Monday, July 19, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Murrays in the "Pullman Herald"

[Since part of my mission in taking my family history project public is to transcribe and share family documents, I have decided to participate in the weekly blog theme "Amanuensis Monday," started a while back by John Newmark of Transylvanian Dutch. As he explains, an amanuensis is "A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another." A weekly transcription project sounds like a great idea to me!]

Local newspapers can be a gold mine for the family history enthusiast. I feel lucky in that one newspaper containing many items about members of my family--the weekly Pullman Herald--has been digitized and made freely available to the public via the Library of Congress's Chronicling America project. The digital holdings run from November 1888 to December 1922. A few months ago, I made an effort to transcribe at least some of the news items about my relatives. Unfortunately, I decided to experiment by recording my findings in Google Docs. I won't go into the experience here, but suffice to say, my venture into cloud computing left me all wet. Now I am left with a very long Google Docs file that needs to be converted to something else. What a distasteful chore golden opportunity to post some of the highlights!

During this period of Murray Mania, I have thus far been focusing on my great-grandfather Frank Murray's journey to the area around Pullman, Washington, where he met his wife, Jennie Ryan, and where they raised their family. The posts in the series so far are
  1. "Frank Murray pt 1: From Rocking Babies to Herding Cattle" (and its update), which took Frank from the family farm in Nebraska to the Pullman area, where he met up with his Kincaid relations and caught his first glimpse of Jennie Ryan
  2. "Frank Murray pt 2: His Wild Irish Rose," about Jennie, her courtship with Frank, and her father's opposition to their marriage
  3. "Frank and Jennie: Anatomy of a Marriage Record," showing how at least some aspects of the family stories are confirmed by online records

Today I'll post Pullman Herald extracts--mostly one- or two-sentence "local news" items--that continue Frank and Jennie's story from their marriage on September 25, 1913, until August 1922 (the Library of Congress's digital holdings stop in December of that year).

As I explained in detail in "Frank Murray pt. 2: His Wild Irish Rose," Jennie's father, Patrick Ryan, did not approve of Frank Murray as a potential son-in-law, and the couple married without his blessing. I carefully examined every page of the Pullman Herald from mid-September through mid-October 1913, and I didn't find any announcement of the marriage. (It was a short, weekly paper, so this isn't as big a task as it sounds.)

Before Frank and Jennie married, Frank lived with and worked for his cousin Charles H. "Charlie" Kincaid. Since Frank didn't have his own place to take his new bride home to, family stories have long held that the Klemgard family let the newlyweds live on (and farm) Klemgard land for a couple of years. The Klemgards were a prominent family closely connected to the Kincaids: Charlie Kincaid's mother was born Christina Klemgard, and the land in question would have been owned by one of her two brothers, James Solomon Klemgard or John Morris Klemgard. The Pullman Herald confirms the story and sheds some light on the arrangement:

Date Text Pub. Info
3 Oct 1913 C. H. Kincaid has moved to his farm at Granite.
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray will occupy the J. S. Klemgard farm, recently vacated by C. H. Kincaid, Mr. Murray and Mr. Kincaid having a joint lease upon that farm.
"Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.

It appears that the land that Charlie Kincaid and Frank Murray had been working together actually belonged to Charlie's uncle James Solomon Klemgard. I don't know how long Frank's name had been on the lease, but when Frank and Jennie married, Charlie (who owned other land) vacated the Klemgard farm in his cousin's favor. Pullman Herald items over the next two years show that Frank and Jennie shared strong farming and social bonds with the Kincaids. At the same time, Jennie remained close to her Ryan kin, while Frank worked to build ties with his new in-laws. Key Ryan relatives were Jennie's father, Patrick, and her brothers, Thomas William "Will," George Edward "Ed," and Paul. (Note: the following items are a representative selection of Murray appearances in the Pullman Herald. There are too many to post at once--even if I'd transcribed them all.)

Date Text Pub. Info
24 Oct 1913 Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Kincaid spent Monday at the Frank Murray home. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
28 Nov 1913 Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray and Miss Bessie White were guests at the Will Ryan home Thanksgiving.
Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Kincaid and children and Mr. and Mrs. Ray Tash were guests at the Frank Murray home the last of the week.
"Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
5 Dec 1913 C. H. Kincaid and Frank Murray delivered in Pullman on Tuesday, 60 fat hogs. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
26 Dec 1913 Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray, Mr. and Mrs. Will Ryan and children, and Ed Ryan spent Christmas at the Pat Ryan home in Pullman. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
2 Jan 1914 The little Misses Helen Kincaid and Nellie Ryan spent several days this week at the Frank Murray home.
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray spent from Sunday until Monday at the C. H. Kincaid home near Granite.
"Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
16 Jan 1914 C. H. Kincaid and Frank Murray, assisted by several of their neighbors, last Monday butchered 23 hogs.
Mrs. J. M. Klemgard, Mrs. Nat Bryant, Mrs. V. L. Higgins and Miss Belle Higgins were guests of Mrs. Frank Murray Monday.
While rendering lard in a large kettle outside, on Tuesday afternoon, Mrs. C. H. Kincaid and R. L. Hollenbeck were severely burned about the face and hands when the lard exploded, throwing the burning grease on them.
W. H. Kincaid of Pullman drove out to the Frank Murray home Tuesday, returning Wednesday.
"Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
17 Apr 1914 Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Klemgard, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray, Mr. and Mrs. C. O. Kellogg, Miss Agnes McShane, Master Joe Kincaid, and Patsy, Mildred and Hudson Klemgard were guests of Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Kincaid, near Chambers, on Easter. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
24 Apr 1914 Mr. and Mrs. Will Ryan and son, Mrs. Ed Hogan and children, Mrs. Frank Murray and Miss Agnes McShane, spent Sunday in Pullman at the Patrick Ryan home. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 3; view page.
1 May 1914 Mrs. J. M. Klemgard called on Mrs. Frank Murray Tuesday afternoon.
Mrs. Frank Murray spent Sunday in Pullman at the home of her father, Patrick Ryan.
"Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
29 May 1914 Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Kincaid and son, Jack, of Chambers, Patrick Ryan, Mrs. White and daughter, Miss Bessie, of Pullman, were Sunday guests at the Frank Murray home. [The author of the Ewartsville column doesn't seem to be well enough acquainted with the Whites to know that "Mrs." Ellen White was Bessie's unmarried aunt, not her mother.] "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 5; view page.
4 Sep 1914 C. H. Kincaid and Frank Murray have purchased a vitrioling machine which treats six sicks [sic] of grain at one time. The machine is the same as the ones purchased by Sherman Brannon and Frank Wilson from E. C. Spurlock of Colfax. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
1 Jan 1915 Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray and Mr. and Mrs. Will Ryan and children were Christmas guests at the Patrick Ryan home in Pullman. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
23 Jul 1915 Mrs. Frank Murray and baby returned home last Thursday from the hospital where Mrs. Murray underwent an operation a short time ago. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.

The growing Murray family then moved to a piece of land that is still known as "the Back Place." Grand*a Murray told my mother that Frank and Jennie had to move due to an upcoming marriage in the Klemgard family: the farm the Murrays had been renting was earmarked for the happy couple, Flossie Klemgard and "Dutch" Slusser. This story seems to be borne out by the Pullman Herald (see the entry for 24 March 1916, below).

