Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Meet My New Sicilian DNA Cousin

I would like to introduce you to my new Sicilian DNA cousin, Kevin Cunningham of Omaha, Nebraska. He does not have an Italian surname but he is more immersed into the culture of the Little Italy of Omaha than I could ever hope to be. Kevin is one of my DNA matches through AncestryDNA and we have been getting acquainted over the last several weeks.

Omaha, Nebraska was a place of refuge for thousands of Sicilians from the towns of Carlentini and Lentini in the early decades of the 20th century.  My great grandfather, Antonino "Tony" Cimino came to the U.S. in February 1909 and his wife, Maria Ossino and three children followed him to Omaha in March 1911. Our connection to Kevin is through this great grandmother, Maria Ossino. Maria had a sister, Carmela who was Kevin's grandmother.  Here is a picture of Kevin's grandparents.

Carmela Ossino and her husband Alfio Peri in Omaha, Nebraska, 1950.
The exact date for this photo is 23 Sep 1950, the wedding day of Leonard Paletta and Mary Peri.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Cunningham of Omaha July 2017.
This picture was taken in front of the house at 1728 S 8th Street in Omaha. This is the house next door to where they lived.
The reason that I was able to contact Kevin was thanks to the fact that my dad's first cousin, Sam Cimino had performed a DNA test on AncestryDNA.  Sam showed up unexpectedly one day as one of my close DNA matches.  I also have my dad's DNA in the system. It is always reassuring to have your close cousins confirmed as a DNA match but the unexpected bonus was that I was able to get a list of people that showed up as "Shared DNA Matches" and Kevin Cunningham was on that list.

I noticed that Kevin did not have a family tree on Ancestry.com so it was very difficult to know exactly how we were related.  I sent him a note through the anonymous contact service at Ancestry.com to ask him if he knew of any ancestors from Carlentini and Lentini.  He replied that yes indeed his grandparents were from Carlentini.

I then sent a list of my ancestral surnames and asked him if there were any surname matches in the list.  He then replied with the following message:

"My grandmother's maiden name is Ossino. She also had a sister that married a Ferraguti here in Omaha. There were a lot of immigrants that settled in Omaha from Carlentini. My mom is the last surviving sibling and her memory is failing. Any documents have been lost to time. Omaha just finished celebrating the Santa Lucia festival. I do not know if you are familiar with the festival and this saint but it is a good story."
Statue of Santa Lucia from the Facebook Page of the Santa Lucia Festival in Omaha, Nebraska

I asked Kevin if it was possible that we could talk on the phone. I told him that I would love to know more about his family in Omaha and the Santa Lucia story. We never knew much about our Carlentini heritage growing up in California. He quickly responded with his phone number and we have had several phone calls, text messages and emails sharing information with each other since.

We were off to the races in terms of finding our ancestral connection.  I offered to add his family information to my online tree at Ancestry.com and I was able to figure out our exact connection. His grandmother, Carmela Ossino and my great grandmother, Maria Ossino, were sisters and our shared ancestors were Giovanni Ossino and Concetta Bruno shown on the chart below.  

Kevin Cunningham's Family tree
Our shared ancestors are Giovanni Ossino and Concetta Bruno.
Kevin also let me know that his grandparents had also lived in Sioux City for a period of time like my family did.  Kevin's grandparents returned to the friendly confines of the Little Italy neighborhood in Omaha.  The records show that Alfio "Fred Peri arrived in the U.S. in January 1910 and resided in Omaha until 1915. Fred and Carmela had a daughter, Sarah that was also known as Sally born in Sioux City in 1916 and two children, Josie and David were born in Dakota City, Nebraska in 1918 and 1921. A son, John Peri was born in South Sioux City, Nebraska in 1924 and a daughter Mary Peri was born in Omaha in 1928.  The family stayed in Omaha until Alfio "Fred" Peri died in 1966 and his wife, Carmela Ossino Peri died in 1975.

The Omaha World Herald is available to search on GenealogyBank.com.  I was able to find obituaries on Alfio and Carmela and a variety of other documents on the Peri family that I shared with Kevin. Here are the two obits for Kevin's grandparents:

SOURCE: GenealogyBank.com
Omaha World Herald Tuesday, December 13, 1966, page 40

SOURCE: GenealogyBank.com
Omaha World Herald, Sunday October 12, 1975, Page 18-B

The most revealing documents about the Peri family birthdates were the naturalization papers for Alfio "Fred" Peri.

SOURCE: Ancestry.com
Nebraska, Federal Naturalization Records, 1890-1957

SOURCE: Ancestry.com
Nebraska, Federal Naturalization Records, 1890-1957

SOURCE: Ancestry.com
Nebraska, Federal Naturalization Records, 1890-1957

These papers also reveal that he immigrated under the name Alfio Aperi and that he shortened his name to Peri when he arrived in the U.S.

DNA opened the door to a lot of fun for me connecting with Kevin and learning about his family history.  If you need any help making DNA connections, please feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Love Letters Endure

A love letter is a sweet thing to discover in your family treasure chest.  We were extremely fortunate to rediscover a couple of love letters on our recent visits to Nevada and Colorado.

Here are some images of a love letter that was written on April 14, 1909 from John Arthur Fitzpatrick to Vesta Price:
Transciption by Nick Cimino, July 2017 
[Punctuation, spelling and capitalization have been added for reading clarity.]

Page 1
Collbran Colo
April 14, 1909
My Dear little Girl,
I write you a few lines to let you know that I got home all right about 7:30 last night.  I found the roads offel [awful] muddy. How are you gitting [sic] along with the ditch men?  I hope you are gitting along all right.  Let me know when they git through and I will come over and we will go fishing and have a good time. Ed is going to Grand Junction in the morning. Gitsons Folks are going to move in our house tomorrow. Have you seen any of them fellows that works on the ditch yet that you like or think has got...

