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Mary Jane (Miner) Alderman


Mary Jane Miner was born in about 1835 near Champion, near Warren, Trumbull County, OH, the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth (Forney) Miner.

Mary married William "Henry" Alderman Sr. (1833-1905). He was the son of Daniel and Mary Ann (Durans) Alderman, and was born in Cheshire, CT. The wedding took place on Dec. 3, 1857, in Warren. Mary Jane was age 22 at the time of marriage, and he was 24. Their marriage application from Trumbull County is seen here.


Mary Jane and Henry's marriage license 
on file today in Trumbull County

The Aldermans had two known sons William "Franklin" Alderman and William "Henry" Alderman Jr. 

Henry stood 5 feet, 9 inches tall, with sandy complexion, blue eyes and sandy hair. He was a farmer.

During the Civil War, Henry went to Cleveland to enlist in the Army. He joined the 8th Ohio Infantry on June 19, 1861, under the command of Capt. Kerney. Henry was assigned to Company B. He was first an infantryman, but after becoming ill with "rheumatism," he was detailed as a teamster (wagon driver) in August, while stationed at Camp Pendleton.

The following month, the regiment was assigned "among the mountains" of West Union, Doddridge County, WV, "along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, where the men suffered severely from fever," said the book, General History of Cuyahoga County. "At 'Maggetty Hollow' over three hundred were in the hospital, and thirty five deaths resulted in a short time." 

The regiment saw action later in 1861 and early 1862 in Romney, Hanging Rock, Blue's Gap, Bloomey Gap, Cedar Creek and Strasburg in West Virginia and Virginia. Said the Cuyahoga County history, "The regiment was deployed as skirmishers before and after the Battle of Winchester. The killed and wounded during this battle was more than one-fourth of its number."

Above: sketch of the Battle of Cedar Creek. Below: the battlefield some decades after the Civil War ended, showing Belle Grove house in the distance.


While on a march from Pendleton to Grafton, WV about the first of September 1861, Henry's leg was broken in a freak accident. Writing about himself in the third person, he stated: "His team & wagon got mired or stuck (swamped) in the mud & while he was trying to extricate them he was [run over] by the wheel of the wagon on the left leg below the knee, injuring and fracturing the front bone of the leg & fracturing the ankle joint, that there was nothing done for the same but what he doctored it himself."

Henry bitterly wrote the following, many years later:

I went 3 or 4 times to my regimental dockter and told him how I was how I felt and he told me to go to my quarters that all I wanted was to get excused. There was not a man that worked more than I did. I was detailed as wagon master and worked night and day ... untill we got to Fredericksbur V. and thare the men built a shanty of logs in the bank and thare I grew wors and my Captain Wm. Kinney was sent for... The reason I did not receive treatment by Regimental Surgeon for nearly a year prior to going to Hospital was because I was detailed to care for Wagon train & there was no Regt'l Surgeon with us, & in trying to be nervy & hold out, to the end, I did not give up as sick until I was "played out" entirely...

Henry also began to suffer heart palpitations and later kidney problems after he "had been given charge of 16 wagons & rode on horse back, and as my leg was so swollen and pained me so that instead of letting my legs hand down, I rode with my left leg on top of the horse on a blanket, & by riding in this position, the back of the saddle injured by back and kidneys, this was during the fall of 1862. I continued to ride in this manner & care for or look after the 16 teams until my leg, heart, kidneys & hydrocele became so bad that I was taken down entirely sick & used up.


Surgeon's sketches of Henry's war wounds to his scalp, left, and leg


Fellow soldier and teamster Henry G. Thirwachter was an eyewitness to another serious injury that Henry suffered. Thirwachter wrote: "I was present at Newport News in the the first part of September 1862 when [Henry] was hurt by being kicked with a mule and saw him where he was kicked in the head which was cut badly by the mules' shoe and at the same time he was kicked in the groin."


Gettysburg monument to the 8th 
Ohio for a battle Henry missed

George W. Crosley also saw the injury take place, and said the kick of the mule "was 3 inches, the cut being through the scalp and deep enough to reach the scull." He also noted that the mule's kick to the groin caused a hydrocele, a buildup of fluid in the scrotum. "I helped carry him back and wash him up," Crosley wrote. "He stayed with the wagon train until we got to Falmouth, Va., some time in December 1862 just after the battle of Fredericksburg when he was sent to the hospital."

