Morgal Curry Davis: Independent, Self-Sufficient Polio Victim

Morgal Curry Davis: Independent, Self-Sufficient Polio Victim

Although this blog is meant to tell “stories of my family,” I occasionally tell stories of people who aren’t related to me but whose stories I discovered while researching genealogy. This is the story of Morgal Curry Davis. Since he never married and had no children to share his story, it probably wouldn’t get told if I didn’t tell it.

DNA Detective Work.

Part of my genealogical research involves DNA testing. Last December, a DNA match, who was projected to be a third-to-fourth cousin, contacted me to tell me she was an adoptee trying to find out who her birth parents were. My wife and I jumped in to try to help her solve her mystery. From our DNA results, we could identify which of her matches were in common with me and which were not. Although my research began by looking at our common relatives, my wife and I are also researching the side of her family that is not related to me. That is where I discovered Morgal Curry Davis, and he intrigued me, so I tried to flesh out his story.

Do I Have My Facts Correct?

When publishing a story, my greatest concern is whether or not my facts are correct, because I don’t want to tell a story that might not be factual. Here I will describe how I reached my conclusions.

I know from the 1920 and 1930 United States censuses that Robert Davis and Mabel Elizabeth Branin Davis had a son named Morgal C. Davis who was born about 1911 or 1912 in Dayton, Ohio, living in Dayton. In the 1920 U.S. Census, Morgal is also listed as living in the household of his widowed grandmother, Caroline Yetter Davis, in Columbus, Ohio. It is impossible to tell whether he alternated between living with his grandmother and his parents, or whether he may have lived with his grandmother but was also listed with his parents in that year’s census. Morgal was an 8-year-old polio victim, and his grandmother—who had three adult children at home—may have been better equipped to care for him than his parents—who had three other young children at the time.

Then, I had to determine whether this was the same Morgal C. Davis who was later living in San Diego, California. The California Death Index, transcribed on both ancestry.com and familysearch.org, shows a Morgal C. Davis dying in San Diego on November 23, 1968, having been born in Ohio on December 6, 1911, in Ohio. From this, I decided that the Morgal C. Davis in San Diego was probably the same Morgal C. Davis who was the son of Robert and Mabel Davis in Ohio. Voting registration records and city directories both show Morgal living most of his adult life in San Diego, working as a news seller.

The middle name of Morgal Curry Davis comes from a genealogical web site, cochranfamily.net. Although I have discovered occasional mistakes on this web site, I assume that they must have some legitimate source for this name, so I am going to assume it is correct.

The year that Morgal moved to San Diego from Dayton is questionable, due to some ambiguity in a newspaper article that mentioned him. He was identified as a witness in a murder investigation in San Diego in 1931, in which the newspaper article said he had known the victim “for several years,” but the United State Census showed him living with his parents in Ohio in 1930. My conclusion is that the newspaper reporter probably meant to say several months instead of several years. Those mistakes can happen in newspaper reporting.

Moving Away from Home

Morgal was crippled by polio at the age of six months. At the age of nineteen years, he traveled more than two thousand miles from his parents’ home in Dayton, Ohio, to settle in San Diego, California. At that time, he was able to walk with crutches or braces, but was later confined to a wheelchair. My interpretation of this is that he felt a need to prove he could live his own life independent from his family. Voter registration records show him living at various addresses in San Diego, working as a newspaper seller, and the 1940 United States Census shows him living in the Majestic Hotel in San Diego. It was not a glamorous or well-to-do life, but he was living as he wanted, without any outside interference.

Morgal C. Davis Hitchhiking

This photo, taken in Jackson, Mississippi, appeared in newspapers all across the country, showing Morgal C. Davis in his effort to hitchhike through all 48 states in his wheelchair.

Hitchhiking Across America in a Wheelchair

The inspirational story of Morgal Curry Davis is is his 1955 journey, hitchhiking across America in his wheelchair. Several newspapers across the country carried a photograph taken of him in his wheelchair in Jackson, Mississippi, during the time that he was striving to hitchhike through all 48 states. At the time the photo was taken, he had already been through 28 states, and he said that his only trouble during that time was when he received a speeding ticket in his wheelchair in Saint Louis, Missouri. He was traveling downhill and was clocked at 22 miles per hour. (There is no mention of what the speed limit was.) There was not a follow-up story, but I must assume that he finally made it through all 48 states.

Witness in a Murder Investigation

The other significant event in his life happened shortly after he had moved to San Diego. In a 1931 newspaper article about a murder, he is identified as “Morgal Davis, a crippled newsboy.” It was said that he had known the murder victim, Louise Teuber, and had told police that she had told him she had been on a date with a man name Jerry on the evening before her death. He tried to remember the license number of Jerry’s car, but there was no such license registered in the state, so he must not have remembered it correctly. The police followed various other leads, but the murder was never solved.

And the Great Fear Followed 4 Laughing Girls Into Oblivion

The “Coast Fiend Killer” was of nationwide interest, and this article about the four 1931 victims was published in several newspapers.

The Coast Fiend Killer

There were several other unsolved murders in the area during that time, and the newspapers seemed to believe that they were all committed by an early serial killer they called “the Coast Fiend Killer.” There were dozens of persons of interest investigated, but none of the murders were ever solved.

In the news stories, some of the victims were referred to as “modern girls,” which seemed to have been the 1930’s version of blaming the victims’ behavior for the crimes. We would hope that by now we would no longer have to tolerate this prejudice, but we still need to come a long way to overcome this type of misrepresentation.

The first victim was 10-year-old Virginia Brooks, who disappeared on her way to school on February 11, 1931. Her dismembered body was discovered on March 10 in a burlap bag under a clump of sagebrush. Because of the dismemberment, they couldn’t determine the cause of death, but they believed she died from a blow to the head. There were two strands of blonde hair in one of her hands, which today could have led to a DNA match with a suspect, but that science was not yet being used in forensic police work. There were also tire tracks leading away from the discovery point. They took plaster casts of the tire tracks, but could not match them to a specific vehicle.

The second victim, although the third body found, was that of 43-year-old Mrs. Dolly Bibbens, who had been strangled and beaten in her apartment. Her body was discovered on April 23, but they determined she had been dead for several days. When the police found her, there was a bloody towel wrapped around her neck, and it was later determined that her throat had been slashed. She was known to have loved jewelry, and they originally thought her murder had been part of a burglary, but the only item missing was a diamond ring forcibly taken from her hand. She had been an avid gambler and was frequently seen at the race track, which fact the newspapers used to label her a “modern girl.”

The third victim was 17-year-old Louise Teuber, the woman whom Morgal Davis had known. She was discovered on April 19, 1931, by a family looking for a picnic spot on Black Mountain outside of San Diego. She had been killed the previous night. Her body was dressed only in silk stockings and high-heeled shoes. She was partially hung from an oak tree, her feet still on the ground, partially seated on an Army blanket, her other clothes neatly folded nearby. She was a young lady who enjoyed going out skating and dancing and dating many young men, which led the newspapers to label her as a “modern girl.” She had quit her job at the five-and-dime store that day and had sent a letter to her father telling him she was running away from home: “Dear Dad, I’ve tried for a long time to be satisfied with the way you are running the house and I can stand it no longer. I am leaving home tonight and I am not coming back.” Some of her friends had reported that she was either engaged or already married, but those reports could not be verified. The medical examiner found skin scrapings under her fingernails, but once again this was before DNA testing could be used to help find a suspect. The noose was tied with a nautical knot, so some local sailors were looked at as suspects but later exonerated and released. There was also a local art photographer who was a person of interest, but it was determined that he and his wife were out of town at the time of the murder.

The fourth victim, 20-year-old Hazel Bradshaw, was a switchboard operator for the San Diego and Arizona Railway Company. She was found by two Boy Scouts at Indian Village in Balboa Park, having been stabbed nine times. A boy friend was the initial suspect, but he was acquitted in a jury trial, although there seemed to be some strong evidence against him. She also had other boy friends, which led the newspapers to label her a “modern girl.”

During the next several years, more victims’ death were attributed to the serial killer. On August 18, 1934, 16-year-old Celia Cote, was discovered near her back yard in San Diego, having been raped, mutilated, and strangled. She had gone for a walk after dinner and had never returned. On August 31, 1936, 48-year-old Y.W.C.A. executive Ruth Muir was discovered at a La Jolla Beach, having been bludgeoned with a large slab of concrete. Then, on March 25, 1938, 67-year-old Florilla Lee Crolic was was found in her San Diego beach cottage, wearing only her underwear and stockings, having been bludgeoned to death with a piano stool. It was determined that she had been dead for about three days.

The police and newspaper reporters seemed to think there were enough similarities in the cases for them to believe they may have been perpetrated by the same person. Looking back at the new stories of the time, it is difficult to see the similarities, but I don’t have access to the same investigative information the police may have had.

The Summary of a Well-Lived Life

Morgal Curry Davis was born in Dayton, Ohio, on December 6, 1911, to Robert Davis and Mabel Elizabeth Branin Davis, the third of seven children. He was the brother of Robert Davis Jr. (1908–1923), Sarah Alice Davis Rhyan (1909–1985), Laura Amide Davis (1913–1913), Raymond B. Davis (1914–1978), Charlotte Jasmine Davis White (1916–????), and August Walter Davis (ca. 1921–1964).

Some time around June 1912, Morgal was diagnosed with polio. He spent many years of his life able to walk with braces and crutches, but as an adult he was later confined to a wheelchair. During his childhood, he sometimes lived with his widowed grandmother, Caroline Yetter Davis, who had three adult children living with her, probably to give respite to his parents, who had five other very young children.

In late 1930 or early 1931, Morgal asserted his independence by leaving his home town of Dayton, Ohio, and moving west to San Diego, California. This was his first trip across the country, and he was still walking with braces and crutches at that time. He lived in the Majestic Hotel in San Diego, and made his living selling newspapers.

During his first year in San Diego, a new acquaintance of Morgal’s named Louise Teuber was violently murdered, possibly a victim of a serial killer. Morgal helped in the investigation by giving the police some information about a man Louise had dated the night before her murder, but the lead didn’t pan out. It must have been emotionally difficult losing a friend in this way so soon after moving so far from home, but he remained in San Diego and continued selling his newspapers.

He appears to have moved back to Dayton around 1942 when he appears in a City Directory living with his father and his brother August Walter. The reason for this brief move is not apparent, but he soon returned to San Diego, where he also worked as a doorman.

In 1955, Morgal once again decided to assert his independence by showing that he could hitchhike through all 48 states in his wheelchair. His photo appeared in newspapers all over the country celebrating this accomplishment. Then he returned to San Diego once more.

Morgal died on November 23, 1968. No further information seems to be available about his death or burial. After living an independent life for 56 years, he has faded into relative obscurity until someone can uncover additional records.

Copyright 2018 Eric Christensen

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Notoriety in the Plymouth Colony: Alice Martin Bishop

Notoriety in the Plymouth Colony: Alice Martin Bishop

When studying our ancestors, we must accept the fact that not all the stories we find will be of an uplifting nature. Our tree of progenitors contains villains as well as heroes, and their stories are just as important as the others. When my cousin Sue Anne emailed to tell me about our descent from possibly the first woman to be executed in the Plymouth Colony, I was immediately intrigued and started a new line of research.

When I first saw the stories about my tenth great grandmother, Alice Martin Bishop, I thought she might have a Mayflower connection, but it appears that she wasn’t directly related to any Mayflower families. This story does contain an indirect connection to my Mayflower ancestry in the fact that the man who presided over her trial was my tenth great grandfather, Governor William Bradford.

My research about Alice Martin Bishop did reveal a new Huguenot line in my family: Alice’s grandson, Richard Sutton, married Sarah Runyon, a daughter of Huguenot Vincent Rognion, who escaped to the Channel Islands in 1665 and later settled in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Vincent Rognion is my ninth great grandfather, and that story will have to be explored later.

