52 Ancestors #8: Clymer brothers and the Civil War

I’ve written previously about my Clymer ancestors and their move from Tennessee to southeast Missouri prior to the start of the Civil War. I hinted then that I’d be writing more about this family — several of Hixey’s sons were soldiers in the war (or at least that’s what I remember my Grandpa Harold telling me). This is the week to learn a little bit more about them.

My research about this family line takes on a greater importance now because I want to get these ancestors included on the list of Missouri’s First Families, maintained by the Missouri State Genealogical Society, of which I am a member. Ideally, I could complete that work by summer, but we’ll have to see.

Trouble is that I need to provide documentation, and until now I’ve relied on online records primarily to do my genealogy research. So, I’ll need to get some documents and citations ready to show what I already know from family lore and online documents.

Here’s a bit more about these brothers and where they served, or at least what details I can find:

Charles Renfrow Clymer (1835-1926) 

There is some documentation to show that he served in the 49th regiment of the Tennessee Infantry as a Confederate soldier.

John D. Clymer (1842-1915)

It appears that John D. Clymer moved from Missouri back to Tennesse around age 17 so that he could join the Tennessee Calvary. He served  as a private with the U.S. Army, Company C, 12th Regiment of the Tennessee Calvary. Documentation is a database of U.S. Civil War Soldiers from 1861-65 on Ancestry.com.

He married Eveline Hawkins in 1866 at age 23. His second wife is Nancy Jane Finley Reynolds Lackey. They married in 1874 when John D. was 31 years old. He died in 1915 in Scott County, Mo.

A family listing in “History and Families of Scott County, Missouri” published in 2003 by Turner Publishing Co. has this information:

John D. Clymer returned to Hickman County, Tenn., in 1859. When the Civil War began, Clymer was forced into the Confederate Army. At his first opportunity, he left the Confederate Army and joined the U.S. Army, Company C 12th Regiment, Tennessee Calvary. After the Civil War, he settled in Scott County.

Another reference, “The History of Scott County” by Edison Shrum, lists John D. as a private in the 12th Tennessee Calvary from Aug. 9, 1861-July 26,1865.

UPDATE: I requested John D. Clymer’s military records from the National Archives and received photocopies in the mail on March 8, 2014. The records indicate that he did, in fact, serve with the 12th Tennessee Calvary, Company 6. He volunteered on 15 February 1864 for a period of three years. H was 22 years old at the time.

He had a charge of desertion penned by 1st Lt. Charles. E Boyers because he did “absent himself” from his company and regiment at Nashville on 22 March 1864 and remained absent until he was “arrested by guard on 22nd day of April 1864” and returned to his company.

He mustered out Oct. 7, 1865.  His note indicated that he confessed to the desertion charge and was sentenced to hard labor for two months with the loss of his pay. He was promoted to 1st Sgt. in May of 1865.

Now that I have these documents, I just need to prove his line to me and I’ll be able to apply for the Missouri First Families status.

Samuel Clymer (1844-1918)

I can find little information about him and whether he served. He would have been about 17 when the war started in 1861. There is a document on a Samuel Clymer who served as 1st Lt. in the 48th regiment of the Tennessee Infantry (Voorhies’), Company H. Not sure if this is my relative, so I’ll have some work to do here.

The Shrum book also lists Samuel H. Clymer as a private, D, 50th Mo. Inf, Sept. 2, 1864-July 1, 1865.

James C “Jonah” Clymer (1846-1936)

My notes on James C. “Jonah” Clymer include this: Union soldier in Civil War: enlisted on 2 September 1864 at Commerce and was mustered into services as a private in Company D of the 50th Regiment Infantry, Missouri volunteers. He mustered out July 3, 1865.
I’ve got this 1890s Veterans schedule document from Ancestry.com that shows he was a veteran but nothing else is listed for me to verify. Again, I’ll need to get the documents to prove this connection.

