The Cashmans and the Clarks


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Identity Theft in 1928

Before there were computers and cyber crimes, there was a wily cowboy named Walter A. Timbrell, who turned the world upside down for an unsuspecting stranger…

There was no reason for Uncle Roger to board a train in Northampton, Massachusetts for Nevada in the early 1920’s. However, he was an adventurer at heart and the West was calling him. His family was sad to see him go and though Roger wrote regularly and returned to Northampton several times over the following three decades, in the last years of his life, he ceased contact with them. Roger’s disappearance from their lives was a mystery that was often discussed among members of my generation.Through Ed Murch, a distant cousin and genealogy enthusiast, I learned that Roger served in the Spanish-American War. It was by way of Roger’s military pension file, I was able to piece together the events of his life and the story of a fateful meeting with a criminal in 1928, who stole his identity in an attempt to collect his military pension.

A military affidavit written in Roger’s hand, places him in Reno, Nevada in January 1928. According to the affidavit, it was there, that he met ex-convict Walter Timbrell. Roger wrote: "Jan.1928. I was living in Reno Nevada. While there I first got acquainted with Walter A.Timbrell, We got to talking, and I told him I was in the War with Spain, he asked, me many questions about my service, where and when I enlisted, in fact all about my enlistment, he even took down notes of what I told I saw him many times for about six months. He told me that he also served, but I never saw his discharge and have no way of  knowing anything about his war service except what he told me.

In 1930, Roger applied for a military pension. By then, he was residing in Stockton California. The response which was forwarded to Roger’s attorney was stunning. It stated the claim had been rejected and that he was aware of the rejection, by way of a letter sent in 1928 to Walter Timbrell, who served as Roger Cashman.

Timbrell’s bogus pension application filed on 10 January 1928 was among the papers in Roger’s file. Though crafty, Timbrell was not an intelligent man. The phony application contained testimony regarding his personal status. According to his statements, he was married at the time he made the application and was divorced from Ilah P. Crigler of Chadron, Nebraska.

While I was appalled by Timbrell’s gall, I was intrigued that he was capable of conceiving such a scheme. The information regarding his former marriage was all I needed to launch a investigation of him.

I was able to obtain a copy of Criglers petition for divorce, filed 9 August 1899 from the Clerk of Courts in Broken Bow, Nebraska. This document contained intimate details of her marriage to Timbrell. The petition stated: "… that he was a habitual drinker of intoxicating liquors and gambled away all of his earnings,therby being guilty of extreme cruelty to this plaintiff; that since the said defendant so abandoned the plaintiff he has been convicted and sentenced to a term in the state prison of the state of Wyoming , where he is now confined." 

It was apparent to me that Timbrell was no stranger to crime. I queried the Wyoming State Archives and much to my amazement, I received a copy of his inmate file, which included a mug shot, a  physical description of Timbrell, his occupation (rancher) and the reason for his incarceration; the crime of Grand Larceny with a one year sentence at the State Penitentiary in Rawlins, Wyoming. The physical similarity between the two men was so strong, that I wondered if Roger and Timbrell were one in the same.

I was able to put that theory to rest, when I located an obituary for Timbrell, who died in 1941 in Lander, Nevada.

It took years and many hours of Roger’s life to untangle the web Timbrell spun. His pension file is filled with affadavits and letters to the Veterans Administration. In 1947, he enlisted the help of Senator E.P. Carville, who intervened on his behalf. With Senator Carville’s influence, the application was accepted and Roger received a pension of $300 per month. 

The older I get, the more I believe there is nothing new under the sun. Roger’s story of victimization and the many years he spent struggling to regain his identity is as old as time and can be summed up in one sentence.

Once upon a time, before there were computers and cyber crime, there was a wily cowboy named Walter Timbrell, who turned the world upside down for an unsuspecting stranger, who just happened to look a bit like him.

Postscript: I will never know why Roger ceased communicating with his family. However, the military pension file provided letters and affidavits conceived by him and written in his hand. There were details of his life contained in those pages which I am sure were unknown to his family.When he died on 10 March 1955, the many telegrams sent to the family from the Veterans Administration were undeliverable, probably due to the misspellings of names and the lack of complete addresses. His sister Mary, who often spoke of him and cried over his disappearance, died just five days after he passed, never aware of  what became of her brother. A brother-in-law tried to convince Roger’s sister Julia to contact the VA about his disappearance, but she remained resolute in her belief that he would walk through the door any minute. So sad, one phone call may have brought their lost brother home.


Nothing new Under the Sun…

For years, I have heard rumors and discussions regarding an alienated line of my family. No one in my line knew what or who caused the feud. However, the animosity between family members was so deep and painful, it seeped into subsequent generations.

Recently I stumbled upon an old deed which revealed a great deal about the relationships within the family of my great-great grandparents, John and Hannah Clark. The deed, which conveyed the family home to Jane, the youngest Clark sibling for one dollar was executed in May of 1895, less than two weeks after the death of Hannah.  It stated in part: “I, John Clark in consideration of one dollar and other valuable consideration, paid by Jane E. Clark, my daughter, of said Northampton, who has lived with and assisted in supporting us…”[1.]

