Revolutionary War’s Forgotten Patriots Remembered in Newspapers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary writes about interesting Revolutionary War-era discoveries she’s found in old newspapers.

Genealogists, by the very nature of what we do, have a keen interest in history. One of my more unusual interests is reading about and transcribing reports from the American Revolutionary War.

Perhaps it is because I have identified numerous ancestors in my family tree who were patriots during that war. This interest has been heightened by finding so many Revolutionary War newspaper articles in GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives.

In this article I’d like to share a few of the unusual Revolutionary War-era stories I’ve found during my ancestor searches, most of them extracted from newspaper obituaries. Keep in mind that to various lineage societies (DAR, SAR, etc.) the definition of “patriot” is not limited to military service. I happen to agree with that assessment: it’s possible to serve your country in many non-military ways during wartime, such as:

  • Belonging to a member of a committee of safety or correspondence
  • Manufacturing goods and providing necessary services
  • Attending to or assisting veterans

Some of these services during the Revolutionary War are described in copious detail in old newspapers from that time. These old newspaper articles are a great resource to discover the stories of lesser-known Revolutionary War heroes. Other types of wartime participation are not as well reported, such as the role played by Uriah Hanks, of Mansfield, Connecticut. He provided a key service during the American Revolution: he manufactured gunlocks for the Colonial troops. Hanks passed away on 4 July 1809 at the age of 74. Although I have found several death notices for him, none that I located mentioned the exact date of his death—or his occupation.

Uriah Hanks death notice, Windham Herald newspaper 20 July 1809

Windham Herald (Windham, Connecticut), 20 July 1809, page 3

It’s necessary in genealogy research to consult a range of resources, and I have found additional information about Hanks in DAR records, vital records, books, and from his tombstone at Old Storrs Cemetery in Storrs, Connecticut.

Notable & Famous People in the Revolutionary War

One of the interesting facts about our country is that two Founding Fathers and presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died within hours of each other on 4 July 1826. Both of these patriots’ careers were well covered by the newspapers of the time, and you can find numerous articles about them.

However, there is another Founding Father who is seemingly overlooked, who also passed away on our country’s birthday—like Hanks, Adams and Jefferson. His name was Fisher Ames (9 April 1758-4 July 1808), a member of the Continental Congress.

Ever heard of him?

I imagine he is not a household name, but he should be, as he was the penman of the 1st Amendment to our Bill of Rights.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The congressional election of 1788 pitted Ames against Samuel Adams, which he won handily, although Samuel Adams did gain a seat in the second Congress.

election returns, Massachusetts Centinel newspaper article 27 December 1788

Massachusetts Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), 27 December 1788, page 121

When he died, Ames’s obituary described him as “a most eloquent orator, enlightened statesman, ardent and anxious patriot, virtuous and amiable man”:

Fisher Ames obituary, Hampshire Federalist newspaper 7 July 1808

Hampshire Federalist (Springfield, Massachusetts), 7 July 1808, page 3

I recommend taking the time to read the Columbian Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts) of 6 July 1808, which mentions his widely-attended funeral, including most of the important dignitaries of the time including Supreme Court Justices, Members of Congress, the Attorney General, Members of the Senate, etc.

Minority Patriots in the Revolutionary War

Surprisingly, we can locate a respectable number of articles about minority patriots in Revolutionary War-era newspapers. The first African American who fell during the struggle was Crispus Attucks, at the Boston Massacre. He is barely mentioned in the Boston New-Letter (Boston, Massachusetts) report on 15 March 1770, but received more coverage in later reports.

“Last Thursday, agreeable to a general request of the Inhabitants, and the consent of Parents & others, were followed to their Grave in succession…two of the unfortunate Sufferers, viz. James Caldwell & Crispus Attucks, who were strangers, borne from Faneuil Hall, attended by a numerous train of Persons of all ranks…”

There are newspaper articles about Native Americans and minority pensioners in the Revolutionary War, as in the following death notice examples:

collage of Revolutionary War-related death notices

Collage of Revolutionary War-related death notices

A fire in the War Department on 8 November 1800 destroyed many military records, and additional records were lost during the War of 1812, but, fortunately, we can locate most pension records after that time frame.

For example, the record of Cummy Simon (or Simons) Revolutionary War Pension S.36315, available from the National Archives or at Fold3.com, reports that he enlisted in June of 1777 in Capt. Granger’s Company (Col. Charles B. Webb’s Regiment), and wasn’t discharged until June of 1783. There is also a letter which names two children, Cummy Simon and Minerva Cable, a welcome addition to any family history research.

Women of the Revolutionary War

I’d like to conclude this article with reports of female Revolutionary War patriots. There are a number of noted women who served during the Revolutionary War, including the “Molly Pitchers” (women who fought in the war; the most famous was Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley), Emily Geiger, Dicey Langston and Deborah Samson (who disguised herself as a man named Robert Shirtliffe in order to fight). Some of their obituaries can be found at the time of their demise, and longer reports can be read from later periods of recognition when towns or lineage societies took the time to commemorate them.

Here is the obituary of one of the women patriots during the Revolutionary War, Mary Wyckoff, that notes: “Many a soldier has to mourn her death, and reflect with gratitude on the generosity and aid afforded them at Fishkill [New York], during the late revolution, when she fed the hungry, cloathed the naked, and protected the unfortunate from the fury of the British troops.”

Mary Wyckoff obituary, Minerva newspaper 29 May 1797

Minerva (New York, New York), 29 May 1797, page 3

The courageous Margaret Keysor seems to have fallen through the cracks of history. Shortly after the Battle of Oriskany, her husband and two sons were captured by Indians and Tories. Margaret escaped with her five children and fled to a nearby fort, which ended up being guarded by two invalid soldiers who were protecting 200 women and children! When the fort was attacked the women and children picked up weapons and fought for their lives until reinforcements arrived.

When Margaret died 46 years later in 1823, her obituary recalled the brave fight she participated in:

“Here she sought shelter in the fort, and remained while Major Brown, with a battalion under his command, marched out to join the forces under General Van Rensselaer. Major Brown and his whole corps, with the exception of thirteen men, fell in the action which ensued: thus was the place left with but two invalid soldiers to protect two hundred women and children. The fort was immediately besieged by the combined forces of British and Indians, but the hand of Heaven can, in times of necessity, convert even women and children into soldiers. By this apparently feeble and inefficient band, was the place defended until reinforced, and the enemy abandoned the enterprise.”

Margaret Keysor obituary, Daily National Intelligencer newspaper 23 April 1823

Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.), 23 April 1823, page 3

This is the kind of exciting story Revolutionary War-era newspapers can tell us about little-known patriots during that legendary struggle!

If you enjoy reading reports from the American Revolution, I invite you to join me on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/500RevWarObits

The Daughters of the American Revolution published a reference in 2008 that is available for download on Forgotten Patriots, with a supplement in 2012.

Last Veteran of the War of 1812, Hiram Cronk—Died in 1905!

In the month of May we celebrate Memorial Day, a time to honor the men and women who died fighting our country’s wars—and, by extension, all veterans. During this week back in 1905 America was celebrating the remarkable story of a very special veteran—for on 13 May 1905, Hiram Silas Cronk died, the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812.

Hiram Cronk Featured in Duffy’s Whiskey Ads

On the day the old American solider turned 105, two weeks before his death, a whiskey company used Cronk’s longevity to help market its product. This newspaper advertisement was published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 29 April 1905, page 2:

newspaper ad for Duffy's whiskey featuring Hiram Cronk, Evening Press newspaper 29 April 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 29 April 1905, page 2

The Death & Funeral of Hiram Cronk

The now famous Hiram Cronk died as he had lived, quietly on his farm in New York, but his death and funeral were reported in newspapers all across the United States. The city of New York lavished a state funeral on the venerable veteran, with full military honors. Tens of thousands paid their respects by filing past Hiram Cronk’s body lying in its coffin in the rotunda of New York City Hall.

Cronk’s death was seen as the passing of an era, for his lifetime embraced almost the entirety of the country’s history. He was born in 1800 during the administration of the nation’s second president John Adams; fought in the War of 1812; lived the entire length of the 19th century as the U.S. became a world power and one of the richest nations on earth; and died just nine years before the outbreak of World War I—with all its modern weaponry including tanks, airplanes and poison gas.

The Life & Family of Hiram Cronk

Until almost the very end of his life, Cronk received little publicity or fame for his U.S. military service in the War of 1812. After the war he earned his living as a shoemaker, then later bought some land in New York and became a farmer. In 1825 he married Mary Thornton; the couple had seven children and were married 60 years, Mary dying in 1885. He had 14 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren at the time of his death. One of his descendants, Jane, lived to over 100 years of age as well, making the two “serial centenarians.”

Cronk Finally Becomes Famous for His Good Genes

It was not until 1900, when the start of a new century coincided with his 100th year, that newspapers began to pay Hiram Cronk much attention. Typical of the notices that ran that year is this pension notice, published by the Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 4 May 1900, page 11:

notice about Hiram Cronk being 100 years old, Springfield Daily Republican newspaper, 4 May 1900

Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 4 May 1900, page 11

When Cronk was 101 the following article was published, emphasizing that he was the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812, and giving some interesting personal information—such as the fact that longevity ran in his family, and that he had used tobacco and strong liquor all his life!

This newspaper article was published by the Inter Ocean and reprinted by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 3 June 1901, page 4:

article about Hiram Cronk being the last survivor of the War of 1812, Daily Picayune newspaper, 3 June 1901

Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 3 June 1901, page 4

The news article goes on to report further on Cronk and his family’s genealogy:

“At the age of 101 years Mr. Cronk is still hale and hearty and, all things considered, remarkably active. He lives within a short distance of his birthplace. Except for his absence during the war, he has seldom left the vicinity.

