17 May 2018

It's All Greek, et cetera, to Me

It’s all Greek, et cetera, to Me

#52 Ancestors — Another Language May 14-20, 2018

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ® 2018

Little did I know when I began this journey — digging in the past to learn more about my ancestors — that I would have to deal with several languages and plenty of jargon. But, that’s really been part of the fun of genealogy — exploring history, languages, and technology — plus dealing with my own preconceived notions about my family’s place in the big picture.

In my ignorance and naiveté, I had no idea what “family” really meant and how many ancestors I had that I might actually find historical evidence about, or how many surnames would be involved, and what my ancestors’ roles, especially in American history, were. I was fortunate. I started out knowing the names of seven of my eight greats. Plus my Dad passed along the family legend that our Vanderpools went back to the early Dutch in New Netherland. At the time, I didn’t realize how much of a head-start I had compared to some.

The up-close personal look at history and my ancestors’ part in it also has been fun. It started that day long ago when dad took me to the scene of a lesser-known Civil War battle, usually referred to as an “engagement” in official annals, the one at Honey Springs which took place on 17 July 1863 near what’s Checotah, Oklahoma today (then Indian Territory) and just a few miles from where my dad grew up. I don’t recall exactly how old I was, but I think pre-school. Of course, the early memory is imperfect, but the importance of history was etched into my heart. My father never saw a “historical monument” sign that he ignored, and I suspect that is one of the reasons all four of his children became “history buffs.”

It would be years later when I discovered that my family had fought on both sides of the Civil war — despite family legends to the contrary — and to the consternation of a few relatives who clung to their Confederate myths. History began to come alive for me as read about my ancestors’ participation in this war, and the more I read, the more I wanted to learn, and the more I dug into the records.

Along the way, I learned to decipher chicken-scratch type penmanship, jargon used by genealogists, medical, legal and military fields, plus the geeks. I’ve struggled with long-forgotten Latin and math and pondered over old English, German, Dutch, French and Swedish at times.

Who would have thought that I’d ever use or have to figure out Roman numerals again or that something as ordinary as a calendar date could turn out to be complicated, what with the Julian (Old Style), Gregorian (New Style) and Quaker calendars (the latter did not write the name of a month until 1752, but chose to use numbers with March as the first month.) I certainly did not know that when I started my family tree research.

My vocabulary has been enriched with such additions as Ahnentafel, pedigree, FGS (Family Group
Sheet), GEDCOM, html, PDF, ultimo, consanguinity, La Grippe, King’s Evil, in room of (meaning in the place of) executor, administrator, dowry and dower, entail, primogeniture, download, upload, codicil, et. ux, intestate, DNA, metes, bounds, grantor, and grantee. I’ve also learned that a mistress was not what we think of today, and I’ve learned never to call a consort a relict and vice versa.

Plus, I’ve learned that there were no rules about spelling — especially when it comes to names.

13 May 2018

Oh, my Darling Clementine

52#Ancestors No. 19
May 7-13, 2018
By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ® 2018

Among the dozen or so women in my family tree that I know next to nothing about, is Clementine Johnson. At least I think her maiden name was Johnson. That’s the claim from a cousin who purportedly once saw the family Bible. I’ve never been able to track down a copy of the Bible, so I rely upon the second-hand information.

You’d think that woman who had 15 children and lived for 72 years would have left more clues and information about her family. Of course, there’s the possibility that she did not know much about her forebears either.

Periodically, I tackle this genealogical problem of learning more about Clementine by exploring the data I have compiled on her 11 children who survived to adulthood. I dig out my Research Log and see if I’ve overlooked something and I continue to research Clementine’s children, grandchildren and even the great-grandchildren.

She married Randle Hensley about 1829, probably in Tennessee, although a marriage record has not yet been found. They lived in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

The six sons have been the easiest to track, but four of the daughters have left fairly good trails. Then
there’s the one daughter, Elizabeth. I don’t know whether she ever married. She was 17 in the 1850 census and so far, I haven’t found a marriage record for her — and she is not with her family in the 1860 census, but I’ll keep looking.

Since Elizabeth was one of the older children, she may be the one who has the information I need to find my darling Clementine, who hopefully, is not lost and gone forever.

