Today’s post is about Dr. Perry Elgin Prettyman, the brother of my 4th-great-grandfather, and the uncle of Alfred Wharton Prettyman, the subject of a recent post. Perry was, by all accounts, an intelligent and hard-working man. Among other things, he was a medical doctor who specialized in herbal medicine, a pioneer, and an inventor. He was also the man who was quite possibly single-handedly responsible for introducing dandelions to the Pacific Northwest. More on that later.
Perry Prettyman, like two centuries of Prettymans before him, was born in Sussex County, Delaware. He was born on March 20, 1796, in Georgetown, Delaware, to Thomas and Mary Prettyman. He married Elizabeth Hammond Vessels in Georgetown on October 23, 1824. A couple of years later, in 1828, he began studying medicine at the Botanic Medical School in Baltimore, Maryland.
Perry and some of his siblings, for whatever reason, made the decision to leave Delaware and head west to seek their futures. His brother Robert headed to westernmost Virginia (now West Virginia), and another brother headed to Chicago. Perry arrived in Missouri in 1839, and stayed there for eight years. On May 7, 1847, he and his family started west again, traveling by wagon over the Oregon Trail to the Oregon Territory, a journey that took them five months and three days to complete.
At the age of 27, in the spring of 1854, my 3rd-great-grandfather, Francis “Frank” Gores (born Franciscus Gores), left his native homeland in the Kingdom of Prussia (or Königreich Preußen) with two of his siblings—Johann, aged 29, and Maria, aged 25. Francis was noted to be a farmer, and his brother Johann was recorded as being a butcher. They were leaving Schönecken, a small market town in Rhenish Prussia (in what is now the Rhineland-Palatinate on the western edge of Germany), home to the Gores family for many generations prior to them.
The village of Schönecken is located in the valley of the Nims river, which meanders through the hilly landscape of the Rhineland-Palatinate. The 400-million-year-old sandstone bedrock that forms the hills produces rich soils for agriculture. The population today is essentially the same as it was in 1854—about 1500 people.
I do not yet know why the three siblings decided to give up their lives in Europe and head to the United States, but one contributing factor may have been the famine that struck much of Europe due to repeated crop failures that began in 1846–1847, most notably potato rot. Land prices were also rising at a pace that exceeded the profitability of farming the land; if a farmer sold his land, however, he could easily afford to relocate his entire family to the United States.
My 3rd-great-grandfather, Alfred Wharton Prettyman, was the man responsible for bringing the Prettyman family to Minnesota. I haven’t yet written a post about Alfred W. Prettyman, so this will be an overview of his life, to be built upon in future posts.
By the time of Alfred’s birth, seven generations of his Prettyman ancestors had lived their lives on the Delmarva peninsula. The immigrant John Prettyman moved to the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in 1643 (he actually immigrated from England a few years earlier, first settling on the the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay 1638, in St. Mary’s, Maryland). While the immigrant John died in the Virginia portion of the Delmarva peninsula, his son John and his descendants have lived in and around Sussex County, Delaware, ever since. In fact, this year marks 370 years that Prettymans have lived in Delaware, and 375 years that Prettymans have been in North America.
Alfred Wharton Prettyman was born in Georgetown, Sussex County, Delaware, on December 1, 1823, to Robert Prettyman (1800–1863) and Elizabeth (Pepper) Prettyman (1803–1837). While Alfred would be the last Prettyman of his line to be born in Delaware, it was actually Alfred’s father, Robert Prettyman, who first broke tradition and departed the Prettyman’s ancestral stomping grounds in Delaware for the wilds of West Virginia (then just the western portion of Virginia). According to Edgar Cannon Prettyman’s 1968 work, The Prettyman Family in England and America, 1361–1968, Robert lived most of his life in Woodsfield, Ohio. Woodsfield is just about 15 miles to the west of the Ohio River and the West Virginia border.
I came across this tidbit while exploring yet another database of historical newspapers (Elephind for those who are interested). In the morning edition of The Saint Paul Daily Globe for Monday, October 27, 1890, the candidates for the state legislature were named. The candidates represented a total of four political parties (with the exception of three candidates running as independent):
Joseph Askew was listed as the Alliance candidate for representative of the 53rd State District of Minnesota. He was running against W. R. Baumbach of the Republican party and T. R. Foley of the Democratic party.
My 3rd-great-grandfather Chester William “Chet” Eddy (1846–1928) was the contemporary of my 3rd-great-grandfather Col. Joseph Askew (1840–1911), and the two men had much in common. Both left the familiar regions of their childhoods and decided to settle in Wadena County, Minnesota, to be able to homestead and own their own land. Both were among the earliest settlers of Menahga, MN (Joseph built the first framed building in Menahga, the Arlington Hotel, and Chet built the first sawmill in Menahga), and they were both industrious, hard-working men who worked a variety of jobs over their lifetimes (Joseph: miner, land-clearer, farmer, sawyer, hotel proprietor; Chet: gardener, farmer, sawyer, carpenter, grocer, bicycle mechanic).
The lives of the two men became intertwined when Joseph’s son Wilfred married Chet’s daughter Hattie around 1894, presumably in Menahga, MN—the village that Joseph and Chet helped found, and where Wilfred and Hattie most likely met.
It’s been a long and tiring week, and so when I finally had a chance to sit down and write this morning, I found myself staring uninspired at a blank page. Seeking inspiration, I looked for databases I haven’t yet explored. The university at which I work has a great library that I can access online, and after I bit of poking I discovered a database of 19th Century British newspapers (called, for those of you who are curious, 19th Century British Library Newspapers).
I know little about the lives of my 3rd-great-grandfather Joseph Askew and his family before they migrated to Minnesota in 1875, so I set out to see if I could add learn anything at all about Joseph Askew’s time in England. I was successful, and I’d like to share one of the first items I found, about a train crash just outside Whitehaven, Cumberland.
The Commercial Hotel (on the National Register of Historic Places, now repurposed as the Commercial Apartments), is a three-story Queen Anne Style, late Victorian brick building on South Jefferson St. in Wadena, Minnesota, that served as an anchor for the Askew family, especially the women of the Askew family, for decades. I’m still trying to understand this aspect of the Askew family, so this post will serve as a place to gather my notes and sources about the Askews at the Commercial Hotel. I have a lot to learn about this subject, so please do leave comments if you can further illuminate the subject.
In the Spring of 1901, Joseph Askew and his wife Jane leased a three-story brick hotel called the Wadena Hotel. They soon renamed the hotel the Commercial Hotel, as their target customers were travelling salesmen who came by train and needed a place to eat, sleep, and display their goods. After a time, Joseph purchased the Hotel for an estimated $10,000 (the equivalent of about $275,000 in today’s dollars).
In previous posts, I’ve written about Horace Scott’s (my 3rd-great-grandfather) service in the Civil War, and discovering that his father Hiram Scott (my 4th-great-grandfather) enlisted as well, after Horace fell ill from tuberculosis in 1864. Hiram joined his son in Company C of the 95th Regiment of Illinois Infantry Volunteers, where he contracted and died of dysentery. From Hiram’s wife’s claim for her widow’s pension, I learned that Horace had a younger brother (Winfield) who was too young to fight in the war and who stayed home in Illinois with his mother.
While looking for more information on Horace and Hiram’s service in Company C of the 95th Regiment of Illinois Infantry Volunteers, I came across the Illinois Civil War database, hosted by the Illinois State Archives. Using this database, I discovered that there were not just two Scotts in Company C of the 95th Regiments, but four. There was also a 19-year-old Willard J. Scott and an 18-year-old James H. Scott. Were these yet more brothers of Horace? Scott is not an uncommon name, so I compared the details of the four records (below) to see if I could see any patterns. Continue reading →
The death of my great-great-grandmother Harriet S. “Hattie” (Eddy) Askew, young wife of Wilfred L. Askew, was a bit of a mystery at the time she died, and it’s been a big mystery to me for years, given that the evidence I had (mainly family stories until recently) was scant and often contradictory. I had reported in previous posts (here and here) that Hattie died of pneumonia while on a trip to Cripple Creek, Colorado, and that she was buried in Cripple Creek. I had also heard that she died on a train while travelling between Cripple Creek and Wadena, Minnesota. More recently, I heard another version, that “Hattie’s death was in childbirth, the baby died too. It was in a snowstorm and they could not get the doctor there in time.” Continue reading →
In a little under a year, I’ve reached a milestone on this blog with this, my 100th post. To you, dear reader, I’d like to say thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, helping, and inspiring me. Family history may sometimes seem like a solo pursuit, but at its core, it’s a cooperative affair. Family history is about our history, and we all have a role to play in ensuring that this history survives. Think of the heirlooms and old family photos you might have in your house. You would not have those had someone else not taken at least some care to help preserve and protect them. I am utterly grateful to my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond for making sure that some of our family’s history survived long enough to make its way to my hands and eyes.
Just as those who have gone before us helped preserve history for us, so must we help preserve history for the future. The more we try, the more history will be preserved; the less we try, the more history will be lost. History is not just a collection of facts and artifacts that survives on its own and can be counted on to always be there. If we don’t take an active role in nurturing and protecting our history, it will be slowly be lost.