Thursday, February 26, 2015

Adam Close: Dependent on Only Son (#8 of 52 Ancestors)

My 4th great grandfather, Adam Close, wrote his will on February 1st, 1865. He stated he wanted his debts and "funded expenses" to be taken care of, and then he proceeded to give money to his heirs. He bequeathed five dollars to each of his daughters: Catharine intermarried with M P Crosthwaite, Julia Ann intermarried with John W. McClintock, Jane relict of David W. McKay, and Harriet intermarried with Doctor John W. Riddle. And then he gives five dollars to his "son, James M Close (if living)."

From Adam Close's Will in Mercer County, Pennsylvania 1865
When I first came across this will, I was saddened to think that Adam didn't even know if his son was still alive. Was James off fighting in the Civil War? And, did he survive?

When I found James' death date, I became confused. James did fight in the Civil War and was killed on May 8th, 1864, about 9 months before Adam wrote his will. Why didn't Adam know his son had been killed? And did Adam learn of his son's death before he died nine months after writing his will?

Just a few days ago, I got more insight into this family. I was surprised to find that Adam's widow, Catharine, had applied for a pension for her son's service. But, after reading through forty-four pages, I understood why. I guess it was somewhat unusual, but a dependent father or mother could also apply for a pension. And, from this file, it appears that James' parents had been dependent on him.

Adam Close suffered from Phthesis Pulmonalis, also known as consumption, for at least five years and possibly for fifteen or more years. Now known as tuberculosis (TB), this bacterial infection can attack any organ in the body though it most commonly is found in the lungs. It was also called "consumption" because it basically consumed a body causing a severe weight loss. Besides weight loss, patients often suffered from weakness, fever, and night sweats. When TB attacked lungs, patients would suffer from coughing, chest pain, and coughing up blood. [From CDC site.]

Although this disease was contagious, at this time people thought it was hereditary. Many people with a TB infection don't suffer from the affects of it but can still spread the disease.

For the last three years of his life, Adam was confined to his "room and bed." One affidavit states that Adam "was so reduced by the disease that he was a charge and care to his wife and family instead of a support for them..."  It goes on to say that Adam refused prescriptions that an elderly doctor gave him which left James "soley and entirely" in support of his family... by his labor with all the necessaries of life for a period of five years previous to [James'] death. 

James took on the responsibility of caring for his parents. By the age of 16, he worked as a farmer and gave his parents all of his money "except so much as was necessary for his own clothing." While in the army, he sent money home in his letters.James registered for the draft in 1863 at the age of 21, but he actually joined Company H of the 150th Infantry Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers on February 13th, 1864. Less than 3 months later, he took place in what I believe was his first battle, the battle of the Wilderness in Virginia. At the age of 23, James was shot "by a ball passing through from the back and coming out at the breast." [Widow's Pension Application]

Although James died less than three months after leaving to join the fighting, his parents evidently didn't know of his death for presumably many months. Some friends said that Adam and Catharine "could not maintain themselves but it became necessary for the neighbors to assist them in order to keep them from suffering." Catharine, who was only 62, was described as "old and feeble." "She has no means else of support and cannot possibly live without aid from some source having lost her husband and given her only son and support to her country."

So, Adam Close lived dependent on his only son for the last three to five years of his life. He suffered from a dreadful disease and had to watch his "feeble" wife depend on their son, and later their neighbors, too. As Adam approached death, it appears he held out hope that his only son was still living.

Adam's own father, Peter Close, had died when Adam was only about 12 years old. Though Adam lived with an older brother, I imagine he had to 'grow up' and take care of himself at a fairly young age. Adam was only 68 when he died and, though evidently quite ill, it must have been hard for him to depend on his own son for not only his welfare, but his wife's, also.

Source: All quotes are from Catharine Close's pension application for the service of James M Close (WC136993) found on Fold3

My Line of Descent
  • Adam Close (1797-1865) m. Catharine [Longwell?] (1804-1889) 
  • Julia Ann "July" Close (1826-1905) m. John W McClintock (1825-1890) 
  • Catharine Jane McClintock (1852-1929) m. Alexander Stewart (1852-1922) 
  • Andrew "Andy" McClinock Stewart (1882-1954) m. Bessie Waldron Merrill (1879-1959) 
  • James Edward Stewart (1910-1972) m. Hazel Lucille Peters (1910-1975) (my paternal grandparents) 
(Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow at "No Story Too Small" for creating "52 Ancestors" where we can share our ancestors stories, one week at a time.)

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Complex Evidence" Webinar by F Warren Bittner: A Case Study Demonstrating GPS

I'm a member of Gen Proof Study Group 37 which is currently studying Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones. We are learning about GPS or the Genealogical Proof Standard and have each chosen a research question which we are using throughout the course.

Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, blogged about a Webinar a few days ago. The Webinar, which took place tonight, was "Complex Evidence" by F. Warren Bittner. I was a little afraid it'd be over my head as it was hosted by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, but it was perfect for me!

He started with explaining the "goal of genealogy" and going over the 5 parts of GPS. Then, he discussed the Evidence-Evaluation Standards including sources, information, & evidence. This was a wonderful review, but the best part of the presentation was his case study.

His main point, in my opinion, was that many genealogy research questions cannot be answered by a single, direct piece of evidence. Instead, you need complex evidence, which he defined as being "established by multiple strands of indirect evidence combined to establish identity and prove relationships."

What I really appreciated was how he went through many pieces of evidence (he showed us about 30 pieces relating to one research question!) and discussed the following with each:

  1. Is the source original, derivative, or authored?
  2. Is the information primary, secondary, or unknown?
  3. Is the evidence direct, indirect, or negative?
  4. What is the complete source citation?
I'll share my research question for my class and how I would answer these questions based on what I've learned both from my Gen Proof class and Bittner's webinar.

RESEARCH QUESTION: Who was the father of Catharine (10 Apr 1804 in PA - 18 Feb 1889 in Clinton Co, PA) who married Adam Close (1797-1865)?

John Longwell will (cited below), page 1
Evidence #1: Will of John Longwell, 1892, which lists his sister, "Catharine Close."
  1. SOURCE: derivative [it was copied into the will book]
  2. INFORMATION: primary [he would have first hand knowledge of his sister named Catharine Close]
  3. EVIDENCE: indirect [it doesn't specifically answer my question]
  4. SOURCE CITATION: John Longwell (1892), Mifflin County Will Book 7: 298, Armagh, Pennsylvania.[Unfortunately, I have a lot of sources that I have never cited and don't have complete information to write a source so I'll have to write what I have on this one] 
[By the way, something very interesting about John Longwell's will is the fact that he lists his 6 sisters... who are all deceased! But, he didn't have any children and I think he actually is intending the money to go to the heirs of his sisters.]

The BCG site says this recording "may be available online at a later date." If you get a chance to listen to this lecture, I'd highly recommend it! And, you can follow the SpringBoard blog to find out about future presentations.

P.S. The BCG site now has this webinar, and others, available to view "on demand" for a small charge. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bessie Merrill: Child Silk Mill Weaver (#7 of 52 Ancestors)

For centuries children have worked to help their families. They have helped their parents farm, run stores, and do other businesses. But, during the American Industrial Revolution, many children went to work in the mills and mines. They would often work up to twelve hours a day, seven days a week, at dangerous and even deadly jobs.

In Pennsylvania, in the later 1800's, both mindsets and laws were changing to protect children. Work hours were decreased and children were required to attend school for a certain number of months a year. Minimum ages were set in place for certain types of work, though many worked anyway.

In Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, where my ancestors lived, a silk mill opened in 1899. Three hundred people were to be employed, including many women who would work as weavers. By September of 1900, 220 looms were in operation.

Lock Haven Silk Mill, The Scranton Republic, Scranton, Pennsylvania, 02 Jun 1889,
page 2, column 3
, digital image, (, accessed 13 Feb 2015

My great grandmother, Bessie Merrill, was one of the first employees. Twelve months after the mill opened, in June of 1900, the census listed Bessie's occupation as a weaver in the silk mill. At the age of 21, she was still single and living at home. She had been unemployed "0" of the past 12 months.

Her sister, Dollie, was also a weaver at the silk mill. But, she was only 15 years old... an age when most of the girls in Lock Haven were still in school. At the age of 15, she would have been considered a "child laborer."

Bessie and Dollie's father, Augustus, was a shoemaker at this time. He and his wife, Sarah Jane, had six children: two boys and then four girls. One son was off fighting in the Philippine-American War and the other son was grown. That left four daughters in the house with ages from six to twenty-one.

What kind of hours did Bessie and Dollie work at the mill? What were the conditions like? Did Dollie miss school? Did the girls have friends at the mill? And, did they need to work to help their father support their family? 

Bessie married my great grandfather, Andrew McClintock Stewart, less than a year after the census was taken so she probably didn't work at the mill very long. Dollie was still single and living at home when the next census was taken and was no longer working at the silk mill. She was working as a dressmaker.

Dollie made good use of her skills. A newspaper article from 1901 shows Dollie, then 17, working with the Ladies Aid Society of Lock Haven Hospital. She was a member of the sewing committee which had donated sheets, gowns, pajamas, and aprons for the nurses and surgeons. Dollie's contribution was 5 nightgowns "made free of charge by Miss Dollie Merrill."

Dollie would eventually marry not once, but three times. She died at the age of 83 in Williamsport leaving behind her two daughters, three grandchildren, and her oldest brother, James Eastwood Merrill.

(Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow at "No Story Too Small" for creating "52 Ancestors" where we can share our ancestors stories, one week at a time.)

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

Monday, February 16, 2015

What Did It Take to Become a Census Enumerator?

My great, great grandfather, Augustus L Merrill (or A. L. Merrill), was a census taker in 1900. In 1910, he was a census supervisor overseeing 4 counties and 180 enumerators in north central Pennsylvania.

1900 Census for Lock Haven, Clinton County, Pennsylvania
Augustus L. Merrill, Enumerator (image from Ancestry)

What did it take to be an enumerator?

A. L. Merrill Opens Office, Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 16 Nov 1909,
page 4, column 6
, digital image, (, accessed 12 Feb 2015
I found a fairly lengthy article that describes the application process. These applications would be wonderful genealogy finds... if they still exist. Does anyone know?

Here's the article which is also from the newspaper, Williamsport Sun-Gazette. This one is dated 14 Jan 1910 on page 8 in column 3. It can also be found on


Blank Applications May Be Obtained from Supervisor A. L. Merrill, Lock Haven – Tests Are Not to Be Difficult - What Is Expected of Enumerators

Census Supervisor A. L. Merrill's office is at Lock Haven, has received from the Census Bureau a supply of blank applications for persons applying for positions as census enumerators. These will be forwarded to his list of applicants as soon as possible.

The applications, properly filled out, supervisor Merrill writes to the Gazette and Bulletin, must be returned to the Supervisor not later than January 31, the Census Director having extended the time for filing from January 25, which was the date first set for closing the consideration applications. The test will occur February 5, as previously announced.

The instructions printed on the application form states that a definite answer is required to each of the questions, which are:

“Are you a citizen of United States? If naturalized citizen, when and where were you naturalized?

“Of what State or Territory are you a legal resident? How long have you been a legal resident thereof? Of what county and of what town or city or ward are you a resident? How long have you been a resident thereof?

“What is your sex and color? What was your age at last birthday? Where were you born?

“What is your education? (Give the principal facts.)

“What is your professional or business experience? (Give the principal facts and, if at present an officeholder, name the office you hold.

“Have you ever been employed on census work, either national or state? If so, in what capacity and for how long a period? If an enumerator, for what territory or desk district? (Described as accurately as possible.)

“Are you physically capable of a full discharge of the duties of the Census enumerator? Have you any defect of either sight, hearing, speech, or limb? If so, state nature of defect.

“Do you speak English? Do you understand and speak any language other than English? If so, what language? (Specify languages spoken, as Bohemian, Chinese, Danish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Luthianian, Magyar, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slavic, Spanish, Yiddish, etc.)

“Are you a member of a political committee of any party? (Answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ but do not indicate what party.

“In view of the fact that you may be required to take a test before postmaster, state what post office would be most convenient to you for this purpose. (This test is a practical character, consisting chiefly or holding a filling out a sample schedule of population from information furnished regarding typical families, and in the case of enumerators whose work will be in rural districts, the filling out of a sample schedule of agriculture.)

“Are the answers to each of the foregoing questions true to the best of your knowledge and believes? Are they in your own handwriting?

Indorsements [sic] of each applicant must be secured from two representative citizens of the community in which the applicant resides. They must be at least 21 years of age and acquainted with the applicant not less than one year. Indorsements [sic] will not be accepted from any person who is in any way related to an applicant. The indorsement [sic] certifies that the applicant is a thoroughly trustworthy and honest person, of good habits, and, in my opinion, is fully capable of discharging the duties of a census and numerator, if appointed.

Too quiet any qualms relative to the “test” of the qualifications of applicants, to be made February 5, the supervisor has obtained some information from the census director concerning the test of twelfth census enumerators. It has been officially stated that the 1910 “test” will be very similar to the one in the preceding census and will consist in requiring applicants to fill sample schedules from printed narratives concerning census facts. As the rural enumerators are to carry both the population and agricultural schedule, they will be “tested” with samples of both, but the city enumerators, who carry a population schedule alone, will only be required to prove their ability by filling a sample of that schedule.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Great, Great Grandmother Threw Up WHAT?!?

My great, great grandmother, Sarah Jane (Eastwood) Merrill, had evidently been ill for five years when a "marked change in her condition" took place. What was her very strange ailment? And, what occurred to make her feel better? Here's the brief article I found:

50 Years Ago, The Express, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, 20 Jul 1967,
page 1, column 4
, digital image, (, accessed 12 Feb 2015

After five years' illness, Mrs. A. L. Merrill was making good progress towards recovery. A marked change in her condition being after an attack of nausea, when she emitted an object which it was believed was a lizard...

A lizard? I don't think so.

What about a snake? No, probably not. But, I shared another story from 1885 where a man supposedly threw up 'snakes' several times. They thought it was because he accidentally swallowed snake eggs while drinking from a spring.

Snakes? I don't think so.

In this case, it was probably some kind of parasite, right? Perhaps a tape worm?

But, what about my great, great grandmother and the lizard?

I found another story about a woman vomiting up a lizard. And, this article at "Unexplained Research" describes the lizard: The lizard, if it is such, is light brown in appearance and is somewhat translucent. It is the opinion of Mrs. Sieger that her mother accidentally swallowed the lizard in some water when it was very small, and that it had grown in her stomach to its present length of six inches.

I'm pretty sure both of these "lizards" had to be some kind of parasite. I did some research trying to determine what kind of parasite might be mistaken for a lizard. So far, I haven't found anything.

This event must have been traumatic for my great, great grandmother who was almost 70 at the time. And disturbing those around her. As for me? I'm hoping I don't have nightmares tonight... not only from her story but from looking at photos of parasites. Gross!

Do we have ancestors in common? If so, I'd love to talk! Please email me at

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cornelius Vincent: Prisoner of War Love Story (#6 of 52 Ancestors)

My Vincent ancestors moved from Essex County, New Jersey to Northumberland County, Pennsylvania in the mid to late 1700's. During the Revolutionary War, they were at Fort Freeland when it was attacked by the British and their Indian allies in 1779. The women, children, and elderly men were set free, but the able-bodied men were marched to Canada as prisoners.

In 1876, The Columbian published a series of articles titled "History of Columbia County." The fourth part of this series was published on January 28th and told about the capture of Fort Freeland.

Part of the article tells about Bethuel Vincent:

It would be interesting to know who were taken prisoners, and who returned from the captivity. But one case is known, that of Bethuel Vincent, who had been married a short time before he was taken prisoner. His wife returned to her home in New Jersey. For four years she heard nothing from her husband. One evening she was out with a sleighing party, and having stopped at a tavern a roughly dressed stranger inquired if a Mrs. Vincent lived in the vicinity. She was pointed out to him, and he informed her that he knew her husband in Canada, had lately seen him, and that he was well. On the return home the stranger went with the party, and the extra passenger crowding the sled, he proposed to take Mrs. Vincent on his lap; but she indignantly declined the familiarity, whereupon the stranger discovered himself to be her husband, when the proffered courtesy was joyfully accepted.

What a lovely, romantic story! Bethuel was the brother of my 5 times great grandfather, Daniel Vincent, who was married to Angelchy/Angelica. But, it looks like the author of this story got a major fact wrong! The following week a letter is published in The Columbian which attempts to correct a mistake made in the story:

This letter from A. I. Quigley explains that the story was actually about Daniel Vincent (my direct ancestor), and not his brother, Bethuel. And, this information is from Daniel's grandson-in-law!

Bethuel Vincent, who was supposedly the subject of the story, didn't marry until about 1788 while the attack on the fort occurred in 1779 so the 'sleighing' incident would've taken place about 1783. Daniel's wife, however, gave birth to their first child in late 1779 several months after the attack on the fort. Their second child wasn't born until late 1783, which pretty much corresponds with the story that she hadn't heard from her husband in four years. (Though perhaps, and hopefully, it was more like three years.)

So, I'm happy to claim this story for my 5 times great grandparents who were separated for several years after Daniel was taken captive and marched up to Canada. She might have thought she'd never see her husband again. But, I love how my 5th great grandmother "indignantly declined this familiarity" of sitting on a stranger's lap until, when she realized it was her long lost husband, she "joyfully accepted" the "proffered courtesy." What a happy reunion that must have been!

(Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow at "No Story Too Small" for creating "52 Ancestors" where we can share our ancestors stories, one week at a time.)

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

Saturday, February 7, 2015

SNGF: Ancestors or Cousins Born on Your Birth Date

Randy's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge tonight is to see if you have any ancestors or cousins that share your birth date. You can find the 'rules' on his blog, Genea-Musings.

1. What is your birth date? (Not the year... just the month & day)

February 22nd

Robert F Barnett's headstone, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Salt Fork, Grant Co, OK
Image by bobetx1 posted at FindAGrave

2. Do you have anyone in your tree who shares your birth date? (Randy's post shows how to find this from your genealogy program)

There is one person on my tree with my same birth date: Robert F Barnett (1843-1912). He is not a direct ancestor, but he is someone I'd like to research more. He is one of the husbands of Matilda Katharine "Kate" Coppenbarger (1848-1899) who is the daughter of Peter Coppenbarger (1817-1847) & Mary "Polly" Randolph (1818-1885) who were my 3rd great grandparents. Their son, Josiah Randolph Coppenbarger (1844-1934) was my great, great grandfather, and Kate's brother.

I'm going to extend this 'challenge' & see what I know about him & his wife & what I can find out.


I have Robert F Barnett's birth & death dates (1843-1912) & place of birth (WV). I don't have recorded where I got this information. I also have him in the 1880 census in Sumner Co, KS with his wife, Kate, and their two children, Lawrence & Luna who were 10 & 8. So, I also have their marriage date & place (1868 in De Witt Co, IL) though, again, no documentation. Robert was Kate's second marriage, so I believe they were together until her death in 1899 in Oklahoma, though I also show she was buried in Wisconsin. (Sadly, again I don't have any documentation!)


  • Find A Grave entry showing burial in Grant County, Oklahoma and verifying years of birth and death. It also shows Kate buried here, so I don't think she's buried in Wisconsin!
  • Found another son, Ray, through census records
  • Found Robert was born in Illinois, not West Virginia (several census records)
  • Found Robert as a child with his parents & siblings in De Witt Co, IL
  • Found the family on the 1875 census which showed daughter's name as Lura, not Luna
  • Determined his probable place of death (Grant Co, OK) based on the census of where he was living two years before his death and where he was buried
3. Share!

Here's my post. I found quite a bit in about 30 minutes of work. It's always a good idea to follow this children of your ancestors!

