Friday, June 28, 2013

In Search of Grandma Elizabeth

(By Candice Buchanan. Originally published June 2013, updated October 2013.)

On 19 April 1904, a small concrete marker bearing the number 751, was placed as the only tombstone Elizabeth Mary (Garber) Staggers would ever have.[1] By the time the cemeterA numbered grave at Dixmont State Hospital Cemetery.y was closed, over 1300 of these little markers would identify the graves of ancestors not brought home for burial from the Dixmont State Hospital, known to most of those at rest in this overgrown graveyard by its earlier name, the Western Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane.[2]

Forgotten to her family, perhaps by choice, Elizabeth represents a lonely kind of tragedy. She was my fourth-great-grandmother and through twenty years of my research she waited for me, nothing more than a question mark on my family tree. I had missed a vital clue in a basic record and as long it was left unexplored so was her story.

Grandma Elizabeth was a nineteenth-century farmer's wife and mother of four who genealogically-speaking, was a neglected branch in the family trees of both her ancestors and her descendants. A female-descending (and thus surname-changing) line less pursued by Garber researchers, Elizabeth had the misfortune of being equally abandoned by Staggers descendants frustrated by her absence from the expected family and local records.

The Censuses of 1870 and 1880 enumerate Elizabeth as the wife of William Staggers and the mother of their children: Isabelle, Elizabeth Emma (who was known best as "Emma"), and William Thomas.[3] A tombstone for a fourth child, Marion, who died young, also identified her as his parent.[4] Between 1862 and 1863, Elizabeth joined her husband in four deeds to sell portions of their property in Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania. William made "his mark" on all four deeds, but his wife signed her name indicating a level of education.[5] Outside of this handful of records, her trail went cold.

When her husband, William Staggers, passed away on 5 September 1892, his obituary in the Waynesburg Republican identified his three living children and one living sister, but Elizabeth was neither listed as a survivor nor mentioned at all.[6] Though William died intestate (without a Will), his Estate file at the Greene County Courthouse details the sale of his real estate and personal property, it makes no mention of his wife.[7] The respectable pillar that marks his grave in the Staggers family cemetery near the home he shared with Elizabeth in Jackson Township, does not include her.[8] These dead ends often indicate that the one spouse pre-deceased the other and I assumed this was the case, but I still wanted to know what had become of her.

Elizabeth left no Will or Estate of her own in Greene County. I found no entry in the Greene County death register, no obituary in the Waynesburg newspaper microfilm indices, no cemetery listing in the county-wide records. Just in case she had not predeceased William, I looked for Elizabeth in the homes of her children in the 1900 Census or anywhere in Greene County overall, but she did not show up.

Without a lead, I left Grandma Elizabeth, for a time, as just that question mark on the tree. I had other lines to pursue where records were more forthcoming. I revisited her now and then, but with no new clues, she was again set aside while I chased down another line. Then, a chance discovery put me back on her path. While searching the Waynesburg Republican newspaper microfilm for someone unconnected, a familiar name in a neighboring column caught my eye. The small article delivered solemn news, but it was the beginning of a renewed search:

A Young Lady Attempts Suicide

On last Wednesday morning Miss Emma, a daughter of Wm. Staggers, of Bristoria, attempted to take her own life by shooting herself in the head. By a letter received from a friend on Tuesday evening we learn that the wound up to that time had not proven fatal. The young woman suffers most terribly from it and constantly calls upon those who come into her room, to give her relief, but nothing can be done for her. After the rash deed was discovered, Dr. J. H. Miller was called, but owing to the location of the wound thought it unsafe to probe for the ball.

The young woman's mind was thought to have been deranged for the past few months. No other cause can be assigned for her committing the act. Her mother, we are told, has been insane for about 20 years. The deeply afflicted family have the sympathy of all their neighbors and friends.[9]

I knew that I needed to revisit every record I had found for Grandma Elizabeth. The news article had been published 24 July 1890, dating her daughter Emma's suicide attempt to 16 July 1890. It was a sad story for all involved and as unhappy as the reference to Emma's mother was, it was also the first evidence I had that Elizabeth was still alive in 1890. A fresh review of the handful of records that I had for Elizabeth revealed the particular detail that I should have not passed over in previous studies. Though she still lived at home with her husband and children in Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth had been noted as "insane" in both the 18701870 Census and 1880 Census records.[10]

A more experienced researcher this time around, I knew where that label might lead. The pieces of Elizabeth's puzzle were finally coming together. This is what I found....

Elizabeth was only in her mid-20s when the Census taker first added "insane" to her entry in 1870.[11] My third-great-grandfather William Thomas was her youngest child and only a toddler at the time, his two older sisters Isabelle and Emma were ages 8 and 5, respectively. A decade later Elizabeth's insanity and family status were unchanged,[12] except for the fact that her eldest daughter, Isabelle, had married within the year and set up housekeeping with her husband, John Rhome, nearby.[13] The Deeds Elizabeth had signed with her husband in the early 1860s[14] indicated that her illness had likely started later in the decade.

I returned to the Greene County Courthouse, to examine the actual records of the Court. In a basement storage room, I studied one of only two volumes of the Greene County Court's Lunacy Dockets. Here Elizabeth's identity and story both began to unfold. In early February 1885, William Staggers had negotiated a sale and exchange of property with Winfield J. Hughes and so wanted to prepare a Deed to formalize the transaction. However, he had an obstacle to overcome. His lawyer, Capt. J. B. Donley, would not do the work without Elizabeth's consent. Whatever illness plagued Elizabeth, it had long been in place by this time and evidently she was unable to perform this role. So under the advice of his Council, on 27 February 1885, William Staggers of Jackson Township filed the initial petition to declare his wife, Elizabeth Staggers "a lunatic." The document states that "the wife of the petitioner has become insane, and has been so, for the space of ten years past and upwards." In support of William's plea to the Court, he provided two testimonies, one of which was provided by the Staggers' son-in-law John Rhome, the other by J. F. Hull. Both deponents said that Elizabeth was "wholly unfit for the management of her affairs." On 6 April 1885, the court appointed a committee of three men including a medical doctor to examine Elizabeth and directed that "the said examination be made upon ten days notice of the time and place thereof to Thornton Garber, the brother of the said Elizabeth Staggers." This is the first record to reveal a link to Elizabeth's maiden name by virtue of a brother, Thornton Garber, appointed to look out for the welfare of his sister and her entitlement to any Estate. On 20 April 1885, the three-man commission provided their assessment to the Court. They reported that "from the following reasons we are satisfied she is not right, she takes no concerns about her household affairs, wades the creek and wanders over the fields, talking to herself and picking her fingers. We are therefore of opinion that said Elizabeth Staggers is insane." The Court accepted their conclusion and William Staggers was granted "power to transact all business relating to the agreement and disposition of the estate, real and personal of himself or of the said Elizabeth Staggers, in as full and ample a manner as he might or could do as if the said Elizabeth Staggers were sane and gave her full consent thereto." In exchange, he was required to pay a bond of $2000 to ensure "the faithful performance of his trust." The final pages of the case detail the Staggers-Hughes Deed for which William had initiated the entire proceeding.[15]

