Four Generations in Close Up

4Generation

Four generations of women in my family in South Africa. There is something about taking these close up photographs and placing them next to each other that reinforces for me the familial bonds that tie generations together. Not to mention, seeing how much they resemble each other!

Christina Elizabeth McIntosh was of Scottish descent, born in Knysna, South Africa in 1857. Her parents, William McIntosh and Elizabeth Shoolbread (Shoolbraid/Shulbred) had left Inverkeithing, Fife, Scotland in 1849. Christina married a German immigrant, George Eberhard, in 1880 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and they had eight children together. One of which was my great-grandmother, Christina Elizabeth Eberhard, born in 1883 in Kimberley, South Africa.

Christina Elizabeth Eberhard died at the very young age of 35. The 1918 flu pandemic had hit South Africa and Christina succumbed to it on 15 October 1918. She had married John Keown, an immigrant from the Isle of Man, in November of 1913 and they had two children. Their oldest child, Edward, was four years old when his mother died, and my grandmother, Hazel Jane, was only four months old.

Hazel Jane Keown married Harold James Davis on 19 June 1937 in Johannesburg. They had only one child, my Mom. I wrote about my grandparents here. My grandmother, Hazel, made some sad decisions in her life, with the result being that my Mom grew up without her and never saw her again until Hazel was in her early 80s.

Four generations upon whose shoulders I stand.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 18 prompt: Close Up

The Story Behind the Headstone of George A. Craft

Last year I came across a photograph of the gravestone of George Albert Craft, my husband’s second great-grandfather.  He is buried in the Chico cemetery, in Chico, Butte County, California. 1 As I studied the gravestone I realized that I really didn’t know much about him. What I discovered was a hardworking, family oriented man who tragically died far too young.GeorgeAlbertCraft1852_gravestone

George Albert Craft was one of eight children born to James Craft and Susan (Hammond) Shortreid. When Susan married James Craft in 1847 she was a widow and brought with her 3 children from her previous marriage.2  George was born on 13 November 1852 in Illinois, James’ fourth son.3  When George was a young boy the family moved from Illinois to Franklin Township, Allamakee Co., Iowa where James was a cabinet maker and several of George’s older brothers began farming.   Between 1870 and 1880 James Craft died and Susan was a widow once again. Many of the older children had married and moved away but George stayed with his mother, supporting her and his younger siblings,  brother Winfield –  designated as ‘idiotic’ (a highly objectionable word but one used on the 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes) and sister Mary Ann.  George was 28, single and supported them by digging wells in Ida Grove, Iowa.4

In 1882, having moved about 16 miles from Ida Grove, to the very small ‘city’ of Danbury (population of 69 in 1880) George met 20-year-old Amy Patty Gaylord. They married on April 8, 1882 in Ida Grove, Iowa.5

GeorgeAlbertCraft1852_marriageregister_for web
George A. Craft and Amy Patty Gaylord, return of marriage entry.

George and Amy Craft settled in Iowa for the next few years.  Between 1892 and 1896 they moved the family to Corning Township, Tehama Co., California where George worked as a farm laborer.  George and Amy would go on to have a total of 12 children, with the last six born in California between 1896 and 1908.  George himself had come from a large family of 11 children (including the 3 half siblings from his mother’s first marriage).

The bigger cities and more abundant job opportunities may have contributed to the family’s next move in 1905, from the small rural township of Corning, California to the bigger city of Chico, California.  Newspapers of the time were full of articles about the Diamond Match Company coming to Chico and the availability of jobs and homes.  Owning one’s home was part of the American Dream and it was perhaps in George Craft’s reach for the first time. It was also a chance for the Craft family to put down roots and stay in one place.  George had moved a total of eight times since he was a child.

On Saturday, April 11, 1903 6 the San Francisco Chronicle published the following article:

Capture1

Within the city of Chico was a working class residential neighborhood which had been settled to house the employees of the Diamond Match Company, the largest manufacturer of matches in the United States.  By 1903 the Company had built its’ factories and sawmill close to this neighborhood.

