Saturday, June 15, 2013

Genealogy Road Trip: Days 1 through 4

Without going into copious amounts of detail, I'll summarize the gist of my past couple days as this: I have traveled from Michigan to Oklahoma for a couple of job interviews to be had a week apart. I started from home in Michigan and stopped on my way down in Jackson County, Indiana and then in the neighboring county of Washington. I did not make any more stops until I reached Alva, Oklahoma, where my first interview was held. The next day after my interview I headed for my grandmother's in Del City and made a couple of stops in Major County, Oklahoma where my Baker family once resided. After arriving at my grandmother's in Del City, she and my grandfather divulged some more genealogically interesting information. I am going to share all that I learned and experienced below.

Stop 1: Jackson County, Indiana Courthouse [Brownstown, Indiana]

My first stop was the county courthouse of Jackson County. They gave me great open access to their old probate records. I did not find everything I was hoping to, but I did find a record for the citizenship of my cousin Johann Friedrich Knostman and some probate records for Thomas May, my uncle.

Stop 2: Freetown Cemetery, Freetown, Jackson, Indiana

I went into Freetown in search of the Old Freetown Cemetery where it is said my 3rd great grandmother Marie Elisabeth [Mary Elizabeth] Knostman(n) May, wife of Andrew Lewis May, is buried. I found two cemeteries north of town in the vicinity of where I read the cemetery was located (all I could find online was a reference to the cemetery being "north of Freetown" so after entering Freetown I went due north until I found it). Neither cemetery was labelled, so I decided to explore both. I found out after-the-fact that the first cemetery I searched was actually the Freetown Cemetery, and it was the one across the street which was the Old Freetown Cemetery.

Here is a video documenting this stop:

Stop 3: Old Freetown Cemetery, Freetown, Jackson, Indiana

After exploring what I thought may be the Old Freetown Cemetery, searching for Mary's grave in vain, I searched the cemetery across the street. I called my mother to consult FindAGrave and confirm that the cemetery I was then standing in was indeed the Old Freetown Cemetery. After finding the name found on one the headstones in FindAGrave's index for the Old Freetown Cemetery, I knew I was in the right place.

Unfortunately, after scouring the cemetery for nearly a half hour, I could not find Mary's grave. There were several unmarked fieldstones, but since the old indexes for the cemetery included Mary's date of death, I don't believe her to be in an unmarked grave. Perhaps, however, the information on her stone has faded away over time making it unidentifiable. I looked at every stone that could have possibly been her's and could not find it. But I enjoyed the experience regardless and appreciated being able to see Jackson County and the area where my May and Knostman families resided. I recorded another video documenting this stop:

Stop 4: The John Hay Center - Museum of the Washington County Historical Society in Salem, Washington, Indiana

I next stopped at the John Hay Center to see what information could be found on my Sellers, Persinger, Downing, and Duckworth families who once resided there. I found a great deal of good information on the Robert Sellers family and his children. I found very little or virtually nothing on the Downing's and Duckworth's. I found some information on the Persinger family, but none that helped me get any closer to tying my Mary Persinger to her specific Persinger clan.

What was really near about the museum was that they had on display a flintlock rifle which belonged to Luke Persinger, who I am certain is close relative of my Mary Persinger, most likely her 1st cousin. I got to take some pictures of it, and I recorded a video about the museum to help promote their very worthy cause, and a second video showing the interactive "Pioneer Town" which they had outside. A picture of the gun and the videos promoting the center can be found below.

The rifle at the top and the powder canister directly below it (not the horn but the small pouch) belonged to Luke Persinger, a pioneer of Washington County, Indiana and a relative of my family.

Stop 5: Fairview Public Library, Major County, Oklahoma

On my way to Del City from Alva, I stopped in Fairview to see if I could find obituaries for my Baker family members and to get directions to the Hope Cemetery where many of them are buried. I did not find any obituaries, but I did meat a very nice woman name Luise Maupin. She actually lives in the area where my Baker's resided (near what was once called Dane and is now closest to Chester, Oklahoma) and could recall her mother telling stories about "The Baker Boys" who would come to visit her parents (Luise's grandparents) John and Mina Evans. She recalled the Baker Boys (who would have been twins Albert and Elbert, Walter, and Hugh Arbrey Bolton, their half-brother, and for a time this group likely included their brother Cleveland before he left for California; all four of these men were old bachelors who never married except for Albert who married very late in life to a widow) as being a very friendly, polite lot, and while it was unclear whether their visits were purely for social reasons or not, Luise mentioned that her grandfather was renowned for brewing his own moonshine on his land during Prohibition and that that could have easily been part of the reason for the Boys' visit.

