Monday, August 15, 2016

From Down East Maine to Panama: Capt. Gardner Emerton Sukeforth

SS Ancon in the Culebra Cut
Today's Genealogy Blogging Beat post, noting the anniversary of the official opening of the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914, inspired me to write this profile of a relative who played an important – though largely unheralded – role in that opening: as captain of the SS Ancon, the steamer that made that historic passage.

Gardner Emerton Sukeforth was born 22 July 1849 in Washington, Waldo County (now Washington, Knox County), Maine, the seventh and last child of William Sukeforth and Ruth Emerton. Before his seventh birthday, his father had died and his mother had remarried, to Isaiah Pert, a sailor some 17 years her junior, and in 1860 Gardiner and three of his brothers were living with the Perts and their two-year-old half-brother in Sedgwick, Hancock County, Maine.

Gardner is nowhere to be found in the 1870 census, but according to a 2013 article1 in Discover Maine magazine by Charles Francis, he
... left home while still a teenager2 to live in the Penobscot Bay town of South Penobscot. His early years were spent working on a variety of ... fishing vessels and coastal schooners....
About 1872, Gardner and his older brother George were both living in Portland, Maine (though not at the same address), and working as coopers, a trade George no doubt learned from their father and passed along to his brother. George remained in Portland and married in 1874, while Gardner is found briefly coopering in Cambridge, Mass., then disappears until about 1880, when he was enumerated in Liberty, Maine, with his now-widowed mother, brother John, and half-brother Melvin.

He also shows up in the 1881 Portland directory at his brother's address, and may have used that as a home base for his sailing voyages, as he listed Portland as his residence when, on 7 February 1884, he married Clara L. Sargent in Lynn, Massachusetts. Although Clara and her parents, Thomas C. and Louise (Tribou) Sargent, had been residents of Lynn since about 1863, Clara had been born in Surry, Hancock County, Maine (not too far from Sedgwick or Penobscot), and the Sargents had lived there until at least 1860. Perhaps Gardner met the Sargent family before they removed to Lynn (though Clara would have been only a child), or later when they possibly returned to visit relatives.

The couple moved in with Clara's parents3 and remained in Lynn through about 1890, presumably sailing – then steaming – out of Boston-area ports. During this time they had two daughters, Annie in 1887 and Marion in 1889.

Then, in 1891, the Lynn directory says Thomas Sargent has "removed to New York city," and there is no listing for Gardner, but neither appears in New York – or anywhere else that I could find – until they both turn up at the same address in Brooklyn in 1894. I believe the explanation for that roughly four-year disappearance may be found in Francis's Discover Maine article:4
With the decline of the golden age of sail, Sukeforth switched to steamships.... [His] apprenticeship with steam came with the Red D Line.... For some five years beginning in 1886 [he] served on Red D ships operating between New York and South America. Then he moved to the West Coast, working the San Francisco to Japan Red D run. In 1896 he went to work for the Panama Railroad Steamship Company.
Though some of the details seem a little off – would he have been working a New York to South America run while living in Lynn? – this account has him moving to the west coast around 1891, exactly when he disappeared from Lynn. The fact that there are no San Francisco city directories on Ancestry between the 1891 and 1896 editions might explain my failure to find him there. (His appearance in Brooklyn in 1894 may mean that was when he worked the New York-South America run.)

His new employer, the Panama Railroad Steamship Company, was in effect owned by the U.S. government, which bought up most of the company's stock in 1897. The company's flagship, the SS Ancon, was in fact owned by the United States War Department and only leased to the company. And of course, the U.S. government was in charge of the construction and operation of the Panama Canal, along with everything else in the Canal Zone.

Capt. Gardner E. Sukeforth
By the time the Canal was finally ready to open in 1914, Gardner Sukeforth was the most senior captain in the company, and was selected to command the Ancon for its historic passage. As the largest vessel to pass through the canal until then,5 the Ancon would be tricky to navigate through the lakes along the canal, and there were no pilots specifically trained for the task. Although pilot John Constantine was technically in charge of the Ancon for the trip, the successful passage, in a record time of 9 hours and 27 minutes (they were planning for an 11-hour passage), was made under Capt. Sukeforth's direct supervision and command, using the canal blueprints and charts of the lakes as a guide – he himself had not previously made the passage. For a man who grew up sailing schooners along the rocky Maine coasts, it was probably a walk in the park.

