Local News Column 1890

I like reading obituaries for their information and often for their wording.  How many ways can you say someone has died?  This was not meant to be an obituary, it was just in the local news column, but the wording is not what we would use today.

“The aged wife of Mr. Thomas Duncan who has been with her son, Dr. Duncan at LaMoille, had a stroke of apoplexy recently, but the Gazette reports her as improving.  Dr. F. Duncan, formerly of this city, is one of her sons.
Since writing the above we learn that the old lady died.”

Mrs. Duncan is Eliza Cation Duncan.  She died 9 Dec 1890.  LaMoille is in Illinois and was the home of Dr. James C. Duncan.



Cation – Duncan Part 3

Eliza Cation Duncan a

Eliza Cation Duncan 1817 – 1890

From Eliza Duncan English’s 1932 interview:
Thomas and Eliza went to Mendota where they lived with Frank Duncan and his wife.  Frank and his wife moved to Des Moines.  Thomas and Eliza went with them.  Then they came back to LaMoille, Illinois to live with Dr. James Duncan, where Thomas’ wife Eliza Cation Duncan died.  Buried at Ottawa, Wisconsin.
I wrote about Eliza English’s interview at the end of this post.

Eliza Cation Duncan died 9 December 1890 in LaMoille, Illinois.  She was 73 years old.

Times and ways of expressing deaths have changed – this article from a LaSalle county newspaper, 1890, has an irreverent ring to it these days:
“The aged wife of Mr. Thomas Duncan who has been with her son, Dr. Duncan at LaMoille, had a stroke of apoplexy recently, but the Gazelle reports her as improving.  Dr. F. Duncan, formerly of this city, is one of her sons.
Since writing the above we learn that the old lady died.”

Thomas Duncan’s 80th birthday was 2 July 1895.

From the Reporter and Sun newspaper, Mendota, Illinois, 6 July 1895:
“Mr. Thomas Duncan celebrated his 80th birthday at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Dr. English on the Fourth of July.  Four of his sons and their families were present.  Dr. T. C. Duncan, Dr. D. Duncan, Dr. G. Duncan of Chicago, and Dr. J. C. Duncan of LaMoille.  Dr. F. Duncan of Des Moines, Ia. and J. M. Duncan of Dallas, Texas could not be present.  Those present had a very pleasant time and promised to gather on his next birthday, should he be spared until that event.  We hope he will be able to see many more occasions before he is called away.”

Unfortunately Thomas Duncan was called away.  He died on 18 December 1895 in Mendota, La Salle county, Illinois.
td death cert

This death certificate has the wrong year for his death.  The paperwork was done in January 1896 and the death date is incorrectly noted as 1896 rather than 1895.

Thomas Duncan’s Will
td will p1td will p2

I Thomas Duncan of the town of Mendota in the county of La Salle and State of Illinois of the age Seventy Nine and being of sound mind and memory do make publish and declare this my last will and testament in the manner following.  That is to say First I give and bequeath to my Grandson William Duncan Five Dollars in full for his fathers interest.  Second if in case my beloved Sons Frank Duncan and John Duncan pay said promissory notes that I now hold against them they shall share equally with my other Children. If in case the said notes are not paid by them they are to have the said notes for their shares.  Third I hereby direct my Executor to divide equally among the rest of my Children my property Real or Personal after my funeral expenses and other debts are paid.  Thomas C. Duncan, David Duncan, James Duncan, George Duncan, and my daughter Eliza English Equally.

Lastly I hereby nominate and appoint my son James C. Duncan as my Executor without bonds and request that my Executor shall keep out enough of my property to erect a suitable tombstone at my grave.  

In Witness where of I have set my hand and seal the Fifteenth day of March in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight-hundred Ninety five.

                                                   [signed] Thomas Duncan

He refers to his grandson as William Duncan although William was adopted by Alderman and took that as his surname many years before.
There is a note in the file from John Duncan saying he cannot pay back the money he owes.

Obituaries can be gold mines, but we must remember they are not a primary source: they are written by people sometimes long after an event (like birth, marriage, emigration) took place.  And the information is often supplied by folks who were not present at those events.  Good information – really good hints.

This obituary is full of genealogical information.  The most interesting part to me is the following:
Mr. Duncan was the head of the Duncan families in America, who are bound together by this compact, “To perpetuate and honor the name Duncan.  The oldest living member is the recognized chief.  He shall preserve the family bible and records.  To him shall be reported all births, marriages, and deaths and other notable events, by the head of all the families in all countries.”
William Duncan, of Fox Lake, Wis., is now the head in America.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to contact any descendant of William Duncan’s family even though his son, William C., married our Frank Duncan’s daughter, Eva.  I do wonder where the family bible is.

