Monday, October 31, 2011


Ahh, Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve. Celebrated down through the centuries even to today. But how was it celebrated by our ancestors? I can’t speak for everyone’s family, but I did take a look through my great-aunt Elsie’s memoirs this evening to see what she says about how the Underwood family celebrated Halloween in the early part of the twentieth century.

Elsie didn’t focus much attention on the holiday in her manuscript, but she did mention it twice. You will notice that I include a paragraph or two before each anecdote; I do that for context. After all, this blog is primarily for historical and genealogical material, and the introductory paragraphs reveal a slice of life in a day gone by.

The first of Elsie’s allusions to Halloween remind us that “trick-or-treat” once was more focused on the “trick” than it now is.
We didn’t have a bathroom in our house. Just a out house or (privy) as they were called. This was a small shed like type building, located a short distance from the house. Inside was a long seat across the back with holes small medium, and large, with covers, when not in use you put the cover on. Lye was used to keep it clean and odorless.

At night we would carry a lantern to see our way. One of the older ones would walk out with us, and stand out side and wait for us.
On Hallowe’en the big boys in the neighborhood, would like to tip one of these over, hoping someone was inside. They never got ours, maybe because we had a fence all the way round our place. The fence had barbed wire on top of the mesh fence, hard to climb.
 (Now that is a Halloween trick I am glad to live without.)

The second reference Elsie makes to Halloween regards an actual incident. This episode reminds us of the dangers of a former day, when jack-o-lanterns were invariably lit with real flames.
These tent houses were made from the large gunny sacks, our feed for our cattle and pigs and chickens, came in these large sacks.

Dad let us play with these sacks. So Walter and Bill made us a tent house, one for each of us. These were cool in the summertime, Idaho summers are real hot.
Walter cut out dishes, knives and forks and spoons. Out of tin sheeting Dad had.

On one Halloween we had our jack o lanterns on our (box probably a apple box) table. Right close to the opening of our tents. Our dad was on the school board, we were having a program that night. Our teacher was over to our house, she wanted Dad and Mom to drive her on an errand, they were gone a short time, when they came back my teacher asked me to turn around. I turned, all the back of my dress was burned. But how? The only fire I was around was our jack o lanterns. We had lit our lanterns to show the teacher, when she got back. The wind must have blown my dress against the lit pumkin, as I was closing the door of my tent house. I must have sat doun real fast to have put the fire out. I always believed I had a guarding angel. Of course I had to wear my school dress to the program that night.
 I hope you have enjoyed this little trip through holidays past. Happy Halloween!


Crocker, Elsie. unpublished typescript.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mrs. TUFTY and the Shaniko album

For many years, throughout my Dad’s childhood and continuing into my own, my grandmother’s next-door neighbor was a kind old woman named Mrs. Tufty. There had, of course, once been a Mr. Tufty as well, whom Dad could remember, but he had died long before I was born. I can still remember Mrs. Tufty in a vague sort of way. I was very young when she died, but she is cemented into my memory as the person from whom I got my first guitar (a small, child-sized model). I also remember Grandma and Mrs. Tufty occasionally chatting over the fence.

Mrs. Tufty had no children, and no living family that we knew of. Therefore, when she died, her belongings scattered. Somehow, through the intermediary of my grandmother, her old family photo album descended to my parents. I have always been fascinated by the album. It is not in the best of condition, and few of the photos are marked with names, but it has always seemed to me a treasure.

For over twenty years my parents have planned to donate it to the museum in the city of Shaniko, where Mrs. Tufty had lived as a child, but they have never quite gotten around to it. This summer, the opportunity presented itself: I was to join my parents on a vacation in central Oregon, and during that time we would make a day trip to Shaniko and some of the other ghost towns in its neighborhood. While there, the presentation could take place.

Shaniko is today, as hinted above, essentially a ghost town, with a current population of about 25. Although nowadays it relishes its status as a ghost town, employing it as a gimmick for tourists, in its heyday it was the transportation hub of a vigorous wool industry, and frequently called the “Wool Capital of the World.”

Mrs. Tufty had lived in Shaniko during its boom, and we figured that the town’s museum would be interested in an album from that time period.

