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Postwatchletters

A couple of months ago, I pulled out some letters from my genealogy archives to read. Apparently, I missed putting one of them back and found it on the table about a week later. It was written by Dorothy Welch (my second cousin once removed) to her aunt (my great-grandmother) Martha Stern Wilt Clawson.

July 19, 1922
113 E. Ave 58
Los Angeles, Calif.
Dear Aunt Martha,
I received your letter and was certainly glad to hear from you.
Some Muncie people by the name of Cites came out here the other day to visit her brother
who is a friend of ours. They brought word to us from my grand daddy Welch.
I am awfully sorry to hear that Nellie is sick again. I wish she could come out to Los Angeles
if she has to come “west.”
I haven’t heard from Uncle Ralph since March either. I’ve wrote several letters to see what
was the matter but I never got a answer.
I bet Vesta’s children are cute I certainly would like to see them.
Leonore is studying her spelling now so she will pass in her grades next term.
What grade is Clifford in at school?
Well I must close this time with love,
Dorothy

The first thing that stood out for me was the date of the letter – 1922. My mother always said that she didn’t meet her grandmother until she was an adult so I assumed that Grandma Clawson had moved west before my mom was born – the fall of 1921. I really think she meant that she didn’t remember her because my mom and her family moved to the Dayton, Ohio area in 1922.  I looked up Grandma Clawson’s address on Google and the street scene shows a parking lot now at 31 W 12th Street in Anderson, Indiana. There’s a church nearby so I wonder if the house was torn down since 1922. It would have been interesting if it had still been standing.

The “grand daddy Welch” that Dorothy mentions would be Americas C. Welch. A.C. Welch married Sarah C Buzzard in 1875 in Huntington, Indiana (according to the database: “Indiana Marriages, 1811-1959″ index on FamilySearch.org). A.C. and Sarah were the parents of Dorothy’s father, George Welch.

Nellie was my grandmother’s younger sister. She was 20 years old at the time of this letter and had been diagnosed with asthma. I had been told by my mother that due to her illness, it was necessary for her to move to the western United States.  She ended up moving to the Oregon/Washington area and lived most of her adult life in Washington.

The “Uncle Ralph” that Dorothy is referring to is her mother’s brother, Ralph Clawson, and my grandmother’s cousin. He was enumerated in the 1920 Census as living in Watertown, Massachusetts in the George C Shattuck household. I know Ralph had gone in the Navy  and he would have been about 24 years old in 1922 when Dorothy was trying to reach him. In June 1923 Ralph married Olive Sundberg in Chicago, Illinois.

Vesta would be my maternal grandmother (Vesta C Johnson nee Wilt). She and my grandfather had already bore three children, my Uncle Glen R Johnson, Jr., my aunt Genevieve V Johnson, and my mom Mary H Johnson.

Leonore was Dorothy’s younger sister. At the time of this letter, Dorothy was age 16. Leonore was probably close to nine.

Clifford, my grandmother’s youngest brother, was born April 20, 1906 making him a little over 16 when Dorothy wrote this letter. The 1940 US Census shows that Clifford only completed the first year of high school (generally 9th grade) – so he was not attending school any longer. If he had remained in school, he would probably have been going into his sophomore year when school began that fall.

I am under the impression that Dorothy wrote this letter as a reply to her Aunt Martha’s correspondence to her. I haven’t run across any other letters written by Dorothy so I don’t think it was a regular occurrence.

I greatly enjoy reading old letters that were sent back and forth from family members. It enables me to glimpse a window into their lives at the time of the letter. I noticed that Dorothy didn’t volunteer very much about herself such as her social activities, friends, work, or suitors.  She also didn’t ask how her grandfather was – as after her grandmother Margaret Ellen passed away, her aunt Martha (Ellen’s sister), married her widower, W. Frank Clawson.

If you have letters or post cards like I do, a good way to understand their deeper message or the lives of the people then, is to do an analysis on them as I did with this letter.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

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While we were on vacation in Missouri, my father-in-law took us on a cemetery tour. We visited the graves of grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, grand uncles and aunts, and collateral relatives. Before we left to return home, I realized that we hadn’t been to the family cemetery in several years. This three person graveyard sits on land that used to belong to my husband’s 2nd great-grandfather, George Washington Littrell. After he died, it eventually ended up belonging to my husband’s paternal grandfather’s brother.  After he passed away, it ended up going into a bank sale and another resident of the rural community purchased that plot of land where the cemetery was located. Missouri statutes explain that even though a cemetery might sit on private land, and even if it doesn’t have a drive that takes it directly to the cemetery, family members are not to be blocked from gaining access during regular daylight hours. There really has never been an issue with us visiting the Littrell cemetery. The gravel road goes right up to the barn and corral areas and the cemetery sits just outside of that.  I wrote a blog post awhile back about our experience when we visited the graves a few years ago that you can read here.

As we pulled up, I looked in horror at the following scene.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Someone – or several someones – had just placed whatever those things are (they look like steel sawhorse type of things) right inside the cemetery! I was mortified! And the steel cable “rope” that had cordoned off the graves was bent and pulled away from the corner posts. If the person who rents out the land knew about this, I know he would make sure the men who work for him would remove it and not ever do it again so I’m very hopeful that after my father-in-law speaks to him all will be taken care of. It’s just so sad that whoever did this, a) didn’t even realize this was a cemetery or b) didn’t care.  You may also notice that the stone on the right has been shifted as well.

And just to make a comparison – below is the picture of what it is supposed to look like.

gwlittrell-cemetery

Let’s hope this sacred family cemetery – small as it is - where George W and Kitty O (Blakely) Littrell are buried along with their very young daughter, Annie Elizabeth – will soon be properly cleaned of the equipment and I can breathe a lot easier.

(Photos by Wendy Littrell)

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martha_stern_obituary

The above obituary was found in a letter of my grandmother’s that she had probably received from one of her siblings as it was for their mother. My best guess is that it was clipped out of the Springfield Times newspaper as it served the Leaburg, Oregon area.

Death Notices
CLAWSON – Martha Jane Clawson, passed away at her home in Leaburg, November 6, 1956, at the age of 84 years.  Born in Clarksville, Indiana, February 9, 1872, and had resided in the Leaburg area for 34 years. She was married in Anderson, Indiana,  December 31, 1910 to William F. Clawson who preceded her in death. She is survived by four sons, Clarence Wilt of Fortville,  Indiana, Jesse Wilt of Indianapolis, Indiana, John and Clifford Wlt, both of Leaburg; two daughters, Vesta Johnson of Dayton, Ohio, and Nellie Lilly of Lee’s Camp, Oregon; nine grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren. Funeral service will be held at Buell Chapel on Saturday, November 10, 1956, at 10 a.m., with Rev. C.R. Alsen officiating. Interment at Greenwood Cemetery.

clawson stone

Headstone for William F and
Martha J Clawson
Greenwood Cemetery, Leaburg, Oregon
(Photo by Glen R Johnson, original & digital
owned & in possession of Wendy Littrell,
Address for Private Use)

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 12 – Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

clawsonstore

W.F. Clawson store in Anderson, Indiana

My maternal grandmother, Vesta Wilt, helped out in the store owned by her step-father, William Frank Clawson, prior to her marriage.  The Clawson’s store was located in Anderson, Indiana. That is about the only job outside of the home she ever had. Vesta was better known for being an excellent homemaker and making so many of her family and friends feel welcome in the homes she shared with her husband, my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson. He always held a position of importance in the military so my grandmother was always prepared to entertain other officers.

My paternal grandmother, Ella (House) Amore, worked in the Coshocton Glove factory. I don’t know if it was before she was married or after she was married with children.

mom45

Mary Amore using her knitting machine

Mom spent more time working outside of the home than she did as a full time homemaker. She worked as a bookkeeper, a seamstress, a grant writer, a secretary, and in accounting.  She didn’t complete her working “life” until 2003 – at the age of 81. With only a high school education, Mom was very fortunate to obtain some of the positions that she had. As a small child, I was lucky that she was a stay at home mom for awhile. When she did re-enter the workforce, it was as a seamstress for a drapery manufacturer. Then a few years later, she went to work for Apple Manufacturing in downtown Dayton. They worked on contracts for the U.S. Army making cargo covers among other items. It was heavy, dirty work and she didn’t get much more than what the law allowed for minimum wage. Very rarely did she have to miss work due to illness because if she had, she would not have gotten paid. She didn’t have much in common with the people she worked with. Yet she was there for almost 10 years before the government contracts stopped and the plant closed its doors. She painstakingly sent out feelers and resumes and stayed employed. Not only was she a professional seamstress out in the workforce, but Mom was a professional home seamstress. She was very good and for awhile when I was in elementary and middle school, she had regular clients who came to our home. She mainly did alterations but ocassionally would sew clothes – even our neighbor’s wedding dress. She had a knitting machine (see picture above) and took classes on how to be an instructor. Dad and I would drive her to other lady’s homes so she could teach others how to use the machine. Now that knitting machine is mine.

