Category Archives: Tombstone Tuesday

Tombstone Tuesday – The Curse of the Chaneys

More Josephine Chaney

The Sunday Oregonian, August 8, 1920

Some families seem to have more than their share of tragic deaths. One such family is that of Phineas Benjamin Chaney and his wife, Josephine Welsh. Phineas was my fourth cousin 5 times removed through the Davis line. Phineas was born 8 January 1854 in Illinois, the son of Phineas, Sr., and Mary Jane (Berry) Chaney. Even before Phineas, Jr., was born, his parents had endured their own share of tragedy; of their eleven children, four died before their second birthday.  Another child, Emma, died shortly before she would have turned 22.

At least Phineas, Jr., did live long enough to marry; he and Josephine had a son, Fred Russell Chaney, born in March 1885, apparently in New York. At some point the family moved to Portland, Oregon; there, on 9 April 1895, aged 41, Phineas died of appendicitis. The Sunday Oregonian of 12 April 1895 reports the sad events:

“The funeral of Phineas P. Chaney, who died at the Portland hospital, on April 9, took place yesterday afternoon from his late residence at 1193 East Yamhill, a short distance from the Rosedale station, Mount Tabor railway. There was present a large concourse of the friends of Mr. Chaney. The services were conducted by C. B. Reynolds, of the Secular church. At 2:15, the choir began the services by singing the beautiful song, “Sweet Bye and Bye,” when Mr. Reynolds arose and delivered an eloquent address. The remains were buried at Lone Fir cemetery. Mr. Chaney had lived in his present home about four years, coming from Brooklyn, N.Y. He was 41 years old. He was an accomplished millwright, and constructed most of the gearing and machinery in the docks along the East Side. Only a week ago, he was taken sick, and was removed to the Portland hospital, where it was found, as a last resort, that the vermiform appendix would have to be removed. The operation was performed, but he was too far gone to recover, and inflammation ensued, which terminated his life. He leaves a widow and a little son.”

Phineas’s widow, Josephine, was 35 years old and became a schoolteacher. Later young Fred entered medical school at the University of Oregon. After completing his medical training, he moved to Alaska to practice medicine there. In September 1908, while he and three other men were climbing a mountain near the Valdez glacier, he slipped and fell 200 feet. He was apparently not killed instantly but was taken into Valdez, where he died. He was 23 years old; his body was returned to Portland and buried near his father.

Josephine, having lost both husband and only child, continued to teach. She appears in the 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses, listed as a schoolteacher. In that final census, her address is listed as 415 Yamhill Street. There, seven months later at the Elton Court Apartments, the family’s final tragedy occurred.  At five o’clock in the morning, perhaps caused by a careless smoker, a fire started in the lobby of the apartment building and spread quickly, up both the elevator shaft and the stairs. Josephine was trapped on the fourth floor and, as firemen attempted to rescue her, fell from a window to the sidewalk below.  She died en route to the hospital. Two other women were killed after jumping from the second and fourth floors. Josephine, aged 60 according to some records, 54 according to the Sunday Oregonian, was buried in what is now known as Portland’s River View Cemetery with her husband and son.

Tombstone Tuesday – A Boy Named Esther

William Sweeney

Eighty-five years ago today, my third cousin four times removed, William Sweeney, died. Thank goodness for genealogy databases which make it easy to look up that sort of thing.

According to his tombstone, William was born 27 January 1891 in Kentucky, the eldest son of Doctor Franklin Sweeney (his actual name, not a title) and his much younger wife Lucy Ann Watson.  Lucy’s name is also a mysterious – she appears variously in records as Lucy Ann, Lousanna, and Louisiana. Doctor Sweeney (or Doc) had been married previously; he and Sarah Margaret Allen had twelve children before Sarah’s death at 46. He then married Lucy some two years later.

In 1900 the family was enumerated in Casey Creek, Casey County, Kentucky. Doctor F. Sweeney is listed as a farmer born in October 1835, and Louisiana as his wife born in March 1868. They had been married for 9 years, which means at their wedding Doctor Sweeney was 55 and his bride 23.  Here William E. is listed as being born in January 1893, with three younger siblings:  Mary E., born March 1895; Fanny Lee, born June 1896, and Mardie B., born November 1899.

