Saturday, May 30, 2015

BLOOD OF FARMERS: Search for Civil War Connections

MORGAN/WILLIAMS -Starkey Connections
Searching for 2GGF Jacob Coleman Morgan
It all began with a black and white photograph of J. Coleman's son, William Thomas Morgan. The image shows William standing next to another man with a typed caption that reads “William T. Morgam & Alf Star---”. The crumpled label obscures the man's last name. He and my great grandfather William stand against a cloth backdrop; both are dressed in suits; William wears a tie and Alf sports a button on his lapel. Although William holds his hands behind his back, they are undoubtedly as work-worn as his companion's. Farmers. They both sport bushy mustaches that are greying; my great grandfather's looks almost white.

But who was Alf? And why were they posed together? I'd have to guess that the photo was taken around the turn of the last century; they appear to be in their early fifties. My curiosity was piqued by the fact that my family tree of over seventy-four hundred people did not include a single surname beginning “Star---”. Until now.

My search for information on my great-great grandfather, Jacob Coleman Morgan has been curiously limited by a scarcity of records. I have an 1850 U.S. Census that lists him as a 17-year old son of James and Athela Morgan. By the 1860 Census, he was listed in Doddridge County as 25 year old husband of L.J. and father of four children. I also found his Civil War draft registration. By the time of the 1870 Census, Jacob's wife had remarried, merging five of their six Morgan children** into the Swiger household.  And, although I have acquired other records, they are probably not for “our” Jacob. (There are at least six Jacob Morgan's in our family tree alone but he seems to be the only Jacob C., and was known as “Coleman.”)

Although my “pre-internet” family tree (based on my father's excellent memory) records Jacob Coleman's death in 1869, modern technology now provides huge archives of information to aid in the refinement of facts that were originally passed down as inter-generational oral history. Data now suggests that my great-great grandfather most likely died sometime between the autumn of 1862 (when his youngest child was conceived) and the autumn of 1865 (when his widow Louisa Jane remarried widower Absalom “Abb” Swiger). And, although it appears that he died during the time of the Civil War, I have not been able to find any verifiable record of military service for Jacob C. Morgan. Or, for that matter, any family stories about him.

My great grandfather William Thomas Morgan would have known his father's story. He may even have passed it on to his grandson, my father Thomas Morgan Glover. But family oral history is often silent on stories difficult to tell. Some family stories were destined to be passed on, others were not. Jacob Coleman's story may have been one of the latter.

While searching for information on Jacob Coleman, I found what appeared to be an unrelated story of three young soldiers named Starkey. There was no mention of J. Coleman, but their story was intriguing ...especially by the fact that their surname started with “Star---” as in the photograph. I still don't know why their Civil War story emerged during this specific search for my great-great grandfather, but it provided the lead to expand my Morgan family line a little more in search of any Starkey connections within it. And there were.

The Morgan-Starkey Connections:
The Morgans are related to the Starkeys through the family of LEVI, SR. and MARY REBECCA (MERRICK) STARKEY. Three of their sons, Samuel, Levi W. F., and Charles were, in turn, the fathers of the three Starkey cousins of the Civil War story I found. (Just to keep family gatherings interesting, all three men also had sons named Samuel, Levi, and Charles.) Our Morgan/Williams family connects through two of LEVI, SR.'s sons:
  • Samuel (born 1791), whose daughter Matilda married Isaac Williams -the uncle of Louisa Jane, wife of Jacob Coleman Morgan. Matilda's brother John T. Starkey was one of the three Starkey Civil War cousins. This means that John T. was the brother of Louisa Jane's aunt.
  • Levi W. F. (born 1806), who married J. Coleman's aunt, Sarah Jane (Price), sister of his mother Athela (Price) Morgan. His son Levi W. was a first cousin to J. Coleman and the second of the three Starkey Civil War cousins.
  • [The third brother, Charles (born 1803) was the father of the third cousin, Curtis Merrick Starkey.]
The Civil War story of these three Starkey cousins is detailed in an excellent online essay entitled “The Blood of Farmers” written in 1997 by Randy Starkey. This carefully researched and tragic story is well worth reading in its entirety at: .

According to Mr. Starkey's research,
Private Curtis M. Starkey, wounded in the wilderness, died of his wounds, in a Washington D.C. hospital on June 10, 1864. His body is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 27, Grave #533 in Arlington, Virginia.
Private Levi W. Starkey was treated and later released to return to his home in Marion County, West Virginia. He lived in that county for twenty five more years and later served as school commissioner in Mannington. He moved to Steubenville, Ohio in 1889 and died near there in 1903. It was reported he ultimately died from his battle wound. He is buried in Steubenville.
Private John T. Starkey was treated in a hospital in Washington D.C. He was granted a recuperative furlough in June 1864, to return in July 1864. He went home to his farm in Wetzel County, West Virginia. He failed to return from furlough. His official statement was that he had been too ill to return as required since he was being treated for pneumonia. The army, desperate for troops and unsympathetic, tracked him down. He was arrested at his farm on January 9, 1865, by Deputy United States Marshal Jesse T. Snodgrass. He was taken first to Wheeling, West Virginia, and then to Cumberland, Maryland, on January 12th. He was tried by General Court Martial, for desertion, on February 27, 1865, and found guilty. He was sentenced to be returned to his unit, under guard; to make up all time lost; and to forfeit ten dollars per month, of his private’s pay of thirteen dollars, for a period of twelve months.” (from “The Blood of Farmers,” Randy Starkey, 1997)
NOTE: John T. Starkey was also the father of Alpheus “Alf Star---” Starkey pictured in the photograph with William T. Morgan, “almost” second cousins. Both men were born around 1858 -Alf in Wetzel County, William in neighboring Doddridge County, in soon-to-be West Virginia. Both were eldest sons of farmers and would become farmers themselves. They both would have known their fathers' stories.

We may never know the full story of William T.'s father, J. Coleman Morgan. In a nation where our liberties were once defended in the farmers' fields, the hero's story has always been the one we yearn to hear. But the bloody realities of the Civil War yielded more heartaches than heroics for the men who had to lay down the plow and shoulder the rifle, leaving behind their young families and unplanted crops to defend a fractious national unity with the "Blood of Farmers.”

**[NOTE:  after publishing this post I was able to look back in the Doddridge County census records to find more Jacob C. and Louisa J. Morgan family information.  
In 1860, Jacob and Louisa were both listed as age 25 with the following children:  J.A. (male, age 5), S.A. (female, age 4), M.A. (female, age 3), and W.J. (male, age 2). 
By the 1870 census, widowed Louisa Jane had married Absalom Swiger and the Morgan children in their household were:  Sarah A., 14; Martha A., 13; William T., 11; Mary J., 9; and Caroline M. 6. -aka Amanda C.]

Saturday, May 2, 2015

ANCESTRY: The Reverberating Bell of Ages

In a recent episode of "Who Do You Think You Are," musician Melissa Etheridge stated:   
...I was instantly warmed and moved by the story...
and of course the father/daughter relation always rings a beautiful bell in me,
and how that reverberates on down for generations...
I have a strong belief that the influence of your ancestors,
that influence of their journeys, of their adventures, of their thoughts, of their dreams
are handed down through traditions, through ways that we don't even know.
I can't wait to tell [my children] the journey and the things I have learned.” (TLC 2015)

Many of us who study family history are drawn by that 'reverberating bell of ages' that resonates between the past and the present as we discover the people, traditions, and circumstances of our ancestry.  And, as we follow the sound, we strive to imagine what hopes and dreams inspired our kin -guiding them along the unique paths upon which their lives led from their ancestors to us and on to our children; of  a continuous life line of journeys marked by the ancient ring of a beautiful bell sounding its lingering story of family.