LMM146

Mom as a Senior Aide & Grant Writer at the Fairborn Senior Center – mid 1990s

(All photos – original and digital owned by Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 11: “Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe how did this affect the family.”

My 2nd great-grandmother, Charlotte (Reed) Amore, born August 4, 1828 to Zachariah Reed and Margaret Pope died at the age of 34 years 2 months and five days on May 15, 1862 in Coshocton, Ohio. She had been married to William Amore for a little over 11 years and had borne him five sons – all but two died as young children or infants. She died a year after their youngest son died. Charlotte was not able to watch her two oldest sons grow into men or see them marry or hold her grandchildren. I don’t have any information about her death. I wonder if she was pregnant with another child but died in childbirth. If so, perhaps William didn’t even consider listing the child on a gravestone. Perhaps she caught an illness that killed her. Unless I find a news article about her death, I probably won’t ever what the circumstances were for her death. After Charlotte died, William married Elizabeth Spencer three months later. Elizabeth raised my great-grandfather, William Henry, and his brother, George Washington, along with the seven children she and William had together (one son died as a child, one at 5 months, and another at 15 days).

My maternal aunt, Genevieve Vesta (Johnson) Steffen, died from an inoperable brain tumor on May 2, 1958 a month before her 38th birthday. She was a wife of 16 years to John Steffen, mother to three ages 14, 13, and 12, and was working as a nurse. She was the middle child of my grandparents. My grandmother documented her daughter’s medical problems in letters sent to my mother in Japan. When things took a turn for the worse, a telegram was sent dated April 25, 1958.

telegram_genhealth

Genevieve operated on today
Tumor cannot be revoved
Doctor gives no hope of recovery
but may linger on for
sometime
Mailing tape with complete information
M
other Dad

My mother left for the states in order to be with her family. A few days later, she sent this telegram to my dad.

telegram_gendeath

Genevieve passed away
Funeral Monday morning
Love Dad and Mary Helen

Aunt Genevieve’s death left a void in the family. My grandparents had to lose another daughter (their baby died when only a few weeks old), worry about their three grandchildren who were left without a mother, and do what they could to make sure their son-in-law knew that he would always be a part of the family. I never met my aunt since she died several years before I was born but through all the written words of my grandparents, audio of the tape they sent my parents while she was recovering in the hospital after one of her surgeries, pictures, and the stories told by my grandparents, mom, and my cousins, I feel as if I would have really loved her. I have missed her even without knowing her. I also wish I could have witnessed the family dynamic between my mom and my aunt!

My paternal grandmother’s sister, Julia Ann (House) Tuttle, also died at a very young age. I wrote about her in Meeting Juila.

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 10: “What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?”

My dad’s sister, Marie, was active in her church and it became her life’s calling. She traveled from Coshocton, Ohio to New York to attend the Salvation Army College in the Bronx. My Aunt Marie served the Salvation Army, rising to the position of Major before her death at the age of 101 in 2010. While she didn’t become an officer in the church, my great-grandmother, Mary Angelina (Werts) Amore, believed that helping and taking care of those less fortunate was her calling – especially late in life. I wrote about this in an earlier post – “Mother” Amore.

Trinity UCC

Trinity UCC

My maternal grandmother (Vesta Wilt Johnson) came from a family who were members of the Church of the Brethren (the Stern side). My maternal grandfather’s (Glen R Johnson) parents were members of Central Christian Church in Anderson, Indiana (a Disciples of Christ congregation). After Vesta and Glen were married and moved to Ohio in the early 1920′s (after my mother and her two older siblings were born), they joined Trinity Evangelical and Reformed Church in (present day) Fairborn, Ohio. When the E&R churches joined with the Congregational & Christian (not Disciples of Christ) churches in the early 1950s and became the United Church of Christ (not to be confused with Church of Christ), Trinity’s name became Trinity United Church of Christ. My mother had been a member and then later, after she had been away from the church due to military moves, etc., she re-joined Trinity in the early 1970s. That was the church I was baptized as an older child and then in eighth grade became a confirmed member. In eighth grade, I joined the church choir and participated in the youth group all through high school – serving as the President of the Youth Group when I was a senior. Trinity provided the foundation for my Christian education and faith. Through my church camp experience, I met friends – one of which I remain connected to via Facebook. Several other friends from my youth group have remained friends as we approach (maybe are now “beyond”) middle age.

My mother served Trinity in many capacities: member of the Women’s Guild and hostessing meetings at our home and many terms on the church council as well as President of the Congregation. For her Trinity was “home” – her connection with her childhood, her parents, and people she had known in her adopted hometown of Fairborn most of her life. It is where we celebrated her life after she had passed away.

My mother, especially, modeled “serving” the church for me. As an adult, after I had drifted away from worshp – but never God – I found that something was missing from my life. I had a wonderful husband and four beautiful kids. I was no longer working full time outside of the home. It was time to get back to church and give back to others through service. We began attending the church where my husband and I had our reaffirmation wedding (as we didn’t have a “church” wedding when we were married). Our youngest was just a little more than a year old on that Mother’s Day when we walked in to Round Grove United Church UCC in our city. That “baby” is now a 23 year old mother of a three year old, and we are still there. I have served on the Christian Education Board, been Sunday School Superintendent, served on the Cemetery Board, taught VBS and Sunday School, served as Women’s Fellowship secretary, ushered, greeted, served refreshments and worked in the kitchen for meals, and fifteen years ago, I was offered a position as the part time administrative asisstant. It’s a position I enjoy.

Round Grove United Church

Round Grove United Church

When my mom’s sister got married, she converted to Catholicism so her children were raised in the Roman Catholic faith. The oldest daughter decided to take steps in order to become a nun. Divine intervention ensued when she met the man she was destined to spend her life with, raising a daughter, and enjoying their two grandsons – a man who was about to take his vows to become a priest! Even though they didn’t take “formal” positions within the church, both of them were very active in lay ministry and serving in other areas.

Religion, faith and church have been very important in the lives of so many of the women in my family and in my ancestral past.

(Photo of Trinity UCC courtesy of General Preservation Corporation; Photo of Round Grove United Church in possession of Wendy Littrell)

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 9: “Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.”

Ella_Amore_4074803_435

This is my paternal grandmother’s death certificate.  Ella Amore (nee House) was born on June 22, 1882 in Ohio. Her father is listed as James House and her mother is (incorrectly) listed as Fannie Ogden (correct name: Frances Virginia Ogan). Gramma was 64 years and 11 days of age when she passed away at 5 a.m. on July 3, 1946 at her home located at 684 John Street in Coshocton, Ohio. She died from breast cancer which she had been battling for 2 years. Even though my grampa, Lloyd Amore, was still living, my uncle Gail (William Gail Amore), oldest son of the family, was the informant. Gramma was buried three days later in the Prairie Chapel Cemetery in Coshocton.

lloyd & ella gravestone close

Gravestone in Prairie Chapel Cemetery for Lloyd W. and Ella M. Amore

(Photo of gravestone taken by Robert Shackelford – cousin – and a copy sent to Wendy Littrell)

(Image of Death Certificate downloaded from FamilySearch.org website)

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Heirloom

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 6:” Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.) If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)”

My most treasured heirlooms include some jewelry I received after both my mom and grandmother passed away. I have my grandparents’ wedding bands and her engagement ring that I wear on my right hand. After my grandmother passed away, I received one of her small Hummel’s. I have a china set that I received after my mom passed away. While my sister and I were cleaning out my mom’s home, I found some heirloom recipes with all the other cookbooks. One was from my great-grandmother, Martha Clawson. I also have photos and books that belonged to my grandparents.

The photo above is a small dish that came to me from my grandparents. Obviously it is something they picked up when they lived in Germany.

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Anillos

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 5: “How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?”

I do know how my parents met – mom was working at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) outside of Fairborn, Ohio (back then it was Fairfield) in Greene County, Bath Township. She met my dad in early 1941 when he was stationed there. They spent the next couple of years dating until they married in December 1943.

