Wednesday’s Child: India Hyde

IMG_0879India Hyde was the first child of Lafayette and Caroline Fox Hyde. She had been born 29 July 1874. The family had been living in Saginaw, Michigan and were on an extended visit to Caroline’s parents, William and Emeline Fox, in Harpersfield, Ohio when it was noticed that little India couldn’t stop coughing and she couldn’t catch a breath. She had the lung fever, known now as pneumonia. I’m sure they called a doctor but there wasn’t much to be done as India sweated and coughed and cried. She died on 10 January 1877, when Caroline was carrying her next daughter Inez, who was born that June.

 

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Azores to Ashtabula: the Story of Manuel Rapose

Manuel Rapose was born 17 May 1864 on the island of São Miguel in the Azores to Anthony Rapose and his wife, Evelyn Lavena. He and his family faced many of the same problems the family of Manuel Fratis, which you can read here, if you missed it.

I have a theory (not much but it makes a little sense) that the Fratis family and the Rapose family knew each other back home in the Azores. They might even be related, I don’t know. But I do believe they were well acquainted. I’m reasonably certain Manuel Rapose played a large part in the immigration of Manuel Fratis at the turn of the century with a well worded letter, extolling the virtues of Ohio.

Manuel also immigrated to Ashtabula during the industrial boom to work on the docks around 1884. Most likely he came alone and when he had saved up enough money he sent for his lovely Mary, the woman who would become his wife soon after. The money was good but the labor was backbreaking. Son Anthony was born in 1889 in Ashtabula, and his sister Mary born in 1893.

 The missing 1890 Census makes me so upset sometimes. It would solve a lot of problems because the first record I am able to find for Manuel is in the 1902 Ashtabula City Directory. He’s now been promoted to dock foreman. But if you notice, Manuel is married (or at least living with) to a woman named Annie, not Mary. He lives at 6 Rice Street.

Here we are in 1904. Our Manuel Rapose is the second Manuel Rapozo on the list, the gang foreman. This time he seems reunited with Mary and living at 6 Devney, which used to be —

You got it. 6 Rice.

That’s the only clue that these Manuels are the same man.

I don’t know how to explain the two different women. Mary is listed as the mother of his two children. She seems to have been around first. He may have had a midlife crisis and took up with Annie. That obviously didn’t work out because he’s back with Mary quite soon. It could be that was a name Mary went by, I doubt it, but I don’t know. (Oh, how, I hated writing that.) It just seems a bit preposterous that one Manuel Rapose would move out and another would move in right behind him. I suppose nothing is impossible, but come on, be real. I do know I need to narrow my timeframe down and get in touch with the Ashtabula County Courthouse. I think that’s where my answers are.

Mary and Manuel remain living together when we find them in 1910. I wonder if she worried if Manuel would leave again or if she even worried about it at all. The census said they’d been married for 22 years, so there’s an other wrench in the search for Annie’s identity.

We also find that son Anthony had joined his father working on the docks. I’m sure that was at least a little uncomfortable because Dad’s the boss. The other guys probably thought Anthony would get special treatment from dad and I’m pretty sure that it didn’t happen. Manuel was probably a little harder on Anthony to make sure no one could even think he was giving his son special treatment.

Rapose family in 1910. They are the next to last family on the page.

If domestic bliss had finally settled on Manuel and Mary (and I hope it had), it didn’t last long. Mary had suffered from breast cancer for about two and a half years. Three weeks before she died in 1911, it was discovered she had come down with carcinomatosis, which halved her already feeble chances for survival. Carcinomatosis is further cancerous growths that are independent of the original cancer. This is not cancer spreading to other areas; it can still do that. In Mary’s case, she had breast cancer and carcinomatosis usually sets up in the lungs. In effect, it was like she had breast cancer AND lung cancer. For the last three weeks of her life, she suffered. She was often short of breath and coughed all the time, sometimes spitting up blood. She died the afternoon of November 16 and was buried two days later in St. Joseph’s.

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Death Certificate of Manuel’s wife Mary

113368930_138110652876  This is the headstone of Manuel’s wife Mary, giving her birth date as 6 May 1855.

Tragedy struck again just four years later, in 1915. His daughter Mary, aged 21, also passed away.

Daughter Mary's tombstone
Daughter Mary’s tombstone

From the winter of 1914 until the next spring, this Mary struggled with tuberculosis. She had many of the same symptoms that her mother had: shortness of breath, coughing up blood. There wasn’t much to be done for the disease in those days. A lot of times, a patient would be sent to the sanitarium, but that was just death’s waiting room for the majority of people. You could survive, but it would take a miracle.

Mary’s miracle was not forthcoming. She died at home on April 23 and her brother and father are remarkably fortunate they did not catch tuberculosis themselves.

