Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thomas Smiley, Adventures on the Western Frontier


Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania by Jasper Francis Cropsey
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So many times when I am researching an ancestor, I find I am also researching the ancestor's time period.  This has been so true as I have been learning more about my 4GGrandfather, Thomas Smiley.  Thomas, born in 1759, was the grandfather of George W Smiley, the subject of a previous post.  He lived virtually his entire life in the area of Pennsylvania, being there as it changed from being the western frontier of America through the years of the Yankee-Pennamite Wars to statehood and the growth of cities and towns in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia, in 1782, was a bustling city, but 130 miles away in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania was still the frontier.  In April, 1782, Thomas Smiley was living in the Hanover Township section of Wyoming County, Pennsylvania.  A band of Indians had come into the area and captured a Mrs. Franklin and her four children.  Thomas and eight other settlers tracked the Indians for several days in an attempt to rescue the Franklins.  During the morning of the third day, the settlers and Indians exchanged gunfire a number of times.  When the skirmish had ended, the older Franklin children had been rescued.  Sadly, Mrs. Franklin had been killed apparently by the Indians, and the baby had disappeared, never to be seen again.  The townsmen then built a raft and returned by river to Hanover, traveling at night, until they finally returned home.  This account had been related to Joseph Eliot  by Thomas Smiley in 1831; it was later published in the Annual of the Bradford County Historical Society.(1)

A second article in the Society's Annual"Bradford County Pioneers: Men Who First Entered the Wilderness and Carved Out Homes", also mentioned Thomas Smiley.(2)  This time Thomas was listed as an early resident of the Franklin Township in Bradford County, arrived in that area after 1796.

The next recorded adventure for Thomas Smiley concerned his involvement with the Yankee-Pennamite Wars.  This was a series of three wars, both verbal and physical among groups of settlers in northeastern Pennsylvania.  The Yankee-Pennamite Wars occurred between 1769 and 1799.  Both The Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Connecticut and the Luzerne County (Pennsylvania) web site provide background about this period in Pennsylvania history.  A fascinating blog, "Philadelphia Reflections" summarizes the nature of the conflicts.
The matter boils down to the undisputed fact that King Charles II gave what is now the northern third of Pennsylvania to Connecticut in 1662, and in 1681 the same king gave it to William Penn. Eighty years after that, in 1769, Connecticut moved in, and Pennsylvania threw them out. It all happened twice more, and the Continental Congress became distressed that two of the thirteen colonial allies were fighting each other instead of the British. So it had to be resolved in court, and therefore we all have to get a little education in the fine points of real estate law in order to understand why Pennsylvania won the case. In short, Connecticut claimed that Charles II had cruelly and unjustly reversed himself, while the Penn Proprietorship simply maintained they were nonetheless legally entitled to the property.(3)
During these years, Yankee referred to those who supported Connecticut's claim to the disputed lands, while Pennamite referred to settlers claiming the land due to William Penn's grant.  Thomas Smiley ended up getting caught in the disturbances while attempting to be part of a solution.

In 1799 the Pennsylvania legislature passed an act which would essentially buy tracts of the disputed land from Pennsylvanians then give it to the Connecticut settlers living on the land who would then own it and agree to withdraw from taking part in any further land disputes.  A number of affected Pennsylvanians were not wanting to sell their land.  Thomas, now a minister in the area, offered to be a deputy agent in order to talk with some of the settlers about the sale of their land to the state of Pennsylvania.  As Clement Heverly related in his book History of the Towandas, 1776-1886 ...

July 7th [1801], [Rev. Smiley] obtained the signatures of nearly forty to their relinquishments.  A meeting was held and the "Wild Yankees" determined that the business must be stopped.
Mr. Smiley stopped for the night at Jacob Granteer's then living on the Towanda Creek. The party [of Wild Yankees], learning of [Smiley's] lodging-place,  followed him, broke into his room, compelled him to burn his papers, took him near the creek, poured a bottle of tar over his head and beard, then adding feathers, the leader after giving him a kick told him that he might go, but must leave the country.(4)
A second relating of the story mentioned that it was a group of about 20 men in disguise who pursued Thomas.  Six men were eventually brought before a grand jury for the offence against Thomas but no punishment was given to any of the men.(5)  So there was the Reverend Thomas Smiley, tarred and feathered, being told to leave that part of Pennsylvania.  This all happened because he was trying to be a peacemaker.  The upshot was that Thomas Smiley and his family left that area of Pennsylvania.  Thomas Smiley was later compensated for his sufferings related to this experience when he was granted $250 by the Pennsylvania legislature in 1819.(6) 

The rest of his ministry provided a much more peaceful story.