Although the story has been sensationalized by many writers, the only documented facts of the case are contained in Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, edited by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, M.D., Court Orders: Vol. II, 1641–1651, Boston, from the press of William White, Printer to the Commonwealth, 1855 (later reprinted by AMS Press, Inc., New York, 1968).

The most extensive modern analysis of the case is written by Erin Taylor and Kristin Luce, two descendants of Alice, collected in their web site, Alice Martin Bishop: Motherhood & Murder in the Plymouth Colony (alicemartinbishop.com). They have spent years researching and writing about this crime, and most of the conclusions I am sharing here have been gleaned from their writing.

Who Was Alice Martin?

Many versions of Alice Martin’s story assume that Alice was the daughter of Mayflower passengers Christopher Martin and his wife, Mary (widow of Edward Prower). Mary’s son from her first marriage, Solomon Prower, travelled with them on the Mayflower, and all three died during the first winter in Plymouth. There is no evidence that Christopher and Mary had any other children with them when they arrived in Plymouth, or that any children had been left behind to arrive later. There is no mention of Alice Martin in Plymouth until her marriage to George Clarke in 1639. We may never know the true origin of Alice Martin, but the most logical story that has been suggested is that Mary probably arrived around 1631 as an indentured servant, and got married after serving her seven years of servitude.

Alice Martin married George Clarke on January 22, 1639, in Plymouth. They had two daughters: (1) Abigail, born about 1642, and (2) Martha, born about 1644. George Clarke died about 1644.

Alice Martin Clarke married Richard Bishop on December 4, 1644, in Plymouth. They had one daughter: Damaris, born about 1646.

Crime and Punishment

The crime was first discovered by Rachel Ramsden, wife of Joseph Ramsden (also known as Ramsdell, which is the surname of most of their descendants). Rachel, twenty-three years old at the time, was the daughter of Mayflower passenger Francis Eaton and his third wife, Christian Penn.

On July 22, 1648, Rachel Ramsden stopped by the home of Richard and Alice Bishop in the Plymouth Colony “upon an errand.” There is no record of what the errand was. Since Rachel’s statement and the ensuing inquiry mentions only Alice Bishop and her daughter Martha Clarke, it seems as if Richard Bishop and the other children were probably not in the house at the time. Alice asked Rachel to fetch some buttermilk for her from the Winslow house (probably the home of Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow and his wife Susanna White, but it could have been the home of one of their sons), and gave Rachel a kettle for that purpose. Rachel said that before she left to carry out this request, she saw that Martha was sleeping peacefully and that Alice appeared normal.

When Rachel returned to the house after fetching the buttermilk, she noted that Alice appeared “sad and dumpish” and that there was blood at the foot of the ladder leading up to the loft. When Rachel asked Alice about the blood, Alice pointed up to the loft and told Rachel to go look. Rachel refused to look in the loft. Having seen the blood on the floor and noticing that Martha was no longer in the bed, Rachel perceived that Alice might have killed Martha. Rachel ran to her parents’ house and told them what she had seen. Her parents notified the authorities, and an inquest was started.

The investigation, under the order of Governor William Bradford, was conducted by John Howland, James Hurst, Robert Lee, John Shaw, Francis Cooke, James Cole, Giles Rickard, Richard Sparrow, Thomas Pope, Francis Billington, and William Nelson. Upon arriving at the house of Richard Bishop, they noticed blood at the foot of the ladder; then each went up to the loft. There they saw the body of four-year-old Martha Clarke, lying on her left side, dressed in her shift. Her throat was cut with divers gashes, and her wind pipe had been cut in a downward motion. A bloody knife was lying by her side. At that time, Alice confessed to murdering her daughter with the knife.

The Death of Martha Clarke

This is the court record of the investigation into the death of Martha Clarke.

A Court of Assistants hearing was held in New Plymouth on August 1, 1648, presided over by Governor William Bradford, assisted by William Collier, Captain Myles Standish, and William Thomas. At this hearing Alice confessed to committing the murder, saying she was sorry for it.

A General Court trial was held in New Plymouth on October 4, 1648, presided over by Governor William Bradford, assisted by Thomas Prence, Captain Myles Standish, Timothy Hatherley, and William Thomas. Alice Bishop was indicted for felonious murder by a grand jury consisting of John Dunham Senior, Isaac Wells, Thomas Bourne, Robert Finney, Henry Wood, Ephraim Hicks, James Walker, James Wyatt, Love Brewster, John Barker, Joseph Colman, John Allin, Thomas Bordman, James Bursell, Joseph Torrey, Michael Blackwell, and Daniel Cole. Alice Bishop was found guilty of felonious murder by a petit jury consisting of Josiah Winslow Senior, Thomas Chillingworth, Anthony Snow, Richard Sparrow, Gabriel Fallowell, Joshua Pratt, Giles Rickard, John Shaw Senior, Steven Wood, William Merrick, William Brett, and John Willis.

The Conviction and Execution of Alice Martin Bishop

This is the court record of the conviction and execution of Alice Martin Bishop.

Alice Bishop was sentenced to be hanged by the neck until her body was dead. She was immediately taken to the place of execution, where the sentence was carried out.

When studying our ancestors, we must accept the fact that not all the stories we find will be of an uplifting nature. Our tree of progenitors contains villains as well as heroes, and their stories are just as important as the others. When my cousin Sue Anne emailed to tell me about our descent from possibly the first woman to be executed in the Plymouth Colony, I was immediately intrigued and started a new line of research. When I first saw the stories about my tenth great grandmother, Alice Martin Bishop, I thought she might have a Mayflower connection, but it appears that she wasn’t directly related to any Mayflower families. This story does contain an indirect connection to my Mayflower ancestry in the fact that the man who presided over her trial was my tenth great grandfather, Governor William Bradford. My research about Alice Martin Bishop did reveal a new Huguenot line in my family: Alice’s grandson, Richard Sutton, married Sarah Runyon, a daughter of Huguenot Vincent Rognion, who escaped to the Channel Islands in 1665 and later settled in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Vincent Rognion is my ninth great grandfather, and that story will have to be explored later. Although the story has been sensationalized by many writers, the only documented facts of the case are contained in Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, edited by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, M.D., Court Orders: Vol. II, 1641–1651, Boston, from the press of William White, Printer to the Commonwealth, 1855 (later reprinted by AMS Press, Inc., New York, 1968). The most extensive modern analysis of the case is written by Erin Taylor and Kristin Luce, two descendants of Alice, collected in their web site, Alice Martin Bishop: Motherhood & Murder in the Plymouth Colony (alicemartinbishop.com). They have spent years researching and writing about this crime, and most of the conclusions I am sharing here have been gleaned from their writing. Who Was Alice Martin? Many versions of Alice Martin’s story assume that Alice was the daughter of Mayflower passengers Christopher Martin and his wife, Mary (widow of Edward Prower). Mary’s son from her first marriage, Solomon Prower, travelled with them on the Mayflower, and all three died during the first winter in Plymouth. There is no evidence that Christopher and Mary had any other children with them when they arrived in Plymouth, or that any children had been left behind to arrive later. There is no mention of Alice Martin in Plymouth until her marriage to George Clarke in 1639. We may never know the true origin of Alice Martin, but the most logical story that has been suggested is that Mary probably arrived around 1631 as an indentured servant, and got married after serving her seven years of servitude. Alice Martin married George Clarke on January 22, 1639, in Plymouth. They had two daughters: (1) Abigail, born about 1642, and (2) Martha, born about 1644. George Clarke died about 1644. Alice Martin Clarke married Richard Bishop on December 4, 1644, in Plymouth. They had one daughter: Damaris, born about 1646. Crime and Punishment The crime was first discovered by Rachel Ramsden, wife of Joseph Ramsden (also known as Ramsdell, which is the surname of most of their descendants). Rachel, twenty-three years old at the time, was the daughter of Mayflower passenger Francis Eaton and his third wife, Christian Penn. On July 22, 1648, Rachel Ramsden stopped by the home of Richard and Alice Bishop in the Plymouth Colony “upon an errand.” There is no record of what the errand was. Since Rachel’s statement and the following inquiry mentions only Alice Bishop and her daughter Martha Clarke, it seems as if Richard Bishop and the other children were probably not in the house at the time. Alice asked Rachel to fetch some buttermilk for her from the Winslow house (probably the home of Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow and his wife Susanna White, but it could have been the home of one of their sons), and gave Rachel a kettle for that purpose. Rachel said that before she left to carry out this request, she saw that Martha was sleeping peacefully and that Alice appeared normal. When Rachel returned to the house after fetching the buttermilk, she noted that Alice appeared “sad and dumpish” and that there was blood at the foot of the ladder leading up to the loft. When Rachel asked Alice about the blood, Alice pointed up to the loft and told Rachel to go look. Rachel refused to look in the loft. Having seen the blood on the floor and noticing that Martha was no longer in the bed, Rachel perceived that Alice might have killed Martha. Rachel ran to her parents’ house and told them what she had seen. Her parents notified the authorities, and an inquest was started. The investigation, under the order of Governor William Bradford, was conducted by John Howland, James Hurst, Robert Lee, John Shaw, Francis Cooke, James Cole, Giles Rickard, Richard Sparrow, Thomas Pope, Francis Billington, and William Nelson. Upon arriving at the house of Richard Bishop, they noticed blood at the foot of the ladder; then each went up to the loft. There they saw the body of four-year-old Martha Clarke, lying on her left side, dressed in her shift. Her throat was cut with divers gashes, and her wind pipe had been cut in a downward motion. A bloody knife was lying by her side. At that time, Alice confessed to murdering her daughter with the knife. A Court of Assistants hearing was held in New Plymouth on August 1, 1648, presided over by Governor William Bradford, assisted by William Collier, Captain Myles Standish, and William Thomas. At this hearing Alice confessed to committing the murder, saying she was sorry for it. A General Court trial was held in New Plymouth on October 4, 1648, presided over by Governor William Bradford, assisted by Thomas Prence, Captain Myles Standish, Timothy Hatherley, and William Thomas. Alice Bishop was indicted for felonious murder by a grand jury consisting of John Dunham Senior, Isaac Wells, Thomas Bourne, Robert Finney, Henry Wood, Ephraim Hicks, James Walker, James Wyatt, Love Brewster, John Barker, Joseph Colman, John Allin, Thomas Bordman, James Bursell, Joseph Torrey, Michael Blackwell, and Daniel Cole. Alice Bishop was found guilty of felonious murder by a petit jury consisting of Josiah Winslow Senior, Thomas Chillingworth, Anthony Snow, Richard Sparrow, Gabriel Fallowell, Joshua Pratt, Giles Rickard, John Shaw Senior, Steven Wood, William Merrick, William Brett, and John Willis. Alice Bishop was sentenced to be hanged by the neck until her body was dead. She was immediately taken to the place of execution, where the sentence was carried out. After the Crime We don’t see much about Richard Bishop afterward. He may have been a less-than-upstanding citizen, as he can be found in a court record on March 6, 1649, accused of stealing a spade from Andrew Ring. On May 6, 1649, he was sentenced to sit in the stocks and give a new spade to Andrew Ring before the next General Court, at which time he would be whipped if he failed to comply. After Alice’s execution, her daughter Abigail Clarke can be seen in two court records. On May 9, 1949, John Churchill was ordered regarding the disposition of George Clarke’s house that it should be for the use and good of George Clarke’s daughter Abigail Clarke. On March 3, 1662, Abigail Clarke attested in court to the authenticity of John Churchill’s nuncupative will. It might be possible to draw the conclusion that Abigail Clarke was taken in by John Churchill’s family after Alice’s execution. No further records can be found regarding Abigail. Alice’s youngest daughter, Damaris Bishop, was married to William Sutton on July 11, 1666 in Orleans, Massachusetts, and they moved to Piscataway, New Jersey about 1672. They had ten children together. Damaris died on February 6, 1682, in Piscataway. Why Did She Do It? The courts in the early American colonies were more concerned with whether a crime was committed and not with motives, so there is no record to suggest why Alice killed her daughter. It is left to those of us in modern times who are interested in the case to try to make conjectures as to the reasons for what she did. There are many online Monday-morning psychiatrists who like to suggest that in today’s world Alice would have been diagnosed with post-partum depression and properly treated, and the murder would never have happened. While this might be a possibility, it is impossible for even a professional to make that kind of a diagnosis more than 350 years after the fact. It has been suggested that young Martha may have been showing signs of physical or mental disability and that Alice saw this as a mercy killing. This seems unlikely, as the colonies needed every able-bodied worker they could get, and even the handicapped were capable of some sort of labor necessary for the good of the community. Also, one would think that if Alice were considering this as a mercy killing, she would have chosen a less gruesome method. There is always the possibility that someone else, perhaps Alice’s husband, Richard Bishop, committed the murder, and that Alice confessed to spare him. This seem highly unlikely, however, as there is no mention of Richard being present at the house at the time of the death. Although we have very few facts in the case, his presence would probably have been mentioned if he were there. The most likely thing to have triggered the crime, in my opinion, would be a general depression and a frustration with the hazards of life in the colonies. Less than three decades after the arrival of the Mayflower, survival itself was a hazardous enterprise. The voyage across the ocean had severely affected many people’s health and had cost the lives of loved ones. Cut off from the rest of the world, colonists had lost contact with many of their friends, and the higher mortality rate in the New World took many more, leaving them with little network for emotional support. With occasional skirmishes with the nearby native tribes and food supplies sometimes depending on the whims of nature, coping was difficult if not impossible for some. At times, it could take just one small incident, “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” to cause someone to lose control. Alice had lost one husband and had no time to grieve as she continued the task of caring for her children. She probably slowly lost her joy of living until she finally gave up and killed her child out of frustration and mental exhaustion. It should be noted that Alice Martin Bishop was the eighth woman known to have been executed in the colonies. Prior to her, there were two in the Virginia Colony, one in Maine, and four in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Out of these seven, three of them were convicted of killing one of their children. Jane Champion was hanged in James City, Virginia, in 1632 for an unknown offense. Margaret Hatch was hanged on June 24, 1633, in James City, Virginia, for infanticide. Dorothy Talbye was hanged in 1639 in Massachusetts Bay Colony for killing her three-year-old daughter. Mary Latham (along with co-defendant James Britton) was hanged in 1642 in Massachusetts Bay Colony, possibly the only woman executed in America for adultery. Mrs. Cornish (unknown first name) was hanged in 1644 in Maine for murder. Mary Martin was hanged in 1646 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for killing her infant daughter to cover up her unwed pregnancy. Margaret Jones was hanged on June 15, 1648, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for witchcraft. My Descent from Alice Martin Bishop Damaris Bishop was the daughter of Alice Martin Clarke Bishop and Richard Bishop. Richard Sutton was the son of Damaris Bishop Sutton and William Sutton. Anna Sutton was the daughter of Richard Sutton and Sarah Runyon Sutton. Job Slaght Senior was the son of Anna Sutton Slaght and Hendrick Slaght. Henry Slaght was the son of Job Slaght Senior and Elizabeth Johnson. Mary Slaght was the daughter of Henry Slaght and Abigail Clouse Heminover. Nancy Cunningham was the daughter of Mary Slaght Cunningham and Henry Cunningham. Miriam Catherine Thayne was the daughter of Nancy Cunningham Thayne and Ebenezer Thayne Junior. William Moroni Cox was the son of Miriam Catherine Thayne Cox and William Edwin Cox. Reba Cox was the daughter of William Moroni Cox and Minnie Josephine Burgon. Theodore Paul Christensen was the son of Reba Cox Christensen and Theodore Angelo Christensen. I am the son of Theodore Paul Christensen and Carol Madsen Christensen. Summary Family history can be a fascinating endeavor, filled with tragic as well as joyous stories. Killing one’s own child may be thought of as one of the most horrific crimes that could be committed, I hope that people don’t judge Alice too harshly, as we have no idea what her circumstances or her mental state was at the time.

I don’t know the source of this painting, but it is said to depict Alice Martin Bishop being led to the gallows.

After the Crime

We don’t see much about Richard Bishop afterward. He may have been a less-than-upstanding citizen, as he can be found in a court record on March 6, 1649, accused of stealing a spade from Andrew Ring. On May 6, 1649, he was sentenced to sit in the stocks and give a new spade to Andrew Ring before the next General Court, at which time he would be whipped if he failed to comply.

After Alice’s execution, her daughter Abigail Clarke can be seen in two court records. On May 9, 1949, John Churchill was ordered regarding the disposition of George Clarke’s house that it should be for the use and good of George Clarke’s daughter Abigail Clarke. On March 3, 1662, Abigail Clarke attested in court to the authenticity of John Churchill’s nuncupative will. It might be possible to draw the conclusion that Abigail Clarke was taken in by John Churchill’s family after Alice’s execution. No further records can be found regarding Abigail.

Alice’s youngest daughter, Damaris Bishop, was married to William Sutton on July 11, 1666 in Orleans, Massachusetts, and they moved to Piscataway, New Jersey about 1672. They had ten children together. Damaris died on February 6, 1682, in Piscataway.

Why Did She Do It?

The courts in the early American colonies were more concerned with whether a crime was committed and not with motives, so there is no record to suggest why Alice killed her daughter. It is left to those of us in modern times who are interested in the case to try to make conjectures as to the reasons for what she did.

There are many online Monday-morning psychiatrists who like to suggest that in today’s world Alice would have been diagnosed with post-partum depression and properly treated, and the murder would never have happened. While this might be a possibility, it is impossible for even a professional to make that kind of a diagnosis more than 350 years after the fact.

It has been suggested that young Martha may have been showing signs of physical or mental disability and that Alice saw this as a mercy killing. This seems unlikely, as the colonies needed every able-bodied worker they could get, and even the handicapped were capable of some sort of labor necessary for the good of the community. Also, one would think that if Alice were considering this as a mercy killing, she would have chosen a less gruesome method.

There is always the possibility that someone else, perhaps Alice’s husband, Richard Bishop, committed the murder, and that Alice confessed to spare him. This seem highly unlikely, however, as there is no mention of Richard being present at the house at the time of the death. Although we have very few facts in the case, his presence would probably have been mentioned if he were there.

The most likely thing to have triggered the crime, in my opinion, would be a general depression and a frustration with the hazards of life in the colonies. Less than three decades after the arrival of the Mayflower, survival itself was a hazardous enterprise. The voyage across the ocean had severely affected many people’s health and had cost the lives of loved ones. Cut off from the rest of the world, colonists had lost contact with many of their friends, and the higher mortality rate in the New World took many more, leaving them with little network for emotional support. With occasional skirmishes with the nearby native tribes and food supplies sometimes depending on the whims of nature, coping was difficult if not impossible for some. At times, it could take just one small incident, “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” to cause someone to lose control. Alice had lost one husband and had no time to grieve as she continued the task of caring for her children. She probably slowly lost her joy of living until she finally gave up and killed her child out of frustration and mental exhaustion.

It should be noted that Alice Martin Bishop was the eighth woman known to have been executed in the colonies. Prior to her, there were two in the Virginia Colony, one in Maine, and four in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Out of these seven, three of them were convicted of killing one of their children. Jane Champion was hanged in 1632 in James City, Virginia, for an unknown offense. Margaret Hatch was hanged on June 24, 1633, in James City, Virginia, for infanticide. Dorothy Talbye was hanged in 1639 in Massachusetts Bay Colony for killing her three-year-old daughter. Mary Latham (along with co-defendant James Britton) was hanged in 1642 in Massachusetts Bay Colony, possibly the only woman executed in America for adultery. Mrs. Cornish (unknown first name) was hanged in 1644 in Maine for murder. Mary Martin was hanged in 1646 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for killing her infant daughter to cover up her unwed pregnancy. Margaret Jones was hanged on June 15, 1648, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for witchcraft.

My Descent from Alice Martin Bishop

Damaris Bishop was the daughter of Alice Martin Clarke Bishop and Richard Bishop. Richard Sutton was the son of Damaris Bishop Sutton and William Sutton. Anna Sutton was the daughter of Richard Sutton and Sarah Runyon Sutton. Job Slaght Senior was the son of Anna Sutton Slaght and Hendrick Slaght. Henry Slaght was the son of Job Slaght Senior and Elizabeth Johnson Slaght. Mary Slaght was the daughter of Henry Slaght and Abigail Clouse Heminover. Nancy Cunningham was the daughter of Mary Slaght Cunningham and Henry Cunningham. Miriam Catherine Thayne was the daughter of Nancy Cunningham Thayne and Ebenezer Thayne Junior. William Moroni Cox was the son of Miriam Catherine Thayne Cox and William Edwin Cox. Reba Cox was the daughter of William Moroni Cox and Minnie Josephine Burgon. Theodore Paul Christensen was the son of Reba Cox Christensen and Theodore Angelo Christensen. I am the son of Theodore Paul Christensen and Carol Madsen Christensen.

My Descent from Alice Martin Bishop

This tree shows my descent from Alice Martin Bishop.

Summary

Family history can be a fascinating endeavor, filled with tragic as well as joyous stories. Although killing one’s own child may be thought of as one of the most horrific crimes that could be committed, I hope that people don’t judge Alice too harshly, as we have no idea what her circumstances or her mental state might have been at the time.

Copyright 2017 Eric Christensen

Gus Videau and the San Francisco Shrimp Wars

Gus Videau and the San Francisco Shrimp Wars

While researching my genealogical history, I try to study extended family members as well as direct ancestors. This includes not only brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles, but also additional spouses, whether by widowhood, divorce, or polygamy. Finding information about these more distant relatives can often reveal additional sources for my direct kin. Mostly, this is limited to rudimentary data—birth, marriage, and death—but often there are so many intriguing facts about a person that it sends me on an extended journey seeking more information. Such is the case of Gustave S. Videau.

Gustave’s relationship to me (technically described as father-in-law of husband of first-cousin-four-generations-removed) is as follows: Gustave Videau and Margaret Donovan’s daughter Josephine was the first wife of Joseph Fred Diaz. Joseph’s second wife, Sarah Ruby Bell, was the daughter of William Bell and Elizabeth Ann Cox. Elizabeth Ann Cox was the half-sister of my third-great-grandfather Edwin Cox. The history of the Cox family can be read at The Biography of John Cox Senor, and the story of Edwin Cox can be read at Tragedy at Almy.

Gustave S. Videau to Eric Christensen family tree.

This tree shows my distant relationship to Gustave S. Videau.

Gustave appears to have been a man who had difficulty deciding which side of the law to embrace. He served as a police officer in San Francisco, but twice was forced to leave that profession under questionable circumstances. He married a woman who was already married to someone else. He spent a large amount of time in courtrooms, as a party involved in civil suits, as a policeman providing testimony in cases concerning his work, as a defendant facing minor charges, and finally as a defendant in felony cases stemming from his position in the San Mateo Shrimp Company. By the time of his death, he had experienced life on both sides of justice.

Gustave Videau’s Parents and Early Life

Gustave’s parents, Henry and Francine Videau, were immigrants from France who arrived in Marysville, Yuba County, California, in February 1849 at about age 26. Henry, doing business as Henry Videau & Co., became the proprietor of several hotels and restaurants, including the Hotel de France, Videau’s Restaurant, the Haun House, and the Barnum Restaurant. He was a popular businessman, and an 1860 society column in the Marysville Daily Appeal reported that in the 1860 Mayoral election, “some of his tender-footed boarders undertook to pay him a compliment by putting his name on tickets.” His restaurants were the finest quality, and he was locally referred to as the Prince of Restaurateurs. Years after he had left the city, the restaurant reviews in local newspapers would still rate meals by comparing them to what was once served by Videau, the highest benchmark of fine dining.

