Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: His Roots

1903 (possibly) McClellan Genealogy by Imogene McClellan-002.jpg

Imogene (Everson) McClellan was an avid genealogist. About 1903, several years after her husband George Roderic McClellan disappeared, Imogene began compiling her own genealogy. While doing so, she wrote on a small slip of paper all that she could remember about George McClellan’s immediate family, and gave it to her daughter Lillian McClellan. Lillian’s grandniece Maria McClellan discovered it years later, when she inherited Lillian’s papers. It was the first clue to discovering the origins of George Roderic McClellan.

It reads: McClellan Family

Dougal McClellan, son of Dougal McClellan and Mary Scott, born in Edinburg, Scotland married Christina Cameron, b. I[n]verness, Scotland Oct. 12 1817.Married 1834. Came to Nova Scotia soon after their marriage. Their children: Ellen Cameron McClellan, Mary Catherine McClellan, Annie McClellan (Sherman) born March 23 1840, John Duncan McClellan, William Murdock McClellan, George Roderic McClellan, James McClellan, Alexander Cameron McClellan.

 

1903 (possibly) McClellan Genealogy by Imogene McClellan-001.jpg

McClellan Family Genealogy, written by Imogene (Everson) McClellan for her daughter Lillian McClellan, circa 1903. Image courtesy of the author.

 

George Roderic McClellan was born 8 May 1848 in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, the youngest of eight children born to Dougal McClellan and his wife Christina Anne Cameron, who was also called Christiana Cameron. Dougal died when George was young and the widowed Christina, unable to support all of her children, had to place them in local homes, working as domestic servants or learning trades. While the specifics of George’s childhood are still elusive, he was likely placed in a home where he apprenticed as a mason. By the age of 12 his mother had left Nova Scotia entirely and was working as a domestic servant in the household of Dr. Charles W. Fabyan of Providence, Rhode Island, a wealthy Methodist physician originally from Maine. George’s eldest sister Mary Catherine followed their mother, where she soon found work as a governess in Providence. George’s second eldest sister, Christina Anne “Annie” McClellan, found work in Portland, Maine, where she met merchant John Doane Wells Sherman. They identified themselves as husband and wife in the 1860 Census in Portland, but their wedding was performed 14 January 1863 in Providence, Rhode Island. When George turned 21 he decided to move from Nova Scotia to seek work in New England, arriving in Portland, Maine in September 1869 and then making his way to Boston, Massachusetts. He may have gone to meet up with his sister Annie (McClellan) Sherman, whose husband John worked in Boston. John D. W. and Annie Sherman boarded at Adams House when they stayed in Boston. Together John and brother Thomas B. Sherman operated the trading company Sherman Bros. & Co. at 234 State Street from at least 1867-1870. As of the 1870 census, ‘Geo R. McClellan’ was working as a mason and boarding in Boston, Massachusetts with grocer Martin Godrin (29, b. Ireland).

1870McClellanGeorgeCensus - Copy.jpg

George Roderic McClellan in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census,  a 25 [sic, 22] year old bricklayer residing as a boarder in Boston, Massachusetts on 14 July 1870

In the spring of 1872 Barnabas Everson hired George McClellan to help with construction at his South Hanson saw-mill, including a tall brick chimney stack to help reduce the threat of fire from the wood-scrap-drive fires which help fueled the saws. George likely took the Old Colony train from South Station in Boston to the South Hanson train station, located right next to Everson’s mill on Main Street. The train station is still in use today. By 1888 Barnabas Everson had become the fifth-richest man in Hanson, MA, through income derived from his sawmill and from his agricultural produce on his 300+ acres of farmland.  [See my article about Barnabas Everson’s safe, which is held by the Hanson Historical Society]. Everson invited the 24 year old George McClellan home for dinner, where he met Barnabas’s 20 year old daughter Imogene.

 

 

 

Possibly tintype of George R. McClellan? Tintypes common ca 1860s-70s.

Undated tintype of George Roderic McClellan. Probably late 1860s or early 1870s. Courtesy of the author.

Imogene Everson say 1870s?

Undated image of Imogene Lillian Everson.  Photographer A[mos] H. Locke, 16 Main St., Plymouth, Mass. Possibly near the time of her marriage, Locke was a photographer in Plymouth in 1872. Courtesy of the author.

They courted and were quickly married in Barnabas Everson’s home on Indian Head Street in Hanson, 3 June 1872, by East Bridgewater Methodist minister Rev. William Freeman Farrington. The choice of a Methodist minister probably reflected George McClellan’s faith with his Scottish-Canadian roots rather than the Everson family’s religion. Barnabas Everson joined several faith groups throughout his life, as did his children Richard and Imogene Everson. As a child, Imogene was briefly raised in the South Hanson Baptist Church. By the mid-1850s, however, the Eversons became captivated by the Spiritualist movement and remained Spiritualists until the 1890s. In the 1890s Imogene began taking Christian Science courses from Mary Baker Eddy. She remained a member of Church of Christ Scientist until her death.

 

1872 McClellanGeorgeEversonImogeneMarriage-MAVRs - Copy.jpg

Marriage record of George R. McClellan and Imogene L. Everson in Hanson, Mass. on 3 June 1872

Imogene became pregnant immediately following her marriage. Their first child, George Cameron McClellan, was born 5 March 1873 – 9 months and 2 days following their wedding day. His first name honored his father and his middle name was in honor of George’s mother’s surname Cameron.

1873 McClellanGeorgeCameron Birth-MAVRs - Copy.jpg

Birth record of George Cameron McClellan, the first child of George Roderic McClellan and Imogene Lillian Everson, born in Hanson, Mass. 5 March 1873

Having no property and little cash to his name, George and his new wife Imogene McClellan moved into a rent-free house on the east side of Indian Head Street near Maquan Pond in South Hanson owned by Imogene’s mother, Deborah (Bates) Howland Everson. Deborah had lived there with her first husband, Warren Howland, until he died of consumption in 1846, followed shortly thereafter by the death of their infant son and only child Warren Howland Jr. After the 1848 marriage of the widowed Deborah (Bates) Howland to Barnabas Everson they rented out the Howland house for extra income, and Barnabas and Deborah  Everson moved into a newly built house across the road on the west side of Indian Head Street, where they raised their family, including daughter Imogene. In 1873 new father George McClellan was seemingly well situated to step into the family businesses which his father-in-law Barnabas had founded.

Barnabas Everson, like George McClellan, had trained as a mason and trained as a shoemaker, which he worked at when construction opportunities were unavailable or off-season. Barnabas was a talented businessman and soon began acquiring tracts of farmland, woodlots, and cedar swampland in South Hanson, turning his talents to market gardening and selling his agricultural products to larger towns on the South Shore and Boston. He built a sawmill by the South Hanson train station, using lumber from his woodlots and swampland in the cedar swamp in South Hanson, which manufactured box boards and shingles. Everson later sold the sawmill to John Foster and continued to farm until his death.

Everson’s eldest son, Richard A. Everson, two years older than his sister Imogene, followed in his father’s footsteps but also went his own way in business. In his teens, Richard apprenticed and worked as a shoemaker for several years before going to work in Barnabas’s sawmill. Richard then took an interest in cranberry farming and began acquiring a large number of cranberry bogs in Hanson. He invented the “Cape Cod Champion Cranberry Picker” and eventually became the director of the New England Cranberry Sales Company. Richard’s “varied interests are indicative of his enterprise and versatile mind, and the success he has made in his different undertakings shows his executive force,” according to a biography.

Perhaps the career of Richard A. Everson can provide some insight into his brother-in-law George R. McClellan’s next steps. Family stories, you may recall, suggested that George McClellan may have moved to Denver after leaving his family in Hanson, Mass. behind in the 1890s. But it turns out that George went to Denver much earlier than that, and not only once, but two times during his marriage to Imogene.

Hoping to strike it rich in the pioneer town, George McClellan first left for Denver in late 1873, leaving behind his wife Imogene and their infant son George. Gold and silver were mined in Colorado and then filtered through the city of Denver, where business and real estate opportunities abounded in the rough-and-tumble city. After a childhood spent apart from his family, and his adolescence and young adulthood spent moving from place to place in search of employment, he had finally formed roots in Hanson, Massachusetts with his new family. But after one year he was itching to move again, and this time -West.

But what led to such a huge move? A handsome and cocky young man, George likely bumped heads with his father-in-law Barnabas Everson. Although the two men seemingly had much in common, it appears that George McClellan was unwilling to step into his father-in-law’s business and wanted to come into wealth on his own. Barnabas Everson may have been a hard man to work under, since even his own son Richard A. Everson only spent a few years working in Barnabas’ saw mill before starting his own cranberry company in Hanson and building his own success in tandem with his father. However, if Barnabas and his son Richard had disagreements, they nevertheless worked closely together, both on a personal level and physically within the same town. For some reason, however, George McClellan wanted to put 2,000 miles between them. Barnabas himself had an appreciation for risk-taking, having successfully grown his own businesses from small start-ups into large, successful operations. Perhaps George heard about business opportunities from his brother-in-law John D. W. Sherman, whose trading company was also booming in the 1870s. And perhaps at first George even received seed money from Barnabas Everson to support his endeavors in Denver.

But would George McClellan strike it rich in Denver?

 

Up Next: Part Three: George McClellan’s First Adventures in Denver, Colorado

Previously: Part One: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan

Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan

McClellanDisappearance

Part One: Family Traditions: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan

My grandmother’s house, the childhood home of my father, has been in the family for several generations. It holds countless memories and stories, and the story of its origin looms large in family lore. My grandmother is a McClellan from Hanson, Mass., but the introduction of the family surname to Hanson was surrounded in a century-old scandal. Built in 1903 for my great-grandmother Imogene Lillian (Everson) McClellan, the house was intended to be a fresh start for Imogene and her three children. Her husband, Nova Scotian-born (with Scottish roots) George Roderic McClellan, had abandoned the family several years previously, and by 1903 Imogene determined to file for divorce in absentia. She sold their house on Main Street in Hanson and built a new one on Phillips Street.

 

The story goes that one day during the 1890s, George said he was taking the train to Boston to purchase a rug for their house, and he never returned. Imogene hired a private investigator who reported a lead that George may have gone to Denver, but the trail ran cold and no further details could be determined. George was an itinerant bricklayer who had been hired by Imogene’s father, Barnabas Everson, one of the wealthiest men in Hanson, to help build a tall brick chimney for Everson’s sawmill. There he met Barnabas’ daughter Imogene, and they married in 1872. They had four children: George Cameron, born the following year who died young, Lillian, born 1876 who never married, Roderic Cameron b. 1882 and Sherman Barnabas b. 1886 who married the Ramsdell sisters Edith and Bessie, respectively. But sometime after Sherman’s birth, the McClellan marriage crumbled, and when Imogene built her new house in 1903, it was on land inherited from her recently deceased father Barnabas Everson, and thus stood in the shadow of the brick chimney that George McClellan had built years ago.

MainStChimney

The Barnabas Everson sawmill chimney stack, built by Barnabas Everson and George R. McClellan ca. 1871-1872, Main Street, South Hanson. Photograph courtesy Mary Blauss Edwards, taken 2010.

 

DononRoof

My grandfather sitting on the roof of the family house, with the Everson chimney in the background. Photograph courtesy Don Blauss.

And that was that, so far as the memories of George McClellan lingered in family stories.  A bit of Scottish pride from the surname itself, but mysteries surrounding the man who introduced it to the family. Many stories are preserved about Imogene, a tiny woman with a big legacy, but George always remained a question mark in the eyes of her grandchildren.

 

Over the past decade I have been trying to unravel the story of George McClellan, his origins, his time in Hanson, and his disappearance. The digitization of records from Canada to New England to Denver have been vital in this research process, and over the years I have pieced together incredible details about his life. It’s a tale filled with broken dreams of striking-it-rich turned to literal smoke, small and large family drama, and public scandals of political corruption involving bribery, gambling and prostitution leading to a tragic and deadly race riot. There were many twists in the process of uncovering the complicated life of George Roderic McClellan and his family left behind in Hanson – as well as discovering that following his disappearance, he went on to have a second family, entirely unknown to his first.

 

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

 

Up Next: Before arriving in Hanson, Mass. in 1872, where did George McClellan come from? Part Two: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: His Roots

Part Three: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: Success In Denver Turns To Smoke

Part Four: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan:Becoming Officer McClellan, the Farcical Moon Affair, and a Bribery Scandal in Denver

Part Five: The Disappearance of George McClellan: Anti-Chinese Riot and Officer McClellan’s Prostitution Scandal and Resignation from the Denver Police

Part Six: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: George and Imogene’s Life in Hanson

Part Seven: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: Life and Death in Boston

Surname Saturday: John Everson of Plymouth, Massachusetts

Everson Title Image

As NEHGS celebrates its 170th anniversary, this week the New England Historical and Genealogical Register launched a beautiful new format and style. This Register features my article “Descendants of John Everson of Plymouth, Massachusetts” which identifies and untangles the early Everson family of Plymouth Colony. In the 17th century, John Everson was an unwelcome transient in both Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony, and he ultimately gave up custody of his three young children, who were each taken in and raised by separate Plymouth families. Very little has been published on the family up until now, and the few publications that have included references to them have often confused the early generations – a significantly repeated error being the division of Richard2 Everson into two men, one who married Elizabeth (_) and another who married Penelope Bumpas. However, my research shows that they were in fact the same man.

The article is part of my larger Everson project, a book which documents John Everson’s descendants through to the sixth generation (as yet unpublished). While many Eversons remained in Plymouth County, some lines were a part of the westward migration through New York and beyond, and others to Northern New England and into Canada.

Below is a copy of the article, which can be cited as: Mary Blauss Edwards, “Descendants of John Everson of Plymouth, Massachusetts,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 169 [2015]:35-50.

EversonArticlePDFTitleImage

Sibling Saturday: 1860 Letter from Ellen J. Bonney of Hanson, Mass. to her brother Otis L. Bonney of Boston, Mass.

Below are scanned images, a transcription, and explanatory footnotes of a letter written on 18 March 1860 by fifteen-year old Ellen Josephine Bonney (b. 22 Feb. 1845) of Bonney Hill, South Hanson, Mass. to her older brother, twenty-one year old Otis Lafayette Bonney (b. 2 Dec. 1838) who at the time was working for Daniel Allen & Co. in Boston, Mass. They were both the children of Ezekiel Bonney and Angeline White of Hanson, Mass. Three years after writing this letter, Ellen J. Bonney married Noah A. Ford at East Bridgewater in 1863. In addition to reporting local news relating to their family and friends, she also relates details pertaining to a debate club that her brothers participated in. The club seems to have consisted of numerous young male friends of the Bonney brothers. Yet Ellen is well-informed of their discussions, and a particularly wonderful image of the Bonney women “accidentally” overhearing the debates is casually mentioned by Ellen at the end of the letter: “Oh I forgot we had the door open last night so we heard all they said at the debating meeting”.

Front of envelope addressed to Otis L. Bonney

Front of envelope addressed to Otis L. Bonney

Back of envelope

Back of envelope

1860 Letter from Ellen J. Bonney to her brother Otis L. Bonney

1860 Letter from Ellen J. Bonney to her brother Otis L. Bonney

1860 Letter from Ellen J. Bonney to her brother Otis L. Bonney

1860 Letter from Ellen J. Bonney to her brother Otis L. Bonney

Transcription of the letter:

[Envelope (front) 3 cent stamp]

So. Hanson Mass.

Otis L. Bonney

Boston, Mass.

Care of Daniel Allen & Co.

[Envelope (back)]

[in different hand, pencil] South Hanson 1860

 

[Letter, page 1]

March 18th 1860

Dear Brother,

I will commence again to write as Theodore[[1]] received your letter last night and it was read with pleasure in the club room Theodore says the question was decided in the negative but then the most of them were in faver of the negative in the first place there was four on the affirmative they were Reuben S.[,] Alonzo B.[,]  Morton V.  and T.L. B. and on the negative they were Josiah B.[,]  Thompson P. and Joseph T. [,]  Lot. P. and George Stetson.[[2]] Theodore thought some of them that they didn’t decided according to the merits of the argument, the question for discussion next Saturday night reads thus, are early marriages condusive to the public good. Theodore says he should like to hear from you by Friday night if he could, if you can write then as it would give ample time for perusal he read your letter to the club with and it was received with great applause Theodore says they are going to they and fetch have that question brought up again after they have got through with the marriage ceremony next Saturday night.[[3]] The next is the condition that Bil Thomas is left in[.][[4]]

 

[Letter, page 2]

He had his court last Wednesday for getting his [corn?] hiding and they didn’t fetch in but five dollars for Ezra[[5]] to pay besides the cost of the court and then they took Bill as soon as the court was done with Ezra they took him for slander and he has so many enemies they say it will go hard with him he is bound over for one hundred dollars to appease to the court next Friday at Bourne’s hall here in Hanson they think they will have a greater time than at the court at Abington the court up there now was from nine o clock in the morning until in the evening and he would not have got home that night if it hadn’t been for Theodore and George Bonney[[6]] for he couldn’t get anyone to be bound for him as his father did not go up and so Theodore and George were bondsman until the next day and then Bill’s father l released them Bill seems to be up to his eyes in the law business at this time.

There was a gentleman spend the night here last night and he has

[Letter, page 3]

Just gone away his name is Elms he came here yesterday noon he wanted to be here to the debate he writes pieces for the Division he writes a good deal of poetry and reads it at the Div.

Mr. Levi Everson is dead he died last week and was buried last Thursday[[7]] and the doctor thinks that Marina will live until the fall if she gets any better they don’t let anyone see her only in the morning because she is not so well in the afternoon[[8]]. There was a lady drowned herself in Hanover yesterday but we haven’t heard what her name is yet[[9]] it is a pleasant day here today but not so pleasant as it would be in the city. Sarah and Melly are in here now and they send their respects to you and they are going down to the depot and I am going to and are going to carry this down[.]Sarah wants you to get your ambrotype taken and bring it home when you come home and give it to her she wanted me to write it in the other letter but I forgot it.

[Letter, page 4]

We are looking for you home fast time and bring your accordion to and Mother wants you to send her a box of soap home[[10]] and when you send it you let us know you can write when you write home again our spelling schools are going yet and we have good times. Oh I forgot we had the door open last night so we heard all they said at the debating meeting there were quite a number here it is a general time of health I came from Julia’s yesterday and they were all well.[[11]] We had an earthquake here last Wednesday night there was two of them[.] St. Patrick had a real pleasant day yesterday[.][[12]] I cannot think of any more to write this time but I will write again next Sunday[.] Good-bye.

Ellen

 

—————————————————————————————————————-

Ellen’s children are later mentioned in a letter written to Otis Lafayette Bonney by their cousin Ida which was previously transcribed here. If anyone has additional knowledge about the people or events mentioned in this letter, please let me know!

 


[1] Theodore refers to their twenty-three year old brother, Theodore Lyman Bonney (b. 27 Oct. 1836). T. L. Bonney died three years later during the Civil War of typhoid fever on 11 May 1863 at Aquia Creek, Virginia. Post 127 of Hanson’s G.A.R. was named in his honor.

[2] Otis and Theodore belonged to a debate club which met in Hanson weekly on Saturday evenings and whose membership largely consisted of male 20-somethings from Hanson, although this letter does not provide the club’s name. Apparently Otis was still able to participate in the club’s debates from afar by writing his answer to the weekly question in a letter. The fellow club members mentioned were probably 26 year old Reuben Smith Jr. (b. 29 March 1833, Otisfield, Me., son of Reuben Smith and Mary C. Whitney), 20 year old Alonzo Beal (b. 1840, son of Edwin and Sarah D. Beal), their 19 year old brother Morton Van Buren Bonney (b. 8 March 1841, Hanson, son of Ezekiel Bonney and Angeline White), 20 year old Thompson Pratt, 19 year old Lot Phillips (b. 13 Feb. 1841, Hanson, son of Ezra and Lucy Phillips), and their neighbor 27 year old George Forbes Stetson (b. 11 April 1833). No teenaged or twenty-something Hanson residents could be identified for “Josiah B.” – this was possibly their 32 year old second cousin Josiah Bonney. No teenaged or twenty-something Hanson residents could be identified for “Joseph T.” unless it was “Joseph F.” in which case it may have been 23 year old Joseph Fish.

[3] A marriage which took place in Hanson on Saturday, 24 March 1860 could not be identified in Hanson Vital Records.

[4] Possibly either William Thomas (b. 28 Jan. 1828, Hanson, son of John and Mary R. Thomas) or William Otis Thomas (b. 31 Oct. 1830, Hanson, son of Nelson and Anna Thomas).

[5] Possibly either Ezra White and Ezra Magoun.

[6] George Bonney was a second cousin of Otis and Theodore. George was born at Hanson, 2 December 1826, son of Nathaniel Bonney and Polly Robinson. He was married to Julia A. Smith, daughter of Reuben and Mary Smith.

[7] On 13 March 1860, 53 year old Levi Everson, a farmer, died of consumption in Hanson. He was the son of Levi Everson and Bathsheba Holmes and the husband of Mary T. Dunham.

[8] This may have been 23 year old Marina Winslow Turner Bearce (b. Hanson, 24 Nov. 1836, daughter of Isaiah and Marina A. Bearce). If so, not only did she “live until the fall”, she married 30 June 1860, Cyrus A. Bates and died in 1915.

[9] Angelina (Bates) Church, wife of Lewis C. Church and daughter of Calvin Bates and Elizabeth Stetson, a 41 year old married woman of Hanover. According to her death record, she died in Hanover on 17 March 1860 of “insanity, death by drowning”. She was born at Hanover, 11 March 1819.

[10] Their 52 year old mother, Angeline Dean (White) Bonney was born at Easton, 11 May 1807, the daughter of Howe White and Temperance Dean. She married Ezekiel Bonney 10 June 1827. She died of Bright’s disease at Hanover, 20 Feb. 1880, and was buried at Fern Hill Cemetery, Hanson.

[11] Refers to the family of their 28 year old sister Julia Ann (Bonney) Howland (b. 28 Sept. 1831). Julia married Martin Howland 6 November 1851. In 1860 they were living in Halifax, Mass. and had one child: John Francis Howland (b. 21 Aug. 1852, Hanson).

[12] St. Patrick’s day had been celebrated in Boston, Mass. since the 18th century.

 

Below are images of two of the Bonney brothers mentioned in this letter:

Theodore Lyman Bonney during the Civil War, circa 1863

Theodore Lyman Bonney during the Civil War, circa 1863

Morton Van Buren Bonney during the Civil War

Morton Van Buren Bonney during the Civil War

Weekend Surprise: Unraveling Royal Descent

I  received my eagerly-anticipated copy of Martin Hollick’s revised edition of New Englanders in the 1600s. It now sits beside its well-used predecessor, and contains even more families, detailing all modern scholarship which has been performed on a given individual or family from 1980-2010. I use it constantly for work, but rarely ever sat down with it to review my own early New England lines, and became inspired to do so this weekend.

I’m always touting the significance of using current, scholarly research, since so many early genealogical works contained errors, small or large, which were then repeated ad nauseum throughout subsequent books – and then with the advent of the internet, exponentially spread far and wide. But then along comes a modern article published in a respected genealogical or historical journal which corrects those mistakes, or discovers brand new avenues of research. Thankfully, many of those articles are becoming available online, particularly through NEHGS, and are therefore easier to access. With that in mind, I am a bit sorry to admit that up until this point, I have never truly sat down to evaluate my early New England lines. The excuses? Sure! Working for the past five years at NEHGS, I often had clients and patrons ancestors running through my head instead of my own. And when I did have some time to work on my lines, I tended to focus on either the brick walls on my father’s lines, or the complete unknowns on my mother’s lines. Dad was lucky enough to come from several generations which had at least one or two people interested in genealogy, beginning with my great-great-great-grandmother Imogene (Everson) McClellan, and therefore I inherited a big chunk of work already “done” (especially those early New England lines) – whereas my mother, who descends entirely from Irish immigrants who ended up in Boston, had no idea what her roots were beyond the immediate family that she knew. And then of course I married and gained a whole new set of lines to research, since my husband’s British father knew nothing concrete beyond his mother in London, and my husband’s mother had only two generations back to Italy, with various details to be discovered. Add to that the fact that between me and many of my Great Migration ancestors are 13-14 generations. At 14 generations of ancestry, one has a whopping 16,382 ancestors – quite an overwhelming number of people to study exhaustively. So that’s a few mea culpas to add to the mix!

Grandma Imogene’s genealogical research, which largely dates from the first decade of the 20th century, was placed on the “someday” pile to review, and her beautiful fan charts were copied into my Rootsmagic software as tentative. Imogene’s work deserves a full blog entry – or several – as I have been lucky enough to inherit several wonderful pieces of her research. Handwritten letters to and from town clerks across New England, her notes on various contemporary published genealogies, her ancestral charts, as well as primary documents from her father’s line, including some of his deeds and probate (and those of his ancestors), as well as material culture such as quilts and silverware [which has been occasionally highlighted in previous entries].

Imogene descended entirely from early New England roots. And even after just one weekend of digging deeper at her research, it is quite impressive how much of her work holds up to this day. Many little red flags showed up, particularly around the identities of wives of Great Migration immigrants and other 17th century wives, who were falsely identified in genealogies dating to the 1800s – which of course is what Imogene would have been using as her reference works. I developed a folder for all the Great Migration sketches pertaining to her ancestors from Robert Charles Anderson’s series. Imogene’s work was essentially limited to mere names and dates, so works such as the Great Migration are a wonderful way to access modern scholarship which fully documents the lives of those immigrants (the good, the scandalous, and the mundane!).

So far, so good in terms of general accuracy. But then I worked my way to the Big Two: Imogene’s two gateway ancestors to royal descent. Any wagers on the conclusion? Both lines were completely bogus, perpetuated by early authors hoping to connect early New England immigrants (with no known ancestry) to more noble families in England with the same surname.

BOGUS GATEWAY ANCESTORS:
1. John Dingley of Marshfield, Plymouth, Mass. Supposedly John’s Dingley line connected to the Neville line, which connected to Beauchamp, and eventually to King Edward III, King Edward II, King Edward I, Henry III, King John,  King Henry II, Empress Matilda, King Henry I, and William of Normandy. However, according to TAG 56:207-210 and 61:234-40, John Dingley was unlikely to be the son of the couple Francis Dingley and Elizabeth Bigge who descended from the Neville line.
2. John Churchill of Plymouth. Many attempts to connect him with the ancestry of Sir William Churchill, which ties into a royal bastard line. But his origins remain unknown.

That eliminated all of Imogene’s royal lines. I wasn’t all too surprised to discover it. And frankly I equally love discovering new lines as much as I love disproving false ones. At work I had a running log of bogus “Indian princess” lines as well as a log of particularly egregious 19th century historians who not only made mistakes, but outright fabricated lies and documentary evidence (including writing false vital records on a piece of paper and then dipping it in tea to make the paper seem historic!). But there was a certain appeal to claiming descent from Charlemagne.

Then I began thinking about my extended family. As I mentioned, Imogene’s work has been known in the family since the early 1900s – that’s quite a few generations who took some pride in their royal descent. In my father and grandmother’s generations, quite a few uncles, aunts, and cousins have taken frequent trips to the British Isles, seeking out their “ancestral castles” along the way. Did I have the heart to break it to them?

I called it a night. On Sunday I went back to investigating a few more of Imogene’s lines, to continue adding documentation to her lines, and discovered that an “unknown” wife in Imogene’s time has subsequently been discovered and verified, and traced her line back to the Puritan minister Rev. John Maverick and his wife Mary Gye.

NEHGS genealogist Gary Boyd Roberts compiled The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants, which includes Mary Gye as a true gateway ancestor. 12 generations between Mary Gye and Henry III, King of England and his wife Eleanor of Provence. Huzzah! The ability to tell the cousins that only some of the castles they visited were bogus connections… except Gary writes: “Further documentary proof of generations 7-9 would be desirable”. That’s because it looks like this:

1. Henry III, King of England, d. 1272 = Eleanor of Provence
2. Edmund Plantagenet, 1st Earl of Lancaster = Blanche of Artois
3. Henry Plantagenet, 3rd Earl of Lancaster = Maud Chaworth
4. Eleanor Plantagenet = Richard FitzAlan, 9th Earl of Arundel
5. John FitzAlan, 1st Baron Arundel = Eleanor Maltravers
6. Joan FitzAlan = Sir William Echyngham
7. Joan Echyngham, said to be married to Sir John Baynton
8. Henry Baynton = (_)
9. (said to be) Joan Baynton = Thomas Prowse
10. Mary Prowse = John Gye
11. Robert Gye = Grace Dowrish
12. Mary Gye of Mass. = Rev. John Maverick

Now, I haven’t had a chance to review all the footnotes to get the full story of why, if generations 7-9 are considered sketchy in terms of evidence [though the two “said to be”s surely stick out], that they are accepted as more true than not. Gary had enough faith in the line to include it, but even he feels the connection could use additional documentation.

And of course, with Henry III as an ancestor, that also means we can claim again as ancestors his direct line of royal descent : King John,  King Henry II, Empress Matilda, King Henry I, and William of Normandy.

So in the course of one weekend, I went from erasing all lines of Imogene’s royal descent, to gaining one royal line, to discovering that line, while considered valid, is still a bit sketchy… call it a possible royal line? Martin has discussed the complications of medieval genealogy, but he has been able to document a line of royal ancestry from scratch – perhaps a more thorough review of the sources documenting the ancestry of Mary Gye could upgrade her royal descent from a possibility to a probability.

Welcome, readers of "Touch the Elbow"!

I was contacted the other day by Donald Thompson, one of three Civil War researchers who run a wonderful website and related blog about the Civil War, and specifically the 18th Regiment of Massachusetts. Donald Thompson, Tom Churchill, and Stephen McManus research and collect records, memorabilia, letters, etc. about the men who served in the regiment, and have compiled great biographies of the men.

One of those men from the 18th, my great-great-great uncle Erastus Everson, was recently featured on this blog as the subject of one of my genealogical biographies. He served in three regiments, and sustained head, chest, groin, and leg wounds during his service. But he was dedicated to the cause of the Union, and continued to work for the Freedman’s Bureau and as an army assessor. He later became a newsaper man, as passionate a writer as he was a soldier. The story of Erastus’s colorful life, and his run-in with the Ku Klux Klan after the war, are currently being featured on the blog “Touch the Elbow“.

The phrase “touch the elbow” comes from a popular Union song, “Comrades, Touch the Elbow”, to gather strength and unity before a battle.

When battle’s music greets our ear,
Our guns are sighted at the foe,
Then nerve the hand, and banish fear
And comrades, touch the elbow

Touch the elbow, comrades elbow
Elbow comrades, touch the elbow
Nerve the hand, banish fear
Comrades, touch the elbow

The blog features a wide variety of information and stories about the Civil War, and provides wonderful advice for those interested in researching the Civil War. “Touch the Elbow” is attached to their website on The Eighteenth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. For researchers, this website is a treasure trove of information. Nowhere is there such centralized information offered on the 18th Massachusetts regiment. Donald, Tom, and Stephen are working to publish a book about the 18th, and they have already published The Civil War Research Guide, on how to research ancestors of the Civil War.

Additionally, they have ventured far and wide to many cemeteries, gathering genealogical information and photographs, a past-time Donald refers to as “chasing the dead” – which is at the heart of this blog! If you are new to this site, please take a read-through, and share your thoughts!

Mini-Genealogical Biography of Adelia Deborah Everson

Adelia Deborah Everson (1849-1867)

Adelia D. Everson was born on June 3, 1849 in the town of Hanson, MA. Her parents, Barnabas Everson and Deborah Bates, had married the previous August of 1848. Adelia was Barnabas’s first child, but the second for Deborah. 1846 had been a terrible year for Deborah, in which she first lost her husband Warren in January of consumption, and then lost her 9 month old son, also named Warren, of “cholera infantum”. The widowed Deborah lived next to Maquan Pond, and she remarried Barnabas Everson, a neighbor who owned a large property across the street from her that extended back to Wampatuck Pond.

Adelia grew up in the house along Hanson Street (what is now Indian Head Street and Route 58). Her father Barnabas was a talented man: a farmer, a mason, a town selectman, a road surveyor, and eventually a saw-mill factory owner and worker in South Hanson, he was a well-known man and accumulated a substantial amount of real estate in South Hanson. Adelia was soon joined by her brother Richard in 1850, her sister Imogene in 1852, and two siblings that died extremely young – Lucia, born Dec 30, 1853, died 5 days later on January 4, 1854, and Lucius, born ten years later on July 17, 1863, died on the same day.

The Everson kids probably attended school on Maquan Street, which was the closest school building, located today near where the St. Joseph the Worker church is. The school was across the street from the almshouse, which today would be located near where the old Hanson middle school was. The Everson’s home was slightly below where the intersection of School Street and Indian Head Streets are today, on the left-hand side. They would have been well-acquainted with their neighbors: Beals, Howlands, and Whites, who all had property along the road and extended back towards Maquan Pond.

Here is a map from 1859 showing the Everson’s home and some of their neighbors:
(Barnabas’s main home and property is on the left side of the road. Across the road, and neighbored by the Lyons and Beals is the home that Deborah owned after her first husband’s death)

The Everson’s neighbors below them, closer to Indian Head Pond, was the family of Asa and Cynthia Howland. (Their home is on the bottom of the map above) Adelia and her siblings knew the Howland kids (George, Nathaniel, Albert, Cynthia, and Lydia) well: they would have attended the same school together, and played together.

Perhaps Adelia and Imogene played with Cynthia and Lydia, who were just about their ages, and ignored the older Howland boys while Richard Everson ran off to play with them. But as they grew older, Adelia soon had her eyes on one of those Howland boys: Albert Howland, born on November 15, 1847 and two years older than Adelia. Albert, like so many men in the area, began working as a shoemaker. In October of 1867, when Albert was 20 and Adelia was 18 years old, they were married in the Congregational Church on High Street by the Reverend Benjamin Southworth.

Their happiness was to be short-lived. Just one month later, on November 30 1867, Adelia suddenly became sick and died unexpectedly. Both Albert and her family were shocked and filled with grief. Albert, still very young at 20, turned to the Eversons to arrange for her burial. Adelia was laid to rest alongside her two baby siblings, Lucia and Lucius at Fern Hill Cemetery, across the road from the church in which she had been married in such recent memory. Later, her parents, her sister Imogene, and Imogene’s children George and Lillian would join them in a large family plot.

Here is her gravestone:

Albert remarried in 1872, five years after Adelia’s death, a woman named Cordelia Gray, and they went on to have a family. That year Adelia’s younger sister Imogene was also married: to George McClellan, who had been helping Barnabas Everson build a large brick chimney near Everson’s newly acquired-saw-mill along the railroad tracks in South Hanson. Although life moved on, Adelia’s memory was continuously honored by the preservation of several of Adelia’s possessions. Adelia’s mother Deborah owned a bible, which had been produced in 1833. Deborah, 14 years old at the time the bible was published, was probably given this bible from her parents, Moses and Deborah Bates.

On one of the first pages is written in a lovely cursive:
Deborah ______
East Bridgewater

The last name is torn away, but it most likely read “Deborah Bates”, who was born and raised in East Bridgewater. Deborah carried this bible through her two marriages, and when Adelia was married, Deborah gave Adelia her treasured bible. Adelia had been working on some needlework, and decided to try her hand at creating some bookmarks. She created one for her father Barnabas. It is a floral wreath and reads:

Adelia
To Father

The second is a lyre, a classical musical instrument:

The final bookmark reveals the tragedy of Adelia’s young death. The book mark is of a floral arrangement set in a large urn. But the stitching is only half-completed, for Adelia never had to chance to finish the bookmark.

