Monday, December 12, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Centennial History of the Town of Springdale, Dane County, Wisconsin, 1848-1948; William A. Housel's Reminicence of James P. McPherson and His Family, Part 2

The Centennial History of Springdale does not have an index nor table of contentes, and even though the following is identified as a "Continuation," I have been unable to locate the first part of William  Housel's story of old Springdale.

William Housel (b. 1856) was the youngest son of Furman (sometimes written as Ferman or Firmin) and Margaret Housel, who was a neighbor of J. P. McPherson. Not only were the Housel's neighbors, but their families became intertwined when William's sister, Mary M. Housel married J.P. McPherson's second son Jabez Burns McPherson. So William Housel's stories of the McPherson are a combination of family tales as well as Springdale stories.  I find it odd that Housel refers to the marriage of William Burns McPherson to Rozetta Miles, but failed to mention that his sister married William's younger brother Jabez Burns McPherson -- but perhaps that tidbit is in the missing "first part" on this remininsence. 

Housel talks glowingly about Major William Burns McPherson, the facts appear rather different.  It is true that William, or Billy as he was called in the family throughout his life, was quite proud of serving in the Civil War and his Civil War button was usually prominently shown in pictures.  In fact, one widely distributed  picture of William B. McPherson,  I  now question because the Civil War button is not present.  In addition, William, James and Jabez look very much alike in their 30s and 40s.

William, or Billy,  served in Company E /8th Wisconsin Infantry and the Pioneer Corp.  According to the database the U. S.Civil War Soldiers Records and Profiles, William enlisted on January 9, 1862, at the age of 19; however, his service record shows an enlistment date of September 1, 1862.    The September enlistment date is also noted in the database for the American Civil War Soldiers. Both databases indicate that he enlisted as a Private, and was mustered out on September 5, 1865 at Demopolis, Alabama.  In addition, J.P's diary also indicates that he enter the service in September after finishing building the frame house for his parents.

In August, 2011, a Civil War researcher from Calgary, Alberta, Canada contacted me for additional information regarding William Burns McPherson.  She said that she  had gotten his military and pension records from the U.S. National Archives in Washington, DC and that he served as  a private and a drum (band) major.  

The following excerpt from the Centennial History of Springdale was written more than 80 years after the end of the Civil War:

Wm.B. & Emmeline Rozetta
Perhaps the most prominent soldier produced by the town of Springdale was Maj. William Burns McPherson, son of James P. McPherson, well known pioneer county commissioner, county clerk, and for many years a member of the county board and several times its chairman. Maj. McPherson enlisted in 1862, in Co., E, 8th Wisconsin, the famous “eagle regiment,” that carried “Old Abe,” the war eagle through the war. He rose to the rank of Major. He was born in New York, April 24, 1843, soon after his parents came to America from Scotland.

He was married to Rozetta Miles, daughter of Thomas B. Miles, pioneer of Springdale, whose farm adjoined the McPherson farm. After the war they removed to Clark county, Wis., but on the election of Gov. George W. Peck in 1890 returned to Madison where he held a position in the capitol. The family then removed to Alberta, Can., where Mrs. McPherson died . In 1909, he was married to Elvira Greeley McWilliams of La Valle, Wis., and located in Minneapolis, going from there to Florida in 1921. The second Mrs. McPherson died in 1924 and Maj. McPherson in March, 1926, at St. Cloud, Fla. He was buried in the Verona cemetery. He was a brother of Mrs. Margaret Burmiester and Peter B. McPherson, Madison.


  1. How frustrating that you can't find Part 1. I like your sleuthing re the civil war button in pictures and love the pic you've used here. Pauleen

  2. I'd guess that Billy liked to embellish his rank and role in the Civil War. Sometimes as the years pass--and someone ages--the stories get bigger and bigger.

  3. Yes, Sheryl, it appears that Billy did embellish his Civil War activities. At first it appeared that the "Major"-bit came from persons relating stories that they had heard about him. However, his obit seems to indicate that he allowed the legend, if not perpetuating it. Makes Billy all the more interesting to me -- who was he, what did he tell about the CW and to whom --- but tis so long ago.