Tuesday, January 28, 2014

52 Ancestors- #4 Lydia Catherine (Davis) Fittshur Rockwell

Lydia & the Mysterious Tale of Two Josephs

Lydia was the beloved grandmother of my Grandma Eva Jane Mapes.
My great-great grandmother, Lydia Catherine Davis, was born on April 10th, 1825 at Charleston, Montgomery County, New York. It appears that she was the second of six children born to John D. and Gertrude "Gitty" (Smith) Davis.

 I don't know much about her early life in New York, first finding her at the age of 25 on the 1850 census, living at Esperance with her brothers Charles (and his new wife Hannah) and Latron, and sister Mary. Esperance is about 5 miles from Charleston, where her parents were listed with their youngest daughter, Susan. 

Interestingly, Charles is listed as a "ferryman". Esperance is located on Schoharie Creek, the site of the Erie Canal. The canal originally crossed the creek in a slack water pool that was created by a dam, which can be seen when the water is low, further down the creek. Boats would then be towed across while mules and horses were ferried. A towpath bridge was later built to help mules cross but the boats still had to make the dangerous crossing. Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site is one of the only sites where the Original Erie Canal remains.

The next year, on 30 November 1851, Lydia was married to Joseph Fittshur at Sloanesville (about 4 miles from Charleston). Their first child, Leroy P. Fittshur, was born about 2 years later, in New York. A daughter, Jane, was born on 3 September 1855, either in New York or Illinois. Their third child, my great-grandmother Josephine, was born on 17 July 1858 in Forestville, Door County, Wisconsin.

Joseph has been a mystery to me, evading all my efforts to find him in any records. He seemed to appear out of nowhere, and would later disappear as completely. 

However, recent discoveries at Ancestry.com might shed some light. I found two newspaper articles naming Joseph Fittshur: 

  • The first is a Nov. 20, 1852 notice for "House and Lot for Sale" at Bloomville, New York (about 50 miles from Charleston). 
  • The second notice, dated Nov. 20, 1854, contains Joseph Fittshur's name on a list of letters left unclaimed in the Post Office at Bloomville.
  • Third is the newly released 1855 New York State census, where there is listed a Joseph and Lydia Davis, ages 40 and 30, living at Watertown, Jefferson County, New York. They had been residents of the county for just one year. Living in their household is a 7 year old girl named Harriet Henderson, listed as "servant", and born in Jefferson County. Leroy is not listed, so I don't know if this is the wrong family or if he is living elsewhere at this time. Jefferson County is in the northwest corner of the state, and is in the right direction for a westward migration. Lydia would have been been about 6 months pregnant with daughter Jane, so may have needed the help of a young "servant". 

Also unknown is what brought them to Wisconsin, and up the Ahnapee River from Lake Michigan to the what would become Forestville. Lydia is listed in Martin's "History of Door County", page 47, as an early pioneer of the village, arriving in the fall of 1856, when she opened the first tailor shop in the village, if not the county. On July 17th, 1858 their youngest daughter Josephine was born. 

The next  we hear of Lydia is on July 12, 1861, when she filed for Door County's first divorce:

EARLY DOOR COUNTY DIVORCE CASES (Abstracted by Sally Treichel). 
1861- July 12 (File 1)

FITTSHUER, Lydia - vs- FITTSHUER, Joseph. Married 30 Nov. 1851 at Sloanesville, Schonnactedy, New York. Her name before marriage was L.C. DAVIS.  3 children: Leroy- 8 yrs. old last Jan. 15; Jane- 5 yrs. old last Sept. and Josephine- 3 yrs. old on the 17 of this month (July). They came to Door Co. the spring or summer of 1856, settling in Town of Forestville. He deserted her on March 1, 1860. On Aug. 16, 1860 he burned his house and left the state after threatening to shoot her. His whereabouts are unknown.

Who was Joseph, and why did he desert his family and threaten to shoot Lydia? What became of him?

What I do know is that Lydia remarried, to one of Forestville's earliest settlers, Nathan Harrison Rockwell, from Connecticut. Their son, also named Nathan "Harrison", was born on November 12, 1866.

