Category Archives: Historic Events

Timothy Morgan

Timothy Morgan (1723-1795)

When I think about the Welsh Morgan family on my maternal line, I generally am thinking of the flashiest subject for stories, Jesse Morgan, the Forty-Niner. However, the Morgan family had been in American for several generations before black sheep Jesse. After my previous posts on Jesse Morgan, the elder, I decided to dig further back in that Morgan family to Timothy Morgan.

The Life of Timothy Morgan

Timothy Morgan, my 4th great-grandfather, and his wife Deborah Leeds spent their lives in Groton, New London County, Connecticut.

The grandfather of the younger Jesse, Timothy Morgan seems to have been a typical hard-working New England family man. Timothy and Deborah had a whopping eleven children, which guarantees that Deborah was also a hard-working New England woman.

Unfortunately, I have found few clues about Timothy’s life. I will be able to get a better feeling for how he lived when I read a detailed history of the town of Groton, the county of New London and/or the state of Connecticut. The larger events of the 18th century will shed life on the daily lives of my ancestors. But I am saving that history for earlier members of the family, since the Morgans spent many generations in Groton and the area.

Meanwhile, the good news: We have Timothy’s probate papers. Even better, they contain not only his will but an inventory and receipts signed by his children for the portions they received.

Timothy Morgan’s Parents and Family

But to begin at the beginning, Timothy was born to Samuel Morgan and Hannah Avery in 1723 in the seaport town of Groton Connecticut. When Timothy was born in 1723, he had three brothers, Samuel (1710), Elijah, born (1712), and Abijah/Obijah. Two girls balanced the family–Hannah, (1714) and Lucy (1717). Some records indicate two more children, Experience and Theophilus, however a search for them comes up blank.

Further, a book called “The Groton Avery Clan” (1912) lists land transactions between the siblings, and heophilus and Experience are not mentioned. “January 12 1744, Timothy Morgan of Groton deeded to Bros. Samuel and Elijah land that had belonged to his father Sam’l.” Other transactions name Abijah, Hannah and Lucy, for a total of six children of Samuel.

Because the Morgans, like many families in that age liked to repeat names from generation to generation, it is possible these two do not exist, and Timothy was Samuel and Hannah’s youngest child.

Timothy and Deborah’s Family

Timothy and Deborah Leeds married about 1747 or 1748. I have found no record, but assume the marriage took place in Groton. Timothy mentions nine of his descendants in the will. In the list below, you will find the two deaths that happened before he wrote the will. However, the couple turned out to be very fortunate in that they seem to have had no infant deaths.

  • 22 July 1749, Experience (M. Peleg Brown)
  • 1 Mar 1751, Deborah (M. Nathaniel Brown) [Note: I have not determined if Peleg is a brother to Nathaniel, whose parents have the interesting names Temperance and Comfort Brown!]
  • 8 Feb 1753, Timothy [Jr.] [Per James Morgan History. Moved West, probably died unmarried.]
  • 8 Sep 1754, Elizabeth (M. ____ Williams)
  • 2 Aug 1756, Daniel, [Died before father wrote will in January 1794, so Daniel died before he was 38 years old.]
  • 27 Jan 1758, Twins, Jesse [my 3x great-grandfather] and
  • David, [“removed west N.Y., no child probably” according to the James Morgan Family History. However, I have evidence that David had children, and we now know he was in touch with the family–at least to receive his inheritance.]
  • 12 Oct. 1759, Theophilus, (M. Mary Hinckly)
  •  12 May, 1763, Samuel,( m. Mary Holmes)
  • 27 May 1765, Aaron, d. Apr. 1786, at the age of twenty.
  • 26 July 1767, Hannah, (m. Daniel Parker.) [The James Morgan Family History hints at a tragic story of Hannah’s young death at a young age. However, we know that she lived long enough to sign the receipt for a distribution from her father’s will on 16 Dec 1796.]

As we later see from his will and inventory at death, Timothy seemed to be a small farmer, rather than having a profession that related to the sea. Since there are many coopers in the family, it would not surprise me to see that might have been his profession, but I see no solid evidence.

However he earned his living, his life centered around the first church of Groton that had been built in 1703. The Averys, a family name entwined with the Morgans, established the First Church, Congregational.

The Revolutionary War

The War of Revolution affected everything touching the lives of the Morgans. Economically, the seaport saw tough times both before and during the war because of disruptions of shipping. To some extent sailors compensated for the lag in trade by turning into privateers.

