Back In The Saddle Again

Well, it is official. I am on furlough from my job until August 31. Although the boss is working on possibly getting that shortened. We’ll see. One of the many different types of casualties of this pandemic. Thankfully, as of yet, no one in our family has contracted the virus.

The one thing that I have been doing these past few months is keeping a journal during this time specifically, (although I have been keeping a journal on and off for the last ten years). But in this time of massive social upheaval, crazy shenanigans, and scumbaggery, it is even more important to record one’s thoughts, feelings, day to day life, anything to help those in the future understand what living ‘in’ this bit of history was like for folks. (The genealogist in me can’t help myself anyway.)

With furlough coming up, starting next week, it is time to make an effort to find a little joy in life. For me genealogy and beading are two of those activities that help with that. I can focus on projects that have been on the back burner for retirement. Including my beading. I have a project that has been on my loom for 17 years (ever since I started working again), now I can finish it. I will also be back to my blogging again.

It will be good to get a little joy back.

This has been half done for 17 years. Time to fix that. I am very excited now to see it finished.

When the 1918-1920 flu epidemic swept the world it doesn’t appear that any one in our family was personally affected by it. No one, as far as I can tell, died from it, no one talked about it either. They certainly didn’t leave any records of having done so. I would really like to have found a diary or journal from that time. Did it affect them personally? Did anyone of their close friends die? How did they get through day to day life? Did they help their neighbors? Did they grab their guns and storm the capitol building of their state, screaming like crazed rabid humans, to go back to work? I don’t know.

But at least our descendants will know that their family was sane, smart, and sensible.

Be safe, smart, sane, and sensible.


This Corona Virus has put a crimp in my research, my time, among other things. So I will not be posting any new articles for a while.

Too many more important things to take care of right now.

Everyone stay healthy!

Jeremiah’s Lineage Confirmed

I have two ancestral relations by the name of Jeremiah Smith. The one on my father’s side is my 4x great grandfather, of New York and Michigan. The one on my mother’s side is, most likely, a 5x great uncle of Ohio.

A cousin of ours, who also descends from Jeremiah of New York and Michigan, recently contacted me with the information that recent DNA testing has proven that our Jeremiah Smith is indeed a son of Jeremiah Smith, senior, born 1755ish in New York whose wife was Sophia Herder. This also means that our belief that this line originates from George Adam Schmit of Rossbach, Germany, a Palatine German immigrant, is true!

Over the years our cousin has been in contact with a couple of researchers who descend from the same Smith line, and in one case the paper documentation just couldn’t be found to prove the connection of an unknown son of Jeremiah Smith and Sophia Herder. The DNA testing has proven that while the paper documents don’t exist, the results can’t be denied. So I also have another son, Benjamin, I can add to the list for this couple, a previously unknown uncle.

With more and more folks getting their DNA tested to help solve puzzles just like this, I am hoping that the future will bring more confirmations and affirmations to my own research.

Stay safe and healthy!

Not William Buchanan

This photograph found in my mother’s parent’s collection was not labeled, so I could only guess who the people were who are in it.

Thankfully a cousin who descends from the Mobley or Buchanan side of the family saw it, and recognized them.

The man sitting on the porch floor is Silas Mobley. His second wife Ura Finch is sitting in the chair. They are at their home in Missouri. Silas is a brother to my 3x great grandmother Margaret (Mobley) Buchanan. (Margaret was married to William Buchanan.)

There are several reasons that I scan and upload old family pictures to flickr. This, right here, is one of those reasons.

January 24, 1960 Letter Herman To His Parents

Worthington Ohio
January 24, 1960

Dear Egg Head and Dad: –
It has warmed up a bit here today, it’s up to 20°. Most of the time the temperature has been around  have had some 20° temperature. I hope it don’t damaged the fruit as it hurts when it hits those groves down there, and to think of all the money they lose. That’s when it hurts most, when it hits the old pocketbook. And of course later we will be paying more up here due to the scarcity of fruit. The cold weather up here hurts us but only our feelings.

That sore throat I had last time I wrote you developed into a real dandy cold, I was off work from Tuesday evening on, although I’m hoping to go back tomorrow.

Ruth and I went to our O.E.S. School of instruction last night the first I’ve been out all week so you see I wasn’t kidding.

We didn’t get up to see Burch this week so I don’t know anymore about him as of now. When Edw. Called last week, or I was writing you, he said

[page 2]
he was coming down but the stinker never showed up. I hope he comes down before he visit you folks, maybe he can help us decide what to do about Burch. At least I would like for him to talk with Cliff, and see if he draws the same conclusion as Ruth and I, maybe we don’t give the old boy as much credit as we should. That the reason I would like to have someone else’s opinion. I hope we’re wrong about his condition.

We were really proud to hear you were elected assoc. conductress and wish for you all the luck in the world. That means you will be working towards your year from now on, getting ideas and plans together. That’s one installation we won’t miss. To bad Dad can’t be your W. P. Or does your chapter permit husband-and-wife to be W.M. and W.P. together? We had a real nice school last night, our Worthy Grand MatronIs tops, she is surly [surely] an inspiration to all of us. Martha Jane is coming over this afternoon and we are

[page 3]
going to plan a rehearsal for all our officers before meeting Feb. 10. We are going to have initiatory work that meeting. We have met a lot of people and made a lot of friends in our district and I suppose you are doing the same down there.

We have bought another boat, an 18 foot Thompson with a 60 H. P.  motor, windshield and folding top, etc. It’s a used boat a 57 model and the motor was new last spring. The outfit has had good care and is in good condition, however I want to make a few changes in the back of the boat and refinish it complete. I hope to have it all ready by the time the weather gets good. I’m going to put in the garage down on Morse road which belongs to Steve that works with me at the shop, his garage is large enough to hold it and is is heated so I’ll get a chance to work evenings and weekends from now on. Believe it or not Jack Neff is trying to buy our old boat. I don’t know how he’s going to arrange it but he’s supposed to give me a deposit on it tomorrow

[page 4]
I told him I would have the full amount in 90 days as that is when I have to have ours paid for. I’ve asked Jack $500 for our old boat, motor and trailer etc. I’m getting this new outfit for $1500 so that will leave me some to finance at the bank. Tell dad he won’t have to worry about getting a “ducking” in this outfit. Ruth said “she’s had it”. We hope to buy an inboard, but they are too rich for my blood, maybe someday in the future on the inboard. We looked at one in good condition (new last year) and the price was $3000 so that’s the reason we are settling for an outboard. which leads me to a proposition I would like to make you and dad. I still want to buy the lot in Canada but can’t do everything I want to at once. I feel the larger boat is a necessity for Lake Erie,that’s the reason I’m going ahead with it. Would you and dad buy that lot for us and I’ll pay you

Page 5
back with interest same as at the bank. Think it over and if it’s O. K. we can do it next summer when we’re all in Canada. If you don’t want to there won’t be any hard feelings on our part. I could pay cash for the boat and lot if we would cash our stocks in, but I wouldn’t be able to buy them back it’s such a good price as I bought those at, also I would have to pay a 25% capital gain tax if I cash them in now. Just an idea, Dad said last fall I shouldn’t buy that lot, but I wouldn’t want to see anyone else get it either. If sometime in the future I couldn’t see any possible use for it I could always sell it, maybe at a profit. I don’t think they will decrease in value, do you?

Well I suppose you will say I’ve gone completely off my rocker

[page 6]
and justly so. – We’ve had our supper now, Martha has been here and gone and we are going to have our rehearsal Fri. eve 5th of Feb. I’ve also made a batch of peanut brittle and it’s 10:30 PM still feel like I’ll go to work tomorrow if we don’t have any snow. So far we’ve only had a trace of snow from the recent cold spell.

Ruth and H. O.

p.s. How is real estate prices holding down there?

Land HO!

Over the past several years I have looked over the microfilmed indexes to deeds, available through the Family History Library (FHL), for Abram Rosa several times over, and never found an entry for him. Which I always thought was weird because several census records have him listed as being a property owner, with a mortgage.

Then last year I found an article from a 1909 Michigan newspaper informing its readers that Abram was selling land to his son Alby (his name is incorrectly stated in the newspaper as Alley).

Herald Press St. Joseph, MI 03-26-1909p3

Here was printed proof that I wasn’t crazy. So now I was determined to find those deeds.

Figuring that the FHL wasn’t going to be any further help, it hadn’t been so far, I decided to try for local sources. Remembering how I found all kinds of great deeds from Ohio at the various county register’s websites, I thought that I might find the same resource at the Berrien County office. Sure enough, they do have deeds online, and a search of their index found me 3 land deeds for Abram.

I still don’t understand why he wasn’t showing up in the FHL microfilmed records, but I didn’t care anymore, ’cause I got some of them now, although for a fee. (In Ohio they are FREE! Just sayin’.)

The first land record I ran across is in regards to fruit trees.

I don’t know if you are aware of this but Michigan is a big fruit state, and there are a lot of different fruits that come from the state other than blueberries. In this case it is peaches. It looks like Abram was paying for the honor of having 700 peach trees planted on his land, or paying someone part of his profits from the fruit, as part of money he owed for the trees.

To be honest I can find no record of Abram having actually owned land himself any sooner than 1894. And this contract indicates that Abram signed this lease in 1871 (this particular record is merely transferring the lease to a different party at a later date).

It looks like Abram was part of the peach rush of the mid 1800s. But as per his usual luck, the rush came to a dismal end when in 1868 a disease started showing up in the peaches which became known as “the yellows,” because of the odd deep yellow color around the pit, it also made the flesh of the peach mealy. The disease spread quickly to the whole county over the next few years because the farmers were pollinating healthy trees with pollen from unhealthy trees. So by about 1872 the peach boom was a bust. About the time of the above lease being transferred, peach trees were starting to be destroyed in vast numbers across the county to stop its spread. (On a more positive note by the 1880s the peach industry was making a comeback.)

There are 1870 and 1880 agricultural censuses for Berrien County. So I decided to see what was going on on Abram’s property at this time. I was unable to find him in the 1870 listing (which means he might not have owned property at this time), but I did find an entry for him in 1880:

ABRAM ROSA–owned 60 total acres; 30 tilled; 10 permanent meadows pastures, orchards, and vineyards; 20 woodland and forest; farm valued at 3500; implements and machinery worth 185; livestock worth 100; hired 25 dollars worth of labor for 4 weeks; value of all farm productions for 1879 300; grass lands 6 acres mowed; 9 acres not mowed; 5 acres of hay; owned 3 horses; 2 cows; 3 other; calves dropped 1; sold 1 living cow; made 60 pounds of butter; 7 swine; 60 poultry; 40 doz eggs; 4 acres indian corn 120 bushels; oats 7 acres 200 bushels; wheat 2 acres 25 bushels; potatoes 2 acres 20 bushels; apples 2 acres 20 bearing trees; PEACHES 0 acres 00 bearing trees; value of produce sold 50; amount of wood cut 10 cords; value of all forest products sold or consumed 10.

Here is the agriculture census page for Abram, he is line 4.

I can find no record of these 60 acres that he owns in 1880, (however, I will eventually). But the big takeaway from this census record is the fact that in 1875 he has 700 peach trees on his land and 4 years later…NONE.

The loss must have been devastating for the family. Maybe the family went broke and he lost the land as a result.

In 1894 Abram purchased about 19.4 acres in Hagar, which he owned for about 15 years before selling to his son Alby. It is possible that he was leasing this same property for several years before buying it, because in the 1892 directory of the area his entry states that he was farming in section 12 on 19 acres, the same description as in the actual deed of sale two years later. At the time of his selling the property to his son he was a widower, and no doubt looking to retire from farming.

Abram’s purchase of 19 acres, which he was possibly leasing before this.
Berrien County, Hagar Township Plat 1887[?]

At least I have one property nailed down, and I am closing in on the property Abram Rosa and his second family owned in the ’70s and ’80s. The plat map above also helps because many of the same names show up in the 1880 census, which gives me a sense that he was living in the same general area in the ’70s and ’80s, but we just don’t know where exactly. But, at least we know that in 1892, and later, he was living on the spot marked by the arrow.

In the images below there are several views of the property. One has the partial property description of NESW right on the edge of Harris Lake. Street View does not go down Martin Road, where the property is located, so you can only see down the road a bit in that image. I did get a good image from Apple Maps of the location as it currently looks. Apparently some folks like living on mosquito breeding grounds with fetid looking water views. Then there is the larger overview of the property’s location.

I decided that this year the old man and I are taking a vacation/genealogy trip to Michigan. I will visit the graves of my Smith and Rosa families, and check out the land where they lived and maybe visit an archive or two.

As an added bonus, I will finally get to see Michigan! We can check out a few tourist sites and then take the ferry home over Lake Michigan. (Which means that I will have taken ferries: from Washington State to BC, island hopping in Hawaii, and now Michigan to Wisconsin. Can’t wait.

January 17, 1960 Letter Herman Shepard To His Parents

January 17 1960

Dear Dick and Dad:-
I’m a little late in letting you know
we received our fruit OK, it came
last Tuesday and is so good, what
kind of oranges were they? You
can send some of those any time
you want to. I got a kick out of
the three kumquots from our tree.
Somehow I thought they tasted better
than the others, or was it my imagination.
All the fruit arrived in excellent condition
except the kumquots, so as much as I
love them I don’t suppose you should try
to send any more as about
a fourth of them had spoiled.

We had a busy week last week
only one night that didn’t involved
either one or the other of us in Lodge
work or both of us at the same time.

[page 2]
That night we went up to see
Burch the first we had seen of him
since New Years day when we had
him down here. He seems to be doing
a little better about the drinking but
we’re afraid his memory is to far
gone. He just doesn’t remember
anything and has lost all track of
time, he dosen’t know weather its June
or December. He received his first
check on January 5th and we are
trying to help him straight out his affairs
but there just isn’t enough money to
go around all his obligations. Hes
let his affairs get into such a mess
that I don’t have much hope of ever
getting it all straightened out. We are
not going to give him any money
but will see to it that he has food
and clothing or anything else that
is necessary and will try to
visit him as least once a week.

[page 3]
I’m tryingto stave off a cold as of now
Ive got a sore throat and some of
the symptoms of the (BUG) so wish me
luck. Ive taken asprin all day and eat
all the fruit I can hold. We were out
to Ruths folks today and I took a
nap for about three hours out there.

Well we had our first meeting
last Wednesday night and I got by
but believe me there is room for
improvement about the time our year
is over I’ll be about ready to start.

We are suppose to have candidates
at our next meeting Feb 10th so
on that night about 9 PM say a
few extra words for me. We
have our school of instruction next
Sat. night and after that the
inspections start. Ours will be
April 28th say a few more
words on that night to.

[page 4]
Edw. asked if we knew of anybody
that were going to visit you next
month and we told him as far
as we knew there wasn’t anyone,
he said he would call you
before he came down so he
could make arrangement for
you to meet him.

How is the Chevy doing? I see
your old one almost every day
and Jack is real pleased
with it. He had his operation
and is back to work now.
Our work hasn’t been as
heavy this winter as usual
because we have really

[page 5]
had a beautiful winter so far
only one or two minor snows.
Even have the gareage doors open
most of the tome. If we can get
by for the next six weeks I
think will have it made.

We are going to miss going to
Florida this winter but are looking
forward to Canada next
summer. I think well try to
make it early in the season.

Well thats about all from
here for now so write
us a line when you find
the time, and thanks again
for the wonderful fruit
Ruth & H.O.

Rachel Ann Hays 1888-1986

Rachel Hays as a young woman.

I am keeping my promise to tell about all the women in my tree by working my way back in time, starting with my great grandmothers. It has been a while since Charlotte Hatch, but here is my second one.

She was known by family and friends as ‘Dick’. What can one say about Dick. Most of what I know about her has either been told to me by her granddaughter, gleaned from looking through all the old family pictures, researched, or heard in one poorly recorded interview from about 1982. The person that I recollect was what you would call a ‘character’. She very short statured, loved cocktails, and wore awesome eyeglasses when she was older.

This is her life, as well as I have been able to piece it together.

Rachel started her life journey September 19, 18881. She was the second child, and second daughter, of Osborn and Eliza (Stackpole) Hays, and had been named in honor of her grandmother, Rachel (George) Hays. Osborn and Eliza would eventually have 10 children together, but from what I recollect hearing, Rachel was always her father’s favorite.

‘Dick’, as she became nicknamed by the family, grew up in Grant Township, Wetzel County, West Virginia. In fact her family lived there their whole lives, farming, and making a living off the land. She was a tomboy, and always had a preference for boys to keep company with. I guess she didn’t have much use for girls. The hills and landscape that she grew up in probably made for great exploration and tomboyish proclivities.

This is the typical landscape in Wetzel County where she grew up.

As was typical of children during the time she was growing up, she only went through the 8th grade2 in school*. Which means she was about 14 when she was done with learnin’. As the Hays family had settled in the Pine Grove area of Wetzel County, it would seem likely that Dick attended the Pine Grove School (although we don’t know that for sure). It was known in its early years as Free School.

Of course over time, as is wont, she got older. Then along comes William Atkinson Shepard, a newly minted teacher who recently arrived in Wetzel County, having received his teaching certificate from a Normal School, (although at this time we don’t know which one). Family rumor has it that this is how Dick and he met. It is not likely that they met because he was her teacher, because he would have been about 16 years old or younger in order for that to happen, which is doubtful. So it is possible that they met when she went to pick up some of her younger siblings from school. Maybe the locals took turns having the new teacher to dinner to get to know him, or they met at church or a local festivity. We might not know the exact how of it, but she definitely took a shine to him.

A quote from Dick’s son William:

My father, William, had received “higher education” beyond the customary 8th grade and attended normal school which prepared him to become a teacher. He taught in several places, and I think his last was in Jacksonburg, where he taught several of my aunts and uncles (Hays). He met and married Rachel Ann here.

–William A. Shepard, Dick’s son

They were married by the Rev. Reid of the M. E. Church in New Martinsville, Wetzel County, on March 9, 1907.

Their marriage license.3

Their first child, Herman Osborn Shepard, was born November 28, 1907 (pretty much 9 months later). That was fast work.

The birth was a hard one for Dick, as Herman was quite a large infant when he was born and Rachel was a small woman. Her injuries were such that Herman was raised by Dick’s parents in his early years, so that Rachel could recover her health. The doctor’s also told the couple that she shouldn’t have any more children, as the next one could kill her. This news must have put much stress on their early years of marriage. Decent birth control was not readily available to folks then like it is now.

Her husband was working in the steel mill in the town of Parkersburg by 1910, and possibly sooner. I imagine a school teacher’s wages were not all that great to raise a growing family on, so he decided to try for better wages. However, by 1912 they had moved to Ohio and were living in Columbus, where William started working as a clerk for the US Post Office with the rail road. He continued in this line of work until he retired in the 1950s as a supervisor. This job, no doubt, helped the family get through the depression with less damage than those around them.

Rachel was a typical woman of her time. She stayed at home, raised her child and kept the home. For other income they bought properties and made money renting the lots, or homes. It didn’t make them rich, but they were able to buy a home in Florida to retire in, and land in Canada to make their summer vacation spot. (A spot that is mentioned many times in family letters.)

1919 might have been an especially tense and worrying year for Dick and Dad, because Dick found out she was pregnant again. She was due in late December to early January. And on January 4, 1920 she delivered a healthy baby boy, William Atkinson Shepard, jr. Dick did okay too. There was no long hospital stay to recover from the delivery, so she was able to give junior her undivided attention, and she had her 13 year old son to help. This would be the last child that they would have though, possibly the second pregnancy caused problems we are unaware of–and Dick didn’t share that part of her life with her children, or grandchildren.

I believe this is Dick and Herman with the family dog.

The Shepard family moved over the years in and around Ohio. In 1920 they were in Pickaway County, in 1930 it was Franklin County, in 1940 Delaware County. But no matter where they moved, Dad was always working for the US Postal Service for the railroad, in fact he told his sons that when they were older to get jobs working for the government, because they were the most steady and secure. One of them heeded his advice.

Dad, William, jr., Dick, Herman.

Over the years they visited with family and friends (Dick was remembered by others as a very gracious and hospitable person), built their own cottage, from scratch, on Thessalon Lake in Canada, (and went there often to fish and barbecue), then they retired to a cute little house in Safety Harbor. The cottage in Canada they sold in the 1960s, and Dick gave the money from the sale to her sons.

She was quite a pill, was Dick. I, no doubt, don’t even know a single percent of the shenanigans she could get up to. The only story I vaguely remember hearing happened shortly after her eldest Herman, started dating his future wife, Ruth Kring. Apparently Dick, (no doubt with malevolent glee), decided that Ruth needed taking down a peg or two, because she somehow made sure that they conveniently ran into an old girlfriend of Herman’s. I guess that’s how she kept herself busy while Dad was at work.

When Dick and Dad moved to Florida to officially retire, Dick kept busy with the Woman’s Civil Club and her Order of the Eastern Star Safety Harbor Chapter (No. 173).

       On Monday, November 7, at 8 P. M., a program of free movies at the Woman’s Civic Club Hall will present the Rich Plan __ Frozen Foods. Attendance will give the Commercial Award credits. Light refreshments will be served gratis. Movies of the Cape Coral Development, near Ft. Myers will also be shown by Mr. Jerry Flynn…
        The new members received at the meeting of October 14 are: Mrs. William Shepard…Members please add these names to your Blue Books. Several former members expect to attend the Club meetings this year.

1960-10-28 Friday, Safety Harbor Herald, Safety Harbor, Florida, p1

        …Mrs. Brown presented each newcomer with a corsage…Mrs. Rachel Shepherd

1961-02-03 Friday, Safety Harbor Herald, Safety Harbor, Florida, p1

          Mrs. William A. Shepard was installed as Worthy Matron of Safety Harbor Chapter 173, Order of the Eastern Star…in ceremonies recently held at the Masonic Temple here…
        Mrs. Shepard stood under an arbor made of fresh red roses while Thomas Peasley, Past Grand Patron of the State of Maine, sang, “How Great Thou Art.”
      Mr. and Mrs. Herman Sheppard, son and daughter-in-law of Mrs. Shepard, came from Worthington, Ohio, to be present for the ceremony and Shepard presented his mother the gavel she will use throughout her term of office.

1963-02-08 Friday, Safety Harbor Herald, Safety Harbor, Florida, p1

The O.E.S. will hold a rummage sale Saturday, May 4, in the lot next to Clark’s 5&10 store. Anyone having clothing or other items they don’t use bring them to Mrs. Rachel Shepard, 305 7th Ave. N., or the day of the sale.

1963-04-19 Friday, Safety Harbor Herald, Safety Harbor, Florida, p1

Ashley Chapter 147 members heard comments by Mrs. Bess Evans, past matron, on her attendance at a meeting of a Florida chapter of Order of the Eastern Star. Mrs. Evens’ sits, Mrs. Rachel Shepard, is active in that Florida chapter, Safety Harbor No. 173.

1975-04-16 Marion Star, Marion, Ohio, p26

I don’t know what Dad did, when he retired. Maybe he walked to the ocean and fished everyday. He was the quiet type, at least when we were around, so one never knew what he got up to.

Dad and Dick showing of their catch of the day. Probably in Canada.
At the cottage on Thessalon Lake.

Dick lost her husband on April 19, 1973. They had been married for just over 66 years. (Unfortunately, our family was overseas and unable to attend the funeral.) She was a widow for 13 years before she died April 27, 1986. I heard tell that she spent many a Friday evening at the local bar flirting with all the old widowers after Dad died. As I mentioned before, she did enjoy cocktails.

Dick at home in Safety Harbor, Florida 1970s-1980s. Must be 5:00pm!

I have an audio recording (be sure to download it) that I have had digitized of Dick talking to her niece Evelyn Conning (1980sish). It is about 30 minutes long, and is of very poor quality. The interviewer definitely wasn’t a professional, and there were no questions asked that I would have asked. But it beats having nothing. Too bad we don’t have one of Dad, apparently he told great stories.

I am very glad that I was able to meet my great grandmother, and I was at an age that I can remember her these many years later, even if only vaguely. I definitely remember her voice, and hearing it on the audio recording helps to bring back those fond memories of my visits to their house in Safety Harbor, Florida. (You can read my post on their house here.)

*Here is a great web page that gives an excellent synopsis of rural schools in the latter part of the 1800s:
1. Rachel Hays birth entry, 19 Sep 1888, General index and register of births, Wetzel County, West Virginia, page 74a. Parents O. Hays and Eliza Hays.
2. 1940 US Federal Census, Genoa Township, Delaware County, Ohio details;
SD 17, ED 21-17, Sheet 3A, Enumerated April 4, 1940; household 48, home owned [by parents], not a farm, lines 33-34
. What is the highest grade finished is one of the questions on census.
3. W. A. Shepard and Rachel Hays marriage, 1907; Marriage Record, book no. 13, page 180; West Virginia, Wetzel County, Clerk of the County Commission.

August 27, 1959 Letter Herman Shepard To His Parents

August 27th 1959
Dear Egghead:-
From the shores of Lake Erie and the banks
of the Scioto:- now how’s that for a
fancy take off? Here I am back at the Salt
Mine. I left Ruth up at the cottage and
will go back myself Sat. afternoon.
today was my first day back to work,
and was it ever hot, the temperature
here and at the lake has been in the
90s for over a week now.
Although it did cool of at
night up at the Harbor. I am
forwarding you a few letters that I
picked up at the Post Office
after I got home yesterday. I
received you letter of the 20th
and also one from the Dept of
Lands and Forest. Thanks for

[page 2]
your trouble. I’m going to write
the dept. and inquire if that lot
could be zoned for commercial
or resort purposes if so what
steps would be necessary. I’m
going to check these items before
I send any money. I suppose
you know all the details about
the purchase as you arranged it
for me so I’ll not go into
those details. Dick Rodenfels just
came back from up there, said
they had a good time camping out
etc..but the fishing wasn’t so good
He was telling me about all
the camping areas that have
been made-since I was
up there. Sounds like

[page 3]
they’re making it too easy for
these campers that like to rough it.
Ruth and I had a good time up at the
lake, caught a lot of fish-blue gills
and perch, have several in the
freezer so we’ll have a mess or
two when you come home. We also
found a new spot to fish for blue
gills out in the lake it just west
of Lakeside along the shore will
have to tell you more about it later
when you come home.

I went out to check on Ruths
mother last night and she recovered
from her attack what every it was
but is still having the pain in the
stomach and back, she’ll probably

[page 4]
go up to Dr. Jenning office for an
examination and xrays next week.
I didn’t get to talk to Unk and Elise
yet but from the sound of your
letter you must of had some trip
to Reception Lake.

As Ruth said I should have
listened to you about that bump on my
cheek bone, you and her both are giving
me the devil, the thing swelled up about
the size of a banty egg and sure
made me look lop sided, but
the doctor wouldn’t lance it for
me while it was infected, he
gave me penacillen shots for the
infection and I have to go back
later to have the source of the trouble
removed. The swelling is all gone
now and I suppose I’ll be going
back to him some time next week.

[page 5]
It not serous as he says its
an enlarged skin (pour?) that became
clogged and couldn’t drain just
filled up and became infected.

We’ve had other troubles also I’ll list a
few. Cost me $57.00 for parts to get
our car fixed. The garbage disposer
almost fell out of the sink (you know
it was leaking) the durn thing rusted
out and I couldn’t get a part for
it in the city of Columbus, had to
order it from California and it
hasn’t come in yet, that’s been
2 weeks ago I ordered the part
and thats going to cost about
$15.00 I got my new teeth and
had to have some of my lowers

[page 6]
ones filled that was $90.00 and
the thing I grip about the most here is
the real estate tax, I just got that
paid for the last half year and
that was $175.85, bought 4 new
tires for the car and so on. You’ll
get a kick out of this one, when I
came home yesterday Ruth had taken
my door key off my key ring and
I didn’t know it until I tried to
unlock the door, so I had to
cut the screen out of the guest
bedroom window and climb
in that way. Boy I’ll bet Ruths
ears were burning about that
time as I was hot to trot.
You know what I mean.

[page 7]
I’m also enclosing a letter
we received from Iva and Roy
Buchanan its self explanatory.
I haven’t seen Burch or talked to
him yet as he wasn’t at work
today and when I checked his time
card he hadnt only been to work
2 day since I started my
vacation on August 13th.
I don’t know what his trouble
is and unless he comes into
the shop I wont have a chance
to check on him until Sat
afternoon after work as I’m
going to be busy tomorrow night
on De Molay work etc.

[page 8]
well its after 11:PM so think
I’ll fix myself a good stiff
drink and go to bed. I’ll
be thinking about you when I
drink it. As you notice
my pen went on the blink
Love to all

Gert And Vic Go West!

Buck Lucas on Light Foot American Legion Stampede, Casper, Wyo (Doubleday). (Postcard in the John family collection.) These postcards are probably from the 1920s.

–Coincidentally Victor’s birthday is the 13th of this month, so I guess you could say in honor of his birthday…–

It was May 11 (or 18)* of 1908, a day filled with excitement tinged with a bit of sadness for the family of Gertrude and Victor John. Sadness, because just over a week or so ago they had said good bye to the matriarch of the John family. Johanna (Dedrich) John, Victor’s mother had died on April 30th and the funeral had been on May 3rd. But there was great excitement too, especially for their boys Clarence, Lincoln and Victor, junior, because they were taking a trip to the great unknown. The Wild West! Wyoming.

The Wyoming and North Western Railroad (aka Chicago & North Western) had finished a new line from Casper to Lander in 1906, part of what was known as the “Cowboy Line”, and Vic was going to be a station agent there. This expansion was part of C&NW’s plan to build a line all the way to the Pacific coast. (Spoiler alert: the railroad company ran out of money, so never achieved that dream.)

In 1906, the government announced that 2,285 square miles of Shoshone reservation would be open to settlement. At the time, there was railroad service from the eastern border of Wyoming to Casper. The Chicago and North Western Railroad (then Wyoming and North Western Railroad) extended the tracks from Casper to Lander to transport the settlers and their belongings to the land, located north and west of Lander.1

Station agent V. H. John has resigned his position and will leave Monday with his family for Casper, Wyoming to accept a position as cashier [station agent] for the Wyoming & North-Western Ry.

LOCAL AND PERSONAL–Mr. and Mrs. V. H. John and children left Wednesday [13th] for Gillett where they will visit a few days before leaving for their new home at Lander, Wyoming, where Mr. John will enter on a more lucrative position with the Wyoming & North-Western Ry. Mr. and Mrs. John were among the pioneers of Wabeno, Vic having been station agent here for nearly eleven years, ever since the road was built. He was also postmaster up to January 1, 1906. They have a host of friends here who sincerely regret their departure.

May 7, 1908, page 1, col. 6–; May 14, 1908, page 1, col. 5 [Thursday]

Shortly before they left they sold some Wabeno property:

Real Estate Transfers.
V. H. Johns to John Bigglin, part of block, village of Wabeno. Consideration $100.

Forest Echo, Crandon, Wisconsin —Crandon Public library digital images
Friday, May 22 1908 p8c5; v2no39

I don’t know exactly how long the trip took, but I am guessing that they took the route to Chicago and then headed west from there. (The two places with a red dot next to them on the map are Casper and Lander.) Using the estimate of about 25 miles per hour, and approximately 1530 miles all told, they were looking at 3-4 days travel by train to their new home.

CNW Railways map from 1912. I am only guessing on the route. They could have taken a large variety of different ways to their final destination.

For the boys this would have been a grand adventure. They had never been anywhere more exotic than Oconto, or up north in the scary, largely unsettled woods of northern Wisconsin. Which could, in and of itself, be a grand adventure in those days. But now they were going west, the place of dime-novel adventure stories.

Their father, Victor, had been places. In fact he went to telegraph school in Valparaiso, Indiana for a couple of years. So he was not unfamiliar with Chicago and Milwaukee, or other similar big cities. But for the rest of the family this was all pretty new. Gertrude, does not appear to have traveled much further from home than the north woods either, at this point in time.

They arrived in Wyoming in the latter part of May. From newspaper articles in the Wyoming papers it looks like he was a station agent at Arapahoe, and not Lander. Maybe he had started at Lander, and then shifted to Arapahoe. (Arapahoe was actually part of the Reservation.)

I am very curious to know what they thought when they arrived at their new home. Looking at Arapahoe using current satellite maps, it looks like maybe 100 people live there, (although the 2000 census indicated close to 1800). What was it like in 1908? If it was as desolate of humans as it appears now, I don’t wonder that the family would have been quite happy to move, about 5 months later, to Casper.

The local newspaper tells us that one way the family enjoyed their new home was by bringing their love of the outdoors and hunting from Wisconsin. The articles also tell us when the family moved to Casper. A helpful bit of information we would never have otherwise been aware of.

V. H. Johns and wife of Arapahoe, and eastern friends [possibly the Howell family] left for home Saturday morning after spending several days in this locality fishing and hunting and taking in the fine scenery in this section. Mr. Johns has been transferred to Casper, where he is now the agent.

October 08, 1908, page 2 Wind River Mountaineer no. 49 (Lander, WY

V. H. John lately station agent at Arapahoe, Wyoming has been transferred to Casper. Mr. John is a very obliging agent and the press hopes he has come to stay.

October 09, 1908, page 5, col. 2 Casper Press no. 22 (Casper, WY

One can get a sense of how popular the John family was back in Wisconsin by looking in the Wabeno newspapers:

The following items from Wyoming papers regarding Mr. and Mrs. V. H. John, former residents of Wabeno, will be of interest to our readers:

W. H. Howell and wife Lovington, Ills., who have been visiting with Mr. and Mrs. V. H. John returned home Wednesday.

J. H. Howe, who has been station agent at this point for several months, left the first of the week … V. H. John, who has been agent at Arapahoe, takes his place in the depot here.—Casper, Wyo., Tribune.

Best display in Class 19, first, Mrs. V. H. John, Arapahoe…Special prize, Best Double Collection, Mrs. V. H. John, Arapahoe. (Display was fancy work at the Fremont County Fair, Wyo.)

October 29, 1908, page 1, col. 6

In October they started selling off some household items. This might have been to lessen the load for the move to Casper. Or, was the thrill of being in the Wild West starting to fade?

If you want some cheap second hand household goods see V. H. John at the depot.

October 16, 1908, page 5 col. 2 Casper Press no. 23 (Casper, WY

And in November they tried to sell even more goods. This looks serious!

For Sale
1 bed room set
1 book case
1 large leather rocker
Dishes and two carpets
Enquire at the depot of V. H. Johns [Casper, WY]

November 11, 1908, page 5, col. 5 Natrona County Tribune

By the 21st of December, a mere 7 months after their grand adventure started, the John family was back in Wisconsin. To stay.

V. H. John and family of Casper, Wyoming, are visiting Mrs. John’s mother, Mrs. John Cain, and calling on old friends in the city.

Mr. and Mrs. V. H John and children arrived at Gillett Monday from Casper, Wyo.

Mr. and Mrs. V. H. John were in town a few hours yesterday visiting friends. They recently returned from Casper, Wyo. and are making Gillett their home for the present.

Oconto County Reporters, Wisconsin —, digital images
Thursday, Dec 21, 1908 v38 issue 9, p7c2; December 24, 1908, page 1, col. 3; January 7, 1909, page 2, col. 2

Family tradition says that Gertrude was missing her family, friends and life in Wisconsin too much to want to stay in Wyoming anymore. So Victor quit his job and they packed back up and left for good. We don’t actually know why they moved back. Gertrude’s unhappiness might have been the catalyst, or it could have been something else altogether. The town of Casper had been trying to clean up its image to attract a more respectable residential population. But maybe there was still too much unlawfulness, drinking, and prostitution in full view of the kids. I guess it will forever be a mystery.

By 1910 Victor and the family were living in Hackley, Vilas County, Wisconsin where he was again working as a station agent. Six years later he started his new career in banking.

Both Clarence and his brother Lincoln must have retained good memories of their time out West because years later, as adults, they returned to Casper. Lincoln lived there in 1918, and then, after a couple of years break, was back by the 1920s-’30s. He was living in Casper and working as a fireman on the railroad line. Clarence went out to visit him in the ’20s, and he might have done some work on the oil rigs when he was there.

The short time that they had spent in Wyoming as boys had left enough of an impression that they had to return. At least for a little while.**

Clarence at an oil rig.

*It is difficult to tell from the newspaper articles exactly what day they left, it appears to have definitely been on a Monday, so, it was either the 11th or the 18th of May.
**I do not know if their brother Vic, jr. ever went back.


  2. Visit the two following links to see lots of images from Lander and Casper, in the general time period that the John family was there. Both have more than one page of pictures to look at, along with town histories. I could find nothing on Arapahoe.