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My Family: the Mahons

The Mahon Schoolhouse in Otego Twp near Brownstown, IL. My mother attended school here in the 1920s and early 1930s. This photo from the 1990s has hung in my office for a long time. The schoolhouse has since collapsed.

The Mahon Schoolhouse in Otego Twp near Brownstown, IL. My mother attended school here in the 1920s and early 1930s. This photo from the 1990s has hung in my office for a long time. The schoolhouse has since collapsed.

A few years ago my family and I visited Ireland. At the Blarney Castle gift shop (yes, we all kissed the stone!), I purchased keychains for myself and Mahon relatives in Illinois. I asked the clerk, “How would you pronounced that name?” She looked at me puzzled but said, “MAY-on.” I explained that I was from the states and we said it, “ma-HON,” but I hadn’t been sure if that was the Irish pronunciation.

The Mahons are my only Irish family—handy credentials when I first met one of my best friends, who is Irish Catholic to his bones. My great-great-grandmother was named Caroline (Mahon) Crawford, 1844-1921; I write about the Crawford family here. She is buried in the Pilcher Cemetery, beside her husband Andrew, and also among most of his siblings and not far from her (Caroline’s) brother Jacob Mahon (1856-1877). One of my hometown friends is a fourth cousin via Jacob and half-second cousin through the Strobels!  Family connections are always fun to make.

I actually have a lock of Caroline Crawford’s hair. Grandma Grace (the source of nearly all my information about and appreciation of family history) said that it was saved when Caroline died.

Caroline’s parents were John and Eliza (Lansford) Mahon. John lived 1806-1880, and Eliza lived 1820-1911. She and

Baby Harold Crawford (my  mom's brother), grandfather Josiah Crawford, great-grandfather John Crawford, great-great-grandmother Caroline Mahon Crawford, 3-great-grandmother Eliza Mahon

Baby Harold Crawford (my mom’s brother), grandfather Josiah Crawford, great-grandfather John Crawford, great-great-grandmother Caroline Mahon Crawford, 3-great-grandmother Eliza Mahon

Caroline sat for two five-generation photos in 1909, although Grandma said that Eliza didn’t want to pose very badly. John and Eliza are buried in the German Reformed Cemetery, on IL route 185 southeast of Vandalia. Grandma said that John only wanted a rock for his grave because that is all Jesus had. But several years ago, Mahon relatives helpfully placed a dated marker on their graves. Among their children were Caroline and Harriet (who married Crawford brothers), and Jacob.

(The rest of this material comes from Mr. Robert Mahon, a St. Louis cousin whom I met in 1974 and who had traced a lot of the family.) John Mahon’s parents were Doctor and Dolly (Lansford) Mahon. Doctor lived 1786-1860, Dolly from 1787-1860. Eliza was a daughter of Dollly’s brother Isham; so she and John were first cousins. Mr. Mahon told me that Doctor and Dolly were probably buried in Wilbertown Township of Fayette County but no one knows where.

Doctor had five brothers, James, Thomas D., Pleasant, Barrett, and Dennizen. (I know: some of these are unusual names!).

Lawn of Fayette Co. IL Courthouse. Thanks to my Facebook friend Gloria for taking this photo.

Lawn of Fayette Co. IL Courthouse. Thanks to my Facebook friend Gloria for taking this photo.

According to Mr. Mahon’s notes, “John’s six sons were in the Cascade, Virginia, area by 1790. James may have settled near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Doctor and Thomas came to Illinois. Pleasant stayed in Virginia but his son, Wesley, came to Illinois and raised a large family there. Little record of Barnett and Dennizen.” Thomas was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. My high school classmate (and sixth cousin) Sherry has done a lot of research about this, her ancestor. Thomas is honored in Vandalia with his name on the memorial to locally-buried Revolution veterans (which includes one of my Carson ancestors). Thomas Mahon’s Find-a-Grave page is here.

Those six brothers—Doctor, Thomas, James, Pleasant, Barrett, and Dennizen—were the children of John Mahon and his wife, Jane Byrd (or Dial). John Mahon was our Irish immigrant ancestor. He settled near Fredericksburg, VA in the early 1700s. According to Mr. Mahon’s notes, “John was killed when he resisted British as they ransacked his home.” I wonder if that’s a story, similar to my other ancestor Paul Crawford supposedly being killed by Indians, especially since Doctor was born after the end of the war. But it still makes a good family story.

