A Hoosier in New Guinea

When I look at names and dates on the many branches of my family tree, certain things catch my eye and I want to look further to maybe find a story there. One thing I notice is if the death dates for young men fall during the time of a war or conflict that the United States may have been involved in. Once such date led me to an interesting story. 

James Stafford, Jr. had a death date of 1944. The original birth date I had was 1916, but neither dates were confirmed by good sources. So I decided to look a little closer. 

First, James, Jr. is related through my Paternal ancestors. His father, James Stafford, Sr. (1857-1928) was the brother of my GG Grandmother, Priscilla Stafford McKinley (1859-1941). Per his Indiana Birth Certificate available on Ancestry.com, he was born January 1, 1917 in Indianapolis, IN to James Stafford & Catherine Loring at home, 2913 McPherson Avenue.

He shows up in the US Census records in Indianapolis through 1940. At that time he was listed as an Order Clerk for a Wholesale Drug company. 

His WWII Draft card, also available on Ancestry.com gives his residence as 3247 Schofield, Indianapolis, IN. He works for Kiefer Stewart Co. On the back of the card, he is described as 5ft 10 3/4in, 200 pounds, with brown eyes, brown hair and ruddy complexion. 

WWII Draft card James Stafford (from Ancestry.com) front

The Ancestry.com database of US World War II Army Enlistment records 1938-1946 indicates that he enlisted at Indianapolis, IN on January 16, 1943. He married Alberta Grass (1913-2011) the next day, January 17, 1943. James and Alberta were co-workers at the Kiefer-Stewart Company. 

According to his obituary in The Indianapolis News, he entered the service on January 27, 1943 and received his basic training at Camp Wheeler, GA. He went overseas after Basic and was stationed in Australia. From there he went to New Guinea.

Searching a little more, I found a link from Ancestry.com to Findagrave.com. This site indicated that James died on New Guinea. There was also part of a transcribed article recounting his last hours that had no source citation, only that it was from the “Chicago Tribune Press Service.” So on to another search, this time on Newspapers.com to see if I could find the original article & I got lucky. 

The full article was on the front page of the Friday, May 12, 1944 issue of the Chicago Tribune. The title was “YANK FIGHTS TO LAST HEARTBEAT. His Commander Writes Hoosier’s Epitaph.” It was written by Arthur Veysey and attributed to the Chicago Tribune Press Service out of Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, May 11:

The Hoosier infantryman staggered as he came out of the swamp into the tall Dutch Guinea grass. If only he could rest for a while. For three days he had been beating thru the jungle, sloshing in mud, wading in chest-high swamp water, plowing thru grass sometimes over his head. Twenty-four miles the infantryman and his buddies had gone.

Haven in Sight. But now, this April 25, the end was in sight. Just across a grass flat and over a ridge lay the Cyclops airdrome. Then there would be rest. So Pvt. James Stafford of Indianapolis, Ind., gritted his teeth harder, took a new grip on his Garand rifle and in the low crouch that becomes the natural stance in jungle fighting pressed on thru the grass. Three times he fell, but each time stood again. “Better fall out,” his sergeant said. Stafford shook his head. “Then take it easier.” Stafford nodded. Now they were going up a knoll. Twice more Stafford slumped into a heap, but both times got up. At the crest the company paused. Stafford stretched out. Wild shouts roused him. There was the crackle of gunfire. Thirty [Japanese soldiers] were charging up the slope. After a while the gunfire died out momentarily, but there was no rest.

Fire and Reload! Then a second [Japanese] attack came. Thirty more this time, with bayonets fixed. Fire and reload! Fire and reload! The [Japanese] danced before Stafford’s eyes.

At last the enemy was wiped out. First aid men went along the firing line. They found Stafford unwounded but in a coma. In two hours he was dead. When Col. O.P. Newman heard about Stafford he recommended that the distinguished service cross be sent to his parents. Said the commander: “He gave his energy to the last drop.”

Private Stafford was one of many US Army soldiers who landed on New Guinea in April 1944. Only 3 days into the battle he most likely succumbed to heat stroke. Interestingly, his death date on his headstone is April 24, 1944. 

His death was reported in The Indianapolis News, Saturday, May 13, 1944, p1. The report indicated that his wife received word of his death May 6. The short article included this photograph:

Pvt. James Stafford, Jr.

A search on the American Battle Monuments Commission website <abmc.gov> gives the following regarding Private James Stafford: His service # 35581675, Unit 186th Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Division, buried in the Manila American Cemetery, McKinley Road, Fort Bonifacio, Philippines in Plot A Row 12 Grave 68. He is listed as receiving the Purple Heart and Silver Star. 

One final note about James Stafford, Jr. The findagrave.com site had another clipping of an unsourced news article that quoted his wife, Alberta. She states, “Jim’s death was not in vain. What we already have accomplished proves that. We must not stop. We must go on. I know inside what Jim died for.”

May we always remember what they all died for & the sacrifice they gave for the freedoms we have. 

© MJM 2023

1930’s Snow Days

With the recent winter storms affecting the country, I got to thinking about some pictures taken of my ancestors after snow storms. I think these pictures date to sometime in the 1930’s.

First, pictures of the relatives from Indiana:

Millikan166nBetAClark copy

This is sister and brother, Betty Lou (1921-1990) and Arza Clark (1925-1975) Millikan, probably taken on or near their farm in Sheridan, IN. Looks like they may have enjoyed playing in the snow.

Then their older siblings, Miriam Frances (1918-2018) and Margaret Pauline (1917-2007) Millikan checked out the mound of snow left by the plows. Margaret was my paternal Grandmother.

Millikan101nFranMargsnow copy

Finally, a picture from Wisconsin:

LucilleSnow1 copy

This is my maternal Grandmother, Lucille Beiersdorf (1920-2011) pictured in front of her home at 2211 South 14thStreet, Sheboygan, WI. Looks like the plows did a good job of piling up the snow!

So I guess taking pictures in the snow seems to have been just as popular in the past as it is now. Glad to have these memories to share.

Happy New Year!

