Monthly Archives: January 2017

4th of July 1910 style


The Samuel Caple home, Puyallup, WA, 1905. The woman standing is Margaret, the seated gentleman, Samuel. The little girl is probably their youngest child, Lida. The young man standing on the right might be a son. The man on the left is unknown.
Family History writing prompt 6 – choose an ancestor and a census where they appear, throw a block party for everyone on the page. What are they celebrating, doing and talking about?
I chose the page of the 1910 census where my Great Grandparents, Samuel and Margaret Caple appeared. They were living on Schuman St., Puyallup, Ward 3, roll T624-1665, 6a, Enumeration District 210, Image 1105.
Of the 50 people enumerated on this page only 10 were born in the state of WA and only one was an adult. Most were born in the Midwest with one person from Germany and one from Scotland.
Of the Twelve families listed, five rented their homes, seven owned and of those seven, three had mortgages. Nine families were listed as living in houses and three families on farms. Much to surprise my great grandparents were one of those with a farm. Proving the adage that one should always look again at documents you think you have already gleaned all the information from.
Occupations varied, with one full-time farmer, one express business, three loggers, two sawmill workers, two retail workers, one employed at the box factory, one carpenter, and one rail road worker.
Those interested in social history should google the July 4th heavy-weight fight between Jack Johnson and James Jefferies, mentioned in this story. The fight sparked both riots and celebrations nation-wide.

4th of July, 1910

 Margaret pushed open the screen door and stepped onto the porch. The sight of Mt. Rainer, silhouetted majestically against the blue sky, made her pause. What a splendid night for a 4th of July supper.

Laughter erupted from the far end of the porch where Naomi Bailey, the Alger girls and her daughter Lida were having a good time playing a game of jacks.

It gladdened her heart to see Lida with chums. Living in a sod house in Oklahoma had been lonely. Leaving had been the right decision, it was nice having neighbors and friends close at hand.

Her eyes scanned the street, under the trees next door, the men had set up tables and chairs for supper. Now the women were busy filling the tables with platters of sliced ham, fried chicken, homemade breads, jams and jellies, deviled eggs and salads. Plates of cakes, cookie and pies and berries fresh from her son Roy’s berry patch, filled the dessert table along with pitchers of lemonade and iced tea to quench their thirst.

Grunts and groans arose from the side of the house where her three sons, home from the logging camps, were supervising the nine year-old Bailey twins, Harold and Howard, as they cranked the churn on the ice cream maker.

“Come on you can do it,” urged her son Roy. “A little more muscle work and you’ll be done.

At 26, 24 and 20 her three dark-haired sons were a good-looking trio. She’d noticed the way the girls looked at them. Soon someone would steal their hearts.

She reached up and brushed a tear from her eye, her thoughts drifting to her missing children. Sammy should be standing there with the three of them. Had it really been 10 years since they’d lost him. It had been even longer since Ida and baby Bertle had passed.

Guffaws from down the street interrupted her sad thoughts. The older men of the neighborhood were gathered around Mr. Bryan’s shiny, black Model T. Ever since he come home with that car, her Sam could speak of little else. He’d even begun to talk of getting a truck of his own. She shook her head, such nonsense.

The rest of he men were gathered by their barn, deep in conversation. No doubt discussing today’s heavy-weight fight between Johnson and Jefferies. Fights – another piece of nonsense.

Stepping off the porch Margaret strode toward the food tables to add her yeast rolls to the tables.

No doubt about it, President Taft would be proud of how her neighborhood had answered the call for a safe and sane 4th. She just hoped it remained that way later when it was time to shoot the fireworks off at Spinning school.



My Father, Roger Verle Caple

Family history writing prompt 5:  Choose an ancestor, a year and 3 items from a Sears catalog of the same year, to give this person. Why did you make the choices you made?

For this prompt I used the 1930 Sears fall/winter catalog and my Dad, who would have been eight years-old. To make my pretend gift giving more fun, I decided to include his sister and one item the entire family could enjoy.

The opening page of the 1930 fall/winter catalog proclaimed itself to be the “thrift book of the nation” and went on to say, “reckless spending is a thing of the past” and promised, “prices much lower than anytime in the past ten years.”

By the winter of 1930 the Great Depression had begun. The census taken earlier in the year had listed my Grandfather’s work as logging, an industry the depression would hit hard. It is possible that by December he no longer had regular work. A tight rein on expenditures would be needed if his family were to survive the coming years.

Imaginary Gifts

I can see my dad, laying on a rug, the catalog opened to the dog-eared page filled with Lionel trains. Oh how he longed to have one of those trains. Why they even had real lights.

I’m sure he spent time looking at the other toys – the trucks, cars, balls, games and building sets etc. He must have thought the giant stocking filled with 30 gifts including whistles, a mitt, balls, puzzles, yo yo’s, crayons, marbles and much more would be nice to receive.  But what he really wanted was a train.

His sister, who had just turned 12, was outgrowing toys, it was the dresses, hats and coats for the stylish 12-16 year old that captured her attention. When she got to the pages filled with radios and telephones, she probably dreamed of the day when her family could finally own one.

With this in mind I made the following choices:

For my Dad, I chose the most popular Lionel electric train set priced at 11.98 including postage. It came complete with track, a locomotive with 2 headlights, 2 illuminated pullman cars, one illuminating observation car, warning signals, etc. It also needed a 10 volt transformer or battery at an additional $3.59, making the set a total of $15.67. When you realize in today’s dollars the set would have cost $214.39, you can understand why he didn’t get one. A family worried about their future didn’t have money for such purchases.

My next choice was the stocking filled with trinkets. What little boy wouldn’t enjoy getting a stocking filled with 30 gifts. At $1.79 it seems like a bargain, but in today’s world it would be $25. More likely he got one or two inexpensive cars and a stocking filled with oranges, nuts and candy.

My Dad enjoyed engineering so for my third gift I chose the “Starter Erector” set. Cheaper than the train at  $4.51, it would still cost $62.00 today. There were many fancier and more expensive sets but the starter set seemed best for an eight year-old.

For his sister, I chose a dress that was a saving from the similar dress sold the previous year – or so the catalog said. Made of a good, warm cotton suiting, with a smart woven pattern, embroidered stitching and a hip belt, it came in medium blue and sold for  $3.98. ($54.73 today)

To  go over the dress I added a wrap style, navy blue coat of 9/10 chinchilla wool with a genuine fur collar. It had a heavy fleecy cotton suede lining. The cost was $9.95. ($136.73 today)

To complete the look I picked a navy Classmates hat styled for the modern girl who demanded the newest fashions. Framing the face it gave a look of youthfulness and charm and came with felt bow and rhinestone ornaments. The cost was $2.98. ($40.98 today)

One of the questions asked on the 1930 census was whether or not the household owned a radio. Of the 15 houses enumerated on the same page as my Dad’s family, 7 households had radios. Their house was not one of them, so my pick for the family gift was a radio.

Knowing my grandfather was a frugal man, who would never approve the purchase of the $164 console radio, ($2,255.24 today) complete with a remote for turning it on and setting the stations from ones’ easy chair, I chose a modest table top model at  $41.50. ($570.69 today)

It was billed as the greatest performing all-electric receiver ever offered. With 8-tube-all-electric neutrodyne, it came in a dark rich bronze color. Apparently you still needed to purchase the tubes bringing the total price to 61.50. ( $845.00 today)

I don’t know when the family finally got a radio. My aunt wrote that her Mother enjoyed going to her parent’s house to listen to western music shows. My Grandmother passed away 3 years later, so I am guessing they didn’t have a radio until after 1933.  My Dad never did get the train he so wanted.



The Old Star Quilt

Family history writing prompt 4 – Choose and artifact that once belonged to one of your ancestors. Write as though you are that object, tell about who owned it and what history the artifact might have witnessed.

It was the star quilt given to me by my Aunt Iva I chose to write about. As I mentioned in writing prompt 1, Margaret Ragsdale Caple called three women mother. The quilt pictured above was made by one of those women. I have been told the quilt could date back to as far as the 1850’s so for this piece I am going to assume it was made  by Margaret’s birth mother.




Go ahead take a close look at me. Yes, I am worn and faded. It’s a wonder I’m still around after all I am 160 years old. I was expertly stitched together by the 5th great-grandmother of the child in photo above. Examine me closely  and you will see I’m made of many small diamonds. It wasn’t easy to stitch those and keep my star laying flat. Back then my colors were vibrant and I was given a place of honor on the bed of little girl named Margaret.

I covered her bed when this nation, torn apart by slavery, fought a civil war. Bushwhackers roamed the countryside of Missouri where she lived so her family sought safety elsewhere. But other dangers lurked, soon smallpox robbed Margaret of her adopted mother and sister.

I went with the little girl and her grieving adopted father back to their home in Brookline, Missouri after the war. There I kept her warm at night and watched. Soon her father remarried and once again the house was filled with laughter and children.

I was there when a handsome, dark-haired, blue-eyed widower stole her heart, and they moved with his two children to a farm in Osborn County, Kansas. I graced their bed the night their first-born son, named Samuel after his handsome Papa, was born and when more children followed.

And oh the stories I could tell of the wild west in and around Dodge City, in the 1880’s. But it was the  winter of 1887 and 1888 that was the hardest. I had to work extra hard to keep the little ones warm. It was so cold, come spring the family decided to move west.

At 30, I was already considered old and worn, still Margaret found me good enough to keep her little boys warm as they camped beside the Oregon trail. It was along this trail her little boy, Roy, fell in love with my bright, big star. Sometimes he make a wish upon me before he fell asleep.

I was covering him the night he first lost someone he loved and was with the family when they buried his big sister Ida, somewhere along the trail.

I traveled with the family, always keeping him warm, as they moved from place to place in Eastern and Western Washington and Oregon, no place good enough, until 1894 they decided to join family in Beaver county, Oklahoma.

Goodness the tales I could tell of living in a tiny, dusty sod house with a family of 7. I heard the muffled sobs beneath my star the night Samuel Jr. was carried home after drowning in a flash flood. Such a loss, just as he was on the brink of adulthood.

Times were changing, a new century arrived. Within a couple of years the family sold their Oklahoma ranch and headed back to Washington.This time I rode in style inside a train.

I was in the wagon the day Margaret put her foot down and told Sam she was not moving again – Puyallup was as good as any place. Soon I resided in a fine house, one I would stay in for more than 20 years.

Life for Margaret was changing, too. The children were growing up, her husband traded in his horse-drawn delivery wagon for a new motorized truck.

I watched as the boys reached manhood and began to make their own way in the world. I heard the worries over a coming war and the fears that loved ones would be lost. I listened to  arguments for and against prohibition.I was there to huddle under when the father of the household passed away.

In time Margaret relocated in Orting, Washington. It made me happy she chose to take me along. She kept me on her big feather bed. My best days were when the grandchildren visited and snuggled with her beneath my star.

I was there the sad day she awoke babbling nonsense. I watched as her frightened grandchildren called for help. Soon Margaret was moved to the GAR home in Puyallup and I was left all alone.

The little boy named Roy, all grown up now, arrived to close up the house. He was going to throw me out.

“Too worn to be of any use,” he said.

But memories of our trip along the Oregon Trail and the wishes made beneath my star changed his mind. He took me home to cover furniture stored in his attic.

I still heard the family stories. I knew how hard Roy struggled to provide for his family during the great depression. I heard his wife on the days she coughed and wheezed and couldn’t catch her breath. And oh I how I longed to wrap myself around Roy’s shoulders the day he lost his beloved wife.

I watched as his little boy and girl became adults and left for work in Bremerton. Another war was coming, soon Roy left, too.   .

And I was left in the attic without my family near. From from time to time Roy would come for a stay. Sometimes he’d come to the attic and smile when he touched me, remembering our days together along the Oregon trail, until one day he was gone forever,too.

The daughter knew her father loved me, so she took me to live in a drawer in her attic. A new century arrived.

Another Margaret came to visit, a great grand-daughter of Margaret. The daughter took her to the attic and pulled me out of the drawer. She told the story of how I had kept her Grandpa Roy warm on the Oregon trail.

“Would you like to have it now?” she asked.

The new Margaret said she loved old quilts like me. She took me to her house. No longer do I sit in an attic.

It’s been a long, long time since the loving hands that stitched me together left this earth.  The little girl whose bed I graced, her little boy who slept under me on the trail and his little girl are all gone, too. But their memories live on in the threads that bind me to them and future generations.