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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.

Family Treasures – You Never Know What You’re Going to Find!

After my recent success with a family Bible (see my Blog post about that here: http://wp.me/p4rqEE-n4) I thought I’d revisit some of the family heirlooms that have somehow ended up with me.

I found a treasure. Can you tell what it is?

File Jul 04, 6 01 02 PM

Here’s a hint:

Army Issued New Testament

William K. Millar was my Dad.

One more hint:

Bible - Roosevelt

Now you know what it is. The best part was the page that I found folded and tucked inside, which appears to have been ripped out of a magazine, (maybe Reader’s Digest?) probably given to him by his Mother (I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her – sending her only son off to war):

Mother's Prayer found in New Testament

As my Dad would have said, “‘Nuff said.”

A Family Bible Mystery – Solved!

I have had in my possession for more than 20 years, a family bible with the name Hutchins inside the front cover. My 3x great grandfather Theodore Hutchings was born about 1789 according to census records, but the Theodore listed in the bible was born in 1890 – about one hundred years later. I had put the bible away, thinking it was worth preserving but that I wasn’t sure how I connected to the family.

Bible 2

Recently, I have been working again on my 3x great grandfather Theodore Hutchings – I have been stuck on who his parents were – and recently found a fourth cousin on Ancestry who had information about his parents. When I asked about her source of the information, she told me that many years ago she had sat down with an elderly distant relative in Bucksport, Maine, who was considered an expert on the family. She was later able to verify the information she received that Theodore’s parents were Jeremiah Hutchings and Sarah Littlefield. I remembered the bible, carefully wrapped in tissue, tucked away in a drawer.  I dug out the bible and took another look. The leather-bound bible is in very sad condition – the pages are brittle and there is a strong odor of mildew. It has had some water damage.

The first pages of the bible are missing, so no publication date was obvious at first glance. Inside the front cover is inscribed “Sarah Hutchins of Old York.”  Hmmm…I know my Theodore was born in Old York.

Bible Cover scan Sarah

I gingerly flipped through the pages and came to the blank page where someone (probably Sarah?) had written the names and dates of birth of eight children. It was on the back side of the first page of the New Testament where I found a publication date for the bible of 1805! Ok, we have a date – the bible is 211 years old! I looked at the list of children again – here’s a rough transcription of how it was written:

“Stephen Hutchings was born in 29 May 1888, Theodore Hutchings was born in November 7 = 1890, Deborah Hutchings was born in February — 1892, –Hutchings was born in January 8 = 1893 [?], Edward Hutchings was born in January 27 = 1897, Prissilen was born in January 23 = 1801, Ebenezer was born in December 20 = 1803, Abgiel was born in January 13 1805.”

Scan of family - children of Jeremiah Hutchings and Sarah Littlefield

The bible was published in 1805. This page was probably written in 1805 or a little later. I researched these siblings and discovered that the first five children, listed as having been born in the late 1800’s were actually born in the late 1700’s. Their birth order makes it clear that whoever wrote this page (Sarah????), put 18__ instead of 17__ for the first five children. Of course they would be listed chronologically! And this is MY Theodore – born November 7, 1790! And the bible belonged to my 4x great grandmother, Sarah Littlefield Hutchings! Oh, Sarah, you had me fooled for a very long time.

Hannah Pettingell, Daughter of…???

The book,  A Pettingell Genealogy, written by John Mason Pettingell published in 1906, states Hannah is the daughter of Eliphalet Pettingell and Sarah Dill. Nope.

Hannah is my 4th great grandmother. She married Edward Hammond on 19 April 1796 in Sullivan, Hancock, Maine.

Born 15 Oct 1768 in North Yarmouth, Cumberland, Maine, she was not baptized until 10 November 1771. She was actually the daughter of Elisha Pettingell (brother of Eliphalet) and Rebekah Prince. Elisha and Rebekah had a habit of waiting (for the most part) at least a year after the birth of a child before having them baptized – a little unusual for the time:

Hannah, born 15 Oct 1768, baptized 10 Nov 1771

Jacob born 3 Jan 1771, baptized 12 Aug 1772

Jane (the second child of this name) born 5 Apr 1773, baptized 14 August 1774

Levi, born 7 Mar 1775, baptized 12 May 1776

Lucretia born 25 Jun 1778, baptized 16 Aug 1778

 

Birth of Hannah Pettingell microfilm 10812 arrowHannah’s gravestone reads: “Hannah, Wife of Edward Hammond, died June 13, 1862. AEt. 93 ys.” This is consistent with a birth date of 15 Oct 1768.

