Saturday, October 20, 2012

Genealogy and Politics

George Merriman in 1899
As a matter of self-preservation and diplomacy, I avoid contributing to any discussion about politics.  I am presenting the issue here though to highlight genealogy research being used for an unusual purpose.

Recently, one of my cousins sent me a link she came across regarding my great-great-grandfather, George Merriman of Medford, Oregon.  At first glance, the page seemed typical and unremarkable; it contained a short biography from an 1896 publication and a basic chart showing his descendants.   Further browsing though revealed that this information was essentially published for propaganda purposes for a political party.

The page in question is on a blog titled Oregon Republican League, which describes itself as "dedicated to building a Republican majority in the state of Oregon, through directed issues research/review, outreach and social service projects."  The included biography of my great-great-grandfather was actually from a Republican publication which described George's involvement with the Republican party in the 1880s and 1890s.  The information about my ancestor was published in 2006 as part of a "Bridging the Generations Project", along with hundreds of other posts including biographies and genealogies of Oregon Republican politicians from the 1890s. 

The implicit purpose of the project was to inspire current generations of Oregonians to associate with the Republican party because their ancestors happened to be relatively prominent Republican politicians.  This is a seemingly creative and innovative method of attempting to gain supporters and members of a particular political party.  Admittedly, the blog post is 6 years old and the "project" seems to have been effectively abandoned, with no activity on the blog for at least 2 years.  Also, it is not clear how, if at all, the blog and its efforts were related to or endorsed by the official Oregon Republican Party.  Research at the Oregon Secretary of State reveals that the Oregon Republican League was officially incorporated in 2004, but has since become inactive.

Aside from whether this effort had any connection to the official Republican Party, it makes me wonder whether the use of genealogy research would actually be effective in gaining support for any political purpose.  A major flaw in the logic is that political party platforms and ideologies change over time, and the Republican Party of the 1890s is not quite what it is today.  (Another great-great-grandparent of mine from the same time period, Josephine Plymale, was a staunch Republican who also happened to be quite progressive and something of a militant feminist.) Additionally, although a person might find it interesting that a particular ancestor happened to be a politician, would that do anything to actually sway their own political ideologies?  As a genealogist, I personally resent my family tree being perverted and used by any political party for their own purposes.  At least the blog project did not include the names or identitities of living individuals. 

My great-great-grandfather George Merriman was a founding settler of the city of Medford, Oregon.  He was a lifelong blacksmith who owned his own business for many years and raised a family of 7 children.  George was definitely a staunch Republican, and although he rarely held political office, he was involved with the party in many ways.  He was a member of at least five Republican conventions in the 1880s and 1890s; he was elected as trustee for the city of Oakland, Oregon; he served on the city council of Medford, Oregon; and was involved with a number of other related committees and clubs.  In 1892, he ran for the position of Jackson County Sheriff, but was defeated by a small majority.  In 1895, he was almost appointed as the warden for the Oregon State Penitentiary.  Between 1900 and 1904, he served as Postmaster for the city of Medford.  His personal passion and interest was in educational matters, serving on the school board of Medford and was also a founder and director of the city's first college, Medford Business College.  Aside from a passion for education, we do not know much about George's specific political ideologies.  Perhaps a clue to his ideologies is a strangely-worded statement from a 1912 biography: "He has sought not alone his good but also that of the public."  Also, from a 1904 biography: "While not seeking recognition himself he has earnestly helped his deserving friends, and by no means confined himself to any one party in offering help."

Sunday, August 5, 2012


What follows is a variety of photos of children in family tree, ranging in dates from the 1860s to the 1980s. 

Two of my great-great-grandfather George Merriman's sisters: Lucinda
Merriman (left) and Mollie Merriman (right), circa 1867, Jacksonville, Oregon.
Courtesy Southern Oregon Historical Society

My great-great-grandfather Oscar Wadleigh at about 5 years old, circa 1870.  He is
sporting what was apparently fashionable dress for little boys.  Sanbornton, New Hampshire.

Mary J. Halliburton, the niece of my great-great-great-grandmother
Elizabeth Halliburton Current.  Photo taken in about 1875 in
Clarksville, Tennessee. Mary died from yellow fever in 1878 at the
age of 9 along with all of her siblings.
Photo from Barbara Wentz via
Three of my great-grandmother Vera Merriman's siblings: Thomas Merriman
(left), George Merriman (middle) and May Merriman (right).
Photo taken circa 1888, Medford, Oregon.
Two of my great-grandfather Benjamin Plymale's sisters: Marie Plymale (left)
and Emaline Plymale (right), circa 1893, Jacksonville, Oregon.
Courtesy Southern Oregon Historical Society.
My great-grandfather Neil Bixby, circa 1898, Garden City, Minnesota.

