There are lots of reasons to blog. For me, I like to write, and this is a way I can scratch that itch in a life that doesn't allow time for longer projects. I can pick a topic and have a post in an hour or two. I mostly do it for myself, but it's also "cousin bait."
And I finally caught one.
You know who you are. My post on my Civil War ancestor Ansel Wilson reeled you in.
"Cousin bait" means putting your information out online, hoping it will catch the eye of an as yet unknown relative. I'm not sure how many descendants Ansel Wilson has, but with 12 of his 15 children living to adulthood, there's got to be a passel. The information and artifacts of a family don't usually all go to one person. Things get spread out, passed down, forgotten, rediscovered. You have to find the cousins to uncover the cool stuff.
Let's take Ansel Wilson. I started doing genealogy seriously in the 1990s; you know, when you had to write letters. On paper. I honestly can't remember how I came across the name of Hoyt Wilson. He shared my passion for family history and also loved to tell a good story. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years before I tried to make contact with him. However, I got in touch with his widow. My mom and I took a trip to Kentucky to meet her and visit the area our family came from. Hoyt had no children, and he directed that his research go to another interested cousin (and with his widow's help, I was able to track that cousin down as well). In the intervening 30 years, I'm sure this sweet lady has passed away too, and I am so glad I got in touch with her and got to meet her.
She shared this photo with me:
|Left Bill Wilson, right Hoyt Wilson; taken at Hoyt's home in Beaver Dam, Kentucky|
On the left is Bill Wilson, Hoyt Wilson is on the right; they were first cousins. Between them sit the clock, Bible, and knife of their grandfather (my great-great grandfather) Ansel Wilson. The original photo isn't the clearest. I sure wish I could zoom in on those items!
|Clock, knife and Bible of Ansel Wilson|
I never got to see these items in person. I'm not even sure who owns them now. But at least by getting in touch with Hoyt's family, I got to "see" them.
So, that was the old school way. Write to one cousin, see what they have. Share your stuff. That leads you to the next cousin. It was really exciting to get big packets in the mail with pedigree charts, stories, and pictures.
Now, we've got nearly instant access to people. If we can find them. Enter the blog.
I wrote my post about Ansel Wilson in 2014. It took a year and a half, but finally a cousin stumbled across it and got in touch. I started dusting off all my old letters and photos to share with her. Meanwhile, she pointed me to her ancestor on FamilySearch.org. He was Ansel's son, John W. Wilson:
|John W. Wilson, son of Ansel and Cinderella McInyre Wilson|
my great-great uncle
Dark hair, blue eyes, and a moustache that just won't quit!
Now, this man led a full life. You should check out his FamilySearch page to read his short bio under "Life Sketch." You will need to create a free account (and if you haven't already, why not?) to view it. Once on the site, go to the Family Tree menu, click on Find, and you can locate him under the ID number KWZS-TC9. This was my first experience seeing what personal info was on Family Search. I'd only looked at it to view records before. Now I have a photo and bio of my great-great uncle.
In digging out my files for this cousin, I ran across a letter that Hoyt Wilson had written to yet another cousin, packed with old stories. I know I read this letter 25 years ago, but it had totally slipped my mind. In it was a story about Daniel Boone McIntyre. He was Ansel's brother-in-law (his wife Cinderella's brother). I'd been able to find "Boone" as he was usually called in census records up to 1880, but that was about it. I'd always kind of wondered about him, but he didn't seem to have a family of his own to trace down so I let it go. I'd like to let Hoyt tell you the story that he set down on paper in 1983, in his own words, with an honest-to-goodness TYPEWRITER, errors and all. [I have inserted a few paragraph breaks to make it easier to read.]
"Mel, I can't seem to bring this letter to a close, as some three incidents that really did happen during the Civil War--incidents that are true--that I should like to tell you about. These true Civil War episodes may not be of interest to you, but they have always meant a lot to me. The first incident has to do with our grandmother Wilson's brother, Boone McIntyre--an own uncle to your father and my father. I believe I mentioned this particular incident to your sister, Beth, in one of my letters a few years ago. But I want to tell the same story to you, probably, with a bit more detail than I set forth in my letter to Beth.
"Boone McIntyre, (Uncle Boone, shall we call him), was a foreman in a sugar refinery in Louisiana at the outbreak of the Civil War. As the war wore on--men were beginning to be needed to replenish the ranks of the Confederate Army. Consequently, Uncle Boone, was drafted into the Confederate Army, much to his dislike and patriotic belief. So, in due course of time, and at the right opportune moment, Uncle Boone took leave from the Confederates (deserted, so to speak), and traveling more-or-less incognito--made his way back to grandmother Wilson's little cabin on that old flat rock on the bank of Caney Creek at Olaton, Kentucky. Finally, the Confederates noticed that he was missing from the ranks--and knowing that he was from Kentucky, decided that he had gone A.W.O.L. A Confederate Captain with three men under his authority, were ordered to make the trip to Kentucky, in an attempt to locate and apprehend Uncle Boone, and return him back to Louisiana to be tried before a Military Court.
"The Confederate Captain and his men through some means of direction--and, in due course of time, made their way to Olaton, Kentucky, (probably, with some help from the Confederate Intelligence in Ohio County), converged on grandmother Wilson's humble little cabin on that old flat rock on the banks of Caney. It was near the close of the day, and "darkness was beginning to set in--grandmother said, and the Confederates made their way into the house--showing some degree of politeness". They made no attempt to molest or harm grandmother in any possible way, but did demand that she cook their supper. If you remember when you were here--the old Dutch oven or skillet that we now have in our kitchen, is the very Dutch skillet in which grandmother Wilson prepared the supper for these Confederate soldiers. I can remember my dad telling me just what she cooked for these men for supper. Fried corn pone, fried potatoes, fried side meat, and eggs.
"While grandmother was preparing their supper, the Confederate Captain picked little Billie (William E. Wilson, our fathers' brother), up and was trotting Billie on his knee. No doubt the Captain was also a family man. Little Billie was approximately two and a half years old, and could do some bit of talking. Now, what happened here was, at which time Uncle Boone arrived at grandmother's house--they took his Confederate uniform--pulled a board loose from the floor, and hid his uniform under the floor. They also put some bed clothes and few other fairly valuable items up in the old loft or attic above the main living floor. But grandmother, and Uncle Boone, when they were concealing the uniform and bed clothes had not the least idea that Little Billie was observing just what was going on. So, consequently, while the Captain was trotting little Billie on his knee--Billie suddenly had a real bright thought. Gesturing his little thumb--down toward the floor--Billie said, "soldier clothes down there", and with his thumb pointing upward toward the loft, "bed clothes up there".
"Grandmother said "that her heart nearly came right up in her throat. She was scared almost to death. One of the Confederate soldiers jumped up--whipped out his pistol, and said to the Captain, "did you hear what the kid said?" The Captain assured him that he did, and told the soldier to put his pistol away. But the soldier, perhaps, thought that their pray--Uncle Boone--might be just outside the door, and could come in shooting. So, quite a little scuffle went on between the Captain and his subordinate--causing the pistol to discharge and the bullet imbedded in the old mantle above the fire place. Grandmother, then, was really scared.
"The Captain finally quieted the man down, and they then proceeded to have their supper. After they had eaten--they began to explore. Lifting up the board in the floor, they, of course, found Uncle Boone's Confederate uniform. The Captain quizzed grandmother as to where Uncle Boone might be found. She replied "that she had not the least idea as to his whereabouts". The Captain knew, of course, that they were on the right trail, and reasoned that Uncle Boone surely was not too far away. So, bright and early the next morning, the Confederates started making a fairly wide circling sweep of the countryside. Uncle Tom Daniel (Capt. Tom), our father's half Uncle was hiding Uncle Boone out at his house. Uncle Boone was staying in a cave down under the hill from Uncle Tom's house.
"It was in the summer time, and tobacco crops were up about waist high. Uncle Boone was helping Uncle Tom to work his tobacco patch. The Confederates suddenly surprised both Uncle Tom and Uncle Boone by seeing them in the tobacco patch. Uncle Tom saw the Confederates first and told Uncle Boone to make a run for the cave. Uncle Boone started running through the tobacco--whereupon, the Confederates opened fire with their rifles, and cut down several tobacco plants all around Uncle Boone as he ran for the cave. The Confederates rushed in quickly, and captured Uncle Boone hiding in the cave below the house.
"Uncle Boone was taken back to Louisiana--where he was tried before a Confederate Military Court, and was sentenced to be executed for desertion. The Captain, and his three firing squad men, took Uncle Boone out to the designated spot of execution--whereupon the Captain, "asked Uncle Boone if there was any last minute request--or anything he would like to say before his execution?" Somehow, through all this ordeal, Uncle Boone had managed to conceal on his person--an old "tintype" picture of a woman and two relatively small children. I am led to believe that this picture of the woman and two children was that, of some of the McIntyre family from way back. Of course, Uncle Boone had never been married. He was strictly an old bachelor. Anyway, Uncle Boone produced this picture--handed it to the Captain, and said, "This is a picture of my wife and two children--back in Kentucky whom I haven't seen for over two years. I just want to ask this favor of you, Captain, to promise me that you will have this picture returned back to my wife with the message that she and the children were the last thoughts on my mind." The Captain took the picture--"Uncle Boone said". And studied it intensely for quite a long time. He pushed his hat back, scratched his head momentarily, handed the picture back to Uncle Boone--then turned to his firing squad, and said, "Hell! Turn him loose. He's human just like the rest of us."
"So, I guess there's a little soft spot in the hearts of many men. Uncle Boone was convinced to the day of his death, that this picture was the only thing that saved him from the firing squad. After his release by the Captain, Uncle Boone faded away into the countryside, and eventually with some degree of caution, made his way back to Olaton, Kentucky, where he weathered out the rest of the war with grandmother Wilson--there in her little cabin on that old flat rock on the banks of Caney. Now, wasn't that quite a twist? After the Confederates went to all that trouble making their way to Kentucky to apprehend Uncle Boone, taking him back to Louisiana to be executed, and with that little spark of love in the Captain's heart for a human being, turned him loose. I have often wondered just what kind of a report the Captain, and his firing squad made to their ranking superiors. Probably, faked some kind of a report, or turned in a signed document indicating that the execution had been carried out according to orders."
This letter was dated February 7, 1983, and signed "Your old Kentucky Cousin, Hoyt".
This letter got me digging around trying to verify any parts of it. I was able to find Daniel B. McEntire, age 26, in the 1st Louisiana Cavalry. He was reported as "home sick" in the summer of 1862, having left his unit at Russellville, Kentucky. This is when "Little Billie" would have been 2 1/2. It could be him, but he laters appears as "present" on the muster rolls from the fall of 1862 to July 1863. Then oddly, he doesn't have any other muster roll cards until a Roll of Prisoners of War, surrended to the North on May 26, 1865 and paroled on June 4, 1865. I'm not sure this is the right Uncle Boone, but it kind of fits.
Boone McIntyre was living with his mother in the 1870 census in Kentucky. In 1880 he is listed as a laborer in a household of, as far as I know, unrelated people, still in Kentucky. That's the last I can find of him.
I shared this letter with my new cousin, and was rewarded with one more bit of memorabilia. I present to you the Dutch skillet that Cinderella McIntyre Wilson prepared dinner in to served the four Confederates in her cabin that hot summer night.
And along with that, a much better version of the picture I have of Cinderella:
I love the little earrings. I wasn't able to see those in my copy. This story makes it a little easier to imagine Cinderella in her little cabin by the creek, with (at that time) three small children. Her husband was away fighting for the Union, but she lived in a state where Union and Confederate both flourished. I can see her cooking in that pot trying to keep her cool with four soldiers looking for her brother.
I can't wait to see what cousin I hook next!