•January 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment



Genealogists today have access to many online databases.  The one I’m featuring here—“”—is free and provided by the State of Missouri for public use, although it’s probably mainly used by attorneys.  “” has litigation information for almost all of Missouri’s counties.  Note that not all files are available in every case.

Let’s look at this case:

This is known as the Case Header.  It gives us the case number, the names of the parties, date filed, and what the case was about.  So it’s: Case Number 0831-CV07451; Gordon A Elliott v Peter Dawson; filed on June 5, 2008; Case Type AC Rent and Possession.

What’s “AC Rent and Possession”?  The landlord Elliott was suing the tenant Dawson for back rent owed Elliott and to evict Dawson from Elliott’s property.

This is a very common type of civil litigation, and Elliott, one of the largest property managers in the Ozarks, may have had no personal knowledge of the lawsuit or Peter Dawson.

Above is the Parties & Attorneys screen.  Gordon Alexander Elliott, born 1943, is suing Peter Dawson, born 1926, and we are given their respective addresses.  Elliott’s address is a business address and Dawson’s address is his apartment in an apartment complex managed by Elliott.

Now we have the Docket Entries which follow the progress of the case from filing to disposition.  As it turns out, Elliott didn’t have a lot of luck with Peter Dawson.  On June 26, 2008, the Court dismissed the case “w/Prejudice.”  That means the case was dismissed and could not be brought again.  And to make matters worse, Elliott had to pay the court costs.

The last screen available for the case is the Service Information: Summons-Landlord-Tenant, served to Dawson on June 11, 2008.

What’s my interest in this case?  I lived next door to Peter Dawson.


•October 29, 2017 • Comments Off on I RESIGN FROM THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

The following is the letter I received from the local Catholic bishop acknowledging my resignation from the church.  Note that he says: “I respect your decision.”  I trust the bishop is a man of his word.

The bishop’s claim to be “heartbroken” and asking if my decision was “the result of a bad interaction with a priest or parish representative” is pro forma.  The Catholic church would like to keep a dialogue alive indefinitely, but obviously that would render the decision to leave functionally meaningless.

It was a matter of ideological incompatibility.

The bishop’s letter was in response to my letter resigning from the church:

Every year millions of Americans change their religious affiliation or practice no religion.  And though free exercise of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment, everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, or lack thereof, enjoy the same rights.

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

(Adopted July 9, 1868)

Had I known Catholic protocol required those resigning from membership submit a letter to the local bishop, I would have done so decades ago.  My decision is final.  Any assertion that I have been in talks with any official or member of the Catholic church regarding a return to the Catholic church or any other matter of any kind that creates a relationship with the Catholic church is false.

BLACKBALLED TO THE SIDE POCKET (how Larry Page met cousin Bettie)

•September 30, 2017 • Comments Off on BLACKBALLED TO THE SIDE POCKET (how Larry Page met cousin Bettie)


I cannot stress this enough: a genealogical source should be adequately cited so others can locate it.  Many documents in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Left: Jean (Chipman) Crom.  Right: Carl Victor Page.

Taken in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, probably early 1990’s.  They were first cousins.  My grandfather Beecher, who died in 1959, was their uncle.  Carl Victor Page, who died in 1996, was the father of Alphabet CEO Larry Page.  Alphabet is the holding company that owns Google. On his father’s side Carl Victor Page was the second cousin of pin-up icon Bettie Page.  Carl Victor Page’s grandmother was Annie Drucilla Pardue and Bettie Page’s grandmother was Emily Corilla Pardue; Annie Drucilla and Emily Corilla were twin sisters who usually went by their middle names.

The above article appeared in “The Flint Journal” of Flint, Michigan and chronicles Carl and Beverly’s contraction of polio.

Bettie Page, with her trademark black bangs.  Bettie Page achieved stardom in the 1950’s in pin-ups and films.  Since her death in 2008 she has maintained remarkable popularity.

Above: it was the custom in the WWI era to hold large family reunions and sit for a portrait by a professional photographer.  This portrait is of the Page family reunion held ca. 1909 at the home of Henry Horace Page and wife Annie Drucilla Pardue in Union City, Obion Co., Tennessee.  On the L in the middle row beneath the man with the dark coat and tie is Walter Roy Page, father of Bettie Page.  On the R in the back row is Carl Davis Page, grandfather of Larry Page.  To the L of Carl in the dark suit and light tie is Carl’s father Henry Horace Page, and beneath him is Carl’s mother Drucllia.  In the middle of the 2nd row flanked by 2 standing children is Mary Elizabeth (McCaig) (Pardue) Winston, mother of Drucilla and Corilla.  Corilla, mother of Walter Roy Page, is  in the top row to the left of Henry Horace Page holding a child.

Below: Obituary for Carl Victor Page in “The State News” of Michigan State University.  The obituary names his family members: parents Pauline Aquilla Chipman Page and Carl Davis Page; sons Carl Benjamin Page and Lawrence Edward Page; and sister Beverly Budzynski.

The letter below from Jean (Chipman) Crom to my father Ralph Vernon Chipman discusses the funeral of Carl Victor Page.  The letter was evidently a circular, to which she appended a personal note to him.

Above: the LDS church has made an enormous amount of genealogical information, such as this abstract, available online through its FamilySearch website.  An experienced genealogist can locate this sort of material easily.  Of interest here is some data on Carl Victor Page’s extended connections.  Joyce Chipman Barnett was my father’s half-sister.  [Click on image to enlarge.]

The following letter came from Carl Victor Page, father of Larry Page.  It gives some insight into the family.  A lot of advances have been made in documenting the family genealogy since then.  Note the archaic dot-matrix printer.

Next: in this letter, Beverly Ann (Page) (Bertrand) Budzynski, sister to Carl Victor Page, discusses various family members.  “Joyce” is Joyce Elaine (Chipman) Barnett, my father’s half-sister.  “Aunt Ruby” is Ruby (Bohannon) Chipman, wife of Beverly’s uncle Jewell Vester Chipman.  “Aunt Lawcie” is Lawcie Idella (Chipman) Mason.  “Grandpa Chipman” is James Edward Chipman, but according to the marriage record of his parents his mother’s name was Sarah, not Cynthia; evidently she was called Cynthia.  “Delmar Foster” is married to Nell, daughter of Allie May (Oxley) Chipman’s sister Virginia.  “Carl Victor Page” is Beverly’s brother, and “Carl Benjamin Page” and “Lawrence Edward Page” are his sons.  “Paul Page Bertrand” is Beverly’s son.  I can’t vouch for all of Beverly’s dates.

It’s hard to believe that Carl and Beverly’s letters are 30 years old.  They date to the beginning of my research.

Below: photograph of Carl Davis Page with his grandmother Mary Elizabeth (McCaig) (Pardue) Winston.  Notes by Beverly Ann (Page) (Bertrand) Budzynski.

Next: photo, ca. 1930, Senath, Missouri, of Pauline Aquilla Chipman (eventual wife of Carl Davis Page) and her nephew Ralph Vernon Chipman.

Above: high school record for Pauline Aquilla Chipman, Senath High School, Senath, Missouri.

Following: I have a number of letters from Beverly Ann (Page) (Bertrand) Budzynski, aunt of Larry Page.  In the first she mentions her nephews Carl Benjamin Page and Lawrence Edward Page, and her uncle Jewell Vester Chipman.  Some of Beverly’s dates are a little off.  In the second letter she discusses the condition of a family cemetery in Tennessee and mentions her mother, her aunt Aileen, and her brother Carl.

Above: marriage record for Carl Davis Page and Pauline Aquilla Chipman.  At the time Pauline was living with her brother Beecher Edgar Chipman on Foss St. in Flint.

Following is a screenshot of the 1940 Flint, Genesee Co., Michigan federal census, ED 85-132, Sheet 7, showing the Carl Davis Page family:

Here we see Carl Davis Page and wife Aquilla P. (Pauline Aquilla Chipman) with their two children Carl V. (Carl Victor) and Beverly A.  (Beverly Ann).  The census gives Carl Davis Page’s occupation as “Material Loader/Auto Mfgr,” a floor labor position, which may have entailed loading upholstery fabric onto the assembly line.

Below: delayed birth certificate for Carl Davis Page naming his parents as Henry Horace Page and Drucilla Pardue. Delayed birth certificates were filed so that those born prior to their state’s requirement to register births could obtain Social Security benefits.

Above: obituary for Carl Davis Page in “The Jackson Sun” of Madison Co., Tennessee for Sunday, August 11, 1963, p. 7.

Next: grave site for Carl Davis Page and Pauline Aquilla Chipman in Hollywood cemetery, Jackson, Tennessee.

Below: as mentioned in Carl Davis Page’s obituary, he had a brother Luther, whose obituary appeared in “The Jackson Sun” for Sunday, March 20, 1983, p.16.

