Thursday, September 26, 2013

Those Places Thursday: Michigan Farm Life in the Great Depression, Part 2

Excerpts from the childhood of my mother-in-law, Donna Garver Mosey, in her own words:

“At school we had a recess at 10:30 and 2:30, and a one-hour lunch break at noon.  Reading was my favorite subject.  I remember what an awful time I had with long division, though!  I could do short division, but not long…  We played anti-over, where we threw a ball over the school house, and “ducky on the rock.” 

I loved to read; I devoured any books that came into the house—books, magazines, my sister Doris’ True Stories and Modern Romance, Reader’s Digest if I could get them, the newspaper if the store man saved it for us, anything I could get my hands on… There wasn’t any library that I remember.   I could spell in those days—not so good now—because we had “spell-downs” on Fridays third quarter after recess, quite often.

I was terrified of speaking in front of people.  Old Mr. Robinette, even though he burned down the barn at The Grove, was still our friend—he was a shirt-tail relative on my mother’s side.  One time they were at our place, and I had a Christmas program coming up, and I had a part, and I was afraid.  He said, “If you get up there and only look at me, you won’t cry.  And if you say your part, and you don’t cry, I will give you a dime.”  And I did it!   

We bought flour in 25-pound bags, or took our own wheat to the mill to be ground.  Mom would make 10 or 12 loaves of bread at a time, in round pans—she could only fit four at a time in the oven.  The recipe was simple: yeast, water, sugar, flour.  Our stove was wood-burning cook stove with a wood box nearby.  Mom was a good cook and a good baker.  She would make pies on Sunday while we were at Sunday School.  We had a few chickens, and she would make egg noodles.  When we had noodles, they were homemade with about a dozen whole eggs and flour and salt.  They were really a treat with chicken and broth!

We didn’t get too many invitations to eat at other people’s houses—there were too many of us to feed!  But my childhood was a happy time, as I recall it.  We didn’t know how others lived, and it didn’t matter.   

I remember laundry days.  Mom had a washboard, two tubs, and a boiler for whites—no washer or dryer.  She had to pump the water (kitchen pump), haul it to the stove, heat the water, fill the tubs, and scrub the clothes by hand.  She would start the laundry on Monday morning and not finish until Wednesday morning.  I remember her hands were raw and her fingers were bloody by the time it was finished…  I don’t know why, but we used to beg her to let us help her scrub the socks!  We would hang clothes outdoors to dry (even in winter)—they were freeze dried, but they smelled heavenly…  Ironing was a family thing.  The experienced ironers would do shirts and dresses, and the beginners would do hankies and pillowcases.”

To be continued…  Click here

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Graveyard Kit

Is it weird that I have a graveyard kit?  How else can you go grave hunting in an organized and well-equipped manner?  Mine is stored in a pink bucket with a decal on it.  (I’m a very girly grave hunter.)

The bucket contains all the stuff I need for proper gravestone hunting (except a goodly supply of water—never leave home without a goodly supply of water).  The bucket contains:
  • A notebook and a pen, along with any information that I had the foresight to gather together beforehand.
  • My camera, of course.  How else can I take photos to upload to
  • A little pink flashlight, for casting shadows on gravestones for better pictures.  The experts advise a big mirror for that purpose, but that won’t fit into my bucket.
  • Grass snips, a trowel, and a whisk broom, for quick cleanup work as required.
  • Cotton gloves.
  • A second bucket just like the first one, for hauling water if there’s a faucet.  (But I learned the hard way to also bring plenty of gallon jugs of water, especially when going to very old or abandoned cemeteries.)
  • A stiff-but-soft scrub brush that fits well into my husband’s hand.
  • Liquid soap—a special kind.  (I did a lot of research on this subject.)  It’s called “Orvus” and it has three main uses, so I’m told:  Washing horses, washing antique fabrics, and washing gravestones.  Fancy that!…
  • Wet wipes.  I like having clean hands when I use my camera (and all the rest of the time, too, actually).
  • A big Ziploc bag, for kneeling upon to take photographs.  I don’t like dirty knees either.
  • Bug repellent.  I once went wandering through some tall grass in the woods in cropped pants, looking for a few old gravestones which made up a small old family cemetery...  I came out with about a hundred bug bites on my lower legs.  I’m lucky I didn’t end up with Lyme disease!
  • White chalk for marking trees and driveways for navigational purposes.  Don’t want to walk the same rows twice if I don’t have to.
  • Little American flags.  I like to leave them at the graves of veterans.

