"The friendly and flowing savage, who is he?"

After a long intermission, my time filled variously by my occupation, preoccupations, and a general feeling that the sagacious Lorelei Lee was right in her assessment that "Fate keeps on happening," I return to this blog with a post so lurid and sensational that I hope it offsets any impatience my supposed readers have had for more family stories. Anyway.

My subject is the preposterously named Cephas Hurlburt Miller Shibley (28 Mar 1855 - 23 Dec 1934), a big name for a big life. More about that name later....

Mr Shibley's connection to me is that he married one of my grandfather's aunts. Bertha E Brown (21 May 1870 - 15 Aug 1952), was an older sister of one of my maternal great-grandfathers, Clarence Edgar Brown (1 Dec 1878 - 21 Aug 1937). Shibley was the second of her three husbands.

The Browns were (and are) notoriously peripatetic, but at heart traditional. Most of her siblings married just once, and avoided scandal. Not so our Bertha, at least as far as Mr Shibley was concerned.

She married first, on 7 June 1884, James Henry Willerford (May 1860 - 17 Apr 1907); they had six children. Meeting and marrying in Missouri, by 1896 they had moved to Los Angeles, where Willerford worked as a laborer or hired man, and died relatively young, four of their children still being school age. 

Photo by "TLS," from Find A Grave

Bertha's third husband was German-born Henry Bricks (1 May 1878 - 30 May 1952). His birthplace is sometimes given as California, including on his World War I draft registration, understandably, but he immigrated to the US in 1884 and was later naturalized. Bricks' jobs included chauffeur (to Christian J Kubach, another German-born Angeleno, albeit a wealthy and prominent one), auto mechanic, and finally, owner of a roadside stand in Azusa CA.

There is one unresolved tidbit about Bertha's third hubby: was he the same Henry Bricks who was arrested in Chicago in 1915 for larceny?

Arrest information for Henry Bricks, chauffeur,
from the Chicago Police Department, 25 Dec 1915.

I have not been able to find out any more details. It seems unlikely, but still, the name, birth year, occupation, and birthplace are all correct....

Poor Bertha, if it is true. But she was not unused to having a shady husband, which leads us back to C H M Shibley. 

As Shibley was the middle of Bertha's three husbands, in a nice bit of symmetry, Bertha was the middle of his wives, but she was number number three of five! And those are just the ones I have discovered so far....

Cephas started out life innocuously enough, born in Newburgh, Ontario to George B Shibley (1830 - 1877) and Sarah Rose Derman (28 Aug 1834 - 13 Aug 1917). At age 22, he married his first wife, Margaret Riley (Jun 1859 - 28 Aug 1928), and they had two daughters. Just six month's after his second daughter's birth, however, he had immigrated to Ohio, and had married again. 

Wife number two was Ida Florence Bartlett (bef 1863 - aft 1890). With Ida, Shibley's true character starts to, if not shine, at least become clearer. This, from the Los Angeles Herald, 16 Jan 1890:

"A Divorce Case." There will be tried in Department 6, of the Superior Court, today, the case of Ida Florence Shibley against her husband, Hurlburt Miller Shibley. She sues for divorce and alleges desertion and adultery as the grounds for the demand. The woman was known as Ida Bartlett, in Cleveland, Ohio, prior to April 1, 1881, when she married the defendant as Seth Shibley. She afterwards discovered that Seth Shibley was not the name of the man she married, and in order to avoid complications, August 25, 1882, they were married at Erie, Pennsylvania. In this instance the man put on record all four of his names. The allegations of the complaint are that on March 12, 1888, Shibley left her and came to Los Angeles; that he has not since provided for her maintenance, and that he has been guilty of adultery since his arrival in the land of the Angels.

In the six--or seven-- years of their marriage, they had two children, this time a boy and a girl. Shibley had the good taste to wait a little under two years before he skipped out this time.

Of course, he may have left town for another reason, as well. He was hired onto the Cleveland Police Department (!) in 1887, after previously working several years as a switchman. Shibley did not last long on the force, however; by December of that year he was "dismissed upon charges" for "violating rules," after a fifty-six day suspension. Bye-bye Cleveland, hello land of the Angels!

He got a job, this time as a salesman for the Pioneer Roll Paper Company, a large firm dealing in roofing materials, asphalt, etc. He stayed there several years, uneventfully, it seems,with a few exceptions. In 1897, he got into trouble with the law, as reported by the Los Angeles Herald on 29 October:

Seth Shipley Worked a Fake Check on the Kitty Keeper

Incidental to a suit on a harmless looking check for $25, Justice Young was regaled yesterday with the story of a man who went out to see the tiger and the kitty, with the idea of ruining them in business, and who went home after the last jackpot with lots of newly discovered evidence of how foolish it is to dally with a cinch. Seth H. Shibley, salesman for the Pioneer Roll Paper company, took a hand in a game of poker at the Arizona Club rooms on the 14th inst., with only about $8 in his pockets. As Joe Halsey, who was watching the kitty of the game, would express it, probably, "Mr Shibley lasted very quick."  But whatever else might be said of Mr Shibley, he was game, and made up his mind to teach the other gentleman something about poker they had never dreamed of. But he had no money. Turning to the watchful Mr. Halsey, he inquired if he (Mr. Shibley) was good on a check. Mr. Halsey was happy to say that his check would be received in payment for $25 worth of chips. Then Mr. Shibley began to make life a burden to the other players. He lost a little oftener than he won for a time, and suddenly there was the grandest opportunity of his life before him. He had $14 in chips in front of him, and in the middle of the table was a jack-pot. And the hand he held! Well, he nearly fainted dead away. He felt sorry for the other players. "It isn't square, darned if it isn't," said Mr. Shibley to himself," to go into a jack-pot with three aces." But he threw his conscience to the winds, held up his three aces and another card, to put the gentlemen on their guard, and called for one. When he got a chance to bet he was there, and every man but another man and himself dropped out. The other man was perfectly reckless, and kept raising, which Mr. Shibley, being a dead game player, saw and raised again. In a few moments Mr. Shibley had his $14 in the middle of the table was was seen by the other gentleman. When it came to a show-down, the other gentleman raked in the money; he had four queens. And Mr. Shibley didn't ride home in a street car. he remembered on his way home that the other gentlemen had the deal when he (Mr Shibley) drew the three aces, and the awful truth burst upon him--he was not a poker player, but was learning. Mr Halsey brought suit on the check, because when he presented it to the Farmers and Merchants' Bank the paying teller refused to honor it. There was no account there in the name of C. H. M. Shibley, which was the name Mr. Seth Shibley had signed to it. Justice Young decided that the check was evidence of a gambling debt and that plaintiff could not recover on it.

