Tuesday, July 29, 2014


On the same day that Stephen Webster brought my ancestor Robert Swan to court
over stolen wheat,  there was a second court case involving the two men. Apparently
Webster didn't take the theft of his wheat very well. From the Essex County Court records:

Stephen Webster was fined for speaking reproachful words to Robert Swan.*

*Robert Swan's complaint to the Worshipful Mr. Bradstreete against Stephen Webster : For saying that he would be the death of him, and for saying that Swan was a weak man and he could drive a dozen such as he before him through the town; also for threatening to burn said Swan's barn, which might be disastrous to himself, wife and children, for his dwelling house was very near the barn, etc. Elizabath Whiticker and Samuell Gile, jr., deposed that the same day that Robert Swan was charged with taking away the wheat, Stephen Webster said that if it had not been for Goody Swan, he would have knocked Robert in the head, etc. Sworn, Sept. 25, 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

Barthellme Heth deposed that Stephen Webster came to him with some neighbors to ask counsel, and soon after Robert Swan came for the same purpose. Webster desired counsel before his father Emiry and John Griffen, etc. Sworn in court. Abigale, wife of John Remington, deposed that being abroad in a hemp yard, she saw Webster go to her brother Swan's, and her sister Swan go with him to the barn. Webster said to Swan, "art thou a church Member, and dare to doe lyes," with which he stabbed at him with the fork he had in his hand, making a mark on his breast. Webster stood on the rails that were set up on the outside of the barn to fence in the mow, etc. Sworn, Sept. 22, 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

Robertt Swan deposed that they at first agreed about the wheat and shook hands and later Webster told him that he had played him a scurvy trick, sometimes he had put two sheafs together and Joseph Leigh, for many offences, was sentenced to pay a fine, to be severely whipped and bound to good behavior. He was to be imprisoned until the fine was paid, and upon his petition, the corporal punishment was changed to a fine and a fortnight's imprisonment.* again only one and a half. This he had done by taking some wheat out of the sheaf, putting it at the end of the band, drawing it up to the heads and twisting it together and made the band longer. Deponent told him that it was horrible wickedness for him to make deponent appear guilty when he was guilty himself, and he said it was good policy to use means to keep himself out of snares, etc. Elizabeth (her mark) Swan, wife of Robert Swan, deposed concerning the assault in the barn. She took the pitchfork from the men, and Webster told Swan that he would be the death of him if he hanged for it, etc. Sworn, 10 :6 :1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

Elizabeth (her mark) Swan, daughter of Robert Swan, deposed. John Griffen deposed that being at the house of his father Sherred, etc. 

 p277  Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts: 1662-1667 (Google eBook) Essex Institute, 1913 

And that's all there is. I hope that whatever Stephen Webster was fined offset the
treble damages 7x great grandfather Swan had to pay. Reading this, I could
picture the two men in the barn, Webster poking at my ancestor with the pitchfork
until Robert's wife Elizabeth (Acey)Swan marched in to take the pitchfork away
before something serious happened between the two fools.

I love these Essex County court records. They give me a glimpse of what my
ancestors did and said. In this case, it painted a picture of a day in Robert Swan's
life that could have ended badly.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Fellow geneablogger Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued the
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. Basically, we have to post something every
week on a different ancestor, whether a story, picture, or research problem. For
this prompt I've tried to concentrate on ancestors I haven't researched as much
as I have others in my family tree, This week I'm writing about my 7x great grandfather
Robert Swan's dispute with one of his neighbors in Haverhill, Ma. 

The story unfolds in the records of an Essex County, Ma. court session held at Ipswich
on September 26, 1665 :

Robert Swan, complained of by Stephen Webster for stealing wheat, was ordered to pay treble damages.*

*Stephen Webster deposed that upon Aug. 4, 1665, he and Robert Swan were in company with some of their neighbors, and they tried to agree about the wheat, etc. Zeackriah Whitt, aged about twenty-three years, deposed that he was employed to shock his master Webster's wheat, which grew upon land near to Robert Swann's house, and the last day they were reaping said wheat, Joseph Johnson was helping him. The next morning much of the wheat was gone, etc. He also mowed wheat for Swan near his orchard. Sworn, 10 :6 : 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

John Heasellton, sr., testified that he and his son Samuell plowed the land for Steven Webster, which land adjoined the little river near the saw mill, etc. Sworn, Sept. 25, 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

John Griffen, aged about twenty-four years, deposed that Swan told him that he had the wheat in exchange, etc.

