Tag Archives: 52 ancestors in 52 weeks

Chapter 18 – The Life And Times Of William Roy Caple – Roy Marries -1917-1918

Roy and Mae picked a day for their wedding in mid August. Roy found a small house to rent. It contained a sitting room, kitchen, one bedroom and all the furniture  needed to start married life.

When Mae’s parents had brought her to Lead to take a look at it. She had thrown her arms around him. “Oh, Roy I love it. It’s a storybook house.”

 Her mother had nodded in agreement. “It’s a perfect starter home.”

Roy had hoped his parents and sister would come to witness the occasion. His mother had written back that she didn’t think his dad was up to the long train trip and Lida had upped and eloped at the end of May just before her eighteenth birthday. Neither the newlyweds nor his brothers could spare the cash to make the trip.

He and Mae decided to keep the ceremony small. Just some members of Mae’s family, able to attend a Wednesday wedding.

When the day of the wedding arrived Roy laid down his new dark suit, white shirt, and dark blue silk tie he’d purchased for the occasion on his bed and went downstairs for breakfast and to bid his fellow boarding companions goodbye. Afterwards donned in his suit he bade goodbye to Mrs. Olsen.

 “We’re going to miss your face at the dinner table tonight,” she said. “I wish you and that bride of yours all the best. And don’t forget to bring her around so I can meet her.”

“ Will do,”  said Roy as he bounded down the steps of his boarding house in a rush to catch the train to Belle Fourche and his bride. He couldn’t be late today of all days.

At a quarter of three he stood inside the vestibule of the Belle Fourche church with his best man and the minister. Butterflies danced in his stomach. Somewhere else in the church he knew his bride waited. Is she as nervous as I am?

 Out in the main church area he spotted his soon-to-be brother-in-law, thirteen-year-old Daniel, seating the guests.

At last, the moment came, an organ began to play music. The minister beckoned Roy and his best man to join him in front of the alter.

Mae’s sister walked down the aisle, and then came Mae looking more beautiful than ever before. She wore a long white dress which danced at the top of white ankle boots. The elbow length sleeves of her dress met long white gloves. Her slender waist was accented by a wide band above which revealed a  bodice trimmed with a white caplet. The heart necklace he’d given her on her birthday graced her throat and in her hands she carried a bouquet of white flowers.

At the altar they locked eyes on one and other.

“You look beautiful,” Roy whispered. And at last they began to exchange the words he’d waited so long for.

“Roy,” said the Minister, “Will you take Mae to be your wife to love and cherish until death to you part.”

 “I do.”

Mae handed her glove to her sister and he slipped an engraved gold band on her finger.

 She the repeated words and slipped a gold band on his finger.

“ I now pronounce you man and wife,” said the minister.

Arm and arm they made their way down the aisle where they were soon encircled by the family wishing them congratulations and well wishes.

The minister directed him over to the parish office to sign the register. Roy dipped the pen in the ink well and signed his legal name William Roy Caple upon the certificate. He handed the pen to Mae. Her her face radianting like the warm summer sun. She dipped the pen into the ink and signed Mae Edith Phillips, then passed the pen to her sister and the best man to sign as witnesses. Then the two of them returned to the church to have their formal wedding photo taken.

Outside they joined the group waiting and strolled the few blocks to the Phillips house where a celebratory dinner had been made. Afterwards they checked into the Belle Fourche Hotel to spend their first night as a married couple.

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Six months later, a blast of frigid air hit Roy’s face as he emerged from the homestead mine. What, he wondered, had happened to the warm start of the day? Why the thermometer on the front porch had registered sixty when he’d headed off to work. Now it felt cold enough to be zero.

He huddled his chin into his light jacket and hustled home.

Mae opened the front door as he reached for the handle. She threw her arms around him in a warm embrace. “Goodness, you must be half frozen to death. This morning felt like spring and now it’s winter again.”

He nuzzled himself inside her warm arms, “I didn’t take the time to notice the temperature before I came in. Did you look?”

“I did, it’s twenty. That’s South Dakota for you spring one minute and winter the next.”

He shivered, “I believe that’s the biggest temperature change I have witnessed, in all my life, in such a brief time. And here I thought I thought I’d relish a warm stroll in sun on the way home.”

Mae took one of his icy hands in her warm one and led him into the kitchen where a pot of soup bubbled on the stove.

 She put a blanket around his shoulders and poured him a cup of hot coffee. “This should warm you up.”

Roy greedily sipped the warm coffee as the warmth of it and the cook stove gradually unthawed him. He observed his wife as she stirred the pot of soup. She looked as beautiful today as the day they’d wed. Had it really been 6 months since that day? He glanced at the room; Mae had added touches to make it feel like home. A picture of her old homestead hung on the wall along side a photo of his parent’s house in Puyallup. Red gingham curtains framed the windows reminding him of the ones his mother had hung in their Oklahoma Soddy as did the big, braided rag rug under table. The only difference was here a crocheted lace cloth graced their table where they’d had a piece of old oil cloth instead.

He sniffed the air. “Something smells delicious.”

“I thought you’d need something to warm your innards tonight so I made potato and bacon soup and crusty wheat rolls.”

She ladled the soup into two bowls and placed them on the table along with a basket of hot rolls. Then she joined him.

Blowing on a spoonful she set it down. “It needs to cool to cool a bit. Just think, next March we’ll be in Puyallup. I doubt we’ll find it so cold there.”

Roy reached for a roll and slathered it with butter. “Warmer, but wet. Are you positive you’re okay with leaving your family.”

As much as he longed to return to Puyallup and leave the wretched gold mine behind, his wife needed to be content too. They’d talked of moving ever since they got engaged last May.

She got up to pour him some more coffee. “I’m positive. I can’t wait for you to build our dream home.”

He swallowed a spoonful of soup. “I’d feel better if this blasted war would end. There’s talking of upping the draft to include my age bracket. ”

Mae reached for another roll, “Surely it won’t come to that. And if it does, your parents would be next door to help if needed. I’d be fine, it’s you I’d worry about.”

Roy reached for another roll. “Are you sure you are okay with moving?”

“Roy, I will miss my family but I don’t like you working in that gold mine any more than you do. There is no future for us here. Besides, I have family in Puyallup. Maybe not Mama and Papa, but they’re family just the same. And your brother said he could you a job at the shipyards in Tacoma. You’re better suited for that work and it’s safer too.”

Roy looked into her determined eyes. “That settles it. What do you say we leave in May just after your birthday?”

She smiled, “That’s a splendid idea. We can throw a birthday-going party at the same time. She got up and went to the stove. “Let me refill your bowl. Stop worrying about taking me away from mama and papa. I’m not a kid anymore, I know moving to Puyallup is the right choice for us.”

________________________________________________________________________

Author’s notes:

My grandfather often mentioned the sudden temperature drop he experience while working in the gold mine in Lead. He worked deep in the mine and was surprised when he emerged at the end of the day to find it well below freezing when it had been a warm spring morning when he had left for work. I chose to include it in here in this story.

I am not sure when they moved to Puyallup but a local South Dakota newspaper mentioned they had gone to visit Mae’s aunt Sadie in late april of 1918 most likely to say good-bye. By September when Roy had to register for the draft he is working in a Tacoma Shipyard. So it had to have been sometime in the late spring or summer of 1918.

Chapter 17, The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-Life in Lead

In February of 1916 Roy moved into a boarding house in Lead. That evening he joined the fellow boarders in the dining room for the evening meal. Unlike the logging camps where meals were always silent, lively talk accompanied the food. Of the twelve men seated around the table most spoke English in halting voices or not at all. In fact, the table was a melting pot of sorts. Two he learned came from Finland,  2 from Italy, three were from Croatia, two from Germany  and another two were from Slovakia.

Guess I’m the only one born and raised in the United States,” he said. “Glad to meet you all.”

Mrs. Bryant, who ran the boarding house, was a good cook.  He soon settled into a routine, up early every morning, a quick breakfast of Porridge and occasionally bacon and eggs, grab one of her prepared lunches and out the door for the mine.

He was not fond of the work. After years of working outdoors he found working deep in a mine claustrophobic and dangerous. But it did provide a better income than logging. In April a falling rock injured his arm and forced him to spend time off. He spent the next few days in his room reading as he continued to find solace in reading about others’ lives and how they survived. When he grew weary of reading he’d walk the town.

Lead, for a mining town was surprisingly cosmopolitan. He’d been surprised to learn it had been electrified since 1888 just 3 years after his birth. None of the places he’d lived when young had electricity. The town also had a large opera house where he occasionally enjoyed a show, a well-stocked library, and several newspapers though most were in foreign languages.

Whatever the language the newspaper headlines were filled with the news of the war in Europe. Increasingly the talk was of the of the United States entering. He worried he or his younger brother might be drafted along with other folks he knew

Recalling his father’s stories of serving in the Civil War, he knew war was a nasty business and he wanted none of it, at least this war. He prayed this one would end before the United States got dragged into it. He sighed in dismay when he saw the headlines on April 6, 1917, that his country too had entered the war.

