I regret to say that, after having seen this painting of Thomas Howard (Duke of Norfolk and uncle to Anne Boleyn) about a gazillion times, it JUST occurred to me that he is not actually holding some kind of Tudor snooker cue. For the student of history, this is definitely a facepalm moment.


The gold staff is actually his staff of office as Earl Marshall of England.

However, I bet he could have played snooker with it if he’d wanted.

I doubt he would have wanted, though. Sigh.

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog, and it cracks me right up.

This has nothing to do with my family history, just for the record. However, a friend recently reminded me about this blog, and it bears reading for any lover of medieval culture with a funny bone.

A recent entry about Star Wars just killed me so I thought I’d post a snippet here for your enjoyment. Among other things, he writes a verse about several characters who meet on a pilgrimage. Here is the first part of that verse from “A Long Time Agoon in a Shire Far Away”:


Ther was a SMUGGELERE, and he the beste,
Wyth gowne of whit and snazzye litel veste.
He hadde a shippe that was a noble vessel
For in twelf parsekkes it had yronne the Qessel;
At customes houses nevir did he pause –
For resoned he ther was but litel cause:
To paye a tax or impost made hym wood,
And I seyde his opinioun was good:
Why sholde hys labour fatten up the paunches
Of bureaucrates that sitte upon their haunches
And tak their paye from honest merchauntes werke?
This good man kepte the officiales in the derke
And oft he wolde in his shippes floore hyde.
From oon ende of the sterres to the other syde,
He hadde yflowne, and seene many a wondere,
And yet he hadde no feare of Goddes thondere.
He seyde hys destinee was hys to make
Wyth blastere or wyth sleight or wyth wisecrake.
Of goold and eek of love he had a thirste,
In altercaciouns he ay shot firste.

(sigh) This made my heart happy. ❤ Seriously, go read it. And check out his Twitter account too, because it's a scream.


Tale of the Drunken Postmaster

I sure wish this gentleman, a well-connected imbiber, was mine …but I don’t think he is at all related to me. I was researching the Gerwig family of Indiana and found this fellow, who is certainly a colorful character. Noted for his horsemanship during the Civil War, he became the postmaster of Chapel (also known as German), West Virginia, where he did not cover himself with glory. In fact, he was such a poor postmaster that his neighbors (neigh-bors, get it?) wrote to the government to see if they could get him replaced, AND a verse was written to memorialize what a drunk he was. Bonus: Matthias actually went to see the US President to keep his job. As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

I love the poem, partially for its awfulness, and definitely wish Matthias Gerwig was in my rogues’ gallery. Alas. 😀
(Full document can be found at: http://hackerscreek.com/norman/GERWIG.docx


Mathias Gerwig, a son of Georg Friederich and Juliana Elizabeth
(Konig) Gerwig, was born in Germany July 3, 1832 and died January 4,
1920. He emigrated to Catonsville, MD with his family in 1833 and came
to the German settlement in BRaxton County, VA (WV). with them in 1840.
He married Sarah Ellen Lloyd July 31, 1857. Sarah, a daughter of Isaac
Hyer and Catherine Mary (McPherson) Lloyd, was born in Braxton County,
VA (WV) February 27, 1839 and died there January 14, 1878.
After Sarah Gerwig’s death Matthias married Susan E. Whytsell
November 24, 1878. Susan, a daughter of Levi and Margaret (Sipes)
Whytsell, was born in Rockingham County, VA January 30, 1842 and died
before 1916. Matthias married Laura Mapes at St. Cloud, FL January 15,
Mathias was a superb horseman and served in the Civil War in General
Phillip Sheridan”s escort. He was in 91 engagements during that war.
Mathias served as a post master of German, WV (now Chapel). Marvin G.
Miller has told Mattias’ story in verse.


Marvin G. Miller

The evening breeze was blowing
And the Church was overflowing
When the preacher preached the evils of strong drink.
And he said with vim and vigor
That no sin was any bigger,
And that all the liquor should be thrown down the sink.