DiamondMatchCo
Diamond Match Company Factory, Chico, California 1910 (creative commons license)

According to historian W. H. “Old Hutch” Hutchinson five events can be identified as the most seminal in Chico history. They were: 7

  1. the arrival of John Bidwell in 1850
  2. the arrival of the California and Oregon Railroad in 1870
  3. the establishment of the Northern Branch of the State Normal School in 1887
  4. the purchase of the Sierra Lumber Company by the Diamond Match Company in 1900
  5. the development of the Army Air Base which is now the Chico Municipal Airport

In 1905, George and Amy’s 11th child, a baby girl they named Eunice Aimee Craft was born in Chico, California.  The 1910 census confirms that for the first time George and Amy owned their home at 1447 Ninth Street, Chico.8  This must have been an incredibly proud moment for them. A member of the Craft family would live in the home until at least 1935.

George and oldest son Harry, aged 23, had secured jobs with the Diamond Match Company and had begun work there in 1907.  George and Harry were both mill hands in the sawmill. Over the next 10 years almost all of George’s children, including his daughters, would work for the Diamond Match Company.

Tragedy would strike on August 6, 1910 when a huge explosion ripped through the Diamond Match Company’s factory, killing 2 men instantly and seriously wounding 3 others.9

GeorgeAlbertCraft1852_newspaper3
Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), August 7, 1910

George Craft was one of those seriously injured.  On August 9, 1910 George died from the injuries he sustained in the explosion.10  He was only 57 years old. Amy Craft was left a widow with 9 children still living at home ranging in age from 26 to 3.   Tragedy would strike again only 14 short months later, on October 21, 1911 when Amy Craft also died. 11  Eldest daughter Hattie, aged 23 in 1911, would become the head of the family and by the 1920 census, had kept the 9 siblings together, living still in the home George Craft purchased at 1447 Ninth Street, Chico. 12

Craft gravestones_2
Front view of the headstones for Amy P. (Gaylord) Craft and George A. Craft, Chico cemetery, Chico, California

George and Amy Craft are buried next to each other in the Chico cemetery.  Their gravestones are beautiful and my attention was drawn immediately to the symbols and the wording on them.   On the top of both headstones rests an open book with fabric draped across it.  Below are open gates with an anchor in the middle.  Anchors typically represent hope and steadfastness and the gates represent the gates of heaven.  It is the back of the stones which is of even more interest. George’s headstone contains a circular symbol with the words ‘Dum Tacet Clamat’ (‘Though Silent, He Speaks’).  At the bottom of the stone are the words ‘Here Rests a Woodman of the World’.  (see photo at the start of the post)

The back of Amy Craft’s stone also contains a circular symbol with the words Courage Hope Remembrance around it and ‘Erected by the Women of Woodcraft’ near the bottom of the stone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Amy P. (Gaylord) Craft’s headstone

Woodmen of the World or W.O.W. was founded in 1890 by Joseph Cullen Root as a fraternal benefit society which would “bind in one association the Jew and the Gentile, the Catholic and the Protestant, the agnostic and the atheist.” He used the word ‘woodman’ after hearing a sermon that talked about ‘woodmen clearing the forest to provide for their families’.  By 1898 there were more than 88,000 members throughout the country.  At its most basic W.O.W was an insurance benefit company to which members paid their insurance dues, but it also encouraged charity, compassion and neighborliness. Although no women were admitted into the society, there was a woman’s auxiliary known as the ‘Women of Woodcraft’ created in 1897.  This is the symbol on Amy Craft’s gravestone.  By 1917 Women of Woodcraft changed its name to Neighbors of Woodcraft, reflecting that both men and women were a part of the group.   The symbol with ‘Neighbors of Woodcraft’ can be seen on the gravestone of George and Amy’s oldest daughter, Hattie Craft, who married William H. McNelly in 1920.  Her gravestone lies next to her parents in the Chico cemetery.13

HattieCraft1888_gravestone
Hattie (Craft) McNelly
Craft gravestones
The graves of Hattie, and her parents Amy and George Craft

 

W.O.W was known also for providing distinctive gravestones to its members.  This was part of the benefit of early membership in the society.  Most typically the grave stones would be in the shape of logs or tree stumps or tree trunks. In the 1910s gravestones would more likely contain the W.O.W relics and symbols etched onto the stone as in George, Amy, and Hattie Craft’s case.

