Saturday, July 8, 2017

Do You Have Quaker Ancestors?

Quite a few family researchers with early Muskingum County roots know or have at least "heard" of Quakers in their family trees. You can count yourself very lucky if you have ancestors who were members of the Religious Society of Friends, because no other religious group kept more precise records than the Quakers.

While many family historians can point to "Friend-ly" ancestors, it's probably safe to say that a large number of them know very little about what it meant to be a member of the Religious Society of Friends. There is a rather common mis-perception, for example, that Quakers, Puritans, Shakers and Amish are all one in the same, and nothing could be farther from the truth. If you have Quaker ancestors, you owe it to them to know something of the organization's history and of Quaker practices. So let's begin with a little history.

George Fox, c. 1650
The Religious Society of Friends arose in England in the mid-1700's under the leadership of George Fox.  It was one of many "dissident" religious groups rebelling in various ways against the beliefs and rituals of the Church of England (Anglican). Fox's basic message-- that God is in every person, and that every one can have direct communication with God--resonated with a great many of those dissidents, and Friends steadily increased in numbers and influence. Meetings sprang up all over the British Isles and some were established on the Continent, particularly in the Netherlands, France, and certain German states. (Germany was not one country at this time.)

The rapid growth of the Religious Society of Friends posed a problem for the Established Church and its control over the government and people's lives. Dissent was outlawed. To be a Quaker was to be subject to public harassment, imprisonment and confiscation of property. Despite persecution, Friends, unlike other dissenters, insisted on meeting in public. While that left them more vulnerable to arrest, it also increased their reputation for honesty, one of the tenets of Quaker faith and practice. That, in turn, increased the attraction to Friends, and further increased their numbers.
Interior of a typical 18th Century meetinghouse. This one was
built in Montgomery County, outside of Philadelphia, in 1708.

Like the Puritans, many Quakers came to America seeking freedom from religious persecution. The first Quakers came a bit after the Puritans established their first settlement in Massachusetts, but did not come in large numbers until William Penn was granted a huge tract of land by King Charles II in 1681. In 1682, Penn set out on the Welcome to establish his "great experiment"--a colony run according to the beliefs and practices of Friends. Thus began a huge influx of Quakers to America called The Great Migration. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania grew and prospered immensely because of Friends' influence.

Probably most Muskingum County family history researchers will find their Quaker roots among Pennsylvania and New Jersey (originally a part of Penn's land grant) Quakers, a number of whom eventually settled in and around Loudoun County, Virginia before migrating to southeastern Ohio. Interestingly, despite the number of Quakers who migrated to Muskingum County, there is no record of any Friends meeting established here, although there is a cemetery (Dillon or Dillon Falls) thought to have originally been a Friends burying ground.
Abington (Pennsylvania) Friends Monthly Meeting birth record (1694) for William Carver, Jr. His great-grandson 
migrated from Loudoun County, Virginia to Newton Township, Muskingum County in 1808.

The next blog will look at the beliefs and practices that governed how our Quaker ancestors lived their lives.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Postcards and Real Photo Postcards

Postcards were first sold at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago on May 1, 1893. The cards were issued by the government or were privately printed as souvenirs of the exposition. The government card came with a pre-printed one cent stamp, and the souvenir card required an adhesive two cent stamp. By law, neither card permitted a written message on the back--only an address. Five years later, private printers were allowed to sell postcards as long as they carried the words "Private Mailing Card". These could be mailed for one cent, but messages were still not permitted.

Charles Armstrong's postcard to his father (December, 1906) 
is an example of an early real photo card. While the law 
prevented the sender from writing on the back of the card, 
nothing prevented him from writing a message on the front.

Private mailing cards were issued until 1901 when Real Photo Postcards (referred to as RPPCs by collectors) appeared. However, messages were not permitted until March 1, 1907, when postcards were printed with a divided back. Although still being printed today, RPPCs were wildly popular between 1907-1914. If you're lucky enough to have some really old family photos, you undoubtedly have at least a few that have postcard backs. RPPCs are especially useful to family historians because they capture not only the images of our ancestors, but also of scenes familiar and important to them. In addition, these postcards often include a message helpful in identifying the photograph. Postcard writers tended to date their cards with only the month and day, if they dated them at all. However, there are ways to determine an approximate date, if not an exact date, for the card and probably for the image.

