Visiting Texas – What I Saw

When I thought about our visit to Texas as a genealogy trip, there were several things I wanted to learn.  Although my cousins and their parents, and my grandparents for the last parts of their lives, had lived in Texas it is not an ancestral location.  They were the first of our family to live there.  This meant that I had no urgent wish to visit an archives or library or courthouse.  However, my grandparents had died in Texas and been buried there.  I knew from what their grave marker looked like but I wanted to see it for myself.  I also wanted to discover where my uncle and aunt were buried and see their final resting places.  I had been told that there were old family pictures to go through and looked forward to that.  And lastly, I wanted to clear up some questions I had about my aunt’s family.  Most importantly, the three cousins there had worked out a plan to get us all together for a day to eat and talk.  I wanted time with all of them.

Since this was the first time in 60 years that we had been to Texas, my sister and I also hoped to see a little of the area and do a tourist-y thing or two.  There was the San Antonio River Walk for example.  Maybe the hill country.  The missions.  Mexican food was high on my list.  It seemed as if there would be plenty to keep us busy for a few days.  So our plans started to shape up.

My grandpa Lyle and his wife Cena (as well as his last wife, Hazel) are buried at the Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery.  This is a very large National Cemetery but we had the location information so we knew (at least theoretically) what we were looking for.  It turned out to be easier than we had feared (although huge, the sections and a few landmarks like chapels were well marked) and we had a map of the cemetery.  We had an interesting time wandering a little in the general area of grandpa Lyle’s section.  Luckily my sister, and it turned out my cousin too, didn’t have any objections to reading stones and thinking about the people and their lives.  Here are views of 2017-10-20 12.07.29IMG_2539grandpa Lyle’s stone and the back of it which memorializes his wives.

I think we were all struck by the number of service members who had served in multiple wars.  The majority we saw were relatively recent – from World War I to present – however there are reportedly much older sections since this cemetery and military base go back to the earliest days of Texas.

2017-10-21 13.12.45The Mexican food, in particular, came for lunch at the end of the River Walk and then again as brunch with the whole family.  Lunch was at La Gloria at the Pearl, and we had a table-top full of good things to eat and, of course, a margarita.  That truly felt decadent and like we were on vacation!  And of course the only pictures I took were of the decorations outside while we waited for a table.

The brunch was breakfast burritos and fresh tomatoes and avocados brought by my cousin to start our day together off.  What a treat!!  This is not your typical (or easily available) Sunday brunch in Massachusetts!  They also had the advantage of being pretty easily portable so we could wander around talking with various folks at the same time.  I can’t say enough about the wonderful hospitality of all of my cousins in Texas.

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Visiting Our Denman Cousins for the First Time in Forever

In the last couple of years or so I (and some of my siblings) have started re-connecting with my only first cousins, on Facebook.  We had all been completely out of touch for many (many!) years, only occasionally hearing via our shared grandfather or parents something about one or another of us.  I’m not all that clear about how we got so out of touch but it seemed as if it were always  “the grownups” responsibility to communicate and not “the kids”.  As children and young adults we wrote brief notes, thank you notes, occasional letters to our uncle and aunt or grandparents but I don’t remember ever writing to my cousins.

Having made contact with my slightly older female cousin in particular, and having figured out how to have real time conversations (messaging, texting, actually talking on the phone), I happened to tell her last Spring that I was getting ready to retire fully in July and hadn’t decided yet what I was going to do with myself.  Her immediate comeback was “Well you could come to Texas to visit of course.”  I was struck – this was not an idea that had occurred to me.  However, I was immediately taken with the idea, and committed to convincing my older sister to join me.  I knew she would like the idea, and that my husband wouldn’t.  (Further, he had a golf trip to Scotland planned for October and was himself working toward closing his office and retiring, so was unlikely to be eager to travel to visit family he had never met.)  My sister and I would have an adventure!

To make a long story short, as my father always said, my sister Margaret agreed it was a fine idea and we started making plans. My cousin D. also very generously offered to put us up and to play tour guide for us.  (This is the kind of thing she says her mother always did, but she hadn’t had much opportunity.)  Discussion about all the various schedules and weather brought us to focus on traveling after peak foliage time in the Northeast, the second half of October.  We thought the temperatures in Texas would be moderating then (being North-easterners we don’t do high heat and humidity very well) and it worked for all of us in terms of other commitments and plans.  Done and done.  We didn’t take hurricanes into account.  Thankfully, for them, and luckily for our travel plans, the hurricanes that hit Texas this Fall did not get as far up into Texas as where they all live with anything but manageable rains and moderated winds.

