Monday, April 23, 2018

John Bolton

John Bolton is one of my ancestors whom I know little about but led a eventful life. He came over from England ahead of my Chicken ancestors and patented some virgin land in Wisconsin. From the satellite, it is all timber with some pastures in the very northeast corner and east edge. Whether even those pastures were there in the time of 1848, four years after he came over and the date of the patent, I will never know. I've always thought that if I were ever up in that area, I would like to find the owner of those 40 acres and see if they would allow me to walk over them.

John came over to America in the summer of 1844 with wife Mary on the baroque ship the Joseph Cunnard, named after the man who designed it. It arrived in New York City and after a period of time, John and Mary arrived in the southeast corner of Wisconsin. In 1846, their first child Selina Jane was born and four years later my 3rd great grandmother Frances Ann was born. Whether John was around to see the birth is debatable.

The following year after obtaining the land patent, gold was found in California leading to a rush of settlers seeking their fortunes. Though John was listed as a farmer, southeast Wisconsin was a mining area for lead and was full of miners, including my Chicken ancestors. From the history books, many of these miners set off in late 1849 and early 1850 to seek their fortunes in California and I assume John Bolton was one of them. Two facts lead me in this assumption. In the 1850 census, Mary and her two daughters were living with the Pilings, another English family that came over from the same part of England as the Boltons and the Chickens. John is nowhere to be found. In 1854, John and Mary had a son named Jeremiah born in California. So at some point, the family lived there.

For years I never knew what happened to the family or of the existence of Jeremiah because the family just disappeared after the 1850 census. However, on a whim, I started searching back and England and found what was left of the family in the English 1861 census. Mary is listed as being widowed, Selina and Frances are listed as being born in America and Jeremiah is singled out as being born in California which I find odd since California had been a state by the time of his birth there.

Jeremiah wouldn't live past his teen years dying at age 17. His mother Mary and Selina would live out their lives in England as "fancy seamstresses" and Selina would marry and have four children of her own. Frances, would immigrate back to America for her second time around the end of the Civil War and marry Joseph Chicken, just back from fighting in the war and who would go on to change his surname.

I have no records of John other than his name in the ship log as he made his way to America and his land patent. I most likely have identified his parents in England as John and Margaret Milner Bolton but can't positively make that connection. I have no record of his death other than his wife Mary being listed as a widow in an 1861 English census. Until recently, I took this as fact but have found another John Bolton born in England around the same age that was a miner in California into the 1860's. So it is entirely possible that he wanted to continue that lifestyle and his wife decided she didn't and went back to England.

At this point, I will probably never find out what happened to John Bolton unless some rare document explaining his demise shows up someday. Without documentation on him, I will never be able to say for sure if his parents are whom I think they are. This branch on my family tree will most likely never grow any further. Other than that 40 acres of trees in southeast Wisconsin, I have no other ties to this man other than some of his blood and genes still running through my veins.

John Bolton's 40 Acre Land Patent in Wisconsin

Friday, April 20, 2018

Childhood Homes

My mom graduated in May. I was born three months later in a small county hospital and then brought back to the farm. My grandparents then left the farm and headed back north after deciding farming wasn't the life they were meant to live leaving me, my mom and her newly married husband to look after things. I have no memories of that old farm house but it still stands down a seldom traveled gravel road if you know where to go. I drive by it every few years.

Living on a farm didn't suit my dad either so unbeknownst to my grandparents, he sold it and moved to the town where I was born in the small county hospital. That move didn't endear him to my grandparents since they expected to recoup their investment in the small acreage. My parents moved into a small apartment of which I have exactly one memory. I remember sitting underneath the kitchen table while my mom was calling my name trying to find me. We soon left that place and it no longer stands.

We moved into a small run down shack of a house in a small town halfway between the county hospital and the farm my mom lives at now. It was run down even by the standards of back then but I have lots more memories of it. I can still draw a detailed layout showing the bedrooms, kitchen and living room areas. I can remember my parents shouting all the time and I can remember my younger brother joining me in life. My dad left after a handful of years of shouting and never came back. Mom was left with two kids she couldn't afford so go a job in the urban jungle and we moved again. As junky as the house was back then, it continued to stand over the years but looked more and more like a drug lab all the time. It was still standing after I was married and my oldest daughter was old enough to look disinterested out the window at it whenever I pointed it out. It was removed from the face of this earth about five years ago and is just a vacant lot of weeds now.

The urban jungle was a tough life. We lived in poverty in some low rent apartment and I attended first grade while my brother went to all day daycare while mom struggled to get grocery money. I thought at the time she was spoiling us by making hotdog pizza. I didn't realize that was all she could afford to make. We went through lots of baby sitters when not in daycare and didn't see much of each other. Then Mom got engaged again and soon we were heading down to a farm just a mile south of where my mom now lives. The old apartment buildings stood for awhile and I would see them just off the interstate now and then during my trips to the urban jungle. I noticed a few times ago that I haven't seen them in awhile so they too have returned to the earth.

My new dad was a farmer and while we always had food, we had to grow and raise it ourselves. The countryside was crowded with mostly older families but they gradually left. The farm crisis got many. Old age got the rest. Now my parents are the only ones still living on that 6 mile ring of gravel roads. The old farmhouse was full of happy memories which was a change of pace for me and my brother and probably my mom. It was way too big even by today's standards for our family of four. My brother and I claimed our bedrooms on the main floor and all the rooms upstairs so it worked out. When my step-grandfather died one summer afternoon while I was away being a camp counselor, we decided to move to his farm a mile to the north. The old farmhouse was rented out for a time but the tenants gradually destroyed it as they tend to do out in poor rural areas. My dad had it bulldozed, burnt and buried. I can still feel its presence when I walk over top of it.

