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Roker Book is Entertaining but Flawed

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Here is an interview I did with Al Roker about his new book, “The Storm of the Century.” It deals with the devastating 1900 hurricane in Galveston, which still stands as this nation’s worst national disaster.

Mr. Roker utilized the services of a professional researcher for this project.

As someone well-versed with Galveston history, there are some things in the book that grate on my nerves, such as mislabeling the Bishop’s Palace (one of the island’s most loved architectural treasures) as Ashton Villa (another historic home), and stating that Indianola (which was completely obliterated by a hurricane) was in Mississippi (it was in Texas). I would dearly have hoped that a professional researcher or publisher fact-checker would have caught things like this.

Aside from that, Roker and his team have gathered some heart-wrenching stories about those who did and didn’t survive the storm, and the book makes a quick and interesting read.

If you read “The Storm of the Century,” let me know what you think!

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Survived the War – But Not the Storm

Today is the 115th Anniversary of the tragic 1900 hurricane in Galveston, that took thousands of lives. I thought it was only proper for today’s post to pay tribute to a veteran who lost his life in that storm.


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Johann “John” Karl “Charles” Seidenstricker was an immigrant who proved his allegiance and dedication to his new country soon after his arrival.

Born on September 7, 1842 in Bad Duerkeim, Pfalz, Bayern, Germany, Johann immigrated to America by himself when he was only 18 years old. He arrived in New Orleans aboard the ship Kate Dyer on February 4, 1861, just two months before the Civil War began.

He served as a private in Company F of the 31st Massachusetts Infantry, while they were stationed in Donaldsonville, Louisiana south of Baton Rouge. In December, joined by companies from nearby Fort Pike, the unit was armed and equipped as cavalry and stationed at Carrollton.

0314-redRiverCampaignFrom there, Johann took part in the Red River campaign and was engaged with loss at Sabine Cross Road on April 4, 1864. He re-enlisted during the winter and left on July 21 for furlough in Massachusetts, returning to Donaldsonville in November.

The regiment took part in the operations against Mobile, Alabama and occupied the city after the surrender. Johann remained on duty there until he mustered out on July 31, 1865.

Johann was naturalized in New Orleans on April 30, 1866, no doubt largely in thanks to his service to the country during the war.

Seidenst_edited-1While in New Orleans he met NOLA native Married Elenora Johanna Phillippi (1842-1906). They married on September 10, 1866 at St. Matthew’s Evangelical Church in Carrollton, Louisiana.

Johann, now known by his Anglicized name John,  and his wife moved to Galveston, and raised a large family, which included Charles Louis “Carl Ludwig” (1868-1925), Elenora Johanna (1869-1962), Emma (1872-1958), Anna Elizabeth (1874-1945), Bertha (1876-1946), Frederick Godfred (1878-1946), Henry William (1881-1952), and Maude Louise (1883-1953).

He became an active member of the community, and was eventually elected a trustee of Knights of Honor’s Goethe Lodge No. 2976, one of two lodges of this fraternal beneficiary society in the city.

From 1888-1891, Johnphoto-5 worked as a porter for Rosenfield and Co.

The building where he worked is now part of the historic Strand shopping district, on the second floor above Head to Footsies, The Admiralty and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

In 1900, the couple and four of their children (Bertha, Frederick, Henry and Maude) lived together at 1209 Avenue N, very close to what is now Stewart’s Beach.

ruinsOn September 8, 1900 a hurricane which is still the nation’s worst natural disaster struck the city, smashing buildings and killing thousands of people. John was one of those lost in the tragedy. It was the day after his birthday.

Because of the debris, bodies were found for months, and even years, after the storm. With John missing, I can only imagine his family checking the listings of identified bodies found each day in the local newspaper…praying for an answer.

John’s body was eventually discovered and identified by his son Charles. He was buried on Oct. 20, 1900 in Galveston’s Lakeview Cemetery.

Johanna died November 10, 1906 at her home at 1202 Church Street at the age of 54. She is buried at Lakeview as well.

