Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Census Problems - The Search for Jacob VInson

Okay, so here's my first problem in my search for Jacob Vinson:

In Canada there is a census that has what appears to be our family: Jacob Vincon and his "Mrs." and a list of kids whose names coincide with the commonly believed list of kids in our family.

Most people take one look at that and say, "Hot dang! We found our family in Canada!" 

Well... not so fast.

The problem is, how do I know if that really is the right list of kids in our Jacob's family?  If I had grown up hearing Great talk about her Aunts Harriet and Mary, and Uncles Richard, John, Japheth, Jacob and Joseph, then I'd say the list was good, but that's not how it happened.  I got that list from other genealogists on Ancestry, which means that the odds are good that they got those names FROM that same Canadian census.

Which is why they coincide perfectly.

You can't use a source to prove itself.

We can compare it to another census here in the U.S., and if we do, we get an iffy result: The Jacob and Mary Vincient in the 1870 census in St. Clair County MI are different ages and have different kids.

Ah, but these kids are younger, and they fill out the rest of the list of names that the common wisdom on ancestry say are in the family!  Except, yeah, those other people on Ancestry probably got that information from this other census.

To make it worse: both these documents could still be right and refer to our family, but they also could be two completely different families, neither of which are direct ancestors of ours.

Furthermore, when the censuses were taken, the family may have lied to the census taker, or the "informant" who gave the info may not have known anything, and they just made up the answers.

Why would the family lie?

Well, one of the legends I found from a second/third cousin who is also descended from Jacob, is that he or his father had accompanied the Prince of Wales in a canoe when the prince visited an Indian village during a tour of Canada in 1860.  DNA indicates that it is entirely possible that Jacob or his father were Native. (After tracing a lot of our family back, the Native DNA has to come from  him, his wife, or from Peter LaGuire's unnamed mother. Those are the only choices left. Furthermore, more descendants of the Vincent line have Native DNA than of the LaGuire line. So... Jacob or his wife, Mary Tebo are likely it.)

Given the prejudice against Native people, and against the French, in Canada and northern U.S. at the time, it is easy to see why the family might have been passing for white, and passing for English.  And if they were trying to stay under the radar, it's even possible that they didn't intentionally lie, but the person who was answering the census (who could be a neighbor, or servant, or landlord) just didn't know. So they said, "Yeah, they're from Upper Canada, yeah, they're Church of England."

Or it could be another family entirely. Or this is our family and the legend is completely wrong.

So how do we sort it out?  How do we verify the names of OUR Jacob Vinson's family.

One place to start is the death certificates (and obituaries) of his children. Frank Vinson/Vincent-- our great great grandfather -- was the informant on Jacob's death certificate. And though he left out a lot of information about his father's background, he was specific about his mother's name, and his father's age.

So we find other death certificates and start comparing.  So far Richard, and Jacob Jr. are consistent.  And there was a John Vinson who witnessed Frank's marriage, so even though he could have been a cousin, it's a good indication that they were associated.

But death certificates have their own interesting issues.  More about that Next Time.

Making a Genealogy Plan - Finding Jacob Vinson

Just got back from a genealogy conference.  It was great, but I now have a cramp in my upper back from four days of sitting in conference stacking chairs.

I learned a LOT, though I have to admit, the best stuff I learned were things I already kinda knew.  That's because I attended a lot of sessions about professional genealogy and methodology and standards and all that.  If you've been doing this much at all, you already have a grasp of judging evidence and digging for back up evidence, etc.  But this conference put a lot of that info together for me.

In particular, when you have over 3000 people in your tree, and you have LOTS of interesting puzzles, and enticing research prospects, you really need to stop winging it and start using professional methods. 

And one of the first things you do is set a specific purpose for a project, and make a plan.

So here it is; my plan for one of my research brick walls: Jacob Vinson, who was Great's grandfather. I have not been able to find ANY record that I can tie firmly to his family in Canada. Even the records on this side of Lake Huron are fairly inconsistent. So...

Jacob Vinson Research Plan

Purpose Statement: To find when Jacob Vinson emigrated to U.S. and where in Canada he came from.

Questions that should help lead to this information:

*What currently assumed family relationships can be proven?
*When is the earliest we can find him in America in records?
*There are four or more variations on the surname in the records: Vincent, Vinson, Vincum, Vincon. Who uses which surname, and when? (Also, who says the family is English, and who says French?)
*What was his religion?
*Was he Metis? or Micmaw? (Or was his father or mother?)
*Did he (or a relative) really accompany the Prince of Wales to a native village during the prince's visit to Canada in 1860?

