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Monday, June 25, 2018

Simon Girty - An Old Account

Malden, , Essex County, Ontario

Occasionally, someone will query as to whether they are related to Simon Girty or not.  Numerous family trees exist online following his five children and their descendents; whether correct or not is always the question.  

Most known in these parts is the existence of "Girty's Island," a piece of land in the Maumee River, a part of Flatrock Township, Henry County.  The writings about Simon Girty and this island are so, so numerous, but this account, published in the April, 1938, quarterly edition of The Historical Society of Northwestern Ohio, was especially entertaining.

Girty's Island

The four Girty brothers, forerunners to the James brothers, the Younger brothers and the other desperadoes of the west, terrorized the entire northwestern country in the period between the revolution and the war of 1812.

From the west side River road (424), near Napoleon, the long island in the Maumee where they had the headquarters for their sallies against the white settlers can be seen.  On this island George Girty lived with his Delaware Indian squaw and it was there she bore him five or six children.

Blue Jacket, famous chief, had his own village nearby on the Maumee while further downstream were the trading posts of Alexander McKee and Matthew Elliott, who like the Girty brothers, were 'renegade' Americans.

The Girtys were George, James, Thomas and Simon.  It is Simon Girty who has occupied the spotlight of the paleface historians and for two generations his whispered name was enough to send a chill up the spines of the pioneers and their families.

Simon Girty
 Girty was painted blackest by Theodore Roosevelt in his Winning of the West, but this portrait of him, though it carried out the white men's tradition, was as inaccurate as much of Roosevelt's observations concerning this part of the country at the time.

Later research has disclosed a Simon Girty given over both to the cruelties and the kindnesses of the forest life, more able and therefore more to be dreaded than his contemporaries, but a man in whom patient search is bound to reveal at least a few virtues to set off against his violent years.

From Fort Pitt at the head of the Ohio, the Girtys, McKee and Elliott had fled when it became apparent that the revolution was to be a success and that men loyal to King George were not likely to be popular in Pennsylvania.  Every act they committed, whether it was to stand by while white men were sacrificed in an Indian execution at the stake, to lead a party of Indians, tomahawks in hand, against a frail white settlement or to set afire the log cabins and the cornfields of the pioneers, were inspired by the same partisanship as existed on the other side.

To the whites who had come swarming across the Alleghenies,the only good Indian was a dead Indian.  They looked upon the loyal British partisans as nothing less than friends, simply because they happened to be allied with their enemies.

From the standpoint of justice, neither the redcoats nor the deerskin pioneers gave a hang about the Indians.  Both were out to get from them what they could, the British by plying them with rum and blankets and the Yankees by pouring into them not unequal quantities of white moonshine and lead. 

The wars that waged constantly about the Maumee valley from 1778 - 1795 were never instigated by the red men.  On the one hand, pioneers hungry for land pushed their way north of the Ohio to the lake country.  On the other, British military commanders, using men like the Girty brothers for their agents, stirred up the Indians on every pretext to make raids.  At one important conclave of the Indians, no white man save Simon Girty was admitted.

It is from a boy captive, Oliver Spencer, that we get the most authentic, if not the most flattering picture of Simon Girty.  It should be borne in mind that Spencer, his mind filled with terror and hatred of the Indians, was no impartial observer.  In fairness also it should be recalled that more than once Simon Girty saved the lives of 'enemy' whites, such as Simon Kenton, when the Indians were ready to torture and do away with them.  The boy Spencer describes him:

'Simon Girty...his dark shaggy hair, his low forehead, his brows contracted, and meeting above his short, flat nose; his gray sunken eyes averting his ingenuous gaze; his lips thin and compressed, and the dark and sinister expression of his countenance, to me, seemed the very picture of the villain.

He wore the Indian costume, but without any ornament; and his silk handkerchief while it supplied the place of a hat, hid an unsightly wound in his forehead.  On each side in his belt, were stuck silver-mounted pistols, and at his left hung a short, broad dirk, serving occasionally the uses of a knife.'

Not a pleasant parlor companion, certainly.  Yet whether villain or romantic figure, Girty with hs brothers has left his name on the Ohio landscape, a memorial to the deep impression of terror he inspired in his own generation."

In 1951, the Crescent-News reported that a descendant of Simon Girty was in town, Mr. Warren Bruner.  Simon Girty, he said was his great-great grandfather through a marriage between his grandfather, a Bruner, and the granddaughter of Simon Girty.  For a full account, check out the article in the library - the Crescent-News of January 29, 1951.  Bruner did mention that Simon's brother, Thomas, had a trading post on the west bank of the Auglaize above the Fort grounds.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Austin Theodore Fordham -Civil War Soldier Buried in Farmer Cemetery

Fordham was a member of the Farmer. G.A.R.

Another New York native who became a resident of Farmer Township in Defiance County was Austin Theodore Fordham.  Born in Plattsburgh, New York, on May 6, 1823, Austin was the son of Theodore and Fidelia.  In the 1850 and 1860 censuses, Austin was found as "Theodore."

In 1845, he married Adelia Aldrich, known often as Delia, and they settled near his parents in St. Lawrence County, New York.  In 1860, Austin Theodore was 37 years old and lived with his wife and three children, Ella A., 11; Sarah J., 9; and Thomas A. 7.  He was a farmer.

He was forty years old when he enlisted on December 17, 1863 at Hermon, New York, into Company L, 14th New York Volunteer Heavy Artillery.  Instead of being enlisted, it might have been Fordham's good judgement to take the bounties offered to volunteer for the 14th.

$552 BOUNTY!
To Garrison Forts.
$552 BOUNTY!
United States Bounty, $402.
A State Bounty of $150 paid to every Soldier who Re-enlists, of which $30 will be paid in Advance, and the balance when the Regiment is organized. New Recruits will receive $75 State Bounty, of which $10 will be paid in advance, and the balance when the Regiment is organized. One month's pay, $18, in advance, to all who enlist, and $2 premium. Rations, Clothing, Lodging, and Pay begins with enlistment. No Marching. No Knapsacks to shoulder. The Best Branch of the Military Service.
Headquarters, Recruiting Station, Genesee street, opposite Bagg's Hotel, Utica.
E. G. MARSHALL, Col. 18th N. Y. Vols., Commanking [sic] 14th N. Y. Artillery.
C. H. CORNING, 6th Regular Infantry, Lieut. Col. 14th N. Y. Artillery.
W. H. REYNOLDS, Major.
First Lieut. LOUIS FAASS.

In December 1863, Company L was already at Fort Hamilton in the New York harbor, with its major assignment to provide defense for the city of New York.  During that time, the unit was assigned to serve with various brigades, with their most known battles being Spotsylvania and Petersburg.  Austin was mustered out with his company on August 26, 1865, in Washington, D.C.

Sources cite that it was 1867 when Austin and Adelia moved their family to Farmer Township.  In 1870, three children lived with them: Thomas A., 17, a stable boy at the hotel; S. Jennie, 19, a domestic servant at the hotel, and Ida A., 9, a school girl.  Austin resumed his farming career and appeared in the 1880 and then the 1890 Veterans' censuses.

By 1900, Austin was 77 years old and still listed farming as his occupation.  Delia was 74, but she lived only 3 more years, passing away in 1903.  Her obituary appeared in the Defiance Express on June 10, 1903:

At some point, Austin moved in with his daughter, Sarah J. and her husband, Emory O. Stone.  It was there he was found in the 1910 census, still in Farmer Township.

Austin T. Fordham died on July 11, 1912, and his obituary appeared in the Bryan Democrat on July 19.


Austin T. Fordham, son of Thomas S. and Sarah J. (Roberts) Fordham, was born in Plattsburgh, New York, May 6, 1823, and died at his home in Farmer, Ohio, July 11, 1912. His age being 89 years, 2 months and 5 days.

On September 21, 1845, he was united in marriage to Adelia Aldridge and to this union six children were born of whom two died in infancy.  His wife departed this life June 3, 1903.  Those left to mourn his loss are two sons and two daughters, nine grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren and many friends.

In the autumn of 1861, he enlisted in Company F, 14th New York volunteer heavy artillery and served till the close of the war.

In the spring of 1867, he came to Farmer, Ohio, and has lived in that vicinity ever since.  When but a young man,he united with the Disciple church, but in later years he joined the Seventh Day Adventists and observed Saturday as the Sabbath.

At the time of his death, his home was with his daughter, Mrs. E. O. Stone.  His home having been with Mr. and Mrs. Stone since the death of his wife.  He was laid to rest in the Farmer Cemetery Sunday afternoon." 


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Peter Minsel - G.A.R., Bishop Post

Peter Minsel served during the entire Civil War, enlisting as a 19 year old on September 5, 1861.  The young German immigrant, born in 1842, mustered into Company G, 38th Ohio Infantry as a private, enrolling for three years and then reenlisting.  He and his fellow soldiers were sent to Kentucky to places like Wildcat and Camp Dick Robinson, then to Tennessee, before moving into Mississippi in 1862.  He was at Corinth and Chickamauga, Mission Ridge, and, of course, Atlanta.  He lived and saw war for about four years before mustering out at Louisville, Kentucky on July 12, 1865

In the Official Roster of Ohio's Soldiers, his last name was spelled Mensil.

Peter's name did appear in the draft registrations of 1863, but he was already serving at that time.  He was an unmarried farmer of 21 in those records.

Peter could not be located in the 1860 or 1870 censuses; he may be recorded, but the many spellings of his name seemed to hincer his discovery.  Minsel, Minzel, Mensel, Mencel, and so on...  However, his bride-to-be, Anna Gehring (Gearing, Goehring) was found in 1870 living with her mother and stepfather, Julie Ann and George Buckmaster.  Their farm in Noble Township was home to their children: William, 16, Laurella, 13, and Lucetta, 13 (twins?).  Anna Gearing, 27, and her brother Jacob, 18, who were half siblings to the previously named children, each had a personal worth of $100.  Perhaps this was an inheritance from their deceased father, Godfried, who died in 1851. Also with them was Peter Corwin, age 4, a child who was taken in.

Anna Gearing, born in Henry County on December 22, 1842, married Peter Minsel, born on August 2, 1842, on October 3, 1871.  They eventually settled into a home in Highland Township.  Both age 37, in 1880, they had no children, but took in the child, Peter Corwin as their ward.  An article in a 1902 local paper also noted that the couple took in "Paul Davis' daughter to raise." 

In December, 1892, the Defiance Democrat reported that Anna Minsel was very sick.  She passed away in January, 1893.

December 15, 1892
Brunersburg Cemetery
"Mrs. Peter Minsel, Highland Township, died Saturday morning and was buried this morning at Brunersburg."  Defiance Daily Crescent, January 16, 1893.

Further obituaries stated that she died of cancer at the age of 50 years and 21 days.  The funeral was held at her residence with these pall bearers serving - 
J. W. Myers, A. C. Henry, L. D. Blue, Jacob Adams, John Lengler, Henry Shotz. 

In that same year, Peter married Amanda Adeline Doenges on September 23, 1893, in Defiance, Ohio.  She was the daughter of John Doenges and Adeline Kleinhen, born in Germany.  She was approximately 22 years younger than Peter.  The 1910 census states that he was 67 and she was 45.  

In October, 1911, according to the Defiance Democrat, the Minsels lost their home to fire.
"The farm residence of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Minsel of Highland Township was destroyed by fire Wednesday morning.  Mr. and Mrs. Minsel were in a corn field seven miles from home when the fire was discovered by Mrs. Norton, a neighbor.  She gave the alarm by telephone and the neighbors came to the rescue and saved part of the furniture.  The upper part of the house was totally destroyed, the fire evidently having been burning some time before it was discovered.  The loss is $2500, covered by $1400 insurance on the house and $300 on the furniture.  Mr. Minsel will rebuild at once.  The Minsel home is seven miles southwest of Defiance."

 Peter Minsel was active in the city, having served on the city council at least in 1885.  He took part in G.A.R. programs and did his part for the organization.  On August 19, 1922, he died in New Bavaria, Ohio.

Defiance Crescent News, August 19, 1922

Defiance Crescent News, August 22, 1922

Brunersburg Cemetery

Amanda Minsel lived until September 30, 1935, living a social life within the city, growing flowers and learning beekeeping, competing in the local and state fairs, and participating in several social clubs.  Lottie Mansfield was her sister, and they did many things together; Lottie was the reporter on Amanda's death certificate.  Amanda's funeral was held at Lottie's home at the corner of Jefferson and Fifth Streets.

St Zion Cemetery, Putnam County, Ohio

(This is part of a series on Civil War veterans of Defiance County who were part of the G.A.R., Bishop Post, that headquartered in the city.  Formed in 1879, the post was named after a local man, Captain William Bishop, Company D, 100th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Army who died as a result of wounds received in battle.  The veterans' photos are part of a composite photo of members that has survived.  If you have other information or corrections to add to the soldiers' stories, please add to the comments!)