In 1899 the sometime-Seth made the papers again with this:

From The Los Angeles Herald, 6 August 1899

Whether this is still the divorce from Ida, or from another, as-yet unnamed wife, it is certainly entertaining, if not quite as breezy as the previous article. At any rate, by 1902, Shibley was an employee of the Primrose Conserving Company. His widowed mother had also moved to California, and was living nearby.

And this is where great-aunt Bertha comes in. I do not know how they met, but they married in Orange CA on 7 December 1904. Perhaps she was a settling influence; by 1910 her mother had moved west, and was living with them. He worked as a "watchman" in city parks.

Domestic bliss never seemed to last long, though, with Mr Shibley. Within a few years, Bertha had moved on and married Mr Bricks; Shibley was now in real estate and in trouble with the law--again.

From The Los Angeles Herald, 23 February 1916.

His wealth apparently must have come from real estate investments, and they must have helped with the Seth/Cephas swindles--for lack of a better word. His voter registrations rarely gave the same addresses as the city directories, and the combinations of Seths and Cephases and initials is staggering. And I am wondering why he had returned to Cleveland; one of his children was already dead, two others lived in California, and one was  still in Canada. It seems unlikely he wanted to see Ida--remember her?

Now, by the time the above article appeared in early 1916, Shipley had already been married six months to wife number four: Vera Dorothy Smith (2 Jun 1892 - 15 Oct 1989), who had moved to Los Angeles from her home in Pennsylvania some time after her eighteenth birthday. 

Happily married 26 July 1915, we find that Shibley's age is a variable as his aliases: he has cut ten years off his birth date. Even then, Fifty was the new Sixty. But what are a few years, when greater problems are looming? Three years later, Vera and Shibley have separated, and he is in the papers again:

From The Los Angeles Herald, 6 August 1919

Cephas M Shibley, sometimes known as Seth Shibley, and widely known as a politician in the old days, was made defendant in a suit for divorce filed today by Vera S. Shibley, who is 28 years his junior.
Cruelty was the charge in the complaint, filed through the Attorney Milton M. Cohen, one of the allegations being that he failed to provide his young wife with amusement or recreation. He was also alleged to have beaten, kicked and choked her on a number of occasions while they were living at the defendant’s home on Ogier street.

They were married July 26, 1915, and separated Oct. 10, last, according to the complaint.
The romance of the former politician with his young wife came after a former alleged romance with Mrs. Mary Stringer, which culminated in a suit for breach of promise filed by the latter.

While Shibley was on a trip east he met Mrs. Stringer, an attractive divorcee, and according to her allegations promised to marry her.  She came to Los Angeles and acted as his housekeeper for some time and finally filed suit for $25,000 heart balm, declaring he had failed to carry out an alleged promise to marry her.

The suit came to trial in the local courts in November, 1917, at which time Shibley attempted to show that he and Mrs. Stringer became estranged because of her alleged attentions to a boarder in Shibley’s home. Mrs. Stringer and the boarder both denied the charges, and she was awarded judgment for $5000.

Now, I expect that it wasn't just a lack of "amusement" that led Vera to dump Seth. In 1918, just months before the separation, Shibley was ordered by the court to sell off a great deal of property, including parcels in Rancho Palos Verdes, San Pedro, and San Gabriel, to settle with Mrs. Stringer. I guess she knew better than to take a check. 

Anyway, somewhere along the way, too, Shibley had become a politician--with all the other drama, how did I miss that? (This was the only reference to a political career I could find in his otherwise perhaps embarrassingly over-documented life.)

By 1920, aged sixty-five--or as the 1920 U S Federal Census has it, fifty-six--you would think Seth/Cephas would be slowing down. You would be wrong. His next exploit would make him nationally known, when in 1926 this item ran in papers across the country:

From The Modesto News-Herald, 15 June 1926.

The Santa Ana [California] Register first reported the request for a marriage license between Nora Martin (1894 - ?) and Shibley, who gave his age as sixty-two; he was seventy. The Lincoln [Nebraska] Star helped fill in the story by reporting that they had been married just fifteen days, and that Shibley was worth $150,000. 

By 1930, Shibley was retired, and--apparently--finally living alone. He was seventy-five. On 23 December 1934, he died, and was interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, ensuring himself a place alongside such greats as Cecil B DeMille, Rudolf Valentino, and Toto.

Photo by Mark R Daniels, from Find A Grave
"...whatever else might be said of Mr. Shibley, he was game." Indeed.

And what of his wives and children?

Margaret Riley was married again on 3 Dec 1889 to Joseph Cameron Laird (5 Mar 1846 - 13 Feb 1936), and had a least one more daughter. They stayed in Canada. Daughter Sarah Maud Shibley (5 Oct 1878 - ?) I could not locate beyond her birth. Her sister, Mary Jane Shibley (14 Sep 1880 - 5 Apr 1896) died at age sixteen, after suffering from consumption for several years.

Ida Florence Bartlett could not be located by me after the divorce. Their son Frank Axworthy Shibley (6 Oct 1884 - 7 Jun 1915) followed in his father's footsteps and moved to Los Angeles. He married Flora Ethel Bunker (21 Sep 1887 - 7 Oct 1924); also like his father, he was the middle of her three husbands. Daughter May Evelyn Shibley (14 May 1886 - 28 Jan 1954) also moved to Los Angeles. She married James C Stevens (abt 1873 - aft 1910), then Rodrigo Vincent Castro (13 Nov 1884 - 26 Apr 1952). She had three children by each husband.

