52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Transportation

The Depression left the Storer family with plenty to work for just to keep afloat. Their oldest daughter, Merna Mae, was just six years old in 1930. It was time for school to begin. Would her father be able to take time from his daily farm schedule to get her to the one room schoolhouse? Would her mother with an infant daughter be able to get her there? The parents decided that they would teach their Mae Mae (Merna’s nickname) to be independent. They would teach her how to ride her horse Beauty to school. Her father Andrew would help her practice the route as he rode along on his horse. He would show her the dirt roads to travel and landmarks for which to spot. She would be able to do this on her own each school day…the little six year old.

Each school morning, little Mae Mae and Beauty were traveling companions. Most days, they spotted a red fox peeping out of the brush at them. The two would pause to study the fox. He just stared back. So it was that Mae Mae looked for friends in nature to greet them each morning.

Mae Mae graduated from her one room schoolhouse in 1938. Her school records show that she had no absences or tardies. She won an art contest while in 8th grade that set her future sights on painting and creating.

Throughout her life, Mae Mae was very proud of the fact that her school transportation was her beloved horse Beauty. Also, she wanted to remember her foxy friend. She purchased a print by artist Bonnie Marris to display in her living room.

Under The Morning Star by Bonnie Marris

Now big yellow school buses transport the students of Osborne County, Kansas, to daily classes. One room school houses are an educational memory. And the great grand kits of the peeping fox sleep in the sun of the plains.

Note: Twenty years later, Mae Mae would become my mother. Her stories of Beauty and the rides to school are treasured memories.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Adventure

Recently in two of her podcasts, Amy Johnson Crow discussed downsizing and treasuring genealogical goodies that may be found. She told about her parents’ home and the level of feelings one might experience when going through this process. I could relate to many of the observations she made. So…I am presenting a companion piece to her work.

More than five years ago, I downsized my widowed mother’s house after she had suffered a major stroke and relocated to assisted living. Each day that I spent in her home became an adventure and a treasure hunt of sorts. Each time, I uncovered an item that I had not previously seen, touched, and enjoyed. Since she had given me permission to take what I wanted, I took her up on that.

My mother had been a decorative tole (French for tin) painter for 30 years. She sold most of her wares at craft shows and kept some things for herself. At the back of her pantry, I found five unique pieces that were exquisitely painted. Why were they hidden away? Bringing them to our house, they were lovingly placed in an antique baker’s cabinet with glass doors. These are treasures that tell the story of my mom’s artistic talents.

In the linen closet, there was a heavy plastic case. I could see a purple and white quilt. Through the window of the case, I saw a stitched signature of the creator. Since my mom loved purple and frequented craft shows, I assumed it was a purchase she had made. Taking the quilt out, I saw that each white square had a woman’s signature. Oh my goodness, there were my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s signatures! They belonged to a sewing circle during the Depression…this was a project that was made. Each lady would have a signature quilt. Why was this hidden away? This was a treasure that told the story of my grammy’s sewing talents. It now rests on a quilt rack in a bedroom.

In a dresser drawer, I discovered two of my father’s treasures: his wallet and his high school graduation yearbook. I had never seen this yearbook! My dad was a senior in 1941-1942. His class would be the first to graduate after Pearl Harbor. Inside, classmates had written messages like “See ya in Tokyo” and “Let’s go get them”. I discovered what clubs and sports he participated in. I saw his friends and read their messages. Why was this hidden away? It was a treasure that told the story of an immigrants’ son who was the first to graduate from high school.

Simon Gratz High School Philadelphia, PA
1942 Yearbook

One of the last goodies that was uncovered was almost thrown away. Down in the basement, I had sifted through junk that needed to be pitched. I was exhausted and just wanted to trash it all so this could be over. In an old dresser was a long manila envelope…more trash? My husband told me to open the envelope…I almost said “no”. Inside was a panoramic picture of my great grandparents’ Kansas farm. Outside in the yard, my great grandmother had piled the little kids in the family Model T. My great grandfather sat on his tractor. My grandfather was holding the bridle of one of the horses. The teenaged children had gathered up the dogs and cats. The picture was dated 17 February 1917. Six months later, my grandfather would enlist in the Army for World War I. (Five years later, my grandfather would marry my grandmother.) Why was this hidden away? It was a treasure that told the story of family pride and love. Since its discovery, the picture has been framed and hangs proudly in our home.

