One of the many things we did on a recent trip we took back to my hometown was to visit a couple of cemeteries. Since my wife’s family has been in the area since the 1700s and mine came to this area in the mid-1800s, it is a safe bet that you will find family in a high number of cemeteries. All of the stories you are about to read came from the Riverside Cemetery in the city of Plattsburgh, New York. We had gone there to try and find my Great Grandmother Bessie Bonnett LeClair’s gravesite. While we were there, we had many family members in residence vying for our attention. So for my wife, granddaughter, and myself the cemetery seemed to come alive, but perhaps it has always been so but I just never listened.
I wish in the above picture I had stood next to the Dr. Jedediah Ladd memorial stone so you could see how big it is. The stone stands out in this cemetery as it is one of the largest on the grounds. Jedediah Ladd is my wife’s first cousin three times removed. His father was a farmer. After Jedediah had finished with high school, he was to work on the family farm for a few years. Jedediah’s working on the farm may have been because his brother was 11 years younger than he was. In March 1875 Jedediah took up the study of medicine at the local practice of Dr. Nichols. The following March in 1876 he entered medical school in Burlington, Vermont from which he graduated in 1877. At that time he went into practice with Dr. F.H. Cole and was to work in the Plattsburgh area for about eight years. Jedediah then moved to New York City some 300 plus miles away in late 1885. While there he joined the staff of the Presbyterian Hospital where he stayed for 35 years, returning to Plattsburgh in 1920 due to ill health. It was stated in a newspaper article that he did take a postgraduate course while in New York City. Still by today’s standards a very fast track to becoming a medical doctor. His ill health was to overtake him in 1926 when he died at the age of 76. A newspaper article about his death noted that large multitudes of people attended his funeral as he was very popular.
The life story of my Great Grandmother Bessie Barney Bonnett LeClair is still a work in progress. Bessie was born in 1882 the daughter of Mary Guyette and Solomon Barney. She married Abner Bonnett at the age of eighteen in 1900. She was to have six children in ten years. All lived to adulthood except Maynard who died just reaching six months old. Maynard died of pneumonia according to his one-sentence death notice in the newspaper. Her marriage to Abner ended in divorce. While I do not have the details I have copies of letters, Abner wrote to Bessie pleading for a reconciliation, stating “My wild oats are all sowed.”
August of 1918 was a very busy month for Bessie. She married William LeClair and gave birth to a baby boy. In a letter Bessie wrote to her oldest daughter fifteen days before her death, she stated that her baby was “getting fat” and would be seven weeks old in three days. She also wrote about a mutual friend who’s son died in the army. They have just brought his body back and that he died of “this new disease, Spanish Influenza.” She also spoke about painting and papering her residence. She was to die from this new disease on October 21, 1918. I do not know the name of her new baby or what was to happen to him. I have not as of yet been able to get any firm information on her new husband, William.
Robert and Doris Monty Lyon are my wife’s parents. Robert served in the U.S. Army during World War Two in Italy. While in Italy he collected a Purple Heart Medal for “not keeping my rear end down.” This was something he found very humorous, and he was not seriously hurt. He also collected a Bronze Star of which he never spoke. When the war was over, he married Doris and went to work and school and earned himself a law degree from New York University. It was at this time they moved from the New York City area to Beekmantown, N.Y. some 300 miles north which was Doris’s hometown. He was very busy for some years setting up his law practice in a small town where he did not know anyone besides his in-laws. He even worked on the family’s dairy farm to help with expenses the first few years. A measure of his success was that the city and county courts and the county clerks office all closed early so all who wished could attend visitation hours at the time of his funeral.
Doris was the daughter of a dairy farmer and knew her way around a farm. In fact, that is how she met Robert. Robert had come north on a camping vacation and spotted Doris driving a tractor and just had to meet her. She was, however, a very talented person who had graduated Normal School and became a teacher at the age of 17. Her first teaching assignment was a one room school house. The house my wife grew up in was an old gas station with an apartment above it, located in the country. It was Doris who remodeled this into a home. She did all of the carpentry work herself and most of the plumbing. They had a family friend who was an electrician do the electrical work. When Doris finished, they had a nice three bedroom home.
Archibald Guyette died the same day William Jennings Bryan died. It seems the famous lawyer laid down to rest after dinner and died, so peacefully his wife who was reading never noticed. My distant cousin’s death was not to be peaceful. Archibald and a friend were a passenger in a Hudson Coupe that according to witnesses was being “wildly-driven” at a high rate of speed on the “new concrete highway” at Beekmantown.
According to Nichols Fesette who was following behind, the Hudson veered off the road and into a ditch. The impact of hitting the ditch popped open the passenger door throwing Archie out into the air only to be stopped by a fence post. The car then took off at a high rate of speed leaving Archie laying on the ground. Mr. Fesette got Archie into his vehicle and drove him to the hospital. The Hudson ended up in a ditch with its wheels torn off just a little ways up the road. Archie was to die at the hospital in considerable pain the newspaper account says. Strange as it may sound a coroner’s inquest was held and the ruling was that the coroner, “exonerates of any blame” the driver in the death of Archibald Guyette.
The Monty family has been in the area for over 200 years. The first were French Canadians who fought for the colonies during the American Revolutionary War. They settled in this area starting their family farms. The names on this stone all following that tradition of farming. Edward O Monty and Joyce Monty Smith were siblings of my wife’s mother, Doris. Joyce like Doris went to college and became a teacher. She was to teach many years in Baltimore, Maryland. Young Edward was not to go to college but went to work on the family farm after he graduated high school. It was, in fact, complications of injuries from an accident he had on the farm that ended his life in 1975. Edward’s wife Betty Levitt was to work as a nurse for most of her life. She was a nurse in the New York State Prison system for many years and 22 years an emergency room nurse. Betty and Doris were to die within 24 hours of each other after living across the road from each other for decades.
Edward S Monty my wife’s grandfather was a dairy farmer all his life. He was 75 when I first met him in 1968 already having suffered through numerous heart attacks. He had been told many times to slow down. But each day he and his son Edward O, would go to work on the farm. In1972 while operating his tractor in his fields he turned off the tractor and slumped over in his seat, he had finally slowed down. I cannot say he was an easy man to get to know. I can say with certainty that it took him over three years to warm up to me. Edward was also a justice of the peace in Beekmantown for years. A story that is often told in the family about Edward and his son-in-law Robert Lyon while amusing also shows the character of these two men. Robert was caught speeding and was brought to the local justice of the peace, who happened to be Edward O Monty. He was quite surprised to see his son-in-law being brought in. However, the state trooper was even more surprised when he found out the relationship between the two men. The trooper wanted to drop everything, but Edward would not hear of it. Robert who was an attorney and could have made things very complicated and even gotten the ticket dropped only said guilty when asked how he would plead by his father-in-law. A hefty fine was levied.
I was able to find the grave markers of John and Nancy Shedrick Frederick. Nancy is the half-sister that I never knew my grandfather had. My great aunt was born in Canada in 1870. She arrived in New York sometime after that when her mother Marceline married my great grandfather about 1880. I was able to find some of her descendants and relations, and we had some nice conversations by telephone. They had promised me that they would get back to me with information and possibly some pictures. That was months ago, and I have heard nothing from them. Too bad because I was learning about a whole new branch of the family tree that had been unknown, at least to me. You can read about this discovery in my post titled “A Drowning in the Saranac River.” https://mooregenealogy.wordpress.com/2016/05/23/a-drowning-in-the-saranac-river/ One of Nancy’s pallbearers was Homer Ladd, a cousin of my wife. He now resides a few rows over from Nancy.
Homer Ladd was a member of the Plattsburgh Police force from 1924 to 1929. The newspapers of the time chronicle many stories of his police work. The stories run from chasing rum runners, investigating armed robberies, helping injured people, to the daily routine of police work. One story I found interesting was when a group of “mischievous lads” broke into a residence and raided the ice box. Homer was able to give chase and caught three of the boys. They were brought to the police station and “after a lecture” were allowed to go home. I can’t help but wonder how that would be handled today.
Homer later took a job as a prison guard for a couple of years at Sing Sing Prison. After that, he owned a diner for a while in Strafford Conn. and Schenectady, New York. Homer made his way back to Plattsburgh, where he eventually operated a fuel oil business until he retired in 1960. In his retirement years, he would spend the summers in Plattsburgh and during the winter he would live in Florida.
World War Two is not understood today as to its’ scope and the pure destruction and misery that it came with. This branch of the Gonya family cousins to my wife would shoulder some of the hardship that came with this war. Harold Gonya was born December 29, 1912, to Blaine and Nellie Gonya. Just three days after marrying Gladys Picard he joined the army on February 19, 1941. Events would soon overtake this couple as the U.S. was plunged into war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Harold was to take part in the Normandy invasion and was killed in action on July 13, 1944. The War Department notification was received by his wife, and I am sure soon after his parents Blaine and Nellie also learned of his fate.
A name that is not on this gravestone is Leo Gonya. Leo is Blaine’s brother. Leo was born July 1891. As best as I can find out, he started to work on ships sometime after 1920. Leo was to spend the rest of his life working on ships and was to die while at sea. He was to be declared missing in July 1943 and finally declared dead in 1945 and was awarded the Mariners Medal. You can find both Leo’s and Harold’s name listed on the newspaper in the picture below.
However, the tragedy of this family is not over yet. Gladys Gonya, Harold’s widow, was to die of a heart attack at the age of 34 on June 10, 1947. She had attended a birthday party for her father the evening before. Gladys left the party not feeling well and did not report to work the next day. A concerned friend upon learning she was not at work went to her place to check if everything was alright. There she was discovered dead at the same residence she received notice of her husband’s death in France three years previous. Gladys was as much of a casualty of World War Two as were many others, that were never posted on any newspaper casualty list.
I recently read an excellent post about the difference between a genealogist and a family historian. In short, they said the genealogist job was to collect the facts and know what and where the records were that contained them. They were to be concerned about dates of birth, death, marriage and details of that sort. The family historian was the teller of family stories and the history of the times both worldwide and local. They had great grandpa’s medals and the family picture album. I firmly believe that being just one is not enough. Unless you are willing to combine the two, the job is only partly done. It is like building a house but not putting on the roof. I have spent the better part of this post telling you about family stories. While I did not want to bore you with sources, I would like to give you a small idea of the facts it takes to tell your family’s story. Please consider just one generation of Edward S Monty family.