Bertha E Brown died just a few months after her husband.

Vera Dorothy Smith found amusement, one hopes, with her next husband, George Harvey Stoddard (16 Aug 1889 - 23 May 1973). If nothing else, they had a son, George H Stoddard, Jr (24 Mar 1927 - 4 Jun 1999).

And what of strop-wielding Nurse Nora? Despite all the nation-wide infamy, I could uncover little else about her. I know that her last name was Martin, although whether that was a maiden or married name is unclear. She was awarded fifty dollars a month in alimony after her divorce from Cephas Hurlburt Miller Shibley.

And, as promised, about that name, the first sign of excess in his extravagantly excessive life. You might think that it was as unique as the man who--on occasion--admitted to it, but he is still as full of surprises as he was mystery (or at least misdirection). In my research, I came across multiple Cephas Hurlburt Millers, albeit without the Shibley. I am sure there must be familial connections between them, and perhaps Mr Shibley, but I cannot find them. 

The first Cephas Hurlburt Miller (3 Jul 1808 - 2 June 1892) was, unlike his namesake, utterly respectable and upright. He was born in Canada in 1808 to William Miller and Hannah Lydia McKim, and married Jane Elizabeth Shibley, surely not a coincidence. Among their five children was Adelaide Augusta Miller, who married Sir Allen Bristol Aylesworth. He served in the Canadian Parliament, and held several cabinet posts. (I told you they were respectable....)

Second, Cephas Hurlburt Miller (abt 1835 - poss 20 Mar 1902) about whom there is a lot of online confusion, his life facts being carelessly garbled and blurred with the other Millers. If nothing else, we can be sure that he married twice (in Cleveland, like our Cephas), first to Catharine Hodges in 1875, and then to Deborah A Graves in 1885 (although they had been living together for several years previously). She had one previous husband.

Our third--and final--Cephas Hurlburt Miller (13 Sep 1836 - 19 Mar 1924) was also born in Canada, the son of Christopher Miller and Sarah Isabella Grant. He married Mary N Longley. Thier obituaries are both charming and give a lovely view into their world. I kind of wish my family connection was with them! Although who's to say that deeper research won't connect all these Cephases...?

One last interesting discovery. There is a land sale dated 20 Apr 1882 from the Bureau of Land Management to Cephas H Miller in Santa Cruz. That land, since 1941, has been the home of the the one-and-only Mystery Spot. Coincidence?

"Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity..."

I sometimes contemplate what became of the belongings of my ancestors, particularly those who left no children. Not having many family heirlooms of my own, I still have acquired a good many old things that must have belonged to someone before me. What stories could they tell? Would this vase or that knickknack have a special resonance for someone else?

Recently I discovered an object online that was once owned by one of my family, a brass railway lantern that had belonged to Charles Henry Cherry (7 Jun 1837 - 16 Mar 1908). He was the youngest brother of one of my maternal third great-grandmothers, Mary Ann Cherry (17 Dec 1813 - 11 Nov 1853). Charles was a railway conductor for many years, but after a number of accidents that damaged his health he worked as a railway postal clerk. His lantern came up for auction, and sold for $1900.

The engraving on the glass globe reads:
C. H. Cherry
Local Mail Agent.
The leather strap is embossed "U. S. Mail."

I wonder what the appeal was for the winning bidder. Perhaps he or she collects railroad memorabilia, or just thought it pretty. It's nice to think that possibly they are another Cherry descendant.... Anyhow, it is reassuring to know that some things last, and I do hope the new owner is getting at least $1900 worth of enjoyment out of it. (Although I must add that it would look spectacular in my living room....)

It was one of those happy bloggish coincidences that this stray objet was formerly in the possession of the Cherrys rather than any of my other forbears, because the Cherry clan had been on my mind lately, and the subject of a recent post here. That time I wrote about the virtuous and upstanding Samuel Alonzo Cherry, a church deacon and underground railroad conductor; this post's subject is someone about whom there is a lot of aestheticism, a bit of mystery, and more than a whiff of scandal: Margaret Guthrie Cherry (Apr 1865 - 1 Feb 1935), Charles Henry Cherry's only child (and so Samuel Alonzo's niece).

Her obituary, as it ran in The Lethbridge [Alberta] Herald, 2 Feb 1935, seems laudatory enough:

Miss Cherry Is Called By Death
Interesting figure Dies in Local Hospital—Graduate Oberlin College
The death occurred in a local hospital Friday about midnight of Miss Margaret Guthrie “Dasie” Cherry, 73 years. For 20 years or more Miss Cherry had been an interesting figure in the life of Southern Alberta, being a large farm property owner and shrewd business woman. At the time of her death she was interested in property in the Chin district but last spring she sold a large sheep ranch north of Jamieson. The body is at Martin Brothers’ mortuary awaiting advice from relatives in Marysville, Ohio, old home of the deceased. George E. A. Rice of Shepherd, Dunlop and Rice, solicitor for Miss Cherry, is handling her affairs here.
Miss Cherry was born in Ohio, her family being well connected and prominent in that state for generations. She herself was a graduate of Oberlin College and was of an artistic and cultured nature, and among her friends she was a charming and versatile conversationalist. She was a keen lover and excellent judge of painting and handicraft and had judged at many national shows including the Chicago World’s Fair many years ago. Twice she circled the globe as an employee of the United States government, her mission being in connection with handicrafts and their development.
An enthusiastic lover of all animals, Miss Cherry was especially devoted to horses. She knew the fine points of a horse, being one of the best judges of horses in the country. She is survived by an uncle, J. C. Guthrie, and a cousin, Dwight Guthrie Scott, both of Marysville, Ohio. The funeral will likely be here  on Monday but this is not definite.
Miss Cherry was born in Ohio, and although nice as it would be to think, it is a stretch to say that Dasie's family was especially well-connected or prominent, and certainly not "for generations," unless you allow some artistic license, which she would probably appreciate. The Cherry family did not even move to Ohio until after her own father's birth. Her mother, Sarah Jane Guthrie (Sep 1841 - aft 1915), was born in Ohio at least, shortly after her family came to Ohio from Chester County, Pennsylvania; grandpa Guthrie was a farmer. Sarah Jane's older sister, Harriet B Guthrie (Oct 1848 - 5 Nov 1919) did marry Orlando McLean Scott (May 1837 - 1923) in 1871, three years after he founded what would become Scotts Miracle-Gro (Scott also held a patent for a device to "exhibit or hold whips"), so there was a sort-of prominence by proxy, I suppose. Harriet and Orlando's son Dwight Guthrie Scott (11 Dec 1875 - 28 Jul 1966) is the cousin referred to above. According to the useful timeline on the Scott Miracle-Gro website,