At the very bottom of the bookmark reads : To my husband.

Albert returned the bible to the Eversons, along with Adelia’s bookmarks. Placed inside of the bible, the bookmarks remained there as they were passed down from woman to woman through the generations, a tribute to Adelia Everson Howland, whose short life is remembered in part by three small hand-crafted tokens of affection for her loved ones.

Erastus Everson and the Laurens County, SC Riot

In 1871, Massachusetts-born Erastus Watson Everson was summoned by a government committee which was investigating the “Ku-Klux Klan conspiracy”. Erastus had worked for the Freedman’s Bureau after the Civil War throughout South Carolina. In particular, he was summoned for an experience he had after his duty in the Freedman’s Bureau, when he was working again for the army as an assessor. Erastus was an inadvertent witness to the Laurens County, SC riot in October 1870. He testified his belief that the riot was planned in advance in part by the Ku Klux Klan.

He testified that he had traveled to Laurens county to purchase a horse for his boss. On the way over, he encountered numerous armed men. In the town, he inquired of a colonel who was stationed there with his troops, and was told that an election was occurring the following day. The colonel advised Everson to stay in town until the election was over. While staying at a hotel that night, Everson overheard a plot to throw the election that was to occur the following day by capturing the ballot boxes and starting fights with the state constables and any colored voters. Everson sent word to both the army colonel and his troops stationed in the town, as well as a note of warning to Mr. Crews, a politician who led the local armed colored militia. Erastus’ actions briefly helped saved the election day, or so he thought. Crews lined up his militia by the election station, and although white agitators verbally abused the troops, no physical fighting occurred. Although tensions flared, the election went seemingly went smoothly. But it was not enough.

That night Erastus heard conversations and drunken boasts that the ballot boxes had been stuffed anyways. But that was soon to be the least of Erastus’ worries. The following day, the infamous “Laurens County riot” occurred, in which thousands of armed riders came into the area, where brawling soon became deadly as the riot turned “into a negro chase”. Erastus ran outside to determine what was happened, and avoid the brawling and gunshots now spreading all over the area. Erastus fell in the street, and rolled out of the way of the chaos. Mr. Copeland, the general store owner, and Mason, took in Erastus during the midst of the riot, and promised him a safe place to stay for the evening, shortly after which Copeland soon left. Men came in and out of the house all evening, and some of them were bragging about the death of Wade Perrin, the most powerful black politician who had been elected the previous day. Erastus thus found himself in a difficult position – he discovered too late that he had been saved by Klan sympathizers. Everson determined he could not escape into the night with the horse that he had purchased, because the roads were filled with armed men looking for a fight. After Erastus went to bed, a man called for him – it turned out to be Hugh Farley, a former Confederate officer who Erastus had dealt with a few years previously. Although a former enemy, Erastus considered him a gentleman, and when Hugh Farley promised to help Erastus get out of the area, Erastus took him up on the offer. They rode off into the night from Laurens County to Newberry County, almost 40 miles. Farley rode with Erastus and would often go ahead to picket groups of men along the way, then let Erastus pass. The rioting had spread throughout the entire county, with thousands of men causing violence. Along the way, Erastus was threatened and almost shot several times. Through discussion with Farley on their journey, however, Erastus was soon horrified to discover that Farley was a probable Ku Klux leader. Once in Newberry, Erastus encountered a large group of men, several of whom he had formerly arrested as “bushwhackers” – who were not pleased to see “that God-damned Everson!” Farley had promised Everson safe passage, and then made Erastus Everson agree that he would make a statement supporting them later. He was to tell the government that the riot was necessary, and that no one was to blame in the matter. “I had promised Farley that if he would see me safe through, I would come down here and go before the executive committee of the reform party to make a statement, but I had to do things that a man would not ordinarily do. I went back on my word, because I could not do such a thing. I think, however, that I had no other way of saving my life. I know it, and so I have never been before that committee, and I never will go, because I cannot tell them what he wanted me to tell.” Once in Newberry, he was handed off to another man, but Erastus soon escaped and ran to the train tracks, where he caught a train. Aboard, he found three state constables who were escaping as well, along with Senator Owens. Erastus and the Senator hid in the mail-car privy, and made their way to safety.

Everson, who had been injured several times during the Civil War while serving on behalf of the Union, and then dedicated years of service to the Freedman’s Bureau where he helped protect the rights of newly freed slaves in the South, had inadvertently found that his life had been saved by Ku Klux Klan members. He broke his promise to them, however, and reported all that he heard during his stay and remarkable escape from the Laurens County.

Learn more about the Laurens County, SC riot here.

Mini-Genealogical Biography of Erastus W. Everson

Erastus W. Everson (1837-1897)

Erastus W. Everson was the eldest child of William F. Everson and his wife, Salome B. Crocker. He was born about 1837 probably in Hanson, MA. Three years later, his brother Frederic O. Everson was born, followed by his sister Sylvania Everson. They grew up on Pleasant Street in Hanson.

In 1850, at the age of 13, Erastus was living in Hanson with his family, and a 17 year old servant (or boarder) named Fidelia Hunt. He and his siblings were attending one of the small schoolhouses in South Hanson. Next door to them, extended Everson and Crocker relatives had a small shoemaking shop, and Erastus’s father most likely worked here during the day. To the north of them them was the Baptist parsonage, where Asa Bunson, the Baptist clergyman lived. Across from the Everson family was Levi Thomas’s family (Levi Thomas’ son, Levi Zelida Thomas, was a 23 year old school teacher at the time, and would eventually have a Hanson school named in his honor).

In 1860, Erastus, now in his early twenties, had moved up to Dedham, where he was staying at a hotel in Dedham village while he worked as a copyist. The hotel hosted a wide variety of individuals and families. There Erastus probably interacted with the hotel keeper and his family, W.H. Crossman, along with his wife and three young children. Perhaps he briefly befriended Frederic Eley, a 21 year old law student, as well as a 35 year old wood carver and his family, a 30 year old physician and his family, and many more who moved in and out of the small hotel.