Joseph Johnson, aged twenty-seven years, deposed that he worked upon the land that Steven Webster sold to Robert Swan, etc. Sworn, 10 : 6 : 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

Samuell Heazellton deposed. Samuell Gilde (also Guill), aged about sixteen years, deposed that his master Swan's cart, etc. Sworn in court. John and Joseph Johnson deposed. Sworn in court. Thomas Davis deposed that part of the land was sown with "silpy" and the other part with wheat, etc. Sworn, Sept. 22, 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

Edward (his mark) Brummidge deposed that Steven Webster's lot was near Abraham Whittiker's house, etc. Sworn, Sept. 22, 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

John Hazeltine and Stephen Kent, sr., deposed that Samuell Guile, jr., etc. Sworn, Sept. 25, 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

Jno. Griffin, aged about twenty-four years, deposed. Sworn, 10 : 6 : 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

-pp276-277  Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts: 1662-1667 (Google eBook) Essex Institute, 1913

As usual when I find one of these things, there is the unanswered question of
exactly how much money was the "treble damages" Robert Swan had to pay?

But it didn't end there. Like all the best of these colonial court cases, there was
a counter suit against Stephen Webster. I'll go into what my ancestor accused him
of doing in the next part.

To be continued.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


((First posted in January 2008. I've done a little editing of the 

When journalists talk about a possible “bird flu” epidemic, the
historical event they draw parallels to is the Great Influenza
outbreak of 1918. It first appeared near Fort Riley Kansas in
January and by March had reached New York. Soldiers in crowded
barracks fell victim to it easily and troop movements helped spread
it quickly.

And in the midst of this my grandfather enlisted in the Army in April,

Then on 8 Sept. 1918 the first case of a new, more virulent strain was
reported at Camp Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts. By the end of the month
there were 14,000 cases of the illness and over 700 deaths attributed to it.
Camp Devens was placed under quarantine but the whole state of Massachusetts
was already swept by the disease as the figures on this site  show. My
grandfather was one the troops assigned to a medical detachment working
at the Camp Hospital.

Camp Devens’ hospital surely was not meant to deal with such a
catastrophic event and the accounts I’ve read while horrific must
pale in comparison to what my grandfather must have seen and
experienced. I wonder what he must have thought as he went
about his duties at the hospital? Growing up he must have heard
about the diptheria outbreak that had caused the deaths of six
relatives forty years before. Now he was in the midst of
something much worse where hundreds could die in a single night.
Did he wonder when he himself might begin to show symptoms
and end up a patient himself?

But he survived and was given a furlough at the end of November.
From what I’ve read, the epidemic began and expanded quickly
but subsided within a month and a half. By the end of October it
was over for the most part and by November the authorities must
have felt it was safe enough to allow Private West a furlough to
visit home in early December.

I can’t imagine they would have allowed it if he’d been stricken
with pneumonia during the height of the epidemic, so my guess is
that he came down with it sometime after he returned to
Camp Devens. The Army doctors must have felt the damage to his
lungs was sufficient to keep him from his duty as a hospital
orderly and so my grandfather was given an honorable discharge
on 12Mar 1919, less than a year after he'd enlisted.

Some soldiers in World War 1 saw hell on a battlefield.

Others, such as my grandfather, saw another sort of hell in
hospital wards full of comrades racked with the Spanish Influenza.

I used a variety of sources researching this post. One of them is
“Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army During
World War I” by Carol R. Byerly, (NYU Press, 2005) which you
can preview at GoogleBooks.

Friday, July 25, 2014


(First posted in December 2007) 

An earlier post was on the Enlistment document of my
grandfather Floyd Earl West Sr. Thanks to my Aunt Dot I have
a copy of it and also of his Discharge. The second line with his rank
is smudged here but by holding the paper up before a light I could
make out most of the writing. Also, I’m not sure if the
commandant’s last name is correct but it is the best guess I
could come up with in trying to read it.

I’m grateful my to Aunt Dot for giving me these copies and for
all the other items she’s sent along! I don’t know how difficult it
might be to obtain these elsewhere, but the information on them
is invaluable to someone researching their family history and

“Honorable Discharge from the United States Army
This is to certify that Floyd E. West
Private First Class Hospital Detachment

DISCHARGED from the military service of the United States by
reason of Pursuant to W. D. Cir.I77 A.G. O. Nov.21/1918.

Said Floyd E. West was born in South Paris, in the State of
Maine. When enlisted he was 25 years of age and by occupation
a Farmer. He had Blue eyes, Brown hair, Medium complexion,
and was 5 feet 5 1/2 inches in height.

Given under my hand at Camp Devens Mass. this twelfth day of
March, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen.
A. O. Davis(?)
Lt. Col. M.C. U.S.A.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Continuing with posts about my grandfather Floyd E West's WW1 service:

There's not much more information on these images but it does tell me that
Pop was back on base on December 6, 1918.  The form is signed by
Capt. John E Tracy who was commanding the soldiers of the medical

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I first blogged about my grandfather's WW1 furlough papers back in 2007 but didn't discuss their content. So in commemoration of the start of WW1,I'm doing so now.
These are furlough papers for my grandfather Floyd E West, issued while he was serving at Camp Devens, Ma. during World War 1. It was granted on Nov. 29 1918 and on the
front side gives his rank as "Private 1st C Det Med Dep Base Hospital. The date he
was expected to report back is smudged and unreadable.

On the back side, there is a section on Pay and Rations I don't really understand, but
looking at the two dates in December I think he was supposed to be back from his
visit to Upton, Maine by December 10, 1918.

Lastly is the physical description, which says he is 25 years old, 5ft 5 1/2 inches tall
with "medium" complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. One of the things I was struck
by was that his signature was very much like that of my Dad, Floyd E West, Jr! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


In observance of the start of World War 1, this week I'll be reposting a series I did back in 2007 on my grandfather Floyd E West Sr's World War 1 service. This was posted on 17Dec 2007.

I mentioned back in July that Aunt Dot and I exchanged some
family research at my nephew Paul’s wedding. One of the items
she gave me was her childhood memories of my Dad. Another
item was a photocopy of my Grandfather West’s WW1 discharge
and his enlistment record as shown above.

I think the two papers were folded together which would explain
the dark lines across the pages. In the transcription below, I’ve
put a question mark after any entry I’m not certain about. I’ve
also italicized the handwritten information.

I received an email from my cousin Diana tonight as I was typing
this and in it she passed along information from Aunt Dot that
Pop was an orderly at the Camp Devens base hospital, that he
was only in for a short period before contracting double
pneumonia and that he was shipped home after his recovery.

I’ll have more to say on that after I’ve posted the transcription
of his discharge form.

In my reply to Diana, I remarked that today I realized that
between the service records and the memoir that Aunt Dot
gave me earlier this year I have learned more about Pop than
I ever knew before, and much more than I know about my
other grandfather!

Name: West, Floyd E. #2722093 Grade: Private First Class

Enlisted, or Inducted, Apr.29, 1918 , at So. Paris, Me.

Serving in First enlistment period at date of discharge.

Prior service:* none

Noncommissioned officer: none(?)

Marksmanship, gunner qualification or rating: not armed

Horsemanship: not mounted(?)

Battles, engagements, skirmishes, expeditions: (left blank)

Knowledge of any vocation: Farmer

Wounds received in service: none

Physical condition when discharged: Good

Typhoid prophylaxis completed: ---------------

Paratyphoid prophylaxis completed: June 27/18

Married or single : Single

Character: Excellent

Remarks: No A.W.O.L. or absences under G.O. 45/1914.
This soldier entitled to travel pay.

Signature of soldier: Floyd E. West

John Burnette (?)1st St. M.C. U.S.A.Commanding Detachment