Monday, February 17, 2014

Digitizing “Old School” - or - Where There’s a Will There’s a Way


I got a new laptop this last Christmas to replace my old dinosaur of a desktop, and the change has been marvelous. I love the increased speed and portability. There have been a few drawbacks as well, though. So many of the external devices that worked so well on my old computer just can’t be made to work on this one. First it was my scanner—a hardship for a genealogist, but one I rather expected because that scanner is close to twenty years old. It was a little more surprising that the printer wouldn’t work, but I’m still holding out hope for that one, having not yet tried everything.



Then this weekend came another big test. I located another cassette tape of an interview with Uncle Lowell. Somehow this one had been missed several years ago when I was digitizing all the family tapes. Would my analog converter work with my new computer? It was worth a try. After spending the day going back and forth between home and the library (because I currently am waiting for my new router to arrive in the mail, but in the meantime have no internet access at home), I was able to get the software working, and it said the device driver was properly installed, but I couldn’t get the program to recognize it in practicality.



And then I discovered there was yet another problem. My old trusty stereo system was turning on me. For some unfathomable reason, when I put it in “tape” mode—and only in “tape” mode—after about five minutes of perfect cooperation, it begins a loud, high-pitched humming. This goes on whether a tape is playing or not. So, even the idea of just putting my ipod next to the speakers and being really quiet while the tape was playing wouldn’t work.





But the idea wasn’t a bad one. After all, that’s how we recorded Grandpa’s records onto cassette tapes for me when I was a little kid. We had gone over to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, picked out some records to play on their record player, set up Mom’s boom box to record them, and danced as quietly as we could around the living room while recording the likes of Perry Como singing “The Wang Dang Taffy Apple Tango” or the McGuire Sisters singing “Space in a Spaceship.” (I still know all the words to both of those songs.) But wait—I have that very boom box in my possession. It’s speakers aren’t as good as my stereo, but they might be good enough, or I might even be able to hook it up to the stereo. I decided to try it the simple way first. Now, this boom box is quite possibly older than I am, and was in its time known not as a boom box but as a ghetto blaster. The thing will play the radio, cassettes, or 8-tracks, which is really the main reason I still have it. You never know when you might suddenly need to play an 8-track. But when I put the cassette tape in, I observed that the machine was showing its age a little bit. There was a grinding noise at a certain point in each revolution of the heads, and no amount of head cleaning seemed to be able to put a stop to it. What was I to do now?





I had just one more chance: my truck. It has a tape deck. Sitting for a half-hour at a time in my truck in my driveway with the motor turned off wasn’t quite how I had envisioned my evening, but that was how I spent it (to the amusement of my neighbors, perhaps). I turned up the volume full-blast, perched my ipod (in voice memo record mode) on the dashboard equidistant between the two speakers, and proceeded to listen to and rerecord voices from the past.



The recordings turned out remarkably well considering how they were made. There is a little more background noise than if I had been able to feed it directly into the computer, but it will do quite nicely for the time being. Perhaps I should try a similar method with some of my favorite records!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Brosius family in Howard County, Kansas 1873ish-1875

(Continued from  Rodgers-Brosius family in Bourbon county, 1869-1873ish.

Look at a map of Kansas and you will not see Howard county. It has no population and no area. Howard county, Kansas is one among the numerous ghost counties of the United States. It enjoyed only five years of turbulent life. At one time it contained over 13,600 people and 1,290 square miles, which are now in the divided possession of Elk and Chautauqua counties. At Howard county’s organization, the city of Elk Falls was designated as the county seat, but that designation was to prove the impetus behind much of the turbulence of the county’s short existence. As early as the fall of 1870, the County Commissioners received a petition requesting an election to decide on the relocation of the county seat. The vote took place in September of 1872, but showed such unmistakable signs of fraud that the Commissioners declared no election.



Thus, the family which had been headed by John Rodgers moved from one tense area (the Fort Scott area, where they had lived only a very short time, was beset with tensions between the railroad, assisted by United States soldiers, and squatters) to another. However, the new tension, being entirely political and not involving the armed forces, may have seemed innocuous in comparison.



It is not known at this time precisely when the family arrived; only that they arrived sometime between 1870 and 1873. They moved into Belleville Township, near the town of Peru, which had itself been established in 1870. Perhaps they were not among the earliest settlers; John Rodgers’ 1899 obituary refers to him only as “one of the old and highly respected citizens of this county”; but by 1920, when his stepson John S. Brosius died, he could be called a “pioneer resident” (“John Rodgers Dead”, “John Brosius Dead”).



