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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William Clark Salt (1842-1939)

I’ve been more or less aware that William C. Salt had spent some amount of time in Washington, D.C. and that one or more of his children were born there.  This is in opposition to his having been born and raised in southwestern Ohio, and having lived a lot of his adult life there.  Every time I ran up against this discrepancy I’d wonder what the story was but never pursued looking into it.

Until I spent a week in Washington, D.C. last fall with Judy.  Most of our time was spent in the National Archives and I looked at a lot of Civil War pension files.  One of the files I got to, on the last day of our trip, was William’s application.  It was too late to make use of the Innovation Hub and scan the file, and I didn’t have the time or patience for photocopying any of it.  I did take some notes on what was in the file and information I might follow up on.

Said to have been born in 1842 in Bethel, Ohio, he enlisted in 10/13/1861 to serve in the Civil War.  He served in the 59th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was discharged on 11/1/1864.   He had lived on the family farm before enlisting and returned to farming in Ohio when he was discharged.  He was there for 4-5 years and then, for reasons not clear to me, went to Washington, D.C.  According to his brother’s affidavit in the pension file he was there for around ten years, until about 1879.

One of the first places I looked to find his whereabouts was the 1870 U.S. federal census.  I already had an image of the census sheet he was on and when I looked at it with a fresh eye I found that he was in Washington, D.C. on the 20th of July 1870.  Ross, Orlando - 1870, croppedHe was boarding in the household of Orlando Ross, his wife and young daughter, along with several others.  It turns out that Orlando Ross was William’s first cousin (Orlando’s father and William’s mother were brother and sister).  In addition, Phoebe Hawkins (another boarder) was the sister of Orlando’s wife.  And Orlando, William, Phoebe Hawkins, and Leontine Laking were all enumerated as clerks in the treasury department.  Huh.  What was that about and how did they get those jobs (especially the three who had been in Ohio just prior to this)?

A very little bit of digging tells me that the Department of the Treasury was a very busy place just after the Civil War in part because of the decision to begin printing paper money.  Originally the sheets of printed bills had to be cut apart by hand using  scissors, which led to the Department hiring women for this job.  Men were hired to do other tasks – and not surprisingly were paid twice what the women were paid.  ‘Nuff said.

This need for more workers is the likely explanation for the migration of my subjects of interest from Ohio to Washington.  I wonder if there were flyers or ads in local newspapers that alerted Orlando and William to the opportunity, or perhaps letters from a friend or relative already in Washington.

So far I know nothing else about what William did in the Department of the Treasury and why he stayed for the length of time he did, or why he decided to move back to Ohio.  City directories I have found so far show me that he was listed in Washington, always as a clerk, through 1878.  I also know that he was back in Ohio, farming, by the federal census of 1880.

In between, he married Phoebe Hawkins, they had a son, and both Phoebe and the baby died, within a year of the marriage.  This marriage and her death were documented in his Civil War pension file.  They were also reported in the Genealogy of the Salt Family that William wrote at some point (likely late in his life).  Interestingly he did not note that it happened in Washington.  He also reported his second marriage to Minnie Hunter and the birth of their children, again without any statement about Washington (where they met and were married and where several of their children were born).  A later “rearranging” and adding to by Ruth Baker, William’s granddaughter, in 1946 added the location of Phoebe’s and the baby’s burial in Washington.  William and Minnie had lived with Ruth and her parents in the last few years of their lives.

There were several newspaper articles about William that also provide some information about his life.  In 1923 William and Minnie celebrated their Golden Anniversary which was reported.  In 1930 William reluctantly retired from his career as an editor of a trade journal in Cincinnati and the newspaper detailed his work life.  He started on his father’s farm at about age 7 and worked continuously at one thing and another until he was persuaded to retire by his children at just shy of 88 years old.  He had farmed after returning from Washington, D.C. until he was about 60 and then came to Cincinnati to make a new career.  He found work in a printing company and from about age 60-87 he worked there, enjoying the tasks and contacts and staying in touch with what was going on in the world.    The article about his retirement (which I assume he was interviewed for) noted that he still had his wife and 7 children around him and that he had only mourned the loss of one grandchild in his years.  No mention of his first wife and son, although I wonder if it was the loss of his son rather than a grandchild that he referred to.