Another 1909 photo of Eliza Mahon and her daughter Caroline Crawford, with Caroline's daughter Alice Rush, Alice's son Andy Rush, and Andy's daughter Ruth.

Another 1909 photo of Eliza Mahon and her daughter Caroline Crawford, with Caroline’s daughter Alice Rush, Alice’s son Andy Rush, and Andy’s daughter Ruth.

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My Family: the Crawfords

In another post on this blog, I tell the story of how I became interested in genealogy as a junior high and high school

Baby Harold Crawford (my  mom's brother), grandfather Josiah Crawford, great-grandfather John Crawford, great-great-grandmother Caroline Mahon Crawford, 3-great-grandmother Eliza Mahon

Baby Harold Crawford (my mom’s brother), grandfather Josiah Crawford, great-grandfather John Crawford, great-great-grandmother Caroline Mahon Crawford, 3-great-grandmother Eliza Mahon. 1909

student in my hometown, Vandalia (Fayette County), IL. My grandma, Grace (Pilcher) Crawford, who lived out in the country from Vandalia in Otego Township, had been inspired by her cousin who compiled the Pilcher family genealogy, and so Grandma considered writing up the history of the Crawfords. She had a wonderful collection of family photos, clippings, and information. I hoped to help her with the work. After her death, I carried on the work and dedicated the family history to her.

That history consisted of the descendants of my 3-great-grandparents, Paul and Susan Crawford. We knew little about Paul; family tradition indicated he was killed by Indians in Ohio (surely a legend; most Indians were gone from Ohio by that time). Susan brought their eight children to Otego township —which is the location of several of my mother’s ancestral families (as I wrote about elsewhere on this blog) like the Pilchers, Mahons, Williams, and Washburns, Grandma had great information about seven of the eight children except for #6, Jacob Crawford, who had settled in Brown County, Illinois.

As it turned out, a genealogist named John Denhalter contacted me in around 1974, as I was putting the finishing touches on the “family tree.” He had information about Paul Crawford and his father, and also information about Jacob Crawford’s family. But he had little concerning the rest of the family. So we were able to supplement each other’s research!

I typed up the material as best as I could. I was seventeen in 1974 and not a very good typist. I also finished copying all the inscriptions in the Pilcher Cemetery. I still have the manuscripts, current only to 1975, but they are still handy for remembering the relationships of various cousins. While working on the material, I became interested in the history of Fayette County generally, and thus I embarked on research about Vandalia’s period as state capital, which eventually became my first published book.

But the summer of 1974 shines in my memory. I had my own car, such as it was; I was enjoying the hobby of genealogy; I tried to go barefooted as much as possible (figuring that copying inscriptions in a country cemetery didn’t require shoes); and I felt a fresh, meaningful sense of place that has remained with me throughout the years, becoming (as Frank Zappa put it) a kind of “conceptual continuity” for all my subsequent work.

Back to the Crawfords. As Mr. Denhalter informed me, my 4-great-grandfather was William Crawford, who was born January 3, 1785 in New Jersey, and died March 19, 1853 in Waldo, OH. Where’s Waldo? It’s a tiny village in Marion County, on U.S. 23 north of Columbus.  A man named James Crawford was probably his father. William is buried in Waldo: here is his page. His wife was named Mary (b. 1788 in Pennsylvania), and they had children:

1 Priscilla (b. 1804 in PA), m. Andrew Straub on March 3, 1825

2 Jacob, b. 1806 in PA, m. Julia Ann Miller on Dec. 10, 1829

3 Hanna, b. 1807 in PA. Married John Powell on Dec. 29, 1829

4 Paul, b. 1809 in Ohio, m. Susanna Straub

5 Ebenezer, b. 1810 in Ohio. Married Catharine

6 William, b. Oct. 6, 1812. Unmarried.

7 Peter, b. 1814. Married Hanna.

8 Margaret, b. 1816, married Stephen Curren on April 7, 1836

9 Calvin, b. 1818, married Elizabeth Moses on April 5, 1839

10 Elijah, b. 1820. Married Elizabeth Claypold on June 7, 1854.

CrawfordPaul Crawford, my 3-great-grandfather, was born March 16, 1809 in Marlborough (Delaware Co), Ohio and died April 16, 1847 in Waldo, OH. Mr. Denhalter told me that the blank, white stone beside that of William Crawford in the Waldo Cemetery is the grave of Paul Crawford. He married Susan (or Susanna) Straub, my 3-great-grandmother who brought their eight children to Fayette County, IL, thus establishing our Crawford family in the Vandalia area.