Three children of Fred Wadleigh, my great-great-grandfather's brother: Theodore
Wadleigh (left), Ruth Wadleigh (center), Winthrop Wadleigh
(right), circa 1906, Milford, New Hampshire.
My great-grandfather's niece Arline Bixby, circa 1918, Minnesota.
Courtesy Debra McEachern.
My grandfather's brother Eric Wadleigh (right) and his cousin
Harry Dragoo (left), circa 1922, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Left to right: Keith Bixby (my grandmother's cousin), Evelyn Bixby (my grandmother's sister),
Shirley Bixby (my grandmother's sister), Deane Bixby (my grandmother's brother),
circa 1928, Portland, Oregon.
My grandmother Bettye Brown, circa 1930, unknown location.
My grandfather Paul Wadleigh, circa 1933, Indianapolis, Indiana.
My grandmother Patricia Bixby (bottom right) and her siblings (Evelyn, Shirley and Deane, in back) and cousins
(Keith and Dennis Bixby, front), circa 1933, Portland, Oregon.
My mom's birthday in 1956, Seattle, Washington. Left to right: George Plymale, Margaret Brown,
Tracy Brown, Barbara Plymale, Catherine Plymale.
My dad and his siblings and cousins at their grandparents' house for Christmas, apparently making a gingerbread house,
late 1950's, Indianapolis, Indiana. 
My cousins Deana Plymale and Ira Wilks, 1981, Woodinville, Washington.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

an inventor in the family

The actual design figures for Hugh's sawing machine,
from Patent #136,216
(courtesy US Patent Office)
My great-great-great-grandfather Hugh Current was born in 1832 in central North Carolina and came from a relatively poor family. Sometime between 1850 and 1857, Hugh moved by himself out west and settled in Clarksville, Tennessee.  There he married Elizabeth Halliburton in 1859, the eldest daughter of a wealthy plantation owner.

Hugh was sometimes a farmer, but it seems that his primary vocation and skills were in woodworking.  In 1860 he was described as a carpenter.  In 1873 or 1874, Hugh moved with his family from their rural farm to a house in the city of Clarksville.  There, Hugh opened up a chair making business where he devoted himself to making quality hand-made chairs for his customers.  His speciality was rocking chairs.  Hugh owned and operated his chair making business in Clarksville for at least seven years, and probably longer.  At some point after his chair making enterprise, Hugh also owned and operated a printing supply business.  In old age, after having outlived two of his wives and separating from his third, Hugh became a minister in the Universalist church.  Current Street in Clarksville was named after him and his family.

Prior to opening his chair making business, Hugh put his innovative mind to use and decide to invent something.  The date and origin of the actual invention is unknown.  Eventually though, Hugh created designs and specifications for his invention and submitted it to the US Patent Office.  His patent (#136,216) was then issued on February 25, 1873 and is permanently on file with the Patent Office.  Hugh's invention is titled "Improvement in Sawing-Machines."   The machine is a free-standing apparatus with conveyor belts and circular saws.  The anticipated use of the machine was to take large "cord-wood" and cut it quickly and neatly into three pieces that would be the appropriate size for wood or cook stoves.  The entire patent can be viewed online.
Hugh Current and his second wife Margaret,
in about 1880.
(courtesy Jim Long)

Although the patent was issued, the Patent Office has no record that the machine was ever produced.  We must assume though that Hugh at least produced a prototype machine and probably others for friends and customers in Clarksville.  Interestingly, Hugh's 1873 patent was cited in the research of a 1990 "cherry splitter" patent, which employed a similar overall design to split cherries.

The invention of a firewood sawing machine perhaps seems a little odd.  I cannot help but draw a comparison to Disney's Beauty and the Beast, in which Belle's father's invention is also a machine to chop firewood (although the design is completely different).  The invention story did not appear in any of the original stories and was an element added by Disney.  Was Hugh viewed as odd by his children and contemporaries just like Maurice?

My descent from Hugh:
Hugh A. Current md. Elizabeth G. Halliburton
- Georgia Current md. Christopher C. Brown
-- Newell B. Brown md. Louetha Jones
--- Bettye B. Brown md. Paul C. Wadleigh
---- Randy Wadleigh md. Barbara Plymale
----- Ryan Wadleigh
newspaper advertisement for Hugh's
chair making business
(from Sep. 25, 1875 edition of the
Clarksville Weekly Chronicle)

Monday, May 28, 2012

military glamour shots

On this Memorial Day holiday, I am honoring my ancestors and their siblings that had military service.  Following is photographs of them:
World War II
My paternal grandfather Paul C. Wadleigh (1925-2007)
Paul served in the Navy during WWII as a mine sweeper in the Pacific Theater. 
He later served in the Korean War before being discharged in 1954 as a lieutenant.
My grandfather's oldest brother Eric J. Wadleigh (1916-2011)
Eric was a member of the 72nd Field Artillery Regiment of the Army during World
War II. 