(More questions to be added later, as new info raises them.)

Next Actions:

1. Begin with the first three questions: Compile the records. Cross check. Look for holes. Check for when various surnames appear.

2. Look for other people from Canada who live near the Vinson family who may have emigrated with them, or from the same place.

3. Play with some of the new resources I've learned about to see if Jacob or family and neighbors show up in them.

If these don't lead in an obvious direction, the next action after these will be looking for those neighbors and relatives in Canada.

NEXT TIME, I'm going to talk about the problems with the census data I've found -- on both sides of Lake Huron. (Then maybe some fun with death certificates!)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Born in the House On the Hill

It's my dad's birthday. I still miss him greatly. 

I've decided to post a little about his birth from Great Gramma Lu's memoirs:

It was 1935, and times were tough.  Gramma Naomi tells the story of how, when Donnie was due, she would fill the house with lilacs for the doctor, every day.  And every day, Donnie didn't show up.  Of course, as the lilac season waned, and Gramma got tired of doing it, that's the day my father made his appearance. (He was never late again in his life.)

Born in The House On The Hill

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

In the vicinity where we lived everyone was poor and I do mean poor. In East Homestead, the farmers were more prosperous and owned more stately homes, becuase the land was more fertile, and most of the families had inherited property from pioneer parents. But in West Homestead -- well, to tell the plain truth, nearly everyone was getting his monthly allotment of unperishable foods from the "welfare." 

We were no exception, although Orville's in-laws would not ask for aid themselves. They were perfectly willing that Orville would get all he could on account of having small children and pass any surplus on to them. Orville, however balked on this subterfuge and got very little form the walfare himself. A few sacks of flour at the most.

The Eastman's son (this would be Frank, I believe) went every time and brought home his share of rice, hominy, raisins, prunes, cornmeal, canned foods, etc., and was not ashamed to do so.  He had four children and felt he and they were entitled to all the help they could get and had quite a surplus on hand sometimes.

Some complained they were sated with prunes and rice etc, but if they could get it from Uncle Sam, might just as well take it and be thankful. For a time I passed our surplus prunes and raisins etc on to Orville's family. His wife was glad to get that addition to their meager stores and I could see no wrong in giving them what we couldn't use, as they were now expecting a fourth child.

But when Orville learned of my contributions, he put a stop to it. I thought sometimes he had more pride than sense, but I was too well aware where he had inherited that pride.  I always felt a little ashamed when we went after our dole, but at that was glad our government realized that the people needed help as work was like hen's teeth.

I told Orville once, "Orville, you must not let your pride keep your children from having what they need.  Many around here get blankets, quilts, underwear and pajamas for kids and clothing for their families, and you must not let your youngsters go cold.  It is nothing to be ashamed of. If they need underwear or anything and you haven't the money, you get it from the poor chest. You are entitled to it as much as anyone around here."

And he promised me that he would not let them suffer for food or clothes. I don't believe he ever applied for anything like that, however. He had soon gotten a job with the co-op and even had an extra job of book keeping for another firm.  But when he found that he was not supposed to hold down two jobs, but let some other man have one of them, he gave up the bookkeeping job.  The woman at the head of the welfare said, "Orville would bend over backwards to be honest," and she was not far wrong.

I believe I've mentioned that Orville and Naomi were looking for their fourth child to be born the first of May or there abouts. We sort of hoped he be born on Alice Louise's birthday - the 10th of May.   She and Sonny were growing and both attending school now.

Fortunately they were situated very close to the school on the Hill. They had purchased a home finally -- a large, unfinished house on the highest building spot in Benzonia. The house itself is on a level ground, but it has for its back yard some of the steepest little hills I ever climbed, a deep valley leading down, down to Lover's Lane, a trail through the woods which are at the rear of the home. A picturesque spot if there ever was one. From where the house stands one has a view of the surrounding country for miles around.  The town of Beulah below them, hills and forests and the beautiful Crystal Lake (though not much of that) and way out into Homestead township, where our little cottage was, was in the far distance, the road to Honor, Eden.

