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

12 December 2014

Johann Campen

Ach siùbhlaidh mi uat But I shall go away
Cha ghluais mi tuilleadh nad dhàil Never to return to you
Tha m'aois is mo shnuadh My age and my appearance
Toirt luaidh air giorrad mo là Presage the shortness of my days
An àm dhomh bhith suainnt' When it's time for me to be laid out
Am fuachd 's an cadal a' bhàis In the cold slumber of death
Mo leabaidh dèan suas Make up my bed
Ri fuaim na h-ataireachd àird Where I can hear the surge of the sea
--"An Ataireachd Àrd" by Donald MacIver

For years now, I've been using Chronicling America to research my family in Richmond, Virginia.  The newspapers on the site have been a goldmine of information about my ancestors' day-to-day lives.  But not long ago, Chronicling America added a new collection - issues from Der Deutsche Correspondent in Baltimore, Maryland.  And it was here that I found an obituary for my 3rd-great-grandfather John Campen, much more complete than the brief notice that appeared in the Baltimore Sun.


John Campen died on December 10, 1888, and this obituary appeared in Der Deutsche Correspondent two days later, 126 years ago today.  My German's rather rusty, but here's a rough translation:

Ableben. – Am Montag Abend 1/2 12 Uhr entschlief Hr. Johann Campen für ein besseres Jenseits.  Der Verstorbene, welcher im 67. Lebensjahre stand, war seit 40 Jahren in Baltimore ansässig;  er war zuerst als Maschinist thätig und betrieb seit 1862 eine Blechbüchsenfabrik.  Er wanderte aus Emden, Hannover, hier ein und war zwei Mal verheirathet.  Der Verstorbene, welcher vielen Vereinen angehörte, hinterläßt zwei erwachsene Kinder ans erster Ehe.  Die Beerdigung findet morgen Nachmittag 2 Uhr vom Trauerhause Nr. 812 Lightstraße, aus statt.
Demise. – On Monday evening 1/2 12 o'clock passed away Mr. John Campen for a better afterlife.  The deceased, who was 67 years of age, was a resident for 40 years in Baltimore;  he first worked as a machinist and operated since 1862 a tin can factory.  He emigrated here from Emden, Hanover, and was married twice.  The deceased, who belonged to many clubs, leaves behind two adult children to the first marriage.  The funeral will take place tomorrow afternoon at 2 o'clock from the house of mourning No. 812 Light Street.

John Campen and his second wife, Charlotte

It doesn't help to track down his first wife, but it at least does confirm that she existed!  So, the hunt continues for elusive Caroline Fredrick Campen!

19 October 2014

Battle of Yorktown

Hark! hark! down the century's long reaching slope
To those transports of triumph - those raptures of hope
The voices of Main and of Mountain combined
In glad resonance borne on the wings of the wind
The bass of the drum, and the trumpet that thrills
Thro' the multiplied echoes of jubilant hills
And mark! how the years, melting upwards like mist
With the breath of some splendid enchantment has kissed
Reveal on the ocean, reveal on the shore
The proud pageant of conquest that graced them of yore
--"Centennial Ode" by Paul Hayne & J. Mosenthal

On October 19, 1781, the British surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia.  So far as I know, none of my ancestors were present there that day.

One hundred years later, however, my 3rd-great-grandfather, Charles L. Siegel, was one of those involved in planning the centennial celebration of the battle in 1881.  In July of 1881, Charles Siegel was appointed the musical director of the festivities.

The Yorktown Centennial Commission have decided to have a chorus of three hundred male voices to assist in the ceremonies during the principal days of the celebration.  The services of Professor C. L. Siegel have been secured as musical director, and he will train and lead the chorus, which will be accompanied by the Marine band of Washington.  This combination of vocal and instrumental talent will render a number of national airs and the Centennial Ode which has been written by Mr. Paul A. Hayne, of Georgia, with music by Professor Mosenthal, of Philadelphia.

The following is the official order issued by the Chairman of the Commission, Hon. John W. Johnston.

"YORKTOWN CENTENNIAL COMMISSION,
UNITED STATES CAPITOL,
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 12, 1881.

The Yorktown Centennial Commission, desiring to make the celebration in October as perfect as possible in all its details, have decided to have a grand chorus of male voices to sing national airs on that occasion.  With this view, Professor Charles L. Siegel, of Richmond, Va., has been appointed musical director, with full power to make all necessary arrangements.  The Commission earnestly invite the cooperation of all singers who feel interested in the celebration and who are willing to assist in making this portion of the programme a grand success.

The director will appoint a time and place to receive the names of those who desire to volunteer their services.

J.W. JOHNSTON,
Chairman Yorktown Centennial Commission."

Professor Siegel has already gone energetically to work in carrying out the duties imposed upon him by the above order, and has issued the following call to the gentlemen singers of Richmond:

"RICHMOND, July 16, 1881.

To the Gentlemen Singers of Richmond:

Having been appointed musical director of the Yorktown Centennial celebration, I hereby earnestly call upon the singers of Richmond to lend their aid in the furtherance of this patriotic work, promising to make the necessary course of instruction as pleasant as possible, and to do everything in my power for your comfort.

