Friday, August 30, 2013

Blueberries Are in Season! - Family Recipe Friday

We've been enjoying this recipe since I found it in the March, 1987, Country Living magazine where it was called "Sour Cream Blueberry Bread."  It truly is a sweet bread recipe but because we always bake the batter in muffin tins, we call them muffins.

In the recipe below I noted changes I make in brackets after each ingredient.  (Abbreviations:  c./cup; tsp./teaspoon)

Banana Blueberry Muffins

1 c. butter, softened [shortening works better]
3/4 c. sugar

2 large eggs
1 c. mashed, ripe bananas [or frozen, slightly thawed and mashed]
1/2 c. sour cream [we use low-fat or fat-free or sometimes drain yogurt to use]

Beat in just till smooth:
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Fold in:
1 c. fresh blueberries [or frozen if you don't have fresh]
1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans [optional; we never use]

Bake in greased and floured loaf pan in 350-degree oven for about 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool completely in pan.

We bake them in 12 paper-lined muffin tins for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove immediately from pans, let cool a few minutes, eat when they're cool enough.



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Found:  Four Gerner Siblings

Sometimes I imagine that my ancestors are playing hide-n-seek with me  but they play by different rules than I remember as a child.  And sometimes I feel like my ancestors help or hinder the results of my research.  Mostly hinder, but just recently, four siblings in one generation of my elusive Gerner ancestors are coming out of hiding, helping to break down a brick wall.  Finally! 

Frederick Gerner is my great-grandfather.  Round-about research and vague memories of his youngest daughter led me to people who were probably his parents, Christian and Elizabeth, in census records from 1860 to 1880.  Those records gave me a list of children that corresponded with the vague memories of Fred's youngest daughter.  So I set off to find Fred's siblings as adults in the hopes of learning more about their parents.

Census records gave me
  • Emma, born about 1847 
  • Frederick, born about 1849
  • Isabell / Elisabeth / Lizzie, born about 1851
  • Charles, born about 1853
  • Christian, born about 1854, and
  • John, born about 1856

To date, I've learned that
  1. Emma married Alfred Vensel in 1869 in Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  She and Afred had one son, John, and three daughters, Laura, Maude, and Ida.  They stayed close to home, living in Fairview Township, Chicora, and Butler.  Alfred was a carpenter who committed suicide at the age of 59, on April 5, 1906.  Emma was already blind at the time.  Emma passed away at the age of 76 on December 7, 1922. 
  2. Frederick - well, there have been plenty of posts about him already, but the briefest information is that he married Elvira Bartley and died on March 26, 1926.
  3. Charles married Eva D. Adams in 1881.  They had at least five children:  Francis, Bertha, Mary, Dale, and Ada.  Charles worked as an oil producer.  He died at the age of 77 on June 12, 1929.  
  4. Christian was born on July 12, 1854, in Clarion County, Pennsylvania (according to his marriage record).  He married Amanda Daubenspeck on October 22, 1886.  For a while they lived in S. Washington Borough, Washington County, Pennsylvania.  They had two sons:  Maurice L., born in 1890, and Russell D., born in 1892.  Sometime after 1900, the family moved to McKim District, West Virginia, and by 1920 were living in Anaheim, Orange County, California.  Christian worked as an oil pumper/producer for 43 years, last working in 1918.  He died at the age of 81 on October 9, 1935, in Anaheim.
Lizzie and John are still in hiding, being very unhelpful.  Lizzie was a witness to the marriage of her brother Frederick and his wife, Elvira, in July, 1872.  She remained single until at least the 1880 census when she was 29 years old.  But I've been unable to find more information about her.  Did she marry?  Did she die young?  John may have married Maggie Sarver in July, 1883.  I have more research for both Lizzie and John. 

I began researching Fred's siblings because his death certificate named only his father.  I hoped that the death records of his siblings would give the name of their mother, too.  And they did!  Emma's, Charles's, and Christian's death certificates all name their father as Christian Gerner and their mother as Mary E. Stahl (or variant spelling/misspelling, Sthal).  If the E. doesn't stand for Elizabeth, I'm way off base with this research, but there are so many other indications that this is my Fred's family that I have little doubt.

