Mappy Monday: Oil and Coal and Gas! : Pennsylvania’s Resources

In the fall of 1864, Ira Sayles, my great2grandfather, penned a letter to an acquaintance.  From his berth in Meadville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, Ira described boring samples from nearby oil wells.  An excerpt from this letter was published in The American Journal of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 39, in May 1865.  Ira’s observations about the relationship between the quantity/quality of oil and the porosity and permeability of the area’s Devonian sandstones remained relevant to oil and gas industry geologists well into the 21st century.

Amateur geologist Sayles begins his note by referencing an 1858 map of Pennsylvania, a product of geological surveys conducted between 1836-1857, and printed under the superintendence of Henry D. Rogers, Pennsylvania’s first State Geologist.  The map can be accessed at the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website.

1858 Geologic Map of Pennsylvania

As I studied this map – thoughts racing and crashing into one another – I discovered traces of the Minors and the Sayles, the Delehantys and the Corrigans.  All of these pieces of my past had been influenced by the topography and the geology of the Keystone State, with its deposits of Devonian coal and oil.

With a jolt, I recognized the patterns so carefully displayed; the first Pennsylvania Geological Survey resembles a DCNR map published almost 150 years later!

So, it turns out that the Devonian sandstones Ira Sayles described in 1864 actually cap the black, organic-rich Marcellus Shale now at the center of my state’s natural gas fracking debate. The scavenger hunt for ancestor stories has led me, once again, full circle to my own story.

*The first American oil boom began with the drilling of Edwin Drake’s well in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859.

Tuesday’s Tip: RootsMagic 5 from a Novice

Though I have been collecting documents, photographs and family stories for three years, and writing a blog for almost two, I have never tried to systematically record my genealogical information.  Now that I have amassed enough treasure to genuinely call myself a genealogist/family historian, I feel compelled to organize it – to better tell my stories and to refine my research.  

I am fortunate in that my treasures include a great many primary sources: family Bibles, postcards, pension files, letters and ledgers, in addition to those sources plucked from internet repositories.  I need genealogy software that will help me structure data, source it thoroughly and bundle it with transcriptions, summaries and media.  After asking around my +google circles and doodling with a downloaded trial or two, I settled on RootsMagic 5.

Just do it NOW

The sea of data has threatened to drown me more than once in the past couple of months.  Even with a nifty new program I was daunted by the work that lay ahead of me.  Just pick an ancestor NOW, said a cyber colleague.  Just start entering data,  NOW.  Start climbing the software’s learning curve NOW.

So I selected an ancestor, Ira Sayles and Serena, his wife, and just started using Roots Magic 5.  Innocently I chose the 1894 Civil War Pension File, because I wanted to reread the documents within the set and because I remembered that these primary sources contained a rich assortment of dates, names, occupations, etc. Almost immediately I was struck numb with doubt.   How will I ever structure this information so that I capture MORE than dates?  How will I capture stories of his health? His Civil War service?  Then the magic of the software appeared.

RootsMagic 5

The home screen of RootsMagic has a familiar appearance, and is constructed for intuitive use.

Double clicking the person of interest brings up an edit screen.


As you can see, Ira Sayles served during the Civil War; he applied for an Invalid Pension in 1893.  One of my first genealogical research trips was to the National Archives in Washinton, D.C., where my request to see the contents of pension application 1124613 returned a whole sheaf of papers.  Over the New Year holiday I began rereading them, and recording the data in no particular order.  Soon I had three separate entries documenting the fact that Ira Sayles had served in Virginia and succumbed to prolonged exposure and fatigue.  Unable to fulfill his duties as Captain of Company H, 130th Regiment New York Volunteers, he resigned in February of 1863.  Suddenly I was swept up in the urge to differentiate these sources further so that each perspective about that resignation was recorded. Determinedly I delved into the full power of RootsMagic.  

I selected one of my resignation facts – Ira’s letter of resignation – and started clicking tabs.

When you click the source button for your fact this page is brought up. 

