Tag Archives: Maryland

A Story of Desertion


Today was a first. The first time I have seen the charge of desertion against an ancestor. It was during the Revolution.

The man in question is Goodhart Tressler, a resident of Maryland of German descent. According to his company captain, a John Kershner, Goodhart deserted his post on June 2nd, 1778. The soldiers were stationed at Fort Frederick, Maryland at the time, guarding prisoners.

Perhaps one of these days I will be able to dig up more details on this story. What prompted him to walk away? Was the wife and family in trouble?

Goodhart was the great-grandfather of my great-great grandmother Ellen Catherine Lint. The name Catherine, or Katherine, had been passed down through the generations, beginning with Goodhart’s wife, Catharina.


Captain Elijah Bonner and the George Family

Capt. Elijah Bonner
Capt. Elijah Bonner

I didn’t know about Elijah Bonner until discovering him years ago on the 1850 census, living in Baltimore with my great-great grandfather Wesley1 George, who was nine at the time, and his mother Elizabeth, 44, and sister, also named Elizabeth, 11.

At first I didn’t think this was the right family. However, when I received a copy of Wesley’s death certificate naming his parents, Jacob Will and Elizabeth George, I reevaluated my initial conclusion. I am now convinced these are the people I’ve been looking for so many years.

Elijah was born in 1828 in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. In 1850 he was employed as a waterman.2 By the time of his unexpected death in 1895, he’d risen through the ranks of American shipping, becoming a highly regarded captain. He was often named, usually with the names of his ships alongside, among the shipping news in The Baltimore Sun and other newspapers on the East Coast.

View of Baltimore, Maryland in 1850
View of Baltimore, Maryland in 1850

In 1880, Wesley was gone, living in Poweshiek County, Iowa. This is where my great grandmother, Nora Frances George, was born. My mom remembers her fondly.

In Baltimore in 1880, continuing to live in the same household, were Elijah and Elizabeth, although there was now someone else, Elijah’s wife, Julia. Elizabeth is listed as an aunt. I am assuming she was aunt to Julia, hoping that her maiden name was also George.

Elijah Bonner died while in Boston on October 10, 1895. An obituary was published in the Morning Sun on October 12, 1895.

Capt. Elijah Bonner, one of the most prominent figures in the Baltimore fleet of vessels in the Brazilian trade, died Thursday night at the American Hotel, Boston, Mass.He left Baltimore Wednesday in apparently good health and went to Boston on business. Heart failure is supposed to have been the cause of his death. The body will arrive here today and will be taken to Captain Bonner’s home, 2003 Bolton Street. The Captain was born in Anne Arundel county, Md., sixty-seven years ago. At an early ago he took to the sea and became master of a vessel before reaching his majority. He commanded the schooners Jackson, Alabama, and Louisiana, the brig Alice and the back Seneca, and built the barkentine Adda J. Bonner. When he sold the last named vessel to F. W. Willson & Son, she had earned (9)00,000 for her owners above cost and running expenses.After this Captain Bonner entered as master of the fleet of C. Morton Stewart & Co., beginning the command with the barkentine Glad Tidings, which he fitted out. Then in the order named he superintended the building of and commanded the following vessels in the Stewart fleet: Pricilla, Frances, Whites Wings, Good News, all three-masted barkentines, and the Steadfast, Josephine and Doris, four-masted vessls of the same type. His last command was the Doris, from which duty he was at the time of his death on a four months’ leave, at the expiration of which he was to resume his position.A widow and two sons survive him. His sons are Mr. Eugene M. Bonner, druggist at Baltimore & Carey streets, and Mr. Robert Bonner, printer.

Another newspaper, I am unclear which one, printed a story on October 15, 1895.

The funeral of Capt. Elijah E. Bonner, the well-known commander of the Baltimore barkentine Doris, who died in Boston last Thursday, took place yesterday afternoon from his late residence, No. 2003 Bolton street. Rev. J. T. Wightman, of the Emmanuel M. E. Church South, conducted the services. Interment was made in the Baltimore Cemetery. The pallbearers were: Capts. Wiliam H. Forbes, George W. Bennett, G. A. Pillsbury, Marion Hugg, Messrs. Francis T. Murphy and William T. Price. Mr. M. A. Daiger had charge of the funeral arrangements. There was a large number of the members of the Pilots’ Association present as well as local sailing masters.

There’s much less material on Julia and Elizabeth.

Julia A. George Bonner, born in 1836, died in 1913. Both she and Elijah are buried in the Baltimore Cemetery. I haven’t located Elizabeth’s grave yet. I don’t know if she’s buried in Maryland or Virginia.


1. Westley is the name recorded on the 1850 census, but I am convinced this is Wesley Calvin (W. C.) George, son of Elizabeth, who was born in Virginia, and lived in Iowa and South Dakota. They were living in Ward 4.

2. I don’t know if the word waterman refers to the British or Chesapeake Bay definitions. In the Chesapeake Bay region it was used for commercial fishermen, particularly those harvesting oysters and blue crab. In Britain, watermen were those who transferred passengers across and along rivers. Wiktionary has the following: “1. A man who lives or works mainly in or near water. 2. A boatman or an oarsman who has attained a high level of knowledge or skill.”