Above: also mentioned in the obituary for Carl Davis Page is a sister, Aileen Turner, of Flint, Michigan.  Her obituary appeared in “The Jackson Sun” of Saturday, August 6, 1994, p. 6.  According to Luther J. Page’s obituary, she had remarried.  The statement that Charlene Beach of Flint was her sister is incorrect.  Charlene was actually Aileen’s niece, the daughter of Aileen’s sister Mary Emma (Page) Dunbar, as is proved by Mary Emma’s obituary below.  As any experienced genealogist knows, occasionally there are errors in records which have to be corrected.

Below: grave marker for Aileen Loring (Page) (Orr) (Turner) Stanfill, Cotton Grove cemetery, Madison Co., Co., Tennessee.  The grave marker is partially obscured by flowers, but evidently she had a daughter named Kathy.

Following: obituary for Mary Emma (Page) Dunbar, from “The Jackson Sun” of Thursday, May 16, 1963, p.7.  Mary was the wife of Everett Estes Dunbar.  Charlene Beech of Flint, Michigan is named as her daughter.

Below: grave marker for Henry Horace Page and Annie Drucilla Pardue Page, Cotton Grove cemetery, Madison Co., Tennessee.

Following: marriage record, Obion Co., Tennessee, dated April 10, 1898 for Henry Horace Page and Annie Drucilla Pardue.

Above: death certificate for Henry Horace Page, giving his age upon death on August 18, 1932 as 61; and therefore born in 1871, which agrees with his grave marker.  Parents are listed as “J.B. Page” (actually “John D. Page”) and Emily Sullivan.

Above: marriage record, Obion Co., Tennessee for John D. Page and Emily C. Sullivan.  Marriage was performed on July 8, 1872.  Henry Horace Page was born in 1871, so the marriage of his reputed father to his mother was much later.

Below: death certificate for Annie Drucilla (Pardue) Page, wife of Henry Horace Page, listing  death as occurring on February 17, 1948.  Parents are “Jeff Perdue” (actually “Jefferson Davis Pardue”) and “Bettie McCaig” (“Mary Elizabeth McCaig”).  Drucilla was born on December 5, 1876.

Above: obituary for Annie Drucilla (Pardue) Page in “The Jackson Sun” for Tuesday, February 17, 1948, p.2.  Note that the 4th paragraph specifically mentions Carl D. Page of Flint, MI as a son, and Mrs. Corilla Page of Nashville as a sister.  Corilla was Bettie Page’s grandmother.  Son “Henry E.” was known by his middle name “Ellis.”  He died in 1965.  Frank W. Page died in 1950.  Norman R. Page died in 1975.  I was puzzled by the reference to a daughter “Mrs. James Orr” of Newark, New Jersey.

Below: this clipping from “The Jackson Sun” for Thursday, July 3, 1947, p. 3 mentions once again “Mrs. James Orr.”

Above: the mystery is solved by this notice from “The Jackson Sun” for Thursday, January 8, 1942, p. 7.  Apparently this was the much-married Aileen’s first.

Above: death certificate for Drucilla’s sister Emily Corilla (Pardue) Page, grandmother of Bettie Page, also born on December 5, 1876, and therefore Drucilla’s twin.  Informant was Walter Roy Page, father of pin-up queen Bettie Page.

Following: obituary for Emily Corilla (Pardue) Page in “The Jackson Sun” for Thursday, December 23, 1948, p. 9.  The obituary names son Walter R. Page of Nashville, better known as Roy Page.

Following: Walter Roy Page’s obituary from “The Tennessean” of Nashville, dated Tuesday, January 21, 1964, p. 19, which names his parents as John Benton Page and Emily Perdue Page.  Walter Roy Page’s grave marker indicates he was born on April 19, 1896, but his alleged father, John Benton Page, didn’t marry his mother until December 4, 1898.  Betty Page of Nashville is listed among his daughters.  He married as his first wife Edna Pirtle on October 17, 1920 in Madison Co., Tennessee.  After a chaotic marriage they divorced.  His children were all by Edna.  The obituary states he married Louise Weaver in 1946.  The less said of him, the better.  By 1964 Bettie had divorced Armond Walterson and was living in Nashville to pursue a Master’s degree, which she never completed.

This Pardue family, under the spelling “Perdue,” is found in the 1880 Madison Co., Tennessee Federal census, Dist. 13, pp. 2–3, SD 5, ED 98.  The census shows “Ann D.” and “Emerly C.” as daughters, both aged 4.

Above: Emily Corilla (Pardue) Page’s grave marker at Cotton Grove cemetery in Madison Co., Tennessee.  She was the wife of John Benton Page.

Next: marriage record, Obion Co., Tennessee for John Benton Page and Emily Corilla Pardue, dated December 4, 1898.  John D. Page and his son John Benton Page were often confused.

In genealogy, you can never have too much documentation.  Newspapers are an under-utilized source of genealogical information.  They may contain information unavailable elsewhere.  An easy way to get started with newspapers is the website “Chronicling America,” a free database maintained by the Library of Congress.

According to the United States 2010 census, “Page” is #383 in the list of most common surnames; “Chipman” is #6,866.

BONA FIDE some records are vital / others aren’t, but might prove vital / a cavalcade of family photos

•September 23, 2017 • Comments Off on BONA FIDE some records are vital / others aren’t, but might prove vital / a cavalcade of family photos

Revised Jan 19, 2018

For genealogists, nothing is better than vital records:  records of birth, marriage, and death.  But any genealogist who’s sifted through vital records knows they aren’t always spot-on correct.

Let’s examine this birth certificate, which happens to be mine.  It was signed on 12 April 1956.  My parents obtained this copy for the the school district in Burlington, IA so I could attend kindergarten.  It’s a typewritten copy of the original. Photocopy machines didn’t exist in 1956. The Des Moines County, IA clerk embossed the birth certificate with his seal to indicate it’s a genuine copy.

But there are two problems.  My father’s middle name is shown as “Vermen.” His real middle name is “Vernon.”  And my mother’s first name is shown as “Valeria,” when it’s actually “Valerie.” Probably the clerk’s error, right?

Not exactly.  In 2004 I found my passport had expired, and to obtain a new one, I had to provide my birth certificate.  The above certificate would have sufficed, but I’d misplaced it, so I ordered another one from the State of IA.  That birth certificate was a photocopy of the handwritten original dated 2 August 1951,  and the original also gives my father’s middle name as “Vermen.”  In the case of my mother’s first name, it’s difficult to tell if the original says “Valeria” or “Valerie” because the letters “a” and “e” look similar.

So the clerk who typed up the 1956 copy made an accurate transcription of incorrect information regarding my father, and interpreted my mother’s first name as “Valeria.” The only additional information of interest to me on the original is that my father’s occupation is listed as “Telegraph Operator.”

It’s not quite the end of the story.  Several years ago I found a government agency had me in their database as born in “Burlington, Illinois.”  As you can see, I was born in “Burlington, Iowa.”  I had to produce a birth certificate so the agency could correct their records.

Vital records are important resources for genealogists.  Mine states that the original is recorded in Des Moines County, IA, Book 16, Page C-24.  If I drove to the county courthouse in Burlington, I could view the original.

(Jeff, age 5 months.  At this point you could say I was protoplasmic, blissfully unaware of the horror that surrounded me.  Soon, vague images of the environment began to form.  I desperately wanted answers, but being unable to speak, that would have to wait.)

[Jeff, Valerie Berniece Jeffery (Scarff) Chipman, and Diane.  Iowa, 19 Jan 1954.  Val used the additional surname “Jeffery” on her DAR certificate.]

Vital records aren’t the only records you generate as your life progresses.  There are other rites of passage.

(Oh yeah?  Already the BS Detector was set at Max.  Jeff, age 5, Perkins School, Burlington, IA.  A.M. Kindergarten, 1956–57, Reichert.)

We left IA for IL, relocating to Downers Grove, which at the time was not the Yuppie paradise it is today.

[“The Burlington (IA) Hawk Eye Gazette,” Sat., Feb. 22, 1958, p.6.]

I knew I had been baptized at the First Baptist Church of Downers Grove, IL, on 29 Mar 1964, but not having a written record, on 7 Mar 2016 I queried the church.  Darlene Watkins responded and confirmed the date of baptism, and then told me something I didn’t know: two of my sisters were baptized on the same date.  That would be Diane and Debbie.

The Baptists don’t practice infant baptism.  They baptize by full immersion.  Behind the pastor’s podium was a tank concealed by curtains.  You wore a robe, and when the curtains opened you were dunked.  A bit of stage management there, but the tank symbolized the river Jordan where, it is said, in ancient times John the Baptist baptized Christ.

In 1982 I converted to Catholicism but lapsed several years later.

(The rapid growth of Downers Grove necessitated the construction of a new high school on the south side of the village which opened in 1964.)

Below is part of my employment file kept by Illinois Bell Telephone.  I began working for them on 23 Sep 1974.  The photo on the right was my I.D. photo. (Click on image to enlarge.)

(It takes one to know one.  Mary Beth and Ralph, ca. 1980, Downers Grove, IL.)

