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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Streets at Chickamauga

Honoring my forefathers who endured through the Battle of Chickamauga 150 years ago.
STREET (relation to author)
George M.D. Street (1845-1923) - 2x great grandfather,
James Joseph Street (1824-1916) - 3x great grandfather,
John Waller Street (1826-1909) - 3x great grand uncle

Confederate troops advancing through the woods. (Library of Congress)

The battle is over. It was 150 years ago from this past week that the Confederate troops engaged the Federal forces along the Chickamauga creek in northern Georgia.  Although in the end, the Confederates had forced back the Union troops into retreat, the three day long confused and exhausting conflict would be considered a tactical defeat for the South when General Braxton Bragg failed to pursue the defeated forces back to Missionary Ridge and then Chattanooga.  

In the midst of the Confederate forces, three men from Tippah County Mississippi fought together through the frightening and exhausting troop movements and violent conflicts of those three days of September 18-20, 1863. 

Link to animated map provided by the Civil War Trust.

In April of 1862, James Joseph Street and his eldest son, George M. D. Street, and James' younger brother, John Waller Street, enlisted with a large group of Tippah County men to join in the defense of northern Mississippi and the Confederacy from the advancing Union forces in Tennessee.  The next several years proved to be severe tests for the three men through long forced marches in harsh rugged terrains, ferocious battles, limited supplies, injury, disease, hunger, rain and drought, cold winters and hot summers.  At this point in the late summer of 1863, the Confederate forces had been forced back into northern Georgia where General Bragg was massing all of the forces from the marches of Tennessee and as many reinforcements he could obtain.  

The Streets were a part of Company G, 'The Sons of Liberty', in the 34th Mississippi Infantry. It is impossible to say exactly what each men faced in their long fight on these days.  But the fight would not end here as they would be found at Lookout Mountain above Chattanooga in late November in another great struggle. A brief history of the regiment at Chickamauga is found in "Dunbar Rowland's "Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898".

"In the Chickamauga campaign Walthall's Brigade was part of W. H. T. Walker's Reserve Corps, so called, which was one of the first commands in battle, fighting on the second day in the woods between the position where General Thomas made his famous stand, and the creek, and on the third day crossing the road between Thomas and Chattanooga. The strength of the regiment was Maj. W. G. Pegram, commanding; Adjutant Miller acting as field officer, one staff officer, 24 company officers and 28~ enlisted men when it went into the first fight at Alexander's bridge over the Chickamauga, September 18, where 24 were wounded, 2 mortally. Finding the bridge destroyed, the brigade crossed at Byram's ford. Next day they moved to the north and finding a large part of Walker's Corps defeated made a gallant charge which caught King's Brigade of United States regulars in the act of changing front. They were swept back with the loss of three or four hundred prisoners and Battery H of the Fifth United States Artillery. One gun of this battery was brought away by two men of the Thirty-fourth before Walthall was in turn forced back. Here the regiment had 5 killed and 54 wounded out of 583 engaged. Among the killed was Sergeant Morrison, Company D, color bearer, whose place was taken and gallantly filled by Private Felix Holland, Company G. Lieutenant Morrow, Company A, and Adjutant Miller were wounded. Patrick Beaty, Company F, compelled an officer of the regulars to surrender, taking his sword. In the evening of the 19th the brigade had another battle in which the Thirty-fourth had 2 killed and 5 wounded. Major Pegram, a gallant officer, was severely wounded, and Captain Bowen took command. Sunday, September 20, with no field officers left, the regiment of 177 had two more battles. In the morning they advanced and came under a severe enfilading fire from Thomas' log works, under which Lieutenant-Colonel Reynolds, assigned to temporary command, fell mortally wounded. In the evening they were again ordered forward, between Thomas' main position and Chattanooga, on the State road, and were enveloped by the fire of a semicircle of artillery. The casualties of the three days were 15 killed, 91 wounded, 19 missing."

In the coming months, I'll discuss events that occur to these three men after this battle up until the end of the war. 

A full history of the 34th Mississippi Infantry Regiment is written in the book "Honor Without A Stain", by David B. Boone, Jr. The book is available at Google Play Books.  It should be noted that the listing of soldiers in the End Notes misidentifies George Street as having died in 1931 and buried in Benton County, Mississippi. George M.D. Street died in, and was buried in, Wapanucka, OK in 1923.

