Monday, July 29, 2013

Cemetery Tales - Pataha Flat

I decided to take a drive Sunday afternoon…you might say my destination was a familiar one – at least on the surface.  Throughout my lifetime, I have driven through Pomeroy from Lewiston going west mostly to Canby, OR.  As a youngster, it was merely a landmark on a long car trip…today, it is much more.  I recognize a place that was a home to some of my family members.

Pomeroy, WA is the only incorporated town in Garfield Co., WA.  It became a town in May 1878 and was officially incorporated on 3 Feb 1886.  Garfield Co., WA is the smallest county in the state of Washington in terms of population.  It is a lovely little town full of old homes, old buildings with character and one of the most beautiful court houses in the area.  It is also the place where my great grandparents moved to after living up on Grouse Flats in neighboring Wallowa Co., OR.  They went there so their son could graduate from high school (Jasper James “Jack” Friddle) and was also the place that several members of the Friddle family lived.  It is interesting to note that my sister-in-law’s family also came from the Pomeroy, WA area as well.  As I have learned more about my families’ history, I recognize the significance of this little town.
Garfield County, Washington Courthouse

Two Views of the Pataha Flat Schoolhouse
Pataha Flat - Established 1865
One of the first times that I can remember going to Pomeroy as a destination to somewhere other than further west…Mom and I learned that her step-father’s family were buried up at the Pataha Flat cemetery which is a few miles outside Pomeroy.  As you climb the hill towards Pataha Flat, you experience what is like living in the Palouse hills.  There are many communities that rest at the bottom of a valley and farmland encompasses the hills surrounding the region.  It is truly some of the best farm land in the world and during the hot July afternoon it was obvious that wheat harvesting was well under way.  Usually you can look around 100 miles in several directions on a clear day and see several landmarks clearly…but not on Sunday.  The dust from harvesting and the few grass fires that have occurred during the past week have created a haze on every horizon.  When I reached the top of the ridge, I looked for the old schoolhouse. To my sorrow the old schoolhouse doesn't look so good anymore.  It is probably around 100 years old and was probably in use up until the advent of electricity.  Perhaps it was even around before the turn of the century and my step grandfather’s relatives attended the school.  It is a landmark that signals that is time to turn east and head a few hundred feet down to the Pataha Flat cemetery. 
Jesse Green Shearer -
My Step Grandfathers - Grandfather
Joel Sturges Shearer - Jesse Green's father

The first time we visited this cemetery we looked around and until we found the cache of Shearer graves.  It was there we saw my step grandfather’s grave as well as that of his father.  Also in the same area were several Crumpacker graves but that of Cassandra Arrasmith Crumpacker didn't seem to be around there.  We took pictures of the Shearer graves and then headed home.  After we headed home, it was time to do a bit more research on the family.  Initially family legend said that Cassandra Arrasmith had been killed along the Oregon Trail…however; this didn't seem to be the case.  With a little research, I found that Cassandra Arrasmith was originally married to William Crumpacker on 21 Dec 1843 in Linn, Osage Co., MO.  They were the parents of nine children and after his death on 3 Mar 1862; Cassandra gave birth to twin girls on 20 Jul 1862.  Within a year, she gathered her children and began her trek across the Oregon Trail.  Within a short time after her arrival in the Washington territory, Cassandra married B. F. Newland and on 3 Mar 1876, she married Schuyler Woolery.  Finally on 23 Jun 1889, Cassandra married John Lewis Tewalt, her daughter’s father in law…so knowing this, I made another trip to Pataha Flat and searched to find Cassander Tewalt in the Pataha cemetery.   It took me a while to find the middle two husbands, but finding this grave was definitely proof that Cassandra didn’t die on the Oregon Trail during her journey west.
Cassandra Arrasmith Tewalt's Grave

So, there in the tiny country cemetery are my step grandfather’s relatives.  I’m sure he must have known about them, but I don’t ever recall him going there.   The biggest mystery that I had after untangling Cassandra’s life was wondering what had happened to Jesse Green Shearer.  I knew that he had died young by his gravestone and left his wife, Mary Crumpacker a widow at the age of 26.  It wasn't until this past year when I located Mary Crumpacker Shearer Earl’s obituary that I discovered that Jesse Green Shearer had died of pneumonia.  It is surprising to note that the Pataha Flat Cemetery is still an active cemetery and there are still burials that have been made there during the last 20 years.  After a perusal of some of the newer burials, I find that I am going to have to make another trip perhaps in the spring.  I just discovered another cousin buried there.  When I visited Sunday, I didn’t walk through the cemetery – too much grass and much too cautious of the possibility of snakes.  I suspect I will have to until Memorial Day next spring, when it is ready for visitors to see if I can locate that cousins’ grave!