Above: I finished my senior year of college at George Williams College in Downers Grove, IL.  It’s now part of Aurora University.

Below: Certificate of membership, The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.  Three of the signatures are difficult to read because they were signed in gold ink.  New members are inducted through a state society, in this instance Illinois.  I later transferred my membership to Missouri.  Members can also belong to a local chapter.  I’m a member of Ozark Mountain Chapter.  Some people think organizations like SAR are irrelevant.  A lot has changed since 1776: Americans don’t look the same, and the challenges we face aren’t the same.  But despite a Civil War, the institutions created by the American Revolution have remained remarkably resilient.

(Jeff and Kar the Arabian, ca. 1989.  Kar belonged to a girlfriend who lived in Kane Co., IL.  Kane Co., which borders DuPage Co. on the west, has a large horse population.)

Anyone who’s worked for a large corporation will recognize the above as the sort of coma-inducing busy work keeping lower management on the payroll.

(The hunter/gatherer at work: Ralph bags a decent fish.)

[Ralph and his aunt Annie Belle (Bailey) Lamb, Senath, MO 1988.]

[Ralph and Diane with Ralph’s Cessna 172.  Ralph was a very good pilot, with few mishaps (maybe 2 or 3) that I can remember.  Photo taken 1983.]

[Valerie Berniece Jeffery (Scarff) Chipman, Springfield, MO, 26 Jul 1999.  It was our family custom to assemble about the time of my birthday on 25 Jul, not out of respect for me, but because my birthday occurs at the height of summer.]

(Ralph Vernon Chipman, Springfield, MO, 26 Jul 1999.)

Above: this letter is why you shouldn’t throw important letters away, even if you think you’ll never need them.  The letter, dated 14 Dec 2006, from Alcatel-Lucent Corporate Counsel Eric S. Rosen, is proof that no contract exists between myself and my former employer.  Alcatel-Lucent has been acquired by Nokia of Finland.

Though most records generated over a lifetime aren’t “vital,” they document your life and should be preserved.  In my case, preservation of these records proved vital, not because of identity theft, but due to misrepresentation of my identity.

I have deep MO roots: my mother’s family lived in Miller Co., MO.  My maternal grandmother Hillary Lillian Vaughan was born in Tuscumbia.  My father’s family lived in Dunklin Co., MO.  My father was born in Senath.

Endless Knight: Henry Skipwith, son of Alice (Dymoke) Skipwithe & Alice’s will made June 29, 1549

•September 18, 2017 • Comments Off on Endless Knight: Henry Skipwith, son of Alice (Dymoke) Skipwithe & Alice’s will made June 29, 1549

Sir William Skipwith (d. July 7, 1547) married first ca. June 1, 1505, Elizabeth Tyrwhit, daughter of Sir William Tyrwit of Kettleby in Lincolnshire, by whom he had one son:

Sir William Skipwith, who also married an Elizabeth, as shown in this a2a abstract from the Lincolnshire Archives dated Nov. 12, 1564:



“Sir William Skipwith kt. and Dame Elizabeth his wife to Sir Ralph Chamberlain, Sir John Tyrrell, Sir Edward Dymock Knights and Andrew Gedney, Esq.  Consideration:  marriage of Richard Skipwith son and heir of Sir William and Elizabeth and Mary Chamberlaine a daughter of Sir Ralph.  Property:  manors of Cawthorpe and Manby, Aswarby, settled in tail male on the heirs of Richard and Mary with remainder  to the male heirs of Sir William’s brothers (Lionel, John, George and Henry) in order of age.”

Douglas Richardson in Magna Carta Ancestry, pp. 752-753, gives this account of the children of Sir William Skipwith by Elizabeth Tyrwhit and Alice Dymoke:

[Sir William Skipwith] “married (1st) before 1510 Elizabeth Tyrwhit (or Tyrwhitt), daughter of William Tyrwhit, Knt., of Kettleby, Lincolnshire.  They had one son, William, Knt.  He married (2nd) Alice Dymoke, daughter and co-heiress of Lionel Dymoke, Knt., of Mareham-on-the-Hill, Lincolnshire, by his 1st wife, Joan, daughter of Rhys Griffith, Esq…. They had four sons, Lionel, John, Esq., George and Henry, Esq., and seven daughters, Jane (wife of Richard Bolle), Mary (wife of George Fitzwilliam), Dorothy (wife of Arthur Gedney), Elizabeth (wife of Thomas Clifford), Margaret (wife of George Tailboys, 2nd Lord Tailboys, Peter Carew, Knt., and John Clifton, Knt.), Anne (wife of William Hatcliffe), and Bridget (wife of — Cave).”

Richardson notes that Sir Lionel Dymoke and his widow Anne, who was not the mother of his children, left wills, but doesn’t quote the contents.  On p. 106 he states that Sir Lionel Dymoke’s surviving children were two daughters, Alice and Anne; Anne was the younger and married John Goodrick ca. 1518.

Where did Richardson get his list of children?

I don’t have the specific visitations of Yorkshire he cites.  I do have Lincolnshire Pedigrees, and here’s the chart contained therein, which I’ve adapted:

CP shows Sir William Skipwith’s daughter Margaret who married George Tailboys (b. ca. 1522) was a daughter of Alice Dymoke, so we might place her birth as ca. 1522, assuming she was born about the same time as her husband:

“George (Tailboys), Lord Tailboys… was b. about 1522…. m., between 26 Apr. and 15 May 1539, (h) Margaret, cousin to his guardian, William [Fitzwilliam], Earl of Southampton, niece of Sir Thomas Henneage, (l) and da. of Sir William Skipwith, of Ormsby, co. Lincoln, by his 2nd wife, Alice, da. and coh. of Sir Lionel Dymoke, of Mareham-on-the-Hill, co. Lincoln.”  {The Complete Peerage (1953) Vol. XII Pt. 1, pp. 603-604.}

Sir Thomas Heneage, d. 21 August 1553, m. Catharine Skipwith, dau. of John and Catharine (Fitzwilliam) Skipwith. 

Sir Lionel Dymoke left a will in 1519 (PCC Ayloffe), and his widow Anne in 1521 (PCC Maynmaryng).  Alice (Dymoke) Skipwith of Culverthorpe, Lincolnshire, widow of Sir William Skipwith, also left a will, dated June 29, 1549, and probated April 26, 1550 (PCC Coode PROB 11/33/176).  I downloaded all three wills from the UK The National Archives website.

The images are clear and of good quality, but the first page of Sir Lionel Dymoke’s will suffers from bleed-through.  Probate proceedings are in Latin.  The text of Sir Lionel Dymoke’s will was given in English and Latin; the text of the others in English only.  Lionel and Anne’s wills are short. 

I understand enough of the writing in Alice Skipwith’s will to determine it’s Sir William Skipwith’s widow.  We can place her death as ca. 1550.  It’s a lengthy affair–at the time it was written, her daughter Margaret (“my daughter Taylboys”) was still the wife of George Tailboys.  She mentions her children, including “henry Skipwith my sonne.” 

I’m no expert at deciphering 16th century English handwriting, so the wills of Sir Lionel Dymoke and his widow Anne, which predate Alice Skipwith’s will by about 30 years, are very difficult to read.  I can’t tell if either of them mention Sir Lionel Dymoke’s daughters.  Sir Lionel Dymoke mentions his father Thomas Dymok.  His bequests appear to be to friends and the church.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the wills of Lionel or Anne didn’t mention Lionel’s daughters.  Prior to the probate reform of 1540 important arrangements for a father’s children were made in other ways. 


Henry Skipwith, son of Sir William Skipwith and Alice Dymoke, was ancestor to the Skipwiths of Virginia.

In connection with the marriage of Sir William Skipwith to Alice Dymoke, the a2a website has this abstract:

“These documents are held at Lincolnshire Archives [Paper, a single sheet.]


“Of John Compton, collector of rents of Sir William Skipwith through the right of his wife Alice, daughter and coheir of Sir Lyon Dymoke in Maring cum aliis villatis (Mareham).  Michaelmas, 1538 to the same 1540.  [Horncastle, Upper Toynton, Haltham, Scrafield, Roughton and Claxby].”

Michaelmas is a day in the Christian calendar which falls on September 29th, and was one of the English, Welsh, and Irish quarter days when accounts had to be settled. 


Alice Dymoke was a descendant of the Capetian kings of France through Edward I’s second queen Margaret (Marguerite), daughter of king Philip III.  The Dymoke and Welles arms are on the achievement* at the tomb of Alice’s grandson, Sir William Skipwith (d. 1610), in the church at Prestwould, and his right to display those arms are confirmed by Alice (Dymoke) Skipwith’s will.



On the south wall of the chancel, in the year 1631, was erected a very fair monument of alabaster and touch, coloured and gilt, erected for Sir William Skipwith, of Cotes, knight, and Lady Jane his second wife, at the cost and expense of the said Lady Jane; where, under an arch, lie both their proportions, neatly cut and graven.  Sir William has a piked beard and hair, plated armor, trunk hose, sword by his side; a mattress under him.  At his feet his crest.  His lady had a ruff, and hood falling back; double falling ruffles, and mantle; her head on a cushion; Plate LII fig. i.


On the top of the arch standeth an old atchievement, in an oval frame, with these coats; fig. 2.


1.  Argent, three bars Gules, a greyhound in chief, courant Sable.  Skipwith.

2.  Quarterly, Sable and Argent, a bend Or.  Langton.

3.  Argent, three bars Azure, charged with as many cross crosslets Or.  Memthorpe.

4.  Azure, three crescents Argent.  Thorpe.

5.  Argent, on a cross engrailed Sable, five mascles Or.  Arches.

6.  Argent, a cross engrailed Gules.  De la Lind.

7.  Azure, a lion rampant Ermine.                        } Ormesby.

8.  Sable, three chessrooks Argent, a chief Or.     }

9.  Quarterly, Ermine and Vaire, Or and Azure.  Gibthorpe.

10. Or, a chevron Gules between three Fleurs de lis Vert.  Hiltoft.

11. Or, frette Azure, in a canton Gules, a cross Moline Argent.  Mumby or Willoughby.

12. Sable, a falcon sitting upon a trunk of a tree Or.  Le Muer.

13. Sable, a fess between three mullets Or.  Dimok.

14. Sable, two lions passant in pale Ermine, coronne Or.  Heronville.

15. Vaire, Argent and Azure, a fess Gules, frette Or.  Marmion.

16. Sable, a sword in pale, point towards the chief Argent, hilted Or.  Kilpeck.

17. Ermine, four fusils in fess Gules.  Hebden.

18. Or, a lion rampant queue fourche Sable.  Welles.

19. Gules, a fess dauncette between six cross crosslets crossed Or.  Engaine.

20. Barry of Six, Ermine and Gules;over all three crescents Sable.  The crest; a turnpike Gules, the foot Or.  Waterton.



In the spandrils of the arch are two less escutcheons:


Skipwith; impaling, Azure, fretty Argent, Cave.

Skipwith, impaling, Party per pale, Argent and Gules alion rampant Sable, Roberts; fig. 3,4.


Under the arch, on a table of touch, this epitaph:


To frame a man who in those guiftes excelles,

Which make the cuntry happy where hee dwelles,

We first conceive what names his line adorne:

It kindles Virtue to be nobly borne.

This picture of true Gentry must bee gracd

With glittering jewells round about him placd;

A comely body, and a beauteous mind;

A heart to love, a hand to give inclind;

A house as free and open as the ayre;

A tonge which joyes in language sweete and faire;

Yet can, when need requires, with courage bold

To publike eares his neighbors griefs unfold:

All these we never more shall find in one;

And yit all these are closd within this stone.


Below, on two smaller tablets of touch, thus written:






[The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, by John Nichols, Vol. 3, Part 1 (London, 1800) pages 358-359 containing EAST GOSCOTE HUNDRED.  Monumental inscription in the Church of PRESTWOULD (dedicated to Saint ANDREW):  Page 357 of the above volume records that Dame Jane (JOANNA) Skipwith was buried in the church of PRESTWOULD on 4 Apr 1630 and that Amy (Kemp) SKIPWITH was buried on 7 Sep 1631.  Price, pp. 29-30.]


The description of the achievement refers to “Mumby or Willoughby.”  “Mumby” is not a family, but a well-traveled manor of that name in Lincolnshire, once held by Sir Lionel Dymoke, among others.  For the Willoughby family, see below.

*A heraldic assemblage of certain components, among them the arms the individual was entitled to display.


I haven’t verified the marriage between Sir Thomas Skipwith and Margaret, allegedly daughter of John Lord Willoughby.   An a2a abstract dated June 6, 1422 shows that Robt. Lord Willoughby of Eresby, Robt. Hilton kt., et al. delivered seizin of properties in Lincolnshire to Margaret, widow of Thos. Skipwith, which they had of the gift of Thos. Skipwith.  The Robert Lord Willoughby mentioned must be the 6th Lord Willoughby (ca. 1385-1452); he had one child, a daughter, Joan, who married Richard de Welles. The title Lord Willoughby passed to the Welles family.

There were other Willoughbys in Lincolnshire who appear to be related to the lords Willoughby, and an a2a abstract dated June 3, 1417 shows Thos. son of William Willughby kt. and John Willughby son of Thos., et al. granting various advowsons in Lincolnshire to Thomas Skipwith esq. and Margaret his wife.

The Thos. Willughby mentioned in this latter abstract could be the younger brother of Robert 6th Lord Willoughby (and thus a son of William the 5th lord), but the chronology seems very tight.  This is still the period when marriages were contracted early.  Douglas Richardson’s Plantagenet Ancestry doesn’t mention an earlier marriage for William’s son Thomas.

Unfortunately, in his Magna Carta Ancestry pp. 886-888, Richardson contributes errors of his own, terming Robert 4th Lord Willoughby as the 3rd (the 2nd and 3rd were actually Johns).  According to CP 12 pt. 2 “Willoughby” and its associated chart, this individual was clearly the 4th.  Whether he was ever married to Alice, a daughter of Sir William de Skipwith, is moot.  Richardson shows that his son, William Willoughby the 5th lord, was issue of Margery la Zouche.  He then makes Thomas Skipwith’s wife a granddaughter of William 5th Lord Willoughby–but lists only William’s daughter Elizabeth who married Henry Beaumont as having a daughter named Margaret.  Perhaps Richardson meant to say Sir Thomas Skipwith’s wife was a granddaughter of Robert 4th Lord Willoughby, which is more plausible. 

According to CP, Robert 4th Lord Willoughby had a son John, of whom I know little (Bryan, b. ca. 1383, seems to have been the youngest son).  Robert’s son John never held the title, but was living Feb. 3, 1407 as shown by a grant with his brother William.  Obviously there’s confusion in the account of the Willoughby family.  I don’t know who Margaret Skipwith’s parents were, so I’m not going to fog it up further. 

This pedigree chart, adapted from Lincolnshire Pedigrees pp. 894-895, ties into the chart above.  Note that it claims Sir Thomas Skipwith’s wife Margaret to be a daughter of William 5th Lord Willoughby:

The individual who most interests me in the above chart is John Skipwith, d. 15 Jul 1415, buried in the parish church of Covenham, MP for Lincolnshire in 1406, 1407, and Apr 1414.  John Skipwith married by Jul 1397 Alice Tilney, daughter of Sir Frederick Tilney of Boston, Lincolnshire.  The Tilneys were a family of considerable influence and wealth in Lincolnshire.  Although a second son, due to untimely deaths John Skipwith eventually succeeded to the family estates.  Holder of many offices throughout his life,  according to History of Parliament Online, during his tenure as sheriff of Lincolnshire, “he and his henchmen appear to have inflicted a virtual reign of terror upon the county, and as a result of six separate petitions submitted to the chancellor by his victims he was summoned to appear before the justices of assize at Lincoln in August 1397 to face charges of robbery with violence, blackmail, extortion, false imprisonment and intimidation.  All these allegations were found to be true, although the court’s verdict had little effect upon his career….”  Of course, the backdrop here is the turmoil during the latter part of the reign of King Richard II, and the subsequent Lancastrian usurpation.


It’s been alleged that Margaret Cave, wife of Sir William Skipwith (d. 1610), was connected to Cardinal Henry Beaufort.  Ignoring the dubious authenticity of any Henry Beaufort descent, the claim arose through confusion concerning members of the Danvers family and has no merit.

The UK National Archives has recently updated and improved its website.  a2a can now be accessed at this link:

Gutenberg’s children: a desolate English Skipwith begot a Virginia son / Fulwar Skipwith writes of a tree with 3 branches (Newbold, Metheringham, & Prestwould)

•September 17, 2017 • Comments Off on Gutenberg’s children: a desolate English Skipwith begot a Virginia son / Fulwar Skipwith writes of a tree with 3 branches (Newbold, Metheringham, & Prestwould)





(Click on images to enlarge.)

While my family was eating rancid bacon and dodging rude missiles, one imagines these people in their London clubs and country manors, reading about recent archaeological discoveries and the births, marriages, and deaths of those of their class.  “Sylvanus Urban” was a pseudonym used by successive editors.

Such civilization!  And we a nation of salt and canteens.

Sir Grey Skipwith, 8th Baronet of Prestwould, was sent to England at age 13.  He was a descendant of Col. Robert and Anne (Stith) Bolling, whose progeny are sometimes erroneously thought to be descendants of the famous Native American princess Pocahontas.  Col. Robert Bolling’s first wife was Jane Rolfe, granddaughter of Pocahontas, hence the confusion.  However, members of the Skipwith family did marry into the bloodline of Pocahontas.

(Available as free download from Google Books; see pp. 40, 41, 54 &  55 for Skipwith.)

The reader will note that during the reign of King George I, Sir Fulwar Skipwith offered 80,000 pounds to John Montagu (1690–1749), 2nd Duke of Montagu, etc., for the large estate adjoining Newbold Hall.  The duke demanded 80,000 guineas, and the sale didn’t go through.  The guinea, minted from 1663–1814, was a gold coin initially equal to one pound sterling, or 20 shillings.  Over the years its value fluctuated, but was generally worth more than 20 shillings, so the duke’s price was significantly higher than the 80,000 pounds Sir Fulwar Skipwith had offered.

Periodicals and newspapers, wherever they may be found, are the most under-utilized genealogical materials.  They can contain a wealth of information not found elsewhere.

In the above account of the post-Virginia Skipwiths, there are some factual errors: there were three, not two, Skipwith baronetcies.  The Baronets of Metheringham are little remembered as there were only three of that line which became extinct in 1756.  The manor of Prestwould was sold by Sir Henry Skipwith I, not his son Grey.  The fourth Prestwould baronet was Grey’s son William who also resided in Middlesex Co., VA.

(A general genealogy of the Skipwith family is to be found in this volume, published in 1867.  Available as a download from Internet Archive.)

O Canada! Paul Huffman & Rebecca Crawford of Halton Co., Ontario / Loyalists Face a Disunited Empire / David Huffman & The Great Dunbar Nebraska Train Wreck of 1887 / Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman is Right On

•August 22, 2017 • Comments Off on O Canada! Paul Huffman & Rebecca Crawford of Halton Co., Ontario / Loyalists Face a Disunited Empire / David Huffman & The Great Dunbar Nebraska Train Wreck of 1887 / Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman is Right On

Revised September 12, 2017

Here’s the solution to a family mystery that’s baffled everyone for decades:

Tyler Huffman, Federal Civil War veteran, was the son of Paul Huffman and Rebecca Crawford. They were my third great-grandparents.  Rebecca is said to have died giving birth to Tyler.

It’s known that Paul Huffman was born in Canada on 4 Aug 1817, and died on 25 Jun 1892 in Rome, Henry Co., Iowa.  In 1850 Paul Huffman was living in White Co., Indiana with his second wife, Azubah Washburn, whom he had married on 8 Apr 1841 in Fulton Co., Indiana.

But who were Paul and Rebecca (Crawford) Huffman?  Where did they come from?

Paul Huffman married Rebecca Crawford in Halton Co., Ontario on 2 Feb 1837.  The marriage bond is dated 25 Jan 1837.  Paul Huffman was of Trafalgar Township and Rebecca Crawford is listed as of Esquesing Township.  The marriage bond is found in “Upper and Lower Canada Marriage Bonds” at the Library and Archives Canada (Microfilm reel no. C-6786 Bond # 5791).  Halton Co. is in southern Ontario.

This information enabled me to document the ancestry of Paul Huffman.  Of Rebecca Crawford’s ancestry at present I have no information, but the name is Scottish.

Christopher Huffman, a loyalist of  German descent, whose family had emigrated to NJ in the mid-18th century, initially settled in Sussex Co., NJ.  Christopher Huffman married Anne Smith, daughter of Jacob Smith (UEL) and wife Elizabeth Lewis. He enlisted in the New Jersey (Loyalist) Volunteers on 26 Jan 1777 at Mansfield Township, Sussex Co. (now Warren Co.), seeing action as far south as South Carolina.  In 1788 he removed to Canada, ultimately obtaining a land grant in Glanford Township, which is now in Wentworth Co., Ontario.  Wentworth Co. is adjacent to Halton Co.

Christopher and Anne (Smith) Huffman had 6 children:  Henry 2nd (1781–1862) m. Catherine — (1785–1858); Jacob (Jan 1786–4 May 1851) m. Elizabeth Finch (1786–1871); Elizabeth m. James Choat;  Paul (ca. 1791–25 Jun 1869) m. Phoebe — (liv. 1851); Godfrey m. Eliza A. —; and Ann m. Elisha Bingham.

In the 1851 Halton Co. census, Christopher Huffman’s sons Henry Huffman and Paul Huffman were residing in Trafalgar Township.  Henry was Episcopalian and Paul was Wesleyan Methodist.  Their brother Jacob Huffman served as a private in the War of 1812, and also moved to Trafalgar Township where he assembled substantial holdings.

Wading through the offspring of the four sons of Christopher Huffman, and eliminating Godfrey as too young to have a son b. 1817, it became clear that the parents of Paul Huffman (1817–1892) of Henry Co., IA were Jacob and Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman. Jacob Huffman had a large family of 11 children and is credited with a son “Paul Godfrey Huffman.” Descendants of Paul Huffman of Henry Co., IA identify him as “Paul Godfrey Huffman.” Jacob Huffman’s large family explains why Paul Huffman left Canada in search of land on which to raise his own family.

Paul Huffman (1817–1892) was probably born in Glanford Township, Wentworth Co., Ontario.  Upon relocating to the United States ca. 1838, he would have thought it politic not to mention his Loyalist ancestry.  The Revolution had ended only 55 years earlier, and British outrages during the War of 1812 were still in the popular memory.  The perception that the British favored the South during the Civil War, though in the event they remained neutral, did nothing to rehabilitate their reputation.

[Paul Huffman (4 Aug 1817—25 Jun 1892).  Tombstone at White Oak Cemetery near Trenton, Henry Co., IA.]

Paul Huffman’s son Tyler was named after prominent politician John Tyler (below), nominated in 1839 as the Whig Party candidate for Vice President.  Tyler became President on the untimely death of William Henry Harrison in 1841.  “Tippicanoe and Tyler Too” was a popular jingle of the day.  This suggests that Paul Huffman moved to the United States not long after his marriage.

(Detail of 1850 White Co., IN Federal Census, District No. 130, p. 798.  Here Paul Huffman correctly gives his birthplace as Canada, but in other enumerations he claimed to be born in PA.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The early 1850s found Paul Huffman living in Crawford Township, Washington Co., IA.

(Detail of 1854 Iowa State Census Roll IA-122 Line 17 showing Paul Huffman living in Crawford Township, Washington Co., IA, with 2 males and 4 females in household.)

I found this material on Crawford Township in an 1880 history of Washington Co.



Here’s a truly obscure item.  Paul Huffman briefly left IA and in 1885 was located in Delaware Precinct, Otoe Co., Nebraska (NE).  Otoe Co. is in the eastern part of NE adjacent to the IA border.

(Detail of 1885 Otoe Co., NE State Census, ED 567, Page 8. David Huffman is “head of household” and the stated relationships are to him.  William Casey is his nephew.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The above record, of Paul Huffman the father, and David Huffman the son, recalls a family tale so tragic it must have broke Paul Huffman’s heart.  It’s a case of reality eclipsing a Hollywood western.  Paul Huffman left NE for Decatur Co., KS, and ultimately returned to Henry Co., IA.

What follows are published accounts of David Huffman and The Great Dunbar Nebraska Train Wreck of 1887. The case attracted national attention in newspapers from San Francisco to Chicago to New York City.  I’ve separated the items to make following the coverage easier.  The newspapers spelled the family name as “Hoffman,” although it was actually “Huffman.”


[(1888).  Defenders And Offenders.  New York: D. Buchner & Co.]


We begin our narrative with this piece in The New York Times of 13 Jan 1887:

(The Kankakee wreck was not connected to the wreck at Dunbar, Nebraska.)

(Photograph of the train wreck sent to me by Tim Dempsey.  Although it’s low-res, it’s possible to make out the general scene.  It’s winter, and snow is on the ground.  It appears the track was laid at the top of an embankment at far right.  In the right center the locomotive, with its cowcatcher, is resting on its side.  Above the locomotive is a car also resting on its side.  In the left center is another car resting on its side.  A large group of people are viewing the wreck.  It’s amazing more people weren’t killed.)

(Missouri Pacific Locomotive No. 152.  The locomotive in the Dunbar wreck must have resembled this.  Missouri State Archives.)

(Forepaugh’s Circus was a major attraction. The poster illustrates why Paul Huffman fibbed about his background.  In fashionable Manhattan a British aristocrat might be patent medicine for feelings of social inferiority, but in “real” America, patrons of a Forepaugh show expected to see the British rudely humiliated.)


The Perrysburg Journal, Wood Co., Ohio on Friday 21 Jan 1887 published a story adding some details to The New York Times account.  Friends of the engineer Dewitt blamed the wreck on labor unrest, but that proved to be untrue:

“S.D.  Wilson, conductor of the wrecked train, says that fifty-two passengers were aboard of the train, and that their escape from death was almost miraculous.  The engine landed fifty feet from the track, and the baggage-car, strangely, was carried as far beyond the engine.  The throttle lever was forced through Dewitt’s right lung, and his face was scalded black.  The express messenger  is frightfully wounded.  His skull is badly fractured and every bone in his face broken.  A dispatch from Nebraska City to the Times advances the theory that the motive of the crime was robbery, there being $17,000 worth of bullion on the train.  This theory is discredited here, however.  An official of the road at this point says there is no evidence that the work was instigated by any Knights of Labor organization, but that the animosity of the ex-strikers toward Dewitt was well known.  A special from Wyandotte, Kan., the home of the dead engineer, says Dewitt’s friends openly charge his death to the Knights of Labor.  It appears that he was a delegate to a convention held at St. Louis last spring during the great Southwestern strike to determine whether the engineers should go out or support the strikers.  Dewitt represented two districts, and cast two votes against the strikers. If he had voted for them it would have turned the scale.  Subsequently he received several warnings not to run his engine, but he disregarded them. “


In what must seem like a 19th century version of CSI, The Omaha Daily Bee of Saturday Morning 23 Jul 1887 recapped the evidence that condemned David Huffman:

“THE NEWS OF THE DISASTER next morning sent a thrill of horror through this and neighboring states and prompt and energetic measures were taken to hunt down the perpetrators.  Superintendent Dalby and Sheriff McCallum made an examination of the track and discovered clews that eventually led to the arrest of David Hoffman and James Bell.  The spikes and fishplates of the rail had been drawn and the rail pushed in so that the flange of the wheels must strike it and throw it out of place.  A crowbar was found near the track and a broken tool house some distance away furnished convincing proof that the disaster was deliberately planned and executed.

FOOTPRINTS IN THE SNOW lead directly to the house of John Hoffman, a few hundred yards from the track.  Coroner Brauer, Sheriff McCallum, Thomas Hanion, Thomas Dunbar and others traced these footprints from the tool house to the wreck, thence through a corn field to Hoffman’s house.  David Hoffman and Bell were found in the house and subjected to a rigid questioning about the wreck.  Their stories were so conflicting and palpably false that they were placed under arrest.  Their footgear was then fitted to the tracks in the snow, and found to be an exact imprint—even to the patch on Hoffman’s rubber boot.”

To wreck the train, Huffman and Bell removed the spikes and fishplates.  A fishplate (below) is a metal bar bolted to the rails to join the track together.

Once the spikes and fishplates were removed, the track was bent inward so when the flange of the locomotive’s wheels struck the damaged portion the locomotive would be thrown from the track.  There’s no doubt the crime was premeditated as Huffman and Bell fully understood the consequences of tampering with the track.  Judging by the photograph of the wreck, the engine struck the sabotaged track and was thrown, skidding down the embankment on its side to the engineer’s right, with the cars, which were lighter than the engine, being thrown behind it.

The Gazette: Fort Worth, Texas on Friday 14 Jan 1887 carried an account of the arrests:

“Two Arrests Made.

Nebraska City, Neb., Jan. 13.–David W. Hoffman of Dunbar and James W. Bell of Unadilla, Neb., were arrested at Dunbar yesterday afternoon, charged with having caused the wreck Tuesday night.  Hoffman was recently a brake-man of the Burlington and Missouri road, while little is known of Bell.  Both have been idling about for some time.  Neither one is a member of the local Knights of Labor.  Both were somewhat intoxicated when arrested, and Hoffman was badly frightened.  The coroner’s jury returned a verdict this morning to the effect that the wreck was caused by Hoffman, Bell and others.”


According to the Sedalia Weekly Bazoo, Tuesday 18 Jan 1887, published at Sedalia, Missouri, the Dunbar train wreck had incited a mob:


It is learned that a body of men had organized at an early hour this morning to break the jail at Nebraska City and lynch the villains. Public sentiment was very much wrought up, and if reports are true, the necessity and cost of a trial will be dispensed with

The gentleman who participated in exacting the confessions from the accused, describes the mob as one that was worked up to such a pitch of fury that if they had caught sight of the prisoners, they would have made short work of them.  The mob gathered around the jail and furiously demanded the surrender of the self-confessed villains, and threatened, in case of refusal, to break and burn the jail.  The sheriff appeared in front of the jail and attempted to mitigate the rage of the mob, but his words only increased their fury.  He was met with jeers and curses and missiles were thrown at him.  In the meantime the prisoners had been removed and taken in a sleigh to Nebraska City.  It is not improbable, however, that the transfer may result only in changing the locality of, and not prevent, the lynching, as the feeling of the people of Nebraska City is at fever heat.”

David Huffman and James Bell were removed from the jail at Nebraska City and taken to an undisclosed location elsewhere in the town.


Justice in Nebraska took no liberties with time.  The Omaha Daily World for Thursday Evening, 7 Apr 1887 ran this:

“A Forced Confession.

Train Wrecker Hoffman Claims He ‘Fessed’ Only at the Point of a Revolver.

Nebraska City, April 7.–The trial of David Hoffman, one of the two Missouri Pacific train wreckers of Dunbar, began yesterday before Judge Chapman.  Attorneys A.S. Cole and C.W. Seymour are defending and John C. Watson prosecuting.  Hoffman’s counsel created a sensation by producing an affidavit signed by Hoffman, in which he claims that the so-called confession was forced from him in the Grand Pacific Hotel in this city at night by Missouri Pacific Detective Tutt and his associate; that Sheriff McCollum and his deputy, Joseph Huberle, took him to the Grand Pacific Hotel at night, where there were two or three strange men supposed to be Missouri Pacific detectives; that one of them held a cocked revolver to his head, a watch in his hand, saying that he would give him (Hoffman) just two minutes to tell about how the trains were wrecked at Dunbar; that all of the time the Sheriff and deputy were present and did not attempt to stop these men in any manner …; this ground the attorneys asked the judge to discharge the jury, as it had been drawn by a prejudiced Sheriff.  The motion was overruled.  They then asked for a separate trial, which was granted, and David Hoffman was put on trial. A jury was secured at 6 o’clock last night.”


This item from the Omaha Daily World for Saturday Evening, 9 Apr 1887 relates some testimony in the case:


Hoffman’s Brother Does Not Shield the Train Wrecker—Startling Testimony.

Nebraska City, April 9—The sensation of the trial of David Hoffman, the Dunbar train wrecker yesterday, was the testifying of his accomplice Bell, who, as predicted, turned state’s evidence. He testified that he was in Dunbar the day of the wreck on business; got drunk, was arrested, and fined; he appealed to Hoffman, who was present, to pay the fine; Hoffman said he did not have any money, but would have enough the next day; Bell put up his team as security for the fine, and followed Hoffman around the town.  He drank considerable, but Hoffman did not; Hoffman asked witness to go along down the railroad track; Hoffman broke open the Burlington & Missouri tool house and secured a crowbar and wrenches; both men proceeded up the Missouri Pacific track; when they arrived at the place where the wreck subsequently occurred,  Bell sat down on the track and Hoffman proceeded to remove the rails; witness asked him what he was doing, and he replied that he was going to wreck the train and rob the express car; Bell remonstrated, and said that many people would get killed.  Hoffman said he didn’t give a d–n, he had made up his mind and would carry it out; Hoffman removed the spikes and rail; saw the train approaching, when Hoffman pulled him down in the ravine; when the train jumped the track both ran.

The counsel for the defense endeavored unsuccessfully to break down Bell’s testimony. John Hoffman, a brother of David, testified that when he ran to the wreck he saw a man jump out of a ravine west of the track and run, he could not tell who it was, but it looked like Dave Hoffman’s form. The Missouri Pacific detectives testified that Hoffman made a voluntary confession to them without inducement, threats or force.

The citizens of Dunbar testified that Hoffman promised them that he would pay money due them next day; this on the day of the wreck.  Hoffman was cool and unconcerned until Bell testified, and then uneasy.”


The Newark Daily Advocate of Newark, Ohio for Tuesday, 12 Apr 1887 printed this:

“Train Wrecker to Hang.

Nebraska City, Neb., April 12.–The case of the state against David Hoffman for wrecking the Missouri Pacific passenger train at Dunbar, in January last, closed Saturday in the district court. The jury found a verdict of murder in the first degree, and Hoffman will swing about July 20.  Bell, his partner, turned states evidence, and made a clean confession of the whole affair.  Robbery was the motive.  Bell will get a life sentence.”

James Bell actually received a 10 year sentence. 


The Omaha Daily World for Tuesday Evening, 12 Apr 1887 carried this brief notice:

“Hoffman Hangs July 22

NEBRASKA CITY, April 12.–David Hoffman, the Missouri Pacific train wrecker, has been sentenced to hang on July 22, for the murder of Engineer DeWitt.  Hoffman, who has appeared somewhat indifferent during the trial, broke down when sentenced was passed, and wept like a child.  The Sheriff and deputy were obliged to support him to his cell.”


Efforts to persuade the governor of Nebraska to spare David Hoffman were fruitless.  The following story ran in The Omaha Daily Bee of Saturday Morning 23 Jul 1887:

“One sister, Mrs. Mattie Fitch of Elmwood, Neb., has been most untiring in her efforts in his behalf. She circulated a petition, to which she got a large number of signatures, asking the commutation of his sentence to imprisonment for life, which she presented to Governor Thayer with her prayers, but her efforts were in vain.  Aside from this one sister, none of his relatives seemed to concern themselves in the least about his fate, and apparently he had not a friend on earth.”


