Your Wife – She Just Might Save Your Life

Marriages create life. They connect family trees and create orchards of ancestors.

And sometimes your wife pulls you out of a snowbank.

Saved by His Wife: Decker Was Caught in the Big Snowstorm, Idaho Daily Statesman newspaper article 18 February 1898

Idaho Daily Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 18 February 1898, page 2

That was the case for Abram Decker, 35, of Sussex County, New Jersey, in 1898.

The Idaho Daily Statesman reports that Decker went to town late one night for groceries in bad weather, and didn’t return. Because they lived far from Newton, what should have been a simple trip for groceries became dangerous due to the distance and the freezing weather.

Patient but worried, his wife waited until early the next morning to go out and search for him; she feared the worst as she fought her way “through snow drifts in some places 15 feet deep.” The Statesman reports that when she found a single foot sticking out of the snow, Abram’s wife identified her frozen husband and saved his life by building a large fire to warm him and bring neighbors to their aid. Decker had collapsed from exhaustion, overtaken by the distance and weather. Thankfully his loving wife saved him from certain doom.

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Genealogy is not just the births, marriages, and deaths; it’s the in-between that truly connects us to our ancestors. Stories like Abram Decker’s brave wife often fail to be passed down in the family – but they really are memorable and should be preserved.

GenealogyBank helps preserve the color and details that fill in our ancestors’ lives. Family stories like this and many others in our archive are waiting to be found. Sign up for GenealogyBank today and add color to your family tree.

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The Controversial Birth of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today the United States celebrates the national holiday Martin Luther King Jr. Day, continuing to honor the slain civil rights leader nearly 47 years after his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on 4 April 1968. This famous advocate of nonviolence helped raise the civil rights movement to national prominence, forever changing American society. He also was a champion of economic justice for the nation’s poor, and was becoming a leader in the anti-Vietnam War protest movement when he was murdered. Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Noble Peace Prize in 1964.

photo of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo: Martin Luther King, Jr., by Dick DeMarsico, 1964. Source: Library of Congress.

To many, it would seem that honoring such a pivotal figure with a national holiday would be an obvious choice for America’s government and public, but that was not the case. There was a great deal of opposition to President Reagan’s signing the bill on 2 November 1983, creating the MLK holiday. Reagan himself had earlier opposed the bill, saying that giving federal employees the day off with pay would be too expensive.

photo of President Ronald Reagan signing the bill to create Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 3 November 1983

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 3 November 1983, page 6

Reagan had threatened to veto the bill but backed off when it was passed by such strong veto-proof votes in Congress (78 to 22 in the Senate and 338 to 90 in the House of Representatives). At a press conference two weeks before signing the bill, Reagan said he would sign it “since they (Congress) seem bent on making it a national holiday.” He then went on during the press conference to speculate that FBI documents might reveal King’s communist sympathies. He also wrote Meldrim Thomson, the governor of New Hampshire, that the public’s high regard for King was “based on an image, not reality.”

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When the bill first came before the House of Representatives, in 1979, it failed passage by five votes. Senator Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) led opposition to the bill in the Senate, questioning King’s qualification for such an honor and grousing about his “Marxist” tendencies. When it came up for the Senate vote, John McCain (R-Arizona) was one of the 22 senators who voted against it. Even after the bill’s passage and Reagan’s signature, various states refused to recognize the MLK holiday, with Arizona and New Hampshire being the last two holdouts. It was not until 2000 that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all 50 states.

President Signs King Holiday Bill, Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 3 November 1983

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 3 November 1983, page 19

According to this old news article:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said after the ceremony, “I think as an optimist and someone with hope. I would hope that now, that this is the beginning of this administration’s real commitment to the basic and fundamental rights of people in our society.”

While criticizing Reagan’s firing of three Civil Rights Commission members who criticized the administration, Kennedy added, “I’d rather look to today and think that perhaps the administration will move on a different path in the future than it has in the past.”

