Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Knud Aslaksen Aakre (1710-1768) and Steinar Aslaksen Aakre (1698-1763) (52 Ancestors 2020 Week 33) Theme: "Black Sheep"

First, just to be clear: Knud and Steinar were NOT black sheep.

Instead, I've chosen to write about a fight between brothers, a story as old as Cain and Abel. Sometimes family feuds can end in unwelcome estrangements with one party or the other feeling like the odd man out or the "black sheep" of his family. But, more often than not, if one brother is attacked by an outsider, his brother will be the first to come to the rescue. 

My 6X great grandfather Knud was born at Drangedal, Telemark, Norway just months before his soldier father Aslach Steinersen died. There is some confusion as to how much older his brother Steinar was; it seems likely that he was born in 1698 but was not baptized until the month after his parents married in the autumn of 1708. The boys' mother Aaste Aasulfsdatter, left widowed with two young sons to raise, remarried to a widower named Erik Person.  

1710 Baptism record for Knud Aslaksen
Drangedal, Telemark Kirkebok

No doubt the boys were best buddies during their childhood years, but the story that remains about them involves a life-threatening attack by one brother on the other. (This is where I wish my Norwegian language skills were better than they really are. I'm afraid I'm missing some crucial details and would welcome input from anyone who can read more into the following story than I can.)

Here is the Norwegian version from page 361 the Drangedal farm book:
Dei to brørane hadde ein gong vore saman I eit brudlaup i Sannidal. Der hadde Steinar I fylla og I vanvare stukke bror si med kniven. Steinar blei då arrestera og sett under tiltale. Då ;lensmannen kom til brudlaupsgarden, låg brørane og heldt om livet på hinannan og gråt. Knut bad for bror sin. Det blei vitna at dei alltid hadde vore gode vener. Knut sveiv lenge millom liv og død. Men han kom seg att. Seinare lived dei som grannar og gode verner all sin dag. 
My understanding is that the brothers ended up in a knife fight at a wedding at Sannidal. Another account of this story indicates that a knife fight had erupted between Steinar and another man. When Knud came to intervene, Steinar would not calm down and ended up injuring Knud with the knife. By the time the sheriff came on the scene, the two brothers were crying with relief that they were both still alive and hadn't killed each other. Steinar was arrested and imprisoned, but Knud forgave his brother and must have agreed with the testimony of neighbours that there was no bad blood between the brothers. Knud lay a long while hovering between life and death but did eventually recover. The brothers lived as neighbours and good friends for the rest of their lives. 

Knud's survival was likely crucial for the very existence of my mother's line of the Torkelson family who descend through Knud's great great granddaughter Signe Knutsdatter Tveitane. 

It isn't clear just how old the brothers were when they got into this fight, but my guess would be youthful high-spirits at a local wedding, indeed perhaps fueled by spirits. Both men ended up marrying (Steinar in March of 1728 and Knud in January of 1730) and having families. We descend through Knud's daughter Maria Knudsdatter Aakre who was born in 1742. 

The brothers probably thanked their lucky stars for the rest of their lives that things had not turned out worse. I wonder how often the story was revisited over the years, perhaps with many embellishments.

Steinar died at age 65 and was buried at Drangedal 20 June 1763. No doubt he was much missed by younger brother Knud. 

Steinar's burial record from 1763

Two possible death/burial records have been located for Knud. The first of these was for 14 November 1767 - it refers to him as being crippled, which is certainly a possible result of the fight, but the age (52?) appears to be wrong.

1767 Death record for a Knud Aslaksen

It is also possible that the first is a record of his death and the second (below) is for his burial date. Sometimes, Norwegian burials were postponed for months until the ground thawed in spring.

The second record that might be his death or burial is from 18 March 1768 and, given his stated age and farm name, is likely correct:


1768 death/burial of Knud Aslaksen

Not black sheep, but normal brothers who were capable both of endangering one another's lives and also of defending and supporting one other when push came to shove.

Some Resources:

  • Telemark Farm Book: Drangedal med Tordal ei Bygdesoga av Olav Sonnes, I Kommission Hos H. Holms /Bokhandel, Drangedal 1924.
  • Kirkeboker for Drangedal, Telemark, Norway available online at the Norwegian Digital Archives:

Friday, 31 July 2020

John Brown Family (52 Ancestors 2020 Week 32) Theme: "Small"

Not knowing of any ancestors of small stature or small family size, nor any with a surname like Small or Little, I have chosen to devote this week to my Brown family, several of whom were buried at a cemetery including "little" in its name: The Ancient Little Neck Cemetery in Rhode Island.

Google Earth image of Little Neck Cemetery

1. First Generation - John (c.1585-1662) and Dorothy Brown

John Brown (my 10X great grandfather) was a well-to-do English shipbuilder who had known the Mayflower Pilgrim group at Leyden, but didn't join them in America until a few years later. By then, he was married to Dorothy and had at least three children: daughter Mary (c1614-1669) and sons James (1623-1710) and John Jr. (1630-1662). 

In 1635 John became a citizen in Plymouth Colony and began a term of 18 years on the board of assistants. By 1643, he was involved in purchasing land for a new settlement, and a couple of years later, the family moved to Rehoboth.

John was often a mediator in settling disputes between the English and the local Native Americans, both having great confidence in him. He was a man of some power and influence and stood fast for Plymouth Colony in the Gorton Plantations dispute with the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was said that Brown and Hatherly were so vigorous and fearless in pushing their claim that they neutralized the efforts of Massachusetts Bay such that Plymouth finally prevailed. 

