April 2014


Johnson Family12 years and going strong! Hope you have a wonderful Anniversary!

Jess

AlisonSarrellMg1863Today marks the 142nd Anniversary of the death of my 4th Great Grand Uncle, a strange, and interesting, figure in history whom I only learned about by accident.

Charles Wright Parker Alison was the second son of Captain Harry and Frances (Sinclair) Alison and the brother of my 4th Great Grandmother Jane (Alison) Massy. Charles was born in 1811 (possibly on St. Vincent in the West Indies) and raised around the world while his father served as a Paymaster for the 90th Regiment Light Infantry (the Perthshire Volunteers). His youngest brother in a memoir credits Charles as being “the only one of the family that left his mark in the world.” Where his older brothers followed their father into the military, Charles took another route to service. He instead joined the Foreign Service and had a highly successful if eccentric career as an envoy for the British Empire.

Charles early career included stints in Albania, Egypt, Syria, Samos, Serbia, Bosnia, and Wallachia. On 20 Feb 1857 he was appointed Oriental Secretary at Constantinople and in December was promoted to Secretary of her Majesty’s Embassy there. In 1858 Queen Victoria appointed him Her Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Shah of Persia and in 1860 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Bath.

After likely meeting while he served in Constantinople, Charles married Eliza (Sarrell) Baltazzi, the widow of banker Theodore Baltazzi, on 28 Feb 1863 in Paris, France. But the marriage was short-lived. While Charles was on assignment in Tehran, Persia, Eliza traveled to Cairo, Egypt with her daughter Helen Baltazzi, fell ill and died on 27 Dec 1863 at the Hotel D’Orient. Charles did maintain some connection with her family as her nephew Henry Hardy Ongley was appointed with him in Persia as well as served as his personal secretary for a time. Charles was also one of the godparents of another nephew, Philip Charles Sarrell, in 1866.

In The English Amongst the Persians historian Denis Wright notes that Charles did “acquire an Armenian mistress” and with her had at least one child, Victoria. He also spends a bit of time on his career and rumors about his conduct in Tehran.1 In fact there is an interesting Chancery case noted in The Weekly Reporter in January of 1875 regarding both Alison’s alleged children and a subsequent marriage between his mistress, Vardine Rafael, and his nephew Henry Ongley.

By contrast to Wright’s descriptions, one of Alison’s contemporaries and friends, Sir Austin Henry Layard described him thus:

He had real genius and was singularly gifted. He was, perhaps, the man the most highly endowed by nature that I have ever known. His qualities of head and heart were equally remarkable. He was generous, affectionate, and unselfish, of the most amiable disposition and the most equal temper. He was an accomplished linguist, speaking and writing Turkish, Persian, and Greek, and several European languages, with perfect facility, and having a sufficient knowledge of Arabic. He was a skillful musician, playing on several instruments, and would have been an excellent artist had he given himself seriously to art. His memory was singularly tenacious, and although he had not read much, he had retained all that he had read.2

A description that echoes the list of accomplishments his brother described of most of their siblings as well as their mother.

Charles served in Persia until April of 1872 where after a twenty day illness he succumbed to pneumonia attended by the British Doctor to the embassy and the Shah’s own chief physician, as well as the tender ministrations of his sister Mrs. Julia Dixon (Alison) Hill. He died the 29th of April and was buried in the Armenian Church of Saints Teddy and Bartholomew in Tehran, Persia.

I’d love to find out more about Charles and I am very curious to know if his line (the children of Vardine Rafael) survived.

Happy hunting,

Jess

  1. Wright, Denis. The Persians Amongst the English: Episodes in Anglo-Persian History. London: I.B. Tauris, 2001, p. 26.
  2. Layard, Austen H. Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia: Including a Residence Among the Bakhtiyari and Other Wild Tribes Before the Discovery of Nineveh. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, 439-440.

20 years! Happy Anniversary!

Johnson Family

Jess

William Amos JohnsonI’ve mentioned bits and pieces of William Amos Johnson’s life as it pertained to his parents and his wife Lena but never totally focused on him. And it’s seems a natural progression to move from Eugene Baker to his son-in-law (and my 2nd Great Grandfather)—especially since today is the 112th anniversary of William and Lena’s wedding.

William Amos Johnson was born 15 December 1877 the youngest child of William Suffling and Mary E. (Gordon) Johnson. William grew up in Cannon Township where the family had settled in 1873. By 1900 the Johnsons owned a successful farm noted for its large orchards and William remained at home to help with its management. He married Lena Baker 22 April 1902 at the home of her parents and the couple removed to a home on Moffitt Hill. Their first child Robert Eugene was born in March of 1905.

At the time of the 1910 Census the couple and Robert were enumerated with Eugene Baker’s household in Cannon Township where William was listed as attending college—something I’d like to know more about. In 1918 the only other child, Betty Lou Johnson was born.

As early as 1918 through 1922 the family lived in Traverse City, Michigan where William worked first as a pipefitter for Traverse City Gas Co, a tinner (would those be the same?) and then as a plumber for Arms & Cole. Around 1923 the family returned to Rockford, Michigan where William continued to work as a plumber. In September of 1928 Lena Johnson died after a six month illness. Betty Lou was sent to live with her Aunt Clara Harnack in Ypsilanti, Michigan for the school years and would come home for the summers. But three years later she died after a long illness at the age of 12.

In 1930 William was still living and working as a plumber in Rockford. I have yet to find him in the 1940 Census but at the time of the 1942 draft he reported his residence as Rockford, Michigan.

William died in August 1958 well remembered by his grandchildren and my Grandmother who remembers him going to play euchre with the boys back when the Corner Bar was Stag.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Easter Egg Hunt, 2008Easter’s coming up. Here’s a picture of my younger nephew and his two grandmother’s at my library for our indoor Easter egg hunt in 2008. Not my favorite program of the year… the run for eggs always seemed so dangerous.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Eugene Baker, Death Certificate 1920Some of these character studies remind me that I have a remarkable small amount of information on some of my direct lines. Eugene is one of those—which always strikes me as weird because I know so much about his grandparents (Smith & Katherine nee Gilbert Lapham) and Great Grandmother (Hannah nee Johnson Gilbert DuBois). I’m missing the anecdotal notes which I hope exist in the local happenings of the Rockford Register. I’ll have to look into that soon.

Eugene Smith Baker was my 3rd Great Grandfather. He was born 15 Oct 1850, to Isaac and Harriett (Lapham) Baker in Rockford, Michigan. He loved most of his life within the community with the exception of a stint working in a hotel in Crystal Lake, Benzie County, and a brief time in Illinois around the time of his marriage to Amelia Grove 26 Oct 1873 in Joliet, Will County. The couple had seven children: Katherine (born in Joliet), Willis George, Frank E., Clara, Lena Grove (my 2nd Great Grandfather), Hollis Lapham, and Ethan Rex. Upon returning to Kent County Eugene settled to farming in Cannon Township and later relocated to Algoma Township. He was a staunch Republican like his grandfather (who served in the Michigan Senate) and involved in his community. He died after a 3 month illness on 15 Apr 1920 and was buried in the Rockford Cemetery. Sadly his wife never recovered following him quickly in June.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Johnson WeddingIt’s the start of wedding (and wedding anniversary) season. Here’s a teaser for an upcoming anniversary. This is probably the last time we all sat for a  photo together. These are my maternal cousins, my brother and I at my Uncle and Aunt’s wedding in April of 1994.

Happy hunting,

Jess

I’m falling behind in the challenge but I will make it through. However,  I won’t likely gain ground this week… and I say this in the hopes of proving it wrong.

MasseyDPD-14aSunday marked the 181st anniversary of the birth of my 3rd Great Grand Uncle, John Orpin Massy. I’m quick to tell people that in the years bashing at the brickwall of my Massy family, John was the closest person I could find matching the rumors my Great Aunt and Grandmother offered me to begin my search. They said their Great Grandfather was a Irish policeman in Detroit named Henry. Instead, in the 1870 Census the only relevant household I could  I could find was John and his wife and he was an Irish cop in Detroit.

Years later, in the process of just trying to find out what it meant to be a policeman during this time period, I found a transcription of the Detroit Metropolitan Police Force’s applications with entries for John and his brother (and my 3rd Great Grandfather) Henry. If Henry was the black sheep of the family then John comes off as one of the good sons.

John was born on 6 April 1833 and baptized at Rathronan, Co. Limerick, Ireland in 1834. He was the fourth child and first son of Lieutenant Hugh Massy, then late of the 33rd (First Yorkshire West Riding) Regiment, and his wife Jane Alison Massy. The family appears to have followed Jane’s parents to North America in the 1850s though I have been unable to figure out if they went to Canada or instead settled directly in the United States.

The earliest appearance in the U. S. that I’ve found for John is his enlistment in company G of the Fifth Infantry, of the Union Army in 1861 where he served as a Sergeant briefly during the Civil War. After the war John was naturalized in August 1865 and he was working as a druggist at the time he applied to join the Detroit Police Force in September of 1865 where he served honorably. The Detroit city directories show John O. living in the same residence as his brother, Henry Massy in 1867 and with his mother in 1868 and 1869–though he probably lived with her pre-1867.

On 30 January 1868 he married Julia Saventia Madison at St. Peter’s Church in Detroit witnessed by Julia’s sister and brother-in-law Mariah and Augustus Reohm. In the 1870 Census the couple was enumerated as part of the Roehm household along with George Roehm (Augustus’s partner in A. F. & C. G. Roehm Butcher shop) and Julia’s brother, blacksmith Winfield Madison.

John O. Massy died 26 May 1872 after a short illness. His probate record includes several notes about his illness lifted from the local paper which included note of his membership in the Zion Lodge of Masons.

Happy hunting,

Jess

 

MSU's Small Animal Day, Spring 1983This was probably our first Small Animals Day on the Michigan State University campus, back when they used to bus visitors from farm to farm circa 1983. I am the one reaching for the horse. Mom and my brother are at the corner of the pen looking at the foals.

This year’s version takes place on April 12th.

Happy hunting,

Jess

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 355 other followers