In his remarks, Reagan said, “In America, in the ’50s and ’60s, one of the important crises we faced was racial discrimination. The man whose words and deeds in that crisis stirred our nation to the very depths of its soul was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

editorial about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy, Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 20 January 2003

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 20 January 2003, page 4

This editorial reads:

A Uniting Legacy

As the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day today—he’d be 74 if he hadn’t been tragically assassinated in 1968—it’s remarkable how his legacy has pulled this nation together.

Despite the controversies and emotions he generated in the turbulent ’60s, just about everyone claims him today. Even people who criticized him on specific issues, such as his support of school busing and opposition to the Vietnam War, have come to see how right he was on racial justice.

Every reasonable person today agrees that people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

History, of course, looks beyond the ideological and political battles of the ’60s. King’s legacy is larger than that. By leading America’s greatest civil rights movement in the 20th century, he stands as a symbol of non-violent resistance to overweening government power. That legacy resonates loudly as we enter another contentious era—balancing privacy rights against the need for security against terrorism.

Another measure of the Rev. King’s lasting impact is that, although he’s been dead for nearly 35 years, no other civil rights leader has come along who comes close to filling his shoes—not that several haven’t tried.

Today’s theme for the ninth annual memorial observance honoring the Rev. King at Augusta’s Mt. Calvary Baptist Church nicely sums up the powerful impact the great man had on our country: “Making a World of Difference through Godly Leadership for Racial Harmony, Non-Violence and Human Emancipation.”

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Revolutionary Patriot George Shell Fought Two Wars Simultaneously

When Revolutionary War patriot George Shell died in 1818, newspapers in Maine, Massachusetts, and New York carried the news – but they each gave him a single-line obituary.

obituary for George Shell, Weekly Eastern Argus newspaper article 25 August 1818

Weekly Eastern Argus (Portland, Maine), 25 August 1818, page 3

obituary for George Shell, Salem Gazette newspaper article 18 August 1818

Salem Gazette (Salem, Massachusetts), 18 August 1818, page 3

obituary for George Shell, Columbian newspaper article 15 August 1818

Columbian (New York, New York), 15 August 1818, page 3

However, Revolutionary War veteran George Shell deserved much more; the man fought two wars simultaneously, as detailed in this longer obituary found in another old newspaper.

obituary for George Shell, Albany Gazette newspaper article 15 August 1818

Albany Gazette (Albany, New York), 15 August 1818, page 2

Shell faithfully served in his local Albany, New York, regiment – against the wishes of his father, “who was attached to the royal cause.” So Shell had to fight two wars simultaneously, against the British and his own family. Upon his return to Albany, Shell found himself abandoned and rejected by the family patriarch; George’s father would never forgive him.

However, Shell created a new family for himself in the capital city. He ran a local barber shop and kept the men of Albany looking clean, sharp, and dapper. His funeral drew a significant crowd upon his death, reflecting his service to the town and the esteem his fellow citizens had for him.

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Thanks to GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, we learn that no one’s life story is truly one line. George Shell was a respected barber who stood up for his beliefs and fought for his country during its war for independence. While many simply fought the British army, George also bore the cross of a family who abandoned him because they supported the crown. Thanks to the preserved records of the Albany Gazette, we know the depth of this veteran’s sacrifice. We feel enriched and motivated to sacrifice for what we know is right.

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Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

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Researching Newspapers to Trace the Life of Moses G. Wilson

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to learn more about a relative on her family tree who – she discovered – was very much involved in the war in Missouri against the Mormons during the 1830s.

Family history can seem deceptively easy when searching for your ancestors in an online newspaper archive. Type a name into a search box and you are rewarded with stories that can help you better understand your family history. Learning about specific individuals is one way to go about newspaper research, but it’s not the only way to research your ancestors.

