52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Education

It was not an education I had anticipated. It fell into my lap unexpectedly. When discovered, it called out to me to stare at it straight in the face and determine what I could learn from it. It was an education in the anatomy of a murder.

What sparked the education was a death certificate found…cause of death as fracture of the first vertebrae as induced by execution. I sought more information on this case. Newspaper clippings, obituaries, YouTube videos were reviewed. How had this all exploded? Why did he have an implosion inside his brain and emotions?

A year before the murder, Bill and Sadie lived in the mountains near Mont Alto, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. It was 1910. Bill worked for various farmers in the area. Sadie kept house. They lived without benefit of marriage as she was married to a Mr. Mathna who had deserted her and moved west. Bill insisted that Sadie seek a divorce…no, she would not. Finally, the two separated. Sadie moved back to the Forest Academy in Mont Alto where she previously worked in the kitchen. Bill moved back to nearby Waynesboro where he was a laborer at various jobs. As time passed, the two exchanged love letters and pictures. He went every Saturday and Sunday to visit her. Then, the last straw…he discovered she was seeing other men.

Days before that Tuesday morning when he took the train to Mont Alto, Bill purchased a new suit, shirt, tie, and hat. He also slipped something into his jacket pocket. He was going to have his showdown with Sadie. He would ask her for the pictures and letters back. One picture precious to him was his military photo taken at the time of the Spanish American War. He was going to break it off with the unfaithful woman.

As he arrived at the dining hall kitchen where Sadie worked, he noticed that only she was present. She sat grinding coffee. He told her the reason for his visit…he wanted his letters and pictures back. She related that she would go to her room to get them. When she returned to hand them over, Bill noticed that some were missing including his military picture. Again she went to her room to retrieve them. When she entered the room, she threw one of the letters and a picture in the fire of the stove…she picked up the coffee grinder to throw at him. He pulled a gun from his jacket pocket, and she declared that he was too scared to shoot her. Firing and hitting her three times, he proved her to be wrong. She staggered across the kitchen, walked into the dining room, and fell. Bill left…”I have fixed her good” he was heard to say.

Later that day, Bill appeared at the magistrate’s office. While smoking a cigar, he calmly stated that he was the one who shot Sadie. It as not an accident he declared. He meant to hurt her.

At his trial in the spring of 1912, his defense was insanity. He snapped when she made him angry. Throwing his picture into the fire had made him snap. Witnesses came forward who testified that he had threatened to kill her when she was known to have cheated. Jailers testified that he was calm and repentant while incarcerated. Then the case went to the jury…guilty…the sentence would be death by hanging.

William F. Reed was the last man hung in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, on 30 April 1912. Until his death, he asserted that he had no intention to kill nor had he made any such threats to do so. So what about the testimonies of his accusers? Or was Bill delusional?

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Out of Place

There they sit…abandoned…forsaken…tossed away. They wait with hope that someone will recognize them and bring them home to their proper places…to be treasured, remembered, and embraced. Why were they left here to await their final fates?

Some of them rest behind stately glass and are enshrined in golden filigree. Some reside in ornate frames. Some are simply tossed into piles or boxes. Some have been regally placed in photo albums. Who will come and claim them for whatever reasons they choose?

As I gaze upon their faces, I wish I could save them all. I wish I could give them the prominent places they deserved. They had been, perhaps, Civil War soldiers who proudly had their pictures taken to send home while they were away. Some are school pictures of children with toothless grins. Some are family groupings of people dressed in their Sunday best. Some are blushing brides and beaming grooms, united to begin new families. At one time, they all belonged to someone who loved them.

Now they sit in antique malls for sale. Customers are invited to claim “instant relatives”. They are now nameless. Who will want them? They seem so out of place these old photos…for sale..forgotten. Waiting for a miracle for them…that someone will recognize them and bring them home.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Favorite Photo

My forever favorite photo of the two of us…with the first man I ever loved. My dad. My father, Edward Joseph Slabik.

I remember that…he would come home from work and play with me. He would give me piggyback rides. He would squirt me with the garden hose and make me squeal with laughter. He would take me to the library. He would take me in the car to see the Christmas lights while my mom stayed home and wrapped my packages. He would introduce me to the Smithsonian. He got me my first dog, Taffy. The saying goes that “a picture tells a thousand stories”. For me, it is a “picture cultivates a thousand memories”.

Together we spend 58 years. From him, I inherited a love of reading, music, mysteries, letter writing, history. My mom once said, “You grew up from being daddy’s little girl to your father’s daughter.” I think she meant I was a chip off the old block.

It is amazing, wonderful, spectacular how one picture from long ago can bring back so many beautiful memories…never forgotten, always just there to grab onto.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: I’d Like To Meet You

You have always held a certain mystique about you all. You seem far away…not just in the distance of time, but in knowing who you truly are and were. I cannot even picture your faces and demeanor. I long to meet you.

Joseph Boultinghouse and Rachel Buckston, you are my 4th great grandparents. Joseph, I am confused about your military service during the Revolutionary War. You were enlisted in the New Jersey Militia…deserted…joined up with the Virginia Militia. I realize that soldiers went from group to group depending on many circumstances. After the war, you located to western Pennsylvania and ended up in White County, Illinois. Rachel, you are a complete mystery to me. In reading about women’s lives on the plains, I understand it was very harsh and almost unforgiving. How did you both survive all this?

Daniel Boultinghouse and Rhoda Howell, you are my 3rd great grandparents. Daniel, you went from place to place from Pennsylvania, to the Ohio Valley, and finally to Illinois. Like your father, you are a veteran of a war, the War of 1812. You married three times and had 13 children. One of your sons was killed in an Indian attack, and you vowed revenge. What were you really like…who were you? Rhoda, you were Daniel’s third wife. Together you raised many children along with two of your own. Was this a marriage of convenience? After Daniel’s death, you can be found in the probate records as appearing at the White County courthouse and settling Daniel’s debts. After that, you completely disappear. What happened to you?

In meeting you all, I would have many questions for all of you. I would listen to your stories and memories. I would acknowledge your times and places in history. One day, we will be reunited and meet for the first time.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Overlooked

Charlotte R. Boultinghouse, 1856-1928

I had overlooked many of the children of my 2nd great grandparents, Amos H. Boultinghouse and Mary Magdalina Kraemer. I had not taken a deep dive to find little details of their lives. Then, my Aunt Charlotte, my Aunt Lottie came to my attention. Who was she and what made her come alive to me? Searching…

Aunt Lottie was born before the Civil War in Illinois. At the age of five, her dad went off to war with the 55th Illinois Infantry. How did she bear his absence from her life and the farm? How did her mother keep him alive in her memory while he was gone? An untold story…

When she was 15, she walked across Illinois into Kansas. They went by wagon train. Some of her married brothers and sisters went with her and her parents. Her mother Mary was pregnant. What were some of her experiences walking day after day? How did she assist her mother? Why a move to Kansas when the family was already established in their home state? Unanswered questions…

When they settled in Osborne County, Kansas, her mother gave birth to a son with a tent as shelter. Perhaps listening and waiting, was Mary present outside the tent ? Did she help care for the baby? Time forgotten details…

Items in the weekly newspaper, The Osborne County Farmer, related that Lottie attended school being held in the local hotel. It was 1872, and she was 16. Some of her classmates became lifelong best friends to her. Was it unusual for a girl that age to attend school when her help would be needed on the farm? How did her parents value her education? What was she studying and learning? A mystery…

At the age of 23, she married Henry Louis Korb, another early settler in the county. Through time, Lottie gave birth to six children. Together, they created a livestock business. They moved with their family to the new state of Oklahoma where Louis continued his business and also was a Deputy U. S. Marshall. Later, they would return to Kansas. How would Aunt Lottie describe her life as a wife, mother, and neighbor? Did she fear for Louis and his job as a deputy? Memories lost…

In the final chapter of her life, Aunt Lottie lived without her beloved Louis as he passed away 12 years before her. She relocated in Riverside County, California, to be near her daughters. Three of her children preceded her in death. Throughout her life, she had gone from Illinois to Kansas to Oklahoma to Kansas to California. The details of her life had been overlooked by me, but I took up the search to sort them out. Once overlooked but revived…

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Wrong Side of the Law

The story of the fire was reported in the weekly paper. The surprising part was there was no backstory…no investigation was announced. Wasn’t there more to the story than a house and business lost in the flames?

He was an alcoholic, and Kansas was a dry state…selling and buying liquor was illegal. Somehow, he found suppliers and managed to keep their names a secret. He tried to maintain his dignity and place in his tiny community. He was referred to as “the town drunk”. He was questioned by the law as to the sources for the alcohol, but he did not reveal any names.

When it became known that he had been questioned, his suppliers got nervous. Would he cave into authorities and reveal their names? It was time for them to issue him a warning, something that would be blatant and get his attention. And so, the warning was given.

It was a Thursday in 1935. He and his family were attending a funeral, and no one would be home nor the business open for the day. Fire! All was destroyed…a fire brand of a warning to remain silent and not disclose any names. He never reported who and how his property was burned.

All the involved parties were on the wrong side of the law…Lafe for buying and the suppliers for arson. They took their secrets with them; however, my mother, who was his granddaughter, revealed the secret to me many years later.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Tombstones

Imagine…there was no way to find them. They had simply vanished, ceased to exist, presumed to be heading into a brick wall. Not a clue left behind could be uncovered. No records could be found. What had happened to them? Would their resting places ever be located?

Sitting on this mystery for several years, the genealogist donned her detective persona. Were they buried near their children? Could death certificates provide any clues? What church records might be dug up?

The sought for couple, Benjamin Haffner and Julianna Beason Haffner, had lived in Martinsburg, Virginia, in 1860 (according to the U.S. Federal Census). This was the last information to be found. They lived in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley where General Thomas (“Stonewall”) Jackson commandeered the town’s railroad in June, 1861. Two years later, this area would break off from Virginia and become the state of West Virginia. They were living through times of unrest, unsettlement, and uncertainty…and civil war. At that time, every trace of them disappeared.

The genealogist located where two of their sons were buried. They could be found in a Lutheran cemetery in the suburbs of Washington, D. C. They had unmarked graves. Two of the daughters lived in the National Lutheran Home in Washington, D.C. Their death certificates were located but were no real help. The undertaker in Washington recorded that their bodies would be shipped by train to Martinsburg. No other information was given.

Finally, researching digitized newspaper articles, the genealogist found an article about the Saturday funeral (in 1912) of one of the daughters. The service would take place in Martinsburg. Rebecca was to be buried next to her parents in the old Norbonne Cemetery. Finally, here was a clue.

Unfortunately, the Norbonne Cemetery records were of no help and did not indicate where the family was buried. There were no markers, no tombstones to mark their final resting places. A mystery…a brick wall…information was unattainable. They had vanished into the mists.

Note: I was the genealogist who worked on this family. Benjamin and Julianna are my husband’s 3rd great grandparents while Rebecca is his 2nd great aunt. Will this brick wall ever come down?

52 Ancestors In A Week: Ghost Story (A Play On Words)

There was a ghost of a chance that they would all succeed. The cards were stacked against them. They faced the most powerful forces in the then known world. Their loss would mean the loss of their lives and lands. They would be branded as traitors…an affront to their Sovereign.

Before all of this physical rebellion, ideas were forming in men’s and women’s minds. Mighty and powerful thoughts were written and spoken. Debates took place in colonial houses of government where men were dared to think beyond the challenges. Some spoke their truths and dared to claim their sacred honors of God-given inalienable rights. Some spoke their truths and dared to swear to the Divine Right of their king. Some threw their fates to the winds and remained silent. There was a ghost of a chance that all could exist peacefully and respect each other’s opinions. “These are the times that try men’s souls,” penned Thomas Paine.

And so my seven fourth and fifth grandfathers pledged their souls and sacred honors to the Patriots’ cause for revolution…for ideals and freedom from a European king…for the foundation of a new nation. They were Joseph Story, Joseph Boultinghouse, Benjamin Dows, Conrad Rhodes, John Nickel, Ebenezer Newman, and Thomas Newman. If they felt that they stood a ghost of a chance, they kept that fear hidden underneath hearts of courage, bravery, and rightness.

This Friday, we celebrate Veterans’ Day. May we remember with pride our first American veterans of war.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Shadows

Hiding in the shadows was an air of mystery…a murder mystery. She had managed to keep it all to herself, that is, until she was exposed for the cold-hearted woman she was. Caught, put on trial, sentenced to prison.

Her secret lay hidden in marriage certificates, census records, and other resources. A chance Goggle of an ancestor’s name lead to a modern newspaper article from Washington County, Missouri: 1872 Murder Begins in County. Oh my my, Rebecca Eldridge Freeland Eads Leven Howard Boultinghouse…what have you done? And how are you related to my 2nd great uncle Frank?

Miss Becky, as she was called, led a life of living with different men and calling them “husband”. In actuality, she was widowed to a Mr. Eads. When living with Mr. Joe Howard, she helped raise Mr. Eads’s children. One morning in 1872, one of his boys had gathered the eggs from the henhouse. Becky claimed that there should be more eggs. The child related that the dog had eaten three. Accusing the six year boy of lying, she slammed an axe handle across his head. He fell dead. There were two witnesses to the crime. One was a daughter whom Becky took by mule 40 miles away and left her to die in the woods so she could tell no one what she had witnessed. The child survived and was taken in by a farmer. The other witness, Joe Howard, who was her supposed husband was a criminal in himself. Becky made him her partner in crime as he was a horse thief. Together, they fled the area.

Miss Becky fled to St. Louis in 1875. An attractive woman, she lured Frank Boltinghouse, a brakeman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, into her web. They began living together, and she was with child. Meanwhile, Joe Howard was arrested in another part of the state for horse stealing. When he began to write letters to Mrs. Rebecca Boltinghouse, the police suspected that she was actually Becky Eads. The murder of the boy by Becky had been revealed to the police. Now, the police intended to track her down.

A police detective in St. Louis tracked Miss Becky to the address where Joe had been sending letters. Arrested, she was jailed. Her boyfriend Frank Boltinghouse came to visit her, and together they cried about her misdeeds. It was decided that they would marry at jail. She officially and legally became Mrs. Boltinghouse.

Both Becky and Joe Howard were taken to Jefferson County where the murder actually happened. She was charged with murder, and he was charged with helping her conceal the body. It took two trials and two verdicts to find her guilty…guilty of second degree murder with a prison sentence of 10 years. In 1881, she began to serve her term in Goodspeed Prison. When released from prison, not much is known about Miss Becky. She died in 1900. Perhaps, she took some secrets to the shadow of her grave.

As for Joe Howard, he was later hung for horse stealing by an angry mob in Pacific, Missouri.

My 2nd great uncle Frank Boltinghouse went on to marry a law abiding woman and have a daughter. He died in 1919.

All of this is a mystery just a Goggle away! Convoluted, puzzling…how could a woman be so cruel and conniving!?

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Organized

Organized…every ounce of our beings must be organized for this trip. From the train ride in Chicago, to crossing the Mississippi River, to boarding a covered wagon in Missouri…organized. I learned how to organize wagons through my experience of being a wagoner in the Civil War as I traveled with Generals Grant and Sherman to Vicksburg. Just six years ago.

In this year of 1871, our family is going to Kansas from our current home in DuPage County, Illinois. President Lincoln’s Homestead Act is calling us there for a claim of free land. My married son John and family along with daughter Mary and family are coming along. Three families will be organized with all it takes to make the journey.

We need oxen, barrels of dry goods and food, and water along with the wagon. Every crate and barrel has to be carefully weighed as the oxen can pull a limited amount along the trail. We can travel about 15 miles a day as the family will be walking beside the wagon to ease the load for the oxen. My wife of 27 years and mother of nine is carrying a child as we travel along so she can ride in the wagon along the way…Mary says the ride will be bumpy and unsteady…she will get jostled…she will walk part of the way.

There are about 30 other families traveling with us. At night, we will sit by the fire as we eat our evening meal. Some of them will share their stories of why they are going to Kansas for a new start. Like me, many of the men have served in the war and gained experience in going to new places. They are restless and need the dream of claiming lands.

Our first stop will be in Washington County, Kansas. There is a Pony Express Station there where we can refresh ourselves and, perhaps, restock some goods. From there it is about 100 miles to our final destination of Osborne County…about a week’s travel. I am worried for Mary as the due date for the baby will near.

May God grant us the resilience and courage to make this journey. We pray that being organized and ready to venture forth will be hallmarks of His Providence.

~Amos H. Boultinghouse 1871

Final note: Mary’s baby was born a few days after their arrival in Osborne County. Mary and baby Lafayette shared a tent for the birth. Amos and Mary lived in the county for about 25 years before their deaths. They are my 2nd great grandparents…Lafayette is my great grandfather.