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Few Scoundrels in the Family Tree

The other day my father and I were watching a program about Facts and Fiction about American History. The first two stories that they highlighted were very familiar to me....and I didn't even need to hear the stories to tell Dad jokingly...that they were about to air some of the family's dirty linen!

The point of the piece was about some of the misconceptions about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower.  They talked about the near death of one of the passengers when he got knocked off the ship during a storm.  He was fortunate that they had put the sails down to protect them from the storm.  John Howland was one of the two bachelors who was on board the Mayflower.  The program pointed out that if he had been killed there may never have been a Franklin Delano Roosevelt or George H. W. Bush or George W. Bush....and there never would have been my father which I obviously find a little more personally significant.

John Howland was born about 1599 in Fenstanton, Huntindon England...and died on 23 Feb 1673 at Rocky Nook, Kingston, Plymouth Co., MA.  A photo of his grave can been found at - John Howland.  He was married to another Mayflower Passenger, Elizabeth Tilley who lost her parents during the first harsh winter in Plymouth.  Elizabeth was born 30 Aug 1607 at Henlow, Bedfordshire, England and died on 31 Dec 1686 at Swansea, Bristol Co., MA.  Her grave can also be found at - Elizabeth Tilley.  I am descended from John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley through their daughter Desire Howland Gorham.

Desire Howland m. John Gorham
Elizabeth Gorham m. Joseph Hallett
Lois Hallett m. Henry Cobb
Eunice Cobb m. Benadam Gallup, Jr.
Nathan Gallup m. Sarah Giddings
Sarah Gallup m. Silas Gallup
Ebenezer Gallup m. Susan Harden
Silas Gallup m Phebe Montanye
Edith Gallup m. Orlando Gage
Ora Silas Gage m. Florence Christine Shawver
Helen Marian Gage m. Frank Stewart Johnson - my grandparents!

Now the other line that the program highlighted didn't really even tell the whole story.  During the voyage over,  the fourteen old Francis Billington caused some trouble.  He was shooting a musket off in the hold of the ship among barrels of one spark, he could have set the entire ship on fire and the Mayflower descendants might never have happened.  Once they had landed in Plymouth, Francis and his brother went missing for several days and were brought back to the settlers by the Indians.  However, their exploits can be explained as teenage boys and everyone can understand that.  However their father was known as a "knave" and "foul mouthed miscreant" and within 10 years, his temper got the best of him.  He shot a fellow colonist and killed him and became the first man hung for murder in the New England...not quite what you want to be known for.  I am descended from John Billing through his son, Francis.

Francis Billington m. Christian Penn
Mary Billington m. Samuel Sabin
Mercy Sabin m. James Welch
Mercy Welch m. Thomas Spalding
Eunice Spalding m. John Baldwin
Elizabeth Baldwin m. Jesse Swan
Nathaniel Swan m. Harriet Shutter
Cynthia Swan m. Gilbert Gage
Orlando Gage m. Edith Gallup
Ora Silas Gage m. Florence Christine Shawver
Helen Marian Gage m. Frank Stewart Johnson - my grandparents!

I enjoy the scoundrels in my ancestry.  I find them interesting to research and fun to find new details.  My father enjoys a good story and always pokes a bit of fun at people who are inordinately of their ancestry. We have our share of famous and impressive antecedents, but we also have a few scoundrels in family tree that show themselves every once in a while.  So while I can admire what John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley personify as Mayflower ancestors...I still enjoy the good story of a problematic teenager and his criminal father!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Home Cooking

My mother died seven and ½ years ago and every day I seem to be reminded of her in some way.  Sometimes it is just a few words that she used to say, a picture, an important family event or perhaps something that I think she would have liked.  This past Saturday we celebrated another important family occasion – the marriage of my nephew.  I know my Mom was there in spirit…but it would have been so much better if she could have been there in person.  My niece’s husband made the comment to me that he thought he would have really loved my Mom…partly because of the food that she used to make that we have described to him.  At the time, I thought that was a sweet comment…but it made me think a bit about my mother’s cooking.

