Question of the Week: Have you discovered any real characters in your branches?

+19 votes

Many of us have a favorite eccentric uncle, aunt, great grandfather, etc. Tell us about yours. Did you learn about them from your research, or did you have the pleasure of their acquaintance while they were living?


Answer here or share with your friends and family by answering on Facebook.

asked Mar 17, 2017 in The Tree House by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (238,820 points)
One of my most interesting characters was my 7th great grandfather, James Farlee, Sr. Since this surname had so many different spellings, it was quite a challenge to discover him. There were two separate amazing sources. In one reference, he was being interrogated regarding the accuracy of the borders between Virginia and the Carolinas. Some had changed the name of a river, and others had changed the border line. He was put under oath, as were others, to verify the original name of the river and border line. In the other reference, I found him as one of thirteen head rights under Captain James Thweat. He was born in 1645, and made his will in 1727.
My paternal Grandmother wrote in a family journal about her childhood and how she grew up. So, I learned that my Great Grandfather was quite a character, much like Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music.

My Grandmother wrote: "My father had a special whistle (5 notes) which meant 'stand - up - straight - and tall!' We automatically straightened our backs when we heard it, whether we were in the next room or half a block away, down-town!"

Carrie (Cassie) Scism, maiden name Fox, married Naval Lt. Orville Scism. They apparently had a nasty divorce as he tried to sue her saying she was neglecting their home and children in favor of her male acquaintances. She, in turn, sued him for divorce saying he was neglectful and wanted him to pay alimony, to which he objected because he already paid her a monthly stipend and, with his costs, would only have $3 for cigarettes and other incidentals. 

This particular article explains how, after her brother-in-law disciplined his daughter (Cassie's niece) for using foul language, Cassie refused to allow her niece to go home to her father. Matthews Annesley (the brother-in-law) then called police and had her charged with kidnapping. During her trial, the judge, Justice Holbrow of Walden, told her to leave her brother-in-law's children alone so she replied that, while she never prayed for anyone to die in her whole life, she was now going to pray that he dies along with two other people and, if she prays that someone dies, they usually die! 

She's a hoot. There's also the possibility that, when she and her husband divorced, she may have abandoned her three daughters to an orphanage until their father came back to retrieve them. Her daughter Mildred was my maternal great grandmother.

Had fun reading answers here.
My family had many "characters" but the most recent "Notable" was my Fathers younger brother, W. Maurice "Stean Train Maurry" Graham. HOBO king and later Patriarch at the Britt, Iowa Hobo Convention. I was amazed when he died to find his obituary in multiple languages world wide.
He was written up in Readers Digest, Reminise Magazine and more. In the early 1970s he was on the What's My Line TV show and there was a 30 PBS program on his life. He co-wrote an autobiography and some booklets about his life and there was even a needlework pattern picture of him.
Once on a visit he was getting ready to go to girl scout camp to teach wild foods and camp crafts. He invited my 14 year old son to go along.
He had two families, at the same time.
He was a lot of fun.

23 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer

My Grandmother "MAMA BILL"... A Backwoods Pioneer...Animal Trapper & Forager...See'er of Angels... and Saint

Willie Mae McKee McLeod was my only grandmother and she  was the most special person I have ever known in my life!   She was born in a log cabin in the backwoods of  Arkansas in the early 1900's .  Even though her name was Willie Mae...the men in the family called her "Bill" and everyone else called her "Mama Bill".  

When the Great Depression came my grandfather left his family &  traveled 30 miles south into Louisiana in search of work.  When he did not come back for them  she and her two young children walked out of the woods carrying whatever belongings they could strap to their back.  She hitched a ride on a wagon hauling supplies to Louisiana in search of her husband.

Willie Mae adored her only son (my Dad)  and she taught him how to set traps made out of twine and twigs to catch squirrels and rabbits and how to raise a garden to survive. She trapped, hunted, foraged and gardened to feed her family during those years when her husband could not take care of them. For 10 years they survived on mulligan stew made of squirrels and rabbits or the fish they caught.     

