Wednesday, September 30, 2009
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Logan County news

Mount Pulaski welcomes co-founder's descendant

Jabez Capps' great-great-grandson comes to town

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[September 30, 2009]  MOUNT PULASKI -- When Roger Capps of Portland, Ore., picked up the phone and dialed a number back in March, he really didn't realize how significant that call would be to the people of Mount Pulaski.

On the other end of the line was Phil Bertoni, volunteering at the Mount Pulaski Township Historical Society Museum. Capps was trying to find information on his ancestral heritage. Bertoni was delighted to converse with the great-great-grandson of one of Mount Pulaski's co-founders.

In the course of the conversation, Capps committed to paying a visit to Mount Pulaski, and it became an event that the members of the Mount Pulaski Township Historical Society have anxiously awaited.

On Monday evening, the historical society hosted an informal get-together at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. About 40 people attended, not only to hear from Capps, but also to share with him information they knew about his family tree.

Mayor Bill Glaze presented Capps with a key to the city and a proclamation plaque.

Roger Capps

Roger Capps was born in Omaha, Neb., and later his family moved to Oregon. He was one of four brothers and was a teacher by profession.

While he has never before visited Mount Pulaski, he knew of the town and had heard stories from his grandfather, who lived with the family, about Abraham Lincoln and his relationship with the Capps family.

Capps said that his grandfather had told him and his brothers that he attended President Abraham Lincoln's funeral services in Springfield. It was this bit of information that had intrigued the brothers and led them to look into their family history.

Jabez Capps

In the early 1800s Jabez Capps boarded a ship that was said to be going from England to America. However, when he boarded to set sail across the Atlantic, the ship was not destined for America, but rather Newfoundland. During the trip the passengers staged a revolt against the crew of the ship and demanded that they be brought to Boston. Thus it was that Jabez Capps came to America.

After arriving in Boston, the Capps family journeyed across the country and lived in several locations before settling first in Springfield, later in Mount Pulaski.

Jabez Capps lived in and owned property in Springfield, including a piece of land where the Old State Capitol now stands. Historical records indicate that when Capps left the Springfield area, he traded the land where the Old Capitol stands for a cookstove, and he traded another piece of property in Springfield for a saddle.

He and Dr. Barton Robinson left Springfield and journeyed toward what is now Mount Pulaski. Along the way they met George Turley. The three decided to form a company and design a new town.

In 1836 the company was formed and consisted of Barton Robinson, Jabez Capps, George V. Turley George McDaniel, James Scott, J.F. Davis, Wm. L. Hatch and W.A. Knight. Ringrose D. Watson and Ebenezer Capps were also listed as interested parties in the company.

The group claimed 480 acres of land and designed a plat for the town named Pulaski. Later the name would be amended to Mount Pulaski.

Jabez Capps was the first local proprietor, the first postmaster, served as a trustee for the Mount Pulaski Courthouse grounds after the county seat was moved from Mount Pulaski to Lincoln, and was instrumental in converting that property for use as a school.

As Roger Capps spoke, he said his brother had paid a visit to the Mount Pulaski area some years back. His brother called and said, "Wow, Jabez Capps is a pretty famous guy around here!"

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While the people of Mount Pulaski are very well-versed in the Capps family history, Roger Capps was able to tell them a few things about the brother who was left behind in England. Jabez's brother Thomas was a tailor and wholesaler of fine cloth and was known to have made clothing for the royal family.

Roger also recounted that the Capps were connected by marriage to the royal Staffords of Staffordshire, England.

He passed around photos and information regarding the Staffords, as well as an accounting of the Capps home in southern England that after the death of Thomas eventually became a Hilton luxury hotel for a period of time.

One of the mysteries of the Capps family revolves around the inheritance left to the American Capps by their English brother.

It was reported that when Thomas Capps died, his will bequeathed between $1 million and $2 million to his American relatives. The inheritance was so large that news of it made the New York Times in the late 1800s.

However, it has never been documented that the money ever made it to America. Descendants who lived in the Mount Pulaski area are reported to have never received such an inheritance, and it is unknown to this day what happened to all that money.

Capps and the historical society were both pleasantly surprised when Paul Adams of Atlanta stood up and recounted that while writing the book "Twelve Momentous Years in the Other Atlanta, 1853 to 1865," he and his sister, co-author Norma Adams Price, had discovered that Jabez Capps had also played a role in that town's history.

Dr. Robertson and Capps, both involved in the founding of Mount Pulaski, along with Alexander Morgan, who built the Mount Pulaski Hotel, were all developers in the Atlanta area and responsible for the first big building that was built in the town.

Adams read a passage from the book and then presented a copy to Roger Capps as a gift.

During the reception after the meeting, Capps visited with several folks from Mount Pulaski, including Jane DeWitt, who is an area expert on the Mount Pulaski Cemetery and will be taking Capps through the cemetery so that he can see the graves of his forefathers.

He also had an opportunity to visit with Sharon Stone Cook of Singer Island, Fla. She is a descendant of Mount Pulaski co-founder George Turley and a certified historical genealogist for international, national and state casework.

Capps plans on staying in the area for most of this week. He said that he wants to see more of the sights around Mount Pulaski and Logan County, and he wants to spend some time in Springfield. He will then travel on east to the Princeton University area to visit his brother.

The Capps family is working on putting together all of their family history, beginning to current, and they hope to eventually have a Web site that will tell their family story to anyone interested in paying a visit.


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