Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: The Boulevard Room

Okay, I know, I know. This is supposed to be Wordless Wednesday, but I really can’t do a post without words. One of the goals of this blog is to make things searchable online, and words are a necessary ingredient toward meeting that goal. Still, the main focus of this post is on a picture, so it’s about as wordless as I’m going to get!

This is another item from my small collection of antique post cards. It depicts a night club scene, the most obvious element of which is a figure skater in a red dress executing a leap. In the foreground are numerous tables with people sitting at them, and to the left one couple is evidently being shown to a table by a waiter. Behind the figure skater, a moderately-sized band performs on an elevated part of the stage. (The remainder of the stage is ice.) The d├ęcor and architecture of the room complete the picture with some white, apparently marble, busts; an elegantly designed drop feature in the ceiling; and some rather grandiose doors adorned by blue curtains. At the bottom, typed words identify the location as “Boulevard Room” at “The Stevens * Chicago,” “A Hilton Hotel.”

The reverse side of the post card identifies the front:

The outstanding night spot in Chicago...fea-
turing lavish Ice Shows on the largest hotel ice
rink in the country...big cast of skating stars.
Finest cuisine and famous orchestras for dancing. 

THE STEVENS * Chicago * A Hilton Hotel
There is no traditional stick-on postage stamp, but rather a rubber stamp bearing the words “U.S. Postage Paid” and a date in February of 1949. The card is addressed to T.S. Duthie, 460 Pittock Blk, Portland 5, Oregon, and the only message is, “Hello Tom.”

A Google search quickly revealed an article from 1968, on the event of the closing of the Boulevard Room. With palpable bitterness toward “the men in the home office” who “couldn’t care less about the prestige of an institution like the Boulevard room, or what it means to Chicago,” the columnist briefly relates that the room had once hosted regular floor shows, until the ice rink opened in March of 1948. Therefore, the ice performances had been underway for less than a year when this post card was sent.


Will Leonard, “On the Town: After 20 Years, Boulevard Room Ice Revues End,” Chicago Tribune, 1 Dec 1968, p. 18 (section 5), col. 1; digital images, Chicago Tribune Archives ( : accessed 30 Aug 2017).

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday’s Obituary: Mary A. Howard

Since I am currently focusing on the family of my 3great-grandmother Mary A. Howard, it seems appropriate that’s today’s obituary should be hers. It is more of what I would call a death notice or a funeral notice than an obituary, not providing even her first name, but it does provide a date of death. It is, indeed, the only source I have yet obtained that does so.

The notice appeared on page 8 of the Chelmsford Chronicle on 19 Apr 1901.

The funeral of Mrs. Filby, mother of Mr. Wm. Filby, of the Star Inn, took place at the Cemetery on Thursday afternoon. She died on Saturday last at the ripe old age of 90.

That makes her death on 13 Apr 1901 and her burial on 18 Apr 1901. Since she died in Maldon and it says only that her funeral was at “the Cemetery,” I presume that she must have been buried at Maldon Cemetery, and on that presumption I have added her record to Findagrave.

The western part of Maldon Cemetery


Maldon,” The Chelmsford Chronicle, 19 Apr 1901, p. 8, col. 2; digital images, The British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 21 May 2017), Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Mary A. Howard: Her Baptism

The Church of St. Mary & Margaret, Stow Maries

My 3great-grandmother Mary A. Howard’s birth date and place is recorded somewhat inconsistently throughout the census years, as the following chart will show.

Census Year
Birth Place
Estimated Birth Year
Stowe Marie

As you can see, her birth date ranges from 1811 to 1817, but is most often recorded as 1814. Her birth place is either Purleigh or some sort of spelling variation of Stow Maries, except, of course, in the 1841 census which records only whether she was born within the county.

According to the cover letter to the Purleigh parish register extracts I was sent, the earliest record of a baptism of any Howard child in Purleigh is that of Hannah Howard in 1817. So that makes it unlikely that Mary A. was born, or at least baptized, in Purleigh. There is, on the other hand, a record of the baptism of a Mary Howard on 29 Jan 1815 in Stow-Maries. This is a fairly close match to the census records, since four of them agree that she was born in about 1814 (29 Jan 1815 is within a month of that) and two of them identify her birth place as Stow Maries. If she were raised mostly in Purleigh, that would explain why Purleigh is often reported as her place of birth.

