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…

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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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Sunday’s Obituary – Grandpa Swing

Albert Carl Swing Obituary

Albert Swing’s obituary from the 3 February 1969 Harlingen, TexasValley Morning Star

Great-grandpa Albert Swing was born 11 April 1889 in Cissna Park, Illinois, the fourth of thirteen children born to Albert Carl and Catherine Marie (Hoffmann) Swing. He was musical, buying a violin with the first money he earned working in the fields; in later years he called square dances.  On 18 June 1913, in Peoria, Illinois, he married Lena Agnes Hunkler. As noted in his obituary, Albert and Lena had three children. The family spent a number of years in Francesville, Indiana, moving between there and various locations in Illinois. In 1951 the couple moved to Harlingen, Texas, for Lena’s health. She died there in 1964. All his life Albert longed for the flat farmland of his youth; he would say that he wished he could have been buried in the cemetery in Francesville among the Indiana wheat fields. However, Albert’s final resting place is with Lena at Restlawn Cemetery in La Feria, Texas.

Sympathy Saturday – At the Heart of the Flu Epidemic

Ina Dame Demler

The subject of today’s post is not a blood relation, but her loss must surely have been a great tragedy for her husband and son, my first cousin three times removed and second cousin twice removed. Ina Dame was the daughter of William Patrick and Emily Ellen (Bright) Dame.  She was born 19 November 1893.  In 1915 Ina graduated from Virgil High School in Virgil, Kansas. On 25 February 1918 in Emporia, Ina married Charles A. Demler, son of August Frederick and Caroline (Fankhouser) Demler.  August’s sister Mary was the mother of my great-grandmother, Emma Alice (Slagel) Hoffmann.

A Democratic Messenger clipping from March 1918 recounts the bride’s “sweet, kind, loving disposition” and notes that “their many friends join in wishing them a long, happy and successful life’s journey together.” This, however, was not to be. On 12 November 1918, Ina gave birth to a son, Charles, Jr., in Virgil. Sixteen days later Ina died. The Democratic Messenger again provides the pertinent details, noting that Ina’s death was from influenza. Ina was buried in the Virgil Cemetery. Ina’s death was only one of between 50-100 million in the influenza pandemic of 1918.  Interestingly, the epidemic was first observed in the U.S. in Haskell County, Kansas, some 280 miles from where Ina died.

In spite of this early tragedy, life did go on for both Charles Demlers.  Charles, Sr., would remarry in 1929, though he and his wife Mineola had no children of their own. Charles died 13 May 1966, and Mineola 7 April 1969.  Both are buried in the Virgil Cemetery.  Charles, Jr., appears to have been raised by Ina’s parents. He is enumerated with them in the 1925 Kansas State Census as well as the 1930 U. S. Federal Census.  I’m not sure yet where either Charles was in 1920. By 1940 Charles, Jr., had married Etha Marie Wilson, and they were living in Lane, Kansas, along with Etha’s 11-year-old sister Betty Jean.  Etha died in 1955; Charles outlived her by 43 years, dying in Oklahoma on 3 October 1998. Both are also buried in Virgil.

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Friday Funny – Sisters in Law

Alice and Dottie

I love this picture. It was taken in June 2009 on one of our annual visits to see family in Fairbury, Illinois. We didn’t know it then, but it would also be our last visit with Aunt Alice. Along with trying to convince Dottie to drink cinnamon schnapps (I think), Aunt Alice also regaled us with stories of when they were young wives vacationing together. In particular I remember one story of a rainy day when both families were on vacation in Michigan. All the kids were outside playing in the rain, and Alice and Dottie decided they would bake a German chocolate cake. They could hardly wait for the cake to finish baking before they tasted it. And tasted a little bit more. And then more. And suddenly to their horror, the entire cake was gone except for a tiny sliver! Hastily they devoured the final sliver, then washed and put away the pan. Between them, the two sisters-in-law had eaten the entire thing. Hopefully the smell of the rain hid the smell of the missing German chocolate cake…

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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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