Sunday, July 10, 2011

Family History - Benjamin Viles

While we were in Washington, I spent time on Bonnie's computer and account.  It is amazing how much easier family history work is now than when I took a class on it at BYU in 1995.  So many of the records are online and easily searchable.  Other people have posted their pedigree files, photos, stories, and documents.  The LDS church websites also have gotten better and better with more interactive ways to look up ancestors, view possible duplicates, and share research results. 

I found that I was more interested in trying to find out about some of the people than hunt for the next ancestor.  I kept trying to fill in the story behind the pieces of records I could find.  In some cases, you could see quite a lot from the census records, tracing my great-great grandmother Delsie Orcutt after her divorce when she moved home, still living under her married name, then as a housekeeper under her maiden name, to her second marriage to John Campbell.  In other cases, there are more questions than answers.  Too many of my ancestors have changed their names, with no records of why or who they were. 

One ancestor that I knew nothing about previously, that I was able to find quite a bit on was Benjamin Viles:
From, based on later pictures, this is probably him.

Benjamin Viles was born July 9, 1831, the son of Alfred Viles and Thankful Norton. He was born in Massachusetts July 9th, 1831, a descendant of  John Hancock, but not the John Hancock, and died in Prosser, Washington in 1908. One census has his birthplace as Wisconsin, but others as Minnesota, with his father from Massachusetts and his mother from Maine.  He was a farmer in Minnesota and Washington. He met his wife, Emily Rock, while farming in Minnesota and were married before the Civil War.  During the war, he joined the 6th Minnesota infantry company C and was a private in the army. From the little I have read, the 6th infantry fought Sioux Indians during the first part of the war and then moved to Arkansas - where they all got sick of malaria and then further south to New Orleans for the last battles of the war. Benjamin though was injured in 1863 and was discharged due to disability. When he died, his wife applied for his military pension.
This was posted by an user. I love the beard. I wish I had such a beard.

His daughter Anice married Henry Lyons while they were in Minnesota and then they moved to Washington along with a sizeable portion of their extended family, including Benjamin.  From the 1910 census, just after Benjamin died, Anice and Henry lived almost next door to the Rock family, the Viles, and other Lyons.
Benjamin Viles, Anice Viles (Lyons), Myron and Luella Lyons.

According to an member this is a picture of Anice Lyon's house in Rattlesnake Hills. 

According to his death certificate he suffered died of old age due to complications from asthma in 1908.

The problem with the past is that it takes such effort to hold on to. The present is so demanding and it is easy to forget. It is sad that even stories about my own grandparents are not written down and will fade in memory, unless written down and remembered. Time is truly like a river, always moving downstream with the present like a leaf floating in its current. 

I don't have any personal stories about Benjamin Viles that would say what kind of man he was. Was he religious? Was he funny? Did he smoke a pipe? Was he kind to his children? How did he and his wife meet? What did he enjoy doing? Did he enjoy farming, or did he desire something different? How was he injured in the Civil War? Why did they move to Washington? 

I found the photos of him and his family on along with his death certificate, headstone info, and census records.

I would like family history to be something more than names and dates. It is a way to remember, to keep the past from being forgotten, but it takes effort and the present responsibilities tug at me and it is easy to put off. But, every year I do, the less likely it will be that I can find people in my family that remember personal stories. So I am going to try to work on this once a week and will post here some of what I have found.

Monday, July 04, 2011

A Call to Action

Reprinted with permission from my wife's blog:

A few days ago I received this letter from my Aunt Janie:

Dear friends and family,
In the 1960s I learned about a law that allows citizens to give gifts to the U.S. Treasury Department that may only be applied to reduce the debt. I've been so troubled by our current problems, most especially the August 2, 2011 payment deadline, that I dug out the old information on the law. It still exists.
For some months now, I've wanted to let people know about this opportunity for us as individuals citizens to come to the aid of our country just as we have done for victims of natural and political disasters around the world. We are a generous people and now our own situation is dire.
So, I dug out the old information on the law and then sat on it because several people felt my idea of encouraging us to help out was impractical. I believed they must be right. Then, last Sunday, June 26, 2011 I awakened with a dream about this possibility and a tremendous sense of remorse because I had not acted upon it.
This week, I sent out the attached letter which was published in the Las Vegas Review Journal's"Letters to the Editor" section. I also sent it to several politicians, but I do not expect a response because I know they are swamped with mail.
I don't have much money but I am sending a little to the Treasury specifically for the August 2nd deadline. If you are so inclined, the specific information is in the attachment. Be careful if you try to pay online. Make certain you have the Treasury Department. There are all sorts of sites that start with "" If you would, please send this email and attachment to others you know might be interested in helping.
Love and thanks. 
Janie   Click Me!

I think that this is a brilliant idea, not necessarily because it will pay down the debt in any significant amount (although if every American donated $10 we could pay down the debt 3 billion dollars), but because we will be able to show our leaders that we are committed to debt reduction.  Imagine, hundreds, thousands, millions of people donating what they can to pay down the debt.  Imagine them writing to their Congressmen urging them to work together to work out a national debt reduction plan.  (Yup, I am afraid we will have to work together to cut spending and raise taxes.) Here is a site where you can look up your Congressman's contact information.

Imagine people having debt reduction garage sales, raffles and lemonade stands.  Imagine this movement going national, viral and being talked about on national news.  Everyone has profited from government programs and tax breaks.  The debt is everyone's problem and we need to show that we are engaged and willing to sacrifice and do our part to pay it down.

Does that mean we will have to pay more taxes?  Yes.  Does that mean we might not qualify for government programs anymore?  Yes.  Are Americans tough?  Yes!  Can we sacrifice like our ancestors for the benefit of our country?  YES!  

Let us show everyone that we are willing to tighten our belts, make the tough choices and sacrifice to make our country a better place.  Please consider making a donationto pay down the national debt.  Please contact your Congressmen telling them about your donation and your commitment to debt reduction.  You could also contact your local newspapers.  Here is a letter Janie has written up that you could submit as a letter to the editor:

In as much as we face an immediate crisis with a considerably large payment on a portion of the national debt, and in as much as the Republicans and Democrats are entrenched in opposite positions, each of which has merit, it seems appropriate to ‘think outside the box.’ There is a third possibility.

H.R. 311 Public Law 87-58 (also found as Search 31 U.S.C. 3113:US Code-Section 3113) was passed on June 27, 1961. It permits individuals and groups to give gifts to the United States Government to be used only to reduce the public debt. Contributions may be mailed to Department G, Bureau of the Public Debt, P.O. Box 2188, Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188 or paid at (U.S. Treasury, Gifts to Reduce the Public Debt). In the present case, contributors should specify that the monies are to be used for the immediate debt crisis.

Cities, states, businesses, and organizations as well as private citizens of all economic positions could compete for recognition of their patriotic generosity. Efforts need to be transparent with regular reports of progress in the news, on the internet, and on television. A concerted, ongoing effort to reduce this debt would 1) find enthusiastic participants, 2) make evident our determination to meet our financial obligations, and 3) demonstrate to the world the patriotic fervor of the American people. 

Should this suggestion prove impractical, it may at least stimulate further discussion and the opportunity to ‘think outside the box.’

Your name

Please help spread the word!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Row, Row, Row your boat

When I graduated with my Ph.D. and got a "real" job, my brother Marc asked me what new hobbies I was going to start with all my new free time. We moved to Indiana and bought a small hobby farm, which promptly swallowed all my free time and money. I miss the cows, our pigs, and my dog Sam, but I do have more free time.

When I was surfing around the internet (Do people say that still?), I ran into some wooden boat sites and really liked this boat:

It is an Adirondack guideboat, a rowing canoe essentially. I have never used a rowboat, but I liked the principle of it. Loud motors aren't really enticing to me and I love canoes and kayaks. I have been ocean kayaking in Hawaii and Mexico and canoed at scout camp as a kid. Emily and I went kayaking in Gig Harbor and it was the highlight of our trip.

In addition, while in Gig Harbor, Leila and I visited the Gig Harbor Boatworks and looked at his rowing/sailing boat the "Melonseed". It had beautiful clean lines, a thoughtful design, and a big price tag. I have always wanted to be a sailor, but never have had the chance. When the owner of the boatworks showed us the workshop and their boats they were building, he told us that there was about a 3-5 year delay between someone showing interest and someone buying one of his boats. Yeah, not going to get one any time soon.

My next step was to see how much a canoe, kayak or row boat was going to cost me. I could get a canoe or kayak for 400-900 dollars. I found a kit boat site with kits for wooden rowboats, canoes and kayaks around 1000 dollars per kit. Then, I found the Des Moines rowing club, for less than 150 dollars I could join the club and row on one of the novice teams.

I was hooked. I need to get some pictures of rowing on the lake with the team. We meet once a week on Saturday mornings. The instructor/coach/cox sits in the back of the boat and instructs and guides the boat. We went out the first day on a 4 person sweep boat that glided along like an iceskate. It also balanced like a knife on the water. Two inch movements with the oars or seat threatened to capsize the boat. It is odd to face backwards the whole time. In that way I prefer canoeing, but it sure moves fast when everyone rows in sync.

So, for now my new hobbie is rowing. I still miss our little farm, and my garden and chickens help fill that void, but I am having a great time learning to row.

Maybe next year I will take up sailing.