The youngest member of the family, Samuel Elbert Rodgers, was born 22 May 1873, but it is unknown whether his birth took place in the family’s earlier home in Bourbon county or their new one in Howard county. His mother, however, perhaps succumbing to an infection or disease related to the childbirth, died on 11 July 1873 and was buried in Peru Cemetery under the name “Margrett A. Rodgers.” The cemetery, like the town, had been established in 1870, and its occupants bespoke the area’s roughness. “Of the first nine people buried in the cemetery,” wrote one historian, “seven died ‘with their boots on’” (Blackmar 468). Perhaps it speaks even more eloquently of this frontier that only ten days after this death, not far to the east (though a few hundred miles north) the famed James-Younger gang led by Jesse James committed their first train robbery, derailing a train on the Chicago, Rock Island, & Pacific Railroad near Adair, Iowa.



Margrett may not have been the only casualty in the family that year. Back in Crawford county, Pennsylvania, Margrett had a married daughter named Mary Ann Christy. She died on 31 Jan in either the year 1873 or 1874, at the young age of 26.



A few months after Margrett’s death, on 11 Nov 1873, Howard county held another election for the relocation of the county seat. This election resulted in a majority of 232 votes opting to keep the county seat in Elk Falls. However, the residents of the losing town, Boston, had no intention of permitting it to be so. On 19 Jan 1874, a posse of 150 armed men began what became known as the “Boston war.” They, along with twenty-four wagons, entered Elk Falls and, “amid the consternation, threats and tears of the inhabitants of the town,” seized the county records and property (Cutler). Perhaps the soldiers of Fort Scott were recalled by former residents of Bourbon county as Howard county raised three companies of militia to retrieve the records and apprehend the guilty parties. The purpose of the militias remained unfulfilled as the county seat, now resting in the beds of wagons, traveled through the hills and even spent some time in neighboring Cowley county. The situation was not resolved until the Judge of the district, unable to convene the District Court at the appointed time without the required records, placed several of the conspirators under arrest for contempt of court, and essentially held them for ransom, the price being the “unconditional surrender of the records and other county property” (Cutler). After the surrender was made, the county seat was allowed to remain at Elk Falls without contest for the duration of the existence of the county.



Elk Falls, once again in its lawful position, was to be the site of the next major step in young John S. Brosius’ life. He was growing, as all young men do, and had already passed the age of majority. It was only natural that he should wish to begin a new life for himself, and on 10 Oct 1874 he did just that. On that day he stood before Justice of the Peace Henry Welty and was married to a Miss Frances E. McClane.







Although little is known about John’s marriage to Frances, it is easy to guess how they met. In the 1875 Kansas state census, the couple appear directly below the household of Frances’ father, “Jarrett McLain,” or Jared McClane. John Rodgers appears only two households before that, so clearly the families were near neighbors.



John Rodgers filed his land patent on 20 Nov 1874, but it is likely that he had resided there prior to his filing, and perhaps since his arrival in the county. In any case, his new land was a significant step up from the land he had purchased in Bourbon county, as far as sheer size was concerned. He now owned over 158 acres, more than tripling his previous acreage. But the value of his real estate as recorded in the census records declined from $9,000 to a mere $300. He also was now the widowed father of three young children, the eldest only nine years old. Neither of his living stepchildren remained in his house to help out. We have already described the situation of John S. Brosius; now it is time to relate the little that is known of his sister Rebecca.



The 1875 census finds Rebecca Brosius still residing in Belleville Township, but evidently not anywhere near her brother or stepfather. Instead, she appears three pages earlier, in the household of P. N. Williams. Her status within the family is not stated, but the line above hers belongs to a W. Henderson, whose occupation is listed as “Farming.” Since neither of them share the Williams family name, it seems a good guess that he is a farmhand of some sort and she perhaps a domestic servant. She does appear five years later, in the 1880 Federal census, as a domestic servant to another household, so perhaps she began her career in the Williams home. Possibly, though, she was only a guest, as she was only 15 years old and is reported to have attended two months of school within the year.