The city suffered personal losses, partially caused by the privateering. Groton included Fort Griswold, and in 1781, Benedict Arnold led British forces in what some called a massacre, killing or injuring a large percentage of the males in town. The battle would go down in history as the Battle of Groton Heights.

Personally, the family worried about Timothy’s twin sons, Jesse and David were nineteen, a prime age for service in the military. (See Jesse’s story). The older daughter’s husbands no doubt served in the militia, if not the official army. Supplies were short and Deborah would have to do a lot of making do.

The Morgan family lived through frightening times.

Time to Make a Last Will and Testament

By September, 1794, Timothy felt the weight of age and drew up a will. His brother Obijah had died in 1778 and his young son Aaron departed in 1786. Some time in 1793, twenty-year-old Aaron died. On January 6, 1794, Timothy Morgan signed his last will and testament and appointed two sons as executors.

And then in the worst blow of all, his wife, Deborah passed away nearly eight months after Timothy had written his will. Deborah’s tombstone bears the death date of August 22, 1794, and says she was 65 years old. If the complete record is in the probate file, Timothy did not update his will or enter codicils in the record. It was left to his son Theophilus to resolve the conflicts created in distribution of Timothy’s property.

Deborah Leeds Morgan
Tombstone of Deborah Leeds Morgan from Find A Grave. Posted by C. Cunkle.

The Will

After dispensing with the boiler plate language found in most 18th century wills about his present condition, committing his soul to God and paying all just debts, he proceeds to say,

Then I do give and bequeath unto my loving wife Deborah Morgan the improvement of one half of all my Real Estate During her Natural Life and Eight Cows, one yoak (sic) of oxen and one horse, twenty sheep and three hoggs (sic) and all my household Furniture to be at her Disposal forever.

The Children’s Shares

Timothy then proceeds to name his children and in each case indicate they are to be paid by his two sons Theophilus and Samuel. In a separate paper, Timothy designates these two sons as his executors. We learn from a separate entry that in November, after his father died, Samuel turned down the responsibility of being an executor. Although Samuel signed some papers as witness, Theophilus is left as sole administrator.

The papers in the probate packet include receipts from some, but not all of the children, and an interesting departure from son Jesse (my 4th great-grandfather). I have listed the named children and their bequests below. The second number indicates the amount contained in the receipt. Each child received an increase on distribution, presumably because their mother had died and Theophilus decided to divide her belongs rather than keep that amount for himself.

Timothy (Jr.),  £26; Received £40, Signed receipt “D. 1796”

Jesse, £32 *See next section.

David, £32; Received £40, Signed “23 D. 1795”

Experience, 15 shillings, Received ?? [No receipt in file for Experience and her husband Peleg Brown.

Deborah, 15 shillings, Received £13,8 s., She and her husband Nathaniel Brown signed “26 D. 1796”

Elizabeth, £2, Received £13, 8s.,  She and husband Samuel Williams signed “Sept. 26 1796.” [Unlike the others who lived in Groton, the Williams’ lived in Colchester.]

Hannah Parker, 10 shillings, Received £9. “Sept. 16, 1795.”

In addition to these seven children, Timothy gives to Theophilus and Samuel “all my Estate both real and Personal heretofore Not mentioned to be Equally Divided between them, to them their heirs and assigns forever.”

I find it interesting that there is no specific description of real property and buildings, which leaves us wondering how TImothy made a living.  The inventory shows that he owned 71 acres with buildings and appurtenances, which could be a small farm.  It also mentions two acres of Salt ____. The number of animals he owned do not point to a very productive farm–eight cows, a yoke of oxen, twenty or perhaps thirty sheep, one hors and 4 hogs.

His personal property indicates he was well dressed–8 linen shirts, one great coat and also two “close-bodied thick cloth coats” and a fur hat, as well as thick jackets.

I have puzzled over an entry for funds due that relate to each of his sons-in-law.  The four each owed him an identical £13, 11 s., 1p. (13 Pounds, 11 shillings and one pence).

The Jesse Morgan Acquittance

On the twenty-fifth of April, 1795, my 4x great-grandfather, gave back his bequest to his brother Theophilus. Apparently he borrowed £200 from Theophilus, to be secured by his share of their father’s estate. Note this is after the will was made, but before his father died, so there must have been some question about what the final amount of bequest would be.

The first paragraph says that Jesse is bound unto Theophilus Morgan …in the sum of two hundred pounds. However, the second paragraph says that Theophilus has paid Jesse forty pounds to be his full payment for relinquishing his rights. If I am translating the legal language correctly, it says that Jesse, immediately upon his father’s death, will give Theophilus all that he (Jesse) inherits, and that will end the obligation.  Otherwise he will owe Theophilus £200.

Jesse Morgan Sr. signature
Jesse Morgan Sr. signature 1795

If you read about Jesse’s attempt to get a government pension for service in the Revolution, you may remember that his lawyer pleaded that the poor old man needed the help of the government. Apparently, Jesse was already having financial difficulties.

Timothy’s Life Ends

Timothy lived another year after he signed his will with a rather feeble scrawl, dying on 13 October, 1795.

Timothy Morgan signature on will
Timothy Morgan signature on will 1794

How much wealth had Timothy Morgan accumulated to share with his nine surviving children? While there are many complex factors that make equivalents between Colonial money and today’s dollars shaky at best, most measures would say that the £40 pounds mentioned here is worth several thousand dollars.  Timothy’s total worth (according to inventory) added up to £364–not shabby at all.

How Am I Related?

  • Vera Marie (Kaser) Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette (Anderson) Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera (Stout) Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriette (Morgan) Stout, who is the daughter of 
  • Jesse Morgan (1805), who is the son of
  • Jesse Morgan ( 1758), who is the son of
  • Timothy Morgan (1723).

    Notes on Research

    The bulk of the research for this article came from the probate packet for Timothy Morgan, Groton Connecticut.

    Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999, Connecticut State Library (Hartford, Connecticut); Probate Place: Hartford, Connecticut, (1795), Case #2266, Timothy Morgan. Accessed through Ancestry.com

    United States Federal Census, 1790, New London, Connecticut,Timothy Morgan, Census Place: New London, Connecticut; Series: M637; Roll: 1; Page: 76; Image: 53; Family History Library Film: 0568141. Accessed through Ancestry.com

    Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650-1934,FHL Film Number3336, Timothy Morgan, 13 Oct. 1795. Accessed through Ancestry.com

    James Morgan and his Descendants, accessed through Ancestry.com and archives.org.

    Find a Grave, Deborah Leeds Morgan https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/59052372/deborah-morgan, 

 

A Revolutionary War Story Too Good to Miss (Part II)

Jesse Morgan (1758-1846)

1777, Groton Connecticut. Twins Jesse and David Morgan have reached the age of 19–a prime age for conscription into the militia that is fighting for American Independence. While nobody has definite information on David’s life, given the story of Jesse, it is likely that he was absent from Groton when the Militia “recruiters” came to round up new “recruits” for the Revolutionary War. See my description of Jesse’s life before and after the War.

Apparently the Morgan family opposed the war, or at least opposed turning their own young son over to the military. But the reluctant soldier became a witness to history. According to his deposition, he saw the hanging of Major Andre,

Jesse was nearby during the Battle of Camden.

And he saw the French Fleet as it sailed out of the Bay of Bristol , Rhode Island.

Pension Act

In 1832 the United States Congress passed a final law regarding the allotment of pensions to veterans of the Revolutionary War. I explored the many changes that were made to the pension law by various Congresses when I wrote about Eva Marie Stahler’s battle to get a pension that had been owing to her husband. (Eva Marie turned out not to be an ancestor–that’s another story.) From researching Eva Marie’s tribulations, I learned much about the frustration that those worthy Revolutionary War veterans went through. If you would like to look at the details (handy if you happen to be researching your own ancestors from the Revolutionary War) follow the link to an explanation of the pension battle.


The First Attempt – January 1833


After the 1832 law passed, Jesse Morgan wasted no time in applying for his pension for service during the Revolutionary War. He was 75 years old when his representative filed case #5770.

In addition to his own testimony, Jesse has a minister and another man from Pennsylvania testify to his character and truthfulness. But Jesse’s testimony is the most fascinating.

Beginning of Jesse Morgan’s four-page deposition requesting a pension

The Deposition: First Enlistment

1777-1778

The facts presented in January 1833, say that Jesse Morgan enlisted to fight in the Revolutionary War December, 1777 or January 1778 (he wasn’t sure which). He presents the name of the Colonel, Major and Captain and Sergeant under which he served for a term of three months. At the time of enlistment, he lived in Groton Connecticut, although he later moved to Canaan Township, Wayne County, Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, he did not receive a written dismissal and has no written evidence or anyone to testify for him. What? he nor his lawyer could not go back to Groton and find someone who also served in the Army at the same time as Jesse?

