The Travels of Abiathar M. Harris: North to Kingston

The diary of A. M. Harris included just one more entry in the year 1821. In late summer, he left York (i.e. Toronto) and headed further north to Kingston, near the Thousand Islands.


The Frontenac steamboat was the first paddle steamer launched on the Great Lakes, in 1817.

On the 4th of August started for Kingston on board the Frontenac Steamboat. I was obliged to return to Fort George, as the Steamboat did not return to York on her way to Kingston; we arrived in Ft. George, thank God, about ten o’clock A. M. – here they discharged their cargo, which consisted of soldiers and their wives and children, they quarreled the whole passage – I called on an acquaintance, who invited me to stop until the boat left. I accepted his invitation and Mr. Easton, a school master, invited me to examine his school. So I did.

Excerpt- 5Aug1821

On the 6th being Sunday, we had preaching by the Rev. Doct. Morse – we arrived in Kingston, 4 o’clock P.M. Put up at the Old Kings Head, George Millward.

On the 7th I applied at the Herald Office and obtained work – commenced at 12 o’clock noon.

On the 27th I was taken sick of a fever which confined me for seven weeks – I lay 2 weeks at the scotch house of Peter McQuinn, here I was badly and little or no care taken of me – I was  removed to Mr. Thompson’s, my employer – where I received the greatest attention. I was attended by Doct. Sampson. Expenses of sickness was about 100 dollars. I stayed in the place about 11 months and enjoyed myself extremely well. The village is not large, by very pleasantly situated at the head of the St. Lawrence. There are many Americans in this place and a great intercourse between the states and the Province. I spent Christmas very much to my dissatisfaction and disappointment, having on Christmas eve visited the French Church, (it is customary to laminate their Churches that night at 12 o’clock) and afterwards spent the greater part of the night in social amusements. I retired to bed rather late with an intention of rising soon to spend the day by writing and partaking of a sumptuous dinner which had been prepared – and afterward have a dance – But what was my disappointment at waking 8 o’clock in the evening.


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A Video About My Home Town

A little trip down memory lane!

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Arthur T. Irvine: Soldier, Sailor, Inventor

Photo circa 1900, courtesy Library of Congress

Photo circa 1900, courtesy Library of Congress

Just before William Irvine took his wife and children off to America, the 1852 Montreal City Directory shows that he was working as a saddler and the family lived on the Rue Saint Vincent in the shadow of the magnificent Notre-Dame Basilica. The family were French-speaking Canadians and Catholic. They would have attended Mass at the beautiful church just up the street from where they lived.

When the family left Montreal in 1852, Arthur was 9 years old. He was born Jan. 13, 1843, in La Prairie, Montreal, Quebec. He had a dark complexion, brown hair and grey eyes.  Arthur was the 6th of 8 children (perhaps more) of William Irvine and Marguerite Domitille Leber. When the family arrived in America, it appears they first lived in Boston, where they are found on the 1855 Massachusetts State Census. According to the 1855 Boston City Directory, they lived at 101 Fourth Street in South Boston. No doubt, Arthur and other the children were attending school and learning to speak English.

A few years later, Arthur moved with the family to Rochester, NY. There, in August 1859, his mother died. Still in Rochester, the 1860 U. S. Census shows that as a young man of 17, Arthur was working as an apprentice to his father.

1860 CensusA year later, when the Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861, Arthur was in Chicago and, per his U.S. Army Enlistment Record, he was working as a machinist. (Click on image below to enlarge.) On May 14, 1861, Arthur enlisted in the 5th Regiment, U. S. Artillery (Regular Army), Battery D, for a 5 year term.  I wrote about Arthur’s Army service in an earlier post, so I won’t repeat it here.

U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments

U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments

Whether he sustained injuries in battle or succumbed to illness, Arthur landed in the West Philadelphia Hospital (Satterlee) in September 1862. The circumstances surrounding his release from the hospital and discharge from the Army are curious. On Sep. 20, 1862, the Honorable Oswald Thompson,  President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the City of Philadelphia, sent a writ of habeas corpus to the officer in charge at the hospital. Two days later, he was released. Unfortunately, exactly why a civil court judge demanded Arthur’s release from the military remains a mystery at this point.

3 Apr 1907 - Notation in War Record

Notation in War Record found in widow’s pension file.

About a year later, in October 1863, while living in Pennsylvania, Arthur enlisted in the Navy. He was appointed as an Acting 3rd Assistant Engineer. He served aboard three ships: the USS Monongahela, a rigged sloop of war;  the USS Hollyhock, a steamship; and the USS Donegal, a large sidewheel steamer. In March 1864, he was admitted to the Naval Hospital in New Orleans, “suffering the effects of climatic influence,” i.e. chronic diarrhea, as noted by his physician. His appointment was revoked in June 1864 because of his nearsightedness. Odd. Why not just get him glasses?

"USS Monongahela (1862)". Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

“USS Monongahela (1862)”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

When Arthur was released from the Navy, he was back in Philadelphia where he remained for a while. He can be found in the 1866 Philadelphia City Directory living on S. Front street and working as a machinist. The following year, he was in Jersey City where, on Jan 31, 1867, he married Isabella Volk. From the 1867 Jersey City and Hoboken Directory, the couple lived at the corner of Prospect and N. Ninth in Hoboken.

The next year, though, Arthur and Isabella had moved to Rochester, NY — a place familiar to Arthur — where again he’d found work as a machinist, according to the 1868 Rochester directory. He still had family inRochester, primarily his widowed sister-in-law, Phoebe.

In November 1869, Arthur Charles Irvine was born. Arthur, Belle and their baby were living in Rochester on the 1870 U.S. Census.

1870 CensusThe couple were in Dunkirk, NY, later that year, where (sadly) Isabella died. They may have been visiting Arthur’s brother, O. P. Irvine, who was married that same year. It’s tragic that she died so young, and I’m frustrated that I cannot find anything about her … not her parents, or why she died or where she’s buried.

The next few years, Arthur was on his own with his son, Charles. He’s listed in an 1871 Rochester city directory living on Walnut St. near Magnee. The Erie Canal was across the street from him, and Phoebe’s house on Jay Street was a few blocks south of him. It’s probable that Phoebe took care of little Charles while Arthur worked. But Arthur left Rochester, as he is not listed in the Rochester directories for 1872-1874. It seems that he ended up back in Dunkirk. It was there that he married Amelia Theresa Beach, daughter of William A. Beach and Adeline Palmer, on May 5, 1874. How Arthur and Amelia met each other when they lived far apart is one of those mysteries I’d love to unravel one day!

Arthur and Amelia stayed in Dunkirk through at least 1875. Their son, Lewis Walter Irvine, was born there in May of 1875 and the family is listed on the 1875 New York State Census — the Census taker misspelled the family surname and incorrectly identified baby Lewis as a daughter.

1875 NY CensusA few years later, the family moved to Titusville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. The petroleum industry was booming in Titusville, and Arthur may have found employment in one of the refineries there. But sorrow came to the family in Titusville when baby Lewis died at the age of 3.

1878 - death of Lewis Walter IrvineShortly thereafter, the family left Titusville for Oil Creek where, in January 1879, their daughter Florence was born. They stayed in Oil Creek for a while, as can be seen on the 1880 US Census. Having lost her son just two years previous, it must have been comforting to Amelia to have her parents living with her in those years.

1880 US Census

1880 Patent Application-schematicIt was while Arthur was employed in the oil industry that he applied for a patent for a gate valve he had devised. (Click on the image to enlarge)

A year later, the family moved to Duke Center, McKean County, PA, where three more children were welcomed into the family:

  • Edith, born Dec. 28, 1881
  • George, born Apr. 2, 1885
  • Henry, born May 7, 1886

While the 1890 U.S. Census was lost in a fire, the 1890 Veterans Schedule survived, and on it Arthur can be found living in Duke Center.

As Arthur grew older, the children married and started their own families. He and Amelia remain in Duke Center. Weirdly, the 1900 US Census listed Arthur under the name of his younger brother, Albert.

Arthur remained in Duke Center until his passing in 1907.

A T Irvine obituary - Portville Autograph Friday 1 Nov 1907

Portville Autograph Friday 1 Nov 1907

These are the bare-bones “facts” of Arthur’s life, and we can discern some things about the man from them.

  • He was a brave man: after seeing his share of human destruction while serving in the Army during the horrific Civil War, he re-upped in another branch of service — the Navy. What compelled him to do so? He was a native Canada and had no “dog in the fight.” Yet he chose to fight for the Union. We can’t know why, but we can certainly state that he was a courageous man, not afraid of a fight.
  • He was a family man. While he had siblings who never married, Arthur preferred the married life and a family.
  • He found an occupation and made it his career. While initially he trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a wagonmaker, Arthur found his talent in machinery and engineering. He applied his skill and knowledge in the Navy, in the railroad industry, and in the oil fields. As it happened, this knack for machinery was transferred to his sons and grandsons.

Insights into other aspects of Arthur’s character  can be gleaned from newspaper items. For instance, his political views drove him to run for office in 1894 under The People’s Party. He only took about 3% of the vote, but he participated, so he must have felt strongly about the issues at stake.

1894 House of Rep Election Results McKean CoAnother interesting item cropped up in the McKean County Miner,  15 October 1903.

McKean County Miner 15Oct1903Arthur, then 60 years old, and this Mr. West fellow got into a tussle, but the court found them equally to blame and thus the “costs were divided.” I’m going to take a wild guess that both men were intoxicated when the row took place. It would explain why, upon Arthur’s passing, his widow, Amelia, became very, very much involved with the Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement. She held various offices in her local chapter and was quite active.

One thing I think we can be safely assured of: Arthur was proud of his military service. His headstone gives clear evidence of this, as it commemorates for all time the sacrifice he made for a country which wasn’t even his.

Arthur Thomas Irvine headstone

Arthur was my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side. I have found him a fascinating man to contemplate. Mysteries about his life remain, and I’m sure I will often revisit his life to see if I can get to the bottom of those mysteries.

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Squires S. Tidd: A Life Disrupted

When looking into ancestors’ lives, there are often periods where we can’t trace their movements or figure out what was going on with them. I have this issue with my maternal 3rd great grandfather, Squires S. Tidd. Like millions of Americans, his life was disrupted by the Civil War, such that during that period it’s hard to figure out what was going on with his family.

Squires was born the 4th son of William Tidd (1792-1874). William had married Rosanna Buckman in 1813 and she bore him two sons; William Jr. and Charles. Sadly, Rosanna died 10 days after the birth of Charles. She was only 21 years old. A year later (June 1, 1817), William married Luthera Bond. They resided in Woburn, Massachusetts, their entire lives. Their children were:

  • Henry Hubbard (born 1819)
  • Squires S. (born 1821)
  • Horace Hall (born 1830)
  • Sarah Bond (born 1832)
  • Louisa Jane (born 1834)
  • Luthera Bond (born 1836)

Squires’s father, William, was engaged in the leather trade, as had many generations before him. The children were all born in the North Woburn house their Revolutionary War grandfather, Jonathan Tidd Jr. had built.

Jonathan Tidd House WoburnThe children all attended public school, and the boys helped out in their father’s currying shop. The tannery was situated near Pine and Tidd streets, conveniently near the railroad depot.

Squires lived at home at least through the 1840 U. S. Census, when he was 19 years old. Presumably, he stayed on working in the tannery after he’d finished school, learning the family trade. He was employed as a tanner/currier throughout his life.

On Aug 13, 1843, at the age of 22, Squires married Miss Harriett A. Wheeler of nearby Stoneham, MA. Their first child, Horatio Oliver, was born in Stoneham on Oct. 5, 1846. Soon after, Squires took his young family away from small town life and headed for Boston.

Interestingly, about this same time, his older half-brother, William Tidd Jr., had launched a prosperous leathermaking business of his own in Stoneham. In 1847, his small business employed 20 men. William Tidd Jr. became one of Stoneham’s most prosperous businessmen. Yet, Squires never returned to Stoneham to work with his older brother.

On Dec. 31, 1849, Squires and Harriet welcomed their second child, William Bond. The 1849 Boston Directory lists Squires employed as a currier, working in the city at Market Square and living at 4 S. Margin Street in Chelsea.

1849 Boston Directory (p 274)-snipBy 1850, Squires seems to have been doing okay. The 1850 U. S. Census lists the family living in Boston Ward 3. The Manufacturing Schedule shows that he owned a small currier business employing 9 men (the last entry in the image below – CLICK on image to enlarge).

1850 Census - manufacturing schedule

This is about the time where Squires’s military bent begins to emerge, at least “on record.” I was able to locate a newspaper item which names Squires as a member of the “American Rifles” organization in Boston, or, as it was more formerly known, The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. In the meeting described, wherein officers were chosen, Squires was chosen a 1st corporal.

The Daily Atlas Boston MA 10 Sep 1851

The 1851 Boston Directory shows Squires had moved both his business and home:

1851Boston Directory-snipOn Aug. 4, 1852, Harriet returned to Woburn to give birth to her youngest child, Laura Frances. The family remained in Boston through the years leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War. They are found on the 1855 Massachusetts State Census and in the 1860 Boston Directory.

Crazily, despite countless hours of searching, I cannot locate Squires in the 1860 U. S. Census. Peculiarly, his 13 year old son, Horatio, was living on a farm some 60 miles away in Goffstown, NH, with a family by the name Kimball. The 1860 Boston Directory shows Squires lived in Chelsea at the time. Though I haven’t found Squires in the 1860 Census, I did see some families named Kimball living in Chelsea, one of whom was a dealer in produce. Could Squires have found his son a job on a farm through this produce dealer? Hard to say. But, why would a lad of 13 be sent away from home in the first place? I have found no Kimballs anywhere in my family tree to suggest they were related in any way to Squires or Harriet.

History of the First Regiment (Massachusetts Infantry), from the 25th of May, 1861, to the 25th of May 1864 by Warren Handel Cudworth January 1, 1866 Walker, Fuller and Company. (Google Books)One possibility is that Squires was struggling financially. This could also explain why, a mere month after the attack on Fort Sumter on Apr. 12, 1861, Squires — a man of 40 with a wife and 3 children — enlisted 3 years of service in the 1st Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, Company “K”.

Another possible explanation for Squires signing up is that, already having exhibited a military bent through his membership in the American Rifles, and having grandfathers, great grandfathers and uncles who had fought in the Revolutionary War, Squires was filled with patriotic enthusiasm for Preserving the Union. Massachusetts in general, and Boston in particular, was a hot bed of the Abolitionist Movement. (see Massachusetts and the Civil War article.)

Squires’s grandfather, Jonathan Tidd Jr. and great-grandfather, Jonathan Tidd Sr., both responded to the alarm at Lexington and Concord and went on to serve in the Continental Army. Likewise, his maternal grandfather, William Bond Jr., and great grandfather, William Bond Sr., served in the Continental Army. Squires had uncles, great uncles, and great grandfathers who fought for American Independence. As his grandfathers didn’t pass away until Squires was over 20 years old, it’s hard to imagine he hadn’t been raised with tales of their exploits during the Revolutionary War. Surely, the family were very proud of their veterans.

Robert_CowdinThe 1st Regiment headquartered at Faneuil Hall in Boston, where the men were drilled and made preparations for their departure. Theirs was the first regiment to leave the state. Requiring more room for the large body of men to maneuver, the Regiment moved to Cambridge and named their first encampment, Camp Ellsworth. On June 15th, 1861, under the command of Col. Robert Cowdin, the Regiment departed for Washington, D.C., where they arrived two days later.

Squires served with the Regiment, with some brief periods on furlough, for over 18 months. Here is a brief synopsis of the Regiment’s activities during the time in which Squires Tidd served in K Company:


  • May 23 – Organized at Boston and mustered in Companies A, B, G and H under Colonel Robert Cowdin
  • May 24 – Companies D, F, K and I Mustered in
  • May 25 – Company E mustered in
  • May 27 – Company C mustered in
  • Jun 15 – The regiment left the state for Washington, D.C.
  • Jun 17 – Arrived Washington and attached to Richardson’s Brigade, Tyler’s Division, McDowell’s Army of Northeast Virginia, with duty at Camp Banks, Georgetown, D.C.
  • Jul 16-21 – Advance on Manassas, Va.
  • Jul 17 – Occupation of Fairfax Court House
  • Jul 21 – Battle of Bull Run
  • Jul 22 – Aug 15 – At Fort Albany
  • Sep 7 – Moved to Bladensburg; attached to Hooker’s Brigade, Division of the Potomac
  • Sep 7- Oct 7 – Expedition to Lower Maryland. Attached to 1st Brigade, Hooker’s Division, Army of the Potomac
  • Oct 25-27 – Moved to Posey’s Plantation
  • Oct 28 – Duty at Posey’s Plantation and at Shipping Point
  • Nov 14 – Affair at Mattawoman Creek


Squires’s service record states that from Sep. – Nov. 1862 he was hospitalized. On Nov. 25, 1862 he was discharged with disability. I don’t know the exact nature of his injury. As he went missing from the company muster in September, it is likely that he was among the over 8000 Union Soldiers injured at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Draft registration - NH

U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Following his discharge from the Army, the next record I’ve located for Squires results from President Lincoln’s Enrollment Act of 1963. That summer, Squires shows up living in Goffstown, NH — where his son Horatio had been sent a few years earlier. Apparently, Harriet and the younger children went to Woburn to stay with family when Squire enlisted back in 1861. It is doubtful that they joined him in Goffstown, however, for on Dec. 23, 1863, Harriet passed away in Woburn. At 43 years of age, she died of consumption (i.e. tuberculosis).

In the spring of 1864, Squires signed up for military service again, this time with the 6th Unattached Company, Massachusetts Infantry (Militia). The company was organized at Readville, MA, and mustered in for 90 days’ service on May 4, 1864. The men served guard and garrison duty was at Readville and were mustered out August 2, 1864. He went in a private and came out a sergeant.

During the war years, Squires’s older brother, Henry, had moved his family to Westborough, in Worcester County. The 1865 Massachusetts State Census shows that he had taken in Squires’s children, Horatio (18 yrs) and Laura (12 yrs). Horatio is listed on the census as a soldier, for he had signed up with the 1st Regiment Massachusetts Cavalry.

But where were Squires and his middle son, William, during the 1865 Massachusetts State Census? Were they back in Goffstown, NH? I haven’t been able to find them!

After the war ended, Squires also settled in Westborough, where, on Feb. 22, 1866, he married Mary Elizabeth Pierce. He was 45 years old and she was 20. It may have been a marriage of necessity, in that 5 months later Mary gave birth to a son. They named him Charles Squires. Sadly, the infant died of cholera 6 months later.

Currier working a leather hide

Currier working a leather hide

Squires lived with Mary in Westborough the rest of his life, employed as a currier as long as he could work. In 1879, he received an invalid’s military pension. In January of 1886, his son Horatio died of meningitis. Squires passed away two years later of heart disease: Feb. 9, 1888. He was 66 years old.

Squires’s life and family, so obviously disrupted by the Civil War, brings home to me the far-reaching wreckage of that great national tragedy. During those troubled years, Squires’s family was scattered, his wife died, and he endured the unimaginable horrors of numerous battles, injury, and months of recovery. And yet, after all that, he enlisted again!

I’ll always wonder what kind of man he was and what motivated him to head off to war when he need not. Was he fired up by patriotism? Did he feel compelled to distinguish himself from his very successful older half-brothers, William and Charles? Neither his older brother, Henry, nor younger brother, Horace, enlisted for military service during the Civil War. So what compelled him? And why can neither he or his son William B. be found in the 1865 Massachusetts Census?

These are the questions that family historians puzzle over and go back to, again and again!



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The Travels of Abiathar M. Harris: Into the Niagara Region

This is installment #3 in a series of excerpts from the diary Abiathar Millard Harris, an itinerant printer, born 1802 in Otsego County, New York. Abiathar was the 2nd son of Daniel Harris, a pioneer of the city of Rochester, New York, where Abiathar grew up. His grandfather, Asa Harris, was a Revolutionary War veteran and his grandmother, Faith McCall Harris, was a Mayflower descendant. Abiathar is a 3rd great grand uncle on the paternal side of my family.

This excerpt marks the beginning of Abiathar’s travels through Canada. He would spend a few years traveling up and down the St. Lawrence River, which forms the border between Canada and New England states.

On the 18th [July 1821] commenced work in the Patriot Office, D. M. Day, Printer. During my stay I visited Black Rock, 3 miles distance, spent my time very agreeable in sporting with ten pins, Billiards, etc.

In 1815, David M. Day had started the second newspaper in Buffalo. The original title was The Niagara Journal. In 1820, the title was changed to The Buffalo Journal. Mr. Day became a well-known citizen in Buffalo, such that when he suffered an early death (age 48), he was much mourned.

Fredonia Censor, December 1839

Fredonia Censor, December 1839

Horse Shoe Falls

On the 28th I started for the falls of Niagara, a distance of 22 miles, took dinner at Black Rock with Mr. Scallin, an acquaintance of mine – crossed the ferry about sunset with one Chase, we traveled 6 miles, and at one [arrived?] in the town of Bertie … John Palmer’s Inn (a dutchman) in the town of Willibee, District of London.


The Black Rock Ferry was a popular conveyance in the Niagara area before the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. In one of those quirks of fate, the John Palmer Inn where he stayed was operated in Willoughby (Welland, Ontario, Canada) by a 5th great-grandfather on my maternal side! I wrote about John’s son, Lewis Palmer, in an earlier blog post. He was not a “dutchman.”

On the 29th we rose early in the morning and went a fishing, had bad luck. Paid our bill and traveled 2 miles, took Breakfast at M. Holder’s (a Dutchman), we started and traveled on the bank of the river passed thro Chippewa, and arrived at the falls 12 o’clock noon. Put up at Brown’s Hotel in the town of Stamford. There I found an old acquaintance, Mr. Morse. We passed under the falls, etc., went to the burning spring.

On the 30th I started for Queenstown, 8 miles – 2 miles from the falls, I viewed Londe’s Lane, where the battle was fought between Scott & Drummond – arrived in Queenstown 10 A. M. – a desolate looking place, situated on a side hill, and very stony. I crossed the ferry and walked about a mile to Lewiston, a pleasant little village situated on a plain. I stopped at Kelsey’s Hotel – called on Mr. Shockey, an acquaintance, called for work, no success, returned to Queenstown, and started for Fort George, arrived 3 P. M., put up at Chas. Koun’s Hotel. I walked about the town, much pleased with the place; it is situated at the mouth of the Niagara River, and opposite Fort Niagara, on the American side. I examined the fortress, etc. This place is principally settled with Scotchmen. I enquired for work – got none – d___d glad of it. The office was owned by Andrew Heron, an old knave – what little work was done was half done – the men being sailors when there  was no work – and when there was, they sat down to it with a bottle of grog by their side – and the office was like a hog pen.

The “Londe’s Lane” referred to is Lundy’s Lane, site of a great battle during the War of 1812, in which, sadly, my 5th great grandfather, Cornelius Wheeler, lost his life. Lewiston, NY, is an historic village in Western New York. The portrait which Abiathar paints of Andrew Heron and his printing office is interesting. Apparently, Abiathar was rather fastidious and held higher standards of behavior and hygiene than most men. (Ha ha ha!!)

On the 31st I went on board the Kingston Packet for Little York, a distance of 36 miles, fair wind, and arrived 5 P.M. Enquired for work – got none – found an acquaintance Saml. Hopkins, staid with him, looked about town, saw nothing but mud (which as usual, in the most parts of Canada, is in abundance) …

Continued in his own writing …
The Kingston Packet was a Canadian schooner which served passengers sailing on Lake Ontario. “Little York” was the name for the town which would, in 1834, be incorporated as the city of Toronto. Note again how our finicky Abiathar complains about the mud everywhere. He really wasn’t one for “roughing it.”

The next blog post will pick up with Abiathar’s entry at the beginning of August.

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The Travels of Abiathar M. Harris: Tragedy in Buffalo

This is the second installment of excerpts from the diary of itinerant printer, Abiathar Millard Harris, a paternal 3rd great grand uncle. (See introductory post and post #1).

Abiathar was employed from March through the end of June 1821 at a grubby print shop in Moscow, NY. After working 3 months without pay, he returned home to Rochester to spend Independence Day with his family. The 18-year-old youth continued his travels through Western New York state that summer in search of employment. His travels were arduous and his experiences were very unpleasant, to say the least.

On the first day of July I started for Rochester, a distance of 35 miles, and arrived 4 P.M. In this place I stayed 12 days, in which time I spent the 4th July very pleasantly and the remaining part of the time I spent with my father and relations.

On the 12th departed for Moscow, and arrived on the 13th 2 P.M.

On the 14th I started for Batavia on foot, 22 miles, and arrived 7 o’clock P.M. very lame.

On the 15th I looked about town, enquired for work, could get none, my money was nearly expended.

On the 16th I started for Buffalo, a distance of 40 miles – I overtook a wagon, got aboard as a passenger, and arrived about dusk.

On the 17th I applied for work and obtained a situation for a few weeks – I called on an Uncle, etc., during the day I walked about the town, which is very small, but delightfully situated, it being situated on the outlet of Lake Erie, and opposite the Fort. As I was walking in the harbor where a number of men were employed, I observed a number of boys bathing in the creek, which attracted my attention, and induced me to pass to them – as I was standing spectator, many boys collected and the number in the water was about 16, a Mr. Mills, being unacquainted with the depth, and no swimmer, stepped off into the deep water, and cried for assistance, no person went to his relief, but all left the water much frightened and ran for the town. I plunged into the water and seized the young man by the arm, at that instant he seized me by both arms and we sank together – I made many efforts to release his hold, but not being able, when we rose to the top of the water, no one to be seen to relieve me, we were about sinking and I was obliged to brace my knees against his breast to force him from his grasp – with much difficulty I reached the shore – and he sank to rise no more. He was taken up about an hour after, but the vital spark had fled.

Excerpt from A. M. Harris diary on the 16 July 1821 drowning of Francis Mills

Excerpt from A. M. Harris diary on the 16 July 1821 drowning of Francis Mills

It must be believed that this harrowing experience left a permanent mark on the young Abiathar’s conscience. He and the poor victim were of the same age, just 18 years old.

Curious about the identity of “Mr. Mills,” I searched Rootsweb for anyone by the name Mills who died in Buffalo in the year 1821. The results brought up Francis Mills. (Notably, the death date for Francis Mills is incorrectly given as August 6, 1821.)

I then searched newspaper archives for a report on the drowning of Francis Mills at the Old Fulton NY Post Cards site and found these two items:

The Albany Argus, Tuesday, 24 July 1821

The Albany Argus, 24 July 1821

New York NY Evening Post, 24 July 1821

New York NY Evening Post, 24 July 1821

Poor Francis was the 8th of 14 children born to Asa & Arthusa Phelps Mills of Litchfield, CT. The Mills family were among the pioneers of Western New York and Michigan. There are some eerie coincidences related to the drowning of Francis Mills. For one thing, Francis was named for his older brother, the firstborn child of Asa and Arthusa Mills. That Francis Mills died at the tender age of 5 years. (Michigan Historical Collections, Volume 5. Michigan State Historical Society. Michigan Historical Commission, 1884. via Google Books)

The other eerie coincidence … well, I’m saving that for later.


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Florence Irvine Chandler (1879-1962) : Head, Heart and Hands

Seneca Falls, NY (July 2015)

Seneca Falls, NY (July 2015)

This summer, I visited Seneca Falls, NY, with my aunt and cousin, to take in the charm of the historic town and visit the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Seneca Falls was the site of the first women’s rights convention in 1848.

Reading about the amazing lives and accomplishments of the women profiled in the Hall of Fame got me to wondering whether any of my ancestors were involved in women’s rights issues. So, when I returned to Missouri, I looked through my tree, focusing on women who lived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

As I scanned the names of my great grandmothers and grand aunts, I believe that my maternal great grand aunt, Florence Irvine Chandler (1879-1962), whispered in my ear: “Hello! Boy, did I ever have a great life!”

Florence “Flora” C. Irvine was the eldest daughter of Arthur Irvine and Amelia Beach Irvine. She was born in January, 1879, in Oil Creek Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. Arthur, a Civil War veteran, was a machinist working the oil fields in Crawford County. Sadly, Arthur and Amelia had lost their first born, Lewis Walter Irvine (age 3), the year before Florence was born.

Titusville Herald 5 March 1878

A few years after Florence arrived, Arthur moved the family, which included his wife Amelia, son Arthur (from his 1st marriage), daughter Florence, and Amelia’s parents, William A. Beach and Adeline Palmer Beach, about 80 miles east to Duke Center, in McKean County, PA. Arthur’s younger brother, Ephraim, may have encouraged the move; he was working as a coal dealer in McKean County at the time.

Florence grew up in Duke Center, along with her half-brother, Arthur, younger sister, Edith, and brothers, George and Henry. Arthur worked as a machinist in the oil industry. Grandfather William Beach worked at farming for the family, while Amelia and grandmother Adeline kept the house. When Florence was about 18 years old, she left Duke Center to attend school in Buffalo, NY.

I pondered for a while on what influenced Florence to leave her home in a small Pennsylvania town to live and attend school in a city 85 miles distant. Her mother, Amelia, had been a school teacher before marrying Arthur; perhaps she passed on a love of learning to her daughter. But I think Florence had decided upon learning a skill in order to be a self-supporting working girl. The 19th century was coming to a close and I imagine Florence was caught up in the momentum of the changing role of women in society.

Florence attended Masten Park High School, which opened in September of 1897 with a faculty of 32 instructors. There were only 92 students in the first graduating class in 1899. When Florence graduated in 1900, the number of graduates was about 156.
Masten Park High School

1897 Masten Park High School Faculty

1897 Masten Park High School Faculty

While attending school, Florence boarded with the William & Rosa Messing family. The Messings had two daughters, Nellie and Lottie, both close in age to Florence. Nellie and Lottie were employed as stenographers. Their father, William Messing, was an engineer more than capable of supporting his daughters. Yet these young ladies were educated and employed. Evidently, Florence resided with like-minded people: they recognized the capabilities of women.

Florence was 21 years old when she graduated from Masten Park School in 1900. She went on to secure a bookkeeping job and boarded with the family of John Ansteth, a jeweler. When her sister, Edith, graduated from school, they got an apartment together. Edith worked as a stenographer for the phone company.

Around 1900, Florence met Lyman Chandler, a bachelor school teacher 11 years her senior. Lyman was a graduate of Syracuse University and Albion College in Michigan. I don’t know how they met, but on my next visit to New York, I’ll know a lot more about their courtship. Digging into the life of Lyman Chandler, I discovered that a cache of letters which he wrote to Florence between 1900 and 1901 are part of the Roycroft-Hubbard Papers held in the Rare Books Collection at the University of Rochester.

Lyman was teaching and employed as secretary to Elbert G. Hubbard at the Roycroft Communty in East Aurora when he met Florence. In 1902, he left Roycroft to take a position with Wilshire’s Monthly Magazine, published by H. Gaylord Wilshire. I’m uncertain as to when he returned to East Aurora, but by 1905 he was back, married to Florence and working again as secretary to Elbert Hubbard at the Roycroft Shop.

New York, State Census, 1905

New York, State Census, 1905

Roycroft Shop 1900 ; Library of Congress photo

Roycroft Shop on Main Street in East Aurora, NY, circa 1900 ; Library of Congress photo

Florence gave birth to her only child, Lyman Chandler Jr., in September, 1907. While keeping the home for her family, Florence also made time to be active in the community. From 1915-1917, she was president of the East Aurora Women’s Club. While the Women’s Club was concerned with domestic life — their meetings featured, for example, guest speakers who gave demonstrations on the use of chafing dishes — it seems the leadership role that Florence assumed in the Club served as good experience for the community roles she took on in the future.

When I first started looking deeper into Florence, I knew little about her. A quick search of the Old Fulton NY Post Cards newspaper collection produced a slew of articles recounting her very active life in the community. The first article to immediately catch my eye was this headline from February 1928:

Buffalo Courier-Express Thursday Feb 2 1928

Buffalo Courier-Express Thursday Feb 2 1928

Florence had become active with the League of Women Voters a few years earlier, attending a state-wide convention held in Syracuse in 1926. Whether she was a suffragette in the years leading up to women gaining the right to vote in 1920, I don’t know. But it is certainly plausible, as Lyman’s boss, Elbert Hubbard, had married the noted feminist writer and suffragette, Alice Moore Hubbard. I think it quite likely that the Hubbards and the Chandlers were good friends and ran in the same social circle.

Elbert and Alice Hubbard perished aboard the Lusitania in 1915. The impact on Lyman and Florence when they learned of the tragedy can only be imagined. Lyman had worked closely with Elbert for over ten years and was a strong advocate for the Roycroft Community. Lyman was principal of the school at Roycroft, wrote articles for a magazine produced by the community, The Philistine, and wrote a book about the Roycrofter Shop.

Throughout the 1920s, Florence worked with the League of Women Voters to gain women the right to serve on juries. (The fight took 10 years to achieve; it wasn’t until 1937 that the New York legislature finally passed a bill making it law.) While living in East Aurora, Florence also served as a director on the school board and helped to raise funds for the local public library, where Lyman often gave talks on literary topics and book collecting.

In 1919, Lyman went to work at the Niagara Falls Gazette where he served as superintendent of the job printing department for 27 years. The Chandlers remained in East Aurora until about 1929. During that time, Lyman, Jr., attended the University of Buffalo. By 1930, the Chandlers moved to Niagara Falls, renting a house very close to the Falls at 562 3rd Street.

First Unitarian Church, Niagara Falls

First Unitarian Church, Niagara Falls

Throughout the 1930s, Florence continued to work toward gaining women the right to serve on New York juries. Lyman Jr. graduated from MIT “with high honors” in 1931. The Chandlers were members of the First Unitarian Church, and Florence served as an officer in the church’s Women’s Alliance. In 1936, Florence led a discussion at the meeting of the Niagara Falls Republican Women’s Club on issues related to immigration. She was also active in the local YWCA, serving as chairman of the public affairs committee. Lyman was a leader in the Niagara Falls Poetry Society, to which Florence also belonged and served as membership committee chairman.

When the War started in Europe, Florence threw herself into action with the Red Cross. She served as chairman of production for the Niagara Falls chapter, and by the War’s end had overseen the shipment of “over 20,000 articles of clothing, in addition to thousands of layettes, toddlers packs, soldier kits, Christmas bags, shelter sheets and other articles;  maintained a large production and shipping center and coordinated work of thousands of women.” (Niagara Falls Gazette, March 1945).

Niagara Falls Gazette, Sept. 6, 1940

Niagara Falls Gazette, Sept. 6, 1940

After the War, Florence’s hard work and dedication were recognized at an awards luncheon at which she was the guest of honor — having dedicated more hours of service than anyone.

Niagara Falls Gazette, May 24, 1946

Niagara Falls Gazette, May 24, 1946

Florence was 66 years old when the War ended; Lyman was 77. A year later, in 1946, Lyman retired from work at the Niagara Falls Gazette. The elderly couple moved back to East Aurora and the pace of life slowed to visiting with their son, his wife Elena and their grandson, Robert Chandler (b.1943), and modest involvement in community affairs.

At the age of 83, Florence passed away on Feb. 28, 1962. I was 7 months old. Lyman passed away 3 years later at the age of 96. They are interred at Oakwood Cemetery in East Aurora.

The sub-title of this post is, “Head, Heart and Hands.” The quotation comes from John Ruskin and formed the Roycroft doctrine: “A belief in working with the head, hand and heart and mixing enough play with the work so that every task is pleasurable and makes for health and happiness.” I believe that Florence epitomized this with her life. I find her life inspiring and worth remembering by all future generations in our family.

Head Heart Hands


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