Sunday, April 18, 2010

E. J. Holden

Sarah Cummings received this letter from an E. J. Holden, living in Chicago.  The letter is dated 31 Oct 1903 and starts off with a "Dear Madam" rather than "Dear Cousin".  E. J. Holden had not been contacted by Sarah, instead he had been given her name by C. P. Holden of Chicago.  Of course it would have been nice to have first names instead of initials - but such is my lot in life! 

According to the letter, E. J. Holden had become interested in his family history.  He tells Sarah that he knows very little about his father's family, as his father died in the Civil War when E. J. was a very young child.  He asks Sarah to give him all of his family history, if it isn't too much trouble!  How many times have you had a researcher contact you with the same request? 

So let's see what we can find out about E. J. Holden.  He tells Sarah his father was named Hollis Holden and he died at the battle of Antietam.  He also states his father lived in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.  He also mentions his grandmother Holden, whom he only vaguely remembered.  He tells Sarah his father had a brother, Alfred who had a Coffee House at Worcester.  Another brother was named Newell (who was also in the Civil War).  A brother named Charles, and a brother named Newton.

His father also had some sisters, Mary who married a Hastings, Sarah who married a Newton and lived in Worcester, and Martha who married the Rev. Edward Pratt and lived in Woodstock, Connecticut.  Evidently, E. J. lived with his uncle Hastings when he was a child. 

One last piece of information E. J. includes is that his father was born some time between 1815 to 1820.  He then finishes his letter with a request for the complete Holden genealogy, if it isn't too much trouble.  And he signs his letter E. J. Holden.  No where in this letter does he say how old he is, or for that matter, what his first name is!

On the back of page three of this letter, there is written in a different hand, Edward Josiah Holden, supposed to be in line of Josiah F. Holden and Mary, Josiah F. Holden and Abigail (Bond) of Barre, Mass.  Not settled, but copied off on slip.  Is this Sarah's note?  Maybe she was writing the results of her research.  So what can we find out about E. J. Holden?

It was pretty easy to locate the birth of Edward Josiah Holden in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.  He is listed as the son of Hollis Holden and Martha F. Holden.  Edward was born 13 Mar 1860.  I also found the birth of a second child, Hollis Doane Holden in 1862.  Hollis was born 25 April 1862.  I found these records at the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

I also found the death record for Edward's father Hollis.  Remember, Edward told our Sarah Cummings, his father was killed at the battle of Antietam.  His death record is listed in the Shrewsbury, Massachusetts death register.  Think about how this young family, husband and wife with two young boys, would soon be ripped apart by the events unfolding around them.  Hollis dies on 17 Sep 1862 which is known as the bloodiest day in American history.  The registrar writes cause of death as "killed instantly at the battle of Antietam by being shot through the neck".  Just click on the picture to the right and it will take you to the National Park Service website for the Antietam National Battlefield.  23,000 soldiers will killed, wounded or missing on 17 Sep 1862.  Now you know one of the people who died there.  

The death record for Hollis Holden lists his parents as Josiah F. Holden and Martha Taylor.  There is also a marriage record for Hollis Holden.  He married Frances M. Doane on 15 May 1859.  Josiah lists his parents as Josiah F and Patty Holden.  Frances lists her parents as Joel and Olivia Doane.  Both Hollis and Frances were married once before.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Federal House Inn

Imagine my excitement when I received an e-mail from the proprietor of the Federal House Inn in Plymouth, New Hampshire. This is the home that Sarah Cummings lived late in life. Her son, Winfred Cummings owned the house. It now is a bed and breakfast. Andrea was kind enough to send me copies of the Holden and Cummings family photographs which are now in her possession. Thanks Andrea! Just click on the photograph to the right and you can see the Federal House Inn. It looks like such a beautiful place.

Now I’ll be able to add a photo or two of Sarah Cummings as we continue on our journey of genealogical discovery. I should also point out that Plymouth is where Uncle Milton Holden had his camphor refinery. It is also just down the street from Rumney, New Hampshire where the young Sarah Arrington was taken to live with her Uncle Adams Holden. He would later adopt her and change her name to Sarah Holden.

The photo above is our Sarah Cummings!  Now you can picture the person to whom all the letters we have been reading, were addressed.  Andrea at the Federal House Inn has been really kind to send me her photo.  Sarah would spend her last years at this house, living with her son, Winfred.  It appears both Andrea and I have a fascination with this family, even though we are not related to them. 

Every family has a story...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cousin Albon Hatch Holden

Like any good family tree researcher, Sarah Cummings is slowly, methodically, contacting living relatives from each of her mother's siblings. She received this letter on 24 Sep 1880. I just love the letterhead, it is more than the Chicago Enamel Paint company, it's the Celebrated Chicago Enamel Paint company! I wonder if the drawing of the house is a picture of his office, or his house? Maybe it is both. Either way, Cousin Albon was very hard to place. He signs his letter, just like his name is printed on the letterhead, A. H. Holden. To make matters worse, his letter is written on an onion skin paper and the ink he used must have had a high acid content. It is eating right through the paper and makes for a difficult read.

He starts his letter like so many of the letters Sarah received - with an apology for the long delay in answering. If I were answering Sarah's letter, I would probably need the same apology! He then goes on to mention his vacation. He was camping on an Island in the St. Lawrence. I was intrigued by this, as the St. Lawrence is quite a distance from Chicago. He mentions a clue, he states the island was across from Ft. Covington. A quick search and I think I have found his vacation spot. He undoubtedly is talking about the 1,000 Islands region. Supposedly, this is the place 1,000 Island dressing is named for. In the latter part of the 19th century this was the summer hangout of the rich and famous from New York and Chicago. This might explain why cousin Albon Holden was there. He had accumulated a nice estate, thought he was quick to point out to Sarah, "not so much money that I still have to work to earn a living". I clipped a small announcement from the Chicago Tribune dated 30 Apr 1888. It was letting the residents of Chicago know the 1,000 Island region was once again open and ready for a new season of vacationers.

Cousin Albon also mentions that Uncle Milton Holden came by to visit while he was camping. Uncle Milton is the camphor refiner I mentioned a couple of posts back. I wonder if he had a faint smell of mothballs? His letter really does not go into any great length about his family. He mentions both his first and second wives and lists a couple of children. He also mentions some of his siblings. I know he is not a son of Josiah, Adams, Phineas, or Milton Holden. That only leaves two male Holden children, William Cummings Holden b. 16 Aug 1791 or David Holden b. 27 Dec 1802. David dies in 1833, and Cousin Albon mentions his mother died before in 1846 and his father was still living. So it must be William Cummings Holden is the father of Albon Hatch Holden. When I check the Holden Genealogy (which I have cited in previous posts), Albon is indeed listed as his son. There is also a footnote by the author stating that a portrait exists of William Cummings Holden and is owned by one of Albon's children.

I included the 1880 Federal census for Chicago, Illinois. It has the household for Albon Holden and some of his children. I was hoping to find a little more out about the Chicago Enamel Paint company, but didn't turn much up. I suppose you might be able to find more information with a visit to a library or historical society in Chicago...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ancestor Approved Award

Leslie over at, Lost Family Treasures, presented me with the Ancestor Approved Award!  Thank you so much for the acknowledgement.  So as a recipient of the award I will attempt to list ten things I have learned about any of my ancestors that has surprised me, humbled me, or enlightened me:
  • My paternal grandmother had a profound faith in God right to the very end of her life. I always respected her for this, as her life was full of sickness and tragedy. Through all of that, she never lost her faith. I admire that.
  • I had a relative who, though not a direct line ancestor, also had a story to tell. She had a lifelong dream to have a college education, but you know how life can sometimes get in the way. She graduated with her degree in education when she was in her late sixties. She then went on to teach elementary school for some years after! I guess you should never give up on a dream.
  • One of my great grandmothers was orphaned at a young age and was raised by her alcoholic grandfather. Her grandfather would become quite abusive when he was 'in the bottle' which created misery for everyone living in his household. My great grandmother began working as a housemaid when she was in her early teens just to get away from her grandfather. Even with such a rocky start to life, she raised five children, and was a successful entrepreneur at a time when a woman's place was 'in the home'. I admire the spirit and the sheer fortitude she showed.
  • One of my third great grandparents lived in southern Kentucky. He was a quiet man of God, who loved his family. His oldest daughter married and moved to Missouri with her husband's family. The Civil War began and travel became very dangerous. His new son-in-law ends up dying unexpectedly, leaving his widow and her young children in poverty. My third great grandfather walked all the way from Whitley County, Kentucky to rescue his daughter and grand children in southern Missouri. He succeeds in bringing his daughter back home, but two of his sons would perish fighting in the War.
  • One of my second great grandfathers was a fiddle player. He lived in a remote part of Scott County, Tennessee and rarely left the confines of Stanley creek. People would come from all around to hear him play.
  • One of my fourth great grandfathers, living in Onondaga County, New York in the early 1880s, lost his wife of more than sixty years. He was found dead near her grave a little more than a week later, the local paper said 'from a broken heart'.
  • One of my third great grandmothers ran off and married her childhood sweetheart, and according to her deposition for a widow's pension, much to the anger of her father. She mentions her husband was terrified of her father because her father was 'going to horse whip him' when he could get his hands on him. She goes on to mention her father finally calmed down, and he and his new son-in-law actually became friends! Love conquers all.
  • One of my third great grandfathers was Welsh. He immigrated to the U. S. in 1819 as a young child. This is a story about observing everything in a census page. The census taker was required to ask 'country of birth'. So when my third great grandfather answered, he would say Wales. The census taker would inevitably write, English. This is the observation part. The census taker would cross out English and write Welsh or Wales just above it. I'm sure my ancestor corrected him. He did this in every census!
  • This is another census story about the same Welsh ancestor in the previous story. In the 1850 census for St. Clair County, Michigan, he was asked to list every one that was living in his household. My second great grandfather was named James. His father pronounced James the way the Welsh would, with an accent on the last syllable. So James would be pronounced Jame-ess. The census taker wrote what he heard and recorded the name as Jame S. Perry (probably thinking the whole time my third great grandfather was nuts). Fast forward to modern times. An indexer thought they were 'correcting' the data when they changed the name from Jame S. Perry (male) to Jane S. Perry (female). Always check the original document!
  • One of my second great grandfathers was a Baptist preacher. He was known for his Hell-fire and brimstone preaching style. He also would preach with his Colt 45 pistol within easy reach! Nobody messed with him.

I'm supposed to pass this award on to ten other Blogs. I'll do this a little later...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jenny Holden Browne

1850 Federal Census, Will County, IL
I’ve been looking at the census records and there seems to be a mystery afoot. In 1850 Jenny is living in her father’s household. That would be Phineas and Betsy Parker Holden. She is listed as Jane Holden. My first mystery is her age. I know this is the correct family because Jenny mentions David, George, and Parker Holden as her brothers. She also tells Sarah Cummings in her letter, that “father took a girl by the name of Ellen Blaisdel into the house and raised her like a daughter”. I can’t but help think Jenny was comparing her father to Sarah’s uncle Adams Holden, since he adopted and raised Sarah.

So this is the correct family. Next I look at the family group. Notice how the children are listed from oldest to youngest, with the exception of Jenny. She should have been 17 years old in this census. If she were 17, you would have a nice grouping of children meeting the ‘every other year’ rhythm that so often is seen in families. So I think I’ll chalk this mystery up as solved – the census taker recorded the wrong age for Jane.

