Monday, December 19, 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 3

William A. Housel's Reminicences of James P. McPherson and His Family, Part 3

The Centennial History of Springdale does not have an index nor table of contents, and even though this segment is identified as a "Continuation," I have been unable to locate the first part of William  Housel's story of old Springdale. This is Part 3 of 3.   Part 1 ( 12/5/2011 post) described J.P. political activities, and Part 2 (12/12/2011 post) told about the eldest son, Billy/William Burns McPherson. 

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. 

It is also important to remember that when William Housel was 10 years of age, J.P. and Mary were in their 50s, and his stories of the McPhersons are a combination of family tales and gossip.  Nonetheless, my favorite parts of this excerpt are the descriptions of J. P., Mary and their family life.  How I would love to have photographs of those images Housel painted in my mind.

J.P.'s knowledge and  writing ability, plus his willingness to volunteer his time to these endeavors, gave him the perfect opportunity to become an active participant in the formation and workings of  the town of Springdale and Dane county government. 

The following is found on pp. 102-105 of the Centennial History of Springdale:

James P. McPherson
c. 1860

In appearance McPherson might easily have passed for an American, but he was very proud of being a native of Scotland, and when around home and when engaged in trying a law suit there he would wear a genuine Scotch cap, with thistle ornament and narrow black ribbons at the back of it, which covered his extremely bald pate very effectively. When he ventured abroad he usually wore a large black hat unless the weather was extremely cold, when he would wear a home-made cap trimmed with muskrat fur, (home product). He wore white cotton shirts, winter and summer, with narrow black bow ties and usually went around his home wearing old-fashioned carpet slippers. He was about 5 feet, 8 inches in height and would weigh about 150 pounds. He stood up very straight, even in his old age. When he talked you would quickly discover his nationality, as he spoke with a distinctly Scotch accent, quite rapidly, correctly and entertainingly.

He was a great reader and sat up far into the night and stored in his mind all the current events of the day that he could glean from the weekly periodicals of that day, which he took great delight in regaling his neighbors with as they came to his home for their mail. He was postmaster continuously from a short time after the Civil war until the time when he moved to Verona. He sold the farm to a native of Switzerland, who with a member of his countrymen, bought up several of the old settlers farms in that neighborhood and went in for dairying.

Mary Burns McPherson
c. 1860
McPherson's wife was a small, very dark complexioned, English woman, quite reckless in her use of the letter 'H,' when she conversed. She was very proud of her husband's attainments and success in his political activities.

There were five girls and four boys in their family. Peter B., the youngest boy, had to carry on the work on the farm after the older boys were married and had left the parental roof. From lack of time for study he was not found in the school room as often as the others. The other children all had an ordinary common school education and seemed satisfied with that. They were all as bright as the average young folk of their day and generation, and were quite industrious, not only lending a hand to their mother in her household duties, but assisting with the farm work when the time of harvesting grain, or putting up hay arrived, as the father was not very strong on farm work; in fact, I never saw him put his hand to the plow or bind a bundle of golden grain.

McPherson's wife's maiden name was Burns I believe and so everyone of her sons carried that for their middle name, which was regarded as quite a joke by the neighboring people. They lived in a log house some distance from the old Madison and Mt. Vernon road, which ran through their farm, until after the Civil War, when their eldest son, William B. married one of the Miles girls (Rosetta). William B. built a frame house on the northeast corner of his father's farm where the public highway runs through it, and besides living rooms planned a good-sized room in which he place a small stock of groceries and notions and essayed to run a little country store and post office. This office had been held by his father-in-law, Thomas Miles, from a time to which my memory runneth not to the contrary, and the whole Miles family seemed to take a keen delight in sharing in the services for Uncle Sam. How Bill ever succeeded in separating them from it, whether peaceable or otherwise, we (p)atrons never knew, but he secured it at all events.

I have often thought that 'Old Mac' must have belonged to what the late Sen. LaFollette termed 'the spoil system.' He believed in getting what he could in the way of offices for himself, his relatives and his friends, but I don't think any of them were what could be called 'grafters' or dishonest people. After the boys married and moved away some of the other young fellows had a look in on the township offices.