The next year saw a glimpse of joy for the Rapose family that remained. Anthony, now 27, married Mary Dorothy Fratis, daughter of Manuel and Rosie Fratis, at the Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church by Father Bernard Patton. Rosie was now herself a widow, Manuel having died in 1911. Rosie moved her family to 6 1/2 Devney, next door to the Raposes.

Mother_of_Sorrows_Ashtabula
Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church in Ashtabula

I suppose two lonely people without spouses couldn’t live next to each other for very long without something happening. On 23 June 1917, Manuel Rapose and Rosie Fratis welcomed their own little girl, Genevieve, into the world. They were unmarried and living apart. I think the phrase “There’s nothing new under the sun” applies here.

I’m going to stop here and say I know I might have upset some people both by mentioning the illegitimate birth and by being nonchalant about it. You never please everyone. I believe in speaking the truth as it is without casting judgments that aren’t mine to make in the first place.

In 1920, the families are still living next to each other and little Genevieve is living with Rosie and they live next door to Manuel.

1920UnitedStatesFederalCensus Manuel Rapose
Rapose and Fratis households in 1920

Manuel and Rosie finally married in 1927.

marriage record of Manuel Rapose and Rosie Fratis
marriage record of Manuel Rapose and Rosie Fratis

Unfortunately, the marriage only lasted three years. The day before New Year’s Eve 1930, Rosie passed away.

Rosa Rapose death certificate

For some time, Rosie had been very sick. At first, she’d just been tired, but she kept pushing herself and pushing herself. But soon, tired morphed into extremely short of breath and she was soon unable to do even the most mundane daily tasks. Her body began to hold fluid and become tight and uncomfortable. She had heartburn when she laid down and chest pains when she was up. If that wasn’t bad enough, she had coughing fits all the time and couldn’t ever catch a breath no matter how hard she tried. The constant racking pains were nothing, she thought, when she saw blood in her handkerchief after a recent coughing fit. It was always worse at night. So she never got much sleep. Genevieve was still young and Manuel needed her, too. But there was nothing to be done. Three weeks before she died, her appendix ruptured and it was discovered in the operating room that it had been gangrenous and abscessed. More pain. Much more pain. Father Patton came to deliver the Last Rites. She could have died then, but she didn’t. Perhaps she would recover. A couple of weeks later, the fluid she had been holding because her heart couldn’t pump had settled in her lungs and caused pneumonia. Pneumonia was pretty much a death sentence. Father Patton returned to pray over her again. Four days later, her heart, almost gone, threw a clot and it traveled to her brain and caused a stroke. There was no saving Rosie this time.

tombstone in St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery
tombstone in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery

Manuel stayed single for the rest of his life. He was 66 years old in 1930 and still had his job as a foreman at the docks. He didn’t keep it for long. He started forgetting things he once knew and was soon replaced as dock foreman. He had poor circulation from heart disease and high blood pressure. He puttered around home and watched his son start a family of his own. There were grandchildren to play with. His family looked out for him like he had looked out for them all these years. In 1942, his heart just stopped in his sleep in the early hours of the morning of July 8.

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He was buried three days later besides his wives in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery.

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Sunday’s Obituary: Mercia Griffin Wilbur

Mercia Wilbur obituary 23 March 1881 issue of the Rock Creek Banner
Mercia Wilbur obituary 23 March 1881 issue of the Rock Creek Banner

I don’t know if I have anything to add to this. I think every genealogist would give their right arm to have an obituary like this. You get a maiden name, a birthday, date of marriage, detailed descriptions of the moves the family made, information on children, etc. However, it doesn’t have parents’ names, but then a lot of obituaries at this point in time don’t, even for children. At the same time, most obituaries I’ve seen aren’t this detailed either. But I think we’ll all tell you, it doesn’t help if that’s all the information you have.

In this case, with the beautifully named Mercia Griffin Wilbur, that’s pretty much it. I mean, I have census records, but they only cover the period after 1850, when they became every-name censuses. She was already well into her married life by this point. Census records, an obituary, and a death record are all I have. Based solely on the name of her son, Harvey Griffin Wilbur, I took a guess on her father’s name.  Turns out, there was a Harvey Griffin in the Sidney, New York area with a daughter Mercia’s age in the 1840 census. It’s purely a guess, but it’s a smart guess, I think.

I’ve been able to determine that their son William was the “darling” who died of smallpox in 1836. I’ve also been able to narrow down her husband Anson’s death date to 1874 or 1875. All simply from an obituary.

We are more, much more, than names and dates. These are the kind of obituaries I like, if only the parents’ names were included.

Who Are You?: Gus Steward, Mystery Man

I call these posts “Who Are You?” because for these ancestors there’s a crucial component unknown to me: parents, marriage, and so on.

But Gus Steward pisses me off.

I know next to nothing about him. He was born, he married (twice), had some kids, died and was buried. For every piece of information I have, it’s a twenty to forty year gap to the next shred of information. Everything contradicts everything else. He’s the honest to goodness brick wall. He’s the ancestor who’s been dropped off by aliens. Thank God he’s not mine.

