The Cabin on the Battleground, Part 2

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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

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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].

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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)

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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)

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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

A 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration

Alva Lorenzo Boone (1861-1945) and Sarah Alzada “Allie” Erp (1869-1955), my great great grandparents were married in Clinton County, Indiana on November 28, 1889.

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Alva was 28 years old and Allie was 20. My grandmother, Margaret Millikan McKinley, told me that these two tintypes were of Alva and Allie at the time they got married.

The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1939. The event was noted in the Indianapolis Star, Noblesville Ledger, and Sheridan News. The newspaper clippings indicated that they “started housekeeping” in the Dillard community and moved to their home “on the cement road east of Sheridan” in 1909. They worked the farm most of their life together.

The following picture of Allie and Alva was published in the newspaper as well.

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Their entire family of 4 children, Chester Emmett, Rachel Gertrude, Mary Geneva, Richard Edwin; 8 grandchildren James & John Boone, Keith & Barbara Parr, Margaret Millikan McKinley, Frances Millikan Haskett, Betty Lou Millikan, Arza Clark Millikan, and one great grandchild were at the celebration. Photos were taken of the whole group. Their son, Richard Edwin, is missing from this picture as I expect he was behind the camera.

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Pictures were also taken of each family group. Interesting to note that Allie shows up on the porch in the background of many of the pictures.

Chester Emmet Boone’s family came from Connersville for the festivities.

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Rachel Gertrude Boone Parr and her daughter, Barbara came from New Castle, IN. Her son, Keith and his wife, came from Indianapolis, IN.

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Mary Boone Millikan and her family all came from Sheridan, with the exception of her daughter Margaret Millikan McKinley and family who came from Lebanon, IN.

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Back row: Loran McKinley & son, Loran Jr, Arza Clark Millikan, Margaret Millikan McKinley, Robert Haskett. Front row: Arza Millikan, Mary Boone Millikan, Betty Lou, Frances Millikan Haskett

Richard Edwin Boone and his wife, Pauline came from Indianapolis, IN.

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The anniversary party included decorations of “large yellow and bronze chrysanthemums, golden bell place cards and a large wedding cake, which was decorated in pink and gold.” The cake was provided by Keith Parr.

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All in all, seems like they had a good time celebrating this milestone.

One final picture of Allie and Alva and their children:

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Allie and Alva stayed in their home east of Sheridan until 1945, when they moved to the home of their daughter, Mary. Alva died in 1945. Allie spent the rest of her life in Mary’s home, and died in 1955.

© 2020 MJM

100 Years Ago Today…

… a baby girl was born!

That baby girl was my Grandmother, Lucille Marie Beiersdorf. She was born to Herman Beiersdorf (1895-1983) and Amanda (Steinhaus) Beiersdorf (1894-1973) in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Herman was working in Port Washington as a foreman when Lucille was born. However, they soon returned to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where she would grow up. 

I have Lucille’s Baby Book, titled “All About Me” and it gives the vital information regarding her birth and routine during her first year:

Most of the people who gave her gifts were relatives. Looks like she got several pairs of booties and stockings.

She took early outings to the shore with her parents.

She had her own little dolly and baby carriage to play with as a toddler.

So what happened to this baby? She was an only child and grew up in Sheboygan with her parents. Both the Beiersdorf and Steinhaus families lived in Sheboygan, so she had many cousins to hang out with. She travelled twice to Germany with her husband, John Chvarack (1916-1967) and 2 daughters while John was in the US Army. She ended up in Salinas, California after returning to the USA in the 1960s and when John died, she stayed in California. She celebrated her 90thbirthday with 3 parties in 2010. She died in 2011, having lived a full life. I expect there may be more stories to tell about Lucille.

© MJM 2020

A House-Warming Party?

As I have mentioned before, my paternal grandmother, Margaret (Millikan) McKinley (1917-2007) gave me several hundred family pictures. As I got interested in the family history, she would help identify some of the people in the photographs. However, sometimes she just gave a single name that didn’t make sense to me & didn’t explain much about the picture.

Such is the case with this picture:

EstleHouse1

When I asked my Grandmother about it, she said something about Mayo Estle. Of course my first question was, “Who was Mayo Estle?” I think all I got from that was “a cousin.”

