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Civil War historian helps establish family ties

When Clay Feeter was a child in the remote hamlet of Sonoita, Ariz., he attended a two-room schoolhouse.

But his eyes were opened to the wider world through history books ' thanks to his two teachers, who stressed the importance of learning the lessons of the past.

Everything we did included history, he said. This was near where Cochise (Apache Indian chief) and the Butterfield stage route had been.

Feeter, now 46, would graduate from San Francisco State University with a degree in communications and work as a magazine publisher for years.

But Feeter, who lives in the tiny town of Pistol River on the Southern Oregon coast with his wife, Laura, and two daughters, never forgot his first love.

He quit the magazine business to focus on history. In addition to publishing online TheHistoryCalendar.com, he now does Civil War research for those who want to know more about their ancestors who fought in the Civil War.

In addition to using the knowledge gained from poring over countless books on the war between the states and from having walked the battlefields, he uses a computer database of Union and Confederate soldier rosters to retrieve the information.

I love helping people get the story of their ancestors, he said. I can show them where their ancestors were, what they were thinking.

During his three-day visit to the area, he will offer initial research for free. If his search unveils enough information to provide what Feeter describes as goose bumps for the family, then he will charge &

36;30 for a complete printout of the information gathered.

In most cases, we can learn what rank an ancestor held, whether he was wounded or captured and what town and state he lived in at the time he enlisted, Feeter said, adding that spouse information also is often unearthed.

He focuses on the four-year Civil War, which ended in 1865 with some 620,000 Americans killed, because of its impact on the nation.

That is equivalent to about 5 million Americans dying in a war today, he observed.

For those interested in his research, Feeter asks that people either bring, or e-mail ahead of time, as much background information as possible about their ancestors. That information would include the ancestor's full name, birth date and place of birth and the soldier's wife's name.

Feeter can be reached via e-mail at ClayFeeter@aol.com or by calling him at 1-541-247-0936.

A lot of people who come in to see me are 70 and 80 years old, he said. They often bring in original letters and old tintype photographs to find out about them.

Feeter, who is currently gathering copies of Civil War letters to publish in a book, has discovered several of his own ancestors in his search.

That includes John R. Gott, his maternal great-great- grandfather who fought with the Union at the battle of Chickamauga, Georgia. After the smoke cleared from that horrendous battle, about 35,000 men were killed, wounded or missing.

I've been there ' it's very sobering, he said.

Finding ancestors

Civil War historian and researcher Clay Feeter will be in the Rogue Valley to help local residents track down their Civil War ancestors.

He will be at Bartlett Street Books, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, he will be at the Blue Dragon Bookstore, 297 East Main St., Ashland.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at