Cool Stuff You Can Find in City Directories

It’s been awhile since I checked out Fold3 (formerly Footnote), so today I explored the site again to see what new records were available. The site is geared toward military records, but they also have some other choice items. I stumbled across the section for city directories and thought I’d look into Wisconsin and Minnesota for towns I’m researching. I wasn’t expecting much since most websites I explore don’t have the places and timeframes in which I’m interested.

Well, today I was in luck! City directories were available for St. Paul, Minnesota during the 1860s and 1870s! I had looked at a handful of directories from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City several years ago, but Fold3 had a few extra ones.

St. Paul Directory for 1867, vol 3 (St. Paul, MN: Bailey & Wolfe Publishers, 1867) 83, FHL Film 1377507.

One item I totally forgot about from my SLC trip was a nice little ad for Joe’s mom, Jemima, advertising her millinery skills. After her husband, Samuel, died in 1859, she took up her former hat-making trade to support her young family. This ad from 1867 was a great gem confirming her continued work. Researching women is often challenging since it can be difficult to find evidence of a woman’s existence and contribution to her family and society. Check directories for women’s names, you just might find out your ancestor owned her own shop!

While you are looking through the directories for family names, don’t forget to make a note of what someone did for a living. You might be able to glean a few more details if you find out about someone’s trade or who their employer was.

St. Paul Directory for 1869 (St. Paul, MN: Ketchum-Crawford Publishers, 1869) 178, FHL Film 1377507.

William S. Peck, Joe’s step-father, was listed as a painter in the 1869 St. Paul directory.(1) It only listed his work address as 18 W Fourth. I could have stopped there, but when I looked up painting companies in the trade listings, the only business at that address was  Beck, Roberts & Co.(2) My patience finally paid off as I scrolled through EVERY page, and I found an ad for Beck, Roberts & Co. describing the type of painting work the company offered. If I didn’t take the extra time to dig a little deeper to try and answer a few simple questions, I would have missed the wonderful addition to William’s story.

Take your time looking through city directories, you just might be surprised what you find. Directories are often a wealth of local history with biographies, the history of the town’s founding, maps, street listing, information about local government, elected officials, businesses, churches, schools, and fraternal organizations…just to name a few. Make sure you don’t forget to add these fantastic sources to your research plan!

(1) St. Paul Directory for 1869 (St. Paul, MN: Ketchum-Crawford Publishers, 1869) 137.
(2) St. Paul Directory for 1869 (St. Paul, MN: Ketchum-Crawford Publishers, 1869) 223.


Research Update…FINALLY!

Since January of this year I have been side-tracked from Joe research. A new job will do that to you! I scored an awesome job at the University of Colorado Heritage Center as the new Outreach Coordinator. I’m doing research, writing, exhibit development, educational programs, etc., all about CU’s history. Besides getting to do what I love everyday, I also have a small, but great office on the third floor of Old Main, the original university building. Joe took quite a few photos of this fabulous structure.

Courtesy of Carnegie Branch Library for Local History. Boulder Historical Society Collection, S-2888

Trying to juggle a new job, finish up freelance research projects, get a small educational workshop business going, and just typical day-to-day living has kept me away from Joe. But no more!

I have been actively  jumping into the deep end again! Woohoo! I have my stacks of folders out, I’m entering info into spreadsheets, making an outline for an article, re-evaluating all the materials I’ve been collecting the last few years, transcribing records left and right, and contacting archives. I’m finally getting a plan together…again.

I’m thrilled to visit the Boulder History Museum‘s storage facility tomorrow to look at some of Joe’s paintings! Before becoming a photographer, Joe learned his trade of illustrating, sign painting and graining from his step-father William Peck. It appears that when he arrived in Boulder he also took on the trade of paper hanging and occasionally produced custom oil paintings.

According to a 1958 Daily Camera article by Forest Crossen, Joe’s son, Samuel, donated seven on his dad’s paintings to the Boulder History Museum. Five are described in the article: three Boulder Canyon scenes and two biblical subjects. I’m not sure what to expect as far as quality. His illustrations range from rough and sketchy to having wonderfully soft details, quite a dramatic difference, so I’m expecting something similar for his oil paintings.

I have also come across several early newspaper articles describing some of Joe’s artwork. His pieces ranged from illustrations which were published in national illustrated papers such as New York’s Graphic, Day’s Doings, Hearth and Home and Illustrated News, to some custom 9×12 foot paintings of ancient Babylon and Rome for Dr. Perry, a professor of ancient History at the university. Anyone who has researched early Boulder history will be familiar with Joe’s style as many of the building sketches in early city directories are his.

On the other end of the research spectrum, I think I have located one of Joe’s surviving descendants! Through public records, obituaries, and I have located one of his great-grand children. I’m hoping to contact this person soon. Hopefully this individual is cooperative and has interest in sharing details about their family history. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Road Trippin’ to South Dakota – Searching for William Peck at Old Fort Sully (Part 2)

So my trip to Pierre and the South Dakota State Archives wasn’t as thrilling as I hoped on the research end of things. The Archives was fabulous, but records they had for Fort Sully weren’t terribly exciting or in depth.  I think part of the problem is that the first Fort Sully only stood for three years so there is little information about it.

