Monday, July 2, 2012

Reminiscences of Rev. Harry C. Welp

It's been awhile since I've written anything and I put the following information together for my Aunt Vera.  The words are almost exclusively my grandfathers, I did make a few edits.

Reminiscences of Rev. Harry C. Welp
Edited by Joel S. Russell

            My father, Henry J. Welp, was born in St. Louis, Missouri on August 26th, 1858.  When he was four his parents moved to Washington County, Illinois.  His boyhood days were spent in Hoyleton where he attended Trinity Lutheran School.  He served as a stable boy for Pastor Kattein who encouraged him to attend the Evangelical Lutheran Teachers Seminary in Addison, Illinois.  He entered this Seminary in 1876 and graduated in 1881.       
On April 10, 1882 he married Regina Twenhafel, at the time of their marriage the two together did not weight 200 pounds.
In 1883 my father accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church in Frohna, Missouri to serve as Principal of the church’s Christian Day School.  He served Trinity’s congregation as teacher, organist, and choir director for 52 years until his retirement in 1933.
He was of a quite nature, earnest, dedicated, and faithful to his life’s work as a servant of his Lord; devoted to his wife and family.  He was known for his skill in growing varieties of flowers.  His biographical sketch appears in the “History of Southeast Missouri, 1888.  We quote from this sketch:  “Prof. J. H. Welp is a man of culture and has been very successful as an educator.  He is a close student and has a library of useful books by which he can gratify his taste for reading.”
My mother, Regina, nee Twenhafel, was born Jan. 29, 1860 at Venedy, lllinois.  Her parents were Henry Johann and Marie, nee Eckert, Twenhafel.  Her father operated a General Merchandise Store in Venedy.  He died in 1867.
            My mother received her education in St. Salvator Lutheran School in Venedy.  All subjects were taught in the German language.  Mother spoke a fluent High German, the official language of Germany.  The German spoken in the countries of N. Germany was at that time the German spoken by most of the people in Venedy and surrounding regions.  When writing letters she used not the Latin letters, but the original German letters.  During my years at College and Seminary she wrote regularly, using the original German lettering.  Later in life she did acquire the use of the English language, but used it only when necessary.
            Mother had Christian parents who brought up their children in the Christian faith.  My mother loved her Savior and showed this love in her life.  She was a loyal helpmate to her husband during the 60 years of their married life.  The Lord blessed their marriage with nine children, three sons and six daughters.  The bringing up of the children rested chiefly on mother’s shoulders.  The Lord gave her health, strength, patience, and wisdom for this task.
            At the head of a list of mother’s characteristics I would place her devout Christian character.  Any one who met her soon found out that she was a Christian.  But this did not keep her from being cheerful and often humorous.  At our 5th wedding anniversary, she and Papa, and Theresia visited us at Campbell Hill.  Whenever they came to visit us, mother brought canned goods, coffee cake, etc.  On this particular occasion she brought a cake, a replica of a lamb.  She insisted that I cut the cake.  I did, but discovered that the cake was made of sawdust.  Everybody had a big laugh.  Her birthday was a day to celebrate.  Usually some 20 – 30 ladies came to the party.  She enjoyed this.  She would prepare a delicious meal, home made baked goods, coffee cake, etc. was served.  I remember well the “Platz Kuchen” and “Calla Lilies”.  The ladies would have a gay time, the talked and laughed all afternoon.
            In 1933 my parents moved to St. Louis, MO.  50 years they had lived in Frohna, Missouri, a town of 150 people.  They lived at 4716 San Francisco Avenue in St. Louis.  Here they spent the evening of their life.  Their daughter, Theresia, lived with them and was a great help and comfort in their declining years.  Their children who lived in or near St. Louis called upon them frequently.   Friends from Frohna, where they had lived for 53 years, cheered them by their visits.
They were grateful to the Lord for his guidance and protection.  They often remarked that neither had been compelled to spend time in a hospital for surgery or other ailments.  With the help of God and his promise, “I will be with you always, “; they lived a peaceful and quiet life until the Lord called them out of this life into the home prepared for God’s children.  The Lord called my mother on October 30th, 1942 after a brief illness.  My father was summoned out of this life by his Lord on October 27th, 1951.  He had reached the age of 93 years

