William Darius Burdick – Civil War Letter


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This letter [transcript at end] was written 22 December 1864 by William Darius Burdick (1826-1897) of Walworth Co., WI to his brother Ethan Burdick of Adams Co., WI.  They were two of the sons of Peleg Clarke Burdick Sr. and his wife Thankful (Hall), formerly of Otsego Co., NY.

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Transcript, William Darius Burdick letter 22 December 1864
[Verbatim, sentence breaks/punctuation added for clarity]

Dear Brother
I receved your letter vary gladly and thankfully. I am well as comon, probably I never will have the use of my right leg again but the lords will must be dun. I am vary glad to hear that your famely is well. I have not hurd from my famely sense the 9 of this month, then my wife was up around the house. Ines was braking out with the small pox. You wanted to know whare my famely lived. They liv whare they did when Marget was down thare. I bought 40 acers more thare. It mks me a good home now.
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I will giv you a little nolage of my soldering. I enlisted the forth day of last […?] I staid hear in madison two weeks and then went down to Nashville and staid thare three weeks and dun gard duty in Nashville and then we started to go [frunt?] We Mached 15 days. I ws on scurmish line five days. We Marched 25 mills one day and bilt two brest works and the last one we bilt was about ten o’clock at night and thar is whare I got hurt by a log and after I got hurt we was orderd to lay down under the brest works. We wernt aloud to have our tents up and it raind aful hard
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and I tookt cold in my hip. This was on tailars ridg in gorgy. The next morning we had orders to marck and the doctor came and told me I must go back. He told me to lay thare on the ground untill the ambelane came up and then git in and go to the Hospital but when the regment started I took my gun and started, used it for cruck and when we got about half a mile the rebs took pesesion of our brest works and thay wold took me to if I had staid thare. I went that day with them and then went to the Hospital in ringold the 13 of last may.
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I hav ben in the Hospital ever sence. I was transfrd hear the 2nd day of last August. They hav mde out my dischrge and sent it to milwake to hav it sind. I enliste[d] in the 22 regment co D. Right as soon as you get this from your Brother W D Burdick
Ethan Burdick


Benjamin & Laura Hutchinson Descendants


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A few photos from the Hutchinson side.  Benjamin Hutchinson was born in Columbia Co., NY and apparently moved to Erie Co. in that state before 1832.  He is said to have died in 1857 although where he was residing at that time is a mystery.  A number of his descendants ended up in Adams Co., Wisconsin and I have seen speculation that Benjamin relocated with them in the 1850’s although proof is lacking.

Benjamin and wife Laura (Ticknor) had a grandson, Moses Gardner Hutchinson (son of Lenardo Hutchinson), who appears to have used his middle name more than his first name although he does appear as Moses G. in one census.  Moses Gardner Hutchinson was born in 1850 and died in Adams Co., WI in 1924.  A photograph of him is identified on the back as Gardner Hutchinson.

The family photo collection has  photograph identified as “Bert” Hutchinson.  This Bert would appear to be a son of Almond Hutchinson.  Almond was another of the children of Benjamin and Laura, a brother of Lenardo and uncle to Gardner.  Almond resided in Adams Co., WI, then in Mauston, Juneau Co., although his death occurred in South Dakota.  Almond Hutchinson’s family in 1870 included a “Burtis” Hutchinson, age one year, and in 1880, in an appallingly bad census enumeration, what appears to be “Birtin” Hutchinson.  Presumably, this is the Bert Hutchinson in the next photograph, who would have been a grandson of Benjamin and Laura.

The next photo was identified only as “Mrs. Bert Hutchinson”.  It’s a favorite of mine due to the prop and undoubtedly modern-for-the-times apparel.

Next we have brother and sister Howard and Millie Hutchinson, children of Moses Gardner Hutchinson.  They were great-grandchildren of Benjamin and Laura.  Millie married my great-grand-uncle, Jasper Oakes, and died when she was not yet thirty.

