On the Road Again

My great grandfather, George Charles Felix Butte, married the charming Bertha Woodfin Lattimore. My Lattimores go back to the earliest days of the Virginia and Carolina colonies.  They made their way from Pennsylvania down the Great Wagon Road to settle amongst the Indians that still lived there.  The Stocktons were some of the earliest settlers in Virginia Colony and left their mark on the land.  Like the Renfros who moved from Kentucky to Illinois, the Lattimores also left the South for Indiana.  

From “The Lattimores, A Family History”, by Esther Lattimore Jenkins, we have the following, perhaps fanciful, account. In about the year 1690, three brothers, John, Daniel, and Samuel Lattimore, sailed from Ireland to Philadelphia. John and his brothers were probably “Scotch-Irish”.  They may have been orphans and they probably arrived in Philadelphia as “bonded” (indentured) servants.  Bonded servants were of two categories, voluntary and involuntary.  In the first category were those men and women who desired to come to the colonies but were too poor to pay the costs of transportation.  Of their own accord they bound themselves to an employer for a specified time in return for transport and maintenance.  The involuntary category included orphans, vagrants, paupers, debtors, and convicts.

John Lattimore, the youngest, was then a mere boy and had red hair and blue eyes.   There are several John Lattimores in a row here, so I will refer to them as “John the Immigrant”, “John Sr.” and John Jr.”   John the immigrant left Philadelphia and settled in Virginia with his wife Sarah.  This migration was part of a general trend.

Around 1732, the first large group of Scotch-Irish settlers migrated to Virginia from Pennsylvania along the Great Wagon Road. By the year 1736, Virginia was flooded with Scotch-Irish Settlers. In Prince William County, Virginia, the Lattimores settled near an old Indian Trail leading south to the Carolinas. This trail was used as a major road by the settlers, and became known as “The Old Carolina Trail”. It is likely this is the trail the Lattimores used on their trek south, always after more and better land.

They settled in the wilderness of the western Carolinas until after the Revolutionary War. Around the beginning of the nineteenth century, when more land was opening up, most of the Lattimores pushed on west. Although one branch of the family stayed in North Carolina, others went to Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana, always taking up land and starting churches.

The Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains prevented settlers from moving directly west.  Instead, they moved southwest along the valleys carved in the Allegheny Mountains by the various rivers.  Once in Virginia, settlers could cross into Kentucky along the Wilderness Trail and through the Cumberland Gap, as the Renfros did.  Or they could continue south where the road ultimately reached South Carolina.  And by now we know where those big Conestoga wagons came from.

A map of the most inhabited part of Virginia containing the whole province of Maryland with part of Pensilvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. Drawn by Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson in 1751, published by Thos. Jefferys, London, 1755. This landmark map, unusual in that it relied on firsthand surveys, is the first correct depiction of the Allegheny Mountains, complete with ‘The Great Road from the Yadkin River through Virginia to Philadelphia distant 455 Miles’ – an accurate survey of what would come to be styled the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road.

John the Immigrant and his wife Sarah had a son, John Sr. who married Isabel Frazier, who is known only for having had three sons and three daughters all with red hair and blue eyes except Sarah, who had black eyes and black hair.  And almost all of them married a Stockton:

Francis Lattimore (ca 1744-1817) married Rachel Stockton
John Lattimore, Jr (1745-1821) married Jamima Stockton
Margaret Lattimore married Newberry Stockton
Daniel Lattimore (ca 1750-1831) married Ann Stockton

Jamima, Rachel and Newberry were also siblings. And Ann was their cousin.  Daniel and Ann are my ancestors.

Before we move on with the Lattimores, I want to tell you a little about the Stocktons.  The paternal grandfather of Ann and her cousins, Rachel, Jamima and Newberry, was Davis Stockton.  There is a lot of baloney in online genealogy, and off-line as well, so I spent two days believing that Davis Stockton was related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  I even wrote it up, with references and everything.  But then I stumbled upon a description of how DNA evidence proves this to be untrue.  However, Davis was a very interesting person in his own right without needing to be related to anybody and left his own mark, literally, in the pre-revolutionary Virginia Colony.

Davis Stockton’s origins are unknown.  He is believed to have come from Ireland but there is no evidence.  He first appears, with his family, in the Ivy Creek area of Albemarle County, Virginia on March 12, 1739 when he obtained a grant for 400 acres.  So we don’t have any record of where he or his children were born, including Samuel, Ann’s father.  Even the name of his wife is disputed.  But Davis left his mark, or marks, on Virginia.

Among the earliest settlers in the western part of the county, who came as is said under the leadership of Michael Woods, was a family named Stockton. Though their name has entirely disappeared, they have in a number of ways left their mark behind. They consisted of several branches. They erected perhaps the first mill in that section of the county. The north fork of Mechum’s River still bears the name of Stockton’s Creek, the south fork in early times was called Stockton’s Mill creek, and the first name by which Israel’s Gap was known was Stockton’s Thoroughfare. The famous abbreviation of D. S. is also ascribed to the head of the family. One story recites that Michael Woods and Davis Stockton landed at Williamsburg, and came to the wilds of Goochland together, that arriving at D.S. [which is just a tree], they advanced in different directions, Woods continuing straight forward to Woods’s Gap, and Stockton bearing to the left along the foot of the mountain towards Batesville, and that as a memorial of the place where they separated, Stockton carved his initials on a tree.

Albemarle County in Virginia, by Rev. Edgar Woods, 1901, pp. 319-320

The D.S. Tree remained a landmark for many years.  It even appears in orders from the Goochland County Court for building roads. “Road to be Clear’d . . . On the Petition of . . . Davis Stockdon . . . Sam. Arnett [Samuel Arnold], Richard Stockdon, Thomas Stockdon . . . Leave is given to Clear a road from Thomas Morrisons to the D.S. tree in Michael Woods road.” 

In fact, an early map of the road that became a part of the Three Notched Road clearly marks the “D.S.” tree, which is about half way between University (of Virginia at Charlottesville) and the Mechum River. Eventually, a tavern was opened at the D.S. Tree.  Taverns played a very important role in Colonial America.  This is where local residents went to meet and share news.  Travelers stopped to eat, refresh their horses and stay overnight.  They were the cell phones, restaurants, newspapers, gas stations and motels of those days.

D. S. Tavern is one of Albemarle County’s few remaining early ordinaries and the only one in the region to preserve its original bar cage. Tradition holds that the tavern marks the site of the D. S. Tree and the zero milepost of the Three-Notched Road, a principal artery from Richmond to the Shenandoah Valley in the 18th and 19th centuries. “D. S.” is said to stand for [Davis] Stockton, who blazed the trail from Williamsburg and carved his initials on the tree. 

Virginia Landmarks Register, edited by Calder Loth, 1999, p. 11

This next map, made in 1864, identifies only the dwellings and the names of the owners.  The D.S. Tree would be at Dr. Stevens house, which was probably used as a tavern.  The road running south from there is the way Davis went a century before.

Map of Albemarle County / from surveys and reconnaissances made under the direction of Albert H. Campbell Capt. P. Eng. & Chief of Topographical Dept. D.N.V. by Lieutt. C.S. Dwight.

The tavern still exists today.  It started as a one-room log structure and was expanded over the centuries.  The original building is probably on the left.

D.S. Tavern

Most of Davis’ children left Virginia, which probably explains the disappearance of the name at Israel’s Gap and Stockton Creek Mill.  Only his son Thomas, father of Jemima, Newberry and Rachel, died nearby, in Charlottesville.  

Davis’ son Samuel, when he was about 18 years old, served in the Albemarle County Militia in 1758 to protect the frontier from Indians.  Virginia was the frontier.  Shortly thereafter, Samuel married Prudence Torbet and they had three children.  At least, only three are mentioned in his will.  Their only daughter, Ann, married Daniel Lattimore in 1770 in Albemarle County, Virginia.  

During the next two years, Daniel and Ann, and maybe Samuel, can be traced through land purchases and sales from Virginia to South Carolina to North Carolina, where their children, and many grandchildren, were born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, just over the state line from Spartanburg County, South Carolina, where the Bryants lived.  I’ll get to them later.

But around 1810, Daniel, Ann, their children and grandchildren, were on the wagon trail again, crossing the Appalachian Mountains along with thousands of other adventurous souls, to Indiana.  This became possible when the Wilderness Trail opened and the Cumberland Gap was widened, in 1775, by Daniel Boone and his buddy, James Renfro, Jr., to allow for the passage of wagons through the gap. 

Once again, some of my ancestors are in the same area at the same time.  But this time these are my mother’s ancestors on the same path as my father’s ancestors. However, these families didn’t come together until my parents met 130 years later in Dallas. But this is not too surprising.  The new country, as well as its population, was small and those who eventually met in Iowa and Texas would have had to travel  through the same gaps and along the same roads that opened in the mountains and the frontiers as they became “settled”. 

As with all my Southern ancestors, I will not shy away from their participation in America’s original sin, slavery. Here is a newspaper advertisement placed by Samual Stockton offering to sell some of his land for “half the value of it money in negroes.” It is very distressing to see such a casual reference to his willingness to trade land for humans in bondage. 

However, for Daniel, the move from the southern states may have been due to slavery.  Daniel Lattimore was a staunch Presbyterian, and Presbyterian ministers were preaching abolition even at this early date. Although the 1790 Census shows that Daniel’s brothers Francis and John owned slaves, Daniel did not.  Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois attracted many settlers from the slave states because the act creating the Northwest Territories specifically prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude.

In 1811, Daniel Lattimore arrived in Jefferson County, Indiana Territory with his family, including his son John and his wife Isabella (Carson) and her parents, Walter and Mary Carson. Indiana Territory was mostly unclaimed land and considered to be still in hostile Indian Territory.  Daniel erected a large two story home out of hand made bricks, with walls 18 inches thick. According to Mrs. Jenkins, the house was still standing on the road between Deputy and Kent, was well kept, and was being lived in in 1982.  

Daniel Lattimore died 12 February 1831, and Ann Stockton died 28 March 1838.  Lattimore descendants remained in Jefferson County, Indiana for generations.  But remember what I said about my mother being 99% southern stock?  So, Indiana not being in the south, someone had to make the return trip.  That would be Daniel’s grandson, Samuel Stockton Lattimore, who had made the trip north with his parents, John and Isabella (Carson) Lattimore, as an infant and would return south to live a very different lifestyle.

Murder, Mayhem and Madness

Wow, where to begin?  The Buttes were a very accomplished bunch.  All the ones that I knew (aunts, uncles, cousins) were brilliant.  It’s tempting to just give you the list of their accomplishments written up in their obituaries.  However, it’s more fun to hear the stories.  So here goes.

Charles Felix Butte-Caspari was born in Holland in 1830.  His parents were from Italy.  They apparently never immigrated. In 1853 a “C. Butte”, born in 1831, arrived in New York on the F J Wickelhansen.  When he next appears in the 1880 Census, he is married with three children and is a civil engineer in San Francisco.  His wife, Lina Clara Stoes, was born in 1850 in Austria and came to America alone in 1868 on the ship Hermann when she was 18 years old. 

She gives no profession but is listed as being in a “cabin upper level”.  Somehow she or her parents, or maybe her future husband, managed to pay for this.  Somehow Charles and Lina met and married, appearing in San Francisco in 1880 with their three sons, George, Charles and Paul, who had been born there.  The eldest, George, was three years old, so Charles and Lina married in about 1876, several years after her immigration. In 1886 Charles received a patent for a fruit drying machine. He is later listed as a superintendent at the California Dryer company. Charles and Lina remained in California until their deaths in 1900 and 1910.  However, somehow young George was in Texas at age 9 living on a farm.  But before we get to that mystery, I have to tell you about Charles’ other son, Charles.


Charles Felix, his father’s namesake, was a prosperous civil engineer and San Francisco “clubman”.  He married Lenore May Hughes in 1907 and they had three sons.  But in 1934, Charles divorced Lenore, and, that same year, married Emily Maude (Rice) Zigler, “well known in San Francisco and Indianapolis social circles”.  Though what she was know for, I cannot say.  Lenore then sued Emily for $100,000 for Alienation of Affections and Charles turned “approximately $500,000 in property over to his sons”.  This notice gives a little of the background of Charles’ relationship with his first wife.

The resulting financial distress proved fatal.  Using a “curtain pole”, Charles “bludgeoned his socially prominent wife and then heeded her dying request for a farewell kiss”.

Two psychiatrists agreed that Charles “was perfectly sane when he clubbed his wife to death” just  before their second honeymoon after a six month separation.  “She opened her eyes after I struck her the last time and said ‘kiss me goodbye-I’m dying,’” Charles told Detective Yoris. “I knelt down and kissed her and then she was dead.”

But aid was on the way.  Charles’s brother, George Charles Felix Butte (I know, it’s confusing) was reported to be arranging to fly from Mexico to Seattle to provide legal advice to his troubled brother.  

You see, George had made a few headlines himself.  He had been the Dean of the Law Department of the University of Texas, the Republican candidate for Governor of Texas, the Attorney General of Puerto Rico, Vice Governor of the Philippines, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.  He could probably have gotten Charles off even after he kissed his wife goodbye.  George, the accomplished brother for once, is my ancestor.

But, in the end, George didn’t come.  

Charles died in Walla Walla, Washington at the age of 63 after serving a life sentence and apparently getting paroled at some point.  But that’s not all.  Of the three sons of Charles Felix and Lenore, one was named … wait for it … Charles Felix Butte. However, he always referred to himself as Charles Butte.

The immigrant Charles Felix Butte-Caspari’s eldest son, my great grandfather, was George Charles Felix Butte LLB JD.   The Buttes were worse than the Renfros in unimaginative names.  He named one son George and another, my grandfather, Felix.  

Anyway, as I mentioned before, George Charles was to come to the aid of his murdering younger brother, Charles, in 1938.  But he didn’t.  He was in Mexico at the time and died there two years later, at age 62, of an “intestinal blockage”.  But in those 62 years he made quite a few headlines and was the predominant topic of conversation at our family gatherings with the Butte aunts and uncles in Austin and San Antonio.  There was a great deal of pride in his accomplishments and they are so numerous that I could never keep them straight.  George even had his own Wikipedia entry but it disappeared for some reason.  Here’s part of it:

Butte was born [in 1877 in San Francisco, California, to Charles Felix Butte and the former Lena Clara Stoes. When he was nine years old, Butte’s family moved to Hunt County, east of Dallas, Texas, where he was reared on a farm near Commerce and attended public schools.

In 1895, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Austin College in Sherman. He moved to Dublin in Erath County near Stephenville, where on August 21, 1898, he married the former Bertha Lattimore (November 23, 1878–July 13, 1926). Thereafter, he received another bachelor’s degree and in 1904 a Master of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin.  He studied at the University of Berlin in Berlin, Germany from 1911–1912, and received a degree in jurisprudence from the University of Heidelberg in Germany in 1913. He also studied at the École de Droit in Paris, France. Butte was admitted to the Texas bar in 1903, the Oklahoma bar in 1904, and the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1907.

From 1904-1911, Butte practiced law in Muskogee, Oklahoma, when he left the practice to travel and study in Europe. During World War I, Butte was chief of the Foreign Intelligence Section of the General Staff of the U.S. Army, based in Washington, D.C., with the rank of captain and then major.

Now I can tell you the rest of the story.  Notice that George received his first bachelor’s degree in 1895 when he was 18 years old.  Then, after he married, he received a second bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in 1903.    

One of George’s daughters, Pauline, was an avid family genealogist. According to Aunt Polly’s research, young George went to live with his maternal uncle, Henry Stoes, at Rockwall, Hunt County, Texas in 1887, at the age of 10.  This was long before the scandals in San Francisco, so he wasn’t being sent to get away from all that negative attention.  But that also would mean that Lina Stoes did have family in Texas.  I was able to find Uncle Henry in a later census record in Las Cruses, New Mexico.  But I don’t know why young George was raised on a farm in Commerce, Texas.  And, of course, we don’t have the 1890 census to verify any of this.  The town of Commerce, also in Hunt County, is very proud of its history. “In 1885, the year of incorporation, Commerce had twelve businesses in addition to a hotel and livery stable, a wood shop and wagon factory, and a steam mill and gin, as well as a church and school.” The biography above says he came with his family to Hunt County in 1886.  According to the Census, his father died before 1900, but I don’t know where, and his mother, who died in 1910, and brothers remained in California.  So why was he sent to Texas? I don’t know.

But it’s a good thing he was because George Butte and Bertha Lattimore met and were married in 1898 in Erath County, Texas, where Bertha’s mother, Sarah Catherine (Shivers) Lattimore lived.  Hunt County and Erath County are on opposite sides of Dallas.  Maybe they met in Dallas.  

Bertha was the first wife of George Charles Butte and the mother of all of his children, including the first born, Felix Lattimore Butte, my grandfather, who was born in Sherman, Texas, north of Dallas in 1901.  Bertha’s brother Samuel, that “strong and cultured young attorney”, as we will find out later, followed them to Muskogee and remained in Oklahoma the remainder of his days.

Bertha died young at age 49 in 1926 of a ruptured appendix, when her youngest child, Pauline, my Great Aunt Polly, was just 9 years old.  Aunt Polly wrote this about her memories of her mother:

Because I was not quite nine years old when she died, I have only snatches of memories which I believe are distinct from the things told to me later about those early years.  I remember her singing the old favorite hymns as I stood very close to her in church. She had a sweet clear singing voice and was often asked to sing at friends’ weddings—some of her favorites were “Oh Promise Me” and “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms”.  Trying to write this evokes a deep sadness (and a lump in my throat) because I lost her so early in our lives together. 

I’ll cover the Lattimores and their ancestors in the next post. 

I never met my great grandfather George, but the thing I remember the most was hearing about his third marriage to a Filipino woman, Angela Montenegro, whom he met while serving as the acting governor of the Philippines.  Although this was somewhat scandalous, the grownups all agreed that she was a lovely woman and made George very happy.


One thing that was not discussed in any detail was the nature of his run for Governor of Texas in 1924.  Based on appearances, he was entirely surprised to be nominated by the Republican Party.  Then Dean of the University of Texas Law School, he was returning home from Europe when he received the news.  “I was overwhelmed,” he said on his arrival in New York. “I am virtually a nobody in Texas politics. Why, I wouldn’t recognize the State’s political leaders if they strolled down the pier to meet me.”  