            Trinity Lutheran Church at Frohna supported a Christian Day School.  All the children of school age attended this two room school.  My father was a teacher and principal of the school.  At the age of six years I was enrolled as a pupil of this school, and graduated eight years later.  In the fall of 1911 I entered St. Paul’s College[1] in Concordia, Missouri.  My desire was, with the help of God, to prepare myself for the Holy Ministry.  In 1917 I graduated from St. Paul’s College, ready to continue my studies at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.
            Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, had an enrollment of nearly 600 students.  These were taught by eleven professors.  My graduation class numbered 84 graduates.  My ‘vicarage’ was served in St. John Lutheran Church at Baldwin, Illinois in 1919 and 1920.  My duties were teaching the Christian Day School grades 1 through 8; leading youth work in the congregation, assisting the Pastor with preaching, and performing other pastoral duties.  During the summer of my vicarage, I worked at Indianapolis, Indiana at Stutz Automobile Factory.  The company built one car per week.   It was while at Indianapolis I met my dear wife Alma.
After my graduation from the Seminary in 1921, I accepted a call to St. Peter Lutheran Church at Campbell Hill, Illinois.  Campbell Hill’s population at that time was 250 people.  The town was not connected with an electric power line, had no improved streets leading into the town.   Four members of the congregation owned an automobile.  Four churches served the community in and around Campbell Hill with the Word of God.  There was one Southern Baptist Church, on Presbyterian Church and two Lutheran Churches, one LCMS and one LCA.
Living conditions were primitive.  Most people who needed a hospital had to travel about 100 miles to St. Louis for such care.  The congregation I was to serve had a membership of about 120 souls.  Most of the people spoke only the German language.  This was the language spoken and used in the church services.  For several years this language was used in teaching religion in the Christian Day School
World War I brought many changes; one of these was the use of the German language.  When America declared war against Germany in 1917 many communities throughout America experienced trying times.  A spirit of hatred developed against the German speaking people.  Such was the case in the communities surrounding Campbell Hill.  “Mobs” were formed who wanted the German Language outlawed in all public places, such as, churches, Christian Schools, and business places.  Even private homes were entered and given notice to no longer use the German language.  The transition from the German language to the use of the English language brought on disunity among the membership of St. Peter’s congregation.  Rev. Ernst Hitzeman, who faithfully served the congregation for 10 years, initially refused the change to English.  It was only after a ‘mob’ threatened to tar and feather him that he agreed[2].  For the sake of peace in the communities it was deemed wise to discontinue the use of the German language in the church services for the time being.  The Christian Day school was closed.    Shortly afterward, in 1919, Rev. Hitzeman accepted a call to another congregation.  After some time the Rev. E. Scharlemann accepted a call to St. Peter, but he remained only 18 months.  The rift in the congregation was not healed.
On June 26th, 1921 I was ordained and installed as Pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Congregation by the Rev. J. Lohrman of Baldwin, IllinoisPastor Haertling of Christ Lutheran Church, Jacob, Illinois assisted at the ordination and installation.  My parents and my sister, Theresia, from Frohna attended the service.  They had waited ten years for the day when I would be ready to enter the work of the holy ministry.  The service was well attended.  On that day I also baptized a small child, my first baptism as Pastor of the congregation.  On the following Sunday I preached my first sermon as Pastor and that afternoon I conducted my first funeral service.  On Labor Day, 1921 the Christian Day school, which had been closed for several years, was reopened with an enrollment of 18 pupils.  All eight grades were taught, with the Pastor as teacher.
October 12, 1921 will always remain a special day in my life.  Alma and I were married in Alma’s home in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Because of the distance between Indianapolis and Campbell Hill, most of the necessary preparations for the wedding were left in Alma’s hands.  Present at the wedding were all of Alma’s family, her aunts, uncles, cousins and some friends.  Also present were my sister Ella and her daughter, and my sister Eugenia and her husband and son.  The members of the Semper Idem Club, of which Alma was a member, watched the wedding proceedings from the porch of Alma’s mother’s house.  Rev. E. Zimmerman officiated and Walt’s wife Edna played the wedding march.  Walt gave the bride away and Alma’s sitster Edna was her bridesmaid.  My brother Erich was best man, and my niece Erna Hussmann was the flower girl.  Our first night together we spent at the Sheridan Hotel on Meridian Street in Indianapolis.
On the day after the wedding we boarded a passenger train which took us to Union Station in St. Louis..  On arriving in St. Louis we had a delay or layover of several hours until our train to Wittenberg, Missouri left, but in due time it arrived.  It was a four hour trip from St. Louis to Wittenberg and then we had a seven mile trip from Wittenberg to Frohna.  The only way to get there was by horse and surrey.  Wittenberg was a small village, perhaps 100 people.  About two blocks from the railroad station was the only livery station in town.  We found it, but the owner was asleep when we arrived.  He was willing to take us to Frohna which was about an hours ride on the two horse drawn surrey.
We arrived at the home of my parents after midnight and all the doors in the house were locked.  We knocked, but no one answered.  On the north side of the house my father had built a trellis of light wood to place flowers.  He had take the flowers into the house for the winter, so this provided us a good place to get to the window.  Luckily the window was not locked and we had no trouble getting into the house.  All the bedrooms of the house were on the second floor, but there was a folding bed in the study, which also served as a piece of furniture.  One could easily open it to make a double bed quite comfortable.
When morning dawned, my father came down the steps and opened the door to the room where we were sleeping.  He saw us and quietly closed the door and hurried up the steps to tell mother that we were sleeping in the folding bed in the study.  It didn’t take long before things were stirring in the kitchen.  We got up to eat breakfast that consisted of fried eggs and country ham.  The conversation was carried on in the German language and Alma did a wonderful job answering the questions.  The German she had learned in the Christian Day School at home was put to use in the days to come.  During out visit the young people of Frohna gave us a reception.  Games were played in the yard and conversation was carried on in the German language.  One game Alma knew was “Drop the handkerchief”.  We had lots of fun and refreshments were served.
The following morning a boyhood friend of mine, Roland Schuessler, took us by horse drawn surrey to Wittenberg where we boarded a train to St. Louis.  There we were met by Mr. Fr. Schaak of Steeleville, Illinois who took us to Lammert’s wholesale house where we picked out furniture for our house in Campbell Hill.  At 3pm, the Accommodation of the G.M.O. took us to Campbell Hill.  We arrived in Campbell Hill at 8pm and it was dark.  Mr. Bentfeld, a member of the congregation, met us with a lantern in his hand to lead us to his house.  Here we stayed until our furniture arrived.  Usually a crowd would gather at the railroad station when the Accommodation would pass through town.  On this evening the crowd was especially large as the preacher and his wife were arriving.  We stepped from the train to go with Mr. Bentfeld, but Alma wanted to see whether her trunk would be unloaded.  All kinds of items such as empty milk cans, egg cartons, etc. were thrown from the baggage car.  Finally Alma’s trunk was thrown to the platform, missed it, and rolled to the ground with a bang.  All Alma could say was “Oh!  My cut glass vase, I’m sure it’s broken into pieces”.  Her mother had packed it and we later found that it was unbroken.
In 1937 the enrollment of St. Peter’s Christian Day School had grown to 59 pupils, by the grace of God.  These were the days of the so-called “over production of candidates in our Synod”.  More than 100 candidates, ready to serve the Lord in the holy ministry, stood idle in the field as they had no congregation to serve.  Our Country was in a deep depression and the Synod felt it was not financially able to establish new congregations.  Because the Christian Day School’s enrollment had exceeded 50 pupils the congregation decided to engage one of the candidates “idle in the field”.  Arnold Schneider of Lenzburg, Illinois was willing to head our appeal.  His monthly salary was $25 and room and board.  Arnold worked diligently and faithfully in our midst for eight months.  The Lord signally blessed his labors in our midst.  Later he became a missionary to Brazil, South America.
Our entire ministry was spent as Pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois.  During this time I served the Southern Illinois District on various Boards and Committees, Circuit Counselor, Secretary of the Board of Missions, Chairman of the Social Welfare Committee, Pastoral Advisor to LWML and LLL, District Vice President an President of the Southern Illinois District from 1947 to 1957.  I also served the General Synod on a number of special assignments and contributed some sermons to the “Concordia Pulpit”.  After having served as District President for 10 ½ years, I asked the Convention not to consider my name as a candidate for the presidency of the district for a fourth term.
In June 1969 I retired from the active ministry, and Alma and I moved to Sparta, Illinois.  I remained active in the work of the Lord by serving as guest speaker in the neighboring Lutheran congregations when the need arose.  In December 1972, the Lord guided us in making another change in our life.  Four of our children moved to Effingham, Illinois which prompted us to also move to Effingham.  Soon after moving to Effingham the Lakeland Nursing Center asked me to conduct worship services at the Center on Sunday morning.  For almost 10 years now[3] we have been conducting services at Lakeland on Sunday morning.  Alma and I are grateful to the Lord for granting us this opportunity to serve Him in this manner.  This service is a voluntary service.  The fact that Alma has been able to go with me to LNC regularly on Sunday morning has been an inspiration to me, and is deeply appreciated by the 60 to 70 residents who attend the services.