© MJM 2022

Turtle Soup

I was going through and scanning the many piles of photographs from my maternal side of the family and came across this picture:

1300groupmenturtlehunt copy

At first I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on in the scene. Taking a closer look, I see that the men are standing at the bank of a river and the one on the left with the guitar is sitting on a boat. Looks like there is a tent on the right side of the frame. Then, looking even closer, I noticed that there were three turtles hanging from the cross bar.


And there is what looks like a cooking pot sitting on logs behind the turtle on the right.

So what is this all about? Did people really catch turtles? Were they going to make turtle soup?

First, to set the location. Most of my maternal ancestors lived in Sheboygan, WI. The Sheboygan River runs through the city. I figured I would try to find out if there were any newspaper articles about catching turtles in Sheboygan.

Using Newspapers.com, I found that indeed, people did catch turtles in the Sheboygan River. There were a few references in the Sheboygan Press. A notice from July 9, 1909 stated that turtle season was now open & some large turtles had been caught “up stream.” It stated that “young men enjoy fishing” for the turtles & “Mr. Kempf has purchased 4 large ones which he will serve to his trade on Saturday night.” The next year, on April 22, 1910, there was an advertisement from Kempf’s that said a “Big Turtle Caught. Come and have the first Turtle soup of the Season at Kempf’s.” Another article in 1910 tells of some “turtle fishers” catching a 37 pound turtle in the Sheboygan river. In November 1921, instead of fishing, they were shooting mud turtles off the branches of trees.

There was another article in November of 1947 telling of a man who caught turtles and sold them to customers in New York. He said that snapping turtles would eat the fish in the streams and clearing out the turtles from the streams would improve the trout fishing. Instead of fishing for turtles, he would wade into the shallows and when a turtle was disturbed, he would “clamp a booted foot down on the turtle’s back, hook the prongs of his steel rod under the snapper’s back and lift it up to see which end is which.” Once the hunter determines which is the tail end, he grabs the turtle by the hind leg or tail to pick it up to put in the sack. He seemed to have a lucrative business, selling thousands of pounds of turtles a year.

The Milwaukee Public Library Digital Collection Historic Recipe File includes a recipe for Turtle Soup that was published in the Milwaukee Journal on April 4, 1964. The ingredients for this version of Turtle Soup were peas, carrots, celery, onion, barley, tomato pulp, egg dumplings. The seasoning for the soup included garlic, parsley, bayleaf, salt, pepper and sherry. Cooked turtle meat was added to these ingredients to make the soup. The recipe also includes quite detailed instructions for preparing & cooking turtle. Snapping turtles were the preferred variety over mud turtles which were considered too small. Preparing the turtle seemed like a labor-intensive process.


So, back to the picture. It doesn’t look like these young men had been wading in the water to make their catch. My guess is they used the boat and baited hook and line to catch the snapping turtles.

Looks like they were having a good day of it. Also noted in the picture, almost every one of them is holding a glass of beer. The beer keg is in the foreground of the picture. So I expect they were celebrating a good catch and looking forward to a good meal & a good time with their buddies.

Unfortunately, there was no information with the picture so I cannot identify any of the young men. If they are related to me, they are either of the Chvarack, Beiersdorf or Steinhaus lines. Maybe someday I’ll be able to figure out who they are.

I hope they enjoyed their turtle soup.

©MJM 2022


A Village

Recently I was trying to add information to some collateral branches of my paternal family tree. Specifically, I was looking at my Great Grandfather, Arza Millikan’s (1883-1964) cousins. His father, Lewis Elwood Millikan (1855-1949) had four sisters who had children. His sister Flora Ellen (1860-1923) married Leroy Michaels (1851-1918). They had 5 children, their third son being Edgar Ernest Michaels (1889-1913). There is some question as to the last name “Michaels” or “Michael” or even “Mikels.”

I searched Ancestry.com for information in Edgar Ernest & found that some records were under his middle name, Ernest. He shows up as a 10-year old on the 1900 US Census with his family in Jackson Township of Hamilton County, Indiana.


The 1910 US Census finds him in a different place:


Here he is listed as a 19-year old ward of an institution, “Epileptic Village.” Wonder what that was all about?

I did a little more research on an Epileptic Village in Indiana and found that in 1905 a bill was introduced to the Indiana Senate to purchase land and establish a village for epileptics. The bill passed and the state purchased 1,200 acres of land about two miles northeast of New Castle in Henry County. According to the New Castle Henry County Tribune, (30 March 1906, p1) the intent would be for “the care and cure of its unfortunate citizens afflicted with epilepsy. At the present time we know of no remedy in medicine or surgery which will relieve more than a small percentage of them. The greatest benefit or relief comes from living a simple life, away from excitement, responsibility and care, and out of doors. Under these circumstances there are many who will greatly improve, and some who will become well. At the present time these unfortunates are being cared for by friends, in county poor houses, jails and asylums. They are not insanes, neither are they criminals, but human beings unfortunately so afflicted that they cannot care for themselves at all times, nor is it safe for them to be left alone.” The idea was that the Village would be a large self-sustaining farm which would allow the residents to work and provide for themselves in a supervised environment.

The Indiana Village was modeled after other institutions that had been established first in Europe, then in New York, and by 1908 in 8 other states. Epilepsy had a long-standing social stigma. Seizures are sudden and dramatic episodes which are frightening to witness. They were unexplainable and mysterious. At one time, people believed seizures were caused by evil spirits. There was also a thought that seizures were contagious. Hence the institutionalization and isolation of those suffering with epilepsy.

While it was finally recognized as a brain disorder in the 1700s, consistent treatment for epilepsy was lacking until the late 19th century. Sedatives like potassium bromide were found to be effective medications against the convulsions. Phenobarbital was developed as an anti-convulsive medication in 1912 and became the common treatment. However, even with medication, generations of people with epilepsy were limited due to the social stigma, in what they could do to be contributing members of society. So in the early 1900’s the establishment of colonies was based on the presumption that this would allow them to live, work, be educated and socialize in a “home-like” atmosphere, even if isolated from the rest of the community. The prospect of treatment with medication wasn’t mentioned much in the early references to the Indiana Village for Epileptics.

