Sunday, October 19, 2014

Momento Mori

© 2003 by the American Antiquarian Society
David Rumsey map collection
Even before I got into genealogy, I was fascinated by old graveyards. At first it was the Victorian
era graves with their weeping angels and cherubs. Then I discovered the really old stones in my
native New England. I was hooked. I love the angel of death images, the weeping willows and all
the symbology that goes with these very old stones. Luckily, I'm not the only one.  The Rumsey
map collection has a lovely archive of black and white photos of these old stones which were mostly
taken by David Farber and his wife Jesse. You can browse these images here.  If these images
seem macabre you may want to read about the meanings associated with them in this excellent
pdf written by Jesse Lie Farber.

Of course, I had to start combing the various photo collections looking for family members. The photo above is the stone for Benjamin Shed, my 7th great grandfather. He lived to a ripe old age in Billerica,
Massachusetts. The winged face was a symbol or resurrection and life everlasting.

© 2003 by the American Antiquarian Society
David Rumsey map collection
Here's another ancestor and a similar stone for Joanna Woodbury Herrick, my eighth great grandmother. This stone is a bit more elaborate with lovely vines and flowers around the edge.
© 2003 by the American Antiquarian Society
David Rumsey map collection
This image isn't the stone for a relative, but I love the relief carving of the skull and crossbones.

Of course then there's the whole topic of humorous epitaphs. So far I haven't located any clever
ancestors, but with any luck you might on this site or over at FindaGrave.  There are a number
of epitaphs still up at AVery Grave Matter, but the wonderful bank of photos isn't there and the
site seems not to be kept up. 

Just one more place to find a little glimpse of one of your ancestors. Happy hunting!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Finding Uncle Andrew

Long Island Light-Courtesy Boston Public Library Archives
Growing up, I peppered my father with questions about the Fitzgeralds and the Cooks. He could tell me very little. One thing he did remember was going to visit "Uncle Andrew" at a hospital somewhere in Boston. My mother later confided that this was my grandfather's brother who supposedly was dying at the time of cirrhosis. I can guess why THAT story didn't make it into family lore.

I discovered that there WAS, in fact, an Uncle Andrew. Andrew Fitzgerald grew up in the house on Charles River Avenue and became a teamster like his father. There's no evidence he married and very little about him in the census in his adult years. In the1930 census I came across this:

So the April 1930 Census puts 62-year-old Andrew in the Long Island Almshouse, also known as the Long Island Prison Hospital. This is where 13-year-old John and his dad would have visited Uncle Andrew. Yet again, some facts that fit a family story. I would imagine Andrew died on the island. I'll have to make inquiries with the City of Boston. I haven't found a death record yet, but his grave is either in the small cemetery on the island or unmarked in the family plot at Holy Cross.


Long Island is one of the harbor islands inside Boston Harbor now in the control of the National Parks Service. You can take a ferry ride to several of the islands, but Long Island is still closed to the public. It has an interesting history as I found laid out in a report to Mayor Menino in 2002. It is the largest of all the harbor islands and was inhabited early on by Native Americans. Later it was used as a sort of holding facility for native tribes. The report goes on to talk about its role in the American Revolution:
"Its height and strategic location also allowed it to command both entrances to Boston's inner harbor (Broad Sound and the Narrows). In 1775, 500 Continental soldiers landed on Long Island, stole livestock, and took seventeen British sailors prisoner. The following year, a force of Continental soldiers and militia men occupied the island and built defensive batteries which were used to bombard British vessels entering Boston Harbor during the Revolutionary War."

During the Civil War it was used as a place to drill and train soldiers and was fortified with gun emplacements. Later, in a complete change of use, people began to use it as a recreational spot.
A hotel was built which remained in operation until 1885.
Courtesy of Boston Public Library Archives



In 1887, the city of Boston acquired almost the entire island to house city charities. An almshouse for the poor, a treatment hospital for chronic illness, a nursing school a prison facility and other charity facilities took over the buildings. The hospital treated chronic alcoholism at a time when this was considered more of a "defect of character" than an illness. People whose chronic drunkenness caused a public nuisance would be likely to end up at Long Island. (By 1940 they were calling it an alcohol treatment facility rather than a prison) This, I suspect, is how Andrew ended up there in 1930.


Men's hospital on Long Island-Courtesy BPL archives
Men's ward-Long Island hospital- Courtesy of BPL archives


The island again became a military facility during WWII and later NIKE missiles were housed there. Many buildings have been demolished, but many still remain on the island and are used to house shelters and substance abuse treatment programs.  I would imagine it is a pleasant place to be in the summer, but miserably cold and windy in Boston winters.

I came across one last tidbit of lore concerning the island- a ghost story.
Woman in Scarlet
Boston Harbor’s Long Island is home to one of the most tragic Boston Ghost Stories. At the close of the American Revolution, the British still had several ships lagging in Boston Harbor. On board one of these ships were William and Mary Burton. The newly weds, like so many others, were fleeing the chaos of this besieged city and looking forward to spending their lives together across the Atlantic. 

As their ship attempted to sail out of Boston Harbor, a cannon ball from the Long Island Battery hit Mary in back of the head. Unbelievably, she was not killed instantly, but lingered on for several days in excruciating pain before succumbing to her massive head trauma. As she lay dying, Mary pleaded with her husband not to bury her at sea. She was never fond of the sea and could not bear to have her earthly remains consigned to a watery grave. Eventually mary died of her injuries and William was permitted to venture to Long Island to bury his love. Once ashore, he sewed her body into a soft red blanket that Mary had brought aboard with her to keep warm on the long journey home and laid her to rest in the sandy dunes. He fashioned a headstone out of a piece of driftwood and as he carved her name into it he swore that he would return to Boston and give her a proper marker. He never returned.

But Mary, it seems, refuses to be forgotten. To this day, visitors to the island report seeing a woman with “muddy-gray skin” and wearing a scarlet cloak stumbling over the sandy dunes. Blood is usually seen streaming down her cloak from a gaping hole in the back of her head—the exact spot where the cannon fire had smashed her skull. 

This story sounds like a yarn to me, but I'm sure for some it was effective at keeping people away from the island.  There is a movement afoot to catalog the graveyard, where stones are few and most are undocumented on Find-a-Grave. Perhaps this will turn up one last trace of Uncle Andrew.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Revolutionary Ideas- The Story of Three Sisters

Dunn Cemetery- Bloomington Indiana
On the Indiana side of my mother's family tree, we are related to the Dunns. They settled in Rockingham County, Virginia, removed to Kentucky and my branch ended up in Indiana. There are Dunns all over Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana who descend from this line. This story goes even further back. Samuel Fowler Dunn married Eleanor Brewster, one of many children and one of  three very well-known daughters of James Brewster and Eleanor Williamson. James Brewster and Samuel's father John Dunn were lifelong friends from their childhood in Northern Ireland.

The story of their bravery during the American Revolution has been told and retold in multiple versions all over the genealogical community.  The girls were Eleanor who was 22, Jenette-14 and Agnes-13 at the start of the Revolution. The farm raised sheep and the girls carded the wool, spun it and wove it into cloth to supply the armies who camped on and near their land. They cooked and carried food to the troops. One particular story has them baking bread continually night and day in a particular bread oven brought with the family from Ireland. The oven, it is said, was never allowed to cool. It was handed down in the Dunn family to girls named Jennet or Janet.  Recognition of the bravery of the three girls has been given by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.You can read various things about the family here.

Eleanor, my ancestor, married Samuel Fowler Dunn. He moved out of Virginia and Kentucky and further north into Indiana, because it is said he objected to slavery.  Jenette married Samuel Irvin and Agnes married William Alexander. The three sisters all ended up in Indiana in the area around Bloomington.

George G Dunn deeded a portion of the family farm to be kept in perpetuity as a cemetery for the descendants of the Dunn family. The land around it was later sold to Indiana University, so the cemetery and chapel now sit on the university campus.  There is a monument to the three sisters in one corner of the cemetery.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

James Henry "Harry" Tapply

James Henry "Harry"
No download or reproduction without express permission
When I was doing a bit of research for my last post,  I came across some interesting material about my grandmother's brother "Harry" Tapply. Of course I've told the story of his wife and his child during this World War I period. This photo is courtesy of my cousin Holly Jones, who reports that this is Harry in 1915 atop General Pershing's horse. Well, maybe. You know by now how those family stories go.
Harry did, in fact, serve in the military police of the 26th Division during World War I. What I came across that amazed me was an account, in his own words, of his experience.

On January 18, 1919 as the war had drawn to a close, The Fitchburg Sentinel published an article with war accounts from three soldiers. One was Harry Tapply excerpted from a letter to his sister (named only as 'Miss Tapply') The newspaper scan was in very poor condition, so I will give you an abbreviated version here:

"I am still in Montigny-le-Roi and I hope when we move it will be toward the coast but I read in the paper that all the veteran divisions will remain here until peace is signed. If that is true we will be here for some time yet.
The other day I went hunting wild boar with the town mayor of Montigny. We has no luck though, but the experience was wonderful. In all there were nine dogs. We have had much better food after the signing of the armistice and have had it more regular. For dinner yesterday we had hamburger steak, creamed carrots, mashed potatoes, bread pudding, coffee and bread with butter. We never got such food as that at the front. Very often after marching all day we got nothing but bread and coffee and sometimes we had nothing to eat for two days.
While we were on these marches we slept whenever we stopped. Sometimes in gutters or fields and to make things more pleasant the Boche would send over whiz-bang and black Marias and many other things too numerous to mention. A fellow thinks of home when he sees a chum blown to bits and has to pick him up in a blanket.
At Chateau (unreadable)    I went through a wheat field........in size and counted 36 mothers’ sons who would never return. Some of them mere boys with innocent faces and all were volunteers from our own division.
At Verdun it was even worse. Everywhere a Yankee fell a rifle was placed on end by running the bayonet into the ground. You could look out across most any part and see hundreds of such rifles denoting that many hundred would never return.
I went through Belleu woods and the sights I saw cannot be imagined by any human being. The woods themselves were demolished and men were buried half covered up and with hands and feet sticking out of the ground the and the odor was ...... You can see why the volunteers are  ..... These were ……. of the sights and horrors of war.
I wonder how many of the men back home running things would say ‘ go on ‘ if they had to do the going and ………..
All I can say is we are all thankful it is over and that we are ……..pushing………No Man’s Land."

I don't think any words could make his experience plainer. Harry Tapply came home with this loss and others to join the Fitchburg police force. He remarried, had four more children, and served with honor until his death in 1942.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

In Flanders Fields


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
                                                       Between the crosses, row on row,  
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
 Loved and were loved, and now we lie 
 In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
 To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
   If ye break faith with us who die
 We shall not sleep, though poppies grow  
               In Flanders fields.
-Colonel John McCrae
It was said that where great battles were waged during World War I, fields of poppies sprung up over the graves of the dead. Thus, the poppy came to symbolize their service. The fields of ceramic poppies places around the Tower of London are in remembrance of British or colonial soldiers who died in " The Great War".   Just a quick search through my tree revealed a few from my tree, both American and British,  who served in this war.
Robert Burns Begg
Harold Clive Miles
George Allan Otto
Frank Webb Tapply
George Samuel Tapply
Harry James Tapply
Hugh Lansdell Tapply
Sidney Lansdell Tapply

For their service....

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Setting the Scene - The Archers in 1906

Market Street, San Francisco, April 14, 1906
I love the idea of capturing a small slice of life from the times in which my ancestors lived. The wonderful Lisa Louise Cooke has remastered an earlier podcast where she suggests using silent films as a way of putting the lives of your ancestors in context; looking at life at the time and appreciating early films your ancestors may also have enjoyed. You can listen to the whole podcast and read the show notes here. The still above is from a movie called "A Trip Down Market Street" and it was filmed just four days before the earthquake and fire. As I listened to Lisa describe the film in the podcast I realized, "I had an ancestor living in San Francisco at this time!"

OK...so I need to set the scene for my cousins. This was not a direct ancestor. I've made a little tree that shows how we are related.
So my three times great grandmother, Margaret Archer, had a younger brother Samuel Milton Archer who became a doctor and moved west to the Salinas Valley around Monterrey. He had two wives and a very large family. His eldest son, Aretas Allen Archer, became a San Francisco policeman.
For obvious reasons I couldn't find a 1906 directory, but he shows up in both 1905 and 1907 living with his sister Agnes Archer and her husband Christian Melin, a master mariner.
The Melins moved to Church Street briefly after the earthquake, but by the 1910 census they were back on Fair Oaks Street. This is between Noe Valley and the Mission District near Mission Delores Park. Did they "camp out" in the park after the earthquake?  Who knows? The area south of Market Street shook pretty hard. 
You'll notice that I've captured a still with a policeman in it. It's a little tip of the hat to Aretas Archer.  Go to YouTube and watch this film all the way through. It's just a little bit of light-hearted fun before a very grim chapter in San Francisco history, but it gives you a glimpse of a time gone by.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday

No reproduction or downloads without
express permission
In honor of a hot July day, I thought I'd take a trip to the beach. My family liked to go up to the Maine beaches, but the back of the photo doesn't tell us where this was taken. From the back we have:
Lotta Smith, Primrose Rogers Tapply, Clara Smith, and Primrose (Primsy) Rogers. Love those bathing costumes and the bathing shoes. This was about 1930.