As part of my family history research, I’ve been contacting relatives from other branches of the Chastain family tree. Everyone I’ve talked with has been gracious and patient as I badger them with questions about themselves, their branch of the family, and what they know of the Chastain family history. The conversations themselves have been reward enough, but I’m happy to say they’re not all I’ve gained.
Floyd, an 87 year old second cousin, twice-removed, living in upstate New York, shared the above picture of Peter Alexander Chastain I with me. Peter is my great-great-great-grandfather and Floyd’s great-grandfather (Floyd’s grandfather was Conrad Chastain, Peter Alexander Chastain II’s older brother). This is a picture that my branch of the family tree had never seen.
My guess is that it was taken in a photography studio. (Either that or someone had terrible taste in wallpaper.) I love everything about it—the straw hat, the pipe, the beard, the boots, the dog, the gun, the suspenders. There’s even a bit of a smile in his eyes, if not on his lips. It opens up a small window onto what his life was like. Is that a hunting dog? Was that gun solely for hunting or did his livestock need defending from predators? Did he, smoking his pipe by the fire, recall forty years worth of memories from Germany? I’ve spent a fair chunk of time staring at this picture and asking questions like these.
Another source for some recent discoveries is a project by the Library of Congress called Chronicling America. One feature of Chronicling America is a collection of fully digitized and searchable American newspapers from 1836 to 1922. This is where I found the following in the October 13, 1898 edition of The Cameron County Press.
He surely looks like a pioneer citizen.
At the moment, the Chronicling of America website has only a small percentage of newspapers digitized. Most of them, on microfilm, are housed in thousands of locations across the country. Thankfully, the website has a directory that points to where these extant historical newspaper collections are located. After searching the directory, I found that the Potter County Historical Society (PCHS) in Coudersport, PA has numerous local newspapers from the 1850s onward—truly a goldmine.
I also discovered that Roulette itself once had a newspaper, The Roulette Recorder, from around 1903 to 1919. While the PCHS does have some issues, the Pennsylvania State Library in Harrisburg claims to have all issues from 1903 to 1918—another goldmine.
Finally, I recently learned something new about the Family History Library’s website, Family Search. I’ve been using this site for a while but didn’t realize until last week that not all the online records are indexed. There are some records that need to be browsed manually, image by image. While looking through their published collections list, one in particular stood out—Pennsylvania Probate Records. After some digging around, I found something I wasn’t sure even existed. I found Peter Chastain’s Will.
Thanks to my big brother, Josh-u-a, for editing the image (which was originally across two separate image files) and for doing the heavy lifting on the transcription of the will into plain text:
First, my will is that I be decently and properly interred in a manner becoming my estate and position in life, in the Lutheran Cemetery at Roulette, Potter County, Pennsylvania, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Lutheran Church. Second my Will is that all my just debts and funeral expenses Shall by my executor hererafter named, be paid out of my estate as soon after my decease as Shall be by him found convenient.
I give, devise and bequeath to my beloved Son, Henry Chastain all the household furniture, farming tools, implements, farm stock, horses harnesses, carriages, wagons, cattle and all other farming or household materials, or stock of any description whatsoever. Also all my real estate consisting of one farm, etc. that I may die possessed of, together with all other personal or real effects not including notes, mortgages, bonds, judgements, cash or any moneys of any description due me at the time of my decease.
I will and bequeath to my beloved daughter Frances Brehmer the sum of two hundred dollars, to be paid to her in cash by my Executor out of the share of my property bequeathed by me to my son, Henry Chastain, to be paid to her by my said son Henry Chastain within one year from the date of my demise.
I will and bequeath to my beloved daughter Lizzie Conley the sum of two hundred dollars to be paid to her in cash by my Executor out of the share of my property bequeathed by me to my son, Henry Chastain, to be paid to her by my said son Henry Chastain within one year from the date of my demise.
It is my will and bequest that all notes, Judgements, bonds, Mortgages, money or moneys due me from any source or reason of any nature whatever be paid by my Executor to Peter Chastain, Francess Brehmer, Lizzie Conley, and Conrad Chastain, equally that is to say share and share alike, it being my will and bequest that my son Henry Chastain shall not participate in any distribution of money, bonds, judgments, mortgages, notes of any description.
Should any of my heirs institute any proceedings of any nature whatsoever to contest this my last will and testament it is my will and desire that none of my heirs so contesting, shall be permitted to receive any money or
effects from or out of my estate but shall forfeit any interest they may have under this will to such other heirs not contesting according to the provisions of this my said will.
And lastly, I do nominate constitute and affirm my said son, Henry Chastain, to be the executor of this my last will and testament subject to all laws regulating the same.
In Testimony whereof I, the said Peter Chastain, has to this my last Will and Testament contained on one sheet of paper subscribed my name and affixed my seal this second day of May Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and
P. Chastain (seal)