Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Visiting England: Yeovil,Somerset

My 9th great grandparents Stukely Westcott and Julianna Marchant were married in St. John's Church in Yeovil, Somerset on 5 October 1619. Stukely was from Ilminster, a town a few miles away, but the bride's Marchant family had deep roots in Yeovil. Family connections provided a perfect excuse for a visit to the town when we were in England this past summer.

St. John's Church, Yeovil
St.John's Church dates from 1380 and is built from  local limestone thought to have been quarried just north of the building. St.John's is famous for its large windows that give it a sense of light and space. It does not take much imagination to picture Stukely and Juliana, both in their late 20's, taking their vows here.

Interior of St. John's Church, Yeovil

Stukely and Juliana soon became parents to a growing family: Robert, Damaris, Samuel, Amos, Mercy and Jeremiah were all born in England and were probably all baptised here between 1619 and 1635. The baptismal font is as old as the church and would have been used in their baptisms.

Baptismal Font in St. John's Church

An early King James Bible (pictured below) in a case in the chancel was given to the church in 1617, some half dozen years after this version was first published. This Bible would have been in the church by the time of Stukely and Julianna's wedding and the baptisms of their children.

Early King James Bible

Stukely and Julianna did not live out their lives in Yeovil. On 1 May 1635, they and their 6 children boarded a ship to move to America, settling first in Salem and then moving to Providence, Rhode Island where they were among the founding families. It would seem that, notwithstanding their ties to the beautiful and traditional St. John's Church in Yeovil, they were among the legions of dissatisfied English folk heading to New England in search of a different form of religious expression. In the case of Stukely and Julianna, their connection with Roger Williams in Providence is clear evidence that they were ardent Baptists.

But the family connection to Yeovil did not end or begin with Stukely. Julianna's family had ties running even deeper in Yeovil. Her grandfather Captain John Marchant and his wife Eva Cominge had also been married in St. Johns. Their marriage was celebrated here on 18 July 1568.

The church tower rises 90 feet and contains 14 bells, some dating from the 15th century. One wonders if the bells would have pealed for their wedding. Or for that of Julianna's parents John Marchant Jr. and Joan Cotington; no date has yet been found for their wedding, but it was probably held here as well.

In addition to marriages, many family baptisms occurred here over the centuries, as well as funerals and burials. Community gardens have replaced much of what might once have been burying grounds. Not surprisingly there were no signs of any Westcott, Marchant, Cominge or Cottington tombstones here.

Community Gardens in the Church Grounds at St. John's Yeovil

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Visiting England: Plymouth

When the Mayflower departed Plymouth harbour for the New World in September of 1620, a baker's dozen of my ancestors were on board, bound for religious freedom and the promise of a new life in America. Having visited their destinations in Plymouth Colony of what is now Massachusetts, I had always hoped to visit their port of embarkation. This summer we had an opportunity to do just that.

Plymouth, England

I had no great expectations of finding any trace of my ancestors ever having been here. Nearly 400 years had passed! Nevertheless, the harbour itself would be largely unchanged and very evocative of their last view of their homeland.

We were surprised, however, to discover a surprising number of references to the Mayflower such as this plaque listing the passengers, including my Mayflower ancestors.

A conspicuous tourist area supposedly marks the steps that the Pilgrims would have descended to get aboard the Mayflower, but it is highly unlikely that these steps were actually used by any of my ancestors to get aboard. It is thought that the actual boarding area was a few blocks away.

There is also a Mayflower Museum associated with the Visitors'  Centre, but we were short of time and had been advised by the locals that it wasn't a particularly good museum for documenting actual Mayflower history. We chose instead to spend our time taking in the other things that Plymouth had to offer. While enjoying a delicious dinner at The Barbican Kitchen, we discovered that it was situated in the Plymouth Gin distillery.

We also learned that this building is thought to have been where the Pilgrim fathers spent their last night in England. They would have been sheltered under this very ceiling. (No, it was not a gin distillery lounge at that time!)

Over the centuries, many other historic events occurred in Plymouth. Commemorative stones are scattered throughout the walls and sidewalks of the Royal Citadel and the Barbican areas.

This is a charming town with many quaint cobbled streets that have probably been here for hundreds of years. I kept asking myself: Did my ancestors walk here?

The Hoe is a flat area of grassland and commemorative monuments situated just above the harbour. There are stunning panoramic views across Plymouth Sound. Smeaton's Tower lighthouse is a distinct landmark.

Another genealogical bonus was awaiting us. While on The Hoe, we were reminded that Plymouth was the home town of Sir Francis Drake and that he supposedly played bowls here before sailing off to defeat the Spanish Armada. Aha! We had an ancestor, John Marchant,  who sailed with Sir Francis. My imagination took flight with images of men like Captain John and Sir Francis strutting around the streets of Plymouth prior to setting off in their grand sailing vessels from this very harbour.

Armada Memorial, Plymouth

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Samuel Lester Hoover (1855-1912)

My great grand-uncle Samuel Lester Hoover was the elusive half-brother to my mother's maternal grandfather Charles F. Edwards. Charles had been somewhat creative in the narrative of his origins, but he had correctly identified his half-brother Sam born from his mother's first marriage to a Hoover cousin.

Samuel Lester Hoover

Tragedy stalked Sam throughout his relatively short 56 year life. He was highly regarded by a nephew who knew him as someone who maintained good ties with the family, but it is generally felt that Sam was short-changed by life.

Samuel Lester Hoover was born in Leon, Decatur, Iowa on the 30th of December in 1855, just over 9 months after the marriage of his parents Barbara Hoover and William Hoover. (Barbara was the daughter of Christian Hoover and Mary Green while William may have been the son of Christian's brother Philip and his wife Hannah; if so, they would have been first cousins.) When Samuel was only two years old, his father William died.

Samuel's mother Barbara Hoover

Samuel's mother remarried in 1861 to a man named Louis Edwards. The Civil War broke out shortly after their marriage and Louis signed up with Company C of the 112th Illinois Infantry. Within 6 months, Lewis succumbed to illness. He spent the rest of the war in hospital, eventually dying of consumption in February of 1866. Barbara gave birth to twin daughters Mary (Minnie) and Martha (Grace) Edwards in November of either 1865 or 1866. (With no official birth records available at that time, proof of age was given by entries in the family Bible which appear to have been altered from one year to the other possibly in an attempt to ensure that the girls were seen as legitimate offspring of Lewis Edwards for Civil War minors' pensions.) Having never really known his birth father, 10 year-old Samuel had now lost a relatively unknown step-father as well.