An ideal location especially in summer, but in winter the snow gets to be waist deep sometimes and the country around is one solid glare of ice at times after thaws. But the people there love it and wouldn't live anywhere else but on "Piety Knob" or Rainwater Hill, as it used to be called in the days when so many people had only cisterns as their only water supply. The town boasts a church and a community hall where people seem to be swarming at all times. It ahs a fine library within.  As we drive about the country, it is a comical fact that the home of the Orville LaGuires can be seen from miles and miles away, where it sits on its hilly acres and stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. No doubt this pleases them a lot as they were then so poor but so proud!

Every day we were expecting  news of the new baby and as we got no news, I'd have Virgil drive me up there two or three times a week to see how Naomi felt.

The boy arrived on June 9 -- a month late -- just an error in calculating, I guess. We had worried some as Naomi's grandmother had given birth to Siamese Twins at one time (They didn't live, however ) and the thought had come to Orville and to me, "What if that is the reason for delay? What if Naomi was to have siamese twins, and coudl she withstand the ordeal?"  We did not mention it to Naomi, nor to each other, till afterwards, as we did not want to worry anyone.

Donald Keith proved to be a nice plump blue-eyed boy with a husky pair of lungs, a really rolly polly baby, as all her babies were. I think they were a little disappointed that it was a boy, as they (especially Alice Louise) had hoped for a girl. Now they had three boys. Everything going fine, but her nurse (a rather famous Mrs Brooks) had to leave her to go to another case before Naomi could be up, and they asked me if I could come for a few days to look after the children till she could herself supervise them.

So I packed my necessaries and Fred too me up there. He and Virgil could look after themselves as they had many times before. Orville go his own breakfast and Naomi said she did not want me to do any more than was actually needed to be done. But I found that pretty difficult. I tried to keep the house as neat as possible and one day got on my knees and washed the kitchen linoleum.  My arms ached and I found a task like that almost impossible. My arms hurt all night and I went to see the resident doctor there. He gave me some pills and a sort of linament which did not help at all.  Not even placing a hot water bag on them at night. I was hardly fair to the doctor, I guess, as I did not tell him what was really the cause of my trouble. It was the result of that awful blow I'd gotten on the leg, when my back had given me such a fright that time.  I felt that I was losing the use of my arms entirely, and after being with Orville's family about five days, I sent word to Fred to come after me, as I was not able to work. Virgil came up and took me home, and I went to bed and rested for a day. Then made up my mind to go to a Chiropractor as I'd been to them before and knew they did wonders.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Basketball and the Great Girls' Strike

In honor of March Madness, here is a little more of Gramma Lu's memoirs, where she talks about her daughters and basketball, including an incident where six of the high school girls went on strike. (Actually, both incidents are sort of about the girls going on strike)

The family was living in Sutton's Bay at the time. She doesn't say exactly when this story takes place, but it seems to be in line with events of 1920 or so, when they were living in a place in town, near the hotel and the convent.

Basketball and the Great Girls' Strike

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

There was once that I was in the wrong and Fred was right, I must confess.

We all know how basketball teams go to other towns in persuance of their interests and up there it was a real hazzard and sometimes as they might start out with a lovely even in prospect, a storm came up and they would have a serious time getting home, with all getting out to shovel snow.  And one time they couldn't make it and had to stay at farm houses by the way.

It worked out alright and was a great experience to the youngsters, but I worried a great deal if my girls were in the crowd, as naturally they were sometimes. So one night when I wanted them to brave the snowstorm and go about two blocks after our milk, they balked and said they couldn't in such a storm, etc. 

I said, "You go right along girls. This is no worse than the blizzards you go to basketball games in."

"We can't, Ma, we're afraid," said they.

"I can't help it," said I. "You go get the milk," and made as if to push them out into the storm.

They said, "Ma, we won't go," and their father said, "You don't have to go, girls, if you don't want to."

So they came back into the house, and I was glad that was settled for the once. They could get my point alright and didn't go many times to basketball games in other towns.  I often think if girls who wear themselves out going to parties, dances and all kinds of sports were asked to work half as hard to help their parents, how they'd think they were misused and abused no doubt.

My girls were good workers.  There is no cause for complaint there.

However, I always get a chuckle out of the time the high school girls "struck."  There were Grace, Berna, two of LeRoy's sisters, Ella and Helen,  "Honey" Mideline, and Dorothy Nelson.  It all came about on acct of basketball too. This all happened before Grace graduated, of course.  It seems the girls had plenty of cause for complaint as I don't know all the ins and outs of the game, I can't explain, but this had been festering for some time, and at last had come to a head.

