Sunday, April 17, 2011

The family pet

The dog up and died, he up and died,
And after twenty years he still grieves.
-"Mr. Bojangles" by Jerry Jeff Walker

Our beloved family dog Dakota passed away this week. As a tribute, I'd like to post just a few pictures of him and some of the other pets that have been a part of the family.

Dakota lounging in the sun
Navajo in a scene of remodeling
Cheyenne and Apache on a camping trip

Penelope, Lowell BROSIUS' dog.
Vinis BROSIUS' cat

Friday, April 15, 2011

Barbara Thines, a brief biography

In 1844, Luxembourg was a Grand-Duchy within the German Confederation. Far in the northwest of the Grand-Duchy, in the ruggedly picturesque region known as the Oesling, in a small town known as Hachiville, Helzingen, or Helzen—depending on which of Luxembourgs three languages one chose to use—a daughter was born to Hachiville natives Michel THINES and Anna Maria SCHMITT. They named her Barbara. She was their sixth child, and would not be their last; there would be nine children in all.

Birth certificate of Barbara Thines: 5 May 1844

Barbara grew up, as her parents had before her, along with her brothers and sisters in Hachiville. The area is known for its plateaus broken by rocky valleys, formed as the River Sûre and its tributaries flow through the southern Ardennes range. Despite its natural beauty, the soil was thin and acidic, difficult for cultivation. The THINES family (Or THINNES, as it was often spelled), as farmers, would have been very familiar with the difficulties of the terrain.

Hachiville is close to the border of the French-speaking Belgian province of Luxembourg, once a part of the Grand-Duchy, but separated from the rest of Luxembourg after a revolt in 1830. It seems probable that the residents of Hachiville would still have had cultural and family ties across the border fourteen years later.

In 1867, when Barbara was about twenty-three years old, the German Confederation dissolved, and the question of control over Luxembourg nearly resulted in war between France and Prussia. The British served as mediators between the two powers, and the subsequent Treaty of London finally guaranteed independence for the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg.

Four years later, on 4 Aug 1871, Barbara married an eisenhändler, or ironmonger, named Peter STROESSER in Wahl. It is unknown at this time how they could have met, Wahl being separated from Hachiville by 30  kilometers (about 19 miles). That is, of course, not an impossible distance, but it is far enough that it would seem to warrant some explanation.

Marriage certificate of Peter Stroesser and Barbara Thines: 4 Aug 1871. Note that on this certificate, Peter is identified as a hufschmied, or blacksmith. On his children's birth certificates he is identified in the related profession of eisenhändler, or ironmonger, meaning he was in the hardware business.

They began their family in the village of Heispelt, near Wahl. A son, Michael, was born to them in December of 1873, more than two years into their marriage. Their next child, Balthasar, came eighteen months later, followed by Anna in another eighteen months.

Twenty-two months later came another son. The birth certificate gives his name as Johann, but his descendants know him as Harry Henry. Later, he would found the Omaha, Nebraska branch of the STROESSER family.

Following Johann/Henry in 1880 came Johann Nicolas, called Nick. He was the last of the STROESSER children to be born in Heispelt. The family moved to the small village of Schwiedelbrouch by 1881, their five children ranging in age from infancy to seven.

In May of 1881 came the next child known as Johann. It may seem strange to our modern ideas to name a child the same name as a living sibling, but this was not at all unusual. Every child was named after his godfather (or her godmother), regardless of any other children in the family. Therefore, it was not uncommon to find a family with several children sharing a given name. From a practical standpoint, however, it is easy to see how the elder Johann in this family might have come to be known by an entirely different name. Perhaps he had been called Henry from a young age in order to differentiate him from his brother.

The second Johann was followed in January 1883 by Catharina, and January 1885 by Clara.

Barbara died 8 June 1890, at the age of 46, leaving her husband a widower with eight children between the ages of five and seventeen. However, he followed her to the grave only three years later.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Creeksea Ferry, c. 1878-c. 1910

The Creeksea Horse Ferry

…I can just descry the Creeksea Ferry Inn as run by a man called Amos, assisted quite fittingly by a Mr. Wiseman who also ‘did the ferrying’. Prospective passengers rang a bell which hung from a post and out came the row-boat. If the horse ferry was required, there was an arm like a railway signal to be pulled down. In either case there might be a touch of adventure. At low tide the ferryman would have to put on a St. Christopher act and carry passengers over the muddy Crouch shoreline. The horse ferry was apparently a square float. --G. Bernard Wood

In England’s southeastern Essex, nestled between the River Crouch to the north and the River Roach to the south, and separated from lands to the west by the negligible barrier of Paglesham Creek—a creek so small that it was sometimes neglected on maps—lay Wallasea Island. Hundreds of years of land reclamation had so swollen Wallasea that it was now more a peninsula than an island, and much more contiguous than the three islands it had represented during the Middle Ages. For the most part, the fertile land had been used to grow wheat, but the beginning of importation of cheap American wheat in 1875 had sparked an agricultural depression, which the island was beginning to feel. Although it was enjoying its largest population in history (one hundred thirty-five), many of the farmers would soon be departing, leaving the fields to revert to pasture. Oysters, however, still grew in the Crouch, and they were considered to be among the best in all England.