The Back Place adjoined Ryan land and may, in fact, have been Ryan-owned (it certainly was in later years). I can't lay hands quickly on hard ownership evidence, but family tradition says that Frank and Jennie rented the Back Place from Jennie's father, Patrick. One consequence of the move was that Frank's farming ties shifted: instead of working with his cousin Charlie Kincaid, he began working with his father- and brothers-in-law--Patrick, Will, and Ed Ryan. The Murrays did maintain social bonds with the Kincaids, but the fact that the Murrays were now Ryan neighbors meant that they now saw the Ryans much more often:

Date Text Pub. Info
22 Oct 1915 Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray have moved to the farm recently vacated by Grant Clark. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
31 Dec 1915 Mr. and Mrs. Will Ryan and children, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray and baby and Ed Ryan spent Christmas in Pullman at the Patrick Ryan home. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
24 Mar 1916 Miss Flossie Klemgard, daughter of J. S. Klemgard, was married at Berkeley, Cal., last Sunday to Mr. Curtis Slusser. The young couple arrived in Pullman yesterday and will be at home at the J. S. Klemgard farm, 10 miles west of Pullman. "Wedded at Berkley," sec. 1, p. 1, view page.
2 Jun 1916 Mr. Paul Ryan of Portland, Ore. is spending his vacation with his father in Pullman and his brothers, Will and Ed Ryan, and his sister, Mrs. Frank Murray, on the ranch. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 5; view page.
4-Aug-1916 Word has been received of the death of the father of Frank Murray at his home in Nebraska on Sunday morning. Frank Murray had journeyed there last week to be at the bedside of his father. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 5; view page.

The local grain market is quiet just at present and the buyers seem reluctant to quote prices, probably on account of the threatened strike of railroad operatives. Farmers believe that prices will go higher and do not appear anxious to sell. Two large sales of barley are reported. Wilbur Henry, representing the Vollmer Clearwater company of Lewiston, Wednesday bought 4000 sacks of barley from Pat, Will and Ed Ryan and Frank Murray at $1.55 per hundredweight, the highest price yet reported. N. E. J. Gentry on Tuesday bought from C. A. Price 4000 sacks of barley at $1.50 per hundred.

The only prices quoted yesterday were:
Red Russian........$1.00
"A Record Price Paid for Barley," sec. 1, p. 4; view page.
18 Oct 1918 Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray and children spent Sunday afternoon at the Will Ryan home. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 3; view page.
3 Jan 1919 Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray and two children spent Christmas at the Pat Ryan home in Pullman. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 5; view page.
10 Jan 1919 Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray and children spent Saturday and Sunday at the Pat Ryan home in Pullman.

Mr. and Mrs. C. O. Slusser and little son...and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray and children spent last Thursday at the Oscar Kincaid home.
"Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 8; view page.

Then, in 1920, the Murrays made their final move, from the Back Place (which was remote and hard to get to) to a new, more accessible farm Frank purchased. Because Frank and Jennie got on well with Jennie's brothers Ed and Will (and their families), Frank chose a piece of land that was near to both the Ryan land and the local country school. As before, the Murrays saw the Kincaids occasionally (Grand*a Murray remembered them mainly as people *e saw on holidays) and the Ryans often.

Date Text Pub. Info

Local Firm Establishes Record for Transfer of Property--Five Farms, Three City Residences Sold

A new record for real estate sales was established this week by the Hazen, Hately & McClaskey Realty company, when transfers were made for five pieces of farm property and three city residence property. The total amount of the deals was $160,350.

The Robert Neely farm of 229 acres on Union flat was sold to Frank Murray. This place is well improved and a first class farm. The place was bought for a home...
"Eight Realty Deals in Last Few Days," sec. 1, p. 1; view page.
23 Apr 1920
County Records
April 10, 1920
Robert J. Neely to Frank Murray, sh of nwq, nh of swq 3-13-44, part lot 1 of Sec. 4, part lots 2, 3, 4, of 3-13-44, $33,000.
"County Records" column, sec. 2, p. 12; view page.
23 Apr 1920
April 14, 1920
Frank Murray to M. G. Bjord, part lot 1, Sec. 4, part lots 2, 3, 4, of 3-13-44, $3000.
"County Records" column, sec. 2, p. 12; view page.
7 May 1920
April 30, 1920
Frank Murray to Thomas Halpin, sh of nwq and nh of swq 3-13-44, $8000.
"County Records" column, sec. 2, p. 9; view page.
31 Dec 1920 W. H. Pritchard butchered hogs on Monday. The men who assisted were Will Ryan, Frank Murray, Ole Ousley, Tom Alsup and L. R. Rucker. Mrs. Ryan and Mrs. Rucker spent the day with Mrs. Pritchard. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 5; view page.
23 Dec 1921 Sunday a surprise birthday dinner was given in honor of Wm. Ryan and Ed Hogan at the home of the latter. Those present were Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray and family, Mr. and Mrs. Grant Clark, Wm. Hogan, Arthur Ausley and James McGreevy. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 3; view page.
3 Feb 1922 Will Ryan, Frank Murray, and W. H. Pritchard butchered 24 hogs on Monday of this week at the Ryan home. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 5; view page.
4 Aug 1922 Mr. and Mrs. Frank Murray and children of Ewartsville called at the Chas. Kincaid home Sunday. "Ewartsville" column, sec. 1, p. 3; view page.

All issues of the Pullman Herald after December 31, 1922, will still be in copyright until at least 2018, so if I want to follow the Murrays into 1923 and beyond, I'll have to see if microfilm is available!

Blog Pages Added for Ryan and Barnett Lines

Two new blog pages are up:
  • The Ryan line, which gives a quick overview of my great-grandmother Jennie Ryan's family and ancestors
  • The Barnett line, giving an overview of my great-grandmother Stella Lowen Barnett's family and ancestors
To say that these pages are works in progress would be an understatement. They'll evolve over time (probably dramatically) as I make corrections and figure out better ways to present my information.

Still, getting something up feels like an accomplishment. Now I only have one great-grandparent, Fred Matthew Waehlte, to add a blog page for.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Wheel of Time Has a Flat

When I'm searching an old newspaper, magazine, or local history for information, I like to get a sense of the source's character by perusing the ads, illustrations, and other items that appear alongside the info I'm actually looking for. I also love collecting random oddities. Behold the marriage of two useless pastimes: The Picture of the Moment! This is new, proudly frivolous blog element will appear as an image in the sidebar. My first entry comes from a tire ad that appeared in 1918 in at least one issue of the Pullman Herald newspaper (out-of-copyright issues of which are archived online at the Library of Congress's Chronicling America newspaper collection).

This distinctly weird ad compares car tires whose warranty period has expired to young ladies in the flower of youth. Here's the pitch:
When a Kelly-Springfield Tire has passed its guarantee mark, it has merely become of age. Its life is nearly all before it.
The pretty-girl graphic bears a simulated signature: "Yours Truly / Lotta Miles." In a detail I didn't notice until a minute ago, the top inner rim of the tire reads "KELLY-SPRINGFIELD / KANT-SLIP TREAD," with the K, S, and hyphen shared between KELLY-SPRINGFIELD and KANT-SLIP.


Until I find something else that's equally odd (or until I get bored), this image will reign as Picture of the Moment.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Frank and Jennie: Anatomy of a Marriage Record

I'm always excited when I find out a person I'm researching spent some time in the Evergreen State. Why? Because the Washington State Digital Archives rocks! (...Rock?)

The Digital Archives is run by the Washington State Archives, itself funded and run by the state government of Washington. According to the latest numbers on the Digital Archives website, it already hosts 28 million searchable records, with more added every month. These are public records, publicly available: you don't have to pay any fees to access them, and you'll never be ambushed with login screens or ads for partner services.

