Saturday, January 09, 2021

The Civil War Letters of Robert Z. Cory

The Civil War Pension file for Robert Z. Cory contains two letters which he wrote home to his wife Matilda. They are reproduced below. Background on the family, his army service, and transcriptions of both letters can be found at The Civil War Letters of Robert Z. Cory.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Excerpts From the Greate Book With Printable Comments

The pdf file I previously published included comments which could only be viewed online. I've revised the file so that it can now be downloaded and printed with comments included: Excerpts From the Great Book Revised 2021

Saturday, January 02, 2021

The Strange Life and Death of Dr. John Calvin Cory

The life of John Calvin Cory was in some ways typical of the pioneer period of American history. He was part of a large family which migrated west from Ohio to Indiana to Iowa. However, there were some aspects of his life and death which were distinctly unusual.

John Calvin Cory was the oldest child of Jeremiah William Cory, Sr. and Dorothy “Dolly” Martin. He was born about 1815 in Pickaway County, Ohio. Nine siblings were to follow before Jeremiah and Dolly moved to northern Indiana in the 1830s. There the family acquired land and farmed. About 1835, John Calvin Cory married Martha Crosson, a daughter of Samuel Crosson, one of the founders of the town of Syracuse, Kosciusko County, Indiana. In 1836, Martha gave birth to John Walker Cory. She died the same year. Details are not available, but perhaps her death was a complication of childbirth. John Calvin Cory found his second bride in the person of Lavinia Stevens. They were married in 1839 in Lavinia's home county of Vermilion, Illinois. By the time of the 1840 census, the couple was living in Elkhart County, Indiana with young John Walker Cory. In the spring of 1846, John Calvin moved west to Iowa Territory. Whether he brought his wife and son with him is not documented. He was the first white settler in what would become Skunk Township of Polk County. In the fall of 1846, J.C.'s brother Isaac Walker and family migrated to Iowa, and in 1849, a wagon train comprising John Calvin's parents and several siblings with their families also made the trek to Iowa.

In 1848 the U.S. government began selling land to settlers in what had by then become the state of Iowa. There is no record that J.C. Cory bought any acreage, implying that he may have moved on. By the time of the 12 November 1850 federal census, John Calvin, Lavinia, and John Walker Cory were living in Pettis Township, Platte County, Missouri. Several members had been added to the household since the 1840 census. Three children had been born in Indiana: Christopher in about 1840, William Tigris, in about 1843, and James Euphrates, in about 1845. Daughter Cassa was born in Illinois about two months before the November 1850 census. Since Lavinia's pattern of childbearing was fairly typical of pioneer women—a birth every two to three years—while in Indiana, the gap of about five years between James and Cassa suggests Lavinia may not have accompanied John Calvin to Iowa in 1846, but rejoined him later. Lavinia's sister, Mary Ann Dunbar, 23, and her daughter, Columbia, age 3, were also living in the J.C. Cory household in 1850. Presumably, Mary Ann was widowed or divorced, but details of the father of Columbia are unknown.

In 1852 or 1853, the lives of the family took an unusual turn. According to findings of fact by a probate judge in the case of John C. Cory's estate, “...sometime after the marriage of John C. Cory and Lavinia Stevens, John C. Cory, about the year 1852 or 1853 abandoned the said Lavinia, his wife, and commenced living and cohabiting with Mary Ann Stevens, a sister of Lavinia and in 1856 John C. Cory removed from the State of Missouri to the State of California, taking Mary Jane (sic) Stevens with him where they continued to reside, and cohabit as man and wife, until the death of said Mary Ann Stevens, about the year 1865.” Mary Ann's daughter Columbia Dunbar also made the trip to California. Apparently, Mary Ann was pregnant when they left Missouri and migrated to California, as her first daughter by John Calvin Cory, named Nebraska, was born in Nebraska Territory in 1856. Their second daughter, Minerva Jane, was born in California about 1863.

While living in Butte County, California, John Calvin Cory was known as Dr. Cory. How or when he acquired this title is uncertain, but a history of Butte County by George C. Mansfield, published in 1918, described Dr. Cory as a “pioneer physician.” Licensing for physicians was lax at best on the frontier. It seems unlikely that he had any formal training. His brother back in Indiana, Robert V. Cory, advertised himself as a veterinary surgeon as well as an auctioneer, also without any evidence of a formal education.

After Mary Ann's death, Lavinia and John Calvin Cory reunited. Quoting again the findings of fact from John Calvin Cory's probate packet: “...upon the death of Mary Ann Stevens in 1865, Lavinia Cory, wife of said John C. Cory came to California in 1866 at the request of her husband, and from thenceforward, until the death of said John C. Cory in Butte Co Cal—lived with him as his wife.” Barring a personal visit, J.C. Cory must have sent a letter or telegram to Lavinia imploring her to take him back. What an interesting and persuasive document that must have been! The 1870 census indicates that Lavinia's brother Stephen C. Stevens, a schoolteacher, was living with J.C. and Lavinia in Plumas County, California. Interestingly, J.C., Lavinia, Nebraska, and Minerva Jane were counted a second time in the 1870 census—in Butte County. Presumably, J.C. Cory had property in both counties.

The death of John Calvin Cory was no less out of the ordinary than his life had been. On 12 February 1871, Dr. Cory was lying on the floor of his house, warming his feet at a fireplace with his head resting on a stool. A rifle held by his brother-in-law Stephen C. Stevens in an adjacent hallway discharged, and the bullet struck Cory in the top of the head, passed through his neck, and lodged in his left shoulder, killing him instantly. Stevens claimed he stumbled on his way to go outside to shoot ducks and that the gun discharged accidentally. Indicted for murder, he was found innocent at trial. After his acquittal, California newspapers had nothing positive to say about Stevens. The Chico Semi-Weekly Review of 6 December 1871 carried a short item which stated “S.C. Stevens, the fancy school teacher who sloshed around here last spring has turned up in San Jose, playing the confidence game. He has a niece along and represents her to be an heiress to considerable wealth, and himself to be possessed of means and property in Chico. He also represented himself as belonging to a benevolent institution, and on the strength of that succeeded in bilking some landlords. The San Jose Patriot gives about a half a column of his eccentricities.” An article with the headline “Turning Out Badly” in The Red Bluff Independent of 21 December 1871 reported that Stephen C. Stevens was “accompanied by his niece, whom, it is said, he represents as an heiress to great wealth. This disclosure is mortifying to those who believed in his innocence, and leaves him to go altogether to the dogs.” The niece in question was Nebraska, fifteen-year-old daughter of John Calvin Cory and Mary Ann Stevens Dunbar. Stephen C. Stevens and Nebraska were later married, on 26 July 1873. Unfortunately for the couple, in 1875 the probate court of Butte County, California denied Nebraska's claim to be an heir of the estate of her father, based on the fact that she and her sister Minerva Jane were illegitimate children of J.C. Cory and therefore ineligible to be his heirs.

California voter registrations of 1875 and 1880 listed S.C. Stevens’ occupation as lawyer, even though all previous documentation was that he was a schoolteacher. Whether he was actually qualified to be a lawyer or whether he merely posed as one is unknown, but he practiced in the Police Courts in Colusa and Tehama Counties. Stevens met a gruesome death on 27 August 1882. On that Sunday afternoon, he went to the home of Ashland Christian near Orland, Tehama County, California. Newspapers varied on the details of the dispute that ensued between the two men, but it centered on a piece of land. The Stockton Evening Mail of 29 August 1882 reported that Stevens was claiming “money as commission of a sale,” while the Chico Weekly Enterprise of 1 September 1882 reported the argument was over a piece of land that both Christian and Stevens laid claim to. In any event, Stevens pulled a knife and threatened the life of Christian, whereupon Christian knocked Stevens down and kicked him to death. The Evening Mail reported, “The deceased was much battered—had his skull fractured and two ribs broken. Christian, who is respectably connected, is under arrest.” The Enterprise described Stevens as “originally a school teacher, a particularly dressy young man” who “managed to worm himself into society,” and who, since being acquitted in his trial for the murder of Dr. Cory in 1871, had made a career as a swindler, confidence man, and claim jumper.

There was no mention of a widow in the news accounts of his murder, and what became of his wife (and niece) Nebraska is unknown. It does not appear that Ash Christian was convicted for the murder and no mention was made of the episode in his obituary when he died at age 69 in 1925. He was described as “one of the prominent men of Orland and was held in high esteem by all who knew him.”

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Excerpts from the Greate Book

Title page of the 1603 edition of Seven Treatises by Richard Rogers.
The book handed down from John Cory of Southold was titled Seven Treatises. When James Enos Cory examined and researched the book in the early twentieth century, the title page of the book, published in London in 1603, was missing (image above is from a copy of the book at Cambridge University). He paid a visit to the Librarian of Congress to find out the title. This and other fun facts (and some fallacies) can be read in a booklet titled Excerpts from the Greate Book compiled by Marge Chilson in 1991. I've scanned the booklet and included a brief introduction of my own in the pdf file at Google Docs. For a more in depth analysis, see The Great Book of John Cory

Sunday, September 08, 2019

The Great Book of John Cory

Yes, I am still alive. It's been a few years since I've posted here, but since I'm boycotting Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., this is the one somewhat social medium open to me. I have just completed an ebooklet about the Great Book, a family heirloom handed down from the Puritan John Cory I of Southold, Long Island. It's publicly available, free of charge, on Google Drive. Enjoy.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rev. Theodore Hesburgh

Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, past president of Notre Dame, died yesterday at the age of 97. I never had an opportunity to meet the great man, but I attended two events where he was also present. One was a a fundraiser for a South Bend nonprofit where Father Ted spoke. I don't recall the exact organization involved--possibly the Center for the Homeless. The thing I remember was Hesburgh quoting Matthew 25:40--"And the king will answer and say to them, verily I say to you, inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me." 

Thanks to the internet, I am able to retrieve the details of the other event that Father Ted and I both attended. This was the 20th anniversary Red Smith Lecture in Journalism on Oct. 16, 2003 at the University of Notre Dame. The lecture was delivered by Frank McCourt,  author of the memoirs “Angela’s Ashes” and “’Tis.” One of the things McCourt talked about was how, as a child in Limerick, Ireland, he was enamored of the Fighting Irish football team of Notre Dame--until he encountered an American tourist who told him the Fighting Irish weren't really Irish, but just "a bunch of Goddamn Polacks." I was a little surprised that McCourt told the story in front of God and Father Ted and everybody, but it was pretty funny.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

New Blog

Since I'm concentrating on photography now, I have started a new blog, I will keep Lugubrious Drollery online and may occasionally post non-photography stuff here. Also, I have a website, with examples of my photography. My blog can also be viewed there.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Maholy-Nagy on Photography

László Maholy-Nagy 1895-1946

"The enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules of 'how to do.' The salvation of photography comes from experiment."

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Doesn't Anbody Review This Stuff Before Publishing?

I have two problems with an advertising section for Montefiore Medical Center in the New York Times Magazine for Sunday, November 3, 2013:

1. In not one, but two pictures, films of a brain MRI are upside down.
2. Nobody prints films of MRI scans anymore. The images are all on computer monitors.

Even if no actual physician was involved in the production of these photos, it's not hard for the people involved to see the text on the films is upside down.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Essence of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind.