Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Family Mystery and Josephine

We have in our possession a very old ledger book belonging to Hubby's Granddad Milo. He kept his accounts in it beginning somewhere around 1907. Well, we think those accounts are his, the writing looks about the same as that of the accounts that become more frequently updated around 1918. The book is in extremely bad condition, the writing is seriously faded and in a style that closely resembles the copperplate script examples that I've seen. It's very difficult to read and we seldom open it since the covers are so brittle, the pages tend to rip.

It's a glimpse into the history of farm life in the early 20th century. It details what work he did and for whom, what he was paid for his labors, and how much he received for the milk, hogs and maple syrup he sold to make what living he could from the land. If it was in better condition, it would be an excellent resource for those who wished to try living on a barter system since most of the entries were in goods and services rather than cash paid.

The book is a standard ledger that is 18 inches or so long, by 6 inches wide. There is no front page in this book that tells us it's origin and that is truly a shame since the initial 5 or so pages cover the years 1861 through 1863. They are devoted entirely to the accounting of requisitions for Infantry supplies.

Given the area that Hub's Granddad lived in, I'm fairly certain that we have a list of provisions for the NY 97th Infantry Regiment, Third Oneida, Conkling Rifles. I can't say so positively since I can't find a roster of it's members to match against the names listed. We have no idea why Granddad would have been in possession of this ledger. One of many history's mysteries that we probably will never solve.

The regiment was created by a Boonville resident, one Charles Wheelock who was by all accounts an upstanding gentleman of his time. What I have managed to find out about him indicates his treatment of his men was so exemplary that they were one of the few regiments that had no deserters. If the requisitions listed are actually those of the 97th I can understand why.

Outfitting began in 1861 with new pants and infantry jackets for 100 men. An ambulance, horses, mules, harnesses, shoes and other necessary items for the transport of the men of the regiment. Other supplies included journals, paper, ink, nibs for pens and anything else needed for these young men to write home to wives and Mothers. When I read the order for 500 pounds of coal, I wondered how it would be transported, but I suppose there were supply wagons since there were barrels of flour, beans and other staples that also traveled with them. There are many entries we can't decipher, but overall they appear to be carefully chosen for their ability to provide and comfort men who were marching off to war and possibly to their death. One entry, I believe, is for Bibles.

We know nothing of the book's origins, but Hub's family history may provide us with a clue. Milo's wife worked as a clerk in a dry goods store in what is now called Hawkinsville, NY. In the middle 1800's Hawkinsville was part of Boonville as were quite a few other towns and villages that now have their own names. It makes sense that she may have acquired the book while she worked there and possibly that dry goods store was where Col. Wheelock outfitted his regiment. It's an interesting theory, but not one we can prove.

We've had this book since Hub's Mom died and while I found those entries to be interesting, I was more involved with those entries created by Milo and his brother Bert. We were watching RFDTV last night. Hub does so frequently, especially on Fridays for the Country Family Reunion Show and I enjoy the Joey and Rory Show. Rory wrote a song based on letters written by JW Robison to his wife. The song is a letter Mr. Robison might have written  on the eve of the Battle of Hopkinsville. The letters are preserved in a museum near where Rory and Joey live.

The song is a picture of life in the Confederate Army and the hardships they were facing on the night before a battle in which they were outnumbered 5 to 1. It was December of 1864, they had nothing with which to provide heat for the troops and his friends were dying of fever. The song is very simply written and heartbreakingly sad. Something about it has inspired me to see if I can find out anything more about the Infantry requisitions we have and to see if any of Hub's family served in the NY 97th Infantry Regiment, Third Oneida, Conkling Rifles.


  1. Sherry,
    My mom has letters written by an ancestor (great or great-great uncle, I believe) who served in the Union Army. She was also in possession of the musket he carried. I'm not sure if she still has it or has passed it on to my brother. If memory serves, he was a country veterinarian who wound up doctoring both animals and soldiers. I hope that you are able to learn more about the ledger. Fascinating stuff, personal and family histories.

    1. Mr. O, I'm starting my hunt with the NY Military Museum online. They have a page on the 97th with links to letters from men to loved ones at home, plus a short history of Col. Wheelock. That ledger is in such bad condition that I wear white gloves when I handle it. Too bad we didn't find it sooner or we'd have had it copied and preserved somehow. It was in a box of things we never really looked at after Hub's Mom died.

      I don't know if you played the video, but listening to it's story about a Confederate soldier brought all of these people to life for me somehow. It's made me more interested in the ledger and the Civil War. I found my can of all purpose inspiration. :)