Pat and I are getting ready for another adventure at the Connecticut State Library and Archives in Hartford.

My goal in Hartford is to continue to learn about the Davies family of New Haven.  You can read about the Davies mansion here.  This time around I am hoping to finish looking at John Davies’ will and to trace the ownership of the Davies property back another generation or two.  Pat has other goals and will no doubt tell you about them when she posts an update on our trip next week.

We have improved our already wonderful trips to Hartford by renting a hotel room and eating and drinking a lot after the Library closes.  It’s so much fun to combine my two favorite things—genealogy and eating and drinking a lot.

My computer has been covered in plastic all week as we are having a lot of work done on our house.  I have no access to my boxes of stuff and only limited time to look at my genealogy database, so I am reposting the story of our first wonderful trip to Hartford.

Pat and Judy Go to Hartford

Judy wrote this and sent me the draft to look at and I couldn’t resist adding my own comments.  She was nice enough to say she liked them, so they’re still here.  I am putting my words in italics so you can tell the difference – as if we didn’t sound different enough anyway.

Pat and I went to Hartford a couple of weeks ago.  She came west; I went east [actually it was north and east and I went south and west]; we met in the middle [well, it isn’t exactly the middle but who’s counting?]. To be more specific we met at the Connecticut State Library and Archive.  This is what the very impressive front of the building looks like. 

It was a magic day from start to finish.  The weather was good, [it was a gorgeous day, and we didn’t get lost getting there], we found parking easily, and then there was the library and the librarians.

I don’t know why I haven’t been in this place before.  It is chock full of wonderful things, mostly Connecticut things, but some for the rest of New England as well.  There are plenty of microfilm readers, all in working condition and set so it isn’t necessary to crane your neck at a 50-degree angle to see the screen.  There is a scanner that allows you to take digital images of microfilm records and save them to a flash drive or email them home. I made a living on that scanner.  This is a picture of our favorite microfilm scanner; Judy did actually let me use it at the end of the day.  I just love being able to take home digital files of my finds.  Now I just need to transcribe the estate papers I found.

For me the second best things were the probate records and the land records.

The best things aren’t things, they’re people, the wonderful librarians who inhabit the place.  They are extremely knowledgeable and eager to share that knowledge.  I received many helpful suggestions for my research.  Equally amazing to me was the patience exhibited by everyone with whom I had contact.  From making the equipment work to finding records they were unfailingly kind and helpful.  They were wonderful.  And very willing and able to orient us to the collection.  I even got a quick tour of the stacks, which are open, at the end of the day.  This went beyond what I expected. 

I am not a patient person.  When I asked a librarian where the land records were located she did not reply, as I almost certainly would have, “Try over there under the extremely large sign that says ‘LAND RECORDS’.” No, instead she led me the twenty feet across the room, probably convinced that I wouldn’t make it on my own, and showed me the cabinet with the microfilm.  “What town are you interested in?” she asked.  “New Haven,” I replied.  “They’re right here,” she said, not adding, “In the drawer with the large label that says NEW HAVEN.”  Then she said the magic words, “Some of the records are indexed.  Oh look, New Haven is indexed.  Let me explain how the index works.”

I have been waiting hundreds of years, maybe longer, for the records I want to be the ones that are indexed.  I’m sure every genealogist knows the feeling.  My records are never the ones that have been indexed.  My records are the ones that require me to look through miles of microfilm to find them and once found they are the ones that broke the camera, were poorly filmed, with terrible contrast, or simply the ones with the words “missing page” where they ought to be.

What did I find?  If you read this blog regularly you know of my obsession with the Davies mansion and the people who lived there.  If you’re not a regular reader and you’re interested try this link to my earlier post.

My main interest was the Minor family, that first settled in Connecticut in the middle 1600s.  Great-great-grandpa Charles Minor was allegedly born in Meriden, Connecticut in 1837 but he doesn’t show up in the Barbour Collection there or anywhere else, which he should.  I was hoping to find some record of him and his family.  I started with wills and estates, looking for the earliest family members and hoping to be able to then trace forward.  I know this is backward, but I can’t resist. 

I now have scanned copies of about 65 of the 167 pages of John M. Davies will and probate records.  I’ll go back and copy the rest of it soon.  I scanned several probate and estate records for Minors and was excited to find one for G-G-Grandpa Charles’ own G-G-Grandfather Daniel (my 5th great grandfather) with names of his children and wife.  There are more to get, and I haven’t touched the land records yet.

The land records showed me John Davies purchase of the land where the house now stands.  He bought the land from Cornelia Hillhouse.  The name Hillhouse means little if you’re not from around here, lots if you are.  This is a very old and historic name in both New Haven and Connecticut.  You will be hearing about this in future posts, so I will just say that Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven was once referred to by Mark Twain as “the most beautiful street in America.” It’s still high on the list in my opinion.

It was difficult to tear ourselves away, but when we reached the point that our bodies were starting to digest themselves we stopped for lunch.  We asked the librarians if we could leave our stuff strewn about for a little while and get some lunch.  They not only let us leave our stuff piled on tables, they directed us to a fast lunch place.  We sat and enjoyed each other’s company for a bit and then hastened back to work until they gently pushed us out the door, as they shut the lights off.  My request to move in was gently but firmly denied.  We’ll be back.

We actually did go back a second time, and I expect we will become regulars.  Too bad they won’t rent us cots for a week or two.

 

I have decided to name it the Shelton Images Collection. I am going to make it my first fully described archived collection. It is a small self-contained set, so I should be able to accomplish this. I know how important it is to do this, partly from wishing the person I obtained any materials from had done it for me. Alas, when pieces from family members get passed down, in dribs and drabs, that doesn’t often happen. Not in my family anyway. I aspire to do better.

This collection of images is different from most of my others. I obtained them from eBay, all at one time, with a very short description attached. Here’s how it happened. When I started listening to Lisa Louise Cooke’s podcast, one of her suggestions was to set up searches on eBay for places your ancestors had lived. She talked about finding neat things that related to ancestors’ lives and even discovering new information this way. Cool idea, thought I. And at some later point (much later, since I am often slow to follow through on this kind of intention) I tried it out. That was how I found the high school year book for my mother. And learning how to successfully bid in the auctions on eBay is another story!

I also set up a search for Wakeman Ohio, thinking I would love to find a high school year book or other material for my grandfather and his family. Given my recent success with my mother’s year book, I went back to eBay, and renewed a number of the searches I had set up. These searches last a finite amount of time and then they stop sending you email when they’ve found anything and you have to go back and renew them. Soon after I did that, and spent a morning rummaging around the eBay site looking at things, I got a message from my Wakeman search with the family name Shelton in it. The description sent to me was “10 vintage cabinet photos-Wakeman Ohio-Haines Studio-Shelton 1898″. The cabinet photos caught my eye immediately and when I realized that the name and date meant they were likely part of my mother’s family I went to take a look at the offering.

I was thrilled to see the complete description. “—–LOT OF 10 OLD-VINTAGE FAMILY CABINET PHOTO’S…THE 2 TOP PICTURES OF THE SAME BABY,BOTH ARE MARKED–“ELBERT MINOR SHELTON,5 MONTHS OLD..25 LBS.”; THE OLDER MAN WITH A LONG GRAY BEARD IS MARKED “HENRY S. SHELTON 1898? ON THE BACK…..ALL OF THESE ARE MARKED “HAINES,WAKEMAN OHIO” STUDIO.” The seller described buying the pictures at an estate sale, where she was told they would only sell the lot together since they were from the same family. What she was offering was that same lot of 10.

I knew as soon as I saw the baby’s name that this was our family – at least the baby picture. I opened my computer database to look at names and refresh my memory on this line. Sure enough, Elbert was the son of Nellie Minor and Myron Shelton. Myron was the son of Henry S. Shelton. So I knew there was at least a picture of the grandson Elbert and grandfather Henry. Nellie Minor Shelton was the sister of my great grandmother, Mamie

Elbert Minor Shelton, 5 mos., 25 lbs


Minor Denman. This is the baby Elbert – the back of the photo gives his full name and that he was 5 months old and weighed 25 pounds. You have to love it! And here is his grandfather, Henry S. Shelton, who would have been about 66 years old if the date (1898) on the back is correct.

