Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Colonial Roots: Fordyce

Fordyce line

Welcome to the Fordyce line brick wall: Abraham Fordyce (1753-1810). 

The American branch of the Fordyce (or Fordice) family is a twisted, messy and confusing one. Several pockets of Fordyces found in colonial history in various areas: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Nova Scotia and especially in New Jersey and the Pennsylvanian frontier. Not surprisingly we see them as Patriots and loyalists during the Revolutionary War. There's numerous James and Johns and Henrys for generations obscuring the search. There are at least two Abrahams overlapping that are particularly difficult to tease apart from each other. 

Many stories exist and sadly out right Geneaological Fraud thanks to the infamous and unscrupulous Gustave Anjou. He was was hired (probably by someone in the Samuel W. Fordyce of Arkansas branch) to trace the family line back to its roots in Scotland. Except he totally fabricated or cut&paste his Fordyce research, so much of what's out there for the distant past is wrong. One of the biggest falsehoods is the whole "three brothers immigrated, one died en route" myth, a common tale found in countless colonial families...so much so that you'd think all Americans today relate to these three brothers, since most families have this apocryphal tale in their very distant past.  

Abraham (1753-1810) is the furthest back we trace in our Fordyce ancestors. No documents attest to his birth, not unusual for this time period. Only reference seems to stem from this account by a Mrs. Margaret Xxxxx of Lafayette, Indiana back in the 1960s: 

We can date her to another published query in the Geneaology Magazine ( citation here): 

Several other anecdotal stories exist: 

Abraham's father's conscription and escape from British Navy. He was caught by a press gang, served 3 years on British ship. When they docked back in a colonial port (New York probably) he jumped ship, swam ashore and made his way home. Story goes his wife recognized him by the tune he whistled as he walked up the lane. A plausible story. Abraham was born 1753 at start of French and Indian Wars. The British Navy really stepped up their press gangs at this time due to the conflict. In fact it was part of the grievances later on that moved Colonists down the path to revolution. Too bad Abraham's parents names are lost to the fog of history. 

There's references to his being a Revolutionary patriot hero in his sons' biographies, Jairus in particular was said to have a Revolutionary War Hero for a father. Believe this was made in a biographical sketch of the early settlers of Indiana or Iowa. 

Marriage to Hannah Guard/Gard in 1778. Maybe in PA or NJ. There's a entry in the International marriage Index (citation here) indicating PA but no searches yet yield actual marriage noted in any registers in any state. Some cite Somerset Co. as her birthplace. There's a Garrads Fort in PA and this is near the site of an famous early massacre which involved The Rev. John Corbly and most his family. A daughter survived and his granddaughter, Elizabeth Garrad married John Fordyce, son of Samuel. Often you'll see Samuel cited as Abrahams father, but the dates don't seem to match. He had a son Abraham in 1860. I wonder if maybe my Abraham was a cousin to these Fordyces but so far no proof. Tantalizingly though there does seem many intersections with the Fordyces from NJ and later PA who were in vicinity of Garrads Fort PA, the Corblys and my Abraham Fordyce and Hannah Gard line. Lots of dots just no distinct lines connecting things. 

There is a family bible (now missing) with birthdates for Abraham, wife Hannah and their children. Having actual birthdates a boon when researching. It helps to pinpoint where and when to look. But can't verify existence of the bible but dates do seem to pan out in most instances. It's stated their children were all born in PA. An Abraham Fordyce did receive a PA Land Grant c. 1884?for his Revolutionary War service. He sold it not long after the grant and by late 1880s it's believed he headed west with the Gards at behest of Judge Symnes to explore and eventually settle the Miami Basin area of Ohio, now modern Cincinnati. 

Abraham and Hannah's (6th?) child, son Jairus (b. 1778) is found in same area as Gershom Gard's family who migrated to the Ohio/Indiana Territory c. Early 1800s. Shortly after the War of 1812 and the Battle of Tippecanoe, Jairus wed Gershom's granddaughter Susan, daughter of Seth Gard. This family unit (Seth and his children's families) eventually migrated further west into Illinois Territory and the Wabash area. It's here that my ggg-grandfather, Asa Gard Fordyce was born (1816). He married Sarah Claypool I'm the 1830s. 
Asa Gard Fordyce 
A distant cousin posted this photo of Asa recently. It's thrilling to see an actual photograph after years of researching his life. I especially love comparing his photo to that of his son, George W. Fordyce, my gggrandfather. Definitely see a family resemblance. 
 







