Archive for August, 2014

An essay that originally appeared in Springhouse magazine…

Recently, Stanley Fish, noted author and professor of humanities and law at Florida International University, wrote a piece for the New York Times called “Moving on.” He wrote about selling his books, because he was moving from a house to a smaller apartment. Although I kept several books that he needed, “the books that sustained my professional life for 50 years — books by and about Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, Skelton, Sidney, Herbert, Marvell, Herrick, Donne, Jonson, Burton, Browne, Bacon, Dryden, Hobbes — are gone (I watched them being literally wheeled out the door), and now I look around and see acres of empty white bookshelves.”

He continues that a deeper reason for the relinquishment was that “it was time.” He had been engaged in conservations with fellow writers and now, he felt he no longer had the energy to continue those conservations as they developed among other writers in different ways. It was time to face the fact that he was not going to be continuing his work forever–and indeed, he isn’t going to go on forever, either—and now his books deserve book homes where they will be used by others.

I’ve relinquished books at different times of my life. The most drastic downsizing was in 2009, as we prepared to move. My books had lined the walls of our finished basement on ten maple shelves that I’d purchased at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They weren’t really designed to be filled with books, and the shelves bowed a little beneath the weight of some texts, but they were pretty and served the purpose of holding what I estimated was over 1000 books. In spite of that large number, I felt like these were the books I needed for my work.

But as moving day approached, I thought twice about that. Many of the books were ones I hadn’t used for several years. What is the difference between thinking I’ll use a book, and feeling nostalgic about it because I purchased it for a certain now-completed purpose? (For instance, I had several books from my doctoral program, but I hadn’t cracked those books in several years.)

So I straightened my back and made drastic cuts in my collection. I took them to the local library to donate to their annual book fair. I thought, Now, I have my collection to the size I need.

But no, as moving day grew nearer, I became harder-hearted and removed four or five boxes-full of more books. Even then, after we had arrived in our new location, I decided to go through the collection again and donate more. A half-dozen more boxes of books (and some LPs, too) moved onward to the local book fair.

I still have lots of books! But they’re a more manageable number. Since online used book sites became so helpful, there is no longer the fear that, if I relinquish a text that I realize I still want, I can order another copy rather than perhaps never finding it again in book stores (although I still love actual book stores, like John Dunphy’s in Alton, IL.)

Still, giving up books can be an emotional process. A few years ago, Springhouse editor Gary DeNeal asked readers to share their top five or ten most precious books. Many of us do have books that we need. But you also do come to the point where a book you once cherished needn’t be kept any longer. Books, like anything else, can be kept too long. Just like household items given to Good Will or the Salvation Army, you have a sense that your belongings could be going good for someone else. But meanwhile, you’ll still have other books that you read, you enjoy, and you retain as keepsakes you’d hate to part with.

At our last house, repairpeople would traipse through the basement, look at my shelves, and say, “Wow, have you read all these?” It’s kind of a foolish thing to say to people: as if you don’t deserve to own a book if you haven’t read it. In my case, a lot of my books are reference books that aren’t supposed to be read cover to cover, and many more are texts that I use in my teaching. I also have antique books that relate to early Illinois history, and I don’t read them so that I can keep the old bindings in good shape. Some of them were books I used when I was writing my first book, about my hometown when it was state capital. But now I cherish these books as kinds of heirlooms—although heirlooms I myself purchased.

Several years ago I enjoyed Walter Benjamin’s famous essay, “Unpacking My Library.” I went to look for the anthology in which the essay appeared. But (appropriate to this essay’s subject, I guess), I realized I had donated the book containing that piece. But I looked online and remembered what I’d read. Benjamin was the German literary critic who died tragically in 1940. In the essay, he goes through his boxes of books, stored for two years, and took great pleasure going through the books and reflecting on the wonderful benefits of a personal library. He thinks about the periods of his life associated with his books and the circumstances when he acquired each book.“Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories,” he writes, adding that books don’t come alive in the owner, but “it is he who lives in them.”

That’s certainly true with my books. In what books do you live?

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David and Esther Washburn

Esther and David Washburn

Another genealogical post. Forty years ago, I copied inscriptions at our family cemeteries, the Pilcher Cemetery and the Winslow Pilcher Family Cemetery. (I describe that project in another post, here.) Additional information about those families may be interesting to some readers.

When I was a child, visiting the cemeteries on Decoration Day, I liked to read the old tombstones but I didn’t know who the people were. When I became interested in genealogy as a teenager, how fun to realize the kinship connections. I learned that David and Esther Washburn, who are buried in the older part of the Pilcher Cemetery, are my great-great-great-grandparents. I was interested in tracing the history of their children, but I didn’t get very far and drifted away from genealogy during my college days.

But in the early 00s, I corresponded with a distant Washburn cousin named Hoy Washburn, who sent me a tremendous amount of research he and another cousin had done on the family. Here, I’ll copy the names of just my direct ancestors.

John Washbourne, born August 1, 1566 in Bengeworth, Worcestershire, England, died August 3, 1624. Married Martha (Timbrell) Stevens in St. Peter’s Parish, Bengeworth. She was born there about 1573 and died May 9, 1626. They are my 9-great-grandparents. Here is my blog post about the Washbourne generations in England.)

St Peter's in Bengeworth. From http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1645205

St Peter’s in Bengeworth. From http://www.geograph.org.uk/ photo/1645205

John Washbourne, baptized July 2,1597 in St. Peter’s Parish, Bengeworth, died March 17, 1671. He married Margery Moore on Nov. 23, 1618 in St. Peter’s Parish Bengeworth. She was born about 1586.

According to this website, John (1597-1671) sailed to New England in about 1631 or 1632, and settled in the town of Duxbury in Plymouth Colony, where he was a tailor. He and Margery were the immigrant ancestors, although Margery apparently died not long after they arrived in Plymouth. (Other interesting websites, for instance this one, can be easily searched for concerning these early Washburns.)

John Washburn, born about Nov. 20, 1620 in Bengeworth, died Nov. 12, 1686 in Bridgewater, Pymouth Co., MA. He married Elizabeth Mitchell in Plymouth on Dec. 6, 1645. She was born about 1629 in Plymouth and died before Dec. 5, 1684 in Bridgewater, MA.

Elizabeth was the granddaughter of a Mayflower passenger. Her parents were Experience Mitchell and Jane Cooke, and Jane Cooke was the daughter of Francis Cooke, who sailed on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact. Francis Cooke and his wife Hester (who came to the colony a little later, on the Ann) are my 9-great-grandparents. There is much online concerning Cooke and other Mayflower passengers. 

James Washburn (5/15/1672-6/11/1749), married Mary Bowden (about 1670-12/18/1745). They were from Bridgewater. They married Dec. 20, 1693

Moses Washburn (9/9/1702-10/31/1765), married Hannah Cushman (12/25/1705-after 7/29/1750). They married May 23, 1727 in Kingston, MA. She was the daughter of Robert Cushman and Perusus Lewis.

Bezaliel Washburn (about 1740-10/5/1813), married Patience Sollard, his third wife, on July 10, 1795 in Darmouth, Bristol County, MA. (What cool names! “Bezaliel and Patience, table for two…” The biblical Bezalel was one of the artisans on the Tabernacle in Exodus 31.)

David Wasburn (8/12/1785-3/13/1852), married Esther Griffith. David was born in Dartmouth. Esther was born in 1789 in New York. They both settled in Fayette County, IL in the 1830s, and died there. Their children:

* Alma Washburn
* Julia Ann Washburn, m. Jabez Luther
* Philip Washburn (1808-1841), m. Rebecca
* Reuben Washburn (b. 1810)
* Leonard Washburn (b. about 1815), m. Shara Ann Starnes
* Daniel Griffith Washburn (b. 1823), m. Mary Beach
* David J. Washburn (2/15/1825-1/30/1893), m. Sarah J. Crawford, who was my great-great-great-aunt in the Crawford family)
* George Washburn (1/24/1826-about 1880). He was my great-great-grandfather. His third wife,

My grandma identified this picture as that of her grandfather George Washburn.

My grandma identified this picture as that of her grandfather George Washburn.

Ellen (Long) Goodman, was my great-great-grandmother. His first wife, Octavia Pilcher, was my great-great-great-aunt in the Pilcher family.
* Hannah Washburn (1829-1907), who married William Lewis Pilcher, my great-great-great-uncle (Octavia’s older brother) in the Pilcher family. They are buried in the Winslow Pilcher family cemetery.
* Almon Delos Washburn (1831-1902)
* Eli Washburn (1832-1864: he died in the Civil War at Marietta, Cobb Co., GA)
* Ira Washburn (1836-1849.
* Leroy Washburn (1838-1908). He married Susan F. Crawford, my great-great-great-aunt in the Crawford family, and sister of Sarah, whom I just mentioned).

George and Ellen Washburn had two daughters Abagail

Four generations: my uncle Harold Crawford (the baby), my grandma Grace, her mother Abby Pilcher, and Abby's mother Ellen Washburn.

Four generations in 1909: my uncle Harold Crawford (the baby), my grandma Grace, her mother Abby Pilcher, and Abby’s mother Ellen Washburn.

and Susan. Susan is buried in the Bolt Cemetery with her husband Isaac England and near her parents. Abagail married Albert Pilcher and had one child, Grace, who married Josiah Crawford. “Joe and Grace” were my mother’s parents.

When I copied the inscriptions in the Pilcher Cemetery in 1974, I had difficulty reading the stones of Philip and Rebecca Washburn and Philip’s young brother Ira (whose twin Reuben died the same year as Ira). They are all buried near David and Esther in the old section of the cemetery.I remember getting down the ground and tracing the inscriptions with my fingers to determine the letters and numbers. I felt sad for Philip and Rebecca, married but young when they both died in 1841. What was their story?

Another Washburn family member, Cyrene (1814-1856) is buried nearby, too. I assumed he was a child of David and Esther, but according to Hoy Washburn’s wonderful research, Cyrene was David’s brother Stephen’s son. (Cyrene is a biblical name but for a place, rather than a person.)

Back to Francis Cooke: the Mayflower website gives some information about him, here. That site also gives famous descendants of the passengers, and the Cookes’ descendants include both Presidents Bush, Dick Van Dyke, “Grandma” Moses, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. How much joy it would’ve given my grandma to know she was distantly related to Roosevelt through her mother’s family! She was a stubborn Democrat and revered FDR.

(An addition from December 2018: I discovered and purchased a book by Nathaniel Morton, “New England Memorial,” which is the first history of Plymouth Colony–the first history published in the colonies, in fact—and contains information about Francis Cooke. Morton’s is the first publication of the text of the Mayflower Compact and its signers, including Cooke. The book was published in 1669: the one I purchased is the third edition from 1774, and the book had additional editions in 1826 and 1855. I mention this also because Morton came to the colony on the Ann–and thus my ancestor Hester Cooke was a shipmate with the future author of America’s earliest history, like her and Francis a Leiden separatist.)



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Thomas R. and Margaret Gatewood

The Winslow Pilcher Family Cemetery lies along a country road near Brownstown, IL, not far from the larger and still used Pilcher Cemetery. to me it’s a peaceful place, a little graveyard with no recent burials, surrounded by farm land. Pilcher was my grandma Crawford’s birth name, and Winslow Pilcher and his wife Averilla were my 3-great-grandparents. They are buried here, along with some of their children (including my great-great-grandfather Jonathan Kay Pilcher and his wife Rhoda), and Averilla’s brother Thomas A. Gatewood, and their parents, Thomas R. and Margaret (Kay) Gatewood.

Forty years ago this summer, I copied all the inscriptions in these places. I was seventeen and enjoyed my genealogical hobby, about which I write

J.K. and Rhoda Pilcher's stone

J.K. and Rhoda Pilcher’s stone, photographed the same day, with the same cornfield in the background

here. I was also tracing the Crawford family history that Grandma (who died in 1972) had started, and I loved to study the Pilcher family history that one of Grandma’s first cousins had traced.

I drifted away from genealogy after I started college in 1975 but I’ve recently renewed my interest in the subject. The interest never entirely left me. For instance, during the winter of 1978-1979, I worked part-time at the Evans Public Library in my hometown, Vandalia, IL. A package arrived containing a manuscript for our historical collections: The Four Children of James Kay of Essay County, VA and Some of Their Descendants, compiled by Kent Kay Freeman of Tacoma, WA. I was thrilled to look through the typed manuscript! I wrote to Mr. Freeman and asked if I could have a copy. Seventy years old, he wrote right back and said that he had sent all available copies to libraries around the country and to his family, but that the Mormons were going to microfilm his material.

I went ahead and photocopied his interesting material, however, only for my private use. He had uncovered such a goldmine of information about my ancestors back to colonial days!

Recently I found the file again and decided to post on this blog just the information from Mr. Freeman concerning my direct ancestors.

This was VERY challenging material to unravel, not because Mr. Freeman’s material was substandard or vague, but because several of the people are named John or James or Richard or Mary or Margaret, and because the two families intermarried. I’ve left some redundancy in the story just to try to help with clarity.

The Gatewood line:

John Gatewood, Sr., married to Amy, is first recorded in Virginia (in what became Essex Co.) in 1663, and he died there in 1706. They are my 8-great-grandparents.

One of their nine children, John Gatewood, Jr. was born about 1675/80 and died in January or February 1750. His wife Catherine died in 1762.

One of their ten children, Isaac Gatewood, was born before 1720 and died in September or October 1765 in Essex. Co., VA. His wife’s name was Mary.

Among their children were Andrew, Mary, and Richard. This is the family group in which Gatewoods and Kays intermarried.

* Richard Gatewood married Averilla Andrews, the daughter of Thomas A. and Joice (Garnette) Andrews. One of their children was Thomas Richard Gatewood—or Thomas R. Gatewood, whom I mentioned at the very beginning as my 4-great-grandfather.
* Andrew Gatewood married to Margaret Kay (c. 1750-1827), a sister of my ancestor John Kay (1755-1812).
* And John Kay (1755-1812) himself married Andrew Gatewood’s sister Mary (1758-1839), and one of their children was also named Margaret Kay (1782-1857), and she married her first cousin, Thomas R. Gatewood. Thus the siblings Mary (Gatewood) Kay and Richard Gatewood, though fortunately not married to each other, are both my ancestors.

Thomas R. Gatewood was born in 1781 in Essex CO., VA and died September 11, 1856 in Vandalia, IL. Margaret his wife/cousin was born September 7, 1782 and died March 16, 1857. They married in Fayette Co., KY on August 19, 1803.

The Kay line:

The first Kays in Virginia were brothers, James [2] and William, sons of James Kay [1] of Bury, Lancashire. The brothers arrived in Virginia in 1658 and settled along the Rappahannock River.

James Kay [2] married Sarah Iveson in about 1662. Among their chidlren were William, Richard, and James [3]. James [3] married Mary Pannell in about 1696. James [3] and Mary had three children, one of whom was also named James [4], who settled in King George Co., VA. He had sons James [5] and John.

James Kay [2] had sons William and Richard, and Richard had a son Robert, who settled in Caroline Co, VA. Robert, in turn had sons named Robert and James—yet another James Kay! This James lived in 1778-1835.

Mr. Freeman could not establish a certain relationship between these Kays and our definite ancestor, who was ALSO named James Kay, whose will was probated in Essex Co, VA in 1769. Surely a connection exists, he writes, perhaps with the King George Co. Kays or with the Caroline Co. Kays.

“Our” James and his wife Mary—-my 6-great-grandparents—had four children, and two of those children we met already (above): Margaret (c. 1750-1827), who married Andrew Gatewood, and John Kay (c. 1755-June 5 1812) who married Mary Gatewood (c. 1758-1839).

And… one of John and Mary’s daughters was Margaret Kay, who (as I wrote above) married Thomas R. Gatewood.

Before I return to Thomas R. and Margaret (Kay) Gatewood. I want to linger with “our” James Kay, my 6-great-grandfather. His will, probated Feb. 2, 1769 (and quoted in toto by Mr. Freeman) reads:

“In the Name of God Amen. I, James Kay of Essex County being sick & weak but of Perfect mind memory and understanding and Knowing that it is appoitned for all men once to Die, but knowing the uncertainty of the same, do by these presents make this my Last Will and Testament, in the manner and form Following. Imprimis, I Lent unto my believe Wife Mary Kay all my Estate both Real and Person during her natural Life or Widowhood, and at the time of which shall happen I give and bequeath it in the Following manner. Item, I do give and bequeath to my daughter Margaret Kay, one Negro boy called Goerge, one ditto called Ben, and one Girl called Lucy, to her and her lawfull heirs forever. Item, I give and equath to my son Richard Kay, one Negro Girl called Sarah an ten pounds Curt. money to him and his heirs forever. Item, I give and bequeath to my son John Kay, one Negro man called Scipio and one Girl called June to him and his heirs forever…. “ and it goes on to give other slaves to his son Christopher, and to stipulate that his land and holdings be devided equally among the four children.

But there is is: my ancestors were slaveowners. My family shares in this horrible national sin and the racism with which we still struggle. The Gatewoods owned and bequeathed slaves as well.

James’ son John Kay—my 5-great-grandfather—was in the Revolutionary War. He was listed as a Sergeant on Feb. 16, 1776 in Capt. Thomas Berry’s company, in the 8th Virginia Regiment of Foot, commanded by Col. Abraham Bowman. On Feb. 3, 1777 he was promoted to Ensign and served until he resigned his commission on Apr. 24, 1778. He was paid six pounds a month, or $20, as an officer in the Contential Line.

Mr Freeman goes on to say write that John and two of his siblings sold their shares in their father’s property to brother Richard. Mr. Freeman speculates that this was in preparation for their move to Kentucky, where John Kay appears in Fayette Co., KY land records in 1786. His will, too, leaves slave to his heirs, in addition to other property and land. His will indicates that he was wealthy at the time of his 1812 death, compared to his $20/month pay as an Ensign in the Revolution.

As I heard the story from older relatives, Thomas R. and Margaret Gatewood, their daughter Averilla and son Thomas A., and their spouses and children came to Fayette Co., IL in the late fall of 1829. Thomas A.’s first wife’s name is unknown, but Averilla’s husband was Winslow Pilcher. Supposedly the roads were too bad for them to continue and they settled the Four Mile Prairie area. The Pilcher family built a house near what is now the small Winslow Pilcher family cemetery; an older relative of mine, born in the 1890s, said she had faint memories of the house, which was torn down when she was small. The Gatewood-Pilcher extended family was not among the very earliest settlers of the Vandalia/Fayette Co. area; Vandalia was founded in 1819, and the first white settlers date from 1815 and possibly earlier. But among my ancestral families, they were the first to arrive and live in the area.

from the centennial history of Brownstown, IL (1970)

from the centennial history of Brownstown, IL (1970)

According to Mr. Freeman, Thomas A. Gatewood was born about 1806/10 and died about 1878/79, and had ten children altogether with two wives. His sister Averilla was born May 12, 1804 and died August 28, 1879. He married Winslow Pilcher in 1820. The son of Lewis Pilcher and Mary Rogers Pilcher, Winslow was born October 1, 1794 in Virginia and died May 8, 1866 in Fayette Co., IL. He served in the War of 1812, from Spotsylvania Co., VA, under Capt. McSmith, and received bounty land in Fayette Co. IL for his service. Their children were:

William Lewis Pilcher: November 2, 1821 to January 16, 1899
Thomas Gatewood Pilcher, Jan. 27, 1823 to March 2, 1895
Margarette Pilcher, Feb. 4, 1824 to 1835.
Sarah Pilcher, May 28, 1825 to 1837.
Robert James Pilcher, Aug. 22, 1826 to May 28, 1911.
Mary Ann Pilcher, born Dec. 22, 1827 to 1843/44
Winslow Pilcher Jr., Feb. 17, 1829 to July 4, 1911
Octavia Pilcher, Feb. 16, 1831 to the 1850s
Eliza Jane Pilcher, Sept. 8 1832 to Jan. 8, 1912
Elizabeth Catherine Pilcher, born Feb. 6, 1834, died in 1838.
Louisiana Pilcher, born Dec. 11, 1835, died Feb. 24, 1897.
Joshua Pilcher, born and died Oct. 1 1837
Richard Andrew Pilcher, born Aug 29, 1838 died March 11, 1895
Jonathan Kay Pilcher, born Jan. 23, 1840, died May 12, 1908
Josiah Rogers Pilcher, born Apr. 6, 1842, died March 26, 1928
Charles Benjamin Pilcher, born March 16, 1844 died July 4, 1922
Averilla America Pilcher, born Nov. 13, 1846, died Oct. 15, 1921
Cordelia Caroline Pilcher, born Sept. 8, 1848, died June 15, 1925.

Grandma’s first cousin Blanche Harstad did a wonderful job tracing the descendants of those Pilcher children who survived childhood and married. Jonathan Kay Pilcher, the fourteenth child of these original eighteen children of Winslow and Averilla, was my grandma Crawford’s paternal grandfather. His wife Rhoda, nee Oliver, preceded him in death in 1893.

Unless indicated otherwise, everything up till this point has been from Mr. Freeman’s wonderful manuscript. The rest of this post is my own material gained from other sources.

06-27-2009 12;02;06PMGrandma had this c. 1891 photo of Jonathan and Rhoda and their children (that is, those who survived to adulthood: near Jonathan’s grave are buried several of his siblings who died in childhood). Grandma’s father, Albert Pilcher, is the adult son seated in front.

As I said before, forty years ago this summer, I copied all the inscriptions in both Pilcher Cemeteries. In the smaller, family cemetery, there are Thomas R. and Margaret 24493_373112738518_1553765_nGatewood are buried there. Thomas A. Gatewood has only a stone inscribed with his initials T A G. Averilla’s grave is unmarked, and Winslow’s grave is marked with only a rock, but a memorial to him because of his War of 1812 service was placed upon his grave in 1972.

Among Winslow and Averilla’s children, five are known to be buried there: Jonathan, William, Charles, Louisiana, and Octavia, though her grave’s location is no longer known. Charles was one of the last burial in this place. I’ve always wondered whether the several uninscribed rocks mark the graves of the children (Margarette, Sarah, Mary Ann, and Joshua). It make sense that they do, because this land would’ve been part of Winslow and Averilla’s property. But that is speculation.

Scan 10I was thrilled to see Thomas’ name appear in an 1840 Vandalia newspaper, where he was running for reelection as Fayette Co., IL coroner (he lost). But above his name is none other than Lincoln who was running as presidential elector for the Whig party.

I’ve already written quite a bit on the Pilcher family in this earlier post. Winslow Pilcher shows up in state records as a worker on the construction of the Vandalia Statehouse. The building served as state capitol in 1836-1839, prior to the removal of the state government to Springfield in 1839. But several people pitched in during the summer and fall of 1836 to construct a suitable building for the government, and Winsow was paid for hauling timber to the public square and later for sweeping out the senate chamber.

Scan 13

from “Laws of Illinois, 1837.”

I sometimes call this my ancestral claim to fame, since Lincoln served in that building. When I wrote my history of early Vandalia (High on the Okaw’s Western Bank, University of Illinois Press, 1992), I made sure to mention Winslow’s name in my account of the constuction effort. But, as I’ve written here, this entire family branch has many interesting aspects including a colonial heritage, (tragically) slave ownership, an ancestor in the Revolutionary War, pioneers who journeyed from Virginia to Kentucky and from Kentucky to Illinois, and settlers among the earliest to settle in Vandalia and Fayette County, Illinois.

(After I posted this material, I did an internet search for Gatewoods in Essex Co., Virginia and Kays in Virginia. Try that yourself and find some interesting websites that provide more information about these families. )

(Another update: I hadn’t been to the smaller Pilcher family cemetery for several months, and yesterday when I visited (8/9/14), I discovered that two large trees had broken off and fallen. The plain stone that marked Winslow Pilcher’s grave was shattered and the War of 1812 marker was broken. Jonathan and Rhoda Pilcher’s monument was fallen over, and several other gravestones were askew. The tombstones of Thomas and Margaret Gatewood were intact, since they’re a little north of those trees. Someone had sawed the tree trunks, so I hope that there is an effort to get the cemetery in shape. I’ll try to find out more.)


View of the Vandalia Statehouse, from the hill where my parents are buried.  Photo by Kathy Schultz.

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