01 May 2018

A Close-up of Papa's Will


Week 18 (April 30-May 4):

A Close-up of Papa’s Will

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley © 2018

David George Sr. made his will 2 July 1861 in Henry County, Georgia and died two months later. He meticulously laid out the way he wanted his estate to be handled. On the initial reading, one notes that he divided it equally among his 12 (and named) children — and everything was to be sold after the death of his wife, Sarah (he left her more than 400 acres of land, plus personal property). His widow would outlive him by 15 years, and the results of the Civil War changed the fortunes of this and many other Georgia families, of course.
In the will, were the following bequeaths:

SIXTHLY — To my daughter Margaret Awtrey, wife of Eldridge Awtrey, (my 3-great-grandmother) for her sole and separate use for and during her natural life, free and exempt from the debts and liabilities of her present or a future husband, I give and bequeath one-twelfth part of the money arising from the sale of property remaining after my bequest to my wife are satisfied, after the following deductions have been made from said twelfth part, namely, four hundred dollars ($400) for a piece of land heretofore given her. And ten ($10.00) dollars for a cow more given to her than the rest of my children. The property in this article contained at the death of Margaret Awtrey shall pass to and become the property of the children, and representatives of children, of said Margaret forever (I mean by the representatives of children, the children of children) . . . [Margaret was then about 49 years of age and had been married to Eldridge Awtrey for 30 years, and was the mother of nine children.]

ELEVENTHLY, To my daughter, Mary Bartlett, wife of Robert E. Bartlett, I give and bequeath, in like manner, for and during her natural life, free and exempt from the debts and liabilities of her present or future husband, a twelfth part of the net money arising from the sale of my property, heretofore directed to be sold, without any deductions and I hereby appoint my son Casey [Carey] W. George trustee of the money in this article to my daughter, Mary Bartlett. The money in this article contained (at the death of my daughter Mary Bartlett) shall pass to and become the property of the children, and the representatives of the children, of said Mary forever — (I mean by the representatives children, the children of children.) [Mary was 37 years old, married young, in fact she had been married 22 years and was the mother of eight children at the time her father wrote his will].

Eighteenthly, I hereby appoint my son David George trustee of the money devised to my daughter Margaret Awtrey, wife of Eldridge Awtrey, in the sixth article of this will and of all other moneys hereafter devised to her in this will.

Nineteenthly, After the death of my beloved wife, I desire and direct that the property given to her in the third and fourth articles of this will be sold by my executors hereinafter named and appointed, and that the net proceeds be equally divided among the above named legatees: that the shares of Margaret Awtrey, wife of Eldridge Awtrey, and of Mary Bartlett, wife of Robert E. Bartlett, go to them with the same restrictions that the sums heretofore devised to them in the Sixth and Eleventh articles of this will, and that the same individuals by [be] trustees of said moneys, that have heretofore been appointed to the sums of money heretofore bequeathed to the said Margaret and Mary.

However, taking a close-up look at David George’s will, a couple of things puzzle me. He had five daughters, and they were all married at the time his will was made, but he treated the daughters differently.

My Margaret was his eldest child and she was to have $400 deducted from her total amount of the estate “for lands given to her” and $10 deducted for a cow (her father evidently kept track of everything, and her inheritance at her death was to go to her children, plus her brother, David George Jr., was the trustee of this money. His daughter Mary (wife of Robert E. Bartlett) was left her inheritance without deductions, but her brother, Carey George, was to be the trustee of the money and upon her death, it was to go to her children.

His other daughters Martha (wife of John J. Stanley), Louisa (wife of Pleasant P. Johnson) and Sarah (wife of Francis M. Clayton) were left their inheritances without any deductions or restrictions. His seven sons were left their shares without any deductions or restrictions.

Now, it is not unusual to find inheritances being settled up this way, particularly when some of the heirs have received loans, land, or property that the others did not. And, I understand 19th-century culture whereby the men handled the money, but after a close-up look at this estate, my question is “Why were Margaret and Mary treated differently from their sisters?

The genealogyist part of me is delighted to have an ancestor who left a detailed will, naming all of his children, plus full names of all of the daughters’ husbands. However, the writer part of me has a gut feeling there is much more to this story, which means back to the records in the red clay country of Georgia to see if I can unearth the real reason why he treated Margaret and Mary this way.

23 April 2018

Walking in a Virtual Cemetery


Week 17 (April 23-29): Cemetery

Walking in a Virtual Cemetery

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley © 2018

There I was strolling through virtual cemeteries all over the country— updating and adding links and info to Find-A-Grave for my Hensley family. I was doing this from the comfort of my office, thousands of miles removed from where the actual gravesites exist. 
I tracked down the link to my great-grandpa Hensley’s grave at: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47043231?search=true
 And when I re-visited the site (it had been a while), I discovered someone had left this picture of a medal. So I looked again at the only picture I have of him, and while his medal doesn’t match this graphic — exactly, perhaps it solves the mystery and helps to date the photograph.

