52 Ancestors: #9 Jerome Pierpont – bullies, love, and learning to write

This is the story of why Jerome Pierpont, my 3x great grandfather, dropped out of school but then eventually learned to write. It’s a story of bullies and love. These stories were told by Jerome to his granddaughter Florence (Bailey) Longwell in 1939 when he was 90 years old. She recorded them and they eventually made their way to me many years later.

Jerome was born on 12 Feb 1849 in Greenup, Kentucky, the son of Lott Pierpont and Nancy (Hawks) Pierpont. In 1855, when Jerome was just six years old, his mother died, and a few months later his father remarried, resulting in a large blended family. At this time, the family lived on wild game and corn bread, made from grinding home grown corn on a small hand mill. Soon though, Jerome’s family moved to Ohio. There, children at school teased Jerome, calling him a “Kentucky Corn Cracker”, and so he stopped going to school. His overworked stepmother didn’t try to make him go. Since he wasn’t attending school, he began working with his father at age 10, cutting wood for use in iron furnaces. At sixteen, his father “gave him his freedom”, and from then on he worked on his own to support himself, traveling far and wide to find work.

In 1870, Jerome was in Straitsville, Ohio, building railroads. At the place where he boarded, Martha I. Davison was working as a cook, not far from where her parents lived. After meeting Martha there, Jerome decided he wanted to correspond with her, so he went to a writing class and finally learned to write. In 1873, Jerome came to Licking County where Martha lived, and they married in April of that year.

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Jerome and Martha (Davison) Pierpont

I really love this story. Who wouldn’t love the story of a great grandfather who was so drawn to his wife-to-be that he learned to write just so he could correspond with her? And unfortunately, I can relate to the teasing and bullying Jerome experienced when he moved to Ohio. Although my experience probably wasn’t as bad, throughout junior high, all of the boys in my class called me “Cheater” (ironically, because I was one of the smarter kids), and there were certainly days when I didn’t want to face them and the name-calling.  Being teased for being smart may not be the worst thing in the world, but at that age, I think most of us just want to fit in, and being different in any way, and especially being constantly reminded of your difference, can be really hard. I wish that this is not an experience I shared with any of my ancestors, but unfortunately kids have always been capable of being incredibly cruel to each other.

52 Ancestors: #8 Joseph McLaughlin and family

Here’s one of my oldest and favorite family photos.

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Left to right: George Johnson, Lydia (McLaughlin) Johnson, Alice Johnson, Theodore Vanderveer, John Vanderveer, Judson Vanderveer, Joseph McLaughlin, Anna (McLaughlin) Reed, Anthony McLaughlin, Mary (McLaughlin) Bloss, Theo Bloss, Joseph McLaughlin, Solomon Shetler, Todd McLaughlin, Opha Myers, Cynthia (McLaughlin) Myers, Laura (McLaughlin) Myers, Mary (Beatty) McLaughlin, Phoebe Vanderveer, Harriet (McLaughlin) Shetler, Inez Shetler, Ivah Shetler, Retta, Lovina (McLaughlin) Shilling, Edd

Besides the fact that some of the faces are blurry and this is a scan of a copy so it’s not the absolute best quality, this was a great find at my grandfather’s house. It’s got Joseph H. McLaughlin (1882-1897) and his wife Mary, and pretty much all of their children and grandchildren. Based on the age of the youngest child (John Vanderveer), who was born 26 May 1882, this picture was must have been taken in late 1882 or early 1883. I’m not sure why they took this picture where they look they’re ready to challenge the Hatfields & McCoys – in all of the other pictures I’ve seen of these people, they look like fine upstanding citizens.

Here are a few of my favorite features of this photo:

  • Grandpa chilling on the fence, and his awesome beard:
Joseph McLaughlin

Joseph McLaughlin

  • These men showing off their guns (that’s my 3x great grandfather on the right):
Theo Bloss, Joseph McLaughlin, Solomon Shetler, and Todd McLaughlin showing off their guns

Theo Bloss, Joseph McLaughlin, Solomon Shetler, and Todd McLaughlin showing off their guns

  • A lot of men with cool hats:

52 Ancestors: #7 Melick: I am my own grandpa

Here’s the story of how I got hooked on genealogy, and how I discovered that my parents are cousins.