Luise then helped with guiding me to the area where the Hope Cemetery resides, and she also put me in touch with a local man named Vance Dow, who is an elder of sorts in the vicinity and who said he grew up near the Baker farm and was particularly familiar with the youngest of the group, Walter Baker. He said he remembered the Baker's attending church at the Midway Assembly of God (about 13 miles south of Fairview), a church which his father helped found. He remembered that Walter had a very large hump on his back from birth, and that everyone called him "Humpy Baker". He echoed the sentiments of Luise's mother that Walter was a very friendly, agreeable sort of fellow and Vance thought very highly of him. He then took me to where the Baker farm once stood.

The house is long-gone, but after securing permission from the current owners of the land, Bill and June Keeton, I looked around the vicinity where the house once stood and got a good feel for it. I picked up a couple of stones from the ground as keepsakes. I then visited the nearby Canadian River where Vance said the Baker Boys would often venture to fish; it was only about a mile or so from their home. I am very grateful to Luise, Vance, Bill, and June for their help in getting a brief look into the lives of my Baker forebears.

The Baker Boys were sons of Eli Calvin Baker and Sarah Jane Lollar Baker. Eli and Sarah separated but never formally divorced and resided near each other in Major County before Eli moved onto neighboring Blaine County, where he is buried in Canton along with his and Sarah's children William and Rosa. Their daughter Etta is buried in Colorado, and their daughter Ella, from whom I descend, is buried in Wapanucka, Oklahoma. The rest of the children, including Sarah's son from her first marriage to Archibald Bolton, Hugh, are all buried in Hope Cemetery with Sarah. Below are some pictures and videos from my adventure:

I saw some very pretty mountains on my drive into Fairview. These were taken in northern Major County.

These pictures were taken in Hope Cemetery near Chester, Oklahoma.

The Baker farm is located on the corner of EW 58 and NS 240 in Major County near Chester. It is across the street from a sign labeling the Canton Wildlife Management Area down the road. It now belongs to Bill and June Keeton. Location was identified by Vance Dow.

This is the Canadian River near where the Baker farm stood. According to Vance Down, the Baker Boys went fishing here frequently, probably within less than a hundred yards of where I was standing.

Stop 6: Del City, Oklahoma

After some less-than-fun adventures which I won't divulge here, I finally arrived in Del City, where I got to have some fun and enlightening conversations with my grandparents, some of which are of personal genealogical interest. I wanted to log them here so I don't forget about them later.

- My grandmother said that her mother did graduate from Murray College in Tishomingo with a two-year degree; I knew that she had attended Murray, but I had not known she'd graduated, which I thought was very cool.

- I got to hear some great stories about my great grandfather, Tom. My grandpa Charlie (who is technically my step-grandfather, but who has been my grandfather since before I was born so I consider him such) told me he admired and respected Tom as much as had anyone else in his life. My father has expressed similar sentiments in the past. Grandpa talked about how he was a master-of-all-trades, rather than just a jack, and that he could fix anything from cars to air conditioners and could build just about anything. He could do all of this without having acquired virtually any formal education whatsoever. He never worked a big-time, high-paying job, but he worked hard and always provided plenty for his family.

- According to my grandmother, two of the houses her father built are still standing. He built everything on the houses from the ground up, including the plumbing and the electrical wiring. She told me a story about how in the 70's both she, my father, and my Uncle Geary were all driving different Volkswagon models and they would break down constantly. One time they had to replace the transmission in Geary's car, and after it was all done, they found out they'd put it in backwards, so shifting into drive put the car in reverse and vice versa.

- My grandmother said her uncle Rube Skipper, her grandmother's half-brother, had a cleft lip and very much enjoyed his alcoholic beverages. She spoke highly of his sister, another of her grandmother's half-sisters, Sarah Skipper Combow, and remembered visiting her home in Colorado. Said she was a very nice lady. She knew nothing about her grandmother's other half-brother, Stephen Crider who later changed his name to Carl Clark, nor about her mother's half-brother, Romeo "Romee" Clements.

- My grandmother was born in Oklahoma City and she and her family moved to what would become Del City in the very earl 1940's, before Del City was even an official city, essentially making them "pioneers" of Del City in a way. There was virtually nothing here when she moved out here, and she remembers the land where her house and neighborhood now stand were just open, empty fields. She first lived about a half-mile from where she lives now, but that house was destroyed by a tornado when she was a little girl. Her father built a new house where their house stood, and eventually built a new house next door to that and they moved there. From her porch, she pointed to a small grove of trees about 80 yards from her house where she said there used to be a pond that she and her sister would play at as children.