Gardner Sukeforth continued to captain various ships for the Panama Railroad Steamship Company until his death from Bright's disease on 19 May 1920 in Dayton, Ohio, where the Sukeforths had lived since about 1917. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton.

Gardner Sukeforth is my first cousin three times removed; our common ancestor is Robert Sukeforth.

SOURCES
  1. Charles Francis, "Gardner Sukeforth Opens The Panama Canal," Discover Maine, 2013, vol. 10, issue 5, pp. 81-83; digital images, Issu.com (http://issue.com : accessed 6 Dec 2014).
  2. His leaving home may have had more to do with family turmoil than anything else; it appears that after a stint in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War, Isaiah must have divorced Ruth, as he married again in 1868 and in 1870 was living with his new wife in Sedgwick, next door to Ruth's son Andrew. Ruth, meanwhile, had moved to Liberty, where she was enumerated under the name Ruth Sukeforth, along with her sons John (Sukeforth) and Clarence Melvin (Pert), and next door to her oldest daughter Martha and her family.
  3. Gardner and Clara continued to live with her parents throughout their lives. No doubt his career as a steamship pilot and captain took him away from home enough to make it more practical for Clara and their children to live with her parents instead of keeping a separate household. 
  4. Francis, "Gardner Sukeforth Opens The Panama Canal."
  5. The Ancon's sister ship, the SS Cristobal, made the first unofficial passage on August 3rd.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Male Ancestors' Age at Death

Once again I'm accepting Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun mission, this time "Male Ancestors Age at Death", as follows:
  1. Review your Pedigree Chart (either on paper or in your genealogy management software program) and determine the age at death of your Male ancestors back at least five generations (and more if you want to).
  2. Tell us the lifespan years for each of these ancestors.  Which of your male ancestors in this group lived the longest?  Which lived the shortest? 
Like Randy, I used Ahnentafel numbers to identify my male ancestors:

Father:
2. Roger Marchant Kirk (1919-1979) – 60 years

Grandfathers:
4. Chester Frank Kirk (1857-1939) – 81 years
6. William George Murphy (1886-1946) – 60 years

Great-Grandfathers:

8. Silas Kirk (1827-1909) – 82 years (exactly – he died on his birthday)
10. Silas Marchant Hillman Hodsdon (1847-1911) – 64 years
12. Dominic Murphy (1854-1914) – 59 years
14. Peter Louis Rabideau (1870-1946) – 76 years

2nd Great-Grandfathers:

16. Jabez Bradbury Kirkpatrick (1800-1884) – 83 years
18. Simon Sukeforth (ca 1813-1874) – abt 61 years
20. Isaac Hodsdon (1812-1890) – 77 years
22. Nahum Alonzo Rand (1813-1884) – 70 years
24. William Murphy (1830-1909) – 78 years
26. Neil McIntyre (1814-bet 1881 and 1891) – >67 years
28. Louis Rabideau (1850-aft 1913) – >63 years
30. Uriah Sawyer Woodward (1847-1881) – 33 years

3rd Great-Grandfathers:

32. John Kirkpatrick 2d (1773-1825) – 52 years
34. Edward Faulkner – unknown
36. Robert Sukeforth (ca 1780-88 - bet 1860 and 1870) – >72 years
38. William Miller (est 1794-aft 1837) – >43 years
40. Jacob Hodsdon (1787-1879) – 91 years
42. Guy Green (1778-1850) – 72 years
44. Joshua Rand (1779-1852) – 73 years
46. Enoch Brister (ca 1770-1853) – abt 83 years
48. Michael Murphy (ca 1800-bet 1861-81) – >61 years
50. William McDonald – unknown
52. Angus McIntyre (est 1785-bet 1840 and 1851) – >55 years
54. Alexander McLellan (ca 1786-1867) – abt 81 years
56. Louis Robidas (ca 1832-1921) – abt 89 years
58. Unknown
60. Royal Woodward (ca 1802-08 - 1879) – >71 years
62. Samuel Orcutt Washburn (1798-1850) – 51 years

My third great-grandfathers list is a little more complete than the one for their wives: there's only one I don't have a name for, and two more for whom I have a name but no dates.

