February 17, 2011

The Final Days of Fitch Bishop

This weathered stone marks the grave of Fitch Bishop, patriarch of my husband’s ancestors in Portage County, Ohio. Pitted with age, the letters indistinct and barely legible, the stone reads: “FITCH BISHOP, DIED May 22, 1868, AGED 56 yrs, 9 mos.”

Fitch’s death was unexpected and sudden. On May 17, 1873, his wife, Sarah, wrote in her diary, “5 years today since my husband was stricken down in full health with his last sickness, I cannot realize it.” On May 19, she recalled, “I was watching by the bed of a sick and dying husband.”

It appears that Fitch may have suffered a stroke or heart attack that did not immediately kill him, but left him lingering in a greatly weakened state. The concern was immediate. A will was hastily drawn up and witnesses gathered. On May 17th, the same day he was stricken, Fitch scrawled his signature on a paper that read:

                                   Freedom, May 17th, 1868         
                       The last will and testament of
                       Fitch Bishop
                       I hereby give and bequeath all my
                       property both real and personal
                       to my wife Sarah Ann Bishop

                       This is my last will and Testament
                                                      Fitch Bishop
                                          {         E. R. Kneeland
                          Witnesses {         J. J. Hutchins

I imagine that a doctor was called and everything possible done to make Fitch comfortable. Fitch and Sarah’s three living children no doubt drew near. Annette, 21, and Walter, 16, living at home, could have been by his side at once. George, almost 27, had to be summoned. If George was still working as a wagon-maker in Hiram, as he had been in 1860, it was a short ride to Freedom. Augusta Bishop, widow of Fitch’s oldest son, Albert, might have brought eight-year-old Theodore to his grandfather’s bedside. 

Work in the fields and routine household chores likely stopped for a time. Neighbors and friends, alerted to the crisis, might have come by to see Fitch and offer words of comfort to Sarah. But in the end, all they could do was wait.

Five days later, Fitch succumbed. The Portage County Democrat reported only, “In Freedom, on the 22d of May, ult., of heart disease, after a few days illness, Mr. Fitch Bishop, aged 57 years.” A grieving Sarah had to make funeral arrangements and prepare for another trip to Freedom West Cemetery, where she had already laid two sons and a granddaughter to rest.

I feel fortunate to have such a variety of records to draw on regarding the end of Fitch’s life, sad as it was. What I wouldn’t give for just one to tell me about his beginnings!

1.  Portage County Genealogical Society, compiler, Portage County, Ohio Cemeteries, Volume IV: Freedom Township and Windham Township (Ravenna, Ohio: the society, 1993), p. 90-91.
2.  Sarah Ann Barnum Bishop, Pocket Diary 1873, entries for May 17 and May 19. This diary passed from Theodore H. Bishop to Annah L. Bishop to Robert F. Bishop; privately held by Shelley Bishop.

3.  Portage County, Ohio, probate file 2108 (loose papers), Fitch Bishop, Portage County Historical Society, Ravenna.

4.  Fitch Bishop obituary, Portage County Democrat (Ravenna, Ohio), 3 June 1868, p. 2 col. 8.

Related Posts:

Albert Bishop (1828-1865)
More Questions than Answers: Augusta Bishop
The Short Story of Walter H. Bishop
Walter F. Bishop, Aged 20 yrs.
Lettie A. Bishop-Wednesday's Child

February 9, 2011

Lettie A. Bishop - Wednesday's Child

This little tombstone doesn’t look like much these days. Not your big, well-carved monument designed to last the ages. It’s sunk into the ground so far that I could only make out the letters of the name by tracing them with my finger. L-E-T-T-I-E. When I was photographing the headstones of my husband’s Bishop ancestors in Freedom West Cemetery, in rural Freedom, Ohio, this little one puzzled me. Who was Lettie?

Fortunately, the cemetery markers were first read by Ernest Moore in 1927 on behalf of the Western Reserve Historical Society. His transcriptions were used to help decipher stones that had deteriorated by 1992, when the Portage County Genealogical Society set about compiling cemetery records. The stone, now virtually illegible, once read: “Lettie A. Bishop, died Apr. 7, 1864, age 14 mos, 18 days.”1

Ahhhh. This was somebody’s baby girl. But whose? I cast around the family plot for a likely candidate. Perhaps she was Albert & Augusta Bishop’s daughter. They were buried nearby, and the right age to have been her parents. But speculation won’t do in solving these little mysteries. And so one hot summer morning found me in the cool depths of Reed Memorial Library in Ravenna, searching the microfilm records of local newspapers. There, on the second page of the April 27, 1864 edition of the Portage County Democrat, I found the answer:

“In Freedom, April 7th, of congestion of the brain, Lettie A., daughter and only child of George and Mary Bishop, aged 14 months.
         'And is she gone? Oh, sudden solitude!
         How oft that fearful question will intrude.
         ‘Twas but a moment past when here she stood,
         And then without the portal’s front she rushed,
         To live again in Heaven.’”

What a world of sorrow conveyed in just a few words. Even from a distance of 146 years, I can feel their pain.  Neither George nor Mary is buried in Freedom. Lettie rests with her aunt, uncles, and grandfather. One day, no doubt, her little stone will be gone. But she won’t be forgotten.

1.     Portage County Genealogical Society, compiler, Portage County, Ohio Cemeteries, Volume IV: Freedom Township and Windham Township 1812-1992 (Ravenna, Ohio, 1993), p. 91.

Related Posts:
The Final Days of Fitch Bishop
Albert Bishop (1838-1865)
The Short Story of Walter H. Bishop
More Questions than Answers: Augusta Bishop
Walter F. Bishop, Aged 20 yrs.

February 6, 2011

Confessions of a rubber band researcher

I hit the ground running in January, starting right off with the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. It was a fantastic experience, both in and out of the classroom, and I came home with some new strategies and skills. I also came home with research findings on several ancestral lines from the Family History Library. These now need to be analyzed, documented, and filed. Right now everything’s sitting in folders on my dining room table, and on a flash drive. I want to process the research carefully and completely. But where to start?

I made a big breakthrough in identifying my husband’s great-grandmother, who died shortly after his grandmother was born. I made some discoveries in my Eberhard line, which I want to share with a cousin. I need to check more church records for my Herrels. I found some good information on my King and Roush ancestors in Gallia County. I’m anxious to pursue some leads on my husband’s Barnum, Sanborn, and Ives ancestors. The list goes on, but I’m getting a little dizzy.

On top of that, I have a big assignment due for my ProGen study group, and I really should tackle the next lesson in the NGS Home Study Course. And I set a daily writing goal for myself that I’m trying to keep. There’s a backlog of blogs and forums waiting to be read. Not to mention that we’ve had drywall guys and painters working in the house for the past five days. Or that our power was out for 12 hours in the recent ice storm. But now that just sounds like whining!

I feel like a rubber band being stretched every which way. How do you focus on one genealogical goal when you have so many jostling for your attention? I need to determine a focus and stick with it. For now, I'm going to start by writing a research report on  my husband's great-grandmother. I’d love to hear how other people prioritize and manage multiple projects. What are your favorite strategies?


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