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About | Descend the Stair


My people came out of the forests and the mountains, into this unpromising land. Scratched out a living in this desert valley; hard living for any man. It weren’t no Eden, as cold as Sweden, like Hades in the summertime. We built the cities, we dug the ditches, we picked fruit from the vine. – Cracker, Hey Brett


Well, this is a bit difficult to explain. Why, when I have two other blogs at my disposal, would I bother with a third? Shrubbloggers was a great experiment in collaborative blogging with my life-long friend, Eric. Though I haven’t written anything there in a long while, it still remains an excellent place to casually jot down thoughts from time to time. Likewise, Thelessonapplied is another great blogging site, but its purpose is much more narrow and refined to thoughts about economics. Rest assured, I’ve not given up on that site, either.

This page is to be a bit more personal, I think. It was originally conceived of as a place to “write letters” to family members (mainly my daughters). You know, pieces of advice, observations, etc…

But, I have a wider view, now.

I’ve never had any kind of fundamental grasp on my family. Both my mother’s mother and my father’s father died before I was born and as an implied rule, they were never talked about much. Beyond my grandparents, everything else was a complete mystery.

I didn’t make many assumptions about my origins, but the ones I did make marked me as the product of a wholly unremarkable family lineage. I spent most of my childhood growing up below the poverty line in rural Montana. On the edge of the Great Plains, the winters were long, dark, and unbearably cold. The summers were oppressively hot, and their was always something almost nebulous about the scenery.

I’ve been trying for years to adequately express the feeling one gets when standing outside on a hot July afternoon watching a thunderstorm coming your way over the prairie.

At that age, I could be forgiven to think that everyone who came before me experienced everything just as I had.

After my father passed away in 2005, I was given a few notebooks of his containing genealogical information about our family. Browsing through it only confirmed what I assumed. My grandfather lived on a little rural homestead. My great grandfather was a dirt farmer who married a minister’s daughter. My great great grandfather was a homesteader in Minnesota.

When a good friend of mine gave me a volume of John L. Stoddard’s Lectures as a gift, my curiosity whirled out of control. Was I related to this gentleman in some way? Probably not, but it would be fun to find out.

And, that’s why I’m here.

It turns out that not only am I related to John L. Stoddard, but to some of the most interesting figures in American history as well. I am a direct descendent of Solomon Stoddard (8th great grandfather), as well as cousin to Aaron Burr, Andrew Johnson, William Tecumseh Sherman, Jonathan Edwards, O’Henry, Seneca Ray Stoddard, Charles Warren Stoddard, T. Lothrop Stoddard, William Williams, and the aforementioned John L. Stoddard.

Not only have the Stoddards been here, in America, from the very beginning, they were instrumental in building it. Without us, there would have been no Great Awakening. It is likely that Thomas Jefferson never would have been elected as President of the United States. Likewise, there would have been no Louisiana Purchase and no Lewis and Clark expedition. The United States would be a very different place today had Andrew Stoddard not crossed the ocean those hundreds of years ago.

But, we must also answer for the likes of Lothrop Stoddard and William Tecumseh Sherman.

So, here I sit, digging into the family tree and attempting to put it all together. As far as I can tell, nobody has put all of these stories together in one place before. Hopefully, as this site grows, more Stoddards will want to contribute.

Let’s see how it goes.

-Justin M. Stoddard
January, 2013


One comment

  1. Jim Burnham says:

    As a child I was told that I might be related to the civil war Sherman and also possibly Seneca Ray Stoddard.(no one ever explained to me how). My grandmother’s maiden name was Sherman (Edith)and she was born sometime in the 1880″s I believe. She was the youngest of 10 or 11 children with the oldest (Matilda) having been born in 1865. They were born in the Wilton/Gansevoort area of upstate New York. I would be interested in knowing other backgrounds,etc, as you uncover them. Thankyou, Jim Burnham

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