Saturday, October 30, 2010

Storytime Saturday - Lena Beilstein's marital adventures, part II

My last post ended with Lena's leaving Ernest for parts unknown, though probably still in Montana. I'd like to back up a little bit and tell a little more about what life was like for Lena being married to Ernest, which might shed some light on why she left. Most of the following stories are family stories, and I'm still looking for historical records to verify the details. But stories I've gathered from various relatives at different times have been consistent, so I feel they are reliable enough to post here.

The family seemed to be doing all right for themselves - the photo at right was taken when Edna (my great-grandma) was a baby, so around 1911. Next to Lena (who's holding Edna) are her mom Amelia and sister Maggie (who must have come up from Nebraska, or else Lena and Edna had gone down to visit). After Ernie and Lena had at least three of their four girls, Ernest moved the family to a little mining town called Southern Cross, Montana, near Georgetown lake. The house they moved into was, compared to their earlier standard of living , pretty rough - the house was a one-room cabin, and had a dirt floor. The scene actually moved Lena to tears. Not too long after moving into the cabin, one of the girls had a birthday coming up. Lena made a big cake to celebrate, and put a towel over it to help it stay fresh for later. When time came to eat the cake, Lena pulled back the towel and found a huge rat, which had eaten a portion of the cake already. Needless to say, she ended up tossing the cake.

Ernest (who also went by Ernie, Creamy, or Red) was apparently quite the ladies' man. Grandma said he was very popular with the girls in town, and that didn't sit well with Lena. She eventually got upset enough (whether because of that, the poverty or something else I'm not sure) that she left Ernie and took at lease Edna and Grace and went to Seaside, Oregon. Ernie went after his children, and probably Lena too, and brought them back to Montana. The family remained poor, and Lena left Ernie for good sometime in the mid-1920s. Ernie had to put all four of his children in the Montana State Orphan's Home, as he couldn't afford to take care of them. A cousin also tells me the state had issues with young children living in a mining camp, so that may have added to the family stress. At any rate, the girls, aged 14 or 15 down to 5, were put in the home, away from both parents, though Ernie at least went and visited the girls several times while they were there.

Lena, as I said before, seemed to bounce from man to man for the rest of her life. Grandma tells me she was happiest with Ed Layfield, but I don't know when or how long they were together, or if they were ever married. Her last husband was Clarence Roper. He is the only other husband of Lena's of whom I have a picture (shown at right with Lena). Knowing that she left Ernie sometime in the mid 1920s, and that she was single by 1950, that gives her about 25 years to have gone through all those other relationships. During this time, I do know that she stayed in contact with her children, or at least tried to. I have a photo of her and her daughter Edna taken sometime in the 30's I believe, as well as a picture of Lena with a note from Lena to her daughter Hazel written on the back, asking why Hazel isn't allowed to write to her. I don't know any more of that story, maybe my Grandma or one of her cousins knows more.

The end result of it all was that Lena moved in with her daughter Edna and her family (husband Bill Moore, and two of Edna's children) for a short while in 1950, before moving into a hotel room above the Metals Bank in Butte. She later moved to another hotel above the Board of Trade Bar, also in Butte, and lived there until just before she died. Her circumstances in this hotel were pretty grim - a bed, no refrigerator, and a hot plate to cook on. She received a welfare check for $35 a month (yes, a month), of which she paid $20 a month for rent. She happened to fall and injured herself, but as she had no insurance she just stayed home in her bed and developed bed sores that caused her a lot of pain. Her daughters Edna (who had moved to California, and had just moved back to Montana) and Elsie put her in the County Hospital in November 1963, and she passed away in the hospital on 22 February 1964.

One of the interesting things I discovered recently that I alluded to in my last post on Lena was her obituary. It was published in the Montana Standard on 23 Feb 1964, the day after her passing. It reads:

Mrs. Lena (Craddock) Roper of 22 1/2 E. Park died Saturday in a local hospital after an illness of three months.
Mrs. Roper was born Feb. 26, 1887, in Chicago. She attended school there. She resided in Nebraska, then Victor, Mont., as a young woman with her parents in 1909. She came to Butte in 1926 to make her home.
Mrs. Roper was of Mormon faith. Her body is in White's Funeral Home where services will be announced.
Surviving are daughters, Mrs. Elsie Landon of Boulder City, Nev., Mrs. Edward Cote of Twin Bridges and Mrs. William Moore of Butte; 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

This obituary is interesting for a few reasons:

1. I am fairly certain she was born in Illinois (the census records I have show that, and her father was naturalized in Illinois in 1884). Her mother was living in Nebraska in the 1910 census, with her sister Maggie and Maggie's first husband, Arthur Cooper. That might help explain Lena's move to Montana - Nebraska to Montana is a lot shorter jump than Pennsylvania to Montana. If Lena's mom moved the family to Nebraska between 1900 and 1903 (her father Jacob supposedly died in PA in 1900), then Lena could have moved out or run away or something.