Irish Lines: Sullivan and Pigott

Today was spent pondering the twisted Irish lines of Sullivan and Pigott. Often I redo searches online hoping to find a new information finally connect the numerous dots that are my Sullivan and Pigott Irish ancestors. Sullivan is like an Irish version of searching for Smith. Pigott is unusual but just as elusive. 

John Sullivan c. 1850s 
Known: John Sullivan (ggg-uncle) was a Pioneer of California and according to his card on file his father was Patrick Sullivan and Mother was Mary Pigott. He states he was born in 1824 in Askeaton, Limerick, Ireland. It's also documented he immigrated with his family at age of 6 to Quebec as part of the "Frampton Irish" who journeyed far from their native shores in hopes of a better life. Several Sullivan families are shown living in to region and we know that my Sullivans joined the first outward migration west headed up by the Martin Sr. Murphy and Miller clans in 1842 to Holt Co., MO as part of the Platte River Land Grants. After several rough years here several family beloved family members died and others suffered ill health. This prompted the bold decision by Martin Murphy Sr. to head further west by wagon train to California. By this time we know Patrick and Mary-Catherine Sullivan were dead since the "Sullivan Orphans" were "adopted" by Martin Murphy Sr. and traveled with his family wagon on the journey. John and Mary (my ggg-grandmother) were about 18-20yrs old but their two younger brothers, Michael and Robert were probably no more than 10-13. 


There's a Robert Sullivan baptized in Askeaton, Limerick in 1830 to parents Patrick Sullivan and Catherine Pigott so they were in Ireland until at least this year. 

In several biographies of John Sullivan it's said he spent time in Quebec then Maine as a logger before migrating to Irish Grove, a typical pattern among Irish in Quebec. Young men would travel to the logging camps of Maine during the season-winter months-and return to work family farms rest of year. Generally these men worked for 2-3 seasons, long enough to earn enough money to purchase their farms. They would then work the farm 100% of the year. The boom years for Maine logging took off after statehood in 1820, accelerated starting 1830 and really peaked by Mid 1830s when the port of Bangor was the largest lumber shipping port in the world. 

Many years later in San Francisco, the census (1870 or 1880?)  John Sullivan had a Mary Pigott-cousin living with his family and after his death a Mary Pigott was appointed Guardian of his younger children. Obviously he kept family ties to his Irish Pigott relatives throughout his life. Upon his death he amassed a considerable estate and fortune and years later news article reported his estate was rolled into the Sullivan Estate. Until then it had been managed by his eldest son Frank J. Sullivan. 

Unknown: When and why my Sullivans arrived in Frampton. Were they part of the "Robinson Irish" enticed by British government to immigrate to the wilds of Quebec? Did they come for other reasons or have other relatives already established in Quebec? Is their mother the Catherine Sullivan who died in Quebec in 1832, maybe in childbirth or along journey to Canada? Did they travel with other family members which was often the case? 


Archives Data Found

Pigotts in Limerick
(1830-40s)Griffith's Valuation shows:
Michael Piggott of Ballymartin, Kilcornan
John Piggott of Rathkeale Town
James of  Kiltenan S, Croagh
Catherine of Milltown

1825 Tithe Book shows:
Patrick Piggott of Pallis, Chapel Russell
Hacketts Pigott (ditto)
James Piggott of Kilcornan
Michael Pigott of Kilcornan

1851 Census Applications show:
William Pigott 
Address Mr. John Gormley, Georges St., Gort, Co. Galway
Parents: James Pigott and Mary Anne Walsh
Residing: Galway, Kinvarradoorus Parish, Kinvarra
Backside notation: James and Mary (Picket) md 1842
Children:    Honor(10), Mary(8 1/2), Rose(1); Dead: Rose(1), Bridget(2) and Pat (6mos)

Mary Jane Pigott
Address: Wm F. Robinson Esq, Whiteworth Rd., Dublin
Parents: Humphrey Pigott and Jane Thornton
Res. Wicklow, Ballinglass Parish, (Baltinglass), Main St.