Okay, so is this normal, or weird?  All genealogists love graveyards, right?  I once saw a coffee mug for genealogists that said, “I’m only interested in dead people.”  Well, yes, but I wouldn’t say only…  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Those Places Thursday: Michigan Farm Life in the Great Depression, Part 1

Excerpts from the childhood of my mother-in-law, Donna Garver Mosey, in her own words:

“I was the seventh born of fifteen children.  (The fifteenth one, William, had a bad heart and lived only a few days.)  I was born at home, as we all were.  When a new baby was about to be born, we would go outside to play, if we could, in the old corn crib if it was empty.  There was no telephone, so Dad would go and bring the midwife.   I remember once telling my teacher that when I grew up I wanted to have lots of children, like my mother did.

My dad was a ‘dirt poor farmer’...  One year a spark from the threshing machine caused a fire on the barn with the crop, so there was no way to make the farm payment to the bank.  So we had to move.  We moved into my great aunt Ellen Garver’s house.  Not a great house, but by sleeping three to four in a bed we kept warm. 

After Grandpa Charles Garver died in 1931, we moved into the family home on Adams Road.  The main floor of the house had a living room with a kerosene space heater, and a sofa, and always some rocking chairs.  The first floor also had the girls’ bedroom and my parents’ room.  In the lean-to part of the house it had a pantry and laundry room and a kitchen/eating area, with a dining table to seat twelve and a wood stove for cooking.  The second floor had only the chimney for heat, and that was the boys’ bedroom.  That house on Adams Road didn’t have electricity until the 1940s, and there was no indoor bathroom until 1946, about the time I got married.

 Besides farming 40 acres of land, Dad worked for the WPA in the 1930s, helping to build Route M61.  They built it by hand, with shovels.  He boarded out during the week and came home on weekends.  The workers who had horses got more money than those who had only shovels and manpower, so since every nickel counted, Dad was hired with a team of horses.   

I started at a country school.  It was 2¼ miles there, so some days, my brother Lester pulled me to school on a sled.  Other days, the milkman saw us Garver kids and picked us up and gave us a ride…  After that we changed schools, to the Browns Corners one room school, half a mile closer to home.  That first school, Brand School, closed after we left, since there weren’t enough students without us!

I had a lady teacher at Browns Corners School, and I loved her.  That teacher was the one who put my name in as the one and only student from our school who was allowed to go on a trip the Upper Peninsula by school bus.  We saw Tahquamenon Falls, Castle Rock at St. Ignace, and rode the Mackinac ferry (there was no bridge then).”

To be continued…  click here

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mystery Monday: What Ever Happened to Frank Dunn?

My friend Wendy has a mystery in her family that I’d love to help her solve.  It involves her great grandfather, Frank Dunn, and what happened to him in his later years.

Here is what I do know, beyond a reasonable doubt anyway:  Frank was born in February 1868 in Alabama, parents unknown.  In a possible census record match for 1880 in Alabama, he is called “Jack.”   Somehow he ended up in Kendall County, Illinois, where he married Grace May Kellett (my friend Wendy’s great-grandmother) on August 17, 1899; he was 21 and she was just 14.  On their marriage record his first name is given as “Frank” and his father is listed as “Frank Dunn Sr.” with no mother listed. 

Sixteen months later they had a daughter named Ethel (my friend Wendy’s grandmother).  On the birth record, Frank is listed as “Jack Dunn.”  Two more daughters were subsequently born to Frank and Grace, one in 1893 and one in 1894, neither of whom survived very long. 

On March 27, 1895 Grace’s short life came to an end at age nineteen.  An obituary in the Kendall County Record (April 3, 1895) gives her husband’s name as “John Dunn” and incorrectly states that two children were left without a mother’s care.   

The vagueness and errors in Grace’s obituary made me take a second look at the Kendall County Record obituary (October 17, 1894) for the second of their two babies who died.  The wording is odd…  It appears that by 1894 Grace might have been living apart from her husband.