The Kansas state census was enumerated on 1 Mar, when the Rodgers, McClane, Brosius, and Williams families all resided in Howard county. Three months later, without any need to move, they all would find themselves suddenly in the newly-formed Chautauqua county. Howard county had been divided, and the southern half became Chautauqua, the northern: Elk. Howard county with its too many square miles and its hotly contested county seat was no more.





Citations and Selected Sources:




1875 Kansas State Census, Howard, Kansas, population schedule, Belleville Twp, p. 10, dwelling 76, family 76, lines 3-9, Rebecca Brosius (in Household of P. N. Williams); digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry (ancestry.com).



1875 Kansas State Census, Howard, Kansas, population schedule, Belleville Twp, p. 14, dwelling 114, family 114, line 20-23, Household of John Rodgers; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry (ancestry.com).



1875 Kansas State Census, Howard, Kansas, population schedule, Belleville Twp, p. 14, dwelling 116, family 116, line 25-29, Household of Jarrett McLain; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry (ancestry.com).



1875 Kansas State Census, Howard, Kansas, population schedule, Belleville, p. 14, dwelling 117, family 117, lines 30-31, Household of John Brosius; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry (ancestry.com).



1880 U.S. census, Chautauqua, Kansas, population schedule, Sedan, enumeration district (ED) 15, p. 31, dwelling 290, family 298; digital images, Ancestry (ancestry.com); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 375.



Blackmar, Frank W., ed. Kansas:a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions,industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc., vol. II. Chicago: Standard Pub. Co., 1912. 468. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward in KSGenWeb. Blue Skyways, July 2002. Web. Accessed 25 Jan 2014.



Cutler, William G. “ElkCounty.” History of the State of Kansas. Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1883. Page numbers not indicated in transcription. Transcribed by Bruce L. Garner and Carol Anderson in Kansas Collection Books. Kansas Collection, Aug 1997. Web. Accessed 7 Feb 2014.



Bureau of Land Management. Accession Nr: KS1230__.411; “Land Patents,” database and images, GeneralLand Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov : accessed 18 Dec 2013).



Bureau of Land Management. Accession Nr: KS1420__.033; “Land Patents,” database and images, GeneralLand Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov : accessed 18 Dec 2013).



John Brosius Dead.” Sedan Times-Star 22 Apr 1920: 1. Xerox copy sent to the author by Gloria Brosius.



John Rodgers Dead.” Sedan Lance 19 Oct 1899: 5. America's GenealogyBank. NewsBank Inc. Web. Accessed 14 Feb 2012.



Kansas,County Marriages, 1855-1911,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-16087-50295-41?cc=1851040&wc=11692786 : accessed 02 Feb 2014), Chautauqua > Marriage records, 1870-1875, v. A > image 129 of 147.



Mayfield, Judy. “Margrett A. Rodgers (Memorial #19172677).” _Find A Grave_. Find A Grave, Inc., 1 May 2007. Web. Accessed 22 Nov 2009.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rodgers-Brosius family in Bourbon county, 1869-1873ish

(Continued from “The Brosius Family: Margrette’s Second Marriage.”)

Travel and transportation could almost be called themes for the year. At least, they were increasingly at the forefront of the world’s consciousness. It was the year of the first bicycle race and the great international university boat race. The year brought the invention of the rickshaw, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the exploration of the Colorado River. It was the year that Sir Henry M. Stanley first was asked to mount an expedition in search of Dr. Livingstone. And on one spring day at Promontory Summit, Utah, Leland Stanford drove the golden spike to complete the first transcontinental railroad.

By Centpacrr at en.wikipedia [Public domain, Public domain or Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons



The year was 1869, and in the U.S., trains had become a popular mode of travel. All over the nation thousands of men toiled daily, untold miles of shining steel track marking their progress. Most large cities already had the train, or were making plans to get it. Even many smaller communities, such as Meadville in Crawford county, Pennsylvania, had a line. Making connections along the way, people could travel almost anywhere in the country in the merest fraction of the time it would have taken by wagon or boat only a few years before.



