Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Start of the Book

 One of the genealogy blogs I follow offered a challenge for February. Lynn Palermo began a writing challenge to encourage people to begin to write their family histories. I took this to heart and wrote the very first part of the book about the Langford family. So far, I have gotten pretty positive feedback along with a few really good suggestions. Here is what I have so far;

Oscar’s first memories were of his loving Griswold family. Pa Griswold had a farm near Fredonia, New York near the border with Pennsylvania. When Oscar was old enough to be a helper, he was Pa’s “cow” boy.  He would help milk the cows and feed them. It was, for about ten years, an idyllic childhood near the beautiful Lake Erie.

Oscar was sent to school at the big red school house in Laona, where he made many friends. As he reached his teens, Oscar became strong enough to help with the heavier work on the farm. There was a lot of wood chopping as every house needed firewood and Pa had lots of trees.

While he had many schoolmates there was one older girl who checked on him regularly. Oscar really liked her and was happy whenever Jeanette Walker came around.

Oscar also liked to read the local paper and was fascinated by the news. There was a lot going on in the country in 1850: westward expansion, Indian Wars, talk of ending slavery. It was in the paper one day that Oscar read about Jeanette’s upcoming marriage to a cabinet maker from Fredonia that Oscar knew, Peter Wise. But, her name was not Walker. It was Langford.

Oscar asked Ma and Pa how this could be so confused. He was 13 now so they sat him down and explained. When Oscar was about three years old, his mother, Fannie Mansfield Langford, died and the Griswolds took him in as their own. Jeanette was his sister and had been taken in by the Walker family. Oscar was still confused but he was very happy to learn that the older girl that came to visit was his sister! Oscar asked about his father but the Griswolds only knew that he left the area. But, Oscar had family.

Jeanette filled him in on the many brothers and sisters that he had, although they were scattered across the rapidly-expanding country by this time. Some had left before he was born. Two of the other young boys were also raised by families nearby. Oscar quickly discovered that he was part of a much bigger family and he couldn’t wait to learn all about them.

From that day forward, Oscar went by the name “Oscar Langford”.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Eliza, can we talk? 
I have spent a lot of time looking for you. I know that you are one of Oscar's older sisters. You were born about 1817, possibly on one of Charles jaunts to Canada. But you seem to be able to dodge me at every turn. Oscar has helped. He told me that he met you for the first time in Monroe, Wisconsin, probably in the mid 1850s. But that's about it.
Cousins have provided a little more information including several possible married names and at least one other possible location.
On the back of some old pictures one cousin wrote that you might have lived in Unique, Iowa. Unique is now officially a ghost town according to Wikipedia.  And, unlike some of your siblings' locations, Unique is a long way from Clinton or Davenport.
How did you get married without leaving some kind of record behind, somewhere? Did you have children? How come no one has a birth or baptismal record for them?
I have looked, and looked and looked, but you still elude me. I have done searches in every place that I know, but no Eliza. 

So, I thought I better ask you directly if you can help me discover your story. One more solid clue, is all I ask. People are indexing new records every day for ancestry.com and familysearch.com. Have one of them index a record that gives us the answer we need. Or send me back over some plowed ground where I missed a seed.
I know that Oscar wants me to find you and include your story. And, I believe, that Charles, your father, would want your life recorded. This Langford family story is waiting to be told so that every one, torn apart by the challenges of their times, can be brought together again. This time, we are not leaving anyone behind on their own. 
Just like all your brothers and sisters have done, help me.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Deciphering Old Pictures

Langford cousin Pierce Eichelberger provided a wealth of old pictures passed down in the family. Some had names on the back, others did not. Some had names of the photographer and studio, and some had the town name where taken.

The easy ones to figure out have already been posted. Here are a few more that I have tried to decipher.

I believe that this may be Peter Wise and the two daughters that he had with Jeanette Langford, Delia and Mary. I think this because it was taken in Clinton, Iowa, and the ages look about right. Jeanette and Peter also had a son, James Henry Wise, and it is possible that this is a picture of the three children. I am not very good at estimating ages.

Here is another picture that was labelled with only Wise on the back. It was taken in Winona, Minnesota, which makes it unusual.

Another picture which I think I have figured out is below.This was taken by a photographer in Boone, Iowa. The only Langford family to reside in Boone were descendants of Jane Langford and Merritt Allen. Their daughter Mary married MJ Mann and had several children.
This I believe is their son, Harry Mann. He can be found living in Boone from 1910 or earlier until 1940.
He and his wife Cora had two daughters, Neve and Dolly. The pictures below were all taken in Boone as well and may be their children at various ages:

And the three pictures below were all taken in Clinton or Lyons, Iowa. They are almost certainly relations of the Langfords in some way.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

More on the McGinnis Family

I looked further into the descendant of Oscar's sister Harriet and her husband Alexander McGinnis. They had one grandson, Walter Raymond, who we had lost track of after 1900 when he was living with Harriet on the family farm. Here is some more detail about Walter's life.

In 1918, Walter registered for the World War I Draft in Omaha, Nebraska. He listed his wife as "Nellie" and their address as 110 Golden. His occupation was Refrigeration Engineer for the Pilsbury-Becker Engineering Company with offices in the Central National Bank Building. He listed his height and weight as medium and said he had blue eyes and red hair.

In the 1919 Tulsa City Directory, Walter is now Manager of the same engineering company and his wife is "Nellie" again.

In the 1929 Houston City Directory, Walter is listed as Vice-President of Marine Service, Inc. living at 3812 Austin Street Apt 3. with his wife "Ellen".

In the 1930 Census, he is living with his wife now listed as "Helen" who is 40 years old and who was born in New Mexico. They also have two 23 year old roomers living with them, Nora Mae Clements and Alpha Barnes.

It also appears that Walter's 1952 death was big news big news back in Ohio. I discovered his death was on page 1 of the Coshocton Tribune. I suspect that his mother Bianca stayed in the Coshocton area and he visited regularly. I have sent away for a copy of the article. This should provide any information about his children, if any, and answer the question of his wife's correct name.

I obtained this article and can add this last note. The article described the death of a famous son of Coshocton. He was well known there because his wife's family continued to live in the area. His wife had died before him and it listed no children as surviving him. Apparently, this was the end of Harriet Langford's line.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oscar's sister, Harriet Langford McGinnis

Pictured above about 1870, is Harriet Langford McGinnis, sister to Oscar Langford. Harriet came west with her father, Charles, to Iowa, in the early 1840s. Likely, she was the one who ran the household as one of the last older daughters still at home when they moved. In the 1850 census she is listed as living with the Hann (or Hahn or Haun) family in Elk River Township, Clinton County, Iowa. There is a little patch of land there known as Hauntown, which I believe is the correct spelling. Her age is listed as 28 and she is likely working for them helping with the household. Living in his own house in the same township, with his family was her brother Charles, his wife Hannah and four of their children. Also living in this township, was her father Charles. His age is 50 and he is living with Ellen Collins, 33, and her four children. His occupation was wool carder. 

Harriet was married to Alexander Stuart McGinnis in Iowa in 1851. Her birth year was 1819, according to the script on the back of this picture. Alexander had been married before and had children to raise following the death of his first wife, Ellen Collins.

Let me reconstruct this as best I can. Alexander McGinnis married Ellen Collins on April 5, 1838, in Clark County, Ohio. They moved to Perry in Jackson County, Iowa. Jackson County is directly north of Clinton County. They had three children: Angeline L (1839-1862), Helen A. (1841-1867), and lastly William Wallace (1844-1920). According to the McGinnis genealogy, Ellen died the day after William was born from complications of childbirth.

The fact that a Collins family is living in Clinton County with Charles E. Langford while Alexander McKinnis is found in Jackson County, Iowa in the 1850 census,with only his 11 year old daughter, Angeline, may just indicate there were two farms to run.

The bigger mystery seems to me, that the McGinnis family lore is that Ellen Collins died in 1844, yet here she seems to be, living as Ellen Collins. This may be coincidence as the children in the two households vary, and the first names might be Ellen and Elizabeth. They could have been twins or sisters. I will have to work further on this.

From letters written by Oscar to others we know that Harriet moved to Coshocton, County, Ohio, where they farmed. They can be found there is the 1870 census. We also know that Alexander was appointed postmaster of Wakatomika, Ohio, from 1873 to 1891. We further know that Harriet and Alexander had two sons, both named Charles McGinnis. The first son, Charles S., only lived for a year or so. The second son, Charles E., lived to the age of 34, but did marry, to Bianca Wright, and had two children, Georgiana and Walter Raymond. Georgiana was born in late November 1880 and died the day after Christmas.

In the 1900 census Harriet can be found listed as a widow and still living on the family farm at age 77, along with her grandson, Walter, age 18.

I have not yet been able to locate a death record or burial site for Harriet. Neither have I found out what happened to her grandson, Walter. But there is a tantalizing clue provided in the picture, above. The picture is captioned "Redding" and a search for the photographer indicates he was in California. So, did Harriet retire to a nicer climate?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

William G. Langford in Vancouver, Washington

Over the Thanksgiving weekend we visited our son and his family in Vancouver, Washington. This Vancouver is just across the river from Portland, Oregon, and is always confused with the Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, to the north about 5 or 6 hours.
We had a few free moments and visited the Clark County Historical Museum there. We knew from Oscar Langford's writings that his brother, William G. Langford studied law in Vancouver, and practiced law there. We were hoping to find any information that we could about his time there.
Once we had reviewed the exhibits at the Museum, we went downstairs to their research library. And while we didn't find a lot, we were encouraged to learn that they are in the process of digitizing the entire collection of Vancouver Chronicle newspapers.
We also found a mention of William G. Langford. He was one of four attorneys who advertised in the very first issue of the Vancouver Chronicle, on June 30, 1860.
Another mention was found that he only stayed in Vancouver until 1862.
Here are pictures of William and his wife, Julia, taken in Walla Walla about 1880.

These photos and some others were generously shared with us this fall by Langford cousin, Pierce Eichelberger. Unfortunately, not all of them had identification. I will be posting the others soon.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Another Letter from Oscar

It seemed like I had found everything that there was to find about Oscar Langford, his parents and siblings. My next step in recording a family history, is to write the story. So, I set out a rough outline and began to write the first chapter "Finding Oscar Langford".

The key factor in finding Oscar was genealogyintime.com, a web site recommended to me on Twitter. It was here that I got the first inkling that Oscar had written a number of letters to a newspaper in Fredonia, New York, where he spent his youth. I tracked all these down and they led to me to many other discoveries until I finally had the whole story, or so I thought.

They say that the things that you really learn are the things you learn after you know it all and that was the case for me. In writing Chapter One, I tried to recreate the original search I did last November. And, this time, I found a new poem and a new letter. The poem was from the same time frame, the mid 1920s, as the letters I found last year. The new letter, however, was written much earlier, 1913. It is a rehash of some of Oscar's 1920s letters with a couple notable exceptions. He mentions meeting his brother Charles E. Langford and calls him "a wealthy farmer". He also mentions his sister Eliza and that she was living in Monroe, Wisconsin. Eliza is the one sibling that I have struck out on. Its almost like Oscar is feeding me information!

Here is the full letter:

Boyhood Reminiscenses

    I was born in Erie County in 1833, and reared in Chautauqua County. My mother died in Fredonia when I was about three years old, leaving a family of eleven children, of whom I was the youngest. My father, a mechanic, then went west, some of my older brothers and sisters being left to take care of the younger children. Afterward I was adopted by Benjamin Griswold, a farmer, living about half way between Fredonia and Laona. The rest of the family except my sister, Jeanette, were scattered to the four winds, several of them before my birth. Jeanette was adopted by a Fredonia merchant named A. H. Walker, with whom she lived until about 1845, when she married Peter Wise, a cabinet maker, at Laona. My brother, James, died at their home a few years after their marriage.

    I was brought up to believe my surname was Griswold and that Jeanette’s name was Walker, and did not know she was my own sister until her marriage, when I found out her real name and my relationship by reading the marriage notice in the Censor with the name of Langford. Finding it then useless for further concealment, my foster parents informed me of my forgotten but true name, by which I was afterward known. It would not probably interest many of the present generation in your region to be told of my humble boyhood spent on the farm, and at “the old red school house” on the hill at Laona, at intervals up to about the age of sixteen. Then the Griswold family broke up and I was left to get along the best I could.

    Then I became a boy wanderer or tramp for many years, often facing starvation where there was plenty, without any place I could call home in Chautauqua County or anywhere else. I remember becoming so hungry one day in autumn, near Fredonia that I went to a field, dug potatoes out of a hill and tried to eat them raw. Failing in this, I took a few of the vegetables, dug a hole in the sand and roasted them. Afterward I managed to get to Jamestown by riding on the seat with a stage-driver. There I had similar experience as a “hobo”  among strangers. To try to describe my varied experiences there might be interesting, but it would intrude too much on your space.

    I finally got to Erie, Pa., after enduring many tribulations. I there came across A. P. Durlin, one of the publishers of the Observer, and a relative of W. McKinstry, editor of the Fredonia Censor. Applying to Mr. Durlin to learn the printing trade, I found out the above facts and that he knew my brother, James, when working on the Censor. I served three years with Durlin and Sloan, the name of the firm, and then went to Iowa, where I had a brother, the oldest in the family, whom I had never seen. He was a wealthy farmer. Mr. and Mrs. Peter Wise lived on his farm. At the latter’s home I was introduced to my own father, whom I then met for the first time since I was an infant.

    I worked on many different newspapers in that region, which was then a new country, and more thinly populated then Colorado is today. I saw many small towns in Iowa grow into big cities, among them Clinton, which was plotted in 1854 and now contains some 25,000 inhabitants. In that city I worked for Charles E. Leonard, publisher of the Herald, who in 1860 became the father of Lillian Russell, who is now the the reputable, much-married but retired actress. I there met another sister I had never met, and a brother whom I had never met but once, who lived with still another brother (William), at my sister, Jeanette’s home in Laona, in the late 40s. The last named many years afterward became a noted lawyer and a judge of court and died in Spokane, Washington, in 1893.

    Several years later I came upon a married sister, Eliza, at Monroe, Wis., and another one, Jane, with family at Two Rivers, on Lake Michigan. They both were total strangers to me until these first introductions and subsequent acquaintances.

    Among my school mates at Laona I recall the names of Floyd and David Ramsdell, Frances Graham, the mother of Postmaster Clark of Fredonia, Wm. Cook and sister; the Hall brothers, Fred Boynton and three brothers; Avis Sage (now Reed), Dorinda Thompson, nee Clough; (deceased) the Moore sisters, and Cooper sisters, Henry Skidmore, Tom Morian, Jule Miller, John Russell (afterwards a Fredonia lawyer). Theron Winship, and many others I might mention if your paper had room for them. I would be glad to correspond with any of those who are living and may read this letter.

    Well, I am getting old, near four score years. It seems but yesterday when I worked about the old Harrington farm and played “I spy” with the boys at the old school house at Laona. Strange that in my infirmity I can remember those youthful experiences so much better than recent events, of which my memory grows dim. God Bless old Laona!

    I give you this above condensed autobiography for what it is worth. I trust it may awake some pleasant memories among the surviving comrades who may read in in your grand old paper, whose appearance is as welcome as a visit from God’s angels.

Oscar Langford
Union Printers Home
Colorado Springs, Colo.
December 3, 1913