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


The Travels of Abiathar M. Harris: 20 March 1821 through 9 May 1821

Diary of Abiather M. Harris - March 21, 1821

Courtesy University of Rochester Library

As noted in a previous post, it is my intent to share here the early 19th century travel diary kept by Abiathar M. Harris (1802-1844), a 3rd great grand uncle on my paternal side.

The photo at left is the first page of Abiathar’s diary. Below is a transcription of the first 2 ½ pages of the diary, covering nearly a 15 week period. He didn’t write every day, as you will see. Often, he skipped several days, weeks or months. Also, sadly, it is obvious that many pages are missing.

Rochester, March 20th, 1821

On the 21st March I left this place for Palmyra, a small village in the County Of Ontario, — I passed thro the towns of Brighton, Pittsford, Perington and arrived in this place at 5 o’clock P.M. During my stay in this place, I visited many of the adjacent towns and was very much pleased with the country. Palmyra village is pleasantly situated on one side of a ridge, and on the other side runs the great western Canal. The inhabitants are rich. I stayed in this place about six weeks in the employ of T. C. Strong, Printer.

On the 6th May, I visited Canandaigua, a beautiful village, 13 miles distant. This village is pleasantly situated on a mound, and the principal street is about a mile and a half in length. There is a gradual descent to the lake, which makes it very pleasant. The prospect is fine of the surrounding and flourishing country. The heat of the day was very great, but viewed the principal part of the town with great pleasure. There are many kind of amusements here which are much enjoyed by the citizens. In the evening I met with a Mr. Percival, who engaged me to take charge of an office in Moscow, Livingston County.

On the 7th May I started on the stage for Moscow, passed thro the towns of Bloomfield, Bristol, Richmond, Geneseo, and arrived 5 o’clock P.M.

On the 8th, being Sunday, I walked to the office – a d___d dirty office it was, the type lying in every corner, and the dirt deep enough upon the floor to plant potatoes.

On the 9th I commenced my labour, and no one to assist me (the printer and publisher of this paper was a lazy drunken rascal, seldom ever worked, but at tavern, his name was Ripley), I however got out half a sheet for a few weeks, etc. During my stay in this place, visited the Indians, their number amounted to about three hundred, they were very hostile and some of them very intelligible that spoke English. Their mode of living were like that of the English; their dress is like the English amongst some of them. Moscow is a beautiful little village, very few houses, but very fine. My employer was poor and unable to pay me or did not want to pay and I got little or nothing for three months labor.

So, what was going on in 1821 when Abiathar hit the road looking for employment?

  • On March 5 – James Monroe was sworn in for his second term as President.
  • Abiathar commenced his travels during the Era of Good Feeling.
  • In 1821, Monroe County was formed out of parts of Ontario and Genesee counties, and Rochesterville was named the county seat.
  • Just 11 days prior to his departure, Abiathar’s mother, Amanda Miller Harris, age 43, gave birth to her 10th and youngest child, Polly Ann Harris.

The 1822 map section of Western New York (below) displays some of the towns mentioned in the narrative. He started his journey from his home town, Rochester —  located on the map in the center yellow section above the word, MONROE. The population of Rochester at the time was just over 2,000. It wasn’t until 1834 that Rochester was incorporated as a city.

Though Abiathar does not mention his mode of travel, the Erie Canal, indicated “Grand Canal” on the map, was likely how he was conducted to Palmyra, which lies along the Canal route just east of Rochester.

The printer he worked for in Palmyra was Timothy C. Strong (1790-1844), publisher and author of many works.

The man who engaged Abiathar to take charge of the office in Moscow was James Percival, who purchased the “Moscow Advertiser and Genesee Farmer” from Hezekiah Ripley, the “lazy, drunken rascal” (see History of the Press of Western New York). The town of Moscow is now known as Leicester. On the map, Moscow can be located in the pink section, lower right, near Warsaw.

1822 Map of Western NYWe cannot know with certainty the exact model of printing press that Abiathar worked on. No doubt, they varied widely as he went from place-to-place, working sometimes with well established publishers and at other times, in offices which were “d____d dirty.” Below is an old wooden model popular in the early 19th century.

