The Tenuous Thread of Life

When Minnie Bell Springsteen was born in the summer of 1882 in Norfolk County, Ontario, she had nine older brothers and sisters to look after her. Minnie’s parents, Daniel and Mary Jane Springsteen, moved their family to Lapeer County, Michigan when she was about four months old. Daniel’s grandfather Caspar Springsteen, along with his younger brother Staats, had settled in the Niagara region of the British province of Quebec after the American Revolution.

For Daniel and Mary Jane 1883 presumably dawned with the hope of opportunity and good fortune in their new home. However, sadness came on January 2 when Minnie’s brother William died. By mid-January John, Mary, Allen, Alfred, Jacob and Jamie had joined William in death, reportedly from diphtheria. Only Minnie’s oldest brothers Henry and Joseph Nelson Springsteen survived with her. Hope was born again in one more child, Sampson Howell Springsteen, who was born to Daniel and Mary Jane in December 1883. Minnie’s three brothers who were alive to see 1884 all lived into their eighties. Minnie died in 1985 at the age of 103. This story of family tragedy and durability is outlined on FindAGrave. Descendants of Daniel and Mary Jane Springsteen have lived through the endurance of a remnant of their children.

On November 25, 1944, just before his 20th birthday, Edwin Frank Springsteen was on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Essex with his friend Durward Mark “Dude” Pontius when an alarm sounded. Ed and Dude were among a line of sailors descending from the hatch when burning fuel severely injured men just behind them and those behind the grievously burned were killed before reaching safety. Gunners on the Essex deflected a kamikaze bomber pilot from an intended trajectory that could have sunk the ship, but serious loss was inflicted.

Edwin Springsteen, about 1943

After the war Dude married Ed’s sister Madge, Ed married Lois Kidder, and they started new families. My Pontius cousins, my siblings and I are grateful that Uncle Dude and Dad made it down the hatch just in time.

Edwin Springsteen, 2014
Edwin Springsteen, 2014

We naturally live our lives without giving much thought to the seeming chance of our even being born. We face opportunities and difficulties in everyday life just as our forebears did. Their faithfulness and perseverance are our inheritance. We should accept their legacy and the life we have been given with both gratitude and responsibility. We are here for a season and God alone knows when this one will end. On this day in particular we are reminded that the forces of evil would like us to live in fear. Reject that desire. In a world of calamity, potential, and wonders that are still beyond our understanding, we have a gift to live and to give.

Of course there’s more

I thought it was interesting when I discovered that my great grandfather Clyde Fisher was listed in the 1900 census as an inmate of the Ohio State Penitentiary. Further investigation revealed that he had been sentenced to three years in prison for perjury in another man’s trial.

But then, for really interesting, there’s my fourth-great grandfather Staats Springsteen. I was surprised, but not astonished, to learn of the legal charges brought against Staats, apparently by a close relative, for failure to pay obligations the relative had to cover as a guarantor of credit.

Ron Springsteen, a distant cousin in Colorado, informed me of the charges brought against Staats by Gerret Seeger. In follow-up correspondence, Ron had this to add:

I have attached to this email another court case in Ontario about Staats (it is the second one on the page).  I do not have the reference at this point but I will do some digging to see if I can tell you more about it.  It is very interesting – if you can read it.  It is just the summary of what happened at the court which says that the “Prisoner” Staats Springsteen was indicted for Sedition and was found guilty.  His sentence was to pay a fine to the King of 13 Shillings and 4 Pence.  This is wild to me and I am sorry we don’t have more to share on this.  It must not have been a huge deal since it was not a substantial amount.  For Sedition, it could have been much worse.

Summary of Sedition Case, Staats Springsteen

I think my response this time was more than a chuckle

I’m not sure what new revelation about Staats would truly surprise me any more. The more I learn, the more want to get to know him.