“Cronk’s family is locally famous for longevity. Four brothers and a sister lived to be over 90 years old, and one to the age of 98. A family reunion was held on Hiram Cronk’s 100th birthday. It was attended by over 100 descendants and relatives.

“The veteran is a lifelong Democrat. He cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson and his last for Grover Cleveland. When asked why he has not since voted the old gentleman remarks good-naturedly: ‘When I got down to Grover I calculated it was time to quit and call it a half day.’

“From a very early age Cronk has been a habitual user of tobacco. He both chews and smokes. Recently he has threatened to break the habit. He is afraid, he says, that the use of the weed may become a habit with him. He has drunk strong liquor throughout his life, but always in moderation.

“The veteran has every attention and bids fair to live for some time yet. He makes his home with his youngest daughter, a mere chit of a girl of 80.”

Three days after Cronk turned 104 this newspaper article was published by the Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 May 1904, page 6:

article about Hiram Cronk turning 104, Boston Journal newspaper, 2 May 1904

Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 May 1904, page 6

Note that last line, a theme that reverberated when Cronk passed away the next year: “With his death will be broken a link that binds us to a glorious past.”

Publicity for Hiram Cronk—and the resulting fame—really increased in the winter of 1904-05, when the old man became seriously ill and death seemed imminent, as reported in this news article published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), on the front page of its 24 December 1904 issue:

article about Hiram Cronk dying, Evening Press newspaper, 24 December 1904

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 24 December 1904, page 1

The article about the old soldier goes on to say:

“He had run the whole gamut of personal and business vicissitude, has found some consolation in the lean years and a greater joy in the last years, and was a cheery old optimist through all. Since last April the sluggishness has made itself felt and a natural sleep has, from day to day, taken up a greater number of the hours. Now he is sleeping his life away to the last sleep of all.”

Conk’s Funeral Is Arranged while He Is Still Living!

Alarmed at Cronk’s deteriorating condition, New York City’s Board of Aldermen took the unusual step of arranging a grand funeral for the aged veteran—even though he was still alive! This newspaper article was published by the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota) on the front page of its 21 December 1904 issue:

article about arranging funeral for Hiram Cronk, Duluth News Tribune newspaper, 21 December 1904

Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 21 December 1904, page 1

The news article goes on to say:

“…in the state of New York and in view of his honorable part in many battles of the War of 1812, it would be fitting that the chief city of the Empire State lead in honoring him by a soldier’s burial and that his remains lie in state in the City Hall.

“Alderman McCall said that while he approved of the spirit of the resolution he thought it would be better to wait for the hero to die before providing for his funeral. The resolution finally was adopted by the following amendment:

“ ‘That in the event of the death of Mr. Cronk, the president of the Board of Alderman take cognizance of the fact and appoint a committee to provide for a public funeral and other honors of the dead hero.’”

As you might expect, this business of arranging a funeral for a man still living was much remarked upon in the nation’s press, as the following humorous notices show.

This notice was published by the Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 6 January 1905, page 13:

“The New York Board of Aldermen are planning to give a public funeral to Hiram Cronk when he dies. He is the only survivor of the War of 1812 in New York. The news of such an honor may prove so exciting to the old man that it will kill him.”

This notice was published by the Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 23 April 1905, page 6:

“Hiram Cronk, the last survivor of the War of 1812, was 105 last Wednesday [correction: his birthday was April 29], but he refuses to die, although the New York aldermen have voted him a public funeral when he will accept. With such an inducement one would expect a rush for the tomb.”

This notice was published by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 25 April 1905, page 6:

“Some months ago the New York Board of Aldermen voted to give Hiram Cronk, the last survivor of the War of 1812, a public funeral. In spite of this inducement to die, Mr. Cronk decided to remain among us a while longer, and celebrated his 105th birthday on Wednesday last [correction: his birthday was April 29]. He won’t lose the State funeral by declining to accept it at this time; he can have it whenever it will be convenient to him.”

There was a big celebration on April 29, 1905, when Cronk turned 105, as explained in this newspaper article published by the Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 30 April 1905, page 8:

article about celebrating Hiram Cronk's 105th birthday, Sunday world Herald newspaper, 30 April 1905

Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 30 April 1905, page 8

The news article goes on to say:

“Hiram Cronk, the only survivor of the War of 1812, was one hundred and five years old on April 29 and a patriotic celebration took place at his home at Ava, Oneida County, New York.

“Every society in the United States of the Sons and Daughters of the War of 1812 sent a delegation to Ava, and all patriots’ military bodies and American citizens sent him greetings, gifts or tokens to show that his services for the country were and are appreciated.

“Mr. Cronk was so weak during the winter that he was not expected to survive and elaborate funeral arrangements had been made, but he recovered thanks to Duffy’s Pure Malt Whiskey. By a special act of the New York City administration his remains, when he dies, will be interred in Mount Victory, a soldiers’ plot in Cypress Hills Cemetery.”