Even though she worked a hard, dirty job alongside the men at the paper mill from sunup to sun-down from the 1940's till she retired, she always found time for other people. She got her nickname "Mama Bill" because she took in every stray animal or person that showed up on her doorstep. Anytime anyone found a wild baby animal they brought it to her to nurse. She raised chickens and rabbits for food and a little deer named Bambi, a mean alcoholic Spider Monkey who drank beer, a baby alligator under the house and a litter of baby skunks in the barn. 

One day a young girl who was dirty and hungry showed up at her door and she took her in and fed and clothed her for months before it was found that the girl was a runaway from Arkansas!   I have no doubts that my grandmother loved the Lord because she lived her life by giving away everything she had to the needy and loved her neighbor as herself...

 Summer vacations were spent with her teaching me how to use herbs and garden... and sehtook me into the woods to forage for edibles and dig sassafras roots to make tea. I learned about survival and  how to take care of myself at the knee of my grandmother as she braided my hair before we went to bed in one of her wonderful feather beds!

My Mama Bill and my Dad had what the old folks refer to as "encounters" with  Angels that could not be explained. Mama Bill told us when she was a young child she was put in a rocking chair in the corner of the log cabin room where her grandmother was dying on the bed. She said she could see Angels sitting on the rafters above her grandmother's bed and they put their fingers to their lips to silently tell her not to say anything to the adults. Years later...her son ( my father),  had his own experience with Angels when he was a little boy. One day a storm was coming up and he could see lightning in the distance so he climbed up on the tin roof of their barn so he could see better. While he was sitting there he said all of a sudden 2 men in clothes (not robes) appeared on either side of him and said " Bobby...son you need to get down from here cause this is dangerous". He said the next thing he knew he was laying in the soft hay inside the barn....and there was no hole in the barn roof for him to have fallen through!!!

My grandfather was an alcoholic recluse who loathed people so when we came in the back door to visit every weekend he would go out the front door!. He had been a fisherman in the Depression and he wanted fish for supper every night of the year. He was also an abusive husband and father so my grandmother use to wear an apron over her clothes from sun up to sundown. She only weighed 90 pounds but she hauled around a heavy iron skillet in that apron as a weapon to hit her husband with if he came near us grandkids! She took the skillet out at supper time and fried his fish, cleaned it and put it back in her apron!   

There was never a time in my childhood that she did not send me home after a visit with either a bouquet of flowers from her yard OR  a can of fruit cocktail.The last time I saw her she kissed me goodbye square on the mouth and sent me home with a huge bouquet of flowers from her garden AND a can of Fruit Cocktail. She said "...honey, now that you are married I always want you to be blessed with both food and flowers in your home......"

Willie Mae McKee McLeod was the greatest person I have ever known, and  in my opinion, a SAINT! 

answered Mar 22, 2017 by Teresa McLeod G2G1 (1,120 points)
selected Mar 24, 2017 by Mary Dorgan
Mary....thank you so much for choosing my Grandmother, "Mama Bill" as your favorite "Character of the Week"!   I appreciate the fact that you enjoyed my memories of her. She died shortly after I married after taking care of my grandfather who was suppose to be dying of liver failure; however,  Mama Bill was so worn out of nursing him that she died of a stroke suddenly and he lived another 20 years! The best thing that came from her dying is that her death changed my grandfather's life.  He quit drinking the day she died and changed his whole a tribute to her. In the end, he realized she was the most special person he had ever known and that he had wasted a lifetime with her. He grieved for her those last 20 years.....20 years too late!   I am honored that I had 19 years with her and inherited her independent spirit, her love of helping people and her perseverance!  Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to share her memory with you and others. Best regards...Teresa McLeod
WOW--she wins my vote for best, too! Hopefully you can make note of your remembrances on Mama Bill's WikiTree profile page--what you wrote down is just absolutely priceless!
Cynthia, thank you so much for your kind words about my Grandmother. She was a very special lady and I have missed her for 45 years now. I will take your suggestion and put her mini-bio on her Profile page!  I sincerely appreciate your taking your time to leave a comment on my post!
+8 votes

