Tag Archives: United States

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.

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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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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.