Saturday, June 20, 2009

revolutionary thoughts...

... have been obsessing my brain for the last couple of days. A couple of days ago I pulled up a couple of Revolutionary War pensions on for brothers to my direct line, Elijah and Charles Stanton. Both, as I am used to for my New England (paternal) ancestry, spent most of their time well away from their homes for months or years at a time.

But then I went chasing after RW pensions for my early New York (maternal) ancestry primarily in the Mohawk Valley around Schenectady and west of there. For the most part these men were in the State Militia and were called up for mere days or weeks at a time and not too far from home so their pensions are full of detailed listings, such as this one from the pension of Frederick Vedder, who was enrolled as First Sgt in Captain Outhout's company (summarized):

  • September 1779 ordered out to Stone Arabia, three weeks

  • October 1779 marched to Caghnawaga, three weeks

  • 22 May 1780 ordered to Caghnawaga "at the time the family of the Fishers were murdered" for another three weeks

  • 1780 to Fort Hunter for two weeks

  • 1780 "when Canajoharie was destroyed he was at that place to repel the enemy on an expedition of two weeks"

  • 1780 marched to the Fort Clyde, two weeks

  • Oct 1780 an expedition to Ballston, 8 days

  • 1781 stationed at Claus Vielies Pass or the Rifts about four miles west of the City of Schenectady from 1 Aug to 1 Nov, 3 months

  • 1781 summer, expedition to Beaver Dam in pursuit of Tories, 3 days

  • and undated, an expedition from Schenectady to Currysbush

Other pensions for men from this general area are much the same in that they have lengthy lists of assorted short expeditions within the area. What caught my attention though was that not only were these men from my families but the places they fought or protected were also the homes of ancestors, siblings or cousins of my lines.

The Mohawk Valley area of New York State was not a good place to be during the Revolutionary War. Some of those still living there were hidden enemies, Tories who had not declared themselves and left. The area was subject to raids out of Canada by the British and the Indians, often aided by these hidden enemies.

Vedder refers to the murders of the Fisher family, or Visscher family. These are more cousins of my family, there at Caughnawaga (multiple spelling variations on that place!!), the place was later called Fonda, the home of many of my blood.

Not that there weren't other areas of the country equally terrifying but I visualize all these homes and farms and ordinary everyday people living with the possibly of war in their front yard everyday for several years. When you hear someone come up the road, are they friend or enemy or an enemy posing as friend? The sounds in the night are they just the wind or the dog on the porch or are they coming to burn the house down?

Do you ever place your ancestors in history like this? In what I call small history, not the major battles and events but the little stuff?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

another digression ...

Although I have always had a tendency to digress well into collateral lines, the growth of internet records has encouraged this wandering off into unrelated byways. One of these is Helen Fairchild so first allow me to set up the connection to my family. My maternal grandmother Lois Kellogg's maternal grandfather was Edward Payson Willson, a native of Dutchess County, New York, probably named after Edward Payson, an important and well known pastor in the early 1800's.

In his early twenties, E.P., as he was usually known, headed west as many young men did and landed in Leavenworth, Kansas where he began the foundations of Great Western Manufacturing which still exists there today. The first few years he focused on his business, living either at the foundry itself or in boarding houses. Perhaps it was his 30th birthday in 1862 that set his mind to thinking of marriage and family as on 18 October 1863, shortly before his 31st birthday, he married Helen Fairchild.

Helen Fairchild was born 21 August 1837, perhaps in Ulster County, New York. As a girl the family moved west, first to Cincinnati in Hamilton County, Ohio, and then to Leavenworth. I have a reference that there was a deed or other instrument from Edward Payson Willson to Helen five days before their marriage but I have yet to locate the deed itself although I am quite curious as to what it included.

Early in my research on E.P. Willson I found this first marriage and then her 1864 death notice, "Died this morning, July 6th, at 6 o'clock, of consumption, Helen, wife of E.P. Willson and daughter of William Fairchild, Esq." At that point I left it and moved on to other research.

Several years laterI was researching the Willson family's burials there in Leavenworth including obtaining the lot and interment records from the cemetery office, not just the tombstone information. It was here that I learned that the lot was jointly owned with E.P. Willson using the north half and William Fairchild using the south half.

I also discovered that although there were 6 stones in the Willson plot, there were actually 7 burials, the seventh being Helen Julie Willson died 18 June 1864 of "debility" age 9 days. So the mother possibly already weakened by her consumption had delivered the child, possibly too early, and both had soon died.

All this fits in with the usual in family research but then I noticed that in the adjoining Fairchild plot, there were only four headstones but there were nine burials. The stones were for Helen's parents, William and Barbara (Hunt) Fairchild and for her brother DeForrest and his wife Josie. But, who were the other five people buried in that plot? The cemetery records give us Marietta Mildrum age 37 in 1875, Helen Fairchild, age 18 in 1884, William Edmund Pierce, age 19 in 1888, Edwin DeForest Pierce, age 15 in 1889, and Claudius B Pierce, age 73 in 1902.
From here the research took off into the Fairchild family ultimately going back another couple of generations and into Helen's siblings. The last four were fairly easy:

Helen Fairchild was the only daughter of DeForest and Josie (Creter) Fairchild. Obviously named for her aunt Helen Fairchild Willson who had died the year before, she was born 23 Dec 1865 in Leavenworth, dying there of consumption on 31 August 1884.

William Edmund Pierce and Edwin Deforest Pierce were sons of Helen's sister Mary and her husband, Claudius Buchanan Pierce. William died 31 Oct 1888 of spinal miningitis [sic]. Edwin (who had a twin brother Edward), drowned 14 Feb 1889. I have yet to have the opportunity to pursue newspaper research to find out how he drowned.

Claudius B Pierce was husband to Mary Fairchild and father to the two above boys. He died of a fever in 1902 in nearby Kansas City, Missouri. His wife, ten years younger than he, did not die until 1932 and is buried in Alta Mesa, California.

The fifth unmarked burial was a bit more difficult. Helen's father was William Fairchild, whose father was Benjamin. Among Benjamin's other children was a daughter Maria who married Andrew Mildrum. About 1838, they had a daughter Marietta in Hunter, Greene County, New York. This is the Marietta Mildrum who died of consumption 3 Mar 1875 in Leavenworth at the home of her uncle William Fairchild.

Four years later, E.P. Willson married Olive Sinks, sister of Tiffin Sinks who had also come early to Leavenworth to make his fortune. Tiffin was a doctor and pharmacist as well as an investor and civic figure. He never married and is buried in the Willson plot. E.P. and Olive had four children, one being Martha Ann, their oldest, who died in 1872 of "congestion of the spine." She is also buried in the Willson plot, as are E.P. and Olive.

The Willsons had three more children, all surviving into adulthood: Hiram (1874-1948), Lida (my great grandmother, 1877-1959), and Olive (1881-1960). This last married Thomas Logan Rithie and it is their second son, James Logan Ritchie, dying shortly after his first birthday, who fills the final grave in the Willson plot.

Well, this was intended to be more about the Fairchilds but has digressed itself into more of a discussion of the unmarked graves in the two plots .. oh well, that was probably the cause of the original digression anyway. One final small note, Helen Fairchild Willson and her daughter Helen Julie were originally buried at Greenwood Cemetery and were moved to the Mount Muncie plot 23 April 1867.

At least unlike some of my digressions, the Fairchilds left descendents although not poor Helen.