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As I’ve learned more about my ancestors I’ve also taken some time to follow the branches of the tree down, learning about their siblings’ descendants. I’ve come across some interesting stories; this is part of a recurring series of diaries about distant cousins I never knew.

Tracing down the lines of the old New England ancestors I didn’t know I had, I’ve come across some very interesting stories. This one is one of my personal favorites.

My great-great-grandfather, Joseph, was born and raised in the small town of Ripton, Vermont, just east of Middlebury. Both sets of Joseph’s grandparents had been born in New Hampshire but later settled in the Eastern Townships area just over the border in Québec in the early 1800s, where Joseph’s parents married in 1834. Thus Joseph’s father was born in Québec and his mother, born in New Hampshire, had moved there as a very small child.

Soon after their marriage, Joseph’s parents moved back to the United States, settling in Ripton. His mother’s parents soon joined them. Joseph’s father died before he was born, and he spent his childhood with his mother, older brother and sister, and maternal grandparents. Joseph’s mother, Fanny, had four younger siblings, all born in Québec. Last summer I tried to trace them, with some success, and following the branches down led to this fascinating story about a very smart man with many interesting ideas. Follow me below the orange Challah bread to hear more.

The first of Joseph’s mother’s siblings I located was his Uncle Charles, Fanny’s oldest brother. Charles settled with his Québec-born wife Sophronia in Ripton as well, and they had five children. In November 1852, just over 150 years ago, Charles was killed in an unfortunate hunting accident (because, you know, nobody ever gets hurt by guns accidentally). Sophronia was left to raise the children, who ranged in age from nine months (their daughter Charla, whom we shall meet again shortly) to eight years.

Charles's hunting accident is reported in the paper
In the 1860 census Sophronia is shown as a live-in servant for a wealthy couple in Middlebury, the shire town to the west and home of Middlebury College. Her children were living back in Ripton with her mother and, on the farm next door, her dead husband’s father. Sophronia remarried and had several more children, and her youngest two daughters, Sophia and Charla, who were seventeen and thirteen, moved to Lowell, Massachusetts to work in the textile mills. In 1868 19-year-old Sophia caught the eye of one James B. Emerson, an engineer of 45, and soon became his third wife.
James B. Emerson: the man, the engineer, the iconoclast
James B. Emerson was quite a character and lived an odd life. He was born January 2, 1823 in New Hampshire. His ancestors, as he told it, had been Congregationalist ministers in New Hampshire for several generations, but he himself was restless. He left his farm town for a merchant ship and spent ten years as a sailor out of whaling capital New Bedford, Massachusetts. In between journeys he married his first wife Sarah, who it seems was the love of his life, and with whom he is buried. They had a daughter, Ella, in 1849.

Finding seagoing life incompatible with family life, James moved his wife and daughter to Worcester, Massachusetts, where a second daughter, Hattie, was born in 1857. Keenly intelligent but lacking in formal education, James happened by chance on his life’s work in Worcester. The city is located on the Blackstone, an early industrial river due to its unusually strong current, and the mechanically inclined James became a passionate student of the dams and a self-taught expert on water turbines.

Measuring water power was James B. Emerson's ultimate vocation. Here are the Holyoke (South Hadley) Falls, where he did his work for the last 25 years of his life.
James and his family moved next to East Boston, where he endeavored to market his patented invention, a new kind of ship’s windlass he had designed while at sea. In East Boston the Emersons lived just down the street from President Kennedy’s grandfather, Patrick J. Kennedy, who was James’s daughter Hattie’s age. Sadly, little Hattie (called "Prattling Hattie") died of scarlet fever in September 1860. She was only three. Her parents buried her in their hometown of Newport, New Hampshire. Movingly, because she was afraid of the dark they buried her with isinglass over her grave (since covered with cement).

Two years later, in 1862 (just after another daughter, Minnie, was born), James’s wife Sarah also died, of tuberculosis. One year later the new baby Minnie died as well, and was buried in New Hampshire near her mother and sister. Disease was rampant in East Boston at the time, cholera having claimed Patrick J. Kennedy’s immigrant father among its many victims in those years.

After the deaths of his daughters and wife, James left East Boston, taking a job as an engineer in Lowell. Lowell was the nation’s largest textile center at the time, very much dependent on water power, and James developed a testing flume to measure the efficiency of various water wheels then being marketed. His major contribution was adding a “Prony break” (I don’t know either) to the existing testing flume, which apparently was a stroke of genius.