It was probably by train that a certain John Rodgers took his family the thousand or so miles from their home in Crawford county, Pennsylvania, to Fort Scott, Kansas. The time frame is narrow enough to suggest speedy travel: his stepdaughter Mary Brosius was married in Crawford county on 10 May 1869 and the name John Rodgers appears on a land patent near Fort Scott on 20 July 1869. Of course, this time frame makes two assumptions: first, that John Rodgers was present at Mary Brosius’ wedding, which cannot be proved at this time, and second, that the entire family unit (except Mary, who stayed in Pennsylvania) traveled together to Kansas, which is equally uncertain. It is possible that John Rodgers left earlier for Kansas, missing Mary’s wedding, and it is possible that the rest of his family stayed behind in Pennsylvania, joining him in Kansas later. However, accepting the aforesaid assumptions gives an approximate travel date of June 1869. John Rodgers, his wife, children, and stepchildren had been residing in the township of South Shenango, not far from the city of Meadville. They could have caught a train at Meadville and made connections where necessary, bringing them well into eastern Kansas. Fort Scott is in Bourbon county, on the eastern border of the state, but far to the south. Tracks did not reach Fort Scott itself until December of that year, but the family could have taken the train to within a couple dozen miles of their destination, depending on the actual travel date. From there, they might have crowded into a stagecoach or purchased a wagon for the rest of the trip.



Where they lodged when they first arrived in the Fort Scott area is unknown. Perhaps they had friends in town with whom they could stay until they were able to build a house, or perhaps they stayed in a hotel or camped out. The only solid information is that John Rodgers purchased 40 acres to the west of town on 20 July 1869, and it is doubtful that they stayed there from the day of their arrival. One expects that John would have done a little looking around before he decided which land to buy. Additionally, the land office was in Humboldt, Kansas, a distance of about 40 miles, a distance which had not yet been shortened by train. It seems probable that John would have chosen his property before making the trip to the land office, a trip that would require at least a day’s ride if he went on horseback, and then another day to return.



Fort Scott was, at this time, a thriving and growing city. After the railroad arrived, the city would vie for years against Kansas City as the largest railroad center west of the Mississippi. But the railroad brought problems, as well. As the line pressed southward from town, it met with resistance from squatters who considered the land theirs. Legally the land, formerly known as the Cherokee Neutral Lands, and later sold by the Cherokee Nation to the Federal Government, had been bought up by the railroad. But squatters had been settling there even before the Cherokee Nation gave up its title in 1866. They did not want to lose the land they had already been working for a few years, and they saw the railroad’s coming as a threat to their own rights. As early as May of 1869, months before actual rails would arrive, they began assaults on the survey crews and graders who worked in advance of the track layers.



The troubles became so serious that the military brought in troops to protect the railroad workers. This infuriated the squatters, who had originally requested troops for their own protection and found it outrageous that a nation would take up arms against her own citizens in order to protect her commercial interests, but it did help to keep the violence down.



It is not known on which side the sentiments of the Rodgers family lay, but it is certain that they were present during this period of high tension. The entire family appears in Mill Creek Township, adjoining Fort Scott, in the 1870 U.S. census, enumerated 17 June of that year. John Rodgers, his real estate valued at $9,000 and his personal estate at $500, is the head of the household and a farmer. His wife (relationships are not recorded on this census, but we know the relationships of those in this family from other sources) Margaret’s occupation is identified as “Housekeeper,” and her place of birth is a ditto to her husband’s “Ireland.” Perhaps she really was Irish, or perhaps it is an assumption on the part of the informant. The next two lines give weight to the notion that the informant was not in possession of all the facts. They are the lines recording the children from Margaret’s previous marriage, John and Rebecca Brosius, however this census makes no mention of their alternate last name and includes them under the “Rodgers” umbrella. It is unlikely they were actually going by the name of Rodgers as this is the only document found which identifies them as such. It does manage to place their births in Pennsylvania, though. The other two children, Elizabeth and James, really are Rodgerses as recorded, but their birth places are identified as Kansas when research shows that they were likely born in Crawford county, Pennsylvania, as well.



Despite the purchase of the 40 acres outside Fort Scott, the family did not remain in Bourbon county for long. By 1873, and perhaps even sooner, they had moved to Howard county.

(Continues with  Brosius family in Howard county, Kansas, 1873ish-1875.”

 


Selected Sources:




1870 U.S. Federal Census, Schedule 1, Kansas, Bourbon County, Mill Creek Township, page 12, dwelling 88, family 88, lines 4-9, John Rodgers household. Digital images, Ancestry. Accessed 18 May 2011.



Bureau of Land Management. Accession Nr: KS1230__.411; “Land Patents,” database and images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov : accessed 18 Dec 2013).