No, I don’t treat all my clients’ ancestors like this. Because they don’t make me this angry. Susanne, it’s a good thing we’re friends, because I probably would’ve walked away by now. Sometimes I really wish I didn’t love a challenge so much because that’s how I got into this.

Gus Steward defies all logic. It shouldn’t be this hard. It really shouldn’t. But it is.

So just who is Gus Steward?

Gus Thomas Steward was born on 1 January 1878 in Jefferson County, Alabama, I think. There is no record of him until 25 years later when he married wife number one Leola Jenkins on 23 August 1903 also in Adamsville, Jefferson County, Alabama. At least there’s a piece of paper with that one.

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Seven years later, Gus and family were enumerated in Pontotoc County, Mississippi in the 1910 census.

1910 Enumeration of Gus and family
1910 Enumeration of Gus and family

When it was time to register for the draft during the First World War, Gus was back in Adamsville, Alabama.

Gus' World War I draft registration page 1
Gus’ World War I draft registration page 1
Gus' WWI draft registration page 2
Gus’ WWI draft registration page 2

Two years later, in 1919, Leola died in Adamsville. September 1920 found Gus getting married again to a widow, Belle Jennings Goodwin, in New Albany, Mississippi. From this point until the day he died in 1950, Gus is pretty easy to trace because, for once, he seems to set down roots.

You cannot fail to notice the back and forth between Alabama and Mississippi. It makes Gus difficult to trace because you never know which place he’s going to be or which family he’s going to be with. He could be at any point in between, so you should see me pulling out the maps and trying to figure this out. The blank first 25 years of his life make it difficult to gather information that can be used to confirm his identity later on.

Point is, he loved to move and he could be anywhere.

Every lead we chase fizzles to nothing. We chase prospective Gus Stewards (and every variation thereof: Stewart, Stuart, Stuard, and even Augustus and Tom) into the future and he never turns out to be our guy. Never. It’s frustrating.

We know he has one brother, Earl Marion, and one sister, Mary Estelle. As they were born after 1880, the missing 1890 census denies us a crucial piece of information. Estelle married young and can be found with her husband consistently. Earl gives us the same problems as Gus — missing information from his younger years.

I know it seems like I’ve just used this post to vent but I tried to also share the information I have, which is very little. Maybe I’ve spent too much time with this and now I’m too close to the information, easily overlooking something crucial. So maybe I need some fresh eyes.

Sunday’s Obituary: Margaret McVitty Little

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8 August 1841 was a cool summer day in the small Irish town of Drummans in County Monaghan. But it was plenty warm in the home of tenant farmer William McVitty. For it was there that Mrs. Margaret McVitty gave birth to Miss Margaret McVitty.

Yeah, you read that right. It’s not like genealogy isn’t hard enough as it is, right? Irish research? Now there’s the same name in a family!

Anyway.

Little Maggie, as she came to be known, was the seventh child but only the second daughter of William McVitty and his wife Margaret Gibson. When she was nine years old, her father came to America in search of gold. It was 1850 and the Gold Rush was on. It isn’t known how successful William was at prospecting, but four years later he went back to Drummans and brought his family to Perry, Ohio. Maggie was 13.

Moving in general is difficult enough, but picking up and moving to a new country has to be terrifying at 13. I know it was for something better than what they had, but still. Our forebears had to have been made of sterner stuff than we are. Or maybe just me, who knows?

If you read the post about John Little I wrote a few days ago, then you are at least a little familiar with the reasons that Irish immigrants might have left home and what they had to face once they got here. Well, the McVitty’s are pretty much the same.

At 16, Margaret married John Little. Two years later, their first son, Robert, is born. All seems lovely and peaceful.

While heavily (and probably uncomfortably) pregnant with their third child, John goes away to war, leaving Margaret all alone. Being a stubborn Irishwoman, she just went about her business, probably having faced worse in her life back in Ireland.

Three years later, John returns home and I’m sure Margaret thought things would return to normal now. But they didn’t, no matter how hard they tried. John was wounded and was unable to do the work to support their growing family. For a while, I’m pretty sure they depended on the kindness of her brothers James and Isaac to get along until the children got a little older and could do work to support the family.

When Robert was old enough, he grew onions for his uncle James and then taught school. Emma, the second born, worked as a domestic servant. Things were not perfect, but looking up. Then Margaret faced every parent’s nightmare: the death of her son Robert in 1880. Her husband had died the year before and she was left a 38 year old widow with very small children. Most women in her situation remarried quickly to have a means of support. Margaret did not do so.

With no visible means of taking care of herself, in 1885, she filed for a pension for John’s military service. She was denied. The stubborn Irishness reared its head and she enlisted doctors and friends in her cause for what she considered her rightful due as a Civil War veteran’s widow. She eventually got $8 a month for her troubles.

