Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Civil War Soldier: Pvt. John Wallace LEWIS (1839 - 1908)

Source: Lewis, John W. Photograph. Date unknown. Original photograph in the possession of Jeanne Holst Robbins, Fulton, Texas. 2008.

How Related: My 3rd-great-grandfather

Born: 8 July 1839 in New York, probably in Amboy Township, Oswego County

Parents: George Washington LEWIS, Sr. (1800 - 1879) and Sarah M. "Sally" BASSETT (1801 - 1873)

Siblings: George Washington, Jr. (b. c. 1825), Henry (b. c. 1831), Phidelia (b. c. 1833), Alonzo N. (b. c. 1835 - bef. 1880), Lawrence Harrison (1840 - 1920) and Emmet (b. c. 1844).

Married: first to Esther [--?--] (c. 1840 - bef. 1867) before 1858, probably in Amboy Twp. Secondly to my ancestor, Elenor L. "Nellie" VREELAND (1835 - 1912) on 20 April 1867 in Washtenaw Co., Michigan

Children: With his wife Esther, he had two children: Clarence (b. c. 1858) and Clara (b. c. 1860). With Nellie, he had seven children: George Emmett (1868 - 1964) - my ancestor; John Wallace, Jr. (1870 - 1908), Esther Mary "Ette" (1874 - 1930), Ethel (b. c. 1875), Hartman (1876 - 1938), Ida May (1879 - 1970), and Willie LEWIS (b. c. 1879).


Enlisted: date and place unknown; served with the 101st Regiment, New York Volunteers, Co. A

Side served: Union

Discharged: date and place unknown


Biography or Information of Interest: The more I look into this family, the more surprises I find. The first was that John had been married before he married my ancestor, Nellie VREELAND. He is found with his wife Esther and their two children on the 1860 Federal Census, living in Amboy Twp., Oswego Co., New York. By 1870, he has moved to York Twp., Washtenaw Co., Michigan, is married to Nellie, with one son, George, (my ancestor), and another one (John, Jr.) being born that year. Son Clarence is living with John's parents back in New York, and there is no sign of Cora or Esther. I can only presume they have died.

The second surprise was discovering that there were two more children of John and Nellie that no one seemed to know about. They don't appear in the written Lewis Family History. They do show up on the 1880 Federal Census: Ethel, born about 1875, and Willie, born about 1879 (was he Ida's twin?). They don't appear in Muskegon County birth or death records; cemetery records for Oakhurst, where most of the Lewis family members were buried, weren't kept until the early 1900s, and early records rely mostly on tombstone transcriptions.

Another surprise showed up in his obituary. He is always listed as John Wallace Lewis, Sr. in the family history, with a son, John Wallace, Jr., and a grandson John "Wallace" (through son Hartman). However, his obituary lists John, Sr. as John Wesley Lewis. Official records always show John W. Lewis, typical for that time, so no help there. What was his middle name?

Did he serve, or didn't he? In the 1890 Veterans Census, John W. Lewis is listed as serving with the 101st New York Infantry. However, the enumerator noted that he (or some other family member) refused to answer questions about his enlistment and discharge dates. I haven't been able to find him listed in any roster of the 101st New York Infantry online; thus, I can't order a pension record for him to determine if he actually served.

Died: 13 February 1908 in Whitehall Village, Whitehall Twp., Muskegon Co., Michigan

Source: Tombstone of John W. Lewis, Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall Twp., Michigan. Photograph taken at the request of Miriam Robbins Midkiff by Toni Falcon, volunteer for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. 2005.

Buried: Lot 415-8, Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall Twp., Muskegon Co., Michigan


Thomas MacEntee said...

Is your Lewis line in upstate New York originally from Wales? I ask since my Lewises were part of the influx of Welsh laborers for the Erie Canal in the early 1800s - mostly stonecutters.

Miriam Robbins said...

Sorry to take so long to respond, Thomas.

I don't believe my Lewises are of Welsh descent. They appear to be of English descent, settling in Washington Co., Rhode Island not long after the Great (Puritan) Migration. I actually descend from this line twice, as I have an ancestral couple who were distant cousins.