The thing the grownups didn’t even whisper about was the influence of the (un)desirable Ku Klux Klan vote.  If the Republicans were to have a chance at winning the Governorship, they could not afford to alienate the Klan.  The importance of the Klan vote was evidenced by George’s need to defend himself by stating “I am not now and have never been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I have not now and never will have any alliance with it.” 

The former governor, and husband of the Democratic nominee, “Ma” Ferguson, charged that, failing to find anybody on land, the “Republican – Ku Klux” crowd had “finally jumped on one poor ignorant professor away out in the middle of the ocean and thrust upon the poor devil the Republican – Ku Klux nomination for Governor.”

I don’t really understand the ins and outs of Texas politics in the ’20s, or any other time for that matter, and I think that is a positive attribute.  But it seems that the Klan’s loathing of the Democratic Fergusons lead them to vote for Uncle George.

Mrs. Ferguson’s Republican opponent in the general election was George C. Butte, dean of the University of Texas law school. Ferguson attacked him as “a little mutton-headed professor with a Dutch diploma,” who was taking orders from the “grand dragon” of the “Realm of Texas,” Z. L. Marvin, “the same as Felix Robertson did [another Felix?].” According to the New York Times, the November 4 election signified “the greatest political revolution that ever took place in Texas.” Tens of thousands of rock-ribbed Democrats cast a ballot for a Republican candidate for the first time. Klansmen deserted wholesale to Butte, who was not in sympathy with the organization, as did a number of anti-Ferguson Democrats, outraged that Ferguson should return to power through his wife. [“Texas in the 1920s” Handbook of Texas, Texas State Historical Association]

He also benefited from the Suffragists’ abhorrence of “Ma” Ferguson.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, many of the former suffragists found themselves unable to bring themselves to support Ferguson. Instead, they did what was then almost unthinkable in Texas politics. They crossed party lines and supported the Republican candidate, George C. Butte, dean of the University of Texas law school. Ordinarily, Republican candidates for governor polled between 11,000 and 30,000 votes statewide. In the election of 1924, Butte received over 294,000 votes — most of them from women. [“Women’s Suffrage Movement in Texas”, Texas State Library and Archives]

But that was not enough to win the election.  

The Texas Klan quickly died out after that. “It was all over,” recalled a former Klansman. “After Robertson was beaten [in the Republican primary] the prominent men left the Klan. The Klan’s standing went with them.”   


The Buttes were blessed with brilliance but plagued by mental and emotional problems. But George and Bertha’s children were some of my favorite relatives when I was a child.  The eldest was Felix, my grandfather. More on him below. The next, George, I didn’t know.  Woodfin, or Uncle Woody, was a lot of fun.  He also was a law professor at the University of Texas.  He had a son, Johnny, who was absolutely brilliant.  Uncle Woody and Aunt Pat had two grand pianos in their house so that Uncle Woody and his son could play duets together.  It was astounding.  Tragically, their Johnny suffered heat stroke his first year at Yale, and lived in a vegetative state thereafter. 

George Charles and his sons

Then came Catherine, whom we all called Aunt Ta, my most favorite great aunt.  She was funny and had a glass eye.  When she was young she was sitting in the stands watching a baseball game when the ball flew right into her eye.  Even with no depth perception, she was a great pool player.  And her son, Woodfin, one of my favorite cousins, followed the family tradition and became a judge. His older brother, Stephen, was a Chess Master as a senior in college. His younger sister, Casey, was wild and was frequently the topic of family conversation.  I think she came to a tragic end. 

Beth, Polly and Sara

Finally, there was little Sarah Pauline, or Aunt Polly.  She was only a few years older than her niece, Beth, and often visited at the Butte house in Dallas on Maplewood Avenue.  Next door lived the Gifford Family and Beth and Polly came to know the Giffords’ son, Pete, who was about Polly’s age.

Now, to my grandfather, Felix Lattimore Butte, George and Bertha’s first born. During his youth he lived for a while in Austin and then Muskogee, Oklahoma while his father practiced law there.  Later, he benefited from his father’s stays in Berlin, Heidelberg and Paris while George was obtaining (more) advanced degrees.  He followed the family tradition of being very accomplished, playing the violin, becoming not only a doctor but eventually the Chief of the Orthopedic Surgery Department at Baylor Hospital in Dallas.  Always a point of pride in the family.  He worked there, literally, until the day he died in 1962.

While Felix was studying in Austin he met a very vivacious young lady from Chilton, Texas, Sarah Elizabeth Kirkpatrick.  They married on September 17, 1924. The marriage announcement in the San Antonio Press September 13, 1924 had Elizabeth’s name wrong, referring to her  as “Mary”.  She must have been furious.

Elizabeth and Felix 1924

Felix and Elizabeth were separated for a year or two while he was at medical school in Galveston.  Elizabeth had graduated from the university and was back in Chilton teaching school.  His letters are very passionate and creative in the greetings and closings he uses.  Or maybe that was just how young twenty-somethings wrote in the early twenties.  After their marriage, Felix became a professor of anatomy at Galveston from 1927 until 1933. There are a lot of pictures of them with their daughters Rose Elizabeth and Sara and son Felix, Jr at the beach.  Rose, my mother, changed her name to Beth because she got tired of the other children calling her “Rosie Butt”. Galveston also became a frequent destiny for our family summer vacations when I was little.  

Beth, Sara, Elizabeth, Felix, Jr and Felix

Next Felix and his family moved to White Plains, New York, so that he could train further in New York in the specialty of orthopedics. Felix’s medical career was interrupted by military service from 1942 to 1945.  Their children were in their early teens and did not see much of their father during those years.  He served as military doctor in England.  There was family gossip, via Aunt Sara, that he fell in love with a nurse and must have considered leaving Elizabeth, because she and the children knew of the affair.  However, he returned home and was a very devoted husband and father.

Elizabeth and Felix

After the war Felix’s peers considered him a superb technician, and his main clinical interest was the spine.  He is thought to have been the first to use a particular type of fixation in the stabilization of spines. He became well known for the treatment of scoliosis.  I have a box with with his spine, skull and hand (well, not literally his).

Felix always referred to Elizabeth as “Pretty”. Elizabeth loved to write poems.  I received one every year on my birthday, as did everyone else.  Here is an early one that she wrote to Felix.  It is in a plain envelop so it may not have been mailed, but delivered by her hand.

Elizabeth loved Dallas society and was a very active member of the Dallas Garden Club.   She made very elaborate flower arrangements and entered them into contests.   She had come a long ways from the little town of Chilton.  She also taught piano.  I was one of her worst pupils.  

My grandfather loved sports cars.  He had an MG and Elizabeth (all the other grownups called her Libbo) had a pink Caddy or Lincoln Continental with “suicide doors”.  Not to be outdone, my father bought my mother an Austin Healey.

I remember when I was very young Aunt Sara and “Uncle T” would come “home” to visit during the holidays.  Since they were aunt and uncle, I thought they were husband and wife.  Sara must have been living and working in New York by then and Uncle T was in the navy.  Here’s a picture of him in his uniform.  I look like I’m 2 or 3 years old.  Shortly after that, he had a mental breakdown and was eventually diagnosed as a schizophrenic.  

The family gossip (via Aunt Sara, again) was that Felix could not see that his son was ill.  He must have expected a great deal of his son.  Young Felix Jr had attended Yale and would, of course, be as gifted as all the other Buttes.  Some said that early treatment might have prevented such a serious illness.  After his breakdown, Uncle T lived in the Veterans Administration hospital in Topeka, Kansas for many years.  

Many years later, after my mother’s death, that my father told me of his almost life-long infatuation with Polly.  Polly married in 1940, so she was out of the running when he came home from the war.  Not everyone was pleased that Pete married Beth.  His sister Marjorie said to me, at the hospital where my mother lay dying, that “Pete should never have married her.  Her mother pushed Beth on [poor little] Pete.”  As if his mother had nothing to say in the matter.  That was the last conversation I had with my very unfavorite Aunt Marjorie.  Maybe the marriage was simply his mother’s (Eveline Bonorden Gifford) way of keeping her only son near her in Dallas where Beth’s parents lived as well.  

After my mother died, Pete and Polly had an intense love affair. But Polly had hepatitis and was too ill to be a constant companion for him.   She could never leave San Antonio but Dad might have moved there to be with her. I begged her to let him just adore her.  But Polly said he deserved better than a dying woman.  Polly died a couple of years after Dad remarried.  But he continued to see Polly until her death, which infuriated that other woman. 

My Veteran Ancestors

On this Veteran’s day I would like to remember my ancestors who served on behalf of the United States since its founding.

Revolutionary War

William Gifford 

Rhode Island State Troops, Col. Lippit 1776, White Plains 1775, Princeton 1776. Reenlisted 1777 Col. Crary’s Regiment, Captain Manchester’s Company reenlisted 1779 twice more.

  Uriah Roundy

Served under General Putnam, Major John Durkee, Col. Knowlton, Bunker Hill 1775, Battle of Trenton 1776, wintered at Valley Forge1777-78, Battle of Monmouth, Battle of Morristown. Possibly Washington’s personal guard.

  William Reuben Briant

Capt. John William’s Company of Col. Buncomb’s Regiment, wounded at Brandywine 1776, wintered at Valley Forge1777-78, discharged at White Plains; reenlisted, fought at Battle of Cowpens.

  Adam Crain Jones

served in the South Carolina Militia under Col. Andrew Williams at the Battle of Cowpens 

  William Townes

2nd Lieutenant, Cumberland County, Virginia Militia  

  Hans Steger

served as a 2nd Lieut., Powhatan Militia. Enlisted under Capt. Joseph Carrington for the Minute Service, Amelia District, Cumberland Co., Virginia.

  Amos Beard

Private in Hartwood’s Co., Col. Peter Porter’s Co., Col. Paterson’s Regiment, Continental Line, which marched in response to to the alarm of Apr. 19, 1775 from Picket Co. Cambridge.

  Jesse B. Shivers

served as a musician in Capt. Child’s Company, Col. Abraham Shepard’s 10th North Carolina  Regiment, Continental Line. 

James McLaurine 

served in Capt. Charles Fleming’s company in the Seventh Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line, commanded by Col. Crockett 

Walter Carson 

served in the Pennsylvania 10th Regiment, Continental Army 

William Carson

Capt. James Moores Co in Col. Waynes Batt. Of Forces Raised in the State of Pennsylvania in Camp at Ticonderoga Nov. 26, 1776 Promoted to Sergeant July 6, in Command at Baking

Civil War 

Edmund J Gifford

Enlisted as a Private in Company K, 2nd Cavalry Regiment Wis. Promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant on 4 Jan 1862. Mustered out June 11, 1862 due to injury.Served in Company A, 1st Infantry Regiment Iowa, fought at Wilson’s Creek 1861, injured in fall from his horse

Porter Wallace Roundy

Enlisted as a Private in Company K, 2nd Cavalry Regiment Wis. Promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant on 4 Jan 1862. Mustered out June 11, 1862 due to injury. He reenlisted in 1864 in the 37th Wisconsin Infantry. He served as hospital steward at City Point during the siege of Petersburg.

Herman Frederich Bonorden

Enlisted as a Bugler in Company E, 2nd Iowa Cavalry 2 years after arriving from Germany. Mustered out on 03 Oct 1864. Detailed to payroll dept. the next year, where he stayed until discharge Sept. 1864.


  George Charles Butte 

served as a Capt.& Major US Army, 1914 -1924 during WWI and as 

the Chief of the Foreign Intelligence Section of the General Staff, Washington, DC, 1918.


  Porter William Gifford, Jr. 

served as a Major during WWII and was Chief of the Aircraft Section, Maintenance Division, 2nd Advanced Air Depot Area, IX Air Force Service Command, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Felix Lattimore Butte

Served as a surgeon in the Army Medical Corp. 1942 -1945, stationed in England.

Fathers and Sons

The really sad thing here is that I know very little about my grandparents, Porter William and Eveline (Bonorden) Gifford. He died in 1941, when my father was only 23. I don’t think that my father knew his father very well, either. My grandfather was away in Honduras building railroads for United Fruit for much of my father’s childhood.  He used to joke about growing up in a house full of women, his mother and two significantly older sisters and at least one maid. Later in life, my father wrote a biography of his father.  A friend of his who read it said that it was a good written record of my grandfather’s business career, but he didn’t feel that the reader would learn anything about my grandfather as a person or as a father.  But my father didn’t have anything more to say about his father, so he retitled it as a “Business Biography”. This seems to be a family tradition now: fathers and sons who don’t know each other well.

Although he was the youngest, after his father died, my father was groomed to take over the running of the company his father had founded in Dallas. His older sisters were not allowed to be involved, of course. The most famous project that the company was involved in is the triple underpass under the railroad at the western end of downtown Dallas where, in 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated.

Dealy Plaza

I never met my grandfather and, although Eveline died when I was twenty, she was not very approachable and her life is as much a mystery to me, even though we often had Sunday dinner at her house. She and my father would talk business and my brothers and I would amuse ourselves. Oddly enough, after she died we found a box with a hand-drawn family tree, many old family pictures and Civil War memorabilia.  She probably put the tree together from her mother’s bible that she also had. Fortunately no one else in the family was interested in these things except my father and me. This is how we got started in our genealogical research. It was one of the few things that we bonded over. But the bonding was difficult.

Döllinger Bible

Fortunately, a great deal is known about the Bonordens because they were very accomplished and well researched.  And, again, the military is helpful. So we go back to the un-united German states of the mid 19th century. There is a book with a very detailed history of the Bonorden family written by a distant relative. But I’ll just give you some highlights. The name is thought to come from the phrase “bie Norden” (in the North) because they came from a small area to the north of the region between the Bucke Mountains and Schaumburg Forest.  The name is first seen mentioned on a bill of sale in the records of the town of Stadthagen in 1493.  I would have a map here, but the frequently changing borders makes it hard to get an accurate one. Skipping many generations, and interesting stories, I will begin with the first of several physicians.  I have names for their wives but know nothing about them or their families, so this account, as with many, is male-centric.  

Hermann Friedrich Bonorden (the first of three), born in 1710, is known to have been a surgeon through his death certificate. We know from the births of his children that he lived in Herford, but there is no record of his practicing surgery there.  This is the beginning of the line of Herford Bonordens.  Other than that, very little is known about his life.  So it is assumed that he was a surgeon in the Prussian military.  This would require strict training and testing in surgical schools and hospitals.  A military surgeon would hold an officer’s rank and be commensurately paid.  Surgeons in the Prussian military at that time were responsible for the total care of the soldiers, in both war and peace.  They also cared for civilians who could not afford the university trained physicians.  However, rosters of military surgical schools and hospitals were seldom kept, so we cannot say exactly where Hermann practiced.

Hermann’s son, Johann Heinrich Bonorden, born in Herford in 1736, was also a military surgeon, but there is much more information about him than his father.  He was the Royal Prussian Company Assistant Medical Officer in the Grenadier Company of the 2nd Infantry of the Moselle, No. 11 (whatever all that means).  He was also the first official city and county surgeon.  In addition, his surgical skills led him to be named the official prison surgeon and district surgeon.  All of these positions were highly prized and are evidence of the esteem in which he was held.  He lived to the very old age of 75 in 1811.

Johann’s only child, Phillip Heinrich Bonorden, was born in Herford in 1771.  As a student at the Friedrichs Gymnasium, he was required, starting at age 11, to give a public speech.  The topic of his first speech was “On Fashion”, the next was “The Advantages of Studying”, then “By What Means did the Popes Reach their Heights?” and, finally, at 17, “The Joys of the Heart and of the Mind”.   However he failed the “Arbiter” ( a Regents Exam).  This exam required that he translate Horace from the Latin, prepare a Latin essay on “About the History of the Science and Pharmacology in Ancient Times”.  His German essay was “What Value Does History Have for Us?” (very apropos).  

Somehow he managed to enroll in the Halle University a month after the failed exam (there must have been retakes) and also to become a physician. As the official physician of the Bunde District, he supported the use of the controversial smallpox vaccine.  

He appears to have had a sense of humor.  He was well recognized among his neighbors because of his habit of walking back and forth in front of his house in his pajamas.  When asked by a policeman whether he owned a dog, he replied “no” for several days before admitting that he had no dog, but he did have a puppy, which he then pulled from his pajama pocket.  Well, it was probably funny at the time. 

Philip’s first wife, Dorothea Auguste Nandorf,  died of typhus.  Their son, Hermann Friedrich Bonorden, also a physician (the 8th in nine generations), would later make a study of the causes of typhus.  He was born in 1801 in Herford but later retired in Cologne and so began the Cologne branch of the family.  

Hermann Friedrich’s first wife was Marie Charlotte Gossauer, who bore him nine children before dying in 1851.  Like his grandfather, he served as a military surgeon but was also a renown medical researcher.  Hermann Friedrich published articles on several diseases, including syphilis.  His scientific work won him a professorship at the Friedrich Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. He was awarded most of the prestigious honors in medicine at the time.  He was also a mycologist.  His best known publication is his Complete Mycological Handbook, published in 1851. Of Hermann and Marie’s nine children, one immigrated to America in 1854 or 1859, depending on which census you look at, and settled in Iowa, of course. This was only a few years after the revolution of 1848 in Germany.

Prussia was the largest of the 39 German-speaking states, or kingdoms, of the German Confederation, a loose association meant to balance the power between its two dominant states, Austria and Prussia.  However, in 1848, crowds of people gathered demanding freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, arming of the people and a national German parliament.  Overwhelmed by this pressure, King Frederick William IV of Prussia yielded verbally to all the demonstrators’ demands.  

But the king soon refused to “pick up a crown from the gutter” and unilaterally imposed a monarchist Constitution on Prussia as a way to undercut the democratic forces.  As a result, the grip of the landowning classes, the Junkers, remained unbroken.  By 1892, Prussia had acquired all of the German states.

Thousands of middle class liberals fled abroad, especially to the United States. This wave of political refugees became known as Forty-Eighters.  Many of these German immigrants made their way to the Midwest.  They settled into tight-knit German-speaking communities across the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys but quickly adopted their new country. 

According to Joseph Eiboeck, a veteran German newspaperman, in his book, Die Deutschen von Iowa und deren Errungenschaften (The Germans of Iowa and Their Achievements), Davenport was “the most German city, not only in the State, but in all the Middle West, the center of all German activities in the State”. But this is not surprising. A large number of Germans settled in Davenport.  But German customs sometimes clashed with those of their Irish and Yankee neighbors.  While the Germans lived on the western side of the town, non-Germans would usually reside in the eastern part, with Harrison Street being the dividing line. 

The main issues of contention were temperance and Sabbath laws.  The German and Irish had no problem with each other in their love of beer, lager and ale.   But despite the German opposition, a strict state law was passed in 1855 forbidding the sale and production of alcohol in Iowa.  The law led to a full-blown riot – called the “Whiskey Riot” – when Germans challenged the authorities’ seizure of liquor.  As the size of the heavily voting German community increased, the law was weakened to leave temperance laws to each community.

Still, the “Anglo-Americans” couldn’t swallow the Sunday afternoon picnics and parades.

The population has a preponderating element of the German race, who carry with them, along with their love of lager, sour-krout [sic] and Bolognas, their free and easy habits of Sunday afternoon diversion. At the “Dutch Gardens,” as they call one place of amusement, I saw on Sunday afternoon several hundred people swigging lager on benches under the trees whilst listening to the strains of a fine band.

In 1859 Sunday “Blue Laws” were passed to curb the Germans’ Sunday amusements, closing all gardens, dancing saloons and other places of amusement Germans regularly frequented.  However, after two weeks, the ordinance was repealed following massive German protests. 

In 1854, the Saratoga docked in New York from Liverpool with refugees of revolution and deposited them at the immigration facility on Ellis Island. Among them were Ludwig Ferdinand Dӧllinger, a shopkeeper, and his wife Sofie Fredericke and their children, Herman, age 15, Gustave, age 11, Emma, age 7 and Clara, an infant.  Although they considered themselves to be German, they had begun their journey in Prussia.  

On another ship, at about the same time, Herman Frederich Bonorden left his home in Prussia and came to America alone in his twenties in 1859.  His parents and maybe even his two brothers remained behind in Prussia.  Perhaps Herman Frederich left Prussia to make a name for himself, separate from his famous father. (At least he spelled it differently.)   

Herman F. Bonorden

Two years after arriving in America, on August 16, 1861, Herman was in Davenport, Iowa, and drafted for three years as a bugler in Company E, 2nd Iowa Cavalry, which became part of the Army of the Mississippi.  He may have seen action at Monterey, Tennessee and Farmingham, Mississippi in April and May of 1862.  But war did not seem to suit Herman.  On May 10, 1862, Herman was put on “extra duty clerk in Q.M. Dpt.”  in the pay department.  He remained there for the duration of the war. That’s all I know about his service. 

Emma Auguste Dӧllinger

But I have learned quite a bit about the service of Emma’s brother Herman Dӧllinger (not to be confused with her future husband Herman Bonorden) who also served in the American Civil War from its beginning to its end, and kept a diary as well.  The diary has been transcribed by Floyd Kallum, a Bonorden descendent, and copied and bound.  It has a wonderful introduction concerning who Herman was and how the diary came to be in Floyd’s hand, but as Floyd quotes Napoleon, “Above all, be distrustful of eyewitnesses, – the only things my Grenadiers saw of Russia was the pack of the man in from.”  Maybe that’s what Napoleon wanted historians to believe.

But there seems to be some truth to that.  I have always been disappointed that Porter Wallace Roundy was not a more vigorous writer in his diary that he sort of kept at City Point, Virginia.  As a hospital steward, he must have seen so much more than the back of the soldier in front of him.  But, most likely, what he saw was too horrid to describe or even want to remember.

All of this is by way of apology for not giving you any tidbits from Herman Döllinger’s diary.  I have picked it up several times to read.  As he writes, “nothing of importance” happened most days.  When things became eventful, there was no time to write and probably no wish to record.  As many have said, war is mostly long periods of excruciating boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

Floyd adds  a lot of commentary along the way to give some context to Herman’s observations.  On page 15 he notes that Herman Döllinger served with his future brother-in-law,  Herman Frederich Bonorden at Corinth, Mississippi on May 9, 1862, when the 2nd Iowa Cavalry joined with the 56th Illinois Volunteers and other regiments for the attack on Corinth.  It was actually not much of a battle.  After the enormous losses at the Union victory at Shiloh just days before,  General Grant took it slow in advancing on the Confederate retreat.  But the Confederates staged a ruse, leaving a few troops at Corinth lighting fires, drumming, and making all sorts of racket while the Confederate army slipped quietly to safety.

In 1859 Sunday “Blue Laws” were passed to curb the Germans’ Sunday amusements, closing all gardens, dancing saloons and other places of amusement Germans regularly frequented.  However, after two weeks, the ordinance was repealed following massive German protests. 

In 1854, the Saratoga docked in New York from Liverpool with refugees of revolution and deposited them at the immigration facility on Ellis Island. Among them were Ludwig Ferdinand Dӧllinger, a shopkeeper, and his wife Sofie Fredericke and their children, Herman, age 15, Gustave, age 11, Emma, age 7 and Clara, an infant.  Although they considered themselves to be German, they had begun their journey in Prussia.  

Sofie Fredericka Döllinger

On another ship, at about the same time, Herman Frederich Bonorden left his home in Prussia and came to America alone in his twenties in 1859.  His parents and maybe even his two brothers remained behind in Prussia.  Perhaps Herman Frederich left Prussia to make a name for himself, separate from his famous father. (At least he spelled it differently.)   

Two years after arriving in America, on August 16, 1861, Herman was in Davenport, Iowa, and drafted for three years as a bugler in Company E, 2nd Iowa Cavalry, which became part of the Army of the Mississippi.  He may have seen action at Monterey, Tennessee and Farmingham, Mississippi in April and May of 1862.  But war did not seem to suit Herman.  On May 10, 1862, Herman was put on “extra duty clerk in Q.M. Dpt.”  in the pay department.  He remained there for the duration of the war. That’s all I know about his service. 

But I have learned quite a bit about the service of Emma’s brother Herman Dӧllinger (not to be confused with her future husband Herman Bonorden) who also served in the American Civil War from its beginning to its end, and kept a diary as well.  The diary has been transcribed by Floyd Kallum, a Bonorden descendent, and copied and bound.  It has a wonderful introduction concerning who Herman was and how the diary came to be in Floyd’s hand, but as Floyd quotes Napoleon, “Above all, be distrustful of eyewitnesses, – the only things my Grenadiers saw of Russia was the pack of the man in from.”  Maybe that’s what Napoleon wanted historians to believe.

But there seems to be some truth to that.  I have always been disappointed that Porter Wallace Roundy was not a more vigorous writer in his diary that he sort of kept at City Point, Virginia.  As a hospital steward, he must have seen so much more than the back of the soldier in front of him.  But, most likely, what he saw was too horrid to describe or even want to remember.

All of this is by way of apology for not giving you any tidbits from Herman Döllinger’s diary.  I have picked it up several times to read.  As he writes, “nothing of importance” happened most days.  When things became eventful, there was no time to write and probably no wish to record.  As many have said, war is mostly long periods of excruciating boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

Floyd adds  a lot of commentary along the way to give some context to Herman’s observations.  On page 15 he notes that Herman Döllinger served with his future brother-in-law,  Herman Frederich Bonorden at Corinth, Mississippi on May 9, 1862, when the 2nd Iowa Cavalry joined with the 56th Illinois Volunteers and other regiments for the attack on Corinth.  It was actually not much of a battle.  After the enormous losses at the Union victory at Shiloh just days before,  General Grant took it slow in advancing on the Confederate retreat.  But the Confederates staged a ruse, leaving a few troops at Corinth lighting fires, drumming, and making all sorts of racket while the Confederate army slipped quietly to safety.

There is one entry, on January 1, 1863, that is worth quoting, along with Herman’s creative spelling. 

Continued our march this morning early toward Lafyette [Tennessee], after marching about 1 mile, and was about to passe a house a lady came out, and complaint about the soldears taking her chickens, and all her turnips, and wanted the Col. to guard them, the Col. askt her, wheather she wanted the Government torn down, she said, she did not, then he askt her wheather she wanted the Confedracy to be establishet, she said she did, and that she was a southern women, the Col. apliet, if that is the case, i donat Care, if the[y] eat up your house and home, at that time we all jumpt in to her tirnip pach, and get all we wanted.

There are no entries after December 31, 1963, when he came to the last page of the diary for that year.  However, Herman continued to serve, eventually under General Sherman on his March to the Sea.  After the surrender of the Confederacy, the Union Army began sending its troops home to be mustered out.

Sargent Herman F. Dellinger (or Dillinger, the army was never sure how to spell it but always got it wrong probably because of the umlaud, ö) was on the first leg of his long journey  to Springfield, Illinois on board the U. S. Steam Transport “General Lyon”, along with about 500 to 600 others, including women, children and freedmen.  The ship was bound from Wilmington, North Carolina to Fortress Monroe in Virginia, at the opening of Chesapeake Bay.  On March 31, 1865, when off Cape Hatteras, a storm was encountered and the “General Lyon” caught fire and sank.  Only twenty-eight persons were saved.  

Herman may have sent his diaries to his and Emma’s mother, Sophie Fredericka, as he completed them, but the last one was probably with him on the General Lyon.  It has never been found.  The Adjutant General’s Report lists all member of the 56th Illinois Volunteer Infantry and their fates. 

After the war Herman Frederich Bonorden applied for US citizenship, which he received in Sept, 1864 in St. Louis.  Then, in September 1865, he married Herman Döllinger’s sister, Emma Auguste Dӧllinger, in St. Louis. We don’t know where Emma was living before she met Herman, but maybe it was St. Louis.  It’s impossible to know if the Dӧllingers and Bonordens knew each other in Prussia.  I have no information about the Dӧllinger family prior to their immigration to America.  It appears that Emma’s father, Ludwig Ferdinand, returned to Germany, where he died four years after leaving.  He may have been ill when disembarking at Ellis Island and not allowed to stay.

After their marriage, Emma and Herman returned to Iowa from St. Louis and Herman was admitted to the Iowa State Bar.  He practiced as an attorney at law in Iowa City, where they raised their nine children.  Iowa City is only about 50 miles west of Davenport.  I have an old German bible in which  Emma kept the records, in German, of the births in the family.  There is no evidence that Herman returned to Davenport after the war.  If he had lived there, he may have met Porter Wallace Roundy, also a Civil War veteran, and his daughter, Nettie May, and his grandsons, Edward and William Gifford.  But it is safe to assume that Herman’s daughter Eveline met Edward H. Gifford’s son Porter because of mutual friends in Davenport.

Sofie Fredericka Döllinger

Then, amazingly, with seven children to feed, clothe and educate, and a mother-in-law to care for, Herman decided to change professions.  In 1887, he went to Washington and applied to the Bureau of Pensions to be a pension examiner.  That same year he applied for a disability pension for himself based on his service in the War of the Rebellion.  His family remained in their home in Iowa City, Iowa and then Quincy, Illinois while Herman traveled for work in Illinois, Missouri and Washington as a pension examiner.  When Emma died in 1900 at the age of 55, she left Herman to raise their four youngest children who were all teenagers by then.

Eveline Victoria Auguste Bonorden 1900

So, even as he claimed to be disabled to the extent of being “totally unable to earn a support by manual labor”, he worked as a pension examiner for seventeen years.  In 1907, he applied for an increase in his pension shortly after Congress approved such increases. In fact, it seems that every time Congress passed a new pension act, Herman had his application ready.  

Eventually, he no longer needed to plead a disability, only his war record. In 1910, at 75, he was living in Washington, DC, with his daughter Bertha (unfortunate name; she looked like a Bertha) and stated that he had been working as a pension examiner for 16 years.  In 1911, he and his daughter Bertha moved to San Diego, California, and Herman applied for a transfer of his pension to his new address.  In this case, the six month residency requirement for the transfer was waived by H. R. C. Shaw, Chief, Certificate Division, based on reliable information from Herman’s colleague, Mr. Works, that “pensioner intends to make San Diego his permanent home.”  It’s good to have friends in the Pension Office.  

Herman F. Bonorden

Finally, in 1912, he wrote to J. L Davenport, Commissioner of Pensions in Washington (errors in the original). 

Dear Sir;      I hope that you upon seeing the signature below, will remember the Special-Examiner and Clerk that worked in the Bureau from Aug. 1887 to Sept, 15” 191[?]., and had to resign on account of the failure of his eye-sight, to make room for some one else, more phisically able to perform his duties.      Since September last I have lived here [San Diego] with one of my daughters, as a poor relation on my $20.00 per month pension. I am poor in health and financially; saved only a small amount of money during my civil service. My wife died years ago, leaving me with a large and expensive family which used up most of my salary….June 30 last I was 77 years of age and will not live very long, I am almost blind on account of which I use a type-writer. I respectfully ask you to do a favor to a former faithful and efficient employee of the Bureau and if not contrary to your duties, to make my case “Special” so I can draw the increase at San Francisco, Cal. September 4” next and I will thank you ever so much.  A premium on a life policy is due early in Oct.

It appears that his case may not have been treated as “Special”.  Three years after this letter, Herman was sent another form to fill out for his pension.  But he apparently did eventually receive an increase in his pension.  In 1917, his pension check for $90 (which is way more than $20) was returned to the Pension Office “because the pensioner died Apr 30 1917”.  The check had been mailed, ironically, to the “Fredericka Home for the Aged”.

Lillian, Bertha and Eveline

This is, indeed, a sad, but perplexing tale.  It’s surprising that a man who was a lawyer for 18 years and then a Pension Examiner for another 17 years could not have saved for his retirement.  And when his wife Emma died in 1900, the “large and expensive family” she left him with was composed of the four youngest children.  The eldest of these, Otto, age 22, would soon marry and was probably helping to support the family; the next eldest, Bertha, age 20, would care for Herman until his death.  She never married and lived alone after her father’s death until her own in 1945.  The other two, Eveline, 16, and Richard, 13, would not be home much longer.  

Here is a photograph of the eight siblings on the only occasion they were all together.  My grandmother, Eveline is second from the right.

The Bonorden Siblings

In 1907, Herman and Emma’s daughter Eveline married Porter William Gifford (Sr), the son of Edmond (Edward) H. Gifford and Nettie May Roundy, and grandson of Edmond J. Gifford and Nancy Ann Renfro.  Porter was 22 years old and Eveline was 25 years old. Eveline and Porter had three children: Edna May, Marjorie, and Porter William, Jr, my father, born in 1918 in Dallas.  I believe that this long line of distant fathers and their sons left its mark on my father. 

Porter, Marjorie, Eveline and Edna May

Porter worked for the Walsh Construction Company of Davenport.  In 1906 he formed a subcontracting partnership, Walsh, List and Gifford construction company, with Bill List.  They probably moved frequently to live near the job sights. By 1918, they had moved to Biloxi, Mississippi where the children’s grandfathers, Porter Wallace Roundy and Edward H. Gifford, visited them.

Then, throughout the twenties, Porter, sometimes with Eveline, traveled to Honduras with the Vaccaro family.  I count 13 trips in those ten years, some of them with Eveline returning home alone.  Porter’s Company built railroads from the Vaccaro’s banana plantations to the port of La Ceiba for shipping the bananas to the U. S.   He looks like a giant in this picture and he was quite tall.  But I think these “Caribs” are children.

Porter and Eveline eventually settled in Dallas, Texas. They would move next door to Dr. Felix L. Butte, another descendant of German immigrants, and his wife, Elizabeth (Kirkpatrick) and their three children. Their son, affectionately known as “Pete”, would marry the girl next door.

War! War! War!

Sometimes people ask why history is mostly about wars. One reason is that war departments keep excellent records. Sometimes those records and the census are all a genealogist has to go on. Social history is more ephemeral. And this is the case with my Roundy ancestors.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, there were enough wars in the 18th and 19th centuries so that my three closest Roundy ancestors fought in one and each Roundy widow applied for a war pension. This is fortunate because, without letters or diaries, these applications provide most of the personal information that is available about the men and their wives. Uriah Roundy fought in the Revolutionary War. Uriah’s son, Daniel Roundy, fought in the War of 1812. Daniel’s son, Porter Wallace Roundy, fought in the Civil War. His daughter, Nettie May Roundy, married Edward H. Gifford, my great grandfather and estranged son of Edmond J. Gifford.

Recall that Edward H. Gifford was born in Muscatine, Iowa, on April 4, 1861, a week and a half before the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. The next month, his father, Edmond J. answered President Lincoln’s first call for 75,000 volunteers. This left their mother, Nancy Ann (Renfro), with two small children, William and Edward, to care for. Although Edmond J.’s service lasted for only three months, I can find no evidence that he ever returned to Nancy Ann and their sons. By 1870, Edward and William were living with their mother in Davenport, where she worked as a seamstress and William, only 14, was a store clerk. In 1880, Edward cannot be found and his brother William was living with their grandmother Elizabeth Cormack Renfro in Rock Island. By this time, their parents had been divorced for eight years. There’s no sign of their mother, and their father had remarried and moved to Petoskey, Michigan. 

Then Edward met Nettie May Roundy and his brother William met a woman named Lizzie and they were married in a double ceremony on July 1, 1880 in Davenport by Rev. H. S. Church. Looking at William and Edward side-by-side makes it hard to believe that they are full brothers. So, maybe Nancy Ann Renfro Warren was pregnant by her first husband when she married Edmond J. Gifford, making William and Edward only half brothers.

Lizzie, William, Nettie May, Edward 

Edward was a member of Trinity Masonic Lodge in Davenport and worked as a messenger for United States Express Company in Davenport until at least 1900. The United States Express Company, founded in 1854, was third in size and importance among the 19th century express operations. It was headed by a banker, D. N. Barney, who was also the president of Wells, Fargo & Co.  A few months later, in the spring of 1855, he also headed the National Express Company. This must have been an interesting business arrangement. The United States Express Company mostly served the states of the old Northwest Territories. Think of Charlie Utter in Deadwood.

Edward and Netty

After Nettie May died in 1905, I have no record of Edward’s activities until 1921, when Edward traveled with his son Porter, who was 35 at the time, to Honduras. Porter had started a railroad business, Walsh, List and Gifford and was beginning a project for the United Fruit Company building railroads in Honduras to transport bananas from the trees to the port in La Ceiba for shipment to America. 