At first all I tried to do was figure out how to cite my source.  Then I noticed the tabs to the right of the Citation Tab and went wild!  The Master Text Tab will let the user create further commentary on the Source Set.  What I wanted to do was find a way to record details of the individual documents within my pension file.  I moved on to the Detail Text Tab:

What a perfectly lovely sight!  The changes on this page apply ONLY to the specific citation; here you can name your document, attach your transcription or research note AND write down any further information that you want captured! 

So here I am, three days into my RM5 learning curve, and I already know how to capture information as structured data, how to cite my source AND how to bundle the data with transcriptions, research notes and summaries.  Magical.

 

The 110th Anniversary of Anna Florette Sayles Strickland’s Birth

Today is the anniversary of the birth of my grandmother. Born December 4, 1901 to two middle-aged farmers in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, Anna Florette Sayles was a bit of a miracle girl.

Her father, Clifton Duvall Sayles, had five children from his first marriage to Anna McCullough, both Yankees drawn to the south after the Civil War.  After Anna died sometime during the year of 1900 Clifton paid court to his first love, Miss Rebecca Eulelia “Lilly” Dodson, a spinster who lived down the road near Butchers Creek on the family’s farm with her two spinster sisters.

Lilly and Clifton had fallen in love right after his arrival in Mecklenburg County in 1870 but James and Sarah Jane Dodson would not accept Clifton’s proposal to marry their daughter.  Feelings ran high against Yankees for the Dodson’s had lost both a son and a brother to the Cause.  So Lilly lived her life, without ever marrying.  Clifton met and married Anna in 1879.  They had five children, two of whom were still at home when Anna died in 1900.  Clifton set out to complete his family.

In January of 1901, no longer needing anyone’s approval, Lilly and Clifton were married in Chase City, Virginia.  Just twelve months later, the forty-five year old bride gave birth to her only child.  Anna Florette grew up pretty much an only child, for all the McCullough Sayles had married or moved off the farm by the time she was a young girl.

In 1920 George R. Strickland, who had been adopted by Lilly Dodson Sayles’ sisters and unmarried brother, hitched up a wagon and drove his team to the Sayles’ house to pay court to Florette. They were married September 28, 1921 in the Baptist parsonage in Chase City, Virginia by the Rev. H. L. Williams.  Four sons were born to this union:  George Sidney, Clifford Ricks, Paul Warren, and Norman Scott.  The family survived the depression by returning to the Dodson farm.

By 1951 all the boys had left Mecklenburg County, and my grandmother and grandfather lived in Chase City, keeping up the farm with the help of tenant farmers and the like.  My grandfather ran several school buses for the Chase City district and was landlord for several city properties.  My grandmother kept George straight, and the home running smoothly.

Florette Strickland loved music; she made sure all of her boys could play an instrument, and that they played together regularly.  She played the piano; my granddaddy had purchased this big old piano which sat in the living room of their home.  Her pile of music contained anthems for her church choir, as well as popular ballads and tunes.  One of my favorite memories is of me on the bench, playing Clair de Lune, by Claude Debussy.  Grandmother sat on the couch, crocheting another blanket.  When I finished I turned to see her smiling and she said, “I believe you just made that piano sing.”

Anna Florette Sayles Strickland died in March 1981, leaving behind a rich legacy of music loving family.

Anna Florette Sayles Strickland shares a chuckle with her husband George Ricks Strickland, circa 1951

Project 150: Ira and Serena Sayles in 1861


November 1861   The rolling hills of Allegany County, New York were studded with trees, bare-limbed but for the oak trees.  Red brown leaves would be clinging fast to those branches until harsh winter winds pulled them into crunchy swirls.  

All that remains of The Gothic, built by Samuel S. White in 1851 for his daughter, Serena White Sayles

Ira and Serena Sayles would have been leading very full lives on the campus of Alfred Academy and Alfred University, which were situated on the hill just beyond the Main Street of the town, Alfred.  Waking early to parent two young boys, ten year old Clifton and four year old Merlin, the couple would have departed The Gothic, their lovely framed house, to teach; Serena would have taught French while Ira taught modern and classical languages, mathematics and geology.  The end of the fall term was approaching, and the campus would have been filled with the tension that accompanies examination preparation.  Of course, autumn winds brought more than northwestern cold fronts that year. 

Alfred – Hotbed in Cold Times

Alfred University was a community of religiously devout, liberal intellectuals; ardent believers in equal rights – for women and for negroes.  Among the guests entertained on the 1861 campus were Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lectured on the “Classes of Men” and Frederick Douglass, who spoke on his “Life Picture.” Shortly after shots were fired on Fort Sumter, the entire graduating class of the university enlisted, leaving for Elmira, New York on July 2, 1861 to become part of the 23rd New York Volunteers.  Professor, and Sayles’ neighbor, Jonathan Allen accompanied the young men as they headed to Washington, D.C. and to the front, where he witnessed the chaos of the Union retreat at Bull Run.

 That November letters from Asher Williams, Luis Kenyon, Edmund Maxson, and other alumni would certainly have been shared among the community as were, no doubt, Jonathan Allen’s first hand accounts.  Copies of the Angelica Reporter, Genesse Valley Free Press and the Elmira Advertiser could have been found in every hall, in every home. 

Students and faculty alike would have been immersed in a dual world in which academic studies prepared students for peace time adult lives and community organizations prepared everyone for war time contributions.  Serena and Ira may very well have argued about just what those contributions should be for each of them.  Ira was probably quite keen on enlisting himself, while Serena, who was pregnant with their fourth child*, would have encouraged him to remain active enlisting others.

November held hope for quick victory over the slaveholders’ treason and joy for Alfred’s loved ones who were still safe.  But there was almost certainly some tension among this abolitionist community about what Lincoln and the Union was finally going to do about slavery.  Thus far the war had nothing to do with slavery, though slavery had everything to do with the war. Among the thanksgiving and prayers offered up that November 28, Ira and Serena would most certainly include thoughts for their unborn child, their former students turned soldier and for unknown slaves fleeing their oppression.  For the Sayles family the secession of southern states had already become an opportunity to end slavery on American soil, once and for all.

Project 150 is a series of Civil War posts that, taken together, will tell the story of my family’s life choices during the years of rebellion.  Sources used for today’s post include privately held family documents, documents held in the Alfred University archives and the New York State Military Museum and the Federal 1860 census accessed at ancestry.com.

*Their daughter, Florette, had died of unknown causes in 1857.

Teater, Teeter, Tieter = Thaeter, Dieder, Dather : Surname Saturday

Part One of Teater, Teeter, Tieter

I open the memory of my grandmother’s Huston Street home in Chase City, Virginia and enter the filtered light.  I move across the living room to look out onto a small covered porch. Indirect light bathes her African violets, perched on top of their window stand, their pink and purple blooms nodding in the summer breeze.  I wait to greet my grandmother with the news:   Hendrich was not the Immigrant Teater after all.

Anna Florette Strickland spoke her English with a Southside Virginia accent, slowly, carefully, vowels lingering in the air.   I long to sit on that couch and unfold the tale of her great-grandmother’s ancestors, and listen to her southern wonder.  Her grandma was a Yankee, a northern abolitionist moved south after the War of Northern Aggression. Serena White Sayles taught French in Mecklenburg County, Virginia schools, places whose names have been lost to family memory. Serena was herself the daughter of a teacher, Nancy Teater White; in fact, Nancy Teater was the first teacher in Allegany County, New York, in 1814.  This part of the story my grandmother knew and passed on.  Picking up the family lore, I have discovered that Nancy Teater’s father, John Teater, was originally from Dutchess County, New York.

Last week ancestry.com sent “You’ve got hints!” mail, and I learned that John Teater was the son of Revolutionary War soldier John Teeter, Sr., and the grandson of the Revolutionary War patriot, Hendrich Teeter  –  both of Dutchess County, New York.  I began collecting the surname variations and deduced that my forefathers had crossed the Atlantic with an umlaut — making the Immigrant Teater a native of Germany.  Tödter! That is what I searched for in every data base with every search engine in my command.  But then I was astounded by a document within the ancestry.com results.