I'm not against pay-to-access services, because I know how much work it takes to digitize records and maintain databases. But it's wonderful to see a state government making such a commitment to preserving its records and bringing them to a broader public than just folks who can afford to pay endless user fees or travel to far-distant county courthouses.

The folks who put together the Digital Archives put a lot of thought into the basic interface and how information is organized. Go to the home page and what's the first thing you see?

The search box, right next to a list of collections. Most other online archives I've visited want to tell you all about themselves first thing, maybe get you to stop by their offices for a chat. Or they're so desperate to explain how all their various digital holdings are organized (sometimes it doesn't seem that they are) that it takes you pages of reading to figure out how to access anything; by then, of course, you can't remember what led you to that site in the first place.

So, Washington State Digital Archives, you've impressed me with your handy search-box. Let's plug in my great-grandfather Frank Murray's name and see what you turn up.

The search is not case-sensitive, so I don't have to worry about capitalizing anything. The search engine also has some ability to return partial matches. If I give it a few letters, it'll search for everything that begins with those letters--so if I enter "Williams," it will also return results for "Williamson." One limitation is that it's not pre-programmed to search for nicknames or common spelling variants: my search for "Frank Murray" won't include any Frank Murrys or Murreys or men with the first name Francis. I don't mind this too much, though: I'd rather have a basic tool that works than a fancy one that doesn't.

The "Record Series" option defaults to "All Record Series," and that's where I've decided to leave it for now. I could have restricted my search to any of a number of categories from that drop-down list or explored the other clickable search options, but I haven't. So without any restrictions, here's what I get when I hit the search button (and you can click on this or any of the other images in this post for a larger view):

Great, huh? My search has turned up results in eleven neatly sorted categories! Very few of these are likely to be my Frank Murray (I know none of the military hits are him, for example), but the folks at the Washington State Digital Archives have presented me with several different options for narrowing my search. Let's see what happens if I just click the plus sign next to "Marriage Records":

Zoom! Sub-categories for individual counties! Now, since my family sources say that my great-grandfather married his wife, Jennie Ryan, in Whitman County in 1913, I could, at this point, click on "Whitman Marriage Records" and just look at the 2 results that are waiting for me there. To give an idea how the system works, though, I'll click "Show All Records" to see all the marriage-record hits for the different counties. 31 hits doesn't seem like too many to sort through.

As you can see, it's not only showing me all the Frank Murrays, it's showing me all the Franks who married Murrays. This is not always helpful, but I've quite often searched for one person this way and unexpectedly found another relative instead, so you never know.

If all the extra results are distracting me, I can always re-sort them by ANY of the result fields--groom's first or last name, bride's first or last name, marriage year, county, etc. All I have to do is click on the arrow right below the category name to re-sort--and I can toggle between ascending order (first to last) and descending order (last to first). This simple yet surprisingly uncommon feature is unbelievably handy if I want my search to be broad (all the Murrays) but I only want to look at a certain range of information in another category (the 1910s). If I sort the results by that other category, I can easily breeze past the totally irrelevant hits to the ones I think I might be interested in.

You'll also notice that I've been presented with a new, specialized marriage-record search-box just above my results. Nice! I can use it to quickly narrow my results or pursue other lines of inquiry. Say, for example, that I am intrigued by the seventh couple on my list, Frank Arthur Murray and Margie Marie Bacon, and I want to see how many other Franks married Bacons in the state of Washington. Do I have to trudge back to the main search page and fiddle around with advanced options just to satisfy my idle curiosity? No! I can be both curious and idle right here! And, once I've indulged my whim (I found nine Frank-Bacon weddings), I can then return to my previous search with a simple click of the "back" button.

As for Frank Murray and Jennie Ryan, they turned up right where I expected them to on the results list:

It looks like they really were married in Whitman County in 1913, just like all my family sources said. But why are there two results? I'll click on the first one and see what comes up.

Okay, now I have a specific marriage date and some bibliographic info on the record. But what I'm really interested in is that business to the side: "Images are available for FREE online." So what is this mystery record? Will they let me see it?

Hey! It's my great-grandparents' marriage certificate! How cool is that? I didn't have to pay a search fee or wait three weeks to get it--and I can order a certified copy right from the results page if I want.

Here's how Mom summed up the information that had been passed down about Frank and Jennie's marriage in some notes she made in 2005:
The young couple got married in the Catholic church in Rosalia, Washington, on September 25, 1913. Will and Jess Ryan were the best man and matron of honor at the wedding. Patrick Ryan [Jennie's father] did not attend because the groom was not a Catholic.
The marriage confirms nearly all the family's details. Frank and Jennie were indeed wed on September 25, 1913, at Holy Rosary Catholic church in Rosalia. The event was witnessed by Jennie's brother Thomas William "Will" Ryan and his wife, Jessie (Clark) Ryan. (Here Will and Jess have signed themselves as "T W Ryan" and "Mrs. T. W. Ryan.") The only family information this document has nothing to say about is whether or not Jennie's father attended the wedding.

But what about that other record? Is it just a duplicate? I'll cut to the chase and give you the goods right off.

The other record, it turns out, is a marriage return. As I understand it, a marriage return is/was a form (no idea if they're still used) that the person who performed the marriage filled out and sent back to the local government so that the marriage could be officially recorded. While the certificate gives details about the wedding, the return explains more about who the bride and groom were. A quick overview of the information on Frank and Jennie's marriage return will make it clear just how valuable a record it is.

According to this document, on his wedding day, Frank was a 30-year-old white farmer living in Pullman, Washington. He was born in Illinois, his parents were Maxwell Murray and Lucy Kincaid, and he had never been married before. Jennie, meanwhile, was a 28-year-old white Pullman resident (no occupation listed). Her parents were Patrick Ryan and Jane White, she was born in New York, and she had never been married, either.

Now, Frank probably wasn't actually living within Pullman city limits at the time of his marriage, and the ages that both he and Jennie gave were probably wrong. But this is could be the only official document that names both of their parents. This is especially important for Frank, who may not have ever had a birth record and may not appear in his parents' household in any surviving census (issues I'll be talking about in a future post).

These two documents, as you can imagine, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what's available on the Washington State Digital Archives. Anyone who has relatives with Washington connections should poke around and see what they can find.

I should note, before I sign off, that the Digital Archives' marriage records almost always contain more information than is indexed and (therefore) searchable. The two documents I found are fairly typical: no information beyond the bride's name, groom's name, and marriage date has been indexed. So, for example, I couldn't run a Digital Archives search for "Lucy Kincaid" and expect to find Frank and Jennie's marriage return, nor could I look up the priest's name (which I can't really read anyway) and end up with a list of the couples he'd married. And there are gaps in the records, as in any other collection. Some originals have no doubt been lost over the years; some have yet to be digitized; and some are protected by privacy laws. So, as with any other type of research, the more information you already have, the greater your chances of uncovering something else will be.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Murray line

I've just added a new blog page, The Murray line, which gives a quick overview of Frank Murray's family and ancestors. I plan to add similar pages for my other great-grandparents in the future.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Revenge of Bad Oman

So yesterday's "Bad Oman" post? I wrote it on a whim, as a joke; but now I think that maybe I was onto something.

Last night, after I'd abandoned the search for the elusive "Emma M.," I began hunting up some background for a future post. One question led to another, and pretty soon I was looking up census records, trying to trace a long-dead shirttail relative. I don't even remember who it was, because I pretty quickly decided I was too sleepy to bother with the guy. So I read a couple news stories, shut down my computer, and stretched out on the couch.

I awoke in darkness, hours later. Where was I? Oh, right--sofa. Living room. Yes.

But something wasn't right. What--what was that deeper shadow in the gloom? It seemed to be looming over me. What was it? It had arms and legs--a person!

Suddenly I knew. It was the man that I'd been hunting in the databases! He'd come for me! His shadow was huge and scary!

With a cry of terror, I flung myself from the couch. Had to get away--out of the living room! The furniture moved to block my path, but I stumbled around it. Walls sprang up in unexpected places, but still I made it to the hallway! There were doors--more doors than usual--too many doors! But somehow, I found the right one, and at last I managed to reach...

...the bed. I threw myself aboard and seized my pillow like a life preserver.

Within seconds, I was back asleep.

Friday, June 18, 2010

THAT Can't Be Good...

Today I was searching on the pilot site for a particular woman named Emma M....something. I don't know her married name, so I ran a search for all the women named "Emma M." who'd been born in the right place and time, hoping to strike it lucky. One of the results?

Behold the Emma and Bad Oman family of Todd County, South Dakota!
A little further investigation reveals that this is an American Indian family living on a reservation, so the name may have been intentionally ominous. Or it could be a mistake and the guy's name is actually "Oman Bad." I think I'd better leave his family alone, though, before something awful happens.

Update to Frank Murray pt 1

Since writing my first post about Frank Murray (and partly because I showed some drafts around), some new scraps of family lore about Frank's young adulthood in Nebraska have come to light. Take them for what they are: a series of slightly vague recollections, but possibly accurate ones. It's hard to know. I have no way to check them at the moment (and there may never be a way to check them), except to ask around and see what other people have heard.

My mother recalls hearing Frank talk about running a boarding house with his youngest sister, Maude, possibly in Axtell or Kearney, Nebraska. Mom doesn't remember anything specific, except that the enterprise didn't last very long: Frank and Maude fought too much to be good business partners. "No man could live with her," Frank told Mom in exasperation. "Girl, *I* couldn't live with her!"

My mother and I found an unfinished profile of Frank that Grand*a Murray had begun writing. It's not very long (two smallish pages) and was obviously written when Grand*a was in very poor health. H* handwriting is very shaky and sometimes *e doesn't finish sentences. Since h* health had various ups and downs over the years, this doesn't really help in dating it. Mostly it contains the bare bones of familiar stories, but Grand*a did have one bombshell to drop: Frank was engaged to a girl in Nebraska!

Well, it was a bombshell for me. Mom just said, "Yes, I knew that," and went on to tell a story about how the ex-fiancee's brother once visited Grand*a Murray and family when Mom was a girl. But Mom hadn't remembered about Frank's ex any other time I'd asked her about his early life.

Anyway, here's what Grand*a Murray wrote: "One neighborhood friend was Loughlin, & [Dad] became engaged to [Loughlin's] sister Johanna."

Unfortunately, that's all Grand*a wrote on the subject. Mom doesn't know when Frank and Johanna got engaged or how long the relationship lasted. (Did they break up before he left Nebraska, or did he plan to return or send for her later?) I can't even say for sure if Grand*a got the names right. The fact that Mom recognized them right away is a good sign, but what about the spelling?

In the same, unfinished profile, Grand*a Murray lent support to the idea that Frank learned barbering in Nebraska before setting out for points further west: "When Frank grew up he left the farm, went to Axtell & became a barber," Grand*a wrote. (Axtell was the nearest town to the Murray farm in Nebraska.) In my original post, I wrote that, when he worked as a barber, Frank had a number of clients who were Swedish immigrants. When my mother told me about that, she told me that she thought these stories had taken place in Nebraska, but she wasn't sure. She said that Frank used to talk quite a lot about "all the Swedes" that lived in that state when he was young.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Frank Murray pt 2: His Wild Irish Rose

This post is a follow-up to my earlier post "Frank Murray pt 1: From Rocking Babies to Herding Cattle." In part 1, I wrote about my great-grandfather Frank Murray's journey from his family's farm in Nebraska westward to Pullman, Washington, where he began working for his uncle, William H. "Bill" Kincaid. When we last left Frank, he had just caught his first glimpse of my great-grandmother, Jennie Ryan.

Frank Murray and Jennie Ryan, c. 1913. Excerpt from a family photo.

I don't know how Frank and Jennie actually met, but the family story about that first sighting (see part 1) suggests that Bill Kincaid or Bill's son Charlie may have introduced them, perhaps around 1910-1912.[1] Although Frank probably lived on Charlie's Kincaid's farm a few miles outside of town much of the time, he likely visited his uncle Bill in Pullman often. Jennie also lived in Pullman, with her father, Patrick Ryan. As two prominent, well-off landowners living in the same small town, Bill and Patrick were probably at least slightly acquainted.

According to the 1910 U.S. census, Bill Kincaid lived at 1714 B Street, an address Google Maps puts at just a little over a mile northeast of Patrick Ryan's 315 West Main Street house. Google may not have the addresses perfectly placed, but at the right you'll see one possible route between the two houses, with Bill Kincaid's place as (roughly) point A and Patrick Ryan's as (roughly) point B.[2]

Frank most certainly found Jennie Ryan a woman worth traveling a mile for. Born in Lewis County, New York, in the early 1880s, Jennie was probably just a toddler when her parents, Patrick and Jane (White) Ryan, decided to move across the continent to homestead in Garfield County, Washington. Arriving around April 30, 1884, the Ryans laid claim to a plot of land on the cheerily named Deadman Creek near the town of Pomeroy.[3] According to Grand*a Murray's Jennie Ryan Letter, the homestead was very isolated: "It must have been a spartan and lonely life," *e wrote. Neighbors would have been spread far apart, and for the next few years (until the family sold the homestead and moved to Whitman County), Jennie had few playmates. Her two older brothers, Ed and Will, were probably too busy with schoolwork and farm chores to play much; her baby brother, Paul, wasn't born until 1888; and a ten-year age difference separated her from her only sister, Nellie.[4] This meant Jennie had to learn to amuse herself when she wasn't helping her family with chores. It also meant that she grew up a little wild. As Grand*a Murray wrote,
Jennie used to chase the wild range horses. She would hide behind some sage brush and jump out at them.
"It was a dangerous game," Grand*a continues--but then, Jennie could be dangerous, too:
Once she chased a little colt until it died from exhaustion. [Her father] spanked her, and that was the only spanking she ever had.[5]
As she grew older, Jennie learned to ride and to shoot, developing both skills to a high level of mastery. My mother tells me that Grand*a Murray and other relatives always said Jennie could ride a horse as well as any man. And according to the Pullman Herald newspaper, as a young woman Jennie won second place in a contest to find the "best saddle horse, ridden by a lady," proving she could not only ride a horse--she looked good doing it.[6] As for her marksmanship, Grand*a Murray contends she was a crack shot:
Once when she was practicing target shooting, a man held up his hat and said, "I'll give you five dollars if you can hit it." She took aim and shot a hole in his hat.[7]
I remembered hearing a different take on this tale, so I asked Mom about it. "Oh, Grand*a cleaned that story up," she told me. In the version Mom heard from various Murray relatives as a child, Jennie shot the man's hat from her own front porch--not from some shooting range. And she didn't make the shot on a bet, either: somehow the man had made her mad and she wanted to get rid of him, so she grabbed her gun and shot the hat off his head. Mom has no idea who the man was or what he'd done to irritate Jennie. When Mom was a kid, she says that the story was often told to illustrate Jennie's spooky-good marksmanship--but that whenever shocked and fascinated grandchildren like herself asked follow-up questions, the adults always quickly changed the subject. A century later, we'll never know what actually happened. But it's clear that Jennie's immediate descendants saw her as a woman who was capable of
  1. shooting a hole in a man's hat to prove she could do it
  2. shooting a man's hat off because he annoyed her
There are other stories I could tell here, too--more hints, around the edges, of a nasty temper. But I think I've given you a basic idea of Jennie's wild, strong-minded, Annie-Oakley side. Without question, she was a spirited woman.

