Monday, April 21, 2014

Amanuensis Monday: The Camp Family Letters* - Josiah Camp, Ready to Paddle His Own Canoe

Giant Steamboats at New Orleans, 1853, painting by Hippolyte Sebron
source:  Wikimedia Common
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Josiah Camp, my 3 Great Uncle, left his home in Georgia at the age of 21, heading west for a life of adventure.   This letter was written by Josiah to his brother Thomas Camp and sister-in-law Mary, about midway on his journey.

New Orleans, Saturday, 21st April 1860

My Dear Brother & Sister,

I this morning seat myself to let you know where I am & how I am a getting on.  Well as to health, I never felt better in my life & spirits are good… I have got this far rather better than I expected.  I have had no delay until now, reached this place yesterday morning at 8 o’clock & will not leave until 5 this evening.  I shall reach Jefferson in about one week if good luck…When it comes to changing boats, only 20 or 30 minutes to change in and 2 or 3 hundred passengers & a half a mile to go by omnibus.  You may be assured that it takes all a man can do.  I have got on this far without being left, but I have had to run a half a mile at a time.  Mr. Melton got left at Mobile by being slow & a good many more.  I went aboard a vessel yesterday & … they found me a bed & board.

If anyone should ask you about me, you can tell them I am a getting on finely.  I have not  been drunk nor had a card in my hand since I left, & you all know for yourselves as to what I done before I left Georgia. … If and when I get settled in the West & any [of my friends] ever should come near me, I shall do all in my power for their welfare & happiness.

I have seen a good deal since I saw you, but I cannot begin to describe half, and even if I could, it would hardly be worthwhile as you have a very good idea of the manner in which business is carried on in these large cities.  The streets are full of people and omnibuses, and they don’t poke along, but all go like they were a running a race.  If you were in Marietta & see a person going like they go here, you would be right often asking him what was the matter!  And, if you was to see one load and drive like they do here, you would first look for them to break down & then … to see them killed for you would think the horses were running away all the time.

… I have traveled about 1000 miles since I left you, but my heart is very closely connected with yours.  I often think of the pleasant hours spent with you, and it seemed as though we always got on as smooth as anybody could. … When I left you, I left some of my best friends.  When I get to thinking of some of the friends … of old Georgia and then think that I shall never have the pleasure of seeing some of them anymore, it has a kind of a sad affect upon the heart of one that values a true friend as highly as I do.

I am satisfied that there are places where I can make more [money], & that is the place for me as I have nothing but my labor to depend on.  As a matter or course, a man’s business pays the best where he is apt to be the best satisfied … especially a man of my age & standing.  If it was not [for] … some other things, I don’t know but I would stop in Louisiana this year as there is a man on this boat that says he would pay me well for my services, & he stands in need of someone.  He has a store and a plantation and says he would let me have my choice of places to stay so I am not uneasy about something to do if I have my health.  This man is going out in Texas after a son of his that is sick… He says he would be willing to pay my way out there and back if I would go with him & hire me for the year & pay me from the time we landed at Shreveport.

I want you to write Mother at once & tell her not to be uneasy about me for I think I can paddle my own canoe.  Tell her she need not grieve after me.

… Tell all to write & do the same yourselves & believe me to be [your] good fine friend and brother,

                                                Jos Camp

 Because of his travel in April and May of 1860, Josiah may have been omitted from the 1860 census.  By August, 1860, Josiah was situated in Pittsburg, Texas, from which he wrote more letters back to the family in Georgia.  His adventures were just beginning.

* This letter is a part of the "Camp Family Papers, 1858-1877" which are housed in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) of Emory University in Decatur, Georgia.  The letters was transcribed using Transcript freeware.  Some of the spelling, punctuation, and syntax were corrected in this post for ease in reading.  ... is used to indicate portions of the letter which were omitted in the post.  [ ] indicates a word I have inserted for clarity.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday's Tip: Transcribing Letters

Several years ago I visited the Manuscript and Rare Book Library at Emory University, Decatur, Georgia.  My purpose was to study the Camp Family Papers in their collection and, hopefully, to learn more about my 2nd GreatGrandfather Thomas Lumpkin Camp.