td obit

His obituary from the Waukesha Freeman, 26 Dec 1895:
td obit short

His 1895 obituary from a Mendota, Illinois newspaper:
Thomas Duncan departed this life peacefully, after a lingering illness, on Wednesday, December 18th, 1895 at three o’clock p.m.
He was born at Li____hgo, Scotland, July 2, 1815.  In 1836 he was married to Miss Eliza Cation, and came to this country in 1846, settling at first near Rochester, N.Y., where he made his home for five years. Since then he has lived in Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. He lost his beloved wife on December 9, 1890, aged 73 years and since her death has made his home with his daughter in this city.  Of eleven children born to Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, six sons and one daughter are living, and of the six sons, five are physicians.  They are Dr. T. C. Duncan, Chicago, J. M. Duncan, Dallas, Texas, Dr. D. Duncan, Chicago; Dr. F. Duncan, Des Moines, Iowa; Dr. J. C. Duncan, LaMoille, and Dr. G. Duncan, Chicago.  The only daughter is the wife of Dr. F. N. English of this city.  When Mr. and Mrs. Duncan celebrated their golden wedding in 1886, on that happy occasion there were gathered around them six children and thirty-three grandchildren.
Last July Mr. Duncan passed his 80th birthday, and at that time a happy reunion at which most of the children were present was enjoyed. It was the last reunion on earth.  Mr. Duncan’s strength had begun to fail and the end of a long and honorable life gradually came near.
He was the head of the Duncan family in America who are bound together with …pact “to honor and perpetuate the name of Duncan,” the oldest living member is the recognized chief who shall preserve the family bible and records, and to whom shall be reported all births, marriages, deaths and other notable errata for registration.  Due notices thereof shall be sent to the “heads of all the families in the various countries.”  W. Duncan of Fox Lake, Wisconsin is now the head of the family in America.
Mr. Duncan was a religious man.  Of Scotch origin he was naturally a Presbyterian and to the church of his youth he clung during his life.  He was well versed in the scriptures, passages of which he frequently repeated.  He was a kind and loving parent, an industrious citizen, well and favorably known by all.  The last five years of his life have been spent in our city, and until within a year he was frequently seen on our streets.  He was always glad to see his friends, and his pastor was ever a welcome visitor, and he loved to talk of religious things, especially such as related to the church of his ancestry and choice.
His funeral services were conducted by Rev. Theo. H. Allen and…[illegible]

Some images from the probate packet showing expenses.  I like to see the letterheads used by the sons.

td funeral exptd funeral exp 2And of course, I love the signatures.
td monument sigs 1

From Eliza Duncan English’s 1932 interview:
Thomas then lived with Eliza and Frank [English] in Mendota until his death.  Buried in Ottawa.  (Also buried at Ottawa are grandmother’s grandfather, William Duncan, father of Thomas Duncan, and James Cation, father of Eliza Cation Duncan, and Jane Duncan, grandmother’s infant sister)  William Duncan and James Cation’s wives are buried in Scotland. Thomas was the oldest in his family.
ottawa cem signduncan stone ottawaduncan plot ottawa

Cation – Duncan Part 2

Eliza Cation and Thomas Duncan lived in the Ottawa/Eagle area of Wisconsin from the late 1840s to the late 1860s.  During this time Thomas applied for US citizenship.  On 20 September 1855 he filed a declaration of intent.  This document gives his year and country of birth and his date and place of emigration.  It also has his signature – one of my favorite things.
td intention

On 19 November 1858 he was granted citizenship.  Eliza did not file – only the men applied.  I don’t know if the Scottish born children of theirs (William, Thomas, and John) had to be naturalized.
td naturalization

By 1870 according to the Federal Census, the family had moved to Johnstown, Rock county, Wisconsin.  Four of the children were still living at home, John, 28, James, 19, George, 15, and Eliza, 11.
thomas duncan signature

By the time of the 1880 Federal Census Thomas, 64, and Eliza, 63, are living alone in Osage, Mitchell county, Iowa.  The children have all left.  T.C. wed Emma Osborne in 1866.  David married Helen Barlass about 1870.  Frank married Martha Pennell in 1872.  John married Anna Hopkirk in 1874 when he was almost 32 years old.  James wed Anna English in 1875 and after her death married Nettie Patchen in 1880.  The only daughter, Eliza, married Frank English in 1877.  George was the last to marry – to Ella Whitbeck about 1878.

About 1880 a formal photograph was taken of the family.  I’ve posted it before and probably will again as it show so many generations in a high quality print.  My guess is that it was taken in Iowa based on the people present.

Adults standing: L-R:  Eliza Duncan English, Frank English, James Duncan, Nettie Patchen Duncan, Front row: L-R:  Mamie English, Clifford Duncan, Eliza Cation Duncan, Belle English, Thomas Duncan, and Howard Duncan.

Adults standing: L-R: Eliza Duncan English, Frank English, James Duncan, Nettie Patchen Duncan, Front row: L-R: Mamie English, Clifford Duncan, Eliza Cation Duncan, Belle English, Thomas Duncan, and Howard Duncan.

In 1886 Eliza wrote a letter to her sister and brother in Scotland.  The family of Isabelle Cation Barclay saved the letter.  I began to transcribe it, but the quality of the copy, Eliza’s punctuation and handwriting made it unlikely I could do a good job.  But here’s a photo of it.  It’s nice to see her handwriting.  And it has her signature.
eliza duncan letter 1886eliza duncan signature

At this time they are living in Mendota, Illinois with their son Frank Duncan – and using his stationery for her letter.  They had emigrated from Scotland and lived in New York, a couple of places in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois.  Several of their sons were doctors and I think at least the last years of their lives were lived in comfort.


Eliza Cation Duncan

Eliza Cation Duncan origAmidst the pile of Dad’s business cards – his own and ones he collected from other folks – there was this little tintype.  It’s my great great grandmother, Eliza Cation Duncan, 1817-1890.

The photo itself is 2″ x 1 3/4″ – taped to the embossed paper frame.

I’m guessing it date from about 1875.  I have another photo of her that I’ll add below.  It’s on paper and she looks older in it.

Eliza Cation Duncan crop 1

Tintype. Eliza Cation Duncan.

This might have been taken in the 1880s.  The hat is the same one that she wears in an 1882 family portrait.

Eliza Cation Duncan crop


Cation & Duncan Emigration

Our immigrant Duncans came to the United States from Scotland in the early 1840s.  Their first child born in the US joined us in 1846 near Rochester, New York.  From this I guessed that they entered somewhere on the eastern seaboard.  Before the internet I searched everything available on passenger lists for Boston, New York and Philadelphia primarily.

On two different ships I found a Thomas Duncan about the right age – both times traveling on his own.  I learned from the Eliza Duncan English interview that he did come over on his own before the family came over.  So perhaps one or both of these voyages are his, but it’s impossible to verify without more information.

It was only after the internet gave access to so many more records that I made any breakthrough.  I found Eliza Cation (her maiden name) with her three sons, William, Thomas, and John Duncan, traveling with Eliza’s relatives, William and Margaret Cation, and their children, William, Ann, James, and Margaret.  Young William Cation had a twin sister, Isabella, who was left behind in Arngask working as a servant.  This is according to Isabella’s son who told his grandson the story of great-grandmother Barclay.

yorkshire pass list col

Passenger list from the ship Yorkshire, 1843.

The most amazing thing to me is that they sailed on the Ship Yorkshire from Liverpool to New Orleans.  Neither port was exprected.  A Scottish friend told me that Liverpool isn’t a convenient port now for travel from Scotland to the US.  And New Orleans is certainly a long way from Liverpool and from New York.

eastern states ny wi no

The Yorkshire sailed 8 March 1843 from Liverpool and arrived in New Orleans 10 May May 1843 – 63 days at sea.  There were problems and this is known because there was a group of Mormons on board who kept diaries.

smith diary ship yorkshire

Smith diary

Following are entries which were taken from a journal kept by Andrew Jenson who was also a passenger on the Yorkshire.  They were found at smithharper.org.

The Yorkshire is a splendid new vessel. The emigrants went aboard on the 6th and 7th of March 1843, and sailed from Liverpool. On the 9th, nearly all the passengers were seasick, which lasted for several days, as the winds were very contrary, and several days were spent in the Irish Sea. Once a terrible wave struck the vessel and water ran down the hatchway. April 4th, they caught the trade wind, going south and they rejoiced at having more favorable winds. After that the people began holding meetings, which however, were opposed by non-Mormon passengers on board. At length the heat became oppressive. They passed the West Indies between Cuba and Jamaica.

On May 3rd, early in the morning, the vessel was struck by a terrible squall, breaking off all the upper parts of the mast. All hands were called up and they raised the sails as best they could. This was off Cape Antonio. As soon as the sails were set, there was a good wind. On May 8th they met the pilot boat and were piloted over the Balize to New Orleans. It was a grand sight along the shores of the Mississippi, but Negro slavery disgusted the British. On the 10th they landed at New Orleans, being nine weeks on the voyage. The heat in New Orleans was intense. On the 13th of May the Claybourne [docked] in New Orleans, which had sailed from Liverpool later than the Yorkshire.

At New Orleans the Yorkshire passengers took passage up the Mississippi River on board the steamboat Dove, for Nauvoo, paying $3.50 per adult passenger. They left New Orleans on the 16th of May.

I left the parts in about the Mormons’ travel north to Nauvoo (Illinois) because it’s likely that the Cations also traveled by river – The Mississippi and maybe up the Ohio River to get to Rochester.

The following is from the History of Joseph Smith, under the date of May 2nd, 1843:

Between one and two o’clock next morning, when off Cape St. Antonio, Cuba, there was much vivid lightning, when a white squall caught the foretop royal sail, which careened the vessel, when the foremast, mainmast and mizenmast snapped asunder with an awful crash; the whole of the masts above, with the job and spanker, and sixteen sails and studding poles, were carried overboard with a tremendous splash and surge, when the vessel right.  At daybreak all on deck was in confusion and a complete wreck.  During the day a sail was hoisted from the stump of the main mast to the bow of the vessel, thus leaving nothing but the hull of the vessel to carry the Saints into New Orleans.

There’s more about this journey on the BYU Mormon Migration site.  I’ve never found a photograph of their ship Yorkshire.  Perhaps this voyage did it in, but in 1844 there was a new ship Yorkshire – and many photos of it!

This was a difficult journey for all, and Eliza traveled with three children, ages 4, 2, and 1.

The story of Thomas Duncan and Eliza Cation began here.