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A Violin

On June 8, 1865, the Old Vermont Brigade marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in a Grand Review where they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue before the president.  The parade was over but their service time was not.  They would wait patiently for about a month to be formally discharged.  

If you served your time honorably you would be discharged or as they called it then “mustered out” at the end of war. Orders would be issued to pack up and you would wait patiently for your orders to leave.  The realization that it was over was made clear when the orders to muster out arrived.  Marshall and Amanda started to think of themselves as veterans.  

During this interim period (just after the review but before they mustered out) Amanda visited Marshall in his quarters in the Washington DC area  “He was sick in his quarters.  He didn’t seem to have a fever but said ‘it hurt him to move'”. About the same time she recalled him saying, “My arm and hand has been numb and lame ever since I was thrown from my horse”.  “I rubbed his arm that night, left arm.  One thing I remember.  That night Edward Alley, now of Piermont, N.H. brought a violin in and asked Mr. Felch to play and he said ‘he could not finger the strings’. 

—-Pension application: M. P. Felch, 1890 

Returning to the Kingdom

The Vermont 3rd mustered out on July 11, 1865. The Vermont 4th received their orders two days later. 

Amanda returned home into the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont disembarking the train at St. Johnsbury on July 11, 1865.  She had mustered in not far from the train station at Camp Baxter four years earlier in what must have seemed to be an eternity.  A half-day wagon ride from there returned her to the West Glover area. 

Albert, who was now eight would probably run to give her a hug. Amanda would have been greeted by her father Ira, stepmother Mary, younger sisters Eliza Ann and Ellen Nancy and seven half-sisters including Mary, Lovila, Mahala, Eva, Emma, Lydia, and one-year old Clara. I wonder if she could name them in order real fast.  Lovila was now seventeen and about the right age to have taken care of Albert. 

Northeast Kingdom Pictures – Fall 2012

 

Henry

The last time Amanda saw Henry was just before over 1,200 Vermonters were killed, wounded or captured at the horrific Battle of the Wilderness. Among the wounded was Henry, someone who would have been carried by one of a long procession of medical wagons heading to one of the churches or city buildings serving as field hospitals in Fredericksburg. A few days later and once declared fit to travel he was transported to a hospital away from the front. It would be there that the army saw no chance of Henry returning to active duty. He was declared an invalid and sent home as to Vermont, possibly a hospital in Brattleboro Vermont. Amanda was working nonstop at the time so it is doubtful (but possible) Amanda would have even known that Henry was one of the wounded for some time.

While they were home Henry and Amanda most certainly visited their mother Celina’s grave at the West Glover Cemetery.  The inscription “in her 27th year” reminded them how young she was when she died. Amanda was seven and Henry only a month old.  Buried beside Celina was a new grave plot occupied by Uncle Almon. 

Henry was well enough now to get married.  Henry and Addie Mason set the date for August 29th, 1865.  They would get married by a clergyman in Glover. Henry and Addie would live in the Northeast Kingdom and in the next few years have two children, Charles and Gertrude.

 —-Glover town records, 1866   

 Sadly, Henry passed away seven years later in March of 1872. He was only 32 years old at the time.

—-New Hampshire, Death and Burial Records Index, 1654-1949

War Stories

They must have had some catching up to do when they were reunited and a few war stories to tell. Henry may have described fires raging through smoke filled and bullet riddled woods during the Battle of the Wilderness. Amanda’s awkward meeting with Dorothy Dix in May of 1864 must have brought a laugh on the lighter side.

Abraham Lincoln shook the hands of over 6,000 wounded soldiers while he was visiting the Depot hospitals at City Point where Amanda was serving on April 8, 1865, a week before he was assassinated. It would have been something she would have loved to see while also bringing tears to her eyes.  Sharing the story with the family would have made a powerful impression.  

Piermont Area pictures – Fall 2012

I met him at the station

Amanda spoke about meeting Marshall at the train station when he arrived.  This would have been at the Piermont railroad station in mid July 1865. 

—-Pension: A.M.Felch, 1888

This seems to be a watershed moment in their relationship signaling the beginning of something more permanent.  Marshall was probably attracted to her intelligence, independence, and strength of mind (like Mattie Ross in the novel True Grit).   

Amanda may have been attracted to the writing and organizational skills he displayed in his important role as a hospital steward.  Amanda’s compassionate side found him to be a good man and she hoped she could help him get better. 