George Morgan Dallas Street (1845-1923)
Battle flag of the 34th Mississippi Infantry captured at Lookout Mountain.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Starting Over

I guess it's been well over a year since my last post. How time flies.  I can't say I have been taken away from genealogy as I've been diving more and more into the varied families and thousands of names that are scattered through time. But this is becoming more important to me as I get older. In that I do not have children, it is a feeling of obligation to my family (as well as to myself) that I give a certain level of energy to something my whole family can cling to for generations to come. It is my intention that this work is only the beginning of discovery for others in my family.  It will never be complete.  The human family tree is vast but it is up to us to tend our own little branches. 

I've had to learn to focus my efforts into the places where I tended to find that notorious "brick wall" genealogists talk about so much.  You find there is a maze of such walls where you cross one and find two more waiting for you.  But the journey is what keeps us involved. It's a great challenge and I have found the reward of discovery is worth every moment of frustration.

I'm returning to my blog to aid me in the process.  I feel now I have more to discuss of my family and where we've been.  I can never know fully who these people were, but as I learn more of the times in which they lived, and of my own feelings about how people behaved, I believe I can sense them all the better.  I've learned to follow my instincts in the past year and it has served me well. A few things are predictable. 

It's also the more important I continue blogging so that I follow through with the stories of those who fought in that inglorious conflict 150 years ago. In the coming few months, I'll be writing of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaigns that were so important to two particular lines of my family.  So many sacrificed so much for different purposes. 

As we move on, please remember the Family History site that can be linked to through this blog above the blog posts. It has links to many more resources and research locations for you to start your own discoveries.

I'm going to take baby steps back into genealogy blogging, but I will gradually gain the confidence to write of my family in greater details.  I hope you will enjoy the journey with me.  As for my family who follow this, I do this as much for you and our future generations as I do for myself.  I hope that you recognize the importance of this and will help build onto these stories, fill the gaps that I cannot hope to do myself, and be able to share with your children the stories of OUR family.  I do need your help with this.  I don't own it. 

This is a work of generations.

Friday, April 6, 2012

April 6, 1862 - Shiloh

Battle of Shiloh on April 6 (Wikipedia)

On a Sunday morning, near a tiny church called Shiloh, a battle commenced that would be pivotal to the year-long struggle between Union and Confederate forces. This battle near the Tennessee River would open the eyes of the nation to how savage and costly this war would become. An army of nearly 44,000 men, under the command of General Albert Sidney Johnston, had moved north from Corinth, Mississippi through rain-drenched roads and was dispersing through heavily vegetated woodlands.

The plan was to attack General Ulysses Grant's forces positioned at Pittsburg Landing before reinforcements could arrive from the north.  The battle did not go as planned, and its orchestrator, General Johnston, was mortally wounded early in the day. History tells us that April 6 saw the battle lines move back and forth throughout the day, and by nightfall, the Confederate forces had only made moderate advances to their objective.  The troops, scattered through the forest, would be bombarded through the following night by Union warships in the river. Overnight, the Union reinforcements arrived and the objective of the Confederate assault was lost.  At the end of the day of April 7, the Confederate forces had abandoned the field, retreating back to Corinth.

In the end, Shiloh would prove to be the costliest battle in American history to that time. Union casualties would  reach to 13,047 (1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded, and 2,885 missing) and Confederate casualties were 10,699 (1,728 killed, 8,012 wounded, and 959 missing or captured). Nearly 3,500 men had died in the two days of battle and 16,420 wounded, bearing the scars of the battle for the rest of their lives.

Among General Grant's forces was the 45th Illinois Infantry regiment and a young sergeant named Charles K. Erwin, my great-great granduncle.  He would survive this battle and make ready his men for the coming campaign at Corinth.

Further to the south in northern Mississippi, my 3x great grandfather, James Joseph Street and his eldest son (my 2x great grandfather), George M.D. Street,  were training with the 34th Mississippi Infantry regiment, Company G (Sons of Liberty), to prepare to defend Corinth, and their nearby home near Ripley, from the Union invasion into Mississippi.

