Monday, October 27, 2014

Family History on the Road - Day Three

From Joplin, Missouri we drove over an hour east to Crane Creek. Day three of our family history road adventure found the weather uncooperative. The drive had us navigating winding country back roads through intermittent rain showers. Our first destination was Mars Hill Cemetery.

Followers of this blog will recall that I recently broke through my Brickey Brick Wall, and was able to locate the burial for my 3rd great-grandmother Pauline (Brickey) Winkler Lee. It was gratifying to be able to pay my respects at her grave after having discovered her whereabouts less than a month earlier. She's buried in the Lee family plots near the front of the cemetery. Her stone was covered in pale green lichen. I gently wiped the lichen growth off the lettering to make the inscription legible.

Back in the car, we snaked our way south out of Missouri and into the top northwest corner of Arkansas. After another hour's drive, we pulled into Springtown Cemetery. The landscape was a vibrant green, paved with a lush carpet of clovers. If I didn't know better, I'd think I was in Ireland.

My 4th great-grandparents George Henry (Jucket) Hawks and his wife Amanda Miller (Johnston) Hawks are buried on the grounds. For me, this cemetery was like coming full-circle. The day before - in Rossville - we paid our respects at the grave of their son Edmond. 

George also represents a bit of an intriguing family mystery. 

Amanda Miller (Johnston) and George Henry (Jucket) Hawks

There's a question about the identity of his birth parents. Family lore says his father was a Jucket, but when his mother died young, he was entrusted with a maternal aunt to raise him. The story suggests the aunt gave George her surname of Hawks. I'm collaborating with distant cousins - each descendants of George's sons - to crowd-source an answer to this mystery and locate definitive proof to substantiate the stories.

Our final stop was Jackson Creek Cemetery. What an adventure to get here! We turned off a paved county road onto a dirt path. I was apprehensive about whether the rental could manage the ruggedness. The ride was bumpy, but the view was spectacular. Lush hills surrounded a green valley dotted with hay bales and curious cows.

Although it was only four miles, the dirt path made movement slow going. There were no other vehicles to be seen. Eventually, the car began climbing a hillside and a clearing in the dense trees opened to our left. A beautiful fenced-off cemetery was tucked alongside the road. We opened the gate and began searching the old weathered stones.

My 3rd great-grandparents John J. Herriman and Mary Ann "Polly" (Reeves) Herriman were buried beside each other. Their beautifully tall stones were recently decorated with silk flowers. It was moving to see that the secluded location of the cemetery didn't prevent folks from decorating the graves. I added my own.

Mary Ann "Polly" (Reeves) and John J. Herriman
Mary Ann's father was buried to the left of her grave. Jeremiah Turner Reeves was a veteran of the War of 1812. A small gold star commemorating his military service was placed in the ground in front of his stone.


I look forward to researching more about his War of 1812 service, and seeing what records - if any - exist for him in the National Archives.

Day Three Recap
Miles Traveled: 240
Direct Ancestor Graves Visited: 6

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Family History on the Road - Day Two


Day two of the family history road trip started with an early morning breakfast at the hotel, bags quickly packed into the car, and highway-bound to Rossville, Kansas.

Rossville is where my Lumpkins and Hawks ancestors spent many years. In fact, my 3rd great-grandfather William Lumpkins settled in the area in March 1874 and was the proprietor of the Lumpkins House - the town's only hotel. 

In 1892, it was billed as an "Excellent accommodation for boarders and commercial men" with "reasonable" prices. 

Rossville Times - April 22, 1892

Day two of the road trip was a Sunday, so much of Main Street was closed, including the library. Our research was going to be limited to the cemetery. The skies were beginning to cloud into an ominous color and threatened to rain. The wind picked up and brought with it a cold front. 

We made our way to Rossville Cemetery to pay our respects at the graves of several direct ancestors. Among these were William Lumpkins' first wife Phoebe (Howerton) Lumpkins. She passed away at the age of 51, and her grave is marked with a tall obelisk. The inscription is weathered. A biblical passage on the upper portion of the monument is largely illegible. The stone's size dominates the hill on which its placed. It seems preeminent and symbolic of the sadness and regard for which her family surely must have had at her loss.