I have a good working knowledge of this family. I know that both Thomas and William Connors, Hannah’s sons by her first marriage, received very little education. Both were working in cutleries at an early age. Thomas was still residing at the family home at the time of her death. It would appear that they contributed to the household for many years. Twins, James and Mary from her marriage to John Clark, also went to work at an early age, ostensibly to contribute to the household. The Connor brothers never attained home ownership. James and Mary were able to buy homes, but much later in life, when their children were nearly grown. I wondered what forces were at work that ledmy great-great grandfather to transfer title of his house to his youngest daughter, while forsaking  the other children, who contributed to the economic stability of the family for so many years. Was there bickering and strife between father and sons? Was he duped by his daughter or infirm? Or was he resolute in the sentiment he expressed in the deed?  I was certain that this was the event that caused the legendary feud, but where was the proof?

I will never be privy to John Clark’s private thoughts or his conversations with his youngest daughter. I will never hear the other Clark siblings tell their side of the story. Though, I strongly believe this singular act may have been the undoing of the Clark’s as a family unit, I will not state my opinion regarding this matter in the narrative I am preparing to write. Personal opinions have no place in sound genealogical research and reporting. At the end of the day, there is no evidence that the transfer of the family home to Jane caused the rift.  

It is human to form opinions and analyze the behavior of others through the prism of our personal experiences. I reread the document several times before I concluded that it was a personal life experience which led me to a premature opinion of what occurred within this family.

My father, who passed away two years ago on January 16th, made an observation regarding our family history.  He said that it seemed that history was repeating itself; that it was “all happening again.” Considering recent events, he may have been looking into the future when he made that statement.  

I seldom quote scripture, however this verse from Ecclesiastes holds special meaning for me. “What is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past into account.”  ( Holy Bible, New International Version, Ecclesiastes 3:15).  Dad knew it and I know it, too.

1.     "Hampshire District Recorded/Registered Land,"digital images, ( : accessed  28 Dec 2011), Clark to Clark, deed, 16 May 1895, citing Hampshire County, Massachusetts, Deed Book 475:177.

sked what happened and she did not elaborate. Her comment was a scrap of information that I carried with me through five decades of my life before coming face to face with it again, when I began researching my great-great grandmother, Hanora (Madigan) Conners-Clark.

What Killed Hanora Conners Babies?

Strange, the things we remember from childhood …

I remember my grandmother, Mary Hannah (Clark) Cleary telling me that her grandmother had three children that died.  I was a little girl, no more than ten or eleven years old, sitting at the top of the stairs at her home on Middle Street in Florence, Massachusetts, looking at old photos, while she sorted through a box of linens. Even though, I did not know the identity of the grandmother, that suffered the losses, I felt a sense of shock. Even today, I can remember the nonchalant, if not, matter-of-fact tone in my grandmother’s voice and her unemotional demeanor, as she prattled on about kin. I never

I had little to start with when I began my research of this enigmatic ancestor.  Through research of public records, internet sites and resources provided by distant cousins, I was able to determine that Hanora was born in the ancient village of Shanagolden in County Limerick, Ireland on 23 October 1825 to Daniel and Catherine (Wallace) Madigan. [1] She married Michael Conners, a cutlery worker in December of 1853 in Greenfield.[2]

After examining state and federal censuses, I concluded that Hanora lost a child sometime between the 1855 Massachusetts state census taking and the 1860 federal census. I was very curious about the death. To the best of my knowledge, there were no children in my generation or in the previous generation that passed due to disease or birth defects. I wondered what killed Hanora’s baby?

Geo and I decided to drive to Deerfield, Massachusetts to examine the death register. I had no idea as I poured over the volume in search of the Conners’ baby, that I would find, not one, but three babies, all dead before the age of two. As their names appeared one by one in the register, I remembered what my grandmother had told me so long ago.

The cause of death listed for the first two infants piqued  my curiosity. John, the first baby to pass, was eleven months old at the time of his death. No cause was recorded. The second infant to succumb was Daniel. According to the register, he was five months, seven days old, when he died of water on the brain. The third child, Michael Junior died of measles at the age of 1 year, 11 months and 4 days.[3]  Measles, a dreaded disease during that period was not an uncommon cause of death. However, I wondered about the other babies? Was Daniel  hydrocephalic or was there an accident that caused his condition? Was it abuse a contributing cause of the deaths? I knew that I would never know the answer to those questions.

I wondered how common it was during the 1850's for a family to lose some many children in such a short span of time?

I scoured the internet looking for an explanation for the records I discovered in Deerfield.  Eventually, my research on mortality rates and disease in this period, led me to a book by Alan C. Swedlund entitled Shadows in the Valley, A Cultural History of Illness, Death and Loss in New England, 1840-1916.  Though the subject matter may be grim, the book is fascinating.  Mr. Swedlund addresses the cultural and economic forces at work in New England that affected mortality, attitudes toward the death of children during this period and changes in mourning traditions. Shadows in the Valley is a revealing portrayal of life, disease and death and since much of Mr.Swedlund’s research was centered on Deerfield, Massachusetts during the period Hanora resided there, this book provided a historical backdrop for the facts I collected.