However, bad blood was still in evidence when the 1652 joint session of congress was to be held at Plymouth. The first day, only five of the six representatives required for a quorum were in attendance. Late on the second day, the representative from New Haven in Massachusetts Bay arrived with the excuse that he had been hindered by bad roads. John Brown also came in late with the excuse that he had been plagued with a toothache. The Massachusetts representatives took great offence to Brown's excuse. It was decided that when no quorum was available on the first day, no session would be held that year even if a quorum arrived later. The members headed for home with ill feelings all around. When the General Court of Massachusetts meddled in the affair by formally insisting upon an apology from one of the Plymouth members, Plymouth interpreted this as meaning that Brown had to apologize before he could take his seat. (Plymouth had insistently re-elected Brown as one of its two representatives for the next session.) The Plymouth position was that if for any reason one of their representatives could not take part, neither would the other (leading to a lack of a quorum). This would essentially dissolve the congress. Massachusetts wisely dropped the matter without an apology from Brown.

John's independent spirit got him censured by his stern pastor Newman in 1652. Brown sued the pastor for slander and was given a verdict of £100 damages plus his costs. As soon as he won, Brown apparently arose in court and remitted the money. He had just wanted to prove his point as a matter of principle!

A couple of years later, while sitting in the court, some of the men at Rehoboth wanted all the people to be compelled to pay their share for public worship as in the other Colonies. The other commissioner favored this, but Brown was in opposition. Rather than force the population to support religion, he said those that favored the tax could pay their share and he would secure the balance by binding his estate to make good any shortfall for the next seven years. This led to several years of ongoing disputes as the proposers of the tax did not take kindly to being coerced into paying their share after all!

After reaching the age of 70, John retired from public service and spent his remaining days on his estate where he died in 1662 at the age of 78. His son John had died just a short while before him, but his wife Dorothy lived on into her 90th year. He was also survived by daughter Mary, the wife of Captain Thomas Willett, a very prominent citizen who became the first mayor of New York City. 

John Brown Memorial
 Little Neck Cemetery
Photo courtesy Julie Nathanson from Find a Grave website

2. Second Generation - James Brown (1623-1710) and Lydia Howland

John and Dorothy's other son, James Brown, my 9X great grandfather, married Lydia Howland in about 1654. She was the American-born daughter of Mayflower passengers John Howland and and Elizabeth Tilley. The first of their 9 children were born in Rehoboth.

Fenced burial location of Lydia's mother Elizabeth Tilley Howland
Little Neck Cemetery
photo courtesy Barbara Hanno from Find a Grave website

Like his father, James took a very active role in public service. When the Baptists were persecuted in Massachusetts, he was one of the instigators in the move to the new settlement of Swansea. The motivation was clearly religious liberty; the First Baptist Church in Massachusetts was established here. 

James was among those authorized to dispose of Swansea lands. In order to be admitted, potential inhabitants had to agree in writing to abide by these main principles: not to hold any damnable heresies inconsistent with the faith of the Gospel or denying the Trinity, that it was acceptable to hold different opinions on baptism, and that no one could be admitted who would be a charge on the place. One of the First Signers was James Brown.

Brown and the other four trustees used a very undemocratic method for determining how much land a man would get. Men were divided into three ranks according to the judgment of the trustees as to their standing. Men of the first rank would get 3 acres, second rank 2 acres and third rank 1 acre. The majority were deemed second rank but more were third rank than first. (One must assume that Brown and the other trustees all classed themselves as first rank!) This worked for a surprising number of years without complaint, but was finally abandoned when some of the men were purportedly attempting to confer their first rank status on their heirs and assigns forever!

James Brown served as Selectman and Deputy for many years. Town meetings were sometimes held in his home. During his tenure, schools were established in Swansea in 1673 for teaching grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, Latin, Greek and Hebrew in addition to reading and writing English.

Just prior to the outbreak of King Philip's War, Lieutenant James Brown was convinced that war was impending and on 14 June 1675 described his concerns to Governor Winslow. Like his father, James Brown had been held in high regard by the Native Americans but things were taking a turn for the worse. On Sunday 20 June when most of the townfolk were in church, some of Philip's men raided Swansea. Just one man was at home and surprised the raiders; violence ensued, marking the start of King Philip's War. One of James Brown's sons bore this news to Plymouth. Over the next few days, several Swansea residents were killed and half the town was burned.

After his famous brother-in-law Thomas Willett died, James Brown took over as "Assistant" from 1665. Even though he was a leading Baptist, whose adherents were often stigmatized, he was consistently selected to sit on the bench for 13 years. He lived until 1710 and was also buried in Little Neck Cemetery.

3. Third Generation - James Brown (1655-1718) and Margaret Denison

My 8X great grandfather James Brown was the oldest child born to James and Lydia (Howland) Brown. Less has been found about his life than his illustrious father and grandfather, who would both have been hard acts to follow. In 1676, he married Margaret Denison, daughter of George Denison and Ann Boradell. They went on to have a large family of about a dozen children including daughter Dorothy, my 7X great grandmother. Like so many other family members, James was buried at Little Neck Cemetery when he died in 1718. 

