Bridging the Past is on vacation this week so won’t be posting other than to ask you to ponder the following questions:

What kind of vacations did your ancestors take (day trips became popular towards the end of the 19th century)?

Do trips to see extended family count as a vacation?

How do vacations today differ?

Have you written about your favorite family vacations?

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Writing family history narratives

I was recently asked to participate in a writers blog tour to showcase the blogs of writers from a variety of genres. I decided that the questions we were to answer as part of the tour were best featured on my personal blog, but it did inspire me to think about writing for this blog as well. We will be taking a short break from Levi Savage and Indian depredations claims to think about writing up our findings.

One relevant question from the blog tour is “Why do I write what I write?” From a genealogy/social history perspective, the answer to that question dictates how and what we will write. If it is to engage family members who may not be interested in genealogy, a narrative is a good choice. It is even better if pictures, memorabilia and relevant documents are included. And it is best if social history is included, including pictures of fashions of the time, pictures of the neighborhood, etc. if those can be found.

One of my friends epublished a book about her grandmother that was about 150 pages. She used digital scrapbooking software to create the book. Each page was split into two columns to help break up the text and to allow inclusion of pictures and documents. She included her grandmother’s personal history as well as family memories and stories as her text. She included census documents, pictures of her grandmother and her home and surroundings, and even a menu from the diner that her grandfather owned. It was chock full of information, but was fun to read and the pictures and documents were there for those who were interested.

What tools or techniques have you used when writing family history narratives?

Posted in Getting Started in Social History, Writing | 4 Comments

Indian depredations claims Part I

The National Archives in DC very quickly turned around my request for a copy of the file that Levi submitted with details about his Indian depredation claims. I first looked to see what he claimed and what he was awarded.

His original claims, and the documents presented to the court don’t exactly match, but they are close.

Claimed Levi’s Claimed value Court records
13 cows $30 each ($390) $450
1 calf $10 $10
6 yearling cattle $11 each ($66) $66
9 2 year olds $16 each ($144) $162
Yoke of oxen $50 each ($100) Not mentioned
19 young steers $28 each ($532) $532
2 horses $75 each ($150) $150
Carriage & saddle horse $200 $200
20 acres of land with improvements $600 $600
30 acres of land with improvements $725 $725
Fort with a house $600 $500
Corral $100 Not mentioned
Crops $300 $300
Total $3917 $3695

The petition includes a notarized deposition by Levi Savage and two witnesses, a response by somebody in the government or court system which concludes the entire petition is based on unsupported evidence and testimony (incompetent is a favorite word), and the final court judgment (a lower value for the lifestock, no award for any of the land, improvements or crops).

The deposition is several typed pages and goes into a fair amount of detail, which will be discussed in more depth in the next post.

Posted in daily life, Indian depredations | 2 Comments

Daily Life in southern Utah in the late 1800s

I have been reading the transcription of Levi Savage’s diary and am amazed at the amount of bartering that goes on. In hindsight I shouldn’t be surprised because it was on the frontier. I was also surprised at the amount of odd jobs that he did. In the census he gives his occupation at various times as laborer, gardener, dairyman. He really was a jack of all trades. At this point he was in his mid 50s.

Examples of bartering from January 1877:

Jan 4: “Ford let me have some cloth for my wool”
Jan 11 “Ford finishing paying me for my wool” [perhaps in cash or other goods?]
Jan 17: “I soled 860 feet of lumber to Burton Kimble for $5.00 per hundred..”
Jan 19: “I hawled the remainder…Kimble paid me $25 and gave me a note..for the remaining $18. I also got of C. Stapley an order of Foresythe for $6.37 for ditch work”
Jan 22: “Wife got 8 lbs Butter of Bryron Boundy. Pay fruit and bread for it.”

He also spent a lot of time tracking down people who owed him money/goods and was not all that successful in receiving payment.

Examples of work he writes about in January 1877:Jan 3: drove cows to be butchered
Jan 4: sold wool that his household produces
Jan 16, 23, 31 : got a load of wood
Jan 22, 26, 27: mended shoes
Jan 25: “worked about home”

In January he also mentions attending several church meetings, at least one town meeting and a few socials.

Pick a month or year in your ancestor’s life and think about what their daily life was like. You may not be lucky enough to have a diary, but you can look at the diaries of people who were in similar circumstances and make a guess.


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Asking Questions of your Documents


I recently attended a weeklong workshop on analyzing historic cookbooks. We studied a variety of cookbooks from England and America from the 1400s to the early 1900s. Barbara Wheaton, a noted cookbook historian, designed the workshop as an independent study workshop. Each day we had a theme (ingredients, workspace and tools, etc.) and were to carefully study the cookbook assigned for that day to ask questions such as: where did the ingredients come from: the local marketplace, the garden or other domestic setting, or hunting? Where they imported? What role did seasonality play in when ingredients would be available (and how did this change from the 1400s to the 1900s)? How long would it take to prepare the ingredients? Did the chicken come ready to drop into the pot or did it need to be killed, defeathered (I’m not a farmer–I’m sure there is an appropriate term for this!) and then put into the pot? I was surprised at how much I learned from listening to my fellow workshop members report on their assigned cookbook and how they asked questions of the cookbook and the interpretations and conclusions they arrived at after careful study.