Lydia and Harrison had each purchased several tracts of land that he farmed in the township of Forestville. One of these parcels is of particular interest to me, and it involves another reference to a Joseph Davis:

  • 1 Mar 1858- "Joseph Davis, of Door County, Wisconsin" claimed 80 acres of Homestead land from The United States of America according to provision for the sale of Public Lands.
  • 13 Apr 1860- This property was sold at auction for non-payment of taxes to the County of Door for $4.35, and resold to Lydia Fittshur for same amount. 
  • 10 Jun 1861- "John and Gitty Davis of Montgomery County, NY" sold to "Lydia C. Fittschur of Forestville, Door County, Wisconsin" this same parcel of land (Quitclaim Deed). 
According to Wikipedia, quitclaim deeds are most often used to transfer property between family members, as gifts or other special circumstances. Another common use for a quitclaim deed is in the case of divorce. They may also be used in tax deed sales.

I wondered who Joseph Davis was, and how this property came into the possession of Lydia's parents in New York, and why they were deeding it back to her. Were Joseph Fittshur and Joseph Davis the same person? Did he lose the property, and Lydia buy it back, perhaps with the aid of her parents in New York? 

My suspicion that Joseph Davis is an alias for Joseph Fittshur stems partly from the timing of these various incidents:

  • The Joseph and Lydia Davis entry on the 1855 New York census, living in Watertown.
  • The original purchase by Joseph Davis was made a year and a half after Joseph and Lydia came to Forestville. 
  • It was sold for non-payment of taxes, and purchased by Lydia a month after she was abandoned by her husband, Joseph Fitthsur. 
  • The quitclaim deed between John and Gitty Davis and Lydia was finalized 10 days after she filed for divorce.

Lydia & daughter Josephine

A Woman of Strength 

Lydia impresses me as being a woman of great internal strength. Abandoned, then threatened by her estranged husband, she was left to raise their three children. According to her daughter Josephine, "she opened the area's first tailor shop and made clothing many a night by the light of tallow candles...Those were the days when women folks spent their spare time evenings in carding wool by hand with light of a dip (a piece of string in tallow) and spinning the wool on a big wheel the next day. If fibers of the wool were short, a small spinning wheel was used. A pair of stockings took two evenings to knit and sold for 30 cents." You can see her large, strong hands in the photo above.

"From Forestville the Fittshur family moved to the community of Tornado and were there during the devastating fire of 1871. They saved themselves by using a wet blanket at the mill pond." (Account by daughter Josephine).

The summer of 1871 was extremely hot and dry. On Sunday, October 8, the largest forest fire in the recorded history of North America swept through northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. It fed on the dry underbrush left behind in clearing the forest. Several smaller fires merged and the winds changed directions, creating a "tornado of fire" that took between 1,200 and 2,400 lives, and left 1,500 homeless. The wind carried embers across Green Bay to ignite Door County. 

The same conditions caused the famous Chicago Fire on the same day, which killed 250. National news was filled with stories of the Chicago Fire, but not much attention was given to the Peshtigo Fire because it was a small, isolated frontier town, and the single telegraph line and office were destroyed. 

Obituary for son Leroy
Eleven years later, on 14 Dec 1882, Lydia lost her son Leroy when he was killed in a terrible saw mill accident. He was only 28, and left a wife and daughter, as well as an unborn son.

Ten years after this loss, Lydia's second husband, N.H. Rockwell, died 12 July 1892 at the age of 78. Lydia was 68. 

Lydia's page in daughter Josephine's autograph book
She lived the remainder of her life with her son Harrison and his family in Forestville. On 1 Dec 1916, the Door County Democrat reported, "Mrs. N.H. Rockwell, the oldest living settler of this town and over 90 years of age, was reported seriously ill on Monday but at present is gaining slowly."


"Grandma Rockwell" died of old age on 18 Jun 1917, age 92, and was buried at the Forestville Town Cemetery in Maplewood, Wisconsin.

Obituary for Lydia Rockwell

Headstone for Lydia C. Rockwell

Saturday, January 18, 2014

52 Ancestors: #3 John & Barsheba (Delong) Dumprope

This family just had to be considered together. Theirs is a story not unlike so many others- immigration, moving to Canada and back to the US, searching for a better life. Then comes the Civil War...lives lost and families torn apart.

As I poured over documents and pension files, trying to get things straight in my head, I discovered a fascinating and tragic story of a family's intermingled lives. 

John D. Dumprope was born about 1791 in Basel, Germany (Basil/Basel is today a city in northern Switzerland, situated on the Rhine exactly where Switzerland, Germany and France touch noses.) He immigrated to the United States before 1813, which is about the time he married Barsheba Delong.

Barsheba Delong was born 18 April 1791 in North Hampton, Montgomery County, New York, the second of 14 children born to Henrick and Margaret (Joslin) Delong. 

John and Barsheba had 7 children: 
(1) Margaret M. Dumprope, b. about 1814, md. Charles Michael.
(2) Henry Dumprope, b. about 1816, md. Mary Chase. He died 22 June 1862.
(3) William Dumprope, b. about 1821, md. Mary Emeline Wannamaker. 
(4) Barsheba Ann Dumprope, b. 28 Sept. 1822, md. George Louis Brown.
(5) Sophia Dumprope, b. 14 May 1827, md. William Brayton Chase.
(6) Elizabeth Dumprope, b. about 1829, md. Thomas Bigford. She died between 1860-1862.
(7) Mary Jane Dumprope, b. 20 Sept. 1830, md. Sanford Jeremy Clark.

Barsheba Ann & George Louis Brown
Sanford & Mary Jane (Dumprope) Clark
(my Great-great grandparents)

John and Barsheba's first three children were born in New York. Around 1821-1822 they moved their family to Ontario (then called Upper Canada), settling in the township of Ameliasburg, Prince Edward County. This is where the younger four children were born. John Dumprope (also spelled Dumpprope and Dumpropre) was naturalized as a Canadian citizen on 18 March 1831, listed as a farmer. He died at the age of 53 on 18 Sept. 1844 at Ameliasburg, Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Affidavit of Barsheba's brother-in-law, Aaron Huyke, and sister, Sarah Delong

Wisconsin became the 30th state in 1848, signaling the beginning of a mass migration into the area.

Following John's death, five of the children moved their families to Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, where they are listed as neighbors on the 1850 census. 

Clark, Chase & Brown families-1850 Census for Sheboygan Falls

Barsheba must have stayed behind for the time being. I could not find her listed with any of the Wisconsin families on the 1850 census. 

William and Mary stayed in Ameliasburg, where he died in 1857 at the age of 36, leaving 8 children under the age of 15. Elizabeth and Thomas Bigford also remained for awhile, as they are listed on the 1851 Canadian census.

Barsheba, Elizabeth and Thomas did make their way to Wisconsin within the next eight years, as Barsheba appears on the 1860 census in Sheboygan Falls, living in the household of Elizabeth and Thomas Bigford, and on the 1870 census in Fond du Lac in the home of daughter Sophia and William Chase. She died sometime after 1874, probably in Fond du Lac.

The following verse of an old American folk song portrays the spirit that perhaps led the Dumprope family, as so many others, to Wisconsin:

The Wisconsin Emigrant:

Since times are so hard, I've thought, my true heart,
Of leaving my oxen, my plough and my cart,
And away to Wisconsin, a journey we'd go
to double our fortune as other folks do,
While here I must labor each day in the field,
And the winter consumes all the summer doth yield.

Civil War Exacts a Heavy Toll on the Dumprope Family

So many families were affected by the Civil War, and Barsheba Dumprope's family had its own share of losses.

An example of the heartbreak families suffered at that time is that of her oldest son Henry. He was born about 1816 in North Hampton, Montgomery County, NY, but within 5 years the family moved to Canada, where he and his siblings grew up. His father John Dumprope became a Canadian citizen in 1831, living long enough to see the first four of his children marry and begin families. This included Henry, who married Mary Chase at Ameliasburg, Prince Edward County, Ontario on 22 Dec. 1840. They had five children: William, Matilda, Henry, Elizabeth and Lucy Ann.

Henry lost his father when John died on 18 Sept. 1844 at the age of 53. Within five years Barsheba and most of her seven children came to Wisconsin, settling in Sheboygan Falls. Henry and Mary were among these, and their youngest two daughters, Elizabeth and Lucy Ann were born in Sheboygan.

The next blow came when Mary died on 14 Sept. 1861, leaving Henry with three minor children under the age of 15, and his mother Barsheba dependent on him for support.

By this time the Civil War had started, and barely two months after the death of his wife, Henry enlisted in Co. E, 17th Regt. Infantry on 9 Nov. 1861 at the age of 45. His service lasted only seven months, though, as Henry died “of disease” on 22 June 1862 at Corinth, Mississippi.

Henry’s oldest son William, whose marriage to Mary Jane Pierce is recorded as taking place the day of his mother's death, was just 18. William and Mary became parents to a son, Sylvestor the following August 1862. He likely never knew his son, as William had also enlisted- in the 20th Regt. Of Wisconsin Volunteers. William was wounded on 7 Dec 1862 at the Battle of Prairie Grove, and died on 15 Dec. 1862 at the Fayetteville Hospital in Arkansas, only 19 years old. He left an 18 year old widow and newborn son.

The deaths of father and son left two families without support, and applications were made to the United States government for pensions. 

Henry’s sister Elizabeth married Thomas Bigford about 1849 in Canada, and had two of their six children there before coming to Sheboygan, where they are found on the 1860 census. Elizabeth, too, died sometime between 1860-1862. Her husband Thomas, left with 6 children under the age of 12, married his nephew William’s widow Mary Jane just 6 weeks after William’s death, on Jan. 31, 1863. This must have been a satisfactory arrangement on both sides, as Mary Jane now had someone to help raise her 5 month old son Sylvestor, and she mothered the cousins of her late husband. Thomas and Mary Jane had 4 more children of their own before her death 11 years later at the age of 30.

Barsheba's application for pension for dependant children of Henry Dumprope
Affidavit by Henry's mother, Barsheba, and sister, Mary Jane Clark

Saturday, January 11, 2014

52 Ancestors: #2 Eva Jane Mapes & Sanford Clark

I am perhaps bending one of the rules of "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" by devoting a second week to my Grandma Eva Clark, but she IS my  inspiration. Also, I have an interview I recorded with her years ago, so am able to let her tell her story in her own words. I will take up Eva's story where I left her, a young teenage girl living in Sturgeon Bay. 

Eva met Sanford Clark when she worked for him and his first wife Edith, caring for their two little girls, Lucille and Helen. (Sanford and Edith were neighbors of Eva's Aunt Jane). Edith had serious health issues, complicated by the fact that she was pregnant. She spent the month of December 1912 in the hospital and had surgery in an attempt to save her life. During this time she gave premature birth to a little boy, whom they named Sanford. The baby died December 19, and Edith followed on January 5, 1913. After Edith's death, the girls were cared for by her relatives, and Eva went back to work for Mrs. Wally Lawrence.

Falling in Love, and Sailing Away

Eva & Sanford's Honey-Moon
In the next couple of years Eva matured into a young lady, and before long she and Sanford became reacquainted. Mrs. Lawrence tried to dissuade Eva from dating him, perhaps because of the 16 years' difference in their ages. She told Eva she and Mr. Lawrence would take her around to dances, and if she met a "nice young man", they would pay for her wedding. "She pulled one way, and he pulled the other...I guess he pulled harder."

Sanford was a steam engineer on the stone barge "Adriatic" during the Great Lakes sailing season, and on Thursday, August 3, 1916, Eva joined Sanford when the Adriatic left Sturgeon Bay. Later that day when they docked at the port in Manitowoc, they walked to the court house and got married. They were joined by Adriatic's captain (Sanford's cousin) and his wife, Albert and Ella Braunsdorf.

Eva & Sanford Clark with
Albert, Ella & Mabel Braunsdorf

Eva stayed on the Adriatic for the rest of that sailing season. "Funny I didn't fall off. They didn't have no railings and no hatch covers." When they would get into port, she and Ella would go up town for supplies. "It was fun. I had never gotten around like that before." One time it got so rough that Sanford carried the kerosene tank from the stove up onto the deck because the stove tipped over. She and Ella were in their doorways. "When we get back to Sturgeon Bay, we're getting off!" But we didn't." She stayed on until the boat laid up in November, after Thanksgiving. The next year she was expecting their first child, so he wouldn't let her go along anymore.

Marriage Certificate
(Note they  fudged their ages
and the fact that he was a widower)

Life on the Farm During the Depression

Eva and daughter Amelia

Eva and Sanford had seven children: Amelia, Clifford, Raymond, Frank (my Dad), Herbie, Gerry and Doris. In 1929, when my Dad was a toddler, they purchased land near Jacksonport, bought an old store building and had it moved to their farm for their house. "We moved out there in '29, and right into the Depression. We didn't have anything but a hoe to dig in the garden. We only had the one cow, and it was hard enough to find food to feed it. There was nothing there on a bare farm."
Sanford & Eva, Frank & Ray

Frank was 3 years old when Herbie was born. He was a beautiful, black-haired little boy who was my Dad's buddy. When he was 18 months old, he died of Scarlet Fever. Eva was already pregnant with Gerry, and could not afford the luxury of being able to mourn for long. Doris was her "change of life baby", coming along nine years after Gerry. She was Grandma's pride and joy, and the only one to be born in the hospital. The morning Doris was born, she sat on a chair with the pan of bread dough on another, and punched down the dough for 8 loaves of bread before leaving for the hospital.

Sanford & Eva with his daughters Lucille & Helen,
and Amelia & Clifford

Good Times & Hard Times

Raising a family during the Depression was not easy. "We had good times and hard times." Neighbors were very important. They were there to help each other, and "we had lots of parties at our little bit of a house." Neighbors from all around would come, everyone bringing what they had: "One brought cake, another brought sandwiches, and I always had pickles. The men would drain their cars in the winter because nobody had money to have their cars winterized. The kids would sit on the steps in the entry, singing, and we would play cards, cheating a little bit... The guys would pass around a hat, and maybe each one would have a quarter to put in for a keg of beer. The men would carry out the cook stove so they had room to dance. One of them played the accordion and they would dance. Mrs. Bill Brauer, I can see her now, would sit on the edge of the sink and swing her legs and say, "I never have as much fun as I do here. It's small and everybody's together." 

Amelia, Clifford, Frank & Raymond,
Sanford, Eva, Doris and Gerry
Sanford, Gerry, Eva, Amelia, Doris & Frank
In later life, when Grandpa was no longer able to get down onto his milking stool, they sold the farm and moved to the city of Sheboygan. They celebrated their 45th and 50th anniversaries with parties- food and dancing with friends and family.

Grandma was a simple cook, but could put together a tasty meal out of nothing. She loved her beer and cheese, and always had a pickle after dessert, "to cut the sweet".

Grandma loved to laugh. She enjoyed the adventure of travel, and had friends all over the country. She was in Florida when she got the heart-breaking news of the murder of her daughter Doris, and rushed back to Wisconsin. "That was the longest trip of my life. You never expect to bury your children!"

Grandma was a humble woman, and wise beyond her schooling. Her last home was a small two room apartment. She still didn't have much in the way of material things, but she felt she had more now than at any time in her life. Her treasures were family and the keepsakes in the top drawer of her bureau. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

52 Ancestors: #1 Eva Jane (Mapes) Clark (1900-1988)

I have to begin this journey of telling 52 stories in 52 weeks with my paternal grandmother, Eva Jane. She was one of my favorite people, and is responsible for my interest in everything family.  I knew that the top drawer of her bureau held her most treasured keepsakes, including mementos handed down by her mother. Some of these things have now been handed down to me, and the legacy continues.

I cherish my early memories of sleepovers with Grandma. We shared her little bed in the room she shared with Grandpa, giggling ourselves to sleep. I can still hear the gentle ticking of her Big Ben alarm clock on the dresser next to her bed. 

She took me to visit the neighbors. We walked the woods across the road in the spring, picking jars of wildflowers. 

The Beginning

Grandma came into the world at the beginning of a new century. 
Eva & Leslie Dony Mapes
Eva Jane was born on February 13, 1900 to John D. and Josephine (Fittshur) Mapes, in Forestville, Door County, Wisconsin. Her parents were older when they had her, but she loved the companionship of her older brother Leslie. 

When asked about her earliest memory, she said, "Was a blind man stayed at our house...my Dad used to take anybody in like that. He stayed there for a few days, and my brother, Lesley used to lead him around, all over. So after he left, then he was going to play blind and I was to lead him. We was going to go to my Grandma's across the road.
And I pulled him, and I ducked under the wire fence and pulled him right into it. He opened his eyes in time. He could have cut his throat!"

"That wasn't so bad. Then I remember we had chairs that had the slats going cross-ways. I had stuck my head through one and it went through so nice and easy like that, that I was going to go behind it and crawl into it through the back and sit on the chair...and I got stuck! Leslie run for a hatchet or something- he was going to get me out of there, but I worked and got out."

John & Josephine Mapes family

When Eva was 4, the family moved up the peninsula to the small community of Juddville, "a place I hated! I would have liked to stayed in Forestville, cause there were more things doing." 

Yes, Grandma did love to have a good time, but life wasn't easy for a family trying to eke out a living farming the rocky soil of Door County. Her father was in his late 50's by this time, and didn't like a lot of noise, so Grandma wasn't encouraged to have friends over. 

One night their cabin caught on fire. She ran barefoot to the nearest neighbors for help, but by the time help came, the house was lost. 

Josephine & John, Leslie & Eva Mapes

Eva's life was turned upside down when her brother developed Tuberculosis in his leg, and died at the age of 17. She was left without her beloved companion. Eva graduated from 8th grade, and from then on worked at various jobs to help the family make ends meet.

Juddville School's 8th Grade Class
Eva is the tall girl in the back "with the rag on my head"

Her first job was at the Hotel Resorter's Nook in Fish Creek, where she and the owner's daughter cleaned guest rooms. One day, she admitted, they "stole" a Lemon Meringue pie that was cooling in the window and hid away to enjoy it. 

Eva's next move was to Sturgeon Bay, where her Aunt Jane and cousins lived. She found a job working for Mrs. Wally Lawrence. 

It was about this time that her life took another turn- she met Sanford Clark.

I will continue that part of Grandma's life with next week's blog.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Well, this is it! I'm jumping into blogging feet first by accepting a challenge proposed by Amy Johnson Crow on her genealogy blog, No Story Too Small . The challenge?
"Write once a week about a specific ancestor, whether a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem- anything that focuses on that one ancestor."

Every family seems to have a self-appointed chronicler: the person who collects the stories and photos from our collective past and makes them available to the rest of the family. I have been immersed in the collecting and assembling part of genealogy for most of my adult life, and along the way have "met" some pretty fascinating people and "heard" some amazing stories. But, what to do with that information? How do I tell these stories to others in the family so that they, too, can get to know those who combine to make us who we are? They are more than names and dates on a page or tombstone, or worse, not remembered at all. 

I have two special influences that immediately come to mind in my choice of subjects for blogs to come. The first is my grandmother, Eva Jane. From her I got my love of family and interest in genealogy. The second is my late Uncle Bill Foote. He was a long-time English professor who read my story on our Trueblood family and encouraged me to write more. 

In the weeks to come, I hope to introduce you to some of these people and stories. May you, too, come to appreciate the joys, struggles, disappointments and love each of them must have felt as they lived their lives.