Burial Stone for James Brown
Little Neck Cemetery
Photo courtesy Julie Nathanson from Find a Grave

Little Neck Cemetery was founded in 1655 when the area was still a part of Rehoboth, MA. It is one of the oldest colonial cemeteries in Rhode Island and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Sixty-eight Browns are buried in this cemetery, although it is not certain how many of them are related to our John Brown family. 

Some Resources:

  • History of Swansea MA 1667-1917 accessed 8 July 2020 on Internet Archive at
  • History and genealogy of the Mayflower planters and first comers to ye olde colonie [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Operations Inc, 2005.
    Original data: Hills, Leon Clark,. History and genealogy of the Mayflower planters and first comers to ye olde colonie. Washington, D.C.: Hills Pub. Co., c1936-c1941.
  • Find a Grave website located online at and its listing for Little Neck Cemetery link at

Friday, 24 July 2020

Abraham Perkins (c1610-1683) and Mary Wyeth (c1618-1706) (52 Ancestors 2020 Week 31)Theme: "Large"

My  9X great grandparents Abraham and Mary (Wyeth) Perkins produced a large family. Both were probably born in England. Although there are online trees with suggestions for where and when they were born and married, reliable sources have not yet been found.

We know for certain that Abraham was in North America by 1638 when he became one of the founders of Hampton, Rockingham, New Hampshire. His land is located where the arrow points in the old map below. 

Early New Hampshire Settlers, Hampton Historical Society at

Abraham and Mary have had varying numbers of children attributed to them (anywhere from 10-14). Whatever the actual number, it was clearly a large family. I've decided to go with the following 13: 
  1. Abraham (1639-1677)
  2. Mary (1639-1670)
  3. Luke (1640-1708/09)
  4. Humphrey (1642-1643) - one of the first burials at Hampton
  5. James (1644-1644)
  6. Timothy (1646-1657)
  7. James (1647-1731)
  8. Jonathan (1650-1688)
  9. David (my 8X great grandfather 1653-1736)
  10. Timothy (1657-1659)
  11. Sarah (1659-1683)
  12. Humphrey (1661-1711)
  13. Abigail (1665-1675)
Five of the children died in childhood and some of the names were recycled for subsequent children, a practice common at the time. It seems that the oldest two, Abraham and Mary, were twins born probably 2nd June 1639 in Hampton, certainly among the first English folk born in the new settlement. 

Baptisms of the first two children (Mary and Abraham) on the 15th day of the 10th month of 1639
Hampton Town Records, Volume 1

Sadly, one of the children, Humphrey (1642-1643), had the less happy distinction of being among the first buried here. The earliest burials are all thought to be in the Pine Grove Cemetery, Hampton, but any stones this old are long gone. 

Abraham was considered a well-educated man with fine penmanship often put to good use for the town. I wonder if he might have been responsible for writing any of the town records - even though I must say we might find this penmanship difficult to read. He was an active participant in town life. On 10 May 1648, he was granted the right to build a water mill on the nearby falls. 

Hampton Town Records, Volume 1, page 38/73

He appears often in the records for early Hampton, including as  a collector of fines imposed on those who failed to perform their share of labor for upkeep of roads and being named to the Grand Jury to serve for a year. Over the course of time, we start to see his adult sons also being named in the town records. Son David (my 8X great grandfather) married Elizabeth Brown about 1675 and settled in Bridgewater, Massachusetts where they raised their family. David and Elizabeth's family was not as large as his parents: just 4  (all sons) survived to adulthood.

Abraham died 31 August 1683 at the age of 70 and Mary on 29 May 1706 at the age of 88. Both are buried at the Pine Grove Cemetery near where they had raised their large family. 

Pine Grove Cemetery
Photo courtesy ParkerMoulton, Find a Grave website

Some Resources:

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Torkel Jorgenson Heimdahl (1822-1873 ) (52 Ancestors 2020 Week 30) Theme: "The Old Country"

Norway was the "Old Country" for a majority of my ancestors. After leaving Norway, most immigrants remained in America but the call of the "Old Country" led one family back across the Atlantic, at least for awhile.

Torkel Jorgenson (my 2X great grandfather on my mother's father's side) was born 1 October 1822 at Treungen, Nissedal, Telemark, Norway and baptised there when he was just five days old. His parents were Jorgen Torkelson and Birgit Targiesdatter. 

klokkerbøker baptism record for Torkel Jorgenson 1822 

The Norwegian kirkebøker contain all the vital statistics, including vaccinations for smallpox which were required starting in 1810. Torkel was vaccinated on 25 July 1822 by Bjorn Olson when he was just under 10 months old. 

Torkel's father Jorgen was the klokkar (sexton) who would have been in charge of keeping the klokkerbøker versions of the kirkebøker for Nissedal parish for the time period so we no doubt looking at his handwriting in the above record of his son's birth and baptism.  He would have been a well educated man and no doubt a respected member of the community. However, Jorgen died in January 1839 when son Torkel was just 17 years old; Torkel was confirmed in the state Lutheran Church just a few months after losing his father.

3 November 1839 Confirmation record for Torkel Jorgenson Hjemdal (note that baptism and immunization dates are included in the Confirmation record) 

The family story was that son Torkel had been a school teacher in Norway, but according to the Nissedal, Telemark Bygdebok, he was a klokkar like his father. In addition to his church position, he was also a farmer.

Torkel was the oldest of 6 children. In 1852, two of his younger sisters left for America. 

On the day after New Year's Day 1856, at age 33, he married Signe Knutsen Tveitane. Their first child, (and only son) Jorgen Torkelson, was born on November 30 of that year; other children followed at two-year intervals: Karine, Berget, Jorgene (my great grandmother), Signe, Kari and Turi. 

The family emigrated from Telemark in 1862 to the United States. The parish records tell us that they left on 4 April 1862 for "Amerika"; Torkel was 40 at the time and the oldest three of their children came with them. Mother Signe was pregnant with Jorgena who was born 12 October 1862 after their arrival in Wisconsin. Next daughter Signe was also born in America in March of 1864. 

One of Torkel's sisters remained in Norway and married, but the remainder of the family all emigrated with Torkel and Signe in 1862. Included in this family migration was his widowed mother Bergit Tarjiesdatter.

It isn't certain what prompted Torkel to make an unusual move - back to the comfort of the Old Country with his wife and growing family. The family story had always been that he had developed tuberculosis. The Nissedal bygebok tells a more complex tale of land transactions and Torkel, as the oldest son, appears to have taken the Heimdal land over again for a period of time. The 1865 Norwegian census conducted on the last day of the year finds the family living back at Heimdal Sondre, Nissedal, Telemark. 

The Nissedal Bygdebok tells us that Torkel made a final sale of the Heimdal land in the Old Country in 1869. I have not located any other records that show them leaving Norway or arriving once more in America, but daughter Turi was born and baptised in Lake Mills, Iowa in July of 1870. (Poor Signe was probably once again pregnant on a cross-Atlantic journey!)

For the longest time, we had thought that Torkel had died in Norway of tuberculosis in about 1867 and that his widow and children had decided to head back to America to join some of her family in Iowa after his death. For this reason, it was a surprise when we actually found Torkel's death record showing his death in January of 1873 in Lake Mills, Iowa. 

#44. - Death Record for Torkel in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Records 1875-1940 for
Lake Mills, Iowa, Winnebago Lutheran Church (accessed via

Signe soon remarried (12 November 1873) to a man named Kittil Aaneson. The family photo that we have is from this marriage, with no known photograph of Torkel. 

 Torkel's widow Signe (remarried to Kittil Aaneson, seated center)
Torkel's children left to right standing: Turi. Bergit, Jorgen,
Jorgene (my great grandmother), Karine
Seated left is daughter Signe and on right is Kari.

Torkel is buried in the cemetery at Winnebago Lutheran Church, Lake Mills, Iowa, far from the Old Country of his birth.

Winnebago Lutheran Church, Lake Mills, Iowa
Photo courtesy Diane Gravlee of Find a Grave website

Some Resources: 

  • Norwegian kirkebøker and census records for Nissedal, Telemark are available online at the Norwegian Digital Archives:
  • Nissedal Bygdesoge Gard og aett Treungen sokn, Kjell Åsen; utgjevar Nissedal Bygdesgogenemnd 1978.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Barbara Hoover (1834-1890) (52 Ancestors 2020 Week 29) Theme: "Newsworthy"

A previous story about my second great grandmother Barbara Hoover ended with her obituary in which she was referred to as a "kind-hearted and very ambitious woman."  In what way was she ambitious? We were left to speculate at to just what this meant.

More has recently been learned about Barbara through her numerous appearances in newspapers in Howard, Elk County, Kansas through the 1880s. She was, I think, far ahead of her time in trying to carve out a career for herself in an age when women had few options. Her ambition is clear to see.

Barbara (Hoover) Payton c.1890

It might be useful to provide a quick synopsis of her life up to the time she was appearing so frequently in the newspapers in Kansas. Barbara was born in Pennsylvania in about 1834 to Christian and Mary (Green) Hoover; she was the oldest of their nine children. They were a close-knit family who often migrated with one another from state to state. 

Her first marriage was to a cousin William Hoover in 1855 in Illinois, followed by birth of son Samuel Lester Hoover in 1856, and early death of her husband in 1858.  

Next she married Lewis Edwards in 1861, but he soon enlisted in the Illinois Infantry in the American Civil War and returned home to Illinois gravely ill in 1865, dying of consumption in early 1866. Barbara gave birth to twin daughters Mary "Minnie" and Martha "Grace" in November of 1865 or 1866 in Jasper County, Iowa at the home of her sister. 

In February of 1869 she gave birth to son Charles F. Edwards (my great grandfather) in Keokuk, Iowa. The 1870 census found Barbara and her four children living with her parents Christian and Mary in Keokuk.

In  August of 1873 she married a family friend named George Payton in What Cheer, Keokuk County, Iowa. He was significantly older than she was, being a 52 year-old widower with several children. Sometime between August of 1873 and May of 1876, the Paytons moved from Iowa to Kansas. Their combined family is found at Howard, Elk County, Kansas in the 1880 United States Census:

1880 United States Census for Howard, Elk, Kansas

George, 60, is listed as a "butcher" and Barbara, 44, as "keeping house". Their household includes her three youngest children and his three as well. But the census does not give any idea of the extent of their involvement in the community at the time.

Accounts in local newspaper The Howard Courant give us a much fuller picture. We learn that Howard had a population of somewhere between 200-2000 people during the relevant time period (based on their petition for city status, with one of the petitioners being G. W. Payton.) Yet this small community seemed to support two local newspapers, The Howard Courant and the The Citizen. Much of the content ran to advertisements and short personal interest stories.