Griffith Valuation
Aug 1848 
John Pigott: Coshlea, Ballylanders, Ballyfauskeen (Lessor Lord Kingston)

Mar 1848
Catherine Pigott, Coshma, Adare, Adaree, (LessorLord Duraven)
Robert Pigott 2 enteries:   (ditto)

Oct 1848
Michael Pigott: house- Upper Connello, Kilfinny, Commons
Mr. Pigott.      (ditto)

Jan 1849
Patrick Pigott:     (ditto)

Dec 1848 
John Pigott, Upper Connello, Kilfinny Parish, Ballynakill
Michael Pigott, Upper Connello, Kilfinny, Ballymackaemore
7 entries: John Pigott, Upper Connello, Kilfinny, Commons

Marriages Limerick 
1817 Feb: Patrick Pigott m. Catherine Cleary, Parish Galbally & Aherlow. witnesses: William Casey, David Piggott
1824: David Pigott m. Elizabeth (Bessy) Cussen, Parish Galbally. Witness: Frank Cussen, Pat. Piggott

Death Limerick
1868 Jan 31: David Piggott (b. 1798), Galbally Parish. Farmer
Wife Elizabeth Cussen









Thursday, January 21, 2016

California Pioneers: Sullivan, Scherrebeck and Murphy

*disclaimer: see bottom of post*

Brick walls are stumbling block of every family historian. Perseverance is key. Over time you chip away painstakingly compiling notes, facts, tidbits of seemingly unconnected information until one day...the wall cracks wide open. This happened recently with my research on my paternal lines.

Many years ago my grandmother Freda showed us the old Pollard Family Bible. On the inside cover was a treasure trove of hand-written details: names and key dates for three generations. Somehow I had the prescience of mind to grab a notebook and transcribe every bit. This was the launching pad for my research  many years later with the advent of the internet.

iPad Photo
Here are my paternal great-grandparents: Albert Walter Pollard, Anne Monahan and their son (my grandfather) Albert Cyril Pollard. Picture probably taken c. 1910s. Think the family bible Grandma Fritz (Freda's nickname) showed me was given to Anna Monahan-Pollard by her family priest (Ross Parish, Marin Co.) More details on these three family members in future posts.


iPad Photo
Once I'd exhausted tracing the line of Thomas Pollard Sr. back (fruitlessly) to Prince Edward Island, I turned my attention to his wife Ann "Scurbeck" born in California 1847. For years I'd dutifully search internet databases thinking with such an unusual name I'd find something. Alas....my searches were always absolutely zilch. Nothing! I found this odd seeing she was born in the very early days of San Francisco before the crazed Gold Rush days so you'd think I'd find something. I kept regularly running searches in hope of eventually finding a Scurbeck somewhere. Years later...bingo.... I hit pay dirt! The [California Digital Newspaper Archives] yielded a short marriage announcement: Aug 20, 1868 Thomas Pollard from PIE and Anna L. Scherrebeck married in San Francisco (Daily Alta?).

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What?! My great-grandparents actually spelled Anna's maiden name wrong?!! No wonder I'd never found her before now. I suspect there were less than warm feelings between Anna Pollard the Younger and Anne Pollard Senior (aka Mother-in-Law). Maybe this led to the maiden name being spelled wrong. Not a lot of love lost maybe? I have my reasons and will explore that story in another blog post in the future.

Now back to Anne L. Scherrebeck...

A few quick searches later on Ancestry.com and I'd found Anne's parents were Peter Scherrebeck and Mary Sullivan. Hurrah! And siblings too: Catherine (1846-1931) Thomas J. (1851-   ), Mary Theresa (1854-1888) and Sophie (1858-1910). My great-great grandmother, Anna L. Scherrebeck-Pollard (1948-1908).

Our family lines related to the Sullivan and Scherrebeck early Pioneers of California are tangled. I'm making gradual headway in teasing out the facts. It helps that Sullivans are closely connected to the Murphy family and other key pioneers so the facts are out there in various places. Much is written about the early settlers of Santa Clara County. TheValley of Heart's Delight on SantaClaraResearch.net  is invaluable for most of information I've gleaned about these families. I'm so very thankful for it! 

Digging around I discovered that Peter Thomas Scherrebeck (1813-1862) was the first Danish settler of Yerba Buena. He was a sailor on a British ship in the mid-1830s who liked the sleepy dune-flanked port and stayed. He officially converted to Catholism, technically became a Mexican citizen in order to purchase land. By 1836 (?) he had settled in the village of Yerba Buena, eventually becoming an elected official. He sounds like a jack of all trades kinda fellow: carpenter, trader, butcher, secretary and agent to Sutter. Oh and a saloon owner too! With wife Mary they had "Our House" establishment that sounds like an informal bar/lodgings where people could gather. I found reference he was also the local butcher so imagine this establishment to be like a local cafe/watering hole. They did take in lodgers too. [Peter Scherrebeck various info]

Peter Thomas Sherreback about 1850's

Now I explored Mary Sullivan who turned out to have just as impressive pioneer roots as a member of the Murphys-Townsend-Stevens Party. They were the first wagon train to successfully cross the Sierra, blazing the Truckee route for later settlers to follow:
The Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party consisted of ten families who migrated from Iowa to California prior to the Mexican-American War or the California Gold Rush. The Stephens Party is significant in California history because they were the first wagon train to cross the Sierra Nevada during the expansion of the American West. They pioneered the first route at or near what was later named Donner Pass in 1844. The crossing was a year before Fremont, two years before the Donner Party and five years before the 1848-49 Gold Rush. [wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephens-Townsend-Murphy_Party]

Ironically I was raised and now live in Murphys, California. Yep the gold rush town named after the very same Murphy family that Mary Sullivan and her 3 brothers journeyed with to California in 1844.

Here's the general Sullivan scoop:

The Sullivan siblings emigrated (like many) from Ireland before the famine, in about 1836 (?) They were part of a large wave of migrants to Frampton in Quebec, Canada. Previously the Martin Murphy Sr. party emigrated from Co. Wexford to this area in about 1820s and were some of the first settlers to this area. During this era the British Government promoted emigration to the region to 1) help settle the province of Quebec and 2) as a means to entice potential Irish-nationalist rabble-rousers out of Ireland in the wake of earlier rebellions of the first years of 1800s. The terms of emigration were definitely tempting to often poor tenant farmers longing for a better life and greater freedom.

Most of the Irish immigrants discovered Canada to be pretty harsh, with winters much more rugged than expected. Being hardy peoples they quickly got busy homesteading and settling the area. Over the years a pattern developed: Men would seasonally head to Quebec or Maine to work in lumber industry or other industries needing laborers. Summer month s they returned to their homesteads to farm as best they could. The Sullivans are an example: Young John Sullivan (and presumably others like the younger Murphys) are found working as loggers in Maine. The Sullivan's are documented in the Framptom area. Our gggg-grandmother, Catherine (Pigott) Sullivan died in 1832 and buried in St. Edwards Parish, Dorchester near Quebec.[Quebec Vital & Church Records, Drouin Collection]

By late 1830s life in Canada becoming exceedingly difficult and many of the Framptom Irish settlers. During th1832 there was widespread epidemic, probably what claimed Catherine's life, along with many other friends and neighbors. Now the Irish settlers turned their thoughts to relocating south-west to Missouri, with the promise of better land and opportunities via land grants of the Platte Purchse. Martin Murphy Sr and most of his family, the Sullivans and others made the long journey to settle in Atchinson County (Holt Co) along the Missouri River. Their settlement became known as Irish Grove so many of them ended up in this area. Sadly things were not as rosy as expected and after a virulent malaria outbreak, where many family members died. Around this time, a grieving Martin Murphy Sr. hears of California's wealth and abundance from a traveling priest. Wanderlust once again strikes the Irish settlers.

In May 1844 the 50-member wagon train set off from Missouri, led by Captain Elijah Stevens. They initially traveled with 40 other wagons destined for Oregon and their 11 wagons headed to California. The large Murphy family (23 members) and other inter-related families like the Sullivans, Martins, Townsend and others made up their wagon train. The Sullivan siblings by this point were orphans, having lost their mother in Quebec and their father sometime prior their departure. Mary and John were in their early 20s and in charge of their two younger brothers Michael and Robert. They were "adoptetd" by Murphy Sr and set out west as part of his extended family.

