Free is the prompt for this weeks 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, and who better than to write about than my 5th-great-grandfather, Solomon Sparks, who fought in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
Solomon Sparks was born 13 June 1758 to Joseph Sparks and the former Mary McDaniel in Frederick, Maryland. Overall he was the fifth of at least nine children, and the third boy. (As a side note, Solomon’s younger sister Sarah is also my 5th-great-grandmother, making Joseph and Mary my 6th-great-grandparents two times over).
Solomon’s family moved from Maryland to Bedford County, Pennsylvania in 1778 and in 1782 Solomon joined the militia as a private, mustering out when the war was over in 1783. He was a part of Captain Boyd’s Company of Rangers, their job was “to scout the forests and guard the settlements against surprise attacks from hostile Indians” (Taken from the History of Bedford, Fulton, & Somerset Counties).
Upon the war ending Solomon returned to Frederick, Maryland to live for a short time. This is where Rachel Weimer also lived, and they very well could have known each other or met at this point in time. They married in Pennsylvania in 1786 and had 11 children, settling in Providence Township in Bedford County, where he became a successful farmer.
When the War of 1812 began Captain Solomon Sparks and his Regiment of Rifleman “marched through the wilderness to the Canadian frontier and there performed efficient service” (Taken from the History of Bedford, Fulton & Somerset Counties).
Solomon passed away on 8 April 1838 but I wonder if he had been ill for a while. His will is dated 10 January 1821 with the beginning wording as “being for time very unwell but sound in mind, memory and understanding” (will was found in records not yet transcribed on FamilySearch). He gave $200 to each of his daughters, and money and homes to each of his sons. His wife, Rachel, was Executrix and his oldest son, Abraham, Executor.
When it came to finding conflict in my tree, as that is the theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, one of my biggest puzzles is how George Mullen is related to my to my 2nd-great-grandmother, Anna Maria Leighty.
Supposedly George is Anna Maria’s son, but I don’t have any concrete proof that he is her son. I will confess I do have him listed in my family tree software as her son, only because of the below note on the picture of Anna Maria Leighty and her husband, Jonas Wise that my first cousin once removed, Hope, found left behind at a Wise Family Reunion in the 1990’s.
The note states:
Jonas Wise 1856-1913 Passed away at age 57 and was stone deaf
Anna Maria Leighty Wise 1849-1933 84 years of age, 15 children only 5 lived
George, Henry, Riley, Mary Ann, Maggie
Even the note is incorrect, Anna Maria first shows up on a census in 1860 because she was born in 1851. Most documents support Jonas being born in 1855. Their death years are both correct.
When you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, the only other piece of information that helps me think for a moment that he was her son is that she was living with him and is listed as his mother in the 1920 census (though i know you can’t always go by what the census says).
George Mullen was also supposedly born in 1874 but he is not living with Anna Maria Leighty in the 1880 census. He is listed with his grandmother (Anna Maria’s mother) Mary Ellen (Adams) Mullen and her 2 sons (who are younger than Anna Maria), William and Michael Mullen in Carbon, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. George is also listed at this time with the last name of McCre. I do realize he may have been visiting, but I don’t have any record of his living with his mother.
In the 1880 Census, Anna Maria Leighty is married to Jonas Wise and they were living in Coaldale in 1880 with their oldest son, Henry (next door to my 2nd-great-granduncle, George Washington Blair – one of my infamous brick walls). Henry was born in 1876.
Now I did know one of George Mullen’s children, his daughter, Anna Mary, who my grandmother did consider a cousin, but I was little and didn’t think to ask questions. I know Anna Mary died in the early 1980’s and I always thought it a bit peculiar that she carried a doll with her everywhere. I now know she probably had dementia or Alzheimer’s but I didn’t understand as a child of 6, why I couldn’t carry a doll everywhere too. The other thing I think of when I think of Anna Mary is that she was a huge supporter of Nixon, I had a bunch of jewelry supporting Nixon that I was given to play dress up with when at my Grandma’s, I’m sure it was thrown away when my Grandmother passed away, but it would have been an interesting keepsake.
I never would have known until examining the 1920 census that George was Anna Maria’s son if it weren’t for Anna Maria Leighty’s page on Find a Grave. There are so many inconsistencies for whomever it was that wrote out the information that it makes my head hurt.
The person who wrote it was the grandchild (or possibly a great-grandchild) of William Mullen, who was the son of Mary Ellen Adams, half sibling of Anna Maria Leighty. They proceed to list all of George Mullen’s children, and as an after thought lists Anna Maria’s children with Jonas Wise (Henry, Riley, Mary Ann and Margaret). They list Margaret “Maggie” Wise as marrying a Blair, it was her daughter, Anna Maria Morgart who married a Blair. Anna Maria was also never a Mullen herself, her mother was, and I have a feeling since she more than likely raised George, he eventually took on her last name (which at that time was Mullen). Regardless, he was raised by the family and is one of us, I am just trying to figure out if he belongs where others have placed him.
So I’m sure you can understand my conflict.
Lastly, I share no DNA matches with anyone named Mullen. I find this interesting that George and his wife had 9 children and not one of their offspring has taken a DNA test. Or they have and they don’t match. I have even used the Thrulines tool on Ancestry and I have matches with descendants of Henry, Riley, Mary Ann and another for my own great-grandmother, Margaret Dora Wise. But not 1 match for George Mullen. After looking at my other DNA matches though, none of them have George listed as a child of Anna Maria Leighty, either.