We first find mention of the Payton family in a newspaper story in The Howard Courant from 3 May of 1876 which indicated that George was running a restaurant: "He keeps a good restaurant and spares no pains to accommodate and make his customers feel at home." No doubt Barbara was the one doing the cooking, and much of the accommodating and making the customers feel at home, but at this early stage in their hospitality business there was no mention of her at all. 6 A.M until 11 P.M! One might hope they had additional help.

The Howard Courant 24 May 1876

It seems George had been growing his business from the time of their arrival in town. Several news stories over the months indicate that he had a meat shop and was adding buildings, digging a well ("in hopes of striking oil" according to the newspaper) and establishing a hotel. Already I'm finding myself liking Barbara's husband George, who sounds a delightful sort of man. He was apparently well-known as a "word coiner" and was sometimes described as "fat and jolly". (Although we knew that George had fought for the Union during the Civil War, had contracted smallpox and suffered severe loss of sight, it wasn't until encountering a newspaper story from The Citizen of 27 February 1889 that we learned he had been imprisoned in the infamous Andersonville Prison for 14 months. It did not seem to have dampened his good nature.)

Apparently the restaurant was well received as indicated by this testimonial from the 30 August 1876 edition of The Howard Courant:

George may have been an affable host in his establishment, but "business is business" as shown by this notice in the 13 December 1876 edition:

An advertisement for the Central Hotel appeared in the 16 October 1879 issue of The Howard Courant and ran frequently over the next few years:

No doubt Barbara was equally involved in the efforts albeit not in a recognized manner. The first mention of her by name is when she was being sued by a Mrs. Vina Ferguson on the docket for  28 March and again 4 April 1878 without any further mention of this dispute in the newspapers, leaving it a bit of a mystery! (This was just the first of many listings of Barbara and her husband George in the court dockets, but we rarely get any sort of details of the various disputes. It seems likely that they would relate to their numerous business and property dealings.)

Barbara and George were listed among the attendees at the "Calico-Neck-Tie Ball" held in Howard in early February of 1879; it sounded quite the gala event! The Howard Courant reporter had apparently asked the local dry-goods clerks for a general description of the ladies' gowns but after reading a few of them, changed his mind when each lady's dress was being described in detail (such as "wore a speckled caliker (sic) cut slaunchwise (sic)"). He felt he would have to leave town for weeks to escape their wrath!

But business was business and not always amicable. George was sued by a man named Hamer late in 1880. We are not told what this was about, but George obviously lost as there was a notice in February of 1881 of a Sheriff's sale of some property of George's to satisfy the verdict. 

In early 1881 we find the Paytons refitting the popular Lindell Hotel in Howard. Finally we start to see Barbara getting her due (at least as "Mrs. Payton") in some of the news reports, as in the last item from the 21 April 1881 issue of The Howard Courant below.

"Mrs. Payton" finally mentioned in the last news snippet above

From this time forward, Mrs. Payton often merits mention in many news items in The Howard Courant. On the 25th of August 1881, it was reported that Mrs. Payton "landlady of the Lindell' visited Elk Falls. On the 15th of September,  it was reported that she had outfitted the Lindell Hotel with an organ: "Mrs. Payton, of the Lindell, bought last week , of Hall, Waite & Co., of Emporia, one of the finest organs in town. It is a daisy, sure."   

The Howard Courant 23 February 1881

In August of 1882, The Howard Courant reported that the Lindell was sold to a man named Capp who continued to run it but under the name of the "Mansion House". Earlier that year, we could see Barbara moving into position as the main family operator in the hospitality industry.

(Finally we see Barbara named with her own ititials: B.E.)

all 3 of these items from the 17 February 1882 edition of The Howard Courant

In addition to the long hours running her business, we learn that she hosted a popular birthday party for her daughters and that she was an active member of the Howard Literary Society where she was listed as one of the three for "Essay" in The Citizen of 17 February 1882. A couple of years later she was listed as one of the founding members of the local Womens Relief Corps where she was in the position of "Guard".

The Howard Courant treats us to some amusing stories about George relating to his love of the triangle as a musical instrument. First we learn in the 23 February 1882 issue that his boarders at the Lindell were to be "warned that grub is ready for mastication by the merry jingling of a monster triangle" rather than by the circular saw he had previously used. Then, for the July 4 celebrations in 1882, there was a list of the entertainment: "This will be followed by a triangle solo by G.W. Payton on a new improved triangle imported from Alaska at great expense and warranted perfect in tone." 

Barbara's next venture was to  open a restaurant and bakery late in 1882. On page 3 of The Howard Courant of 30 November 1882, it was said that she would "always keep oysters and celery, and in fact everything anybody wants to eat from pickled pig's-feet to cranberry pies, and everybody knows that Mrs. Payton thoroughly understands the art of cooking." 

Barbara's ad in The Howard Courant of 29 December 1882

The Citizen had announced the new restaurant for Mrs. B. E. Payton in its 1 December 1882 issue in which they add "Mrs. Payton is a number one restaurateur and we predict success for her."

Contrast the pleasant but hectic life the Paytons seem to be enjoying in Howard with George's application for his Civil War Pension made in September of 1883. The pension file would lead one to believe that he was essentially blind and quite disabled for manual labor as a result of the smallpox he had contracted during the War. George is, incidentally, a big man in 1883 - just under 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. (The Citizen had reported that he was "quite sick" in its 3 November 1882 issue.)

His pension file does not quite fit the hearty description found of him on page 3 in The Howard Courant of 10 May 1883: "George W. Payton says he is sixty-eight years old and a great-grandpa. We'll bet our socks he can lick any man of his age in Kansas." (This would seem to be an exaggerated age; census files would have us believe him to be five years younger, but it does make for a better story.)