Starting from the historic village of Canewdon, just east of the island, crossing Paglesham Creek to Wallasea and following the island’s main road, travelers would soon arrive at the road’s namesake, the Creeksea Ferry. This ferry, situated on the northeast edge of Wallasea, connected the island with Burnham-on-Crouch (or, more properly, the adjacent village of Creeksea) on the other side of the river. It had been in existence since at least the early seventeenth century, when it was operated by a certain John Harris, who “busied himself dredging oysters and doing other business instead of attending to passengers over the ferry” (Payne). Although this first ferryman proved “very slacke and necligent in the performance of his endevour in the carriage of his Magistes subjects over the said Ferry” (Pollitt), his successor George Amos nearly three centuries later seems to have performed his duties well. One passenger eulogized that “Perhaps few persons are equally indispensable,” and went on to say that no matter how late you arrive or the conditions of the weather, “if you ring with exemplary diligence, wakening the echoes with the uproar, you are certain to be ‘fetched off,’ and may even find a bed at the inn.” (Tompkins 188).

George Amos

Elizabeth (Filby) Amos

George Amos married his wife Elizabeth Filby on 7 Nov 1875 at Christ Church, in Southwark, London, and it seems that they settled at the Creeksea Ferry very soon afterward. George had come north to Essex from his birthplace near Dover after the deaths of his parents, but Elizabeth had grown up in the neighborhood of Maldon, not far from the ferry. Very likely they were influenced to come to Creeksea Ferry by William Filby, probably a relation of Elizabeth’s, working as the publican at the time. He is listed in Kelly’s Directory as the publican in 1878, according to the Essex Pub website, and could well have been there as early as 1875. Elizabeth had a brother named William Filby, but it has not yet been possible to determine with certainty whether this is the same William Filby, a more distant relation, or perhaps just a startling coincidence. However, her brother certainly was in the business of pub-keeping; in the 1881 census he was working as a publican and coal porter at the pub Chelmer in Heybridge Basin, near Maldon. [Update: further research has shown that the William Filby who was publican at Creeksea Ferry was almost certainly Elizabeths brother.] Although George and Elizabeth could have moved to the Creeksea Ferry anytime between their 1875 marriage and the 1881 census, it seems likely that they settled there around the time of William Filby’s residence. All of their children, including those born after 1881 and therefore definitely while residing at the ferry, are listed as being born in Canewdon. The city of Canewdon, of course, was a couple of miles away, but the parish extended to include Wallasea Island. While it is possible that they lived elsewhere within Canewdon until 1881, the possibility does not seem very strong, especially considering the number of years they remained at Creeksea Ferry. They hardly seem to have been a particularly mobile family.

The Ferry House

At first, George Amos was simply a ferryman, carrying people over the River Crouch on the ferry, in answer to the ringing of a bell on the north side of the Crouch. During these first few years, the pub was operated by his neighbor, John Powell, though it may be imagined that George helped out. The Amos family shared the Ferry House, a rather square building next to the pub, with the Powells, though in separate quarters. Also living there, listed in the census as a boarder at the Powells’, was a Frederick Wood, employed as ostler, or person employed at an inn to look after horses.

By 1890, George was not only a ferryman, but also the publican of the Ferry Boat Inn, as it was called at the time. He held this position until at least 1908. His granddaughter Elsie Crocker describes, “The girls wern’t aloud to work in the pub. Not lady like. They could help with the ferry” (Crocker 1). It seems that they may have done this often, as Elsie mentions that “[Mom] could rowe as well as the next one. Dad conceded she could rowe better than he” (Crocker 4).

By 1910, there was a new publican at the Ferry Boat Inn. Presumably George retired somewhere in the neighborhood, but little information from that period of time has yet been released to genealogists. George Amos died in 1928. Elizabeth followed in 1942. [Correction: George Amos died on 3 May 1931. I have not yet been able either to verify or disprove the date of Elizabeths death. See George Amos death certificate for more information.]


Crocker, Elsie. unpublished typescript.
Payne, J. K. “Travels in Essex Long Ago.” The Essex Countryside Winter 1955-56: 67. Quoted in HARRIS-HUNTERS-L Archives. Rootsweb, 26 July 2007. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Pollitt, William. A History of Prittlewell. Southend-on-Sea: Southend-on-Sea Public Library & Museum, 1951. 33. Quoted in HARRIS-HUNTERS-L Archives. Rootsweb, 26 July 2007. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Tompkins, Herbert W. Marsh-country Rambles. London: Chatto & Windus, 1904. Google Books. The University of California, 7 Dec. 2007. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Wood, G. Bernard. Ferries & Ferrymen. London: Cassell &, 1969. 41. Print.