At this point, I’m thinking that my 3x great-grandfather needed to get a better attorney. Based on what I wrote about Eve Maria Stahler’s case, she started out with an incompetent attorney, but later hired one who was more thorough.

In his deposition, his description of his activities for the next three months comes across as vivid. “Their duty was to guard that place from the British who were then in possession of Rhode Island. They were engaged in no battles or skirmishes with the enemy during the period. Deponent reccollects however, that the British about this time took possession of and burnt a meeting house at Bristol containing stores, baggage, tents and a mortar familiarly called ‘the old sow.’ He helped to bury the bones of the deceased persons who had been laid in the vaults under the meeting house. ”

After three months the company was dismissed at Providence and he returned home.

The Deposition: Second Enlistment

1778

In July 1778 he re-enlisted and names the Captain and Sergeant he served under. Again he remembers vividly the activities of the army. “They joined the company of Captain Cavena at Norwich in the County of New London and after the space of two or three days they marched to Bristol in the state of Rhode Island. The company of Capt. Cavena as also many other companies at that period were detached and stationed along the shores from the town of Bristol to Rhode Island to guard them and keep the British on the Island. The Company of Captain Cavena were engaged in no battle or skirmishes with the enemy. Deponent recalls seeing the French fleet sail off from the Island in a violent storm and also recollected the retreat of General Sullivan during this period.”

At the end of three months, he was again dismissed and returned home.

The Deposition: Third Enlistment

1780

His testimony continues with a third enlistment. In March of 1780, he “together with three other privates who served in a regiment of the Continental line (The particular number of which he does not recollect and has no means of ascertaining) under the command of”: and here he names the General and the Lt. in charge of the army that he joined “below West Point”. From there they marched to Musquito (sic) Hill in the state of New Jersey and thence after a stay of a few months they marched to Potaway in the same state. “While here the Camden battle took place and deponent recollects seeing one John Parker, a wounded soldier, on his return from the battle. After a stay of a few months, they marched to the highlands to guard the invalids and repair the huts for winter quarters. Deponent at this period saw Maj. Andre hung. A Company to which he belonged drew out to procure forage for the Continental forces under command of Captain Daggett. Jesse was serving as forage master. They loaded waggons(sic) and then returned to the highlands having been absent about two weeks. Although deponent had enlisted for the term of six months only he was detained til those were discharged who had enlisted for nine months–on the 22nd day of November. He arrived home on Thanksgiving Day (November 25th).

Jesse Morgan’s signature on his petition.

I have not dug my way through all of the claims he makes, but am trying to track down the geography of Potaway and Musquito Hill New Jersey.

Further, he says from Musquito Hill they marched to “the Highlands”. which means north of New York City along the Hudson River. If they went to the town of Tappan, then he might well have seen Major Andre hung in October, 1780. I can imagine that all troops in the vicinity were rounded up to witness the event.

Descriptions of the Revolutionary War hanging, like the one linked to Andre’s name above, show that it was a memorable event. But after nearly 60 years, might Jesse have confused what he knew with what he actually saw?

The battle of Camden took place in September, 1780, so according to his timeline, he would have been in New Jersey and been aware of that battle.

The Battle of Rhode Island, conducted in sync with the French fleet, took place in July 1778, again in conformity with Jesse’s testimony of his movements. The departure of the French fleet, did indeed take place in bad weather, as Jesse states in his deposition.

INVALID

In June 1833, Jesse’s appeal was marked INVALID. Further explanation says the evidence (of service) is insufficient, and his name is not found in the files, so he needs proof of his service in 1780. His application did not follow all the rules. The wording suggests that the court is giving Jesse a chance to submit more complete information before a final decision.

If you have read accounts of the Revolutionary War, you know that the record keeping was haphazard at best. An army being cobbled together by farmers and tradesmen who might or might not have had a little training as part of a militia– had better things to do than keep records.

His deposition sounded convincing to me, however the judges probably had been dealing with many fraudulent claims and were determined to follow the letter of the law about evidence.

APPEAL

September 1833. The pension file includes a letter from a man from Groton who testifies that he knew Jesse all his life in Groton and says he was a cooper by trade.