Preliminary meetings will be held as follows, and you are invited to attend without further notice:

On Tuesday the 19th instant, for the western portion of the city, at Laurel-Street Methodist church at 8 ½ o'clock P. M.

On Wednesday, July 20th , for the central part of the city, at Sänger Halle, at the same hour.

And on Thursday, July 21st, for the eastern part of the city, at ---, at 8 ½ P.M.

Information as to details will be given at each meeting."

By September, choir rehearsals were well underway.

In providing for the proper success of the celebration at Yorktown in October, the Congressional Committee in charge of the celebration have been mindful of the importance of the musical features naturally expected on such an occasion, and have devoted to this part of the programme as large an amount as they thought could be spared from the limited appropriation at their disposal.  The Richmond correspondent of the New York Herald writes that it is gratifying to know that the management of this part of the programme has been entrusted to most competent hands, and that the progress already made in preparation and rehearsals assures the promise of a successful and satisfactory performance

The difficulties of the undertaking might have proved too formidable for a less energetic conductor than the gentleman who has it in hand, since he has had to collect a chorus mostly of untrained voices and give them elemental teaching and drilling through the parts of the music proposed to be sung.  It is a reproach to this city that with very considerable musical capacities there is no choral body that can be made the nucleus for a large chorus like this.  A well-trained body of singers as a nucleus would have been a powerful auxiliary in the undertaking, and would most materially assist and lighten the labor.  Indeed, with such assistance the work of preparation would have been easy, and could have been done in less than half the time necessary under existing circumstances.  Another difficulty in the way that will affect the size and strength of the chorus is the distance to Yorktown and the time required for the trip, which will prevent the attendance of many singers who cannot spare the time from their business.  But despite these drawbacks and difficulties, there will be an effective male chorus of about 300 good voices, who already show excellent results of the last five or six weeks' rehearsal.  As yet the chorus is divided into three sections for the convenience of members living in different parts of the city, each section meeting once a week for rehearsal.  They have been brought together once or twice for a mass rehearsal at Sänger Halle, the meeting-place of the middle section.  The success of their performance will be largely owing to the energy and ability of the conductor, Charles L. Siegel, who collected the chorus and has trained it to its present state of efficiency.  Mr. Siegel is a maestro of local reputation, to whom has been owing the credit of most of the successful amateur performances gotten up in this city for several years past, within which time, with the aid of local talent, he has set several operas on the stage, among them excellent performances of "Der Freischutz" and "Stradella."  The instrumental accompaniment for the chorus will be done by the Marine Band from Washington - a band that deserves its reputation as one of the best in the country.

The programme is of course made up mainly of patriotic and popular music, embracing, "Hail, Columbia," "The Star-Spangled Banner," "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," &c. and out of compliment to our French visitors, "The Marseillaise."  Besides these well-known patriotic songs, there will be sung a hymn and the "Centennial Ode," written for the occasion.  The music selected for the hymn is an "Ave Maria," opus 209, No. 2, by J. E. Schmölzer, an eminent German composer.  This is a composition of great beauty and dignity, whose lofty and devotional character well adapts it for use on such an occasion.  It has become a great favorite with the chorus and other who have heard it, and, somewhat strange to say, it is, perhaps, better sung than any other number on the programme, though less familiar in style and character and requiring finer singing and nicer shades of expression.  The words were written and adapted to the music by Mr. Charles Poindexter, of this city.

The Centennial Ode is written by Paul H. Hayne, of Georgia, and set to music by J. Mosenthal, of New York.  The music of this composition has not commended itself to favor like that of the hymn, but the words are of far greater merit, and it will be sung with great spirit, as befits the most prominent number on the programme.  Mr. Hayne, the author of the ode, is a well-known southern poet.

The full order of events is available online at the Internet Archive.


Today, copies of the choir's sheet music can been found in the collections of the Virginia Historical Society.

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.

However, it appears Aaron's service wasn't as smooth as the existing muster rolls show.  In January of 1777, a few months before the muster rolls begin, the following notice appeared in the Virginia Gazette:

One hundred and sixty dollars reward. 

DESERTED from the company formerly commanded by capt. Charles Tomkies, of the 7th regiment, the following soldiers, viz. Simon Gran, Thomas Peed, George Weston, James White, Zachariah Pryor, Lewis Belvin, Aaron Belvin, George Belvin, Thomas Ransone, Augustine Ransone, Thomas Blacknal, William Anderson, John Willis, Robert Graves, Richard Anderson, and Matthew Hundley. I will give the above reward for apprehending said deserters, or TEN DOLLARS for each, to be delivered to lieut. James Baytop, at Williamsburg. I expect they are in Gloucester, where the company was raised, and are all natives of that county. ---Such soldiers of the said company as have been indulged with furloughs are desired to join lieut. Baytop on or before the 5th of the next month at Williamsburg, or they will be treated as deserters.

REUBEN LIPSCOMB.

Evidently he was either caught, or he voluntarily returned to duty (along with brothers Lewis and George), as the muster rolls clearly show him finishing his two-year term.

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 give about his service, they also provide 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.