1820s wood printing press

Wooden printing press, Wyman and Sons Limited. Object No. 1863-14. © Science Museum

Stay tuned for the next installment of Abiathar’s travels! What began for the 19-year-old Abiathar as a peaceful sojourn through small, developing hamlets in the Finger Lakes area of Western New York soon became rife with drama, danger and adventures. He had no idea what was in store for him!

The Problem of Elmer Fister

One of my early blog posts concerned the puzzle presented by my great grandfather, George Feister (1882-1952), who told his children that he had Native American ancestry. It would be a fairly credible claim to make, as George was born and raised in Cattaraugus County, New York, in which part of the Seneca Nation Reservation lies. But the evidence just isn’t there.

George R. Feister with Bill, Delia and Valeta, circa 1923

George R. Feister with children: Bill, Delia (my grandmother) and Valeta, circa 1923 in Olean, NY

George Fister was raised by his mother, DeEtta Bishop Brisley (1863-1947), and step-father, John Brisley (1861-1941). Lacking birth records for either George or his sister, Mary Fister, or a marriage record for DeEtta and their father, I sent for copies of George and Mary’s death records. George’s death record lists his father as Ralph Feister. Mary’s death record lists her father as Elmer Fister. Before receiving Mary’s death record, I had already surmised that Elmer Fister was their father (see my post on DeEtta Bishop Brisley).

Elmer grew up in Little Valley, Cattaraugus County, NY. He first shows up on the 1865 New York State Census living with his adoptive parents, George and Mary Cullen, and their adopted daughter, Elizabeth. George and Mary Cullen immigrated from England, probably before 1850. Of note on this Census record is that George Cullen is working another man’s farm, so he didn’t own his own place. At age 48, he was apparently a poor farmer. Also to note is that he was a naturalized citizen (click on image to enlarge).

1865 New York State Census

1865 New York State Census

As a minor, Elmer was listed on the 1865 New York State Census (above), 1870 U.S. Census and 1875 New York State Census with his adoptive father’s name. At the time of the 1880 U. S. Census, he was 19 years old and using his birth name, Elmer Fister. The Cullens were in their 60s by then, George had is own farm going, and Elmer worked on it.

As Elmer was growing up, DeEtta Bishop lived just down the road, and John Brisley’s family also lived nearby. The three of them grew up in Little Valley together and probably attended school together. The area was very rural, the population about 1150 people in 1875. (History of Little Valley)

The Nov. 18, 1881, issue of the Moravia Valley Register reported a curious incident involving Elmer: he was mugged. Why a newspaper about 200 miles away from Little Valley reported the event is mildly curious.

Moravia Valley Register 18 Nov 1861

Moravia Valley Register 18 Nov 1881

George Fister was born in Aug. 1881; his sister Mary was born in Feb. 1883. By 1888, their mother DeEtta had married John Brisley. There is a line on the 1930 U. S. Census which asked “Age at first marriage.” For John, that age was listed as 24, or the year 1885. For DeEtta, the age was 17, or the year 1880. Presumably, DeEtta and Elmer were married in Little Valley in the year 1880.

But, what happened to Elmer? Was there a divorce? Did he die? Were he and DeEtta actually ever married?

I have yet to find records which prove anything. But, “Elmer Fister” isn’t exactly a common name. Online searching for an Elmer Fister, born 1861 in New York, produces only one potential candidate. Presuming, that is, that he didn’t change his name or leave the country. Below is information gathered about him:

  • The 1915 New York State Census lists Elmer Fister living outside Buffalo. Age 53; single; living in a boarding house; employed as a peddler.
  • The 1920 U. S. Census lists Elmer Fister, his wife Marion, and his mother-in-law Gertrude Wilson, living in Irondequoit, Monroe County, New York. Marion and her mother were from Canada.
  • There is a memorial page on Find-a-Grave for Elmer Fister with the information that he died May 20, 1920, in Clarendon, Orleans County, NY. His parents are listed as Isaac Fister and Sophia VanBuren.

Could this Elmer Fister be the father of George and Mary Fister? I believe he could be.

Isaac Fister was an itinerant Methodist minister. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1803. He was married and widowed three times. A month after the death of his 3rd wife, he was declared insane, committed to an asylum, and died a few months later. A detailed memorial page has been posted for him on Find-a-Grave.