Which once again leads to my conflict.
Working on this article I’ve learned that I have a lot to do on my Leighty family. I am missing many censuses for my great-great-grandmother (Anna Maria) and several of her siblings (Mary E., John Quincy, Joseph, George, Uriah, and Sidney). Joseph married an Ellen McCray, could this be a relation to the McCray that is supposedly the father of George?
I also think I am going to try to reach out to anyone who may appear to be a descendant, or at least someone who has researched George Mullen and his family to see if any of them have tested their DNA to see if there is a match. I know it may just be grasping at straws but this may give me insight on who George’s parents are, and confirm if it is my great-great-grandmother.
When finding the obituary of my great-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart, there was always a part of it that interested me:
” The Knights of the Golden Eagle, of which he was a member, turned out in a body at his funeral”
Who are the Knights of the Golden Eagle? That is what I set out to learn this week.
The Knights of the Golden Eagle
The Knights of the Golden Eagle is a fraternal organization that began in 1873 in Baltimore, Maryland (I say is as via a Google Search there are claims it is still handing out scholarships in areas of Pennsylvania). The group was set up in Philadelphia by 1876 (with the help of the Odd Fellows).
The KGE local chapters were “castles”, state castles were “grand castles” and the national headquarters were “supreme castles”.
The castles were set up like the Crusades and had 3 degrees:
The first degree had you as a pilgrim where you “were taught fidelity to God and man”.
The second degree had you as a medieval knight where you “revered religion, fidelity, valor, charity, courtesy, and hospitality”
The third degree was based on a crusader where the member was “equipped against the evil of his enemies”.
To become a member the following qualifications are to be met:
Over the age of 18
Have no physical or mental handicaps
Ability to write
Able to support themselves
Sound moral character
Of the Christian faith
Meetings were held in an orderly fashion with songs mixed in.
The group tried to do good things for their community and help members widows and orphans when they need protection.
* The above information was found on Wikipedia and The National Heritage Museum
My dad has always been a low-key kind of guy who prefers books to most people (this is not that he doesn’t like people, he just loves to read!). So with this week’s theme being Father’s Day and me not knowing a whole lot about my Pappy (aka Leroy Blair, my dad’s dad) I took a moment before the day began today to ask my dad some questions about his dad.
A little background on him. Charley Wilmer Blair was born 13 February 1912 in Todd Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania to Andrew Jackson Blair and Bertha Childers. He was their oldest living son. I’m not sure how long he had the name of Charley Wilmer before his mother decided she liked Leroy better, but this was the name he went by the rest of his life (I always think it’s funny she just decided she liked something better).
My dad didn’t really have one particular favorite memory of his dad, but was always amazed how quickly he could make up a meal. They would often go for a drive in nature and his dad would stop the car and pull out the Coleman stove and a pressure cooker and could have a meal made up in moments.
So funny that he had this memory because when I was scanning my grandmother’s photos, she had noted on the back of a photo of how they had stopped and Leroy had made a wonderful beef stew in the pressure cooker.
My favorite memory my dad had told me was how Pappy went to my dad’s school one day and excused him from class and decided to drive across the country to Arizona with him. What a trip that had to have been for the two (his older sister Vada lived in Arizona with her husband Charles and daughter, Darlene).
What Leroy Was Like
My dad has always described his dad as being a fairly simple man. They would go fishing but it was more of it being a quiet hobby because he (Leroy) never caught any fish. This is something that my dad must have inherited as he doesn’t catch fish very often either (luckily I am able to catch a fish but just about always throw them back).
My dad told me in the past that Leroy was also an excellent hunter. I had actually asked him about this because I know his (Leroy’s) brother Donald did. It surprised me to hear this as my grandparents house was never filled with the heads and other trophy animals that his younger brother’s house had. My dad then went on to tell me that once my grandfather was able to provide for his family and buy meat at the grocery store, he no longer went out and hunted for food.
I do know that he liked farming. My grandfather had a farm in southern Ohio and oddly enough where his potato fields were was the same spot that I always wanted to build an A-frame home. The field is surrounded by apple trees and the smell is so wonderful when they are in bloom. And it’s nice and quiet. My dad was always the buzz kill because he always made sure to tell me it would cost a million dollars just to build the driveway.
How I Wish I Had Gotten to Know Him
Of all my relatives I wish I had gotten a chance to speak to, my Pappy is at the top of the list. I wish I could have known him, as my Grandma Blair always said I was just as stubborn as he was, and that I had inherited his odd shaped feet.
I know he (Leroy) wasn’t always fond of my mom but even she was always upset that I never had a chance to know him. He always wanted to go in and see me when he visited, it didn’t matter that my mom had just put me down, I was always miraculously awake when he came out to the kitchen asking if he could hold me. “The baby’s awake” he would say.
I often wonder if he would have been the strong, silent type with me as he was with my dad. Or would have been a little more forthcoming with his granddaughter? I’ll never know. He died of a heart attack on 14 May 1975.
Luckily I have always had a good relationship with my dad. He is the best buddy a girl could ask for as we always did stuff together when I was growing up such as fishing, going to the movies, playing catch with a baseball in the backyard (despite my never trying out for little league or anything) and I’m sure a ton of other things that were just so commonplace they aren’t standing out. But he was always this strong presence. Still is today.
So as I write this on Father’s Day, I know my dad had a good dinner (we had cheesy brats and hamburgers with some calico beans and potato chips with cherry cupcakes and vanilla marshmallow frosting) and it was a good day with family.
