Posted tagged ‘Civil War’

“Decades of I Do: Wedding Gowns of the 20th Century” Exhibit Debuts at the Fairport Historical Museum

April 29, 2014

2013 was the year of Downton Abbey.  My previous post extolled the virtues of the show’s interesting characters and elegant costumes.  As Director of the Fairport Historical Museum, I had the opportunity create a “Fashions Inspired by Downton Abbey” exhibit featuring costumes that came directly from the collection of the Perinton Historical Society (PHS) and which represented the witty Dowager Countess, the demure Lady Sybil and the elegant Lady Grantham, among others.  Due to the tremendous response to that exhibit, I’ve entered the PHS closets once again to bring even more costumes to light.

The wedding gown of Alice Beaumont Warner.

The wedding gown of Alice Beaumont Warner.

In 2014, the Fairport Historical Museum celebrates weddings.  Our newest exhibit, “Decades of I Do: Wedding Gowns of the 20th Century” showcases twelve wedding gowns from area brides. Six dresses come from the PHS collection, while an additional six are on loan from their owners.  Wedding announcements and bridal photos accompany many of the gowns and serve to personalize each bride’s story.  Here is the story of our 1903 bride, Alice Beaumont, who has the distinction of having the earliest wedding gown in the exhibit.

Alice M. Beaumont, the daughter of Edward F. and Emma Sahlman Beaumont, was born in June, 1881.  She grew up on George Street in the village of Fairport, New York, and it was in the parlor of that home that Alice and George H. Warner were married on October 1, 1903 beneath a beautiful arch of evergreen and floral decorations as eighty friends and family members looked on.  Dressed in white lansdown trimmed with Irish lace, the bride carried a bouquet of white roses to meet her groom.

Alice Beaumont and George H. Warner on their wedding day, October 1, 1903.  Photo courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Alice Beaumont and George H. Warner on their wedding day, October 1, 1903. Photo courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

George H. Warner was the son of George S. and Lena Peglow Warner.  George S. had served during the Civil War  in the 16th U. S. Infantry.  George S. and Lena had seven children, of which George H. was number four.

The Beaumonts also had a Civil War veteran in their midst.  Alice’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Beaumont, served in Co. A, 8th New York Cavalry.

Alice and George became parents in 1908 upon the birth of their first son, Leon.  Three more sons, Hollis, Vincent and George Maxwell, would follow within the next seven years.  George supported his growing family by working as a foreman at the American Can Company.

1915 was a dreadful year for Alice Beaumont Warner.  On May 19th her mother, Emma Sahlman Beaumont, died.  Three months later, a motorcycle accident ended the life of her grandfather, Frederick Sahlman.  Then in October Alice’s aunt, Elizabeth Sahlman Bort, was killed in an automobile accident.  In the midst of this sadness, Alice gave birth to her fourth and final son, George Maxwell Warner.  Little George must have been the only bright spot in this annus horribilus.

The Warners lived at 25 Woodlawn Avenue in Fairport for the majority of their 66 year marriage, which ended only with George’s death on March 25, 1970.  Alice Beaumont Warner died twelve days later.  They were buried at White Haven Cemetery in Pittsford, New York.

Alice is just one of the brides represented in this exhibit.  I invite you to visit the Fairport Historical Museum, located at 18 Perrin Street near the Village Landing, during regular open hours (Sundays and Tuesdays 2:00-4:00 p.m., Thursdays 7:00-9:00 p.m. and Saturdays 9:00-11:00 a.m.) to view these exquisite wedding gowns and to read the announcements of nuptials from the past, when “O Promise Me” was a popular wedding song and the Green Lantern Inn was the fashionable place to hold a wedding reception.

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Hero Highlight – Chester Hutchinson, Co. B, 108th NY Infantry

April 3, 2012

“Our marching and countermarching brought us on the 17th of September in front of Lee’s army.  We halted, piled up our haversacks, loaded our guns, and were ready for action…Our position was a hot one, and the air was alive with bullets, shells, shot and canister.”  Civil War veteran Chester Hutchinson’s recollection of being severely wounded at the battle of Antietam nearly thirty two years earlier.

Chester Hutchinson, the fifth of seven children born to Lewis and Betsey Palmer Hutchinson, was born in Penfield, New York, on July 12, 1841.  The Hutchinson family soon moved to Perinton, where Chester’s maternal grandparents, Ira & Sarah Beilby Palmer, were among the earliest settlers of the town.  Lewis Hutchinson supported his large family as a farm laborer and it was expected that Chester would also work the farm.  After the death of his mother in 1849, Chester moved to Pittsford, where he continued his schooling and raised vegetables to be sold in the markets in Rochester.  Ten years later, Chester moved to Fairport and apprenticed in the sash and blind trade run by his uncles, Seymour and John G. Palmer.

After three years at the sash and blind factory, the Civil War beckoned and Chester enlisted in Co. B, 108th NY Infantry on August 4, 1862.  He arrived in Washington, D.C. on a cattle car with other members of his regiment.  Rules were lax at the beginning of the war, and soldiers could sleep where they wished as long as they were present at roll call.  Years after the war, Chester recalled spending his first night in Washington, D.C. sleeping on the east stone steps of the White House.  Soon, Chester would have more to concern him than finding a good spot in which to catch some shuteye. 

One month after enlistment, the men of the 108th NY Infantry received a trial by fire.  On September 17, 1862, the regiment was led into battle at Sharpsburg, Maryland, on what would become the bloodiest single day of fighting of the entire war.  Over 23,000 Union and Confederate casualties occurred at this battle, which the Northerners called Antietam.  Chester Hutchinson was one such casualty.  The gunshot hit his right breast, “the ball glancing along the bone, coming out about four inches from where it entered and stopping” against his right arm.  It took Chester over one year to recover from this wound.  He was successful in his effort to return to his regiment in early 1864; however, Chester was once again quickly engaged in a fight for his life.  This time, it was at the battle of the Wilderness.

Struck in the left breast by a minie ball which passed through his lung, the doctor who dressed Chester’s wound after the battle of the Wilderness pronounced it fatal.  Death would come to Chester Hutchinson, but not in May, 1864.  After lying in pain for three weeks, Chester was transferred to Fredericksburg, Maryland, where he was located by Sergeant Chilson of Company B, 108th NY Infantry.  By the fall of 1864, Chester was sent to City Hospital in Rochester to recuperate, and he remained there until his regiment arrived home and he received his discharge. 

After the war, Chester Hutchinson wed Mary Grover.  For several years, the Hutchinsons made their home in West Bay City, Michigan, where Chester was employed at the Crump Manufacturing Company planing mill and box factory.  After Mary’s death in 1886, Chester and his four children returned home to New York, where they lived for many years at 6 Prospect Street in the village of Fairport.

Hattie Down Wiley became Chester’s second wife on January 1, 1891.  As the widow of another Fairport Civil War soldier, James B. Wiley of the 111th NY Infantry, Hattie brought six children to the marriage.  Chester and Hattie had one son together, Lynn, who died in 1896 at age two.  Hattie and Chester brought up their combined eleven children together and were married for over forty years.

In his later years, Chester was very active in the community.  As a charter member of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) E.A. Slocum Post #211, an organization dedicated to aiding veterans of the Civil War, Chester served in various leadership positions throughout the years.  E.A. Slocum Post #211 was disbanded in 1937 due to the death of its last member, Horace Waddell.  Chester traveled each year to attend reunions of the 108th NY Infantry and, in 1899, he won first place in the reunion shooting contest.  He was also employed as a watchman at a bank, worked at the Dobbin & Moore Lumber Company, was very active in the Baptist Church, and was appointed as a tax collector.

In the 1920s, as the ranks of the Civil War soldiers were diminished by death, Chester Hutchinson became a prominent face in the news.  No fewer than two poems were written about him, which celebrated the milestones of Chester’s 80th and 85th birthdays.   The 85th birthday poem was written by Pittsford resident and elocutionist Franc Fassett Pugsley, a daughter of Chester’s comrade from the 108th NY Infantry, Jonathan J. Fassett.   Mrs. Pugsley managed to fit into her lengthy poem information about Chester’s birth, early life, war experiences and wounds, marriages and children before bestowing this wish upon Chester, “May the sun turn the evening skies to gold and love brighten all the way.” 

The death of Chester Hutchinson occurred on April 19, 1932 at age 90.  Not bad for a man who, 68 years earlier, had been told he wouldn’t survive his wounds.  Chester was buried at Greenvale Cemetery in Fairport beside his son, Lynn, and stepsons Mark & Frank Wiley.  Hattie, his wife of 41 years, joined him in 1940.  A newspaper article written one month after his death stated that, “Chester Hutchinson joined his comrades on the march into eternity, carrying with him the reverence and respect of the people in the community, a patriot and a loyal citizen.” 

This article was originally published in the Perinton Historical Society “Historigram”, Vol. XLIV, No. 7, April 2012.  Learn more about the Perinton Historical Society by visiting their website, www.PerintonHistoricalSociety.org.

Dr. Andrew F. Sheldon, Originator of the Field Tent Hospital

March 7, 2012

If someone had told Ralph and Minerva Flint Sheldon that their son, Andrew, would grow up to become a renowned physician and a personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln, they probably would have scoffed. 

In 1830, Andrew was born in the small town of Huron in Wayne County, New York.  As one of Ralph and Minerva Flint Sheldon’s five children, Andrew was expected to help them with the farm.  However, at some point, Andrew developed an interest in medicine.  At the age of 22, he graduated from the University of New York’s Medical Department.  He married Miss Lucetta Salsbury in 1857, and they began their married life together in Williamson, New York.  They then moved to Junius, New York, where Andrew practiced medicine until he was called upon to put his skills to the test for the Union army during the Civil War.

Seven months into the War, Dr. Sheldon was commissioned as Assistant Surgeon with the 7th New York Cavalry.  In April 1862, he was appointed as Assistant Surgeon with the 78th New York Infantry.  By October of 1862, Andrew had been commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Volunteers.  President Lincoln himself promoted Dr. Sheldon to Surgeon of the United States Volunteers in charge of Campbell Hospital in Washington, D.C. in April, 1863.  It was sometime during these early years of the war that Dr. Andrew Sheldon is credited in the War Department with creating the first field tent hospital.  According to the office of the Wayne County Historian, Andrew F. Sheldon financed the first tent hospitals with his own money after having been unable to obtain the funds elsewhere.  Tent hospitals are still in existence today throughout the world, and serve as an invaluable tool to obtaining immediate medical treatment before the sick and wounded are transported to conventional hospitals.

On April 14, 1865, just hours before his assassination by John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln presented Dr. Andrew F. Sheldon with a case of surgical instruments at Campbell Hospital.  The case, created by G. Tiemann & Company of New York, was made of mahogany with brass corner straps and lock, and the compartments are lined with blue velvet.  Many of the handles on the surgical instruments are of ivory.  That case was, for many years after Andrew’s death, in the collection of his son, Ralph Sheldon, M.D.  In 1948, it was displayed in the Lyons, New York, drugstore window of Bill Dobbins in commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Wayne County.  Dr. Sheldon’s surgical case is now in the possession of the Wayne County Historical Society.  President Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Steward personally contributed toward the gift.  On the same date, Dr. Sheldon was presented with an ebony cane mounted with a gold cap and engraved, “Presented to A. F. Sheldon, surgeon U.S.V., by his friends at Campbell Hospital, Washington, D.C. April 14, 1865”.

After the war ended, Andrew resumed his practice.  He and Lucetta had six children together, three of whom died in infancy.  Daughter Nora Belle married Charles F. Powers and they had two sons, Whitney and Albert.  Despite his medical background, Andrew was unable to save the life of his daughter and she died at his home in Lyons at age 35 of gastric catarrh.  Son Ralph followed in his father’s footsteps and became a physician.  Both father and son practiced medicine for over 50 years.  Although Ralph was twice married, he had no children.  Younger son, Albert, became a manager of the International Silver Company based out of Lyons, New York.  He also served as Lyons Village Trustee.  Albert and his wife, Caroline Hersey Sheldon, had one daughter named Mary Elizabeth.

After spending the last 31 years of his life in Lyons, New York, Andrew F. Sheldon died in 1914 at the age of 83.  He and his family are buried in Wayne County, New York. 

Andrew F. Sheldon spent much of his life as a servant of the people.  Besides being a physician, he also spent many years as the Wayne County Treasurer, President of the Soldiers and Sailors Association of Wayne County, and was very active in the G.A.R., a patriotic organization dedicated to aiding veterans of the Civil War.  His greatest legacy, however, is as originator of the field tent hospital during the Civil War.

This article was originally published in the ‘Baker-Cederberg Notebook’, Vol. 22, No. 2, Fall-Winter 2010, a semi-annual newsletter published by the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives.  To learn more about the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives, please visit their website at http://www.rochestergeneral.org/rochester-general-hospital/about-us/rochester-medical-museum-and-archives/.

Locating Family Photographs

September 28, 2011
Unknown Man from Civil War-era album, V. M. Profitt Collection

Through the years, I’ve had many people ask how they can locate photographs of their Civil War ancestors.  It can be a daunting task, but I went to someone I knew would have the answer to that question.  Ron Erwin has been collecting Civil War memorabilia for many years.  After putting some thought into it, Ron came up with the following checklist for locating family photographs:

First, you would need to know his name and regiment.  Without both, it is almost impossible as there may be more than one Civil War soldier with the same name.  Check state records for possible alternate spellings.

 1. Check with relatives, even distant cousins.

 2. Check on line. Google soldier’s name and regiment.  Try different spellings.  Post request on Civil War bulletin boards.

 3. Visit the local libraries. Ask for his regimental history, any scrapbooks that might have information, newspaper indexes for obits or any photos that might have been donated to local history department.   Look for County Histories and biographies of local people.

 4. Ask at local historical societies.  Most towns have a Town Historian.  Ask for him/her at the Town Hall of any towns of cities soldier lived in.

 5. Put an ad in the local newspapers asking for information on soldier and photo.

 6. Newspapers often have a reporter or columnist who specializes in historical articles and might be able to help.

 7. Ask at local history museums.

 8. The American Civil War Research Database (www.civilwardata.com) has some photos.  It is a membership fee ($25.00) site but
has a free demo; perhaps a local historian has a membership.  U.S. Army Heritage Collections Online has a large collection of photographs at www.ahco.army.mil .

 9. Civil War Round Tables often have members who know collectors who have photographs of Civil War soldiers.

 10. Civil War re-enactors are sometimes collectors who have images of Civil War soldiers.   Check local regiments.  Ask at Civil War Re-enactments.

 11. Attend a Gun Show and ask dealers who specialize in Civil War items.

 12. As a last resort one could try calling people in the phone book with the soldiers last name and hope to find a relative with a photo.

Special thanks to Ron Erwin for this excellent checklist. 

Does anyone else have ideas on ways to locate family photographs?  If so, let’s hear them!

 

 

They Will Be Remembered. It’s the Right Thing To Do.

May 29, 2011

Thanks to the generosity of the American Legion Rayson-Miller Post 899 Auxiliary and Home Depot #1247 in Penfield, New York, all 85 of my Pittsford Civil War soldiers will have a flag by their graves this Memorial Day.

Recently the Rayson-Miller Auxiliary, of which I am a member, donated money toward the purchase of flags for my Civil War soldiers.  After researching the best prices, I decided to purchase the flags from Home Depot.  I arrived at the Home Depot in Penfield, New York, and asked the representative at the service desk if the store would give a bulk discount if I purchased flags for the American Legion Auxiliary.  The service rep spoke by phone with one of the managers, Brad, who said yes, they would deduct 10% from the cost of the flags.

I headed back to the flag endcap and began counting out flags.  Eighty-five flags were required if I was to place one by the grave of each of my Civil War boys.  A few minutes went by before a man, whose Home Depot apron identified him as Brad, came over to speak with me.  Brad asked how many flags I needed.  After hearing that I required 85 flags, Brad replied that Home Depot wanted to contribute $50 toward the cost of the flags.  I was dumbfounded by his generosity.  I thanked him profusely, to which he stated, “It’s the right thing to do”.  His response brought tears to my eyes.

Thanks to Brad and Home Depot, I was able to purchase 144 flags.  My young children assisted me with placing the flags at the graves of my soldier boys at Pittsford Cemetery.  We greeted each soldier by name as we placed their flag.  There were so many extra flags we were able to place them on the graves of soldiers of other wars as well.  These soldiers, who have rested in eternal sleep for so many years, are no longer lost to history.  They had lives and they were loved.  They will be remembered.  It’s the right thing to do.

Illuminating James Austen

February 28, 2011

Last month, I received an email from Eleanor DeHaai, a descendant of Civil War soldier James Austen.  We began

James Austen's grave at Los Angeles National Cemetery, courtesy Find A Grave contributor Shiver

 corresponding, and Eleanor shared the story of her great-grandfather James with me.

 Sam Hartwell, a descendant through James’ daughter Lavinia, tells us of James’ early life and family:

“James Austen was born in Godalming, England in 1831 and emigrated to America aboard the ship Devonshire in November 1853.  He married Julia Maria Ayer, daughter of Ira Ayer Sr. and Julia Wadsworth Ayer of Evans, New York.  Ira Ayer Sr., my great-great grandfather, also fought in the Civil War.  Ira was a colonel in the 48th New York Militia in the Patriot’s War, 1838, and a captain with Co. A, 116th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, 1862-63.”

 James Austen’s time in the service began on September 17, 1862, when he enlisted at Buffalo, New York, in the 27th New York Light Artillery.  Sam Hartwell takes up the story here, “He was discharged from this unit on 24 November, 1862 when he re-enlisted in the newly formed 5th Regiment of United States Artillery, from which he was discharged as a Sergeant in Capt. Truman Seymour’s E Battery. The reason for his discharge was to enable him to accept his commission as a lieutenant in the 22nd New York Cavalry on 22 April 1864 (or 65), and it is this discharge that mentions his “Very Good” character.  He was discharged at the end of the war from the 22nd NY Cavalry on 1 August 1865 under Special Order No 4 issued 22 July, 1865.

 As a soldier, James probably saw no action with the 27th New York Volunteers – he transferred out of the unit before it officially mustered in to the army. The 5th United States Artillery is a distinguished unit, however, formed early in the war and with a long and distinguished history in the Civil War and beyond. E Battery sees action, specifically in the fall of 1863, which finds it working overland towards Richmond with the Army of the Potomac. It, presumably with Austen, participates in the Battle of the Wilderness in the spring of 1864. In the summer the unit is credited at the siege of Petersburg, and at the end of the war in 1865 is with Grant at Clover Hill near Appomattox when Lee surrenders.

 James left the 5th Artillery in April of either 1864 or 1865 (the dates are unclear), having earned a commission as a lieutenant in the 22nd New York Volunteer Cavalry – so he may or may not have participated in the latter campaigns of the 5th Artillery. If he joined the 22nd NY Cavalry in the spring of 1864, he finds that unit with the 4th Division of the 9th Corps, from April, 1864, then with the 2d Brigade, 3d Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, from May, 1864; unattached, Army of the Potomac, from May 8, 1864; with its brigade in June, 1864; with the Army of the Shenandoah from October, 1864, and with the Cavalry Division of the Army of West Virginia, from February, 1865. He was commended in the records as having a ‘CHARACTER: Very Good’.”

Julia Maria Ayer, wife of James Austen. Courtesy Sam Hartwell & Eleanor DeHaai

Shortly after his discharge in August of 1865, James married Julia Maria Ayer.  Their two children, James Frederick and Lavinia Austen, were born in the years 1866 and 1868.  Great-granddaughter Eleanor DeHaai says, “Julia died of consumption when their son, my grandfather Fred, was about four and little Lavinia, Sam’s ancestor, was a baby.   James was able to take care of Fred, but Lavinia, being a girl, was placed in the care of an aunt and uncle of Julia’s in St. Paul, MN.   James found work there, though we don’t know what kind of work.  I suppose he wanted to be able to see Lavinia, and for Fred and Lavinia to be close.   Fred graduated with honors from the University of Minnesota College of Law and became an attorney in St. Louis, MO.   Lavinia became a teacher and suffragette.”

 Little else is known of James’ life after the death of his wife, Julia.  The 1880 Census of Perrysburgh, New York, shows James and son, Fred, boarding at the home of Robert and Orpha Armstrong.  Unfortunately, it lists James only as “Boarder”, and does not give us his occupation.  We do know that James entered the Sawtelle Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in October of 1890.  He was discharged in 1896, but was re-admitted ten months later.  James Austen died at the Sawtelle Home on August 12, 1898, with the cause of death listed as “paralysis”.  He was laid to rest at Los Angeles National Cemetery.

 Special thanks to Eleanor DeHaai and Sam Hartwell, the great-grandchildren of James Austen, for illuminating the story of their Civil War ancestor.

Mary Jewett Telford, Humanitarian, Part 2

March 31, 2010

Mary Jewett Telford, courtesy Floris A. Lent

We pick up Mary’s story in 1870, six years after her marriage to sweetheart Jacob Telford.  The Telfords are listed in the 1870 census as living in Grinnell, Iowa.  Living with them were two girls, Mattie Stokes and Olive Montgomery.  Mary and Jacob adopted several girls who were orphaned during the Civil War.  Mattie and Olive seem to be two such girls.  This is the first, and only, census in which we see the names of these girls and they seem to have faded into history after that. 

A move from Iowa to Denver, Colorado, was made in 1873 in hopes of improving Mary’s asthmatic condition.  In Denver, Mary’s abilities took wing.  A writer since her teenage years, Mary’s short children’s story, “Tom”, was published in St. Nicholas magazine in 1880.  However, Mary’s watershed year seems to have been 1883.  In July of that year, Mary became a charter member of the Woman’s Relief Corps (WRC), an organization dedicated to assisting veterans, their wives and their children.  Amazingly, this organization is still in existence and is entering their 127th year of service.  Later the same year, Mary was appointed to the Child-Saving Work committee on the Board of Charities and Corrections.  Mary followed that stellar year with another worthwhile cause in 1884 when she founded, edited and published the Challenge, a temperance journal which espoused the ideas of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.).  In the late 1880s, Mary became the editor of the Colorado Farmer journal, while contributing articles in newspapers from cities around the country. 

The Committee on Invalid Pensions of the House of Representatives passed a bill on May 24, 1892 granting a pension to Mary Jewett Telford based on her service as a nurse during the Civil War.  Less than two weeks later, Mary applied for her pension.  The money was surely welcomed, considering that the Telfords’ income consisted of Jacob’s $8 a month government pension from his service in the 15th Indiana Infantry, and from any money Mary brought in with her writing and editing ventures.

Mary did not seem to lose any energy or enthusiasm for her humanitarian efforts as she entered the autumn of her life.  In fact, she continued writing and editing and began to tour the country as a lecturer on the temperance circuit.  She counted W.C.T.U. founder Frances Willard as a friend.  Sometime in late 1900 or 1901, Mary and Jacob moved once again, to McMinnville, Tennessee.  It was there, in 1905, that Mary’s beloved husband Jacob passed away.  In keeping with his wishes, Mary had his body brought to Stones River National Cemetery, the former battlefield on which he had been wounded years before, for burial.

Headstone of Mary Jewett Telford at South Perinton Cemetery

Less than twelve months after the loss of her husband of 41 years, Mary discovered she had a health issue which required surgery.  Sent to the Hinsdale Sanitarium in Hinsdale, Illinois for care, Mary Jewett Telford passed quietly away on August 5, 1906 following a critical operation.  She was buried in Illinois.  Nine months later Mary’s older sister, Catherine Jewett Wilkinson, brought Mary’s remains back East and interred her beside their mother Hannah Southwick Jewett at South Perinton Cemetery in Perinton, New York.

Information about Mary’s early life can be found on my March 18, 2010 blog post, “Mary Jewett Telford, Humanitarian, Part 1”.


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