Isaac’s 2nd wife was Sophia Van Buren (1829-1861). It appears that she died the same day Elmer was born: Dec. 15, 1861. Isaac was 58 years old at the time, with a 5-year-old son (Clarence) and a 3-year-old daughter (Harrietta). It is perfectly conceivable that he would give up an infant to be raised by another family.

Isaac traveled around Western New York State from the late-1820s through the mid-1860s when he settled in Cattaraugus County. Just before Sophia died, the couple was living in Pomfret, Chautauqua County, with their two children, as seen on the 1860 U. S. Census (click on image to enlarge).

1860 U. S. Census

1860 U. S. Census

About the year 1863, he married his 3rd wife, Julia Ann Mackey Caldwell. The 1865 New York State Census lists them living in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County. Salamanca is about 10 miles from Little Valley, where Elmer was living with the Cullens in 1865.

The Rev. Fister remained in Cattaraugus County up until he was committed to the asylum (see 1870 U. S. Census, 1880 U. S. Census). Did Elmer grow up knowing that Isaac Fister was his father? What went on with him when, at the age of 22 and having fathered two small children, his father was committed to an insane asylum? Is that why he took off and left DeEtta to raise them? It certainly would fit the pattern for him to believe a man could simply walk away from his children; after all, his father had abandoned him to be raised by George and Mary Cullen.

While I feel there is circumstantial evidence to support the theory that the Rev. Isaac Fister was Elmer Fister’s father, I’ll continue looking for evidence to back up the dots I’ve connected in this story line.

Revolutionary War Patriots

blue300sm For this post, I decided to update my list of Revolutionary War patriots, and verify each one in the DAR Genealogical Research System (GRS).

I researched all family lines on both my paternal and maternal sides, as far as I was able, looking for men who were alive during Revolutionary War. I uncovered the service of six men in the DAR Patriots Database of which I was not aware. Along the way, I was also able to correct some errors in my research, and the research of others, which is always a good thing.

Below is a list of men who either fought for the cause of freedom or provided patriotic service. I am a direct descendant of them all. There are 11 in my maternal line and 16 in my paternal line. Links are provided for those for whom I’ve created posts here on my blog. It looks like I have many, many more stories to tell!