Doc Sweeney died in April 1902. About a year later Lucy married George W. Foster. By the 1910 census George and Lucy, still in Casey (or Casey’s) Creek, appear with three of their own children (Albert T., age 6; Elbert, age 2; and Lily, age 1 8/12), as well as Lucy’s four stepchildren. Here William appears as “Esther” Sweeney, age 18.  Most of the family is still together in 1920; only Mary Sweeney is no longer in the household.  In addition, George and Lucy have been joined by daughter Leonda Foster, age 7.

William would not live to be enumerated in the next census, dying in June 1929. He is buried in Brush Creek Cemetery, Casey County, Kentucky. His death certificate is singularly unhelpful. Stamped “Delayed,” it lists yet a third birthdate, 1 June 1889, and under “Cause of Death,” is stamped “Queried No Reply.” Yet another mystery to investigate…

Tombstone Tuesday – Knox to King

Pearl Wilson Ramaker

Pearl Ethel Wilson, my 2nd great aunt, was born 18 June 1892 in Creighton, Knox County, Nebraska.  She was the fifth child of six born to Wellington David and Lucinda Blanche (Davis) Wilson. Lucinda died, aged 35, when Pearl was only two years old. Her younger brother, then ten months old, was raised by his maternal aunt, while Pearl is found living with her maternal grandparents in Iowa in 1900.

By 1910 Pearl was 18 and living in Centerville, South Dakota. She was a boarder in the Turner Hotel run by Edward Mudie and his wife Jennie.

Turner Hotel - Pearl Wilson Ramaker lived here 1910

By 1920 Pearl had moved to Hobson, Montana.  There, boarding with the family of Floyd McCowan, Pearl was employed as a schoolteacher. About 1921 Pearl married Ray Edward Ramaker. Ray and Pearl had three children, all born in Montana:  Mary Jo, Shirley E., and Nancy R. By 1930 the family had moved to Missoula, Montana, where Ray worked as a dentist. The home at 315 Daly Avenue where they lived in 1930 still stands; it was valued at $6500 in 1930 and $5500 in 1940. It was assessed at $165,877 last year. In 1940 Pearl and her daughters were still living in the Daly Avenue home, while Ray was living in Seattle.

By 1946 when their youngest daughter graduated from high school, it appears the entire family had moved to Seattle’s King County. Here, on 18 December 1969, Ray died, followed a decade later by Pearl, on 16 March 1979. Both are buried in Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park, Seattle’s largest cemetery.

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Tombstone Tuesday – More Sweeneys with Fun Names

Jordan SweeneyPermelia Pigg

Jordan Sweeney, first cousin six times removed, was born 16 November 1806 in Casey County, Kentucky.  The grandson of Moses Sweeney, his parents were Charles Welby Sweeney and Frances Shackleford. His wife, whom he married 20 September 1829 in Casey County, had one of the best names ever:  Permelia Pigg.  Permelia was born about 1810, also in Casey County.

The Baby Name Wizard site indicates that Permelia was the name originally chosen for Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, but that it has never ranked in the top 1000 baby names.  Shocking.

Jordan and Permelia had five children, all given much more normal names than their mother: Mary A., Charles Willis, Frances, Elizabeth Ellen, and Amanda H. Jordan died 2 August 1845, and Permelia about 1845.  Both are buried in the Sweeney/Drake Family Cemetery in Casey County.

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Tombstone Tuesday – Darmstadt to Fairbury

Karl Schwing

Karl Schwing, my 3G-grandfather, was born in 1813 in Darmstadt, Germany.  His father was apparently also named Karl Schwing, according to the History of the Schwing Family, which provides many of the following details. While in Germany, Karl was a Lutheran minister; he was married twice in the “Old Country” but lost both wives shortly after childbirth, the second wife buried at sea during the trip from Germany to America. Karl would later join the German Apostolic Christian Church.

In 1851 Karl married Saloma Bollinger, my 3G-grandmother, in Akron, Ohio. They had a son, John B., in 1852, and in 1853 the two older children, Karl and Margaret, died. Four more children followed John’s birth: Charles; Henry Edward; Albert Carl, Sr.; and Joseph Gilbert. Both the 1860 and 1870 censuses show Karl working as a tailor in Akron. In 1877 the family moved to Livingston County, Illinois, where Karl worked as a farmer. Three years later, the oldest surviving son, John, died in Chatsworth, Illinois, of lung fever. Karl only outlived his son by three months. The Livingston Yesterday series from the Pontiac Public Library (taken from the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Illinois) states that on 10 August, 1880, “at the zenith of his powers,” Karl died. He is buried in the South Apostolic Christian Cemetery outside Fairbury, Illinois. Karl’s widow Saloma lived for two more decades, residing with all three sons at various times. She died in early 1900 and is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Fairbury.

