Posted tagged ‘farmer’

A Wicked Affair: Part 2 – Escalation

July 14, 2011

Edward F. Clum and John Jay White served together in the 9th New York Heavy Artillery for about 18 months, from December 1863 to June 1865.  The 9th participated in the battles of Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Monocacy and others before ultimately ending up at Appomattox Court House in April of 1865.  Rivalry undoubtedly sprung up when Jay was promoted to Corporal on August 1, 1864.  He then mustered out on June 16, 1865.  Ed, however, transferred as a private to Co. I, 2nd New York Heavy Artillery at the end of June.  Records show his promotion to Corporal on September 1, 1865, just a few short weeks before he mustered out.

After the war, both men returned to Walworth, New York, in Wayne County.  The 1870 census lists Jay as a farmer, living in Walworth with his wife, Mary Augusta, and 6 year old son Warland.  By that time, Ed had been married to 18 year old Charlotte (“Lottie”) for about a year, and was working as a day laborer.

The years between 1870 and 1884 are unrecorded.  However, by the early 1880s, Clum and White were living just a few miles apart.  Tongues began to wag about the inappropriate behavior of Lottie Clum and Jay White, and about Ed Clum’s lack of interest in protecting his wife.  Several articles even insinuated that all three were living under the same roof.  This was the last straw for Jay’s long-suffering wife, Mary Augusta, who committed suicide on May 30, 1884.  She left behind three children – Warland, Ruth and little Lucy who was not yet four years old.  After Mary Augusta’s death, Jay became even more brazen.  He carried on with Lottie Clum, paying no heed to any conventions of decent behavior.

Jay and Ed had joined the G.A.R. E. A. Slocum Post #211 of Fairport, New York together in 1884.  On September 27, 1885, Edward F. Clum was dismissed from the post by court martial for conduct unbecoming a gentleman and a soldier.  He had arrived at a post-sponsored family campfire intoxicated, and had proceeded to use obscene language in front of the wives and children of his fellow veterans.  Jay White was dishonorably discharged from the post on the same date.  His crime?  Riding intoxicated through the streets of the village at a furious pace with Mrs. Edward Clum.

Shortly thereafter, John Jay White took off for the west – with Lottie Clum in tow.  They made their way to Cassville, Missouri, where they lived on a farm and Lottie was known as “Mrs. White”.  The fact that Jay White had once again bested him and made off with his wife apparently did not weigh too heavily on Ed Clum’s mind, for he did not follow them…until five months later.

Stay tuned for A Wicked Affair: Part 3 – A Vile Nest!

Henry L. Miller, Lost at Belleau Wood

October 29, 2010

He was supposed to be a farmer, like his father.  But when the United States entered the Great War, Henry L. Miller felt a patriotic duty to join the fight.  Henry enlisted in Co. M, 49th Infantry of the regular Army, on July 26, 1917.  Soon thereafter, he transferred into Co. M, 23rd Infantry, 2nd Division and began training in Syracuse.  Little more than one month later, young Miller shipped overseas.

Henry L. Miller was born in Perinton, New York, on April 23, 1895, but moved to Pittsford, New York, at an early age.  The third child of Charles and Reka Miller, he was their first son.  Three more daughters and another son, Norman, later joined the Miller family.  Dorothy, Henry’s youngest sibling, was just 9 years old when he went overseas.  She must have been so proud of her big brother.  Henry no doubt smiled as he received the packages of letters from his sisters and brother which sporadically reached him somewhere in France.

The letters Henry wrote home most likely inspired both pride and fear in his parents.  Henry wrote of life at the front.  He mentioned the six weeks he had spent in the trenches before being allowed a short period of rest.  He talked of going “over the top” of the trenches to pitch headlong into the thick, German artillery fire.  Somehow, Henry managed to survive.  Then came Belleau Wood.

On June 6, 1918, the Marines stationed with the 23rd Infantry sustained casualties of 31 officers and nearly 1,100 men.  The 23rd Infantry also lost many good men, including Henry L. Miller.  Four weeks after the Battle of Belleau Wood, the Miller family received official notification that Henry was missing in action.  It took another three weeks before Charles and Reka Miller were formally notified that their son, Private Henry L. Miller, had died at Belleau Wood on June 6.  Henry was buried in France and would remain there for three long years until his parents could bring him back to Pittsford.

Henry L. Miller

“Hero’s Body Arrives” touted the local papers.  Henry L. Miller was home.  On September 11, 1921, the remains of Henry Miller were interred at Pittsford Cemetery.  He was laid to rest beside his grandparents, Henry and Elizabeth Lussow Mueller.  The military honor guard that oversaw the burial were members of a one-year old American Legion Post known as Rayson-Miller Post 899, so named after Homer Rayson, who was killed in action in October, 1918, and Henry L. Miller.  This year, the Rayson-Miller Post celebrated their 90th anniversary. 

The Miller family of Pittsford has a proud history of military service.  Beginning back in the Civil War when Henry’s grandfather, Henry L. Mueller, fought for the Union with the 8th NY Cavalry, the Millers have had over 15 family members serve in the armed forces.  These Miller men have served in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea and in the Persian Gulf.  Something tells me Henry L. Miller would be extremely proud of such a legacy.

George Wiltsie’s Wartime World

June 11, 2009
George B. Wiltsie, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

George B. Wiltsie, 4th NY Heavy Artillery, standing second from left

In April I received an incredible gift in the mail, courtesy of Bill Keeler of the Perinton Historical Society and Fairport Museum.  Bill has spent much time transcribing the Civil War diary of George B. Wiltsie which came into the possession of the Fairport Museum last year.  The disk I received contained the transcription, and soon I was transported back in time, into George Wiltsie’s wartime world.

George B. Wiltsie was born on May 16, 1837, the seventh child of Thomas Wiltsie and his wife Rachel Brownell Wiltsie.  The Wiltsie family homestead was located in Duanesburg, New York until the spring of 1834, when the entire Wiltsie family traveled by packet boat on the Erie Canal toward their new home.  Maps of the time show that the Wiltsies settled on land west of the Erie Canal in Perinton, New York, right about where Route 31 passes over the canal between Mill and Kreag Roads.  It was here that George Wiltsie’s story began.

Little is known of George’s early life in Perinton.  We can imagine that life must have been hectic in a household that eventually grew to include 11 children.  Thomas Wiltsie was a farmer, and George followed in his father’s footsteps until August 12, 1862.  That was the day that George enlisted in the 4th NY Heavy Artillery.

George’s first journal entry is written one week later, and expresses his reasons for joining the fight:  “August 19, 1862 …I bid adieu to friends and old associates, feeling it a duty to [fight] for home and its comforts, to assist in the rescue of a Government in peril.”  The next few entries in the journal tell of traveling with the Army, and of the poor food and filthy conditions.  It occurred to me that through most of the diary, George was very optimistic and upbeat.  He mentioned having leave and seeing the Smithsonian and the Liberty Bell.  He commented on the beautiful architecture that he saw on his travels with the Army.  Soon after arriving at Fort Pennsylvania, George came down with typhoid fever.  He managed to pull through and rejoin his unit.  However William Cook, who was a comrade in the 4th NY Heavy Artillery and a fellow Monroe County resident, became sick at the same time as George and died within one week from the disease.  William Cook is another of my Pittsford boys who will be mentioned in upcoming posts. 

George’s happy frame of mind continued even through August of 1864 when, on the 25th, George matter-of-factly mentioned that “…the Rebels advanced on us and the battle commenced which ended with our defeat and capture of a large number of prisoners myself among the number.”  I can’t even imagine the terror I would feel at being captured by the enemy.  However, George took his imprisonment in stride and even managed to joke about his new surroundings, “Paid adieu to Libby [Prison] this morning and went to the famous resort of Uncle Sam’s boys for three days better known by them as Bell Island.”  Ultimately ending up in Salisbury Prison, George’s journal chronicles the boredom, crime and lack of proper shelter at Salisbury but still sounds optimistic.

As the days turned into months of imprisonment, George’s optimism began to fade.  The entry for November 8, 1864 noted that it was Election Day and George wished he could vote for Abraham Lincoln.  The last journal entry was made on December 9, 1864.  He may have already been ill with the typhoid fever that would take his life in Annapolis, Maryland on March 21, 1865.  His body was returned home and buried at Pittsford Cemetery beside his sisters Antoinette and Eliza and his brother Frank.  The man who remarked on the beauty of architecture and who took joy in historical monuments was dead at the young age of 28.

I have seen a photo of George B. Wiltsie.  It is in the personal collection of Jason Puckett, a Wiltsie family descendant.  Unbelievably, Jason bought the photo on eBay.  It was labeled with the names of the four soldiers pictured – William B. Lyke, George Wiltsie, Henry Root and Albert E. Lyke.  The Lyke boys are mentioned several times in George’s journal.  George is standing second from left sporting a bushy black beard.  Military service records provided by the New York State Archives show that George had brown eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion, and that he stood 5′ 4 1/2″ tall.

After sharing his photo of George Wiltsie, Jason shared something with me that meant even more.  In an email, Jason wrote to me, “You have taken it upon yourself to remember my ancestors and acknowledge their existence when others might just think of them as headstones in the cemetery. I honestly doubt that there is anyone that goes to visit George’s grave anymore out of remembrance of his life. You still do that, and I thank you for that respect for my family.  I really just want to say thank you because it is an honor to me and my family that someone cares enough to remember. Your passion for the Civil War and the men who chose to serve inspires me.  Thank you so much for taking your time to remember my family and the other men who were willing to give their lives to defend my family.”  Jason’s eloquence moved me to tears. 

The goal of my Civil War project, cemetery tours, speaking engagements and my Illuminated History blog is to remember these men who took time out of their lives to serve our country during a period of division and strife.  It honors the memories of our hometown heroes because their stories deserve to be told.   Every time I place a flag by a Civil War soldier’s grave, I speak their name and promise aloud that they will not be forgotten.


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