The most exciting find at the Archives was a hand-drawn illustration of the fort by Private William S. Peck himself! Yes, “my” William! I will be ordering a scan in the next week or so and I hope to post it here. It is a beautiful drawing of the fort a bit at a bird’s-eye view looking from the Missouri River.

The illustration is partially in color, with the use of some reds and blues. There is an large eagle accompanied by flags, guns, cannons, and a bugle which includes a banner touting Company D of the 30th Wisconsin, and “Bello vel Pace [Paci]” translated to “War or Peace.” The scene includes details of the fort structures along with out buildings and teepees and people situated along the banks of the Missouri.

Since Old Fort Sully no longer stands, I was encouraged to find some additional drawings and reconstructed plans of the fort. One in particular was quite helpful. The drawing shows the location of the barracks, hospital, guard house, doctor’s quarters, commissary, officer’s quarters, the well, interior walkways, and the flag pole. It also indicates sites outside the fort walls including a dance hall, indian homes, the interpreter’s house, and stores. I will redraw the plans when I post the illustration of the fort by William Peck.

The time Company D of the 30th Wisconsin stayed at the fort was limited. Post returns show they were only there a couple of months along with the 6th and 7th Iowa. Three officers were present in the month of June 1864 with Captain David C. Fulton as commanding officer, there was 1 medial officer and 65 enlisted men with only 54 were on duty, since 10 were sick and one that was arrested. Hmmmm, arrested for WHAT? The records don’t reveal the crime, darn it!

A small monument is the only evidence that a fort ever existed at this location. There is a little children’s museum here, but all I saw inside were play exhibits of wildlife. It really isn’t surprising no mention was made of a contentious past.

Fort Sully monument located where the flag pole stood at the center of the fort.

Detail of the monument.

Vertical marker at the right located the southeast corner of Fort Sully. The stone marker can be seen near the center near the children't museum.

Overall I’m glad I made the trip to Pierre, however it would have probably been much more satisfying if it was the first stop on a much longer road trip. I hope to get up to Fort Totten in North Dakota soon. Now THAT will be a much more inspiring trip considering a majority of the fort still stands!

Road Trippin’ to South Dakota – Searching for William Peck at Old Fort Sully (Part 1)

If you have read my background about Joe, you will know that I believe he co-opted Civil War and Indian fighting stories from the military experiences of his brother Samuel and step-father William Peck. This week I was on the hunt for some of William Peck’s activities during the Civil War, specifically his connection to the building of Fort Sully in Dakota Territory in 1863. Several of Joe’s Indian fighting claim surround the military regiments associated with this fort, so I hope that my adventure will uncover some leads and clearer connections.

You can read more about William on his bio page, but here’s a quick military intro. William enlisted in Company D of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry in August 1862. The following spring brought orders that took his company to St. Louis, Missouri where companies D, F, I, and K guarded supplies and support General Alfred Sully on his Northwest Indian Campaign. In August 1863 William and his company were transferred up-river and assisted with the building of Fort Sully located near Farm Island along the Missouri River just a few miles east of modern-day Pierre, South Dakota.

So off to Pierre I went!

During my eight-ish hour drive through northeast Colorado, central Nebraska, up to the center of South Dakota, and finally to Pierre, it was really easy to get a sense of what the landscape was like nearly 150 years ago. Easy, because I don’t think the landscape has changed very much apart from the roads, fences, and the occasional cell phone tower.

Somewhere in the middle of South Dakota. The majority of my drive looked just like this.

Nearing Fort Pierre, South Dakota. There are inklings of things green in the gullies that probably run with water in spring.

Between the periodic small towns, the rolling hills were filled with prairie grass, endless corn or hay, acres of sunflowers, or a distant line of cottonwood trees identifying a small creek. It wasn’t until I neared the Missouri River and Pierre did I see a vast amount of vibrant green trees again.

The goal of this research trip was to learn what I could from the South Dakota Archives about the first Fort Sully and the men who lived there or passed through. Yes, there was more than one. The first fort was built quickly in the summer of 1863 during the campaigns led by Generals Sully and Sibley against the Sioux in Dakota Territory. This was the fort William Peck helped to build, but it only stood for three years.

The location of the fort was not optimal. It was in a low-lying marshy area next to a small inlet off of the Missouri River (now known as Hipple lake). During those three years the soldiers suffered from disease and damp conditions. The first year was particularly harsh due to the lack of food, especially vegetables and fruit, and many of the men suffered from scurvy, including William.

Even today the area is quite marshy. View is looking south across Hipple Lake with Farm Island in the distance. Trees from the heavily-wooded island were cut down for the construction of the fort.

By 1866 the structure was in such disrepair that the commanding officer wrote that it was “hardly made habitable during cold weather…a few of the men’s quarters [were] high enough to permit me to stand erect in them…and the whole place is over run with rats, fleas, bed bugs and other vermin.” (1) So the old fort was disassembled and new Fort Sully (or Fort Sully II) was built about 25 miles north of Pierre.

** Part 2 Coming Soon! **

(1) Commanding Officer of Fort Sully, Dakota Territory, to Lieut. H G. Litchfield of the Head Quarters of the Department of the Platte in Omaha, Nebraska Territory, letter, 25 June 1866, discussion of quality of work and life at Fort Sully; Building Fort Sully I, Harold H. Schuler Papers, 1989-1993, Boxes 5973-5974, South Dakota Archives; original letter held by the National Archives.