Thursday, May 12, 2011

Happy 173rd Birthday, George Henry Mendell (1838-1899)!

Wally Cramer's grandfather

George is our Civil War vet, husband to Margaret.  His portrait has hung in my parents' dining room all my life, so his face is very familiar.
George was the youngest of six children born in Pennsylvania, and his father was an innkeeper who operated a stagecoach line and was also a "Yankee peddler" or traveling merchant.  After his parents died (of "storkes" when he was 12--I'm hoping that was a typo for "strokes" in the history) he went to live with his sister Caroline McConneha, from whose husband he learned the leather tanning trade.  As a very young man he also went for a time with Dan Rice's (Barnum & Bailey) circus.  

His parents' inn had been across the street from his future wife's parents' inn in Ligonier.  Teenage Margaret was keeping company with a young man who drove a fine team of black horses.  George, wishing to compete for her affections, borrowed the team to take her riding and finally won her.  George was drafted for the Union army in 1861 when their first daughter was one year old.  On account of his family, he hired a substitute for $300, a legal procedure at that time.  Later he enlisted in company H 32nd volunteer infantry of Ohio and served three years in the Civil War, 1862-1865.  He fought in the Battle of Gettysburg.  He later received a pension, as did his widow.  

He invested at one time a little in oil wells in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and happened to be comparatively rich for a short time, but lost the money again by reinvesting in oil wells.  He usually barbered his children's hair and also the hair of the grandchildren.  George was remembered as often having headaches.  He liked to smoke cigars occasionally, usually made the coffee, and wiped the dishes.  He liked nice things for the house and would buy the latest gadgets for the kitchen.  He liked to have his wife have nice clothes, and would often get things for her.  He sang with a deep bass voice.  He was medium size, with a heavy dark beard which remained dark even when he was older.  He wore a pointed beard.  He always wore a white silk muffler or scarf with his overcoat, which was usually dark with a velvet collar.  Their kids called them "Pa" and "Ma."   He belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic, was a strong Republican in politics.  He had a large photo of James B. Blaine, Republican candidate who lost to Grover Cleveland in 1884. 

The Mendells and their ten children moved from their farm east of Tecumseh, Nebraska, to their farm two miles west of Hardy on the "Valley Road" in May 1883.  They sold this farm in about 1890 or 1891 and moved to Hardy where George clerked in a store.  They were members of the Lutheran church in Hardy.  In the summer after selling the farm, the Mendell family took a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado and Manitou Colorado.  Later in the 1890s they moved to Superior Nebraska.  They lived on the corner of 5th and Dakota streets.  Due to the magic of Google, this very streetview can be seen here.

Since George liked new gadgets, I'd get him something to help his headaches, like this headache relieving wrap from Skymall.

1 comment:

  1. Also in the gadgets theme, I'd give him this interesting spaghetti fork. It spins when you press a button, and sounds pretty neat.