Thomas and Annie

Thomas Milton Summers and his wife, Anna/Anne/Annie Swisher are two of my favorite ancestors for a couple reasons.

First of all, they named their first daughter (my great grandmother) Clara Olive Summers, which I think is one of the best names ever. Several of Ollie’s (as she was called) siblings had equally fanciful names, although they probably weren’t considered so at the time. Her elder brothers were Elias Morgan Summers and Quitman Elmore Summers. After Ollie came the more familiarly named Ruth M. and Martha (Mattie) A., followed by French.

French was born in 1883 but died sometime before the 1900 census when Ollie is listed as having birthed nine children with eight still living (all of whom can be found in that census). His name sounds exotic to me, but when I tried to find his death certificate, it became clear the name was common in that place and era. The siblings who followed were Mary Luvina (Vina), Eva Forest, and Albert Lesslie.

I also like Annie and Thomas because Annie is the daughter of Mary Ann Summers and Morgan Swisher. Morgan is the son of Drusilla Morgan and Jacob R. Swisher. And Drusilla Morgan is the daughter of Zackquill Morgan and Drusilla Springer. This is of interest (at least to me) because Zackquille Morgan (my 5x great grandfather) was a contemporary of George Washington. He also founded Morgantown (Morgan’s Town), Virginia (now West Virginia).

Annie’s sister Amanda Jane married Ulyssess Summers, who was Thomas’ brother. This along with the fact that Annie’s mother, Mary Ann was also a Summers makes it clear the Swishers and Summers had close ties. How close would depend on where Mary Ann fits in, and I don’t know much about her yet.

Anyway, Thomas fought in the Civil War, enlisting in Lieutenant Sylvester Porter’s newly formed Company K of the 15th West Virginia Infantry on 29 February 1864 in Wheeling, West Virginia. He gave his age as 18. However, according to his tombstone, he was born in 1847. This is supported by the 1900 census, where he gave his birth month and year as April 1847. So he would have been just sixteen. He lists his occupation as farmer, height as 5’8″, with auburn hair, hazel eyes, and a ruby (possibly ruddy?) complexion.

Small article from the Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV) about the formation of Lieutenant S. Porter’s company the 15th West Virginia Infantry
Digitization of article from Library of Congress’ Chronicling America

Two days later on 2 March, he was mustered in. By the May/June roster, he was already injured, listed as “absent sick” in Gallipolis, Ohio. In July/August, he was absent sick at Cumberland, Maryland, and in September/October, the same at Winchester, Virginia. Another record says he was admitted to “General Hospital, Grafton, West Va.” on 4 November 1864. Under “Diagnosis,” it says merely “Convalescent.” Another hospital record (or perhaps the other side of the first) reads “Nov 5th 1864 – Voting furlough for fifteen days. Returned to duty Dec 21 64, wound healed.”

Several articles from “Chronicling America” confirm the practice of furloughing soldiers home so they could vote in the presidential election on 8 November 1864.

On 2 June 1865, the Confederacy surrendered. The 15th Infantry mustered out on 14 June 1865, and Thomas was assigned to the 10th West Virginia Infantry, which mustered out on 9 August 1865.

He and Annie married on 21 December the same year in Marion County, where their first five children were born. Sometime between the 3 January 1879, when Mattie was born in Marion, and the 1880 census, they moved to Ritchie County where their remaining four children were born, a distance of about 88 miles — quite a ways before motorized vehicles.

On 6 December 1886, at the age of 39, Thomas received a pension as an invalid. The 1890 Veterans’ Schedule lists his service dates at February 1864 to August 1865, a year and six months, 18 months total.

With his eight months spent “absent sick,” this means he was on duty for about ten months, a little over half his service time. I wonder if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Spending eight months as a convalescent would seem to imply his injury was fairly serious, but on the other hand, at least he probably wasn’t getting shot at.

Despite receiving a pension as an invalid, he still listed his occupation as “farmer” at the age of 53 in 1900, so he must have been able to make at least some kind of living, enough of a living to write a will in 1915 and amend it in 1921, designating the dispersal of his property after his death.

In a letter posted on Ancestry, one of his grandchildren describes him.


“About Grandpa Tom and Grandma: There are a few funnies(?). I remember part of them were from my dad. (Dad said) he never saw his mother mad but once. She was out by the creek doing her washing bending over the old wash board. Grandad came by and gave her a smack on the behind. Well over went tub Grandma and all into the water. Dad said she would not talk to Grandad for a whole week. I know your mother got her personality from her, they were so much alike. But Grandad was another story. They stayed with us for a good while after they needed care. I was just little, but oh how I remember the times Grandad threatened me with his cane. I probably needed it but I never forgot. Ha, ha.”

Reading this makes me wonder. Was Thomas crabby because he was in pain from his war wound? Was that why he used a cane? Or he just a curmudgeon?

Either way, I like the sound of my 2x great grandma. She clearly had some spirit! The letter writer also talks about how much Annie’s daughter was loved, so by saying “your mother got her personality from her,” the letter writer tells us Annie was also much loved.

Reading this makes me wonder how I’ll be remembered and think about my own memories of people who are gone. They are all little things, likely long forgotten by those who made them.

What memories will we leave behind? Will we be the behind smacker and cane threatener? Or the beautiful person who everyone loved? I suppose it depends on us … and on who is doing the remembering.

The Brief and Difficult Life of Montcalm Armstrong

Montcalm was my 2x great grandfather, born in 1843 in Wayne County, Ohio on June 30 (calculated by the registration of his death, though Ohio, Soldier Grave Registrations, 1804-1958 says May 30 and findagrave.com says January 29.)

The sixth of ten children, he grew up in Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio. His father was a carpenter/joiner/cabinetmaker, and Montcalm followed in his footsteps, working as a carpenter.

Montcalm didn’t reach 40, dying less than a month before his birthday on June 14, 1883. Whoever indexed the death registration mistakenly wrote his name as “Montealm,” a type of error that’s common in genealogical records.

Also, the person who recorded his death couldn’t spell “diarrhea.”

Even misspelled, “chronic diarhea” gets the message across.

When I discovered what caused his death, long before I found this record, I was aghast. His pension records (kindly shared with me by a distant cousin) mention “complications of dysentery.” I looked it up and remember thinking, “That’s basically dying of diarrhea,” something almost beyond my comprehension.

Montcalm suffered from 1865, when he was discharged from the Army, until he died. His pension records reflect this, with the illness also affecting his back and one leg. From what I’ve read, amoebic dysentery can cause postinfectious arthritis, so perhaps that’s what the problem was.

He’d enlisted in July of 1862.ArmstrongMontcalmDraftReg1863 A little over a year later on September 8, 1863, he was captured and confined as a POW at Belle Isle, Virginia, until March 15, 1864, when he was admitted to the hospital (possibly Annapolis — I can’t make out the writing — cause not given).

The National Park Service record of Montcalm says “Held at Andersonville and survived.”

Those five words describe a world of misery.

Although the information I have only mentions Belle Isle, the NPS also describes the Belle Isle prisoners at Andersonville, “By February 1864 prisoners on Belle Isle were moved to a newly established prison in Andersonville, Georgia. The men who left Belle Isle were dirty, poorly clothed, and almost all of them weighed less than 100 pounds.”

This was a month before Montcalm was released.

Meant for only 3,000 prisoners, with only 300 tents and no permanent shelters, Belle Isle eventually held between 10,000 and 30,000 men (estimates vary wildly).

To put it bluntly, it was a freezing kind of hell.

“In a semi-state of nudity…laboring under such diseases as chronic diarrhea, scurvy, frost bites, general debility, caused by starvation, neglect and exposure, many of them had partially lost their reason, forgetting even the date of their capture, and everything connected with their antecedent history. They resemble, in many respects, patients laboring under cretinism. They were filthy in the extreme, covered in vermin…nearly all were extremely emaciated; so much so that they had to be cared for even like infants.”
— Lucius Eugene Chittenden, U.S. Treasurer during the Lincoln Administration, quoted at https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-prison-camps.

