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Blog posts November 2015

Happy Thanksgiving,,,,,,,,

November 25, 2015


I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving this year.  While things are not always perfect, we truly do have much to be thankful for.  Enjoy, your holiday!



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10 Days in a Mad House,,,,,,

November 23, 2015


Back in 1887 a reporter named Nellie Bly wrote a book called 10 Days in a Mad House.  Miss Bly faked being insane to be committed to an insane asylum in New York City called Blackwell's Island.  Her book can be found online here,

I decided to find out more about Blackwell's Island when I found a newspaper article regarding my great-grandfather George W Parker and his son Leon DeVenoge Parker.      The date on this article was June 29, 1894, just a little over a year since his mother died and about 7 months since his father remarried.  Keep that in mind because to me it is important.

I need to give you some background information before I go much further so you can see where this is all leading.

Ruth Parker, George Parker's wife died in May of 1893, at the house of her sister, she died of pneumonia at the age of 41.  She left behind 4 children, Warren (my grandfather), Leon, George Jr and Edit.  There was 9 years difference in age between George Jr and Edith.

In the meantime, half way across the country, Mary Jane McLean (various spellings appear in records) marries Tracy Byron Doolittle in 1883.  Tracy is the brother to Mary Jane Doolittle Layman, and she is married to George Layman and they live in Barryville, Sullivan County, NY.  (My Parker family is in Eldred, Sullivan County, NY just a few miles from the Laymans)  George Parker and George Layman are considered to be good friends.

My great-grandparents children were born in the following years,  Warren 1874, Leon 1878, George Jr 1879 and Edith 1888.  Tracy and Mary Jane have two sons, Chester born 1884 and George 1886.  Notice the years, they fit quite nicely in between when George Jr and Edith were born.

In an attempt to make a very long story short, I'll try to cut to the chase a bit.  Understand that I have done a ton of research on this and am still researching it.  Dates are proven, the how's and why's of this is purely theory on my part based on confirmed info I have and circumstantial evidence.  This is NOT proven yet, it is a theory based on what I do have.

I know for a fact that Ruth Parker died in May of 1893.  I know for a fact that Tracy Byron Doolittle died in the Elgin Illinois Asylum in 1891 of general paresis.  When researching general paresis I found that it came from syphilis, was highly contagious and back in those days, not curable.  It takes 15 to 20 years to kill someone.  I know for a fact Nov 30, 1893 George Parker and Mary Jane McLean Doolittle were married at the home of George and Mary Jane Doolittle Layman.

 I also know for a fact that in 1895 George Parker married Phoebe Clark Simpson and in the 1900 census she and George, along with George's daughter Edith and Phoebe's son Samuel were living together in Eldred.  Also in the 1900 census Mary Jane McLean Doolittle Parker's sons were living in the house of the Layman's in Barryville but she was no where to be found.

In 1902 Phoebe Parker filed for divorce from George Parker stating that she did not know at the time they were married he had a living wife with children.   In 1904 that divorce was granted and the marriage declared null and void.  Getting a divorce back then was not as easy as it is today.  Such a claim as that would have to have evidence or George would have had to admitted it was true for her to get the divorce.

Copy of the newspaper article stating the divorce was granted.  So, it appears George and Mary Jane McLean Doolittle never divorced and yet I find no evidence of her ever living with him as his wife or taking his name.  In fact she died in 1915 in Rockford, IL under the name of Mrs Mary Jane Doolittle.

OK, what has this to do with Blackwell's Island?  The first thing I found was that Tracy Byron Doolittle died in an Asylum here in Elgin, IL in 1891 and on a forum I read many accounts of how people's ancestors were beaten and raped in the asylum.  It broke my heart to think of it.  I had heard stories that asylums were horrible places for people to be sent because of the abuse and neglect but when you have some sort of a connection to someone in an asylum it starts to bring things home to you.