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

Emil Peters (Part 2): Helped Build Wichita's "First" Sky-Scraper (#5 of 52 Ancestors)

"His main occupation was a carpenter and cabinet maker finisher. He went to carpenter school in Wichita KS and helped build the first sky-scraper, the Schweiter Building at Douglas and Main."
[Beulah (Peters) Brewer, daughter of Emil Wilhelm Peters, in her genealogy notes]

When I read those sentences, I wanted to learn more about this "first sky-scraper" in Wichita that my great grandfather helped to build. Emil must have been very proud of this building to have told this story to his daughter and for it to be one of the few things she wrote down about him. So, what could I learn about this sky-scraper? And, what could I learn about Emil's role in building it?

The Murdock Building, The Wichita Beacon, Wichita, Kansas, 26 Nov 1910,
page 14, column 4
, digital image, (, accessed 07 Feb 2015

Wichita actually had several 'sky-scrapers' before the Schweiter Building. The Wichita Beacon calls the Fletcher Building "the first 'skyscraper,', a relic of boom days." On the same page, it states that the Murdock building was "Wichita's pioneer skyscraper." The Murdock was started in 1907 and was the "first steel construction building in the city." It's height: seven stories. It's cost: $55,000.

The Beacon Building, The Wichita Beacon, Wichita, Kansas, 19 Dec 1911,
page 16, column 1
, digital image, (, accessed 07 Feb 2015

Another skyscraper was started and finished a little before the Schweiter. It was The Beacon Building, home of The Wichita Beacon among other businesses. It took less than 6 months and cost $400,000 to build.

The Schweiter Building, The Wichita Beacon, Wichita, Kansas, 19 Dec 1911,
page 16, column 1
, digital image, (, accessed 07 Feb 2015

So, the Schweiter might actually be considered the fourth skyscraper in Wichita. Like the Beacon Building, it stands ten-stories tall. It cost over one-half million dollars and was "one of the most modern, fire-proof and complete buildings of the Middle West."

The article goes on to describe the building to prospective tenants. It demonstrated how different things were 100 years ago! Each office contained:
  • Hot and Cold water.
  • Running filtered ice water. [How was it filtered?]
  • Perfect Electric Lighting with plugs in the baseboard for desk lights and desk fan. [No air conditioning, so you need fans!]
  • Solid Oak Coat and Toilet Cabinets.
  • Lavatories on Every Floor.
  • Solid Oak Woodwork Throughout.
  • Four High-Speed Elevators. [How fast were they?]
So, what did my great grandfather do to help "build" the Schweiter Skyscraper? Since he was primarily a carpenter and cabinet maker, he probably did some of the woodwork like the "solid oak coat and toilet cabinets" and the "solid oak woodwork throughout." Maybe photos can be found of some of this woodwork.

I'll end with one more quote by my grand aunt, Beulah (Peters) Brewer. She wrote, "He [Emil] was foremost, a carpenter by trade, and many of the buildings he built still stand in Sumner and Cowley Co, Kansas. He was well known for his good work and maintained that two nails are better than one. He was highly respected by his fellowmen for his integrity, as well as his acute workmanship as a carpenter."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Emil Peters (Part 1): Water Boy for the Cherokee Strip Land Run (#5 of 52 Ancestors)

At the age of 16, Emil (pronounced "Aim-uhl") Peters had lived his entire life in the small town of Walton, Kansas. The largest nearby town was Arkansas City (pronounced "R-Kansas") whose population was about 5,000. Emil must have been amazed as he watched Arkansas City swell to over 75,000 people.

Street Scene in Arkansas City, Chicago Daily Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, 14 Sep 1893,
page 1, column 1
, digital image, (, accessed 04 Feb 2015

Arkansas City was located just north of the Cherokee Strip, a narrow piece of land in Indian Territory just south of the Kansas border. This narrow strip of land belonged to the Cherokees who had used it as hunting ground after their forced arrival in Indian Territory. But, for the few years before 1893, this land had been leased from the Cherokees for cattle grazing.

President Benjamin Harrison cancelled this lease and decided to open this "strip" of land for settlement. Nine points of registration were chosen: five to the north in Kansas and four to the south in Indian Territory. Arkansas City, chosen as one of nine registration points for the Cherokee Strip Land Run, became the largest entry point.