I've found four siblings but I'll continue to search for more information about them and their parents.  I'd like to obtain a copy of Christian's obituary (assuming there is one) but I haven't found an online source for a 1935 Anaheim newspaper.  I continue to wish for a will for the senior Christian Gerner and some death information for his wife, Elizabeth or Mary E.  But for now, I'm happy with the progress I've made.  If these ancestors are playing hide and seek, I think I'm beginning to win a round or two.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Surnames and Variations #3

These are some of the surnames I'm researching in my family history.  (You can see a complete list on the sidebar to the left.)  I periodically update the list as I see more name variations and find more ancestors.  Below each surname are the spelling variations, the dates found in records, and the location where the ancestor lived at the time or where the record was recorded. 

ARMITAGE (Abel, Elizabeth)
  • Armitage - 1841-1861 Yorkshire, U.K. Censuses; 1880 U.S. Census
  • Harmatage - 1870 U.S. Census, Steubenville, Jefferson, Ohio
  • Armiddage - 1874 final naturalization record, Jefferson County, Ohio
  • Armatage - 1875-76 Steubenville (Jefferson County, Ohio) City Directory

BARTLEY (Dixon/Dickson)
  • Bartley - 1850-1880 U.S. Census,  Parker Township, Butler, Pennsylvania
  • Bartly - 1900 Will of Dixon Bartley, Butler County, Pennsylvania

 BELL (Jacob, Lydia/Lidda, Cruson/Crewson)
  • Bell - 1850, 1870, 1880 U.S. Census, Wells Township, Jefferson County, Ohio

BICKERSTAFF (Augustine, William, Ellis, Edward Jesse, Emma)
  • Bickerstaff - early 1800s-present, Jefferson, Mahoning, & Trumbull Counties, Ohio
  • Biggerstaff - (Ellis) 1890-1907, Civil War Pension File; Jefferson, Mahoning, and Trumbull Counties, Ohio; Alleghany and Westmoreland Counties, Pennsylvania

DOYLE (Andrew, William, Gust, Lee)
  • Doyle - Mercer County, Pennsylvania, Northumberland, England - most commonly-found spelling across all research
  • Doile - (Andrew) 1880 U.S. Census; (Lee) 1940 U.S. Census, Mineral Ridge, Trumbull, Ohio
  • Doyl - (William) 1940 U.S. Census, Stoneboro, Mercer, Pennsylvania

FROMAN (John, Catherine, Tressa)
  • Frommann - 1856 passenger list, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • Fromann - 1860 U.S. Census, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • Fromman -1868 transcription of Tressa's baptismal record, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • Fromer - 1870 U.S. Census, Mercer County, Pennsylvania

GERNER (Christian, Fredrick)
  • Gerner - (Frederick) 1880, U.S. Census, Scott District, Putnam County, West Virginia; 1900-1920 U.S. Census, Mercer and Butler Counties, Pennsylvania
  • Gener - (Frederick) 1926, Pennsylvania Death Certificate Index, Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • Gardner - (Christian) 1860, 1870 U.S. Census, Fairview Twp., Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • Garner - (Christian) 1880 U.S. Census, Fairview Twp., Butler County, Pennsylvania

HARTLEY (Richard, Eliza)
  • Hartley - (Richard, Eliza) 1813 baptismal record, St. Peter's Church, Bradford, Yorkshire, England

MEINZEN (Henry Carl)
  • Minson - 1870 U.S. Census, Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio
  • Minzen - 1880 U.S. Census, Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio
  • Mincin - 1920 U.S. Census, Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio
  • Meinzer - 1926, obituary in The Steubenville Herald Star, December 30, 1925


Monday, August 19, 2013

Coming to Terms with History - Musings on Ellis's Service in the Civil War

Ellis Bickerstaff, my great-great-grandfather, was a soldier in the 157th OVI.  During his hundred days of service during the summer of 1864 he served as a guard at Fort Delaware where prisoners of war were held.

Whenever we family historians research our families, we must realize that there may be some discoveries that place an ancestor's character and/or actions in a questionable, even unfavorable, light.  We never know what research will uncover....  Do we ever really know the truth of events in history when we weren't there, when only the actions and outcomes are recorded, and not necessarily objectively?

The Civil War was one of the bloodiest on American soil.  Emotions ran high.  Allegiances were sometimes lethal.  Wives lost husbands, mothers lost sons, brothers lost brothers:  so much sorrow, sadness, pain.  Homes, hearts, families, and lives were torn asunder, sometimes destroyed.  And for four long years neither side would give in.  Both thought themselves right in their beliefs.

