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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A Pioneer Story: Pioneer Days. Part 9, the Rest of the Story

At this point in her memoir Laura seems to have been ready to be done with the writing project, and much of the rest of her story was condensed (relative to the amount of detail in earlier pages).  She dealt with her year and a half stay in Ohio, and with the Civil War in parts of a few brief paragraphs (her younger brothers’ participation as well as J.W.’s) and then the assassination of Lincoln all in less than two pages.  [While she dealt with the Civil War so briefly, there are several interesting tales that she alluded to.  I suspect I will come back to this period of time once or twice and write more fully of these times and the Denman and Booth families.]  She wrote about one page on the family’s return trip to Golden from Ohio, which was faster and somewhat easier than the first trip West behind the oxen.  She brushed by the next 4 years in Golden spent gardening (one daughter – unnamed but it was Laura Dell – was born) and wrote of J.W.’s committing  them to an enterprise in southern Colorado, taking care of a herd of cows for absentee owners at Turkey Creek ranch.  Of that ten years Laura wrote: “I will draw a veil over the ten years of existence at the Turkey Creek ranch as nothing of importance occurred except the advent of another daughter, Carrie May, whose coming was truly a blessing to us in our lonely retreat.”  It sounded as if Laura was not happy about pulling up stakes and moving away from the amenities of Golden.

Following that relatively unsuccessful venture, the Booth family moved to Pueblo for a time and then to a ranch outside Pueblo where “my husband engaged in gardening for a few years.”  Meanwhile the children were growing up, being educated, and marrying.   The gardening lasted until the infirmities of age brought J.W. to the point of not being able to carry on the business and they turned it over to a son-in-law, M.H. Claypool, and moved into town.  Laura writes that “we spent two years of happiness in freedom from care and anxiety, when alas! my dear husband received the summons to go hence and departed this life on the tenth of May, 1904, leaving me to pursue life’s journey alone.  Together we had traveled forty-nine years and seven months.”

For the next 8-9 years Laura stayed in Pueblo, having grown children in the area.  She had increasingly bad health, however, particularly in the winter.  So when daughter Nettie Myers told her of their plans to go to California for the winter of 1912-1913, Laura decided to join them.  They spent that first California winter in Pasadena, and the climate did allow much better health for Laura.  She and the Myers liked it so well that they decided to make it a permanent move and Laura went back to Colorado to settle up her business there and then returned.  Over the next couple of years they tried several locations for winter and summer, finally settling in Claremont.  They liked the advantages of a college town (Pomona College where granddaughter Elsie graduated in  June 1919) and Laura and her now-widowed daughter Nellie planned to stay.

And so Laura ended her tales, “having been led by an unseen hand thru these varying, shifting scenes of life, and having reached the age of ninety-one years, I await the call of the Master to enter into that rest prepared for those who love and serve Him here.”  One of the two typescript copies of this memoir is signed by Laura and dated September 6, 1919.  She died in February 1920.


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A Pioneer Story: Pioneer Days. Part 8, Laura Returns to Ohio

By J. S. Fillmore (Library of Congress – Maps Division) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By the time Laura and her children set out to return to Ohio for an extended stay there were three children (Willie, Nettie, and Henry).  Henry, the youngest, had been born in Golden and was 19 months old when they set out.  There was no railroad closer than the Missouri River so the little family group had to find a private conveyance to take them that far.  A lawyer from Denver who was traveling across the plains had room to take them, and so it was arranged.  Baby Henry had been taken ill shortly before their start but it was thought he would soon recover and the trip commenced as planned in mid-February 1864.  Their previous experiences with the winters in that part of the country led them to think that leaving in this winter month should not be a problem in terms of weather.

The travel must have been very uncomfortable for Laura (if not all the passengers) since she ended up in the middle of the wagon on a box with no support for her back and holding her sick child.  The discomfort was increased as they traveled onward by the prevalence of fleas in all the stopping places, that especially seemed to like feasting on the children.  The map at the top shows the Golden City area in the far left red circle, and the approximate location of their destination, Mount Pleasant, on the far right in a red circle.  It is not clear from Laura’s description how long this part of the trip took, but they finally reached the railway in Iowa after a number of days of traveling in the wagon.  She also did not report where they took the train from (possibly at Plattsmouth or maybe further south).  Taking the train, they headed to Mount Pleasant to spend a week with J.W.’s sister before going on to Ohio.

As was Laura’s writing habit, she did not give the name of J.W.’s sister, however I have done some researching and figured out who it was.  I am intrigued that Laura often gave names to traveling companions or neighbors, but rarely or never named relatives beyond what the relation was.  When I look back at the story of the flood at the farm in Iowa and the boat that was built, I realize that Laura did give some details in writing that story.  She named J.W.’s mother as Abigail – by saying that the boat was named after her – and the maker of the boat as Mr. L.P. Mills.  She also said the visitors included J.W.’s parents – later mother and stepfather – a sister and husband who must have been L.P. Mills, and that there were nine in the house.  This makes me think there might have been a child and a second sister also in the visiting party.

At any rate, I am fairly certain that the sister to be visited on this trip was Mary Booth Mills, married to Lewis P. Mills and living in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.  Having arrived there, Laura reported only a day or two later, her child (Henry) “was taken very ill with pneumonia and for three weary weeks he suffered, the terrible disease baffling the skill of the best physician in town, and finally release came and he passed away.  Then with aching hearts we laid him to rest in the beautiful cemetery at Mt. Pleasant knowing that now we must pursue our journey without him.  The thot of his father’s grief when the sad news should reach him in his loneliness was an added sorrow, knowing how much he loved the dear child.  And now with empty arms and sorrowful heart we continued our journey to the old Ohio home.”

I don’t remember when I first found little Henry’s gravestone on, but I know I wondered about the location.  I did not remember then having read Laura’s description of his illness and death on the trip back to Ohio.  I linked to the page above because I do not have permission to use the picture of the headstone yet.  I have just requested permission to use it from the owner of the memorial and the picture.  When I look at the site where Henry’s stone is I can see that the Mills had also lost a young child just the year previous.

Laura and the two children finally reached the old family home in Ohio in April she wrote, just two months after leaving Golden.  The part of the trip by wagon had clearly been swifter than the original trip with ox-drawn wagons.  It had been seven years since Laura had parted with her parents and other relatives, so she must have been glad to see them all again.  Since she and the children spent a relatively long visit in Ohio, I will leave them there for now.

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