Friday, April 29, 2011

The Youngest Son Runs Away

David Barrett Walker

David Barrett was the youngest son of Isaac and Winifred Walker.  In 1856, at age ten, he traveled with his family down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi and Missouri  rivers to St. Joseph, Missouri and then overland by ox drawn wagon, settling on the west fork of Vermillion creek in Marshall county, Kansas.  Other family members from their Quaker community in Cadiz, Ohio also settled nearby.  In Kansas the family hoped to find a home free of the evils of slavery, but, there was no peace. The Kansas Territory was an early battleground with a violent tug-of-war between pro-slavery southerners and the free-state abolitionists.  How often did Davy, as his mother called him, hear his strong willed father and uncles rage about the future of Kansas and the immorality of slavery. And when his father and older brother enlisted in the Eighth Kansas Infantry did he beg to join them?  At fifteen it must have chafed to be left behind with his mother and three sisters.  Did his father tell him that his job was to be the man of the house and look after the farm and family? It was the end of September when they left and enlisted in the Eighth Kansas Infantry, Company G.  There was still plenty of work to be done on their sixty-five acre farm.

Yet, only a little over three months after they left their home to fight for their beliefs, the family received word that Isaac had broken down while returning home with the body of Thomas. David took an ox team and went to the aid of his father.  Together they brought Thomas home to Barrett.  We don't know how long his father Isaac stayed after the burial of Thomas, but the indication was that it wasn't long before he returned to his unit . . .  leaving David behind a second time.  I imagine his mother holding her remaining son tightly to her.  I would have.

But the misfortunes of war were not finished with the Walker family.  In the Spring of 1862 a caisson ran over Isaac's ankle, crushing it, and he was discharged for disability on March 20,1862 at Leavenworth, Kansas.  Isaac remained in the hospital for two months before he could travel back to his farm and family. Information traveled a slow road in 1862.  When did they learn that  he had been injured . . . but was still alive?

It was during this time that Davy ran away from home, enlisting in the Thirteentieth Kansas Infantry at Leavenworth.  Was it planned or a spur of the moment decision made as he walked behind the oxen plowing the fields?  A biography of his son Carroll, tells us, " He went from Frankfort in company with Dick Fairchild, of Barrett, Kansas. David B. Walker was without shoes, and as a prospective soldier he utilized the law of necessity and took a pair of boots belonging to a traveling man and which had been set outside the bedroom to be shined."  Don't you love how my family can explain thievery as a noble and necessary act?  Is it any wonder Carroll became a lawyer.

Below is the enlistment paper of David Barrett Walker.  It was part of a newly available database from  You will notice that sixteen year old David avoids the thorny problem of "Consent in Case of Minor" by simply lying about his age.  David traveled with his regiment until the battle of Pea Ridge and then was discharged in Van Buren, Arkansas November 23, 1863 "per S.O. no. 302"  According to one story, he was wounded and honorably discharged for disability, and since he drew a pension this rings true, but. . .   I just want to know what  "S.O. no. 302" was. Other soldiers on the Adjutant General's report are listed as discharged for disability, why not David?
Side one


Signature from enlistment paper
Late in 1863, David returned to his Kansas home and found it neglected, and dilapidated due to his father's condition.  While he had been away, his mother had been left with the care of her invalid husband, three daughters and the responsibility of making a living.  She plowed the land and raised what crops she could.  Later in her life she told a writer, "Davy was always a good boy to his mother.  When he was at the front, he always sent me his wages.  It was not a great sum, but it seemed a great deal in those days, when money was so scarce and hardship so plenty."  Beginning again, David helped his family rebuild the farm. When David married his cousin, Annette Barrett, he took a homestead near his parents and also worked at a saw and grist mill in Barrett operated by his uncle, A.G. Barrett, his mother's brother.

David went on to become a well respected member of his community, but I wonder if he ever replaced the shoes he "borrowed".

As you can see, I come from hardy stock . . .  even if we are opinionated on occasion.

Notes:  I had to choose which of two enlistment papers I would include.  Both had the same number and information so it is the same person, but one of them did not have his signature.  Instead it had "his mark" between the David and Walker. When I checked the 1860 census, he was listed as attending school at age 14 so I assumed that he knew how to write his name.  Subsequent census records identified him  being able to read and write also.  Seems unusual.

Listed in his regiment was an Elias R. Fairchild who survived and mustered out at the end of the war.

My resources for this post are:  Family obituaries, database "Kansas, Civil War Enlistment Papers, 1862, 1863, 1868", family photos, History of Marshall County Kansas, Kansas and Kansans, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-1865. Vol. 1. , and  Portrait and Biographical Album of Marshall County Kansas

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Isaac Walker Enlists in the Eighth Kansas Infantry

  According to his obituary, my gr-gr-grandfather Isaac Walker, was a man of strong convictions and beliefs. When I mention this, I have been told, on more than one occasion, that it must be an inherited trait.  He died in 1890.  His lengthy obituary, written before a family paid per word to tell the community about the life of a loved one, gives a glimpse of both his personality and soul.  I love the opening, which described him as a man who, ". . . imbibed the principles of physical and mental liberty".  Yet . . . at age 48, after a lifetime of struggle, with a farm to work, a wife and family, he and his oldest son, Thomas, enlisted in the Union Army. . . Company D, 8th Kansas Infantry.

Why?  According to his obituary, "Mr. Walker. . . was an aggressive worker for reform.  Beholding  a struggle between races or classes, he always took sides with the weak against the strong.  An Abolitionist of un-compromising zeal, he was for years a part of the underground railway whose passengers were traveling from slavery to freedom."  Did the Quaker beliefs  of his family that he learned as a child  influence this? . . .most likely.  But the Border Wars began in the Kansas Territory many years before the first shots were fired at Ft. Sumter. From 1854 forward the pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces were engaged in a bloody battle for possession of Kansas.  Finally, on January 29, 1861, Kansas entered the Union as a free state.  Then only three short months later, the war which had been simmering across the land became official, and the first Kansas regiment was called up on June 3, 1861.  Isaac Walker and his oldest son Thomas enlisted and mustered in September 28, 1861 at Lawrence, Kansas.

The Isaac Walker family in 1860 - a year before the war.

The Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry was recruited specifically for service within the state and along the Missouri border.  Isaac wanted it known that he was fighting "those damned Copperheads at Marysville" referring to the large number of South Carolinians who had settled there. It had been violent battle for Kansas to enter the Union as a Free State and the state had many southern sympathizers still within it's borders. An invasion of Kansas by the huge number of Rebels massed in Missouri was considered inevitable so the various companies were scattered at different locations around the state. Company D was sent to Iowa Point on the Kansas-Missouri border.  There they camped, waiting for the Rebels, waiting for the battle, waiting . . . and waiting.  Enthusiasm gave way to boredom as the monotony of camp life took it's toll.  It was a severe winter, and sometime in December, Thomas, age eighteen, and a soldier of only three months, contracted measles and died.

Isaac had promised his wife he would look after their son and, after his death, was determined that he would take his son's body home to his mother and burial in their hometown of Barrett.  A kind and generous man loaned him a team of ponies and a wagon to make the long ninety mile journey home over the barren prairie.  What thoughts and emotions must have consumed him as he made this heartbreaking lonely journey where tears could be shed with only the sun and stars for witness? What conversations did he have with his son laying in the back of the wagon?

When Isaac was but 10 miles from home. . . only a day's journey . . . he broke down and could go no further.  He was emotionally weary and physically broken from his long travel and insufficient food. He felt he could go no farther on this sorrowful journey.  A settler who lived nearby noticed his distress and rode over and asked if he could help.  Word was sent to the family and his younger son, David B, came with an ox team to support his father.  Together, they brought the body of the young soldier home for burial.

Committed to the cause, Isaac returned to his regiment until a short time later he was disabled when a caisson ran over his ankle, crushing it and putting him on crutches for the rest of his life. A heavy burden for a farming family.  During this time, his only remaining son, sixteen year old David Barrett, my great grandfather, left home enlisting in Company G, Thirteenth Kansas Infantry.  Only a wife and three daughters were  available to tend the farm.

Proudly, Isaac's family remembered him as a man " . . who worshiped at the shrine of deeds instead of creeds and after he had studied a problem and became convinced that he was right, it mattered not to him if he was almost alone, he would stand undaunted against overwhelming opposition".  Wow. . .This sounds so much better than stubborn and opinionated!

It does not matter what battles they fought or if they were safe, wounded, or died.  It does not matter whether they died of disease or in battle.  They are heroes who left home and family to volunteer not knowing where the war would take them.
Signature taken from a letter written on behalf of Charles Haslet, a Frankfort soldier  and comrade in the 8th Kansas, in support of his pension application.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

There's No Business Like Show Business

As I mentioned in my previous post, written before my lovely restful Spring vacation in Florida, my grandfather marched to a different drummer than his father or brothers.  I don't know when or how he started in the theatre business, but as you could see by the letter head, he was employed by the Shubert Princess Theatre in 1924 when my mother was born.  He loved show business and went on to be a theatre manger his entire life, moving from live theatre in his early years to cinemas later in his life.  My grandmother was always with him, helping out wherever she could, usually taking the tickets. 

The back side of the photo below says this is the cast of Abie's Irish Rose, but it doesn't say the year and the theatre was listed in the corner that has broken off.  My assumption is that the actress with the flowers played the lead. and the clothing suggests late twenties or early thirties. My grandfather, Edward Kennelly, is the standing man on the far left and my grandmother, Berenice Moldt Kennelly, is seated on the floor far right.  I am sure that everyone is in the cast but them.

The cast of Abie's Irish Rose - Chicago ca. 1924-26

Peg Kennelly as a bridesmaid in Abie's Irish Rose

I have never been able to identify anyone in the cast. Really, I have tried a bit - but only a little bit.  Okay, this is what I know.  My grandfather's sister, Margaret, known as Peg, at some point was part of the cast as a bridesmaid.  The story told to me by her daughter was that the show was going to go "on the road" but when she asked her father, he wouldn't allow it saying that she was too young.   Peg, born in 1906, was probably under twenty so that helps to narrow the date somewhat.  I have analyzed and looked at this photo many times and still cannot pick out Peg so I have concluded that she is not in this photo.  Was she in an earlier or later cast??  It would be fun to have a playbill from the production and so, with my fingers crossed, I have placed a permanent search on Ebay in the hope that one will surface eventually.  I did find a postcard of the Princess Theatre . . . but is it worth $7.99 plus shipping? 

I have also discovered a couple of newspaper ads for the play and brief information about the various actresses that played the lead using the Newspaper Archive database that is available for free through my local library.  My intent was to post this last night but it infuriated annoyed me that I couldn't locate them in my well organized computer files. Then today after work I stumbled upon remembered where I filed them.

The newspaper announcement printed in the Chicago Daily Tribune on the right has the date May 25, 1924.  The leading lady on the left is Miss Lorna Carroll.  "Miss Carroll is the new occupant of the title-role in "Abies Irish Rose," which is beyond its two-hundredth Chicago performance.  She is the third young woman to have the part in the Studebaker Run . . . Biographical detail concerning her career are meagre.  Such as are provided by the press-agent it have it that she was dragged shrieking from the New York cast by the author-manager, Miss Nichols; and it doesn't matter:  the picture classifies as news."
 I have tried to match the photo of the leading lady in my photo with this one, and I think it is a pretty fair match.  But how long did she have this part at the Studebaker??   

So now I conclude . . .if my grandfather was at the Shubert Princess Theatre in October of 1924 as indicated by his letter announcing my mother's birth, then the photo had to be after that.  And if  . . . on January 22, 1928 the Chicago Daily Tribune prints the article at left announcing that Miss Patricia Quinn is appearing in Abie's Irish Rose at the Kedzie Theatre . . . then the date range for my photo is most likely 1925-27.  It also says that this production is a touring company, but doesn't mention whether this performance is at the end of their tour or the beginning.  Hmmmmmm . . .this also means my grandfather must have changed jobs from the Princess to the Studebaker Theatre.  What was his position at the Studebaker? - it must have had at least some responsibility to have his photo taken with the cast. 

Do you have information you can add to this story?
Do you have theatre people in your family?
Can you identify any of the actors in my photo?
Do you have photos of the Studebaker Theatre ca. 1925?

One of these days I will find that missing corner.  I am just sure it is someplace safe!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Mother was Born. . .

 This is a letter that my grandfather wrote to his mother-in-law when my mother was born.  It is a very sweet letter that gives a glimpse of my grandfather's personality.  It also gives the name of the theater where he was working at the time.  My grandfather did not follow in his father's footsteps and become a meat salesman (commission man as he was described) nor did he become a Chicago policeman like his two brothers.  He marched to a different drummer.  I love this letter.  It has a delightful sweetness . . . and they were living at 2338 W. Washington Blvd. when my mother was born.

"Doc" is the nickname for my grandmother's younger brother and, of course, Margel is their first daughter who died of spinal meningitis before my mother was born . . .and the aunt whose name I carry.  I wrote about my journey to find her in this blog post.