Obviously being a member of the Woodmen of the World was something George Craft was proud of.  His gravestone and that of his wife and oldest daughter, reflect their good standing with the society at the time of their respective deaths.

Joseph Cullen Root hoped the society would have as its’ purpose “to minister to the afflicted to relieve distress; to cast a sheltering arm about the defenseless living ;… to encourage broad charitable views…”   In 1910 with George Craft’s tragic death I’d like to believe that the society did cast a sheltering arm around the widowed Amy and her 9 children.

Every headstone has a story to tell.  We just need to find it and tell it. This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 17 prompt: Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 2 February 2016), memorial page for George Albert Craft (13 Nov 1852–9 Aug 1910), Find A Grave Memorial no. 32513614, citing Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte County, California, USA ; Maintained by Sandra Bessent (contributor 46992879). 
  2. 1850 U.S. census, Stephenson County, Illinois, population schedule, Freeport, p. 481 (penned), dwelling 53, family 55, James Craft family; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 March 2016); citing NARA M432, roll 129. 
  3. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 2 February 2016), memorial page for George Albert Craft (13 Nov 1852–9 Aug 1910), Find A Grave Memorial no. 32513614, citing Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte County, California, USA ; Maintained by Sandra Bessent (contributor 46992879). 
  4. 1880 U.S. census, Ida County, Iowa, population schedule, Ida Grove, enumeration district (ED) 137, p. 22 (penned), p. 93D (stamped), dwelling 115, family 119, Susan Craft; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 March 2016); citing NARA T9, roll 0345. 
  5. Ida County, Iowa, Marriage Returns Vol. 308, p. 11, George A. Craft and Amy Patty Gaylord, 1882, recorded license and marriage date and return; Clerk District and Circuit Courts; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 March 2016). 
  6. “New Factories Come for Chico Timbers,” San Francisco Chronicle, California, 11 April 1903, page 6, col. 1; image, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 22 March 2016). 
  7. Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org), “History of Chico, California,” rev. 4:10, 25 April 2016. 
  8. 1910 U.S. census, Butte County, California, population schedule, Chico, enumeration district (ED) 5, sheet 16-B, household 1447, dwelling 316, family 316, George A. Craft family; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 March 2016); citing NARA T624, roll 73. 
  9. “Fire Proves Fatal,” Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, 7 August 1910, page 2, col. 1; image, Genealogybank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 22 March 2016). 
  10. California Death Index, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 April 2016), George A. Craft, death index number 19967. 
  11. California Death Index, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 April 2016), Amy P. Craft, death index number 26555. 
  12. 1920 U.S. census, Butte County, California, population schedule, Chico, enumeration district (ED) 8, sheet 9-A, household 5447, dwelling 178, family 202, Hattie Craft family; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 March 2016); citing NARA T625, roll 94. 
  13. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 23 April 2016), memorial page for Hattie Craft McNelly (27 Mar 1888–25 Jun 1928), Find A Grave Memorial no. 58801976, citing Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte County, California, USA ; Maintained by Adriana (contributor 47328225). 

Tax Records: An often overlooked source

Tax records are a valuable but often overlooked source:

  • They can help to fill in the decade between census enumerations and before the first federal census of 1790.
  • In burned counties tax records are often the only information you may find on your ancestor.
  • Tax records sometimes contain specific residence information, giving an exact physical location of an ancestor at a specific time.
  • Tax records can point to an ancestor’s occupation, give descriptions of land and animals owned and of personal property.