Civil War Campaign Medal—Army

The Civil War Campaign Medal was retroactively awarded to all members of the United States Military who served during the American Civil War. It was first authorized in 1905 for the 40th anniversary of the war's conclusion. Originally intended as a commemorative award, it was soon adopted as a military decoration due to its popularity in the senior military ranks, many of whom were Civil War Veterans.
The blue and gray ribbon drape is to commemorate the uniform colors of the Union and Confederate troops. The Army's version of the medal has a profile of President Abraham Lincoln on the medallion while the Navy and Marine Corps version depicts the battle between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. 
The Army Civil War Campaign Medal was established by the United States War Department on January 21, 1907, by General Orders Number 12. To qualify, a soldier had to serve between April 15, 1861, and April 9, 1865. In the U.S. Army, units with Confederate lineage use campaign streamers with the gray edge up and units with Union lineage use campaign streamers with the blue edge up. The closing date was extended to August 20, 1866, date of President Johnson's Proclamation ending the war. 
Although some recipients may have worn some form of the ribbon, the monies necessary to mint and issue the medal were not appropriated by Congress until 1956 – 91 years after the war ended. 
Handed down in our family is a picture of five Hensley brothers and it has long been a mystery as to the date it was taken and there’s some disagreements among family members as to which brothers are pictured therein. There’s no dispute that the one on the far right is Francis Marion Hensley (my ancestor) [1841-1923].
See my previous blog posts about him:


The photograph of interest must have been taken near Muskogee, Oklahoma where he lived, and his three brothers, who lived nearby are assumed to be included: They are: James (1856-1929), Charles F. (1857-1920) and Ralph (R. M.) 1851-1921. 
The disagreement is whether the other brother in the photograph is George (1835-1912) or Marble John (1851-1923), both of whom lived in Georgia. It appears to me that the men are lined up by their ages, with the eldest (Francis Marion) on the right. If so, next to him was Ralph, Marble John (I think), James and then Charles. Francis Marion would have been about 64, with Ralph 61 and the rest in their 50s, except, Charles, the youngest, who would have been about 48. 
The date of the photograph is probably about 1905-10 and my guesstimate now is that it was taken in 1905 — the 40th anniversary of the end of the Civil War — and perhaps because of a reunion of those soldiers and the Civil War Campaign Medal, although it is not clear to me that the medal was actually available that early. 
Of course, in genealogy, nothing is always positively, 100% accurate, and I’ve been known to be wrong. If you can verify the men and the date or prove otherwise, let me know.
I'll be in a cemetery -- somewhere.

17 April 2018

Stars Fell on Alabama


Week 16 (April 16-22): Storms

When Stars Fell on Alabama

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley © 2018

The family story passed down in one branch of my Autry/Autrey/Awtrey family is that our ancestor, Absalom, died at age 98 on the night the “stars fell on Alabama.”

Thanks to the Internet today, it is fairly easy to find information about this meteor storm, which astronomers estimate bombarded earth’s atmosphere with more than 30,000 meteors an hour on November 12-13, 1833. It was seen in Alabama and much of the rest of the United States. The sky was literally filled with fireworks and must have been a storm few forgot.

This storm was an unusually active display of Leonid meteors, specks of debris from the comet Tempel-Tuttle, often as small as grains of sand, that briefly streak across the sky as they burn up in the atmosphere.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stars_Fell_on_Alabama)

It’s a great story, but we have several Absaloms, and it was not my Absalom Autry/Autrey/Awtrey who died in Alabama the night the stars fell, although mine died in 1833, but it was in Henry County, Georgia and it was in March.

The Family Bible of Isaac Awtrey and Araminta Bankston, who married in 1800, has Absalom recorded as dying March ___1833 in his 83rd year of his age and also recorded is: Lucy (Isaac's mother) Awtrey died 12 Nov. 1818 in her ___ year of her age. The probate of Absalom’s estate was handled by his son, Isaac, in January 1834 in Henry County, Georgia. 

In the 1830 U.S. census of Henry County, Georgia, Isaac Awtrey is listed and in his household is a male 80-90 years of age, which would fit his father, Absalom, who was born 7 June  1750 on the Tar River in North Carolina—probably in Anson County (per his Revolutionary War pension application that was applied for 21 January 1833).

There is another Absalom Autry/Autrey/Awtrey living in Saint Clair County, Alabama in 1830 who is listed in the age bracket of 80-90. He probably is the same one who obtained land there in 1823 (U.S. General Land Office Records, 1776-2015) and deeded same land to this three sons — Enoch, James and George — “for love and affection” on 26 May 1824.

Whether he is the one who died the night stars fell on Alabama, I do not know, but I know when and where my Absalom Awtrey died in 1833.

