Colonel John Hancock Collection

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Admin/Biog History John Hancock was born August 12, 1830 in Athens, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, the son of Jesse H. and Louisa M. Champion Hancock. His father died in 1834 and his mother died in 1837, leaving nine orphaned children. Their uncle, Jesse Ross was appointed guardian of the six younger children, including John. Jesse Ross had been married to Elizabeth Hancock, the sister of John's father Jesse Hancock. Following the death of his wife Elizabeth in 1823, Jesse Ross was married to Charlotte Lathrop. Jesse and Elizabeth Ross had six children together prior to her death. Their youngest daughter, John Hancock's 1st cousin, was Eleanor Ross, who married Edward Lathrop Paine in 1824. Paine was an early pioneer of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and arrived in 1853. He and his sons established Paine Lumber Company.

Possibly through contact with his cousin Eleanor Ross Paine, John Hancock migrated west and settled in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1856. John worked in Oshkosh as a partner in the law firm of Richard P. Eighme, William R. Kennedy & John Hancock. He was listed in the 1860 US Census as residing in the city of Oshkosh. At that time he was boarding with the Charles Nevitt family. Nevitt owned and edited the Northwestern at that time. Another boarder in the house was Homer Chandler, a music teacher. Chandler would become a close friend and later served as the Band Leader in the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Nevitt would also serve the Union cause when he sold his interests in the newspaper and recruited Company E, 5th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry (reorganized) in 1864.

John enlisted at Oshkosh in Company E, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on April 21, 1861. This was the first company raised in Oshkosh to serve during the Civil War. He was commissioned as 1st Lieutenant in that company on April 23. John began a faithful correspondence shortly after his enlistment with his sweetheart back in Oshkosh, Jennie Reardon. John served with Company E during the Battle of Bull Run, Virginia on July 20, 1861.

One of the ironies of the American Civil War was that it literally pitted brother against brother. This was the case in the Hancock family. John Hancock's older brother, Henry C. Hancock, had migrated to Nacogdoches, Texas prior to 1857, where he was a well established lawyer. He enlisted in 1862 as a private in Company A, 17th Texas Cavalry (Moore's Cavalry) and rose to the rank of Captain. He may have also served as an officer in a militia company known as Arnold's Company, Texas Riflemen.

John Hancock was commissioned as Major in the new 14th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on October 3, 1861. This regiment was formed at Camp Wood in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Before the regiment left Wisconsin on March 8, 1862, John was married at St. Peter's Catholic Church on February 12, 1862 to his sweetheart Jennie Reardon. John and Jennie Hancock would have five children together, four of whom survived to adulthood.

Jennie Reardon was born in Ireland in 1840, the daughter of Sarah C. Dwyer and Michael H. Reardon. The Reardon family first immigrated to England, where their daughter Sarah was born in 1845. They were living in Wisconsin in 1847 when their youngest daughter Gertrude was born. Michael is listed in the 1850 US Census as a merchant in the Town of Winnebago (Oshkosh was not incorporated as a city until 1853). Michael is also listed in the 1855 Wisconsin State Census as living in the 1st Ward, City of Oshkosh. He was listed in the 1857 Oshkosh City Directory as a merchant on Ferry Street (Main Street). Jennie's brother, Henry Reardon is listed as a grain dealer in 1857. He went to New York City and enlisted in Company I, 69th New York Volunteer Infantry on September 16, 1864. Perhaps it was his Irish birth that prompted him to enlist in this famous Irish-American regiment, which was part of the Irish Brigade.

John Hancock was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 14th Wisconsin on April 7, 1862 and Colonel on June 17, 1862. He led the regiment at the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee and at the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi. He resigned his commission on January 23, 1863 due to physical disability.

During his Civil War service, Hancock wrote home to Jennie once a week and sometimes more. She carefully saved and preserved every letter and tied them into bundles with scraps of fabric. The entire collection of one hundred-forty letters was then placed in a tin document box.