Henry S. Shelton, c 1898

I have my work cut out for me to identify the other people in the photos. They are all from the same photography studio so I am hoping that the variation of the logos will help date them. I am also hoping I can lure one of my cousins into helping, or at least looking at them. There are individual pictures of a man and woman who *could* be baby Elbert’s proud parents. And there is an irresistable one of a young child who *might* be Elbert at around 2-3 years of age. I think this picture is a little boy – what do you think? Luckily, to describe the collection I don’t think I have to have all the images identified.

Unknown Shelton child, c 1898

Judy wrote this and sent me the draft to look at and I couldn’t resist adding my own comments.  She was nice enough to say she liked them, so they’re still here.  I am putting my words in italics so you can tell the difference – as if we didn’t sound different enough anyway.

Pat and I went to Hartford a couple of weeks ago.  She came west; I went east [actually it was north and east and I went south and west]; we met in the middle [well, it isn’t exactly the middle but who’s counting?]. To be more specific we met at the Connecticut State Library and ArchiveThis is what the very impressive front of the building looks like.

It was a magic day from start to finish.  The weather was good, [it was a gorgeous day, and we didn’t get lost getting there], we found parking easily, and then there was the library and the librarians.

I don’t know why I haven’t been in this place before.  It is chock full of wonderful things, mostly Connecticut things, but some for the rest of New England as well.  There are plenty of microfilm readers, all in working condition and set so it isn’t necessary to crane your neck at a 50-degree angle to see the screen.  There is a scanner that allows you to take digital images of microfilm records and save them to a flash drive or email them home. I made a living on that scanner.  This is a picture of our favorite microfilm scanner; Judy did actually let me use it at the end of the day.  I just love being able to take home digital files of my finds.  Now I just need to transcribe the estate papers I found.

For me the second best things were the probate records and the land records.

The best things aren’t things, they’re people, the wonderful librarians who inhabit the place.  They are extremely knowledgeable and eager to share that knowledge.  I received many helpful suggestions for my research.  Equally amazing to me was the patience exhibited by everyone with whom I had contact.  From making the equipment work to finding records they were unfailingly kind and helpful.  They were wonderful.  And very willing and able to orient us to the collection.  I even got a quick tour of the stacks, which are open, at the end of the day.  This went beyond what I expected.

I am not a patient person.  When I asked a librarian where the land records were located she did not reply, as I almost certainly would have, “Try over there under the extremely large sign that says ‘LAND RECORDS’.” No, instead she led me the twenty feet across the room, probably convinced that I wouldn’t make it on my own, and showed me the cabinet with the microfilm.  “What town are you interested in?” she asked.  “New Haven,” I replied.  “They’re right here,” she said, not adding, “In the drawer with the large label that says NEW HAVEN.”  Then she said the magic words, “Some of the records are indexed.  Oh look, New Haven is indexed.  Let me explain how the index works.”

I have been waiting hundreds of years, maybe longer, for the records I want to be the ones that are indexed.  I’m sure every genealogist knows the feeling.  My records are never the ones that have been indexed.  My records are the ones that require me to look through miles of microfilm to find them and once found they are the ones that broke the camera, were poorly filmed, with terrible contrast, or simply the ones with the words “missing page” where they ought to be.

What did I find?  If you read this blog regularly you know of my obsession with the Davies mansion and the people who lived there.  If you’re not a regular reader and you’re interested try this link to my earlier post.

My main interest was the Minor family, that first settled in Connecticut in the middle 1600s.  Great-great-grandpa Charles Minor was allegedly born in Meriden, Connecticut in 1837 but he doesn’t show up in the Barbour Collection there or anywhere else, which he should.  I was hoping to find some record of him and his family.  I started with wills and estates, looking for the earliest family members and hoping to be able to then trace forward.  I know this is backward, but I can’t resist.

I now have scanned copies of about 65 of the 167 pages of John M. Davies will and probate records.  I’ll go back and copy the rest of it soon.  I scanned several probate and estate records for Minors and was excited to find one for G-G-Grandpa Charles’ own G-G-Grandfather Daniel (my 5th great grandfather) with names of his children and wife.  There are more to get, and I haven’t touched the land records yet.