14 April 2018


April 13 2018

Week 15—Taxes

A Taxing Time in Georgia
By Myra Vanderpool Gormley, © 2018

It is frustrating to lose an entire family between the 1860 and 1870 censuses, but it happens. Tracing Southern ancestors in this time period can be a challenge. Many families were displaced in the aftermath of the Civil War due to the war’s destruction, crop failures, miserable weather, and in Georgia, with the death of about one-third of its soldiers. Records that might solve genealogical mysteries simply are not always extant.

Reuben Kirby and his bride, Nancy Adeline Holley, were married early in 1854 in DeKalb County, Georgia. They appear in the 1860 census in Campbell County, Georgia, with their two young sons, Charles and William. The war comes along and they all vanish.
Campbell County, Georgia, ca 1895

Because Reuben was born about 1823, it is likely that he enlisted or was drafted in the military, but nothing has been found yet to prove conclusively that he participated. Because his parents and most of siblings removed to Alabama about 1860, that state’s records were successfully searched for his two brothers who served in the Confederate forces, but there’s no indication that Reuben moved to Alabama. There is another man of a similar name and age living in Georgia in this time period, but he is enumerated in the 1870 census and does not match my Reuben.

 It took a search in the Georgia Property Tax Digest, 1793-1892 to come to the rescue. Reuben appears in 1849 DeKalb County, Georgia next to his father, John, but with no property at that time. He is shown being taxed on the same 40 acres in 1861, 1862, and 1863 in what was then Campbell County, Georgia. A search in the U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 was negative for him.

Was he killed during the war, or did he die soon after 1863 (last found tax record for him)? What happened to his wife and two sons? No probate or guardianship papers have been found and none of this family has been located in the 1870 census — so far. In 1880, there is no sign of Charles or William, but a John Kirby, age 18, and listed as a nephew, is in the household of Nathaniel and Edna Humphries in Cobb County, Georgia. Edna turns out to be the sister of Nancy Adeline Holley who married Reuben Kirby. So, if this John Kirby, born about 1862 is a third son of Reuben and Nancy Adeline, where has he been for 18 years, where are his brothers, and how can I make the links?

The Georgia Property Tax Digest for 1890 reveals a Charles M. Kirby and a William Kirby assessed for property in Atlanta, but there’s no proof that they are sons of Reuben and Nancy Adeline. However, a search in Atlanta death records turned up a record on Charles Kirby. He died in 1925 and his death certificate lists his parents — Reuben and Nancy. His obituary in The Atlanta (Georgia) Constitution on 9 March 1925 mentions his wife, two sons, and a brother, Judge J. J. Kirby, of Douglasville (Douglas County, Georgia). The latter county adjoined old Campbell County.  

The Georgia death certificate of Judge John Jordan Kirby has a number of “don’t know” answers, including names of his parents, but with the cause of his death listed as “suicide” in 1932, additional digging uncovered information from a news article posted at Find-A-Grave website:




Monday morning about 9:30 o'clock the town of Douglasville was shocked, when the news came from the county jail, where he was confined, that Judge J. J. Kirby had taken his life by shooting himself through the heart. Judge Kirby had been put in jail several days before on a rum charge. Judge Kirby had been Justice of the Peace here for the past 20 years. He came to Douglasville from Villa Rica. He was twice married and leaves eight grown children by his first wife and one small son by his last wife.

As Benjamin Franklin supposedly said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Both can be invaluable to family historians.

05 April 2018

Wading into Murky Waters


Week 14: Maiden Aunt


Wading into Murky Waters

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ©2018

Sanky doesn’t fit any of the definitions of a “maiden aunt” — especially the “never married,” “prim,” and “old-fashioned” labels. The “no longer young” characterization never suited her either. She was always young — in looks, fashion, ideas and thinking.

She certainly was no maiden either, but what an aunt she was. She was my Auntie Mame (remember the best-selling 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis?) albeit she never married a millionaire. She was the joy of my childhood and young adulthood. Her laughter floods my memory even today.

 I called her Sanky because I was unable to pronounce her given name and she called me “Pup.” From the time I could remember she was always there for me, spoiling me with gifts (large and small), teaching, helping, encouraging and cheering me on — to learn all I could and be all I could be. Sanky taught me to leap over obstacles, conquer fear, laugh at failures, and see the humor in all situations. She never had any children of her own, but she mothered many.

Sanky was an avid reader and a pace-setter — way ahead of the crowd. Dancing to her own beat, she lived life like someone had left the gate open. Married first at 14 to the consternation of the family, she wore makeup, dyed her hair, drove an automobile (she never bothered to ever get a driver’s license) and followed the latest fashions — or created her own. I knew only one of her husbands, although I was aware of her first one — thanks to family gossip.  It would be years after she was gone that I discovered her many other marital records.