The same applies to genealogy. As an example, let’s take a closer look at the newspaper article that started me asking more questions about Levi Savage. The article was pulled from the Library of Congress Historical Newspapers section (a wonderful resource) and was published on February 14, 1899 in the Salt Lake Herald (pg 6).

SL Feb 14 1899

Several questions comes immediately to mind. Why are all these claims before the government? Was there a new act put into place by Congress or some other government entity that invited claims? If so, why? What made one eligible to receive a claim? Just what were these “Indian depredations”? When did they occur? I thought that in the late 1800s Toquerville was a pretty safe place to be–could it be from sometime before he moved to Toquerville in the 1860s, or perhaps from the early years living in Toquerville? What other questions would you ask just by reviewing this newspaper article?

The next set of questions are what leads to a research plan.What do I want to know? I want to know the details of the claim, as well as the circumstances that led to the claim, including when the incidents supposedly took place. I would also like to acknowledge that there are at least two sides to this story and I want to learn more about the history and what the Native Americans were doing (and what the whites were doing to them) at this time.

Then I ask what additional sources can I examine? Are there resources, such as records and/or employees at the National Archives that could help me figure this out? What about family records? Maybe using the Serial Set of Congressional Records? In terms of learning about the general history I could start with my local library and see what they have. Since I live in Boston and the events occurred in Utah, they may not have much. I can also turn to local university libraries, or to repositories such as New England Historic Genealogical Society.

As you may know from previous posts I already have some hints. Levi’s son writes in his autobiography about losses due in part to Indian raids in the 1860s in Millard County in Utah. I have found some mentions of Levi’s claims in the Serial Set, and have a contact at NARA who is an expert on anything involving Native Americans and the government that I can email when I pull things together. I have yet to put together a true research plan. That will be my next post.

In the meantime, please let me know what questions you would ask of this document, and which questions you have asked of documents you came across in your research, and where finding the answers to those questions led you.

Posted in Levi Savage, Repositories, Research Strategies, Resources | 1 Comment

Genealogy and history conferences: Advantageous to your social history research

On Monday I went to the annual Mass History Conference. The theme was “Never Done!: Interpreting the History of Women at Work in Massachusetts”. The theme intrigued me, but I mostly went for the networking. The conference was held at Holy Cross College in Worcester. It is beautiful.


I have picked up so many wonderful tidbits from networking at various genealogy and history events, as well as from groups and friends on Facebook and Twitter. This conference was no different.

I sat next to 2 city archivists from Gloucester and told them about my thesis research. They
gave me some wonderful ideas for future research after I have completed my thesis.


Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was the keynote speaker and mentioned that Harvard had just released a free online EdX course about material culture. I signed up and am auditing it.


Quite a few people came-we filled the ballroom at Holy Cross College in Worcester.


The best part for me though was what came after a panel discussion on archival resources for women’s research. One of the panelists was from the National Archives. She brought some really fun things, including pictures of women lumberjacks in the 1930s and government records for the Von Trapp family (Sound of Music). I mentioned the Indian depredations records I had found in the US Serial Set for Levi Savage and she gave me the email address for another NARA employee who knows everything about Congressional records and government records related to Indians. She is not in the Boston or DC office, so I may never have found her if I hadn’t been networking. I am pulling together everything and will then email her.

One of the afternoon seminars was a readers theater about women, illness and death in the 1800s. It was amazing and I thought about new ways to use records and to get others interested in the research I am doing. Have you considered a readers theater to share family history stories with your family?

I have stumbled across so many wonderful resources and ideas through networking. I found the manuscript I am using as the primary source document for my thesis through networking. I have made wonderful friends through networking.

Which conference or other means of networking will you participate in?

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Indian depredations from his son’s view

I am slowly going through Levi’s diary looking for mentions of the Indian depredations and his request to the government for reimbursement. Once I have gone through the entire diary, I will post all the mentions. There is no surviving diary of the early 1860s in which the events occurred.

However, his son Levi M, who was 10-15 years old at the time has left an account in his remembrances and life history (originally transcribed and typed in the 1930s as part of the Federal Works Progress Administration and further edited by Lynn Hilton in 1955).

The following are of note:

When others left, Levi bought $1000 worth of land, which he eventually had to leave. Although it was resettled, he never received payment for the land. This may well be the bulk of the money Levi was asking for restitution. The remainder would be any additional land that he owned, improvements he made upon the land,  and the stock that was lost.

