Tuesday, March 13, 2018

William Tyree in the Civil War, part two

At the end of part one I mentioned getting one of those “gold mine” packages in the mail from the researcher I had hired to retrieve records from the General Correspondence of the Record and Pension Office collection at the National Archives. The documents included spanned the years from 1887 to 1909. I’ll share some of the highlights, sticking to the spellings, dates, locations in the originals as best I can.

Affidavit from William Tyree of Crawford County, Indiana, signed 25 March 1887 and sent by his attorney to the Adjutant General’s Office in Washington, DC:

William Tyree being duly sworn upon his oath, say that he enlisted as a soldier Co. “K” 8th Reg. Cal. Tenn Vols. in the war of the rebellion in Green County, Tenn. sometime in the fall of 1864. That he served two months and a half, that he took the fever, then the mumps and measles and was sent to the hospital in Knoxville Tenn. sometime in the later part of 1865. That before he recovered that his regiment was discharged & peace was made. That he never received his discharge. That he prays the government to give him one yet.

Return correspondence to William’s attorney from the Assistant Adjutant General, dated 22 June 1887:

In reply to your letter of March 25th, 1887, requesting a discharge certificate for William Tyree, as a member of company “K”, 8th Tennessee Cavalry, I have the honor to inform you that the official records of this office show that this man was enrolled September 20th, 1863, was mustered in October 27th, 1863, after which there is no further records of him; there is no record of his presence in any hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee, and that a discharge certificate cannot, therefore, be furnished him, he being regarded as a deserter from on or about November first, 1863.

The War Department requested information from the hospital in Knoxville but no record was found. Note the discrepancy in the date that William Tyree claimed he entered the hospital and the actual year he was regarded as a deserter. Records were requested for Fall 1864.

Much of the correspondence over the next ten or so years was repetitive, with requests coming from attorneys and denials coming from the government. Then in 1900 William went to Hancock County, Tennessee to get statements from those involved:

“Proof of Disability” affidavit on standard form, by Ira E. Mosier, age 68, a resident of vicinity of Fairview, Scott County, Virginia dated 5 Feb 1900:

That the said William Tyre while in the line of duty, at or near Knoxville in the State of Tennessee did on or about the 15 day of December 1863, became disabled in the following manner, viz.: That he was taken sick with something like fever and was taken to the hospital at Knoxville Tennessee I visited him soon after he was taken to the hospital and he seemed to be suffering verry bad and at that time he told me that the physicians were treating him for fever and a short time after that our command was ordered off from there and left the Soldier William Tyre in the hospital at Knoxville Tennessee and never saw him after that time to the present time. That the facts stated are personally known to affiant by reason of Being with him at the time claimant contracted his disability.
And deponent further state that he was well acquainted with the claimant, having known him for at least 45 years and further, that his knowledge of the facts above stated was derived from said acquaintance, and from having served as Ira Mosier of Company K of the 8th Regiment of Tennessee volunteers, from the 20th day of Sept 1863.
Signed by Ira E. Mosier in his own hand.

“Proof of Incurrence of Disability” deposition on standard form, by William Kilgore, age 56, a resident of vicinity of Whitesburg, in the County of Hamblin, and state of Tennessee, who, being duly sworn according to law, states that he is acquainted with William Tyre, applicant for Invalid Pension, and knows the said William Tyre to be the identical person of that name who served as a Private in Company K, 8th Regiment of Tennessee Cav Vol:

That the said William Tyre, while in the line of duty, at or near Knoxville, in the State of Tennessee did, on or about the 15th day of December, 1863, became disabled in the following manner, viz: that the soldier William Tyre was taken sick about the time above stated and was taken to the hospital at Knoxville, Tennessee and I was sick and went to the hospital with him and the physicians treated him for fever and diareah and I know of my own knowledge that he had diareah verry bad I staid with him until he got some better of the fever and while in the hospital our Regt was ordered to Camp Wilson Ky and as soon as we got able to travel we started to go to our command and got to Tazewell Claiborne County Tennessee and met the Rebels there and had to take to the woods to save ourselves and therefore could not get to our command and Tyre was very weak and was still suffering with chronic diareah so that he could not travel we then went a short distance to a neighbors and friends house and kept concealed about 2 or three weeks and then went to my home in Hancock County Tenn and stayed there and kept concealed about 3 months and then he took a notion that he would go to his house in Scott County Va and I went with him part of the way as he was still weak and suffering with chronic diareah and I never saw him any more till now.
And deponent further state that he was well acquainted with the claimant, having known him for about 36 years;  and further, that his knowledge of the facts above stated was derived from having served as a Privat in Company K of the 8th Regiment of Tenn Cav Vols, from the 20th day of Sept 1863.
Signed by William Kilgore by his mark, with witness signature in the own hands of Zedediah Fletcher and William Tyre.

“Proof of Disability” affidavit on standard form, by W.W. Fletcher, age 47, a resident of vicinity of Blackwater, Lee County, Virginia and Zedahiah Fletcher, age 47, a resident of Blackwater, Hancock County, Tennessee dated 30 January 1900:

That we was personally acquainted with William Tyre about January or February 1864. That on or about the time above stated he came to our house with William Kilgore and was Sick when he come here he had Chronic Diareah and he said that it was caused  by him having the fever before he come here and he was not Able to travel at that time and we kept him concealed to keep the Rebels from getting him until he got able to travel and my recollection is now that he staid here about two or three months and we have had no Acquaintance with him since he left here at that time until now.
That these facts are personally known to the affiants by reason of his being her at the time above stated.
W.W. Fletcher and Zedahiah Fletcher both signed their names in their own hands.

This attempt in 1900 was not successful in getting the charge of desertion dropped. In 1902 William’s son-in-law/brother-in-law William McLemore and his wife Amanda (nee Tyree) composed a document in support of William Tyree:

State of Indiana, Crawford County
On this 22nd day of March 1902 personally appeared before me, a Notary Public in and for said County, William McLemore aged 52 years, and Amanda McLemore aged 51 years, … state: We and each of us are personally acquainted with William Tyree. We remember that during the war, we were at Rockcastle County, in the fall of 1864 about September, while there said Tyre was brought there sick, he had mumps measles and fever, he remained to the close of the war after he got over measles he bled at the lungs, and was in bad condition long after the close of the war. He was not able to return to his regiment.

There are some problems with timing in relation to this document. William McLemore’s family was already in Rockcastle County before William Tyree & family arrived, but he and Amanda Tyree did not marry until 1879. The Tyree family did likely go to Rockcastle County sometime in 1864, but Amanda would have been with them and not already there with William McLemore as she was only about three years old. The last Tyree child to be born in Virginia was Mary Ann in January of 1864, and the first Tyree child to be born in Kentucky was James in September 1866.
And this letter did not help William Tyree’s case. There were a few more pieces of correspondence, but the latest date I found was 1909 when the War Department once again said that the application for desertion had been “repeatedly denied, and now stands denied”.

So how did William Tyree end up buried in Crawford County, Indiana with a headstone from Company C, 14th Kentucky Cavalry? Well, there was a William Tyree of approximately the correct age that served in Company C. Just one William Tyree. And that William Tyree was William R. Tyree of Rockcastle County, Kentucky (some degree of cousin to my William). So when William’s daughter Florence Tyree Satterfield applied for a stone using the Company C, 14th Kentucky Cavalry service it was granted.

It is impossible from the documentation that has been found to know what was in William Tyree’s heart. Scott County, Virginia was an area with very divided sentiments. Did William get home, feel like his wife Ellen, new baby and two other children under five were not safe there? Whether or not he intended to return to his regiment if/when he was healthy did he feel like moving them to Kentucky where some of his family was already settled was the smart thing to do? Or did he just have enough of the fighting and desert? We may never know.

Friday, March 9, 2018

William Tyree in the Civil War, part one

William Tyree was born 4 August 1839 in Scott County, Virginia to James Tyree and Elizabeth Hall.  He first married Ellen/Eleanor Forgey, daughter of Archibald Forgey and Eleanor Roller 2 August 1859, probably also in Scott County. Ellen died 18 October 1878 in Rockcastle County, Kentucky. William then married Sarah Jane McLemore on 2 August 1879, still in Rockcastle County. Sarah was the younger sister of William’s son-in-law William McLemore. Shortly after that William and Sarah moved to Crawford County, Indiana where they are found in the 1880 census with three of the eight children from William’s marriage to Ellen and the first of what would be nine children of Sarah. William died in Crawford County 4 November 1911 and is buried in Goodman Ridge Cemetery. His stone reads Wm. Tyree, Co. G, 14 Ky. Cav.

My mother, Verlie Ahlemann Harvey, spent a lot of time with her grandmother Lou E. Tyree Sowder, daughter of William and Ellen. Grandma Sowder was only ten when her mother died, but she had talked with her enough to have some family stories. One was that when they moved to Kentucky Ellen had to drive the wagon and William had to hide in the woods by the side of the road whenever anyone came near. He was trying to avoid fighting in the Civil War. When I started getting interested in genealogy back in the 1970’s Mom got in touch with some of the children from the “second marriage” that still lived in Crawford County. They directed her to Goodman Ridge Cemetery and the 14th KY grave marker. And their story was that he had gone to Kentucky, signed up and fought with the Union Army, but threw his gun down and headed home when he heard the war was over. Thus no discharge and no pension.

I lived with that discrepancy for quite a few years but it never stopped bothering me. As I had time over the years I learned more about genealogy research and sources. When I found out that there were records at the Indiana State Archives of the 1886, 1890 and 1894 registrations of Civil War veterans, widows and orphans I planned a trip to Indianapolis. I was so excited! My questions would finally be answered. But the registration from Crawford County did not show William as being in the 14th KY. Instead it showed his service as being with the USA 8th Tennessee, Company K. So I checked Tennesseans in the Civil War and found an entry for (USA) TYREY, William: Blacksmith, Co K, 8th TN Cav. Next step was requesting his services records from the National Archives. Yes, William Tyrey enrolled in the 8th Cav. Co K as a blacksmith on 20 September 1863 in Hancock County, Tennessee (just over the state line from his home in Scott County, Virginia). He mustered in on 27 October 1863 in Knoxville, Tennessee. There was only one other card in the file, showing that he had a bounty due of $25 plus a premium of $2 that had never been paid.

Years passed and I still didn’t have an answer that was at all satisfactory. I debated with a researcher from the “second marriage” about our differing perspectives without resolution. Then one day I had an email from him. He had been browsing one of Ancestry’s new databases, General Correspondence of the Record and Pension Office and found this:

This was definitely our William Tyree. But desertion? I had to know more so hired a researcher in Washington, DC to get the underlying correspondence for me. In a few weeks I had one of those goldmine packages every genealogist hopes to get in the mail.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks (4) Hannah Marshall

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Ancestor 4

I was starting to dabble in genealogy research while I was living in West Lafayette and attending Purdue University in the 1970's.  But most of my free time was spent socializing with my friends.  One couple I knew lived in Pine Village, Indiana and driving over to spend time with them was one of my favorite activities.  I felt so comfortable there.  It wasn't just their generous hospitality but a feeling of peace being in Pine Village, a place I hadn't even heard of until they moved there.  Little did I know I was spending time near where my third great grandmother Hannah Marshall Townsley had spent the last years of her life.

Wallace Marshall published "A History of the Marshall and Related Families" (now available on OpenLibrary here) in 1922.   Mr. Marshall made efforts to contact descendants of the families, so the book is full of descriptive stories as well as references to source records.  Mrs. Olive Wade Fenton had this to say about her grandmother: "She was a large woman, of strong character; she was quite religious; for some time before her death she was crippled, having broken her hip by a fall."  Mr. Marshall had this to add: "Some of our ultra-fashionable ladies of today smoke cigarettes, and doubtless think they are pioneering.  They are not.  Aunt Hannah and most of others of her day, smoked a pipe.  Many times she would hunt and hunt for her pipe, and finally find it - in her mouth."   Hmmm, like I hunt and hunt for my sunglasses that are on my head?  Or my keys that are in my other hand?

Hannah Marshall was born in Frederick County, Virginia 24 January 1793, to William Marshall and Elisabeth Cole.   By 1812 Hannah was in Greene County, Ohio where as recorded in Greene County, Ohio Marriage Record Book A on the 16th of January she was married to John Townsley:

The John Townsley Junior family found in the 1820 census in Greene County, Ohio is likely John and Hannah and their 3 male & 1 female children under age 10; George born 1816, Caroline born 1817 and my 2nd great grandfather William Townsley born 1819.  I do not have the name of the third male child and don't see him in later censuses.   I haven't yet found the family in 1830 or 1840. I do have a record of three more children; James born 1826, Julia born 1828 and Robert born 1830.  

In 1850 Hannah is living in Clark County with her daughter Julia and son-in-law John Wade.  I have seen an unsubstantiated death date for John Townsley of 1832.  Several of the DAR applications on his father John Townsley Sr.'s Revolutionary War service come through John and Hannah, but none list a death date for John Jr., leading me to believe that the 1832 is just a guess based on the birth date of the youngest child.

Hannah continues to live with Julia and John Wade the rest of her life.  In 1860 they are still in Clark County, but shortly after that move to Indiana.  They settled in Pine Village and that is where Hannah Marshall Townsley died.  Wallace Marshall, in the book cited above, gives her death date as 5 July 1867 and her place of burial as Carbondale Cemetery.  There an entry on Find-A-Grave with that same information.  Mr. Marshall had visited the cemetery and not found a stone for Hannah even at that time, and mentioned that some stones had been vandalized.

Wallace Marshall lived in Lafayette, Indiana.  He, too, was surprised to find Hannah Marshall so geographically close.  He states:  "I am sure none of us children ever heard of a relative so close as first cousin to father, living at that place.  In fact, I never knew it, until within the present month."  A later insert: "Since writing the above, I have learned that Uncle William attended his Aunt Hannah's funeral, so they were known to be there by the older people."

I shared your surprise, Mr. Marshall.

Monday, February 10, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks (3) Geneva Evans, approx 1830-1900

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Ancestor 3

There is nothing like writing about an ancestor to show me how little I really know about them.  I don't know where Geneva Evans came from or where she ended up.  All I have is what I can glean from the few records she left. 

Geneva Evans was born sometime around 1830 somewhere in Virginia.  By 1848 she was in Warrick Couny, Indiana where she married John Nalley on May 7th (as recorded in Warrick County marriage records).  They were my 2nd great grandparents, maternal grandparents of my paternal grandfather George Hampton Harvey.

By the time the census was taken in 1850 Geneva had given birth to her Lourana, the first of several children that she would bear. The Nalley family stayed in Warrick County, Indiana for several years and in 1860 are found in Anderson Township.  Current political boundaries show that township to lie along the Ohio River. John's occupation is listed as being a farmer, but he apparently didn't own his own land since the real estate value was listed as zero.

The Civil War was breaking out.  Geneva's husband John was several years older and I find no record of him fighting.  Their sons were too young.  Southwestern Indiana wasn't in the midst of the fighting, but they didn't escape all the turmoil.  In 1862 the nearby town of Newburgh, Indiana was captured in a Confederate raid.  

For whatever reason, the family moved several miles north into Pike County by 1870.  They are found there in census in Lockhart Township.  By now they have their own land, with a real estate value of $2,000.  John is farming and Geneva is keeping house.  The older daughters have left home, leaving six children ranging in age from six months to 15 years.  John, like in 1860, is noted as not being able to read or write.  Geneva does not have that notation so she may have had more of an opportunity for an education that what John had.

Pike County must not have been satisfactory either, because by 1880 the family is in Carthage, Missouri.  John is noted as having a "tumor of the stomach".  Their 22 and 23 year old sons are in the household listed as "laborers", as well as some remaining younger children.  At some point during their residence in Carthage John died.  There is an 1887 court case filed in Pike County regarding Geneva's dower portion of a 20 acre parcel of land and naming their children as owners of the other two thirds.  I haven't been able to find a death or burial record for John.

John & Geneva's daughter Martha Nalley married a Peter Wright.  In 1900 there is a census record in Cherokee County, Kansas of Peter Wright's household with wife Mary and mother-in-law Geneva Nalley.  It is confusing, though, because this Geneva Nalley was listed as being born in March 1846 and was mother to only 4 children, 2 of whom were still living.   The birth places & parents' birth places are consistent with prior information, but Geneva could not have been born in 1846 and married in 1848.  

That's the last mention I can find of Geneva Evans.  Her daughter Martha Nalley Wright died in 1909 and Peter is found in the 1910 census for Jasper County, Missouri listed as a widower (though from Jasper County marriage records I know he remarried later that year).   Was the 1900 census entry in Kansas the correct family?  Did Geneva die there?  Or maybe back in Missouri?

Without a marriage bond or death record I don't have a clue as to who her parents were.  There were two Evans households in Warrick County in 1850 that could have been her family.  One was headed by Henry Evans and the other by James Evans.  Geneva's first son was named William H., possibly named for her husband John's father William Nalley.  Could the H be for Henry?  But her second son was named James.  Was that for her father?  

As I go through this I realize I need to make a trip to Warrick County to look at land and court records to see what I can find.

Friday, February 7, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks (2) Elizabeth Hall approximately 1815-1847

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Ancestor 2

Elizabeth Hall, my 3rd great grandmother, was a June bride.  An entry in Scott County, Virginia Marriage Book 1, page 56 shows that she and James Tyree were granted a license to marry on 7 June 1836.  The ceremony was performed by W.C. Reynolds and his return was dated 22 June 1836. Unfortunately I have not found a marriage bond that might give additional information on Elizabeth's family.

The 1840 census entry for the James Tyree family in Scott County lists 3 children (1 male, 2 female) all under the age of 5.  There were both a female and male aged 20-29, presumably James and Elizabeth.  So Elizabeth was born sometime between 1811 and 1820.  If she was born in 1815 she would have been 21 at the time of her marriage.

By 1850 Elizabeth is gone.  The James Tyree family now consists of James age 36, Polly age 25 and seven children:
Malinda age 14
Mary age 12
William age 10 (my 2nd great grandfather)
Ann Tyree age 8
Lucy Tyree age 5
Louisa Tyree age 4
Caroline Tyree age 2
Elizabeth Tyree age 1

Some researchers have said that Elizabeth Hall was Mary "Polly" Elizabeth Hall but I have not seen any evidence that would lead me to believe that is true.  James Tyree's second wife is said to be Mary "Polly" Young and I believe that is who we see in the 1850 census.

James Tyree referred to his wife Polly in his 1877 will.  There are also chancery court records for Scott County that deal with continued disputes over parts of the estate settlement.  At least one mentions Polly Tyree, but the most informative in regards to Elizabeth Hall is case 1907-025.  Close to sixty years after Elizabeth's presumed death, 30 years after James's death and shortly after Polly's death the children of the late Caroline Tyree Heron are claiming that their father W H Heron is using land that should be theirs.  One of the depositions is by Nathaniel Bloomer, husband of Mary Tyree.  When asked if his wife is a sister to Caroline Heron and a daughter of James Tyree he answers that his wife Mary "is a half-sister and daughter of James Tyree".

The first three children that were in the 1850 census match up with the 3 under age 5 in 1840 and are easily attributed to Elizabeth Hall.  The rest were so close in age it is hard to pick a point where Elizabeth's children ended and Polly's began.  This piece of evidence in the 1907 court case makes it clear that Caroline had a different mother than Mary. It's still unclear who the mother is for Ann, Lucy and Louisa. (Since the original post I have found death certificates that show Elizabeth/Libby as mother to some of the children including up through Louisa).

So what happened to Elizabeth Hall?  Did she die and James immediately remarry?  Was James starting a family with Polly even as he was finishing his family with Elizabeth?  I've found no evidence of divorce proceedings.  There is a Find A Grave entry for Mary Elizabeth "Polly" Hall Tyree b 1815, d 1850 and buried in Nickles Cemetery (Looneys Gap).  There is no photo associated with the entry.  It's possible that descendants that stayed in the area would have known where she was buried.

The bigger question for me, though, is "where did Elizabeth Hall come from?"  The census entries I've seen for her children are consistent in giving their mother's place of birth as Virginia.  I've kept notes as I come across possibilities in the Scott County area.  Rhoden (by any spelling) and William Hall both have females close to age 15 in the 1830 Scott County census.  But if "Rhoden" Hall is the same person as Nimrod Hall then I may have enough evidence to remove that family from consideration, as his daughter Elizabeth moved to Floyd County, Kentucky with the rest of the family.  John Hall & Sarah Mahon lived in Lee County (next to Scott) in 1813 when their son Preston was born.  I have an Ancestry DNA match with a descendant of that family, as well as several other Hall families.  I have even more with descendants of John Hash & Rebecca Anderson, who had two daughters that married Hall's.  That doesn't really tell me much since my roots are so tangled there that I could easily be related to these DNA matches through another line.  I also have in my notes to keep an eye on Masias Hall and Unisiah Simth as possible parents.

As you can see, I've been collecting a lot of clues but not finding any real evidence.  Can any of you help me find the rest of the story?

Friday, January 31, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: (1) Bessie M. Bromagem 1881-1951

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Ancestor 1

Earlier this year Amy Johnson Crow posted a challenge on her blog No Story Too Small to write about a different ancestor each week.  52 weeks in the year, 52 different ancestors.  Nothing like starting a challenge a month late, but at least it motivated me to finally start a blog.

There is no better ancestor to start with than my paternal grandmother Bessie M. Bromagem.   I never met "Grandma Harvey" as she died two years before I was born. But I grew up in the house she had lived in.  And more than once an older relative told me I me I was her "spittin' image".  It was curiosity about her story that prompted my first genealogical research almost 40 years ago.  

Bessie was a mystery.  By the time my father was born she was suffering from debilitating mental illness.  When I asked about her the answer was "she wasn't quite right in the head".  But I had also heard stories that one of her childhood teachers said she was the smartest student ever to attend school in Patoka, Indiana.  Even in her later years she would surprise the family by performing tasks they thought she would have been incapable of.  Once a father-to-be stopped at the house when he realized he wasn't going to get his wife to the hospital in time. Bessie took charge and delivered the baby. I had to know the rest of her story.

There were no family stories passed down through Bessie.  My recently married parents as well as other extended family members were living with my grandparents when their house was destroyed in a fire.  Any photographs, papers or letters that might have existed were lost.  Bessie had no siblings except for a half-sister "somewhere back in Ohio".  I had to start from scratch, and with no internet to help me.  With such an uncommon name I thought it would be easy to trace, but I had no idea of the spelling variations I would find. 

Bessie M. Bromagem  was born 7 July 1881, most likely in Patoka, Gibson County, Indiana. She married George Harvey 4 September 1904 in Princeton, Indiana.  She died 2 February 1951 again near Princeton.  George was the informant on her death certificate and gave her father's name as Samuel Bromagen.  He apparently didn't know her mother's maiden name as that was left blank.  

I was learning more about the Bromagem family in Gibson County.  I found William S Bromagem, Hannah E Bromagem and Bessie M Bromagem living near Patoka in the 1900 census.  In the 1880 census I found Samuel Brumigen, Lizzie Brumigen and a 3 year old daughter named Mabel in the same area.  Another look through the death records and I found that Mabel Bromagem was born in 1876 and died 22 Sep 1883.  And there was a son, Samuel Arthur Bromagem born 1885, died 1886.  So Bessie was not the only child of who I now know to be William Samuel Bromagem and Hannah Elizabeth Townsley.  She was just the only child to survive til adulthood. 

My mother was very supportive of my genealogy hobby.  She made it known that we would like copies of photographs or other papers that anyone in the family might have.  We hit the jackpot when someone gave her this one:

The woman on the right is Bessie Bromagem.  The woman on the left is her half-sister Mattie.  And in the lower left hand corner was a faint mark from a photography studio in Xenia, Ohio.  Could "somewhere in Ohio" be Greene County?  Once I knew where to look I took things fell into place.  Bessie Bromagem's ancestors were some of the earliest settlers in Cedarville, Ohio.  I'm sure you'll be hearing about some of them in later posts.

But I still didn't know much more about Bessie's life after she married my grandfather. Then serendipity struck.  A man named Wilbur Bell drove through Princeton and saw the sign for my father's business:  "Ed Harvey Farm Supply".  He stopped, since the reason for his trip was to try to find some of the Harvey family that descended from his mother's half-sister Bessie.  He was Mattie's son.  My mother gave him my address and thus started a long and mutually beneficial exchange of information.  Two of the many items Cousin Wilbur gave me were a postcard and a letter.  The postcard was a photo of Bessie's two young daughters sent to Mattie.  It is a well-written, typically chatty card and Bessie mentions she is getting ready to have some dental work done.  The letter was written several years later.  One of Bessie's cousins had been visiting Princeton, stopped to see Bessie and afterwards wrote to Mattie to tell her of Bessie's deplorable condition.  

What happened between the postcard and the letter?  What turned this intelligent, educated woman into "crazy Bessie"?  By this point I was not letting the discomfort of the older generation stop me from asking questions.  I did get some answers, but not all.  After my two aunts were born Bessie had a miscarriage. The dental work she had mentioned to her sister did not go well. Those were two of the several different events that people said were to blame for Bessie's breakdown.  I found out she had been agitated enough that she was committed to an institution for a time and given shock treatments.  This would have been some time between 1910 and 1915.  When she was finally released she was docile but never "all there" again.  Her doctor thought having more children might be helpful, so my father and his two brothers were conceived.   My aunts may have had faint memories of their mother before her illness, but my father and his brothers only knew her as she was after the "treatment".

No one living when I started asking questions knew where Bessie had been institutionalized.  I considered at one time checking with the various mental hospitals in the area to see if any of their records reached back that far.  So far I haven't taken that step.