I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the first things I typically do is find an ancestor in census records. Fortunately for me John Andrew Trout lived his entire life in Frederick County which made him easier to find.
It is perhaps a bit of foreshadowing that John Tyler was president when John Andrew Trout was born in 1842.Tyler only served until 1845, but the tension of states’ rights versus federal government power continued to dominate politics throughout John Trout’s childhood culminating in the Civil War.It’s hard to know exactly, if this issue directly affected John Trout’s family in his early childhood.
John Trout first shows up in the 1850 census. Although I mostly work with online records now through ancestry.com, I still transcribe records on paper. I use a system recommended by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack in her book Organizing Your Family History Search for organizing genealogy files.
John Trout’s father, John Trout Senior, was 37 in 1850, living in the Buckeystown District. He is listed as a laborer and has a value of $150 of real estate. As I learned earlier, a laborer is typically defined as a man who owns no real estate. However, given this information, I will have to make a note to investigate possible tax or deed records. Determining the Trout’s property ownership status might give me a sense of their involvement in the politics of the day. It wasn’t until 1856 when white males (with and without property) were allowed to vote in presidential elections.
By the time John Andrew Trout was ten, America was bursting at the seams with possibilities, growth, immigrants and inventions.Irish had immigrated en masse to America due to the potato famine in the 1840s.By 1847, the Mormons had arrived in Utah; likewise the first families had traversed the Oregon Trail without guide books.By the end of the 1840s, gold was discovered in California.Manifest Destiny had taken its hold.
Continuing with my census research, I was flummoxed because I found John Trout in every census year through 1920 - except not in 1860.I saw on ancestry.com that other researchers had found a John Trout in 1860 living in New Market, Maryland, listed as a laborer.He was the right age, so it seemed possible.However, I knew there to be another Trout family in the Walkersville area so I wasn’t satisfied, although I kept that piece of information as a possibility.
Usually when I get stuck on census records, I try searching the digital records with a different sibling name or trying a variation of the last name.
Sure enough.I was able to find “John Trought” in the Urbana District and the sibling names from the 1850 census all match with additional new siblings:
His father’s occupation is listed as a “fence-maker”, with again, a small amount of value of personal and real estate owned. Between 1850 and 1860 the Trouts added 5 more children to their clan.
I do note that there is a girl, Harriet, 16, living with the family.From the graves I had already visited and from later census records, I knew that to be the name of John Andrew Trout’s first wife.I make a note to investigate their marriage date, because I am under the impression it was after the Civil War. It was curious to me that she appears to be living with the Trout family in 1860.
At the turn of the decade, before John Trout was 20, he was a fence-maker helping his father and brothers - and perhaps already in love with Harriet.To the West the first Pony Express rider delivered mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California in just 10 days.And in the South, the states had just succeeded from the Union.
Closer to home, the commander who foiled John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry, Robert E. Lee, joined the Southern cause.Tensions over slavery and talk of succession divided sentiments in Frederick County.Even if the Trout family had been able to ignore the divisive fervor gripping the county, the conflict was about to march onto their doorstep.In Maryland the lines demarcating the opposing groups were not always so clear cut.Sentiments varied from district to district and sometimes house to house. In the 1860 election, Lincoln only carried 103 out of 7,329 votes from Frederick County citizens.
If the proverb is true, “good fences make good neighbors,” then the humble fence makers from Urbana were caught in the middle of a divided era. The Trouts would soon be forced to pick a side for they were living smack-dab in the center of a district sympathetic to the Confederacy.
Life had come full circle.The man who was President when John Trout was born, John Tyler, had retired to Virginia and was elected to the Confederate Congress.Although Tyler died before serving the rebel congress, the stage was set.
John Andrew Trout came of age just as the Civil War began.
An article in the Fall 2012 edition of the Civil War Monitor caught my eye. The “Lost Boys”, written by Kathryn Shively Meier, highlights some of the reasons men may have taken unauthorized leave from the ranks. Because John Trout was initially labeled a ‘deserter’ before he was identified as captured, the information she presented intrigued me.