As further evidence of the estrangement from his father, on his passport application in 1921 Edward says that his father is E. J. Gifford, birthplace “U.S.A. New York I Think.” He also lists his father’s birth year as 1839 instead of 1830. Remember, Edmond J. said in 1900 that he had not heard from his son since 1885. Edward even gets his own birth year wrong, giving 1863 instead of 1861. Edward says that he is currently living in Biloxi , Mississippi, working as a farmer. His son Porter had just moved to Biloxi , maybe to be near New Orleans for all his traveling. More on that in the next essay. When asked why he was going abroad he writes, “To work, Vaccaro Bros. & Son on railroad construction”. This is then crossed out and only the word “Employment” is left as the answer. 

Edward’s Passort

Edward died two months after returning from his first trip to Honduras. He was only sixty. Edward’s son Porter would continue the railroad business in Honduras and eventually start building railroads in Texas.

Now on to Nettie May’s family, the Roundys. The Roundys are well researched because they were often pillars of their tiny communities and one became a founder of the Mormon Church, which puts great store by genealogy. Nettie May’s 6th great grandfather, Philip Roundy, was born on the Isle of Guernsey in 1628 and arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1656. After Philip, there was his son Robert, then his son John, then his son Robert, then his son John, then his son Uriah, who may have been a person of some note. According to “Roundy History” by Jesse Warner, Uriah Roundy was a Personal Guard to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. However, this seems to be a remnant of the pension application of his widow, Lucretia (Needham) Roundy and repeated in the book. More on that below.

The Revolutionary War

Uriah Roundy was born in 1756 in Rockingham, Vermont and he died there, too, in 1813. In between, he moved to Connecticut, fought for years in the Revolutionary War, married Lucretia Needham and had eleven children. 

Lucretia Needham’s family, at least the Needhams, can also be traced back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where Lucretia’s g-g-g-grandfather Edmund Needham arrived from England in 1638 and settled in Lynn, next to Salem. The Needhams stayed in Lynn, Massachusetts for generations, a succession of Edmunds and Daniels. Lucretia’s father ventured as far as New London, Connecticut, where Lucretia was born in 1760.

The history of the Roundys says that John Roundy and all of his sons, including Uriah, served in the Revolutionary War. However, the details are murky. It may be that Uriah was a member of General Washington’s “Life Guards”. But Revolutionary War records are very incomplete. Most of the ones held in Washington were lost when the British burned the city to the ground during the War of 1812, sometimes referred to as the Second American Revolutionary War.

Our best information comes from the pension applications made by Uriah’s wife Lucretia after his death in 1813. Although the act establishing the pensions was passed in 1838, Lucretia did not apply until 1841, when she was 81 years old, blind and unable to sign her name. She claimed that Uriah signed up as a Continental soldier in Windham County in a Connecticut Unit on 1 May 1775. His major was John Durkee of Norwich and that Uriah’s first big battle was Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775, where he served under General Putnam. She thinks he was wounded in the ribs by a bayonet and she thinks this was at the Battle of Brandywine and that he was under the command of Colonel Knowlton. 

Serving under Major Durkee, Uriah crossed the Delaware River with General Washington on Christmas Day 1776 and participated in the Battle of Trenton. and even spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge before engaging the British at the Battles of Monmouth and Morristown. So he could have served as a personal guard to General Washington. But, his name does not appear on the available list of Washington’s Guards. He also may have run into William Gifford in Col. Lippitt’s Rhode Island Regiment.

The description of Uriah’s military service contained in Lucretia’s pension application implies that he served in a Connecticut Regiment. But the Pension Board denied the application because they said that his name did not appear on any Connecticut rolls. But I found him listed in the Connecticut Revolutionary War Military Lists, 1775-83 in Capt. Abner Robinson’s Rhode Island company, Oct.1777. I, along with a couple of experts I corresponded with, am willing to take Lucretia’s word for it. Her version of Uriah’s service gets enough names and places correct that it’s hard to believe that it isn’t true. Besides, John Durkee raised his regiment in the same town, Norwich, Connecticut, in which Uriah and Lucretia were married in 1780. 

It turns out that, according to the Daughters of the American Revolution, Uriah Roundy later served as a private in the Rockingham, Vermont company of Captain Jonathan Holton, which saw action “in the Alarm in Oct. 17, 1780”, which occurred after he and Lucretia were married. This is not quite as heroic as the previous account, but it’s still enough for the D.A.R. This British-led Indian Raid was the last and one of the most savage Indian raids of the Revolutionary War. It was an attempt by the British to use their Indian allies to terrorize the Colonial frontier settlements. Three hundred Indians, with their British leaders, attacked Royalton, Vermont without warning, burning the town to the ground. 

Shadrach and Betsy Roundy

Uriah, on the other hand, filed a certificate on March 20, 1797, recorded by the Rockingham town clerk, which reads: “This is to certify that Uriah Roundy is of and belongeth to the Universalist Society in this town and contributes to the support of the same”. It is said, by explanation, that this certificate allowed Uriah to avoid the town “Ministers Tax”, by claiming his preference for or belief in the Universalist Church. This issue took me into an in-depth reading of the Minister’s Tax, which was imposed by each town on its citizens to pay the ministers of the Puritan churches. Although there were members of other faiths in these towns, the Puritans were the majority and so the tax laws continued to be upheld. No separation of church and state in those days, even though Vermont ratified the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, in 1791.

Lucretia Needham Roundy, Uriah’s wife, frail and old, moved from Rockingham to Spafford, Onondaga County, New York, sometime after her husband’s death in 1813, with all or most of her, by then, grown children. Her children became prominent citizens of the tiny new town. Uriah, Jr. was postmaster and his brother Asahel served in several town offices. Both Daniel and his brother Uriah, Jr headed west sometime between 1830 and 1840. Lucretia must have gone with one or both of them because she died in Michigan in 1845 when she was 85 years old. 

The War of 1812

Uriah Roundy’s son, Daniel, was born in Rockingham, Vermont, in December 1780, just after his father fought in the Alarm at Royalton, Vermont.  My father’s records show that from October 15 to November 17, 1813, Daniel served in Capt. Asahel Langworthy’s Co. of Vermont Volunteer Riflemen in the War of 1812. More on this later. Daniel and his wife Ruth Beard were both the grandchildren of Daniel Needham and Hannah Allen. Their mothers, Hannah and Lucretia, were sisters, making Daniel and Ruth first cousins. Marriage between first cousins was not unusual in small isolated communities that were settled by only a few families.  Ruth’s father, Amos Beard, served in the Revolutionary War from Massachusetts. He enlisted four times but saw only brief engagements. His name appears in the official roster of the soldiers of the American Revolution as buried in the state of Ohio, where Amos died in 1821. 

Daniel and Ruth Roundy had five children in Spafford, New York, including their youngest, Porter Wallace Roundy, who was born in 1829, within a year and 100 miles of the birth of Edmond J. Gifford in Utica, New York. Then the family moved west to Cook County, Illinois by 1840. So Daniel Roundy ended up in Illinois just as Hicks Gifford was. And just like Hicks, Daniel purchased public land in Illinois: 160 acres in Cook County, E SE Sec 34 and 35, Twp 41N R9E Hanover Township. This took place 1 May 1845. He continued to make land purchases until he died there two years later. 

An 1861 plat map of Cook County shows that a P. Roundy owned the lands that Daniel purchased. Since Daniel had only one son or grandson with the initial P, I assume that Porter Wallace Roundy inherited the land from his father. 

After Daniel died in 1847, Ruth remarried in 1854 to a Benjamin Blodgett, who then died four years later. Then, until her death in 1894 at age 94, she lived with her son Porter Wallace and his wife, Jane, and their daughter, Nettie May, in Davenport, Iowa.

In 1889, Ruth applied for a widow’s pension under the “Act of March 9, 1878”. She had legal representation from John W. Morris, attorney at law, and a former principal examiner U.S. Pension Bureau. Amazingly, his name and former position at the Pension Bureau are shamelessly stamped on the application and all supporting affidavits. His former employment as a pension examiner apparently did not exclude him from later representing pension claimants. It may have given him an advantage since he made it so obvious. Or maybe full disclosure laws required it. 

The application goes into great detail about Daniel’s life, including the fact that he had been married previously, that Daniel was a tin smith, that he was 6’1” tall and that his eyes were gray. Since Ruth was 89 years old at the time, it is possible that she made her mark on the application not because she was illiterate, but because she was blind. Anyway, she was also confused about her husband’s military service. She thought he had served under Capt. Gates, of Ohio. Then there are several pages of affidavits, including a physician’s affidavit from her son, Dr. Daniel Curtis Roundy, saying that her husband Daniel died of “malarial fever”.

Then the decision comes in 1890: “Application for pension is rejected on the ground of your remarriage after the soldier’s death.” But her son, Porter Wallace, did not give up. At the bottom of the rejection letter he wrote a note to Green B. Raum, returning the letter to him. Then there are several pages of a digest of laws and practices by the Pension Bureau. This includes the stipulation that if a widow of a soldier in the War of 1812 remarries before 1878, she is still eligible for a pension. 

Finally, there is a letter dated May 11, 1889, from John W. Morris, attorney at law, but also the former principal examiner, to the Commissioner of the Pension Bureau requesting the latest known address of Ruth Roundy Blodgett. On the final page of the packet in my father’s files is the Widow’s Brief, with Mr. Morris representing Ruth, and finally the correct service record for Daniel. But this appears to be a rejection. It is “sub”mitted “for rejection Feb. 4th, 1890”.

Poor Ruth. She died in 1894, five years after applying for the pension and there is no evidence that she ever got it approved. The pension acts were passed in 1871 and 1878. Why did she wait eleven years to apply? Blodgett was long dead and her marriage to him didn’t affect her eligibility. She had been living with her son Porter and his wife Jane for over twenty years. Maybe she and Porter didn’t feel the financial need for it. But we will see that that was not the case. 

The Civil War

There are several reasons why Porter Wallace Roundy is interesting. His Civil War memorabilia has been passed down through the generations, including his day book from the war and memorial pins; he’s the first of four Porters in the family and his daughter, Nettie May, married Edward H. Gifford. 

Porter Wallace was born in Spafford, New York in 1829, about 90 miles from Utica, where Edmond J. Gifford was born in 1830. Porter Wallace had come west around 1838, going by a memorial of his better known brother, Daniel Curtis Roundy. Both Porter and his brother Daniel married women named Jane Young, but I can find no connection between them. Porter Wallace married Jane Ann Young in in 1855 in Sharon, Wisconsin, where her parents lived. She came from Maryland. Little else is known about Jane Ann, only her parents’ names and a few dates. In 1859, still in Sharon, Wisconsin, Porter Wallace and Jane Ann became the parents of their only child, Nettie May. In 1860 Porter Wallace was Deputy Sheriff of Darien, Wisconsin, which was named after the town in Connecticut. If Porter Wallace inherited his father’s land in Cook County, Illinois, there is no record of him selling it.

When President Lincoln first called for volunteers, in 1861, Porter Wallace enlisted on November 18, 1861 as a private in the Wisconsin cavalry. He was promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant in January 1862. However, Porter Wallace managed to injure himself in June in a fall from his horse and had to resign. One document says it was during a cavalry charge but not where or in what battle this took place. 

However, Porter Wallace reenlisted on March 30 1864 into the 37th Infantry Regiment Wisconsin in which his brother Daniel Curtis Roundy served as Regiment Surgeon. It looks like he went in the place of someone else who was drafted but paid the $300 bounty to Porter Wallace to go in his place. 

Porter was promoted to Hospital Steward in April. The 37th Infantry Regiment was then sent to join the siege of Petersburg, Virginia. Company S was posted to the City Point Depot. “From the end of June 1864 to May 1865, City Point provided all supplies necessary to support the 125,000 men and 65,000 animals of General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union Armies which lay siege to the strategically important town of Petersburg, Virginia.” Petersburg was between the Union forces and Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. 

City Point was on a little spit of land sticking out into the James River. This allowed for easy off loading of munitions, food, clothing, saddles and everything else an army required. The boats also brought in medical supplies for the treatment of the wounded in the hospitals.

Seven hospitals operated at City Point during the siege. The largest was the Depot Field Hospital which covered nearly 200 acres and could hold up to 10,000 patients. Twelve hundred tents, supplemented by ninety log barracks in the winter, comprised the compound, which included laundries, dispensaries, regular and special diet kitchens, dining halls, offices and other structures. Army surgeons administered the hospital aided by civilian agencies such as the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the U.S. Christian Commission. Male nurses, drawn from the ranks, made sure each patient had his own bed and wash basin; and regularly received fresh pillows and linens. The excellence of the facilities and the efficiency and dedication of the staff not only made the Depot Field Hospital the largest facility of its kind in America but also the finest. 

Nation Park Service

There are actually a lot of photographs of the City Point Depot and Hospitals. I tried to find one picture of the hospitals that would give a visual sense of the description above. However, I finally decided to use this one from Matthew Brady’s City Point Collection at the National Archives. This shows trains used to take supplies inland to the Union troops at the siege of Petersburg. The large house in the distance might be the home of the large plantation that was taken over by the Union Army as Headquarters for General Grant.

U.S. Military R.R., City Point, Va. Field Hospital

It was at the siege of Petersburg that the “Battle of the Mine” (or “Crater”) was fought. The Union troops from Pennsylvania devised a plan to tunnel under the Confederate earthworks and place dynamite. Then the dynamite would be exploded on June 30th to allow the Union forces pass through the resulting break in the earthworks to take the city. However, disaster ensued. The Union regiments ended up trapped in the “crater” while the Confederates picked them off from the ground above. If you remember the opening scene in the movie “Cold Mountain” you have a sense of the tragedy.

Entry in the daybook of Porter Wallace Roundy

Of the Union forces there were 419 killed, 1,679 wounded and 1,910 missing. The wounded were taken to City Point Depot hospital to be treated. On that day, in his diary, Porter writes, “at 4 ½ oclock. Am they blew up the Rebbles Fort & faught 4 hours & forty minits & charged twice & charged again at 11 oclock & still again 2 ½ oclock P.m. It is all [?] at the front this morning.” Porter Wallace did not make another entry into his diary for several weeks after that. Porter Wallace and his brother Daniel were mustered out on July 27, 1865.

Porter Wallace Roundy

From the pension records and his diary it’s clear that Porter Wallace was sick for much of his second duty. Disease was the cause of more than half of the deaths of soldiers during the Civil War. Porter Wallace continued to be unwell after the war and was put on a disability pension. I’m pretty sure this is a picture of Porter Wallace, especially when you compare it with the pictures below. It’s probably after the war when he is still a young man, only 36, despite his appearance. His hair is still dark and many veterans had long beards, probably more from necessity than fashion. 

After the war in August 1869, Porter and his wife and daughter Nettie May moved to Davenport, Iowa, where, in 1870, Porter owned one horse and ten acres of improved land planted with Indian corn and oats. The U. S. census lists Porter as working as a gardener in 1870, a “market gardener” in 1880, a gardener in 1885. The 1900 census says he was in the “milk business”. This looks like an economic decline for Porter and this may be what lead his mother Ruth to apply, futilely as it turned out, for a war widow’s pension.

It was in Davenport that the Roundys met Nancy Ann (Renfro) Gifford and her two sons, William and Edward H. Gifford. Nancy Ann Gifford was divorced from her second husband, Edmond J. Gifford, in 1872. She had been living in Davenport since at least 1870, separated from her husband and working as a seamstress. In 1880, Nettie May Roundy, Porter’s daughter, married Edmond H. Gifford, Edmond J’s son, in a double ceremony with William Gifford, Edmond’s brother, and his bride Lizzie.

About this same time, Porter Wallace applied for an “invalid pension” for his service in the Civil War. As one of his witnesses says, “after his discharge,…he was in very feeble health appeared to be entirely broken down, was troubled with a cough, and appeared to be totally unfit and unable to perform any manual labor.” Maybe that is why he did not do well farming or gardening. His application was apparently approved because in 1891 he applied for an increase of $4 in his pension because of his increasingly poor health. When new pension laws are passed in 1907 and 1912, he applied again. 

Porter and Jane Ann celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 1915. They lived together in Davenport until her death in 1916. 

Jane Ann (Young) and Porter Wallace Roundy 1915

His 1915 Iowa State Census card tells us a little more about him. It shows that he had a eighth grade “common” school education and could read and write and had no church affiliation. It also confirms his Civil War service. 

1915 Iowa State Census

After Jane Ann died in 1916, he visited his grandson, Porter William Gifford, and his family, who were living in Biloxi, Mississippi. How Porter Wallace managed to get from Davenport to Mississippi and then back to Iowa is probably a good story. That’s a long train ride for a 90 year old disabled Civil War veteran. There are several pictures like this one of Porter Wallace sitting on this porch in Biloxi. 

Porter Wallace Roundy, Biloxi, Mississippi

Porter Wallace continued to live in Davenport with the Harrison family. Porter had lived in Davenport since the Civil War and probably was reluctant to uproot himself. Then on April 12, 1921, his pension check for $150 was returned by the Davenport postmaster. W. N. Campbell notes “DROPPED because of death, which occurred on Feb. 1, 1921”. Porter Wallace was 92 years old. He outlived his wife, Jane Ann, and his daughter, Nettie May. His son-in-law, Edward H. Gifford, died two months later. For a disable Civil War veteran, he lived a long time.

War Memorabilia

I have a number of items from Porter’s and Edmond’s civil War service. There are Porter’s brass identification stencil and three pins from the G.A.R. There are two memorial ribbons worn in remembrance of a friend and Davenport native, August Wentz, during parades in Davenport. However, these probably belonged to Edmond. August Wentz and Edmond both fought at Wilson’s Creek in 1861. Wentz also reenlisted and was killed that same year in Belmont, Missouri. Both battles were demoralizing defeats for the Union Army. The Davenport Grand Army of the Republic Post was named in his honor.

This photo was probably taken at one of those G. A. R. memorial events and these two men must have served with Porter, who is in the middle (note the distinctive ears). 

Nettie May Roundy and her husband, Edward H. Gifford, would have two children, Aimee Edna Gifford, born 1881, and my grandfather, Porter William Gifford, born 1885, both in Davenport, Iowa. He died before I was born, so I have no personal memories to relate. He was an enigma even to his son, my father. 

Adventures in Genealogy Myth-Making

Now that I have traced Edmond J. Gifford’s lineage back to Quakers of Massachusetts and the pilgrims of the Mayflower, it’s time to explore some other lines in my family tree. Recall that Edmond J. Gifford married Nancy Ann Renfro in Rock Island, Illinois in 1858. Her ancestry is very interesting but a bit tricky to follow. First of all, they couldn’t agree on the spelling, using Rentfrow, Rentfroe, Rentfro and those variations without the “t”. And, as one of my father’s correspondents wrote, “[u]forntunately, the Renfros had large families, and tended to name the children without much originality.” To make things worse, Renfros tended to marry cousins as a rule, rather than an exception.

You Don’t Always Get What You Want

My Renfros hail from Virginia, Kentucky and Illinois. But they, and other American Renfros, do not descend from Scottish royalty. It is generally asserted among amateur Renfro genealogists that American Renfros are direct descendants of “Baron James Renfrew” of Scotland, an illegitimate son of King James V. Beginning in 1404, the title of Baron of Renfrew was bestowed on the heir-apparent to the Scottish crown. There was a James Stuart, not Renfrew, who was an illegitimate son of King James V of Scotland. Being illegitimate, he was ineligible to inherit the throne and so never was Baron of Renfrew. Instead, his half sister Mary Queen of Scots became queen. He was a fascinating man and worth reading about, but his children were Stuarts, not Renfrews, and even if he changed his name to Renfrew, he only had daughters anyway. That’s it. No connection American Renfros.

So instead we will start with William Rentfro, who was born in 1702 in James City County, Virginia. James City County was first settled at Jamestown in 1607 and is one of only six original “shires” still in existence in Virginia. It includes Williamsburg and is too rich in history to go into much detail here. 

We are interested in one of the many William Rentfros who had a son who was one of the many James Renfros. One of them made a bit of a splash in Kentucky, the Virginia county and the future state, though only one person seems to remember why. To get to what and why, let’s first look at some history of colonial place names and boundaries.

Before the Revolutionary War, each of the 13 colonies claimed quite a bit of territory in the “frontier” east of the Mississippi River. The Colony of Virginia included what became the states of Kentucky and West Virginia. These territorial claims were ceded to the new Federal government partly in return for the assumption of the states’ Revolutionary War debts. 

In 1776, the new state of Virginia created Kentucky County, which looked a lot like the State of Kentucky today, which become a state until 1792. Then four years later, this county was broken up into three new counties, one of which was Lincoln County, named for Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, a military commander in the Revolutionary War. Too early for old Abe. However, Abe Lincoln was born only two and half hours away (by car).

It was here that our story of the Renfros begins. William Rentfro married Elizabeth Cheney in 1726 in Botetourt County, Virginia and they had ten children, including James. The Cheneys had been extensive land owners in Virginia, but little else is known about them. In a “History of the Renfros”, by Delores S. Willey, we are told that the “Rentfros” were important people in Virginia, owning land and serving as “Mayor, Officers in the Militia, Superintendent of Elections”, surveyors, sheriff’s and magistrates. Willey goes on:

The Baird family ancestry tradition tells us that the farm of William and Elizabeth Rentfro was located next to that of the Washington family. That young George Washington and young William Rentfro, the 6th child of William and Elizabeth, played together as children; fishing and hunting over the farms. Both wanted to become land surveyors and learned the trade from William’s older brother, James.

“William Renfro, 1734-1830: Some descendants, relatives, and allied families,” by Josie and Delila Baird, 1973.

The Washington farm mentioned here is “Ferry Farm” (its modern name) where young George grew up. It is across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia and about forty miles south of Mount Vernon. If this is true, then theRenfros would have lived near the Washingtons along the Rappahonnack River during George’s childhood between 1738, when Augustin Washington acquired the farm there, and 1751 when George surveyed land with Lord Fairfax.

The map below was made between 1736 and 1746. The Washington farm was next to the Ball farm that belonged to Martha Ball Washington’s family. There are no Renfros on the map and there is no other documentation for this claim, either.

A map of the Northern Neck in Virginia : according to an actual survey begun in the year MDCCXXXVI, and ended in the year MDCCXLVI

A map of the Northern Neck in Virginia : according to an actual survey begun in the year MDCCXXXVI, and ended in the year MDCCXLVI

However, James Renfro would have been a good surveying instructor. Later in life, James’ skill as a surveyor was officially acknowledged:

JAMES THOMPSON appointed Surveyor, Jan 1782. JAMES RENFRO was appointed deputy Surveyor Feb. 1783, and DANIEL BOONE Aug. 19, 1783. From 1780 to 1787 Surveyors were in great demand because of the immense amount of bodies of land taken up. These were among the first surveyors.

History of KY, Lewis Collins (typescript) Court Order Books, Lincoln Co.

James made good use of his surveying skills by moving further west into Lincoln County which was still part of Virginia. History books would have you believe that the only way for James to get to Lincoln County from James City County was along the Wilderness Trail blazed by Daniel Boone from 1769-71 through the Appalachian Mountains. West of the Cumberland Gap, the trail became the Wilderness Road. Whether James was a part of Boone’s expedition is not known because no records seem to exist concerning the other members of the party. 

However, there is strong evidence that a number of pioneers had created settlements in the future state of Kentucky long before Boone blazed the famous trail. James Renfro’s marriage to Lydia Harris in 1761 and the birth of his son James Renfro, Jr. in 1768 both took place in Kentucky County. These events predate Boone’s expedition. Although there is some controversy about who and when and where the trail was blazed, it happened because of the demand of settlers to move into rich land that had already been discovered and settled by a number of earlier pioneers. 

Unfortunately, I know very little about Lydia, James’ wife, except that she died young, at age forty. She bore James seven children and died in 1780, three years after the last one was born. They spent their nineteen years together in Lincoln County.

However, I found a typescript document in my father’s Renfro file containing excerpts from “Renfro Valley: Then and Now” written by John Lair in 1959 and printed in “History of Renfro Valley”. The excerpts focus on the role of James Renfro in this history. The description of the terrain and roads are illustrated in the map below, which I was amazed to find somewhere. Lair tells us:

The original Renfro Valley settlement had it’s beginnings in Feb. of 1791, with the building of the first cabin on Renfro creek. Although the cabin was built, and lived in for many years, by John and Lulu Renfro, neither the creek nor the valley were named for them. Old land grants to James Renfro, show, in 1788 the stream as a boundary line, and is written in as Renfroes Creek. Little is known of James Renfro, beyond the fact he was a busy speculator in Kentucky land for some years following the Revolutionary War.… Local folklore has it that this James was struck by lightning and killed, while searching for Swifts silver mine, this mine is a well known legend in Renfro Valley, Kentucky.

John Renfro, probably secured his land from James, what relationship, we do not know. John had come into Ky. through the Cumberland Gap with a large group of settlers, he dropped out of the party to visit relatives there at that time.… [In] 1790, John Renfro set out with a man named Lavender, they followed a well marked trail to the Hazel Patch, and there the trail forked, one path leading up Roundstone Creek, and on towards the Boonesboro settlement, crossing the mouth of Renfro Creek, at what was later known as Langsfords Station. The other fork was the old Wilderness Road, which crossed Rockcastle River and went towards The Crab Orchard, passing by the big cave at the head of Little Renfro. At the forks of the trail, they were on land belonging to James Renfro, and from time to time crossed other tracts of his, regardless of which route they took. To have followed Boones path toward Boonesboro would have made easier traveling, once they had cut through the dead brush hell. This route was less traveled and less likely of Indian attacks, but was more thinly settled, and they would find themselves without a nearby station if they should be set upon by savages. To choose the Wilderness Road meant they must travel through the Rockcastle Hills, a stretch of country, where in even that day, when all of Kentucky was a wilderness, was known as The Wilderness. The Wilderness was the most dread part of the whole journey, to and from the settlements in the interior. Less then 14 miles from where they stood, was Stephen Langfords Tavern or Station, which is present day Mt Vernon, Ky. and not more then 2 mi. from the head of Little Renfro. Between Langfords station and the Crab Orchard, the road was patrolled by Col. Wm. Whitley. Farther along, they came to other James Renfro holdings, lying along the Wilderness road, and extending to the big cave, following down the stream, they came to the site of an ancient encampment and battle ground of the Shawnee Indians, from which the creek got it’s first name, soon they came to a larger Renfro Creek stream, they followed it and in the early afternoon of a late summers day, they came to a place where the valley opened out to it’s greatest width–here they settled and this is present day Renfro Valley, Kentucky.

This fork in the road is clearly visible on the map. Apparently, James Renfro owned land all along and between these roads.  At the fork in the Wilderness Road, John Renfro stood on James’ land and no matter which fork he took he would cross more tracts of James’ land. 

After the American Revolution, an act of Congress established the Land Office. Under the act, a person could purchase as much vacant land as desired for £40 for each one hundred acres. The treasurer issued a receipt, this was presented to the state auditor, who then issued a certificate. The certificate could be taken to the register of the Land Office to get a warrant authorizing any surveyor to “lay off” the amount of land specified on the warrant. You can even see digital copies of the original land patent (under British rule) or grants (under United States jurisdiction) and transfer documents. For example, below is the survey, page 3, for survey no. 6342 signed by James Renfro and James Thompson. It includes a small diagram of the tract of land. However, locating this tract of land is not as easy at it was in Illinois (see Hicks Gifford). There, the tracts were clearly labeled portions of clearly identified sections which were identified by townships and ranges. In Virginia, as in the other colonial settlements, this is not the case. Instead, parcels were, and still are, defined by meets and bounds. 

For example, the survey above says “Beginning at A an elm and ash in the line of Rentfros Survey thence South …”. I can’t make out the rest. On the little map on the document, “A an Elm & Ash” mark the beginning. Then one follows the directions and distances that make up the meets and bounds to identify the property. By following a chain of title through successive deeds one would find new surveys identifying neighboring properties. This is a complicated process and requires a visit the the county court house to dig through the deed books I’m too old for this so I gave up trying to locate James’ holdings this way. So I did a map search.

I was very confused by Lair’s description of following the Little Renfro until it meets the larger Renfro Creek. That’s because there’s a lake in the way. Then I realized why this lake isn’t mentioned in Lair’s account. IT WASN’T THERE THEN. Here’s Renfro Valley today, most of it now under water in a lake created by a dam under I 75. This reminds me of a movie, something about a lost brother.

Renfro Valley

Little Renfro Creek empties into the lake from the south and Renfro Creek comes in from the north and now trickles down from the dam along Hwy 25 and then off to the right. There is a tiny town of Renfro Valley just below the dam. But there is no longer a valley in Renfro Valley. 

But that’s not the end of the story. John Lair wasn’t just any old Kentucky hillbilly. He was a great Kentucky hillbilly. He was the founder of Renfro Valley Entertainment Center.

This is the real deal. I won’t try to write his biography here. It really has nothing to do with us except for Lair’s decision to keep the Renfro name alive in that part of the country. Just one more in a long line of Renfro myths. James lived to a very old age of 73 and died in Renfro Valley. His grave is probably under water.

James Renfro Jr. and Margaret Jackson

One of James’ sons, James Jr., was born in 1768 in Lincoln County, Virginia and moved on from Kentucky with his family to Illinois. His most remarkable recorded accomplishment is having 15 or so children. Well, they were actually his wife Margaret’s great accomplishments. None died in infancy and most lived a full life. What records we have indicate that they were all born in Lincoln County, Kentucky between the years 1782 and 1814. In 1810 James moved with his wife and many of his children to Madison County, Illinois. In my father’s files there is the following:

The family spent the winter of 1810-11 in Ridge Prairie, three miles south of Troy, a short distance from Downing’s station, a fort erected for the protection of the settlers against the Indians….

There is an account of this area of Illinois during this time. 

In 1810 there was a regular line of forts…. It was the business of those rangers to be always on the march and occasionally visit all those forts and see that everything was right. Most of the time they were kept on the frontier watching for Indian signs and whenever they discovered any signs of Indians they followed up. If they could overtake them, the rangers invariably chastised them and sometimes wholly exterminated small bands.

This is a small, sadly common commentary on Indian affairs during the settlement of the West. 

However, to say that James and Margaret lived in Madison County doesn’t tell us much. When the county was initially established in 1812 it took up the northern three quarters of the state. Then the county boundaries seemed to change annually. In the “History of Madison County”, James and his sons, especially Jesse, are described as prominent citizens in the early years of Madison County. In 1813, James was chosen as a member of a commission 

To fix the permanent seat of justice of Madison county,… to meet on the first Monday in February, 1813, — they shall proceed to designate a convenient place for fixing a county seat for the erection or procurement of convenient buildings for the use of the county….

The book also describes how James brought his family, including sons Jesse and James III, to Madison County: 

Jesse Renfro … is one of the oldest residents of the southern part of the County. James Renfro [III] removed with the family to Illinois in 1810. In the spring of 1811 his father [James, Jr.] settled in township three, range eight, and died in 1814 while on a visit to Kentucky. 

This narrows things down some. We know about townships and ranges and sections. James and Margaret settled in the area that became Collinsville. However, James Jr died shortly thereafter.

In addition to this information, my father received a letter from Eva Renfro dated 1981 in which she describes a land purchase in 1818 by James Renfro of Sec 24 T3N R8W. Since this is 2 years after James Jr’s death, this land must have been purchased by his 27 year old son James III (more of that original naming). This became the family homestead where four generations of Renfros lived. Eva, the letter writer, was the last Renfro to live on the land and the last of her line. 

The town of Collinsville sprouted nearby. This is Collinsville in 1873 “Maps of Madison County” showing Renfro land in Section 24 on the right edge two thirds of the way down. The J. J. Renfro is James’ son Joseph. Some of the original purchase had been sold.

Here is a drawing of the house, the home of James’ son Joseph J. from the same book.

After James, Jr died in 1816, his widow, Margaret, had to sue for custody of her youngest children, the “orphans of James Renfro”. Not only did women have no rights to property, they did not even have rights to their own children. Among the fifteen children of Margaret and James Jr. was their youngest son, Absalom Foley Renfro. Absalom was an infant when James Jr. and Margaret moved the family from the wilderness of Kentucky to the Great Plains of Illinois. Since James Jr. died so soon after arriving in Madison County, it is reasonable that his widow Margaret and the younger children lived with one of the older children. But before 1850, only heads of households are listed in the census. Then, in 1825, Margaret married Jesse Conway in Edwardsville, but he died in 1840. Then we lose sight of Margaret. Therefore, we don’t know where Absalom and his mother lived after his father died. But Absalom would eventually make a move that would bring the Renfros in contact with the Giffords.

Absalom Foley Renfro and Elizabeth Cormack

Once Absalom was fifteen he was probably apprenticed out, probably to a cabinet maker. In 1830, he married Elizabeth Cormack in Madison County, Illinois. Absalom was then a cabinet maker on his own. But when histories of Madison County were written, Absalom was overshadowed by his older brothers, Jesse and James, who were Baptist ministers and, thus, very well known. But Absalom and Elizabeth followed the family tradition if having a large family, thirteen children, one dying in infancy. By 1850 they had all moved to Rock Island, Illinois, a very interesting place.

Since we have come to Illinois in the mid 1800s, we have come to the impact of the Black Hawk War, which took place in 1832. It was at the future site of the town of Rock Island that Black Hawk broke the treaty of 1804 (remember, this is written by the victors, not the vanquished) by crossing the Mississippi from Iowa back into Illinois after agreeing to cede it. 

But it was the creation of Rock Island County in 1831 that provoked this return of Black Hawk to Illinois because the new county included one of the last remaining Indian villages. These two versions of wrongdoing lead to the Black Hawk War. Although it lasted only three months, it put Rock Island county in the national news. Paradoxically, white settlement increased dramatically. The town expanded from the exploding trade along the Mississippi River in the 1840s. Then came the first “iron horse” in the 1850s and the railroad’s choice of Rock Island as the site for the first bridge across the Mississippi River.

The route of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad (what’s that song?) was chosen because the Mississippi River was easiest to cross at Rock Island, where there was literally a large rock island in the middle of the river. This map, and the illustration above, shows the first railroad bridge crossing from the town of Rock Island in Illinois to the island of Rock Island and then across to Davenport, Iowa. The Rock Island line ran from Chicago to the Pacific, running through Rock Island City. It also ran from Chicago to New Orleans.

Undoubtedly, the booming economy of Rock Island was a draw for a cabinet maker like Absalom Renfro and his wife Elizabeth and their dozen hungry mouths to feed. A growing settlement meant new businesses and homes which required new furniture. This is where their second child, Nancy Ann, was born and raised and met and married A. J. Warren, who worked as a sawyer, in 1851. Shortly thereafter Absalom died, leaving Elizabeth to care for their youngest children. In 1860, she was living with the three youngest, James (again), Laura and George. One of Granddaddy’s correspondents says that Elizabeth ran a boarding house at Beaver Street near Rock River in Rock Island. 

Undoubtedly, the booming economy of Rock Island was a draw for a cabinet maker like Absalom Renfro and his wife Elizabeth and their dozen hungry mouths to feed. A growing settlement meant new businesses and homes which required new furniture. This is where their second child, Nancy Ann, was born and raised and met and married A. J. Warren, who worked as a sawyer, in 1851. Shortly thereafter Absalom died, leaving Elizabeth to care for their youngest children. In 1860, she was living with the three youngest, James (again), Laura and George. One of Granddaddy’s correspondents says that Elizabeth ran a boarding house at Beaver Street near Rock River in Rock Island. 

Meanwhile, Warren and Nancy and their infant daughter Lila moved to Bloomington, Muscatine County, Iowa in 1856 and also took in boarders. One of those boarders was E. J. Gifford, who was also a sawyer. As you know, this coincidence is critical to our story. Also in the household were A.J.’s mother, Nancy Warren, Nancy Ann’s little sister, Mary, 13 and brother Innes, 8. Here is the 1856 Iowa Census:

As you can see, both Warren and Gifford were sawyers. I have never met a sawyer or known what one was so I looked it up. Before there were electric saws and machines that could pre-cut wood to different lengths, anyone wanting to build a house, furniture, fencing, barrows or wagons, say, needed to obtain wood custom cut. Unless there was a sawmill nearby, the only way to get wood was to go to a sawyer. 

As I recounted earlier, the living conditions in Bloomington resulted in Nancy divorcing A. J. Warren and marrying Edmond J. Gifford. Their son, Edward H. Gifford would marry Netty May Roundy. We turn to the Roundys next.

Of Absalom’s and Elizabeth’s twelve adult children, 5 died in 1919, including Nancy Ann, and a sixth died in 1918. I couldn’t get any details on any of the causes of these deaths and there were no obvious disasters, except for one, the influenza pandemic, something we have all learned a great deal about recently. It began in the Fall of 1918 and spread throughout the world. Ports and railroad hubs were particularly vulnerable because the disease spread quickly among mobile populations. Rock Island was both a Mississippi River port and was located on a heavily traveled railroad. It is estimated that 675,000 Americans died of the flu from 1918-19. Nancy Ann, at 86, was the eldest of the five siblings that died during the year of the influenza and the elderly and young were most vulnerable to it.

Nancy Ann Renfro

And this brings us to the end of our story of the Renfros. They were not descended from Scottish royalty, may not have been friends with young George Washington, and lost the valley named after them. 

Puritans, Pilgrims and Quakers

I have speculated, with good reason, that my great-great-grandfather, Edmund J. Gifford, was the son of Hicks and Nancy (Jones) Gifford. If I am correct, then I descend from both Quakers and Pilgrims through Hick’s ancestors. Hicks’ g-g-g-grandfather, William Gifford, was a Quaker and the first Gifford to land in America. Most American Giffords are descended from him. 

Although the descendants of the Pilgrims married Quakers eventually, they didn’t always get along, to put it mildly. Both the Puritans and the Pilgrims persecuted the Quakers, from whom I get my antiauthoritarian sympathies. They all sailed from England in the early 1600s to found the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies, some of them on the Mayflower. There, because they were the only Europeans around, they intermarried, and to populate the colonies with more Europeans, they had large families. Therefore, if you are descended from one of these families, you are probably descended from several. 

The Mayflower had only about 100 passengers and half of them died in the first year. Not wanting to intermarry with the natives, the Plymouth settlers had to marry each other, even as they moved out of Plymouth into Dartmouth to the west. Then their descendants married the descendants of other early families. So anyone with one Mayflower ancestor probably has two or three. I am descended from three Mayflower families, the Whites, Warrens and Cookes. These are all ancestors of Hannah White, who was a great grandmother of Hicks Gifford

Pilgrims, Puritans and Quakers

Pilgrims, Puritans and Quakers are all Protestant faiths that began in England in reaction to the excesses of the Church of England, which itself arose out of Henry XIII’s desire for divorces which were denied by the Vatican. Protestantism itself began with Martin Luther’s initial challenge to the authority of the Roman Catholic Papacy and his successor John Calvin. The Calvinism then splintered into the Puritans and the Pilgrims. The Puritans accepted ecclesiastic authority of the Protestant Church of England but desired to “purify” it from within of its Catholic trappings and corruption. The Pilgrims, on the other hand, sought to create an entirely separate Christian Church as an alternative to both the King’s Church of England and the Catholic Church. The Quakers, such as George Fox, who had no leaders, priests, or ministers, thought everyone ought to decide for himself or herself how to worship God, and they should worship directly, not through another person. All three groups would find themselves hounded by the Church of England and crossing the Atlantic to find refuge.

Plymouth Colony, 1620 – 1691

Mayflower and other pilgrims, with a lower case “p”, were early English “planters” who did not sail blindly and boldly into the New World but were funded by private investor groups and even endorsed by European monarchies. Explorers had been treading the soil and waters of the North American continent extensively for nearly 120 years by the time of the arrival of the Mayflower, oftentimes crossing paths within days of one another. These were purely commercial enterprises. However, expanding the British Empire with permanent English settlements on the mainland of America was not even seriously considered until the growing Protestant movement of England began to erode the influence of its monarchs. It was only then that King Charles I, frustrated by political and social conflicts, realized the advantage of exporting the source of his country’s upheaval. The pilgrims would, in turn, export to England the fruits of their labor as repayment for their newfound religious freedom.

So the Puritans and Pilgrims began arriving in Massachusetts in the early 1600’s with the aid of investors bearing Royal land charters and land patents. These charters were intended as legally binding contracts agreed upon by the investor group, the King, and the “Planters”, which dictated the financial terms, the geographical boundaries of their particular proposed settlement and established ground rules of governance. In 1620, pilgrims, led by William Bradford, tried to sail to Virginia but found themselves instead stranded by weather off the shores of Cape Cod, where the original patent and its trade agreements would no longer apply. So they illegally drafted a social contract, “The Mayflower Compact,” that would later be referred to as the beginning of Democracy in America. This was the beginning of Plymouth Plantation.

Further north, in 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Company settled the Boston Bay area as a corporation for religious freedom for Puritans. With political, legal and financial supporters still in England, the corporation quickly and masterfully organized and began defying their King with new laws, agencies and trade arrangements, so that by the 1650’s the Massachusetts Bay Colony had become a successful self-governing entity.

However, life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was far more restricted than in Plymouth. Foreseeing the need for labor and specialized craft and trade skills for the building of their new homes in America, the Puritans and their investors had permitted passage aboard their ships for other people in exchange for essential skills needed to secure the success of their ventures. Those who had the means to invest hard-earned currency in such very high risk ventures were led to believe that they were purchasing entitlements that they may not have enjoyed in England. But, upon their arrival in 1630, only the most pious of Puritan men were admitted as  Free Men. A candidate was required to renounce all prior Church affiliations and swear an “oath of fidelity” towards God, the Puritan Philosophy, and most significantly, to the governing authority of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

So, when the Quakers began arriving, they were not well received by the Puritans. The Quakers believed that to make such an oath was contrary to Jesus’ message, but also, obligated them to other responsibilities both known and unforeseen that would require them to answer to an authority other than that of God; so, they simply and respectfully declined and were happy to continue laboring in service to what they perceived as God’s Glory. By 1657, the courts of Massachusetts Bay Colony had implemented a series of harsh laws against those who had become members of “The Religious Society of Friends”, or held sympathies towards them. 

The Quakers found the Pilgrims to be only slightly more agreeable neighbors and so tended to congregate at the base of the Cape in Sandwich. Among the these Pilgrims and Quakers were many of my ancestors. The Pilgrim families of the Whites, Warrens and Cookes came from England on the Mayflower. The Quakers William Gifford and Stephen Wing came shortly afterward to Sandwich. Then there were others that I cannot find much information on, but who were in the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies from the earliest days: Bassets, Cadmans, Hathaways and Churches. Many were Pilgrims or Quakers, none were Puritans, as far as I can determine.

The Whites, Warrens and Cooks of the Mayflower

William White and his wife Susanna arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 with their son Resolved; Susanna gave birth to their son Peregrine while the Mayflower was still anchored off the top of Cape Cod waiting for the Pilgrims to discover a place to build their colony.  Peregrin was the first “Englishman” born in America. William died the first winter and Susanna remarried Edward Winslow a few months later, the first marriage to occur at Plymouth.

“Mayflower on her Arrival in Plymouth Harbor,” oil painting, William Formsby H.alsall

Winslow was one of the more prominent men in the colony.  He was on many of the early explorations of Cape Cod, and led a number of expeditions to meet and trade with the Indians.  He wrote several first-hand accounts of these early years. In Plymouth, he held a number of political offices, as was routinely elected an assistant to Governor William Bradford; Winslow himself was elected governor of Plymouth on three occasions: 1632/3, 1635/6, and 1644.

Peregrine married Sarah Basset and they lived out their lives in the town of Marshfield.  He formally joined the Marshfield Church late in life, on 22 May 1696 at the age of 78.  His death on 20 July 1704 prompted an obituary in the Boston Newsletter–the only known newspaper obituary for anyone directly associated with the Mayflower’s voyage.

Marshfield, July, 22 Capt. Peregrine White of this Town, Aged Eighty three years, and Eight Months; died the 20th Instant.  He was vigorous and of a comly Aspect to the last; Was the Son of Mr. William White and Susanna his Wife; born on board the Mayflower, Capt. Jones Commander, in Cape Cod Harbour, November, 1620.  Was the First Englishman born in New-England.  Altho’ he was in the former part of his Life extravagant; yet was much Reform’d in his last years; and died hopefully.

Peregine’s son Sylvanus was born in Marshfield in 1667. He married Deborah Church, a granddaughter of Richard Warren, a Mayflower passenger. Their son, William White, married Elizabeth Cadman, great granddaughter of Francis Cooke, another Mayflower passenger. Elizabeth was a native of Dartmouth where their daughter Hannah was born in 1711.

Richard Warren’s English origins and ancestry have been the subject of much speculation, and countless different ancestries have been published for him, without a shred of evidence to support them.  Very little is known about Richard Warren’s life in America.  He came alone on the Mayflower in 1620, leaving behind his wife and five daughters.  They came to him on the ship Anne in 1623, and Richard and Elizabeth subsequently had sons Nathaniel and Joseph at Plymouth.  He received his acres in the Division of Land in 1623, and his family shared in the 1627 Division of Cattle.  But he died a year later in 1628.  The only record of his death is found in Nathaniel Morton’s 1669 book New England’s Memorial, in which he writes: “This year [1628] died Mr. Richard Warren, who was an useful instrument and during his life bare a deep share in the difficulties and troubles of the first settlement of the Plantation of New Plymouth.”

All of Richard Warren’s children survived to adulthood, married, and had large families: making Richard Warren one of the Mayflower passengers with the most descendants. His daughter, Sarah, married John Cooke, another Mayflower passenger. We actually know something about his origins.

John Cooke’s father, Francis Cooke, was born about 1583, probably in England. He married Hester le Mahieu on 20 July 1603 in Leiden, Holland. She was a French Walloon whose parents had initially fled to Canterbury, England; she left for Leiden sometime before 1603. What brought Francis to Holland in the first place is unknown: religious persecution of Protestants in England did not really begin until after King James took power in 1604. Francis, and his oldest son John, came on the Mayflower to Plymouth in 1620. He left behind his wife Hester and his other children Jane, Jacob, Elizabeth and Hester. After the Colony was founded and better established, he sent for his wife and children, and they came to Plymouth in 1623 onboard the ship Anne with the wife and children of Richard Warren.

Francis lived out his life in Plymouth. Although he kept a fairly low profile, he was on a number of minor committees such as the committee to lay out the highways, and received some minor appointments by the Court to survey land. He lived to be about 80 years old, dying in 1663; his wife Hester survived him by at least three years and perhaps longer. In 1634, their son John married Sarah Warren, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Warren. They had traveled together on the Anne eleven years previous. 

In 1707, John and Sarah Cooke’s great granddaughter, Elizabeth Cadman, a native of Dartmouth, married William White, a son of Sylvanus White. The Whites settled in Dartmouth, where their daughter, Hannah, married William Taber. It was in Dartmouth, later Westport, that the Whites met the Giffords. Hannah and William Taber’s daughter married Recompense Gifford, son of Stephen Gifford. He was the son of Robert Gifford and Sarah Wing, who were Quakers of Sandwich. 

Handy House, Westport, Massachusetts
The home of William and Elizabeth Cadman White

The Quaker Giffords and Wings of Sandwich

Robert Gifford’s and Sarah Wing’s fathers, William Gifford and Stephen Wing, were two of the earliest Quakers in America. In their efforts to flee from persecution by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony, they migrated south to Plymouth Colony only to be persecuted by the Pilgrims. 

Magistrates in both Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies were alarmed by Quaker teachings that individuals could receive direct personal revelations from God. To protect orthodox Puritanism, the courts passed a series of laws forbidding residents from housing Quakers. Quakers themselves were threatened with whipping, arrest, imprisonment, banishment, or death. In 1657, Quakers in Sandwich established the first Friends’ Meeting in the New World. The monthly meeting of the Society of Friends at Sandwich, Mass., remains the oldest continuous meeting in America. In 1658, Plymouth Court ordered that any boat carrying Quakers to Sandwich be seized to prevent the religious heretics from landing.

Quaker Meeting House, Sandwich, Massachusetts

Despite William Gifford’s importance as a Quaker and family founder, nothing is known about his origins, although that has not stopped anyone from making things up. We do know that William Gifford arrived in New England sometime after 1643, as he does not appear among those able to bear arms in that year. The first record of him is in the list of debts due on the inventory of Joseph Holiway of Sandwich dated 4 December 1647: “dew from Willi Gifford” 3s. 4d. On 4 June 1650 he served on the Grand Enquest. The original deed for the Sandwich plantation was executed by Governor William Bradford 22 May 1651. It ordered that William Gifford, among others, have the power to call a town meeting.

We also know that William Gifford of Sandwich as a Quaker suffered persecution for his faith. “Little Compton Families” says “It is supposed that he was the William Gifford who in 1647 or earlier was ordered by the court at Stanford to be whipped and banished.” On 1 June 1658, he was one of a dozen men who “all of Sandwich were summoned, appeared to give a reason for their refusing to take the Oath of Fidelitie to this government and unto the State of England, which again being tendered them in open court, they refused, saying they held it unlawful to take any oath at all.” On March 1, 1658/1659 George Barlow, Marshall for Sandwich, Barnstable and Yarmouth, complained against William Gifford and Edward Perry in an action of defamation, asking damages of £100, in saying he took a false oath. The defendants were ordered to pay 50s and make their acknowledgement publicly, or else be fined £5 plus costs. As Quakers, they could not accept the verdict, and at the 2 October court William Gifford and 11 other Friends were fined £5 for refusing to take the Oath of Fidelitie. 

On 6 October, 1659, he seems to be especially persecuted. “William Gifford, being complained by Marshall Barlow, for affronting him in the highway near a bridge, over which he should have driven some cattle of the country, yet forasmuch as William Gifford affirmed that he was not directly in his way, but in an old path leading to his house, the Court suspends their judgment for the present, until the place be viewed, and so the matter be made more evident.”

One odd historical note is made in 1660. “William Gifford, for taking his wife without orderly marriage, forasmuch as there were many circumstances in the action that did alleviate the fault, is only fined fifty shillings, the Court abating the fine in the extent of it respecting the premises.”

This wife is the unnamed second wife who is the mother of our ancestor, Robert. Puritans believed that the marriage contract and ceremony was not religious but a civil matter. Because the Quakers refused to recognize the state, their religious marriage unions were not recognized by the state.

At the June 1660 court Gifford was again summoned to take the oath, again refused, and was again fined £5. In October 1660, for persisting in his refusal and for attending Quaker meeting, he was fined £57 — an enormous sum for those times. 

On 8 April 1665 William Gifford was one of the signers of the Monmouth (NJ) Patent, but there is no evidence he actually settled there; his sons Christopher and Hannaniah did, however. In a deed by his son Christopher, William was described as a tailor. There is a marker on the bike path near Allaire for the Gifford Plantation.

According to William M. Emery, in his book Honorable Peleg Tallman, 1764-1841: his ancestors and descendants “on 10 November 1670, William Gifford bought from mistress Sarah Warren of Plymouth, widow of Richard Warren, one half her share in the land at Dartmouth, Mass., which by deed of May 7, 1683, he gave equally to his sons Christopher and Robert, who therein settled.” His son Robert, our ancestor, had married Sarah Wing three years previous. Sarah was also the child of a prominent Quaker in Sandwich.

Sarah Wing’s father, Stephen Wing, arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1632 at the age of 11 with his widowed mother Deborah Wing, his grandfather, Rev. Stephen Bachiler and his brothers Daniel and John. Ironically, Stephen’s father was the Rev. John Winge, a clergyman of the Church of England. He and Deborah fled England for The Hague to escape the English persecution of the disenfranchised poor in a period of political and religious turmoil. Meanwhile, back in England, Sarah’s father, Rev. Stephen Bachiler, a political maverick who helped spawn the Puritan Revolution in England, formed the Company of Husbandmen to found a new colony in the Americas. It is possible that Rev. John Winge planned to join this expedition before his death. in March of 1632, Rev. Stephen Bachiler and his daughter Deborah Bachiler Wing, her four sons, John, Daniel, Stephen and Matthew, boarded the old wine ship, the William & Francis, and arrived at Massachusetts Bay Colony on June 5, 1632. 

However, in the midst of the persecutions of 1637 in Massachusetts Bay Colony, Deborah Wing and her sons, Daniel, Stephen, John and Matthew, travelled south from Saugus to the base of the Cape Cod peninsula to help found the new town of Sandwich in the more religiously tolerant Plymouth Colony. When Stephen started a home of his own, it was on property in Spring Hill, East Sandwich. The resulting Wing “Fort House” is now a museum.

Stephen Wing appears frequently in the official records. He took the Oath of Fidelity in 1657 but in the following year he was called into court to answer charges of “tumultuous carriage at a Quaker meeting”. In 1658 Stephen and eight other Quakers were denied the “Privileges of townsmen” and “had no power to act in town meeting until better evidence appears of their legal admittance.” due to their failure to be included in the Sandwich congregation (as church membership was a legal requirement for privileges in a many New England towns). The special quaker hunting marshal, George Barlow, reported Stephen to the Plymouth authorities in 1659 for refusing to assist him on three separate occasions in his harassment of Sandwich’s Quakers, resulting in a total of one pound in fines for that year. Stephen was on a committee in 1663 that offered support for Thomas Ewer, another Sandwich Quaker, when he was fined 18 pounds for cutting timber on Town lands. Stephen went on to be sworn to serve on a Grand Inquest in 1664 and 1671 and to serve as a Surveyor of Highways and Town Clerk between 1669 and 1674. In 1681 he and two others were empowered on the town’s behalf to make sale of a whale that was cast up on the shore.

Wing “Fort House”, Sandwich, Massachusetts

Stephen Wing’s daughter, Sarah, was born in Sandwich in 1658. Two years prior to that, William Gifford’s son, Robert, was born in Sandwich. Robert Gifford and Sarah Wing married in Sandwich in about 1680. When William gave Robert the land in Dartmouth that he had purchased from Sarah Warren, the couple moved there, where their son Stephen was born in 1687. Thus, the Gifford/Wing branch ends up in Dartmouth where Robert and Sarah (Wing) Gifford’s grandson, Recompense, marries William and Hannah (White) Taber’s daughter Susanna Taber. And the families are joined! 

Unfortunately, there’s a glitch. All the references I’ve found to William Gifford’s purchase in 1670 of the Dartmouth land from Sarah Warren, widow of Richard Warren, cite the quote I give from Emery’s book. That shouldn’t be a problem, but Emery provides no source for his information. That shouldn’t be a problem, either. But Richard Warren’s wife’s name was Elizabeth, not Sarah. However, this could be a simple error on Mr. Emery’s part, because Richard had a daughter named Sarah, who married John Cooke. But Sarah wasn’t widowed until 1698, 28 years after the purchase.

Emery goes on to describe Robert’s land as 300 acres on the east side of the “Acoaxet River”. This river is now the West Branch of the Westport River. The Westport history site says that Robert Gifford’s land was east of the Noquochoke River, “to about where Pine Hill Road is now.” The Noquochoke River is the East Branch of the Westport River. Maybe Emery meant the Noquochoke River, not the Acoaxet River.

One early native of Westport was Paul Cuffee, the son of an African father and a Wampanoag mother born in 1759. He was a Quaker sea captain, patriot, abolitionist. Cuffee provided a detailed description of early land holdings around Westport. “On the east side of the river, south side of the road was a small tract allotted to Robert Gifford which extended from the river along Old County Road to Pine Hill Road being triangular in shape. … In the 1712 appointments at the Head, Christopher and Robert Gifford received nearly four hundred acres. One track lay on the north side of the road and extended north to the Forge Road and from the river eastward along Old County Road about a mile to the brook.”  You can see these roads on the map above.

I went searching for pictures of early Gifford homes in Westport. The Westport Historical Society, lists 95 historical houses named after a Gifford. The oldest one is the Gifford-Almy house, built in 1735. 

Handy House, Home of William and Elizabeth Cadman White

The oldest house built by one of our ancestors is the Handy House. Known as the Cadman-White-Handy House (and commonly referred to as the Handy House), the 32-acre property is located at 202 Hix Bridge Road, at the intersection with Drift Road. As I described above, the house was built by George Cadman in 1710 for his daughter Elizabeth, probably on the occasion of her marriage to William White. It became the home of the White’s various descendants, and eventually the residence of Westport physicians Dr. Eli Handy (1764-1812) and Dr. James Handy (1792-1868).

William Gifford in Revolutionary War

Going on the assumption that Hicks Gifford is the father of my g-g-grandfather, Edmund J. Gifford, I will now sally forth through this portal and hope I am not fired upon. This William Gifford, a g-g-grandson of William Gifford of Sandwich, was the father of Hicks Gifford. Although William is not my only Revolutionary War ancestor, his is the only first hand account that I have found. William Gifford testified before Judge Bayliss in 1832 concerning his service in the Revolutionary War for the purposes of obtaining a pension. I have transcribed this below. Other documents include witnesses as to his identity and service and requests for the transfer of his payments to Ohio, where he moved in 1838 to live with his son, William B. Gifford. Interestingly, several of the witnesses’ testimonies were in front of this son, William B. Gifford, a Justice of the Peace. From his “signature” we can see that he was illiterate.

I patched together a synopsis of the battles he fought in. Most of them took place in New Jersey. Although he doesn’t mention all of them, these are the battles that Lippitt’s Rhode Island State Troops fought in from the Fall of 1776 to January 1776. William re-enlisted three more times and served until he married in 1780.

I had to do a bit of searching to understand William’s silence on the Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River to surprise the Hessians at Trenton. Lippitt’s Rhode Island State Troops were under the command of Lt. Col. Cadwallader. Three Colonial forces were to cross that night, Washington’s, Ewing’s and Cadwallader’s.

A little background first. In his deposition, William Gifford claims to have served with Col Lippitt during the first of his four enlistments. At the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, Christopher Lippitt was chosen Lieutenant Colonel of the Rhode Island regiment and of the minutemen, which defended the Rhode Island ports from British warships. In the fall of 1776 his regiment joined the Continental Army on George Washington’s orders and went to Harlem Heights, New York. This is where Washington’s army had retreated to after the route at Long Island and the silent crossing of the East River to escape the overwhelming British forces. Lippitt commanded a regiment at the Battle of White Plains. 

New Jersey in the Revolutionary War

The Battle of White Plains was fought on October 28, 1776. British General William Howe landed troops in Westchester County, intending to cut off Washington’s escape route and end the war. Alerted to this move, Washington retreated further, establishing a position in the village of White Plains. Howe’s troops drove Washington’s troops from their position and Washington ordered a retreat further north. 

Because of the defeats New York, Washington and his troops were forced to cross the Hudson River and retreat to New Brunswick and then continue on towards Princeton. The British, however, were in close pursuit. Needing a quick escape, Washington ordered all boats within a 75 mile stretch of the Delaware River to be procured in preparation for the retreat over the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. This was the first of four “crossings of the Delaware” that would take place over a few days. After all, Washington had to cross the Delaware into Pennsylvania before he could cross back into New Jersey for the Battle of Trenton.

After crossing the river into Pennsylvania, the boats and a 25 mile stretch of the river were guarded so that the British could not follow. Morale in the army was low. Desertions were high and re-enlistments nonexistent. The troops were so poorly provisioned that some did not have shoes and left a trail of blood in the snow.

To compound Washington’s problems, the enlistments of the majority of the militias (including Rhode Island) under his command were due to expire at the end of December and the troops return to their homes. Washington had to do something and quickly. To save his army, Washington devised a plan to cross back over the Delaware River into New Jersey and attack the Hessians, who were fighting for the British, garrisoned at Trenton.

Washington Crossing the Delaware

Washington’s plan was to cross the Delaware at three points with a force commanded by Lt. Col. Cadwallader with a Rhode Island regiment, including Lippitt’s, some Pennsylvanians, Delaware militia and two guns, a second force under Brigadier Ewing of militia and the third commanded by himself which would cross the river above Trenton and attack the Hessian garrison in the town. This second crossing is “The Crossing of the Delaware”. And as you can see by the painting, George was on his horse. They also had to take guns and dry powder and more horses on the boats. 

At around 11:00 pm a windy storm began with snow, sleet and rain. The river was icy and the crossing proved dangerous. Two detachments were unable to cross the river.  After successfully crossing his light forces, Cadwallader discovered that river ice prevented crossing his artillery. He then returned the rest of of his column to the Pennsylvania side, including Lippett’s Rhode Islanders. This we know from the diary of Sgt. John Smith. General Ewing was also unable to cross that night. This left Washington and the 2,400 men under his command alone to land on the opposite bank of the river. After reaching the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, these troops marched 9 miles south to Trenton. 

The adverse weather had lead the Hessians to believe that they would be able to spend Christmas day leisurely feasting and getting drunk, which they did. The Hessians had so lowered their guard, thinking they were safe from the American army, that they did not even post a dawn sentry. The Hessian commander Colonel Rahl had been ordered to construct defense works around the town but had not troubled to do so. On the night before the attack Rahl was at dinner when he was brought information that the Americans were approaching. He ignored the message which was found in his pocket after his death.

After their Christmas feast, they slept soundly, while the crossing took place in the early hours of the morning of the 26th. Startled out of their slumber, they were quickly overpowered at daybreak, too hungover and surprised to mount a defense. Washington’s forces caught them off guard and, before the Hessians could resist, they were taken prisoner. 

The Battle of Trenton significantly boosted the Continental Army’s flagging morale, and inspired re-enlistments. Despite the battle’s small numbers, the American victory inspired rebels in the colonies. With the success of the revolution in doubt a week earlier, the army had seemed on the verge of collapse. Appealing to their patriotism and offering a $10 bounty, Washington succeeded in convincing most of those whose enlistments would expire on the 31st to remain for another six weeks.

Then, on the night of January 2, 1777, Washington evacuated his position, circled around General Cornwallis’ army, and went to attack the British garrison at Princeton. Some of the Continental troops were overrun and Washington sent some militia to help them. The militia, on seeing the flight of the troops, also began to flee. Washington rode up with reinforcements and rallied the fleeing militia. He then led the attack on the British troops, driving them back to Trenton.

In Princeton itself, Continentals forced British troops who had taken refuge there to surrender, ending the battle. After the battle, Washington moved his army to Morristown, and the British, with their third defeat in 10 days, evacuated southern New Jersey. With the victory in the Battle of Princeton, morale again rose in the ranks and more men began to enlist in the army. The battle was the last major action of Washington’s winter New Jersey campaign. Washington’s Army was saved to fight again the next Spring.

William Gifford’s testimony for his pension is frustratingly terse, which may be due to his age or to his reluctance to speak of battle. However, I like his description of the method used for thoroughly cleaning a house that had served as a small pox hospital. And he has a habit of falling in company with men of dubious character. My comments, corrections and guesses are in [brackets]. 

State of Massachusetts

County of Bristol } s.s.

On this 30th day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty two, personally appeared in open court before Hedijah Bayliss, Judge of the Court of Probate for the County of Bristol, now sitting, at Dighton in said County of Bristol. William Gifford of Westport in the County of Bristol and State of Massachusetts, aged seventy seven years in November last, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain[?] fit of the act of Congress passed June 7, 1832.

[I en]tered the service of the United States under the[?] named Officers and served as herein stated.

Firstly That early in the year seventeen hundred and seventy six I enlisted in the service of the United States, at New Port, for one year, I think it was in the month of March, cannot for a certainty tell the day – That I enlisted into a company of soldiers or troops – (they were then called Rhode Island State troops) under the command of Capt. John [Carr]the Lieutenant’s name was Thomas [Noyes] the ensign’s name was [Brenton Bliss] and the Regiment Commanded by Colonel Christopher [Lippitt] the firstp lace that I remember of being stationed after enlistment was at Currentins [Coddington?] Cove or [Coasters?] Harbour, and after staying a while at [Coasters?] Harbour, we were marched to the Island of Conanicut, and after remaining a while at that place, we marched to a place called Kings Bridge in the State of New York, and after remaining a time at Kings Bridge, we was marched to the White Plains, and was at the White Plains at the time of the battle fought there between the Americans and British, after the battle as aforesaid we was marched to a place called Pitts Kill [Peekskill], and there crossed the river, and marched to Princeton and after remaining there a while we was marched back to Pitts Kill and there discharged

I have no recollection of receiving a written discharge, if I did have one it soon got lost. On being discharged as aforesaid I returned home to Tiverton in the State of Rhode Island, being the Town in which I was born and the Town in which I lived until after the Peace Seventeen Hundred and Eighty Three. Some time Since the peace I Moved into Westport in the County of Bristol and State of Massachusetts, and have lived in Westport ever since. I have no record of my age, but one of my sisters keeps a family record, on which my name & birth is recorded, & in frequent conversations with her upon the subject enables me to say I was born in November 1754.

And the said William further declares, that soon after his return from the West, at White Plains & Pitts Kill, he again enlisted into the Army of the United States. (he cannot recollect the day or month but it was early in the year Seventeen Hundred and Seventy Seven thinks it was April) he enlisted at Howlands Ferry in the Town of Tiverton aforesaid into the Company of Captain ChristopherManchester, into what was called fifteen months Service, thinks he was enlisted for fifteen months, in Colonel [Archibald Crary’s] Regiment, after my enlistment as aforesaid we was Quartered at Howland’s Ferry, from the[re] marched to Bristol in the State of Rhode Island, and remaining at Bristol for some time, Capt. Manchester Company in which I belonged was ordered to Popersquash, we went to Popersquash and after remaining there for some time, the small pox broke out among some of the troops and those who were taken sick with the Smallpox was put into an old house on the Island for a Hospital, and after the troops had recovered from the Small pox some of our Company was ordered to go & clean the house, and I remember they gave it a thorough cleaning for they set fire to it and burnt it down 

some time after this I was taken sick, and the sickness increased to such a degree that I was void of common reason, and as I was afterwards informed was carried home, and before I recovered of my sickness as aforesaid the term for which I had enlisted expired and therefore I had no discharge from Capt. Manchester

according to the best evidence I have I was not able to be in the Service again until the Spring of Seventeen Hundred and Seventy nine, when I left home and went to Killingsly in Connecticut I think this was in March 1779 – there I fell in Company with a man, who was drafted to go into the service. (I cannot now recollect the name of the man) but he hired me to take his place, I did take his place and went to New London as a substitute, was rec’d and Served six months, was stationed down below the Town of New London during the Six months aforesaid on the Farm belonging to John D. Sharon. 

After this term of six months had expired and before I engaged in any other business and in the fall of the year Seventeen Hundred and Seventy Nine a man came to me (his name I cannot recollect) and hired me to take his place in the service for three months I agreed with him, took his place as a substitute and went to old Stafford in Connecticut was rec’d as a substitute and served my three months during which time I was stationed at a House belonging to a man by the name of Curtis 

after this last ment’d term of three months had expired I left the Service of the United States – went to Lime in Connecticut and in the month of April 1780 – was married – I cannot recollect the names of any of the Officers that I was under while a substitute in the two last mentioned terms of service and I know of no person now living whose testimony I can procure, who can testify to the two last mentioned Services.

The said William hereby relinquishes every Claim whatever to a pension or anuity except the present and declares that his name is not on the pension Rolls of the agency of any State. 


William X Gifford


Sworn to [???] the day of year aforesaid – 

N. Bayliss, Judge of Probate

Williams testimony is followed by a certificate of the Pension, summary of service, record of pension payments, a request to transfer pension payments from Massachusetts to Ohio, a sworn statement by son William as to the identity of his father William, a letter describing “old gentleman Gifford” as “nearly blind and entirely attenuated”, another pension agent attesting to the fact that Wm Gifford is a pensioner, Thomas Wilcox’s testimony of William Gifford’s service, William Cook’s testimony, William the father attesting to William the son, who is a Justice of the Peace in Ohio, that he is who he says he is, and finally, clerk Pearson swears that Judge Ira Johnson is in fact a Justice of the Peace. With all of that settled, William Gifford received his pension.

Eureka! Edmond J. Gifford’s Father

Once the Internet became a useful source of information, I started to try to help my father find more information about Edmond J’s parents. I became completely hooked on solving the mystery. However, my father had been very thorough. I seldom found anything that he did not already have in his paper files. It was still a mystery when he died in 2004.

I had been posting queries on various genealogy websites for a several years but never received any useful leads. The main problem with my paternal line is that my father was the only son of an only son of an only son. It’s often difficult to know the names of the mothers, unless written records were kept, in a bible, for example. So there were few genealogists that who would be following my Gifford line. Then one day I received an amazing reply from a familiar name among Gifford researchers, and a possible distant cousin. I’ll call him Steve. Steve was intrigued by the puzzle and said that he thought he had found Edmond’s father. This took him only a couple of days because Steve thought outside of the box, literally. Well, almost literally. He thought outside of the square.

Since Edmond claimed to have been born in Utica, New York, in 1830, Steve had checked all the Giffords in Utica in 1830 but found, as I had, no father with an infant son. Then he realized that Utica is near the Oneida county border. So, being an intelligent man, Steve looked outside the Oneida County box into Herkimer County. He found that there were several small towns near the county line that had been home to Giffords in 1830. But only one of these men had a newborn son in 1830. His name was Hicks Gifford, living in the town of Schuyler (not to be confused with the county). Unfortunately, before 1850, the census listed only the name of the head of the household, no one else. So we can’t know the name of this infant.

In the 1840 Coles County, Illinois census, Hicks Gifford appears with his wife, two sons and two or three daughters. One son is about 10 years old, as was Edmond in 1840. In 1837, Hicks had purchased 40 acres of land in what would later become Douglas County. Then, in the 1850 Census which would have listed the names of any children still living at home, Hicks is nowhere to be found. If Hicks died between 1840 and 1850, then his youngest son, who would be twenty in 1850, would be on his own, as Edmond was, at school.

1820 Bethel, Vermont Census

Edmond J’s claims in census records that his parents were born in Vermont and/or Massachusetts can now be explained because Hicks was born in Massachusetts and lived in Vermont for a period of time before moving west to New York. The name “Hicks” as a given name was very unusual. So we can be confident that the Hicks Gifford that appears in this 1820 Bethel, Vermont census is our Hicks and likely the father of Edmond J. Gifford. 

However, Steve went on to tell me that Hicks’ daughter Harriet Corletta Gifford had a son named Edmond. In addition, Harriet lived very near Edmond over the years until her death in 1874, despite his tendency to wander from Indiana to Iowa to Michigan to North Dakota (Well, she didn’t go that far). Furthermore, Hicks’ wife was Nancy Jones, which may tell us what Edmund’s middle initial stood for. For genealogists, this is enough circumstantial evidence to declare Edmond Gifford’s father to be Hicks Gifford.

Wow! I thought the puzzle was solved and that I would soon be able to document this relationship between Hicks and Edmond J. Gifford. However, there is no record of the names of Hicks children on the most popular genealogy websites. I tried to find Edmond’s birth record, to no avail. I have also failed to find Hicks’ death record or any record of his interment. I even searched the history of Coles County for any mention of Hicks as a pioneer in Illinois. Illinois was very much on the frontier in 1840, so the lack of death records is not surprising.

However, moving right along, I can trace Hicks’ ancestry to “William of Sandwich”, who arrived in Massachusetts in the mid 1600’s and is the ancestor of most Giffords in North America. So being a descendant of his is really no big deal. The most authoritative account of William Gifford of Sandwich can be found in the New England Historical & Genealogical Register. It’s an interesting, and brief, account of a man who, as a Quaker among Puritans, seemed to be constantly butting heads with the authorities. 

William of Sandwich gave his sons Christopher and Robert some land in Dartmouth, Massachusetts in 1670. Robert left his land to his son, Stephen, who, in turn, left it to his son, Recompense. Recompense, however, sought adventure and so, in about 1750, he sold the farm and headed west, 15 miles to Tiverton, Rhode Island. Recompense’s first born son, William, was the father of Hicks and so this is our connection to William of Sandwich, assuming that Hicks is the father of Edmond J.

William, Hicks’ father, was born in Tiverton, Rhode Island, in 1754. He served in the Revolutionary War, first in a Rhode Island State Militia with Washington’s army and then by reenlisting three more times. The details of his war experience are so interesting that I have put his account of it in a separate essay. He retreated with Washington’s army after the Battle of White Plains, crossing the Hudson, or North, River, climbing up the Palisades, then marching south through the new state of New Jersey and across the Delaware River near Trenton to the safety of Pennsylvania. Shortly after the “Crossing of the Delaware”, his enlistment ended and he returned to Rhode Island. That alone should have been enough, but after returning to Rhode Island, he continued to serve until the end of the war. His account of the last three enlistments would be comical if they were not so perilous. 

After the war, William married Susannah Brown and their son Hicks married Nancy Jones in 1815 in Providence, Rhode Island. There is no record of her parents, her date of birth or birthplace. However, parents often use a mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name when naming their children. Hicks and Nancy may have named one of their sons “Edmond Jones Gifford” and he in turn may have named one of his sons Edmond Hicks Gifford. Pure speculation, but this would explain the middle initials. By 1820, Hicks and Nancy had travelled to New York on their way to Illinois.