[1]   St. Paul College followed the German gymnasium educational system that consisted of six years of classical education in preparation for Seminary studies.  This Vollgymansium would allow students to continue for two years after high school on the same campus.  Most then went directly to the four year Seminary in St. Louis to become pastors.
[2]   The story of the tarring and feathering took on a life of its own.  Rev. Baese of nearby West Point, Illinois heard the story and thought it prudent to protect himself and his family.  He took the night train to St. Louis the day he heard of the supposed tarring and feathering.  Within a day or two his wife had all their belonging packed on a wagon and she and the children followed him to St. Louis.  Of special note to this story, Rev. Baese was an accomplished artist, among his many talents, and he painted the altar painting at St. Peter’s in Campbell Hill as well as the altar paining at West Point.
[3]   This was written by Rev. Harry C. Welp in 1982 when he was 85 years old.  He and Alma lived in their own home and continued to visit and preach at Lakeland until he was 90 years old.  Rev. Welp passed away on February 20th, 1992 at the age of 94 years, 6 months and 10days.  Alma passed away on July 25th, 1996 at the age of 95 years, 10 months and 23 days. 

In reading his words, I was most surprised by a few stories that he left out.  These stories, that I heard growing up, stand out most in my mind.

In the late 1920s my grandfather and grandmother crossed the Mississippi River by ferry to visit with his family in Frohna, Missouri.  Upon their return, my grandfather's mother slipped some homemade wine in with my grandfather's things.  During the ferry crossing back across the river the bottles exploded and my grandfather was mortified that he, a clergyman, would be found with illicit alcohol.  This was during prohibition, no one on the ferry thought much of it, but they did have a good laugh.

During WWII two men in a black car arrived at the parsonage in Campbell Hill.  My grandmother was home, but my grandfather was at the church which was just across the street.  The men asked my grandmother where Pastor Welp could be found and she told them.  They then turned and asked if he spoke German.  This quickly put her on edge as she remembered what had happened in the area shortly after WWI when they had arrived and anti-German sentiment was high due to the war.  She told them that he did speak German and they proceeded to the church.   My grandmother waited anxiously as the men crossed the street to the church, she wasn't sure if the men might take her husband away.  In short order my grandfather returned and told her that they had opened a POW camp some miles south and were looking for a Pastor who could preach in German to the POWs.  My mother remembers the trips to Pomona where the POW camp was and waiting in the car while her father preached to the men.  He quickly found that most were from the Soviet Union and spoken Russian instead of German.  They were quite grateful to him and built an altar from wood for him.  After some time my grandfather came to the camp and found it deserted, the prisoners had been moved and the gates were locked.

In 1957 a category 5 tornado hit Campbell Hill.   I don't have many details right now, but I recall hearing that my grandfather went out quickly afterward checking on neighbors.  I recall he stayed some time with a woman who was buried beneath the rubble of her home.  He gave her encouragement as she waited for rescue workers to reach her.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Stories of the Otto family in Indianapolis

For Christmas I bring you these stories that were passed down to me about the Otto family.  For those of you who've read my earlier blog entry on Alma Rafert Welp you might recognize some of these names. Liz Otto was Alma's mother, so Charles and Lizetta were Alma's maternal grandparents. Liz isn't mentioned much in these stories, but it is an interesting glimpse into the family. Although it's not mentioned here, each Christmas I still make a stollen based on Liz's recipe from over a 100 years ago.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Karl Friedrich "Charles" Otto was on December 27th, 1836 near Dankersen, Germany. He came to America in October of 1856 and settled in Indianapolis, Indiana. He worked as a brick mason, primarily building homes. In 1864 he married Lizetta Menke, who was born on November 1st, 1842 in Osnabruck, Germany. Lizetta had come to America with her parents in 1849 and settled in Jackson County, Indiana. Shortly after their arrival both of her parents died and she and her siblings were put in various homes. By 1860 she was working as a servant in a home in Indianapolis. Charles and Lizetta had thirteen children, although the first three all died before the age of five and another child died at just over a year old. The remaining children were Charley, Liz, Mil, Emma, Will, Nora, Al, Gert, and Art.

Charles was a kind generous and hard working man who could be stern but very fair. His family was very important to him. He taught his three sons, Will, Charles, and Al the building trade and they worked with him. Art, the youngest, was never in good health and could not work with others. But Lizetta always found something for him to do around house and barn to keep him busy and happy. He died at age 21.

Lizetta was said to have the disposition of a Saint. She could be firm, sweet, understanding, laugh a lot and be the peacemaker in any situation. She was a hard worker in her home, taught her daughters how to clean, sew, can, make jellies, bake. She still made time for friends who stopped in and also for her children's friends.

Charles built a lovely brick home for he and Lizetta to move into when they were married. The home was on Oriental Street. For the time they were considered well of as they owned a Sunday buggy and a wagon, plus lace curtains. There was no credit in those days, they paid cash for everything. The girls were never allowed to use the horse and buggy alone but the boys could go ‘a courtin’. The Otto family were all active members of the German Lutheran Church near their home. All of the children attended the German Lutheran school for a short time until the public school was built.

When the children were young and the circus would come to town they would count the days waiting for the big event. Lizetta and Charles would send them all to bed at 7 o’clock, then Lizetta would awaken them at 3AM so they could all go down Oriental Street to the railroad yards where the animals were taken off the train. It was more fun than the circus, just watching them unload.

Lizetta and Charles had house rules and stuck by them, the children had a strict curfew time. All nine children looked after one another and all had their own chores to do. Like in most families there was lots of teasing and arguments, but each would try to cover for another. Emma, Nora, and Gert were grounded a lot. Emma and Nora tied a tin can on a cat’s tail and then placed a fire cracker in can, the cat went wild, they finally threw a bucket of water on the cats tail and never tried that again. Will and his friend Al Giesel, who was staying overnight, snuck into Emma and Nora’s bedroom and poured molasses on their hair braids. Lizetta had to use kerosene to get most of it out, and then used lye soap to wash their hair. Will heard about that for weeks. Emma and Nora tried to get even by loading Will’s bed with dutch cleaner and big metal hairpins, enough was enough and they finally called a halt. It was a known fact that Emma, Nora, and Gert were the clown girls and Will the clown boy.

