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Monday, November 6, 2017
FAMILY STORIES - A LOT OF FACTS & A LITTLE FICTION, MAYBE
AGNES SALATHIEL HALL
Agnes Salathiel Hall and I shared second great grandparents. Agnes' mom was the niece of my great-grandma Nancy. Any way one tries to explain these generational things, it is easy to get confused -- but less so as one becomes more familiar with genealogical research. I didn't know Agnes herself, but early on in my hunt for "family" I was fortunate enough to come into contact with Joe Cullen, also a relative of Agnes, and he shared with me a paper she had written about her ancestors – all of whom were my family too.
Like all of us who deal with "oral" or "written" histories, some of what is written is true and some is close but not exact. Half the fun of genealogy is "proving" what one finds – and then absorbing it into one's understanding of the family. Here's what I mean:
1. Agnes wrote that one of her ancestors had seen George Washington and that the Indians could not shoot him, because they believe he led a charmed life. Arrows could not touch him either.
I wondered where this idea had come from. From a bit of research I learned that during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) at one point Washington advised General Braddock not to march into the wilderness because of the Indians. Braddock did it anyway and the outcome was known as "Braddock's massacre." It was in later testimony regarding Washington's warning that for the record it came out that the Indians did, in fact, think Washington was bullet-proof, because they had tried many times to shoot him, but to no avail.
2. Agnes wrote "In her childhood Mama had seen the chemical match and baking soda introduced."
In research I learned that "Strike anywhere" matches were first developed by John Walker and Samuel Jones in England in the early 1830s, and "Safety matches" were not invented until 1844. Agnes' mom, Jemima, was born in 1842 and it's likely that starting life out in Western Virginia she did witness this arrival of the match. Agnes also said her father struck fire with a flint and steel, and that the first stoves, called "step-stoves," made their appearance. In an oral history by Dellie Norton (1898-1993) she writes: "We cooked with one of these old kind of step stoves…It had four eyes on top and a little apron out in front. And just a place where you put your bread in. And really, it was very small, but you could cook good on them. There was a door there at the little apron where you put your wood in. You don't ever see none of them no more."
3. Agnes wrote that her grandma Corel "remembered the fall of the stars. They thought it was an omen. Scientists have since found the cause."
This refers to the great meteor storm of 1833. During the 4 hours which preceded dawn on Nov. 13, 1833, the skies were lit up by thousands of shooting stars every minute. Newspapers of that era reveal that almost no one was unaware of the shower. If they were not alerted by the cries of excited neighbors, they were usually awakened by flashes of light cast into normally dark bedrooms by the fireballs. Many people believed that it was the end of the world. Some people ran out to watch, and other people crawled under their bed or ran into the closet.
4. Finally Agnes told how her family left Tazewell County, Virginia, in the late 1840s.
"Henry Corel, my mother's father, and brothers and families, their stock, etc., came to Kansas from Virginia by flatboat down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The boat foundered and they unloaded at Wyandotte and drove by schooner to Westport, Missouri using ox teams. Mama was seven years old. Kansas City was not started then. They began a homestead on Little Blue, now Kansas City's famous Cliff Drive. But finding themselves in slave territory, they moved on to Lawrence, the main seat of anti-slave activity.
This paper of Agnes Salathiel Hall, even with its little errors, is what has me putting Agnes herself into the Immortal Nobody category. Look what she left me and all her other descendants! How would I ever know that these things happened in my family? That historically they even happened? And she could not imagine that in 2017 someone would be blessing her for this little paper.