Hiram Cronk Dies at Age 105

Exactly two weeks after his 105th birthday, Hiram Cronk died. This newspaper article was published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 13 May 1905, page 9:

article about the death of Hiram Cronk, Evening Press newspaper, 13 May 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 13 May 1905, page 9

The news article goes on to say:

“The body of Mr. Cronk will lie in state in the City Hall of New York and will be buried in Mt. Victory, Cypress Hills Cemetery, in Brooklyn, where more than half a hundred of his fellow soldiers in the War of 1812 have been laid at rest.”

The nation mourned the death of Hiram Cronk, recognizing it truly was the passing of an era, as expressed in this newspaper article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), May 15, 1905, page 8:

article about Hiram Cronk's death being the end of an era, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, 15 May 1905

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), May 15, 1905, page 8

The news article goes on to say:

“It calls to mind the brevity of our national existence. The [nineteenth] century-born Cronk was born during the Presidency of the elder Adams, when the total population was about that of Pennsylvania today, and when the cost of government was far less than the total appropriations just signed by Governor Pennypacker. He fought in the ranks against the troops of the same George III who ruled when the Revolution took place, a fact which so many intelligent people seem to have forgotten. He completed his career as a soldier before Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and at a time when this nation was still an experiment.

“Who could have imagined that this country would develop in wealth in the lifetime of a single man until it should become the richest on earth? That the population should grow to be the greatest of all non-Oriental nations, for we must place Russia essentially among the Eastern peoples? Who could have supposed that the life of one man would span that development in human activities which covered a period almost from the birth of steam as an active agent in human affairs?

“In view of these things what may not be the possibilities of the future?”

This comment was published by the Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 15 May 1905, page 6:

“The world of sentiment and patriotic affection seems poorer through the death of Hiram Cronk, the last pensioner of the War of 1812, and undoubtedly the final survivor. The one human link that bound us of today with that struggle for the defense of our rights on the sea has gone. Now let us carefully cherish the naval relics that are left to us.”

A grand parade escorted Hiram Cronk’s body to New York City Hall on May 17 so that it could lie in state for mourners to pay their respects, as reported in this newspaper article published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 17 May 1905, page 10:

article about Hiram Cronk's body lying in state, Evening Press newspaper, 17 May 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 17 May 1905, page 10

The news article goes on to say:

“New York, May 17.—The body of Hiram Cronk, who lived to be the last survivor of the War of 1812, was brought here today from Boonville, N.Y., and will be laid away in Cypress Hills Cemetery with full military honors. The funeral will be held tomorrow and in the meantime the body will lie in state in the City Hall. Accompanying the body were Mr. Cronk’s three surviving sons and one daughter. They were Philander Cronk, 81 years old; William, 72 years old; John, 66 years old; and the daughter, Mrs. Sarah Rowley, 71 years old.

“As the funeral cortege moved from the Grand Central Station to the City Hall it afforded an imposing and unusual spectacle. Led by a police escort of mounted officers, a detachment from the United States regular Army, the Society of 1812 and the Old Guard in uniform, came the hearse bearing the old warrior’s body. Around it, in hollow square formation, marched the members of the U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R. Then followed the Washington Continental Guard from Washington, D.C., the Army and Navy Union, and carriages with members of the Cronk family. Carriages with Mayor McClellan and members of the city government brought up the rear.”

Details of Hiram Cronk’s body lying in state, as well as his funeral the following day on May 18, were reported in this newspaper article published by the Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island) on the front page of its 18 May 1905 issue:

article about Hiram Cronk's funeral, Pawtucket Times newspaper, 18 May 1905

Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), 18 May 1905, page 1

The news article goes on to say:

“New York, May 18.—The body of Hiram Cronk, the last veteran of the War of 1812 to pass away, was buried today in Cypress Hills Cemetery with impressive military honors. Nearly threescore other soldiers who fought in the war of almost a century ago had lain for many years in the cemetery where their oldest comrade was placed today.

“Since yesterday, when it was brought from Boonville, the body has been in the City Hall. All day yesterday, last evening and this forenoon there was a constant stream of men, women and children moving past the flower and bunting-covered casket in the city building—the first which had rested there since the body of Gen. Grant lay in state. One hundred and fifty policemen were required to keep the crowd moving and to keep clear the plaza in front of the building.

“From the City Hall to the cemetery the body was escorted by a detail of mounted police, the Fourteenth Regiment, and a troop from the Second Brigade, National Guard of New York; delegations from U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R., and carriages containing relatives of the dead soldier and a committee from the Board of Aldermen representing the city. All along the route over which the funeral cortege passed the streets were lined with people. At the cemetery Marcus B. Taylor, chaplain of the Veteran Corps, conducted the burial service according to the Grand Army ritual.”