Based on Mr. Denhalter’s research, I wrote in the Crawford history: “Susanna’s great-grandfather, Andreas Straub, was born along the southern border of Germany. He attended Catholic schools to become a priest, according to hsi parents’ wishes. BUt in early manhood, he left Germany for America, arriving on the brigantine Mary on August 25, 1742. He sttled at what later became Columbia in Lancaster Count, PA, where he purchased land and became a successful farmer. The History of Northumberland Co., PA, indicates, ‘He was a good neighbor and true friend, and was on very friendly terms with the Wright brothers, the founders of Columbia and Wrightsville.’ His children were Andrew, Valentine, and daughters Mrs.  Hougendobler and Mrs. Merkle.

“Andrew Straub was born Feb. 14, 1748 in Columbia, and died Aug. 2, 1806 at Milton, PA. He married Mary Eveline Walter on May 1, 1787. As a boy, he was bound out to Mr. Bashore to learn the millwright trade. Bashore, however, made him work the trade in the day and split rails at night. After four weeks of this, Andrew took up the trade with the wrights. Before the war, Andrew built his first mill on the Chillisquaque creek above Northumberland, bringing iron from Columbia by canoe. He also built a mill on the White deer creek, in teh present Union county. He enlisted in the Continental Army and after he war, he moved to MIlton and in April 1784 to Columbia. Andrew donated much land in Milton for churches and schools. His philanthropic gestures significantly advanced businesses there.”

Here is the Find-a-Grave page for Andrew, with a link to Mary—my 5-great-grandparents. According to Mr. Denhalter, the children of Andrew and Mary Straub were:

1 Andrew, d. after Aug. 20, 1827. Married Barbara

2 Joseph, b. Feb. 10, 1793. Married Elizabeth Follmer

3Abraham, b. Dec. 9, 1794, d. Aug. 21, 1864. Married Nancy Billiet on Nov. 29, 1821.

4 Isaac, b. Dec. 9, 1794, d. Dec. 17, 1875. Married Harriet

5 Susanna. Married — Rhodes

6 Esther. Married — Lawrence Rachel, married —Jodon

7 Mary, married — Smith

8 Christian, and also three infants

The children of Andrew and Barbara Straub were:

1 Andrew, b. 1798 in Northampton. Married Priscilla Crawford on March 3, 1825

2 Joseph, born 1800

3 Susannah, born 1809. Married Paul Crawford.

I continue: “The 1850 census for Marion County, OhIo lists Susannah Crawford with children Mary Ann, Andrew, Susan, Sarah, Jcob, Martin, and Calvin; apparently Barbara [the second child, after Mary Ann] was already in Fayette Co., IL and married, since her first child was born there in April 1850. They are all found in the 1860 Fayette Co. census save Jacob, who was living in Brown Co., Illinois.”

The rest of my material was from Grandma. The traditional date of the Crawfords’ arrival in Fayette County is 1852 or 1853, and traditionally, Susanna is said to have settled in the area of Otego township south of what is now the Agronomy Research Center of University of Illinois. Later she moved a mile or two northeast, to what is called the Mahon District

Susan Crawford 1809-1875. Grave in the Pilcher Cemetery near Brownstown, IL

(around section 14). “It is said that Susan attended a quilting one day, took sick, and soon died. Her death was not recorded in county records, which begin in 1877.”

My family “tree” consisted of the descendants of the eight children of Paul and Susanna. The eight were:

1 Mary Ann, born Sept. 30, 1825, Died March 1, 1856. married Martin Scrote. Children: Adaline, Dvid, Tabitha

I tell the story of Martin Scrote here. Here is Mary Ann’s Find-a-Grave page.

2 Barbara, born March 9, 1829, died January 25, 1873 married Edmonson M. Williams, who was born c. 1824 and died in Kansas, place and date unknown. Edmonson was my great-great-grandfather Josiah Williams’ brother, as explained here. Children: Susanna, Marian, Andrew, Ada, Morris, Barbara Ann,

Andrew Crawford (1831-1880)

Andrew Crawford (1831-1880)

Sarah Jane, Paul Ira, May, John

3 Andrew, March 11, 1831 or 1832, died Sept. 30, 1880, married Caroline Mahon, who was born April 4, 1844 and died in1921. Children, John, Alice, Rosella, Paul, William, Andrew (Andrew and Caroline are my great-great-grandparents; their

John and Susan Crawford, sons (l to r) Marvin, Josiah, Charlie, and daughters (l to r) Adeline, Ruby, Mary. 1899

John and Susan Crawford, sons (l to r) Marvin, Josiah, Charlie, and daughters (l to r) Adeline, Ruby, Mary. 1899

son John is my mother’s paternal grandfather. John married Susan Williams, whose father was Josiah Williams, just mentioned. Susan’s mother was Margaret Brown Williams, and I discuss the Brown family here.) John and Susan’s children were: Josiah, Marvin, Charles, Adeline, Ruby, Mary, Nell, and Ruth. I never knew my grandfather Josiah, nor his brother Marvin (who died young in 1909), but the other six children were my beloved great-uncle and great-aunts, very dear people to my growing-up years.

4 Sarah, August 19, 1833, died November 26, 1911, married David Washburn (who was my great-great-grandfather George Washburn’s brother; that family is discussed here). David was born Feb. 15, 1825 and died January 30, 1893 Adopted children: Charles, Jeanetta

5 Susan, born April 19, 1836 and died March 5, 1898. Married Leroy Washburn (David and George’s brother), who was born Nov. 19, 1836 and died Dec. 16, 1908 Children: T. S. (Toltin Sylvester), Ira, Roselma

6 Jacob, Aug. 30, 1839, died Dec. 21, 1924. First married Ann Elizabeth Parks (1847-1864). Their child was named Charles. Jacob then married Isabella Briggs (1848-1932) married Isabel Children: Louisa, Myrtle, Emma, Eva, Lula, Ona, Bessie, and Lewis. Jacob was the only one of the eight children not to live in the Vandalia area, and the only one not buried in the Pilcher Cemetery. He was a minister who lived in Brown County, Illinois. His Find-a-Grave page is here.

7 Martin Van Buren Crawford, born May 18, 1841, died Feb. 26, 1904. He first mamarried Elizabeth Bolt (1849-1893). Their chilren were Frank, Paul, Elta, James, Andrew, and Grover. Martin then married Mary Lennie (Apple) King (1862-1938), and their children were Martin and Floyd. Frank Crawford’s son was Cecil C. Crawford, a minister and teacher whose theological writings were influential for me: I write about Cecil and his family here.

8 Calvin (1844-1916), married (1) Harriet Mahon (1853-1884). Their children were: Barbara and Jacob. Calvin’s second marriage was to Rosetta Bolt Mahon (1855-1927). Their children: Bessie, Lewis. Lewis was the first Vandalia-area casualty in World War I; I write about him here.

More interrelationships: Rosetta and Elizabeth Bolt were sisters. Rosetta had been married to Jacob Mahon, who was the brother of Caroline Mahon Crawford, and also of Harriet Mahon. So Calvin was related to Jacob Mahon by being married to (1) his sister and then (2) his widow, and (3) because Calvin’s brother Andrew was married to another of Jacob’s sisters.)

Although I assume it was not intentional, Paul and Susan’s children (except for Jacob, #6) are buried in the Pilcher Cemetery in a more or less straight line (though not always next to each other), in chronological order of birth. If you visit the cemetery, there is a kind of lane through the middle of the small cemetery. On the north part of that lane, on the right (just beyond the place where a great tree once grew), is Mary Ann Scrote, the oldest child, and then to her right (moving south) is Barbara Williams, the second child. Their mother Susan Crawford is buried nearby. Then Andrew (#3) and Caroline, then still moving south, Sarah (#4) and David, and then Susan (#5) and Leroy. My grandmother told me that Martin Van Buren Crawford (#7) is buried in an unmarked grave just to the south of Susan and Leroy’s stone. And last in that line is Calvin (#8) and his family. Across from Calvin and his family are my grandparents, great-grandparents (Crawford and Pilcher), and other close relatives of mine.

One more connection: my great-grandfather John Crawford kept his canceled checks and bills in an oatmeal box. At this end of this essay, I tell how John helped get me interested in Bible study, fifty years after his death. I already acknowledged the role of cousin Cecil Crawford in inspiring me toward religious work.

Finally: isn’t “Martin Van Buren Crawford” an awesome name? He also had a son named Grover Cleveland Crawford. Were they democrats? My Crawford grandparents were very strong FDR democrats. So there is another influence in my professional work, connected back to Otego Township: my grandma wanted me to be interested in Bible study (she gave me a Bible dictionary that I still use in my freelance curriculum writing) and she had an interest in linking faith with social topics, which remained with me, too.

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ImageLate last fall, I listened to the Diane Rehm radio show as I drove to the supermarket, and her guest that day was Eleanor Jones Harvey, senior curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Harvey discussed her upcoming book, “The Civil War and American Art” (Smithsonian American Art Museum and Yale University Press, 2012), resulting in turn from the museum’s exhibition.

I pre-ordered the book once I got home and it arrived in time to be enjoyable Christmas holiday study. Harvey writes, “Surprisingly few American painters engaged directly with the war as it was being fought. There was little market for depictions of Americans killing one another, and artists found it difficult to immediately identify heroes and pivotal battles. Without the luxury of time and reflection, these artists approached the Civil War in a more elliptical matter” (p. 1).

That elliptical manner and use of metaphors are among the things so fascinating about the paintings depicted and discussed in this book. For instance, George Caleb Bingham painted Order No. 11 (1865-1870), depicting a forced evacuation of homesteaders from western Missouri, but Bingham protests the evacuation by invoking 15th century paintings Expulsion from Paradise by Masaccio and The Lamentation by Petrus Christus (p. 12-13). The depiction of Arctic ice in Frederic Edwin Church’s beautiful The Icebergs (1861) calls attention to a contemporary image, in Washington DC and elsewhere, that slavery’s end was as inevitable as icebergs melting tropical water (pp. 31-32).

Harvey writes, “During the first half of the nineteenth century, landscape painting was a simulacrum of American Life and values. Landscape metaphors and imagery permeated the American consciousness” (p. 19). Opposite that quotation is the example of Asher Durand’s Kindred Spirits (1849), one of my own favorite paintings. But a common metaphor for the war was ominous weather, and landscape paintings began to look darker, like Martin Johnson Heade’s Approaching Thunder Storm from 1859 and Sanford Robinson Gifford’s A Coming Storm from 1863 (p. 64). A haunting painting is the enigmatic The Girl I Left Behind Me from circa 1872, by Eastman Johnson, depicting a young woman standing in a strong wind (p. 230). Also haunting are a pair of paintings by John Frederick Kensett, Sunrise Among the Rocks of Paradise, Newport (1859) and Paradise Rocks, Newport (circa 1865), the very same scene, but the second painting is so much darker and more somber (pp. 68-69).

There were also battlefield paintings, such as Frederic Edwin Church’s Our Banner in the Sky (1861, p. 38, the one I inserted above), James Hopes’ Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862 and Bloody Lane (p. 7), Winslow Homer’s Sharpshooter (1863, p. 150), his Skirmish in the Wilderness (1864, pp. 158-159), and Gifford’s The Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Frederick, Maryland (1863, p. 126). I’m putting together a future college course about religion during the Civil War, and one painting reflecting that experience is Gifford’s Preaching to the Troops, or Sunday Morning at Camp Cameron near Washington, May 1861 (pp. 116-117).

Artists also movingly depicted the lives of free blacks and recently freed slaves, like Thomas Waterman Wood’s A Bit of War History: The Contraband, The Recruit, and The Veteran (1866, p. 209), Edwin White’s Thoughts of Liberia, Emancipation (p. 210, reflecting the controversial idea of sending blacks back to Africa), Eastman Johnson’s The Lord is My Shepherd (1863), his A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves, March 2, 1862 (1862, p. 201), and Homer’s A Visit from the Old Mistress (1876, p. 219), reflecting “the dismay felt by an overwhelming majority of former slaveholders that their slaves did not in fact love them or wish to be enslaved” (p. 218).

Harvey also examines wartime photography, since the Civil War was the first war in which photography (and the often gruesome images of battlefield casualities) was important.

I love Hudson River School paintings and mentioned a book about the school in my 7/2/12 post. Harvey’s book depicts how the “primal experience of nature” depicted in those earlier paintings carried over into paintings of the 1850s and after—but became more stark and reflective of the national tragedy (pp. 17, 19). It is also an excellent source for those of us who love studying the Civil War, and she quotes many writers and politicians of the time as she discusses the pre-war years, the war itself, Reconstruction, and Reconstruction’s collapse. Of course the photographs and paintings are interesting to appreciate as you leaf through the pages, but the chapters are very informative and interesting.

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