Sunday, May 29, 2011

With Gratitude

Yeah, I know Memorial Day, originally Decoration Day, is all about honoring the people in the military who gave their lives for their country/beliefs. In my family tree, I don’t have any direct ancestors that fit the bill, but I do have a few that did RISK their lives in military service. So I’m going to mention them here.

The earliest I know of was Captain John Sprague, my 10x great-grandfather. He was born in Dorchester, England in 1624. He emigrated with his parents to America and settled in Massachusetts. His father Ralph helped found Charlestown.

King Philip

John Sprague fought in King Philip’s War, serving with Maj.  Simon Willard. King Philip, as he was called by the English,  was Metacomet,  the son of Massasoit, the Wampanoag leader who greeted the Pilgrims in 1621 and helped them survive their first winter. Fifty-four years later, in 1675, Massasoit's son went to war with the colonists.

King Philip's War lasted only fourteen months, but it changed the face of New England. A third of the hundred or so towns in New England were burned and abandoned. The colonial forces ultimately triumphed, but at a huge cost. There were about seventy thousand people in New England at the outbreak of the war. By the end of it, there were five thousand dead,  three-quarters of those losses were Native Americans. In percentage of population killed, King Philip's War was more than twice as bloody as the American Civil War and at least seven times more so than the American Revolution. 

Brig "Hazard"

In the Revolutionary War, fighting for the Americans was my 5X Great grandfather, James Masterman. He served in the infantry as a cook for 8 months starting in June, 1775 under Major Montague. In summer 1776, he was drafted for 3 more months. In spring of 1777, he entered service as a sailor on board the brig “Hazard.” After cruising the West Indies for 3 months, they returned to Boston, resupplied and he rejoined for another three month term. During his service under Capt. John Foster Williams, “Hazard” captured 2 British vessels. I have his pension application with all the details and signed by him HERE.
I already did a blog on the Civil War Ingles side of the family and mentioned each succeeding generation that has served in the military…pretty impressive really! Read it HERE.

In my family, I only recently found a Civil War participant, Nathan Adams Buker, pictured above, my 3x great-grandfather. He joined Company G of the Maine 17th Infantry Regiment on August 18, 1862 at age 36. There is some confusion as to what happened after that, but his record says he did not return after a furlough in April, 1963, was captured at his brother’s in October, and was mustered out in 1865. It’s not clear if he rejoined his company or was imprisoned. (His regiment fought at Gettysburg, in the bloody wheatfield battle, but it appears he was AWOL at that time.)
My kids’ great-grandfather, Percy H. Ingles, served in Europe during World War I, but I have no idea about the details.

Their grandfather, Robert Coffin Ingles, pictured above,  spent his 21st birthday in a German POW Camp after being captured at the Battle of the Bulge. He was in several camps, one being Stalag 12A in Limberg, Germany, one of the largest camps. Prisoners were denied food, clothing, hot water, heat or contact. He really suffered the effects of this, both mentally and physically, for the rest of his life. After 4 months captivity and with him weighing only 110 lbs., the camp was liberated by the Welsh Guards. You can read his own words about that part of his life HERE.
I do have several men that did duty in the Home or National Guard. These include:

My 3x great-grandfather, Captain James Masterman, pictured left, grandson of the Revolutionary War James above, served in the Home Militia in Maine.
My 2x great-grandfather, Melvin Hopkins, that served on the National Guard in PA for many years before being honorably discharged in 1896. (Discharge Papers HERE)
My kids’ 3x great-grandfather, William M. McMahan, was a Captain in the Caroline County, Maryland Guard (Certificate HERE) during the Civil War, corresponding with the Governor requesting supplies for his men. (Read HERE & HERE)

Thank you to all veterans for your sacrifices - we wouldn’t be here without you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From Philadelphia With Love....

Yowza, another of the "boomerang" letters and this one is a LULU!

Dated August 18, 1886, this one is from my g-g-grandfather's sister Gertrude (Enz) Pulvermiller. And she reveals a long-forgotten family secret - that my g-g-grandmother was pregnant before they were married. Oops! And a cousin tells me that she had heard this, plus that it wasn't his child, although he raised her as such.

This is a long one....keep in mind that a. stands for "and." Many thanks to Nora Grosser for translating!

