In honor of this day, I would like to remember my husband Daniel who served in the U.S. Army from 1968-1971. He spend 15 months in Saigon in an underground communications bunker. I decided this day to visit his memorial stone at the cemetery. I took him a gift that had been given to me many years ago. I wanted to pass it on.
You see once upon a time I was an elementary teacher. Many students would leave me little presents on my desk. One Monday morning, third grader Jenny L. gifted me with a rock that she had painted over the weekend. It bore the message “I love you”. I kept that little rock through several moves and retirement. I held on to that little nugget for all these years. This morning, I decided to regift it.
This morning as I went to the cemetery, I wanted to honor Daniel. I knew that it is a custom in some cultures to leave a rock when one visits a grave. That little rock was placed on the top left corner of his marker. “I love you,” it notes.
Final note: after Daniel served his country for three years, he served God for almost 50 years…as my husband.
My maternal great grandparents, Washington Irving Storer and Sarah Almina Nickel, married on 18 May 1891. Always assuming that the marriage took place at a little church in Osborne County, Kansas, I entered that information on my family tree. Hmm…I was just new to genealogy so it seemed like a reasonable guess.
In 1941, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a party for family and friends. Every detail was related in an article in the local paper, The Osborne County Farmer. Best wishes to the happy couple as they remembered 50 years together.
Fast forward 78 years later, I was putting together two lineage society applications. I was proving the link from my 2nd great grandparents to myself. The proof included the link to these great grandparents as well. The connection through birth, marriage, and death was required. I began a county search for their marriage license…not found. I searched the State of Kansas records…not found. I asked a volunteer at the Osborne County Genealogical Society to aid in the hunt…not found. I noted on their timeline that they had moved to Mississippi where their first child was born three months after the wedding. I searched the State of Mississippi…not found. Every surrounding state was searched in case they married along the way south. Nothing.
I looked again at the 50th wedding anniversary celebration for a mention of where they were wedded and by whom. No place, minister, justice of the peace, church were mentioned. It remained a mystery.
By the way, the two lineage societies were satisfied with a letter from the volunteer at the OCGHS stating that a search had been conducted with no results.
So, Washington Irving Storer and Sarah Almina Nickel, where were you joined together? Your great granddaughter would like to know, please.
She came from a family that celebrated all the facets of her talents and personality. Her husband touted that his little woman, nicknamed Mamie, could grow flowers and beautify a yard to create a personal paradise. Her daughter, Isabella, claimed that she was kind and thoughtful toward others. Her granddaughter, Mary, bragged that she served the best hot dogs in Bloomington (population: 75). Her neighbors noted that she baked delicious fruit pies.
Mamie was the nickname of Naomi Ruth Stevens, daughter of Kansas pioneers. She married Lafayette Edward “Lafe” Boutinghouse and together they raised four children. They ran a small general store and cafe in “downtown” Bloomington, Osborne County, Kansas.
Note: Naomi died the day my parents were married…18 April 1947. Never having met her, I learned about her from pictures and newspaper clippings.
Isabella Mary Boultinghouse
She came from a family that had taught her how to be strong and resilient. Her parents Naomi and Lafe cherished their youngest child. Needlecrafts were her talents: crocheting, embroidery, quilting. Her husband referred to her as “his little woman”, and she made her mark as a farmer’s wife. She loved entertaining on Sundays and cherished her role in the Busy Bee Club. Together she and her husband Andrew raised two daughters in Alton, Osborne County, Kansas.
To her grandchildren, she was called Grammy. They declared that she made the best pies around. “Best crusts are made from lard,” she noted. Winning several ribbons at the county fair, she prided herself on those pies.
Isabella enjoyed visits from her daughters and families, who lived in Montana and Virginia. She introduced them all to her longtime friends who all celebrated different interests and hobbies.
Merna Mae Storer
Merna, nicknamed Mae Mae, came from a family that instilled in their daughter the virtues of being independent and self-reliant. She counted among her ancestors Kansas pioneer women who had forged names for themselves. Her parents Isabella and Andrew gave her examples of being hard working and going after dreams.
Her talents lie in needlework like her mother. She could bake pies whose recipes rivaled those of her grandmother and mother. Like her grandmother Naomi, she could transform the most challenging earth into a flowering garden.
Merna developed her artistic talents in tole (French for tin) painting. Using antique kitchen utensils, she delighted others with uniquely painting designs, flowers, and characters. She had found a talent all her own.
She pulled up Kansas roots and transplanted herself in Virginia and Pennsylvania. She blossomed from the seeds planted by her grandmother Naomi and mother Isabella. She married Edward, and together they raised three children.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, I honor my great grandmother, grandmother, and mother. May all women be recognized for their contributions.
Scene: 1943; Topeka, Kansas; VFW on a Saturday night
He said: I was just an 18 year old kid who had volunteered for the Army Air Corps enlistment. The fact be told, I lied about my age to join. Claimed to be 18 when I was still 17. I was from Philadelphia, a big city kid. I used to hitchhike to New York City on the weekends. Now here I was deep in the heart of America’s bread basket. I was stationed at the Topeka Air Base. Because of its vast pasture land, Kansas made a good location for long landing strips for training.
It was a Saturday night, and we could go into town. The local VFW was holding a dance so my buddies and I decided to give it a whirl. When we entered the hall, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra were blowing the jukebox with “In The Mood”. Then I saw her. Her name was Merna Mae Storer.
She said: Just 17 years old when I graduated high school, I decided I needed a change. You see, I was raised on a farm in a small Kansas town. I did not want to stick around and do man’s work on the farm all my life. I started studying the want ads and job postings at the state capital of Topeka. There was a listing for a secretary in the tax office based at the Capitol. I got the job plus lucked in to renting an apartment with four other girls. I was Topeka bound.
It was a Saturday night, and dances at the VFW were very popular events. We girls decided that if we met guys, they would be short-lived romances. These boys were going off to war any day now. Many would not make it back so no sense in tying up our heartstrings. When we entered the hall, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra were blowing the jukebox with “In The Mood”. Then I saw him. His name was Eddie Slabik.
Scene: 1946, Arlington, Virginia
He said: Survived the War in the Pacific and came back home to Philadelphia to stay with my sister’s family. I have been planning my future. Should I use the G.I. Bill and go to college to become an architect? Should I check out this Civil Service job to work for the Federal Government in Arlington, Virginia, close to Washington, D.C.? I have been seriously thinking about this girl I wrote to during the war. I love her…can I make a future for us? We only saw each other for two weeks back in Topeka. There are lots of job postings for secretaries in the D.C. area. Could I convince her to come east and eventually marry me? I am going to write her and ask her.
She said: The war is finally over, and thank goodness I am still in Topeka…not back at the farm. Got a letter from Eddie, and he has a suggestion. Do I dare take it? It would involve my moving to Washington and working in the office of the Department of the Navy. I have never, ever been that far from home. I love him…can I make a future for us? We only saw each other three times in Topeka. Am I willing to pack up and take the train to Washington? I am going to write him and tell my decision.
Scene: Saint Thomas More Church; Arlington, Virginia; 18 April 1947 Eddie and Merna Mae were married in a simple Catholic ceremony in the priests’ residence with the housekeeper and another priest as their witnesses. None of their family was in attendance. They took the train to New York City for a honeymoon. Then, they settled into their basement apartment to begin their married life. They remained married for 60 years with Eddie passing away in 2007 and Merna Mae in 2014.
Finally, we have landed on our feet at our new home. When I last saw you in Morristown (Minnesota), we had decided to move on to Wisconsin and Iowa. My Andrew (Storer) is a man with wanderlust in his soul and visions in his brain. So kerplunk, here we are in Kansas, Osborne County to be exact.
The trip by wagon from Iowa to Kansas was bone jarring to say the least. Had to pack up our most precious possessions and supplies. I will be darned, but Andrew insisted that we bring a pig along. Most days it rode in the wagon as we walked! Some folks say it was the first pig in the county. That Andrew always thinking and dreaming.