In November 1863, not long after arriving in Lowell, James married a woman who came from a prominent family in Belfast, Maine. Like his first wife, her name was Sarah and she was thirty-six years old at the time. (Her grandfather, the last surviving Revolutionary War veteran in Maine, lived to be over 100 and was still living when Sarah married James B. Emerson).

The marriage appears to have been a bad match, for within three years this second Sarah had fled back to her native Belfast, Maine. It is possible she and James’s surviving daughter, fourteen at the time of the marriage, did not get along. Sarah soon married a widower from a prominent local family whose first wife had been a cousin of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and remained a resident of Belfast until her death in 1911. Whether she ever formally divorced James B. Emerson or they lived as bigamists, I can’t say.

Lowell in those days was populated by thousands of “mill girls,” single young women who worked for low wages, many of them from New England farm families like Sophia and Charla. Perhaps determined not to have another wife like his second Sarah, James turned instead to the poor young mill girl Sophia. She was twenty-five years younger than he, in fact not even half his age and only a few months older than his daughter Ella. Nonetheless, they married in 1868.

James’s reputation as an engineer had grown considerably during his years in Lowell. After conducting his first Lowell tests, which were a breakthrough in water power science, James purchased and ran the flume himself as a profitable enterprise. In 1870 he was offered the chance to move his highly successful testing flume to the Connecticut River at Holyoke, near Springfield in western Massachusetts. Holyoke had become a manufacturing center because the Connecticut River, New England’s largest, has more water power at Holyoke’s falls than earlier industrial powerhouses Lowell and Lawrence have combined. A rare New England city with a grid layout, Holyoke was a planned industrial community from the start, and still has an incredible collection of 19th century industrial buildings.

Again, James’s testing flume proved significantly more effective than the previous design. So highly regarded was his testing that designers of water wheels from all over the country more or less had to bring their inventions to Holyoke for him to test. James was in charge of the testing flume at Holyoke until about 1880, and after that remained active in the field through writing and serving as an expert consultant and witness. He built a handsome Victorian house in Willimansett, in the neighboring city of Chicopee, where he remained the rest of his life and became something of a local celebrity. He and Sophia had three children there.

James’s first daughter, Ella, married in the early 1870s and moved away. At this point he asked his sister-in-law Charla, who had moved from Lowell to Willimansett with them, to be his assistant for his many experiments, including tests of turbines he was invited to conduct all over the nation. James, who claimed he only needed four hours of sleep a night, was a constant inventor and always working on projects. Soon, his big project was his Treatise Relative to the Testing of Water-Wheels and Machinery, also of Inventions, Studies, and Experiments, with Suggestions from a Life's Experience, the first edition of which was published in 1878. Between then and 1894, five more editions would follow.

A most interesting little book
It is a lengthy but fascinating work, even for those (like me) who have little knowledge of, or interest in, “water-wheels and machinery.” James B. Emerson was a man of many strong and unique opinions, such that his treatise is believed to be the only engineering textbook ever banned by the Roman Catholic Church!

Why? In addition to discussions of water-works and scientific tutorials on other topics (like silk, flour milling, railroads, etc.), the book is liberally sprinkled with bold and witty digressions on a wide range of subjects. They appear throughout the book with no apparent rhyme or reason, apparently because Emerson thought they would attract readers who might then learn something about water works in the process. In many ways, James was far ahead of his time:

• He was an early feminist. Charla, my great-great-grandfather’s first cousin, had been responsible for all the calculations in his experiments and recording the test results, Emerson emphasized that she had done wonderfully: “Without exception Charla was the most expeditious mathematician and best adapted for the purpose of any one I have ever known engaged in the work.” This, he said, disproved the theory that women were unsuited to math and science. Hear that, Larry Summers?
• He also argued for women’s suffrage and wrote “Free woman from her bondage of conventionalism and long petticoats, encourage her to think and talk of something besides dress, give her equal rights with man.” He also advocated liberal divorce (perhaps from experience) and more widespread nudity.

Charla, my distant cousin and a great keeper of statistics
Some of Charla's calculations
• A frequent expert witness in court, he had little good to say about the legal system. He believed it contrary to “knowledge and justice,” and had little use for lawyers adept at winning verdicts on technicalities, particularly for corporations.
• The medical profession fared no better, as he noted that there were more doctors and medicines than ever, but people were sicker. He also bitterly noted that the doctors had been unable to save his young daughter or first wife, and had behaved abominably in both cases.
Emerson's sarcastic "cross-examination" of the typical expert witness in engineering
• He had no use for the Bible as a moral guide, calling it inconsistent and full of allegory for the benefit of primitive and superstitious people.
• He likewise loathed organized religion, devoting almost half the book to a critique of conventional religion and a review of all sorts of religious traditions from all around the world and all times. Catholicism and Islam, in particular, did not come out well, but neither did the mainline Protestant denominations. He called for taxation of churches.
A common sight: irreverence from Emerson
• Christianity in general he called an “atrocious delusion” responsible for much human suffering but no improvement in human morals, in a section entitled “What Good has Christianity ever Done?.” He argued that soon “any religion irreconcilable with reason will have no place except with the ignorant or venal.” I think he’d be disappointed with the nation on this front.
• He called out the Victorian era for its moralistic hypocrisy, writing “Expurgate the atrocity and obscenity of the Bible and only spiritualism would remain. Expurgate what at this day cannot publicly be read from Shakespeare’s works, and the pith is gone. Expurgate the loathsome filthiness from Rabelais’ description of the Christianity of his time, and only the covers of his book remain.” Thus, though not a drinker himself, he strongly opposed Prohibition.
More anti-religion commentary
• He believed in a direct relationship with God and was an ardent spiritualist. A large section of the book is devoted to describing séances held with Sophia and Charla, and reprinting his correspondence with people far and wide whose dead relatives and neighbors he claimed to have communicated with via séance and telegram. He also claimed mind reading and predictive powers.
Emerson claimed to communicate with the dead at seances, and wrote their survivors to prove they once had existed
He also claimed to have been warned by a spirit that his wife's (and Charla's) brother would die
• A favorite political observation: “I voted…for Lincoln twice, and still believe [he] was the best man ever elected to the presidency. The abolition of slavery was caused by the spontaneous rising of the masses to blot out an institution of such barbarism. Nominally it was done as the Republican party, but…then the residuum crystallized into the real Republican party, a party for power and plunder…May the shadow of the Republican party become less and a better take its place.” (Don’t worry, he hated the Democrats too.)

James B. Emerson’s sarcastic wit is quite fun. While telling readers he “never inquired” if he was related to Ralph Waldo Emerson, he recounts a story about his great-grandfather, Deacon James Emerson. One Sunday the deacon’s wife asked him to chase a fox away from a rabbit it was hunting. Great-grandfather James “declined upon the plea that it would be breaking the Sabbath. The wife queried whether it was not laziness instead of piety that prevailed.”

Emerson also published in the next edition, without identifying her, a letter from his stepmother that criticized all the editorializing in his book. In response to a critical review in the Holyoke Democrat, which he reprinted and which is funny in its own right, Emerson replied “Probably a copy of the Holyoke Democrat was never seen a mile from its place of publication unless, perhaps, when used as a wrapper for some workingman’s overalls.”

The Holyoke Democrat tweaks Emerson.
And Emerson tweaks them right back. Below, his stepmother gives her view on his book.
The book also describes some of Emerson’s many inventions, including an improved heating system for train cars and a device for women to learn to swim. Men, he said, could learn by stripping down to their skivvies and swimming whenever they felt like it. Women, bound by hoop skirts and Victorian mores, could not. Thus they never learned to swim and often drowned when caught in a shipwreck. Emerson therefore proposed a contraption similar to a hand-powered bicycle chain. By using the device at home women could learn to “swim” because, if the skills were needed, they would retain the muscle memory.
Emerson's invention to teach women to swim
This extraordinary man died of Bright's disease on July 6, 1896 and was buried in New Hampshire with his first wife. His widow, Sophia, remained in the Willimansett house and died there more than 30 years later, in the late 1920s. His children were affected by him, it is clear. His surviving daughters both married engineers and his youngest son also patented several inventions. James and Sophia's grandson, about whom I’ll write sometime, also led a very interesting life.

Unlike Sophia Adams Emerson, Charla did not stay in Willimansett. Forty-four and unmarried when James B. Emerson died, she soon moved to Lynn on the other side of Massachusetts. There she was a dressmaker and then operated a variety store. She never married and I wonder if her relationship with James strained her relationship with her sister. In the 1920s, when she was past seventy, Charla returned to the part of Vermont where she was born. She lived her last years in a Mary Elizabeth McDowell home, and died seventy-six years ago this week, on February 3, 1937, two weeks before her 85th birthday.

Originally posted to Genealogy and Family History Community on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 08:52 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (38+ / 0-)

    Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

    by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 08:52:13 AM PST

  •  My custom tip jar disappeared (16+ / 0-)

    Oh well. I wanted to give a shout-out for my grandfather's 100th birthday today, for Little Eva's birthday this past Tuesday (118!), for my other great-grandmother Elizabeth's birthday on February 2 (121).

    And for the blizzard just starting here. Right now we have outside about one inch of the 18-30 inches of snow projected by tomorrow afternoon.

    Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

    by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 09:44:25 AM PST

    •  Happy Birthday Little Eva, Elizabeth & gramps! (9+ / 0-)

      Hopefully you've amassed a good supply of birthday cake to celebrate (not to mention other essentials).  I don't think you're going to be going outside anytime soon.

      Take care of yourself this weekend!

      •  I'll be out there (8+ / 0-)

        shoveling this afternoon and tonight so I can salt and not have to life 2 feet of snow all at once. Once the worst of it stops I'll enjoy walking around town to explore our winter wonderland!

        Two years ago we had a fair amount of snow. Multiple big storms. Last year hardly anything and this year only a couple of dustings until this one. Looks like we're going to catch up in a big way.

        Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

        by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 10:16:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, yes! Happy Birthday Little Eva, Elizabeth (5+ / 0-)

        and Grandpa too!

        Once again your diary delights.
        You have an incredible talent for research and pulling it all together in ways that are so pleasing.

        From Charles' unfortunate end,the fates of various women and children, uncovering Mr. Emerson's apparent native wisdom which led him to a singularly successful career to the mystery of Charla, today's is another compelling read.

        We'll be watching the storm.  Stay safe!

        •  Thanks! (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jim H, edwardssl, brook, figbash

          I just went out to shovel and clear the car about an hour/hour and a half ago. Spread some salt. Doesn't matter, we've had another three inches since. When it gets to six inches or so, I'll shovel again so it won't be as bad in the morning. Fun, fun, fun.

          Actually, other than the shoveling I love it. We have a fire going and it will be a joy to walk around in a pristine landscape for a couple of days without all the cars. I was in Brooklyn when the blizzard hit just after Christmas 2010. Car was totally blocked in and covered on the street for about 5 days. But walking the streets was blissful.

          Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:21:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Emerson was an interesting guy. (10+ / 0-)

    He reminds me of my stepfather - very sharp with his sarcastic wit.  On a number of occasions, it took me over an hour to figure out he had just insulted me!

    But I love him, anyway :-)

    I have to wonder, did Emerson actually sell any of those swimming machines?  And didn't they rust?  Or did they have galvanized steel back then?

    Love your diaries - always iintriguing characters!

  •  Time for our weekly GFHC Open Thread Volunteer (7+ / 0-)

    call.

    Current schedule

    Feb 15  GrumpyOldGeek
    Feb 22  fenway49
    Mar 1    Jim H
    Mar 8    open for adoption
    Mar 15  open for adoption

    Anyone want to take an open date?  It's easy, even if you haven't done one before.  We'll show you how!

    Volunteers?

  •  Thank you, fenway, for another fascinating story. (11+ / 0-)

    It sounds to me exactly like something T. C. Boyle could have dreamed up. Once again, life imitates art.

    Also, since this is Open Thread day, I come begging assistance from the experts in photo-dating here.

    I found this photo attached to the entry for one of my Grands on the Find-A-Grave website. Now it is beginning to make its way to various trees on Ancestry.com. I contend that it cannot possibly be of the person it is purported to be as he died in backwoods Illinois in 1840.

    wooten harris - purportedly

    What do you think?

    Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

    by figbash on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 10:31:09 AM PST

    •  oh you gonna need someone (8+ / 0-)

      who's way more of history geek than me, lol, but my off the cuff guess is your instincts are right.

      with a quick google I find:

      Daguerreotype: 1839 - History Begins
      1839 is recognized as the dawn of photographic history, even though many people were working on various techniques for nearly 30 years prior.
      tintypes and paper card photos for the masses didnt come along til the 1860's according to that source.

      If I can't dance I don't want to be part of your revolution. ~ Emma Goldman

      by Lady Libertine on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 10:39:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not an expert (7+ / 0-)

      but by the clothes and clarity of image I'd place that photo well after 1840.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 10:46:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm sure you are right. (7+ / 0-)

        The clothes don't look right and the haircut is too "clean." The man this photo is purported to be of was a frontiersman, fought in the Revolutionary War, followed the good land west and north until he "removed" to Bond Co. IL in the late 1820s. I believe he would have worn a beard and probably longish hair . Barbers would have been a luxury and so would have been the kind of scissors that would be needed for such a clean cut look.

        Looks to me more like something from the 1890s or early 1900s.

        It aggravates me a little bit that the person who posted this photo won't answer my questions about its provenance. That's to say nothing of a comment left by someone who said she was this person's GGGG-Granddaughter saying "I'm so glad to see this picture. Wooten Harris was not buried in the Harris Cemetery."  That's it?  Everything I've ever seen on Wooten says he was buried in the Harris Cemetery. I saw his marker there in October. So what the heck is the rest of the story? She hasn't answered my email either.  Do any of you run across stuff like this? Very frustrating...

        Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

        by figbash on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 11:11:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My thought too (8+ / 0-)

          1890s-early 1900s. Especially on the frontier, it doesn't look right for before 1840.

          I've had some difficult people. One woman on ancestry.com said "you're no relation of mine" because her tree didn't include the sibling I descend from, even though town records and a published genealogy show the descent.

          I've also had one "family association" deny me membership because my ancestor wasn't in the published genealogy from 1885 or something. Again, I've got town records, Revolutionary War pension files, etc. They don't care. So the hell with 'em.

          But many more people have been helpful and happy to hear from me.

          Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 11:21:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Likely not possible (6+ / 0-)

      There wasn't anything much besides daguerrotypes by 1840, which that photograph is definitely not.  Photographs from 1840 are exceedingly rare.  Photography hadn't spread widely either.  People didn't much think that getting their picture taken was something to do back then.  Unless you're wrong about the death date, it likely is a picture of someone else.

      Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

      by Land of Enchantment on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 12:00:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The person in question (7+ / 0-)

        it seems, was born in early 1759 and fought in the American Revolution. I have confidence in figbash's death date and he'd have been 81 then. Not likely he lived long enough to wear those clothes and take this picture.

        My guess is it's either the grandson of the same name (1823-1901) or someone else entirely and a screw-up. The person who posted it on find-a-grave said she was new to this stuff.

        I had someone on ancestry who used my grandfather's DOB and death for her husband's grandfather. Same name, save middle initial, and same approximate lifespan. The one she wanted lived about 10 miles away and was born 3 years later.

        Even after I found it for her, she didn't believe me. Insisted she had the right dates. I told her, "I'm holding my grandfather's death certificate in my hand. I was at his funeral. We celebrated his birthday every year. I know those dates are MY grandfather." She didn't care.

        Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

        by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 12:20:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Extraterrestrial technology or the wrong person (7+ / 0-)

      The sepia tone, in this case, was added by a separate post-processing step. And it was a very sloppy job. The lower left corner shows that the sepia wash was just splashed on the print. The top part of the picture is either physically damaged or the squeegee used to spread the sepia evenly wasn't done evenly.

      Sepia tones were popular starting in about 1895. They're still done today. The peak popularity was between 1895 and 1920.

      My guess is that this photo is from later in that period, perhaps as late as the 1930's.

      The very early pictures that show sepia tones were due to the deteriorating chemicals used in the printing process. The original prints were black and white but showed their age over time. Thus, the idea that sepia tones showed that a picture was old became popular. If this were a picture from that era (1858-1895-ish), the sepia tones would be even throughout without a hint of post-processing.

      Besides, the pressed suit, the shirt collar style, the machine-made buttonholes, and the glasses are straight out of the 20's or 30's.

      "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

      by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 03:46:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  1920s (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jim H, edwardssl, GrumpyOldGeek, brook, figbash

        would rule out my hypothesis that it's the grandson Wooten Harris (1823-1901). Maybe someone just messed up.

        Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

        by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:52:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Another clue (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          edwardssl, brook, figbash, fenway49

          His glasses are deliberately tilted to prevent light reflections. IMO, the shadows reveal a couple of light sources. This means using electric floodlights which weren't available until 1910-1915 or so. Soft, diffused floodlights were even later than that.