(1) Hallock, Mrs. H J, "Some Wyalusing Pioneers."  Digital images.  www.hathitrust.org, citing Bradford County Historical Society (PA). Annual. Towanda, PA : The Society, 1906-1917.
(2) Heverly, C F, "Bradford County Pioneers". Digital images. www.hathitrust.org, citing Bradford County Historical Society (PA). Annual. Towanda, PA : The Society, 1906-1917.
(3) Fisher, George R, "The Pennamite Wars: Who Had the Last Word?" http://www.philadelphia-reflections.com/topic/43.htm.
(4) Heverly, Clement Ferdinand. History of the Towandas, 1776-1886: Including the Aborigines, Pennamites, And Yankees, Together With Biographical Sketches .... Towanda, PA : Reporter-Journal Print Co, 1886, accessed through www.hathitrust.org.
(5) Bradsby, Henry C.  History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  Chicago: S B Nelson, 1891; accessed through www.hathitrustorg.
(6) Craft, David.  History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  Philadelphia: L H Everts, 1878; accessed through www.hathitrust.org.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Matrilineal Monday: Mary Beedle Smiley, The Rest of the Story


By "Meyer" [Public domain], Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned in a previous post, Mary Beedle Smiley had been widowed in 1863 following the death of her husband George W Smiley.  Mary Beedle and George W Smiley had married in 1860, and the newlyweds were recorded in the 1860 census as living in Lafayette, Story County, Iowa; Mary was 17 and George 20 at the time.  This meant that when Mary was widowed in 1863, she was only 20 years old.  Surely, there was a lot of life still ahead for this young widow, but it took some digging to find it.

The writer whose initial contact started my interest in Mary had mentioned that Mary and George W Smiley had a daughter Ida.  Ida Smiley turned out to be a key to locating Mary and finding more about Mary's later life.  Ida Smiley and a sister Sarah Smiley were listed in the 1870 census as living in Woodcock, Crawford County, Pennsylvania.  The two Smiley girls were in the household of Orrin A Cole and a 27 year old Mary A Cole.  Perhaps these were George and Mary's daughters, living with their mother Mary Beedle Smiley who had remarried. 

Crawford County, Pennsylvania, is a long way from Story County, Iowa, but Crawford County was the home of George W Smiley and his parents before George moved to Iowa with some of his siblings in the late 1850s.  Perhaps Mary and her daughters had moved to Pennsylvania to be near George's now widowed mother, Susan Birch Smiley.  There she could have met Orrin A Cole and later married him.  It was a possibility but one that definitely needed research to prove or disprove.

Looking back at my family tree I saw I already had an Orrin A Cole listed.  Orrin, however, was listed with a verified source as being the husband of Anna Smiley who also was the sister of George W Smiley.(1)  It was beginning to look as if widowed Mary Smiley had married her brother-in-law Orrin A Cole.  Several message board posts on GenForum and Ancestry seemed to suggest that had been the case.

It took looking at George W Smiley's pension file on fold3.com to get the whole story.(2)  The 160 page file provided a lot of information about the lives of George, Mary, their daughters Ida and Sarah, and Orrin A Cole.  The second image in this lengthy file let me know I had the right folder.  Then, the reading and note taking began.  


"Civil War Widow's Pension, George W. Smiley"
source: http://www.fold3.com/image/236382773/

Soon after I started reading George Smiley's pension file, I saw that I needed to put dates, events, and locations into a timeline in order for all the information to be clearer.  Information came from many sources: the Civil War pension application records, depositions from Mary and others, marriage records, death records, and various affidavits, all of which provided insight into Mary's life.

To see Mary's story , I had to look first at that of Orrin A Cole.  As I had found previously, Orrin Cole had married Anna Smiley, George W Smiley's sister, in 1861, and the couple lived in Crawford County, Pennsylvania.  Anna died in September 1862 soon after the birth of twin boys.  Following Anna's death, Orrin A Cole continued to live near his family in Crawford County, Pennsylvania.  

At this point, the pension files provided the rest of the story.  In 1864, some months after the death of George W Smiley, Mary Beedle Smiley and her two daughters moved to Crawford, Pennsylvania where she lived with her mother-in-law for about two years.  Later, in 1866, Mary and her daughters returned to Iowa where they lived with Mary's parents.

On 21 Jun 1867, Mary married her widowed brother-in-law Orrin A Cole in Marshal County, Iowa.  Mary and Orrin then moved back to Crawford, Pennsylvania where they lived for the next seven years.  Then, in 1874, Mary, Orrin, and all of their children returned to Story County, Iowa.  The Cole family, except for the few years they lived on a claim in Sheridan, Nebraska, remained in Story, Iowa until they moved to neighboring Boone, Iowa about 1901.  

One interesting fact concerned the relationship between John Cole who was Orrin's father and Mary Smiley's two daughters.  During the period after Mary and Orrin married, John Cole was named guardian of Ida and Sarah Smiley for the purpose of obtaining and administering a veteran's pension for the minor children.  By law, this pension stopped the day of each girl's sixteenth birthday.

Mary, Orrin, and the Smiley girls remained in Iowa for a number of years.  Ida was the first Smiley daughter to marry, marrying Lewis Christian Baldus on 27 Nov 1882 in Story, Iowa.(3)  On 20 Oct 1885, sister Sarah married A A Fruman in Story, Iowa.(4)  

Then Mary's life changed once again on 20 Oct 1911 when her second husband Orrin died following a farm accident.  Soon afterwards Congress approved pensions for remarried widows of Civil War Veterans; that was Mary's status.  Mary first applied for a pension for a remarried widow a few years following the death of Orrin Cole, but this first application was denied.  She eventually filed a second application, this time was several supporting letters from an Iowa Congressman.  This time, 1917, Mary received approval for a remarried widow's pension.

In the end, Mary Beedle Smiley Cole had nine children and helped raise Orrin Cole's twin sons.  She outlived both of her husbands and at least one of her children.  The way she persisted in trying to secure a widow's pension showed her drive and tenacity as she never gave up.  My fold3.com subscription more than paid for itself as it provided me with the chance to learn more about an interesting woman and her life.

(1) "U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900," Database. Ancestry.com. http://www.ancestry.com : 2014.
(2) "Application for Widow's Pension" for Mary A Smiley in file of George W Smiley, Digital Images. Fold3. www.fold3.com : 2014, citing NARA Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, compiled 1861-1934.
(3) "Iowa County Marriages, 1838-1934,: Database. FamilySearch.com. http://www.familysearch.com : 2014.
(4) Ibid, "Sarah Smiley".

Monday, March 10, 2014

Motivation Monday: Where to Go, What to Do?

Photo Source: Dyon Joël (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


I had spent the last 12 months recording and cleaning up citations on my husband's family tree.  After I finished that last citation, I felt rather pleased with myself.  After all, I had added almost 200 more people to that family tree as well as verified sources of information.  I had also come across a number of interesting people, some of whom had been subjects of my blog posts.

Then, I stopped.  I knew that I needed to do the same cleaning job with my family tree, but I just lacked the desire to get started.  Nothing seemed to call me into exploring the past or heading in a particular direction with my family research.

Fortunately, a few days later, I received a e-mail message through Ancestry.com.  It was from a distant cousin who had found the name of his GGGrandfather on my public member tree and had written to ask if I know the marriage date for these Great Great Grandparents.  This turned out to be the nudge I needed to get back to my research.

I turned to my usual plan to starting research in both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.  FamilySearch had an excellent database of Iowa County Marriages, 1838-1934 through which I found the marriage date of the writer's GGGrandparents (and my GGGrand Uncle and Aunt) George W Smiley and Mary Ann Bedle / Beedle.  They were married on 29 March 1860.

The writer mentioned that George W Smiley was buried at the Vicksburg National Cemetery.  This suggested yet another family member who had died during the Civil War.   The Vicksburg National Military Park "holds the remains of 17,000 Union Civil War soldiers ... 75% [of whom] are listed as unknowns".(1)  Fortunately, George W Smiley was among those soldiers whose remains were identified. 

Interment Database, Vicksburg National Cemetery
source:  http://www.nps.gov/vick/historyculture/interments.htm

From his listing in the cemetery's database, I learned several things about George W Smiley.  At the time of his death, George was a Corporal in Company A of the 23rd Iowa Infantry.  He died 5 July 1863 and was later buried in Section B, space 2664.  After years of following my husband's and my relatives through their time as Confederate soldiers, it took a second to realize that I obviously also had Union soldiers in my family.  It also meant that George's wife Mary had been left a widow after having been married a little over three years.