   This unmailed card of Vivian Miller (rt.)
   and a friend can be dated by the AZO
   stamp box: 4 triangles pointing up tell us
   the card was printed between 1904-1918.
   Vivian was born in 1902, so this photo
   was probably taken in 1917 or 1918.
If the card was mailed and the post mark is legible, finding the date is simple. For an unmailed RPPC, the AZO stamp box can help you determine an approximate date. (AZO refers to the type of paper Kodak used to produce RPPCs.) If the stamp box contains a triangle pointing up in each corner of the box, the card was printed between 1904-1918. If the box contains two triangles pointing up and two pointing down, the card was printed between 1918-1930. If the box contains a square in each corner, the card was printed between 1927-1940. While these are broad ranges, they can be narrowed down considerably if we know when the individual was born, as in the example at the left.

There a number of other clues on postcards, RPPC or other, which can help you date the card. For example, if you knew someone in the family was born in 1905, but didn't know when she died, finding a linen postcard written by her or to her helps you narrow her death to between 1930-1945, when linen postcards were issued.

You can learn about other clues to be found on postcards, as well as the history of postcards on a number of websites, but here are some recommendations:

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Muskingum County Infirmary

For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good....
                                                                                                                 --King James Bible, Mark 14:7

The admonition to care for the poor and the outcast has been around for quite some time, although the type of care provided was not often kind. In England, "paupers" were consigned to workhouses; in America they went to the poorhouse, sometimes known as the almshouse, or in the case of Muskingum County, the infirmary. Whatever the place was called, these "charitable" institutions were often inhospitable and inhumane, run by governing boards whose primary concern was keeping operating costs to a minimum. Being sent to the poorhouse was everyone's worst nightmare.

The infirmary about 1910
Muskingum County first authorized the establishment of a county poorhouse in 1816. Twenty-two years later, the county purchased one hundred acres in Falls Township to be the site for the "County Poor Farm". (Most early county poorhouses were actually self-sustaining farms.) Construction of the first "poor house" began in 1839. That building, partially destroyed by fire in 1859, was rebuilt and enlarged in 1860. In 1863, the county purchased an additional 100 acres adjacent to the original purchase, and although no longer officially called a farm, all but 30 acres of woodland was under cultivation. The building that stood on Newark Avenue until its recent demolition was erected in 1880.

The "poor house" was renamed an "infirmary" on March 23, 1850, in what today would be called a  PR move to improve the institution's image. "Poor house" was a misnomer anyway; like other poorhouses, the Muskingum County Infirmary housed not only the poor, but also those with developmental or physical handicaps, the frail elderly, and those suffering from mental illness. A page from the 1860 U.S. census of the infirmary illustrates the variety of human "condition" the poorhouse system attempted, with limited resources and understanding, to accommodate. On this page (one of three) fourteen people are listed as "pauper", sixteen as "insane", one as "deaf mute", and six as "idiotic".  One can imagine the near impossibility of adequately and compassionately serving the needs of this diverse population.

Friday, April 14, 2017

In Memory of President Abraham Lincoln

Today marks 152 years since President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by the actor and southern sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth. Like today, that April 14 fell on Good Friday.

Lincoln was in a jovial mood when he and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, arrived at Ford's Theater---General Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant just five days earlier. Lincoln had invited Grant and his wife to attend the theater with them, and Grant had accepted, but his wife, Julia, disliked Mrs. Lincoln, and convinced her husband to bow out of the invitation. After several others, including the Lincoln's son, Robert, turned down the invitation, young Clara Harris and her finance, Major Henry Rathbone, accepted.

Letter to the Editor describing funeral
observance for President Lincoln at
Zanesville's A.M.E  Church on South Street
The story is pretty well known from this point. Booth had laid his plans carefully, and no one questioned the famous actor's presence at the theater, or made any effort to impede his free movement. Booth timed his entry into the Presidential box, and the firing of the fatal shot to coincide with the delivery of a major laugh-line in the play Our American Cousin. Rathbone tried to stop Booth's escape, but was felled by a serious knife wound. Booth leaped to the stage, and was said to have shouted Sic semper tyrannis ("Thus ever to tyrants"). In his jump to the stage, Booth broke his ankle, but still made it to his waiting horse, and was able to get out of Washington before authorities could effectively mobilize to stop him. Twelve days later, Booth was tracked down and killed.