Historical Events for Year 1869.” HistoryOrb. Web. Accessed 25 Jan 2014. 



Soldier vs.Settler.” Fort Scott National Historic Site Kansas. National Park Service, Web. Accessed 25 Jan 2014.



Springirth, Ken. “Erie Railroad's Historic Journey.” The Meadville Tribune 5 Nov 2012: Web. Accessed 25 Jan 2014.



“Marriages.” Unknown newspaper article May 1869: unknown page. Print. Xerox copy sent to the author by Gloria Brosius, along with family group sheets recording the marriage date and place.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

The WADEs in 1820


I have already written at length on my search to find the father of my 3g-grandfather Joseph WADE. In my post “The Hunt for Joseph WADE” I went back in census records as far as 1840. In this post I will skip backwards past 1830 and focus on the 1820 census. (As of yet I have been unable to locate them in 1830; I think they may have been among the early settlers in Indiana and been missed by the census.)



Josiah WADE, likely my 4g-grandfather, before settling in Jay County, Indiana, was one of the early settlers of Ohio. He signed with Nathaniel MASSIE’s party in 1790, and became one of the original pioneers of what would later become Adams County (Evans 52). Information about this venture is readily available in various places on the internet. I will explore the subject in more depth in another post at a future date. I mention it mainly to establish some basic background on the WADEs that will be featured in this post.

John WADE


We are looking specifically at two pages of the census of Fayette County, Ohio: pages 27 and 28, which cover most of the area known as Jackson. The last page, 29, of the area contains no WADE households. On page 27 we find three WADE households, which are clustered together on three consecutive lines. First is the household of John WADE, who is as yet unidentified in my WADE tree. The makeup of his household is:



1 M 0-10

1 M 16-26 = John

1 F 0-10

1 F 16-26 = probably John’s wife



Josiah WADE had a brother named John, but this John is far too young to be him. As you can see, this John is between the ages of 16 and 26, whereas Josiah’s brother would be about 40, if he were alive. One online tree reports that John died at the age of 18 and was buried with his parents (Stuart). Perhaps the John in this census is a son or a nephew of Josiah.

Edmund WADE

Moving on to the next household, we find an Edmund WADE. This Edmund probably is Josiah’s brother. He did have a brother Edmond, and the age bracket is right. According to the Pottenger Family Tree on Rootsweb, which appears to be fairly well researched, Josiah’s brother Edmond was born in 1767, which would make him about 53 at the time of this census. “Edmond raised his half-brother Jackson by his father’s second wife, Mary Campbell,” notes the Pottenger Family Tree, and further gives Jackson’s birth date as 1815, so we can tentatively identify him in this household (Pottenger). It is only tentative as we do not have a date of death for either of Jackson’s parents, which might give us an approximate date of his moving in with Edmond. We also do not have dates for Edmond’s wife Lucinda, nor do we have names or dates for any of their children, so I identify little farther within his household, which in this record is comprised of:



1 M 0-10 = Jackson (1815)?

2 M 16-26

1 M 26-45

1 M 45+ = Edmund (1767)

1 F 10-16

1 F 26-45 = Lucinda?

Joseph WADE

The third WADE on page 27 is a Joseph WADE, who could quite possibly be my 3g-grandfather. He and his wife are both the right ages, and they have a daughter of the right age bracket to possibly be the Susan who is suspected to be a sister of my 2g-grandfather Allen C. WADE. There is also an unexpected son:



1 M 0-10

1 M 16-26 = Joseph (1797)

1 F 0-10 = Susan (1820)

1 F 16-26 = Mary (1796)



I have never heard of another son in this family, but given the parents’ ages—23 and 24—it is certainly possible that they had an earlier child. Their marriage date is unknown, so there may even have been other unknown children.



The proximity of this Joseph WADE to the other WADEs on this census (I must judge solely by the census record, having been so far unable to find any land records) suggests the possibility that he is the son not of Josiah WADE but of his brother Edmond. Either way, though, he is still the grandson of their father, William Zethonia WADE, and I can continue my research upon that assumption.



Of course, there is always the possibility that this is not my Joseph WADE at all but rather one of his cousins.

Josiah WADE


Having completed our investigation into the WADE households on page 27, we now move on to page 28. There are two WADE households on this page, separated by only one line. Between Josiah WADE and a second Joseph WADE is a James McCOY. Although that surname does not appear anywhere in the WADE genealogies I have accessed, I wonder if he may have been an in-law of some sort.