The Felch Family Reunion

Marshall’s parents Parker and Hannah were alive and well when he came home, bringing along Amanda and possibly her son Albert. His seven brothers and sisters including from oldest to youngest: Sarah, Jane, Elvira, William, Ida, Henry, and Charles were there and certainly pleased he had returned and glad to meet Amanda.  Marshall was younger than Jane and older than Elvira. Like the Colburn family, the Felchs must have intensely listened to their war stories. 

Marshall’s daughter Carrie who was five now had been raised by her mother’s parents Grandpa Amos and Grandma Polly Eastman (VT census records).  Carrie remains close with Marshall, Amanda, and later their daughter Sarah who will stay with her and her family in 1888, the same family that Marshall and Amanda stay with when they visit in 1891 (Felch 1891 letters). Carrie and her future husband John remain forever in New England. After John passes away and near the end of her life Carrie lives in Endfield Center, southern New Hampshire which is a predominantly “Shaker” community. (NH census records)

There were originally eight siblings but George was missing, they still did not know what had happened to him but probably suspected he had died on the battlefield. George left behind widow Almira and eleven-year old George Junior who may have been there when Marshall and Amanda arrived.

Marshall’s oldest sister Sarah married Ned Weld in 1854 and they had three children; Ida, Walter, and Edward. Ned died in 1860 and fifteen years later widow Sarah and the young ones would relocate to the Canon City area living near Marshall and Amanda. Beginning about 1877 Walter and Edward (Ned) will go on to become dinosaur excavators and important in the lives of Marshall and Amanda in both positive and negative ways.

Jane and Ida were both married. Marshall’s younger brother William had been married for three years and had two children and moved to Michigan and Marshall would visit them late in life. 

Two family members who would remain important to Marshall for a very long time were his younger brothers Henry and Charles. Henry was 21 and unmarried when Marshall returned. About a year after Marshall and Amanda made the trek out west, Henry would marry his local Vermont sweetheart Kate A. Bradish. The two of them and her father will follow Marshall and Amanda to Canon City in 1867 and will remain an important part of their lives.

Charles, the youngest Felch sibling at 15 would later come west and be a part of the very first dinosaur discoveries out west and something he would write about years later.  He was glad to have Marshall come back from the war as Marshall was someone he looked up to. 

The toughness and resiliency of Marshall and Amanda must have been particularly interesting to Marshall’s younger brothers Henry and Charles. 

That was Then – This was Now

Idle time was a luxury, not something Marshall and Amanda had and they knew they could not rest on their laurels. Wherever they landed for the rest of their life they would be looking for work.  Alvah Bean settled up with all his shoemakers in early to mid 1865 so shoe-making was no longer available, at least here in the Piermont area

—-Alvah Bean diary excepts   

Alvah still held stock in some local copper mines that had stepped up production to support the war effort but Marshall’s diminished capacity to do heavy physical work restricted his capabilities even if mining opportunities existed. There also wasn’t a need for hospital stewards after the war in this part of the world, although he certainly could have ended up in such a role under the right circumstances. 

Amanda stated years later that “Marshall’s parents helped her tend him”.  She recalled “In Piermont, in 1865, I was riding with him when the horse ran and he could not hold him with his left hand so I took hold of the reins with both hands, and he with the right hand and we stopped him.” 

Pension application: M.P. Felch, 1890  

 

 

Mrs. Farnham

Throughout the Civil War Amanda was known as Mrs. Farnham.  It is quite logical since she was still technically married to Hiram Farnham of Haverhill Massachusetts. When she walked out the door in March of 1860, she took Albert with her and never looked back.  Regardless of her actions, a divorce had never been obtained. She was still Mrs. Farnham

The lack of a formal divorce needed to be resolved. The question begs to be asked; why had she not filed for divorce back in 1860?  Maybe it was that she was young, supporting a child, living with another family after the separation, and she had little financial resources or time.  Another thought is that divorce was pretty much taboo at those times.  Probably it was a little of both. 

Amanda M. Colburn

With the strength and stature she built up during the Civil War, Amanda made the decision to complete this divorce.  It was not only the right thing to do, and it would free her up to allow for a second marriage. 

Haverhill Massachusetts was the place where the marriage happened, therefore it was the place where this issue would need to be straightened out. Like any legal proceedings it would take some time, therefore the proceedings must have begun relatively soon after arriving home.  

The divorce settlement was completed in November 1865, about five months after returning home from the war. We described the first part of the settlement in chapter one.  Below is the last part of the divorce record detailing the terms of the settlement.   

…. It is therefore considered and decreed by the Court here, that the bonds of matrimony heretofore entered into between the said Amanda M. Farnham and Hiram H. Farnham, for the causes set forth in said libel be and hereby are dissolved; that the custody of Albert H. Farnham, minor child of said Hiram H. and Amanda M., be committed to the said Amanda; and that the said Amanda be allowed to resume her maiden name of Amanda M. Colburn; of which all persons interested are to take notice, and govern themselves accordingly.

—-Haverhill Town Records

Boston  

Boston was a center of progressive thought throughout the Civil War.  It joyously celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation. Two years later a crowd gathered at Merchants’ Exchange for public prayer, singing, and a spontaneous band concert when Richmond was captured

Boston was also an industrial powerhouse.  Factories were built to construct heavy machinery, steel ships, armaments, and weapons. It also had a booming business in woolen clothes and shoes. Boston’s population more than doubled between 1842 and 1867 and by the end of the war tens of thousands of workers were employed in manufacturing. Veterans in need of work poured into the city after the war was over.  

—-O’Connor, Civil War Boston, 2014 

Amanda and Marshall would have been aware of the job opportunities in Boston and that would soon entice them to relocate.     

41 Blossom Street

Arguably, Boston at the time was the busiest city with the most job opportunities in the whole country. It was totally logical that sometime during the late summer or early fall of 1865 Marshall and Amanda moved to Boston. They found residence boarding with Widow Eaton at 41 Blossom Street. 

This is in an area that was then a center of hospitals, and it remains that way today.  Dorothy Dix came from Boston and this may have afforded Amanda a connection to obtain a nursing position. Whether or not such a position was obtained we do not know, but Amanda had worked all her life so we can assume she found something; it was simply a part of her nature to work

Marshall felt confident he would find work doing his old trade of shoe making and he did find work at a shoe shop down on Pearl Street.  A “good fit” for someone with Marshall’s skills could possibly have been doing internal shoe modifications such as at Martin and Sweetland’s shoe findings and slipper trimmings located at the corner of Pearl and Milk. 

We don’t know if Albert joined them in Boston but it would have been more logical for him to remain with his family in the West Glover area until Marshall and Amanda were settled in

A modified 1865 map above of the central Boston area from the classic David Ramsey Map Collection shows where they boarded and where Marshall found work at a shoe shop.

Health ailments: Neuralgia

The location where they boarded on Blossom Street in Boston afforded them access to a doctor in training as there was a medical college located about two blocks away.  A student doctor examined Marshall’s chest and lungs announcing that Marshall was suffering from neuralgia or rheumatism. His most severe physical condition was the result of the injuries he suffered at Cedar Creek which is possibly what the student doctor called Neuralgia. 

Pension: M.P. Felch, 1890 

The “Tights”

Alvah Bean wrote in his diary on February 31860 “Felch did not work-has got tight today. Has been away from my house for a week and one day.”  The tights at the time referred to a constriction or tight feeling in the heart.  A few years after the war one doctor said that he had “fatty degeneration of the heart.” 

—Alvah Bean diary excepts   

Dysentery

Marshall periodically experienced something they called at the time cholera morbus which most likely meant some form of fairly severe dysentery.  This was something not to be taken lightly in that dysentery was the number one killer in the Civil War.  In all likelihood both Amanda and Marshall would have experienced numerous bouts with this throughout the war and likely were more susceptible to return bouts after the war.  In time Marshall intermittently had what was called at the time erysipelas, essentially severe swelling in his arms.  Additionally he had boils on his arms and legs; things that would be treated with surgical incisions and lancing. 

Pension: M.P. Felch, 1890

PTSD

Marshall had all these conditions but he also appears to have had post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  They didn’t know what it was then and simply called obvious mental problems “soldiers heart.”  Marshall’s “soldiers heart” would be demonstrated in various ways over the years over time. In all likelihood Amanda’s day-to-day field experiences would have been even more severe, but whatever PTSD she may have suffered it was less evident. PTSD seems fairly obvious considering the types of things front line hospital workers like Amanda and Marshall would have seen. It’s hard to image a Civil War amputation or a solider lying on the battlefield crying out for help.  The effects had to result in a lifetime of mental anguish. 