But a month later on Sunday, May 6, 1917 war held little of Roy’s attention as he stepped out of his boarding house. The sun shone and the air crisp as he walked to the train station carrying a box and a card for his sweetheart. Today he and her family were  celebrating her 21st birthday. And today Roy intended to propose.

He’d hoped to pop the question when he first got there before the party started but problems on the train track delayed his arrival. The house was already filled with people when he arrived.

Mae greeted him with a smile and a kiss on the cheek when he finally arrived. “Now my party’s complete. I worried the trouble with the train would keep you from coming entirely.”

She motioned for him to place his gift and card on a table filled with other ones. When he turned back she was thick in a conversation with some of her aunts.

 One of Mae’s uncles grabbed him by the arm and spoke. “Roy tell us what is the news from Lead.”  

Every time he attempted to break free someone else came up to talk or he found Mae knee deep in conversation with others.

It wasn’t until the end of the day when he needed to head back to the train that he was able to get a moment alone with her.

He took her hand. “I need to be going  if I aim to catch the last train back to Lead tonight. Won’t you walk with me to the station.”

“I’d love to,” she said, gazing into his eyes. “Lett me grab my coat.;

Though they’d talked of marriage many times, he’d never formally proposed. While he was almost positive she’d say yes, butterflies and been flopping in his stomach all day.

After Mae got her wrap they walked into the cool evening air and headed for the train station. Roy reached for her and she readily grasped his.

 Roy cleared his throat. “It’s time. Time for me to ask for your hand in marriage if you’ll still have me.”

 Mae threw her arms  around him. “Oh Roy of course I’ll still have you. I have been dreaming of this day ever since we met.” 

“So it’s affirmative you’ll be my wife?”

“ I can hardly wait,” said Mae.

“Next week when I come we can go shopping for a ring,”

“Roy I don’t want you to spend money on a fancy diamond, I don’t need one. I want the money to go to our future home. All I need is a plain gold band on the day we marry. When do you think we should have the wedding?”

“Well why don’t you talk about it with your family and we can finalize the plans when I come next weekend.”

“I don’t know how I will survive the week until then,” said Mae.

As the train clanged into the station, Roy embraced her in his arms and kissed her deeply on the lips. “That will have to suffice he said until next week.”

Then he stepped onto the train and waved until his fiancé was out of sight.

Chapter 16- The Life and Times of William Roy Caple -Roy Moves to Wyoming

For the next 2 years Roy continued to write to his Wyoming girl. At the end of the 1914 logging season, he once again went to spend the winter break in Wyoming. He had been saddened when his parents had decided to move to Missouri to be close to his mother’s family. He considered moving with them but he liked Puyallup. Maybe he could buy his parent’s home, he thought. He was thankful when they decided to make the trip a visit rather than a permanent move.

His parents were getting older and particularly his father was showing his age. He preferred they lived close so he and his brothers could look after them. His brother Joe married at the end of 1914. Sometimes both his brothers joined him for a time in the logging camp. Their presence kept him from feeling lonely for family, especially when Richard was there as he would often serenade, he and Gus in   the evenings with his violin playing. He continued to care for his raspberry field. But at the end of the season in 1915 decided to let the field go. His dad could use the income selling the property would yield. Roy purchased the lot next to his parents house from his dad in hopes he could some day build his forever home on it.

By the fall of 1915 logging wages were low. Rumbles of discontent filled the air. Men in all sorts of work talked of striking and forming unions. Roy preferred to  avoid conflict if I could be avoided.

Thoughts of Mae continued to occupy his days. Her parents were having a tough time making a living off their homestead property. They both hoped her parents would decide to sell the property and join their family in the Puyallup area. Instead, they moved from their ranch to Belle Fourche to run a boarding house.

In November a logging operation in Spearfish, South Dakota, where he’d inquired about work the previous winter, wrote, and said they were looking for loggers, if he was interested.

As much as he hated to leave his family and friends in Puyallup, he needed to be closer to Mae. He made the difficult decision move to South Dakota. He’d hang on to the lot of land he had purchased from his father. He still hoped to one day return, build his Wyoming girl her dream home, where together they’d raise a family and grow old. In the meantime, he’d cast his lot in South Dakota.

On a chilly day in early December, he stood with his parents waiting beside the tracks to board a train headed to the Black Hills.

His mother wiped tears from her eyes, “Please give the Phillips our regards, especially Mae. And bundle up, it get’s so cold there.”

He gave his mother a gentle hug. “Don’t worry I remember the cold we got in Oklahoma. And don’t forget I have already spent the better part of two winters there.”

His father reached out his hand to shake and then thought better and gave him a hug. “Son, please tell me you will bring that girl of yours back for at least a visit if not to live. This isn’t good-bye it’s just adios until we see each other again. Soon, I hope.”