Several years ago, I decided on a whim to do a free trial membership on ancestry.com. I was going on my merry way adding lots of people to my tree, starting with the ancestors I knew and then from the hints from other peoples trees (without really checking many sources! I’ve come a long way since then, and I’m still trying to clean up my tree and make sure that I really have sources/reasons for each relationship/person included). Anyways, I was going along, and I was working on some ancestors back in the late 1700’s/1800’s, and started coming across source hints from The Story of An Old Farm by Andrew D. Mellick, Jr., a book with a lot of the history of the Melick/Mellick/Moelich family in America. At first, I didn’t think anything of this, since I’m a Melick and my dad has a copy or two of this book at home. But then, I realized that I had been working on my mom’s side of the tree – what was going on? I quickly navigated back through my tree, and sure enough, it looked like I had a Melick ancestor on my mom’s side too!

At this point, I was wondering (1) – is this really right that there’s a Melick on my mom’s side, and (2), how is this Melick ancestor related to my dad’s line of Melick’s? So, at this point, I realized that sources really are important, and went back through the line from my mom to Rebecca Melick, the first Melick on her side, to check if this really was correct. It was, as far as I could tell. Then I started working back on my dad’s side to see if these two Melick lines met. They did. Rebecca Melick, who is my mom’s 4x great grandmother, is the sister of my dad’s 3x great grandfather, Jonas Melick. Since then, I’ve discovered that just about all Melicks/Mellicks/etc. in America are related, since we all descend from a few immigrants who were related. 

For those of you keeping track, that means my parents are 5th cousins once removed, my mom is my 6th cousin, my dad is my 5th cousin twice removed, and I’m my own 6th cousin once removed.

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Relationship chart from me to myself

 After I broke the news to my parents that they’re cousins, it became a running family joke. My mom now proudly claims The Story of an Old Farm as her own history too. Finding out something so interesting got me hooked on genealogy, and I’ve been researching my family history ever since. It’s a little like that song ‘I Am My Own Grandpa’.

52 Ancestors: #6 John Allen Coffman

John and Isabelle Coffman portrait

John and Isabelle Coffman

These are my 3x great grandparents, John Allen Coffman and Isabelle Minnie (Crotinger) Coffman. John Allan is the son of David Coffman (1803-1881) and Elizabeth (Jackson) Coffman (b. 1811), the 8th of 10 children that I know of. John was born on Nov 4, 1847, in Dayton, Ohio,  and died on Apr 6, 1937 in Piqua, Ohio, according to his death certificate. Before marrying Isabelle, he had married a Mary Jane Jones and had one son. After marrying Isabelle, they had at least seven children. In the census records he was listed as being a (day) laborer in 1880 and 1900 and a mover in 1910. It appears he retired between 1910 and 1920, since he is listed as having no job in 1920 and 1930. In these years, his oldest son lived with him and his wife. Throughout his life, he lived in several places – with his parents and many siblings, he moved to Shelby county sometime perhaps around 1870, in the 1900 census he’s living in Spencerville in Allen County, and then from at least 1910 until his death he lived in Piqua in Miami County. He lived a long life – dying just a few months before his 90th birthday. He’s buried in Forest Hill Union Cemetery in Piqua, next to his wife Isabelle, who died two years after him.

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Isabelle and John Coffman, seated, with some of their descendants, around 1923

52 Ancestors: #5 Frank Nelson

Well, I knocked a few bricks off of one of my brick walls this week! The small breakthrough came when I tracked down the obituary of my 3x great grandfather, Frank Nelson. Before this, I had known that Frank had immigrated from Sweden as a young man, and then spent the majority of his adult life in Defiance, Ohio. I had been able to find a lot of information about his life in Defiance, but hadn’t been able to find anything before then. I still don’t have the answers I’m looking for, but with the new information from his obituary, I have some new ideas of where to look. I’ll talk a little bit about Frank’s life in Defiance, and then discuss the information and new questions I got from his obituary. The star sources in this week’s blog are Frank’s obituary (of course) and a number of pictures and city directories that I found on ohiomemory.org.

Frank Nelson married Anna Peterson, also a Swedish immigrant, in 1883 in Defiance, Ohio. Prior to finding their obituaries, I had no records of them before this, including no mention of either one in or near Defiance in 1880. Frank and Anna’s first daughter died in infancy, and after this, they went on to have 4 daughters and 2 sons. In 1900, they appear in the census in Defiance at 103 Auglaize St with all six of their surviving children. The census also contains the following information:

  • his birth date is June 1855

    Frank Nelson 1900 census

    Frank Nelson 1900 census

  • his occupation is a wheel polisher (at the Turnbull Wagon Company, according to a number of city directories)
  • he immigrated in 1871
  • he can read, write, and speak English
  • he owns his home and has a mortgage

Frank’s wife Anna died in 1904, and then Frank died in 1907. All four of their daughters would eventually die of tuberculosis over the next ten years after Frank’s death. Thankfully, before she died, their oldest daughter Florence was able to marry and have three children, one of whom was my great grandmother. The other three daughters all died unmarried, between the ages of 16 and 20.  But that’s all a story for another day.

Until this week, that’s about all the information I had on Frank, and I wasn’t sure where to go about looking for more. I was missing the following information:

  • his parents’ names
  • an exact birth date
  • a place of birth more specific that Sweden
  • a firm date of immigration
  • where he lived between immigration around 1871 and his marriage in Defiance in 1883 (he does not appear in the 1877-78 or 1881-82 Defiance City Directories, but he does appear in the 1887-88 one)
  • the name of any of his relatives besides his wife and children
  • verification of the date of death as 3 Nov 1907 (listed in this record on Family Search, but no image of the original available online; his headstone only has the year, 1907)

Then, earlier this week, I found a reference to Frank’s obituary on the Ohio Obituary Index on rbhayes.org. I quickly requested it, and then received both a death notice and an obituary on Friday.

Frank Nelson death notice

Frank Nelson death notice: Defiance Crescent News 11 Nov 1907

Frank Nelson obituary

Frank Nelson obituary: Defiance Crescent News 18 Nov 1907

These two sources provided me with a lot of information for Frank:

  • a (likely) more accurate death date: 11 Nov 1907
  • cause of death: tuberculosis (making him the first of five people in his family to die of the disease in a span of 10 years)
  • an exact birthday: June 3rd, 1856
  • a birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden
  • information about where he lived before coming to Defiance: Germany from age 14-17, a few months in Grand Rapids in approximately 1873, and an unspecified amount of time in Logansport, Indiana
  • his church, or at least the church where his funeral was held (it doesn’t say that he was a long-time faithful member of the church like many other people’s obituaries do): the English Lutheran Church

By checking the 1907-1908 Defiance City Directory (p.9), I discovered that his church’s full name was Zion’s First English Lutheran, since this is the English Lutheran church whose pastor is Rev. R.E.M. Engers, the pastor listed in his obituary.  There are pictures on ohiomemory.org of this church around the same time period – both the inside and outside. The people on the steps of the church in the outside picture were probably friends or acquaintances of Frank and his family. 

Since Frank doesn’t appear in the 1880 census in Defiance, I decided to see if he’s listed in Logansport instead, since his obituary said that’s where he lived before coming to Defiance. I did indeed find a Frank Nelson in Logansport. This Frank was of the correct age, was born in Sweden, and was single, living with his cousin Gustave Nelson in Logansport in 1880.  This Frank Nelson worked in a spoke factory.

Logansport 1880 census record for Frank Nelson

Logansport 1880 census record for Frank Nelson

Could this be my Frank Nelson? Everything sure seems to fit. I’m currently working on researching Gustave (who also went by August) Nelson, to see if this potential cousin could shed any light on whether this is my Frank Nelson, and if so, who their parents and/or grandparents were. Unfortunately, there aren’t many detailed records for Indiana available online, so I haven’t made much progress yet. It also appears that Gustave died later in 1880. If this is my Frank Nelson, perhaps he felt like he needed to move on after his cousin’s death, and that’s why he made the move to Defiance.

So, my search for my Swedish roots continues! If any one sees this and has any more information about Frank or Gustave Nelson, or what happened later in life to Frank’s sons Charles and William McKinley Nelson, please get in touch with me.