Sunday, June 26, 2011

Black Sheep Sunday: Does this look like a nice man?

Fresno Morning Republican
Tuesday, January 13, 1925
Page two

I don't think so.  But he's my 2nd great grandfather, William Warren McAboy.  I've had this photo from William's obituary for about a year.  And every time I've looked at it I thought he must have not been a nice man.  Sadly, I think I'm right.

William was born in DeWitt County, Illinois on December 12, 1842 and was the oldest child of James Robert McAboy and Sarah Mann.  The family seemed to move a bit, from DeWitt County to McLean County and back again, before William mustered into army service in Battery F, Second Regiment of Voluntary Light Artillery in 1861.  At some point I believe he also served in Company F, 4th Cavalry Regiment Illinois.  I think I see another pension record in my future.

William was married to Rebecca Moriah Waller on January 10, 1864 in DeWitt County and life seemed good.  Together they had six children, the youngest of which was my great grandmother, Mabel McAboy (1883-1966).  William was a florist and gardener and in 1881 established a business (cost of $3,000) located in block 21, four blocks south of the Clinton public square.  It had three green houses, each 50 feet in length.  Either $5,000 or 5,000 plants were raised annually (conflicting information), and the business employed three people.

In 1883, one of the greenhouses caught fire.  The Clinton Public Newspaper reported on January 5, 1883:

At two o'clock last Saturday morning Mrs. W. W. McABOY was awakened from a sense of suffocation, and she awakened her husband. The bedroom was full of smoke, and when Mr. McABOY opened the door leading to the office of his green-house he was driven back by the smoke and flames. Mr. McAboy got out in the street and gave the alarm of fire, and then went back and tried to quench the flames. It seemed an age to Mr. McAboy before help came to him, but during the interval he did effective work in fighting the fire. After hard work the flames were subdued, but the wreck of flowers and glass in the green-house was great. One of the green-houses was nearly destroyed and the others were badly damaged. Mr. McAboy estimates his loss at between $400 and $500, and on flowers and seeds about $300. A kind friend went among the business men on Saturday and raised about $100 to help Mr. McAboy repair his losses. The fire caught in a barrel of soot that was in the cellar under the office. It is supposed to be a case of spontaneous combustion.

What a sad time that must have been and William was obviously well respected for his friend to raise $100 to help with his losses. 

But things changed and on September 13, 1889, the Clinton Public Newspaper had the following report:

A Brutal Father.
W. W. McABOY, the proprietor of the nursery, made a brutal assault on his son Emery on Tuesday about noon. The boy came uptown in the forenoon and went to see the game of baseball, and on his return home he had a racket with his father. McAboy threw some tomatoes at the boy and then picked up a chair and struck him on the head, cutting a bad gash. Mrs. McABOY was sick in bed and hearing the racket she screamed and fainted. The boy ran to his mother at once and seeing her condition he started out to get a doctor. As the boy was going out of the door, McAboy threw a tumbler at him, which struck him on the arm and cut an artery. The boy went over for Dr. HYDE to go and see his mother, and not finding him at home he came uptown for Dr. WILCOX. By the time he reached the square he was faint from loss of blood, and the consequences might have been dangerous had his wounds not been bound up at once. From his home up to the square he could be tracked by the blood spots on the sidewalk. Marshal MOFFET saw the boy and as soon as he learned the cause of his wounds he went to McAboy’s house and arrested him. McAboy not being ready for trial, his case was postponed till next Tuesday. The boy Emery is very industrious and attentive to his father’s business, working day and night. He is a perfect young gentleman and he has the sympathy of everybody. He is yet nursing his wounds, carrying his arm in a sling and his head is bandaged. For such a brutal assault on his own boy McAboy should be made to suffer the full penalty of the law to teach him a lesson. A fine would be no punishment as he is well able to pay it.

Uh-oh, looks like I was right and William wasn't a nice man after all.  Young Emery was 19 years old and his father assaulted him, over and over again with tomatoes, a chair, and a tumbler.  In the court papers I was able to obtain while in DeWitt County, the records show he was charged with "assault with a deadly weapon" and "the sheriff will hold the defendant to bail in the sum of one hundred dollars".  I cannot determine the outcome of the proceedings but I do see that not only was James "Emery" commanded to appear as a witness, but also his sister, Lilly.  Can you imagine the horror of witnessing your father assault your younger brother?

Things didn't get much better for William and Rebecca.  On January 10, 1890 the Clinton Public Newspaper reported that "W.W. McAboy left for California this week.  He has left his family in almost destitute circumstances.  Mrs. McAboy has been confined to her bed for several months, which is almost unendurable for her to bear.  The family has the sympathy of the community".  And then on March 7, 1890 "W.B. McAboy has returned from California.  He does not think that the land of climate is a perfect paradise, though a man might live there if there was not such a State of Illinois".   Now I'm not sure that the W.B. McAboy referenced on March 7 was really W.W. McAboy but I'm going to assume that it was because I know that William and Rebecca did end up in Fresno, California.  I like to think that William arrived in Fresno and realized he couldn't go on without his family and, thus, returned in March for them.  And in my positive world I believe they found a fresh start and lived happily in California.  But then I always like to see the positive in things.

William died in Santa Cruz on January 12, 1925 while living there with Rebecca.  What were they doing in Santa Cruz?  Was his health poor and he was hopeful that the cool ocean breeze would be a better climate than the heat of Fresno?  After his death, his body was brought back to Fresno for burial and, apparently, Rebecca remained there until her death almost 4 years later.  William's memorial. 

So while it seems that my gut was right in thinking William wasn't a nice man, he was still my 2nd great grandfather and another piece to my puzzle.  And we have to take the good with the bad.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I came, I saw, I conquered

What's a maroon, anyway?

We made it to Clinton, Illinois, home for many generations of my family!  What a thrill and I am so thankful we were able to spend some time there.

As suggested, I did my homework and contacted the DeWitt County Genealogical Society prior to our visit so I could feel fairly prepared for what was ahead of me.  The primary suggestion they had for me was, if possible, to visit on a Thursday as that was the only day volunteers were present and able to help.  As luck would have it, our road trip had us in Clinton on Thursday.

We arrived at the Vespasian Waner Library, home of the DeWitty County Genealogical Society at about noon on Thursday.  Imagine my surprise when we walked in and there were three people in the library.  Clinton is a fairly small town and I was surprised that three people were already there researching.  But I was even more surprised when I realized these people were volunteers and were all just waiting to help me research.  And boy did they help!

Charlotte was the first to ask "how can we help?" and I stammered something silly like "I'm looking for my family".  I mentioned the surname of Waller and she quickly jumped up and took me to a file cabinet while explaining "we have a file on them".  So it was a small file and half of it was copies of e-mails I had written to them but I sure was impressed with her memory.

Within minutes there were books and binders everywhere and all three of them were throwing questions at me.  When was he born?  Is this your relative?  What year did she die?  Were they married here?  More and more books arrived and then I stopped dead in my tracks - there in the probate book was Salmon Waller.  Deep breath.  Salmon (or Solomon) was the father of my elusive Emery Waller and my 4th great grandfather.  He is also the next punch I need on my DAR application ticket.  In fact, my primary goal while visiting DeWitt County was finding Salmon's burial site.  But I knew that there were several Salmon Wallers in my line as several of Salmon's ancestors named their children Salmon (who has the name Salmon, anyway?). 

I asked about the probate record - was it here, how difficult would it be to see, and some other ridiculous questions, I'm sure.  Charlotte explained that when the County digitized their records recently, they were going to throw out all of the corresponding material so the Genealogicial Society took everything, organized it, and put it in boxes downstairs.  Downstairs!  All I had to do was tell them which records I wanted to see and John would go downstairs and get them for me!  After another deep breath I said "this one, I want to see this one!" and off he went.  And about 5 minutes later he came back into the room, huffing and puffing just a bit, and presented me with Salmon Waller's probate record.  Another deep breath while I opened the file to see the specifics and IT WAS MY SALMON WALLER!!!!!  I had seen the digitized copy of his will online but there was more in this file.  Before I could even speak, Charlotte was off to the copy machine to make copies of everything in the file for me.  And the questions kept coming!  John grabbed microfilm and started scanning, Charlotte was copying, and Jan was looking in more books to find something - anything - that would be important to me.  It really was amazing (and almost overwhelming) to see these people scurrying around looking for treasures for me. 

We were almost finished here
It's going to take some time for me to really go through everything and figure out what I have but knowing these people are anxious to help is such a relief.  I can't say enough about these wonderful volunteers!

Oh, in pouring through the probate record when I got to the hotel the main piece of information I learned was that Salmon's wife was still living when he died and lived for some years afterwards.  And since Emery was the executor, I was able to see his signature on a few things!  But still no record of Salmon's burial site.

Next stop was the County Clerk's office to see if I could find the marriage record for my 2nd great grandparents, Rebecca Moriah Waller and William Warren McAboy, who were married January 10, 1864.  We walked into the office and a nice woman asked if she could help.  I explained what I was looking for, she took a few notes, and then said she'd be right back.  A few minutes later she returned with a piece of paper in her hand and asked if it was what I was looking for.  And there it was - the ORIGINAL marriage license from 1864.  Oh my!  I was tempted to throw a 10 dollar bill on the counter, stash the certificate in my bag, and run from the building but instead I acted all grown up and said "could I get a copy of this?" which sent her scurrying to get me the copy before I made a mad dash for the door.  When she returned I stared at the original again and remembered my handy dandy mobile flip-pal scanner in my bag and asked if I could scan it.  I should have practiced more with the scanner but I did what I could and will spend some time stitching it together when I have more time.  And then I remembered the camera in my bag and asked if I could take a photo.  I'm sure this lady thought I was nuts but she humored me and even helped me find a good spot to place the document to get a photo.  I know it's not perfect and I know I need to practice more with the scanner but here it is.

And it cost just 50 cents!

I also found a piece of information that isn't as exciting which I will share later.  It does remind us, though, that we can't discriminate as to what type of information we find and have to take the good with the bad.  Sigh.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

This is the face of genealogy

This is the face of genealogy!

Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer
Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer

My paternal grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy, and her mother (my great grandmother), Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer.

Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer
Monterey High School
Class of 1915

Loraine was the Assistant Editor of the Yearbook, Monterey High School, 1915.

Loraine (Gunzendorfer) Levy
Sigmund Levy

My paternal grandparents, Loraine and Sigmund Levy.

I will never forget those who came before me.