Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Will of Michael West

Michael West was born on 30 May 1793 in Maryland or Kentucky. He married Susannah McKee on 16 Oct 1812 in Adams County, Ohio. Most of their children were born in Mason County, Kentucky. The family moved to Champaign County, Ohio about 1826. Then in 1838, the Michael West family moved to Vermilion County, Illinois. Michael's wife, Susannah, died before 1848, when the family moved again. Michael arrived in Texas (Peter's Colony) prior to July 1848 as a widower with two daughters (Elizabeth and Louisa) and one son (Michael). He obtained 640 acres in Grayson County, Texas. Michael's will was written on the 29 day of January 1858 and he died on 28 Jun 1858.

Michael West's will lists the following descendants:
Granddaughter, Susan R. Hanning, daughter of John & Rebeca J. Hanning
Heirs of daughter, Mary Ann West (deceased), wife of John W. West
John W. West
Susan E. Leffel, wife of David M. Leffel
Joseph J. West
James H. West
Elizabeth Boyles, wife of William Boyles
Rebeca Jane Haning, wife of John Haning
Louisa Thomas, wife of Jesse Thomas
A child bearing the name Sarah Jane West, daughter of my son (deceased) Michael P. West's wife ...not the offspring of my said son Michael ... not my grandchild.

Michael West's will can be found in the Grayson County, Texas Probate Minutes, Vol. E, page 9, August Term, 1858.



Below is the transcribed copy of the will:

Grayson County, Texas
Probate Minutes
Vol. E, page 9
August Term 1858
Last Will and Testament of Michael West

I Michael West being in my proper mind do make and establish this my last Will and Testament. First I give and bequeth to my Grand Daughter Susan R Hanning, Daughter of John Rebeca J. Hanning my young horse Job Fisher a Dark bay. Second, I bequeth the entire remainder and ballance of my Estate between the following persons to wit. The heirs (residing in Ohio) of Mary Ann West my daughter, the said Mary Ann being the wife of John W West The heirs are residing in the State of Ohio, John W West, Susan E Leffel wife of David M Leffel, Joseph J West, James H West, Elizabeth Boyles wife of William Boyles, Rebeca Jane Hanning wife of John Hanning, and Louisa Thomas wife of Jesse Thomas. The above named devisus being my children and grand children & heirs. The Grand children ment are the children of my said Daughter Mary Ann West deceased. I hereby appoint my son John W. West my Executor to carry out this my last will and testament and it is my desire and request that the Probate County nor any other Court whatever shall have any thing to do with my Estate except to record this my Will and to inventory my property and my said Executor is to have the entire control of the same and to superentend the division of said property according to the bequest above mentioned. It is my wish and desire that a child bearing the name Sarah Jane West Daughter of my son Michael P Wests wife shall have no part of my Estate whatever because I am satisfied and have sufficient evidence to satisfy me that said child is not the offspring of my said son Michael and that the same is not my grandchild and that that my son Michael is not its father. Given under my hand and scroll for Seal this 29th day of January AD 1858.
Michael "X" West
The indulianation and names on this page was made and done before signing
Attest H G Hendricks
James d Frazor

Mysterious Death of Michael Perry West

Michael Perry West & Priscilla Stanley
Michael Perry West moved to Texas with his widowed father, Michael West, in 1848. He, along with his father, applied for and received land grants in Grayson County, Texas through the Peters Colony. He is mentioned in the book on the Peters Colony of Texas:

  • Connor, Seymour V., Peters Colony of Texas, A History and Biographical Sketches of the Early Settlers, Texas State Historical Association; Austin, Texas; 1959, page 426, Family History Library, 35 N. West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA, www.familysearch.org, 976.4 D3c FHL US/CAN Book."Michael P. West came to the colony as a single man before July 1, 1848. He reported to Ward in 1850 and received a certificate for 320 acres, which his heirs patented later in Grayson County (Fannin Third Class No. 1282). He is listed on the 1850 Census (Grayson County, family No. 12) as a 23-year-old farmer, born in Ohio."
Michael married Priscilla Stanley on 28 Feb 1850 in Grayson County, Texas. She was the daughter of Page and Elizabeth (Martin) Stanley. Page Stanley was a neighbor and friend to the senior Michael West. Page was a witness to Michael senior's land deed in 1850.

