Monday, July 27, 2015

Have You Heard the News* About Oscar Dean Perkinson?

It turned out that my Great Grandfather William Howard Perkinson wasn't the only family member who had been active in politics. Thanks to my newspaper research, I learned that his son, my Grandfather Oscar Dean Perkinson, was also involved in local government.

Articles in The [Atlanta] Constitution documented my Grandfather's election to the Woodstock [Georgia] City Council in 1903, 1913, and 1914. He was also elected Mayor of Woodstock in 1916, as related in this brief article. It was interesting to see the names of those elected to the Woodstock City Council in 1916. Almost everyone listed was part of the extended Perkinson family or a close family friend. So much for life in a small town.

The [Atlanta] Constitution, 5 Jan 1916, accessed through

Finding these articles about local politics helps me understand why my Grandfather probably decided to attend the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson in 1913. That event turned out to be yet another unexpected story!

* Have You Heard the News is a series of posts about family information gleaned from copies of Atlanta newspapers available through,, and the Digital Archives of Georgia.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Have You Heard the News* About Paul Myren's Accident?

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."(1) This unofficial motto of the US Postal Service covers a lot of conditions. But what about fire?

My Great Uncle Paul Severin Myren was a rural postal carrier in Traill County, North Dakota, for many years. A brief newspaper article told of his brush with a fire in which he was seriously burned. Apparently getting rid of weeds so that the mailboxes remained accessible was part of the job for a rural mail carrier in those days.

Pioneer Express, 17 Nov 1922(2)

Fortunately, this accident did not end Paul's long-time career with the post office. In fact, at the time of his accident, Paul was serving as President of the Rural Letter Carriers in North Dakota.(3)

Lessons Learned: That wonderful picture of Paul found at the beginning of my post was one I obtained some years ago, back before I realized how important it was to keep up with sources. The picture came from a local history book probably written in 1930-1940 in Traill County, North Dakota. Online I had come across an index to the book, saw Paul listed, and wrote to ask if someone could send me a copy of the picture. A look-up volunteer promptly honored my request. I'm just sorry that I cannot tell you the title or compiler of the book or anything about the photograph. Lesson: as soon as you find or receive information, attach a source to it. If only I had followed my own advice.

* Have You Heard the News is a series of posts about family information gleaned from copies of newspapers available through,, and Chronicling America by the Library of Congress.

(1) "Postal Service Mission and 'Motto'",
(2) "State Summary", 17 Nov 1922, Pioneer Express, Pembina, ND; accessed through Library of Congress Chronicling America.
(3) "State Summary", 30 Sep 1921, Pioneer Express, Pembina, ND; accessed through Library of Congress Chronicling America.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Military Monday : Following the Trail of a Spy, John Howard

John Howard might have been only 15 at the time, but he had his place in the events of the Revolutionary War. It turns out that young Howard was a spy for the colonial troops along the North Carolina / South Carolina border. This story about my 5 Great Uncle has been told with this one sentence in many places, but I wanted to see if I could learn more about him.

My interest in John Howard started as I was looking for more information about the family of my 3GreatGrandmother Elizabeth Howard. It was not too difficult to move back another generation and find her father Samuel Howard, his brothers (among them John Howard), and their father John Milton Howard, thanks to a will transcription I found online.(1)

Later, looking at several sources for burial information, I found a photo of the grave marker for John Howard with a birth date that matched what I already had known about John. His marker was clearly one that had been added long after his death, and it appeared to be a military-style marker.

John Howard, 1767-1851
FindAGrave memorial #108835867, photo by "cliffoflancing"

Knowing he had been in a soldier lead me to explore the Revolutionary War resources available on What I found was a 56-page folder of papers related to John's filing for a soldier's pension in 1832. It also included various paperwork filed on behalf of his wife Nancy for a widow's pension through the years after John's death in 1851.(2)

There was so much information contained in the file that I ended up putting pertinent information into a timeline spreadsheet. That way I had a clearer picture of what went on in the lives of John and Nancy since the files themselves were not in chronological order. It was worth looking over each document in the file in order to get all of this information.

