Baptist Cousins of Piscataway

Today, the 9th of June, I received an email from FamilySearch.org reminding me that my 7th great grandfather, Jeremiah Drake I, would be celebrating his 312th birthday.

It is not often that I cannot immediately make the connection between myself and a name on our tree. But for the life of me I couldn’t remember which line the Drakes came through.

Confusing to me even more was a memory of someone telling me that we’re related to Sir Francis Drake, the famous explorer of the oceans who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

DrakesSo I had to go look, if anything to properly celebrate the birthday of Grandpa Jeremiah. After all, he’s waited a long time, eh?

So I went to FamilySearch to look at his profile and to no surprise it is mostly empty – there is nothing there other than his June 9th birthday in 1707 and his death in 1759. He lived to be 52 years old, got married and had five kids. End of story, right?

Wrong. Catching my eye was the fact that Jeremiah was born in Piscataway, NJ. I had to laugh a little at that fact. In my present employment I manage a number of projects in New Jersey – Piscataway, Woodbridge Village, Rahway, etc. What are the odds that I would have a grandfather from there?

I began to wonder if the Drake family had anything to do with the founding of Piscataway. 312 years is a long time. Just how old is Piscataway anyway? And where did that name come from? And how am I related to Jeremiah Drake again?

I read this email from FamilySearch, by the way, at about 1 am.

Going down these paths to research a little family history is what makes for sleepless nights. Did I really want to do this?

Yeah, I did.

The first thing I did was to discover our connection. I was surprised to learn it came through my Westover line.

Ruth Althea Rowe Westover – wife of William Westover, born in 1861 – can claim Jeremiah Drake as her 3rd great grandfather.

That means all descendants of William and Ruth have Jeremiah Drake as a grandfather.

Ruth’s grandparents – David and Hannah Rowe – came from Ohio before heading west to Utah. While in Ohio, David and Hannah were strong Baptists. Hannah Rowe’s maiden name was Manning, which is quite a famous last name in the history of the Baptist church in the US. Hannah, coincidentally, was born in Piscataway.

Her father was a Baptist minister hailing from Piscataway. His name was Enoch Manning. Enoch was ordained a minister by his father, Joseph Manning, who was also from Piscataway. Joseph was married to Martha Drake, daughter to our Jeremiah Drake – also from Piscataway.

Martha was named after her mother, Martha Dunn. Remember that name, Martha Dunn. We’ll get back to her in a minute.

If you research the Rowe line on the tree on FamilySearch you will see names like Manning, Dunn, Martin, Fitz Randolph and Drake all tied together by one place: Piscataway, NJ.

In my mind the next question was this: Could it be possible that family would have something to do with the founding of Piscataway, New Jersey?

Um, yeah.

Piscataway, New Jersey is one of the first 50 towns established in the British Colonies.

In 1664 King Charles II (remember him?) gave his brother James, the Duke of York, the land that would later be known as Piscataway.

The Duke later gave that land to two of his friends and one of them appointed a cousin, Philip Carteret, as governor of New Jersey.

A grant was then given by the governor to settlers in New Hampshire, who were none too pleased with how they were being treated in the Puritan community they lived in there.

One of these settlers was a man named Francis Drake – grandfather to our Jeremiah Drake.

Who was Francis Drake?

No, he’s not Sir Francis Drake but he is Captain Francis Drake.

Our Francis Drake was born in 1615 in England to Robert Drake, a fairly wealthy and connected “sergemaker”.

Robert Drake was a contemporary to Sir Francis Drake’s brother, Thomas. Thomas was given the estate of Sir Francis Drake upon his death. Robert Drake is believed to be related to another Robert Drake, who was famously burned at the stake in 1556 for his religious defiance. When asked by a priest to renounce his faith Robert Drake of 1566 said, “As for your Church of Rome, I utterly deny its works and defy its power, even as I deny the devil and defy all his works”.

That passion for religion seems to be a family trait. The next several generations of Drakes were driven by their religion.

So how did Francis Drake come to America?

It appears he came to New Hampshire with his parents around 1640. They were Puritans.

His father, Robert, was a sergemaker – which is described as a kind of textile producer – who became a shop keeper in Hampton, New Hampshire, selling fabrics he brought over from England.

Robert Drake was father to many children.

It is said that two of his older sons – Nathaniel and John Drake – came ahead of Robert and his younger children, including Francis Drake. They settled in an area near Piscataqua River in New Hampshire.

Politically, this part of New Hampshire was part of the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Company even though many of the early settlers in that area were Baptists and Quakers.

Those religious differences wormed their way into families – including the Drake family. While the Puritans fled England due to religious persecution it proved as well to be a challenge to them on the other side in coming to the New World.

As such, many living in this mixed religious base of New Hampshire felt harassed by the combined forces of Puritan church and state and began looking for a way out through a new frontier.

That new frontier came from the land grant by Governor Carteret given to four men disaffected in New Hampshire.

After a falling out with his Puritan father Robert over religion, new Baptist Francis Drake followed the original four settlers of what would come to be known as Piscataway, NJ and he was granted 245 acres there.

It was there that Francis married, raised a family, became a surveyor, opened a tavern and served in local government and as captain of the local militia (thus the name Captain Francis Drake that you see on FamilySearch).

The many children of Francis and Mary Drake were all Baptists.

In fact, they were prolific Baptists. Their names are associated with nearly a dozen Baptist churches in New Jersey and the most famous descendant of Francis ended up being Reverend John Drake, who founded the Stelton Baptist Church as the First Baptist Society of Piscataway.

The children and grandchildren of Captain Francis Drake also had huge families. And they served in the militia. Captain George Drake, the son of Captain Francis Drake, had 17 children. One of them was Captain Andrew Drake, who was married to Hannah Fitz Randolph and had 15 children, including our grandfather, Jeremiah Drake.

Not much is really known about Jeremiah – except that he was born in Piscataway, he was a Drake and he was very Baptist.

He married Martha Dunn. Who was Martha Dunn?

Martha appears to be a lot like Jeremiah. She was born in Piscataway, she was a Dunn, and she was very Baptist.

Martha was the fourth child of Hugh Dunn, Jr and Elizabeth Martin of Piscataway. Both the Dunns and the Martins had a big history in Piscataway long before Martha was born.

Her grandfather, also named Hugh Dunn, was famous for his piety and his singular devotion to the Baptist faith. Hugh Dunn Sr. was married to…Elizabeth Drake.

Elizabeth’s father was…Captain Francis Drake.

So our Jeremiah was a great grandson of Captain Francis Drake…and his wife Martha was a great grand daughter of Captain Francis Drake. Cousins!

So it was destiny, I suppose, that they would remain in New Jersey and raise their family among the Baptists.

They had a daughter, whom they dutifully named Martha Drake.

This Martha Drake would grow up to marry…a Baptist minister.

Joseph Manning was the son of a Baptist preacher and grandson to James Manning, who was president of a Baptist college in Rhode Island.

Hannah ManningThat brings us to Hannah Manning – born in Piscataway, New Jersey – grandmother to Ruth Althea Rowe Westover.

What does this late night adventure into the 312th birthday of an ancestor teach us?

It teaches us that we have a 500 year history through the Drake line of very real religious independence. It teaches us that the cords of religion and family both unite and divide. It teaches that faith is a dominating part of life.

It also teaches that faith stokes the fires of liberty. The Drakes, the Mannings, the Dunns, the Martins and all others associated with the broader family in New Jersey were patriots. They fought in the Revolution and they escaped the religious persecution in Old England.

Though we lack details of much of their lives we do not lack their lessons.

The War Experience of Grandpa Carl

I always try to spend a little time with my grandfather, Carl Begich, each Memorial Day. He is, to my knowledge, the only of our family to have given his life in the service of our country.

Memorial Day is to honor those who paid the ultimate price. Remembering Grandpa Carl by searching anew anything I can find about him or sharing something I have not shared before on Memorial Day is my way of taking part.

It would, in a perfect world, be best to visit his grave and to honor him in person. But he is buried in France and I will likely never be able to visit his grave.

Carl Begich

Carl Begich, at home in Minnesota about 1940

He died on May 18th, 1945. I remember him on that day, too, though it fills me with sadness to think of what that day came to mean to both my grandmother and my great-grandmother – and the rest of his family.

Most have an image in their mind of what it is like to lose a family member at war. The visions are of gun fire, explosions or perhaps even tanks and air planes dropping bombs.

But Grandpa Carl was a radio operator and a “code breaker”. From the very beginning he belonged to a unit tied to “Army intelligence”.

This made his war experience quite different and his death shrouded in mystery.

Grandpa Carl was born the third of seven children to Mike and Katherine Begich on January 11, 1920. His was a happy upbringing in a home filled with faith and tradition.

Carl had many pursuits – he was musical, he enjoyed writing and he with his brother developed a passion for the emerging technology of amateur radio.

When he left Minnesota after high school to pursue a career as a journalist in New York City he maintained his radio license and continued to pursue the hobby.

He met and fell in love with my grandmother, Winifred C. Welty, while in New York.

They married in May of 1942. In January, 1943 – on Carl’s birthday – my mother, Susanne C. Begich, was born.

As fate would have it they would have precious little time together as a family. In mid-February 1943, Carl enlisted and was whisked away for basic training.

The Army had needs for a man with Carl’s skills.

For a while they told him he would be engaged in a project helping to break codes against the Japanese. He was told that he would be stationed on the West Coast and was so certain of it that he sent my grandmother and my mother to California to find a place to live.

He never got to them.

Instead by September 1943 Carl was stationed in England, and there he waited with thousands of other GIs for the invasion of France. There he trained with British officers receiving hands-on training intercepting real-time German radio messages at various places throughout England.

Vans of the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile

World War II, being far more fluid than World War I, marked the advent of the mobile radio intercept unit whose task was to pick up, decrypt if possible, and pinpoint enemy units sending their messages through the airways.

In England, late in March 1944 while the English and American armies were feverishly preparing for the invasion of Normandy only two months away, the U.S. Ninth Air Force, whose assignment it was to conduct the tactical air war over the Continent, ordered a Major Harry Turkel to form and train a new unit in time for the invasion.

The new unit’s task was to monitor and intercept German Air Force radio traffic while operating out of mobile caravans designed to keep pace with advancing armies. This new unit was to be aptly named the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile (“G,” for German). Carl Begich was assigned to this unit.

Over the course of his war experience Carl wrote a prolific number of letters. In sending them home he instructed that they be saved as notes he would later use to write about his war experience.

Dutifully my grandmother saved them and they have become a treasure to us today.

These letters are all we have to know Carl Begich.

From England in September, 1943, Carl said: “I mentioned I was happy here. I meant I got accustomed to surroundings in a hurry and was glad only that I can now consider myself part of this man’s army and this theatre of operations. It had been my desire, inwardly, you know, to be part of this, actively.”

This is an amazing insight to me.

Carl was 23 years old, married, a father, and he knew well the feelings of his mother, who desperately did not want him in uniform and in Europe, in particular, during the war.

Yet Carl had the same feelings of most of who we call the “greatest generation”. He was both duty bound and anxious to serve.

In December 1943 he was missing home.

He wrote: “Reading what you wrote about the little things Cathy got coming for her Xmas and whatnot makes me homesicker than ever. Darlin’, you have no idea just how much I wish I could be there with you and the little darling. Gee…. I am glad you liked that poetry I sent you. Of course, dear, you understand what’s happening to a feller especially when he starts writing poetry. Can you beat it? Undoubtedly, I shall get those nostalgic but really lovely spurts again, I know. And when I do, I shall pass the outcomes along to you to insert in your scrap book. That scrap book idea, incidentally, is a grand one. I am keeping one here, too. Oh yes, my diary is getting pretty plumped these days, dearest.”