Despite the risk of punishment, some men left camp “temporarily” often due to the combination of bad weather and inadequate shelter and supplies. Men who left camp or marches under temporary circumstances were called “stragglers” and caused problems for civilians on both sides of the war.
According to Meier, because advances in germ theory had not yet occurred, a prevailing thought at the time was that weather was the cause of a variety of illnesses. She indicates that soldiers often loathed to seek treatment from the medical establishment given the haphazard diagnoses they sometimes received.
Therefore, men often took their health into their own hands by searching for clean water sources, foraging for berries, vegetables and medicinal herbs. Straggling for these purposes often kept a soldier healthier and in overall better spirits, so it was tolerated up to a point by commanders.
Prisoners and stragglers being rounded up.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Stragglers intended to return to camp eventually, whereas (obviously) a deserter did not. However, temporary “absences” might have lasted a few days to a few weeks. By late 1862 and into 1863 commanders on both sides of the war became less tolerant of this practice. It was a dangerous gamble a soldier made and punishment might mean riding a wooden horse, wearing a wooden overcoat (a barrel), or enduring “bucking and gagging”. Or worse. A soldier may have been practicing preventative self-care, but if caught, may have been executed to be used as an example.
Five deserters from the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry being shot.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
I wondered, given the confusion over his absences – he was first labeled a deserter beginning on July 4, 1864 - was John Trout “straggling” before his capture on July 9?
Perhaps studying the movements of Cole’s Cavalry during John Trout’s enlistment could illuminate the circumstances that faced his regiment in July 1864.
Realizing this was turning into a larger project than I initially anticipated, I started collecting information in a notebook.Let me take you back to the Monday following my “field trip.” I took my notebook in and showed my co-workers.After the incredulous stares and gentle ribbing subsided, this was the lunch time conversation that started the “I heart John Trout” joke.
Because my learning style is ‘experiential’, meaning, I learn by doing, and because I put on my “I’ll show you girl” attitude, I whipped up a proposal for a blog to the FNP thinking I might never hear back, but what the heck.The very next morning the idea was accepted and before I knew it Viola!A blog was born.
Some might say I have a tendency to be a little impulsive.I like to dress it up as adventurous or enthusiastic.Like the time in High School when my best friend dared me to apply to become a foreign exchange student.It seemed like a good joke, so I picked up an application and Wham!I found myself in Germany for a year with language skills that amounted to “Vati,” “Mutti” and “Guten Tag.”Imagine how much fun it was to take high school chemistry in German.
So with about as much exposure to blogging as I had in German I found myself with a blog about John Trout.As it turns out “experiential” learning is not always the most efficient approach right out of the gate, meaning, I needed a little more background.Big surprise: I didn’t really understand what a blog was.
I was thinking a blog is a once-in-a-while kind of thing.Come to find out the blog screen shows up blank if you don’t post at least every two weeks.The thought of that brings out my inner over-achiever, and of course I don’t want a blank screen.I ramped up my plan realizing I had to fit in a larger–scale project with a full-time job.
Enter my Christmas wish list:Blogging for Dummies.At the time, that was still a few weeks away unfortunately so I had to make do.It turns out as I read up online that I was going about this project ALL WRONG.Go figure.
First of all I found out blogs are supposed to be about 300 words!I can’t even sneeze in under 300 words.Oh!But I did find the exception that if you post once a week it can be a little longer, like 750 words.Whew.
I came across a helpful article in the October/November 2012 issue of Internet Genealogy called “Mind Maps: Free Your Mind.”A mind map is a diagram used to generate ideas around a key idea.Author Lisa Alzo uses a mind map to put together family history writing projects.Bingo!Just what I needed.I had so much information about John Trout I needed a way to organize it.
