This month in history

I have begun a new style of Friday postings.   Each will take someone in our family tree and place them within historical events occurring during the month!  I hope you enjoy them.

Jacob Folkenburry

“15th Mar. 1747 ~ Jacob Folkenburry. 100. Bla. on the So Side of Pedee River being the place where he now lives .  .”  This 271 year old document located in the South Carolina Archives shows my 5X grandfather receiving 100 acres in Bladen County, North Carolina on the south side of the PeeDee River.  He was already living on the land which means he had been there long enough to make “improvements” to prove his intention of staying in the area.   He would have been there at least a year or two.   Since it has been determined that the Falkenburgs left the Shenandoah Valley area in late 1745 or early 1746, this date fits perfectly.  In 1750, Anson County, North Carolina was formed from the western part of Bladen.  Anson County histories list the Falkenburgs as one of the first 100 families to live there.  Jacob was born about 1708 in Cecil County, Maryland where his father, Henry, operated the local ferry across the Bohemia River.  For information on his father Henry, please see the blogroll article “Henry Falkenburg.”

Calvin Kennington Fortenberry

March 19 to April 8, 1863

While my direct ancestor, Burrel Taylor Fortenberry was serving in the Confederate cavalry involved at the Siege of Port Hudson in the spring and summer of 1863, his 56 year old brother, Calvin, was involved with partisan support efforts.  The record above is from a series of “Confederate citizen files.”  It shows that Calvin was hauling goods over the roads between two railroad terminals at Osyka, Mississippi and Clinton, Louisiana.  This was one of the few ways Confederates could get supplies to the starving men at Port Hudson.  

The first column gives a date of April 8, 1863.  For services of one wagon and driver hauling stores from Osyka Miss to Clinton La from March 19 to April 8    20 days @ 750 –    He received $150 (surely Confederate money).  He was paid at Osyka, Mississippi the 27th day of April, 1863 and his signature is visible.   One wonders if Calvin crossed paths with many of the Union foragers in the area! (An interesting side note:  My dad, Adrian Fortenberry’s place of birth was Osyka!)  Learn more about Burrel’s life during the war by choosing “Port Hudson and the Civil War” from the blogroll on the right!

Pelagia Bregeta Jaroszewska

Pelagia (Pauline) Jaroszewska was born March 10, 1898 at Kowalewo which is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Drobin, within Płock County, Masovian Voivodeship, in east-central Poland.  After immigrating to the US, she met and married Raymond Wierzbicki.  They had four children:  Wanda (my mom), Regina, Raymond, and Felix.  When she visited us from Brooklyn, New York, her grandchildren often had difficulty understanding her.  Having lived her adult life within a Polish area in Brooklyn, she rarely was required to speak English.   As you can see from the photo below, she was very short.  Her record from her immigration through Ellis Island in 1913 gave her height as 4’10” but I think she was shorter than that.  Mom was 5’3″ and she looks tall next to her.  This photo was taken July 12, 1969 just before getting in the car to drive to the Frist Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia for my wedding!

William Jasper Fortenberry

William Fortenberry is my 3X great grandfather.  He was born in Lancaster County, South Carolina about 1776 to John and Hannah (Eubanks) Fortenberry.  He married Violette Kennington, daughter of John Kennington.  William’s father died about 1815.  In 1819, he traveled with his family, including his mother Hannah, to the newly formed state of Mississippi.  Six of William and Violette’s six children were born in South Carolina and four in Mississippi.  William died on February 7, 1842 and was buried in the Fortenberry-Pittman Cemetery in Walthall County.  A stone was put on his grave in 1902.  This marker has since disappeared.   You will also notice from one picture to the other that the cemetery has been paved to help with upkeep.  The marker is very interesting because it was obviously hand carved.  Notice that “Carolina” had to be hyphenated. 

February 3, 1743

A document “signed” 275 years ago by Jacob ffalkenburg, my 5X grandfather and his brother John, shows the importance of roads in recently settled areas of the Shenandoah Valley.  This Orange County, Virginia road petition was a request by 33 men from the area today encompassed within Shenandoah County to the Virginia colonial courts to provide funds to make the road passable for wagons.  “May it please your honours that wee the subscribers do humbly petition … for a Wagon Road to be made from John ffunks Mill to Benja Allens Mill, the Road which is ….very Difficult for a wagon to go…”  If you would like to read more about the Falkenburgs during this time, please take a look at the blogroll article called The Falkenburgs of the Shenandoah Valley.”