Wishing all of the dad’s out there a very Happy Father’s Day!
Bridge. Such an ominous theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I didn’t know what I could possibly write about. A bridge – I don’t know enough of the specifics of my ancestors to see if a bridge made any sort of impact in their lives.
So I kept thinking – and it finally occurred to me that I am the bridge, I am the link between my family’s past and present. So this week I am not going to write about an ancestor, I am going to talk about me.
I was born in the early 70’s in Akron, Ohio, the exact same city as I live right now. Though I was raised in the Akron suburb of Cuyahoga Falls (it means “crooked river” in Indian). I am the youngest in my family – my only other sibling is my older sister, who was 5 when I was born (read between the lines here that she wasn’t happy with the attention I took away). I don’t think my sister ever realized how envious I was of her – she got dance lessons and I had…. nothing.
Not that I was upset, but I what I wanted to learn more than anything was to play the piano. I use to pretend that the end of my bed was a piano and I would “play” music for hours (it was me, humming the music). My mom always told me she wanted to get me lessons, and it’s not that they couldn’t afford them, they couldn’t afford the piano. Oddly enough, as I am typing this “from the hip” I ordered up a 36-lesson course to teach myself to play, and it just arrived, so maybe my inner child’s dream will come true.
My childhood was nothing extraordinary – if anything it was extra ordinary. My sister and I had our spats – she pulled me by my feet around and around the two entrances into our living room giving me a horrible patch of rugburn on my chin (yes, the chin was what was on the ground) while I ended up pushing her off the top bunk of her bunk beds when she finally gave me a minute to get up there (she went to push me but I pushed first – don’t worry, Grandma Blair took care of the situation – which means I didn’t get in trouble at all).
I remember learning a bit of math early on because I saw my sister doing it so I wanted to do it too. When I started to learn how to read in elementary school I went at it with everything in my being because my dad and sister were big readers, so I wanted to read too.
But there came a point when I saw where my sister didn’t always get the best of grades and I saw how upset it made my mom and so the “watch and learn” period began. I did my best to get good grades as that made my mom happy. Maybe not ecstatic but at least it gave her less to be upset about.
It’s funny, my sister pointed out how I tried to be better than her on a road trip to me within the past year. She thought I was doing it to be better than her, and I guess after a certain point it was, but it really started out trying to keep up with her. I didn’t think about not being as old as her, I only wanted to be on the same level as her, and being 5 years younger I had a lot of catching up to do.
In fifth grade I began my love of history. For some reason Ms. Roberson made history entertaining. None of my other teachers really had, and my history geek self was born.
In sixth grade I gave a complete answer to a substitute teacher in Social Studies and so the nickname of “Becky the Brain” was born. And instead of trying to put it out of my mind, I attempted to live up to it every year. Though I wasn’t very good in math so I couldn’t understand how anyone would think of me as a “brain” but I tried to keep the moniker alive. All the way through high school.
The College Years
College was my troubling time. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (and face it, time was running out, what am I talking about, I am still trying to figure that out). I opted to get a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration/Marketing in Management, not sales. But everyone assumes you want to do sales. I enjoyed marketing research. I find it thrilling to analyze information and detect trends. But you needed an MBA to even get your foot in the door and I was sick of school.
My goal was to move to New York City. I was born in Ohio but I was meant to be a New Yorker. The city brings a confidence in me that I have never experienced anywhere else. The energy makes me feel more alive and that’s why I tried to find a job there. But every job I was offered didn’t pay enough money, and though my mom didn’t tell me I shouldn’t go, she just offered one bit of advice: Do you really want to live somewhere that you have to work 3 jobs to get by? The answer was no, because then I’d never be able to enjoy living in the city I’d so wanted to be a part of.
In 1999 I returned to school and earned my Bachelor of Arts in History with my focus being American History. I don’t think I ever read so much in 1 year (well, except for the year I chose to read a certain number of books – and though I started off with a goal of 100 books, I condensed it down to 60 in June realizing I did need more of a life than just working and reading). While going back for my history degree, one of the classes had us getting internships at the local historic house, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. This class changed my life, as one internship turned into a second, which turned into a job. Best place to work to this day and it was all because of my co-workers. Many I am friends with on social media, but they were all genuinely good people. I just wish I could have continued working in the history field as I know I’d probably be a bit happier. What is that saying – if you do what you love you never work a day in your life?
I met my husband while working at Stan Hywet. Anyone who is willing to try burnt hot chocolate to impress you must not be so bad, right? We got married in 2003 (the photo to the right below is of the English Garden at Stan Hywet, where hubby proposed) and have had two wonderful children (isn’t that what you are suppose to say???). Actually I can’t complain, I nag about grades (for some reason the more I nag the less interested they are – and they weren’t like this in elementary school, and they are both so smart which makes it that much more infuriating).
We do the simple things – eat dinner together, go on camping trips as a family (well, the heat of Myrtle Beach did me in so now I prefer hotels), or go to places like Washington, D.C. (that was our last vacation – last year we were contemplating things but Covid-19 nipped those plans).
Our house isn’t fancy but it is home. We have a dog as well. Max, a Jack-Russell who is now finally almost 13 and starting to mellow for our standards.
My Love of Family History
My love of family history began when I was in 6th grade and had to do a genealogy project. It was simple, you had to either get to a different state or a different country. I had it lucky – my dad’s parents had both been born in Pennsylvania and my mom’s grandparents were either Pennsylvania or England, so score me extra points for getting out of the country.