 At any rate, Grace died in March of 1895 and was buried at Pavilion Cemetery in Kendall County, and Frank was married to Elnora Bissell on November 9, 1896.  On this second marriage record the groom’s first name is given as “Frank” and his parents are listed as Joseph and Mary Dunn.

In the 1900 census for Lee & Shabbona Villages in DeKalb County, Illinois, Frank and Nora live Frank’s 9-year-old daughter Ethel and work for the Woodbury family.  They have been married three years and Nora has had no children.  Franks says he (and his parents) were born in Alabama.

What happened after that is less certain.  Frank (or Jack, or John) apparently separated from Elnora Bissell some time between 1900 and 1910, quite likely without children.  A possible Aurora, Illinois census match for 1910 shows a Frank Dunn boarding with August and Ida Boner at 236 South Lake Street.  He says he is divorced, and he is a laborer at a livery stable.  A possible Aurora, Illinois census match for 1920 shows a Frank Dunn who is a roomer at the large Hotel Grand on Galena Boulevard.  He is listed as single and is employed as a watchman at a laundry. 

After that, the trail goes cold.  What ever happened to Frank Dunn?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Children of Robert & Elisabeth Mosey

I really like “descendancy research”—following all the children of a particular ancestor down through time, rather than just one.  It uncovers lots more stories, and gives a fuller picture of the family.

Robert and Elisabeth Bennet Mosey, my husband’s great-great-grandparents, had eight children who survived to adulthood.  Pictured here left to right are Jane, Martha, and Sarah Elizabeth; Richard, Frank, John, and Lewis.  Perhaps Maria was living in Nebraska at the time. (Three more sons—Lesven, Daniel, and Robert—died in early childhood.)  Four sons and four daughters…

Lewis:  Lewis—my husband’s great-grandfather—was the only one to fight in the Civil War, serving in the Indiana Infantry.  Afterwards he married a girl from his childhood home in Lorain County, Ohio—Hannah Wilkinson—and they settled first in Allegan County, where his parents lived, and then in Michigan’s “Thumb,” across the state from the rest of the Moseys, where he was a successful farmer.  Hannah died in her forties, and he remarried twice.

John:  John was a farmer and a barrel maker.  Like his brother, he was married three times, but word in the family has it that none of the marriages were happy.  He had no surviving children and is buried near his parents with his third wife Helena.

Francis (Frank):  Frank was a farmer and a carpenter.  He and his wife Jennie had four children, one of whom died in infancy.  He was widowed at age 43 and lived as a widower until his death at age 89.  He was a member of the IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows), which would be good topic for another blog post.

Jane:  Jane had no children of her own, but her husband William Orr had eight grown children from his previous wife.  They were married only eleven years before William died, leaving her a widow at age 49.  Jane then lived with her widowed brother Frank for a time, helping him with his home and children, and then her sister Elizabeth.

Maria:  Maria is the only one who lived outside of Michigan for any length of time.  She and her husband Alonzo Brant lived in Banner and Kimball Counties in Nebraska for a number of years, where he was a farmer and a “stock raiser”—and also a bit of a hell-raiser, according to some accounts!  They had two children who both died in childhood.  After her husband’s death, it is said she returned to Michigan.

Martha:  Martha married Jasper Dennis at age 17 and was widowed at 33.  They had six children.  Her husband died in Tennessee, and there seems to be some mystery around this fact which no one wanted to talk about.  Later in life she lived with her sister Elizabeth.  She died at age 72 and is buried near her sister Jane.

Richard:  Richard married for the first time at 33, and he and his wife Jennett had three children.  He seems to have lived the most uneventful life of the entire lot!  (But perhaps there are things yet to be discovered which will spice up his story…  It wouldn’t be the first time that has happened.)

Sarah Elizabeth:  Sarah’s husband, John Orr, made his living as a teamster.  (Wikipedia: “a person who drove a team of draft animals, usually a wagon drawn by oxenhorses, or mules.”)  In 1910 her widowed older sister Jane lived with their family, and in 1920 her widowed older sister Martha lived with them.  The 1910 census says that this was her second marriage—so she may have a past that I haven’t yet discovered.  (Either that, or the census taker was mistaken.)

Genealogy is a journey, and there’s always more to discover.