Josiah WADE’s household is made up of him, a woman between the ages of 26 and 45 who may have been his wife, five younger females, and four younger males. Two of the males can be identified easily, but the other two leave a few possibilities. For now I will leave that section devoid of names:



2 M 0-10 = Jefferson (1812), William Harrison (1818)

2 M 16-26

1 M 45+ = Josiah (1765)

4 F 0-10

1 F 10-16

1 F 26-45 = Josiah’s wife?



As for those two mystery males, one of them may be that Robert WADE who appeared in the 1840 census of Jay County, Indiana. Under that assumption, given his age range here and his age range of 30-39 in 1840, we can calculate his birth date to be between 1801 and 1804.



The other mystery male may in fact be my 3g-grandfather Joseph. Perhaps he was not yet married to Mary, as no female of her age appears in the household. Or perhaps she was older than my information has led me to believe and she is the female between 26 and 45, not Josiah’s wife. In that case, one of those females between 0 and 10 may be Susan. Of course there is always the possibility that Susan was not one of their children.

Joseph WADE (Sr.)

I have identified this Joseph WADE as “Sr.” in the heading, though he is not identified as such in the document, merely to differentiate him from the other Joseph WADE (or Joseph WADEs). The title is not meant to imply any parental relationship with another Joseph.



He was almost certainly the brother of Josiah WADE, and all the members of his household can be easily identified with the aid of a certain posting on GenForum:



2 M 0-10 = Edmund (1814), James B. (1814)

2 M 10-16 = John (1808), William (1810)

1 M 45+ = Joseph (1776)

2 F 0-10 = Lydia (1812), Elizabeth Jane (1819)

2 F 10-16 = Marella (1804), Mary (1806)

1 F 16-26 = Abbie (1802)

1 F 26-45 = Mary (1782)



Edmund and James B.’s birth dates as given on the posting, 4 June 1814 and 4 Oct 1814, do not make logical sense, but I am not going to investigate that discrepancy at this time (Moore). Instead, I will assume that it is merely a slight typographical error, but that they would still both fall into this age bracket.

Sources:

Evans, Nelson Wiley, and Emmons B. Stivers. “Massie’s Settlement at Manchester.” A History of Adams County, Ohio: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Including Character Sketches of the Prominent Persons Identified with the First Century of the Country’s Growth. West Union, Ohio: E B. Stivers, 1900. 51-53. Google Books. 24 Jan 2008. Web. Accessed 28 Sept 2013. Original from Harvard University.



Moore, Dennis. “Re: Zephaniah Wade/Adams Cty, OH Connection.Wade Family Genealogy Forum. GenForum, Presented by Genealogy.com, 19 May 2002. Web. Accessed 29 Sept 2013.



Pottenger, Thomas. “Pottenger Family Tree Inc. Amon,Trochelman, Copas and More.RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project. Ancestry, 7 Aug 2013. Web. Accessed 28 Sept 2013.



Stuart, Gary Lee. “Information about John Wade.The Gary L. Stuart of Ariel WA Home Page. Ancestry, 2009. Web. Accessed 28 Sept 2013.

Monday, July 8, 2013

After Elsie’s Manuscript


Aunt Elsie
If you have been following my Amanuensis Monday series transcribing the manuscript my great-aunt Elsie wrote, you know that it stopped before her family moved from Idaho to Oregon. However, I can continue (admittedly, in less detail) from there. Each time I visited her she told me other stories, which, thankfully, I recorded as soon as I got home.

I have before me the notes from two conversations with Elsie, one on 18 Apr 1999 and one that I unfortunately neglected to note the date, but it would have been in late 1998 or in 1999. Some of what she said repeats what is already written in her manuscript, so I will omit those parts. The rest I will sort more or less chronologically and present in the following paragraphs.

The day of one of our conversations. My “nephew’s” mom was also there, but apparently she was taking the picture.
Going back to the times that Elsie wrote about in her manuscript, she told me a couple things that she had not written about. She told me that when she was a little girl she used to sit on her dad’s lap and curl his moustache. She said he had some kind of special wax or cream that he would put on it.

She also remembered that her dad always said that tea should be the color of whiskey. Elsie told me that she was so young she didn’t know what whiskey was, but she always remembered that tea ought to be the color of it.

And now we arrive where the manuscript left off. The first world war has ended, and Walter Sr. (Elsie’s dad) has fallen in love with Oregon because berries and nuts grow on the sides of the road. He had been working in the shipyards in Portland during the war, while his family remained in Idaho. But now the war is over, and he has decided that the whole Underwood family will move to Oregon.

When they came, they took a train from Idaho to the Oregon town of Canby. That seems a remarkable stopping point to me, as Canby is a fair distance south of Portland, and a pretty small town. I wonder how they even heard of it. However, perhaps it was more prosperous at that time, or perhaps they knew someone there. Elsie said that they stayed with friends for a while, though she didn’t say whether those friends lived in Canby or Portland. And unfortunately, if she mentioned their names, I did not write them down. But after staying with those friends, whoever they were, the Underwood family got a house in the area of Portland known as Errol Heights.

Elsie left home at age 15; she didn’t get to finish high school. At that time she moved in with a prominent Portland family, the Banfields. There is now a freeway named after them. She looked after their little girl, Harriet. She also cooked for them. On Thanksgiving, she would prepare their Thanksgiving dinner before going home to her own family for the holiday.

The little Banfield girl picked out a set of dishes for Elsie. They were a buttercup pattern because she said that Elsie was just like a buttercup. Mrs. Banfield told Elsie to go to a particular store and look at this particular set of dishes. She knew that Elsie loved to set the table. So Elsie went to the store and looked. She liked them, but, she protested to Mrs. Banfield, they were so expensive, and she had such a large family. (Her “family” at this time is, naturally, referring to her parents and siblings. She had not yet married.) But Mrs. Banfield wanted her to have these dishes. So she had the store do a table setting display with them for Elsie and told her to go look at them again on her day off. Elsie felt very awkward about it, but Mrs. Banfield’s word was law, so she went. She nervously entered the store. The salesgirl asked if she could help her.

“I’m supposed to look at a table setting,” said Elsie.

“Oh! You must be Elsie,” said the salesgirl, and showed her to the table setting.

It was beautiful, but once again Elsie protested the price to Mrs. Banfield. It was no use: Mrs. Banfield wanted her to have the dishes, so she bought them for her. She also insisted to Elsie that they be used for everyday, not saved for special occasions.

At the time of my visit, Elsie proudly showed me the dishes, and told me that she still had the entire set. She was just shy of her 92nd birthday.

She said that one time they had duck for dinner, and it tasted like fish.

Sometime after all the Underwood girls were out of grammar school, Walter and Flora Underwood (the parents) moved to Netarts, on the Oregon coast. Walter’s sister and her husband, known as Aunt Sadie and Uncle Alvy, lived next door. Walter built both houses. He preferred living at the beach to living in Portland. He sold flower bulbs there.

Here I must interject a story of my own. The houses in Netarts are no longer in the family, but when my Dad was a child he used to visit his grandparents there. When I go with him for a drive in that area it is like a guided tour: he points out the house that belonged to his grandparents and comments on the changes that have been made in the neighborhood, he shows me where the dump was where his cousins used to shoot rats, he tells about the dune that was behind the Schooner Restaurant and how the kids used to run down it until one day a boy was covered by sand and died. I have accompanied him on enough of these excursions that I can almost tell some of the stories myself, although Dad tells them best. He is an excellent storyteller. Like a little child, I beg him to tell them again and again.

One day, my parents and I were on such a drive, and we saw a garage sale sign. Not one of us can resist a garage sale. And then we realized that the sale was at Walter Underwood’s old house! We definitely had to stop. Among the other items displayed in the front yard were a large number of gladiolas. “The man who used to live here ran a nursery,” explained the woman running the sale. “That was my granddad,” my dad said. These were flowers descended from those originally planted by my great-grandfather. So naturally we bought as many gladiolas as we could carry—not only were they lovely to look at, but they were family heirlooms!

A gladiola resembling those we got from Walter Underwood, Sr.’s former garden.  
By 3268zauber (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
But we must go back in time again, and return to the stories that Elsie told me. There is little left; the rest is more like snippets of information than stories, but they are still worth telling.

During WWII, there was a scare at Netarts Bay. Walter Sr. and two other men watched on the ground all night, but fortunately nothing happened.

When V-J Day came along, people swarmed into Safeway, the grocery store where Elsie worked.