Margaret Little lived the next forty years surrounded by her children and her grandchildren. Her youngest daughter lived at home until her marriage in 1906. She moved her mom right in with her in the new home. Henry Croft must have been a good man. He let his mother-in-law live with him for 23 years.

Margaret began to suffer from high blood pressure and poor circulation as well as probably some confusion. But then, she was 86 years old. On 20 March 1929, she had a stroke and was confined to her bed. Four days later, in the morning of March 24, she passed away. She was buried next to John in the Perry Township Cemetery the next day. I know what the obituary says, but that’s where she is. Exactly where she’s supposed to be — with her family.

The Legacy of John Little

When John Little died in 1879, he left behind six children, ranging in age from 20 to a year old. The oldest ones grew up without him because of his military service and the youngest grew up without him after he died. I know that premature deaths were a relatively common thing in that era, but people lived to be old then as well. Maybe it’s the chances he didn’t get and experiences he missed that bother me, but most likely it’s the young children left behind.

John’s oldest son, Robert, was born 23 January 1859 at his parents’ Perry, Ohio home. In his short 21 years, Robert probably had to grow up a little. As the oldest, of course he had to step in and do more to take John’s place while he was away at war. For a while, he helped John grow onions for his uncle James McVitty. He was fortunate to have more time with John than most of his siblings and was probably primed to care for his mother when John died in 1879. I’m sure Robert stepped up to care for the family in the years John was desperately ill and had to grow up well before his time. By 1880, Robert was still unmarried, now teaching school in Bluffton, and was probably ready to set up his own life when he was mysteriously struck down by heart disease.

Robert J Little obit from 2 December 1880 issue of the Painesville Telegraph
Robert J Little obit from 2 December 1880 issue of the Painesville Telegraph

John and Margaret’s first daughter, Emma, was born 23 February 1861 also at their Perry, Ohio home. Emma only knew John as either absent or unwell. She was 18 when her father died and was soon working as a servant in the household of Charles Thompson. Emma married William Jacobus and moved to Cleveland, becoming a dressmaker. Apparently in demand, Emma opened up a sewing school on Euclid Avenue, a third of a mile from her Carnegie Avenue residence. William and Emma had no children. In her later years, after the death of her husband, Emma developed cerebral arteriosclerosis, which cut off blood flow to the brain. Her friends and her students noticed she didn’t make decisions as she once could and Emma seemed befuddled a lot more than usual. Most likely, she had a stroke and/or the beginnings of Alzheimer’s and was sent to the Post Shaker sanitarium. She remained there until she died on 27 April 1939.

Emma Jacobus 28 April 1939 obituary from the Painesville Telegraph
Emma Jacobus 28 April 1939 obituary from the Painesville Telegraph

The cold day of 6 November 1862 found Margaret in labor. She soon delivered her third child, a little girl named Adeline. John was away at war when she was born. Her first memories of her father are of a wounded, troubled man desperately trying to support his family. Shortly after the death of her father, she married Philo Joseph Norton, Jr. and moved to Ashtabula. There, Philo and Addie’s only child, Lena Ethel was born. Philo owned Norton’s Racket Store on Main Street for several years until he died in 1935. On 1 June 1943, Addie also succumbed to cerebral arteriosclerosis, the same as killed her sister Emma. It seems that hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, and poor circulation ran in the family.

Philo and Addie Norton's tombstone in Perry Township Cemetery in Perry, Ohio.
Philo and Addie Norton’s tombstone in Perry Township Cemetery in Perry, Ohio.

The first of John and Margaret Little’s children born after the war was daughter Hattie on 22 June 1867. She was still rather young when her father and brother died and probably grew up a little sooner than she might have wanted. A few days before her 17th birthday, on 8 June 1884, she married Robert Skillthorp. Together, they had three children. After 18 years of marriage, Robert passed away and Hattie remained a widow for 43 years. During that time, she took up dressmaking to help support herself, sometimes living with her daughter and son-in-law, Paul and Alice Darrow. Hattie also passed away from heart disease on 30 June 1945.

Hattie Little Skillthorp obituary 2 July 1945 issue of the Painesville Telegraph
Hattie Little Skillthorp obituary 2 July 1945 issue of the Painesville Telegraph

Clara May Little was born 17 July 1872 and was still very small when her father passed away. In a sense, she was still a Civil War orphan. Families paid the price for the war for a very long time. On 29 December 1894, she married Charles Burr. Charles seemed to be a jack of all trades. His occupation ranged from farmer to grocery clerk to a rubber worker at the Firestone Tire factory in Akron. Charles and Clara had one son, Harold. Charles died in 1919 at the relatively young age of 46, leaving Clara a widow until her death on 17 April 1950 of a stroke.

Clara Little Burr obituary from the 20 April 1950 issue of the Painesville Telegraph. The obituary from the April 17 issue was virtually unreadable and another copy is being sought at this time.
Clara Little Burr obituary from the 20 April 1950 issue of the Painesville Telegraph. The obituary from the April 17 issue was virtually unreadable and another copy is being sought at this time.

John and Margaret’s youngest daughter, Lois, was born 19 December 1878 and was eight months old when her father passed away. She would have relied on stories from her brother Robert, but she was just over a year old when he, too, passed away. Lois stayed at home the longest, until the age of 27 when she became the second wife of Henry Croft. They had one daughter, Marjorie. When her mother Margaret became ill, it was to Lois’ home she came to live until she died in 1929. Lois, of all John and Margaret’s children, lived the longest. She passed away 19 March 1976 at the Ivy House, an assisted living facility in Painesville, at the age of 97.

Lois Little Croft obit 19 March 1976 issue of the Painesville Telegraph
Lois Little Croft obit 19 March 1976 issue of the Painesville Telegraph

I have left out one of John and Margaret’s children, George Albert Little. I did so because each section ended up short because of the problems I had finding some information and I really hate typing “I don’t know.” George’s section would have ended up really long and would be better as a post of its own. So you have that to look forward to, in case I haven’t bored you enough already.

George is also the ancestor of my friend for whom I’m doing this. I didn’t want it to seem like he was most important or that he was hogging the post. So many times I’ve heard genealogists say, “Oh, they aren’t my ancestor” or “They don’t matter cause they didn’t have kids.” I’m of the belief that every life is important and not just because cluster research has solved a lot of problems for me. Each person is somebody to somebody else. Each name in a record was loved by someone: parents, kids, friends, or even students. Think of Emma Little Jacobus mentioned earlier in the post. Running a sewing school may not seem important but imagine her funeral. How many of her students probably wore something they made in her class or something she inspired them to make, just so they could show that she mattered to them? That’s a legacy.

Someone with one mention in a record matters just as much to me as the person with a dozen mentions. Maybe it’s because I can’t have kids and I just don’t care for the thought of some future genealogist decades from now deciding that I don’t matter because I didn’t have kids or do anything they consider worthy or important.

Everyone has a legacy and it isn’t measured by how big or small the “survived by” section of their obituary was. It’s measured by how they made the people in their life feel. Every family has its problems and its issues, but the legacy of John Little was a family that stuck together and cared for each other. In the years since, that probably hasn’t always seemed to be the case, but it remains true. As a genealogist, I get attached to the families I research. I can’t tell you how many slips of the tongue I’ve made to my friend when talking about my discoveries when I’d say, “our family” as compared to “your family.” That’s because I really feel like part of their family, like these ancestors are also mine. That’s the legacy of John Little surviving even today. That’s a legacy to be proud of.

Who Are You?: The Mystery of John Little

John Little was born 23 October 1834 somewhere in Ireland to yet to be found parents. Vague, frustrating, and disappointing to me as a researcher and most assuredly not the way I wanted to begin this post. But I guess that’s the lot to be expected with Irish research.

Sometime in the 1850s, John made his way to America. I’m almost sure, without knowing many details, that John came to America for the same reasons nearly every Irish immigrant did. They came to escape the overpowering poverty, the seemingly never ending famine, outbreaks of disease, and an unsympathetic government back home.

There wasn’t much different awaiting them here. There was just as much poverty and disease in the slums of the cities immigrants first settled. Jobs were incredibly hard to come by, mostly because of the outright discrimination in hiring as found in the “No Irish Need Apply” signs around town, courtesy of the nativists. The nativist movement was epitomized in the rise of the American Party, also called the Know Nothings, in American politics during the late 1840s. They were anti-immigration, forgetting that they themselves were descended from immigrants not all that long ago. The first genealogy snobs, I suppose. They were also anti-Catholic, which made them opposed to nearly everything the immigrant Irish stood for. If you’ve ever seen Gangs of New York, the Daniel Day-Lewis character is a Know Nothing politician. If you haven’t seen it, watch it.

Common Nativist Flag
Common Nativist Flag

Looking back, it can be rather difficult to figure out why so many Irish took the risk to come to America.

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Example of anti-Irish discrimination in hiring, playing upon the belief that all Irish were alcoholics.

But come they did, braving the unknown and treacherous seas. Because here was, if not prosperity, at least a second chance. Here was at least food to eat that didn’t belong to your landowner. It may not be much, but it was yours. Among the most successful famine immigrants were the ancestors of John F. Kennedy. It would be hard, but it could be done.

So John Little boarded ship and left everything he knew behind to try again. He settled in Perry, Ohio, on the banks of Lake Erie and about 35 miles from Cleveland. On 3 September 1857, he married fellow Irish immigrant Margaret McVitty.

John filed this intent to marry the very same day he married Margaret McVitty.
John filed this intent to marry the very same day he married Margaret McVitty.

My theory, such as it is, is that John Little was from the same Irish county, Monaghan, as Margaret McVitty. I have no special reason to believe he was and no special reason to believe he wasn’t. He seems to have married soon after his arrival, which makes me think he and Margaret already knew each other or at least their families did.

Marriage license for newlyweds John and Margaret Little
Marriage license for newlyweds John and Margaret Little

The outbreak of war in 1861 found John still in Perry with his wife, two year old son, Robert, and newborn daughter Emma. John didn’t answer Lincoln’s call to arms right away. He probably preferred to stay home with his pregnant wife and children and grow onions for his brother-in-law James McVitty.

But by the summer of 1862, John had joined the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in Captain James McIlrath’s Company A. In the same regiment were William Rosecrans, later Union general in the Western Theatre; Eliakim Scammon, later consul to Prince Edward Island; James Comly, minister to Hawaii; Stanley Matthews, US Senator; and Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley, later US Presidents.

Colonel Eliakim P Scammon
Colonel Eliakim P Scammon
Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes
Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes

John was immediately shipped off by train to join the regiment in the outskirts of Washington, D.C..

John Little's Enlistment Papers
John Little’s Enlistment Papers

From D.C. John and his regiment joined the rest of the Army of the Potomac for the Maryland Campaign in September 1862 under George McClellan. South Mountain and Antietam were John’s baptism by fire, his initiation into real combat.

23rd Ohio Monument at Antietam
23rd Ohio Monument at Antietam

On the morning of September 17, the 23rd found itself just east of Antietam Creek. They could hear McClellan’s attack on Lee’s left flank. Burnside took his troops, including the 23rd, towards Lee’s right. It was their immediate job to ford the creek south of the Lower Bridge. They finally did so at Snavely’s Ford where they spotted A.P. Hill’s Confederates on their left — clad in blue and waving an American flag — before the Confederates opened fire. John’s commanders Major James Comly and Colonel Hugh Ewing, critical of Scammon’s hesitant manner, described the incident in their official report:

We crossed the ford of the Antietam under a shower of grape, and after being held under a trying fire from the enemy’s batteries for some time, made, under order of Colonel Scammon, commanding division, a charge upon his advancing columns, and checked and held his largely superior force at bay until the battle ceased on the ensuing day, and he was driven from the field….Soon after all doubt vanished, upon the furious attack which was made by them, almost at a feeling distance, upon the Thirtieth Regiment and our left. Almost immediately a heavy enfilading fire was opened upon our whole line, and Colonel Ewing gave the order to me in person to change front perpendicularly to the rear, which was done. From some cause (probably from the death of the aide bearing the order) we did not receive the order to fall back with the remainder of the brigade, and we consequently held our position until relieved by our division commander (O.R., Vol. 19, Part 1, 463, 468).

In the heat of the battle, the regimental colors were lost. They were later discovered near a stack of wheat. The battle was a costly one with approximately 20% casualties.

23rd Ohio regimental colors, 1861.
23rd Ohio regimental colors, 1861.

Michael Deady, also a private in Company A, kept a diary, which can be found here. His entry for 3 October reads, “Pass in review Gen’s Burnside & McClellan an President Abe all here Great time Dress Pirade in Evening.” I suppose the Union army was ready to celebrate any victory that could be found. Four days later, Deady reports that orders were given to ready for marching and cook three days rations.  The army was getting ready to move after Confederate forces under Jeb Stuart. The next day, two men dropped dead from fatigue on the seventeen mile march to Hagerstown, Maryland.

On October 8, Jeb Stuart raided Chambersburg, Pennsylvania with 9000 men. McClellan was as hesitant as ever to pursue General Lee’s army. Once Stuart made it back to Maryland, he met Federal troops, including the 23rd, now commanded by Colonel Hugh Ewing, a more aggressive commander. They chased him back toward Virginia.

Two weeks after that, the 23rd returned to what is now West Virginia. John had not been a part of the regiment at that time. He marched an average of 12-15 miles a day. In November 1862, the regiment went into winter quarters in the Great Kanawha valley and there they stayed until 15 March 1863. For the most part, the 23rd was on guard duty in the Kanawha River valley. The western part of Virginia was pro-Union territory and ironically, its secession from Virginia and the Confederacy was encouraged by the Lincoln administration. The Kanawha flowed into the Ohio River and Federal control of the valley would prohibit Confederate forces from streaming into the heart of Union territory. Federal troops were also there to protect the Union sympathizers in the region. The fighting they encountered at Antietam devolved into skirmishes with relatively small bands of troops. Duty was tedious but important.

Federal pickets at Kanawha, much like what John Little would have done. 1862. Courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives.
Federal pickets at Kanawha, much like what John Little would have done. 1862. Courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives.

