Author Archives: Chips Off the Old Block
Photos from Ocean Grove 112 years ago. My grandmother, Zillah Trewin, was 23 when they were taken. She appears in the image at the top, on the far right, holding the sides of her face. No sunglasses back then, except for on film stars, so a brimmed hat could surely have helped her. Perhaps she took hers off to have her picture taken.
I love these glimpses into history–an outing at the Jersey shore, the happy faces, the windy sailboat ride, the lady holding a parasol in her lap and waving, the fellow with the newspaper wrapped around the back of his head. A carefree, summer day at the start of the 20th century. A tiny slice of life you are unlikely to see anywhere else but here, thanks to my grandmother and her beloved brownie camera.
I can imagine the excitement as everyone piled into the rowboat (photo 3) to go out to the sailboat rocking in the ocean waters off shore. The boat’s captain (seen in photo 4) appears to be helping ladies into the rowboat. I gather all those other gents were there to push it into the surf. Aboard the sailboat, the group looks to be having a fun time. Lots of smiles. I think it’s likely that these were all Methodist Church friends and acquaintances of my grandmother and that this was an organized outing. The land in Ocean Grove is all owned by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (founded 1869) so perhaps the group attended one of the camp meetings in the Great Auditorium. Perhaps they even overnighted in some of the tents in “Tent City”.
Once back north in Union County, their bit of summer fun may have lingered on their minds for a while. And sunburn may have served as proof (ouch!) of the trip until real proof emerged in the form of these few photographs—proof that landed in my grandmother’s then ever-expanding photo album, which just happens to be sitting on my desk today.
Going through some old books a few weeks ago, I came across Longfellow’s Hiawatha, and inside was this wonderful and curious little note left behind by my grandmother Zillah Trewin. I don’t know when she wrote this note; it was probably some time later for the benefit of my mother who would eventually inherit it:
Zillah from Mother, 1905.
Mother memorized the introduction, first 5 chapters, also 10, 11, 12, 19, 20 and 22, largely while ironing.
If you are familiar with Hiawatha, you’ll know that this was no small feat! I try to envision my great-grandmother Elizabeth Sargent Trewin standing over her iron and simultaneously memorizing Longfellow’s verse. An image definitely emerges–now if only I could hear her voice. That would really be something!Longfellow
The Greatest Generation — Dad’s photos with ‘A’ Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines — Pacific Theater
Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of my father’s passing, and also, of far less significance, the 6th anniversary of this blog. I started it with him in mind, knowing how much family history meant to him. It’s a shame he has not been here to help me fill in pieces I can’t quite pull together or celebrate the discoveries I make with me. But I know he is here in spirit, and, perhaps, it was he who steered my hands last week toward a faded and plain, nondescript envelope containing the below photos from early on in his service during WWII. As you may recall from a past post, he served in A Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines. It looks like the photos were all taken on Guadalcanal except one, a view of Samoa.
The photos are an amazing find. I was especially delighted to see the faces of a few of the men my Dad spoke so highly of while I was growing up, especially 1st Sgt Frank DaVanon. So this post and the photos are dedicated to Dad (Charles D. Brodhead), these men, and all the others who served alongside him.
I have included all of his captions (Thank you, Dad!) both on the images and written out separately below so that search engines can find them. Perhaps someone ‘out there’ will find a photo of their greatest generation family member. And if you recognize someone, please feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you, and Happy Easter, All.
I am repeating the captions below so that search engines can pick them up for any family members who may be searching for their servicemen.
Photo 1: “A” Company specialists at Guadalcanal. Front row left to right: Grier, Co. Property Sgt; Stein, cook; Coleman, runner; DeMarco, Asst. Property Sgt; Rear row left to right: Black, buglar; Butkiewicz, jeep driver; Edwards, signalman; Fiands, cook
Photo 2: Some of ‘A’ Company men with Japanese flag at Guadalcanal, 1943.
Front (left to right): Rothberg, Gresko, Standley, and Wilshere Rear (left to right): 1st Sgt DaVanon, Tezack, Wilson, and Urbanovitch
Photo 3: ‘A’ Co. group at Guadalcanal, 1943: Front (left to right): Murphy, Vaught, Morris, and Callentine Rear (left to right): Morris, Phillips, Kaier, and Thornton
Photo 4: ‘A’ Company Staff NCOs and company commander after Bougainville operation, 1943.
Front (left to right): Gunnery Sgt Rowley; Captain C.F. Quilici; and Gunnery Sgt Urbanavitch
Standing (left to right): Gunnery Sgt Wilson; 1st Sgt DaVanon; and Platoon Sgt Morris
Photo 5: ‘A’ Co. 1st Bn, 3rd Marines – Group of Mortar and Machine Gun Sections, Taken at Guadalcanal after Bougainville operation, 1943 Front (left to right): Fansler, mortar squad leader; Low, mortar gunner; Watson, mortar gunner; and Cort, machine gunner Rear (left to right): Logan, machine gunner; Trott, machine gunner; Rowley, Gunnery Sgt; Colarulli, machine gunner; and Brown, machine gunner
Photo 6: ‘A’ Co. after Bougainville operation, 1943. Sorting accumulated mail and Christmas packages.
Foreground, sitting, 1st Sgt DaVanon; Kneeling, back to camera, Brodhead (Dad)
Photo 7: Taken at Guadalcanal before Bougainville operation, in front of property storage tent.
Front (left to right): Teofilo Romero (killed at Bougainville); Grier; and Rice
Standing (left to right): DeMarco, Steger, and Fiands
Photo 8: On beach at Guadalcanal, 1943. Some of the ‘A’ Co. gang. Note palm trees torn by shellfire.
Photo 9: Pvt. Charles D. Brodhead, US Marines Sept 1943, Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands
Photo 10: Islanders fishing
Photo 11: Guadalcanal, 1943: Sgt. H.B. Grier and a couple of natives
Photo 12: Samoa, 1942
Photo 13: Gunnery Sgt W.W. Wilson, Jr. and BoBo (an orphaned native boy of Guadalcanal)
Photo taken in 3rd Division bivouac area in Lever Bros. coconut plantation.
Photo 14: Guadalcanal, 1943. 1st Sgt DaVanon and two natives.
Photo 15: Photo taken on beach at Guadalcanal showing members of ‘A’ Co., 1st Bn, 3rd Marines digging foxholes of
A calling card left for Mr. & Mrs. Isaac Jaques by Mr. & Mrs. John A. Gunn. Given it is undated, the Mrs. Jaques could have been Isaac’s first wife Wealthy Ann Cushman (1793-1856; m. 1812) or his second wife, widow Rebecca Gold Robinson (1804-1886; m. between 1856-1860).
We know nothing of the circumstances, obviously, but after reading up on calling card etiquette, I believe this may have been an invitation to some sort of party / special social gathering. The envelope is quite decorative. Experts, feel free to weigh in.
I looked for a John A. Gunn and came up with one born in New York in 1820, so perhaps this was a friend of Isaac’s from his days in Manhattan where he was once a well-known and highly successful tailor before retiring across the Hudson River to his Elizabethtown country estate. (For more on Isaac, visit this past post.)
Below are some calling card etiquette resources, in case you want to brush up 🙂 — our ancestors who lived during the 19th century when they were in custom would have been well versed in all the nuances of their use. Personally I find it quite fascinating. It was indeed a much different time–no doubt they would find today’s varied forms of communicating and interacting rather head-spinning to say the least! Bonne fin de semaine!
St. James Methodist Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey, celebrated its 80-year anniversary in 1957, and a church program I recently came across commemorating the occasion indicated that my great-grandfather William Trewin was one of eight people who were on the committee that agreed to found the church, which was the result of two churches (Elizabeth Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church and St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church) coming together in a building that was acquired through an exchange with the Broad Street Baptist Church. The first service was held on April 15, 1877.
At the time of the committee meeting, October 23, 1876, my great-grandfather was 29 years old and married to his first wife Edith Fry with whom he was raising two sons, Bert and Clarence. The commemorative program is included in this post for anyone curious about some of the history of the church during its first 80 years. Today, the building is occupied by the Haitian Bethany Baptist Church.
It’s almost a year ago that I found in a box an old button hook that belonged to my grandmother Elizabeth Sargent Trewin’s sister-in-law Sarah Bowley Sargent. I put a poll up asking how folks would handle an item like that—one that was more distantly related to them. Most respondents were happy to put the item back in the box and hand it down. I chuckled when I saw that.
I was confronted with a similar situation again recently when I came across a small prayer book dated 1849; on the cover appear the initials “A. M. Barksdale” and the street address “2204 Monument Avenue” is written inside. The opposite side of that page contains a line from Dante’s Divine Comedy in Italian and English: “Down through the world of infinite bitterness.”
Clueless as to whom the book once belonged, I must admit that discarding it crossed my mind. But, I was too curious and ended up putting my detective hat on.
I won’t bore you with the zigs and zags of my small bit of research. Suffice it to say that I am quite certain the book belonged to Agnes Morton Barksdale (1834-1908) and that the address is that of the home of “Francis D. Barksdale”, a cousin (once removed) who lived at that street address in Richmond, Virginia. The house, built in 1909, still stands.
I don’t think Agnes ever married or had children. She was the daughter of Dr. Claiborne Williams Barksdale (b. 1802) and his second wife Sallie Norment Whitlock. The family lived in Halifax Co., Virginia. Their children were:
- Claiborne Whitlock Barksdale (1833 – 1902)
- Agnes Morton Barksdale (1834 – 1908)
- Judith Beverly Barksdale (1836 – 1891)
- Mary Barksdale (1838 – 1854)
- Sallie Claiborne Barksdale (1840 – 1916)
- Achilles Whitlock Barksdale (1842 – 1916)
- Thomas White Barksdale (1844 – 1902)
- Howard Barksdale (1846 – 1907)
In a nutshell, one of my grandmother’s sisters married a descendant of one of Agnes’s sisters, Sallie Claiborne Barksdale. That descendant died not long after they married, and my grandmother’s sister remarried and moved to California. Somehow this book remained behind in New Jersey with my grandmother.
I must say, my initial inclination was to dispose of it somehow, but I am glad I took the time to connect the dots and find the story behind this object. It was obviously used quite a bit by Agnes given the wear in the leather. I’ve sent a few emails to some folks I’ve found who appear to be bona fide descendants of Agnes’s siblings but have not yet heard back. I’ll have to wait and see where this little book’s fate takes it from here…
UPDATE 4/3/2017: I am pleased to report that this little prayer book is en route to a new home with a bona fide descendant of Dr. Claiborne Barksdale and his wife Sallie N. Whitlock.
A belated Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you. There seemed to be green everywhere yesterday, and speaking of green, today I have trees on my mind, not all trees, just a certain kind of tree…
Have you ever looked out on fields and seen a tree that was just massive? You can tell it has been there for a very long time. Was it standing alone like a lone sentry or providing vast swathes of shade to a centuries-old farmhouse? If the answer is yes, you may well have come upon what is known as a “first-growth tree,” a tree that is described so beautifully in Our Vanishing Landscape, a 1955 book by Eric Sloane.
Such trees provide first-growth timber, the strongest and best timber of all, timber that our American ancestors were blessed with in abundance as they took to settling the land and harnessing its natural resources. Per Sloan, this was “wood grown from untouched earth with the humus and peat and the natural rot of age-old forests.” He describes how, today, seemingly dilapidated centuries-old barns made of chestnut may actually still be in exceptionally good shape, the wood in even better condition than any new wood that could ever be found to replace it.
As you can imagine, in many parts of America today, first-growth timber is quite rare. Certainly that’s true in the East. Many of America’s forests and woods were cleared to make way for agriculture. But, says Sloane, America’s first farmers would leave some first-growth trees dotting the landscape to serve as navigational markers, and often they would choose their home sites based on the fact that a first-growth tree stood nearby, for shade, and as a reminder, he says, that “into that tree went the memory of all the forests of great trees that had disappeared around it.”
I grew up in a farmhouse that was built in 1774, and I often think of that place and its beautiful surroundings, and my mind always wanders to a maple tree—a gigantic maple tree—that stood to the rear of the house on the left, alongside a babbling brook. It’s only after reading Sloan’s book that I realized a first-growth tree in the form of that maple had quite possibly been in our midst all those years ago, and perhaps that is why, subconsciously, my mind, without fail, wanders back to that tree… There is something about nature that pulls us, captivates us, calms us, and has the power to make us feel whole. That tree was magnificent. I’ve been searching for a photograph of it, and I’m sure we have one somewhere. The closest I’ve gotten so far, however, is an image with just part of the tree in the background.
It’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like to be in a place where the majority of maples were that size. Unfortunately, history and human circumstances have denied us of the possibility to see such trees en masse in many parts of the country. We have to seek out our sequoias and redwoods and travel to mountain and forest places left largely untouched by human hands and natural disasters. We can dig into historical records to find traces of giant trees, and examine paintings by artists of previous centuries to catch glimpses of past American landscapes. As I look at paintings by 19th-century American artist George Inness (1825-1894), for instance, I see what I think must be at least the occasional first-growth tree dotting his landscapes. Whether they were there in reality or his imagination conjured them up, I don’t know. But, for instance, go back to the top of this post and look at the tree hiding in the background on the right in his painting In the Berkshires. That tree looks absolutely gigantic.
Interestingly, Sloane points out that it is documented that trees the size of California’s redwoods once existed in the East. He cites an 1841 record of a walnut tree that once stood in Forestville, New York, a mile above the mouth of a creek, named Walnut Creek after this tree. The giant tree was “36 feet in circumference at its base, gradually tapering 80 feet to the first limb. Its entire height was nearly 200 feet, and was estimated to contain 150 cords of wood, or 50,000 feet of inch boards. The bark was a foot thick. The tree was entirely sound when blown down in 1822…”
When I went on the Fulton History website to look into the existence of other giant trees reported in the press, I discovered an article in The Album of Rochester, New York, dated December 1, 1825: “An Elm in Hatfield, Mass. is supposed the largest tree in New England, It measures in circumference 34 feet at two feet from the ground; at the height of five feet, the smallest place in the trunk, the circumference is 24 feet 6 inches. There is a cut in the tree four feet from the ground, which tradition says was made by the Indians, for the highest rise of water in Connecticut river.”
The December 12, 1826, issue of the Franklin Herald and Public Advertiser (Greenfield, Mass.) contained an article on large trees. Some excerpts include: “The Charter Oak in Connecticut — From the best information that we can obtain, says a Hartford paper, this tree is no less than four hundred years old; it is 23 feet in circumference near the ground, and at the height of 7 feet, it is 17 feet in circumference; the height of the tree, is about 70 feet; some of its branches extend 20 feet. […] In May, 1826, there was an Elm blown down in Wells, (Maine,) which measured 27 feet and 4 inches in circumference, making the diameter something over 9 feet; and was 40 feet from the foot to a crotch; from thence it was 20 feet to the first limb, running to the height of 60 feet from bottom before it had any limbs, when it expanded to an immense size. The exact height of the tree could not be accurately obtained, as the top was much broken, but was computed to be upwards of 100 feet. […] The Lexington, Ky. Public Advertiser says, that there now stands on the bank of the Ohio river, in the State of Indiana, opposite the mouth of Salt river, a Sycamore tree, which has stabled fourteen head of horses at one time, with ample room. It takes 75 long paces to go round its trunk, and you may with perfect ease turn a fourteen foot pole in the inside of its cavity.”
The New Jersey Fredonian on April 11, 1827, reported that a giant poplar in perfect health had [very sadly] been felled by a Mr. Moser on his land in Berks County, Pennsylvania. It was 117 feet high with a circumference at the base of 20 feet 7 inches. The first limb appeared at 64 feet off the ground. It was estimated to be at least 300 years old by those who examined it’s circles. The article’s author, lamenting the poplar’s demise, referred to it as the “largest solid tree” ever seen or heard of, and a “giant of the forest.”
The Onondaga Register of Onondaga Hollow, New York, on 28 July 1827 included an article originally reported by the Allegany [sic.] Democrat of a massive sycamore tree that had provided a winter residence to a family of seven: “There is now on the farm of Mr. Andrew Beggs (painter) of Pittsburgh, a sycamore tree, in which a family of seven persons, resided all winter, having been detained by the freezing over of the river while ascending it. In this tree they found a comfortable asylum from the storms of a severe winter, with room for all the necessary furniture and cooking utensils, having a fire in the centre Indian style), the smoke of which ascended through a whole in the trunk occasioned by the breaking off of a large limb from the tree. This giant of the forest is about fourteen miles below Pittsburgh, and directly on the Ohio River.”
Then I came across this 1842 article (page 72 of the Farmer’s Monthly Visitor, Vol. 3-4) describing a gigantic maple, a tree very dear to my heart, as you know ;-). Perhaps, best of all, at the end it contains a list of the largest trees known to exist in the US at the time. (Bear in mind that at this point in history, the United States had only 26 states.) Scroll down for an image of what was probably the giant sycamore in Ohio with the 60-foot circumference, and an article that may refer to the New York sycamore.
One thing is for sure: if you see a BIG tree, it always leaves a BIG impression. And it’s clear that big trees made a big impression on our ancestors too!
So as you go about your travels, keep an eye out for any first-growth trees—elm, maple, sycamore, poplar, chestnut, oak, hickory, pine, etc.—you see (or think you see) in your neck of the woods. Feel free to report back here in the Comments box. Better yet, email me a photo, and I’ll post it here for others to enjoy and try to imagine the glorious age-old forests that greeted our early American ancestors. And/Or consider posting your find on the Monumental Trees website so that even more people can learn of your discovery. Let us treasure those giant trees in our midst and do everything we can to assure their survival.
I recently discovered this wonderful old photo taken circa 1911 of my grandfather William Boles standing outside his Uncle Robert Boles’s shop in Boyle, Co. Roscommon, Ireland. He worked there as a clerk before emigrating to the United States in October 1912 at age 20. He is fourth from the left. The photo was very faded but with the help of Photoshop, I managed to add a bit more definition and contrast to it. The shop is still in existence today and has remained a family business all these years later. Not an easy feat in an era of big box stores, shopping malls, and the Internet! The 1911 census lists George Riley (19), John Patrick Filmore (15), Edith Margaret Beacon (22), and Caroline H. White (21) as shop assistants, so they may well be among those who appear in the photo alongside my grandfather.
Sons of Mary Jane Trowbridge and Francis Woodruff, circa 1853
I was thrilled to come upon this old daguerreotype of my great-grandfather, William Earl Woodruff (b. 1848, right), and his little brother Matthias (b. 1851, seated on the left and holding what appears to be a rifle/sword). William has his hand on Matthias’s shoulder; apart from showing his brotherly love, he was perhaps doing his best to keep Matthias from fidgeting while the image was being recorded. Was having Matthias hold the rifle/sword a way to keep his hands still? I suspect so. This is the only image I have ever seen of Matthias, who eventually grew up to marry Mary S. Ayers and, in his 30s, headed out alone to the Dakota Territory to farm wheat. He died an accidental death in Chatham, New Jersey, when in his early 40’s.
I think Matthias resembles his mother Mary Jane, while William looks more like his father Francis. From previous posts you may remember that the family lived in a farmhouse built by Francis on Conant Street in present-day Hillside.
For more posts on this family, enter ‘Francis Woodruff’ in the search box on the left. Enter ‘Matthias’ for those posts chiefly related to him. As always I recommend reading the posts in chronological order.
On a different note, I have seen a few trees on Ancestry that show a son named John for this family, and Family Search corroborates this:
“New Jersey, Births and Christenings, 1660-1980,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FC1S-YHV : accessed 23 March 2015), John Woodruff, 27 Jun 1851; citing Union Twp., Essex, New Jersey, reference v 1 p 132a; FHL microfilm 493,712.
Francis’s father was John Woodruff (1795-1857; husband of Mary Ogden Earl) and Francis’s older brother was Matthias Woodruff (1818-1844, died of Yellow Fever in Louisiana), so I can see where the names ‘John’ and ‘Matthias’ came from. I am however wondering whether there were two sons by those names or if there was one son named ‘John Matthias’ who was known by family and friends as ‘Matthias’. I have not yet found an exact birth date for Matthias but other information I have places him as being born in 1851 (1860 census, death certificate—aged 42 on day of death April 6, 1893, etc.) So, if there was a John, perhaps he was a twin who died very young? (He is absent from the 1860 census). Personally, I am much more inclined to think that ‘John’ and ‘Matthias’ were one in the same person. Blog readers, please feel free to weigh in!