My grandfather's middle brother Gerald M. Wadleigh (1920-1984)
Gerald was a lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps during World War II, serving in
Germany and England.  He was discharged in 1946. 
My maternal grandfather Ben T. Plymale (1926-1981)
Ben was in the ROTC during high school and then served in the Navy between 1944
and 1946.  During his service, he was based primarily on Guam.
My maternal grandmother's only brother Deane F. Bixby (1921-1944)
Deane was a lieutenant in an engineer battalion of the Army between 1942 and 1944,
serving in Europe on two separate deployments.  At the end of his second deployment
he was in charge of mine-sweeping and road clearing so that tanks could proceed.
  Somewhere in Germany in December 1944 he was personally inspecting a road in spite
of machine-gun fire when he was killed by an enemy bullet.  His heroism apparently
saved the lives of his men behind him and allowed them to capture 28 German soldiers.
  He was awarded a posthumous Bronze Star.

World War I
My great-grandfather's brother Gerald T. Wadleigh (1893-1983)
Gerald served in the Navy during World War I.
My great-grandfather Benjamin H. Plymale (1888-1929)
Benjamin served as a Mess Sergeant in the Army during World War I between
1917 and 1919. He served in Europe, with the majority of time spent in France. 

My great-grandfather Neil F. Bixby (1893-1985)
Neil served in the Army during World War I from 1917 to 1919, being
stationed in Europe. He later worked as a civilian for the Army
Corps of Engineers for over 30 years.

Civil War

My great-great-great-grandfather Irvin H. Thurston (1828-1887)
Irvin was a physician by profession, so he served in the Union Army between 1862 and 1865,
first as an assistant surgeon and then as a full surgeon in the 8th Minnesota Infantry.
  With his regiment, he served in Minnesota, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Proper genealogical research aims at uncovering the truth about our ancestors, however unsavory that truth may be.  One such example of moral failings was in 1655 when my distant ancestors Robert and Susannah Latham were responsible for the death of their 14-year old servant.

In 1655, Robert and Susannah Latham were a young couple living in the town of Plymouth in Plymouth Colony, in what is now Massachusetts.  They had been married for about six years and had about four or five young children. Both Robert and Susannah came from Puritan families that were among the original settlers of the Plymouth Colony. Susannah's mother, Mary Chilton, was a passenger on the Mayflower, and said to be the first white woman to set foot on Plymouth Rock.

Robert and Susannah were not wealthy, but by the winter of 1654-1655 they did have a servant named John Walker.  John Walker was at the time about 14 years old and was perhaps an indentured servant.  On January 15, 1654/1655, John Walker died while in the custody of his "master", Robert Latham.  His body was subsequently brought before a coroner's jury.  The inspection found that John's body was covered with bruises, slashes and open sores and showed evidence of being frozen.  When questioned, Robert admitted to whipping the boy, including the day he died.  A witness also testified that at one time John was made to carry a log that was much heavier than him and when it fell on top of him, he was whipped by his master until he got up. The investigation revealed that John was also not given sufficient food, clothing or lodgings.  John was "put forth in the extremity of cold", and thus died.  The inference then is that poor John literally froze to death, his death being exacerbated by starvation, mistreatment and physical injuries.

Upon these findings, Robert Latham was arrested and was indicted for "fellonious cruelty."  At the next meeting of the court, Robert was found guilty of "manslaughter by chaunc medley." ("chance-medley" was an old legal term used to describe unintentional killing, but usually in terms of self defense) During the proceedings, Robert asked for mercy in his punishment. He was sentenced to be "burned in the hand" and all of his goods were to be confiscated by the court.  This was a rather light sentence given that the punishment for murder was execution.  The wording of his guilty verdict though implied that the jury did not believe that Robert intended for John to die, thus he was not deserving of the full punishment for murder.

Although Robert was convicted and sentenced for John's death, it became clear that his wife Susannah was also indirectly responsible for John's death.  The inference is that although Susannah might not have physically harmed John, both Robert and Susannah had colluded with each other about the treatment, and that Susannah did nothing to help him.  On June 6, 1655, Susannah was brought before the court and arraigned for cruelty.  She was never prosecuted for the crime and eventually the matter was dropped entirely in 1658, leaving her a free woman.

Robert and Susannah's oldest daughter Mercy Latham was my ancestor.  During the murder and subsequent trial of her father, Mercy was just 4-years old.  It must have been made on a strange impression on young Mercy to possibly be witness to a murder and to have known that her own parents were responsible for the death of an innocent person.

My descent from Robert and Susannah:

Robert Latham md. Susannah Winslow
- Mercy Latham md. Isaac Harris
--- Desire Harris md. John Kingman
---- Deliverance Kingman md. Ebenezer Orcutt
----- Samuel Orcutt md. Susanna Bates
------ Keziah Orcutt md. Jesse Worrick
------- Hannah Worrick md. Thaddeus Bixby
-------- Henry A. Bixby md. Mary Palfrey
--------- Henry W. Bixby md. Julia M. Thurston
---------- Neil F. Bixby md. Bertha Hoffman
----------- Patricia J. Bixby md. Ben T. Plymale
------------ Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
------------- Ryan Wadleigh

1. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England. Court Orders. Vol. III. 1651-1661. Boston, William White Printer, 1855.
2. Walker, J.B.R. Memorial of the Walkers of the Old Plymouth Colony.  Northampton, Metcalfe & Co., 1861.
3. Savage, James. A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England. Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1860.
4. Stratton, Eugene A. Plymouth Colony. Its History & People. 1620-1691. Salt Lake City, 1986.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Queen's American Ancestors

Augustine Warner Jr.  The original portrait was
apparently destroyed in a fire. This is probably
the copy of the portrait that was made and is now
held by the George Washington Foundation
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom has a family tree that is filled with the royalty and nobility of Europe.  It might surprising then to learn that the Queen actually has American ancestors.  Ironically enough, these same American forebears are also shared by George Washington, the old nemesis of the British.  My family also descends from these same common ancestors of Queen Elizabeth II and George Washington.

