Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Joshua Currey (1741-1802), U. E. Loyalist

Climbing My Family Tre: United Empire Loyalist  Flag
United Empire Loyalist  Flag, Public Domain

It is, perhaps, a good thing that much of my early research on my paternal side of the family had to do with Canadian history (since many of the Scotts-rooted and Irish-rooted branches of the family tree emigrated through Canada and the pre-Canadian British colonies in the north). Because I've read so many blogs written by Canadian genea-bloggers, and histories written by Canadian authors, I know how special it is, from the Canadian perspective, to have a U. E. Loyalist in the family. As an American, I knew it would probably not politic to post this on July 4, because to have a U. E. Loyalist in the family means that they fought on the "other side” of the Revolutionary war and that would disappoint some of my family.

Joshua Currey, my fifth great-grandfather, on my Dad’s side, was born in about December 1741 to Richard Currey, Jr (4 Nov 1709- 20 Mar 1806) and Elizabeth Jones (about Dec 1711-14 Feb 1778) in Cortlandtown, Westchester County New York.

In about 1730,  Richard Currey, Jr., after marrying Elizabeth Jones, mounted both of them on a single horse, and with all their effects, rode northward into the deep forests of northern Westchester County, which was still occupied by the Algonquins, and bought land in the Peekskill Creek Valley in the Cortlandt Manor (Westchester County, NY, which was then divided into huge tracts of land called Manors [with one owner] and Patents [owned by multiple people]), a few miles back from the Hudson River. At that point, he carved out a home and farm, eventually becoming a large landowner, and raised his family there.  Richard and Elizabeth, my sixth great-grandparents, had at least ten children. I’ve seen some people’s trees with more children listed for them but I’m going with the ones listed in his will as I haven’t been able to confirm any others at this point: Sarah Currey (1736-1770, m. John Jones), my fifth great-grandfather Joshua Currey, Stephen Currey (1742-1830, m. Frances Moore), Jemima Currey (1744-1825, m. Elisha Horton, Sr), Richard Currey (1750-1835, m. Sarah Ferris), Phoebe Currey (??-??, m. John Sherwood), Elizabeth Currey (??-??, m. Robert Wright), Mary Currey (??- 1806, m. John Smith), Martha Currey (??-??, m. ­? Sherwood) and Rachel Currey (? -  before 1806, m. William Lane).

Climbing My Family Tree: New York State with Westchester County in red
New York State (now rather than then, unfortunately) with Westchester County in red
By User:Rcsprinter123 [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

In a short biographical article on one of his descendants, amongst the section that talks about his family history it reports that ”when Joshua grew two years of understanding, he married”. I don’t know what that means in terms of how old he was, but he married Eunice Travis, born in about 1750, daughter of Justus Meade Travis (abt 1728-abt 1793); I’ve been unable to find out who her mother is. Joshua owned 144 acres and farmed near his father’s lands in the Manor of Cordtland. He and Eunice had a beautiful house on that land and had six children born there: Richard Currey (1765-1857, m. Rebecca Dykeman), my 4th great-grandfather David Currey, Sr (1767-1827, m. Dorothy Estey, Gilbert Currey (1771-1857, m. Sarah Oakley), and Eunice Phoebe Currey (1780-1845, m. Moses Dykeman).

In the years after 1771, the local political climate had become tense. There were more Loyalists New York than in any other colony. It broke down to about 50 percent Patriots and 50 percent Loyalists, although historians agree that both sides were more American than British. It’s just that the Patriots did not see a way of reconciling with Great Britain and stood for independence as a separate country, and Loyalists stood for the recognition of law as against rebellion in any form, for the unity of the Empire as opposed to a separate independent existence of the colonies, and for monarchy instead of Republicanism. The Loyalists wanted the freedoms colonists had grown to enjoy across the ocean from Great Britain and reform of the oppressive taxation without representation system currently in place, but they were conservatives in their approach as to how to achieve this. History is written from the point of view of the victor: because the Patriots won the war fought against the British from 1775 to 1783, it is known as the Revolutionary War, the American War for Independence, or Our Rebellion. Had the British won, the war would likely have become known as the North American continent’s first Civil War.

