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Archive for the ‘McLeland’ Category

John McLeland, father of Thomas Asher McLeland, took the unusual step of applying for a Civil War Service Pension based on the service of his deceased son James R. McLeland.  J.R. McLeland (the first in a long string of J.R. McLelands in this family culminating with my father) died, unmarried, of disease at Fort Scott Kansas, in 1861, before he had the chance to fire a single shot.  His rank at his death was 2nd Lt., Company F, 3rd Kansas Infantry Volunteers.

J.R. was John McLeland’s second son.  But John was far from running out of sons with James R.’s death.  At the time of J.R.’s death there were 3 other sons in the household and another on the way. However, at the time John McLeland applied for his son’s pension, the family had lost 2 sons and 3 daughters and John McLeland had outlived 3 wives.

I wasn’t sure, when I wrote away for this pension file, exactly what I’d receive.  I’d never seen a pension application of this type before.  When the thick packet arrived I but it aside for a few days.  I was busy with other things.  Then, in the quiet of a Sunday evening I opened the envelope and almost immediately started cheering.  I hit the biggest jackpot of my 20 years in Genealogy.  (Confession – I was a newbie and the pink highlighting is mine – Arrgh! and thank heaven for good scanners.)

Affidavit of John McLeland Civil War Pension claim #441463

Not only does this affidavit give me the names of all of John McLeland’s wives and the dates of their marriages, it also gives me the dates and places of their deaths.  And if that wasn’t enough, the affidavit names each of John’s surviving children and gives their complete birth dates!  What more could I possibly ask?

Well, in the packet there are affidavits signed by John’s oldest daughter Caroline McLeland Gallaher Livesey and documents signed by his oldest daughter by his second marriage Mathilda McLeland Hill and by her husband John Hill.  In addition there is a date and place of death for John McLeland and a record of the guardianship procceding undertaken by John and Matilda Hill shortly before her father’s death that detail his extremely poor physical and mental health.

I guess you could say, not only did James R McLeland give his name to my father, but he gave his family to me!

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caroline-decker-mcleland

Once T.A. returned  to Deer Creek, from the Civil War, his married life truly began.  He and Caroline Decker McLeland began married life as farmers on the rolling prairies of SW Kansas. Over the next 20 years, they had 8 children and buried 3 as infants. Life was not easy for them but they got by.  Surviving letters from Caroline are full of ill health, family moving away and weather trouble.

As the surviving  McLeland children grew up one by one, they moved away from Allen County, mirroring the migratory ways of the country around them.

Joanna, the oldest married Henry Clay Taylor and began a rootless life as the wife of a salesman.  The Taylors lived in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair and some of the McLeland’s visited them and went to the Great White City. Sarah Jane McLeland spend considerable time with her older sister, helping her through illnesses and other family trials

James Riland McLeland, their oldest son was born on a family trip back to Frankfort Indiana.  He is most likely named after his paternal great grand parents – John McLeland and Jane Rulon/Rulond/Riland.  James was the first of the family to attend school past the local upper school.  A graduate of the Kansas City Dental College he moved to Pleasanton, Linn County, KS where he put down roots.  He married Nellie Valentine Whitman, daughter of a respected Pleasanton pioneer and merchant.  After the birth of his first son, George, J.R. became mayor of Pleasanton.  He was mayor when his mother Caroline died in 1912.  The Pleasanton newspaper printed her obituary with the headline, Mayor’s Mother Passes.

Sarah Jane McLeland, T.A.’s second daughter never married.  For a number of years she filled the traditional role of spinster sisters and unmarried daughters.  Moving around the family residences she took care of sick family members and kept house for unmarried brothers.  But at some point , Sarah went to Secretarial College and became a career woman.  She worked as an Executive Secretary for Berlesser and Isaacs in Kansas City until her retirement in the 1950s.

Thomas Albert McLeland – T.A. jr. married a local girl and settled into Iola Kansas, not far from his parents but not on the family farm.  T.A. jr andGeneviere, his wife had two daughters Lucille and Winifred spent their entire lives in the Iola area.

The youngest surviving son, Benjamin Clifford McLeland, B.C. moved from Allen County to other Kansas counties and then spent some time in Oklahoma.  He apparently spent the last several years of his life in New Mexico.  His life is hard to trace.  Bsed on the meager evidence of family photos and census entries he worked in the early oil business and then for a railroad.  B.C. and his wife, Bertha had two children, Rollo and /Augusta and adopted a second daughter Jesse Young.  I have been completely unable to trace Rollo after his induction into the Navy in 1920.  Austa apparently died quite young.  Jesse married late in life and died in Texas where her husband worked in the oil industry.

Once their children had moved away T.A. and Caroline  moved into the “city” of Kansas City, KS and Thomas went to work for the Federal Government. He was 59 when he began his second career as a government employee. In 1894, he was a tagger for the Department of Agriculture. By 1907 at age 70 he was a stock inspector making $1200 per year. I know his salary because it was published in the Annual reports of the Department of Agriculture for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1906. Report of the Secretary of Agriculture. Departmental reports.

Caroline Decker McLeland died in 1912 with her oldest son and youngest daughter by her side.  T.A. worked for the Department of Agriculure until shortly before his death in 1917 at the age of 82.  During their lifetimes, the telegraph, railroad, automobile, telephone, residential gas and electrical service and early telephone service were all introduced to the world.  I know that they traveled by train, electrified their home in Kansas City and sent at least 1 telegraph.  T.A. and Caroline were ordinary people who were also swimmers in the fast rushing tide of history.  I am proud to be their descendent.

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(thanks to my cousin Darrell for catching several typos in the post – they have been fixed. Any existing errors are my own, sadly) This photo of Thomas Asher ( T.A.) McLeland is one of a pair (much large and with the details painted in) that hang in my front hall. The other is my great great grandmother Caroline Decker McLeland. Thomas and Caroline led ordinary lives. I’m going to spend the next few posts talking about Thomas’ life as I’ve put together the pieces so far. I’m not going to include sources – at this point. Once I’ve posted the whole thing, I plan on moving it to my website The McLeland-Wieser Family with sources etc. I already have many photos of T.A. and Caroline’s family on the site. Check them out.

Thomas Asher McLeland was born, 1835, in either Wayne or Clinton Counties, Indiana to John McLeland and his wife Matilda Asher. Thomas, or T.A. as he was known most of his life, was the third child and first son for John and Matilda. Shortly after the birth of their second son, James R. McLeland, Matilda Asher McLeland died. John wasn’t the kind to raise a young hopeful family on his own. He remarried almost immediately to Martha Jane Koonz a young widow with one son. John and Mathilda had several children so T.A.’s adolescence must have been full of the chaos of younger brothers and sister.

Many of T.A’s mother’s family lived nearby, including 2 Uncles and an Aunt. By the time T.A. was 20 his father had been once more widowed and had remarried again. Now he again had a household full of young half siblings. John had also moved his continuously growing family to Boone County, Indiana where he was running a general store and becoming very active in the local Christian Church. Perhaps the household was just too full, perhaps he saw economic possibilities, perhaps he felt a closer kinship with his Asher relatives. Whatever, the reason, at the age of 22 T.A. and his only full blood brother, J.R. moved with their Asher Uncles to Allen County, Kansas.

They arrived at the height of the terrorism and political skullduggery called “Bleeding Kansas.” Although Allen County wasn’t at the heart of the troubles, the massacre at Marais des Cynes was only about 60 miles away. The area around Iola had been heavily settled by Free Staters, making it a prime target of the raiders from Missouri. T.A. and Thomas Asher, William Asher and Alvin Asher settled in the area of Deer Creek Township well away from the majority of the trouble.

Living nearby was a household of 2 families newly arrived from Illinois. William Decker, his second wife Catherine, his daughter Caroline and his younger brother Alfred and family had migrated from Pennsylvania to Illinois. There William and Catherine’s 3 young sons were born. The families arrived in this tense and volatile part of the territory just a few months before the Asher and McLeland families. Shortly after their arrival William Decker died. His widow, left alone with 3 very young children remarried almost immediately. And almost immediately William’s estate became mired in controversy. Alfred Decker and the former Catherine Decker tangled in court several times. Among the deponents in one episode was Thomas Asher McLeland.

Shortly after giving his testimony in 1861, T.A. married the orphaned Caroline Decker. Like many young married men in the early 1860’s, T.A. left his bride and joined his brother in the the Kansas volunteers, both in the cavalry. T.A. saw limited “frontier” duty, guarding rail lines etc. Many years later his pension file would relate that most of his service was away from the main battlefields but was just as muddy, tiring, disease ridden and nearly as bloody as the more “glamorous” service of his cousins. His younger brother never saw combat. James R. died of disease at Fort Scott , KS before his training was completed. Many years later T.A.’s elderly father applied for a Civil War pension based on the service of his deceased son James.

By the time T.A. came home from the war, his Asher relatives had nearly all migrated across the bloody Kansas border into Missouri, leaving Caroline and her step family waiting for T.A. to return. I have no idea if William Asher was pro Confederacy but the timing of his move seems odd. Alvin and Thomas Asher served in the Union army. And T.A. and his children kept in regular touch with Thomas Asher and his family. Whatever wounds may have been given during the Civil War appear to have been mended fairly quickly at least among some of the family.

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I am very very prone to colds and other upper respiratory nastiness.  This year, Seattle weather being what it is and with no walls or insulation in the house, things have been nastier than usual.  The doctor has suggested that my “weakness” is probably the result of growing up in a household of smokers.  Which started me wondering.  My 3rd great grandmother wrote dozens of letters to her children complaining about various illnesses that all sound to my modern ears like a cold or perhaps allergies.  My great-grandfather and my grandmother on that same side of the family suffered from various “chest complaints.”  I’m pretty sure that ggg-grandma Caroline’s husband didn’t smoke.  And I know that my g-grandfather didn’t smoke.  But…they all had wood stoves filling the air with particles of soot etc.  and they all lived in houses with much less insulation than is currently considered acceptable and they lived in damp cold climates.  So maybe I’ve inherited my “weakness”  or maybe I’ve recreated enough of the environmental background that I’m suffering from the same sorts of illnesses they mention in their letters.  I’m always thinking about how my ancestors lived and wishing I could just drop in for a visit.  But maybe this is a bit too much?

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When I posted some pictures of my McLeland ancestors to my website www.mcwieser.info one of my cousins wrote and asked where I had gotten the middle name of my great-great-great-great uncle. She was especially curious because in the only “official” record we have for him, he is listed with only a middle initial. It took me a bit to I realize I had mistakenly entered the middle name of my great grandfather James Riland McLeland in a spot where the name was actually that of his uncle James R. McLeland. The McLeland men in this line have a habit of repeating the initials J.R. My dad is a J.R. (My son is not but his middle names is James so…) But they all have different middle names – they just use the same initial or do they? My dad’s is Ray, His father wasn’t a J.R. and his grandfather used Riland. James Riland’s father was a T.A. but his brother was a James R. Thence the confusion. James R. died during the civil war, and I’ve always assumed that his brother honored him by naming his first born son after him. But what was James R.s middle name. Perhaps he was named after his grandmother’s maiden name. She was Jane Rulon. If you say them out loud they sound very similar. But I don’t think I’ll ever really know. Middle initials are a tantalizing glimpse of a name. T.A. McLeland was really Thomas Asher McLeland – named for his mother’s father. Simple and a wonderful clue. But only if you can get the entire middle name.

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