The war for many more men, including Charles' nephew, William Peter Erwin, has not even begun.  By the end of the war, it is estimated that 750,000 people will have lost their lives to the war.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's 1940 Again.

Along with all of the other genealogists, I'm getting ready for the release of the 1940 United States Census records on Monday, April 2. It's definitely the greatest event since I began my research just over a year ago, but the release of the national census records with the current advancements of the internet has to rate among the greatest single events in American genealogy ever. The records will, for the first time, be released as free digital images.  It doesn't hurt that there will be even more information that will be provided that was not placed on previous census collections.

1940 Census to be released April 2, 2012

By law, American census records are released no sooner than 72 years following the year of record. The 1940 US Census Community project was started to begin a collaborated effort to index the national records of the 132 million people in America in 1940. Genealogy groups and individuals are joining with organizations in a systematic approach to make this process as precise as possible. 

For those of us who are going to jump into the data records for the first time, it's a learning experience. I've been through the easier processes of hunting through older census records after indexing and have had the great success and frustrations as everyone else. Fortunately, others have passed through those roads before me and relieved me of some of the searching. As we approach this momentous occasion, I thought I would share with you a quick tip or two to help get you started looking into the records if you haven't figured it out yourself. Neither of my parents will show up in this census, but their families will.  Finding them in the records comes down to knowing in what Enumeration District they lived - and then do a little strolling.

First, jump to the National Archives web page for the 1940 census records. It provides plentiful information on how to read the enumeration districts and to identify information about the families.  They have a whole page that describes how to look up enumeration district maps, what family information to collect to begin your search, and to find links to other sites.  One of those sites is one of the best finds, especially if you've already been digging through the 1930 records.

One very useful site can be found at  This 1940 Census Enumeration District (ED)Finder can be used to locate the correct ED for your target. Once you arrive to a particular city, it will provide information for each enumeration district in the area. You can even identify streets within the ED.  The more detail you can provide it, the better.  If you're not aware of this information but have the ED for the family from the 1930 census record, it will place you in the correct ED for the 1940 census.  Are they still there?  That's your job to figure out.

The various genealogy websites and organizations can lend many more directions for those particular sites. provides a support page to help train you for searching the census records.

This will be fun!  The 1940 census will bring us new sources of information and may even help unravel a mystery or two.  Based on all we can uncover from census records of the past, there is a proven treasure trove awaiting.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Flag Of The 93rd

The battles-scarred remnants of the retired flag in its final rest.

93rd Illinois Infantry National Flag

The American Civil War was a bitter stain on our national history. It was a time which forced men into terrifying conflicts and hardship. Where men stood looking at sown fields near quiet villages now stood across fields of death many miles from their families. The stories are those of bravery but also of terrible horror.  

In our distinctive families, we can find our several ancestors who fought in the many battles of that war.  Most noted in my family is the story of William Peter Erwin, my great grand uncle.  He left his home and family at Ward's Grove, Illinois in October of 1862 to join in the fight. He died on the morning of November 25, 1863 during the battle at Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga.  

I ran across a 2003 article by Bob Cavanagh for the Illinois Times. In this he recalled a manuscript he read at the Illinois State Historical Library.  The letter was written by Lt. Col. Nicholas Buswell, commander of the 93rd Illinois Infantry Regiment, from his post at Bridgeport, Alabama on December 20, 1863, nearly a month after the eventful battle.  The letter and the regimental flag was sent to the Illinois Governor Richard Yates.  The flag of stars and stripes was in tatters and barely recognizable, battered by gun shot and the elements of battle.

Mr. Cavanagh provided in his article portions of the eloquent letter I would like to share with you here. It presents that fateful moment that is marked in our family legends. 

"Governor: In consideration of the fact that the national colors of this regiment have been so much torn and mutilated in the many engagements through which they have been borne that they are no longer fit for service, we deem it proper to return it to the state, to be preserved among the archives of that Commonwealth, made glorious by the deeds of her sons on many hard fought fields. In returning the 'Old Flag' to you, it may be of interest to state a few of the leading incidents connected with it since it has been in our keeping .  