In August 1775, New York Patriots determined that as the Loyalists were so numerous, regulations must be adopted to control them or the whole cause was in jeopardy and made a resolution that anyone found guilty of furnishing supplies to the British Army and Navy was to be disarmed and to forfeit to New York double the value of the articles they supplied and were to be imprisoned for three months after the forfeiture was paid. A second offense would be followed by banishment from the colony for seven years. By 1776, Loyalists were being arrested for arming to support the British or aiding the enemy in any way; harboring or associating with Tories (another name for Loyalists); recruiting soldiers; refusing to muster with local Patriot forces; corresponding with Loyalists or with the British; refusing to sign a document saying that they were Patriots; denouncing or refusing to obey congresses and committees; writing or speaking against the American cause; rejecting continental money; refusing to give up arms; drinking the king’s health; inciting or taking part in Tory plots and riots; being royal officers; and for trying to remain neutral. Mere suspicion was sufficient cause for seizure and imprisonment. All the property of those who adhered to the King or helped him in his war against the states was made liable to seizure.

Unlike his father and brothers, who supported the colonists, Joshua Currey sided with the British. This put his life in danger. At one time he had to hide under the floor of his house to escape the anger of the revolutionists, and his son David was nearly killed by them by being buried in a sandpit. He was also fined a number of times for failing to attend musters of the local Patriot militia. He was driven from his home and family, and forced to live in the woods, “skulking about, watching to see when it might be safe to return home.”

In Westchester County, the farms, stock, crops, and furniture of Loyalists were seized and sold before December 6, 1776. By March 1777, Joshua had joined the British Army, he and his family leaving home in the dead of night and traveling 300 miles to the nearest British camp, where they found protection from Sir William Howe, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in North America. Joshua first served with Major-General Tryon, commander of British Forces on Long Island, NY, and subsequently served with a section of the Loyal American Regiment (or LAR, which was primarily made up of Loyalists from Westchester County and lower Dutchess County) known as the Guides and Pioneers, under Colonel Beverly Robinson which put him at the forefront of any action against Patriot forces. In the Guides and Pioneers, Joshua was promoted to lieutenant.

Climbing My Family Tree: First Page of Memorial Of Joshua Currey, claim for reparations
First Page of Memorial Of Joshua Currey, claim for reparations
Photo taken by H.C.,  used with permission
Click to make bigger

His family had presumed him dead as they had not seen him until the end of the war. After his service with the LAR, he worked as a refugee farmer behind the British lines, in Morrisania, in what is now the Bronx. The war officially ended with the treaty of peace and separation in 1783. The English government tried to provide for their Loyalist subjects in America through the terms of the Treaty. The fourth article of the Treaty stated that creditors on each side should "meet with no lawful impediment” to recover all their debts in sterling money. The fifth article held that the Congress of the United States should recommend to the states the restoration of the rights and possessions of ”real British subjects” and of Loyalists who had not born arms against their countrymen. All other Loyalists were given the liberty to go into any state within 12 months to adjust their affairs and to recover their confiscated property upon paying the purchasers the sale price. The sixth article stated that no future confiscation should be made, that imprisoned Loyalists should be released, and no further persecutions should be permitted. The Congress sent the “recommendations” to the states but stated that they had no power to enforce them. The state of New York felt no obligation to restore Tory lands and to allow the returning Loyalists to be treated as fellow citizens. The provisions of the Treaty were rejected and the New York legislature declared that the forfeited and taken property should not be returned since England had offered no compensation for property which had been destroyed. Loyalists who returned under the treaty of peace were insulted, tarred and feathered, beaten, whipped and otherwise assaulted. The New York legislature also revoked the voting rights of any who had served under the British finding them guilty of treason. Therefore, most New York Loyalists chose to become exiles.

Climbing My Family Tree: The British Fleet Ready to Leave New York, 1783
In the public domain. Click to make bigger

The British Army could see the way things were going, and the officers petitioned the Crown to allow for ships and supplies to resettle their loyal subjects, now refugees, in other British colonies. Over the next six months, 30,000 Loyalist refugees would take ship to Nova Scotia, with almost half going to the St. John River Valley area. Because of the huge influx of citizens, the new province of New Brunswick was separated from Nova Scotia in 1784.  (For the most part civilian refugees were sent to Nova Scotia and former military refugees were sent to what became New Brunswick, along the strategically valuable Bay of Fundy.)  Each family received two tents, and one and a half blankets per person; each man received 4 yards of woolen cloth, 7 yards of linen cloth, two pairs of shoes, two pairs of stockings, one pair of mittens; each woman received 3 yards of woolen cloth, six charts of linen, one pair of shoes, one pair of stockings, and one pair of mittens; each child over the age of 10, received 3 yards of woolen cloth, 6 yards of linen, one pair of stockings, and one pair of mittens; each child under 10, received 1 ½ yards of wool and 3 yards of linen. They were also given provisions for the trip to Nova Scotia and were to be given one year‘s provisions thereafter. The weekly ration consisted of 1 pound of flour per person, half a pound of meat (either beef or pork), a tiny amount of butter, a half a pound of oatmeal a week and a half of pound of pease per week and a little rice. Some areas had molasses and vinegar but they were rare. The settlers could supplement the provisions with hunting and fishing.

