Thursday, July 21, 2011

Today's Photo - A Girl in Mourning Dress

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-36863.

A girl in mourning dress holding framed photograph of her father as a cavalryman with a sword and Hardee hat.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Music in Time of War

"Some body is being Serenaded tonight as a Band of Music has struck upon the street. It is now after eleven o'clock. Some distinguished character is in the neighborhood. Well, the music is good and sounds just as well to the neighbors as though they paid for it. No War news today. Everything quiet on the Potomac. But news expected all the time, especialy from N.C. as well as Vicksburgh. It has been pleasant over head." - February 2, 1863                                        
                The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865

Library of Congress, Manuscript Division  

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Senator, Secretary of the Treasury, and Patriot

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs
Division, LC-USZ62-33041
William Gibbs McAdoo (1863-1941) was my third great uncle.  His father's father was my 4th great-grandfather.  He was born in Marietta, Georgia, the son William Gibbs McAdoo (1820-1894) and Mary Faith Floyd (1832-1913).  He attended the University of Tennessee, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1885. He moved to New York City where he developed the system of rapid-transit tunnels under the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey. He became president of the company which constructed them and operated them.

McAdoo's interests turned to politics where he campaigned for Woodrow Wilson. In 1912, he became the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In 1913 he was named the Secretary of the Treasury by President Wilson. He married Wilson's daughter Eleanor Randolph Wilson at the White House on May 7, 1914.

At the brink of World War I when the U.S. was facing a financial crisis, it was McAdoo who secured the U.S. loyalty to the gold standard.  Then in September 1917 he gave a passionate speech to a group of New York bankers where he detailed the broken promises by the German government which had led to the loss of American lives.  He also spoke of threats within the US when he said: "There are some noisy agitators and disloyal writers in this country who have persistently endeavored to confuse the issue and to carry on a seditious and subtle propaganda for the purpose of producing discontent among the people and of giving aid and encouragement to the enemies of the United States."

He then rallied citizens to meet the cause by buying Liberty bonds to fund the war. In the 1920s, he ran twice for the Democratic nomination for President. In the 1924 election, his nomination failed largely because of the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan.

President Wilson with his granddaughter,
Ellen Wilson McAdoo, Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division, photograph by
Harris & Ewing, LC-DIG-hec-18044
At the 1932 Democratic Convention in Chicago, after three ballots, Franklin D. Roosevelt had not secured the two-thirds majority necessary for the nomination. Leading Democrat, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., with the help of William Randolph Hearst, managed to pursuade Speaker of the House, John Garner, to drop out of the race to end a deadlock and throw support to Roosevelt. When McAdoo, who had supported Garner, learned of the decision, he threw California's delegates to Roosevelt, and the other states fell in line behind Roosevelt.

After moving to Los Angeles, California, he served as Senator of the state from 1933-1938. 

After an unsuccessful re-election, he served as  chairmen of the board of directors for a steamship line.  He died in Washington, D.C. in February, 1941 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington VA.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Death Notice



      After she died, we went through my grandmother’s house for the last time before it was sold. There were a few things no one wanted… household items, pieces of cheap furniture, miscellaneous junk of no value, but the small box with a faded peony painted on the top caught my eye. It was filled with things only a grandmother would save… A thimble, pins, an earpiece for her transitor radio, a small porcelain angel with a broken wing, buttons, hearing aid batteries, and other odd items of little value.  
      At the bottom of the box was a plastic sleeve encasing a yellowed, torn death notice from a newspaper.  As I held it in my hands, I read the names: William, Henrietta, Grace, May (my grandmother), and Winifred, all familiar names I had heard throughout my childhood, but I never knew the relationships.  
       We knew very little about my grandmother’s past. We were told she had grown up as an orphan in Detroit, Michigan.  Her father, after arriving from Ireland, had given the children up because of poverty.  The only fact offered about her mother were the words, “She died”.
      Standing in my grandmother’s room for the last time, I instinctively knew this tiny scrap of paper was an important keepsake although its significance was unknown.  Later I would learn I held in my hand the threads to weave the story of her past. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Bittersweet End to the American Revolution

The signing of the Treaty of Paris by British and American diplomats has been recognized as the official end of the American Revolution. But the British military still occupied New York under the command of General Guy Carleton for many months. This left a delicate situation for them to evacuate the Loyalists from New York City who wanted to leave and remain loyal to the King of England. The city was ravaged and destroyed, a sad relic of what had been. Orchards had been cut and homes and buildings were burned-out shells. The city was ordered to be evacuated the fall of that year on November 25th. Small fleets ferried out from Manhattan under the watch of a British warship. The last boat, in a final parting shot, fired a cannon toward the now American occupied shore. It is now referred to as the last shot fired in the American Revolution.

Capt Peter Ruttan (1742 - 1822)

Capt Peter Ruttan, a UE Loyalist in the 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, was one those who boated out during this period. He had endured a long and terrible war and had experienced the fate of many Loyalists with the confiscation of property and poor treatment. He continued on to Canada and is said to have helped the Mohawk Indian, Chief Brant, through an arduous trip to Ontario. But later, in return for his services, he and other Ruttans received tracts of land at Adolphustown what was called Ruttan’s point. Today, many 5th-generation Ruttans still reside in the area.

I feel a sense of sadness when I read the accounts of the final days of the Revolution knowing the unfathomable hardships my ancestors experienced. But I also have a Patriot line that brings me great pride and I will explore that in future posts.