My 4th great-grandfather, Francis Pottgen, is a mystery to me.  For years, I thought that he died in 1853 (according to his wife’s mother’s pension for their son’s death during the Civil War). I was surprised a few months ago when I found this divorce notice in a 1853 Alton, Illinois newspaper.

It states that Francis couldn’t be found.

Francis Pottgen and Sophia Ross were both born in Germany/Prussia and married in St. Louis in 1835. They were living in Alton, Illinois in the 1840 and 1850 census.
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I wrote to the Madison County Courthouse, to see if they could find the divorce records.  I was so happy to receive this in the mail a week ago!! I have to add that the lady who called me was skeptical about me wanting the copies.  She said that they weren’t legible.  There are a few words that I can’t make out, but most of it is easy to understand.  I’m starting to wonder if there are a lot of people that just can’t read cursive well.:)

Apparently, Francis didn’t show up for the court proceedings and Sophia was granted the divorce, along with the custody of their seven children.  My guess is that the kids were about 17, 15, 10, 7, 5, and 2 years old.  That’s quite the brood to be raising on her own.  The bill of divorce also stated that Francis was to pay her $100 alimony every January.  I’m not sure if she every received any of that money – or if there would be any available records showing it.  This was the only thing that was sent to me.  If I ever make it back to Madison County, Illinois, I’ll have to do a more thorough search.

I wonder though – did Sophia know where Francis went?  Did he disappear and leave her with the kids without letting her know?  Did he leave her after a fight?  Did he head for adventure in California and she never heard from him again? Was he laying low in the area?  I’m not quire sure.  This is the last time I have found Francis Pottgen being mentioned in records (so far – I’m of course still looking!)
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And here is the transcription of the above documents.  I still have some blanks – if you can read what it says, I’d love to know!

Sophia Pottgen vs. Francis Pottgen

Bill for a Divorce
And now at this day comes the said Plaintiff Sophia Pottgen by William Martin her attorney and it appearing to the court that the said Defendant Francis Pottgen has been duly brought into court –a notice of publication and the said defendant having failed to answer said Bill in pursuance of a —- taken against him in this cause at a previous day of this Term, and the said defendant being three times solemnly called comes not but makes default. It is therefore considered by the court that the complainants Bill herein be and the same is hereby taken as confessed and this — coming on to be heard. and this court hearing — testimony — and being sufficiently advised of and concerning the premises do the order adjudge and decree that the Banns of Matrimony a marriage contract now existing between the complainant and respondent Francis Pottgen be and the same is hereby dissolved and for nothing esteemed. It is further ordered and decreed that the complainant be and she is hereby authorized to retain the possession and custody of Louisa, Francis, Henry, Catharine, Joseph and Sophia Pottgen, children of the said complainant and defendant had during their intermarriage. It is also further decreed that the said respondent Francis Pottgen pay annually to the complainant the sum of one Hundred Dollars as her alimony which said sum of money is to be paid to her on the first day of January next and on the first day of January of each year hereafter and that she have an Execution therefor–

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This obituary of Thomas Campbell, was found in the 5 Jan 1934 issue of the Indiana Gazette, (Indiana, PA).

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Thomas Campbell.
PITTSBURGH, Jan. 5 – Funeral services were conducted at the late residence of the deceased in North Side, Pittsburgh, this afternoon for Thomas Campbell, 42, son fo the Rev. P.B. Campbell, Pittsburgh, well-known Bell Telephone Company employee. His death occured in Allegheny General Hospital at 6 p.m. Tuesday, after an illness of complications.
Mr. Campbell was born in Dixonville, July 5, 1891. His mother, Mrs. Martha Eleanor Campbell, died when he was eighteen days old. He came from Mercer county to New Castle with his father and family, in 1906. He attended the Thaddeus Stevens school and the old high school on North street.
For the past twenty-one years he had been in the employ of the Bell Telephone Company in Pittsburgh and at the time of his death he was plant safety superintendent of the western area and during his last illness his men gave sixteen transfusions of blood to try and save his life.
He and his brothers Cassius and Hubert had charge of the Wesleyan Methodist Mission on McClure avenue, Pittsburgh, since its organization two years ago. He was an active and efficient worker in all religious and business relations. His religion was both practical and experimental.
He is survived by a wife, Mrs. Elsie Marie Campbell and a son, Walter, nine years old; a sister, Mrs. Clinton Bard; two brothers: Prof. H.L. Campbell of the Perry High school, Pittsburgh and Rev. C.H. Campbell, Pittsburgh and his father, the Rev. P.B. Campbell of this city.