Tax-banner

A few interesting taxable items:

  • If you owned a billiard table or a silver plate or cutlery, a carriage or wagons, you owed the government some tax. If you manufactured boots and shoes, bonnets, collars or sold miscellaneous clothing, you had to pay a tax on those too.
  • In 1862 in Michigan, Albert B. Judd was taxed on 8 coffins. I sure hope he was an undertaker or perhaps a manufacturer of coffins because I can’t imagine any other reason someone would have 8 coffins lying around.
  • John G. Burnell of Trenton, New Jersey was taxed in 1862 on his 1316 lbs. of ground coffee and spices. He had to pay individual taxes on cinnamon, pepper, mustard, cloves, allspice, and ginger.

An example of an 1862 tax record from New York:

Tax Example 2
Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for New York and New Jersey, 1862-1866, unpaginated entries arranged alphabetically; images, “Records of the Internal Revenue Service, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed April 12, 2018), Record Group 58, citing the National Archives at Washington, D.C.

Tax records are worth the effort to track down as they can add rich detail to your ancestor’s life.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 15 prompt: Taxes

Two True Friends – the Soldier and the Nurse

Charlotte Lillie Davis never married and probably would have been known as the maiden aunt of the family. However, that doesn’t mean she never loved nor led a fulfilling and interesting life. She was my second great grand-aunt; a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, and a fiancée.

Very little is known about Charlotte’s fiancé, not even his full name. Official records refer to him only as R.L. Harrison. In 1901 he was with the British Army Post Office Corps, serving in South Africa at the time of the Second Boer War.1 It’s unclear when R.L. Harrison and Charlotte met, but likely Charlotte was already in her late 30s. Charlotte, aged 39, was working as a nurse at Beckett Hospital in Barnsley, Yorkshire in 1901. 2

Their long distance love story is encapsulated in the seven envelopes that are framed, hanging on the wall of my cousin’s home in England. Addressed to Miss L. (Lillie) Davis, they were sent from South Africa by R.L. Harrison, complete with incredibly detailed hand drawn sketches on the front. As befits Private Harrison’s job with the Army Post Office Corps, the franking is very thorough on each envelope. Below are 3 of the 7 envelopes.

Envelope1
“Two True Friends – the Soldier and the Nurse”
Envelope2
“Tommy’s Smile” (Tommy was slang for a common soldier in the British Army.)
Envelope6
“A Gentleman in Khaki”

Sadly, their love story was short and sweet. R.L. Harrison never returned from South Africa. His exact death date is unknown but in the Roll of Individuals entitled to the South African War Medal he is noted as ‘Deceased’ as of 9th July 1901. 3

Also in my cousin’s possession are Corporal Harrison’s medals. The Queen’s South Africa Medal was presented to British, Imperial and Colonial troops serving in the Boer War. It has bars representing individual campaigns fought in. Corporal Harrison’s medal contains bars for service in the Cape Colony between 11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902, service in the Transvaal between 24 May 1900 and 31 May 1902 and a third bar for service at Wittebergen 1 July 1900.

RlHarrisonMedal
R.L. Harrison’s Queen’s South Africa Medal.

There is also a British War Medal for Charlotte Lillie with her name, C.L. Davis and S.(Staff) Nurse, 1914-1918 written on it. Charlotte Lillie served in France as a member of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR), which was the nursing branch of the British Army. 4

Charlotte Lillie fit all the requirements for entry into the QAIMNSR which stated that members were to be over the age of 25, single, educated, of impeccable social standing, and must have completed a three-year course of nurse training in a hospital approved by the War Office. 5

CLMedal
Charlotte Lillie Davis’ British War Medal.

During the time that she served as a Staff Nurse, Charlotte kept a small autograph album which some of the men she was nursing, wrote in.  One of the pages is shown in the photocopy below. The large black square is a plaster (bandage) stuck to the page. A transcription of the page follows.

DavisAutogrph
Page from Charlotte Lillie Davis’ Autograph Book.

“This court plaster is warranted
Not to heal “unkind cuts” “wounded feelings” “injured innocence”

“cracked heads” & “broken hearts”
              ___________

If you should carve the Xmas goose
This plaster you may find of use
For you’re so kind upon my word
You’ll cut yourself and spoil the bird.”

A.W. Narrel. The E/Surreys
Ward 22
Sep ’17

To Sister Davis”

Charlotte Lillie Davis never did marry.  Perhaps I am being fanciful but I wonder if her heart ever recovered after learning of Corporal Harrison’s death.