Until the early 1900s, any seed scattered on the home lawn was usually the sweepings from the haymow, weed seeds and all. In 1907, O.M.'s elder son, Dwight, saw the role which lawns should play in the American way of life, and Scotts began offering grass seed by mail.

So now we know whom we have to thank.
From Little Shop of Horrors, 1986.

Alas, I seemed to have divigated even more than usual. To keep off the grass, so to speak, and attempt a return to the apparently inescapable vegetative theme with the doubly-botanically named Miss Dasie Cherry.... Yes, she called herself "Dasie," a creative spin on the conventional "Daisy," itself a riff on the frenchified version of her true given name; an early manifestation of her artsy nature?

Her obituary states that she attended Oberlin College. I have not been able to verify this or learn what she studied, but it is not surprising. Oberlin seems a good fit for Dasie, both in its liberal arts offerings (and liberality in general) as well as its proximity to the Cherry home. By this time they had moved from Marysville to nearby Newark, Ohio.

In the 30 Dec 1884 edition of the Newark Daily Advocate, Daisy [sic] and a Maggie Burke performed the traditional Irish song Bundle and Go at a "Grand Musical and Literary Entertainment" at the local Music Hall. On 3 Feb 1893, the Daily Advocate reviewed another performance at the Music Hall, this one a bit more spectacular.

It was the last reference to music I have found in Dasie's career.

Her artistic nature next surfaced in February 1898, when she was one of the founding members of the Newark Camera Club, serving as its inaugural Vice President.

By Ema Spencer, from Brush and Pencil, Vol 3, Number 2, Nov 1898.
Courtesy of JSTOR.

The organization itself was quite prestigious, and early members and exhibitors included Edward Weston and Edward Steichen, among others, although even one hundred years ago, in those far-off pre-Internet days, it seems people still couldn't get enough pictures of wacky cats.


The Club's members exhibited at the Chicago Photographic Salon of 1900, held under the joint management of the Chicago Society of Amateur Photographers and the Art Institute of Chicago; the Jury of Selection included Alfred Stieglitz, who also exhibited. Dasie was represented by "Portrait of Miss C." Was this perhaps a self-portrait? In a review of the exhibit in the May 1900 issue of Photo-Era magazine, Henry G Abbott wrote

Dasie G. Cherry of Newark, Ohio, was represented by a single portrait, the value of which was very questionable and which was marred by the presence of a window.

In Dasie's defense, elsewhere in the article, Mr Abbott critiqued a "picture, if picture you can call it," taken by "Edward J. Steicher [sic]."  A year later, Mr Abbott cannot let it go; in his review of the following year's exhibit, which appeared in Western Camera Notes, Nov 1901, he recaps:

In the first salon there was a very large sprinkling of notable pictures.... There were night-mares too; such things as "Frost on the Pool" by E. J. Steichen; "Portrait of Miss C.," by Dasie G. Cherry....

At least by then he had Steichen's name right. Ema Spencer was a bit more kind in Camera Craft, in an article published in the Jul 1901 issue:

Miss Dasie G. Cherry had a picture, "Portrait of Miss C," in the Chicago Salon of 1900, the success the repetition of which a waning interest has prevented.

It might be noted, however, that Ema Spencer was--like Dasie--one of co-founders of the Newark Camera Club. The  club also showed their works  closer to home, of course. Dasie never seemed to have more than one picture on display, unlike her more prolific peers. 
From the catalogue
Exhibit of Photographs by the Newark Camera Club,
 Association Building, Newark, Ohio
 November 28, 29, 30, December 1, 1900

Was her taste so refined that she could deem only one exemplar of her Art as worthy, or was it always someone else's decision? At any rate, whether due to that "waning lack of interest" or merely bad reviews, Dasie soon seemed to have moved away from photography, and into handicrafts, if her obituary is to be believed. No other reference or records to Dasie's round-the-world government-sponsored crafting have turned up in her otherwise well-documented life. I expect embroidery may also have been one of Dasie's many talents....

By 1902, however, she had other things on her mind, although her name continued to appear in print.

From the Newark Advocate, 26 Apr 1905.

According to Mrs Bloomer's suit, Dasie had been carrying on for some time with Mr Bloomer, who, among other things was twenty years Dasie's senior, and like her father was a railroad man. From the Ohio Law Bulletin, Vol 53:

The questions are: did the defendant, Margaret G. Cherry, solicit the affections of the plaintiff's husband; did she, by her conduct towards him, and by the practice of the arts and wiles used only by designing women, cause the plaintiff's husband to transfer his affections from his wife to the defendant, Margaret G. Cherry; and did the other defendants, or either of them, encourage or assist her, or connive with her, in so doing, purposefully and maliciously?

The suit was finally settled in Sep 1907, favoring the Cherrys, which I find remarkable in that Dasie was simultaneously involved in another, parallel suit. She took Dr Theodore W Rankin to court to replevin--a word so recondite even I had to look it up, but seems to be just legal jargon for "reclaim"-- a diamond ring she said was meant for her from the late Mr Bloomer, along with one hundred dollars in damages! She won that case too; "shrewd business woman" indeed. But is it any coincidence that Dasie's father was dead just a few months later, or that shortly after this, she left her family home of "generations" and emigrated to Canada? 

Poseuse and seductress, equestrienne and land mogul (it is hard not to want to use French when writing about Dasie; I feel she would appreciate it)... or just an artsy, brainy gal ahead of her time? We'll probably never find out. If nothing else, she certainly seems to have been a complicated woman. It is a shame that despite prominence and wealth, her relatives back home decided to have Dasie buried in an unmarked grave in Canada. She is gone, but not forgotten. At least by me.

Flowers at her otherwise unmarked grave.
Mountain View Cemetery,
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
Photo courtesy of a Findagrave.com member. Thanks!

I would be curious to find out what happened to Dasie's estate; did it go to the Scotts Miracle-Gro heir, the state, charity? More than that, I would love to see a portrait of "this interesting figure," or perhaps better still, one of her own artistic "Portraits." Who knows--perhaps one will come up for auction some day.

"Writing and talk do not prove me"

The other day--for the first time ever, apparently--we celebrated two very American traditions on the same date: Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl. And by "we," I do not mean me. So while most eyes were on one of those events or other, I was thinking about other things, hovering around the concepts of family and identity.

Of course, those national obsessions are not unlike some aspects of genealogy. If Family-History Phil sees his document, it means one thing; if he doesn't, it means another six weeks of research. Super-Fan Fran roots for "her" team, a grouping of people she's never met to whom she feels a strong connection, who in reality may not be very different than that other group; occasionally a person might even leave one to join the other.

Perhaps the only other simultaneous occurrence of  Groundhogs and football;
Rudy Vallee and Robert Morse cheering on "Grand Old Ivy" from the film
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, 1967. 

Part of the reason I was thinking about all this was because recently I received an email from someone hoping I could help them provide some proof to accompany a lineage society membership request. So although descendants of John Wallace Cherry (27 May 1788 - 10 Feb 1857), a maternal fourth great-grandfather, are already eligible to join the Sons of the American Revolution (John Wallace being a son of Capt Samuel Cherry), it seems those D A R gals don't mess around. They want proof, and very specific proof at that.

It seems too facile, somehow, that a single piece of paper could carry such weight. Marriage certificates, adoption papers... do they make a family? Is someone "less related" by the absence of a document? What if proof--in the form of a document or some other tangible evidence--cannot be provided for something that is otherwise demonstrably true? (And somehow, this post is shifting into territory I absolutely wish to avoid concerning this month's other news-ready--I was going to say "newsworthy" but thought better of it--event, the Bible v Science debate held just across the river.)

Anyway. It is interesting in genealogy (and elsewhere) how one's perspective can shift with a single piece of information; things you think you know suddenly become different.

I am reminded of Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos, in which he writes:

You are an Aries. You open your newspaper to the astrology column and read an analysis of the Aries personality. It says, among other things:

You have the knack of creating an atmosphere of thought and movement, unhampered by petty jealousies. But you have the tendency to scatter your talents to the four winds.

Hm, you say, quite true. I'm like that.

Suddenly you realize you've made a mistake. You've read the Gemini column. So you go back to Aries:

Nothing hurts you more than to be unjustly mistreated or suspected. But you have a way about you, a gift for seeing things through despite all obstacles and distractions. You also have a desperate need to be liked. So you have been wounded more often than you admit.

Hm, you say, quite true. I'm like that.

One of my ancestors, a son of the aforementioned John Wallace Cherry, had a son of his own whose birthplace and age did not make sense in the context of the family. Researching the Cherrys, I found by chance the explanation, a single mention in one obituary: "during his middle life Mr Cherry adopted a son." None of the other obituaries or documents mentioned that. Here was a shift, brought about by one piece of paper, one fact. The son was this, now he is that.

I have found myself caught up in the minutiae of my family's histories, or the thrill of discovering a famous or noted ancestor, or the excitement of seeing a photograph or locale connected with someone in my family...! And then I realize there was an error, a flaw in logic, a mistake. The thrill is substituted (after a suitable period of adjustment) by apathy. This occurred to me again the other day as I went trampling over and across other people's gravesites looking for the important ones: my family. This plot brings tears, this one is just in the way. "I, me, mine" indeed.

Percy's astutely astrological observation further reminds me of another bit: Laurie Anderson's recurring theme of being in the wrong house, used in several of her performance pieces. Here it is from "Talk Normal":

I came home today and both our cars were gone. And there were all these new pink flamingos arranged in star patterns all over the lawn. Then I went into the kitchen and it looked like a tornado had hit. And then I realized I was in the wrong house.

The piece ends with the repeated plea "Look at me! Look at me!"

We all want to be seen, to be known for who we are. A larger context, like a family, can often help. Who is Clarissa Adams (31 Jan 1791 - 7 Feb 1872)? She is a maternal fourth great grandmother. She is the wife of John Wallace Cherry. She is the mother and adoptive grandmother of the fellas mentioned above. She is also one of my most vexing brick walls. By chance, I discovered a single document the other day, a query on a genealogy website, that opened up more of her identity. I now know she was a sister as well, to Betsey Adams (10 Oct 1788 - 25 Oct 1869), Sarah "Sally" Adams (31 Dec 1795 - ?), and James A Adams (abt 1800 - 9 Sep 1865). Might I be able to find out more, including who her parents were? With glee, I noted the name of the person who submitted the query, Naomi C Dryden, to contact her. Another document, another fact, another emotion: an online obituary from 2012. R I P Mrs Dryden, and thank you for the lead.

(Poking about, looking for that one piece of paper, that one proof of who Clarissa's parents might be, I discovered that her brother James' son, James Walton Adams [28 Dec 1838 - 18 Jul 1915], married a Eunice Waugh [31 Oct 1841 - 9 Dec 1924]. Waugh! Could this be another favorite author to whom I'm distantly related by marriage? A superficial study suggests so. Why spoil the delightful possibility with proof?]

Cousin Evelyn, as I like to remember him.

Family can help identify us, surely, but only within a group or social structure, not as individuals. Family also helps us form our identity, of course, through some admixture of nature and nurture. But how do we know who we are? Gertrude Stein (to whom it is doubtful I could be related, but...), wrote often about identity, particularly after she achieved widespread fame in 1934 with The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas. She meditated and composed on the theme of the disparity between how one sees oneself versus how one is seen by others. Some of these ruminations appeared in her 1936 The Geographical History of America, or the Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind, in which she wrote the much-quoted phrase "I am I because my little dog knows me."

Beyond that bit of--dare I say--existential doggerel, though, are deeper concerns. She goes on to wonder who she would be if her dog did not know her, or who she is when her dog is not there to know her, and if either make any difference as to who she is. She concludes: "That does not prove anything about you it only proves something about the dog."

Gertrude Stein and her not-so little dog, Basket,
in a photograph by Man Ray from 1926.

You would think that after an entire book (and many other writings, including the extraordinary Ida: a Novel, which I can highly recommend to anyone interested in beginning with the more accessible--comparatively--Stein) about identity, she would have exhausted the topic, as she perhaps sometimes exhausted her readers. But Gertrude, having taken ahold of an idea, in doglike fashion liked to worry it like a bone, and added this in 1937:

Identity is funny being yourself is funny as you are never yourself to yourself except as you remember yourself and then of course you do not believe yourself.

All this speculation, this circling round family and identity, facts and proof. Have I come to any conclusions? Perhaps. But all that could change with a single piece of paper.

"I do not ask who you are that is not important to me"

From an obituary in the Union County Journal, 29 Apr 1897:

Samuel Alonzo Cherry was born in Oswego, N.Y., Dec. 16, 1811 and came to Marysville [Ohio] in '38. He was therefore Marysville's oldest resident. He was the last surviving charter member of the Delaware Encampment [a branch of the I O O F] and had been a member of the order for over 50 years. He was one of the founders of the Congregational church in this city and in all respects a pillar therein.

It was the New School Presbyterian Church in Samuel A Cherry's time;
 today it is the Congregational United Church of Christ.
Photo by Robert Burnett

Samuel Alonzo Cherry was also an older brother of my maternal third great-grandmother, Mary Ann Cherry (17 Dec 1813 - 11 Nov 1853). His obituary concludes:

In antebellum days his home in this city was a prominent station on the underground railroad, and many a poor slave was housed therein, or rather thereunder, until he could be ticketed through to the next station. He was a grand, good man and citizen, whose long life is an example well worthy of emulation.

Indeed. On the same day that I went up to visit Marysville and see Samuel Alonzo Cherry's old haunts, I read in the newspaper that a predominantly white high school's football team in New Jersey staged a fake lynching as a "joke" for their crosstown rivals, whose student body was primarily black.

The Cherry family, headed by a maternal fourth great-grandfather, John Wallace Cherry (27 May 1788 - 10 May 1857), came to Ohio in the 1830s, first to Huron, and then as early residents of Marysville. They were considered a prominent family, among whose members were a doctor, a clothier, and the third postmaster in town, along with the more prosaic occupation of farmer. As was common in that era, they tended to reuse family names, so there were numerous Samuels and Johns across multiple generations; as a consequence, many of the men went by their middle names. The Samuel Cherry of today's post (not to be confused with his grandfather, uncle, or cousin) was thus also known as Alonzo Cherry. To complicate matters further, three of the Marysville Cherry brothers married women named Mary, also the name of their sister, my direct ancestor.... The Cherrys were a patriotic family as well, with Washington and Jefferson being common middle and first names; where "Alonzo" arose I have no idea. But their patriotism went beyond names: John Wallace Cherry fought in the War of 1812, his father in the Revolutionary War; at least two of his sons served in the Civil War, one losing his life, another suffering wounds that troubled him until his death.

Too old for battle, Samuel Alonzo Cherry chose to serve the cause in another way. In Samuel's own words, in an interview conducted 10 Nov 1894 by Wilbur H Siebert, author of the seminal, if now controversial The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom (1898), Cherry said:

"I was told that the only anti-slavery man in town was Nathaniel Beecher [20 Jun 1879 - 15 Apr 1840]. I was told to look him up. Mr. Beecher talked anti-slavery principles a great deal."

And no wonder. Nathaniel Beecher was from a family of longtime abolitionists that included a distant cousin, Harriet Beecher, who married Calvin Ellis Stowe and was living in Cincinnati about the same time Cherry met Beecher. The Stowes' home was another station on the Underground Railroad. It would be just a few years later that she would write Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Cherry continues:

"A short time after I came back [from briefly living in Huron, Ohio in 1840] I began the work.

The fugitives usually came in groups of twos and threes....They usually came in the latter part of the night and would sleep during the day. Hence they would frequently be kept a day or two. In our house we had a room on the first floor where we usually kept them, and if there was any danger of discovery we would take them through the hall into a cupboard or closet where my wife kept her flour-barrel. Beneath that there was a trap-door, through which they would get into a secluded part of the cellar.

The period of my knowledge of the "road" was from 1840 to 1857. In the latter year I went to Delaware [Ohio] and was there until 1860, and during those three years I knew little or nothing of the operations.

Years later, Cherry was so well-regarded in the community for his abolitionist "work" that even before his death, his house got an obituary, which ran to several columns. It appeared in the Marysville Tribune, 17 May 1893:

The article goes on to say:

The fugitives always knew before reaching Marysville, if they could find Deacon Cherry they would find a friend who would care for them. He invariably took them to his home and provided for their comforts, even to polishing up their usually well worn foot-gear.

Which is not entirely surprising, since for many years Cherry was a tailor. In fact, when he first arrived in Marysville, he took out this ad, which ran in the Marysville Union Star, 6 Jun 1839:

The undersigned has taken the shop immediately opposite the court house where he will at all times be happy to wait on those that may see fit to patronize him. Cutting done on the shortest notice, and warranted to fit if not properly made up.

