The Brick Wall is cracking!


There are a few brick walls in my tree that drive me a little nuts.  One of them being good old Alexander Brown…where I get my surname. One of the worst is on my husband Andrew’s side though, where he gets HIS surname:  James A. Nelson.  I believe the A to stand for Alexander but I am not completely positive.

I finally decided to follow the genealogy rule of “people move together”.  I knew his wife’s mother, father, and siblings…so I followed their movement.  What I found were familiar towns, familiar names, and good old James A. Nelson, well after I thought he’d died somewhere in the western wilderness.  I also discovered his brother, Adam Rankin Nelson.  At least I think it’s his brother.

I’m not sure why, but James ended up in Missouri in 1870 living with his brother and his family, leaving his own family in Keithsburg, Illinois.  His brother continued south to Dallas.  I found him living there in 1880.  Once again, James is nowhere to be found after 1870.  But that’s ok, there has been progress!  So what else did I learn from this new info?

  • Adam was born in Scott County, KY just a few years after James was born in Kentucky.   So I am assuming for now that James was also born in Scott County.
  • Their father is from Pennsylvania and their mother from Virginia.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if James was also their father’s name.  It was a name passed down through generations in that family.  Through both brothers.  Andrew’s middle name is even James (even though it’s really for his grandfather through his mother).

I am grateful for the person who posted the biographical sketches from Dallas County Texas for me to find some information about Adam Rankin Nelson and his son.  Good old internet.  Where would we be without you?

Other information I have gathered from James Nelson is very interesting.  He seems to have been (along with his brother) the original developer of Broad Ripple, on the north side of Indianapolis.  He laid out the area south of the canal and called it Wellington, after the Duke of Wellington, and the north side was platted by someone else and called Broad Ripple.  Both areas sort of competed with each other to be the major focus of commerce in Indianapolis (which would actually now be the current downtown Indianapolis thanks to the White River which was actually kind of useless for any sort of commerce).  So obviously neither won that competition, but Broad Ripple definitely won in the name game.  The name of Wellington just sort of fell off and the whole area is now known as Broad Ripple.  Nelsons (my in-laws) still live 5 minutes away from his invention of a town, and I love that.

Anyone interested in the history of this area (and involvement of the Nelsons), here are some links:

Historic Indianapolis Mailbag:  Broad Ripple Cemetery

Sulgrove, B. R., History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana, Philadelphia:  L.H. Everts & Co., 1884, 785 pgs., Page 623




Scared to Death

One of the interesting things about doing genealogy is discovering “cause of death”.  I know it sounds a little morbid, but what’s interesting is how much has changed over such a short time in terms of actually assigning a cause.  Science is better.  Medicine is better.  Autopsies….probably better.

As I was finding info on a friend’s tree I came across the death notice for her gg-grandmother, a Mrs. May (Hunt) Stewart from Modoc, Indiana.  Never heard of Modoc?  Yeah, same here.

Death notice for May Stewart, April 1901.

Death notice for May Stewart, April 1901.

So, the runaway is referring to a horse…not a teenager or a train.  I think she was actually on the horse.  So yes, that would probably give me a fright as well.  But would it scare you to death?

What do you think?  Scared to death?  Did she hurt something and didn’t recall because she had been so rattled?  Did she have a congenital heart defect?  A too-tight corset?  It’s a sad story but especially so because being frightened by a runaway horse doesn’t seem like a valid excuse to die at such a young age, just 21 years old.


A forgotten murder/suicide in Downtown Indy

So, one of my favorite things about doing genealogy is coming upon these wild stories in families that people knew nothing about.  A lot of times horrible things will happen and people don’t want to talk about them and they get swept under the rug.  These stories get lost in history.  I found one of those stories today!

I started a new tree for a friend with the last name of Totten.  While she was here I hit a few little roadblocks but once she left I had some more time to delve a little deeper into her Totten branch and figured out how her family got to Indiana.  The first Totten to have a child in Indiana was Calvin P. Totten who came to Johnson County with his parents and quite a few siblings.