John returned to Oshkosh and his law practice in 1863. He was listed in 1868 as a partner in the law firm of Freeman & Hancock and was residing at 100 Washington Street in Oshkosh. He sold his property and removed to the state of Oregon in 1870 but not liking that country, he soon returned to Oshkosh. John was then elected as a Justice of the Peace. He removed to a cranberry farm near City Point, Jackson County, Wisconsin in 1884. John was still listed as a member of Grand Army of the Republic Post #10 at Oshkosh in 1888. He was also active with the 14th Wisconsin Association and participated in many reunions. John Hancock died on April 9, 1894 at City Point. He was survived by his widow and four children: John Hancock, Jr.; Maude Hancock Reif; Francis Lee Hancock; and Louise Hancock Cleveland. He is buried in the Old Catholic Section at Riverside Cemetery in Oshkosh. His wife Jennie died on November 24, 1911, and is buried at the City Point Cemetery in Jackson County.
Classification Archives
Collection John Hancock
Abstract The Colonel John Hancock Collection contains a large number of archival documents from the Civil War and GAR, used by Hancock:

Pocket Bible with name embossed in gold; There are a total of one hundred and forty letters to his wife Jennie (Reardon) Hancock in Oshkosh. The letters begin in May 1861 and continue through January 1863. A number are written on lithographed letterheads of Camp Randall and Headquarters 14th Wisconsin, many show the deep affection he had for his wife. Subjects of the letters include: camp life; officers and men; Washington DC; the Battle of Bull Run (he was a participant); recruiting for the 14th Wisconsin; Colonel Gabe Bouck; river travel; life near the front; the Battle of Shiloh; the Corinth Campaign; Battle of Iuka; Battle of Corinth (extremely poignant); marches in Mississippi; the failure of his heath; homesickness; and his resignation.

Also included is a form signed by Major General U. S. Grant; a post-war letter from General William T. Sherman, and a post-war letter from Lucius Fairchild. All of his pension records and his wife's widow's pension records are included. His Commission by the Governor of Wisconsin is also present. There is also a lithographic print of Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee (where Hancock was in charge after the battle of Shiloh) showing gunboats and steamboats on the Tennessee River and the military camp.

The GAR archival material is very extensive. There is a notebook with minutes from reunions of the 14th Wisconsin and two speeches he gave at reunions.

Contents of Box 3 & 4:
Hancock Collection
Accession #2008.13
Record Group 102

Box Folder Contents
3 1 Abstract of Title-Jan. 6, 1902-N1/2NW1/416-22-1W
3 2 Warranty Deed-June 21, 1871-H.B. Harsham-John Hancock
3 3 Quit Claim Deed-Feb. 5, 1902-J.L. Gates Land Co. - John Wollum
3 4 Cemetery Deed-June 30, 1909-Jennie Hancock
3 5 Will-Sept. 8, 1904-Jennie Hancock
3 6 Survey of Township 21-North of Range 1, East of 4th. Meridian-n.d.
3 7 Redemption Receipt-Sept. 18, 1931-L. Cleveland
3 8 Redemption Receipt-April 10, 1920-Samuel Lund
3 9 Tax Deed-May 27, 1896-M. Gilfillan
3 10 Quit Claim Deed-Aug. 24, 1896-M. Gilfillan-John O. Wollum
3 11 Quit Claim Deed-Dec. 5, 1895-Jennie Hancock -F. L. Hancock
3 12 Bill of Sale-Jan. 26, 1909-Frank Hancock-F. L. Hancock
3 13 Quit Claim Deed-Feb. 27, 1902-Gardiner, Batchelder & Wells-John Wollum
3 14 Warrenty Deed-Oct. 17, 1913-Austin Hancock-D.S. Cleveland
3 15 Land Contract-April 18, 1903-Peter Hiberg-S. Smith(noterized by F.L.Hancock)
3 16 Mortgage-Dec. 17, 1895-Nels Erickson-Merino Zwight
3 17 Quit Claim Deed-June 1,1896-C. Franz-Nels Erickson
3 18 Warranty Deed-Mar. 23, 1897-Nels Erickson-Tonia Kundtson
3 19 Patent (Sixteenth Section Lands)-May 10, 1897-State of Wisconsin-Erickson
3 20 Tax Deed-May 15,1987-Nels Erickson
3 21 Quit Claim Deed-June 12, 1897-Island Mill Lumber Co.-Nels Erickson
3 22 Mortgage-June 29, 1897-Nels Erickson-G. E. Erickson
3 23 Abstract of Title-Oct. 9, 1987-Nels Erickson
3 24 Satisfaction of Mortgage-1898-Merino Zwight-Nels Erickson
3 25 Misc.
3 26 Misc.-1909