A couple of years later, Barbara gave birth to a half-brother to Sam, my great grandfather Charles F. Edwards. She was widowed at the time and having four young children in this situation could not have made for an easy life for any of them.

At the time that the 1870 census was conducted in Keokuk, Iowa, widowed Barbara and her children, including 14 year-old Samuel, were living with her parents Chris and Mary Hoover. Ten years later, Sam and his cousin George Leffler were both living with these same grandparents in Osage Co., Kansas.  Samuel L. Hoover is listed as a grandson, age 24, coal miner. (By then, his mother Barbara had married for a third time and was living in Elk County, Kansas with husband George Payton and his family, including her own youngest three children.)

Osage County, Kansas
Google Earth Image

Osage County, Kansas, was a booming coal mining area. At the time, coal was the major source of energy, having taken over from wood  when the supply of timber dwindled. Mining was notoriously dirty and dangerous. One suspects that Sam would quite soon have been looking for a different form of employment.

On 12 December 1892, Samuel married Hannah Wilcox of a devout Mormon family in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tragedy would strike this couple again and again and again and again - and yet again. They had five children born between 1891 and 1905, all dying within months of birth. (One wonders whether Samuel's parents having been first cousins might have had anything to do with this consistent failure of his children to survive.)

On a brighter note, Samuel had found employment away from the coal mines. During his marriage to Hannah, he was working for the railroad as a switchman. (As the name suggests, a switchman is responsible for operating the switches to shuttle trains onto the correct tracks.) He was the Master of the Grand Lodge of the Switchmen's Mutual Aid Association when he signed his own Delegate's Credential as a representative of Salt Lake City Lodge No. 71 at the Convention to be held in Dallas, Texas on 19 September 1892, just a couple of months prior to his marriage. This was a union that had been organized in 1870 to obtain better working conditions and pay for its members; at the time, a switchman (one of the higher paid railway employees) earned $50 per week for working 12 hour days 7 days a week. Many strikes occurred during the 1880's and 90's and no doubt Samuel would have been involved in meetings to discuss ways to improve their lot.

According to his death certificate, it would have been in about 1893 that the family moved to Salt Lake City. However, a certificate of the Union Pacific Railroad Co. dated 18 December 1898 certified that he had been employed as a switchman in the Denver yard from 5 November 1895 until his resignation three years later. Work and conduct were stated as satisfactory. In any event, notwithstanding these three years in Denver, Salt Lake City did seem to be his primary home.

The 1900 Utah census for Salt Lake City lists Samuel Hoover (age 45)  and wife Hannah (age 29) as having been married for 12 years (which would make their wedding 1888 rather than 1892); no children are listed. His occupation is given as brakeman.

One might speculate whether it was the tragic deaths of all their children that caused the marriage to fall apart. In any event, the couple had divorced prior to Hannah's remarriage on 8 June 1909.

In the meantime, Sam continued his career with the railroad. His Certificate of Examination from the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company Southern Pacific Company - Lines East of Sparks dated 17 September 1910 certified his qualifications as a "Herder". (This position seems to be a variation on a switchman.) Perhaps because of his work with the railroad, he seemed to move around freely. It isn't clear whether he was actually living in Oregon at the time, but his sister Grace and her husband did live in Portland for awhile. Maybe he went there to recover from the dissolution of his marriage.

If so, he had recovered and moved on by 1910. Samuel was in his 50's when he developed a relationship with a much younger divorcee named Lillie Shagogue Chipps who was barely 20.

Lillie had already established quite a "history" for herself. She had married Joseph Chipps on 24 January 1908 at about 17 years of age but, according to newspaper reports when she sought a divorce from him, he deserted her on 8 February of that same year, ostensibly to look for work elsewhere. He had written to her from Montana and was reportedly seen in Cardston, Alberta. But he never reappeared and her divorce was granted. Lillie gave birth to daughter Violet on 8 June 1908. One might wonder whether the real reason for Joseph's disappearance might have been his discovery of Lillie's pregnancy, perhaps with personal knowledge that the child could not be his. Violet's birth certificate names her father as Sidney Devine. No record of a marriage between Lillie and Sidney has been located, but several other marriages are attributed to her: Frank Proudfoot on 16 May 1910, William Scheffler on 24 February 1912, Thomas O'Connor 15 March 1913,  John Morris 16 March 1914 and a common law relationship with James Morris in 1914 (or are these Morris's the same man?). Although there is no record of a husband named Swift, she was using the name "Mrs. Swift" by the time she was 25. Perhaps it was during a short lull in 1910 between the Proudfoot and Scheffler husbands that she took up with Samuel; a stillborn daughter was born to them on 25 February, 1911.

We are so fortunate that one rather rare record has survived from a month after the death of this daughter. (As with the two images of Sam that appear here, it was provided by Richard Lemon, a descendant of one of Sam's twin sisters.) It contains a wealth of information about his physical appearance and also gives us at least a glimpse of some much-needed relaxation and pleasure in Samuel's life. Utah fishing licence No. 3101 for S.L. Hoover of Salt Lake dated 24 March 1911 gives his height as 5 ft. 7 1/2 inches tall, weight of 155 pounds, fair complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes.

According to his death certificate, he died 28 June 1912 of apoplexy (a stroke).  It indicated that he was divorced, had been a switchman and was 56 at the time of his death.  The informant was his sister Grace (Mrs H.M. Bradshaw) who lived at 509 West 2 South, Salt Lake City.  Samuel had been living nearby at 569 West 1st North, Salt Lake City and had been in the state of Utah for 19 years.

The Salt Lake Tribune of 30 June 1912 (My Heritage, Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers): "All Knights of Pythias are urged to attend the funeral of Samuel L Hoover at O'Donnell's Chapel at 2 o'clock this afternoon. N.W. Sonnedecker KR&S"

His membership in this organization no doubt explains the uniform in the photograph below.

Samuel Lester Hoover

After a difficult life full of so much loss, Samuel was laid to rest at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Salt Lake City, Utah.