"During our first campaign, and through the battle of Jackson, Cpl. James Hickey was color bearer. At Champion Hill, after he had planted the proud standard for the third time . . . the brave Hickey fell. E're the folds of the flag had touched the ground, it was caught by Cpl. A.G. Spellman, who bore it from that time through the fierce contest. Its folds were pierced by 27 bullets, the staff being hit by 4 or 5, cutting it nearly off. In the charge on Tunnel Hill, Nov. 25th, Cpl. Spellman, now Lance Sergeant, after planting the flag within 20 paces of the enemy's works, was severely wounded. Sgt. William P. Erwin now caught it and gallantly planted it again, and was instantly killed. Our brave and lamented Col. Putnam now called out 'Give me the flag!' It was handed him, but alas! While waving it with one hand, as with the other he waved his sword, he fell . . . Cpl. J. Frank Ellis now took it and carried it through the rest of that fearful struggle, and though wounded, carried what was left of it off the field, though more than three quarters of it had been shot away by grape and canister from the enemy's guns . . . . Grand total loss: 316 officers and men.

"With this brief memoranda, we return to you the flag which but little more than a year ago we brought to the field. In parting with it, our feelings are those of pride mingled with sadness; pride, that we are conscious of having borne it with honor not only to ourselves and State, but to the cause in which we are engaged; sadness that so many of our noble companions have fallen in its defense. In sacred memory of them let it be preserved, stained with blood though it be, 'tis the blood of noble patriots, shed in a glorious cause -- the cause of Civil Liberty."


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Things To Come In 2012

William Noah Crow and Fannie Mae Whitten (ca. 1903) - g grandparents
Beginning my quest of discovery this year to go back to my roots has been an awarding experience beyond measure. I began with a major thrust last winter and never looked back.  Making this all the more interesting, I began to pursue the families of all four of my grandparents.  The number of individuals and families has become massive and it may take my lifetime to completely analyze all of my sources.  I'm no professional genealogist and they would likely say that I need to correct my methods and source collection - among other things.  But that too is all the process of discovery. I've slowed my research a bit to begin to pace myself and to try to patch up informational and procedural mistakes before I go further.  Yes, I've made mistakes, and there will be mistakes found as you go through the links to the family trees, but I view these as only beginnings and items to be corrected.  However, I need the help of my cousins, and aunts, and uncles, to assist me in this endeavor.  

The Phil Erwin's Family Story website is only the beginning.  This Plains Holly Tree blog is intended to convey stories handed to me or learned by me during the process of discovery. I am proud to hold the record here and to share it with all my relatives. But I am also sharing with scores of people who are on their own missions of discovery as well.  Several distant cousins from the Crow, Street, and Erwin lineage have now contacted me via their search as they discovered these sites, and they are telling me much about our common ancestors.  My parents and their siblings have found a renewed interest to rediscover their past and their memories.  I think this can only grow from here out.

I have started something here I would love to see grow into a movement by my cousins.  In the coming year, I will endeavor to find the best solution to provide each of my cousins a place to come and to write about memories and stories of our ancestors. This can be a diary of memories. It will not just be my story of discovery, but yours as well. My intent would be to provide a single place to just come and write, or send scanned documents, for sharing. I also encourage each of the younger cousins who would like to start their own sites, or might like to contribute to this one, to reach out to our elders and begin to convey their information to paper or to digital storage.  Let's discover our lost treasures of photos and other documents and begin to share with each other.  There is a wealth of memories and shared history to give to each other.  In the process,  I believe this will also bring us back together.

This work is a gift to myself.  But it is also my gift to all of my family.  I've learned in rediscovering my cousin Lynette, whom I had not seen in so many years, that there is great warmth and strength in the bond of family. It has never lost us.  We lose each other.  There is much for us to rediscover and to find anew. There are lifetimes of stories to share with each other.  I hope you will find my website as a beginning for this endeavor and we can build up from this foundation. 