Climbing My Family Tree: Map of New Brunswick Canada
Map of New Brunswick

Climbing My Family Tree: The Arrival of the Loyalists
The Arrival of the Loyalists
in the public domain
Click to make bigger

In the fall of 1783, Joshua and his family evacuated with the British forces to the St. John River Valley and received a land grant upriver around Gagetown, New Brunswick. My 4th great-grandfather David Currey, Sr., was 16 at the time the family arrived at St. John’s (then Nova Scotia).

Joshua later presented a claim to the commission for inquiring into the Losses, Services, and Claims, of the American Loyalists. He was one of only 500 New Brunswick Loyalists to do so. Joshua stated that he had lost 103 acres in the Manor of Cortlandt for which he paid 400 pounds was worth 500 pounds now, 36 acres of woodland also in Cortlandt Manor which he had cleared and values now at 5 pounds per acre, and 5 acres adjacent which he was once offered 10 pounds per acre for. He also had the following confiscated and sold by the NY government: two oxen (40 pounds), six cows (60),  an ox, (10) young  six young cattle (10), 55 sheep (27), 18 hogs (10), eight horses (00), 30 acres of wheat (40 pounds per acre… 60), 10 acres of rye (at 20… 10; farming utensils and household (100 pounds); furniture (450 pounds); losses sustained for being out of possession of said estate for nine years (1610.10 pounds). No one received all that they requested on their claims; the average payout was one-third to one-half of value asked. I don’t know what Joshua received.

Climbing My Family Tree: Second and Third Pages of Memorial Of Joshua Currey, claim for reparations
Second and Third Pages of Memorial Of Joshua Currey, claim for reparations
Photo taken by H.C.,  used with permission
Click to make bigger

They spent this first year in or near St. John as they had arrived just before winter. The late fall was wet and cold, and the first snow fell on November 2nd – 6 inches! Those who had arrived earlier had started building log cabins and wood sheds for shelter for the winter, but many of those who arrived in late fall had to spend the winter in pitched tents covered in spruce branches for insulation. It snowed a lot that winter, which turned out to be a benefit as the six feet of snow around the tents helped keep out the bitter cold. Many families slept in shifts throughout the night to keep a fire going to keep the family from freezing (and not burn down the tent). Many women and children died that winter. Men hunted bear and moose to feed their families as the delivery of the promised provisions was erratic, at best. As spring came on, and the two-foot thick ice on the river and bay thawed, they also fished, and trapped pigeons, and ate fiddlehead ferns and the leaves of the trees. One account said the people cheered when the first schooner arrived carrying cornmeal and rye.

For Joshua and his family, as for many, their new life was a hard life, and a step backward from the comfort of their New York estate to the hard work of prior generations. In the spring they moved upriver to lands near Gagetown. He and his sons had to clear the land they bought in the parishes of Gagetown & Canning as it was a dense forest, chopping down trees and lopping off limbs to make the long trunks easier to transport; and the stumps had to be burned or dug out before the family could plow and plant crops. All this was done by people working together by hand because no one had been able to bring teams of oxen or horses on the ships. Potatoes and beans were planted amongst the burned stumps the first year and did well.

Climbing My Family Tree: A Loyalist Family Starts Anew
A Loyalist Family Starts Anew
In the public domain.
Click to make bigger.

The British government eventually sent seeds “for garden and farm”. By July 1784, the British government distributed an ax, a hoe, a spade, and a plow to every two families; a whipsaw and a crosscut saw to every fourth family; and a set of carpenter’s tools to every five families. Later, a cow was given to every two families, and one bull per neighborhood.

