"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

24 May 2014

Trolley Car Crash

Come in from the wind and rain, come in from the thunder
Come in with your aching heart, I won't see you go under
I'll hold you from the bitter cold, through the wonder
In the hollow of the wild, no more need to hunger
--"What's Closest To The Heart" by Cathie Ryan

At 12:40 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 1902 (112 years ago today), my 3rd-great-grandmother Leonora Johanna Siegel was riding the trolley home to Lakeside, after doing some shopping in downtown Richmond, VA.

(Richmond then and now:  1901 vs. 2014)

Along the way, a bad storm passed over the area.  Leonora was the only passenger, sitting in about the middle of the car.  The trolley had left Barton Heights, and was moving up Westbrook Hill, rapidly approaching a sharp curve in the tracks.  According to Leonora, "I was thinking what an awful rate of speed the car was travelling and the thought had hardly flashed through my mind, when the thing happened."

With the combination of the weather and high speed, the trolley's conductor and motorman were unable to negotiate the curve.  The car jumped the tracks, crashing into a nearby iron pole.  Leonora was thrown forward against the seat, and received a deep, 4-inch-long cut across her forehead and over her eye.  The conductor's wrist was sprained and leg wounded, and the motorman's hand was "mashed."  Fortunately, none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Leonora's family was summoned, including her son, Dr. Charles Siegel, who stitched up her head wound.  Another doctor from the Passenger & Power Company also came, but the family declined, saying that "it was unnecessary."

After her injury had been treated, and the storm had passed, the Siegel family were able to move Leonora from the trolley car and take her home in a carriage.  Per newspaper accounts, she spent the evening resting quietly, though still suffering from shock.  It was feared, however, that she might lose sight in her wounded eye.

The front of the trolley was completely smashed in, and the iron pole had been knocked down.  It wasn't until after 5 p.m. that the damage had been cleared, and the trolley line could reopen.

Leonora later sued the Passenger & Power Company for $5,000, alleging that "the curve [was] a very dangerous one at that point, and that the accident was the result of carelessness on the part of the motorman."  I do not know the outcome of the case.

21 April 2014

Private Aaron Belvin

From an empty nest to a wedding bed
To the working wage for the daily bread
The ghosts, the flesh, the bone, and blood
The famine, fear, the frost, and flood
The slate, the stone, and the granite gray
The soft green fields just slipped away
The hedge rows and the silver streams
Now live inside my thoughts and dreams
--"Where E'er You Go" by Gaelic Storm

On April 21, 1754 - 260 years ago today - my 5th-great-grandfather John Aaron Belvin was baptized in Abingdon Parish, Gloucester County, Virginia.  He was the fourth of John and Lucy Belvin's five sons listed in the Parish Register.  I don't know much about Aaron's early life, beyond the date of his baptism.

Where records do pick up, rather importantly, are during the Revolutionary War.  Estimating from the baptism date, Aaron was probably in his mid-twenties at the time.

From May of 1777 through January of 1778, Private Aaron Belvin appears on the muster rolls of 7th Virginia Regiment of Foot, under the command of Colonel Alexander McClenachan.  He first served in Captain Reuben Lipscomb's Company, then, starting in July, in Captain Henry Young's Company.  For his service, the company payroll cards show that Aaron received $6.67 per month.

The last card states that he was discharged on February 3, 1778, having completed his two-year term - which means, his service actually began before the available company muster rolls start.  While the muster rolls don't provide much more in the way of details about Aaron's service in the war, there is one interesting side note.  Also serving in these companies at the same time as Aaron were three of his brothers:  George, John, and Lewis.  Two of them were even discharged on the exact same day as Aaron.

Fortunately, more information on Aaron's service can be found in his pension file.  From his affidavit sworn before Judge James Semple on May 22, 1818:

Aaron Belvin ... did declare and say that some time in the month of February in the year 1776 he enlisted in the Continental Service of the United States in the 7th Virginia Regiment in a company commanded by Capt. Charles Tomkies for two years and served in the said corps in the 7th Regiment commanded by Col. Dangerfield on continental establishment, that some time about the latter end of 1776 or the beginning of 1777 he marched to the northward & joined the Continental Army (as well as he recollects) at a place called Middle Brook, that he was at the battles of Brandy Wine Darby Town & several others, that he continued to serve till some time in February 1778 when he was legally discharged at the Valley Forge by order of Brigadier Gen. Woodford, that he served two years the time for which he enlisted, that he has no other evidence of his services in his power, that he is upwards of 64 years of age, that he is now in reduced circumstances and stands in need of the assistance of his country for his support.

The Battle of Brandywine Creek was fought in Delaware County, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777 between the forces of General George Washington and General William Howe.  The Americans were defeated, and forced to fall back towards Philadelphia.

I haven't found anything about a battle at Darby Town, other than a battle of the same name fought during the Civil War.  However, Darby is just east of Brandywine, and so both probably took place around the same time.  Possibly a skirmish along the Americans' retreat from Brandywine?

Which brings us to the much more familiar name of Valley Forge, where General Washington's forces spent the harsh winter.  A map from the park service shows the location of Brigadier General William Woodford's Brigade:

The Virginia regiments under Woodford discharged 273 men from service in February of 1778, of which Aaron Belvin was one.

In addition to the information that the pension files gives about his service, it also provides another unexpected tidbit:  it seems as though Aaron was unable to read or write.  Rather than signing his statement, he left a mark instead.

After his discharge, Aaron made his way home to Gloucester County, Virginia, where he appears on the tax records in 1782 for Abingdon Parish.  He is listed as owning 42 acres of land, three horses, and eight cows.  According to a biography written about his grandson, Aaron "was considered a very rich man for the times, and when past middle age married the beautiful Miss Dobson, of England."  They were probably married around 1810, when Aaron would have been in his late fifties.  Their first child, Frances Ann Belvin, was born on August 15, 1811.

With the approval of his application in May of 1818, Aaron was granted a pension of $8 per month.  However, in May of 1820, a new act was passed which required pensioners to supply further proof of their eligibility, and at this time, Aaron's name was removed from the pension rolls.

In the 1820 U.S. census, Aaron's household consisted of him and his wife, Elizabeth, along with four children under the age of ten, two girls and two boys.  Their youngest child, my 4th-great-grandmother Grace Elizabeth Belvin, was an infant at the time.

Aaron passed away two years later, on November 29, 1822.  Grace, being so young, would likely have had no memory of him.

10 September 2013

The Family Inventor

My heart is low, my heart is so low
As only a woman's heart can be
As only a woman's, as only a woman's
As only a woman's heart can know
--"Only A Woman's Heart" by Eleanor McEvoy

So, this is one of my more random finds while googling ancestors' names.

Below is a patent granted 146 years ago today to John Aaron Belvin, Jr., a cousin of my 3rd-great-grandmother Lucy Atkinson Fleet.  John invented a "new and useful apparatus for the use of females during menstruation and weakness of the womb" which he called a "catamenial guard and supporter".


A few choice excerpts:
"The nature of my invention consists in providing a guard for the use of females during menstruation, and at the same time a support for the womb in its weakened state during that period."
"The part A forms properly the womb-supporter, and acts on the lower part of the abdomen, the elastic straps producing a gentle pressure, sufficient to hold up the womb in its natural position without incommoding the female."

"It will be noticed that the whole weight of the truss bears upon the hips, thereby relieving, in a considerable degree, the female of the pain experienced by her during the critical period."

"The parts are constructed "of boiled-oil silk, a light, soft, and impervious material, and which does not chafe or irritate the skin of the wearer."
Why the term "catamenial guard and supporter" never caught on is beyond me.