Likewise, his obituary upon his death 10 years later at age 97 did not mention Phoebe or the baby.  I can only guess that his children had not heard much (or anything) about Phoebe.  Certainly he and Minnie were married for a significant amount of time, something more than 60 years.  She survived his death by only a few months.

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You Never Know What You’ll Find If You Look Again!

I have learned this lesson more than once, and can still be surprised when I look again for a record I don’t have and – to my delight! – I discover what I have been doggedly searching for is now found.  The last time I made a focused search for my grandfather Lyle’s birth record was probably two years ago.  When Judy and I went to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in September 2015 I searched (before online and again while there looking at microfilms) for Lyle’s record with no success.

It just happened to me again, although truth be told I wasn’t even actually looking for the record.  I was adding some of my Denman family to the tree on Family Search for an English cousin to be able to see.  When I added my grandfather, Lyle Minor Denman, the rest of the tree was already there and I was connected to it.  As I looked at my grandfather and then his father’s information on this tree, I saw that my great grandfather, F.A. Denman, was listed on a record for Lyle’s birth.  (I had focused on F.A. because he has been listed on the tree as Frank A. or F.A. and the Frank always bothers me because I never heard that as a name for him.)

Seeing this listing of F.A.’s son’s birth, I looked on for the birth records, using the full name of Lyle Minor Denman (not sure this made any difference).  It turns out that the collection of records and images (presumably including the indexing) was only updated in October, 2016, so a full year after I was there and after my searching.

What I discovered was that Lyle had applied to have his birth registered as a delayed registration, in 1942 although he was born in 1896, making him 46 years old at the time.  His older sister Helen whose birth is also nowhere to be found did not apparently ever apply for a delayed registration.  This makes some sense as she died in 1926 at age 31, so likely never had a need.

There are actually two different records, both of which now have images available, that show Lyle applied for and was granted the delayed birth registration, as of March 11, 1942.  Grandpa Lyle had to be examined in open court as to the facts, which were found to be supported by the affidavits of two credible witnesses.  With this done, his birth was duly ordered to be registered.  The information was sent to the Ohio Department of Health.

Aside from now having evidence of Lyle’s birth, the first thing of interest to me on these images was who the witnesses were.  One was indeed Lyle’s father F.A. Denman and the other was his aunt Nellie Minor Shelton (Lyle’s mother’s sister).  Since I’m pretty certain that F.A. Denman was present in the house for his birth (if not the room, and I don’t know about that), this seems like usable primary evidence.  I don’t know whether Nellie was present for the birth, but she was living nearby.

I am amused to see that both witnesses’ affidavits were notarized by one Doris Graves who just happened to be the younger daughter of F.A. Denman and thus also the niece of Nellie Shelton.  They were all living in Wakeman, Ohio so that was certainly convenient.

What remains to try to discover is just why Lyle went to the trouble of registering his birth at this time.  The first idea that comes to me is that the required “Old Man’s” or Fourth Registration for the Selective Service for World War II happened in April of 1942.  Would Lyle have needed to be sure his birth was registered in order to prove his age for that registration?   He apparently didn’t need to for the first World War which he registered for and then served in the Army for briefly.

The other thought I have had is that he was preparing to apply for a Social Security number (which went into effect in 1936 but he might not have been covered until later; depending on his employer and what his job was there were many exclusions).  The Social Security Death Index notes he applied in Ohio before 1951, so it seems that if I want to find out I will need to request his application (SS-5).  I’ll think about it.  In the meantime, my itch to have evidence for his birth has been satisfied.

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