Sea LettersStackpole-cover_thumb.  Letters and Journals of the Captain Andrew Pinkham family of Nantucket and Ohio, 1813-1870.. By Renny A. Stackpole. Published by Maine Authors Publishing. 2013. 161 pages.

Mr. Stackpole writes in his introduction, “Sea Letters reflects this writer’s experiences exploring the letters of the Andrew Pinkham family of Nantucket, who emigrated  from their island home at the outbreak of the War of 1812.  They and eleven other families from Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard sought a new life in the rich farmlands of the Ohio valley.”

Mr. Stackpole writes about Captain Andrew Pinkham and his wife Deborah Bunker and their sons, focusing on detailing the lives of their sons, two of whom were in naval or merchant service.  He had access to a number of letters written to and from them, and a variety of other written materials including journals and diaries.  He weaves a narrative story of a period of history of this country and of the times of these people from a large collection of papers.   From Mr. Stackpole’s extensive knowledge of the family and the places, he is able to make inferences as to the Pinkhams’  thoughts and actions.

Captain Andrew Pinkham, in the honored tradition of Nantucket, was a seasoned mariner who had pursued whales in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.  He also served as the master of merchant vessels, sailing from New Bedford and from London at different times.  He was gone for long stretches of time, leaving his wife Deborah with 4 sons to raise.

Mr. Stackpole describes, briefly but persuasively, the experiences of the people of Nantucket from the American Revolution to the War of 1812 and the hardships they endured.  The ships of Nantucket, which provided most of its income, had suffered great losses of life and money during this period history and therefore the population of Nantucket had suffered.  Ships were captured or sunk, sailors were impressed into service by enemy ships, cargoes and the money they represented were lost.  Having endured his own losses, in the Fall of 1812 Captain Andrew Pinkham decided to move his family from Nantucket to the country, to Clermont County, Ohio where he purchased land.

I was immediately interested in this book when I saw this connection between Nantucket and Ohio.  This is the time period when my Coffin family made the same move and I have long wondered about their motivation.  There are tantalizing clues in this book from the brief history given in the Introduction and first chapter, and references to letters written between those who had traveled already to Ohio and those still in Nantucket which promise to answer some of my questions.

Mr. Stackpole’s book will appeal to early Ohio and Nantucket historians, as well as those interested in life on the seas and naval history.  The use of so many letters (and careful references), which are written so well, gives us a window into lives and events as they happened, and will likely draw an even wider audience.

The following is an excerpt from the transcription of an interview between my mother and Ruhama Brown Fagley dated 26 Sep 1984. Ruhama gave a brief history of the Salt and Ely family relationsips.

“My mother was a cousin of Clifford Salt through the Justice family. His mother was Ann Justice and she married Wilshire Salt. My mother’s mother was Elizabeth or Lizzie and she married John Francis Marion Ely. The Ely family had come from England as the Coffin family had. Different parts of England. My mother chummed with Savil Salt who was her age and, being an only child, it was wonderful to have a cousin her age. After Wilshire Salt’s death in his forties [It was in 1864, and he was just 40 years old.], Aunt Ann wanted her children to have a better education so she rented her farm at Salt Air, Ohio, and moved over to New Richmond, Ohio. And her children could have a better education. It was while they were there that, as I recall, my mother said, that Savil went down with a cold of some kind, possibly pneumonia and died.” [The 1880 mortality schedule of the census listed consumption as the cause of death.]

“It was a very hard blow for my mother at that age when she was teaching school and caring for two parents who were neither very well. She was riding horseback four miles to teach the primary grades in Bethel at twenty dollars a month.”

The Salt family and the Ely family both lived in New Richmond during the period of time from about 1864-1873. So Mary Ruhama had the company of her cousins, the Salts, for much of her growing up years. After the Panic of 1873, the large store called Hitch, Ely and Ely in New Richmond, Ohio, went bankrupt. One of the two Ely’s in this partnership was Mary Ruhama Ely’s father, John F.M. Ely. He had a breakdown of some sort as a result (was in poor health) and never was able to work again. John had been a storekeeper in several locations in southwestern Ohio, with the New Richmond store the largest and last. The family moved back to the Bantam area and the Justice farm.

