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Feb 5 13 6:01 AM

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If you would like feedback from the group on your writing please attach either a document or post excerpts into this thread. If you wish to offer critiques please answer here below the posting. 

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#2 [url]

Feb 5 13 7:48 AM

As Ira helped Charlotte board the train in Pittsburgh, her red rimmed eyes caught his and she smiled half-heartedly. The graying sky outside mirrored her mood. Taking their seats, Ira put a sheltering arm around Charlotte and the child she carried. They were running away to Youngstown Ohio where they would finally marry.
 
Ira had spent the last 10 years, at the insistence of his older brothers, taking care of his aging parents and working their farm. Charlotte was the youngest daughter of the shopkeeper, who could visit most of her family by walking across the street or a house or two down the road. The two had met and fallen in love, but both families had vehemently objected to their marriage.

Tears, pleas and accusations had done nothing but more firmly entrench each side. With the harvesting done, the two had seized the opportunity. The first stage of their plan was completed. Charlotte was pregnant. Once they reached her brother in Youngstown, he would have to help them.

And so it was that with Ben’s assistance, in November, 1908 Ira and Charlotte were married in Youngstown, Ohio.1
 
Such a homecoming must have met the couple as they returned, marriage completed and already in the family way. Voices were surely raised, tears shed. Eventually the families embraced Ira’s little new family. In 1910 Charlotte was even living at her parents’ home with her young daughter, Ione, while Ira was presumably away earning a living.

Connie from WV stuck here in Florida

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#3 [url]

Feb 5 13 2:04 PM

For what it's worth....I realize that the Civil War segment drags a bit but I have veteran relatives that will be deeply interested in those details. I'm open to any and all comments. 

Perhaps feeling that the time to meet her maker was near, an 84 year old widow, my 3rd  great grandmother, gathers her papers and letters from her dear departed husband and prepares to burn away the long memories of times past. Sixty-nine years of harboring the secrets of her husband’s past, this ritual of fire must have been a welcome relief from the burden of a life-long cover up. Destroying the last remnants of evidence that could possibly leave behind a clue to the mysteries surrounding William Henry Johnson his widow committed them to silence for good.


William Johnson first appears in Cattaraugus County, NY in 1861 when he enlists in the Civil War. Nothing certain is known of his life before this time although rumors and family lore have for many years attempted to capture the answers.  Much of these stories have come down to us today through Isabel Johnson, William’s granddaughter.  But the rumors and tales do little to satisfy the curious.  And the question remains:  Why all the secrets?  Why would his son, Claude Ezra Johnson, start talking about his father’s Civil War experiences and when questioned further suddenly stop talking and refuse to say any more?  Did Claude know more than he was willing to tell or was he merely perpetuating the family’s code of silence without knowing why?  Are the snippets of his history told by William real or were they fabricated to deflect the questions his family pressed on him?  

According to Isabel, William had said that he studied at Yale, yet Yale University has no record of him. Could he have studied from the books at the Yale library on his own without being enrolled, similar to his deposition in his brother-in-law’s pension file, that although he holds no diploma he had, for thirty years, studied medical works at length and well knew the diseases of the kidneys.  This he signed in 1887, making it possible that William was in Cattaraugus as early at 1857.  Did William really fight fire in New York City?  It is possible even without records to prove it.  Fires were common in the early days and any bystander would be put to the task of fighting them. The first World’s Fair held in the United States was in New York City in 1853 and I can see how a young man of twenty could easily be drawn to the great city for such an occasion. When William arrived in Cattaraugus he apparently had nothing with him, no money or belongings, which fact even today would arouse suspicion. He claimed, however, that the reason for this is that he was previously in Albany NY and was very sick for a time and that is how he came to lose everything he owned.  As Isabel’s story goes on, William had told his eldest son’s wife that the reason he left home was over an argument with his step-mother about whom he should marry, so he ran away forever. That sounds reasonable enough, but why then, once he is soundly married and raising a family and the treat of a forced marriage is gone does he continue to keep his past at bay and never does introduce his children to their aunts and uncles?  Isabelle relates another family tale wherein, while William is away a stranger comes to the Johnson home looking for him.  His wife informs the man that William is not home and the stranger says he’ll return later.  On William’s return his wife tells him of the stranger’s visit and apparently William went ghostly pale telling his wife that if the stranger should return she was to tell him that he was not home and nothing more.  So, if William’s whole reason for running from his family was the forced marriage story then why would he still be alarmed at being routed out years after marrying the woman of his choice?


We do know that William Henry Johnson was living in Allegany, Cattaraugus County, NY at least by May of 1861, when he enlisted for a two year term in the Civil War.  But he probably arrived sometime earlier than that and likely knew his sweetheart, Isabelle Shirline, for some time given that he married her almost immediately upon his return from war.  He had carved a stick of Willow into a case with a sliding lid for a pen that he used during the war, with which he probably wrote the letters his widow burned in 1932. He also brought with him a pocket bible that contained snips of hair that could have been a parting good-luck gift from his sweetheart.  The enlisted men were sent to boot camp in Elmira NY and afterwards shipped by train to New York City where William was mustered into the 37th NY Infantry, also called the Irish Rifles.  Here William met his tent-mate, Malachi Rowan.  As a good Irishman, Malachi sometimes needed a little of the hard stuff to tide him over, but unrealistic as it seems to  keep the barrel of your gun plugged during wartime and storing Whiskey inside, that was what they claimed he did.  William and Malachi after sharing the horrors of war and privations of camp life would remain fast friends for many years afterwards.