The Time & the Place

For me, what I love about newspapers is their ability to help me better understand not only my ancestor’s own life – but their time and place. Getting to know what was going on and what they were a part of, often in reports that don’t even mention my ancestor by name, is an essential part of family history research.

a portrait of Lilburn Boggs, governor of Missouri (1836-1840)

Painting: portrait of Lilburn Boggs, governor of Missouri (1836-1840) – he signed the infamous “Extermination Order” against the Mormons, and was an acquaintance of a relative on my family tree: Moses G. Wilson. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Moses G. Wilson & the Mormon War

One of my long-term genealogy research projects involves Moses Greer Wilson (1795-c.1868). I was first introduced to Moses via a research trip I took to Texas 13 years ago. I was researching a branch of my paternal family tree when I “found” Moses, who was the second husband of my 4th great-grandmother, Sophia Bell Lewis Wilson. I’m not descended through that marriage so I didn’t pay too much attention to researching him. After all, the information I really needed involved their son-in-law, my 3rd great-grandfather.

During that Texas trip we found copious amounts of deeds and other materials about Moses Wilson, but due to the high cost of courthouse photocopies (remember this was before smartphones and other mobile devices, back when we thought having a laptop was a big deal) and the fact that he wasn’t our focus, we ended up limiting the info we collected about him.

Fast forward about 10+ years, when I received an email from another genealogy researcher about Moses. She shared his timeline with me that included the years previous to his marrying my ancestor, his second wife. One of the timeline facts involved his living in Jackson County, Missouri, in the 1830s.

For anyone who is Mormon or familiar with Mormon history, the 1830s in Jackson County, Missouri, were tumultuous years for the Mormon Church and its members. As I started Googling about Moses, I realized that he wasn’t simply present during that time – he was one of the ringleaders in the effort to remove the Mormons from Missouri. A brigadier general in the Missouri Militia who participated in the Mormon War, he was also acquainted with Governor Lilburn Boggs – who ultimately signed the infamous Mormon Extermination Order.* I learned that Moses was even accused of beating a Mormon boy.

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As I started collecting the research and analyzing it, all I could think of was: “this guy was married to my 4th great-grandmother?” She divorced her first husband because of abuse, and somehow this guy didn’t seem much better.

As you can imagine, this long-term project has yielded quite a bit of information due to Moses’ involvement in this historical event involving the Mormons in Missouri. However, it was through newspaper research that I started to gain even more perspective.

The Newspaper Accounts of the Mormon Conflict

One bit of warning here. It’s important to know that, just like today, journalism can be quite tainted. It’s not uncommon for some of these historical newspaper stories to be overdramatized and include falsehoods. However, there’s no denying that what occurred in Missouri during that time was very dramatic, and violent. People died on both sides of the Mormon conflict.

There’s much to tell about this story of the war between the Mormons and the people of Missouri. You can get a sense of the problem from the following two newspaper articles reporting on the tensions between Jackson County Mormons and their neighbors – including Moses G. Wilson.

In June of 1834 this news article was published, describing the fear that those living in Jackson County felt regarding the Mormons. There’s even a mention of a local merchant in Independence who ordered an artillery piece to defend his property. Moses was a merchant in Independence at that time, and it’s possible this could be a reference to him.

article about the conflict with the Mormons in Missouri, Arkansas Weekly Gazette newspaper article 24 June 1834

Arkansas Weekly Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas), 24 June 1834, page 1

This next newspaper article, published in July of 1834, warns that:

It is a lamentable fact, that this matter is about to involve the whole upper country [of Missouri] in civil war and bloodshed. We cannot (if a compromise is not agreed to before Saturday next) tell how long it will be before we shall have the painful task of recording the awful realities of an exterminating war.

article about the conflict with the Mormons in Missouri, Southern Patriot newspaper article 14 July 1834

Southern Patriot (Charleston, South Carolina), 14 July 1834, page 2

We’re Related to Him?

In conducting historical research we are admonished to not look at the lives of previous generations through our modern-day lens. Quite frankly, in a case like this it’s difficult. But it is important to keep in mind that Moses probably saw these new residents, the Mormons, as a threat. Those early Mormons worried their neighbors by being “peculiar.” They voted in a block and they tended to prefer dealing with their own kind.

