Wednesday, August 31, 2011


~ Ryland family ~

Sophronia Stevens, born in 1824 in Almond, New York, was a sister of my great-great grandpa Chester Dana Stevens. Often researchers have a difficult time finding information about the distaff side of their families, but by virtue of Sophronia’s marriage to Stephen A. Hurlbut and her own father’s exploits, she has left a bigger footprint than the usual woman does.

Her father was George Stevens, for whom Stevens Point, Wisconsin is named. Her husband was first an attorney and later was appointed a Brigadier General by Abraham Lincoln. The town both families lived in was Belvidere, Illinois, a “Yankee village, settled largely by New Englanders. The settlers, for the most part, averaged high in intelligence and culture. There were cheerful homes and genuine hospitality.”

On May 13, 1847 Sophronia married Steven Hurlbut. She was described as a charming and stately woman who was to be entirely at home in the distinguished future her husband was building. On June 7, the Illinois 2nd Constitutional Convention was held at Springfield and Hurlbut was elected a delegate. This convention was of major importance in his life as it marked his introduction into state politics.

Lincoln and Hurlbut were great personal friends. In 1855 Hurlbut organized the Boone Rifles, a Military Company and he became a Captain. In 1858 Hurlbut was elected State Representative, and he and his wife went to Springfield. In 1860 he was re-elected to this office. Lincoln was now President. During the fall of 1860, he was sent to Charleston, ostensibly to visit his sister but it was actually to discover how much Union sentiment existed in the South and how best to appeal to it. His report when he returned to Washington was “Nothing to appeal to.” He was serving in the Illinois state legislature when shots were fired on Fort Sumter. He was quickly appointed to Brigadier General of Volunteers by Abraham Lincoln on June 14, 1861.

Many letters still exist between Lincoln and Hurlbut. And as a matter of fact, Brown University has one that Lincoln wrote to Sophronia. I have been unable to get a copy of the handwritten letter but in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 4, it provides the contents:

To Mrs. Stephen A. Hurlbut

Mrs. S. A. Hurlbutt Springfield, Ills.,
My dear Madam Oct. 29, 1860

Your good husband, who is making speeches for us in this county, has desired me to write you that he is well, which I take great pleasure in doing. I will add, too, that he is rendering us very efficient service. Yours very truly A. LINCOLN

Hurlbut took full advantage of his political connections throughout the war, leading to many difficulties. On September 17th, 1862, most likely through political connections, Hurlbut was promoted to major general, before his military career even began. Hurlbut commanded the 4th Division of the Army of the Tennessee at Shiloh and Corinth, after which he commanded the XVI Corps. In 1864, he was placed in command of the Department of the Gulf. While in this role, Hurlbut tried to further his own position, and caused problems with the government, which had been set up by the North to run Louisiana after Confederate soldiers were forced out of the area. His action brought forth an order from E. R. S. Canby for his arrest, but the case was quieted, and Hurlbut was mustered out of the army on June 20, 1865.

In the summer of 1866 Hurlbut resumed his law practice and started building a large and handsome house on the street now named for him. The house was demolished in the 1930s, but copies of newspaper articles showing the house can provide pictures of it.

Although the newspapers of Belvidere reported only good news about Hurlbut, his career both during and after the civil war was fraught with controversy including harassment of the loyal government of Louisiana, corruption (which had a solid foundation,) drunkenness, and embarrassment of government officials, and a local scandal that surely must have rocked Belvidere – a dalliance with one of his servants, which produced an illegitimate child.

Learning about Hurlbut’s activities give you an idea of the life of Sophronia. As you can tell, she faced many ups and downs in her married life.

Sophronia had a sister Serena Crandall, and a newspaper article from February of 1864 describes a train accident that they were in. She and her sister were riding in the last car on a mail train when a flange broke on one of the wheels at it descended down an incline. “The car in its descent turned completely over, smashing the top and sides, and landing right side up.” The list of passengers makes note of passenger injuries: Mrs. Crandall of Marengo, bruised, severe; and Mrs. S. A. Hurlbut, bruised, slight. The article indicates that it was a new car with a new type of wheels and was very valuable; it cost about twice as much as the common kind. The article ended with, “It is to be hoped the builders don’t always furnish that style of wheels.”

On February 11, 1887 Sohronia died after suffering from a lingering illness, and although it does not indicate what that was, it says that from the outset it became apparent that recovery was doubtful. Her obituary indicated she was “somewhat older than 62.” The obituary also indicates she had been a member of the Belvidere First Baptist Church for nearly 40 years.

Stephen and Sophronia had only one child, a son George Henry Hurlbut, who was born in 1848 in Belvidere, Illinois and died in New York City on February 15, 1930. George, in turn, had two sons, Stephen A., a professor of Latin and Greek at St. Albans School in Washington, and William J., who first became a Broadway playwright and in 1930 moved to Hollywood and took up screenwriting. His most famous movies were Imitation of Life and Bride of Frankenstein.Neither son married nor had offspring.

Monday, August 22, 2011

FRANCOIS E "FRANK" LAHAY - ab 1829-1862


In the scheme of things, Francois E. “Frank” LaHay lived a short life that really appears like a cipher in among a bunch of relatives. He was my great-grandmother’s first husband. They were married long enough to have two children, but unfortunately within a short period of time he died, and within a couple of years both children died. So there are no living progeny.

From a genealogical standpoint, there’s not much to document about his life, other than a few things I was able to find. But I think there is enough interesting that I should let him take his place among the Immortal Nobodies, even though we will never know what he looked like.

Frank’s father was Toussaint LaHay, and Frank had siblings Eugenie, Martha, Mary, David, and Antoine. The family appears on the 1850 census in St. Genevieve County, Missouri; all show that they were born in Missouri. The only unusual thing is that their last name appears as “Lihaise” and “Lihais.” When I first discovered “Toussaint LaHay” I was surprised to find such an Irish surname connected to the obvious French given name. To my surprise, I was to learn some years later that this LaHay line went back into Canada as Lihais and then further back into Ireland where the name was actually LaHaie. Catholic Church records were used by others to follow this line.

Apparently when Kansas territory opened up for settlement, the Toussaint LaHay family moved from St. Genevieve, to Douglas County, Kansas, where Toussaint and his three sons took a section of land on the the Wakarusa River about eight miles west of Lawrence. In a document held by the Kansas State Historical Society there is mention of the LaHay boys by the author, Henry Hiatt. “Mr. LaHay (referring to Toussaint) had a wife, two sons and two or more daughters. His boys were pro-slavery and rough and always ready to fight….Sometime in 1856 a party of free-state men…robbed his house of furniture, clothing, etc. and burned it to the ground.” The LaHays were Southerners who moved to Kansas for the same reason that the New England Emigrant Aid Society members did – to add their votes to either bring Kansas into the Union as a free or a slave state. This period of time became known as “Bloody Kansas.”

In 1853 the Corel family, originally from southwestern Virginia but more recently from Kansas City, Missouri, also moved to Douglas County. Because of the difficulties experienced in Kansas Territory during that time, only spotty records are available; there is no record of the marriage of Nancy Corel (my great-grandmother) and Frank LaHay. However, in a Civil War Widow’s Pension file held by the National Archives, Nancy writes, “I was prior to my marriage to James S. Dobbins married to Frank E. LaHay on December 19th 1856 near Lawrence, Kansas. Mr. Lahay died on February 13, 1861 (note: this affidavit was done in 1904 and Nancy misremembered the date) and was buried on his father’s place near Lawrence. Frank E. Lahay did not serve in the Army or Navy.”

About the only other records we have are three articles from the Lawrence newspapers:

Lawrence Republican, April 17, 1862: Francois LaHay, 31 years, 3 mos. Of Clinton Twp., Douglas County, died on 9th inst. In Missouri of lung fever.

Kansas Weekly Tribune, February 11, 1864: Died. Ella LaHay, daughter of Mrs. Nancy LaHay, aged 2 years 5 months, 9 days in Clinton Twp., Douglas Co., KS.

Kansas Weekly Tribune, March 3, 1864: Died. Olla (Oliver) LaHay, son of Mrs. Nancy LaHay on March 1, aged 6 years 1 month.

Skip to 1986:

In that year a researcher I’d hired in Lawrence, Kansas sent me a 1972 newspaper article that stated the following:

“The bodies from the LaHay Cemetery probably will be moved to the Clinton Cemetery by December 1, federal officials said today. The moving is necessary because the one-acre tract where several persons were buried during the last century will be covered by the waters of the Clinton Reservoir…..Federal regulations provide that all cemeteries which will be covered by waters impounded by dams must be moved – that the cemeteries not be covered by the flood waters.”

I sent to the Corps of Engineers to get their documentation for this move, and later Jerry and I took a trip back to Kansas to see for ourselves what had transpired. The original tall cemetery marker had been moved to the new cemetery. On one side it said “T. LaHay, d Mar 2, 1868, ae 68 years 2 months. And below that it says “T. LaHay reserved this acre of land during his lifetime for his family cemetery.”

On the other side it says “Frank LaHay, d Apr 9, 1863, ae 34 years.” And under Frank’s name it says “Ollie and Ella, Children of F & N LaHay.” There also is a newer flat marker that simply says “Ollie and Ella LaHay.”

That’s it for Francois “Frank” LaHay. It was a life cut short. Who will remember Frank LaHay? I know he appeared on some deeds, and his name appeared in the report prepared by a House of Representative Committee to investigate the “Troubles in Kansas”. But none of that was significant.

He was not a well-known person, nor was he recorded anywhere either for good or for bad. He left no descendants and no legacy. But he was a part of my great-grandma’s life, and even though he is not my blood relative, I want him to count somewhere. And since he’s truly an immortal nobody, here is where he shall be.

Sunday, August 7, 2011



The story of Henry Ber Kaufman is an incomplete one. What we know is gathered from little odds and ends, and there are many unanswered questions about his heritage. I guess it is often that way with orphans. Henry is not my relative nor is he my husband's. But he IS family, because Jerry was married to his granddaughter for many years until her untimely death at the age of 44. I needed to research her family line in order to give Carole a voice in the genealogy that has been so pervasive in our house these last 24 years. So here we have the family heritage of Carolyn Kaufman Title.

The picture above is of Henry Ber and his wife Caroline Gottlieb Kaufman. Shown are their first three children, Theo, Rachel (Ray), and Lewis. Later Ed, Fannie and Gertrude came along. Ed was Carole's father.

Son Lewis wrote a short family history and I'll quote from his notes: "My father, Henry Kaufman...was born in 1854 in New Orleans. During the year 1855 there was a yellow fever epidemic and both of his parents died. My father, an orphan, was adopted by a Mr. and Mrs. Ber, who had no natural children. Later Mr. Ber died, leaving the widow with the adopted son whom they had named Henry Ber Kaufman. Widow Ber, Mathilde Godchaux Ber, somewhere met widower Solomon Gottlieb and they married. So Henry Ber Kaufman, the orphan, was brought into a large Gottleib family and became 'one of the boys', being the same age as Charles Gottlieb." Apparently Mr. Gottlieb had children from an earlier marriage, so Henry fit nicely into the family.

Backing up a bit, on August 1, 1855 the Home for Jewish Widows and Orphans opened in New Orleans as a result of this yellow fever epidemic. Mr. Ber was one of the early sponsors.

In a hunt for the orphanage records I went to New Orleans, where I was able to locate these records. To my great surprise, in looking at them I found several things of note: 1) Henry's name was actually Kaufman, which means Mr. Ber did not change Henry's name when he adopted him but used Ber as Henry's middle name, 2) the "Biography 3" indicates that Henry was the third child to be placed in the orphanage, 3) Henry was admitted on August 1, although the formal record states the orphanage was opened on August 7; and 4)Henry was adopted when he was three years old.

So little Henry was one of the reasons that the orphanage was needed. There is no birth record for Him, except that the orphanage records says he was born in Louisville, Kentucky. That is more likely than the family saying he was born in New Orleans. However, I have never been able to corroborate that.

Henry did fine growing up in the Gottlieb family. Solomon had a daughter named Carrie about Henry's age, and Matilda was sure that Henry and Carrie would make a good match. The family always remembered her saying to her step-daughter Carrie, "Nuh, dare is nothing like dat Heinie." Over the years Carrie came to believe her, and she and "Heinie" (Henry) married on February 22, 1890 in Baton Rouge.

This is a picture taken in 1945 of those Kaufmans who were still living in Baton Rouge.

Henry Ber Kaufman has many descendants, four of whom are my lovely granddaughters, Stacey, Carley, Jill and Katie. The research on the Kaufman side of the family is for them.

Monday, August 1, 2011



I didn't have either of my grandmas in my life for very long. My dad's mother, who lived in Colorado, died when I was 6, and this grandma, my mom's mother, died when I was 11. But this is how I remember her looking: very grandmotherly, I thought. She was 62 when she died, and I am now 76 and I don't think I look nearly as grandmotherly! But perhaps my own little grandchildren think so. It's hard to see oneself as old.