The Ottos were very frugal people. The boys started working young and one by one the girls went to work until they married. They all paid Lizetta room and board which was reasonably set by Lizetta, but she thought it was a lesson that one can’t live free as an adult while earning a living.

They all loved Christmas and the house was thoroughly cleaned, especially the parlor where the Christmas tree was set up and decorated with great care. Most ornaments were imported from Germany. There was a dollar limit on what one was to spend on each others gift; actually it just covered the cost of a pair of socks for the men and comb for the girls. Lizetta usually received a couple of new aprons made by Emma and Mil. Lizetta and Charles gave each one a couple of dollars and best of all chocolates, a real treat! Lizetta said she was too busy to shop so she made cookies by the “hundreds”. She also made her own mincemeat for pies and cooked her own pumpkin and home made bread of course. They had duck for Christmas dinner as that was Charley’s favorite. The tree was always a large one with candles on the tree of course, but the candles were never burned unless someone was in the parlor. One Christmas Emma, Nora, and Gert knew that Aunt Piel had taken her goodies into the parlor and placed them on and around the tree. They lay awake until late on Christmas Eve then crept downstairs, slowly, opened the sliding doors and were having a feast of “goodies” when they were discovered by there father and straight to bed. On Christmas the girls were told they would not receive their special chocolates because of what had happened. Their brothers and sisters did not tell Pop and Mom, but they shared their chocolates with them. That is how close and loving they were to one another. On Christmas night, while the candles on the tree were burning, the lace curtains caught on fire. Charles broke the window and threw them out as the boys ran for water. Needless to say that ruined the celebration for the whole holiday. Charles told Lizetta not to worry, he would replace her lace curtains but she would have to wait until his next payday. However, all of the children pooled their money and bought Lizetta her new lace curtains.

Charles and his sons worked five days a weeks from 7am to 6pm and Saturday until 3pm. On their way home Charles would stop at the saloon and buy two buckets of beer (10cents a bucket) and proceed home. They would sit around the table while Charles paid the boy for their weeks work and planned for the next week. On Saturday nights those that wished would go to German Lederkrants Hall to dance, drink beer or play cards. Emma, Nora, and Gert met their husbands there, and Will and Charles met their wives.

The Otto family was a very close, loving and caring family, who shared problems and happiness all of their lives.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Alma, in her own words: Stories handed down by my grandmother, Alma Rafert Welp

 I didn't mean to wait so long to write again, and actually I'm leaving the writing for this entry to my grandmother.  The following narrative was woven together from various stories she told me, allowed to record, or that she wrote down for others to read.  Every time I read it, I can hear her telling me the stories.  She passed away just a couple months shy of her 96th birthday and her mind was always sharp.  One of the last times I visited her she told me that I was the only one who knew the people she talked about anymore.  Of course most of them I only knew through her words....

"I was born on East Merrill Street in the same house where my father was born. My parents, Edward Rafert and Elizabeth Otto, met at a yearly picnic given by the Lutheran Orphan’s Home on East Washington Street in Indianapolis.  They married in 1894 and for less than a year they lived on Spann Street.  Then my grandmother Rafert became seriously ill with liver cancer.  Pop and Mom moved to the Rafert homestead on Merrill Street to care for Grandma. The home had been Pop’s birthplace and here he lived almost his entire life.  Here his brothers and sisters were born and grew up and here also his children were born and grew up.
We lived close to Eli Lilly Company, and many people walked past our house to work.  It was always a fun time watching them.  There was a large brewery in our neighborhood and their wagons were drawn by the most beautiful horses.  I’ll never forget them.  The horse drawn fire engines were a wonderful sight to see, how those horses could run!  Evenings were quiet.  We could use Alabama and Merrill streets as there wasn’t any traffic at night, no cars.  Our long back yard had one side where grass never had a chance to grow.  It was the neighborhood baseball field and it was really used.

Pop loved his family devotedly, and was proud of his six children.  My father was of a quiet nature, he always seemed content.  He liked people, but did not enjoy visiting people.  He was a foreman at Diamond Chain Works on the second floor and was highly respected by his workers.  I remember when he came home from work; Carl and I could go as far as the second alley, but not to Delaware Street.  We’d meet Dad and take turns carrying his leather dinner bucket.  After supper while Mom did dishes, my Dad would often take me along while he got a beer at the saloon.  Some of the other kids came too.  He would have a glass of beer and talk to his chums and we’d be back by the time Mom had the dishes done.  He never stayed long.  I also remember Dad standing in the
front yard at the gatepost watching us play at night.  We neighborhood kids would play at the corner under the streetlight..  At night I’d sit on the side of Dad’s arm chair while he read the newspaper.  While sitting there I’d wind my hair ribbon around the arm of the chair, pin it with a pin and the next morning it would be smooth again.
            Dad liked to go fishing and there were times when he would rent a horse drawn surrey to take the family for an outing into the woods.  When the twins were born upstairs, Dad took Carl and me to see them.  He was so proud and happy.  When we came to the stairs he said I could slide down and he held Carl and slid him down.  We were never allowed to do that.
            I can also remember some serious scoldings we received, but always with an explanation.  You had to look Pop into the eye when he was scolding you.  Pop gave me a stern lesson on telling lies after I had climbed out on the roof of our porch from upstairs on a rainy day to get our rubber ball out of the gutter.  Walt made me go and get it as he held my legs.  Our neighbor, Mrs. Redding, saw me and came over and told Mom.  We were always corrected or spanked by Mom, but this time she told Pop.  He was so kind.  He got on his knee and made me look him straight in the eye.  Then he said “You better tell the truth”.  I did but I never told him that Walt made me do it.  He then impressed on me how I could have fallen.  All my life if I wanted to lie, I could see my Dad’s eyes looking straight into mine.
            Pop died when I was seven years old.  At age 39 he had an attack of the grippe or flu, as we would call it now.  He returned to work too soon and contracted pneumonia.  A week later, January 15th 1908, he died, despite efforts of a doctor and a private nurse who were called in.  I well remember our goodbye to our Dad the night before his death.  He was well aware of his condition and wanted to see and speak to all of the children.  The twins were not quite two years old.  I remember distinctly the funeral service and Miss Weiss singing “Harre, meine Seele” (Wait my Soul and Tarry).

My dear mother, we called her Mom, was the sweetest, most understanding person one could find.  She was of a quiet, retiring nature.  Everyone loved her.  Mom had four sisters and four brothers.  There were many serious sicknesses in our family, but Mom nursed them all.  Her sisters teased her by saying “Liz won’t come to visit us, but just get sick and Liz will be there to help.”  I also remember Grandma Otto, she died when I was four.  I didn’t know any of my other grandparents.  Grandma Otto had had thirteen children and raised nine of them.  I still remember her house on Oriental Street.  How Mom raised six children after Pop’s death has always been a marvel to all of us.  I know she prayed a
lot.  How well I remember her scrubbing the kitchen floor on her knees; and many a time, I know, it wasn’t sweat dropping from her face.  She never admitted any tears to us children.  Each week my mother visited Pop’s grave, and that was a very long walk.  We went with her.  After Pop’s death we were poor, but contentment and love was in plenty at our house. 
            Our Aunt Em Rafert, Dad’s sister, always lived with us.  She never married and had the third room upstairs.  She worked in a laundry on a shirt collar ironer.  Every week we children each got a dime from her, which meant a lot as a ice cream was five cents then.  Walt said Mrs. Mirbach filled them with a spoon and if he’d talk to her she’d keep on filling it.  Every doll I ever had, she gave to me, as Mom had no money.  Em also gave me material for a Christmas dress, otherwise we wore other peoples dresses after Dad died.  She often took us for walks to Garfield Park and to some shows as the cinemas were just starting.  We had a long walk; no one had cars in those days.  She would also take us to Aunt Bena’s, another of Dad’s sisters, who lived near Garfield Park.  There we sometimes took a streetcar for five cents a person.  We usually walked but Em would be so tired from work.  She also took us to Riverside Park and Fairview Park which were far to the north side of Indianapolis.
            Two of Mom’s brothers came to live with us.  Their board money helped a lot to buy food, etc.  Al was a bricklayer and had little work in winter.  Sometimes he’d come home a bit tipsy, but was always in a wonderful humor.  He was good to us.  Art worked at a furniture store.  He was a very quiet fellow.  At age 19 he got pneumonia and died in our house.
Mom borrowed the coal money from Uncle Charlie Otto and paid him back in the summer time.  Walt and I walked at least four miles to get milk, buttermilk, and butter from a country lady who brought Uncle Charlie butter and milk.  It was good, but a hard way to carry milk and buttermilk.  I soon gave out, but Walt kept going.  Uncle Al Rafert also lived in Indianapolis; he worked in the carpet department in a big store.  He and Aunt Annie often came to our house.
            At times Uncle Billy Rafert came to visit a few days from San Diego.  He was so handsome, but he had an injury in his leg from the war and needed a cane.  He would take Edna and me to show downtown and treated us like queens.  Such a gentleman!  He always sent a check for $100 to Mom and she’d use it to pay Uncle Charlie Otto for the coal.   When he died he left some money to my Aunt Em and a bit to Mom.
            Aunt Bena was Dad’s sister and I often stayed with her in the summer.  She only had one girl, Clara who later lived in Fort Wayne, IN.  Aunt Bena gave me a lot of silverware and also Christ’s picture.  She was so very stout and she’d come from town by street car.  She loved the twins and wanted them to sit on her lap, but then she’d laugh because she couldn’t get them on her knees.
We all gave Mom our salary until we were 21 years old; I got to keep 50 cents a week from my pay.  My sister Edna began working in Uncle Doc’s grocery store on Saturdays when she was 12.  At age 14 she went to work for a milliner.  Edna did not go to High School, but later went and took a business course.  All the boys had paper routes; they took the papers on their bicycles.  Walt went to High School for two weeks but then had a nervous breakdown, we found out later it was St. Vitus Dance, and was sick for a year.  It was terrible, we couldn’t get the medicine down without shaking him and he would spit it out.  Finally in the spring he would lie in a hammock and I would read him the papers every day.  He especially wanted to hear about the sports items.  He finally recovered and got a job at Sentinel Printing Company.   Carl was always a steady and reliable boy, I don’t think he every caused any worry.  When he was 14 help was necessary for the production of war material so Carl went to work.  He later became a machinist.  Alfred was a very quiet gifted boy, always reading books or playing baseball.  He finished High School and worked for an insurance company, later becoming an accountant.  Wilfred was a friendly good natured boy, always active in sports and very social.  He finished High School and then attended Concordia College in River Forest, Illinois
I remember the Lusitania’s sinking in May 1915.   I read the newspaper to Mom after school as she peeled the potatoes for supper.  It was a terrible tragedy, some 1600 persons killed.  Then we knew the war was coming.  Later Walt and a friend joined the Marines and spent many months in North Carolina for training.  He was aboard ship to go across when the war ended; of course we were glad he did not go across.  The first time it was announced that the war was over was in the middle of the night.  The whistles began blowing and Mom came upstairs to our beds and said “The war must be over”.  Then it was announced the next day that it wasn’t so, the War hadn’t ended.  But a week later the war really did end, I was working at Indiana Dry Goods at the time.  We all left our desks and ran into the streets, no street cars could move because of the crowd.  Such cheering!  It was quite a few months before Walt came home.  Then he was discharged with a heart problem.  He returned to his job at Sentinel Printing Company, but died in 1927, he was 26 and his daughter Jean was just 3 months old.  I’ll never forget my Mother, how she cried in the cemetery at his burial.  Later Louis Schmidt married Walt’s widow Edna and he was a good father to Walt’s two children.
I worked at Indiana Dry Goods for $4.00 a week when I was 16.  I worked from 8am until 6pm and also on Saturdays.  At first I worked in a dark basement marking prices on socks and underwear.  We all sat with our feet off of the floor for fear of rats.  Soon I was promoted upstairs in the office making sales balance with the receipts of the day.  If we were 2cents over or short I had to stay and balance it.  I worked a while and the head lady in the office told us girls, ten of us, that maybe we should look for jobs as the company was going broke.  Then I took a course to learn the Comptometer.  Two weeks before I finished the head lady asked if I’d go to demonstrate the machine the agent was selling to Eli Lilly.  He made the sale and I was asked to stay to help, but I wanted to finish my course first.  Then I began working at Kingans meat packers.  I worked in the statistical department and I liked the work.  It was a long walk to work which was near White River.  My boss was Danish and a fine man.  I worked on the second floor and my account was with their foreign trade which sold immense pounds of meat to nearly every country.  Many nights I worked overtime, but my boss always made a boy who cleaned the office stay with me and to see me home.  Kingans was not in a good neighborhood at all.

It was while I was working at Kingans that I met Harry, it was the summer of 1919.  He was in Seminary in St. Louis, but during the summers he worked in Indianapolis at the Stutz Motor Company.  We didn’t meet until two weeks before he had to go back to St. Louis so we had a date each night.  He practically proposed then already, but students were not allowed to be engaged while at the Seminary.  Letters came often and I now appreciate them so much more since I know how he dreads to write letters.  Harry came back the following summer of 1920 and worked at the Pres-O-Lite Company
.  The following year I attended his Baccalaureate Service held in St. Louis at Holy Cross Lutheran Church.  I went along with Harry to Frohna, Missouri to meet his parents.  On June 26th 1921 Harry was ordained at Campbell Hill, Illinois, but I couldn’t take off work nor did I have the money to get to the ordination.  I had planned to work a year longer, but after Harry got to Campbell Hill he wanted me to come sooner.  So in October we had a very simple wedding.
The day after our wedding we left by train from Indianapolis to St. Louis and from there by train to Wittenberg, Missouri.  We arrived there at 11pm and Harry had to wake up a driver to take us by horse and buggy from Wittenberg to Frohna; a distance of about seven miles.  Not wishing to wake Harry’s parents when we reached Frohna we climbed into the house through a window, no one heard us.  Harry opened a folding bed which luckily had covers on it.  The next morning his father opened the door, but quickly closed it.  They knew we were coming, but not just when.  After a day or two we traveled by train again to St. Louis and transferred to a train called the “Accommodation” to Campbell Hill.  This train ran from Murphysboro to St. Louis in the morning and back to Murphysboro in the evening.
Arriving at the Campbell Hill Station quite a few curious people had gathered.  No street lights!  The trainman dumped my trunk off in front of us, and I envisioned my cut glass vase in fragments.  But it was ok.  Mom had wrapped it in a blanket.  Mr. Bentfeld was there to meet us on foot with a lantern and flashlight.  We were to spend the days with the Bentfelds until our furniture would arrive.  Mrs. Bentfeld was one of the truest and finest persons that I ever met.  How I admired her straight-forwardness and quiet advice.  For supper that evening we had homemade bread, cheese, peaches, and coffeecake.  Later that evening Louis Bentfeld and Martha went with us to see the parsonage.  With the flashlight and much giggling we went.  No street lights and no sidewalk part of the way.
The coal burning stoves and I didn’t get along well.  At home my brothers took care of the stoves and of carrying in coal buckets.  Edna and I had had other chores.  Often when Harry came from school the fire in the stoves was out or going too hard.  All water had to be carried in from outside and the dirty water taken outside.  Harry made the fire in the school building each morning.  Once a week he had to clean the soot from the long stove pipe that reached across the school room.  So he’d get on the ladder and I tried to keep part of the pipe from falling with a broom which I held against the pipe.  What a mess!
My first Christmas Eve at Campbell Hill was a lonely one.  We went to the program at the church and we had a tree at home.  Coming home from church, Harry immediately had to study his sermon for the next morning.  I sat in the rocker, no gifts; our package from home had not yet arrived.  My gift for Harry was in the package and he had been too busy to get me one.  So I rocked and tried not to think of home and the Rafert family all gathered around the Christmas tree.  Two days later the package came and Harry found time to go get me a box of candy.  The next year we had Phyllis and it was better.
Phyllis was born on October 15th, 1922 while her Dad was preaching in church.  Her sister Marian followed on August 16th, 1924.  Marian had beautiful brown eyes like her father and was a happy child with a quiet humor.  Paul was born on March 7th, 1926; he was such a contented baby and quite active.  Before he was nine months old he was pulling himself up to chairs and standing on his shaky legs.  He became ill suddenly with Secondary Meningitis, a high fever set in and he was soon in a coma.  He lay that way three days when the Lord called him to himself on Dec 18th, 1926.  The Christmas tree was already in church at his funeral.  Wrapped gifts from Indianapolis had already arrived.  Doris was born in 1927, when small she was satisfied to play alone.  The neighbors remarked how little attention she asked for.  In the late summer of 1929 both Marian and Doris got whooping cough, and it was terrible.  Marian would run to the porch and hang on tight to the post and oh how she coughed!  She was so weak after each attack.  After that she never had the same pep, she was so tired.  On February 1st, 1930 she contracted bronchial pneumonia; she weakened and died on February 10thVera was born a few months later; she was so tiny as a child.  She walked at nine months, walking right under the dining room table.  When Vera was two she became desperately sick with Summer Complaint, a dreaded thing at that time.  The doctor came to see her every day.  The fear of losing her so soon after Paul and Marian was almost overwhelming, but God heard our prayers.  Vera had to learn to walk all over again, but after that she was fine.  Ruth was born in 1932, she was a very pretty baby and her sisters loved her so.  She evidently was nervous as she cried so much, in church she just sobbed while the organ was playing.  But I never had to leave church because of her.  When she was three years old the mumps were around and she became desperately sick with a high fever.  The doctor thought mumps just came out on one side and went inside the left ear.  We were afraid of losing her, but on the 10th day her ear opened with a terrible discharge and then she was fine.  Mom Rafert had made her a bright red spring coat and we all were delighted when we got to take her out, she needed the color.  Tom was born in 1937, all of us were so proud to have a boy.  He was so thin and the girls thought themselves so tall and said Tom would grow up to be a shrimp, but he grew to become a big man.  He caused little trouble when small and played with two imaginary friends Bobey and Docker.  He tinkered around a lot with wheels and wagons and made his own contraptions, they always worked.
My mom died of a heart ailment in 1945.  At one of Mom’s last attacks, the attacks seemed to come the last four Novembers, I told her, “Mom, we need you yet”, she said; “Oh no, you all have your families now and good partners.  Pop and Walt and many others are waiting for me in heaven, and I want to go.”  Pastor Zorn made many house calls.  He prayed with her and read many comforting Bible readings with her.  He said “She (Mom) was one of the most wonderful persons he ever knew.” 

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Place by Ramana Rose Russell

The following poem was written by my niece and sent to my mother who then passed a copy on to me. 
Thank you Rose!

My Place
by Ramana Rose Russell

I touch the ancient lace of my Mother’s family kept in a chestnut drawer.
I think back on that pathway of ancestors who have brought me to this point.
The ships sailed from England to America full of antiquities for sale.
I think of how my family has grown and expanded since my youth,
and how we are all family somehow.
The bravery of my family reflects the bravery of yours.
I look at my pet bird and wonder how many animals have graced us with their camaraderie
Through all of those ages.
And what is my place here?
Like fresh cut roses and teddy bears and sippy cups, my place is the same as all others;
To bloom and to brighten.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Joseph Davis

Anyone that's visited my home page will probably notice that it is dedicated to Joseph Davis who served during the American Civil War.  Shortly after the site went up, my brother emailed and asked who this Joseph Davis was and why the site was dedicated to him.

Growing up I was always interested in history, especially military history, especially Civil War history.  In my early teens I saw an ad or got a letter from the Military Book Club ready to give me 4 books for only $1.  Man was I hooked, immediately joining and buying book after book, I'm sure they loved me.  I sure cut a lot of lawns to buy those books.  Most of those books, those that can fit, still sit on the bookshelf in my office.  They are primarily biographies of the Generals or books about specific battles.

Anyway, I was pretty engrossed in the Civil War period when in 1978 my grandfather's distant cousin wrote looking for information on the family.  Among the things she sent to him were three letters written by a young soldier named Joseph Davis.  I was immediately engrossed in reading them and trying to get every detail of what he wrote.  They were addressed to his uncle, Wm. D. Russell, who was my great-great grandfather.  It was thrilling, here was my very own Civil War soldier, he was part of my family and he was there for that great conflict.  Remember, I was in my mid-teens and it was all so romantic and glorified, it was just so cool!  And then there was the tintype (I use that term very loosely).  When going through the old photographs with my grandfather we found wrapped in newspaper a 'tintype' of a soldier who appeared to be from the Civil War era.  My grandfather didn't know who it was, but it was obvious to me that this was Joseph Davis.  So now I had the letters and a photograph it all fit together so well.

Jump ahead three or four years and I'm now in college in Illinois.  I was taking a class on the Civil War and my professor gave us an assignment to look at deserters from Illinois units.  He showed us that the majority of most companies were formed from a county or adjoining counties, so we could pick a company from our home county if we wanted to.  Recalling the letters, I asked my professor if he could give me any advice on how to determine which unit my relative had been in.  You see Joseph never mentioned his unit, just some specifics on where he was and what battles he was in.  My professor asked me some basic questions  and then read over the letters.  He helped me narrow down which Illinois units were involved in the various events mentioned in the letters.  Then, using the Adjutant General's Report for Illinois, we looked at each of the units trying to find a Joseph Davis.  Voila!  It took a little while, but I found him.  My professor then told me that I could order his military papers from the National Archives and helped me find the form to send.  I then sent off my request and waited.......for those of you who've only done research in the age of the internet you may not understand what this entailed.  I waited 3 or 4 months to hear back that they did indeed have the records.  I then had to write back to say that yes I did want them and I got to wait another 3 or 4 months to get them.  That was pretty standard if you wrote to a county courthouse or State archive also.  Finally, the papers arrived, he even had a pension record which showed he'd moved to Kansas, married, etc.

Jump ahead another 8 years or so, it's 1990 and I was now working in the Pentagon after finishing up four years in the Air Force.  I'd been working on various family lines over the intervening years when time allowed.  But now.... now I was in D.C. and could spend a lunch hour in the National Archives or Library of Congress.  I could go after work and spend four hours there before they closed for the evening.  I'd gotten to know some of the archivist and was feeling pretty comfortable with my research abilities.  My grandfather  had died in 1982 right about the time I'd been trying to find Joseph Davis' unit.  The old tintype was now in my possession and seeing it one day it made me think about Joseph.  I decided to retrace my steps and look again at what had happened to him and who his children were.  I still had his papers that said he'd gone to Kansas and so it was time to look through census records.  He appeared soon enough, but when I started to look backward to see who his siblings were it became apparent that he was the wrong Joseph Davis!

It was time to start from scratch again.  I pulled out the old letters and started looking to see what I knew about him.
  1. His unit was in camp in Memphis, TN on July 25th, 1864 and they'd been marching for a month at that time.  They'd been in a battle at Tupelo, MS, the rebels under Lt. Gen. Lee and the union under Maj. Gen. A.J. Smith.  He mentions the Smith boys, Gabriel Wiley, Arch, Ciss, and Pap.
  2. On August 7th, 1864 they are still in camp in Memphis, but they expect to take the cars (train) to Lagrange and march from there to Holly Springs, MS.  They might spend time repairing the rails in that area.  He also mentions that his Regt. would  muster out on the 14th of October but that he'd have to stay as he'd not joined until the 2nd call.  He also mentions that he got part of his $300 bounty.  Again in this letter he mentions the Smith's, Gabriel Wiley and Arch D.  It is also at this time that I realize he didn't send this letter to Wm. D. Russell, he'd sent it to another Uncle, probably Leonard, William D's older brother, and asked that the letter be shared with Wm. D.
  3. By March 17th of 1865 Joseph is in Camp near New Orleans, LA.  There is force going over to Mobile and he expects they'll be fighting.  His Regiment is left to load the supply train but will follow the main force in a week or two.
Having a better understanding of the military records available to me, I began again to check the various units that followed the path and time frame that Joseph's letters record.   I went through all of the Illinois units and none fit, some came close, including the unit I'd originally thought he was in, but none seemed correct.  I then looked at what other units were in the same army under Maj. General A. J. Smith.  Growing up just a few miles from where Joseph's family lived in southwestern Illinois, if anyone ever asks where I'm from I always say 'near St. Louis'.  This got me thinking and I looked at the Missouri units that fit the path in the letters.  It didn't take me long to find a Joseph Davis and since I was in the National Archives I could just go down the hall and look at the military records.  The very first page stated that this Joseph Davis was from Jackson County, IL.  He'd come to St. Louis and joined the 21st Missouri Infantry; I'd been looking in the wrong state all along.

Joseph Davis was born about 1843 in Jackson County, Illinois.  He was the oldest known child of John Davis and Mary Russell.  His younger sister Mary Ann was born in April 1845, but no other children have been found in records. Their mother died about 1852 and their father remarried in 1853.  John Davis moved with his new wife and their baby to Lawrence County, AR in 1856.  Joseph and his sister Mary Ann went with them and remained in Arkansas until at least 1860.  I don't know, but my feeling is that Joseph may have then moved back to Illinois to live with his Uncle Wm. D. Russell Sr.  His uncle was only 10 years older than him and as other letters show, Wm. D. felt some responsibility for Joseph.  As Joseph mentioned in his letter, he joined with the second call and was listed as a recruit in his unit.  His papers show that he enlisted in St. Louis on November 23rd, 1863 for three years.  He's described as a farmer, age 19, 6 feet, 1 inch tall with a fair complexion, grey eyes, and a light hair.