This is my wife's 2nd great grandfather....he was either one heck of a soldier or one heck of a storyteller:

John Merrit Civil War Military History

answered Mar 17, 2017 by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (2,139,170 points)
A brave man! I wonder what other stories he could tell?
Wow, what a strong man. There was just no keeping him down. And like the other commenter I wonder what stories he could tell.
+7 votes

While visiting a part of Ontario, Canada where some of my ancestors came from, I was told a story about a man who liked to attend the weekly Wintertime dance in the town. He lived a fair distance from the dance hall, so he would put on ice skates and carry his dancing shoes with him. There was a small, often frozen over, stream near his house that led to the dance hall, so he would skate all the way to the dance, change into his dancing shoes and stay for the event. Afterward, he would depart and skate back home. Unusual, but effective for his purpose. 

answered Mar 17, 2017 by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (1,699,550 points)
Did he ever marry?
I don't know if he married. I'll try to do some checking.
I checked with the source who might know if he married, but the people who would have known that are no longer here. It's still an interesting story.
+6 votes
When my Dad, (who was born in 1919 and living in Kearney, Hudson, New Jersey), was a young man in his teen years, purchased a bicycle with his best friend Joe. Being that in those days, neither of them could afford a bicycle of their own, they chose to share one. Each day when ready to leave for school, Joe would ride the bicycle down the block to where my Dad lived and he would whistle on approaching my Dad's home and my Dad would come running out and down the stairs where, without skipping a beat, Joe would jump off the bicycle and my Dad would jump on it and continue riding it and alternately they would ride and jump off all the way to school and again when school was out on their way back home. My Dad and his friend Joe truly enjoyed being able to ride that bicycle and continued to share it until they both entered the military. My Dad recalled this often with great pleasure and in later years, he was responsible for creating a bike path here in Fort Myers, FL that ran from the country club on McGregor Blvd to the yacht basin downtown. We kids, my sister, brother and I, joined my Dad on that first ride down that bike path in the early 1970's. My Dad was not a young man then, but could out ride all of us. The funny thing about it, he could ride a bike better than he could drive a car. :)
answered Mar 17, 2017 by Blaire Christman G2G6 Mach 1 (12,150 points)
Probably from all those years jumping on and off of a rolling bike! :)
+6 votes

This is not my ancestor but one of the most colorful characters I've come across to date is Teunis Dircksz van Vechten.

Here is a description of his activities from the Van Rensselaer Bowier Manuscripts:

In Feb. 1651, he was prosecuted for calling Director van Slichtenhorst, in the presence of many people, een ouwde graeuwe dief en schelm (an old gray thief and a rascal); for calling Domine Megapolensis an informer and threatening to stab him with a knife; for selling his wheat at f11 a mudde, contrary to the orders of the patroon; for ordering Willem Menten four times during the night of Sept. 18, 1648, to fire off a musket in the brewery, thereby causing Monsr. Labatie and some soldiers of the fort to cross the river; for calling Teunis Cornelisz a thief and a rascal and striking him on the head for having leased the six morgens of his, Teunis Dircksz', farm which the authorities of the colony had reserved; for fighting with Pieter Hartgers and Abraham Staas; and for letting two horses stand in front of Jan Verbeeck's house, in severely cold weather, without cover or food.

Some of it is cruel, but I fell out of my chair laughing about the musket shots causing the soldiers to cross the river. What river, the Hudson?!!?


answered Mar 17, 2017 by Carrie Quackenbush G2G6 Mach 7 (72,250 points)
edited Mar 17, 2017 by Carrie Quackenbush
He sounds 'tainted' in the head. :)

Possibly! But Rensselaerswyck director Brant van Slichtenhorst was a very unpopular man and it's possible that Teunis was being railroaded.

Director Brant van Slichtenhorst was not among the best of directors that the Van Rensselaers appointed. His income was based on a percentage of the fines collected and it is interesting to note that many of his accusations were placed upon the "rich" of early Albany - the people who could afford to pay heavy fines.

