Jock Tobias and the South African Diamond Mines

Family  stories that are passed down can be a little skewed or outright embellished. I remember my father telling the story of his great-uncle Jock Tobias – brother to his paternal grandmother. He told me how Jock moved from Scotland to work in the diamond mines in South Africa and often brought back diamonds for my grandmother. I searched in vain for many years for Jock Tobias (and WHERE ARE THOSE DIAMONDS?).

Fast forward to my research and confirmation from my aunt. Jock Tobias was actually John Turbyne (although Jock may have been a nickname – we’ll probably never know). He and his wife did move to and live in South Africa. Every record that I could find says that John Turbyne was a woodworker or joiner. Perhaps he was employed in the diamond mines of South Africa – did they use woodworkers to shore up the ceilings as they dug? Perhaps.

John and his wife had no children. They visited his sister in New York several times traveling through Ellis Island. After a long career in South Africa, John and his wife Jessie boarded the Warwick Castle in Capetown South Africa headed to Southampton, England and retirement at 53 Princess Street, Dundee, Scotland. Seven days out from Southampton, John died on board the ship of congestive heart failure. His obituary states that he was buried at sea. He never made it home.

Death of John Turbyne aboard ship highlighted with arrow cropped

 

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Howard Benjamin Parshley

How about this little cutie? In excellent condition mounted in a protective folder, it is identified as Howard Benjamin Parshley at 8 months old.

Howard Benjamin Parshley crop

Howard Benjamin Parshley

The photo was taken in New Haven, Connecticut. Howard was born in West Haven, Connecticut on 5 April 1923 to Edward R. Parshley, who was a mechanical inspector for the railroad and his wife Laura (Newson) who was born in Prince Edward Island Canada – she was the youngest of 15 children. Howard died 6 February 2010 in Alabama and is buried in Dogwood Trails Memorial Gardens in Oxford, Alabama.

If you are close family and would like to have the photo sent to you at no charge, please contact me.

Alida Bisco? I think not.

Alida Bisco

I rescued this photo from an antique shop. It is identified on the back as Alida Bisco. I set out to research Alida Bisco to see if I could get the photo returned to a family member. I found Alida, living in Dudley, Massachusetts, born in October of 1850 in Connecticut. Alida appears in every available census from 1860 through 1930 and then appears in the Massachusetts Death Index in 1938. It appears that Alida never married. The problem is that every record lists Alida as a woman. Do you think this is a picture of Alida? I think not. Perhaps it is her brother Alton Bisco, son of Jacob and Emeline Bisco, who was born in 1857. We may never know. I hope someone from the family discovers this post and can clear up this mystery.

Laura Barrett – A Photograph Discovered

 

This cabinet card, taken about 1891, is identified as Laura Barrett age 19. A little research uncovers that Laura was born in July 1872 in Ashford, Connecticut the daughter of George G. Barrett and Marilla Kidder.

She married Marvin W. Fisk on 5 November 1892 in Warrenville, Connecticut. He was born in Stafford Springs, CT in August 1867, the son of John M. Fisk and Jane Prouty.

The couple had two children neither of which lived to adulthood: Wilbur born July 1896 and Earl born Nov 1898. Sadly, Earl died on 8 December 1901 at age 3 of Diphtheria and paralysis of the heart. Wilbur died 28 February 1902 of Scarlet Fever and heart failure at the age of 5. It appears that the couple had no other children.

Perhaps her old photograph turned up in an antique shop in Townsend, Massachusetts, because she left no descendants. I hope a niece, nephew or cousin would like to have her photograph returned to the family. If so, please contact me!

Laura Barrett front

Laura Barrett back

Honor Roll Project – World War I Monument – Leominster, MA

Once again, I am participating in the Honor Roll Project to photograph local monuments honoring our veterans. Here is a link to the website where all of the blogs are posted and sorted by location: http://honorrollproject.weebly.com/massachusetts.html

Here is my project for Memorial Day 2017

2017-5-28 WWI Front

Notice that the monument says “World War” not World War I.

2017-5-28 WWI back

The names of those who lost their lives listed on the monument:

Luigi K. Aquilio

Wilfred J. Brosseau

Enrico Chiuri

Antonio Del Bove

Henry A. Douglas

Charles E. Dubay

John J. Finn

Peter H. Flibbert

Morse Freeman

Martin Glasheen

Giovanni Gasbarie

Lester Horton

Harold K. Hodsden

John F. Hyland

Clifford Leduc

Hermand J. Lauzon

Raymond I. Look

Carl Locke

William H. Lynch

Daniel O’Keefe

Donald M. Parker

Emery J. Pelkey

Harold I. Petts

Edward J. Regan

Stephen Santini

Maurice G. Smith

Exlone J. Snow

Sidney E. Taylor

John S. Theurer

Raffaele Villano

Thank you for your sacrifice.

Family in an Indian Massacre (Warning Some Graphic Content)

Considered to be one of the worst massacres of colonial times, The Candlemas Massacre, also known as the Raid on York, took place on 24 January 1692 during King William’s War. 325 years ago, in the early morning hours, 200-300 Abenaki Indians led by Chief Madockawando and the Catholic missionary Father Louis-Pierre Thury, raided and burned the settlement of York, Maine. By most accounts the majority of the houses were burned to the ground, leaving only four garrisons standing. Fifty to eighty residents were murdered and approximately another hundred were forced to march to Canada, on foot, a trek of over 300 miles. Many died along the way.

A number of my ancestors and relatives were among the dead or captured. My 9x great grandfather, Nathaniel Preble and 9x great grand uncle, John Preble were listed among the dead.

Taken captive were Mrs. Priscilla Preble (wife of Nathaniel), my 9x great grandmother, Obadiah and Benjamin Preble, both 8x great grand uncles, Mrs. Mary (Rishworth)(Sayward) Plaisted, my 9x great grandmother and two 8x great grand aunts, Mary and Esther Sayward.

Mrs. Priscilla Preble, now a widow, was redeemed from Canada in 1695, when she returned to York and married Joseph Carroll. No further record of her sons Obadiah and Benjamin have been found.

Warning: Graphic content ahead

Cotton Mather in his Magnalia Christi Americana or the Ecclesiastical History of New England, Volume II Book VII, “Decennium Lucuossum, or a History of Remarkable Occurances, in the War which New-England had with Indian Salvages [sic], from the year 1688 to the year 1698” wrote about the massacre:

“Mary Plaisted, the wife of Mr. James Plaisted, was made a captive by the Indians about three weeks after her delivery of a male child. They then took her, with her infant, off her bed, and forced her to travel in this her weakness the best part of a day, without any respect of pity. At night the cold ground in the open air was her lodging; and for many a day she had no nourishment, but a little water with a little bears-flesh; which rendred her so feeble, that she with her infant were not far from totally starved. Upon her cries to God, there was at length some supply sent in by her master’s taking a Moose, the broth whereof recovered her. But she must now travel many days thro’ woods, and swamps, and rocks, and over mountains, and frost and snow, until she could stir no farther. Sitting down to rest, she was not able to rise, until her diabolical master helped her up; which when he did, he took her child from her, and carried it unto a river, where, stripping it of the few rags it had, he took it by the heels, and against a tree dashed out his brains, and then flung it into the river. So he returned unto the miserable mother, telling her, “she was now eased of her burden, and must walk faster than she did before.”

Signature of Mary Rishworth Sayward Plaisted upon baptism during captivity from Banks' History of York

From Charles Edward Banks’ “History of York Maine, Volume 1”

Mary was taken to Montréal where she was baptized in the Catholic church. Her signature appears in the Baptismal Register. She was ransomed by Matthew Cary and returned home more than 3 years later in October 1695. Her daughters, Mary and Esther, did not return from Canada. Mary was placed in a Catholic Nunnery and resided at the Congregation Notre Dame and was known as “Sister des Anges.” She died in 1717 and was buried in Montreal. Esther remained in Canada, was naturalized in 1710 and in 1712 married Sieur Pierre de Lestage.

Surprises in a Military Record!

Years ago I ordered my grandfather’s World War I naval record from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. I doubted that there would be much of interest except for perhaps a  medical record and his rank and duties during the war (much of which I already knew). I was SO wrong. Right in the middle of the 50 page document were three progressively nasty letters from his soon to be ex-wife and a drama that unfolded page by page. The first was dated February 11, 1918 complaining that he had left her and had not given her any support since December of 1917.

letter-from-erma-pendleton-feb-11-1918_20170305_0001

On March 1st she sent another letter to the Secretary of War reporting that she had flags that her husband had taken off of one of the ships that he worked on and that he had come to retrieve them and she didn’t give them to him. [When the US entered the war in 1917 several German ocean liners were caught on this side of the Atlantic, commandeered and refitted as troop transport ships. My grandfather worked as an electrician to refit these German ships.] She said he threatened to make trouble for her and that he “forbid the Navy Department to give me my money.”

On March 4th she wrote another letter in response to the Navy’s letter requesting more information so that they could identify her husband, again asking what she should do with the German flags that he had taken off the “Aughtenfelt [Ockenfels] – the first boat he worked on.” She also mentions that he also took a “coniator [?] and a Broneator [perhaps brominator?].” It appears that she was slyly trying to make trouble for him.

By March 22nd the Navy had found my grandfather among the ranks of the ship USS America and sent a letter to him through his commander.

letter-from-navy-to-ccp_20170305_0001

My grandfather’s reply (clearly written by a lawyer) was priceless.

letter-from-ccp-to-navy_20170305_0001

And it was accompanied by a character reference from the local Deputy Sheriff.

letter-of-character-reference-from-deputy-sheriff_20170305_0001

The Navy, in their infinite wisdom, washed their hands of the matter.

letter-from-navy-to-erma-pendleton_20170305_0001

becky-in-navy-uniform

Warrant Gunner Clyde Colon Pendleton

Two morals to the story:

1. Run, don’t walk, to get your ancestor’s military record.

2. Don’t commit adultery.

The Home of Henry Willard

My 8x great-grandfather was Henry Willard. He was the son of Simon Willard who emigrated from Horsmonden, Kent County, England. Born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1655, Henry built this home at Still River (Harvard), Massachusetts in 1687. The house still stands at 259 Still River Road, which is Route 110, in Still River, which is part of Harvard, Massachusetts.

home-of-henry-willard

This photo is taken from the book from the book “Heroic Willards of ’76; life and times of Captain Reuben Willard of Fitchburg, Mass., and his lineal descendants, from 1775 to date; profusely embellished with authentic portraits not heretofore available; register of Willards in the revolution, and other wars, chronology of the George Willards” by Phelps, James Andrew, b. 1835

My surprise in finding this photo? I grew up in Harvard, Massachusetts. How many times did I pass this house not knowing that it was built by my 8x great-grandfather?

 

A Slave Owner in the Family

My 8x great grandfather owned slaves. It is not something I am happy about, but it is a fact that I cannot change.

Some facts about him:

He arrived along the New England coast in the mid 1670’s, originally from England, coming by way of Newfoundland. As part of the fishing industry he ended up in Kittery (Maine) and there amassed a small fortune along with his son, Sir William Pepperrell, building a fishing and merchant fleet of 17 or 18 ships. His ships sailed all over the world carrying timber, fish, salt, sugar and rum.

Willam Pepperrell from Messrs. William Pepperrell cropped

He was Colonel William Pepperrell. He served as a Colonel in the militia during the Indian Wars. His home served as a Garrison House during those wars. It still stands today at the corner of Pepperrell Road and Bellamy Lane in Kittery. (The original house is on the right, the addition was added later.)

William Pepperrell House

When I found his will I was shocked and saddened to find three slaves. (He referred to them as “servants.”)

  • “I also give to my said Daughter Dorathy Watkins her Heirs & Assigns my Negro Man servant Named George . . .And I do hereby order that if the said negro Servant do faithfully & truly Serve untill he Shall come to the age of Forty years that then he shall have his Discharge Liberty & Freedom given him.”
  • “I give unto my Molatto man servant named Toby his Discharge Liberty & Freedom at one Years end next after my Decease on the Condition that he behave himselfe a true & Faithful Servant until that Time.”
  • “I give unto my Negro man servant Named Scipio his Discharge Liberty & Freedom when he shall be Forty years old Provided & on condition that he truly & faithfully serve until that Time.”

I had to wonder, given his profession, if William had participated in the slave trade. Much of the correspondence from the Pepperrell business still exists, including receipts and bills of lading. From the book Messrs. William Pepperrell : Merchants at Piscataqua by Byron Fairchild, I found the following information regarding their business in Barbados:

“In 1719, . . .[Benjamin] Bullard shipped the Pepperrells a consignment of rum and five Negro slaves. It may be that on other occasions also they engaged in the slave traffic, on a similar scale, for one item in the St. Domingue accounts of the younger William and his brother-in-law, Benjamin Clarke, seems to cover the sale of a Negro slave. But slave dealing was an insignificant feature of their business. They doubtless had no great scruples against the trade, for they themselves were slaveowners; that they refrained because of the perishable nature of the cargo is more likely, since four of the five slaves shipped by Bullard died at sea and the other did not long survive the voyage.”

“Perishable nature of the cargo” is the statement that stays with me from this excerpt – humans as cargo, but I’m glad it was an “insignificant feature of their business.”

To George, Toby and Scipio – I hope you were treated well.

William is buried in a tomb across Pepperrell Road not far from his home.

William Pepperrell Tomb

 

 

A Love Story Interrupted by War

While my mother was attending the New England School of Art, during World War II, she worked for a dressmaking firm called Miller and Levine on Newbury Street in Boston. Bernard Levine had emigrated from Stalbonov, Russia in 1924 and had founded the firm in 1940. They made dresses for stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor. My mother drew their newspaper ads and dressed their windows. She had seen her fiance go off to fight the Germans in September of 1944. They had met in high school when she asked him to a Sadie Hawkins Dance. In December of that same year her mother-in-law-to-be received a telegram: Your son is missing in action and presumed dead.

Newspaper Article Wm Millar MIA

And so she had lost her fiance. Or so she thought. Fast forward to June of 1945, shortly after her graduation from art school. The story is that one day my mother was dressing a store window when she saw a soldier walking toward her across the Boston Public Garden. She must have thought she was seeing a ghost, when she realized it was her fiance returning from war. He had been shot and captured and had spent more than 5 months in a German POW camp. Communication at that time was not what it is today! Mr. Levine kindly gave my mother the rest of the day off to be with her soldier.

And THAT is the story that I remember being told, of how my parents were reunited after he had been presumed dead.