Joseph's regiment had already been bloodied at Shiloh, Iuka, Corinth, and in Grant's Central Mississippi Campaign.  In January 1864 Joseph moved with his regiment to Vicksburg and then participated in the Meridian and Red River campaigns in the winter and spring of 1864.  They spent the next couple of months moving often and skirmishing with the enemy.  In July they were with Maj. Gen. A.J. Smith in his Tupelo Campaign which included the battle on July 14th and 15th that Joseph referred to in his letter.  They continued to pursue the enemy for the remainder of the year and in December participated in the battle of Nashville.  In February 1865 they moved to New Orleans and on March 17th the main body of troops moved toward Mobile.  This was this same day that Joseph wrote the third letter to his uncle.  Joseph ended this letter as follows:
Well uncle I think this rebellion is as you say about played out, I think it will play out before long.  I think that I will not have to serve all my term of enlistment if our army proves successful which there is no doubt but they will.  Well I will have to close by saying write soon and often.
I remain yours
Joseph Davis
Less than a month later Joseph was with his unit at Mobile.  On the evening of April 9th, 1865 (the same day Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox) the 21st Missouri along with several other regiments assaulted and captured Fort Blakely in Mobile Bay.  Among those killed during the assault was Joseph Davis, a 21 year old farmer from Jackson County, Illinois.  Joseph is buried in the National Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.

I mentioned earlier that I believe that William D. Russell Sr. felt some responsibility for Joseph Davis.  They must have been somewhat close.  In Joseph's letters he mentions that he ought to see his namesake and that he'd send $50 confederate money to William's son Joseph.  My great-grandfather was Joseph Edward Russell and he was born in 1862.  Whether Joseph Davis saw him as a baby or not, I don't know.  In the package of letters my distant cousin has, there are also letters from William D. Sr. to Joseph Davis's, half-sister who lived in Arkansas.  It is apparent from these letters that William was doing what he could to get any money due Joseph's estate and that it should go to the half-sister and her siblings.  Joseph Davis's estate was settled in the 1870s and his half-siblings in Arkansas did get a little money out of his estate.

One last item....the tintype.... it wasn't Joseph.  I had several people who study uniforms and the Civil War look it over.  They determined it was a cavalry man, probably from earlier in the war.  I've since decided it was probably one of the Killgrove brothers, but I'm saving their story for another time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Alfred Loy

One of the most interesting and enigmatic individuals that I've researched is Alfred Loy who was born in Alabama around 1810.  He was the eldest son of Henry Loy and Martha "Patsy" Greenwood, both natives of North Carolina.

Alfred's parents married near present day Hunstsville, Alabama in July 1809 and census records indicate that Alfred was born the following year.  The area was still part of the Mississippi territory and on the edge of the frontier.  The family remained in the area for close to 20 years before moving to Calloway County, Kentucky.  The first record of Alfred that I find is dated December 9th, 1834 when his maternal grandfather, Joseph Greenwood, sold him 160 acres of land in Calloway County, KY.  I suspect this was around the time that Alfred married his wife Jane, a native of Kentucky who was born 1816.

Mormon Missionary
In October 1835 William Woodruff, a 26 year old Mormon missionary visited the area.  Among those he baptized were Alfred Loy and his cousin Benjamin Lynn Clapp.  In April 1837 Alfred Loy was ordained an elder in the Mormon church for Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri.  He then accompanied Elder H.G. Sherwood who led the group from Kentucky to Missouri.  They must have left immediatly since in June and July of 1837 Alfred purchased land in Caldwell County, Missouri.  On June 11th, 1838 Alfred, along with his cousin Benjamin L. Clapp, accompanied Isaac Allred on a mission from the vicinity of Far West, Missouri to St. Louis and then down the Mississippi and up the Ohio to the Tennessee River.  From there they traveled together until they got to Warren County, Kentucky.   Allread remained in the area to continue his mission, but Alfred Loy and his cousin moved on elsewhere.  In the fall of that year the "Mormon War" erupted in Missouri and by October leaders in Far West surrendered and most of the Mormon's relocated to Nauvoo, Illinois.  I've not found any further mention of Alfred Loy in the Mormon records, however his aunt Margaret Loy Clapp and her son Benjamin L. Clapp remained with the church.  They resided in Nauvoo and after the expulsion from there they resided in Salt Lake City.  In 1845 Benjamin Clapp was set aside as one of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy.  He later came into conflict with Bishop Warren Snow and was excommunicated from the church.

Illinois and California
Alfred Loy next appears in the 1840 Federal Census residing near Silver Creek in northwestern Madison County, Illinois.  By 1850 Alfred's wife and children were living in Perry County, Illinois and Alfred was residing in Louisville, Eldorado County, California working as a laborer.  Family story tells us that Alfred was among others who are now known to us as "forty-niners".  It's uncertain how well Alfred succeeded, but with in a year he returned to Illinois.  In 1853 Alfred, along with his wife and children and the families of two of his sisters and a younger brother, Henry G. Loy, headed west by wagon train.  The following was written by Alfred's niece, Minnie Snyder.

"Dr. Alfred Loy was the oldest in the family and when they all went to California at the time of the Gold rush - Pa, the doctor, and several of their sisters were in the wagon train that crossed the plains in the covered wagons. It took them six months to make the trip out to California; one of Pa's sisters died and they had to leave her there and then when they got to Salt Lake City, Utah, they go mixed up with the Mormons and those who escaped had to go by night, and Dr. Loy was there when Pa would tell us about his trip across (but what ever became of him we do not know)."

I along with several other researchers have attempted to find out what happened to Alfred, but we've been unsuccessful.  Minnie's stepfather, Henry G.Loy returned to Illinois within a few years of the journey to California and remained there the rest of his life.  She indicates that Alfred was with her father when she heard the story, which would indicate that Alfred returned to Illinois sometime after 1878 when her mother married Henry G. Loy.  No Alfred Loy (or numerous variations thereof) of the correct age and birthplace have been found in the 1860, 1870 or 1880 Federal Census.  Research in California shows that his daughter, Martha Jane, was married in Prairie City, Sacramento County, California in 1856 and lived out her live in Merced County, California.  His young son James died in Prairie City, California in 1858.  His daughter Mary Ann married in 1859 in Analy Township, Sonoma County, California and also lived out her life in Merced County, California.  His daughter Elisabeth married in Mariposa County, California in 1860 and she and her husband then disappear from records.  His son Alfred  was living in Fresno, California in 1876, moving to Merced County in 1877, where he died in 1878.

After so many adventures in life, what happened to Alfred?  What was his view on the Mormon church after the events in Far West and Nauvoo.  The records leave us with a great story with the last few chapters torn out.  I want to know how the story continued and ultimately ended for Alfred and his wife Jane.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Must start somewhere....

History has always been a passion of mine and I caught the genealogy bug while I was still in high school.   Research is the fun part for me, but writing the stories has always been difficult.  This blog is my way of forcing me to try to write the stories that stick out in my mind over my past 30+ years of research.