With a volley of military gunfire and the playing of taps, Hiram Cronk was finally laid to rest, as reported in this newspaper article published by the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), 19 May 1905, page 2:

article about Hiram Cronk's funeral, Belleville News Democrat newspaper, 19 May 1905

Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), 19 May 1905, page 2

The news article goes on to say:

“More than 50,000 New Yorkers, with bared heads, filed past the flower-covered bier in which the dead soldier lay in the City Hall. The expenses of the unusual, but befitting honors to him, are borne by the city.

“The catafalque rested in the rotunda of the City Hall, draped with flags and flowers, while the building was draped in black. It was the first time since the death of Gen. Grant that a body has laid in state in the City Hall.

“After the body had been lowered into the grave, at Cypress Hills Cemetery, a squad of soldiers fired a volley over the grave and a bugler sounded taps. Hiram Cronk was with the army of the dead.”

Genealogist Shares Her Genealogy Research Success Story!

With GenealogyBank adding more records at the rate of 10 documents a second, we hear from genealogists every day sharing their excitement about their family history discoveries.

Here is a genealogy research success story we received today from GenealogyBank member Michele Lewis.

Deaths in Louisiana Article - New Orleans Item Newspaper

New Orleans Item (Louisiana), 4 September 1911, page 2, column 4

Michele wrote us:

Here is a newspaper success story for you.

My great, great Aunt Ida Perry was born in Purvis, MS, in 1884. She and two of her sisters became nurses. All three graduated from the Charity Hospital School of Nursing in Shreveport, LA. Two of the three contracted TB and died and one of those was Ida. The American Journal of Nursing had printed a blurb about Ida in the March 1906 issue: “Miss Ida Perry has resigned her position of the charity Hospital, Shreveport, La., and will engage in private nursing.” On the 1910 census she is living in Eunice, LA, with her sister Mary (who happens to be the other sister that died of TB). She is listed under her maiden name and as single. That is the last official record we had of Ida. Our only other clue was a picture postcard (undated) that Ida had sent to her brother from Denver, CO, that stated:

“Dear Bro, I am feeling fine. Had this made to show you all how fit I’m getting.

With love to all from ‘Jack’” [Jack was her nickname.]

So we knew that Ida had gone to CO for health reasons, which was common with TB patients. On the back of the picture it stated “Ida Perry Faust” so now we knew she had also gotten married.

We had checked EVERYTHING.

Colorado couldn’t find a death certificate or marriage license and neither could Louisiana. I had run her name through GenealogyBank (of course) and got nothing. We couldn’t determine when and where she had died. We couldn’t find her grave. It was very frustrating.

Yesterday I decided to run her name through GenealogyBank again since I know you regularly add papers and I got a hit! Apparently you had added the New Orleans Item since the first time I ran her name through.

New Orleans Item (Louisiana), 4 September 1911, page 2, column 4

Mrs. Ida Perry Faust

EUNICE, La., Sept. 4—A telegram from Denver (Colo.) brings the news of the death of Mrs. Ida Perry Faust, sister of Mrs. J. N. Adams of this city. The remains will be interred at Purvis (Miss.), the girlhood home of the deceased.

So we finally know! She did die in Denver as we suspected but she died earlier than we thought. She got married, moved, and died in the span of one year (she was still in LA and unmarried on the 1910 census) which means her husband knew she had TB and married her anyway. We are still searching for him. We assumed she had died in Denver but were surprised to see that they brought her back to Mississippi! We know which cemetery she would have been buried in (where the rest of the family is) but there is no marker for her. We might have to rectify that.

If I hadn’t run her name through again I wouldn’t have found this. Unfortunately, I can’t find her in any of the Colorado papers you have (including the Denver ones). I am assuming that the death of a TB sanitarium patient from another state didn’t warrant an obituary.

Congratulations to Michele for this family history success story!

Have you had a similar genealogy research discovery you’d like to share?

Newspaper Genealogy Research Discoveries: 7 Brothers Meet at Last

Family reunions are special occasions, but the Jones family reunion in the fall of 1881 in Lewiston, Maine, was especially noteworthy: although they ranged in age from 47 to 72 years old, this reunion was the first time all seven Jones brothers were together in one place at the same time!

This happened because the oldest brother (Ebenezer, born in 1809) married Rebecca Adams in 1831 and settled in Newport, Vermont, while the rest of the family relocated to Lewiston, Maine, before the youngest brother (Luther) was born in 1833.

The family had tried several times over 40 years to have a complete family reunion, but they led busy lives and always one brother or another missed each reunion. Finally, the stars must have fallen into proper alignment, everything clicked into place, and the joyous family occasion happened at last.

Can you imagine the smiles on all the faces? At that remarkable—and long awaited—reunion of all the living members of the family, the seven brothers sat at the table in the order of their ages. To make the reunion complete, the brothers’ one remaining sister, Mrs. Albert Frost, joined them.

This heartwarming family reunion story illustrates two important points about using newspapers to research your genealogy. First of all: you never know what you will find once you start looking through a newspaper archive. Even if the Jones family is not related to you, little discoveries like this story—and newspapers are full of them—add the human touch to your genealogy pursuit, and make your research fun and interesting.