I then began gathering information and doing stuff when I first began college. I really wish I would have stuck with it in the early-to-mid-nineties because I could have asked both grandmothers so much information. But I am not always so smart. My cousin, Darlene, who also worked on genealogy, sent me family group sheets and such to help me get started. Of course working and going to school ended up taking up a bunch of my time and it once again got put on hold.
Fast forward to 10 August 2016, the day I decided to Google family history or genealogy, who knows, but it was the day that I signed up for FamilySearch.org and I have never looked back. It started because on this particular day, I missed my Grandma, and I figured a way to get close to her was to learn all I could about her family.
I have learned so much about so many members of my family. And the more I learn the more mesmerized I am. These people were so strong and lived through so much. Life today would seem like a cake-walk (well unless family history became their hobby and they had some of the brick walls I do about them).
I’ve had DNA lead me to a branch of my tree that no one even knew about (well, unless I’m totally wrong). It’s amazing what a powerful tool a simple spit test can be.
Between attending conferences, family history days at the Family History Centers, and webinars and other online/in-person presentations, and Facebook groups, I have learned so much about this hobby of mine, and just how generous people in the genealogy community are, always willing to jump in and research from a different angle.
I Am the Bridge
I am the bridge because I then tell my family about what I have found. I deal with the eye rolls and whatever else may come my way for that person who says “wow, that’s interesting” and it makes it all worth it. I know my dad enjoys hearing what I find, often telling me he would never have the patience himself to do it, but he loves to hear about it.
I firmly believe in the Russian proverb I posted a while back, “You live as long as you are remembered” and I try to keep each and every one of my ancestors alive.
So I will do my best to work on my tree, break down walls, and do my best to fill in the dash between the years, attempting to bridge the present with the past. All along, hoping to make my ancestors proud.
This weeks post for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is all about military and who better to write about than my 3rd-great-grandfather, George Henry Fesler who fought in the Civil War.
His Early Years
Born on 18 October 1824 in Brush Creek, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, George Henry Fesler was the oldest child of William Frederick Fesler and Mary Polly Evans. George was the oldest in their family of at least 7 children: John, Mary, Matilda, Sarah, Alexander, and Samuel followed.
By the 1840 Census it appears that George, all the way to 15 years old, is no longer living with his parents. In 1844 he is selected as a private in John B. Alexander’s Wells Valley Riflemen (also referred to as Wells Valley Union Rifle Company), a group commissioned by Pennsylvania Governor Porter. Their first muster was 4 July 1844.
On 10 February 1847 he married Mary Elizabeth Oakman, the sister of one of his fellow Rifleman, Squires Oakman. He and Mary had a total of 11-children: Sara Jane (my 2nd-great-grandmother), John Oliver, Mary Isabelle, James Squires, Rebecca May, Margaret Elizabeth, Frances, Harry Franklin, George Henry, Jr., William Gilmore, and Lilly Mae. The last 2 were born upon his return after the Civil War.
In some documents George is listed as a farmer, in others a stone mason like his dad.
The Civil War
The first war where Congress passed an act for the first wartime draft was the Civil War. All men between the ages of 20 and 45 were to register. The difference between then and now was that you could buy your way out of the draft. For $300 you could avoid it all together (which is what wealthier men did) or you could hire someone to take your place.
It appears George was a draft dodger, and they caught up to him in September 1864 where he was arrested and forced to serve in the Union Army.
George mustered in as a Private on 19 September 1864 becoming a part of Company G of the 61st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry on 2 November 1864. From December through the end of the war in June he served by defending Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. was defended by 68 enclosed forts that surrounded the capitol city.
After his return to “normal” life, George and Mary had their last 2 children only for her to pass away in 1872.
At some point in time, George became acquainted with his neighbor, Fayetta Ann Childers, who was also the sister of his son-in-law, Randall Childers (Randall is my 2nd-great-grandfather and was married go George’s oldest daughter, Sara Jane). In 1883 George and Fayetta had the final piece of the Fesler family, Edgar Sheridan “Sherd” Fesler.
George and Fayetta never married legally, but theirs would be considered a common law marriage.
He filed to receive a pension in 1889 where medical reports have him as having chronic diarrhea and other rectum diseases which declared him an invalid (or at least made it difficult to work as one never knew when one of these bouts were going to hit. This was a common ailment among Civil War veterans).
George passed away on 14 October 1911 with Old Age being listed as his cause of death, he was 4 days shy of being 86 years old. He is buried with most of his family (as well as many of my Childers relatives) in Wells Valley Methodist Church Cemetery.
The Pension File
I purchased George’s pension file 2-years ago after I came home home from the Ohio Genealogical Society’s Conference. A gentleman I met there, Brian, has based a good portion of his business travelling to the Archives in Washington, DC to help genealogists such as myself get the military records for their ancestors. (If you are interested you may want to check out his website at www.civilwarrecords.com).
I will admit, I paid for everything (he had a discount for those attending the conference, and afraid I’d miss some detail if I didn’t get it all). I had glanced at everything a few times but will confess truly began dissecting the file when doing this post.
Take my advice, however you get your hands on your pension file (as you can order through NARA yourself), find the portion that tells you when they enlisted. The pension file for George included the entire war for Company G for the 61st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry. As I read through their start in 1862 I am tracking their movements through Virginia in Newport News, how they fought at the battle of Fair Oaks and then Gettysburg, and I was so enamored that I started mapping a vacation to follow in his steps.
Then I clicked on another folder that had his enlistment papers and it was then I discovered he didn’t begin to serve until late 1864 and all the “cool” battles his regiment had been in were done.
My trip will just be visiting our nations capitol and visiting a barricade that still exists on the outside of the city.
I learned quite a bit about George while writing this post. He was the last surviving member of the Wells Valley Union Rifle Company, and a great hunter (various newspaper articles about this).
Growing up my parents never took me to cemeteries to view the headstones of our dearly departed. My grandfather, Leroy Blair, who passed away when I was 2 years old, was cremated, so we didn’t have any gravesite to visit.
The first death that affected me was that of my great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar. She passed away 8 January 1982 which was my cousin Jaclyn’s birthday, who turned 4 that day. My mother always remembered Jaclyn sitting on her lap, telling her that she bet “Great Grandma probably already has her wings”. It was the perfect sentiment for my mom about one of her most favorite people in the world. Mildred did have a gravesite but I only ever remember visiting a couple of times. There was extremely frigid weather taking place around her death, so it took a bit before she was able to be buried, if my memory serves. There was no cemetery portion of her funeral, it all took place at McGowan-Reid & Santos Funeral Home in Cuyahoga Falls (I don’t think it’s called that anymore).
Then I remember hearing issues about Mildred’s gravestone. They kept setting it incorrectly and water kept accumulating all around it. No matter what they did it just never seemed right. Both times we went, there were puddles.
My next gravesite I found was that of my grandma, Anna Maria Morgart. She had everything all arranged prior to her passing so my parents had little to do but the finalized ceremony. I don’t think my parents ever went to my Grandma’s gravesite after the ceremony at the cemetery. We didn’t have the one at the gravesite, but my brother-in-law stood by while the men buried her. Apparently he did that as one of his past jobs. I’m often glad my parents skipped that portion, I don’t think I could have handled watching my Grandma be put into the ground.
It has been a few years (not sure exactly how many) when I decided one day to go find my Grandma where she was buried at Rose Hill Burial Park in Akron. My husband pulled in and all I could remember was that she was under a tree, and I knew she had chosen a good spot because she would have liked the shade. But as we tiptoed trying to find her from a memory at least seven years prior, I was so happy when I finally found her headstone. It was a flat one in the ground. And though I had stepped so lightly and was so cautious to not step on anyone, lo and behold I was standing right on top of Grandma. But I laughed, if anyone would have forgiven me it would have been her.
Once I began getting involved in my genealogy seriously, I became extremely focused on finding my Great-Great-Grandmother, Mazie Lorenia Warner, and found her I did. It took a while as she is not listed on any of the cemetery sites, and the cemetery she is buried in, Mount Peace Cemetery, also in Akron, Ohio, doesn’t have her listed. But I contacted the office and they were able to send me over the invoice copies of when she purchased both plots back in 1938 when her second husband, Samuel Randol, unexpectedly passed away. I was so excited when I went on a whim with my husband to find her, I did it so I could show my mom more easily on a lunch hour one day.
But that lunch hour excursion never happened. I found Mazie and Samuel in September 2017 and my mom wasn’t feeling up to ever meeting me at the cemetery. I figured I would the next year, but just 8 months later, she had passed away too.
Like my Grandfather Blair, my Mom opted to be cremated. I understand, there is a great deal of expense when burying a loved one. But I will admit, I wish I had a cemetery plot to visit so I could hash out the worldly problems with my her. Especially on days like today, the 3rd anniversary of her death.
Two years ago I went back to Pennsylvania and spent an entire day visiting the graves of my direct line ancestors on my paternal side (with some bonus extras I found in the same spots). There was something so wonderful to be so close to where they had their final resting place, to be so close to them. But in that one day I was able to visit with at least 22 direct-line grandparents (probably more as I know some where buried in the vicinity where I was standing, but probably didn’t know for certain where they were buried due to their headstones being gone).
For this week’s theme for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the topic is “cousin bait”. Where I sometimes look ahead and in my mind begin processing what I’m going to write about for the upcoming week, this week I was a bit hesitant as I wanted to make sure what she meant by “cousin bait”. I know it’s meeting cousins essentially, and for all intents and purposes what I wrote about on my DNA week would work for this week too. In that post I wrote about the cousins that I have connected with that are DNA matches. But this week I will discuss 2 cousin’s I’ve met because of my blog.
My Morgart Cousin
It’s been close to two months since I was contacted via Facebook Messenger by Linda. I was surprised as they were doing some research on Peter Morgart and came across my blog. It caught me by surprised, but I suppose it shouldn’t have.
I wrote about Peter Morgart early on as I was so excited to find out my 5th-great-grandfather fought in the American Revolution at the battle of Yorktown and saw Cornwallis surrender to George Washington.
And here I had a fellow Morgart descendent find my post and then contact me!
I was just a little excited. Linda was away on vacation when she contacted me so we haven’t really delved into our families but we got as far as my 2nd-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart, is the brother of her great-grandmother, Rachel Snell Morgart. There is about a 13.5 year age difference between the two, George being the oldest male, and Rachel being the second-youngest female (there were 10 total children born to their parents, Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal).
George Washington Morgart
George Washington Morgart was born 20 Aug 1849 in Providence Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of a farmer, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as he became a farmer, too. When his father died 19 Aug 1870, George inherited his father’s land and the role to take care of the family as he was the oldest son. His brother, James Henry, was also to assist in taking care of the family, but he was just 12 when his father passed.