The land records showed me John Davies purchase of the land where the house now stands.  He bought the land from Cornelia Hillhouse.  The name Hillhouse means little if you’re not from around here, lots if you are.  This is a very old and historic name in both New Haven and Connecticut.  You will be hearing about this in future posts, so I will just say that Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven was once referred to by Mark Twain as “the most beautiful street in America.” It’s still high on the list in my opinion.

It was difficult to tear ourselves away, but when we reached the point that our bodies were starting to digest themselves we stopped for lunch.  We asked the librarians if we could leave our stuff strewn about for a little while and get some lunch.  They not only let us leave our stuff piled on tables, they directed us to a fast lunch place.  We sat and enjoyed each other’s company for a bit and then hastened back to work until they gently pushed us out the door, as they shut the lights off.  My request to move in was gently but firmly denied.  We’ll be back.

We actually did go back a second time, and I expect we will become regulars.  Too bad they won’t rent us cots for a week or two.

Wounded on Morris Island, South Carolina, 1863

For this story, I decided to first present the story that Grandpa Lyle remembered being told as a young boy and then to copy what Grandpa Minor had said in his diary.  The copy of his diary that I have was typed/transcribed/abstracted by, I think, his granddaughter Alberta Minor Flint.  I only have the typed version and have never seen the original, so I don’t know whether this is a true transcription or how much it might have been condensed or abstracted.  I wish I knew where the original is.

Background: my great great grandfather, Charles E. Minor served from 1861-1865 mostly in Company G of the 67th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  In June 1863 he returned to the Regiment, having been detached since August 1862 on a recruiting tour.

Story as told by Grandpa Lyle:

At one time he was stationed on Folly Island, which was a sand dune.  It was nothing more or less than a sand spit within firing distance of Fort Wagner.  And they had to go in at night. In the day time, they were within firing range of Fort Wagner. And they had to go in by raft and by boat at night to land and take all their provisions and everything they needed in, to this island. And they built a sand bag fortification, filled sand bags up and built it and then they got some field, what they called field pieces — artillery — that would fire on Fort Wagner and for a period he was in command of a group.  And at night they would watch for the flash of a gun over there and he would — firing with his pistol — he had a hand gun — and they would fire at the flash, hoping that it would hit somebody. Well somebody at the fort saw his flash and, first thing he knew, a rifle ball came to him. It went through the calf of one leg and the knee cap of the other. He made his way back to the field dispensary, the tent where they took care of them and he said, “My knee cap’s in terrible pain here.” And the man said, “Well, you’re loosing a lot of blood in the other leg.” The calf of the one leg had been completely pierced, but the pain in the knee cap was so intense that he was not aware that he had been pierced by the bullet in his other leg. Following that he was removed from the island and sent to the hospital there.  I don’t know where that was.

But anyway, he had been in the hospital.  His leg had, was infected, and they had given him what treatment they could.  Doctor looked at him and says, “No way. Can’t save that leg.” Said, “We’ll have to take it off tomorrow.” So the next day, in comes the doctor with two assistants and a board. They were going to strap him down to the board and saw the leg off. And there was a bucket of water on a three legged stool right by the side of the head of the bed. My grandfather raised up and he grabbed that stool, tipped the water over toward the doctor, and he raised the stool up over his head, and he said, “You touch me and somebody’s going to get hurt.” And the doctor told his men to walk away and leave him alone. The result was that eventually the leg healed and never had to have his leg amputated. But in those days they did what was the quickest thing. So many men ended up with a peg leg following the Civil War. Amputation was a thing that could save the life.

Charles E. Minor

From Grandpa Minor’s Diary:

Thursday 11th [June 11, 1863] – Took a boat about 4 p.m. yesterday but didn’t get under way till 1 o’clock this morning, and reached Folly Island about 6 a.m.  Found the regt. encamped about 5 miles from the landing.

Folly Island is about 7 miles long and its greatest width 1 mile.  The only vegetation is Pine and Palmetto with a little coarse grass – almost a barren waste.  The 67th has a fine camp on the south side of the Island facing the ocean.  Warm weather but a fine sea breeze.  Sharks, alligators, and serpents we found in considerable numbers.
Met with a warm reception by both officers and men.  Am glad to once more be with the regt.  Am agreeably surprised to find things so pleasant.  The regt. is small but has gained in skill and appearance since I last saw them.