The loss of these powers provided explanation to Elizabeth's lack of representation in William's Estate in 1892, but I still did not know what became of her. I revisited the 1900 Census and broadened my search. She was there. Alive in 1900. I had missed her for two reasons. She was living separate from her family rather far from home and her birth year was off by about twenty years. Nevertheless, the entry was ultimately proven to be Grandma Elizabeth. On 9 June 1900, she was enumerated as an "inmate" at the Western Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane (later known as Dixmont State Hospital).[16] Noted as being single and able to read and write, Elizabeth was one of many displaced individuals living at this facility in Kilbuck Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

The Dixmont State Hospital records are managed by the Pennsylvania Archives in Harrisburg. HIPAA privacy laws strictly regulate what a researcher can access; in fact, only the archivist can obtain the records so that the information can be filtered before it is given to the researcher. I sent for Elizabeth's records and obtained everything that I was permitted.

Elizabeth and her daughter, Emma, were admitted to the Dixmont State Hospital together on 3 September 1890.[17] Elizabeth's twenty years of suffering are well chronicled between the Census records, Lunacy Dockets, and the reference in Emma's news article. After all of those years of keeping her at home, Emma's suicide attempt on 16 July 1890[18] was likely the catalyst that led to the decision to send both mother and daughter to the hospital. Emma was ultimately released in "restored" condition on 1 December 1890; only 25 years old, she went on with her life and was soon married to Fred Harvey in Greene County on 19 March 1892.[19] Unfortunately, Grandma Elizabeth never left Dixmont. She died there on 15 April 1904.[20] Dixmont records are not consistent regarding her age, but the most likely to be close to accurate are the Admission book which notes her as 48 years old on the day she arrived,[21] and the Discharge book which notes her as 62 years old on the day she died.[22] Her residence there was 13 years 7 months and 12 days.[23] She was buried 19 April 1904 in the Dixmont State Hospital Cemetery with just the number 751 to mark her grave.[24]

Interestingly, when Elizabeth was admitted, the Dixmont record erroneously listed her as a widow.[25] No legal record so far discovered links her to her husband after he declared her lunacy in 1885. The records of her children have revealed little about Elizabeth's life, but have aided in the evidence of her maiden name. For example, the Pennsylvania state death record of her daughter Elizabeth Emma (Staggers) Harvey, with whom she had once been hospitalized, accurately noted that Emma's mother had been Elizabeth Garber, born in Washington County, Pennsylvania.[26]

Elizabeth's maiden name was never explicitly noted in her Dixmont records. At least not in the parts of the records that I was permitted to see. However, in the "Record of People to be Notified," essentially the emergency contacts in Elizabeth's file, there were two names. The first was her son-in-law John Raum [sic Rhome] of Bristoria, Greene County, Pennsylvania, the husband of Elizabeth's daughter Isabelle.[27] The second name was Thornton Garber of Box 389, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.[28] This same Thornton Garber had been Elizabeth's guardian during the Lunacy proceedings, during which he was clearly identified as her brother.[29]

Thornton Garber is a wonderfully unique name. Young Thornton appears beside a sister Elizabeth, both of appropriate ages, as well as younger brothers Theodore and Jonathan, living with their parents Jacob and Elizabeth Garber in the 1850 and 1860 Censuses.[30] In 1850, they were in West Bethlehem Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania, and in 1860 they were in that familiar Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania neighborhood where Grandma Elizabeth later lived with her husband William Staggers. Jacob Garber died intestate in Greene County and his widow, Elizabeth, administered the probate of his Estate 26 August 1873.[31] She, in turn, wrote a Will that was proven in Greene County on 28 September 1878. In it she leaves an unfinished quilt, several dresses, and thirty dollars to "my daughter Elizabeth Staggers."[32] The death certificate of Grandma Elizabeth's little brother, Theodore Garber, identifies their parents as Jacob Garber and Elizabeth McGinnis.[33] Dixmont State Hospital Cemetery

In June 2013, roughly 109 years after she was buried there, I went to find Grandma Elizabeth at the Dixmont State Hospital Cemetery. Closed in 1984, the hospital buildings are gone. A Walmart tried to open there, but landslides prevented construction. The path to the cemetery is now roundabout through the town of Emsworth, then to a chained-off road. A short walk down the hill leads to a crumbling sign and an overgrown slope dotted with little concrete lumps numbered to mark the 1300-some graves. Grandma Elizabeth's number 751 is out there somewhere, but I could not find her. It breaks my heart a little to not be able to visit her after all this time. I am full of questions of what her life was like, what it was like for her family, why they did not bring her home to rest beside her husband and little son Marion in the Staggers cemetery. But I plan to go back, I won't stop searching so easily. And I won't end this report of her on a sad note either. The truth is, this path that Grandma Elizabeth's life took left behind an unusual paper trail that proved her identity as wife, mother, daughter and sister. I have more insight into how she passed her years than I do on many of the ancestors in my tree. And, I can guarantee that I will never let an unusual Census notation slip by me again. 

So, Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandma Elizabeth Mary (Garber) Staggers — born circa 1843 in Washington County, Pennsylvania, died 15 April 1904 in Kilbuck Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, daughter of Jacob Garber and Elizabeth McGinnis, wife of William Staggers — you are no longer just a question mark. As a friend said to me about this search, "Gone but not forgotten ... finally."[34]

If you would like to know more about Dixmont State Hospital, I recommend two outstanding sources:

(1) The Dixmont State Hospital: A Historical Documentary researched by Kate Guerriero and sponsored by The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center and The Ben Avon Area Historical Association

(2) Dixmont State Hospital (Images of America) by Mark Berton

Also see www.DixmontStateHospital.com for photos and history.


[1] "Mortuary Record," 15 April 1904; page 146, number 2552, Record Group 23, Series # 23.445; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Staggers entry.

[2] Dixmont State Hospital Cemetery (Kilbuck Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania), memorial at entrance; personally read by Candice Buchanan, 13 June 2013.

