Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dan's Third Great-Grandfather - John Short

Dan's maternal grandmother was born Pearl Princess Short. She married Charles Monroe Baker in 1907. This photo shows proud grandma, Pearl, holding Dan when he was an infant.

The Short family has given me more to research than any other line of either of our families. They played their parts in the history of our country and the history of Texas. Some were heroes, others were scoundrels. In this post I will tell about one of the heroes, John Short, who was born in Georgia in 1790. (A blog about the scoundrels yet to come!)

John married Dicy (sometimes spelled Dicey) Stinson on March 15, 1813, in Alabama. John was 23 years old, and Dicy was only 14. The Shorts were farmers and ranchers, and John was a "natural genius in wood, iron and farming," according to a family Bible account, recorded by John's nephew, John Sansom. The Short farm on Basset's Creek was near Fort Sinquefield, which was used by the locals as a shelter during frequent attacks by hostile Indians. On September 2, 1813 Fort Sinquefield was attacked by the Creek Indians. The Short family was at the fort at this time and they were involved in the ensuing battle. The company bravely defended the fort and went on to engage the Creeks in many of the famous battles of the Creek War of 1813 and 1814. John Short was involved in these battles and was soon promoted to corporal and, eventually, sergeant under Captain Dale.

Simultaneous with the Creek War, the United States was taking on the greatest naval power in the world, Great Britain, in the War of 1812. The reasons for the war included British attempts to restrict US trade, the British Navy's impressment of American seamen, and America's desire to expand its territory. It was a costly war, which included the capture and burning of the nation's capital, in August 1814.

On the heels of his involvement with the Creeks, John enlisted in the U.S. Army on July 26, 1814 to fight in the War of 1812. In December of that same year, Great Britain and the US had actually signed the treaty that was to end the war, but news was slow to cross the Atlantic, and the conflict continued, ending in one of the biggest and most decisive battles of the war - the Battle of New Orleans. John Short secured his spot in history by fighting in that battle, under Major General Andrew Jackson. John short was said to have been a "warm personal friend" of Jackson, and Jackson was known to have stayed at the Short residence on occasions.

In the years following the War of 1812, John Short's life was focused on family. All nine of John and Dicy's children were born in Alabama in the 22 years between his involvement in that war and the year 1836, when John and his younger brother, Michael, left their families in Alabama and joined up with the Texians in their war for independence from Mexico.

The Short brothers arrived in Texas on February 12, 1836, just days before the Battle of the Alamo. After that great defeat, a panic, known as "The Runaway Scrape," ensued. John and Michael were caught up in this mass exodus by Texas residents, fleeing eastward, ahead of the Mexican forces.  During this time of terror and confusion, Sam Houston began training soldiers to create a provisional army that could go up against Santa Ana's larger forces. New militia began arriving to join up with Houston, and among those volunteers were John and Michael Short.

Houston's army reached the Brazos River on March 29 and camped there until mid April. At the Brazos River, many of his men became sick with measles, one of them being John Short. He and the other sick men were left at the river, in the care of a doctor, but his brother, Michael, proceeded on under Major Leander Smith and was in Captain Wiley's company when the army met and defeated Santa Ana and the Mexican Army at the famous Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836.

Shortly thereafter John Short, wishing to bring his family from Alabama to the new independent Republic of Texas, was issued a hand-written "passport" which allowed him to travel from the Texas republic to the U.S. and back. It is said that this may be the only such document from this period which exists today. [It reads:  Where as John Short a citizen of Texas, removed into this country on the 12th February last & being made a citizen by the constitution & as from very bad health is unable to perform military duty & being desirous to proceed, if able, to the United States to bring his family to Texas. Now this instrument authorizes the said John Short to leave this republic for the term of six months for the above reasons.  Given under my hand  seal Harrisburg Texas, State Department April 3rd 1836, Bailey Hardiman, Actg. Secy. of State]

John and Michael traveled to Alabama and brought their families to Texas in 1838, and settled in Fayette County, near La Grange. In 1842 John bought 400 acres on the east bank of the Colorado River, 4 miles below La Grange, and built the family home. John and Dicy are buried on these 400 acres, although the exact location has not been identified. Dicy died in 1846, at the young age of 47, and John on February 17, 1847, at 57 years old.

John Short, Dan's third great-grandfatherr - a veteran of the Creek War, the Battle of New Orleans, and the Mexican War; his son, Michael; and grandson, John Henry, all direct ancestors having lived in Texas while it was an independent republic (between 1836 and 1846), qualify Dan to be a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas. I am working at collecting and submitting the required documentation.

[This brief bio of John Short was compiled through multiple sources, but a major source of information was The Short Family by Jack Short, written in 1988.]

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving Put to Bed . . . Here Comes Christmas!

Our Thanksgiving plans had called for Chris, Kelsey and the kids to take their camper to Cleburne State Park on Wednesday, and for us to join them for Thanksgiving Day, bringing along some of the home cooked food for our outdoor feast. However, the closer we got to Thanksgiving Day, the worse the weather forecast became. It was calling for colder temperatures, rain, and even some thunder and lightning. So, to be safe, we decided to move the festivities to our house. As it turned out, Thursday wasn't too bad, and we probably could have had our outdoor holiday. The really bad weather hit Friday and today, Saturday. Today we had very heavy rain, some wind, and the temperature didn't get above 46 degrees.

Calling off the camping trip probably turned out for the best anyway, since poor Clara came down with a sore throat and a fever on Thursday night. It was better for her to be snuggled up at Grandma's house that night, rather than trying to rough it in a camper bunk.

I didn't take many pictures at all -- too busy cooking, eating, visiting and playing with the kids. This picture, though, is of Robert, just after he pulled this quintessential 6-year-old-boy's joke on me (Yes, he turned six years old this week!):

Robert:        What's under there, Grandma?
Grandma:    Under where?
Robert:        Ha ha! You said "underwear"!

Yes, I really did fall for it, which tickled him no end :-)

After the kids left on Friday, I switched gears -- from fall to winter. Since we will be spending Christmas Day at the kids' house, I didn't see a need to have Dan climb up into the attic and pull down the big tree and all the trimmings, just for the two of us. So I put up a very small tree and decorated it with a paper chain that I made this afternoon. It would never do if the family were coming, but it will suffice to bring Christmas cheer into our house for the two of us this year.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Greeting

I'm blessed beyond measure and looking forward to celebrating those blessings with family on Thursday.

I wish, for each of you, a day that embodies all that is expressed in these thoughts, written by Ray Stannard Baker:
"Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life . . . a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seedtime and harvest, the ripe product of the year -- and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God."
Or, if you prefer a touch of Thanksgiving humor, here's what Erma Bombeck had to say about the day:
"What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?" :-) 

This XXXLarge turkey puts a smile on my face whenever I drive past. Oh, yes, and the name of the farm where he sits does more than put a smile on my face - it makes me giggle! The Soggy Bottom Goat Farm.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My 3rd Great Grandmother - Polly Pierce Clark

One of the things that has kept me busy in my retirement has been researching Dan's and my ancestry. I recently became a member of the Bell County Genealogical Society, which meets once a month. I'm finding it helpful and extremely interesting.

I thought it might be fun to blog, on occasion, about one of our ancestors. I have chosen my third great-grandmother, Polly Pierce Clark, as the first of those.


Pauline (Polly) Pierce was born in 1824 in New York. She married Roswell Bailey Clark,  born in Pennsylvania in 1815, and they welcomed their first son, Wellington, in Climax, Michigan, on January 5, 1847. Their second son, William, was born in 1848, also in Michigan.

[A side note: Polly's first son is the first "Wellington" I have identified in our family tree. Several sons in following generations have been honored with that name, including my grandfather, Wellington Wesley Clark, my father, Robert Wellington Clark Sr, and my little brother, Robert Wellington Clark Jr. It is possible that Polly's son, Wellington, was named after the Duke of Wellington, who was one of Britain's great military heroes of the 19th century and was credited as the man who finally defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.]

Roswell and Polly continued to live in Climax, Michigan. In 1861 the first federal income tax law was enacted, and records indicate that in 1864 they were assessed at the rate of 6% on the killing and sale of three hogs - amounting to a total tax due of 18 cents.

Soon after the death of her husband on February 21, 1885, Polly, along with her son and his family, moved to Nebraska. They were part of the great homesteaders race West to claim land. The Homestead Act, which was in effect for 123 years, allowed even women, African Americans, and immigrants to apply for land out west. Almost half of Nebraska was settled through the Homestead Act.

Polly, her son, Wellington, and his mother-in-law, Maria Darker Wynkoop, each laid claim to 160 acres of adjoining land. Polly's 160-acre plot was identified as the northeast quarter of section 7 in the twenty-first township of the fifty-third range. On the application papers, she sometimes signed her name with an "X", while at other times she actually penned her signature:

Her son, Wellington, built her house, in which she began living in May of 1885. It was a sod house, 16 x 24 feet, with a board-and-sod roof. It had one door and two windows, and was suitable for habitation year-round. She had an eight-foot deep well with good water and owned two horses and one cow.

In her first year on the acreage she planted 10 acres in corn which yielded 75 bushels.
In the second year she planted 10 acres in oats, but all of her crops were killed by drouth.
In the third year she planted 10 acres in corn which yielded 150 bushels.
In the fourth year she planted 10 acres in corn which yielded 200 bushels.
By 1890, when she had completed the requirements of the homestead law, making the property legally hers, she was 66 years old, and she had 20 acres planted in corn and 5 acres in flax. 

She lived simply, with the following possessions:  
1 wagon
1 plow
1 stove
1 table
2 beds
2 chairs
1 wash stand
1 desk
1 cupboard

Sixty percent of those who began the homesteading adventure abandoned their lots before the five-year residency requirement was achieved. But Polly braved the hardships and became a Nebraska landowner.

Polly died on February 4, 1910, at the age of 85, a true pioneer woman. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Three Generations of Car Guys

Dan, Chris and Robert had a day at the vintage races in Austin last weekend. There MUST be a genetic marker for "cars" that these guys share! (By the way . . . thanks to Kelsey for these photos I snatched from her blog. Dan didn't remember to take pictures. That genetic marker - for "photos"- ISN'T in his DNA.)

Look close or you might miss seeing my favorite driver!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sayonara Hidetaka

For over two years, now, I've had the honor and pleasure of tutoring my Japanese student, Hidetaka, every Tuesday evening. I do this tutoring, on a volunteer basis, through the Temple Literacy Council. Hidetaka was not the typical Literacy Council student, though, since he did not need help with reading skills, but with English as a second language. He was a veterinarian in Japan, and holds a second doctoral degree, as well. While here in the US, he was doing research for Texas A&M. He and his wife have two adorable children, both born while they were here in America. Dan and I have really enjoyed getting to know them.

About a month ago, Hidetaka told me that he and his family were going to return home, to Japan, in November. He hopes to come back to the States one day, but for family and career reasons, he needs to go home for now. We've become good friends, and I will miss our Tuesday night sessions.

Today Hidetaka, his wife, Kaori, and the children came by to bid us farewell. We agreed to keep in contact.

How thoughtful! They brought a beautiful bouquet of roses for me.
As a parting gift, I painted this memento of Texas for Hidetaka and Kaori. Hopefully it will remind them of many good times they had during their Texas sojourn. We hope to see them again some day.