Looking back to the baptismal record, Mary’s parents are identified as John and Mary Howard. This lends support to the hypothesis, alluded to in a former post, that the John and Mary Howard appearing on the same page as the Filby household in the 1841 census are her parents.

Since the baptismal record was found at FamilySearch, I did an online search on the entire microfilm cited. If you look at any indexed record found at FamilySearch, on the right-hand side of the page you will see a table labeled with the title of the database. Below that are items such as “Indexing Project (Batch) Number” and “System Origin.” Usually the last item is “GS Film number,” which is the microfilm number. First I copy that number and paste it into the “Film/Fiche Number” search box on the Catalog search page. (I prefer to do this in a separate tab of my browser so that the record I began at is still easily accessible.) This search will result in a list of the titles associated with that film number. In this case, there are seven items, all of them Bishop’s transcripts for various parishes in Essex, one of them Stow-Maries. Unfortunately, there is no way that I know of to search a single item, so it is vital to know that this film number is associated with multiple items.

There are at least two ways to arrive at the next step. You could click on one of the search results, scroll down to the microfilm details, find the appropriate film in the list, and then click on the magnifying glass next to it. I prefer to return to the record where I began (remember, I have kept it open in a separate tab) and click on the GS Film number. Either way, you will arrive at an alphabetical results list of all the records indexed for the film number.

Since I learned that this film is associated with seven different locations, I entered “Stow-Maries,” spelling it as it is spelled in the record, into the “Search with a life event: Any Place” search bar. (I used the “Any Place” option because I wanted to be sure to include all the records, not only baptisms.) In the surname bar I entered “Howard.”

Only one other record for a Howard in Stow Maries appears. It is the 1802 burial of a Charles Howard. However, this film is not completely indexed, so that is not to say that there are no other Howards in the parish register of Stow Maries. But until I am able to view the original register, this is all the information I have about the family’s time in that village.

(The FamilySearch site has very recently—within the last week or so—added digital images of the relevant film, but as of the writing of this post, I have been unable to view them. Either the site is suffering technical difficulties that have not yet been resolved, or the images are accessible only to members with an LDS account.)


1841 census of England, Essex, parish of Purleigh, folio 23, page 5, household of John Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 8 Oct 2007); citing PRO HO 107/327/22.

1851 census of England, Essex, Snoreham, folio 301, page 30, household of John Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 14 Mar 2007); citing PRO HO 107/1778.

1861 census of England, Essex, Snoreham, folio 48A, page 23-24, household of John Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 14 Mar 2007); citing PRO RG 9/1089.

1871 census of England, Essex, parish of Latchingdon, folio 49, page 16, household of John Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 14 Mar 2007); citing PRO RG 10/1673.

1881 census of England, Essex, parish of Latchingdon, parliamentary borough of Maldon, rural sanitary district of Maldon, folio 44, page 10, household of John Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Mar 2007); citing PRO RG 11/1775.

1891 census of England, Essex, Civil Parish of Canewdon, Rural Sanitary District of Rochford, Parliamentary Division of South East Essex, folio 93, page 1, household of George Amos; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 11 Mar 2007); citing PRO RG 12/1393.

1901 census of England, Essex, part of civil and eccesiastical parish of St. Peter, parliamentary division of Maldon, town of Maldon, folio 28, page 14, household of William Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Mar 2007); citing PRO RG 13/1691.

“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 Apr 2017), entry for Mary Howards 1815 christening; citing Stow-Maries, Essex, England, reference; FHL microfilm 1,702,600. Index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mary A. Howard: Her Illegitimate Child

Purleigh Church: All Saints

In the past few weeks several distant cousins have contacted me, all interested in the same neglected branch of my family. Obviously, with so much outside interest, that branch can no longer stay neglected.

My paternal grandma Aileen Underwood’s mom was Flora Amos, whose mom was Elizabeth Filby, whose mom was Mary A. Howard. Until recently, that was very nearly the extent of my knowledge about Mary A. Howard. I had found her in the 1841 census, working as a housekeeper for her future husband, John Filby. The previous household enumerated was headed by a John Howard, who was of the right age and surname to be her father, but I had never gotten around to seriously researching that possibility.