Lots of plentiful pasture land out here. Andrew says it is just right for sheep farming. There he goes again with a vision. Most folks around here are planting crops and wondering just what he is thinking. Also, he has applied to a farming college in Mississippi about getting a grant to plant trees out here on the prairie. Cottonwoods is what he says he wants to plant. He talked a couple of other fellows to going along with him. So I guess we are also tree farmers.
I must say that all this moving has been hard on me. It is lonely for a woman out on the prairie. At times, I feel isolated with neighbors not nearby. Does keep me busy, though, teaching my girls how to be a farmer’s wife. How my day is never done! I guess this is the lot the good Lord gave me so I will count my blessings.
Hope to hear from you and give sweet Ellen my best.
Your sister, Mary Etta
Note: Mary Etta Soule was my 2nd great grandmother who was born in New York in 1833. She met her future husband Andrew Storer in Minnesota around 1852. She worked in the brickyard of which he was the manager. They married that year. Andrew was born in Maine in 1817. Together with their family for the next 20 years, they migrated through the Midwest where they finally settled in Osborne County, Kansas…along with the pig.
Brother Bill was William Riley Soule, a Civil War veteran, who lived in Morristown, Rice County, Minnesota.
Beginning this journey, I had no idea how to arrive at the destination. Where would I be going? Could I find these two places? I needed a map to discover the actual locations.
My grandparents emigrated from Poland and arrived at different times. They did not know each other back in the Old Country. They came from two villages in the same area that was known as Galicia. These villages were so small that some maps did not show them. They came from Jastrzebiec and Turaszowka. At the time of their emigrations, Galicia was part of the Austria-Hungary Empire since Poland and Galicia were not recognized as their own countries.
When my grandmother came to America in 1906, she was listed on the ship’s manifest as being born in Austria with a native tongue of Polish. My grandfather, arriving in 1912, was listed with the same information.
Looking to discover the location of these tiny villages was like sifting through sediment looking for gold nuggets. Would I strike gold, or go bust? I joined a Polish Genealogy group that was a teaching group. The group would help a member look on Family Search, and then one was on her own. I did find a map that was helpful, and I noted that these two villages were near Przemysl ( about in the center of the map in the midwestern section).
I was just starting my research with many miles to go. When would I finally arrive?
Then, I got to thinking: how did two people (my grandparents) come to this country, not know each other at first, both settle in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, live a few doors down from one other, meet and marry when they both came from tiny villages in Galicia? Truly, it was all part of the divine plan.
The paper was stuck in a pile of scrapbooking materials. How did it get there? I did not recall ever seeing it let alone making a copy of it. It was a World War II draft registration from 1942.
The registration was in the name of Joseph John Mroz. His birthdate was 19 March 1891. March 19 is the feast of Saint Joseph. Is that how he was named? Mroz was my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Were they related as in brother and sister? He was born in the same village as my grandmother. He had immigrated to Philadelphia just as my grandmother did. What other clues were there?
Looking in the 1940 Federal U. S. Census, I discovered that he lived with his wife Mary and his children Joseph, Anna, and Catherine. Polish was spoken at home. He worked in the shipping department of a sugar refinery. (His draft registration noted that he worked at the Pennsylvania Sugar Company.) My grandmother’s name was Anna and her sister Catherine. Did he name his girls after his sisters? Were they family first names?
Then, an obituary from The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1977 noted that his funeral would be at Saint Ladislaus Parish…same as my grandmother. He would be buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery…same as my grandmother. He had a surviving sister Catherine, but her married name did not match the Catherine in my family. So, he was not my grandmother’s brother. Could he be a cousin?
Now I was curious on two points: why had I printed out that draft registration in 2017 ? where else could I check to see if he were a cousin? Curious.
How precious that they remain with me! What smiles, giggles, and tears they bring! I am grateful, and I am at peace and find comfort looking at them.
When my beloved husband Dan passed away last September, my whole world came crashing down. Grief swept over me and brought me to my knees. How could I best keep his memory close to me? How could I visualize him as happy and whole? Then I rediscovered them stored away in Zip Loc bags.
There was a whole collection of pictures from his childhood. Some were 75 years old and curled. Some were 70 years or less and told his story of being outdoors with playmates and celebrating family occasions. There was that little boy face just waiting for me.
Lovingly, I scanned them and printed them out on photo paper since they were curled. They would be placed in a photo book in chronological order. This project was turning into a joyous adventure. Grief could take a break for awhile while I savored the moments.
My favorite one was taken in either first or second grade…a school picture. He had a little bit of hair sticking up like a cowlick. The first time I saw it, I exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, I married Alfalfa!” (Alfalfa, for you youngsters, was a member of the Our Gang series.) This little picture is a treasure to me for I framed and placed it on my bedside table.
As a final mention, I am grateful to his parents for taking those little shots of everyday life. Back then, the family Brownie camera pictures were printed on deckle edged paper. Mom would make notations on the back as to the occasion or date. Sometimes, the month and year that they were developed was printed on the edges. Little did his parents know that these photos would bring peace and joy to his wife. They are a blessing, especially that little school picture.
Like a cold case detective, a fresh set of eyes was needed. Could I pick up any new leads? I hadn’t really looked at the evidence in nine years.
Nine years prior, my goal was to find the names of my great grandparents…just their names would be like discovering gold. My Polish emigrant grandparents had left few clues about the parents they left behind in the Old Country. The hunt was on.
My grandparents, Franciszek and Anna, were married in Philadelphia in October, 1914. A certified copy of their marriage license was obtained from The Orphans’ Court of Philadelphia County. It revealed that Franciszek’s father was Jakob Slabik and his mother Agata Kendra. Jakob was a farmer while Agata was a housewife. It told that Anna’s parents were Stanislaw Mroz and Tekla Gornyk. Both were deceased. I had found them, my great grandparents.
Also, I looked for the church records of my grandparents’ marriage at Saint Ladislaus, a Roman Catholic Church. This Polish ethnic parish no longer existed, but its records were stored in another parish. When I received the record, lo and behold it was in Latin. The places of their baptisms were recorded, but the handwriting was difficult to read. That could be a help in locating records.
Now nine years later, I took another look at these records. What might I have missed? The witnesses to their marriage were now familiar names that I had discovered in further research. One was Catherine, whom recently I “met”, was her married sister. The other was my grandfather’s brother. (I had found his name as my grandfather’s contact in his Ellis Island records. I have never found him in any Census record.)
Why is this my favorite find? I found my great grandparents names which was a goal I had. Also, my grandparents were married with their siblings along side. They had two people who loved them to witness their marriage.
Now to crack the next set of clues: where they were baptized and what records will that information lead…just like a cold case file.
Strong and sturdy, the four corners of the foundation upheld the weight of the house being built. Made of various materials, the corners were unique unto themselves. They would support the foundation for generations to come.
The first corner was Andrew Storer, who was born in Maine. Wanderlust flowed through his veins as he settled across the Midwest in search of his final home. His wife Mary Etta Soule stood by his side along with his children. Osborne County, Kansas, was their chosen place.
The second corner was James Nickel, who was born in Pennsylvania. A hard working, honest man, he made his way to Ohio where he met and married his wife Mary Emily Weaver. Together with his father, they made their way to free land for farming. Osborne County, Kansas, was their chosen place.
The third corner was William Henry Stevens, who was born in England. He was a quiet, reserved man. After he served in the Civil War, he and his wife Isabella Couchman moved with family from Memphis to their forever home. Osborne County, Kansas, was their chosen place.
The fourth corner was Amos Howell Boultinghouse, who was born in Illinois. He was a man from a strong patriotic background. After he served in the Civil War, he and his wife Mary Magdalina Kramer decided to moved from their farm to free land. Osborne County, Kansas, was their chosen place.
Together all four corners strengthened the foundation of my maternal side. Their resilience, fortitude, and courage made it so.