Teater, Teeter, Tieter morphed into Thaeter, Dieder, Däther, an umlaut that led me back into a history along the Hudson of which I was totally unaware.  And this is the story I would sit and share on my grandmother’s couch.

From the website of the Palatine Project: http://www.progenealogists.com/palproject/

Conditions were bleak for residents living along the Rhine in 1708 and 1709. Repeated French invasions of the region had led to deprivations and terror, particularly for German Reformed (Calvinists) and Lutheran Protestants.  The weather had been bitter and cold.

Elizabetha Dotter, wife of Hans, died July 31, 1708 in Leonbronn in what is now Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, about 14 miles northeast of Bretten.  Hans (Johan) Dotter or Dother died on January 13, 1709.  The three children, Lorenz, Jorg and Maria Margaretha, joined the mass emigration of Palatines hoping to find a better life among the colonies of Great Britain.  Lorenz and his siblings boarded Captain William Newton’s ship at Rotterdam and sailed for England on July 3, 1709, and they were among the 2814 Palatines who left London for Queen Anne’s work camps along the Hudson in December 1709.  Thus Lorenz Däther, my Teater Immigrant, was a member of the first and largest mass emigration to America in the Colonial period.

Lorenz Däther worked off his passage in Dutchess County, New York, from 1710-1712, at which time Queen Anne and the English government stopped paying subsidies to the immigrants.  Some of the Palatines moved to New Jersey and Pennsylvania seeking farmland.  Lorenz stayed along the Hudson, settling near Rhinebeck, New York.  He married Margareta Lnu about 1710 and was naturalized in about 1715.  The couple had their son, Hendrich Teeter in 1716 in what would become Dutchess County, New York, and obtained a life lease on land at the Livingston Manor in 1717.

Hendrich Teeter married Caroline Bender, daughter of Valentine and Anna Margaretha Stoppelbein Bender, in Dutchess County, New York.  The couple had at least one son, John (Johannes), on March 2, 1742.

In 1775 Hendrich declared his loyalty to the fledgling colonial government by signing the Articles of Association:

“Persuaded that the salvation of the rights and liberties of America depend, under God, on the firm union of its inhabitants in a rigorous prosecution of the measures necessary for its safety ; and convinced of the necessity of preventing anarchy and confusion, which attend the dissolution of the powers of government, we, the freemen, freeholders, inhabitants of _____, being greatly alarmed at the avowed design of the Ministry to raise a revenue in America, and shocked by the bloody scene now acting in Massachusetts Bay, do, in the most solemn manner, resolve never to become slaves and do associate, under all the ties of religion, honor, and love to our country, to adopt and endeavor to carry into execution whatever measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress, or resolved upon by our Provincial Convention for the purpose of preserving our Constitution, and opposing the execution of the several arbitrary Acts of the British Parliament, until a reconciliation between Great Britain and America on constitutional principles (which we most ardently desire) can be obtained ; and that we will in all things follow the advice of our General Committee respecting the purposes aforesaid, the preservation of peace and good order, and the safety of individuals and property.”

My information is second-hand.  I have read reports authored by a Philip Teeter, who digested the genealogical works of Henry Jones and Anne Cassidy, who did examine records and conduct primary research.  I have perused countless public trees and genealogical message boards.  I am satisfied that I have a profile, a bundle of clues, connecting my grandmother’s great-grandmother, Nancy Teater, to the Palatines of New York.  Imagine the many tongues that have spoken the hard initial consonant and repeated the germanic vowel; Teater, Teeter, Tieter, Thaeter, Dieder, Dother, Däther = optimistic colonial pioneer.

Source used by most of my sources: Jones, Henry.  “Palatine Families of New York: A Study of the German Immigrants Who Arrived in Colonial New York in 1710.”  1985.