By Nov 1844 they reached California, just barely getting most of their wagons over the Sierras. One small group headed on horseback, following south towards Lake Tahoe before crossing over the pass and down to Sutter's Fort. The remaining larger group worked to get 6 wagons over the summit before a heavy snowfall forced them to leave remaining 5 wagons with Moses Schallenberger and two others near Donner Lake. (In fact the cabin Moses spent the next several months was used the next winter by the Donner Party on their much less fortunate journey). Eventually the two companions left Moses alone to rejoin the larger party on the other side of the Summit.

Upon reaching Truckey's (or Truckee) Lake (now Donner Lake) on November 14, 1844, the party left six of their eleven wagons because of difficulties getting the wagons over the pass. Eighteen-year-old Moses Schallenberger spent the winter there watching over the wagons, surviving only by trapping High Sierra foxes for food. The rest of the party spent the winter in the upper Yuba River valley, until most of the men were enticed to fight with Captain John Sutter for Mexican California Governor Manuel Micheltorena in exchange for promises of land grants. Instead of joining them, Dennis Martin returned to the upper Yuba with supplies for the women and children. Upon learning of the plight of Moses Schallenberger, twenty-three-year-old Martin crossed the snowbound Sierra Nevada in mid-winter (February, 1845) to rescue Schallenberger at Donner Lake. Martin showed Schallenberger how to construct proper snowshoes and successfully the two recrossed the Sierras to the Central Valley. [http://us.wow.com/wiki/Stephens-Townsend-Murphy_Party]
Eventually the main group of six wagons were forced by snows to make winter camp near Big Bend on the Yuba River. Once camp was established, 17 men left the wagons, women and children  and set off for Sutter's Fort. On Dec 10th both the smaller group of 6 and the latter group of 17 reached Sutter's Fort about the same time, just as the Micheltorena War was erupting. Sutter was gathering men to fight and he convinced the new arrivals plenty of help if they'd join up and head south to support the Mexico Governor. In this group were John Sullivan and Peter Scherrebeck, who at this time was employed as Sutter's Agent in Yerba Buena. The Mexican Cival War proved short-lived and the settlers were finally reunited with their families at Sutter's Fort in March 1845.

I'm not sure if Mary remained behind with Martin Murphy Jr and his family on the Yuba River that winter, or if she was part of the smaller parties to travel by horse to Sutter's Fort. Seeing her younger brothers were 10-13 yrs I'd assume they remained behind at the encampment. Mary does eventually reached Sutter's Fort and there probably met Peter Scherrebeck. Presumably this when Mary and Peter first meet and by Aug 1845, a few short months later were married. Documents used by the Sutter's Fort Educational program indicate the couple did reside together at Sutter's Fort. By August the young couple were married on board a British Ship in a civil ceremony. Nine months later their eldest daughter Catherine was born in San Francisco, at the time a small town with about 200-400 inhabitants. By Jan 1848 my great-great-grandmother, Anne L. was born.

Now there's a Pollard family story that Grandpa Pollard  would tell his kids, Bill and Barbara whenever they drove by Donner Lake. He said "it's a good thing our ancestors were on time because if they'd been late and had to wait for the 1845 Donner Wagon Train....well....we might not exist as a family." For years I pondered exactly how our history dovetailed with the Donner Party. I couldn't figure it out. Now we know. Fortunate for us 20th century descendants that the Sullivans belonged to the successful Murphys-Townsend party rather than the disastrous Donner Party a year later.

http://www.hmdb.org/Photos/81/Photo81678o.jpg
Murphys-Townsend 1844 Historical Marker


Another second set of errors, in addition to the misspelling of her name,  further hindered my research of Anne Scherrebeck's childhood. The 1860 Census taker not only spelled the family name Shenebek...he listed her as a 10yr old boy named Andrew. My thought: He was hard of hearing, Mary and Peter had strong accents and Anne was probably a tomboy. But all the other names and dates match so pretty sure Andrew is my Anne. Here siblings are Catherine, Thomas J.,

Basic timeline early California events:
Micheltorena War &Bear Flag Revolt; California becomes a state; Yerba Buena renamed SF
Peter was elected to various civic offices: treasurer
Famous painting of YB 1846 shows the Scherrebeck house and John Sullivan's house too.
Yerba Buena 1847 litho

He also most noted for a famous court case regarding land grants during 1858-1880s.
Gold Rush

They ran "Our House" establishment

1848, 1850: big fires ripped through area; maybe this prompts them to move out of city maybe
Eventually they move out to Santa Clara, with son Thomas is listed as born there by 1850

Peter dies in 1866 [?] in San Francisco.