I couldn’t find any death or burial information on Calvin and his wife Cora, which was frustrating me so I hopped on to see if there were any newspaper articles where either of them were mentioned.  This is what popped up in my first search:

“Jealous Husband Kills Wife and Commits Suicide

A Double Tragedy Enacted on Streets of Indianapolis

In a fit of jealous rage, Calvin Totten, a contractor, aged fifty-five years, this evening shot to death his wife, aged forty-years, as the woman ran screaming into the street, and then in the presence of a crowd of Saturday afternoon shoppers he sent a bullet into his own head, inflicting a fatal wound.”

Ack!  What?!  I must know more!

This came from an article in the Cleveland Leader on Aug 31.  I couldn’t find anything online from the Indianapolis News or Star about this so I’ll be looking tomorrow.  How will I look tomorrow?  I knew you’d ask.

Well, tomorrow is my birthday.  Andrew asked what I would like to do for my birthday and I asked him if I could spend some time at the State Library because it’s been about forever.  Today, after working on this Totten tree I have even more to research!  I could spend all day there.  Happy Birthday to me!

The Totten that I know was shocked at this bit of news.  Although she did respond with a, “Tottens are pretty intense.”  HA!   I hope to find some more info tomorrow to pass along to her.  I am also interested to find out if her grandfather Totten (still alive) knew anything about this craziness.  It seems that many (not all of them, obviously) of the Tottens may have left Indiana after this incident so there may not have been a lot of family around to even bring it up.


(Written the following day)

So I found an article in the Indianapolis News from September 1, 1902.  The article is pretty wild, and obviously very sensational writing (given the times) so I think I have to post the whole thing.

“Slain Wife and Suicide Are Buried Together

Calvin Totten, Jealous Husband and His Victim

At Town of Courtship

Husband Killed her Saturday Night After Years of Jealous Rage – Efforts to Evade Him

Imbued with a jealous rage that had been rankling within him for several years, Calvin P. Totten murdered his wife by shooting her with a revolver, Saturday evening, and then turned the weapon on himself.  A bullet in his brain caused his death an hour and a half later at City Hospital.

The shooting occurred at the home of Mrs. Benjamin Carr at 216 East New York Street, where Mrs. Totten and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Minnie Totten, had gone to make a social call.

Because of domestic differences, Mrs. Totten had left her husband several months ago, and refused to live with him.  She had applied for a divorce on the ground of inhuman treatment on several occassions.  The threats of Totten to take her life had caused the family no end of alarm, and care was exercised to keep Totten from ascertaining the whereabouts of his wife.  The woman moved many times to keep from coming in contact with her jealous husband.

Recently she had been living with her daughter Minnie at 427 East Market Street.  The girl is employed by the New Telephone Company.  Last Friday Minnie saw her father lurking near their home and Mrs. Totten in moral dread, asked the police to lock him up.

Superintendent Taffe allowed Totten to go free on his promise to leave the city immediately.  He was not seen again until he appeared suddenly in front of the Carr home.

The woman and girl were talking of Johnson County, where all of them formerly lived.  Minnie went to Franklin last week to attend the Johnson County Fair and she was telling of her experiences when her mother, with blanched face, suddenly exclaimed, “My God, here comes Cal.”

She seemed almost paralyzed with fear, but managed to struggle to her feet as though to escape.  She was too late, however, as Totten with the expression of a demon in his face, drew his revolver and began firing.  With a scream Mrs. Totten staggered and was about to run into the house when four shots from the revolver came in rapid succession.  The woman fell heavily to the floor of the porch, three of the four bullets having inflicted fatal wounds.

One of them had passed through her heart and the other three entered her back.  Mrs. Carr was so close that the bullets almost touched her as they sped by to their mark.  Minnie Totten fell in a swoon and the man turned toward the street.

The firing attracted the attention of a dozen or more men passing in Massachusetts Avenue nearby.  They ran to the house and the murderer coolly emptied the shells from his revolver and filled the chambers with fresh cartridges.  Waving the weapon defiantly at the crowd he started to run east in New York Street. The men followed him at a respectful distance, and when Totten realized that escape was impossible he stopped and fired a bullet into his right temple.

The couple were married in Franklin seventeen years ago on the wife’s nineteenth birthday.  Totten at that time was thirty-six years old.  Mrs. Totten’s maiden name was Cora Kipheart, and her brothers and relatives are well-known citizens of Johnson County.  Totten was also a member of a well-to-do family.  He was employed as a carpenter and a bricklayer.

Totten from the start had a jealous disposition and this culminated in an unreasoning suspicion that his wife was not true to him.  Quarrels were frequent, and as a last resort, and after sixteen years of suffering, Mrs. Totten decided to separate from him.  This only developed and strengthened the man’s jealousy and he swore often that he would someday take her life.

Yesterday evening at 6 o’clock both the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Totten were buried side by side in the little graveyard at Bargersville, Johnson County.  It was in this little village that Mrs. Totten was born and reared, and it was there she first met Totten.  There was much feeling against Totten among the relatives and friends of the dead woman, but it was finally decided that both bodies should be buried in the family plot next to the grave of one of their children.

The grave of Mary Lenore Totten who died just two years before her father killed her mother and himself.  She was just 13 years old.

The grave of Mary Lenore Totten who died just two years before her father killed her mother and himself. She was just 13 years old.

At 2:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon two hearses bore the bodies from Ragsdale’s undertaking establishment to an electric car of the Franklin line, at Georgia and Meridiant Streets.  This car was met in Franklin and the funeral procession went over a country road to the Bargersville cemetery.  A large crowd of people followed all the way.  Short services were held at the graves and the last chapter of the tragedy was closed when the coffins were lowered into the ground.”

Bravo, 1902 journalist!  Well-written, sir!  One thing that always amazes me about reading these old stories…they are so rarely labeled with the name of a writer.

The next time I get some time to go to the library I hope to check out some of the newspapers from Johnson County during that time.

Any Tottens or Kiphearts out there in the world ever hear about this story?  Please comment!


A Story on a Headstone

So, my buddy Jumwaltie and I had a few hours to kill on a Friday afternoon.  We had taken a trip last year out to Montgomery County (and learned that all dogs in Montgomery County do not love strangers and will chase your car) to visit some cemeteries to find some of our significant others’ family members.  We are still looking for how they may be related.  We don’t have a link QUITE yet, but we’ll get there.


We decided to take a trip back.  We started towards New Richmond, IN.  This is a surprisingly adorable little town that actually made me squeal at it’s preciousness.  On the way we stopped at a couple of smaller cemeteries.and just looked for surnames that looked familiar.  We also love finding bizzaro headstones.  We found a couple of interesting ones, some with weird names, and some of Revolutionary War vets (which is always interesting to find in Indiana).  Our first stop was Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, which actually seemed to be two cemeteries across the street from one another, one side decidedly older than the other side.  We stopped to have a look around and have lunch – picnic style!

Coraline watching us in amusement while we ate sandwiches and apples.  What a lovely little picnic.

Coraline watching us in amusement while we ate sandwiches and apples. What a lovely little picnic.


Very strange headstone for B.A. Thompson.  Was this look the goal?

Very strange headstone for B.A. Thompson. Was this look the goal?


I'm not sure which is the front and which is the back.  But on one side we find the inscription.  on the other side is a box to put in decoration?  Or memorials?  Or...what?

I’m not sure which is the front and which is the back. But on one side we find the inscription. on the other side is a box to put in decoration? Or memorials? Or…what?


A Revolutionary War veteran

A Revolutionary War veteran

Then we headed to New Richmond Cemetery, which is seriously NOT ON GOOGLE MAPS?!?!  It really wasn’t.  There were cemeteries with like…12 people in the whole thing on google maps.  New Richmond with a TON, nope.  Not there.  I was looking for Bastions.  One of Andrew’s ggg gradfathers was Riley Bastion and his history is eluding me.  He died young (his early 30s) so his paper trail is short.  I found a few of them…took some pics, and we were on our way to…

Oak Hill Cemetery in Crawfordsville.  This is a beautiful and calming cemetery that is kept up very well.  The baby was not all that excited about being cooped up in the car, so we got out to walk around and came upon a very strange “headstone” for a man named Nathaniel Parker Willis.  It was huge with a metal plaque, with like…a ton of writing and a relief picture of who we assumed was him with his daughter (who is mentioned on the plaque).  Here it is, to read for yourself:


Relief picture of Nathaniel Parker Willis and his daughter, Mary Frances Laura Willis. I wonder what happened to Mary.

Headstone and inscription for Montgomery County native, Nathaniel Parker Willis

Headstone and inscription for Montgomery County native, Nathaniel Parker Willis

So I thought, was he ACTUALLY murdered?  Or is this metaphorical?  How was he killed in a court of justice?  Huh?  So Jumwaltie and I decided that we would look this up when we got home cause it was just too weird.  Soooo….we did.

Nathaniel Parker Willis WAS killed in a court of law.  He was actually shot in the heart by his ex-wife’s new husband because Mr. Willis had just won custody of his daughter after a 7-year custody battle that seemingly played itself out in the press.  I found articles about it starting in 1902 until he was shot in 1909 (and actually beyond that, as they mentioned the trial for the shooter).  Here is what we gathered from the articles…

Nathaniel and his wife, Hattie, were not married in 1899/1900 and lived in Indianapolis with Nathaniel’s mother, Frances.  They had little Mary Frances Laura Willis and within 18 mos they were filing for divorce.  The mother claimed that Frances was a crazy lady with a horrible temper who she didn’t want her daughter living with.  She also said that Nathaniel was cruel to her which was why she wanted the divorce.  The wife left town with the child, claiming that at one point Nathaniel had done the same and tricked Hattie into kidnapping her.  It sounds like she left with Mary and Nathaniel wasn’t sure where…and he spent years trying ti find her and finally did in Arkansas.  He won the custody case that then took place in Arkansas.  When they were meeting up to discuss transfer of child, Hattie’s new husband, W.Y. Ellis, came to the meeting and pulled a gun, nearly missing a Senator when he shot, and got Nathaniel in the heart.  Wow!  What a sad and amazing story.

It actually reminded me a little of the book Indiana Gothic, by Pope Brock.  This was a great book that Brock wrote after he started researching his family history and learned of this terrible scandal, tragedy, and court case in his family’s past.  I thought what an amazing story this could be if written into a novel.  Someone get started on this, pronto!

Sadly we were unable to find any Bastions here, and the cemetery office was closed (we were obviously very prepared and organized on this trip) and headed home.

Then I went to dinner.  Then my car was broken into.  That’s a story for another place.  Wah Wah…..

Family (non) secrets

I want to start this post by announcing that I am back in the saddle again, after that hiatus…with the kid and the hospital and the transition and all that jazz.  We are cool now.  Well, actually I’ve started waking up at 6am every day to get a little time to myself where I am not washing dishes or clothes, entertaining a baby with a very short attention span, or trying to get said baby to eat.  So now I have a little more time…as well as a little more exhaustion by the end of the day, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth it.

So…I made a discovery in the Munn family.  Well, I thought it was a discovery, because no one had ever thought to tell me about it.  Turns out it’s not a big secret, but a very interesting story!

So I started using this site called very recently.  I thought I would try it out for a year to see if it was of any use.  And OMG within seconds it paid for itself.  I found all kinds of stuff I had been searching for FOREVER.  Brick Walls broken down!  Hooray!  Anyway…I most recently found a crazy story about my great grandfather, John Darl Munn Sr.

John was born and raised in Darke County, Ohio, much like the rest of our crazy clan, and when he and his wife Eva had raised their kids and they all moved off they decided to move out to Arizona!  They lived in Tucson for quite awhile.  John had been a farmer on Ohio, but he was also a barber.  He obviously had quite the flair for hair, as you can tell in this amazing picture.

Check out the coiff on Mr. Munn! I wonder if he was a Dapper Dan man. My great-grandparents are holding my grandmother, Gene Odell (Munn) Brown in this pic.

John  was doing hair out in Tucson.  He eventually rose in the ranks of the Barbers’ Union.  Yes…there’s a union.  And he became the president!  Then he resigned and left the union completely.  Supposedly there was a disagreement over some rules that had been passed and John Munn was done with them.  And he felt like he didn’t need to abide by those rules since he was not a union member anymore.  Some of those rules involved not posting your prices.  There was also a set price that all barber’s would use ($1.00 at that time, which undercut other barbers).  They would also only be open on Tuesday-Saturday.  I’m not sure which rules he had the most issue with.

The reason this was all in the newspaper was because shortly after leaving his post after the disagreement, his shop was BOMBED!  Yes, you heard that right.  Bombed.  Now, the Union claims that it had nothing to do with it.  But seriously?  How crazy is that?  A barbers’ union.  I guess Arizona was still kind of wild west-ish back then (just before the Sunbelt explosion), but it sounds more like The Sopranos than anything else.

So I called my dad to tell him what I had found, thinking I was going to be giving him some new amazing information.  And he was all, “Oh yeah…I never told you about that?  They also tried to run your grandparents off the road once while they were driving.”  Yeah…no.  You never mentioned it.

Turns out the union also took him to court…sued him.  They were pretty mad, it seems.  I’m not really sure what came of the case, but if I find out I will update.

Here is the article and picture taken post bombing.

John Munn inspects his shop after it's been bombed!

Here is the link to the article in PDF, for those interested in reading about it.

Barber Shop Bombing article

A new VERY little leaf in our Family Shrub

So, I like to be a little different.  Some people like to have babies who are full-sized after a 9-10 mos pregnancy.  Nope.  Not me.  I am into delivering before even the third trimester.  Actually, I didn’t choose to deliver that early.  I was very sick; and my little stinker, Coraline Reed Nelson was born on 11/20/2012 at just 1 lb 1 oz.  She just came home from the hospital and her NICU life three weeks ago.  She’s a pretty awesome baby.  She sleeps through the night (sometimes with one snack break in the middle – depending) and is really cute.

Coraline poses with her sock monkey friend.

In the NICU, many people commented on her name.  They would either ask if it was supposed to be Caroline or if we got it from the Tim Burton movie, Coraline.  Well…we named the baby under crazy circumstances.  When I went in for pain issues, it turns out I had what was called HELLP Syndrome, and the pain was my liver swelling up.  I also had severe pre-eclampsia which shot my blood pressure through the roof.  So they first gave me morphine.  Then they came to tell me that I was having my baby that night…in like…a half hour.  WHAT?!  One of my first thoughts was, “We don’t even have a name!”

We hadn’t even discussed names.  Andrew still said we had plenty of time.  The goal was to each make a list of 10 names that we really liked and then we would cross reference.  My list consisted of a lot of family names for either the first or middle name.  My family doesn’t really have a ton of awesome names, but one of them was Cora.  My great grandmother was Cora (Motzenbacher) Smith.  I never met her as she died a few years before I was born, but her daughter, Lois (Smith) Kinsley was a fabulous lady.  So I can only imagine that Cora had to be as well.  Coraline seemed like a nice play on the name so I put it on my list.  Reed is Andrew’s mom’s maiden name.  I think it’s pretty.  And Nelson is…well…Andrew’s last name, obvs.

I was on a magnesium drip when we chose the name.  If you’ve ever been on it, then you’ll understand that I am very lucky that my child isn’t named “Puppy McGee Nelson” or something.  I was TOTALLY out of it.  I hope to never have to be on magnesium again.  No fun.  No fun at all.  So I’m not really sure how the decision making process went with Andrew.  I don’t really remember.  Everything is very fuzzy.

Unfortunately, just as Coraline was coming home, another part of the Nelson family tree died.  Dorothy Jane Boyce Nelson died at age 96.  She was a great lady and had an amazing life.  I can only hope to have such a full life.

Dorothy Boyce Nelson

Since her death I have been reminded of the really interesting Indianapolis roots in that family, and will hopefully continue to find new information and will continue to post.

Babies keep you busy, though.  For serious.  For updates on little Coraline, visit the other blog at

I am a lousy blogger. I’ll be better soon.

I haven’t always been a lousy blogger.  Life has, however, taken a bit of a turn this year.  I am having a hard time focusing on one thing for any amount of time, including work.  So blogging has been on the backburner, unfortunately along with the genealogy in general.

My husband and I are expecting our first child at the very beginning of March.  ACK!  There’s so much to do and so much to think about that I feel like I’m about to go into shutdown mode. I was just trying to put a registry together and I realized that i have NO idea what babies need.  Blankets?  Diapers?  Uhhh….Stuff?  That’s about where I am.  So…that’s just one more thing pressing on my brain.  What in the world do I think I am doing?

I am, however, excited to be extending our family tree.  One thing we have not yet discussed is names.  It is also the one question (after, “Do you know what you’re having?”) that everyone has asked.  The goal was to put together a list of 10 names each, then cross reference, and then start vetoing.  Andrew seems to be having a harder time coming up with names, so we haven’t gotten to view each other’s lists.  I would love to add a family name in there, which I believe is something that has often fallen by the wayside in recent past generations (unless you are a Jr. or something along those lines).

We have had some generational naming in my family though.  A cousin of mine named her son Andrew Lloyd.  Lloyd was our grandfather’s name.  He was an absolute delight of a person, and a great guy to be named after.  My husband has a brother who has the middle name of Wood, which is the family name carried down by the first male for 4 generations.  Before that it was the surname of one of his branches that settled Indianapolis.  What I have gained from my research so far is that the Wood who first came to Indianapolis settled along the White River and was a cooper.  So I kind of love that the name has trickled down to our generation.

As you start looking back into families of the 18th and 19th centuries, many names are clearly taken from older generations.  They may be named after an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or even a child who just died and had the same name (creepers).

So what names do we have that would work?  Well…once we come up with something I’ll reveal it to the world.  Oh…and it’s a girl.

What Will I Do on Summer Vaca?

We are on a balanced schedule in our school district now.  While I love having an extended Spring and Fall Break, I must say that I really do desire the time to actually be lazy in the summer.  We have just over a month and a half of summer break.  And while I should be delighted to have that time, I am already finding that it is already filling up.  So I am nervous about not getting in a genealogy trip.  I need to start planning now.  But here’s the problem.  I have so many places I would like to go that I’m not sure where I should focus.  Here are some of my options:

Trip 1: To Springfield and then Keithsburg (Mercer Co.), Illinois

This is more for Andrew’s family.  His Nelson branch ends here.  The problem is that we have no death date for James A. Nelson.  James was born in Kentucky, moved to Indiana where he married Sarah Heaton.  The two of them soon moved to Keithsburg and as far as I know this is where James ended.  Sarah is widowed by 1870.  James is found in the 1860 census.  So where is this guy?  He would have been 47 when the Civil War started, so I doubt that is what happened to him.  Anyway…the point is…I’ve hit a brick wall with this guy.  I am hoping a visit to the capital and the town where he lived might shed some light on this guy.  Pros:  1. Close to Indiana.  Not the longest drive in the world.  2. Right on the Mississippi River, so that could be awesome.  3. I have always wanted to go to Springfield and see all the Lincoln stuff.  Cons:  1. Keithsburg floods…and badly.  I believe that many Mercer County records have been destroyed. 2.  Not the most exciting drive in the world.

Trip 2:  To Union County, South Carolina.

This is my ultimate brick wall.  This is as far back as I have gotten in my Brown family.  Alexander Brown was born in here in 1761 to unknown parents.  He married Sarah Benson and moved up to Darke County, Ohio where some Browns still live today.  Of all the family limbs that I have wanted to trace back to the origin country, this is it.  It’s my surname!  Come on!  There was some speculation that Alexander may have been a Quaker and moved up to Ohio to get away from the slavery issues that plagued the south, along with many other Quakers at this time.  As we all know, Quakers were among the first people to denounce slavery and act on it, even in the north.  Good old Quakers.  I would probably need to stay in a town between Columbia (the capitol) and Union (county seat of Union County) to have the best chance of finding information.  Pros: 1.  I LOVE the south.  In fact the southeast part of this country is one of my favorite places to visit, mostly for the landscape.  I find it extremely beautiful.  And I don’t mind the heat.  2. It’s the Browns!  3. There seems to be plenty of cheap places to stay between Columbia and Union, particularly in Newberry.  Sumter National Forest is nearby, and might require a visit.  Cons:  1.) It’s much farther than Illinois.  2.)  It might be more difficult to find someone interested in going with me (mainly Andrew who hates the hot hot heat).  3.) If no one has figured out Alexander by now, can I? 

Trip 3:  Binghamton, NY and Guilford County, NY

This is an area that my Lacey/Burch/Burtch branch lived and worked.  What is most interesting about this area to me is that my gg and ggg grandfathers were architects here.  Many of the buildings that still stand in Binghamton were designed by them.  I also have quite the little mystery with my gg grandfather Mister Bascom Taylor Lacey (AKA B.T. Lacey).  He was 90 years old and living in East Stroudsburg, PA in 1956.  I am guessing he didn’t do a ton of moving around before this. He is not buried with his first wife (who was not even provided a headstone) and I can’t seem to find where his second wife is buried either.  I thought that because he family business (and much of the family themselves) were based in NY that I would be able to find some info on him after his death in Binghamton.  I could be totally off-base here.  Pros:  1. I know with certainty that the buildings my people built are still standing.  I will get to stand in them and admire up close.  2. It’s a very pretty drive to NY with the potential for lots of little stops along the way.  3. This B.T. Lacey mystery is driving me nuts and I would love to know where he was finally “laid to rest”.  Please someone find me a flipping obituary!  4. I could maybe combine it with the PA trip that I plan on definitely taking in July.  Cons:  1. Once again, a long drive.  Who knows how much gas will be this summer.  2. New York = expensive.  I know it’s not the city, but the closer you get to the east coast the higher the prices generally.  3. I am going to NYC this Memorial Day.  Going again seems a little overkill.

Places I will definitely be visiting:

  • Darke County, Ohio (Brown fam)
  • Rush County, Indiana (Boyce fam)
  • Wabash, Indiana (Oyler fam)
  • Marshall County, Indiana (Reed fam)
  • Hendricks County, Indiana (Sparks fam)
  • Eastern PA (my mother’s whole side of the family)

So…any ideas you guys?  Anybody know of any more pros and cons of each location?  I could use a little help deciding.

Thanks for sharing, Girl Scouts!

Early on in the history of this blog I wrote a post about how the Girl Scouts devoured a cemetery that I REALLY wanted to go to.  I had a sneaking suspicion that within this cemetery lay quite a few of Andrew’s old family, including great great great great grandparents.  I finally got the guts to confront this nasty Girl Scout camp, “Camp Dellwood” (I am using finger quotes…as I am typing this…as difficult as that sounds).  I had the help of my trusty cemetery-stomper friend, Jumwaltie (the spelling has been altered protect the innocent).  Jumwaltie has been a trusty friend in cemetery-stomping for years, and as far as I am concerned…things better stay that way.  We call it “cemetery-stomping” but we don’t actually stomp on them.  It just a crass/shortened way to describe driving around and visiting graveyards.  We don’t jump on headstones or anything weird like that.  Anyway…I digress.

Jumwaltie joined me on our trip.  She played navigator to my driver.  Thank heavens she did, because even as I was driving my car sickness was making we woozy.  Uncool.  Road trips are my favorite thing in the world and this situation seems to be getting worse.  Navigating (reading anything) makes it all ten times worse.  Anyway, Jumwaltie got us to Camp Dellwood.  We drove in the front entrance and the “park ranger” was washing his car in his driveway.  I met him and said that I heard there was a cemetery back in the camp that I was eager to visit.  He seemed nice enough, possibly annoyed, but definitely nice.  The gatekeeper allowed us through.

Old Union Cemetery on the west wide of Indianapolis, Raceway Road, located inside Camp Dellwood.

About 500 yards into the camp the cemetery was on the left.  It seemed pretty well maintained, especially considering the age of many of the headstones.  What I found out was pretty awesome.  Andrew’s great great great great grandfather was buried there.  His name was John Hornaday.  His family relocated from Chatham County, North Carolina and ended up in western Marion County and Eastern Hendricks County.  In fact, Hornaday Road runs just north and south just 2 miles west of the Old Union Cemetery.  This is the cool part..

Andrew’s grandmother, Dorothy Boyce Nelson, was John’s great great grand-daughter.  She was also a girl scout troop leader.  According to her she used to spend many a nights camping at Dellwood with her troops.  I haven’t talked to her about it, but chances are she had no idea she was camping directly next to where her great great grandparents had been for 100 years already.

Headstone of John Hornaday at Old Union Cemetery

Just goes to show that the girl scouts are good for way more than just Samoas (although they are kind of the best).  Thanks, girl scouts, for sharing in my family history.

It was a good start to an all day trip.  More to come.  Learn how Jumwaltie is convinced that my Andrew and her man-friend are somehow related.


Sunday’s Obituary – Death, Destruction, and poor George Norris

During a visit to the Indiana State Library two weeks ago I came upon an amazing amount of information over both Andrew’s family as well as my friend Amy.  The first story I came upon was about Amy’s great great great grandfather, who it turns out died in a horrible grisly accident.  The local newspaper in Washington, Indiana (Daviess County) held back no specifics about the gory details…so obviously I have to post it:

Jan 21, 1887

Death and Destruction

Wrought By the Explosion of a Portable Engine Boiler

“Jack” Norris Torn to Pieces by a Flying Fragment of Iron.

Four Other Men Seriously Injured – Complete Details of the Terrible Accident

Hurled though space!

A sickening mass of living, quivering flesh, mangled beyond recognition, and scarcely a resemblance to humanity.

Such was the sad end of poor Jack Norris.  One of the best known saw mill men and engineers in the county and a man that everybody in northeastern Daviess County knew and respected.

The accident that deprived him of life after fifty-two years residence in Daviess County, happened at twenty minutes after 9 o clock Thursday morning in Barr Township, ten miles northeast of this city.

Norris operated a portable saw mill, and had been running his mill on the farm of Clay Doane, just north of Henry Sefrit’s place, and near the Harrisonville road, since last spring.

The mill worked a force of four or five men when in operation, including Mr. Norris who was the engineer.  His sawyer was his son, John Norris, Jr. The boiler and engine of the mill were purchased about three years ago, and had been used almost constantly from that time.  The engine was about a 16-horse power.

Thursday morning the men went to work as usual, the force consisting of “Jack” Norris, his sons, John and Elbert, Lewis McAtee, and Thomas Murphy.

They were a little later starting than usual Thursday morning.

Clay Doane, owner of the farm where the mill stood, was hauling wood that morning, and he and his team stood on the bank of a little creek or “branch” that runs near the mill.  Shortly after nine o’clock Mr. Doane was startled by a terrific explosion, and for an instant the air about the mill was filled with the debris of the wrecked saw mill – boards, logs, splinters, pieces of iron, parts of the boiler, and coals of fire from the furnace.

The most horrible flying object, however, was the dismembered and mangled body of a man, which was shot through the air and surrounding tree-tops for a distance of more than 100 yards.

The body was that of Jack Norris.

He had evidently been standing at the side of the boiler when it let go, and a section, weighing a thousand pounds, had carried him in its flight through space, tearing his head from his body and reducing his form to shapeless and bleeding mass in the twinkling of an eye.

Hi body was split open, and from it, yet quivering with life, some of his internal organs were torn from their places and strewed along the terrible track of the heavy piece of boiler plate, which swept through the air with irresistible force, cutting limbs from trees 30 or 40 feet from the ground, and splattering their inanimate trunks with the brains and blood of the luckless engineer.

Having exhausted its force, the mass of iron fell in the road 100 yards from where it started, and a few feet further on lay the lifeless remains of Norris, who was mangled beyond recognition. 

Bits of his flesh, hair, and beard were found sticking to the pieces of boiler.  Death, of course, was instantaneous, and he was killed as suddenly as if he had been prostrated by a bolt of lightning.

The other men who were working in the mill were all more or less injured.  John Norris Jr., the sawyer, had an arm broken, but was not rendered unconscious.

Elbert Norris, aged 18, Willis McAtee, aged 35, and Thomas Murphy were all prostrated by the force of the explosion, the breath knocked out of them, and each more or less seriously hurt.  Elbert Norris’ hurts were of the most serious character and may yet prove fatal.  He has a dangerous scalp wound, and was bruised about the body.

Clay Doane was the only man about the mill who was not injured.  He stood within 100 yards of the mill when the explosion occurred, and says the shock did not affect him, nor even frighten his team.  All the occupants of the houses in the neighborhood, however, felt the shock.

Mr. Doane was, of course, the first on the scene of the shocking accident, and he cared for the wounded as best he could till aid came.  The body of the dead man was put in as presentable shape as possible under the circumstances, and conveyed to the deceased’s home, near St. Mary’s.  The wounded men were also taken home, and their injuries attended to.

Based on plat maps and the description given in the article I believe I was able to work out where the accident took place.  Just north of the Amish school (north of Cannelsburg) on County Road 775 East, south of County Road 400 North.

Assumed location of accident where George "Jack" Norris died, north of Cannelsburg, Indiana