image_pdfimage_print

Waylands Waylaid

In 1717, a small group of Germans left their homeland in an attempt to sail to the new colony in Pennsylvania. The ship which was to make the crossing first stopped in London where the captain was taken into custody and imprisoned for several weeks due to unresolved debt issues. This delay caused the passengers to consume much of their provisions while in port, resulting in many dying from hunger during the crossing.

Those who survived never made it to Pennsylvania. A storm blew them off course and they landed in Virginia. The captain then sold them as payment for their transportation charges. They were bought by Governor Spotswood and became his indentured servants. He put them to work in the iron mines near Germanna.

One of these immigrants was Thomas Wayland who with his wife and young son Adam, when released from servitude and seeking land of their own, decided to push further into the wilderness. In 1724, they settled in the area now known as Culpepper (Madison County). Adam, when grown, married Elizabeth Blankenbaker, the daughter of another German immigrant, and had eight children. His will left his estate to Elizabeth and “all his children.” After she died, he remarried and had two more children but never updated his will. Upon his passing, his will went into probate and was contested by the children of his two wives. Several lawsuits ensued which eventually came to the attention of Thomas Jefferson who wrote his opinion on the case.  His two page letter can be found in the archives of the Library of Congress.  In summation, the two children from his second wife were granted an equal portion of his estate.

Adam Wayland is the great-grandfather of my sons’ 2nd great-grandaunt.

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.

The Allan Line

Captain Alexander “Sandy” Allan was born in 1780 Scotland.

In 1800, while employed as a journeyman shoemaker near Galston, Sandy moved to Saltcoats, intent on learning to be a ship’s carpenter, but eventually gave it up to go to sea. He was soon sailing as mate to Captain Wilson of Saltcoats. Within a few years, Captain Sandy Allan had served as Master and part-owner of several small ships trading out of Saltcoats.

During the Peninsular war, the 175 ton brigantine Hero, with Captain Allan as master, was chartered by the government to transport troops and goods to the continent to supply Wellington’s army. By 1814, Sandy Allan had established a reputation as an excellent mariner and shrewd businessman.

A new ship was needed and on June 5th 1819, the Jean sailed from Greenock for Quebec with Captain Sandy Allan as master. 

The name of the Allan family became synonymous with North Atlantic shipping and remained so for over 100 years. Under the direction of Sandy, the Allan line progressed from wooden sailing ships to iron-built steamships; from a one-man operation to a leading transatlantic company. The Allan Line continued to expand throughout the second half of the 19th century until by 1884 it was the seventh-largest shipping line in the world and the largest privately owned. 

Sailing from Glasgow and Liverpool, the ships of the Allan Line probably carried more immigrants to Canada than any other line.

Captain Sandy Allan was a 5th great-granduncle of my niece’s husband.

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.

Confederate Roll of Honor

The Civil War, horrific as it was, was also home to incredible feats of bravery and heroism. So much so that, in 1861, the United States created the Medal of Honor, which remains the highest award the nation can bestow for members of the armed forces who distinguish themselves through acts of valor.

Lesser known, in 1862, the Confederate States of America also planned their own Medal of Honor but due to difficulties in procuring them, instead instituted a Roll of Honor to commemorate their soldiers. After a battle, men in each company would nominate who they thought would be worthy of inclusion and voted to select who would receive the honor. The names would then be included in battle reports, read aloud to the regiments and published in Confederate newspapers. Bestowing an honor by a vote of common soldiers was virtually unprecedented.

After the battle of Gettysburg, the name of Chelsey Alderman, the brother-in-law of my 2nd great grand-aunt, was added to the Roll of Honor. A member of Toombs’ Guards of the 9th Georgia Infantry, he was wounded in the finger on the first day of the Gettysburg Battle. Unable to load and fire his weapon, he then volunteered to drive the ambulance wagon. He would have been very busy for on the 2nd day of fighting, his regiment lost 56% of its men. It is unknown how many men were saved due to his actions.

On the third day, Chelsey was shot in the leg and captured by Union soldiers. He was taken to a field hospital where a northern doctor amputated his leg. He died two weeks later from his injury. His burial site remains unknown. Three months later, his fellow soldiers selected him to be included to the Roll of Honor… not for his fighting prowess but for his life-saving efforts. He was 23 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.

The Immortal 600

Dr. James Hughes, the first cousin of my daughter-in-law’s 5th great-grandaunt, was a captain in the 44th Virginia Regiment during the Civil War. He was captured in May of 1864 at the Spotsylvania Courthouse and subsequently became a pawn in what has arguably been deemed the most shameful event of the war.

In June of 1864, the city of Charleston SC was under siege from Union artillery. In an attempt to silence those guns, the Confederate Army imprisoned five Union generals and forty-five Union officers in the area being targeted by the North, in effect using them as human shields.

This so infuriated the North that in retaliation, they brought 50 Southern officers from the prison at Fort Delaware and positioned them in front of the Union position on Morris Island, at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, to be used similarly as shields from bombing. When the South sent 600 more prisoners to Charleston to relieve overcrowding at Andersonville, the North again responded by bringing 600 more of their prisoners. This group became known as the “Immortal 600” and James Hughes was counted among that number.