The article adds:

Almost half a century has elapsed and new generations have been born since those barbaric acts in connection with slavery were enacted.

The same day that I explored Marysville and found this clipping, it was reported the state of Georgia was considering offering the Confederate flag as an image on their license plates.

The domestic obit concludes with this:

An imperishable granite monument ought to be erected in front of the old building to remind coming generations of the place where the poor and friendless refugee always found a welcome stopping-place, and where no withholding hand was known or cold frown ever met the gaze of any of God's lowly and oppressed poor.

261 West Sixth Street today. There is no granite monument,
 nor any other recognition of the site's historical importance.
Photo by Robert Burnett

While there is--as yet--no plaque for Samuel Alonzo Cherry, across the street there is a marker for another Cherry relation: Cyprian Lee (10 Apr 1792 - 24 Sep 1854). Lee was another prominent Marysvillian, whose only child, Mary Lee (10 Oct 1823 - 9 Jul 1897) married George Washington Cherry (10 Sep 1809 - 17 Jan 1890), Samuel Alonzo's older brother and consequently another third great-granduncle.

Photo by Robert Burnett

Although the Cherrys and Lees were all involved in the Underground Railroad to some extant, including George and Mary's son, Jefferson Lee Cherry (3 Sep 1842 - 16 Jan 1907), I expect that Cyprian Lee's plaque derives primarily from the fact that his house is the only one still standing. That, or the fact that it was later occupied by Noah Orr, AKA "The Ohio Giant," who at seven feet plus was a noted circus performer with P T Barnum, and member--as the only non-midget--of The Lilliputian Opera Company.  When I went into the Cyprian Lee house (currently used as an insurance office) to inquire about the house and its history, the receptionist knew nothing about the Cherrys and Lees, but was happy to provide a brochure on The Ohio Giant, which I politely declined.

Noah Orr with Mrs Tom Thumb. Neither are ancestors of mine.

Feeling that I had seen enough of Marysville proper, I drove a few miles to Oakdale Cemetery, among whose inhabitants apparently is Noah Orr. I did not notice (nor seek) his no-doubt gargantuan tomb, but continued my quest for ancestors. I did find some names I recognized, but not from my family tree: there were numerous headstones and memorials with the name Vanatta (and its variants), who are ancestors of my brother-in-law! Unbeknownst to us both, his family and mine were buried a few hundred yards apart, over one hundred years ago.

Slogging through snow, I finally located a large marker for some of the Cherry family, which included George Washington Cherry, his wife (the former Miss Lee), and another brother (so another third great-granduncle), John Wallace Cherry (26 Apr 1829 - 28 Jan 1887), and his wife, Mary Elizabeth LKU (24 Nov 1833  - 27 Nov 1903).

The Cherry family marker, Oakdale Cemetery.
Marysville, Union, Ohio.
Photo by Robert Burnett

Alongside the quasi-obelisk are two markers inset into the ground, for the aforementioned Jefferson Lee Cherry and his wife--not a Mary!--Josephine C Rakestraw (19 Apr 1843 - 26 May 1929), whose name appeals to me tremendously because it sounds like something from Gilbert & Sullivan, but I digress. While living, Jefferson and Josie resided in the house pictured below, taken from Handsome Homes of Columbus Ohio.

About 1897. The original caption reads, in part :
"This splendid residence... is the home of J. L Cherry.
Mr. Cherry is the well known Electrical Contractor,
who has furnished electrical work to a great many homes...."

Alas, the splendid residence has been replaced by a warehouse in a declining neighborhood, another beautiful old building razed, another Cherry home gone. While at Oakdale Cemetery, I was not able to find a headstone nor any marker, whether vanished or merely covered in snow, for the ostensible subject of this far-wandering post, Samuel Alonzo Cherry. As time goes on, some things change or disappear, while others stay the same. The day after I got back from my outing, the newspaper reported that a fraternity at the University of Mississippi was suspended following its members putting a noose around a statue of James Meredith, the first black student therein enrolled.

One more article, this time in the Marysville Tribune, 27 Apr 1881. It was a profile about "old Uncle Joe Mayo," a free man of color who was another of the principle members of the Underground Railroad in Marysville, in which Mayo praised those who aided the slaves (including S A Cherry), and sadly denounced others, who as the article states, "were the colored man's natural enemy from pure malice and on general principles of devilishness."

It seems that even in 2014 such malice still exists, despite the many advances we have made. I wonder what Deacon S A Cherry would have made of it all.

Samuel Alonzo Cherry
From the Wilbur H Siebert collection,
Ohio Historical Society

"Marysville's chief operator of the Underground Railroad was Samuel A. Cherry, who owned a large plot of ground at the corner of West Sixth and Ash Streets. He had two houses on this lot; a large square two-story frame house at the corner and a one-story brick house, farther east on Sixth Street. Both houses had roomy excavations beneath their floors reached by trap doors and it was in these underground places that the runaways were hidden while waiting to go to the next station. Though Mr Cherry was often suspected by the 'slave powers' as an ardent leader and conductor for the Underground Railroad and had many narrow escapes, he was never betrayed and his house was never searched. All in all he helped about 250 negro men and women to escape north." --Steve Scheiderer, "The Underground Railroad in Union County,"
Union County Community News, 14 Jan 2000

Property in Susan Augusta Cherry's (Samuel's wife) name, located off Cherry Street.
Although other street names in the area are types of trees,
 it is nice to imagine the name was an homage to the family.
From an 1887 map of Marysville, Union, Ohio.