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In this September 1838 article, we see that the conflict with the Mormons was continuing.

article about the Mormon War in Missouri, Times-Picayune newspaper article 14 September 1838

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 14 September 1838, page 2

According to this old news article, a local Missouri sheriff attempted to arrest Lyman Wight, one of the Mormon leaders – but found him protected by a large group of armed Mormon men. Wight is quoted as telling the sheriff:

…that he would not be taken alive – that the law had never protected him, and he owed them no obedience – that the whole State of Missouri could not take him.

The article concludes with the opinion of the editor of the Western Star, a Missouri newspaper:

article about the Mormon War in Missouri, Times-Picayune newspaper article 14 September 1838

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 14 September 1838, page 2

While I may be less than thrilled about Moses’ role in this bitter history, it’s important for me to learn more about his life and the life of his wife, my ancestress. Newspapers provide me that opportunity, and I look forward to more research on this project!

———————–

* Wilson, Moses Greer. The Joseph Smith Papers. http://josephsmithpapers.org/person/moses-greer-wilson. Accessed 5 October 2014.

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Genealogy Case Study: Researching Isaac Fernald

I recently was researching a man from Oregon named Isaac Fernald (1814-1871), and found information related to him in a variety of places online.

Isaac’s Death Reported in the News

I began my search with GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, and I found Fernald’s obituary in his home town newspaper: the Portland Daily Press.

obituary for Isaac Fernald, Portland Daily Press newspaper article 1 April 1871

Portland Daily Press (Portland, Maine), 1 April 1871, page 3

I noticed this interesting phrase – “as has been before stated” – in his obituary, which is a good clue to look for earlier newspaper references to his death that were likely printed between the date of death (25 February 1871) and the date of the obituary (1 April 1871).

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Digging deeper in GenealogyBank, I quickly found this reference to his accidental death in Cardenas, Cuba.

obituary for Isaac Fernald, Boston Journal newspaper article 28 February 1871

Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 28 February 1871, page 2

I also found this report, which adds the detail that Fernald’s fatal accident happened on a “side track of the railroad at Cardenas.”

obituary for Isaac Fernald, Boston Daily Advertiser newspaper article 1 March 1871

Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), 1 March 1871, page 2

In addition, I found this report of his funeral services.

article about the funeral services for Isaac Fernald, Portland Daily Press newspaper article 3 April 1871

Portland Daily Press (Portland, Maine), 3 April 1871, page 3

Each newspaper article reports more of the details.

Why was he in Cuba?
It turns out that he had traveled there on business before.

Ship Passenger Lists

I know that FamilySearch has put the passenger lists for U.S. ports online, so I looked there for reference to Fernald’s travels to Cuba. I found him listed several times. For example, here he is reported returning to the U.S. onboard the steamship Cahawba, returning on 1 April 1860. His occupation is listed as “merchant.”

New York Passenger Lists 1820-1891, showing entry for Isaac Fernald

Source: FamilySearch, New York Passenger Lists 1820-1891

I also know that the Prints & Graphics Division of the Library of Congress has put their massive collection of ship photographs and images online. Checking there, I was able to find this sketch of the Cahawba that was drawn at about the same time that Isaac Fernald had traveled to Cuba.

drawing of the  U.S. steamship "Cahawba"

Illustration: U.S. transport Cahawba. Source: Library of Congress.

Genealogy Tip: After you find your ancestor’s obituary, be sure to keep on digging. There are several types of historical records easily accessible online that contain relevant information about our ancestors. By making the extra research effort you will find additional details of the story of your ancestor’s life.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

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America’s First Newspaper: Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, 1690

Introduction: Duncan Kuehn is a professional genealogist with over eight years of client experience. She has worked on several well-known projects, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and researching President Barack Obama’s ancestry. In this blog post, Duncan writes about the short-lived history of the first newspaper published in North America – which was shut down by the authorities after printing its first and only issue.

Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick was the first newspaper published in the Americas. Previously a few broadsides had been published in the colonies, but these were single-sided sheets of news or announcements meant to be posted in a public place. Publick Occurrences was the first real newspaper, consisting of three pages of news intended for individual consumption. This newspaper is a fascinating study of early North American life and times.

front page for the newspaper Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 September 1690

Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 September 1690, page 1

The History of the First American Newspaper

The editor, Benjamin Harris, had published a newspaper and other material in London, but ran afoul of the authorities and was twice jailed for his “seditious” pamphlets – so in 1686 he immigrated to the American colonies. He enlisted the help of a local printer, Richard Pierce, and together they produced their four-page newspaper on 25 September 1690 in Boston. It was about six inches by ten inches and the last page was blank.

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Harris and Pierce used the first few column inches of the new paper to explain their reasons and hopes for creating it. They intended to provide “an Account of such considerable things as have arrived unto our Notice” for three reasons:

    • “That Memorable Occurrences of Divine Providence may not be neglected or forgotten, as they too often are.”
    • “That people every where may better understand the Circumstances of Publique Affairs, both abroad and at home; which may not only direct their Thoughts at all times, but at some times also to assist their Businesses and Negotiations.”
    • “That some thing may be done towards the Curing, or at least the Charming of that Spirit of Lying, which prevails amongst us, wherefore nothing shall be entered, but what we have reason to believe is true, repairing to the best fountains for our Information.”
article explaining why the first newspaper in North America was being printed, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick newspaper article 25 September 1690

Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 September 1690, page 1

A Day of Thanksgiving

The first article was about the “Christianized Indians in some parts of Plimouth” having “newly appointed a day of Thanksgiving to God for his Mercy in supplying their extream and pinching Necessities.” It went on to opine that: “Their Example may be worth Mentioning.”

This was an excellent beginning article for the new paper, a nice human interest story which caused no controversy. It will be remembered that in 1690, there was no independent nation and no national Thanksgiving holiday in North America. However, the colonists and their Christianized Indian allies observed periodic days of thanksgiving.

article about Indians celebrating Thanksgiving, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick newspaper article 25 September 1690

Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 September 1690, page 1

Suicide after Wife’s Death

For the genealogist, this paper is full of stories of importance. For example, one front page article relates the story of an older resident of Watertown who committed suicide after the death of his wife. This man “had long Enjoyed the reputation of a Sober and a Pious Man; having newly buried his Wife, The Devil took advantage of the Melancholy which he thereupon fell into.” Despite the efforts of his friends to protect him, he slipped away one night and hanged himself. His name was not mentioned, but it might be possible to discover his identity using the clues given in the old newspaper article.

Small Pox Ravages Boston

There are stories about illness, including one about small-pox that had recently ravaged Boston:

The Small-pox which has been raging in Boston, after a manner very Extraordinary, is now very much abated. It is thought that far more have been sick of it than were visited with it, when it raged so much twelve years ago, nevertheless it has not been so Mortal. The number of them that have dyed in Boston by this last Visitation is about three hundred and twenty, which is not perhaps half so many as fell by the former [visitation].

Again, no names are mentioned, but it may provide clues on ancestors affected by this calamity.

Inferno Engulfs Town

Another story tells of a fire that took the life of one boy and destroyed five or six homes and a rare and valuable printing press: “…[one] of those few that we know of in America, was lost; a loss not presently to be repaired.”

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Children Taken as Indian Captives

Another story is about two Chelmsford children, ages 11 and 9, kidnapped by the hostile Indians. While these stories don’t mention the individuals by name, they can provide clues for identifying individuals you may already know something about from other records. In addition, these stories can provide an incredible look into the life and times of the residents of Boston. What were they most concerned with? What was life like? How did they adapt to their circumstances? And so on.

French vs. English

There is another story about an English ship that put in at the wrong port and was attacked by the French and their Indian allies, with one member of the crew escaping. Although the French and Indian War did not officially begin until 1754, we see in these 1690 reports that clashes between the French and English – and their respective Indian allies – were common.

In fact, the majority of this inaugural (and, as it turned out, only) issue of Publick Occurrences’s articles address the ongoing fighting. They graphically describe the various conflicts with a remarkable nonpartisanship, with blame assigned to both the French and English, as well as their Indian allies. As a British citizen, Harris could justify a printed attack on the French and their Indian allies. He reports how the French Canadians even annihilated some loyal Indian allies after a misunderstanding.  He grows bold in reprinting a letter which gave news from the Caribbean and accuses the French king of an incestuous relationship with his daughter-in-law.

Somewhat surprisingly, Harris also uses his newspaper to criticize the English – both for their own actions, and for not better restraining their Indian allies. He reports how some of the British forces’ Indian allies “returned with some Success, having slain several of the French, and brought home several Prisoners, whom they used in a manner too barbarous for any English to approve.” Harris also reports a story about the English Captain Mason, who “cut the faces, and ript the bellies of two Indians, and threw a third Over board in the sight of the French.”

article about a fight between French and British forces, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick newspaper article 25 September 1690

Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 September 1690, page 3

Only One Issue Ever Printed

Although Harris and Pierce stated that their intent was to publish their new newspaper once a month “or if any Glut of Occurrences happen, oftener,” the inaugural issue of Publick Occurrences was also the last. The British authorities discovered the paper and moved quickly to suppress it.

And so the very first newspaper in American ran right into issues of press censorship and freedom of speech. Just four days after Publick Occurrences was published, the “Governour & Council” issued an order in which they “do hereby manifest and declare their high Resentment and Disallowance of said Pamphlet [i.e., newspaper], and Order that the same be Suppress’d and called in.” The official reasoning was that Harris had not applied for and obtained the proper licenses. However, the authorities were most likely unhappy with Harris’s opinions and criticisms, as mild as they may seem to the modern reader.

While not mentioning very many names, this first North American newspaper is fascinating to read. It provides a colorful description of what Bostonians and people in the original colonies were experiencing, what they cared about, and what trials they faced. It gives tantalizing clues about the early colonists and their lives, and is a good resource for anyone researching their ancestors during the early colonial period in American history.

Publick Occurrences is just one of the rare early colonial newspapers available in GenealogyBank’s  Historical Newspaper Archives, which houses more than 6,500 newspaper titles online. GenealogyBank can help you learn more about your ancestors in early America; see what’s inside the archives on your ancestors’ stories. Start your 30-day trial now!

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Historic Milestone: Hattie Caraway 1st Woman Elected to the U.S. Senate

The United States reached a milestone on 12 January 1932 when Hattie W. Caraway became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate, representing the state of Arkansas. When her husband of 29 years – Senator Thaddeus H. Caraway – died in 1931, Arkansas Governor Harvey Parnell appointed her to the vacant seat, and she was sworn into office Dec. 9. Arkansas held a special election in January 1932 to fill the remainder of Senator Thaddeus Caraway’s term, and Hattie Caraway won easily.

portrait of U.S. Senator Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, by John Oliver Buckley

Portrait: Senator Hattie Caraway, by John Oliver Buckley. Source: U.S. Senate; Wikimedia Commons.

At the time, most observers expected her to retire quietly after her husband’s term expired in March 1933, but Hattie Caraway surprised them by running for election to win her own term. She won, and won again six years later, in total serving in the U.S. Senate from 9 December 1931 to 3 January 1945.

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Here are three newspaper articles reporting and commenting on her historic election in 1932. The first is a straightforward account of her election, pointing out how women’s clubs in Arkansas helped rally the vote, with hundreds of women staffing the voting stations without pay, to help Hattie Caraway achieve her milestone victory.

Mrs. Caraway Is Elected Senator by Big Majority, Plain Dealer newspaper article 13 January 1932

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 13 January 1932, page 17

The article reports:

Feminine hands, for the most part, wrote and counted the light vote cast in today’s special election.

All through a cold, drizzling day, women trudged to the relatively few polling places in the state to place their ballots in the hands of hundreds of women volunteers who served without pay as election officials. Reports indicated probably more women than men voted.

The next two articles are commentaries, the first (probably written by a man) critical of the practice of letting a widow fill her husband’s position, and the second (identifiably written by a man – Charles Stewart) insisting Hattie Caraway is no feminist standard-bearer.

editorial about Hattie Caraway being elected the nation's first female U.S. senator, Plain Dealer newspaper article 14 January 1932

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 14 January 1932, page 8

This editorial concludes:

Making a public position a sort of insurance policy is neither logical nor sound.

commentary about Hattie Caraway being elected the nation's first female U.S. senator, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 6 February 1932

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 6 February 1932, page 3

Stewart begins his commentary:

The Senate seat which so many women envy her plainly is only a constant reminder of bereavement to black-gowned, sad-faced little Mrs. Hattie W. Caraway.

He concludes:

The feminist lobby is mightily desirous to exploit the presence of one of their sex as a real voting, debating senator. It is difficult to imagine anyone more indifferent to the honor than Mrs. Hattie W. Caraway.

Historical newspapers are not only a great way to learn about the lives of your ancestors – they also help you understand American history and the times your ancestors lived in, and the news they talked about and read in their local papers.

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John M’Donogh – Loyal American Patriot ’till Death

Deemed an upstanding citizen by the Salem Gazette, two-time American war veteran John M’Donogh passed away, losing a long fight with disease on 19 March 1809.

M’Donogh is noted for serving directly under a young General George Washington during the French & Indian War. M’Donogh fought during British General Braddock’s failed expedition in 1755 against the French, in which a 23-year-old Washington led troops, including M’Donogh, into battle on the Monongahela River.

obituary for John McDonogh, American and Commercial Daily Advertiser newspaper article 22 March 1809

American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland), 22 March 1809, page 2

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M’Donogh also served for the Maryland 3rd Regiment during the Revolutionary War, under Captain Cox. “One of the patriotic band of Baltimore,” Captain Cox led M’Donogh and other troops into battle at Germantown and Brandywine. M’Donogh survived, and went on to lead an exceptional life in Baltimore.

obituary for John McDonogh, Providence Gazette newspaper article 8 April 1809

Providence Gazette (Providence, Rhode Island), 8 April 1809, page 3

GenealogyBank makes it easy for me to learn about John M’Donogh and other Revolutionary War heroes; see what’s inside the archives on your ancestor’s story. Start your 30-day trial now!

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

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Gershom Beach Dead at 77 – the Forgotten Paul Revere

Gershom Beach, a blacksmith in Rutland, Vermont, was 77 when he passed away on 2 September 1805, according to his obituary.

obituary for Gershom Beach, Middlebury Mercury newspaper article 5 February 1806

Middlebury Mercury (Middlebury, Vermont), 5 February 1806, page 3

Born 24 September 1728 in Cheshire, Connecticut, Gershom Beach was credited as being one of the original settlers of Rutland, Vermont.

Beach is most noted for his Paul Revere-style message delivery for Colonel Ethan Allen at the battle for Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary War, described in an article published by the Rockford Republic (Rockford, Illinois), 14 March 1930, page 6.

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Beach rallied the famous Green Mountain Boys by covering 60 miles of country in one day, carrying Colonel Ethan Allen’s message. According to the article: “He walked and ran 60 miles in 24 hours.” He went from town to town calling on the men in each town to join Col. Allen to take Fort Ticonderoga: “Even when he reached Hands Point, the rendezvous, ahead of the men he had summoned, he slept only a few hours.”

His life proved one man can make a difference. Beach’s heroic ride was detailed in a 1939 poem “Vermont’s Paul Revere” that describes this major turning point in the Revolutionary War.

The poem begins this way:

poem about Gershom Beach, Boston Herald newspaper article 29 June 1939

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 29 June 1939, page 14

And ends like this:

poem for Gershom Beach, Boston Herald newspaper article 29 June 1939

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 29 June 1939, page 14

Genealogy Tip: Gershom Beach’s brief obituary is just a few lines long, but with a small amount of digging in GenealogyBank you can find the rest of Beach’s interesting life story.

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Nikola Tesla, Electrical Genius, Inventor & Eccentric, Dies

Ask most people who was the late 19th and early 20th centuries’ electrical genius and master of inventions, and they will answer: Thomas Edison. However, on 7 January 1943, all alone in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel in New York City, an eccentric 86-year-old man died who was the true wizard of electricity: Nikola Tesla. Not only was Nikola Tesla the father of modern radio, he perfected alternating current (AC) electrical power, invented the Tesla coil, and made breakthroughs in a staggering array of fields including radar, X-rays, robotics and nuclear physics.

photo of Nikola Tesla in 1890, age 34

Photo: Nikola Tesla in 1890, age 34. Credit: Napoleon Sarony; Wikimedia Commons.

At the height of his powers Nikola Tesla was recognized as the equal of Thomas Edison (the two once worked together, but became bitter rivals), but in his later years he became so strange that the public increasingly ignored him, contributing to his lack of fame and recognition today. There is no doubt Tesla was a genius, fluent in eight languages, with an astonishing ability to receive visions in which he saw inventions so specifically that every detail was clear in his mind before he ever set pen to paper.

There is also no doubt that the man grew increasingly bizarre, obsessed by such things as the number 3 (he would walk around a block three times before entering a building), pigeons, and a deathly fear of having contact with dirt. Despite making over 700 inventions in his lifetime and some of the most important breakthroughs in the history of science, Nikola Tesla died broke and heavily in debt. He was the very definition of the eccentric genius, or “mad scientist,” yet modern life is dependent on many of the brilliant ideas that sprang from this strange man’s mind.

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This old newspaper obituary gives many details of Tesla’s life, career and numerous inventions, and includes this comment from the “Wizard of Electricity”:

There are too many distractions in this life for quality of thought, and it’s quality of thought, not quantity, that counts. ~ Nikola Tesla

obituary for Nikola Tesla, Seattle Times newspaper article 8 January 1943

Seattle Times (Seattle, Washington), 8 January 1943, page 26

Tesla’s obituary reads:

New York, Jan. 8.—Nikolai [sic] Tesla, 86 years old, the electrical genius who discovered the fundamental principle of modern radio, was found dead in his hotel room last night. He died in bed sometime yesterday. Gaunt in his best years, he had lately been wasting away.

Tesla was never married. He had always lived alone, and it is not believed he had any near relatives.

Despite his more than 700 inventions, Tesla was not wealthy. He cared little for money; as long as he could experiment he was happy. Much of the time he did not even have a laboratory, and worked where he lived.

Tesla was the first to conceive an effective method of utilizing alternating current, and in 1888 patented the induction motor which converted electrical energy into mechanical energy more effectively and economically than by direct current. Among his other principal inventions are lighting and the Tesla coil.

“The radio, I know I’m its father, but I don’t like it,” Tesla once said. “I just don’t like it. It’s a nuisance. I never listen to it. The radio is a distraction and keeps you from concentrating. There are too many distractions in this life for quality of thought, and it’s quality of thought, not quantity, that counts.”

Evidently, he did a lot of thinking that never materialized. It was his custom on his birthday—July 10—to announce to reporters the shape of things to come.

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On his 76th birthday, he announced: “The transmission of energy to another planet is only a matter of engineering. I have solved the problem so well I don’t regard it as doubtful.”

On another birthday, Tesla predicted that power would soon be projected without wires through the stratosphere.

When he was 78, Tesla announced he had perfected a “death beam” that would bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy planes 250 miles from a nation’s borders and make millions of soldiers drop dead in their tracks. His beam, he said, would make war impossible.

Tesla was born at Smiljan, Croatia, when it was part of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. His first electrical invention was the telephone repeater, which he perfected in 1881 while working for the Austrian government.

Three years later, Tesla came to the United States, became a citizen and an associate of the late Thomas A. Edison. Later he established the Tesla Laboratory in New York and devoted himself to research.

Tesla had lived at the hotel where he died for years, and amused himself by feeding pigeons in the nearest park. Several years ago, he hired a boy to take five pounds of corn twice a day and feed it to the pigeons. He said he had found it “more convenient” to use the boy.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

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