31 March 2014

Jeremiah Smith Hall (21 Apr 1809 - 6 Sept 1882)

Last summer my son Ralph and I decided to go on a cemetery visit day.  Despite the fact I was born and raised 2000 miles from Illinois, my roots are deep here.  My father's paternal line is rooted in Illinois as is my mother's maternal line.  So with a dozen ancestors buried within a couple or three hours drive, it is no sweat to get in a car and go.

One of the first graves we visited was for my ggg-grandparents Jeremiah Smith Hall (1809-1882) and his wife Jane (Combs) Hall (1814-1874).

From pages 472-474 of The Good Old Time in McLean County, Illinois by Dr. E. Duis (Bloomington, IL: Leader Publishing, 1874) --
Jeremiah S, Hall, brother of Israel W. Hall, was born April
21, 1809, in Salem, Rockingham County, New Hampshire. He
lived in his native village until the age of seventeen, when he
went to Boston, to learn the bricklayer's trade. He was in that
city when the great celebration of 1826 occurred, making the
fifteenth anniversary of American independence. The exercises
were held on Boston common, and an immense crowd was in attendance.
On that day John Adams said in the morning : "I
have lived to see another fourth of July." But before the day
was ended the bells of Boston were tolling for his death. On
that day also, another Ex-President, Thomas Jefferson, died ;
but, as the telegraph was then unknown, the news did not reach
Boston until the middle of the week. 
Mr. Hall remained in Boston for three summers, working at
the brick-layer's trade, and also in a shoe-factory. He worked
in various towns in New England. On the 16th of October,
1834, he started for Illinois. He came from Nashua, N. H., to
Troy, N. Y., by stage, and thence to Buffalo by canal. From
the latter place they started on board of a steamboat for Detroit,
Michigan. They were delayed by a severe storm, and Mrs. Hall
had an experience with sea sickness which she yet remembers. 
At Detroit they took stage for Chicago, traveling through mud
and water, and after a fearful ride arrived at their destination
November 7. After a short stay at Chicago he came to McLean
County, arriving in December. lie traveled here in his own
wagon. His family boarded for a while with Mr. Francis Barnard
at Dry Grove. Mr. Hall soon went to farming just west
of where he now lives, in the edge of the village of Danvers.
His was one of the first prairie farms, and he was much ridiculed
for leaving the timber ; but he held to the land, and it is now
worth sixty-five dollars per acre. 
In September, 1844, Mr. Hall met with a strange accident,
which has puzzled the physicians. While riding through timber
and under brush he had a thorn pressed into the joint of
the middle finger of his right hand. The thorn was removed
but a part of the point remained. The finger became so much
inflamed that Mr. Hall was thrown into spasms of pain, and he
narrowly escaped lock-jaw. The finger was amputated, but he
has never entirely recovered. His nervous system received so
severe a shock that at the present time he is liable to become
stiff and rigid when any undue excitement occurs, or when he
falls into -any unusual attitude. His case is a puzzle to the doctors,
who disagree concerning it. 
On the 24th of April, 1832, Mr. Hall married Miss Jane
Combs in Nashua, New Hampshire. They have had five children,
of whom three are living. They are :
Hannah, Wilburn and George. The two latter are married
and George lives in Nebraska. The eldest son, Edward W.
Hall was killed in the army at Jackson, Mississippi. He was
first lieutenant of Company B, 3d Iowa, but at the time of his
death was in command of Company I. He was wounded and
captured, and died a few hours after. The fight was known as
Lauman's unsuccessful charge. 
Jeremiah Hall is about five feet and ten inches in height, is
stoutly built and has a sanguine complexion. He is healthy in
his appearance, but his nerves are shattered by the severe pain
of which an account is given above. He appears to be a man
of correct judgment, and is faithful to his trust. His head is
partially bald, and he seems to have a good development of
brain. His eyes have a clear, pretty expression when he is
amused, and he is usually pleased at any kind of burlesque.
He wishes it understood that he has never been a fisherman, a
hunter, or an office-seeker, but has succeeded well. He is a
substantial American citizen.
Here are the pictures we got. (Always remember you can click on photos to enlarge.)  Very hot day.  Cemetery ground and grass was parched --

And on the other side if the same marker we find his wife.  Sorry for the shadow, I am new at this. Interesting and practical they included her maiden name --

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker

30 March 2014

"Thank You!" Does Not Express it Enough

From the Thursday, May 10, 2012 issue of The Arnold Sentinel newspaper --

Students/Sponsors Clean Up Neglected Cemetery
On May 3, students in grades 6-12 from Arnold Public School spent a good portion of the day sprucing up the Lower Powell Canyon Cemetery, east of Arnold, to prepare for the Memorial Day weekend.   
The cemetery has been in need of care for some time, and in lieu of a community clean up, Mr. Clay Mohr proposed this project to Mrs. Lewis earlier this spring.  Mr. Mohr said it has been at least 10 years since the cemetery received any attention.  First called Rosebud Cemetery for the wild roses growing there, the last burial there was in the 1960s. 
Mr. Mohr and Mitch and Lisa Geiser went out ahead of the kids and did some of the more hazardous prep work. Students’ families donated the use of equipment to make sure the job was done well. They spent time mowing, trimming, picking up branches, etc., to help beautify the cemetery for the families who will be visiting. 
“Projects such as this help the students develop a sense of responsibility and pride in their community. They enjoy Home-based Business Moves Downtown spending time working outdoors, and even more importantly, they enjoy the feeling that they are making a difference in their community,” principal Dawn Lewis said of the project.

-- This cemetery is very near and dear to me.  I have six relatives and ancestors buried there including my g-grandmother Lucy Chesley, and both her parents my gg-grandfather Charles H. Chesley and gg-grandmother Phoebe (Ward) Chesley.

I immediately sent out an email to both the principal Mrs. Lewis and instructor Mr. Mohr thanking them and offering to return the favor if ever I am able to.

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker

29 March 2014

About that Birthdate: Peter Casattas -- 6 Jan 1851

So far in our research, we have two birth years claimed to be accurate for Peter Casattas.  His gravemarker says "1849."

His passport application and funeral record say "1851."  All the census records, voter records, and death index say "about 1851."  So we begin by discounting out the gravemarker's birth year of 1849.

In absence of a birth certificate or birth record, we have three competing birth dates.  The tombstone says "4 February," The funeral record says "21 February," the passport says "6 January."  The tombstone has one strike against it.  We don't know whom was the informant of the funeral record, but the best guess is his daughter Marya.  We can safely presume the informant for the passport was Peter himself.  Having no reason to discount Peter's own account, and lacking any actual birth record, the birthdate of "6 January 1851" is the one we choose to embrace.

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker

Peter Casattas (1851-1917) part 2

According to the officials at the National Archives, the immigration and naturalization records of my wife's great-grandfather Peter Casattas were destroyed in the great San Francisco Earthquake and its subsequent fire.  But there are still records out there.  Here we found one of the most important and most informative, his Emergency passport application for return to the U.S. from 1915.

And yes, you see right -- his photo!

We get a treasure chest of info from this document, and the presumption since it is a passport, the veracity will be good.  We learn he was born in Santorini, Greece on 6 January 1851.  He sailed to the U.S. on an unknown ship from Naples Italy in June 1863.  He lived in San Francisco his whole time in the U.S., and was naturalized in the Superior Court of  California at San Francisco on 25 January 1894.  He was a "fireman."  He went to Greece for health reasons.  He was gone from the U.S. for three to four months before returning to the U.S.  We get to see his actual signature.  On the back we get his photo and a physical description.

What we learn: He was only twelve years old when he came to the U.S. confirming that part of the family tradition.  Being naturalized in 1894 would be consistent with the records being destroyed in 1906.  His occupation is listed as "fireman."  We know from census records he was a ship-board fireman.  He was 5'10", height runs in his family, as we saw with his grandson Paul.  What I find most interesting is that he died less than two years later from cancer, and here he is visiting Greece "for health reasons."  Did he know he was afflicted?  Was he going to say good-bye to family?  Was he seeking a cure?

Research possibilities: ship records, possible Greek relatives

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker

28 March 2014

Speaking of Brick Walls........

I was reading a history book about Custer County, Nebraska in the 1850s, and there was a story in there about a pair of outlaws who got lynched and the sheriff found their bodies hanging from a tree.  No known identities, to this day.  I would suggest their descendents, if they had any, must have hit a brick wall in their research.  An almost impossible one to reconcile.

As has been chronicled here in this blog my great-great-grandfather Henry Martin Walker, Sr. was killed in a train accident during the Civil War.  Where are his remains?  Was he vaporized?  Did they bury him at the site of the accident or a nearby cemetery (possible, but not likely since he was Union and it was Confederate territory)?  Did they take his remains back to New Orleans where a national veterans cemetery was being formed at the time?  I have searched the records with no luck.  THAT is my brick wall.

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker

And the (Brick) Walls Keep Tumbling Down?: Peter Casattas (1851-1917)

"Brick walls."  Maybe, maybe not.  I have discovered in my years of doing research that most of the time a "brick wall" isn't a brick wall after all, I just needed to find the right document, and it is a document that any seasoned researcher would have located straight away.  Case in point, my wife's great-grandfather Peter Casattas (1851-1917).

In my wife's family perhaps there is no other individual wrapped up in more speculation and lore.  With various alterations to the story, it is said he snuck onto a ship to the U.S. when he was only thirteen, then when the ship came near the shore, perhaps near Santa Cruz, home to the majority of his descendents, he jumped ship and swam ashore.

The truth as we know it so far, is he was an immigrant from Greece to San Francisco.  And with all the court records lost in the great quake and fire, finding info on him has been like pulling teeth.  Combine that with him having a heavy accent (chronicled in a newspaper article I found) and an oddly spelled surname, and it appeared he would remain an enigma.

But fortunately there are thousands and thousands of researchers in the same boat trying to find information on ancestors in San Francisco before the quake, so any records genealogists can find instead of those lost are quickly indexed and examined.  Here I give you the funeral home record for Peter Casattas --

-- From it we see he is from Greece, and it is his daughter Marya (aka. "Maria") who took care of the details.  He died from a tumor, and the year of birth of 1851 is also correct according to my research, despite it disagreeing with the birth year on his tombstone.  However his birthdate is wrong according to my research. More on these things later.  He was Catholic, the mass was held at the Greek Church, and he was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Colma, CA.

Research possibilities: Cemetery records and church records.

Part 2 tomorrow.
Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker