To Acadie: A Family History Inspired Vacation

I’m all about incorporating family history with family vacations (my husband, surely, is grateful). This month marks ten years since I embarked on one such vacation. After becoming fascinated with our ancestors who settled in what is now Nova Scotia, my dad and I spent several memorable days exploring what was once Acadie on a quest to learn more about their experiences prior to the Acadian Deportation of 1755-1763.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Nova Scotia was a French colony called Acadia, or, in French, Acadie. The residents were peasants who farmed land reclaimed from the sea and developed peaceful relationships with the natives. After the colony was transferred to British control, the Acadians proclaimed their neutrality. However, during the French and Indian War, the British colonial officers became suspicious that the Acadians might be providing aid to the French. With the support of New England legislators and militia, approximately 11,500 Acadians were forcibly deported from Nova Scotia and the surrounding maritime provinces. As the Acadian men, women and children were ordered aboard ships, their lands were confiscated and their homes were burned to discourage their return.

IMG_2167After reaching Nova Scotia, my dad and I made our way from Halifax to the Grand-Pré National Historic Site. Here, a church stands to commemorate the site where Colonel John Winslow rounded up the local men and boys to declare the terms of the deportation. A statue of Evangeline, Longfellow’s fictional Acadian heroine who became separated from her lover, stands here as well. We were fortunate to visit Nova Scotia in 2004, the 400th anniversary of French settlement in North America, as we were able to see a musical performance of Evangeline in Pointe-de-l’Église.

IMG_2193We also paid a visit to the Port-Royal National Historic Site, located at the site of the original 1605 habitation that was France’s first successful settlement on North American soil. Port Royal held a wealth of information about this hardy settlement, and it was interesting to explore. We were particularly amused to find an artist’s rendition of one of our more illustrious ancestors, Louis Hebert, within the habitation; he served as an apothecary there before venturing on to New France.

IMG_2249We spent another afternoon strolling through the beautiful Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens, where we were able to explore a reconstruction of a typical 1671 Acadian home. The comfortable cottage featured a thatched roof and beds that each had their own cozy cupboard doors. It was fun to see how the Acadians lived as well as what they ate, as we did when we stopped by the charming farmhouse restaurant Chez Christophe for some excellent seafood and rappie pie, an Acadian specialty.

IMG_2236The Fort Anne National Historic Site overlooks the Annapolis Basin, which is from where at least one of our ancestors, Joseph Michel, was deported. Fort Anne saw conflict in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812, and it was another well-kept and informative site. We were a bit thrown off when we thought we recognized the historical interpreter as having also been at Port Royal, but as it turned out, the two men were twin brothers, and apparently used to double takes!

IMG_2272Last but not least, we made a point of walking on some of the land where our ancestors had farmed centuries before. Nova Scotia, as it turns out, is well prepared for this type of tourism, with maps at the ready – both paper and of the trail side marker variety – indicating where the properties affiliated with different Acadian surnames were once located. Nova Scotia remains quite rural, and it was wonderful to be able to picture our ancestors’ lives so clearly with much of the land still undeveloped.

After seeing a few more sites in Nova Scotia, my dad and I returned home laden with pictures, maps, brochures, books, recipes, and Acadian and Cajun music, as well as an Acadian flag and the occasional unintentional burst of an Acadian accent. Of course, it was also all too easy to see why our ancestors would not have wanted to leave their homeland, and why some Acadians underwent great hardship in order to return.

Although our direct ancestors, who were deported to Massachusetts, ultimately settled in Quebec, it is certainly telling that they named their new home l’Acadie.

Donning a Daycap for a Tintype Portrait

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Unidentified woman wearing a daycap, possibly Mount Pleasant, Henry, Iowa, ca. 1860-1865; digital image 2012, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

This woman, born perhaps in the first decade of the nineteenth century, likely lived to witness the Civil War. As inexpensive tintype photographs gained popularity, so did ornate albums where families could collect photographs of loved ones and famous folk alike.1 This tintype, measuring 1.5 x 2 inches, is closest in size to what was considered a sixteenth plate. The embossed paper sleeve in which it was placed brings the size to that of a carte de visite, allowing the tintype to be slipped easily into a slot in an album.2 Paper sleeves such as these were common in the 1860s; while this example doesn’t have a patriotic design that would directly suggest a date during the Civil War, it nevertheless seems probable that it is of that same era.

The woman’s dress has full sleeves, a high collar with possible tatted detail, and a row of fabric-covered buttons down the bodice. Her hair has a center part and is covered by a frilly, old-fashioned daycap with long ribbons that, left untied, frame her face.3 Although her mouth is turned downward, her expression seems kind as she gazes directly at the camera with large, light-colored eyes, her head tilted gently to the side.

I can’t imagine that the woman is younger than fifty years of age; depending on how strenuous her experiences in life may have been, she could also be significantly older but in comparatively good health. She has pleasant features, and, though slim, she doesn’t appear terribly frail. However, her age is apparent as her face and neck are lined and her eyes are deeply set. Daycaps, such as the one she wears, were popular with conservative, older women during this decade.4

This unidentified photograph comes from an album linked to the family of Civil War veteran Jesse M. Smith of Mount Pleasant, Henry, Iowa.5 If I were to attempt to identify the woman in a related family tree, I would look for a woman born circa 1800-1810, perhaps a grandmother or aunt who may have been close to the family. Although paper sleeves made it easier to label tintypes with the names of loved ones – as did photograph albums – perhaps this woman’s identity was so well known to the family that they saw no reason to record her name.

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Wedding Wednesday: The Parish Church

    "St. Peter's Church, Gamston," 2007, Gamston, Nottinghamshire, England; Wikimedia Commons, copyright Richard Croft.

“St. Peter’s Church, Gamston,” 2007, Gamston, Nottinghamshire, England; Wikimedia Commons, copyright Richard Croft.

It would have come as no surprise to the congregation of the parish church of Gamston, Nottinghamshire, England when a shoemaker’s son and a cottager’s daughter married on 14 April 1840.1 For three consecutive Sundays, the banns had been read by the church rector, and as no impediments arose in response to his announcement of the couple’s intentions,2 they were married on the Tuesday before Easter.3

John Fenton and Ann Bowskill (also spelled Bouskill), a bachelor and spinster “of full age,” had their union solemnized in the parish church of Gamston, also known as St. Peter’s Church.4 Just a few years earlier, it had been described in a local gazetteer as a historic but perhaps somewhat dilapidated structure: “The Church dedicated to St. Peter, ‘has once been antique,’ but its brasses have been all destroyed or stolen, and its sculptured ornaments are hid behind many coats of whitewash.”5 St. Peter’s Church dates to the thirteenth century, and received what was apparently a much needed restoration in 1855.6

Gamston, located near the community of Retford, was described as “a good village on the east bank of the Idle, where there is a corn mill and a candlewick manufactory.”7 John and Ann did not remain here in Ann’s hometown following their marriage, however, nor did they return to Bole, where John’s father was the village shoemaker.8 In fact, they seemed intent on pursuing opportunities of their own, as within a year of their marriage, they settled in Worksop, about ten miles northwest of Gamston.9

It would have taken the couple several hours on foot to reach Worksop from Gamston, but a pleasant view would have awaited them upon their arrival:

“On the approach from the east, the appearance of the town, lying in a valley, overtopped by the magnificent towers of the church, and baked by swelling hills finely clothed with wood, is extremely picturesque. Its situation is indeed delightful, and both nature and art have contributed to its beauty, for the houses are in general well built; the two principle streets spacious and well paved, and the inns clean and comfortable [...]“10

Worksop was deemed a “clean and pleasant market town,” and if John, described as a laborer in the 1841 census, was not already trained in another profession, he may have found employment in agriculture, at a malt kiln, or at one of the many corn mills.11 It was in Worksop that the couple’s eldest children were born, before, within a decade, they immigrated to America.12

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Herman and Augusta Rice, “The Most Extraordinary Dwarfs of the Age”

Headlined as “The Musical Midgets,” Herman and Augusta Rice were deemed in one newspaper advertisement to be “the most interesting little people now before the public.”1 Another called them “German Midgets” and noted that they were “The Most Extraordinary Dwarfs of the Age.”2 This carte de visite of Herman and Augusta Rice, like that of the sideshow performer Ada Zingara, was found in an antique album that once belonged to an unidentified family of Kaukauna, Wisconsin.3

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Herman and Augusta Rice photograph, ca. 1880s, New York, New York; digital image 2014, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

Herman and Augusta Rice appear dressed in fine Victorian fashion and stand next to pillars to emphasize their short stature. Augusta’s hairstyle is particularly striking; a flat bow adorns the top of her head, and small curls are arranged across her forehead in such a way that it almost seems as though they could be part of a hairpiece. The bow and flattened style of her bangs were fashionable in the late 1870s.4 She wears a carefully fitted gown with a train and no shortage of flounces, ruffles, and lace trim. With a locket or pendant necklace and a bracelet setting off her ensemble, Augusta appears to be dressed very well indeed. Herman looks equally sharp in a formal fitted dinner jacket with a pocket watch and freshly shined shoes.

SCAN0916The photograph was taken by Charles Eisenmann, a photographer in the rough-and-tumble Bowery district of New York City who frequently photographed performers such as these.5 Although he was employed as a photographer in the city as early as 1876,6 he didn’t make the move to 229 Bowery, the address stamped on the back of this photograph, until 1879 or 1880.7 Eisenmann remained at this location at least until 1883.8

Herman and Augusta Rice, an alleged brother-sister pair, appeared at Harris’ Mammoth Museum in Cincinnati in 1883,9 were affiliated with Keith and Batcheller’s Mammoth Museum in Boston in 1884,10 and were showcased as curiosities at Forepaugh’s Dime Museum in Philadelphia in 1885.11 They had toured with P. T. Barnum in 1877, at which time they, along with a third sibling, Johanna, used the more Germanic surname Reis.12 One wonders, however, whether these names were merely a part of their identities as performers.

Who were they, and what became of them when their dime show days were over?

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Military Monday: A Duty to His Family

Today marks the World War I centenary, although it would be a few more years before Ole James Nelson, a young farmer from rural Yankton County, South Dakota, would make his way overseas as a mechanic with the U.S. Navy Aviation Section.

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Ole Nelson, Charleston, South Carolina, 1918; digital image 2013, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

Ole enlisted on 3 May 1917 at the age of twenty-two, within a month of the United States entering the war.1 According to a county history, he served in Eastleigh, Hampshire, England.2 His journey to Eastleigh, however, may have been a roundabout one; in fact, he may not have left American soil for at least a year after his enlistment. One photograph suggests that he completed his training in Buffalo, New York;3 another photograph was sent to his family from Charleston, South Carolina, in May of 1918.4 That October, his sister wrote to him, commenting, “Wonder if you are still at Quebec.”5

Ole’s time in Eastleigh was likely brief. The United States Navy established a naval air station in Eastleigh in July of 1918 to assemble and repair aircraft, including Caproni Ca.5 and Airco DH.4 and DH.9 bombers.6 This, almost certainly, is how Ole made use of his time as a mechanic. The base was in operation, however, for only a matter of months, as it closed following the armistice later that year.7

As it turned out, Ole’s days in the service were numbered, although not because the “war to end all wars” was winding down. After receiving notification of his father’s unexpected death, which had taken place a matter of days before the armistice,8 Ole applied for an honorable discharge, which was granted on 29 January 1919.9 As the eldest son, Ole was to return home to manage his family’s farm and to care for his mother and younger siblings; what he did not learn until his return, however, was that one of his sisters had also passed away in his absence, having succumbed to what was said to be a combination of Spanish Influenza and shock at the death of her father.10

A return to the farm, following what must have been an exciting time in this young man’s life, was perhaps not what Ole had initially had in mind for his future, but after duty to his country, he had a duty to his family.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese

It can often feel like a lost cause to submit Find A Grave Photo Requests for graves that are situated in enormous, urban cemeteries, but as I learned last week, when an anonymous contributor answered my plea for two photographs from Concordia Cemetery in Cook County, Illinois, it is possible to get lucky.

Joachim Wiese Grave

Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 13 July 2014), photograph, Joachim Wiese (1841-1915), Memorial No. 123360232, Concordia Cemetery, Forest Park, Cook, Illinois; photograph by Anonymous, 2014. Note: The German script reads, “Hier ruhet in Gott” [Here rests in God].

Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese were Pomeranian immigrants who spent most of their adult lives in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. On 1 November 1868, accompanied by their infant son, Frederick “Fritz” Wiese, and a host of other relatives, they boarded the Electric in the great port of Hamburg.1 Their voyage lasted nearly two months; they arrived in New York the day after Christmas, 1868.2

Apparently without further ado, the family made their way to the Midwest. 1870 found them living in the urban center of Chicago, where Joachim was employed as a day laborer.3 The Chicago Fire of 1871 must have had an impact on their early years in the city; the family belonged to the predominantly German First Bethlehem Lutheran Church,4 established in an area that was developed in the years following the fire.5 By 1880, Joachim Wiese was employed as a tailor,6 a trade he continued at least for the next two decades.7 Perhaps Sophia was able to assist her husband with his work, in addition to raising their children.

Sophia Wiese Grave

Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 13 July 2014), photograph, Sophia Wiese (1843-1907), Memorial No. 123360289, Concordia Cemetery, Forest Park, Cook, Illinois; photograph by Anonymous, 2014. Note: The German script reads, “Hier ruhet in Gott” [Here rests in God].

In all, six children were born to the Wiese family: Frederick (1868-1914),8 Mary (1870),9 John C. (1873-1943),10 Minna (1876-1945),11 William (1879-1882),12 and Arthur Louis (1886-1932).13 Five children survived to adulthood; sadly, William died of diphtheria at the age of two.14

Sophia (Cammin) Wiese died of pneumonia at their home on Marion Place on 26 May 1907, at which time she was said to be sixty-four years of age.15 Joachim Wiese died at home on 2 June 1915 at seventy-four years of age.16 Their funeral services were held at the First Bethlehem Lutheran Church, and they are buried beside their son at Concordia Cemetery in Forest Park, Cook County, Illinois.

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A Golden Anniversary Celebration

One warm afternoon during the summer of 1902, a crowd gathered at the home of local pioneers Niels and Juliane Sophie (Hennike) Olsen. The couple, who had retired from farm life several years before, was celebrating fifty years of marriage, and all of their children and grandchildren were invited to their home located near the center of town at 605 Broadway in Yankton, South Dakota.1 The event was surely a memorable affair, and the local newspaper gave a glowing report of the afternoon’s activities:

Mr. and Mrs. Nels Olson celebrated their golden wedding yesterday afternoon at their home on Broadway. All their children, eight in number, were present with their families. Their names are as follows; Ole Nelson, Mission Hill; John Nelson, Viborg; Christ Nelson, Lakeport; Fred Nelson, Lakeport; Mrs. J. Nissen, Yankton; Mrs. C. Calleson, Yankton; and Miss Helena Nelson, Yankton. Rev. C.K. Solberg spoke a few words appropriate to the occasion and presented to the venerable couple two fine presents from the children, a gold headed cane to “father” and pair of gold glasses to “mother.” The “old folks” came from Denmark in 1874 and made their first home in America near Lakeport, S.D. Eight years ago they moved to Yankton, their present home. They are in fairly good health and enjoy comfort and happiness surrounded by kind children.2

Niels Olsen and Juliane Sophie Hennecke had married in Haraldsted, Soro, Denmark, on 30 July 1852.3 For the first twenty-two years of their married life, they resided in Denmark; their twenty-second anniversary, however, was spent aboard ship as they ventured to America.4 Their years since had been spent in southeastern South Dakota, where they claimed a homestead and where Niels had recently served a term as a rural postmaster. All eight of their surviving children remained in the area, and to commemorate their fiftieth anniversary, an informal group photograph was arranged on the porch of their home beneath the shade of several large trees.

Olsen Golden Anniversary

Olsen Golden Anniversary, Yankton, South Dakota, July 1902; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

The couple of honor is seated near the center, surrounded by those in attendance. Niels wears a wool three-piece suit and tie, as do most of the men, while Juliane wears a patterned shirtwaist with a bow at the neckline. Patterned, striped, or light-colored cotton fabrics seem to be popular choices among the women for their summertime wear. The adults, including the couple’s children, sit or stand in two rows, and three infants are perched on laps. Nine young grandchildren – including four sisters in matching dresses – cram together in the front, sitting cross-legged on the wooden plank floorboards. The group is relaxed; there are a few smiles, several women cross their arms comfortably, and a few maternal faces are turned away from the camera, intent on minding the couple’s many grandchildren.

I have to hope that this well-dressed crowd had the opportunity to partake in some refreshing lemonade in honor of the occasion!

In the back row, from left to right, are Reverend Solberg, Mrs. Solberg, Harry Nissen, Fred Nelson, Ole Nielsen, Harry Nielsen, John Nielsen, Eric Boysen, unknown, and Chris Callesen. In the middle row, from left to right, are unknown, Dora Nissen, Cleora Nielsen, Hannah Nielsen, Stena Callesen, Cecilia Boysen, J. Chris Nelson, Niels Olsen, Juliana Olsen, Helena Olsen, Jennie Nelson, Edith Nelson (child), Christine Nelson, and Helen Nelson (child). In the front row, from left to right, are Robert Nelson, Anna Nelson, Louise Nelson, Andrea Nelson, Julia Nelson, Bessie Nelson, Ole Nelson, Alvin Nielsen, and George Boysen.5

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