Barnum Restaurant ad.

This newspaper a is typical of those run by Henry Videau. You can see by the inclusion of a price for “Board per week” that most of his restaurants were also hotels.

He invested in shares of the Jefferson Mining Company, which operated the quartz mines in Brown’s Valley that were originally discovered by John Rule. This investment yielded a fortune for Videau, and by 1866 he was President of the company. In June of that year, he had the honor of hosting former U.S. Army General William Starke Rosecrans—who had once been considered as a running mate for Abraham Lincoln—on a tour of the quartz mines, followed by a fine dinner and extravagant presentation in the General’s honor at Mitchell’s Restaurant in Marysville.

Henry and Francine’s two sons, Gustave S. Videau and Henry Charles Videau were born in Marysville, about 1855 and 1862, respectively. There is also a record of a daughter, Celline, born in 1860, but no further information about her seems to exist.

On October 9, 1866, the stockholders of the Jefferson Mining Company filed their consent and request that the office and principal place of business for the company be moved to San Francisco, so the Videau family bade their final farewell to Marysville.

In 1867, Henry involved himself the politics of his former residence by sending the following letter to his colleagues and employees in Marysville:

============

Mr. —,
Dear Sir:
I understand that H. Cavalier of your town is a candidate for District Assessor of Long Bar District. As we feel kindly towards him and would like to see him successful please use your influence to secure his election and oblige,
Yours, truly,
H. Videau.
San Francisco, August 25th.

============

On August 31, the Marysville Daily Appeal published a letter to the editor quoting this letter and referring to Cavalier’s political party as “the half-breed, hydra-headed, two-faced Peoples’ party.” The Appeal complemented that letter with a scathing editorial, saying, “Mr. Henry Videau, in our opinion, had better let our local politics alone, at least until he becomes a voter in our county.”

After that, Henry confined his politics mostly to the San Francisco area, but sometimes his involvement had even farther-reaching ties all the way to his homeland. In October 1868, he was named the first President of the Lafayette Guard Company, described in the Daily Alta California as “a military company composed of citizens of French birth.” At a meeting on September 17, 1870, during the height of the Franco-Prussian War, they held a meeting, afterward sending a message to the Provisional Government at Paris via telegram, saying, “The French of California admire you; they have faith in your patriotism. Save the Republic.”

On October 29, 1867, Henry Videau formed a co-partnership with Joseph Roth, and they began doing business as Roth & Videau, Importers and Wholesale Dealers in Fine Wines, Liquors, Brandies and Whiskies, Sole Agents of the Celebrated Benedictine. Henry was working as an agent for Brooklyn Life Insurance Company, and continued working in that capacity in addition to his new partnership. Roth & Videau was his main business interest until his death on November 4, 1874.

Roth & Videau City Directory ad.

This ad for Roth & Videau appeared in the 1874 San Francisco City Directory. Ads similar to this one appeared regularly in all the San Francisco newspapers.

Henry’s widow, Francine, dissolved the co-partnership a little over a year after his death, on December 11, 1875, by selling her interest to Joseph Roth and H.L. Levy, who continued in business as the co-partenrship of Roth & Levy. Francine lived for another 25 years, moving back to France sometime before her death on October 26, 1900 in Paris.

Death of a Prominent Citizen.

This report of Henry Videau’s death from the Sacramento Daily Union, which first appeared in the San Francisco Bulletin, reflects how beloved he was throughout the entire state of California.

 

Gustave Videau, having quite well-to-do parents, attended preparatory school first at Saint Iganatius College in San Francisco, then at Santa Clara College. He consistently received honorable mention in penmanship at Santa Clara College, and in his final year he received distinguished mention in arithmetic, linear drawing, penmanship, and French. After that, he attended Heald’s Business College in San Francisco.

Gustave Videau’s First Wife and Children

In 1879, Gutave Videau married Margaret “Maggie” Donovan, a San Francisco native born to Irish immigrants. During their marriage, they had five sons—Benjamin, Henry Joseph, Jerome, Gustave, and Louis—and five daughters—Mary, Clara Evelyn, Celline, Josephine, and Francine. They lived at many different addresses, sometimes moving yearly, but always remaining in the city of San Francisco.

Maggie Videau died on October 14, 1900, and was buried October 17 at Mount Olivet Cemetery in San Francisco. After her death, Gustave filed a lawsuit against La Société Française de Bienfaisance (The French Hospital Association) for $10,000 in damages, claiming that the French Hospital had caused her death by refusing admission despite her being deathly ill. The suit claimed that Dr. Barkan had denied her admittance, claiming that she was suffering from delirium tremens, but that it was later determined she had been suffering from jaundice, which caused her delirium. I could find no record of the outcome of this suit.

Gustave Videau’s Sensational Second Marriage

Gustave’s second marriage, July 16, 1901, to Jessie M. Young Geer, was quite a sensation, as she was already married to Albert Warren Geer, an electrician who had moved from Ohio to San Francisco with his parents as a child, and the two of them had a young son, Cyril Edison Geer. When Albert Geer filed for divorce in 1901 on the grounds of infidelity, the complicated proceedings were extensively covered by all the local papers.

Jessie asked for a judgment declaring that she was never married to Albert and that her only husband was Gus Videau. Albert’s attorney said they had been married in 1895 by a contract that was recorded and was as binding as a license of marriage. He also declared that Jessie should be liable to prosecution for bigamy. Although Gus was named as a co-respondent, the newspapers never commented on his participation, if any, in the proceedings.

The evidence weighed heavily in favor of Albert. Several witnesses testified that the two had lived together under the name of Mr. and Mrs. Geer and had registered at hotels under that name. In the 1900 United States Census they were listed together as Albert W. Geer, Jessie M. Geer, and Cyril E. Geer. Albert’s parents considered Jessie to be their daughter-in-law. In a real estate transaction in May 1901, when Jessie sold four lots in the Bay Park Homestead to Gustave Videau for the price of ten dollars, she identified herself as “Jessie M. Geer (wife of Albert W.).”

On February 4, 1902, Judge Hyland rendered a decision in favor of the plaintiff, granting the divorce and giving custody of the child to the Albert Geer. The child, Cyril Edison Geer, was five years old at the time and was said to have enlivened the proceedings with his antics in the courtroom. Eight years later, Cyril was a thirteen-year-old vaudeville performer, and he pursued a theatrical career before finally settling down as a house painter in San José, California. His son, Francis Cyril Geer, was born in Shanghai, China, while Cyril and his wife, Fern, were performing there on a theatrical tour.

Cyril Edison Geer and family.

This photograph of Cyril Edison Geer with his wife, Fern D. Keesling Geer, and their son, Francis Cyril Geer, was used for their passport in 1921 when they traveled with Fullers’ Theatres Ltd. to Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, and Canada.

The final chapter in the story of this marriage occurred seven years later, when Gustave Videau filed for an annulment, claiming that he did not know that Jessie had another husband at the time of the marriage. His claim seems a little weak, considering not only that he was a co-respondent in Albert Geer’s divorce action, but also that before the marriage he had purchased property from Jessie, who used the name “Jessie M. Geer (wife of Albert W.)” in the transaction. I have not been able to find the final disposition in this case, and I have not been able to find them in either the 1910 or 1920 United States Census to determine whether they continued living together.

Gus Videau’s Police Career and Subsequent Legal Woes

During the early years of his marriage, Gus Videau worked for a time as a clerk for F. Chevalier (a purveyor of fine wine and spirits, also well known for its blown-glass containers) and also as a street car conductor. Later, he went to work for the Pacific Rolling Mills, a company presided over by former San Francisco Mayor William Alvord.

F. Chevalier bottle

This photo of an F. Chevalier bottle comes from the web site of Ed & Lucy Faulkner, collectors and sellers of antique bottles.

 

In May 1882 Gustave Videau was appointed to the regular police force in San Francisco, and worked as a patrolman for six years. In April 1888, he was twice charged with “unofficer-like conduct,” both charges being dismissed at the regular weekly meetings of the Police Commissions. There is no elaboration on the reason for the charges, but the most common infraction for officers at the time seemed to be intoxication while on duty. Two months later, he resigned from the force. No reason was given, but it seems possible that he may have been asked to resign following more unofficer-like conduct charges.

During the next several years, he often listed his occupation as “Special Officer.” Although he was not employed by the San Francisco Police, it appears that he must have had the power to arrest. Among other stories, there were newspaper accounts of him arresting the estranged wife of boxer Dan “The Montana Kid” Egan on a charge of drunkenness. Mrs. Egan had asked “officer Videau” to arrest her and have her taken to the City Prison for twenty-four hours to protect her from her husband, who had found her in Sacramento and brutally beaten her before she could escape. After hearing her story, verified by Gus Videau, the judge dropped the charges against her.

He also appeared in an advertisement in many California newspapers that can be considered an early celebrity product endorsement. In the ad, “Gus Videau, the well known police officer of No. 1826 Howard St. San Francisco” is quoted as writing, “After my own experience I firmly believe that Joy’s Vegetable Sarsaparilla will cure the most obstinate cases of constipation. Although cured I am still taking it and never had my system so thoroughly regulated.”

Ad for Joy’s Vegetable Sarsaparilla.

This ad for Joy’s Vegetable Sarsaparilla includes an endorsement from Gus Videau.

 

In December 1895, Gus Videau was reappointed as a patrolman in the San Francisco Police Department, but was dismissed on August 4, 1897, for unofficer-like conduct. Although no additional details were given at that time, after he was arrested in 1900 the San Francisco newspapers elaborated on his dismissal. The San Francisco Chronicle said, “His police record was marred by frequent complaints, and on August 4, 1897, he was dismissed from the force when charged with improper advances toward one of his daughter’s playmates.” The San Francisco Call said, “After serving two years he was dismissed for unofficer-like conduct. As an officer Videau has an unenviable record.”

Gus Videau’s first legal woes began on August 16, 1900, when he was arrested on a warrant for misdemeanor embezzlement. George M. Withers, manager of Withers Drug Company, claimed that Gus had cashed a Well-Fargo Bank check in his store for $10, signed by Gustave Harton, that was later discovered to be worthless. I could not find any record of the final disposition of this charge.

The San Francisco Shrimp Wars

Information about the skirmishes between rival shrimp companies in San Francisco can be difficult to verify, but I have gleaned what I can from the newspapers of the time. They often reported on arrests, but rarely follow up with the final judgments. I will tell the story as best as I can.

Most shrimp fishing in Tomales Bay and the San Francisco Bay during the 1890s and early 1900s was done by Chinese fishermen living in the Chinatown area of San Francisco. In the early days of the shrimp industry, the fishermen would dry most of their catch to be exported to China, and then sell the remainder to local markets and restaurants. There were occasional gang wars in Chinatown that some people attributed to competition among shrimp fishers, but they were more likely turf wars among the restless younger residents. As the demand for shrimp in the United States markets increased, the formation of shrimp companies by non-Chinese businessmen increased along with it. Gus Videau became one of the principal operators of the San Mateo Shrimp Company, which the San Francisco Call described as “doing business in the basement at 708 Sacramento street.” Most of the fishing was still done by Chinese fishermen, and the shrimp companies acted more as commodities brokers, regulating the price of the product.

When the supply of shrimp lessens, the competition among the shrimp companies becomes fiercer, and government regulations around the turn of the century profoundly affected the number of shrimp that could be harvested.

One of the first government regulations was related to the potential health problems associated with eating shrimp that had been caught near the area of San Francisco known as Butchertown, where most of the meat processing was done, and refuse from slaughterhouses was often disposed of in the bay, where it made its way into the shrimps’ food supply. Many fishermen in the Butchertown area had been suffering from severe gastric distress that led to numerous doctor visits. These gastric attacks seemed to follow the ingestion of Butchertown shrimp, and some people began to suspect that the Butchertown shrimp were poisonous. In 1898, Doctor E.H. Pillsbury, M.D., conducted tests showing that microbes from Butchertown shrimp injected under the skins of rabbits caused them to become sick and sometimes die, but that the same test using San Pablo shrimp did not. Further tests determined that ptomaine was the probable pathogen carried by the shrimp, and Doctor Pillsbury advised that the sale of Butchertown shrimp be stopped. After a complaint to the Board of Health from an Italian shrimper identified as Mr. Scatalina, who claimed that publicity about the Butchertown shrimp was hurting his business, the Board ordered more tests. A bacteriologist identified as Mr. Green concluded that the shrimp were harmless, but further bacteriological analyses by Doctor W.M. Lawlor concluded that “The deadly nature of shrimps caught off Butchertown is such that their sale should be at once prohibited.” On October 18, 1899, the Board of Supervisors of the San Francisco Board of Health passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of shrimp caught near Butchertown. The San Mateo Shrimp Company, because they had a shrimping camp near Butchertown, was specifically ordered to stop selling shrimp, under penalty of arrest. This appears to be prior to Gus Videau’s association with the company, or at least prior to his public identification as a member of the company, as the San Francisco Call stated, “The company is composed entirely of Chinamen who have plied their trade for years.”

Around this same time, there was a great controversy concerning the decline of game fish in the area, which was attributed to shrimp nets catching the young fish that were needed as food for salmon and other large fish. San Francisco would occasionally implement some temporary seasonal shrimping bans to protect the young fish. In 1901, the California State Legislature passed a law creating a shrimping season, banning shrimp fishing during May, June, July, and August. The law was not tested until 1903, when a Chinese fisherman named Ah King was convicted for shrimping out of season. His case went to the United States Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of the law. In 1905, the shrimp season was removed, and then in 1909 it was reinstated for the months of June, July, and August.

After the Ah King case, enforcement of the shrimping laws began in earnest. On October 1, 1904, the Health Department issued arrest warrants for members of the San Mateo Shrimp Company, including Gustave Videau, for selling shrimps caught in the Butchertown area.

In November 1904, a battle between the San Mateo Shrimp Company and the Point San Pedro Shrimp Company began heating up. The San Pedro Shrimp Company hired men to patrol the bay, alleging that agents of the San Mateo Shrimp Company were cutting their shrimp nets in retaliation for the San Pedro Company’s refusal to share their catch while the Butchertown ban was being enforced against the San Mateo Company. When two unfamiliar launches were spotted by the patrolmen near Point San Pedro in San Pablo Bay, one of them was disabled by gunfire and forced to go ashore to prevent it from sinking. From that launch, the patrolmen confiscated a long iron rod with four razor blades attached, which could be used to cut the ropes and nets.

On May 20, 1905, Gus Videau was arrested on a warrant from Martinez, California, for assault to murder for shooting at Sin Yum of the Union Shrimp Company. This warrant was related to a November 15, 1904, event, when there was an attempt to scuttle a launch owned by the Union Shrimp Company by boring a hole into the bottom of it. A man named Charles Stanley was arrested on May 8 for breaking into cars, and he then confessed to the attempted scuttling of the Union launch. Stanley pled guilty and turned state’s evidence against Gus Videau, implicating him in a conspiracy in which Videau had hired Stanley to bore the hole in the launch. A warrant was issued against Videau on June 17 on a felony charge of injuring a vessel.

On November 10, 1905, Gus Videau was acquitted by a jury of the felony charge of injuring a vessel. With only the testimony of Charles Stanley, the jury believed that without any corroborating evidence there was a reasonable doubt as to Videau’s guilt.

The final accusation I could find against Gus Videau concerned attempted bribery. It came from testimony by Walter R. Welch and John H. Davis, California Deputy Fish and Game Commissioners, to a 1911 special legislative committee investigating former California Chief Deputy Fish and Game Commissioner Alexander Theodore Vogelsang. Davis claimed he had been dismissed from his position for criticizing Vogelsang. Welch testified that when he reported to Vogelsang that Videau had offered him $100 per month not to harass the Chinese fishermen of the San Mateo Company for fishing out of season, Vogelsang laughed and said that he had been offered $1000 per month. Davis testified that when he reported to Vogelsang that Videau had offered him $125 per month, Vogelsang replied by saying “There’s a chance to make a little easy money.” Since this was an investigation of Vogelsang, it probably did not initiate any new charges against Videau.

The California death index indicates that Gustave Videau died on January 14, 1926, in San Francisco; and the San Francisco Colma Cemetery Index indicates that he was buried January 18, 1926, in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, San Mateo County, California, Section L, Row 6, Grave 40. One would think that someone who lived until 1926 would have a photograph available somewhere, but I have as yet been unable to find any photo of him.

It is probably now too late for any definitive determination of Gus Videau’s guilt or innocence, but his history certainly tells an intriguing story of the son of a rich, respected businessman growing up to be a questionable character accused of numerous wrongdoings.

copyright Eric Christensen 2016

 

 

The Biography of John Cox Senior

The Biography of John Cox Senior

My paternal grandmother’s second great grandfather, John Cox Senior, has somewhat of a difficult history to trace, but I will try my best.

[Footnotes with references are included at the end of each section.]

JohnCoxSr_Tree

This tree shows my descent from John Cox Senior

Personal Data

Name: John Cox Senior.
Born: September 17, 1813, in Pewsey, Whiltshire County, England.
Died: July 9, 1869, in Teddington, Middlesex County, England.
Burial: July 12, 1869, in Saint Peter’s Churchyard, Pewsey, Wiltshire County, England.
Son [or possibly step-son] of: William Broad.
Son of: Mary Cox.
Brother [or possibly step-brother] of: Elizabeth Broad, Caroline Broad, Sophia Broad, Eleanor Broad, Jemima Broad, and Jacob Broad.
Husband of: Ann Baker and Elizabeth Stockham.
Father [with Ann Baker] of: William Cox (died at the age of 10), John Cox Junior (married to Hannah Stiff and Ellen Eliza Akers), Edwin Cox (married to Harriet Barrow and Jane Butte), George Cox (married to Lily Agnita Ames; died at the age of 18), Elizabeth Mary Cox (died at the age of 8), Barbara Ann Cox (married to George Anthony Johnson), Jabez Henry Cox (died as an infant), Sarah Cox (married to George Henry Knowlden).
Father [with Elizabeth Stockham] of: William Charles Cox (believed to have died at the age of 10), Ellen Cox (unknown life history), Elizabeth Ann Cox (married to Aaron Butte Junior and William Bell), Edith Cox (died as an infant), John George Cox (died as an infant).

John’s Birth and Childhood

John Cox was born September 7, 1813, to Mary Cox, a young woman who worked as a servant, in Pewsey, Wiltshire County, England. No further information has yet been found about her family or their history. Pewsey was a farm village on the Avon River in an area rich with the heritage of the ancient Druids, located just seventeen miles north of Stonehenge and just twelve miles east of the Druid Stone Circle at Avebury. John’s baptismal record from Wilcot, Wiltshire, England, November 7, 1813, includes the note “base born,” signifying that his mother was not married.1 Mary Cox married William Broad approximately two years later, on July 10, 1815, in Wilcot. William Broad’s family had lived in Wilcot for several generations.

It is not known whether William Broad was John Cox’s father. Some family histories refer to him as John’s father; others refer to him as John’s stepfather. Even after Mary Cox and William Broad were married, John was obligated to be known by his mother’s maiden name “to remind townsfolk of the rules.”2 Probably the only way John Cox’s paternity could be absolutely determined would be a comparison of Y DNA between a direct male descendant of John Cox and a direct male descendant of William Broad or one of his brothers. I have not been able to determine whether William Broad’s only other son, Jacob, had any children, and I have not yet had the opportunity to delve into the descendants of William’s brothers. That research will have to wait for another day.

After their marriage, the Broads moved about a mile away to the village of Stowell, where John’s sister Elizabeth was born. Then they finally settled in Wield, Hampshire County, England, where John’s remaining siblings, Caroline, Sophia, Eleanor, Jemima, and Jacob, were born. The villagers of Wield were mostly farmers who lived in thatched cottages and hunted in the wooded areas surrounding the village. At one time, hunting in these woods had been restricted to royalty, but by this time it was open to the commoners. The village may have taken its name from the German word Wald, meaning forest or woodland.3 William Broad appears to have had relatives in Wield who were landowners and probably hired him and his sons as farm laborers. The 1841 Census lists his Occupation as Agricultural Laborer; the 1851 Census lists his Occupation as Artillery Pensioner. He was 38 years old when they were married, so this Artillery Pension could indicate that he might have had a military career prior to his marriage. I like to imagine that he may have had to leave the military to marry the mother of his son.

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Footnotes for “John’s Birth and Childhood”:

1The baptismal record of John Cox, transcribed by Wiltshire Family History Society, was accessed at findmypast.com.

2This statement comes from “John Cox Beginnings, Part 1,” by Janet Porter, in John Cox Family Organization Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 1, June 2011

3Much of the anecdotal information about John’s life comes from History of John Cox, Sr. (1813), written and compiled by Marlene Cox Dimond (great granddaughter of John Cox Junior), accessed at the Cox Family Web Page.

============

John’s Wives and Children

On March 29, 1834, John Cox married Ann Baker in the Wield Parish Church. Ann’s Parents, George Baker and Barbara Porter Baker, both came from Hampshire County families. John was never a landowner, and they lived in inexpensive housing in Wield. The 1841 and 1851 Censuses list his Occupation as Agricultural Laborer. In the 1841 Census, his father-in-law, George Baker, is living with them, listing his Occupation as Agricultural Laborer; in the 1851 Census, his father-in-law is still a lodger in their home, living on Parish Relief. George Baker’s wife, Barbara Porter Baker, is not listed on these Censuses, so she may have died prior to then. Although there are some death and burial records showing a Barbara Baker having died in Hampshire as late as 1863, that may actually be a different Barbara Baker.

John and Ann remained in Wield for most of their lives, and all of their children were born there. Their family seemed to have encountered a lot of tragedy, including four children who died prior to turning twenty years old.

Their oldest child, William Cox, was born June 28, 1834. He died of rheumatism at the age of ten, January 29, 1845.

Their second child, John Cox Junior, was born May 12, 1836. He later immigrated to Woodruff, Rich County, Utah, where he had two wives and twenty-five children. He died November 17, 1915. He had slipped in a gravel pit where he was working, breaking his ribs. He remained there all day in the cold so that his fellow workers wouldn’t have to forfeit a day’s pay. He developed pneumonia and died two weeks later.4

Their third child, Edwin Cox (my third great grandfather), was born June 8, 1838. He also immigrated to Utah, where he had two wives and three children, and was also raising two children of his second wife, who was widowed at the time of their marriage. Edwin was killed in a tragic explosion at the Rocky Mountain Mine #5 in the coal fields of Almy, Uinta County, Wyoming, on March 20, 1895 [see Tragedy at Almy]. Sixty other men also lost their lives in that explosion, including his brother-in-law, Aaron Butte, who was the brother of his second wife as well as the husband of his half-sister.

Their fourth child, George Cox, was born January 20, 1840. Some histories say that he married Lily Agnita Ames before he died at the age of eighteen, October 25, 1858.

Their fifth child, Elizabeth Mary Cox, was born May 8, 1842. She developed a rheumatic heart condition and died at the age of eight, June 10, 1850.

Their sixth child, Barbara Ann Cox, was born July 5, 1844. She remained in England, where she married George Anthony Johnson, and they had one son. She died July 18, 1896, in Kent County, England.

Their seventh child, Jabez Henry Cox, was born June 14, 1847. After developing the measles, he died at less than three months of age, September 8, 1847.

Their youngest child, Sarah Cox, was born August 26, 1851. She immigrated to Utah with her brother Edwin and his family. She became the second wife of George Henry Knowlden, with whom she had eleven children. George had twelve additional children with his other two wives. Sarah died January 28, 1937, in Salt Lake City.

After the death of his wife, Ann Baker Cox, February 28, 1859, John Cox married Elizabeth Stockham, daughter of George Stockham, in Southampton, England. On their marriage record, John listed his father as John Cox, shoemaker.5 Perhaps he had knowledge of a father other than William Broad, or perhaps he was claiming a fictitious father in order to avoid the stigma of having been born to an unwed mother.

This second marriage also seemed to encounter a lot of tragedy. Two of their children died in infancy. I could find no records of one daughter’s life, so it is not known whether or not she survived to adulthood. One more son appears to have died at age ten at the same time as his father. There are records of only one daughter living a long, full life.

Their first two children were William Charles Cox, born about 1859, and Ellen Cox, born May 12, 1860. There are records of their baptisms on April 7, 1868. No additional records can be found for Ellen, so her remaining life story is unknown.6 My assumption would be that she died young, because if she had survived, she probably would have been among the family traveling to America with Edwin Cox in 1871. There is possibly a death record for William Charles Cox from July 1869 in Hackney, Middlesex County, England, which is approximately the same date and place as his father’s death. There is a story that John was walking across the train tracks with his son when he was killed by a train, but the death of his son hadn’t been specifically stated.7

Their third child, Elizabeth Ann Cox, was born November 4, 1865. She immigrated to Utah with her half-brother Edwin and his family. She had five children with her husband, Aaron Butte, before he was killed on March 20, 1895, in Almy, Uinta County, Wyoming, in the same coal mine explosion that killed her brother Edwin. She then married William Bell, who had been widowed the same year and had four children. She had four more children with him. She died May 9, 1941, in Salt Lake City.

Their fourth and fifth children were the final tragedies in this sad family. Edith Cox was born December 5, 1867, and died October 11, 1868. John George Cox was born March 1, 1870, eight months after his father’s death, and died May 19, 1870, a week after his mother’s death. The only records of these two children is their entry in the birth and death records from Southampton, Hampshire County, England.

Elizabeth Stockham Cox died May 12, 1870, probably of complications from childbirth. There doesn’t seem to be any record of where she is buried.

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Footnotes for “John’s Wives and Children”:

4The story of John Cox Junior’s death comes from the Cox-Stewart History web site, and also from his State of Utah Death Certificate.

5According to research by Marlene Cox Dimond, recorded on the Cox-Stewart History web site, their marriage was first recorded in the Civil Registration for Marriages in the September Quarter of 1859. It was later recorded in the General Register Office Marriages in the December Quarter of 1864. It was in this later record that he gave his father’s name as John Cox.

6This information comes from the family records of Teenie Bowns Cox, daughter-in-law of John Cox Junior, and was accessed at the Cox-Stewart History web site.

7This story of John’ death comes from “The Cox Family: Immigration to America,” by Janet Porter, in John Cox Family Organization Newsletter, September 2015.

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The Cox Family and the Mormon Church

The Mormon missionaries came to Wield in 1851. They were not welcome in the small village of Wield, where the residents were devoted to the Church of England. There are stories of local farmers allowing a certain number of eggs to go rotten in order to have a supply for the children of the village to throw at the interlopers.

John’s wife and two sons, John Junior and Edwin, were baptized into the Mormon church in 1851. Some stories say that John Senior was also baptized at this time, referring to a quote in The Life of William Budge8 that says, “on [1851] April 23rd [William Budge] baptized the following persons: John Cox, Mrs. Cox, [and] William Stiff and wife.” I believe that the John Cox mentioned here is actually John Junior, since William Stiff and his wife were the parents of John Junior’s future wife, Hannah Stiff. If the John Cox mentioned here had been John Senior, I believe that he and Ann would have been referred to as “John Cox and wife” or “Mr. and Mrs. John Cox” rather than as “John Cox” and “Mrs. Cox,” as that appears to be the style of the author.

The villagers were mistrustful of their neighbors who had joined the Mormon church, which is probably what prompted John Junior, Edwin, and the Stiff family to move to Southampton, while John Senior remained in Wield.

John Senior was baptized in 1854, but apparently decided he would rather get along with his neighbors than be a Mormon, so he was excommunicated shortly thereafter. After the death of his first wife, he moved to Southampton to be nearer to his sons and was baptized again in 1864.9 He apparently remained loyal to the church after that, as records show that he performed the baptisms of his younger children in Southampton.

John Junior and his family immigrated to Utah in 1866. They arrived in New York City on June 11 aboard the ship Caroline and almost immediately joined the William Henry Chipman Company in Wyoming, Otoh County, Nebraska. They arrived in Salt Lake City on September 16, and they lived in Centerville, Davis County, for several years before finally settling in Woodruff, Rich County.

Edmund remained in Southampton until the death of his father in 1869 and the death of his stepmother in 1870. He and his wife and son, along with his sister Sarah and half-sister Elizabeth Ann, immigrated to Utah in 1871. They arrived in New York City on August 7. The transcontinental railway having been completed by this time, they probably were able to take the train to Salt Lake City rather than having to face the hardships of their predecessors who traveled in covered wagons or with handcarts. Prior to leaving Southampton, he had worked on the construction staff for the International Electric Telegraph Company, the same company his father had worked for. At the time of his death, Edmund was the head carpenter at the Rocky Mountain Mine #5 in the coal fields of Almy, Uinta County, Wyoming.

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Footnotes for “The Cox Family and the Mormon Church”:

8The Life of William Budge, by his son Jesse R.S. Budge, © 1915 by Jesse R.S. Budge, printed by The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, 1915.

9The information about John’s baptism, excommunication, and rebaptism is from L.D.S. Church, Gosport [Hampton] Branch Records, cited in “The Cox Family: Immigration to America,” by Janet Porter, in John Cox Family Organization Newsletter, September 2015.

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The Death of John Cox Senior

In 1871, John Cox Senior was working as a telegraph instructor at the International Electric Telegraph Company. On July 9, 1869, while taking a walk with his son in Teddington, Middlesex County, England, he was run over by a railroad train from the S.&S.W. Railway. He was killed immediately. An inquest was held on July 12 by Thomas Bramah Diplock, Coroner for Middlesex County.10 His body was returned to his native village of Pewsey to be buried in Saint Peter’s Churchyard.

From his humble beginnings as the child of an unmarried servant girl, John Cox went on to be the progenitor of hundreds of descendants on both side of the Atlantic.

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Footnotes for “The Death of John Cox Senior”:

10The facts of John’s death come from a newspaper article from Guild Hall, England; and a Certified Copy of Entry of Death from Somerset House, London, said to be in the possession of Marlene Cox Dimond, cited in the Cox-Stewart History web site.

copyright Eric Christensen 2016

The Elusive Life of Hans Herr

The Elusive Life of Hans Herr

One great challenge in genealogy is trying to make sense of conflicting records, knowing full well that one can never have a definitive, fully documented answer, but must instead make the most educated guess that can be deduced from the available information. Such is the case with my eighth great grandfather Hans Herr. There are not only disagreements over who is wife was, but also over his birth year, his immigration year, and the birth years of some of his children.

Portrait of Hans Herr

This picture of Hans Herr comes from Theodore Herr’s “Genealogical Record of Reverend Hans Herr,” and is said to come from a painting by John Funk.

I will start with a presentation of Hans Herr’s basic history, and then move on to the disputed facts of his life.

The Swiss Anabaptists

Hans Herr (also known as John Herr) was born in Switzerland. Most histories give his birth date as September 17, 1639, but he may have been born as late as 1651. Members of his family were part of the non-resistant Anabaptist [meaning re-baptized] movement, later to be known as the Swiss Mennonites [named after Menno Simons, one of the early leaders of a peaceful Anabaptist group, in order to distinguish them from the more radical, revolutionary Anabaptists in Münster, Germany]. Other than the fact that the Anabaptists did not believe in infant baptism, the main difference between the non-resistant Anabaptists and the prevailing Catholic church was that the non-resistant Anabaptists firmly believed in the New Testament principal of “turning the other cheek.” They were pacifists who did not believe in warfare and refused to become involved in military conflicts.

Herr Coat of Arms

This picture of the coat of arms of the ancient Herr family is used as the frontispiece for Theodore Herr’s “Genealogical Record of Reverend Hans Herr.” This coat of arms was originally granted to The Schwabish Knight Hugo, the Herr or Lord of Bildried. According to H. Frank Eshleman’s “Historic Background and Annals,” page 7, “Thus while the Herrs are now non-resistant, some of them, at least, did not become Anabaptists or Waldenseans before 1450. But later they did largely become Waldenseans and eventually Mennonites; and a tradition in their own family is to the effect that, the broken spears which are a part of their coat of arms indicate that they denounced Knighthood and war and became non-resistant Christians.”

After the bloody 1534 Easter Sunday uprising by a group of radical Münster Anabaptists led by Jan Matthys, Lutheran and Catholic leaders alike began enforcing strong sanctions against all Anabaptists throughout Europe. Many legal documents went unrecorded because of the participants’ refusal to repudiate their religious beliefs. Many births, marriages, and deaths are undocumented because of this, probably including many records of the Herr family.

The governments of the Swiss Cantons of Zürich and Bern were particularly hostile to the Anabaptists in the 1600s. Many Anabaptists were brutally executed, but the Swiss leaders soon realized that these executions were making celebrated martyrs of the executed men. After that, imprisonment of Anabaptists and confiscation of their property became the common punishment for their religious beliefs, especially for their refusal to bear arms and swear an oath of allegiance. It seems surprising that Switzerland, historically known as a more tolerant country, treated the Anabaptists more brutally than other localities. This is probably due to the fact that Switzerland depended on a national militia for its defense, rather than the paid mercenary armies utilized by other countries, and therefore saw pacifism as a serious offense.

At the invitation of Dutch Mennonites, along with their financial help, many of the Swiss Anabaptists escaped from the persecution in Switzerland and relocated to the German Palatinate. Hans Herr and his brother Christian and their families are mentioned in an April 6, 1672, letter detailing expenditures by Dutch Mennonites on behalf of the Swiss Anabaptists in the Palatinate. It was mentioned in this letter that Hans and his wife were able to support themselves by their linen weaving. At that time, Mennonite linen had become recognized as some of the finest in the world, mostly due to the industrious nature of the Mennonites.

No records can be found from the next few decades, so we don’t know whether Hans Herr and his family remained in the Palatinate or returned to Switzerland or moved somewhere else during that time.

Life in Pequea

No documentation of Hans Herr can be found again until June 24, 1710, when he and his son Christian Herr were two of six signatories on a letter from London prior to their departure for Pennsylvania, thanking their Dutch benefactors in Rotterdam for help in financing the trip with a donation of 200 florins. They arrived at Delaware Bay and then Philadelphia aboard the ship Mary Hope in September 1710, and founded the Pequea Colony in Pennsylvania near Pequea Creek and the Conestoga River. This was the third Mennonite settlement in Pennsylvania, and they received aid in surviving their first winter from the local Pequea Indians as well as from the earlier Mennonite colonists at Skippack and Germantown. The land in Pequea was deeded to the settlers by William Penn, who had purchased it from the Pequea Indians.

Pequea Survey of 1711

This map of the Pequea survey of 1711, from C. Henry Smith’s “Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania,” page 153, shows how the land was divided among the original settlers. Christian Herr’s property can be seen as the third lot from the top. Two lots down is the property of his brother, John Herr. John Funk, second lot from the bottom, is probably the John Funk from whose painting the portrait of Hans Herr shown above is taken. It is assumed that Hans Herr, being quite old at the time, lived with his son Christian.

