WEEK 31: Susan Catherine Caylor

This week’s theme for 52 Ancestors is “Easy.” Which ancestor is the easiest to research? I decided to focus on my husband’s 2nd great grandmother, Susan Catherine Caylor.

Despite the fact that she could be found in records with a few variations of her first name (Susan, Susie, Susa, Katie…) I never had much trouble finding information about her.

She was born on June 29, 1861 in Muscoda, Grant County, Wisconsin to David Harrison Caylor and Catherine Rice. Her father died of typhoid fever while away serving in the Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War when Susan was only an infant.

On November 11, 1875, Susan married Levi Davis in Richland County, Wisconsin. Levi and Susan had 13 children, and raised them in Monroe County Wisconsin. Susan died on April 8, 1941 in Angelo, WI and is buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery.

Thanks to the wonderful resources at the Monroe County Local History Room, I was able to find some newspaper articles about Susan that gave a glimpse into her life in Monroe County. Probably the most interesting article that I discovered actually centered around her uncle, Calvin Rice. In the November 20, 1903 issue of The Tomah Journal, there was an article mentioning how Calvin Rice and his niece, Mrs. Levi Davis, were contacting the attorneys of William Marsh Rice, the founder of Rice University in Texas, who was murdered by his valet on September 24, 1900. The article states that Calvin Rice was the deceased millionaire’s brother and that Susan was his niece and that both were the nearest relatives to William Marsh Rice. Calvin was said to have been in correspondence with the officials to prove his claim.

Of course, Calvin and Susan were not related to William Marsh Rice at all. Perhaps it was a tall tale told by Calvin Rice, or a joke, and the newspaper caught wind and published a story about it, since it was one of the most shocking news stories at that time. So, I have not discovered if they actually tried to make a claim or not. I hope to uncover more information about this tidbit soon.


WEEK 25: The Old Homestead – Sparta, Wisconsin

This week’s 52 Ancestors‘ theme is “The Old Homestead.”

Sometime around the early 1960s, Eldon and Harriet Dutton purchased a large Queen Anne-style Victorian home located on the corner of Franklin and Belton Streets in Sparta, Wisconsin for themselves and their 10 children. Over the years, the Dutton family celebrated graduations, weddings and the birth of grandchildren in that house.


After the children were grown, and had families of their own, Eldon and Harriet sold the home. Decades later the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, renovated and was turned into a bed and breakfast.

A few years ago, Eldon and Harriet’s three daughters decided to spend a night in their old home. They even stayed in their old rooms.


WEEK 16 – 2015: Velma Myrtle (Kelsey) Fish – 1897-1989

A few years ago, my mother-in-law had given my husband a photo of him and his siblings with his great grandmother, “Grandma Fish” My husband fondly remembers her sugar cookies and told me that she was in her 90s when she passed away. So when this week’s 52 Ancestors theme of “Live Long” came up, I immediately thought of her.

Velma Myrtle Kelsey was born on August 24, 1897 in the small, rural community of Springville, Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her parents were Flornty and Harriet “Hattie” (Van Dyke) Kelsey. William McKinley was beginning his first term as President that year. Three days before Velma’s birth, a gentleman named Ransom Olds in Lansing, Michigan was starting his automobile company, Oldsmobile.

Velma’s parents seemed to have bounced around a bit, living between Jefferson and Genoa in Vernon County, and briefly in Browning, Taylor County, Wisconsin.

Tragedy struck on Velma’s 13th birthday in 1910. Her mother, Hattie, died at the age of 28, leaving Velma, her father, and 6 other young siblings.

At some point, she met Roscoe Fish, who was from Sparta, Monroe County, Wisconsin. On March 10, 1919, she and Roscoe took a trip to Winona, Minnesota and were married by Samuel L. Parrish. Witnesses to the ceremony were Roscoe’s sister, Mary and her husband, Alex Paterson.

Roscoe and Velma settled down in Sparta, to start their family. They had 4 sons and 4 daughters. Three of their sons died when they were just infants. They eventually moved to a large home on Pine Street in Sparta, where Roscoe was employed by nearby Fort McCoy.

Roscoe and Velma were married for 29 years until tragedy struck once again. Roscoe suffered an aneurysm at the age of 59, and died on November 11, 1948.