Sometimes a soldier is placed in a situation in which he must follow orders and cannot choose his actions for himself....  But the soldiers of the 157th were given free rein with their actions toward the prisoners of war.  Fort Delaware was the most feared of the Union prison camps.  And Ellis's regiment, the 157th OVI, was the most hated of all who guarded there.

Ellis is not specifically mentioned in any of the memoirs I've read or singled out for inclusion in reports of activities of the regiment.  Some men were.  I'm thankful he wasn't.  There's no way to know all the details or gain a full, objective account of his time there telling exactly what he did, how he behaved.

Ellis was born in 1840.  He was 24 years old when he served.  He'd been married less than 3 years and had a 17-month old daughter when he left for the war.  A son was born that year, his wife pregnant or with a very young baby while he was gone.  When he enlisted he probably didn't know where he would be sent or what his duties would be.  Had he known would he have made a different choice?

I wasn't there at Fort Delaware.  I didn't see Ellis's actions.  I can't, I shouldn't judge....  Perhaps Ellis was a mild-mannered man who did only what was essential and performed no acts of violence against prisoners.  No matter how he behaved, when he came home from the war, what he saw could not be erased from the depths of his memory. 

I feel sorrow for the suffering experienced by the prisoners at Fort Delaware and for all who lived and died during the Civil War.  I feel sorrow for Ellis.  He was three times a husband and twice a widow.  He committed suicide in 1907.  We'll never know why but after learning about where he served in the War, I wonder if memories haunted him.

War is ugly.  War ruins lives.  Yet when people and nations cannot come to terms and make peace, sometimes war is the only way to preserve a standard, an ideal, a freedom.  The fact is, though, that not one of us can change history.  We can only come to terms with what we believe we know.  And until we learn specifics about an ancestor's behavior and actions, we don't really know much.  Because I am Ellis's great-great-granddaughter I want to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Probably more than anything else, the haunting melody of "Ashokan Farewell" speaks to me of the sorrow, misery, and loss of the Civil War.

Previous posts in this series
The Hundred-Days Men of the Civil War
Ellis and the 157th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Fort Delaware Prison and the 157th Regiment OVI in the Civil War


Monday, August 12, 2013

Fort Delaware Prison and the 157th Regiment OVI in the Civil War

Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island
Fort Delaware was (and still is) located on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River.  During the Civil War the fort became a prison for captured Confederate soldiers, convicted Union soldiers, and political prisoners.   It also became the site of my second great-grandfather Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War service in the 157th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

The fort was octagonal in shape and was guarded at four different levels:  around the edge of the island, around the area surrounding the barracks outside the walls of the fort, around the enclosure, and inside the prison.1  During the course of the War, different regiments guarded the prison at different times.  As one might expect, experiences of guards were vastly different than experiences of prisoners.

One guard wrote,
We are located on an island in the Delaware River, about 10 miles above the bay, which contains 92 acres, in the center of which is built the Fort, built of granite.  The fort mounts 180 guns, which is manned by three artillery companies of 150 men each....  There is one hotel, a sutler store, an ice cream saloon and some private residences, our little town.

We occupy very nice quarters, white frame houses built close by the Fort, and have everything we could expect or wish.  The water we use is brought every morning from the Brandywine river, about 12 miles off, which is good and fresh.  In addition to this we have as much ice issued to us every day as we can use.  Our rations consists of fresh beef, pork, bread, coffee, sugar, molasses, rice, potatoes, beans, etc.  So you can see there is no danger of us starving....

The regiment enjoys very good health....  The sea breeze makes it cool and pleasant here of evenings, and we all sleep sound till the tap of the drum:  some to guard, some to reading and writing, and others to fishing.  We can sit on the bank and view Delaware City, one and a half miles from here, the nearest point of land, to us; and also see steam and sail vessels, ironclads, etc., and be fishing, catching catfish, perch, eels, etc., at the same time.  All the boys are well and in good cheer, except an occasional one who is homesick, or would not be satisfied in any place or situation in life, and therefore should have no account taken of him.2
This description was written in mid-June, 1864, when the soldier had been there just over a month.  Was this exactly accurate or was this a letter written home to comfort loved ones and give the impression of security and well-being, the actual situation improved upon by imagination?