1767Feb 11John Howard bornLawrence County, SC
1781abt Feb - OctJohn entered service in Rev. WarLawrence County, SC
ca 1782-1892John resided in Laurens, SC for 20 yrs after the warLaurens, SC
ca 1800-1809John Howard in KentuckyChristian County, KY
1810January 29Marriage bond for John Howard and Nancy HowardKnox County, TN
ca 1810-1811Marriage of John Howard and Nancy HowardKnox County, TN
     1814-1815John and Nancy moved from Knox to Morgan County
ca 1832-1833John started receiving military pension under act of 1832, $20 per yearMorgan County, TN
1851April 9John Howard diedMorgan County, TN
1853Mar 23Nancy Howard applied for widow's pensionMorgan County, TN
1855Apr 11Nancy Howard applied for widow's pension Morgan County, TN
1860Sep 4Restoration of pension for NancyMorgan County, TN
1862Jul 14Nancy Howard applied for restoration of pension Morgan County, TN
1866May 28Certificate of Widow's Pension Morgan County, TN
1872Mar 22Nancy had ?s about losing her pension certificateMorgan County, TN

It was a special moment when I found the following statement in John Howard's application for a pension. In it, he has sworn that at ...

Here was John Howard's statement that he had been a "volunteer indian spie" during the war and that he had served under Capt. Berry and Lt. William Brown. The document was written by his lawyer and related the various events John provided as proof of military service. This is probably the same document that someone else found years ago, added to an online family tree, then had it repeated (but without a source) on countless other family trees. At least, there is a source for saying John Howard had been a spy.

I decided to pay another visit to J D Lewis' information-packed website Carolana, the place where you can find  "almost everything you ever wanted to know" about the Carolinas. Here I also found verification of John Howard's military service. In the database of "The Privates, Horsemen, Fifers, and Drummers", I found a listing for John Howard which indicated that he enlisted in the New Acquisition District Regiment in 1781, completed his service in 1781, and served under Capt William Barrey and Lt. William Brown during these months.(3) This agreed with the statements in Howard's pension application plus provided the name of the regiment in which he served.

Trailing this spy lead me to learn more about his military service, his marriage and the various places where he lived. It also explained why I had found marriage, census, and burial information in Tennessee instead of near his birthplace in South Carolina. If so many people had not noted his service as a spy, I might never have taken the time to even look for information about this John Howard. Now, I need to start looking for more about his father, my 5 GreatGrandfather, also named John Howard, but who was apparently not a spy.

(1) West, Mary E, "Ancestors & Descendants of Thomas and Harriet Compton Howard", accessed on the website of the Hamilton County Tennessee Genealogy Society,
(2) "Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files", folder for John Howard, publication M804, National Archives Catalog ID 300022, record group 15; accessed through
(3) Lewis, J D. "The American Revolution in South Carolina,  The Privates, Horsemen, Fifers, Drummers, etc",

Monday, July 6, 2015

Have You Heard the News* About Lemuel Dean?

It continues to be a surprise to find a reference to an ancestor in newspapers that are well over 125 years old. References to my 3GreatGrandfather, Lemuel Dean, keep appearing in historical newspapers. He shows up for a variety of reasons, some expected, others surprising.

Lemuel Dean apparently didn't follow the belief that you can't fight City Hall. At one meeting in 1873 he presented a request to the Atlanta City Council for a reduction to his property assessment. Later at the same meeting, he pressed for payment for damages done to his property after the city had been working on the street on which he lived.(1)

Dean also served several times on the Fulton County Grand Jury.(2) As a retired teacher, I may not have agreed with the Grand Jury's recommendation in 1859 to not fund the building of school houses, but I appreciate his willingness to serve Fulton County in this way. 

Through the years, Lemuel Dean had been involved in civic affairs in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. In 1859, he was named to a committee to work out the details for an upcoming state convention to be held in Atlanta.(3) Later, during the Civil War, Lemuel Dean was among those citizens who were thanked for providing horses for use by the Tallulah Videttes, a local militia group being organized in 1863.(4)

According to one newspaper article, in 1867 Dean had been one of a group calling for a town meeting to discuss the Sherman bill, the federal legislation that lead to reconstruction.(5) The wording of the original article makes his political stance concerning reconstruction apparent.

The Daily Intelligencer, 3 Mar 1867, accessed on The Digital Library of Georgia

Legal notices provided additional information concerning Dean. Some of the notices relate to his handling of the estates of his deceased son Samuel Howard Dean as well as other Dean family members. In 1870, he was named as the guardian of the minor children of the late William Thurman.(6) Other legal notices referred to Dean as a nearby property owner, the witness to a sale, or a former owner of the property in question.

Upon his death in January of 1880, there was no obituary, only one sentence which mentioned his burial.(7) His sons William Hiram Dean and Jesse Priestly Dean were named as the executors of their father's estate. As such they had a number of notices published in Atlanta newspapers relating to this responsibility. A notice of an Executor's Sale published in the 14 Mar 1880 issue of The Constitution was close to half a page in length as it listed his numerous properties to be sold.(8) In addition to seven lots, all along the railroad in Clarkston, Georgia, the estate also included over 100 acres in areas of Fulton County, Georgia.  Furthermore, the estate contained 23 individual lots as well as a half interest in nine additional lots, all located within the city limits of Atlanta. It looks as if a good rainy day project would be to locate these areas on an old map of the City of Atlanta especially since I had no idea he ever owned that much property.

Apparently, Lemuel's estate took quite a while to settle. Beginning in 1881 there were numerous legal notices concerning specific sales conducted by the executors.(9) The final legal notices appeared in the fall of 1889. In them, the remaining executor, William Hiram Dean, stated he had fulfilled all of his duties relating to the estate.(10) I can't help but wonder what circumstances caused Lemuel Dean's estate to take so long to complete the probate process.

The final article I found was written years after his death.  An article about old homes in the Atlanta area mentioned Lemuel Dean's three-story home on Marietta Street,(11)

As I continue to learn more about Lemuel Dean, I am coming to see that he had many facets. He was a friend to some, an enemy to others, a man not afraid to speak his mind, yet someone willing to stand for his beliefs. A real person, not just a name on my family tree.

* Have You Heard the News is a series of posts about family information gleaned from copies of Atlanta newspapers available through,, and the Digital Archives of Georgia.

(1) "Proceedings of Council", The [Atlanta] Daily Herald, 20 Sep 1873; accessed on The Digital Library of Georgia, www.
(2) "April Term of the Superior Court", The [Atlanta] Intelligencer, 21 Apr 1859; accessed on The Digital Library of Georgia, www.
(3) "Internal Improvement Meeting", Weekly Atlanta Intelligencer, 25 May 1870; accessed on The Digital Library of Georgia, www.
(4) "To the Citizens of Atlanta", Southern Confederacy, 4 Jun 1863;  accessed on The Digital Library of Georgia, www.
(5) "Politics in Atlanta 30 Years Ago", The [Atlanta] Constitution], 2 May 1897; accessed on
(6) "[Legal Notices]", Atlanta Weekly Intelligencer, 16 Jun 1859; accessed on The Digital Library of Georgia, www.
(7) "All Around Us", Daily Constitution, 14 Jan 1880; access on
(8) "Executor's Sale", The [Atlanta] Constitution], 14 Mar 1880; accessed on
(9) "[Legal Notices]". The [Atlanta] Constitution], 22 Aug 1885; accessed on
(10) "[Legal Notices]". The [Atlanta] Constitution], 14 Sept 1889; accessed on
(11) Massey, R J, "Buildings of Yesterday and Today in Atlanta", The [Atlanta] Constitution], 16 Jul 1911; accessed on