the time to rectify that situation.

Great expectations…

Well it finally arrived. The 1940 census, 72 years after the fact.

Day one of research – total server meltdown. After a few hours I just said fugetaboudit. Day two – better luck, I managed to acquire a couple of records. Day three – much better access, found a few more records and only a few more to go. By Friday I had pretty much found all the records I will be able to. The only missing one is of course, Fred Hamm, my wandering vagabond.

So for your viewing pleasure the 1940 census for Clarence and Mytle John:

This census shows Clarence, Myrtle, Claire, Victor and Carol all living in Laona, Wisconsin. My one hope for this record was to see if Clarence was listed as having worked for one of the Government programs like the WPA or CCC, unfortunately there is just a dash in the box. Clarence was also one of the two people on a page that were asked extra questions in this particular census. The only item of interest to me was his occupation was listed as forestry and government work. So maybe because he wasn’t one of the unemployed men working for the WPA or CCC, he isn’t listed as working for either program, even though he was but in a different capacity.

Next is William and Lois Shepard:

In this census you can see that Lois and William are living with William’s parent’s William and Rachel in Genoa Township, Delaware County, Ohio. This is just north of the Westerville area. None of the Shepard children are born yet, looks like we will have to wait another 10 years for the next census.

So I am pretty much done looking for relatives in this census. Carrie Cain is still around as is Eliza Hays. I even found Emil Hamm in Duluth, while looking for Carrie/Kari Amundson. Fred Hamm is my only fly in the ointment. I checked the complete census for Shawano County,Wisconsin as that was his last place of residence in the 1930 census, but that was a bust. No surprise there. Looks like I will have to wait for the indexing to be done.

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.


It was early summer in 1904, Mrs. Hilda Shallman the local Swedish midwife heard a hurried knock on her door. She grabbed her bag, that was always ready for just such an occasion, and opened the door to an out of breath neighbor, who rushed to give her the news, and then Mrs. Shallman headed out the door to get to the apartment of Fred and Kari Hamm that was just a couple of blocks away.

Sometime during the day of 3 June Kari gave birth to a daughter. She was named Emilia after her husband Fred’s mother.

Sadly Emilea contracted gastroenteritis, or what is more commonly known as stomach flu. She died at the age of 1 year 2 months and 15 days on 18 August 1905. Myrtle never knew her sister.

Wallace Rosa’s Last Chapter – A story in 3 parts

Part 3

Fate had it in for Wallace as his next and last stop was at Andersonville Prison in Georgia. A prison that historians today consider the world’s first modern concentration camp. It was certainly the Civil War’s most notorious.

Andersonville started out as an unfinished stockade wall on almost 27 acres of land in a sparsely populated part of Georgia. There was a small creek running through the center and it was relatively close to the railroad for easy access to supplies. The stockade enclosure that was finally built on the land encompassed about 16 1/2 acres and was approximately 1000 feet long and 780 feet wide. The walls of the stockade were constructed by local farm slaves who cut pine logs on site and set them in a trench about 5 feet deep so close together that you could not see to the outside.  The stockade wall included two gates on the west side. After the first wall was constructed, a second wall was set about 19-25  feet inside with the space between the two walls being named No-man’s land, any prisoner crossing into No-man’s land was immediately shot by sentries posted around the stockade. This prison was built to hold 9,000 – 10,000 men. It ended up holding at its peak 33,006.
When Wallace arrived at the prison at the end of June, it had been in operation for about 6 months and already there were well over 20,000 men confined in this small space. It was at this time that prison administrators decided to expand the walls to the north adding another 10 acres using prisoners and slaves as the laborers. By July 1st the prison was now its final size of  just over 26 acres, and by August it was housing just over 33,000 men. It was the largest prison in its time and ours.
The stockade had no buildings or shelter other than the ‘hospital’ that had been constructed just outside the walls. Even that was inadequate in size. The men huddled around any burning embers they could find to keep warm at night and lay in holes dug into the ground to keep cool during the day. Because the walls of the prison were built so tightly together, there was not much in the way of breezes during the day. Alexander McLean a former prisoner recalled:
“During the day the sun would pour down scorching hot, and owing to the lowness of the ground where we were, and our nearness to the stockade, not a breath of air could reach us; when night came, the men would stretch themselves on the ground where they would soon become stiffened with the cold, and, during the night wold be so tormented by vermin and worms, with which the ground was perfectly alive, that they could get no sleep till their strength was completely exhausted. Oh! how we would long for the dawn…Some days there would be a slight thunder shower, and immediately after, the sun wold come out so hot that it would be almost impossible to endure it. I hardly know which we most dreaded, the clear noon-day, the chilly and dewy nights, or the passing shower.”