In the Grayson County, TX 1850 census, Michael P. and his wife, Priscilla Stanley West were living between their parents, the Page Stanley family and Michael West, Senior.


The Page Stanley family left Texas in Aug 1851 to meet with a Wagon Train on the Platte River bound for Oregon Territory, arriving in the Territory in 1852. Did Priscilla leave with her family or did she leave at a later time?
Sometime before Sep 1853, Michael Perry West died. He was only about 26 years old at the time of his death. Why would Michael die so young??
His probate started in the Grayson County Court in Sep 1853. According to his probate, Michael's wife & child had left for "California or Oregon" and could not be found. After probate, what was left of his estate (320 acres) after debts were paid, was less than $50 dollars. And that remainder went to the State of Texas, because his wife, Priscilla and their daughter, Sarah Jane, could not be found.
Priscilla was alive in 1878, because she is included in her father's, Page Stanley's will. (Early Oregon Wills Vol 1, Multnomah Co., Probate Book 2, 7 Aug 1878) But no residence is mentioned and she could not be found in census records. No records have been found of her daughter.
In January 1858, the Michael West (Senior) Last Will & Testament, states: "It is my wish and desire that a child bearing the name Sarah Jane West, Daughter of my son Michael P. West's wife shall have no part of my Estate whatever because I am satisfied and have sufficient evidence to satisfy me that said child is not the offspring of my said son Michael and that the same is not my grandchild and that my son Michael is not its father."

  • What caused Michael P. West's death?

  • Why did Michael's wife, Priscilla, leave Texas right after he died and not even try to claim any inheritance for her daughter? Perhaps she left before he died?

  • Why didn't Michael's family (father or siblings) claim his inheritance when his wife could not be found?
There are a lot of unanswered questions concerning the death of Michael P. West and the distribution of his estate.
Michael had a debt of $50.00 and was given only one day to come up with the money. He had to use 220 of 320 acres of his Texas Headright to cover the debt. Soon after this transaction, is his probate started. At no time are his father, brothers or sisters mentioned. His wife and daughter could not be located and the State of Texas ended up with what was left of his estate. The ones involved in the debt do end up with the 220 acres. Coleman Watson ended up with most of the estate. Coleman Watson was a Notary Public at the courthouse in Grayson County and most likely had an "in" with the judge and other county officials. Michael's land bordered the land that Watson owned. Did Watson manipulate the probate, so he could end up with Michael's land??
Was Michael's debt to Watson a gambling debt?
Was this a case of land grabbing?
Was he murdered??
Did the fact that his father did not believe Michael's daughter was "really" his biological daughter have something to do with Michael's death?
===
Abstracts of the Michael P. West Grayson County, Texas Probate Records,
Vol. A-B 1846-1854, pg 447; September Term 1853: Patrick T. Andrews was first administrator for the Estate of Michael P. West Decd.
February Term 1854, P. T. Andrews petitions to sell land in the estate.
Vol. D, 1854-1858, pg. 3; 100 acres is sold to Riley E. Butridge for $180.00.
Vol. D, pg 67; December Term 1854; Coleman Watson & Enoch Moss file debtor vouchers.
Vol. D, pg 201-204; February 1856; Final Settlement of Estate; After all the court fees and debts paid $49.42 are left to the heirs: widow and one child "who were living somewhere in California or Oregon."
Vol. D, pg 272; Court ordered the administrator of the estate to pay over to the Treasurer of the State $47.?7, since the heirs of the estate cannot be found.
Below are transcribed copies of Vol. D of Michael P. West's Probate in Grayson County. Transcribed by Mazie Coker in 1990.


WANTED -- Any information concerning Priscilla Stanley West. Did she marry again? What happened to their daughter, Sarah Jane West? Where did they live after leaving Texas?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

John Stephen Martin Family Bible

John Stephen Martin and his wife, Elizabeth D. Weiss Martin, lived in Bowling Township, Rock Island County, Illinois. The John Stephen Martin family bible has his name engraved on the front of the bible -- "J.S. MARTIN". The bible was published by the Holman Company in 1882.




