Braeden Lemasters Descended from Civil War Officer, POW
Updated: Jun 13, 2020
Musician and actor Braeden Lemasters is descended from a Civil War officer with a colorful past.
Braeden Lemasters is a singer-guitarist in the hit band Wallows, which has been playing to sold out crowds on tour in North America and Europe for their album Nothing Happens. Braeden and friends Dylan Minnette and Cole Preston formed the band in their youth.
Braeden is also an actor, having had roles in shows such as Six Feet Under (his first acting role), Men of a Certain Age (where he played Ray Romano's son), and has had guest appearances on many hit shows including Grey's Anatomy, ER, Criminal Minds, and more.
As you may have guessed from his surname, Braeden Lemasters comes from a long line of French ancestors that can be traced to medieval times. The surname Lemasters comes from the French "le maistre," meaning "the master," which is fitting considering he's a master of the guitar, vocals, and more.
In addition to his French ancestry, Braeden has strong Italian roots on both his mother and father's side, as well as German, Welsh, and English.
Braeden's Descent From Civil War Officer
Turning to his mother's side, Braeden is descended from a Civil War officer who fought for the Union Army against the Confederate rebellion. Colonel John B. Housteau is the 3rd great grandfather of Braeden Lemasters. Housteau has a colorful history which I will relate below.
John actually started out life under a different surname—Honstain—which he changed to Housteau later in life (more on that later). John gave an accounting of his life in a biography in which he either used great creative license (because it doesn't always jive with records), or he misremembered, or he was simply misinterpreted.
John was born under the name John B. Honstain in June of 1821 or 1823, in Canada. He gave conflicting answers regarding his birth year and place on various census records throughout his life. His father was also named John Honstain, and it appears that it may have been his father (not himself, as was told) that had lived in Paris until around age nine, when he stowed away on a ship bound for the New World.
At some point in his life, John immigrated to the United States and eventually settled in present day Williamsburg, now a hip Brooklyn neighborhood in New York City. There he was a tailor (like his father before him) and married Lucinda Ward, with whom he had a daughter named Emma. According to imagery on a quilt made by his wife Lucinda, they had a fine house there in Williamsburg. In fact, they owned four homes on Leonard Street near the intersection at Devoe.
Civil War Service
Just eleven days after the start of the Civil War, John enlisted as a First Lieutenant in New York City for the Union. Between May and July he was commissioned a Captain.
On 22 February 1862 he was honorably discharged to take care of some personal business and paid $72.76 for his services. Six months later he enlisted again on 23 August and was commissioned an officer in Company I, New York 132nd Infantry Regiment.
During his time as a captain, Honstain worked to gain recruits for military service under his charge in the Civil War, enticing potential soldiers with bounty payments. The advertisement below by Honstain seeking recruits was published in 1862.
Honstain was notably held in high regard by his men, and this report of their affection for him is found recorded in the Baltimore Sun, 1 February 1862:
Below is an image of the sword that was presented to Honstain by his men. You can see the inscription with his name in the image. This sword went up to auction several years ago.
On 1 March 1863, John Honstain was promoted to Full Major and later Colonel.
Colonel P.J. Claassen of the Commanding Outposts, wrote that he "directed Maj. John B. Honstain to proceed to the bridge and assume command of what force was then at the bridge, whose brave conduct is worthy of mention."
On 22 July 1863, Honstain was captured by Confederates at Tarborough, North Carolina, and held as a prisoner of war for several months. On 24 October, he was able to make his own escape, with some histories reporting that he disguised himself as an army doctor to make his daring escape.
In 1864, Honstain was at the Battle of New Bern in North Carolina. Honstain was injured in a massive explosion of ammunition that was being unloaded from a train at Batchelor's Creek. The news report from the Wilmington Journal gives the gory details:
The article then goes on to give a long list of casualties from the explosion.
Colonel Honstain Returns from War Service
After his war service, John returned home to his family in New York. The scene of his return is believed to be depicted in the quilt made by his wife Lucinda.
I've shown a few scenes from Lucinda Ward Honstain's quilt, but the quilt in its entirety is a treasure. It has been dubbed The Reconciliation Quilt, as it offers a personal view of life at the end of the Civil War. Some of the blocks show efforts at reconciliation, including the freeing of former Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and the suffrage of freed slaves. One block shows an African-American addressing a white man on horseback saying "Master, I am free."
This amazing art history piece sold at a Sotheby's auction in New York in 1991 for $264,000. This was a record-breaking price for a quilt sold at auction. The Director of American Folk Art at Sotheby's described the quilt as "one of the finest pieces of Americana to come across my desk, unsurpassed in condition, composition and historical importance." The winners of the auction donated the quilt to Nebraska University, where it is on display in a museum.
War on the Home Front
While John had fought a war against the rebellious south, he found a new war on the home front. Domestic life was not peaceful for him and his family. When he returned home, his pregnant daughter Emma and her husband, Hamilton Bingham, were living at home with Lucinda. Apparently, John and Lucinda, while married for a considerable time, did not get along, and the ensuing drama of the wealthy family was played out in the newspapers of New York City:
Apparently, John wrote a check for $600 from his wife's account and he forged her name. This caused a battle between John and Lucinda over money, and their son-in-law sided with Lucinda. John claimed that the money in the bank belonged to him because he sent his paychecks from the war home to her. He claimed that Lucinda deposited them into her own account and spent the money in a reckless manner. It's likely the account was a mix of their money, as Lucinda was clearly running the tailor business while her husband was away.
The Brooklyn Eagle later reported that John had moved out, and was renting at a home just around the corner from his Williamsburg home, as he was at complete odds with his wife and son-in-law.
Some time later, John returned to his home on Leonard Street to remove some furniture. Lucinda would not allow it, and she summoned a group of friends to come over and prevent him from doing so. John disregarded them, and as he was loading furniture into a cart, one of Lucinda's friends punched him, and a brawl erupted in the street, with furniture being knocked from the cart, with curses and shouting filling the air—in classic Brooklyn fashion. The assault landed several of Lucinda's friends and John back in court. The gossip columns of The Brooklyn Eagle ate up the drama with headlines like "Row in the Fifteenth Ward" and "The Honstain Family War Renewed."
John and Lucinda separated, and John headed westward in search of a new beginning.
A New Life (and Name) in Ohio
After a short stay in Wisconsin, John Honstain moved to Youngstown, Ohio, where he set up a business again as a tailor and clothing retailer.
In Ohio, John began using a different spelling and pronunciation of his name: Housteau. The new name appears to be a French alternate of his Germanic Honstain family name. It's possible he wanted to side with a French identity in his Canadian roots, as he is sometimes identified as Jean Baptiste Housteau, but in all likelihood, it's because he was starting a new life. Back in those days—without the internet—you could easily move to another part of the country and start a new life and identity, and many did.
With his divorce finalized, John Housteau remarried to Stefania Seifert. Together they had at least six children, including John Augustus Housteau, through whom Braeden Lemasters is descended. In 1886, John and Stephania built a large home at 1011 Mahoning Avenue in Youngstown. Both were active in Veteran's organizations, including The Grand Army of the Republic and The Auxiliary Women's Relief Corps.
John B. Housteau passed away on 7 January 1911 in Youngstown, Ohio and is buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery. His obituary in The Pittsburgh Press (9 Jan 1911) read:
Col. John B. Housteau.
Youngstown, O., January 9—Colonel John Baptist Housteau, a Civil war veteran and pioneer resident of Youngstown, is dead, aged 80 years. He was born in Toronto, Canada. He was a colonel in the Civil war and was a prisoner in Libby prison, from which he escaped. He came to this city in 1868. His widow and five children survive.
John B. Housteau is remembered as a Civil War hero, a successful businessman, an important citizen and pioneer resident of Youngstown. Braeden Lemasters' 3rd great grandfather helped the Union win the Civil War, ran successful businesses, properties, and taught us that sometimes you just need a new beginning. Oh and he contributed to blessing us with Braeden.
Listen to Braeden Lemasters Perform with Wallows
"Uncomfortable" Live at the Levi's® Haus of Strauss
About the Author
As a genealogist and family historian, I enjoy researching my own family tree, and the family trees of others. It gives me a sense of someone’s background and what makes them who they are today. To see their roots, and where they come from, is inspiring to me. I hope to inspire others to research their own family trees and find out where they come from by sharing interesting insights from the family trees of notable figures. —Mike Batie
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