4 27 Abstract of Title-Nov. 9, 1933-Maude Reif
4 28 Letter-Dec. 2, 1936-Maude Reif
4 29 Quit Claim Deed-Mar. 18, 1936-John Hancock-Maud Reif
4 30 Partial Release of Mortgage-Dec. 17, 1909-James Chatt-George Reif
4 31 Tax Deed-May 27, 1896-George Reif
4 32 Quit Claim Deed-Mar. 24, 1899-James E. York-George Reif
4 33 Judgment of Will of George Reif, Sr. Feb. 1, 1910
4 34 Treasurers Deed-June 19, 1936-Maude Reif
4 35 Assignment of Mortgage-Nov. 12, 1935-Maude Reif
4 36 Quit Claim Deed-Jan. 3, 1899-George & Maude Reif-J. Reardon Hancock
4 37 Cemetery Deed-March 28, 1933-Maude Reif
4 38 Quite Claim Deed-Oct. 19, 1931-Louise Cleveland
4 39 Bill of Sale-April 27, 1904-Oliver Darwin-Francis L. Hancock
4 40 Tax Deed-May 27, 1895-George Reif
4 41 Payments on Land Contract-1895-1898-George Reif, Jr.
4 42 Satisfaction of Mortgage-Mar. 8, 1918-George Reif-Farmers Merchant Bank
4 43 Quit Claim Deed-May 20, 1895-George Reif
4 44 Warranty Deed-Mar. 4, 1895-C.H. Nichols Lumber Co.-George Reif
4 45 Quite Claim Deed-Mar. 21, 1898-Peter Johnson
4 46 Deed-April 19, 1899-Caroline Siedentopf-F.L. Hancock
4 47 Tax Deed-May 20, 1899-F.L. Hancock
4 48 Deed-Jan. 20, 1899-Chicago,St. Paul,Minneapolis & Omaha Railway Co.-F. L.
4 49 Land Contract-Aug. 12, 1901-F.L. Hancock-Julia S_____
4 50 Land Contract-Aug. 12, 1901-Julia S_____-F. L. Hancock
4 51 Quit Claim Deed-Mar. 31, 1902-Gardiner, Batchelder & Wells-F. L. Hancock
4 52 Quit Claim Deed-Oct. 10, 1902-Lena White-F. L. Hancock
4 53 Quit Claim Deed-Sept. 22, 1902-Frank Johnson-F. L. Hancock
4 54 Warranty Deed-Nov. 7, 1902-Thomas Aiken-F.L. Hancock
4 55 Quite Claim Deed-April 15, 1902-A. S. Trow-F. L. Hancock
4 56 Warranty Deed-Feb. 19, 1902-Clemens Reif-George Reif
4 57 Bill of Sale-April 27, 1904-Oliver Darwin-F.L. Hancock & Peter Severson
4 58 Land Contract-Feb. 17, 1907-E____-F. L. Hancock
4 59 Quite Claim Deed-Dec. 17, 1909-Julius & Mary Reif-George Reif
4 60 Quite Claim Deeds-Mar. 17 & Sept. 18, 1917-James F. Ardern-Roy H.Ardern
4 61 Quite Claim Deed-Feb. 20, 1920-M. Reisinger-George Reif
4 62 Quit Claim Deed-Mar. 24, 1920-Bessie Reif to George Reif
4 63 Correspondence-F. L. Hancock
4 64 Warranty Deed-Oct. 24, 1904-Peter ____-Louise Hancock
4 65 Land Contract-Jan. 19, 1917-James Stone-D. S. Cleveland
4 66 Warranty Deed-April 15, 1918-Roy Ardern-D. S. Cleveland
4 67 American Club Registration for Collie-Feb. 4, 1898-Louise Cleveland
4 68 Tax Receipts-1904-1930-Louis Hancock Cleveland
4 69 Tax Receipts-1900-1911-Jennie Hancock
4 70 War Ration Book No. 3-1943-Maud H. Reif
4 71 Map of Jackson County
4 72 Cemetery Receipt-July 1870-M. H. Reardon(Col. John Hancock's Wife's
Maiden Name)
4 73 Tax Receipts-1877-1892
4 74 Diagram of Township 22N-Range No. 1-W
Event Civil War
Category 8: Communication Artifact
Legal Status Oshkosh Public Museum
Object ID RG102
Object Name Record Group
People Hancock, John
Hancock, Jennie Reardon
Reardon, Jennie
Bouck, Gabriel
Grant, Ulysses Simpson
Fairchild, Lucius
Hancock, Francis Lee
Reardon, Henry
Subjects Civil War
2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
14th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
Love letters
Camp Bragg
Camp Randall
Campaigns & battles
Military camps
Military leadership
Military life
Military officers
Grand Army of the Republic
Veterans' organizations
Title Colonel John Hancock Collection
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009