The first homes the new settlers built were simple log cabins consisting of round logs, from 5 to 20 feet in length, laid horizontally over each other, and bound at the corners, with the seams packed with moss and clay. Chimneys were built of stacked stone set in clay. A few rafters would be put up to hold a roof which was made of bark tied to thin poles laid across and tied to the roof frame. It might have had a framed floor or it might have been dirt initially. If they put in windows, they were small. Later, in 1789, Joshua built his family a large frame and brick home.

After life settled down, Joshua and Eunice had two more children in St. John County: Daniel Travis Curry (1785-22 June 1867; m. Elizabeth “Betsy” Scribner) and Joshua Curry, Jr (?? – aft 1802).  As the initial hardships disappeared, the people became comfortable and prosperous, for the land was fertile, and the early sacrifices made for loyalty to King and Empire became more of something to brag about than to complain about.

In November 1789, Lord Dorchester requested the council at Quebec “to put a mark of honor upon the families who adhered to the unity of the empire and joined the Royal Standard in America before the Treaty of Separation in the year 1783”. The council concurred. Accordingly, all Loyalists who fit that description “were to be distinguished by the letters U.E. [United Empire] affixed to their names, alluding to their great principle, the unity of the Empire.”   A Registry of these U.E. Loyalists was ordered to be kept and for twenty years names were added to this list. Joshua Currey is on the list.

Joshua Currey died at age 60 on 20 September 1802. He must have realized he was dying because that is also the day he drafted his will. He was survived by his wife and all of his children. In his will, he said, in pertinent part (with legalese translated into English, in brackets, where unnecessarily convoluted),

“I give and bequeath to Eunus, my dearly beloved wife the whole of my property both real and personal during such time as shall be and continue my widow and no Longer [if she remarried, the property was to be distributed as if she were dead].

“I also give and bequeath to my son Richard Currey the sum of 5 pounds and to my son David the sum of 2 pounds ten shillings and to my son Gilbert the sum of 1 pound 5 shillings and to my son Joshua the sum of 25 pounds to be in the care of Richard and David Currey. And five shillings I gave to my daughter Phebe Dickman and all that remain of my estate to my son Daniel Currey. [He named his] dearly beloved sons Richard Currey and David Currey to be my … executors [and states they are to be paid from the estate in the amount the law directs].“ 
[Note: One pound sterling in 1802 is equivalent to $98.76 in  U.S. dollars in 2018.]

He was buried in Chase Cemetery, Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada.

Tombstone of Joshua Currey
Photo taken by H.C.,  used with permission.
Click to make bigger


Sorry about the weird spacing folks. I tried to fix it several times but it won't get better, and twice it got worse,  I've given up. 

The wills of Richard Currey, and Joshua Currey (Found at Ancestry.com); Old Sands Street Methodist Episcopal Church, of Brooklyn NY, an illustrated Centennial record, historical and biographical, by the Rev. Edwin Warriner, corresponding secretary of the New York conference historical Society (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 805 Broadway. 1885), p. 441;   Joshua Currey’s Claim for Reparations, The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; American Loyalist Claims, Series I; Class: AO 13; Piece: 098; The Journal of the Rev. Silas Constant, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Yorktown NY, With Some of the records of the Church and a List of His marriages, 1784-1825, Together with notes on the Nelsons, Van Cortlandt, Warren, and some other families Mentioned in the Journal by Silas Constant, Emily Warren Roebling, (Printed for Private Circulation by J.B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, 1903), p. 116 (https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=L0kVAAAAYAAJ&pg=GBS.PA116) ; https://earlyamericanists.com/2014/02/18/was-the-american-revolution-a-civil-war/ ; https://www.historyextra.com/period/georgian/facts-american-war-of-independence-declaration-battle-yorktown-george-iii-colonies/ ; The King’s Men: Loyalist military units in the American Revolution, Hudson Valley and New York City Loyalists: http://www.nyhistory.net/drums/kingsmen_02.htm /; http://www.royalprovincial.com/military/rhist/g&p/gphist.htm; United Empire Loyalists, Second Report of the Bureau of Archives for the Province of Ontario, part 1 by Alexander Fraser, Provincial Archivist, 1904; http://www.uelac.org/ ; http://www.uelac.org/Loyalist-Info/Loyalist_list.php?letter=chttp://www.uelac.org/Loyalist-Info/detail.php?letter=c&line=863 ; http://www.uelac.org/Loyalist-Trails/2012/Loyalist-Trails-2012.php?issue=201223 ; History of New Brunswick, by Peter Fish (as originally published in 1825, with a few additional explanatory note, reprinted jointly by The Government of New Brunswick & William Shives Fisher, grandson of the author, under the auspices of the New Brunswick Historical Society, St. John, N.B. 1921); “Evacuation Day”, 1783 Its Many Stirring Events: With Recollections of Capt. John Van Arsdale, by James Riker (New York 1883); The Loyalists of New Brunswick, by Esther Clark Wright (Lancelot Press, Windsor N.S. 1955; A Biographical Sketch of  Lemuel Allen Currey and Biographical Sketch of John Zebulon Currie, Cyclopedia of Canadian biography, being chiefly men of the time. A collection of persons distinguished in professional and political life; leaders in the commerce and industry of Canada, and successful pioneers, by George MacLean Rose, (Toronto: Rose Publishing Company. 1888.); Biographical Sketch of Frank A. Curry. Biographical history of Westchester County New York, illustrated. Volume II (The Lewis Publishing Company. Chicago: 1889, pp. 974-977.); New Brunswick Loyalists of the War of the American Revolution, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Record, Vol 35-36 1904-1905, Oct., p.277-281; Planters, Paupers, and Pioneers, English Settlers in Atlantic Canada, by Lucille H. Campey (The Dundurn Group, Toronto CA, 2010); Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War by Thomas B. Allen (Harper Collins E-books, 2010; Loyalism in New York during the American Revolution by Alexander Clarence Flick, Ph.D (New York, Columbia University Press, 1901); Loyalist Regiments of the American Revolutionary War 1775-1783, by Stuart Salmon, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2009; and https://www.uwyo.edu/numimage/currency.htm.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Slight Detour