Phoebe (Howerton) Lumpkins' grave
Phoebe's monument does not include any mention of her husband's burial. However, according to the Topeka City Clerk's register of deaths, William Lumpkins' remains were buried in Rossville. Furthermore, the Rossville Reporter published his obituary on August 13, 1909, and stated that he was laid "to rest beside the wife in the Rossville Cemetery to wait for dawning of The Morning." His grave is, apparently, unmarked.

Their son, my 2nd great-grandfather, John George Lumpkins, is also buried in the cemetery. He married Minnie Hawks in Rossville on January 6, 1897. They had six children together (including my great-grandfather Marion Lumpkins) before he died following an accident. 

On February 23, 1910, John was walking home from work. He slipped on a patch of ice and hit his head. That evening, he took ill and early the following morning he passed away. It was his 38th birthday. As his obituary noted, the sudden "news of his death could scarcely be believed in Rossville and came as a distinct shock to his friends and relatives here."

The year 1910 would prove a difficult one for the newly widowed Minnie (Hawks) Lumpkins. Five months after her husband's death, she gave birth to their sixth child. In October, her father Edmond Hawks passed away at the age of 51 after "suffering for the past eight or ten weeks with a sort of paralysis." He was buried in Rossville in front of John Lumpkins' grave.

Edmond Hawks (right) and possibly Iva Elzina (Haworth) Hawks James (left)

Edmond's passing made a widow of Iva Elzina (Haworth) Hawks. She eventually remarried to Robert James. Iva passed away in Topeka on December 23, 1951. According to her obituary, she was buried in Rossville Cemetery. However, there's no marker for her in the cemetery.

I believe she may have been buried beside her first husband - my 3rd great-grandfather - Edmond Hawks. To the left of Edmond's headstone, I discovered a metal plate without an inscription. I suspect this is her final resting place. I'm hopeful the Rossville Library or city can help to confirm the burial.

From Rossville, we pushed eastward to Edwardsville in the suburbs of Kansas City. My 4th great-grandmother Sophronia (Rogers) Dornon is among the cemetery's earliest burials. In fact, the cemetery's charter was filed with the Secretary of State in March 1879. Sophronia passed away on May 23, 1872. She, or rather her husband, has been an ongoing mystery that I've been working to unravel. What happened to her husband Burr Zelah Dornon? When and where did he pass away? I'm hopeful an obituary for Sophronia will surface in Edwardsville's records that could shed light on her husband's passing.

I walked the cemetery, looking for a marked grave. There's no evidence that he was buried in Edwardsville. The only Dornon I found was Sophronia's small marker, now split in half. The portion with her name faces skyward. 


From Edwardsville we drove into Missouri. Our pit stop for the evening was Joplin where we planned our adventures for day three.

Day Two Recap
Miles Traveled: 260
Direct Ancestor Graves Visited: 6

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Family History on the Road - Day One

The day after my maternal grandmother's funeral, I set out on a 7-day family history road trip with my mother and aunt. We traveled across five states, nearly 2,200 miles in total, and paid our respects at the graves of 36 direct ancestors.

It was my hope that the week-long trip would be a healing experience and an opportunity to see and connect with our ancestors' lives. Family was important to my grandmother, and this experience was an opportunity to reinforce and honor that legacy.

My grandmother was from Plainville, Kansas. It's a small farming community with a population today of approximately 1,900. My 3rd great-grandparents Albert and Anna (Dornon) Benedick were among its early settlers. Following their arrival, several generations called the town home and today rest eternally in the Plainville Cemetery. In total, 11 of my direct ancestors are buried on the grounds, including my grandmother who always called Plainville home.


From Plainville, we traveled north to Stockton where my grandparents were married (and later divorced) in the town courthouse. Making our way east, we drove to the small community of Cuba, Kansas. My 2nd great-grandmother Minnie (Hawks) Lumpkins Barber was born in a dugout nearby in 1881.