As for Lillie Shagogue, further tragedy was awaiting her. Her life ended in suicide from Lysol poisoning at the age of just 25.

Although none of the three small orphans she left behind would seem to belong to Samuel, daughter Violet would have been the oldest at 8 while the youngest was just a year old. One can only hope they were raised by a loving grandmother or other family member and that the trail of tragedies ended here.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Visiting England: The Baxter Family in Kettleburgh, Suffolk

On our recent visit to England, Graham and I found ourselves with a free morning before attending the 50th wedding anniversary party for his sister Stephanie and her husband Roger. The party was to be held at Framlingham College in Framlingham, Suffolk. According to my genealogy place list, Graham had ancestors living within a couple of miles of there back in the 1700's. Kettleburgh, here we come!

With the help of GPS and after only a few wrong turns, we found Kettleburgh, but had a bit more difficulty locating its church. Once off the main road that passes through the small village, we travelled down some lanes and (carefully) through a gaggle of tame geese to find a camping field that we took to be the church parking lot. Our first thought was that the church had been abandoned, but closer examination revealed that it was indeed still in use. (There are probably not a lot of church members as the 2011 census had a total population here of just 231.)

Graham's Read family ancestors who were born, baptised, married and buried in the area were mainly Baxters. Mary Baxter moved to Burg, Suffolk when she married William Ashwell on 3 August 1780. Mary and William's daughter Elizabeth Ashwell grew up to marry Bloomfield Read, Graham's 2X great grandfather.

Mary Baxter had family in Kettleburgh dating back to at least 1700. We can trace her lineage to her grandparents as follows:

  • Mary's Parents (Graham's 4th great grandparents): Joseph Baxter (1727-1803) and Mary Sallows (c. 1720-1783)
  • Mary's Grandparents (Graham's 5th great grandparents): Joseph Baxter (c.1700-1773) and Elizabeth Wright (c.1705-1788)
Searching the gravestones at St. Andrew's Church, Kettleburgh was not an easy task. The ground was quite rough and the vegetation had been winning its battle with the mower. We did not find any of the Baxter family stones, but finding any surviving 18th century stones is difficult in the best of situations. Nevertheless, we know that many of Graham's ancestors and extended family are buried here. Mary's grandfather Joseph Baxter was buried here in March of 1773. This same Joseph and his wife Elizabeth had lost their first-born son Benjamin shortly before his third birthday in 1728; young Benjamin is also buried here.

The church provides a very informative "History and Guide: St. Andrew's Church, Kettleburgh, Suffolk" prepared by Robert Warner in June of 1998. According to Warner, a church has stood here since at least Saxon times. The existing church dates mainly from the 1300's with the 51 foot western tower from the Decorated Period, 1350. The windows on the south side (as can be seen above) are irregular and date from a couple of centuries later.

photo courtesy Graham Barnard

The octagonal baptismal font dates from the early 1400's with a Jacobean oak font cover (painted yellow when described in 1712). The font can be seen in the lower part of the picture below.

This baptismal font (with the cover no doubt still yellow at this time!) would therefor have been used during the baptisms of many members of the Baxter family including:
  • Benjamin Baxter 4 April 1725
  • David Baxter 30 October 1726
  • Elizabeth Baxter 5 July 1730
  • Benjamin Baxter 30 January 1731
  • Jonathan Baxter 19 March 1733
  • Hannah Baxter 19 September 1736
  • Mary Baxter 19 February 1737
  • Sarah Baxter 13 April 1740
The wedding of Joseph Baxter and Elizabeth Wright occurred here on 16 August 1724. All of the children listed above are theirs. (No record has so far been located for a baptism for their son Joseph born in 1727.)

Because Graham's family were no longer in the area by the late 1800's, we can be reasonably certain it was not a relative of his who caused mayhem in the church in about 1879. A man was charged and fined by the Framlingham magistrates for riotous and indecent behaviour at the church during a Sunday afternoon service in September. Warner describes the situation: "He had seated himself in the gallery, with his dog on his lap and all was well until he urged the dog to 'speak to'em lad', whereupon it broke out into a great commotion of barking. Its master had obviously been drinking, and the Verger and his son had a struggle to eject man and beast, the service meanwhile having been abandoned."

Nor is he likely related to Samuel Hart, listed at Kettleburgh in Whites' Directory of Suffolk, 1844 as "herbalist and poet". His advertisement, again as noted by Warner: "Curer of bunions, Scab heads, Rheumatism, Scrofula and various other complaints incidental to the human frame. Poems and Pieces composed and arranged on any occasion!" Several of the gravestones in Kettleburgh are said to contain verses of his creation, but, sadly, we didn't come upon any of them in our search.

photo courtesy Graham Barnard

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

John Alden, Junior (1626-1702): Salem Witch Trial Survivor

The popular image of a witch is the one we have from Hallowe'en: a grotesque broom-riding evil woman in black. The accused witches during the Salem witch hysteria of the late seventeenth century were nothing like this. They were predominantly ordinary women in the community - wives, mothers, church members. (More information about the Salem witches can be found in my story about another Salem ancestor Robert Moulton.)

John Alden would discover to his shock and dismay that even successful well-respected men were not immune from accusation.

"Captain Alden Denounced" from "A Popular History of the United States", Vol 2
by William Cullen Bryant, New York: Scribner's Sons, 1878, p 463
Alfred Fredericks, Designer; A Bobbett, Engraver
Obtained from Wikimedia Commons

This John Alden was my 9th great grand uncle, next-oldest brother to my 9th great grandfather Joseph Alden. Born in 1626 as the eldest son to Mayflower passengers and Plymouth founders John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, John rose to prominence as a member of the Boston elite. He was a respected merchant, soldier and sea captain. He was a charter member of Reverend Willard's Old South Meeting House and Third Church.

He was also a family man. John became a widower in 1659 when his first wife died in childbirth with their first child. He then married in 1660 the widow Elizabeth (Phillips) Everill who had two children from her own first marriage. John and Elizabeth went on to have an additional 13 children of their own. He was a man widely known in the community, either personally or by reputation.

