Bio: Ladd, Peter Albert (1846? - 1919)
Contact: Donna Cross
Surnames: Ladd, Cross, Kelsey, Polmotell, Kingsbury, Moran, Thompson, Blakely, Shoop, Palmateer
----Source: A biography written by great granddaughter, Donna Bell Cross
I am pleased to present Peter A. Ladd, my mom’s grandfather, my great-grandfather. Referring to him as my mom’s grandfather conjures up a mental picture of a small girl laughing and playing with her grandfather, sitting on his knee listening to stories about his youth, while her mother fixed dinner, doesn’t it? Not so. She never knew him. She never knew her. He died when she was three. She died giving birth to mom. Mental picture goes blank. Which is why I am so pleased to be able to tell you anything about Peter A Ladd. Unfortunately, all this information was found after my mom’s death.
Finding him was a challenge. I didn’t even know his name. Actually, my search began with his daughter, my grandmother, Gladness. An unusual name, I think. I was able to obtain her birth certificate, giving her parents names’ sort of. Her father was named as P.A. Ladd, and her mother named as Affa Polmotell, with penmanship poor enough to cast doubt. This birth record showed Affa as the mother of four children. I only had information about Gladness and her older brother, Archie; though mom had been told Gladness had older sisters who died young. Probably as infants, I thought. P.A. Ladd was born in NY, and Affa in Wisconsin. Obtaining Gladness marriage certificate gave me her fathers name as Peter A., rather than just initials. The only other thing I knew about Peter was that he had died in an old soldiers’ home. Postcards that mom handed down revealed one written by Peter to his daughter, Gladness, in July of 1910. It was a picture postcard of Camp Cleghorn, Wisconsin Veterans Home, King WI (signed P.A. Ladd). I located the WI Veterans Home and obtained Peter’s admission record, which gave his place of birth as Theresa, Jefferson County, NY. I now knew that he had enlisted from Neenah WI in August of 1864. It also gave information about his military service. He had been in the Civil War Navy, on the ship Juliet 4, serving as an ordinary seaman.
Armed with this information, I first looked to census data. The Theresa, Jefferson County NY 1850 census revealed Ann Ladd as head of household with Peter, 3, two older girls and one older brother. The 1860 census for Neenah, Winnebago County, WI revealed Peter, 13, with the William Kelsey household, wife Ann. Older brother, Rufus, was no longer listed. The two older girls, Sarah and Mary, were still there, plus three younger daughters; Almeda, Susan and Clara, with the Kelsey last name.
Peter’s Civil War records contained the most amazing personal insights. All records from this point on give the date of birth as April 02, 1846. The census data in 1850 and 1860 would indicate birth year of 1847. Did he lie about his age when he enlisted? He was discharged from Mound City Ill., 14 June 1865, with less than a year of service. His later request for disability pension states that while a member of the organization aforesaid, in the service and in the line of his duty, near Old River Landing, in the State of on Mississippi River, about April & May, 1865, he contracted rheumatism and ague, which resulted in Chronic Rheumatism from which he has suffered continuously. Several updates of disability requests gave details about when he married, who he married, names of children, where he lived and when, but best of all he was described as 5 9, 150 lbs, brown hair, blue eyes, complexion, dark. A person was emerging in my minds eye. Later applications would indicate gray hair, allowing me to see him age.
Most amazing, these Civil War records contained copies of pages from the family Bible. I cannot imagine why, but there they were. Copies of torn out pages containing deaths, births and marriages. Information I hadn’t a prayer of uncovering. I found that he first married Lodyme Alice Palmateer, June 19, 1869, who died Oct 10, 1872. On 15 Jan 1874, he married younger sister, Affa Palmateer (this surname has turned out to have seven different documented spellings). There was no indication of children by the first marriage, but four children of the second marriage. I now had confirmation that moms mother did have two sisters who had died young. I now had names, dates of birth and dates of death. One died at 15 and the other had married, and died at 28. Not what I had imagined, but young, nonetheless. These disability application updates gave details about where Peter had lived; revealing a move to Iowa in after the birth of their first child, Jessie Isabelle in December of 1976, then back to WI in 1899. I have no idea why they moved to Iowa or what families they may have traveled with. Upon returning to WI, Peter lived in Clark County until, in December of 1908, he applied for residency in the Wisconsin Veterans Home, from Neillsville, Clark County WI. Peter and Affa moved into the home on 19 January 1909.
Evidently the Home only allowed the applicant and spouse as residents. Archie had married Hazel Shoop, a neighbor from Sherwood Twp, where the Ladds were living in 1905, and moved to Washington State. Gladness address is given as Merrillan WI, where Affa’s brother Henry was living. Affa died January 12, 1910, barely a year after taking up residence in the Home and is buried in the Veterans Memorial Cemetery. The postcard from Peter to Gladness, July 1910, is addressed to Neenah WI. Gladness had come to Neenah from Merrillan to work as a domestic for Josiah and Isabella Blakely who became my mom’s paternal grandparents. I had always wondered about whether Josiah and Peter had some connection before Josiah’s son, Albert, married Peter’s daughter, Gladness. It was answered for me when I found the 1860 Neenah WI census. There they were. Both families in Neenah! And the two boys undoubtedly in the same one room schoolhouse. All I can imagine is that they became friends and never lost touch with one another. I imagine Peter as a practical, but not studious one (judging by his poor spelling and penmanship) and Josiah as the studious one. Peter went into the service at an early age, while Josiah went on to college, then seminary and became a missionary in China. But that is another story.
Peter married Ellen Kingsbury Moran after Affa’s death. Ellen’s address is given as the Veterans Home, and Peters Civil War records contained details about Ellen’s deceased husband’s record. She must have been widowed while a resident there, and Peter became a widower about the same time. Peter and Ellen’s marriage certificate was also included. I gave it only a passing glance, at first. When I really read it, I found Peter’s parent’s names. His father is also named Peter A. Ladd, and his mother is Ann Thompson. A new search in the offing. Peter died 5 January 1919. He is buried in the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, alongside both his wives.
My personal impressions after this research are that Peter never fully realized his potential or the kind of life he may have dreamed of. I will assume he was well treated by his step-father and enlisted because it was a time of crisis. I know little about his actual service, but to think that he was discharged with a disability within a year is pretty sad. Evidently, the rheumatism plagued him constantly and eventually kept him from being able to provide for his family. A note about contracting rheumatismmy dictionary gives the definition of rheumatism to be exactly what I would expect. However, the entry right above it for Rheumatic Fever says at the very end also known as rheumatism. I suspect this is what Peter really suffered from. I know very little about his time in Iowa, or what determined the move back to Wisconsin. I am grateful for the WI Veterans Home and the care he received there. I am grateful that he married after Affas death. I am grateful to know where he is buried and that the Veterans Home cares for their Memorial Cemetery.
There are other avenues of research, which I must still pursue, but I feel I have gathered enough to have some idea of who Peter A Ladd was, as a youth and as an adult. And there are others, standing in the shadows, waiting for me to find them and cast light on who they are to my heritage.
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