Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lorenzo Dow

As I researched my family, I would periodically come across a male cousin whose given name is Lorenzo Dow. I really did not see a reason to wonder why Lorenzo Dow was a given name until I found cousins named Lorenzo Dow all over the United States and now recently in Canada.

At this point, I began to wonder why Lorenzo and, in particular, why Lorenzo Dow? I looked at the information that I had about each of my Lorenzo Dow relatives. They were distant cousins, not only in relationship but in physical proximity. Some were related to me but not to each other. The only pattern that I could discern was that these relatives were born between 1810 and 1857.

Like many others whose ancestors lived in the United States in the early days of its existence, I have many relative with given names of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, etc. Most have no connection to the men after whom they were named. I suspected that Lorenzo Dow was man of some renown who apparently was a man of note at least by 1810.

So it seems that there was a man named Lorenzo Dow who was a circuit preacher. I found a book entitled The Eccentric Preacher or A Sketch of the Life of the Celebrated Lorenzo Dow. The book is an abridged version of Lorenzo Dow's journal and was published in 1841 in Lowell, Massachusetts by E. A. Rice & Co.

Lorenzo Dow (1777-1834) was born in Connecticut. He had developed an intense interest in preaching at the age of four. This interest grew as often he had dreams of himself in the role of an itinerant preacher. Limited by the lack of a horse, Dow preached primarily in Connecticut and Rhode Island. His parents attempted to dissuade him from becoming a preacher but by 1796, they gave in and provided him with money and clothes.

By this time, Lorenzo Dow had become a Methodist and hope to become a Methodist preacher. He was turned down by the Methodist Conference but was accepted in 1798 as a circuit preacher with his first circuit in Pittstown, New York. He did not stay on the New York circuit long before being transferred to a circuit in Pittsfield, Massachusetts followed by one in Essex, Vermont.

As I read the book, I found that Dow suffered with poor health from childhood and throughout his life. He had become ill while on his circuit in Vermont. He requested to be sent to Ireland. Instead the Methodist Conference assigned him to Canada. It was from Canada that he sailed in October, 1799 to Ireland, intent on converting the Catholics.

He returned to the United States in April, 1801 and began preaching in the South. He made another trip to Ireland and England in 1805. By the end of his life, Dow had traveled throughout the United States and in Canada

Lorenzo Dow did not practice personal hygiene and pictures of him on flyers, pamphlets and books show him with long hair and beard. His appearance reminds me of the pictures of Rasputin who managed to captivate the Czarina Alexandra.

Reading his journal, I found his sermons to be full of fire and brimstone. He often wrote about those who disagreed with him and many times placed curses upon his critics. Between his manner and his appearance, some called him "crazy Dow" or "crazy Lorenzo."

He had as many who reviled him as those who loved him. The US Census from 1790 through 1840, only identified the head of household. I searched the indices for each of these years and found the occurrence of Lorenzo as a given name to be extremely rare until 1830 when there were 246 people with the name Lorenzo. In 1840, the number grew to 970.

The 1850 US Census was the first census in which all the members of a household were identified. In that year, I found 8,595 people named Lorenzo in the index. Ten years later, 10,346 Lorenzos are in the index. It would seem that Lorenzo Dow's popularity and influence was waning. While the population in the United States was growing, the number of people named Lorenzo in the indices from 1860 through 1930 remained about the same from decade to decade.

Monday, June 21, 2010

General Lewis Cass, Michigan Territory Governor

I am a descendant of Elizabeth Case. Tracing her ancestors has proven to be somewhat troublesome for me. I was hitting walls until one day I discovered an article in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society's Record, a quarterly publication. That article indicated that her grandfather was known as Nathan Case and Nathan Cass.

At this point, I began to search for information about Nathan Cass. I came across the Cass name in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island records. I am still trying to find the links among the names I discovered, but I am encouraged.

The name Lewis Cass cropped up frequently as I searched for information on the Cass family. I found several books written about this man, many written before 1900. I learned that he was appointed governor of the Michigan Territory from October 1813 to August 1931 when he resigned because President Andrew Jackson appointed him Secretary of War.

It did not surprise me to find a county in Michigan called Cass, named after Gov. Lewis Cass. Then I had an "ah ha" moment because my mother went to high school in Cass County, Minnesota. In addition, I recently found relatives who were living in Cass County, Iowa in the late 1800s. So I decided to see if these counties were named in General Cass' honor.

Indeed, they were. Not only did I learn that County in Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan were named in his honor, but I found counties in Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Indiana and Texas named on his behalf. Bartow County, Georgia was called Cass County until the American Civil War at which time the name was changed. However, the county seat remained Cassville.

Cass County, North Dakota was not named for Lewis Cass but for his nephew, George Washington Cass. This revelation led me down another research expedition about which I will write at another time.

Curious to see what other places may have been named in Lewis Cass' honor, I came up with two lakes and one river: Cass Lake, Minnesota and Michigan and Cass River, Michigan. I found townships in Oklahoma, Illinois, 8 in Indiana, 10 in Iowa, 4 in Missouri, 3 in Ohio, and 2 in Pennsylvania. There is Cass, WV, Cass City, MI, Casstown, OH and the town of Cassville in Wisconsin. In addition to the city in Georgia, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio all have cities, Cassville, named after Lewis Cass.

Streets, schools and buildings have also been named for this man. However, I found the naming of a ship and a fort most interesting. The ship was a cargo ship built in World War II. These ships were called Liberty Ships and one was christened SS Lewis Cass. The fort near Charleston, Tennessee was established in 1835, during the time that Lewis Cass was Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson.

With so many places named for Lewis Cass, I was driven to know more about him.

Lewis Cass was born in 1782 in Exeter, New Hampshire. His father, a major in the American Revolution, moved his family to Ohio in 1800 when Lewis was eighteen. It seems that Lewis followed in his father's footsteps and was a brigadier general during the War of 1812. In October of 1813, President James Madison appointed Cass governor of the Michigan Territory.

The territory was established in 1805 and existed until 1837 when Michigan became a state and the Wisconsin Territory was created. Prior to 1833, Michigan Territory encompassed an eastern portion of Minnesota and all of Wisconsin and Michigan. In that year the territory was expanded to include all of Minnesota and Iowa and the eastern portions of North and South Dakota. Of the three territorial governors of Michigan Territory, Lewis Cass was governor the longest, a few months shy of 18 years.

He resigned his governorship August 1, 1831 when he became Secretary of War, a position that he held until October 5, 1836. From that date to November 2, 1842, he was the ambassador to France. Lewis Cass retained this position under four presidents: Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison and John Tyler.

He ran for US Senator from the State of Michigan and was seated March 4, 1845. He resigned May 29, 1848 to run as the Democratic candidate for US President. After losing to Zachary Taylor, he ran again for the US Senate. Lewis Cass won the election and served as US Senator from March 4, 1847 through March 3, 1857.

President James Buchanan appointed Cass Secretary of State effective March 6, 1857. He disagreed with the way in which Buchanan was handling the Federal interests in the south and left office December 14, 1860. Political historians have generally classified James Buchanan as one of America's worst presidents.

General Lewis Cass retired to Detroit, Michigan where he died in 1866 at the age of 83. I found an account of his funeral that showed how much this man was beloved in Michigan.


Life and Times of Lewis Cass by William L. G. Smith. New York: Derby & Jackson, 1856.

Lewis Cass by Andrew Cunningham McLaughlin. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1891 and 1919.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cuba Revolt of 1917

I was looking through old copies of the Poughkeepsie Journal and its predecessors for articles on Pedro Albarto Hurtado and his family. Pedro was a teacher at the Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie.

According to the 1870 and 1880 US Census, Pedro was born in Cuba. He died in Cuba in 1906 based on the passport application of his son Leon. Leon moved to Cuba where two of his three children were born. About 1917, the Leon and his family were back in the United States.

Some of the Poughkeepsie newspaper articles that I found implied the Hurtado family had a plantation in Cuba. In addition, I found a passport application for Leon in which it said that he had a plantation in Cuba. I found it curious that the family had returned to the United States. So what was going on in Cuba by 1917?

The answer is a revolution! There was a dispute over the presidential election of 1916 and who won. Since the revolution was short-lived, I wondered why the Leon Hurtado and his family returned to New York. As luck would have it, I found a newspaper article in the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune (January 5, 1975) about Leon's son Lee Hurtado.

In the article, Lee (Leon) Hurtado says that his grandfather retired from teaching (at the Eastman Business College) to settle on a land grant in Cuba. He said that his grandfather expected to get rich raising cattle. Pedro Hurtado died in 1906 in Cuba and his son Leon took control of the property in Cuba. I suspect that the cattle ranch was not faring well in 1917 when the revolution started.