At the same time, though, Jennie was a conventional farmer's daughter. Despite her occasional hat-directed violence, she spent most of her time, as girl and woman, taking care of family in one way or another. She fed chickens. She made jam. She worried (at least sometimes) what the neighbors might think. (I've already written about how sensitive--even vain--she was about her age.) Page after page of the Jennie Ryan Letter describes the many domestic chores Jennie grew up tackling every day, from hauling water and milking cows to baking bread and making clothes. Some of these tasks she seems to have genuinely enjoyed: she was a good enough cook to sell her wares when money was tight, and I think the name of the sewing club she started--the Pleasant Stitches Club--reflects her feelings about that occupation. She was a warm, hardworking, intensely social woman who welcomed guests and was always "ready to go"--out to local plays, festivals, and potluck dinners, over to neighbors' houses, or even just into town. She loved to visit with people, to laugh and joke and sing and dance. "Mother was fun," Grand*a writes simply.[8]

With such a potent blend of characteristics, it's easy to see why Frank Murray--a hardworking farmer who wasn't without his adventurous side--might set his cap for a woman like Jennie Ryan. Luckily for him, she liked the set of his cap, and the two decided to marry.

There was, however, a problem with the match: Jennie was a Catholic. I have no idea what faith, if any, Frank was born to, but he was certainly not Catholic.[9] Worse for them, Jennie wasn't just any sort of Catholic--she was an Irishman's daughter.

Jennie's father, Patrick Ryan, was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, within a couple of years of the outbreak of the devastating Irish Potato Famine. Over the next few years, many neighbors, friends, and relatives left the Ryans' neighborhood for a better life in America. A group of these Tipperary refugees settled in what's called the Maple Ridge area of Lewis County, New York, and eventually Patrick Ryan's whole family emigrated to join them. The members of the "Maple Ridge Migration" were a close-knit group, sharing culture, faith, and family ties. At the center of this newly American Irish community was the local Catholic church--and not only did the Ryans attend that church, they helped to build it in the first place.[10]

In 1871, Patrick Ryan married Jane White, who'd grown up in a nearby Lewis County town. Although Jane was an American, both of her parents were Irish immigrants, and her family was, like Patrick's, Catholic. The Whites were so Catholic, in fact, that Jane's mother reportedly died in church--on her knees--praying. ("She must have been a saint," says the Murray-Ryan Packet.)[11]

So Patrick married into a family that was much like his own in culture, faith, and devotion. When he and Jane decided to take their children and move to Washington, they operated on the Maple Ridge model: they stuck with family (Patrick's brother Thomas also moved his family to Garfield County), and they stuck to their church. The Jennie Ryan Letter describes how, during the Ryans' early years in rural Washington--come blasting heat or winter snow--they'd ride in an open wagon across rutted dirt roads to Mass every Sunday. It was ten or eleven miles to the nearest Catholic church, so the round trip took all day. After the Ryans moved to Pullman, the situation improved: while there was still no Catholic church in town, there was at least a denser population of Catholics (many of them Irish immigrants or their children), and the local parish would send a priest around from time to time to minister to that flock. On such occasions, local Catholics would gather to hear Mass and receive communion--and often, they gathered at Patrick Ryan's house. One of Grand*a Murray's first cousins told my mother that Patrick's house was sometimes referred to as "Little Ireland."

Knowing all of these things, it's possible to imagine Patrick's reaction when Jennie announced her intention to marry un-Catholic Frank Murray. Jennie was, by this time, Patrick's only surviving daughter, and he must have had hopes that she would find some good, well-off, clean-living Irish lad to marry--a man who knew the old songs and would raise the grandkids to work hard, go to Mass, and hate the English. Patrick's other daughter, Nellie, had died tragically young around 1897--but she had become a nun! Now here was Jennie, ready to marry a man who, in Patrick's book, must have had at least three black marks against him:
  1. He didn't own his own farm--or indeed any property (that I'm aware of). How would he provide for a woman who was used to living in town and having her own riding horse?
  2. He wasn't Irish. True, Frank did have some Irish blood in him, but his parents hailed from Illinois, not Cork or Tipperary.
  3. The clincher: not Catholic. Worse, according to my mother (who has trouble imagining her grandfather as strongly religious at any stage of his life), Frank may not have even been a regular church-goer when he and Jennie met.
Frank couldn't do much about (probable) objections number one and two, but he did commit to a Catholic wedding. This would have involved months of instruction and counseling by a priest. I don't know whether or not Frank considered full conversion, but the Ryan-Murray Packet is clear that he did not convert at that time. In the Jennie Ryan Letter, Grand*a Murray explains that Frank struggled to learn about Catholicism because, in those days, everything was still in Latin.

Merely meeting the requirements to be married in the Catholic church, though, was no substitute, in Patrick's mind, for actually belonging to that faith, and he refused to give his blessing to the match. The couple married anyway, in a small ceremony in the Catholic church in Rosalia, Washington. Patrick did not attend, and there was no announcement in the local paper.

Frank did, however, have some allies in the Ryan family: Jennie's brother Will and his wife, Jess, acted as best man and matron of honor. And as time went on and grandchildren began to arrive, Patrick warmed to his new son-in-law. Frank began seeing more and more of his new Ryan kin and a bit less of his Kincaid relations. In a future post, I'll pick up this story again and begin to explore what I think of as the Irishing of Frank Murray.


[1] Grand*a Murray's Jennie Ryan Letter says that my great-grandparents were married two years after they met, but Grand*a offers no further details. I don't know whether *e was estimating or guessing or where *e got that number. Frank and Jennie married September 25, 1913. Because of some tough family issues surrounding the wedding that I'll get to later in the post, I suspect that they courted for at least a year or two before marrying, hence my upper limit of 1912 for their first meeting; but I have no corroborating evidence for this other than Grand*a's mysterious "two years." As for my lower limit of 1910, this is based on two pieces of pure conjecture. Firstly, I imagine that Frank had probably worked on the Kincaid farm outside town for at least a few months before he and Jennie met--and we don't know that he was in the area until 1910. (For details about when I estimate Frank arrived in Pullman, see part 1, especially note 2.) Secondly, I think it's likely that Frank and Jennie started courting after Patrick Ryan bought his house in town in 1909 (see note 2, below). In Pullman, there would have been more places and opportunities than in the country for single people to rub elbows away from disapproving family members. Now, the whole purpose of this note is to broadcast how shaky my estimate is; I did, however, think it was worth attaching some time frame to their courtship, even if it was only a guess, just to orient the reader.

[2] The Ryan home is still standing today and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (as the William Swain House). Patrick Ryan purchased the home from C. H. Buell in 1909 and planned to move part of his family there within a week of announcing his intention in the 24 September 1909 issue of the Pullman Herald. (The brief announcement appears on p. 4, halfway down the third column of the "Personal" section). Regarding the Google map of the route between the Ryan and Kincaid homes, Pullman has changed quite a bit since the early 1900s as Washington State University has grown, but I used a 1913 map of the WSU campus (it was Washington State College in those days) to trace a route that would have worked back then. It may not be the route that people of that period would have chosen.

[3] According to Patrick Ryan's homestead records, which I photocopied at the National Archives in August or September 2009. 

[4] The names of Jennie's family members are consistent across Mom's Tree, the Ryan-White Tree, the Murray-Ryan Packet, and the Jennie Ryan Letter. They are backed up by family photographs, the memories of living descendants, census records, and official documents obtained through the Washington State Digital Archives. Unless otherwise stated, biographical information about Jennie and her family in the rest of this post is taken from one or more of the written family sources named in the first sentence of this note.

[5] Jennie Ryan Letter.

[6] "All Records Broken at 7th Annual Grange Picnic," Pullman Herald, 10 July 1908, p. 1. Online at the Library of Congress's Chronicling America newspaper collection (view page).

[7] Jennie Ryan Letter.

[8] This paragraph basically boils down and paraphrases information and descriptions of Jennie from the Jennie Ryan Letter and the Murray-Ryan Packet. My description of Jennie as a "conventional farmer's daughter" paraphrases a description in the Letter. Both sources talk about Jennie's cooking and sewing and how she started the Pleasant Stitches Club, though only the Packet gives the club's name. Both talk about the food she prepared and sold to local stores. The Murray-Ryan Packet specifically states that Jennie was hard-working, while the Jennie Ryan Letter lists enough tasks to make that fact plain. Both sources also dwell on Jennie's sociability and her love of music, though only the Letter mentions her sense of humor or how she was always "ready to go." I added one inference of my own: that Jennie worried about what the neighbors would think.

[9] The phrase "not a Catholic" is used repeatedly in my family sources to describe Frank's religious condition before he met Jennie. Nowhere does it say what he was, if not Catholic.

[10] Thomas E. Buckley, S. J., "The Ryan Family in Ireland and America," rev. 2005, online at Father Buckley is a descendant of Patrick Ryan's brother Thomas. Michael F. McGraw, whose website,, hosts Buckley's article, has further developed Buckley's idea of the "Maple Ridge Migration" through a great deal of additional research.

[11] Mom's Tree, the Ryan-White Tree, and the Ryan-Murray Packet all state that Patrick Ryan and Jane White married in 1871 in Copenhagen, New York; that Jane was born in New York; and that both of her parents were Irish. All of this information (except for the marriage location) is confirmed by census records.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Spotlight: Peter Garrison

Peter Garrison and family, c. 1877.
(Click image for more info.)
In honor of Memorial Day, I thought I'd sidestep the Murray clan for a moment and pop over to my dad's side of the family to talk about Peter Garrison, one of my ancestral Civil War veterans.

To orient you with the Great-grandparent Key in the sidebar, my great-grandmother Stella Lowen Barnett was the daughter of Edwin Allen Barnett and Amy Belle Garrison. Peter Garrison was Amy's father, making him my third great-grandfather.

Peter Garrison was born in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, on November 15, 1837.[1] Around the spring of 1845, when Peter was about seven, his parents, William and Amelia (Oman) Garrison, decided to move west to Illinois, "with Lee County as their destination."[2]

The Garrisons did not choose this destination at random. In the 1830s, the government had declared the land in Lee County and surrounding areas up for grabs to any settler willing to clear and farm it; in response, a wave of land-hungry pioneers swept westward from Pennsylvania and other (mostly northern) states. The Garrisons were part of this wave, but they did not come alone: at least one, and possibly two, of William's brothers also migrated from Pennsylvania to Lee County around 1845, and one of his older sisters had made the same move back in the 1830s.[3]

Once in Lee County, William bought a patch of government land, then turned around and sold it, moving to neighboring Ogle County to run a sawmill. After a few years, he returned to Lee County and bought a new farm in what is now Nachusa Township, where he finished raising his family and spent the rest of his life.[4]

Wherever William Garrison went, his ever-growing family followed. He and Amelia may have had as many as fifteen kids--several of whom they lost to stillbirth, childhood diseases, or tragic accidents. Peter was one of the nine who made it to adulthood.[5] As the second-eldest son in such a large family, Peter Garrison would have been put to work around his parents' farm as soon as he was old enough to carry a bucket, dig a hole, or swing an axe. When William took to running that Ogle County sawmill, he would have relied on the labor of his eldest sons to keep it going, even though they were still only children. And when William gave up the sawmill and bought a new farm back in Lee County, he would have counted on the sweat of his sons' brows to help get it up and running.

Until a little over a year after the Civil War broke out, Peter's life was that of a typical pioneer farmer's son. Then, in the summer of 1862, President Lincoln issued a massive call for volunteers to swell the Union forces. The governor of Illinois echoed Lincoln's call in a series of rousing speeches, prompting thousands of young men across the state to enlist.[6] Peter Garrison was among the early volunteers, signing up on August 12, 1862, for service in Company G of the 75th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.[7]

According to a history of Peter's regiment, Company G "was organized at Franklin Grove, Lee county. Its members were from that vicinity and adjoining towns."[8] The recruitment drive in Franklin Grove was intense, whipping the community into a patriotic frenzy. Lincoln Hall--a local meeting-place normally used for dances and church services--"rang with cheers, and the schoolhouse fairly trembled with stamping, as the patriotic gatherings assembled night after night."[9] Franklin Grove was in Peter's township, and although it's impossible to know if he attended any of the recruitment meetings, there must have been a strong brotherly vibe among the soon-to-be soldiers of Company G: most of them were men who shared ties of community, family, and allegiance. Peter had probably known many of the men he joined in the enlistment line since boyhood. At least two--John W. N. Garrison and William L. Girton--were very likely kin.[10]

Peter Garrison was an utterly typical Company G enlistee. On the day he signed up for service, Peter was a 24-year-old bachelor who probably still worked on his father's farm. His company was about two-thirds bachelors and positively overflowed with farmers, the vast majority of them between the ages of 18 and 29. Many of Peter's companions also probably belonged to pioneering families, since most were born within the United States but outside of Illinois, in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland. Only Peter's physical description was unique to him: he had light, perhaps somewhat reddish hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion, and at 5 feet, 8¼ inches, he stood slightly taller than the average American soldier of his time.[11]

All the companies of the 75th Illinois Infantry, in fact, "were composed almost entirely" of men much like Peter: "farmers and farmers' sons, and young men in the country towns...very few of whom had seen actual service in war."[12] Albert Crary, a soldier of Company C (organized in Whiteside County just to the west of Lee), paints an even fuller picture of the 75th Illinois:
The regiment was made up of boys from the farm; boys who had been brought up in town with few hardships, many of them ready to graduate from the high-school; doctors, lawyers, barbers, clerks from the stores and quite a goodly number of old men whose only plea for enlisting was that they desired to accompany their sons and care for them in case of sickness, or to bind up their bleeding wounds in case worse came to worse on the field of battle. And all these mixed in with probably a dozen or so who had some little experience in military affairs during the early part of the war.[13]
By late August, Company G and all the other companies that would form the 75th Illinois had gathered at Camp Dement, in the nearby town of Dixon, for training. Dixon would have been a familiar place to Peter and many of his fellow enlistees, since it housed the Lee County government and sat at the junction of several major railroad lines. Any of the local boys who'd ever taken a train or had business at the county courthouse would certainly have been to Dixon. With Camp Dement so close to the towns and farms that most of the recruits called home, neighbors and family must have visited often. Indeed, according to the regimental history, "The camp was thronged with visitors and friends" eager to watch "the regiment...learning to be soldiers": "loading, firing, bayonet exercise, kneeling, alignment, marching, and wheeling."[14] The atmosphere at Camp Dement must have tingled with a mixture of patriotic enthusiasm and nervous apprehension. As Company C's Albert Crary remembered,
ten Companies, numbering 1,000 men were drilling from six to ten hours a day and preparing for active duties in the field. And on the second day of September, a regular United States mustering officer was on the ground and mustered [all the companies] into service as the 75th Illinois Infantry, and when the moment came for us to be sworn in, the words "for three years or during the war" fell pretty heavily upon our ears. But then, we were in it for keeps, hence we took our little medicine as brave boys always do. (68-69)
All the members of the 75th Illinois evidently signed up to fight until the war ended or three years had passed--whichever came first. Perhaps some of them felt that having the balls to enlist showed that
They were men, who, now the Republic was in imminent peril, resolved to throw themselves into the deadly breach, that it might be saved. Forgetful of self, and rising above the sordid views of gain, soldiers [they] were now to "gird on their armor," march forth to battle, and, breasting the leaden and iron hail of the enemy, stand the avowed champions of the national honor and safety.[15]
Even the most battle-hungry, though, must have had some reservations about spending three years under a hail of lead.

