Monday, December 10, 2018

Lucinda Honstain's Civil War #4

I've changed my mind after looking at these top two pictures. This bearded man with a middle aged paunch may indeed be a portrait of Lucinda Ward Honstain's husband John Baptiste Honstain in her 1867 sampler quilt. Despite their public fighting after he returned home from soldiering in North Carolina in the summer of 1865, this figure does look like the portrait below.

Lucinda Ward Honstain's husband John Baptiste Honstain is unlikely to have been one of the soldiers  pictured on her 1867 sampler quilt as they had been publicly fighting since he returned home from soldiering in North Carolina in the summer of 1865.

See previous posts in the last few days on the Honstain Family War as reported in the Brooklyn Eagle.

This may be a portrait of Lucinda's husband.

In April, 1866 the Eagle explained:
"The matter has created a lively interest throughout the Eastern District [the neighborhood], where all the parties and their past and present grievances, both matrimonial and otherwise are very well known. Honstain has been associated with too many scrapes, which have been adjudicated in the lower Courts...."
What kind of scrapes? Well, it's a long story and hard to figure out as John B. Honstain seems to have been a first-rate liar.

Here he is in the 1865 state census at age 40, recorded as living with wife Lucinda, their daughter Emma and son-in-law Hamilton Bingham. He declared he was born in Canada, which is probably the truth. Honstain seems to be a German name; his mother was Mary Jane Meyers (1797-1877) from Quebec; his father, another John Honstain, was a Prussian immigrant. The family moved to New York some time after John Baptiste's birth in 1821.

He was a soldier. Suzanne Antippas finds references to the New York State Militia, where he may have met Lucinda when they were in their early 20s near her home in Sing Sing (Ossining.) In later life he said he fought in the Florida Seminole Wars and the Mexican War of the late 1840s. Before the war he is listed in directories as a tailor and a clothing seller.

Soon after the Civil War began John Honstain joined the 4th New York Infantry. His sword was auctioned on eBay a few year ago with a good deal of paperwork about him. The auction copy is muddled but mentions he "was dismissed from the military in August of 1862 for personal reasons."

The actual reasons seem to be a disagreement with a superior and his effective desertion during which he was captured by Confederate troops and held in prison for a few months. Some sources indicate he was exchanged although he denied this all his life, saying he disguised himself as a Confederate doctor and escaped.

An 1889 military history says he was "cap [tured]. at Tarborough, N.C. July 22, 1863, held in Libby Prison until October 24, 1863, when he escaped; never exchanged." Or maybe it was Andersonville Prison he escaped from, according to records at his gravesite in Ohio.

I can see him muttering "No exchange! No exchange" for the rest of his life. He doesn't mention his discharge after the desertion, when he went back to New York and in the summer of 1862 raised a Company (I) for Spinola's Empire Brigade, the Hillhouse Light Infantry, encouraging recruits to come by the house in Brooklyn in the evenings to sign up.

July, 1862 ad in the New York Herald

We then find him in the fall in of 1862 in the 132nd New York Hillhouse Infantry as a Major.  He was injured in an ammunition explosion at the Battle of Batchelder's Creek near New Bern, North Carolina in June, 1864.

The 132nd Regiment's Colors

Block from Lucinda's quilt

I go into detail here because it does give us an idea of Lucinda's wartime experiences worrying about her husband (I bet he was quite a charmer) and because these facts were replaced with so many alternate facts by John Honstain after the war.

As we have seen their marriage did not survive the war by many months. They separated, fought, spent time in court and he soon left New York, moving first to Wisconsin where brother Edward lived and then to Ohio where he obtained a divorce. He remarried at least twice, fathering several more children, half-siblings to Emma back in Brooklyn. He changed his name variously to John B. Housteau and Jean Housteau, living under Housteau until the end of his life in 1911.

Hannah Lamira Housteau St. John's grave.
She married again after John left.

His second wife was a Wisconsin relative Hannah Lougue Lamira (1846-1888), married January 1, 1867, according to Melissa Jurgena's findings. They had a daughter Jennie (1868-1910).

His third: Stephenia Siefert, born in Germany in 1850, married April 19, 1870, with whom he had five children. In Youngstown, Ohio he was again a tailor and a clothing retailer, partnering with George E. McNab for a few years. He and Stephania were active in the Union Veterans' organizations the Grand Army of the Republic and the  auxiliary Women's Relief Corps. He was successful, building a large house at 1011 Mahoning Avenue in 1886.

Suzanne Antippas read his pension records, writing: "Honstain tried many times to secure a Civil War pension but in a miracle of coordination of military paperwork, the Pension Office put his two regimental records together and denied the pension because of the court martial. He even petitioned his congressman, who did the same."

John wrote a biography published in the 1903 Genealogical & Family History of Eastern Ohio, which I will post here just to give you an idea of his personality. Lies in yellow.
"John Baptiste Housteau, a merchant tailor at Youngstown, Ohio... was born on the Rhine, in France, June 15, 1821, and is a son of John Housteau, who was born also in France, in 1749, and died at Toronto, Canada, aged one hundred and fourteen years. Our subject escaped from his home in Paris as a stowaway on a ship, when only nine years old. 
In the spring of 1831 he landed at New York, and he can recall the time when the present site of Castle Garden was but a swamp and morass. He attended the laying of the corner stone of Bunker Hill monument, and he can recall the time when not a single railroad crossed the state of New York. His life has been full of adventure, and he has seen much military service.  
He belonged, as lieutenant, to Company I, Thirteenth New York Regulars, in the Seminole war in Florida, and was captain of the first Zouave regiment organized in New York for service in the Civil war, and raised the first company. He served all through the war and arose to the rank of colonel and acting brigadier general, being promoted for gallantry. "

They bought it all in Youngstown and supposedly erected a statue of him there.

Lucinda seems to have been well rid of him. I tell you all this just to emphasize that even if she missed some good times, it seems quite unlikely   SEE ABOVE.  If he is any of the soldiers portrayed on her wonderful quilt which seems to have been stitched during the months of their separation, he is probably the unflattering depiction of the horseman at the top of this post.

Obituary for "Colonel Housteau," 1911

That's the end of the Honstain posts for now. 


  1. An epic tale. I would agree - he would have to be depicted on a family story quilt, so why not make him pot bellied!!! Almost like having the last word for many years!

  2. This series was very interesting. What caught my eye in today's post was that he built a large house at 1011 Mahoning Ave. My Mother was born in and raised at a house at 5416 Mahoning Ave. On the corner of Mahoning and Kroeck Ave. (her maiden name) I believe the house was built in 1898. I have fond memories of visiting (we lived in CA) my grandparents there during the 4th of July and watching the parade down Mahoning Ave. Just makes me wonder if any of my relatives had any dealings with John Honstain as my great, great grandfather August Kroeck owned a carriage and blacksmith shop during that time frame. Small world!

  3. An interesting story! Thanks for sharing all the research the two of you did.

  4. I read many genealogy blogs and reading you lately I have to remind myself,,,, quilts, quilts, quilts! I can't help but wonder if he was a drunk. Interesting that the German wife seem to have gotten him to act like a husband.

    Well, there are more blocks to go on this quilt so will look for your posts in a day or two.