Looking at the table below (from http://mdgorman.com), it’s clear provisions were in short supply.

O.R.–SERIES II–VOLUME VI [S# 119]
UNION AND CONFEDERATE CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, ETC., RELATING TO PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE FROM JUNE 11, 1863, TO MARCH 31, 1864.–#35

Statement of clothing issued to Federal prisoners of war at Richmond, Va., by a committee of officers of the U. S. Army, from November 10, 1863, to January 18, 1864.

 

A. No. of men. F. Blouses.
B. Shoes. G. Shirts.
C. Socks. H. Greatcoats.
D. Drawers. I. Blankets.
E. Pants. J. Caps.

 

A. B. C. D. E. F. G. H. I. J.
Belle Isle 7,568 3,173 4,189 3,446 2,597 2,629 3,336 3,730 4,946 2,479

If you want to read further, the same site has links to a variety of information on the camp. You might start with this report, written nine days before Montcalm was released.

I was going to include this photo from the Library of Congress of a prisoner on his release from the camp (initially identified incorrectly as Andersonville), but couldn’t bring myself to do so.

Belle Isle is now a state park, described as letting “visitors explore a wide variety of tidal wetlands interspersed with farmland and upland forests. It has a campground, three picnic shelters, hiking, biking and bridle trails, and motor boat and car-top launches. Belle Isle also offers overnight lodging at Bel Air and the Bel Air Guest House. Bicycle, canoe and kayak rentals are available.”

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, it sounds lovely, I’m sure, ideal for kayaking and cycling, but don’t you think the description should mention the historical significance of the site? A lot of men died there, and I’m sure there were others like Montcalm, who died as a result of being imprisoned.

Shouldn’t that be worth a line or two?

For now, let’s focus on the fact Montcalm lived, or “survived” might be a better word.

He went back to Ohio, married Emma J. “Jennie” Price in 1866. She was twenty; he was just twenty-two, but after what he’d been through, he could hardly be considered young.ArmstrongMontcalm_EmmaPrice_1866Wed

Look carefully above, and you’ll see there are two parts to marriage records, the license and the return beneath it. If the bottom part hadn’t been filled out, we’d have no proof the marriage ever took place. In this case, it did. Emma and Montcalm were married by Mr. A. H. Tyler, J.P. (Justice of the Peace).


They had two children, Luella “Ella” (born 1867) and Jennie May “Maima” (born 1869).

Emma died in September, 1870, at age 24, leaving Montcalm a widower with a one-year-old and three-year-old to care for.

He remarried in 1874. From the record, you would think he married a woman named Anna Seitner, and when I first started doing genealogy, I believed that was her name. However, my mom kept talking about someone named “Lightner.”

I never connected the two until we took a road trip to Napoleon, and in the clipping files of their library, we found records connecting Anna Leitner and Montcalm.

My big contribution to the genealogist community was sharing this discovery. These days, “Anna Seitner” rarely makes an appearance in the Armstrong family trees I see. ArmstrongMontcalm_AnnaLeitnerWed1874By 1880, he and his new wife were living in Napoleon with their three children, Harry/Harvey Coddington (born 1876), James Gideon (my great grandfather, born 1878), and Guy R (born 1880). In 1882, almost exactly a year before he died, they had a fourth child, Alba.

Luella and Jennie May were fostered out to other families.

In 1880, Ella was with Addison and Sarah Crew in Swanton, Fulton County, listed as “adopted. Six years later, when she married Arthur Sweeney, she again uses the name “Ella Crew.” However, we know she is Ella Armstrong because when she died in 1940 in Michigan (age 73), her death certificate, listing Arthur as her husband, gives Montcalm as her father, and “Price” as her mother.

I would like to claim I figured all that out by myself, but I followed the bread crumbs left by other genealogists, verifying and adding details as I went.

As for Jennie May, from my copy of Montcalm’s pension files, I know she was born in Napoleon on July 28, 1869.

