Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Google Alert Pays Off In A Big, Big Way!!

As anyone who is close to me will tell you, I live in the land of Google!  IGoogle, Google Earth, Google Books, Google Reader, you name it, I love it.  But one of my favorite Google tools has to be Google Alert. 
By setting alerts for some of my less common surnames, Google does the web searching for me every day and alerts me when it finds something new on the web pertaining to that surname. 

Well last week I received an alert on a Theodosius BOTKIN.  It is the 150 anniversary of Kansas as a state and various articles have been appearing on the Internet.  In the past couple of weeks two such articles have contained information regarding this Theodosius BOTKIN.  At the time the first alert appeared in my inbox I didn't have Theodosius in my family tree software.  But I did know that a branch of the BOTKIN family in Ohio did move to Kansas.  I had a good hunch he was related but I didn't know how. 

A quick search of my favorite databases, Ancestry, FamilySearch, Find a Grave, Rootsweb and, of course, Google revealed that Theodosius is the son of Isaac Curl BOTKIN and Sarah DALRYMPLE and grandson of George BOTKIN and Sarah HESTER making Theodosius my 3rd cousin 5x removed.

Further research into Theodosius revealed an even more astonishing picture.........he was lawyer, a judge,  and a scoundrel straight out of the pages of a wild west novel!  In fact, he has been written about in many books appearing on Google Books, Ballots and Bullets: The Bloody County Seat Wars of Kansas, PrairyErth: (a deep map), When Kansas Was Young, and various books written about the impeachment of Theodosius Botkin.  An excerpt from the book PrairyErth by William Least Heat Moon (page 532) gives a taste of who Theodosius was:

".....the next day neighbors come to visit and they tell Sam not to go into the courtroom of Judge Theodosius Botkin, who keeps a brace of pistols next to his gavel, uses armed bodyguards, and has survived impeachment on grounds of drunkenness, partisanship, and fraud.  The people know that if Botkin can get Sam in jail, a murder is easy to cover over.  Sam repeats that he sees no real danger, yet, when a woman asks whether Margaret will go, he says, yes, if they kill me I want her there to close my eyes.
     Tuesday morning they depart, Sam riding the ten miles in the buggy between Margaret and their housekeeper Mrs. Carpenter......and they arrive in Hugoton by eleven o'clock.....Sam arrives at the Methodist church being used as a courthouse.  Judge Botkin, who holds Sam responsible for his impeachment, hears that Woods has arrived and inexplicably adjourns court until afternoon.  Sam enters, and looks over the docket.  The judge leaves, stepping past James Brennan lounging in the doorway.  The judge says "hello, Jimmy" and he walks on towards the buggy and heartily greets Margaret, who has never met him, and heads up the street......Sam comes through the door passing close to the slouched man whose right hand is concealed to his side, and goes down the wooden stairs and towards his buggy.  Brennan......fires once and hits Sam in the back...."

In all Sam Wood was shot by James Brennan three times and died on the floor of the church.  Everyone in town knows who hired James Brennan to assassinate Sam Wood but neither Theodosius Botkin or James Brennan are convicted of the crime.  A jury can't be found for the trial. 

In the end, Theodosius, fearing for his life moves from Kansas to Salt Lake, Utah where he sits up a law practice.  He was serving as U.S. Consul at Campbellton, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, when he died, May 27, 1918 at the age of 71.  He is buried in Bellefontaine City Cemetery, Bellefontaine, Logan, Ohio.  His Find a Grave memorial can be found here

His memorial is simple and tells nothing of the story of the man he was.  In addition, I don't find him in many family trees listed on Ancestry or Rootsweb and the information in those trees contain incomplete or inaccurate information.  It seems time has forgotten Theodosious. 

But now that I found him, I can't wait to learn more.


  1. Love researching the "bad" guys! They are so interesting.

  2. The bad guys are not only interesting but they're usually so much easier to find. Not always easy to find the connection to your line, but even in the past, bad news is reported and good news just doesn't hit the papers. Theodosius sounds like a pretty bad guy.

  3. Great story. I didn't realize it was an important year for Kansas. I have lots of relatives from Kansas, and I used to live in Wichita. I guess now I need to read up on how to set up a Google alert. Thanks.


  4. Yes, Theodosius is turning out to be very interesting, and fund to research! Margel, you must set up google alerts! They come to your inbox everyday. Lots of times it's just my own blog postings but that gives me hope that long lost relatives will someday do a google search and find me!

  5. Excellent sleuthing, Lisa, and a good reminder about Google Alerts - thank you :-) Jo

  6. Time for me to update my Google Alerts! This post just made me think of a dozen names I really should add to my alerts....

  7. Just received an intriguing Google Alert today. I can't wait to see if I'm related to this one!

  8. My great great grandmother, Abigail Mosher (Wood) Townsend was a sister of the Col. Samuel Newitt Wood who was murdered by James Brennan who was a 'hired gun' of Judge Theodosius Botkin.