Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Family of George and Deborah Godette

Charles Weiker of Fremont, Ohio shared this story and these images of his family. At Find A Grave, you'll see further images and information posted by Godette family members.

James Godette, Jr.
The family of George and Deborah Godette’s French connection derives from Jean Gaudet, the progenitor of Gaudet/Godette descendants in North America. He was born ca. 1575 in Martaize Vienne, France. He and his family along with his brother Aubin Gaudet arrived in Port Royal, Acadia in 1636. Jean Gaudet was a farmer who raised cattle and sheep and cultivated his acres of land in the Annapolis Basin for over 30 years, caring and providing for his family in his new homeland. Jean Gaudet died in the year 1672 in Port Royal, Acadia.

Nearly a century later, between 1755 and 1762, it became a very tumultuous and tragic time for Acadians. It was in those years that the British authorities decided to enforce the deportation orders. Acadians were stripped of their rights and placed on overcrowded vessels bound for unrevealed destinations. The events were horrendous and marked the memories of the exiled and their descendants for decades to come.

Acadia, Annapolis Basin

As with so many of those who were exiled; George Godette’s definitive destination cannot be fully documented due to the uncertainties of acceptance and survival of the assorted deported.  What can be determined within his timeline of exiled events is his connection by marriage to Deborah George, whose family is documented to be living in Craven County, North Carolina as early as 1753. Deborah’s brother, Peter, was listed in a Company of Foot Soldiers commanded by Captain Abner Neale by Commission bearing the date of April 11, 1753 for the District between the Head of Slocombs Creek to the Head of Turnagain Bay.  The first known record in Craven County, North Carolina for George Godette, himself, is his being excused from paying taxes in September of 1780 due to the fact that he was crippled.

Among the children of George and Deborah Godette were Peter Godette and Deborah Godette. Deborah married Isaac Perkins, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. He enlisted for three years, was granted a pension, which was repealed and later restored.

Peter Godette married Sarah Barber in 1797 in Craven County, North Carolina. They were the parents of John Godette, who married Clarissa Jackson. The laws of North Carolina allowed free people of color to have a license to carry guns. The names of John Godette and his sons William Godette and James Godette appears on lists dated September 1851; June 1852; and September 1854.

As mixed raced people they were free and had rights, but conditions before the start of the Civil War became unsettled and unsatisfactory for them. The relationships between ethnic groups was of a fluid nature among early working class people, before legalized slavery and stringent laws unnaturally and unnecessarily strained and defined color lines.

For whatever the reasons, decisions were made within the family of John and Clarissa Jackson Godette. Some of the family would remain in Beaufort County, North Carolina and continue their lives there. Those who chose to stay were: John and Clarissa Godette, their son, William Godette and his family; and their daughter, Ellen Godette Cannon and her family.

Those who chose to go with a group of 60 people for the migration to Ohio were three of John and Clarissa Jackson Godette’s children and their families: Elizabeth “Patsy” Godette Laughinghouse; James and Elizabeth Driggers Godette; and John and Linda Godette Blackwell. They left before the start of the Civil War and made their way northward to Ohio, settling in the communities of Oberlin, Pittsfield, and Kipton in Lorain County; Fremont in Sandusky County; and Elmore in Ottawa County.
Godette Family Home in Pittsfield, Ohio (ca. 1860s)
James Godette, Sr. and Elizabeth Driggers Godette; and two of their daughters, Henrietta and Josephine

They were true pioneers in the very sense of the word, as are many of their descendants to this day. Among them were two of the sons of James and Elizabeth Driggers Godette of Lorain County: William and Alfred Godette. The two brothers moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where they joined the city’s fire department. William Godette joined in 1885 and rose through the ranks to captain during his 41 years of service. Younger brother Alfred joined in 1909 and died fighting a fire in 1921, the ultimate sacrifice for service.

William Godette, St. Paul, Minnesota

The new St. Paul Fire Department Headquarters and Station 1 is now named the William and Alfred Godette Memorial Building to honor their memories. It was formally commissioned and opened in September 2010

Alfred Godette
1874 - 1921
(Courtesy of Find-a-Grave)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hughes Granite Company Created Ohio's Enduring Civil War Memorials

The name Hughes Granite is long gone from Clyde, Ohio, but the exceptional markers, monuments, and memorials the company created remain a physical presence throughout the eastern half of the United States. Carmi Sanford founded the company in the 1880s. After Sanford’s death in 1893, his brother-in-law William E. Hughes oversaw operations. Under his management, the firm flourished becoming one of the best-known granite companies in the United States.

The secret to Hughes’ success was quality. He purchased stone directly from quarries in Scotland, New York, and Vermont. The company employed as many as 55 master stonecutters, sculptors, and engineers. Its most skilled sculptor was James B. King who, like several other Hughes employees, came from Scotland to work for Hughes.

Located on East Buckeye Street in Clyde, the Hughes Granite cutting room featured the most modern tools for cutting, polishing, and carving. The end product was a beautifully executed, high quality, durable marker.

An astute businessman, Hughes also perfected the use of ventilation in designing mausoleums and crypts. His American Mausoleum Company constructed more than 100 mausoleums nationwide, including the Inglewood Park Mausoleum in Inglewood California.
Perhaps the company’s greatest success came when the state of Ohio selected its designs to memorialize its Civil War dead. Competing against 11 other firms, Hughes won the contract to create 34 monuments for Ohio’s fallen at Shiloh battlefield near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. Employees described their efforts as a “labor of love and duty.” In addition to creating the monuments, the company agreed to deliver them to the site. The monuments were transported to Tennessee by rail and barge. Each 16-ton monument was raised from the river up the 100-foot bluff to the battlefield.