  • Bacheller/Batchelder, John (1745-1817) Massachusetts. Assessor and Selectman. DAR Ancestor #: A007340 [maternal line]
  • Beach, Caleb (1732-1781) Massachusetts. Member of the Committee of Correspondence. DAR Ancestor #: A007724 [maternal line]
  • Beach, Moses Tyler (1762-1850) Massachusetts. Corporal in companies of Capts Asa Barns, Amariah Babbit & Simonds. DAR Ancestor #: A007776 [maternal line]
  • Bond, William Jr (1760-1851) Massachusetts. Private, Capt Nathan Fuller’s company, Lt Col Wm Bond’s 37th regiment, MA Continental Troops. Received a pension. DAR Ancestor #: A011932 [maternal line]
  • Bryant, Joseph (1729-1810) Massachusetts. Major in Cols Thatcher & Bullard regiments. DAR Ancestor #: A016334 [maternal line]
  • Chaffee, Amos (1744-1815) Massachusetts. Private in Capt. Daniel Cadwell’s Co., Col. Timothy Robinson’s Regiment of the Massachusetts Militia. DAR Ancestor #: A026507 [paternal line]
  • Chaffee, Ezra (1742-1815) Connecticut. Captain under Brig. Gen. Fletcher, Athens Militia, 1782. DAR Ancestor #: A026520 [paternal line]
  • Chamberlain, Jedediah (1737-1810) New Hampshire. Signed Association Test and served as Surveyor of Roads. DAR Ancestor #: A064839 [paternal line]
  • Conant, Joshua (1750-1777) New Hampshire. Private in Capt Reynold’s company. Signer of the Association Test. Died at Battle of Bennington. DAR Ancestor #: A024826 [maternal line]
  • Cummings, Reuben (1757-1808) Massachusetts & New Hampshire. Private in Capt. Haskell’s Co., Col. Trescott’s Regiment, 1776. Signed Association Test. DAR Ancestor #: A005968 [paternal line]
  • Ely, Levi (1732-1780) Massachusetts. Captain in Cols. Moseley & Brown Regiments. DAR Ancestor #: A038251 [paternal line]
  • Harris, Asa (1737-1817) Massachusetts. Private in Capt. Peter Porter’s Co., Col. John Brown’s Regiment. DAR Ancestor #: A051527 [paternal line]
  • Hodgkins, Thomas Jr. (1756-1835) Connecticut. Lieutenant and Clerk, Capts. Hand & Abbee Co., Cols. Talcott & Wyllys Regiment. DAR Ancestor #: A056268 [paternal line]
  • Hubbard, Elisha (1752-1834) Vermont. Corporal in Lt. Moses Johnson’s Co., Col. William Williams’ Regiment. DAR Ancestor #: A059221 [paternal line]
  • Johnson, Moses (1738-1803) New Hampshire. Private in Capts. Mellin & Twitchell Co., Col. Hale’s Regiment. Signed the Association Test. DAR Ancestor #: A206909 [paternal line]
  • Marsh, Joel (1745-1807) Vermont. Private in Capt Daniel Gilbert’s Company, 1780. DAR Ancestor #: A0741797 [paternal line]
  • Martin, George Jr. (1742-1827) Connecticut. Private in Capt. Brown’s Co., Col. John Durkee’s Regiment. DAR Ancestor #: A074202 [paternal line]
  • Miller, Jacob (1756-1824) Massachusetts. Patriotic service as highway surveyor, 1780. DAR Ancestor #: A203103 [paternal line]
  • Moore, Abijah (1724-1792) Vermont. Captain in Cumberland Co. Militia, 1775-1776, in Col. William Williams’ Regiment. DAR Ancestor #: A079223 [paternal line]
  • Norton, John (1756-1835) Massachusetts. Sergeant, Capts Doolittle, Sparhawk & Smith. Served from 1775-1783. Received a pension. DAR Ancestor #: A084801 [maternal line]
  • Park, David (1724-1790) Massachusetts. Surveyor, 1775-1776 ; Constable, 1777. DAR Ancestor #: A087050 [maternal line]
  • Stanley, John (1750-1806) Vermont. Private in Capts. Bigelow Lawrence & Cyprian Downer Co., Col. Walbridge Regiment. DAR Ancestor #: A108498 [paternal line]
  • Stearns, Asa (1758-1852) Massachusetts & New Hampshire. Private in Capt. Josiah Fay’s Co., Col. Ward’s Regiment. DAR Ancestor #: A109274 [paternal line]
  • Thompson, Abijah (1739-1811) Massachusetts. Master armorer & clerk in Capt Belknap’s company. DAR Ancestor #: A113798 [maternal line]
  • Tidd, Jonathan, Jr (1757-1842) Massachusetts. Private in Capt Walker’s company, Col David Green’s regiment. Received a pension. DAR Ancestor #: A115341 [maternal line]
  • Tidd, Jonathan, Sr (1724-1785) Massachusetts. Lieutenant in Capt Walker’s company, Col David Green’s regiment. DAR Ancestor #: A115340 [maternal line]
  • Whitney, Silas (1737-1813) Vermont. Private, Capts. Salisbury & Spafford Co., Col. Allen’s Regiment. DAR Ancestor #: A125393 [paternal line]

There are several men on both sides of my family for whom I have found evidence of patriotic service, but they have not yet been “proved” for inclusion in the DAR Patriots Database. That is something I would have to do by submitting application papers providing proof of their service and tracing the lineage. In some cases, it will be very easy to prove them. But my privateer sailor, James Oliver, is going to require a lot of work and luck!

William Irvine Gives America a Try

While I am able to trace many of my family lines back to The Great Migration, and even to the Mayflower, my maternal grandfather Jack Irvine‘s side of the family includes many genealogical “brick walls.” The furthest back I can go with any certainty is William Irvine (1801-1866), my 3rd great grandfather.
Irvine tree

The earliest record I have of William Irvine is the June 19, 1824, publication of his marriage to Domitille in Montreal. Below is an image of the church record with a rough translation.



