Friday, March 31, 2006

Breaking Fleishman News!

While checking a citation in the New York Journal of Commerce from October 1869 for the Hamilton project, I found the following excerpt from the Jacksonville Florida Union dated Oct. 16, 1869 that I had not seen previously:
“Private letters from Marianna received in this city yesterday bring the information that Mr. Fleishman, the Frenchman who was driven out of Marianna last week by the mob, and who returned on Monday last, was waylaid and shot on Wednesday, the 13th inst., about five miles from Marianna. It is also reported that three colored men were shot and killed at the same time. No further particulars have been received.”

This doesn’t change anything substantive in the Fleishman paper, but is intriguing because of the amount of incorrect information: (i) the “Frenchman” (actually mentioned in my paper from a Florida Union excerpt dated 10/14/69 ); (ii) shot on Wednesday – contradicted by every other account, particularly Dickinson’s diary which reports a body found on Monday night and identified as Fleishman on Wednesday morning, and (iii) shot with “colored men” – probably confusing the account of the black men in his store he allegedly made his infamous “statement” to, the three shooting victims at the picnic, and the call attributed to Fleishman by the Florida Union previously that three whites should be shot for every black.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Who is Selling the Papers of John Quincy Dickinson?

In the last few years, at least two batches of John Quincy Dickinson materials have been sold at auction. In November 2002, Alex Autographs (, an auction house in Cos Cob, Connecticut sold (i) Dickinson's September/October 1869 diary (the diary transcribed in the Congressional KKK Hearings Report), (ii) the two Fleishman affidavits written out by Dickinson and (iii) a personal letter from Charles Hamilton to Dickinson. Alex Autographs would not reveal any information about the seller, but did put me in touch with the buyer who was extremely helpful. Then in late 2004, HCA Auctions from North Carolina ( sold a number of Dickinson letters including both Civil War and Reconstruction material. HCA put me in touch with the buyer, the University of Vermont, but would provide no information about the seller's identity. I spoke to the curator of the Benson Historical Society, Mrs. Trutor, which has some Dickinson material. She knows some Dickinson family members in the area (JQD did not have any children) and did not believe that any of them had been selling documents. I really wonder who is selling this stuff and if there is more out there. Certainly the second batch was in possession of Dickinson's family at one point. After Dickinson's assasination, his brother went to Marianna and returned with a box of personal letters and the collection auctioned off includes condolence notes to Dickinson's parents.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Search for Descendants: Purmans

The Hamilton family members do not have caches of documents hidden away. I cannot find any Fleishman/Heymann descendants and I assume that they would be so attenuated from their family history, that I doubt they would have any useful information. The Purmans, on the other hand, appear to be a promising resource. Hamilton's best friend and brother-in-law, William James Purman lived until 1928. Leaving Florida in the wake of the 1876 election debacle, the Purmans first moved to Pennsylvania to set up a farm. They moved to Roxbury in Boston where they lived from the early 1880s until the mid-1890s where Purman worked in insurance. Purman lived the last 30 years of his life in Washington DC, first at 1428 Q St, then at 17 Grant Place. Purman and his wife, Leadora Finlayson, had six children: Leodora (or Lola) in 1872 in FL; Faith (Fairy) in 1875 in DC; Carroll (Bud) in 1877 in DC; Stanley in 1883; Helen in 1884 and Gladys (Cootie) in 1885 in MA. Purman's Washington Post obituary listed five children and only two grandchildren as survivors. Leadora Finlayson Purman died in 1921.
Lola, the oldest daughter, married Senator John M. Thurston of Nebraska in Nov. 1899. There is a whiff of scandal associated with that marriage. Senator Thurston was recently widowed, quite a bit older than Lola with a son at Harvard. He had written a passionate poem for her, titled "The White Rose." The Chicago Tribune stated that the notoriety associated with this poem ruined Thurston's chance for re-election. Thurston died in 1914 and the couple had a daughter, Ruth. Lola remarried Dr. William Alanson White, a prominent psychiatrist and superintendant of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in D.C. for many years until his death in 1937. Granddaughter Ruth made occasional appearances in gossipy news items. In 1922, Ruth married the then reknowned aviator, Lester J. Maitland who had made the first flight to Hawaii. They had a daughter, Patricia Ruth, born about 1925, and divorced in 1930. Ruth then had a brief marriage to a journalist, Cecil B. Dixon beginning in 1931. Two years later, she entered the news once again when she married Dewey Howard. Lola continued to live in Washington after Dr White's death and then moved to join Ruth (now Breen) in Jackson, Mississippi in 1954 where Lola died two months later aged 83. Ruth Thurston Breen died in Dickens, Texas (somewhat near Lubbock) in Feb. 1984 also at the age of 83.
As far as the other Purman children. Carroll was initially associated with commissioning a massive painting of General Pershing and his staff. Carroll later moved to California. He married Mary Allen and returned to DC where he died on Dec. 19, 1949. His widow died in 1957. Stanley seems to have been something of an invalid and died in 1936.
Two daughters moved with their husbands to Arkansas. Helen married Bernard Hoskins Slattery of Newton , MA in 1911 [is this George Flattery?] and another daughter, Faith, married Edward Murray Jarrett of Little Rock in 1914 [Washington Herald, Feb. 7, 1914]. At the time of Purman's death, the Slatterys had a daughter, Dorothy. In light of the fact that Purman's youngest daughter, Gladys, died childless at the age of 27 in 1912 (and assuming that the Post is correct in listing only two grandchildren), Purman may very well not have had any other direct descendants
The leads:
1. The estate of Dr. William A. White (Lola's second husband) of DC
2. Family of Ruth Thurston Breen in Texas and her daughter Patricia Ruth
3. Dorothy Slattery - daughter of Helen of AK
4. Estate of Carroll and Mary Purman of DC
In short, I have not been able to find any Purman descendants, let alone a trove of family papers that I hoped would contain letters from Hamilton, Dickinson and Thomas Fortune, and documents about the Bureau and Florida Reconstruction era politics.

UPDATE [Dec. 28, 2011]:  Gladys Purman Carr: 1885-1912.  Washington Herald, July 27, 1912:  "To Bring Ashes Home - The body of Mrs. Gladys Purman Carr, formerly of Washington, who died in London Thursday will be cremated and the ashed brought to this city. She was formerly Miss Gladys Purman, and was popular in Washington society. Besides her husband, Henry Clay Carr, she is survived by two sisters, one of whom is the wife of former Senator Thurston of Nebraska and the other, Mrs. George Flattery, of this city."   More details from the Washington Times, July 26, 1912: Relatives and friends in Washington were shocked to learn of the sudden death yesterdayiIn her flat in at St. James court, London, of Mrs. Gladys Purman Carr, wife of Henry Clay Carr, and formerly a beautiful and clever young woman in Washington society. Her death came from an overdose of a medicine containing carbolic acid. The coroner's Jury returned an open verdict that there was no evidence whether she had taken the poison purposely or accidentally, although, according to her own statement, it was taken by accident. Mrs. Carr was formerly Miss Gladys Purman, a member of the well-known Purman family who live on Garfield place. She had two sisters, one of whom is the wife of former Senator Thurston, of Nebraska, and the other Mrs. George Flattery, of this city. Her husband. Henry Clay Carr was a mining engineer and is well known by his work on the Pacific coast. The couple had recently been in Spain and Portugal, where Mr. Carr had been employed In his profession. Mrs. Carr, it is said, had been in a nervous conition for some time, and when she went into the bathroom at their apartments yesterday It was presumably for the purpose or taking a sedative. In a few moments her loud screams called her husband, and she told him she had taken a dose out of the wrong bottle. She fell to the floor, unconscious, and died within two hours. Mr. Carr was Prostrated by his wife's death to the extent that he was unable to attend tho coroner's Inquest, his physician stating to the coroner that he was not in fit condition to give evidence. The body will be cremated and the ashes brought to Washington.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Search for Descendants or Where Have All the Fleishmans Gone?

Prof. Canter Brown told me in a conversation that historians are always hoping to find one more document. One imagines that a treasure trove of letters is lying in a chest in some attic waiting to be discovered. In my various projects, I've thought that tracing of the descendants of my subjects might lead to such a discovery. So far, nothing of the sort has occurred. I was very fortunate to find Mr. Robert Hamilton, the grandson of Charles Hamilton's brother Alexander. Mr. Hamilton has a great interest in history and wrote a piece about Charles that he submitted to the Lycoming County Historical Society where I found it. I contacted Mr. Hamilton, struck up a correspondence and was thrilled to meet with him last July to visit the Hamilton graves in Jersey Shore, PA. Mr. Hamilton, however, had no primary sources to rely on other than stories he remembered from his childhood. All family papers had disappeared during the 50 years from when he joined the Navy until he retired from the oil business and returned to central PA. Charles Hamilton, though married, had no children.
John Q. Dickinson never married or had children. Accoring to Mrs. Trutor of the Benson (Vt) Historical Society, several Dickinson family members still live around Benson.
My most extensive - and frustrating - family-finding efforts have been with the Fleishman and Purman families. Samuel Fleishman, of course, was murdered in 1869 and his wife (Sophia) and children (William, Benjamin, Albert, Carrie, Etta and Lulu) moved back to New York almost immediately. Sophia did not remarry. The fate of the children is hard to trace. As of the death of their uncle and benefactor, Benjamin Altman, in 1913, only William, (Henri)Etta Fried and Lulu Heymann are still listed as living. William died a bachelor in the 1920s. Etta died in an asylum where she was committed after the death of her only child (a series of NYTimes articles follows the disturbing legal fight surrounding Etta's husband's attempt to free her from the asylum opposed by Lulu and the Altman estate). Lulu and her husband, Charles Heymann seem to have had only one child, Charles M., Jr., born in 1900. Charles Jr. and his wife, Elinor, had a son, William, born in 1927 at their home in the Catskills. Charles Heymann Jr. can be found in databases connected with real estate transactions - and defaults - in the 1920s and early 1930s. At that point, though , he disappears from the public record. Probate records indicate that a Rev. Charles M. Heymann, D.D., husband of Elinor, died in St. Augustine FL in April 1969. I traced Charles and Elinor back to North Carolina where they filed for social security numbers in the 1950s. I found an internet reference to Rev. Charles Heymann in Hendersonville, NC. I called local synagogues and received the information that Rev. Charles Heymann had been a minister and founder of a local church who was known to wear a big hat and drive a cadillac! I spoke to the minister of the church who had known about Charles Heymann (the only surviving heir of the Altman fortune) and said that the story had been that he had made money in real estate in California. The minister said that Rev. Heymann had several children but he had no information about them.
I have not been able to find any information about William or Charles Jr.'s other children. The Altman Foundation claims to not have any contact with any family members. Amazing that Samuel Fleishman had six children, but only one grandchild and that descendant became a Protestant minister!
Next: the elusive Purmans.

UPDATE: Jan./May. 2010: A couple of months ago I was contacted by a g-g-grandson of Samuel Fleishman (a grandson of Rev. Charles Heymann), who found this blog through a web search. This gentleman and his family were very aware of the Altman connection and had a vague sense of Samuel Fleishman, but no idea of his murder. This family is Christian and seemed only slightly aware of their Jewish ancestry. I asked if there were any photographs or records about Samuel and I sent a copy of my SJH history article to the family. At this point the family's interest seemed to wane in the subject.  They indicated they had no information or documents to add to the record.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Current Projects: John Quincy Dickinson

I am trying to decide what to do with my extensive research about John Quincy Dickinson ("JQD"). JQD is particularly interesting to me because he knew Hamilton, Fleishman, John Finlayson and William Purman.
JQD, born in Benson, Vermont in the late 1830s, attended Middlebury College and became the Vermont state political reporter for the Ruland Herald. At the outset of the War, he joined the 7th Vermont Infantry which was dispatched to Louisiana. JQD spent the war with his unit in the Gulf Coast and wrote a series of detailed, evocative letters to friends and family with some intended for publication in the Herald. The Herald letters have been reprinted in Don Wickman's Letters to Vermont, From Her Civil War Soldier Correspondents to the Home Press, Vol. 1 & 2. Other letters that I have recovered from various sources have not been published.
After the war, JQD remained on the Gulf Coast and tried his hand at the lumber business with fellow Vermont veterans, establishing and managing a sawmill. This venture apparently failed and JQD somehow got known to the Republican government in Tallahassee where he made himself useful, as a clerk and then briefly as Assistant Secretary of State (July 1868) under Sec'y J.C. Gibbs. His reputation in Tallahassee led to his appointment in September 1868 to the Freedman's Bureau post at Marianna, FL, replacing William J. Purman who had resigned from the Bureau on becoming a State Senator. After the effective dissolution of the Bureau, JQD was appointed Clerk of the Circuit Cout for Jackson County in June 1869, succeeding the assasinated John L. Finlayson. JQD remained in Marianna through the worst moments of the "Jackson County War" until his own assasination by white conservative Klan-types on April 3, 1871. JQD remained connected to state government: he participated in the committee led by Purman in 1869 that negotiated the transfer of West FL to Alabama and in Jan. 1871, he was confirmed as a colonel in the FL state militia.
My best research discovery to-date has been finding the private owner of the manuscript "Dickinson Diary" reprinted in "Testimony Taken by the Joint Select Committee to Inquire Into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States,” House Report No. 22, pt. 13, 42d Cong., 2d sess. (Washington, 1872)." This diary is the only contemporaneous eyewitness account of the violence that exploded in Jackson County, Florida in late September 1869. Amazingly (for me, at least), the diary was purchased together with the original Fleishman affidavits and a remarkable letter from Charles Hamilton.
I'm not sure that a "larger point" can be made other than the example of a courageous and admirable individual who maintained his principals under great danger. If I don't find an appropriate journal, I may put my research in this blog.
(Additional material added Feb. 2007)

Current Projects: William Mallory Levy

I'm currently in the preliminary stages of researching the life of William Mallory Levy. Levy was born in Isle of Wight, Virginia in 1827 and attended William and Mary College. He served in the Mexican War (in the same unit with Jubal Early) and opened a law office in Portsmouth, VA. In the early 1850s, he moved to Natchitoches, Louisiana where he practiced law, edited the Natchitoches Chronicle, and got involved in politics. He was a committed southern Democrat and served as an elector for Breckenridge in the 1860 election. He was a colonel in the CSA during the war and afterwards resumed his law practice. Levy served one term in Congress and was heavily involved in the Hayes-Tilden deal negotiations regarding the disputed returns from Louisiana and, a few years later, was named an associate justice of the LA Supreme Court. He died in 1882. The only secondary source that discusses Levy at any length is Rosen's The Jewish Confederates. Rosen, however, focuses exclusively on Levy's war experience. I am particularly interested in investigating Levy's affiliation, if any, with Judaism. Intial research on this issue has been inconclusive. Levy makes an interesting contrast with his contemporary, Samuel Fleishman, the subject of my Southern Jewish History paper. While Fleishman chose the "right" side during the Civil War and Reconstruction - and was murdered, Levy embraced the opposite positions and prospered.