I had researched the John Filby family forward, finding their children, etc., after 1841, but had done very little on Mary Howard’s roots. Once, someone contacted me with the information that Mary Howard had given birth to an illegitimate child before marrying John Filby, but as I could find nothing to support that assertion in the documents I had compiled, I soon dropped that line of research.

But now a wealth of information has dropped into my lap! Although the Howard branch of my family has been long neglected by me, it has not been neglected by my new-found cousins. The task of evaluating and compiling all this information has been delightful, but also brain-twisting and, at times, downright confusing. It seems a good idea to lay out the evidence and my thinking in a series of blog posts as I reach conclusions.

The most basic conclusion I have reached thus far is that Mary Howard did, indeed, have an illegitimate child. I might never have found him on my own, but he did exist. An abstract of the Purleigh baptismal register, sent to me by one of my cousins, shows the baptism of “Joseph, illegitimate son of Mary Howard, Purleigh, Spinster” on 1 Aug 1841. Although he never appears in the same household as his mother, his name is sometimes recorded as Howard, sometimes Filby, tying him with this family. [I cannot take credit for originating these thoughts; they were sent to me by one of my cousins. But I do agree with them.] In the 1851 census he is found working as a servant under the name Joseph Filby. He appears in the Jul-Aug-Sep 1860 quarter of the Civil Registration Marriage Index, under the name Joseph Howard. Given the volume and page number given, his bride is either Mary Kingsbury or Ruth Peeke. The 1861 census quickly answers that question, as Joseph and his wife Ruth are residing with her parents, John and Sarah Peeke. Their surname is recorded as Filby. In 1871 Joseph, Ruth, and their children are again recorded as Howard, but in 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911 the household is Filby.

In 1911, conveniently, the person filling out the sheet apparently misunderstood the instructions. Joseph and Ruth are on the first two lines, with the information that Ruth had given birth to 11 children, but only four were still living. The next eleven lines proceed to list all 11 children, with the age they would be in 1911. They are crossed out in blue, but still easily legible.


1841 census of England, Essex, parish of Purleigh, folio 23, page 5, household of John Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 8 Oct 2007); citing PRO HO 107/327/22.

1841 census of England, Essex, parish of Purleigh, folio 23, page 6, household of John Howard; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 23 Apr 2017); citing PRO HO 107/327/22.

(Purleigh, Essex, England), "Baptisms 1813-1860," p. 126, no. 1002, baptism of Joseph Howard (1841) (abstracted by Noel Clark); FHL microfilm 1,472,666.

1851 census of England, Essex, Purleigh parish, Rochester ecclesiastical district, folio 347, page 30, Joseph Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 22 Apr 2017); citing PRO HO 107/1778.

Graham Hart, Ben Laurie, Camilla von Massenbach and David Mayall, "England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915," database, Ancestry ( : accessed 7 May 2017), entry for Joseph Howard, volume 4a, page 255, Jul-Aug-Sep quarter 1860, Maldon district; citing the General Register Office's England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes.

1861 census of England, Essex, District 3, Latchingdon, folio 45, page 17, household of John Peeke; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 22 Apr 2017); citing PRO RG 9/1089.

1871 census of England, Essex, Parish of Latchingdon Essex, District 3, Snoreham, folio 53, page 23-24, household of Joseph Howard; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 22 Apr 2017); citing PRO RG 10/1673.

1881 census of England, Essex, Latchingdon parish, parliamentary borough and rural sanitary district of Maldon, folio 40, page 2, household of Joseph Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 22 Apr 2017); citing PRO RG 11/1775.

1891 census of England, Essex, civil and eccesiastical parish of Latchingdon, rural sanitary district of Maldon, parliamentary division of S.E. Essex, folio 12, page 1, household of Joseph Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 22 Apr 2017); citing PRO RG 12/1397.

1901 census of England, Essex, Latchingdon with Snoreham Entire civil parish, ecclesiastical parish of Latchingdon St. Michael with Snoreham St. Peter entire, rural district of Maldon, Southeastern parliamentary division, village of Latchingdon, folio 13, page 1, household of Joseph Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 7 May 2017); citing PRO RG 13/1690.

1911 census of England, Essex, Deadway Bridge, Latchingdon, Maldon, Essex, household of Joseph Filby; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 7 May 2017); citing RG 78, RG 14 PN 10204, registration district (RD) 196, sub district (SD) 2, enumeration district (ED) 11, schedule number (SN) 2.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Inez (Underwood) Linn: A Pictorial In Memoriam (1917-2017)


On 1 Mar 1917, my grandma's youngest sister, Inez Flora Underwood was born. This last Tuesday she passed away, aged 100 years and 34 days.

I am posting several pictures of her found in my grandma's photo albums.

These pictures were probably taken in the 1930s.

In two of these pictures, Inez is in front of the Underwood family home in Netarts, Oregon.

The previous two photographs were evidently taken on the same day. Inez is wearing the same outfit and pictured with the same truck in both pictures. In the first, the background is the family home; in the second, the background appears to be the beach at Pacific City, Oregon, a fairly short drive from their home in Netarts. 

This picture appears to have been taken in Happy Camp, just outside the town of Netarts. The headless figure standing behind Inez is my Grandma Aileen.

This last picture is one of my favorites. I'm not really sure what is happening, butI like to think that Ray and Inez are flirting. Ray Linn became Inez's husband on 26 Oct 1940.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Wreck of the Emily G. Reed

In the town of Rockaway Beach, buried beneath the sand, rests the broken skeleton of a wooden barque called the Emily G. Reed. Over a hundred years ago, in 1908, she foundered in a storm and broke up, the pieces of her hull scattered from the north jetty to just south of St. Mary’s By the Sea, the local Catholic church. Most of the time her timbers remain hidden under the deep sand, and tourists play unknowingly upon the ship’s grave, but every once in a great while the forces of nature shift the sands and the old boards again appear.

The Oregon coast is home to many shipwrecks, and each has its story, but few can equal the drama in that of the Emily Reed. It began early on a Valentine’s Day morning, not long after midnight. Captain Kersel was endeavoring to sight Tillamook Rock in his journey northward from Australia to Portland with a load of coal. For several days the weather had been heavy, and he had to put much reliance on his chronometer, making mathematical computations to determine the longitude.

But then came the terrible realization: the chronometer was wrong. The ship was too far to the east, almost in the breakers. But this realization came too late. “We had scarcely a minute’s warning of breakers before the shock came,” recalled one of the survivors. The Emily Reed hit the beach bow on, and immediately began to break up. The first mate, Fred Zube, was forward, calling all hands on deck. The captain, his wife, and some of the crew were aft when the jolt came. A huge wave washed over the bow, smashing one of the lifeboats. Seamen Abilstedt and Jahunke, as well as the cook, whose name no one seems to have known, “came tumbling out of the forecastle with scarcely any clothing on their backs.” The three of them, led by Fred Zube, were unable to get to the other end of the ship, and their end was deep in churning water, so they quickly jumped into the remaining lifeboat and cut the lashings. Captain Kersel and the others, clinging to the roof of the aft-house, watched as a huge wave broke, and the lifeboat disappeared.

After witnessing this calamity, the captain ordered those who were with him to stay on the wreck until daylight broke. As the sea calmed, he sent his wife below, but he himself remained on the poop. When daylight came, low tide came with it. Some of the crew decided to see if they could swim ashore, first tying a rope to the wreckage. When they jumped overboard, they discovered that they could touch bottom and simply walk to land. The captain, his wife, his second mate, and the three other seamen who had survived all waded to shore.

Captain Kersel then had the sad duty of reporting the deaths of his crew. It was a long list, and most newspapers carried the headline “Eleven Lives Lost,” though, if the cook’s name were truly unknown, it seems the number was actually twelve:

First Mate Fred Zube (or Dubie)
Ship’s Carpenter Westlund
Seaman Sortzeit
Seaman Johnson
Seaman Dickson
Seaman Darling
Seaman Cohenstad
Seaman Gilbert
Seaman Ewald Abilstedt
Seaman Arthur Jahunke
Cabin Boy Hirschfeld
The cook

But then, three days after the wreck, in Neah Bay, Washington, nearly two hundred miles to the north, someone aboard the sloop Teckla heard by a feeble hail. The crew looked out and saw a steel lifeboat slowly drawing near. There were four figures in the boat, three just barely alive and one dead. Their tongues were so swollen from thirst that they could scarcely articulate. But after some much-needed food and drink, the leader of these men was able to tell his story.