In 1880, she was listed as “Jane Armstrong,” adopted daughter of Levi and Hannah Serrick, living in Clinton, Fulton County. Claiming to be 16, using the name “Jennie Serrick,” she married Wallace Wagner (age 21), a neighbor of the Crews. If my dates are correct, she was actually 15. According to the bread crumbs and family lore, she divorced Wallace in 1892 because he sold her horse without asking.

Later, she married Andrew Smith.

I have no records to prove these facts, but Wallace did remarry in 1893, and by 1900, Jennie was living as Jennie Smith with Andrew Smith in Lucas County, raising poultry. When she died in 1927, the death certificate listed Levi Serrick as her father, and gave her birthdate as July, 1869 and birthplace as Napoleon, Ohio.

As we know, Montcalm died in June 1883, leaving Anna with four children. He wasn’t approved for a pension until 1881, leaving me to wonder how the family survived. The same pension was later assigned to Addison Crew, after he became Alba’s guardian. record-image_-12

Anna married again in June 1884, this time to a man named Charles F. Harrison. They had five children together.

Unfortunately, the 1890 census was mostly destroyed by fire, so it’s difficult to trace what happened to the rest of Montcalm’s children following his death.

The same distant cousin who sent me the pension file told me that Guy ended up in the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home at the age of 10.  (His application was dated July 21, 1890.)

In the 1900 census, he was back in Napoleon with Anna, her second husband, and their children. In 1910, he was living with Anna’s brother, Samuel and his family in Michigan and working as a carpenter. He married Lettie Taylor in 1911, dying in Michigan in 1950.

One of Guy’s granddaughters contacted me via Ancestry.com for any information I had on him. When I told her he was a carpenter and had been in care, she said that made sense because one of the few things she remembered about him was he was good with his hands and liked to make things. She didn’t know he’d been institutionallized.

Montcalm’s youngest child, Alba, was also farmed out to Addison Crew, and in 1892, Addison was awarded her pension.   By 1900, Addison was dead, but “Alba Crew” remained with his widow Sarah as her adopted daughter. They lived next door to a branch of the Serrick family, who had also taken in an adopted child.

Alba married August Melching in1903 in Emmett, Michigan, with Guy as one of the witnesses. (As usual, the record is mis-indexed, listing Montcalm as Mort C.) Alba died at the age of 72 in Michigan.

This adopting/fostering out of children shows up in other family records. Apparently, it wasn’t uncommon for children to live with other branches of the family or friends when their own parents couldn’t care for them.

Alba’s oldest brother Harvey’s bread crumbs are harder to follow. The next record I found for him was in 1899, when he married Sadie Reninger in Summit County. He  remained there, working as a machinist and rubber maker draftsman until he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1928. At that time, he was living on Buchtel Avenue, a street I walked daily when I was in college at The University of Akron.

Odd to think I walked in my great uncle’s footsteps for four years without ever knowing it.

My great grandfather, James Gideon, was five when his father died. The next record I found of him was the 1900 census, where he is working as a servant for Alvin R. McFarlin, in Bath, Summit County. Before you start getting a Downton Abbey type picture in your mind, I will clarify that in this case, “servant” means “farm laborer.”ArmstrongJamesG1900He married seventeen-year-old Sophia Viola Myers a year later. Below is their marriage record, with the one on the left showing the “permission slip” her father Rolandous had to sign for the marriage to take place.

With the permission slip lifted on the right record, you’ll see Summit County marriage records provide the details genealogists love — where each member of the pair lived and were born, their ages, and the Holy Grail of genealogy, their parents’ names including the mothers’ maiden names.

City directories show James and Sophia were still in Summit County in 1907 and 1908, but by 1910, they were back in Henry County in Freedom Township with their two children Harold (my grandfather) and Ethel. Sophia’s brother and James’s half sister Grace Harrison also lived with them.

When I first began researching her family, my mom kept talking about how she remembered her grandfather running a grocery store, and that there was a picture of him in front of it.