What an adventure this task of cleaning and organizing became! Why were all of these hidden away? They were hidden away so they would be venerated by the family historian…that is where I come in!

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Context

Folded into the rich context of her life was a secret compartment of memories. They stemmed from childhood in France and followed her across the grasslands of Kansas. How did those memories all meld together? What did they prophesize about the core of her being?

Maria Magdalina Kramer was born in 1828 in a region of France that is nestled near the border of Germany. Her ears heard sprinklings of French and German, and she spoke a smattering of each. Her memories would take her back to the convent school where the nuns taught her how to be proficient in needlework. Exactly when and with whom she immigrated to Manhattan, New York, in the early 1840’s is not known. What did her memory record about that ship voyage across the Atlantic?

Somehow while living in Manhattan, she met an Army private who was stationed at Fort Columbus. Her memories would take her back to that meeting and their marriage…she was 15 years old while he was 25. Her groom was Amos Howell Boultinghouse. He was from White County, Illinois. What did her memory record about their journey in 1843 to his home where they would start their family and farm?

Married for almost 20 years, the couple would be separated when Amos reenlisted to once again be a Army private…the Civil War was pulling them apart. Her memories would take her back to those days with the children on the farm…a woman alone. Amos would return back to his family at the end of the war…unharmed. What did her memory record about their reunion back into each other’s arms?

In 1871, Maria was bound on another journey. Amos had gained a new farmland for the family in Osborne County, Kansas, through the Homestead Act. Why did the family decide to move on westward and leave their adult married children behind? Her memories would take her back to how it felt to be carrying a child as they moved on. What did her memory record about giving birth the day after they arrived in Kansas?

Through the years, Maria and Amos farmed the land…suffered several tragedies…Amos dying of exhaustion eight years before her. Her memories would take her back to those days of hardship and parting from her beloved Amos. What did her memory record about those final days and her final journey?

Taking any of her memories out of context still highlights the richness of her life…my beloved second great grandmother…Maria (Mary) Kramer Boultinghouse.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Harvest

Monday, 15 April 1935

This morning, our friend and neighbor Walter Simpson brought us the most awful news. Just what everyone feared! We are trying to grasp what this can mean for us. This horrible happening took place a few hundred miles from us, but the heartbreak and devastation have shrouded us in terror and uncertainty. Will we be saved from Mother Nature’s wrath for not caring for her soil after the harvest?

Walter told us that yesterday is being called Black Sunday. The sky brought a storm of soil so thick through the air that those outside could barely breath or see to find their ways home. More farms will be abandoned as their occupants pack up and move westward…they cannot feed their families and livestock. It is so incomprehensible to me how this all happened right here in the land we call “the bread basket of America”. Granted we have not made much profit from this farm we rent from Andrew’s uncle’s people in Mississippi.

My husband Andrew and I need to discuss if we will hold steadfast to our idea of farming and living on these Kansas plains. After all, our parents and grandparents came to this land in the 1870’s with nothing but dreams. With two young daughters, we have to plan how we will care for all four of us. Our president FDR has only been in office for a short amount of time…will he be able to save us from this next disaster of the Depression? The conservationists state that there is an answer to caring for the land, but it will take time.

The state motto of “Ad astra per aspera…to the stars through difficulties” reminds us that we are gifted with perseverance and resiliency. May Almighty God grant us those graces.

~Isabella Mary Boultinghouse Storer

Tilden Township, Osborne County, Kansas

“Dust Storm” by Herschel Logan

Note: Isabella is my maternal grandmother. This writing is her imagined reaction to the news of Black Sunday.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Map It Out

Tilden Township, Osborne County, Kansas

Plat books are treasure maps that show exactly what lands an ancestor owned. How many acres did he/she own? What waterways were on or near the property? Did any railroads pass through the township? Who were that particular person’s neighbors? Where was the school house? Where were the cemeteries? Many questions tout the answers when viewing these maps.

Locating a plat book for Osborne County, Kansas, that was published in 1900 was a great find for me. I located both my great grandfather’s (W.I. Storer’s) and my second great grandfather’s (William Henry Stevens’) farms. W.I. and family lived in Tilden Township on lands his father had sold to him. W.I. owned 240 acres with easy access to the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The little village of Bloomington was close by where the post office was located along with a small general store and cafe. His brothers Willard and Charles lived on neighboring farms. They, too, had bought lands from their father. W. I.’s wife Sarah Almina lived near her brothers. The families were close in proximity if not also in reach. W.I. and Sarah had donated land from the southeast corner of their property to create the Bloomington Cemetery. (The location of this cemetery is marked on the plat.) By 1900, the Storers had lived in the county for almost 30 years.

Kill Creek Township, Osborne County, Kansas

William Henry Stevens’ farm also had 240 acres, but it was located in Kill Creek Township (which is south of Tilden Township). The Will and his wife Isabella had been obtained the land through the Homestead Act of 1862. A portion of Kill Creek went across his farm. Some of his daughters had married nearby neighbors. Part of his family remained close by while others lived hundreds of miles away. By 1900, the Stevens family had lived in the county for almost 30 years. (By 1900, the county was 33 years old. These two families were some of her pioneer families.)

Plats are, indeed, treasures and treasure maps. Gold and precious gems of information are contained within their drawings. They aid in mapping out one’s research.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Mistake

The Pioneers by Lorado Taft
Found in Elmwood, Illinois

It would definitely be a mistake to underestimate her…a mistake to ignore her internal strength. Little is known about her real struggles and challenges, or the way she perceived them. The paper trail she left behind is almost nonexistent. No mistaking that Rhoda Howell was a pioneer woman who was left widowed on the plains of Illinois in 1823. Her husband Daniel Boultinghouse had died at the age of 48. Rhoda was his third wife. Together, they had two children: Amos Howell Boultinghouse and Matilda Boultinghouse. Daniel had left behind 11 other children from his previous marriages; some were adults while the rest needed raising. That fell to Rhoda and her mature stepsons. There is no evidence that she married again so she could have the companionship of a man as devoted to surviving pioneer life as she was.

Evidence does show that she appeared at the White County, Illinois, courthouse three years after her husband’s death. Bearing her letter as administrator of his estate , she had come to settle his debts. Daniel had died without a will so this may have placed certain burdens on her. She received a widow’s dower of $40. In the probate report, it recorded that she had sold personal property to cover some of the debts. How was she going to care for her 12 year old daughter and 8 year old son plus several stepchildren? How would she feed and clothe them? How could she be both mother and father to them?

After the 1820 census where her life was documented by a tick mark, she is not found again even in looking at her stepchildren’s families on the census…no tick marks found that could possibly be Rhonda. Who protected and cared for her in her final days? Where was she buried?

No mistake that a testament to her ability to raise resilient and strong children was evident in her son Amos Howell Boultinghouse. Amos would enlist in the Army at the age of 19, start a family at 25, reenlist in the Army during the Civil War at the age of 43, and settle on a farm in Kansas at the age of 53. Yes, it would be a mistake to discount her strength and steadfastness.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: School Days

Her little freckled face was styled in a frown. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Soft sobs emitted from her throat. Her auburn ringlets touched her shoulders that shook as she cried. Why would she be so upset on this most glorious of days? It was our first day of kindergarten at Saint James Catholic School, Falls Church, Virginia! We wore our new school dresses. We had old cigar boxes filled with pencils and crayons. We received coloring sheets. Our teacher Mrs. Doyle was smiling and beckoning to us to listen to a story. I was in kindergarten heaven, but what about my table mate? I reached over and put my arm around her shoulder so I could comfort her. I asked her her name. She told me that she was Dodi. From that moment on and the rest of kindergarten, Dodi Driscoll would become my best friend.