Then I have the newspaper article that my great Uncle Leon had been sent to Blackwell's Island I began to research just what and where was Blackwell's Island?  I was absolutely horrified and sickened by Nellie Bly's account of her 10 days at Blackwell Island.  My Uncle Leon was only 15 years old when he was sent there!  How horrible it must have been for him!!  One of few consolations is that is was after Nellie Bly had spent time on the woman's side and the city had started making many improvements by the time Leon was sent there.  Also, it does not appear he was there very long.  But what was grandpa George thinking?

Well, here comes the next theory, and again this is only a theory and not proven.  I believe it is possible the altercation between Leon and his father has to do with the marriage between George and Mary Jane.    First they were married only 6 months after Leon's mother died, pretty fast, even by today's standards.  Then if he suspected as I do, that Mary Jane's two boys were actually his father's sons and his father had been having a long term affair with Mary Jane I could see how it would make him angry enough to threaten to shoot his father.  There is nothing insane about anger like that, it is a normal reaction, but back then a show of anger like that could indeed get anyone locked up.  Simply put Leon felt his father betrayed his mother and he was hurt and angered by that.

Back in the 1800s parents were responsible for registering their children's births.  They might not get around to it for a year or more.  I find this quite often in my research.  Parents simply go in to the city or county's court of records and register the child's birth.  The courts took their word for the information.  A single parent for example could make up a name for the other parent and the court would not know the difference.  It is possible George is the father of the boys but because she was married at the time she said her husband was the father.

Needless to say, I still have a ton of research to do to try to either prove or disprove my theories.

I love doing genealogy, my own or someone else's.  I think it is the thrill of the hunt, LOL.

Below are a couple of pictures of Blackwell's Island.  Thanks to Nellie Bly's writings they made many changes, patients were treated more humanely and eventually Blackwell's Island was closed.  Today it is known as Roosevelt's Island.

Until next time,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


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Benjamin B Parker's land,,,,,,,,

November 21, 2015


I have new information regarding my great-great-grandfather's land in Eldred, Sullivan County, NY.  My distant cousin Peter, who comes down the line from Benjamin's daughter Mary Amelia has sent me an old map, (photo copy) of "Halfway Brook" which was Eldred's original name and the name at the time Benjamin lived there.  He has marked out all the properties Benjamin owned at the time.  Lot 20 was about 100 acres and is the land that I have a copy of the deed for, ( not the property on Crawford Rd which I originally was lead to believe).  Lot 21 just to the right of 20 was about 25 acres Benjamin, (or someone in the family) deeded or sold to Emily C. Payne Parker, wife of James Young Parker who build the Parker House Hotel. I have some pink in that one too.  That is where they built their private home, the Parker House was in town.  Then directly below that, Lot 11, which is the lot on Crawford Rd. is about 25 acres.

Grandpa Ben was a very hard working and industrious sort of fellow from everything I have been able to piece together.  He wore many hats, surveyor, constable, fire marshall and millwright.  I believe he purchased the land that he did for a specific reason.  Studying the map closely Lot 20 abuts up to Mill Pond.  Mill Pond has creeks that flow both down to Halfway Brook and through his property on Crawford Rd.  I believe the property on Crawford Rd was all wooded when Grandpa Ben purchased it in the mid 1800s, around 1850 or so.  There was, at one time, a saw mill on the Crawford Rd property by the creek.  My grandfather worked as a lumberman in Eldred until he died.  I believe his father and grandfather did as well.  I believe Lot 20 was where he did his farming and raised his food.

It would make sense that lumber was taken from both Lot 20 and 11.  Some may have been milled into boards for use in building materials while other logs were floated on down the brooks to the Delaware River where it was then tied into rafts and floated on down stream to Philadelphia where it was sold.

Below is a copy of the map my cousin sent to me.  I find it interesting that people claim there was no relationship between James Young Parker and my great-great-grandfather when he had the land they built their private home on.  ;-)  I believe this map dates back to about the mid 1880s, but it could be a little earlier, I am not sure.  I know my grandpa Ben died in 1890 so it is probably a time before that.

Until next time,,,,,,,

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