After her service in the war, she lived for some time with her older brother, William Davis in Doncaster, Yorkshire. Later, she moved to a Nurse’s Home in Wentworth, West Yorkshire. From 1931 until her death in 1940, Charlotte Lillie lived at 14 Woodland Road, Wath-Upon-Dearne, near Rotherham, Yorkshire.6

CharlotteLillieDavis1862_lastresidence
14 Woodland Road, Wath-Upon-Dearne, as it appears today.

The maiden aunt of the family perhaps, but so much more. I would have liked to meet her and hear her tell her love story in her own words, and listen as she described her care of the ‘boys’ fighting in France during the Great War.

 

WordCloud

 

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 14 prompt: Maiden Aunt

  1. “Natal & South African Forces Death, 1899 To 1902, Army Post Office Corps”. Database with images, Findmypast.com (www.findmypast.com : accessed April 3, 2018), Roll of Individuals entitled to the South Africa Medal, entry for R.L. Harrison. 
  2. “1901 Census for England and Wales,” database, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 February 2004); entry for Charlotte Lillie Davis, Barnsley, Yorkshire West Riding; citing the National Archives, RG 13, piece 4314, Folio 79, p. 1. 
  3. “Natal & South African Forces Death, 1899 To 1902, Army Post Office Corps”. Database with images, Findmypast.com (www.findmypast.com : accessed April 3, 2018), Roll of Individuals entitled to the South Africa Medal, entry for R.L. Harrison. 
  4. Scarletfinders, (http://www.scarletfinders.co.uk/2.html : accessed April 7, 2018), “Researching A Nurse.” 
  5. The National Archives (U.K.), “Service Medal and Award Rolls Index, First World War,” database, Discover Our Collections (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ : accessed 6 April 2018), “Medal Card of Davis, Charlotte Lillie”; citing catalog reference WO 372/23/10656. 
  6. West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962, Township of Wath-Upon-Dearne, p. 36 for Davis, Charlotte Lily, 1940, residence 14 Woodland Rd; image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 February 2012). 

The Goodman family of St. David, Arizona

Goodman-Home,-St-David
The Goodman homestead, St. David, Arizona

The Homestead Act of 1862 opened up the American West to settlement. Any person (a citizen or someone who intended to become a citizen) could apply for a section of land (160 acres) in any one of the “public domain states”. “Public domain states” were all the states except for the 13 original states and Maine, Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Texas. There were other conditions that also had to be met: the person must be the head of a family, or a single person over 21, who had never fought against the United States. The land had to be surveyed, and the homesteader had to pay a fee to claim the land temporarily. He had six months to begin living on the land, and had to live on the land continuously for five years, after which, the government would issue a patent or deed for the land. During those five years the homesteader must build a dwelling and cultivate some of the land. 1

The Goodman home stood in the small southern Arizona town of St. David. It was built about 1882 by William Nicholas Goodman, an English carpenter, and his sons, on land that was close to the St. David cemetery. 2

AZ-Map
Arizona map showing location of St. David.

St. David was settled in 1877 by Philemon C. Merrill, a member of the Mormon Battalion who had passed through the San Pedro River Valley in 1846 on the Battalion’s overland march to San Diego, California. St. David was a tight-knit Mormon community. 3 Mormons are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and William Nicholas Goodman had joined the church in England in 1851. 4

When William was only 10 years of age his mother, Maria (Mary) died in 1854. A few years later, in 1857, William’s father, Thomas Goodman, also died. 5 William and his three siblings were left as orphans.