The dying, unconscious President was carried to a boarding house across the street from Ford's Theater, where he died without ever regaining consciousness early the following morning. Most Northerners were grief-stricken. African Americans in the North and the South mourned the loss of the person they considered their "Moses".

Lincoln's funeral was held in Washington, D.C. on April 19, and, as in other states, Ohio's Secretary of State asked Ohioans to hold observances to coincide with the one in Washington. One such observance in Zanesville was reported in the April 20, 1865 edition of the Daily Zanesville Courier.

Following the funeral, Lincoln's body, and that of the Lincoln's son, Willie, were put on a funeral train for a long, slow journey to Springfield, Illinois. It took two weeks for the train to travel from Washington to Springfield because of stops in major cities to allow citizens file past the casket and pay their respects. Although Lincoln's body was embalmed, undertakers had an increasingly difficult time keeping the darkening face and decaying body suitable for viewing. By the time the train arrived in Columbus on April 29, there were real concerns about the appropriateness of continuing the open casket viewings.* Nevertheless, Lincoln's body was conveyed to the State Capitol where it was on display for nearly twelve hours before the trip to Springfield was resumed. On May 4, Abraham Lincoln was finally laid to rest, along with his son Willie, in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.

"A Body for the Body Politic: The strange, sad, and gross saga of Abraham Lincoln's two-week funeral procession"

Thursday, April 6, 2017

War and Peace

Today is the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I. The European powers--Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary--had been locked in futile combat since August of 1914, and had managed, through a complex series of alliances, to drag much of the world into a brutal war.

President Wilson, supported by the majority of Americans, had promised the United States would remain neutral, but the fact of the nation's close ties with Great Britain strained that promise, especially once Germany began to wage unrestricted submarine warfare on merchant ships and passenger liners. The sinking of the British liner, Lusitania in 1915, which claimed the lives of 1198 people, including 128 Americans, called into question American's and President Wilson's commitment to neutrality. That commitment was somewhat restored when Germany halted its attacks on unarmed vessels. In 1917, however, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare in a desperate attempt to bring the bloody stalemated war to an end. The sinking of the liner Housatonic and four U. S. merchant ships put an end to the idea that America could remain neutral; in fact, it made the American President, Congress, and citizens willing, even eager, to enter the conflict, and on April 6, 1917, Congress declared war.

Manpower-wise, the United States was unprepared for war. There were only 110,000 men in uniform at the time war was declared, and only 32,000 volunteers had come forward by the end of April.  A military draft was the only way to significantly increase those numbers, and in May, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, requiring all men between 21-31 to register for service. In September, the draft eligibility age expanded, and men 18-45 were required to register.

Images of WWI draft registration cards can be found at
In the two drafts, Muskingum County draft boards registered more than 5,000 men, and 1655 entered into military service. Undoubtedly, most of those were among the 2,057,675 military men who arrived in France with the American Expeditionary Force, and joined British and French soldiers fighting the Germans along the Western Front. Seventy Muskingum County men did not return home. The county's veterans and casualties of WWI are memorialized in the E. M. Viquesney statue, "The Spirit of the American Doughboy", located on the Courthouse grounds in Zanesville. The Muskingum County statue was dedicated in 1934, and is one of 159 copies.

As we mark the anniversary of our nation's entry into a deadly conflict that did little more than set up the conditions for WWII, we should note there is another 100th anniversary this month. On April 30, 1917, a group of young Quaker men in Philadelphia organized the American Friends Service Committee to witness for peace in the midst of war. Although allowed by the Selective Service Act to register as Conscientious Objectors, American Quakers nevertheless went to the battlefields, to work with British Quakers as unarmed stretcher-bearers and ambulance drivers, caring for the wounded of any army. Many brave soldiers, wounded by war, owed their lives to brave non-combatants who rescued them from the battlefield in the name of peace.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Diseases That Plagued Our Ancestors

Title page of Robley Dunglison's
medical dictionary
In 1867, Ohio's county probate courts began to record every death in the county as a single line entry in a bound volume called a register. This was the method for keeping death records until December 19, 1908 when deaths were recorded by the Ohio Department of Health in certificate form.