Levi M thought Toquerville a “miserable poor place” (although earlier he refers to it as a “pleasant winter resort”)

His views towards Native Americans were decidedly white-centric (probably most other settlers had similar views), and reading between the lines of what is below and some additional paragraphs I did not post, we can see that he thinks his culture and religion is superior to that of the Native Americans.

“In the fall of 1863 we moved our stock to Kanab in Kane County U.T. and the women folds remained here—-Toquerville—-during the winter. In the spring the women folks joined us on the ranch at Kanab, but returned to Toquerville to spend the winter. Thus we had a good farm and ranch for to produce our living upon, and although it was upon the frontiers, yet the numerous Indians of that region—the Pieedes—appeared to be perfectly harmless and friendly. And Toquerville afforded us a pleasant winter resort among refined company. In consequence of the scarcity of water, seven out of the first fourteen settlers at Kanab became discouraged and sold their claims and improvements to father in July 1864. He paid them something near 1000 dollars for their claims in stock. This together with the improvements that he had made for himself he lost entirely in the Indian difficulties that followed. And not standing Kanab had been resettled since he lost it yet he has never received any remuneration for his property that the new settlers are using. In the fall of 1865 the Indians became somewhat troublesome in the Kanab country. The true cause of this change in their actions I have never been able to discover. But those who resided there became somewhat troublesome in the Kanab country. The true cause of this change in their actions I have never been able to discover. But those who resided there became saucy and commenced killing cattle upon the range. Never before had we seen anything like this aggravating policy in them, and if they had before killed cattle it was upon a very small scale and not found out.

Soon after our arrival at Kanab, while I and an old man by the name of Strong were the only white persons there, a party of Navajo Indians passed by and drove off a herd of horses among which were two of father’s. But we were not more molested nor our stock until the fall of 1865, as above stated. The Indians could not plead that we were penurious with them, for we employed them and paid them provisions and clothing, plowed their land for them, loaned them farming tools and showed them how to cultivate their land, and, during the summer of 1865, father gave to them one whole beef and one sheep for a feast. In the difficulties that followed, our home Indians, the Pieeds claimed to take no part, but said the depredations were committed by the Navajos from the South side of the Colorado River: and to be sure they—the Pieedes—were not actually caught in any of the troubles, still circumstantial evidences were strong against them so much so that some fifteen of them were killed during the winter of 65—6 by our people who found them with stolen property such as, skins of sheep and cattle, money, pocket knives & belonging to persons who had been killed by Indians, or had lost property by their depredations. They probably assisted the Navajos to say the least. The raids were made invariably in a dark of the moon. Generally the thieves would visit a ranch in the night, pillage the yards and stables and gather stock from the range. Thus they would secure several hours the start of their pursuers, and they drove the stolen animals so rapidly that they generally succeeded in their scandalous enterprises. But when overtaken they would simply leave the stock and scamper into their houses, but if they found one or two men traveling upon the range or the road they did not hesitate to take their lives. This made it extremely dangerous for anybody to be out alone. So we were obliged to be very careful. I have rode many days upon the range alone, but I supposed that I did not cross their path and so they did not molest me. They made their first strike at the Pairhiea, the outer settlement; next they made a raid at Kanab; next at Pipe Springs; Dr. Whitmore’s ranch and succeeded in murdering the Doctor and a hired man, Robert McIntyre, who were out upon the cattle range.

The Indians always crossed the Colorado River with their plunder. Early in the fall at a general Conference at St. George, the conditions of these frontiers were discussed, and the Priesthood there sent some of the brethren to these outer settlements counsel was generally complied with by concentrating at Kanab and Long Valley. In the spring of ’66 by counsel all concentrated at Long Valley, and a few days after our arrival there the Indians following up, made another raid in which they took the last horse my father had. At this time they killed two men and one woman by the name of Berry. Our women folks had not spent this winter in Toquerville, because the counsel was for all to remain at Kanab, so they had their share of the excitement. Soon after we got our crops in at Long Valley, counsel came again for us to move into the interior totally.

So having been harassed several months by Indians losing our land and improvements at both places, besides a great amount of stock we found ourselves at Toquerville in the month of July 1866, glad that our lives had been sparred. Father, being completely tired of frontier life, determined to settle in this miserable poor spot—Toquerville, and let somebody else go onto the borders. So he let what stock—-cattle he had to Wm. Maxwell who took them to Spring Valley, in Eastern Nevada. Father sold what sheep he had left, and we commenced to improve a small portion of land that he had bought there. He had resided here ever since and has a good little vineyard and orchard and a comfortable home, but I have not been here constantly as I shall here after record. During the summer time the Indians did not trouble much except to kill one man who was out upon an exploring expedition with Capt. James Andrus. Some thought the Indian war over.”

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