[3] 1870 U.S. census, Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Rogersville post office, page 260 (stamped)/2 (written), dwelling 17, family 17, William Staggers household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 June 2013); National Archives microfilm publication M593, roll 1348. 1880 U.S. census, Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 74, page 232D (stamped)/4 (written), dwelling 38, family 40, Wm. Staggers household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 November 2012); National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 1133.

[4] Staggers Cemetery (Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania), Marion Staggers tombstone; personally read by Candice Buchanan, 17 August 2002, "Marion, / Son of William & / Elizabeth Staggers. / Died / March 17, 1863.

[5] (1) Greene County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book, 106: 373, Grantor: William Staggers and Elizabeth Mary his wife of Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania; Grantee: Abraham Staggers of Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania; Date of instrument: 22 September 1862, Deed recorded: 30 October 1900; Office of the Register & Recorder, Courthouse, Waynesburg. (2) Greene County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book, 106: 377, Grantor: William Staggers and Elizabeth M. his wife of Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania; Grantee: Abraham Staggers of Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania; Date of instrument: 20 November 1863, Deed recorded: 30 October 1900; Office of the Register & Recorder, Courthouse, Waynesburg. (3) Greene County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book, 190: 206, Grantor: William Staggers and Elizabeth Mary his wife of Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania; Grantee: Thomas Staggers of Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania; Date of instrument: 20 November 1863, Deed recorded: 15 January 1908; Office of the Register & Recorder, Courthouse, Waynesburg. (4) Greene County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book, 190: 208, Grantor: William Staggers and Elizabeth M. his wife of Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania; Grantee: Thomas Staggers of Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania; Date of instrument: 20 November 1863, Deed recorded: 15 January 1908; Office of the Register & Recorder, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[6] William Staggers obituary, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 8 September 1892, page 1, column 8.

[7] Greene County, Pennsylvania, Will Book, 6: 560, estate file no. 4051, William Staggers Estate (intestate); Office of the Register & Recorder, Courthouse, Waynesburg. Greene County, Pennsylvania, Orphans Court Docket Book 15: 187, no. 29, William Staggers estate (intestate), Sale of real estate, October 1892 term; County Clerk's Office, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[8] Staggers Cemetery (Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania), William Staggers tombstone; personally read by Candice Buchanan, 17 August 2002.

[9] "A Young Lady Attempts Suicide" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 24 July 1890, page 1, column 8.

[10] 1870 U.S. census, Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Rogersville post office, page 260 (stamped)/2 (written), dwelling 17, family 17, William Staggers household. 1880 U.S. census, Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 74, page 232D (stamped)/4 (written), dwelling 38, family 40, Wm. Staggers household.

[11] 1870 U.S. census, Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Rogersville post office, page 260 (stamped)/2 (written), dwelling 17, family 17, William Staggers household.

[12] 1880 U.S. census, Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 74, page 232D (stamped)/4 (written), dwelling 38, family 40, Wm. Staggers household.

[13] 1880 U.S. census, Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 74, page 232D (stamped)/4 (written), dwelling 30, family 32, John Rom household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 27 June 2013); National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 1133.

[14] Greene County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book, 106: 373. Greene County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book, 106: 377. Greene County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book, 190: 206. Greene County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book, 190: 208.

[15] Greene County, Pennsylvania, Lunacy Dockets 1: 168, no. 1, Lunacy of Elizabeth Staggers, June 1885 term; Prothonotary’s Office, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[16] 1900 U.S. census, Dixmont, Kilbuck Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Western Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, enumeration district (ED) 541, page 260A (stamped)/9 (written), line no. 43, Elizabeth Staggers; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 June 2013); National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1368.

[17] "Admission Book, 1883-1892," 3 September 1890; admission # 1550 and # 1551, Record Group 23, Series # 23.51; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elizbeth Staggers and Emma Staggers entries. In Elizabeth's records, which I sent for first, the archivist added this useful notation: "Emma Staggers, age 25 years, was admitted the same day from the same locality. Presumably, Emma was the daughter of Elizabeth." This notation led to my request for Emma's records.

[18] Waynesburg Republican, 24 July 1890.

[19] "Discharge Book, 1883-1893," 1 December 1890; Record Group 23, Series # 23.75; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Emma Staggers entry. Greene County, Pennsylvania, Marriage License Docket 5: 5, Harvey-Staggers, 1892; County Clerk's Office, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[20] "Discharge Book, 1893-1917," 15 April 1904; number 1550, Record Group 23, Series # 23.75; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Staggers entry.

[21] "Admission Book, 1883-1892," 3 September 1890; admission # 1550, Record Group 23, Series # 23.51; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elizbeth Staggers entry.

[22] "Discharge Book, 1893-1917," 15 April 1904; number 1550, Record Group 23, Series # 23.75; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Staggers entry.

[23] "Mortuary Record," 15 April 1904; page 146, number 2552, Record Group 23, Series # 23.445; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Staggers entry.

[24] "Mortuary Record," 15 April 1904; page 146, number 2552, Record Group 23, Series # 23.445; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Staggers entry.

[25] "Admission Book, 1883-1892," 3 September 1890; admission # 1550, Record Group 23, Series # 23.51; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elizbeth Staggers entry.

[26] Pennsylvania, Department of Health, death certificate no. 66966 (1932), Elizabeth Emma Staggers Harvey; Division of Vital Records, New Castle.

[27] "Record of People to be Notified," 3 September 1890; 4: 182 (1864-1909), number 1550, Record Group 23, Series # 23.123; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Staggers entry. "Mrs. John Rhome" is named as a daughter in William Staggers' obituary, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 8 September 1892, page 1, column 8. John and Isabelle Rom first appear as a married couple in 1880 U.S. census, Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 74, page 232D (stamped)/4 (written), dwelling 30, family 32, John Rom household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 27 June 2013); National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 1133.

[28] "Record of People to be Notified," 3 September 1890; 4: 182 (1864-1909), number 1550, Record Group 23, Series # 23.123; Dixmont State Hospital; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Staggers entry.

[29] Greene County, Pennsylvania, Lunacy Dockets 1: 168, no. 1, Lunacy of Elizabeth Staggers, June 1885 term; Prothonotary’s Office, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[30] 1850 U.S. census, West Bethlehem Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, page 185 (stamped) / 370 (written), dwelling 225, family 225, Jacob Garber household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 June 2013); National Archives microfilm publication M432, roll 833. 1860 U.S. census, Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, White Cottage post office, page 483 (stamped)/157 (written), dwelling 1075, family 1057, Jacob Garber household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 June 2013); National Archives microfilm publication M653, roll 1114.

[31] Greene County, Pennsylvania, Will Book, 4: 438, estate file no. 2719, Jacob Garber Estate (intestate); Office of the Register & Recorder, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[32] Greene County, Pennsylvania, Will Book, 5: 147, estate file no. 3037, Elizabeth Garber Will and Estate; Office of the Register & Recorder, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[33] West Virginia, Bureau for Public Health, death certificate no. 2609 (1932), Theodore E. Garber; Vital Registration Office, Charleston.

[34] Facebook comment, RaVae Wilhelm Lewis to Candice Buchanan, 26 June 2013.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Love Stories In Shades Of GREENE

(By Candice Buchanan)

This Valentine’s Day while celebrating the relationships of the present, celebrate those of the past as well. Use the occasion to learn how each generation of your family came into being. How they met, their first date, their wedding day….

Getting these details first hand from your living relatives is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. Whatever the circumstances, however unique or typical the tale, it is worth understanding how your family came together.

The romance and particulars of generations long gone may seem lost, but it is possible to learn their stories with a little bit of research. The following are a few local tales of love in Greene County history, and the sources that revealed them.

Frances (Cook) LivingoodLove at First Sight

Miss Frances Cook was born in Greene County in 1887, but moved as a young woman with her family to Columbiana, Ohio. Ties to Greene County remained strong though, and Frances returned for visits to friends and relatives. On one such visit Frances sang with her hostess in the church choir. When John Livingood caught sight of the visitor he turned to a friend and said, “I’m going to marry that girl.”

They married 4 March 1914 in Columbiana, then returned to Greene County to raise their family.

SOURCES: (1) Interview with Sara (Livingood) Buchanan, their daughter, 2003. (2) Columbiana County, Ohio, Marriage Book 23: 471, Livingood-Cook, 1914; Probate Court Office, Courthouse, Lisbon.

 

When They First Met Jacobs-Dulaney Wedding, 1897

Joseph Warren Jacobs is best known for his Purple Martin birdhouses and the incredible ornithology research that took him to World Fairs and made him a household name among birdwatchers. The talent that first introduced him to his wife-to-be, however, was his handwriting. J. Warren was hired to compose beautiful entries in the family Bibles of local residents. One such employer was Jasper Dulaney, whose daughter Mary Emma first met J. Warren during this task for her family. A young girl at the time, it was some years later while Emma was helping her father at his grocery store in Waynesburg, that J. Warren really made an impression on her. When J. Warren walked into the store, Emma was taken aback by his good looks and in stumbling backwards she fell into a bushel basket. Fortunately, J. Warren was the one to help her out. This memorable meeting, now as two adults, resulted in a wedding on 24 March 1897.

SOURCES: (1) Interview with Anna (Fonner) Blystone, their granddaughter, 2005. (2) Greene County, Pennsylvania, Marriage License Docket 7: 106, Jacobs-Dulaney, 1897; County Clerk's Office, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

 

Edward Martin, circa 1898 Devotion

Edward Martin and Charity Scott met while students at Waynesburg College in the late 1890s. Their wedding day in 1908 was the “event that Edward Martin always described as the most important in his life.” But before there was a wedding, and even before their 1901 college graduation, Edward was sent to fight in the Spanish-American War. “As he and Charity walked along the railroad tracks before he boarded the train on which he began his journey…they talked about the future. While they were not actually engaged, they did have an 'understanding.' She promised to write, and gave him a little Bible which he always carried with him, wherever he went, for the rest of his life.”

SOURCE: "Charity Martin - Edward Martin" by Harriet Branton, undated article from unidentified newspaper, in Martin family vertical file at the Cornerstone Genealogical Society.

 

Weddings Gone WrongSarah Elizabeth (Bryan) Loller

Nineteen year-old, Lizzie Bryan, of Richhill Township, “a rather good looking, sprightly young woman” completed her courses at Waynesburg College in September 1871. The month of her graduation, Lizzie attended the wedding of Minor Raimer and a Miss Black, in the company of fellow student Corbly Garrard. Though Mr. Garrard was not her father’s favorite suitor, Lizzie and Corbly followed Raimer and Black that day, making secret wedding vows before Rev. Campbell Jobes and the audience present. The ceremony kept a secret, Lizzie returned home, where over the next several months Silas Loller, a music professor at the college, became a frequent caller. Knowing no better and having the approval of her parents, Silas proposed to Lizzie, was accepted, and by April 1872 they were wed. About two weeks after their wedding day Silas and Lizzie, while still at her parents’ home, were called on by Corbly. Mr. Bryan would not let the young man in, but after a number of failed tries, Corbly demanded his right to speak to his “lawfully wedded wife.” Only Lizzie was not shocked. Silas immediately went to Waynesburg to seek legal council, but as the second husband to be taken he found little relief. Lizzie’s “youth and impulsive nature” were blamed for the marriage to Corbly which she alleged was only a joke.

History shows that Lizzie and Silas found a solution because they remained married, and are buried together in the Bryan family cemetery in Center Township.

SOURCES: (1) "Twice at the Altar" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 10 April 1872, page 3, column 1. (2) Elizabeth Bryan Loller obituary, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 10 August 1911, page 4, column 6.

 

Bull's Head Tavern (where Andrew met Rhoda) Legend

In 1802, Andrew Buchanan, 22 years old, left his home in eastern Pennsylvania, with plans to travel to Kentucky or Tennessee to practice law. He had made it as far as Greene County when his plans suddenly changed. While taking a room at a Waynesburg inn, he caught the eye of a young lady who convinced him to stay. Miss Rhoda Stevenson had come from New Jersey to stay with her relatives in Waynesburg – the innkeepers. Family tales say Rhoda had “been engaged to a seafaring man” who was killed when his ship exploded just off the New Jersey shore. The stay in Greene County was intended to remove Rhoda from the memory. Supposedly, as she recovered, Rhoda agreed to accompany a friend to visit “one of the many fortune tellers who abounded in every community in those days.” Rhoda was told she would meet and marry a man with a wart on his nose – Andrew fit the description. They were married in 1804 and raised 9 children to adulthood. Their grandchildren spoke of them as storytellers, so whether myth or truth, this tale likely was passed down straight from the source.

SOURCES: (1) John L. O’Hara, Fact & Folklore (Waynesburg, Pennsylvania: Mary Churney Eagon, 1989), 133. (2) “One Pioneer” article, Waynesburg Independent, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 27 August 1896, page 8, column 1-2.