<snip>between then and July 4th the federal soldiers were building batteries on the end of Folly Island in preparation for attacking Morris Island.

July 4 – batteries almost ready on the point.  The intention was to attack today but we are not quite ready.
July 10, 1863 – This morning at 5 o’clock the ball was opened by our batteries and in less than one hour we had all of the east part of Morris Island, guns, tents, and some prisoners.
July 11 – Saturday – More troops crossed over today and preparations are on foot to dislodge the rebs from Fort Wagner, the only point they now hold on the island.  The loss so far has been slight.
July 18 – Saturday – During the past week strong batteries have been erected facing Wagner and at 10 a.m. today they opened fire on the Fort.  At 2 p.m. the fleet moved up and joined their fire with the Batteries on shore.  They kept up a terrific fire until dark, when the infantry were ordered to charge on teh works.  During the day our Co. and Co. C were on picket within 600 yards of the Fort.
July 18 – Saturday – Under this terrible fire from both sides.  As we advanced to the charge we were raked by grape and cannister, cutting us up dreadfully, but the greatest slaughter was at the ditch and ascending the Parapet.  We reached the Fort and help most of it for an hour and a half, but not being reinforced. were obliged to fall back.
Our regiment lost over half their men.  Co.G. lost 13 wounded and 3 killed.
I received four scratches all slight, left hand, left shoulder, right arm, and a ball through my right ear.  All doing well.
July 24, 1863 – At daylight our fleet and shore batteries opened a heavy fire on the forts.  There was a detachment of two Capt. and four Sergts. sent home for drafts to fill up the regiment.  Hope they may succeed.
Aug. 26 – Brigade on picket at the front.  About 7 a.m. I was wounded by a sharp-shooter through both legs, no bones broken.
Sept. 7, 1863 – Our troops took possession of Fort Wagner and Gregg this morning after nearly two months siege.
Sept. 20 – Dressed for the first time since wounded.  Can walk a little.
Oct. 1 – Left hospital.

Disclaimer: I know very little about the Civil War beyond what I remember from my early schooling, but I’m starting to do some reading to find out about it.  I believe that this description by Grandpa Minor is of the assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston harbor that was the basis of the story in the film Glory. If I am right, Grandpa Minor’s regiment, the 67th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was in the charge that was led by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first formal units of the U.S. Army to be made up entirely of African-American men (aside from the officers).

I am the very fortunate holder of several pieces from my mother, the sort of gold that genealogists yearn for.  I have three taped interviews my mother did, two with her father and one with a “cousin”, all about their memories and stories from the past.  I also have an autobiography written by my mother.  These are sources of information that I might not/would not have had otherwise.  So I am grateful and have been known to encourage friends and acquaintances to create their own interviews while the opportunity exists.  If you have a parent, aunt/uncle, older cousin, even older sibling – consider asking for stories that person remembers from childhood and asking to record the stories.  Having my mother’s voice and my grandfather’s talking about times past is priceless, as the commercial says.

The focus of this post is one of the interviews done with my grandfather, more than twenty years ago when he was in his 80s.  I not only have the tape (and have digitized it), but I had it transcribed.  My goal is to present the individual stories my grandfather told, adding a little context and maybe a picture or two.  The story today is one he told about his grandfather’s experience as a young man hiring out to chop wood.  My grandfather, Lyle Denman, lived from 1896 to 1997.  His grandfather, Charles Minor, lived from 1837 to 1913. Lower Mississippi RiverThe family lived in north-eastern Ohio in a village called Wakeman in what is now Huron county, just south of Lake Erie (the small black unlabelled dot in north eastern Ohio on the map).

Grandpa Minor lived with Lyle’s family from about 1900 to 1905, when my grandfather was about ages 4 to 9.  The arrangement was that if my grandfather was good, and didn’t bother his grandfather unduly during the day, then he would be told a story toward the end of the day.  Here’s one my grandfather remembered and told my mother, about when his grandfather was a young man before the Civil War (probably sometime between about 1853 and 1860, when he was between 16 and 23):