They remained at that place until July performing little or no duty with the exception of a few scouts and its participation in the movements against two Confederate guerrilla raiders, John Hunt Morgan and William Loring.   The regiment headed off Morgan’s band on the line of the Ohio river at Buffington island and near Hockingport, capturing 700 guerrillas as they attempted to cross the river, including John Hunt Morgan himself. Morgan had crossed the Ohio river to raid southern Ohio and Indiana, which was the farthest Confederate troops ever reached into Union territory.

Illustration of Morgan's Raid
Illustration of Morgan’s Raid

The regiment then returned to Charleston and lay there in camp until the spring of 1864. In May, John and his regiment found themselves at Cloyd’s Mountain in western Virginia. The Confederate forces under General Albert Jenkins held the superior ground and General Crook decided to send the Union forces through the nearby forest to attack the Confederate right instead of a direct charge.  Leaves covered the forest floor and the sparks from the muskets firing ignited them, burning several wounded men alive. Most of the combat was fierce hand to hand fighting but ended in a Union victory and the destruction of the Virginia and Tennessee railroad, a vital supply link.

The regiment found itself immersed in the Shenandoah Valley campaigns of General Philip Sheridan. By June, the 23rd attempted to capture Lynchburg, Virginia and cut off Confederate supplies in the area. Unsupported as expected by General Sheridan, the battle was a Confederate victory with the Union retreat. That must have been a devastating loss to John and the 23rd.

It was not the last defeat John suffered. At Kernstown, outside Winchester, Virginia, Jubal Early delivered a devastating blow to General Crook and drove the Union forces out of the Shenandoah Valley and back into Maryland. Most of the Union troops had gone to support Grant’s efforts at Petersburg and that severely undermined the Union effort. That must have been more demoralizing than Lynchburg because the Confederate war effort was seriously in trouble at this time.

Confederate general Jubal Early
Confederate general Jubal Early
Union cavalry leader Philip Sheridan in the field

The Valley Campaigns soon took off later in the summer and fall of 1864 with a bright spot on October 19, the battle of Cedar Creek was a defeat turned into victory by the timely arrival of General Sheridan, unlike Lynchburg four months prior. Sheridan ended the threat Jubal Early caused in the valley at battles such as the third battle at Winchester and then joined Grant at Petersburg.

Map of the Shenandoah Valley Campaigns, August to October 1864. Courtesy Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com
Map of the Shenandoah Valley Campaigns, August to October 1864. Courtesy Hal Jespersen, http://www.cwmaps.com

John and the 23rd stayed behind. The winter of 1864-1865 was again spent in West Virginia on guard duty. It was during this time John was brought up on court martial. The details are unknown, much like many things in John’s life. It seems he escaped the ultimate penalty but that is about all I know.

John's service record telling of his confinement and subsequent court martial
John’s service record telling of his confinement and subsequent court martial

The Confederate collapse in the spring of 1865 ended the war and John and his fellows mustered out on 26 July 1865.

23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry prior to mustering out, 1865.

If this post has started to seem like a Civil War history lesson, it was sort of supposed to do so. I tried to make it interesting but included it because John Little was a small force in all these events. He wasn’t a general, so there aren’t books written describing his exploits. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t important, just not well known. Our lives make no sense outside the context of history. Events don’t happen around us; they happen to us. John Little fought here, worried here, and suffered here. He saw those two men drop dead of fatigue in the aftermath of Antietam. He fussed over proper dress when parading in front of his superiors, including the president. He smelled those bodies burning in the forest, helpless to help them while fighting for his life. He was not unaffected. Most of his time was spent marching and guarding. He spent lots of time on his feet in boots that probably weren’t the best after a lot of marching. No one comes back from war the same as they left.

After the war, John returned home to his family. A daughter, Adeline, had been born in his absence. Four more children would follow. He tried to adjust to civilian life and keep growing onions for his brother-in-law. He worshiped at the Methodist Episcopal Church in nearby Painesville. He tried. He honestly tried.

Methodist Episcopal Church of Painesville, built in 1873. Now on the National Register of Historic Places. Also known as Painesville United Methodist Church after denominational mergers.
Methodist Episcopal Church of Painesville, built in 1873. Now on the National Register of Historic Places. Also known as Painesville United Methodist Church after denominational mergers.

The marching caused problems with his feet and legs, a common complaint in Civil War veterans. John tried to do an honest day’s work for the pay to care for his growing family but increasingly found it difficult. A relatively young man still in his thirties, John developed varicose veins which culminated in a deep running sore on his leg. His friends reported that he had trouble breathing as well as having his leg heavily bandaged. In the months before his death, it seemed he might be getting better. The spot on his leg seemed to have gone away. Alas, it was not to be and John Little died 8 August 1879 at his home in Perry, Ohio.

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John Little’s obituary published in the Painesville Telegraph.