The New Castle Henry County Tribune reported on the planned use of a few of the farm houses on the land and on bids being taken for supplies and construction of needed facilities. In January 1908, the report was that the new village was getting ready for occupancy. However, there were already residents on site at the village by that time. The Richmond, IN Palladium-Item (24 Sep 1907, p1) reported that “The first inhabitants of the new epileptic village, at New Castle are from Marion county. Three men were brought to the village by Sheriff Jos. Clay. They are John H. Farrington, Alfred F. Sloan, and Ernest Michael.” Ernest would have been 17 years old at that time. According to the 1910 census, Mr. Farrington was about 26 and Mr. Sloan about 40 years old. No doubt these first residents helped build the new facilities. Eighty-two male patients were eventually housed at the village by the end of 1908. (source: Asylumprojects.org)

In November, 1908, the National Association for Study in Epilepsy met in Indianapolis. One thought was that this meeting would bring more emphasis and therefore more money to the cause of treatment and care for those with epilepsy in the state of Indiana. One of the attendees of this meeting reportedly commented that Indiana was laying a good foundation at the Indiana Village. Multiple buildings were added through the years. By the end of 1911, there were reportedly facilities for 186 male patients. (source: Asylumprojects.org)

In 1913, the New Castle Morning Star (30 May 1913 p1) reported that there was a death at the Village: “Ernest Michael, a patient at the Indiana Village for Epileptics, died at an early hour yesterday. He was twenty-three years old, and death was due to bronchial pneumonia. The body was brought to the rooms of W.A. Fox, and last night was forwarded to Indianapolis, where the relatives of the deceased reside.”

Ernest’s Death Certificate from Ancestry.com gives the same information. It is signed by the superintendent of the Village, Dr. W.C. Van Nuys, who certified that he attended Ernest from 1907 until his death.


Ernest’s obituary in the Sheridan News (6 June 1913 p2) gives a little insight as to how his family wanted him to be remembered: He “was always a kind and obedient boy and was converted when about 16 years old. Soon after this time he became afflicted and was unable to work. In his letters to his parents he always spoke of living a Christian life and was anxious that the other members of the family should live true to their Heavenly Master.” Maybe he also had that witness to others in the Village. There is no indication where he was buried.

That’s what I know about Ernest Michaels, my 1st cousin 3x removed, who lived a short life, half of it with that mysterious affliction of epilepsy. As for the Indiana Village for Epileptics, it continued to expand through the years to have facilities for women and children. It was originally planned to offer some hope for treatment of those living with epilepsy, did it live up to its intent? Or did it just serve as a place to warehouse & isolate these individuals? Hard to say. In the 1950s Dr. Van Nuys, the superintendent from 1907 finally retired & the last remaining colony for epileptics started changing its focus from institutional care to rehabilitation. It was later renamed the “New Castle State Hospital.” The facility closed in the 1980s.

©2022 MJM

They Did What They Were Trained To Do

A few days ago I was talking with a young friend about history. He had recently finished a lesson about the American Revolution and was now learning about the Civil War in his history class. Like any 9 year old boy, he was fascinated with battlefields, strategy and weapons.

So this being Veteran’s Day, I’ve been thinking about who we honor today. Obviously, when we think of the military, like my young friend, we usually think of battles and weapons. But only a small percentage of military veterans ever saw combat. Those who did deserve all of our support, honor and respect as they carry “battle scars” both visible and invisible. The remainder of military veterans, all who honorably wore the uniform no matter what their role, also deserve our support, honor and respect. They may have worked in food service, supply service, medical corps, equipment maintenance, chaplain service, computer programing, secretarial service or other support services. Regardless of their service classifications, duty stations or roles, they all did what they were trained to do to serve and protect our country.

I met a veteran a few years ago who served in Europe in a weather monitoring and reporting unit during WWII. Another one had the job of ferrying VIPs and high-ranking officers in a small plane during the war. I met another man who served at both Pearl Harbor and Normandy. Donna-Mae Baldenecker Smith (1920-2010), the daughter of a friend of my Great grandfather, Arza Millikan, played the trumpet & “woke up the Army” as the first woman bugler of the US Military.

The stories of some of my ancestors who were veterans have been told in earlier blog posts. In the Civil War, young William Singleton Erp (1846-1862) was a drummer in the Union Army. His father, Allen Erp (1826-1885), was a soldier in the Union Army who, after an unfortunate accident with his rifle causing injury to his hand, took up the role of driving the ambulance wagon for the remainder of the war. Fred McKinley (1890-1972) never made it out of training during WWI due to contracting influenza and then being discharged with a disability. Chester Boone (1892-1954) went to France during WWI & worked in the supply depot. His brother, Richard Edwin Boone (1906-1980), a conscientious objector, was trained as a dental technician before going overseas during WWII. I don’t really think he used this part of his training in Europe, but he did work in the medical support service for Patton’s 3rd Army. At the end of the War, after the US forces entered Germany, he said he was painting signs—which was his civilian occupation. My Grandfather, John Chvarack (1916-1967), was drafted into the US Army toward the end of WWII, and served on the hospital ship USS Hope during its last voyages to Guam & the Philippines to evacuate the sick & wounded. He made the Army his career and primarily did office work except for a time in the early 1960’s when he did some classified work while in Germany. I’m still trying to find more information on what he was involved in then. My Father, Loran R McKinley, Jr (1938-2021), also made the US Army his career. He was in the medical laboratory service and while stationed in Okinawa, was involved in coordinating the blood supply needed for the soldiers in Vietnam. After that conflict was over, he continued to work in the medical laboratory in various military hospitals.

So these are just a few of the veterans in my family, who all had varied experiences in the military, but as far as I know, they did what they were trained to do, whether during wartime or peacetime. I thank them and all veterans for serving.