The most recent common ancestors of Queen Elizabeth, George Washington and myself were Augustine Warner Jr and his wife Mildred Reade of colonial Virginia.  Both Augustine and Mildred were born in the early 1640s in Virginia.  Their parents had migrated to Virginia from England (although Mildred's mother was at least half French).  Mildred Reade also has proven direct descent from King Edward III of England through her paternal grandmother.  Mildred's great-uncle Sir Francis Windebank was Secretary of State under King Charles II. 

Augustine Warner was born in 1642 or 1643 in Virginia.  In 1658, at about the age of 16, he was sent to England where he was educated at the Merchant Taylors' School in London.  After finishing his education, he returned to Virginia where he married Mildred Reade, the daughter of a prominent Virginian landowner.  They lived together on a Virginian estate given to them by Mildred's father until 1674 when Augustine inherited his family's estate - Warner Hall - from his father.  The land containing Warner Hall had originally been granted to Augustine's father in 1642 and the plantation house was built sometime after this date.  The estate is located in Gloucester County, Virginia on the Severn River, off of Chesapeake Bay.

Augustine was prominent in Virginia politics during his adulthood.  He served in the House of Burgesses from 1666 to 1677 and was its Speaker on two separate occasions.  He later served on the Governor's Council from 1677 to 1681.  Augustine was also closely involved with Bacon's Rebellion of 1676-1677, being a supporter of Governor Berkeley.  During the crisis, the rebels managed to seize Warner Hall, damaging the house in the process.

After the death of Augustine Warner in 1681, his widow Mildred and their children continued to live at Warner Hall.  Apparently, after Augustine's death Mildred was left with custody of a large amount of arms and ammunition (perhaps left behind during Bacon's Rebellion) and she refused to give them up until they were taken from her by force. The couple had three known sons, but all three died without producing children.  The surviving heirs of Augustine and Mildred Warner were thus their three daughters: Elizabeth Warner Lewis (my ancestor), Mildred Warner Washington Gale (George Washington's ancestor) and Mary Warner Smith (Queen Elizabeth's ancestor).

Elizabeth Warner married John Lewis and inherited Warner Hall from her brother George in about 1702 and lived there until her death in 1720.  She was my direct ancestor.  Another of her direct descendants was Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame.

A current photo of Warner Hall in Gloucester County,
Virginia, from the Inn at Warner Hall's website
Mildred Warner was married first to Lawrence Washington and second to George Gale.  In 1700, she moved with her second husband to England, where she died soon after.  Mildred is the grandmother of George Washington.

Mary Warner married John Smith and settled in Gloucester County, Virginia.  Their daughter Mildred Smith married Robert Porteus and moved to England in 1720.  Their descendants later intermarried with the English gentry and nobility.  Eventually, their descendant Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married George VI of England, making them ancestors of Queen Elizabeth. 

Warner Hall stayed in the family for about 200 years, being passed down to descendants of Elizabeth Warner Lewis.  Eventually, the plantation was sold to an unrelated family in the 1830s.  Unfortunately, the estate suffered at least two devastating fires that destroyed the original 17th Century home.  The owners then rebuilt a colonial-style mansion on the original foundation, and it is still standing to this day.  Warner Hall is currently a bed & breakfast (Inn at Warner Hall) and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Although the actual house dates from the 19th Century, there are numerous outbuildings and the family cemetery which survive from earlier times.

In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II made a trip to the United States and Virginia to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.  During he trip, she visited Warner Hall and placed a wreath on the grave of her ancestor Augustine Warner.  During the trip she was also given a gift of a copy of a portrait of Augustine Warner.  In England, Warner Hall is apparently known as the "home of the Queen's American ancestors." During her 1957 trip, Elizabeth was quoted in a speech saying: "Yes, I am proud of my American ancestry and of the part they played in the war that we fought against us."