The Shrum book lists him as a private in the 50th Mo. Infantry from Sept. 2, 1864-July 1, 1865.

Louis (or Lewis) P. Clymer (1848-1903)

I can find absolutely nothing in my searches for Louis P. Clymer having served, but that might just be because he was young. Granted, that didn’t mean that boys fought at a young age; I just can’t determine it about this ancestor.

I want to find out more about where and when these ancestors served so I can tell more of their stories.

UPDATE: After last week’s post, I set up a visit in March so I can get my dad, his sister and some other relatives together to collect stories of their childhood and memories of their parents. I haven’t exactly figured out my questions but there’s still some time for that. What should I be asking? I’m open to suggestions.


52 Ancestors # 7: Kathleen Tyrey Johnston

Kathleen Marie Tyrey Johnston was born in Franklin County, Mo., near the end of July in 1933, just as the country is beginning to come out of the Great Depression. Later in the year, FDR would unveil his New Deal as a plan to get Americans working again.

She was the youngest child of Lester and Marcella James Tyrey. She had two sisters and a brother.

She married James Frank Johnston on Sept. 3, 1951, in St. Louis. The couple had two children, Victoria and Michael (my father) before Kathleen’s death in May 1963, months before JFK was assassinated.

I’ve grown up knowing that my father’s mother died of complications from lupus when he was nine years old. I know that he won’t eat kettle beef because that was about all he and his sister ate on the bus ride from Oakland, Calif., to St. Louis, Mo., after his mother died. I know that he traveled back to St. Louis with his grandmother, who we used to visit occasionally before she died, so that the family could be nearer to relatives.

Doing genealogy research, I discovered that Kathleen is buried in Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic cemetery in St. Louis.

That’s about the extent of the information I know about her.

So, I was particularly struck by the post from Amy Johnson Crow on No Story to Small about collecting stories when you can get them. This post is going to be purposely short because I’m about to write a letter to several aunts and uncles asking them some basic questions about their life so that their stories, along with those of my father, won’t be forgotten in a generation or two.

Perhaps I’ll have some updates on Kathleen Tyrey Johnston after I talk to my dad and pull those stories from his memories of her.

52 Ancestors #6: Margaret (Maggie) Jane Vanderpool Clymer

Maggie Jane Clymer was born in rural Richwoods, Missouri, just as the Civil War was ending to John Vanderpool and Ellen Smith Vanderpool. She might have been their only child.
She lived there — a small community founded in 1830 in Washington County — for most of her childhood, likely living on a farm.

She was listed on the 1870 census as living with her parents in Richmond, in northwestern Missouri. I have found little about her parents, except that both were born in Tennessee. How and why they came to Missouri, I can only speculate — perhaps for the rich farmland, perhaps to escape the south during a time of turmoil.

JC Clymer family, 1900

Maggie and JC Clymer and their family, 1900 in Commerce.

Maggie Jane grew to an adult and moved to Commerce, Missouri, by April 1884 when she married James C. “Jonah” Clymer. She was his second wife; he was nearly twice her age at the time of their marriage. Marriage records list her maiden name as Vanderford, but I believe that to be an error in transcription as a death certificate lists her maiden name as Vanderpool and her father was born in Vanderpool, Tenn.

I have no idea how Maggie Jane and Jonah met and decided to marry. I can’t find much in census records to track her early childhood and young adult life until she married J.C. Clymer. Although he and his first wife had children together, I don’t believe any of the children from his first marriage were still alive when he married Maggie Jane.

The couple had seven children together — Bessie Pearl, James Ferrell, John A. “Logan,” Herman, Mary Hixie, Margaret and Edna. In 1900, census records show her living with her husband, three sons and three daughters in Commerce. (Daughter Edna wasn’t born until 1903.) This picture of the family, taken around 1900, hung in my childhood home so I’ve always felt a strong connection to this group of ancestors.