Mom and Grandma Cappy in the kitchen
Mom really didn't learn to cook from her mother.  Grandma Cappy most likely felt that cooking was a job and not something that she particularly enjoyed.  Mom’s grandmother, Mom Friddle, probably had a more negative opinion about cooking…as she never really learned how and probably didn't care all that much.  However, when Grandma Cappy married Gwen Shearer after the death of her husband, Richard Tannahill…my mother gained a grandmother who loved to cook and was very good at it.

When Mom was eight years old, she spent a few weeks up at the Grandpa Gwen’s lumber mill on McCormick Ridge in Waha near Lewiston, ID.  Mom said that she spent a lot of time playing with the frogs and wondering around the woods…but she spent most of the time with her new grandmother.  Granny, as we always called her, was the camp cook for her son.  I think there were about 15 men who worked there and every day Granny would make three meals to feed these men.  A hearty breakfast was always in order as well as lunch and a good dinner.  Granny started at that point to teach Mom a bit about cooking.  So, she took a bucket and turned it over and Mom climbed on top and began peeling potatoes.  Before long, Mom was making the whole meal under Granny’s tutelage.  Thus at eight years old, Mom learned the basics of cooking and also the love of cooking.

Above - Granny Shearer - Below - Cook Cabin at McCormick Ridge, Waha, ID 
Growing up, it was always exciting when Mom got a new cookbook.  Soon the experimentation would start and we would get to try all kinds of new and different things.  One of my favorite dishes that came out of a recipe found in a magazine was her Bavarian Egg Nog.  It is a jelled Egg Nog salad with just a touch of rum.  To this day, no Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is complete without the Egg Nog.  My siblings and I all still love the dish…I don’t think that their wives or kids have the same type of fondness for the dish.  I am the youngest of four children and all of our birthdays are within a month of each other – so from mid January to mid February there are four Johnson birthdays.  As we got older, Mom would make each one of us our cake of choice.  Out of the four birthdays, there were at least two that had to have Chocolate cake with German Chocolate frosting.  The chocolate cake was made with beets and was always a big hit…but the frosting was really popular.  Mom would make a double batch of frosting because all too often each one of us kids would take a large swipe of the frosting and there wouldn't be any left for the birthday party.
Mom did a great job with the standard dishes…always adding her own twist.  She taught me to make her potato salad and deviled eggs…her meatloaf and Dad’s favorite stuffed peppers.  I learned how to make an apple pie and pumpkin pie and make fudge…all under her tutelage.  Mom gave me the cooking skills to try just about anything in the kitchen.  Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed…but I was always learning something else.

This weekend I am going to cook dinner for my nephew.  A few years ago, I introduced him to my mother’s hash.  My nephew not only loved it…he requested it for his birthday meal last year from me.  He astonished me by eating three platefuls and took the rest back home.  My brother said that he shared the apple pie that I had made…but he wouldn't share the hash.  My other brother visited not too long after the first time that I had made the hash for my nephew…and begged me to make it for him…which I did after a little wheedling. 

There are a lot of family members who tell me that I am a good cook. 
Ready for Thanksgiving Dinner...and Mom's Egg Nog
I suppose I am…but not really because anything that I have really done.  I had a wonderful teacher who taught me several tricks that I am have employed quite often.  I am asked quite often for a recipe that mostly came out of my experience cooking…and have to admit that I will have to try and write it down because I don’t have a recipe that I follow.  There are a lot of home cooks out there like me who were lucky enough to learn how to cook from a Mom…or others who learned from a Granny.  I worry sometimes that the skills will be lost by some of the younger generations…but I remember that there are still some Mom’s, Grandmothers, and maybe some aunts out there who still enjoy cooking and passing their tricks on to a new generation.   So, as I prepare meals, bake deserts or cookies, or perhaps make a snack – I remember my Mom…she was my teacher and every time my cooking is complimented…I thank Mom for having taught me how to cook! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ulpian Grey Johnson

One of the strangest names that I have come across during my genealogy research is that of Ulpian.  I had never taken the time to look up where the name actually came from.  In today’s availability of instant information, I took the time to do a quick search.  It turns out that Ulpian was jurist or lawyer who was born about 170 AD and died in 228.  He was from Tyrian ancestry which meant that he was from a city that is in modern day Lebanon but was considered a Roman by nationality.  Evidently he was a rather important early scholarly writer whose work was predominant in Roman law.  So, how did my great great grandparents decide to name their 8th son, Ulpian – I really don’t know…but it certainly leads me to believe they might have had more education than I originally thought.

