Sunday, December 29, 2013

Black Sheep Sunday: Josephine Carriveau

My husband’s grandmother, Eliza Carriveau Mosey, was one of a large family of French-Canadians.  I have discovered plenty of good stories in that family that beg to be investigated and told.  This one is about Eliza’s older sister Josephine, shown here at age sixteen in a much-repaired photograph.

Josephine Carriveau was born in Huron County, Michigan in 1879.  She was one of eight surviving children of Laurent (Larry) and Eugenie (Annie) Corriveau, who spelled their name “Carriveau” after coming to Michigan from Quebec. 

Josephine married very young, as did several of her sisters.  Her husband-to-be was a widower named Michael Legue, who also went by the alias “Mitchell Labute.”  He was a Civil War veteran and 42 years her senior!—he was 58 when they married, and she was just 16.  They were married in 1896 and Josephine had her first child that same year—a daughter who died.

About 1908 Michael’s young nephew, Andrew Scram, joined the family.  Andrew was a 38-year-old widower—closer to Josephine’s age.  He had been married to a woman named Clara Smith, and they had three children together.  According to family sources, Clara was found dead in a field near their home with a shotgun by her side—an apparent suicide.  Andrew parceled out the three children; one went to a relative and the other two were taken in by a neighbor (one of those two died as in infant, but the other survived to adulthood).

In the 1910 census we see Andrew, a sailor, living with Uncle Michael and Aunt Josephine—and he must have settled in well, because there he is again in the 1920 census, and again in 1930.   Josephine continued to have children throughout this period, even as her husband grew older…  Michael was 85 when she had her last child, Albert, in 1922.  This picture shows Josephine and her husband Michael in 1927.

Josephine, according to the 1940 census, had only a second grade education.  I heard this story from her granddaughter Diana:  “Grandma Josephine did not understand the monetary system, such as that one 10-dollar bill has the same value as ten 1-dollar bills.  She sold a cow one time for $40 and the man handed her four $10 bills.  Grandma thought he was trying to cheat her and refused to take it.  She wanted forty $1 bills.  Fortunately for Grandma,  he took the time and effort to drive to the bank, exchange the four $10’s for forty $1 bills, and drive back.  At that point she was happy and the sale took place.”

Michael Legue died in 1930, and Andrew and Josephine lived together as man and wife after that, for the next 33 years.  Family sources tell me that they remember Andrew well—the two of them are shown in this photo, with one of Josephine’s sons  and a grandchild—and  Uncle Andrew was always called “Uncle Happy” within the family. 

Andrew died in 1963 and was buried with his wife Clara.  Josephine died in 1965 and was buried with her husband Michael.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mystery Monday: Carl A. Wesley

How can a man just not show up on the census—five times in a row?

I have a friend whose father died when she was young.  Recently I have been trying to find out more about her father’s family—but there seem to be more questions than answers.  Her grandfather’s name was Carl Albert Wesley, and my friend didn’t know much more than that.  My efforts to fill in the blanks have been, well, less than totally successful.

I started with what I knew about him:  the information on his gravestone, photographed for by volunteer Anne Sears.  The stone was found at Little Rock cemetery—the same place his wife and son (my friend’s father) are buried.   But even this was complicated.  There was a second entry for Carl in Newton, Jasper County, Iowa!  Which was his actual place of burial, and which was just a memorial stone?

Next?  Knowing he died in Jasper County, Iowa, I ordered a death certificate.  This told me that Carl Albert Wesley was born on May 9, 1894—in Illinois.  He died at 54 as a result of heart trouble—the same thing that killed his son in the prime of life.  According to the death certificate, Carl was buried in Iowa, which seems to solve that mystery.  Or does it?  The last line of his very faint obituary—does it say the body was moved back to Illinois?  I can’t tell.

The death certificate also gave me the names of his parents:  August Wesley and Augusta Lifske, both born in Germany.  The informant on the death certificate was his wife Lillian, who probably knew as much as anyone did. 
Knowing Carl was born in Illinois but later lived and died in Iowa, and knowing his parents’ names, should have led me to some census records, probably in Illinois or possibly in Iowa.  But none could be found—not for 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, or 1940—even when I tried the usual search tricks.  How can a man (and his parents) keep such a low profile?  All I found was a city directory for 1947 (the year before his death) for Carl and Lillian, in Newton, Iowa, where he died.  Where was he between 1894 and 1947?

More questions:  What about his marriage to Lillian Wallem?  I haven’t found a marriage certificate (yet), and I don’t even know the year or the place.  Lillian was born and raised in DeKalb or LaSalle County, Illinois, so I suppose the marriage most likely took place there.  Their first and only child, Robert, was born in Iowa in 1946, so that’s a possibility as well.  Another question is this:  Carl had his son Robert when he was 52.  Was this his first marriage and his first child?  That seems unlikely.

