Category Archives: Montgomery Line

Thriller Thursday – Boy Scout Tragedy

Fifty-five years ago this weekend, what should have been a fun Boy Scout camping trip ended in tragedy for 15-year-old Richard Samuels. Richard was my seventh cousin twice removed, a fellow Wilson descendant, and had already experienced more than his fair share of hard times. He was born 25 July 1945 in Ogden, Utah, to Ariel Clifton and Mahala Verne (McFarland) Samuels. The family moved to San Francisco, and then sometime before 1951 Ariel and Verne were divorced.

In May of 1951 35-year-old Ariel suffered burns from a gasoline explosion in his car, dying a week later. According to Ariel’s obituary, he was survived by five sons and a daughter. Unless not all of the children were Verne’s, by 1958 four of them had also died. In August of that year, 43-year-old Verne died after an “extended illness.” Her obituary states she was survived by only two sons, Richard and Clifton.

Thirteen-year-old Richard was then taken in by his mother’s sister Willa and her husband, Lester Rose. He moved with them back to Ogden, possibly to 3376 Gramercy Avenue, a 4-bedroom home that had been built in 1956. The family was certainly living there by July 1961. The Ogden Standard-Examiner of July 4 that year details what happened to Richard in a front-page article just above one noting that Ernest Hemingway, who had died two days earlier, would be buried in the Ketchum, Idaho, public cemetery.

Richard, a student at Ogden High School and a member of the LDS church, had left Ogden at 4 a.m. on Monday, 3 July, with 10 other Explorer Scouts for a camping trip in the Uinta Mountains near Kamas. The trip was intended to last a week but in the end lasted less than twelve hours. The group camped near Buckeye Lake and half the boys left camp to gather firewood. One hundred yards from camp, they cut down a dead lodgepole pine tree. In falling, the tree knocked a limb loose from another tree, and this limb hit Richard on the head. He was taken to the hospital in Kamas but was pronounced dead on arrival from a fractured skull. Dr. John Kumagai stated Richard was most likely killed instantly when the limb struck him. A forest ranger examining the scene later estimated the tree limb weighed “about 100 pounds.” The other Scouts and their leaders returned home after Richard’s death, and Richard was buried Friday, 7 July, in Ogden City Cemetery.

This was not the end of difficult times for poor Clifton, either. Raised not with his brother Richard but in the household of a different aunt and uncle (his father’s sister and brother-in-law), Clifton was the elder by about six years. Less than a year after Richard’s death, in May 1962, it appeared that things might have turned around for the family, as 22-year-old Clifton married 20-year-old “lovely spring bride” Janet Gibbs. Two years later, though, Clifton’s foster father and uncle died at age 58 of a heart ailment. Then in 1967 Clifton and his “lovely spring bride” were divorced, with “mental cruelty” cited as the cause. Exactly what this meant is anyone’s guess, however, as all but two divorces noted in the newspaper with the Samuels’ noted the same cause.

In February 1973, at 28th and Harrison in Ogden, the car Clifton was driving struck another car broadside. Thankfully no one was seriously injured; the 19-year-old driver of the other car was hospitalized in fair condition, and his 17-year-old passenger was treated and released. Clifton, however, was cited for failure to yield and for driving under the influence. We can hope that things did finally turn around for Clifton following this incident. I found him one more time in the Ogden Standard-Examiner, this time in December 1977, purchasing land along with a second wife Kristine.

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…

Amanuensis Monday – Flo Ought to Be Proud of That

Irene, Lawrence, and Flo Montgomery

Irene, Lawrence, and Flo Montgomery

In the fall of 1945, when she was not yet sixteen, my dad’s second sister left home.  Irene had worked as a babysitter for a family in Idaho; when they moved to Albany, Oregon, Irene went with them to continue babysitting and complete her high school education.

Dorothy Irene Montgomery (known by her middle name) had been born 11 November 1929 in Winner, South Dakota, the daughter of Lawrence Theodore (or Conklin) Montgomery and his first wife, Antonia Marie Jelinek. Irene was four months old, and the elder sister, Flo, only two years older, when their mother died in Yankton, South Dakota.  Later that year Grandpa married Blanche Agnes Wilson (my grandmother); Grandpa and Grandma would eventually have ten more children. Aunt Irene’s letters home provide a glimpse into the life she was living far away from her family as well as her pride in her older sister back home.

Albany, Oregon
April 2, 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & kiddies,

Received your letter yesterday and was I tickled to get it.
Yes, Mom, I am feeling fine now. Am so glad.
We have 2 days of Spring Vacation.

Flo ought to be proud of that because it really [is] a great honor. We had an initiation of the “National Honor Society” last Fri. You have to have real good grades, you have to have some qualities of a leader, and you have to be quite popular, I mean you should [know] most of the kids in school. No, she didn’t write me about it, yet.

Those pictures were awful, but I just sent them.

I don’t have to wear my glasses only when I read they are for close up work now, Mom.

I will find out when [I] get out of school because I want to be there so bad for her graduation.

This coming Saturday the Band is going to Salem for our contest. We compete against all of the cities around here.

I am glad the kids can have some fun like that. Have they learned to skate real well. I can waltz with skates now, but I can’t skate backwards.

I would write to Myrt, but I have so many notebooks, speeches and etc., to get in this week and the next. We have been rehearsing for the concert at nights. Tell Myrt to excuse me this time if she will.

We have had pretty fair weather lately. We are voting for Carnival Princesses & Queen for our big All School Carnival which they have every year. We vote 3 princesses out of each class and a Queen from the Senior. I was a candidate for princess in two rooms, but didn’t get it. Must close.

Lots of love
Irene

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Wednesday’s Child – Little Ada Cory

Ada Cory

Ada Cory, fourth cousin three times removed, was the daughter of James Manning and Elizabeth (Braly) Cory. Ada’s 3G-grandparenst were my 6G-grandparents, Joseph Cory and Mary Meeker. Ada was her parents’ first child, born 6 December 1864. Less than two years later Ada died, on 1 May 1866.  Following her death, James and Elizabeth had four more children:  George H., Frank, Mabel Hyde, and Henry M. The entire family is buried at Oak Hill Memorial Park in San Jose, California. If it weren’t for this burial, not much else would be known about Ada, as she lived and died in between two censuses. This makes her tombstone all the more poignant, from the “Little Ada” inscription, to the carved verse below, from Psalm 127:3 –

“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord.”

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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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Census Sunday – Grandpa in 1920

Lawrence 1920

Just in time for Memorial Day, here is Grandpa Lawrence Montgomery‘s 1920 census record. I still haven’t found him (or his father) in 1910, so this is the first record where he appears. In that year he was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. His age is listed as 21, which is consistent with the (incorrect) birthdate Grandpa gave when enlisting in 1917. Grandpa was really only 18 in January 1920. Nebraska is listed as the birthplace of Grandpa (which is correct), as well as his parents (which is incorrect). His occupation is “soldier.” Grandpa’s military records give a little more information on his military service, though Grandpa also told some (as yet unsubstantiated) colorful stories about his experiences:

  • Being stationed in Hawaii
  • Being sent to climb up a pole to cut down an effigy of Kaiser Wilhelm
  • While operating the base movie projector (which his records confirm he did do), hollering at someone who came in to the projector room to put out their cigar, only to have someone tell him he had just yelled at General Pershing

Whatever Grandpa’s role, I’m grateful for his service.