My Aunt Sanky about 1929
By the time I was born, she was a successful owner of a large beauty salon and later a grocery store and still later a real estate business, all accomplished with only an eighth-grade education. She worked hard, loved hard, and spread joy and laughter wherever she was. Color-blind, unbiased, and sharp-witted, she gave often, gladly and quietly to many.

Sanky died way too young at 61, but she left me a treasury of memories — plus some genealogical gems that beguile and befuddle as I wade into the murky waters of her past.  I can hear her laughing now.

29 March 2018

Ye Olde Homestead


Week 13: Homestead

 Ye Olde Homestead

 By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ©2018

It is good to have “rich and/or famous” relatives. They leave such magnificent genealogical trails to follow. Along the way, one sometimes finds a few crumbs of information about the lives of our lesser renowned families.

Dr. Elijah Lewis Connally
Dr. Elijah L. Connally (1837-1930) is a double first cousin 3 times removed — to be technical. We are related through our Connally and Peacock lines of Atlanta, Georgia. He married Mary Virginia Brown (1850-1927) in 1874. She was the daughter of four-term Governor Joseph E. Brown (1821-1894) and Elizabeth Grisham (1826-1896). He served as an assistant surgeon officer in the Confederate Army.

"I have often heard him [Elijah Lewis Connally] tell of the heavy shell fire in Pensacola, Florida, from the Yankee ships sent to destroy the forts and the entrance of Pensacola Bay, Nov. 22-23, 1861, he was in battle at Fortress McRae. Later he served in Mobile, Alabama; Fort Gaines, Fort Morgan, Spring Hill and Macon, Georgia. In May 1864 he was made Chief Medical Examiner of the Second Georgia Congressional District. In 1865 he was transferred to Macon, Georgia, where he was when the war ended.

“When the news came that Sherman was at the gates of Atlanta, horror and fear went through every heart. My father obtained leave of absence to come home to tell his people that they must not stay in the track of a ruthless army, in which there were many low-class soldiers. Sherman had said ‘War is hell’ and Sherman knew because he made it so. My father said his mother protested and he told her it would never do to subject nine girls, the little boys and the servants to the dangers of an invading horde of enemy troops.” . . .

". . . he was able to secure several large army wagons, which he was allowed to put to the use of his family to refugee away from the plantation at East Point, six miles south of Atlanta. The big wagons were brought to the farm house and were loaded with as much as they could possibly carry.

One of the uncles told me that at the time there were 12 or 14 fine horses on the plantation. As many provisions as possible were packed, then my father, the last thing, put his mother up on the best saddle horse and lifted the baby, Cora, 10 months old, into her lap. My grandmother wept and said, "Son, I do not to go. I will never see my home again." (Spalding, Mary Connally, 1943; Battle of Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia, Atlanta Historical Society).

In addition to standard genealogical material about this family, such as that found in censuses, marriages and cemetery records, there is a written history (quoted above) by one of his daughters. Civil War and World War I military records (Dr. Connally’s son, Captain Joseph Brown Connally, served during the latter, and died from gassing), city directories, passport applications, ship passenger lists, newspaper articles and pictures provide rich details about him and his family’s life.

In 1887, Dr. Connally acquired a large two-story home, that when originally built by John J. Thrasher, was surrounded by a 300-acre plantation. The house survived the Civil War, although it had a battle scar — the marking of a spent cannon ball on its north wall. In August 1864, the house had been the headquarters of General John B. Hood, commander-in-chief of all the Confederate forces in and around Atlanta. (Garrett, Franklin M., 1969, Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of its People and Events, volume I, Athens, Georgia, University of Georgia Press.)

Dr. Connally and his family lived in this house from 1887 until 1930. He graciously, albeit inadvertently, provided me with the narrative for today’s topic. His lovely home in Atlanta on Ashby Street was called The Homestead.

26 March 2018

A Fatal Decision


Week 12: Misfortune

A Fatal Decision

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ©2018

If 53-year-old David George Jr. had not gone to a corn-shucking one November night in 1873, he might have lived to see the many grandchildren produced by his numerous children. He had survived the Civil War, having served as a 2nd lieutenant in Confederate Army, worked for years as a blacksmith in Henry County, Georgia; appeared to have a comfortable life — even in the Reconstruction Era. And, then, misfortune struck.

Corn-shuckings were common the South prior to the Civil War, and evidently the tradition carried over into the 1870s and perhaps later, but those were happenings about which I knew nothing. However, genealogical research is a great educator, and a small reference in a book of somewhat unusual records revealed why I had been unable to find David George Jr. in the 1880 census, and perhaps the reason so many of his children left Georgia and went to Texas in the 1870s.