The thing that impresses me about the first page of the letter was that he was really concerned about those ditch men stealing his girl!  The "offel muddy" roads are a testament to the difficulty of driving a wagon over unpaved roads in the spring time over one hundred years ago. Ed is his brother. He places a date here on when the Gitson family moved into his parents' house.

Page 2
...pretty hair. Remember that is the way you got me for your little boy, well I hope not. Any how have you caught any more fish yet? I don't suppose you have time to fish. Do you want me to send that part of the phonograph over or [do] you want to wait till I come over and bring it to you? I don't suppose you have time to play it any way untill [sic] you get [rid] of the ditch men goes away. I am at Gertie's writing this letter. Well be [careful] and do not run off with any of them ditch men for you [know] I think you are the dearest little girl in the world. I am going to write...

Watch out for those ditch men with pretty hair! Vesta and Art must have enjoyed listening to phonograph records of the day. What do you think would be their favorite tunes in 1909?  Apparently he is staying with his sister Gertie and her husband "E.J. "Joe" Ludlam in Collbran. 

Page 3

...to [Ruby] tonight. I haven't answered her letter yet. I haven't [decided] what I will do yet but I want to have a talk with you when I see you about it. How is Mr. Price and your mama? I have been [busy] today gathering up my trinkets. I am going to try and buy [Lloyd's] ten acres of land from him.  I think I can get it for $1,000.00 dollars. So if I could that will make us a nice little home don't you think so? Well I guess I will haft to close for this time. When I get a letter wrote to [Ruby] it will be late so now don't work to hard and I will be over before long. Now be a good...

Ruby was Arthur's sister. Vesta's parents were Thomas Price and Flora Hill Price. The land that he is proposing to buy was owned by his brother Lloyd.  The price of $100 per acre is a good deal. Newspaper advertisements show land for sale in Collbran for $125 to $150 per acre.  This is probably the same property that we showed in last week's blog post.

Page 4

...little girl. Well be good and don't run off with any of them ditch men. Oh I don't mean it. I was just fooling. [I'm not] afraid of [it]. So good bye. Write soon. I will close with a good night X kiss from your little boy.

He was sure having a lot of fun teasing her about those ditch diggers stealing his gal.

So here is a picture of Arthur and Vesta after their wedding in 1910.  Do you think he has pretty hair?

The area where the Thomas Price family lived near Debeque, Colorado is known as the Blue Stone Valley or the Bonita Valley.

The following brief history was published in the 2009 Debeque Plan and was taken in part from "Cattle & Shale-A Story of Roan Creek and DeBeque" (1884-1984), compiled and edited by Sarah Prather.

DeBeque "was discovered" by Dr. W.A.E. DeBeque and his companions in 1884 while searching for a suitable place for a stock ranch. The value of the area for raising livestock as well as excellent year-round hunting grounds quickly became widely known. By 1888, 31 ranches were actively operating with several hundred head of cattle.

Connection to the outside world began with a stage line running from Grand Junction through DeBeque to Aspen. This was soon replaced by a toll road and eventually by the Midland railroad in 1886. Settlement in the large, open valley on the south side of the river soon followed, and it was named the Bluestone Valley and also known as the Bonita Valley. The Bluestone Ditch was built in the mid-1890s to divert water from the Colorado River for this valley. DeBeque was formally incorporated in 1890, and the population began to grow with the advent of local retail businesses, increased ranching, and expansion of railroad operations.

The Palisade Tribune, Volume 6, Number 32, January 2, 1909 reports that Willie Sullivan, a Fruita boy whom most of us think of as a school boy, was this week elected superintendent of the Blue Stone Ditch at DeBeque. His salary is $1000 per year-- Fruita Mail

Perhaps this is the man who sent all those pesky ditch men into Vesta's neighborhood!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Best of Times Connecting with Roots

My most memorable road trips are focused on reconnecting with our family roots.  We just completed a wonderful road trip which took us from Texas to New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada and back again.  The most memorable stops along the way included Cortez CO, Moab UT, Elko NV, Salt Lake City UT and Grand Junction and Golden CO.  We spent three days visiting with my wife's mother, two days researching in Salt Lake City and three days visiting with my wife's cousin in Grand Junction.  I collected hundreds of images of photographs, documents and heirlooms at each of these stops.  There is enough material collected on this trip to write dozens of blog posts. 

The story that I am about to share was written by my wife's maternal first cousin.  Their common ancestors are John Arthur Fitzpatrick 1879-1963 and Vesta Price Fitzpatrick 1890-1988. Grandma Vesta died the year before I got interested in genealogy but fortunately we were able to make connections with most of John Art and Vesta's descendants shortly thereafter. Vicki and Max Stites have built a home near Collbran, Colorado that is a tribute to their ancestors. This home was a place where laughter rang through the rooms and in quietness our souls were refreshed.

Robin Cimino with her cousin Vicki Fitzpatrick Stites and husband, Max Stites in Collbran, Colorado, June 30, 2017

The Best Of Times Connecting With Our Roots
By Vicki Fitzpatrick Stites
7 February 2009

In Collbran, Colorado located in the Fitzpatrick Subdivision there is a small white house with a red roof. I have seen this house many times during my lifetime. It is where my father was born and raised along with his six siblings. The original house was very small and now has an addition, but the long, skinny part is the part I remember hearing stories about all these years. How my grandmother raised seven children in this tiny place is something I can hardly imagine.

This was the home of John Art  and Vesta Price Fitzpatrick in Collbran, Colorado.  The current street name is Spring Street. The original home was the narrow part of the ell which is closest to the street.

Collbran is a very special place to my husband Max and me. Our ancestors homesteaded there and we have been raised listening to stories, returning to reunions, and spending time there all of our lives. We both have very fond memories of the place and of the people who pioneered in this area. My great grandfather, John Alexander Fitzpatrick, was born in 1840 in Canada. His mother died when he was three years old and he helped his father until he left home to go to Wisconsin where he worked in the lumber mills. He went back to Canada and married Eliza Farlinger in 1872 and, after a time, they came to Colorado and kept a toll road near Buena Vista. There is a park named for him there.

Eliza Farlinger 1852-1909 and John Alexander Fitzpatrick 1842-1907

He came to the Plateau Valley in 1882. He staked out his claim and returned to Buena Vista to collect his family. They first lived in a sort of dugout and later built a log house which was the first house in Collbran. It is still in use. The first boy born in the Valley was their son Clayton. Their oldest son, John Art, was my grandfather. When he was of age, my great grandfather deeded him the corner lots where the Auditorium now stands, and he ran a livery barn for years. He also had an ice house and sold ice to the ranchers, to the creamery and to stores. He also carried mail and drove a team of horses from Collbran to DeBeque. John Art would harness the team in the dark with a kerosene lantern. It was a rough job having to contend with the mud and snow and other hazards of the road.

John Arthur Fitzpatrick 1879-1963 and Vesta Price Fitzpatrick 1890-1988
A photographer came around to their farm in DeBeque, Colorado a few months after they got married in June 1910.  John Art came in out of the field and Vesta was horrified because her dress was wrinkled per a story told to Jonni Fitzpatrick Kincher about 1980.
John Art met my grandmother, Vesta Price, in DeBeque where her parents had settled after moving from Buena Vista.  They were married on June 5, 1910. I am very fortunate to have their wedding certificate and we also have the announcement that was in the paper. It reads in part, "Probably one of the prettiest weddings ever solemnized on the Western Slope was performed at high noon on the banks of the Grand River (Colorado River), at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. T.H. Price, when Vesta, the pretty and accomplished daughter, became the wife of John Arthur Fitzpatrick, a member of one of the prominent families of the Plateau country. Elaborate decorations had been prepared for the occasion. Clemantis, honeysuckle and roses were festooned about the house and grounds in profusion. After the wedding the wedding party and guests sat down to one of the most bountiful and varied spreads seen at a similar function, everything the market could supply had been procured for the feast."

Grandma was a very accomplished lady. She raised seven children, worked as a
nurse for Dr. Zeigel at the Collbran Hospital, was a good cook, grew a huge garden, wrote poetry that was published, and was active in many community projects. She was a charter member of the Collbran Mother's Club which was formed in 1926, and they were an amazing group of women. They were responsible for getting the high school accredited.

Grandma told us, "In those days if one of our graduates wanted to go to college, he had to take another year at an accredited high school. We wanted to change that so they raised money through catering other clubs dinners, putting on shows and holding bake sales for expanding the library and improving the science lab and building an agriculture shop. It took us four years, but in 1932 Collbran High School was finally accredited."

Over the years the Mother's Club carried out other community-oriented projects like buying land for a park in Collbran and helping to get electricity into the area so it was available to everyone. In the early 1930's there was still no electricity in Collbran, so Grandma and her group went to work. A small generating plant was established and street lights soon went up in addition to home lighting. In 1945 there the Grand Valley Rural Electric Association franchised with Collbran to supply electricity to the area.

The Mother's Club celebrated 50 year at Grandma's home in Fruita in 1976. Grandma lived to be a wonderful 97 years old. I was so glad my children got to know their great-grandma. She had 17 grandchildren, 33 great grandchildren and 8 great-great grandchildren at the time of her death and to all of us she gave something special. Two quotes which we heard her repeat often included, "Everything happens for the best," and "try to learn something new each day." I remember calling her in the evenings after school and she would ask me what I learned that was new that day. If I didn't have an answer, she asked me to hang up, think about it, and call her back. I still try to learn something new each day.

I discovered, when Max asked me to marry him, that we had many connections we weren't aware of. I came home the night I got my engagement ring and told my parents. My dad said, "I sent you to Colorado University to meet a doctor or lawyer and you're going to marry a Stites." I soon learned that Max's grandma and my grandma Vesta were good friends growing up in Collbran. I also learned that Max's mom and brothers went to school with my dad's brothers and sisters. Our wedding was more of a reunion for all these people, than a wedding. Everyone had such a good time rekindling friendships and remembering childhood antics.

After we were married I learned that Max's great great grandparents, Rufus and Rachel Stites homesteaded in the Collbran area with my relatives. Rufus was born in New Jersey, homesteaded in Illinois, then moved to Kansas where he homesteaded near Mound City. He then homesteaded near what is today Niwot, Colorado. He then heard of land opening up on the Western Slope and, after checking it out by himself, moved his family in the 1880's to Collbran. They built a home on the east side of Big Creek where the road from Parker Basin crosses the creek. Their son, John, was Max's great grandfather. His son, Arlonzo, was Max's grandfather and he married Bessie Kruh. Arlonzo, better known as Lonnie, ranched all of his life well into his early eighties and was known as one of the best irrigators in the Plateau Valley. It was said that he never wasted a drop of water.

Rufus Stites 1828-1892
John Wesley Stites 1858-1938 and family.
Arlonzo Cary Stites 1886-1971 and his sister, Tencia Stites 1883-1965

Arlonzo Cary Stites 1886-1971 and his wife Bessie Kruh AKA Goldia Bessia Kruh 1888-1977

His initials were A. C. S. with the C standing for Cary. When we had our son, we wanted to be sure his initials matched those of his great grandfathers., So, he is named Aaron Cary Stites. One of the problems to be faced early in Collbran history was that of schools. Country schools were established and were taught by girls who had finished the eighth grade. Three of the Stites girls taught in these schools. The school on Kansas Mesa was known as the Stites School for many years because Rufus donated the land on which it was built. Rachel donated the land on which the Collbran Congregational Church was built.

Bessie Kruh Stites, Max's grandmother, was known as being one of the best cooks in the Valley and there was always room at her table for whomever stopped in at mealtime. She canned and pickled nearly anything that could be canned or pickled and still made soap as late as the early 1960's. No one ever left her home empty handed.

Sarah Kruh 1890-1982

One of Max's great aunts, Miss Sara Kruh, was a remarkable person. She graduated from Grand Junction High School and attended State Teacher's College which is now the University of Northern Colorado and earned her A.B. degree in education. She taught her first school at Bull Creek and then taught for forty-seven years in Collbran, Loma, Fowler and Grand Junction (151 grade at Tope Elementary). She retired in 1962 to her home in Plateau City where she had a huge garden, worked hard in the church and traveled. She was a most remarkable woman and I never did see her write in cursive; it was always in first grade block print.

Max's mother's family also were some of the early pioneers in the Collbran area. Heber Young, her grandfather, came to the Plateau Valley in 1885 from Utah as a result of a disagreement with the Mormon Church. Heber Young was the son of John Young who was Brigham Young's brother. Their first homestead was on Mormon Mesa, so named because they had been Mormons. The cabin and bull fence he built still stands today. The Youngs established a sawmill and later built a frame house on Kansas Mesa.

The shingles put on that house lasted over sixty years. Heber's wife was Lucinda and they had four boys. Heber raised both sheep and cattle. One time when Heber was away the "Night Riders" killed all of his bucks. Max's great grandmother supposedly grabbed a shotgun off the mantle and fired a couple of rounds at them. This was the period of the sheep and cattle wars in the West.

Nona Ellen Call 1885-1960 and Willard Young 1888-1964

Heber and Lucinda's second eldest son, Willard, was Max's grandfather. He ranched most of his life and, like many others, fell on economic hard times during the Depression. His wife, Nona, wanted to buy Max's mother a store-bought dress for graduation, but they didn't have the money. Willard sold one of his work horses in order to buy her a dress and a class ring. Grandad Willard had quite a sense of humor and one day when he and his grandsons were walking down Main Street in Grand Junction, he was stopped by a panhandler. When asked for money, he quickly replied, " Fella, I'm workin' this side of the street; you go work the other side." Heber Young would be proud to know that his great great grandsons still ranch in the Plateau Valley and that both are college graduates.

Max and I both have very fond memories of fishing and camping trips we took with
our dads and granddads on the Collbran side of the Grand Mesa. All of our grandfathers
and Max's great grandfather worked to build Bonham Reservoir, Big Creek #1 and
Atkinson. We have part of a Fresno Scraper that was used in the work on the reservoirs. On these trips to Collbran, going up the winding canyon, I always got car sick. However, I also knew that a stop at what was Branson's Drive-In was in the plan when we headed home and that ice cream surely tasted good after following my dad around all day.

Vicki's dad, Karl Fitzpatrick with his string of fish.

We return each Memorial Day to decorate the graves of our relatives. They are scattered in two different cemeteries and there are a lot to decorate. We can go back seven generations of the family on Max's side if we count our ten month old granddaughter and five generations on my side. Each year Max and I tell stories about the persons and our children now can tell those same stories. It is particularly unique because if we stand by Max's mother's grave, we can see the house where she was born.

Grave of Vesta and John Art in Cedar Crest Cemetery, Collbran, Colorado June 30, 2017

This is where we will find our final resting place. We always take a picnic and spread it
out in the cemetery and eat among the stones that represent our loved ones. It is always
a very special day for us.

Max and I have always dreamed of owning land in the Collbran area and we both feel a large connection to that place. After Max's father's death, we and his aunt established a Stites Scholarship that is given to one or two seniors each year at the Plateau Valley graduation. It is our way of giving back a little to the place that has been so meaningful to us. We had about given up on our dream until we were driving around four years ago in the fall and saw a sign that said "Eight acres for sale." Well, you just don't see eight acres for sale up there; usually it is 100 or 200 or 600. So, we called. We decided we had to make this work and begin our dream. We put our house up for sale in order to downsize and used the extra money to purchase the land. We have worked for three years planning, figuring, and building and we now have our place about two-thirds finished. Max took the lead and became the general contractor. He really didn't know a whole lot about building a house, but he has done a magnificent job. Building the home has been a family project and in June our son-in-law, his two brothers, his father, our son, Max and our nephew from Ohio spent a week framing the house. Those memories are ones none of them will forget. It was almost an old-fashioned barn raising. Since then, we have worked a little at a time. Our goal is to finish this summer because my mom, who will be 85 in October, wants to have her birthday celebration there.

So, some of the best of times have been returning to our roots and our hope is that many generations after us will use the home as a retreat from the busy world; a place to enjoy nature, look at Grand Mesa as it towers in front of the house, sit on the porch and watch the sunsets, and see the deer and elk as they come down off of the hillside. It will be filled with family memorabilia: a saddle that belonged to Grandpa Lonny, a beautiful table and old stove that was Aunt Sara's, crocks brought over by the Mormon side of the family, Grandma Vesta's books of poetry, and many other items. It is a place where the birds' songs are clearly heard, where the hummingbirds fly right to your shoulder and where the stars twinkle and play in the dark sky at night. We hope it will be a legacy that inspires our family to connect and re-connect with those who went before them and a place where the stories will be told, people remembered and appreciated for the hard times they endured. We hope it will be a place where laughter will ring through the rooms and, in the quietness, a soul may be refreshed.

So, my grandparents began with a little house and we are building a little house so that the roots that run so deep might re-connect once again.

Here is a small sample of the dozens of heirlooms that Vicki and Max have preserved in their house in Collbran. We were honored to have been invited to experience this wonderful home.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Dad Sat in Reagan's Chair!

Dad's birthday celebration 2014

With Father's Day coming it is a good time to reflect on our paternal lines in our genealogical research.  It is also a good time to visit Dad and get some of his stories down on paper. We can also review our paternal DNA matches.  My most recent visit to my dad uncovered a story that I never recall hearing before about dad visiting Ronald Reagan's office with an old girl friend.

Sometimes other friends and family members are in a better position to ask the questions and make note of the significant answers. I have interviewed my Dad numerous times at length over the last three decades.  I have my wife, Robin, to thank for eliciting this wonderful story about Dad sitting in Ronald Reagan's chair.  Dad and Robin were talking about our daughter in Los Angeles.  That made dad remember the time that he was in Los Angeles with an old girl friend that worked for Ronald Reagan in his Los Angeles office. His friend, Barbara Smale, took Dad on a tour of her workplace and took him into Mr. Reagan's office and encouraged him to sit in the chair of a former governor and future president.  That moment was indelibly etched in Dad's brain despite his current short term memory issues.

While reviewing the new Shared DNA Matches tool at Ancestry.com for my dad and myself, I noticed that my dad's first cousin, Sam Cimino, has taken a DNA test. Even better, Sam and I have some shared DNA matches as shown in the image below.

Shared DNA Matches between myself and dad's cousin, Sam Cimino.
I fired off a message to both men on the match list to see if they were aware of any Sicilian ancestry. One of the gentlemen responded immediately to say that he was not aware of any ancestors in Sicily. As far as he knew his ancestry was in Campobasso and the other side of his family came from the Naples area.  So I can add this one to the long list of mysteries that I need to solve.  Father's Day is a great time to take advantage of the special sale prices being offered at all of the major DNA services.

It was both ironic and serendipitous that while I was with my Dad, I read his morning newspaper and found an opinion column by Leonard Pitts Jr entitled Family Roots Run Deeper Than We Think. Mr. Pitts spoke volumes to me with the following words:

I wrote about Aunt Millie and her decline from dementia three years ago in this space. As these words are written, I’m preparing to go to Chicago to bury her. And thinking about what it means when a generation dies.
I have no more blood aunts and uncles. Not on either side. My sisters and brother and cousins and I, we are it. We are the "grownups" now. We are the family.
It is a sobering realization familiar to many of us of a certain age. Firsthand memory of the Depression, the war, the Holocaust, is dwindling at a sobering pace, disappearing one heart attack, cancer diagnosis and stroke at a time. But those of us who are of a certain age and also African American are losing those things, and other things specific to us.
We are losing firsthand memory of you can’t walk here, and you can’t eat there, of you can’t try that on and you can’t look that man in the eye. We are losing our exodus, how it felt to flee Greenville, Jacksonville, or Shreveport on the first bus or train heading north or west, toting suitcases tied with rope and cold chicken in grease-stained paper bags.
You can read the full column here: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article154174689.html

While you are at it please take a look at Mr. Pitts Recommended Reading list:  http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article141507489.html

We are losing a unique perspective on history as each generation passes.  Make sure that you spend some time listening to the previous generation and recording their oral histories.  Then write and reflect on what those memories mean to you.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Early KY Ancestral FAN Club

While researching Thomas Clark, I have found that he was associated with a very interesting FAN club including George Rogers Clark, John Crittenden, Elias Tolin, William Lynn, Andrew Lynn, Edward Worthington, Jacob Myers and several others.  In addition he was known to have traveled to a variety of geographic locations including Fort Wheeling, [West] Virginia,  Boonesborough, Harrodsburg and Lexington, Kentucky.  While being in these localities, he was likely to have crossed paths with people like Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton and John Harrod.  We have documentation of his FAN club from several depositions in Fayette County, Kentucky.

For background on Thomas Clark please review this previous blog post:


FAN Club Defined

When the paper trail left by our ancestors is minimal we often have to turn to other people that are near or dear.  In the words of Elizabeth Shown Mills:

When those we study left no document to handily supply the information we seek, we often find it in the records created by members of their FAN Club—their Friends, Associates, and Neighbors.

For a more detailed explanation,  read more here:


Documents Related to the Key Players in this FAN Club
Deposition of ELIAS TOLIN (taken at WILLIAM FARROW's improvement in Montgomery County, on February 27, 1806): On July 23, 1775 deponent joined the company with WILLIAM LYNN, THOMAS CLARK, ANDREW LYNN, THOMAS BRAZER and JOHN CRITTENDEN at Wheeling fort to come to Kentucky, to improve and take up land and on the Ohio River, near the mouth of the Little Kanawha, was overtaken by THORNTON FARROW, LUKE CANNON, WILLIAM BENNETT and others who informed us they were coming to Kentucky to take up lands for themselves and some gentlemen in Virginia and informed us that the hand they had under their direction were sent by those gentlemen in Virginia as assistant in taking up land for those gentlemen in Virginia and we proceeded on in company to the mouth of the Kentucky where CANNON and BENNETT and their hands parted with us and proceeded on down the Ohio river.  THORNTON FARROW and a man of the name of GUY who appeared to be a servant, joined and we proceeded up the Kentucky to Leestown which place GEORGE ROGERS CLARK joined our company and we proceeded to Boonesborough, from thence to Sommerset and encamped at or near the place known as Severn's Lick... [SOURCE: See citation in the full transcript of the Fayette County depositions at the end of this article]

Here is an explanation of how George Rogers Clark met up with the Crittenden, Lynn and Clark party:

Another man who arrived in Kentucky in 1775 was George Rogers Clark. On May 4 he secured a passage at Wheeling in the canoe of James Nourse and Nicholas Cresswell. The men traveled down the Ohio together, then up the Kentucky River, but Clark joined another company headed by Michael Cresap near Drennons Lick. When Cresap headed back up the river, Clark moved to Leestown. By mid-July he had joined another company headed by Maj. John Crittenden, who had also come down the Ohio from Wheeling. This party included William and Andrew Linn, Thomas Clark, and Thomas Brazer. They were later joined enroute by Thornton Farrow, Luke Cannon, William Bennett, and a man named Guy, who appears to have been a servant. Together they visited Boonesborough,then went northwest to make improvements at Somerset and Grassy Lick Creeks. Above the lick, Farrow, Clark, and Crittenden built cabins, and Clark surveyed 15,360 acres. On July 20 Clark passed through Boonesborough, again enroute to Leestown.

SOURCE: Virginia's Western War: 1775-1786
Google Book Preview
Neal O. Hammon, Richard Taylor
Stackpole Books, 2002 - History - 279 pages

For an excellent profile of William Lynn, check out this World Connect page created by Stan Hendershot:


Wikipedia describes their article about Major John Crittenden as a stub.  We have been invited to help expand it.  Major Crittenden is probably best know for his famous offspring.

John Crittenden Sr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John Crittenden (1754 – 1809) was a Major in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1790 to 1805. He was the scion of a powerful family of politicians and military officers who played key roles in the politics of several southern states through the end of the 19th century.
Crittenden was born in New Kent, Virginia, to Henry Crittenden and Margaret Butler. On August 21, 1783 he married Judith Harris daughter of John Harris and Obedience Turpin. John and Judith had nine children including the statesmen John Jordan Crittenden and Robert Crittenden. He was an original member of the Virginia Society of the Cincinnati. He died in Kentucky.

Historical Context- Nicholas Cresswell Journal 1774-1777

Nicholas Cresswell unfortunately never mentions Thomas Clark in his journal so it appears they may have not crossed paths as his journal entries are quite detailed.  The Cresswell journal is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the early history of Kentucky.  He was favorably impressed with George Rogers Clark and mentions him several different times.  His descriptions of the exciting life of  early Virginia and the Kentucky frontier are not to be missed.  The story reads like a mash-up of the movies Tom Jones and Little Big Man. The Library of Congress has an excellent copy of the Nicholas Cresswell journals online here:


Key Fact from the Depositions filed  in Fayette County, Kentucky 

The most important key fact in the depositions filed in Fayette County was that Thomas Clark was deceased on March 20, 1801 when Josiah Collins gave his deposition  in Montgomery County, Kentucky.  This supports the supposition that the Thomas Clark that served as a "pilot" for the early surveys and land claims in the 1775-1786 period was the same Thomas Clark that was deceased in 1797 when his heirs were requested to appear in Fayette County Court in a public notice published in the Kentucky Gazette.

Historical citations related to Elias Tolin and Thomas Clark

Kentucky: A History of the State, Embracing a Concise Account of the ...
William Henry Perrin, ‎J. H. Battle, ‎G. C. Kniffin - 1887 - ‎
p.553 BATH COUNTY was the fifty-sixth organized in the State, and dates its formation back to January, 1811. ... Bath County was settled by Thomas Clark and his brother, Hugh Sidwell, Elias Tolin, James Wade, a man named Bollard, Francis Downing, and William Calk. A fort or block-house was built in 1786, on the slate ore bank, where the slate iron furnace was afterward erected. Nothing now remains to mark the spot where the furnace was located.

In Search of Morgan's Station and "the Last Indian Raid in Kentucky"
Harry G. Enoch - 1997 -
In 1776 Thomas Clark led another group of Virginians back to the Licking area of Bath County to locate lands. Tolin returned to Virginia and served in the army during the Revolutionary War. He later settled in Montgomery County...

Full Text of the Fayette County Depositions Mentioning Thomas Clark

Depositions of Elias Tolin AKA Tobin et al mentioning Thomas Clark extracted from "FAYETTE COUNTY KENTUCKY RECORDS, Volume 1" by Michael L. Cook, C.G. and Bettie A. Cumming Cook, Cook Publications, Evansville, Indiana, 1985. Copy inspected at the Clayton Center for Genealogical Research, a branch of the Houston Public Library in April 2017 by Nick Cimino

INTRODUCTION by Mr. and Mrs. Cook
This provides some of the most valuable source material in existence for both genealogical and historical researchers in the very earliest period of the area that became Kentucky. Disputes in land ownership resulted in hundreds of depositions taken of the earliest settlers as a part of these cases. These depositions, in the own words of the deponents, reveal when hundreds of these earliest settlers came to Kentucky, when they returned to Virginia, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania for return trips, where they lived, locations of the earliest stations, details of Indian battles and of those killed by Indians, burials, how they lived, and, important for genealogists, ages, birthdates, death dates, and family relationships. These are even fascinating just to read. These describe creeks and other places, number of settlers in the early stations, and operation of the system by which they obtained land. Many land entries, preemptions, warrants and patents are mentioned and described, as well. Some tell of their military experiences as well. There is much information here that is available nowhere else. Most of the depositions pertain to their lives during the period 1773 to 1780 throughout this volume, and as Fayette County covered a large area at that time, this is important to those researching families in many other counties as well.

October 1, 1985


Complete Record Book A p.536, Deposition of ELIAS TOLIN (at his house in Montgomery County on August 17, 1804) by consent: That in 1775 himself in company w1th WILLIAM LINN, THOMAS CLARK ANDREW LINN and THOMAS BRASIER traveled and built cabbins on the largest creek between Upper Blue Licks and Slate creek on west side of Licking and we called it Flat Creek and I have never heard of any other name for it. In the year 1780 I was part of the time in the Northern Army and part of the time in Virginia.
Question by THOMAS SINCLERE for defendant: When did you return to Kentucky after you first left it.
Answer: In the year 1786. Question by same: Did not yourself, Clark and company make a number of improvements on the waters of Flat creek? Answer: We did.

p.537, Deposition of JOHN McINTIRE (taken in Montgomery County April 8,1803, before JOHN ROBERTS and JEREMIAH DAVIS: That he went to Harrodsburg in spring of 1780 and there met with THOMAS CLARK at which time he informed this deponent that he had made a number of entries on waters of Flat Creek and Slate creek and that he has entered 500 acres in name of FORRESTER WEBB on waters of Flat Creek and others adjoining the same, which he was to have a part of the land and deponent says Thomas Clark came to STRODE's in fall of 1783 and he set out with Clark, JOSHUA BENNET and others to Flat Creek, in order to survey lands and as they passed down Flat creek and came near to the mouth of the branch, that JOHN DOWNING now lives on that said Clark pointed over the creek and said - up that branch he had entered 500 acres of land for Webb at a spring and improvement and they continued on down said creek and went up the branch that is now called Rogers branch and surveyed 400 acres of land in name of WILLIAM SCOTT and while they were at said place this deponent enquired of said Clark where and how far Forrester Webb's land lay from that place, and if he intended to survey the same at that time and Clark made answer that he did not, nor never would until they gave him a part of the land for entering the same.

p.537, Deposition of GEORGE BALLA [GEORGE BALLOU ?] (taken August 15, 1804, before a single Justice, BENJAMIN SOUTH): In the year 1776 there was [blank] of us came down the Ohio river to improve lands. THOMAS CLARK was our pilot and we came up Licking River in our canoes to the Upper Blue Licks and after resting ourselves there some days, we started on by water and landed near the mouth of a small branch that now goes by the name of Little Flat Creek, and we went up said creek until we came to a Buffalo road and followed that over a ridge to another creek that is now Big Flat Creek and crossed over and camped at what is now Macks Run and we allowed it to be 10 miles to the Blue Licks, and then we began to hunt for land and to build cabbins which we called our improvement cabbins, and one day we went out to improve we went up creek until we came to mouth of a branch now called Rogers and built a cabbin and returned down creek passed a spring which we called Elm springs for a Big elm that growed over same, and we built a cabbin there, a little way below the spring and then we divided into two companies. THOMAS CLARK and 3 men went down near the creek, myself and three other men returned back to spring and there we built cabbins. I think about as high as my head or shoulders thence we went down said branch some distance and built a cabbin, I think 3 or 4 logs high, then we met THOMAS CLARK at a cabbin they had built near the creek. The cabbins of both parties belong to Our company undivided. Question by defendants: Did you know the name of the creek in the year 1780? Answer: in the year 1776 our company called it Broad creek but I do not know when the name was changed to Flat creek.

Question by complainant: Do you know how many of the cabbins that you built were springs at - over the ten miles from the Upper Blue Licks?
Answer: I know of but one on west side and two on the east side at which we built cabbins.

Question by same: How many cabbins did you build on Flat creek and its waters?
 Answer. Fourteen as well as I recollect.

Question by same: Do you know that the creek was called Flat creek in the year 1782?
Answer: I was not in the country in that year - in the year 1782. I was on the south side of the Kentucky [River] but do not remember to have heard it called Flat Creek at that time. I had a preemption on it which in the year 1783 I entered and called for Flat Creek.

Question: On what side of the branch is the cabin and spring?
Answer: The cabbin is on the north side - the sprlng is on the north side of the right hand fork as we go up the creek. The cabb1n stood on west of lower side of left hand fork.

p 538 Deposition of JOHN DOWNING (taken on April 18, 1802 before JOHN ROBERTS and JEREMIAH DAVIS in Montgomery County): He removed to the place called FORRESTER WEBB's Elm spring improvement in the year 1795 which he, the said deponent, had purchased a part of, from said Webb. and the same time saw a small improvement at said spring and the appearances of cabbins below said spring.

p 538 Deposition of JOSIAH COLLINS (taken on March 20, 1801 before DAVID HUGHES and WILLIAM ROBINSON, in Montgomery County): He was present when FORRESTER WEBB's survey was made on a branch of Flat creek which survey includes the Elm spring. He came in company with THOMAS CLARK, deceased, BENJAMIN BERRY, ROBERT PARKER, surveyor, and others. THOMAS CLARK was pilot from Strode's station to the place where said survey was made. We struck Flat creek at or near the mouth of the branch which is included in part of WILLIAM SCOTT's 400 acres survey and Clark informed the company that the next branch above was the one alluded to. We went up the creek to the mouth of said branch and up same to the Elm spring and said Clark informed said Berry and Parker that that was the spring alluded to in Forrester Webb's entry. Said Berry directed the surveyors to survey said Webb's land in that place. I remember to see a cabbin or pen at the Elm spring. I am not interested in this claim now but was once. I gave the bond I had for part of the land to Mr. BROWN. I had received bond for part of this land for assisting in making the entries of land which depended on Forrester Webb.

p.540, Deposition of PATRICK JORDAN (taken at the house of ELISHA WOOLDRIDGE in Woodford County on May 23 1801 before Elisha Wooldridge, Justice of the Peace): Sometime in the spring of the year 1780 he was with Thomas Clark at a spring which he called Elm spring where there were a number of trees deadened and what was called a cabbin in them days. Clark told me he meant to make an entry for Forrester Webb on this improvment - did not tell me distance it was from Blue Licks. I was also present when Mr. Clark made the entry in the office on this improvement. Mr. Clark and I were the only ones present at the spring. The deadening of the trees looked to be three or four years old and the cabbin was breast high and without a door but it was not covered. We had started to this place from my improvement three miles west of Paris and we went directly to this spring. It took us about one and one-half days to make the trip. I saw a number of improvements which Clark said he and his company had made some years previous. It was eighteen years before I visited this spring again.