Elsie’s sisters Aileen (my grandma) and Inez worked for Jantzen Knitting Mills. Aileen was the floor manager, and Inez was a spinner.

My grandma, Aileen, is the last woman from the right in the second row. Her sister Inez is directly behind her.
Elsie also said that she remembered going back to Idaho and visiting her sister Vida’s grave with her mom. If you recall, Vida was the baby who died of typhoid fever, apparently when the Underwoods were living in Burley, Idaho. “Mom allways thought she could have saved Vida,” Elsie wrote in her manuscript. She told me that Vida had been the only one of the children who had brown eyes.

That is the end of the notes I took on the two visits I mentioned. There were many more visits and many more notes, but I was just beginning to become serious about genealogy and still had a lot to learn about organization. The other notes are scattered amongst my papers, yet to be sorted into any sort of identifiable structure. I often, when going through old paperwork, run across a stray piece of scratch paper or even an envelope covered in genealogical notes from those early days.

However, since you have already spent so much time getting to know Aunt Elsie, I suspect you may be interested to learn about the rest of her life.

She married a man named Ferris Jones on 21 July 1928 in Portland, Oregon. I don’t know much about their marriage, as Elsie seldom talked about it except when saying something like, “That was when I was with my first husband, Ferris.” I once asked her about Ferris, but all she would say was, “He wasn’t good to me.” They divorced sometime before 1960, but I have not yet been able to find the record.

Despite how well I thought I knew Elsie, I learned only last year that she was married on 9 July 1960 to a man named Donald Peterson. They probably met at work, since I know that Elsie worked at Safeway, and he was a meat cutter at Safeway. There are, of course, a number of different Safeway locations, and I don’t know at this time whether they were both at the same location, but it does seem the likeliest scenario. Their marriage, however, was very short-lived. Even my dad, who was a child at the time, was surprised to hear of this marriage, having no recollection of it, and I could not find a single picture of Donald in the family album.

Marriage record for Elsie and her second husband Donald. Two of the witnesses are Elsie’s sister and brother-in-law.
She married a third time on 20 April 1963 to Lee Crocker. This was the uncle that I knew, and the marriage that lasted. Elsie once told me how they met, and I know that I recently saw those notes, but evidently I did not put them where they belonged, because I don’t see them now. However, I do remember that the story involved square dancing and seeing Lee walking around with his three children.

Lee, as I knew him, was a quiet, but very kind man. Elsie, in contrasting him to her first husband, said, “He’s good to me.” Elsie never had any biological children, but she took in Lee’s as her own. Their mother had passed away in 1960. I know that Elsie loved those children very much. Every time I visited she was sure to show me the latest pictures of her kids and grandkids and to tell me what each one was up to. Unfortunately, I never got to know them personally very well, though we did meet a few times, but Elsie always made sure to tell me the latest news. (I suspect she kept them apprised of the latest news about me, as well.)

When my own grandmother, Aileen, passed away in 1989, Elsie and Lee took over as sort of my surrogate grandparents. It is difficult to put into words what they meant to me. It was shortly after my grandma died—memory makes me want to say the day after, but I’m not sure that is correct—that I spent a very special day with Lee and Elsie. I think it was the first time that I had stayed with them without my parents, and it might even have been a sleepover. But after that day, although I still missed my grandma, I didn’t feel quite so much like she was gone. And I knew that whenever I needed Grandma Aileen, I could always call on Elsie.

Lee passed away on 11 April 1992. After that, Elsie moved into a smaller apartment. I remember “helping” her move. (I doubt if I was much help!) We explored many treasures hidden in her huge closet. She did not have to move far; they had lived at an upscale retirement home called Willamette View Manor, and she stayed within the manor, just in a different hallway.

Elsie remained lively and spry into her 90s. She kept some rosebushes in the manor’s garden and made a habit of leaving roses at her neighbors’ doors in the morning so they would have fresh flowers for their rooms.

And then one day she fell. I have never understood how a broken bone can completely destroy a person’s health, and I probably never will. But Elsie spent the rest of her days in the hospital. She passed away on 20 June 2001.

I think her life was well summed up by one of her friends at the funeral. I don’t know who it was, only that she lived at the manor. She told my mom and me that, having no family of her own, she had never quite understood why Elsie was always talking about hers. Sometimes it would rather annoy her that Elsie was always talking about others. But, seeing how many people were at the funeral and how much love there was, “Now I understand.”