Sunday, August 17, 2014

52 Ancestors: #28 John Henn (1842-1919) and Elizabeth O’Brian Henn #29 (1853 – 1927)

Climbing MY Family Tree: Burnside Michigan Map
Burnside Michigan, home of John and Elizabeth O'Brian Henn
click to make bigger

This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

I'm still doing catch up posts as I'm still behind for the year. I decided to do another double post as I have had visitors again this past week, and thus not as much time for research or writing. John and Elizabeth (O’Brian) Henn are my second great grandparents on my father’s side. Both immigrated to the United States, as children, with their families in the mid-19th century.

John was born Josephat Henn in Doerlesburg, Baden, part of the German Confederation on February 12, 1842, to Franz Joseph (later Francis)and Katherina Phillipina [Blank] Henn. He was their third son and sixth child. His brothers and sisters were Genofera Blank (later, also known as Genevieve [Henn] Scheer; 1827-1916); Serena Mary Dick (1828-1896); Dorothe (later Dorothea) Snyder (1830-1896);  Andreas (later Andrew) Henn (1832-1911); Generosa (later Rosa) Strauss (1836-1908); Edmund Henn (1838-1961); Franz (later Frank) J. Henn (1843-1928); and Josepha (later Josephine) Schueurmann, (1845-1877). They were all born in Germany, and came to the U.S. in 1853 (see Franz & Phillipina’s story for the immigration story); Josephat was 11 years old.

The family settled in on a farm in West Monroe, Oswego County, New York. Josephat’s older brothers worked as coopers. Josephat learned the needs and skills of coopers from his brothers and farming from his father. Josephat’s older brother Edmund died in 1861 when Josephat was 19, and his father died two years later in 1863.

Climbing My Family Tree: John Henn New York, Civil War Abstract, Muster Roll
 New York, Civil War Abstract, Muster Roll for John Henn, found on
click to make bigger

The Civil War began in 1861 and when Lincoln put out his call for volunteers the men of Oswego County responded immediately and in large numbers; but Josephat and his brother Andrew did not sign up to join the union forces until after their father died.  Josephat, now calling himself John, enlisted in Company G of the 3rd Regiment, NY Light Artillery, on January 26, 1864.  He was 21. The Civil War Muster Roll Abstract, found on, above, describes him as "Born in Germany, occupation, farmer, black eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, height 5 ft, 5 in."

Battery G of the 3rd Regiment NY Light Artillery had already served from 1861 to May 1863, attached to the defenses of Washington, DC to March 1862 and then to the Department of North Carolina until May 1863. A new Battery “G” was organized in February 1864, commanded by Captain David L. Aberdeen, and that is the unit John and his brother Andrew joined.  It was attached to the defenses of New Berne N.C., under the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, and then solely with the Department of North Carolina after February 1865. John saw duty as a private in various points in North Carolina through March 1865, and the campaign of the Carolinas under General Sherman from March 1 through April 26, 1865. He saw action in the battle of Wise Forks and participated in the occupation of Goldsboro, NC. John was also part of the armies present when Johnston surrendered to General Sherman on April 26, 1865. (General Sherman had not heard of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox (April 9, 1865) until April 11, 1865. On April 14, General Sherman received a letter under flag of truce from General Johnston seeking an end to the war. General Sherman suspended hostilities and met with Johnston and his generals at Bennett’s Farm House to discuss cessation or surrender on April 17, 18 and, again on April 26, 1865, as the original terms were rejected by Washington as they were more generous than Grant had offered Lee.  Just prior to meeting with General Johnston on April 17, Sherman was informed of Lincoln’s assassination; he told Johnston when they met that day.) John and Andrew continued to serve with the occupying forces until June and then mustered out at Syracuse NY, under Captain William A Kelsey, on July 7, 1865.