I will never know the details of what killed Hanora Conners’ babies, but through Mr. Swedlund's research and writing, I have a deeper, richer perspective of Hanora’s world and why so many children died during that period in history. I am certain I will be consulting Mr. Swedlund’s book throughout my genealogical research of my New England ancestors.

A postscript: Hanora’s remaining sons lived to maturity.[4] In 1866, she married my great-great grandfather John Clark.[5] She gave birth to twins (boy and girl) in 1868 and in 1870 another daughter was born to her. All three children from her marriage to John Clark lived to middle age and beyond.[6] Hanora died in 1895 at the age of seventy.[7]



[1]      Dr. Chris O’Mahoney, Manager/Research Officer, Limerick Archives, MADIGAN OF SHANAGOLDEN, report to Helen Myers,[ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] North Hatfield, Massachusetts, 14 June 1989; photocopy held by [Elizabeth Banas, 85 North MainStreet, Belchertown, Massachusetts]. This report contains birth data for Hanora (23 Oct 1825) and her siblings (Ann b. 30 Mar 1825 and John b. 11 Jan 1831) and verifies the marriage of Daniel and Catherine (Wallace); also Bessie Arena (secretary to Father Dan Madigan), Clarksburg, California [(E-MAIL ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE),] to Elizabeth Banas, email, 27 July 2011, Madigan Descendent, Hanora Madigan; privately held by Elizabeth Banas, [(E-MAIL ADDRESS) AND STREET ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Belchertown, Massachusetts. Bessie Arena on behalf of Father Dan Madigan, stat


Super Stars!

This was very special Thanksgiving. My husband and I spent the holiday with my cousin Tim at his home in Sunderland, Massachusetts with his wife Susan, his children and several other cousins. Until recently, we barely knew of each other. Over the years I heard his name mentioned on occasion and I knew who he was. However, I would never have recognized him, if we met face to face.

This was not always the case.  My father and Tim’s mother were brother and sister. Tim and I grew up in the same neighborhood in Amherst, Massachusetts. Our mother’s were friends and my father remained close to his sister. The families spent a good deal of time together.

However, my family moved when I was thirteen years old and the visits between our families became infrequent. After Tim’s mother died, I have few memories of seeing him and his brothers.

The years passed quickly. I married and relocated to another area. He married and we both raised our families, oblivious of each other for many years.We came together again by way of a query one of us had placed on a genealogy board and since then, we have renewed our cousin relationship.

I realized in a profound way on Thanksgiving day, as we looked at old family photos,  shared our memories and the events that shaped our lives, that by the mere coincidence of having been born to siblings, we had a huge reservoir of information about each others lives. We remembered the same things in the same way. We heard the same stories and he recounted incidents in my life, that were all but forgotten by me. Quite amazing!

I came to the realization, that we have both looked to the distant past to find our family history and I recognized in a profound way, as we sipped wine and shared stories that only family knew and cared about, that history is not made in the past. History is made in the present.

Even though most of us, think of our lives as ordinary, we all have compelling life stories which should be documented and preserved for subsequent generations. Writing about ourselves can be another generations window to the past. More importantly, telling  our story in our way and in our words void of another opinions is a way of  keeping it real and honest.

Finding time for such tasks is not easy. I have committed to writing a detailed account of each holiday beginning with this Thanksgiving.  You may not think so, but you have a story to tell, too. When it co

Military Pensions:  What’s in them?

ecently, I requested and received a military pension file for my g-grandfather, who fought in the Civil War. I knew about his service years ago. In fact, a cousin conducted extensive research on our great-grandfather’s military service a number of years ago. I was not convinced that we would glean anything new from this file. However, I thought it was important that we have every record available that was pertinent to his life.

I could not have been more surprised. This file could be likened to a road map of his life from his enlistment until his death.  Among the items included in the file was his Declaration for Pension. This item contained a personal description and noted his place of residence after leaving the service. Another affidavit contained the names of his first and second wife, the marriage dates and the names and birthdates of all of his living children.

 Among the vital records contained in the file, were death and marriage records, which included certificates pertinent to my great-grandmother’s second marriage and second husband after the death of my great-grandfather.  Other documents in the file were related to my great-grandmother’s application for a Widows Pension. This included handwritten letters to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The question of what happened to her financially after the death of her second husband was answered by way of a copy of a contract she signed with a women’s home shortly before her death.  Mystery solved!

If you have never worked with military pension files, then you have missed out on a great source of genealogical material.

Most military records can be ordered via the NARA reproduction site. However, the process of retrieving copies of Massachusetts military pension files is more complicated.  Hiring a professional to help you through the process may be the path of least resistance. Contact E.A. Banas Genealogy Services (