Monday, February 24, 2014

52 Ancestors #7 Caroline Grover Moore – Surrogate Mother

52 Ancestors #7 Caroline Grover Moore – Surrogate Mother

Caroline never had a child of her own but was a surrogate mother to over a dozen children. First it was her siblings, then a step daughter and lastly almost two dozen foster children. She was strict but she made a good home for them all.

Caroline was born on 11 May 1893 in Camden, Camden County, NJ. She was born at home to Margaretta and Charles Moore. She was the first seven children. By the time her brother Earl, my father was born she was 21-yrs-old. She only went through the 5th grade and at 16 was a sales lady in a department store. In 1913 she was working as an embroiderer when she met and married Harry R. Cox.  The family considered him to be a bit of a dandy and the marriage failed. Her father died in 1919 and both her brother Charles and her mother died the same month in 1921. As a divorced woman struggling to support herself as a spinner in a lace factory she was unable to care for her younger siblings. My father, Earl was 7-yrs-old and their sister, Margaretta was 10-yrs-old.  At first Earl was supposed to go to Girard College a school for orphaned boys but the family thought it better for both Earl and Margaretta to go to the Masonic orphan children’s home in Elizabethtown, PA.

On 2 August 1922 Caroline married Edward Dodd Ludlam. He was a widower with a young daughter, Helen. They wanted his daughter to live with them but his deceased wife’s parents were raising Helen and they refused to give her up. It ended up a legal fight but eventually Helen came to live with them. When Earl left the orphanage at 16-yrs-old he came to live with them too.

Most of her married life she lived in Gloucester City, NJ but at some point they lived in Hurfville, NJ. They had a chicken farm. When they moved to Gloucester City they continued to raise some chickens for the family. Another enterprise was breeding chow dogs.

In the 1920s they began to raise foster children. Over a thirty year time period she cared for over 20 children. Some were with her for just a few months and others for almost 20 years. Some thought she was too strict but they were properly dressed, had good food and had as normal a childhood as possible. Some became great adults. One, who came to her about age 5 from an extremely abusive home, was adopted by her and later became a criminal.

She was definitely a substitute mother to my father. He was close to her his whole life and when
I was born she became a grandmother to me. Ed died in 1948 and once more she found herself a widow. She bought a home that included a luncheonette which she ran. She continued to raise foster children. In 1957 she was diagnosed with cancer. In those days when your money or health insurance ran out hospitals sent you home to die. She moved into Earl’s home and all the extended family came to care for her. It was a crazy time with up to 20 relatives staying in the home to help around the clock. The day of her funeral there was a severe snowstorm where cars were not able to negotiate most streets. I was sent to my aunt’s house for that last week and when I returned home after her funeral I remember walking into her empty bedroom and feeling such a great loss.


Motherhood isn’t just giving birth. It’s a lifetime of care and love and Caroline showed this to almost two dozen children.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