My relationship to Meriwether Lewis, George Washington and Queen Elizabeth II:


1. Tyler, Lyon G. Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Volume I. Lewis Historical Publishing Co., New York, 1915.
2. Sorley, Merrow E. Lewis of Warner Hall, The History of a Family. self published, 1935.
3. McAllister, John M. and Tandy, Lura B. Genealogies of the Lewis and Kindred Families. E. W. Stephens Publishing Co., Columbia, Missouri, 1906.
4. Bolitho, Hector. "The Queen's American Ancestors", unknown date. Retrieved from
5. "Augustine Warner, Jr.", in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, retrieved from,_Jr.
6. "Just a little bit of history" at Inn at Warner Hall, retrieved from
7. Tombstone inscriptions, Warner Hall Cemetery, Warner Hall, Gloucester Co., Virginia
8. Hudgins, William H. "The Queen Visits Soil of Her American Ancestors", Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 17, 1957

Sunday, April 1, 2012

a thief in the family

the portion of the letter William Kirlin wrote in 1851
describing the theft by Vashti Dunham
In 1851 my great-great-great-great-grandmother Vashti Willits Dunham was living in Centerville, Indiana.  She was 42-years old and was married with a family of seven children. Vashti was the daughter of Levi Willits and Rachel Field, both from Quaker families. Vashti was born in Ohio but as a child moved to Indiana with her family.  In 1828, her father Levi Willits died and her mother later remarried to William Kirlin.

Vashti's mother Rachel Field Willits Kirlin died on March 10, 1851 at the age of 71.  She left a surviving husband, William Kirlin, and many grown children and grandchildren.  As part of the distribution of her effects, it was decided that all of Rachel's clothing and personal items would be divided equally between her three daughters (Mary, Sarah and Vashti) and her three daughters-in-law (Polly, Sarah J., and Sarah A.).

At the time, only four of the women - including Vashti - lived nearby.  They met at their stepfather's house and divided the clothing equally in six ways.  Each of them took their share home and left two piles for the women who lived out of state.  My ancestor Vashti then devised a plan to get her hands on more of the clothing.  She found out that a neighbor was coincidentally about to travel to where her brother James and his wife Sarah were living in Illinois.  She went back to her stepfather's house and told him that if he gave her one of the piles of clothing, she would then give it to the neighbor so that it could get safely to her sister-in-law in Illinois. William agreed to the plan and gave Vashti the clothing intended for his step daughter-in-law. 

Then, while the clothing was in her custody,Vashti stole some items before giving them to her neighbor.  Apparently one of the things she had stolen was an expensive shawl that William Kirklin had given as a gift to his wife Rachel.  Apparently, he had paid $10.00 for it (or about $280.00 in today's money). 

William Kirlin found out about the theft and then wrote a letter on May 3, 1851 to his stepson James Willits explaining what had happened and that he knew Vashti was a thief.  He then included an inventory of what he knew had been in the pile (a gold watch, a plaid dress, another dress, a silk apron, a white cape, gloves and other items that he did not remember), so if there was anything else missing, he knew who to blame.  William then asked James if he wanted him to confront Vashti about it or just let it go.  It is unknown what eventually happened with the issue.  Interestingly though, when James and Sarah's first daughter was born in 1854, they named her Vashti after the sister who had apparently stolen from them. 

Vashti and her family did not remain in the area for long. A few years after the incident, she and her family moved out west to Iowa.  She later lived in Kansas and Missouri.  Despite her apparent theft and possible strife with her stepfather and siblings, she appears to have been very close to her children.  All of her children survived to have children of their own. Sadly, during the 1860s four of her adult children suffered from untimely deaths leaving a large network of parentless grandchildren.  We have three letters that Vashti wrote in 1870-1871 to her son-in-law Irvin Thurston in Minnesota after the death of her daughter Lydia from consumption (tuberculosis).  In these letters she expressed much sympathy to Irvin and his four young daughters (including my great-great-grandmother Julia, then 5 years old).  She expressed interest in doing what she could from afar (she sent the girls each a pair of stockings that she had made) and also gave Irvin her blessing to remarry so that the family would not have to be separated. 

Sometime during the 1860s, her elderly-husband John Dunham moved by himself to New Mexico to be a silver miner.  She never saw him again.  They both died during the early 1870s. 

My decent from Vashti:

Rachel Field md. 1st. Levi Willits md. 2nd. William Kirlin
- Vashti Willits md. John Dunham
-- Lydia Dunham md. Irvin Thurston
--- Julia Thurston md. Henry Bixby
---- Neil Bixby md. Bertha Hoffman
----- Patricia Bixby md. Ben Plymale
------ Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
------- Ryan Wadleigh

Sunday, February 19, 2012

into the mind of a teenager ... 100 years ago

Odin in 1906, from his high school year book
My great-grandfather Odin Wadleigh was born in 1888 in Cannonsville, New York. He spent his youth in Buffalo, Deposit and Binghamton, New York. He kept a diary for the entire year 1906, which has been passed down in the family and survives as a priceless heirloom.

The diary was written when he was 17 and 18 years old. It describes - among other things - the end of his senior year in high school, applying to college, moving away for his first job, his relationship with his girlfriend and his appendicitis.

If interested, you can read the entire diary on my website.