The Chicago Tribune of Saturday 23 Jul 1887 had this to say about David Huffman’s final moments:

“He passed a comfortable night, retiring about 10:30 and sleeping soundly until 6:30.  His breakfast was of fruit, of which he ate sparingly.  Then he smoked a cigar, and was still smoking unmoved while the death warrant was read to him a short time afterwards.  He had never shown any weakness, and was perfectly composed until he was led out to the scaffold at 10:21, when he became weak in the knees and had to be supported, but his step was more firm as he ascended the scaffold.

When he stepped upon the platform his face wore a pitiful and haggard expression, and when he cast a look at the rope dangling near his right shoulder his body shook.  A short prayer was offered by the Rev. R. Pierson, when he was asked if he had anything to say.  He cast his eyes upward, then over the crowd of spectators around the scaffold, and then they wandered to the trap-door beneath his feet, when he burst into tears and sobbed like a child.  By a strong effort he regained his composure, and replied that he had nothing to say.  His legs and arms were quickly bound, the noose adjusted, the black cap drawn, and the trap was sprung.”


The public’s fascination with David Huffman is illustrated by this headline from The Boston Daily Globe of Saturday, 23 Jul 1887:

The Weekly Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln, Nebraska on Friday, 29 July 1887 described the scene at the hanging:

“The Hanging at Nebraska City – Thousands of People Gather to Witness the Execution – Only Two Hundred Admitted Within the Enclosure – The Prisoner Breaks Down Completely Before Being Led to the Scaffold – The Court House Guarded By Military – Scenes in the Condemned Man’s Cell – A History of the Crime and Sketch of Hoffman’s Life.

Nebraska City, Neb., July 22. – [Special]

Early this morning the city was crowded with strangers from all directions, all eager to witness the hanging of David W. Hoffman.  There was some talk in the early morning of tearing down the enclosure and having a public execution, but the appearance of Company C, Second Regiment, which arrived at the court house about 8 o’clock, quickly put down all such schemes.  About 8,000 people were around the court house square, but no one except those who had permits were allowed inside.  Tickets to the execution sold as high as $15.

At 9:30 a.m. the doors were opened and the fortunate ones were admitted.”

Authorities had erected an enclosure around the court house and gallows.  Some people wanted the enclosure removed so the entire crowd could witness the execution, but this was prevented by the militia company for fear it would precipitate a riot.  Entry into the enclosure required a ticket, of which only 200 were issued.  Scalpers sold tickets for as much as $15.00.

According to the St. Paul Daily Globe of St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday Morning, 23 Jul 1887:


Execution of a Train Wrecker at Nebraska City.

Nebraska City, Neb., July 22.–David Hoffman was hanged here to-day for wrecking a Missouri Pacific passenger train on the night of the 11th of January last, at Dunbar, a small station on the Missouri Pacific, ten miles west of this place.  At the time of the wreck Engineer Dewitt was instantly killed, and a number of passengers were seriously injured.  Hoffman ascended the scaffold with a firm tread.  He made an effort to say something, but broke down.  The trap was sprung at 10:24, and he was strangled to death in eight minutes.  His body was cut down and turned over to the county coroner.  His confederate in the train wrecking is serving a ten years’ sentence in the penitentiary, having turned state’s evidence.  The militia company was called out to keep order, but everything passed off quietly.”

(The Chicago Tribune account above added: “The body was exposed to the public for one hour, after which it was turned over to relatives.”)

In a truly bizarre twist to this story, the Butler [MO] Weekly Times of Wednesday, July 27, 1887 contributed this item:

“David Hoffman, the Nebraska train wrecker, was hung at Nebraska City last Friday.  Just before the execution took place he handed the Kansas City Times correspondent the following note which should be read and carefully heeded by our young men: ‘A warning of the first Glass, warning to all young men:—I write these few lines; hoping that some young man, whom I have played with may read them and a warning take from me and never tip the poison bowl to your lips.  Young man, when you fill the first glass set it down and think—O! think deep in your hearts how many graves it has filled.  O! how many children’s fathers it has torn from them and how many poor wives are left alone in sorrow, grief for the loss of their dear, beloved husbands, how many poor mother’s hearts it has broken.  O! young men; turn from that broad and sinful path.  O! stop and think of one who was free and happy, whose heart is overflowed with sorrow and grief—almost laid in his lonely grave—all for that miserable liquor.  O! young men, take warning from them before it is too late is my prayer.’

David Hoffman”

The note appears to place responsibility for David Huffman’s plight on John Barleycorn, but is probably a pious fraud as he was said to be illiterate.

This terse account from The Railroad Gazette of 5 Aug 1887 makes Huffman and Bell’s motive even more sinister:

Although train robbers did relieve passengers of their valuables, The Railroad Gazette is in error regarding Huffman and Bell’s intentions, as neither was reported to be armed.  In fact, the whole enterprise was incompetently planned, for they had no means of transporting such a large amount of silver bullion, had they managed to get their hands on it.  The copious amount of alcohol they had imbibed both defeated their inhibitions and dulled what intelligence they ordinarily possessed, which seems minimal.

“Estimates of those who were actual witnesses to the hanging were 50 by one news account and 200 by another. The body was taken down by coroner Brauer and turned over to the family. A funeral procession consisting of several buggies headed for Unadilla, 13 miles west of Dunbar, where Hoffman was buried.

Authorities worked quickly to remove the scaffold and perimeter fencing.” (Dempsey, p. 73.)

Undoubtedly one of the buggies in the funeral procession was that of his sister, Mattie (Huffman) Fitch.

The Omaha Daily Bee of Saturday Morning, 23 Jul 1887 added this:

“His [David Huffman] pulse ceased to beat at 10:33, and his body was cut down and turned over to Coroner Brauer, who left with it this afternoon overland for Unadilla for burial.”

According to Barbara Boardman Wilhelm of the Otoe County Genealogical Society, David Huffman was probably buried in the “Potter’s Field” section at the north end of Unadilla cemetery.

That Coroner Brauer accompanied the body gives a clue as to what may have happened: that David Huffman’s family refused to pay for the burial, and he was buried at county expense, but not at Nebraska City, for fear the grave would be vandalized.  It’s unlikely there was ever a grave marker.


In its coverage of David Huffman’s hanging, the Omaha Daily World of 22 Jul 1887 gave an account of his family:

“David Hoffman was born near Trenton, Henry county, Ia., on April 8, 1864.  He resided on a farm with his parents until he was thirteen years of age, when he went to Fremont county, Ia., and worked for a farmer near  Randolph for some time. He was in Fremont county off and on for nearly five years.  After remaining in Fremont for about a year and a half he went to Phillips county, Kan., where he and one of his brothers farmed some, but most of the two years that he was there he worked for other farmers in Phillips and Decatur counties.  He went from there to York and Filmore counties, Nebraska, where he and his brother John Hoffman farmed for nearly two years.  Tiring of farming he drifted westward as far as Denver, where he worked one winter for a horse trainer named Hurne.  Here is a period of his life he fails to fully detail …. [Huffman was thought to be implicated in cattle rustling.]  After tiring of Denver he went back to Randolph where he remained until three years ago, when he came to Dunbar, Neb., and rented a farm with his brother John, and remained nearly two years.  He went back last spring to Creston. Ia., and, with the aid of two brothers who were working on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, secured a position as brakeman on that road, which he retained but a short time.  He then went to Taylor Station, eighteen miles east of Council Bluffs, Ia., where he clerked in a store and also worked on a farm about two months.  On July 8, 1886, he came to Unadilla, this county, and began work on a farm with his brother-in-law, Taylor Fitch, near that place, where he remained until he went to Dunbar the day that the train was wrecked.  His father and mother reside in Decatur county, Kansas. He has four brothers and four sisters living.  Paul and Thomas Jefferson Hoffman are employees of the C. B. & Q. at Creston, Ia., and are highly esteemed by all who know them.  Tyler Hoffman resides on the old homestead in Henry county, Ia., while John Hoffman, near whose house the wreck occurred at Dunbar, is now residing on farm in Nelson county, Neb.  His sisters are Mrs. Mattie Fitch, Elmwood, Neb.; Mrs. Rachel Norton, Randolph county, Ia.; Mrs. Mary Corney, Decatur Co., Kan., and Mrs. Rebecca Messer, Henry county, Ia.

His father wrote him shortly after his sentence that he would much prefer to see him hung than have him go to jail for ten years like his partner, James Bell.  Hoffman claimed to have a sweetheart residing at Hamburg, but she never visited him or wrote him letters….  He stoutly denied that he was guilty of the crime for which he was punished, and said that Bell was the one who removed the rail while he stood by and watched him, and that he was innocent of any wrong, but was too drunk at the time to take any part or fully realize what was being done.”