It is well known that most people from upstate New York don’t care for the City folks and likely vice-versa also.  Supposedly the first battle after getting off the train in New York City was a fist-fight brawl with the citizens there.  The regiment was for almost a year were merely marched around and garrisoned here or there.  Finally put to the test the 37th NY engaged in operations in the Siege of Yorktown in April 1862, followed by the battles of Williamsburg, Seven Pines (Fair Oaks), Oak Grove and Malvern Hill.  After a brief reprieve of less than a month they were back at it with the Battle of Groveton, Bull Run and Chantilly.  Then another two month break to serve in defense of Washington and Falmouth before the Battle of Fredericksburg in December of 1862.  In the cold days of January 1863 came the infamous Mud March, a grueling march in the pouring rain that turned the roads to deep quagmires of mud.  By this time William had been promoted to Corporal and told his men to go past the edge of the road and walk where there was less mud.  An officer came by and told him to get back on the road, William told his unit to keep marching like they were and walked away.  The officer supposedly let them go on yet ultimately the attempt to flank the rebel army was aborted and the soldiers camped through the rest of the winter.  The following spring saw a few short months left in the terms of William and many other soldiers.  Yet another battle was to come, Chancellorsville. It was said that during the battle William ended up with seven holes through his uniform, but had not been hit.  However, the   Department of War records that William H Johnson was slightly wounded at Chancellorsville. He was mustered out a month later in New York City and quickly married his sweetheart, Isabelle and established their home up the Nine Mile Road in a hamlet called Vandalia.


Shortly after William returned from the war he was approached by William Grimes, a wealthy farmer that lived at the beginning of the Nine Mile. Grimes offered William $500, a huge sum at the time, to reenlist replacing Grimes’ son who had been drafted.  William turned down the offer but he and Grimes remained friends.  It irked some family members that William would do favors for William Grimes, like surveying and helping to skid logs etc. and refused money for the effort.  Isabel had said that he probably figured that the money wasn't as important as the friend.  Or, that he figured he was as good as Grimes was and money shouldn't be an issue.  Some of his grandchildren had the impression that William was a lot like Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden Pond, in his outlook on money, government and the establishment. As well as being a farmer, carpenter and surveyor William was also an herb doctor.  It is said that the Seneca Indians had taught him the healing power of different kinds of herbs that grew in the woods.  He gathered his own herbs, and his attic always had herbs of different kinds hanging from the rafters.


The Allegany Seneca Indian Reservation is not far from the Johnson home and it was this tribe that drew a young man named Otto Pierce to the Vandalia neighborhood in search of an Indian herb doctor.  Otto had been born deaf and his own father was very abusive to him as were many others who figured they could get away with it.  Pushed to the edge and afflicted with VD, Otto left home with a crust of bread and one nickel.  That nickel got him street car passage part way to Vandalia and he walked the rest of the way stopping at Worden flats.  He asked Worden if he could find an Indian doctor and was directed to see William Johnson first, as he was known to be a wizard with the root.  In a letter Otto wrote to Claude Johnson in 1959 he tells of the day he first met his father on Sunday, July 4, 1909.  He was deeply ashamed to ask for food but too hungry not to.  He said Mrs. Johnson was like an angel to him and Mr. Johnson more of a father to him than his own.  William told Otto that he got most of his recipes out of an old time Herb Doctor book that he borrowed from some old lady that lived up the Nine Mile Valley, and I don’t know how a deaf man can tell but Otto said the name sounded German.   Well, William cured him within a week and Otto went on to cure others with the dozens of recipes that William shared with him.  Neither William nor Otto charged anything for helping others with these cures. Is it possible that the lure of knowledge from the Seneca Indian herb doctors drew William to the area as Otto had been?  Did his interest in medicine begin with his illness in Albany?  Ironically enough, Otto’s letter was sent from Sebring, Florida. 


William had spent quite a bit of time in Smethport, PA with his friend, Malachi Rowan.  What was he doing there that was important enough to leave his young family on their own?  More family lore tells that he acquired a map to a gold mine in Pennsylvania and other rumors popped up that he had knowledge of where Cornplanter buried the gold given to him by the British. Perhaps he was looking for gold or perhaps he was learning more herbal secrets from the Seneca. In a letter William wrote to his wife from Smethport in 1883 he says that he’s with Malachi when he’s not in the woods and that he had bought a house and lot and was trying to pay it off.  Maybe his plan was to eventually move his family to Smethport.  Regardless of William’s motives for being in Smethport his letter still rings of the paranoia of a man with secrets to hide.  In it he states, “If you sent me any letters they did not send them for I haven’t had a letter from you since I have been here. They must have read and then tore them up or burnt them.”  Who is ‘they’ and why would they be interested in his letters?  In another letter William wrote to his son years later, when Claude was working for Ben Eastman in Indiana, William made a comment that they should never have any secrets from one another.  It makes you wonder how he felt about secrets and how much about his father’s past did Claude really know?

William Johnson was in Smethport May 30th, 1889, during the worst downpour that had ever been recorded.  The U.S. Army Signal Corps estimated that 6 to 10 inches of rain fell in 24 hours over the entire region. During the night, small creeks became roaring torrents, ripping out trees and debris. Telegraph lines were downed and rail lines were washed away.  It was on this night that William, not knowing how his wife was faring the storm, walked home from Smethport, some 29 miles, without stopping.  The next day over 2200 people died in the Johnstown, PA flood.


Around 1900 William built a big square house on the north Nine Mile that is still there.  You will notice some people sitting on a large rock in front of the house.  There was a story that William dragged the rock from off the hill to where you see it in the picture.  One day he was sitting on the porch and a road crew went up the hill with a road grader.  They hollered at him that when they came down the hill they would be grading that side of the road and would move that rock.  He told them to leave it where it was.  He had put it there so people could step from their buggy onto the rock and then to the ground.  When the road crew came back down the road he was sitting on the porch with his rifle, evidently they thought it wiser to go around the rock where it remains today. 


It is common knowledge that most people migrated across the country to gather with family and friends and I have always thought that there must be some connection between William Henry Johnson and a close neighbor Benjamin L. Johnson.  Ben had married into the Wheeler family, as did two of William’s wife’s sisters. The coincidence is remarkable yet in thirteen years I have not found a connection.  The difficulty being that Johnson is such a common name and there are several William Johnsons of similar age in Cattaraugus at the same time.  His Civil War pension file, which he only applied for because his wife wanted it, consistently states his birthplace as Meriden CT but the family does not appear on any census or local records for that area.  If they had moved about it would be near to impossible to catch their movements with such a common name. The only other clue is William’s death record that gives his father’s name as Ezra, which is Claude’s middle name.  Although the informant’s name is left blank and the name Ezra could very well have just been a wild guess.


It is hard to believe that all these people lived with William, wife, sons, daughter, grandchildren and extended family, in that tiny little house containing the letters that may have held the answers, and yet none of them knew anything definitive about him prior to 1861.  No one ever snuck a peek or got answers to the questions that they must have asked over the decades.  I sometimes wonder if William Henry Johnson was his real name at all, or had he lifted it to dodge detection.  At one point Claude Johnson was asked point blank where his dad was from and why he didn’t tell anyone.  Claude said only that “maybe he was a horse thief after all.”  And that was as close to an answer as he would make and that we will ever get.  


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#4 [url]

Feb 5 13 6:53 PM

This is just a short section from my grandfather's biography - I've just started the section on his time spent working in Ceylon. I did this part tonight. There's still a bit more to do - I'll do it tomorrow. I've referred to him alternatively as Charles and Granddad - still trying to work out the whole issue of how to refer to him. I know there's some editing regarding repeating words and such.

Thanks!
Nicola




In 1961, the British Guianese government purchased the Demerara Electric Company from Montreal Engineering Company. The reported selling price was $6 million dollars. The deal was set to go through on December 31, 1961. The Guianese wanted to bring in their own people, so the Canadian staff, including Charles, were given notice. However, Granddad stayed on for an extra year to train his successor. The question then came up as to what he would do next. Through contacts at the Montreal Engineering Company, Granddad heard that Canada’s Foreign Aid Office, which would eventually become CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) was requiring someone to work on a project in what was then Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. As an adventurous man, Charles thought this sounded like a good opportunity, and so he arrived there in 1963 to begin a two-and-a-half year posting. He worked at the Inginiyagala Power Plant, though his office was located in Ampara. The little power plant was built with two generators, and the Canadian engineer in charge, Al Richard, had put in another two generators, along with a transformer so that the output of the Inginiyagala plant could, under certain circumstances, feed into the national power grid. 


Shortly after his arrival, though, Charles became ill. He described how the Canadian engineers would gather in the evenings at the home of Al to play card games and socialize. However, Granddad began to feel dopey, inattentive and fatigued, and eventually he became bedridden. Eventually, Al Richard arranged for an airplane to take Granddad to Columbo, where doctors operated on him, and discovered an abcess on his liver. Granddad said they removed almost a pound of pus from inside him! Never a man to rest for long, during his recuperation, Granddad was thinking of the projects and problems at the power plant. One issue had to do with the station being unable to operate two specific transformers at the same time. Granddad did some thinking, and felt that it would be possible by changing some taps to equalize their voltages. So, from afar, he had Al Richard shut the plant down to test his theory - and it worked! Granddad was quite proud to point out that even when he was recuperating, he was still working and solving problems from afar. Even forty years later, he was still able to talk in detail about the size of the transformers and circuits that they tested.


