Skeletons in the closet III – ah, here it is…
John B. Lindsay – Junior. born in Iowa, about 1846-1848, depending on which document you believe. His father went west when he was young. The judge who oversaw the care of the children after their mother died called him “a sickly child” so his care was for some years relegated to the poorhouse in Muscatine, Iowa. The second of two known John Lindsay’s in our genealogy, it is unlikely he had any recollection of his father, or mother for that matter. The fact that he is a tragic figure did not keep the family from seeing him as a disgrace. Sometime between 1856 and 1859, he was “claimed” by his aunt, Susanna Lindsay Johnston, and taken to the city of Rockford, IL. His sister Susan was likely already there, while Lizzie and Thomas Hamilton Lindsay stayed in Iowa, working in farm homes.
We know nothing of John B. Jr.’s life before October of 1863, when he enlisted in Capt. Witt’s company B of the 2nd Illinois Cavalry. His enlistment papers list him as having sandy hair, hazel eyes being 5′ 7″ tall and of average build. He served without distinction, guarding railroads and bridges and pretty much doing mop up operations after Grant had gone east, Sherman was starting for the sea, and Custer was cutting a wide swath across Louisiana and Mississippi. The second (later combined into the fourth) Illinois Cavalry may have been involved in the Red River Campaign, as their final posting was at Waco Texas, as an occupation force. It should be remembered that as a three year enlistee, he was obligated until October of 1866, unless released sooner. Officers, on the other hand, mostly resigned their commissions and went home when the war was over. When there was a muster on January 1, 1866, he was listed as a deserter, to be “stopped” for a variety of equipment including a Spencer Carbine, two swords, one dress and one battle sword – and two army ponies. Thanks to my nephew Rich, I have the battle sword, rescued from a pile of items being prepared for a rummage sale. It should be noted that in 1888, there was a general amnesty for this class of deserter, since there was no one to pay them or drill them, generally they just started walking. Being stopped with a couple of army ponies was an entirely different matter.
Eventually, he arrived home in Illinois. By 1870 he was living in Byron Illinois, with his cousin Thomas L. Johnston, also a civil war Veteran. It’s not likely that the welcome was a very warm one. He was a soldier in a pacifist family, and it is likely that by this time, he was drinking at least regularly, another trait that would not have gone over well. He worked with his cousin, (who had been widowed by the death of his cousin Susan in 1864) They worked as plasterers and painters in southern Ogle County in the area of Byron and Stillman Valley. Thomas L. Johnston is buried in Stillman Valley Cemetery.
John B. eventually left Illinois and found his way to Arizona, where he worked, at least for a time for the family of a Robert Anderson, who were sheep ranchers on Canyon Diablo, near Chavez Pass, near Flagstaff. John was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Flagstaff chapter, which was headed by a lawyer with the auspicious name of J. Guthrie Savage. John B. had a short correspondence with my grandfather, Samuel Jacob Lindsay. By 1892, the drinking had become more problematic, and when his horse was found wandering the streets of Flagstaff one morning, the sheriff, apparently tired of trying to dry him out, ordered him to the insane asylum in Phoenix. (104 miles away, according to one of Savages letters to my grandfather.) The plan, apparently was to transport him to Prescott by stage, and then to Phoenix by train. Here, the story breaks down. One account is that he was briefly left in the care of the stationmaster, whereupon he grabbed the pistol of a passerby and mortally wounded himself. The other account, was that he hung himself in a cell. But then, dead, then as now, is dead. “John was his own worst enemy, but none could have known him so close to his own end,” wrote Savage to S.J. Lindsay in April of 1892.
A brief newspaper clipping sent to S.J. Lindsay by Mrs. Anderson simply said that he died by his own hand and was buried in a paupers grave in Prescott. As of this writing, there are no records of unmarked graves, and no real hope of gaining any more details. My dear sweet Aunt Etta upon being confronted with this information, acknowledged that she knew of the story, but was unsure of the details. My dad, after allowing me to dig on my own for many years, finally gave up the brown envelope containing the correspondence from all players. His justification: “Just wanted to make sure you weren’t just diggin’ up dirt.”