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.

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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.

Sympathy Saturday – Typhoid Fever

Albert Swing Sr Death

If one’s ancestors have to die, they may as well succumb to interesting diseases. Typhoid fever is one of those causes of death that has an antiquated ring to it. My only prior association with it was from reading the Catherine Marshall novel Christy. But apparently my great-great-grandfather, Albert Carl Swing, was one of its victims. Or was he really Albert Charles Swing, as indicated on his death certificate?  Hmm.

Albert died 10 days shy of his 63rd birthday in Francesville, Indiana. He had been born 24 October 1859 in Akron, Ohio, the son of Carl/Karl Schwing and Saloma Bollinger. The family appears in both the 1860 and 1870 censuses in Akron. In 1877 they moved to Livingston County, Illinois, where they appear in the 1880 census in Chatsworth. On 17 February 1884 in Fairbury, Illinois, Albert married Catherine Marie Hoffmann. Together they had 13 children, including my great-grandfather, Albert Carl Swing, Jr. In 1900 they appear in Ash Grove, Illinois, then in 1905 moved near Wolcott, Indiana. In the 1910 census they were enumerated in Salem, Indiana, then in 1920 in Hanging Grove, Indiana. Two years later Albert died. Albert was buried three days after his death, in the Francesville (Roseland) cemetery.

Albert and Catherine Swing

Typhoid or enteric fever is a specific infectious fever characterized mainly by its insidious onset, by a peculiar course of the temperature, by marked abdominal symptoms occurring in connection with a specific lesion of the bowels, by an eruption upon the skin, by its uncertain duration, and by a liability to relapses. This fever has received various names, such as gastric fever, abdominal typhus, infantile remittent fever, slow fever, nervous fever, pythogenic fever, etc. The name of ” typhoid ” was given by Louis in 1829, as a derivative from typhus. Until a comparatively recent period typhoid was not distinguished from typhus. For, although it had been noticed that the course of the disease and its morbid anatomy were different from those of ordinary cases of typhus, it was believed that they merely represented a variety of that malady. The distinction between the two diseases appears to have been first accurately made in 1836. [Britannica1911].

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Wednesday’s Child – the Other Paul Hoffmann

chalons

 

If I had been a boy, it’s likely I would have been named Paul, Mom tells me. I would have been one in a long line of Pauls (and Paulas) on the maternal side of my family. A quick search of my genealogy database tells me tells me the name appears 609 times (though some of these are on the paternal side as well).

However, there are only two individuals in my database named Paul Hoffmann (with the “nn” spelling).  One, of course, was my great-grandfather, who emigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1883 at five years of age. The other was his first cousin, Paul Auguste Hoffmann, who would have been thirteen years his senior. This Paul was born 19 December 1864 in Marne, France, the eldest child of Jean Nicolas and Marie Louise Gérard Hoffmann.  Jean Nicolas was the next-eldest brother of Jacob Hoffmann, our Paul’s father. Some three years older than Jacob, he had first married Dorothée Sutter in 1855.  Our Paul had a tragic end but did live to adulthood; Jean Nicolas’s Paul did not. He died 9 March 1867 at two years of age.

Jean Nicolas and Marie Louise had three more children. Albert Athanase Hoffmann was born only a month after Paul’s death on 13 April 1867. A third son, Auguste Laurent, was born 7 August 1868 but died less than six weeks later. Finally, Auguste Ludgard Hoffmann was born 30 November 1871. It is to his grandson, Daniel, that I am indebted for all of this history.

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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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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.