Texas 1957bWhen we started talking about how long had it been since we saw each other, I brought out my picture  of the entire family visiting in Texas from 1957 as a starting point.  My sister and I were pretty sure that they had visited us in Indiana, maybe the summer before our trip to Texas, and maybe once more after that trip.  They had always lived in southern Texas, and we had always lived in central Indiana or eastern Massachusetts.  These were long distances to travel in those days (somewhere between 1200-1300 driving miles), and with young families and little vacation time it was difficult to visit.  Our families did not fly for vacations in those days.  Funnily enough, the cousins had about the same conversations that Margaret and I had about how long, and what information we had put together about the cousins families etc.

When we arrived, and D. had picked us up, the talking started.  It was so easy and comfortable, almost like we had known each other all along.  And since we returned home, I have taken great pleasure in telling our brothers and friends about the trip and how long it had been since we’d seen each other.  Only after the trip did it occur to me just what a risk it might have been both for D. and for us.  I hope she feels, as I do, that it was a great trip and well worth the effort.

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First Burial Ground, Woburn, Massachusetts: My First Visit

Sorting through a box of stuff sent to me a number of years ago by my aunt in Texas led me to start reviewing what information I have on my Snow family line.  This is the line of my maternal grandmother, Bricena Annet Snow.  According to a compiled genealogy done by her brother Frank, probably in the late 1930s, we go back to a Richard Snow who settled in Woburn by the mid-1640s.  Another early settler.  I have had this line sketched in for a number of years, based on another copy of this manuscript, but not pursued documenting it much.  So I don’t have all the evidence making all the connections.

Last week we wanted to take advantage of the lovely Fall weather and I came up with the idea of looking for the early Snow burials in Woburn, which isn’t far away.  I had a memory that Richard Snow, and perhaps his wife and son Samuel (my ancestor) had been buried in the first cemetery there.  We found the name of the cemetery, the First Burial Ground, and its location and drove off to find it.  It turned out to be (not surprisingly) close to the center of town.  It also turned out to be surrounded by a First Burial Ground, Main Gate - 2017 11 09-3tall metal fence with a gate – that had a padlock on it.

What to do?  The sign over the gate only gives the date of the cemetery (1642) and lists the Woburn Cemetery Commission.  There are no telephone numbers or instructions about who to contact.  Since we were in the center of town we went over to Town Hall and asked in the Town Clerk’s office.  A very helpful woman there said to call a person and gave me the name and telephone number.  She said that I would need to ask to have someone unlock the gate for me.  When I called I got voicemail and so had to leave a message.  I did, having only learned that I had a name and number for the Cemetery Commission.  We had also been told that the office for the Commission was in the big cemetery in town that is currently used, so we decided to ride over and see if we could find the office.

We found the cemetery (not hard to do with good directions), and drove around looking for the office.  We eventually saw a sign pointing to the office and followed it, finally finding the place.  It was locked up (even though the sign out front said it was open from 9-4 and it wasn’t yet 4PM).  At that point we gave up for the day and started home.

Once home I was able to find an email contact for the Commission (same person I had left a voice mail for) online and sent off a message with essentially the same information as a back up.  I got a response back later the same day, with the information that someone had to meet me at the First Burial Ground gate to unlock it for me, and that was possible Monday-Friday during normal working hours (except for the intervening Veteran’s Day holiday).  I was able to go back the next morning and after calling her and waiting, she unlocked the gate and I was entrusted with the unlocked padlock.  She only asked that I replace it and re-lock the gate when I was finished.  (She also said to call her if there were any problems with anyone else coming in while I was there.)  The fence and gate are intended to help protect the old stones and to prevent foot traffic using it as a shortcut.

As part of the celebration of the Woburn 375th town anniversary, the First Burial Ground was restored (including the low stone wall and the addition of the iron fence) and re-dedicated in a special Memorial Day ceremony this past May.  The newspaper article linked to above notes that ground-penetrating radar was used to help locate 431 unmarked graves.  Once in the cemetery I went up to see the listing of the named gravestones and to look at the map on the other side of the display that showed all the found graves (marked and unmarked).  This is the map and the red dots show the numerous unmarked graves. Finding out more about this is on my to-do list.

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Ann Justice Salt (1830-1905)

Ann Justice Salt is my second great grandmother.  She was born inRM-Salt, Ann J - nd, young Clermont county, Ohio in 1830 – presumably on the family farm – the third child of Ruhama Blackman and Savil Justice.  The two older siblings died before she was 20 years old, as did the youngest child born to Ruhama and Savil.

The family story is that it was her older sister, Amanda Justice, who was engaged to marry Edward Wilshire Salt in about 1850.  Amanda had been out nursing a young neighbor couple with cholera, and came home infected with it herself.  She died quickly after her first symptoms, in August 1850, and was laid out and buried in the dress she was to have been married in.   I have never seen a date that Amanda’s wedding was to have been, but Wilshire married Ann in February 1851.  Given that Amanda had a dress for her wedding already in August, I suspect that the wedding was supposed to be close to then.