On 27 June 1872 George married Mary Ann Ritchey. They had at least 5 children that I can confirm, Charles Jackson Morgart, Edward Daniel Morgart, Anna Rebekah Morgart, Stella Mary Morgart, and Altie Pearl Morgart.
He died unexpectedly 5 May 1895 at the age of 45. He was a well-respected citizen and a practical farmer who “died tilling the same soil where he was born”.
Rachel Snell Morgart
Rachel Snell Morgart was born 24 February 1863 in Providence Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. She was the 8th of 10 children born to Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal. But unlike George who farmed the land he was raised on, following the steps of his dad, Rachel went west.
In the 1885 Census for North Dakota Territory, at the age of 22 Rachel Morgart is listed as a teacher. In 1895 she married a farmer and minister, Daniel Halfpenny, who was also Canadian. In 1908 he became a Naturalized Citizen of the United States.
Rachel and Daniel went on to have 5 daughters: Dorothy, Ruth, Margaret, Mary Kathryn (Margaret & Mary Kathryn were twins) and Rebecca between 1896-1908.
She passed away 29 September 1937 in Fargo, North Dakota after being in a car accident on 5 September 1937. It notes that the car was driven by her son but I don’t see a son on any of the censuses from 1900 to 1920. Perhaps it was a son-in-law?
My Childers Cousin
I think I spooked this cousin off because he had once done genealogy and found my blog as well. Our common ancestor is Randall Childers who I wrote about on the week that the theme was Multiple. We will keep him anonymous and just call him “He”, but he messaged me about 2 weeks after Linda and I was so excited about the brick wall he mentioned that I sent him my Thrulines of what options were being suggested for where the line stops and I never heard from him again.
Stupid, stupid, Becky.
But I have been a good girl and haven’t emailed him again. I’m here should he want to talk again. He descends from Randall Childers and Sara Fesler’s youngest son, Charles Peter Childers, while I descend from their daughter, Bertha. Bertha is also on the younger end of Randall and Sara’s children being seventh out of 9 children, with Charles being #9.
I am so happy I have met both He and Linda. I look forward to being able to touch base more with Linda to put more pieces of our genealogical puzzle together. I am hopeful I hear back from He at some point. I really need to control my enthusiasm sometimes.
I enjoyed learning what I have about Rachel Morgart Halfpenny and find her so brave to head west to teach. I could never do something so adventurous. I wonder if her reason for moving west is something that has been passed down through her family. Her younger brother, William Baltzer Morgart, also headed west and was buried in Idaho, perhaps he has something to do with it?
As for George, his family fell apart shortly after his death. His daughter, Altie, died 3 months after he did with heart issues, his wife committed suicide 13 years later, and his oldest son did the same 9 years after his mom. Just sad. I don’t think my great-great-grandmother ever got over the loss of her first husband (she re-married Bartley Hughes who owned the farm next door a few years after George passed away) and daughter. I have yet to find anything to figure out why my great-grandfather, Charles Jackson Morgart hanged himself.
This week’s prompt for Amy Johnson Crow’s weekly 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks genealogical writing series was easy for me as I knew from when I looked through the entire years themes who I was writing about today, my second cousin twice removed, Ralph Reed.
The Early Years
I really do not have a whole lot of information on Ralph from his early life, most of the information I have is about his last year. But Ralph was born on 1 June 1921 to Thomas C. Reed and the former Margaret Philips in Johnstown, Cambria, Pennsylvania. His father at this time worked at a local steel mill while it appears that his mother stayed home to care for their 10 children. Ralph was their sixth.
By 1930 Thomas Reed was working in the coal mines, and I don’t think it was a good fit as by September 1937 he was admitted to the Torrance State Hospital for mental health issues and died 31 January 1938 of General Paralysis of the Insane.
What all this does to a growing boy I am not sure. I’m sure it wasn’t ideal.
The 1940 Census
In the 1940 census, 19-year-old Ralph is not living with his mother, Margaret, and the five children still at home. When I do a search of likely candidates, there are 2 Ralph Reed’s that are 19 that show promise, 1-is living at the Pennsylvania Indiustrial School in Huntingdon County (this is essentially a prision) and the other is living in Maryland as a lodger with his wife. I tend to go with the Huntingdon location simply because on his death certificate his mother (the informant) states he was single, though i suppose there is a chance she was unaware of his marrying Winifred (the name of his wife).
How 10 Seconds Can Change a Life
Yes, there is a possibility that Ralph was in jail prior to his crime from the 1940 census that I found above, and maybe I tend to try to look through rose colored glasses in regard to my distant cousin, but I always feel a bit bad about what happened to Ralph Reed.
I discovered Ralph Reed when I came across his death certificate and saw that his cause of death was “Electrocution by Legal Execution” in Franklin County, Ohio. To get the details I turned to newspapers to discover the story leading to Ralph’s end.
Ralph Reed, along with 3 others: Samuel LaDuca, James Esson, and Edsel Ford Muncy decided to rob the payroll office of the Reliable Steel Plate Company in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, February 6, 1948. One has to remember that in 1948 payroll was paid with cash, but the 4-men made a fatal error, they arrived before the money did.
Being greeted by executives of the company, the men decided to get something out of nothing and robbed the employees. While attempting to get money from George Margulies, Ralph shot him in the back with a revolver.
When they left they had approximately $63, which made the headlines even more brutal. As the 4-men drove off in the getaway car, 2-telephone repairman were working in the vicinity and watched where they drove off too, letting the police know where they went.