I spend the next few hours lost in the 1800s, looking for Mary and information about her life after George's death.  After a quick reply to the email writer with answers to his questions, I realized I had a direction for working in my family tree.  Looking for Mary kept me moving back and forth between Iowa and Pennsylvania, in and out of contact with the Smiley family.  It made me look for some new resources and return to some familiar ones.  And, it looks as if there may be some stories to tell. 

(1)  Vicksburg National Military Park (http://www.nps.gov/vick/historyculture/cemhistory.htm : accessed 3 March 2014), "Cemetery History."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Workday Wednesday -- Working Along "Peacock Alley"


"Two Ladies Hand Tufting Spreads"
photo courtesy of Shaw Industries, Inc. (1)

Looking back at some entries for the 1930 census, I learned that some of my husband's female relatives had been part of an important cottage industry in Northwest Georgia.  The five ladies were all involved in the making of tufted or chenille bedspreads.

The New Georgia Encyclopedia has an interesting article relating how Catherine Evans Whitaker began working in this home craft in the 1890s.(2)  The making of the chenille bedspreads became a way for many woman in the areas around Dalton and Calhoun, Georgia, to work at home and supplement the family income.

The bedspreads were made using a design stamped essentially upon a sheet, much like pillowcases with stamped designs that can be purchased at craft stores today.  The threadwork (or tufting) was done by hand, stitching thick cotton thread onto the design.  After the design had been completely stitched onto the sheet, the bedspread was returned to the spread house that had initially provided the workers with the sheet and thread.  Back at the spread house the chenille bedspread would be heat set to fluff the thread.  Then it was ready to sell.

It was interesting to look at the families of the five relatives who were home spreadmakers in the 1930s.  My husband's aunts, Ozella Nelson and Aurelia Nelson, were both living with their parents near Calhoun, Georgia, at the time of the 1930 census.  Both Ozella, age 30, and Aurelia, 16, were single, but the spread making enabled them to contribute to the family's income.

One cousin, Nancy Hughes Bohannon, age 65, had been widowed in 1928.  By 1930, she was listed in the census as a spread maker, indicating that she was able to turn to spread making for income rather then having to rely solely on farming.  At the time of the 1930 census, Nancy's daughter Marietta Bohannon Underwood and her husband Claud Underwood were living with Nancy.  Marietta, 25 and the mother of two young children, was another home spread maker.

Another cousin, Minnie Caldwell Scott, 39, also turned to making the chenille spreads at home.  With three young children, the income was sure to be important to the family, and spread making was work that could be done at home while looking after her growing family.

As for the term "Peacock Alley", it was used in the 1930s to 1950s and beyond.  This was before the arrival of the interstate system when the main road between Atlanta and Chattanooga was the Dixie Highway, US Highway 41.  Many of the local spread houses and individuals displayed their wares outdoors all along US Highway 41 in the areas around Dalton, Georgia.  Peacocks were such a popular bedspread design that this strip of highway became known as "Peacock Alley".(3)  The Bandy Heritage Center in Dalton, Georgia, has an informative online exhibition, "Homemade Industry - From Chenille to Carpet", which provides photographs of some of the tufters as well as pictures of peacock chenille bedspreads.

Prior to the 1930 census I had noticed almost no employment, other than farming, listed in census records for female relatives in this area of the South.  Home tufters were paid at a rate of .25 to $2.50 per finished bedspread.(4)  The work of these relatives brought money to the family as they were living in the years following the Depression.  This cottage industry was one "work at home" plan that was legitimate.

Today chenille bedspreads can be purchased on ebay, through etsy.com shops, or found on vintage textile websites.  Photos of vintage and repurposed chenille items have been pinned to  Pinterest boards.  Periodically the fabric even makes its way to the runway or clothing catalogs.  The October 2014 Prater's Mill County Fair in Dalton, Georgia, will even feature a display of chenille work.  I'm glad these relatives pointed me toward learning more about chenille making in Northwest Georgia and revived memories of the bedspreads and pillows I saw as a child.

Looking at these five ladies showed, once again, that where and when our ancestors lived were influencing factors on their lives.

(1) "Hand Tufting." New Georgia Encyclopedia. Web. 26 February 2014.
(2) Patton, Randall L. "Chenille Bedspreads." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 19 August 2013.
(3) "Chenille Bedspreads."
(4) "Hand Tufting."