The Killing Spree . . . Our Ancestral Legacy

Attributing our traits to our ancestors

Some days when I look at myself in the mirror, I can see glimpses of my ancestors. My once beautifully brilliant blue eyes; I remember seeing these same eyes in my maternal grandfather, Roy (a Ford from Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina).  Unfortunately, I also get my thick midriff from either or both–my maternal grandmother, Loretta, (a Lathrop from Wyalusing, Bradford County, Pennsylvania), or my paternal grandfather, Jesse (a Boling from Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania County, Virginia).  Of course, it is a natural human instinct to attribute our traits to relatives we have known or through our family’s stories about them.  But, other similarities or differences don’t flow so naturally or with ease.  When we reflect back we tend to most often focus on the ‘good times,’ the ‘good traits,’ or happen upon a history that we’d as soon forget, or,  for fear that it might repeat itself.

Let’s look back about 150 years or so to April 9, 1865 in Appomattox, Virginia:    

After four years of conflict, General Robert E. Lee (commander of the Army of Northern Virginia), surrendered his beleaguered Confederate forces in Appomattox, Virginia, to General Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army, ending the Civil War.  (Grant in four short years would become our 18th President.)  The war bankrupted the South, left its roads, farms, and factories in ruins, and all but wiped out an entire generation of men. And this answers my family’s question about our ancient aristocratic Bolling family who had emigrated to Virginia from England, which was; “What happened to our family’s nobility–their societal standings, their wealth, and their great estates?”

As you can see from the map below, the Confederacy included 11 southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.  The North (called the Union) consisted of the remaining 25 states which were located in the north.

So . . .  This means that my ancestors were on opposite sides of the American Civil War.  I had direct relatives primarily in Pennsylvania (the Chamber’s, Lathrop’s, and Westler’s) and in Virginia and North Carolina (the Boling’s, Carpenter’s, Ford’s Morris’s, and Taylors).  Within each of these union and confederates states lived both my maternal and paternal relatives–truly brothers, uncles, cousins, and even in-laws. And, ninety percent of those men volunteered to fight for what they believed or to protect their families and livelihoods from “their enemies”.

One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania regiment at Falmouth, Va., April 24, 1863, nearly annihilated at battle of Chancellorsville, created by Andrew J. Russell, Library of Congress.

One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania regiment at Falmouth, Va., April 24, 1863, nearly annihilated at the battle of Chancellorsville, created by Andrew J. Russell, Library of Congress.

1“. . .The 141st Pennsylvania Regiment was known as the Bradford Regiment.  Most of these volunteer recruits came from Bradford County, Pennsylvania and  joined the Union Army in the summer of 1862.  Company A came from Wyalusing.  It had one of the most distinguished combat records in the Army of the Potomac, serving from the battle of Fredericksburg to the surrender at Appomattox.  In just two battles alone, from May 3 to July 2 at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, the regiment shrank due to combat casualties from 419 men and officers to 58 (56 percent casualties at Chancellorsville, and 73 percent at the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg. . . .”

I found my maternal great-great grandfather, Searle P. Lathrop, of Bradford County, at age 43, on the U.S. Civil War Draft Registrations List of 1864-1865.  His brother, Edward Lathrop, died as a member of the Union’s Company E, 171st Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteer Regiment, in New Bern, North Carolina, at the age of 38, on May 30, 1863, only two months prior to his 39th birthday.

My paternal great-great-grandfather, Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling served from 1861-1865 in the Confederate 30th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  They organized in Fredericksburg, Virginia, June, 1861. Men of this unit came from Fredericksburg and the counties of Spotsylvania, Caroline, Stafford, and King George–all counties where my Boling family lived.

2It was assigned to General J.G. Walker’s and Corse’s Brigade, and fought with the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days’ Battles to Fredericksburg. After serving with Longstreet at Suffolk, it was on detached duty in Tennessee and North Carolina. During the spring of 1864 the 30th returned to Virginia and saw action at Drewry’s Bluff and Cold Harbor. Later it endured the hardships of the Petersburg trenches north and south of the James River and ended the war at Appomattox.

The 30th Infantry regiment reported 1 killed and 4 wounded at Malvern Hill and 39 killed and 121 wounded in the Maryland Campaign. Many were lost at Five Forks and Sayler’s Creek, and on April 9, 1865, the 30th regiment surrendered with 8 officers and 82 men.

3Battle of Chancellorsville – May 1-4 1864

Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee’s troops fought Union Commander Joseph Hooker’s forces.  Together, they had 194,760 men engaged in this bloody battle (60,892 Confederate forces and 133,868 Union forces).

At its conclusion on May 6, 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville became the bloodiest battle in American history. The 30,764 combined casualties eclipsed the losses suffered at well-known battles such as Shiloh (23,746), Second Manassas (22,180), Antietam (22,717), and Stones River (23,515).

By far the bloodiest day of the battle was its first (May 3, 1863), when Lee’s Confederates were forced to attack a larger, now-alerted Union foe, largely positioned in prepared defenses. The aggressive fighting at places like Salem Church produced more casualties than the entire Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run).

Chancellorsville’s title of bloodiest battle in American history would be short-lived, however. From Chancellorsville, Lee began his journey towards Gettysburg and the epic fighting to come on July 1-3, 1863. Yet, at the end of the American Civil War, Chancellorsville was still ranked as the fourth bloodiest battle of the Civil War, after Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and Spotsylvania Courthouse.

Battle of The Wilderness –  May 5-7, 1864

My paternal great-great grandfather, Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling (mentioned above), married Sarah Tapp, daughter of the now famous Catharine Dempsey “Widow Tapp,” (making Widow Tapp my 3rd great-grandmother).  Widow Tapp and her daughter Eliza “Phenie” Tapp had the misfortune of living on the land that became known as the “Wilderness Battlefield,” in Fredericksburg, Virginia, during the Civil War.

There, Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee’s troops went up against Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant’s troops.  Together, they had 171,920 troops (Confederate forces: 61,025  and 101,895 Union forces), in the fields of this wilderness farm.  And together, over a 3-day period they lost 25,416 men (17,666 Union and 7,750 Confederate).

Widow Tapp Farm-Phenie Tapp 1930s

Nearly as many men died in captivity during the Civil War as were killed in the whole of the Vietnam War.  Hundreds of thousands died of disease.  Roughly 2% of our “American” population, an estimated 620,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty (more than any other war in American history).  Taken as a percentage of today’s population, the toll would have risen as high as 6 million.

Civil War Resources GraphicThe official Reconstruction Era (where Union soldiers occupied the 11 southern states) covered a period of twelve years from 1865-1877. Southern states rebuilt and gradually were re-admitted to the United States (July 1866-March 1870). Virginia and Texas were the last two hold out states.  They rejoined the United States in 1870.


So, just how similar or different are our beliefs today based upon where we live in these United States?

Let’s take a look at today’s map below from  Here, we’re looking at the status of electoral votes post 2016 presidential campaign conventions over these past two weeks.  Setting aside the presidential runners (which is another or several other posts that I won’t be writing), you can view our similarities or differences strictly at state levels based upon electoral votes.  When we compare my relatives who today live in Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Virginia (13 electoral votes), Maryland (10 electoral votes), and North Carolina (15 electoral votes), (where my ancestors lived during the Civil War), we find that today’s generations are more alike than different and are “likely to strongly” democrat.


And, just how similar or different are democrats from republicans?

Comparison Chart:  Democratic vs. Republican Traits

Whether this information is comforting to all of us or not, based upon the example used, it would appear that our families have unified beliefs; that it is unlikely we would fight on opposite sides if, God forbid, the United States entered into another civil war.

However, it does seem, when compared to our ancestors of the Civil War era, that today’s generations who have more global and increased technological capabilities and therefore extended communications, may be just as uncivil to each other as those ancestors who chose to shoot at each other about 150 years ago.

1Wyalusing History Trail
3Chancellorsville Civil War Stories


Hello Again, Lathrops!

1800’s:  Bradford County, Pennsylvania

Image Loretta Alice Lathrop Ford, taken 3-27-1965My maternal grandmother, Alice Lauretta Lathrop Ford [Loretta Ford], was born 121 years ago (March 7,1895), about 265 miles north of my home in southern Maryland. Wyalusing (“the good hunting ground”), her birthplace, was a small village in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and the town and its name remain there today.

Map - 1891 Bradford County-Wyalusing PAThe 1891 county map on the left  is significant to me because I found more of my grandmother’s family (born in or moved from/to) in Bradford County places like Asylum and Tuscarora.  While I’m at it, I also should add that before 1750 the Wyalusing settlement was known as Gahontoto–home to the Tehotachsee tribe of Native Americans. This small tribe would eventually be completely wiped out by the Cayuga tribe and the town rebuilt in 1792 by the chief of the Cayugas and about 20 other families.  Bradford county was created on February 21, 1810, from parts of Lycoming and Luzerne counties. Originally called Ontario County, it reorganized and separated from Lycoming County on October 13, 1812, and renamed Bradford County for William Bradford, who had been a chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and United States Attorney General–yet another member of my family’s lineage.

Emigration of the Lathrop Family Into Wyalusing and Surrounding Areas

William Lathrop Jr. (1798-1868) was born in a cabin along the Wyalusing Creek near present day Rush.  At the time, the area had no formal name.  Rush was an unsettled wilderness within the large northern part of Pennsylvania  which was simply called “Luzerne County”. William’s father (William Sr.) had moved to Pennsylvania from Unadilla, New York,  as a young man with his wife and daughter Catherine. William Sr.s’ mother and stepfather, Ebenezer Whipple, with his oldest brother Ezra and his family, had moved to Pennsylvania, but the exact date is unknown.  Their move was perhaps as early as other 1790.

Over the next 20 years, as William Jr was growing up, his father built the first church in Rush, the “Rush Baptist Church” (now defunct).  William Sr. served as its deacon and elder of the small congregation. William Jr. became its first pastor.

William Jr. married Sybil Lathrop from the neighboring township of Bridgewater in Susquehanna Co., PA. She was his 4th cousin once removed. Sybil’s brother Ezekiel III also married into William’s family by marrying William Jr’s sister Lorinda.

It was in the 1800 Wyalusing Census records that I found the first Lathrop’s–my 5th great-uncle, Ezra Lathrop, Esquire, son of Ezra Lathrop, II and Susannah Gates, my 5th great grandparents from Norwich, New London, CT.  From the limited information available on this year’s form, Ezra’s household included himself and three others:  one male and one female under the age of 10 (I assume his children) and one female (aged 16-25).

Susquehanna River from Wyalusing Rocks

Susquehanna River from Wyalusing Rocks

There was a second Lathrop household listed:  William Lathrop–he would have been my 4th great grandfather.  He headed up a household of 5 people, he was born in Norwich, New London, CT., too, and died in Susquehanna, PA.  His household listed:  two males under 10, one female under 10, one female 16-25, and himself, 16-25; which I am interpreting to be husband and wife, possibly his first wife Rebecca Huntington, and their three children, (Rebecca died in 1812 at age 39).

But, Why to Wyalusing?

Throughout the 1800s, Wyalusing served as a hub for shipping logs down the Susquehanna River and grew as a commercial center for the surrounding farms. The Welles Mill Company, established along the Wyalusing Creek in 1820, was a prime reason settlers came to live in the town and farm the surrounding countryside.

As the town grew, it became a shipping center on the North Branch Canal which followed the Susquehanna River through this region and crossed the Wyalusing Creek by way of an aqueduct. Still later, in the mid-1800s, the railroad built through this area and Wyalusing became a main shipping point for livestock, grain, lumber and flagstone. The town’s business section, built mainly between 1820 and the early 1900s, has been fortunate in escaping any serious fires like those that swept through other towns in this area. Consequently, the charming, old storefronts still exist today as they were more than a century ago.

Now, when William Bernard Lathrop (my maternal great grandfather) was born on July 3, 1847, in Wyalusing, his father, Serrel, was 26 and his mother, Harriet, was 24. William had three daughters with Mary Janette Gray. The U.S. Censuses of 1850 and 1860 show him living in Asylum and then Wyoming townships, respectively.  In the 1870’s and ’80s he lived in Herrick and Wilkes-Barre townships.

Loretta’s Mysterious Estrangement from Family

estranged-familyOne of the mysteries that remains in our family is what caused the estrangement between my grandmother, Loretta, and her parents/family when she was a young adult. Because the Lathrop’s were originally among the first puritan founders in the colonies and came from England and had strong religious commitments and beliefs, we felt there must have been some sort of “shunning” that took place.  This might be very reasonable to assume, given my grandmother’s strong faith, will, and determination to reach her goals in life, whatever they were at the time for herself and others.  But, the generations who might have known about such an estrangement have long since passed.

Presbyterian LogoOne of my more recent finds, however, is that William, Loretta’s father, while living in Wilkes-Barre, on Friday, January 23, 1874, went to the home of Elder Mr. Rutten, along with 14 others.  There, he affirmed and made his confession of faith and participated in Holy Communion performed by Reverend R. B. Webster, one of the founders of the Presbytery in Pennsylvania in the mid-1800’s.

By 1889, I found that William had moved back to Wyalusing with his new bride Lydia Malvina Westler.  They had 13 children together–my grandmother, Loretta, being their 9th child.

Lydia died on May 5, 1910, in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, at the age of 49, from typhoid fever. She was buried in Wyalusing Borough Cemetery (although the death certificate and other sources indicate this to be her burial site, the cemetery does not include her interment among their database (?)  My grandmother, Loretta, would have recently turned 15.

Loretta’s father, William Bernard Lathrop died from colon cancer.  Loretta would have been 23.  He died on September 5, 1918, in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, at the age of 71.  But, we are not sure where she was at the time of his death or when or how she ever learned of it.

In the U.S. 1910 Census, Loretta was 15 and living on Third St. in Wyalusing with her parents, her younger brother Harry (age 12), and her twin sisters Virginia and Virgilia (age 9).  In the U.S. 1930 Census, she was living at 855 Morton Place, in Washington, DC with her husband, Robert Gideon, “Roy,” and their two children; John (age 4) and Norma (age 2).  I’ve searched census records and can find only one Alice Loretta Lathrop Ford or Alice Lauretta Lathrop Ford.  This person in the 1920 Census shows up in Sioux City, Iowa, as a boarder–could it be?  Will we ever know???

As for the rest of Loretta’s life, I’ve written a lot about her and her Ford family in my earlier posts.  And, yes, she remains my guardian angel and was no doubt my biggest human influence throughout my life–although she died at age 72 soon after my 21st birthday.  I would have loved for my children to have spent some time with her.  But in a way, her influences on me and my life have carried over into how I raised them and instilled the importance of family upon them.



The Black Dot Experiment


Sometimes, the simplest stories grab our attention because . . .

they carry important messages. Likewise in life, we sometimes overlook and take for granted the many wonderful things we have or that happen right under our noses.  Our focus often gets caught up in our smaller failures, disappointments, or relatively insignificant events. If only we opened our eyes to widen our horizons . . . .

The author of the following story is unknown, but here are the two sources that I found:

1):  For its Annual Dinner, a small town chamber of commerce invited a motivational speaker in. It seems their community’s economy was bad, their people discouraged, and they wanted someone/something to give them hope and their spirits a boost.

2):  A Professor Prepared an examination for his class.


Did you focus on the black dot?

Our World Is Full Of Circles

Our world is so very large and yet we seem to travel in circles

Herrington Harbor South

Herrington Harbor South

For example, today I had an absolutely delightful and rare lunch date at a small cafe at Friendship Maryland’s Herrington Harbor South Marina Resort on the Chesapeake Bay.  My daughter and I joined a mutual friend who we have had only limited contact with over the past couple of years because of rapidly changing responsibilities and special interests that have taken us all in multiple directions and different circles.

When our circles first came together 

I was an impressionable eight year old and Claudia was about five years my senior. She lived with her family in Parkland, District Heights, MD. My parents’ best friends from their teen years were Claudia’s family’s neighbors.  But, in my 8-year-old eyes she and her family seemed to have the most beautiful, spacious, and perfectly decorated home, the June and Ward Cleaver-like parents, and I admired her personal beauty and gifts in creative arts.  (Claudia taught me how to color–and not just to stay within the lines, but how to take an ordinary image on a coloring book page and make it my own work of art by using just the right mix of colors, outlining some parts, coloring softly on others, and boldly elsewhere.)  I believe Claudia’s seamstress mother passed down to her a lot of her talents and skills–plus guided her seemingly innate social skills that made this shy 8-year-old feel comfortable and welcomed–a trait of hers that still stands out today in whatever circles she’s in.

Fast forward nearly 30 years.  Claudia and I next circled back to each other when we both went to work for the same Federal agency.  And, we both remained there throughout the remainders of our lengthy careers.  Its campus was large and so was the facility in which we worked.  So we saw each other only occasionally, to say hi as we passed or to wave to each other from across or down the long corridors.

It was about 15 years into my career there when my daughter, Jen, changed jobs and started her career at this same Federal agency.  Once again, Claudia and my paths crossed again. As it turns out, Claudia was assigned as Jen’s first supervisor.  I can’t say enough good things about Claudia as a person, a professional colleague, and a mentor to my daughter. Jennifer, now about 17 years at this agency, has come a very long way in her career. But, the basis of her success began with Claudia’s teaching her the ropes in how to navigate the inner circles to succeed within this big and always complex workplace.  The rest can be accredited to Jen’s willingness to learn, to think on her feet, to take pride in every task assigned, to always ask the right questions to best understand the “big picture,” and to offer appropriate suggestions at just the right times.

After our initial circle of hugs and hello’s, there we sat today, across the table from each other, picking up our relationships just where we left off on them a few years ago, reflecting on days past, and catching up on family and life events–it was as if we never missed a beat since our last time out together.  Let’s see–that would be when we shared a limousine to go to dinner and a concert in downtown Washington, DC.  And if one of us, within our fond memories, was at a loss for a name or place, we circled our memory banks to fill in the blanks, and sometimes even finish each other’s sentences!

Nearly two hours later, we bid our fond farewells, but not before scheduling an August luncheon, which we hope will be the one of many monthly get togethers to come.  And, so we can narrow the distance in which we circle back our memories at future meet ups where we hope our conversations will move forward instead of in circles to help solve some of the many problems in our world!