 

A Civil War Soldier Finds His Match Mary (Robinson) Adams

"Adams-Robinson December 10, 1876, in Beverly, Ohio, by Rev. Chapman, Mr. Robert Adams, of Leavenworth, Kas., to Miss Mary Robinson, of the former place….Robert is a son of Mr. Elijah Adams, steward of the Poor House, and the bride is a graduate of Waynesburg College, a bright and intelligent lady. Robert carries an empty coat sleeve, having lost an arm at Fredericksburg, but he now has two arms for the one he lost. May their arms never be less."

SOURCE: Adams-Robinson marriage announcement article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 17 January 1877, page 3, column 6.

 

Roy & Sara (Livingood) Buchanan Thrown Together

Roy Buchanan and Sara Livingood were classmates, a common method of meeting for many of our relative pairs, but they did not become a couple until a school field trip threw them together. On the way back to Rogersville after a day in Pittsburgh, one of the two school busses broke down. The students were combined onto one bus to finish the trip home, and to make the fit Sara rode the rest of the way sitting on Roy’s lap….and so began the relationship. They graduated from Center Township Vocational High School in 1934, and were married in 1938 after Sara graduated from Waynesburg College.

SOURCE: Interview with Sara (Livingood) Buchanan, 2003.

 

Parental Consent Not RequiredSarah (Throckmorton) Milligan

“[Sarah Throckmorton] was decidedly attractive girl of much more than ordinary intellectuality. Her laugh lay very near her lips, and to her keen sense of humor she added a gift of putting amusing things in words that made her marry company. Among her many ardent admirers was Joseph M. Milligan, a handsome, witty young student of Irish descent, – courteous in manner, entertaining in conversation, a sweet singer, but poor in purse. They became engaged, but the engagement met with opposition from the young lady’s parents. So they hied themselves to the Waynesburg M. E. Parsonage and were secretly married by Rev. M. J. Pierce, 15 Aug., 1861. Several weeks later, during the minister’s vacation, two students glancing over his books discovered the marriage record and noised it abroad. Mrs. Throckmorton, while shopping in Waynesburg, heard the report and was properly scandalized. Hurrying home the lively Sarah was promptly interviewed, and then and there received such a severe, old-fashioned Puritanic scolding that the memory lingered long, and surreptitious marriages were never popular among her descendants.”

It should be noted that Joseph and Sarah did remain wed and went on to raise a family of five children despite their rough welcome to married life.

SOURCE: Frances Grimes Sitherwood, Throckmorton Family History: Being the Record of the Throckmortons in the United States of America with Cognate Branches (Bloomington, Illinois: Pantagraph Printing & Stationary Co., 1929), 178.

 

Dale & Ruth (Hughes) Watts Love Me As I Am

“Dale, tall, dark wavy hair, brown eyes and the son of a preacher man, met Ruth, very attractive, blue eyes, beautiful smile and the stepdaughter of a farmer. It was love at first sight. He had brought his mother, Minnie to the farm to buy milk. Ruth was ironing and her mother Bertha told her to wash her face and comb her hair because the preacher’s wife and son had come. She told her mother, she really didn’t care, she wasn’t wanting to impress anyone. So the story goes and the following December, they announced their engagement. On 26 June l937 they were married in the Kuhntown Methodist Church. Dale’s father Rev. Watts solemnized a large wedding with several attendants, who had made their own gowns and bouquets.”

SOURCE: Written by Marilyn (Watts) Kerr in 2005 for her parents’ Memory Medallion.

(Originally published by Candice Buchanan in Greene Speak, in two parts appearing February 2005 and February 2006. Updated February 2013 for www.GreeneConnections.com).

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Downey House Fire

(By Candice Buchanan)

Beneath a cheery holiday banner, local headlines told of a different sort of Christmas for December 1925.Downey House

On Christmas Eve morning the Waynesburg Republican solemnly announced “Disastrous Fire Destroys Hotel Downey, Grossman Building and Presbyterian Church: Four Young Men, Volunteer Fire Workers, Lose Their Lives By Falling Walls. Four Others Seriously Injured.” The four young men killed while fighting the fire were: Harvey Call, Jr., William Andrew Finch, J. Thurman Long and Joseph Rifenberg. By its next printing on December 31, the Republican announced the fifth and final casualty, Victor Hoy Silveus.

The Downey House had been a prominent feature on Waynesburg’s main street since it was built in 1869. Located at the present site of the Fort Jackson Building where a plaque still hangs in honor of the five men who lost their lives, the Downey House was a hotel and shopping center with over a dozen businesses located within its walls.

The fire began in the Coney Island restaurant and was discovered about 3:30 a.m. on the morning of December 23. The fire tore through the Downey House, where the restaurant was located on the first floor, and quickly spread to the neighboring Grossman Building and then via live embers carried on strong winds to the Courthouse cupola and the Presbyterian Church. The destruction of property was estimated by local papers at near $1,000,000 and the loss of five young men, only in their 20s, was inconsolable.

Amid the devastation of life and property, however, there was a powerfully good human spirit to be seen. And despite the tragic circumstances at hand, this generous spirit was fitting to the Christmas season.

Downey House Following Fire Loss of life was minimal thanks to the courage of the volunteer firefighters not only from Waynesburg, but also from neighboring companies who rushed to answer the call for aid, these included: East Washington, Charleroi, Fredericktown, Carmichaels, Jefferson, Buckeye Coal Company, Nemacolin, Brownsville, Masontown, Rices Landing and Bentleyville. The men battled the fire through most of the morning, gaining control of it by about 7:00 a.m. It was noted in the Democrat Messenger on December 25, that the Rices Landing company had only recently formed and received their first truck on December 22. Not yet in receipt of a hose, they borrowed what they needed from the Frick Coal Company before departing for the fire. Despite these obstacles, the young company was the third on the scene.

Firefighters were not the only people to rush to help. Among the survivors were the hotel manager and twenty-five guests who were roused by H. C. Schreiber, a jeweler, who was working in his store when the early morning fire was discovered. Mr. Schreiber’s store, located on the first floor of the Downey House, was destroyed, incurring at least $30,000 in damages, but rather than trying to save his property he rushed immediately to the second floor to sound the alarm.

Fear of the fire spreading to more buildings was strong and compelled residents of nearby apartments to evacuate. Ordinary citizens came forward to help these people quickly remove their most dear possessions from their homes before the fire could impose.

The Downey House fire had another long-term positive impact. A lesson learned, the Waynesburg community formed the Waynesburg Volunteer Fire Company on March 4, 1926. This company replaced the department run by the borough with a group of volunteers wholly organized and trained for the single purpose of fighting fires.

(Originally published by Candice Buchanan in Greene Speak, December 2005. Updated December 2012 for www.GreeneConnections.com).

SOURCES:

Democrat Messenger, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 25 December 1925, page 1.

G. Wayne Smith, History of Greene County, Pennsylvania, 2 volumes (Waynesburg, Pennsylvania: Cornerstone Genealogical Society, 1996), 2: 839-840.

"Disastrous Fire Destroys Hotel Downey, Grossman Building and Presbyterian Church" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 24 December 1925, page 1, columns 1-4.

Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 31 December 1925, page 1.

Photograph 1 - Downey House, corner of Washington and High Streets, Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania. Reproduction, candid. Places Series. Waynesburg Subseries. Greene County Historical Society Collection, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Online image digitized by Greene Connections: Greene County, Pennsylvania Photo Archives Project. http://www.GreeneConnections.com: 2012. Item # To Be Assigned.

Photograph 2 - Remains of Downey House following fire 23 December 1925, corner of Washington and High Streets, Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania. Original, candid. Friends Series. William Francis Jacobs Collection Collection. Online image digitized by Greene Connections: Greene County, Pennsylvania Photo Archives Project. http://www.GreeneConnections.com: 2012. Item # JACD_AN002_0046.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

As We Gather

(By Candice Buchanan)

The holiday season offers some of the best opportunities to tap those family resources. Be it minds or matter you need to explore, you should be prepared to take advantage of so many relatives in one place at one time. It is always tricky to set a time to get together with today’s busy schedules, but with two major family-oriented holidays only a month apart it is like having a built-in family history follow-up. At the Thanksgiving gathering begin your question-and-answer periods and let the kin know what family data or materials you are seeking. If an aunt comments that she has the family Bible or photos that you don’t have – well, that’s the beauty of the Christmas holiday coming just a few weeks later – simply tell her to bring them on December 25.

Before or after the big meal, break out those unmarked family photos and ask for help putting names to faces. Don’t just get the key figures like Grandpa or Dad, but get the names of every person. Ask when, where and why the photo was taken and write that down too. Keep track of who shared each photo to include in notes with any reprints you may produce – this will make everyone feel included and appreciated for participating.

Fill-in the missing leaves in your family tree for descendants as well as ancestors. Get full names (not just initials or nicknames), birthday/baptism/graduation/wedding/etc. dates and places, and any other details that sit-downs with your cousins can provide.

Ask to hear those favorite family stories, this time with a digital, audio or video recorder in hand, or at least a pen and paper. These interviews should go beyond the basic facts to include the interesting or fun details of life that will really add personality to your family history and preserve details that will otherwise be lost. In my family we grew up hearing a humorous tale about Grandma’s elderly aunt who only washed her hair once a year, and a more serious account of a younger aunt who comforted her family from her death bed saying it is “so beautiful to be with Jesus.” Stories such as these can turn a series of names and dates into a personable, intriguing report that will interest even the non-genealogists among your relatives. These details won’t be found in public records, the resources for these priceless pieces of history are the minds of your relatives. Don’t take those story-telling relatives for granted, recording their personal accounts should be a priority.

If you are creative, the photo or heirloom show-and-tell sessions and the interviews conducted on your Thanksgiving holiday may prompt unique gift ideas for the Christmas holiday. Photos can be restored or enlarged to look excellent framed. Combine the photos with family birthdays and anniversaries to create a handy family calendar (for some great ideas, check out this site and click “Products” to see previews). Interviews could be put on a family website or DVD for all to enjoy. Type up those family stories for a book along with special photos and documents too (like the calendars, I use this site to make really cool books that can look any way you want them to, they have great family history templates that you can 100% customize, and you can get personalized help for free if you need it). Begin a Memory Medallion full of all those collected memories to remember lost loved ones whom everyone thinks of so often at this time of year. All of these projects are do-able from your own computer or at minimal costs through professional services; yet, these gifts will be one-of-a-kind and valuable to generations of your family.

(Originally published by Candice Buchanan in Greene Speak, November 2006. Updated November 2012 for www.GreeneConnections.com.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Man Who Brought Football to Waynesburg College

(By Candice Buchanan)

In the fall of 1894, a 20 year old transfer student arrived on the Waynesburg College campus bringing with him a passion for a young and still developing pastime.

Thomas Davies Whittles, the man who brought football to Waynesburg College, was born in Bardsley, Lancashire, England, on 27 December 1873, to Robert and Emma (Davies) Whittles. When he was ten years old, he immigrated to the United States with his mother and sister, landing in New York on 21 May 1884, after a voyage aboard the ship Helvetia.

Thomas was privileged to receive a preparatory school education at an institution where football was already being played. Outside of the ivy-league schools that had developed the game, football was only being introduced into a wider selection of colleges and universities in the 1890s, and Waynesburg, for its part, had neither received nor encouraged any such introduction, until Thomas came to town.

Football was being denounced by many as an amoral and violent game. Few had actually seen the game played and even fewer understood its rules, so most of the anti-football sentiment came from rumors and ignorance about what actually went on. On thGCHS-AN028-0006e other hand, there was some reason for concern, at least in regard to physical health. The sport was still being refined with few official regulations yet adopted and little or no protective equipment available. Death and injury were a reality of the game.

So when Thomas Whittles arrived at Waynesburg College determined to play this notorious sport, he had more than one challenge to overcome. He first raised the $5.25 to buy a football, and then began to recruit and teach his classmates the basics of the game. But the real challenge came when it was time to convince Alfred Brashier Miller, much respected President of Waynesburg College, to permit an official team to form. In The Waynesburg College Story 1849-1974, author William H. Duesenberry recaptures this task, “Whittles and Miller had many private talks, with Miller stressing moral philosophy, and Whittles instructing him about the game.”

In the end, both men were apparently persuasive. Miller allowed for a football team to form and Whittles in a few years time would graduate into an esteemed Presbyterian minister.

In the fall of 1895, the first Waynesburg College football team took to the field. Duesenberry points out, “Whittles felt that Miller wanted to give football a chance, because five members of the squad were ministerial students.” With a minister-to-be as coach (and player) and five more minister-to-be men as teammates it became harder to make a moral argument against the game.

At the side of Thomas Whittles, was another Thomas playing a major role in the team’s development and continued existence. Thomas Spencer Crago, an 1892 Waynesburg College graduate, stepped up to serve as team manager. His presence undoubtedly added another degree of endorsement to the controversial sport. Crago was to become a celebrated military leader and United States Congressman.

On 4 December 1895, the Waynesburg Republican gave one of its earliest football recaps, “A game of foot ball was had on the Fair Grounds here on Thanksgiving Day, between the Washington boys and the home team. The game was an interesting one, and at times very exciting. Those who understand the rules of foot ball, say the game was a good one, well contested. The majority of the onlookers, however, ourself included, knew nothing whatever about the rules of the game, and were reminded more of a pig-fight in a hog-wallow than anything else, though it was interesting in the extreme. The recent rains had softened the ground, and after twenty-two young men had rolled and tumbled and dragged each other through four or five inches of very soft mud for an hour or two, the result was announced four to nothing in favor of Waynesburg….”

So began football in Waynesburg.

Thomas Whittles had only a short football career at Waynesburg College, graduating in 1896. Capped and gowned with him, was teammate Jesse Hunnell Hazlett, the man to score the first-ever touchdown for the College team.

Thomas attended Princeton Theological Seminary from which he received his degree in 1899 and was ordained in October of that year. He married Sarah Canning, of Minnesota, on 16 July 1902 and with her raised two children. After Sarah’s death, Thomas was united in marriage with a Greene County native and former Waynesburg College classmate, Anna Neonette Iams (Class of 1897). Thomas and Nettie were a fitting match, as Nettie, while still known as “Miss Iams,” served as the very first basketball coach for the newly developed women’s team at Waynesburg College at the turn of the century.

In April 1943, when Waynesburg College was trying to raise money selling war bonds via a football analogy that pitted students vs. alumni, Thomas’s name and status as the “father of football at Waynesburg College” and “our first coach” were used to help in the fundraising.

(Originally published by Candice Buchanan in Greene Speak, January 2006. Updated October 2012 for www.GreeneConnections.com.)

SOURCES:

Dusenberry, William Howard. Waynesburg College Story, 1849-1974. 1975: Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio.

"Introduction: A Brief History of College Football." Article. College Football Encyclopedia. http://www.footballencyclopedia.com/cfeintro.htm : 2012.

Minnesota. Department of Health, Section of Vital Statisics Registration. Death Certificates. Minnesota Historical Society Library, St. Paul.

"New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957." Digital images. Ancestry.com. http://www.ancestry.com : 2012.

Pennsylvania. Greene County. Marriage License Dockets. County Clerk's Office, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

Sitherwood, Frances Grimes. Throckmorton Family History: Being the Record of the Throckmortons in the United States of America with Cognate Branches. Bloomington, Illinois: Pantagraph Printing & Stationary Co., 1929.

Waynesburg College Alumni Office, compiler. Waynesburg College Alumni Directory 1966. Waynesburg, Pennsylvania: Sutton Printing Co., 1966.

Waynesburg College Football Team, 1895. Photograph by Hawkins. School Series. Greene County Historical Society Collection, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Online image digitized by Greene Connections: Greene County, Pennsylvania Photo Archives Project. http://www.GreeneConnections.com: 2012. Item # GCHS-AN028-0006.

Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 4 December 1895.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Photo Research Case Study - Local Celebrity

Jesse Lazear

(By Candice Buchanan)

The Greene County Historical Society in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania holds a carte-de-visite size photograph album connected to the Cathers, Inghram, Lindsey, Munnell, and related families. In the album is a CDV captioned "Jesse Lazear." The photographer stamp credits Whitehurst Gallery, 434 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.[1] This photograph shows up again, in combination with another pose from the same sitting, captioned as Jesse Lazear, as a loose CDV in the orphaned images of GCHS and also of the Waynesburg University Museum.[2]

This popular photo has made not only three archived appearances, but it has also made itself present in family photograph collections and research questions submitted by private families to the Greene Connections: Greene County, Pennsylvania Photo Archives Project. Whether the image appears (1) captioned as Jesse Lazear, (2) captioned with an ancestor's name, or (3) without a caption at all, it has been cause for further research. In the first case, who is this man with a name that does not fit into the family tree? In the second and third, if this is an ancestor, why would he have had a photograph taken in Washington, D.C.? Did he reside there, or did he travel to visit or attend a special event?

Photograph Analysis

This CDV is an albumen print taken in the early 1860s. The beaver pelt collar that he appears to be wearing was at its height in popularity and a cravat was still commonly worn around the neck, the latter a style donned in larger form during the 1850s, but narrowing and beginning to look like a bow tie in the 1860s.[3] There is no revenue stamp on the back of the card-mount, as would have been common during the Civil War, specifically from 1 August 1864 to 1 August 1866.[4] So due to the early-decade fashions he is wearing and the lack of a revenue stamp, this picture was most likely taken prior to 1 August 1864.

Private photograph collections very often feature faces from outside of the family. By the 1860s, tintypes and CDVs were being produced in multiples and traded among friends. Both styles fit neatly into popular photograph albums, and photographers made the most of the trend by reproducing images to sell of famous figures: royal families, politicians, war heroes, and stars of the performing arts.[5] Consequently, it is not uncommon to find Ulysses S. Grant or Abraham Lincoln staring out from Civil War era albums a few pages from a great-great-grandfather. Though not images of family members, these famous photos still tell us about our ancestors' political views or give us a snippet of insight into their interests or sense of humor.

More common and more difficult to discern, are photos of friends, neighbors, and local celebrities such as popular community leaders, teachers, preachers, and others who frequent family albums. These images are less recognizable and do not immediately stand out to be non-family. They are often produced by the same local photographers, who took the family portraits and are consequently similar in studio appearance, card mount, and photographer marks. A study of the ancestor's community is the best way to solve these mysteries. If an image is captioned, compare the caption to rosters of classmates, lists of fellow congregants, neighbors in Census records, and so on. Captioned or uncaptioned photos both can be viewed against pictorial histories, yearbooks, institutional archives (i.e. church, school, fraternal or veteran groups), and community web sites that provide opportunities for photo sharing.

Caption Analysis

In this case, we find Jesse Lazear among the rolls of local politicians. He was Greene County's representative in Congress during the Civil War, having been elected to the Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth Congresses (March 4, 1861-March 3, 1865).[6] Jesse sat for famous wartime photographer Mathew Brady in 1865, providing an excellent identified image for comparison.[7] The popular CDV featured here was likely taken during his first term in office and circulated to his supporters back home. Even though Jesse lived his later years in the Washington, D.C. area, he was born, spent much of his active life in, and ultimately was buried in Greene County, Pennsylvania. Upon word of his death reaching friends in town, the Waynesburg Republican solemnly declared, "There is perhaps no person now living so universally well known and respected in Greene county."[8] This explains why he frequently appears in local collections of his era.