Logging in Spearfish allowed him to see Mae on weekends. In December of 1916 he left his Spearfish logging camp and arrived in Belle Fourche and took a room in the hotel. After he deposited his bag and gave himself a shave. He descended the stairs out to the street whistling Jingle Bells in anticipation of seeing Mae in a few minutes.

On arrival Mae flung open the door. He read the look of alarm on her face. His gut felt sucker punched..

He reached for her hand. “What is it?

She handed him a telegram.

“This arrived this morning from your mother.”

His heart started to palpitate as he took it from her hands. Something happened to my father, or it’s one of my brothers. His hands trembled as he opened it.

 Mr. Cook killed yesterday in accident. Planning for his burial in Sumner. Details will follow in a letter. Mother and Dad.

Mae took one look at his blanched face. “Its sad news isn’t it. Is it your father?”

“No,” he said, “It’s Gus, he’s dead.”

“Oh no,” said Mae. “He’s so young. Here sit down, this is such a shock. Does it say what happened?”

Roy shook his head. “No just it was an accident that occurred yesterday. I am in shock.”

“Let me get you some tea”

“No, I don’t need want any. I’m sorry I don’t think I want to go out for dinner , I need to be alone for a bit and get some air.”

“It’s alright,” she said softly. “I understand. But please come back in a bit and let me know you’re okay.”

“I will.”

He got up to leave. He walked down the steps of their boarding house not sure where he was headed. He walked aimlessly for the next hour. Gus who’d been so full of life. His falling partner, an orphaned kid from Sweden who’d come to make his fortune in America. His life snuffed out too soon. He wondered if a tree he’d been falling had taken him. He’d seen other men lose their life that way. It wasn’t an image he wanted of Gus. No, he’d remember him the way he’d been when he’d left the logging camp in November. Full of life and plans for a future on a piece of land he’d recently purchased. He shook his head wondering if he’d be dead too if he’d been working with him yesterday. Or could he have done something to save him? Just like the day he lost his big brother, in an instant life is gone. He took a gulp of fresh air. There was only one place he wanted to be right now. That was in the arms of his sweetheart. He looked around, he wandered around a bit and was now over by the town stockyards. He turned left and headed back for the Phillips boarding house. He knew Mae would be there anxiously waiting for his return.

A few days later Roy received a letter from his mother with the details of Gus’ death.

October 10, 1916,

Dear Roy,

Your father and I have just returned from laying Gus to rest. We buried him in the Sumner cemetery. I know you must wonder what happened. From what we were told by the loggers who accompanied his body to town, a large limb fell unexpectedly from a tree, breaking his neck and crushing his skull instantly. You can take comfort in knowing his death was instantaneous.

I am told his will leaves you as sole heir. I have enclosed the address for the attorney, taking care of his matters. He asks that you write immediately so the probate can be closed. Your presence in town will not be necessary, he can take care of the matter by mail.

Roy folded the letter in half. And took a deep breath of air. So it was a “widow maker,” the name his fellow loggers gave to the giant limbs that storms left lodged in the tree canopy until one day something set them flying from the tree. One could run from a falling tree, but if you didn’t see one of those coming, they were impossible to escape.

It didn’t surprise him Gus had left him the heir of his will, but it was sad he had so few to mourn his loss.

Logging in South Dakota provided even lower wages than Roy had been earning in Washington. No matter how careful he was with his money, he’d never be able to support a family on it. Working in Lead at the Home Stake mine seemed to be the only alternative. Faced between choosing to work in the mine or leaving Mae behind, he chose the mine. It would  be another year before Mae turned twenty-one. Though they’d talked of marrying anyway, Roy was a man of his word.

“Mae I promised you Father I’d wait until your twenty-one before asking for you hand in marriage. Some cowboy might still come along and sweep you off your feet.”

She laughed, “Fat chance of that. I only have eyes for you.”      


Author’s notes:

[i] Gus Cook was a real person and my grandfather’s falling partner. His death certificate confirms the date of death and that he was killed by a falling limb giving him a crushed skull and broken neck. Roy’s mother Margaret Caple was listed on his death certificate as person giving his date of birth, place, etc. It stated he had no known family. He is buried in the Sumner cemetery, Pierce County, Washington. Roy inherited the piece of land he had recently purchased just outside of Puyallup city limits.

Chapter 13- The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-Getting to Know Mae

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Roy and Gus caught the last train out of camp on a Saturday a to attend his mother’s birthday party in March. Late in arriving they found the house brimming with friends and family including the Phillips family.

His mother threw her arms around him. “Oh, Roy I’m so happy you made it. And you too Gus she said giving him a hug. “Now all my children are here. You may have missed dinner but you are just in time for cake.”

One of the neighbor ladies handed him a slice if cake. Roy noticed Mae in the kitchen helping the neighbor women with the dinner dishes.

He hoped to find a moment to talk to her alone later and joined the men conversing in the corner of the parlor where her overheard her father speaking to another of their neighbors.

“I know she looks older,” he said as took another bite of cake, “but Mae is only fifteen.”

Fifteen thought Roy dismayed. She’s way to young for me to court. Still, he had a challenging time taking his eyes off of her the rest of the evening.

 Gus and Roy returned to the logging camp Sunday night; Gus teased. “Roy, I do believe you’ve been bit by the love bug. I saw how you never took your eyes off of Mae.”

Roy shook his head, “No way, didn’t you also hear, she’s only fifteen. She’s just a girl.”

Still at odd moments, he daydreamed of the girl with dark hair and eyes the color of melting chocolate. He decided it would be best if he stayed away from Puyallup until he had forgotten her. When he had idle time on his hands, which wasn’t often, he’d coax Gus or another logger to go fishing or hiking.

 On a Sunday in late June, Roy sat on the bunkhouse stairs dozing in the warm sun.

An envelope waving n front of his face startled him. “Wake up, sleepyhead. I’ve brought a letter from your mother, “said Gus.

He blinked and shook the sleep out of his eyes. Sitting up straight, he grabbed the envelope from Gus. “Thanks, I wonder what news she has.”

He unfolded the note written on crisp linen paper.

Dear son,

Your father says the first of the raspberries are turning red. It’s time to come home and tend to the picking. We hope to see you down home, soon. Will wait until then to catch you up on the news around here.

Love, mother

Roy went inside the bunkhouse. He sat the letter down on his bunk and turned to Gus. “Time for me to tend to the raspberry picking. Any chance I can entice you down to Puyallup to help with picking?”

Gus laughed. “No way, Guess I must find me a different falling partner for a while.”

“Just so you take me back,” said Roy. He really wasn’t worried. The two of them had worked out a good sawing rhythm which made them efficient fallers. He knew he’d take him back.

He picked up his knapsack and put his things inside. “Think about coming down for the Fourth of July, though.”

“Will do,” said Gus. Roy caught the first train out the next morning. he stepped off the train at the depot just in time to catch his father loading a delivery.

 Roy waved his arms in the air. “Hey, Dad, wait up.”

He dashed along to the side of the tracks.

His dad looked down from his seat on the wagon, “Spec, you’d like a ride home.”  

“If it isn’t too much trouble.”

“Climb on up.”

Whoa,” yelled his father as he drew the wagon up in front of their house, “I have a few more deliveries to make. Tell your Mother I should be back around four.”

“Will do,” said Roy as he jumped out of the wagon and went up to the house.

His sister Lida met him at the door. At thirteen she was getting to be a looker with her dark dancing curls and eyes that looked like a rich dark chocolate. She threw her arms around him, almost sucking the air out of him. “I’m so glad to have you home. I wish you’d quit logging so you could live here full time. I miss you too much.”

“I gather school must be out already,” said Roy, setting his duffle bag down. “Where is mother?”

“I think she’s next door visiting with Mrs. Phillips. We’ve rounded up an entire crew of pickers for you.”

“Really,” said Roy, relieved he wouldn’t have to worry finding pickers. “Are they anyone I know?”

Lida smiled. “Well, you know me and mother and we have Lillian Henry and the Phillips family next door, Justin Phillips, both of his aunts, a girl named Blanche and a few others from school.”

“Sounds like an interesting crew,” said Roy. “Glad to hear there are a few adults in the group to keep you giggling girls in line.”

Lida threw a silk fringed sofa pillow at him, “make yourself at home, I am going to meet my friend, Blanch.”

Roy went up the stairs and deposited his duffel bag inside his room. Guess I might as well mosey outside and check on the raspberries.

He walked the neat rows of raspberry canes, pleased at how lush, and laden with fruit they were. Here and there he plucked an already ripe berry into his mouth. There was nothing he liked better than berries. He reckoned another day or two of sun and the crop would be ready to pick. After leaving the berry fields, he wandered over to look at the cherry trees his dad had planted when they’d move to Puyallup. They too hung heavy with fruit. He reached up and enjoyed a few low hanging ripe ones. Looks like it’s going to be a good harvest this year, he thought.

Picking went well that summer, the girls Lida had rounded up were diligent workers even if they prattled on and on about things as they picked. They kept him busy checking in their flats. He noticed Mae liked to pick mostly with Justin or her parents and aunts. She seemed past the giggling stage his sister and her friends were in.