I've not been posting because recently I was contacted by three (separate) adoptees looking for their birth families with whom I share (or Dad shares) varying amounts of DNA. I've spent a good portion of the last few months trying to help them figure out where they might fit in my tree. For one person I had to extend a couple branches on my Dad's side of the family tree several generations further up than I'd gotten to figure out the shared ancestor.  I helped to the best I could, but am leaving the research down the tree that isn't on my direct line to them (or whoever they hire) to do it.

In the course of all that research, I came across two very interesting people on Dad's side who I'd like to share with you before I flip back to continuing to work on Mom's side of the family. Well, I found more than two people interesting, but I'm committed to working on Mom's side at least until I get stuck again. These two, however, just insisted on having their stories told now, instead of months later. One will go up this week after I find some illustrative pictures to add, and the other will go up after I do a bit more research and write the post, so perhaps next month as I've company coming soon. I hope you'll tune in to enjoy these fascinating people,

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Don B Snyder. Part 13: Women

Don B. Snyder

This is Part 13 of a 13-part blog series sharing my Grand-uncle Don’s life story, in his own words, via an autobiography sent to me by Don’s grandson, Ron Oldfield, after Ron stumbled across one of my prior posts about his grandfather. It is shared with the permission of both of Don’s children and Ron Oldfield. [Note – Anything in brackets with green type is my added explanation of something in Don’s text.]

Don’s story: 

Part 13 – Women

One time my wife, Florence tried to talk me into moving to Florida. I said no. I had just got out of debt, things were going good. As the kids were gone we enjoyed our company very much. We kind of hated to see them go but they had a life with their husbands and kids. Time passed by and occasionally she would talk again about moving down there. What I didn’t know was my brother would call her when I was at work. He lived beside the Withlacoochee River in Florida and owned a house across from his and wanted me to rent it from him. His wife had Alzheimer’s and his purpose was to have Florence look after her so he could play golf, etc. We did move and it took me three months to get my barber’s license. I think the rebels didn’t like us yanks coming down there taking customers away from them.