Climbing My Family Tree: outside view of Bennett House, where General Johnston surrendered to General Sherman
outside view of Bennett House, where General Johnston surrendered to General Sherman,  published in May 27, 1865 Harper's Bazaar, in public domain
click to make bigger

One of the major industries in Syracuse NY was the production of salt, from the salt marshes on the south shore of Onondaga Lake. The strength of the brine was so strong that one gallon of water could be boiled down to one pound of salt. Salt was then packed in barrels and shipped west and east down the Erie Canal. The industry peaked during the Civil war, but until 1900 the bulk of the salt use in the United States came from Syracuse NY.  When John returned to Syracuse after the Civil War, he observed how many barrels were needed for the industry. He knew, as his brother Andrew was a cooper, that black ash was an excellent wood for the making of the barrels. According to my Grand-aunt Lucille’s book of collected family memories, Members of the Flock, John learned that black ash trees were plentiful in Michigan, and he and his younger brother, Frank decided to go to Michigan in October 1869 to look for black ash trees. In Michigan, the two found abundant black ash trees north of Detroit near Memphis and Capac MI. The two formed a business, hiring other men, to make staves and hoops to make barrels to be shipped in carloads from the Capac railroad to supply the salt industry in Syracuse NY. After a time Frank got homesick and went back to New York, but John remained in Michigan and kept the business. He continued to run it for several years.

According to Grand-Aunt Lucille’s book, John settled in Burnside Township, Lapeer County, Michigan, in 1871, and continued the stave & barrel-making business. Around that time, John also started taking care of his sister’s son, John Philip Henn, who had arrived in Michigan from New York sometime after 1870, at age 15. He lived with John and helped with the business, going by Philip to avoid confusion. Sometime in the next two years John met and wooed Miss Elizabeth O’Brian of Deanville Michigan (which no longer exists).

Climbing My Family Tree: Map of Huron County, Ontario, Canada
Map of Huron County, Ontario, Canada,
where the O'Brian's lived before immigrating to the  United States
click to make bigger
Elizabeth O’Brian was born to James and Anne (McLean) O’Brian on December 12, 1853 in Ontario Canada. I’m not positive where they lived when she was born but I would think that it was in McGillivray, in Huron County, Ontario Canada because her parents and older sister lived there in 1851, according to the Canadian Census, and the family, including Elizabeth, age 8, still lived there in 1861. Her brothers and sisters were: Catherine Priscilla Clink (1850-1938), Janet Dean (1852-?), Margaret Hether (1857-1927), John O'Brian (1859-1935), Annie L. O'Brian (1861-1908), Christy Jane O'Brian (1864-1868), and Ellen L. Harris (1867-1947).

The O'Brian family immigrated to the United Stated in 1863 when Elizabeth was 10 (while over the years, in various U.S. Censuses, Elizabeth claimed to have come to the U.S in 1862, 1863, and 1870, her parents and oldest sister reported in multiple censuses that they came in 1863, so I think that’s when Elizabeth came as well.) When she met John Henn she was living in Deanville, Michigan, where her father was a carpenter by trade, according to Grand-Aunt Lucille’s book, which means they must have met before 1870 because the 1870 census shows that Elizabeth and her family were living on a farm in Maple Valley, Sanilac County, Michigan.

Although I’ve not yet been able to confirm it, grand-Aunt Lucille’s Members of the Flock, states John and Elizabeth were married on February 14, 1873 in Imlay City, Lapeer County Michigan, by the Reverend Emri Steele, a Baptist Minister [I've since found their marriage record & it confirms the date]. This is interesting because John was Catholic and Elizabeth was buried in a Catholic cemetery and so was also likely Catholic. Did they elope? He was 31 and she was 19 years old, some of the family may not have been thrilled by the match. Their first home was in the town of Burnside, Michigan, and it was there that their first three children were born: Otto Frank Henn, on January 25, 1875 (1875-1946); Ella May (Henn) Esper on August 15, 1876 (1876-1942); my great-grandfather Owen James Henn, on November 14, 1878 (1878-1962). The last two children were born after the family moved to a farm about a mile south of town, in Burnside Township, Lapeer County: Floyd Henn, born June 11, 1880 (1880-1943), and Olive Ethyl (Henn) Kreiner, born November 19, 1884 (1884-1938). Philip Henn also lived with John and Elizabeth from the start of their marriage until John bought him a farm in or about 1880. He was successful as a farmer, as he had been as a businessman, and later bought each of his children a farm in the Burnside area, upon which they farmed and lived.

In 1880 John answered questions about his farm for the 1880 Census, non-population schedule. He owned his own farm. He had 40 acres of tilled land and 4 acres in permanent meadows (2 of that hay). He estimated the value of his farm at $1200, farm implements and machinery at $50, $235 in livestock, and $270 in farm production (sold or consumed in 1879). He did not have any paid farm laborers. He owned three horses, 2 working oxen, 2 milk cows, 4 “other” cattle – including 2 calves. He made 150 lbs. of butter (or rather, Elizabeth probably did). They had 1 pig and 18 chickens, which produced 20 dozen eggs in 1879. He had three acres of oats (produced 50 bushels) and 10 acres of wheat (produced 200 bushels). He grew 30 bushels of peas and 30 bushels of potatoes.

Climbing My Family Tree: John Henn, 1880 non population schedule
John Henn, 1880 non population schedule, #1 (found on
Click to make bigger
John Henn was very interested in local politics. He was a staunch Republican – the party of President Lincoln, the President he fought for in the Civil War. He was also civic-minded and lived his principles by serving his community. He served his township as Town Treasurer in 1878 and 1879. He then served as Burnside Town Supervisor for ten years, and was a member of the Board of Supervisors for another ten years. He also acted as a census enumerator (the person who went household to household to ask the census questions and record the answers) for the 1900 Census in Burnside Township, Enumeration District # 32. This service led to John knowing most of the people in his community.

All of his civic government positions were elected positions, such that John repeatedly ran for local office. As his wife, Elizabeth would not only have had his children, raised them, cooked, cleaned, and kept their home, but as a local politician’s wife would have been expected to host social events designed to help support her husband in his campaigns and likely throughout his service.

In 1890 John was listed on a special census for surviving soldiers, sailors, & marines who fought during the “war of the rebellion” and widows thereof,  in Burnside, Lapeer County, Michigan. He did not have a disability at that time. But two years later, on April 16, 1892, he applied for, and was subsequently granted an invalid military pension, according to the U.S. Civil War Pension Index. I haven’t yet sent for his pension file and it’s not up on, but Grand-Aunt Lucille’s book, quotes from a supporting affidavit supplied by John’s doctor, Albert E. Weed, M.D., which indicates John accidentally fell from a scaffold to the floor of his barn in wheat season in 1890, and was laid up for three months as he had injured his hip and back “and has complained ever since”. The doctor said he was now lame and uses a cane. The doctor said he had ¼ the capacity of a normal man. The doctor also noted that he John was entirely deaf in his left ear and had a discharge of puss from the ear in 1894. The doctor said that John told him the deafness came from a brain fever 25 years before and got worse with age. John was granted a $20 a month pension to begin June 29, 1912 (he was 70), the pension was increased to $25 a month on February 12, 1917, his 75th birthday.

John and Elizabeth lived to have 46 years together. John died first, on December 16, 1919, at his home in Burnside Michigan, at age 77, after a two year illness, according to his obituary. The death certificate indicates that he died of arteriosclerosis, which he’d had for two years. It lists “organic heart disease” as a contributing factor to his death. He’d last seen the doctor four days before his death. The obituary states that John had been closely confined to the house for the last two years of his life, and that he suffered a great deal, especially in the last stages, and that he welcomed death as a rest from his physical misery. He was described as one of the most substantial and esteemed citizens of Burnside Michigan, and a faithful friend and splendid neighbor. “Honest, obliging and loyal to his home folk and the country of his adoption. It may be truthfully said of him that a grand old man has gone to his eternal reward.” What a wonderful tribute!
Services were held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Burnside Township, conducted by Rev. Leo Gaffney, and he was buried in the church’s cemetery.