In 1885, his widow Margaret filed for a pension on the belief that John would not have died at 44 if not for serving in the military. Her initial claim was rejected, but she persisted, enlisting doctors and friends to plead her case. She was granted $8 a month for her trouble. In the pension file, it is discovered that John left her a small house and four acres that the auditor valued at $310. That’s not much. It also describes the post mortem that was done. The diseased condition the obituary talks about? Lungs, heart, and liver filled with pus and infection. No wonder he could barely breathe. The pension calls his cause of death blood poisoning, or sepsis. The spot on his leg grew skin over it, but it never healed. The infection went from skin to blood stream and, left untreated, set up in his major organs, killing him at far too young an age.

In my research, I discovered a lot of information about Memorial Day, about Ohio, and the Civil War. However, I never expected Google to lead me to this:

It’s a film of the 1929 Painesville, Ohio Memorial Day parade. Margaret Little had died two months earlier, after being a widow for fifty years.

I hope John knows how proud his home was of him. I hope he knows how proud I was for his family to give me the opportunity to learn about him.

Sympathy Saturday: Anthony and Joseph Rapose

One of the saddest things I come across in research for any family is the death of children. But this case was worse to me for the simple fact that death certificates existed for the kids. You might wonder why that would bother me. “Wouldn’t that mean you know what happened to the kids? You wouldn’t have to wonder.” Exactly. I have to imagine what the parents went through. I get a good picture in my mind of the circumstances because of all the details I found. And I’m not ashamed to admit I cry, even when it isn’t my family, such as in this case.

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These are the newborn sons of Anthony Joseph Rapose and Mary Dorothy Fratis. As I found in Ohio birth records, their names were Anthony and Joseph. Anthony and Mary were brand new parents with the birth of these sons. I can imagine mom’s nerves when she realized she was in labor much too soon. There was no time to get to a hospital, if indeed one was available. The boys were born at home and died there three hours later. Their bodies weren’t developed enough to support them, so they passed away. I can imagine the parents cradling their newborns, fervently praying for a miracle that wasn’t forthcoming.

Anthony and Joseph Rapose were interred in Ashtabula’s St. Joseph Cemetery the following day.

Lieutenant Ebenezer Hyde

This post deviates a little from the others. Hyde is not a name found in my personal genealogy. I got involved with this tree in the summer of 2012, the second such project since I became a professional genealogist.

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From the 6 July 1791 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette

As you can see, Ebenezer found himself in a bad way. Be it accident or murder, no one knows. Wales (who I have yet to identify) doesn’t do himself any favors by changing his story. Just because they didn’t get along, it doesn’t mean Wales shoved Hyde overboard, either.

Ebenezer Hyde was born in Canterbury, Connecticut on 13 January 1742 and was baptized four days later at the First Congregational Church in Lebanon, Connecticut. I have yet to locate his parents, even with this information.

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The First Congregational Church of Lebanon was organized in 1700. Its first two meeting houses were built in 1706 and 1732. These were followed by a brick meeting house on the green, designed by the Revolutionary War-era artist John Trumbull, which was built in 1804-1809. It is the only surviving example of Trumbull’s architectural work. The historic building was nearly destroyed in the hurricane of 1938. The church decided to restore the meeting house in its original form. Work began in 1938 and, delayed by the Second World War, was completed in 1954.

In Bolton, Connecticut on 6 March 1769 he married Lois Thatcher.  Six children are known to be born to this marriage, four sons and two daughters. Soon after, he moved his family to Poultney, Vermont. Along on the trip were his three brothers: James, Lemuel, and Timothy. Maybe they were brothers, maybe not, but they were related. I just can’t find their parents. At the end of March 1775, Ebenezer was part of the group responsible for laying out Poultney’s streets. By the way, the first law Poultney passed? No hogs in the road.

It was in Vermont that Ebenezer joined Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys in the Fifteenth Regiment of the Vermont militia, under the command of Colonel Gideon Warren. James, Timothy, and Lemuel are also in the same regiment. Ebenezer served in Captain Zebediah Dewey’s company from 7 November to 14 November 1778. He might have served longer, but records have not been found. In March and June 1780 he was an adjutant to Captain Dewey for a total of ten days in that time period.

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1778 payroll record as found on fold3.com

 

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1780 payroll record as found on fold3.com

Above are the only war records I have been able to locate for Ebenezer. Not much to go on and certainly not much describing what he did. Lieutenant Hyde took thirteen men from Poultney to Crown Point in 1780. Crown Point was a pre-Revolution fort in New York overlooking Lake Champlain and was vital to the control of Canada. It had also been in British hands since 1777. You can read more here and here, if you’re interested.

As complete as many Revolutionary War records are, it is still surprisingly difficult to piece together a soldier’s routine. It is more difficult when this is pretty much all on offer. But as a genealogist, I am intrigued. I don’t back down from a challenge. Ask anyone for whom I have done genealogy work.