"Roundheads and Ramblings"
McCaskey Family genealogy, Part 2.
McCaskeys start turning up again in the 1850 Pennsylvania Census. In Beaver
County, Franklin Township (which adjoins Butler County to the east), the family
matriarch, Nancy Little McCaskey, is still alive, living on the family farm at
age 90. I assume she died sometime thereafter, but there is no record.
In the North Sewickley Cemetery, where I would have expected her to be buried,
I found a detached stone, propped up precariously against the back of another
family marker. It contained only one word: NANCY. The cemetery records
have no mention of that stone, and it has now disappeared.
GAH! Family graves are beginning to seem very impermanent. In my more romantic
views, I think that Nancy was such a force of nature that everyone would have
known who was meant. No need for dates for this timeless pioneer
woman who came across the Atlantic in steerage with eight children in tow to
start a new life in the backwoods of western Pennsylvania. (But then, you may have heard this description of a pioneer: You can always recognize a pioneer. He the one lying face down in the dirt with an arrow in his back.)
But back to 1850. In the household with her were two of her sons -- Andrew, now 55, seems never
to have married and is listed as a farmhand. John, age 52, is married to Jane,
age 40, and is listed as head of household. He and Jane have four children:
Sarah Jane, age 17 and probably already hanging out in Fisher's barn;
James, 11; Eunice, 8; and John 3.
This map, hand-drawn in 1860 , is huge and detailed. In this fragment you can see the house belonging to John McCaskey, right on Conoquenessing Creek, and a short distance east, that of Conrad Fisher, whose son, I assume, married John's daughter.
In 1860, the family roster has changed. Both Nancy and Andrew are gone, and so is Sarah Jane, missing along with Simon P. Fisher, the oldest son of neighbor Conrad Fisher. I presume they are married but cannot find a record of that. Balancing out the missing persons, however, are James, 21; Eunice, 18: and John, 13; along with two new sons, Theodore, age 8 and Joseph, age 6.
And then the Civil War changed everything.
A Bit of Family Gossip
Several years ago, when I was just starting to write A Scratch with the Rebels
, I traveled to western Pennsylvania to see what I could learn about my Great-Uncle James, whose Civil War letters had started me on this adventure. I already had the 1850 and 1860 Census records for Beaver County. (You can actually access some old county lists on line from the U. S. Census Bureau
.) So I knew the names of his brothers and sisters, their ages, and his father's occupation. I knew James was the second child and oldest boy.The family, however, was still very much a mystery to me. Even though I looked at the 1860 Census and found my grandfather as the six-year-old Joseph McCaskey, no one in the family seemed very real.
Then pieces began falling into place. At the county registrar's office, I learned that the oldest girl, Sarah Jane, had married a man named Simon P. Fisher, and that Simon later served as executor of my great-grandfather's estate when he died in 1875. Then in the local history room of the county library, the curator showed me a map drawn in that same year. It showed every building in the township, each carefully labeled with the owner's name. There -- near where I thought it might be -- was "Mrs. McCaskey's house." What really caught my eye, however, was the property just down the road. It was a house belonging to Simon Fisher's father, and set way back from the road -- hidden from view, almost in the woods -- was their barn.
To understand why that was so important to me, you have to know a bit about my own teenage years. I grew up in a fair-sized town, back in the days when kids walked everywhere they wanted to go. From the time I was 13 or so, my mother always sent me out with the same admonition. "You come straight home from school (substitute: movie, dance, play, football game, choir practice, etc.). Don't you think about coming home by way of Fisher's barn." At the time, I thought it was just about the dumbest thing she ever said. I didn't know anybody named Fisher, and there wasn't a barn anywhere near our urban neighborhood.
I laughed out loud at discovering the original location of Fisher's barn. My guess? Well, I'm pretty sure that when Sarah Jane and Simon were courting, they took some detours on their way home. That hidden barn would have made a perfect place for a bit of hanky-panky. And evidently their antics were discovered. I asked around among my cousins, and they too remembered their mothers (my mother's sisters) using the same phrase. In the McCaskey family, Fisher's barn was the equivalent of the local drive-in, the back seat of the family sedan, the back row of the balcony -- the local "make out" spot.