Having hit a brick wall in New England trying to connect Edmond to Hicks, I decided to investigate the land purchase Hicks made in 1837 to see if there was any information there. In 1840, Illinois was sparsely settled. The Indians had left Illinois shortly after the Black Hawk War in 1832. The first thing I had to understand was that Coles County included Douglas County until 1843.  So the land purchased by Hicks was in Coles County at the time of purchase, 1837.

The official description of Hicks’ purchase is SE quarter of the SE quarter of section 13 in township 15 North of range 9 East. The original document is even available. However, this tells me nothing about Hicks’ family. But by this time I had became obsessed with finding this plot of land (I had retired and had lots of time on my hands). To find the 40 acres that Hicks purchased I had to understand land plat maps.

The Land Ordinance of 1785 created a rectangular survey system for the western public lands of the United States. This allowed for the sale of public lands to settlers. The same principle was used to facilitate the “settlement” of Manhattan Island north of Houston Street by creating “the grid”. You can’t own land unless its perimeter can be defined. Where grids had not been created, as in colonial America, ownership of land is defined by “meets and bounds”. Hand drawn plats like the one below show the landscape as it was before the settlers arrived. Sometimes, to help identify the sections, man-made features, both Indian and European, are drawn. 

My husband loves to recount the story of the surveyors crossing the Kansas prairie in a wagon full of large stones and placing them at appropriate intervals to identify the corners of the sections. However, when the surveyors were chased by hostile Indians, they threw out the stones as fast as they could to reduce the weight of the wagon and that is why some sections are, still today, not quite square.

I managed to find some old maps that helped me to locate the land that Hicks purchased. By this time, I have completely lost the purpose of this whole adventure, so don’t worry if you are a little confused as to why we going down this road. I just wanted to see the land today, even if it tells me nothing about Edmond. 

Douglas County

Here is a historical map of the land plats in Douglas County. The Township numbers are along the left hand side and the Range numbers are along the top. A township and a range define a square. Within each of these squares are numbered sections. And then to confuse everyone, there are actual “townships”, like Boudre, that don’t correspond to the numbered townships and ranges. 

The map below is from the first hand drawn maps of Coles County. It shows Township 15N and Range 9E. For section 13 we are fortunate to have the convergence of two rivers to help us locate the section on a modern map. These rivers would have been an important source of water for the settlers.

Section 13

If you go here on Google Earth, you can walk up and down the street to see present day buildings. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty boring stroll. Just a plain house, some farm buildings and fields.

It’s possible that if Hicks ever did get to live on his land and died there, then he may be buried in one of the nearby cemeteries. There are two old cemeteries nearby, Gill and Antioch.  There are websites for both Gill and Antioch but no evidence of any Giffords. In a very detailed History of Coles County, Illinois there is no mention of any Giffords. Hicks apparently did not leave a mark there.

A death record may have provided useful information. If Hicks died on his land before 1843, then the land was still in Coles County. Also, if he stayed in Coles County until his death, then any record would be there. But Coles County did not keep death records before 1878. If Hicks died on his land after 1843, then his death record could only be obtained from Douglas County. Records are available only to authorized family members. But I’m trying to establish that with the death record. The state of Illinois has death records only after 1916. The Illinois Genealogy website is in the process of listing death records, but does not yet have pre-1916 death records for Cole or Douglas Counties. A state-wide search for Gifford shows no Hicks Gifford or even Hicks Giff… To write to a county clerk for a copy of a pre-1916 death record, the record must be on the Illinois Genealogy Website. Now we are going in circles.

It might help to find the names of Hicks’ other children. But these names would not be listed on the pre-1850 census and Hicks does not appear anywhere after 1840. Neither does his wife, Nancy. There are only four Nancy Giffords of her age in the entire country.  Then there is the last recourse: Google it. But Googling “Hicks Gifford” only returns my own queries. Again going in circles.  The Douglas or Coles County Clerk would have the records of all the owners of the land going back to Hicks. Maybe his other son, whose name I do not know, inherited it. Having that name would give me a new direction to go. But by this time I was tired.

So, was Hicks’ son who was born in 1830 near Utica, New York named Edmond J (perhaps for Jones)? If he was, after Hicks’ death Edmond was sent to school in East Lima, Lagrange County, Indiana. This actually makes sense because Hick’s daughter, Harriet, married William H. Walker in 1844 in Lagrange County, Indiana. Edmond may have lived with her after their father’s death. If Hicks was the father of Edmond, then my Gifford line can be traced back to one of the first Giffords in North America, just like almost every other American Gifford. Not only that, but Hicks’ father, another William Gifford, was a descendant of some the earliest Europeans to settle in North America, including passengers on the Mayflower. More on that later. But more importantly, now we have a story of how Edmond J. Gifford arrived in East Lima, Indiana in 1850.

So I tend to agree with Steve that, despite the lack of hard evidence, there is enough circumstantial evidence to conclude that Hicks was the father of Edmond J. Gifford, my great-great-grandfather. Sometimes that’s the best you can do. And besides, there are no other suspects. My father and I have investigated them all. 

The Horse Thief

After my grandmother died in 1971, we discovered an old family tree with a dead end. The parents of my g-g-grandfather, Edmond J. Gifford, were not identified. We found out that his parents’ identities were a mystery, maybe even to some of his own children from whom he was estranged. There was no birth certificate or any record of his parents. However, my father was determined to discover Edmond’s parents and in the process learned a lot about Edmond. And this was in the days before computers and the internet. As we learned more about, him some in family started referring to him as the “horse thief” because he always seemed to be on the run.

1850 Indiana Census

Edmond makes his first official appearance at age 20 in the 1850 census when he was living with Rufus Patch, Superintendent of Lagrange Collegiate Institute, East Lima, Lagrange County, Indiana, and attending school there. The records of the school cryptically list his home as Greenfield (Indiana? New York?). By 1852 he had moved on to Bloomington, Muscatine, Iowa, where he worked as a sawyer.

1856 Muscatine, Iowa Census

In the 1856 Iowa census, there is a household headed by an A. J. Warren in Muscatine, Iowa, with his wife Nancy and daughter Lila. In the same household lived Nancy’s sister Mary Renfro and brother George Innis (“Eunice”) Renfro and a 26 year old E. J. Gifford. Nancy Warren may be Nancy’s mother-in-law. Both A. J. and E. J. worked as sawyers. Although E. J. Gifford is listed as born in Michigan, this most likely is our man.

This is because two years later on May 7, 1858 Edmond J. Gifford married Nancy Ann Renfro Warren in Nancy’s home town, Rock Island, Illinois. I can’t find a record of Nancy Ann’s divorce from Warren. He turns up in Arkansas in 1880 with a new wife and three children, but not Lila. She would have been 25 in 1880 and probably married.

When she married Edmond, Nancy was pregnant by, apparently, her previous husband, A. J. Warren. Nancy gave birth to a son five months later, who was “adopted” by Edmond J. and named William D. Gifford. However, given the previous living conditions, William may have been Edmond’s biological son. We will catch up with William again later.

In 1861 back in Muscatine, Iowa, Edmond J. and Nancy had a second son, Edmond (Edward) H. Gifford. That same year Edmond J. enlisted in the 1st Iowa Infantry for three months. This was in response to the first call for volunteers by President Lincoln after the attack on Fort Sumter. The enlistments were for only three months because, without congressional authorization, the president could only call up the militia. It may also indicate some optimism about the anticipated length of the war, but actually, that was the maximum amount of time that militia could be called on to defend the country. An army would have to be raised after that.

Edmond enlisted on the 7th of May 1861 in Company A, 1st Infantry Regiment Iowa and was discharged on August 20. His unit was in the battle at Wilson’s Creek, near Springfield, Missouri on August 10, the second battle of the war, after the first Battle of Bull Run, or Manasses as Southerners called it, both of which the Union lost. 

The Union force lost 24 percent of its command in the battle, while Confederate losses totaled 12 percent. On Bloody Hill, where the heaviest fighting took place, there were over 1,700 total casualties — some 20 percent of the men who fought there. … During the brutal fighting [General Nathaniel] Lyon was struck by a bullet to the chest, becoming the Union’s first general killed in the war. …Wilson’s Creek also underlined a point that Bull Run had first made clear: that the war would not be easy or quick, and that for all the lofty rhetoric on both sides, the reality was that the war would be agonizingly brutal.

Randall Fuller, Professor of English at Drury University, Springfield, Missouri, “We Bled in the Corn”, Disunion in the New York Times, August 9, 2011.

Edmond J. survived the battle, obviously. In an irony of war, another of my ancestors, actually my grandmother Eveline Bonorden’s uncle, Herman F. Döllinger, died in a disastrous fire on aboard the steamship General Lyon in the Spring of 1865.

Her passengers consisted of discharged and paroled soldiers, escaped prisoners and refugees, among whom were about thirty women and twenty-five small children. Two negroes were also among the refugees.

New York Times, 1865

There was talk of sabotage by Southern sympathizers, even though the war was over. We’ll catch up with him later, too.

Edmond J.’s whereabouts after the war are unknown. Nancy Ann had taken their sons, William and Edward, to Davenport, Iowa, where she worked as a seamstress. This is surprising since Nancy Ann’s widowed mother, Elizabeth Cormack Renfro, lived across the Missouri River in Rock Island. There may have been a rift between mother and daughter, but Elizabeth would later take in Edward’s brother William. In 1871 or ’72, Nancy Ann procured a divorce from Edmond J. in Davenport where she remarried and apparently lived until her death.

Finally Edmond J. resurfaces on 7 August 1873, when he married Josephine Johnson Westcott in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They had a daughter, Una (Annie, Mia) V. Gifford in 1874 and a son, Willie in 1876, who died four months later. By 1880 Edmond J. was living in Petoskey, Emmet, Michigan with his wife, Josephine. In the census he says that both his parents were born in Vermont and that he worked as a grocer. However, he later says that his parents were born in Massachusetts. Others in the household are Una V. Gifford (age 6) and Edwin R. Westcott (age 17), Josephine’s son from her marriage to Randall Westcott.

I recently discovered a photograph of Edmund online. This must be Josephine with him, as he appears to be wearing a war medal.

Edmond and Josephine

Although he enlisted in Muscatine, Iowa, Edmond was a member of the the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) in Petoskey. Memorial services were held by local G.A.R. veterans over the years and around the northern states. His trips to these meetings are often reported in the Bismark Daily Tribune where he is referred to as “Captain” Gifford, although his highest rank was private.

In the 1889 Edmond J. and his wife and daughter are still living in Petoskey. By this time, he was a very successful businessman. But, by 1890, Edmond J. had moved to Bismarck, North Dakota, where he invested in dry-land wheat farming and lost everything. According to the Bismarck Daily Tribune (August 23, 1900) Edmund often went to visit friends in Petoskey, Michigan.  Josephine, who was in poor health, remained in Petoskey with her daughter Clarissa until her death.

However, Edmund J. seems to have been a very kind man and devoted husband. The following is an excerpt from an essay written by the granddaughter of Edmund’s wife Josephine, from her marriage to Randall Westcott.

“…Josephine left New York at this time [the death of her first husband, Randall H. Westcott in 1864] and went with her two children to live with her family….Her family thought that perhaps she should go back to the young ladies’ seminar and teach. She tried this, but was not well enough and she began to cough which made them afraid that she might have tuberculosis. After a while her mother offered to care for [her children] and she was sent to the pines of Michigan to get well….

“Later [Josephine] married a Mr. Gifford in Petoskey. He was smart – a lumber inspector, engineer and had a real estate office….He owned the flatiron block where Rosenthal’s was, etc….

“Just as property was getting valuable in Petoskey, Mr. Gifford decided to go to Bismarck, N. D. and invested his money in wheat land. After several dry years, he lost all his money he invested in farming. He got a job overseeing a group of men who cared for a big railroad bridge at Bismarck. He also surveyed and sold real estate. One day [Josephine’s daughter Clarissa] received a letter from Grandfather Gifford saying that [Josephine] was not well and that he was going to take her to St. Paul for an examination. He wanted [Clarissa] to meet him there. [Clarissa] went and found out that [Josephine] had a cancer and that it would be best for her to come back to Petoskey and live with us. Grandfather [Gifford] went back to Bismarck to sell out. We children had heard something about Grandmother [Josephine] not being well and we expected that she would look very ill, but she was so pretty and looked so happy. She had very black hair and beautiful violet eyes….

“Finally, [Josephine] was not well enough to be up and she was in bed most of the time. Grandfather Gifford sent his entire bank account here to [Josephine] so she could have anything she needed. He paid all her church dues in her Bismarck church as long as she lived. Dr. John Reycraft cared for her. He never let her suffer….

“Grandfather Gifford did not get here before she passed on. She had seemed so fine and passed so suddenly. We had not sent for him. He was trying to settle his affairs in Bismarck….”

Josephine’s obituary tells another story.

Mrs. E. J. Gifford, after a long and painful illness, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. C.J. Pailthorp, yesterday morning. Mrs. Gifford came to Petoskey many months ago from their home in Bismark, N.D., to be near her children, Mrs. Pailthorp and E.R. Wescott and for better medical attendance and has never been well enough to return. Her husband arrived from Bismark Sunday and was with her at the end. Mr. and Mrs. Gifford were among the first comers to Petoskey in 1874, and at one time owned the whole of what is now the flat-iron block. About twelve years ago they removed to Bismark. Mrs. Gifford was a woman of fine Christian character and a devoted member of the Methodist church. She leaves a husband [Edmond J.], and three children, all married….

Petoskey Record, 22 May 1895

Well, maybe he was with her in the end. Edmond returned to Bismarck to live out his days as a watchman on the Northern Pacific Railroad bridge over the Missouri River. It’s doubtful that his experience with railroads had anything to do with his son and future grandson choosing to build them. Who knows? However, it is probably at this time that Edmond acquired a pocket watch that I still have.

Edmond’s pension applications shed some light on his years as a widower. He first applied for a military disability pension in 1890, at age 60. Based on his doctor’s description of his disabilities, he seems to have been suffering greatly as a result of his three months service in the Civil War. The doctor describes his chronic diarrhea and heart ailments as the main causes of his disability, as well as mental derangement. Remember, he was only 60. In 1903, when he applied for a pension increase, he had “two teeth in the upper jaw and two in lower, all loose and puss extruding from sockets”. 

In the brief interview in his application, he was asked a few questions about his residences and family, which are infuriatingly brief. When asked where he was living before enlisting he says “In the West, from 1852 Muscatine, Iowa.” No mention of where he lived before age 20, which I suppose he believed to be irrelevant. But we do learn that his eyes were blue, his skin was light, and his hair by this time was gray. He stood 5 feet 7 ¾ inches tall and weighed 165 pounds. So he was rather small, but this may be average for his generation. When asked about his children, he remembered the birth dates of Edmond H. and Una, but does not mention William. He describes his son Edmond H. as “may be living. I have received no letter from [?] since 1885.” That’s 18 years.

Edmond J. died at age 73, in Bismarck, North Dakota, 30 November 1903 while still a watchman on the bridge over the Missouri River. His body was returned to Michigan for burial. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Petoskey, Michigan.Bismarck Daily Tribune 30 Nov 1903:

At St. Alexius hospital at six o’clock this morning occurred the death of Mr. E. G. [sic] Gifford, long a resident of Bismarck. For many years he has been employed as watchman of the Northern Pacific bridge across the Missouri River and has lived in the watchman’s residence there. A number of days ago he was taken ill and his condition became such that he was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Mr. Gifford was well and favorably know in Bismarck, where he lived with his family for many years. His wife died several years ago and he leaves one daughter here, Mrs. C. N. Hendrix of Steele. He leaves also a son and daughter in Petoskey, Mich. from which state he came to this city.

Mr. Gifford was seventy one years of age at the time of his death and was a native of New York state. He was a veteran of the civil war and a member of the local G. A. R. It is probable that his remains will be taken back to Michigan for interment.

Funeral services will be held at the Methodist church tomorrow afternoon at one o’clock. The remains will be taken to Michigan for interment.

Bismarck Daily Tribune 30 Nov 1903

Mrs. Hendrix is Edmond’s daughter Una. There is no mention of Edward. Since there were no “son and daughter” in Petoskey, this may refer to his stepchildren. But that is still a nice obituary for a watchmen.

Death of E. J. Gifford

The remains of E. J. Gifford, one of the pioneer settlers of Petoskey, are expected to arrive tomorrow for interment by the side of his wife in Greenwood. In 1875 Mr. Gifford was one of the energetic pioneer business men of this tiny village. He owned the three cornered piece of land on Lake and Howard streets called the flat-iron block, and built a house where the department store of S. Rosenthal & Sons now stands. He also owned other pieces of property now very valuable, but in the early 80’s he disposed of his Petoskey interests and moved to Bismarck, S. D. [sic], where he has since resided. Mr. Gifford was the step-father of Mrs. C. J. Pailthorp of this city, and E. R. Westcott of Big Rapids, and leaves one child of his own, a married daughter living in Steele, N. D.

Petoskey Record on 2 Dec 1903:

Mrs. Pailthorp is Josephine’s daughter Jessie.  Again, no mention of Edward or William.

The body of E. J. Gifford was brought to Petoskey Thursday afternoon for burial. The funeral precession went from the station directly to the Greenwood cemetery where a brief service was read by Rev. H. H. Shawhan. Mr. Gifford was a step-father to Mrs. C. J. Pailtrop of our city and E. R. Westcott of Big Rapids. He has a daughter, formerly Miss Una Gifford whose home is in Steele, N. D. Mr. Gifford was a former resident here and extensive property holder in the early days of the village. He moved to Bismarck, North Dakota years ago, and has since made that place his residence. The six pall bearers were old pioneers of the city and friends of the deceased.

Petoskey Evening News on 4 Dec 1903:

None of the obituaries mentions Edmond’s sons Edmond (Edward) H. or William D. from his marriage to Nancy Ann Renfro. Not only was Edmond J. estranged from his own father, but he seems to have been estranged from his two sons as well. However, he was not a horse thief, but actually a well regarded businessman and devoted husband, the second time around any way. Nice to know.

The following are buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Petoskey, Michigan:

Edmund J. Gifford, father, b 1829, d 11/30/1903 Josephine A. Gifford, mother, b 1839, d 5/21/1895 Willie Gifford

There are also three vacant plots in the lot, perhaps purchased for Edmond’s other children, Edward H., William D. and Una. Maybe they weren’t forgotten.

With all this information, all we know about Edmond’s parentage is that he was born in 1830 in Utica, NY and his parents were born in Vermont or Massachusetts. But that may be enough.