Eventually, Al Richard went home to Canada, leaving Granddad in charge of the plant. He also inherited Al’s bungalow and cook. The bungalow had a low, sloped galvanized tin roof. One day a whole tribe of 20 to 30 monkeys came charging down the hill out of the jungle, ran all over the roof, making an awful din for quite a while, and then vanished back into the jungle. Another time, Granddad found a 7 foot long snake slithering down one of the attic columns. The locals told him it was a harmless rat snake, but Granddad still didn’t like the thought of having a snake for a living companion, so he sicked his Alsatian dog on him to chase him up the hill, though even the dog wouldn’t go too near it. A whole little iguana family also lived in the attic, scratching here and there with their tiny feet. 


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#5 [url]

Feb 6 13 4:02 AM

For what it's worth....I realize that the Civil War segment drags a bit but I have veteran relatives that will be deeply interested in those details. I'm open to any and all comments. Perhaps feeling that the time to meet her maker was near, an84 year old widow, my 3rd  great grandmother, gathers her papers and lettersfrom her dear departed husband and prepares to burn away the long memories oftimes past. Sixty-nine years of harboring the secrets of her husband’s past,this ritual of fire must have been a welcome relief from the burden of alife-long cover up. Destroying the last remnants of evidence that couldpossibly leave behind a clue to the mysteries surrounding William Henry Johnsonhis widow committed them to silence for good. William Johnson first appears in Cattaraugus County, NY in1861 when he enlists in the Civil War. Nothing certain is known of his lifebefore this time although rumors and family lore have for many years attemptedto capture the answers.  Much of thesestories have come down to us today through Isabel Johnson, William’sgranddaughter.  But the rumors and talesdo little to satisfy the curious.  Andthe question remains:  Why all thesecrets?  Why would his son, Claude EzraJohnson, start talking about his father’s Civil War experiences and whenquestioned further suddenly stop talking and refuse to say any more?  Did Claude know more than he was willing totell or was he merely perpetuating the family’s code of silence without knowingwhy?  Are the snippets of his historytold by William real or were they fabricated to deflect the questions hisfamily pressed on him?  According to Isabel, William had said that he studied at Yale,yet Yale University has no record of him. Could he have studied from the booksat the Yale library on his own without being enrolled, similar to hisdeposition in his brother-in-law’s pension file, that although he holds no diplomahe had, for thirty years, studied medical works at length and well knew thediseases of the kidneys.  This he signedin 1887, making it possible that William was in Cattaraugus as early at 1857.  Did William really fight fire in New YorkCity?  It is possible even withoutrecords to prove it.  Fires were commonin the early days and any bystander would be put to the task of fighting them. Thefirst World’s Fair held in the United States was in New York City in 1853 and Ican see how a young man of twenty could easily be drawn to the great city forsuch an occasion. When William arrived in Cattaraugus he apparently had nothingwith him, no money or belongings, which fact even today would arouse suspicion.He claimed, however, that the reason for this is that he was previously inAlbany NY and was very sick for a time and that is how he came to loseeverything he owned.  As Isabel’s storygoes on, William had told his eldest son’s wife that the reason he left homewas over an argument with his step-mother about whom he should marry, so he ranaway forever. That sounds reasonable enough, but why then, once he is soundly marriedand raising a family and the treat of a forced marriage is gone does hecontinue to keep his past at bay and never does introduce his children to theiraunts and uncles?  Isabelle relatesanother family tale wherein, while William is away a stranger comes to theJohnson home looking for him.  His wifeinforms the man that William is not home and the stranger says he’ll returnlater.  On William’s return his wifetells him of the stranger’s visit and apparently William went ghostly paletelling his wife that if the stranger should return she was to tell him that hewas not home and nothing more.  So, ifWilliam’s whole reason for running from his family was the forced marriagestory then why would he still be alarmed at being routed out years after marryingthe woman of his choice? We do know that William Henry Johnson was living inAllegany, Cattaraugus County, NY at least by May of 1861, when he enlisted fora two year term in the Civil War.  But heprobably arrived sometime earlier than that and likely knew his sweetheart,Isabelle Shirline, for some time given that he married her almost immediatelyupon his return from war.  He had carveda stick of Willow into a case with a sliding lid for a pen that he used duringthe war, with which he probably wrote the letters his widow burned in 1932. Healso brought with him a pocket bible that contained snips of hair that couldhave been a parting good-luck gift from his sweetheart.  The enlisted men were sent to boot camp inElmira NY and afterwards shipped by train to New York City where William wasmustered into the 37th NY Infantry, also called the IrishRifles.  Here William met his tent-mate,Malachi Rowan.  As a good Irishman, Malachisometimes needed a little of the hard stuff to tide him over, but unrealisticas it seems to  keep the barrel of yourgun plugged during wartime and storing Whiskey inside, that was what theyclaimed he did.  William and Malachiafter sharing the horrors of war and privations of camp life would remain fastfriends for many years afterwards. It is well known that most people from upstate New Yorkdon’t care for the City folks and likely vice-versa also.  Supposedly the first battle after getting offthe train in New York City was a fist-fight brawl with the citizens there.  The regiment was for almost a year were merelymarched around and garrisoned here or there. Finally put to the test the 37th NY engaged in operations inthe Siege of Yorktown in April 1862, followed by the battles of Williamsburg,Seven Pines (Fair Oaks), Oak Grove and Malvern Hill.  After a brief reprieve of less than a monththey were back at it with the Battle of Groveton, Bull Run and Chantilly.  Then another two month break to serve in defenseof Washington and Falmouth before the Battle of Fredericksburg in December of1862.  In the cold days of January 1863came the infamous Mud March, a grueling march in the pouring rain that turnedthe roads to deep quagmires of mud.  Bythis time William had been promoted to Corporal and told his men to go past theedge of the road and walk where there was less mud.  An officer came by and told him to get backon the road, William told his unit to keep marching like they were and walkedaway.  The officer supposedly let them goon yet ultimately the attempt to flank the rebel army was aborted and thesoldiers camped through the rest of the winter. The following spring saw a few short months left in the terms of Williamand many other soldiers.  Yet anotherbattle was to come, Chancellorsville. It was said that during the battleWilliam ended up with seven holes through his uniform, but had not beenhit.  However, the   Department of War records that William HJohnson was slightly wounded at Chancellorsville. He was mustered out a monthlater in New York City and quickly married his sweetheart, Isabelle andestablished their home up the Nine Mile Road in a hamlet called Vandalia. Shortly after William returned from the war he wasapproached by William Grimes, a wealthy farmer that lived at the beginning ofthe Nine Mile. Grimes offered William $500, a huge sum at the time, to reenlistreplacing Grimes’ son who had been drafted. William turned down the offer but he and Grimes remained friends.  It irked some family members that Williamwould do favors for William Grimes, like surveying and helping to skid logsetc. and refused money for the effort. Isabel had said that he probably figured that the money wasn't asimportant as the friend.  Or, that hefigured he was as good as Grimes was and money shouldn't be an issue.  Some of his grandchildren had the impressionthat William was a lot like Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden Pond, in hisoutlook on money, government and the establishment. As well as being a farmer,carpenter and surveyor William was also an herb doctor.  It is said that the Seneca Indians had taughthim the healing power of different kinds of herbs that grew in the woods.  He gathered his own herbs, and his atticalways had herbs of different kinds hanging from the rafters. The Allegany Seneca Indian Reservation is not far from theJohnson home and it was this tribe that drew a young man named Otto Pierce tothe Vandalia neighborhood in search of an Indian herb doctor.  Otto had been born deaf and his own fatherwas very abusive to him as were many others who figured they could get awaywith it.  Pushed to the edge andafflicted with VD, Otto left home with a crust of bread and one nickel.  That nickel got him street car passage partway to Vandalia and he walked the rest of the way stopping at Wordenflats.  He asked Worden if he could findan Indian doctor and was directed to see William Johnson first, as he was knownto be a wizard with the root.  In aletter Otto wrote to Claude Johnson in 1959 he tells of the day he first methis father on Sunday, July 4, 1909.  Hewas deeply ashamed to ask for food but too hungry not to.  He said Mrs. Johnson was like an angel to himand Mr. Johnson more of a father to him than his own.  William told Otto that he got most of hisrecipes out of an old time Herb Doctor book that he borrowed from some old ladythat lived up the Nine Mile Valley, and I don’t know how a deaf man can tellbut Otto said the name sounded German.   Well, William cured him within a week and Ottowent on to cure others with the dozens of recipes that William shared with him.  Neither William nor Otto charged anything forhelping others with these cures. Is it possible that the lure of knowledge fromthe Seneca Indian herb doctors drew William to the area as Otto had been?  Did his interest in medicine begin with hisillness in Albany?  Ironically enough,Otto’s letter was sent from Sebring, Florida.  William had spent quite a bit of time in Smethport, PA withhis friend, Malachi Rowan.  What was hedoing there that was important enough to leave his young family on theirown?  More family lore tells that he acquireda map to a gold mine in Pennsylvania and other rumors popped up that he hadknowledge of where Cornplanter buried the gold given to him by the British. Perhapshe was looking for gold or perhaps he was learning more herbal secrets from theSeneca. In a letter William wrote to his wife from Smethport in 1883 he saysthat he’s with Malachi when he’s not in the woods and that he had bought ahouse and lot and was trying to pay it off.  Maybe his plan was to eventually move hisfamily to Smethport.  Regardless ofWilliam’s motives for being in Smethport his letter still rings of the paranoiaof a man with secrets to hide.  In it hestates, “If you sent me any letters they did not send them for I haven’t had aletter from you since I have been here. They must have read and then tore themup or burnt them.”  Who is ‘they’ and whywould they be interested in his letters? In another letter William wrote to his son years later, when Claude wasworking for Ben Eastman in Indiana, William made a comment that they shouldnever have any secrets from one another. It makes you wonder how he felt about secrets and how much about hisfather’s past did Claude really know?William Johnson was in Smethport May 30th, 1889,during the worst downpour that had ever been recorded.  The U.S. Army Signal Corps estimated that 6to 10 inches of rain fell in 24 hours over the entire region. During the night,small creeks became roaring torrents, ripping out trees and debris. Telegraphlines were downed and rail lines were washed away.  It was on this night that William, notknowing how his wife was faring the storm, walked home from Smethport, some 29 miles,without stopping.  The next day over 2200people died in the Johnstown, PA flood. Around 1900 William built a big square house on the north NineMile that is still there.  You willnotice some people sitting on a large rock in front of the house.  There was a story that William dragged therock from off the hill to where you see it in the picture.  One day he was sitting on the porch and aroad crew went up the hill with a road grader. They hollered at him that when they came down the hill they would begrading that side of the road and would move that rock.  He told them to leave it where it was.  He had put it there so people could step fromtheir buggy onto the rock and then to the ground.  When the road crew came back down the road hewas sitting on the porch with his rifle, evidently they thought it wiser to goaround the rock where it remains today.  It is common knowledge that most people migrated across thecountry to gather with family and friends and I have always thought that there mustbe some connection between William Henry Johnson and a close neighbor BenjaminL. Johnson.  Ben had married into theWheeler family, as did two of William’s wife’s sisters. The coincidence isremarkable yet in thirteen years I have not found a connection.  The difficulty being that Johnson is such acommon name and there are several William Johnsons of similar age inCattaraugus at the same time.  His CivilWar pension file, which he only applied for because his wife wanted it, consistentlystates his birthplace as Meriden CT but the family does not appear on anycensus or local records for that area. If they had moved about it would be near to impossible to catch theirmovements with such a common name. The only other clue is William’s deathrecord that gives his father’s name as Ezra, which is Claude’s middle name.  Although the informant’s name is left blankand the name Ezra could very well have just been a wild guess. It is hard to believe that all these people lived with William,wife, sons, daughter, grandchildren and extended family, in that tiny littlehouse containing the letters that may have held the answers, and yet none ofthem knew anything definitive about him prior to 1861.  No one ever snuck a peek or got answers to thequestions that they must have asked over the decades.  I sometimes wonder if William Henry Johnsonwas his real name at all, or had he lifted it to dodge detection.  At one point Claude Johnson was asked pointblank where his dad was from and why he didn’t tell anyone.  Claude said only that “maybe he was a horsethief after all.”  And that was as closeto an answer as he would make and that we will ever get.  

-samantha

Connie from WV stuck here in Florida

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#8 [url]

Feb 6 13 8:26 AM

Connie, loved the first paragraph. I'm in the story and I wanted to hear more. You certainly eluded to setting and character and some trouble all great to see but then you jump into a lot of backstory, summarizing the last 10 years. Where ever you start your story there will always be something that happened before. Try to avoid giving us the backstory all at once. I have a newsletter coming up on backstory that you may find helpful. I would rather you take me Youngstown, on the train ride and you could reveal some backstory through dialog and in small ways. Hope this helps Connie. Great start! 

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#10 [url]

Feb 7 13 6:12 AM

Samantha
Very nice narrative! I agree the Civil War part drags a bit. You certainly have a lot of unanswered questions about William, he is an intriguing character. To be honest I like your style and the story content would make a great genealogical mystery, if only you could get some of those answers. I'm not sure of your format for presenting your narrative to readers, but I would suggest breaking it up with perhaps some sub-headings, for example 'Yale University' and 'Civil War.'  It will be more enticing to your family to read if broken up into smaller chunks and interjected with some documents and pictures. 

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#11 [url]

Feb 7 13 6:22 AM

Nicola, thanks for sharing your writing. You have a lot of information and that's half the battle. You're probably overwhelmed by the amount of information. I think what you've presented here needs a little re-arranging. Don't open with the details of the company they are rather dry facts. I want to know about your Granddad, bring him on stage first. And I would suggest interjecting some of your own thoughts and feelings. It's a biography so I think your feelings and impressions and lessons learned from him will make it more of an interesting read and relate-able to the reader while working in the details of his life. I would also pull out the last paragraph and write them as separate stories they don't fit with the rest of the story which is focused on his work. Again thanks for sharing and keep up the great work! 

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#13 [url]

Feb 7 13 6:50 PM

Thanks, Lynn, for the comments. Hmmm..one thing is that this is just a small section from probably 3/4 of the way through my biography, so my grandad and his character have already been introduced long before (having said that, I haven't written my introduction yet as I'm stuck on what to say, but that's whole other post!). Its kind of out of context, which I guess isn't the best way to start posting my work! I will try to put a bit more of my thoughts into it - good advice, I definitely need to do that more. With regards to moving the last paragraph - about his house - I'm not sure where else I would put it, as shortly after this, I move onto his next job posting, which was Yemen. I wanted to try and keep all of the Ceylon stuff together. Unless I didn't necessarily write his biography in a time-line style? But how else could I structure it?
Thanks!
Nicola

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#15 [url]

Feb 8 13 1:19 PM

Thanks for your comments Lynne.  I can see your point that dialog would fill out the story, but I'm much more comfortable with something like this.  I know I still have some more fleshing out to do, but this gives you the history of this branch of the family:

Christina hugged her father as James laid a stack of blankets atop the cradle he’d nestled along the side of their wagon. Though news may eventually trickle through, it would be a long time, if they ever again saw the family they were leaving behind. But, the debates were over. James and Christina Semple and their young family were joining the ever increasing number of pioneers traversing the turnpike toward the wilderness of Western Pennsylvania. The invention of the Conestoga Wagon made the journey infinitely easier, as a few years before they’d have had to load everything on horseback. At least this way she could take her kitchen table, and the dishes she’d so coveted.1
 
The appeal of the west, of course, was land. James’ service in the Revolutionary War had provided them with a 400 acre allotment of land on which they could settle.
2 With the war over, the lands to the west had been opened for settlement. Were they apprehensive, excited? The lands they traveled into were hunting grounds still claimed by the Seneca, Shawnee, Wyandot and Delaware tribes, each of whom were becoming more and more agitated with each encroaching settler. The early pioneers were of hardy stock, sure of their abilities to not only endure the unknown challenges, but triumph over them.
 
The road they followed was sometimes muddy, sometimes steep, sometimes next to impassible and always full of potential pitfalls. Snakes slithered out of their way, abandoning the warmth on the large rock at the edge of the road; if wolves or panthers took note of their passing, it was hopefully with little interest. James stayed ever vigilant for sign of Indians; Christina, with John in her arms, watched to keep track of Mary, 9 and James II, 3. If they were really lucky, they would be thirty miles closer to their goal at the end of every day.
3
Five weeks after leaving East Pennsboro, James and Christina neared the region dominated by Fort Pitt/Fort Duquense. After examining several areas, they claimed his acreage on a pretty little stream, named Girty’s Run after the border outlaw, which ran into the Allegheny River approximately 4 miles to the north of the Fort. Their first cabin was nothing elaborate. The logs James cleared from grounds he would farm, he notched and hoisted to form a wall. Christina and the children filled cracks between the logs with mud, sticks and stones. They likely had no window, both to hold in heat and provide protection. The doorway was made by cutting an opening in one side. Thus in 1789 or 1790, James and Christina became the first white residents of current day Millvale.
4
 
Unlike some misinformed homesteaders, James followed the proper procedure to secure title to his land. He had redeemed his certificate in the Land Office in Philadelphia before coming West. Once his land was selected, he had applied for a survey to be completed. His request had been granted, and a warrant issued authorizing the survey. A sketch of the land had been made and submitted to the government. When the deed finally arrived, however, it titled the land in the name of "James Sample". Prior to petitioning for his deed, the family had spelled its name "Semple." After much though, the spelling of the family’s name was changed to "Sample" to conform to the deed."
5
 
James cleared and farmed the land. Eventually the forest, heavily wooded with oak, pine, chestnut and sycamore, had given way to open fields of corn, potatoes and beans. James could not spend all his time farming, however. In addition to protecting his family, he’d joined the local militia, who were charged with protecting all the outlining settlers from Indians. This left Christina home alone and responsible for the animals, fields and her children.

Although the lives of our mothers are not as well documented as those of our forefathers, they were just as important. We know the duty was upon them to keep the house running, including minor details such as not letting the fire go out - ever. On their shoulders rested the daily chores of maintaining a family: all the cooking, washing, cleaning, mending, tending the vegetable garden, helping in the fields, not only making the family clothing and bedding, but spinning the wool, tanning the leather, or using other methods of making the actual "fabric" from which they made the clothing. They were the first, and in some cases only, performers of first aid and comfort to those in need. They endured much, but endure it they did. Christina was a prime example.

On a cold winter day, the 7th day of January, 1791 Christina gave birth to her third son, Thomas. He was only the second white child born north west of the Allegheny River.6
Two weeks later, a band of Indians burst into their cabin screaming and brandishing weapons. With a quick ironic thought that of course James would be gone today, Christina and her four children were forced into the cold on foot. Terrified for herself and her children, Christina could only pray for both their safety and deliverance. Later she would probably pray for a new body, as carrying a baby for any length of time so soon after giving birth was taxing, but to do so while reassuring and encouraging her children and moving fast enough to appease their captors, was exhausting. When the Indians stopped for the night Christina had a little relief for dead arms and sore feet. At least the baby will get fed and be quiet, she thought as he nursed. Fortunately for her the Indians’ celebration was getting louder and louder for so were the complaints of her children, and she needed to think.

The answer to her prayers appeared in the form of young Indian woman, whom she had supplied with provisions the winter before. Gesturing to Christina and her children, the Indian woman loaded the older children one by one into a canoe that was really only big enough for one person. She ferried each across the river, dodging ice chunks as she went. The canoe was then given to Christina, who ferried herself and young Thomas across the river. Cold and exhausted, the family walked until they came across Mr. Ewalt, who took them in. The next morning they were taken to Fort Pitt for safety.7

Other locals taken by the same group of Indians were not so lucky. Mr. Chapman, who sometimes worked for James Sample, was traveling to visit relatives. He had stopped for the evening at the Dicks’ homestead and had just sat down to dinner when Indians rushed into the cabin. They killed Mr. Chapman and took the entire Dicks family captive. That family was eventually marched to Detroit, and two years later exchanged. So stealthily did the Indians move across the countryside that no one knew the Dicks were missing for two days. A pursuit party was formed immediately following the discovery, but they stopped at the border of Indian land, as venturing further was too perilous.
8

Later, on quiet evenings, James and Christina would tell their children stories of their family history. Their ancestors were a warlike clan from Lochwonnich, Scotland. A Semple had ruled the lands around Castle Semple for hundreds of years, beginning with Robert de Semple in 1244. His sons were companions of the famous Robert the Bruce. Over the years, the Semples of Renfrew County had been warriors, barons, sheriffs and sometimes scalywags.
9

Robert Semple, the third Lord Semple was charged with burning villages, murder and pillage before he fled to France to avoid prosecution.
Hugh, the 11th Lord Semple, sold Castle Semple to William MacDowell, a descendant of Fergus, Lord of Galloway, in 1727 when the family fortunes declined. Hugh turned his attention to the military where he served valiantly in both Spain and Flanders and became the leader of the Black Watch and Royal Highlanders.10

Life on the frontier was often lonely. The 1800 census lists James as one of only 171 pioneers in the area.11 Any visitor was heartily welcomed and offered the best their household had to offer, many times with pleas to stay for a day or two. Local gossip was exchanged, while the stranger’s horse was tended, his clothing mended and stomach filled. Such was the case in 1803 when John Crawford, accompanied by his son John II, stopped by the Sample cabin while searching nearby for desirable land. During their stay, John II and Mary, James and Christina’s oldest daughter, fell in love. In December 1804 John II returned they were married.12

Over the years James took on other roles and his family prospered. Ever the pioneer, in 1797 James Sample built the first grist mill in and area that would become known as Millvale after the many mills that would become prevalent.13 James, in fact owned the whole town site of Millvale until on September 23, 1844 he sold 164 acres to the city. The property was originally designated as poor farm, which was operated for 23 years, but the constant steam of new people into the town forced the poor farm further out. Eventually the acreage was plotted, streets were laid out and lots sold.14

James was the first Justice of Peace of Shaler Township
15 and the second elected sheriff for Allegheny County, serving from 1795-1798. He also served on the first governing board of the Hiland Presbyterian Church following the granting of its charter in 1823.16
Christina died on November 10, 1829. Almost a year to the day later, James died on November 13, 1830. Their descendants however, continued to thrive and further make their stake in the area.

Two of James’ sons, James II and Robert made their way to an area in Pine Creek, which now reflects the family name: Sample-Wildwood. James II’s log cabin still sat at 4394 Wildwood Sample Road in 2009. Robert’s farmhouse was located off Vitullo Drive, just off Wildwood Road.17

Thomas Sample, the baby kidnapped by Indians when he was just 2 weeks old, became Allegheny City’s second mayor, serving from 1812 until 1843. He also served as Justice of the Peace and in his spare time, operated a tannery. In 1843 he leased his tannery out, bought a large farm and retired to live out the remainder of his life.
18


Connie from WV stuck here in Florida

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#16 [url]

Feb 9 13 1:14 AM

    I am uploading the final story of Mary Collins Perry tonight in my book called Women Pioneers
 of the Appalachians.  Her family has just survived the Civil War.  My next upload will start the life of Elizabeth Hall Perry.  There are other women during their life spans but I am sticking to my direct line of women.  Hope you enjoy it.

Sincerely,

Louise


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Louise

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#17 [url]

Feb 9 13 1:34 AM

    I love your story.  My mothers family settled in Scott Co. Va in 1802.  I love how you told about their journey.  Keep writing.... I love it.

Louise

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#18 [url]

Feb 9 13 6:28 AM

Connie, very nice narrative. Now I can see your intention to a write a straight-forward narrative. Your first first paragraph in the first excerpt was so nicely detailed it could be the opening of a novel. But I see now you want to write a narrative, which you have a very solid grasp of. Your narrative is still fresh and engaging and not dry. Well done. 

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#19 [url]

Feb 9 13 6:39 AM

Hi Jeannie 
I read your Day 1 and Day 2. You're doing very well. My only suggestion to you is to perhaps hold back on the entire Irish history until a little later in your story. Maybe break it up. You introduce me to Jacob, but then jump into this backstory. Give me a little more of Jacob and tell me a little later what brought him to this new country. When your explaining his motivations for joining the American Revolution some of that history can be interjected. It doesn't have to come all at once. Does that make sense. Looking forward to reading more about Jacob's life. 

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#20 [url]

Feb 9 13 6:54 AM

Hi Mary 
I read your memories of Big Grandma and might I say very, very nice. If I had one comment for you it would be more of yourself into the memory. This is when your writing comes together nicely. So for instance playing the piano, being in your Grandfather's shed. You talk about the kitchen, but here you could tell us about remembering eating a meal in the kitchen. Try to get your memories to be a little more specific, if you can. Set the scene for us with you in the action and show and tell us what's going on around you. Just a little more specific, not in your description (you do that very well) but specifics of your experiences. Does that make sense? What you have is very nice, just pointing our an opportunity to engage your reader a little more. Hope it helps.

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