For the second point, look closely at the family reunion newspaper article below: notice that it was originally printed in the Lewiston Journal (Maine), but was reprinted in the Huntsville Gazette—an Alabama paper! This special family reunion story was so popular it was also reprinted by the Sun (Maryland) and Omaha Herald (Nebraska) newspapers as well. Perhaps the newspaper editors thought this amazing story would interest their readers, or maybe someone in those areas was related to the Jones family, and editors are always looking for news items that have connections to their readers.

The lesson here is to expand the geographic scope of your newspaper search if your initial search didn’t turn up enough information. The newspaper archive you’re looking in may not have the issue of the Lewiston Journal this article first appeared in, but it might have the Huntsville Gazette issue where the article was reprinted. It is a good thing that GenealogyBank has brought together the largest collection of U.S. newspapers available online—5,700 of them from all 50 states—with a powerful search engine, making it easy to search through this large newspaper archive to research your genealogy.

What will you discover?

This family reunion story, was printed by the Huntsville Gazette (Alabama), 5 November 1881, page 4.

Old Man of the Mountain – RIP 3 May 2003

It was six years ago that the Old Man of the Mountain fell.

His passing is as deeply felt today as when I heard the shocking news in 2003. It came across as a cable news bulletin. Hikers had heard the awful rumble in the early hours while it was still dark and when the sun came up they realized what had happened.

The next morning the quiet phone calls began … to my folks, my brothers – had they heard the news. They had.

We were all born and mostly raised in New Hampshire. Old “Sawyer” prints of the Old Man of the Mountain hang on the wall. He’s on the license plates – the NH edition of the quarter. He was a solid part of our lives. Familiar. Always there. A part of the family, our heritage.

Newspapers have been commenting on the impact of his image for centuries.

Samuel Adams Drake wrote “This gigantic silhouette which has been christened the Old Man of the Mountain is unquestionably the greatest curiosity of this or any other mountain region” (St. Alban’s Messenger (VT) 16 July 1881).

The Old Man was first “discovered” in 1805 by Luke Brooks and Francis Whitcomb who were charged by the town of Franconia, NH to survey the town. See NH Gazette 25 June 1805.

One of the earliest descriptions of the Old Man was published in the Salem Gazette (MA) 22 Nov 1825.

By 1827 a new stage line had “purchased good horses and carriages … and procured a careful driver” and organized the “Plymouth and Franconia” stage line, with runs twice a week past the Old Man – “a very level and pleasant route”. (NH Patriot 15 Jan 1827).

Obituary Reveals Identity of Homesick Boy from Orphanage – 65 years later

Genealogists want to find and document every member of a family. They don’t want even one child to be forgotten.

Thanks to genealogist Ed Hutchison of Mississippi a 78 year old Syracuse, NY man’s true identity has been uncovered.

Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) – April 5, 2009
Case, Dick. Death Uncovers Hidden Identity
.


We called him Louie.
He told us his name was Louis Ludbeck.
Mostly, his life seemed to be a blank slate.


It wasn’t until he died March 5, that the mystery that was Louie began to unravel.
Louie died in peace at Francis House. He was 78. A stroke took him.

We know now that Louie was born Gene Rollin Poffahl, Jan.17, 1931. He came into a family of farmers in Albany County. Likely he had five siblings.

We know this because the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office came into the picture after Louie died. He went to Francis House, a hospice run by the Franciscan Order of Nuns, with no past: no government health insurance, no Social Security number, no record of medical treatment or military service. Just a limp, old man ready to die.

The nuns gathered Louie into their embrace, just the way Ann O’Connor and Peter King had, more than 30 years ago. He passed restfully, among friends.

Ann and Peter are two of the founders of Unity Kitchen of the Catholic Worker of Syracuse. They run an elegant soup kitchen, offering full-course, fully served meals twice a week, as well as brunch on Sundays after Mass. The kitchen gets by on alms and the good will of a small, devoted troop of volunteers, who support Ann and Peter with donations and the good will of their help, in-person sometimes twice a week.

They live in a house on Palmer Avenue, devoted to the Catholic Worker community. Years ago, Ann and Peter set their lives aside to serve the city’s poor in a very special way. My wife, Sandy, and I have been volunteers at the kitchen several years.

Louie drifted into Unity Kitchen maybe 30 years ago. No one paid attention to the exact date. Some say it was 1978. He was part of a continuous wave of needy folks who washed across the struggling agency every week. Back then, the kitchen was a literal soup kitchen, and a flophouse, holed up in two floors of an old sash factory tucked next to the DL&W railroad tracks about where Adams and South Clinton streets meet.

Louie settled in; he seemed to have found a home among the homeless. He said little, as became his way of life. Ann and Peter accepted his silence, knowing from experience that it’s not a good idea to poke at the psyche of a homeless person. If he wanted to share a story, he would. Louie didn’t. It was as if his life began when he arrived in Syracuse. The only clue he carried was a piece of paper marked Orwell,” where the affiliated Unity Acres shelter is located.

Peter recalls that Louie settled into a helping routine, taking on small jobs that seemed to give meaning to his life. He’d often stand fire watch in the building. When others refused to do anything but soak up the founders’ charity, Louie joined up, fit in.

“He seemed to have found his place,” Peter explains.

When Ann and Peter closed the old kitchen, and moved to new quarters in Syracuse’s only co-op apartment building on West Onondaga Street, Louie went with them. He was invited to join them in their home, moving into an upstairs bedroom in the house that’s not far from Unity Kitchen.

One time, Ann and Peter tried to bring Louie into the social welfare system. He told the social worker a fantastic story about owning a house at Split Rock and a car. No, he’s not eligible for help, they were told. You’ll have to apply to be his guardian.

Leave him alone, let it be, the couple was advised. Louie is Louie. He doesn’t want to reveal himself; maybe he can’t.

Louie kept to his routine at Unity Kitchen. He worked at menial things — taking out the garbage, dusting and mopping the floor, arranging chairs — and joining the other guests for meals. Louie asked for little and earned the love and respect of the community.

Like others of our readers, Ed Hutchison, a former county legislator who now lives in Mississippi, was intrigued by Louie’s obituary, which was published in The Post-Standard and the Albany Times Union. By then, the FBI fingerprint check had given him a new name and birth date. It also revealed he had been in the Army for seven years, discharged in 1957. Ed’s a genealogist and loves a mystery. He ran an Internet search.

The search revealed a number of folks with the last name of Poffahl, which is of German origin, in the Albany area. Ed also found a newspaper story with an Albany dateline from 1944: “A homesick boy, injured in trying to escape from the Humane Society for Children, fought for his life today. Gene Poffahl, 13, suffered critical back and neck injuries last week, when police said, he lost his grip on an improvised rope strung from a third-story window and fell to the porch steps of the shelter ….”

Gene Poffahl seems to be Louie Ludbeck. His age fits the FBI record. The accident also would explain Louie’s twisted body. “He was a pretty strong little guy,” according to Peter King, “but his motor facilities were compromised. He walked as if he was drunk.”

The mystery of Louie’s life continues to be peeled back. Peter’s been contacted by people who live in the Albany area who may be relatives. He’s being told his parents surrendered Louie and his brothers and sisters to an orphan home run by nuns in Troy; they couldn’t afford to raise the children. The Poffahls were vegetable farmers, supposedly.

His funeral service was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Father John Schopfer, shepherd of Syracuse’s needy, presided. He was carried to his grave in St. Mary’s Cemetery by his friends from Unity Kitchen.

Louie obviously was a troubled man, hiding his history or leaving it where it fell. Peter says he sometimes overheard him “arguing with himself” in a loud voice in his room. He didn’t intrude.

I’m not sure we know how hard we should push our inquiry, either.

Dick Case writes Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at dcase@syracuse.com or 470-2254.
Edition: Final

Page: B1
Copyright, 2009, The Herald Company

Census – Vital Records – Washington State; England; Mexico

Washington State Census, Birth Records, Marriage Records, Death Records; Mexico 1930 Census; and England & Wales Census of 1841 & 1861 are now online.

It’s a great day for Genealogy.

Washington State
Washington State Digital Archives has now put Washington State & Federal census records from 1847 through 1910. Click here to see the list of census records online.

Washington State Birth Records for: Adams County 1893-1907, 1910-1915, (several delayed birth returns: 1942); Benton County 1905-1907; King County 1891-1907; Spokane County 1890-1907; Whatcom County 1891-1907; Whitman County 1890-1907

Washington State Marriage Records for:
Adams County Marriage Records; Asotin County Marriage Records; Benton County Marriage Records; Chelan County Marriage Records; Clark County Marriage Records; Columbia County Marriage Records; Ferry County Marriage Records; Franklin County Marriage Records; Garfield County Marriage Records; Grant County Marriage Records; Grays Harbor County Marriage Records; Island County Marriage Records; Jefferson County Marriage Records; Kitsap County Marriage Records; Kittitas County Marriage Records; Klickitat County Marriage Records; Lincoln County Marriage Records; Mason County Marriage Records; Pacific County Marriage Records; Pend Oreille County Marriage Records; Pierce County Marriage Records;
Skagit County Marriage Records; Skamania County Marriage Records; Snohomish County Marriage Records; Spokane County Marriage Records; Stevens County Marriage Records;
Thurston County Marriage Records; Walla Walla County Marriage Records; Whatcom County Marriage Records; Whitman County Marriage Records; Yakima County Marriage Records.

Washington State Death Records for:
1860 Mortality Schedule; 1870 Mortality Schedule; 1880 Mortality Schedule; Adams County Death Return; Brinnon Cemetery – Jefferson County 1895-2003; Cowlitz County Death Returns 1898-1907; Ferry County Register of Deaths 1899-1911; Odd Fellows #1 Memorial Park Cemetery and Mausoleum Listings; Spokane County Death Returns 1888-1907; Washington State Death Records; Whatcom County Death Returns, 1891-1907; Whitman County Death Returns 1891-1907.

