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Category: Genealogy

Lincoln jailed my cousins


Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which seems like a good time to mention that back during the Civil War, two of my cousins were jailed by Abraham Lincoln for sedition. You can read the entire story in the March 2006 issue of Flanders Family News. (This links to a PDF file. The story starts on Page 9.)


By the way, lest you interpret this the wrong way — I’m a big fan of Lincoln. But how could I pass up this story?

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Hotels in the family

As I may have mentioned, I work for UNITE HERE, the hotel workers union. I’ve worked for the union for several years, a fact which is not unknown to my extended family.

Today, I was visiting my grandmother in her nursing home. My mom was there, too. My grandmother had an old photo on the bed with her, and I asked her what it was. Turned out to be a photo of my grandmother with the staff of the — wait for it — hotel at which she worked.

That’s right. My own grandmother worked at the Wendell Hotel in Pittsfield, Mass. She was a switchboard operator for about five years in the late 40s and early 50s. And no one ever mentioned it to me. Oy!

Here’s a picture of my grandmother with the Wendell gang. She’s in the front row, fifth from the right. This photo was taken at a company picnic somewhere in the Berkshires. (Click for a larger version.)

Wendell Hotel

And here’s the Wendell in about 1912:

Wendell 2

I did some preliminary research on the hotel, and came up with these:

I also discovered this paper (PDF) by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which has the following note:

March 1926: Pittsfield on the air for the first time in its history when AIEE [American Institute of Electrical Engineers] broadcasts the very first words, “We are broadcasting tonight From the Wendell Hotel, in Pittsfield Mass. at the AIEE’s annual banquet”.

The following is from the book Pathfinder to Greylock Mountain, the Berkshire Hills and Historic Bennington by William Hamilton Phillips, published in 1910:

Crossing the line into Pittsfield on the Berkshire trolley road the first objects of interest are Arrowhead, the house of Herman Mellville, the author, and once the site of an Indian village; the former summer residence of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, whose ancestor, Jonathan Wendell, was an early settler of the town and from whom the Wendell Hotel in Pittsfield was named.

The Wendell is mentioned again in The Practical Hotel Steward by John Tellman, published in 1913.

If you’re interested in learning more about my union, you can visit UNITE HERE’s Web site.

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Coming to America

Last year, I posted this entry about my great-grandmother Louise Lay’s arrival on these shores on this date in 1897. The date has arrived again, so Happy Arrival Day! Here’s a drawing of the Kensington, the ship on which she sailed:


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Sedition, Secession & Civil War — It’s Issue #7 of Flanders Family News!

As I’ve mentioned before, I publish the newsletter for the Flanders branch of my family. The newest issue is available now at, and you may find it interesting even if you and I aren’t related.

In this issue, we delve into the story of Francis D. Flanders and his brother Joseph R. Flanders. They published a newspaper in Franklin County, New York. They ran for and won elective offices.

And they were jailed by Abraham Lincoln.

That fascinating story, plus:

  • Bunny McLeod Graduates From College … at 65!
  • Flanders: The Ontario County Connection
  • The Mystery In Mt. Hope Cemetery
  • Flanders In Politics
  • Flanders In The News
  • …and more!

Please visit to download the newsletter.

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An important anniversary

It was 108 years ago today — 3 August 1897 — that my great-grandmother, Louise Josephine Lay, arrived at Ellis Island with her sister, Christina, aboard the S.S. Kensington. Louise was 11, Christina was 13. They lived in Trier, Germany, and traveled to Antwerp, Belgium to board the ship.

Louise and Christina went to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to stay with their aunt Johanna (Lay) Honecker and her husband Francis. Johanna, my great-great-great-aunt, paid for the girls to travel to the U.S. Two years later, on 28 June 1899, the rest of the family came over from Germany, also aboard the Kensington: parents Peter and Catharina; brothers Jacob, Bernard and Carl; and sister Johanna. (The youngest sister, Anna, was born after the family arrived in the U.S.)

On 28 September 1908, Louise married my great-grandfather, Orren Elmer Flanders. On 30 November 1912, they welcomed my grandfather, Bernard Orren Flanders, into the family. The rest, as they say, is history.

(Louise Lay was born May 1866. She died on 31 May 1956 and was buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.)

And here’s a little more history about the S.S. Kensington — the ship that carried the Lays across the Atlantic:

Kensington and Southwark were sister ships which began their careers with the American Line, and then served Red Star and the Dominion lines before heading to the shipbreakers. Despite these changes, both ships retained their original names.

Southwark was built by William Denny & Bros. of Dumbarton, while Kensington was built by J&G Thompson of Glasgow. Both ships were launched in 1893. They each made their maiden voyage on the American Line’s Liverpool-Philadelphia service, Southwark on 27 December 1893 and Kensington on 27 June 1894. In August 1895, both of them were transferred to Red Star and placed on that line’s Antwerp-New York service. (At the time, both Red Star and American were operated by the International Navigation Co.)

In 1902, International Navigation changed its name to International Mercantile Marine and acquired a number of other lines, including the Dominion Line. After making their final Red Star voyages in March 1903, Southwark and Kensington were placed on Dominion’s Liverpool-Canada service and remained there for the rest of their careers. Kensington made her final voyage in November 1908 and was broken up in 1910. Southwark made her final trip in May 1911 and was scrapped later that same year.


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The Flanders family

A few years ago, I started to try to trace my family history back as far as I could go. I had several surnames to try — Doyle, Coughlin, Borders, Flanders, Lay and others. Flanders is the last name of my grandfather, Bernie, after whom my son is named. It’s also my mother’s maiden name. I was eager to try to trace it, except for one small problem. My grandfather knows nothing about his family. And I mean nothing. He knows the names of his parents, and there it ends.

Imagine my surprise, then, when just a few weeks of digging turned up a goldmine of family history. Turns out the Flanders clan has been exhaustively researched, and I was able to link my branch to the main trunk of the family tree. My ninth-great-grandfather, Steven Flanders, came to Massachusetts in the 1640s, and the line has been traced all the way from then to now.

The only problem was that no one seemed to be talking to anyone else about all these distant cousins we all have. So I decided to jumpstart the conversation with a Web site, newsletter and e-mail list. You can find out about all those things at Enjoy!

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