(image from Wikipedia)

People were desperate for land after "...a decade when droughts, sharply declining agricultural prices, and the Panic of 1893 bankrupted many farmers. Clustering in Kansas's boomer camps, multitudes waited, on the verge of starvation, living in tents or makeshift dwellings, anticipating the opening of the last large portion of good land in the public domain." [Source: "Cherokee Outlet Opening" at]

After Waiting Six Months, Chicago Daily Tribune, Chicago, Illinois14 Sep 1893,
page 1, column 1
, digital image, (, accessed 04 Feb 2015

"Tens of thousands gathered at booths, located on the prairie with neither shelter nor immediate access to water or other necessities. Only forty-five clerks staffed the nine locations, so lines often reached a mile long with people four abreast. Many held their places for days without water. Dry weather, choking dust, and smoke from nearby prairie fires afflicted the shuffling crowds. At least ten people died of heat stroke and similar problems. Arkansas City newspapers reported fifty cases of sunstroke in one day; six victims died that night. About 115,000 individuals eventually received certificates, but many people never managed to register; at least twenty thousand still stood in lines the day before the run." [Source: "Cherokee Outlet Opening" at]

A Pen Picture, Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania18 Sep 1893,
page 1, column 6
, digital image, (, accessed 04 Feb 2015

Finally, at noon on the 16th of September, 1893, a cannon "boomed" and the settlers took their flags to claim the already marked out parcels of land. They did the 'run' not only on horseback and with buggies and wagons, but also on foot, by bicycle, and by train. I wonder if my great grandfather, Emil Peters, and his family watched this historic event.

Not long after the Cherokee Strip Land Run
(Photo in possession of my Uncle Jim of Arkansas City, KS)

My grand aunt, Beulah (Peters) Brewer, wrote in her genealogy notes that her father, Emil Wilhelm Peters, "was a water boy for some who ran in the Cherokee Strip." He must have brought water to the people in their tents or waiting in line during the days and even months leading up to the largest land run in the United States history.

Not a Garden of Eden, The Record-UnionSacremento, California18 Sep 1893,
page 1, column 3
, digital image, (, accessed 04 Feb 2015

As I did newspaper research, I came up with more about the "water boys" of the Cherokee Strip Land Run. This is from the Chicago Daily Tribune:

To add to the discomfort there is such a scarcity of water that boys are peddling that necessity of life at five cents a cup, and the dirty fluid is eagerly bought. Men human enough to give their horses drink, pay 20 cents a pailful, or at the rate of $8 a barrel, and yet this is just the beginning. So-called restaurants sell sandwiches and pies dirty and filthy looking. The hungry purchaser never stops to cut off the outside for fear of losing a morsel of the precious food. All the water is hauled from Arkansas City, four and one-half miles distant, and yet supply is far short of the demand. [Source: Boomers Lack Bread, Chicago Daily Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, 11 Sep 1893, page 2, column 5, digital image, (, accessed 04 Feb 2015]

This article answered some of the questions I had about Emil's life as a water boy, but I'd still love to know...

  • Did the whole family watch the big run that day? And, what was it like to see so many people?
  • Did Emil work with his older brother, William? Or with a friend? Or did he work by himself?
  • Did he make a lot of money? And what did he do with it? 
  • Did he see a lot of suffering? Did he ever just stop and help a young child or an elderly woman who was choking on the dust or suffering from heat exhaustion? 
  • Did he realize what a historic event he was witnessing?
I will end with a quote of J. S. Wade who was thirteen in 1893. Sixty-three years after the Cherokee Strip Land Run, he recorded what he remembered from that day. In those pages, he wrote: " ...what a day it had been! Before that day had ended over six million acres had become a land of homesteaders. In this country no other equal area of land ever before had been settled with such speed and completeness. What a day it had been! [Source: "Uncle Sam's Horse-Race for Land: The Opening of the 'Cherokee Strip'" by J. S. Wade]

Other Source: various American Countryside podcasts

(Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow at "No Story Too Small" for creating "52 Ancestors" where we can share our ancestors stories, one week at a time.)

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

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