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The Wicked Bible

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 John Bill, my daughter-in-law’s 10th great grandfather, was born in Shropshire, England in 1576. He was apparently living in London in 1613 where he was identified as “publisher to King James I, Most Excellent Majestie.” John Bill, and his partner Christopher Barker, were given the exclusive license to publish the Bible along with other writings of the royal court.

Unfortunately, he is probably best remembered for the publication of “The Wicked Bible.” In 1631, John Bill’s company, Printing House Square, under the supervision of Robert Barker (Christopher’s son), released a version of the King James Bible which included some grievous errors. Most notably was the omission of the word “not” from the Seventh Commandment, making it read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.”

A second misprint was found in Deuteronomy 5 where the word “greatness” was replaced with “great-asse,” making the verse read “Behold, the Lord our God hath showed us his glory and his great-asse.”

The second mistake led many to believe that the errors were intentional and that this publication was sabotaged by rival printers so that Printing House Square would lose their monopoly granted to them by the king. This was never proven. However, in 1632, the printers were summoned to the Star Chamber and fined three hundred pounds (equivalent to approximately $50,000 today). Their printing license was also revoked. Barker never recovered and died in pauper’s prison. John Bill, who died a year before this travesty occurred, did not live to witness it. His son, Charles, who apprenticed alongside him, had left the business prior to the event. The Bill family would eventually emigrate to America where they prospered.

Meanwhile, the royal court ordered all copies of the errant version to be collected and destroyed. A few managed to escape notice. There are sixteen known copies of The Wicked Bible still in existence in museums and libraries around the world as well as a few in private collections. They occasionally come up for auction. In 2008, one was purchased for approximately $96,000.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please watch our TEDxEustis Talk on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.

The Colonel From Erwinna

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My 6th great-grandfather, Col. Arthur Erwin, was a Scotch-Irish immigrant of considerable means who came to America in 1768. After purchasing an estate in Bucks County Pennsylvania, he returned to Ireland to retrieve his family: a wife, seven children and a large contingent of relatives, tenants and servants. He chartered the ship, The Newry Assistance, to make the journey. Unfortunately, his wife and an infant son, who was born on the ship, did not survive and were buried at sea.

He remarried the following year and would have an additional six children with his second wife. When the Revolutionary war broke out, he was commissioned as Colonel of the Fourth and Second Battalions of Bucks County Militia. He was 51 years old. There are letters which have been preserved written by George Washington to Col. Erwin. One in particular, written on December 9, 1776, contained an urgent request by the General for Erwin to muster his men and proceed post haste to join the main body of the Army to help stop the advancement of the Enemy.

Erwin immediately took action and brought his battalions to Washington’s Army which, as it so happens, was camping near his property along the banks of the Delaware River. Erwin proved instrumental during the famous crossing, furnishing and manning (with his tenants and servants) many of the boats which carried the Continental Army across the river. He was personally aboard the final boat to cross and actively participated in the Battle of Trenton. 

After the war, he settled down to live the life of a country gentleman, continuing to add to his vast land holdings. He began buying large tracts of land in Luzerne County, PA and Steuben County, NY., which proved to be a fatal purchase. Territorial borders at that time were still much in dispute and some were angry at what they considered to be an illegal land grab. One day in 1792 while visiting at Tioga Point, Erwin was shot and killed, presumably assassinated by person(s) unknown.  Despite a proclamation from Governor Mifflin and a reward offer of $200, his killer was never identified. His body was returned to his home in Erwinna, PA and buried along the banks of the Delaware River.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please watch our TEDxEustis Talk on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.

One Man; Two Presidents

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During our lifetimes, we cross paths with many different people. Most are regular folks, simply living their own lives as best they can. But sometimes, if we are fortunate, we get an opportunity to rub shoulders with people who might be considered more noteworthy… people destined for great things; men, if not for whom, the world would be far different.

My sister-in-law’s 4th great grand uncle, Joshua Short, had not one such encounter. Remarkably, he had two… with men many consider to be the two greatest Presidents ever to hold the office.

Joshua was 24 years old, living in Pittsylvania County, Virginia when he enlisted as  a private in Captain Peter Dunn’s Company, Colonel Hendrick’s Sixth Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line in the Revolutionary War. He fought in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown and spent that infamous winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge under the command of General George Washington who, of course, would go on to become the first President of the United States.

He was discharged in 1778, most likely due to injuries received during that brutal winter. After the war, he settled in Kentucky where he founded the Good Hope Baptist Church in 1796. The church is still operational and some of his descendants continue to attend its services.

In the early 1800s, he moved to Illinois to be closer to some of his children. And, in 1836 at the age of 84, when he decided to form his last will and testament, he sought out the services of a young lawyer who penned the document by hand and signed it as a witness. The lawyer’s name was Abraham Lincoln, who would eventually become the 16th President. Joshua’s will can now be viewed at the Menard County Courthouse in Petersburg, IL.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please watch our TEDxEustis Talk on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.

Handcart Pioneers

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Soon after the first Mormon pioneers reached Utah in 1847, the church encouraged its converts in Europe to emigrate to Utah. As most of them were poor and funds were wanting, a system was designed by church leaders to have their followers make the final leg of the trek on foot, pulling handcarts, in order to save money.

Coming from Europe, they would first travel by train to Iowa City and then join a caravan to make the 1,300 mile arduous journey. It was not without significant loss of life.

Fortunately for my daughter-in-law’s 4th great grandmother, Kirsten Eskilsdotter, who emigrated from Denmark after the death of her husband with many of her young children in tow, she was able to join the Robert F. Nelsen Wagon Company which consisted of 56 wagons and some 380 people, mostly from Scandinavia. While travelling by wagon was far easier than pulling a handcart, they still had their share of tragedy.

Someone tried to yoke up a wild cow who bellowed, frightening other teams and causing them to bolt. One man was killed and several others injured during that incident. They also faced a prairie fire and a buffalo stampede. The going was slow and it was uncertain whether their provisions would last the trip. A team travelled from Salt Lake City to meet them and replenish their supplies. When they finally arrived at their planned destination, there had been six deaths, three births and they had lost 24 head of cattle. The journey took 2 1/2 months.

As they rode into camp, they were led by a two wheeled cart pulled by a white ox bedecked with garlands of wildflowers. On the sides of the cart was written, “Hail Columbia, This Beats the Hand Carts.”

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please watch our TEDxEustis Talk on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.

Freebooting

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The Shelby County “war”, which took place in Texas during the mid 1800s, was more like a feud than a traditional war. A main factor in creating the problem that led to the conflict was that the United States and Spain, not able to agree on the boundary lines separating Spanish East Texas and the Louisiana Territory and yet unwilling to go to war over it, simply ignored a large strip of land which came to be known as the Sabine Free State or Neutral Ground. Having no national ownership, the area became a lawless expanse –  a haven for criminals, fugitives from justice, and other nefarious souls.

That lawlessness soon spilled over into East Texas where raids, livestock theft, land frauds, and murders became a common occurrence.  A militia was formed that was allegedly intended to prevent cattle rustling by ne-er-do-wells. They called themselves Regulators but the brand of “justice” they administered was anything but fair and even-handed. Their vigilantism and intimidation against even law-abiding folks led to another group being formed. They named themselves the Moderators as they were designed to moderate the Regulators. Their actions proved to be just as lawless and violent as the group they opposed.

Open hostilities broke out resulting in killings and house burnings on both sides. For five years, from 1839 to 1844, there was little that was done to get the situation under some semblance of control. Sam Houston reportedly once said, “I think it advisable to declare Shelby County, Tenaha, and Terrapin Neck free and independent governments, and let them fight it out.” And so they did.

James (Tiger Jim) Strickland, my daughter-in-law’s 3rd great granduncle, was a primary figure in the Moderator camp during this time. History describes him as a “freebooter,” which is a person who goes about in search of plunder; a pirate. A known thief, who was particularly adept at escaping capture, he once had his home burned to the ground by Regulators looking to execute him.

The conflict between the two factions finally came to an end when members of both groups ceased their hostilities towards each other to instead join Capt. L.H. Mabbitt’s company to serve in the Mexican War.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please watch our TEDxEustis Talk on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.

The Watermelon Girl

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The medical field has come a long way since leeches and bloodletting were a common technique to treat certain ills of the body. We should be grateful that we live in a time that is, relatively speaking, more advanced in prescribing cures that will help us to heal whatever ails us. But even in the recent past, it was not always so.

One of our young ancestors, my wife’s first cousin, Donna Marie Del Colliano, found herself in the national spotlight at a tender age. She had been diagnosed with nephrosis (a kidney disease) about a year previously. When her doctors determined that watermelon juice might help her condition, her parents tried to acquire the fruit, but in New Jersey it proved to be unavailable at the time. They made a public appeal and a local politician was able to locate a supply in Florida which he had flown to Jersey.

By now, the eyes of the country were watching the progress of “the Watermelon Girl” and, for a time, she appeared to be improving. Unfortunately, in September of 1953 she was found in a coma. Though she was put into an oxygen tent, her condition continued to decline and she died a few hours later from nephrosis and anemia. She was five years old.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please watch our TEDxEustis Talk on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.

Dancing Queen

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It is always interesting to find ancestors that lived centuries before and to discover little facts about them and their lives. But it is so surprising when you come across some detail of a relative that you know well… a detail that maybe they didn’t talk about to you because it happened before you were even born.

I found the following article about my wife’s grandmother, Patricia Anido. It was printed in the Indianapolis Star on August 21, 1927:

“Twins are nothing unusual in the show business, but seldom does one encounter triplets working as a sister act. Such an act is featured in the Publix production “Non-Stop to Mars,” which opens a week’s engagement at the Indiana theater today. The three merry little maids are Galacia, Patricia, and Constance Anido.

They were born and reared in St. Louis, MO and first began to attract attention by their dancing in the amateur productions at the Grover Cleveland high school, which they attended. Later they perfected their dancing under expert tutelage of Katie Belle Bambridge at the Bates school of dancing.

The Anido sisters are of Spanish descent. Their uncle, Gen. Martinez Anido, is at present the Governor of Barcelona. Another uncle has been Cuban consul at Toronto, Canada for the last four years. While they have won plenty of applause on Broadway during the past two years, they figure their greatest triumph was when they danced for the King and Queen of Spain two years ago while visiting their uncle.”

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please watch our TEDxEustis Talk on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.

The Big Snow

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In Bulloch County, Georgia, the average temperature in February, its coldest month, has a high of 57º F and a low of 37º F. As a result, snow is not a concern of most people who live there. That is not to say that there haven’t been a few surprises over the years.

On Valentine’s Day in 1914, Georgians awoke to an unusual sight… a blanket of white covering their streets and sidewalks. I know this because of a photograph that still hangs today in the Bulloch County courthouse. Court officials documented the rare weather incident by posing outside their building in 4 inches of snow. Among them was my 2nd great-grandfather, Harrison Oliff (2nd from left, top picture), who in 1914 was the court bailiff.

The forecast for the day was for mild or fair conditions so no one was prepared for the fact that they would wake up to see four or six inches of snow on the ground. It effectively shut down the entire area. Businesses closed, government offices took the day off, and most importantly, schools could not open, giving southern children the rarest of opportunities… a snow day.

The snowfall of 1914 broke records and it stood for almost 6 decades. As a side note, to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the “Big Snow,” the current court officials decided to replicate the 1914 photo by posing themselves in the same location, outside the courthouse (minus the snow). Interestingly enough, the deputy bailiff pictured in the photo of 2014 is Bruce Olliff (3rd from left, bottom picture). I’m not sure if there is a connection to my great great grandfather Harrison.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please watch our TEDxEustis Talk on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.

Keeping The Wolves At Bay

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In my last post, I wrote about Robert Cathcart, one of my son’s 5th great grand-uncles. Here’s a little family detail that has survived the generations: As a young boy, he was taken in by his aunt. As he grew, he fell in love and married one of his uncle’s nieces, Jane Thom. It was his uncle who gifted the land in Armstrong County for them to homestead.

At this time, there were more wolves than people in the area and the newly married couple had a flock of sheep whose care required constant vigilance. On one occasion, when Mr. Cathcart was away, the wolves got after the sheep. Mrs. Cathcart opened the door to try to scare them away and as she did, all the sheep ran into the house. She barely got the door closed in time to keep out the pursuing wolves. 

The wolves continued to circle around the house, howling, and some even attempted to enter in through the window. Those that did were met with shovels of hot coals. Mrs. Cathcart had to stay up all night but in the morning the wolves were gone and the sheep were still there.

It is said of Jane Thom Cathcart that she was a woman of beautiful spirit. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please watch our TEDxEustis Talk on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.

TO FUEL A NATION

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Robert Cathcart was a native of Dublin, Ireland but emigrated to the United States in 1790. He was most likely the first settler in the Mahoning Township area in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. He appears to have arrived in or before 1805 under an improvement right as he appears on a tax assessment in 1806 with 330 acres, one horse and three cattle.

His two story red house was not only the first frame building erected in that area… for many years it was the only one for miles around. He spent his life clearing the timber from part of his tract and erecting other necessary buildings. The commissioners of the county in 1810 granted him sixteen dollars for his killing of two panthers. By the time of his death (which occurred in 1847 at the age of 75) he had established a fine homestead for himself, his wife and their children.

While the “estate” was passed onto his children, in the 1850s a discovery was made that prompted the family to sell. The Fairmount Coal & Coke Company became the new owners of the land and opened the Bostonia Mine which was found to contain the largest vein of cannel coal within the United States.

The Industrial Revolution of the latter part of the 19th century brought an increasing demand for this energy source. As the labor force grew, iron and steel works were created as the railroad brought expansion and growth to the area. By 1910, 4,290 men in Armstrong County were producing more than 3,500,000 tons of coal.

The coal industry began phasing out by the 1950s and because the company constructed buildings were not designed for longevity, little evidence remains of the bustling communities that produced the energy that helped fuel the nation in its early years.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please watch our TEDxEustis Talk on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.