Ruie Ely

Mary Ruhama had just graduated from the 8th grade, and she went to work as a teacher, at somewhere between 14 and 16 years old. She started out teaching a summer school “with a certificate on the back of which was written grades for a ’3 years Certificate only good six month, too young. Don’t give her a school.’” That was the beginning of “Miss Ruie’s” career as a teacher. For some period of time she was the only wage-earner for her family and she helped care for two invalid parents. Ruie described these days as “strenuous” but she did the best she could and never shirked.

I just got a copy of a history of her family that Ruie started writing on her 67th birthday, a treasure I did not know existed until I found it on my recent trip to Ohio. Thank you to the Batavia branch of the Clermont County Public Library and to the Clermont County Genealogical Society which maintains its collection there. Ruie was a writer for her entire adult life, filling a column of local news about Bantam for the Clermont Sun, for 50 years. She had taught until she married and then had to quit. Women in those days were not allowed to continue to teach once they were married. She did not describe in her memoir how she and her husband met, or their courting, but she did describe their wedding. Mary Ruhama Ely and George Tibbitts Brown were married on the 2nd of June 1885 in the evening in the old brick house she had been born in, the house of her maternal grandparents Savil (called Samuel in the memoir by Ruie for some reason – I have always seen him called Savil) and Ruhama Justice. They were standing in almost the same spot that her parents had stood to be married, in front of the parlor’s old carved mantle, with many friends and family around them.

George Tibbitts Brown family

Ruie and Tib Brown went on to have 5 children, and lived long and productive lives. Here is a picture of them and all the children standing in front of their house. I don’t know exactly when this picture was taken, but the youngest girl (Ruhama) was born in 1901. I’m guessing it might have been a Christmas picture.

Well we made it to Ohio and back again without mishap or incident. It was something of a whirlwind tour and I sort of feel like I have returned from one of those tours “if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium”. Why? Put simply: we were in Ohio from Sunday afternoon to Thursday afternoon and visited 10 cemeteries. Only 9 if a repeat visit to one is only counted as one cemetery. My sister is a saint! And we didn’t do anything on Thursday but get ourselves to the airport, return the rental car, and travel.

So here are some of the highlights of where we went and what we saw there. The first day, Sunday, we found the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. It is a huge beautiful cemetery that is also an arboretum and is a National Historic Landmark. Spring Grove is where my immediate Coffin relatives are buried along with one of the Justice lines and those who married into the family. We were lucky enough to run into a once-a-month tram tour as we reached the visitor center, so we jumped on and were treated to a tour of part of the cemetery with a docent providing some history and talking about various kinds of headstones or memorials and the symbols used. It was a perfect introduction and I learned a little too. One of the sites we passed was the stone for Salmon P. Chase, which I had wanted to see because I have started reading Goodwin’s book on Lincoln, A Team of Rivals. After the tour we went wandering on our own and managed to find most of the family, including gg-grandfather Z. B. Coffin and his wife, my g-grandmother Katie Salt, and ggggrandparents Jesse and Susan Justice. We also found Levi Coffin’s headstone – he was an abolitionist and deeply involved in the Underground Railroad.

Monday was the biggest cemetery day. We were in two before lunch and 3 (or 4 if the old and new Calvary cemeteries count as separate) after lunch. We also had a great time sitting talking and looking at pictures with a cousin. I now have a really good reason for needing a Flip-Pal scanner. I would have loved to scan a number of the photos she had. After the photos we all went cemetery walking. This is when we found the memorial for

John Salt

John and Nancy Salt, son of our immigrant ancestor Edward Salt, in the Old Calvary Cemetery in Washington Township. Our cousin told us that there had originally been a separate flat stone for Nancy (who died first) that included where she was born and other genealogical information, but at some point it disappeared.

Tuesday we were up and at it again. We stopped first at the Visitor Center in Batavia (the county seat) and got some good information as well as directions to the Batavia Cemetery. We couldn’t resist going to see it, even though I don’t know of any relatives there. The weather was beautiful and it was a good day for walking a cemetery. We moved on to the Old Settler’s Cemetery in Bethel and found relatives as well as some good symbols and poems on the stones. My sister’s camera battery gave out and she was busy copying information while I took as many pictures as I could. After lunch we went back to the Tate Township Cemetery (where we’d been on Monday) to look for some of the other relatives and spent several hours in the sun (which was not a great idea – I sunburned my arms having not thought to put on sunscreen). With lots of walking and Margaret contributing her amazing ability to spot names, we found many of the people on my list. We finished the day with a stop at the County Library branch in Bethel, enjoying the cooler air, and browsing their local history/genealogy section.

Our last full day there we went back to Batavia and the Visitor Center, and stopped at one of the houses on the Freedom Trail (Underground Railroad and abolitionist sites). We spent most of the morning in the County Library branch in Batavia (the Doris Wood branch) where the Clermont County Genealogical Society keeps their collection of materials. Learned some more history of the area and read about several of our families, sticking to materials that are not available anywhere else. I found a manuscript about one of my Justice lines, that I didn’t know existed. I also found a copy of a diary that I did know about but I think is a different version (at least seems to include material I don’t remember).

The jackpot on Wednesday was visiting with Boothby cousins and being taken to see the old Salt homestead, the house my father was born in. We had seen the house forty or more years ago when it was not being lived in, and knew it had been renovated since then and recently for sale. Our cousin pulled into the driveway so we could see better, and there were people home so we got out. It turns out that a young couple recently bought the house and 40 acres and are happily settling in to do some organic farming along with their full time jobs. The woman was home and showed us around the whole inside, asking questions based on what she had been told about the house. They are interested in old houses and want to know this one’s history. We tried to answer her questions when we could and I hope she is going to send me a computer file of some of the materials she was given about the house. It’s nice to think of a young couple and their daughter enjoying the place, and appreciating the house’s history.

I’m getting ready for a trip to southwestern Ohio with my sister, who is a reliable cemetery

Ready to go!

sidekick. We’ve been traveling together occasionally for a lo-ong time. It is appropriate that I post this today, the day after Father’s Day in the US, since it is my father’s side of the family that we will be researching (and meeting). There are several cousins who I have met briefly but whom my sister has not. I am already connected and making plans with two of these. And I’m hoping for the 3d, although I think he has had significant health problems and may not be up for company.

My sister and I met for lunch on Friday to talk and catch up and make some plans. Long-distance (she lives in northern New Hampshire and I live in Massachusetts) we have put together the basics to get ourselves there and have a car and a place to lay our heads. But we needed to touch base in person and pin down details. I also needed to start refreshing her knowledge of these family lines, since we have only traveled to places for my mother’s lines in the last few years.

Here’s the plan, in a nutshell. There are several cemeteries I want to check out personally and try to get pictures of family headstones in. There are also 3 houses that my father lived in at different times in his

House at Saltair, from Carrie B. Salt’s scrapbook

life, that I want to see – if they are still there. The house he was born in, in Saltair Ohio, I know is still there. The owner just recently sold it. This is what it looked like when he was born there.

And there are the cousins to see, on both the Salt and Boothby sides. Not closer than a second cousin, but family! Interesting to me that my father never spoke of any Boothby relatives except maybe his grandmother who he lived with off and on. I don’t really know if he knew any of his Boothby cousins or uncles, although at least one uncle and his family must have lived close-by. I start to wonder if that was his mother’s doing, or his relatives on the Salt side.

Besides seeing the houses my father probably lived in, I really want to do some cemetery-walking and see the headstones for the family. I know there are at least two very old cemeteries and at least one more recent that contain a number of the Salt family members. I don’t have a proper “cemetery exploring kit” to take on the plane with me but am putting together my list of names and locations as well as the list of equipment to have along.

The equipment grows every year, in my experience. Let’s see, I need my cell phone and bluetooth earpiece and the charger for that. I need my trusty pocket-size digital camera and the extra battery, and probably should take the charger for those batteries. I have had bad experiences in the past with this camera and batteries when I wasn’t prepared to change batteries! And although my sister will also undoubtedly have her camera, I hate to

Partial pile of equipment to take

have to rely on hers. And then the question of binoculars – do I need to take them or not? (At least they don’t require a charger.) And my handy-dandy digital recorder. I might think about talking into it at the cemeteries as an additional way to have information captured. And the cousins might agree to tell me stories. The recorder at least will operate on a single non-rechargeable battery. I think that is all the equipment I will need. Oh wait, not for the cemetery, but for traveling I will want my eReader. And its charger should probably come along too. And of course I need to take my netbook computer along. I don’t yet have an iPad, although both Judy and my husband are working hard to convince me that I need one. The picture doesn’t show either my netbook or my cell phone (which I used to take the picture), or the binoculars that I am debating with myself about. I think I might need a separate suitcase for all of this equipment.

This doesn’t include the other things I need to take, like clothes and a toothbrush and a book or two (I like to read real books as well as ebooks). And sunscreen. And…

© 2009-2014 The Genealogy Gals All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright