Monday, May 30, 2011

"A Long, Beautiful and Useful Life..."

Recently I was researching my Rose relatives and learned that my fifth great-grandfather's niece, Mary Emma Rose (Mitchell) (Totten) was deaf and was prominent in the deaf community during her lifetime due to her work in education for the hearing impaired.  This is her story:


Eminent age is in itself venerable, but when it is united with eminent goodness and eminent services in a good cause it constrains our highest tribute of admiration and reverence.  An aged and excellent Christian, who for many generations has faithfully performed her duties, has befriended her race, and in her time did much to rouse public interest in the cause of the education of the deaf, deserves our gratitude; and when death removes her to join that cloud of heavenly witnesses and examples which surround us we feel that her removal is appropriate and that her example should be studied.

Among the first four pupils of the New York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, when it opened in 1818, was Mary E. Rose.  She was born in New York City in 1808, being deaf from birth, and had the advantage, rather rare at that time, of receiving early instruction, entering the institution as a pay pupil at the age of 9.  She came of a prominent New York family, which, having met with financial reverses, subsequently removed to Albany.  She then became a State pupil from the third senate district.

In 1822 she was selected as an assistant teacher, bearing the distinction of being one of the two first deaf teachers employed at the New York Institution, the other being John H. Gazlay, who was appointed at the same time.  Of her selection the records of the institution state:

'She is a very promising young woman, and the directors find her highly useful in the institution as an assistant teacher, while at the same time she is acquiring information as a pupil.' 

At this time Miss Rose was quite young, but already gave promise of the great personal beauty for which she was subsequently noted, and traces of which remained with her even in extreme old age.  She was, moreover, very intelligent, and though as deaf-mute from birth she could express her thoughts in well-chosen language.

In the dual position of teacher-pupil she remained until 1826, when she resigned to become the wife of Mr. Clinton Mitchell, a hearing gentleman, the nephew of Dr. Mitchell, at that time president of the board of directors of the institution.  Upon the death of Mr. Mitchell she was appointed assistant matron at the institution.

In July, 1844, she became the wife of Mr. Nathan M. Totten, a graduate and for some years a teacher of the New York Institution, and with her husband went to the North Carolina Institution, where Mr. Totten had an engagement as teacher.  Subsequently, in August, 1847, Mr. Totten transferred his services to the Illinois Institution, with which he continued until his death.  In each of these institutions Mrs. Totten, during her husband's connection with it, performed, with intelligence, energy, and womanly tact, the duties of matron.  By this latter marriage Mrs. Totten had several children, two of whom still survive, in Illinois, and have families.

In 1853 she returned to the New York institution as a temporary teacher, a position she held till the close of July, 1854.  The next year she was reappointed assistant matron, and continued in that position until September, 1871, when she retired with the love and respect of all, after nearly twenty years' service at the institution in a position where she exhibited intelligence, kindness, and administrative ability.  In his reports for 1871 Dr. Peet thus feelingly comments on her remarkable career:

'I have to record the retirement, on the 1st of September, of Mrs. Mary E. Totten, the principal assistant matron, who was specially in charge of the girls.

One of the first four pupils with whom the institution was opened in May, 1818, she was conspicuous in its early history, and her bright childhood is still remembered with interest by some of the few persons in New York who can recall the events of fifty years ago.  From being one of the pupils whose performances were the most effective in winning public interest and favor to the cause of the deaf-mute instruction, she became a teacher; but the beautiful and intelligent Miss Rose could not, more than her hearing sisters in like circumstances, be left to the quiet of an unpretending, useful vocation.  She was soon wooed and won (one of the earliest instances in our city of the marriage of a deaf mute) by a hearing gentleman, for some years a teacher of deaf mutes, and a nephew of the distinguished scholar and philanthropist, Samuel Mitchell, D.D., then president of the board of directors.

As Mrs. Mitchell she became, after the death of her husband, assistant matron of the institution, in which capacity she was for years signally useful.

Forming a second union with one of the teachers, a deaf gentleman, she changed her name again, and as Mrs. Totten, was successively assistant matron in the North Carolina, and matron in the Illinois institution, while her husband was teacher in the same institutions.

Left a second time a widow, more than twenty years, she returned to visit her family connections in the East, and was soon after persuaded to resume her connection with this institution, at first as a teacher and afterwards as assistant matron, in which she gave us sixteen consecutive years of faithful and very efficient service.'

Upon her final retirement from the institution she resided several years in its immediate neighborhood, having, through the efforts of Dr. Peet, secured a competence sufficient to exempt her from care and permit her declining years to be happy and contented.  As she grew in years her friends arranged for her comfort at the Gallaudet Home, where she passed her closing days in peaceful serenity.

Her last public appearance at the institution was on the occasion of the celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary.  She was then 84 years old, but seemed much younger.  Her end, a peaceful one, came on Wednesday, April 21, 1897; surrounded by kind, loving faces, her spirit took its flight to its final home.  Truly, hers was a remarkable career; a long, beautiful and useful life, and a history that is a credit to the New York institution, of which she was the last survival of its original pupils. -- Thomas F. Fox"

From pages 276-278 of Proceedings of the Fifteenth Meeting of the Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf, Held at the Ohio Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Columbus, Ohio, July 28 - August 2, 1898

The Illinois institution is now known as the Illinois School for the Deaf.  Their website mentions Mary Emma as the first matron.  Additional biographies on Mary Emma are listed here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Silent Wedding

One of the unexpected perks about doing the Civil War Saturday posts is that it has made me go back and research families I hadn't in a long time (and in some cases never).  One of the most interesting re-discoveries to come out of this is Mary Emma Rose, the niece of my fifth great-grandfather, William Lucius Rose.  I knew a little about Mary Emma before, but I soon realized I had only just scratched the surface.  I'll write more about her later, but below is one of the most interesting articles I found on her:
Salem Register, 25 July 1844

"A SILENT WEDDING.  A very interesting ceremony was performed this morning, at the Presbyterian Church in Eighth street - formerly in Murray street.  A ceremony interesting at all times, but peculiarly so in the present case, from the physical condition of the parties most immediately concerned.  It was a marriage. -- The Rev. Dr. McAuley officiated.  A large audience was present, the major portion of it comprising the pupils of an honored and most laudable and educational institution pertaining to our city.  The groom had been for some time a monitor in this institution - the bride for an equal or greater length of time has held the responsible post of assistant matron.  Thus inmates of one dwelling, and engaged in the performance of assimilating duties, it is no wonder that they had become acquainted each with the other's estimable qualities, and that a mutual affection prompted them to link their destinies in life together.  Yet we are assured that word of love was never uttered by his lips or breathed into her willing ear.

And the same reserve was manifested by them at the alter.  They stood mute - the voice of the clergyman alone was heard when the solemn vows of marriage were exchanged.

The parties were Nathan Miles Totten, of Huntington, Long Island, and Mrs. Mary Emma Mitchell, widow, of this city - both deaf mutes.  Mr. Peet, the esteemed principal of the institution to which they have for sometime been attached, interpreted by signs between them and the clergyman; and he also made the concluding prayer, in the same voiceless but impressive language.

At the close of the ceremony the happy couple entered a carriage, with the groomsmen and the bridesmaid, and proceeded to Brooklyn, where the wedding was provided at the house of a friend; and thence they were to depart, by the three o'clock train, for Huntington, where Mr. Totten possesses a modest property. -- NY Commercial, 17th."

What I find most interesting about this article is that it was carried by newspapers all over the country as if it were a major news story.  Was it really that unique for two deaf people to marry back then?

Before I found this article, I had no idea Mary Emma was deaf or of her work to help other people who were hearing impaired.  At the time of Mary Emma's second marriage to Nathan Miles Totten (her first husband, DeWitt Clinton Mitchell, had died in 1830) they were living in New York City but not long after they married they would leave to go work in other institutions throughout the US.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Civil War Saturday - Rose

(This post was inspired by the meme started here)

These Civil War Saturday posts have been immensely helpful to me because they not only help me organize and see what information I have, but also show me where my weak spots are.  This is especially true for my third great-grandmother's family, the Motts and Rose/Smiths.  I had kind of written off all the lines that were in California at the time of the war, forgetting that many of them had family back east who were caught up in everything that was happening.  I learned that my fourth great-grandmother, Mary Johanna Rose Mott (and by extension her husband, Isaac Thomas Mott, who was also her first cousin), had a few nephews who fought in the war:

John Irwin, 1832-1901.  He entered the Naval Academy in 1847 and went on to achieve the rank of Rear Admiral, serving as commander of Mare Island among other posts.  At the time of the Civil War he was serving on the frigate USS Wabash and was at the battle for Fort Pulaski among others.  At his death he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  John's mother,  Frances Everallyn Rose, was Mary Johanna Rose Mott's sister.  John's father was William Wallace Irwin, a Senator and mayor of Pittsburgh.  John's half-sister, from his father's second marriage, was Agnes Irwin.

Charles Shaler Smith, 1836-1886.  An engineer from the North, he chose to fight on the side of the Confederacy.  He was a Captain in Company G, 1st Georgia Infantry (Local Troops) out of Augusta.  As an engineer, his wartime projects including repairing the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad (after it was damaged by Sherman's troops) and serving as the architect of the Confederate Powder Works.  Several books mention Charles' work, both during and after the war.  More recently, the book Never For Want of Powder:  The Confederate Powder Works in Augusta, Georgia devotes a section to Charles.

Frederick H. Smith, 1839-1898.  The brother of Charles above, Frederick also went south to Georgia.  His obituary mentions his service on the side of the Confederacy and I have seen a picture of him in a Confederate uniform.  Unfortunately, the commonality of his name has made it difficult to learn more about his war record.  Frederick and Charles above were the sons of Mary Johanna's brother, Augustus Frederick Rose.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Exploring Methodist Genealogy Resources

I've got a great-uncle, great-grandfather and a great-great-grandfather who were members of the clergy of what is now the United Methodist Church.  Although the church has played an important role in this branch of my family, I haven't done much to explore the genealogical records available before now.  This blog post inspired me to see what the church had to offer and today I put my research request in:
Above is a partial screen shot of my request.  I chose my great-great-grandfather because, as you can see, I don't know much about the missionary work that he did.  Luckily, he attended a lot of church conferences (every one between his ordination around 1864 and move to Europe to do missionary work around 1874) so I have a pretty good timeline of where he was when he was state side (he returned to the US, and Indiana, around 1879).  Another reason I chose my 2nd great-grandfather?  Because I'm writing a book about him for his granddaughter, my grandmother, and the chapter about his life in the 1870s is pretty bare.

At $30 per hour the look-up service isn't cheap and it is also the reason why I'm waiting awhile before I put in a research request on my great-grandfather (the son of John Berger above).  But I'm curious to see what they have on John, and in a mere 8-12 weeks I'll find out.

If you also happen to have Methodist ministers from Indiana in your family tree, be sure to check out DePauw University's Archives.  That website was my introduction to Methodist Church records and all this time later, still one of my favorite resources on the subject.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Civil War Saturday - Webb

(This post was inspired by the meme started at Nolichucky Roots)

My great-great-grandmother, Mary Anna Webb Wellons, had many relatives who fought in the war.  Mary Anna herself was born in the midst of the war.  By the time she was three she had lost two brothers to the war, as well as her mother.  If there was any one event that defined Mary Anna's early life, it was the Civil War.  Her brothers:
  • John Martin Webb, b. 1843 - d. 1863.  He enlisted on 17 August 1862 in Company D, 16th Indiana Infantry and is listed as having received a disability discharge on 3 November 1863 but I know this is wrong as he died on 3 April, 1863 (see his tombstone here).
  • Samuel Polk Webb, b. 1845 - d. 1864.  He enlisted on the same day and in the same unit as his brother above.  He was discharged due to wounds on 29 May 1863 at Arkansas Post, Arkansas.  He re-enlisted as a Corporal on April 5, 1864 in Company H, 13th Indiana Cavalry and was died at Murfreesboro, Tennessee on 7 December 1864.
  • William Newton Webb, b. 1846 - d. 1919.  He enlisted on 22 September, 1864 in Company A, 9th Indiana Infantry and mustered out on 20 June 1865.
Mary Anna's father, Andrew also had a brother-in-law and nephew who were briefly in the war:
  • Horatio B. Richardson and his son, Charles Richardson.  Enlisted in Company B, 112th Indiana Infantry on July 10, 1863 and mustered out a week later.  The unit was formed to repel Morgan's Raid.
Units Covered:

Pension Files:
John Martin Webb's father applied for but was denied a pension (filed in Oregon)
Samuel Polk Webb's father applied for but was denied a pension.  He reapplied at another date and was granted a pension (filed in Washington)
William Newton Webb applied for and received a pension (filed in Washington)

I was given transcribed portions of Samuel and William's pensions but have not purchased copies of the full, original files yet.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What I Know About Nicoletta

My big research goal in 2011, as I've mentioned before, is to find my great-grandmother's parents.  To do this I also need to know, definitively, what her maiden name was and where in Italy she was from.  On her husband, Giuseppe Lappicirella's birth record, there is a notation as to his marriage (which is often the case with Italian records).  It includes the date and Nicoletta's name but parts of it are pretty illegible, including her last name (though it does look a lot like Riccia) and where they got married (traditionally a couple would get married in the bride's hometown), I just know it wasn't Vieste (where Giuesppe was from) and it sure doesn't look like Foggia (the village Nicoletta herself said she was from).  The actual records I have for Nicolleta are as follows:

The ship manifest entry for the family, including Giuseppe and three of my grandmother's sisters as well as Nicoletta who is listed as 'Maria Nicola Riccia.'  I'm tempted to believe that her maiden name was Riccia based on this but Nicoletta told at least some of her children and grandchildren that it was something akin to Dutchi or Dacci.  They arrived at Ellis Island in September of 1920.

1930 census entry for the family.  Most of the family has 'Americanized' their names, Giuseppe is now Joseph, Mattia is Martha, Michelena is now just Lena.  Interestingly, Carmella, who had changed to Clara is still listed as Carmella and her mother, Nicoletta, is mistranscribed as Clara.  The source of this mistake, I think, might be due to the fact that Giuseppe and Nicoletta's grasp of the English language was rudimentary at best. 

In 1953, Nicoletta and a daughter of her's flew back to Italy for a visit.  They came back from Rome to Idlewild in October.  I wonder if it was her first time in an airplane.

Her death certificate doesn't help much either.  It just lists her birth place as "Italy" and her parents as "Unavailable."  BUT, it does list her social security number which means there is an SS-5 form out there she filled out.  The only problem is she isn't listed in the Social Security Death Index which is why I haven't pursued her SS-5.  Does anyone have any experience or suggestions for ordering a SS-5 when the person isn't in the SSDI?  I feel like the key to this mystery is in her SS-5, I just don't want to shell out the $27.00 fee until I've got all my bases incontrovertibly covered.