Note: Jacob’s name is on several petitions and none of the signatures look alike.  In all probability, he could not read or write which was common for the time period.  Today, the location of Benjamin Allen’s Mill is the town of Mt. Jackson.  The road they were requesting would become part of the Great Wagon Road, still in evidence today as Highway 11.  In Shenandoah County, it is called the Old Valley Pike.

Canolia Simmons Fortenberry

Canolia Ann Elizabeth Simmons, daughter of James Jackson and Sarah (Brewer) Simmons was the wife of William Jackson Fortenberry, known to his grandchildren as “Grandpa Jack.”  Canolia passed away on February 7, 1925 at the age of 67.  Canolia and Jack had a large family of 6 boys and 6 girls, all but one daughter making it through all the childhood illnesses of the times.  In the studio photo of Canolia, notice the beautiful cameo pin she is wearing.  She seems to have been an elegant woman!  I included the second photo of her grave after her funeral.  I know it is strange to do so, but in all my years of doing family research, it is the only photo I have ever seen of someone’s recent grave.  She is buried at Silver Springs Church in Pike County, Mississippi where she and Jack were charter members.

Hollis Horton Fortenberry


Hollis was the son of William and Violette (Kennington) Fortenberry, brother of Alfred discussed previously.  Hollis Horton Fortenberry was named after a friend of his father’s back in Lancaster County, South Carolina whose name was, of course, Hollis Horton.  Our Hollis was born in Pike County, Mississippi on February 12, 1825.  He and his wife, Louisa Margany James had 11 known children (6 boys and 5 girls).  According to George Kellie Fortenberry, an early chronicler of Fortenberry history, Hollis caught yellow fever and died October 24, 1867.  His death at 42 years had to have devastated his wife who then had 11 children between 17 and 2 to raise alone.  The photo above is a copy of a tintype that belonged to his oldest brother, Gasua Chapman Fortenberry.  He was buried on hillside 300 yards west of his house that is today known as the Fortenberry Cemetery.

Rajmund Kacper Wierzbicki

Grandpa Werbicki always gave his birth date as January 29, 1892.  When the Russian Army came through his area around 1905, they transcribed the birth records for all male children so they could return to the village later and force them to join their army.  Since  his Polish Catholic church at Lachowo  no longer has their birth record books (thought to have been lost or stolen many years ago) we only have the information recorded by the Russians.  On that record, his date is recorded as February 7.  In either case, we know he was born in a very small village called Rydzewo-Świątki which is located just south of the church at Lachowo.  He was a very quiet man, but I wish I had asked him questions about his life in Poland.  Photo above taken with daughter, Wanda about 1942.

Alfred Fortenberry

Alfred Fortenberry was born in Pike County, Mississippi on January 26, 1823 and was the son of William Jasper Fortenberry and his wife, Violette Kennington.  He was the brother of Burrel Taylor Fortenberry,  my 2X great grandfather.  That would make him my 3 great uncle.  Alfred married Aderine Falk in 1848 and had eight children.  He died March 2, 1861 at the age of 38, one month after the birth of his eighth child.  Sadly, very little is known about his life.  A story carried down through his family says that during his short life, Alfred read the bible 33 times.  This image is a copy of a badly degraded tintype taken before his death in 1861.  

January 24, 1921

My mom, Wanda Maria Wierzbicki was born at her parents’ home in one of the Polish neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York.  Her parents (Raymond Kasper Wierzbicki and Pelagia Bregitta Jaroszewska) were Ellis Island immigrants from Poland.  This 1930 photo of her was taken in conjunction with her confirmation at Our Lady of Consolation, their local Polish Catholic Church.  Even today, they conduct sermons in Polish.   She was nine years old when the photo was made.  She was a true Renaissance woman and was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known.   I wish I could have taken her with me to Poland when I met some of our Polish relatives.   Sure do miss you!     (Read more about her life on the blog article on the right called “Wanda’s childhood.”)

January 5, 1942

While docked as seen here, repairs were made to the Helena to close the hole caused by a Japanese shallow torpedo hit.  Fortunately for the crew (including Adrian Fortenberry), extensive repairs could not be made in Hawaii so they had to go back to California.  On January 5, 1942 (exactly 76 years ago today), the Helena left Hawaii to return to Mare Island, California to make the repairs necessary to return to service.  The ship had to slowly make its way across the Pacific Ocean with only half its usual engine power.   Although he never returned to Hawaii, his experiences, both good and bad remained a part of his psyche the rest of his life.  


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