The regiment had only officially existed for about three weeks when it received its marching orders. Between about September 27 and September 29, the men of the 75th sped southward by train, chugging four hundred miles from Dixon, Illinois, to where the Ohio River separates Jeffersonville, Indiana, from Louisville, Kentucky. There they stopped for a few days to take on supplies and join up with the Army of the Ohio, a much larger Union force. The Army of the Ohio and a Confederate army had been chasing one another around Tennessee and Kentucky for some time, and now the 75th and other newly formed regiments joined in that chase.[16] There would, however, be no more speedy train rides "with drums beating and flags flying" (Crary, 69). The next hundred miles, the 75th covered on foot. For such inexperienced soldiers, it was a grueling, blister-raising march through weather by turns rainy and hot, with "the dust so thick," at times,
that it almost smothered a man, perspiration standing in great drops on his face, only to be mopped off with a 'kerchief, or if he wasn't lucky enough to have one, with his dust covered blue coat sleeves. It was march, march, march, fifty minutes by the watch, then, with a ten minute's rest in order to take breath and reflect upon soldier life, as we found it. Then to think that a term of "three years, or during the war" was before us. (Crary, 71-72)
The evening of October 7 found the Union forces encamped along a ridge of hills just outside Perryville, Kentucky; the Confederate army they'd been chasing waited just out of reach. The next day, barely two weeks after leaving Dixon, the 75th Illinois Infantry saw its first action, in the Battle of Perryville.

I won't go into the details of the battle here; I'll leave that for a future post. But here's the extremely quickie version, from the 75th Illinois's perspective: while the 75th watched and waited for orders, the rebels attacked another part of the Union army, mowing down many seasoned soldiers. No reinforcements were sent until the Confederates had already blasted a hole in the Union lines; then, the green 75th was sent to fill the gap.[17] The results were predictably bloody: almost a quarter of the regiment's men were killed or wounded. The casualty rate was worse in Peter's company, which lost at least a third of its men to death or injury--including Peter himself.[18]

Fortunately for me, Peter Garrison was reasonably lucky: he took a bullet in the thigh but survived the battle and went on to start a family. The surgeons, though, were unable to remove the bullet, which remained painfully lodged in his left thigh, and he spent most of the rest of his military career in hospitals, unable to return to duty. On March 18, 1863--just over five months after he was shot--Peter was declared officially disabled, discharged from military service, and sent home. (His Certificate of Disability for Discharge appears at right; you can click on it for a larger view.) Unfortunately for him, those five extra months he spent in the army permanently wrecked his health. Whether it was post-traumatic stress, the effects of breathing gunsmoke, the cold of winter, dirty hospital conditions, or all of the above, Peter left the service not only disabled by his wound but also plagued by persistent lung trouble (the "Incipient Phthisis Pulmonaris" his disability certificate mentions), possible heart problems, and some kind of mysterious internal infection.

The story Peter's pension record tells is a sad one: he spent the rest of his life bouncing from one odd job to the next, from one state to the next, and from one doctor to the next, as he struggled to support his family through the ups and downs of his physical and mental health. At first, his pension was set at $8 per month, but it was immediately reduced to $4--apparently because pension officials felt Peter hadn't been shot up enough. ("G[un]. S[hot]. W[ound]. left thigh only," wrote the man who rejected Peter's appeal of the lower rate; "no increase.") Even bearing in mind that the dollar was worth much more back then than it is today, $4 was a tiny sum: another veteran whose records I viewed at the National Archives got more than twice that amount to ease the discomfort of his hemorrhoids. In order to receive even this small benefit, though, Peter had to submit to regular checkups. If he wanted to apply for an increase in benefits, there were yet more examinations. And, whenever he moved to a new town, he had to officially inform the pension board of that fact--and break in a new doctor. All of these bureaucratic requirements generated a lot of paperwork, which pads out Peter's pension file to roughly 75 double-sided pages. Those pages are loaded with genealogical information, but that fact doesn't make them pleasant to read.

Peter's injured leg troubled him for the rest of his life. While he probably did suffer permanent nerve damage from the initial wound, it's likely that he would have had a much easier time if not for the Confederate bullet he still carried. Usually described as a "ball" by Peter's doctors, the offending projectile may have been more like a musket ball--round, pitted, and rough--than a sleek, modern bullet. Lodged deep in his muscle tissue, that little piece of metal continued to cause pain, do damage, and generally screw with Peter's leg decades after the entry wound had healed. It shifted with Peter's muscles as he went about his daily life, moving in a slow, tearing dance around his femur. Across fifty-five years of medical examinations, rarely did any two doctors find it in exactly the same position.
Bullet location, 1888 Bullet location, 1892

Upper label: something like "Ball inlet" 
Lower label: "Ball now here we feel it distinctly"

Upper label: "cicatrix"
Lower label: "Ball"
The above two diagrams from Peter's pension record show how far the bullet could move over a relatively short period--in this case, four years. (In both diagrams, the entry wound is shown just below Peter's left hip, while the "ball" is much lower down, closer to his knee.)

Today's surgeons would probably have little difficulty removing such an object, but then, we have the benefit of x-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, and other imaging systems, as well as increasingly precise surgical tools. The battlefield surgeons who treated Peter were likely inundated with other, much more seriously injured patients, and the only bullet-finding tools at their disposal were eyes, scalpels, and fingers. Had they done a more probing search for the bullet, they might have done more damage, before they found it, than the Confederate soldier who shot Peter in the first place. In later years, Peter's doctors almost always described the bullet as being "embedded" or "deeply embedded" in his muscle tissue and/or "sinews." Again, they may have decided it was riskier to try to remove the bullet than to leave it be.

As for Peter's other health problems, they seem to take so many different forms in so many different doctors' reports that I can't sort them all out. It's clear that he had some kind of trouble with his lungs when he left the military, and that that was part of the reason he was discharged. Almost no mention is made of any lung condition, though, until 1878--and then only fitfully for a few years. Then his condition begins to worsen steadily, with his lungs apparently slowly filling with fluid. As his breathing grows more difficult, heart problems pop up--but only sporadically, and they seem different with every examination. Some doctors hear nothing unusual in his heartbeat; others find a heart murmur or other cardiac irregularities. By 1892, 55-year-old Peter looks like a man on death's door:
My left [leg] is weak. It disables me from working. I have to limp. My leg is Painful from my thigh to foot. My lungs have troubled me ever since I left the service. My breath is short. I cough[;] expectoration is streaked with blood. I have pains in my chest. I can do but very little work. I am suffering from Nervous Prostration.
And yet he lived twenty-five more years, and what finally got him was completely unrelated to any of the chronic problems documented in his pension file: on May 19, 1917, his kidneys gave out.