          I doubt that this is the grandson.

          "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

          by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 08:16:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Not that it's needed, but... (6+ / 0-)

      ...I concur with my esteemed colleagues here who exclaim "Pshaw!" at the notion of a date of 1840 for this photograph. :-)

      There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

      by slksfca on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:34:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  With that I feel perfectly confident in gently (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        brook, fenway49, edwardssl

        suggesting to the person who posted the pic to Wooten Harris's (1759-1840) memorial on the Harris Cemetery, Fayette Co, IL that the picture she has added cannot be of the person she has posted it to.

        So, pshaw to  her..... nicely.

        Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

        by figbash on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 08:47:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I think most likely after 1865-70. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brook, figbash, fenway49, edwardssl

      Even though a few studio photographs were made a bit earlier than that, it was not common. For a downstate man to have access to such a studio suggests a time when the photo studio market was well saturated by businesses.

      By his suit, it could be even later. I have been working on old family photos and find that the suits do have distinctive collar differences at times. This suit is much more in the recent style and therefore likely not as early as might be guessed.

      But for a photo story that I think is funny, I found a common ancestor on ancestry.com for whom someone had posted a photo. This man died in 1754. The woman who posted it had a comment that she had been left a box of photos from her father's family (a divorced father, I think) and her mom told her they were old people from her dad's family. So she just started matching them to names . . .

      Ha,ha. I did leave her a comment about the very first photo being taken in 1827 or so, and that this one was a studio photo likely from the 1870s, with a typical plush background.
      I also pointed out that he was not wearing knee breeches as might have been the case in 1750, but she never responded.

      Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

      by murasaki on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 09:12:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am sending a big round of applause to (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brook, liz dexic, fenway49, edwardssl

      everyone who has helped me out with this.

      I was certain that this photo could not possibly be of the Wooten Harris (1759-1840) that it was attached to on Find-A-Grave. Unfortunately the person who posted it still hasn't answered my email but I'm now going to try again. You have all convinced me that I was right to be skeptical.

      However, this has opened up the unexpected question of which cemetery "my" Wooten was actually buried in. Because I could not find his wife's stone in the Harris Cemetery, I've begun to entertain the possibility that maybe there is a legitimate question, especially since I could not find his wife's stone there.

      Looks like I have yet another reason to visit the county courthouses in Bond and Montgomery Counties.  Road trip! Road trip!

      Thanks, everybody, for indulging me.

      Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

      by figbash on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 09:27:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Did you see (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        figbash, edwardssl

        the other entry for him on Find-A-Grave. The creator specifically notes that the Harris Cemetery has a Revolutionary War plaque for him but asserts he was buried in Glendale Cemetery in Fillmore.

        No Harris women listed there in his timeframe; oldest seems to be his son Benjamin's wife, who was born in 1802.

        Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

        by fenway49 on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 10:12:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are a true mensch, fenway! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fenway49, edwardssl

          I think I've got my head wrapped around all this now and you've been essential in this accomplishment today. It would usually take me a week or so of puttering around to do it.

          It does seem that Wooten was NOT buried in the Harris Cemetery but that the plaque there is memorial in nature only. An honor for a pioneering citizen of the County and one of the patriarchs of the Harris clan in that territory.

          He was apparently buried first in the Scribner burying grounds in Fillmore Township and "recently," according to an Aug 2011 comment his remains were relocated to the Glendale Cemetery.

          Poor old guy, not exactly resting in peace.  

          By the way, that book you pointed me to about the Primitive Baptist Church of Montgomery Co. has many references to this Wooten Harris and his brother Zachariah and other family membrs. He was one of its earliest members and had his hand in agitating for a new county -- which is something he also did in North Carolina. This guy did NOt want to travel more a day's horseback ride to get to the Courthouse.  I'm going to do a diary on the book, the religious practices and day-to-day life of these frontier folk soon. It will be dedicated to you!

          Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

          by figbash on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:20:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Looking forward to it! (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            figbash, edwardssl

            And glad to be of service.

            I wouldn't want to ride more than a day to get to the courthouse either. In those days you had to go there to vote. It's why we vote on Tuesdays, so people could keep the sabbath on Sunday and spend Monday getting to the county seat. Apparently, with only men voting and wives back on the farm, election day was a raucous party time in the 1800s.

            Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

            by fenway49 on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:44:54 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You'll like what the menfolk of the church (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              edwardssl

              had to say about it then. They definitely had their ideas about how things should be.  Hey, sounds familiar, doesn't it?

              Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

              by figbash on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 01:13:28 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  lovely. (8+ / 0-)

    and think of all the little men and women, the families, which are represented by finds like this... how it really was, where my family could have been influenced by similar things, held similar positions... but were not fortunate enough to be preserved in artifacts or publications... we have it so easy now, it is exactly as it was then: not a contradiction, when considered.

    my father survived scarlet fever.

    engineers are nuts. and i love 'em best.

    very captivating look which i will re-read after nap.

    * Join: The Action: End the Bush Tax Cuts for Richest Two Percent * Addington's Perpwalk: TRAILHEAD of Accountability for Bush-2 Crimes.

    by greenbird on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 11:37:37 AM PST

  •  I have threads through (8+ / 0-)

    ... much of the same territory, including people coming back and forth across the border.  I've been surprised at how many Census records list "Canadian" as ethnicity.  And lots of workers in the mills and factories.  Only a few working as young as 14, but many at the age of 17 or 18; surprisingly few finishing high school a few generations back.

    Lowell's the same kind of mill town as Lawrence, where we got this song from.  (This being Joan Baez & her sister.)

    Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    by Land of Enchantment on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 11:44:06 AM PST

    •  We just had the 100th anniversary (6+ / 0-)

      of the Lawrence strike a few months back.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 11:52:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have an ancestor said to own Lawrence Mills (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jim H, fenway49, edwardssl, brook, figbash

        It was one of those "wow" moments.

        But I had doubts that a farmer from Saxtons River Vermont would have the assets to own the very large Lawrence Mills in Massachusetts.

        It turns out that the Lawrence Mills he owned were located on the Williams River between Bartonsville and Rockingham, Vermont in a small village known as Brockway. He was the Nourse when the mills were known as Nourse, Cogswell, & Co. In 1861, Martin Lawrence bought the mills and they were renames. later purchased in 1871 by Martin Lawrence who renamed the business.

        This wasn't a textile mill. There was a wood mill and a grist mill. The wood mill manufactured wood buttons and bell-shaped ornaments which were japanned (given a high gloss laquered finish).

        "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

        by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 05:17:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have ancestors (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          edwardssl, GrumpyOldGeek, brook, figbash

          (come to think of it, the branch in this diary) from right across the river in Charlestown, N.H. Then a lot north of there in the Woodstock area. They all left Mass. and Ct. for Vermont before 1785. My great-grandfather came back.

          BTW, we did go out for a hike near Shutesbury last week and it was very nice. I love this state.

          It took me a second to realize you weren't talking about this Martin Lawrence. I doubt he bought a Vermont mill in the 1800s.

          Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 05:32:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I finally found the brother of my (8+ / 0-)

    great-grandfather, Christopher Riemann.  He was born in 1875, his mother, my g-g-grandmother Lucy, died in childbirth.  My g-g-grandfather had 8 children already and couldn't take care of a newborn, so Christopher was shipped off and taken care of by another family, eventually taking on that family's surname, Cook.

    All I knew about his later years was that he was serving as an Army Corporal in the Philippines (Spanish-American War) when his father died in 1901 (info from the obit).  A relative who had also been searching for him for a long time told me that Chris was said to have worked for the Post Office.

    I finally located three army records from the Philippines, indicating he now went by the name of Chris J. Cook.  The birth dates and birth town match exactly, so this is him alright.  Chris married a woman named Agnes, lived in North Dakota in 1910, then lived in St. Paul, MN from around 1920 to his death in 1939.  His MN census records show he worked for the post office.  I've ordered his death record, but it doesn't appear it's going to tell me much more.

    One question I still have , who was this family Cook?  I can't find Christopher anywhere in 1880 with a family named Cook.  However, I do find a 5-year old Christopher with a family named Koch (German, which would been appropriate).  I'll betcha ......

    More investigation is in order.  I love solving family mysteries!

    •  Koch seems like (6+ / 0-)

      a good bet. Good work tracking that down! I have a list with dozens of mystery people, missing dates, etc.

      Charla's father had another sister. Married in Vermont, had a daughter, moved out to rural Colorado in the 1870s and the husband died soon after. Left alone with an adolescent daughter in Colorado ranch country. They're still there in the 1880 census but no trace of them after. Did she leave Colorado? Marry again? Die? No clue.

