Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Civil War Photos: Alfred A. Stratton

I recently visited the Met to see the exhibit "Photography and the American Civil War" and ended up liking it so much that I bought the gorgeous catalog by Jeff Rosenheim. Today, as I was flipping through the pages, I came across the below image of Alfred A. Stratton of Company G of the 147th New York Volunteers. I recognized him immediately.

He is certainly the same person as the "Unidentified Soldier" pictured in this carte-de-visite in the Liljenquist Collection at the Library of Congress. The image in the LOC digital collection correctly identifies his company and regiment, but not his name.

CDV in Liljenquist Collection

Poor Alfred didn't live very long after these photos were taken. He died at age 29, allegedly from complications from his injuries. Berry Craig has written a biography of Stratton on the Orthotics and Prosthetics Business News website. There are actually quite a few photos of Stratton floating around, as he was photographed both for medical documentation and to help raise money to support himself after the war.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Civil War Photos: Lucretia Electa and Louisa Ellen Crossett

Sisters Lucretia Electa and Louisa Ellen Crossett in identical skirts, blouses, and jewelry with weaving shuttles
The photograph above was taken on September 26, 1859, by a photographer based in Lawrence, MA. It depicts Lucretia Electa Crossett, age 22, with her sister Louisa Ellen Crossett, age 18. As you can see, the women are dressed identically down to their jewelry, and are holding weaving shuttles. Lucretia is also wearing a pair of scissors in her skirt.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Civil War Photos: Abram M. Carhart

The image above is a tintype in the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs. The man pictured is Abram M. Carhart. This is his story, as told in Heroes of Albany by Rufus Wheelwright Clark (1867).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Civil War Photos: Lewis Cashdollar

Lewis W. Cashdollar (New York State Military Museum)
It was face of the man in this picture that drew me in. He looks resolute, but slightly scared, and extremely young. His name was Lewis W. Cashdollar. Though he volunteered to go to war, he was really just a boy - a 19-year-old fisherman from Tivoli, New York. He paid a heavy price for his service, losing a leg in September of 1864 in Winchester, Virginia, but he lived to see Tivoli again, and his wife, Adelia A. McDonald, whom he married the same year that he enlisted.

Civil War Photos: Joseph Egolf

Colonel Joseph Egolf (New York State Military Museum)
I think you can tell why I chose this photograph for my next Civil War Photo investigation. Apart from the obvious, there's just something amazing about this man - the way he holds himself, the tidy way in which his empty shirtsleeve is pinned in front of him, his stalwart expression, and his meticulously groomed sideburns. He's someone whom I wanted to get to know.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Civil War Photos: William Glenny

I spent the morning searching the photographs on the New York State Military Museum website, trying to find one that would seize my attention the way that the photographs of Chester F. Dewey and William Carason did. What I found was two photographs, one with a detailed description on the reverse, that succeeded in capturing my imagination.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Civil War Photos: William Carasaw

William Carasaw (New York State Military Museum)
Why did William Carasaw volunteer to fight in the Civil War? In his forties at the start of the war, he was too old to be drafted, and living as he did in New York, he could have easily avoided the conflict altogether. My investigation into this question revealed a fascinating story that ties Carasaw to famous abolitionists Gerrit Smith and John Brown. Yes, that John Brown.

Carasaw was born in Watervliet, New York, in 1820. In 1849, he and his wife Eliza Reid Carasaw moved to North Elba to be part of what would be known as "The North Elba Black Colony." The colony consisted of forty acre lots granted by abolitionist Gerrit Smith to "free blacks of New York State who measured up to his standards of good moral character, industriousness, and temperance" (1). Shortly after Smith set up his colony, John Brown, who would later help to spark the Civil War through his raid on Harper's Ferry, moved to the area in order to teach the colonists how to farm, as many had never farmed before. Perhaps due to their lack of experience or Smith's poor planning (or both), few of the colonists stayed in North Elba for very long.

Carasaw was given forty acres in the southwest quarter, Subdivision 1, of Lot 23, Township 12, in Smith's colony, an area that historian Mary MacKenzie describes as "deep wilderness land" that is "still wilderness today" (1). She believes that due to the inaccessibility of this area, it's "highly unlikely that Carasaw made any attempt to clear his lot and settle on it." Instead, he lived elsewhere in North Elba, where he owned a log cabin, and produced potatoes, butter, and maple sugar.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Civil War Photos: Chester F. Dewey

In the course of my research on the 59th New York State Infantry Regiment - in which Charles W. Cronk, the son of Alfred and Sally Ann Carpenter Cronk, served - I came across this photograph of Chester F. Dewey, who was a private and later a sergeant in that regiment (here is the full information about the photograph, which is a carte-de-visite held at the New York State Military Museum). I found something incredibly engaging about his face and his expression. He looked like someone I would have gone to college with. I became even more interested in Dewey after reading the description of his service that is posted on the website of the New York State Military Museum:
Chester F. Dewey: Age, 21 years. Enlisted July 4th, 1861 at Lowville. Mustered into Company B as a private August 9th, 1861 for a three-year tour of duty. Promoted to corporal October 1st, 1862 and wounded in action December 13th, 1862 at Fredericksburg, VA. Promoted to sergeant December 31st, 1862 and transferred to Company C June 25th, 1863. Returned to the ranks in November or December 1863 and discharged July 11th, 1864 at Government Hospital for the Insane, Washington, D.C. 
I knew I had to find out more about this young man with the engaging face who had suffered so much as a result of the Civil War. What happened to him? Did he recover from his illness? Was he able to return to his life back home?