For those I have at least reasonably good dates for, the longest-lived appears to be 3rd great-grandfather Jacob Hodsdon, at 91 years. The shortest-lived was 2nd great-grandfather Uriah Sawyer Woodward, who died at 33, leaving his wife, Mary (Washburn) (Yates) Woodward, a widow for the second time.

The average age at death for the 28 male ancestors for whom I have data is about 68, with a range of 33-91. Leaving out Uriah Woodward's atypical early death brings the average for the remaining 27 men to over 69; also leaving out William Miller's possible death by 43 raises the average to over 70. Averages and ranges by generation:
  1. Father: 60 years.
  2. Grandfathers: average 70.5 years (60-81).
  3. Great-grandfathers: average about 70 years (59-82).
  4. Second great-grandfathers: average 66.5 years (33-83). Omitting Uriah, the average for the other seven is about 71 years.
  5. Third great-grandfathers (13 out of 16): average about 69 years (43-91). Again, omitting William Miller, the average for the remaining 12 is nearly 71.
Clearly my female ancestors were a much more robust bunch than their mates, with every generation of women averaging 3-6 years more than the men!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Female Ancestors' Age at Death

I'm accepting Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun mission, "Female Ancestors Age at Death", as follows:
  1. Review your Pedigree Chart (either on paper or in your genealogy management software program) and determine the age at death of your female ancestors back at least five generations (and more if you want to).
  2. Tell us the lifespan years for each of these ancestors.  Which of your female ancestors in this group lived the longest?  Which lived the shortest?   
Like Randy, I used Ahnentafel numbers to identify my female ancestors:

Mother:
3. Kathleen Marie (Murphy) Kirk (1921-1993) – 71 years

Grandmothers:

5. Mary Milliken (Hodsdon) Kirk (1882-1965) – 83 years
7. Glenna Marie (Rabideau) Murphy (1899- 1968) – 68 years

Great-Grandmothers:
9. Sarah C. (Sukeforth) Kirk (1838-1905) – 67 years
11. Kate Maria (Rand) Hodsdon (1855-1940) – 85 years
13. Rose Ann (McIntyre) Murphy (1862-1937) – 74 years
15. Eva May (Woodward) Rabdieau (1871-1953) – 82 years

2nd Great-Grandmothers:

17. Abigail (Faulkner) Kirkpatrick (1808-1891) – 82 years
19. Jane (Miller) Sukeforth (1810-1879) – 68 years
21. Abigail (Greene) Hodsdon (1814-1878) – 64 years
23. Dolly C. (Brister) Rand (1818-1904) – 86 years
25. Flora Ann (McDonald) Murphy (1832-1911) – 78 years
27. Mary Ann (McLellan) McIntyre (1817-1896) – 78 years
29. Marie Celina (Cloutier) Rabideau (ca 1849-1881) – abt 32 years
31. Mary A. (Washburn) Woodward (1831-1917) – 86 years

3rd Great-Grandmothers:
33. Nancy (Starrett) Kirkpatrick (1777-1834) – 57 years
35. Margaret (Morrison) Faulkner – unknown
37. Polly (Miller) Sukeforth (1775-bet 1850-60) – >75 years
39. Unknown
41. Sally (Huston) Hodsdon (1785-bet 1860-70) – >75 years
43. Hannah R. (Gould) Green (ca 1787-aft 1879) – >92 years
45. Elizabeth (Rand) Rand (1773-1857) – 84 years
47. Sarah (Chamberlain) Brister (ca 1790 - 1881) – abt 91 years
49. Magdelen (Morison) Murphy (ca 1800-bet 1861-81) – >61 years
51. Flora (Wilson) McDonald – unknown
53. Ann (Gillis) McIntyre (est 1789-aft 1851) – >62 years
55. Sally (McCormick) McLellan (est 1785-????) – unknown
57. Marie (Deshaies-St. Cyr) Robidas (1829-1895) – 65 years
59. Unknown
61. Mary Hawley (Sawyer) Woodward (1816-1880) – 64 years
63. Mary (Palmateer) Washburn (1812-1879) – 67 years

Unfortunately, my third great-grandmothers list is incomplete; for two I don't even have names, and for three more the name is about all I do have. So I didn't bother to go back another generation, because I'd have had too many "unknowns."