You can look at images of the 1867-December 18, 1908 death records in the Probate Clerk's office at the courthouse in Zanesville. Because the death register is essentially a ledger, you see many entries on a single page--and are likely to see at least one unfamiliar cause of death on a page.

Our ancestors lived with and sometimes died of conditions and diseases that no longer plague us, thanks to medical advances. But they also suffered from health problems and diseases that are still around--we just might not recognize the disease names our ancestors used. For example, I had one ancestor who died of scirrhous pylorus (cancerous tumor of the stomach), another who suffered and then died from apoplexy (paralyzing stroke), and another whose sister died of "the wasting disease", also known as consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis).

1842 medical article about my g-g-g
grandfather, William Burdett
Thanks to the internet, we can "translate" the old medical terms into something recognizable. If you're interested in more in-depth information (and in a resource probably known to your ancestor's physician) you might want a copy of Dunglison's Dictionary of Medical Science, published in 1865. It's a collection of medical terms, anatomy, chemistry, Latin names for diseases, diagnoses, treatments, prognoses, and even suggestions for American and European health spas where your ancestor might go to "take the waters" and recuperate from whatever was ailing her.

Dunglison's has been scanned and can be purchased as a CD or download from Archive CD Books USA.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Potters Here, There, and Everywhere

Muskingum County is famous for its pottery, and the products of companies such as Weller, Hull, and McCoy are much sought after by collectors.

George Rambo, "Farmer & Potter",
operated a bluebird pottery.
Before the big manufacturers, though, Muskingum County, rich in clay soil, was rich in small, usually family-run, potteries. These potteries often employed only two or three people, and consequently, their production was low. James L. Murphy, who compiled a checklist of 19th-century Muskingum County potteries, believed the term "bluebird" referred to the time of year these potteries produced most of their wares---the warmer months when bluebirds returned to the county. Some, however, believe the term refers to the blue designs often used to decorate the pottery. Whatever the origin of the term, there were lots of bluebird potteries. Murphy found that 190 of these small potteries existed in Muskingum County between 1850-1880. If you've looked at U.S. censuses taken in the county during those years, and especially if you've researched Newton, Clay, and Hopewell townships, you would have seen person after person whose occupation was "potter", "journeyman potter", or "farmer & potter" like George Rambo, my 3-greats grandfather. George's daughter Mary Jane, married Andrew Jackson Wilson, another bluebird potter; Mary and Andrew were my great-great grandparents.

Shards of pottery from site of the A. J. Wilson Pottery. Note
the blue painted decoration on two of the pieces.
Bluebird potteries produced practical, utilitarian pottery items for every-day use. If the pottery were decorated, it was almost always a very simple design done in blue paint, or a design etched in the clay before it was fired. There might be a maker's mark somewhere on the object. Crocks and jars of all sizes seemed to be the type of object most produced, although any household object that could be fashioned from clay was possible. I once saw a sieve made from clay; it wasn't terribly attractive, but you could see it would be serviceable.

Andrew Jackson Wilson
My great-great grandfather's business, the A. J. Wilson Pottery, is shown on an 1866 map of Newton Township. Finding the site present-day, however, was a bit tricky, but superimposing the 1866 map onto a Google Earth view of the area made it possible to locate Andrew's pottery. Nothing is visible now; the area is overgrown with tall grass. But when you walk around the site, you find yourself walking on hundreds of pottery shards and lumps of fired clay. Even though there were only broken pieces, it was exciting to hold in my hands the bits of pottery crafted by Great-great Grandfather Andrew and his son-in-law, Great Grandfather, Warren McLean (see 3/3/17 post). Being a collector of family artifacts, I, of course, brought a few pieces home.
Lump of fired potter's clay. Could the
finger impressions be A. J. Wilson's?

For more information, see  James L. Murphy's Checklist of 19th Century Bluebird Potters and Potteries in Muskingum County, Ohio, edited by Jeff Carskadden and Richard Gartley. Published 2014 by Muskingum Valley Archaeological Survey, Zanesville, Ohio.