~ ~ ~

© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

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.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

O Christmas Caroling and Blogging We Will Go--Following our footnoteMaven afar

It is my pleasure to join footnoteMaven's Annual Christmas Caroling blogging event. A beautiful Victorian Santa and being in such good company, how could I resist.  It Came Upon The Midnight Clear is my favorite,probably because I grew up in southern Oregon's high desert where winter nights are cold, crisp, and clear  --- and the stars so bright it seems like you can reach up and touch them --- well, that is so unless it is snowing.

        It came upon the midnight clear, 
 that glorious song of old, 
 from angels bending near the earth 
 to touch their harps of gold: 
 "Peace on the earth, good will to men, 
 from heaven's all-gracious King." 
 The world in solemn stillness lay, 
 to hear the angels sing. 

 Still through the cloven skies they come 
 with peaceful wings unfurled, 
 and still their heavenly music floats 
 o'er all the weary world; 
 above its sad and lowly plains, 
 they bend on hovering wing, 
 and ever o'er its Babel sounds 
 the blessed angels sing. 

 And ye, beneath life's crushing load, 
 whose forms are bending low, 
 who toil along the climbing way 
 with painful steps and slow, 
 look now! for glad and golden hours 
 come swiftly on the wing. 
 O rest beside the weary road, 
 and hear the angels sing! 

 For lo! the days are hastening on, 
 by prophet seen of old, 
 when with the ever-circling years 
 shall come the time foretold 
 when peace shall over all the earth 
 its ancient splendors fling, 
 and the whole world send back the song 
 which now the angels sing.

Monday, December 5, 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 1.

No Table of Contents is included in the Centennial History of Springdale, so 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.

Pp. 102-105 Centennial History of Springdale
As told by William A. Housel

Continuation of his story of old Springdale days and of the noted Justice of the Peace, James P. McPherson, by the late William A. Housel, follows herewith. Housel was a native of Spring, who died recently in Spokane, Wash. The second installment of his story runs:

His (McPherson's methods of stirring up enthusiasm in those days were quite up-to-date, in a way. The family was quite musically inclined and he bought a fife for William B., the eldest son, a bass drum for James B, the second son, and a snare drum for Jabez B., the next younger, while he himself would handle a good -sized American flag. The would hitch their old farm team to a lumber wagon on which was a hay rack and sally forth, playing patriotic airs and drive to some school house, where the people of the community would flock, and in goodly numbers too. If it was a county or state election, there would be speakers from Madison or other places, who address the assembled multitude upon the 
issues of the day.

[Note:  The descriptions of the protest gatherings of the Chartist of the 1830s & 1840s in Scotland and England sound very much like James Peter McPherson's political rallies in the mid to late 1800s in Dane County, Wisconsin.  The Chartist demonstrations of the mid 1830s involved great numbers of men and women singing, waving flags,  giving political speeches and writing and reading Chartist poetryApparently, J.P. transported much of his political activism from his days  in the flax mills to rural Dane county, Wisconsin.]

“Old Mac” usually closed the meeting with an optimistic little speech predicting a glorious victory for the whole Democratic ticket from top to bottom; then he would laugh uproariously and propose three cheers and lead them with a “Hip! Hip! Hurra!” for the grand old Democratic party!   Sometimes, as the hour would be late, the speakers from a distance would be entertained in the farm home, and at the time – as we had a spare room at our house, – I can remember such men as Judge J. Gilbert Knapp and Burr W. Jones stopping at our home. I can remember that the judge was quite portly, while Jones looked like a mere stripling, but he seemed to have considerable ability as a campaigner. I think he was at that time running for the same office which Bob LaFollette later filled with such marked distinction (district attorney of Dane County). Of course, you will readily observe that my father was a Democrat, as in those days part;y lines were drawn sop tightly that no Republican seeking office would be entertained in a Democratic household.