During that school year, we learned to write our names. I could spell/write Dodi’s name before I could write my own. Together, we mastered those sweet little kindergarten skills of becoming good listeners, becoming well mannered little ladies, and becoming ready to read and do math. Those half days of school gave us the gift of spending time as best friends. On the weekends, I was invited to play at Dodi’s. Her father was a photographer for The Washington Post so he was camera ready to snap pictures of us. He also took great pictures of our graduation day. At the end of the school year, my family was moving away. It was my first experience in leaving a best friend.

Now 60 years later, I wondered what happened to her. I found her parents’ memorials on FindAGrave. Oh, no…on the page was written that their daughter Dolores Mary (Dodi) had died in 1999. How could that be? I searched for an obituary and found one. Dodi had never married, and she was dearly loved by her nieces and nephews. She was a dedicated children’s physical therapist. She had died of cancer against which she struggled for several years. As I read her obituary, my face was styled into a frown. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Soft sobs emitted from my throat. My dear school days friend was now tucked away in heaven. Dodi, you are remembered.

Kindergarten Graduation: May, 1956
Photos by Award Winning Photographer Norman J. Driscoll

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: At Work

Wanted: Individuals with patience, perseverance, private eye skills who can work for hours at a time in assembling and documenting facts. Must know fundamentals of citing sources and references. Organizational and planning strategies are essential. Willingness to share research with others who may or may not be related to them. Allowance for travel time. Flex time schedules are available. Apply in person at your local historical or lineage societies, libraries, online interest groups.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Tragedy

Gathering the leaves on a family tree that are laced with tragedy is a journey seeped in sadness. Which story bears retelling? Which recounting poses a moral? Which remembrance bears the greatest measure of grief?

Riding the trails of my family tree, I come to many forks in the road. These forks lead to different families and their histories. What tragic loss will I revisit and review? The cries of anguish of those grieving souls beg for attention.

Consider the first wife and child of my second great grandfather who were lost in childbirth fever. Look at the second great aunt who died in an accident when a shotgun blast left her children motherless. Think about an uncle whose home burned to the ground, whose child died from a snakebite, and whose orphaned children were split apart when adopted by strangers. Remember aunts and uncles who lost their farms during the Dust Bowl and the Depression likened to chapters from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Recall wives and mothers who sent their loved ones off to war, not knowing if they would return with untouched souls. Mourn for little toddlers lost to childhood diseases. Their stories are affixed to the leaves…one sorrow as far-reaching through the generations as the next.

Every family owns tragedies…which one would you share?

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Comedy

From: “I Kid You Not” Department

To: My Blog Readers

Re: Messages Received and Sent To/From My Ancestry Account

Ancestry has a wonderful message center attached to each account. Fellow members can reach out and ask questions about your public trees. Cousins can meet…information and photos can be exchanged. Help can be gotten and given. That is until (drum roll and sound of a drum cymbal here) you receive messages that are confusing, confounding, and comedic. (I have four public trees on Ancestry.) Let me just share some messages with you that will tickle your funny bone…they are written exactly as they were received…no content is missing.

Received: I see Catherine is in your tree. How are you related to her?

Received: Where did you find that picture of Uncle Jim’s tombstone?

Received: Can you share your information on James Smith who was born in Walker County? He was born in 1852. His father was John Smith (1856-1900) and his mother was Jane Howard (1857-1903).

Received: We are a DNA match. How are you related to me?

Sent: I noticed that you have W. I. Warner on your family tree. He is my great grandfather. How are you related? Answer Received: I am not related to him. He is my first cousin’s wife’s fifth great uncle. Somehow, I connected our trees.

Received: You can find my uncle’s tombstone by looking in the third row, fourth grave. You can also look for his parents. (No prior messages had been received.)

Do not get me wrong: I have received some very informative messages and have made many cousin connects. It is just once in awhile that some messages are cryptic and comedic.

PS The names have been changed to protect the innocent.