Because the prisoner exchange program between the sides had been effectively cancelled due to perceived inequities, there was little hope for these prisoners other than to wait out the course of the war, defenseless against the bombs, diseases, and lack of food or medical care.  

This stalemate continued until an outbreak of yellow fever in Charleston forced the North to move their prisoners outside of the city limits. The 600 were transferred to Fort Pulaski and found to be in dismal condition. Most had dysentery and scurvy; many were so weak they could not rise from their cots. Thirteen died while at Fort Pulaski, most from dehydration. Another 25 died upon their transfer back to Fort Delaware.

The Immortal 600 were lauded as heroes of the South for their refusal to take the Northern Oath of Allegiance under duress.

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.

The Chicken Oath

While conducting my genealogical research, I will often stumble across odd little snippets of history of which I am largely unfamiliar. They will, in turn, lead me on little side quests as my curiosity requires me to dig deeper.  One such incident came as I was reading through a narrative involving a distant relative, Richard Calvin Tate, the first cousin of my daughter-in-law’s 5th great-grandfather.

I came across this account in The History of Calloway County, Missouri dated 1884. In it I learned that “Mr Tate went to California in 1849, and was engaged for some time in hauling with his six horse wagon. During his sojourn in California, he served on a case in which several Chinamen were witnesses, and they swore to everything but the truth, until the judge had a rooster brought into the courtroom and placed on a table, when a blank expression of dread came over the face of each Chinamen, and after that they swore to the truth.”

Reading that paragraph raised a few unanswered questions in my mind, not the least of which was “what does a rooster have to do with anything?”  I found the answer to that question in The New York Court of Appeals, Records and Briefs (pg 48 and 49). It states that “The recognition of an oath or an affirmation is based upon a recognition of the forms which may be used as imposing a binding obligation upon the conscience… It is more or less common knowledge that a Chinaman does not regard an oath as a binding obligation unless at the time he takes it he cuts off the head of a rooster.”

As I continued to read, I found that there are numerous 19th century records in court documents stretching from California to Canada all allowing the unusual “chicken oath” administered to Chinese witnesses to bind them to the truth.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident

There are 56 signatures on America’s Declaration of Independence. I suppose it was only a matter of time before I managed to link one of them back to my family.

Col. George V Ross of Pennsylvania was the brother-in-law of my 6th great-granduncle. Born in Delaware to a large family, he started reading law in his brother’s office. He was admitted to the bar at the age of 20. Politically, he began, as many gentlemen did in that day, with Tory sympathies, even serving as Crown Prosecutor for twelve years. But his allegiances began to change and he started siding with the colonists in their disputes with British rule.

He was elected to represent Pennsylvania at the Continental Congress (along with Benjamin Franklin). At the same time, he served as a colonel in the Pennsylvania militia. In 1776, he signed his name to the Declaration of Independence. In 1777, he was again appointed to represent his state at the second Continental Congress but had to resign his position due to ill health. He died from complications of gout a few years later at the young age of 49.

Before he died, he did make one more contribution to the cause. When George Washington and Robert Morris were looking for someone to fashion a symbol to represent the new nation, he took them to see his niece, a talented seamstress from Philadelphia. Her name was Betsy Ross.

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.

A Confederate Soldier

William Patrick Goode, the 4th great-granduncle of my daughter-in-law, enlisted in the Confederate Army when he was 18 years old. He served in B Company, 57th Infantry, Virginia Volunteers under the command of General L.A. Armistead, Major General Anderson, and last under General G.E. Pickett. 

He was captured while holding onto the position the Confederates gained during the famous “Pickett’s Charge” at Gettysburg. He was held at Fort Delaware until his release in June of 1865. Conditions were dismal. Fort Delaware was designed to be a harbor defense, not for housing of prisoners, and after Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, its population swelled to well over 12,000.

From the memoirs of John Sterling Swann, who was also imprisoned at Fort Delaware: “I witnessed the suffering of many, consequent on want of food, clothing and warmth, and many died from these causes. I have seen many go to the hospital never to return. When the winter came on we suffered greatly. The division — our quarters were made of white pine planks, nailed up vertically. It had shrunk and left large cracks between the planks and there being but one stove to the division, and only one blanket allowed to each person, we of course suffered greatly from cold. We were at night continually getting up and coming to the stove and when a little warm we would return to our bunks. So the stove was always crowded. Hence we got but little sleep. There were many rats in the prison grounds. They burrowed under the plank walks and into the sides of the ditches. The more needy prisoners, when they could kill them, eat them with avidity.”

After the war, and upon his release, William Goode returned to Virginia where he married Malinda Jane Oxley-Wigginton, the widow of a fellow Confederate soldier who died in the Battle at Frazier’s Farm in Richmond. Together, they had ten children. He died in 1937, at the age of 92.

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.

Harman’s Battle at Tug River

The following account was published in the Ironton Register on August 24, 1854. It has been edited due to space considerations.

It was about the year 1791 that Captain Henry Harman, together with his sons George and Matthias and a new son-in-law went over upon the Tug Fork of Big Sandy to hunt. In the afternoon the young men went out (as was the custom with the hunters) to see if the locality pleased them for hunting, before fixing upon their final camping ground. At night the young men returned bringing with them some moccasins, some of them new, which they had found at a camp some few miles distant.

Capt. Harman, experienced in frontier life, took a moccasin and scented it for the strong Indian smell, which it had, and says he: “Boys, you’ve done wrong, for the Indians will trail you here for their moccasins; we have no safety but to go home.” After getting a little distance from the camp they put their horses to full speed, the son-in-law leading and had gone but a short distance before he sung out, “Father, I see Indians.” The old man went ahead; they had gone but a little further before the Indians fired upon them from under the bank of the stream, but as good luck would have it not one of them was injured.

Harman and his boys immediately dismounted and “treed.” There were seven of the Indians under the bank, and soon the son-in-law disappeared; he found a hiding place under a log, leaving Captain Harman and his two boys to fight the battle with the Indians, three to seven. Here they stood it for hours, each party trying to get the advantage over the other. Finally, while Capt. Harman and his boys were yet all unharmed, such had been their adroitness, four of the Indians were killed or mortally wounded, leaving the contesting sides three to three.

The three remaining Indians then becoming desperate dropped their guns and rushed up the bank upon Capt. Harman with their bows and arrows. They shot one arrow into his breast and another into his arm. He fell and fainted. They were about to scalp him, when one of the boys with his rifle drove two of the Indians again down the bank, and the other boy rushed upon the third Indian. This young Harman was lame from a fever sore, and the Indian thinking that he was wounded drew his knife and grappled with him; but young Harman proving an overmatch took his knife from him, and stabbed him eleven times. The two Indians down the bank again came up, but seeing their companion had been killed, and that the young Harmans were ready for them, they ran off with nothing but their bows.

Application of water soon brought Captain Harman to himself again. The arrow sticking in his arm and breast had to be cut out as they were barbed, and having brass heads the wounds were very painful. Nevertheless he determined to “settle,” as he said, “on the spot with that skulking whelp–the scoundrel who deserted us in our time of need” and he loaded his gun to shoot the son-in-law, his mouth all of the time full of wrath and cursing. At the earnest entreaties of the sons, the old man was finally induced to spare him until they should get home. On arriving home Captain Harman compelled his son-in-law to leave for other parts.

Captain Henry Harman was the 6th great grandfather of my niece’s husband.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Fife and Drum

The use of fife and drum corps in the military dates back many centuries. Because of its loud and piercing sound when played in its upper register, the fife, which is also easy to carry, used to be the preferred instrument to signal messages to infantry troops. According to some, a band of fife and drums can be heard up to 3 miles away.

Back in the day, each company in an infantry regiment was assigned two fifers and two drummers. When the battalion or regiment were formed up on parade or for movement en masse, these musicians would be detached from the companies to form a “band.” This is how the word band became associated with a group of musicians.

We have at least two members of our family who served in the fife and drum corps. Michael Cain, born in 1750, served as a drum major during the war of 1812. As lore has it, during the Battle of New Orleans, he exclaimed, “Men are not killed with drums!” With that, he picked up a gun and joined the battle. He was wounded in the head. According to family stories, he was carried off the field on the horse of General Andrew Jackson.

His son, John C. Cain, was denied recruit during the War of 1812 due to a disability so he instead played for the troops in the training camps. But he did serve as a fife major during the Mexican War.

Michael Cain and John C. Cain were, respectively, the 4th and 3rd great grandfathers of my sister-in-law.

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.

If I Had A Hammer

When looking at history, we can often gloss over the details and in doing so, fail to grasp the full impact of events that occurred. I never before thought of what kind of housing the original settlers of America were able to build.

On the Mayflower, qualified woodworkers were scarce. Of the 102 people on board, only three had carpentry skills. There was a cooper, a sawyer, and a house builder… all too young to have had much experience. And the sawyer died in the first winter.

As a result, the first settlers wound up living in casks, caves, tents, “English wigwams,” even trenches, lined and covered with planks. Subsequent expeditions to the New World made sure to put out the word that qualified carpenters were much in demand.

But the conditions in the New World called for innovative measures. The traditional scribe rule method, used in Europe for centuries, was a labor intensive system in which no piece of timber is interchangeable with another. It also required special scribe joints to connect the irregular timbers to be constructed by skilled craftsmen with years of apprenticeship under their belts. Early settlers, looking to quickly build structures in which to live, largely abandoned this time-consuming and impractical (for their situation) practice and instead developed the square rule system of framing which was based on exact measurements and the cutting of uniform planks of timber. This methodology, which may not have resulted in structures as attractive as the scribe-built, did meet the needs of the colonists who were in a race against the elements.

I came across this little detail while reading some of the history of Oliver Watson, the 5th great grand-uncle of my brother-in-law. Born in 1736, he settled in Great Barrington, Massachusetts where he worked as a carpenter… the first in the fledgling community to build houses by using the square rule method.

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.