GenealogyBank has long runs of Washington State newspapers online including:
Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, WA). 10/2/1903 – 12/30/1922. Variant titles: Fairhaven Herald.
Bellingham Herald (WA). 9/4/1999-Current
Chinook Observer (Long Beach, WA). 8/15/2002-Current
Chronicle (Centralia, WA). 10/31/2002-Current
Columbian (Vancouver, WA). 5/27/1994-Current
Daily Herald (Everett, WA). 8/16/2005-Current
Daily Record (Ellensburg, WA). 10/23/2006-Current
Eastside Journal (Bellevue, WA). 12/4/1999-1/13/2003
Hokubei Jiji (Seattle, WA). 10/14/1916 – 2/28/1918
King County Journal (Bellevue, WA). 1/8/2003-1/20/2007
Morning Olympian (Olympia, WA). 3/15/1891 – 12/31/1922. Variant titles: Daily Olympian; Morning Olympian Tribune
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA). 1/1/1992-Current
Olympia Record (Olympia, WA). 5/13/1902 – 12/31/1922
Olympian (WA). 3/12/2001-Current
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA). 1/1/1986-Current
Seattle Times (WA). 1/6/1985-Current
Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, WA). 8/2/2007-Current
South County Journal) (Kent, WA). 12/3/1999-1/11/2003
Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA). 7/3/1994-Current
Tacoma Daily News (Tacoma, WA). 8/25/1890 – 12/31/1898
Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, WA). 2/21/2006-Current
Wenatchee World (WA). 4/2/2006-Current
Yakima Herald-Republic (WA). 12/11/1997-Current


International – Mexico; England & Wales
FamilySearchLabs has now added the 1841 Census of England & Wales (complete); 1861 Census of England & Wales (complete) and the 1930 Census of Mexico (17% complete).

FamilySearchLabs has the index to the 1841 Census of England & Wales and 1861 Census of England & Wales online for free – but the links to see the images take you to a pay site – FindMyPast – where you need to sign up to view the census page images. The Family History Library has similar arrangements with other providers where the indexes are free but there is a charge for the page images. See FamilySearchLabs for the details.
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National Archives, Library of Congress Documents Go Online

The National Archives and the Library of Congress announced today that they have begun loading digital copies of their materials on a new site called the World Digital Library.

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced today that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has become a founding partner in the World Digital Library (WDL).

NARA will contribute digital versions of important documents from its collections to the WDL, which will be launched for the international public in early 2009.

These documents include Civil War photographs, naturalization and immigration records of famous Americans, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, and photographs by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and Lewis Hine. Examples of the images that NARA is contributing to the World Digital Library are now available online.

Example of a naturalization document – Declaration of Intent of Maria von Trapp, 01/21/1944 – that was put online by NARA. NARA ARC Identifier 596198.

The WDL will include representative examples from these document categories – not the complete backfiles of these documents.

The complete run of the American State Papers is already available on GenealogyBank. See GenealogyBank’s Historical Documents collection where you will find military records, casualty lists, Revolutionary and Civil War pension requests, widow’s claims, orphan petitions, land grants and much more including the complete American State Papers (1789-1838) and all genealogical content carefully selected from the U.S. Serial Set (1817-1980). More than 146,000 reports, lists and documents. GenealogyBank has the most comprehensive collection of these US Government reports and documents available to genealogists online. GenealogyBank is adding more documents to this collection every month.

Proposed in 2005 by the Library of Congress in cooperation with UNESCO, the WDL will make available on the Internet significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world. The project’s goal is to promote international understanding and to provide a resource for use by students, teachers, and general audiences.

“We are pleased that our fellow Federal cultural institution, the National Archives, is joining the Library of Congress in the early stages of this project,” said Billington.

“NARA’s participation not only will ensure that the World Digital Library contains a full record of the American experience, but it also will encourage archives around the world to join with their counterparts from the library world in this important initiative.”

“The mission of the National Archives is to make U.S. Government records widely accessible,” said Weinstein. “The World Digital Library will be a valuable conduit for us to share some of our nation’s treasures with others around the world. We look forward to working with the Library of Congress on this important project.”

In addition to NARA and the Library of Congress, the WDL project partners include cultural institutions from Brazil, China, Egypt, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia and many other countries. Click here for more Information about the WDL.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest Federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections. The Library seeks to spark the public’s imagination and celebrate human achievement through its programs and exhibits. In doing so, the institution helps foster the informed and involved citizenry upon which American democracy depends. The Library serves the public, scholars, members of Congress and their staffs through its 22 reading rooms on Capitol Hill. Many of the rich resources and treasures of the Library may also be accessed through its
award-winning web site and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized web site.
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