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Sometimes people disappear off of our genealogy radar and we wonder what may have happened to them.

Old newspapers are a great way to discover clues as to where they went.

Looking through the Alton Evening Telegraph over a number of years, I found many mentions of Philip Thornton visiting his Alton family from New York City.  I never would have thought of looking for him there.

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Have you made any discoveries finding visiting relatives in newspapers?

  • Shaz - April 21, 2015 - 10:26 am

    Yes, my great-grand aunt Alice travelled from Chicago to Salt Lake City, Utah several times with one or the other of her sons in the 1930s. She was quite a gallivant – she married and divorced her first husband twice! Who she was visiting in SLC – she once was matron of honor at a wedding there. Eventually, she married again in Nebraska and they ended up in SLC – he was a railroad worker and moved around frequently. ShazReplyCancel

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I can just imagine the relief these parents must have felt, knowing that their son made it through the war safely- and what an exciting time for Bonnie Thornton, to be in Paris when news of the armistice was received.

I also found this article interesting, because of the details about the aviator who fell from his aircraft.  How horrible – especially since he seems to have been celebrating the end of the war when it happened.  To have made it through the war and then died while rejoicing is so depressing.
2015-04-16_0001Alton Evening Telegraph, Alton, Illinois, 12 Dec 1918, page 8

Bonnie Thornton Expects to Go to Germany
Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Thornton hae just received a letter from their son, N. B. Thornton, and there is rejoicing in the home at 503 Prospect street.
The boy writes from Paris, “The war is over and I am well.”
He is a member of Battery C, 443d Heavy Artillery, and is at present stationed at Paris. In part he says:
“No one can tell, nor words describe the excitement that is tearing at the heart of Paris, giving a glad note to every movement in this great city as the news of the armistice is received. I was in the band seranading, when an aviator some 2,000 feet above the city streets, was performing some feats. The aviator was thrown from the machine and the body fell at my feet. When our company finally went home to the barracks they found it in ashes. It had taken fire by some means and burned down. There is nothing yet in sight that leads me to expect to be sent home any ways soon. My battery may be sent into Germany for occupation.” Thornton send to his friends his regards.

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Caroline Baker Pringle was a sister to my husband’s 2nd great-grandfather, James Baker.

She was born before her parents were married (she was about 6) , and in the 1850 census, she was listed as Caroline Park.  There was a Park family living in the area and I think that her biological father may have been one of these men.  I found a newspaper article stating that in the Gilgal Church Records of 1842, Rebecca Campbell (her mother) was guilty in the crime of fornication.  The father (of course) wasn’t listed.  From what I can gather, James Baker raiser her as his own.
2014-12-29_000629 Mar 1917, Indiana Weekly Messenger, Indiana, PA

MRS. D.R. PRINGLE
Mrs. Caroline Pringle, aged 76 years, passed away Sabbath afternoon at her late home on west Oak street, from bronchial pneumonia. She was married to David R. Pringle before the war broke out, and was a daughter of the late James and Rebecca Baker, of East Mahoning township. Besides her husband she leaves one daughter, Maude. Funeral services were held at her late home Wednesday afternoon by her pastor, the Rev. W.B. Hutchinson, of the First M.E. church. Interment followed in Greenwood cemetery.

28 Mar 1917, Indiana Progress, Indiana PA

Mrs. David R. Pringle.
Mrs. Caroline Pringle, aged 76 years, wife of David R. Pringle, died at her home on West Oak street with pneumonia on Saturday night. The deceased, whose maiden name was Caroline Baker, was born in East Mahoning township. Shortly before the outbreak of the Civil war she was united in marriage to D.R. Pringle, who later served in the defense of his country. The Pringle family moved to this place in 1881, where they have resided continuously. Mrs. Pringle was a devoted member of the Methodist Epsicopal church and was a highly esteemed woman. She leaves her husband and one daughter, Maude, at home. Another daughter died in infancy. The following brothers and sisters survive: H.P. Baker, Lawrence, Kans.; O.S. Baker, Oklahoma, and Mrs. Mary A. Marshall Lawrence, Kans. An aunt, Mrs. Jane Van Leer, of this place, is living. Funeral services will be conducted this afternoon by Rev. B.W. Hutchinson and interment will be made in the Greenwood cemetery.

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