Nevertheless, on 28 May 1692 his name appeared among the list of those accused of witchcraft. At the age of 66, he made his appearance in a makeshift Salem courthouse. With the witchcraft hysteria in full swing, Chief Justice Stephen Sewall had summoned a total of 66 men to serve as jurors in the trials. Three of his fellow church members were part of the witchcraft court in which he found himself.

Alden's home was Boston, not Salem. He had simply stopped in Salem on his way home from Quebec where he had negotiated the release of some British soldiers. No doubt he often wished he had just carried on down the road that day.

These proceedings were generally a foregone conclusion with anyone accused being presumed guilty. No lawyers acted on behalf of the accused.  Spectral evidence based on dreams and visions was allowed. When newly appointed king's attorney Thomas Newton first witnessed these trials, he was dumbfounded by what he saw. Perhaps because of this, Alden's accusers were tested again and he was at first permitted to attend the hearing without a guard. It is said that Alden strode into the courtroom, sword at his side and took his place amidst the crowd. When the accusers failed to point him out, they were prompted to identify him. Moved outside into better light, the accusing girls circled him, taunting him with insults.

Alden had been active throughout the frontier. He had served in King Philip's War and had been a supplier of arms. His close ties with the Native Americans and with the French were often useful, but also seen as suspicious. Some of the girls in Salem had lost family in King Philip's War and it could have been tempting to attach blame to a prominent man thought to be somehow complicit in their deaths.

The bewitched girls accused Alden of selling munitions to the enemy and of sleeping with Indian women. When the girls said he afflicted them with his sword, it was removed from him. A marshal led him out to await his interrogation until after they dealt with another accused witch.

When John Alden returned to the meetinghouse later that afternoon, he was humiliated by being forced to stand on a chair with bound hands. Undeterred, he protested his innocence, asking why in the world would he come all the way to Salem village to hurt people he neither knew nor had ever met? When urged to confess, he said he had no intention of gratifying the devil with a lie. He challenged the assembly to supply a shred of evidence that he practiced witchcraft. Magistrate Hawthorne arranged for a touch test - a bewitched girl became calm as soon as Alden put a finger on her. Bartholomew Gedney said he'd known Alden for 2 years and  they had sailed together and were business associates. Gedney said that he had always looked on Alden as an honest man but now he had to alter his judgment. He couldn't disregard the touch test. (One wonders how anyone could NOT disregard such an illogical and unfair test of guilt!) Even fellow church member Samuel Sewall did not step forward to his defense although the Sewall family had trusted Alden to sail their ships across the ocean.

Alden was certain that God would clear his name. He swore that he, like Job, would maintain his integrity until he died.

When he was ordered to look at his accusers, they tumbled to the ground. He asked why his gaze had no such effect on Gedney. He then spoke passionately about the plight of the innocents, but was silenced by Reverend Noyes. Alden swore that there wasn't a bit of truth to the accusations.

Logic and truth were not to prevail this day. God did not clear his name. Judged guilty, John Alden found himself locked in a Boston prison later that same evening.

By mid September, he managed to escape from prison just before the killing of 9 convicted witches. It is believed that he may have first hid from the authorities in Duxbury where he would have found willing accomplices. Duxbury had been home to his parents John (senior) and Priscilla Alden and the extended Alden family. He may have joined other fugitives in New York, but one gets the sense that there wasn't much of a search made for him.

Alden House, Duxbury, Massachusetts
Photo by Graham Barnard, 1999
By December it was generally known that he had returned to Boston. When he failed to show up at his church for communion on December 18, it was speculated that he no longer trusted his friends and fellow church members. Reverend Willard's wife spoke out about this, holding Judge Sewall responsible. Several months later, Sewall called on the Aldens saying he regretted their troubles and was delighted by Alden's rehabilitation. Few others followed this lead.

After the witch hysteria died down and the killings stopped, John Alden returned to Salem where he was cleared by proclamation of all charges of witchcraft in April of 1693.

John Alden died in March 1702 with his sometimes-friend Judge Stephen Sewall at his side. His tombstone was found generations later during excavations near Boston's Old South Church and is now preserved on the outside wall of the church.

John Alden's Headstone
Image from Findagrave.com
Courtesy David Allan Lambert

Other Family Connections to the Witchcraft Hysteria

  • John Alden's father, John senior, had himself been part of a Plymouth jury in a witch trial. In that case, the jury had found the accused person to be innocent, with the accuser being found guilty of libel and punished accordingly. 
  • Several other family members were likely living out their lives in Salem during the time of the witchcraft hysteria: Mary Cook Moulton, Benjamin Green, John Green, Joseph Green, Martha Green, Sarah Green, Thomas Green, Thomas Greene, Martha Moulton, Robert Moulton, Mary (Newbury) Green and David Perkins. Fortunately, they seem to have avoided being caught up in the witchcraft hysteria in any named capacity, but it must have been a bewildering and terrifying time for anyone living there. 
  • Other more distant but associated family members that do show up in the witchcraft records include Israel Stoughton, Thomas Perkins, Mehitabel Downing and Simon Bradstreet.

Further Reading:

  • "John Alden's Account of His Witch Trial Examination",website at  http://historyofmassachusetts.org/john-aldens-account-of-his-witch-trial-examination/
  • "Salem Witch Trials", University of Virginia website at http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/people?group.num=&mbio.num=mb45group.num=&mbio.num=mb45
  • Schiff, Stacy, The Witches: Salem, 1692, Little, Brown and Company 2015
  • Roser, Susan E, Mayflower Increasings 2nd Edition, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1995

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Robert Moulton (1644-1731) lived in Salem, Massachusetts during the Witch Trials

When I noticed that my family tree contained more than two dozen people living in early Salem, Massachusetts, I could not help but wonder if any of them had any connection to the infamous witch trials of 1692. Were any of them among those executed or unfairly accused? Or, perhaps worse, were any among the accusers? I was delighted to find one ancestor who swore evidence in support of one of the accused, so I will start with that story today and investigate other possible connections over the next few weeks.

Robert Moulton was my 7th great grandfather. His father was also Robert Moulton (1607-1665) and his grandfather likewise Robert Moulton (1587-1655). It was Robert's grandfather who had emigrated from Ormsby St. Michael, Norfolk, England in 1629, bringing with him his grown son Robert who was a Church of England minister. This older immigrant ancestor was a master shipbuilder who was said to have been the first well-equipped shipbuilder to arrive in New England, building the first vessels that were built in Salem and in Medford, near Boston. Son Robert attempted unsuccessfully to establish the English church in Salem, but this was not in accord with the prevailing Puritan beliefs in New England.  Both men were active in community affairs, politics and business matters. Clearly the family were upstanding and well-respected members of the community.

The Robert of our story was the first of my direct Moulton line born on American soil, in Salem, Massachusetts in 1644. He was the second child and oldest son of Robert and Abigail (Good) Moulton. On 17 July 1672, 28 year-old Robert married Mary Cooke and started a family of his own. By the time of the 1692 witch hysteria, they had a family of eight children.

Map of Salem Village 1692
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=836532

First, a bit of background. There were two towns associated with the "Salem" witch trials: Salem Town and a fast-growing farming area at its northern end called Salem Village (now called Danvers). The earliest events of 1692 started in Salem Village, which contained some 500 people at the time. There would have been another 1500 or so living in Salem Town. The Village had established its own church in 1672, the same year that Robert and Abigail were married. None of its earliest ministers were ordained resulting in a good deal of instability. Late in 1689, the church finally obtained an ordained minister named Reverend Samuel Parris. Parris had spent time in Barbados and brought to Salem with him a couple of Carib Indian servants; they would have had knowledge of voodoo practices and told tales of witchcraft to the Parris daughters. Things went well with Reverend Parris at the Salem Church at first, but because of his strict religious orthodoxy, dissent soon arose. The Village found itself in turmoil within a couple of years. It is perhaps not surprising to learn that the earliest witch accusations arose in Parris's own home. Starting in February of 1692 with three young girls who experienced fits, over the next few months some 200 people were accused of witchcraft, many were tried and twenty executed.

Closeup of southwest corner of map of Salem Village showing location
of Robert Moulton's home (#138, circled in turquoise)
Salem was certainly not the only place where people were executed as witches. In those days, people in many parts of Europe and North America believed in witchcraft. Many believed the Devil himself was here on Earth. When unusual events occurred,  in the absence of an accepted scientific explanation, a person could be accused of having used sorcery or being in league with Satan. The accused were most often those already sidelined in their societies - the eccentrics and misfits, the ugly, the mentally ill. Women were accused more often than men and spinsters and barren women were an easy target, especially if they were willful or outspoken. In Salem, however, several men and pillars of the community also found themselves among the accused.

One such pillar of the community was a 71 year-old wife, mother and grandmother named Rebecca (Towne) Nurse. Always a pious and well-respected woman, she was nevertheless accused of being a witch. The Nurse family had been in a number of acrimonious disputes with the neighbouring Putnam family. On 23 March 1692, she was arrested on the basis of charges made against her by Edward and John Putnam. She protested her innocence and many in the community did come to her support, but several young girls (including Reverend Parris's daughter Betty and a young Ann Putnam) swooned with fits that they said were caused by Nurse tormenting them.

One of those who gave evidence on Nurse's behalf was my 7th great grandfather Robert Moulton. He testified that one of her young accusers named Susannah Sheldon had admitted to lying.

Testimony of Robert Moulton in the Trial of Rebecca Nurse

As with all the accused witches, she was not allowed a lawyer and had to defend herself. The examining magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne seemed sympathetic to her cause. Even the Governor of Massachusetts at one point issued a reprieve. Nonetheless, when the swooning fits of the young girls continued, Rebecca Nurse was ultimately convicted as a witch, excommunicated from the church and sentenced to death by hanging on 19 July 1692.

Rebecca Nurse in Chains
By Freeland A. Carter, artist - The Witch of Salem, or Credulity Run Mad, by John R. Musick.
New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1893. p. 275. See [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3080307

It would be several years before the Putnam family, the church and the government issued apologies and attempted to make reparation for the wrongful death of Rebecca Nurse. Although Robert Moulton's testimony had not changed her tragic fate, at least he had had the courage to stand on the side of one of the innocents.

Sources and Further Reading:

  • Salem Witch Trials in History and Literature website located at http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/people/nursecourt.html
  • History of the Salem Witch Trials located at http://www.history.com/topics/salem-witch-trials
  • "Gran's Family History" blog located at http://gransfamilyhistory.com/moulton-line/
  • "The Salem Witch Trials" website located at http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/polcrt/SalemTrials.html

Friday, 26 February 2016

My Family History from the American Civil War

Once upon a time, as a civil war raged in their country, four men joined hundreds of thousands of others by signing up to fight for the just cause. None of the four died on the battlefield and eventually they returned home where they all lived happily ever after.

But that isn't quite the way it turned out, as you shall see.

The American Civil War (1861-1865) marked a dark chapter in the history of the United States. About the same number of American soldiers died during the Civil War as have died from all other American wars combined.

The first two stories below are about my second and third great grandfathers who served as Union soldiers. The other two men, also Union soldiers, are not blood relatives being related to me only through marriage to my second great grandmother. However, their stories are an important part of my family history and it will be seen that the death of the one man really enabled the existence of my whole branch of the tree.

All four men were older than the norm at the time of their enlistment (Christian Hoover especially so) and all suffered health complaints for the rest of their lives as a result of the conditions they encountered during their service. Since discovering the Civil War records for these men, I have become much more interested in the details of soldiers' lives during their war service and the long-term effects it had on them and their families.

  • Christian Hoover (1809-1897) - served 1861-1862 as a private in Co. C, 11th Illinois Cavalry Regiment  

My third great grandfather Christian Hoover signed up early on in the War. His strong feelings against slavery likely served as his motivation.

Recruiting for the 11th Illinois Cavalry began in October of 1861, and recruits started going into camp at Camp Lyon, Peoria, Illinois about the beginning of November. Twelve full companies were recruited and mustered into the United States service by Captain Watson on 20 December 1861. Christian Hoover, actually age 52 but lying to shave 10 years of his age, was included in the group mustered and mounted that day. (The distinction between the cavalry that Christian Hoover served in and the infantry that the other three men served in is that although all road horses, infantry members dismounted to fight while cavalry remained mounted.)

The new recruits remained at Camp Lyon until 22 February 1862 when they broke camp and marched some 10 days to Benton Barracks, Missouri. There they were armed with revolvers and sabers. On 25 March the first Battalion embarked by boat to Tennessee and the remainder of the Regiment followed the next day. They landed at Crump's Landing and Pittsburg Landing on 1 April and set up camp.