Taking a closer look at the picture, I clearly recognized several ancestors:

EstleHouse2

In the front of the picture were Alva Boone (1861-1945), my GG Grandfather; Edwin Boone (1906-1980), Alva’s son; Gertrude Boone Parr (1896-1969), Alva’s daughter; and Arza Millikan (1883-1964), my Great Grandfather & Alva’s son-in law. I couldn’t identify Arza’s wife, Mary (1897-1992) in the picture.

But how were these folks connected to Mayo Estle? Who was he? Is he in the front right of the picture? Can’t say I’ll ever know the answer to the last question, but here goes on the first two.

I did an Ancestry.com search for Mayo and found the following: Mayo Estle was born May 18, 1876 in Indiana and died December 4, 1953 in Santa Monica, California. He married Eva Johnson on September 26, 1900 in Marion County, Indiana. Eva died in 1962 in Santa Monica, California.

Mayo’s parents were Esther Ballard (b.1852) and James A. Estle (1846-1925). James’ sister was Nancy Estle (1835-1896) who married Paul Boone (1832-1917). Nancy and Paul were Alva Boone’s parents. So there is the connection to Mayo—Alva and Mayo were cousins!

Then I did a newspaper search for Mayo, just to see if I could find any more information about who he was. On the newspapers.com site I came upon an article in the Indianapolis Star dated October 20, 1918. The article headline was “Attractive Home in North Side District.” Included was a picture of a house that looked pretty familiar.

There were other photos in Grandma’s collection that linked to the first one:

The first photo looks exactly like the house from the news article. In the second picture, the lady sitting on the wall looks like Gertrude Parr.

So what about this house? According to the article, it is the residence of Mayo Estle, address 4025 North Ruckle Street, Indianapolis. “It is a two-story frame and stucco structure with full basement, finished in orange shade, with white trimmings and a green roof.” There is a “dark brown brick porch” and a “twenty-foot lawn” between the porch and the street. The article states that Mayo had the ideas for the design of the house and goes on to describe the inside of the house: The first floor had a “spacious living room…finished in a prettily grained quarter-sawed oak, worked in dark natural shades.” There was an “attractive brick fireplace and mantel, with oak shelf along the south wall.” There was a “massive extended arch sustained at either end by built-in book-cases serving as a division to the dining room.” The dining room had a “beamed ceiling, an ornamental built-in buffet…along the east wall and a built-in box seat window covers the entire south wall.” Oak trim was prevalent in the rooms on the main floor with “subdued tan” colored walls. The kitchen “has everything modern with the profuse use of built-in work.” The second floor had 3 bedrooms and a “complete and nicely furnished bathroom.” The full-size basement had an outside entrance as well. It had space “for the laundry, fruit room, storage room, fuel room and housing for the steam heating plant.” The house had “steam heat, hot and cold city and cistern water, gas and electricity.” The article goes on to state who the builders were as well as who contracted the lumber, paint, plumbing and heating work. It was a great advertisement for the house and builders. The article almost sounded like the description of a “show house.”

So it makes sense that possibly the gathering in the photos was a house-warming party.

A few more points on that…

In one of the above pictures, there is a group on the porch:

EstleHouse5

The blurred group looks like Alva Boone, his wife, Sarah “Allie” (1869-1955) and two little children…

EstleHouse6

These two cousins showed up in many pictures together. They were Keith Parr (1917-1996) and Margaret Millikan (my grandmother). Here they are in another picture from that day. Considering the two look to be toddlers in the picture, it helps date the photo to around 1919 or 1920.

So end of story, Mayo Estle built a house, had a party to celebrate & show off his new place. The expectation is that Mayo and Eva lived in this house until they moved to California. But wait…

A little more information about Mayo comes from the Indianapolis City Directory and US Census collections on Ancestry.com. Mayo worked as a retail furniture dealer. He shows up in the 1919 City Directory as living in the home at 4025 Ruckle. In the 1920 US Census and City Directory, he is living on DeQuincy! What? Someone else is listed as living in the house on Ruckle. So Mayo only lived in the house for a year or so. Maybe he really did build the house to sell it. Who knows. He shows up in the 1930 US Census in California. In 1938, he is listed in the Santa Monica City Directory as an interior decorator. Something tells me he got his start with that occupation with the house on Ruckle.

© MJM 2020

Another Connection to a Revolutionary War Soldier

The website, Fold3.com is a great resource for finding military records. One such record is the pension file for Ebenezer Minton, my paternal GGGG Grandfather. The pension file is the principal source for most of Ebenezer’s vital statistics. However, just as I mentioned in an earlier post about a soldier of the Revolution, the papers in the pension file are a little difficult to read.

To begin with, the file contains an affidavit from Peter Johnston, a judge of the General Court of Virginia, Lee County. He reported that Ebenezer Minton, aged 59, made a declaration before him in order to obtain a Revolutionary War Soldier’s pension:

EbMintonRevWarClip1

On this first day of September in the year one thousand eight hundred and nineteen before me Peter Johnston—one of the Judges of the General Court of Virginia appointed by law to perform the judicial duties of the thirteenth circuit which comprehends the county of Lee personally presented himself Ebenezer Minton of the county of Lee and state of Virginia, aged fifty nine, and on oath made the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress entitled “An act for the relief of certain persons engaged in the land and naval service of the United States in the war of the revolution”…

In summary, Ebenezer stated that he enlisted August 11, 1777 in the “Third Regiment of Cavalry on Continental establishment commanded by Colonel George Baylor of Virginia” and served under Captain Churchill Jones. He served for 3 years, then re-enlisted “in the same Regiment, then commanded by Colonel William Washington for the war & remained in service until the end of the war when he was regularly discharged.” For the most part, the fighting ended with the surrender of Cornwallis in October 1781 & the war was officially over with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in September 1783, so Ebenezer served for 6 years. He stated that “from his reduced circumstances, he stands in need of the assistance of his country for his support.”

So from this first statement, since he stated he was 59 years old in 1819, we can estimate Ebenezer’s birth year as 1760. Which also means that he was 17 years old when he enlisted in 1777!

Ebenezer’s statement also included a list of some of the Battles he was involved in:

That he was at the surprise of the American detachment, composed, in part, of his regiment, at Paoli in the State of Jersey; at the defeat of Colonel Abraham Buford, at the battle of Cowpens, at the battle of Guilford, at the second battle of Cambden, and at the battle of the Eutaw Spring.”

An additional statement before the Lee County court on September 26, 1820 gives more detail of Ebenezer’s service:

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This clip indicates that he was enlisted under “Fitzpatrick of the Dragoons.” So what were the “Dragoons?” In essence, they were the cavalry–prepared to fight from horseback or on foot.

The summary of Ebenezer’s service follows:

After enlisting, he states he “marched under Fitzpatrick to Fredericksburg in Virginia and was placed in the Third Troop of Cavalry Commanded by Capt Churchill Jones in the Regiment commanded by Col. Baylor. That he wintered in Fredericksburg the winter of 1777 and in the Spring following he marched to the north and was in the surprise at Paoli, where Col Baylor was badly wounded and never again joined the Regt. And Major Clough was killed.”

According to the American Battlefield Trust website, <battlefields.org>, the surprise attack at Paoli was on September 20, 1777. So I guess Ebenezer was a little off on his timeline as this occurred a month after he enlisted, not the next Spring. This is also know as the “Paoli Massacre” as it was a surprise attack by the British late at night on the camp of the Continental Army near Paoli Tavern in Pennsylvania.

Ebenezer’ statement continues: “That after the said surprise and defeat the Command of the Regiment was given to Col. Washington. That he continued in Washington’s Regiment of Cavalry until the end of the war.” This Colonel William Washington was second cousin to George Washington.

His 1820 statement indicates that he was “at Monks Corner,” which was a battle that took place on the outskirts of Charleston, SC, April 14, 1780. Again, the Loyalists and British undertook a surprise attack at 3 A.M. and most of the Continental forces were driven away. They lost their horses to the British in this battle. This led to the eventual British capture of Charleston.

He also stated he was at “the defeat of Buford.” Also known as “Buford’s Massacre,” this battle took place May 29, 1780, after the British had taken Charleston. Three columns of British soldiers easily overtook the single line of Continental forces near the North and South Carolina border. Again a British victory.

He was at “the battle of Cowpens,” which took place January 17, 1781 in South Carolina. This time the Continental troops formed 3 successive lines against the British attack. The Light Dragoons were sent to meet the British. It was considered the “most decisive American victory of the War for Independence.” The tide was turning for the Continental Army.