The following are some excerpts from his diary:

On his girlfriend Eva ...
January 17, 1906: "This noon I went over to speak with Eva and she did not speak. I felt pretty much put out and was mad for a while."
February 11, 1906: "Eva is as prim as ever. I wish she would come down just a little and let me kiss or hug her just once. I don't see what harm it would do for I am no stranger to her."
February 14, 1906: "I as usual acted up and Eva was rather disgusted."
March 2, 1906: "I wrote a note to Eva and apologized for my conduct. She would not answer. I was on the anxious seat all day for E is too good a girl to lose."

July 28, 1906: "Eva was a little cross all the morning. In the PM, I plagued her until she cried.  Then she was mad the rest of the day. So was I. It was mostly my fault anyway."

December 25, 1906: "I cuddled Eva some and teased (and stole) 4 dandy kisses. I like Eva better all the time. I could love her if I don't already."

(Odin and Eva continued to date until they were married 6 years later in 1912. They had two sons, Eric and Gerald. Sadly, Eva committed suicide in 1921.)
On high school ...
February 19, 1906: "Studied like all, all day long and went to bed with a raging headache."

March 9, 1906: "We had a trig review and although I knew the proofs perfectly, I hurried so I only got 71. It made me mad."

June 22, 1906: "Graduation exercises this evening. They went off fine. Got my diploma and now I am an alumnus."

(In his senior year of high school Odin took English, Trigonometry, German, Chemistry and History.  In his diary he mainly mentioned his Trigonometry and German classes.)
Odin, Eva (center) and an unknown friend, in about 1912.
On applying to college ...
February 9, 1906: "I got a letter from Cornell in which I found that I can not enter with my present subjects. So I decided to give up Cornell and work for Syracuse. Between my disappointment and my temper I had no dinner nor breakfast."

June 28, 1906: "Well I got a letter from Syracuse this a.m. which said my scholarship was not good for engineering. It broke me all up. I could not work all day."

(Although Odin did not get into Cornell University or Syracuse University, he did not give up.  He eventually attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he graduated in 1910 with a degree in electrical engineering.)
On working ...
August 31, 1906: "Went down to the G. E. Works.  Mr. Whimple gave me a place in the testing room at $7 a week to start with. I am much pleased.  There were about 100 waiting for a job."

September 14, 1906: "Got my first pay from G.E. today, $5.57.  After paying my board I had $1.25 left, $2.00 on hand, making $3.75."

September 17, 1906: "Worked until 9:30 today and got 15 hrs."

(Odin worked for General Electric for about two years.  He then moved to New York City and worked as an engineer for a railway company.  Then in 1912 he moved to Indianapolis and became an engineer for the Sanborn Electric Company, and eventually became its president.)
On family ...
September 1, 1906: "After supper Mother and I went out shopping and got some things for me. This is the last time we will poke around together. I kinda hate to go."

September 3, 1906: "Mother, Gerald and I had a little cry together. Father went to the train with me."
(Gerald was his little brother. Odin was moving to Schenectady for his new job.)
On visiting relatives ...
February 17, 1906: "We are all glad Inez has gone. Benjamin Franklin said fish and visitors stink in 3 days. He got it right."
(Inez was his aunt from New Hampshire.)
On current events ...
April 18, 1906: "There was a terrible earthquake in San Francisco this A.M. It killed 3,000 persons and destroyed many buildings. Fire broke out and because the water works and pipes were destroyed, could not be stopped. They are having an awful time. We do not know all about it yet."
On food ...
February 24, 1906: "Had some grape fruit for breakfast, the first I ever ate."

July 31, 1906: "Menu for the day.   Breakfast: sliced bananas and cream. fried eggs. coffee. Supper: boiled potatoes, cold ham, black berries, lettuce, ice coffee, bread.
On quitting smoking ...
June 30, 1906: "Eva would not tell me to stop smoking, but said she wished I would. I will smoke once more and quit for as long as I can."
one of the pages from Odin's diary
on his 18th birthday
July 6, 1906: "Stop smoking makes my head ache."
On losing his temper ...
March 10, 1906: "I have become so in the last six months that if I am beat or bested or disappointed in any way it makes me mad. It is foolish I know but I am trying to overcome it."

On an appendicitis ...
January 20, 1906: "About two AM I awoke with terrible cramps in my stomach. Nothing did any good and I was in agony the rest of the night. About 9 mother sent for the doctor. He gave me two hypodermics of morphine. I went to sleep and slept till 2 in the PM. When I woke I felt fine and the pain was gone."

November 26, 1906: "Sometime in the night my old ache back back to me and it is the worst yet. I had Dr MacDuval and he called it appendicitis and recommended an operation as soon as I was able."

December 2, 1906: "Had a little pain in my side. It scared me so I had to come home. Said good bye to Eva because I may never see her again."

December 4, 1906: "This morning Dr. Beardsley gave me chloroform and I did not know anymore until 11:30. The operation was over and I was very sick to my stomach, which pained me very much due to the ether gas."

Monday, January 9, 2012

pioneer feminist

Josephine Martin Plymale in about the 1870s, at the
time she was most active as a Women's Suffrage Activist.
Photo courtesy Southern Oregon Historical Society
My great-great-grandmother Josephine Martin was a fascinating woman and an early feminist.  She was born in 1845 in Missouri and crossed the Oregon Trail with her family in 1846, spending the formative age of 10 months to 15 months living in a covered wagon.  The family settled in Oregon where they lived in Lafayette (1846-1851), Winchester (1851-1859), Roseburg (1859-1861) and Myrtle Creek (1861-1862).  In about 1862 (at about 17 years old), Josephine left her family and moved to Jacksonville, Oregon, where she became a school teacher.  She also lived briefly in Josephine County, Oregon. She was married to William Plymale in 1863.  They lived on a farm in what is now Medford, Oregon from 1863 to 1875.  Between 1875 and her death in 1899, they lived in Jacksonville, Oregon.

Josephine "Josie" was first and foremost a wife and mother of 12 children. She was also a Women's Suffrage activist, a Temperance activist, a newspaper writer and journalist, a noted speech giver, a candidate for political office, an orchardist, a farmer's advocate, a school teacher, a member of various civic organizations, and a town clerk employee.

Women's Suffrage Activist
Josephine was documented as being an activist of the Women's Suffrage movement, but her specific contributions are not known.  In 1875, she was elected as a vice president of the Oregon State Women Suffrage Assocation. In 1879, she was described as "one of the most active workers in the Women Suffrage field whom we have met anywhere."  At some point during the 1870s, Josephine had acquired use of her church (Methodist) for use as a meeting for women's suffrage activists, but was later locked out by her pastor who got wind of the scheme.  Later, a scene was described where Josephine and her husband were too afraid to leave their house because of a violent mob in the street that was protesting against women's rights.  Most of Josephine's involvement in the women's suffrage movement probably took place in the 1870s, when the movement began to gain momentum in Oregon.  Women did not gain the right to vote in Oregon until 1912, many years after Josephine had died.

Josephine was also an activist of the Temperance movement, which was against the excessive consumption of alcohol.  In 1885 and 1886 she was treasurer of the local branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. In 1885 she was described as having "always been an active and able advocate of the temperance cause."  Apparently, the Temperance and Women's Suffrage movements went hand-in-hand during that time period. Ironically, her husband had at one time been given a license to sell liquor.

Her later actions also show that Josephine was a dedicated advocate for farmers, journalists and educators.
Josephine was born into, and married into, families that were heavily involved in politics in Oregon.  Her father, William Martin, served as representative in the Oregon Provision Legislature from 1848-1850 and then as a representative in the Oregon Territorial Legislature from 1850-1852.  Later, he had the political offices of Indian Service Agent (early 1850s) and Receiver of the Land Office (1856-1861). Josephine's husband, William Plymale, was an elected member of the House of Representatives of the Oregon State Legislature from 1874-1875. He also had the political office of Jackson County Surveyor (1865-1873), Deputy County Clerk (1860s-1880s), and Justice of the Peace (1880s-1904).

The surviving records infer that Josephine held the opposite political values of both her father and her husband.  Through most of her adulthood, her father and husband were Democrats whereas Josephine was a Republican (which tended to be the more liberal and progressive party of the time). In August 1888, Josephine named her youngest son after Benjamin Harrison, a Republican who was elected president of the United States three months later.

In 1892, Josephine entered the candidacy under the Republican ticket for election as Jackson County Recorder.  Apparently, the suggestion that she would consider running for office was unprecedented.  In a newspaper article, her candidacy declaration was responded to with: "That is right, Sister Plymale; if you never ask for an office you will never be refused one."  Unfortunately, she dropped out of the race or was denied inclusion by her own party.  In May 1892, the Republican Part of Jackson County instead officially nominated her nephew, Robert Armstrong, for that position (Robert later lost the election). 

In 1893, Josephine was a committee clerk for the legislative assembly of the Oregon State Legislature in Salem.  Later, in 1895, she again traveled to the State Legislative Assembly in Salem where she "was employed in the senate chamber" and brought her two youngest daughters, Emma and Marie, with her.
In 1898, Josephine performed the duties (copying records) of the Town Clerk of Jacksonville, while the clerk was absent. As part of that job, she became a notary. 
Josephine Martin Plymale, c. 1880s
Photo courtesy Southern Oregon Historical Society
Journalism and Writing
Most sources agree that Josephine was a gifted writer. She put her talent to use as a journalist. From the 1870s until the late 1890s, Josephine was a correspondent and writer for at least two newspapers: the Ashland Tidings (in Ashland, Oregon) and the Oregonian (still the major newspaper of Portland, Oregon).  Her newspaper writing that I have seen includes editorials and obituaries. In 1885, she was hired as an editorial writer for The Prohibition Star newspaper.  She was also a vice president of the Oregon Press Association and a member of the National Press Association.  Her dedication to the newspaper industry must have rubbed off on her family because two of her sons (William and Louis) also became journalists and worked for newspapers.