A solo photo of Howard.  I’m really not sure about that plaid bow tie, Howie…

And lastly, Sarah Hutchinson Edmonds Robinson, daughter of Benjamin and Laura.  Sarah married Joseph Cleveland Edmonds and, after his death in the Civil War, married Joshua Robinson.


An Old Anecdote

They say that, as long as someone remembers, a person is never truly dead. As a young man back in the early 1930’s, my father did seasonal farmwork in the Dakotas. One of his employers was a man he always called ‘the old Norwegian”. Years later, he could still do a perfect impersonation of the man’s charming accent and remembered his particular brand of wisdom.

He would always chuckle when he recited a certain quote. Long after my father’s death, my mother would recall the statement and repeat it. I have no idea whether the immigrant, whose name I never knew, had descendants who may have preserved memories of him or if the members of my family were the last to remember the old Norwegian who always said, “It’s not so hell to be poor, it’s just so damn inconvenient.”

A Bit of Nostalgia


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When I was a child, we used to go to movies and sometimes live stage events at the Al. Ringling Theater in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  It was an enchanted place with burgandy velvet curtains over the doorways and wall sconces in the hallways with little lampshades and a magnificent painted ceiling.  As I recall, it was in excellent condition in those days although I understand it fell into some degree of disrepair in later years.  Named for its donor, one of the brothers who founded the famous circus, the theater has recently undergone a total restoration.  The world needs all the beauty it can get these days so, although it may not be exactly genealogical, I thought some of the photos belonged here.

Ringling Theater

Ringling Theater

Ringling Theater

Ringling Theater Ceiling

Ringling Theater 2nd Floor Hallway

If you happen to be in central Wisconsin, check for the guided tour times.  It’s worth the money and the time to see, as is Mr. Ringling’s former home a block or so away.  It’s unfortunate that most who come to the area are drawn only to the overblown tackiness of a nearby tourist town with its waterslides and copycat entertainments, but that’s the way of things.  Just thought I’d put in a word of appreciation for something of more enduring beauty.

Olin School Memorabilia


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Not related to this lady but she probably served as the schoolteacher for at least one of my ancestors.  Her name was Mary Morse and, judging by the date, the George Oakes listed as clerk for the school board would have been my 2nd-great-grandfather George Henry Oakes.  The treasurer’s surname is shown as Witlig; I’m not aware of any families with that name but there were Wittigs in the area so I have used that name for tagging.

George W. Oakes


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A snippet for the Oakes folks today. I never knew that gr-gr-gr-grandpa had any particular claim to heroism, but the local newspaper accorded him that status.  This information did not appear in his obituary but as a remark in an editor’s page entry, which suggests to me that the information may have come from Edwin Herren.  The two men served in the 4th Wisconsin (and, once again, I refer anyone interested in the subject to Michael J. Martin’s book on their history).

Kilbourn Weekly Illustrated Events, Vo. 1, No. 141, page 8
Saturday, April 12, 1906
Major Ed. Herrren, of Fond du Lac, came today to attend the funeral of George Oakes. He has reason to entertain an especial regard for his former comrade. When Major Herren lay on the battlefield with a shattered leg from which he would certainly have bled to death George Oakes, in a hail of bullets and shells, picked up his commander and carried him to safety.

“Safety” is a somewhat relative term in this instance.  Herren (then holding the rank of captain) was taken to a field hospital where he survived the amputation of his shattered leg.  He would ultimately live to the advanced age of 82.

Luck of the Draw

One often hears comments about the large families some of our ancestors had, but there were not infrequent cases where a single turn of fate could have wiped out an entire lineage. It’s interesting to consider the thin thread which connects some of us not only to our ancestors but to being on this planet at all.

The influenza epidemic of 1918 nearly took my maternal grandfather’s life; he was a newlywed at the time. Close call for his as-yet-nonexistent descendants. His own survival at birth had been fortuitous, given that his only two siblings had been stillborn. My 3rd-great-grandmother bore nine children, most dying at birth, only two surviving to adulthood. (Her daughter made up for it, producing fourteen children. Took that ‘be fuitful and multiply’ thing just a bit literally.)

On the paternal side, my 2nd-great-grandfather’s first wife died when their only child was still very young. He remarried and had another son with his second wife; she died while he was serving in the Union army, six months before he himself died in the war, leaving both of the children orphaned and in somewhat perilous circumstances. Second-great’s own grandparents had both died in their twenties, having had only one child.

If Grandpa had succumbed to influenza . . . if Hannah had been one of the seven siblings who died rather than one of the two who survived . . . if a kindly schoolteacher hadn’t stepped in to rescue my orphaned great-grandfather from being underfed, overworked, and generally mistreated by the relatives who had taken him in . . . a very thin thread close to breaking at many points. It might be considered something of a wonder that I’m even here.

Dolbiar/Gillett Ancestors


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Have I ever mentioned that Comcast is the devil’s own internet service? It doesn’t work well anywhere on earth that I know of and there’s certainly nothing heavenly about it, so I can only conclude that it comes from below and probably should go back there.

With that said, here’s a little something that might interest the descendents of Mary Dolbiar, wife of Jonathan Gillett of early Windsor, CT. Mary was the daughter of Rawkey Dolbiar of Colyton, Devonshire. Back in 1563, Mary’s grandfather, Robert Dolbiar, married Agnes Sampson. Agnes was reportedly the daughter of Nicholas Sampson of Hawkchurch, a small, out-of-the-way village in Devonshire, and these are photos of its parish church taken in 2016.  Although the church was closed when we were there late one afternoon, a charming elderly lady who lived just across the road happened to be the keeper of the keys.  Seeing us in the churchyard taking photos, she inquired if we would like to go inside the church and kindly fetched the key so we could have a look around.

Vera Oakes Harkness Brubaker


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Something for the Oakes folks. This is my grand-aunt, Vera Oakes, and her first husband, Earl Harkness. The photograph appears to be their wedding photo. I remember Vera from my childhood, a diminutive woman whose laugh was a cute little giggle that with a sound at the end like the squeak of a mouse. Vera, born 1893, was the daughter of George H. Oakes and his wife Nettie (Wintersteen) of Adams Co., WI.  Earl Harkness apparently died when his and Vera’s only child was still an infant; Vera subsequently married Albert Brubaker and resided in Stillwater, MN. This photo, taken at the Bennett studio in Kilbourn, now Wisconsin Dells, was inscribed on the back to her grandmother Oakes (nee Annie O’Hara).


Gavin Mystery


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Most of the old photographs in the family collection are of relatives.  It’s just a matter of tracking down the connection.  Of course, there have to be exceptions, just to keep it interesting.  The young woman in the first photo is identified as Etta Gavon, photo taken 1905.  Second, a photo having only the notation “Gavon and wife” but a photographer’s imprint shows Chippewa, Wisconsin as the location.  Census to the rescue – in 1900, we find William J. Gavin, his wife Sarah and, voila, daughter Etta age 12.  Five years later, she would be 17, which looks about right for her photograph.  So, best guess is that the couple are her parents, William J. and Sarah Gavin.  So far, so good.


So what’s the problem, you ask?  There is absolutely no connection that I can find between the Gavins and any of the family lines.  They weren’t related, they weren’t neighbors (didn’t even live in the same part of the state), they have no reason to be in the family photo collection.  And yet, there they are.  William was born in Wisconsin, his parents born in Ireland.  According to other sources, Sarah’s maiden name was Cutsforth; she was born in Wisconsin and her parents were born in England.  How did they become acquainted with a family in Adams County and become friendly enough to exchange photographs with them?

Just another unsolved genealogical mystery, but if anyone is looking for photos of these folks, feel free to grab ’em.