Monday, April 13, 2009

Catharina Castner & Mathias Martin of Rock Island, Illinois

Mathias and Catherine Castner Martin
German Immigrants

Maria Catharina Castner, called Catherine or Kate, was the daughter of Georg Castner & Susanna Dorothea Fickenscher. (Castner is sometimes spelled Kastner.) She was born 5 Jun 1822 in the small town of Rothenbach, Germany. The parish register states that she was born in house number 20 between 1 and 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Witness to the birth was Maria Catharina Castner, wife of Johann Castner, who was most likely the godmother to little Catherine. Catherine's father, Georg Caster, died in February of 1847.


Sometime in her early twenties, Catherine met Mathias Martin.  Mathias was from a town about 10 miles away from Rothenbach. He was a shoemaker from Thierstein.  Mathias was born 30 Nov 1809 in Thierstein, Oberfranken, Bayern, Germany.  He was twelve years older than Catherine.  They apparently fell in love because Catherine had his child, a baby boy, born the 28th of November 1847. The baby was name Johann Stephan Martin.  (No parish register in Rothenbach or Thierstein can be found of the baby's birth, so it is not known if Catherine was living someplace else during the birth.)

If Mathias was still an apprentice shoemaker, they could not have afforded to get married yet. German customs and laws of primogenitor (oldest heir inherits everything) often kept people from marrying until in their 30's. Being an apprentice often meant 10 years or so of learning one's trade for only room and board.

Mathias and Catherine must have felt that they would have more opportunities for their family's future in America. Mathias decided to emigrate to America first, then send for Catherine and the baby. American was a land of promise, of opportunity and of land ownership. A descendant of Johanna Martin Franing, said that his grandmother's family, the Henry Martin Family, had sent money to Mathias so he could come to America. Even though everything points to Henry Martin being an older brother to Mathias, the relationship between the Henry Martin and Mathias has not been proven with records.
The naturalization papers (in Jefferson County, Wisconsin) for Mathias state that he landed at the port of Milwaukee on October 1847. He has not been located on any ship lists. He lived in Jefferson County, Wisconsin next to the Adam Martin family. It is not known how Mathias might be related to Adam Martin.
Copies of the Naturalization Record can be found on another post on this blog.  Click here to see them.

According to the Rothenbach parish register Catherine emigrated to America on 22 March 1848. Catherine traveled with her young son, Johann Stephan. Her older sister, Barbara, also traveled with her. The parish register states that Barbara emigrated on 3 April 1848. It may have taken her sister a few more weeks to prepare her emigration papers. They boarded the ship 'Telegraph' at Bremen, Germany and landed in New York on 21 Jan 1848.
Below is a copy of the ship's list.
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957; Port of Departure: Bremen, Germany; Ship Name: Telegraph; Port of Arrival: New York, New York; Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls); Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Microfilm roll: M237_73; Line: 18; List number: 590.

Cath. Kastner, age 25, female; Barb. Kastner , age 29, female; Joh Steph Kastner, age 2, male.

Both a Rock Island, Illinois county history and Catherine's obituary state that Mathias and Catherine married in 1849 -- on Christmas Day, although no marriage record has been found in Jefferson County. Catherine and Mathias can be found in the 1850 Census Farmington, Jefferson County, Wisconsin. They are living next to the Adam Martin family.


Catherine's sister, Barbara, cannot be found in the census. But Catherine's obituary states the following: "In 1848 she and her sister emigrated to this country and located in the town of Farmington, Jefferson county, Wisconsin. Her sister died soon after they arrived."

Catherine and Mathias lived in Jefferson County, Wisconsin until 1864, when they moved to Rock Island County, Illinois. They became the parents of eight children: John Stephan (1847-1919), Rosina (1850'1919), Lawrence (1854-1920), Henry (1855-1929), Susan Dorothy (1856-1916), Christina (1859-1901), Mary K. (1860-1925), and Ahart (1862-1910).

Both Catherine and Mathias belonged to the Lutheran Church in their native Germany, but joined with the Methodist Church in America. Catherine's obituary states that "she was converted to God under the labors of George Miller and ever since was a member of the Evangelical Association." The county history on Mathias states that he was Methodist. The following information was found online: The Evangelical Association of North America was founded by Jacob Albright. George Miller completed and published the Discipline in 1809. It was identical with major portions of the German edition of the Methodist Episcopal Church Discipline of 1808.
A cousin sent a photocopy of the picture below with the notation: Mathias Martin Homestead.
Mathias died 11 Sep 1890 in Bowling Township, Rock Island, Illinois. Catherine died 8 Mar 1907 same place. Both Mathias and Catherine were buried in the Preemption Cemetery, Mercer County, Illinois.

Below is the information from 2 different county histories and Catherine's obituary.
"History of Rock Island County", Chicago, 1914, Munsell Publishing Company, Volume II, pg 1273-1274; information on Mathias is given in the history of his son, John S. Martin.
Mathias Martin was born November 30, 1809, and was married in Germany to Katherine Castner, who was born June 5, 1828. In his native country Mathias Martin learned the trade of a shoemaker, and on first coming to the United States settled at Farmington, Jefferson county, Wisconsin, where he followed his trade and engaged in farming for twelve years. He had come to this country in 1847, and in the following years sent for his wife and baby, who joined him at Farmington.

"Martin, Mathias, Farmer; Sec. 23; P.O. Milan; Rep; Methodist; owns 200 acres of land, valued at $5000; born in Dhierstien, Germany, Nov. 30 1809; came to Jefferson Co., Wisconsin, in 1847; lived there seventeen years; came to this Co., May 15, 1864; wife was Mary Kestner, who was born in Redenboch, Jan. 5, 1822; married Dec. 25, 1849; eight children."
Past & Present of Rock Island County, Illinois"; H.F. Kett & Co., Chicago; 1877; pg. 435.

One of Catherine's obituaries reads: "Catherine Martin, nee Kostner, was born June 5, 1822, in Roetenbach, Bavaria, Germany. In 1848 she and her sister emigrated to this country and located in the town of Farmington, Jefferson county, Wisconsin. Her sister died soon after they arrived. The same year she was converted to God under the labors of George Miller and ever since was a member of the Evangelical association. In 1849, she was united in marriage with Matthias Martin and to this union were born four sons and four daughters. The husband died sixteen years ago and one daughter about five years ago. In 1864, she with her family, moved to Bowling, Rock Island county, Illinois. She leaves four sons, three daughters, twenty four grandchildren, three treat-grandchildren and many friends who mourn her departure, March 8, 1907 after an illness of about a week, she fell peacefully asleep, like one who weary with life's labors, sinks sweetly to rest, aged 84 years, 9 months, 8 days."
Reynolds Press, Rock Island County, Illinois, 22 Mar 1907.

The above photocopies of the pictures of Catherine & Mathias were sent by a wonderful cousin. All we have are photocopies to post on the blog. We would appreciate scans of the originals - if possible!

German Naming Patterns

The names our German ancestors named their children confused me until I took a beginning class on German Research and learned how the children were named.

Reason for confusion -- a typical family might have 3 sons, all with the first name of Johann: Johann Georg, Johann Michael, and Johann Christoph. And their 3 daughters might have the same first name: Anna Dorothea, Anna Maria, and Anna Elizabetha.

When a child was baptized, two names were usually given. The first name was a spiritual or saint name. The second name was a secular or "call" name. This second "call" name was the name the child was called by or known by to family, friends, and the rest of the world.

So in the example above, the three boys with the first name of Johann would be known, respectively, as Georg, Michael, and Christoph. The three girls with the first name of Anna would be known, respectively, as Dorothea, Maria, and Elizabetha.

Sometimes every child in the family would have a different first or "saint" name but it's not unusual as in the example above, for a family to have had a favorite saint and use that name for every child in the family.

Also, if a family had a child that died as an infant, they often named the next child of the same sex the very same name of the child who died. So if two Johann Michael's were in the same family, the first child by that name most likely died before the birth of the second by the same name.

Johann and Johannes -- If a son's first name was Johann followed by a a second name, then Johann was the saint name and the second name was the call name. Sometimes only the name Johannes is used without the use of a second name. Then the child is called Johannes.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Picnic

The only Easter pictures I could find were from an Easter Picnic in the Arizona desert in about 1934. Jess & Mabel Baldwin and their family had just moved to Arizona from Oklahoma. It was during the depression and Grandpa Jess Baldwin had moved to Arizona to work for his Uncle Charlie (Charles Vester Stewart). The picnic included the following known families: Jess Baldwin family, Charles Stewart family, Kirby Leffel family.

According to the info on the back of the pictures, the Easter Picnic took place off of Elliot Road in Mesa Arizona. It would be interesting to see a present day picture the same hill or rock formation.
I love this first picture with everyone trying to pile on top of the rock

Guys in above picture:
Front row: ? boy, Weldon Baldwin, Claude Kane, ?, Joe Bailey, Kirby Leffel, ?boy in pilot hat, Charlie Stewart, ?Jim Mitchell, Clyde Baldwin
Middle row: Charlie Baldwin, Jess Baldwin (hat & vest)
Top row: Joe Burton, Leland Stewart, Leon Stewart, Joe Finley


Lutheran Register Records of Arzberg, Germany

Catherine Castner (Maria Catherina Castner) married Mathias Martin on Christmas Day 1849 in Jefferson County, Wisconsin (marriage date according to information Mathias gave to a county history). Mathias Martin had emigrated to the United States in October of 1847. According to the Arzberg Parish register, Catherina emigrated on 22 Mar 1848 to America (New York Passenger Lists show arrival as 21 Jun 1848.) She may have been waiting for their son to get a little older before making the voyage. Their, John Stephan (our direct ancestor), was born on 28 Nov 1847 in Germany. If you are thinking the dates don't add up, you are right. Our little John Stephan was born several years before his parents were married.

Below are copies of the parish registers of of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Arzberg, Wunsiedel, Oberfranken, Bayern, Germany. The Castner family lived in the small village of Rothenbach but attended church in Arzberg -- a mile or so away.

This first record is the Baptismal or christening record of our grandmother, Maria Catherina Castner. On top is the translation and on the bottom is the actual parish register. The parish priest made a notation in the first column on the left concerning Catherine's immigration on 22 Mar 1848.


This next record is the marriage record of Catherine Castner's parents: Johann Georg Castner and Susanna Dorothea Fickenscher.



Below is the baptismal record of Catherine's father, Johann George Castner. This record also shows the death date of 19 Feb 1847.


This last record is the parish register for Catherine's mother, Susanna Dorothea Fickenscher. You may notice that it is not transcribed. Feel free to transcribe it, but please send me the translation. Thanks.

Note: Castner is sometimes spelled with a "K" -- Kastner. Some of the parish records for the Castner family used the spelling "Kastner" instead of Castner.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Martin Parish Register Records from Thierstein, Wunsiedel, Germany

In late 1980's, I received information from the Parish Priest of the Lutheran Church in Thierstein, Germany concerning our Martin ancestors who had lived there.

Below are copies of records from the Registers of Evangelical Lutheran Parish in Thierstein, Germany. (According to the Standard Finder we should use the following place name: Thierstein, Wunsiedel, Oberfranken, Bayern, Germany.)
There was a "great fire" in Thierstein in 1725 and the parish registers were destroyed. So, records are not available prior to 1725 (at least according to the parish priest).
The first record shown below is a chart showing our ancestors who lived in Thierstein. On the top of the chart is our earliest recorded ancestor, Johann Martin, down to our immigrant ancestor, Johann Mathias Martin.  Mathias Martin was born in 1809 in Thierstein, Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1847.
Below the chart are the individual records or certificates showing births and marriages that occurred in Thierstein.

Key Words:
German > English
geboren > birth
kind von > child of
taufzeugnis > christening certificate
trauzeugnis > marriage certificate


beruf > occupation
gutsbesitzer > landowner

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On the trail of my German immigrant ancestors

Where in Germany was our immigrant Martin ancestor from??
The above question haunted me for years! Our first Martin emigrated to America in 1847, but no one in the family knew exactly where in Bavaria (Germany) our ancestral town was located.

I grew up knowing my Grandpa Martin was German (he was born in Illinois but his parents were German). He would make sauerkraut in a large crock. Eating the homemade sauerkraut was mandatory when we visited his house. He also liked strange looking sausages and smelly cheeses. And of course, he drank a lot of beer. But on the plus side, he was clean, neat, organized, inventive, precise and specific. I am not sure if these are German characteristics but they were certainly his.

When he was in his twenties, Elmer Martin left his family in Rock Island, Illinois and came west to the silver mines of southwestern Colorado. After a divorce from his first wife (no children), Elmer married my grandmother, Maymie Pearl Wilson.

Our family "out west" never had much contact with the Martin family back in Illinois. In 1971, several years after the death of my Grandpa Elmer Martin, I decided to visit Illinois and get to know my Martin relatives. My room-mate from Wisconsin was driving home for the summer, so I hitched a ride with her as far as Rock Island.

My Illinois Martin relatives were welcoming and very nice. I stayed with my great-uncle, Wilber Martin, and his wife, Celia. They were wonderful people -- I fell in love them and felt cheated that I had not had them in my life up until then. They lived on the farm that my 2nd great-grandfather, Mathias Martin, had purchased and farmed. I felt a lot of history just staying there on the farm.

One of my goals on my trip was to find out exactly where in Germany the Martin's were from. No one in Illinois seemed to have a great interest in family history at that time or know where the Martin's immigrated from. So, even though I did not find our immigrant information, I returned back home with a greater appreciation of my Martin family and will always be thankful for their hospitality to me.

During the following year, I made several trips to the Family History Library in SLC. There I found several books on the History of Rock Island. One of the books had the following information on our immigrant Matthias Martin.

Martin, Mathias, Farmer; Sec. 23; P.O. Milan; Rep; Methodist; owns 200 acres of land, valued at $5000; born in Dhierstien, Germany, Nov. 30 1809; came to Jefferson Co., Wisconsin, in 1847; lived there seventeen years; came to this Co., May 15, 1864; wife was Mary Kestner, who was born in Redenboch, Jan. 5, 1822; married Dec. 25, 1849; eight children.
"Past & Present of Rock Island County, Illinois"; H.F. Kett & Co., Chicago; 1877; pg. 435.


For years, whenever I had a chance, I would search through maps and gazetteers for Germany. But, I could never find the two towns mentioned in the article above. This was in the pre-internet and pre-google days, so all searching was done the old-fashioned way.  From the naturalization papers and census records, I knew that both of these towns should be in Bavaria. But, narrowing the search down to Bavaria (Bayern) still did not help. Finally, one day while researching at the the local university, a young man who had lived in Germany helped me. He helped me realize that the names of the towns were written in English but were most likely pronounced in German by my ancestors. So using German pronounciation, we came up with the following:
Dhierstien >> Thierstein
Redenboch >> Rothenbach

Bingo! We found two towns in a German Gazetteer that matched and then found them on a map of Bavaria about 5 miles apart.
From the German Gazetteer, Ortschaften-Verzeichnis Freistaat Bayern, page 1175
Map of Thierstein & Rothenback in Oberfranken, Bayern, Germany
I could not find microfilmed parish records of the towns at the Family History Library in SLC. So, a wonderful German neighbor helped me write letters in German (I included international money coupons for good measure) to the Evangelical Lutheran Parish Priests in both towns and I then waited and waited -- hoping and praying that I had the right locations and right religion. There were only two main religions in Germany at that time - Lutheran and Catholic. The Martin's attended the Lutheran Church then Methodist Church here in America, so I was guessing that they belonged to the Lutheran Church in Germany.

A couple of months later I received records for our family from both Parish Priests. The Martin family records were in the Thierstein Evangelical Lutheran Parish and the Castner family records were in Arzberg Evangelical Lutheran Parish (Rothenback is just a few miles from Arzberg). I am very grateful to both parish priests for the time and effort given to locate my family records, make copies and send them to me.