By the end of the evening all 4 were brought in and Ralph signed a statement saying he was the triggerman for killing George Margulies.
They did not mess around back in the 1940’s like they do today in crimes and trials. Ralph Reed and the 3-others were on trial by 6 June 1948. Ralph was sentenced to death while his 3-co-horts were sentenced to life in prison.
There is a Case Text of the trial on the internet (you can read here) where more details were given:
Ralph Reed had become acquainted with Sam LaDuca while both were serving time in the Mansfield Reformatory
Reed, Esson & LaDuca were the ones who went into the Reliable Steel Plate Company for the robbery, Muncy was the driver of the getaway car.
All were masked while Reed & LaDuca had loaded guns.
When they arrived there were 3 women in the office, and they forced all 3 into a washroom
20 Minutes elapsed while they waited for the money to arrive at the payroll office by the bookkeeper, while they were waiting the owners of the business, Emanual and George Margulis arrived.
They demanded the payroll and when they owners said they did not have it, LaDuca pressed his gun into the stomach of the elder Margulis and demanded their wallets, as Emanuel Margulis turned his wallet over to LaDuca, Reed pointed his gun into the back of George.
As George began to lower his hands to retrieve his wallet, the telephone rang and that is when Ralph shot him in the back.
Ralph and LaDuca grabbed the petty cash box and left the office.
George Margulis died a half hour later at the hospital.
Other aspects of the trial that did not favor Ralph was when the police brought in James Esson the night of the burglary, he said he only knew Reed about 3-days but that “they needed to be careful when apprehending Reed as he was dangerous”.
But despite Ralph not setting out to shoot George Margulis, as his killing was not premeditated, because they (the 4-men) had planned the robbery and the others stated Ralph was willing to do “anything to get money” they found him guilty and sentenced him to death, because he had confessed to the crime, he was not allowed a new trial.
What Happened to The Others?
As was stated in The Zanesville Signal above, James Esson, Samuel LaDuca, and Edsel Ford Muncy were all sentenced to life in prison for their part in the robbery and murder of George Margulis. But did they?
Edsel Ford Muncy
Edsel Ford Muncy was the driver of the getaway vehicle. I am unable to get to the Ohio History Connection as they do not have the files online, and due to Covid has been closed since March 2020, but I have found records on Ancestry.com stating that in 1972 he got married, divorced in 1985 and died in Beauty, Kentucky in 2001.
Samuel Charles LaDuca
Samuel LaDuca was the other fellow holding a gun when the trio of Ralph Read, Sam LaDuca and James Esson entered the payroll office at the Reliable Steel Plate Company. LaDuca also did not spend the rest of his life in prison. I was not able to find as much information about him as I did Edsel Muncy, but he died in Cleveland, Ohio in 1979.
James Esson did die in prison on 19 May 1977. Sentenced to life in prison, in 1954 James Esson was transferred to work at the London (Ohio) Prison Farm on 31 August 1954. Esson worked himself to honor status but then on 27 May 1956 he stabbed a prison guard and then jumped out of the truck and fled.
Esson stayed on the run until he was caught in Kansas City, Missouri when he was hitch hiking and offered a ride by a couple, Mr. & Mrs. Carl Wegner (Wagner?), who were on their way to an Air Force base in Kansas. He ended up locking them up in their trunk and was reported by a passing motorist. (The below photos were taken from The Tribune (Coshocton) on 19 August 1957).
Despite at least 2 stays of execution by the governor, Ralph Reed was executed on 4 May 1949 at 8pm. He was pronounced dead by 8:10pm. He had one of the least exciting final meals in the memory of the Ohio State Penitentiary warden: mushroom soup, chocolate cake, coffee with cream, and lemonade and he smoked cigarettes. His final visitors were his mother, Margaret (Phillips) Reed, his sister, Margaret (Reed) Smith, and his brother, John Reed. I’ll let the newspaper article describe the details of his electrocution in “Old Sparky” as journalism is just not this descriptive anymore.
Ralph Reed wasn’t an ideal citizen. He most likely is the Ralph Reed in jail in Pennsylvania in the 1940 Census, and at some point between then and 1948 he was in the Mansfield Reformatory. But did Ralph deserve to die for shooting George in the back (oh, the back of all places). I say no. In todays world he would have been sentenced probably to 40 years to life (just a guestimate of an untrained person) and may have gotten out on good behavior on parole. But I don’t think in todays world, even shooting George in the back would have gotten him a death sentence.
Ralph Reed went into the Reliable Steel Plate Company to rob the payroll office. They knew who was suppose to be in the office when they went in there, but their timing was bad. I exaggerate with my 10 seconds, but it just shows how in a matter of minutes, be it 1 or 20, your life can change just like that (imagine my snapping my fingers here). That’s what happened with Ralph.
Oddly enough Ralph is my daughter’s favorite ancestor. I guess we all like to find one scoundrel in our midst, but Ralph was also only 27 when he died, and I don’t think his life was the best it could have been. But every time I look at his picture he just has this look of pure orneriness in his face, but not a cold-blooded killer.
Below is a photo of his headstone where he was buried with his family at Headrick Union Cemetery in East Taylor, Cambria County, Pennsylvania.
As for the unfortunate soul in all of this, may George Margulis Rest in Peace.
My “lucky place” in my world of genealogy is Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Not only is it home to a majority of my dad’s family, but even a branch of my maternal side leads to Bedford County, too.
However, the term “lucky” can also be quite sarcastic as Bedford County is not always the easiest of counties to find the information you are seeking. But this week I am going to try to give a brief history lesson of the county, and give some statistics of Bedford County’s influence on my genealogical world.
A Little History about Bedford County, Pennsylvania
Bedford County started out as a trading post called Raystown after it’s first settler, Robert MacRay, a Scots-Irish immigrant. This began in 1750 and wasn’t the friendliest of places as they often dealt with raids from Indians, and then in 1754 by the French and British during the French & Indian War (or if you are from European descent you would know this as the Seven Years War).
The County ended up getting it’s name from Fort Bedford, built during the French & Indian War it was named in honor of John Russell, the Fourth Duke of Bedford. It was an essential base for the British as they expanded the war westward into the Ohio Country, primarily being used for supplies.
Tall tales with some supported facts claim that Fort Bedford was the first fort to be taken in the early stages of the American Revolution by James Smith. Some evidence states there is truth to this, others feel the fort was simply evacuated in 1766.
By the time George Washington came to Bedford County in 1794 during the Whiskey Rebellion, the fort had already been razed, as this was the general area where his troops stayed.
Mother Bedford and Her Baby Counties
Bedford became the 9th official county of Pennsylvania on 9 March 1771, formed from Cumberland County. It’s population had a boost due to the migration of people westward, and the large county it began as (known as Mother Bedford) slowly made way for new counties: Huntingdon on 20 March 1787, Somerset on 17 April 1795, Cambria on 26 March 1804, Blair on 26 February 1846, and lastly Fulton on 19 April 1850 (some of these new counties were also created with lands from adjacent counties, too).
The Whiskey Rebellion
The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest that began in 1791 when the newly formed United States decided to chose alcohol as it’s first domestic product to tax to assist in raising money to pay off the debt the country incurred during the Revolutionary War. The farmers of the western frontier (which at this time was Western Pennsylvania) resisted paying this tax, as many were veterans of the American Revolution.
In 1794 the protest came to a head when General John Neville, who was the tax inspector, home was attacked by over 500 armed men. President George Washington rode to the area with 13,000 militiamen to confront the protestors, but all had left by the time he arrived.
Despite there not being a formal confrontation, 20 men were arrested but were later pardoned. This instance showed that our new government was not a force to be reckoned with. And for the record, my fifth great-grandfather, Peter Morgart, was one of the men who resisted paying the tax, but did pay his fines.
The “whiskey tax” continued to be a difficult tax to collect and was later repealed during the Jefferson administration.
The Bedford Springs Hotel
One of the large and fancy hotels that still stands in Bedford County is the Bedford Springs Hotel. It was built in 1806 near a spring with a high mineral content and was said to have “healing powers” by Native Americans who would come from miles to drink and bathe in the waters.
It soon became a vacation destination for those from the east as their cities were beginning to become polluted due to increase in industrialization. Bedford still offered a country feel.
It became a meeting place of presidents including William Henry Harrison, James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor. During James Buchanan’s presidency it became known as the “Summer White House”, with the first trans-Atlantic cable sent from England to the United States being received at the Bedford Springs Hotel as that is where President Buchanan was at when it came on 12 August 1858.
The Bedford Springs had different medicinal qualities. A “Bedford Cure” was given to guests over their 3-week stay which included the “Magnesium Spring” for tummy ailments, or the “Iron Spring” for healthy bones and iron deficiencies.
The Bedford Springs Hotel is still an operating hotel and is owned by the Omni Hotels & Resorts.
There were 2 coal fields that were in Bedford County. The Broad Top Field was located in the northeastern area of the county. With many of my relatives coming from and living in Broad Top I believe this is the area where many of them worked.
The second field was in the southwestern border, Georges Creek Field.
My Genealogical Statistics
I chose Bedford County because I’ve often told my children as I enter source citations into my Legacy Family Tree that I wish I had a dime for every time I entered Bedford County (well, Pennsylvania in general would have me sitting pretty about now). So I decided to run a report of my family that has the name “Bedford” in their birth or death location.
I have 424 ancestors out of 1,871 that I know had a birth/death location of Bedford County. That is almost 25 percent of my people. Mind you, I have lots of people with “, , Pennsylvania, United States” because I do not fully have proof what county they were born in (but there is a good chance Bedford could be it). And I am sure I have more people still to add (I have collateral people that descend from Peter Morgart that I know will add more people, and others that are in the 4th-great to 5th-great area).
Included in these 424 people, 36 of my direct line ancestors either were born or died in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. One of these includes my 4th-great-grandfather on my maternal side (because having just my dad’s side wasn’t enough, my mom had to get it on Bedford too).
Seeing as I’m on statistics, I opted to run a report of how many of my ancestors were born in Pennsylvania (my mother’s side comes from northern Pennsylvania in Potter County so I knew this would be interesting). The total of my 1,871 people in my program that are born in PA: 1,297.
And this is why I may never get out of Pennsylvania.
That’s okay, it’s a great place to be (even if I wish it had records like Massachusetts – that is where some of the Potter County people came from, others came down from New York).
I did get an abundance of my information from the following locations:
History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania. Chicago, Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1884
Other stuff is just in my head now from all my research over the years (like the tidbit about Peter Morgart – I found it in a book at the Bedford County Historical Society).
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
If you are into genealogy and want to begin writing about your family, you should check out Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. Each week she gives you a prompt to help encourage you to think out of the box when writing about your people. You can sign up here.