      Once again, 1890 census situation is of little help.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 11:59:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yup, checks out so far. I followed the (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fenway49, brook, figbash

        siblings of this Koch family who raised Christopher, and just before 1900, they started using the name Cook instead of Koch.

        HA!  Got'em!!

        Now my next question is, why did they take Christopher in?  What connection did they have to the Riemann family.

        And there you have it.  Proof positive that as soon as you answer one question, you come up with another (and another, and another, and ........).  

        Which is why genealogy is never done.

        •  Those questions are hard to answer (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          edwardssl, brook, figbash

          Names, dates, etc. will be in the records. The other stuff is harder to find, but you may find a family connection somewhere. Or if they lived right nearby, here or in Germany, at some point. Could have been close family friends and neighbors.

          Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 08:00:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful research (8+ / 0-)

    and a fascinating story. Well done!

    utahgirl

  •  How each and every one of us (6+ / 0-)

    ...can contribute to writing a peoples history of the United States.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 01:13:13 PM PST

    •  True (5+ / 0-)

      There are so many stories. Too bad so many are lost to history but there are things from the old days out there just waiting to be unearthed. Coming across this book made me wonder how many crazy stories are in never-touched old books in our libraries. And of course we're still making stories today.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 02:06:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Internet archive (8+ / 0-)

        Internet Archiveis bringing a lot of those old books to be available to everyone.

        In their collections are turn-of-the-20th-century vanity county histories with biographies of the "leading citizens" (who paid for the privilege and supplied the biographies).  There books that document varieties of fruits planted in the mid-1800s.  Pilots books for navigating US rivers.  Descriptions of land for folks settling the midwest or west.  The Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology reports by John Wesley Powell, James Mooney, and other early archaeologists and linguists.  Including a Dakota-English dictionary.  And not a few family histories and genealogies.

        It also has a large collection of Edison phonograph cylinders and public domain 78rpm recordings plus a collection of classic radio and TV, and commercial/government/industrial films.

        50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

        by TarheelDem on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 02:44:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Just took a dip in the Internet Archive pool (6+ / 0-)

          and noted this as being available for loan as an ebook.

          Successful marriage
          an authoritative guide to problems related to marriage from the beginning of sexual attraction to matrimony and the successful rearing of a family
          [1st ed.]
          ed. by Morris Fishbein and Ernest W. Burgess.
          Published 1947 by Doubleday in Garden City, N.Y .
          Written in English.
          My grandmother had a copy of a book written by this very Morris Fishbein, a home medical remedies book, IIRC. Maybe I'd have been better off with this one.

          I love GFHC but I've said that before, haven't I? Thanks, TarheelDem. This looks like a site to book-mark, for sure!

          Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

          by figbash on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 03:07:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you, TarheelDem!!! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fenway49, figbash, edwardssl

          Because you posted the link for Internet Archive, I was able to finally obtain some documents related to my g-g-grandfather, Rev. David Elkin(s), a circuit preacher (both the Baptists and Methodists claim him) who preached the funeral of Abraham Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

          A thousand thanks!

          RESCU Foundation Inc ~ Pledged to the health of the company. www.RESCUfoundation.org

          by liz dexic on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 10:38:57 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  on my mother's side, I am a descendant of (7+ / 0-)

    John Jacob Mickley, who was one of the guys who carried the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia to Allentown during the Revolutionary War.

    I don't know the history of my father's side--his father (my grandfather) came here as an orphan from the Ukraine.  Family lore is that his parents were killed in the 1905 Russian Revolution.

    Apparently I come from a long line of rebels.  ;)

    •  Very interesting (6+ / 0-)

      All my new-found Revolutionary War guys were in New England. I doubt if any of them ever even visited Pennsylvania, but I've spent a decent amount of time in Philly and Allentown over the years.

      I recently wrote on here about my great-grandmother, who also came from Ukraine. But she lived in the western part that was under Austrian control rather than Russian.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 02:05:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I really enjoyed this very interesting story. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fenway49, edwardssl

    Thank you for sharing it with us.  It just goes to show you that everyone has some interesting characters in their family history.  I may just have to look for some in my own family.  Thanks for the inspiration.  Best wishes.

    "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy -7.8., -6.6

    by helpImdrowning on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 08:55:16 PM PST

    •  Thank you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      edwardssl

      and happy hunting!

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 09:37:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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