In December 1862, Henry was admitted to the Second Ward Hospital in Alexandria, VA, near Washington, DC. A medical inspector wrote that his illness resulted "in very great enlargement of the knee and ankle joints of the left limb" and that this rendered Henry totally unfit for further military service. Just after the new year, on Jan. 3, 1863, while at Campbell Hospital in Washington, he received an honorable discharge, and began the voyage back home. His regiment went on to major action at Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and The Wilderness, among many other battles. 

Upon his homecoming, Henry began a long recovery. "The first year after arriving home the leg was badly swollen," he wrote, "and very painful inasmuch that I was compelled to use crutches which were used about one year and since that time [I] have been able to get around a greater part of the time without them."

The Aldermans resided in Braceville and Warren, Trumbull County, immediately after the war. 

In February 1866, Henry filed a civil action against his father in law in the Court of Common Pleas of Trumbull County. The details about the dispute are not yet known, but within a few weeks, Henry agreed to have the case dismissed.


Old covered bridge
in Braceville, Ohio

Seen here is an old covered bridge in Braceville which the family likely would have known and traveled across. The structure spanned the Mahoning River west of Warren. 

Later, the Aldermans migrated to Indiana, where they were residing in Jamestown Township, Steuben County at the time the federal census was taken in 1870. Their residence was just a few miles from the Michigan state line.

In the 1870 census, Mary was marked as being unable to read.

Sadly, Mary died at age 38 on Feb. 16, 1871, in Nevada Mills near Jamestown, Steuben County. Friend Salmon Parker of Nevada Mills once wrote: "I was a near neighbor of William H. Alderman and his first wife Mary Alderman since the year 1867 and I distinctly recolect the death of Mary Alderman in February 1871 and was one of the Pall Bearers at her Funeral." Parker's wife Caroline wrote that she "was at their house and helped take care of her in her last sickness and was present at her Death and at her Funeral."

Henry Webb of Angola wrote that he was acquainted with Henry and Mary and "was at their home during her last sickness, and at her Funeral."

On Jan. 14, 1872, at age 38, Henry married his second wife, 33-year-old Desdemona (Baird) Briggs (1836-1909). The ceremony took place a few miles over the state line at Arnolds Corner, Gilead, MI, performed by Emanuel Gilbert, a justice of the peace. Witnesses were James and Julia Gordon of Steuben County.


Statement about Henry's healt
 signed by members of his GAR post

Desdemona was a native of Ohio, with her father from Vermont and her mother from New Jeresey. In an interesting twist, she had divorced her first husband, William H. Briggs, in Steuben County, IN, about one week before she married our Henry Alderman. The divorce decree is on file in the Circuit Court Office of the Steuben County Courthouse.

The Aldermans went on to have two more sons -- Simeon Miles Alderman and Lewis A. Alderman. 

While in Bronson, the Aldermans continued farming, though it is not known if they purchased any land outright. Henry also was a loyal member of the local Hackett Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a national organization of Union Army veterans. Wells Knapp, the commander of the post, once wrote: "I was accustomed to meet William H. Alderman nearly every week for a number of years in the regular meetings of our Bronson Grand Army Post and that he was in my store about every week for a number of months." In March 1886, the members of the post signed a certificate stating that Henry was "a poor man with no visible means of support and also know he is disabled that that extent this -- he is unable to do any manual labor to speak of. He has no family physician." 

He is known to have attended a GAR encampment in Cleveland, OH in the fall of 1901, where he saw members of his old regiment, Henry G. Thirwachter, of Lipsic, OH and Joseph Evans of Cleveland. Wrote Evans: "He is nearly blind and has to be led about."

As he aged, he was increasingly unable to work and thus earn an income. In November 1877, he began receiving federal pension payments of $6 per month as compensation for his wartime injuries. Over the years, at regular intervals, he filed appeals for increases, most of which were rejected due to lack of hard evidence. 


History of the 8th
Ohio Infantry

Neighbors Monroe Maybee and Squire Bard testified that they knew Henry well, had been frequent visitors to his home, and that he was totally unfit for performing manual labor. In 1891, Dr. Levi Sanders of Bronson testified that he had tapped Henry's hydrocele:

... on an average of three times a year for the last eight years... I should think that he is fuly incapacitated for manual labor to full three fourths from leg and hydrocele. He cannot do hard labor. the work that he can do is light. He hasn't done any heavy labor since I have been acquainted with him.

In 1893, Dr. S.M. Cornell of Bronson also treated Henry's hydrocele and wrote that he "has been under my observation more or less till the last three years when I have operated by aspiration every three months & some times at shorter intervals, obtaining at least a pint or more of fluid each time."

Franklin Sawyer, a veteran of Henry's old Civil War regiment, mentioned Henry in his book about the unit which was published in 1881 by Fairbanks & Co., Printers, of Cleveland. Entitled A Military History of the 8th Regiment Ohio Vol. Inf'y, it was reprinted in 1994 and 2005 by Blue Acorn Press of Huntington, WV.

At a date not yet learned, Henry suffered a stroke, and was stricken with paralysis. Longtime friend Wells Knapp wrote: "I visited Mr. Anderman quite often during his last sickness and allways found Mrs. Alderman doing all that she could for her husband."

When the federal census of 1900 was taken, the Aldermans made their home on Washington Street in Bronson. Henry, age 66, was listed without an occupation. In that record, Desdemona claimed to have borne five children, with only three living at the time. Son Lewis was the only offspring remaining in the home, and at age 18 was employed as a laborer in a local cement works.


Henry's grave in Bronson, Mich.

Henry passed away in Bronson at age 71 on Jan. 18, 1905. His funeral was handled by Bushnell & Turner, undertakers, and he was laid to rest in the Bronson village cemetery. His grave marker in Bronson, of standard issue military variety, is inscribed as "WM. H. ALDERMAN." At the time of death, he had been receiving a monthly pension payment of $12. 

Desdemona outlived her husband by five years. Because as a widow she was without a substantial source of income, she petitioned the federal government to receive her late husband's military pension payments. In an affidavit written in April 1905, she wrote: 

I have no property real or personal of any kind whatsoever including bonds, stocks or investments. I have no monthly income nor annual income and no person has been legally bound to provide for my support. I further state that my husband the soldier had no insurance, and that he never made his will, at the time of his death he did not own any property real or personal.

To help with Desdemona's cause, several friends testified that they had known her and her husband for many years. These included Wells Knapp, Robert and Eliza C. Hurst, Caroline Parker, Lyman Carpenter and postmaster J.E. Watson. Friend John E. Hoopengamer of Bronson wrote: "She is without means of support, excepting a very little that she gets from her son who earns when is is able to work $1.50 per day. My way of knowing her circumstances is by way of my office as Supervisor of Bronson township, in which she lives, and by my haveing oversight of the poor of this township."

Eventually, Desdemona was awarded the pension, and began receiving a $12 check every month, paid from a U.S. pension agent in Detroit.

Controversy arose in February 1909 when the Pension Commissioner in Washington, DC, made the allegation that Desdemona was "not the legal widow of the soldier ... on the ground that it is legally and conclusively shown by evidence on file in this Bureau." The commissioner wrote a letter to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior recommending that she be dropped from the pension rolls. This came about with evidence brought forward by special examiner M.V. Bermer, who stated: 

At the date the soldier presumed to marry the pensioner, he was the lawful husband of one Elizabeth J. whom he married in 1854 and from whom he was never divorced. By reason of this fact it is held said marriage was void at inception and as Elizabeth J. survived the soldier, the pensioner's relation with the soldier never became matrimonial. She was never the soldier's lawful wife and hence has no status as his widow.

Desdemona's reaction to this news cannot be known. Just a month later, she died on March 4, 1909. It's presumed she rests beside Henry. The Department of the Interior sent her a letter on April 27, 1909, almost two months after her death, stating that her marriage was void, and that the allegedly legal wife was Elizabeth J. North who was still alive and residing at 235 Santee Avenue in Findlay, Hancock County, OH. There is no other evidence in Henry's pension file on this issue. The original file is at the National Archives in Washington, DC, with a copy in the Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor Archives. 

For reasons that have not yet been determined, Desdemona is listed as alive in the U.S. census record for 1910, even though she is believed to have been dead for a year. Her 28-year-old son Lewis was in the household, as was Desdemona's 17-year-old cousin Etta Baird. 


~ Son William "Franklin" Alderman ~

Son William "Franklin" Alderman (1864-1898) was born in 1864 in Ohio.

He migrated to Bronson, Branch County, MI with his father, step-mother and siblings. 

He was a farmer near the village of Bronson, and was not married.

Sadly, he passed away on April 13, 1898, at the age of 33, in Bronson. On his Michigan death certificate, the maiden name of his mother was given as "Mary Minor."


Bronson's Chicago Street, looking eastward


~ Son William Henry Alderman Jr. ~

Son William Henry Alderman Jr. (1867-1940) was born on Feb. 4, 1867 (or in January 1967) in Indiana. He migrated to Bronson, Branch County, MI with his father, step-mother and siblings. 

At the age of 32, in 1898, Henry earned a living as a laborer. That year, he married 28-year-old Katherine "Katie" Malova (1871-1932), also spelled "Malovey" - "Malovy" - and "Molorey" in other source documents. A native of Michigan, she was the daughter of Polish immigrants Stephen and Minnie (Kelly) Malova, who had come to the United States in 1865. Their nuptials were held on Nov. 15, 1898 in Coldwater, Branch County, MI, with justice of the peace George M. White officiating, and with William Glen and Charles U. Champion of Coldwater as witnesses. On their marriage license, Henry gave his mother's maiden name as "Mary Miner."



Corp. Claud Alderman in the Army

They resided in Bronson and had three children -- Claud William Alderman, Henry W. Alderman and Pearl Patricia Kessler. 

When the federal census was enumerated in 1900, the Aldermans made their home on North Mattison Street in Bronson. Henry's occupation that year was day laborer. By 1910, when the census again was taken, the family had moved to a new dwelling in Bronson on Buchanan Street, with Henry working as a teamster in a wood yard.

Tragedy rocked the family during World War I, when their eldest son Claud joined the U.S. Army as a member of Company A, 126th Infantry, 32nd Division. Over the winter of 1917, he trained at Camp MacArthur, near Waco, TX and apparently played football with fellow soldiers as evidenced by a photo of him in uniform. In February 1918, he and the 126th were shipped to Camp Merritt, NJ, and from there deployed overseas to France. With the rank of corporal, Claud was among 310,000 U.S. soldiers who took part in in the Battle of Chateau Thierry, about 50 miles northeast of Paris. 


Alderman Luce VFW in Bronson


Tragically, he was killed in the fighting of July 13, 1918, and his body was never recovered or identified. He was memorialized at the chapel of the Aisne Marne Cemetery in France, in the "Hall of the Missing," with his name etched among those of 1,060 fellow American missing at the battle, "who sleep in unknown graves." In his hometown of Bronson, a memorial grave marker was placed in St. Mary's Cemetery, although he is not buried there. As well, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Bronson was named after Claud and a fellow resident also killed in the "Great War," bearing the name of the "Alderman-Luce VFW Hall."

Henry is believed to have worked for H.A. Douglas Manufacturing Company in Bronson, and was a member of the United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW-CIO). He is mentioned in this connection in the proceedings of the organization's ninth convention in 1944. 


Katie's grave in Bronson, with her son's name inscribed, although he rests in an unknown grave in France
In 1930, a federal census-taker recorded the family as living on Sherman Street in Bronson. Henry's name is given as "Will" and son Henry, age 26, lived under their roof. The 62-year-old father had no occupation, while the 26-year-old son was employed as a truck driver.


Katie died in Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, MI at the age of 60 on Aug. 5, 1931. Her remains were returned to Bronson for interment. A marker was erected on her grave, and the name of her son Claud (spelled "Claude") was etched into the marker as well, although the whereabouts of his grave on the battlefields of France is known but to God.

Henry outlived his wife by nine years. At the age of 73, living in Coldwater, Branch County, Henry passed away on Christmas Eve 1940. He was laid to rest beside Katie in St. Mary's Cemetery in Bronson. 


Henry and Dorothy's grave

Son Henry W. Alderman (1902-1970) was born in 1902. In 1930, at the age of 28, he lived with his parents in Bronson and worked as a truck driver. Circa 1940, at age 38, Henry was single and resided in the farmhouse of his 56-year-old divorced friend Alva W. Blood in Matteson, Branch County, where he earned a living as a tool maker. At some point in time, Henry married Dorothy A. (?) (1894-1970), who was eight years his senior. They likely resided in or around Bronson, but nothing more is known. Both Henry and Dorothy died in 1970 and are interred together in St. Mary's Cemetery.

Daughter Pearl Patricia Alderman (1903- ? ) was born in 1903. At the age of 20, in 1923, she was employed in Detroit as a telephone operator. There, she met and married a co-worker, Ertman W. Kessler Jr. (1902- ? ). He was the son of Ertman W. and Augusta (Brosofski) Kessler Sr. Their wedding was celebrated on Nov. 12, 1923 in Detroit, led by justice of the peace Arthur E. Gordon, with Edgar J. Henris and Charles Gordon of Detroit  witnessing. They had one known son, William Kessler. Pearl's granddaughter, Carol Bentley, graciously has provided valuable information and images for this biography.


Above, artist's depiction of street fighting during the World War I Battle of Chateau Thierry. Below, the "Hall of the Missing" with Claud's name (red dot) in Aisne Marne, France.


~ Son Simeon Miles Alderman - from the Second Marriage ~

Son Simeon Miles Alderman (1872-1952) was born on Dec. 12, 1872 in Indiana. 

He migrated to Bronson, Branch County, MI with his parents and siblings. He was of medium height and build, with black hair and black eyes.

In the early 1890s, he secured employment as a "railroad man."

On June 20, 1893, the 20-year-old Simeon wed 16-year-old Michigan native Laura Canfield (1877- ? ), daughter of C.F. and Comatta (Baird) Canfield. The event was held in Bronson, with the ceremony led by justice of the peace F.A. Keyes, and their respective fathers attending as witnesses. 

The Aldermans made their home circa 1900 on Winona Street in Bronson. The census-taker noted that they had been married for seven years, and that Laura had borne a child, but that the child was no longer living. That year, Simeon worked as teamster, while Laura's 16-year-old brother William M. Canfield lived under their roof and earned income as a farm laborer. 

They remained on Winona Street during the 1900s and in 1910 lived there, next door to Laura's brother William who had since married and began having children. Simeon's occupation in 1910 was as a day laborer, and Laura's aged grandmother, 72-year-old Canada-born Marriette Lilly resided in their home.

As did his younger brother Lewis, Simeon was required to register for the military draft during World War I. At the time, he lived in Bronson and continued his occupation of railroading for the New York Central Railroad.

At the age of 79, in Sturgis, St. Joseph County, MI, Simeon passed away on Sept. 14, 1952. 


Lewis' grave, Bronson, MI

~ Son Lewis Almarian Alderman - from the Second Marriage ~

Son Lewis Almarian Alderman (1882-1963) was born on April 25, 1882 in Michigan.

He was 18 years younger than his eldest half-brother, Franklin. As an adult, he was tall and slender, with blue eyes and brown hair.

He was at least twice married, but the identity of his first wife is unknown. 

At the age of 18, in 1900, he lived at home and was employed as a laborer in a local cement works.

In 1910, when the federal census was taken, he lived in his parents' former home on Washington Street ni Bronson and worked as a railroad section laborer.

At the age of 33, Lewis wed his second bride, 17-year-old Emma Dora Llewellyn (1897-1954), who was 15 years younger, and the daughter of Ora and Florence (Prestidge) Llewellyn. The ceremony took place on May 6, 1915 in Bronson. Rev. R.E. Saunders officiated.

At the time of marriage, Lewis was employed as a laborer.


Emma's grave

They resided in Bronson, and had at least two children -- Howard Alderman and Wilma Alderman (1919-1940). 

As World War I raged in Europe, Lewis registered for the military draft in April 1918. At the time, he and Emma lived in Sturgis, St. Joseph County, MI. There, he ran a drill press for the Morency-Van Buren Manufacturing Company which produced plumbers' supplies. The military draft registration agent noted that Lewis' "Thumb & 1st finger off left hand."

Lewis was a laborer in an automobile factory in 1920, when the federal census was taken. He suffered the deaths of their daughter Wilma in 1940 and of his wife Emma in 1954. 

Lewis passed away in 1963. He is buried in Bronson.

For more information on this family, contact great-great granddaughter Carol Bentley.


Copyright 2005-2006, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2019 Mark A. Miner

Bridge photograph by Nellie Dulovich