Coincidentally, the town was holding a festival. Main Street was closed to vehicles, and folks were cooking BBQ and playing games. In one game, people would pair up, grab hold of a rope and pull a sled weighted with blocks down the street. As the couple hauled the sled, onlookers would toss more weights onto the load to heighten the challenge. The crowd's cheering and laughing was occasionally drowned out as biplanes would come in low over Main Street, climb skyward, turn around and make another swoop.

We drove about four miles east of town to the Hawks Cemetery, which is situated alongside a dirt country road. The cemetery is fenced off from the farmlands that stretch for miles in every direction. The grounds are beautifully kept despite the seeming isolation from human activity. 

The Hawks Cemetery is the final resting place for my 4th great-grandfather George Chalkley Haworth and his father Mahlon Stanton Haworth. George and his brother founded the now abandoned ghost town of Haworth. George was the town's first postmaster. Sadly, the road to what remains of Haworth was muddied and prevented my wimpy rental car from making the trip. If I needed a reason to return, this would be added to the list.

Mahlon, my 5th great-grandfather, was a Quaker and an ardent abolitionist. After his death, it was learned that he served as a station manager on the Underground Railroad. His home in Iowa was found to contain secret rooms to hide slaves seeking freedom in the north. That's a legacy in which I take great pride. Not a bad start to our family history journey.


Day One Recap
Miles Traveled: 260
Direct Ancestor Graves Visited: 13

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saying Goodbye and Taking It On the Road

My maternal grandmother passed away on October 4, 2014. I flew to Denver and traveled on to Kansas for funeral services and burial in her hometown.

The day after the service, I took off on a 7-day family history road trip with my mother and aunt. Together, we traveled across five states, logged nearly 2,200 miles, and paid our respects at the graves for 36 direct ancestors.

In the coming days I will log here the journey of genealogical discoveries and family healing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy Family History Month!

"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage - to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness." -- Alex Haley, Roots

October is Family History Month, and Family Sleuther is celebrating. It's a great opportunity to share with the value of ancestry with our family and friends. It's also a month we can really dedicate ourselves to promoting and building interest in America's second most popular hobby (after gardening...snooze!).

Here's to unfurling those family trees, collecting more saliva samples for DNA testing, interviewing grandma and grandpa, and cataloging old photos. So happy dance your way to the archives or your local genealogy society and make the most of it!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Running From the Rebels

My search continues for information about the death and burial of Burr Zelah Dornon, my 4th great-grandfather. Recently, I found the grave for his wife, Sophronia (Rogers) Dornon, but, as you may recall, he was not resting beside her eternally.

Public trees on Ancestry and FamilySearch taunt me with a death date of October 15, 1867. Unfortunately, this date is unsourced. Without a citation, I have no idea where the information came from and cannot determine its accuracy.

Burr's last known appearance in a public record, is the 1860 US Federal Census where he and his family are living in Jackson County, Virginia (soon to be Wild & Wonderful West Virginia). To stir up new information, I decided to return to the National Archives and trawl through his sons' Civil War pension records. Perhaps their files would shed more light on their father.

Burr had four sons: Albert, Joseph, Lorenzo, and Andrew. Each was old enough to enlist. I was able to locate pension applications for three of them: Joseph, Lorenzo, and Andrew. I'm unclear on the fate of the eldest son Albert.

Both Joseph and Lorenzo Dornon served in Company K of the 2nd Regiment of the Ohio Cavalry.

  • Sadly, Joseph died of smallpox in February 1864. There was no mention of his parents in his file.
  • Lorenzo suffered a gunshot wound in the fall of 1864 at the Battle of Summit Point. The bullet entered his left chest and came to rest in his lower abdomen. His June 1910 death certificate was included in his file, and provided mention of his father. The informant gave his father's name as Bursley Dornon, but didn't know the mother's name. 

Andrew, the youngest, enlisted in Company A of the 188th Regiment of the Ohio Infantry. Shortly after he joined the service, he fell ill with the measles and was sent to a hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. While in hospital, he contracted Typhoid Fever and nearly died. The remainder of his military service was spent recuperating from illness.

When he applied for a pension, the Government requested that Andrew submit evidence of his birth, which they suggested could include the family bible. Andrew's handwritten response in May 1913 provides new details about the Dornon family during the Civil War.

































This remarkable letter - written some fifty years after the event - suggests that the Confederate Army was the impetus for Burr Zelah moving his family out of Jackson County. 

According to the Jackson County Historical Society, the area remained under Union authority, however, "The only exception was in September 1862 when Confederate forces, under the command of General Albert Gallatin Jenkins, briefly gained control of the county."

It seems historically plausible that the Rebels really could have prompted the Dornons to uproot their lives.  

Elsewhere in Andrew's pension application is a document outlining his cities of residence since his discharge from the military. Andrew writes that he, "lived in Lawrence Co. Ohio until 1868 - moved to Edwardsville, KS. until 1911 - moved to Lincoln Co. Colo." 

Did the Dornons live in Lawrence County after leaving West Virginia? Lawrence is less than 70 miles to the west. Did they stay there until the death of Burr Zelah in about 1867 or 1868? 

Burr's wife Sophronia is buried in the Edwardsville Cemetery in Kansas. Perhaps the Dornon sons brought their mother - recently widowed - along as they pursued new opportunities in the west.

The search continues. I'm on the hunt for a probate record or cemetery transcription for Burr Zelah that could bring the question to resolution.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Disease in the Civil War

Earlier this week, I renewed my US National Archives research card. I requested Civil War pension files be pulled for two direct ancestors who served with the Union in the War of the Rebellion.

I made my way to the Archives early in the morning. The weather was gorgeous, but I didn't mind being holed up inside. In fact, I was excited to see what new information the pensions would provide. In what ways would they bring to life the war experience for my ancestors? What new information, if any, would advance my genealogy?

This was my first experience having original records pulled. When I entered the research room and signed for the first set of files, I was surprised at the size of the envelope. I thought the pension would be a couple pages. Judging by the size of the package, I was probably looking at well over 50 documents.

Both pensions were for 3rd great-grandfathers. I imagined their files to be filled with heroic accounts of battles and military accomplishments. Instead, they were rooted in something much less romantic and incredibly common - disease. They petitioned the government for pensions due to illness and poor health they attributed to their enlistment in the army.

Albert Benedick (Rank in: Private; Rank out: Sergeant)
Albert Benedick served in Company A of the 188th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. According to his pension application, he fell ill with measles shortly after his enlistment in February 1865 and suffered lasting affects.

Among the records is a hand-written affidavit from his brother John Benedick outlining the specifics of Albert's illness.


In a separate affidavit, Albert assures the pension authorities that, "I know these disabilitys are not due to any vicious habits." His request was approved, and he did receive a pension.

John W. Upton (Rank In/Out: Private)
Another 3rd great-grandfather also petitioned the government for a pension as a result of disabilities resulting from service in the war. John W. Upton enlisted with Company B of the 1st Regiment of the Arkansas Infantry.

Shortly after enlisting, John received a vaccination along with other soldiers that made him very ill. A sworn affidavit states that, "in the month of October 1863 he was vaccinated in the left arm at Fort Smith Arkansas with poisonous vaccine matter...he was vaccinated by the order of the proper officer to prevent small pox." John eventually landed in the hospital too weak to serve and suffering, in particular, from "afflictions of the eyes."

Among his records is a set of correspondence between the pension office and the War Department's Surgeon General's Office. There was an accusation that the vaccine provided to the soldiers was contaminated with syphilis.

The Surgeon General's Office confirmed that there were "222 cases of syphilis" among the 1st Regiment. The response also stated that, "The whole subject is under investigation by a Committee of Medical Officers appointed for that purpose...I forbear any further remarks at this time."

I didn't see any final response or conclusion on the matter, but John's pension application was finally approved.

Disease in War Time
In both instances, I was struck by the heavy toll that disease inflicted on the enlisted men. According to the Civil War Trust, as many as two-thirds of the 620,000 soldiers who died in the war succumbed to disease, not combat.

Mindful of those remarkable statistics, it seems Albert and John, although they remained afflicted the rest of their lives, were fortunate to have survived their initial illnesses.

Next steps include locating any existing carded medical records for John and Albert, which could shed more light on their afflictions and treatment. Archives bound...