So where was Carl Albert Wesley between 1894 and 1947, and what was he doing?  I have a friend who would really like to know.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jonas Stutzman, Amish Eccentric

It’s always fun to find a person of historical interest in a family tree, and even more fun to find a “colorful character.”  When I decided to do an ancestry binder for my main and original Amish friends, I found a man who was both.

These particular Amish friends have a history in Lagrange County, Indiana that goes back about six generations.  Like most Northern Indiana Amish, their roots trace back mostly to Holmes County, Ohio— which is presently the largest Amish settlement in the world, numbering around 60,000. 

But someone had to be the first Amishman to go west from Pennsylvania and settle in Holmes County, Ohio—and it happens that he was an ancestor of my Amish friends.  His name was Jonas Stutzman, but he was known in his later life as “White Jonas” (“Der Weiss” in German.)  Much has been written about him. 

Jonas Stutzman (1788-1871) was born in Pennsylvania and came to Ohio in 1809, where he married Magdalena Gerber and had at least nine children.  The 1850 census finds him in Walnut Creek, aged 62, living with second wife Catherine and the youngest four of his eight surviving children.  According to the German Cultural Museum there, Jonas built the area’s first sawmill and the area’s first schoolhouse.

In 1850 he published a booklet in which he claimed that God had revealed to him in a vision that “the time of the fulfillment of his plan with mankind is at hand.”  He said that Christ’s second coming would be in 1853.  So sure was Jonas of this fact, and so sure that he would meet Christ personally upon his return to earth, that he built a special chair for Jesus to sit in when he arrived!  (The chair is in a museum today.)

Jonas had other visions.  It was revealed to him, so he said, that the children of God should wear only beige, gray, and white—“the colors of eagles and sheep.”  Even after 1853 came and went with no sign of Christ’s second coming, he wore only white for the rest of his life.

Steven Nolt, in his book A History of the Amish, says that although the Amish church rejected his teachings, “White Jonas” Stutzman remained a member in good standing.  “His peculiar views and dress were not seen as a threat to anyone, for he never had any followers.”  The census records show that Jonas lived the rest of his life in Holmes County, residing with or near his son Daniel in his old age.

My husband and I recently had a chance to go to Holmes County and do some exploring for ourselves.  We saw the historical markers and how his memory and legacy is still honored there today.  He is remembered with displays at the German Cultural Museum and elsewhere.  His great-great-grandson, Larry Miller, dresses up as his ancestor and makes appearances and gives historical speeches about Holmes County. There is even a facebook page dedicated to him!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Overcoming Hardships: The Story of Martha Boyle Oakley

While researching the family of a client, I came across the story of Martha Boyle Oakley (1836-1920).  It is a story of overcoming hardships and making the best of the hand one has been dealt in life.

Martha’s parents, Francis Boyle and Margaret/Mary Way Boyle, died at age 30 and 32, leaving her an orphan at ten.  It was said in the family that Margaret/Mary died of “quick consumption” and Francis died soon afterwards of a broken heart.  A terrible setback for a child—but Martha found a new family.

She was adopted by William and Martha Oakley, and it must have been a close-knit family, as she married their son Joseph in 1858.  The young couple were living in Virginia with his parents in the 1860 census.  Her obituary says that “Mr. and Mrs. Oakley located on a large plantation in Virginia, but both being patriotic Yankees, left Virginia shortly after the outbreak of the civil War, leaving all their earthly possessions in Virginia.”  Another terrible setback—but they resettled in Cincinnati and landed on their feet there, although not as farmers.

Martha and Charles were materially prosperous—he being a real estate developer who, according to researcher Nathan Lehman, “established the city of Oakley, Ohio, and much around Cincinnati.”  By the time of the 1870 census they lived in Cincinnati with their four young children and a servant.  But life was not all good.  Her obituary goes on to say that she was “mother of seven children; one died in infancy.”  (That was Ella, who died at four months from whooping cough in 1862.)  Common in those days, but no less heartbreaking for being common.

Also common, but no less heartbreaking for being so—Martha’s husband Charles was said to be a drinker, and the marriage didn’t last.  Quite a setback—but Martha again landed on her feet.  By the 1880 census she is listed as married but head of household.  She lives with her six children and runs a dry goods store.  Daughter Fannie is a seamstress.

It appears that her Christian faith was a great comfort to her, and she was known in the family for being deeply religious.  According to her obituary, she was baptized at 24, and in 1884, after her separation from Joseph, the Madisonville Church of Christ was first organized in her home, with she and four of her children as charter members.   One of her younger children, Charles, later became a prominent clergyman.

Joseph died in 1893; I don’t know if they were legally married during all their years of separation or if they eventually divorced.  Martha spent her twilight years as a widow, living with her daughter Fannie in Lexington, Kentucky.  This picture of Martha, dressed in black and contemplating her reflection in a mirror, is a story in and of itself.  I wonder if she left a journal?