Curtis Nelson Sisty (1830-1865)
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Curtis Nelson Sisty was born in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, on 19 August 1830, the youngest of the ten children of William Sisty and Mary Roth (see The Case for the Parentage of Curtis Nelson Sisty). The 1850 census shows him boarding at a tavern in Lausanne Township, Carbon County, occupation engineer. On 6 February 1856, at the age of 25, he married nineteen-year-old Susan Bowman Butler. The couple was married by Ashbel G. Harned, VDM, in Nesqhehoning, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. Susan was born in Pennsylvania in January 1837, to James R. and Elizabeth K. Butler. Curtis and Susan had two children: Elizabeth Butler Sisty, born 27 May 1859, baptized 10 January 1863 at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Nesquehoning, and Robert Butler Sisty, born 1 May 1861. 
On 28 August 1861, at the age of 31, Curtis enlisted at Philadelphia in the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry, then being raised by Col. Josiah Harlan (the regiment was originally called “Harlan’s Light Cavalry”). His enlistment was for 3 years. He had been enrolled by Capt. Samuel Wetherill, Company H, at Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, 11 days earlier. Once organized, the regiment marched, on 16 October, from Camp Harlan, on 7th Street in Washington, D.C., to Camp Palmer, near Ball’s Cross Roads in Virginia, and in November, to Camp Hamilton, in Hampton, Virginia. From October 1861 to May 1862, the regiment underwent a course of instruction and drill. On his earliest muster roll, from September 1861, Curtis was referred to as “Corporal.” He received a promotion to 3rd Corporal on 1 May 1862.
From June 1862 to June 1863, the regiment was at Suffolk, Virginia, employed in picket duty, scouting and patrol duty. They scouted the area from the James River in Virginia to Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. The regiment, which was then armed mainly with sabres and revolvers, took part in the defeat of the forces under Confederate General Pryor at the Battle of Deserted House in January 1863, an attack on the rebel forces at Franklin in March, and the successful defense of Suffolk during the siege of that place by forces under General Longstreet from 11 April to 3 May, following which they tore up the railroad tracks from Suffolk to Franklin. Curtis was described as “on duty as Provost Guard” during much of this period. He was promoted to 4th Sergeant on 23 October 1862.
The regiment was encamped in and around Portsmouth, Virginia, from June 1863 to January 1864. During this time, they took part in a number of expeditions. In June, the enemy’s works at the Virginia Central Railroad Bridge over the South Anna River, near Hanover Court House, north of Richmond, were taken. The next month, the 11th took part in a failed effort to destroy the bridge on the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad. Towards the end of July, the regiment was part of an unsuccessful raid into North Carolina for the purpose of destroying the railroad bridge at Weldon. In another expedition, in October, the regiment proceeded by water to Mathes County, Virginia, in order to suppress contraband trade. Curtis was promoted to Company Quarter Master Sergeant on 1 July 1863.
Taking advantage of General Order 191, War Department, Series 1863, which offered a bounty of $402 plus a 30-day furlough to any veteran that would re-enlist for an additional 3 years, Curtis re-enlisted. His current enlistment was terminated as of 31 December 1863, and his new enlistment – once again in Company H of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry – began the following day. As part of his discharge, he was charged fourteen cents for: 2 letters, 2 numbers, 2 cross sabres and 2 eagles. These were the emblems typically worn on cavalry headgear. The cross-sabres patch, the emblem of the cavalry, was worn on the front of the hat. The eagle patch was worn on the left or right side of the hat and held the brim on that side up against the crown. The fact that he had two of each, may mean that he had two hats. The numbers and letters go above and below the sabres. The numbers would have been ‘11’s, indicating his regiment, and the letters were undoubtedly ‘H’s, indicating his company. His re-enlistment entitled him to wear the chevron of a veteran volunteer on his sleeve.
In January 1864, the regiment went to Williamsburg to participate in a surprise attack on Richmond set for early February. When word of the planned attack leaked out, the mission was aborted. On 16 January Curtis received a promotion to 1st sergeant, and , on 17 February, he embarked on a 30-day furlough in connection with his re-enlistment.  The regiment returned to Portsmouth in April.
In early May, the 11th took part in an expedition against the Weldon Railroad near the Nottaway River, south of Petersburg, Virginia. They “charged and drove back a regiment of rebel infantry guarding the railroad bridge over the Nottoway” and burned the bridge. Later that day they engaged and defeated an enemy force at Jarrett’s Station. Following this expedition, Companies B and H were sent on detached duty to serve with the 18th Corps, part of the Army of the James, which was commanded by General Butler, and which had just arrived at Bermuda Hundred, on the James River, in Virginia. On the 16th of May, the army suffered a defeat at Drewry’s Bluff and then retreated to its former position on the James.
On the 27th, the 18th was ordered to reinforce the Army of the Potomac, proceeding partly by water, and partly overland, to Cold Harbor, where it took part in the battle at that place which took place from 31 May until 12 June. It was one of the final battles of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign. In the end, the Union forces, after repeated attempts, were not able to dislodge the Confederates from their positions. The battle was a defeat for the Union accompanied by great loss of life, the 18th taking over 3,000 casualties. It was at Cold Harbor that Curtis contracted the disease that would ultimately take his life.
After Cold Harbor, the 18th proceeded to Petersburg, assaulting the Confederate works there on the 15th of June, following which they took up positions in the trenches around the city, participating in the campaign that would ultimately bring the war to a close – the Siege of Petersburg.