She was right. In 1910, James was a “merchant” of “groceries” employing others. He also rented a farm.

Eventually, we found this picture, which Mom says is the store with James in front of it. JamesGrocer

By 1920, he and Sophia had moved to Plain Township, Stark County, where James farmed. In 1930, much like my paternal grandfather, he was doing road work to support his family (mistakenly named as John G. Armstrong, but other documents confirm this is the right family).

James registered for the draft for both World Wars, but didn’t serve. The card on the right is from a collection called the “Old Man’s Draft Registration Cards.” If you look at his age, you’ll see why.

 

James died in 1956, before I was born, so I never knew him. ArmstrongJamesGDeathNotice1956

On re-reading his death notice as I wrote this post, I see James G. also worked for Goodyear Aircraft. I’m not sure why this surprised me since my mom, my dad, and all my maternal uncles worked for the rubber makers at one time or another. Of course, back then, everyone in Akron either worked for or was related to someone who worked for the rubber companies.

I sometimes wonder how and why Montcalm would marry — not once, but twice — and have six children. Did he initially recover enough from his imprisonment to think he was capable of being a proper partner and raising a family? Was he simply trying to live a normal life after what he’d been through? Or was he just trying to find happiness while he lived?

Since there’s no way of answering that question, here ends the stories of Montcalm Armstrong and his six children.

Blame It on Montcalm

If you ask about genealogy, and I talk until your eyes roll back in your head, it’s Montcalm’s fault, although my mom does bear some responsibility.

She’s the one who gave me Montcalm Armstrong’s Civil War discharge paper (below — much the worse for wear because someone scotch-taped it where it had been folded. Big mistake. Never scotch-tape an important document). Montcalm Armstrong Civil War Discharge Papers
The document was found behind a reverse glass painting of a woman clinging to a cross. Big Brother got the painting, and I, the history buff of the family, got Montcalm, our 2x great grandfather.

My fascination with the man (and genealogy) began when I first beheld this piece of history, long before it became mine.

Genealogical databases had become available via the Internet, and the library I worked for subscribed to one — I can’t even remember which. But, one night when I was working in the computer room, I threw Montcalm’s name into it, and bingo!

There he was.

I played around a little, doing a general Internet search of his regiment, and found a history of the 100th Ohio Voluntary Infantry.

It was amazing. The information was easy to find, not even as difficult as some  questions I got at the reference desk.

I dropped into genealogy like a stone into a well.

Unlike a stone, I managed to resurface long enough to take a deep breath and realize this wasn’t an interest I could pursue at that time in my life.

Because I quickly learned most ancestors are not as easy to research as Montcalm.

Think about it. Have you ever heard of anyone else with that name? I hadn’t, and when I looked it up, I could only find Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, French commander of forces in North America in the Seven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War).

Montcalm’s mother was named Eleanor Pinkerton and his father was James Armstrong. Neither one sounds, nor was, French, at least as far as I can tell.

Given when they lived, my best guess is James may have fought in the same war as Louis-Joseph.

Come to think of it, maybe Montcalm’s parents should be blamed for my immersion into genealogy.

Seriously, Eleanor and James? What were you thinking?

Montcalm?

The name is so uncommon I can almost guarantee anyone whose name includes Montcalm and Armstrong in any form is some kind of cousin.

As for having my first genealogical experience be based on the original Montcalm, well, it was false advertising, that’s what it was.

Especially when his father’s name is common as dirt.

Following Montcalm back through the censuses, I learn that James was born around 1804 in Pennsylvania. (The Federal Census often lists ages and birthplaces, though they are inaccurate almost as often.)

Eleanor was born around 1815 in Virginia.
Or Kentucky.
It depends on which census you believe.

Oh, and sometimes she’s called Nellie.
Or Ellen.
Or Elenore.
It varies by document.

And women are harder to trace anyway, partly because of the whole name change thing. Also, they rarely appeared on property records and didn’t usually join the military — just stayed at home, fed and clothed and raised the kids while their husband went off for years.

In short, they didn’t do anything important. 

Sorry. I digress.
The point is: Even with an approximate year and place of birth, finding a man named James Armstrong is a challenge.

Because of naming customs, there are many James Armstrongs, born in or near 1804 in Pennsylvania. Below is a list of those from 1850 censuses.

j1J2J3Ours is the third from the top. I know this because Montcalm was born in 1843, and he’s listed with the rest of his family. When I search for him, he comes at the top of the list for 1850, (although I did have to play around with it because it’s indexed as two separate names).Screenshot 2020-03-04 13.56.30

Still, you get the idea. After working downward from Montcalm and back up, I got to James and decided to put my genealogy interest on the back burner.

I had a full-time job and Darling Daughter to raise, and genealogy was clearly an addiction I didn’t have time for.

Things are different now, and you can look forward to (or maybe not) reading more about Montcalm soon.

 

 

 

 

Sarah Jane, Jacob, and Julia

I started climbing the family tree again last night and found myself back on the branch of Sarah Jane Daugherty Feather(s) Scott. (Click through for background on her story.)

Somehow I had stumbled across the Ritchie County (WV) page of the USGenWeb Project. Most the project’s sites are hosted on RootsWeb, long offline, but now coming back up.

Browsing through the Scott Cemetery transcriptions, I came across the following:

Amos M. Scott
Born Aug. 28, 1845
Died Dec. 11, 1918

Sarah J., wife of Amos M. Scott
Born Nov. 1842
Died Oct. 7, 1901

Charles E., son of  A.M. & S. J. Scott
Born Dec. 3, 1883
Died Aug. 4, 1884

? W., son of A.M. & S.J. Scott
Born Dec. 30, 1881
Died July 26, 1882

Alfred G., Son of A.M. & S.J Scott
Born Mar. 10, 1876
Died July 20, 1877

Look at the dates of the children’s deaths, born over a period of six years and dead before any of them reached their first birthday.

Above these dates are two others, who proved to be Sarah’s grandchildren through her eldest son Aldine (whose father, Cornelius, was killed in the Civil War).

Willie I. Feather
Feb. 10, 1898
May 8, 1906

Edna Feather
Aug. 3, 1893
Apr. 18, 1900

I moved on to the Reeves Cemetery transcriptions, and discovered Jacob — Sarah’s brother who fought for the Confederacy — and his wife Julia suffered their own share of sorrow.

Julia wife of Jacob Daugherty  Aug 30, 1832  Aug 27, 1891
Jacob Daugherty  June 27, 1892  May 15, 1908
Children of J. & J. Daugherty
E. U. Wm  Aug 18, 1857  Sept 20, 1861
Mary C.  May 10, 1853  Oct 8, 1861
Allis L.  Jul 21, 1864  Aug 11, 1868

Two children dead within eighteen days of each other at a time when Jacob and Julia’s home counties were in the process of seceding from Virginia. The secession could only have added to the emotional turmoil Julia and Jacob were feeling at the death of their children, especially since we know, in the end, Jacob decided to fight on the opposite side of his brothers.

Thinking perhaps the Butchers (Julia’s family) were Confederates and had influenced this decision, I had a look at one of her brothers (Valentine) and learned he fought for the Union. Of course, there may have been others in both families (Daugherty and Butcher) who favored the Confederacy, and we can never truly know why another person makes any decision.

Yet when I think of these families, I don’t think about the men and their big decisions about who to fight for. I think of the women and how they paid for living in a time where the death of a child was the possible price of having them.

Having seen how quickly a child could be taken, did they cling more tightly to ones that remained or followed? Maybe the knowledge of how easily their heart could be broken made them more reluctant to let a new baby into that heart. Perhaps these losses were accepted as part of the sorrows of living.  Life was hard. Children died. And I’m sure the war magnified the hardship exponentially. Yet each of these couples had other children that survived to have children of their own.

As I discover this type of hardship in my family history, I am forced to recall that these same hardships — child mortality and civil war — are a daily reality for others, and I hope that this realization continues to spur me toward a more charitable way of living.