October 8, 2015

William Burden Stevenson 1842 – 1926

William Burden Stevenson – Soldier, Sailor, World Traveler

Usually, when you begin researching someone in a family line you start at their birth and work forward, and backward as well to connect them with their parents and ancestors. With William Stevenson I think I began in the middle and worked both directions. I knew some people in his immediate had lived here in Washington State, but what really piqued my interest was that William had resided here in my town of Port Orchard and is buried in a local cemetery here.

William’s parents were John and Ellen Burden Stevenson who were both born in Scotland circa 1815. As an adult, John was an officer in the Irish Coastguard and as his career was ending son William, who had been brought up to also be a Naval Officer for Britain, was just beginning his time in service. William’s father John had retired sometime after 1860 and was awarded a land patent by Queen Victoria. John had his choice of British locations, but in the end he chose Canada. To be specific, on Lake Malcolm in Ontario. All of the family still at home, including the youngest, Jane Elizabeth who was born in 1860 when her father was still stationed in Killybegs, Wexford, Ireland set sail for North America.

I’m guessing that William, the oldest, entered his naval service before the rest of the family left Ireland. His entry paper states he joined 27 June 1860 and was on the 1HMS St. Vincent. At the time of William’s service on the ship it was primarily a training vessel for young boys. William’s designation was as an Ordinary Seaman. Later records (American Civil War) note that during his time on the Vincent they spent time in the Mediterranean Ocean.

1862 – William Stevenson deserts the Royal Navy

One can only imagine what life was like in the Royal Navy for nineteen year old William. In looking at the records for the St. Vincent it wasn’t uncommon for these young sailors to be caned or birched if the Captain deemed it necessary. I don’t know that William ever received that punishment, but perhaps there was a far greater peril on the ship: disease. 1864 Training Ship, Home Station, Portsmouth. 2Report of Fevers and Small Pox onboard. Number of Cases of Disease and Injury. No proof has been found as to just how and where William left the ship, but we next find him as new soldier in the American Civil War.

In William’s Civil War pension application records he states that about two weeks after leaving the Royal Navy as a deserter he made his way to Pennsylvania, and joined Company I of the 111th PA Infantry under the false name of Thomas Crawford.

To be continued…


1HMS St Vincent (1815). (2015, April 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:35, October 5, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=HMS_St_Vincent_(1815)&oldid=654963476

2(2015) HMS St Vincent. Retrieved October 05, 2015, from http://www.pbenyon.plus.com/18-1900/S/04400.html

© 2015 Carol Wilkerson. All rights reserved


1912 Washington State Gun Fanatics

Gun Fanaticism Or Just Practicality?

Admittedly, I don’t really know what these men really felt about their guns and how ‘fanatical’ they might have been about using them. Anything I say here about them comes from my own views of how my family used their rifles, how they talked about them, and our family history with guns.

First, a little background on the people in this picture and where it was taken. From left to right is George Martin, obviously older than the other men in the picture. Next is William K Yates (my paternal grandfather, age 20), unknown man, and far right is Will Yates’ older brother Lemuel W Yates (age 25). On the back of this picture postcard is the postmark of “July 6, 1912 Union Mills, Washington.” I suppose it’s possible that the picture was taken somewhere else and then made into a postcard sent from Washington.

George Martin, Will Yates, , Lem Yates

All that said, I do believe it was taken near Union Mills, WA. I’m not showing the back of the postcard here, but I do have the original and it has been clipped along the edges, and the original message on the postcard was written in pencil and is now so light after 115 years I’m unable to read it. Union Mills, Washington was located in Thurston County near what is now the town of Lacey and was base for the Union Lumber Company.

Union Lumber Co. History

Source: Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: Oregon, Washington

 By Donald B. Robertson

So, were they fanatics about their guns? I think they were in the sense that they felt they were a invaluable tool which they could always use to hunt game to feed their families. Or, at least supplement the larder at home. Considering there were no freezers of size at the time I assume they would dress their game in the woods if it was large like a deer, perhaps cutting it in smaller sections to be shared as they saw fit, and much of it eaten immediately. In this picture, I don’t think the men were actively hunting, but rather ‘posing’ for the photographer to make it look like an interesting tableau. The reason I say that is because it was probably taken and sent in July as the postmark indicates, and hunting season wasn’t until much later in the fall.

One thing I do know from my family history with my dad, “Never touch my gun” was law in our house and neither my brother nor I ever considered going against that edict. The men in my family (none of the women hunted, as far as I know) were fanatics about gun safety. I don’t think any of the hunters in the family ever used pistols because it just wouldn’t have been practical for their needs. I do know that when my dad hunted in he used a .30-06. I wonder what happened to that rifle. I bet my brother has it.


Alfred Smith Ruth – Washington State Senator 1865- 1915

AS Ruth 1909

Alfred Smith Ruth

Washington became a state in 1889 and we’ve had many notable politicians during the last 124 years. One of them was Alfred Smith Ruth, a native of Maine who settled in Thurston county. After doing some research on Alfred Ruth it came to light that he was a Washington state Senator as well as, in 1909, he was President of the Washington state Senate. Keep reading to see what I’ve found so far.

Biography of A. S. Smith (Please download this Word document).


USS Missouri – Then And Now

When I was growing up here in Washington state there were certain things we knew of about history and our surrounding area. One of them was that the famous ‘surrender’ ship USS Missouri was berthed here in Bremerton, inside (as it was then known) Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. You could see it from Navy Yard Highway as you came into town, and seeing it, you were impressed by its enormous size.

USS Missouri 1987

USS Missouri – (BB 63) 1987

I have a couple photos we took back in the mid 1980’s when Jim’s dad was here for a visit. He is a WWII veteran (see 

Low Moor, Iowa Honors WWII Vets

) and was anxious to take the tour of the old battleship. His ship, the Cape Esperance was a Casablanca class escort carrier. As with everyone of his generation, he knew well the name of the USS Missouri.

USS Missouri picture 2

Also in our party as we toured the ship was Loren’s daughter Lorrie and her son Brent, as well as our son Greg.  I doubt that the two young boys had as much interest in the ship at the time as their grandfather because they had no point of reference then.

USS New Jersey 1983

USS New Jersey – (BB- 62)

As an added bonus to this post, here is an additional photo, this one of the USS New Jersey as it looked in 1983. If my memory serves, it was stationed in California at the time at Long Beach. This Day in History – July1, 1985 the New Jersey was undergoing upkeep in Long Beach.

Sadly, the Missouri left the Bremerton area for good in 1985, but that wasn’t the last time she would see service in war time. She was reactivated in the early 1990’s to be used in the Gulf War. During one period of use her 16 inch guns fired over 800 projectiles. She was finally decommissioned in March of 1992. Her permanent berth is now adjacent to the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The New Jersey is located in Camden, New Jersey


USN Ships — USS Missouri

USN Ships –USS New Jersey

Original photos in this article are owned by Carol Wilkerson

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