Gravestone of Hannah (Pettingill) Hammond

Note that the Pettingell Genealogy does not list birth dates, but baptism dates. No date of birth or baptism is given for the Hannah listed as a daughter of Eliphalet and husband to Edward Hammond. I have no doubt that Hannah who married Edward Hammond is the daughter of Elisha Pettingell and Rebekah Prince. John Mason Pettingell got it wrong – and so did 125 family trees on Ancestry.com.

Solomon Higgins, Patriot and Why Sol’s Cliff was Named for Him

Sol’s Cliff in Bar Harbor on Mt. Desert Island in Maine was named for my 5x great grandfather, Solomon Higgins. Solomon was born in Eastham, Massachusetts in 1738. All ten of his children were born in Eastham, but by 1780 he had moved the family, with his second wife Esther, to Eden, Bar Harbor, Maine.

Prior to moving to Maine, Solomon served as a Captain in the Revolutionary War under Colonel Cary, serving for the town of Eastham.

Back to the original question: Why was Sol’s Cliff named for him?  Perhaps due to his illustrious career as an officer in the Revolutionary War? Sadly, no. Sol wandered off during a snow storm, suffering from dementia in his old age. He fell over the cliff below Cromwell Harbor into the sea. His body was never found and the area has since been called Sol’s Cliff. See the location here:

https://goo.gl/maps/JkTqgNC7Ku12

 

Ralph Nathan Pendleton, Hero (?)

My great uncle, my grandfather’s older brother, Ralph, once saved his mother’s life. I wrote about Ralph’s mother, Maria Mitchell Gerrish Pendleton in a previous post. Distracted by BSOs (bright shiny objects) as I was looking for an obituary/date of death for Ralph, I came across a number of newspaper articles about him. The first when he was only 14 years old! The title in the Boston Journal on 21 July 1904 found on GenealogyBank.com was “Lynn Boy Rescues Mother from Flames” with a byline of “Ralph Pendleton, 14 Years old, Dashes Through Fire and Smoke in Burning Building and Also Saves Girl From Death.” Could this be my great uncle? He was the right age and I knew that the family lived in Lynn at the time. The article gave the address of his mother (listed as Mrs. E.C. Pendleton in the article – it should actually have been Mrs. C.E. Pendleton) and I was able to confirm using city directories that this was MY Ralph Pendleton.

Here’s the story: Ralph’s Mother, Maria Pendleton had been outside talking to Mrs. Bee, a neighbor, when they heard another neighbor, Mrs. Hanlon, cry, “Oh, save my children.” Maria ran into the burning house and up the stairs with Mrs. Bee, son Ralph following close behind. Maria fell in the doorway of the children’s room with 6 year old Madeline Hanlon in her arms, overcome by the smoke. Ralph picked up the little girl and dragged his mother from the burning room, but could not take both of them down the stairs. He ran down the stairs, taking Madeline outside and returned for his mother. Firemen arrived shortly after Ralph’s second entrance into the burning building and assisted Ralph is bringing his mother down from the stair landing.

A little more about Ralph: Born in 1889 he married his first wife, Ruby Green on 21 January 1909 in Lynn. He was 19, she was 18 – a first marriage for both of them. In August of that year, Ruby gave birth prematurely to a boy, named Edward. He lived for 5 days – he is buried in an unmarked grave in Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn. By December of 1912 Ruby was filing for divorce from Ralph on the grounds of cruel and abusive punishment saying, “regardless of his marriage vows and obligations, on divers occasions has cruelly and abusively treated her and that being of sufficient ability, he grossly and wantonly and cruelly refuses and neglects to provide a suitable maintenance for her.” He most certainly was not a hero to Ruby. The case was dismissed in 1914 without a final divorce decree.

Ralph had a son in born in 1917 (who I remember meeting as a child – he was my mother’s cousin). Ralph married the boy’s mother, Bessie Gerrish, three years later in 1920. A little backwards based on the accepted practice at the time. Their marriage record says that it is the first marriage for both of them (!). Ralph’s first wife, Ruby was finally granted a divorce from him in Maine in 1921 on grounds of desertion – a year after he married his second wife!

I remember hearing whisperings from my father that a couple in the family was not actually married and had lived together pretending to be husband and wife. Everyone was surprised when they actually did get married – it had been assumed that their marriage had taken place before the birth of their son. For many years I didn’t know who these family members might be – but now I think I’ve found them. <GRIN>

Maria (Mitchell) (Gerrish) Tracy Pendleton – A Woman of Mystery and Tragedy

Maria Pendleton

Maria (Mitchell)(Gerrish) Tracy Pendleton

My great-grandmother (my maternal grandfather’s mother) has been somewhat of an enigma ever since I began researching my family’s history. The first record that I found of her was the 1870 census: she was 6 years old living in the home of Andrew and Flora Gerrish in Gouldsboro, Maine. Although this census doesn’t list relationships, it looked like a small nuclear family: father, mother, daughter. But, what’s this? She was born in Newfoundland? Well,  Andrew Gerrish was a Master Mariner who sailed the waters of the Atlantic Coast. Perhaps his wife traveled with him and happened to give birth in Newfoundland? As we will see later, nope.

At the age of 18 Maria married her next door neighbor, Walter Tracy, who was 3 years her senior. She had known him since she was 6 years old. But tragedy struck less than a year and a half later when Walter died of tuberculosis. She was a 20 year old widow. Her second marriage was to my great-grandfather, Colon Emery Pendleton on 16 May 1886. Colon came from a long line of sea captains, but his father, Joshua Archabus Pendleton, a sea captain on a Danish steamliner, had died at the age of 24, in Cuba, of yellow fever. His mother died of consumption 4 years later and Colon was raised by his grandparents. Colon became a painter and paper hanger, perhaps thinking that this was a safer occupation.

Maria gave birth to three boys: Arno in 1887, Ralph in 1890 and my grandfather, Clyde in 1891 – the only children who lived to adulthood. Her subsequent pregnancies and births became a series of tragedies. Alice Marion only lived for 7 months, an infant son (unnamed) lived for 2 days, daughter Flora lived for 2 days and finally there was another daughter who was stillborn. What caused so much infant mortality in this family? I may have found the answer. Colon died in 1915 at the age of 57 of lead poisoning, a victim of his profession. He probably suffered the effects of lead poisoning for many years before he succumbed. Lead poisoning can contribute to birth defects, creating abnormal sperm.

Alice Pendleton &amp; infant Pendleton stones

Colon had moved the surviving family to Lynn, Massachusetts by 1900. Colon and Maria had returned to Maine sometime before he died in 1915, as he died there and is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Winter Harbor alongside little Alice. You can see Alice’s headstone in the background in the photograph below.

Colon Pendleton headstone

By the time she was 52 years old, Maria had buried four children and two husbands. She returned to the home of her parents by 1920, perhaps staying to take care of them in their old age. Andrew was 82 and 77 year old Flora had suffered a stroke about 1918. By 1940 she had returned to Massachusetts where all three of her sons were living and raising families, showing up twice in the census living with her son Ralph in Worcester and also with her son Clyde (my grandfather) in Melrose. I don’t remember my mother ever speaking about her grandmother, Maria, even though Maria shared their home when my mother was 16 years old. Surely she would have remembered her.

Finally, who were Maria’s real parents? Maria is listed as the daughter of Andrew and Flora Gerrish in the 1880 and 1920 censuses and she lived with them in the 1870 census at the age of 6. However, on all of her children’s birth records her maiden name is listed as Mitchell, not Gerrish. Her place of birth is consistently listed as Bay of Islands, Newfoundland, Canada. The 1900 census lists her birth as August 1863. I found no Maria Mitchell born in Bay of Islands in August of 1863. However! I found Maria Mitchell, daughter of James Mitchell and MaryAnn Laing born in Petty Harbor, 26 August 1863.

Birth of Maria Mitchell

Shortly after her birth the family moved to Bay of Islands. Perhaps Maria (and her adoptive parents) didn’t know that she wasn’t born in Bay of Islands. Her birth parents, James and MaryAnn Mitchell continued to live in and raise a family in Bay of Islands, but Maria was adopted by Andrew Gerrish and his wife Flora, who had no other children. How did this adoption come about? I found no death record for her – she died some time after the 1940 census. Greenwood Cemetery tells me that she has a burial plot next to her husband, but it is not clear whether she was actually buried there. No headstone was erected there (although her three sons were each quite prosperous by that time). Maria continues to be an enigma.