Mary is listed as living with son Thomas in the city, where she dies c. 1891

John and his little brothers said to live with Peter & Mary until John built his house on corner lot he purchased 1846 on corner of Pacific & Dupont.


1849 winter in SF

In wake of Gold Rush life in San Francisco rapidly changed from sleepy little port village to booming, frenetic, wild exploding frontier city. In 1846 lists see only 50-55 families with population about 500. By 1849 this explodes to over 12,000 and by 1850s it quickly reached 100,000s population. It was a wild boom town. Initially during the early days of the Gold Rush the port was a clogged mess of abandoned ships because everyone raced off to the mine fields of the Mother Lode. Reports of walking and picking up gold nuggets not really exaggeration.

John Sullivan
John Grove Sullivan
In the very first days this was the case for men like John Sullivan. He too (along with his brothers I think and many of his Murphy mates) fled the city for the minefields. In the early days of 1848 John struck a rich claim in Tuolumne County, now named-Sullivan Creek. He pulled 22,000 in gold one day alone. Smart Irishman that he was, he promptly opened up a store front at Sullivan's Creek and made even more selling supplies to miners. John returns to San Francisco and uses his riches to purchase land all around the San Francisco and Santa Clara regions. He becomes one of the influential capitalists of the State. In 1849 he founded along with others the Hibernia Bank, serving as its first President. While the term "capitalist" today is usually derogatory, back then it wasn't and John proved not only a smart businessman, banker, real-estate magnate, he was incredibly generous donating much of his wealth to charity, notably the Catholic Church.
[list his bequests]

By 1850 he married Catherine Farrely and had two sons. Sadly his wife died in childbirth in 1854, leaving him to raise two small boys and his business empire. Family is important to the Irish so I imagine Mary and her family helped seeing they lived so near one another at this time. Or maybe the young orphans were sent to live with the Scherrebecks who possibly were residing in Santa Clara County at this point [?]. It's difficult to trace where exactly they lived at this time.

John did own a large (500ac?) Mira Monte Ranch in Mountain View. This last fact just uncovered today when researching possible dna links to the Murphy line. I found a Daniel Murphy (1824-1880s) was hired by John Sullivan as ranch manager in 1868 and worked there up until his death at 78yrs. Another document says Daniel's son, Dennis John Murphy was the "nephew" of John Sullivan. At moment can't figure out exactly how. Speculation: Daniel married a Mrs. Mary (Farley) Sullivan, whose first husband "died in New Jersey" and they had a son, Thomas. Not sure if this husband was related to my Sullivans. Maybe he's the youngest sibling, the elusive Robert who I can't find any concrete information on yet. The biographical article on Dennis John definitely cited John Sullivan and his uncle. And both these families of Sullivans and Murphys are very interconnected, woven tightly over the years via friendship and possibly marriage. They all settled close by each other either in San Francisco or Santa Clara Valley.

Returning to John Sullivan. In 1860 he married his second wife, Ada E. Kenna and they had a total of ten children. John Sullivan died Jul 29, 1882 in San Francisco. His eldest son Frank J. Sullivan was executor of his estate for the next 13 years. In Dec 1895 the estate was incorporated by the heirs into the Sullivan Estate Company. Signators were his children and Mary Pigott-listed as the guardian for his younger children. I speculate she was related somehow to his mother who I believe was a Catherine Pigott. A sister maybe?

John's children were: Frank J., Robert P.; Charles A., Ada E. Sullivan, Belle Sullivan Turner, Henrietta Sullivan, Frances V. Sullivan, Georgia B. Sullivan, Emmet V. Sullivan.

Frank J. Sullivan was an attorney, serving in the Calif State Legislature for four terms. He married Alice Phelan (1860-1912), daughter of James D. Phelan, another notable San Franciscan.

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*This blog is my personal notebook where I'm compiling my years of notes and research into a story. It's a work in progress so not perfect with it's citations. They are my "rough drafts" not a finished, polished end product.*

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day with the Dead at Stent

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So...what does your family like to do on the weekends?