[To be continued] 

~ ~ ~

© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Thursday, December 1, 2011

COG 112 - An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving: 1960, Our First Thanksgiving At Hungry Hollow

I am thankful that I am again to be in the company of all of the "cool genealogy bloggers" with this Thanksgiving offering.   Thanks to the incomparable COG hostess, Jasia of Creative Gene.  Also thanks to the equally incomparable fM for her wonderful poster.

Although I have changed some of the names and combined a few incidents, the Thanksgiving described below represents my feelings and memories of that day, some 50 years ago.


A cool, crisp November day signal good omens for our first Thanksgiving on the ranch, even though there was a brisk wind a'brewing. The guest list was fairly large for the old house because there was no dining room , though a very large kitchen. By days end, it would seem much overfilled with people, food and emotions.

My sister and one of her college friends came out the night before to help prepare the bread dressing that our family had been making for the last 20 years – since the early 1940s. The recipe was handed down by Mrs. Latta, the grandmother on the Paisley ranch family, where we spent the summer that I was five. According Mrs. Latta, who reportedly was a wide as she was tall, the trick to a fluffy dressing is finely plucking the bread into to tiny bits. My sis quickly became the self appointed monitor of what “finely plucked” bread look like – often helped by a hot toddy.

This morning I added the seasoned butter to the wine, and stuffed the huge bird, laced up the cavities, drizzled the wine'n'butter mixture over turkey and placed the bird in the oven. A bowl of butter and wine mixture for basting simmered over the pilot light of the old gas stove --- an ever present reminder of the delicacies to come.

My husband Ric was outside with his chainsaw cutting plywood for two makeshift tables which would form a huge U-shaped table along with our scarred old kitchen table. Our young daughters, ages 5 and 6, gathered pine cones and branches as well as sage twigs for centerpieces. Thankfully, I had enough dishes for our family of 5 and our 14 guests due to months of collecting coupons. Now my high kitchen cupboards were filled with place settings for 12 of sea green dishes, edged in silver, which along with parts of two mismatched sets rounded out my holiday table setting.

Ric carted in the plywood sheets and saw horses about the same time that the girls came in with their greenery for the centerpieces. Once the tables were put together, on went the crisp clean sheets and the aromatic centerpieces. Loli and Sharnie had the set the tables well before the first of our guest drove up the lane and over the creek to our house. The first to arrive was my sister and her friend, followed by my mother, my aunt Gail (mother's younger sister), and my younger brothers who were barely in their teens. Coming across the creek, just behind them was Cecil, who worked shares on mother's lower lake grain land – and was becoming part of the family. My brothers hauled in big bowls of fruit salad and marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes, bags of store bought rolls and cans of cranberry sauce and jelly. My Aunt Gail brought several bottles of wine, and from the giggles, sampling had begun early. Cecil stepped out of his pickup, company dressed in new jeans, cowboy shirt, cleaned boots, and his ever present six pack of beer.

The party was in high gear, and it wasn't quite noon, and three hours before the bird would be ready to take out of the oven. Whoa! Mother was fussing around Cecil; Aunt Gail, also vying for his attention, was ever pressing him to the forefront. Cecil, fisted hands so tight that his knuckles were white, gazed intently at his boots. Then my brothers and daughters began whooping because our partners in the ranch, Matt and Sandy, were coming up the road towing their horse trailer. Stuffed in the front seat of their King cab pickup were Matt, Sandy, and their two children (a son just older than our daughters and a baby). In the back seat, bundled in layers of heavy coats and sweaters were Sandy's grandmother from Arizona and her two granddaughters, Bru and Barbie, daughters of Sandy's sister who was for some unspoken reason was not with them. Out of the side compartments of the horse trailer, Sandy unloaded pies, some green and oddly textured veggie dishes her grandmother made, and a couple of cases of soda pop. Matt unloaded the horses with a horseman's grace.

The kids gathered around Matt and chorused, “Are you going to let us do some roping today?”

“Sure, but we gotta get the horses squared away in the barn first, then we set up a roping steer.”

While the kids were helping Ric and Matt, Sandy's grandma doted over her newest grand baby and my five-month old baby McBuck, while the granddaughters Bru and Barbie ran outside like untethered colts. They were city girls and loose from street grids and they ran and ran. Then grandma would panic, leave the babies and run outside herself – yelling at the running girls who paid her no never mind. Sandy and I told her that there was several hundred acres that was in sight of the house so the girls would be fine. Grandma then alternated between cooing at the babies, then running outside to yell at the city-bred creatures turned wild.

Outside, Matt and Ric had secured a set of cow horns to a wooden approximation of a cow's head set on a post. Each kid had their own lariat and was practicing their roping technique. Lots of dropped loops amid much laughter from kids and Matt, who, although an amateur, was an accomplished rodeo roper and horse trainer.

Grandma was now tippling a glass of wine between cooing and yelling. As the wind picked up she seemed to tipple, yell and coo in tempo to the increasing velocity. Aunt Gail and mother too were tippling, with mother coquettish and Gail trying to get Cecil to go out and show the guys how to put the roping steer up. Cecil clasped his beer even tighter and gave the appearance that he wasn't in the same room --- certainly not in the same place as the two women.

Sandy and I brought out hor'dourves and elderberry wine coolers. Grandma switched to wine coolers, but it appeared to me she had a flask in her purse that found its way to wine cooler more than once. Cecil ambled out to his pickup for another case of beer.

Ric and Matt saddled up a couple of horses so they could ride the ridges and check on the horses that Matt had brought up for winter pasture. Meanwhile the kids decided that roping the wooden steer was too tame so it was time to ride the donkey in the corral. Donkey did not like being ridden and had dumped each kid numerous times --- but then that was the fun of it. My sis and her friend were on the corral fence laughing with the unceremonious dumping of each kid, then egging them to get back on Donkey's sharp-ridged back. Sore butts and dirt covered, the kids soon looked for a new outlet, which meant roping REAL cows in the holding corral. The three boys each roped a cow, but couldn't get the rope off of the cows, and were chased by angry cows with ropes swinging to and fro from their heads.

Our daughters ran to the house screaming, “Momma, the boys have done it again.”

Ric and Matt rode up and shook their heads with amusement tinged with disgust as they surveyed the now wind-spooked, pissed-off cows dragging ropes around the yard. “Can't leave your rope dangling on a cow like that --- not good for the rope and makes the cow mad,” drawled Matt.

“We tried to get the ropes off --- chased them all over but those old cows wouldn't stop,” exclaimed the breathless boys.

Two sets of ropes snaked out. Matt got his cow, and easily lifted the two ropes from the cow's head.
Ric had to take another try. “Course you're a rodeo roper,” groused Ric. Ric got his cow on the next throw and loosed the ropes as Matt roped the third cow and removed both ropes. As the guys rolled the lariats and put the horses in the stalls, Grandma had lost track of Bru and Barbie, what with her tippling and cooing. Now she was in full run mode and yelling at Bru and Barbie --- all three of them running loose like wild horses. Sandy chuckled. “ A good run before dinner will do the three of them good.

By this time my sister and her college friend came back in the house for wine coolers and snack. “Sue, this is just like stepping back in time. Feels like being in an old western movie,” giggled her friend, who had also been tippling a bit.

My sister nodded and laughed, “It's always like this when I come home from college. We play so hard that I have to go back and check into the infirmary for a day or so to rest up.”

A final check on the wine'n'butter soaked bird told me it was time. The golden brown bird came out of the oven at the same time that Ric, Matt and the kids came in to wash up for dinner. Soon to be followed by a windblown, blowsy grandmother with Bru and Barbie in hand. Aunt Gail and mother left Cecil in peace and quiet. Mother arranged the salads and sweet potatoes on the table. Aunt Gail got out the wine glasses and put out the wine in the tin buckets filled with ice. Sandy and I mashed potatoes and made gravy, while Ric and Matt carved the turkey.

We all laughed and jostled to get into place at the makeshift table, and then for a moment a quiet settled around us – not exactly a saying of grace because none of us were church going folk, – and some were even atheist and agnostic – but a recognition of friendship, family and laughter.

~ ~ ~

© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications