Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Divorce in the Joseph family

I've got two interesting tales of divorce to chronicle today - one involving stolen fruit, and one that was part of an epidemic. First up, the fruit. My first cousin three times removed, Louise Leistiko, was born in Montana around 1912. I recently found a marriage license for her at FamilySearch, stating that she married a man named Arthur Popham, another native Montanan a few years older than she was, on 16 Feb 1929 . I also found another marriage license, linking her to Harold Dunville, dated just nine months after her marriage to Arthur, while also stating that she had not been previously married. This caught my attention - either there was a case of mistaken identity on my part, or there was a story here that would explain this situation. I figured newspapers would be my best source for quickly answering the question, so I went looking for more information on NewspaperArchive.com. A few clicks later and they had answered my questions - there was indeed a story!

The first article I found showed me what probably led to the breakup of Louise and Arthur. In May 1929, while the two were on a trip to Saint Maries, Idaho with a friend named Louis Helm, something happened, I'm not sure exactly what, that caused the three of them to be arrested for stealing 50 bushels of fruit. My city-based upbringing leaves me completely ignorant of what exactly a bushel is in terms of size or weight. Wikipedia helped out greatly the last time I had a question like this, so I went back to them. Wikipedia's definition was one bushel equals four pecks. Ok, what's a peck? 8.81 litres or 297 fl. oz, or apparently two of those white paper bags of apples with the handles on them. All right, so eight of those white bags is one bushel, and Arthur and company were arrested for stealing 50 bushels? That's a LOT of fruit, so there's no way this was a case of walking away from a farm with an extra apple in his pocket. Again, I don't have all the details of who did what, but obviously something happened. The article covering the incident also mentioned that Arthur was an "old offender." He'd apparently already done time for grand larceny and forgery, and just finished a parole term when the fruit incident happened.
The next article I found seemed to indicate Louise and Louis (the friend) were not found guilty. It was from July 1929, so it was two months after the fruit incident and five months after the wedding. It stated Louise was then filing for divorce "on the grounds that her husband was convicted of a felony on charges of grand larceny in May and that he was given a five-year term in the state penitentiary." Shortly afterward, the divorce was granted, and Louise was ok to resume using her maiden name of Leistiko. Within a couple months of the divorce, she married Harold Dunville and (to my knowledge) lived happily ever after. That's a lot to have gone through in just one year's time!
The second tale of divorce comes from the life of John Levick, the second husband of my second-great-grandaunt (and Louise's mother), Justine "Tina" (Joseph) Leistiko. Years before he married Tina, John married his first wife, Natly "Nettie" Moliniak (no relation to Megan Smolenyak, I already checked). I had been told previously that Nettie had died about a year after marrying John (sometime around 1903), but hadn't found any corresponding records confirming the story. I went on FamilySearch and found Nettie and John's marriage record, confirming they were married on 11 Aug 1902. However, I found another marriage for John dated 26 Apr 1904, less than two years later. This marriage was to Mary Zylick, a name I'd not heard before, and someone had written on the license that John Levick had been married before but had been divorced. Obviously both stories - the death and the divorce - couldn't be true, so I went back to NewspaperArchive.com and did some more digging. A few minutes later, I'd found several articles about John and Nettie's divorce proceedings. The divorce was filed sometime around Oct-Nov 1903 (after the death date I'd been given for Nettie, so that showed me the death info was incorrect), and was being heard by Judge Napton of the local court. One article even stated that John was not considered likely to attend the hearing, meaning Nettie would just need to bring her proofs and she'd be free and clear. John must have changed his mind, or the reporter was just misinformed, as the case did continue through December, when Judge Napton postponed judgment on it indefinitely.
You're probably wondering by now how this divorce was part of an epidemic. John and Nettie's divorce was apparently one of many lawsuits then going on in the area. The article that announced the finalization of the divorce listed many other rulings and status updates of other cases, and the article was titled "LEGAL EPIDEMIC HERE." Many other people were suing for various things (there was even another lawsuit of John Levick against Nettie and a guy named George B. Winston, though I don't know anything about that case yet). But eventually, in January 1904, the judge ruled them divorced and told them "to go on their way rejoicing. I'm not sure that's what I'd tell a divorcing couple, but maybe they were happy to have their marriage ended by that point. At any rate, it freed John up to marry Mary Zylick in April, three months after his divorce from Nettie was finalized.
The two cases are interesting to me not because they involve divorce, which seems to have been a fairly common occurrence in Montana even then. It's interesting because of the shortness of the two marriages - one lasted a few months, the other a year and a half; also because of the unusual circumstances Arthur and Louise's divorce - theirs is the only marriage I know of that ended because of fruit theft. As for John and Nettie, I wonder if they got caught up in the "legal epidemic" or just happened to drift apart at the same time all those other lawsuits were going on. I don't know that there's any way to ever know, but it's intriguing to think about.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More interesting connections

My grandmother, Sally Crawford, has some deep Montana roots. She's descended from Thomas W. Harris, one of the first white settlers of western Montana, who came to Montana in the 1850s. Sally married Jim Crawford back in 1993, and started researching his genealogy soon thereafter. She discovered that among his ancestors were the Colcords, with his most recent Colcord ancestor being his great-grandmother Mary Eleanor Colcord, daughter of Thomas Colcord and Eleanor Davis.

I mention these details because tonight I discovered that my grandmother's wedding was not the first Harris-Colcord wedding. It turns out, George Harris, brother of my grandmother's grandfather Frank Harris, married Leona Colcord, daughter of John Colcord and Effie Williams, in 1911. Leona is Jim's first cousin twice removed (ie Jim's grandmother Eleanor Knapp was Leona's first cousin). Which makes the children of this marriage (there were two that I know of Dorothy and Ralph Harris) both a first cousin once removed to Sally, and a second cousin once removed to Jim. So while Sally and Jim aren't directly related by blood, they do share some cousins. Pretty interesting, no?

A quick funny

I saw this and thought I had to post it. I've been going through Montana marriage licenses like nobody's business (it still amazes me just how many relatives of mine lived their whole lives, or at least a good portion of them, in Montana). The form that was filed on the state level for the marriage certificate requires the officiating party to state where the marriage took place - usually just the city and county, though sometimes the person filling out the form has listed the address of the building or residence where the marriage was performed. However, in looking at my great-great-granduncle James Harris' wedding to Florence Irene Thomas on 21 Sep 1927, the officiator wrote something I've never seen in this field - the time. Where most officiators wrote the name of the city the marriage was performed in, J.D. Wasson, a minister, wrote 9 o'clock P.M.
I think that's very interesting, mostly because I don't know anyone personally who got married that late at night. (The reception for my own wedding was well underway by then). To me, it's just one more example that you really can't take anything for granted as to what your ancestors did and when - not even the time of day for a wedding.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why do some traditions die out?

In going through my stack of stuff to file, I came across a very humorous story (though I didn't realize that's what it was at first). My great-grandfather Jim Harris had six older brothers (though one died as an infant) and though I have a few census and other records on them and their families, I don't really know too much about them yet. Mostly they're one branch of the family I still have yet to do real research on.

However, today I found a newspaper article about the second-oldest son in the family, William Harris, and his marriage to his second wife, Mary Mazza. The article begins with the normal details - they were married in the rectory of a Catholic church, in a ceremony officiated by Father John P. O'Malley (a good Irish Catholic name if I've heard one). It even gives some details on the bride's gown.

The funny part is what happened after the honeymoon was over. After spending a few days in Butte, they came home to "a charivari ride through the business section of the city on an improvised sulkey made on the back springs of a cart hitched to an automobile, after which a reception was given at their new home in
Parker's addition by their friends."
European sulkies, courtesy of Wikipedia

Being the modern city boy that I am, I had no idea what a "charivari ride" or "sulkey" were. A quick trip to dictionary.com and Wikipedia helped fill me in though. According to dictionary.com, a charivari, or shivaree/chivaree, is a "discordant mock serenade to newlyweds, made with pans, kettles, etc." And Wikipedia had a really good article showing just what a sulky is (the newspaper mispelled it apparently). It's a little carriage usually pulled by a horse, often in races, having only a seat and wheels, but no body.

So, if you reread the article, it sounds like William and Mary came back from their honeymoon, and sat on a little mini-carriage hooked up to a 1930s car, and were pulled through the business district of Philipsburg, while all their friends and neighbors followed banging on pots and pans and singing loudly and purposefully out-of-tune. Which leads me to my question - how do traditions like this ever die out? I think it's an absolutely hilarious way to welcome back a newly-married couple, and would love to be in on a revival of the tradition should one come about. It just goes to show you - people back then sure knew how to have a good time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday - What I learned about and from Christ Hoffman

Mary and Christ Hoffman
Christ Hoffman (b.1861 in Germany to Gottlieb Hoffman and Kunijnunda Buchner) was the second husband of my great-great-grandmother, Mary Sitzman. I first started learning about him in going through my Grandma Blossom's photo albums, as Grandma Blossom's mother, Rosie Wagner (one of Mary Sitzman's daughters) had taken a lot of pictures of Christ and Mary. Before he was married to my great-great-grandmother, however, he was married to a girl named Annie Clausen, b. abt 1858 in Germany. I think they married in Nebraska, as that's where their oldest surviving child, Christ Hoffman Jr., was born in 1891. I say oldest surviving, because in the little research I've done on the family so far, I've found that of their seven children together, only three lived to adulthood. Two children, whose names I have not yet found, died before 1900. Another child, August, born around 1894, died somewhere between 1900 and 1910. The only death I've found much information on was little Frederick, who died at the age of 2 years and 7 months. His passing was mentioned in a newspaper article in the Anaconda Standard in 1905, which also stated the funeral would be held at the family home. A really touching thank you from Christ and Annie appeared in the Standard a few days later, which said : "We desire to express our heartfelt thanks to our friends and neighbors for their kindness during the illness and death of our beloved son. We also wish to thank our friends for the many floral offerings.
I think it says a lot about Christ and Annie to have responded so quickly to thank their friends and neighbors, even in the midst of their grief.

Christ was also very successful at raising chickens. He won several awards for his Barred Plymouth Rocks and single-comb white Leghorns at the Montana state fair in 1909. He used those wins to his advantage the next year when trying to sell the eggs from his "prize-winners" in the local paper. In another ad he placed in 1912, Christ said he was willing to trade two very large St. Bernard dogs for chickens - a trade which would seem a hefty loss on the part of the dog owner to me, but then, I don't know chickens like Christ did.

One of the most fascinating things I came across was an ad he placed tyring to sell an egg incubator. The model he listed was a 240 X Cypher's Incubator. I got curious as to what that would have looked like, so I did a Google search. I didn't find the exact model, but I did find some pictures from a vintage Cypher's catalog someone was trying to sell online, which included pictures of several other models of Cypher's incubators. The photo at left shows the 360- and 440-egg capacity incubators, so I'm guessing the "240 X" in the model name meant it was a 240-egg capacity incubator. That's a lot of eggs!!

Christ married my great-great-grandmother on 1 July 1919, and they stayed married until his death in 1942 at the age of 80. He had a very interesting life, and I look forward to learning more and more about him and his descendants.