Well . . . we like to visit very old dead people we don't even know.

Seeing that we're now living in an area just chock-a-block full of history - most of it now long forgotten - we've decided to spend more time this year exploring our own historical backyard.
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Today's outing: The small Stent Cemetery near Jamestown, California. Aaron's maternal grandmother, Nettie Jones Perkins supposedly was born in this very town when it was actually a thriving mining town. By the advent of her birth in 1900 it was in decline, as were many small towns in the region once mines became depleted. By 1925 the post office was decommissioned and shut up for good. Today, all that's left is this very small, hardly noticeable cemetery. Blink and you'll miss it.

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Only a handful of tombstones remain with many forgotten graves, now unmarked.

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Some are beautiful while other are mere rustic slabs of granite; no name, no details, just left blank. A few are heartbreaking:

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This is little Roy Lee Booth, dead at 18 months (Please ignore the adorable, almost-5 year old peeking out…he’s forever mugging for the camera). Heartbreaking for his parents, who obviously cherished their son, as demonstrated by substantial tombstone (the lamb gracing the top now missing his head) and the sentiment, “Baby Sleeps.”

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How or why did he die? The date of July 4th suggests maybe a tragic holiday accident. Possibly the wee toddler wandered off during a family outing to celebrate Independence Day, fell down a well or even an abandoned mine shaft. Maybe he contracted a fever or botilism from spoilt food (not surprising with the high summer heat in these parts). Or could it be the result of a tumble from the carriage as his father (who imbibed just a tad too much) drove too fast home from the Stent Fireworks? We’ll never know (so just ignore my fanciful speculations). Maybe digging around the Tuolumne County Archives would yield vital stats on the Booth family of Stent, California. But the sad details surrounding Baby Booth’s death are probably long forgotten by his ancestors, who have no idea he rests in this little neglected graveyard of a ghost town.

Here’s another intriguingly mysterious fella:

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Tomo L. Tomasevich, “iz Krusevice Hercegovina” (which I think means a native of Herzegovina), died December 23, 1908 at only 32 years old. What was a native born of Easter Europe doing living in Stent, a small mining town (by then on the fast-track to becoming a ghost town)?

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He too was well-loved obviously, with such a beautifully designed tombstone a testament to his family’s esteem and grief. Does anyone today remember this man? No other family members lie nearby so he lies alone.

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We loved this headstone, lying on the ground all catawampus, but in surprising excellent condition.

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The carving is so lovely…and see…the 5 year old can’t help himself. He just has to creep his little self in whenever possible!

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This headstone belongs to the Whitford family ancestoral plot. Buried here are Richard the Elder, Jane and another Richard (maybe a son?) in a far corner of the cemetery next to a now dead tree (and a surprisingly busily traversed country lane).

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Mama Jane’s inscription reads:

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A light from our house… A voice we loved is silent… A place is vacant in our hearts… That never can be filled

So many people lie here in this forgotten cemetery, representing a brief moment in time when this area was a vibrant, bustling community, familiar throughout this gold mining region distant past. All that remains are a few marble slabs and many questions of “who are you all?”

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Link to Fordyce Family Photo Album

Fordyce Family Photos

Newly uploaded Fordyce family photos

Here's the Fordyce family photos I've scanned to date. I've one more album to scan and will add to this album soon.

These photos were in an album Barbara has that was Freda's. It contains many of Freda as a girl with her friends. A few mystery photos I've tried to identify. If anyone can add more information please let me know.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Link to Pollard-Fordyce Photo Album

Click on the photo below to go to the Pollard-Fordyce Album I've created online. Once there you can scroll through, order prints, email a link to other family members. Or just wonder "who are all these people?" since sadly no one left notes for posterity. Some of the photos are pretty amazing. Many of Pollard as a child in Ross, Freda as a girl with her parents, and even a photo that I suspect shows Pollard's parents as a young couple with a big group of friends. They look to be a newly married or courting couple based on their appearance and clothing styles. I've discovered in a census (1880 I think) that Anna Monahan was living with the Pollard's in the city house. She's listed as "family friend and unmarried" so maybe this picture dates from around this period? It's fun to speculate. Enjoy!

Pollard-Fordyce Family Album