Velma continued living on as a widow for 41 years. Over that time, she saw 32 grandchildren, 52 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-grandchildren born. She also had to bear another loss, when her daughter, Phyllis, died in 1982.

Velma died March 13, 1989 at the age of 91. She is buried next to her husband, Roscoe in the Angelo Cemetery.

During her lifetime, she lived through the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. She saw the Berlin Wall fall and saw Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon. William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush all served as President while she was alive. and although, she experienced so much heartbreak at the death of her mother, her children and her husband, she obviously experienced much joy and wonder to have lived as long as she did.

WEEK 12 – 2015: In the same place

I thought I was going to struggle with this week’s 52 Ancestors theme: Same. “What ancestor is a lot like you? What ancestor do you have a lot in common? Same name? Same home town?” I’ve written quite a bit about my family, so I looked to my husband’s family tree for inspiration. I was still stumped. However, while out with friends on Saturday night, inspiration hit me.

My husband was born and raised in Wisconsin, a 3rd generation descendant of a few branches of his family tree. Three of his 3rd great grandfathers and some great grand uncles had enlisted in the Union Army during the American Civil War, including Samuel Kelsey, David Harrison Caylor and James P. Larry.

About three-quarters of Wisconsin’s recruits were sent to Madison, WI to train at Camp Randall. The recruits didn’t spend much time there. They were given a uniform, trained quickly and then sent off to battle. Before they left Madison, the troops would often stop off a at a tavern on their way out of town, located at what is now East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Streets. The area became known as “Union Corners.”Soldiers would belly up to the beautifully carved wooden bar on the first floor of the two story building, and order their drinks that from an assortment of bottles displayed on the back bar, which was also intricately carved.

Almost 100 years came and went. The Civil War was long over. In the 1950s, the old tavern building was torn down, and replaced by a gas station. Another, smaller, one story building was built and the handsome wooden bar and back bar were moved to the new building, and the tavern business continued, changing owners and names.

It is still open today, and is one of the most popular spots in Madison for craft beer enthusiasts. Once in a while, you will find my husband among those enthusiasts. Perhaps sitting at the same spot and touching the same wood that one of his 3rd great grandfathers may have sat over a hundred years before, before they marched off for war.

WEEK 5 – 2015: Stephen A. Fish

Upon seeing the theme of this week’s 52 Ancestor challenge,”plowing through,” the records of the U.S. General Land Office immediately sprang to mind. The Homestead Act of 1862 was passed by Congress in order to make land in the west available to citizens willing to settle and reside on the land for five years and show evidence that they had improved it. The GLO records hold the documents showing the transfer of these public lands to the applicant. Since the applicants were required to show that they improved their parcel of land, no doubt there was a lot of “plowing through” involved.

My husband’s tree has quite a few of these bold adventurers. I decided to focus on his 3rd great grandfather, Stephen Allen Fish, who is credited with being amongst the earliest settlers in the small community of Liberty, Wisconsin.

No one seems to agree on where he was born. Some researchers say he was born in 1802 in Canada. However, others say he was born in New York or Massachusetts.

In 1850, he was living in Walworth County, Geneva with his wife and 4 sons. One of his sons was 18 year old Samuel.

According to the History of Vernon County, Samuel settled on section 9 of Liberty in 1855. He was elected as one of the first town officers in 1858, holding the position of clerk.

Stephen followed his son to Liberty shortly after. He was awarded the 85 acres he had been farming on February 1, 1858 by the Bureau of Land Management.

Stephen died in 1864 in Liberty. He is buried in the McCullough family plot in Liberty.


Google Earth Snapshot showing location of land settled by Stephen A. Fish in Vernon County, Wisconsin.

Google Earth Snapshot showing location of land settled by Stephen A. Fish in Vernon County, Wisconsin.

Land patent for Stephen A. Fish.

Land patent for Stephen A. Fish.

15. David Harrison Caylor


For this week’s 52 Ancestors Challenge, I’ve decided to focus on the short life of my husband’s 3rd great grandfather, David Harrison Caylor.

David was born around 1836 in Pennsylvania to Henry and Rebecca Caylor.  At some point, he headed west to the rural farming community of Patch Grove, Grant County, Wisconsin. On January 14, 1858, he married Catherine Rice, daughter of Tobias and Clarinda (Barhan) Rice. David and Catherine had 3 children: Rebecca Ann, Susan Catherine and John Henry.

