Thursday, July 31, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are?: Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? featured Jesse Tyler Ferguson who plays on the sitcom Modern Family. Love him!!

The episode focused on his paternal grandmother's line and specifically on Jesse's great-grandfather, Jesse Wheat Uppercu (or Uppercue). Jesse Tyler Ferguson spoke at great length about how dear his paternal grandmother was to him. He knew that he had been named after her, however, he did not know that she had been named after her father.

Jesse Uppercu was an interesting character indeed. He led quite a salacious existence. As a young man he was arrested and accused of murdering his own aunt. The motivation for which may have been that he stood to benefit from the aunt's will. He was, however, acquitted. This was only his first brush with the law though.

After finishing law school he eventually moved to the  Dakota Territory where he was accused and arrested for embezzlement $1800 from a bank. Again, he was found not guilty. Several years later, while living in St. Louis, Missouri, he is again arrested  for embezzlement   Those charges were dropped, as was his marriage and, apparently, three children. Jesse Uppercu marries again while living in NJ but that marriage also ends in divorce.

Jesse is not having an easy go at life. In 1898 it seems as though all hits bottom when he leads a large expedition to Alaska to find gold. Not only does he not find any gold, several men on his expedition die. Even though Jesse is the organizer of the expedition, he abandons the effort and returns to the States. It is this event that seems to turn Jesse Uppercu's life around.

He marries  again, this time to Jesse Tyler Ferguson's great-grandmother. And even though that marriage also ends in divorce, Jesse Wheat Uppercu, lives out the rest of his days politically active and caring for his children and adopted step-children in Suffern, NY.

Jesse Wheat Uppercu reminded me a little of a character in my family's history; Leander L. Losee.

Leander was born on November 8, 1846 in Freeport, NY and died on April 23, 1917 in Bath, NY. One aspect of this episode of WDYTYA? that reminded me of Leander was the fact that Jesse Tyler Ferguson carried a family name from someone he knew nothing about. A distant 4th cousin of mine still bears the name Leander and I wonder if he knows how far that names goes back in our family. I am sure he is aware that he is named after his uncle who was named after his grandfather but does he know that grandfather was named after the illustrious Civil War sailor, Leander L. Losee (1846-1917)? Hmm...

Leander served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. He returned from war to become head of the life-saving station on Freeport, Long Island's waterfront until he was ousted from the position for drinking and gambling on the job. His own brother-in-law testified against him. And shortly after his trial, his wife divorced him. In the 1880s divorce was rare and quite scandalous. You can read more about Leander in my past blog post; 1880: Captain Leander Losee Ousted from Life-saving Station No.31.

Unlike Jesse Wheat Uppercu who hit bottom and seems to turn his life around, poor Leander just seemed to spiral downward. He died in a Veterans Home in Bath, NY.

I suspect every family has someone like Jesse or Leander who makes one want to shout back in history, "Pull it together." I do believe that is exactly was Jesse Tyler Ferguson shouted back at Jesse Wheat Uppercu in this last episode.

Next week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? will feature the sister Rachel and Kayleen McAdams.

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