Then he stated he was at “the battle of Guilford.” This was the battle of Guilford Courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina on March 15, 1781. General Charles Lord Cornwallis commanded the British forces. The Continental Army again formed 3 lines with the Light Dragoons in the 3rd line. While it was a British victory, they lost 25% of their troops and were unable to pursue the Continental forces. Cornwallis moved on to Virginia.

The next battle mentioned in Ebenezer’s statements was “the second battle of Camden,” which took place in South Carolina April 25, 1781. The British had already won a victory at this same spot in the Summer of 1780, and again were victorious.

The final battle mentioned is “the Battle of Eutaw Springs.” This took place near Charleston, SC on September 8, 1781. With this battle, the British eventually abandoned their position and withdrew to Charleston.

As mentioned earlier, Cornwallis surrendered in October 1781, thus ending the fighting. Ebenezer definitely saw the defeat and victory of war. I expect he matured quickly through those years. When he “was discharged on the Santee River in South Carolina” and returned home, he was still considered young at 22 years old.

According to the 1820 statement, Ebenezer obtained a pension certificate from the Secretary of War October 8, 1819. Certificate #15,306.

I’m not sure why he made the statement in 1820 when he had already received his certificate, perhaps he was petitioning for additional funds. Regardless his statement includes his financial status:

EbMintonRevWarClip4

…that he has no occupation but that of a farmer. And that although he is subject to the infirmities incident to his age, he still performs what labour he can on the farm. That having no land of his own, he has to depend on renting.”

He lists his personal property as:

One mare and colt, and two other mares, five cows & calves, four two year old heifers, one yearling steer, Twenty seven head of sheep, twenty eight head of hogs, mostly small, two Bareshear ploughs, two pair of horse gear, three cleavers, two shovel ploughs & single trees, four old asses, five weeding hoes, two mattocks, one double tree, one handsaw & drawing knife, one auger, one large kettle, two pots, two ovens, two pot racks, one pair shovel & tongs, two pewter dishes, eighteen old pewter plates, fifteen delf[t] plates, five knives & forks, one set cups and saucers, one cream mug, one coffee pot, one sugar bowl, one set table spoons, four water pails, one rifle gun, one churn, nine old tea cups, one old saddle, one smoothing iron, & one iron wedge.”

He states he has debts amounting to $166.

Then for a family historian, the best bit of information, he lists the names and ages of all of his family members living in his household:

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He lists his wife, Elizabeth, who is 55 years old. His five children living with him: Isaac, 17; Ebenezar, 15; Liddy, 13; Betsey, 11; and Vardeman, 9. He also had “two orphan grandchildren to raise,” Washington, 7 and Preston, 5. What a wealth of information! Finding names of family members from the 1820’s is difficult, as Census records only list the head of household and # of people in the household by age. Obviously, Ebenezer also had at least one more son not listed who had died, leaving the two grandchildren.

Additional paperwork in Ebenezer’s pension file confirmed that he did receive a pension of $8/month.

But that’s not the end of Ebenezer’s story. His file also contained an Application for Transfer, dated May 12, 1826.

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Ebenezer requested to transfer his Pension payment from Lee County, Virginia to Blount County, Tennessee. He stated he had moved to Tennessee to be with his children, who had also moved there. Looking at the map, Lee County, Virginia is on the border with Tennessee, in the area of the Cumberland Gap. Blount County, Tennessee is just south of Knoxville, in Eastern Tennessee. Interestingly enough, when I did a search for Blount County, TN, I came across a picture of a memorial marker at the Blount County Courthouse in Maryville, TN.

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The memorial was erected “In Memory of Soldiers and Patriots of the American Revolution who Settled in Blount County.” Ebenezer’s name is listed on the back of the memorial.

On Ancestry.com, I found a little more information about Ebenezer. He was apparently awarded 100 acres of Bounty land in 1794 as this certificate confirms:

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However, by 1820, he states he does not own any land. So perhaps he sold his bounty land to a speculator. I have not been able to find out any more information about the location of this land.

One final record from Ancestry.com was the Tennessee Pension Roll record showing that Ebenezer was entered to the Tennessee roll in March of 1826. His last payment is recorded as March 1838. This would indicate that Ebenezer passed away sometime between March and September of 1838, which is when the next entry would have been recorded.

According to the Find-a-Grave website <www.findagrave.com>, Ebenezer was buried in an unmarked grave at the Third Creek (Baptist) Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Per church records, he died April 24, 1838. He was 78 years old. It is also indicated that he was a charter member of the church.