In 1712, Madame Marie de la Warembur Ferrée, was granted 2,000 acres in Pequea, a part of which was settled by her daughter and son-in-law, Catharine and Isaac LeFèvre [see The French Connection: LeFèvre and Ferrée]. Philip G. LeFèvre, the son of Catharine and Isaac LeFèvre, married Maria Catherina Herr, the granddaughter of Hans Herr, to become my sixth great grandparents. Although they were not Mennonites, the Ferrées and the LeFèvres probably worshiped with the Mennonites, since that was the only denomination in Pequea at the time. Many of their descendants later became Mennonites, probably due this influence; and many became Quakers, probably out of respect for William Penn, who had introduced Marie Ferrée to Queen Anne in England. Queen Anne was said to have helped finance the Ferrées’ journey to America.

The Swiss Mennonites were mostly farmers and had no use for a city. They were not known to keep journals or records of their everyday life, so most of the information we can find about them comes from land deeds. Their modesty in many cases even kept them from placing headstones on their family graves. Most of the usual sources of personal history are missing from this colony.

They found life in Pequea to be so idyllic that they wanted to send a representative back to Europe in order to enlist other Mennonites to join them there. They drew lots to decide who would return to Europe for this mission. The lot fell to Hans Herr, but as he had been chosen as the preacher for the Pequea Mennonites, his departure would have caused some anxiety among the others, so Martin Kendig volunteered, and was approved by a vote, to go in his place. The colony grew quickly with the influx of families of the original settlers.

In 1719, Hans Herr’s son Christian Herr, my seventh great grandfather, built what is now one of the oldest still-standing houses in the country. Built of sandstone, it is known today as the Hans Herr House and Museum, located at 1849 Hans Herr Drive in Willow Street, Pennsylvania.

The Herr House

This photo of the Hans Herr House comes from the web site of the Hans Herr House and Museum.

The Mennonite colonists lived peaceably with the native Conestoga Indians for nearly fifty years. Most historians attribute this to two circumstances: The first was the treaty that William Penn had originally made with the Indians, and the peace-loving Quaker leadership of the Pennsylvania colonies following that treaty. Although Penn had received the colony from King Charles II as repayment for a debt owed to Penn’s father, he wanted to ensure that the indigenous people receive fair payment for their land, one of the few cases where land was actually purchased from the Indians rather than just taken. The second circumstance was that the Conestoga Indians were often at war with the Tuscarora Indians, and the Conestogas were afraid that they would be blamed if the Tuscaroras happened to attack the colonists. The Conestogas, fearing for the safety of the Mennonites, went out of their way to try to protect them.

In 1754, a political group of Pennsylvanians—including Benjamin Franklin, who in his early publications referred to the German Pennsylvanians as “Palatine boors”—ousted the Quaker legislature and enacted an aggressive war policy. The French and Indian War erupted later that year, which ended the decades of peace the Mennonites had enjoyed. The Mennonites would not be safe again until the war ended, at which time the Indians were forced to move westward.

Most histories give 1725 as the year of Hans Herr’s death.

Sources of Information

The most commonly used source of information about Hans Herr’s life and family seems to be Genealogical Record of Reverend Hans Herr and His Direct Lineal Descendants, compiled, arranged, indexed, and published by Theodore W. Herr, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1908. I have discovered through other sources that many of the facts in this book are wrong, which makes me question many other facts that don’t have corroborating sources. Many of the relationships in my family tree are based on the information in this book, but I have noted that many of them may be uncertain.

Another useful source is Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage, the quarterly journal of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. Their articles are scholarly in nature and well referenced, so their sources can be easily double-checked.

Some genealogical information comes from the on-line Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society Genealogical Database. Much of this information comes from the family trees of member and may not be completely accurate.

There is also an ancestry.com on-line database, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Vital Records, 1750–1940, containing many genealogical records. This database is a digital copy of the Genealogical Card File of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. Like the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society Genealogical Database mentioned above, much of the information comes from the family trees of members and may not be completely accurate.

The Groff Book, Volume 2: A Continuing Saga, by Jane Evans Best, published by Masthof Press, Morgantown, Pennsylvania, 1997, is a study of the Groff family in Pennsylvania, and it contains a section about Hans Herr’s related family. Jane Evans Best has also authored several articles in Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage, which in my opinion lends her a great deal of credibility.

Much of the information about the Mennonites in general comes from The Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania in the Eighteenth Century, by C. Henry Smith, published by The Norristown Press, Norristown, Pennsylvania, 1929.

Additional information about the Mennonites comes from History of the Mennonites, by Daniel K. Cassel, published by the author, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1888.

Even more information about the Mennonites comes from Historic Background and Annals of the Swiss and German Pioneer Settlers of Southeastern Pennsylvania and of their Remote Ancestors, from the Middle of the Dark Ages Down to the Time of the Revolutionary War, by H. Frank Eshleman, published by the author, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1917.

Information about Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, comes from History of Lancaster County, by I. Daniel Rupp, published by Gilbert Hills, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1842.

Some information about individual families has been taken from A Biographical History of Lancaster County, by Alex Harris, published by Elias Barr and Company, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1872.

Text and translation of the 1672 letter from the Dutch Mennonites in the Palatinate was found in Documents of Brotherly Love: Dutch Mennonite Aid to Swiss Anabaptists, Volume I, 1635–1709, introduced, transcribed, translated, and annotated by James W. Lowry, edited by David L. Rempel Smucker and John L. Ruth, published by Ohio Amish Library, Millersburg, Ohio, 2007.

Although I have not yet been able to reference it, there is also said to be a translation of Valentine Hütwohl’s December 14, 1671, letter in Letters from Our Palatine Ancestors 1644–1689: Pennsylvania 300th Anniversary Issue, compiled by George Frederick Newman and Clyde Lester Groff, edited by Ann Louise Newman, published by Hawbaker, Hershey, Pennsylvania, 1984.

Inconsistent Information

The biggest unanswered question is that of Hans Herr’s wife. Most on-line family trees identify his wife as Elizabeth Mylin Kendig, daughter of John Jacob Kendig and Jane Mylin, but I am finding more and more sources suggesting that this information may be mistaken. Others who are said to have been his wife are: (1) Elsbeth Lötscher, daughter of Hans Lötscher and Anna Kammer; and (2) Barbel Kundig, daughter of Jörg Kundig and Barbel Huffelberg.

The main source stating that his wife was Elizabeth Mylin Kendig is Theodore Herr’s Genealogical Record of Hans Herr, but I don’t tend to accept information from this book without another corroborating source. There is also a granite memorial in the Willow Street Mennonite Cemetery (formerly known as the Herr Family Graveyard) listing his wife as Elizabeth Mylin Kendig, but this monument was erected many years after the fact. C. Henry Smith’s Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania says, “Hans Herr is supposed to be buried in the oldest of the church cemeteries … and recently a monument was placed near the spot where he is supposed to lie.” Since this book was published in 1929, the word recently leads me to believe that the memorial was placed there in the early 1900s and may have even used Theodore Herr’s book as its source of information.

Hans Herr Memorial

This granite memorial to Hans Herr and his wife was probably erected in the early 1900s, and the information on it may not be correct.

In “Martin Kendig’s Swiss Relatives,” an article by Jane Evans Best in the January 1992 issue of Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage, there is a mention of an Elizabeth Kundig, daughter of Hans Jagli Kundig and [unknown first name] Meili. These names are so similar to those of Elizabeth Mylin Kendig and her parents, that I believe they may be the same persons but with variations of their names in various records. This Elizabeth Kundig was said to have been born about 1668, making her too young to be the wife of Hans Herr, and was said to have been married to Anstett Volken.

Barbel Kundig is mentioned in the same Jane Evans Best article as a possible wife of Hans Herr, but only as a possibility. In one section of the article, she says, “Barbel Kundig … may be the Kundig who, tradition says, married Hans Herr.” In another section, she says, “John Jacob Kunidg had a sister Barbara, who fits very well as a possible wife of Hans Herr.”

Jane Evans Best also mentions Elizabeth Mylen Kendig in her article, but only to say that she was listed in Theodore Herr’s book as Hans Herr’s wife.

In The Groff Book, Jane Evans Best lists Elbeth Lötscher as Hans Herr’s wife. She also gives Hans Herr’s birth date as ca. 1651, twelve years later than the birth dates given in most other sources. She cites a December 14, 1671, letter from Valentine Hütwohl listing Swiss Anabaptist arrivals in the Palatinate, quoting, “Christian Herr, aged 30; wife Grietgen Lötscher, 28 … Hans Herr, aged 20; wife Elbeth Lötscher, aged 22; no children. Have linen sheets.” Since this letter says they had no children at the time, Best also gives the birth date of Hans Herr’s son Abraham as ca. 1672 rather than the 1660 listed in most references.

James W. Lowry’s Documents of Brotherly Love shows a translation of a letter from Valentine Hütwohl, a Mennonite minister in the Palatinate, dated December 17, 1671, describing the hardships of the Swiss Anabaptists who had recently arrived in the Palatinate and asking for aid. This book also shows a translation of a letter from Franz Beuns, Johannes Andriesz, Dr. Johannes de Bakker, and Antony Rooleeuw, detailing the aid given by the Dutch Mennonites to the Swiss Anabaptists. This letter mentions Hans Herr and his brother Christian and their wives: “Christian Herr, 30 years, Grietgen Lötscher, 28, have [missing text] of which 1 is in Switzerland. They have 1 mattress made of chaff and one blanket. 1 mattress and blanket, 31 florins. Hans Herr about 20, Elsbet Lötscher his wife, 22 years. No children. These people can feed themselves from their linen weaving.”

My Conclusions

For many years, my family tree has given Hans Herr’s birth date as September 17, 1639, his wife as Elizabeth Mylin Kendig, and the birth year of his oldest son, Abraham, as 1660. After a more thorough review of all the available documentation of the subject, I have decided that Jane Evans Best’s conclusion that he was born around 1651, that his wife was Elsbeth Lötscher, and that his son Abraham was born around 1672 seems to be the most logical scenario. The letters from the Palatinate are the only available documents that were actually written at the time, and in my opinion they carry more weight than the things that were written more than a hundred years later. I will be changing my on-line family tree to reflect these changes, but will include a notation that my opinion may not be the most widely accepted.

I do this with some degree of sadness, because it is troubling to me that the beautiful granite monument erected at Hans Herr’s place of burial might have misinformation permanently chiseled into it.

Herr-Christensen Family Tree

This tree shows my descent from Hans Herr and Elsbeth Lötscher.

copyright Eric Christensen 2016

 

Jacob Lane’s Pension

Jacob Lane’s Pension

This is the story of my fifth great grandfather Jacob Lane. On February 25, 1835, at the age of 97, Jacob applied for a government pension for his military service during the Revolutionary War. His request was denied for lack of documentation that had he served for six months or more.

Jacob’s Ancestry

Although the exact line of descent seems yet to be determined, most genealogists seem to agree that Jacob Lane was descended from Mathijs Laen. The ancestors of Mathijs went by the name of Laen, but he and his siblings carried a large number of last names. He signed his name as Thys Jansen Laenen Van Pelt. His brother Anthonius signed his name as Tonis Jansen Laenen Van Pelt. Dutch naming conventions are even more confusing to me than Danish naming conventions.

[Note: The spellings of the brothers’ given names appear in many different ways. The spellings I use come from a genealogy.com forum post by Duke Wessel, who says that these are the baptismal spellings taken from records from St. Martin’s Catholic church that were located in the state archives in Belgium, translated from Latin by Marc Phillipe of Belgium.]

Here is my theory about their names, which may or may not have any basis in reality: Their father’s last name was Laen, so the Laenen would indicate that they were the sons of Laen. Some histories say that their father’s first name was Johannes, or Jan, so the Jansen would indicate that they were the sons of Jan. Van Pelt is believed by some to be a name of occupational origin, so their father may have been a tanner or seller of hides and pelts. Others think that Van Pelt may have been a locational name applied to people living in or near the village of Over Peelt [on the marsh].