Ulpian Johnson as a young man.
Ulpian Grey Johnson was born on 17 Nov 1869 in Kirkman, Shelby Co., IA and died on 22 Oct 1944 in Dickinson, Stark Co., ND.  His parents, Washington Abraham Johnson and Mary Ann Smith had married in Jefferson Co., TN on 21 Aug 1855.  Sometime between June of 1861 and October of 1863, they left Tennessee and went to Iowa.  The story that has been told to me is that they left in the middle of the night in 1862 and headed north to stay with Washington’s brother in Jasper Co., Iowa.  They soon left Jasper Co., Iowa and were soon living in Shelby Co., Iowa.  I suspect that Washington didn’t want to get involved in the Civil War and because his cousin (Pres. Andrew Johnson) was the military governor, his family was most likely not too popular amongst Confederate sympathizers.  So Ulpian is born in Kirkman, Shelby Co., Iowa which is where his parents settled and lived out the rest of their long lives.  At some point, after 1900, Ulpian traveled north to live in North Dakota.  He was involved in the railroads as were many young men of the day, and North Dakota had to be an attractive location to travel to because land was available.  At some point in his life, Ulpian injured his arm while working the railroads and it became quite useless.  At the age of 40, Ulpian married a widow, Shirlie Louisa Pope White, on 27 Apr 1909 in Washburn, McLean Co., ND.  She had two small boys and had lost her first husband as the result of a prairie fire. 
Ulpian - Probably around the time of his marriage in 1909
They applied for land and are recorded in the Bureau of Land Management records as having land in Shirlie Johnson’s name in Dunn Co., ND and are recorded there in the 1910 census.  I have been unable to locate them in the 1920 census and suspect that they were never counted.  My father was told by his father that much of his younger years was spent on what they called the Missouri river breaks.  However, after 1920, they began working on a damn near that area, and Ulpian and his family probably moved nearer to town.

Ulpian and Shirley were the parents of five children:
  • Mary Ann Johnson b. 1910 d. 1975
  • Nancy “Nannie” Mae Johnson b. 1912 d. 2000
  • Frank Stewart Johnson b. 1914 d. 1975
  • Hazel b. 1919 d. 1919
  • Audrey Ruth Johnson b. 1923 d. 1999

Probably taken around 1927 after Shirlie's death.
Left to Right:  Nan, Mary, Ulpian, Frank and Audrey in the front
On my best guess…from what I have been told, Ulpian was not a particularly strong individual either mentally or physically.  He was very small in stature…probably around 5’3 and had a useless arm.  He was probably one of those type of men who was old before his time.  He married for the first time at the age of 40 and when his wife died in 1927 of pneumonia…Ulpian fell apart.  He wasn’t able to really care for his children or provide for them, so it was up to his two most able children to do that.  My grandfather, Frank, quit school and went to work to support his family and his sister, Nancy did the same thing.  My grandmother told me that when she met Ulpian, when he was an old man, he still couldn’t talk about his wife.  When he was asked, he would begin crying and wouldn’t be able to talk.  My grandmother thought he was a kind but very sad old man.
I’ve heard others refer to Ulpian as George, and I believe that was what he was generally called.  I was told by a cousin, that she referred to him as Uncle Ulp – but I wonder if anyone every really called him Ulpian other than his parents and perhaps his wife.  I have a several photos of him…some when he was young and looked vibrant, but many more when he was an old man.  When my grandparents married, they went back to North Dakota because Grandpa Frank’s father was still living there.  It must have been a very hard thing to face for a young bride as my grandmother was.  I don’t think those early years were easy for my grandparents.  I’ve heard that my grandfather worked up to four jobs to try and support his growing young family, handicapped sister and elderly father.  The only work that Ulpian had done as far as I know after his accident, was repair tack.  Finally in 1943, my grandmother decided to go home and visit her family.  It was soon discovered that there were plenty of jobs back in Idaho while there were virtually none in North Dakota.  So, the decision was made to move to Idaho.  My grandfather tried to convince his father to move with them, but he refused.  So Ulpian stayed in North Dakota and soon ended up in the poor house with his handicapped daughter, Mary.  Ulpian died there less than a year after my grandparents had left North Dakota.

Taken in 1940 - Ulpian pictured with my father, Gene Johnson
Most of what I know about Ulpian, comes from my father and grandmother and only my grandmother actually knew him.  From what she told me…Ulpian was a broken man after his wife (Shirlie) died and was never the same.  It is hard for me to have a great deal of respect for him, because I know what my grandfather and his sister had to do to support their family.  It has never seemed quite fair to me that their father sacrificed their education and lives because of his grief, and in the end…he died a lonely broken old man still buried in the grief of losing his wife.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Trip to Gettysburg

In 1978, my parents took us on an unforgettable trip.  I was eleven years old and spent the most of the month of June in a pickup camper riding across the United States.  There were numerous memorable places from Custer’s battlefield at the Little Bighorn, to the South Dakota Badlands as well as Philadelphia, Washington D. C., Charleston, SC, Disney World and New Orleans.  However, one of the most memorable stops on a trip of memorable places was Gettysburg.

I can’t say that at eleven years old that I had any idea of the significance of the location or the battle.  The most that I knew about Gettysburg was the Gettysburg address that I had had to memorize the previous year in school.  I remember a wealth of monuments memorializing one thing or another…but I didn't know the significance of Little Round Top, Cemetery Hill or Pickett’s charge.  However, I did recognize the incredible loss of life while looking at the cemetery and seeing all those little white headstones.  I also remember the Eisenhower farm out in the middle of nowhere. 

Since that time, I've done some studying of Gettysburg and understand that it was probably one of the most significant battles of the Civil War for many reasons.  It stopped the path into the North by the Confederates and from then until the end of the war, General Robert E. Lee never was able to mount a successful offensive incursion into the north.  It was also a significant victory for the Union…although I can’t see it as much of a victory when 23,055 men were killed compared to the South’s 23, 231 casualties for a grand total of 57,225 men killed.  Those three days of battle from July 1 to July 3 that occurred 150 years ago produced the largest number of casualties in any battle.  I've since learned of the importance of the actions of Gen. John Buford, the courage of Col. Joshua Chamberlain at Little Round Top, and the despair that Gen. Pickett faced when most of his entire brigade was destroyed in one seemingly useless charge.

However, the one thing that always remains for me is the Gettysburg Address….”Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition, that all men are created equal!”  Believe it or not…I still remember that from part from memory.  Back when I was in 5th grade, we had to learn the preamble to the Constitution, the opening of the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address.  I might have a problem doing them all from memory now…but when I was eleven years old it was ingrained in my head.  Perhaps that is why, Independence Hall and Gettysburg took on such special significance to me.  I was in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed and I stood at the spot that President Lincoln delivered his personally written address.  I've read that there were several who spoke for long minutes on the day of the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery, but it is Lincoln’s words that have survived in our country’s memory. 
On that day, back in 1978, when I stood at the spot where Lincoln made his speech, there was a monument with speech written in what appeared to be Lincoln’s handwriting.  There must have been about fifty people looking at it and many were complaining that they couldn't read the handwriting.  My mother spoke up and said my daughter can recite the speech.  I was probably too young to really realize the position that my mother had put me in…but there I was reciting the Gettysburg Address to all of those surrounding that monument.  I suppose my mother was proud of my memory and the fact that her eleven year old daughter knew the speech from heart.  I've never forgotten standing in front of all those people, and while I should have been nervous, I wasn't. 

Today, I think about what it must have been like in Gettysburg on that July 4th in 1863.  It must have seemed like those people were living in hell on earth.  Their homes and town were destroyed by the battle, and there had to be a stench of the dead and dying that would have pervaded everything and everyone.  Nothing was ever the same – the little town of Gettysburg would always be known for this battle.  But it was also known for the last words that Lincoln spoke in his famous speech…”that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth!”  So, today I remember what happened in 1776 but also what happened in 1863 and remember those who helped create this country and keep it together during a bloody Civil War.  Happy 4th of July!