The documents were written by a variety of people and in different handwritings.  I was grateful that the staff at MRBL permitted users to photograph the photocopies in the files available for public research.

After I downloaded the photos to my laptop, I was anxious to transcribe them.  I first tried opening a letter photo in my laptop's photo viewer with the plan to transcribe each letter as a Word document.  I tried using both horizontal and vertical split screens to view the photo and my Word document at the time; I even tried using a second monitor with my laptop.  All of these methods were rather cumbersome, especially with all the "extras" at the top of the Word screen.  Frankly, it seemed to take a long time to transcribe a single letter, and I abandoned the transcription project after a few weeks.

Recently I came across an easy to use freeware program, Transcript, version 2.4.  Transcript 2.4 is just like the web site claims, it really "makes transcribing easier".  With it, I've finally been able to transcribe a number of the Camp letters and have found several interesting stories which I plan to share in future posts.





The screen shot above shows Transcript's clean, uncluttered work surface.  In the light blue box at the top of the screen is the document I plan to transcribe.  The white box below is my transcription area.  The center bar dividing the two boxes can be adjusted to divide the screen just as you want it.

Beneath the "File Edit Format ... " menu row is one ribbon of icons, primarily pertaining to the document you are planning to transcribe.  A box in the middle of the ribbon lists the title or image number of the document you are transcribing.  The small green arrow buttons (circled in green) let you move back and forth through a series of images.  This feature has been particularly helpful when I have had four or five images to cover one letter.

Another nice feature (circled in red) is the ability to zoom in or out of a document.  The brightness of your document can also be adjusted using the buttons circled in yellow.  Sometimes just a change in perspective helps clarify a word.

The actual transcription is done without any of those spelling errors or punctuation reminders that are part of using Word.  I like this because I'm trying to transcribe the actual spelling, punctuation, and capitalization used in each document.  No wiggly red or green lines, no auto correct to get in the way of an accurate transcription.

Each transcription is saved as a Rich Text File.  The RTF, in turn, can be opened in Word for formatting, spell check, or any other type of correction you may wish to make to your document.

Transcript is free for noncommercial use.  If you plan to use it for any transcriptions for which you will receive pay, a pro version is available, costing $15 Euros, about $21 US dollars.  Jacob Boerema, the programmer, will also accept donations from users of the program.  If you have handwritten documents to transcribe, Transcript will certainly make the job much easier.  Visit the Transcript web site  to download your copy.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mystery Monday ... But Where Is She Buried?

As I have been researching the Smiley family, I'm been taking the time to see that I have sources and citations for the facts I have recorded.  Things were going smoothly until I tried to verify the death date and burial information for my 4GGrandmother Nancy Tucker Smiley.

First stop was findagrave.com to see if anyone had photographed her grave marker.  Imagine the shock to find two different grave markers.  In two different cemeteries.   In two different states.

Exhibit A:  findagrave.com actually had two memorials for Nancy Tucker Smiley which referred to a burial in the Wesley Chapel Cemetery in Hilliard, Franklin County, Ohio.  One of the memorials was for a Nancy Smiley who was born in 1761 and who died 30 Nov 1856.  The second memorial listed the name of Nancy Tucker Smiley, born 22 Jan 1762, died 10 Nov 1856.  Fortunately both memorials included a picture of the same gravestone.  The stone pictured below is inscribed "Nancy, wife of the Late Rev. Thomas Smiley, died Nov 30 1856, aged 95 years."


Grave marker, "Nancy Smiley"
findagrave memorial #26406212, photo by dave

The information on the grave marker pointed to this being the burial location of my 4GGrandmother Smiley, the wife of my 4GGrandfather Thomas Smiley.  Thomas Smiley had died in 1832 so it was possible that Nancy Tucker Smiley had moved from Pennsylvania to live in Ohio.  But did she, and if so when?  Where?  And why?