© MJM 2021

The Cabin on the Battleground, Part 2

P1020676 copy

In the 1960’s descendants of John Allen (1749-1826) donated the family cabin to the state of North Carolina with the stipulation that it be placed at the Alamance Battleground Historic Park. As I was researching that cabin & the connection to my family, I also found there was a connection to that battleground as well.

aP1020697 copyFirst, the Alamance Battleground. What happened on this site? What battle is commemorated here? According to the Friends of the Alamance Battleground website <alamancebattleground.org>, “The Battle of Alamance was fought on Thursday, May 16, 1771. It pitted two groups of North Carolinians against each other. There were approximately 2,000 backcountry farmers called Regulators and around 1,000 militia troops (citizen soldiers) under the command of Royal Governor William Tryon involved in the two-hour battle.”

From what I have found on the internet, the Regulators were a group of farmers in the inland Piedmont region of North Carolina. The website, ExploreSouthernHistory.com, states that the Regulators were opposing increased taxes & “oppressive government officials.” There were apparently “arbitrary seizures” of property & possessions by these government officials. They were also angry about not being able to “meet with their representatives or to petition for redress of their grievances.” Sounds a little similar to the “taxation without representation” argument that came up with the American Revolution. I also read that the Regulators were upset that laws and regulations that were made to benefit the coastal farmers didn’t equally benefit the inland farmers. While the Regulator movement initially tried peaceful means like petitions & appeals to the government, when they couldn’t get help, they eventually became more disruptive. Governor William Tryon was the regional representative of the English government.

According to the above mentioned websites, the Regulators were defeated in about two hours on that day in May, 1771 at Alamance Creek. Even though they outnumbered the militia, they were no match for the superior military resources of the militia. The Regulators did not have military leadership and many men fled before the battle began. Six of the captured Regulators were later hanged. After this battle, there was continued retribution toward the Regulators, with homes and farms burned and men arrested. Many Regulators fled to other regions of the country.

It is said that the Regulator movement “planted the seeds of the American Revolution.” However, many Regulators are said to have been Loyalists in the Revolution. They wanted representatives to hear and address their grievances, but not a total break with England. Also, some of the militia fought on the side of the Revolution.

So, now that we know the basics of what happened at the Alamance Battleground, how does that connect to the Allen family? Why would their house fit into this setting? In one sense, John Allen would have been an example of the Piedmont farmer who was represented by the Regulators. He no doubt was aware of what the Regulators were fighting for. I do not know if he joined the cause.

One of the leaders of the Regulator movement, though, was Herman Husband (1724-1795). According to findagrave.com, he was a spokesman & negotiator for the cause. He briefly represented the Piedmont in the legislature, was expelled on a false charge of libel and arrested, then released. His book about the Regulator movement, An Impartial Relation of the First Rise and Cause of the Recent Differences, published in 1770 is currently available in reprint. Due to his Quaker beliefs, Husband reportedly fled before the fighting at the battle at Alamance. Herman Husband’s third wife was Amy Allen (ca1743-1829), who was the daughter of John Allen (1721-1754) & Phebe Scarlet Allen (ca1721-1815) & sister to John Allen (1749-1826), who owned the house that was moved to the battleground. So here is somewhat of a connection between the Allen family and the battleground, even though Herman Husband did not participate in the battle.

Another connection is Harmon Cox (ca1723-1813). He was a member of the Regulators. He reportedly hosted meetings of the group at his mill-house in the region. He was present at the battle at Alamance. His powder horn is on display at the battleground. A photo of this powder horn can be found on the ExploreSouthernHistory.com site. He was captured and found guilty of treason, sentenced to hang, but was pardoned by Governor Tryon. Harmon’s daughter was Hannah (1751-1823), who married Samuel Allen (1751-1834), the son of John Allen (1721-1754) & Phebe Scarlet Allen (ca1721-1815). Incidentally, Samuel and Hannah are direct line ancestors of mine as mentioned in the previous post.

So, John Allen’s siblings were directly connected to the Regulator movement. His sister, Amy, was married to Herman Husband and his brother, Samuel, was married Hannah, the daughter of Harmon Cox. I guess it does make sense that the Allen house would find a fitting home at the Alamance battleground site.

© MJM 2021


The Cabin on the Battleground

P1020620AllenHousetrees copy

In 2012, my folks and I made our first trip to Randolph County, North Carolina to explore the area where my paternal ancestors lived. Specifically, we were looking for the old Millikan family homestead. (It would take two more visits before we were able to pin that down.) One of the things we did was stop in at a used bookstore. I was looking for books on the history of the region and came across a book titled, An Independent People: The Way We Lived in North Carolina, 1770-1820 (by Harry L. Watson). As I flipped through the pages I saw references to the John Allen family and in particular, John’s mother, Phoebe. Now I realize that “Allen” is not a very unique name, but Phoebe stuck in my head. I knew we had Allen ancestors & checked our genealogy to see that Phoebe Scarlet married John Allen. John & Phoebe had a son, John. This had to be the same family. So I bought the book and read the section on the Allen family.

The book tells how the Allens ended up in North Carolina in the time before the Revolution. John Allen (1749-1826) was the first son of John Allen (1721-1754) & Phoebe Scarlet Allen (ca 1721-1815). He was born in Pennsylvania and moved with his widowed mother and 4 siblings to the Snow Camp community of Orange County, North Carolina when he was about 13 years old. They had 600 acres of land in North Carolina that the elder John Allen had purchased but never settled. The book states that John Allen the younger took responsibility for the land when he came of age, as his mother had remarried and moved to neighboring Randolph County, NC.

John went back to Pennsylvania in1779 and married Rachel Stout (1760-1840) and returned to North Carolina to raise his family on the farm. According to the book, the Allens had 12 children, with 10 who lived to adulthood. Essentially, the few pages described the Allens as a typical “yeoman” family. They lived in a cabin with a single main room and a loft. They farmed wheat, oats & corn and provided for their large family as well as the community. They also had sheep cattle and hogs on the farm. John Allen was a merchant and had a small store that stocked “silk, satin, calico, buttons, pins, pencils, shoes & hardware.” They had vegetable and herb gardens. Rachel Allen was known as a “healer” in the community and “grew very skilled in the uses of roots, herbs and the traditional folk medicine of her neighborhood.” John also was a teacher, and “regularly contracted with his neighbors to instruct their children in reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic.”

The main focus of the section on the Allen family was their cabin and how their home life related to it. Why the cabin? Well, turns out that cabin was moved from Snow Camp to the Alamance Battleground Historic Park in the 1960’s. So wait, some ancestors of mine had a cabin that was built about 1780 that was still standing and preserved at a Battleground? What was that all about?

According to information at the cabin site, “Allen family descendants lived in the house until 1929.” The Daily Times-News of Burlington, NC chronicled the project from the first documentation of the donation in the December 28, 1965 edition. The fund-raising article stated that the house was “donated to the state provided it is relocated at the Alamance Battleground.” The estimated cost of moving and restoring the house was $22,000. The house was moved the 13 miles from Snow Camp to Alamance on a flat bed truck mostly in two pieces, the main house and the roof. On June 11, the newspaper tells of the need for donations of large oak logs to be used in the restoration process. This restoration involved replacing much of the structure due to the deterioration of the wood. The dedication ceremony for the restored cabin took place on Sunday, May 28, 1967. Along with speeches from local dignitaries, there was a presentation by the Alamance Long Rifles organization which demonstrated the use of the old muzzle loaders that would have been used at the time of the Revolution.

Unfortunately, just as I found out about this cabin, I had to go home, so I couldn’t visit the site on that visit. But my folks were able to and they took some pictures. The book, An Independent People… provided more context to the photos.

First, looking at the exterior of the house: It is “a simple box of hand-hewn timbers.” Mud and grass seals the cracks between the logs. There are no windows, only 2 doors, so during the day, having the doors open would provide light & ventilation. Incidentally, the door openings were only about 6 ft high, so anyone taller than that would have to stoop to enter. “Wide eaves of the shingle roof extend over each entrance to form substantial porches.” The porches would have allowed space to do some of the daily work during the day. The back porch has a small enclosed room which could have served as a storage room or even John’s store. They would have kept the area surrounding the cabin clear of grass and vegetation to help cut down on insects and the potential of fire.

The interior of the cabin was one large room with a loft. The fireplace and hearth take up almost the entire side wall of the cabin. The stairs to the loft were accessed to the left of the fireplace. There would have been corn husk mattresses on the floor of the loft for the children.

Allen family heirlooms dating to the time of the Revolution were also donated along with the cabin. The grandfather’s clock and the walnut Chippendale desk were mentioned in John Allen’s will. Also, a walnut Chippendale blanket chest was donated. Prior to the move, these objects were on display to help raise money for the project. The trundle bed provided sleeping area for the parents and small children.

Hard to imagine, but a large loom takes up one corner of the room. It was a necessity and the wool from the sheep was processed and woven to make the homespun utilitarian cloth. Out the back door, another necessity, the smokehouse. Although I didn’t see a privy, I expect there was something of that sort at one time.

I did manage to visit the battleground and the cabin on our next visit to North Carolina and I find it quite interesting to think that something that is connected to my ancestors still stands and is being preserved for future generations to get a glimpse of how the early settlers lived before and during the time this new republic was being formed.

The direct connection to me comes through two of John’s siblings. It took a while to figure these links, and I’m not fully confident of the dates, but here goes:

His sister, Hannah (1741-1834) married Nicholas Barker (1737-1826), their son, Enoch (1776-1848) married Elizabeth Davis (1782-1834), their son, Elihu (1822-1910) married Hannah Jane Allen (1825-1899).

His brother, Samuel (1751-1834) married Hannah Cox (1751-1823); their son, John (1782-1867) married Martha Clark (1793-1866); their daughter, Hannah Jane Allen (1825-1899) married Elihu Barker (1822-1910).

Elihu and Hannah Jane Barker had a daughter, Martha Ellen (1858-1932) who married Lewis Elwood Millikan (1855-1949). Their son, Arza Millikan (1883-1964) was my great-grandfather.

So, to sum it up, John Allen was my 6Great Uncle, his sister Hannah my 5Great Grandmother and his brother Samuel my 5Great Grandfather.

Next time, the Allen family connection to the Alamance Battleground…

© MJM 2021

Uncle Elbert and the Children

Recently I have connected with some “cousins” through DNA results on Ancestry.com. These relatives are through my paternal line, more specifically the Portis family. George (1839-1916) & Mariah Minton (1848-1923) Portis had 7 children who lived to adulthood. I have written about them in earlier posts. Connecting with these Portis cousins got me thinking a little more about a picture my Grandfather, Loran McKinley (1916-2003), gave me.


The caption on the back of this picture was “March 20, 1909, Frances 10 months 26 days old. Died April 10, 1909.” My Grandfather identified the man in the picture as his uncle, Elbert Portis (1884-1952). He said that Elbert and his wife had no children. He had no idea who any of the children were, including the one named Frances, except that he thought they were Elbert’s nieces and nephew. This picture has sat in my collection for years. I tried initially to find out who was pictured, but didn’t have much information on the children of any of Elbert’s siblings.

Now I’ve looked a little closer at the picture and utilized some of the databases available to try to figure out who all these children are.

First, the date was given as March 20, 1909, so I could narrow things down a little.

I started with Frances. The Ancestry.com website has a collection of Indiana Death Certificates. I found the death certificate for Frances:

FrancesMPortisDeathCertif copy

So this shows that the baby in Elbert’s lap was Frances Maude Portis who was born May 13, 1908 to Bert F. Portis (1876-1934) and Adeline Lampkins (1883-1912). Frances died of pneumonia.

Searching through the collection of photos from Grandpa, I found a couple that helped identify two of the other children:

This one we had tentatively identified as Frank Crider and Floy Erton:McKinley333FrCriderFloyErt copy

The boy, Frank, in this picture looks like he could be the boy in the picture with Uncle Elbert.

Then there was another picture:

McKinley329FloyErton copy

This one was labeled “Floy Erton” and looks like it may have been taken the same day as the group picture as she is wearing the same clothing.

