Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Medina County History Fair

Join us this Saturday for the second Medina County History Fair. 14 different historical and genealogical societies from Medina County will be on hand to display the history of our county and share what they hold in their collections. 

Ask Questions!

Share Memories!!

Become a member of your favorite group!

This event will be held in the Lobby and the Community Meeting Rooms on the first floor of the Medina Library at 210 South Broadway, Medina.

THANK YOU! To every historical & genealogical society who participated and to the 200 people who came through the exhibits!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ohio's Squirrel Hunters

FIRST, read this post from the Legal Genealogist and decide what you want to do to protect your privacy.

NO,  not the kind of squirrel hunters who shoot at the very cute but also
very annoying and destructive little rodents that populate my neighborhood.

During the Civil War, states and cities that formed the border between the North and the South worried constantly about the battle coming into their homes. If you know very much about the Civil War you will know that their worries were justified. Homes in the path of Sherman's March To The Sea, were looted and crops were burned. Some homes in Gettysburg still have bullets lodged in their siding.

In September of 1862, the citizens of Cincinnati Ohio were alarmed when they learned that Confederate leader, General Kirby Smith was headed their way. Martial law was enacted in the city. The governor of Ohio telegraphed each county across the state, calling for armed volunteers to hasten to Cincinnati and defend the border. Men from 65 out of Ohio's 88 counties answered the call. 15,000 in two days. Armed with muskets, shotguns and "squirrel" rifles; hence the name of the volunteers "Squirrel Hunters."

This article from the Medina Gazette in 1935 described how Democrats (Copperheads*) & Republicans forgot their political differences for a time when their state needed them:

Medina County Gazette 9 August 1935, section 2, page 3. Article by P. (Peter) P. Cherry,
a local Medina historian. Cherry inflated the number of troops involved.
The governor ordered that the men should travel by train and the railroad would be reimbursed later. Soon, flour and other food supplies were also on their way to the volunteers.

Image from the Library of Congress of Squirrel Hunters

On September 13th, officials received word that the Confederate forces had retreated from their advance. Rebel scouts had learned of the rally of the citizen soldiers. The volunteers returned home soon after.

In 1863, the Governor ordered that official discharges be printed for every man who came to the defense of Cincinnati. In time, these "Squirrel Hunter" discharges became prized possessions.

In 1908, the Ohio Legislature passed a resolution to grant each "Squirrel Hunter" $13, or the equivalent of one month's pay for a private in the Army.

Very little documentation exists on the "Squirrel Hunters" of Medina County. Only one man lists his participation with the volunteers in the 1881 History of Medina County and Ohio,  p. 777-778. Morris Olds of Hinckley Township answered the call. After he returned home, he was drafted but hired a substitute. Upon learning that the substitute had been killed in action, he joined the 1st Ohio Light Artillery.
No mention of the Squirrel Hunters turns up in the library's books on the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran's organization) or Medina in the Civil War.

A few newspaper clippings, beside Peter Cherry's article, were in The Gazette and The Sentinel:

19 August 1881, p. 7 The Medina Gazette article on the reunion of the
124 O.V.I.

8 May 19087 Medina Sentinel  article detailing the state legislature granting a
stipend for the "Squirrel Hunters."

Medina Sentinel Apr 19 1912 p. 1

The state of Ohio has compiled a roster of the Squirrel Hunters, but the Medina Library doesn't have a copy of it.  The libraries that own copies of the index to the roster are listed on this LINK.

*Copperheads were generally Democrats who opposed the war.

For more information, view these links:
Oberlin Heritage Center

Ohio History Central

Library of Congress

Cincinnati Civil War Roundtable

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Years Resolution...

Yes! It is that time of year to make New Year's Resolution and to review how we did on last year's goals.

I like making genealogy resolutions to set an objective or focus for the year.

A reminder of what I resolved to do genealogically in my 2016 Genealogy Resolution - to work on my MASON surname. And how did I do?


Gives you a good idea how well I did right there, right?

In all fairness to myself, I really did work on the MASON genealogy. Around other life events. Like multiple deaths in the family. Seriously. 2016 was one bad year for longevity in my family. Multiple occasions of water in my basement. Which hopefully I have finally fixed forever. But it meant my main genealogy research area and paper have been in storage for  over 4 months.

So yes, genealogy is hobby that gets interrupted by life.

But what did I accomplish?

1. Organized the files. By organizing my files, the missing information became more apparent. I filled in some of those blanks. As a result I:
  • Obtained copies of the birth records for my aunt and uncles. (John, Charles & Dixie MASON) The cost of obtaining paper copies can be prohibitive. But since anyone can now take a picture of a birth certificate for anyone born in Ohio FOR FREE from your local health department, I could now afford the price!
  • Located the marriage dates and places for my grandfather and great aunts. (John, Rosie, Ruth, Elizabeth, & Alewilda MASON) Most of these people had multiple marriages.
  • Confirmed death information for all of the deceased.
  • Located each of the individuals in the appropriate census records.
2. My 2 X great Grandfather William Harmon MASON and his children were well documented thanks primarily to interviews with my grandfather and his sisters when I first started genealogy research all those years ago. Vital records were then obtained either from the state or from The West Virginia Division of Culture and History's Vital Research Records. And thanks to a volunteer at Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, obituaries for him and his wife were sent to me just for the cost of copying and postage.

Charleston Gazette, 10 Aug 1936 p. 7

3. William B. MASON, and his wife, Elizabeth my 3 X great-grandparents have been more elusive. They are  listed in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 census for either Putnam or Kanawha County West Virginia. The two counties abut each other and the area where the family lived is right on the border. In the 1850 Census his occupation is "overseer", but in the others he is listed either as a farmer or farm laborer. After the 1880 census he and his wife Elizabeth disappear. Multiple searches for their death records have not uncovered anything. So, I formulated a research plan. But first, an overview of what I already knew:
  • William B. MASON was born circa 1810-1816 somewhere in Virginia or West Virginia*.
  • His wife, Elizabeth R. was born 1828-1835 somewhere in Virginia or West Virginia.
  • Virginia F. MASON, their first child, was born circa 1846 in Virginia or West Virginia. She appears in the 1850 and 1860 census with the family. After that she disappears. Most likely she died or married. Repeated searches for records on her have failed.
  • Mary E. MASON was born 1847-49 most likely in Virginia or West Virginia. The 1880 census lists her birth place as Kentucky. She never married and died in Institute, Kanawha County, West Virginia in 1924. 
  • James M. MASON was born circa January 1850. He doesn't appear in the 1860 or later censuses. Did he die? Did he use his middle name? What was his middle name?
  • Nancy A. MASON was born 3 Jan 1852. She married Elisha Melton on 28 Feb 1871 in Gallia County Ohio. She died in 1944 in Kanawha County, Ohio.
  • America MASON was born 6 Dec 1853 in Mason County, (West) Virginia. She is listed with the family in the 1860 and 1870 census. Then she disappears. Did she marry or die? Multiple searches have not turned her up.
  • Martha Jane MASON was born 23 May 1857 in Putnam County, (West) Virginia. She married Charles Plunkett on 23 Dec. 1880. She died 25 April 1940 in Charleston, West Virginia.
  • William H. MASON ( my @2 great grandfather) was born 22 Jan 1860 in Putnam County, (West) Virginia. He married Elizabeth A. HARMON on 18 April 1878 in Kanawha County, West Virginia. (See number 2 above.)
Area in red shows where the family lived during the 1850-1880 time period

Next, I formulated my research plan:

1. Could census records tell me anything else? Where was William B. MASON prior to his appearance in the 1850 Census? Are there any other MASONs in the area?

2. Could obituaries for the children reveal anything about the parents.

3. What records from the Family History Center (FHC) might be useful? Are they digitized online, or do the films need to be ordered?

4. What history books on the area are available? Do they have any information?

5. Did William B. MASON serve in the Civil War? If so, what side did he serve on?

6. WHEN and WHERE did William and Elizabeth die and marry?

So how well did I do?

    a. A closer examination of the census records revealed that, at no time did they say that William owned any land. Land was relatively cheap and he was a farmer or farm laborer. But he didn't own any land? It is possible that he bought and sold or lost land between the census years. But the FHC had personal property tax records on microfilm for Kanawha County for 1849-1850. Even if he didn't own any land, it is likely that he had tools or livestock. So I ordered the film in, and William B. MASON is listed, but he PAID NO TAXES. Which means whatever property he owned was below the threshold for paying taxes. In other words, he was very poor. I will still order in the land transaction microfilm to make certain that he didn't own any land between the census dates.
  b. The 1850 Census lists William's occupation as overseer. In 1850 all of the area that was to become West Virginia was still part of the state of Virginia, and slavery was still legal. The 1850 Census of slave owners in the area show 4 men who owned slaves. But none of them owned enough slaves to require hiring an overseer. Plus the geography of the area is very rough and mountainous; not a likely location for a slave plantation. I have since learned that there were salt mines in the area that employed slaves. Perhaps he oversaw those workers?

Excerpt from 1850 Census for Kanawha County, (West) Virginia showing William's occupation as an "overseer".

  c. There are no other MASON families in the 1850 Census for Kanawha County. In nearby Putnam County there is one MASON family with Isaac MASON being the only adult male old enough to have been William's father. A tenuous connection.
  d. There is a William B. MASON in Sussex County, Virginia. He was a wealthy slave owner. Not a likely candidate for my William B. MASON.

  a. The obituary for William H. MASON (William B's son) did not mention his parents. Would obituaries for any of the other children reveal anything? I do not have death dates for the children who "disappeared" early on, Virginia, James and America.
 b. Checking Newspaper Archives database, I found obituaries for Martha MASON PLUNKETT and Nancy MASON MELTON, but there was no information on their parents.

3 FHC microfilms and the web site
  a. I have thoroughly searched the Family Search web site with little new results.
  b. I identified 5 FHC microfilms that were of interest. I ordered in two: the Personal Property tax (see #1 above) and a microfilm of Kanawha County Marriages, Deaths & Wills which turned out to be a "collection" of the above listed records, not a comprehensive digitized collection.

4. Using the FHC book catalog and, I compiled a list of history books that covered the area and the time period.
  a. One of the books Kanawha County Marriage 1792-1869 by Julia Wintz was available online but had no information on my MASON family.
  b. Several of the books were available at the Wayne County Public Library, but, again, nothing was found on my family. For more information on that experience, see my blog: Wayne County Public Library Trip
  c. Several other books are available at the Hudson Library & Historical Society. Yes, I could request photocopies through interlibrary loan. But that would defeat the purpose of a road trip. DISCOVERY! Hudson has an extensive genealogy and local history collection that I have wanted to see for a long time. There is a road trip in my future!

5. Did William B. MASON serve in the Civil War? At 45 years old, he would not have been considered too old to serve.
   a. A William B. MASON did serve in the Confederate Army from a Virginia unit organized in the eastern part of the state. There isn't enough information to say if he is my ancestor.
   b. 37 William MASONs are listed as serving in the Confederate Army from Virginia in the National Parks Service list of Soldiers and Sailors who served in the Civil War. 2 William MASONs served from West Virginia.

6. WHEN and WHERE did William and Elizabeth MASON die?
   a. From census records we know it was after 1880 when they were living with their daughter Mary in Kanawha County. Now that I know how poor the couple were, I looked for a county poorhouse or infirmary. There was a county infirmary very near the area where they lived. Multiple listings online indicate that records for the institution have not been located.
  b. Repeated searches using variants of their first names in the The West Virginia Division of Culture and History's Vital Research Records but to no avail. Online discussions say that deaths that occurred in the "poorhouse" were not recorded and the graves are not registered. No grave information has been discovered either on or the several cemetery books that have been consulted.
 c. Could they have been living elsewhere when they died?

So, yes, I did research my MASON family. I still have several avenues of research to consult and I will continue to research them. THAT is my resolution for 2017!

How did you do with your 2016 genealogy goals?

*During the height of the Civil War in 1863, West Virginia sepceded from Virginia and became a separate state. Ironically, THIS secession was allowed and encouraged by the Federal Government