Here is a genealogical puzzle that presents me with a good challenge. Among my grandfather Robert Barker's effects were a few pieces of old family silver from his mother's people, the Martins and the Gages. They are plate, not sterling, and include this pair of forks, bound in string as well as by ties of blood. The smaller fork bears the name "Sarah", who was my Gr-great grandmother, Sarah Ann Gage (1839-1880). She married John Thomas Martin (1929-1898), a Scots/Irish immigrant from County Down who settled in Ohio and sailed the Great Lakes for many years before setting up a dry goods and lumber business in Painesville, OH. The other fork, though, and its inscription, is where the mystery lies.
The initials on this dining implement are "ER to RWG". I know to whom the latter refers, for RWG can only be Rensselaer Watson Gage, born in 1804 in the town of Olcott, Niagara County, New York and the father of Sarah Ann Gage. ER, one might have thought, would be the initials of his wife, but this cannot be for he is known to have married one Mary Ann McElwaine. So who is the mysterious ER who thought well enough of my Gr-Gr-Great Grandfather to bless him with monogrammed silver (albeit plate and without a manufacturer's mark)?
RWG married in 1835 and lived until 1860. Mary Ann died in 1845, one suspects from complications from childbirth as her youngest child Julia was born that same year. Perhaps he remarried, though I have not yet seen records to confirm this. Someone would have had to help care for his infant and other young children. A copy of the 1850 census for this family lies somewhere in my files and I believe that may settle the question once I lay my hands on it. A good project for next week when Viv and the kids are away on school vacation visiting relatives and I can spread things out.
Sarah Gage Martin died three months after giving birth to my great grandmother, Alice May Martin. Her brother Louis P. Gage's former residence in Painesville is now the Brunner-Nixon Funeral Home. Something else besides a few tarnished pieces of silver remains to remind our family of these ancestors today. My cousin Cynthia has the middle name Gage, and her mother goes by "Marty" for a similar reason.