Will the real Lewis Black please stand up?

Lewis Black? photo #3My adoptive great-great-grandfather Lewis Black took on the air of an almost mythical ancestor when I was young. No one I’ve ever known knew Lewis personally (he died in 1901), but everyone seemed to know things about him and have things inherited from him. There’s no question he was a real person—I’ve got loads of research to back that up—but I’ve started to wonder if everything I’ve seen and heard about the man can truly be traced back to just one man—Lewis Black.

I started to suspect this a couple of decades ago, when any question I had about the original owner of any of several heirlooms from our Kansas roots was met with the same answer: “I’m pretty sure that belonged to Lewis Black.” And then came the photos.  Continue reading

Ruth Black’s childhood home (part 1)

Charnton House, Columbia, TennesseeIn a recent post, I presented my recent discovery (thanks to cousin Sharon Black) that my adoptive great-great-grandmother Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black was a southern girl who fell in love with a wounded Yankee soldier (Lewis Black) and then ran away from her childhood plantation to elope with Lewis and start a new life in the north. Since writing that post, I’ve been wondering about the location of the plantation and the identity of the family that she left behind, never to be reunited with either.

While it may seem like an impossible task, there are enough clues to make the attempt to find her family and her plantation worthwhile.

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The unexpected life of Ruth Tucker Black

My adopted great-great-grandmother Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black lived most of her adult life in a humble sod house in Jewell county, Kansas. Like nearly all of the citizens of Jewell county at that time, she was not born there, but immigrated from elsewhere. I had thought that Ruth was born in Ohio, as that was what she (and later, her son Frank) reported on numerous federal and state censuses. Oddly, though, I was never able to find a record of Ruth before she was married. Thanks to my cousin Sharon Black, that’s no longer the case.

Earlier this week Sharon sent me a couple of stories that she found in the course of her research. One of these is an utterly charming recollection of a woman named Winnie Bonecutter Riemensnider, who took Ruth as her adopted grandmother. Winnie’s mother died when Winnie was only a year and a half old. Winnie (born Winifred Alice Bonecutter on January 8, 1896) was 54 years younger than Ruth, and when Ruth died on February 15, 1915, Winnie was only 19 years old. Clearly, however, the two had a close and abiding relationship.

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Veterans Day

US_Flag_BacklitNinety-five years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed with Germany to cease fighting the Great War. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the day would be called Armistice Day, to honor those who fought in World War I. More than three decades later—after the “war to end war” gave way to World War II and to the Korean War—the holiday was renamed Veterans Day, and was intended as a day to honor all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

In today’s post I’d like to honor all of my family members who served in defense of our country.

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An old coffee grinder

Overview of box millIn the 1970’s, my parents were given a number of antiques from my paternal grandfather’s side of the family. These were said to be old objects from the sod house that my adoptive great-great-grandparents, Lewis J. Black (1839–1901) and his wife Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black (1841–1915), built in Jewell County, Kansas. My grandparents made a trip back to that area in the 1970s with their motorhome and came back with these and other items.

I’d like to take a closer look at these items to see what I can learn about their origins and history. The items include a coffee grinder (the subject of the current post), a chopping knife or ulu, a coin purse, a rocking chair, a kerosene lamp, and two pendulum clocks—a schoolhouse regulator style clock, and and a tabletop style clock. They’re all in rather poor condition and would have almost no value as antiques, but to me, they’re priceless.

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Lewis Black’s Civil War discharge paper, part 2

Today’s post continues my earlier post on the rediscovery of Lewis Black’s Civil War honorable discharge certificate. The discharge document dates to 1864, and was fairly frequently used by Lewis (to collect the final bounty and a supplemental bounty for his service, to secure travel back to his home town, and presumably to aid in getting himself the medical assistance he required for his war injury), and then by his widow, Ruth, in securing her widow’s pension.

When I presented this yesterday, I did so quickly and didn’t present any details or analysis of the document. In today’s post, I’ll take a close look at the discharge document to see what I can learn from it.
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Lewis Black, armed and ready

Today has been a very good day for me, in no small part because I’ve found the second of two items that I’ve been looking for over the course of the last several weeks. As I’ve been inventorying, scanning and rehousing our family history collections, I’ve noticed that two of my most cherished items had gone missing. I wasn’t too worried, because I realized that the reason I could not find them was probably related to the fact that they had been carefully packed away to keep them from harm. But where?

As I was writing today’s earlier post, about the first item I found, I had a vague recollection of where this other lost item was packed away. I went to look in the few places that matched this memory, and there it was—a tintype of a mid-19th century teenager (probably my step great-great-grandfather, Lewis Black) with a pistol stuffed under his belt.
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Lewis Black’s Civil War discharge paper, part 1

Today’s post will be a short one, mainly to celebrate having located one of my most cherished historical documents—Lewis Black’s 1864 honorable discharge from service in the Civil War.

As one of my most cherished documents, I gave it special attention and protection when my grandparents gave it to me nearly two decades ago. Because it was segregated from the rest of my family history collection, I lost track of where it got packed in our last move. My wife and I made a concerted effort yesterday to go through every place it could be yesterday, and we found it in the penultimate container we searched. We were sore after eight hours of searching, but elated!
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Civil War era photo album, part 2

In part 1 of this post, I introduced a Civil War photo album that had been owned and put together by Lewis and Ruth Black, sometime around the Civil War or just afterwards. The album has spaces for 24 photos, and 23 of these spaces are filled with cartes de visite photos.

In order to determine when, where, and why the album was put together, I carefully removed each of the contained photos and scanned each of them, both front and back sides, to look for clues. In this post, I’ll present the resulting scans and will try to determine who these people are, and when and where the photos were made. Continue reading

A Civil War photo album, part 1

A couple of years ago, along with a boxful of other family history items from the Black, Edel, and possibly Shearer/Scherer lines, my father passed on a 19th century photo album filled to capacity with what appear to be Civil-War-era photographs.

The album has spaces for 24 photos—cartes de visite, to be precise, or CdVs—and all but one of these spaces is filled with a CdV. Several of these CdVs are mass-produced images of Civil War military leaders, but the rest appear to be photos of family members and/or friends.

I’d like to show you the album and then try to determine who is pictured among its pages, when the album was created, and who might have owned and/or created the album. This post will serve as the record of my research efforts towards answering these questions. Continue reading