Philadelphia, August 18, 1886
Dear, dear mother a. siblings,
your last letter we received at August 10 a. we cannot sufficiently express our joy that you are all healthy a. well, we are especially happy that the sister Marie is in such good health a. that she can pursue her profession. Dear mother a. siblings we are also happy that the pictures of our children please you, it is true they are well depicted a. you can at least see how they look like now. But the upper lip of Ruthrine does not get smaller anymore it is always as if it is swollen, she has a little flame [a nevus] on her left eye, but I am very happy that the dear God made her healthy again. I am able to send her out, also she is very cheerful, a. has girlfriends enough in the neighborhood, she speaks some English, the children get it much more quickly, it does not go so fast with the old folks.

Dear mother you also want to know how I have been, I thank you affectionately, it passed well, as always, but I became very weak after giving birth, I became almost unconscious, it always took one night, I am a. was thank god healthy, I am only a little bit weaker as usual, I drank a lot of wine a. I drink beer now three times daily, but I am still sensing it, my feet are often very tired. On Sunday night, 10pm of July 4 my little daughter was born a. she was christened on St. James Day, and is named Gertrud Wilhelmine, she has totally black hair a. the complexion is also dark, she is like my little Anna Maria was, sister Mine a. brother August are the godparents, brother Joseph denied it to me, he was peculiar for a couple of months, he did not attend the baptism feast, but we were merry anyway, I would have wished you here, dear mother. The child is very strong a. laughs already. Engelbertle has 10 teeth now a. walks now where he can hold himself, he is very funny a. is the joy of his father. Dear mother you also want to know whether my husband is earning money, he earned 12 dollars during the whole summer, but in the months July a. August it did not go very straight. He was without work for a couple of months, thank God we get by but we did not save anything either. If my husband would stay healthy and of course, all of us, we would have it better here, we cannot save on groceries like outside [overseas] , I am better off anyway, because I do not need a maid for the children, now I can look after my children myself. In July I often thought of you, on the large amount of work, I especially thought of the Weisensteig Mountains and I was very happy I was not allowed to climb them.

Dear mother, you also wrote us that you have it hot and dry, this summer here it is not so badly hot, [brother] August said, he had never experienced a summer like this since he has been in the country, only a couple of days are hot, then a thunderstorm occurs and it cools down, at the beginning of August it was even cool.  Dear mother and siblings, we heard already from Pfeiferbeste that my sister-in-law had sold her house, now she has room enough, it is a nice house, but I am surprised that her mother is still with her, I thought they were at strife for a long time, it is terrible for this old little mother that she also broke her foot. We do not have a letter from my sister-in-law yet.

My dear ones, do you think you could sell the grass for hay on the mowing day? Nothing will have been standing on it, you will have to pull your wage first when you sell the hay, or you can get paid by Pfeiferbeste.  Dear mother and sister Marie, your Saint’s day is approaching, since I will not be able to write until then, I wish you the best of luck for Saint’s day, for you dear mother Marie luck, health, a long life and after this life heaven’s eternal joys, it is mine and our most fervent wish, we want to pray for one another, that we will meet again on the other side, in case God decided that we should not see each other again here, we do not want to hope that. I wanted to send you one dollar as a regard, I am not able right now, because the puerperium cost so much. 

You should receive two dollars, one by me and one by Mine, when you get them, please write immediately together with Marie. A friend of Josep [sic], Eduard Binig, of Degmarn by Heilbronn is still [in] Germany and he promised us to visit you, we gave him the two dollars together with a letter for you, please write immediately when he has visited you.

Belatedly, I wish Christine the best of luck for her Saint’s day and for her little prince, I am sorry that her husband is ill again, one always has to fight, I also feel sorry for the little Tomas that he almost broke his hand a. that he had to endure pain, I wish a. hope that he will be rebuild. How are things with Sebastian, does he have to be a soldier?

At Mine’s [her sister Wilhelmine] everybody is in good health except the little one, he is better, but still not completely healed, his left eye is not good, too, they say it does not only have a flame but it is covered with some kind of skin. Her husband has work all year round a. nice earnings a. they always make a pretty good amount of money. At Augusts’ everybody is in good health, too, they expect a child within this month. I gave Joseph the letter to read, he did not say anything about it, he is in general totally withdrawn a. does not talk to you or when he says something then it is a lie. He does not visit me a. the others at all anymore.

You might ask how come, I want to tell you the truth. Like I told you already, he was with me for a long time [boarding]; however, he did not eat so often at my house, but occasionally he did, I would not have had anything against it, if he was not wantonly unemployed a. I would have accepted work since he is so tall a. strong, he often said, he could be employed, a. people came to me who would have gotten him work, but every time he was at his dearest.  Then thereupon he wanted his girl to live in my house, because she is expecting a. if by him 5 months as of now a. 1 month ago already he wanted me to give her a bed a. because I did not take her he became so cross, that he ranted he would have made it even if we would not have come to this country, I asked him if he wanted to live on his in-law’s expense, does a man not have to earn his money in a harder way, as such a tall, strong fellow who has a wife and a child, he did pay the money off that I was owed. Schaefer Joseph said, he is married now, he did not tell anyone of his siblings, if he was at church, I do not know, in any case dear Mother, you have enough to pray for, pray that he gets the idea to go back to Germany, it is great here for the body, but not for the soul. You can be a good Christian in the same way as outside, but it is a bit chaotic when you go into the St. Peter’s Church, every Sunday morning people communicate a. I see enough people. However, I do not see my brothers a. my compatriots.

We will hope now, that everything will be fine, I would have preferred to not tell you anything, dear Mother, but I did not want to leave you in the dark, do not trouble yourself too much, but pray as always, you cannot do anything else. I say dear Mother God should repay you for your prayer, because we need it indeed. I wish I was a little bird so that I could fly into your midst, because I would like to be with you again for once. Especially at the beautiful holidays that you celebrated, when I think myself over, than it seems as if the services are celebrated in a more beautiful a. a more noble way than here, but here they also celebrate it in a beautiful way.

Now I want to finally close
with many thousand cordial regards
a. kisses for you dear Mother a. siblings
everybody a. brother-in-laws a. sister-in-laws


One week after this letter was written, the baby girl she recently had recently given birth to died from cholera. She later had 2 of Wilhelmina's children living with her after both of their parents died.

One month later, my g-g-grandparent's daughter Sophia was born.

I have never found their marriage recorded anywhere in Philadelphia.

Great photo of their hometown in Germany:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mothers ♥

Four moms: (l to r) Pauline Hopkins Caterson, Hazel Peterson Masterman, 
Mae Enz Cousins & Mary Cousins Caterson

The first “Mother”s Day” actually has it’s beginnings  in 1870 with a Mother’s Day Proclamation written by Julia Ward Howe (author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic”) in 1870 as a demand for peace after the Civil War. The first verse says:

“Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears! Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs." Read the rest HERE.
So before the last hundred years, when everyone marked the occasion with flowers, candy and cards, there wasn’t much of a celebration for these ladies! So, I am writing about the mothers in our families’ past who toiled, sacrificed and loved.

Phebe Pierce McMonagle (1775 – 1866) – daughter of Loyalists from NY that emigrated to New Brunswick after the Revolution. Wife of Hugh McMonagle who drowned in 1803 on his way to the first Session of the General Assembly, leaving her with 4 young daughters and pregnant with my ancestor, Hugh John. She raised her family alone, only asking for assistance from the legislature 5 years later. (See petition HERE.) She never remarried and lived to the ripe old age of 91.
Margaret (?) Phillips (1800 - 1886) - My 4x great-grandmother. I don't know much about her, except she raised her three grandchildren in Philadelphia from the time they were very young, they live with her and her husband Richard in 1860 when they are 9, 6 and 5. I don't know who their parents were or what happened to them, just that their father was named Joseph. Richard died a year later, as did her son William, and these grandkids lived with her until her death.
Eunice Ann Ells Harrington O’Leary (1831 – 19??) – Second oldest daughter of James Ells, born in Halls Harbour, Nova Scotia. Eunice married a teacher in NB named John Harrington in 1848. They had 5 children, but 3 months after the youngest, Annabell, was born, John died. Eunice went back to Nova Scotia, where she married Daniel O’Leary in 1864, a widower with 5 children. They proceeded to have 4 more kids together! One of his sons, Arthur, married on of her daughters, Adelaide.

Adrienne Harrington McMonagle (1855 – 1944) – (photo left) Born in 1855 in New Brunswick, daughter of John & Eunice (Ells) Harrington, Adrienne’s father died when she was 3 years old. Her mother (above) remarried when she was 9 – they ended up with a total of 14 kids in their blended family! She married Joseph H. McMonagle, grandson of Phebe above, around 1876 and they had 3 children: Alice, Jennie (my g-grandmother) and John, named for her father.       
   They moved to Massachusetts in 1888, where in 1899, their son John died. Then in 1917, Joseph killed himself by drinking carbolic acid. In 1920, Jennie died from tuberculosis and before Adrienne’s own death in 1944, she also buried her last child Alice. Her life sure was full of deep losses.
   By the 1930’s, Adrienne, known to her grandchildren as “Nammy Mac,” was virtually blind, but her spirits were always high. She wrote this poem in 1939 about her happy childhood back in Nova Scotia called “Thoughts in the Dark.” Read it HERE.

Jennie McMonagle Masterman (1879 - 1920) - (photo above) Daughter of Adrienne above, mother of my paternal grandfather. He was only sixteen when she died, and his love for her was in his eyes whenever he spoke of her. A gentle, sweet person, she was a contrast to his gruff father. She knew she was dying, tuberculosis was a downward spiral. Before she passed away, she gave him this beautiful poem "Boy O'Mine." Read it HERE, it's so sweet.

Anna Katrina Andersdotter Hanson (1843 – 1925) –(photo right) “Farmor” as she was known to her grandchildren (Swedish for father’s mother) was born in Denmark to wealthy dairy farmers. She fell in love with and married one of the farm workers, Peder Hanssen, much to her family’s chagrin. They set the newlyweds up with a nice house and land, only to have it lost due to Peder’s gambling habit. Three times! They moved to Sweden for better jobs – settling in Delarie, a mill town. They had some terrible tragedies; losing two sons named Lars: one was nearly cut in half in a grist mill, Anna caring for him for two weeks before he died. The other was scalded by caustic soda when he fell into a bucket of it at 1-1/2 years old. Anna nursed him for a week before he died.
   Peder suffered a serious burn on the job when he slipped into a vat of acid, scalding his buttocks, crotch, legs and feet. Doctors wanted to amputate, but Anna nursed him through a coma and back to health.
   Anna also allowed her only daughter, Anna, to go live with her uncle at the age of 4. He and his wife had lost their only child and could afford to provide her with the best in education and more, which she & Peder could not. Anna returned at 19, but shortly followed her brother Henry to America. The rest of the family emigrated in 1894, except Anna & Peter’s son August, who made a last minute decision to stay in Sweden.
   They settled in Massachusetts, near Boston. Peder went in for an operation in 1908, but died on the operating table.

Anna Sofia Persdotter Gustafsson (1847 – 1935) – (photo leftBorn in Vreta Kloster, Sweden, she married Nils in 1868. The lived as tenant farmers at several farms, having eleven children, but only six survived to adulthood, one being my great-grandmother Jenny. A few of the children came to America – Jenny and her sister Anna married brothers here – but they never went back to Sweden. Nils and Anna bought a farm with a partner that cheated them out of it, so they wound up living in a little cottage.

Rebecca Skillman Hopkins (1824 – 1883) – Ah, this poor woman! Her husband Samuel spent more time in jail than not, but he must’ve been a silver-tongued devil, as they had 9 children! Sadly, she was left to raise them herself, losing a few including twin girls at 2 weeks of age, born when Rebecca was 46 years old. Two of her daughters lost several of their own children, which are buried with Rebecca. She lived with her daughter Emma when she died in 1883 at 59 years old – after proclaiming herself a widow in the 1880 Census. Can’t blame her! She must have been a special woman as Samuel’s brother posted a lovely poem to her in her death notice in the Baltimore paper.
Krescentia Knab Enz (1862-1943)  - (photo above She had lost her mother at a young age, her father remarried and had a couple of daughters. She came to America from Bottingen, Germany in 1883 at 21 years old,  alone, with plans to work in a restaurant in Philadelphia upon her arrival. While working there for $5 a month plus bread and board, she met Joseph and they married. Over the course of 22 years, they had 9 children, the last of which was a son who died. She was nonetheless a happy person, loved to dance and laugh!

Mary Ann Enz Cousins Beckman (1888-1964) - (photo aboveDaughter of Krescentia, she was really a hoot! Married Arthur Cousins, a spoiled Brit who didn't feel as though he needed to work, and had 2 kids. As World War 1 broke out, he took their kids to London to visit his family, and wasn't really planning to bring them back. Poor Mae (Mimi to us) busted her butt to earn passage there and eventually brought them home, later divorcing Arthur.
Mary Mallin Timmins Jukes (1837-1928) – Born in England, she was my kids’ ggg-grandmother. She married Israel Jukes around 1859, and had ten children! All but two lived into adulthood. What makes her remarkable is that she not only raised her children, but two of her grandchildren as well! And without Israel’s help, as he disappeared sometime while the children were young. Mary used to say, “One day there will be a knock at the door...and it will be your father,” but it never happened.
   Her daughter Annie married Homer Leslie Ingles, had twin boys Percy & William, then had another son, Earl in 1896, and died a week later, followed by little Earl 6 weeks after her. At this point, Mary was caring for the twins , with her daughters’ help, while Homer worked out of state. Suddenly, not 2 years later, in Nov. 1898, Homer died while visiting them and the arrangement became permanent. Percy said they didn’t have much, but were loved.
Caroline Marshall Coffin (1826-1912)  - Raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Caroline married Nantucket native Obed Coffin, a mariner, in Baltimore. They had 7 children including a set of twins, and a son that died at 2 years of age. Obed spent the last 6 months of his life on a ship out of NY, on board which he accidentally died when a line broke and hit his head. Their children were ranging in age from 21 to 11 when he died, leaving them to fend for themselves. Her twin boys lived with her the rest of her life, along with their sisters from time to time. The boys all made their livings on the water. She is my kids' ggg-grandmother.

These mothers did their best under terrible circumstances, which most of us cannot imagine. We wouldn't be here without them! 

Happy Mother's Day !! And thanks Mom  

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Better Late Than Never

Port of Wilmington

At the tail end of the Civil War, the last supply point available to the South was Wilmington, NC. Protected by Fort Fisher at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, which the Confederates held until January 15, 1865, blockade runners could zip in and out with their cargoes unmolested. The port of Wilmington itself was finally captured on February 22nd, thus quickly ending the four year war.

Bombardment at Fort Fisher, January 15, 1865

My children's great-great-great grandfather, Obed Mayo Coffin, was born on Nantucket April 4, 1811 to George & Nancy (Stubbs) Coffin. They are direct descendants of Tristram & Dionis Coffin, original settlers of Nantucket. His mother died when he was only 3 years old, leaving him and his infant sister, Lydia. George married 2 years later, having 5 more children with his new wife. Raised in a family steeped in marine history, Obed himself became a mariner.

Obed's father George Coffin

At some point, Obed moved to Maryland, where he met and married Caroline Marshall, of St. Michaels. They were married in Baltimore on March 14, 1844, where they made their home. (They were actually married by the same minister as my Hopkins ancestors!) By 1850, they have 2 daughters, 5 & 3, and a set of twin infant boys named after Obed's younger half-brothers. By 1860, they are living in St. Michaels, Maryland,  and have another son and daughter.

St. Michaels

As the Coffin Family has a published genealogy, that made my work easy. Except for Obed. All his record said about his death was "d. March 15, 1865 on board a transport." Hmmmmm.....

So after thinking a while, I figured it must have something to do with the Civil War. I hadn't found anything here in Maryland, so I decided to order his military pension record from DC to see if there was one.

Lo and behold, there was! Caroline, his widow, had applied twice, but been rejected both times. Her application told this story:

Obed had "enlisted" as first mate on a chartered schooner named "John" out of New York, in November, 1864. At the time of his death, they were taking provisions for the US Army into Wilmington, NC. In her mind, that meant he was in service of the federal government, and her lawyer argued that point for her in these applications. 


He was injured on March 7th or 8th when the hawser (a thick rope) used to turn and guide his ship through the Cape Fear River, broke and hit him above his left eye, causing a brain injury. He died in a hospital a week later, probably at the US Marine Hospital in Wilmington.

US Marine Hospital, Wilmington

I contacted the VA to figure out where he was ultimately buried, since he wasn't in St. Michaels with his family, and eventually tracked him down to the Wilmington National Cemetery (originally Soldiers & Sailors Field). They sent me a map with his grave location.

Bearing in mind that I've had this info since 1988, I only just today, through RAOGK, got photos of his headstone. His initials are backwards, and he wasn't US Navy, but there he is! (Thanks Buz in NC!)

Obed's grave, bottom left

Poor Caroline, she had 3 children under age 14 when he died and must have worked very hard to support them. She lived until 1912, living with her twins all those years. Her youngest, Greenbury Marshall Coffin (my kids' g-g-grandfather), was quite well known later as a shipbuilder - another story for another day!