It took looking for information about all of Thomas and Nancy Smiley's children to come up with a possible answer.  Ancestry.com had a digitized copy of one of those interesting community history books, Pioneer and Patriot Families of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, 1770-1800.(1)  Included in the brief biographical sketches was one for Thomas and Nancy Smiley which listed the names, birth dates, some death dates, and marriage information for their eight children.  According to the book, son David Smiley "removed to Ohio".

The 1850 census listed a David Smiley living in Norwich, Franklin County, Ohio, but there was no mention of Nancy Smiley living with his family.  Instead Nancy was listing as living in Norwich, Franklin County, Ohio but with her daughter Harriet Smiley Laird, Harriet's husband, and their seven children.  At least, Nancy being buried in Franklin County, Ohio had started to make some sense.

Exhibit B:  findagrave.com had one more memorial for a Nancy Smiley, death date 1856, this one in a Pennsylvania cemetery.  The Pennsylvania memorial indicated a burial at White Deer Baptist Church in Allenwood, Union County, Pennsylvania.  White Deer Baptist Church just happened to be the church where Thomas Smiley had been the minister for a number of years.  In addition, the grave marker for Thomas Smiley, or "Elder Thomas Smiley" as inscribed on his marker, is located in the White Deer Baptist Church Cemetery.  The marker for Nancy is inscribed "Nancy, wife of Elder Thomas Smiley, died Nov 30, 1856, aged 95 years".


Grave marker, "Nancy Tucker Smiley"
photo by  miranda, findagrave memorial #36898736, 

Two grave markers in two different cemeteries in two different states with essentially the same inscription.  Surely, one is just a memorial marker while the other actually marks Nancy's grave.  But which?

The White Deer Baptist Church still is an active church in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, celebrating its bicentennial in 2008.  An article in the Williamsport Sun Gazette told of plans to celebrate the historic event, but there was no mention of anyone placing a memorial stone in the cemetery in memory of Nancy Smiley, wife of the founding pastor.  Nor was there mention of a memorial stone in details of their White Deer Baptist Church Cemetery tour.

There are several plausible explanations for Nancy's two grave markers.  Perhaps after her death in Ohio, she was buried in Ohio but her remains were later moved to Pennsylvania.  Or maybe the Pennsylvania marker was added at a later date near that of her husband's grave marker as a memorial to this early husband and wife.  Or possibly someone (family, the church perhaps) added the Pennsylvania marker at a later date, thinking that Nancy had been buried there in an unmarked grave.  I'm sure there are other suppositions that haven't crossed my mind yet.

So for now, Nancy Tucker Smiley's actual final resting place remains a mystery.  Until I actually know the burial site, I'll have to contend with having two different Burial "facts" listed for Nancy Tucker Smiley in Family Tree Maker.  Maybe I should just call them Burial "possibilities".

(1)  Heverly, Clement Ferdinand.  Pioneer and Patriot Families of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, 1770-1800, Towanda, PA : Bradford Star Print, 1913-1915; accessed www.ancestry.com

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Workday Wednesday: Thomas Smiley, Missionary and Minister

White Deer Batist Church, Allenwood, Pennsylvania
photo by Miranda, findagrave.com

When I  last posted about my 4GGrandfather, Thomas Smiley, he had suffered the indignity of being tarred and feathered by those opposed to his peace efforts during the Yankee-Pennamite Wars in Pennsylvania.  At the time of that event, Thomas was the minister of the Chemung Baptist Church on Towanda Creek in eastern Pennsylvania.(1)  To learn what happened to Thomas and his family after they left the Towanda Creek area, I ended up finding a lot of information in books of Baptist church history.  And once again, HathiTrust provided the access to this type of historical information.

