Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Last Monday I watched PBS's American Experience.
This was an interesting program about President James Garfield, mostly taken from the book by Candice Millard called "Destiny of the Republic".  It concerned the trajectory of James Garfield's life from his humble beginnings and into politics and ultimately the Presidency.  Just four months into office he was shot by a madman and died a slow lingering death 79 days later, the book's author says is partly due to the conceit of the man who took over his medical care, Dr. Doctor Willard Bliss(not a typo-his first name was Doctor) and the lack of any antiseptic care, the idea of which was still in it's infancy in the US.

President Garfield has largely been forgotten in the history of our country due to his administration lasting only 4 months but his funerals(there were two)rivaled and even surpassed that of Lincoln less than 20 years earlier.  The expression of the nation's mourning of Garfield's rivaled that of Lincoln, if not surpassed it.

There was such hope that Garfield's time in office would heal and help the country as his getting to the presidency was unusual and he was an early proponent of civil rights, but he was not given that opportunity after Charles Guiteau's handgun found it's target.
I find it a fascinating time in our history and the backstories of all parties involved are rich and interesting and indeed the planets seemed to have aligned just right to set events into motion that led to Garfield's assassination.

And it's not because Garfield's Vice President, Chester Alan Arthur, married my 6th cousin, Ellen Lewis Herndon.  Cousin Ellen became a posthumous First Lady when Chester Arthur ascended to the Presidency in September 1882 upon the death of President Garfield.  Arthur only became Vice President due to a backroom deal with the most powerful man in NY politics at that time, Roscoe Conkling.  Once Garfield died it was thought that Chester Arthur, who had been Conkling's puppet back in the NY political machine, would allow Conkling to pretty much run Arthur's administration.
Much to his credit, Chester Arthur seemed to grow a backbone once thrust into the Presidency and made his term as POTUS his own.

As a footnote, if you are interested in the various personalities who have or attempted to assassinate American Presidents you might find the musical "Assassins" rather 'enjoyable'. ;-)

Also of interest to me is that tonight, on "Finding Your Roots", also on PBS, they will be profiling among their 3 guests, Senator John McCain.
Senator McCain is my 7th cousin.
We share ancestors, William ALLEN and Mary HUNT Allen, my 7 x Great Grands/his 6 x Great Grands.
I am descended from their daughter, Susannah ALLEN and Sen. McCain from their son, Lieutenant Colonel Valentine ALLEN a Early American patriot.
It will be interesting to see if they explore that branch of McCain's family tree but they will probably stay with the MCain ancestor, Hugh McCain, John's 6 x Great Grandfather.

Hugh was born in 1729 in County Antrim, coming to America in 1752(or was born in PA and his father, also a Hugh, was the one who had come from Ireland). He married and settled in the Waxhaws area of NC(Charlotte area).
The story goes that around 1756, a foraging party of Tories came through the Waxhaws area and demanded Hugh McCain give them a small fortune in money he had hidden on his property.  When he refused they hanged him and he lived only because a slave and her two sons rushed to cut him down after making a commontion to frighten the British soldiers away, savings his life.  Hugh lived another 50 years.  Four of his son's also fought in the Revolutionary War.
Senator McCain is also a third generation US Navy man, both his father and grandfather were Admirals.
As this episode is entitled "War Stories" I bet they focus on all those patriots.

This my 8th Cousin, John and his second wife's daughter, Meghan McCain.  She had a show on a cable network and is a sometimes political pundit.

I also see that they will be exploring Patricia Arquette's ancestry on this episode of "finding Your Roots" as well.  I think Patricia has a distant connection to Meriwether Lewis(as do I)so I am sure they will hit upon that ancestor in her segment which will be interesting....at least to me.  ;-)

You just never know what you'll find when you start down that genealogy/ancetry road.....



  1. THat's interesting about Garfield! I usually fell asleep in history class... So I didn't know those details.

  2. There's a terrific book about Garfield: "Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President" by Candace Millard. He ended up being known more for his death than all he accomplished as well as the potential that was lost with his murder.

    1. If you read my first sentence I mention that book as this documentary drew heavily from that book.

    2. Oh my. My computer has me starting your page at your second paragraph for some reason. I've refreshed the page a couple of times and it does it every time. I didn't even know there was a paragraph above it until I read your answer. Sorry!

  3. I minored in history and enjoy it but I am so not interested in genealogy. My grandmother had a cousin who was so I have a couple of books she assembled- more on her father's history than ours though. Someone in my dad's family researched also. One of my cousins is interested so I probably should ship him the materials I have inherited. My maternal grandpa was the youngest of 13( 11 boys and 2 girls) but most of them never married or had heirs.I have several single male cousins too on mom's side today.

    1. I'd second sending off those materials to your cousin.
      I have always enjoyed history(and my oldest majored in history and is now a history teacher). I find that love of history augments my genealogical search when I can related what I find to a certain time in our history.

    2. Unfortunately he has no heirs. Maybe he's do some sleuthing when he retires.

  4. My dad was a an avid history reader and I am ashamed to say, I have not picked up his habit. A good documentary I guess works as well. These sound interesting.


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