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!?