On 20 June Curtis checked into the hospital established near Gen. Butler’s headquarters at Point of Rocks during the siege. From there, he was transferred to the U. S. Army General Hospital near Fort Monroe, Hampton, Virginia. On 17 October, he was again transferred, this time to White Hall U.S. Army General Hospital, near Bristol, Pennsylvania. The following day, inexplicably, he was reduced to the ranks by order of Col. Spear and was listed as a private in subsequent company muster rolls. However, on the hospital rolls, he remained a 1st Sergeant, as well as on his discharge papers, and his wife’s widow’s pension records.
On 2 November, Curtis was granted a twenty-day furlough from White Hall and returned to his family in Nesquehoning. On the 16th, he was attended by a local physician - Dr. Richardson - who wrote White Hall saying that Curtis was too sick to return at the expiration of his furlough. Curtis died at Nesquehoning on 25 January 1865 of chronic diarrhea and was buried in the Village Cemetery in Mauch Chunk.
Under the Act of July 14, 1862, Susan applied for and was granted a widow’s pension of $8 per month commencing on the date of Curtis’ death. In 1867, based on the Act of July 25, 1866, which granted an increase to widow’s with children under 16, Susan applied for and received an additional $2 per month for her daughter Elizabeth. Robert, who was mentioned in the earlier pension application, was not mentioned in this one, from which we conclude that he died sometime between 28 February 1865 and 9 January 1867, the dates of the two pension applications. In 1879, based on the Act of January 25, 1879, which established that pensions should commence as of the date of death of the soldier rather than on the date of the application, Susan applied for arrears payments. Her $8 per month was based on her husband’s date of death, so she must have been referring to the $2 a month increase, which was based on the date of the enactment of that law as it should have been. Her application was rejected.
By 1870, 11-year-old Elizabeth was in the Soldiers’ Orphans’ School in Harford, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. Susan couldn’t be found in the census that year, although it is possible that she was living with her sister-in-law Elizabeth (Sisty) Betterly and her husband Thomas in Huntington Township, Luzerne County (see The Case for the Parentage of Curtis Nelson Sisty). In 1880 and again in 1900, Susan was living with her mother in Mauch Chunk. Her occupation was listed as dressmaker. Susan died 19 May 1906 in Fortuna, California, where, presumably, she had gone to live with her daughter Elizabeth (Sisty) Norwood and family.
In 1880, Elizabeth, then 21, was a live-in servant in the home of William Andres in North Whitehall, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. On 13 October 1886, she married William J. Norwood in Carbon County. The couple was married by Rev. Frederick Tilman. William was born in Nesquehoning 16 April 1859, the son of Joseph Norwood and Rebecca York, both of whom were born in England. William and Elizabeth had one son – Nelson Sisty Norwood – who was born 2 June 1889 in Nesqhehoning. By 1900, the family had moved to 1517 22nd Avenue, Oakland, California, where William was employed as a bookkeeper. In 1910, the family lived on Main Street in Rohnerville Township, Humboldt County, California. William is listed in that census as a laborer, and Nelson was a stenographer. The family had taken in several boarders. Nelson’s WWI draft registration indicates that in 1917 he was living in the Annea Hotel in Prescott, Arizona, employed as an Assistant Clerk for the Board of Supervisors of Yavapai County. In 1920, the family was living at 6th Street, Fortuna, still in Rohnerville Township. William is described in that census as an oiler in a saw mill and Nelson, who is back living with the family, as a returned soldier. He had enlisted 10 May 1918 and been released from the service on 3 December of that year. By 1930, the family had moved to 1247 ½ South Fedora Street, in Los Angeles. Elizabeth died on 16 March 1938 at Chappel Rest Home in Los Angeles of breast cancer. She was cremated. William died 6 June 1939 of heart disease at his home on 1720 South Union Avenue, Los Angeles, and was cremated as well.
Nelson, at the age of 48, married Fannie Jannet Thorlakson, also 48, on 6 February 1938 in Orange, California. Fannie was born in North Dakota (one source says South Dakota) on 26 September 1889, the daughter of Goodman Thorlakson and Freda Eanarson, both of whom were born in Iceland. She had been married previously to Michael Joseph (or Joseph Michael) Murphy on 22 May 1912 in the City of Quebec. The couple had two children: Verona Frances Murphy (born 28 March 1913 in Canada, died 11 May 1982 in Los Angeles) and Arthur Stanley Murphy (born 17 May 1914 in Victoria, British Columbia, died 9 September 1974 in Nanaimo, British Columbia). The couple was divorced by August 1925. In 1930, Fannie was living with her children at 120 Witmer Street, Los Angeles, employed at house work for a private family.
Nelson and Fannie had no children of their own. By 1940, the couple, along with Fannie’s son Arthur Murphy, was living at 2454 Belgrave Avenue, Huntington Park, Los Angeles. Nelson was employed as a gas pipe fitter and, in 1942, was working for the Southern California Gas Company.
Fannie Jannet Norwood (formerly Gudfinna Kristiana Norwood) was issued a certificate of naturalization by the U.S. District Court of Los Angeles on 25 July 1941. We know she was born in the United States, but she was married in Canada and her two children were born there. So, it is likely that she became a Canadian citizen at some point, explaining the U.S. naturalization in 1941.
Nelson died 26 December 1977, in Los Angeles, and Fannie died there on 30 June 1982. Her address at the time was 10426 South Bogardus Avenue. She was cremated and her ashes buried in Memory Garden Memorial Park, Brea, California.
|Last updated: Sunday, 09-Sep-2018 18:57:07 MDT |||Author: Larry McGrath|