“In the winter time there was absolutely no work for young men around Wakeman, just a case of waiting for spring planting.  Once the fall crops had been harvested, there’d be several months that they had to wait without much to do.  One year, my grandfather saw an ad in the Cincinnati Enquirer asking for woodcutters along the Mississippi to prepare wood for the steam boats.  Grandfather and another young man, paid their way to Cincinnati, where they were picked up by the corporation wanting the wood cutters, and taken to Memphis by steamboat where the headquarters of the logging company was.Mississippi steamboat

On the way down the river, all the passengers lived up on the second deck.  Down below, they would stop at the various little hamlets and towns and maybe take on a cow or some chickens or something that was to be sold at New Orleans or down river someplace.  And all of the deck hands that handled that stuff were black.  And the waiters that waited on the tables for the passengers on the second floor were all black.  There was ample food and great quantities of it were served and there was always a lot of it left over on the table.  Following each meal, two of the black hands, or four, would appear with two tubs.  One tub was for dishes.  The other tub was for uneaten food.  Every bit of food that was uneaten was scraped into a tub.  The dishes were put in another tub.  The uneaten food was taken to the lower deck where the deck hands, with their fingers, helped themselves and that was how they were fed.  They were fed with the unused portion of the meal from the passengers above.  It doesn’t sound too sanitary.  But then, that’s the way it was in those days.

Arriving at Memphis, they were signed on and taken down the river in a smaller boat to a certain place.  I could have been mistakened, whether it was Memphis or Natchez, but I think it was Memphis.  At any rate, the headquarters of the wood cutters were there and the two men were each given a rifle, a blanket or two, some blankets, and the boat that took them down had provisions.  They had salt pork, sow belly as they called it, and corn meal and coffee and beans.  They were given a rifle, a light weight rifle with ammunition.  And when they were finally established at a certain place, I think it was someplace in Mississippi along the river, they were told to make camp.

They were given a tent to live in and they made camp and were told how to prepare the wood.  It had to be cut in — I think it was four foot lengths.  And they were paid so much a cord for the wood, and every two weeks the supervisor’s boat would come by and measure up the amount of wood that they had cut.  Cottonwood was the main wood that they cut.  And it had to be piled on the bank where it could be loaded.  When the steamers needed it, they would lower their gangplank and the crew would carry the wood on board to take them to the next station, wherever they needed it.  And the men would always take their rifle with them and sometimes they would shoot a wild turkey or shoot — one time they shot a deer.  And they feasted on the meat as long as it was good.  And they learned how to trap wild turkeys.  They found a supply of ear corn and they would shell off a few handsful of corn.  They would dig a trench that got a little bit deeper and deeper along.  And then over the end of that trench they would build a house of saplings, just little sticks cut and laid across each other to make a house big enough to hold a turkey or two at the end of this trench that they’d dug.  And as the trench deepened, the turkeys — they would string the corn, one kernel at a time following the other and the turkey would begin eating and would eat his way down to the end.  And when he reached the end where there was no more corn, he’d raise his head up in the air and try to get out.  He didn’t know enough to duck his head down and go out the same way he came in.  And he was trapped inside of the little homemade trap that had been made which was nothing more or less than saplings criss-crossed and made into a little house.  And in that way they provided themselves with turkey and occasionally they would shoot quail or other food.  And that’s the way they provided their food.

And for water they had two buckets or more.  Each morning they would fill a bucket of water out of the Mississippi River and set it to settle.  It was always muddy and murky.  And it would settle until evening.  When evening would come, they would pour off the top and that was the water that they had to drink. First, though, they would boil it.  They had to boil it and let it cool.  And at night they always had a bucket or two of water setting there ready for the mornings to repeat.  The mud and sediment would settle to the bottom and they would pour off the water, boil it, and make use of it in their coffee or drink it.  That was their drinking water.  After they had been there for — they went down in the fall perhaps — he didn’t say or I don’t recall what month.  It could have been November or October — after the local harvest : apples and corn had been harvested in Ohio — is when they went down there.  And they stayed until along in the spring, perhaps the month of May.  That was not — I do not recall his exact time that they decided they had been there long enough.  So when the supply boat came, they told them that the next week they would break camp and wanted to return home.  Which was accomplished.  They were taken to the — they had all they needed.  They had no money or anything.  But the supply boat, the inspector or the manager would give them a receipt for so much wood cut and piled each time he came along.  And those receipts were taken to the office and they collected their money and returned home.”

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