On Easter Sunday 1916 (April 23), my maternal grandparents, Glen R Johnson and Vesta C Wilt, met at church. Life would never be the same for either of them again! Such began months of daily correspondence for even though they lived in the same town, they sent letters to each other every day – and since the mail service ran twice a day – it wasn’t just one letter they sent, but two! Luckily for me, I have each and every one of those letters. To me they are priceless! A window into their lives that helped me witness them falling in love with each other (although I suspect, it was love at first sight for both of them!).

glen_vesta_eastercherry_hill

The following is parts of a letter from my grandfather to my grandmother that he wrote to her on May 31, 1916 – a little over a month after their initial meeting.

You told me that you were not cold last night but I think you were. I am afraid you (my little girl) will be sick. But I hope not. Do not work to hard to-day. I hope you had a good time yesterday. I did I know. So good-bye Dear
I still remain yours forever
                                       Glen
To the one I love best Miss Vesta Wilt signed Glen

Later that summer – apparently after my great-grandmother, Martha, had words about Glen with my grandmother, he was very scared and wrote the following to my grandmother:

Vesta Dear I am afraid your mother will make me quit going with you. Oh! I can’t stand to think of it. I have cried all evening. But listen Dear you have a good time, don’t think of me. Whatever happens I will take it as best I can, I can go west or some other place and die. But I never will forget the Little girl of Mine. Vesta. The dearest girl there ever was. Hoping you will forgive me for all I have said and done. I will never do them again. After I leave you can forget me and find some one just as good and better than I am. Hoping you will not think hard of me for all this talk, but I think it will happen. I had a dream I never told you of. I don’t know whether I will tell you now. I think you can guess it. And just think I caused it all I am simply crazy. Well dear I have told you all I know and more to. I will be there Sunday morning if I am alive. Hoping you will not worry. Let me do all the worrying. I will close. Forgive the writing. I will close again with lots of love and kisses.
I still remain your lover and sweetheart, bit I am afraid never yours to be.
                    Glen
                 The broken hearted boy.  9:30 P.M.
5:30 A.M. Aug. 4, 1916
P.S. Well Dear I past through the awful night. I got about one hour sleep. I was thinking or crying the rest. Crying the most. Well Dear I guess I will try and work to-day. I don’t know whether I can or not.
                    Glen

My grandfather needn’t have worried because just a few short months later, they were engaged and married on Christmas Eve 1916 – eight months after they met. They were married 67 years before my grandmother passed away. My grandfather wait a year and then joined her. I am so very fortunate to have boxes and boxes of their letters to each other that allows me to feel their deep abiding and eternal love for one another.

I don’t have any idea how my paternal grandparents met – that is something I will have to ask my dad about! (Took a 15 minute break and called my dad!) Loyd W Amore and Ella M House were introduced to each other by his brother Isaiah H (Zade) Amore and wife, Lula (St. Clair). Lula was a sewing teacher and was teaching my grandmother how to sew. She asked my grandma if she wanted to meet someone and she said that would be ok (or as my dad said “Whatever they said back then.”) So they were introduced about 1901-02 and were married on April 11, 1903 in the Presbyterian Manse in Coshocton, Ohio.

Photos: Wedding rings from Wikimedia Commons. Glen and Vesta Johnson – photographer: Wendy Littrell, original and digital photo in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for private use).

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 4: “Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.”

I am lucky enough to have original my maternal grandparents’ original marriage records as well as her parents (Joseph N Wilt and Martha J Stern) and my great-grandparents’ (Emanuel B Stern and Nancy Caylor). I don’t have wedding pictures of either of those couples, but I do have a wedding picture of my maternal grandfather’s parents (Katie J Blazer and John L Johnson).

katie_john_wedding

John Lafayette Johnson and Katie J Blazer – married on Wednesday, July 4, 1883
Katie was not quite 19 years old.

I have digital copies of marriage records via FamilySearch for John L Johnson’s parents (my 2nd great-grandparents), James Wilson Johnson and Amanda Eveline Mullis, and for Amanda’s parents – John Mullis and Darlett Stanley (married in Wilkes county, North Carolina) on February 22, 1811. Recently, I found the marriage license and certificate (digital copy) for my great-grandfather, Joseph N Wilt, and his second wife, Anna Park. On the line that asked if he had been married before, he listed “no.” When I saw that, I exclaimed “Liar!” at my computer screen (he had walked out on my great-grandmother, Martha, and 6 kids under 14 years old). Perhaps, he didn’t know if the divorce had ever been finalized (it had) and didn’t want to have to legally be bound to getting that information.

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