(Note several of these girls -- Grace, Honey and maybe Dorothy -- appear in a photo in the archives of the Leelanau Historical Society - 8th Grade Girls, Suttons Bay.)

I looked out the window one sunny afternoon and what to my wondering eyes should appear but six high school girls during school hours, tramping over the rutted road that lead to our house, past the hotel.

"What now?" I thought. "I can't imagine."

The girls looked grim as they stalked into our middle room, when I asked what the matter was, they all talked at once. It was this and that and the other thing going wrong at school. 

One complaint I remember was that the girls had all the work to do when a visiting team came. They must make all plans, prepare the refreshments, and serve them and when it came to the dance, after all this and playing basketball too, these poor girls were just too exhausted to enjoy anything. That was complaint enough, but there were others and they surely blew off steam, with me a willing listener. They were a little scared at their brave move, but were quite determined to see it through. They really didn't know what the professor  might do or say.

Well, they had quieted down and were just sitting there wondering whether to go back to school or not, I guess, when we saw Prof Chapin coming. Now he was a little man, not much taller than my girls. The girls all liked him, I believe, and he was not formidable.  He'd been sick and was very pale. When the girls saw him approaching, some of the more timid ones got up and were headed for the parlor.

I said, "Now, girls, stand your ground. I'll back you up. Come on out, face him."

I don't think Grace had left her seat at all.  She always did love a good battle!

When I opened the door to the Prof, he looked red white and blue, as I told an interested friend later. His illness had left him white, his face was blue where his beard was trying to put in an appearance, and his cheeks were quite red from exertion and determination.

"Did the girls come here?" he asked. He knew well enough where they would head for.

They chorused, "Yes, we are here, Mr. Chapin. Come in."

I offered him a chair and let the girls state their cases, which they did very well and he discussed not only basketball, but many other things about school. He could see the girls had a real grievance. 

I remember he asked Grace as they discussed the subject of cheating "What percent of the students would you say off hand, Grace, cheat in the exams."

And she answered without hesitation "One hundred percent."

He was flabberghasted. She had included herself -- though I don't belive it was necessary for her to snitch answers hardly ever.  She was the oldest of the girls, having missed a lot of school earlier, and was usually at the head of class. She acted as spokeswoman mostly, the others backing up all she said.

After an hour or so Prof. C. arose and said he must get back to his classes. I could see he was feeling much better than when he came and I know the girls had gotten a load off their chests.  As he was leaving he said, "I can't make you girls come back to school, of course, unless you want to, but I'd like to see you all there in the a.m.  We will straighten out these snarls and see that the boys do their share hereafter."

Well, that was that. They were all in school the next day and the school mechanism ran more smoothly thereafter.

But the six girls had a time living down the fact that they had "run away from school."  It was a standing joke in town. They accomplished what they intended just the same. I have never thought of that time without laughing to myself since.

"School days! Dear old golden school days!"

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Virgil Goes To War

I haven't got to the 1940s in my transcription of Gramma Lu's memoirs, but I often look ahead to see if I can nail down dates and events to index.

I couldn't find any mention of Pearl Harbor, but she did talk about the day Virgil enlisted. Then later on, when she talked about the day he actually left for war, I found her summary of the buildup to war, and Pearl Harbor!  So here is the post, a little late. 

At this time Virgil had been out of jail for a few years (after his drunk driving manslaughter incident -- to be posted later).  I believe the family was still living in Homestead, though they did spend some time in Thompsonville around then too.  I should note that Gramma Lu herself suffered from depression during this period, and her difficult relationship with Fred was at its worst then.  It is no wonder that Virgil was morose....

Virgil at training camp - we have no idea which one is him

Virgil Goes To War (Spring 1942)

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

Virgil had become more and more morose and stayed at home and avoided other people more and more. I worried about him as there seemed no prospect of his marrying, though there was a girl who would have been glad to have him, living not too far away, a friend of ours. So he was more of a problem than I could cope with. I prayed and prayed night after night for them all.  Then on e day he came home and announced,

"Well, I belong to Uncle Sam now!"

There was a new spring in his step, a new light in his eyes. He was 1A!

The time came that Virgil had to leave to go to camp!  We knew he must go, as all other parents knew it.  He drove with me to Frankfort the day before he left and when we were through at the doctors, he drove to the end of a street that ends on a bluff beside some grand residences. The waves were dashing high. We just sat there and watched as the spray from those mighty breakers soared high above the lighthouse, great white caps rode the crest of each wave and ever and anon they would sweep to their utmost height then swirl back to be chased by another and higher wall of water!

The sight was magnificent and inspiring! I don't know what Virgil thought as we sat and looked at good and Great old Lake Michigan!  I thought of the ocean he would probably have to cross and no doubt his thoughts were a good deal like mine.  We drove home after a while.

The following day, dad and me accompanied him to Beulah, where several recruits waited for a bus to carry them on the first lap of that most unforgettable journey. It was a cold, rather cheerless day. The boys from our vicinity waited in a bus beside the lake for another busload to join them.

There was no fanfare. The day was cold.  Later when other boys went, the High School band gave them a little serenade before they left. But not for this bunch of men. No one thought of it, I guess. Just another crowd of our young men (17 to 40 about) going to give their all for our country if need be!  Just a few relatives (parents mostly) and friends came to see them off. We stood around stamping our feet to keep them warm, saying goodbyes and making joking remarks.

The first bus lumbered up. The fellows got aboard and waited, trying to look unconcerned. Parents trying to look cheerful.  "Don't forget to write! We'll be thinking of you. God bless you, we'll pray that you'll be all right."  "Bring me a necklace of Japanese ears," said some youngster. "Don't let those French girls rope you in," etc.  Just to pass those last tense moments, shaking hands again.  "Good bye. Good bye -- I'll write often."

Then another bus load of men came and our boys left us, waving their hands as long as we could see them.

Our last child had gone out into the great world and to war.  Strangely, I had worried that my three oldest, Orville, Stanley and Dudley, would have to fight in World War I, and perhaps never return!  That Virgil would go to war never occurred to me then. The three oldest never saw fighting, as it developed, although Orville did go into service.

And now Virgil was going to another beastly war.  In only one generation -- 2 wars!  Fred and I drove home silently. There was nothing to say. When at home again, Fred put more fuel on the fires to warm our chilled frames. We wondered if the boys would have a cold ride.

I sat down by the fire and wept silently.  The futility of it all.  Raising sons only to fight these cruel battles, to kill and be killed!  What good did it do to get up petitions, to write the president and our governors and representatives?  To talk peace and negotiations? There were women's clubs banded together for the purpose of promoting peace and out-loving war!  How far did they get?

First we heard the rumbles in the distance, "We'll be in another  war before we know it. It's coming, we can't stop it Everything points to war."

 Then one grim and awful night, Pearl Harbor with its terrible results and aftermath! We were at war!  No alternative, it seemed, young men begged for a chance to retaliate this fearful attack. They were given a chance and many many went who would rather have stayed with their families.

As I think of it later, there were no girls congregated about when this first contingent left. The boys were not in uniform then! What a difference that makes!  I saw many in uniform later, and heart breaking scenes at the depots. To many it was like tearing the very heart out to watch them go bravely away to foreign lands.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Spanish Flu in Suttons Bay

Jumping ahead again in Gramma Lu's memoirs. The train wreck happened in late winter/early spring of 1918. This was a very very busy year in the life of the family.  The youngest, Virgil, had his tonsils out (behind his father's back, because Fred thought all doctors were crooks.)  The oldest son, Orville, had gone off to war in March.  Fred got a job in Suttons Bay, and Lula finally prevailed upon him to get a house and bring the family there. The hardships of city life in Traverse City, combined with the hardships of the war, were almost too much for the family to handle.

Suttons Bay was heaven on earth as far as Lula was concerned -- however, that first year they were still in poverty.  Grace didn't want to live there, didn't want to go to school there. Fred had to go down to Muskegon to find war work in a factory -- taking second son Ralph's savings with him for expenses. By winter the family ended up settled in a huge barn of a house that was only partly finished.  Lula was having a hard time even clothing the children. And she was beginning to suspect she was pregnant again.

Then the flu epidemic kicked in....

The Winter of Flu (1918-1919)

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

That was the winter the influenza was so rampant everywhere.  It finally hit Suttons Bay.  Many were down with it. Muskegon was peppered with it. Maud LaGuire lost her second husband with it there in Muskegon.  She now had seven children. 
Fred came home.  He was sick with a fever and a cold, he called it. Before we knew what was happening, some of the children came down with it. When I sent for the doctor, he came and asked Fred, "How long have you had it?" 

Fred said, "I haven't got it not the flu. Just a cold."

There he sat, a bright fever spot on each cheek, and running eyes and nose. He would not go to bed in daytime, but sat up all day and coughed and sneezed and cussed.

A nun  at the convent died, and was burried the same night, as they all tried to keep this killer from spreading. Mama wrote and told of a whole family who had lived on a farm. When neighbors noticed there was no stir about there for several days, they investigated.  They found the entire family of seven dead, but one boy -- almost dead -- and the cattle and horses starving in the barn.  That is just an idea of how that dreadful disease was playing havoc.

It was not long till four of the children and I were in bed with "flu" as it is called.  Ralph has heard of something called naptha, I believe, to take to ward off the influenza. We kept it in one of the coldrooms upstairs as he was told to keep it away from fires, and each day we'd go up and take a few drops of the stuff on a spoonful of sugar. It was like liquid fire, whatever it was.  But we swallowed it bravely, and perhaps it helped keep the flu in a rather mild state when we did get it.

Before long we were in quarantine. Fred, the three boys, two girls and me.  Fred got better, fortunately, and Ralph did not get the disease, but they had their hands full caring for the girls and I and the two boys upstairs. It was quite a task I knew, but we were real ill for a few days with sore throat, headache, back ache, and fever. 

The doctor left some tablets for us to take and a bottle of whisky. Naturally I, being a teetotler, got none of that, nor did the girls, but the boys and Fred had "slings" made of it. I think Fred was glad of my total abstainance then.

We had no baths, and were lucky if we got our faces and hands washed once a day. Ralph and dad did keep us warm, and feed us pretty well when we were able to eat.

One pain-wracked day followed another. The doctor was so very busy with so many cases, he couldn't come often.  Often all the sleep he got was in his car or sleigh, while his driver took him to another case.

Eventually we all began to improve and in a couple of weeks were up again.  I made chest protectors from old blankets for all the youngsters to wear and soon we were let out of quarantine. The health officer told us to spread our bed clothes out well on chairs, etc., and we all parked around that good kitchen stove while the officers fumed something upstairs.  I think it was the next day we all stayed upstairs while they fumigated below.  They did a thorough job, but it has been proven since that fumigation does no good. 

Schools were shut down. No one went to the stores unless necessary, and could not congregate about public places.

There was a back room upstairs with a cook stove in it, that some school children had had to cook on at one time, and we'd build a fire there and gather round and read, sew, crochet or play games. Sometimes make tea and toast or a light lunch. This we designated the "Cozy Room," and that just defines it. How we all enjoyed it. I'd advise everyone with a family to have a cozy room way upstairs someplace.

We'd found a large pile of ladies magazines in the house and they helped pass many an hour that would otherwise have been lonely and monotonous. We'd read the stories and recipes and sometimes try them out in the kitchen downstairs.  We'd save crochet patterns and copy some.  The girls and I did quite a lot of this pastime that winter. Only draw back, we couldn't afford much thread for that purpose.

When Fritz was well enough, he and Ralph got work in a camp farther north. So we were eating well again at least. But one night they came home and took baths and Fritz put his dirty shirt on again unnecessarily -- and came to bed with me and told me they had acquired bugs while working at camp!  Ye gods! What next?  I then had to fight body lice for several weeks before we could be rid of them.  And to make life more interseting, Dudley got a relapsed flu, and we were quarantined again!

After about a week of that, he was better -- able to get up and the health officer came to take down the sign. I said, "Mr. H., you might as well leave it up, as two more are sick again." He did. Queenie and Virgil were down again with flu!

Well, carrying their meals up to them in my condition, weakened by the flu myself, caring for them best I could and fighting gray backs was pretty exhausting but I kept at it. I don't know how.  Glad that we were all alive; that was a lot to be thankful for.

We had to get permission from headquarters for Orville to send home part of his army pay to help out at home.  He was perfectly willing to do this, I believe, and I'm sure I do not know how we would have gotten through that winter otherwise.

I knew by now the new baby was not going to be welcome. Grace had said, "If there's a nother baby born here, I'll leave home." Which she did not mean. Orville had written to Ralph that he didn't see why a man that couldn't support the ones he had wanted to keep on having more, etc. 

There was a lot of friction, a good deal of coziness and companionship and quite a lot of worry and fear that winter!  Would the flu epidemic never end? Would Orville have to go across to fight?!!

No, that was decided. He would not have to go overseas! We were told the war was over.  The armistice had been signed, had it not?  Orville had been sent to Newport News, VA.  Worked there in an office during the year, taking his training in Signal Corps.  He was a good soldier. 

Ralph had wanted so much to go, but being in the accident, and having one poor eye, he was denied that priviledge. And he smarted under the result. He wanted to be in uniform as many other boys were.  He made every effort to get in and finally was issued his questionaire. This elated him very much, but then came the Armistice and again he was disappointed. But at least he had received his questionaire.

I was very well aware that we could not keep up payments on the piano under present conditions, and called the music house up and told them so, so the children were deprived of their piano as well as their organ, much as I hated this.  Another week of relapses and the doctor came. Queenie was still in bed. 

"Isn't she up yet?" he asked. 

"No," I said, "she isn't able to be up."

"Well," he said, "let her sit up an hour or so, we can say she's up. We want to open up the schools and can't as long as we have any flu patients."

I said, "OK, she'll sit up tomorrow."

And he offered "There are tricks in all trades, you know."

Virgil was up, but doctor had said his appendix was in bad condition. I strongly suspect that the youngsters did not have the food they properly needed, though I always cooked food well and baked our own bread.  But one quart milk a day for eight! 

Queenie improved from then on and children were soon answering the call of the school bell again. The flu was on the decline. It had been a very mild winter, with only a few real cold days. Such a winter usually brings on a great deal of sickness.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Ralph's Trainwreck - 1918

This week I skip ahead a little in time from the Gramma Lu's Babies memoir. This is from a bigger memoir she wrote, which I have been slowly scanning -- over 500 pages of densely written script. I don't want to handle the musty original paper too much, so I haven't read it, but I see bits and pieces as I go.  It's hard to read her handwriting, but now and then a little bit will intrigue me, and I'll sit down and keep reading...discovering a new bit of family history as I go.

It was mid-March of 1918, and the family may have been living in Traverse City at the time.

Postcard showing a snow plow from the Grand Travers area circa 1915.

The Train Wreck

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

Orville had not gone to war yet, but came home to stay a while to take shots for boils, etc., before he could answer his country's call. Virgil's tonsils were bothering him more, and he was getting really deaf in one ear. What to do! I did not know. There had never at that time been an operation in our family, and they were considered at that time dangerous. Something comparatively new. Fred surely didn't approve and I surely was worried about my little boy.  He didn't take any interest in school, nor play.

One afternoon, Orville was home waiting for his call and all at once it seemed that I lost interest in my work -- which was very unusual -- it just seemed that the world was stopping in its rotation or something was radically wrong.  Such a feeling I had I couldn't explain.  Orville was very restless and soon started pacing the floor; finally said, "I feel awful. I don't know what is the matter. I can't sit still a minute. Just like something was wrong."

I said, "I feel funny too.  I can't settle down to anything." 

However, I had to get supper for us all. The children came home and ate and went about their several activities, while we waited for the ax to fall, as it were.

It did.  As I've said, Fred and Ralph were working in Suttons Bay on the railroad.  Winter had arrived in earnest and they were having their annual struggle to get thru to the rest of the world. Though we did not know about this at that time. After supper, a small boy came with a note saying that Fred wanted me to meet the train when it came in.

Well, it just happened that I was at the store to buy a few groceries when it came, and the children did not know where I'd gone, and when I returned to the house, Orville was nearly distracted.

But we set out at once to go to the depot, where the TCL&M came in, about a mile or more.  I remember it was very cold and I was not dressed for such cold weather.  My coat then was one that had been given to me, and was wholly inadequate for such severe weather. I don't suppose Orville was warm either, as none of us had clothes enough.

As we sped along as fast as we could walk, I wondered what could be wrong.  I believe the note said Ralph was hurt.  We should have gotten it in the early p.m., but here it was after six.  I don't know why the delay. When we got there, the train had been in and gone for hours. 

The whole town had been excited about the snow plow wreck on the TCL&M, and it appeared we were the only ones who had not known about it.  I was told afterwards that about half the town had been there to meet it when it arrived, bringing the dead and wounded of the wreck.  No wonder Orlo and I had felt so vacant and as if catastrophe was imminent. Don't tell me there's nothing to telepathy!  I thought on the way coming pehraps Ralph had broken his leg in getting off the train.  He had broken his leg indeed!  Such a thing as a wreck had not entered my mind. We went into the deserted depot then to the freight depot to see if there was anyone there.  The man there told us the conductor was on the couch outside. We went to him.