The picture Peter's pension record paints of his life is probably too grim. Peter Garrison, in those pages, is a frail, impoverished, slightly desperate man who never seems quite able to get his paperwork in order. And yet, somehow, he managed to support himself and his wife while raising seven children--and long afterward. They were able to afford multiple cross-country moves; and when they settled down for good--amid the palm trees and citrus groves of 1890s Azusa, California--they had enough cash to buy a house, which they owned free, clear, and unmortgaged by the 1900 census. (Later census records show that the house stayed unmortgaged and in the family through at least 1920.) At this point, I don't know what the logistics were, but it's clear that Peter had some kind of steady income other than his veteran's pension.

I have no idea whether Peter talked about his Civil War experience in later years, or how he felt about it. Virtually the only thing that is remembered about him in my branch of the family is that he did serve, and was wounded, and carried a rebel bullet to his grave. But the fact that he was buried in the Civil War veterans' section of Oakdale Memorial Park seems a fair indication that his brief time in Company G of the 75th Illinois Infantry permanently changed his sense of identity.


[1] According to Dad's Tree and Peter's Civil War veteran's pension records. All the census records I have found for Peter also support this data.

[2] Frank E. Stevens, "Harriet E. Garrison, M. D." in History of Lee County Illinois (Chicago: S. J. Clarke, 1914), 2:305.

[3] The two brothers were Mathias F. Garrison (see his bio sketch here) and (possibly) John Garrison. Right now, I can't prove that the John Garrison who (census records show) was born in Pennsylvania and lived in Lee County from 1850 onwards was William's brother John Garrison. The older sister was Elizabeth, who married Joseph Brierton. Mr. Brierton was born in Pennsylvania and arrived in Lee County in 1837, according to History of Lee County, Together with Biographical Matter, Statistics, etc. (Chicago: H. H. Hill and Co., 1881), 178. This migration date is probably approximate. Two of Joseph and Elizabeth (Garrison) Brierton's sons--William S. and Emanuel--are profiled in Portrait and Biographical Record of Lee County, Illinois (Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1899), on pp. 251-52 and 731-32, respectively. Joseph and Elizabeth's marriage is further attested to in Historical and Biographical Annals of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers and Co., 1915), both in volume 1 (p. 540) and in volume 2 (p. 1252).

[4] See "William Garrison," in History of Lee County, Together with..., 544. The 1850 U.S. census shows the Garrison family living in Taylor Township, Ogle County; ten years later, the 1860 census puts them in China Township, Lee County. William Garrison's farm lay in China Township until February 4, 1871. On that date, Nachusa Township was formed out of a portion of China, according to a "Lee County Fact Sheet" posted on the Illinois State Archives website. The Garrison farm happened to fall within the new township.

[5] Here I draw on 1850 and 1860 federal census records; the bio sketches of William and Harriet cited in notes 2 and 5; and profiles of William's sons John (History of Lee County, Together with..., 549-50) and William H. (Memorial and Biographical Record...of Butler, Polk, Seward, York, and Fillmore Counties, Nebraska [Chicago: George A. Ogle and Co., 1899], 958-60). The nine children who made it to adulthood were (in order from oldest to youngest) John, Peter, George L., Hester A., Hannah, Elizabeth E., William H., Harriet E., and Martha J.

[6] According to William Sumner Dodge, A Waif of the War; Or, the History of the Seventy-Fifth Illinois Infantry, Embracing the Entire Campaigns of the Army of the Cumberland (Chicago: Church and Goodland, Publishers, 1866), chapter 1.

[7] According to Peter Garrison's Civil War veteran's pension record; his entry in the Illinois Muster and Descriptive Rolls Database; and p. 618 of Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, vol. 4, rev. Brigadier General J. N. Reece, Adjutant General (Springfield, IL: Phillips Bros., State Printers, 1901).

[8] Dodge, 26.

[9] Adella Helmershausen, "China Township," ch. 21 in Stevens, vol. 1, p. 318. 

[10] Peter's uncle Mathias F. Garrison married a Girton (see his bio sketch), and a sworn deposition by M. F. appears in William L. Girton's widow's pension record, making it likely that William was related to M. F.'s wife. John W. N. Garrison (who was not Peter's brother John) swore to the fact that he visited Peter in a field hospital in a deposition he made for Peter's pension records. At this point, I'm not sure how, exactly, J. W. N. was related to Peter, but it seems certain that he was: in the 1870s, Mathias F. Garrison, Peter Garrison, Peter's brother William H. Garrison, and John W. N. Garrison all moved to to the same township (Franklin Township) in Fillmore County, Nebraska. According to William H. Garrison's bio sketch, William more or less named the township, so the Garrisons definitely had close ties to the place.

[11] My analysis of typical Company G characteristics comes from a perusal of Company G enlistees' entries in the Illinois State Archives' Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls Database. The data in this resource is not always accurate (giving Peter's height as a mere 5' 3/4", for example), but the general picture it provides is consistent. The physical description I give of Peter appears throughout his pension record. See, for example, his Certificate of Disability for Discharge, a scan of which appears towards the end of this post. The possibility that his hair may have been reddish is my slightly fanciful speculation; official descriptions just give his hair color as "light." When Peter's four sons registered for the draft during WWI, two of them--William Lloyd and Guy Garfield--were described as redheads. (I viewed scans of all four Garrison registration cards via's database "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.") This doesn't mean, of course, that Peter's hair actually was the least bit red. As for my speculation that Peter "probably still worked on his father's farm" when he enlisted, the 1860 U.S. census shows Peter as the only young man in his father's China Township household; with five younger sisters and a teenage brother to support, his labor would probably still have been needed in 1862.

[12] Dodge, 27.

[13] A. M. Crary, The A. M. Crary Memoirs and Memoranda (Herington, KS: The Herington Times Printers, 1915), 70-71. Crary sometimes lifts whole passages from Dodge, but he is also much less pompous and usually renders Dodge more readable.

[14] Dodge, 28-29. 

[15] Ibid., 27-28. Sometimes I don't know whether to hug Dodge or shake him by the shoulders: I can't help but admire how vibrantly purple his prose can be.

[16] Dodge, 19-33, and Crary, 69-73. Neither Dodge nor Crary states that the 75th traveled by train, but in 1862, that would have been the only way to move 1,000 men 400 miles in 2 days.

[17] My quickie summary of the Battle of Perryville from the 75th's perspective is based on Dodge, Chapter 3, and Crary, 73-77. To understand the battle a bit better, I also did some light research: I downloaded battle maps from, read the "Battle of Perryville" Wikipedia article, and browsed some of the articles and accounts at the Battle of Perryville website ( The accounts in Dodge and Crary seem to tally with the other research I've done so far.

[18] I have left these figures rough because I'm not sure how accurate they are. Page 76 of Crary lists the following regimental losses: "43 killed in action, 154 wounded, and a dozen or more taken prisoners" or otherwise missing. I haven't made a thorough study of how many men were actually in the regiment, but Crary estimates there were about a thousand at Camp Dement. A list of the original members of Company G appears on pp. 617-618 of Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, vol. 4; 88 men are listed, and 14 of those are identified as having been killed at the Battle of Perryville or as a result of wounds sustained there. In one of the published Lee County histories I regularly consult, I found a list (perhaps only partial, I don't know) that named 15 additional men who were wounded (but not killed) at the Battle of Perryville. I cannot now locate that list, but by comparing it with pp. 617-618 of the Adjutant General's Report, I came up with my rough Company G casualty figures. I'll try to track the missing source down and update this note.
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