West Point’s Old Cadet Chapel Then and Now

A view of the Old Cadet Chapel in 1877 at Custer’s funeral (left) and a recent picture I took of what the chapel now looks like.

While it’s not necessarily genealogically related per say (but kinda because I will send this to my cousin Joel as his mom is a Custer), I wanted to show you probably one of the best parts of my day job as a Memorial Support Coordinator at USMA West Point.   Being at USMA, you’re surrounded by all the old buildings, monuments, Revolutionary War redoubts and even Fort Putnam.  History is all around West Point.  It’s hard not to walk the grounds and think about who else has walked here – Edgar Allan Poe, Ed White from the Apollo missions, General Norman Schwarzkopf, and many, many more.

Being a history major, I’m always scouring for tid bits about West Point and I found the coolest engraving of General Custer’s funeral  that was held in 1877 in the Old Cadet Chapel.  The chapel has a very cool history in itself; it was built in 1836 and used to be on the Plain over by the cadet barracks but when they needed to build a new, bigger chapel, they were going to dismantle this one.  However, the cadets practically revolted and demanded that because of it’s history, it needed to be kept.  So they rebuilt it in the cemetery, where it now stands, brick by brick, and it was reopened in 1910 when the new Cadet Chapel was opened.  We use the Old Cadet Chapel now for memorials and ceremonies like the DAR’s Molly Corbin Day.

Finding Grandpa Lemaster

Curtis Austin Lemaster, age 12, in 1930.

I had the great fortune of finally meeting up with Gail Skaggs, her brother Timothy and her mom.  I’d contacted Gail almost two years ago through Find a Grave to discuss my great-grandpa William Arby Lemaster because she seemed to have quite a bit of information on my Lemaster side.  Turns out, she and I are third cousins and we have a lot of matches on our DNA.   So we’ve spent the last two years emailing back and forth about our family and helping each other with pieces we’re missing from our trees.

When I met up with Gail and her family, she pulled out a box of photos that came from Dewey Lemaster, her grandpa and brother to my grandfather, Curtis Lemaster.  She pulled out the photographs thinking that I might be able to help identify certain unknowns, but the most amazing thing happened.  One of the very first photos she pulled out was a small school picture from 1930.  On the back was written “Curtis Lemaster.”  I about fell off my chair.  It was my grandpa Curtis at age 12!  Until that moment, I had never seen a picture of grandpa young – not even in his teens or twenties.  All my photos of grandpa are of him from my childhood and he’s already in his late 50’s/early 60’s.  But there was that sweet, little familiar face, slightly smiling, wearing bib overalls and showing his remarkably long arms that my mom commented he always had.  To my delight and surprise, Gail gave me this photographic treasure after making a copy for herself.  I think my heart nearly burst in my chest with excitement.

I immediately sent a snap to my two uncles, neither of whom had seen that picture before, and they were thrilled.  My cousin Shawn also had never seen it.  We were all so tickled!  I tried to show my dad, who is still suffering terribly after his second stroke and he didn’t really seem to grasp who it was.  When we told him it was his own father, he shrugged and said “Whoever that is!”  I wish he could remember more.

It goes to show you that for however many bad, rude and jerky people you may find on Ancestry (or any of the other genealogical sites, for that matter) there really ARE those people out there who are helpful, caring and willing to share their information.  Luckily for me, Gail is part of my actual family and while I found a new relative in her, I’d like to think she and I would have been friends regardless even if we wouldn’t have been related.  So please, don’t give up when someone won’t reply or someone won’t share information you’re looking for.  Keep going, keep reaching out and perhaps you’ll get lucky too.  I’m always amazed how Providence has placed some of the most amazing people in my life when I needed them most during my genealogical research.

My New Heirloom

Clara Lou Peters and Archie Stewart on their wedding day.

My mom sent me a picture of my grandma Clara Lou Peters Stewart on her wedding day recently.  It reminded me that she showed me her wedding dress once when I was little.  I’m not sure why she had it out specifically but it was in a big yellowing box and when she pulled it out, I remember thinking how lovely it still was and how much I’d love to wear it some day.  I never did get to wear it; my first impromptu wedding dress was a bright pink dress I’d worn to homecoming and at my second wedding, I wore a black lace number.

I had been thinking for a very long time about doing something with my wedding dress.  Not only was a black Gothic wedding dress totally unique at the time fifteen years ago but I also had hand sewn my own black veil trimmed in the sweetest black crochet trim.  It took me weeks to finish.  My dress, being delicate lace, had ripped during one of our military moves and so it hung in my closet for years now staring me in the face, unable to be worn any longer but being too sentimental to toss out either. 

My Go To Book

For my Moffat genealogy club members, at Thursday’s meeting, I mentioned a small book that I find particularly helpful when I’m doing genealogy work.  The book is called The Genealogist’s U.S. History Pocket Reference: Quick Facts & Timelines of American History to Help Understand Your Ancestors by Nancy Hendrickson.  I hate to say that even as a history major, I’m absolutely terrible about remembering dates.

This book is so handy and amazing to have on your desk for quick look-ups.  When I’m researching an ancestor, I don’t just want to know their birth and death dates.  It’s all the stuff in between that’s interesting, right?

Long Lost Uncle Dale

My 2nd great uncle Dale Stewart. Inmate #9645 of the Montana State Prison in 1930.

I am so happy to write that I have managed to find a great big puzzle piece in my quest to find my 2nd great uncle Dale Stewart.  For new readers, let me briefly say that Dale was orphaned in 1914 when his mother was murdered by their father before he committed suicide himself at the Columbia Hotel’s out kitchen in Caldwell, Ohio.  Dale and his older brother, my great grandfather, Glenn Archer Stewart ended up in a few home for boys before Dale became a merchant marine and Glenn went on to be a farmer, security guard and a steel worker among his many other incarnations.  Both Dale and Glenn committed suicide later in life to which I’ve written about as well.