As to incidents of this photo appearing with captions naming family members instead of Jesse Lazear, these may indicate to whom the photo was given as opposed to who is in the photo. This is a frequent problem in any type of photo caption analysis and is a primary reason for testing the caption. It is also possible that in more than a century of photo ownership, notations have been added to the original image by a well-meaning relative who simply misidentified the image. Though captions are always a strong starting point for investigation, they must be treated like any other document in genealogical research. We must consider the evidence of a handwritten notation against other sources and be ready to reconsider our conclusion if new evidence comes to light.

Conclusion

During the early years of the Civil War, Jesse Lazear, aged in his late 50s, was serving as Greene County, Pennsylvania's representative to the United States Congress in Washington D.C. These facts make him the right age at the right place at the right time to be the subject of the Carte-de-Visite photograph that so often bears his name. His local celebrity status explains his image's frequency in local collections. Finally, the well-documented photograph taken by the era's famous photographer, Mathew Brady, provides a timely photo comparison to confirm the Lazear caption. It is reasonable to assume that any other captions found on this image were either written with an intention other than to identify the subject or were simply errors in identification.


[1] Jesse Lazear Carte-de-Visite photograph, circa 1860-1864, from Whitehurst, Gallery, 434 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.; Album 3 Series, Greene County Historical Society Collection (918 Rolling Meadows Road; Waynesburg, PA 15370), digital image scanned for the Greene Connections: Greene County, Pennsylvania Photo Archives Project between 2005 and 2011; GreeneConnections (http://www.GreeneConnections.com: accessed 4 June 2012), item # GCHS_AN004_0039.

[2] Orphaned images refer to photographs that were either donated without a record of provenance or were at some point separated from their original collections and consequently have lost any contextual documentation. Jesse Lazear Carte-de-Visite photograph, circa 1860-1864, from Whitehurst, Gallery, 434 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.; People Series, Greene County Historical Society Collection (918 Rolling Meadows Road; Waynesburg, PA 15370), digital image scanned for the Greene Connections: Greene County, Pennsylvania Photo Archives Project between 2005 and 2011; GreeneConnections (http://www.GreeneConnections.com: accessed 4 June 2012), item # GCHS-AN026-0116. Jesse Lazear Carte-de-Visite photograph, circa 1860-1864, from Whitehurst, Gallery, 434 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.; Greene County People Series, Waynesburg University Museum Collection (51 W. College St.; Waynesburg, PA 15370), digital image scanned for the Greene Connections: Greene County, Pennsylvania Photo Archives Project between 2005 and 2011; GreeneConnections (http://www.GreeneConnections.com: accessed 4 June 2012), item # WAYN_AN003_0007.

[3] Date of photograph determined from: Maureen A. Taylor, Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, 2nd edition (Cincinnati, Ohio: Family Tree Books, 2005), 92, "Men's Fashions" chart for years 1860-1870. Gary Clark, Photo Tree (http://phototree.com : viewed 4 June 2012), Photo Gallery - Confirmed Dates - 1860s. Family Chronicle, More Dating Old Photographs 1840-1929 (Toronto, Canada: Moorshead Magazines Ltd., 2004), 24-28.

[4] Taylor, Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, 44-45.

[5] Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Diane Vogt-O’Connor et al, Photographs: Archival Care and Management (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2006), 40-43; Taylor, Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, 39 and 41-42.

[6] Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 - Present (http://bioguide.congress.gov : viewed 27 February 2004), Jesse Lazear bio.

[7] Print from negative: "Hon. Jesse Lazear, PA," by Mathew Brady; Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, compiled 1921 - 1940, documenting the period 1860 - 1865; National Archives, Washington, D. C. online image digitized by Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com/image/#5715302 : accessed 30 May 2012); image number B-1248.

[8] Jesse Lazear obituary, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 5 September 1877, page 3, column 5.

Friday, August 3, 2012

When Great-Great-Grandfathers Go Hunting

(By Candice Buchanan)

Part of my devotion to (a/k/a obsession with) genealogy comes from the fact that my own immediate family knew and preserved so little. My paternal grandma was awesome for the photos and stories of her generation and even of her parents’ peer group, but of anyone further back she had no knowledge. For me, and for most researchers I know, family history has always been about so much more than names on charts. The entire Greene Connections project grew out of a desire to find and share the rare history hiding in attics and drawers and shoeboxes that could bring our ancestors to life in image and storied detail. And, so, a random little find prompts me to write today.

A month or two ago, I tracked down an 1880 marriage announcement in the microfilm of the Waynesburg Republican available at the Cornerstone Genealogical Society in Waynesburg, Pa. On the same page, I noticed an article about my Cook family. I printed the whole page to study later and today I finally got to read it thoroughly. The following is a story I never knew about my great-great-grandfather Thomas Hamlet Cook [1859-1928], while he was still a young bachelor, and had things gone differently my family would never have been.

"Accidentally Shot Himself" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 14 January 1880, page 3, column 7.

"Accidentally Shot Himself"

On New Years day, a young man named Thomas Cooke, son of Mr. Wm. H. Cooke, of Centre township, near South Ten Mile Baptist Church, accidentally discharged a load of shot into his person, inflicting a severe wound. He and two or three other young fellows were out with guns and he was standing resting the breech of his shot gun on the ground, when by some unknown means the gun was discharged, the charge entering the unfortunate youth's breast near the left nipple and passing through the shoulder making a ghastly orifice. Medical aid was immediately summoned and at last accounts, the patient was slowly improving. It was a narrow escape from death, and we trust it will not disable him to the extent feared."

Interestingly, a “Mere Mentions” column that I found a few years ago in the same local newspaper, also revealed one of the few random facts I know about another great-great-grandfather, William Daily Buchanan [1847-1922].

Will Buchanan article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 17 February 1875, page 3, column 2.

"Will Buchanan, two miles from Waynesburg, discovered a den of skunks last week. He dug down until a small aperture was made into the hole, and as one would show his head--attempting to get out--he would take it on the snout and lay out his skunkship. He took out eight of the odoriferous animals, and it wasn't a very good day for them either. The eight hides netted him about ten dollars."

Two random stories, unintentionally discovered, brought a little life to my family tree. Keep your eyes open as you search, you never know what unexpected discovery awaits.

If you have made some surprising and interesting discoveries in your Greene County research that you want to share, please post to the comments section below!