Interestingly, Thomas Smiley had been raised in a strict "Seceder Church", an offshoot of the Presbyterian Church, and his beliefs had earlier caused controversy within his own family.  When Thomas became a Baptist, "he became a stranger to the rest of the family and so remained behind when [his parents and siblings] crossed the mountains to ... Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1785".(2)  Until the tar and feather incident, Thomas had remained in the Towanda Creek area where he farmed and served as both a missionary and a Baptist minister.

After leaving the Towanda Creek / Wyoming area, Thomas and his family moved to the White Deer Valley in central Pennsylvania.  There Thomas Smiley founded the White Deer Baptist Church, a church which is still active today.  According to an article in the Williamsport SunGazette, "White Deer was the second Baptist church established in the area, but is the oldest existing church along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.  It was founded Oct 23 1808, with just 10 members."(3)

In 1810 this area of Pennsylvania was still considered to be part of our country's western frontier.  The Philadelphia Baptist Missionary Society listed Thomas Smiley as one of its frontier missionaries in 1810 and recognized his work along the western boarders of the Susquehanna River.(4)  In a letter to the American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society written in 1814, Thomas told the group, "I do not entertain a doubt but that if it were in our power we would be among the first to assist in the propagation of the gospel among the heathen".(5)  It sounded as if Rev. Smiley considered himself to be both a  minister to the Native Americans as well as to others who had settled in that area.

Between 1820 and Thomas' death in 1832, the number of Baptist churches was growing in that area of Pennsylvania.  The churches began holding yearly associational meetings in which Thomas Smiley often played an important role.  For a number of years he give the opening sermon for the meetings, as well as sometimes serving as moderator and / or clerk for recording the meeting's activities.  The chart below, taken from a book on the history of this part of Pennsylvania, lists Thomas' part in these annual events.


Thomas Smiley's role in the Northumberland Baptist Association, 1821-1832 (6)

Elder Smiley, as Thomas was referred to, remained  the pastor of White Deer Baptist Church until his death in 1832.  Shortly before his death, Thomas wrote a history of the Chemung Baptist Association.(8)  His manuscript had a daunting title, History of the Chemung Baptist Association: containing an account of the rise of the churches, a sketch of their travel, together with the cause of some of them disappearing, including also, a Narration of the Association, the substance of the circular letters and other business done.  A copy of the Chemung manuscript remained in the Smiley family for a number of years.  According to WorldCat, the University of Wisconsin in Madison today holds a copy of the manuscript on microfilm.

Following his death, Thomas was buried in the White Deer Baptist Church Cemetery.  Later a marker was placed there in memory of the church's first minister.  Although parts of his earlier life had been tumultuous, once Thomas Smiley and his family come to the White Deer Valley section of Pennsylvania, he founded a new church and apparently found a more peaceful and rewarding life.


Elder Thomas Smiley grave marker
White Deer Baptist Church Cemetery, Allenwood, Pennsylvania
photo by Dave on findagrave.com

(1) Vedder, Henry C.  A History of the Baptists in the Middle States.   Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1898; accessed through www,hathitrust.org.
(2)  Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens and of Manh of the Early Settled Families.  Chicago: J H Beers, 1893. 
(3) Long, Eric.  "White Deer Valley Baptist Church Observing Bicentennial Year", Williamsport SunGazette,  17 Mar 2008.
(4) Spencer, David.  The Early Baptist of Philadelphia.  Philadelphia: W Syckelmoore, 1877; accessed www.hathitrust.org.
(5) American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.  Proceedings of the Baptist convention for missionary purposes: held in Philadelphia, in May, 1814.  Philadelphia: Printed for the Convention, by A Coles, 1814; accessed www.hathitrust.org.
(6) Meginness, John Franklin.  Otzinachson: Or, a History of the West Brance Valley of the Susquehanna ...  Philadelphia: H B Ashmead, 1857; accessed  www.hathitrust.org.
(7)  Bailey, Edward L.  History of the Abington Baptist Association: From 1807-1857.  Philadelphia: J A Wagenseller, 1863; accessed www.hathitrust.org.