Heavenly Father, bless our gatherings today. Bless our memories of those who share Heaven with you and are missing from our tables. Bless our ancestors who brought us to this home of America and its freedoms. Bless our family members who each contributed traits and qualities to the people we have become. Bless us for hungering for that which is righteous, holy, and sacred. We ask that we be strengthened to pass along these blessings to our descendants. We thank You in the name of Jesus Your Son. Amen.
Did they know? Had they received the word? Were they envisioning the best or the worst? When the news came, who or what brought it to them? The time was one hundred years ago…November 12, 1918. Two mothers who held their sons’ safety close to their hearts and prayers were waking up on their homesteads in Kansas. It was the morning after…could they sense it?
Mina Storer lived with her husband Wash on a farmstead near Alton. They had eight children, among them their five sons. One son was married and lived on his own farm. Three of the sons were mere children and teens. Their second son Andrew Earl was 21 years old and remained at home. He was the one who touched Mina’s heart the deepest at the moment. He had left home to travel 130 miles away…a distance for him. He had left in the spring of that year. He was at Camp Funston, near Fort Riley. Because of his ability to handle horses, he had been in training as a provisions wagoner. When called to battle, he would bring food and other supplies to his fellow Army men. He waited to be sent to France, but the orders did not come. He would train other farm boys to handle wagons and horses. Andrew had come home for visits when on furloughs. Her boy had remained safely in the homeland. When would he officially make it back to them?
Naomi Boultinghouse live with her husband Lafe on a small homestead near Bloomington. They had four children, three girls and a boy. Their son Edward Ralph was 21 years old. He had not lived at home for several years. He loved the nomadic life and floated from job to job. Most recently, he had been a roustabout on a Wyoming oil field. At times, he also wrangled horses. He was an expert with a rope and rifle. When Uncle Sam called, he joined a unique group of soldiers from the Midwest who had much experience in working with horses and wagons. He left Wyoming for Camp Greene, North Carolina…he had never been this far from home. He became an ammunition provisions wagoner. He left for France in December 1917. His letters home told of his safety behind lines. When would he officially make it back to them?
Mina and Naomi awaited for several months for the return of their boys: Andrew would be discharged in spring 1919 while Edward would be discharged in summer 1919. Andrew came back to work on the family farm, would eventually marry, and stayed in Osborne County for the rest of his life. Edward would return to Wyoming to continue working on the oil fields. He would marry and eventually roam to Nebraska and Colorado.
On October 22, 1922, at ten o’clock on that Sunday morning, Mina and Naomi would make another connection. Mina would be the mother of the groom while Naomi would be the mother of the bride. Andrew married Edward’s sister Isabella. Andrew would become my grandfather, and Edward my great uncle…just a random fact.
Okay, I agree…Uncle Charlie is not bearded. BUT I have few pictures of my long ago ancestors. He was the only one who sported facial hair so he won the spotlight for this week. Introducing Charles Amos Boultinghouse (1857-1930), my 2nd great uncle.
Uncle Charley lived through changing times from a childhood spent in the shadow of the Civil War…from adolescence spent in migrating from Illinois to the unknown plains of Kansas…from adulthood spent learning to be a fireman in a capital city. Add to that the magic of venturing with friends to the Yukon and the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898.
It has been less than a year since I met Uncle Charley face to face. Before that, he was just a name in the list of children of my 2nd great grandparents. When my cousin Nicky shared the contents of an old family album, Charles appeared. Who was he? Where could I start with knowing him as a person? The 1887 edition of the City Directory told me that he was a fireman in Topeka, Kansas. He was with Engine Company One and rented a room in the city hall. How did you become a firefighter…the rest of his family stayed either in DuPage County, Illinois, or Osborne County, Kansas, where they farmed and homesteaded? His death certificate listed him as “retired fireman”.
He was married for a time to a widow with three living children: Olivia Jones Lodge. According to the 1900 Census, Olive ran a boarding house in downtown Topeka; and Charley was one of her boarders. By 1910, they were married…Olivia lived in the boarding house while Charley lived in a room at the fire station. Another mystery about Uncle Charley and his life appears.
Just this past week, I searched the Kansas State Historical Society for records about Topeka’s fire department. I hit pay dirt: personnel records for the firefighters are searchable. So…this is where Uncle Charley’s story is leading me now.
Sometimes, the smallest introduction becomes the beginning of another friendship. Here is to you, Uncle Charley.