David Huffman’s claim “to have a sweetheart residing at Hamburg” is quite possibly true.  Hamburg is in Fremont Co., IA, which borders MO to the south and NE to the west.  In support of that assertion, I have the following provided in May 2017 by my mother Valerie Berniece Jeffery (Scarff) Chipman:

Grandpa Scarff’s story of motivation for David Huffman’s involvement in Nebraska train derailment as told to Valerie Chipman.

Great grandfather Tyler Huffman’s younger brother David was wild, and Tyler warned him that he would end up badly if he did not change his ways. David did not want to take advice from his brother and according to Tyler he was told to “paddle his own canoe.” Tyler also related that David was angry with the engineer of the train because he was seeing a girl that David was interested in.

(Transcription by Jeffrey Thomas Chipman.)

“Grandpa Scarff” is my grandfather Jesse Otto Jeffery Scarff’s adoptive father John Scarff, who was married to David Huffman’s niece Emma Huffman.  “Great grandfather Tyler Huffman” is David’s half-brother.

I suppose Paul Huffman’s words that “he would much prefer to see [David]  hung than have him go to jail for ten years like his partner, James Bell,” is both a comment on what the father thought was David’s debt to society, and the evil of James Bell, whose role in the crime was greater than he admitted.


This article from the San Francisco Chronicle of Saturday 23 Jul 1887 fills in some details about David Huffman’s previous criminal activity:

“About five years ago Hoffman was in the cattle-stealing business near Ayer, Neb., in the Republican valley, and is credited with being one of a gang who drove off an entire herd, for which a mob lynched an old man named Weatherdyke.  He is also said to have been mixed up in a number of other horse and cattle thefts in Northern Nebraska and Eastern Colorado.”


And what of James Bell?

The Omaha Daily World of Thursday Evening 14 Apr 1887 ran this item:

“Bell Gets Ten Years.

Nebraska City, April 13.–James Bell, the accomplice of David Hoffman, pleaded guilty yesterday to train-wrecking at Dunbar and was sentenced to ten years in the Penitentiary. Bell seemed relieved when sentence was passed, particularly as Hoffman is sentenced to be hanged.  The popular feeling was such that the Sheriff took him at once to Lincoln without trying to keep him over night.”

The Penitentiary at Lincoln was until after WWI the only adult correctional facility in Nebraska.  In 1889, it housed about 400 inmates, of whom James Bell was Prisoner No. 1203.  The Nebraska State Historical Society has a copy of his “Descriptive Record.”

“James Bell, Hoffman’s accomplice, was released from the Nebraska Penitentiary in May of 1894 after serving 7 years.”  (Dempsey, p. 73.) 


And to refute the twin misconceptions that the English ignore we colonials and nothing exciting ever happens in my family, there’s this from the Yorkshire Gazette of York, England, dated Saturday, 13 Aug 1887:

“At Nebraska city, Neb., the other day, it took eight minutes to ‘strangle to death’ David Hoffman, who had wrecked a passenger train, with fatal results.  In the matter of executions, therefore, the Americans are fearfully slow.  Had Berry, of Bradford, been commissioned to deal with Mr Hoffman, he would have effectually completed his ghastly task in about eight seconds.  The execution of Hoffman reminds one of the scenes which took place on Knavesmire and Clifton Ings a couple of centuries ago, when criminals led to execution were strangled to death.  Thousands of persons object to capital punishment—Mr Lockwood, Q.C., M.P., however, is one of those who consider that it acts as a check on crime—but they must at any rate be gratified to know that our wretched culprits are sent out of this world in the most humane way yet known to science.”

The article refers to “Berry of Bradford.”  James Berry (1852–1913) was Public Executioner in Britain, author of My Experiences as an Executioner.  He’s best known  for refining the “long drop” method of hanging.  The English are better than we are at everything.  One wonders if Rumpole would have shared Mr. Lockwood’s opinion.


Dempsey, Tim.  (2014).  Well I’ll Be Hanged Early Capital Punishment In Nebraska. Mechanicsburg, PA: Sunbury Press, Inc.  (Chapter VI, pp. 67–78 “David Hoffman A Real Train Wreck” is an account of the Dunbar, NE train wreck and its aftermath.  On p. 76 is a photograph of the wreck, which is seen above.)

This all sounds quite lurid, but it was the era before radio and TV.  To visualize the crime, imagine yourself riding a skateboard down an incline and tied to your skateboard is a string of tin cans.  You wipe out and the cans are flying everywhere.  Train wrecking was a common method of robbing a train, and in this case it proved deadly for both the engineer and the robber.

If the reader will indulge a moment of self-promotion, I think this story has a great deal to say to a modern audience.  David Huffman was the O.J. of 1887.  What is our morbid fascination with these characters?  As the Omaha Daily Bee of Saturday Morning 23 Jul 1887 wailed: “THE NEWS OF THE DISASTER next morning sent a thrill of horror through this and neighboring states….”

Why was the story all but forgotten?  David Huffman never married and has no descendants—but he does have numerous blood relatives (myself included), whose account of him consists of vague family tales.

Any film based upon this story will take some liberties with the truth, but as I see it, there are two main characters: Mattie (Huffman) Fitch, who in real life was married, but in my version would be widowed, and the male lead a reporter from St. Louis or Kansas City who filed his coverage via telegraph.  There is a romance (of course) between Mattie and the reporter, but in the end, this is what Mattie says to her lover:

“David was my little brother, stupid, yes, but not a monster.  Did you prey upon our relationship to flesh out your fictions?  For I think all of it is to sell newspapers to a nation whose sole interest is an account of his fall.”

David is the catalyst here, but not the male lead.  His inevitable execution brings the story to a “satisfying” conclusion which was denied the public in the Simpson and Anthony cases.

The railroads were lifelines for a community. In addition to anger about the crime, concern for the economic health of the area undoubtedly played a role in the fury vented upon David Huffman.


The following biographical sketch of Elisha B. Huffman, son of Jacob and Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman, gives a detailed family history of the descendants of Jacob and Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman (click on images to enlarge).  Homer, MN is in the far southeast of the state, on the bank of the Mississippi River.

(1895).  Portrait And Biographical Record Of Winona County, Minnesota Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County, Together with Biographies and Portraits of all the Presidents of the United States.  Lake City Publishing Co.  Chicago:  Chapman Publishing Company, Printers And Binders.  pp. 294–295

There is, in connection with Jacob Huffman, a lawsuit which provides contemporary evidence concerning his family, in:

Jones Esq., Edward C.  (1853).  Reports Of Cases Decided In The Court Of Common Pleas of Upper Canada; From Trinity Term 15 Victoria, To Trinity Term 16 Victoria Volume II. Toronto:  Henry Rowsell, King-Street, pp.423–430.

It was a messy affair: Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman, widow of Jacob, asserted her dower rights to a property then occupied by James Finch, which property had been acquired during her marriage to Jacob Huffman.  The property was extensive, consisting of a large tract of land and improvements, in Trafalgar, Halton Co., Ontario.  For his part, Finch claimed to have had a deed dated 28 Apr 1815 from Jacob Huffman, now lost, in which Elizabeth duly relinquished her dower.  The court ruled for Elizabeth as Finch could produce no evidence. There’s nothing stating the relationship of Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman to James Finch, but surely they were related.  It’s a case with implications on both sides of the Canada/USA border, because it illustrates what could happen when a wife didn’t legally alienate her dower.  In this instance, James Finch had to satisfy Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman’s dower portion.

This passage, found on p. 425, proves the identity of Jacob Huffman, and his real date of death:


There are discrepancies in the available information regarding the descendants of Christopher Huffman.  The broader outline seems correct, while some details are conflicting.  Some of the dates in the Elisha B. Huffman sketch don’t match other data. One can only work with the facts at hand while being careful to correct the record with more accurate material as it’s unearthed. However, Elisha B. Huffman can be expected to have intimate knowledge of his parents and siblings.

As I examined the lives of Christopher Huffman and his family in Halton Co., Ontario, I realized how closely they resembled pioneers in the United States.  These were the people who were the backbone of nations, who cleared the land, built roads, established courts of justice, and erected houses to their faith.  In this there was more that bound together Christopher Huffman and Virginia pioneers like Abraham Fulkerson than set them apart.

The following marriages are also found in Halton Co, Ontario:

Charlotte Huffman to Alexander McKenzie, both of Trafalgar Township, 26 Dec 1835 (Charlotte was the dau. of Henry Huffman)

Susan Crawford to Charles Coote, both of Esquessing Township, 23 Mar 1831

Patrick Crawford to Elizabeth Madden, both of Trafalgar Township, 5 Apr 1833

Thomas Crawford (carpenter), of Trafalgar Township, to Barbara Watkins, of Esquessing Township, 1 Nov 1837 (Barbara was the dau. of Samuel Watkins)

To celebrate my Canadian heritage, these are the lyrics to the Canadian national anthem:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


Newspapers can be crucial in reconstructing family history.  “Chronicling America” is a free newspaper database operated by the Library of Congress.  Check their website first before subscribing to a paid service.

An excellent resource for Canadian genealogical research is Library and Archives Canada website:

Another useful website is United Empire Loyalists: