Mukilteo Military PioneersNathaniel and Jacob were the 11th and 12th children in a family of 13. Their parents were Jacob FOWLER and Ruth CLAPP or KLAPP, Quakers. Nathaniel was born 28 March 1832 in Verbank, Dutchess County, N.Y. (1) He is listed in Boyd’s 1860 city directory for Elmira, N.Y. as a 4th lieutenant in the Southern Tier Rifles. At the age of 28 he enrolled (6 May 1861, at Elmira, N.Y.) and served in Company K, 23rd New York Infantry, as a second lieutenant, to serve two years. After receiving his commission he made captain on 4 July 1861 and took part in the battle of Antietam. Nathaniel was among 15,000 veterans who came west after the war, many of them for free land. In the 1870 Census for Snohomish County his occupation is listed as “Merchant,” like his brother Jacob and Morris H. FROST; Edward O. NORTON is listed as a clerk in Jacob’s store. Nathaniel drowned in an accident on Puget Sound, 28 January 1873, while trying to save his boat from a storm. (2)
by Margaret Robe Summitt
As a point from which to begin researching the people buried in the Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery, I chose the veterans’ burials. Each year, close to Memorial Day, the graves of veterans are decorated in a ceremony sponsored by the Historical Society. A color guard and representatives from a local VFW post gather at the flagpole, where a plaque reads: “Thanking those Mukilteo men, women and their families who have served America. Mukilteo V.F.W. post 3098 and Auxiliary 1992.” Three of the burials are of U. S. Army veterans, according to the grave markers. These three veterans are Nathaniel B. FOWLER, Mortimer FASSETT, and (Unknown) McCALSU.
The Fowler BrothersThe first person buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, whose military service can be proved, is Nathaniel B. FOWLER, older brother of Mukilteo pioneer Jacob FOWLER.
Nathaniel FOWLER finally received his Civil War marker July 19, 2009 through the efforts of Jim SHIPMAN and Diane TINSLEY of the Historical Society. At the dedication ceremony, between Jim SHIPMAN’s talk and those of eight descendants of Jacob FOWLER, we learned how little is known of Nathaniel. He died at age 44, unmarried and with no known children.
Jacob is also said to have had military service; if so, it would have been in the Washington Territorial militia, as Jacob was already in Island County by 1860. Jacob Duncan FOWLER III was born 15 December 1837 probably in Dutchess County, N.Y. He may have come as early as 1858 to Whidbey Island. He took over the store that had been the business of the late Isaac EBEY, who had been murdered in 1857. In about 1861 Jacob married Mary, the daughter of a chief; her Indian name was De-Dowble-Sa and she may have taken the surname WARREN. Mary was born 5 May 1840. (3) She came down from the north end of Whidbey after a dispute with her family over an intended marriage. Arriving at Ebey’s Landing, she met FOWLER. She died 28 September 1889 in Mukilteo. After her death Jacob returned to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. where he married Julia Louise CLARKE on the 3rd of September 1890. His will was filed in 1891 in Snohomish County. Jacob died in Mukilteo 24 August 1892.
Mortimer FASSETT is one of two burials in the Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery identified by recent bronze plaques as U. S. Army veterans. These plaques, which date from after 1987, replaced white crosses that were first placed in that year. The source for their military service is the handwritten list of Louisa Fowler SINCLAIR.
Mortimer FASSETT’s bronze plaque reads: “Mortimer FASSET, U. S. Soldier.” It is located at the end of row 6, in the far north end of the Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery (in the direction of the ferry dock). Mortimer’s name is on Louisa (FOWLER) SINCLAIR’s handwritten list of persons buried there, but as of 1982 the site of his burial was unknown, so the plaque does not actually serve as a grave marker.
Searching for Mortimer in historical records led to some interesting twists. I first found a U. S. Army service record for him in California Civil War Rosters. Mortimer S. FASSETT served in the Fourth Regiment of Infantry, Company D. His record reads: Private, Volcano, Cal. Enlisted September 18, 1861. Mustered September 28, 1861. Deserted at Fort Yamhill, Or., Dec. 11, 1862. (4)
Company D mustered in at Fort Benecia, California, and moved from San Francisco to Fort Vancouver, Washington, October 29 to November 4, 1861. From Vancouver they went to Fort Yamhill, Oregon, located on the Yamhill River next door to the Grande Ronde Indian Reservation. The fort was in present-day Polk County (just south of the Yamhill County line). A muster roll from Fort Yamhill of 1862 lists FASSETT, pvt. Mortimer S., age 31. (5)
By September 1861, when the war recruiting drive reached Volcano, Placerville, and other mining towns in California, the gold rush had slowed to a crawl, and the boom had faded to an echo. As a result, it took only two weeks to muster the whole of Company D. These volunteers were older than the typically early-twenties Civil War enlistee, being mostly in their early thirties. They were also hard laborers, hard fighters and hard drinkers.
His service record is not the only tantalizing glimpse into FASSETT’s military career. Corporal Royal BENSELL, a fellow “Volcano Blue,” kept a diary during his term of service (1862-1864) to let off steam due to the monotonous fort duty and the many irritating, exasperating, and downright unjust orders issued by the fort’s lieutenants. (6) He mentions FASSETT as one of those detailed with the arrest of a drunken Indian, “Tualatin Dave,” an escaped “jail bird” and recent murderer of a white woman: “He was knocking things around generally, having scared away all his neighbors with a huge knife. A blow from FASSETT’s paw quieted his excitement” (p. 52).
Desertions were a constant problem for the Army, especially in the West, where volunteers went “stir crazy” from fort routine, while their regular army brother soldiers were fighting for glory back East. In Oregon, the soldiers stationed at the forts were called upon generally to keep the peace at the Grande Ronde Indian Reservation next door to the fort. Several months after FASSETT deserted, BENSELL led a detail to shepherd local Indians back to the reservations. At one point in his diary BENSELL remarks that a miles-long trek round Yaquina Bay and rowing canoes up rivers in pursuit of Indians was not in a soldier’s job description.
From the military perspective, any firearms, uniform and gear that the missing man may have taken were more valuable than the man himself. These were hard to replace, whereas replacing the soldier was fairly easy.
BENSELL’s diary gives the context for FASSETT’s desertion from the Army. BENSELL was particularly irritated by the inconsistent discipline and arbitrary punishments meted out to the enlisted volunteers. A soldier would be drilled, make a mistake in drill, and be punished by running with his pack, or a bag of sand, around the parade ground. This much they expected. They could not tolerate, however, being drilled by different officers with different expectations. Punishment was meted out daily to the same men for mistakes in drill. On November 18, 1862, their frustration reached the point that seventeen men, including FASSETT, simply refused to drill.
Imagine the crowded conditions with seventeen men (out of a company of 250) being kept at the same time in the guard house. BENSELL asked for, and received, permission for some of the prisoners to stand out on the verandah during breaks. These seventeen wanted to be court-martialed, so that their grievances would become known. During their confinement they wrote a collective letter to General Benjamin ALVORD urging him to investigate their case. He duly arrived, and the court-martials began. Should they be found guilty, the prisoners were to be confined in shackles, with ball and chain, for a period of two weeks. They did not necessarily face a dishonorable discharge; many stood a good chance of being reinstated, as most of them in fact were.
“It grieves me to report,” wrote BENSELL in his entry for December 12, 1862, “that two of our prisoners, Mortimer S. FASSETT and Zechariah REED, sometime last night deserted their post and their country.” This was following the second day of court-martials. Neither of the prisoners who deserted that night had yet been tried. In BENSELL’s opinion, desertion was an extreme and unnecessary solution.
Where did Mortimer go? He and REED probably took the Old Fort Road north-northeast following the Yamhill River. Although Salem was only 35 miles away, they might have stayed away from fear of being recognized, as members of Company D frequently went there for supplies, news and entertainments. On the other hand, the pair might have found local civilians willing to shelter them; according to BENSELL’s diary, the local population included many vocal Confederate sympathizers. Mortimer probably headed for the Willamette River, nonetheless, and worked his way to the mouth of the Columbia.
After that, Mortimer’s whereabouts are unknown. I can only speculate that he may have gone to British Columbia. The Fraser River gold fields attracted many U.S. Army deserters. Here he would have been out of the reach of Uncle Sam. Here, too, he may have met and taken up with someone who seems to have been significant in his life.
Mortimer next turns up in Coupeville, Washington Territory, in the 1870 Census. I found him by searching at Heritage Quest on his first name only:
Whidbye Island, Coupeville P.O., 26 July to 7 August 1870. Series M593, Roll 1683, page 72, line 29, dwelling 26, family 20.
BRADLEY, Philula age 40 female; white; keeping house; property 400/150; born in Canada; parents of foreign birth.
FAWCETT, Mortimer age 44 male; white; farmer; male U.S. citizen; born in Vermont.
This record implies a different birthdate than the muster roll record. If Mortimer were age 31 in 1862, per the muster roll, he would have been born ca. 1831. If he were 44 in 1870, per the U.S. Census, he would have been born ca. 1826. It is interesting to note that Philula BRADLEY is the property owner in this household of two. The 1870 Census does not give marriage information.
I have not found Mortimer or Philula in the 1871 Washington Territorial Census for Island or Snohomish Counties, nor in the 1880 U.S. Census.
I think it highly significant that the name following Mortimer’s on Louisa Fowler Sinclair’s cemetery burial list is BRADLEY (first name unknown). This is at least circumstantial evidence that Mortimer and Philula both may have been buried in the Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery. There is no marker for (first name unknown) BRADLEY’s grave.
Searching for Mortimer pre-war, I found:
A reference to a marriage between Mortimer FASSETT and Lenora FLANDERS, 16 December 1855; the FLANDERS family resided at Clarendon, Rutland Co., Vermont; she was the presumed daughter of Benjamin FLANDERS and Cynthia McINTOSH. This reference was found on World Vital Records online, which cited The Flanders Family from Europe to America, by E. F. Dunbar, (1935), p. 416. This Mortimer and wife Lenora, according to some undocumented entries on the Rootsweb World Connect database, were the parents of Herbert Henry FASSETT. Herbert was b. Nov 1856 in Vermont, according to the 1900 Census for Windham Co., VT. I corresponded by email with FASSETT researchers Dorothy PETRY of Bellingham and Carole GREGORY in California, and found they also made reference to a son, Henry Herbert FASSETT b. 15 Feb 1858 in Rutland Co., VT. Carole GREGORY has found a remarriage in 1864 of Lenora FASSETT to Joseph STARBIRD of Mt. Holly, Rutland Co., VT.
Between 1858 and 1861, apparently, Mortimer FASSETT left Vermont for California. Searching the 1860 U. S. Census, I found: (7)
“Mortimer FAUST” age 25, laborer, born in Maine, is listed among a group of laborers. All names on this page have a check mark in the column “married within the year,” but this can’t be accurate. Most of the persons listed on the page are young men. Even underage children in a family group are checked as all having married in 1860!
So far I have not proven Mortimer’s parents, although I have found clues. Two or three related families of FASSETTs from Vermont are known to have resided in Volcano, California after 1855. In the Volcano cemetery lie the remains of Ira FASSETT, d. 12 March 1891 at the age of 72 years, 5 months, and 1 day, and his wife Julia A. (1821-1875). This would make Ira FASSETT born in 1819 and a candidate for Mortimer’s father. Midway between Volcano in Amador County and Greenwood in El Dorado County lies the town of Placerville. The pioneer Placerville FASSETTS were from Licking County, Ohio (1852) via Clarendon, Rutland County, Vermont.
My email correspondent Dorothy Petry, however, pointed me toward an Archibald FASSETT who m. Orpha BARBER 16 Dec 1830 in Clarendon, Rutland Co., VT. (8) This family appears in the 1840 Census with 1 male under age 5, 3 males aged 5-10, one male aged 30-40, two females under age 5, and one female aged 20-30. By the 1850 Census, in which Archibald is not found, he may have died or they were divorced. Carole Gregory has found a Gardener FASSETT (aged 19) and a Graves FASSETT (aged 16) living in separate families in 1850; they are the right age to be Archibald’s sons. Mortimer FASSETT has not been found in the 1850 Census either. Orpha (BARBER) FASSETT in 1850 had remarried: Asaph BUSWELL is her new husband. Her daughters Alphonsine and Amanda Melvina FASSETT, aged 13 and 11, were with her in Mt. Holly, Rutland Co., VT. These girls married two brothers: Winslow A. COLBY (Alphonsine) and John H. COLBY (Amanda Melvina) of Ludlow, Windsor Co., VT. Their Civil War widows’ pension applications both mention Orpha as their mother and Asaph BUSWELL as their stepfather. In the 1860 Census an Archibald FASSETT age 55 is living in Hounsfield, (Sacket Harbor P.O.), Jefferson Co., NY in the household of William GALLOWAY; this Archibald is a stone mason b. in Mass. who can neither read nor write.
Mortimer Fassett Timeline
Lining up these dates on a timeline, and assuming these refer to the same person:
1826? Or 1831? Mortimer S. FASSETT is born in Vermont
1855 Dec 16 Mortimer FASSETT marries Lenora FLANDERS in VT, possibly in Clarendon, Rutland Co.
1858 Feb 15 Herbert Henry FASSETT, son of Mortimer and Lenora, is born in Vermont.
1858-1860? Mortimer FASSETT travels to California
1860 Mortimer FAUST is a laborer in Greenwood Township, El Dorado County, CA
1861 Sept 18 Mortimer S. FASSETT enlists from Volcano, Amador, CA in Co. D, 4th California Infantry
1861 Sept 28 Mortimer is mustered in
1861 Oct 29-Nov 4 Company D moves from San Francisco, CA, to Fort Vancouver, WA
1862 Mortimer is stationed at Fort Yamhill in Polk Co., OR
1862 Dec 11 Mortimer FASSETT deserts from Fort Yamhill, OR
1863-1869 Mortimer is in hiding; possibly travels to Canada
1864 ca. Mortimer’s wife Lenora (FLANDERS) FASSETT apparently obtains a divorce, though no record has been found; Lenora marries about this time Joseph STARBIRD in Mt. Holly, Rutland Co., VT
1864 May 1 Winslow A. COLBY, husband of Alphonsine FASSETT and Mortimer’s presumed brother-in-law, dies as a POW in Richmond, VA. (9)
1870 August Mortimer FAWCETT is living with Philula BRADLEY on her farm at Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA
1870s Mortimer and Philula die and are buried in the Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery
So many puzzling and fascinating questions about Mortimer remain, as is evident from what this list doesn’t tell us. Who were Mortimer’s parents? When and how did Mortimer travel from Vermont to California? Did he desert his wife Lenora and his infant son? Where did Mortimer go after deserting from the Army? Where did he meet Philula BRADLEY? What was their relationship? When and where did Mortimer and Philula die?
The other (recent) bronze plaque in the cemetery reads “McCALSU, U. S. Soldier.” This plaque is of a type identical to Mortimer FASSET’s, at the base of the west side of a tall tree, in Row 4. This tree is a living maple that has not been trimmed, located to the left of, and behind, the larger, cut-off, ivy-covered triple tree trunk that bears the cemetery sign. The grave is located near those of S.M. and A.D. DeSELLE and two unknown burials marked “Father” and “Mother.”
A Google search on the surname McCALSU turned up no more than two references, both to this grave. I believe the spelling of the name is a mistake, and explains the lack of success in finding out more about this person. Louisa Fowler SINCLAIR’s handwritten list appears to be the source for this name. The letters “McCALS”—can be made out, but the final strokes are partly covered by the line “Desel Baby” written above. Could the name she wrote have been something like McCALS—TER? Could it have been McCALSA? The sole reference to this surname is the presence on a passenger list of James and Catherine McCALSA, of Louth, County Fermanagh, Ireland, sailing on the ship Mary Ann in her second 1853 voyage, from Londonderry to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. (10) Unfortunately I have found no other reference to the McCALSA surname, which may be a misspelling too.
(1) Christine Cecilia Fowler, The History of the Fowlers. Batavia, NY: Miller-Mac Publishing Co., 1950.
(2) Petroff, John. “Message from Our President,” MHS Newsline [Mukilteo Historical Society Newsletter], Summer 2009, pp. 2, 9.
(3) Information about Mary, Jacob Fowler’s first wife, was gathered from various internet sources and has not been verified. See, for example, the Rootsweb World Connect family trees submitted by Stan Ross.
(4) Brig. Gen. Richard H. Orton, Records of California Men in the War of the Rebellion (1890), 89-97. Transcribed by Melody Gregory for the California Genealogy and History Archives at http://calarchives4u.com/.
(5) online at “Yaquina Bay Oysters,” ftp.wi.net/~maracon/lesson8.html
(6) The diary has been published as All Quiet on the Yamhill: The Civil War in Oregon: The Journal of Corporal Royal A. Bensell. Ed. Gunther Barth. Eugene: University of Oregon Press, 1959.
(7) 1860 U. S. Census, El Dorado County, California, Greenwood Township, 2 August 1860. Series M653, Roll 58, stamped page 713, line 15, dwelling 843, family 842.
(8) Email from Dorothy Petry to Pat Jorgenson May 2010 gives Mortimer’s parents as Archibald FASSETT and Orpha BARBER. Email from Carole Gregory to Margaret Summitt 6 May 2010 “Re: Archibald Fassett’s Sons.” Carole Gregory is tracing her ancestry through Orpha Barber Fassett Buswell.
(9) Information about Winslow A. Colby’s Civil War service was posted by Carole Gregory to Ancestry. Com 9 April 2004.
(10) Irish Passenger List 1847-1871: List of Passengers Sailing from Londonderry to America on ships of the J. & J. Cooke Line and the McCorkell Line. Compiled under the direction of Brian Mitchell. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., INC Library of Congress catalogue card no. 87-82306; ISBN 0-8063-12-6-8; online at Rootsweb.com FERMANAGH-GOLD-L archives.
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