A day or two before we planned to make the trip to Shaniko, an interesting thought occurred to us: we didn’t know Mrs. Tufty’s maiden name. What were we going to tell the folks at the museum?

So it was off to the library to see what I could find.

First, however, I gathered the little information I had to begin with. Questioning Dad, I learned that her first name had been Ethel. Then I asked her husband’s name. “Mr. Tufty,” was my Dad’s laconic reply. So all I had to work with was that her name had been Ethel TUFTY; she had lived on 68th Street in Portland, Oregon for many years; she had lived as a child in Shaniko, Oregon; she had been married; and she had died when I was very young, but old enough to remember.

Once at the library, I began my research at Ancestry, typing her name into the search field and specifying that she died in Oregon. Within a few moments, I satisfied myself between the Social Security Death Index and the Oregon Death Index that Ethel Mar TUFTY (The “Mar” is probably an abbreviation for Mary or Marie) was born on 25 May 1896 in Ohio and died 26 Jan 1985 in Portland, Oregon. A few more clicks, and I discovered that her husband’s name had been Charles. He had been born in Aug 1894 and died 15 Mar 1967 in Portland. I found them living in Tonasket, Okanogan, Washington in 1930, and listed in a 1938 directory at 6615 SE Sherrett Rd. in Portland, Oregon.

I searched for a marriage record, but found none. Oregon’s marriage records are not online; one must travel to the state archives in Salem during business hours to find them. I had hoped (having found them located in Washington in 1930) that perhaps they had been married in Washington state, whose archives are online, but found nothing there either. This was getting me no closer to discovering Mrs. TUFTY’s maiden name, so I tried another tack.

My library has a subscription to the wonderful collection of historical newspapers at GenealogyBank, part of NewsBank, so I typed her name as the search term and limited my search to Oregon and Washington. After wading through a few completely irrelevant results (“Ethel” and “Tufty” being found on the same page, but not necessarily within the same article), I hit the jackpot.

It was on page 22 of the 17 Jan 1952 edition of the Oregonian. An obituary of someone named Clarence A. MERCHANT, and listed among his relations was his daughter, “Mrs. Ethel TUFTY.” I was reasonably certain from my earlier research at Ancestry that there were no other Ethel TUFTYs on the west coast, so this answered the question of her maiden name. She must have been born Ethel MERCHANT.

However, it also gave me a surprise. Clarence MERCHANT had two grandchildren. Mrs. TUFTY had never had any children of her own, but according to this she must have had nieces or nephews! These would be the more proper recipients of the family album.

After a look at the rest of the results and a few quick searches for “Clarence MERCHANT,” “Gertrude MERCHANT,” and “Lee MERCHANT,” which yielded no additional information, I went back to Ancestry to see what I could find with the new family members.

I quickly found the entire family in the 1910 census living in Shaniko. Here I learned their approximate years of birth and probable birthplaces. (I say probable because census records cannot always be relied upon for accurate information.) I also learned that Clarence, the father, worked as Watchman at “Round House,” probably referring to part of the railroad.

I wanted to see if I could find out more about their time in Shaniko, so I googled “MERCHANT family Shaniko.” I found a posted page of Polks Wasco Co. 1910 Directory, which listed Clarence O. MERCHANT as a watchman for the Columbia Southern Ry. Co. and Lee MERCHANT as a “clk” (clerk) in the Eastern Oregon Banking Co.

All this had taken about half an hour, and, as I was at the library, I wanted to free up the computer for someone else’s use as well as look at some of their books. Being in central Oregon, the library had several local history books on Shaniko. The most promising looked to be Shaniko People by Helen Guyton Rees. Fortunately it had an index. Clarence and Lee MERCHANT were both listed, giving the same information the directory had given, with the additional information the Lee was Clarence’s son.

