It's my genealogy blog, version 2.0, where I tell stories about our famous (and infamous) ancestors- our unsung heroes, our common man, our ordinary people who did extraordinary things- for our children. "[H]istorians talk about events of the past…[r]arely do we talk about the common man, the unsung hero. These people, many times, are unknown to us. All those people’s story mattered just as much as the stories of the great leaders. It’s easy to lose track of all those individuals but they’re there and they deserve to be remembered. One of the great lessons of history, all history, is that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. [T]hey are doing something not just for themselves, but for posterity. For their children." (Author unknown to me) Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (The Holy Bible)
I’ve been working on my family history tonight and I think I’ve made a discovery about my maternal 2nd great grandfather, Nicholas Wilhelm REITER. I want to share it with you and get your thoughts. It concerns the draft during the Civil War.
I’ve written about Nicholas before and you can find those posts here:
Reiter and Davis Marriage (This is very much my OLD style of writing- more oriented toward research than telling the stories of my ancestors. Still, it’s worth a look I think.)
Nicholas has been hard to research. He immigrated from Germany with his parents when he was very young according to my granny BATES, but I have not been able to locate immigration records that I’m certain are his. I don’t know who his parents or brothers were and have been unable to locate him in records prior to his marriage to my maternal second great grandmother, Sarah DAVIS REITER. In addition, there are so many ways to spell his last name (and even multiple ways to spell his first name!) that it becomes overwhelming very quickly. (And let me tell you, I get tired of OCR programs hitting on the word ‘typewriter’ and passing that off as a search result for ‘Nicholas Reiter’!) So, I was pretty excited when I found the following article as I’m fairly certain this is him. The first article I found was in German and I’ll post a shortened version of it below. After I’d gone to the trouble of translating it, I found an article in English that was basically the same information. I wish I could say I translated it using my own skills but alas, I used Google translate. I used to be fluent in German after taking 4 years of it in high school but that’s been a very long time ago. German was, however, my favorite foreign language to learn. But I digress…
First, the article in German from the Minnesota Staats-Zeitung out of St. Paul, Minnesota dated 4 June 1864, found at newspapers.com:
Here is an article out of the St. Cloud Democrat with basically the same information. I included the whole article here because it only lists Stearns and Morrison Counties as opposed to numerous counties like the article in German. The print is tiny. Sorry about that! If you’re looking for Nicholas’ name, go to the town of Wakefield (right before Morrison County). He’s in the second column right above the glitch or paper crease mark.
I know this doesn’t seem like much, but it’s the first new information about Nicholas that I’ve found in a very long time so I was really excited to find these. Hopefully this new information will lead me to more information about him. I would love to get one more generation back on this family line. Feel free to beat me to that research if you want. Just don’t be surprised if I ask you to write a blog post about it!!
This blog post is about my maternal great grandfather, William Sherman RITER. William was married to Laura Ann BULLOCK. I’ve written about William in the following blog posts, in case you’re interested in catching up before you read this post:
For one week every summer I have all my grandsons over to my house for Cousin Camp. One of the activities I was planning for this coming summer was a family history related activity so they can begin to learn about their ancestors and the stories that belong to those ancestors. The activity involves some cute little magnets I created on Shutterfly. Here’s William RITER’s:
I tried to get a better picture of it, but you get the general idea. So if this magnet were chosen, I would tell the boys the story about my maternal great-grandfather, William Sherman RITER, and how he was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. In the process of planning this I thought it would be fun to get a picture book about Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders to read to the boys so they could learn more. I was unable to find a picture book that I felt was appropriate for my grandsons so the thought entered my mind that I could write one and self-publish. I began doing some research in preparation to write a short picture book story. In the process of gathering information I have begun to doubt whether William RITER was really a Rough Rider. But let’s back up to the beginning so I can show you how the whole Rough Rider story came to be.
Rough Rider in Town!
The above article was taken from Newspapers.com. It’s a copy of a news item from The Sedalia Democrat, Page 1, 30 March 1899. William had just been mustered out at Augusta, Georgia on 27 March 1899. He had served in the Spanish-American War with Company E, 15th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry out of St. Paul, Minnesota. The 15th Minnesota had an outstanding reputation and, at least according to newspaper articles of the time, the people of Georgia were sad to see them leave. What I found interesting when looking through newspapers was that you could follow his train trip home by watching newspapers along the route he took. Every time a group of the 15th Minnesota arrived in town, the newspapers were covering it. So, between March 27th and March 30th I could follow his progress from Georgia to Oklahoma. (By the way, when he enlisted for this war he lived in Wheaton, Illinois but at some point he acquired land in Oklahoma and that’s where he went after the war.) As I continued researching, I learned that the Spanish-American War was a war that Americans very much supported (thanks to false and misleading stories pushed by the media- sound familiar???) and the servicemen were loved and welcomed back home (unlike the shameful situation with Vietnam and the servicemen returning from that war).
In researching William’s service online, I found such conflict in the records that I don’t know what to believe anymore. In addition to the question of whether or not he’s a Rough Rider, there is the issue of whether he went abroad during his service. According to newspapers, the 15th Minnesota was going to go to Camp Allyn Capron in Puerto Principe, Cuba on 27 November 1898. The plan was for them to serve a short stint and come back home in 1899. Wikipedia supports the statement that on 27 November 1898 the 15th Minnesota sailed from Savannah, Georgia to Nuevitas, Cuba for “occupation duty”. However, Theodore Roosevelt’s own book about the Rough Riders says nothing about William RITER or the 15th Minnesota. (You can find his book online at https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Index:Theodore_Roosevelt_Rough_Riders.djvu.) Then there is this website that shows the 15th was in Cuba between December, 1898 and December, 1899 as well as the above article referencing William as a “Rough Rider”. In any case, by late November 1898 the war was over. According to newspaper articles, the 15th Minnesota was mustered out and sent home from Augusta, Georgia on 27 March 1899 without having gone abroad to serve.
But what about the Rough Rider claim? Well…if William was a Rough Rider, I haven’t been able to prove it through records. The only positive indications I have are the story that Granny BATES always told and the newspaper article at the top of this blog post that referenced him as a Rough Rider.
Below are William’s pension cards:
I have been unable to obtain his service records from the National Archives although I know someone in the family does have them because once I saw one paper out of his service file. The National Archives told me the records were “lost”. I have a hunch they were being filmed and if I requested them again I might actually get them- as long as I paid them another fee, of course!
So, once again I’m leaving you with a mystery. My quest to write a little story for my grandsons hasn’t gone so well this week. I have no idea what story I will tell them in place of the Rough Rider story but I’m sure I’ll come up with something that will interest them. In the meantime, I want to leave you with a few more photographs that I found interesting.
This past weekend I was doing some research on various lines of my dad’s family. Monday we got a day off from school due to weather so I continued my search and focused on my SULLINS line. Specifically, I was looking at my paternal 6th great grandparents, Nathan and Winefred MAYS SULLINS. In order to give you some idea of how we fit into the SULLINS family, the line of ascent goes from my great grandpa Mark DRAKE to his dad Ervin to Ervin’s mom Hester MITCHELL to Hester’s dad Mordica to Mordica’s parents (John and Winnie SULLINS MITCHELL and Mordica’s grandparents Nathan and Winefred MAYS SULLINS.
During my search, I came across a website I want to share with you. The Cole Family website includes a page with a handwritten letter from Nathan and Rebecca MITCHELL SULLINS (Nathan was the son of Nathan and Winefred). I loved the letter and would like to share it with you here but I also encourage you to go look at the Cole Family website and see what you can find for yourself.
Here’s the transcription below. You can find more details about the letter and view the original handwritten letter at the link above.
Athens Tenn Apr. 19 1848
Dear Son & Daughter I now send you a letter to let you know we are all alive. According to our age we enjoy as good health as could be expected. Morris got home yesterday about 12 o’clock. We was glad to hear you was all well, but sorry to hear you expected to go so far off. I once was young but now I am old, by the help of providence we have raised 12 children, there is 11 yet alive so far as we know, they are now scattered in 4 states. My children are near to me. When I was young and able to labor with and for my children I then had pleasure. I now am not able to labor much nor to travel and when I think of a child leaving me so far that I never expect to see its face again in the flesh its as much as I want to bear. Mary has always been a good obedient child.
[page 2] Oh children let us think on eternity that there is a God to serve and a heaven to obtain that is more sacred to us than all this world’s goods. We want you to write to us when you locate and tell us where you are and where to direct our letters. Annis lives in Green Co. Mo. direct your letters to Springfield to John Murray.
[page 3] Family Record (NOTE FROM LISA: On page 3 there is a list of names and dates, as if it were copied from a family Bible to pass on to the receiver of the letter. I won’t transcribe that here. You can find that information at the link above.)
No more at present but remain your affectionate parents Nathan and Rebecca Sullins
I love this letter so much. I can feel every pain of this momma’s heart as she worries about her children moving far away and never being able to see them again. I can imagine that she’s thinking about grandbabies she will never meet as well. If she’s anything like me, she’s thinking about all the bad that could happen and how much she would like to spare her children from experiencing the bad things. More than that, she’s worrying about their spiritual well-being. Oh how I can relate to this momma as she pours out her heart in a letter to her daughter!
I Once Was Young But Now I Am Old
Like Rebecca, I can remember being young once, too. I can remember when Bart and I decided to move to Idaho and I remember receiving a letter from my mom. A letter where she poured out her heart to me and wished me not to move so far away. Things sure do cycle back around, don’t they? And when we saw my son off to his eternal home, nothing was more important in that moment than his spiritual well-being and whether I would see him again in eternity or be separated from him forever. Yes, I sure can relate to my 6th great aunt Rebecca as she poured out her heart to her daughter in a farewell letter.
So Fades the Summer Cloud Away
So fades the Summer cloud away;
So sinks the gale when storms are o’er;
So gently shuts the eye of day;
So dies the wave along the shore.
I want to leave you with one last thing about Rebecca – her obituary.
Sweet Rebecca. I hope you are spending eternity with your children whom you loved so much and so well.