Orville said, "They told us my brother was hurt. Where is he?"

The conductor was almost weeping, he was so overwrought.  It seems he was on the train wreck but not hurt.

He said, "His father's with im," as Orville and I stood gaping. "He's in the hospital. He has a broken leg."  I began twisting my hands together, and the poor man finished.  "There was a wreck!"

Then he turned and fled, could say no more, I guess. While Orville and I looked at each other in horror and consternation.  How badly was Ralphie hurt?  Was dad hurt too, how bad was the wreck? Where?  When? etc.

Orville said, "Ma, what'll we do?"

"We better go to the hospital, I think," I said between chattering teeth.

I'd never been in one of those dreaded institutions as a patient. They meant suffering, homesickness, and death to me.  But we must go! 

Orville said, "We'll get a cab, ma. It's too far to walk out there.  We'll go home first and tell the youngsters."

So we walked the mile or more back home, where we told the bad news -- what we knew of it -- to the children.  We felt hungry and ate a little while waiting for a taxi. The meal consisted of bean soup as I recall. I was almost ready to collapse, but knew I must keep up. The children were silent, scared, almost out of their wits, I think, though they said nothing.

We arrived at hospital. Everything seemed confusion and excitement.  That remote hospital didn't have a whole mass of wrecked folks to care for often in those days.

Doctors were hustling here and there with bloody white aprons and nurses, frightened but efficient, went silently here and there.  Fred met us almost a wreck himself -- and he told us Ralph had a badly broken limb. Two men had been killed, one outright, another died as soon as they brought him to the hospital. Four other young men were in the same condition that Ralph was. Eight men had been injured when the engine had plowed through the snow plow. One fellow had been able to be taken home.

Finally they let us in to where Ralph was a helpless child, badly shaken. I went up and kissed him. It was all I could do. Several Drs. and nurses came to care for him at last. Fred and I stayed in the room.

One doctor said to me, "Are you a relative?"

I said, "I'm his mother."

We thought we'd stay in there while they attended him, but Fred got ill at his stomach and had to leave the room, so I went too. Guess the doctors were glad we went out. I felt relieved that Ralph's hurt was no worse. Though a compound fracture is plenty bad. We went to a little waiting room where Fred nearly fainted. A kind nurse brought us each a cup of coffee. I believe Fred had not eaten that p.m. 

I got the gruesome tale afterwards, how Ralph had been hung up by his broken leg for three hours on the head light of the engine before they could cut him loose. The men had taken turns holding him up so his weight would not be all dependant on that injured leg! A gruelling task for these men and a terrible ordeal for Ralph. They gave him some whisky, which I suppose helped him to endure.

At long last, he was resting, his leg set, and as we could do nothing for him, we went home. Orville had gone home earlier to be with the other kids. 

Fred asked a man, a father of one of the other injured boys, to stay with us that night. So I fixed him up a bed best I could on a cot. Bedding was not too plentiful at our house, I am free to admit. 

In later years, when auto accidents are as frequent as can be, we have sort of trained ourselves to expect something of that kind almost anytime.  But when and if they come, the shock is probably just as great. What made this trial harder to bear for me was the fact that I had scolded Ralph the last time he was home and given him a good slapping on his back -- he was then just 18 --for something he had done that he should not have done.  I don't remember what his offense was, but probably cursing, as he was getting to be a good imitator of his father in that respect. However, if he had been killed in this snow plow wreck, I never would have forgiven myself for reprimanding him.

The way we are, I guess. We punish because we think we must, then are filled with remorse when something happens.

The poor boy was in the hospital over two months. I walked out to see him as often as I could. He suffered intensly, and when he was better, made a great hit with the nurses. Have I mentioned that he had grown up to a very handsome young man, even though his one eye was crossed?  I thought nothing of walking the mile and a half to see him.

The wreck made the papers, and even though those issues are missing from the archive for the Traverse City Record Eagle, small versions of the story appeared in the Lansing State Journal, and this article below in the Port Huron Times.

It doesn't mention the names of most of the men, only the first killed.  But now we can add at least two names of the men involved: Ralph Stanley LaGuire and Fred LaGuire.