1860 Federal Census, Cook County, IL
Next mystery pops up in the 1860 census. Again, based on the things she tells Sarah Cummings in her letter, this has to be the correct person. The age matches and she mentions Malcolm and George as her children (and their ages are correct, too). This census has two mysteries. The game is afoot, one more time. The first mystery revolves around Jane’s husband. In her letter, she referred to her husband as J. M. B. Notice the head of household in this census is named Isaiah. Clearly Isaiah does not start with a “J”. This mystery is solved as the census taker records his name correctly in the 1870 census. He was named Josiah M. Browne. I guess the census taker in 1860 was in a hurry, or perhaps he misunderstood the name Josiah as the name Isaiah. Either way, I’ll chalk this mystery up to census taker error – again. See; never assume a census record is correct until you compare what is listed to what you know to be correct.

The other mystery in this census record is the oldest child in the household, Merritt Browne, ten years old. Who is he? Jenny does not mention him at all to Sarah Cummings, yet there he is. This is another thing that I just love about census records. Every page has surprises to help make the research process exciting! Merritt is also in the 1870 and 1880 census, with Jenny and Josiah Browne. The 1880 census is really interesting (more about that later). So, the question is, is Malcolm a son of Josiah and Jane? Or, possibly, he could be a son of Josiah by a first wife. This would make him a step-son to Jenny.
1870 Federal Census, Cook County, IL

1870 finds our family still together. Notice Merritt is still living in the house. We know that George dies on 28 Oct 1865, and as expected, he doesn’t appear in the census record. Josiah is listed, correctly, as the head of household for this family. He also has become quite a prosperous businessman, too. My handy inflation calculator tells me his net worth is equivalent to more than $300,000! Not bad, but I still don’t know who Merritt C. Browne is.

The 1880 census really is an amazing piece of work. In 1880 the census taker was required to ask the relationship to the head of household, for all of the individuals living in the household. So if Merritt is still living in the household, his relationship to the head of household should be listed. Well it is, sort of. This is the household of Josiah Browne in 1880. I’m still scratching my head over this one. It appears that Josiah has a boarding house. It also appears like there are quite a few individuals living there that work in the boarding house. You have boarders, maids, laundry girls, a cook, etc. 

1880 Federal Census, Cook County, IL
Merritt is listed further down.  His relationship is son.  I am assuming he is the son of Josiah.  Jenny Holden Browne was born in Vermont, and Merritt lists his mother's birth place as New Hampshire.  For now, I think I'll pencil Merritt in as a child of Josiah Browne and an as of yet unknown first wife.

The last document I found is the death notice for Merritt Browne.  It lists his brother Willis W. Browne as his only surviving sibling.  This Obituary comes from the Chicago Tribune for 17 Dec 1919.  So there is Nellie Holden Browne's family. 

All of this from a letter written over a hundred years ago...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Introducing Cousin Jenny Holden Browne

The letter today is from Sarah's cousin Jenny Holden Browne.  She wrote to her cousin on 01 Jun 1903.  By this time, Sarah Cummings had moved to Plymouth, New Hampshire.  Her cousin Jenny Browne was thrilled to receive a letter form 'the relatives in New Hampshire'.  She said it had been years since she had heard from any of them.

Her letter to Sarah is lengthy and full of family data.  My post today will cover the genealogical information presented in Jenny Browne's letter.  I thought it might be helpful, as she seems to have been left off of the Holden Genealogy.  My next post will fill in the narrative.

Jenny Browne writes from La Grange, Illinois and had not corresponded with Sarah for many years.  Based on the information she mentions about her brothers, she is the daughter of Phineas Holden.  She tells Sarah Cumings that she will be 70 on 30 June 1903, making her birth 30 June 1833.  Jenny also refers to her husband as J.M.B.  Based on census records, her husband is Josiah M. Browne.  He dies of heart failure on 25 Feb 1898 in his chair, while reading to his wife about the blowing up of the Maine.