We do not know what became of the personal items of Carl Begich after he died. What we would not give now to have his diary.

In June 1944, Carl sent just two letters home. It is interesting in retrospect to read them, knowing what we do now of D-day.

“Three months ago the fellows in my outfit here began an invasion kitty, destined to give the correct predictor of the invasion date, something like 8 pounds (about $32, roughly). I was very surprised to know that I had won that jackpot….the general concensus of hopes herearound is that perhaps we may be home to celebrate Christmas this year…”

The “code breakers” of Detachment A, 3rd Radio Squadron started their voice-intercept operations a few miles south of Point de Hoc on June 11th, 1944.

After the breakout from Normandy Detachment A served both the 8th Air Force HQ and the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force.

Christmas of 1944 came and with it came the last real Nazi push of the war known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive.

Carl was there, as was the rest of the Ninth Army, and the 3rd Radio Squadron played a big part in turning the fortunes of the war there.

His comments home were vague and revealing at the same time, in a letter from December 29th:

“I’m glad for one thing and that is that you don’t continually barrage me with a lot of queries concerning my duties here. You can find out all about such things from your daily newspaper for from the latest radio broadcasts. Now if you can put two and two together, you will know a story. And if you can make three out of two you will have a superb picture of reality.”

Clearly Carl was in the thick of it and seeing unbelievable things.

At 0415 on December 16th, 1944, the radios of Detachment A came alive with a short but hastily sent message from behind German lines.

It was unusual to get such traffic in the dead of night. The intercepted message was taken to the tower where the late night shift of code breakers started to work on decoding it.

It is impossible to know now if Carl was on duty at this time.

While engaged in decoding a second message came in, exactly like the first.

This was really out of the ordinary.

The code breakers identified the German encryption that was a family of codes they had named after musical composers, an “elgar” used by the Germans to contact their antiaircraft units. It was quickly broken, and read “… 90 JU 52s and 15 JU 88s going from Paderborn area to area 6˚-6˚ 30´, E to 50˚ 31´-50˚ 45´ and returning by same route.

The code breakers plotted the co-ordinates on maps as between Hofen and Monschau on the Belgo-German border. In the dim light of the tower room, eyebrows went up even higher.

JU 52s were transports. JU 88s were versatile aircraft used as bombers, night fighters and occasionally as transports; it was thought they would be used as transports. Never had the Germans used 105 transport planes at night.

Then, an hour or so later a message was received canceling the German operation.

Nevertheless the message had already been sent up the line to Ninth Army HQ and the next day, when the Germans launched the operation for real, the result was a devastating set-back for the Germans that marked the beginning what was to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

The “bulge” which formed as a result of the German offensive separated Lieutenant General Bradley’s 12th Army Group Headquarters on the southern flank from the major part of the

First U.S. Army and the Ninth U.S. Army, which were located on the northern flank.

Communications between group and army headquarters were cut. To remedy this situation, Eisenhower’s staff recommended that the American Ninth and First armies be shifted to the command of Montgomery’s 21st Army Group which was in the north.

On 20 December 1944, Eisenhower ordered the shift of forces. This decision would prove to impact the life and mission of Technical Sargent Carl Begich.

Under Montgomery, the Ninth Army and the 84th Infantry Division crossed into Belgium and into Germany over the Roer River in what was called Operation Grenade.

Carl’s letters reflect the rapid movement East as he was without a typewriter for a period of time. The letters also stopped coming and going abruptly.

“Things look good over here but not quite good enough,” Carl wrote at last in February 1945. “Those stubborn, bullheaded Nazis have got to be horsewhipped into making them know they are finished.”

While things were advancing quickly towards the war’s end so too were pending changes being felt.

Carl wrote cryptically on February 24th, 1945: “I have a funny premonition that some very funny events will occur shortly which may concern me and you and Cathy…but when and if you do hear of these, do not be alarmed because there will be a reason, at a later date, covering each occurrence….”

In March, he spoke of a longer delay in coming home: “I am very conscious of the fact that our anniversary is due up on May 14th. I am too darned well conscious too of the fact that I will not be home then, and, more so, may not be home for perhaps for the next three years. I believe I may as well face the situation eye to eye…”
What could he possibly be talking about?

By April of 1945 the Ninth Army was well into Germany and the feeling overall was that war would be over “soon”.

But the ending of the war brought continued uncertainty for Carl: “Now that things are coming to a close and now that situations are settling down, what’s to happen? Of course it is needless for me to say just what is on all our minds over here. I almost quite sure that by the time you receive this, this war over here will have been over and won. In such case and as a result of this, will no doubt cause a widespread anxiety over many of you. I hope, though, that you are fortified well enough – so that your hopes will not be shattered; what I mean, dear, is that I have absolutely no idea just what will happen to me after this blows over over here. And neither do the other fellows. We are in the dark and we will probably remain as such for a while yet.”

Fate for Carl was just over the Rhine.

The Rhine is more than a river. It was a sacred waterway to the Germans, the source of most of their legends and myths.

Now it was the last barrier between the advancing Allied armies and the conquest of Germany. If the Germans could hold their beloved river, they might be able to stand off the Allies.

Carl was at the Rhine with the 1.2 million combined forces under the command of Montgomery. The force consisted of the 1st Canadian Army, the 2nd British Army and the 9th US Army.

The Rhine was 400 yards wide at the Wesel crossing point, and to defeat the river and the heavy German fortifications, the 2nd Army alone collected 60,000 tons of ammunition, 30,000 tons of engineer stores, and 28,000 tons of above normal daily requirements.

The 9th Army stockpiled 138,000 tons for the crossings. More than 37,000 British and 22,000 American engineers would participate in the assault, along with 5,500 artillery pieces, antitank and antiaircraft guns, and rocket projectors. They would engage in what would be called Operation Plunder.

