Sunday, June 26, 2011

10 years later, same clothes

The two photos below are of my great-great-great-great-grandparents, William Riddle and Maxamillia Bouseman Riddle. They were both raised in central Ohio and moved together to Illinois during the 1830's.  They crossed the Oregon Trail in 1851 and settled in southern Oregon. The tiny city of Riddle, Oregon is named after their family.

William and Maxamillia were hardworking and courageous people. They were farmers (Maxamillia primarily ran the farm) and William was a blacksmith. When they moved to southern Oregon, they were befriended by the local Cow Creek Indian tribe. While most of the white settlers were hostile towards the Indians, the Riddles were on friendly terms with them. The tribe even gave members of the Riddle family their own names. William was called "Lomtu" (which means "old man") and Maxamillia was called "Mulagolan" (which means "mother").

William and Maxamillia Riddle in the 1850's
(when they were both in their 40's)
Photo from Douglas County Museum

William and Maxamillia Riddle in the 1860's
(when they were both in their 50's)
Photo from Southern Oregon Historical Society

My descent from William and Maxamillia:
William Riddle md. Maxamillia Bouseman
- Artinecia Riddle md. William Merriman
-- George Merriman md. Mary Murray
--- Vera Merriman md. Benjamin Plymale
---- Ben Plymale md. Patricia Bixby
----- Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
------ Ryan Wadleigh

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

held captive for 20 years

My ancestor William Custer and his wife (whose name was probably Mary) lived in the Greenbrier River area of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the 1750's and 1760's.  The area is today along the border between Virginia and West Virginia, and at the time was on the frontier of the American colonies.  It was a dangerous time to be living in that area, as it was frequently the site of wars and skirmishes.  The French and Indian War of 1754-1763 was fought mainly in frontier regions of the British colonies.   It was followed shortly by another armed conflict, Pontiac's War (1763-1765), which was waged between the British and Native American tribes unhappy under British rule.  One of the hallmarks of the war was frequent Native American raids of frontier settlements, in which they would kill or capture British settlers. 

William Custer was at the time fighting in the militia to protect his colony and his family.  His wife (probably named Mary) was left at home to care for their six small children.  Sometime during that time period, Mrs. Custer had traveled by herself to warp [weave] a piece of cloth at a neighbor's house.  On her way home, she was kidnapped by a group of raiding Indians and was carried away.  Apparently, they passed so near her cabin that she could hear her baby crying in his cradle.  She was carried all the way to Canada, where she was held captive for a long time.  Most sources indicate that she was held captive in Canada for about 20 years, apparently with a variety of other people who had been kidnapped in the British colonies.  Eventually, Mrs. Custer and a group of other captives were sold as slaves to a French doctor, who promptly released them in Montreal.  This was in about 1783.

Mrs. Custer then began the more than 800-mile journey from Canada to her old home in Virginia.  Meanwhile, her family back at home was somehow notified of her release.  William Custer then left his children at home and went by himself north to meet her.  He apparently died not long after beginning his journey (apparently of natural causes).  Mrs. Custer then arrived back at home to find her children were fully grown and that her husband had recently left to find her.  She then backtracked north to find him, eventually arriving at a settlement where a funeral was in process.  After telling her that they were indeed burying a William Custer from Virginia, she was allowed one last look at his face.  She then returned to her home in Virginia and spent the rest of her life living with the family of her oldest child Arnold Custer.  She later moved with the family to Kentucky in the late 1780's, and died at an unknown date.

None of the above is corroborated by contemporary records.  But, given the historical realities of the area and the era, the story is mostly plausible.  The story has been handed down in the family for many generations and has been recorded (with slight changes in details) in different branches of the family.  Because of that, although some of the story is likely embellished, much of it is likely true.

My descent from William Custer and his wife:
William Custer md. probably Mary
- Arnold Custer md. Elizabeth Scholl
-- James Custer md. Catherine Ross
--- Mary Custer md. Charles Custer
---- John Custer md. Elizabeth Taylor
----- Louise Custer md. Odin Wadleigh
------ Paul Wadleigh md. Bettye Brown
------- Randy Wadleigh md. Barbara Plymale
-------- Ryan Wadleigh

Sunday, June 19, 2011


In honor of Father's Day, I have thrown together this small sampling of photographs of fathers and their children in my family tree. Enjoy!

me, my dad and Odin, about 1985

my paternal grandfather Paul Wadleigh in about 1956 with
his three children: Mark,  Karen, and Randy (my dad)

my grandfather Paul Wadleigh (left) with his brothers
Gerald and Eric (right) holding each of their firstborn children:
Karen (Paul), Susan (Gerald) and Penny (Eric), 1948

my maternal grandfather Ben Plymale in 1960 with his
four children: Catherine, Deane, Barbara (my mom) and George