Children of Jenny M. Holden and Josiah M. Browne are:
  • Malcom Jay Browne b. 2 Jul 1854 in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Married Adeline Munger on 10 Jul 1876 in Chicago, Illinois.
    • Jenny F. Browne b. 20 Dec 1877
    • William Browne b. 19 Apr 1879
    • Ralph Browne b. 12 Feb 1882
  • George Parker Browne b. 10 Dec 1859 d. 28 Oct 1865
  • Albon Browne b. 11 Sep 1863 d. 16 Dec 1863
  • Lottie Elizabeth Browne b. 27 Apr 1865 d. 27 Oct 1865
  • Willis Wilson Browne b. 28 Jan 1867 in Joliet, Illinois. Married Nellie Dott Phillips of Walworth, Wisconsin on 11 June 1890.
    • Gertrude Ruth Browne b. 24 Feb 1892

Jenny Browne mentions that two of her children died one day apart from dysentery and are buried in the same grave.  Can you imagine the anguish in this poor women's life.  It is bad enough to lose  one child, but two at the same time...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Death of Frank Cram and more news of Sarah's Mother

Aunt Sarah Cram finally dates a letter!  This letter is dated 11 July 1880.

Sarah Cram has very sad news to convey to her niece Sarah Cummings.  Sarah Cram's son Frank has died in Colorado.  Aunt Sarah tells our Sarah that Frank was taken to a hospital and remained unconscious until his death.  He suffered from congestion of the brain.  She tells Sarah that the Governor's Guards, of which her son was a member, took charge of the body.  He was buried with military honors.  Sarah then goes on to say, "He was 43 years old, the day he was buried.  In the prime of life.  Poor fellow is now at rest."  Think of the anguish that must have been in her heart as she penned these words.

1870 Federal Census, Denver, Colorado
I tried to find out a little more about the Governor's Guards, but was unable to discover anything.  I am not sure if she meant the Governor's Guards of Colorado, or the Governor's Guards of Massachusetts, or somewhere else.  I did find Frank Cram in the 1870 Federal Census living in Denver, Colorado.  I clipped a small portion of the page for you to see.  This is also a great example of using indexes.  Frank is not listed with the surname of Cram in the index.  If I had searched for Frank Cram, I would not have found our young couple.  Instead I used the soundex search for Frank Cram, and found him listed as Frank Crom.  The soundex search places similar sounding names together, just in case they may have been spelled incorrectly.

Aunt Sarah then answers her niece's question:  "You wished to know something about yourself."  I find this question by Sarah Cummings so revealing.  I am beginning to think that Sarah's quest for family history may have had something to do with trying to discover parents she did not know.  Her mother died shortly after Sarah was born.  It seems her father was unable to take care of such a small child and so gave her up to his brother-in-law.  Think of the young family torn apart by death.  Forty years later, a daughter tries to reclaim parents she never knew.

Sarah Cram's narrative continues,
"The day your mother died, you was carried to a wet nurse who lived in the neighborhood.  She had a very young child.  She was a good woman.  I don't recollect just how long she kept you, but I think you was a little over a year old when my good brother Adams went to Salem and brought you home with him.  He always loved you as an own child.  We bless his memory."
The more I think about it, this letter must have been very hard for Sarah Cram to write.  She starts with the death of her son, Frank.  She then recollects the death of her sister, Mary.  From there she remembers her deceased brother Adams Holden.  My heart goes out to this Sarah Cram.  I never met her, didn't know anything about her, but here she is.  A women with a heavy heart on this July afternoon in 1880.  However, life does go on.

Sarah ends her letter with a little note, "Excuse this won't you - my eyes are bad" in regards to her penmanship.  I wonder if her eyes were bad because they had been swollen with tears...  

Friday, April 2, 2010

Uncle Milton Holden and Camphor Refining

If you were to ask me what my favorite part of genealogical research is, the answer would undoubtedly be placing individuals into the large mosaic we call history.  Just like us, our ancestors created, or had to react to, the events and actions around them.  When I look at a census record, I am always fascinated by all the family groups living in and around the individuals I am looking for. 

The first thing I look at on a census page is the date the census taker recorded the data.  As I scan down the page, I keep in mind the time of the year.  What were these families doing?  If it was a farming community, was it planting time?  Maybe it was haying time?  Another area that I look at is the occupation of the individual.  We forget that our environment has many aspects that don't translate very well on a census page.  Things like sounds, smells, and sights are very difficult to envision in a list of names, but all of these things had profound influences on our ancestors.

Uncle Milton Holden listed his occupation as a camphor refiner.  I will admit, he is the first camphor refiner I have come across in my research.  I was intrigued by this occupation.  When his brother Josiah Holden writes to Sara Cummings, he is always mentioning Milton's poor health.  My guess is Milton's occupation had a lot to do with his ill health.  Josiah talks about Milton working 'at the mill' and so I had assumed Milton was working at a grist mill or maybe a saw mill.  It was neither.  Milton worked at a camphor mill.

Camphor was used for many things in the community.  It was regarded as a snake repellent (though I am not so sure how effective it would have been), it was used as an insect repellent, a lineament (along with menthol), and for itchy rashes.  I'm sure there are many other uses I am totally unaware of, too.

Another thing I do when researching something like camphor refining, is search in Google Books.  It is a great source for information.  I clipped a small entry from the Pharmaceutical Journal of 1874, shown above.  It was an English publication which described chemical manufacturing.  Not only did it cover camphor refining, it included the description of the camphor mill at Rumney, New Hampshire.  I believe the 'raw' ingredient used is turpentine.  It is mixed with something like nitric acid and is then distilled.  What drew my attention is the 15 + hour workday required to evaporate the liquid!  A long work day, indeed.

I also found a description of Milton Holden in the Gazetteer of Grafton County, New Hampshire.  He is the individual who constructed the camphor refinery described in the Pharmaceutical Journal.  I added that description, above.  See, I went looking for Sarah Cummings's sister and ended up learning about camphor refining!  Can you imagine what that neighborhood smelled like...  

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Aunt Sarah Cram and Mary Ann Holden

Aunt Sarah Cram letter dated July 13th

Sorry about the long delay in posting!

This letter is simply dated July 13th.

Aunt Sarah apologizes to Sarah Cummings for not reading her last letter closely enough.  She failed to answer some of the questions her niece had regarding Sarah Cummings's mother.  

Sarah Cram tells her niece that she will answer one of her questions.  Sarah Cummings's mother, Mary Ann Holden had a son (this would be a brother to Sarah Cummings) that was stillborn.  She continues her story, "I must tell you the event that brought it [the stillbirth] about.  Your mother went up to Groton to visit our mother [Bridget Atwell Holden], when Mary Ann [Sarah Cumings's older sister] was about two years old.  While returning from there in a stage coach (there was no railroad then) as they were crossing what was called the Sanbornton Bridge [New Hampshire?] it broke through and they narrowly escaped being precipitated into the river.  I cannot remember the particulars.  I was sick at the time.  Charlie was about a week old when she arrived at our house.  I remember how she related the circumstance to me.  Her bandbox was thrown from the top of the stage into the river so she took out her clothing and dried it at our house.  The first I heard from her after she went home, she had lost a little boy."
Looking at the Holden Genealogy, Sarah Cram's son Charlie was born 27 Jun 1839. So if Aunt Sarah's memory is correct, I would lay odds that Mary Ann was visiting her mother around July 4th, 1839.  I also was curious about Sarah Cummings's sister Mary Ann.  According to the Holden Genealogy, she married Charles Herbert in 1860. 
1850 Federal Census for Salem, Massachusetts

1880 Federal Census - Rumney, New Hampshire
The first census image right, is for Mary Ann Arrington and her widower father, James W. Arrington.  He is living with a women who most likely is his mother, Catherine Arrington.  The second census image is for 1880.  It lists Mary Ann Herbert and her husband, Charles.  The household next to her is likely her son.  Her uncle, Milton Holden is living three households away, with his daughter and son-in-law. 

Next time - camphor refining...