Monday, April 20, 2015

A DNA Update

The Lacey family tree, beginning with my grandfather, David Austin Lacey

When I last wrote about my family's foray into DNA testing, we had a real mystery on our hands.  My father had done a 67-marker Y-DNA test and the results were quite unexpected.  Rather than connecting him with Lacey relatives, it indicated that most of his close matches bore the surname Elliott. 

As explained in my previous post, Y-DNA traces the patrilineal line.  The Y chromosome is passed down, unchanged, from father to son. When my father's results indicated no connection to anyone else with the surname Lacey, he was very surprised.  How could this be?  We put our heads together and tried to come up with possible explanations.

The first thing my father did was upgrade his test.  He had initially tested on 67 markers and this had revealed a number of matches with a genetic distance of 0 to 3.  A Y-DNA 67 marker match with a distance of 0 gives you about a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 150-200 years or about five generations.  We are confident about the Lacey family line back until about the year 1800, so this was extremely puzzling.  We thought we could get some more clarity on these results by testing my father on 111 markers.  This is the most thorough Y-DNA test you can do right now and would provide a more accurate timetable for the most recent common ancestor shared with his matches.

When the Y-DNA 111 marker results arrived, it still showed that my father was a match to Elliott men, not Lacey men, but it gave us a better understanding of the situation.  Matches that had been reported as having a genetic distance of 0-3 with the 67 marker test now had a genetic distance of 5 or more.  As popular testing company FamilyTreeDNA explains it, a genetic distance of 5 on a 111 marker test "indicates a genealogical relationship [as opposed to a close relationship]. Most matches at this level are related as 12th cousins or more recently, and over half will be 7th cousins or closer."

It seems that somewhere back in the family tree, one of my father's direct male ancestors was a Scottish Elliott, not an Irish Lacey.  There are so many reasons this might have happened (infidelity, rape, adoption, etc.) and we may never know that complete story.  However, we now have a better understanding of when this event occurred.  The matches provided by the 111 marker test indicate that the common Elliott ancestor lived in the 1700s or earlier, well beyond our knowledge of this family line.

This means that all of my father's known ancestors are still his ancestors.  The Elliott intermingling happened before our family history paper trail starts. So, my father is still a Lacey and he is still Irish.  It's just that genetically, his deeper roots are different than he thought they were. 

We're having fun reading about the Elliotts and their history.  Ironically, I already knew a bit about this family, since my mother's ancestors are Rutherfurds, and the Rutherfurds and Elliotts were neighbors on the Scottish-English border.  In fact, at least one Elliott married into my mother's Rutherfurd family.  My parents find this connection amusing.

The Lacey ancestral home (Rossadillisk, Ireland) and the Elliott ancestral home (Roxburgh, Scotland)

In the early seventeenth century, a number of Scottish Elliotts migrated to what is now Northern Ireland.  They clustered primarily in County Fermanagh, although some families ended up in County Donegal and other areas in the north. This at least brings the Elliotts to the same island as the Laceys, although County Fermanagh and western County Galway are not all that close.  Sometime in the 150-200 years that followed, Elliott DNA ended up in Rossadilisk amongst the Laceys.  I don't know if we'll ever be able to determine the circumstances of this event, but DNA may eventually help to connect us with a specific line of Elliotts.  We'll keep working on that.

Monday, April 6, 2015

More Recollections of Life in Douglas, Wyoming

George Rutherfurd (top row, fifth from left) with his high school class in Douglas, Wyoming

In my last post, I quoted from a paper written by my grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith.  In it, she recalled memories of her father's childhood in Douglas, Wyoming.  George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd lived in Douglas from his birth in 1895 until his stepfather's untimely death in 1913.  In Douglas, he encountered Civil War heroes and notorious cattle rustlers, among other notables.  Here, I will continue to transcribe my grandmother's notes.

Three of the Rutherfurd children at their Douglas ranch in 1905.  At back, George Rutherfurd. Child seated is likely Archie Rutherfurd.  Child to the right is likely Malcolm A. O. Rutherfurd.

One of the characters in ranch life was "Coal Oil Billy."  During roundup and branding time Coal Oil Billy came to the ranch to cook for the hands.  He apparently did a good job of preparing the meals but spent most of the rest of the time with a bottle.  I have forgotten specific episodes, but he managed to cut quite a figure.

School days for the young Rutherfurds at the ranch were overseen by a teacher who came from Omaha each Fall to conduct the "school."  In addition to four Rutherfurds old enough to attend school there were about three other students.  At Christmas and at the close of the school year little recitals and programs were presented by the children.  In looking over some of the programs, I see that they consisted of recitations of poetry, songs and performances on musical instruments.  Though the family lived in a very rural situation, education was important.  Both parents were well educated and the wish was for the children to be the same.  There was always an abundance of books in the house.

A story that was told to me by Aunt Grace (Mrs. Will Dickson) was of a trip [by young George Rutherfurd] to visit her in Omaha. There was a little girl there who was given a pony.  Everyone was saying how fine to have a little pony.  When eight year old George was asked if he wouldn't like to have a little pony too, he said, "Oh no.  I have a big horse at home."

On the Rutherfurd ranch in Douglas, Wyoming.  1910.  Figure to the right is most likely Malcolm B. O. Rutherfurd.

Grandmother Annie [Dickson] Rutherfurd had been a nurse before her marriage and many times she was called on to help with a delivery or tend someone ill.  She told me she just saddled up a horse and rode to the ranch of the person who needed help.

One of Dad's poignant stories involved a trip into town (Douglas) for a dance at the high school.  He attended high school in Douglas during the week and stayed at the home of his grandparents, Mary Elizabeth [Bellangee] and George Dickson, but went home for the weekends.  On this particular weekend he had to ride a horse to catch the train to go into Douglas thirty miles away.  Just as he came in sight of the train stop he saw the train leaving the station.  There was a girl he was disappointed to miss seeing at the dance.

Douglas High School (courtesy

Mortimer Jesurun, "Doc Four Eyes," delivered George R. Rutherfurd on a cold January day, 23 January 1895, in Douglas at the hospital owned by his aunt [Elizabeth Dickson]. Many stories were told about this doctor who was thought to have a very colorful past.  During the delivery, reportedly, the doctor said it was unfortunate that the baby had softening of the brain.  It was a breach birth.

Sometime later, Doc Jeserun droped out of sight.  On his return he was thought to be dying.  He came to Auntie's [Elizabeth Dickson's] hospital where Dad [George Rutherfurd] was recovering from an appendectomy.  The two patients played chess constantly.  A Douglas woman, Peg Stockett, had been reportedly engaged to the doctor.  When he reappeared (they were in their sixties), she reappeared.  They were married and opened a pharmacy.  He died shortly thereafter of heart problems.  Auntie found the ebony and maple chess set that had been used at the hospital and gave it to Dad.

My grandfather, Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd contracted pneumonia in 1913 and died within a few days.  My distraught grandmother [Annie Dickson Rutherfurd] packed up the boys and her husband's body and left on the train for California.  She buried Grandfather in Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.  Her parents were then living in Los Angeles.

Thus ended the Douglas, Wyoming chapter in the lives of the Rutherfurds.  I'm so glad that my grandmother took the time to write down these memories that her father had shared with her.  These stories and those colorful characters might be lost to history, otherwise.

Douglas, Wyoming in 1909. (courtesy

Monday, March 30, 2015

Recollections of Life in Douglas, Wyoming

General Henry Blanchard Freeman, an early hero of my great-grandfather George Rutherfurd.  Source

In sorting through my grandmother's family history files, I found a number of short biographies and mini-memoirs compiled by her and in various forms of completion.  My Grandma, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, was a writer, too.  She wanted to leave behind personal accounts of family life, and I'm so glad she did.  As all family historians know, we can usually find names and dates, but it's the stories that get lost.  My Grandma was good at preserving stories.

I recently found one document that relates the memories of her father's youth in Douglas, Wyoming. George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd lived in Douglas from his birth in 1895 until his step-father's sudden death in 1913.  Here is what my grandmother wrote about those formative years in her father's life.

Growing to manhood on a cattle ranch in Wyoming left vivid and treasured memories that stayed with my Dad all his life.  He was interested in the Indians and admired their careful preservation of nature.  One of his regrets was leaving behind a fine collection of arrowheads when they left Wyoming so unexpectedly.  I will try to remember some of the things he told me.

As a very young boy he met a retired Army General Henry B. Freeman who told Dad tales of his life in the Army.  He recounted many experiences with the Indians and my Dad relived them all.  General Henry B. Freeman enlisted in the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War.  He became a Major (Brevet Major.  His true rank was 2nd Lieutenant).  He received the Medal of honor for bringing a wounded comrade off the field of battle at Chicamauga.  He spent two hitches in Libby Prison (Confederate).  The first time he escaped.  A sentry spotted him in the river and kept him there for two hours in the icy water before taking him back to prison.  He escaped a second time.  As he was being pursued he approached a southern plantation.  The daughter of the house hid him and when he returned after the war, he married her (Sarah).  He was later assigned to Indian posts in Wyoming.

Freeman served as commander of a military guard getting out timber to build Fort Fetterman.  Freeman and his wagon were ambushed by Cheyennes and Dakotas of the Sioux tribe.  They were surrounded for three days in a southeastern valley before rescue.  Freeman's was the first detachment sent out to rescue Fetterman.  He was also the first unit sent out to help General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn and was the first on the field after the battle.  In both cases Fetterman and Custer were decoyed by Indians until out of range of help and were then cut down.  (Freeman said Custer was an insufferable martinet).

A string of forts was set up from Cheyenne, Wyoming into Montana to protect settlers from the Indians during the 1870s and 1880s.  Freeman spent the balance of his military career in those forts.  He was so taken with the beauty of the country that he homesteaded there after his retirement.  He lived formally with his lovely southern wife in that open country.  It was during his retirement that he related his adventures and taught Dad [George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd] the game of chess.

Dad's aunt Elizabeth Dickson, his mother's sister, owned the hospital in Douglas.  She was a very proper lady but when Mrs. Pike, a rustler's wife, became ill, she managed somehow to allow her husband in to visit her.  He was not supposed to be there because the sheriff was looking for him.  Auntie [Elizabeth Dickson] let the nurse go and eased him in the back door before the night nurse came on duty and then she herself left.  The night nurse told the sheriff Pike wasn't there because she didn't know he was, and Auntie was away and couldn't be questioned.

Famed cattle rustler George Pike.
Image courtesy of the Wyoming Pioneer Memorial Museum, the Douglas Historic Preservation Commission, and the National Park Service.

Some wealthy cattlemen started out as rustlers, among them George Pike who could not reform.  He was always in trouble for picking a good-looking animal to call his own. The sheriff usually had a warrant out for him.  He was brought by friends to Auntie's hospital for treatment of "cowboy's bellyache."  (It was appendicitis!)  Dad was about eleven years old at the time and visiting in town.  Doctor Jesurun was summoned, very hush hush, and surgery was performed.  The patient did not survive.  The rustler's friends gave a very large funeral for a well-loved scallywag.  a large fence was built around his grave but it was decided he needed more than an iron fence, so they sent to Denver for a large stone and had it inscribed as follows:

Underneath this stone in eternal rest
Sleeps the wildest one of the wayward west.
He was a gambler and sport and cowboy too
And he led the pace in an outlaw crew.
He was sure on the trigger and staid to the end
But was never known to quit on a friend.
In the relations of death all mankind is alike
But in life there was only one George W. Pike.

To be continued...

Monday, March 16, 2015

George Rutherfurd's WWI Trench Art

I recently had a nice visit with my youngest brother, and the subject of our great-grandfather, George Rutherfurd, came up in conversation.  My brother is one of the few regular readers of my blog (thank you!) and shares an interest in family history.  We were admiring a photo of George and the 411th Telegraph Battalion, when my brother told me that he now owns one of George's souvenirs from his service in World War I.  Later, he sent me a photo of this unusual item.  It's a piece of "trench art" made from a shell casing.

I had never seen anything like this and had never heard of trench art.  What was this, exactly?  I consulted Google. On the website (which quotes heavily from Jane Kimball's book, Trench Art: An Illustrated History), I found the following description:

Pieces described as trench art have the following distinctly different origins:
  1. War souvenirs collected by soldiers or non-combatants during the war and during the demobilization period and modified in some way to serve as a remembrance of the war.
  2. Souvenirs crafted by soldiers during the war.
  3. Souvenirs made for sale to soldiers by other soldiers or civilians during the war.
  4. Souvenirs made by prisoners of war in exchange for food, cigarettes or money.
  5. Mementoes of the war made by convalescent soldiers.
  6. Post-war souvenirs made for tourists visiting the battlefields.
  7. Post-war souvenirs made by commercial firms in trench-art style.

My brother was able to tell me a little more about George's unique piece of trench art and the engravings on the shell itself give hints as to its place and year of origin.

A Canon de 75 Modele 1897 in use in World War I. [source]

The shell has been hammered into a vase or tall drinking cup.  It reads, "1918 St. Mihiel."  As readers of this blog know, George Rutherfurd was one of the first Americans to enter the French town of St. Mihiel after it was bombarded by German forces in September 1918.  During his time there, he either bought or was given this piece of trench art.  My brother says he was told that the St. Mihiel villagers made this and other items of trench art with the shell casings that littered their town after the battle.

The bottom of George's piece of trench art is marked with the following information: 75 DE C MGM 449L 1/ USA.  I've been doing a lot of reading about the markings on shell casings to see what this might mean.  The best that I can tell, this is a 75mm De Campagne (or "field gun") shell.  It was almost certainly shot by a Canon de 75 Model 1897, a fast-acting piece of artillery commonly in use by the French Army and American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.  The letters MGM should refer to the maker of the shell.  I think this might mean it was made by Metropolitan Gas Meter Co., which was an English company.  However, it clearly says USA, so perhaps not.  If an expert on trench art happens upon this post, I'd love more information.

This image from WWI shows a mounted Canon de 75 Modele 1897 field gun in action. [source]

The people of St. Mihiel had experienced the full force of war and their town was heavily damaged.  Yet, whether out of the simple need to make money or the desire to transform something ugly into something beautiful, someone in St. Mihiel created this unique item.  It then traveled from France to New Jersey, through the Panama Canal, to San Francisco, to Los Angeles, and finally to George Rutherfurd's last home in San Diego County.  My brother now owns a World War I shell casing, nearly a century after it fell on St. Mihiel.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Adoption of George Roscoe Griffin

George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd, formerly George Roscoe Griffin

On April 12, 1898, Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd filed paperwork to adopt his wife's son from her first marriage.

Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd

George Roscoe Griffin was born on January 23, 1895.  He was the son of Anne Amelia Dickson and John T. Griffin.  His parents' marriage lasted a very short time.  They were separated soon after their honeymoon and divorced a year after their nuptials.  George never met his biological father.  Annie Dickson married a second time, on April 29, 1897.  Her second husband, Malcolm Rutherfurd, petitioned to adopt his stepson one year later.

The signature of Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd on the adoption document

The adoption paperwork is very interesting, since it sheds light on the relationship between Annie Dickson and John T. Griffin.  While this account comes from Annie's point of view entirely, it's the most comprehensive account of the reasons for her divorce.

Comes now Malcolm B. O. Rutherford [sic], a citizen of the United States and citizen and resident of Converse County, Wyoming, and for the purposes hereinafter stated, would respectfully represent to the Court and Judge thereof,

FIRST:  That he is a married man, a farmer and stock raiser, by occupation, is 24 years of age and is fully able, competent and willing to provide for and assume the relation of parent to the minor child hereinafter named.

SECOND:  That your petitioner, the said Malcolm B. O. Rutherford [sic] doth hereby appear and doth hereby offer to adopt said minor child George Roscoe Griffin, a male child aged about four years, as his own, and to assume the relation of parent, that of a father to said minor child.

THIRD:  Your petitioner would further represent that the father of said minor child is John T. Griffin, and the mother of said minor is Annie E. Rutherford [sic], the wife of your petitioner, formerly the wife of the said John T. Griffin.  That the said John T. Griffin has been heretofore by this honorable court adjudged and found guilty of extreme cruelty; and for that cause has been divorced from his said former wife, Annie, the mother of said child; and the said mother thereafter married and became the wife of your petitioner, and is now a resident of said County and State; and at the time of said decree of divorce, said John T. Griffin, the father of said child, was found to be a cruel and vicious person and unfit to have the care and custody of said minor; and he was there and then, by this Court, judicially deprived of the custody or care of said child; and the Court judicially awarded sole care and custody of the said minor child to Annie E. Rutherford [sic], formerly Annie E. Griffin [sic].

This statement tells us that (a) the Converse County, Wyoming court processed Annie's divorce from John T. Griffin, (b) Annie claimed that John T. Griffin was extremely cruel, vicious and unfit to parent a child and (c) the court agreed with her.  Of course, we know that John T. Griffin had already raised five children with his first wife, Ellen Pearsall.  While no claims of abuse are on record from that marriage, or his last and final marriage to Elizabeth Rice, we cannot know whether abuse did or did not exist in his relationships.  Annie claimed that John T. Griffin was cruel to her, and that's the only account we have of their marriage.

The document goes on to state that Annie Dickson Rutherfurd gives her consent to the adoption.  It also decrees that henceforth, George will be legally and for all purposes considered the child of Malcolm Rutherfurd, capable of inheriting his estate, and that his name will be changed to George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.

Malcolm was not the father George might have wished.  He disliked Malcolm's strictness, religious beliefs and use of corporal punishment.  However, this adoption gave him the only father figure he would have in his life and put him on equal legal footing with his four half-brothers.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winchester '73 Rifle

An example of a Winchester 1873 Rifle [source: Winchester Guns]

I recently told the story of my second great-grandmother, Annie Dickson.  After Annie's second husband, Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd, died suddenly of pneumonia in 1913, she moved from Wyoming to Los Angeles with her five sons.

My late grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, left me her genealogy files and family photos. Among her paperwork, I found a letter from her cousin.  This cousin, a child of Annie's son Archie Rutherfurd (1899-1972), relates in his letter a story about events that occurred after Malcolm Rutherfurd's death.  Here is the letter in full:

Upon the death of Malcolm B.O. Rutherfurd in April of 1913, his widow, my grandmother, Annie Amelia Dickson Rutherfurd, made arrangements to leave Douglas, Wyoming with her five young sons and go to Los Angeles, California to be closer to her family.

Ferris Bruner and his father took them to the railroad station.  Ferris was about 14 years old and a very good friend of my father Archie.  They had all of their personal belongings in several large trunks or crates, and strapped to the outside of one of the trunks was Malcolm's Winchester rifle.  This was done probably because it was too long to fit inside.  The station agent told them they could not ship the rifle that way, so they left it with Ferris to be reclaimed when they returned to Wyoming.

In July of 1962, my father, Archie and I made a trip to Douglas.  This was my first time there and his too, since leaving in 1913.  We went to the Ranch that Malcolm and his brother Archie owned and met the current owners, the Pextons.  We asked if Ferris Bruner was still in the area and they said he was and gave us directions to his place.  We looked him up and had a very nice visit for two days.  As we were visiting one evening, Ferris said, "I think I have something that belongs to you" and went in the back room and came out with the rifle, and related the story to us.  I am sure that my Dad had forgotten about it and was rather surprised.  Ferris said that he had never used it and had just been storing it for all those years and insisted that we take it.  I had the rifle appraised about 10 years ago and it was worth about $1700 at that time.