Perhaps feeling that there were more opportunities in pioneer America, and a chance to be with fellow members of their church, the Goodman brothers, William and Nathaniel, made the decision to leave England. They were among the 32,000 British and Irish converts to the Mormon church who, from 1847 to 1869, left their homelands for America. 6 William (20), and his younger brother, Nathaniel (13), left Liverpool, England on 14 May 1862 aboard the William Tapscott. The journey lasted 42 days and they docked in New York on 25 June 1862. 7 With Utah as their final destination, the Goodman brothers traveled first by rail, then steamboat on the Missouri River to Florence, Nebraska where they stayed for 2 weeks. There they gathered provisions and made the rest of the journey to the Salt Lake valley by wagon. They arrived in Utah in October 1862. 8

William remained in Utah until the early 1880s. With his health failing and seeking warmer temperatures, he moved his family to Arizona, arriving in Mesa in the fall of 1882. They stayed only a short time before heading further south. William had married Margarett Ann Taylor in 1864. 9 Together with their nine children, the Goodman family prepared to settle in St. David, Arizona. Margarett’s sister, Maria, lived in St. David with her husband, Joseph McRae. With Joseph McRae’s help, the Goodman’s made adobe bricks and built their home east of the McRae homestead. 10

WilliamNicholasGoodman_Marg
William N. Goodman & Margarett Taylor Goodman

William Nicholas Goodman died at age 43 on 8 March 1885 in St. David, only a few years after moving there. 11 Margarett and the children continued to live in the home William had built. As the children grew older, many bought land and raised their own families in St. David. The connection between the Goodman family and the McRae family continued with the 1893 marriage of Joseph Thomas Goodman, son of William Nicholas Goodman, to Annie Maria McRae, daughter of Joseph and Maria McRae. 12

JosephGoodman1868_AnnieMcRa
Joseph Goodman & Annie McRae Goodman

In 1877 St. David was little more than a stone fort surrounded by crops of wheat and barley. Families like the Goodman’s worked extremely hard to build homes, cultivate land and provide a living for themselves, in conditions that were often difficult. Their legacy continues in St. David today where many of their descendants still live.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 13 prompt: The Old Homestead

 

 


  1. Greg Bradsher, “How the West was Settled”, Prologue. Winter 2012. National Archives (https://www.archives.gov/files/publications/prologue/2012/winter/homestead.pdf : accessed 28 March 2018). 
  2. Life sketch of William Nicholas Goodman, no author noted. Familysearch.org (https:www.familysearch.org : accessed 28 March 2018). 
  3. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._David,_Arizona : accessed 27 March 2018), St. David, Arizona. 
  4. Life sketch, p.1 
  5. Life sketch, p. 2 
  6. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, BYU Harold B. Lee Digital Collections (http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/British_Isles,_the_Church_in : accessed 28 March 2018), “The Church in British Isles”. 
  7. Mormon Migration (https://mormonmigration.lib.byu.edu/mii/voyage/435?query=William+Goodman&dateTo=&voyage=on&netherlands=on&passenger=on&scandinavia=on&sweden=on&mii=on&europe=on&account=on&dateFrom= : accessed 29 March 2018), “William Goodman.” 
  8. Larrabee, Caroline E. W. W., [Autobiography], Our Pioneer Heritage, Comp. By Kate B. Carter, vol. 17 (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1974) pp. 290-292. 
  9. Life sketch, p. 1 
  10. Life sketch, p. 1 
  11. “Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/QVKV-CF4L : 13 December 2015), William Nichlas Goodman, 1885; Burial, Saint David, Cochise, Arizona, Saint David Cemetery; citing record ID 49710174, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com. 
  12. California, County Birth, Marriage, and Death Records, 1849-1980, Marriage Register, 1891-1895, Ancestry (https: www. ancestry.com : accessed 29 March 2018), Annie McRae and Joseph Goodman, July 12, 1893. 

Ann Wilson Bellas – a Strong Woman

I have written before about my great-grandfather, John Bellas and his frequent journeys from County Durham, England to Kimberley, South Africa to work in the mines. His wife, my great-grandmother, Ann Wilson, married at age 20, becoming an instant mother to John’s small child from his first marriage. She was a woman who, for many years as John traveled to find work, raised their children alone. She crossed an ocean to an unknown land with her young family to be with her husband. She buried six children before she was 41 years old. She was a strong and beloved woman.

JohnBellas1859_withAnneWilson
Anne and John Bellas.

Ann Wilson was the second wife of John Bellas, they married in 1887 in County Durham. 1 Ann was 20 years old when they married and settled in Newbottle, a small village occupied mostly by coal miners and their families. John Bellas had been widowed in 1886, leaving him with a young child, also named John Bellas. Upon her marriage to John, Ann became a mother, taking over the care of four year old, John. In August of 1888, Ann gave birth to her first child, a son they named Thomas Bellas. Unfortunately tragedy struck a year later, in 1889, when John died at the age of five.

A few months later, Ann found herself pregnant again, this time with twins. The twins were born on 14 May 1890 and were named John and Elizabeth Jane.2 John lived only one day. Elizabeth Jane lived 15 days. Ann had buried three children and was only 23 years old.

In October 1893, John Bellas left England, making the 17-day journey by ship to South Africa. Ann had given birth in March 1893 to a baby girl, Mary Hannah.3 For the next six years, John was only home for short periods of time as he traveled back and forth between England and South Africa.

I imagine that life was not easy for Ann, having her husband gone for long intervals. In 1899, newspapers in County Durham began to report on the developing tensions in South Africa, especially around the town of Kimberley.  This must have caused great anxiety for Ann. John joined up with the Kimberley Town Guard to defend Kimberley from Boer attacks. The Boers besieged the town for 124 days but ultimately failed to take Kimberley, which had finally been relieved by the advancing British forces. All of this was constantly being reported on in the newspapers of the day, no doubt causing much worry for Ann over her husband’s safety.

The 1901 census 4 shows the entry for Annie Bellas and her four children in the village of Shiney Row, County Durham. Ann is described as the head of the household, aged 35. She has no occupation listed indicating she likely relied on the money that John was able to send back to the family from South Africa. The children were aged 12, 8, 4 and 2 years old.  Basically a single mother for much of those six years, Ann was fortunate to have some family support with her in-laws, David and Margaret Bellas, living next door.

1901Census
1901 census of England, County Durham, Shiney Row, p. 12 (stamped), Annie Bellas; image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 April 2012); citing The National Archives, RG13, piece 4694, folio 55, p. 13; Houghton-le-Spring registration district, ED 14, household 76.

John Bellas was fortunately unharmed in the skirmishes around Kimberley and in 1903 returned to his family in County Durham. Again, this was only for a short time, but this time, Ann and the children accompanied John on his return to South Africa. Had Ann had enough of being left behind and insisted the family goes with him? Did she simply miss her husband and not want to be parted from him? The impetus for the move is unknown but Ann did pack up the family and she and the four children joined John Bellas on his return trip.

One can only imagine how much strength and courage this must have taken. Ann had never left County Durham and was now taking her children on a journey across the ocean to South Africa. She was 35 years old. The children were 14, 9, 6 and 4 years of age.

John and Ann would have another 5 children born in Kimberley, South Africa between 1903 and 1909. Unfortunately, three of the children died in infancy, two from influenza and one from meningitis. Ann had now buried 6 children (including John, the child she became a mother to upon marrying John Bellas).

Ann and John stayed in South Africa until July 1911. Boarding the steam ship ‘Durham Castle’ the family, with the exception of two of their children, traveled via Delagoa Bay, Mozambique to Southampton, London.5 Eldest son, Thomas, had been working in the Kimberley mines since he was 15 years old and stayed behind to continue working. Daughter Mary Hannah had married earlier in 1911 and also stayed behind. Ann left behind the tiny graves of the three children born in South Africa and her eldest son and a daughter. It surely must have been a difficult goodbye.

JohnBellas passenger
UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960, database with images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 April 2012), “Names and Description of British Passengers,” entry for John Bellas family, arrived 16 August 1911 on Durham Castle from Delagoa Bay.