It was a bit embarrassing to realize that my mother suspected me of being up to the same sort of shenanigans, but the discovery of the origins of one family saying gave me a warm feeling of belonging. Fisher's barn allowed me to connect with my long-dead ancestors in a way that the usual genealogical charts never could.
A year or so ago, over on another blog, i published a series of articles derived from my exploration of my mother's family, the Scotch-Irish McCaskeys. A few cousins have asked for the information, and other readers, curious about the characters that appear in "A Scratch with the Rebels," have also sought access to the material. Now that i'm about to publish a new novel, based loosely on my mother's family, it seems a good time to replay these articles.
Records of the early McCaskey family are sketchy at best.
They seem to have emigrated from Northern Ireland, which had been colonized by
Scottish and English P
Ulster somewhat apart from the rest of Ireland, which was predominantly
Catholic. They were not really escaping religious persecution, however, and
they moved out long before the potato famine. The problems seems to have
centered on falling flax prices. Whatever the reason, John and Nancy
Little McCaskey packed up their children -- Jane, Joseph, Andrew, Nancy,
William, John, James, and little Sarah -- and claimed steerage passage to
America at the end of the 18th century. There are no passenger records in
steerage, so we can't be sure when they arrived.
They soon joined other Scotch Irish immigrants in western Pennsylvania, where
land was still easily available for the clearing. Records show that John,
William, and Andrew signed on with local militias as soon as they were old
enough to do so. John, Andrew, and William made formal petition to become
American citizens by renouncing all allegiance to the King of Great Britain in
1824 and 1825. By some odd quirk of historical preservation, I have those
It did not take the McCaskey sons long to scatter. A letter dated 9 Nov, 1826, came from Smithfield Township in Jefferson County,
Ohio. William McCaskey informed his mother, Jane McCaskey, that he was
working on the turnpike in Ohio and suggested that his brothers John and
Joseph could make a lot of money if they wanted to join him the
following spring. Now that weather had halted roadwork for the winter, he
was working as a stonecutter. He reported that brother James has
been visiting since October and had been ill, although he was getting better
after taking medicine from an Indian doctor. James was apparently a
traveling salesmen, purchasing goods in Pittsburgh and then selling then in the
Two of the daughters also traveled on to Ohio with their American husbands. A
May 30, 1833 letter arrived from Conneaut, Ohio. Allen Law wrote to his
brother-in-law John McCaskey to tell him that he and his wife Nancy
McCaskey were in tolerably good health but would like to return to Pennsylvania.
He wanted the senior McCaskeys to be on the lookout for a piece of land in their
area. He was willing to pay $600 down, followed by $200 in April, and
then $100 a year for the next three or four years. I have no further
evidence about that family, except for a strange 1838 local newspaper with the
name Allen Law written at the bottom. Some of it is illegible, but I have found no mention of him in the paper itself.
On Aug. 25, 1835, John Dullaghan, Jr. sent worse news from Wooster, Ohio. He
reports that his father had died on Aug. 3 of
consumption. Junior himself has had fever that settled in his knees, and
his mother, Jane McCaskey, had been unable to use her arms for two
months. Nevertheless, they planned to pay a visit to the Pennsylvania
family in the next month or two if they could get their old wagon repaired. I've
had a bit of correspondence from a possible cousin showing that the family name
of John Dullaghan continued to be passed down from generation to generation,
but there are unexplained gaps in our joint genealogical data.
The only other one of the McCaskey children I can trace further is John
Jr., who is my great-grandfather. Still, I know little about him, and even his very grave has
disappeared (which is another story!).
Hurricane Matthew Update 10.9.16 0030:
Here's the most informative posting I've come across. It was issued from SC House of Representative Shannon Erickson
(Shannon's Summary - having a non-functioning hospital and a high number of population without power is defining Beaufort County's ability to allow citizens back in to their homes & businesses. )
Here are the high points of her report:
According to the NWS Charleston, the northern eyewall of Matthew brushed over the barrier islands of Beaufort County.
The county remains without power. There are approximately 92,000 customers without power. The main transmission lines in the county were taken down, along with many of the feeder lines that handle the individual neighborhoods.
There are no functioning hospitals in the County.
Beaufort Memorial was damaged. Hilton Head Hospital was isolated by downed trees. They are working to get to the hospital. Once there they have to inspect for damage. Again, there is no power to anywhere in the county, which includes Hilton Head Island.
With no power, there are no functioning traffic control devices anywhere in the county.
The causeways on Central Drive (Ladys Island), Pleasant Point (Ladys Island), Cat Island were all over topped by surge and washed out. They cannot be safely driven on.
The causeway connecting the Harbor River Bridge was undermined and a sinkhole developed. It cannot support any weight beyond human. Two deputies managed to get ATV’s over there to try to get to Hunting and Fripp. They were stopped just beyond the entrance to the campground on Hunting Island. US 21 is completely blocked by interlocking downed trees.
There are numerous trees on houses. There are numerous areas that are flooded. Many of these flooded areas are by rainfall runoff. This water will be a while in going away Nearly every street and yard on Fripp had standing water. The same was observed in Sea Pines. Large tracts of property were inundated with standing water, mostly rainfall. We had over 10 inches in less than 24 hours.
The traditional scene of beachfront devastation was not observed. We were very fortunate in that respect. Hunting Island State Park suffered the worst beach front damage that we observed. The old Cabin Road was breached in a couple of places and the ocean entered the lagoon. The parking lots were flooded with surge waters.
We were spared the common devastation scene, however we have taken a pretty solid whipping.
As Hurricane Matthew moves up the coast of South Carolina,
more of my favorite locations become targets. Just across the bridge from
Beaufort lies Lady’s Island. In “The Road to Frogmore,” It was the real-life
home of Frederick Eustis, a Harvard-educated abolitionist, who had inherited
the huge Eustis Plantation from his step-mother. In “Yankee Reconstructed,” the
fictional young horse-enthusiasts, Eli Moreau and Mary Sue Grenville, purchase
the plantation from him to turn it into a stable dedicated to raising the local
wild marsh ponies.
The next bridge leads to St. Helena island, scene of most of
the action in “The Road to Frogmore.” Today it is the home of the Penn Center,
dedicated to preserving the Gullah culture of the Low Country. Among its
landmarks dating to the Civil War are the ruins of the White Chapel, where the
early abolitionists held patriotic celebrations to teach the former slaves
about citizenship, The Brick Church (shown above), where Miss Laura Towne started her first
school for slave children, the general store at the crossroads, and Frogmore
Plantation, which became Miss Towne’s home for 40 years.
A few miles north of Beaufort lie the ruins of the Old
Sheldon Church, featured on the cover of “Yankee Reconstructed” and used in
that book as a symbol of the Old South. With luck, the Old Sheldon Church will
escape the direct wrath of the hurricane, but it will still be vulnerable to
winds and torrential rain.
The hurricane’s path will take it over Edisto Island, where
ex-slaves once built an island community all their own and where Jonathan and
Susan Grenville’s old plantation house once stood. Then it will pass over James
island, site of the Battle of Secessionville, where the Confederate forces
soundly defeated the Union invaders, and where my Uncle James was killed in the
battle and buried in a mass grave in front of the fort at Secessionville.
Then, of course, there’s Charleston, center of most of my
books. In “A Scratch with the Rebels, it is the real-life home of Gus Smythe,
Confederate soldier, and his family's house still stands on Meeting street just a
block or so from Charleston Harbor. And Charleston is the family home of the fictional
Grenville family of the “Yankee Trilogy.” Landmarks that appear in my books
stand on nearly every street—the hotels, the churches, the meeting halls of
life in the 19-century city. As i write this, the floodwaters are
rising in those streets.
I’m hoping to make a trip to this storm-ravaged region
before the end of the year to do some research for my next book. The new story
requires some familiarity with the dock and warehouse area of Charleston, the
section of the old city now called “The French Quarter,” and the safe harbors
of northern South Carolina and the southern coast of North Carolina. I’m hoping
they will be accessible by then.