Category Archives: 52 ancestors in 52 weeks

Voices FromThe Past

By default I have become the historian and keeper of the family photos and papers. Among this collection are the courtship letters my Caple grandparent’s wrote 100 years ago. In the process of getting ready to write about and share these letters, I began rereading the stories my Aunt Iva, their daughter, wrote of her family memories.Written mostly in the 1980’s these stories also deserve to be shared. Below is the one she titled “My Mother.”

The photo is of my Grandparents William Roy Caple and Mae Edith Phillips on their wedding day August, 1, 1917.

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    My Mother

by Iva Bailey

When I think of my mother, I think mostly of a girl of sixteen whom my father met when her family moved next door to his family in Puyallup.

The Phillips family came to Puyallup one day, when my mother was barely fifteen. They came from Wyoming. I’m not sure if they came with the idea of making their home here or if they came to visit some of my grandfather’s family who had come earlier.

It must have been love at first sight for my mom and dad because there was never any one else for either of them.

The family remained in Puyallup for a little over a year before my grandmother became so homesick for her family they decided to go back to Wyoming.

It was to be four long years before mom and dad married.

Dad worked in logging camps in and around the Puyallup Valley. Some of the winters  would be so snowy and cold they would shut the camp down until the snow melted in the spring. When this happened my dad would go to Wyoming to visit my mother and her folks, some times he would stay until it was time for the camps to open up again. In between those times the courtship was carried on by letters.

After my dad passed away in 1972 at the age of 86, I found a lot of the letters mom and dad had written through the years before they were married. From the letters I got to know the girl who was to be my mother. The girl my Dad addressed in the letters  as “Pet”, “my little Mazie” and “my little Wyoming girl.”  From the letters I learned of their loneliness when they were apart and their happiness when they were together. I could see and feel my mother grow from a young girl to a young woman. I learned the things that made her happy and the things that made her sad.

The letters told of things that happened on both sides of my family during those years. I got to know some of the relatives I had only heard mentioned once in a while when I was growing up, relatives that had died before I was born. In those letters I found dried flowers my Dad had picked in the woods while he worked and sent to his little Wyoming girl. In turn my mother had sent wild prairies flowers to him.

 They had worked out a code that they carried on a little private correspondence with. They called it their China letter. It consisted of numbers. We have tried every way to figure out this code but so far we have failed. Just about every one of the letters contain a small sheet of the numbers. It was their way of saying to each other what they didn’t want he rest of the family to hear.

Dad finally went to South Dakota to work in the Homestead gold mine in Lead which was close to Mona, Wyoming where the Phillips family lived.

After a time, on August 1, 1917, they were married. They lived in Lead until later that year in a blinding snowstorm, they left South Dakota to make their home in Washington.

At first they lived in an apartment in the Scott Hotel which was located a block away from the home, my dad soon built for his little Mazie from Wyoming, and I grew up in. He built the house himself. The front porch was built of cobblestone he carried from the Carbon River stone by stone in a pail. It must have taken a long time because there were a lot of stones in that porch. The house had all the conveniences that other houses built at that time had. Dad often express his regrets in later years, that my mother never knew the conveniences added through the years, but I am sure she was happy in that house.

My mother had beautiful black hair and pretty brown snappy eyes. She was about 5 ft 6 and never weighed more than 120 lbs. When I was young my desire was to grow up to look like she did.

I was born while they were still building the house. Dad was working in the Todd ship yard in Tacoma while he was working on the house so it went slow. This was the time of the first world war.

My brother Verle was born when I was nearly 4. My Mother had the measles shortly after that and from that time on she was to suffer from Asthma.  The attacks she had were so terrible she had to fight to breathe. Now they have oxygen and drugs that would have relieved her but then the remedies would help for a while but soon have no affect at all. I remember the powder she would burn in a little container. I think it was Beladona leaves made into a powder. It smelled terrible. The smell would wake me up at night and I would know my mother was having an attack. It was a helpless feeling knowing I couldn’t help her. Dad tried everything possible to get help for her.  We moved to another climate for a time but she only got worse so we came back home again.

There were times when she would feel real good and we would have such good times. She liked to sew and could make anything she put her mind to. I remember the pretty dresses she made for me. She never used a pattern. She could look at a dress in a catalog and make one just like it.

As I look back it seems like such a short time. I was fourteen in 1933 when her heart could no longer stand the strain of the asthma attacks. She passed away Nov. 10th of that year. She was just 37.

 

4th of July 1910 style

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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.

1930

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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.

 

IF I COULD TALK

 

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.

 

 

 

 

The Life Peter Uelmen

Johann Uelmen-(1806-1860) —Peter Uelmen 1852-1926 —Rosalia Uelmen Meyer 1891-1975

Peter Uelmen

Peter was not quite five years old when his family left their ancestral  village of Strohn, Germany and made the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. He  was accompanied by his parents Johann Adam and,Margaretha Lenertz Uelmen, his older sister Catherine, 16 and brothers Johann Adam, 11 and Nicholas, 9.

New York ship passage records show the family traveled in steerage,  They arrived aboard the ship “York” on July 2, 1857.  Family and friends already in Wisconsin no doubt had advised them of the necessary arrangements to get them from New York to Wisconsin.  Had selling their land in Germany given them enough money to make the journey or did the family in Wisconsin help out?

Family lore states that the family settled in St. Michaels, Kewaskum, Washington county, WI. Johann was said to have been a farmer who brought and planted grape vines upon settling.  Apparently the wine was either not any good or couldn’t be sold and the idea was abandoned.  Today the area they immigrated from is dotted with wineries.

1858 records indicate that his father had begun the process of applying for naturalization.  In April of  1860, at the age of 53, his father would die. Peter was left fatherless at the early age of seven. The cause of his death is unknown. I wonder if his death caused the family to regret their decision to move?

I have been unable to locate the family in the 1860 census records. Their name is probably misspelled and lost in the records. Did  they attempt to farm on their own?  Peter’s sister would have been 18, his brother’s 13 and 11 or perhaps they started living with another family member. His obituary does mention that he attended the New Prospect school as a young boy indicating the family probably lived in that area. The records do show his sister Catherine married John Meeth in1862, at St. Michael’s Catholic church in Kewaskum.  His brother John Adam married Margaret Siimon in 1868  at St. Mathais church in Auburn township, Wisconsin. I’ve found nothing else about the family until 1870. i

In  1870 the census shows Peter’s mother, Magaretha, living with his older brother  Johan Adam and his wife, at Armstrong’s Corner, Auburn  township, Wisconsin.  Margaretha’s brother-in-law Mathias Uelmen is also  living in the same area with his son, Adam Uelmen (Johann Adam).

The 1870 census shows Peter living  in  Menominee, Menominee county, Michigan. He is working in a sawmill and living in a boarding house.  His age is listed as 17.  Where his brother Nick was is unknown but he married Margaret Theusch at St. Michael’s church in 1872.

In 1871 Peter had moved just over the Michigan border to Marinette, Wisconsin.  He was working for the Stevenson Lumber Company.  Marinettes’ proximity to both the Menominee River and Green Bay  created a bustling timber industry.  Most likely Peter had gone  there to take advantage of the jobs available in the timber industry.

All during the months of 1871 this area lacked for rain. The dry conditions were  made worse by frequent sporadic fires.  The residents of Marinette took to walking around town with clothes covering their faces as dust filled air became a way of life.  Fevers and lung problems were commmon. Even so no one was prepared for the firestorm that would sweep through the area on the evening of Oct. 8th, 1871.

I don’t know exactly where or what Peter was doing that evening. I do know that my Mother use to have a copy of an interview, the Kewaskum Statesman newspaper printed, of his experience.  Apparetly a reporter overheard him talking about it while in a Kewascusm store on the anniversary of the fire and interviewed him. ( note to self I need to look this)

The town of Marinette did not experience the wholescale carnage the town of Peshtigo suffered.  But the fire encompassed a wide area not just Peshitigo.  Marinette was within the bounds of the fire storm.  Even if Peter didn’t experience the fury of the fire firsthand he was most likely called upon to help with the carnage left in the fire’s wake.

Today it is still the worst forest fire recorded in North American history taking between 1200-2400 lives. Another fire occurred the same night in Chicago, perhaps because of a famous song about a cow kicking a lantern over, it is this fire history remembers but the one that raged across the lake was far worse. If you would like to know more about this fire  you can consult one of the many good web pages dedicated to it.

In 1868 a family by the name of Schleis immigrated from Bohemia and settled in nearby Carlton township, Kewaunee county, WI.  They came with 5 children one of them a young girl by the name of Maria. In 1877, at the age of 20, she married Peter in Menominee Falls, MI. How they met or why they married in Menominee instead of her family church in Carlton is unknown.  Perhaps Maria had gone to work in one of the logging camps.

Peter by this time must have saved enough money to purchase his own farm back where his family lived. The 1880 census shows Peter and Maria living on a farm in the town of Auburn with two children, John age 2 and Barbara 11 months.  Both children were born in Wisconsin. Peter’s mother is living with his sister Catherine in Kewaskum.

Over the next two decades the family continued to grow.  By  July of 1900 they had 12 children ranging in ages of 22 to newborn.  It was also around this time that Peter built his family a fine new American style farm house.  It was this house and farm that later became the Meyer farm in New Prospect.

His children are as follows:   John b. 1878, Barbara, 1879, Anna b. 1881, Joseph P. b. 1883, Nicholas E b. 1885, Katherine b. 1887, Henry b.1889 (he was the only child to die young at age 4) , Rosalia b. 1891, Marie b.1893, Henry E. b 1894, Leo J. b. 1895, and  Norbert b.1900.

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In the winter of 1915 he sold this farm to my Grandfather George Meyer and moved his wife and youngest children to Campbellsport, WI.

In 1918 the Uelmen family received the alarming news that their son Leo had been seriously injured by a machine gun somewhere in France during WWI.  I can imagine the worry and fret the  family must have gone through while waiting for word on his recovery.

EXTRA
PRIVATE UELMEN INJURED

  Mr. and Mrs. Peter Uelmen received a message from Washington this morning, stating that their son Leo had been seriously wounded by a Machine Gun on March 22nd, “Somewhere in France.” The message does not give any further details.
News from Fond du Lac this morning states that 46 Fond du Lac county boys were suffering from wounds, among them being Sergt. John Mohr, a brother of Mrs. L. H. Beiersdorf of this village.

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(Scan courtesy Alan Krueger)

Peter was still living in Campbellsport  when he suffered a stroke.  He died 3 weeks later in July of 1926 at the age of 73.  His obituary states that he had served as the assessor of Auburn township for 13 years and the assessor for Campbellsport for 6 years. He was survived by his widow and 10 children. He is buried in St. Matthews Catholic cemetery, Campbellsport, Wisconsin.