But war was coming. Erastus enlisted for the Civil War as a Sergeant on 16 April 1861 at the age of 24 from Dedham, MA. He enlisted in Company A, 3rd Infantry Regiment Massachusetts (The Halifax Light Infantry) on 23 April 1861, and was mustered out on 22 July 1861. His brother, Frederick O. Everson, had also enlisted as a Corporal on 16 April 1861 at the age of 21, and several days later, on 23 April 1861, Fred enlisted in the same company as his brother Erastus. Fred was mustered out on 22 July 1861. Frederick did not enlist again, but Erastus was attracted to the army, and decided to provide more service.

Erastus soon enlisted in Company H, 18th Infantry Regiment Massachusetts on 24 August 1861 and was then promoted to Full Sergeant 1st Class on the same day. A year later, he was promoted to Full Lieutenant 2nd Class on 01 August 1862. At the end of the month, he was wounded on 30 August 1862 at the second Bull Run, VA. He was then again wounded on 13 December 1862 at Fredericksburg, VA. Several months later, he was promoted to Full Lieutenant 1st Class on 25 February 1863. He was honorably discharged from Company H, 18th Infantry Regiment Massachusetts on 10 December 1863, and the following day joined Company D, 20 Veteran Res. Corps, as a 1st Lieutenant.

In 1866, Erastus was assigned as the inspector general of the South Carolina troops for a period of eighteen months, and was stationed in Charleston, SC. He then served as an aid for the Freedman’s Bureau for three years, during which time he traveled all over South Carolina and made many acquaintances. One of his main tasks was to find and arrest “bushwhackers”, who were men that engaged in guerilla warfare attacks during the Civil War and Reconstruction. From 1869-1870, Erastus was stationed in Anderson, SC as an assistant assessor, and then he moved to Columbia, SC in 1870. In October of 1870, Erastus was present for the Laurens County, SC riot, in which he overheard and tried to prevent presumed Ku Klux Klan activity. He narrowly escaped with the assistance of several men in the area, who he soon was horrified to discover were probably Ku Klux members, and therefore responsible for the riot. My next posting will deal more with this fascinating event in Erastus’s life.

Erastus was a skilled verbal negotiator and eloquent writer (and from his writings and interviews, he had a sense of humor!). After serving as a soldier during the Civil War and sustaining a total of 7 bullets, he served as an aid that was not involved in direct battles. He was commissioned by General Howard to the Freedman’s Bureau, and spent the early part of the Reconstruction negotiating and inspecting issues regarding things such as black labor and dealing with abandoned plantation property. The Freedman’s Bureau became very political towards the end of its time, encouraging blacks to vote for the Republican party, and was disbanded in 1869, although Erastus preferred not to be “mixed up” with politics. He was a self-proclaimed conservative Republican and greatly admired Abraham Lincoln and the reconstruction efforts. After his time with the Freedman’s Bureau, Erastus became an editor for the Union, SC newspaper, which was a Republican newspaper. “It is considered a conservative newspaper up North. They are sending me letters all the time, thinking that I am going astray!.. I am not a radical at all. I am not a radical republican, and never have been; but I believe in fair play”. Erastus spent the rest of his life as a newspaper man, both in the role of editor and writer. The 1880 Massachusetts census lists him as the “editor of a newspaper”, and in 1894 he is listed as a “journalist” from Marshfield, MA.

While a wealth of fascinating documents exist regarding Erastus’s time with the army, it is more difficult to ascertain the state of Erastus’s marriage from the documentary evidence. On October 28, 1869, Erastus married Harriet Rebecca Fales in Dedham, MA. Harriet’s father had died when she was two, and she had lived with her widowed mother in Dedham. It is unknown how long their courtship had been, due to the fact that for the majority of the 1860s, Erastus was not in Massachusetts. They married in the midst of his commission as an assistant assessor for the army in Anderson, South Carolina. They are listed as living together in Anderson, SC in the 1870 census, so Harriet moved down to South Carolina to be with him.

By 1880, the Eversons had returned to Massachusetts. The 1880 Massachusetts census presents a bit of a mystery, that either indicates a mistake made on behalf of the census takers, or that the Eversons were separated. Erastus is listed as living in Hanson, MA with his 65 year old parents and his 14 year old niece, Ella Gurney, the daughter of his sister Sylvania (who died in 1866). He is marked under the column for single, not widowed or divorced. Harriet is listed as Harriet Everson, living with her mother Rebecca Fales in Dedham, MA. She is noted as “married”. The Dedham census was taken on June 14 1880, and the Hanson census was taken on June 16, 1880. Perhaps Erastus was simply visiting his parents during this time, and the census takers in each town recorded incorrect information – the census taker is supposed to record who is living in the household, even if they are away on business, at school, etc. Certainly the census contains mistakes.

Harriet died September 28, 1887 in Dedham, MA at the age of 45, and is listed as the wife of Erastus Everson. They had no children together. Perhaps this was in part due to Erastus’ war wounds, or estrangement. In his pension application, Erastus is listed as an invalid, but certainly he could walk, ride, and travel long distances, which he did for the Freedman’s Bureau, and when he was charged with arresting bushwhackers, although he claimed to be easily tired due to his wounds.

Erastus next appears in the 1894 Marshfield, MA Directory, seven years after his wife’s death. His residence is listed as “North, on Green’s Harbor” and his occupation as a journalist. Family legend says that Erastus was granted the land north of Green Harbor, and the small island on the river as a reward for his Civil War service. I would like to research more about this. When was he granted the land? Did he have a permanent residence here? Certainly by the 1890s he did. Here is a photograph of Erastus in front of his hunting shack with two hunting dogs, supposedly on the Marshfield island which our family now owns:


Erastus died in 1897 in Marshfield, MA at the age of 60, having lived a very colorful life. Family legend says the Marshfield island was passed to Sherman McClellan, but at the time of Erastus’ death, Sherman was only 11. Sherman, Roddy, and Lillian’s mother was Imogene Everson. Both Imogene Everson and Erastus Everson were great-grandchildren of Levi Everson and Eunice Briggs. Erastus, having no children, passed the land via his cousin Imogene, and the land was eventually handed to Sherman McClellan. Further deed research is needed to verify the succession of ownership. That is a project for another time!