[Note: In traditional Dutch patronymic conventions, Jan’s son would actually be named Janzoon or shortened to Janze, and Laen’s son would actually be named Laenzoon or shortened to Laenze. It could be possible that these spellings were used but became corrupted in English transcriptions.]

Mathijs and Anthonius were born around 1620, give or take a few years, in what would today be Liège, Belgium. Belgium did not break away from The Netherlands until after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, so at the time of their birth, Liège would have been in the south of The Netherlands. In 1663, the brothers sailed with their wives and children aboard the ship De Rooseboom [The Rosetree] from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to New Amsterdam, USA. They settled in New Utrecht, New York, which was named for the Dutch town of Utrecht.

Mathijs’s wife, Maryken Gijsberts, died en route to America. Their four children were named Antoine, Teuntje, Hendrick, and Gysbrecht. After he was widowed, Mathijs married Adriaentje Hendricks, and their eight children were named Annetje, Jan, Jacob, Adriaen, Pieter, Jannetje, Lysbeth, and Derrick. Jacob Lane would be descended from one of the sons of this large family.

After the British took over the colonies, rules were enacted that surnames not based on fathers’ names should be established for every family. Mathijs took the name Lane, which his descendants carry, and Anthonius took the name Van Pelt, which his descendants carry.

Jacob’s Life

Jacob said that he was born on July 5, 1737, between Brunswick and Amboy, New Jersey. We don’t yet positively know the name of his parents, but he said he had a brother named Isaac whose family would be in possession of the family Bible that would verify his birth date.

Jacob was married on January 9, 1770, in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York, to Annetje Concklin. Her first name has been Americanized in various records as Hannah, Joanna, and Anna. On the two Sons of the American Revolution Applications in which Jacob and Annetje are mentioned, his name is given as Jacob Laine and her name is given as Hannah Clifford. These Applications also give death dates that are too early to jibe with Census records that show her to still be alive in 1830 and him to still be alive in 1840. Since one Application seems to have used the other as a source, that would probably explain why they would share the same errors.

Jacob had five children that I know of: Jacob, born in 1770; Henrik, also known as Henry, born in 1773; John, born in 1774; Laurens, also known as Lawrence, born in 1777; and Christina, born in 1779. Their birth and baptismal records can be found in the U.S. Dutch Reformed Church Records in Dutchess County, New York. Since they moved away from Dutchess County after the Revolutionary War, records of any additional children would have to be found elsewhere.

Jacob and his family originally moved to Delaware after the war, but they were driven out by the Lenape Indians, losing everything they owned, including his discharge papers, which would have documented the amount of time he had served. They finally settled in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Jacob’s son Lawrence moved to Ravenswood, Jackson County, Virginia (which is now in West Virginia), in 1808. He is credited with having built the first cabin in Ravenswood. About 1818, two more of Jacob’s sons, Jacob and Henry, joined Lawrence there, and Jacob accompanied them. Lawrence remained in Ravenswood for the rest of his life, but Jacob and his other two sons returned to Allegheny County about 1822.

The deaths of Jacob and his wife can be deduced from United States Census records. They both appear in the 1830 census, and Jacob appears by himself in the 1840 census and does not appear in the 1850 census. Annetje must have died at some time between 1830 and 1840, and Jacob must have died at some time between 1840 and 1850. He would have been more than one hundred years old at the time of his death.

Lane-Christensen Tree

This tree show my descent from Jacob Lane.

Jacob’s Military Service

According to Jacob’s deposition in his application for pension, he served under “Captain Stephen Durhee, First Lieutenant Peter Benschoven, and First Sergeant Bernt Van Cleifs.” This is verified in New York in Revolution as Colony and State (Records Discovered, Arranged and Classified by James A. Roberts, New York State Comptroller: Albany, New York, Weed-Parsons Printing Company, 1897, pages 157–159). These records show an enlisted man, Jacob Laine, serving in the Dutchess County Militia, Regiment of Minute Men, under the command of Colonel Jacobius Swartwout. Also serving in the company were Captain Stephen Duryea, Lieutenant Peter Van Bunchoten, and enlisted man Bardard P. Van Cleck. There is also a letter attached to one of the Sons of the American Revolution Applications that was written by Adjutant General George Andrews on July 30, 1914, stating that the only record he could find of Jacob Lane’s service was an undated muster roll from Jacobius Swartwout’s Regiment, giving his enlistment date as August 2 (without a year), giving his birth place as Dutchess County, and describing him as six feet high with sandy hair and blue eyes.

1914 Letter from the Adjutant General

This 1914 letter from the Adjutant General’s Office describes the only record that could be found about Jacob Lane’s service.

Jacob stated that he was stationed at Morrisania, near King’s Bridge, a short distance above the City of New York. At that time, King’s Bridge, was the only land access to Manhattan Island, which the British troops controlled from 1776 until after the end of the war. The Continental Army fort that he was assigned to at Morrisania was attached to the Second Regiment of the Pennsylvania Militia, commanded by Colonel Lewis DuBois and Major Elias Benchoten. Jacob spent most of his service there assisting in building fortifications and preparing fascines, rough bundles of brushwood used to create paths for vehicles across uneven and/or marshy terrain.

Jacob stated that he served for at least eighteen months, and possibly longer than two years. During this time, he saw military action only twice. The first he describes as the Battle of Morrisania, with the Continental troops under the command of General Charles Lee and Colonel Lewis DuBois. The British had attacked from the City of New York. The Continental soldiers met the British soldiers in a field some distance from the fort, and they battled from 11:00 a.m. until sundown. Jacob was a part of this battle, in which the British were forced to retreat. He then assisted in taking the British fort. He remembered that they acquired two brass cannons and a small cannon swivel base from the British fort.

His second action was a skirmish that occurred while he was engaged in a scouting party. Some British troops had attacked them in a marshy area a quarter mile from the British fort. Jacob and his party were outnumbered, and they lay in the marsh until after dark as the British troops fired over them, after which they returned to the fort. The only casualty was one soldier shot in his heel.

At age 97, when Jacob was giving his deposition, he could not remember the exact dates of his service, but he remembered that he was stationed at Morrisania at the time of British General John Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga, December 17, 1777, and that he saw Burgoyne’s army being taken through Poughkeepsie after the surrender. He was discharged shortly thereafter.

The Importance of Paper Work

Jacob Lane was applying for his pension at age 97, which means the payments would not have lasted very long until his death, but the fact that he couldn’t present his discharge papers prevented his application from being accepted. Although veterans of today sometimes need to wade through tons of red tape in order to receive their just benefits, they should probably be thankful that if they should ever lose a physical copy of their records, duplicates can be obtained from the government.

copyright Eric Christensen 2016

 

The Other Wife and the Other Husband

The Other Wife and the Other Husband

Researching one’s ancestry is often a matter of uncovering whatever facts can be found and then reaching what seems to be the most logical conclusion. Many times, these conclusions turn out to be wrong and need to be corrected later. Often, the discovery that these conclusions are wrong occurs after an account has been published, and that account needs to be corrected also.

Why Were They in Almy?

In my most recent post, Tragedy at Almy, I gave the following reasoning as to why my third great grandfather Edwin Cox was living in Almy:

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Idaho and Wyoming each became a state in 1890, while Utah remained a territory. Many Mormon polygamists settled in Price County in the northeast corner of the Utah Territory. They could then have multiple wives living both in Bear Lake County in the southeast corner of Idaho and also in Uinta County in the southwest corner of Wyoming. That way, it would be difficult for government officials to discover their multiple marriages, but they could still live within twenty-five miles of each of their wives. Whether this is why Edwin Cox was living in the area is not certain, but it seems quite likely, as he had two wives at the time.

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I have since discovered that Edwin Cox, rather than trying to hide his polygamy from the government, actually followed their rules: He claimed his second wife as his wife of record, while no longer calling himself married to his first wife. Therefore, his reason for living in the area would have to be something else.

The First Wife

Edwin’s first wife was my third great grandmother Harriet Barrow. At the time of Edwin’s death, she was 55 years old. Their only child, my second great grandfather William Edward Cox, was 36 years old with a wife and several children at that time. As a mature woman without any children to tend to, Harriet would be able to live an independent life without Edwin.

The fact that led me to discover Harriet was no longer considered to be Edwin’s wife was recorded in my research, but had gone unnoticed. She married her second husband, Charles Wilkins, on November 14, 1894, nearly four months before the death of Edwin Cox. Charles had been twice widowed prior to this. I had previously assumed that Harriet was widowed when she married Charles, but now I can see that was not the case. Her first husband was not yet dead.

My Descent from Edwin and Harriet Cox

This tree shows my descent from Edwin and Harriet Cox. It also shows his second wife and her second husband.

Charles Wilkins died approximately one year after Edwin’s death, on March 12, 1896. Harriet Barrow Cox Wilkins never remarried, and one has to wonder whether she had really wanted to marry Charles or had done so in order to remove evidence of Edwin’s polygamy. She cannot be found in the 1900 census. In the 1910 census, she is shown to be living alone. In the 1920 census, she is shown to be living with her son and his family.  The Salt Lake City Directory of 1896 shows her living at 173 North 1st West in Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake City Directories from 1901 and later show her in Salt Lake, first living on her own and then rooming with her son and his family from 1920 until her death on July 10, 1923.

Although she was married to Charles Wilkins prior to the death of Edwin Cox, it appears that she still considered herself to be the wife of Edwin Cox. She is buried next to Edwin and his second wife in Murray City Cemetery, and she and Edwin have matching headstones marked “Grandfather” and “Grandmother.” Their son, William Edward, and his family are buried next to them.

Edwin Cox’s Headstone

Edwin Cox’s headstone matches Harriet’s headstone.

Harriet Cox Wilkins’s Headstone

Harriet Cox Wilkins’s headstone matches Edwin’s headstone.

Charles Wilkins is buried some distance away in the same cemetery, where he shares a large obelisk headstone with his second wife, Ury Ivy Welch. His first wife, Elizabeth Drinkwater, had died on the plains near Leavenworth, Kansas, while they were en route to Utah.

Charles Wilkins’s Headstone

Charles Wilkins is buried with his second wife, Ury.

The Wife of Record

Edwin’s second wife was Jane Butte. She had come to America as a widow with two young girls. Having had two sons with Edwin, she was the mother of four young children needing her husband’s support. She became the wife of record.

After Edwin’s death, Jane never remarried and lived as a single mother supporting her family. The 1900 census gives her occupation as nurse, and the 1910 census gives her occupation as janitor. The 1914 Salt Lake City Directory gives her occupation as a janitor at “PBO,” which I believe may stand for Presiding Bishop’s Office. Salt Lake City Directories from the 1920s give her occupation as a cleaner for the Oregon Short Line Railway.

She died August 24, 1936. She was predeceased by both of her sons, Edwin John who died at age 22 and Aaron Ezra who died at age 28. She was survived by her two daughters, Martha Jane Ashley and Elizabeth Ann Hopkinson. She is buried in Murray City Cemetery next to Edwin and Harriet. Her children are buried elsewhere, her sons both in Salt Lake City Cemetery, one daughter in Sandy City Cemetery, and the other daughter in Salt Lake’s Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Jane B. Prosser Cox’s Headstone

Jane B. Prosser Cox is buried next to Edwin and Harriet.

Still a Polygamist at Heart

Although Edwin Cox officially had only one wife at the time of his death, I think their burial locations indicate that he still felt as if he were married to both of them. As a law-abiding citizen he made sure he stayed within the rules by publicly denying his first marriage, and his first wife remarried in order to give him credibility, but I’m sure they felt loyal to each other to the end. Many Mormon men used plural marriage as a status symbol, but it appears that Edwin married both of his wives out of love.

copyright Eric Christensen 2016