Although John would make one more trip to South Africa in early 1912, Ann remained in County Durham. John returned to England in 1913 and rejoined the family. Ann lived to be 64 years old, passing away in Shiney Row, County Durham on 22 August 19306. John passed away in 1938.7

AnnWilson1866_Funeral
Funeral Notice for Ann Bellas

Ann was obviously a much beloved wife and mother and deeply missed as is shown in the memorials published in the newspaper by her husband and children from 1931 through 1940. Each year on the anniversary of her death, her husband and children placed an ‘In Memoriam’ piece in the local newspaper.8

AnneWilson1866_memoriam 1933

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 10 prompt: Strong Woman

  1. England, marriage certificate for John Bellas and Ann Wilson, married 25 June 1887, registered April quarter 1887, Houghton-le-Spring District 10a/600, Registry Office, Durham. 
  2. England, birth of John and Elizabeth Jane Bellas, born 14 May 1890; registered April quarter 1890, Durham District 10a/487, Houghton-le-Spring District, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. 
  3. England, birth of Mary Hannah Bellas, born 21 March 1893; registered April quarter 1893, Durham District 10a/503, Houghton-le-Spring District, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. 
  4. 1901 census of England, County Durham, Shiney Row, p. 12 (stamped), Annie Bellas; image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 April 2012); citing The National Archives, RG13, piece 4694, folio 55, p. 13; Houghton-le-Spring registration district, ED 14, household 76. 
  5. UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960, database with images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 April 2012), “Names and Description of British Passengers,” entry for John Bellas family, arrived 16 August 1911 on Durham Castle from Delagoa Bay. 
  6. England, death of Annie Bellas, 22 August 1930; registered September 1930, Durham District 10a/422, Houghton District, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. 
  7. England, death of John Bellas, 27 January 1938; registered March 1938, Durham District 10a/528, Houghton District, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. 
  8. “In Memoriam,” Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, Durham, England, 22 August 1933, p. 8, col. 1. 

‘Where there’s a (contested) will …Thomas Lantry of St. Lawrence Co., New York

ThomasLantry3

Well known as one of the first settlers in Massena, St. Lawrence county, New York, Thomas Lantry died at the age of 98 in August 1887. 1 He left an estate of some $35 000.00, equivalent to approximately $890 000.00 today.

ThomasLantry1
The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, October 13, 1887.

For the thirty years previous to Thomas’ death, he had been living with his son, Joshua Lantry and family. Thomas’ wife, Jane, died before 1880 and the rest of their children, all married, lived in their own homes. In 1872, at age 78, Thomas Lantry asked his nephew, Barnaby Lantry, to help draw up his will. Thomas Lantry left $500 dollars to each of his children and the bulk of the estate went to third oldest son, Joshua Lantry.

In May 1887, Joshua Lantry died suddenly of heart disease. 2 This meant his widow, Catherine and their children, would now inherit what Thomas Lantry had originally left to Joshua. Immediately, the other children of Thomas Lantry began to contest the will. They contended that the will was not properly executed, was not signed in the presence of the witnesses and declared the signature on the will to not be that of their father, Thomas. They also argued that the will was not properly published and that their father did not actually declare this his last will and testament. The contention to the will garnered a lot of attention from the county where almost all knew Thomas Lantry.

ThomasLantry2
The Sun, Fort Covington, New York, April 5, 1888.

Several newspaper articles were written, most favoring Joshua Lantry’s widow as the legal heir. Their sympathies lay with the family who had taken care of Thomas Lantry and his wife for over thirty years. Several hearings were held and the case finally argued in Norwood, St. Lawrence county in April 1888. The judge declared that the will was a valid document and that the principal property would go to the widow and heirs of Joshua Lantry.

Thomas Lantry was a well-respected and prominent citizen of St. Lawrence county, New York. Previously a shoemaker in Ireland, he had left there in his early 30s with his wife and two small sons. He arrived in St. Lawrence county around 1823. He managed to buy land in Massena and farmed there all his life. He became a wealthy man through hard work and determination. The Lantry family was well-regarded by all who knew them. It is hard to imagine that Thomas would have been happy with the contention surrounding his will.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 9 prompt: Where there’s a will …

 

 


  1. “Death of Thos. Lantry,” The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, St. Lawrence, New York, 13 October 1887, p. 5, col. 5. 
  2. No heading, The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, St. Lawrence, New York, 26 May 1887, p. 1, col. 6., Vol. XXII, No. 21.