It was in June that summer when it rained down on the  prisoners for over 20 days. Their uniforms rotted to such an extent that they provided little to no cover or fell off completely and some men went around naked. Wallace would have been harassed daily by lice, flies, fleas, and mosquitoes. The ground became so infested with maggots that it look to be alive. Having no adequate facilities for reliving themselves the marshy area around the center of the prison became their latrine, eventually accumulating several inches of excrement, a situation that added more problems to the already horrendous conditions of the camp as it helped to spread disease, and of course rendered the only water source undrinkable.
Scurvy, the disease of starvation, was rampant in the camp. The men who could walk around were nothing but skeletons with skin holding them together. As James Jennings remembers:
“You could almost hear their bones rattle as they walked around and were being eaten alive with graybacks [ticks]. Some of these poor fellows were so covered with lice and nits that their hair would be matted tight to their heads; and their hands and faces and bodies almost as black as a negro from the dirt and smoke of pitch pine fires as they huddles over [them] to keep warm.”

Because the dead were buried outside the walls of the camp, burying the dead  became a fiercely fought over opportunity to leave the stifling confines of the camp and get some fresh, insect free, air.

Burying the dead.
The ration wagons, when they arrived, would be swarming with flies, with all the food just dumped into them, cooked or raw, what ever the cook felt like that day. The food was then passed out with buckets that had just scooped it up off the floor. The camp baker would not allow the prisoners to wash the wagons, even though some of them were also used to carry the prison dead.
It was bad enough that the prisoners were abused by their captors, they also had to contend with “raiders,” other prisoners who were remembered as thugs not unlike the gangs of New York City. Transferred from other camps, these thugs continued their illicit activities after they were transferred to Andersonville. Their main activity was stripping the ‘fresh fish’ (new prisoners) of any valuables or useful items. Their goal was robbery, but they had no problem adding murder to their resumes. Eventually the abused prisoners had had enough of the raiders and names were named and men were hanged. The abuse stopped, for a while. The men who formed a police force to keep the peace eventually became abusers themselves.
General Sherman began to move his army into central Georgia in September of 1864 in what was the start of ‘Sherman’s March’. The Confederates, fearful of multitudes of freed Union soldiers rampaging in the southern countryside, evacuated the majority of prisoners from Andersonville to a new camp at Millen and later evacuations to Savannah, Charleston, etc. Only those too sick to be moved were left at Andersonville, of which Wallace was one.
Sherman never did free any prisoners, although an attempt had been made in July of 1864 – the real goal had been to destroy one of the South’s major supply sources, the railroad, in that area and possibly free some prisoners if the chance presented itself, but the attempt failed, and resulted in more prisoners being added to the already swelled ranks of Andersonville. Freeing prisoners was not a large priority for Sherman, and it is not that he didn’t care, because if he had freed them, the politics of it would have been a boon for Lincoln, instead, he was focused on ending the war, a much better way of getting the prisoners released.
For Wallace a rescue might have made a difference. The scurvy he had contracted was finally taking it’s toll. He lay in the ‘hospital’ on his spot on the ground in the open air by the swamp and the stench of the latrine. If he was lucky he had a blanket. He breathed his last foul breath of air sometime on October 26, 1864. His body was probably stripped of any valuables by other inmates, including any gold fillings he might have had. By the time Wallace died there were no coffins or shrouds for the dead so his body would have been place in a shallow ditch, poorly covered with dirt and became food for the vultures. The only item provided at his death was an entry in the burial records of the camp.

All together the filth, sickness, and starvation rations contributed to just under 13,000 men dying in this prison. History attributes the atrocities at Andersonville on the South’s inadequate rail system, the federal blockade, widespread corruption, greed, fraud, local politics, and administrative incompetence. All of this added together makes Andersonville the first excellent example of bureaucratic collapse due to an administration’s inability to run itself in the modern age. It was this ineptitude that caused the creation of the horror known as Andersonville. The South is not alone in its prison horror stories as the North had comparable administrative problems, but they also had much better resources, so prisoners of war did not suffer the same, but they did suffer. Only Andersonville retains the honor of being the worst.

7 James A. Mowris, A History of the117th Regiment, NY Volunteers (Hartford CT: Case, Lockwood and Company, 1866) 298. [From Ghosts and Shadows of Andersonville, by Robert Scott Davis: p21&22].
8 A Story of the Trials and Experiences of James Jenning: Late of Co. K 20th Illinois Infantry At Andersonville Prison During the Civil War, by James Jennings. [From Ghosts and Shadows of Andersonville, by Robert Scott Davis: p54].
9 Scurvy: Early symptoms include malaise, lethargy, loss of appetite, peevishness (ill-tempered), poor weight gain, diarrhea, fever. After 1-3 months patients develop shortness of breath and bone pain. Skin changes with roughness, easy bruising, gum disease, loosening of teeth, poor wound healing, and emotional changes occur, irritability, pain and tenderness of the legs, swelling over the long bones, hemorrhage. Late stage symptoms include, jaundice, generalized edema, oliguria, neuropathy, fever, and convulsions. Left untreated fatal complications include cerebral hemorrhage or hemopericardium. Definition from: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/125350-clinical.
10 The majority of information regarding prison experience at Andersonville is from Ghosts and Shadows of Andersonville, by Robert Scott Davis, a highly recommended read.