In the spring of 1902, during a ceremony at Shiloh, the state dedicated the monuments to its native sons. One Ohioan accurately predicted “the beautiful memorials… will stand and be admired by future generations when the memory of those who created them has been forever buried in oblivion.” And so it is.

Hughes Granite and Marble Company may be lost to time, but its inspired work lives on as part of the sacred landscape of Andersonville and the Civil War battlefields of Shiloh, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Antietam, and Chickamauga.

Read about the Hughes Granite and Marble Company in-depth at Sandusky County Scrapbook.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Anna Pittenger McMeens: Civil War Nurse

Anna McMeens (with purse) and Cooke Family Members
Anna Pittenger McMeens may have been one of the first nurses to serve in a military hospital during the Civil War. When her husband, Dr. Robert R. McMeens enlisted as the surgeon of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Anna assisted her husband at the military hospital at Camp Dennison.

She traveled with him to Nashville, Tennessee, where he served as Acting Medical Director of the Tenth Division. He oversaw the Union’s 800-bed military hospital. Anna returned to Sandusky when her husband left Nashville with his regiment. She immediately began working with the Sanitary Commission to provide medical supplies for soldiers in the field.

Cooke Castle on Lake Erie's Gibraltar Island, 1901
She never remarried after the death of her husband in 1862. She traveled to Washington, D. C., where she worked in military hospitals for more than a year. Following the war, Anna McMeens managed the summer home of Jay Cooke, financier of the Civil War. Cooke Castle is located on Lake Erie’s Gibraltar Island.

A sketch of Anna McMeens in Woman's Work in the Civil War (published 1867) highlights her contributions during the conflict. It states that after the Civil War, and while at Gibraltar Island, she took part in missionary work among the sailors of Lake Erie.

If anyone can identify the organization or the Lake Erie's sailors missionary work in which Anna McMeens participated as early as 1867, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Coming North: Martha Laughinghouse Weiker

My search for photos of African American Civil War soldiers led to a conversation with Charles Weiker of Fremont, Ohio. He not only provided a photo, but also shared these photos and this fascinating story of another of his remarkable ancestors who came to Ohio, eventually settling in Sandusky County at the time of the Civil War…. 

Martha Laughinghouse Weiker holding son Charles. Son Walter stands at her side (ca. 1888)
Martha Laughinghouse Weiker was born in 1848 in New Bern, Craven County, North Carolina; the 2nd daughter of Ajax and Elizabeth “Patsy” Godette Laughinghouse. The family of freeborn mulattoes traces its history to Ajax’s great-grandfather, Andrew Laughinghouse, who actually wasn’t a Laughinghouse at all.

Around 1769, a shipwreck occurred along the treacherous shoals of the North Carolina coast. The only survivors of the vessel were a small boy and his small body servant. That child was Andrew, who along with his slave, was taken in by the family of Thomas and Patience Smith Laughinghouse of Beaufort County, North Carolina. When questioning the boy (who must have been well off because he traveled with a servant) neither he nor his servant, due to their young ages, could tell the Laughinghouse family what Andrew’s last name was. Andrew was raised as one of the family and adopted the Laughinghouse surname as his own.

Martha’s oldest family lineage is through her mother’s side, stretching to the saga of Margaret Cornish, who at the age of nine, was kidnapped from her homeland of African Angola in the Mbundu nation within the kingdom of Ndongo and was put aboard a Spanish slave ship. The ship was captured by an English pirate ship that took its selected human cargo to Jamestown in 1619.

Margaret Cornish, along with her generations of descendants, lived their lives through a myriad of changing laws in the English colonies that slowly and blatantly circumvented their rights because of their mixed bloodlines. But they persevered despite difficulties.

In time, laws and events would converge and create a situation for free people of color. Just before the start of the Civil War, unsettled and unsatisfactory conditions relative to slavery as practiced in the South, led to the organization of a group of 60 people who migrated to Ohio. Members settled in Oberlin, Pittsfield, and Kipton in Lorain County, Ohio; Fremont, in Sandusky County, Ohio; and Elmore in Ottawa County, Ohio. Patsy and her daughters eventually settled Fremont around 1863.
703 Ohio Avenue
Fremont, Ohio
Back Row (standing l to r ) Charles Weiker, unknown, Walter Weiker, Sarah Weiker Willey, William Dixon, Clara Weiker Dixon, Charles Cooper, Catherine Weiker Cooper, Gardner Willey
Second Row (seated l to r) unknown, unknown, Philip Weiker, Catherine Smith, Martha Laughinghouse Weiker, daughters of Clara Dixon Weiker, Clara Cooper
First Row (boys seated: l to r) Tom Weiker, Fred Cooper

In 1874, Martha married Philip Weiker at the Four Mile House. Following their marriage they located to a farm in Riley Township. Years later they moved into Fremont, where they built a house on the corner of Ohio Avenue and Mulberry Street. The residence still stands today. Philip and Martha had 10 children of their own. They also raised 2 other children.

Martha was a devoted member of the A.M.E. Church on Second Street for more than 50 years. She took an active part in church work, becoming an honorary member of the Missionary Society. After living a full life with family and friends, and perhaps, sometimes pondering over the miles and years before and after the migration that brought her family North, she passed away in 1932 at the age of 84.

A version of this article appeared earlier in Lifstyles 2000.