A Long-ago Conversation with “Aunt Hattie”

October 6, 2009

While I was putting the post on Brown and Adams County together, I dredged up some old research material.  This reference was found on a website called Planet Murphy.  It contains a lot of genealogical information on a number of Irish families, including the Ellisons.  This excerpt contains a reference to J.R. Murphy’s encounter with our “Aunt Hattie” (whose real name was Harriet Osman) at the old log house on Vaughn’s Chapel Road, about 47 years ago:

J.R. Murphy, www.planetmurphy.org – revised 1 January 2005a

 The following was found my visit to Adams County about 1962 searching for James Ellison. This visit happened one summer day while in graduate school at the University of Michigan. Communications between Ellison descendents had long ceased and there was little information about Adams County. After reviewing an Adams County history book, it was apparent that there was another Ellison clan, probably related, but not of interest at this time. James Ellison and his family were my targets. I drove east of Dunkinsville searching for a minor cemetery which might have our own Ellisons. At approximately the reported cemetery location, there seemed to be nothing. So I stopped the car at an 1802 farm house and knocked on the door. When the door opened, an elderly lady greeted me, and I asked, “I’m looking for a cemetery with Ellisons and am a descendant of Stewart Ellison.” She replied, “Come on in, I know who Stewart Ellison is and I have all the records.” This was Mrs. Harriet Ellison Osman who lived five miles due east of Dunkinsville.

James Ellison was a member of the royal body-guard of the King of England for 16 years. After having his fifth child he decided to sail to America in 1820, leaving his family until he could raise sufficient money to send for them. On the way to America he was ship-wrecked, losing everything he owned except his bible. The bible was in the possession of Mrs. Osman in 1962. She was a descendant of Andrew Ellison (1811). The bible still showed the water-marks from the ship-wreck. In her possession were the immigration papers of James Ellison, which stated he was from Omaf, Ireland and the name of his father, Andrew Ellison, and his wife’s father, Thaman Stewart. He entered through the Department of Immigration on 2 September 1820. Osman thought that James Ellison lived on Wheat Ridge in the vicinity of Dunkinsville or West Union.

Mrs. Osman reported children and early descendants were buried in the “private” Ellison cemetery next to her 1802 farmhouse.

Mrs. Osman also added that Mary Stewart was also from Omaf, Ireland and had a twin sister, Myra Stewart, who married William McNeilan. So far, “Omaf” cannot be located. Shirley Graham reported on ancestry.com that Myra’s husband was actually Thomas McNeilan, and that one son, William McNeilan (1 May 1808 County Tyrone, Ireland), and a sister, Jane McNeilan, (1817) did immigrate to Adams County Ohio (about 1846-1850 for William). In 1850, William McNeilan was adjacent to Andrew Ellison on the census.

Comment: My biggest regret with this meeting is that an exact handwritten copy wasn’t made of the immigration paper to be sure there can be no other interpretation. Should it again surface (i.e. at the Adams County Library or in someone’s possession), this should be done. Mary Schmertz (descendant of John Ellison + Margaret Thompson) echoed this sentiment: “There are several things that make finding the truth about the Ellisons difficult. …Most of the family history comes from Hattie (Harriet Ellison Osman), who was apparently a stubborn woman who wouldn’t accept even solid evidence that (some of) her information was incorrect (e-mail of 16 October 2004).”

Hattie lies in the Ellison family plot near Dunkinsville

Hattie lies in the Ellison family plot near Dunkinsville

This may be the grave of James Ellison's wife - or not - too many Ellisons and not enough names to go around!

This may be the grave of James Ellison's wife, but it's hard to be sure. Too many Ellisons and not enough names to go around!

I’m not sure about the accuracy of Hattie’s genealogical data, but Mr. Murphy definitely got the “stubborn” part right! 


Bounding through Brown & Adams County in Search of History

September 23, 2009

A couple of weekends ago, Sally, Andy and I visited my mother in Brown County.  We decided to take a jaunt around the area to visit a few of our favorite places, and hopefully, to find a few new points of interest. 

This crypt occupies the summit of the hill, shaded by a large tree

This crypt occupies the summit of the hill, shaded by a large tree

Brown & Adams Cty Sept 3, 2009 009

Georgetown:  A Beautiful Tomb

Our first stop was the Georgetown Cemetery, where we encountered this very interesting and elaborate crypt in a prominent location.  The marble statue at the apex of the roof is still beautiful in spite of (or perhaps because of ) the patina she has acquired over the last 90 years. 

Two women are interred here; their relationship to one another is not evident.  Clearly, the older of the two women purchased the tomb, as it is her name that adorns the lintel over the door.   The names of the occupants and their dates of birth and death are inscribed on tablets beside the steps up to the door.  Who were they?  If you know about Mary Shelton or Mary Cochran, please post a comment and enlighten us.

Mary Shelton

Mary Shelton

 

Mary Cochran

Mary Cochran

Incidentally,  if you visit Georgetown, you should visit U.S. Grant’s boyhood home and the school he attended as a young man, both of which are open to the public. 

 

Ripley, Ohio - destination of many fugitive slaves before and during the Civil War

Ripley, Ohio - destination of many fugitive slaves before and during the Civil War

Ripley: Home of Abolitionism in Ohio

 

After a hearty lunch at the Fireside Restaurant in Georgetown (highly recommended!) we headed down the road to Ripley, Ohio.  Ripley was a very important town in the days prior to and during the Civil War; it was a hotbed of  abolitionist activity, a major stop on the Underground Railroad, and the home of  Rev. John Rankin.  Rev. Rankin and his sons were conductors on the Underground Railroad, providing safe conduct to numerous fugitive slaves on their way to Canada and freedom.   Harriet Beecher Stowe was highly influenced by Rankin’s anti-slavery activities.  Sights not to be missed in Ripley include the Rankin House (check it out at http://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org/places/sw14/index.shtml),  the monument to the first abolitionists in Ohio, and Freedom Landing (right below the monument). 

Witness Tree seen from the riverbank

Witness Tree seen from the riverbankWitness Tree tablet

Freedom Landing

Freedom Landing

 

Commemorative tablet at Freedom Landing

Commemorative tablet at Freedom Landing

The trip to Ripley is well worth the drive – while you’re there, stop at Rockin’ Robin’s for ice cream – it’s a 50’s style soda fountain with great atmosphere.  Word of warning:  the “single dip” ice cream cone is a LOT larger than you’d think!

Adams County Heritage Center and a Brush with My Ancestors

 I have long known that my maternal grandfather’s ancestors were the first settlers of Adams County, Ohio.  Two  Ellison brothers made the journey down the Ohio River in 1790 along with seventeen other men and their families, all of whom had been offered property in return for settling at Massie’s Station, later called Manchester, Ohio.  Manchester was the first white settlement in the Virginia Military District.     Col. Daniel Collier, listed among the field officers of the 2nd Brigade, Ohio Militia in the War of 1812, was an early settler and leader of the community.  His son-in-law, Andrew Ellison was my great-great-great-great-grandfather (assuming that I’ve correctly calculated the number of greats, that is).   Andrew’s family owned a two-story log house on the ridge road (later called Vaughn’s Chapel Road) in Adam’s County built around 1803.  Why did I tell that story?  Well, for two reasons: first off, as a child, I played in that house, which was still standing on the original site right up until the late 1980’s, when it was sold, disassembled, moved to Loveland, Ohio and reassembled (or so I’m told – please contact me if you have info on this matter).   My Aunt Hattie Osman lived there with a flock of turkeys, ducks, geese, and a few score of cats until her death.  On the hill behind the house was the Ellison family cemetery where Andrew and many others are buried.

Plaque on the Heritage Center Building

Plaque on the Heritage Center Building

The second reason for this rambling account is that I recently paid a visit to the Adams County Heritage Center in West Union, Ohio to get a close look at great(x4)-grandpa Andrew’s rifle.  It’s in a glass case, incorrectly labeled as a cap & ball “musket”.  What it is, in fact, is an Ohio made half-stock hunting rifle (muskets are military firearms) of about .45 caliber with a beautiful curly maple stock and handmade iron furniture.  It is a cap and ball firearm, and that fact is troublesome.  You see, for Daniel Collier to have owned the rifle originally, it would have to have been built before percussion caps existed.  It would have to have been constructed as a flintlock rifle, then converted to percussion at a later date.  I’m not an expert, but such things did happen, so I’m assuming the rifle is authentic as represented.   I hope anyone who has information on these items will contact me – it would be nice get the facts straight and save the information for posterity.  

Andrew Ellison's rifle is the lower one in the photograph

Andrew Ellison's rifle is the lower one in the photograph

 

The label is inscribed "Cap & Ball Musket, Powder Horns, Circa 1840, Originally owned by Andrew Ellison (1811-1894), Son-in-law of Col. Daniel Collier, Presented by Stanley and Louise Rowe

The label is inscribed "Cap & Ball Musket, Powder Horns, Circa 1840, Originally owned by Andrew Ellison (1811-1894), Son-in-law of Col. Daniel Collier, Presented by Stanley and Louise Rowe

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I’m also a bit of a fanatic about old bikes, I couldn’t help but notice a “Ben Hur” bicycle, circa 1890, stashed away in the back corner of the museum.  It has pneumatic tires, long since collapsed and hardened, wooden rims, wooden fenders laced onto the frame with cotton cordage, wooden handlebars, and an amazingly intact leather saddle with a relief opening in the center.  The relief opening looks exactly like those on modern “men-specific” saddles of today.  If you like bikes, you should check out this unique example of late 19th century technology.

Headbadge shows the name Ben Hur

Headbadge shows the name Ben Hur

 

How about those wooden handlebars?

How about those wooden handlebars?

 

The wooden fenders are laced to the frame with cotton cord, still intact.  Also note the flat tire - pneumatic tires were rare in 1890.

The wooden fenders are laced to the frame with cotton cord, still intact. Also note the flat tire - pneumatic tires were rare in 1890.

 

 

Outside the Heritage Center is a public area paved with bricks, some of which are dedicated to people who lived in the area, or have donated on their own behalf.  One of these bricks is inscribed in memory of my grandmother and grandfather on my mother’s side. 

Grandma & Grandpa Ellison's brick

Grandma & Grandpa Ellison's brick

 It ‘s nice to see that so many former residents of Adams County are remembered here.  Adams County Ohio is one of the most impoverished areas in the United States, with a per capita income of around $16,000.  Those of us whose parents were born there would do well to go back once in a while and think about how hard they worked to help us get to where we are today.


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