I only lived a couple years and a few summers in the new smaller farmhouse before I moved out permanently. There are memories with the farm but not too many with the house for some reason. I don't identify it with my childhood and it is mostly my parents house now. It was built by my step-grandfather the year my dad was born and with the exception of the time spent at the old farmhouse a mile south, he has always lived there. I'm sure he has many more memories of that house than I do. But for now, it still stands and holds the distinction of being just one of two of my childhood homes still standing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


This past weekend, I got an email out of the blue from a distant relative by marriage. She is married to my distant cousin of mine whom I have never met or known about. She found me because of a compilation story I put together about my Chicken ancestors that I have blogged about in the past on here many times and all the assorted stories I have come to know. What makes her unique, is that she and I are connected through my 2nd great grandfather's first wife. He had two wives and 99% of the people I talk to and have met are descended through his second wife.

We trades some information back and forth and through that exchange, she mentioned a lot of people on her side of the family tree who have had cancer throughout the years. It suddenly hit me that perhaps my mom's issue is all tied into this family tree and all thanks to Lynch Syndrome which she will be tested for next week. To remind you, Lynch Syndrome is a genetic "disease" where certain cell repair genes stop working correctly. Your body creates mutated genes all the time and this repair gene goes around fixing them in normal people. Those with Lynch Syndrome have a lazy gene fixer and so the mutated genes accumulate to much higher levels which is what increases your chances for various types of cancer. Many can be treated and cured and some like in my mom's case cannot.

The picture above is of my great grandfather Charles holding my grandma. Grandma had colon cancer in her 40's, one of the most common forms of cancer in those with Lynch Syndrome but has been cancer free for the last five decades. Her father, my great grandfather, Charles, died of lung cancer. He was a heavy smoker but lung cancer is also more common in those with Lynch Syndrome. Charles's father, my 2nd great grandfather, John Henry died young of complications from heart disease. His father Joseph who is my ancestor that changed his name from Chicken to a different surname, died at age 37 from causes I have never been able to discern. Now with this relative adding others on her side with colon cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer, I can't help but wonder if the Lynch Syndrome is present and being passed down through this line of my family tree. If a parent has it, there is a 50 percent chance each child would have it.

This also might explain why 99% of the people I talk to our descended through the second wife. Perhaps John Henry's first wife was the carrier of Lynch Syndrome and so the second wife and their numerous descendants are unaffected by all this. John Henry's first wife died very young but due to childbirth, I presume due to the circumstances. But had she survived, it might not have been for long anyway.

All this may just be coincidence and drawing lines to fit my conclusions and honestly, I hope that is the case. If not, well it may explain a lot of things that I was never really asking about until recently. If at the end of the day, it is Lynch Syndrome, well I am thankful I live in a time where we can cure some of the cancers that afflict those with the disease.

All this pondering started because of something I wrote a couple years ago that got passed around until someone wrote an email to me and we got to talking. What a small world.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Spring Is Missing

April 15th, tax day, nearly a month after the arrival of spring, this is how our daffodils looked yesterday morning. I'm not sure spring will ever get to this part of the country.

For our part, we made the best of it. My brother has come up from the deep south to spend a week on the farm with my parents. So I picked up my maternal grandparents from their apartment and we all gathered on the farm to celebrate my brother's birthday a few days early. It was the first time my grandparents had been out to the farm since Thanksgiving when my grandmother took a swan dive from the top porch step and broke her hip. This time we had enough younger bodies at the bottom of the stairs to absorb and fall but fortunately everybody made it down the steps without incident.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Picking Up Sticks

Despite the rain and snow falling every other day and the sub freezing temperatures, our lawn is starting to protest this weather delay and go ahead and started greening up anyway. Last year we were planting at this time. This year the snow just melted off yesterday. When I took this picture, it was the first sunny day above freezing that we have had in a long time. I used the opportunity to pick up sticks which is a pretty major chore on our two acre plot of land full of hundreds of mature trees on the edge of town.

Not only is there quite a bit of ground to cover and a lot of sticks to pick up, it is quite the work out going up and down the gully. Because I get so many branches a year, I burn them down in the bottom of the gully twice a year but most of the sticks fall on the tops of the knobs so it is a lot of up and down. I use a wheelbarrow where possible to save on trips but near the gully the sides are so steep I can't "park" it anywhere so that it stays upright when I take a hand off, so for that part I just tuck them in my arms and walk back and forth. This time with my arms full I hit a slick spot on a steep spot and after running in place like a cartoon character, I did a face plant in the mud. I wasn't hurt but my clothes had to be exchanged for cleaner ones when I was done.

I did a survey of all my trees that I have planted over the last few years to see if they survived. I think most of them survived our extremely dry summer last year thanks to my hauling water 10 gallons at a time to each of them once a week. I won't know for sure until the buds start opening. One tree appears to be missing altogether? I'm guessing rabbits as they temporarily got another one the year before. It sprouted up and came back again. That's one of the problems when planting twigs for trees.

While walking around to the various trees, I stumbled across a plastic Easter egg that didn't get found a few weeks ago. Our oldest was pleased to discover that the contents of the plastic egg were still intact and edible.

With all the sticks picked up and the grass starting to turn green, I am more than ready for spring. Tomorrow we are going to hit 60 degrees and 70 degrees for the first time since last year both in the same day. I expect there will be a lot of shorts on tomorrow. Now if only we get a stretch of that to grow the mushrooms....