We got the file from the Sawtelle Veterans' Home in Los Angeles. It IS our Joe Belonger. All logic to the contrary, Joe enlisted in August 1862 at Kalamazoo, Mich., in Co. H of the 25th Michigan Infantry, and served until the end of the war. The register in 1907 lists him at 5'6", blue eyes and gray hair, a widower, a miner, who had lived in Santa Fe. He lists Sam Blonger as his next of kin. When admitted to the home he had as his disability a gunshot wound in his left arm and chest (no indication of WHEN the wound occurred).
The 25th Michigan saw battle many times, including Kenesaw Mountain and the Siege of Atlanta.
At Sawtelle Joe had trouble keeping sober and was kicked out after a year.
Now we need Joe's Civil War pension file. Hopefully he will be as diligent as his brothers in pursuing his pension. And hopefully we will find out Joe's wife's name!
Joe was even younger than Lou when he enlisted 18 days shy of his 15th birthday. I guess that's why it was so hard to believe this was the right Joe. That and what the heck were he & Sam doing in Kalamazoo?
Finally, as for Sam... As far as we can tell Sam did not file for a pension. But in any case, this makes it quite likely that the Sam Belonger who enlisted in Michigan right around the time Joe enlisted is indeed our Sam.
In other news, we received some pictures of the fiddle Michael supposedly played in his youth. It was a very musical family, from what we understand, but Michael seems to have been the standout, impressing the likes of U.S. Grant and Ole Bull.
Sam and Louis, well known all over the West in the seventies, eighties and nineties as the Belonger Brothers... Later Sam became a peace officer while Louis remained in business.
Sam became an A-1 Western sheriff. He served a long time in the 1870's and 1880's. Later, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he was hired as a peace officer at 750 dollars a month to clean up a bad gang of outlaws.
Sam, a huge man over 6'3" and a dead shot with both .45 and rifle cleaned up the outlaw gang without getting shot. But later, back in Denver, while arresting a bad-man-outlaw, there was gun-play and a .45 bullet, glancing from a stove, struck Sam in the left eye. As a result he lost the eye; then he quit sheriffing and went into mining again, where, in the early 1900's he and Louis operated the Forest Queen mine up in the mountains west of Denver.
Here's Craig's current hypothesis:
1881 - Business opportunity in Albuquerque. Maybe Sam & Lou contract to grade land for Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. Maybe Joe follows them there, maybe he's there first.
The business does not take a lot of their time Sam can run for sheriff. He hires Joe as deputy, one of many, and he's called in as needed.
Interesting side note: in 1883, five years prior to the appearance of "Kitty Blonger", the ATSF reaches Peach Springs.
By the mid-eighties, Lou wants to try a saloon in Silver City, maybe the Livingstons do too. Sam is having too much fun playing the lawman/gambler thing and heads up Colorado way, where he continues to do some type of law enforcement, but also travels a lot around Colorado, gambling, partying, seeing his brothers, doing business. Maybe he's riding horseback a lot and Lou can't deal with it. Finally Sam gets shot in the eye.
Lou only follows when he's done in New Mexico and ready to settle in doing business in the growing Leadville/Denver area. Sam is getting old too, and half-blind. Not good for a lawman.
Years later, Lou keeps up with his brothers by saying he was a sheriff, too, way over in a little town in central Texas...
Thing is, everything I say about Sam can evidently be said of Buffalo Bill, Hickok, Earp, Holliday, Masterson. Buffalo Bill had railroad grading contracts, they all took jobs in law enforcement in any given place on a whim, being offered the job. They dealt faro, bought interests in gambling houses and saloons on occasion, drilled in the rock now and then looking for gold, made fortunes, lost fortunes, traveled constantly. From all I can tell, Sam was in no way substantially different from any of these guys, even to the extent of apparently having a few notches in his gun. They were all Knights of the Green Cloth, Sam and Lou too.
On the subject of these four legendary gentlemen:
Lou does not mention living in Dodge City prior to 1882. Bat Masterson's biographer, on the other hand, places Sam & Lou there in the heady summer of 1878.
Now, it's not hard to imagine them riding the rails for a day to spend a few weeks in Dodge having a good time. It is quite possible they were there, which infers that they were indeed fellow travelers of the Earps, Holliday, Masterson.
And yet, that probably isn't even the best bet.
- In 1882, on their famous ride out of Tombstone, chased by Behan's posse, Earp and Holliday stopped briefly in Albuquerque. If they spent anytime there at all, Sam as sheriff (or Joe as deputy) would have reason to be aware of their presence. Earp and Holliday were both well-known at the time, and the chase was news. Why doesn't anybody know who was sheriff in Albuquerque at this time?
- More importantly, Earp, Masterson and Buffalo Bill both spent quality time in Denver in the gay nineties, when the Elite saloon was the place to be in Denver (so I'm told). They dealt faro, gambled and partied. Could their paths never cross? Open question.
Might Lou have attended Bill's Denver funeral in 1917?
These gents simply HAD to know each other. They did the same things and traveled in the same circles. Maybe they just didn't like each other.
Received CMSR (military records) for Lou and Michael.
Hell of a thing: when Lou mustered out, not only had he not been paid, the gummint was charging him for his fife.
Company Muster-out Roll: "No pay since enlistment. Clothing account, due U.S.: $1.35. Due U.S. for arms equipments &c.: $2.91. Stopped 1 Canteen ($.41), 1 Haversack ($.33), 1 Knapsack ($1.85), 1 Fife ($.32). In Marine Hospital. Has Des. Roll."
What's more, an 1887 notation says Lou got "diarrhoea" in 1864, but does not mention his injured leg.
As for Michael, his file notes him as "absent sick in hospital" starting on September 20, 1862, but then states later, repeatedly, that he went to the hospital on September 15. The difference? The Battle of Antietam was on the 17th.