Thursday, August 29, 2013

Robert Mosey - From Yorkshire to America

Mosey is an unusual American surname, with no obvious ethnic origin.  But I have learned that it’s English in origin—Yorkshire, to be specific.  My husband’s great-grandfather Robert Mosey was one of his “gateway ancestors”—an ancestor who came from elsewhere to settle in America. 

Robert Mosey (1821-1884) was born in Bishop Wilton, a village in Yorkshire, England, to Richard Mosey and Sibby Johnson Mosey.  From what I’ve been able to find out about Robert’s early history, his parents weren’t the cream of British society by any means… I see a baby born out of wedlock, a conviction for assault, and a “removal order,” for example.  (A removal order occurred when a village sent a poor family back where they came from so that the local church parish wouldn’t have to support them.)  I owe a debt of thanks to Denise Mosey, who still lives in Bishop Wilton, for helping with this information.

Robert eventually came to America (as did his father Richard), probably in the later 1830s.  They both settled in Lorain County, Ohio, where Robert’s father Richard was naturalized and remarried (perhaps twice!) and died in 1872.  Young Robert married a local girl named Elisabeth Bennet in 1842.

The 1850 census finds Robert and Elisabeth in Lorain County with their four children, Robert working as a laborer.  But they continued to move west, probably to find affordable land...  The 1860 census finds them in Elkhart County, Indiana, with seven children (two other sons, Lesven and Daniel, had died).  Robert is a shingle-maker, and the census indicates that he still doesn’t own any land. 

Robert and Elisabeth eventually settled near South Haven in Allegan County, Michigan, where they can be found in the 1870 census.  Now Robert is a farmer and landowner, with land valued at $3,500 and personal property valued at $600.  An 1873 land atlas shows him owning 160 acres.  Quite a progression over twenty years!  He farmed in Allegan County the rest of his life, with several of his sons purchasing farms nearby.

Robert Mosey passed away in Allegan County in 1888, and Elisabeth followed him in death in 1893.  They and six or seven of their eight surviving children were buried at Stephenson Cemetery there.  In a future post I’ll tell more about those eight children who survived to adulthood—Lewis, John, Francis, Jane, Maria, Martha, Richard, and Sarah Elizabeth.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Nortons of Miami Beach

One of my recent clients is a Miami native—and I mean native.  Her father’s ancestors have lived in the Miami area since it was nothing but orange and lemon groves—and her ancestors planted some of those.  Her great-grandparents were Edwin and Caroline Norton (pictured).  A page from their family bible and a few old family stories began my look at the Nortons, and a bit of research filled in the rest.

Edwin Blake Norton and Caroline Francis Kraker were married in Florida in 1872.  They lived in Bay Lake by the time of the 1880 census, where E.B. may have taught school.  By 1894, they were tending orange groves in Kissimmee and welcoming their eighth child, a daughter named Francis.  But Caroline’s death, followed by a freeze that destroyed the orange groves, meant Edwin had to start over.  By 1900 Edwin moved with his younger children to Miami Beach, eventually moving in with son William, where Edwin died in 1918.  A picture survives of William’s home on 1228 Collins Avenue—today the site of the Hotel Impala.

But what of the widower Norton’s eight children?

·       William Eubanks Norton became a public servant, and a good one.  He was Dade County Deputy Circuit Court Clerk, among other things, and he did his job so well and faithfully that at his death he was called “The Grand Old Man of the Courthouse.”

·       Edwin Massa Norton was nicknamed “Doc” because of his career as a pharmacist. He was said to be a kind and gentle person and a good family man. He married Elizabeth Miller and had five children.

·       Penny married William C. Lightsey.  It is said in the family that W.C. was a member of the posse that went after the legendary Sam “Sure Shot” Lewis, an infamous Miami saloon owner who killed two men in 1895.   

·       Lewis Greenwood Norton worked in the Dade County Tax Assessor’s office but was best known for his long litigations with the City of Miami Beach over a piece of land he tried to obtain title to as a homesteader, and upon which he lived from 1917 to 1926.  He died in 1930 at age 51 from “an attack of acute indigestion.”

·       Julia married James S. Peters, an early Miami pioneer who came to the area in a horse and wagon in the 1890s, became a tomato farmer with his brother, and lived in a town there (Peters) which was named after his family.  Julia died at age 95 in Miami.

·       Louise (Lula) married Lemuel Bowers and lived a quiet life.  She had five children, married twice, and died at 82.

·       George Cason Norton was a sergeant in the U.S. Army in WWI and a druggist by occupation.  He married Julia Kimbrell; they had just one child, George Jr.  It is said in the family that he died after being hit on the head during a robbery. 

·       Francis was the baby of the family.  Her mother died shortly after her birth, so “babied” was exactly what she was, by her seven older siblings.  As an adult her husbands weren’t always so willing to make her the center of attention...  But eventually she found her soulmate, Roy Crews; I talked about him in another story.

The Nortons made their mark on Miami, and many of their descendants still live there today.  I guess that’s what people mean when they say “roots.”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Roving Reverend

Even a “man of the cloth” can be a black sheep...  Consider the case of Rev. George Washington Hays.

I used to be church historian at the church where I grew up.   One summer I decided to read all the board minutes, starting at the beginning—1858.  Not far into the project, my eyes were drawn to the word “alcoholic”— and I knew I had a story.   

Rev. Hays was born in Macomb, Illinois in 1837, son of a physician.  He was educated at Maryland College, then Princeton Theological Seminary after he gave up the study of law to prepare for the ministry. 
After finishing up at McCormick Seminary, he got his first pastorate—First Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Illinois, shown in this drawing—in 1863.  It wasn’t long before he married Elizabeth Hannah, daughter of a prosperous local merchant and church board member.  And it wasn’t long after that that the previously healthy Elizabeth suddenly died.

Biographical sketches from his days at Princeton and McCormick, along with, got me this far.  This is where the board minutes come into play. 

In June 1866 Elizabeth’s father stopped attending church.  He was warned by the board not to shirk his duty and to stop circulating reports that the pastor had a hand in Elizabeth’s death.  A hearing took place, pitting the pro-father forces against the pro-pastor forces.  In three days of testimony, the father accused the pastor of drunkenness, refusing to allow a doctor to see Elizabeth, hoping she would die—and giving her a double dose of morphine to speed the process.  (The attending doctor was another church elder, who left the church shortly after Elizabeth’s death.)  The board sided with the pastor and voted 3-1 in January 1867 to suspend Elizabeth’s father until such time as he repented of his slandering, which he refused to do, so in September 1867, he was excommunicated.

Nevertheless, Rev. Hays left under a huge cloud of suspicion in 1868—“leaving the church nearly extinct, having passed through a church fight that left it depleted in numbers and burdened with debt,” so said a church historian.   But what next caught my attention was the almost gypsy-like wanderings of the reverend for the rest of his career.

In 1868 George found work at two churches in  Carroll County, Ohio, where he married a woman named Harriet; they eventually had eight children.  By 1871 they were in Saline County, Kansas.  I found out by writing to his church there that he left there in 1873 due to a scandal; the board minutes said that they debated whether to contact the authorities or allow him to leave quietly, and decided on the latter.

After that, it was on to Henry County, Iowa until 1878; then Washington County, Iowa until 1881; then Scott County, Iowa until 1883; then Black Hawk County, Iowa until 1885.   

In 1885 he settled in California and his wanderings ceased.  Did he find peace at last?  Or had he simply put enough distance between himself and whatever he was running from?  For whatever reason, George stayed nine years at one church in Sonoma County and then seven years at two more—but as “pulpit supply,” not installed pastor. 

By 1903 he retired to a farm in Sonoma County he co-owned with his brother-in-law Horace.  Harriet died about this time, and in 1916 George died in Alameda County. 

I wonder what really happened to his first wife?  And what happened in Saline County that caused him to leave Kansas altogether?  Was George  a good husband and father?  What stories survive about him in the family?  Why did he wander from place to place?  More questions than answers on this one.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Eulogy for My Dad

As I write these words, my thoughts are of my father.  He died twenty years ago yesterday.

Robert Milo Wallin (1923-1993) was an Army infantryman, a platoon leader, in World War II.  He arrived at Normandy a few weeks after D-Day and fought his way across Europe until, a year later, he was part of the Army of Occupation after the war.  During those terrible days on the front lines, he developed a smoking habit, as many did, to steady his nerves.  It was a habit that stuck with him all his life.  Forty-eight years after the war ended, he died of lung cancer.  He suffered greatly at the end, but he died bravely, his final word being “home.”  His faith was strong; he knew where he was going and he wasn’t afraid.

But what I remember most often are the small snippets of life… not the big moments, but the little ones.  Going on vacation in the family Oldsmobile (always an Oldsmobile), Dad wearing his special vacation baseball cap with the salmon on the front.  Dad fiddling with the cars, or making something on the grill, or mowing the lawn with his enormous old farm mower.  Dad taking us to church and always sitting in the fourth row, or serving communion with silent respect.  Dad having his customary 20-minute nap at lunchtime, on the couch, under Grandma’s afghan, nearly every day for forty years.  Dad taking photos in the old black-and-white days and developing them himself, using the downstairs bathroom as his darkroom.  Dad taking on my honors English teacher (and winning) or my physics teacher (and losing—but doing a hilarious, dead-on impression of him after he got home).  Dad at Grandma and Grandpa Wallin’s house every Friday night, lying on the couch watching TV, and then at exactly 9:00 p.m. saying, “You birds get your shoes on—it’s time to go home.”  Dad’s gigantic tomato plants, growing up the trellises that he’d made himself.  Dad talking about the war, late at night, when his guard was down and the stories came out.  The Greatest Generation, indeed.

I remember a conversation I had with my sister a few days after Dad died.  I was just 38 when we lost him, and she was 34.  We felt like we’d been shortchanged, losing him so soon.  My sister said to me, “Would you rather have had our dad for 35 years—or some other dad for longer?”  And we both decided that we wouldn’t have traded him for anyone else, even though he left us too soon.

When I started writing these words today, I said a little prayer:  “Lord, help me write something worthy.”  But I can’t wait until that happens, because it never will.  I can only try to put into words what I feel today, and hope it’s good enough.  Dad, I miss you and I always will.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

F.I. Wallin - Gateway Ancestor

“How will our children know who they are if they do not know where they came from?”
(author unknown)

I am a fourth-generation American on most branches of my family tree.  The first of my Wallin ancestors to live in America—my “gateway ancestor”—was my great-grandfather Frederick Isadore Wallin (1849-1926)—more commonly known as “F.I.”  

Frederick’s mother died in childbirth while having him.  In Sweden he was a tanner and the son of a tanner—one of the lower occupations on the social scale.  Yet a number of his personal papers survive, and the records say that he “read aloud well” and had a fine tenor singing voice.  He came to America (via Gothenburg, Sweden; Glasgow, Scotland; and Moville, Ireland) on the ship “Anglia” in May of 1871 at the tender age of 21; the ship’s steerage class passenger list was filled with Scots, Irish, Germans, Swedes, and a few Norwegians.  He was a lieutenant in the New York National Guard from 1874 to 1878—when this picture of him was created.  He became a U.S. citizen there and married Christine Bengston/Wennerholm, another Swedish immigrant.  The 1880 census finds them living with their baby son in Jamestown, New York, where Frederick is a store clerk.  But soon the young family went west to Nebraska, where Frederick was a peddler by trade, according to the 1885 Nebraska census.  By 1900 he is a farmer, and he and Christina have seven children—Isadore, Inez, Frederick, Ithel, Aurora, Sture, and Leonard.  Soon afterward he and Christina “moved to town” (Hordville, Nebraska) and built a store.

These words were written by his grandson Robert (my father) about Frederick’s later years:

“Old Frederick never really liked farming.  When his son Sture was 17, Sture wanted to go out on his own; so he told his father that he would finish out the year on the farm, and then help his dad build a store in town during that winter.  (This proposal was prompted by the old man telling Sture that there wasn't enough money for a new ball glove this year, while unloading a gallon of whiskey from the supply wagon.)  So they built the store, with living quarters in the back and twelve rooms upstairs, which made it a hotel.  The guests were traveling salesmen who went by train and would time their routes so as to spend an evening playing cards and having a few nips with F.I.  Let it not be thought that he was a bad man; he was a founder of the Fridhem Lutheran Church in Hordville.  This would have been about 1910, and Gramps ran the place until about 1920.  Later his son Leonard had a store in the same building, but the hotel business went out with the automobile.”

F.I. lived to be 76 and died in 1926; Christina died in 1935.  They are buried at the Fridhem Lutheran Church cemetery in Hordville.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wayne, Walter, and the Model T

My husband’s great-uncle Wayne Nedry Alwood (1893-1948) had a model T automobile similar to this one, pictured.  Those puppies could be hard to start, and sometimes a person had to get creative.  But Wayne’s brother-in-law, Walter Garver, discovered a system that worked.

Dale Garver, a cousin of my husband’s and a top-notch genealogy researcher, wrote and self-published a book about the Garver family in 2002 which he entitled One Tree in the Garver Family Jungle—Past and Present.  Dale recorded some wonderful stories in the course of his research, including this one about Wayne, Walter, and the Model T... 
“Wayne Alwood drove his Model T Ford up for a visit (to his sister Hazel’s farm) one time, and parked it in the Grove.  After it sat unused for a couple of days during Wayne’s stay, he cranked it and cranked it and couldn’t get it started.  Finally he gave up in frustration, uttered a swear word, threw up his hands, and said, “I’ll walk instead!”  He then gathered up his traveling gear, got out of the car, and stopped by Walter and Hazel’s house.  He told his brother-in-law Walter, “I’m going home.  There’s a car sitting out there; if you can get the so-and-so to start, it’s yours.”  He never came back for the car.  

Walter kept it and he always used a horse to pull-start it.  He would get his trusty work horse Prince, not even bothering with a bridle, just putting the harness on him, and grab a chain.  He’d hook Prince to the car and holler, “Okay,” and Prince would pull the car backwards out of the garage.  “Stop,” Walter would say, and Prince would turn around and walk to the front of the car.  The chain was then hooked up to the front of the car and out the driveway they went, not even trying to start the car until they got out into the road.  Walter just kept talking to Prince as they slowly picked up speed.  Once a trot was established, the car was started.  Prince would then head back to the barn, beating Walter in his car, as Walter had to go on to the corner to turn around and come back.”
Is this story vitally important in the genealogical history of my husband’s family?  No.  Is it priceless to me anyway?  Definitely.