There are free programs like Freemind Software or templates you can use from Microsoft Office. Despite all the fancy technology available to me, in my panic I went the old-fashioned way and used sticky notes. I color-coded and generated a list of topics of questions I intended to blog about for John Trout:
Each color represented the type of record Iwas using (census, military, newspapers etc). I certainly had more than enough to write about. Then I calmed down a little and realized I did have a writing program that acts just like sticky notes: Writer’s Blocks. I turned my archaic sticky notes into my writing program, colored the blocks the same way and generated a file:
I can move around the topics, type several hundred words into each block if I want to so it’s a little more manageable than a poster board full of sticky notes.
I looked at my brainstorming page and realized I had 40 blocks in my program. It’s taken me 12 blog entries to get to block number 6. Whoa.
So, if you want to try to the “OMG-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into” experiential learning style, turns out February is even a Family History Writing challenge month. Here’s your chance to learn as you go!
I knew John Trout was a survivor. A field trip to our very own National Museum of Civil War Medicine helped me confirm the statistics of death by disease that eluded me from my high school history class. As I strolled through the exhibits, the caption caught my attention: “The deadliest enemy a Civil War soldier faced was disease.” Out of 620,000 deaths in the Civil War, two-thirds of those ... read more
I know who I wanted John Trout to be, but I had to follow the evidence. Was he a deserter or was he captured? The digitized records from fold3.com had led me in both directions.
I knew he volunteered on February 29, 1864 in Frederick, Maryland for a term of 3 years with the 1st Regiment Potomac Home Brigade, Maryland Cavalry, also known as “Cole’s Cavalry.”
I saw in the compiled military service records that he was present during muster-in on April 30, 1864. He was also present during roll for May and June 1864. Beginning on July 15, 1864 he was marked absent without leave. One record shows they thought he was sick from July to September 1864. Then by October 1864 he was marked “loss by desertion.” I definitely had the distinct impression the roll officers really didn’t know what happened to him.
As I kept going I saw another record for the September/October 1864 roll that indicated he deserted at Sharpsburg, Maryland on July 4, 1864. Then “deserted” got crossed out and replaced with “captured.” Notwithstanding John Trout’s situation of being captured, I wiggled a “yea!” dance in my chair.
Image courtesy of fold3.com
Supplies being as valuable as they were - especially by 1864 - it was noted that he forcibly departed with his “Enfield rifle and accoutrements.” In fact, the economy during the Civil War imparted its own version of a “fiscal cliff.” As an example, in 1861, flour cost $6 per barrel and by 1864 when John Trout was captured it cost $125-$500 per barrel. By the end of the war in 1865, that price went up to $1000 per barrel.(1) So, I can see why the military would have a need to keep track of supplies.
The next record in his file noted his absence during March/April 1865.The cavalry was none too happy about this equipment loss and apparently intended on settling dues once John Trout could be found.He was accused of losing his equipment due to “negligence” and that he had been “erroneously dropped as a deserter.”
Image courtesy of fold3.com
The cavalry seems to have straightened out his absences. Finally!
A prisoner of war record noted what happened.He was indeed captured at the Battle of Monocacy on July 9, 1864; confined at Danville, Virginia through February 17, 1865; brought from Danville to Richmond, Virginia on February 20, 1865 and paroled at James River, Virginia February 22, 1865; reported at “College S.B., Maryland” on the same date, and admitted to a hospital, division number 2 on February 22, 1865.I saw a small notation in the corner “Libby” that gave me the shivers.
Image courtesy of fold3.com
He was furloughed for 30 days beginning on March 10, 1865 and officially mustered out on June 28, 1865.His service, capture and end of war ends in a simple statement:
Image courtesy of fold3.com
There is nothing simple about what John Trout must have experienced as a soldier and as a prisoner of war.From my one and only Civil War history class in high school I vaguely recalled hearing appalling statistics about soldiers, disease and the conditions of Confederate war prisons.Without even needing to recall those specific statistics (but now determined to look them up again), I felt comfortable concluding two things for sure:
John Trout is a survivor. John Trout is a hometown hero.
