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.