Monday, September 29, 2008

James A. Dickinson in the Civil War's Brown Water Navy

James A Dickinson
U.S. Mississippi River Squadron

Fortunately for thirteen-year-old James Alpheus Dickinson, zero tolerance was a policy that no one considered in 1863. Had such a disciplinary code existed, the life of this bright but rebellious teen surely would have taken a different course.

The youngest child of U.S. Congressman Rudolphus Dickinson, James grew up fatherless in Fremont, Ohio. His birth occurred just months after his father's untimely death in Washington, D.C. By 1863, ideas of manhood, warfare, and adventure captivated the young boy's imagination. Dickinson ran away from home, planning to enlist in the U.S. Army. His rejection (due to his small size) was undoubtedly a severe disappointment, but Dickinson remained determined to serve his country. He signed on for a year's service in the U.S. Navy. Within a week, he found himself aboard a gunboat patrolling the Mississippi River, fending off the attacks of Rebel guerrillas on Union supply channels.

Dickinson reveled in his newfound freedom. He proudly recorded in his diary incidents of smoking, missing church, and chewing "because all sailors chew tobacco."

Disciplinary measures did not deter Dickinson from jumping ship to enjoy nightlong drinking sprees in towns along the Mississippi. Despite swift, severe punishment, the young sailor continued his wild ways - missing inspections, drinking, enjoying forbidden night swims, and stealing food. Yet he performed his duties admirably. Even with a painful shrapnel injury, he continued to return sniper fire. Dickinson withstood a bullet wound to the knee and endured frozen toes, the result of long hours on guard duty in the cold. He wrote his mother regularly. She responded with her own letters and issues of the Catholic Telegraph.

A year later, his Civil War service complete, the high-spirited Dickinson returned to Fremont where he spent his first few weeks fishing and dancing with his boyhood friends. We can only guess what forces molded the rebellious teen into a man. But at age sixteen, Dickinson took a positive step and entered Notre Dame. He graduated with a law degree in 1869. He practiced law in Fremont until he took a position with the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C. and then the Department of Labor. While supporting a family, Dickinson returned to school and earned a degree in medicine from Howard University in 1889. He moved to North Carolina where he practiced medicine.

Upon his death in 1922, Dr. James A. Dickinson was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst's Secret

Charley Darkey Parkhurst
Pioneer Cemetery, Watsonville, California
(Courtesy of Find a Grave)

On December 12, 1879, one of the great “whips” of California’s Gold Rush days died just outside Santa Cruz. Charley Parkhurst, a legend among Wells Fargo stagecoach drivers, passed away quietly, having suffered the ravages of rheumatism and cancer. When friends prepared Parkhurst’s body for burial, they were startled to discover that “Charley” was a woman!

Born in New Hampshire, “Charlotte” Parkhurst spent her early years in an orphanage. The independent teen soon ran away. Dressed as a boy, she found work at a livery stable where she became adept at handling horses. In 1851, a former employer offered her a position driving a stage route amidst California’s gold fields. For the next twenty years, Parkhurst drove for nearly every line around the Mother Lode. Parkhurst confronted robbers, Indians, runaway teams, and narrow mountain passes, eventually gaining a reputation as one of Wells Fargo’s fastest and safest drivers.

A kick from a horse cost Parkhurst an eye. From then on, nearly everyone called the tough little driver “One-Eyed Charley.” Sporting a black patch and a great coat of buffalo hide, Parkhurst drank, chewed, and gambled with the best of them – all the while keeping her secret.

Charley Parkhurst’s name appears on a list of registered voters in the 1868 presidential election of Ulysses S. Grant – some fifty years before women were legally allowed to vote! Californians contend that Parkhurst was the first woman to vote in the state and possibly the first in the nation.

In 1886, the Santa Cruz Surf stated that Charlotte was the daughter of one Frederick M. Parkhurst. Friends attempting to settle Parkhurst’s estate reported that in 1848 Charlotte was living with a Parkhurst family near Sandusky, Ohio. Indeed, the 1850 census of Townsend Twp., Sandusky County, Ohio lists a Charlotte L. Parkhurst, aged 16, living with the prominent Parkhurst family of Sandusky County. Yet, no local descendants have ever been able to place her.