Frank Crider (1896-1978) and Floy Erton (1905-1974) were half-siblings. Their mother was Bertha Portis (1875-1940). She married at least 6 times. Frank’s father was Thomas Crider (1858-1938) & Floy’s father was William Henry Erton (1865-1940).

So much for additional pictures helping with identification. What about the other 4 children? I went through what I knew about Elbert’s other siblings and their children. I had found a little information that wasn’t confirmed that gave some additional names. Going back to the Ancestry.com collection of US Census records, Indiana Death Certificates and other records, I confirmed the names and birthdates of some likely candidates:

Ethel Portis (1893-1939) was the daughter of Miles Bradley (1871-1929) and Harriet Littell (1868-1927) Portis. I would guess that Ethel is the girl in the white dress behind Elbert in the picture.

Jessie or Dessie Portis (1900-1954) daughter of Miles Bradley (1871-1929) and his second wife, Mary Hammons (1877-1906). Her death certificate gives the name Jessie, however other records have her name as Dessie. I think she is the girl in the dark dress to the left of Elbert.

Mary Ethel Portis (1900-1957) was the daughter of Burton F. Portis (1876-1934) and Adeline Lampkins (1883-1912) Portis. I have seen a picture of her as an adult and based on the similarity, I think she is the girl to the right of Elbert, standing behind Floy.

Jessie Portis (1903-1921) was the second daughter of Burton and Adeline. Considering she was the youngest of the 4 unidentified girls, I would think she is the girl on the far left in the picture.

So, a bit of guesswork to specifically place each child in the picture, but from what I know at this time, the children mentioned were the only children of Elbert’s siblings that fall into the right time frame to be in this picture. I wonder what prompted them all to gather to take the group photo?

© MJM 2021

Deciphering a Letter from Home

One of the things my Grandmother, Margaret Millikan McKinley gave me was a small wooden box, quite the worse for wear with the leather hinge that held the top on worn away long ago. She said the box was brought to Indiana from North Carolina by “Aunt Angeline” on a covered wagon. Angeline was Nancy Angeline Millikan (1852-1926). She was the eldest daughter of Clark Millikan (1824-1926), who came to Indiana during the Civil War. More information on Clark and Angeline can be found in previous posts.

MillikanBox copy

Anyway, if I remember correctly, this box held several of Clark’s property tax receipts, as well as other receipts and papers. One special item in the box was a small envelope addressed to Clark at Westfield Post Office, Hamilton County, Indiana. The envelope originated in New Market, North Carolina & was dated 7th month 18, 1866 [July 18, 1866].

1866 letter envelope copy

The envelope contained a single 9×12 inch piece of paper. Upon closer inspection, I realized the paper was actually divided into 4 sections when folded in half and looking at the front and back, so it was a “four page” letter.

The letter was from Asenath Powell to her brother, Clark Millikan. I scanned it in the four sections, partly because it was too big to scan as a single page and because it might be easier to decipher. Here is the scan of the first section:

1866 letter 1 copy

As mentioned, there was writing on both sides of the page and the ink obviously bled through, so it was a bit of a challenge to figure out what was written. Then I also discovered that, just like many old letters I had, there was no punctuation or capitalization in this letter.

Eventually, I was able to transcribe most of the letter & to make it easier to read, I corrected spelling and added punctuation. I also added a few notations about the people mentioned in the letter. Those notations are indicated by brackets.

(page 1)

July the first 1866

Much respected and often thought of brother and relations one and all, I take this great pleasure of writing you all a few lines to let you know we are all about, but not right well. Lindon [Asenath’s husband] is right poorly. Mother [Sarah Clark Millikan (1800-1869)] was, about five weeks ago, very bad off with bowel complaint and weakness but she is so she can go about a little again. She has been here twice since, but it is a pretty tiresome walk for her for she is very weak. Rebecca Lamb [neighbor] was not well the first of last week. Her mother is about like she has been. Louisa [Millikan] is still very poorly. She has been having the chills this last week but I have not heard of Ben [Millikan] having any one, but he has the fever, that is the Jink fever. As I do hope, those few lines will go so of to hand and find you all well and in good heart. I hope Lydia [Clark’s wife] has got over the chill before now.

(page 2)

1866 letter 2 copy

We have had a very wet Spring and Summer until a few days. It seems like dry weather and it has been very cool. There has been a little frost in very North yet and some think there has been frost there; for they said William’s [Millikan] folks was going to where green-backs grow on the white oaks and the biscuits grow on bushes and we heard that he wanted his wheat crop back that he sold and he was coming back. So they say the frost had bit the money and biscuits too. Wheat is tolerable good this year though not as good as I have seen. Most of the people have their wheat half in corn too. She’s tolerable well. Allen [Millikan] said tell Thee he had corn to buy and nothing to buy with and had a hard time and seen no pleasure at all and wrote no letters to Thee nor no one else.

(page 3)

1866 letter 3 copy

We heard Winborn [Powell] had to leave that country for having some unbecoming talk to a girl. We have not heard any thing but that from him since before Christmas and we have written letter after letter. I want thee to try to find out if Thee can seen anybody from Grant county. We are all very worried about him for fear that somebody has killed him or he is in a lead box some way. Just find out as sly as Thee can is all I have to say. Mother is wanting to hear from you all very bad. She goes to Jefferson once and a while but it doesn’t seem like Clark’s, though she thinks very well of Becca. And if Lydia doesn’t get better, I wish she was back just like she was once. But I do hope as long as you are there you will all get in better health and then you would be better satisfied. For it is a hard case anyway or anywhere though.

(page 4)

1866 letter 4 copy

From Asenath Powell and family To Clark Millikan and family and en…[?]

We must do the best we can. Luzena [Honey] and her great man went to Surry [county] last Spring. They wrote back that they found Aunt Jane well and hearty. They left Oliver at Esther Reicks and Sammy is at George Goddets. I still have to write on the nasty old Rebel paper but I hope I will have some that is better before I wrote any more. Cradling [cutting wheat using a cradle scythe that helped align the wheat stalks as cut] this year was two dollars for a bushel of wheat. Edman and Linsy are beginning to cut out weeds and sprouts from amongst the corn right smart and Woodard can play with the babe right smart and it can begin to sit alone. I am rocking it and writing. I will put in another marriage in this letter, Nancy Beckerdite and Joseph Spencer. I have not had the chance to finish this letter. I have had so much to do it is now the ninth of the month and I will try to finish it if nothing happens.

There was also another note with this letter, which seems to be the continuation of the letter a few days later:

(front) This is the 10th of the 7th month.     We are all well as common today and I hope you are all the same. Thomas Sawyer was hauling his wheat in last third day and his mare started before he was thinking about it and threw him off the wagon and broke his arm and put it out of place too. Jabez [Powell] got a letter from Nathan D. Wilson and Joseph Davidson about Winborn’s capers, so it’s not worth Thy while to bother anything about him. We have not had any rain to do any good for three weeks and corn and gardens are suffering very bad. It looks some like it might rain before long. Parthena [Powell] is very weakly; more so this Spring than common. Clark [Powell] is as well as common. Dock got four letters the other day for Ben [Millikan]. I have not heard whether

(back) there was any one from Thee or not. I think that …[page torn] and Azel’s [Millikan] were aiming to have moved to that country if William’s [Millikan] folks had been satisfied. I have not seen Angelina [Millikan] since the day Lydia started, but I think I will go to see her if I live. They were all well about three weeks ago. I heard that you had not gotten acquainted with but one woman. If that is so, I will never come there for I might get sick, or some of the family and no one to come to see us some rights. The people out there are so clever and so they are very unclever. But some are always up on extremes. When I read a letter from Thee I am certain what it says, so I hate …[page torn] to read them as often as naught. So write soon as Thee gets this for we are…[end of page]

So Asenath wrote to let Clark know how their friends and family were faring after the Civil War. New Market, NC was a small community in Randolph County, NC. Clark’s wife, Lydia, and his family had moved from there to Indiana in 1865, at the close of the war. As mentioned in a previous story about Clark, he had moved to Indiana after deserting from the North Carolina Infantry.

I found a little more information for the people Asenath wrote about:

from page 1:

  • Louisa Millikan=possibly Martha Louise Millikan (1855-1879), daughter of Benjamin Millikan who is mentioned next
  • Ben=Benjamin Millikan (1831-1915), cousin of Clark and Asenath who went to Indiana with Clark’s family, then returned to NC after his wife died. It is believed that Clark and Ben “traded” their land in Indiana and North Carolina.

from page 2:

  • William Millikan (1835-1875)=brother of Benjamin mentioned in page 1. He moved to Indiana. Per the letter, it seems they were looking for a place where “green-backs” (or money) grew on trees.
  • Allen Millikan (1839-1921)=brother to Asenath and Clark

from page 3:

  • Winborn Powell (1844-1911)=brother-in-law to Asenath, moved up to Indiana during the Civil War, probably to escape being drafted into the Confederate Army. Sounds like he was up to mischief in Indiana & Asenath was concerned about his welfare.
  • Jefferson & Becca=unsure who this is. I don’t know if Jefferson is a person or place. I wonder if “Clark’s” is talking about Clark Millikan’s farm?

from page 4:

  • Luzena Honey (1831-1915)=sister to Asenath and Clark. She first married Franklin McKindre Reichs/Rike/Rich (1833-1863). They had two sons, Lewis Oliver & Samuel. Luzena married Ambrose Honey in 1865. I can’t say I have much information on Luzena and her husbands, hence the question of her first husband’s last name. Esther Reicks may have been Franklin’s mother, but I will have to dig deeper to find that connection. I do not know who George Goddets is. Anyway, while Luzena and her new husband, Ambrose went traveling—perhaps on a honeymoon, they left her young boys in the care of family & friends.
  • Aunt Jane=possibly Jane Millikan, whom some sources list as sister to Samuel Millikan (1789-1870). I haven’t found much about her either.
  • Edman, Linsy, Woodard, “the babe”= Asenath’s children, Edmond (1860-1927), Thomas Linsey (1861-1940), Woodard Martin (1862-1939) and “the babe” would be Cornelius Calvin (1866-1898).
  • Nancy Beckerdite & Joseph Spencer=friends of the family, members of Marlboro Meeting, she was born in 1828 & he was born in 1800. She was his 3rd wife.

from the additional page:

  • Thomas Sawyer=neighbor, listed as 28 yrs old in the 1860 US Census.
  • Jabez Powell=probably Asenath’s father-in-law.
  • Nathan Wilson and Joseph Davidson=listed in Grant county, IN in the 1860 US Census, both were listed as born in North Carolina. Regardless, they were probably family friends who were able to find out about what Winborn Powell had been up to and could report back to his family that he was alright.
  • Parthena and Clark Powell=Parthena Millikan (1829-1905), sister to Asenath and Clark, married Thomas Clarkson Powell (1828-1913), brother to Asenath’s husband, Lindon Powell.
  • Azel Millikan (1829-1890)=cousin of Asenath and Clark.
  • William Millikan (1835-1875)=cousin of Asenath and Clark, brother of Azel. Also mentioned on page 2.
  • Angelina Millikan (1852-1926)=Clark’s daughter from his first marriage to Nancy Adams. She may have stayed with relatives for a while instead of traveling to Indiana with Clark’s wife, Lydia and the other children. In the 1870 US Census, she is listed as living with an aunt and uncle in North Carolina. Eventually she did move to Indiana with the rest of the family. She reportedly brought the little box with her.

What happened to Asenath and Lindon Powell and their family? They show up in the 1870 and 1880 US Census records in Hamilton County, IN, living near Clark and his family. After that, they moved to the town of Friend in Saline County, Nebraska, where they lived the rest of their lives. Lindon died in 1909, and Asenath in 1914. Several of their children also raised their families in Friend, NE.

One more thought: in her letter, Asenath complains about writing on “nasty old Rebel paper” but as bad as it was, that paper has held up through the 155 years since.

© MJM 2021

A Christmas Tradition

In 2008 I sat down and interviewed my maternal Grandmother, Lucille Beiersdorf Chvarack Ash (1920-2011). We talked for over two hours. I asked her what she remembered about all of her relatives—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, her husband, John Chvarack (1916-1967) & his family. Since I hadn’t known any of the folks we talked about, I learned a lot that day. At the end of the interview, she turned the tables and interviewed me. We had a good talk.

Lucille grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. She was the only child of Herman (1895-1983) and Amanda (1894-1973) Steinhaus Beiersdorf. Both of her parents had several siblings who resided in Sheboygan. One of the stories Grandma told me was of the family’s Christmas Eve tradition.

Our entertainment was different than now & like on 13th Street—Christmas and so. We’d start at my Grandma’s, we went to church, came from church—we’d start at my Grandma Steinhaus’ & they would have some candy or little things, not big gifts, but little things, have a Christmas tree & we’d sit around. Then we’d go over there about a block to Ray and Olga’s & their 2 children & we would sit there for about a half hour or so & then we’d go over to my Aunt Ella & Uncle Walter’s & we would do something there–see their Christmas things & they had a piano so they would play a little bit once in a while & from there we went up about a block to visit another aunt and uncle, Martha & Gustav & that was Janet Steinhaus & Don & Kenneth & there we would do the same & we had one more aunt & Uncle Paul & that would be at the last stop–then they would come over to our house–from 13th street over so that was about, oh, maybe 8 blocks or so–they would come over there & then we would all have something– & have–oh coffee & drinks–I think the men had drinks, or had one drink–we would get coffee and then have some refreshments & Mother would always have cookies & cake & that was on Christmas Eve.

Essentially, the Christmas Eve tradition was to attend church services & then visit the homes of each Steinhaus family member in the immediate area “on 13th Street.” 

First, a look at the Steinhaus family:

  • Otto Steinhaus (1869-1954) married Emilie Binder (1867-1940). Their children were:
  • Walter (1891-1962)
  • *Ella (1892-1953) married Walter Axel (1893-1945)
  • *Martha (1893-1934) married Gustav Becker
  • *Amanda (1894-1973) married Herman Beiersdorf (1895-1983)
  • William (1896-1963)
  • Clara (1897-1974) married Rudolph Voigt (1897-1968)
  • *Paul H. (1900-1972) 
  • *Olga (1907-1981) married Ray Steinbruecker (1906-1980)
  • Edwin (1909-1955)

Unfortunately, I don’t think I have any pictures of these gatherings. I do have a picture of some of the Steinhaus siblings mentioned in Grandma’s interview:

Steinhaus family
  • Left to Right, Back Row: Walter Axel, Gust Becker, Herman Beiersdorf, Rudy Voigt, Emilie Steinhaus.
  • Left to Right, seated: Ella Axel, Amanda Beiersdorf, Clara Voigt, Martha Becker & Kenneth
  • Left to Right, children in front: Edwin Steinhaus, Allen Steinhaus, Olga Steinhaus. 

The picture was probably taken in late 1917 or 1918.

Now, to follow the path of the Christmas Eve gathering. Through US Census records and Sheboygan City Directories from the 1930’s, I was able to figure out the addresses of all of the homes mentioned. Each family owned their home. I wonder, if like my Great-grandparents, some were the original owners?

Bethlehem Lutheran Church

1 They started at church. This was Bethlehem Lutheran Church (1121 Georgia Avenue). It was the home church for most of the Steinhaus family. Newspaper articles in the 1930s indicate that there was usually a service at 7pm on Christmas Eve. This was the service that included the Christmas program from the Bethlehem Lutheran School that was attached to the church. While Lucille did not attend this school, I think some of her cousins did. So perhaps through the years, the family would start with watching some of their children in the program. 

2 From the church, they would all head to “Grandma Steinhaus’” home. This would be the home of Otto and Emilie Steinhaus (1437 South 13th St.) In 1930, their youngest son, Edwin, age 21 was still living with them. There they would have “some candy or little things, not big gifts, but little things…”

3 Next, they would go to “Aunt Olga & Ray’s”–Olga & Ray Steinbruecker (1524 South 13th St.). They would stay for about half an hour. 

4 Then on to the next aunt & uncle: Ella and Walter Axel (1617 South 13th St.) Grandma said that they had a piano, so I bet there would be some good music and singing at their place. 

5 Next was the home of Gustav and Martha Becker (1708 South 13th St.). 

6 Then to Paul and Anna Steinhaus’ place (1847 South 13th St.).

7 Finally, they would reach the last stop, Herman & Amanda Beiersdorf’s home (2211 South 14th St.) Refreshments would be served, and after visiting for a while, everyone would return to their own homes. According to Lucille, this migration would take until about midnight, then she and her parents would open their presents. 

All in all, the trip from the church to South 14th St. was about a mile. Sounds like the families would gather every year for the same routine. I wonder if each family had it’s own specialty when it came to refreshments? I also bet they all enjoyed the festivities and decorations at each house. Eventually, more children were added to the families & I’m sure the cousins would compare Christmas wish lists and try to figure out the presents under the trees. Then the grandchildren would come along as the routine continued. With all of them living in such close proximity, it is a sure bet that the families were interacting frequently. My Great-grandparents lived in the house on South 14th St. until Amanda’s death in 1973. I think many of the siblings stayed in their homes most of their lives. So the tradition ended with the passing of the elders. 

I asked my Grandmother if they then slept most of Christmas, since they had such a big night on Christmas Eve. Her response was “No, we’d get up on Christmas & we’d go to church & then for dinner we would go to Grandma Beiersdorf’s…” They would visit with the Beiersdorf siblings at the home of Augusta Beiersdorf (1868-1955). But at least everyone would come to one location, instead of traveling from house to house. As Grandma said, “the house would be full.”

One more thing I forgot to mention. Wisconsin weather in the Winter can be quite harsh. These two pictures of Lucille show some of the snowfall they had. I expect the transit from house to house might have been a little treacherous at times. 

So in this year when it is recommended not to visit family due to the pandemic, I thought it nice to remember another time when Christmas family traditions meant visiting house to house to enjoy each other’s company and the togetherness of family. 

Merry Christmas!

© MJM 2020