It reads: “On the night of 4 Nov. last in Henry County, David George was murdered by John Walker, colored. Issued 17 Dec. 1873.” (Robert Scott Davis, Jr., The Georgia Black Book: Morbid, Macabre, & Sometimes Disgusting Records of Genealogical Value (Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, Inc., 1982), p. 319. Taken from Executive Minutes 26 October 1870—3 March 1874; Microfilm Reel 171-41; Microfilm Library, Georgia Department of Archives and History, p. 758. This was a governor proclamation for the arrest of unknown felons or felons who had fled justice. The information in the book is abstracted genealogical data found in the proclamations as described in the Georgia Executive Minutes for 1869-1900.

A cousin shared some information she had discovered which revealed a bit more about this event:

“On the night of 4 November last in Henry County David George was murdered by John Walker, Colored, while at a corn shucking near Stockbridge, Georgia. Issued 17 December 1873.”

And in the Georgia Weekly Telegraph on 10 Nov. 1874, it was reported from the Rockdale Register that John Walker (Negro) was conficted [convicted] in Henry County [GA] Superior Court and was to be hung [sic] 18 December 1874.

What really happened at this corn-shucking and why? This “cold case” about David George’s murder remains one of the unsolved mysteries in my family tree. From time-to-time I stumble upon a new clue and continue the search, but always is the hope that I’ll make contact with a cousin who has more information about this misfortunate event.

Obviously, this is why my genealogy is never “done.”

15 March 2018

Lucky Escape


Week 11: Lucky

Lucky Escape: Fleeing up the Columbia River

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ©2018

On March 26, 1856, Yakama, Klickitat, and Cascades tribes attacked American settlers who were living along the Cascade Rapids on the Columbia River in Washington Territory. Fourteen settlers and three soldiers were killed. My family was lucky — they escaped on the steamer Mary.

When the Indians attacked that morning, many settlers took shelter in a sturdy, two-story store at the Upper Cascades, owned by brothers Daniel and Putnam Bradford. Fortunately, especially for my family, the Indians failed to trap the two steamers Mary and Wasco, above the rapids. The escape of the Mary was a remarkable episode in Pacific Northwest history. The boat picked up Vanderpool and Sheppard families, who came out to her in skiffs, and then she steamed rapidly up the river to get help for the others. The Mary was not a luxury steamer, but rather was built for hard work in the swift waters of the mid-Columbia River. She also was rather shallow because of the need to be able to land at many places along the river to pick up and unload passengers, mail and freight in the rapidly growing Pacific Northwest.

History records this event as the Cascades Massacre (March 26-28, 1856) and notes that warriors of the Yakama and Cascade tribes, angered over broken treaties, and in an attempt to repel white settlers from their land, attacked settlers living near the Cascades Rapids of the Columbia River. The next day, on March 27th, 20 to 40 mounted dragoons, under Lieutenant Phil Sheridan, arrived aboard the steamer Belle from Fort Vancouver. The Yakama fled, leaving the Cascade behind, who surrendered.

For scenes and more history about this area, see:

Francis Marion Vanderpool (called Marion) married Nancy Priscilla Shepard (daughter of Henry Shepard) in January of 1853 (Lockley, Fred, and Mike Helm. Conversations with Pioneer Women. Eugene, Or: Rainy Day Press, 1981, p. 159)  and they first set up housekeeping on the Washington Territory side of the Columbia River — near what’s now the town of Stevenson.

·         Contributor: William E. Hill
·         Article Title: Oregon Trail
·         Website Name: Encyclopædia Britannica
·         Publisher: Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.
·         Date Published: February 22, 2017
·         Access Date: March 05, 2018

Marion and Nancy made the trip to the Pacific Northwest on the Oregon Trail in 1852, but whether they were in the same wagon train or not is not known, but it is possible that’s how they met. Nancy was born in Jefferson County, Iowa. Marion, although born in North Carolina, had moved to the Midwest by the early 1840s. He appears twice in the 1850 federal census — enumerated on 26 August with his father, siblings and his new stepmother, who was same age as Marion, in Dade County, Missouri, and again on 7 November in Wayne County, Iowa with relatives there. His mother (Polly Fuson) died 18 August 1849 in Decatur County, Iowa. His father (William Vanderpool), left with 10 children ranging in ages from an infant to Marion, then about 20 years of age, remarried quickly. Whether this remarriage had anything to do with Marion deciding to go to the Oregon country is not known. After all, he was a young, single man with carpentry skills — and the Oregon and Gold Rush fevers were especially prevalent in Iowa and Missouri at the time. Ironically, Nancy lost her mother (Elizabeth Mattern) in 1849 also.