My paternal grandmother Bettye "Moe" Brown
with her dad, Newell Brown, early 1930's

My grandfather Paul Wadleigh with
his father Odin Wadleigh, 1930's

My great-grandfather Neil Bixby and his son
Deane Bixby, who was going off to WWII, about 1942

My great-great-grandfather George Merriman and his wife
Mary with their daughter Vera Merriman, when she was going
away to college in 1915. Apparently whoever was taking the
photo told George to take his hat off for the photo, and his
humorous response was to put it on the bush next to him.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

run ins with Jesse James and Native Americans

In 1876, the celebrated outlaw Jesse James and his gang attempted a bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota.  The bank robbery was unsuccessful, but they managed to kill two innocent people before Jesse James and his brother fled with their lives; south to Missouri or Nebraska.

My great-great-great-grandmother Sophia Hoffman was then living on a farm near Mankato, Minnesota, which was apparently along the James' escape route south.  Sophia had a hired farmhand who wanted to go after and kill or capture Jesse James on his way by.  Sophia had to forbid him from going after James because she was scared that James or the rest of his gang would harm her family (She had just given birth to her 10th child.)

Earlier, in about 1858 after having been in America for only about one year, 17-year old Sophia was working as a hired farmgirl for a family near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  She was told by her employers that if Indians ever came by asking for food, she was supposed to give them some.  One day, she was by herself and a lone Indian came by the farmhouse asking for food.  She gave him some food, but before he ate any of it, he made her taste it first to make sure she wasn't trying to poison him.

My descent from Sophia:
Sophia Streu md. Henry Hoffman
- Henry Hoffman md. Christina Kling
-- Bertha Hoffman md. Neil Bixby
--- Patricia Bixby md. Ben Plymale
---- Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
----- Ryan Wadleigh

Friday, June 10, 2011

death by lightning

Susanna's headstone in the Pine
Grove Cemetery, Hampton, NH

On June 12, 1680 in Hampton, New Hampshire, my ancestor Mrs. Susanna Smith (about 71 years old) was struck and killed by lightning, or, as it was listed in the town records: "slaine with thunder."

My descent from Susanna:
Susanna md. Robert Smith
-Jonathan Smith md. Mehitabel Holdridge
--Leah Smith md. Israel Blake
---Jedediah Blake md. Mary Rowe
----Molly Blake md. James Wadleigh
-----John Wadleigh md. Sally Taylor
------John B. Wadleigh md. Abigail Tilton
-------Oscar S. Wadleigh md. Charlotte Winters
--------Odin F. Wadleigh md. Louise Custer
---------Paul C. Wadleigh md. Bettye Brown
----------Randy Wadleigh md. Barbara Plymale
-----------Ryan Wadleigh

Abigail's headstone in the Center
Cemetery, Wallingford, CT
On August 4, 1758 in Wallingford, Connecticut, the house of Eliasaph and Abigail Merriman (my direct ancestors) was struck by lightning.  Several people within the house, including Eliasaph and Abigail, were "struck down and lay senseless some time" but recovered.   Their youngest daughter though, 10-year old Abigail Merriman, was standing in the doorway and was killed instantly.  Eliasaph died two weeks later, it is said from grief over the death of his child, but probably from the effects of the strike.

My descent from Eliasaph:
Eliasaph Merriman md. Abigail Hull
-Eliasaph Merriman Jr md. Jerusha Mattoon
--Amos Merriman md. Abigail Williams
---Reuben Merriman md. Betsy Bennett
----William H. Merriman md. Artinecia Riddle
-----George F. Merriman md. Mary Murray
------Vera V. Merriman md. Benjamin Plymale
-------Ben T. Plymale md. Patricia Bixby
--------Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
---------Ryan Wadleigh

In about 1740 in Hampton, New Hampshire, the house of Joshua Lane was struck by lightning and although there were several people within the house, nobody was hurt but the house did sustain damage.  Then 26 years later, on June 14, 1766, there was a similar thunder storm at the same house.  Joshua Lane then observed that it was much like the thunder storm decades earlier and went to the doorway to get a better look.  At that moment, the house was struck by lightning at the chimney and the bolt traveled through to the doorway where Joshua was standing and killed him instantly.  He was 70 years old.

My descent from Joshua:
Joshua Lane md. Bathsheba Robie
-Joshua Lane md. Ruth Batchelder
--Sarah Lane md. John Stearns
---Ruth Stearns md. Dudley Freese
----Abigail S. Freese md. Jeremiah Tilton 
-----Abigail R. Tilton md. John Wadleigh
------Oscar S. Wadleigh md. Charlotte Winters
-------Odin F. Wadleigh md. Louise Custer
--------Paul C. Wadleigh md. Bettye Brown
---------Randy Wadleigh md. Barbara Plymale
----------Ryan Wadleigh

Moral of the story: don't stand in the doorway during a lightning storm.