Although the facts of Parkhurst’s early years remain elusive, she continues to hold a unique place in the rich history of California’s wild Gold Rush days. Students examine her extraordinary life in women’s studies courses. A ballad commemorates her Wells Fargo adventures. Women re-enactors drive six-hitch teams over her old Santa Cruz route. And today a monument near her grave declares “One-Eyed Charley” the first woman to vote in the United States.

John Garvin: U. S. Naval Academy Midshipman

John Garvin: U. S. Naval Academy

After helping defend Washington, D.C. during the last months of the Civil War, sixteen- year-old John Garvin of Fremont, Ohio, was certain he wanted a career in the United States Navy. Aided by his older brother Jacob, he received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

But aboard the frigate Santee, preparing for his first cruise, he was no longer sure. He wrote his brother, "The midshipmen play some pretty rough practical jokes on the green ones. The naval school is not such a fine thing as people at home think".

A week later, young John was convinced he was entirely unfitted for the Navy. He told Jacob, “My ardor for a military life is completely quenched." He wanted out! Knowing brother Jacob would be a tough sell, John wrote his brother, anticipating his every argument.

John claimed, "We are ordered around like dogs. A person might almost as well be in the States prison. As I do not like it here, I of course will not feel like applying myself much and will possibly fall behind and get expelled." And finally, if those weren't reasons enough to come home, he told Jacob, "The graduates from here are sadly corrupt in their morals and not only swear, chew & smoke, but drink to excess."

The following morning, John wrote again in desperation. This time he used a positive approach. He assured Jacob he would be happy in Fremont. Then, John must have wondered if Jacob might not want him at home? Well - that would be fine too! He pleaded, "IF I ONLY GET AWAY FROM HERE. Please send permission to leave …as I am sick and disgusted with the whole Navy and not merely the school."

Later that same day, desperate and angry, John fired off another letter. This time he issued an ultimatum. If Jacob didn't respond within one week, he would resign with or without his permission!

It must have been a relief to Jacob when the letters stopped coming. Whether the frigate put to sea or young John gave up trying to convince his brother, history does not record. But Garvin continued at the academy and became a fine naval officer, who loved life on the high seas. As he sailed the world, he wrote his brother delightful letters, filled with descriptions of exotic cities, dangerous hurricanes, and life aboard ship.

When not at sea, Garvin taught mathematics at Annapolis and inspected naval weaponry. He returned to Fremont and married Maude Edgerton in 1876. For the next eighteen years, whenever Garvin was stationed at U. S. ports, Maude and the couple’s children traveled there to be with him.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Martha Treat Canfield in the Civil War

Martha Treat Canfield
(General Ralph P. Buckland Collection)

"The ravages, the desolation, the misery, the horrors of war forced us to construct a religion of our own. If there was any heaven, a soldier who had endured the things we endured, would be very liable to go there, no matter if he had never heard of a creed or a catechism,” explained John Lemmon, captain of a company of northwest Ohio soldiers in the Civil War.

Shiloh had taught them harsh lessons: death did not discriminate between young and old, strong and weak, brave and cowardly, or righteous and sinner. Civil War soldiers, of whom 90 percent saw combat, became contemptuous of chaplains who, as Lemmon put it, “did not stay year. All went home long before the war ended.”

Others whom soldiers deemed more virtuous and selfless replaced them as religious counselors. For the 72nd Ohio, Martha Treat Canfield more than any other individual filled that role. She was the wife of Lt. Col. Herman Canfield, killed during the opening moments of the Battle of Shiloh. Despite her own grief, she comforted Julia Grant when her husband General Ulysses S. Grant came under severe criticism following the battle. That relationship gave Martha Canfield unique access to the 72nd and other Ohio regiments on the battlefield at a time when most thought women were “too delicate” for such work.

Intelligent, confident, and courageous, Martha Canfield acted as minister, nurse, and mother to thousands of Ohio soldiers. Captain Orin England of the 72nd claimed, “She did more good than all of the chaplains in the army. If we had one in every brigade, yes, one in every division, how much good they could do!”

With her young son in tow, she visited military hospitals in Memphis and Vicksburg where she found thousands dying for the lack of good food, clean water, and decent care. She sought help from Ohio’s governor and hundreds of aid societies. They responded with a continuous flow of medical supplies, nurses, and food to Union hospitals in the South. Ohioans funded her efforts to establish a hospital ship at Vicksburg and a waterworks system at the Memphis military hospital. “None excelled and few could equal the remarkable Martha Canfield on the battlefield or in the hospital,” claimed one admiring doctor.

