Revisiting Topeka

Three weeks ago, having left Philadelphia early to avoid Hurricane Sandy, we found ourselves driving through Indiana with a bit of time to spare. In my opinion, unscheduled, meandrous travels are times of serendipitous happenstance. This trip was no exception.

We got off the I-80/90 freeway at the Indiana-Ohio border and headed 30 miles southwest on country roads to Swan, Indiana. This is where our Amos and Holmes ancestors settled.

Swan, Indiana

Swan is a small cluster of houses on Old State Road 3, just off Highway 3 (it doesn’t even show up as a village on the map, but is listed as a township). If we let our imaginations run, we could wonder if the old building in the background was Charles Wesley Amos’s carpenter shop.

Just south of Swan, the Swan Cemetery is at the intersection of Old State Road 3 and E 300 S (creative street naming at its best). Here the Holmes and Cramer families are buried—if you remember, these are names from the Amos Boys’ Grandmother Beatrice’s side of the family.

Because it was cold and raining (thanks to Hurricane Sandy) and because there are over 900 interments in the Swan Cemetery, we were not about to get out and search for gravestones. Mark that down for next time, along with some advance research!

Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan, Noble Co. Indiana

Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

We did, however, find the Bethlehem Cemetery, a much smaller, quaint, country cemetery located a few miles west on Swan Road. And here is the Amos family!

Charles Wesley and Elizabeth Amelia (Jarrett) Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Charles Wesley Amos military marker, 5 IND Battalion, G.A.R. Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Charles and Elizabeth (Jarrett) are the Amos Boys great-grandparents. On the gravestone it reads 5 IND BAT. G.A.R. for Charles’ military service during the Civil War.

Andrew and Catharine Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Our son, Jonathan, needed to be in South Bend later that week. Not trusting the flights out of his town of Philadelphia, he hitched a ride with us. Jonathan’s middle name is Amos so spending 3-4 hours with his parents on a cold, rainy legacy tour was especially meaningful…right, Jonny? (Thanks again, Hurricane Sandy, he says.)

Andrew Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co., Indiana

Catharine Mottinger Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Andrew and Catharine (Mottinger) Amos were Charles Wesley’s parents. If you recall, Andrew was born in Hanover, Germany. At some point, he immigrated to America and settled in Ohio, where he married Catharine. Together, they raised their family in Swan.

From here, we loaded back into the car and headed westward. We drove past Corunna, a town my father Duane has often mentioned; and Kendallville, where Duane remembers, as children, he and Bruce went shopping every Friday with their Grandmother Beatrice.

Late in the afternoon, we arrived in Topeka.

Amish buggy in Topeka, Indiana

In some ways Topeka is the same town I remember as a child. It still has only one stop light. There still is a hardware store on the corner. And there still are Amish—in fact, there are lots of Amish!

Just as Duane described on the phone, if you turn west at the street light (Main and Lake St) and go one block to Babcock St., there on the corner is the building that was their grandfather Wm. Arthur Amos’s blacksmith shop. Interestingly, it still looks somewhat the same. It’s now the Eastside Harness and Tack Shop, and here is a blog with lots of photos of the shop.

I later called Eastside and left a phone message. The owner called back and also left a message. He said Arthur Amos was before his time, however his father remembered such a blacksmith shop. I’m still trying to connect with him.

209 S. Babcock, Topeka, Indiana

Does this house look familiar? It’s 209 S. Babcock St., in Topeka, and it’s where Arthur and his second wife Hazel lived. Many of us may remember coming here when we were young.

How’s this for fun…the house is currently for sale and it’s listed on this realtor’s page. You can see the interior rooms and imagine how they looked decades ago.

On the outskirts of Topeka is Eden Cemetery. Here, Wm. Arthur and his first wife Beatrice are buried. I’ve marked this cemetery for a return-trip-to-do list but in the meantime, you can check out their gravestone on this page.

So that was our trip. In spite of some nasty weather, it was still lots of fun and very special. Definitely one to do again on a nicer day!

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Will Family Albums Be a Thing of the Past?

Several years ago an instructor for the photography class I was taking expressed concern that a whole generation of photography would eventually go missing. His thought was that right now, in this age of digital photography, we are still new enough to the concept that we are not taking care to preserve our images. In the future however, people will realize what’s been lost and they’ll take specific measures to once again produce hardcopy photos.

He’s right, you know. I’m a perfect example.

I put together photo albums for my family up to the late 1990s (albeit in great need of organization). Somewhere after that I went digital and no longer had them printed. Oh, I always mean to. But year after year goes by and I add hundreds of pictures to my computerized stash, yet I fail to make hardcopies. At any given time, my technology could fail and I could easily loose these irreplaceable family treasures.

Does posting pictures on Facebook count? Or in a blog?

Some say our photos are safer online than in the old-fashioned photo album. But there’s something to be said about sitting down with a tangible timeline of one’s beloved family. There’s joy in turning the pages of an album—those plastic sheaths that archive the pieces of our lives. Somehow the pass of a finger across a digital screen just doesn’t compare.

We don’t have a lot of pictures of the Amos boys when they were young. Those we do have are so very, very special. We’re lucky Gladys and others took the time to shoot those photographs—it certainly was much more expensive then than now—and we’re lucky they cared enough to save them for us.

Here are good suggestions for preserving family photos and data (click here). Do you have more ideas to add? How can we make sure the pictures we take today will be there for our grandchildren and their children?

Modern Day Genealogy Junkie

Gladys' list of family names

Well, where did September go? Somehow, I got extra busy and the weeks slipped by without any new posts to the blog. So sorry about that. But, hey, it’s October and we’re back!

October is also Family History Month. The Amos family is way ahead—we’ve been celebrating our history the whole year. Even so, genealogy is a study worth discussing, partly because it’s a popular trend and also because—well, of course—because it tells us who we are.

Family history made its first grab at me when I was a teenager. I remember talking with the Amos boys’ mother, (my grandmother) Gladys, and she wrote down a list of names. Then she gave me a copy of this photo. Suddenly the names became real people and I was hooked. I was a genealogy junkie.

Back then learning of our family tree was a slow and tedious hobby. I wrote to people, via U.S. mail, and then I waited. I sat in libraries and scanned through microfilm. Nowadays, the internet brings everything to an immediate accessibility. Some say it’s taken away the thrill of the hunt, but, hey, I’m a busy woman so I’ll take less thrill and more reward.

Have you gone online and checked out Ancestry.com?

Paisley Laing Military record

At this time, Ancestry.com is the biggest genealogy resource and with its claim of 10 billion records, it’s the candy shop of family history. One can’t decide which direction to go first. Birth? Immigration? Military? Census? With a simple click of your mouse on the waving green leaf you can find interesting artifacts like this military pension record for our Paisley Laing (the Amos boys’ great-grandfather).

Yes, Ancestry.com charges a subscription fee to join. But you can also check your local library – many hold subscriptions and allow you to use it for free. If you join, let’s share information!

So what about you? Are you a genealogy junkie? What does knowing our family tree mean to you?

Finding Culture Within the Family

Last week, we studied the Amos side of our family tree and once again we learned of our German roots. This week, let’s look at Beatrice Holmes, the grandmother from Topeka who took care of Duane and Bruce. We know so very little of her and her family. But perhaps, just by her English surname, we can imagine a bit of cultured decorum that counterbalances the stodgy stubbornness so often associated with our Kraut-iness (although, surely we have none of that).

So, let’s take a look at Beatrice and her family.

From our family records, we know Beatrice was born in 1880 in Swan, Indiana, to (Eugene) Milton and Mary Alice (Cramer) Holmes. Her father Milton drilled wells for a living and was originally from Ohio. We don’t know much more about his family.

Thanks to Ancestry.com however, we know quite a bit about Beatrice’s mother’s family. The Cramers were from Swan, Indiana—in fact they settled the town. That means we have another founding for which we can claim credit (so what if it’s only an unincorporated community within the township of Swan).

According to the 1860-1870 census records, Beatrice’s grandfather, Ephraim Cramer, ran a dry goods and grocery store there in town. According to this website on Indiana cemeteries, her great-grandfather, Conrad, was the community’s first settler. On that site, check out his list of children: six from his first wife, Magdalina, before she died at the young age of 32, and 12 from his second wife, Lydia. The Cramers were a town, just of themselves!

But wait a minute, Cramer—is that an English name? It could be, according to this Ancestry.com family fact page. Or, it could be Dutch, German or Irish, depending on its original spelling.

We have more surnames that pop up on Beatrice’s side of the family—names like Broughton, Rickard, Timmerman, Sitts and Haus. All these people, as far back to the mid-1700s, were born here in the United States. We’re like founding fathers within our country!

Interesting, huh? I wonder where we’ve immigrated from and when?

The Treasure of a Family Bible

The Amos Family Bible

Bibles are precious for so many reasons, one being the family history so carefully recorded within their pages. In a previous post, Jerry showed us a picture of a Gulick family Bible. Here, pictured above, we have one from the Amos family. It belonged to Charles and Elizabeth Amos, great-grandparents to the Amos boys.

Let’s take a look at the genealogy of this side of the family. We know a few facts—names and dates from Ancestry.com—but we don’t know many stories. We’ll have to take what we can get, yes?

On July 31,1809, Andrew Amos was born in Hannover, Germany. We don’t have a date for his immigration to the United States, but in 1837 when he was 28 years old, Andrew married Catharine Mottinger in Columbiana County, Ohio. Interestingly, Catharine’s family traces back to the mid 1700s in Pennsylvania, where the name is also listed as Mattinger.

According to the 1840 census, Andrew and Catharine settled in Columbiana County and started their family of seven children—four girls and three boys, one of whom was Charles Wesley Amos.

In the 1850 census, Andrew was a wagon maker and he owned property valued at $800. By 1860, he and Catharine had moved to Noble County, Indiana and he farmed on land valued at $1500. Their son Charles was 18 and listed as a farm laborer.

Charles, of course, is the son we’re interested in.

Amos Family Bible, marriage

Isn’t this beautiful? The artwork, the handwriting—all of it is stunning. On October 24, 1867, Charles married Elizabeth Amelia Jarrett. I wonder if they received this Bible as a wedding gift? I wonder whose handwriting it is, Charles or Elizabeth’s?

Amos Family Bible, births

By 1880, Charles, Elizabeth and their children were living in Swan, Indiana. Here, Charles worked as a carpenter. In fact, the tools my son Jason writes about in his report are Charles’ tools.

In 1880, William Arthur was born. That’s right, our Arthur—the guy who would later become a blacksmith to the Amish and grandfather to the Amos boys.

So there you have it, a record of the Amos family from 1809 to 1880. We look at this family Bible, we admire the beauty of their handwriting, we envision the things Charles created with his tools…and suddenly we have so much more than just names and dates. These treasures personalize those who once owned them and they give us part of the people themselves.

The Smithy

The Smithy by Paul Detlefsen

Isn’t it interesting how a person’s career defines not only him, but also his family? How many in the Amos family hold a nostalgic fascination for the Amish, simply because they’re part of our childhood? Or, as Joel wondered in last week’s comments, who remembers this painting entitled The Smithy, by Paul Detlefsen, and feels a kinship to the art of blacksmithing?

We feel these emotional tugs because a hundred years ago Arthur Amos, grandfather to the Amos boys, was a blacksmith for the Amish. They are our heritage as much as the man himself is.

Thankfully, I’ve come across a bit of a treasure trove on Arthur, considering we don’t have much information otherwise. Back in 1991, my son Jason also was intrigued by the Amish and blacksmithing (well, as intrigued as an 11-yr-old can be when his mother tells him he must write a 4-H report on family history during the middle of summer vacation). He chose to research and write about Arthur.

Here are portions of his report.

Town Names and Family Pride

Not everyone can make the prestigious claim of a town bearing their family name. The Amos Boys can. In fact, through their mother’s maternal side, they can actually claim ownership of two towns—two, if you allow a bit of embellishment. And since embellishment is often what family history is all about, we’re going to do just that.

A few miles east of Lansing, near I-69 and Woodbury Road in Shiawassee County, is the has-been Irish community of Corktown. Even though there are Corktowns wherever the Irish have gathered, and even though ours is so small it doesn’t even make the map, we can still puff with a little bród Éireannach.

Corktown was settled by our ancestors, the Corcorans, who came from Roscommon, Ireland in 1838. The Corcorans farmed on Corcoran Road and being the community-minded folk that they were, they donated land for the Corcoran School, the Corcoran Cemetery and a Catholic church.

Looking at our family tree, we find names such as Bartlett Corcoran; who begat Patrick, who immigrated to the United States; who begat Owen; who begat Anastasia. (Anastasia is such a cool name—I really think one of you millennials should name your baby girl Anastasia.)

Now, let’s go seven miles up the road to the small town of Laingsburg. With a population today of 1283, this cozy, little community is actually listed on the map. Laingsburg was settled by our ancestor Peter Laing, who, in 1836, moved to the area from New York and set up a tavern.

From the Laings, we can boast Scottish roots. We have John Laing, who immigrated from Annondale, Scotland in 1773; who begat William; who begat Peter, who founded Laingsburg; who begat Paisley.

Let’s now connect these two families.

In 1870, Paisley Laing and Anastasia Corcoran married. They settled on Stoll Road, south of Laingsburg and raised this great family of five children, one of whom was Maggie Francis Laing, the Amos Boys’ grandmother.

Paisley Laing Family

Paisley and Anastasia Laing Family
Standing, l-r: Nellie, Phoebe, Maggie
Middle: Paisley (holding Hazen, baby of John and Fanny Hart), Fanny, and Anastasia
Front: Joseph B. Gulick (Nellie’s husband), John Hart (Fanny’s husband) and Earl Gulick (Maggie’s husband). Missing from the photo is Paisley and Anastasia’s son Peter, who perhaps was the photographer.


Paisley Laing House

Paisley and Anastasia’s farmhouse as it is today, 10060 Stoll Rd., south of Laingsburg.


So here we have a summarized version of our family on the Amos Boys’ mother’s maternal side. In two weeks, we’ll take a further look at Laingsburg and its founder Peter Laing. In the meantime, be sure to read Dave’s comments. He’s a super sleuth and found interesting data on the Laings.

Reunion
What are your plans for the upcoming reunion on June 16? We’ve got great ideas formulating, including a self-guided road trip to Laingsburg, Corktown, Williamston, and all the family farmhouses and cemeteries in between. Let us know so Elaine, Jan, Shelley and Jerri Lynn have an idea of how many are coming. Be there!


Genealogy information gathered by Jerry from the Michigan State Library, Corcorans and Burts, by Paul Burt, 1983; The Hill and Below, by Birdie Colby and Emma Jane Wright, 1976; Ancestry.com; and U.S. Census Records. Also included is some of Jerry’s speculation, which he claims is his specialty.