1. Varhola, Michael J. Everyday Life During the Civil War: A Guide for Writers, Students and Historians, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH, 1999.
More than ever I was a woman on a mission.Instead of satisfying my curiosity about John Trout, my “field trip” - the cemetery trip, the Monocacy Battlefield, the Maryland Room – fueled it even more.
I really did intend to get back to a normal routine the next day, but……
John Trout’s service record bugged me.So I squirreled away to work on my laptop.I really wanted to know if he was the one who was captured at the Battle of Monocacy.The paper said he was pensioned - a bonus - because those records usually provide a lot of information.How come I haven’t come across a record of it already? Basically all I’d found so far was his Enlistment Paper, not even an entire compiled military service record.
I turned back to www.ancestry.com to specifically look at military records again. I decided I should try searching for Andrew J. Trout, due to the small pencil notation I had found earlier in www.fold3.com:
Image courtesy of fold3.com
There is a 15 page document in fold3.com that has records for Andrew J. Trout!
How do I know though if this is the same as John A. Trout?Can I confirm that he was captured at the Battle of Monocacy?
It clearly states the branch of service:
Image courtesy of fold3.com
That regiment can be researched!The description was close to the enlistment records:occupation, enlistment date, service. The height of 5’5” is close to the 5’ 4¼” that I already knew about!But oh, my!It’s listed that he deserted at Sharpsburg on July 5, 1864!
Image courtesy of fold3.com
I kept thumbing through the pages….hoping against hope for a clue that tied John A. Trout with Andrew J. Trout.I may be following a wild goose chase!
The next entry confirmed in October 1864 that the army thinks “A.J. Trout” is lost by desertion.
Image courtesy of fold3.com
I kept going practically holding my breath….
The next page was a gold mine!
Finally, a confirmation!One record out of 15 wrote his name as John A. Trout!U-n-b-e-l-i-e-v-a-b-l-e luck!
Image courtesy of fold3.com
Andrew J. Trout IS John A. Trout!
He has to be!But, hmmm. The eye colors don’t match.Perhaps one person’s blue is another person’s gray?Most importantly his height matches to the enlistment papers, right down to 5’ 4 ¼”!
Apparently John A. Trout used his middle name during his enlistment period.So I can officially now say John Andrew Trout served in Company H, 1 Regiment Potomac Home Brigade Maryland Cavalry.But wait!He deserted?
Completely deflated from my discovery in John Trout’s obituary, I headed back home from the Maryland Room.
The first order of business was to find out about Paris Green.
According to Oct/Nov 2001 issue of History MagazineParis Green, an arsenic compound, was developed around 1775 as a pigment for paints, wallpaper and fabrics.Evidently, the pigment in the wallpapers caused quite a few sicknesses throughout the 1800s but initially nobody connected it to Paris Green.In Italy in the 1890san investigation was conducted into the deaths of over 1000 children (no, that number is not a typo), and it was determined that the arsenic from moldy wallpaper made with Paris Green pigment leached into the air in the form of deadly arsine gas.
An interesting factoid from the same article: apparently poisoning was a common newspaper theme in the 1800s and poisoning by arsenic was “almost fashionable.”
My dad, who is convinced we’re related to anyone and everyone with a Powers surname, must’ve googled “Paris Green” and “Powers” together. (He is at least enthusiastic about genealogy, but you can imagine how long his to-do is with this approach.) He found an historical article from the New York Times, August 8, 1874 that helped me understand the poison better.
Apparently, some domestic servants (yes, 2 of them were Powers) became suddenly ill and within 2 days had died.An investigation ensued due to the mysterious deaths and it was determined that Paris Green had been sprinkled around the kitchen cabinets as an insecticide.
Since Paris Green was also used as a common insecticide/rodenticide produced by the Acme Quality Paints Company it must have been readily available to John Trout.In fact, in the case of the domestic servants, the use of Paris Green in this way caused their untimely deaths.Evidently, a very small amount can cause death and it was referred to as a “violent poison” in the article.
From what I gathered it seems Paris Green poisoning would be such a slow, painful way to go.John Trout would have experienced stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea and worse.It definitely does not quite match up to “calmly awaiting death” as described in the FNP.I have to keep in mind he was 85 at the time, but I had also read he had no specific health issues and had apparently entered into a “sea of matrimonial happiness” with his second wife.
What had been a mere curiosity about John Trout now was a full-scale investigation.The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.I just couldn’t believe he chose to end his own life!
Because of his tragic ending, I felt compelled to fill in the gaps – to continue learning more about what John Trout’s life had been like. For better or worse when I get hooked on a mystery I can’t let it go.
This mischievous, enterprising, upstanding veteran COMMITTED SUICIDE??? I kept reading:
Doesn’t poison usually hurt or at least make you unconscious? I’m no expert on poisons, but I’ve never heard of one that allows you to “calmly await death.” And he was conscious until 6pm?
If he wasn't despondent, why did he commit suicide? And who provided information to the paper about how he felt about old age? Based on the few articles I had just read, I could see he had taken a lot of trouble 10 years earlier to find a second wife at age 71. It seemed so uncharacteristic of him to just "give up." And he wasn't even in poor health!
I was heartbroken and relieved at the same time. It stated clearly that he was a Union veteran. If he was pensioned, I should be able to find those records. And, his search for a 2nd wife turned out successfully because he did remarry!
But, it just didn’t make sense!
I had already been in serious like of John Trout. In between those reels of old newspapers I fell in love with John Trout. Losing him to suicide was like losing my own grandfather.
While using resources in the Maryland Room, an author happened to call the librarian at the exact moment I was searching for his book. What are the chances of such an eerie coincidence? The hair on the back of my neck prickled as I headed over to the microfilm reader in the back of the room.
A note about microfilm readers:they are not always the easiest machines to use.Some are automatic feeders; others are manual.You have to follow the diagrams exactly right to load the films.
On trips to the National Archives with my dad, he has the darndest time with microfilm readers.Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing research with my dad.He humors my interest in family history because I’m researching his side of the family.He’s a good sport and goes along on cemetery trips, archive trips and whatnot.
Twice now we’ve gone to the National Archives together, and most of my day is helping him correct how he’s loaded the microfilm reader instead of actually getting any research done.So, to say I’m confident in how I load a microfilm reader is an understatement.(Dare I add that he probably won’t go with me anymore?For some reason, both times I vomited on the MARC train coming home.)
But…for the life of me, I could not figure out the Maryland Room film readers.It’s not a manual reader so there’s no knobby-thingy to turn to get the film started.There’s no diagram on these particular machines – the “microfilm for dummies” version of sorts – so I guessed which way the film rolls (off the top?off the bottom?)and no matter what I did, I couldn’t figure out how to “catch” the film on the other side to start the darn machine. Because I had initially indicated to the librarian I knew I was doing I was especially flummoxed. Fortunately the readers are in the back corner of the room so I suffered in silence until I finally …just …had …to …ask.
I bothered the librarian two more times before I finally got up and running on the automatic reader.She pointed out the drawers of FNP microfilm.Until that moment, I didn’t realize there was more than 1 paper in Frederickduring 1912.I opted for “The Daily News” as a guess.
I went right to the dates referenced by the FNP. I couldn’t find the article referenced by the Post for September 3, 1912 so scrolled on to the next date. September 12, 1912, page 5:
How awkward! She's still married!? He does seem to have some scruples by not wanting to get involved with a married lady!
I read on and noticed the reporters couldn’t resist:
But, aside from his reservations, he doesn’t mind if his visitor stays a few days! I guess he really despises housework!
Love is a roller coaster!
As I scrolled to September 16, I found another headline from September 13, 1912, on page 3, a bonus:
At this point, I’m really rooting for him to find a wife. (By the way, what is Mrs. Davis thinking??) However, it’s not just her, he evidently adores her child:
Nevertheless, despite his tender attachments, given Mrs. Davis’ unclear availability, Mr. Trout is not one to lose time:
Mr. Trout has some gumption! He’s not one to be taken advantage of! He’s also now popular enough to try and avoid newspaper reporters! There have to be additional articles about him.
And the entry from September 16, 1912:
I guess the issue of Mrs. Davis’ husband couldn’t be cleared up. It’s a shame because he seemed fond of her and her son.
And then…. because I like to read the end of the book before I’ve read the middle, I decided to look up his obituary. I justified it by thinking “I’m here, and I finally figured out the machine. I have the death date from my internet searches so, why not? Why waste time having to come back and get it?”
From the reels I noticed obituaries were usually on page 3 or 4, so that’s where I expected to start. I loaded the reel for 1927 aiming for a day or two after August 8, 1927. I didn’t have to look far - the headline gripped me in bold letters on August 9.
I was in utter confusion. Was Trout a Union veteran or was he a Confederate? Not one to give up, I headed north from Monocacy Battlefield towards the Maryland Room.
My plan was to find the original articles that the Frederick News Post referenced. I knew they had to be longerin the original editionthan in the excerptsand I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them.
I’ve heard people talk about synchronicity when doing family history research.Apparently sometimes “things” just start happening to let you know you’re on the right track.Those “things” usually take the form of strange coincidences.
Susan Guynn even writes about it. She called it the “Whoa!” factor in her article on page 62 about Opossumtown Pike in the November/December issue of “Real Frederick.” Strange coincidences really do start happening when you take the time to investigate curiosities of history that interest you.
Once again John Trout didn’t disappoint.
I practically skipped the stairs by twos to get to the Maryland Room.The librarians have always been helpful and there were 2 resources I needed.I wanted to see the microfilm of old newspapers; and, I wanted a resource book about the history of place names in Frederick County.
I knew the book I had in mind; I just couldn’t quite remember the title.I was trying to describe it to the librarian and she knew immediately what I was talking about, but couldn’t directly put her hands on it.As we were perusing the shelves, the Maryland Room phone rang.She walked back to the desk.
“Hello.Oh hi!Your ears must be ringing.I have someone here who wants your book.Where is it on the shelf?”
I could only hear her side of the conversation.
“Hmm…let me find out.”
Then she turns to me, “What are you looking up?”
“Park Mills, Flint Hills,” I reply.
She repeats the information, then, “Well, thank you!”
And she walks right over and pulls the book off the shelf for me.
I. Kid. You. Not.
I will repeat. I am not kidding.It happened exactly that way.
What are the chances that the author of the book you are looking for will call at exactly the same minuteand in exactly the same room in which you are standing?Even beyond that, I have no idea why the author called because the librarian didn’t talk about anything else with him except to ask him where his book was.
Now mind you, I am scientifically skeptical of most coincidences, but even I had to nod Upstairs to that one. I suddenly did not feel very alone in my library quest that day. I half expected to see John Trout pop out from behind the stacks after that.
Personally I think synchronicity doesn’t just happen in genealogy.One is led to it.As if records are waiting to be discovered by someone who is willing to listen.
Incidentally, the book I wanted is called Gazetteer of Old, Odd & Obscure Place Names of Frederick County, Maryland compiled by Louis B. O’Donoghue.It is an interesting resource on the origins of Frederick county place names and locales.I found out that Park Mills (formerly known as New Bremen) and Flint Hills have some families that may possibly be descended from slaves from nearby plantations, like Buckingham Manor (now the Claggett Center).In another resource Frederick Couny, Maryland: Never the Like Againby Paul and Rita Gordon, I discovered that Buckeystown and Urbana, the districts where John Trout was living, held strong Confederate sentiments during the Civil War, perhaps due to their prevalence of plantations.
Instead of resolving any questions I had, these resources only added to my questions about John Trout.Maybe the microfilm will help…..