Fortitude: Preserving 400 Years of an American Family’s Faith, Patriotism, Grit and Determination
Guest Post by Dale R. Spaulding
NOTE by Elizabeth Wilson Ballard: Dale Spaulding is my 4th cousin. We are both descended from Absalom Renfro and Elizabeth (Cormack) Renfro, our 3rd-great-grandparents. I encourge you to read this post, purchase the book Fortitude, and follow Dale’s blog. I want to thank Dale for being gracious with his writing, and for sharing a bit about Fortitude and his writing process with us.
I’m thrilled to be a guest blogger on Diggin’ Up Graves today. I appreciate Elizabeth Ballard’s many years of dedication to preserve history through genealogy.
My name is Dale Spaulding, and I’m also a lifelong student of history and passionate about genealogy. I descend from William Sidney Spaulding and Mary Esther (Renfro) Spaulding who were my 2nd great-grandparents. William Sidney and Mary Esther’s oldest child was my great-grandfather, Arthur Addison Spaulding, who was a railroad engineer in Belvidere, Illinois. I’ve been researching my family history off and on for 30+ years now. Since I retired a couple of years ago, I finally had time to pull all the data together and publish a book.
My book, Fortitude: Preserving 400 Years of an American Family’s Faith, Patriotism, Grit and Determination, was released in May 2022 by Gatekeeper Press. Fortitude gives the reader an appreciation of this truly American family from 1600 to 2020, and a front-row seat to the history of the nation they helped form, defend, and cherish.
In the book, I chronicle the journey of my direct Spaulding line from the early Colonial days of America up through today. I merge the stories of my direct ancestral line with the historical events of the day which helps make history come alive. Here’s a snippet of just one of those stories:
In 1848, my third great-grandfather, Addison Spaulding of Massachusetts, was involved in a horrific farming accident resulting in the amputation of his leg. This unfortunate incident drove him to innovation. It drove him to his destiny. Addison Spaulding became one of the early pioneers of an artificial leg which he patented in 1855. The timing of his patent was divine in nature as it occurred just six years before the Civil War. Addison Spaulding and his wife Nancy sent two of their sons off to fight in the Civil War. Only one returned. Their beloved son Private Oscar Spaulding (my third great-uncle1) was mortally wounded at the Battle of Cedar Mountain in Virginia and died in 1862 at age 19.
In the book, I also explore the unique circumstance of William Sidney’s brother, Private Henry Spaulding (my 3rd great-uncle1), serving in the same Civil War Unit (Battery A, 1st Illinois Light Artillery) as Mary Esther’s brother, Private William Renfro (also my 3rd great-uncle1).
So, if you are a history buff and enjoy personal stories of those who lived long ago, I think you’ll enjoy Fortitude.
As you gather genealogical data about your ancestors, I would encourage you to also research their stories. One of my best sources of personal stories were town history books. If an ancestor of yours lived in the 1800s, chances are a town history book was published. There is a wealth of information (stories) in those old treasured town history books.
If your ancestor fought in the Civil War, look for the regimental history book of the units they served in. These books were also critical to my research. I found that many of the regimental chaplains took great notes during their times of service and documented the stories of their regiments in books after the Civil War.
My biggest lesson learned in my research and book writing journey was that I started too late. Why? Because I missed the opportunity to capture the verbal history stories of my father and grandfather while they were still alive. So, I would highly encourage you to interview your older relatives, capture their stories and, more importantly, the stories passed down to them. With the passing of each of generation, treasured family history is lost forever. Even if you have no plans to write a book, you may change your mind in the future. At a minimum, pass these stories to your children who may someday document your family’s story so that it will be preserved for future generations.
Here’s a recent example: I was so blessed when I interviewed my Aunt Kitty last year. Aunt Kitty was Catherine (Klispie) Spaulding, the wife of William James Spaulding, “Uncle Jim”, my father’s brother. Aunt Kitty was amazing and had so many stories to tell at age 95. She was the last of the “Greatest Generation” of my family and, sadly, passed away in November 2021. My wife and I were fortunate to visit with her in Hamburg, New York, in May of that year, five months before she died. She had some delightful pictures that I was able to use in my book, including an 1895 photo of my grandfather at age four and my great-aunt1 at age two. Aunt Kitty also showed me a letter Uncle Jim wrote to his parents in 1943 while he was serving in World War II, and this was very meaningful for me to read.
If you are contemplating writing a book, in particular a family history narrative, I want to encourage you to give it a go. Do you know what historians cherish? First-person accounts of everyday life. Not just the stories of the famous, but the stories of average, everyday people. And this is exactly what I discovered in writing Fortitude – my direct Spaulding ancestors were ordinary, hard-working, patriotic, and faithful Americans.
Thanks again for the opportunity to be a guest blogger on Diggin’ Up Graves.
Preserve the Past
Leave a Legacy
1. Throughout the Diggin’ Up Graves blog, the convention used for aunts and uncles further back than the first generation is to add the word “grand” followed by “great-grand” in generations prior. Thus, the brother of a grandparent is a grand-uncle, of a great-grandparent is a great-granduncle, of a 2nd great-grandparent is a 2nd great-granduncle, and so on. Another way to phrase the same generation of these siblings is using the terminology “great” without the word “grand”. In this phrasing, the brother of a grandparent is a great-uncle, of a great-grandparent is a 2nd great-uncle, of a 2nd great-grandparent is a 3rd great-uncle, and so on. Both conventions are correct, should be used consistently within a publication, and if not used consistently, footnoted (hence, this footnote). Dale Spaulding, when discussing Oscar Spaulding in the passage from Fortitude, is referring to him as his 3rd great-uncle. Oscar is the brother of Dale’s 2nd great-grandfather William Sidney Spaulding. The same terminology is used in this article for William Sidney Spaulding’s brother Private Henry Spaulding, Mary Esther (Renfro) Spaulding’s brother Private William Renfro, and Dale’s great-aunt (sister of his grandfather).