The Rutherfurd ranch in Douglas, Wyoming

I hope someone in the Rutherfurd family still has this rifle, which is over 100 years old by now.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Elizabeth Davock Dickson and the Douglas Hospital

Elizabeth Davock Dickson1 was the sister of my second great-grandmother, Anne Amelia Dickson. She was born in 1868 in Point Edward, Ontario, Canada.

As a young woman, Elizabeth studied nursing in Detroit.  My grandmother told me that Elizabeth also went to New York to obtain specialty training as a surgical nurse.  When Elizabeth's parents, George and Mary Bellangee Dickson, moved from the Detroit area to Douglas, Wyoming in the early 1900s, Elizabeth went with them.  In Douglas, she founded the community hospital.

Elizabeth never married, and devoted her life to working in medicine.  She was known fondly to my grandmother as "Auntie" and was close with her family until she died in Los Angeles in 1952.

Elizabeth Dickson, at left, with her sister Annie.

Among my grandmother's papers, I discovered a newspaper article that describes the origins of the hospital in Douglas and the role that Elizabeth played in its founding.

The Douglas Budget
Wednesday, July 15, 1992

Memoirs of the Old Douglas Hospital
by David Johnstone

The old hospital was located on South Sixth Street.  It faced east toward what was then the only school in Douglas.  It was a combination of Elementary and High School.

Close by was a small building that housed one of the grades and was nicknamed "Chicken Coup" by the children.  Across the street and a little north was the home of Tom Rowley and across the street on the corner stood the fine brick home of John T. Williams, a stockman and banker.

The hospital has been a very nice residence for the day and age.  The living room, dining room and two bedrooms had been remodeled some but not enough to destroy the original home-like atmosphere.  A four-bed ward on the first floor and two rooms for nurses on the lower floor had been added.

The original operating room was small but adequate at that time.  Some of the staff slept on the second floor.  Facing the east on the front was a very fine porch where convalescing patients could enjoy the good old Wyoming air and sunshine.

In the evenings, the off-duty nurses could entertain their boyfriends.  The hospital staff worked and ate together so much that they were like a big family.  Miss Elizabeth Dickson, a registered nurse, owned and supervised the hospital for several years.  Her brother George Dickson was agent at the Chicago and Northwestern station and was later interested in the hardware business.

In 1908, in order to take a vacation to California, Miss Dickson had a registered nurse from Chicago come to relieve her and to supervise in her absences.  Janet Adams2 was her name. She was one of three girls, all of whom were born in Ontario, Canada, and who trained and graduated in the class of 1902 at the Presbyterian and Cook County Hospitals in Chicago.  Mary Brown and Grace Galbraith were the other two classmates.

When Miss Dickson and her father returned from California, Miss Dickson had decided to sell the hospital and retire in California.  In short time Miss Brown and Miss Galbraith came from Chicago to investigate buying the hospital.  A few days later a deal was closed and the new owners took over.

The old Douglas hospital is famous as the spot where the cattle rustler and gambler George Pike died in 1908.  He was a notorious figure in the area, having established a ranch near Douglas where he corralled his ill-gotten animals.  Elizabeth Dickson was running the Douglas hospital when George Pike was brought to the hospital with a abdominal ailment, and her nephew George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd remembered peeking into the windows of the hospital to see the commotion inside.  George Pike did not survive, but his legend lives on in Douglas.

The hospital that Elizabeth Dickson founded and ran is now a private residence.  A larger and more modern hospital is located elsewhere in Douglas. 

1 I have often wondered about the origins of Elizabeth's middle name, Davock.  It's not a family surname to the best of my knowledge.  I recently found a clue while reviewing the 1865 Census for New York.  It shows young George Dickson and his bride Mary Bellangee Dickson living in the same household with a widow by the name of Maria Davock and her five children.  I still haven't determined the relationship between the Davock and Dickson families, but it seems to have been a close one.

2 According to a note handwritten on this article by the daughter of this nurse, her actual name was Janet Adamson.