By Arkyan [GFDL CC-BY-SA-3.0  or CC BY-SA 2.5] via Wikimedia Commons ]

I rented a nice shop that had been a lawyer’s office in this little town of Inglis on Route 19. I had only worked about a month when I came home about 5:30 P.M. Florence had cooked a nice meal and as we were eating she told me her heart had been hurting her all day. I asked, “why didn’t you tell Clarence so he could come and let me know?” She was a quiet lady and didn’t want to bother anyone. I wanted to take her to the hospital but she didn’t want to go. I insisted and she let me take her there. I did and I put in emergency. An hour or so later they told me she wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. I said, “you mean die?” They said yes. I went into the waiting room so she couldn’t see me crying. I was stunned. She had told me a couple days before that she was glad that was over. I asked what and she replied that she had the ‘ague’ all week. That’s lung inflammation. I said, “why didn’t you tell me?” Her, being a quiet person, she didn’t want to bother me. The doctors said it was a virus that had left her lungs and settled in her heart. She had been taking a lot of prescription drugs and had lost her immunity. She woke up the next day, smiled and told me “I love you,” then went back to sleep and a half hour later she died. A team of doctors tried hard to save her but couldn’t do so. As they left my doctor passed by and I asked him “did she die?” He nodded yes and I saw tears in his eyes.

I had her flown to Findlay, Ohio where I will be buried with her. She was a very good wife and we had 21 years of happiness. I think I said that before, but it’s worth repeating.

Findlay relative to Hancock County and Ohio

We have all done a lot of good things and I don’t want to say bad things, but I will say things that we regret. I’ve done my share of that. I feel I shouldn’t mention them, but I will.

When I was nineteen and winning most of my fights, I met a woman named Mae that I thought was not just pretty, but beautiful. She also had a good personality and a stunning figure. She had just arrived in town with her sister who was also pretty. I had the main go in the fight that night and I stopped to pick up the semi-finalist. He wanted them to go with us. Her sister said ok and she hesitated. I felt “hell no!” she wouldn’t want to go with me, so I acted as if I didn’t care, but she said yes. Later she told me that she was not going to let me snub her, so that’s why she went. We got them ringside seats and I knocked out my opponent. The next day I accidentally met them in a restaurant and asked her if she would go out with me that night and she said yes. We dated every night till the following Thursday. She came and saw me fight again and I won easily. Later I said, “what do you want to do tonight?” She said “let’s get married,” so we did. I was in seventh heaven and she was happy, too.

We talked a lot. She was honest with me and had told me she had been married five times. It didn’t bother me. I always thought one should not be too critical about another’s past. It’s now and the future that counts. In all the time I knew her, I never asked her about her past and she never told me about it. After we were married, her 16-year-old sister was going to church and met another girl and they became friends. Once my wife met the girl’s mother and I noticed them talking friendly as if she knew her. Later I asked her about it. She said her picture had been in the news all over the country about her having been married five times while being under 23 years of age. The girl’s mother had seen her picture in the paper and thought she lived in Little Rock. The lady recognized her.

I was a hothead and we got in an argument. I packed my suitcase and with her crying and holding on to my arm, I left. I dearly loved her and she always said she loved me. We would get together sometimes but I didn’t feel that I could afford to have her living the lifestyle she was used to, so even though she kept asking me to live with her, I said no. Six months later she left town and moved to Pittsburgh and married an old boyfriend who had a top job in a big corporation. Every time she came to Findlay she would look me up. I met her once in Lima, Ohio and once in Toledo. When I was active in the union and would travel out of town she would find where I was and call and say she loved me. Once, I was in Cleveland at a wage conference, no one knew where I was. At two o’clock in the morning, I got a phone call from her telling me she still loved me. I never did find out how she managed that. She had a lady friend in Findlay that knew me, maybe that’s how. Anyways, I went in the army in 1940. Once, I was in the Philippines and was about to go on a dangerous patrol and the mail came in and oh boy, I got a letter. Guess what, it was from her, wishing me well and still saying she loved me. A few years later I had remarried Ardith and one night at two A.M. the phone rang. It was her saying she loved me and wanted to go back with me. I said I couldn’t as Ardyth and I had remarried. She said something about not having much time. I figured she was looking for sympathy and Ardyth could hear every word. I didn’t want to do it but I asked her to not call me anymore. She was crying when we hung up. Three months later I was getting gas for my car and the attendant putting in the gas was her friend’s husband. He commented that it was too bad that my ex-wife had died. I said “what!” and he repeated it. I broke out crying and asked him when. He replied about three months ago. That would be close to when she last called. He showed me an obituary column with her picture in it. The heading was “Pittsburgh beauty dies,” etc. God, fifty-two years later and I still love her. What amazed me was the fact that I was short, had a good job, but no future. She was two inches taller than me and she didn’t care. Sometimes she wore high heeled shoes but didn’t mind. What fooled me was she could have any tall good looking man but chose me.

Another thing that always will bother me is a waitress I was going with. I went in the army and asked her to come to Mississippi. She did, rode down with the 1st sergeant’s wife. She was separated from her husband for a year and we had talked about her getting a divorce, and getting married. Her husband had been inducted in the army, came to our company and I was his platoon sergeant. She and the 1st sergeant’s wife came to our company and parked. Just then her husband was on KP and walked into the kitchen and saw her in the car. They did not talk but a few days later he said to me “I see you are going with my wife.” I was embarrassed but said yes. He didn’t seem mad, but I had a guilty conscience so I had him transferred to another platoon. He didn’t say anything about it and we got along. After three months I had her go back home as I couldn’t afford it.

Later I got a furlough and went back home. That’s when I met Ardith. She worked in the same restaurant that Mae had worked. A friend of mine worked there and introduced us. Wow, I went for her like a ton of bricks. He wanted me to go out with her that night and I kept saying no. I finally said yes and we went to his house. I fell for her and she me. I didn’t love my girlfriend, but I did like her. Anyways, I wanted to be honest and told her. She accepted it and didn’t seem mad. Years later she married twice and her husbands died. We kept in touch and later she had a stroke that paralyzed her whole left side thus going to a nursing home. I felt sorry for her and it was 15 miles away but every two weeks I would visit her and take her some cakes or candy. I had remarried and I told my wife and she got peeved. I said, “my god, she is helpless and in continual pain.” From then on I didn’t tell her and she didn’t ask. This went on for about 10 or 12 years. When I would leave she would always say “I love you.” I wanted to reply the same but I was married and just couldn’t say so. I was going in the hospital for open-heart surgery and she worried about me and asked me to call her and tell her how I made out. I went in the hospital on Monday and didn’t get out till Friday. Of course, I couldn’t drive and since she had no phone in her room I didn’t call her till Saturday. When I called, the manager asked if I was a relative. I was thinking “it’s none of your damn business,” but being the nice guy I am (sarcasm) just said “a friend.” He replied, “she died last night from a heart attack.” I felt terrible and do to this day. The funeral was 20 miles away and since I couldn’t drive, I didn’t make it. In a way, I’m kind of glad I couldn’t, as I have a very guilty conscience.

I mentioned Ardith, whom I married. We had two children. A son, Phillip, and a daughter named Kathryn (Kathy). We were married for nine years, divorced for one year, and remarried for nine more years and divorced again. It was after that that I married Florence Fry who had four children. We had a very happy 21 years being together. After she died, things changed much to my disappointment.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Don B Snyder. Part 12: Caving

Don B Snyder

This is Part 12 of a 13-part blog series sharing my Grand-uncle Don’s life story, in his own words, via an autobiography sent to me by Don’s grandson, Ron Oldfield, after Ron stumbled across one of my prior posts about his grandfather. It is shared with the permission of both of Don’s children and Ron Oldfield. [Note – Anything in brackets with green type is my added explanation of something in Don’s text.]

Don’s story: 

Part 12 - Caving

          Exploring caves became my next venture. I took an interest in the ‘wild’ caves. That is a cave that is not commercial. You should always explore with someone in case of an accident or getting lost. I didn’t care for that, so mostly I caved alone. I remember once I was in a wild cave alone and I couldn’t find my way out. Three other guys entered the room and were also lost. They went off and down a level. I’d go down a passage and it would end with a tight crawlspace. I’d go through this and end up where I started. I did this three times and was getting nervous. I thought I’d go down to a lower level. There were a lot of stalagmites in the room I was in. If I’d been experienced I’d have known that most stalagmites are in the upper levels because of water seeping down, forming them. Anyways, I had nothing to lose so I saw an opening to another lower level. I thought “I’ll follow the stream and see where it goes.” The water was above my knees and I hoped it wouldn’t get deep. It didn’t and after going a ways I went around a bend and glory be, I saw a pinpoint of light. Now I hoped it would be big enough to get out. It was and it taught me a lesson. After that, I’d put little cardboard arrows on rocks pointing out.

(from Pixabay.com)

          There was a stream below Sandy Cave that went into a hill. The water reached the top of the rock and I couldn’t go in it. At the side of the hill, I found an opening maybe two feet high. It had about two inches of water in it. I crawled back in it to see if a cave was there. I didn’t see one, got nervous and crawled out. Dumb. If I’d have gotten stuck or a rock came down they never would have found me, just like Floyd Collins. Other times I took chances. Some paid off, some didn’t.