Eldredge Packer testifies that he and Jesse served in the same company of Militia in Groton. In February or March of 1780 three men were drafted from that company, among them Jesse Morgan and Eldridge himself.” Eldredge chose to pay a “transient person” to serve for him. “Morgan kept out of the way for some days but was taken by officer that Morgan compounded the matter and enlisted in the Continental Army for six months being entitled on enlisting to Bounty, as deponent understood and believed at the time. That the draft was for six months to join the American Army…that Morgan was absent from home from the time of his enlistment for many months and deponent always and does now believe that J. Morgan served as a soldier during the absence.”

At this point I notice that the judge in the case is Asa Fish. Significant because Jesse’s wife is Matilda Fish. I don’t know if the judge is related to Matilda, but it is likely. The next witness is also a Fish and I’m thinking that Jesse’s outcome has just gotten rosier.

Brother in law George Fish has a story to tell.

George Fish’s Story: Dodging the Draft

The story told by George Fish explains why I say this is a Revolutionary War story not to be missed. Keep in mind that Jesse would have been about 19 years old at the time.

George Fish says:

His [Jesse’s] family were opposed to his serving in the army. Because of urging by his family and friends, he avoided the officers who came for him. He avoided the conscriptors for a couple of days, but then they came into the meeting house during services and dragged him out. Even then, he managed to slip away and hide at his father’s house. He was finally “forcibly taken by a guard among whom were Timothy Wightman, Elisha Niles and others now all dead.”

At this turn of events, the family and friends had second thoughts. They were afraid of the consequences, since they were complicit in hiding him, so they now urged Jesse to voluntarily enlist and he did so. George Fish further says that Jesse was absent from home until late in the fall of that year “and I always understood and believed that Jesse Morgan served as a soldier.

He admits that he was not personally present when Jesse was taken from his father’s house, or when he enlisted, but he was very conversant with the affairs of his family and have no doubts of the facts relating to his draft, enlistment and service. He says that Jesse is now 75 years old [accurate given the hearing was 1833]. He knows that because Jesse is five years older than he himself. He also testifies that Jesse Morgan and his family removed more than twenty-five years ago from Groton to the State of Pennsylvania.

George Fish knows all of these things because he is Jesse Morgan’s brother -in-law.

Second Denial

UNDATED The appeal, case #5770, including the testimony of the brother-in-law, failed to convince the court. The claim was rejected because Jesse’s name was not found in the files and he needs two witnesses familiar with his second service. (1780)

I believe this court finding must have happened before October 7 when the attorney presented more information. Three of the letters he presents are dated September, but it is possible the attorney did not have them in hand until early October, as they had to be certified by a Justice of the Peace.

October 7, 1883 Jesse’s attorney sends an eloquent letter and several more pieces of evidence. He stresses that Jesse’s first two 3-month enlistments were in the militia (in service to the Revolutionary War Army) and the 1780 service was with the regular army.

“The old gentleman has been at considerable trouble and expense to procure the testimony required in that letter and really needs the assistance of his country and from what his neighbors and old associates say he really deserves it.”


George B. Wescott, Esq.

Mr. Wescott reminds the court that they have all the testimony of previous presentations, and the records of Revolutionary War service can be found in Washington. Jesse Morgan claims he is entitled to pension for three months service in 1776 proved by his affidavit and that of John Packer. He also claims for at least six months in 1780 proved by the affidavits of Thomas Roach and Benjamin Parker.

Third Rejection

October, 1833, the court writes to Attorney Wescott and says that the two witnesses presented [Roach and Parker] are not adequate as they did not have personal knowledge of his service in 1780.

The Final Decision

Pension application cover from United States Archives

The culmination of all “the old gentleman’s considerable trouble and expense” appears, with less drama than other contents of the file, on a cover page. Undated, it simply says

Documents of Jesse Morgan an applicant for a pension on rolls Swift regt. from August to 3 December 1780 = 4 mo. 3 days. Can allow for six months only $20.

Amazing! After at least three years of denying that his name appears on the Revolutionary War rolls, someone has discovered that Jesse Morgan actually was listed on the rolls of the Swift regiment in 1780. The “Swift Regiment” under the command of Gen. Herman Swift was known as the 7th Connecticut Regiment I am not particularly surprised that there are no records of the militia service before 1780, but also have not so far been able to find substantiation that Jesse was in Swift’s regiment. However, Swift’s Revolutionary War regiment’s timeline in New York and New Jersey follows Jesse’s sworn testimony.