Slichtenhorst actually forced Michael Jansen (Vreelant) out of the colony with a death warrant placed upon him. Michael Jansen went to New Amsterdam (New York City) where he became very prominent and successful. After Jansen left, "Young Poentie" was given Jansen's farm.

Theunis Dircksz "Poentie" stood up to Slichtenhorst and fought him every inch of the way. This is not to say that "Poentie" didn't have his faults, though.

+9 votes
My great aunt Wendy Wood (my father's mother's sister) is probably the biggest "character" in the family, but she has some serious competition. Born in England, of strictly English ancestry, she became a prominent Scots Nationalist. (One of her great aunts, Alethea Wood, MARRIED a Scotsman named Ross when she was in her 50s. That is the only Scottish connection we have found on her side.)  Wendy repeatedly claimed to have a grandmother named Ross, but it was a fantasy/fabrication.

She was born, Gwendoline Meacham, in Maidstone, Kent, in 1892, where her father was a brewery chemist.

A few years later,  her father became the brewery manager for Olssons Brewery in Cape Town, South Africa, and the whole family moved there.  She had a number of adventures associated with the Boer War, and with accompanying her father on visits to the Boer farmers who provided the raw materials for the brewery.  These included finding a black mamba (poisonous snake) in the bed, and the unintentional betrothal  (by exchanging hats) with a farmer's son.  The family was friends with Baden-Powell, and she joined the early Boy Scouts, along with her brother.

As a teenager, she was was sent to boarding school in Tunbridge Wells (outside London), run by Scottish schoolmistresses.  This is where she became infatuated with Scottish culture.  At the same time her sister (my grandmother, Meena, 6 years older) was living in London and studying piano.  Meena moved in Bohemian circles, and was friends with George Bernard Shaw, H.G.Wells, Yeats, Eric Gill and others. After one evening with Meena and her friends, a young protege of GBS insisted on accompanying Wendy to the station, where she was catching a train back to school. While there, he bought two round trip tickets to Paris, and tried to convince her to go with him.  Finally, when she was on the train to Tunbridge Wells, he handed her a box of chocolates, and, as the train started moving, he said: "Even if you won't go to Paris with me, thanks for a lovely night". She spent the trip back to Tunbridge Wells under the disapproving gaze of her fellow passengers.

She trained as an artist, and worked as both an artist and an author.  Before WW I she married a Scotsman, Walter Cuthbert, and had two daughters, one of whom lived to be over 100.  After WWI they separated. She moved to Edinburgh with her two daughters and she became very active in the Scottish Independence movement.  This is when she started calling herself Wendy Wood, to emphasize her artistic heritage- her mother's father was the sculptor Samuel Peploe Wood, and his brother was the painter Thomas Peploe Wood.

In the 1930s, at a demonstration celebrating the Battle of Bannockburn (the last MAJOR victory of the Scots over the English, in the time of Edward I), she looked up and saw the GIANT Union Jack flying over Stirling Castle and decided it had to come down.  At the time, part of Stirling Castle was open to tourists (6d admission), and part was an active Army Barracks.  She and her followers marched through the tourist entrance, refusing to pay the "saxpence" (Scots shouldn't have to pay to enter their own castle), and barged through the gate to the barracks, to the dumbfounded stares of the soldiers.  They climbed to the top of the tower, and took down the Union Jack.  Wendy pulled a similarly giant Royal Standard out from under her skirt (so clearly premeditated), and ran it up the flagpole.   She put the Union Jack under her skirt and walked off.  The Union Jack ended up under her carpet, but Eric Linklater wrote a roman-a-clef in which the clearly-based-on-Wendy character flushed the flag down the toilet.  She sued him for libel (thereby keeping the Scottish Independence cause in the news) and eventually settled out of court for a farthing damages.

In the 50s (McCarthy period) she flew to New York to raise money for the cause.  On her passport, she crossed out "United Kingdom" and wrote in "Scotland".  When they landed in NY, she was asked to remain in her seat while the other passengers left.  She thought "Now I am done for!" for mutilating her passport.  But it turned out there was a pipe band on the tarmac to greet her.  In New York she asked for a "large Manhattan", thinking it would be a club sandwich.  She also thought some of the trash cans were post boxes, and almost got arrested for jay walking.

When Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, Wendy was adamant that she might be Elizabeth II of England, but she was only Elizabeth I of Scotland.  Wendy was part of a group that went around "paint bombing" anything that said "E R II".  Eventually the authorities stopped putting ANY royal insignia on the post boxes.

We left England when I was 2, so I knew her only from family stories, until I was in high school, when we visited.  I had heard that there were Union Jacks under the carpet on the stairs.  Walking up and down, I thought "there may be flags, but there is carpet padding as well". When no one was looking I pried up a corner, and it was literally over an inch thick with flags that Wendy had taken down off "buildings where they didn't belong".  No padding at all.  

A couple of years later my sister visited and said "Janet says there are flags under the carpet on the stairs."
"Och, it's nae just the stairs. There are flags under the carpet in the dining room and the living room tae."

In 1972 (at the age of 80) she held a hunger strike  for home rule, and she died in 1981, aged 89.

She was NOT involved in the theft of the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey, but wished she had been.

She wore the same clothes almost every day- a pleated skirt in Ross tartan (women DON'T WEAR KILTS, they wear pleated skirts) with a  white blouse and a green jacket, and a green cape when it was cold.


(made minor edits to the first paragraph for clarity)
answered Mar 17, 2017 by Janet Gunn G2G6 Mach 4 (46,850 points)
edited Mar 27, 2017 by Janet Gunn
What an amazing story, Janet!
Awesome story! You win!!!
Oh, I bet she caused some stir! Interesting!
I loved this story, such details of her character. She was totally dedicated to the Scots,  Truely was noticed(:
Wonderful story! When/if independence comes to Scotland again, I'm sure she will be rejoicing in Heaven!
If anyone is interested in learning more about Wendy, there is a Wikipedia article - - and she wrote two autobiographies

- I Like Life (1938)

- Yours Sincerely for Scotland (1970)
+6 votes

My gr-gr-grandfather, Johan Lindqvist (1801 - 1874) had no hope of having a respectable profession until his boss made a proposition: Marry and claim the paternity of the servant girl's child and he would teach Johan to be a pilot, to guide ships into Mariahamn, Åland. So Johan married Anna Lena in 1826; grieved in 1827 when his wife and child died and was taught to be a pilot.

In 1830 he married his true love, Anna Greta, in Rödhamn and had three children with her.  Meanwhile, Anna Greta's sister, Helena, moved in with them and she had six children out-of-wedlock. It was suspected that Johan was the father and when they went into the adult world took the name Jansson.

Johan died in 1874 when he fell through the ice and drowned.

The story has been immortalized in Lars Karlsson's opera Rödhamn, which was premiered in Helsinki in 2001 and also presented in Åland in 2002 as part of the celebrations for the 80th anniversary of Åland’s autonomy..

answered Mar 17, 2017 by Norm Lindquist G2G6 Mach 3 (39,530 points)
Oh, dear, how sad for his wife!
+4 votes
If you will indulge me, I have another "character", my 16th Great Grandmother.

Constance ("of no name and no lands") lived a long and "naughty lyf".

In 1349 she married a wealthy widower with a young daughter, Beatrice.  He bestowed his manor of Great Chalfield on her for life, then to go to Beatrice.  In 1357 he went on pilgrimage,  said to be because of "the naughty lyf the said Constance his second wyf lyved in with the bisshoppe Wayvile and with others". He never got to Jerusalem, because he died in Cologne (I am guessing plague).

In 1359 she married another wealthy landowner, who died a year later.

In 1360 her stepdaughter Beatrice (or more likely Beatrice's guardian and or her first husband) sued  for possession of Great Chalfield, but lost.

Sometime before 1361 she had a son by Bishop Wyville of Salisbury.

In 1361 she married again, a man (my 16th g grandfather) who came of a good family, but originally had no land (he subsequently acquired substantial estates).  They had two daughters.

The same year, 1361, Beatrice signed over to Constance not only the life interest in Great Chalfield, but also the rights of Beatrice and her heirs after Constance's death.  There was a subsequent century of lawsuits (not settled until 1467, long after both Beatrice and Constance were dead) on whether
a) Beatrice was "of age" when she signed over her inheritance to her stepmother
b) Beatrice had been coerced into signing away her inheritance.

Constance's third husband died in 1384, and she married for 4th time, another wealthy landowner.  She "overlived" this 4th husband, who died 1n 1400.  She was still actively involved in managing her properties, settling manors on various descendants, in 1416, and she is last mentioned as alive in 1419.

I am sure there is the makings of a historical romance, or a historical mystery, in her very real story.
answered Mar 18, 2017 by Janet Gunn G2G6 Mach 4 (46,850 points)
Great story
A definite strong and resourceful woman. I enjoyed that!
I bet she was rough and smart! I bet she was considered quite the character in those times. Enjoyed.
+4 votes

Taken about 1912 this is my Great Aunt Jane and her future husband William Frederick Stoner.


500px-Stoner-77-1.jpgA Pair of Christmas Characters

answered Mar 18, 2017 by Allan Stuart G2G6 Mach 1 (15,490 points)
Very hipster looking for those days (:
I love this picture. They look so "out of their time". It reminds me of those photo studios where they make it look like you are from the 18 or early 1900's. But these guys are the real deal!

The girl's pose even looks quite modern.

Have you ever shared this photo in the Tree House?
+4 votes
My 9th great grandfather is John Proctor and is literally a character in the play the Crucible.

"    John Proctor II was a key figure in the Salem Witch trials in 1692. John was married three times and some sources report he was divorced from his first two wives, but in both cases their death dates preceeded his remarriage so that is suspect. It is possible he divorced them and then they died and then he remarried.
 He had numerous children die in early childhood and multiple children born after the death of their older sibling and then named for them.
 His first was wife Martha Giddons
 His second wife was Elizabeth Thorndike and
 His third wife was Elizabeth Bassett (who is my 9th great grandmother) who was also charged in the Salem Witch trials."

Their son (My 8th greatgf):

"Thorndike Proctor (1672-1759) was the son of John Proctor who was hanged as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials.
 Thorndike was born July 15, 1672 in Salem, Massachusetts. He was the son of John Proctor and his second wife, Elizabeth Proctor.
 Thorndike assisted his half-brother Benjamin Proctor in urging the government in making reparations to the family, as everything the family had owned was confiscated upon their fathers arrest. This left them little to nothing to support their other siblings.
 He purchased the Groton Farm from the Downings of London, following the hanging of his father. The farm was renamed Downing Farm. Thorndike subsequently sold nearly half of the Downing Farm to his half-brother Benjamin Proctor. Eight generations of Proctors resided here until 1851.
 On December 7, 1697, he married Hannah Felton, widow of Samuel Endecott, the grandson of John Endecott, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Hannah died in 1737.
 Thorndike and Hannah's son Nathan Proctor is the father of Jacob and Nathan Proctor, some of the first settlers of present day Ohio
 On March 31, 1739, he married Sarah Allen."
answered Mar 18, 2017 by Laura Harlow G2G6 (8,430 points)
What a scary time it must have been to have lived then! And how heart-breaking.
+4 votes
One of my ancestors started buying up wool when he realized we were about to go to war.  He stockpiled it everywhere, and officials had to take it from him, spending a huge amount for that day.

This story, which I found in one of my genealogy books, was so amazing I just closed the book and walked away.  

But my real story of intrigue, love won and lost, and a scandal was uncovered when I researched the first-born son of a Patriot, Lieutenant James Gould.  He served as a "waiter" to his father at the Battle of Saratoga and carried him home on a stretcher (a "bed") along with other soldiers.  He left for Nova Scotia, where he married the daughter of another NH patriot, John Payne.  The couple raised four children -- but by 1811, a census-taker recorded (about James Jr) "his wife left for another man".  She had fallen in love with someone else.  She gave birth to two children by her other sweetheart.  Then her father, John Payne, took her & one of her daughters to an island outside Quebec.  (John was a mariner, according to his affidavit).  Both John Payne and his brother-in-law returned to the US by 1832, when they applied for pensions for having fought in the American Revolution.  John Payne had served the US in Quebec, according to HIS affidavit.

This unusual story of war and love lost AND won is still rocking my little world, as well as the world of some wonderful Canadian genealogists.  BTW, John Payne's daughter was a Mayflower descendant, and I'm still working on the papers to put together THAT story.  

What a family!  Dreamers, warriors, lovers, broken hearts, and people who stood up for what they believed in!
answered Mar 18, 2017 by Janine Barber G2G6 Pilot (114,610 points)
+3 votes

My great-grandfather was George Washington White.  He was born in a covered wagon, lost his mother to Smallpox, and was raised to about age ten or twelve, by an uncle.  He worked his way up and down the Mississippi River on steam boats doing Irish jigs, shining shoes, anything to make money.  He told his family that he bounced the girl that became his wfe on his knee.  She was a few years his junior.  He is, in our family, quite a character.

answered Mar 18, 2017 by Julie Vlaminck G2G2 (2,390 points)
+2 votes
From Skiff Genealogy, Benjamin Skiff and Polly Patchen. "It is traditionary that her mother, a Miss Rachel Pardee, was the belle of Sharon and jilted Noah Webster, who was teaching a day school, and a singing school evenings, in Sharon, Litchfield, CT (1792). She was advised by a vote of the church to marry Capt. Abel Patchen."
answered Mar 22, 2017 by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (1,699,550 points)
+2 votes
Found a pirate, Richard Clark, who wanted to blow up Annapolis, MD in 1705.  His escape from the jail put his mother behind bars!
answered Mar 22, 2017 by Marguerite Teska G2G Rookie (260 points)
+3 votes
Parley Rice, my 3rd Cousin, was sued for $10,000 by his daughter-in-law,  Julia Simonds. She was Catholic before she married Parley's son William. She promised she would change religions, but after a few months of marriage, she felt she needed to be Catholic again. When Parley visited then, he would make fun of her Catholic items around the house and talk badly about her to William. As a result William divorced her.

She sued Parley for his interference in her marriage. She won! It was big news and an ongoing story in the Kalamazoo, Michigan paper.

Later, in an unrelated event, Parley went to the undertaker and told him he would need a coffin ready because he was going to die at midnight on Sunday. He spent the week wrapping up his life. On Sunday he took to his bed with his wife by his side. When the clock struck midnight, the wife said, "Looks like you were wrong" Parley replied, "the clock is fast" and then immediately died.
answered Mar 22, 2017 by Sara Rice G2G4 (4,830 points)
+2 votes
  • Paul Beck was an aviation pioneer, with numerous first-time accomplishments to his credit like flying the first air mail (along with the Postmaster General at the time.) He came to an untimely end. The wiki article leaves out how the military flyover strewed roses over the train bearing his coffin from Oklahoma to Arlington.
  • Martin Luther King Jr recycled the words of Theodore Parker, pre-eminent Boston abolitionist preacher, and a few of his thoughts made it to the Gettysburg Address. Frederick Douglass, when he traveled to Italy, visited Parker's grave first thing when he got off the train. (Parker died young from consumption/tuberculosis):

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

  • Helen Hungerford (Churchill) Candee was a kick. Born of privilege, but married to a violent drunk, she found a way to divorce him and make her own way in the world. She was a pioneer in many ways, much of it through her writing. A survivor of the Titanic, her account was published in Colliers. (James Cameron says he never read it before making the movie, but either he's lying or someone close to him did.)
  • Another Hungerford died young, a doctor. He had a school named after him in Florida, an offshoot from Tuskegee Institute. One of the early institutions providing education for freed slaves after the Civil War. Author Zora Neale Hurston is the school's most notable graduate.
  • Grover Cleveland Bergdoll was a piece of work. If ever there was a black sheep, he's the one. Largely forgotten now, he did a lot of things wrong, including a few that no one had ever done before. He got plenty of tabloid attention in his day.
answered Mar 22, 2017 by Elizabeth Winter G2G6 Mach 5 (57,760 points)
+2 votes

My great-great grandfather, Charles Wright Tointon, was tried for murder. He was acquitted, mainly because the murder weapon was never found (he confided to family members that he killed before he was killed). On the other side of my family is Casper Haverstick, my ggg-grandfather, who came to Ohio from Switzerland. One historian tells us, "... having been with the great Napoleon as a staff officer in his two greatest undertakings—the successful crossing of the Alps and his equally disastrous Russian campaign. In this campaign the cold was so intense as to cripple Casper Haverstick in a most curious manner, causing him to be, through life, the wonder of the medical profession. He was very young, and the doctors say, in an undeveloped state, so far as his arms were concerned. The cold stopped the growth of the arms from the elbow up; the lower arm developing to full length, thus causing him to present a strange spectacle." Thus, my grandfather was Popeye!

answered Mar 22, 2017 by Randy W
+1 vote
My Great Grandfather Francis Xavier Claveloux 1852 - 1942 was a Mathmatical Instrument maker & worked for N.O.A.A. in Washington, D.C. He had a shed in his back yard & would invent things in there. He created Window Weights & got the Patent for them. His best friend was Alexander Graham Bell & they worked together in that shed & created several things together. He was in the Signal Corp in the U.S. Army. A farmer. A jack of all trades, guess that is where I get it from!!
answered Mar 22, 2017 by Elaine Wade G2G1 (1,100 points)
+1 vote

I'd have to say my biggest character so far would be my 3rd great-grandfather, John Crockett Hudson. Obviously I never met him!  He was a POW in Camp Morton during the Civil War. There was an article about him in the paper!

'''Why the Rebels Wore Ragged Clothes'''

Published in the ''Confederate Veteran'', written by Elder J.K. Womack.

"The legislators of Indiana and Governor Morton, with their wives and daughters, went on a visit of inspection to the prisoners in Camp Morton in 1864.  The Confederates were called out for dress parade and were made to look as well as possible.  This distinguished body rode in fine carriages.  One lady had her carriage stopped about ten feet from the line.  Opening the side door of the carriage and pushing her head out, she asked: "Why do you Rebel soldiers dress so poorly?"  '''Crockett Hudson''', of Eagleville, Tenn., replied: "Gentlemen of the South have two suits-one that they wear among nice people and one that they wear when killing hogs, and that is the one in which we are dressed to-day." She ordered the carriage to move on.''

Womack, J.K. '''Why the Rebels Wore Ragged Clothes.''' Confederate Veteran (Nashville, Tennessee), 1893, V. 21 ed., Page 50 sec. Accessed 5/25/2016 [ Confederate Veteran]

answered Mar 24, 2017 by Summer Orman G2G6 Mach 8 (80,190 points)
edited Mar 24, 2017 by Summer Orman
+1 vote

My 6th great-grandmother, Innocent (Borden) Bozarth of New Jersey, had quite the life on the wild frontier in the vicinity of West Virginia. One day in April of 1779/1780 Indians raided her home and in order to protect her family she picked up an ax as they came in the doorway. In a matter of minutes, she had killed three of the invading Indians, causing the remaining Indians to flee.  Ironically, she wasn't the only relation known for her ax-handling abilities.  She is also the second cousin of Lizzie Borden who would have her own claim to fame with an ax nearly 112 years later.

answered Mar 28, 2017 by James Stratman G2G6 Mach 4 (48,520 points)
edited Mar 28, 2017 by James Stratman

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