They were, in fact, from the wreck of the Emily Reed, the lifeboat which the captain and the others had thought to be swamped. The wave, instead of swamping them, had swept the lifeboat to sea. They were alive, but without supplies. They had no food, no water, and only one oar. Fred Zube had a broken arm. A biting wind blew most of the time, and we know that Abilstedt, Jahunke, and the cook were barely dressed. The boat had been banged around in the wreckage, and had been punctured in several places, and the men had nothing with which to bale out the water.

They wore out their knives cutting away a compartment built into the boat, but once they wrenched it off they were able to use it as a baler. They set their course, clumsily managed with the single oar, away from shore, hoping to fall into the shipping lanes and thereby meet a steamship. The shore on this part of the coast they thought to be “desolate,” which wasn’t exactly true, but wasn’t much of an exaggeration, either.

On the second night, they saw lights on the shore, but it was too dark to chance venturing in. The cook declared he couldn’t stand the thirst anymore, and he took a drink of seawater. It was not long before he became delirious and lay down in the water at the bottom of the lifeboat.

The next morning, jubilation! There was a big steamer, and she stopped near them. One of the men shook the cook awake. “Don’t you want to be saved?” he asked, pointing to the steamer. The cook stood up, watching the ship. But apparently it had not seen them after all, for it was soon under weigh again. This seemed to break the cook’s spirit, and within a half hour he was dead.

The Tattoosh Island lighthouse appeared in the distance a few hours later, and they drew together their strength to steer the boat into the bay. “Sunday seemed the worst day we were out. We kept seeing all sorts of vessels passing back and forth but none of them would answer our hail. We were generally too far off to be made out plainly, I guess,” said Fred Zube. That is, until they finally met up with the Teckla.

With this news, the death toll of the wreck of the Emily Reed dropped from twelve to nine. Few people had seen the wreck, the area being largely uninhabited, but one Elmer D. Allen later described it thus: “Among the last of the proud, old sailing ships, she lay fast in the sand, broken in two with a pile of coal two stories high; masts, spars and sails toppled and her cargo of coal dumped to the center holding firmly the fore and aft. The beach was strewn with wreckage and coal.”

The area where it had met its fate, known at the time as Garibaldi Beach, soon changed its name to Rockaway, and settlers began to swarm in. The wreck on the beach awaited them, with its wealth of salvage. The pioneers stripped it of its copper, selling it for scrap, and after each storm collected the coal that washed up. The sands eventually crept over the old wreck, hiding it from view most of the time, but even today residents will sometimes find coal after a storm.

A few weeks ago the Emily Reed made one of its rare appearances, for only the third time within my memory. I took the opportunity to make the drive to the beach and take the pictures featured on this page, and the occasion became a spontaneous family reunion! My parents were there, and my uncle and aunt also drove down to see the reclusive shipwreck.

Selected Sources:

Disastrous Shipwreck,” The Argus, 19 Feb 1908, p. 7, col. 8; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Apr 2017), Newspapers: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848-1957).

Eleven Lost on Emily Reed,” The Spokesman-Review, 15 Feb 1908, p. 17, col. 1; digital images, Google News ( : accessed 2 Apr 2017), The Spokesman-Review: Jun 16, 1889-Dec 31, 2007.

Emily Reed Disaster,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Jun 1908, p. 8, col. 6; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Apr 2017), Newspapers: The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842-1954).

Perils of the Sea,” Barrier Miner, 6 Apr 1908, p. 6, col. 6; digital images, Trove ( : accessed 2 Apr 2017), Newspapers: Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW: 1888-1954).

Lori Tobias, “Shifting sands reveal 102-year-old shipwreck off Rockaway Beach,” The Oregonian, 29 Dec 2010, online archives at OregonLive ( : accessed 2 Apr 2017).