p.542, Deposition of THOMAS CARTMELL (taken April 8, 1802 in Montgomery County, before JOHN ROBERTS and JEREMIAH DAVIS): In the year 1793 Thomas Clark came to his house where he now lives on Flat creek in search of Forrester Webb's land - inquired for the Elm spring and a cabbin below the same and improvement, and the day after he came to said deponent's house when he got up in the morning said Deponent directed him, the said Clark, where to go and find it, and described the place by some trees marked at a spring and a cabbin below the same and said Clark set out and found it by this description, and when he, the said Clark, returned to said deponent's house he informed deponent that it was the same place he was in search of.

p.542, Copy of Certificate dated May 19 , 1780, FORREST WEBB enters 500 acres of land on a treasury warrant on a branch of a creek running into Licking, known by the name of Flat Creek,
including a cabbin and improvement at a spring, about 12 miles nearly a south east corner from the Upper Blue Lick...

Map showing JOHN WILKINSON's 3,050 acres, under which the heirs of GEORGE NICHOLAS claim, which contained by survey 3,111 acres of land; FORRESTER WEBB's 500 acre survey, under which THOMAS BROWN complainant depends, which contains 511 acres by survey. Map by THOMAS MOSEBY shows Elm Spring to be 9 miles and 65 poles from Upper Blue Lick.
Complainant's Bill dismissed.

p.572, Deposition of ELIAS TOLIN (taken at a lick in Montgomery County on February 29, 1804 before JACOB COONS, Justice of the Peace): In the year 1775 deponent came to Kentucky in company with WILLIAM LINN, THOMAS CLARKE, THOMAS BRAZIER, JOHN CRITTENDEN, THORTON FARROW and GEORGE ROGERS CLARK, and we came on to Sommerset [creek] and there camped...


p. 478 Deposition of ELIAS TOLIN (taken at WILLIAM FARROW's improvement in Montgomery County, on February 27, 1806): On July 23, 1775 deponent joined the company with WILLIAM LYNN, THOMAS CLARK, ANDREW LYNN, THOMAS BRAZER and JOHN CRITTENDEN at Wheeling fort to come to Kentucky, to improve and take up land and on the Ohio River, near the mouth of the Little Kanawha, was overtaken by THORNTON FARROW, LUKE CANNON, WILLIAM BENNETT and others who informed us they were coming to Kentucky to take up lands for themselves and some gentlemen in Virginia and informed us that the hand they had under their direction were sent by those gentlemen in Virginia as assistant in taking up land for those gentlemen in Virginia and we proceeded on in company to the mouth of the Kentucky where CANNON and BENNETT and their hands parted with us and proceeded on down the Ohio river.  THORNTON FARROW and a man of the name of GUY who appeared to be a servant, joined and we proceeded up the Kentucky to Leestown which place GEORGE ROGERS CLARK joined our company and we proceeded to Boonesborough, from thence to Sommerset and encamped at or near the place known as Severn's Lick and while in that camp in the absence of THORNTON FARROW, some of the company was jokeing the man by the name of GUY about his master, and, that if the man who employed him, mentioning THORNTON FARROW's brother, had come out he would not have been treated with that indifference he now was and in the time while we lay in that camp THORNTON FARROW, JOHN CRITTENDEN and GEORGE ROGERS CLARK was absent from camp some few days and when they returned they informed us they had been making improvements while they were absent.  The next morning this deponent went down Somerset [creek] buffalo hunting and got lost from the company and wandered down on the creek now called Grassy Lick and found a burning camp near to the bank of the creek and no person in camp and this deponent followed a trail from said camp up the creek and come to the lick called Buck Lick, now called Grassy Lick, and then discovered a small cabin built and some trees belted and initial letter of "t f" cut on a tree and then proceeded from thence up the creek until the trail quit it and turned over to Somerset and to camp. In a few days afterwards we concluded to divide the company. Then JOHN CRITTENDEN, GEORGE ROGERS CLARK, THORNTON FARROW, a man by the name of GUY, another by the name of PAUL, formed into one company and WILLIAM LYNN, ANDREW LYNN, THOMAS CLARK, THOMAS BRANNON and this deponent formed the other company and about the time of parting the two companys concluded to meet again about three weeks after at or near the forks of the Somerset and Buck Lick, in order to travel to Boonesborough together and at the appointed time the company with this deponent came to the appointed place and found a written paper fastened to a buckeye informing us that the company of FARROW and CRITTENDEN was under the necessity of going to Boonesborough before the appointed time by reason of one of their company being badly scalded.  We then proceeded on to Boonesborough on their trail and came up Buck Lick and found improvement above this lick, we continued on to this place and found an improvement here which we supposed was made by FARROW, CRITTENDEN and company. Before we left Boonesborough it was agreed by JOHN FLOYD, who was then engaged in making military surveys, and our company, that we would be particular in making our marks that we might not interfere with each other. After discovering the improvement, we passed through the Sassafras grove near head but never fell in with that company of Crittenden and others any more as we went to Boonesborough and they went to Harrodsburg. I have lived in this neighborhood thirteen years. It was common to mark trees at an improvement with an ax or tomahawk and in some few instances with wet powder, but I know of no paint being used. This creek called Buck Lick in 1775. WILLIAM LYNN went out from the camp on Severn's lick and came back with two large buck skins and he said he killed them at a lick he meant to call Buck Lick. Never heard of GUY making any improvement or claiming any right to do so. He appeared to be a man under the subjection of THORNTON FARROW. This ridge was a place of notoriety both on consideration of the resort of Buffalo and the appearance of Blue Grass growing around it. It was in August 1775 when I first saw it.