My time at the library ended, and when I shared what I had found with my parents we all agreed that it would be better to find the children of Lee MERCHANT and give the album to them (or their descendents), and make our journey to Shaniko as strictly a pleasure trip.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day of ghost towning as well as the rest of vacation, and once back at home I began the search for the children of Lee MERCHANT. However, it has turned out that they were both daughters, and I have thus far been unable to discover their married names. The search goes on, slowly.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

“Old Ben Wade”

For years I have been unable to trace the WADE branch of my family farther back than my great-great-great-grandfather Joseph WADE, who, according to census records, was born c. 1797 in Ohio. The earliest record I have of him is the 1850 census, where he is found in Bond County, Illinois. I have been unable to trace him prior to that because he is not located in the same area, and prior to 1850 only the heads of household are named in the census. Joseph WADE is a common name, and trying to locate the correct one has been time-consuming guesswork.

This morning, I was not even attempting the chore. I had located his son Joseph S. WADE’s obituary in the Sedan Lance and was reading it. Joseph S. WADE was the brother of my great-great-grandfather Allen C. WADE, and it was with some interest that I read the history of his movements.

Suddenly, the following paragraph arrested my attention:

Joseph S. Wade was always a good citizen. He deceived nobody. He was a direct descendent of the Wade family of Ohio of which “Old Ben Wade” was the acknowledged head, and he had many of the characteristics of his great uncle.
Who could “Old Ben Wade” have been? Surely the quotation marks surrounding the name implied that he was a prominent person, whom the readers of the newspaper would likely recognize. I googled the name.

“Old Ben Wade” was a nickname for the senator Benjamin Franklin WADE, a radical Republican who supported women’s suffrage and equality for African-Americans. My heart swelled with pride. Then I learned that after Abraham Lincoln’s death, when Andrew Johnson became President, Ben WADE was next in line for the Presidency!

The lack of a hyphen in “great uncle” as well as the birth dates of both men lead me to believe that the author of the obituary meant “his uncle who is great” rather than “his grandfather’s brother.” Therefore, if the obituary is correct, Ben WADE must have been the brother of Joseph WADE, my great-great-great grandfather.

As my research on Joseph WADE before 1850 has hitherto been unproductive, I will now try working from Ben WADE down: finding out the names of his siblings and what information is known about them. Although I very much want to be related to him, I will have to be extremely careful to weigh the information accurately and not force it to fit.

Update: A couple hours search on the genealogy of Old Ben Wade quickly proved that he could have been neither the uncle nor the great-uncle of Joseph S. Wade.


Brockett, L.P., M.D. "Benjamin Franklin Wade, Late Vice-President of the United States." Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the State of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, Are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country. Philadelphia: Ziegler and McCurdy, 1872. All Biographies. Web. 1 Oct. 2011.

“Joseph S. Wade Dead.” Sedan Lance 8 Jan 1904: 5. America’s GenealogyBank. News Bank Inc. Web. 20 Sept 2011.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Northwest League, 1935

This picture has long reposed in our family album, depicting my grandparents Aileen UNDERWOOD and Vinis “Red” BROSIUS. Although the identity of the subjects has always been apparent, the date has been more uncertain. We knew that it had been taken before they were married, that is, before November of 1940, but a more precise date was undetermined. On the back of the photo, Aileen had written that Red played for the “Bradford Clothiers,” but it seems that the now-defunct team has no presence on the internet whatsoever. Such a discovery is not surprising, of course, considering that it was not a professional team, and that any interest in its history would be extremely localized, but it is still disappointing. Apart from the desire to date the photograph, I am something of a baseball fan and wanted to learn more about my grandfather’s ball-playing years.

Finally one day, while doing a cursory search for the BROSIUS surname in the Oregonian newspaper’s historical archives, I stumbled across the phrase “Brosius and Spears forming the Bradfords’ battery.” This sent me running to the library for the microfilm, in which to my delight I traced the entire 1935 summer season.

The summer season was really not a season in itself, but the second half of the 1935 baseball season. However, the teams’ rankings were reset, and every team had a fresh start to work for the second-half pennant. At the end, the winners of the first- and second-half pennants would compete for the championship. There also seems to have been some changes in the team rosters. As I am primarily concerned with genealogy and my grandfather does not appear to have played in the first half of the season, I will leave the reconstruction of that half to another researcher.

The Bradford Clothiers, or Bradford’s Clothes Shop as it usually appears in the papers, was a team belonging to what was known as the Northwest League. This bush league consisted of eight teams, most of which seemed to be named after a sponsor. The exception was Linnton, a community near Sauvie Island, but the name was probably the abbreviation of a business name. In alphabetical order, the teams and their known players in the summer season of 1935 were:

Bradford’s Clothes Shop (alternately the Bradford Clothiers)
Unknown position: Ray LINN

Bridal Veil Timber Company

Building Labor Union of Vancouver (alternately the Unionites)

Hammel’s Pharmacy (alternately the Drugmen)
Catchers: Pete GETTE, LAWLER


Other teammates: Eddie FOSS

Mantle Club
Catchers: BARKER
Other teammates: KELDNER

V. & V. Coffee Shop
Catchers: McGUIRE or MacGUIRE
Outfielder: LEVEY
Other teammates: LESLIE
I can attempt no more than a partial reconstruction of the 1935 summer season, as all of my information is gleaned from the sports pages of the Oregonian. Never is there a complete list of the players, and only the highlights and final scores of the games are reported. However, in addition to the above list of teams and incomplete list of players, I can provide a chronology of the games played.

The 1935 summer season opened on June 16th, with Bridal Veil visiting Sellwood Park to play against Bradford’s. Bridal Veil won the game with a final score of 5-4. Three other games were also played that day, with Hammel’s beating the Building Union 6-3, the Journal massacring Linnton 16-3, and V & V beating Mantle 4-3.

The following week, Bradford’s lost a humiliating 23-7 to V & V Coffee Shop. Meanwhile, the Journal beat the Mantle Club 10-4; Hammel’s won over Bridal Veil 4-3, and the Building Labor Union beat Linnton 7-4.

The Bradford Clothiers must have hoped to redeem themselves in the following week’s game against the Building Labor Union, however the game was rained out, and the scores stood as they were another week. The following week, they were scheduled to meet the Journal, but that game, too, was postponed due to rain. Finally, on July 14th, they faced the undefeated Drugmen of Hammel’s Pharmacy at Montavilla Park, and lost. The final score was 5-3, and put Hammel’s into a tie with the Journal for the lead of the league.

In the other league games of that day, the Journal won 8-7 against the V & V Coffee Shop, Bridal Veil won against the Building Labor Union 10-9, and Linnton and the Mantle Club met in a game described as “wild, but exciting,” and ended in a score of 12-11, with Linnton winning.

The following week, July 21st, Bradford’s faced a more equal opponent: the Mantle Club. It was called a “cellar game” because neither team had yet won a game. Unfortunately, one of the teams had to remain in the cellar. That team was the Bradford Clothes Shop. At least they made a fair showing, ending the game a single run behind. The final score was 7-6. The other games of the day had Hammel’s taking the league lead after their 8-1 win against Linnton, V & V winning 6-2 over Bridal Veil, and the Building Labor Union beating the Journal 8-6.

Bradford’s was, naturally, out of the running for the league pennant at this point, but they met Linnton, another team out of the running, at Pier Park on July 28th. Now that it no longer mattered, the Clothiers finally won a game. And I can say with pride that my grandfather was responsible for at least one of the team’s seven runs.

As for the other games that day, Hammel’s beat Mantle Club 4-1. The other two games are mysteriously omitted from the newspaper article. The final scores, therefore, cannot be known, but the winners can be deduced from the team standings the following week: the Journal won over Bridal Veil and V & V beat the Building Labor Union.

The following week, Bradford’s traveled to Vancouver to play against the Building Labor Union. The results are omitted from the next day’s paper, but through the same process of deduction used above, it is clear that Bradford’s, once again, lost. The Journal played Hammel’s Pharmacy, losing 4-2; V & V Coffee Shop opposed Linnton winning 8-2; and Bridal Veil played the Mantle Club, ending with a close score of 2-1, Mantle Club the winners.

The games scheduled for August 11th were Hammel’s vs. V & V, Linnton vs. Bridal Veil, Mantle Club vs. Building Labor Union, and Bradford’s vs. the Journal. V & V beat Hammel’s in what must have been a very tense game, with a final score of just one run, bringing them to an even score and therefore requiring a tie-breaking game. The Journal beat Bradford’s with a score of 6-5, and the Building Labor Union won out over the Mantle Club 1-0. The score is not listed for the Linnton vs. Bridal Veil game, but it can be deduced that the winner was Bridal Veil.

Hammel’s and V & V played their tie-breaking game on August 18th, with Hammel’s taking home the pennant for the second half of the season. V & V had won the pennant for the first half, so they had to play one more game for the championship. Oddly, I have been unable to find the results of this final game. However, whichever team took home the championship went on to play in the Oregon fall baseball tournament, competing against ten other league champions for the title.

Inez UNDERWOOD, Ray LINN, and Red BROSIUS. The driver of the car is unknown.
Despite the fact that the Bradford Clothiers fared very poorly in the 1935 summer season, it has been an interesting project to look at them and their league. Perhaps, too, this will assist other researchers. If anyone has any further information to offer, or other photos of players in the Bradford Clothiers or any of the Northwest league teams of 1935, I would be happy to post them as well.

Now… if only I could identify the teams and dates of the other pictures in which Red BROSIUS appears in a baseball uniform!

(All of these articles—with the exception of that dated 15 July—may also be viewed online for a fee through News Bank, or for free with a Multnomah County Library card.)
Found on Microfilm. Oregonian: Portland Oregon 566 (1946): Jun 9, 1935 thru Jul 5, 1935. 
  • “Northwest Nines to Start Round.” Oregonian [Portland] 16 June 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 2.
  • “V and V Coffee Shoppers Hold to Bush Loop Lead.” Oregonian [Portland] 17 June 1935, Morning ed: 16. 
  •  “Two Undefeated Teams to Meet.” Oregonian [Portland] 23 June 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Bradfords Fail to Stop Hitting of the V & V Team.” Oregonian [Portland] 24 June 1935, Morning ed: 11. 
  •  “Loop Lead Goal of Three Teams.” Oregonian [Portland] 30 June 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Tilts Halted by Rainy Conditions.” Oregonian [Portland] 1 July 1935, Morning ed: 12. 

 Found on Microfilm. Oregonian: Portland Oregon 567 (1946): Jul 6, 1935 thru Aug 2, 1935.

  • “League Leaders Will Vie Today.” Oregonian [Portland] 7 July 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Rain Stops Games.” Oregonian [Portland] 8 July 1935, Morning ed: 14. 
  •  “Unbeaten Teams to Resume Play.” Oregonian [Portland] 14 July 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Hammel Pharmacy Team Goes Into First Place Tie.” Oregonian [Portland] 15 July 1935, Morning ed: 16. 
  •  “Lead Northwest Nine Lists Union.” Oregonian [Portland] 21 July 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Hammels Capture Top Position in Northwest Loop.” Oregonian [Portland] 22 July 1935, Morning ed: 16. 
  •  “Hammel to Play Mantle Club Nine.” Oregonian [Portland] 28 July 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Hammel’s Pharmacy Adds to Loop Lead.” Oregonian [Portland] 29 July 1935, Morning ed: 16. 

 Found on Microfilm. Oregonian: Portland Oregon 568 (1946): Aug 3, 1935 thru Aug 31, 1935.

  • “Hammel’s Needs Win to Hold Top.” Oregonian [Portland] 4 Aug 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Close Contests Seen in North-West Ball Loop.” Oregonian [Portland] 5 Aug 1935, Morning ed.:12. 
  •  “Win By Hammel’s Will Clinch Flag.” Oregonian [Portland] 11 Aug 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Northwest Nines End Second Half in Top-Place Tie.” Oregonian [Portland] 12 Aug 1935, Morning ed.:15. 
  •  “Northwest Nines Arrange Playoff.” Oregonian [Portland] 18 Aug 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Hammel’s Team Defeats V. & V. for Half Crown.” Oregonian [Portland] 19 Aug 1935, Morning ed.:15. 
  •  “Fall Tournament Dates Scheduled.” Oregonian [Portland] 25 Aug 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 2. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Capricious Credibility of Oral History

Let me begin by saying I love oral history. It is one of the first things that interested me in my family history and genealogy. I was never one those children who groan and seek escape when a grown-up would intone, “When I was your age…” Instead, I would sit in rapt attention, eager to hear what would follow. The stories helped me to understand the speaker as a person, to realize that he had once been as young and ignorant as I. My family’s stories became my stories, wrapping themselves around my heart and subtly guiding me in my own life.

And, of course, there were those evanescent stories of people long dead, whom I had never met. These stories were wonders, enveloping dusty bones with living flesh and blood. People who had died even before my parents were born became known to me. I learned to love them almost as well as I loved those whom I had really met.

Of course, it helped that I had some talented storytellers in my family—and ones who loved to reminisce. But as my study of genealogy became more serious, and I myself grew older and more discerning, I began to realize that only some of the “facts” recalled really were quite reliable, but others were often speculation or wishful thinking cemented into belief through the years.

It is interesting to look at different branches of the family and see how the oral tradition has affected my genealogical research. For instance, my great-aunt Elsie CROCKER had an amazingly accurate memory, and the foresight to type out a memoir of her childhood. She wrote of her parents’ families back in England, so that despite the relatively common surnames of UNDERWOOD and AMOS, it was a simple task to find the correct families in the census records: all I had to do was find the family in the right area with the right children. Though she made occasional mistakes, I am often astounded by her accuracy. For instance, in a 1999 conversation, when Elsie was almost 92 years old, she told me that her parents and older brother came to America on a ship called the Mayflower (not the famous one), which left England 6 May 1903 and arrived in Boston 20 May 1903. When I found the ship’s manifest, it turned out that the ship was indeed called the Mayflower, and it departed from Liverpool, England on 7 May 1903 and arrived in Boston 16 May 1903. I only hope that when I am in my nineties I can remember the date (within four days) of an event that happened before my birth!

Ship manifest of the Mayflower, 1903
The BROSIUS ancestors, by contrast, are much harder to trace, due partly to the inaccuracy of the oral tradition. The sons of John S. BROSIUS, or at least some of them, believed that their father had come from a town called Sedan in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, and given the name of his hometown to the town of Sedan, Kansas. While it is true that Sedan, Kansas is supposedly named after Sedan, France, and it is possible, and even probable, that the BROSIUS family originated in the Alsace-Lorraine, John S. BROSIUS was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, and had probably never even visited France. According to the 1860 census of the United States, his father, Adam BROCIUS, was also born in Pennsylvania. I have thus far been unable to trace the BROSIUS family prior to their appearance in Crawford County.

Perhaps my favorite exaggeration, however, is the BROSIUS boys belief that their maternal grandmother, Angelina (EVANS) WADE, was an American Indian. The idea, as far as I can tell, seems to derive solely from her habit of sitting under a tree and smoking a pipe after dinner!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The family pet

The dog up and died, he up and died,
And after twenty years he still grieves.
-"Mr. Bojangles" by Jerry Jeff Walker

Our beloved family dog Dakota passed away this week. As a tribute, I'd like to post just a few pictures of him and some of the other pets that have been a part of the family.

Dakota lounging in the sun
Navajo in a scene of remodeling
Cheyenne and Apache on a camping trip

Penelope, Lowell BROSIUS' dog.
Vinis BROSIUS' cat

Friday, April 15, 2011

Barbara Thines, a brief biography

In 1844, Luxembourg was a Grand-Duchy within the German Confederation. Far in the northwest of the Grand-Duchy, in the ruggedly picturesque region known as the Oesling, in a small town known as Hachiville, Helzingen, or Helzen—depending on which of Luxembourgs three languages one chose to use—a daughter was born to Hachiville natives Michel THINES and Anna Maria SCHMITT. They named her Barbara. She was their sixth child, and would not be their last; there would be nine children in all.

Birth certificate of Barbara Thines: 5 May 1844

Barbara grew up, as her parents had before her, along with her brothers and sisters in Hachiville. The area is known for its plateaus broken by rocky valleys, formed as the River Sûre and its tributaries flow through the southern Ardennes range. Despite its natural beauty, the soil was thin and acidic, difficult for cultivation. The THINES family (Or THINNES, as it was often spelled), as farmers, would have been very familiar with the difficulties of the terrain.

Hachiville is close to the border of the French-speaking Belgian province of Luxembourg, once a part of the Grand-Duchy, but separated from the rest of Luxembourg after a revolt in 1830. It seems probable that the residents of Hachiville would still have had cultural and family ties across the border fourteen years later.

In 1867, when Barbara was about twenty-three years old, the German Confederation dissolved, and the question of control over Luxembourg nearly resulted in war between France and Prussia. The British served as mediators between the two powers, and the subsequent Treaty of London finally guaranteed independence for the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg.

Four years later, on 4 Aug 1871, Barbara married an eisenhändler, or ironmonger, named Peter STROESSER in Wahl. It is unknown at this time how they could have met, Wahl being separated from Hachiville by 30  kilometers (about 19 miles). That is, of course, not an impossible distance, but it is far enough that it would seem to warrant some explanation.

Marriage certificate of Peter Stroesser and Barbara Thines: 4 Aug 1871. Note that on this certificate, Peter is identified as a hufschmied, or blacksmith. On his children's birth certificates he is identified in the related profession of eisenhändler, or ironmonger, meaning he was in the hardware business.

They began their family in the village of Heispelt, near Wahl. A son, Michael, was born to them in December of 1873, more than two years into their marriage. Their next child, Balthasar, came eighteen months later, followed by Anna in another eighteen months.

Twenty-two months later came another son. The birth certificate gives his name as Johann, but his descendants know him as Harry Henry. Later, he would found the Omaha, Nebraska branch of the STROESSER family.

Following Johann/Henry in 1880 came Johann Nicolas, called Nick. He was the last of the STROESSER children to be born in Heispelt. The family moved to the small village of Schwiedelbrouch by 1881, their five children ranging in age from infancy to seven.

In May of 1881 came the next child known as Johann. It may seem strange to our modern ideas to name a child the same name as a living sibling, but this was not at all unusual. Every child was named after his godfather (or her godmother), regardless of any other children in the family. Therefore, it was not uncommon to find a family with several children sharing a given name. From a practical standpoint, however, it is easy to see how the elder Johann in this family might have come to be known by an entirely different name. Perhaps he had been called Henry from a young age in order to differentiate him from his brother.

The second Johann was followed in January 1883 by Catharina, and January 1885 by Clara.

Barbara died 8 June 1890, at the age of 46, leaving her husband a widower with eight children between the ages of five and seventeen. However, he followed her to the grave only three years later.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Creeksea Ferry, c. 1878-c. 1910

The Creeksea Horse Ferry

…I can just descry the Creeksea Ferry Inn as run by a man called Amos, assisted quite fittingly by a Mr. Wiseman who also ‘did the ferrying’. Prospective passengers rang a bell which hung from a post and out came the row-boat. If the horse ferry was required, there was an arm like a railway signal to be pulled down. In either case there might be a touch of adventure. At low tide the ferryman would have to put on a St. Christopher act and carry passengers over the muddy Crouch shoreline. The horse ferry was apparently a square float. --G. Bernard Wood

In England’s southeastern Essex, nestled between the River Crouch to the north and the River Roach to the south, and separated from lands to the west by the negligible barrier of Paglesham Creek—a creek so small that it was sometimes neglected on maps—lay Wallasea Island. Hundreds of years of land reclamation had so swollen Wallasea that it was now more a peninsula than an island, and much more contiguous than the three islands it had represented during the Middle Ages. For the most part, the fertile land had been used to grow wheat, but the beginning of importation of cheap American wheat in 1875 had sparked an agricultural depression, which the island was beginning to feel. Although it was enjoying its largest population in history (one hundred thirty-five), many of the farmers would soon be departing, leaving the fields to revert to pasture. Oysters, however, still grew in the Crouch, and they were considered to be among the best in all England.

Starting from the historic village of Canewdon, just east of the island, crossing Paglesham Creek to Wallasea and following the island’s main road, travelers would soon arrive at the road’s namesake, the Creeksea Ferry. This ferry, situated on the northeast edge of Wallasea, connected the island with Burnham-on-Crouch (or, more properly, the adjacent village of Creeksea) on the other side of the river. It had been in existence since at least the early seventeenth century, when it was operated by a certain John Harris, who “busied himself dredging oysters and doing other business instead of attending to passengers over the ferry” (Payne). Although this first ferryman proved “very slacke and necligent in the performance of his endevour in the carriage of his Magistes subjects over the said Ferry” (Pollitt), his successor George Amos nearly three centuries later seems to have performed his duties well. One passenger eulogized that “Perhaps few persons are equally indispensable,” and went on to say that no matter how late you arrive or the conditions of the weather, “if you ring with exemplary diligence, wakening the echoes with the uproar, you are certain to be ‘fetched off,’ and may even find a bed at the inn.” (Tompkins 188).

George Amos

Elizabeth (Filby) Amos

George Amos married his wife Elizabeth Filby on 7 Nov 1875 at Christ Church, in Southwark, London, and it seems that they settled at the Creeksea Ferry very soon afterward. George had come north to Essex from his birthplace near Dover after the deaths of his parents, but Elizabeth had grown up in the neighborhood of Maldon, not far from the ferry. Very likely they were influenced to come to Creeksea Ferry by William Filby, probably a relation of Elizabeth’s, working as the publican at the time. He is listed in Kelly’s Directory as the publican in 1878, according to the Essex Pub website, and could well have been there as early as 1875. Elizabeth had a brother named William Filby, but it has not yet been possible to determine with certainty whether this is the same William Filby, a more distant relation, or perhaps just a startling coincidence. However, her brother certainly was in the business of pub-keeping; in the 1881 census he was working as a publican and coal porter at the pub Chelmer in Heybridge Basin, near Maldon. [Update: further research has shown that the William Filby who was publican at Creeksea Ferry was almost certainly Elizabeths brother.] Although George and Elizabeth could have moved to the Creeksea Ferry anytime between their 1875 marriage and the 1881 census, it seems likely that they settled there around the time of William Filby’s residence. All of their children, including those born after 1881 and therefore definitely while residing at the ferry, are listed as being born in Canewdon. The city of Canewdon, of course, was a couple of miles away, but the parish extended to include Wallasea Island. While it is possible that they lived elsewhere within Canewdon until 1881, the possibility does not seem very strong, especially considering the number of years they remained at Creeksea Ferry. They hardly seem to have been a particularly mobile family.

The Ferry House

At first, George Amos was simply a ferryman, carrying people over the River Crouch on the ferry, in answer to the ringing of a bell on the north side of the Crouch. During these first few years, the pub was operated by his neighbor, John Powell, though it may be imagined that George helped out. The Amos family shared the Ferry House, a rather square building next to the pub, with the Powells, though in separate quarters. Also living there, listed in the census as a boarder at the Powells’, was a Frederick Wood, employed as ostler, or person employed at an inn to look after horses.

By 1890, George was not only a ferryman, but also the publican of the Ferry Boat Inn, as it was called at the time. He held this position until at least 1908. His granddaughter Elsie Crocker describes, “The girls wern’t aloud to work in the pub. Not lady like. They could help with the ferry” (Crocker 1). It seems that they may have done this often, as Elsie mentions that “[Mom] could rowe as well as the next one. Dad conceded she could rowe better than he” (Crocker 4).

By 1910, there was a new publican at the Ferry Boat Inn. Presumably George retired somewhere in the neighborhood, but little information from that period of time has yet been released to genealogists. George Amos died in 1928. Elizabeth followed in 1942. [Correction: George Amos died on 3 May 1931. I have not yet been able either to verify or disprove the date of Elizabeths death. See George Amos death certificate for more information.]


Crocker, Elsie. unpublished typescript.
Payne, J. K. “Travels in Essex Long Ago.” The Essex Countryside Winter 1955-56: 67. Quoted in HARRIS-HUNTERS-L Archives. Rootsweb, 26 July 2007. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Pollitt, William. A History of Prittlewell. Southend-on-Sea: Southend-on-Sea Public Library & Museum, 1951. 33. Quoted in HARRIS-HUNTERS-L Archives. Rootsweb, 26 July 2007. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Tompkins, Herbert W. Marsh-country Rambles. London: Chatto & Windus, 1904. Google Books. The University of California, 7 Dec. 2007. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Wood, G. Bernard. Ferries & Ferrymen. London: Cassell &, 1969. 41. Print.