Survivors of the Emily Reed,” Lewiston Evening Journal, 18 Feb 1908, p. 1, col. 5; digital images, Google News ( : accessed 2 Apr 2017), Lewiston Evening Journal: Apr 20, 1861-Jul 26, 1980.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Friday Funny: A quiet, grave time

I was recently looking through my small collection of antique post cards, and came across this gem. It is a comic post card depicting a man smoking a pipe and pouring himself a drink while sitting atop the headstone which presumably belonged to his wife. The stone reads:
and the caption reads “A quiet, grave time, at last!” At the top, someone has penned in the initials J.W.

On the reverse is a one cent stamp, with a post mark dated 1 Aug 1908 at 9 a.m. in Vancouver, Washington. The card is addressed to Mr. P. Gusted (or perhaps it is Lusted?), Portland, Oregon, and appears to have the memo that it is in care of “W. V. tel. Co.” The correspondence reads,
Hello Nephew,
Will be over Sun. morning if everything is Ho-K.
and it is signed either “your Uncy. Geo.” or “your Uncy. Leo.”

A quick Ancestry search through Portland city directories revealed no P. Gusted or P. Lusted, although there were others of both those surnames. I was reluctant to attempt more in-depth research, so I can currently shed no light on the recipient of this card. The sender is even more mysterious, as he signed only his first name. As for the initials “J. W.” on the front of the card—well, I have no idea what those mean.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Roots Quest 2017

This is an experiment; for the first time I am attempting to compose and post from my new-to-me smartphone. 

Yesterday I attended the Roots Quest 2017 conference in Forest Grove, Oregon. Of course there were a few nuggets in the classes, but what I really want to share is a display/scavenger hunt they had set up in the cafeteria. They had taken documents  (from the various presenters' research) and blown them up to about double ledger size. The scavenger hunt part involved inspecting the documents to find the answers to a list of questions, such as "What is the date of William Schnell's marriage?" or "What kind of person was Amanda Tice?" The answer to the latter, incidentally, was "industrous," according to a pauper register.

I thought this display would be a lovely idea for a family reunion.

I realize this post is slightly inane and poorly written, however, as I said before, it is serving mainly as an experiment to test out this app on my phone.

Conclusion: I doubt if I will be using the app to compose posts in the future. I had to use my laptop to fix some problems with this post, and I was dissatisfied with the editing abilities of the app. Besides, I prefer to compose first in a word processor. But I'm glad I tried the experiment.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Military Monday: 1 May 1781 – Pierce Butler Pennel and the Militia’s Rendezvous

A "Brown Bess" flintlock musket
By Antique Military Rifles (Originally posted to Flickr as Brown Bess) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Staunton River splashed against its banks by Ward’s Ferry. Birds chirped in the trees. Spring flowers peeped up from the ground here and there, with the promise of more to come. Off in the distance a new sound broke through the natural stillness: a sound of footsteps approaching. Louder and clearer they became, and were joined by other footsteps, and voices. Animals vanished into the underbrush. Soon the splashing of the river was drowned out by the arrival of the numerous voices and footsteps of men. There were about a hundred of these men, some, perhaps, attended by their families who assembled there to wish them a hearty or a tearful farewell. “Ragtag” is a term often applied to these men and their peers, with their piecemeal attempts at a uniform, their spotty training, and their diversity of arms. Most provided their own weapons: fowling pieces or muskets, the latter usually equipped with bayonets, and perhaps a flintlock “Brown Bess” captured from the enemy in a previous engagement. Knives and swords, and perhaps even tomahawks, were also represented among these men’s accoutrements.

These men belonged to the Bedford county militia; they were the latest company under the command of Capt. Adam Clements. Many of these men were already battle-hardened, having returned to their homes from their previous tour of duty within the past month. Some had fought against General Corwallis’ troops at the recent patriot defeat at the Guilford Courthouse, only a month and a half before, where they saw what appeared to be the British artillery firing on their own men in their zeal to drive away the American rebels. And now these American rebels were returning to action, once again leaving their homes, their families, and their farms neglected.