The emigration year of 1852 was one of much illness and death on the trail. Most of the deaths were attributed to cholera.  However, both Marion and Nancy were lucky — they made it safely to Oregon. The diaries and journals available for that year mention seeing wagons "as far as the eye can see" both ahead and behind.  According to The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants on the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60, by John D. Unruh Jr., (published by the University of Illinois Press in 1979), it’s estimated that more than 10,000 started out for Oregon in 1852, plus about 50,000 headed to California, and 10,000 for Utah. How many actually arrived in the Oregon Territory that year is not known, but my family was among those who made the trip successfully.

By 1852 a considerable community had developed on the north side of the Columbia River, just a mile or so west of Stevenson. Its existence came about largely because of its proximity to the upper end of unnavigable water at the Cascades rapids. At this point, all travel continued by portage for some four miles around the Cascades on the north (Washington) side of the river, either by a tramway that had been recently constructed or, more commonly, by wagon road. Mary, the first active steamer on the mid-Columbia River was finished and ready for launching on September 12, 1853, and luckily for my family she was there to rescue them on that fateful day in 1856.

11 March 2018

Exploits of a Tiger Mom in Captivity


Week 10: Strong Woman

Exploits of a Tiger Mom in Captivity

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ©2018

Catherine Sea (See/Zeh) appears in various publications pertaining to the history of Augusta County, Virginia, Bouquet’s Expedition, and the Muddy Creek Massacre. The Shawnee called her “Fighting Squaw” for her defiance of a warrior and for successfully running the gauntlet. I think of her more as a Tiger Mom, fighting to save her children and herself.

Catherine Sea was one of the approximately 200 captives whose release was obtained by Col. Henry Bouquet. Her name appears among those released at Fort Pitt in December 1764. She had been a captive of the Shawnee since July 15, 1763. On that day, a party of 80 or 90 Shawnees arrived at Muddy Creek (Augusta County, Virginia) where several scattered families, including the Seas, were living. The Indians killed and scalped Catherine’s husband, Fredrick Sea, and the other men, then took the women and children prisoners and forced them to go to Ohio.

Family stories claim that the Sea children held up [on the long trek to Ohio] for two to three days. But, the smallest, John, was quite weak and Catherine, his mother, feared for his life. Seeing a warrior riding their stolen horse, Catherine indicated to him that she wanted it. When he refused, she picked up a club and attempted to knock him off the horse. About to kill her, the amused Indians prevented the warrior from doing so, calling her a “fighting squaw."

Once they reached the Indian campgrounds in what is now Ross County, Ohio, the Shawnee had a celebration. The women were forced to sing for them, and Catherine was called upon to run the gauntlet. Grabbing a stick she began making whirling moves and swinging the stick, which pleased the Indians. Another family legend claims that Catherine was able to iniquitously secure places for her children so they could sleep inside when the weather became cold. However, through the years, the history, the legends, and the genealogical data about her have become increasingly intermingled and distorted. Historically, she lives on in such publications as “Indian Captives Released by Colonel Bouquet.”[i]

She also is found in many family trees — in print and online. The latter require careful examination as few of them are sourced and almost all of them have the “wrong” Catherine. See an earlier blog of mine about this:  “Fighting Squaw.”

So who was this Catherine Sea? It has long been claim that her maiden name was Vanderpool, but nothing in primary sources has been found to substantiate this — such as a marriage record, or a mention in deeds, or in a will of her purported father. However, proximity places a Vanderpool family in Augusta County, Virginia and “on the Greenbrier (river)” in the right time period. That family was Abraham Vanderpool’s and he was the only one of that name who settled there. He had a daughter named Catherine. This Abraham Vanderpool was from the Newark, New Jersey area, but he had been baptized 9 February 1709 in the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany, New York.[ii] His parents and the family removed to New Jersey ca 1725-30.

Abraham married first Jannetje Weibling about 1733, probably in New Jersey and by her had six children, among whom was Catherine “Kitty” Vanderpool who was baptized 14 May 1738 in the Second River Dutch Reformed Church (Second River) in Belleville, Essex County, New Jersey.[iii] In the early 1740s, Abraham and Jannetje removed to the frontier of Virginia, living on the South Branch and the Greenbrier. Three sons — Wynant (named for Abraham’s father), William and John — are believed to have been born to them in the 1740s in what was then Augusta County, but no birth records have been located and probably do not exist. Settlers on the American frontier in the mid-18th century had more pressing needs than the recording of vital records.

Jannetje died about 1747 as Abraham married secondly to a Rebecca [—?—] whose surname is unknown. They were married about 1748 and in 1751 they sold 430 acres in Augusta County[iv] and in 1753 are listed as living on the Greenbrier (River)[v]. The last known record of Abraham Vanderpool in Virginia is when he is in Winchester in May 1757. By August of that year he appears in land records in Orange County, North Carolina.[vi] He remained in North Carolina until about 1778 when he and Rebecca removed to what’s now Tennessee, where they both died.

His daughter, Catharine “Kitty,” grew up on the frontier of Virginia and it is much more likely that she was the “Fighting Squaw” — a 25-year-old rather than the older Catherine Vanderpool many family trees have claimed. The Catherine Vanderpool who was bp. 1725 in New York City was a younger sister of Abraham Vanderpool and the paternal aunt of the younger Catherine. The older Catherine grew up in the Newark, New Jersey area and evidence points to her having married William Sandfort, as his second wife, in 1741 in Bergen County, New Jersey. That locality is near where her parents and most of her siblings lived. Her brother, Abraham, was the only one out on the Virginia frontier.

Colonel Bouquet negotiating the release
of the Indian captives 1764-1765.
The problem with so many family trees is that they have assumed that the Catherine Vanderpool, bp. 1725, was the wife of Fredrick Sea, and since most of Fredrick’s known children were born in the 1740s and 1750s, her name and age to be the wife and mother “fits,” BUT (always the big problem in genealogy), what’s been overlooked is that Fredrick Sea married first Maria Ottilia Stemple 22 May 1744 in Pennsylvania,[vii] and while no marriage record has yet been found for Fredrick Sea and Catherine Vanderpool (bp. 1738), she probably was his second wife, the mother of his younger children and stepmother to his older ones. This makes sense when you compare the ages of the SEA children that are given on the “Indian Captives Released by Colonel Bouquet” in 1764-1765. They were: Peggy, 19; Sally, 10 and Mary 7 (all listed as taken from the Greenbrier, which helps distinguish them). There’s also a John Sea is listed as age 7. These 4 SEAs are on the G list of the captives. The other SEAs listed are: Catherine, George, Michael and Mary. The children born between 1745 and about 1754 most likely are children of Maria Ottillia Stemple, the first wife of Frederick Sea. But, the children — John, George, Mary, and Sally, who were born ca 1755 to 1761, would be Catherine Vanderpool’s children.

Historians and genealogists have assumed that all of the SEA children on the captive lists were the children of Catherine, the wife of Fredrick in 1763. However, it is my conclusion that some of them are her children, but others are her stepchildren — and they all deserve to be recognized properly, even though Catherine apparently was a Tiger Mom to all of them. 

[i] The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, Volume 39, Number 3, Fall 1956. Available in PDF. https://journals.psu.edu/sph/article/view/2529/2362

[ii] Dutch Settlers Society of Albany, Yearbook, Volume 41 (Albany, New York  1966-1968), p. 13

[iii] Genealogy Magazine of New Jersey, Vols. 3 and 4: Catharine bp. 14 May 1738; d/o Abraham Vander Poel and Jannetje Wibling, Second River (Belleville) Reform Church, 1727-1794, Belleville, Essex County, New Jersey.

[iv] Lyman Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, 1745-1800, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 3 volumes, 1912-1913, reprint, 1965), Virginia Land, Marriage, and Probate Records, 1639-1850 extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, Virginia, Vol. 1, p. 423.
“25th May, 1751. Abraham Vanderpool  and Rebecca to George Yoccum (Yoccomb), No. 10 held by patent of Lord Fairfax, 19th October, 1748, on ye south fork of ye Wappaconee (or) Great South Branch of Potomac, 430 acres. Endorsed and delivered to James Machir for George Harnost, Sr., one of the heirs of the grantee, 16th July, 1806. Teste: Wm. White, Thomas Moore.”

[v] Chalkley, p.  307. “MAY, 1753. Rogers and Sutton vs. Vanderpool.--Not executed by reason Abraham Vanderpool lives on Greenbryer.”

[vi] Orange County [N.C.] Records, Vol. V, Granville Proprietary Land Office, Deeds & Surveys, 1752-1760, edited by William D. Bennett, CG (privately published, NC: Raleigh, 1989). Abraham Vanderpool (1709-1778) removed to Orange County, NC area by 20 August 1757 where he is found as a Sworn Chain Carrier on that date. (353. 25 July 1760. Harmon Husband, planter, 10 schillings, on waters of Sandy Cr. and Rocky R. called Level's Addition Tract . . . surveyed 20 August 1757, Abraham Vanderpool and Joseph York, SCC.) [p. 120.] referencing also N. C. Patent Book 14:409

[vii] Pennsylvania, Lutheran Baptisms and Marriages, 1730-1799 [database online], Provo, UT, USA. Ancestry.com Operations Inc. 2000. Original data: Early Lutheran Baptisms and Marriages in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, PA, USA: n.p., 1896. John Friederich Zeh, marriage date: 22 May 1744; marriage place: Swatara, Pennsylvania; spouse: Maria Ottilia Stempel.