The first actual fighting commenced on 6 April. Several men were killed and wounded that day and the next in what is known as the Battle of Shiloh. The Regiment was on duty up to the capture at Corinth and participated in the raid in which the railroad track was torn up at Purdie.

Although the Regiment would go on to see much additional action for the duration of the War, Christian Hoover's war ended with his discharge on account of disability making him unfit for duty on 1 July 1862. While participating in the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, he had contracted rheumatism, chronic diarrhoea and piles which caused him excruciating pain for the rest of his life. During the War, the 11th Regiment lost 2 officers and 32 enlisted men  as a result of military action while it lost 8 officers and 237 enlisted men to disease. The Civil War continued to take its toll for decades with men like Christian Hoover whose health would never recover.

Over the years, Christian and wife Mary suffered financially from his inability to work and attempted to get special increases in his pension claim.  Pensions for veterans who had suffered war-related disabilities (and their widows and children under 16) became available from 1862 onward, but by 1890, pensions were based on age and length of service. Disability seemed to continue to entitle one to additional benefits. One affidavit from Christian dated 23 January 1893 indicated that the $17/month pension was insufficient to keep them in medicine and incidental expenses. He was affiliated with the veterans group G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) and local members rallied to provide some aid.

Tombstone of Christian Hoover - photo courtesy Jean Pinnick

Christian's illness eventually got the best of him and depression set in. On 15 December 1897 he ended his suffering by shooting himself in the head with a 32-calibre pistol, yet another (belated) casualty of the American Civil War.

A secondary victim of the War was Christian's widow Mary, left penniless and nearly blind in her old age.

  • George Garner Wescott (1836-1916) - served 1864-1865 as a private in Co. D, 12th Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
With the average age of a Civil War soldier being 18, they were often referred to as "boys". My 2nd great grandfather George Garner Wescott didn't enlist at the beginning of the Civil War, but waited until 1864 to do so. By then he was 28 years old, considerably older than average.

The procedure for enlisting involved a local community "Captain" who would recruit about 100 boys from his area. At the beginning of the War, the period of enlistment was 3 months and the amount of training was minimal. Taverns in small towns usually had a ballroom which was converted into accommodations for the new recruits with 10 beds lined up on each side of the room. There was often an initiation into the "order" with much noise and high-jinx involved.

The first training would have occurred in their local areas with the Captain who had recruited them, after which they headed to Camp Randall, about a mile beyond the city of Madison, WI. The recruits were housed in conical tents set on raised wooden floors, 20 men to a tent. There was barely room for them to sleep. There was a hole in the centre of the tents, bricked at the bottom and sides and covered with a sheet of iron for a fire. There was no way to control the heat; often men would be soaked with perspiration in the tent and then head out into the frigid cold for training drills or guard duty. Like Christian Hoover, so many of the men developed a condition labelled "rheumatism" with painful swollen joints, blaming their condition on those early tent heaters.

A couple of years before George joined up, the 12th had left Wisconsin for Kansas in January of 1862. They travelled by train (sometimes in hay cars) and sometimes by steamer, but often marched for days on end. Notwithstanding being called "infantry", there is little mention made of riding horses. Many of the men ended up with frostbite. They weren't always well supplied with food or tents and sometimes had to sleep on the ground in the mud and snow. Diarrhea was common.

One rainy night they were called out and formed up in front of their Colonel Bryant's tent. The Colonel had a newspaper in hand and, with tears rolling down his cheeks, he read them the account of the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in which many Wisconsin men known to them had died. (It may be noted that this was one of the few battles in which my other ancestor Christian Hoover from Illinois had taken part.)

The 12th eventually also made its way to Tennessee. While in Memphis, many of the men contracted smallpox. The company took an active role in the Vicksburg Campaign of 1863. By July they were attached to the Third Brigade, 4th Division, 16th Army Corps but temporarily attached to the 13th as they began the expedition to Jackson. The weather was hot and sultry and many of the men dropped with heat exhaustion. The group also took part in the Meridian Campaign early in 1864. After over 2 years and some 400 miles of marching, fighting and destroying railroads, their uniforms were disintegrating. Shabby soldiers were without shoes and some even without trousers. With new recruits arriving, the veterans were sent home on much-needed furlough.

George Wescott - not clear whether this is George Garner or another of the George Wescotts
One of those new recruits was  Private George Garner Wescott who signed up to join Company "D" of the 12th Wisconsins on 15 October 1864 at Milwaukee. George left wife Sarah and three young children behind. His record indicates that he was 5 feet 5 inches tall, blue-eyed and black-haired. Interestingly, he enlisted as "Garner Westcott" and his record points out that the surname was sometimes given as "Wescott". It is believed that he enlisted under his unusual middle name to differentiate himself from the more ubiquitous "George" since there was at least one other George Wescott listed. (Cousin Jack Brown recently found evidence that George was named for an uncle named George Gardiner Wescott, with the name "Gardiner" being the maiden name of a maternal ancestor.)

George entered the War in time to participate battles at Orangebury, Columbia and Fayetteville, North Carolina and in Sherman's famous "March to the Sea" through Georgia late in 1864. An excellent Civil War website with more information about the various battles can be found through this link.

Fortunately for George (and his descendants), the war ended early in 1865. George took part in the Grand Review of the armies in Washington, D.C. on 24 May 1865 shortly after the assassination of President Lincoln. George returned home, mustering out at Madison on 16 July 1865. He returned to his life of farming and carpentering. He and Sarah went on to have five more children, including my great grandmother Mary Jane ("Mayme") Wescott.

In his Claimant's Affidavit in support of his Civil War Pension application, filed in 1890, George says that he has been afflicted with Rheumatism and Kidney Complaint (contracted in the U.S. Service) "and have been afflicted with the same ever since my discharge from the Service. But thought I would never apply for a Pension as long as I could earn a living for myself and Family, with their assistance. My Family are all grown up and their own masters and I cannot look to them for assistance. That I am often laid up for days and weeks at a time, wholly unable to do any manual labor by reason of Rheumatism and Kidney Complaint. Can safely say that I have not been able to do one fourth of an ordinary man's labor since my discharge from the Service."