So that’s the story of Ebenezer Minton, private in the Continental Army, Light Dragoons. One of the average citizens who as a young man helped found this country, the United States of America.

And how do I fit into the line of Pvt. Ebenezer Minton? He had a son, Ebenezer, Jr. (1805-1877). Ebenezer, Jr. had a daughter, Mariah (1846-1923). She married George Portis (1839-1916) & they had a daughter, Gertrude (1888-1967). Gertrude married Oscar McKinley (1887-1969), they were my Great-Grandparents. Ebenezer, Jr. and his family moved from Knoxville, to Wilbur, in Morgan County, Indiana.

© MJM 2020

 

Remembering a Soldier

Last Saturday was June 6, the 76th Anniversary of D-Day. The date that the Allied forces came together for a massive campaign to overtake the beaches of France in order to work toward an end to World War II. There wasn’t much news coverage of the commemoration of that event this year. Usually, people gather at the Normandy beaches and in the surrounding towns. Dignitaries from the Allied countries give speeches & soldiers return to remember their friends and comrades who gave the ultimate sacrifice on the beaches. This year, travel was curtailed by a pandemic so the beaches and towns were empty of visitors. News reports of the simple commemoration by a few people were overshadowed by other events. But just because there wasn’t a big celebration this year, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t mark the day. The soldiers and civilians who were witnesses to that day are being lost to time & we need to continue to collect their stories so when they are gone, we can still truthfully commemorate the events.

But D-day wasn’t the final battle of WWII. Those who fought to take the beaches on June 6, 1944, provided a pathway for the next waves of soldiers to enter Europe to eventually overtake the Nazi forces. There was another year of brutal battles before the War in Europe was over, then a few more months before the War in the Pacific was over.

One of the soldiers who followed after the D-day contingent was Joseph George Serketich, Jr. He was born in Pennsylvania January 28, 1919 to Joseph (1893-1956) and Anna (Vugrinovic) (1896-1983) Serketich. He was born while his father was working in the coal mines in Pennsylvania. The family returned to Sheboygan, WI when he was very young.

The Sheboygan Press newspaper gives the basic story of Joseph’s military service:

On June 30, 1942. Joseph is listed as one of 103 men from Sheboygan who will enter military service. He was 23 years old.

July 6, 1942. There was a flag dedication ceremony at his church, St. Dominic’s on July 5. This ceremony was to dedicate a new flag pole & to bless the US flag that would be raised. It also was a day to recognize the 23 young men from the congregation who were in the military & inscribe their names on the church’s honor roll. Joseph’s name was included on the roll.

July 7, 1942. A crowd of over 5000 people gathered to see the soldiers off to Fort Sheridan, IL. On the 6th, they checked in at the post office and paraded to the train depot accompanied by a band playing “many patriotic numbers.”

Joseph moved on to Camp Swift, TX for his training, and on August 6, 1942, a letter that he wrote on July 31 to his priest—Rev. Fr. George J. Knackert, was published in the paper. He is still a young soldier—only 3 weeks in the service. He told of his impressions of the way the soldiers worked together showing “such great teamwork and sportsmanship.” He states, “the U.S. Army is the best in the world.” He talks of working with “all kinds of men, of all religions and nationalities. They are all here for the same purpose and all work as a unit.” He mentions how good it is to see the men in chapel together. He says, “The people of America can really be proud of their army.” He is part of the Headquarters Battery, 360th Field Artillery Battalion, 95th Division. He comments that “The 95th is sure going to be a rugged outfit.”

On August 21, 1942, a letter to the Editor that Joseph wrote on August 16, was published. Here he mentions his surprise that his earlier letter had been published in the paper & hoped the readers “could vision the ideals I intended to bring out about camp life.” He also mentions that there were several other young men from Sheboygan training at Camp Swift and “the people of Sheboygan can be very proud of their boys.” He says “each one is prepared to perform the task placed before him that they may enjoy the rights which the Almighty has given every man to work out his life and gain real happiness.” He expresses his trust in God to give victory & states “the people of America and her allies need not be afraid of any worldly force brought against them.”

November 2, 1942. Joseph is promoted to Corporal in the U.S. Army. This notice includes a photo of him in uniform.