Climbing My Family Tree: John Henn, Civil War Pension Index card
John Henn, Civil War Pension Index card
click to make bigger
After John died, on January 14, 1920, Elizabeth applied for a widow’s pension against his military service; she was granted $30 a month. The 1920 Census, enumerated on the January 17 & 19, 1920, showed Elizabeth, a widow, living with her son Floyd’s family, or rather them living with her, as she was listed as head of household.

Elizabeth died on January 12, 1927, at age 73. Her obituary said that she lived with her son Floyd’s family on the old homestead. She had died after a long illness. She had been in poor health for the last seven years, after John died, but her condition had not become critical until October 1926, since which time she had been unable to leave the house. I have, so far, been unable to find her death certificate so I don’t know what illness she had suffered from nor what caused her death. Services were held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, by Rev. Fr. Hill; she was buried in the church’s cemetery. According to her obituary she was survived by five children: Otto of North Branch, Mrs. Edna (Ella May) Espier of Detroit, Owen and Floyd and Mrs. Ambrose (Olive) Kreiner of Burnside; four sisters, Mrs. Noah (Margaret) Hether of Brown City, Mrs. Catherine Clinck of Chester, Montana, Mrs. Geo. (Ellen) Harris of Redlands, Calif., one brother, John O'Brian of Capac. (The sister not named in the obituary was Mrs. Jeanette Dean, of Buffalo NY, and she did survive Elizabeth, although I don’t know when she died.)

Climbing My Family Tree: Henn Plot at St. Mary's Cemetery, Burnside Michigan
Henn Plot at St. Mary's Cemetery, Burnside Michigan ,
added to Memorial # 41841741 by PAWS on 9/11/2009
Click to make bigger
I would love to find pictures of John and Elizabeth, the kids, and/or their farm. If anyone reading this has some and is willing to share, please contact me at the email address on my contact page. I will be ecstatic. I’m willing to share whatever I have (only, I don't have a lot).

I have photocopies, nearly unreadable, of some of John’s civil war discharge papers, and his political campaign material -- I’d love to obtain better digital images of them.

I intend to write off for his pension records, and military records, on the next pass through my research .

I’d like to find newspapers articles mentioning John and or Elizabeth or their kids. I now understand why that that may be difficult. When they visited, Mom mentioned that a huge fire had gone across Michigan at some point and probably destroyed a lot of archives. I’ll try, though.
-----------------------------------------; ;;;;,_New_York;,_New_York; New York, Civil War Abstract, Muster Roll for John Henn, found on; Members of the Flock by Lucille Henn Robson (undated; self-published);  History of Lapeer County Michigan - Page & Co. Publishers, 1884, p. 182; Obituary of John Henn, North Branch Gazette – December 17, 1919. from compilation of research done by George J. Lutz, II (May 30, 1972); Death certificate of John Henn; U.S. Census for 1860, 1880, 1900, 1910, & 1920; U. S. Census non-population schedule for 1880; N.Y. State Census, Oswego County, for 1855; Canadian Census of 1851 & 1861, 1890 Veteran’s Schedule, Year: 1890; Census Place: Burnside, Lapeer, Michigan; Roll: 18; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 55 (; Obituary of Elizabeth Henn (wife of John Henn), Brown City Banner, January 1927.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hello! Thanks for stopping by and choosing to leave a message. I read every message and I usually reply via the comment thread. [I recently discovered that I've been having technical difficulties with receiving notification of comments for the last year (2019 through Jan 2020). I think I've fixed that now. I hope. My apologies if you were caught up in that. I think I"ve caught up with, and replied to, all the comments now. EDIT: I continue to have problems. I will respond as soon as I find out there's been a comment.]