Twice his mother had pointed out what an attractive girl Lillian was. “Roy, she’s 19 you should think about courting her, it’s high time you settle down and started a family of your own.”

Roy sighed; He wanted to settle down one day, but not until he had a nice nest egg for the future saved. He never wanted to move his family from place to place without a dime to their name like his father had. Besides, as nice as Lillian seemed to be, he didn’t find himself attracted to her. He thought Justin was, though. It was Justin’s cousin, Mae, who captivated his heart.

Yesterday Justin had suggested they take the girls out on a double date. “I’ll ask Lillian and you can ask, Mae.”

Roy crossed his arms, “Don’t you think she’s a might young for me.”

“Not at all,” said Justin. “She may only be 16, but she’s mature beyond her years.”

“I thought she was only fifteen,” said Roy.

Justin shook his head, “Nope, she turned 16 back in May.”

“Still seems too young to me,” Roy said.

On the last day of the berry season, Roy woke to sunshine. He stretched, climbed out of bed, donned his gray trousers, freshly starched white shirt, and a brown vest and went downstairs to the kitchen.

His mother filled his teacup with coffee, “Sure, you don’t need my help, today. I understand most of the Phillips folks are gone.”

He grabbed a piece of toast set on the table and slathered it with butter, “I’ll be fine with a skeleton crew, we have little left to pick.”

He rose, lifted his felt hat from the hook next to the door and headed out the front door. “See you at supper.”

 He assigned his remaining pickers in teams of two. As they headed into the field, Mae came scurrying up to him. “Sorry, I’m late. I had to help Mama with some chores first.”

“Quite alright,” he said. “As long as you don’t mind partnering with me.”

She batted her eyelashes at him “Of course I don’t mind.”

She reached for a wooden flat and carrier to take into the field. Roy grabbed it from her, “Allow me.”

He set the flat and carrier at the head of a row. “I’ll just go get another one for myself”

 Returning, he couldn’t ignore how beautiful the scene before him looked. Mount Rainer stood majestically above his raspberry field with Mae looked equally beautiful in her a long-sleeved white blouse. A dark skirt with a cinched white apron revealed her slim waist.

 He headed down the other side of the row and soon stood on the opposite side of her unnoticed.

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She plucked a large raspberry from the bush. “So good,” she murmured to herself.

“Sure are,” he said.

 Startled, she said, “Oh goodness, you caught me eating part of your precious crop. Sometimes I just can’t resist.”

“Think nothing of it.” He plucked a berry, reached across the row, and dropped it in her mouth. “Have another.”

 She laughed.

He groaned how he’d love to reach over and draw her close enough to kiss her raspberry-stained lips.

Before long she surprised him by plucking a big ripe raspberry in his mouth. “How is logging going? I can’t get over how enormous the trees are here It must take forever to cut those big ones down.”

“The bigger ones take all day,” he admitted. “But there are plenty of days we can get two or three smaller ones down.”

“I noticed you reading a book the other day during our lunch break,” she said. “I love to read; Mama says I have my nose in a book too often. There always seems to be chores to do, so I don’t really don’t get to read much.”

Roy reached for another group of ripe berries, “Me either and I’m razzed a lot in camp for reading as much as I do. I don’t mind though, it’s better than drinking or gambling my earnings away. I’m saving my money to buy some land of my own.”

“Sounds sensible, having a place to call your own is important, I think. What do you like to read?”

“Almost anything,” He reached or for another plump raspberry and dropped it into her mouth. “But I’m studying too.”

“Oh, I’d like a chance to go on to Normal school, but Papa thinks schooling beyond the eighth grade is a waste for women when we’ll just end up married, anyway. He thinks I should just stay home and learn to keep house and cook. But I’m already an excellent cook. I want to earn my own money, which is why I am picking berries.”

“What are you currently studying?” she asked.

“Electricity, It’s the future. I plan to electrify my home and soon as it’s available in this area. Course I will need a house first, but maybe by the time electricity comes to Puyallup I’ll have one.”

“Oh, wouldn’t that be nice and indoor plumbing? You must learn how to do that, too.”

 All that day they picked. Occasionally they surprised the other and held up a red, ripe berry to the other’s mouth. They talked and laughed until quitting time arrived. He’d never enjoyed picking with someone so much. She could be the girl, he thought, if only she were older.

The New And The

The trains still run by her old house in Puyallup, WA. In this story, my Aunt Iva Bailey, tells of growing up near near Meeker Junction in the 1920’s and 30’s.