January 7, 1943. Joseph’s name is included on the new Croatian Societies Honor Roll at a banquet at the Croatian Hall in Sheboygan.

January 12, 1943. Announces Joseph’s return to Fort Sam Houston, TX after an 8-day furlough at home.

June 15, 1943. Corporal Technician Joseph G. Serketich is promoted to Sergeant. He’s been in the Army for almost a year.

A tragedy occurred in Joseph’s family on June 21, 1943. Two of his brothers, Rudolph, age 16, and Steven, age 13, drowned in the Pigeon river. Joseph was present at the funeral on June 25. At that time he was stationed at a camp in Louisiana.

I couldn’t find any mention of Joseph in the paper until December 1944.

On December 4, there was an announcement that his family received word that he was killed in action at Manzeres, near Metz, France on November 17, 1944. It gives a summary of his military duty stations & states that he left in July 1944 for Europe. He was in England for 2 weeks, then on to France, “where he saw action in the 95th division of the Third army under General Patton.” I expect he followed the path forged by those soldiers on D-day. Information for a “memorial requiem high mass” at St. Dominic’s church was included.

Another announcement of his death on December 5, contained a picture of Sgt. Serketich. He had grown a mustache and looked a little more mature than the picture from 2 years earlier. He was 25 years old when he died.

By the way, the 95th Division had the nickname, “The Iron Men of Metz,” after capturing and defending this town from repeated German attacks. So I guess Joseph’s description was true—it was a “rugged outfit.”

May 22, 1945. An article lists Joseph’s older brother, John S. (1916-1997), as one of the 63 men from the Sheboygan area to leave for military service. Also in that list was John and Joseph’s First Cousin once Removed, John A. Chvarack (1916-1967), my Grandfather. While the war in Europe was officially over, soldiers were still needed. According to his obituary, John S. served as a quarter master in Germany. My Grandfather, John A. Chvarack, served on the US Hospital Ship Hope.

The final notices regarding Joseph were in August, 1948:

August 12, 1948. Announced the plans for his reburial service.

August 16, 1948. The announcement and description of the funeral service for T/4 Joseph G. Serketich with Military rites. He was buried on the family lot in Greendale cemetery, Kohler, WI.

This being Flag Day (June 14), the day commemorating the adoption of the flag of the United States in 1777, I thought it pertinent to mention two more items from Joseph’s story.

First, Rev. George J. Knackert’s words from the flag dedication ceremony July 5, 1942:

The Stars and Stripes are to us the symbol of our constitution and democratic form of government…From the moment it was flung to the breeze in our nation’s first stroke for freedom it has waved to the rhythm of right in war and peace. Though it wave in gentlest calm or wildest tempest, its red ripples on like the warm blood that trickles from the patriotic breast; its white streams on as if pleading with us to seek the purest in life and to trample down any vicious scheme or godless plot; its blue but undulates to remind us that after all, home, sweet home is not only here, but above all in the azure of the great beyond; and its stars, even when the night is darkest with war and social distresses, are so many beacons inspiring hope and trust in God…the freedom which our forefathers have dearly won and bequeathed to us, must be fought for again and again by labor and toil in each generation, must be recaptured and won unceasingly, even at the cost of sweat and blood and tears in order to be appreciated, cherished and preserved for future generations…

Second, this is what Joseph said in his letter on July 31, 1942:

There is another thrill, which makes a mind to become thoughtful. That is when the army has retreat at the end of each day–the most beautiful ceremony in the army. There the men all stand in formation, facing the flag of our country. While the colors are being lowered the men stand at attention and present arms. At the same time the band plays the national anthem. The thrill comes when one stares at the flag there high in the sky, he wonders what is it there for. What does it mean? Liberty, freedom, happiness and freedom of religion…I will fight to defend it whenever an enemy tries to take it from us. I will die for it as Christ died for me…All America should be proud of its flag, not of its material beauty, but for what it stands–life, liberty and happiness–to be also proud of its soldiers who fought to make it, and who fight to preserve it.”

Most of this section of Joseph’s letter was read into the Congressional Record (Vol. 146 (2000), Part 8) by the Hon. Gerald D. Kleczka of Wisconsin, in the House of Representatives, on June 14, 2000.

I end with Joseph’s sentiment at the end of his letter to the Editor August 16:

May God bless America.

Keep ’em flying.

© MJM 2020