Hardy Street - g grandfather

For 2012, you can access my page, 'Erwin/Street - Howard/Crow of Oklahoma' .  It also has Ricard links for my wife, Mary. Yes, I've been busy.  It's also accessible at a link at the bottom of the Family Story main web page. If you want to start your own search, I recommend you try my 'Reference and Other Genealogical Research Sites' page for starting places.  The Google form at the top is handy in trying to use Google Search to find information on family.  There's a lot of information out there beyond and other genealogy web sites.  The great thing about genealogical research is that everyone helps each other. has some new items coming up for 2012 which is working to make it more useful to researchers everywhere. Everyone is all excited about the 1940 census coming online later this Spring and there will be multiple ways to access those records.  It's important to note that you don't have to have a paid subscription to any site to be successful in your research, but they can have conveniences you might find helpful.  It's not only about accessing records, but having them organized and traced with other families.  You can access the earlier census records on Internet Archive (a free site), but digging through them - and knowing the right one - is the chore. Find the paths of least resistance and you'll be less frustrated.

David Jackson Howard and Helen Warhurst Howard - g g grandparents

Finally, in 2012, I hope to find the courage, the time, and the resources, to be able to go find people and locations and share and talk about our ancestors.  To date, I have done very little outside of web research and collecting the known information from relatives, like Uncle Lawrence, who have committed great time and resources to discover our past.  At some point, I have to go down the roads not yet traveled.  This is the true great journey still before me.  I hope from my heart you will share in this exploration with me.

Any guesses?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The French Ricard Invasion

It has been several months since I last updated the GEDCOM files for the Erwin/Howard genealogy page so I thought it was about time I brought us up to speed on the research to date.  It's been a slow summer for finding new information on Howards, Crows, Streets and Erwins, though I did post a few discoveries on this blog.

As to the French invasion, I resolved to begin an investigation into the allied families of my wife Mary. Her family name through her father is Ricard which migrated in the mid-nineteenth century to America (around Rutland, Vermont) from the Montreal, Canada vicinity.  The Ricard name, of French origin, had established itself near Montreal by an immigrant named Jean Ricard in 1664 after he arrived there on the Dutch ship Le Noir.  Jean Ricard was not a Huguenot of the group that had settled in America (discussed in a previous posting), but was devoted to the Catholic faith. Although you will find names going further back to southern France on my ancestral charts, I have not been able to substantiate the parentage of Jean with any accuracy. It's pure speculation and picked up form other sources. I'll leave the information on the tree for confirmation.

There was one critical link between Edward Ricard (Mary's g-grandfather) and the family Fortier I found in the 1900 census that confirmed the Ricard family linkage established in The Ricard of North America website.  I was able to find more information on the Van Guilder family from an old post honoring Mary's great-grandparents,  Raymond Van Guilder (1885-1978) and Mary Durham (1890-1982).  Raymond's father, James Franklin Van Guilder (1845-1924), was a Civil War veteran of Company G of the Vermont Volunteer Cavalry.  Since I have ancestors (the Phillips) who also came through Vermont not far from Rutland, I'm intrigued to find if there might be any connections with Mary's extended families from the past two centuries.
James Franklin Van Guilder (1845-1924)
I have not yet begun to scratch the surface on the Garza side of the family. Mary's mother, Andrea, passed just last year, and I hope to be able to establish a solid family tree in her honor. There is a rich heritage from southern Texas and Mexico waiting to be discovered.

Anyway, the main website is now updated and the family tree is loaded with over 1800 names now listed. I've added a new Ricard/Garza page that is currently under construction as is much of the other individual family sites that haven't had much touch up since last Spring. I'll try to have more done on those before Thanksgiving so family can have access for our big gatherings. I'm learning more and more about using Google Sites web pages and beginning to realize the potential uses of them.

The family is having difficulty looking into the history of our dear Fannie Mae Whitten (Crow) who was born in Purcell, Oklahoma in 1888. This seems to be my 'brick wall' that is the most frustrating to address. I have also stalled my search on finding the immigrant Howard who first settled these shores. There tends to be plenty of confusion by the time we get back to Kentucky who came from where.  The earlier Crow, before John Crow (1765-1864), is also still a mystery as I have serious doubts to some connections that were made to an Isaac Crow of the Sabine River, Texas, at the beginning of the 19th century.

I'm learning new tools as I go deeper into genealogy and yet I feel I've only scratched the surface.  Fortunately, new databases are coming online and I'm getting anxious to start digging into the 1940's census records when they become available early next year.  It's exciting times for the genealogist - no matter your level of involvement or skill.