Jessie did not have the easiest of lives. Her father, Joseph Clinton Davis, deserted her mother, Nellie Stevens Davis, shortly after Jessie was born in Kansas. In 1887 her mother met James Eungard, a railroad man, and after securing a divorce, Jim and Nellie moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where they married. Sometime before this picture was taken Jessie took sick with typhoid fever and she lost all her hair. This photo has been in our family for many years and I was told that Jessie's hat covered her bald head.

As with many railroad families, the Eungard family moved from place to place, sometimes in Kansas and at least once to Oklahoma, where her stepbrother Chester Eungard was born. In 1900 the Eungard family was enumerated in Wichita, where Jessie was shown as 15 years old. By 1905, the family was in Caldwell, Kansas, where she met and married Byrd Worthington Ryland, the youngest son of James A. Ryland. In 1906 her first child, a son named Nevalyn Eugene Ryland (called Bob) was born.

She and Byrd would go on to have 6 more children besides Bob: Florence Vivian, Virginia Louise, Marie Eleanor, Byrd Worthington Jr., Hugh Sterling, and Marjorie Ellen.

There was a problem in the marriage, however. Byrd Sr. couldn't settle down. In the course of the marriage he couldn't seem to stay in one place for very long, uprooting the family while he tried to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He apparently was not in good health and often the move was between Caldwell, Kansas, and Colorado Springs. But there was something else wrong besides that. In 1929 Jessie filed for divorce, in the Complaint noting that "Since the marriage of plaintiff and defendant, defendant has been extremely and repeatedly cruel towards plaintiff..." Later in the papers it notes that "Defendant is not a fit person to have the custody of said minor children." The divorce was granted, and instead of alimony, Jessie accepted a cash settlement and the farm property in Mulvane, Kansas.
By 1929 the three oldest children were out of high school and on their own. Grandma Jessie took the four youngest to the farm and attempted to make a go of it there. I can remember as a child being told that Jessie raised chickens and children, and loved them both. But in the picture below, a snapshot, you can see that life was not easy for her.

To make matters worse, in 1930 the farmhouse caught on fire and burned to the ground. Jessie took the children to her aunt's house in Wichita, where they stayed until she got on her feet again. About this time her son Bob, who had gone to California to become a movie star, encouraged her to come out where he could help her. Grandma asked my mother, who was in Colorado Springs working at a photography studio, to help her with the children on the trip, and in late 1930 they headed to California. I am not sure where in her life the picture below actually belongs, but I like to think that this is how she looked when she began her great California adventure, putting her divorce and her farm loss behind her.

California was in the grips of the depression like the rest of the country, and since Bob's movie career had failed to materialize, the little Ryland group - Jessie, Virginia (19), Marie (15), Bert (11), Hugh (9) and Margie (4) did their best to survive. Jessie used her settlement money to buy a little ice cream shop in North Long Beach, which failed. She then worked at a farmer's roadside vegetable stand, did some odd jobs as a live-in attendent for old people - and my mother took care of all her little siblings. The four younger children always had a very close relationship with my mother, because she was their de facto mother for those really tough depression years.

For many years various family members lived together in Long Beach in a big old house while Bert and Hugh served in WWII. Florence's husband was overseas also, and she and her baby daughter came to California for a while. As things got easier financially for the family, Grandma's cheery disposition took over and in spite of working hard each day, she went dancing at night and certainly must have captured some of her lost fun! She met and became engaged to a fellow dancer and plans were in the making for a wedding when she was felled by a heart attack at age 62 and died.

I have always felt that Grandma Jessie had a tough life. Of course I didn't know much of this when I was a kid, but being raised around all my aunts, uncles and cousins we of course knew some of it. But I will say this for the Ryland Family: None of us second generation kids ever heard a bad word spoken about our Grandpa Byrd. The siblings may have talked among themselves, but they were completely close-mouthed about family matters to their kids. All that I learned about my Grandpa Byrd, who died in 1935 just before I was born, was from my own genealogical research.

Many years later after my own mother died, I asked my dad if he knew what the problem was with Grandpa Byrd. He said my mom never would tell him. But he assured me that for his money, Jessie was the best woman he'd ever met, next to my mom, of course. He said that Jessie cried something awful when she learned that Byrd had died in Colorado. He said he figured she really, after all those years, carried a fondness in her heart for him, the father of all her children.