For a man who came from an obviously pacifist family, Jesse Morgan served his company well and stood on the fringes of some very important events in United States history.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie (Kaser) Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette (Anderson) Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera (Stout) Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriette (Morgan) Stout, who is the daughter of
  • Jesse Morgan (1805), who is the son of
  • Jesse Morgan (1758)

A Note About Research

The bulk of this story comes from:


U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 , File #5770, Jesse Morgan, Pennsylvania. The records are compiled by Ancestry.com from records at the U. S. Archives and Fold3.com

Other sources:

United States Census, Canaan, Wayne County Pennsylvania, 1840, lists Jesse Morgan as a veteran. Ancestry.com Roll: 493; Image: 525; Family History Library Film: 0020557

Connecticut Revolutionary War Military Lists, 1775-83 , pg 82, Ancestry.com, Jesse Morgan, Ninth Regiment, Lt. Col’s Company [ Because regiments and companies were frequently renamed it is difficult to figure how this tracks with “Swift’s Regiment”]

James Morgan and His Descendants, pg. 41, Jesse Morgan.https://archive.org/details/morgangenealogyh1992morg/page/28

Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1929-1990. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; , 1929-1990; Series Number: Series 1 , Ancestry.com.

Other internet references are linked to their page and were accessed in March 2019.

Research Questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why and sometimes How

The questions Who,What,Where,When,Why and How are known as the journalistic questions, but they cover pretty much and research questions you might have.  In genealogical research, the why may be the most enticing and the hardest to find answers for, but who, what, where, and when rank as essential.

Several people commented to me and expressed some curiosity about how the pieces came together to show my great grandmother’s connection to an Archbishop who became famous in a novel.

Because some readers were curious about the research path, I decided to do a rare “behind the curtain” look at where the stories come from that I tell on Ancestors in Aprons.

After all, that Archbishop, Jean Baptiste Lamy gained some fame serving in New Mexico, and my great-grandmother, Anne Marie Smith (Butts)  never left Knox County, Ohio.  So how did he get into the story? And how did I find him?

Who is Ann Marie Smith (Butts)?

First, I have to inventory what I know.  I’ve been doing research (of various types) for a long time, so I no longer feel a need to write down a list of “things I know” before I start asking research questions.  However, with my genealogy research, a timeline makes the skeleton I build on.

In creating a timeline for Ann Marie Smith (Butts), I relied on the usual paper trail– birth or baptism records, census reports, death information (if no death certificate, Find a Grave provides clues and a photo of a gravestone is more solid evidence, family Bibles shine.) But with Annie, I had the advantage of some background from family members.

My father had written a bare bones report of his ancestors, that included Annie’s name, so I knew her maiden name was Smith.

From a cousin who has been a mentor in my research, I had a transcription of information from a Smith family Bible. The Bible provided her parents’ and siblings’ names and the date of Annie’s birth. I also learned of the deaths of some of her siblings.

I had an informal family history that had been dug up by a remote cousin who in the nineties had written about the Butts of Danville, Knox County, Ohio that included details about Annie’s life.

So from the Bible and census reports I knew that Annie was born in Knox County, Ohio, in 1835, and that she stayed there.  From the informal history, I knew that she had been a devout Catholic. On Ancestry, I discovered her marriage certificate proving the date she married Henry Allen Butts. Census records also confirmed the names of siblings and their dates of birth.

Another bonus that doesn’t usually exist came in four letters from Henry Allen to his wife when he was in the Civil War, which gave a feel for their life that goes beyond the bare facts. For those letters I have my brother to thank. He talked to a relative in Ohio and found a man in California who owned copies of the letters. Although he would not part with the originals, the man allowed us to have copies.

Finally, I had made a personal visit to St. Luke Catholic Church in Danville, Ohio that Annie and Henry Allen attended. (I knew they attended there because of the family history and because Henry Allen is buried there, and I talked to a priest who showed me their register with the names of Butts family members.)

Background on Lamy

Who is Jean Baptiste Lamy?

Incidentally, I had recently read  “Death Comes to the Archbishop” by Willa Cather, together with a short bio of Jean Baptiste Lamy. I learned that before becoming Archbishop of New Mexico in 1850, he was an itinerant priest in Ohio, based in Cincinnati (in the southwest of Ohio).  Since Danville is in the northeastern central part of Ohio, it did not occur to me that he might have been anywhere near St. Lukes.

What Else Do I Want to Know?

After inventorying what I know, my next step is to start asking research questions.  Using the Who?What?When?Where?Why? and sometimes How? questions, I check to see if I have already discovered answers to some, and what questions remain.

I won’t go through all the questions I had about Annie and her life, but start with one of the research questions, “When?” . I recalled my visit to St. Luke’s church, and looking at the time period when Annie and her siblings were born, I realized that the church I saw probably was not there when Annie and her earlier siblings born in Ohio were christened. While I know that the Danville church has hand written records that go back to at least the early 1900s, I have not discovered their records on line. Since I already had satisfactory proof of Annie’s birth I did not plan a trip to Danville, nor did I write to the church, although I may some time in the future.

The church is a beautiful brick building, and much too sophisticated to have been built in the early 1800s.  So I looked for a church website to answer my “when” research questions. Fortunately St. Luke maintains a website that includes a history.  My objective was to find when the brick building was built, but as I read down through the chronology of events at St. Luke, I abruptly stopped with this entry:

The first resident pastor was appointed in September 1839. He was a young Frenchman Father John Baptist Lamy born October 11, 1814 in Lempdes, France and ordained in December 1838.

Was there more than one John/Jean Baptiste Lamy? Or was this the Archbishop written about by Willa Cather?  As I read more of the history, I learned that Danville’ Ohio’s Father Lamy was indeed the man eventually made Archbishop of the territory of New Mexico.

Father Lamy arrived as pastor to St. Luke in 1839.  Annie had been baptized in 1835, so the celebrant at that occasion would have been a visiting priest, because Lamy was the first appointed exclusively to Danville.  Although there may have been a wooden building constructed earlier for church services, no one is sure.  However, it is known that Lamy constructed a log cabin sanctuary at the graveyard–the graveyard that I visited just down a rural road from the church, which stands on the Main Street of Danville.

Father Lamy continued to serve the congregation at St. Luke until September 1847, and in 1850 went west to Santa Fe according to the church history on line.

Next I asked the research question, “What?”  What was happening during the period Father Lamy was there?

Four of Annie’s siblings were born during that period, and three died. Another baby was born in September 1847, so I don’t know if Father Lamy would have presided over her baptism.

UPDATE:  Look back at the story about Annie to see a new piece of evidence I collected that ties the Smith family to Father Lamy!

At any rate, from the timeline of the Smith family, and the timeline of Father Lamy’s service, I could clearly see that the family had extensive contact with him over eight years.

And by the way, the answer to my original questions, “When was the brick building of St. Luke built? ” proves that I was definitely right about it being much to new for Annie’s childhood–although she certainly attended it as an adult.  The first St. Luke brick church was dedicated in 1877. However, it stood near the original wood church by the cemetery rather than in the present location. Re-reading the history, I find that when Henry returned from the Civil War, and he and Annie eventually moved into town, various changes came to the church.

I do not have pictures here, because all of the good pictures of St. Luke that I have found are copyrighted. You can see several photos at the St. Luke website.

Annie’s father died in 1886, and her mother in 1892, so their funerals would have taken place in that church by the cemetery. (I have not checked to see if they or other family members are buried there, but it is a good guess.)

Henry and Annie would have been there in 1895 when the brick church near the graveyard burned and services resumed temporarily in the old wooden church built by Father Lamy. Congregants had to bring their own chairs, as there were no built-in pews.

In 1896, the present beautiful church was dedicated.  Members of the community had pitched in to help with the details of hauling materials, cementing the bricks, installing pews and windows.  I have no doubt that Henry Allen Butts, listed as a laborer on some census reports, would have been one of the laborers, and I can imagine Annie helping other women feed the laborers.

My great grandparents DID attend the church that I visited on Main Street in Danville, and mass would have been said for them when they died. But when she was young, great-grandmother Annie Smith knew Father Lamy as her priest.

So putting together Father/Archbishop Lamy and the life of my great-grandmother Annie Smith Butts, turned out to be less strenuous than much genealogical research. However, it did involve a source that might not have occurred to you in the past.  Look not just for histories of your family, but histories of the town, county, state in which they lived.  If they worked on or lived near a railroad, look for the history of railroads in the region.  Look at school yearbooks and school histories. And don’t forget to look for the history of the church they attended.

Now that I have learned the history of St. Luke, I can tie events in the lives of other Smith and Butts families to a particular building and a particular minister. All I have to do is remember to ask the right research questions.