For those I have at least reasonably good dates for, the longest-lived is probably 3rd great-grandmother Hannah (Gould) Green, at least 92, though her contemporary Sarah (Chamberlain) Brister is a close contender at about 91. Since I don't have an exact birth year for either of them, I'd consider them effectively tied. The youngest was 2nd great-grandmother Marie Celina (Cloutier) Rabideau, who was at most only 32 when she died. (She may have been as young as 29.)

The average age at death for the 26 female ancestors for whom I have data is about 73, with a range of 32-92. Leaving out Celina (Cloutier) Rabideau, whose early death is obviously atypical, the average for the remaining 25 women is almost 75. Averages and ranges by generation:
  1. Mother: 71 years.
  2. Grandmothers: average 75.5 years (68-83).
  3. Great-grandmothers: average 77 years (67-85).
  4. Second great-grandmothers: average about 72 years (32-86). Again, leaving out Celina, the average for the other seven is 77 years.
  5. Third great-grandmothers (11 out of 16): average about 72 years (57-92); Given that in several cases the actual year of death is known only to within a range of 10 or 20 years (died between censuses), the actual average may well be as high as 75 or 76.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Where Were Your Ancestors 150 Years Ago?

I'm accepting Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun mission, "Where Were Your Ancestors 150 Years Ago?", as follows:
  1. Determine where your ancestral families were on 25 June 1866 - 150 years ago.
  2. List your ancestors, their family members, their birth and death years, and their residence location (as close as possible).  Do you have a photograph of their residence from about that time, and does the residence still exist?
My direct ancestors who were living in 1866 stretch from a single 4th great-grandmother (in my mother's line) all the way down to my paternal grandfather, including all 16 great-great-grandparents.

For the most part, I've based the residence locations on the 1860 and 1870 censuses (or 1861 and 1871 in Quebec), occasionally tempered with knowledge of birthplaces of children around 1866. I don't have photos of any of the houses, and don't know if any of them still exist.
  1. Silas Kirk (1827-1909) and Sarah Sukeforth (1838-1905), my great-grandparents, were probably residing in Auburn, Androscoggin County, Maine, by 1866, with their first two children Chester F. Kirk (1857-1939, my grandfather) and Abbie (who died in Auburn the following January). I'm not sure exactly where they were living, because Silas didn't buy his land in Auburn until 1868.
  2. Jabez Bradbury Kirk(patrick) (1800-1884) and Abigail Faulkner (1808-1891), my great-great-grandparents, were living in Warren, Knox County, Maine, probably with their adopted daughter Georgianna Oliver, who would have been 16. 
  3. Simon Sukeforth (1813-1874) and Jane Miller (1810-1879), my great-great-grandparents, were living in Washington, Knox County, Maine, probably with their four youngest children Addie, William, Frank, and Lawrenton.
  4. Isaac Hodsdon (1812-1890) and Abigail Greene (1814-1878), my great-great-grandparents, were living in Byron, Oxford County, Maine, probably with younger children Silas Marchant Hillman Hodsdon (1847-1911, my great-grandfather), Isaac Winfield, Francis Ireland, Matilda Ann, and Charles.
  5. Nahum Alonzo Rand Sr. (1813-1884) and Dolly Brister (1818-1904), my great-great-grandparents, were living in Andover, Oxford County, Maine, probably with children Kate Maria Rand (1855-1940, my great-grandmother), Nahum Alonzo Jr., Ezra Davis, Asenath Matilda, Samuel P., and Annie Grace.
  6. William Murphy (1830-1909) and Flora McDonald (1832-1911), my great-great-grandparents, resided in Prince Edward Island; judging from baptismal records, in 1866 they were probably in or near Vernon River. At the time they had seven children: Dominic Murphy (1854-1914, my great-grandfather), Lot, Flora Ann, Mary, James, Martha, and Daniel.
  7. Neil McIntyre (1814-aft 1881) and Mary Ann McLellan (1817-1896), my great-great-grandparents, also resided in Prince Edward Island, probably in Indian River, though they may have moved to Lot 8 by 1866. All ten of their children would have still been living with them: Hannah, Angus, Alexander, Leo, Sarah Ann, Kate, Mary, Mary Ann, John Alfred, and Rose Ann McIntyre (1862-1937, my great-grandmother).
  8. Celina Cloutier (ca 1850-1881), my great-great-grandmother, who would marry Louis Rabideau in 1869, almost certainly was living in Quebec in 1866. I have not yet discovered her parents or birthplace, so I have no idea where in Quebec.
  9. Mary (Washburn) Yates (1831-1917), my great-great-grandmother, who would marry Uriah Woodward in 1867, was widowed in 1864 and was almost certainly living in Holland, Orleans County, Vermont, with her nine children from her marriage to Stephen Yates.
  10. Jacob Hodsdon (1787-1879), my 3rd great-grandfather, was living in Byron, Oxford County, Maine, either with his wife Sally Huston (my 3rd great-grandmother, who died between 1860 and 1870), or, if Sally had died by 1866, probably with his son John and family.
  11. Sarah (Chamberlain) Brister (ca 1790-1881), my 3rd great-grandmother and widow of my 3rd great-grandfather Enoch Brister, was living in Rumford, Oxford County, Maine, with her daughter and son-in-law, Obed and Jerusha (Brister) Taylor.
  12. Alexander McLellan (ca 1786-1867), my 3rd great-grandfather, was living in Prince Edward Island, probably Indian River.
  13. Louis Robidas (ca 1832-1921) and Marie Deshaies-St. Cyr (1829-1895), my 3rd great-grandparents, were living in Quebec, probably either in Saint-Paul-de-Chester or Sherbrooke, with their children Louis Robidas/Rabideau (1850-aft 1913, my great-great-grandfather), Alfred, Louise, Marcelin Sinaie "Samuel", and James.
  14. Royal Woodward (ca 1803 to 1879) and Mary Hawley Sawyer (1815-1880), my 3rd great-grandparents, were living in Walden, Caledonia County, Vermont, with their youngest children Frank P., Uriah Sawyer Woodward (1847-1881, my great-great-grandfather), and Mary A.
  15. Mary (Palmatier) Washburn (1812-1879), my 3rd great-grandmother and widow of my 3rd great-grandfather Samuel Orcutt Washburn, was probably living either in Holland, Orleans County, Vermont, or in Dummer, Coos County, New Hampshire, most likely with one of her children and their family.
  16. Divine Louise Girardeau (1790-ca 1875), my 4th great-grandmother and widow of my 4th great-grandfather Jean-Baptiste Robidas, was living in Quebec, possibly in Stoke, Richmond County, where she resided with her son Damase "Thomas" Robidas in 1871.
So I had 32 direct ancestors definitely living 150 years ago:
  • 1 grandparent
  • 6 great-grandparents
  • 16 great-great-grandparents
  • 8 great-great-great-grandparents
  • 1 great-great-great-great-grandparent
Additionally, I had 4 great-great-great-grandparents who were possibly alive at that time, i.e., they were living in 1860 or 1861 but I have no record of them after that. They are Robert Sukeforth, Sally (Huston) Hodsdon, Michael Murphy, and Magdelen (Morison) Murphy.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Addendum - Ancestral Death Place Chart

Following up on Randy's suggestion to create a death place chart to match the birthplace chart yielded this:

The Down East Genealogist's Six-Generation Ancestral Death Place Chart
As expected, the geographical diversity has dropped compared to the birthplaces. My father's line is now overwhelmingly rooted in Maine; the atypical Pennsylvania death place was due to my gg-grandfather dying while visiting a son who had relocated to Philadelphia, and while he apparently was buried there, he has a cenotaph in Andover, Maine.

On my mother's side, Ireland and Scotland (and the one unknown, who was probably born in Scotland or possibly P.E.I.) have disappeared as all are known to have died in P.E.I. Several Quebec-born 2x greats migrated to New Hampshire, while several New Hampshire-, Vermont-, and P.E.I.-born ancestors died in Maine or Massachusetts. The real anomaly is the 3x greats, born in Vermont, who ended up in Kansas (at least, he did – not so sure about her; she may have died in Vermont before he moved west).