Thousands of Civil War veterans hopped trains and road the rails.   Many of them probably suffering from PTSD and at the time they were just called “hobos.”  Lucky veterans like Marshall had a spouse and family to watch out for them.   

If it had not been for Amanda Marshall may very well have been one of the homeless and hobos veterans after the war. Amanda would tend to Marshall’s needs over the next few months using a variety of treatments including using hot bricks under his left arm and hot cloths on his left side that probably provided tremendous psychological as well as physical help.  

 

Photo of shoe shop above is courtesy of Historic New England , a long term regional heritage organization in New England.  

Marshall found work doing his historic trade of shoe making on Pearl Street, possibly Martin and Sweetland’s shoe findings and slipper trimmings (findings and trimmings are internal modifications to shoes) at the corner of Pearl and Milk.  It was only about a mile from where they boarded so pretty easy to get to and from work. 

 

Tying the Knot

This would be the second marriage for both Amanda and Marshall. They were married at the First Baptist Church on Somerset Street on December 16, 1865 that by the way had the tallest steeple in Boston.  It was also the third oldest church in Boston having first organized in 1665. In 1865 the church was celebrating its 200 year anniversary  Reverend Rolland H. Neale presided at the ceremony. We can assume that a large group of friends and family came together for the event and celebration. 

Note: The same church congregation is located on Commonwealth Street in the Back Bay of Boston today.  A picture of that is the picture at the beginning of this chapter. 

 

The sketch above right is the 1st Baptist Church where Marshall and Amanda were married.  The sketch was done in 1860 by Damrell & Moore and G. Coolidge.  The church moved to a new location and today is on Commonwealth Avenue in the back bay of Boston. 

Oil Seep

Colorado Territory was probably best known for the Gold Rush back in 1859There were no trains past the Missouri River at this time and for all practical purposes Colorado was as remote from the rest of the country as an island in the Pacific

About a hundred miles south of the new town of Denver, a relatively small discovery took place and this discovery is very important to our story.  In a twist of fate Gabriel Bowen found an oil seep along one of the old Indian trails to South Park about six miles north of Canon City.  The oil was described as similar in smell and light to the coal oil so much in use in the States.  Gabriel Bowen, a grain miller from Ohio, claimed 160 acres of land on what he called an oil spring on September 3, 1860.  He planned to dig or drill for the oil and formed Colorado’s first oil company. 

The oil seep that Gabriel Brown discovered became a series of shallow wells during the Civil War.  By today’s standards they had relatively small amounts of production, but at this moment in time it was exciting.  The oil claims would be sold and resold during the Civil War; six transactions occurred on a single day in 1861.  The most well known owner would be Alexander Cassiday who purchased the most important claim in 1862 and held it until in August of 1865. 

—Kupfer, Canon City Oil Spring…,2000

Boston and Colorado Oil Company

Cassiday and his wife, Lucia sold the “Colorado Oil property” to George G. Wilder, Benjamin T. Stephenson and George B. Nichols of Boston for $130,000 on August 19, 1865, in Boston.

The Boston owners of the Boston and Colorado Oil Company were investors and did not work at any of the oil wells.  Their representative from Boston was James Murphy who came west to work the wells and he lived in the area for many years. 

—Kupfer, Canon City Oil Spring…,2000

The news of the oil discovery out west and the formation of a new oil company in Boston probably wasn’t front page news but certainly something worthy of a paragraph or two in the paper.  One of the owners was George G. Wilder who was working at a location on Ashburton Place at the time.  This is almost directly between where Marshall and Amanda lived and where Marshall worked. 

Marshall had to have been aware of these wells as their forthcoming move out west seems to be based on them.  

Why go? 

In 1865 people from here to there and all walks of life were pouring into Boston after the war and they were all struggling to survive. Amanda and Marshall’s were just two of the thousands of veterans in need of work and their substantial military service provided little advantage here. Boston was not going to be where they would live their lives but it did give them time to figure out the next step.

Going west was an option.  Promoters sugar coated the difficulties of going west but tales of death and starvation along the trail managed to find their way back to places like Boston. Anyone contemplating going would need to have some level of confidence in their own abilities to survive and practical knowledge on how to do things with limited resources.  Marshall and Amanda had the confidence and ability to pull this off, even while knowing that Marshall had some rather serious limitations and they decided they would make the journey.  

A Yoke of Oxen

The 1862 Homestead Act was set up to encourage expansion to the west.  A settler could receive 160 acres of land simply by living on it (homesteading) for five years.  One hundred and sixty acres is one quarter of a square mile or a square that is about 1,300 feet long on each side.  An acre is an old English measurement used to describe how much land a yoke of oxen (two) pulling a plow could till up in a day.  Pull the same oxen over new land every day for 160 days and that is about how much land you would receive. 

Every year of service in the army would entitle a settler to a year off their five-year Homestead Act obligation.  Marshall who came out of the war with four years of service could find a 160 parcel of land out west, live on it for a year and receive title to it.  It’s fascinating to imagine a time where a man or a woman could locate and obtain legal title to 160 acres of land by building a home and starting a farm and living on it for a period of time. This must have had a special appeal to Marshall and Amanda as they started exploring the option to head west. 

Free Land

In the winter of 1865 Marshall and Amanda made the decision to go west. Maybe it was an opportunity to get away from the stress and suffering of the Civil War. Possibly it was manifest destiny; our collective national goal to connect the nation coast to coast. Many people were talking about the west like it was like a blank slate waiting for emigrants to move in and shape it to their liking. Strongly supporting such a thought was the 1862 Homestead Act and the probability of obtaining “free land.” 

They heard it was dry but they also heard folklore that “rain would follow the plow.”  It was just sitting there waiting for emigrants to arrive, at least which is what they were told. This must certainly have been an appealing thought especially after living through the Civil War. The portrayal they and tens of thousands of other settlers believed would lead to one of the largest migrations in human history.

The Plan

Marshall and Amanda would take a train west as far as St. Joseph Missouri, a “stepping off point” to the frontier. A few friends and relatives may have come along although other than a cousin Lawrence, no one is identified.

Marshall and Amanda would purchase and equip a team and wagon (outfit) once they arrived in St. Joseph Missouri. Marshall would manage his outfit going west and possibly have a friend and his cousin Lawrence come along for the journey.  Together they would head out in a wagon train across the plains to Colorado Territory. 

—C. Felch, The Discovery of the Jurassic Beds in Garden Park, 1914  

The plan was for Amanda to remain behind at St. Joseph until such time as Marshall had secured a place to live and employment.  She would follow before winter.  During this separation, they would communicate by letter or telegraph since a telegraph line now ran to Denver.  Mail took about eight days on a stage coach but was a lot cheaper than a telegram.  

Like most settlers going across the plains Marshall would leave St. Joseph in the spring when the weather permitted.  Once Marshall arrived he would claim or purchase land in the Canon City area and then look for work, most likely doing some sort of freighting job and hauling supplies. 

References

Bean, Alvah. “Alvah Bean Diary Excepts.” Alvah Bean Diaries. Accessed October 5, 2012. http://www.dartmouth.edu/~library/rauner/. (Diaries transcribed by Joan Alexander and Natalie Kinsey)

Donald H. Kupfer, Ph.D. “CANON CITY’S OIL SPRING, FREMONT COUNTY, COLORADO: COLORADO’S FIRST COMMERCIAL OILPROSPECT (1860); AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE FLORENCE OIL FIELD (1881).” Drake Well Foundation © 2012 Petroleum History Institute, no. Oil-Industry History, Volume 1, Number 1, 2000 (2000).

Charles Felch. “Anet the Discovery of the Jurassic Beds in Garden Park.” Canon City Record, February 20, 1914.

O’Connor, Thomas H. Civil War Boston: Home Front and Battlefield. University Press of New England, 2014.

“Pension Application: Amanda.M.Felch,” December 19, 1888.

Rodney Chipp. “Pension Application: Marshall P. Felch.” Pension Application Deposition. Canon City: Pension Office, November 6, 1890.

 

Next Chapter: If I had a Wagon

Marshall, Amanda, and few friends set off on a series of trains arriving in one of the stepping off places, St. Joseph Missouri.  The men take off on a six week journey along the Oregon Trail before following the South Platte into Denver.  Marshall will look for land in the same area where the oil spring was found a few years earlier. In the fall Amanda will take a stage coach to Denver, a rather modest eight day trek.  Together they will start a new life in the territory of Colorado.