Sunday, February 22, 2009

Putting flesh on Alonzo's bones...

... by including the events around him, not just his own dates. His pension provided a lot of the impetus for this as the personality that emerged from the many depositions included in the 436 pages of the file were mostly blandly negative.

Although only my 1st cousin 4 times removed, Alonzo has been one of my personal obsessions as noted in my very first post on this blog. From the various depositions, his character is painted as not of much value as a man with hints of alcohol abuse and messing around with women and not much interest in working. 

He was born 20 February of either 1840 or 1841, the information varies, to Captain Martin Ulmer and his wife, Zoa Pease. It is not certain whether his brother Eddie was older or younger than Alonzo but Eddie died as a boy, certainly before 1850 and probably earlier. His sister Virginia was born about 1845 and the little family was probably doing well, living in Thomaston, Maine, where Martin and his family were active in the maritime trades.

But, in August of 1849, Alonzo's father dies and in 1850 Zoa Pease Ulmer household includes only herself, Alonzo and little Virginia. Within the next couple of years, Virginia also dies, and Alonzo is left as her only surviving child. 

Early in 1854, Zoa and Alonzo have traveled to Illinois where her family had settled in Warren and Rock Island Counties in 1837. Zoa's sister Ellen had died in March of 1853 and in May of 1854, Zoa married Ellen's widower and took on the raising of Ellen's five children. 

So here is Alonzo, just 13 or 14 years old, having lost both his siblings and possibly being something of a mama's boy, and he is yanked off from all that is familiar and landed in a housefull of other children that now require much of his mother's attention. Adding to that, his mother adds two daughters to the household, one in 1855 and the other in 1857. Her focus is definitely no longer on Alonzo and his stepfather disliked and distrusted him. He appears to have spent time on one or the other of his maternal uncles' farms, particularly that of his uncle Martin Pease.

He was still in Illinois in 1858 when he witnessed his uncle Martin's father-in-law Robert Pollock's will but by 1861 he had returned to Maine where he enlisted in the 4th Maine Infantry soon after the Civil War broke out. Although he remained a private, he seems to have managed adequately in Company B which included several of his friends and relatives from his boyhood.

Then came July of 1863 and Gettysburg where Alonzo was wounded in the side at Devils Den, apparently a straight forward through and through wound but he was captured and came to in a rebel field hospital, untended for three days. The rebels retreated abandoning the prisoners and Alonzo was hospitalized in Philadelphia for a while where his mother visited him. He was transferred to the 19th Maine to finish out his three years of service. He appears to have then returned to Rockland, Maine, where he enlists in the 9th U S V V for a one year term on the 5th of April, 1865, and marries Adelia Pendleton immediately prior to departing. Several depositions indicate that Alonzo and Adelia never lived together but she enjoyed his reenlistment bonus.

For a few years Alonzo seems to vanish but reappears in November of 1869 when he enlists in the 1st Regiment US Infantry for a term of five years. His enlistment papers state he was residing in Lincoln, Massachusetts, at that time and this may coincide with the statement in a deposition that Alonzo had visited Adelia once to try to get money from her. The Army Register of Enlistments states that Alonzo deserted 30 May 1870 and with one small exception that is the last we hear of Alonzo for years.

Various depositions imply that Alonzo moved around in Nevada, Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, often working as a cook and a notice that there is a letter for him in the Silver City, Idaho, post office supports this.  He probably visited his mother every so often but not until after his disapproving step father dies in 1884 does he appear to stay mostly in Illinois with his mother. In the 1880's he also starts trying to get a pension.

Alonzo's first wife, Adelia, had died in 1880 in Maine although later uncertainties about the status of their marriage plagued his pension claims. In 1898, he marries Anna Armstrong, a divorcee from Nebraska, and he brings her to Illinois to live with his mother. Their daughter Virginia is born a year later. His mother dies in 1901 and by 1903, Alonzo had entered a soldiers home and he was in and out for the following nine years. There are letters and depositions revealing that he did not want to share his pension with his wife and child even when he was in the soldiers home. In 1912, Alonzo dies and is buried in the Danville National Cemetery. 

Anna dies just five years later, leaving Virginia on her own, not yet 18 years old. Virginia ended up in Nevada by 1942 where, with the surname Clarke, she applies for a social security number. The next bit of information on her is her death, 11 Feb 1989, in Las Vegas, with the name of Virginia Opal Carrupt. Her brief obituary states, "There are no known family survivors."

Thus Alonzo's life tails off into nothing but along the way he must have had hopes and dreams although I would not be surprised if he also felt a bit put upon and unwanted. His initial army years may have been the best part of his life.

Has anyone in your genealogy research obsessed you?


Janet Iles said...

Thanks for posting Alonzo's story. It is quite interesting.

Holly Timm said...

Thanks Janet, perhaps some of my obsession with him stems from the probability that no one else will ever care