January 8, 2013
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New Year’s Resolutions
By Chris Kelly
Okay, I admit it; I have an addiction…. to Ancestry.com. Last year I finally broke down and purchased a membership. I have used it for researching my own family tree, but I primarily use it to research people who lived in the town of Schaghticoke.
So, I guess New Year’s is a time to resolve to try to break addictions, but instead I will resolve to continue to pry into the lives of people who lived in our town in the past. The history of our country was made by primarily by the small actions of individuals, and the more I can find out about them, the deeper our knowledge about the town and its development.
For the past months, I have been trying to find out all I can about the men from Schaghticoke who fought in the U.S. Civil War. Ancestry.com digitized the original record cards kept by New York State on all of the men who served in its regiments, and the pension cards created by the U.S. government for all those who applied- soldiers and their widows. Using those documents plus some others, I have been able to find out quite a lot about some of the men. And sometimes what I find is not about the Civil War at all, but so revelatory about either the people or their society.
I’ll just give a couple of examples. First is one that really doesn’t relate to Schaghticoke, but is so much fun… I was trying to find out about a man named Patrick Joice, who showed up in the 1865 census in Schaghticoke. I looked at a Joice family in the city of Troy in 1860, trying to find where Patrick had come from. As I scanned the handwritten census page, I noticed that the occupation of a number of women in the “family” above the Joices on the list was….prostitute! Amazingly, the “head of household”, William Hunter, a 54 year old Irishman, had “keeps house of prostitution” as his occupation. Eight women, ranging in age from 17 to 16, had prostitute as their occupation. The house, which was listed in the 1860 Troy directory as a saloon, was at the corner of Liberty and Hill Street in Troy, a rough part of town. Doing some research, I found that prostitution didn’t become illegal until well in to the 20th century.
Just one more example… I researched a man named Edward Pinkham, who died in Schaghticoke in 1905. He was in a New Hampshire Regiment during the Civil War, after which his family moved to Schaghticoke, where his father James was superintendent of the woolen factory. The first surprise in researching him was to find a full-length photo of him as a young lieutenant in the war online. The second surprise was that though I knew that the family was in Schaghticoke from about 1870 through the mid-20th century, I found that Edward and his younger brother Herbert went to Abilene, Kansas, about 1878, to open a grocery store. Abilene would have been on the frontier at that time. Wild Bill Hickock was Marshall of the rowdy town in 1871. I’m not sure what happened, but though they were in Abilene in 1880, the Pinkham brothers were back in Schaghticoke by the time of Herbert’s untimely death at age 29 in 1881. That foray to the Wild West certainly gives a new dimension to our thoughts about the Pinkham family.
So, look for more detailed information about the ordinary people of our town, Schaghticoke, in my columns over the course of the New Year. And Happy New Year to you all!