In March of 1883 we learn that Barbara opened a millinery shop, presumably in addition to her bakery and restaurant. 

The Howard Courant 17 March 1883

Later that year, it seems that Mrs. Payton's New Bakery and Restaurant had morphed into Mrs. Payton's Oyster Bar. She must have been an amazing cook with boundless energy!

The Citizen 17 December 1883

The Oyster Bar was a resounding success. There was a news story from 28 December about how the Howard Chapter of R.A.M. followed their ceremonies with an oyster feast at Mrs. Paytons's restaurant. 

Ad and news item from the 9 November 1883 The Howard Courant

George also opened a new restaurant and ice cream parlor as advertised in The Howard Courant in June 1884. This seems to be the same location as his wife's Oyster Bar (and right beside their former Lindell Hotel, now running under the name of Mansion House). Perhaps it was really one big joint enterprise between them.

It isn't clear just what happened next. The two local newspapers do not seem to lean much to gossip unless it's of the light-handed variety. Perhaps Barbara and George were not as chummy as their business interests would lead us to believe. Or perhaps they remained a team but lost their business interests in one of the many lawsuits in which the couple seemed to get embroiled. The sale of some of their properties in Howard was ordered by Sheriff's Sale advertised in the 19 June 1885 issue of the Grenola Hornet:

Grenola Hornet 19 June 1885

The 1885 Kansas state census (dated as of 1 March) has the family residing in Burlingame, Kansas. George is listed as hotel keeper, but no occupation is recorded for 57 year-old Barbara. (In the 5 years since the 1880 census, she has managed to age 13 years! More likely she was actually 51 at this time.)

Payton-Edwards family in Burlingame, Kansas
1885 Kansas State Census

Certainly Barbara and her daughters, at least, were gone from Howard by 6 March 1885 when The Howard Courant reported that Barbara and her twin daughters were in town on their way to Geuda Springs where Mrs. Payton was expecting to take charge of the Grand Central Hotel. (This was just a few miles southwest of Howard.) At the time, the healing waters from the springs were developing as a tourist destination with bath-house, luxury hotel and many improvements. In the end, Barbara did not take charge of the Grand Central after all. 

But the entrepreneurial spirit does not die easily. George bought the Hotel Stewart in Winfield, Kansas (between Geuda Springs and Howard). By July of 1885, Barbara was up and running again.

The Grenola Hornet 7 September 1885

Next we learn from the Moline Republican of 18 September 1885, p.3 that Mrs. B.E. Payton, who had 10 years experience in the hotel business, had become the proprietress at the Commercial House in Moline. This was just a few miles south of Howard and connected to it by the Howard and Moline Stage Line which George had recently purchased. He made two trips each day, leaving from Howard early each morning and making his last trip home to Howard by 10 P.M. It sounds as if she was living in Moline while George remained in Howard. 

Yet, in November The Howard Courant reported that she had moved back to Howard. None of these other hotels or towns seem to have stuck to Mrs. P! We don't know what she did in 1886 (except to have a visit from her oldest son Samuel Lester Hoover reported by The Howard Courant on 6 August. This might have coincided with a visit by him to meet his new nephew. Barbara's daughter Grace had given birth to a son Winfield Scott Lemon in Winfield, Kansas - home of the Hotel Stewart run by Barbara - on 29 July 1886.) Barbara was now a grandmother, but this bit of news remained unreported. 

George really was not in good shape. Part of his Civil War Pension file contains an affidavit sworn 31 August 1886 by two men who had boarded for awhile with the Paytons, Harrison H. Wright and Kinchen Matthews. In it, they swear that they had known George for about 11 years and that "they believe him to be almost wholly unable to perform manual labor; that at times he was able to drive a team or do light chores about a hotel, but if he over heat himself was laid up with inflammation of the eyes and unable to see how to get about the town and was confined to the house for weeks at a time."  

Barbara was certainly not slowing down; if anything, she was speeding up! By 1887, she was on the move yet again. She was advertising in The Howard Courant on 1 July 1887 as proprietor of the Sumner House, 4th Street, Wellington, Kansas. She had thoroughly renovated, cleaned and painted the house and would be accommodating guests at reasonable rates. 

And yet another - the Fremont House in Burden!

The Howard Courant 16 September 1887

Barbara's second grandchild arrived in December of 1887: Maud Lemon, born in Independence, Kansas. 

By the spring of 1889, or perhaps sooner, Barbara was also living in Independence, Kansas; The Howard Courant of 24 May says she was in Howard visiting from there for a few days. (Independence sounds like an apt location for a woman living apart from her husband who is in Burlingame, Kansas and associated with the Bratton House by then.) No reference could be found to her in association with any hotel or boarding house in Independence, but since her son Charles was Clerk at the Caldwell House in 1890, that establishment is certainly a possibility. 

Google Earth Map of Southeast Kansas - yellow pins mark sites of Barbara's business ventures

Barbara died rather unexpectedly on 22 November 1890 in Independence, Kansas at about 56 years of age. Her obituary said she had been suffering with a tumor for some time. No doubt she had worked through it as best she could.  It must have been a terrible blow to her to have to slow down at the end, but she seemed to have kept the severity of her condition largely secret from the extended family.  

Thanks to the local newspapers, we now know the extent of Barbara's ambition.

Some Resources:

  • Edwards, Lewis C. (Pvt., Co. M, 112th Ill Vol. Inf.), Civil War widow's pension application no. 394,573, certificate no. 265.106 and minors' pension application no. 418,303, certificate no. 265.106 ; Case files of Approved Pension Applications, 1861-1934, Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • Payton, George W. (pvt., Co. B, 33rd Ia. Vol. Inf., Civil War), pension no. S.C. 368.111, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • website for all articles from the Howard Courant and The Citizen of Howard, Kansas; the Grenola Hornet of Grenola, Kansas and the Moline Republican of Moline, Kansas.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Jon Gudbrandsen Haugerud (1690-1773) (52 Ancestors 2020 Week 28) Theme: "Multiple"

When I first encountered the 1773 burial record for my 6X great grandfather Jon Gudbrandsen Haugerud, I was struck by the multiple deaths on his record page in the Norderhov, Buskerud, Norway kirkebok. During the month of June alone, there were some 40 people buried in this small rural area. (To demonstrate the significance, it seems just 4 births/baptisms were recorded during the same period.) These multiple deaths were a mystery that called out for further investigation.

Burial of Jon Haugerud 6 June 1773 Buskerud, Norway (orange highlight)
(Other burials during the same month period in yellow)

The kirkebøker (church books) provided the official state record of vital statistics. The one for this parish lists things chronologically for the year 1773. These 2 pages record everything that was going on in the church for approximately the one-month period of June 1773. The number of deaths and burials indicated in yellow is substantially greater than any births/baptisms, marriages or other events. (The previous page was just as dismal with some 50 deaths recorded and just 4 births and a couple of marriages. I cannot help but wonder how many of the June deaths might be attributable to being infected while attending one of those burials the previous month.) An examination of the ages of the dead indicates that folks were dying in all age groups from infants through the elderly. Jon, who died at age 84, would seem to be about the oldest and could well have died of natural causes. But what was going on to cause such widespread death across all ages?

Being in the middle of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic immediately brings to mind the possibility of some sort of epidemic sweeping through my Norwegian ancestors' community. And that is, in fact, exactly what was going on.

Those of us alive in 2020 feel we are going through unprecedented times and, certainly, we are the first to encounter COVID-19 and for most of us, this is an entirely new experience in seeing much of the world shut down in an attempt to curb the death toll and keep our health care systems from being overwhelmed. However, our ancestors also lived or died in many earlier plagues and epidemics over the centuries. The one sweeping through much of Europe in the early 1770s was the one evidenced on the page in the above church book. My 6X great grandfather Jon may or may not have died as a result. 

Norway was mandating that the state Lutheran Church keep parish records starting in 1688.  Jon was born in Ådal, Buskerud, Norway in 1690 but the church records there do not begin until 1704 . He married Gjertrud Olsdatter on 27 October 1715. 

Marriage of Jon and Gjertrud, p. 124 of 1715 Norderhov Kirkebok
(In a page for a more typical year full of births and marriages and few, if any, burials)
Not much is known of their lives outside the few church records.Their son Jon Jonsen Haugerud born 1724 was my 5X great grandfather. Gjertrud died at age 70 and was buried 11 October 1766, perhaps fortunately being spared witnessing the widespread death that would decimate her community just a few years later.

An excellent article by John D. Post in the Summer 1990 edition of The Journal of Interdisciplinary History delves into the epidemic sweeping Europe at the time. It makes for fascinating and enlightening reading when viewed through 2020 eyes. 

An extended period of unfavourable weather with heavy and untimely precipitation had resulted in crop failures throughout much of Europe in the early 1770s. Food was in short supply and prices spiked. The countries with the largest increase in food prices suffered the most deaths. Many people became malnourished; some died of starvation. This coincided with a wave of disease that struck particularly hard in the German-language and Scandinavian countries. The diseases that were prevalent were typhus, typhoid fevers, dysentery and smallpox. We cannot know which of these contributed to the deaths shown for Norderhov in June of 1773.

To make matters worse, the Norwegian militia were mobilized for an impending war in Sweden, but then demobilized when things were resolved, resulting in many men returning home with disease to be spread in their local communities.

The data showed a significant increase (+111%) in the death rate in Norway in 1773 and a corresponding decrease in birth rate (-23.7%). This is consistent with what we see in the Norderhov church book record in June of 1773.

A few of Post's observations from his study of the European data from the 1770s are notable. Denmark fared better than its Scandinavian neighbours, perhaps because of the measures they adopted:  public granaries to cope with the food shortages, controlled movement of rural populations, price controls on food and compelling the more affluent to contribute to the support of the destitute. Post's conclusion was that the epidemic level in a country was associated most with the scale of social disarray caused by migration for work, vagrancy, poverty, crime and public disturbances even more than by lowered resistance to disease resulting from nutritional deficiencies. 

As the coronovirus pandemic of 2020 continues to unfold, the death toll is rising while more is being learned all the time about the effectiveness of various responses by health officials and governments around the world. We can only hope that we learn both from history and from our own unfolding experience. 

 Some Resources:

  • Norderhov, Buskerud kirkebøker F/Fa/L0004: Parish Register (official) no. 4, 1758-1774, pages 249-252, available online through the Norwegian digital archives
  • Post, John D., "The Mortality Crises of the Early 1770s and European Demographic Trends", The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol.21, No. 1 (Summer 1990), pp.29-62; Published by the MIT Press and available online at

Friday, 26 June 2020

Moses Simonson (c.1604-c1690) (52 Ancestors 2020 Week 27) Theme: "Solo"

My ancestors usually migrated to America and lived in communities as part of an extended family group.  Finding someone who flew "solo" is a challenge. 

One solo flyer to early New England was my 10X great grandfather Moses Simonson (or Simmons). 

Born about 1604 in Leiden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands, he was a French-speaking Dutchman (known as a Walloon) whose parents had joined the English Separatist church during their years in Leiden prior to emigrating to New England. When many of the Leiden congregation left for America aboard the Mayflower in 1620, teen-aged Moses remained behind with his family in Leiden. The following year, however, he was ready to strike out on his own when the next ship, the Fortune, sailed to America, Moses was one of about 35 passengers on board. He came to America as a single young man.

Replica ship Mayflower II in Plymouth Harbour 1999

He undertook this adventure with another teen-aged Walloon named Philip Delano. The Fortune landed at Plymouth Colony on 9 November 1621. You might think that these new arrivals would have been welcomed with open arms by the existing Plymouth community who had arrived a year earlier aboard the Mayflower. But that was not exactly the case. 

For one thing, the Colony had no idea these newcomers were planning to join them. Food was already in short supply and, with winter coming, they were concerned about having enough to see them through until spring. The Fortune passengers brought no provisions with them so the Colony's winter rations would need to be stretched even further. 

There was also some thought that the caliber of the newcomers was not of the highest standard. At least all arrived in healthy condition. However, Moses was one of just a handful of the Leiden congregation that were joining them. Most were so-called "Strangers" recruited by the merchant adventurers who were more interested in economic than religious matters. There were just a few women; according to William Bradford, most were "lusty young men, and many of them wild enough, who little considered whither or about what they went." One might hope that Moses and his friend Philip, as members of the predominant church congregation, were not included in this wild group.

Yet all were made welcome and remained in Plymouth when the Fortune loaded with cargo for the merchant adventurers (wood, beaver and otter pelts) departed 13 December for return to England.

By the spring of 1623, it was felt that rather than continuing to grow things communally, it would be advantageous for everyone to have their own plot of land for crops. Each household was granted a tract of land in accordance with its size (generally it was one acre per person). Moses and Philip Delano seem to have been dealt with together in that Division of Land in 1623. For those that came on the Fortune, 19 acres  were divided among 19 people, including 2 acres for Moses Simonson and Philip Delano.

Again, when it came time to divide up the cattle among the settlers in 1627, the two young single men Moses Simonson and Philip Delano, as a unit,  were included in Francis Cooke's group. This group was alloted the least of the 4 black heifers that had come in the ship Jacob and two she goats. 

As more and more ships arrived with a variety of family groups and young unattached immigrants, problems arose. It seemed that single young men had a tendency to get up to a lot of trouble, including serious offences such as assault and murder. More often, the offences committed by the young single  folk related to illicit sexual activity, drunkenness and singing lewd songs. It was felt that measures had to be taken to try to control their wilder natures. Laws were enacted to limit the amount of time one could spend in an "ordinary" (pub) and idleness was strictly forbidden. For a period of time, until young men were 21 years of age, they could not live on their own but had to be taken in by a family, whether related or not. Sometimes forced servitude for several years was seen as a way to control a young man. No flying solo for some!

There is no record of Moses ever getting himself in any sort of hot water for any of this sort of misbehavior.

Moses married a woman named Sarah and had 7 children with her between about 1637 and 1653. Their daughter Mary, my 9X great grandmother born about 1641, would grow up to marry Joseph Alden, son of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins who had arrived in Plymouth on the Mayflower. By 1639, Moses and Sarah settled in Duxbury, where he served as a surveyor. With all the development going on, surveyors were in constant demand; his friend Philip Delano also served as a surveyor. 

Moses appears in many of the records in early Plymouth Colony. He was listed as freeman of Plymouth after those admitted 1 January 1634/35.  He appears in the Duxbury lists of freemen in 1639, 1658, 29 May 1670 and early 1683/4. He was involved in many land transactions in several local towns over the years.  As for his education, it is noted that he signed a number of his deeds but by 1678 was making his mark.  He was on the petit jury 25 October 1669.  He was a highway surveyor in Duxbury 3 June 1657, 3 June 1662 and was a surveyor of highways in Scituate 1 June 1675.

The Old Burying Ground, Duxbury MA 1999
Not known if this is where Moses was buried, but it seems likely

Moses died in Plymouth Colony and his will was filed for probate on 15 September 1691 by his son John. His will mentions daughters Mary (wife of Joseph Alden), Elizabeth (wife of Richard Dwelly), Sarah (wife of James Nash) and  sons Aaron and John. Another son (Moses) had died about 15 years before his father. Interestingly, the old Delano friendship remains: one of the witnesses to the will was Thomas Delano, son of his old friend Philip. 

Moses may have flown solo to America, but it is obvious that he had close friendships and grew his own circle of loved ones to surround him in his new life in America.

Duxbury, MA

Some Resources:

  • Archer, Richard, Fissures in the Rock: New England in the Seventeenth Century, University of New Hampshire, Published by University Press of New England, Hanover and London, 2001, pp. 98-110.
  • Johnson, Caleb H., The Mayflower and Her Passengers, Xlibris Corporation, 2006, pp. 267-275.
  • Willison, George F., Saints and Strangers, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1945.