2. The comment about Lena living with her parents in 1909 is false - Amelia was a widow by then, and living in Nebraska, while Lena was already married to Clarence Johnson.

3. The statement about her coming to Butte in 1926 is very interesting. If this statement is accurate, then that could be the date she left Ernie. That fits with what I know about her already.

4. The biggest shocker was the statement about her being "of Mormon faith." Being a Mormon myself, and having very few family members in the church (my parents and siblings, one grandparent, and Lena's daughter Elsie), this was news to me! I've done some preliminary searches in LDS church records, and can't find a baptism date for Lena. Elsie joined the church in 1962, less than 18 months before Lena died. I don't know who gave the info for the obituary, but as Elsie was visiting from Nevada at the time, and the obit was printed in a Montana paper, I don't think it would have been her (though she is the first daughter listed). Is there an order in listing surviving children in an obituary - furthest away listed first, closest last? At any rate, I'd like to do some more research into this, see if there's anything in Butte LDS records of Lena's joining the church there.

One thing that leads me to believe she had at least some connection with the LDS church in Butte was the fact that it was the LDS church in Butte that conducted her funeral services (as announced in the Montana Standard on 26 Feb 1964). An LDS bishop gave her obituary, and missionaries spoke and gave the closing prayer. That was another big surprise to me. Maybe Elsie helped arrange things through the local ward while she was up in Butte. But whatever happened, I think it's pretty cool that an ancestor of mine at least had an LDS funeral.

So there you have it, Lena's story. There are still more pieces to unravel and put together, more questions to have answered. But I've learned a lot about her in just the past few weeks that has thrown everything I knew about her on its ear. I can only wonder what future discoveries will do to the composite picture I have of her in my head now. But the overall feeling I get from reading and hearing about her life is just - tragedy. So many husbands, so much hardship, and at the end just living alone in a hotel, eating her meals in the bar downstairs. She loved her girls though, that much I have learned. And her daughters loved her, even though they suffered with her (and at times because of her).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Wagner Family headstones and more

On October 16, I got to take a very cool family trip. I drove up with my wife, kids, parents, and grandparents up to Monroe, Washington, where my great-grandparents Rosie and Charles Wagner lived for many years. It wasn't that far of a drive, and I was pretty stoked to go. Our first stop was the IOOF Cemetery in Monroe. It was my first time seeing the gravesite of Grandma Rosie, who passed away when I was five. We (my family and my folks) arrived before my grandparents, and dad couldn't quite remember where Grandma Rosie was buried, so we got to explore the cemetery for a bit trying to find her headstone. My son sure appreciated the chance to get out of the car after 90 minutes of driving and being able to run around. It was interesting to see the different styles of markers, some flat, some traditional, some so old and worn you couldn't see who they marked any more. I tried to find the cemetery office to ask if they could help us find the stone we wanted. While I was on my way over to the office, my grandparents pulled up, and pointed us right to the stone, which, as it turned out, was not 20 feet from where we parked. Isn't that always how it works? Next time I go to a cemetery, I'm searching the immediate vicinity before asking any questions. :)

I wasn't expecting to find any more than one headstone, but it turns out, there's a whole family plot there. In the plot, there's Grandma Rosie, Grandpa Charlie, Donald "Bill" Wagner and Mary Wagner (Bill was Charlie's brother, and Mary was Rosie's sister, so both families were in-laws of each other), Charles Wagner III (Rosie and Charlie's youngest son, who died at the age of 10), and Eldora (Shute) (Wagner) Greenfield, Charlie and Bill's mom. I was in headstone heaven! Ok, that sounds really lame. But I was really excited to see all of these graves, when I was only expecting one. I'd seen pictures of all of them (especially after going through those 800+ photos of Grandma Blossom's beige album). So I really felt connected to all of them.

After leaving the cemetery, we drove by the spot where the Wagner Brothers Mill had been. In its place is a HUGE brick mansion. It was actually just a couple minutes from the cemetery. I didn't know what it was until after we'd passed it, so I didn't get a picture of it unfortunately. Maybe I'll try pulling it up on or something. If I can get a photo of it, I'll post in here later.

Down the street from the mansion is the house that Charlie built for his family, probably sometime in the 1950s. It's still there, and looks great. We snapped a few pictures of the outside. Then my dad, who's a lot more adventurous than I am (must come from years of motorcycle racing, military service, and raising three kids who put him through heck), went up and knocked on the door. A guy came out and dad started talking to him, telling him about who we were, and why we're in the neighborhood. He just opened up, and invited us in to take a look, let us take pictures and video of the house, which he had actually just purchased three weeks previous. As it turned out, my grandparents sold the house to Bill, Charlie's brother, and moved to Twisp (they later moved back but to a different house). Bill and Mary sold it to a guy named Granden, or something like that, who lived in it till he died. His son then got the house, and he was the one who sold it to the current owner. He seemed really interested in the history of the house, and asked that we send him copies of the pictures I have of my great-grandpa building it. He also said his wife was coming home from the hospital that day, and once she's had some time to recover, he'd like us all to come back up for a barbecue or something, which sounded great!

For me, though, the real treat was when we went back and got my grandparents (they'd stayed in their car, as they have trouble walking over long distances, and the driveway up to this house was pretty long). They drove up the driveway and came into the house, and my grandma just looked to be flooded with memories. She started talking about her dad building the house, and especially the cabinets and fireplace. I managed to record a lot of what she said, as I'd remembered to bring my camera with me, and had hoped for her to tell stories about the house that I could record. It was just amazing to see something put together by my great-grandpa and his brothers, that looked so well kept and new.

All in all, it was a very rewarding afternoon. And I look forward to repeating the experience in the near future when we have that bbq.

PS I don't have the pictures available at the moment, but I'll put some up as soon as I get them.
UPDATE: Pictures are now posted!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Storytime Saturday - Lena Beilstein's marital adventures

Today's post is all about my great-great-grandmother, Philena Emily Beilstein. She was born 26 Feb 1888 in Chicago, Illinois to Jacob and Amelia (Wachter) Beilstein. She was the younger of the two surviving children of this marriage (she had an older sister named Annie Margaret, or Maggie), and grew up in Illinois and Pennsylvania. She lived in Pennsylvania in 1900 at the time of the census, yet by 1903 she had found her way out to Carbon county, Montana, and was married to David M. Briscoe, a native of New Mexico from a large Mormon family (though it seems he himself never joined the church). Finding this marriage was a bit of a surprise, as the first marriage I knew about for her was in 1908 to Clarence Johnson. I was actually trying to find a record of her marriage to Clarence on the FamilySearch beta site, when I found the marriage to David Briscoe. My mom and grandma new nothing about David, which makes me wonder if my great-grandma Edna (Philena's oldest daughter, who told my grandma a lot about her mom) even knew about him. His mother and siblings were living in Carbon county, Montana at the time of the 1900 census, so how Philena met him and decided to marry him is a total mystery. Also, the fact that David came from a Mormon family is very interesting, given some things I've recently learned about the end of Philena's life (which I'll write about later). As far as I know, this is the earliest contact any of my family lines had with the LDS church (assuming that Philena had some kind of contact with David's family). This is very interesting to me, given that one of Philena's daughters (Elsie), granddaughters (my grandma), and the whole family of a great-granddaughter (my mom and our family) all joined this church. Funny how life keeps going in circles throughout the generations.

A quick but interesting sidenote about David Briscoe - he's one of the rare cases of people listed in the same census twice, the 1900 Montana census in this case. In one entry, he's listed as the servant of Henry Foust, and the other he's listed with his mother and siblings.

Her marriage to David didn't last long, because Philena (or Lena as she was often known) married again in 1908, to Clarence Johnson. I have recently obtained a scanned copy of two postcards Lena wrote to her mother, Amelia, while married to Clarence, one of which gives her address as 214 South H Street in Livingston, Montana. So it seems she stayed in Montana during the time of these two marriages (she ended up leaving Clarence towards the end of 1910). I have been unable to find any record of children born to either of these marriages, so as far as I know Lena walked away from these two marriages with no kids.
That changed when she met her next "husband", Ernest Craddock. I put husband in quotations because as far as we know (we being me, my grandmother, and other researchers of this family) Lena and Ernest were never officially married. But they got together shortly after the 1910 census was taken, as my great-grandmother Edna was born to them in 1911. Edna was followed by three more girls - Hazel, Elsie, and Grace. The family stayed in Montana at least through 1920, and were living in Granite, Montana at the time of the 1920 census.

After the 1920 census, I'm not sure where she went. I know from what my grandma has told me she left Ernest in the mid 1920s and was involved with several different men (aside from the three mentioned so far) over the course of her life, including Art Palmer, Ed Layfield, and Clarence Roper (Clarence Roper being the last one). I'm not sure at this point if she actually married anyone after Ernest, but Grandma says Lena was in Butte when her grandson James Harris Jr. was born in 1931, so that would point to her being in Montana for the 1930 census. But not knowing what name to search for, or what county she might have been in, I haven't been able to find her yet.

I've got more to write about Lena, but that will have to wait for another post. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Lena Beilstein's marital adventures.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - The Scribners

This is a family crest for the old Scriven family of England. My Scribner ancestors (who I've been told descend from the Scrivens) supposedly have authorization to claim this crest as theirs. I haven't gotten around to verifying it yet, but I thought it was a pretty interesting image, so here it is. I have traced my Scribners back to Zachariah Scribner of New Hampshire. He was born about 1817 in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and was the father of six children from two wives, Judith Sawyer and Mariah Jeanette Beardsley. I'm descended from his second wife, Mariah. Zachariah met and married Mariah in Minnesota (how's that for a tongue twister?), where he and Judith had moved to and where Judith had died. They had four children in five years, and later relocated to Montana, where Zachariah died in 1901.

Mariah was originally from Ohio and had been previously married to Norton Johnson. They were the parents of at least four children, and moved to Minnesota sometime between 1854 and 1860, the birth years of their second and third children. Norton died in 1864, leaving Mariah a single mother of four children ages 12, 10, 4, and 2. Mariah married Zachariah three years later (while he was raising two teenagers of his own, a boy and a girl). Altogether, they had ten children from four parents -quite a mixed family! After Zachariah died, she moved out west to Washington state and lived near her oldest child, Mary (Johnson) Perry. She died in 1911, ten years after her second husband.

Sorry for the brevity of the post, but at least it's something, right? I'm still working on the post about Lena, which will be a lot fuller. More full. Better.

Quick note

I haven't forgotten about my blog! I'm in the middle of a big post about my great-great-grandmother, Philena Beilstein. It's more complicated than I first thought, and the more data I gather, the more it takes to sort it and verify it and analyze it. I'll post it as soon as it's ready.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - My latest acquisitions

To help me in my quest to collect and preserve family artifacts, my mom combed her house and found a few items, most of which I knew nothing about, and gave them to me.

This is a time table schedule for the Northern Pacific Railway Company from 1947. I'm not sure if it was my grandpa's or great-grandpa's (mom wasn't sure either), as both of them worked for the railroad. If it's my grandpa Fred's, he would have been 21 at the time, so it's not unreasonable that it's his. If it's his dad Fred Sr.'s, he would have been around 63, so it's not too unreasonable that it's his either. I'll probably end up asking my grandpa about it, and I'll post the update here.
UPDATE: I asked my grandpa, and the schedule is his. He started working for the railroad on October 1, 1947, and this was their current train schedule.

This is a ribbon my grandmother got for her participation in the Siskiyou County Fair in 1964. She was about 24 at the time, and she, my grandpa Tom, and a friend of theirs (don't know his name) played in a country band they called Kountry Kuzzins. Their band marched and maybe played in the parade, and got this ribbon for their efforts. Pretty cool!

This is a death certificate for Olga (Joseph) (Haft) McKeown, my great-grandmother's older sister. This one I knew about, as I'd asked my aunt to pick it up for me from the county clerk in Butte, Montana, along with 2 or 3 other death certificates. However, I was living in Utah at the time going to school, so my aunt was going to mail them to my mom, or give them to her when they visited, or something. I totally forgot about them (even though I had been the one to request them!) and was pleasantly surprised to see they were in pristine condition, even 7 or 8 years later. My mom really knows how to store things well!
In the future, I plan to take the information I gather from these items and try to dig up a few more clues (maybe a newspaper clipping about the parade? or some info on the trains my grandpa/great-grandpa worked on, or something), and I'll post a follow-up.
Thanks mom!