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Old 01-14-2020, 12:57 AM
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Default Provenance Journey - Model 1860 Staff and Field Officers Sword

A thread from 2 years ago asked members to post photos of their swords. I posted photos of a sword that I discovered at my in-laws, that nobody knew where it came from, hoping for a clue from the members here as to what it was. Member jlrhiner was very helpful in identifying the sword and provided leads to follow. Thank you Jim.

It was a "Grand Army of the Republic" sword. The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization of Union Army Veterans, formed after the U.S. Civil War. It was organized somewhat like a military organization and seemed to function something like todays Veterans Administration, advocating for veterans.

The sword had the name of Andrew J. Onderdonk etched on it. Google quickly found a very prominent Civil Engineer by that name who lived during the time those swords were produced, but he didn't serve in the military and I came up empty on any provenance where he would have that sword.













Using Jim's information, I searched for the link of that etched name to the G.A.R., and was surprised to find that another man with that unusual name lived during that same time, and he was the likely owner of the sword. He was not only a veteran and a member in the G.A.R., but also a member of a very prominent and wealthy Dutch-American family, who was the commandant of the G.A.R. Post 327 in Brooklyn NY. Photos of G.A.R. officers gatherings show them often wearing ceremonial swords of the type shown here. His home at 171 Park Place was a block away from the huge memorial at the Grand Army Plaza.



His Brooklyn home at 171 Park Place.



According to his obituary, he served in the Navy under Admiral Farragut, in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and participated in the capture of Savannah and Charleston.



He inherited his family home, built 1836, in Manhasset from his father, where Andrew lived after his own wife's death. It still stands today as the offices of the large residential community "Strathmore" built on his estate after his death by the Levitt family, of Levittown fame.



Andrew's father Horatio was a judge in Brooklyn, and in the course of this research I found his fascinating Will, which was filed with NY State. He was quite wealthy with many holdings, and had a large circle of people in his life. He used this "final" document of his life to publicly berate those who did not live up to his standards. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper printed an article about the Judge's will, calling it "one of the most extraordinary testamentary documents ever recorded."



Clipping from The Brooklyn Daily Eagle - Newspapers.com

Andrew's father, Horatio Gates Onderdonk:



Andrew's family is Dutch, and first came to North America in the mid-1600s when it was a Dutch colony
called New Netherlands administered by the Dutch East India Company, which stretched from Cape Cod to the Delmarva peninsula. Onderdonks were prominent figures within the Dutch settlers community. The English took control of the New Netherlands colony from the Dutch, leading to many problems with the settlers. When the 39 members of the New York delegation met to give the Continental Congress permission to proceed against the British, three Onderdonk men signed the agreement which led to the Declaration of Independence.

The Vander Ende - Onderdonk House in Ridgewood is the oldest Dutch Colonial stone house in New York City. The first section of the house was built in 1661. It is also the location of Arbitration Rock. First deposited by glaciers, the rock was used to establish the demarcation line between the feuding Dutch and English settlers, creating the counties called Kings, predominantly Dutch, and Queens, predominantly English. These groups were so disagreeable, that they would throw stones at each other.





Another early Onderdonk house still stands in Rosyln NY, across the street from the stone clock tower on Main Street. Built by Hendrick Onderdonk, it is a block away from the grist mill and paper mill which he owned. Paper produced at the mill was used to make Continental Currency, and used a special process which embedded red silk into the paper to thwart counterfeiting. George Washington visited with Hendrick in 1790, and for many years the home was known as Washington Manor. Today it is called Hendrick's Tavern.

The man we are sure is the swords owner, Andrew Joseph Onderdonk, is buried in the family plot, only a couple of hundred feet from his family home in Manhasset. He died childless, which disappointed us because we wanted to give the sword to his descendants. This was such an interesting search for us because the names associated to this family are the people whose names are embedded commonly throughout the region where we were born and raised. I only wish that a photo of Andrew would have surfaced, to put a face to the name. Once again, thanks to Jim "jlrhiner" for taking the time to put us on the trail.


Last edited by bigwheelzip; 01-14-2020 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 01-14-2020, 07:31 AM
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Fascinating stuff! Good work on the research!
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:21 AM
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Great research as well as a interesting read.
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:37 AM
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Good job. It seems every named piece I end up with is a super common name like "Jim Smith" so tracking down the original owner is pretty much like finding a needle in a haystack.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:03 AM
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I remember the thread and the posts. Most interesting path where that beginning led you. Your interest, efforts and perseverance makes for a most interesting story. The existing properties and grave site makes the story that more tangible. Well done.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:34 AM
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Fascinating story - thanks for sharing.


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Old 01-14-2020, 12:17 PM
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Good Job! I bet it was as much fun researching as it was reading!
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Old 01-14-2020, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by jlrhiner View Post
Good Job! I bet it was as much fun researching as it was reading!
Thank you sooo much. It was great fun discovering the puzzle pieces, and then fitting them together to make a picture. I never imagined the historical footprint this search would cover. I'm a lover of history, and this sword opened a wonderful new door to American history for me.
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Old 01-14-2020, 04:44 PM
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The only strange owner-named item I found was a S&W .32-20 M&P from the mid-20s. A previous owner had written his name and address on the back side of one grip. His last name was the same as mine, which is not a very common name. I think his address was Denver. I tried to do some research about him, got nowhere.

Some years back, I found at an estate sale a stack of 20 or so issues of the G.A.R. magazine (don't remember the name) from the early 20th Century which I bought. I think I may have paid $2 or so. Fairly interesting, especially the advertisements and pictures in it. Sold them on eBay for a lot more than I paid. I think the G.A.R. as an organization hung on into the 1940s, but I would have expected there were very few Civil War vets alive by then. I remember that back in my old Ohio home town when I was a kid there was a G.A.R. hall, I guess that was where they had their meetings. At that time the building was used for other purposes as the G.A.R. had ceased operating by then.

Last edited by DWalt; 01-14-2020 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 01-14-2020, 05:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DWalt View Post
The only strange owner-named item I found was a S&W .32-20 M&P from the mid-20s. A previous owner had written his name and address on the back side of one grip. His last name was the same as mine, which is not a very common name. I think his address was Denver. I tried to do some research about him, got nowhere.

Some years back, I found at an estate sale a stack of 20 or so issues of the G.A.R. magazine (don't remember the name) from the early 20th Century which I bought. I think I may have paid $2 or so. Fairly interesting, especially the advertisements and pictures in it. Sold them on eBay for a lot more than I paid. I think the G.A.R. as an organization hung on into the 1940s, but I would have expected there were very few Civil War vets alive by then. I remember that back in my old Ohio home town when I was a kid there was a G.A.R. hall, I guess that was where they had their meetings. At that time the building was used for other purposes as the G.A.R. had ceased operating by then.
Yes, I saw some of those old G.A.R. advertisements digitized online, and they were very interesting.
It seems that the G.A.R. had a companion organization with a name something like "Sons of Veterans". There were swords produced with S and V intertwined on the hand guard. It seems that the organization's missions of a fraternal nature were folded into the American Legion. The advocate and government liaison mission seems embedded within todays Veterans Administration.
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Old 01-14-2020, 05:15 PM
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Extremely interesting, and a very well-written article as well. Thanks for sharing!
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