His neighbor John Taggart swore an affidavit in support of his 1890 application, saying that he'd known him to suffer from rheumatism and lame back for 25 years. Another neighbor, Alfred Aspinall, swore that he had known Wescott since 1860 at which time he had been sound and able-bodied. Aspinall went on to say that after the war, he noticed he was a different man physically, troubled with rheumatism and kidney trouble. The surgeon's certificate confirmed rheumatism and kidney trouble and also mentioned heart problems and indicated that overall his general condition was poor. He weighed 133 pounds at the time and was 55 years of age. George's application was accepted.

George died of heart failure 19 May 1916 at age 80. His accrued pension of $22.50 was paid out to widow Sarah in 1916. By then, Sarah was making her own application for a Widow's Pension. The confusion over her husband's names continued to haunt the process and necessitated additional documentation and correspondence, but she did receive a widow's pension until her own death in 1932.

Other Wescotts in the War

George Garner was not the only Wescott who went off to fight. There were three other Westcotts who had also served in the same unit as George: Ananias, Willet and Erskine Westcott - all three had been discharged for disability prior to the end of the War.

George's first cousin Morgan Ebenezer Wescott served in Co.E of the 17th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Ebenezer signed up at the age of 17 and truly was one of the "boys".

Morgan Ebenezer Wescott
Photo provided by paulj on Find a Grave website
Ebenezer's letters home to his mother during the War were later published by him in 1909 as a book called "Civil War Letters, 1861 to 1865". These letters are fascinating for the detail they offer about daily life of the soldiers as well as for how freely he was able to describe what was going on in the War without being censored. His first letter was from Camp Randall, Madison, Wisconsin dated 19 January 1862. On 28 June 1862, his letter from Corinth, Mississippi contained the following: "There is a good deal of sickness among the troops and it is on account of bad water. We have to go to the Tuscumbia river after water and that is several miles away. The water is hauled in wagons. Each company has a barrel and the team (6 mules) to go twice a day and when we get the water it is not fit to drink. We have lost three men of our company by sickness. Mother, you thought when I came away from home that I was so young that I could not stand the hardships. Well, the boys stand it better than the old men. Not one of the boys in our company has been sick as yet."

In another letter to his parents from Vicksburg, Mississippi on 20 June, Ebenezer described how they were so close to the enemy's position that neither side dared show their heads above the sandbags topping their pits. During the day, they were on their guard, "but at night we sometimes have a picnic." He described how they would start up a conversation, calling each other "Yank" or "Johnny" and deciding to get together for a friendly chat, albeit with rifles in hand. "There are usually six or eight of us together, and two or three will meet them half way between the rifle pits, and sometimes talk for two hours. They are just as sociable and friendly as if we were brothers. They always want coffee and we give them some, if we have it, and we generally have some, and when we part they will never shoot until they say, "Hello, Yank! You in your hole yet?" We answer, "Yes." "All right then." Maybe they blaze away a dozen or more shots and we do the same. What do you think of that?"

Ebenezer's letters also described how they would never help themselves to the abundant Southern fruit, watermelon and sweet potatoes, "except it happens to be in our way and we make it convenient to have it in our way." At Beaufort, South Carolina, they all enjoyed the oysters from the beach. But they weren't just there to enjoy the food and he described marching through swamp with water hip-deep and how difficult it was to find a dry place large enough to lay down at night, "but the boys don't grumble."

Despite his youth, Ebenezer eventually did get sick near the end of the War. He was hospitalized but returned home to his parents. The next year he married and started his own family and lived until the age of 81.

  • Lewis C. Edwards (c.1834-1866) - served 1862-1865 in Company "C" of the 112th Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry

On 24 October 1861 in Henry County, Illinois, my widowed 2nd great grandmother Barbara Hoover married as her second husband a widower named Lewis Edwards. This was the same month that recruiting for soldiers in the War was beginning in Illinois. Barbara's father Christian Hoover had signed up almost immediately.

Lewis had been born about 1834 in Frank Town, Huntingdon County (now Frankstown, Blair County), Pennsylvania. His first wife Mary had died 28 September 1860. No record has been found of any children for Lewis and Mary.

Newlywed Lewis waited until the summer of 1862 after President Lincoln called for an additional 300,000 soldiers before signing up for a 3 year term. He enlisted as a Private in Company "C" of the 112th Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry.

At Peoria, the men received uniforms, equipment and some training. Unlike many other regiments, the officers were elected by the men. By October they left for Cincinnati and preparation for active service in the field. The men spent the first of many nights spreading out their blankets and sleeping on the ground under the stars. Most of the "transportation" was done on foot, marching from one place to the next. Foraging for food was common. Water supplies were not always reliable. The 112th remained in camp at Lexington over the winter, which was a miserable damp one. Many of the men became ill. By March 1863, 300 of the men in the regiment were ill and 32 had died from illness. It does not appear that they had yet seen any "action".

Their first encounter with the rebels occurred in Kentucky and was a fairly civilized and bloodless affair. While on reconnaissance, about 25 men of the 112th under the command of Captain Dow were surrounded and taken prisoner by a group of 250 Rebel cavalry under the command of Captain Morgan. The Rebels took their hats, coats, boots, gloves and all valuables before allowing them to return to the Union side. The next day, a smaller group of the same Rebels was surrounded by Union forces and Captain Dow was able to get his gloves returned by Captain Morgan with thanks for their use. Lewis Edwards was not listed among the men involved in these almost-friendly skirmishes.

In fact, Lewis Edwards was reported as having "deserted" at Lexington, Kentucky on 1 January 1863. It turned out that he had not, in fact, deserted, but had been in hospital at the time. He was one of the many men who had fallen ill during that first miserable winter. Additional medical records show that he was admitted to the hospital at Camp Nelson, Kentucky on 18 April 1864 for stomach problems and furloughed to his regiment 26 September 1864. Again on 12 May 1865 he was admitted to the hospital at Camp Douglas near Chicago, Illinois until his discharge from service 31 July 1865.  It seems that he had contracted tuberculosis from which he never recovered. His Certificate of Disability for Discharge was dated 6 July 1865 in Camp Douglas, Illinois stated that he was totally disabled as a result of pneumonia contracted while in Service.

Affidavits filed in support of his widow Barbara's pension application made for herself and for their twin daughters Minnie/Mary and Grace/Martha imply that Lewis's health had continually declined. Samuel Blackfan swore that he had known Lewis before he went into the army and that he "knew him to be a man of robust figure, and have good reason to believe he possessed good health up to the time he enlisted." He went on to say that he didn't see him after his return home until shortly before his death, that he was present at his death and assisted in preparing the body for burial. He said that "his body was in a very emaciated condition and indicated that he had been sick for a considerable length of time."

It is questionable whether Lewis Edwards actually sired any children. His first wife Mary Harbison had died, apparently childless, in 1860 at age 30. Although Barbara had given birth to one son Samuel in her first marriage, she did not become pregnant during the 10 or so months of marriage to Lewis prior to his departure for War. The year given for the birth of his supposed twin daughters 28 November of 1865 or 1866 is inconsistent in the records and may well have been sometimes slanted toward the earlier year in an attempt to obtain orphans' pensions for the two daughters. If they were actually born in 1866, it would have been a bit more than 9 months after Lewis's death. One has to wonder whether he would have been capable of fathering a child given his severe disability and failing health even if they were conceived early in 1865 and born later that year. He is said to have been home on furlough in February of 1865. If the twins were born in November of 1865, it would have been after Lewis was sent home to die, but Barbara gave birth to them at her sister's home in a completely different state. Why leave her dying husband? It is all a bit of a mystery.

In any event, Lewis definitely was NOT the father of Barbara's youngest son, my great grandfather Charles F. Edwards who was born in Keokuk, Iowa in February 1869, a full three years after Lewis's death. Although we don't know who Charles's father actually was, it would have been unlikely that Barbara would have developed a relationship with this unnamed man had Lewis lived.

Union Gravestone for Lewis Edwards at Western Township Cemetery near Orion, Henry County, Illinois
Photo by Craig Otto from Find a Grave website

  • George W. Payton (c.1820-1893) - served 1862-1865 in Company "B" of the 33rd Regiment of Iowa Infantry Volunteers

Meanwhile, in Iowa, on 9 August 1862, a man named George Payton (senior) enrolled for service as a Private with Company "B" of the 33rd Regiment of Iowa Infantry Volunteers. He was 42 years old when he enlisted. A large man at 6 feet tall and weighing over 200 pounds, he had sandy hair and hazel/grey eyes. 

There was a George W. Payton (junior), age 23, who also enlisted in Company "B" of the 33rd Regiment. Given George Senior's age, this is probably his son. There were possibly other children as well. The younger George was captured and later paroled in February 1863 at Yazoo Pass, Arkansas.

In October of 1862, George senior contracted smallpox near St. Louis, Missouri. From then until January 1863 he was treated at Bloody Island, near St. Louis. The disease settled in his eyes, partially blinding him and making him unfit for further military action. He served as orderly to General Rice until Rice's death in 1864 and then served with the Quartermaster, often driving ambulances. He was honorably discharged at the end of the War on 17 July 1865 in New Orleans. George junior mustered out the same day and place.

George senior went on to have several more children after the War: Robert born 1866, Jacob born 1868 and Mary born 1870. His wife died sometime between 1870-1873. According to Affidavits filed in his Pension Application, he returned from the War suffering from impaired eyesight and painful eyes and was unable to perform a full day's labour after his return.

He eventually received a pension for the disease of the eyes that he suffered as a result of smallpox contracted during the War.

Widowed Barbara Hoover Edwards (under the name Margaret Alice Edwards) married widower George W. Payton on 18 August 1873 in What Cheer, Keokuk County, Iowa. By then George would have been in his early 50's and needing assistance with many of his daily activities. George was a friend or at least an acquaintance of Barbara's family for some years prior to this. Barbara's sister Kate (Hoover) Lefler had helped look after him upon his return from the War and Barbara's father Doctor Christian Hoover had given him treatment for his eyes and both swore Affidavits in support of George's Pension Application.

Civil War gravestone for George W. Payton, Burlingame City Cemetery
Photo Courtesy Jean Pinnick of Find a Grave website
Whether this was a marriage for George and Barbara's mutual convenience rather than a love match can be surmised. Certainly George needed a care-giver and Barbara needed the respectability of a husband. The two ran a boarding house, but it seems that George wasn't living with her in Independence, Kansas, at the time of her death from a tumor in 1890. No mention is made of him in her obituaries although he outlived her by some three years. Barbara's burial location cannot be located, but she does not seem to be with George at Burlingame, Kansas.

Final Thoughts:

It has been said that for every 3 men killed on the Civil War battlefield, 5 died of disease. Medical care was rudimentary. Sanitation was mostly absent. Emotional trauma was not recognized then as it is now, with the result that thousands of cases of post traumatic stress disorder went completely unreported and unrecognized.

Men like Christian Hoover, George Garner Wescott, Lewis Edwards and George Payton were typical of the men who signed up to fight for either side during the American Civil War. No doubt at some level all accepted that they were risking death on the battlefield. It is doubtful that they fully appreciated what hardships they would face in terms of food, clothing, sanitation, medical care and shelter during their service. It is even less likely that they foresaw that disease contracted during the War would so dramatically affect them and their families for decades to come. 


  • Singer, Peggy M. (ed.), "The Marching Twelfth - The Story of the Twelfth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment as Told by the Men Who Served in It", Heritage Books 2007 (based on an unpublished group of stories collected by Hosea Rood, 1893)
  • Westcott, Morgan Ebenezer, "Civil War Letters, 1861-1865 - Written by a Boy in Blue to his Mother", 1909 
  • Illinois Regimental and Unit Histories website accessed 29 September 2015 at https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/databases/reghist.pdf
  • Civil War website accessed 29 September 2015 at http://www.civilwararchive.com/Unreghst/unilcav2.htm
  • Civil War Pension application files for George Garner Wescott, Christian Hoover, George Payton and Lewis Edwards, National Archives, Washington, DC
  • Thompson, B. F. (late Captain of the Regiment),"History of the 112th Regiment of Illinois Volunteer in the Great War of the Rebellion 1862-1865", Toulon, Illinois, 1885; full text accessed online on 22 February 2016 at https://archive.org/stream/112thregillinois00thomrich/112thregillinois00thomrich_djvu.txt