 

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Angels of Grief

AngelOf the more than 90 angels to be found at Houston’s historic Glenwood cemetery, one stands apart in its pose and popularity. The “Weeping Angel” at the Hill family plot is one of the most visited statues on the grounds for good reason: she is stunningly beautiful. Her hair, unbound, is highly unusual for the portrayal of heavenly being during this time period as well.

Angels of Grief, or Weeping Angel statues can be found all over the world. They portray an angel dressed in classical Roman clothes, collapsed across a monument overcome by sorrow. Her drooping wings and face hidden in crossed arms depict a deep state of mourning.

The phrase “Weeping Angel” has a totally different connotation for fans of the BBC show “Dr. Who.” Interestingly enough, those characters were inspired by writer Steven Moffat’s visit to a family graveyard, where he saw similar statues.

R20150822_132234_DSC_3828 copyGlenwood’s angel is one of five of these mournful creatures that can be found in Texas.

Locally known as “Grief,” the angel in Waco’s (McLennan County), Holy Cross Cemetery marks the resting place of merchant Emilio Davila (1864-1928) and his wife Juanita (1886-1928).

Dallas’ Grove Hill Memorial Parks angel guards the graves of Frank W. (1872-1921) and Myrtel Pickens Blakeney (1878-1962).

William Scott Youree (1872-1904) died while in Mexico. His parents and sister erected a Weeping Angel to mark his grave in the Scottsville Cemetery in Scottsville (Harrison County). His sister Susie Rose Youree (1881-1974) now rests there with him. She is missing her left hand – the most common damage found in these statues. (Houston’s version lost her hand to vandalism, but it has been repaired in recent years.)

In Denison’s (Grayson County) Calvary Cemetery, a grieving angel watches over the Lindsay family plot.images

Famed sculptor Frank Teich created the angels in Houston and Scottsville. Scottsville cemetery has been said to have the largest collection of the famous stone artist’s work in one place. Glenwood has numerous, stunning examples of his work as well.

Frank Teich was a sculptor and stonecutter, born in Germany in 1856. He supervised the stonecutters and inspected the granite used in for the state capital building in Austin. He later opened Teich Monumental Works creating such pieces as the Confederate and Firemen’s monuments on the capitol grounds in Austin, the Sam Houston monument in Houston, and other famous stone and bronze works.
WWStoryRomeThese five Texas angels, as well as others across the world, are based upon the “Angel of Grief,” a 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story. It serves as the grave marker of the artist and his wife at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, Italy.800px-William_Wetmore_Story_-_Brady-Handy

When Story’s beloved wife Emelyn died at the age of 74, the sculptor fell into despair and ceased to work. His children encouraged him to return to sculpting, if only to create a monument for their mother, and he did. After completing the statue, he left his studio and never returned. He died the following year.

The story associated with these beautiful creations is just as poignant and beautiful as they are.

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Leaving Family Behind

On our way to visit the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, my husband agreed that since that outing was “his thing,” we should make a stop on the way that was something I would especially enjoy. And, yes…he knew that would entail sitting in the car as I roamed an old cemetery somewhere along the route, taking photos. He’s a good sport!

So, with a bit of quick Googling, I found Lavaca County’s Old Moulton Cemetery. It seemed to have a good number of older headstones and offer some exploring opportunities.

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It was in this cemetery that I came across the marker of R.H. and E. J. McGinty – both born toward the first part of the 19th century.

The stone is in remarkably good shape, given that it has been exposed to Texas weather for over 100 years.20150623_125804_DSC_1840

The engraving itself was obviously not done by a seasoned professional. But whoever did carve the marker took great care and engraved the names, information and epitaph to the best of their ability. The extra effort makes it all the more poignant.

So, who was this couple?

20150623_125802_DSC_1839Robert Henry McGinty was born to Shadrach McGinty and Mary “Polly” Lamar McGinty on April 17, 1824 in Jones County, Georgia. Mary’s father James Lamar, according to family stories, was a first cousin to Mirabeau B. Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas.

Shortly after 1840, Robert’s family moved to Dallas County, Alabama where he would meet his future wife. Her name was Elizabeth “Eliza” Jane Lucas, who was born in Dallas County on November 14, 1828. They married on Feb. 6, 1844.

By the 1850 census, Robert, his new wife Jane (age 21) and their sons John Henry (age 3, born Dec. 1, 1846) and James Milton (age 1, born Jan. 10, 1849) lived on a farm next to Shadrack’s in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.

Another family story explains that both were farmers on the Dubois Plantation at the time. Although there is still a Dubois Plantation Road off of Highway 190 in Tammany, Louisiana near the famous River Road District, this is in St. Tammany Parish.

Catahoula Parish is far north of this location, closer to Natchez. But, of course, there is nothing to say that they did not live on plantation grounds, and that the family just misinterpreted the name through the years. Plantation names were not listed on the censuses, but Catahoula Parish had the highest number of slaves in the era, so it makes sense that the area was plantation/farm country.

But I digress…history does that to me.image_018

The next handful of years were filled with joy and sorrow: the birth of daughter Mary Jane in 1851; the death of son John Henry in 1853; the birth of daughter Susan E. in 1854; the birth of son Obediah L. in 1857; the birth of son Robert in 1859, and the death of Susan the same year.

Evidently, during that time Robert’s parents Shadrack and Polly moved to El Dorado, Union County, Arkansas to farm. Shadrack disappears from the records soon after that, and is assumed to have passed away.

So to help his mother and leave the heartache of lost children behind, Robert and Jane moved their family to Arkansas, inheriting and farming his father’s land. His mother Polly lived with them and appears in their household on the 1860 census.

artilleryRobert left to serve in the Confederate Army, Company C, Second Battallion of the Arkansas Infantry on September 22, 1861. He was wounded by enemy artillery and sent home in December, probably in time to see the birth of daughter Nancie (Nannie) Aresenith on Dec. 20, 1861.

In the spring, he returned to the army and served until the end of the Civil War, joining Company I of the 6th Arkansas Regiment while it was stationed in Corinth, Mississippi.

After the war, as was the weight of large families of this era to bear, more children came into and passed from their lives.

The family welcomed another daughter, Sallie Micou, on Dec. 3, 1863, but mourned the death of their son Robert within a few months.

Their last son, Calhoun, arrived the 5th of November, 1866., and their last daughter Georgia was born in Lavaca County on May 5, 1871. (They had moved to Lacava County, Texas in 1870.)

And the losses continued, with Mary Jane (who had recently married) dying in March of 1869, Obe in Sept. of 1886 and little Calhoun just five days later.

Robert Henry joined the five of his ten children that passed before him on Dec. 19, 1896 in Moulton, Lavaca County, Texas. Imagine how sad the holiday season must have been for their family that year.

His epitaph reads, ”Eternity Called, He Answered Ready.”

In 1901 Jane filed for and received a Confederate widow’s pension. This document still exists and is a goldmine of information, confirming the above story.32241_1220701439_2218-00176

Jane passed away on February 25, 1904 in Alvin, Texas. Her son James Milton lived there, and although she was not listed on the most recent census in the household, perhaps she was visiting him at the time.

She had left five of her children behind, buried in different states. I’m sure she thought of them often.

Her touching epitaph reads, “Mother, our best friend on earth.”

Ironically, James Milton is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Alvin, where I took some photos in May. I did not seem to get a shot of his marker though, so I guess I’ll have to go back for another visit.

Always looking for an excuse to find more stories.

 

Robert Henry McGinty (1824-1896) age 72

Elizabeth Jane Lucas McGinty (1828-1904) age 76

Their Children:

John Henry McGinty (1846-1853) age 7

James Milton McGinty (1849-1926) age 77

Mary Jane McGinty Slaughter (1851-1869) age 18

Susan E. McGinty (1854-1859) age 5

Obediah Lamar McGinty (1857-1886) age 29

Robert McGinty (1859- ?)

Nancy Aresenith McGinty Harris (1861-1940) age 79

Sarah Micou McGinty Crouch (1863-1955) age 92

Calhoun McGinty (1866-1875) age 9

Georgia McGinty Murphy (1870-1954) age 84

 

 

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The Answer Reveals More Questions

Sometimes, when you delve into history to solve a mystery, you end up with several more. That’s just what happened when I came across the simple grave maker for “Mrs. Appleton.” (And yes, that’s part of a snakeskin…seven feet long…laying next to the marker.)

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I found this marker in20150624_152805_DSC_2502 Rocky Community Church Cemetery, sometimes referred to as Rocky Creek Cemetery, in Johnson City, Blanco County, Texas. Unmarked graves make me incredibly sad, but those with only names are sad as well. When did this person live? Where is the family? Not even her first name was included.

 

That creates the challenge of filling in information with some research.

So who was Mrs. Appleton ?

Her name was Sarah

AppletonSarah Jane Null was born On December 23, 1839 in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1859 she married James B. Appleton. James, whose middle initial is sometime listed as “R,” was born in Pennsylvania in 1830.

They had their first child James William the following year in Indiana. They then moved to Shelbyville, Shelby County, Indiana in 1865.

From February to October 1865, James served as a private in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.

Soon after his return from service, the couple had two more sons: John Morris on September 29, 1866 and Wallace P. in 1871.

1870 Sarah and her husband James lived in Shelbyville with with son “Willie” (James William), who was 10, Morris, who was 3 and a house servant named Mary Wilcher who was 37 years old. Sarah was listed as a milliner, and James was a painter.

In the 1880 census, the family was living in Blanco, Johnson County, Texas and farming. They were still there in 1890 when James was listed on the veteran’s schedules.

But either farming wasn’t a good choice for them, or perhaps they were homesick for Indiana, because the were back living in Shelbyville by 1895 when James passed away (according to Sarah’s obituary).sv_pub_sq_west1

Prior to his death, the couple operated a millinery and dry goods establishment in town. Their store was at the corner of West Washington and Public Square. (The site later became home of the First National Bank Building.) They lived in a home at the corner of Franklin and West streets.

We can assume that Morris took his father’s place in the business, since he was living in his mother’s home in 1900. That year’s census lists her occupation as a milliner and his as a salesman. The 1910 census information remained the same.

John Morris Married Lida G. on May 19, 1912. They eventually moved to San Antonio, Texas where he worked as a grocery store clerk until he retired. They lived at 1023 Alamo Street. Both are buried in Shelby County, Indiana, though.

In 1920, Sarah was living in Shelbyville with her son James, who was 59 and worked at a tobacco company.

Something quickly changed again, however, because Sarah was living in Morris’ Shelbyville home when she passed away on November 26, 1921, the following year. Even more mysteriously, James and Sarah’s other son Wallace were listed as “whereabouts unknown” in Sarah’s obituary.

Where could they have gone, and why wouldn’t their family know?

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At age 81, Sarah died of apoplexy and was said to have been ill for some time. Apoplexy at the time was commonly used as a term for a store or brain hemorrhage.

Mrs. Appleton had been a member of the First Presbyterian church here for several years. She was also a member of the Woman’s relief Corps, the Rebekahs and Royal Neighbors. Her name appeared often in the local newspaper, for attending or hosting social affairs and being involved in community activities. She obviously led a full life and had many friends. (Obituary appeared in the Shelbyville Republican, Saturday, Nov. 26, 1921.)

She is buried in City Cemetery in Shelbyville, Indiana.

 

So a few questions remain.

If James died in 1895 after they returned to Shelbyville, why is he buried in Texas? Was he perhaps visiting one of their sons who had remained in the area?

Sarah’s obituary even mentions her burial arrangements to be interred in Indiana, where there is a marker for her. Why is there also a marker for her by her husband’s? Did someone assume she was buried nearby, or was it simply placed as a remembrance?

At least we now know her full name and a bit about her. Mrs. Appleton obviously led a full, active life and had many friends. Something not reflected by the simple marker in the Texas hill country.