It must have been hard to do. Although the call to duty was in defense of their liberty, if their crops were ruined, they may end up in an even worse position than if they were forced to remain under British rule. A few of those called up could ill afford the time away and sought replacements. Some were fortunate enough to have a brother willing to serve in their place. Sometimes a substitute could be hired, but there is no evidence that any of the men meeting at Ward’s Ferry that day were hired. Most men heeded their own call to duty.

One of these Bedford county militiamen was Pierce Butler Pennel. Whether he was one of those who had recently returned from action is unknown, but it is certainly possible and even probable. Of his fellow militiamen in this company who later applied for pensions, all but one (John Lambert) declared prior service. The muster rolls for many of these previous companies no longer exist, so the declarations of pensioners must be relied upon as evidence.

In May of 1781, the War of the American Revolution had already been dragging on for many long years. A few of the older men, true patriots, had been serving on and off for half a decade or so. Now this company was headed south into the Carolinas to come to the aid of General Nathanael Greene and his forces in their campaign to drive the British from the south.

Ward’s Ferry was probably the most logical and convenient location for this rendezvous of the militia. Not only could it provide for the necessary crossing of the Staunton River in the men’s impending march south, but the proprietor was Maj. John Ward, who was to be one of the commanders of their regiment. He lived in “the Mansion” nearby, and could easily join his men from there.

With the forces assembled, and the leaders prepared, it was time to begin the long march to the south.


Pierce B Pennell, muster rolls of Co. Capt. Adam Clement's Militia, 1 May 1781; U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783; digital images, Operations, Inc., "Virginia: Western Battalion, 1781-1782 (Folder 341) - Various Organizations (Folder 364)," Ancestry ( : accessed 12 Jan 2017).

Will Graves & C. Leon Harris, Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters ( : accessed 14 Jan 2017), pdf numbered B57 "Militia List –Capt. Adam Clements"; pdf numbered W5635 "Pension Application of John Arthur W5635"; pdf numbered W5636 "Pension Application of Thomas Arthur W5636"; pdf numbered W345 "Pension Application of William Caldwell W345"; pdf numbered S30387 "Pension Application of Thomas Dixon S30387"; pdf numbered S8567 "Pension Application of Archelaus Gilliam S8567"; pdf numbered S16403 "Pension Application of Robert Hall S16403"; pdf numbered W7648 "Pension Application of Edward Hancock W7648"; pdf numbered X916 "Pension Application of Samuel Hancock X916"; pdf numbered S16445 "Pension Application of John Lambert S16445"; pdf numbered W8071 "Pension Application of PatrickLynch W8071"; pdf numbered S6299 "Pension Application of Luke Valentine S6299"; pdf numbered S7802 "Pension Application of Charles Walker S7802"; pdf numbered S16583 "Pension Application of Joseph Wood S16583"; pdf numbered W2506 "Pension Application of George Woodard W2506"; pdf numbered S17208 "Pension Application of Jacob Woodard S17208."

Other Works Consulted:

Ivy Kenneth Blecher, Three Centuries of American Wars: History of American Wars (accessed 20 Feb 2017), "Revolutionary War Weapons." 

Janice Poole, "Rose Dove Dalton and Albert Lee Dalton Homeplace," Genealogy: Our Astounding Past, 16 Mar 2010 (accessed 20 Feb 2017).  

J. D. Lewis, Carolana ( : accessed 20 Feb 2017), "The American Revolution in North Carolina: The Battle of Guilford Court House." 

J. Lloyd Durham, "Outfitting an American Revolutionary Soldier," Tar Heel Junior Historian (Fall 1992); reprinted online, North Carolina Government & Heritage Library at the State Library of North Carolina, NCpedia (accessed 20 Feb 2017). 

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, "North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program," database and images, North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program (accessed 20 Feb 2017); Marker ID=J-3: Guilford Courthouse

R. H. Early, Campbell Chronicles and Family Sketches: Embracing the History of Campbell County, Virginia 1782-1926 (Lynchburg, Virginia: J. P. Bell Company, 1927), "Ward Family," transcribed and contributed for use in the USGenWeb Archives by Joy Fisher .

Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey (hosts). "The Battle of Guilford Courthouse." Podcast audio. Stuff You Missed in History Class., 31 Aug 2015. Web.