Other descriptions of Fort Delaware tell of its loamy surface which was below sea level, surrounded by a dike to keep the river at bay.  After heavy rains the surface became a quagmire.  Canals traversed the island and supplied the only fresh water to prisoners for some years.  Eventually wooden barrels were placed to collect rain from the roof.  If rains were frequent, the water was fairly fresh; if infrequent, it became putrid and bug-infested.  Barracks were built of rough pine and offered little protection from summer's insects and winter's cold.  Other aspects of the prison gave rise to the following description: 
No other northern prison was as dreaded by the South [as Fort Delaware].  By 1863 Fort Delaware had gained a reputation among Confederate soldiers as a place of cruelty.  It was often referred to as "that 'lowermost Hell' of human hells" and, because it engendered one of the highest mortality rates of any Civil War prison, its inmates called it "The Fort Delaware Death Pen."  The news of being sent there often caused "faces to grow white" and "hands to clench" in fear.3
Details of cruelty at Fort Delaware can be found throughout Lonnie R. Speer's Portals to Hell, where the author cites remembrances of inmates there.  For me, the worst sentence in the book is, "The [157th] Ohio regiment became the most hated by the prisoners."4

Every descendant of a Civil War soldier wishes to read details of honor and heroism, if not of the individual, at least of the regiment in which the ancestor served.  To read that my great-great-grandfather served in the most hated Union prison in the most hated regiment makes my heart hurt.

1.  Speer, Lonnie R., Portals to Hell:  Military Prisons of the Civil War, (Mechanicsburg,
     PA, Stackpole Books, 1997), 44.
2.  Leeke, Jim, ed, A Hundred Days to Richmond:  Ohio's "Hundred Days" Men in the
     Civil War, (Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press, 1999), 63-64.
3.  Portals to Hell, 193.
4.  Ibid., 144.
Other posts in this series
The Hundred-Days Men of the Civil War
Ellis and the 157th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Coming to Terms with History - Musings on Ellis's Service in the Civil War


Monday, August 5, 2013

Ellis & the 157th Ohio Volunteer Infantry - Military Monday

Ellis Bickerstaff (or Biggerstaff as his name was recorded), of Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio, was a member Company D of the 157th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry (157th OVI) during the Civil War.  He was one of the Hundred Days Men, enlisted for 100 days' time over the spring and summer of 1864.

According to his Civil War Service Records, Ellis entered military service on May 2, 1864, in Steubenville.  Most information about the regiment gives the mustering in date as May 15th and the location as Camp Chase, Franklin County, Ohio.  The 157th was composed of soldiers from both Jefferson and Carroll Counties, some who had enlisted in the fledgling Ohio National Guard.  The soldiers were under the command of Colonel George W. McCook.

Fort Delaware by Seth Eastman
From Camp Chase they were sent to Baltimore, Maryland, where they reported to General Lew Wallace and were put under the command of General Erastus B. Tyler.  They remained there several weeks for training and were then transferred by the U.S. War Department to Fort Delaware where the Regiment performed guard duty over the prisoners held there.

At the end of their hundred days of service, all soldiers of the 157th OVI companies except those in Company C returned to Camp Chase and were mustered out on September 2. 

Ellis served in Company D with two of his brothers.  Augustine was about nine years his senior and William N. was about two years younger.  Ellis was 24.  Other Bickerstaff/Biggerstaff men included Rezin P. and Samuel, probably cousins of the three brothers.

When I first read overviews describing the 157th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry I honestly didn't give too much thought to exactly what Ellis's duties were.  I was just grateful that he had remained off the field and was in less danger of being killed or maimed.  Little did I know.  The next post is this series will be about Camp Delaware.

Other posts in this series
The Hundred-Days Men of the Civil War
Fort Delaware Prison and the 157th Regiment OVI in the Civil War
Coming to Terms with History - Musings on Ellis's Service in the Civil War

Civil War Index:  157th Ohio Regiment Infantry
Civil War Archive: 157th Regiment Infantry
Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, Volume 9, by Ohio Roster Commission (Joseph B. Foraker, Governor, James S. Robinson, Sec'y of State and H. A. Axline, Adjutant-General), 1886
Union Garrison Units at Fort Delaware


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why Stories Are Important

Several of Charles Hale's earlier, excellent videos have been removed from youtube.  This one tells why he believes stories are so important to tell and share.  Enjoy!

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