Aside from her journalism, Josephine was also a gifted writer in other ways.  She did a large amount of freelance work; writing essays and tributes. 
Public Speaker
Josephine has been described in contemporary records as a noted speech giver and public speaker. A few of her documented speeches are: In 1875 she gave the inaugural address to the Grange in Jacksonville. In 1877, she gave the annual address to the Siskiyou County Agricultural society in Yreka, California. In 1879, she gave a reading at a meeting of the Teacher's Institute in Jacksonville.  In 1880, she gave a speech at the Legion of Honor in Jacksonville.  In 1896, she gave the Occasional Address at the reunion of the Oregon Pioneer Association.
Josephine was raised on farms for the entirety of her childhood and youth.  When she married William Plymale in 1863, she immediately moved with him to his family's farm and ranch.  Southern Oregon is famous for its fruits (notably pears) and the Plymales had some kind of fruit orchard along with their stock farm and ranch.  On the family farm, we can assume that her husband was the better stock raiser while Josephine was the better orchardist.  Although they only farmed for about 12 years, Josephine remained a lifelong advocate of farmers and agriculture.

Josephine was a faithful member of the Grange and the Jackson County Agricultural Society.  At various times she was publicly thanked for delivering pears to fellow citizens.
Other Involvements
Josephine was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church.  She was also a dedicated member of various civic organizations including the Madrona Lodge Order of the Eastern Star (female version of the Masons) and the Ruth Rebekah Lodge (female version of the I.O.O.F. - the "Odd Fellows").   Josephine was especially prominent in the Rebekah Lodge, and served as its General Secretary, which required her to travel throughout Oregon state.  In 1890, she was elected as a delegate to the organization's national convention in Topeka, Kansas; but it is unknown if she made the trip. Additionally, she was a member of the Southern Oregon Pioneer Association and the Oregon Pioneer Association.

For a short time period in her youth (from about 1862 to about 1863), she taught school in Jacksonville.  Although she only taught for a short time period, the stint must have made its mark on her students, because more than 30 years later she was said to have "rendered very valuable service to the young people who were growing up around her."

In 1875, when Josephine and her family moved to Jacksonville, Oregon, they took over the Excelsior Livery Stable business, located in the city center (the business has previously been owned and operated by William's brother Sebastian Plymale).   They successfully operated the business for about 15 years, where they provided transportation for fellow citizens by driving and renting out horses and buggies to paying customers.  Josephine assisted with this business enterprise and must have been quite good with horses.  She herself even drove horse teams for clients on occasion.  She was described on one occasion by a customer as a "gallant lady pilot proving efficient and successful at her business."
In the summer of 1882, a scarlet fever epidemic struck the area and three of Josephine's children were infected with the dangerous disease.  Sadly, her youngest son, McDonough, aged 17 months, died from the dreaded disease, but her other children recovered.

In Jacksonville, Josephine and her family lived next to a furniture factory.  At 3:30 am on September 18, 1888, a fire erupted in the furniture factory and soon engulfed the Plymales' home and it burned to the ground.  Josephine and her large family (which included one-month old baby Benjamin) managed to escape in the middle of the night with only the clothes on their back.  After this, they purchased a house across the street that had been owned by the owner of the furniture factory.

The surviving sources suggest that despite all of Josephine and William's civic involvement and accomplishments, they were never very wealthy and suffered from financial hardship.  When her husband William died in 1904, their house was nearly repossessed because of nonpayment of their mortgage.

Josephine became ill in December 1898 and suffered from an undocumented illness (a "complication of diseases") for 6 months until her death on June 16, 1899, at the age of 54.  Her illness was described as "weeks and months of the most intense suffering."
The Plymale Cottage in Jacksonville, Oregon, where
Josephine lived from 1890 to 1899.
Clearly, Josephine must have possessed a high amount of energy, motivation, passion and courage.  She defied the standards of her day which required women to be meek and subservient.  In her time, she went up against her father, her husband, her pastor and her community, while still managing to maintain respect and dignity.

In spite of all of her above achievements, Josephine was first and foremost a wife and mother.  Surely, the domestic duties of a housewife and mother of 12 children required huge amounts of energy and devotion.  She and her husband were also dedicated to the education of all of their children.  Even though they were Methodists, they sent their children to Catholic school, which they considered to be the best school in town.  At least 6 of their children eventually went to college.

In 1884, when her mother died, Josephine paid for a headstone for her mother's grave, even though her father and most of her siblings lived much closer than she did.

Josephine must have had a fiery and charismatic personality.  In 1879 she was described as "sharper than lightning."  Descriptions at her death in 1899 included; "she was always ready with a pleasant or witty expression under the most irritating circumstances," "the vexations incident to rearing a large family never soured her naturally cheerful disposition," "she was always indulgent and affectionate," and "she had a kind word for every child that she met."  In spite of all that, she was described by her granddaughter (who was born many years after she died) as merely "a bad mother." She must not have been too bad of a mother though, because three different granddaughters were named after her. 
My descent from Josephine:
Josephine L. Martin md. William J. Plymale
- Benjamin H. Plymale md. Vera V. Merriman
-- Ben T. Plymale md. Patricia J. Bixby
--- Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
---- Ryan Wadleigh