In addition to raising her own children, Maggie Jane helped to raise my great-grandmother, Amy Ruth Duckworth, the daughter of Bessie, born in 1902. Based on hearing the stories my grandfather used to tell,  Mag (Margaret), Hixie, Edna and Ruth (my great-grandmother) were “thick as thieves.”

Maggie lived to be 75 years old, dying in 1939, just three years after her husband and near the end of the Great Depression. Family rumor has it that she was part Cherokee. That information I’ve not been able to track thus far.

Three of her children died before she did — Bessie, Herman and Logan  (there’s more to the story there but that’s for another post or three as I dig deeper), which I imagine as times of great loss and grief for her as a mother.

I always got the sense that Maggie Jane was like the glue holding things together in the family, and with seven children, I imagine her days were lively and exhausting more often than not. It strikes me that there were likely great hardships in her life, particularly because of life on the farm and living through the Depression and a World War.

The few pictures I have (she’s shown in the header of this blog with her young family on the farm in Commerce) seen of her show a woman who appears to be determined and driven to survive. Both are characteristics I admire, too.

52 Ancestors # 5: Carl Johnston

The more I dive into genealogy research and read about people who’ve had success tracing their family’s roots, the more hopeful I am that I can discover more about some “missing” relatives.
I spent some time last weekend visiting with my dad and stepmom. She’s also trying to trace her roots and has run into some roadblocks (like we all have, I’m certain) with one particular person. We lamented how difficult it is sometimes to find out more or deeper information. (Her search is hampered by a lack of records because the relative is of Cherokee ancestry.)
But, I’m sure with some perseverance we’ll figure out these little mysteries and be all the better amateur geneaologists for it.
Perhaps one day I’ll be posting the full story of Carl Johnston on this site. Until then, here’s a little bit about what I know:
Carl Johnston is the father of my grandfather, James Frank Johnston. But it could easily be that Johnston isn’t actually their surname. You see, I have some sketchy notes (in my own handwriting) taken from a conversation with a second cousin, who says that the family name likely is Yarbrough.
Apparently, there was a need at some point to take on an alias. I have no idea about Carl’s background, really.
Here’s what my notes relay about his life:

    He was born as Derwood Yarbrough (or Yarborough), the son of Frank Yarbrough and Edith Meyer in 1892 in Texas. (I can find such a person having existed.)
  • He was baptized as John Thomas while living with John O’Shea in Texas. (No idea how O’Shea is connected, but he might also have been called Derwood.)

It gets pretty sketchy then – maybe he lived in Tennessee, Montana or Missouri, and maybe he had a daughter, Grace Marie. I can’t tell much more about his early life to know how he got from Texas to Missouri.

  • City directory and census records show him living in St. Louis in 1930 with his wife, Grace, and three sons, John, Derwood and James. Derwood later became known as Jerry.

I lose track of him again shortly after 1930 when my grandfather was an infant. I know that my grandfather ended up in foster care after his mother left the family. My dad says that Carl put the boys into foster care.

  • Carl then went on to marry Alice. They’re listed as living in St. Louis in the 1940 directory. He worked as a custodian at a church in 1952 and was living on 19th Street in the city. I believe that he and Alice had three sons, Carl, Wesley and Ronald. These would have been my grandfathers half-brothers. I have no idea if he ever knew of them, however.

To my knowledge, the family remains in the St. Louis area and operates a construction business.

I’m at a loss for historical records about Carl.

  •  No birth records show up, especially if he was born in 1892. I can find information about his death in 1958 at age 66. If he was 38 years old when my grandfather was born it is very possible that he had another family earlier in his life.
  • And, what did he do that would have warranted a name change, if in fact that story is accurate?

I know there is a rich story to be told here, and some of it could be quite colorful or horrific.

There is talk among the family that perhaps Grace, his wife in 1930, is actually his daughter and that Carl fathered children with the sisters of his wife or wives, too. Clearly there is much research to be done to get to the bottom of this story — it’s hard for me to know if any of it is factual. But that’s what all those historical documents will prove — if I can ever find them.