“… Monsigneur Bishop ___ …. for the marriage of William Irvin(e), saddler and resident of this parish, legal age son of John Irvin(e) and the late Marie Buchanan (“of the County of Glengary?), on the one part and Miss Marguerite Domitille Lebert, under age daughter of Sieur Jean-Baptiste Lebert, master butcher and of Marguerite Cardinal, _______ of this parish on the other part, were married … in the Holy Church in the presence of Mr Francois Nietzehler (Nietzchler?), Mr J-B Lebert, father of the bride and many others who have signed along with me. (signatures) Domitille Lebert, Wm Irvin, Francois Nietzler,  JB Franchere, Victoire Lebert, B  Le Saulnier, priest




A few facts can be gleaned about William from the marriage record: William’s parents were John Irvine and Mary Buchanan; Mary may have been from Glengary County in Ontario, Canada; Mary had died before 1824. That is all I’ve been able to trace about William’s parents, thus far.

At some point in the early 1850s, William brought his family to America. The 1855 Massachusetts Census lists William & “Matilda” living in Boston with 5 of their children: Arthur, Ephraim, Albert, Balsamie and Mary Ann. William had other children, Marie Celestine (b. 1836) and Oston Peter (b. 1838). Marie may have died as a child; Oston Peter, or “O.P.,” apparently came to America with the family but immediately struck out on his own. What caused William to migrate to America is unknown; presumably, to offer his sons more opportunities.

As in the record of his marriage, William’s occupation is listed on the 1855 Massachusetts Census as “saddler.” This census record contains the first idea of when and where William was born: about 1801 in Canada. Later family stories claim William immigrated from Scotland, but it’s more likely that his father, John Irvine, came from Scotland.
1855 MA census-Wm and Matilda1855 MA census

At some point before 1860, William had given up on Boston and made his way west to Rochester, NY. An Irvine relation living in Rochester, Tellsford Irvine, had died the year before, leaving behind his wife and young son (see my post on Phebe Monaghan). Perhaps William decided to assist the young widow?

Tragically, William himself would suffer loss in Rochester. Matilda passed away in August, 1859. An account of the sad event was recorded thus:

SUDDEN DEATH. – Coroner BROWN was called yesterday morning to visit the residence of Mr. WILLIAM IRVINE, on Romaine street, whose wife DONATILE IRVINE, a middle aged woman, died very suddenly during the previous night. She has been ailing for some time, but was able to be about her household duties, and Wednesday evening went to bed as well as usual. Sometime in the night she awoke her husband, complaining of a difficulty in breathing, and, he assisted her to rise. She died a few minutes afterward while he was supporting her in her seat. Dr. HALL made an examination and ascertained that the cause of death was disease of the heart. – The Coroner dispensed with the formality of an inquest under the circumstances. (Rochester Democrat and American. 15 Aug 1859)

The 1860 U.S. Census shows William living in Rochester with four of his children: Alphonsine (i.e. Mary Ann), Arthur, Ephraim (incorrectly listed as Ivo) and Albert. By this time, his oldest daughter, Balsamie, had returned to Montreal where she married Jean-Baptiste Ovide Lauzon in 1859. While Arthur was working with his father in 1860, within the coming months he made his way to Chicago where he was a machinist apprentice. When the Civil war broke out, Arthur signed up with the regular Army in an artillery unit.

1860 US Census
After Matilda’s death, William moved from the Romaine St. location to Oak St. and worked on Canal street, as can be seen in the 1861 City Directory. It’s interesting to note the many changes in his occupation over the years: saddler, wagon maker, carriage trimmer. Certainly, his skills were varied and he adapted to the needs of the times.

1861 city directoryWith all the upheaval of the War in the States, the loss of his wife, his sons either away fighting in the war or getting on with their own occupations, the aging William returned home to Montreal. In the fall of 1866, at age 65, William passed away. Below is the record of William’s burial at the Notre-Dame-de-Montréal in Montréal (with translation).

"On the 17th of September 1866, the undersigned priest buried the body of William Irvin, saddler, widow of Mathilde Leber, who died ___ before, aged 64 years of this parish. Witnesses were Benjamin Desroches and Francois Xavier Champagne ... (unreadable)."

“On the 17th of September 1866, the undersigned priest buried the body of William Irvin, saddler, widow of Mathilde Leber, who died ___ before, aged 64 years of this parish. Witnesses were Benjamin Desroches and Francois Xavier Champagne … “

While it doesn’t appear that William himself met with success in America, his sons went on to live fairly well in their adopted country. Three of his sons settled in McKean County, Pennsylvania. O.P. prospered in the Pennsylvania oil industry. Arthur served in the Civil War as an artilleryman and then as a naval engineer; after the war he, too, worked in the oil industry, even patenting a new type of drilling device. Ephraim became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1896. William’s youngest son, Albert, seems to disappear after 1860. The fate of Mary Ann, too, remains undiscovered.

Where there’s a will, there are Mayflower ancestors!

Much of genealogy research rides on the work done by those back in our family tree who took the time to search numerous archives, court houses, libraries and cemeteries, and then  gather all the material together to write the lines of descendancy. These compilations are sometimes re-examined in later years, together with newly discovered material, resulting in corrections to set the record straight.

Then, too, some genealogical breakthroughs come about by sheer chance. This happened to me this week when, in an online discussion group, I was given a tip which quickly led to the discovery that I have 4 ancestors who came to the New World aboard the Mayflower!

“Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor,” by William Halsall, 1882 at Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA – via Wikipedia

Here’s how things happened …

In an online discussion group for family researchers, participants were musing over interesting first names given to our ancestors. Many names once in vogue are unheard of these days, many being Biblical in origin, like: Azubah, Jerusha, Mehitabel, Shubael and Tryphena. Or, names conveyed Christian virtue, such as: Grace, Deliverance, Increase, Submit and Temperance. (All of the names mentioned are in my family tree!)

What had me stumped was a name passed on to three men in my family tree: Sluman Wattles Harris. I posted the name to the discussion group and within minutes I was informed of a Sluman Wattles (1752-1837) from Lebanon, New London County, CT. He was a land surveyor and later a judge and, I quickly learned, the husband of my 5th great grand-aunt, Mercy McCall. So, that settled the origin of the name. Clearly, Judge Wattles was much respected by his relations, so they named a child after him and the name got passed on.

AmGen magazine cover

Click on the image to read the article in PDF format

Before I learned the above, I had not researched the family of my 5th great-grandmother, Faith McCall (1737-1785). All I had on her was her marriage to revolutionary war veteran, Asa Harris (1737-1817) and their children. Once I had the name of Faith McCall’s sister (Mercy), I proceeded to find her parents and siblings. My subscription to AmericanAncestors.org quickly allowed me to locate the article: “A New Daughter for Benajah Mackall of Lebanon, Conn.” by Elizabeth P. White and others (The American Genealogist, Vol. 65, Oct. 1990, pgs. 214-218).

The research of Ms. White and her colleagues achieved what I described above: they reviewed existing material about the McCall family and combined it with newly discovered material to confirm that Mercy McCall was a previously unidentified daughter of Benajah McCall. The researchers had to piece together and connect the dots between the 1753 will left by James McCall (Benajah’s father), a probate document from 1758, and a later property settlement document from 1765. It was only careful scrutiny of all three of these records combined which led to the revelation that Mercy McCall was a member of the family.

So, where’s the Mayflower connection?

Well, it happens that the above named article mentions that Benajah McCall’s wife, Hannah Otis, was a descendant of Mayflower passengers John Howland and his wife Elizabeth Tilley, daughter of John Tilley and Joan Hurst Tilley. All four of these people came over on the Mayflower.

John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley Howland were my 10th great-grandparents. John and Joan Hurst Tilley were my 11th great grandparents. Both John Howland and John Tilley signed the Mayflower Compact.


Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899 via Wikipedia

This is the path from John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley to me:

    • 10th great-grandparents: John Howland (1591-1673) m. Elizabeth Tilley (1607-1687)
    • 9th great-grandparents: Desire Howland (1623-1683) m. John Goreham (1621-1675)
    • 8th great-grandparents: Lydia Goreham (1661-1744) m. John Thacher (1639-1713)
    • 7th great-grandparents: Hannah Thacher (1690-1780) m. Nathaniel Otis (1782-1771)
    • 6th great-grandparents: Hannah Otis (1718-1782) m. Benajah Mackall/McCall (1712-1753)
    • 5th great-grandparents: Faith McCall (1737-1785) m. Asa Harris (1737-1817)
    • 4th great-grandparents: Daniel Harris (1771-1853) m. Amanda Miller (1778-1862)
    • 3rd great-grandparents: Sluman Wattles Harris (1800-1874) m. Mary Histed (1804-1860)
    • 2nd great-grandparents: Wilna C. Harris (1826-1914) m. Harriet L. Farnham (1832-1915)
    • Great-grandparents: Virginia L. Harris (1861-1948) m. George B. Garrison (1860-1943)
    • Paternal grandparents: Florence M. Garrison (1895-1950) m. Merle L. Marsh (1894-1970)

“An Old Fashioned Way of Spinning” : Memories of Harriett Farnham Harris

1903 Harriett Farnham Harris

1903 Harriett Farnham Harris

Family stories are such a treasure, and I am very fortunate to have the loan of a cache of family records, letters, photos and compiled histories from my brother about our father’s side of the family.

Among the stories I’ve come across from these documents is a narrative given by our great-great grandmother, Harriet Farnham Harris (1832-1915), about life in Western New York during the early 1800s. Harriet Farnham Harris was the wife of Wilna C. Harris.

A visit to a farm house in olden times, especially at Christmas time, was something to be enjoyed. First of all, perhaps we were taken over rough roads in a large sleigh with plenty of buffalo robes and a large heated stone beneath our feet.
Upon arriving at the house someone was there to let down the bars that we might drive in close up to a large porch where we were met by all the family.


Painting by Thomas Birch, circa 1834

We were all very cold and hungry. The odor from within was delicious. Soon we had a glimpse of a large tin bake oven in front of a large fireplace. In this oven was a dear little pig roasting so brown. Upon a crane hung large kettles with other goodies. The pumpkin pies had been baked earlier in the day. Great loaves of rye and Indian bread were all on the deal table, which was a long table the whole length of the room.
Thanksgiving-cooking-around-the-hearthIn the morning the boys had brought in a back log and placed it on the two large andirons, sometimes called firedogs. Then, after the fire was well started, a fore log was put on which would last for all the day.
After the noon meal, the girls would spin wool. The machine with which they spun the wool was a large spinning wheel. It was quite a large block of wood standing on three legs. A large wheel was fastened between two pieces of wood letting it move freely.
From the right hand axis of the wheel was attached a treadle by which the machine was worked. A large shuttle about six inches wide was projected perpendicular from the left hand axis of the wheel.

Archival photo courtesy Windsor Public Library

Archival photo courtesy Windsor Public Library

The girls carefully caught the wool to the shuttle, as they put their foot on the treadle. The treadle started the wheel in motion which made a buzzing noise until the spindle was full of yarn. Before the wool was all gone, another roll was put on until it was long enough to contain hundreds of spools. These rolls of wool that were put on the shuttle came from the carding mills where lumps were taken out by rolling.
This process seemed very easy, but the rolls had to be handled with the greatest of care or they would come apart.
In the evening they would all sit around the fireplace eating apples and telling riddles. Then, all who could, sang. Last of all the town fiddler appeared. The room was cleared for dancing and at a late hour the guests were given tallow candles and shown the way to their bedrooms.

Country fiddler

Country fiddler

As you walked in the room, the first thing to meet your eye was a high post bedstead with curtains hanging all around it from the ceiling to the floor. A stool was provided so as to get into this thick feather bed. In one corner of the room stood a chair and opposite the chair was a dressing table. The adornments on the walls were samplers, these being pieces of linen with animals and flowers worked into the fabric with colored thread.

This reminiscence was related to Harriet’s granddaughter (my paternal great aunt), Edna May Garrison and recorded in Harris Genealogy: A line of direct descendants from James Harris of Boston, Massachusetts, to the present generation in 1975 by Robert Garrison Elliott.

Wilna C. and Harriett Harris, 1912

Wilna C. and Harriett Harris, 1912