Monday, May 6, 2013

34: Washington B. Pullis

Several times, I had looked at the name of Washington B. Pullis in the 1909 transcription and wondered how he fit into the community of the cemetery. The transcription calls him "Major Washington B. Pullis," and states that he was a member of the 58th Illinois Infantry Regiment. I thought perhaps he was a native of Illinois who had moved to New York later in life - that is, until I saw his actual grave. He is listed on one side of the Williamson monument above. The other sides commemorate Robert and Mary J. Williamson and their four children who died young.

Where does Washington B. Pullis fit into all of this?

The 1850 census provides the answer ... or so I thought. Washington B. Pullis, who was born in December 1836, must be the same person as Washington Williamson, who was 13 in 1850.

1850 US Federal Census
The Williamson family was haunted by tragedy. In 1850, they had already lost one child: Julia E. Williamson, who died in 1848 at the age of five. Their infant son John V. Williamson would die that year. Then, on April 29, 1854, Mary J. Williamson gave birth to twin girls, Mary E. and Anna M. Mary (the mother) died less than one month later; infant Mary died on July 14, and Anna on February 7 of the following year. Robert Williamson was left alone to raise his four surviving children.

By 1860, Washington had left the house, and Robert lived with Lavina (or Malvina), Robert, and Smith. This census indicates that Robert was born in England, even though the 1850 census said he was born in New York.

1860 US Federal Census
The 1870 census also states that Robert was born in England. By then he was living with a family of Cronks.

1870 US Federal Census
Robert Williamson died in 1876.

Now this is where things get tricky. When I try to search for the Williamsons' oldest child Washington, I get no results if I search for "Washington Williamson." However, I get plenty of results when I search for "Washington B. Pullis," without the Williamson, including Washington's Civil War record.

At this point, my guess was that Washington B. Pullis was not the son of Robert Williamson, but rather the son of Mary J. Williamson and her previous husband, whose last name must have been Pullis. Unfortunately, Mary wouldn't have been listed by name in the 1840 census, so I can't use it to confirm my suspicion. I'm pretty sure I'm right, though.

This is Washington's Civil War record:
Rank at enlistment: First Sergeant

Enlisted in Company B, Illinois 58th Infantry Regiment on December 24, 1861. Promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on March 2, 1863. Promoted to 1st Lieutenant on May 18, 1864. Promoted to Full Captain on November 5, 1864.
Unfortunately, I can't find Washington in any of the censuses besides the 1850 census, so I can't say for sure if he married or had any children.

Washington's brother Smith Williamson graduated from New York University School of Law in 1876. In 1900, he was living in White Plains with his English-born wife Sarah, his daughter Lilian, his daughter Marion, Marion's husband Francis Voss, and two servants.

1900 US Federal Census
According to passenger lists, Smith Williamson traveled extensively, visiting France in 1909 and 1912, Scotland in 1910, and England in 1914. He died before 1920.

Marion's husband Francis Underhill Voss applied for a passport in 1920, which is how I got this awesome picture of him (on the right).

Voss was also a traveler, visiting Bermuda in 1925 and the Dutch West Indies in 1927. It seems that he traveled for business; the 1920 census gives his occupation as "clerk" in a "steamship co." He and Marion lived in New Jersey and had two children, Willard and Marion. According to passenger lists, Marion traveled with Francis on his trips, but I haven't been able to find her passport application. Francis died in 1963.

Since the 1909 transcription is missing the names of Robert and Mary Williamson's children (aside from Washington Pullis), I thought I'd transcribe the entire monument here:

Side #1
Robert Williamson
Born May 30, 1812
Died March 15, 1876
Mary J.
Wife of Robert Williams.
Born August 15, 1818
Died May 24, 1854

Side #2
Mary E.
Born April 29, 1854
Died July 14, 1854
Anna M.
Died April 29, 1854
Died February 7, 1855
Children of R. and M. J. Williamson

Side #3
Julia E.
Born February 7, 1843
Died September 4, 1848
John V.
Born September 11, 1849
Died August 19, 1850
Children of R. and M. J. Williamson

Side #4
Washington B. Pullis
Born December 16, 1836
Died March 21, 1888

  1. Mary J. (1818-1854) m. (1) Unknown Pullis; (2) Robert Williamson (1812-1876)
    1. Washington B. Pullis (1836-1888)
    2. Lavina Williamson (1838-)
    3. Julia E. Williamson (1843-1848)
    4. Robert A. Williamson (1846-)
    5. John V. Williamson (1849-1850)
    6. Mary E. Williamson (1854-1854)
    7. Ann M. Williamson (1854-1855)
    8. Smith Williamson (1852-before 1920) m. Sarah A. (1851-after 1920) in 1873
      1. Marion M. Williamson (1874-) m. Francis Underhill Voss (1872-1963)
        1. Willard Voss (1904-)
        2. Marion Voss (1910-)
      2. Lilian Williamson (1876-)

Cemetery Update

The cemetery looked fantastic today. The volunteers did an amazing job cleaning the gravestones. I was stunned by the results. Some of the stones went from being black and illegible to looking practically new.

I can tell that the birds really appreciated all the work I did cleaning the grave of George Henry and Louis Seaman. It still looks good. I previously posted the front, but forgot to take a picture of the "after" of the back. Well, here it is. It's pretty amazing, right? And the best thing about it is that it hardly takes any effort at all. This result was achieved simply by scrubbing with a brush and spraying with water.

Here are more pictures of the mysterious cross made of footstones that volunteers unearthed on Saturday. There are so many more footstones than I imagined!

Lastly, here is a pretty picture of the cemetery with the trees coming out. The lawn needs to be mowed, but other than that, it looks pretty fantastic. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

33: Phebe Maria Van Tassel Chase

Grave of Phebe Maria (Van Tassel) Chase
I suspect that Hannah, whose grave sits behind that of Phebe Maria Van Tassel Chase, is a relative of hers, but I've yet to identify the exact link.

Born in 1835, Phebe Maria Van Tassel was the daughter of Gilbert Van Tassel and Ann Maria Hewlett, both of whom are buried in the cemetery, as is Phebe's sister, Ardelia C. Van Tassel. Gilbert was a shoemaker. In 1850, he and his wife had four daughters living with them.

1850 US Federal Census
In 1860, Phebe was living with her sister Sarah, Sarah's husband George Jackson, and Phebe's future husband Edwin V. Chase. I would love it if anyone could decipher the occupation given for Phebe in the census below. Milliner, maybe? In any case, Edwin was born in Connecticut and was a tin smith. He and Phebe married one year later. Shortly after that, Edwin enlisted in the 7th Regiment, Connecticut Infantry, Company D.

1860 US Federal Census
In 1860, Phebe's sister Ardelia was living at the New-York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb in Manhattan. Sadly, Ardelia would die in 1862.

1860 US Federal Census
Ten years later, and we arrive at the Sexist Census of 1870. Seriously, I call it the Sexist Census because every woman is simply listed by her husband's name. Here, Phebe is "Mrs. E. V. Chase." If I didn't have later censuses, I wouldn't be able to identify this as Phebe. Edwin and Phebe are listed with their two sons, Edwin and Freddie. The name of a third son, John, is crossed out. Was this a mistake, or did the child die?

1870 US Federal Census
Ten years after that, Edwin and Phebe were living in the same place with their two sons.

1880 US Federal Census
After the 1880 census, twenty years elapse before we get another glimpse into the Chase family. By that time, Phebe, age 65, was living with her son Frederick, his wife Mary (who was the daughter of Irish immigrants), and their two-year-old daughter Catherine in Brooklyn. This census identifies Phebe as the mother of three children, one of whom was living. Her son Edwin Chase had died in 1895 and is buried in the cemetery.

1900 US Federal Census
Meanwhile, Edwin Chase the Elder, age 65, was living in Fitch's Home for Soldiers and Orphans in Darien, Connecticut. I haven't been able to determine when he died or where he was buried.

1900 US Federal Census
Phebe, however, died in 1905 and is buried in the cemetery. Her sole surviving child and his wife had five children by 1925. Frederick worked as an electrician, and two of his children worked as typists. His youngest child seems to have been named after Phebe's father.

1925 New York State Census
By 1930, only three children were left in the house.

1930 US Federal Census

  1. Gilbert Van Tassel (1798-1874) m. Ann Maria Hewlett (1798-1870)
    1. Sarah A. Van Tassel (1833-) m. George W. Jackson (1829-)
    2. Phebe Maria Van Tassel (1835-1905) m. Edwin V. Chase (1835-after 1900) in 1861
      1. Edwin L. Chase (1864-1895)
      2. Stephen Chase (1870-before 1900)
      3. Frederick E. Chase (1867-) m. Mary E. (1871-) in 1896
        1. Catherine Chase (1898-)
        2. James F. Chase (1907-)
        3. Mary C. Chase (1908-)
        4. John F. Chase (1912-)
        5. Gilbert A. Chase (1914-)
    3. Ardelia C. Van Tassel (1837-1862)
    4. Susan Van Tassel (1840-)

    Saturday, May 4, 2013

    Cemetery Event #2

    "Our Children"
    Today was our second day of cleaning at the cemetery. You can see the work I did on one grave above. I don't know what that orange-brown discoloration is across the lower face of the grave, but I've noticed that a lot of graves have it.

    During the clean-up a small group worked on uncovering a cemetery mystery. About fifty years ago, someone used a couple of dozen footstones to make a giant cross across the open lawn of the cemetery where the church used to be. We don't know why this was done, or whether the footstones were actually removed from their proper places in the course of this action or whether they had already been misplaced. But the footstones have now been exposed and are in the process of being matched to their rightful headstones.