When all else failed, she sought out General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant held Martha Canfield in such high regard that on one occasion, on her word alone, he cut through military red tape and ordered several thousand of the sickest soldiers onto boats, sending them North for better care.

When peace finally came, Martha Canfield’s efforts to help the sick and dying did not end. For the remainder of her life, she assisted at the Bristol, Rhode Island, hospital established by her physician sons.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tragedy Along the Washita

Clara Harrington Blinn

Despite dangers and hardships, thousands of Americans settled in the West in the decade after the Civil War. Among them were Richard and Clara Blinn.

Clara Isabel Harrington was born in Elmore, Ohio, October 21, 1847. She was the daughter of William and Harriet Bosley Harrington, who owned the Baird House in Perrysburg, Ohio. On August 12, 1865, in Sandusky County, she married Civil War veteran Richard Blinn of Perrysburg. The couple spent their wedding night at the Croghan House in Fremont.

The Blinns settled in Colorado Territory, but hard times forced them to join a wagon train returning east to Kansas where Clara's father lived.

On October 9, 1868, near Lamar, Colorado, Cheyenne warriors attacked the train, carrying off Clara and two-year-old Willie Blinn. The warriors left their captives at the winter camp of Chief Black Kettle on the Washita River.

Charge of the U.S. Seventh Cavalry on Black Kettle's Village

(Harper's Weekly, December 19, 1868)

General Philip Sheridan ordered George Armstrong Custer to destroy the village in retaliation for raids throughout the region. Black Kettle pleaded for protection for his people from General William Hazen stationed at Fort Cobb. When Hazen learned that Clara and Willie were in Black Kettle's camp, he began negotiations for their release. His superior was of little help; Sheridan believed that Clara had been "subjected to fearful bestiality of perhaps the whole tribe; it is mock humanity to secure what is left of her for the consideration of five ponies."

Clara's feelings were decidedly different than those of Sheridan! A month after her capture, she smuggled a note to Hazen. Clara pleaded desperately for help - if not for herself, then for her son. Believing that her husband had died in the Cheyenne raid, Clara begged that someone notify her father in Franklin, Kansas.

Custer's troops struck the sleeping village before dawn on November 7. Black Kettle, his wife and 100 other Cheyennes died during the short but vicious battle. Two weeks later, Custer, accompanied by Sheridan, returned to the site of the massacre. There among the dead lay Clara - scalped, a bullet hole in her forehead, and her skull crushed. Nearby the generals found the thin, little body of Willie, bearing evidence of bruises about the head. Soldiers buried them at Fort Arbuckle.

Outraged by the deaths of Clara and Willie, General Hazen criticized the generals for attacking during his negotiations. Without eyewitnesses, the official inquiry proved futile.

Richard Blinn survived the Cheyenne raid. He was found on the plains, still searching for his loved ones. In his letter of condolence to Blinn, Sheridan enclosed a piece of Clara's dress and a lock of Willie's hair - remnants of the tragic end of Clara and Willie Blinn.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Van Horn/Hummel/Gephart/Fisher

Van Horn- Hummel-Gephart- Fisher
Sandusky County, Ohio
"Iomes (?) Grove." Sandusky Co, July 1908

The above photograph belongs to J. Derald Morgan of Madison Alabama. His grandmother, Leafy Fern Van Horn was born in Bettsville, Ohio, December 1886. Leafy Fern is seated sixth from the left, holding a small child on her lap.

Leafy Fern was the daughter of Samuel Cornelius and Emma Elizabeth Hummel Van Horn. Samuel had migrated from Pennsylvania to Ohio. He married Emma in Fremont, Ohio. Emma died in Bettsville on January 4, 1887, only a few weeks after Leafy Fern's birth. Samuel then married Emma's sister, Jennie. Emma and Jennie were two of the 12 children of Chrisitan and Margaret Ann (Fisher) Hummel (spelled Hoomel, Hommel, Hurnel, Harnel, and finally Hummel). Jennie (Hummel) Van Horn in Dalhart, Texas, August 14, 1929

Mary Hummel, an older sister of Emma and Jennie, married a Gephart. Other Hummel sisters married Rossenberger, Dicken, Keefer, Kiser, Young, Ludwig, and Rumpler.

Written on the back of the photo is the word "Iomes." However, it is difficult to read. If you know WHERE this picture was taken or WHO any of the individuals are, Dr. Morgan would appreciate your help. (