The New and the Old

 Every time we take the short trip to Puyallup, the place where I was born and grew up in, there are new sights and sometimes new sounds. The railroad that runs through the middle of town is still there but the old steam locomotives that pulled the trains of cars are gone. In their place are diesels.

As we sat in our car at the crossing waiting for the train to pass before we could cross the tracks and be on our way. I thought of the days gone by and the part the railroad played in my memories.

We lived just a mile from the depot, in what was called Meeker Junction. Our house was less than a block from the tracks. When the train would come into the junction, they would start blowing their whistle for the several crossings between our house and town. They would keep blowing all the way into the depot.

The engines were fired with coal and the black smoke would pour out of their smoke stacks.

Sometimes if the wind conditions were just right, and this was quite often,  the smoke would all blow our way. The black soot would settle all over us. Many times my mother hearing the train coming would rush out and try to get her wash off of the clothes line before the train got there.  She didn’t always make it and would have to do the wash over again.

The  big red wooden water tank, where the engines took on their water was close by at the junction. It was always interesting for us kids to watch the man climb up the ladder and pull down the big spout that let the water run from the tank into the engine.

It was sad the first time we went back home after they tore down the big tank. It had become old and was no longer a need for the new diesels.

During the depression years in the 1930’s, people would walk up and down the railroad tracks with buckets picking up coal that had fallen from the many coal cars that was hauled by the big trains. That coal probably kept some little children warm that would have otherwise been cold.

 I remember the long trains of logs that would pass by every day. The train would be so long we couldn’t see the end from where we were. At first they were great big logs, sometimes only one log on a flat car, but as the years went by the logs got smaller and the trains got shorter.

It seems to me there were always men working on the railroad then. Many times the section gang, as the men were called, would be quartered near our house on the rails in bunks similar to those in a logging camp. They would have their dining car and after work at night we would hear the dinner bell calling the men to supper.

We were always sad when they would finish their work and move on to another location but it usually wasn’t long until some more men would come again.

It was fun watching the long train of passenger cars go by. We wondered where they had come from and where they were going. We would wave and the people would wave back. I can remember the first time I rode on the train. It was just a short trip. My Uncle Dick took my cousin Blanche and me from Orting to Puyallup which is about 10 miles. We had been visiting grandma and he was taking us back home. If we had been going to New York it wouldn’t have been the thrill that short trip was. It was fun watching for the places we knew.  When we came to our house my mother was watching for us and she waved. My dad met us at the station and took us home just as though we had come from a long distance.

During the 1930’s depression, men would ride the box cars hunting for work, or maybe because there was nothing else to do. Lots of them came to Puyallup. They would get off of the train before it went into town, so Meeker Junction was the place they established a hobo camp, as we called them.

This camp was just across the track from our house. Every day we would have men coming to the house wanting to work for something to eat. We didn’t have work for them to do but my mother would give them food anyway.

Sometimes they would want some particular item such as potatoes, carrots or some other vegetable. I guess they would make a soup or stew and several of them would get together on it. We had them ask for our used coffee grounds but we always gave them fresh coffee. I think they must have had some kind of a mark on our house showing that we some kind of easy mark because they kept coming all through the depression.

The Salvation Army would come to the camp every Sunday. They would have prayer and play their instruments and sing. The men would wash their clothes and hang them to dry on the fence along the tracks. It always seemed funny to us to watch the men hanging up their underwear while the band played Onward Christian Soldiers or some other hymn.

As the years went by and I was old enough to date, the train played another role in my life. My dad would tell me what time I was to come home but sometimes I  would be a little late getting there. I soon learned that if I would wait until the train came by before opening the door, the train made so much noise, dad wouldn’t hear me come in.

Yes, I remember the old steam coal powered train like an old friend. Somehow the diesels just aren’t the same.

Treasure Chest Tuesday

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This is another treasure I inherited from my Mother. It was made by my Grandma Rose Meyer. My Mom brought it home when they left the old farmhouse. Mom loved it but she never did display it, for  years it sat upstairs rolled up in a corner. I can’t see the sense of having something if you can’t enjoy it, so I display it on the back of a seldom used love seat. At this time of year it echoes the colorful leaves of red, yellow and orange outside my windows.

The rug was made in the 1960’s. The design is original. My grandmother used the beautiful fall trees in her yard for inspiration. It is made of wool probably of old wool she collected. My Grandma Rose enjoyed making things out of cast off things.

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.

Treasure Chest Thursday

Rustic Vase from My Grandma Rose

Rustic crockery vase belonging to my Grandma Rose Uelmen Meyer

Treasure chest Thursday means it’s time to share a family gem.  Yes, the sunflowers are pretty but the crock is the focus of this piece. Mom gave this to me several years before she and my Dad moved out of their house.  She knew I’d appreciate it’s rustic charm.  It’s my favorite vase for country bouquets.

I find it kind of strange though, that my Mom  chose this as one of the few things she could take from the family farm. Living in WA state limited how much she could bring home and she didn’t really care for the rustic look.

Although you can’t see it in this photo the crock does have a chip along it’s rim. It was the sort of thing she’d say when shown, “Who’d want that old thing.”  This piece must have must have spoken something about her childhood home and mother though, I guess I should have questioned her more.

She did tell me that her Mother found this piece while poking around in a vacant lot across the road from the church they attended. (ST. Mathias Catholic Church, Auburn Township, Fond Du Lac county, Wi)  According to her a  German convent had once sat on the property.  She figured the crock was something they used.  She told me the convent had been long gone by the time she was born.

So my question to you is – what kind of family treasures do you keep? Feel free to share in the comment section.

School Days in New Prospect

This is another story written by my mother about the days in a one room school house in New Prospect, Wisconsin. She attended school there from about 1927 until about 1934. Later she became a teacher and taught school there.

SCHOOL DAYS
Jeannette Meyer

I received my early education in a one room school house in Wisconsin. One teacher taught all eight grades.

The school house was a big square room with an entry way and a cloak room on each side: one for the boys and one for the girls.

On top was a bell tower. In the early days the building had also served as a church on Sunday.2014-07-01 22.33.40-1 That accounted for the fact that a cemetery was next door to the school. This fascinated all of us children. I can remember watching funerals from the school house window while the teacher tried in vain to get us all back to our desks. She considered it undignified but we just thought it was interesting.

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All of the students from the surrounding farming community walked to and from school in good weather and in bad. I had to walk about a mile and half from my home. I walked with my older sister and sometimes our big brother.

Our school was heated by a big coal burning furnace that stood in one corner of the room. It was encircled by an picket of aluminum so no child would fall against the furnace and get hurt. The teacher was also the janitor but often the big boys would help with carrying the coal.

Water was gotten from a hand pump in the schoolyard. The water was carried from the pump in a bucket to the water cooler in the back of the classroom. Each child had its own collapsible tin cup.

I loved school. I was happy when I could read. I remember my first yellow reader. History was probably my favorite subject. We had to memorize a lot of verse. This was good training for the mind. I can recite part of Longfellow’s “Evangeline” to this day.

Our school operated on a very small budget, so there was very little money for library books or reference material. We did get books from the county traveling library. One of my favorites was “Ox Team Days On The Oregon Trail” I read it many times and thought the children in the story were so lucky to travel in a covered wagon. Little did I dream, that when I was all grown-up with a husband and little girl of my own, I would travel along many of those same areas in an automobile on super highways to settle near the end of the Oregon Trail.

One big advantage to a one room school was that one could always get a review of anything forgotten by listening to the class below our level. If you were bored with your own classwork you could learn a lot by listening to the upper classes. I also had a brother and a sister to defend me on the playground if need be.

The student body was really like one big family with the older children looking after the younger. It was sort of a buddy system.

Recess and noon hour were great times. In the spring and fall we played baseball or “Run Sheep Run.” In the winter we went sledding on a hill a short distance from the school. In march we would walk to a nearby forest of maple trees and watch the cooking of maple syrup. In early Ma we would go to the same woods to pick Mayflowers and violets. There was also a swing set on the playground and it was here I met with an accident.

An eighth grade boy was swinging with me and I was a first grader. I sat on the seat and he stood on the seat and pumped the swing higher and higher. We all did this all the time but one day I fell off and landed with a thud on my stomach. I was knocked out and vaguely remember someone picking me up and carrying me into the school. Some time later I came to and saw one of the upper grade girls fanning me. I tried to stand up but the room spun around and I felt sick to my stomach. I laid down until it was time to go home. My brother tried carrying me for awhile but gave it up when he was offered a ride on friend’s bicycle. My big sister stayed beside me as I staggered home. I’m sure I must have had a concussion, but not called a doctor. A doctor was for big things – like broken legs.

Can you imagine a child today being allowed to walk home after an accident like that!

 

 

 

 

Throw Back Thursday

This photo is in honor of my Dad and Father’s day this coming Sunday. I’m planning to spend the day with him so this is a little early.   Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

I actually have the sailor suit he is wearing. His mother made it.  I think he must have been 3-4 years old so the year must be  about 1925 or 26.   He’s holding a bunny so maybe it’s an Easter photo.

The photo was taken at his home in Puyallup, WA.  The stonework behind him was part of the porch his dad built.  The house and porch are still standing nearly 100 years later.  He carried the stones home from the Carbon River.