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Tombstone Tuesday – Joshua Ousley Montgomery

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One of many family graves seen during last year’s visit to Mansfield, Illinois, was that of Joshua Ousley Montgomery, a first cousin twice removed. Grandson of my great-great-grandparents John and Belinda (Simmons) Montgomery, he was born February 3, 1893 in Mansfield, to Thomas Milton and Frances May (Hoover) Montgomery.

His World War I draft registration from June 1917 lists him as “Joshua Oozley Montgomery,” age 24, of medium height and build, with light blue eyes and light-colored hair. In the four censuses in which he appears, he is enumerated with his parents. By 1930 he is listed as divorced. Cousin Janet Alvis indicates that his wife was a Leona H. Brooks, born about 1902, and that Leona and Joshua married May 6, 1922.

Janet has also provided the following obituary information for Joshua on the Find-a-Grave website:

Joshua O. Montgomery, 44, World War veteran and life-long resident of Mansfield was instantly killed at 10:50 pm Sunday, March 28, 1937, when he was struck by a car two mile east of Mahomet on Rt 150. Services were conducted in Mansfield Wednesday afternoon with burial in Mansfield cemetery. 

He was born on a farm near Mansfield, the s/o M/M T. M. Montgomery. He had just started construction of a home near his parents’ residence in Mansfield. Besides his parents he leaves two brothers: Fred of Chicago and Thomas of Mansfield; three sisters: Bertha Thomas, Stella McIlvain and Hattie Hannah, all of Mansfield. He was unmarried.

Tombstone Tuesday – Sophia Hoffmann Kuntz

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My great-great-grand aunt, Sophia/Sophie Hoffmann, was born in June 1864 in France. The fifth child of Jacob Hoffmann and his first wife, Annette (Meyer) Hoffmann, she was the younger sister of my 2G-grandmother, Catherine, and the older half-sister of my great-grandfather Paul. At age 18, Sophie traveled with her family from France to America, arriving May 16, 1883.

A little over three years later Sophie married John W. Kuntz in Pontiac, Illinois, on July 26, 1886. John and Sophie were the parents of six children:  Samuel Henry, born June 15, 1888; William John, born about April 1, 1890; Walter Louis, born February 17, 1894; Frieda Ann, born about January 14, 1897; Raymond Napoleon, born about August 21, 1899; and Joseph, born about January 26, 1901. All of the children were born in Woodford County, Illinois, where the family was also enumerated in 1900, in Metamora Township:

June 14-15, 1900 Metamora Twp., Woodford, Illinois
Kuntz John W Head W[hite] M[ale] Nov 1858 41 M[arried] 14 Illinois Switzerland Switzerland Farmer
—Sophia Wife W F June 1864 36 M 14 5 5 France France France 1884 16
—Samuel H Son W M Jun 1888 11 S Illinois Illinois France At School 8 
—William J Son W M Apr 1890 10 S Illinois Illinois France At School 8 
Kuntz, Walter L Son W M Feb 1894 6 S Illinois Illinois France At School 6
—Frieda A Daughter W F Jan 1897 3 S Illinois Illinois France
—Raymond N Son W M Aug 1899 10/12 S Illinois Illinois France
Dargel, Wm H Boarder W M Apr 1883 17 S New Mexico Germany Germany Farm Laborer 0 yes yes yes

About six days after the birth of her son Joseph, Sophie died at age 36, presumably as a result of complications from childbirth. Baby Joseph lived only another week. Sophie was buried in the Roanoke Apostolic Christian Cemetery in Roanoke, Illinois.

Following Sophie’s death Raymond, the youngest surviving child, was raised by Sophie’s sister Lena (Hoffmann) Yost, who had no children of her own.  John and Sophie’s second child, William, died about February 7, 1907 at age 16. John himself lived to age 92, dying on June 7, 1951 in Bluffton, Indiana. He shares a tombstone in Uniontown Cemetery, Zanesville, Indiana, with his son Ordie Smith, who died in 1940 at age 15.