Samuel Alonzo Cherry was born 16 Dec 1811 in Oneida, New York, to John Wallace Cherry (27 May 1788 - 10 Feb 1857) and Clarissa Adams (31 Jan 1791 - 7 Feb 1872). He was the second of eleven children. Sometime in the late 1830s, he married Susan Augusta Goodsell (11 May 1814 - 24 Jan 1885); she was more commonly known as Jane, and was born in Pennsylvania, parents unknown. The Cherrys arrived in Marysville, Union, Ohio in 1839, where he started a tailoring business. The Cherrys had no children of their own, but adopted John A Cherry (actual last name unknown), who had been born in New York in Sep 1854. By 1860 or so, Samuel Alonzo Cherry was no longer a tailor, but owner of the town saw mill; he was also Deacon of the Presbyterian Church. He must have been an active man; after his first wife's death, he remarried--at age 75!--this time to the Welsh-born Madeline Jones (12 Mar 1828 - 22 Mar 1921), herself a widow of a man named Anderson, by whom she had at least three children. Samuel Alonzo Cherry died on 27 Apr 1897, age 85, at his mill. He is buried in Oakdale Cemetery.

My trip to Marysville was in part inspired by this terrific driving tour of central Ohio's Underground Railroad sites, Taking a Stand for Freedom:

"These so, these irretrievable"

'Tis the season! We celebrate a birthday on 25 December, ostensibly, and although not expecting messiahs (nor even anyone of Levantine birth), I was curious to see who in my family tree shared that birth date, a similar exercise about which I have posted previously.

Running a quick report, I discovered that Christmas births in my family were not many, and those few that did turn up were usually neither verifiable nor even very likely.

There was undoubtedly Ephraim Davenport (25 Dec 1708 - 11 Dec 1789), a paternal seventh great-father, born in Rhode Island, died in Connecticut. Unfortunately, that is the sum total of what I know about him. He does has a nice headstone, however.

South Street Cemetery, AKA Silver Street Cemetery,
Coventry, Tolland, Connecticut.
photo: VCEastman

After Ephraim, things get sketchy and dubious. For instance, John Maxwell (25 Dec 1775 - 12 Nov 1824), a theoretical maternal sixth great-grandfather, is fairly well-documented. But his son, William Maxwell, from whom I am descended, is generally reported as having been born in 1765, ten years before his father. Or take Richard Gay (25 Dec 1580 - 1693), a purported paternal eleventh great-grandfather. He is seen everywhere online with these undocumented dates, without anyone seeming to question how the old coot lived to be one hundred and thirteen years old....

Anyway. Those of you who pay close attention to details may notice that this post, with its Christmas theme, was in fact published 1 January, my resolution about not procrastinating failing even before the new year began. Which means I will need to focus that much harder on two additional genealogical resolves (none of you reading this having any interest in my more personal goals, I hope): first, to make sure I am documenting and double-checking information as I receive it, so as not to perpetuate these too common, well-meaning familial falsehoods; second, to find a way over some of the most vexing brick walls in my research.

Here is the list, focussed primarily on Americans. Anyone out there in cyberland who can contribute (or refute) any information about these folks, especially their parents, would be appreciated!

Isaac Burnett (1780? - May 1860), lived most of his life in Newport, Penobscot, Maine. He married Deborah Grindle (25 Feb 1784 - aft 1860) on 23 Dec 1802. I have written about his garbled ancestry elsewhere.

Samuel Squire (1773 - aft 1830); his wife was perhaps named Mary Ann LKU (abt 1775 -  aft 1830). He appears on the U S Federal Censuses from 1800 through 1830, primarily in Madison, Somerset, Maine.

Aaron Colman (abt 1783 - aft 1830), and his father, Aaron Colman (? - aft 1820); both residents of Maine, appearing on the U S Federal Censuses from 1800 through 1830 and 1820, respectively. Aaron Colman, junior, was married to Mary "Polly" Lombard or Lumbar.

John Swarts (28 Nov 1795 - 24 Oct 1874), born in Pennsylvania, but living most of his life in Brighton, Kenosha, Wisconsin; and his wife Mary McDonald (abt 1799 - 1893), also born in Pennsylvania.

Anna B. A. "Annie" Miller (Jan 1867 - aft 1920), was born in Germany and arrived in the U S about 1870. She married Dor Henry Eaton (May 1869 - 31 Dec 1945) on 27 Jan 1890, in Minnesota.

Willard Brown (abt 1806 - aft 1860), born in New Hampshire. He married Mary "Polly" Rasey (21 Oct 1808 - 12 Dec 1868) on 17 Nov 1826 in New York.

William Carter (1800 - 30 Mar 1849) and Melinda Johnson (1813 - 1902). Complicated by both a scarcity of information and fairly common names, they were both believed born in Tennessee; she died there, while he died in Missouri.

William Kinman (abt 1830 - aft 1858), born in New York and died in Illinois, and Sarah R Moore (abt 1826 - aft 1875). She was probably born in Ohio (I have one U S Federal census to back that up), and the only reason I have "Moore" is that my maternal grandmother provided it, although she was occasionally wrong about these details. Sarah later married a Walter Reading or Redding (abt 1825 - aft 1875); they lived in Illinois.

Frederick Dillazone Ketchum (6 Apr 1811 - 21 Jan 1888), about whom I have written often. I believe I have discovered his father as Elisha Ketchum (abt 1771 - aft 1840), but yearn to know more about these two, including the identity of Frederick's mother. I would also love to know if "Dillazone" is in fact correct (I no longer know where I first saw it; it may have been another Grandma Brown error), and from where it derives. He was most often referred to as "Capt F D Ketchum."

And speaking of Captains, there is Samuel Cherry (15 May 1756 - 27 Oct 1825), about whom I have also written in one of my earliest posts. His parents, and even his place of birth are a great mystery. It is generally agreed that he was born in Londonderry--but which: Ireland or New Hampshire?

Finally, there is Clarissa Adams (31 Jan 1791 - 7 Feb 1872), daughter-in-law of Capt Cherry, above. She was born in New York, and died in Delaware, Delaware County, Ohio. I have visited and photographed her gravesite, which perhaps explains in part her particular appeal for me; that and her potentially historically rich last name! The Cherrys were great patriots, after all....

Detail of the Cherry family marker, Oak Grove Cemetery,
Delaware, Delaware, Ohio.
photo: Robert Burnett

Will anyone contribute facts about these ancestral ciphers of mine? One hopes so, and wishes that 2014 will bring you each what you are looking for as well!