Although life in Wisconsin seemed quiet, the rest of the nation was in turmoil and found itself in a Civil War. On August 13, 1862, the 26 year old David enlisted at nearby Mount Hope by Thomas Bintliff, and then headed to Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin to become part of the 20th Infantry Regiment, Company I along with several of his neighbors. Records showed that David had hazel eyes, with dark hair and a dark complexion.

The regiment was mustered into service on August 23, 1862 and then left Wisconsin for St. Louis on August 30th. The regiment stayed in St. Louis until September 6th, then traveled by train to Rolla. They stayed there for a week, then marched 135 miles to Springfield, Missouri, arriving on September 24th.

However, the long march and camp conditions were too much for young David. While camped in Springfield, he contracted typhoid fever and died on October 28, 1862. He left behind very few personal effects: great coat, blanket, pair of cotton drawers, pair of cotton pants, handkerchief, no money, a small notebook with a note that he loaned $100 to Arthur Jackson on the 10th of September. He was buried in a makeshift cemetery near the hospital. In 1867, his body was exhumed and was buried in the Springfield National Cemetery.


Certificate of Service for David H. Caylor. Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, WI.


8. Jean Remy Jambois – Man of Many Names

This week’s ancestor for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Days challenge is my husband’s 4th great grandfather, Jean Remy Jambois.

It has been a challenge researching this particular ancestor, because of the many various spellings of his name. I have seen it as “Jean Remy,” “Jean Reme,” “Jean Remequois,” and just plain “Remy.” His offspring would prove to be confusing as well. For example, one of his daughters, (my husband’s 3rd great grandmother) could be found as “Mary Florentia,” “Florentine,” “Flora,” or “Mary”. However, some of her sisters also had “Mary” or “Marie” before their names: Marie Rose, Marie Victorine, Mary Euphemie.

However, I did manage to find out much about this family. Remy was born 1814 in the region of Lorraine, France. He married Margaret Diehdonne about 1836 in France.  In 1847, Remy and Margaret packed up their children and boarded the ship “Michigan” in the port of La Havre, France and sailed to America. They arrived at the port of New Orleans on May 21, 1847.

The Jambois family resided in New Orleans for several years. Remy found work building for the levee. Two children were born in New Orleans: Marie Victorine in 1848 and a son, Amedia, in 1853.

The Jambois family moved north to Galena, Illinois for a a few years. In 1870, Remy acquired 80 acres from the Land Patent office near LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The family moved and settled in what is now present day Genoa, in Vernon County, Wisconsin. According to “Memoirs of Vernon County” by Earl M. Rogers, Remy helped to build the first Catholic church in the county.

Margaret died in 1871 followed by Remy on September 27, 1884. To date, I still have not found their resting place. However, most of their children are buried at St. Charles Catholic church cemetery in Genoa.

6. Christian Peter Meltesen

I have been sitting here watching the Olympics while looking for inspiration for this week’s 52 Ancestors blog. Although there are no Olympians in our family trees, I’d like to think that perhaps some of my husband’s Wisconsin ancestors may have at least tried curling back in the day. Perhaps his great-great grandfather, Christian Peter Meltesen may have slid some stones during the cold Wisconsin winters during his lifetime.

Chris was born August 12, 1864 to Niels Thomson Meltesen and Caroline Christensen in Højer, Denmark which was located in the Duchy of Schleswig which is located in the southern coast of Denmark. There was much political unrest in this area, and many of the residents left to avoid military service. Chris was one of these and he boarded the ship Thingvalla at Copenhagen and arrived in the port of New York, United States on April 30, 1886.

Chris made his way to what is present day Kenosha, Wisconsin and took up farming. On August 12, 1887, he married Annie Dorothea Christensen in Kenosha.

Around 1897, Chris was a landowner near Shennington, Monroe County, Wisconsin. His brother, Laurits “Louis” Meltesen had a plot of land nearby. Louis later owned and operated a general store in Shennington.

Chris and Annie had at least 13 children who helped run the family farm. On October 4, 1921, Chris and his family spent an evening with their family, playing the phonograph and singing songs. Chris seemed fine. However, the next morning, his wife, Annie woke up and thought he was still asleep. After some time, she thought he was sleeping unusually long and discovered that he had passed away peacefully sometime during the night. He was buried in the St. Peter’s Danish Church cemetery in Byron, Wisconsin.