The Germans were truly taking their last stand. They were short of nearly everything in supplies and their forces consisted of both the very young and the very old.

By the 28th of March the bridgehead over the Rhine was 35 miles wide and extended 20 miles further into Germany.

Churchill himself was there at the 9th Army’s crossing point.

He reported to Eisenhower personally: “My dear general, the German is whipped. We have got him. He is all through”.

While the war was ending for the Germans it was not ending for Carl.

Carl’s last letter home, dated May 2nd, 1945 from Germany, was even more suggestive of what could happen to him: “…I’ve been reading in the Stars and Stripes about all of these “War Over” declarations making the rounds back there. This all brings to mind a deduction I have made in the past four or five days…and which I believe in…I do believe that a quick trip is in store for myself. As for a majority of the others here – to the far east – possibly India, China or Burma! …One never knows! And, if someone does know, he “ain’t tellin’…for security reasons, both personal and strategic and tactical.”

On 18 May, 1945, under conditions never fully explained and still classified, T/Sgt Carl Begich died – DNB, it says (Died Non-Battle) – in the Rhine River.

Last year, both of his sisters who are well into their 90s, told me the family has never believed it. Carl had a mortal fear of water.

A wedding ring he wore was taken from his finger and sent home to my grandmother. My Dad has worn this band as his own for decades.

Little else is known or was given of Carl’s to the family. Are that are left are questions:

Did Carl really die in Germany?
Did he learn to speak fluent German?
Can more be learned of his work?
How many men were in Detachment A of the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile?
Did any of them survive? Did they leave a record?

These questions of the war experience of Carl Begich now still matter. As his 100th birthday is noted there can be no denying the long reach not only of his passing but also – and mainly – of his living.

Never Done

There are two seasons of the year where I see folks focusing on their family history: right around Memorial Day, when we remember those who have passed – and during the month of October, which is National Family History Month.

As a Family History Consultant, it is around these times that I frequently hear two common statements: “I don’t know how to do my family history and don’t know where to start” and “My family history is done”.

I have not used these pages much to instruct or advise as I thought I would. There is already so much out there that can help people, no matter how they see their family history.

But these are becoming common questions at these times of the year even among family and I feel compelled to impose my opinions on you about these two statements.

Not knowing where to start is so very common.

It is overwhelming to think about how to approach doing family history when you start with absolutely nothing. I get it.

It may seem an odd thing to say these days but I believe the best place to begin is with a pencil and a piece of paper.

On that paper you draw the first four generations of your family as you know it – in your head.

Just the simple stuff: names and birthdays for four generations: you, your parents, your grandparents and your great grandparents.

Of course, “you” means you and your spouse, if you have one. You will want to record names of each couple as you go along.

The first thing you will notice when you begin in this fashion is that you either do not recall or were never told the full names, birth dates and, where appropriate, the dates of passing of the first four generations of your family.

This is normal and there is no reason to feel bad.

Using this simple piece of paper and seeing the holes you have in the information you are now free to get on the phone, dig through old family group sheets or even go online to find this information and get it recorded right.

The first thing you will notice is that paper is completely inefficient in getting this information down.

It can be done, but surely technology has provided a better answer for doing this, right?

Right. But this is where the confusion really starts in.

Do you go to Ancestry.com and do it their way? Do you go to FamilySearch.org and do it their way? Or do you use some other computer tool you don’t yet know about?

Many people stop right there in confusion.

This is a photo of the Manti Temple Dedication in 1888. Albert Smith was there, as well as other family members. Albert did his family history then, taking nearly 1400 names to the temple after it was dedicated.

But here’s what you need to know about all those things thrown around by family history geeks: None of them are the solution. They are all merely tools.

You see, your “family history” is the record you leave behind for your children and grandchildren.

Nobody can do it for you. Even if someone in your family has made huge efforts that marks much of your family genealogy and ordinance work “done” that doesn’t mean it’s really done.

Your mother or grandmother, after all, has a different family history than you do. She has a different spouse and her children come from different branches than your children.

Your siblings can’t do it for you because they have a different family history for the same reasons.

You see, family history, odd as it is to say, is not about the past – it is about the children – YOUR children and grandchildren.

Only you can do that unique history for them.

You can’t leave them a piece of paper with scribbles and guesses of your history. You need to jump into the deep end of the pool and do these three things:

Buy a family tree program. There are several out there. I’ve used Roots Magic and Legacy Family Tree. Both of them are state-of-the-art and interface with common online tools like those listed below. There are many other reputable tools out there. They will take time to learn.

Get on FamilySearch.org. Most people don’t understand what FamilySearch is. It isn’t a place to make a tree for your family. It is a place to add your information to the whole-world-family-tree they are building at FamilySearch. Everyone builds it, anyone can edit or contribute to it. This frustrates some people at first but if you understand that it exists to facilitate temple ordinance work you can see the sense in it. As new people add new records, sources and information to the profiles of each individual on the tree the record gets stronger. Overtime, FamilySearch has become an endless resource for incredible family history information and you will want your software program both feeding information to and taking information from FamilySearch.org. If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you can tie your account at LDS.org to FamilySearch and see what ordinance work has and has not been done for each person.

Get on Ancestry.com. This is the biggest commercial family history site online and it has a lot of information. Some information is great, some information is erroneous. Your mileage may vary, so I urge caution on Ancestry. If you have an LDS.org account and a FamilySearch.org account you get premium access FOR FREE FREE FREE to Ancestry. It’s not all of Ancestry’s premium features that are available to you – but most of them are. You can make a tree on Ancestry and most people do. But do NOT make Ancestry your only tree.

The thing to remember about Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org is that they and all the information they contain are on the Internet. You will not always have the Internet. You can use these resources but recognize they are just that.

Your record of YOUR family history is what you generate and distribute to your family through either computer files or printed material.

There are a billion hidden details in what I’ve described above. There’s no way to make a numbered list of steps you need to take to do your history. The point here isn’t to discuss it all, it is to just get you started.

As you begin, I encourage you to reach out to me or another Family History consultant you know (every ward has one) to help you move along. I even offer you this toll free number — 877-799-7481 — that rings my personal cell phone 24 hours a day. Call me. I’d love to talk about what you are doing and help out if I can.

Of course, there are much more than four generations to your history and there is much more than just names, dates and cemeteries to Family History.

In fact, because there is much more that is why your family history is never done.

I don’t care what Grandma did. She needs to be fact checked.

She did her best with what she had at the time but there’s so much available now that wasn’t back when she was working on it. You need to validate what those in your family past did to your family history – and correct it.

I am yet to find a person anywhere who is “done”. Family history is NEVER done. Ever. I have met many who have an admirable amount of work done. But I never have met anyone who could actually “finish” their family history in their lifetimes.

And that brings us back to being overwhelmed.

There is no escaping that feeling, folks.

I’ve been hard at this now for about 7 years and I’m more overwhelmed now than when I began.

But you don’t have to eat the whole cake.

Every effort you make to chip away at it and to leave a better record of your family than was left for you is a worthy effort.

Do the best you can. Expend the time you can. And if you’re so inclined, even put money into it.

Just do more than what you were doing before – it will be enough.

Yes, Del Shannon is a Westover

If you are of a certain age or just a fan of popular American music then you likely have heard the name Del Shannon. This was Shannon’s first big hit in 1961:

Everyone knows the song. It was, after all, a #1 Billboard hit.

But did you know the Del Shannon is actually a Westover?

Over the course of the years since we launched this site I have been asked at least a dozen times how we might be related to Del Shannon, who was actually born as Charles Weedon Westover in 1934.

I have largely dismissed the question because it most often comes from outside the family.

Shannon was famous and still has millions of fans. Sometimes they come here seeking more information about him.

I am not really interested in exploiting Shannon’s memory as an artist for the sake of family history, plus we are merely distant cousins at best.

But… when the question comes from within the family – and this time it has – I suppose the time has come to at least talk about it.

So here is the tale of how Del Shannon is actually a Westover:

If you have watched our video titled Brothers you should be familiar with the name John Westover, a grandson of Jonah Westover, Sr. from whom we all descend. This John Westover lived in Sheffield, Massachusetts where he was clerk of the local church and a prominent member of the community.

I focus on this John Westover a lot for three reasons: first, John and his wife Rachel had by far the largest family of their generation. Second, of their 12 children, 7 of them were boys – Levi, John, Job, Moses, William, Noah and Amos (our line comes through Amos). These men would do much to carry forward the Westover name in North America in many places.

Why? Well, that’s the third reason: the sons of John and Rachel Westover with all the Biblical names came of age during the American Revolution.

After the war was over they set off in seemingly all directions to explore the frontier. Today their great grandchildren are all over the world, but mostly in the U.S. and especially in Canada.

John and Rachel’s 2nd son, also named John, stayed in Sheffield, Massachusetts. All of his children with his wife Ruffus were born on the family homestead in Sheffield.

John, a farmer, and Ruffus, had seven children, the sixth born being a son named Issac.

Issac covered some ground during his life time.

When he was around the age of 24 he can be found in Connecticut where he married a woman named Polly Wales. Shortly after they married in 1798, they traveled to Quebec, where they more than likely found the beginnings of a new life near great uncle Moses Westover, who had fled to Canada after the war.

(Moses, along with brother Job, were loyalists. Even though they enlisted and served with a Colonial militia during the Revolution, opportunities in post-war Sheffield were not great for loyalists).

Anyway, Issac and Polly would have two children in Quebec before Polly passed away at the age of 23 in the year 1803. Two years later Issac would marry again, this time to a woman named Tamer Emma. Together they would have four children including a boy they named Charles Edward Westover.

Charles Edward Westover would wed a woman named Sabra Mindwell Gleason. While this couple met in New England they move their family to Haldimand Township in Ontario, Canada.

Together they had four children including a son they named Jonathan Gleason.

Jonathan Gleason Westover was a blacksmith in an area that would come to be known as Gleason’s Corner. He and his wife, Jane Rae, eventually would take their family to Michigan and would have a son they named Jonathan Gleason Westover, Jr.

JGW Jr. was a merchant for many years in the community of Nunica, Michigan and with his wife, Edith, would have 6 children including a son they named Burt Leon Westover. Jonathan Gleason Westover, from the pictures at least, is the very image of a family man:

His son, Burt, would stay in the community and become a mailman known to most in the small farming community of Coopersville. Burt Leon Westover married Leone Mosher and they had a son they named Charles Weedon Westover – who then went on to fame as Del Shannon.

Where did the name Weedon come from? Shannon’s maternal grandfather was named Weeden Henry Mosher.

Is there anything in the family history of Charles Weedon Westover that would foretell his talent for music?

Not really. His many biographies say he was taught the ukulele by his mother and that he took so passionately to the instrument that by fourteen his guitar skills were very well developed.

Shirley Westover, Shannon’s wife, would later comment that if there was anything genetic that affected the life of Del Shannon it was alcoholism.

Complicating matters for Shannon was a natural melancholy which would lead to fits of both creativity and depression. Many feel these qualities would later be an influence in his popular music.

He picked up gigs in local night clubs in Grand Rapids, married his childhood sweetheart (Shirley) in 1955 and then was drafted into the Army in 1956. While there he played in a band called the “Cool Flames”.

After his military service Charles returned to Coopersville and took different jobs in his home town.

He worked in a carpet store and was a strawberry picker for a while. At night and on weekends he continued to play with a country rock band at a local bar. Over the next several years as he grew in experience he signed a record contract and had to come up with a new name.

He adopted the name Del Shannon because Westover, he said, “had no ammunition.”

It is said the name “Del” came from a Cadillac Coupe de Ville driven by the manager of his carpet store job and “Shannon” was a wrestler name a friend wanted to adopt.

It should be noted that Shannon never completely abandoned his Westover identity. Even a 1968 album would be titled The Further Adventures of Charles Westover.

Shannon’s career foreshadowed the arrival of the Beatles by a couple of years and came after the phenomenon of Elvis. His rush to fame was no less spectacular than those artists and at times it was a bit much for the small town artist, Chuck Westover (as we he was known locally). All of it was overwhelming.

In fact, his history notes that when he made it big he returned home to a mixed welcome by the community. He had many supporters but the town mayor wasn’t one of them. They just were not yet sure about rock ‘n roll in Coopersville, Michigan.

Del Shannon would go on to a storied music career, ending up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. Despite his success Shannon would eventually succumb to his depression when he died by suicide in 1990.

In tracing the genealogy of Charles Weeden Westover I noticed that the recorded histories of his parents and grandparents dating all the way back to John Westover in Sheffield around 1775 is pretty scarce. There is a lot of work to be done there.

I suspect, as with all of us, the story of Del Shannon cannot be fully understood until the life experiences of his ancestors can be fully discovered.

True Love and Plural Marriage

It is the time of year when my mind wanders to the beautiful cemeteries of Cache Valley. In the years I have lived here I have learned to love these sacred places and the memories of those who rest in peace here.

I logged on to Family Search this week not expecting to learn of another family member buried nearby.

My feed on Family Search showcased newly uploaded photos of one Anna Clark Hale, who rests now in the cemetery in Preston, Idaho – just about 20 miles north of where I now reside.

But is she really family? Well, yes…and no.

(I’m claiming her anyway and this year I will bring her flowers, too).

Anna Clark is listed on Family Search as the fourth wife of James Chauncey Snow – my fourth great grandfather through the Snow line.

James Chauncey Snow was the son of Gardner Snow, who joined the Church very early.

By the time James was around 40 years of age he found himself to be a stake president in Provo, Utah.

This is where he met and allegedly married Anna Clark in March of 1857. She was just 16 years old.

To the uninformed, this seems a very odd and even disturbing thing.

What business does a 40-year old man have marrying a 16 year old girl? And yet, there it is, a footnote for both of these 19th century people in our family tree.

I decided to check it out.

After all, Anna Clark was the first of many women in our tree who married at precisely that same time.

~ Lots of Marrying Going On ~

I will leave the history and the debate of the Mormon practice of plural marriage to the experts. For the purposes of this discussion, I only want to point out the facts as it relates to our family in the 19th century.

The fact remains that between September of 1856 and September of 1857 a great number of our ancestors married and many of them were in plural spouse situations.

Ann Findley (age 17), fresh after arriving by handcart from Scotland in September 1856, married Edwin Westover in February 1857. Edwin was 33 years old.

His brother, Charles Westover, took Mary Shumway (age 21) to wife the same month.

It wasn’t just the very young who married either.

Albert Smith married Sophie Petersen, age 34 and already a mother to 7 children, as his 2nd wife in Manti, Utah.

The Denmark-born Ane Marie Jensen (age 24) married Samuel Barnhurst around the same time.

Even James Chauncey Snow entered into plural marriage around this time. Although already married to Eliza Ann Carter for 18 years in February 1856 he married Lydia Chadwick (age 38) and in December of that same year he married Jane Cecelia Roberts (age 20). (It was from this union with Jane Cecelia Roberts that we descend).

So why all the marrying?

And why did all the plural marriage arrangements listed above endure — except for James C. Snow and Anna Clark?

~ The Mormon Reformation ~

Each of the individuals listed above were caught up in the trials and times of Utah Territory and specifically in LDS church history during the years of 1855-1857. It is a complicated tale.

The years 1847 and 1848 were the years of the first Mormon immigrants in the territory. We know well their struggle for survival those first few years. They lived in forts, tents and wagons as they scratched out a desperate existence in the desert valley of the Great Salt Lake.

The gold rush of 1849 brought visitors, cash, supplies and new immigrants to the valley.

As they came and stayed, or came and passed through, the valley prospered. Farms were established, new settlements were explored, and the desert slowly began to “blossom as a rose”.

In fact, after the drama of the seagulls, and the first walls of territorial forts went up, there came an eventual and steady kind of rugged prosperity to Utah Territory.

Winters were harsh but leaders continually encouraged industry and the people began to thrive.

But the years of 1854 and 1855 brought drought and famine – and things got a little rough.

As church leaders juggled concerns with Indians, the food supply, and a steady stream of immigrants they began to feel a lacking of the faith of the people.

Starting in the spring of 1856 they began to call the people of Utah to repentance.

This period of time is now known as the Mormon Reformation.

A great deal has been written about this time frame and what I share here is not meant to displace anything put out there by historians.

I only mention the Mormon Reformation in context of the individuals listed above and how this time frame affected their choices – and thus our very existence as their offspring.

With this call to repentance came an invitation to be re-baptized and to earnestly seek living the higher laws of the gospel.

One of those laws was plural marriage.

Again, I’ll leave it to the historians to lay out all the facts of how plural marriage came about in the Church. It was practiced on a very limited basis in Nauvoo but was not revealed to the world at large, including most of the Church membership, until 1852.

Even then, only a very small percentage of church members were engaged in the practice — until the Mormon Reformation of 1856-57.

Just as many – such as Electa Westover – rushed to the waters for re-baptism, so too did many apply to practice plural marriage – including all the people listed above – and also allegedly including James C. Snow, the 40 year old Stake President of Provo and Anna Clark, the 16 year old pioneer girl from Provo.

~ But what about love? ~

The story of Anna Clark and her family is typical. Her parents joined the church in the 1830s, experienced persecution for their faith everywhere they went and eventually found their way to Nauvoo.

There they saw their family split up as two older brothers soon joined the Mormon Battalion and the rest of her large family had to make their way across the plains after a difficult experience at Winter Quarters.

They made it to Utah after some trial and loss (three of the Anna’s siblings died on the way) and settled in the Provo area.

As a teenager in the Provo area during the 1850s Anna had an active experience mixing church and family. As was typical, she was engaged in the work of survival with the rest of her family.

When she was thirteen years old a boy two years older than her came to work the family farm over the course of a summer.

For hours they would herd, tend and milk cows, often “talking love” after they came to know each other. They had a small book they hid in a tree that they would use to trade messages with each other.

According to her memoir Ann and this fifteen year old boy pledged to marry each other once they were old enough to do so.

For the next several years she kept tabs on her beau, even though she came to understand that her parents were not keen on him.

They thought Solomon Hale “too wild” for their young Anna.

There were reasons aplenty for parents to safeguard their daughters. While Solomon Hale was just a teenager himself he was far from the only concern for the parents of Ann Clark.

In fact, there was real danger for nearly all young women in the territory.

“Keeping the women safe” was more than a motto after the depredations of Missouri.

In fact, between the hostile natives and the ever-shifting immigrant population of Utah it was observed by many that the overall population of Utah kept their women folk well protected.

But for young Anna Clark it was set in her mind just where her future would lie – and with whom. She was, after all, in love.

~ The Three Phases of the Mormon Reformation ~

According to historians, there were three phases of the Mormon Reformation.

Over the summer of 1856 Brigham Young and other church leaders traveled the different settlements in the territory preaching repentance and encouraging the congregations to elevate their spiritual lives.

When this effort didn’t seem to achieve the desired results a 2nd phase of the Reformation began that “rained down pitchforks” on the Latter-day Saints. Many historians call it a period of hellfire and damnation preaching in Mormon church meetings.

They called upon the Saints to improve their homes, lots and farms. They encouraged better church attendance. They discouraged excessive singing and dancing and encouraged more frequent prayers. They wanted the Saints to “wake up” spiritually.

The 3rd phase of the Reformation really began at the October General Conference of the Church when Brigham Young stopped the proceedings to organize the rescue of the handcart companies still out on the plains.

It took nearly two months to bring them in and the whole experience tempered the Reformation movement, giving it a gentler tone and an emphasis on compassion.

This time of compassionate messaging led to an increase in plural marriages. This was, after all, a season for marrying for pragmatic reasons.

For example, Sophie Petersen was a single mother member of the Willie Handcart Company who had four of her surviving children to care for when she arrived penniless in Utah.

She needed a husband and needed one quickly. Albert Smith raised his hand in response to the call as one who would be willing to marry her.

The same was true of Ane Marie Jensen, who arrived from Denmark during this period. When she was introduced to Samuel Barnhurst during a church meeting they couldn’t even converse due to the language barrier.

Women of these situations were placed in plural wife arrangements because there simply were few eligible single men — and no time – for them to court.

But even the younger women like Ann Findley, Mary Shumway, and, yes – Anna Clark – were in demand from those older men who were eager to show an increase in their faithfulness through plural marriage.

These young women likewise were willing participants in the call to greater obedience. Love of God had far more to do with it than anything else.

~ On the March ~

The Mormon Reformation soon ran out of steam, however, due to a new crisis in the territory.

In the summer of 1857 – while celebrating 10 years in the valley – Brigham Young and the Saints learned of the march of Johnston’s army.

This event affected nearly every community in the territory.

Anna Clark – now supposedly married to President James Chauncey Snow of the Provo, Utah Stake – knew it better than anyone. Anna wrote:

“…The Saints were all ordered by President Brigham Young, those living in Salt Lake City and all the settlements north and west, to leave their homes and move southward, which they did as soon as spring opened, settling mostly in the Provo area.

So, when Johnston lead his army through Salt Lake City, last of June, he found it deserted. But history tells this story.

However, history doesn’t tell the story of thousands of girls who lived through it all like I did.

I was 17 in April of that year, and it’s easy to remember how the Saints came flocking into Provo by the thousands, pitching their tents, camping in covered wagon-beds on the ground, throwing together make-shift log cabins, etc – many going on to Springville and parts near-by.

I want to tell you that this was a time when we girls had to stay close to home, and never be caught out alone anywhere.

Johnston’s Army set up what looked like a rather permanent encampment west of where the town of Lehi is now situated, which they named Camp Floyd. And the officers and soldiers were coming into our town thick as bees and were hot after the girls….”

Interestingly the memoir of Anna Clark fails to ever mention her sealing to President James Chauncey Snow around this time.

In fact, James Chauncey Snow’s history fails to mention her either.

So where did this phantom polygamous marriage of a 16 year old pioneer girl to a 40 year old Stake President come from?

~ Family Stories Lacking Evidence ~

Both James C. Snow and Anna Clark Hale have on their profile pages of Family Search a tie to each other, dating from March 13, 1857.

The note there says that according to a history written by a great-granddaughter, Myrlene Snow Woodbury, James Chauncey Snow and Anna Clark were married in his office in Provo, Utah.

The marriage supposedly lasted six years, resulted in no children, and dissolved when Anna divorced James and married Solomon Hale.

In fact, the history purportedly states that James Chauncey Snow went to prison because of this union, incarcerated for living polygamy.

But there are no other sources than this written history. There are no official records of the marriage.

I’m torn about it all.

Without any kind of records – or mention in their personal writings about each other – I’m inclined to doubt this ever happened.

However, Myrlene Snow Woodbury was no slouch as a family historian.

Her work in the history of the Snow family is something of legend. While she didn’t source this story it is clear that she had heard this story from someone.

While I will as a matter of interest continue to pursue evidence, either for or against this story, I fear there is no way in this life we can know the truth of the matter.

However, with perfect hindsight that comes from people dead now for more than a century, we do know the rest of the story.

And the story is this: both James Chauncey Snow and Anna Clark Hale were incredible people, even if their lives only crossed each other briefly.

~ Who was James Chauncey Snow? ~

James Chauncey SnowJames Chauncey Snow was the son of Gardner and Sarah Snow, early converts to the LDS faith. He was baptized in to the church as a 16 year old. When he was 19 he served a mission in the New England states and received a Patriarchal blessing under the hands of Joseph Smith Sr. in Kirtland, Ohio in 1837.

He married Eliza Ann Carter in 1838, traveled to Missouri and eventually settled in Nauvoo, where he became a member of the Nauvoo Legion.

He remained active in the Church and even in local politics. He was away on another mission when the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum were martyred. He left Nauvoo with his family in 1846 and made it as far as Council Bluffs, where they remained in 1852. He then captained his own company, arriving in the fall of 1852 and settling in Provo in 1853, where he was called to serve as Stake President.

While in this position James C. Snow also served as a member of the territorial legislature and as a United States deputy marshal. He was also elected as a surveyor of Utah County.

As Stake President, there is no doubt that when visiting church authorities came to preach in church congregations near Provo that James C. Snow was there. He likely heard more of the preaching than the average person. The call to increased faithfulness surely impacted him as well.

Perhaps that is why, with the permission of his wife Eliza Carter Snow, he entered into the practice of plural marriage to Lydia Chadwick in February of 1856.

Little is known of this union and proof of it happening as well is scarce. Again, this is a matter of dated family history written in the early 20th century. Perhaps his marriage to Lydia was one of material support, as was common for widowers and older women without husbands.

No children came of this union and official records of Lydia and what became of her are scarce.

In December 1856 James married Jane Cecelia Roberts, a local girl nearly 20 years younger than he.

Jane Cecelia RobertsJane was the daughter of Horace Roberts, who was famously the potter of Nauvoo and later one of the first potters in Utah territory. Jane’s journey of a plural wife showcases yet another situation where there was some wisdom in practice.

She originally married in 1852 to a man named Thomas Wheeler. Together they had two children before Thomas abandoned her.

James married Jane in 1856 and would have 11 more children with her. Jane was a devote wife and, like her husband, was absolutely invested in her Mormon faith. Their children lived well into the 20th century and built a legacy of love and faith.

A surviving letter exists that historians say likely dates from the early 1880s between James Chauncey Snow and his first wife, Eliza. He was evidently incarcerated at this time.

“My dear companion . . . to think of your lonesome hours—your sorrow and sighing torn from friends and home—deprived of liberty—it destroys all my happiness. . . . If it was in my power I would decree all the [United States] soldiers so far back to hell that they would never find their way out. . . . I feel like standing up and defending Mormonism all the day long.”

~ What ever happened Anna Clark? ~

In 1863 Anna Clark got her wish and married her true love, Solomon Hale.

Together they would raise eight children while pioneering in far Northern Utah.

It seems that Ann was destined to marry a busy and influential man. Solomon, despite the fears of Ann’s parents, settled down to an adventurous, productive and distinguished life.

Perhaps he was classed as “too wild” while a young man due to his love of horses and his skills with livestock. As a young man Sol partnered with the largest stockman in Utah and learned the cattle trade. Later he took a job breaking horses for the Pony Express Company.

After Sol and Ann married they settled Bear Lake where Sol bought land in nearby Liberty. He worked to expand his herds and within a few years became very successful.

As he grew in influence he began to take on larger roles in the communities where they lived. He served as a Bishop in Idaho before he was called by the Church to be the superintendent over the construction of the Oneida Stake Academy at Preston.

There the family became deeply embedded in the community where Solomon later became a counselor in the Stake Presidency and later the Mayor of Preston.

Ann HaleAnna Hale likewise was a prominent individual in the communities where they lived. Aside from church service and raising her children Ann served as the community doctor and midwife whose services were in constant demand. She would never accept pay for her services.

The level of love and service Ann rendered to others was recognized by many. When she died in 1914 President Joseph F. Smith sent Apostle Orson F. Whitney to speak at her funeral.

Ironically, Ann had to make the decision whether or not her husband would enter into plural marriage. This he did in 1873 when he married Jane Clark Bollwinkel – Ann’s sister. Jane had lost her husband a few years before and he had lost a business that left their family deep in debt and saw Jane and her children working at the Utah Woolen Mill.

For their decision to marry into polygamy the Hales – Solomon, Ann and Jane were regularly harassed by federal authorities and lived in constant fear.

~ Honoring the Plural Relationships ~

There is a tendency with modern historians and casual observers of Mormon polygamy to whitewash the real conditions during the latter half of the 19th century. Mormon men are often depicted as cruel abusers and sex fiends while Mormon women engaged in polygamous relationships were thought of as weak, subservient and unprincipled.

While there no doubt existed abusive relationships among some polygamous peoples we see almost none of that evident in the polygamous relationships of our ancestors.

Edwin Westover had two faithful wives who, due to his church service, lived most of their days almost as single mothers – raising children and running farms. Both Sarah and Ann Westover lived for years after Edwin died, true to their end in their covenants with him and with God.

In fact, the plural marriages among the Westovers, Smiths and Snows seemed to produce rare levels of love.

The unexpected marriage of Albert Smith to Sophie Petersen not only brought children to their legacy but also years of temple worship and boundless examples of forgiveness and family service.

Both Ane Marie Jensen and Samuel Barnhurst were rejected of their families – people they deeply loved – because of their faith. They built a life together after starting as complete strangers who couldn’t even converse. Was it faith that destroyed their family past? Or was it faith that built a forever family?

For those who struggle with the reality of plural marriage in Church history I would encourage that you study not only the histories of those who engaged in it but also study the histories of their children. You will witness an elevated understanding of not only faith but also of love.

Note: Several months ago in preparation for a lesson at Church I stumbled upon a record of a vision about the afterlife given to a man named Heber Hale. It’s quite a read. Then a few weeks ago I started working on this connection between James C. Snow and Anna Hale. I couldn’t help but wonder if Heber and Anna were related. They are. She is his mother.