Mom and the Medals

My mother and her father’s WWI medals, March 14, 2017.

Mom had never known about the medals and certainly never seen them. We are very grateful to Patrick for ensuring they made their way back to us. The story is here.


The Medals


As you can see, the medals arrived (after an anxious wait on my part and that of the sender). I want to get a photo of Mom with them and I plan to get them properly framed in a shadow box.

I don’t know if my grandfather ever looked at them after he received them. Certainly, he never put them on their ribbands which are still flat and bright, like new. I expect that, for him, the medals represented something that was not as important as the work that he performed. For me, they are a tangible link to him and to history. I am so glad to have gotten them back into the family.

“The Pirate of the Wabash”

Columbus “Lum” Houchin, 3rd cousin 3X removed, counterfeiter, outlaw, and “The Pirate of the Wabash”. Yet another nut from the family tree.


Columbus, Gabriella Woolsey Houchin, and their son, Joseph Downey Houchin

Columbus and two of his brothers, Jesse and Joseph, his second wife, as well as a mistress, and others comprised a notorious coin counterfeiting gang active in Indiana and Southern Illinois in the late 1800s and early 1900s. After being arrested and convicted the first time, he was pardoned by Grover Cleveland in 1887…. and went right back to counterfeiting. He was arrested several more times, including during one “sting”, the breathless newspaper of which follows, and one, in 1901 when he allegedly “quit in disgust” but was in business for at least another year. Both he and Jesse were separately reported to have died after different incidents (neither was killed).

Columbus eventually dropped out of sight, seemingly finally retired. He is found on a 1910 census, living with his son Jesse, farming in Arkansas. In February 1922, Downey, seen in the photo, received a letter that was mailed from Arnot, Mississippi. Columbus states his health is bad and he can’t do anything any more. He also can’t see Jesse (his and Flora’s, his second wife, son).


Of Counterfeiters Made by General Foster and Treasury Detective in Pike County.

Abbott, Treasury Detective, said that for several years parties in this section of Indiana were suspected of dealing in counterfeit money, and about ten months ago it was determined upon to capture them. In order to more effectually fasten up on the guilty parties proofs of the most positive kind, Treasury Detective B.D. Hobbs was sent into the section of the country around Stendale, Holland, Huntingburg and Pikeville, where it was known that the manufacture and passing of counterfeit money was going on. Hobbs located in this neighborhood as a corn doctor, and went under the assumed name of Dr. Charley Henderson. The doctor, by leaving samples of his nostrums not only in the houses of those suspected, but in those of many others who were not, and having a smattering of the profession, soon won the confidence, not only of the gang, but the neighbors, and it was not long before he was check-by-jowl with everyone, especially the suspects. Among the latter was Zim Kinder, then a resident of Stendale, the acknowledged leader of the gang, which consisted of the Houchins, Lum, Jess and Joe, Barney Smitten, Henry Grossman, John Phillip Taylor, D. Wesley Woods, Joe Perkins (the man brought down last night) and others who were engaged in shoving the coin that Kinder manufactured. So far had Doc. gotten late their confidence that they let him into a scheme which they had formed for robbing the safe of a merchant named Poetiker, at Stendale, and the bank either at that place or Huntingburg. They also wanted to branch out in their business by going into the counterfeiting of paper money. Henderson was selected to procure the tools for the robberies as well as the paper on which they were to do their counterfeiting. This was about two weeks ago. Arrangement had been made by Henderson, now that he had all the proof necessary to convict the counterfeiters, to have as many of the gang together as possible on his return to that the difficulty of their capture would be lessened. To this end, he suggested that as many as could get there should be a Lum Houtchins’ house on Thursday night last. Henderson then make his further arrangement for the necessary assistance in effecting the arrests. During all of his stay among the rascals, he has called to his assistance a Mr. J.M Killian, who kept a tinware store in Stendale, and who ably assisted him when the crisis came. Four detectives with deputy marshal Andy Hart went ahead for the purpose of surrounding Houchins’ house, leaving the General to follow after. Henderson placed Abbott, Kennoch and Hart to the rear and side of the house, while he and Killian entered. Henderson, as soon as everything was ready, was to notify the detectives on the outside and they were to rush in and make the capture. Henderson was in the house about three quarters of an hour before he notified Abbott that everything was ripe. The signal for the rush to be a cough. The detectives closed up around the house and shortly after Henderson entered they heard high words, but not sufficiently distinct to tell what was said. The signal was given, but when they attempted to enter found the doors barred against them and immediately after heard pistol shots. Killlian, who was holding the lamp in the left hand was shot, in the hand, causing him to drop the lantern and pulling [?]. Abbott and Kennoch then ran around to the front door after posting Hart at the side door, and tried to get a view of what was going on inside by peeping through a window next to the door. Their faces were within two feet of the window when a pistol sot was fired through it, followed by the body of a man. The ? were afraid to shoot, for fear that it might be either Henderson or Killian. The fellow stumbled, picked himself up and ran around behind the stable where he was afterward found shot through the lungs. This proved to be Joe Houchins. A second later another man came through the door running toward the rear of the house, followed by two or three balls from the detectives’ pistols. This was the end of the firing. The officers then entered the home, and after getting a light, it was searched and ? Houchins found stowed away in it. After securing Joe and Lum, the officers commenced picking up others of the gang living in the neighborhood. The man that came through the door was caught afterward about two miles form the Houchins’ home, found shot in the groin, in the arm and in the lower part of his back. This was Jesse Houchins. Lum had the marks of two pistol balls that had cut the skin on his arm. Hart had his hat and the lapel of his coat penetrated by pistol balls. After securing the Houchins, Smitten, Grossman, Taylor and Woods were easily found, and were all brought here yesterday morning en route to Indianapolis. Kinder, who was brought down by Deputy Meeks, is still in our jail, as is Perkins. They will be taken to Indianapolis this morning by Abbot and Kennock. The detectives now think they have pretty effectually broken up the gang that has been coming on the confines of Pike an Warrick. Mr. Abbot related an instance of what these desperadoes were capable of doing and this fear they kept the neighborhood in. some time in August Houchins and Kinder went into the saloon kept by a man named Burnett and called for a couple of drinks, offering a five dollar gold piece in payment. Burnett knew the money was counterfeit, and told them so as he shoved it back to them. The words were scarcely out of his month before they both whipped out their revolvers, curling him, and told him that if he didn’t give them $4.50 in change they would blow his brains out. He gave them the change.

from the Jasper Weekly Courier, 9 Nov 1883, page 1, Jasper Indiana

The Eyebrow of Doom™®© appears to run in the family!


Untimely Fate

I have been, as usual, been working on the family tree. There are many times when I find something really unexpected. Sometimes I find something that verifies something that I knew or turns what I thought I knew on its head. And, occasionally, I find something that I had completely forgotten. This is one of the latter.

My mother had related the story of “someone” who stepped off a tram platform to cross the street and was knocked down by an army truck. I couldn’t recall who this unfortunate “someone” was and sort of put it into the dark recesses of my memory.

The other day, I was searching for information about my great-grandmothers, my mother’s paternal grandmother, Jane Spence Soutar. I knew she died in 1940, 5 years after her husband, William Bowie McIntosh, seen here on their Golden anniversary.


My mother never really liked her because she was always critical of her.

She had broken off communication with my grandfather shortly into the War after what was a very silly thing that she did. Prideful.

She was evacuated from Newcastle because of the danger of bombing and had gone to live with my grandparents in Dumfries. She was nasty and spent her time criticizing my grandmother and complaining about the food and my grandmother and her cooking and just about everything.

Late one night, after bitterly complaining about the food and refusing to eat, my grandfather heard sounds from the kitchen. He went down and discovered her down in the kitchen eating all the food she complained about the day before. He tore a strip off her, pointing out that she was a guest in his house, and that her complaining about and wasting food (that was rationed) and then sneaking down and eating was not just rude and in bad form, it was unpatriotic.

The next morning she packed her bags and left and never talked to him again. His sisters, all but one, refused to speak to him, also. And SHE burned her bridges after the war and my grandfather’s death.

I am not sure how long before her death the above happened. At least a couple of years.

Yesterday, I was searching the British Newspaper Archives and came across this news story.


According to another report, the ladies had their umbrellas up and couldn’t see the truck. My great grandmother died later in hospital.

(A.R.P.: Air Raid Precautions)


Seven years ago, I posted this photo of my grand father on Shorpy.

Private J.E. McIntosh

Private J.E. McIntosh

I hadn’t bothered to check back to see if there were comment. As luck would have it, I happened to check back last week and found a comment from a military enthusiast and collector of memorabilia who informed me that he thought he had my grandfather’s WWI medals. He bought them on eBay and wondered if I wanted to have them. Did I?!! Panic ensued when I noticed that the comment was left last year!

I immediately emailed him and was relieved to know that not only did he still have the medals, they ARE my grandfather’s, and that, yes, he would part with them!


The medals are on their way. I’m not sure how they eBay but either they were given to one of his sisters and ended up in contents for sale or, and this is very likely, were “liberated” by the removals man my mother’s aunt engaged to pack my mother’s belongings when she emigrated to Canada in 1953. There were two removals companies in Dumfries, brothers. They owned different companies. One was less than reputable and my mother told her aunt to go to the other one. Apparently, she got confused and went to the first one. He packed some of her stuff, piling china in tea crates with too little packing material and burned what books and papers of her father’s that she had not. Much of what HAD been packed ended up falling on the dock im Montreal and into the St. Lawrence River or was smashed in transit. I suspect he may have sold some of the belongings, including the medals.

So here is a family Christmas tree story.

Mom’s Life of Crime

When my mother was still living in Dumfries, Scotland, her father had always brought in a tree that they had dug up the first year they moved to the town, in a tub. After Christmas, it would go out in the shed until it could be planted across the road on the edge of the farmer’s field across the road (now all houses). Towards the beginning of spring, it would be replanted across the road, and before the next Christmas, dug up, again. When my Grandfather died in 1945, my Mom and grandmother had to move out of the manse and into a flat farther away. The tree stayed where it was.

My grandmother had cancer by then, the flat was small, and money was tight (both because of my grandfather’s death and the post-war prices) so a tree was really not an option.

In 1950, Mom really wanted to get a tree for what was likely my grandmother’s last Christmas. So she went to where someone was selling Christmas trees but they were WAY too expensive. So my Mom embarked on the only criminal act in her life.

After dark, she went back to the tree lot and broke some of the lower branches of several trees where they would probably be cut anyway. She took them home, tied them together with ribbon, and her mother had a Christmas tree for what did turn out to be her last Christmas. She died in November of 1950.


Old photos

I finally found some old photos of Mom, taken about 1936-1938 or so. She’d be 12 or 14 or so.

At first she couldn’t identify the location. However, after I showed her the photo on my iPhone and could enlarge them for her, she readily identified the location as “a botanical garden in Lincolnshire”. In looking for a likely place, I found that Lincoln has an arboretum and photos seem to indicate that the pond she is kneeling at, minus the flowers, are a match with the one at the arboretum. Gone are the gardens, sadly.



Great Uncle John Tocher

I got an email today from another Tocher cousin, my second (third?) cousin. He was able to give me a bit more information about his grandfather and my great uncle John Tocher. My great uncle John Tocher, seated at right, aboard the Steam Ship Heronpool, circa 1910. Engineer, designer of the Portobello Wave Pool, Edinburgh.He went on to be a successful engineer.

Uncle John narrowly missed death in the sinking of the submarine HMS Thetis on its maiden voyage. Uncle John suffered from claustrophobia and decided not to go aboard. It sank, with 99 lives aboard lost. Two men managed to escape through a hatch and four others died trying the same escape route.

“On June 1, 1939, Thetis prepared to make its maiden voyage. The voyage was to be a test run and dive in the home waters of Liverpool Bay. Conditions on board were extremely cramped, with the submarine carrying 103 men – twice the number she was designed to carry. Thetis being launched Many aboard were engineers from Cammell Lairds. Only 69 of Thetis’s crew were sailors, the rest were mainly engineers from Cammell Laird. Laird’s workers were offered the opportunity to disembark prior to the dive, but all chose to stay aboard.”

For three days, those trapped inside the submarine waited for rescue before succumbing to the effects to carbon dioxide poisoning.

Family Tree!

A few weeks ago, someone who I ran into on Facebook and who is someone who has been researching the Tocher family (my grandmother’s family) was able to give me a clue which helped clear up a quandary I had. I was going in circles because my GGgrandfather Tocher had married twice and had two families… That confused my efforts to find the connection farther back with his wife’s family, the Balfours and Turnbulls.

Two nights ago, I finally sat down to add the information she had given me to my family tree on and then did a couple of Googles. Lo and Behold! I found a website where someone had photos from their family tree and two of the tiny thumbnails just about knocked me out of my chair!

I had been looking at them, or at least the faces of the two people all my life! They are my GGG grandmother and GGG grandfather! I have had the locket, seen below, all my life.

George Balfour and Margaret Turnbull

And here they are! Along with a large number of photos I hadn’t seen before, many of them Turnbull sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews of my GG grandmother.

Margaret Turnbull and George Balfour

To add to my joy was another pair of photos – Captain Brown and Janet Bell Balfour. Captain John Brown and his wife were familiar to my through two family stories, though I didn’t know how, exactly, they fit into my family. Janet, it turns out was my GG grandmother’s sister.

Captain John Brown and Janet Bell Balfour

The first story I have heard is that the Captain, accompanied by his wife sailed the South Seas carrying various lots of cargo about. He was, according to the story, the last or one of the last ships out of the harbour at Java just before the eruption of Krakatoa. They had to jettison their cargo of pianos to lighten the load. Much to Janet’s dismay, her piano had to go, too.

When the Captain retired, he did so bringing his parrot. On day, the parrot escaped and the Captain was forced to go out in the rain to look for it. He found it and to punish it, he held it out from the under the umbrella and it was heard to say, in perfect imitation of his wife, “John! It’s cold out here!”

My cousin and I spoke today, on Skype, and he showed me the album and will be sending me high res. images of any we are able to identify as family.

I did more work on it last night. Lots of interesting things!

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