52 Ancestors #6 Charles A. McMechen – Liar, Liar Pants On Fire

52 Ancestors #6 Charles A. McMechen – Liar, Liar Pants On Fire


            We all have them, at least one person in the family who tells tall tales. One of mine was
my great grandfather. He never let anyone see his real past, just the one they he invented for us to see. He came to Philadelphia from Baltimore. He told his family he fought in the Civil War and that was true. But the
truth was not enough for him. He told his family that his father was Judge Thomas McMechen. He said his father was killed by a freed slave on the steps of the court house. Charles received a pension for his Civil War service. After his death my great grandmother applied for a widow’s pension. And while this would reveal some truths no one knew of it for almost a century. I discovered the truth when I visited the National Archives in Washington DC and viewed the pension record. The pension request was investigated a bit more than most since Charles changed his last name three times during the course of the war from McMechen to McMacken to Macken. Add to that the pension people also suspected he was married to someone else and left behind in Baltimore. Not to be outdone by her husband, my great grandmother, Mary seemed to use her sister Bridget’s name at times. All of this led to seeking out Charles’ sister and taking her deposition which was included in the pension record. His sister stated that their father Thomas was a huckster who was killed in a political riot in Baltimore. That fact makes another family mystery that I’d love to unravel.
Well, here is the truth about Charles, at least as far as I’ve been able to discover. Charles was born in Baltimore, Maryland on April 21, 1838. On Aug. 12, 1862, he enlisted in Co. A, 1st Inf. Reg., MD to fight on the Union side during the Civil War. The 25 year old served for the remainder of the Civil War. He was promoted to Corporal on Dec. 6, 1864. According to the database “American Civil War Regiments” the 1st  Maryland Inf. on September, 1862, his regiment fought at Harper’s Ferry. They saw action at Emmetsburg, MD and Snicker’s Gap, VA during 1863. 1864 was very busy year for 1st MD. They fought the Battle of the Wilderness, Laurel Hill, Spotsylvania Court House, Harris’ Farm, Bethesda, Cold Harbor, Mechanicsville, Petersburg, Martinsburg, Weldon Railroad, Reams’ Station, Poplar Grove, Stoney Creek, and other unnamed battles all in Virginia. It was after one of the Stoney Creek battles that Charles was promoted to corporal. The regiment continued to fight in Virginia during 1865. They started at Dabney’s Mills, Hatcher’s Run, South Side Railroad, Five Forks, Petersburg, and White Oak Road. Their last battle was Apr. 1, 1865 at South Side Railroad. Charles mustered out on June 3, 1865. During his military career he also used the following spellings of his last name: McMacken, McMechan, Macken and McMachen. Charles applied for a military invalid pension on September 8, 1899.
            Sometime after the Civil War he migrated to Philadelphia where on Oct. 18, 1870 he married Mary E. Hayes. At that time he listed his occupation as waterman and was using Mackin as his last name. They were married by George Moore of S. 4th St. This was possibly a Methodist ceremony.
            The couple had five children. Charles Mackin, born abt. 1870, William, born abt. 1872, Margaretta Virginia, born August 10, 1874, Thomas H. Mackin, born abt. 1875, and Harry Freely Mackin, born October 29, 1877. All were born in Philadelphia.
            The 1880 census lists his occupation as a laborer. He lived at 609 Annapolis St., Philadelphia.
            He was a member of the Knights of Pithius. This was an organization similar to the Freemasons. Eventually he was buried along with his wife in the Pithius cemetery, Greenwood, in Philadelphia on Arrott St.
            In 1913, Charles was living at Fillmore and Ferry Aves or possibly at 1209 Locust St, his daughter, Margaretta‘s residence. On March 10 at a little past 7:30 AM, he was all dressed up in a blue serge suit and seemed to taking a short cut to the Kaighn’s Point Ferry for a trip to Philadelphia or returning from a stroll. He was walking between the North and South bound
railroad tracks near the intersection of 3rd and Atlantic. A witness named William Morrison heard an approaching train and called to Charles to look out. He stepped onto the north bound tracks and despite the train whistle didn’t or couldn’t move. He was hit by the train and tossed a dozen feet into the air. The train carried his remains to the terminal. Coroner Saunders found that he died from a severely fractured and disfigured skull and a broken leg. He was identified at the morgue by his granddaughter, probably Caroline Moore. His funeral was held at 1209 Locust St. And that’s the truth.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

52 Ancestors #5  William Augustus Bristol Makes the US Postal Museum

William Augustus Bristol, the son of Charles B. and Adrianna M. (Miller) Bristol, was born on September 29, 1873 in Lima, NY. According to the National Postal Museum he resided in Green Cove Springs, Florida in March of 1888 with his aunt and uncle, Mary and James Yerkes. At that time his father was living in the Dakota Territory. This fact was discovered by a member of a philatelic genealogy buff who emailed me about a postal cover on the US Postal Museum website. They featured envelopes that had weather reports stamped on the covers by the post office. I was excited to see it especially because I didn’t have any idea that my great grandfather had ever lived in Florida. I visited the museum with my stamp club and was hoping to get a picture with me holding the envelope but it wasn't possible because they needed advanced notice to retrieve it from their files. 


 By 1892 he was living with his father in the newly formed city of Great Falls, Montana. His father died on Feb. 10, 1892 after which he moved back to New York. As an adult he moved to Batavia, NY where he married Mattie Hadley in 1895. He had two children, Hazel Bonalyn Bristol and Mabel Arlene Bristol. He had his arm amputated because of a tumor but the cancer continued to grow and he died in Buffalo, NY on April 21, 1899.