Wilshire was 27 and Ann was 20 when they married.  He had been farming, on land next to his father’s, and he and Ann presumably lived where he had been living.  They mostly lived in the Salt house built by Wilshire’s father John, but the timing of their moving in isn’t clear (and happened between federal census years).  They might have moved in with the older couple immediately after their marriage, but I suspect that it was some years later.  John Salt’s third wife died in 1857 and it would make sense that it have been around that time that Wilshire and Ann moved in.

By the end of 1857, Ann had borne 4 children. one of whom had died as an infant.  The last child, a son, born to Ann and Wilshire was born in 1860 and named for his father.  Then, her young husband, who seemed in the best of health, complained of feeling bad and died within the hour (as I was told by a cousin).  Edward Wilshire Salt died in 1864 at age 40.  I have not yet found any record of his death (except on his gravestone) so don’t know if this is an accurate report of what happened.

After her husband’s death Ann moved with her children to New Richmond Ohio for a short while, and her daughter Jessie Belle attended the Parker’s Academy.  While there Jessie Belle contracted Typhoid and only lived a week, dying at age 14 in 1866.  At the time of the 1870 census, Ann and her sons were still in New Richmond and all three were in school – perhaps the Academy.  It is said by my cousin that the remaining next child (son Savil, named after Ann’s father) had tuberculosis (not uncommon in this time period) and although they tried sending him south for his health, it did not help and he died at age 23 in 1879.  By the 1880 census Ann and her remaining two sons were back at the farm in Saltair and her sons were working as farm laborers.

Her older remaining son, Clifford, married in 1883 (see post about Katie Coffin Salt) and the young couple lived on the farm with Ann.  Katie and her two young children remained there after Clifford’s accident and subsequent institutionalization and Ann lived with them.  Ann continued to live on the farm even after Katie and her children moved out, dying there in 1905.  She had never remarried and had managed to raise her children without much financial help.  As her obituary said she was uncomplaining about this and worked earnestly to do her best.

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Coffin Family Diary: Saturday Aug. 29, 1885



Saturday, Aug. 29, 1885. The idea of keeping the family diary was suggested by a newspaper article, and the purpose is to chronicle the doings, happenings and incidences of the family, and is to include all matters of interest of that kind. This, therefore, is not to be an individual diary but a family diary, and it is to be kept jointly by A.B.B. and Daisy. [This entry was written by A.B.B. or Anthony B. Burton.  In 1885 the family at home consisted of Z.B. Coffin, Jessie Coffin Dalton, Richard or Dick Dalton, Belle and Daisy Dalton, and Anthony Burton – more or less an adopted son of Z. B. Coffin]

It seems a good time to commence it with some account of the boating party of last night, which will be looked back upon for a long while as an event. It will be distinguished as Jessie’s (Mamma’s) party for it was her idea and getting up and all the arrangements and invitations were hers. The big skiff or rowboat “Wenonah” was engaged and all who were invited were on hand and went off with the exception of Robert Gilmore, Miss Mattie Davis and Rob Dodsworth. The following composed the party: Misses Carrie Keefer and Kate Tiernan, Mrs. Weiner, Jessie, Belle, Daisy, Frank Kiefer, Willie Saunders, Mr. Chas Robinson, Eddie Schenk, Z.B.C., W.H.J., R.J.D.; and A.B.B. We got off about half past seven and rowed up to the sandbar just at the upper edge of Dayton. Landed and made a fire with some kindling and coal taken along; put up some poles and lighted a lot of Chinese lanterns and strung them up; spread the cloth on the sand; two half-gallon jars full of chocolate made by Sophie, had been made and brought along, and one of these was put inside of a coffee pot full of water and put on the fire to get hot; this was successfully accomplished and the other jar was put in to get hot but it was soon discovered that the boiling water had broken the jar and the chocolate was diffused through the water! Belle suggested that we turn a bottle of milk we had along into the coffee pot and boil it all up together. This was done and the drink was not bad to take, and had the advantage of being lots of it! After sandwiches, cake, chocolate has been discussed, we had a sing, Frank Kiefer proving a capital singer.

“Bring back my Bonnie to me “

The moon came up and after a while we packed up and got back into the boat, and floated all the way down, singing college songs, negro songs, sentimental songs, comic songs and every other kind. Arrived back home, we sung out in front a while and then went into the house and had a cut-up until quarter past twelve this morning. Altogether, the excursion was voted a great success. Jessie had been sick and it was an effort for her to go last night, but she is none the worse today for the trip.

This afternoon R.J.D., Belle, Daisy, Carrie K., and little Bernard and Lucy Coffin went out to the zoo to see Capt. Boyton, tickets presented by Aunt Lucy O’S.  [I did a quick internet search, and think this Capt. Boyton was performing some sort of an exhibition in the water, perhaps with a custom wetsuit.]

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