A free search with a free image led me to a discovery that is priceless!

In my blog post last Friday I talked about following Thomas MacEntee’s advice to search for non-New Yorkers in the New York papers on FultonHistory.com (this was one tip from his “Finding Your New York Ancestors” Legacy webinar).  I was able to find an article about my granduncle living in Missouri, Horton I French.  So I decided to try another unusual name.

This time I searched for Schuyler French.  He was my great great grandfather’s brother, and they were born in the Schenectady area — so there was a New York connection.  And Schuyler is a somewhat unusual name, although less so in that part of New York.

All the entries seemed to be Schuyler at the end of a sentence and French at the beginning of the next one (Schuyler Street, I think, and then French governess, French dressmaker, etc etc).  But I was persistent.  There were only 66 results so that wasn’t bad.  And I found one blurb of Mrs. Schuyler French of Holla, Mo. (that’s Rolla, OCR can have some difficulty with those old newspapers) visiting her sister — that was in an article for Twenty Years Ago Today; those are always fun.

So, encouraged with this find, I plugged on.  And what I found made me blink several times: Schenectady NY Evening Star and Times, 1861, a letter written by Mr. Schuyler French.

This letter had been written by him in Rockford, Illinois, on 12 Aug 1861, after escaping from Springfield, Missouri.  [For all you history buffs, the Battle of Wilson’s Creek was 10 Aug 1861.]  He described how difficult it was to get out and how his Uncle, Paymaster in the Confederate Army, was able to get him a pass from a Rebel General that allowed him to get through.   He told of leaving everything but their clothing behind and how he had just gotten “a nice lot of new furniture, and had everything as nice and comfortable as could be desired…”

Schuyler’s letter told of the devastation in Springfield and you could feel his contempt for the Rebels.  It was a remarkable look into a life in Missouri in the Civil War.

And then it got even better.

He described what had happened to his brother — my gg grandfather!  “My brother has suffered severely from the southern army.   They took possession of the store the first day they came into Springfield….”  The letter gives a detailed account of it all.

Growing up, I had heard this story, but I heard that both sides had looted the store.  You see, my gg grandfather, Lansing French, was married to a woman born in Virginia, and I’m pretty sure that she, at least, was partial to the Rebel side.  One more look into the divisions caused by the Civil War.  In fact, her mother, my 3g grandmother, would not lower the flag when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated — a story that was handed down in more than one line of the family so you can see how important that Virginian heritage was!

The letter does not tell where my gg grandfather was.  Was he in Rockford, Illinois, with his brother?  The family story is that my gg grandfather took his family to New York and stayed with his brother Alonzo over the winter.  We know that a daughter was born in New York.    At some point, Lansing joined his brother who had a shoe store in Rockford  (that’s the family story again).  But we also know that Lansing was a sutler* in the Second Arkansas Cavalry (organized in Springfield, Missouri) from Mar 1864 to Aug 1865; and was in the city elections of Springfield in Sep 1865.

So there are still more questions to be answered (aren’t there always?!).  But finding this letter was an unexpected gift.

And it was the result of a tip in a free webinar and a search at a free site with images of newspapers that are available free.   What does that say about genealogists?  So many people volunteer their time to further the cause.  And that makes Surviving the Recession that much easier — and that much more special.



*A sutler or victualer is a civilian merchant who sells provisions to an army  in the field, in camp or in quarters. The sutler sold wares from the back of a wagon or a temporary tent, allowing them to travel along with an army or to remote military outposts. (Wikipedia)


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