Cavers do a lot of climbing and repelling on ropes, 200 or 300 feet more or less. Sometimes at the bottom, one might find a new cave. I’ve only did a bit of that. Ninety feet is the most I’ve done. I had the karabiners etc. plus 80 feet of rope like they did in mountain climbing. It’s a kind of rope that is strong and won’t spin you around. Some cavers in our grotto think nothing of going down 300-400 feet. I knew one young fellow in our grotto who was hooked on repelling down and climbing up in pits. He really knew the caves and pits. One day we were out looking for caves and pits. He lived in Huntington, West Virginia with his father. He said, “let me show you our old family farm.” We went down a back road and he stopped and pointed to a house on a hill. No one was living in it, as his father still owned. He said there were two pits there about 50 or 60 feet deep. His great-grandmother and grandfather lived there. The grandfather was mean and had pushed someone or a relative down in one of the pits. Of course, it would kill him. It got his wife mad and one day she pushed him down it. Spider Hall went down all pits, so I asked him if he went down it. He said no and let the matter drop. Maybe he thought there were ghosts there as no one ever went down the pit. I wondered if the law ever investigated it. I doubt it as this was pretty hilly, boondock country and I rather doubt if the law paid too much attention to the area. 

Sand Cave KY By Nicholas Frost
CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons 
I mentioned Floyd Collins. He was trapped in a cave in Kentucky. They tried to get him out but new cave-ins blocked the passage. It made all the papers countrywide. I was just a kid, but I remember, after dark, paper boys were going through the neighborhoods shouting “extra, extra, read all about it.” It was about Floyd Collins, but I don’t remember what it was all about. They had to call in the National Guard to keep order as crowds and a carnival attitude had gathered. This was hill country and there was a lot of moonshine in the crowd. One little reporter got to him and handed down some soup, etc. His feet were tied down by fallen rocks. More cave-ins stopped them from getting to him. Heavy equipment was called in and a parallel shaft was drilled to him but he was dead, having drowned from seeping water. His family had his coffin put in Crystal Cave, which they owned. I was in that cave once and have a picture of me standing by his coffin. Also a picture of me crouching down in the cave he died in. I kind of wanted to go in aways, but I decided no way. 


(Watch a three-minute news report on The Unfortunate Fate of Floyd Collins)

I’ve sometimes wondered why anyone would take the chances of exploring caves. I’ve heard of people asking “why do you like that?” The reply is “if you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand,” and I believe it. If one couldn’t cave anymore, one would enjoy just being near the entrance, it being quiet, hearing only the dripping water, etc.

One time I met two guys (not cavers) and we went into Sandy Cave together. At the back end of the cave (one-quarter mile back) were two pools of water separated by a mound of dirt. In the right pool was a mudslide down and a little tunnel to the left. They stayed standing above the slide looking down. I told them I was going to check it out to see if it connected with the cave on the other side of the hill. I took off most of my gear as the tunnel was too small. I crawled about 20 feet and found a tunnel (same size) going to my left. I went that way and came to a tunnel going right again. I went in that and it ended in about 15 feet. I looked down and found a flashlight which meant someone else had been there. All of a sudden I discovered it was my flashlight. Then I remembered. Above the left pool was a small tunnel and I had crawled back in it the year before. Then I went back to the pool, went around it and over the mound of dirt. There were the two guys I had been with, looking down the slide. They were probably wondering what had happened to me. I got an idea. I quietly came up behind them and yelled “hey!” They almost jumped out of their shoes. I remember it well and I bet they still do. We left the cave and I never saw them again.

(from Pixabay.com)

I’ve heard an old tale of using a divining rod to find water. You take a coat hanger one wire in one hand and one wire in the other. Walk slowly and when you get over water it will bend down. I tried it at home and it worked. We tried it on a hill. I walked with it and it went down. I didn’t know of any water there but I remembered it was over a cave.

I’ve caved several times with an elderly lady named Sarah Corrie in our grotto. Although up in years she loved to climb ropes. As a caver, she was almost a legend in the caving circles. Small but agile. I’ve known her to repel several hundred feet. Her one ambition was to repel down Angel Falls in South America. No one had ever done that, as it is I think over a thousand feet. I think she could have done it but, unfortunately, she got sick and died of cancer.