We know when Germans gather,
Makes no difference what the weather,
They like to take a drink their throats to cool.
Mathias Gerwig, true to breeding,
To this evil gave no heeding,
So I guess he’s no exception to the rule.

With him the preacher pleaded
That hard cider wasn’t needed
Til at last he told them, “I’ll get rid of mine.
And his sons, although they’d rue it,
Asked their father how they’d do it,
And he answered, “as we use it stein by stein.”

Now Mathias was no charmer,
‘Tho he was a wealthy farmer,
And a dandy judge of horseflesh, so they say,
But the neighbors cried “disaster”
When he became post master
Of the little town of Chapel by the way.

The good folk came together
And it wasn’t about the weather.
They talked of ousting Gerwig from his post.
And they loud and long debated,
Although most of them had stated
That the service wasn’t that of which to boast.

For a lack of something better,
They sat down and wrote a letter,
And to the high officials it was sent.
When Mathias saw the letter,
He went them one much better,
And wrote a message to the President.

Two weeks had scarce gone by us
When a letter for Mathias
Came to bring him happy news and lots of cheer.
And the ‘General Postmaster’
Could have traveled none the faster
To inform him of his job he need not fear.

Still the neighbors argued strongly
That they all were treated wrongly
And they penned more letters to those in command.
Till Mathias, nervous hearted,
Grabbed his old black hat and started
Out to see the leader of this favored land.

When he reached his destination
To the President of the Nation
He was told McKinley he couldn’t meet
But the President at last
Saw Mathias as he passed,
And bid him come in and have a seat.

He reassured Mathias
That the people there were biased,
Then they fell to reminiscing ’bout the past.
For they had oft fought in battle,
Heard the swords and muskets rattle,
And they’d shared a billet to the very last.

When General Sheridan was departed
From his men when fighting started,
Mathias was just one of twenty by his side,
And as I’ve stated in this discourse,
Mathias always loved a fast horse,
And he’d picked a mount with care on which to ride.

When Sheridan’s men were routed,
And their courage they had doubted,
He rode for twenty miles to reach their side.
Mathias was the least expected,
And the only one to match the General stride for stride.

When Mathias at last departed,
And for his home had started,
In sooth, his worries were as light as air.
And for years folks kept wondering,
How he got by with such blundering,
But Mathias kept his post and didn’t care.

Random 1880s drinking men from Colorado County, Texas - found on http://www.texasescapes.com/VintagePhotos/Timeless-Men-of-Colorado-County-Texas.htm

Random 1880s drinking men from Colorado County, Texas – found on http://www.texasescapes.com/VintagePhotos/Timeless-Men-of-Colorado-County-Texas.htm

Children of Matthias and Sarah Ellen (Lloyd) Gerwig.

33. (1). Amanda Catherine b.Jul 22 1858 d.Jun 10 1871

34. (2). George Wesley b.Nov 1 1861 d.Jun 18 1954
m.Dora Ellison Jul 21 1887

35. (3). Isaac Mathias b.Sep 4 1863 d.Jul 31 1932
m.Amand Ann Bender Dec 25 1888

36. (4). Hester Isabel b.Apr 5 1866 d.Feb 3 1943
m.Thomas J. Stonestreet Jul 21 1887

37. (5). Mary Ruhama b.May 21 1868 d.Aug 19 1941
m.Philip C. Belknap Mar 11 1886

38. (6). William Frederick b.Feb 21 1871 d.Jan 29 1879

39. (7). Ankrom Orr b.Nov 4 1872 d.Jul 9 1948
m.Louisa J. Wolfe Dec 10 1893

Children of Mathias and Susan E. (Whytsell) Gerwig.

40. (1). Minnie Margaret b.Jun 27 1880 d.Apr 17 1963
m.Maury Bolton Keith Jun 29 1902

41. (2). Lottie Dare b.Feb 1 1883 d.Mar 17 1963
m.Jackson Corley McCartney Aug 31 1904