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Posts Tagged ‘grandmother’

Twenty seven years ago today, I was at work when my boss, the owner of the printing company for which I worked, opened the door to the graphics room and told me I had a phone call.  It was early afternoon and I still had an hour or so of work yet. No one usually called me at work.  As soon as I heard my brother’s voice, I knew.  I knew because that was how I had envisioned it happening a week or so before.  It wouldn’t be my mom calling me or anyone else – it would be my brother.  The words he spoke brought forth too many polarizing emotions.  I didn’t have to wonder anymore about when it would happen.  I knew that a life lived had been to the absolute fullest.  I knew that while everyone else in the family would be falling apart, that I would draw on my inner strength and remain strong for them.  This woman we spoke of had been a constant in my life since birth – the only grandmother that I knew.  When it seemed that my life was falling apart throughout different periods, she was my champion. When I was at my absolute lowest and disappointing everyone else, she hugged me and let me know that no matter what she wouldn’t be mad at me and would love me unconditionally.  Walking into my grandparents’ apartment later that evening and seeing my grandfather all dressed up in a suit – for he had been waiting to go see his beloved wife – stabbed my heart.  My mother expressed that my grandmother had really wanted to see her newest great-granddaughter, my baby, just a little over a month old, and had never gotten to.  I broke down in grief.

Within a week the family gathered to remember this matriarch of our family.  We laughed and we cried.  Six of us – grandchildren and great-grandchildren – were pallbearers.  It was such a cold day – the day we carried the casket out of the church into the waiting hearse.  Snow covered the ground.  We traveled to the cemetery and had a final service in the chapel.  It would be several more years before I went to the gravesite.  When I did return, it would be to visit not only my grandmother and my mom’s baby sister, but also my grandfather, who wasn’t able to go on after the love of his life was gone.  He passed away a year less a day after she did.

Like me, my grandmother was a child of divorced parents.  When I was young and going through the rough patches of my parents animosity, she would always comfort me and tell me she knew what I felt.  As a young child, I used to spend weekends with my grandparents.  I was the youngest of their eight grandchildren – by fourteen years – so to say that I was spoiled by them is an understatement!  In my defense, I never asked for them to spoil me and in their defense, during the time the others were young and growing, my grandparents lived in Germany and were always traveling due to my grandfather’s military duty or for pleasure.  They missed a lot of holidays and birthdays with my siblings and cousins.

Vesta Christena Wilt was born on May 7, 1898 in Noblesville, Indiana to Joseph N. Wilt and Martha Jane Stern.  She was the oldest girl and fourth child.  Another daughter and son followed her.  Before she was 12, her parents had divorced.  Her mother married her widowed brother-in-law, Frank Clawson.  The family moved from Noblesville to Anderson, Indiana and on Easter Sunday 1916 she met the man she would spend the rest of her life with.  Vesta dated Glen Roy Johnson for several months and the two got married at Martha and Frank’s house on Christmas Eve 1916.  The following December their first child, a son named after his father, was born. As the years went by the family added their first daughter, Genevieve, and then a second daughter, Mary (my mother), and lastly baby Lois Evelyn who was born prematurely and died just a little over 2 months later.

 

My grandmother knew her own heartache. She was separated from her beloved Glen for quite awhile while he went to training for the Signal Corps and then went overseas to France during WWI.  She had been separated from her mother and two youngest siblings after Martha moved to Oregon before my mother was born.  She lost a baby and then much later watched her oldest daughter suffer from a brain tumor and ultimately succumb to another inoperable one.  She lost the father that she hadn’t seen for so long without having that estranged relationship mended.  As the years wore on, she watched her youngest daughter struggle and grieve for the end of an almost 30 year marriage.  She lost her mother and three brothers.  She sat by her husband’s hospital bedside for months as he recuperated from a blood cot on his brain that he had suffered in a fall.

Then her health began to fail.  She wasn’t a stranger to health issues – having one ailment and surgery or another throughout her adult life.  But after she broke her elbow in the early 1970s, she was never as healthy as she had been.  All too soon she was experiencing a heart attack every three months.  I was very scared about losing her – not only for myself but for what it would do to my mother. After hospital stays and a change in her diet and medication, it seemed she rallied from the heart issues (although they were still there). 

The family would gather for a surprise birthday we had for her at our house.  She was so surprised when she walked in through the garage to the dining room and most of her family.  Then there was the 60th wedding anniversary celebration at their apartment complex.  Long time friends, church friends, military friends, and the family and extended family came to honor them.  We were only missing one of my cousins and her family.

I moved away for awhile and when I returned back to my hometown, I realized just how she had aged – my grandfather too.  I knew that as the years had ticked by, time was winding down for their life among us.  My grandfather had been the one who had several health issues before I had moved away and I guess I had thought that he might be the one to go first.  Then she was hospitalized and then again several weeks later.  That visit was one she wouldn’t return home from.  I learned later that she had told the apartment manager as the EMTs were wheeling her to the ambulance to make sure her husband would be okay.  Did she know she wouldn’t come home? Did she decide that it would be okay to go if it was her time?

My grandmother – Vesta Wilt Johnson – born on May 7, 1898 – died on January 19, 1984.  My grandfather – Glen Roy Johnson – born November 21, 1898 – died on January 18, 1985.  They were the glue of the family.  There are times during holidays and celebrations, the family left an empty chair – in honor of our grandmother.  Our Beloved Nana – the woman whose “grandmother” moniker I have assumed for my own grandchildren – the woman whom I will never live up to as a grandmother – the woman who is always beside me in times of trouble – smiling and cheering me on.

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The recent election made me wonder which presidents were serving or elected to office during the lifetime of my great-grandmother, Nancy Caylor.  She was born on May 10, 1840 in Wayne County, indiana.  She married Emanuel Bushong Stern, son of Christian and Margaret (Bushong) Stern, on Feb. 6, 1857 at the age of 16.  Between May 1858 and Dec. 1874 the couple had eight children – 4 daughters and 4 sons.  Nancy and Emanuel were divorced before 1900, and Nancy died 4 days before Christmas 1910 at the age of 60 years 7 months 11 days.

Nancy would have been alive through 18 Presidents.

  1. 1837-1871: Martin Van Buren was the President when Nancy was born
  2. March 4 – April 4, 1841: William Henry Harrison was elected President; First President to die in office
  3. 1841-1845: John Tyler succeeded Harrison as President
  4. 1845-1849: James Polk elected President
  5. 1849-1850: Zachary Taylor elected President; died of acute gastroenteritis 16 months into his term.
  6. 1850-1853: Vice President Millard Fillmore succeeded Zachary Taylor upon his death.
  7. 1853-1857: Franklin Pierce was the only President elected from the state of New Hampshire.
  8. 1857-1861: James Buchanan elected President and was the only President to never marry.
  9. 1861-1865: Abraham Lincoln served as President during the Civil War and was the first president to be assassinated while in office.
  10. 1865-1869: Andrew Johnson succeeded to the Presidency after Lincoln’s assassination and was the first president to be impeached.
  11. 1869-1877: Ulysses S. Grant was the first President to serve two full terms since Andrew Jackson.
  12. 1877-1881: Rutherford B. Hayes won the Presidency by one electoral vote.
  13. March 4, 1881-Sep. 19, 1881: James Garfield was assassinated just a few months after taking office.
  14. 1881-1885: Chester Arthur succeeded Garfield
  15. 1885-1889 : Grover Cleveland is the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms.
  16. 1889-1893: Benjamin Harrison is the only President from Indiana.
  17. 1893-1897: Grover Cleveland served his second term as President.
  18. 1897-1901: William McKinley was the President serving when Nancy Caylor died.

As of this time of my life, I have been alive through nine presidents (4 Democrats and 5 Republicans)and and one President-Elect (Democrat).  One President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in office; one President, Richard M. Nixon, resigned before the end of his second term; one President, Gerald R. Ford, was never elected; and one President, Bill Clinton, was impeached but not removed from office.  Four presidents  were “war” time Presidents. 

 presidents1

I often wonder – especially at this time of year when we go to the polls to elect the leaders of our community, city, state, and national government – what opinion my ancestors had of their elected leaders and what they would think about our latest historic campaign and election.

Source for President Information and Pictures: Wikipedia

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Gravestone of my 2nd great-grandmother, Nancy Caylor Stern.  Born May 10, 1840 and died Dec. 21, 1900.  Buried in Noblesville, Hamilton County, Indiana.  Photo taken by my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson. Original in my possession.

Nancy married Emanual Bushong Stern on Feb. 6, 1857 and they had 8 children: Susannah, Samuel, Margaret (Ellen), John, Daniel, Elias, Martha (my great-grandmother), and Mary between 1858 and 1874.  Nancy and Emanuel divorced before the 1900 Census.

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Yesterday, Jessica, at Jessica’s Genejournal posted this about looking for her German Ancestors since it was German-American day. Unfortunately, I was not able to post about my Germany ancestors so will be a day late with this one.

Most of my ancestors originated from somewhere in Germany (or what is now Germany).  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to pinpoint exact locations.  My great-grandmother, Mary Angelina (Annie) Werts, was descended from Wilhelm Wurtz born in the early 1700’s in Tauberbischofsheim, Germany.  It is located in the Baden-Württemberg area.  Wilhelm traveled via the ship Neptune to Philadelphia.  (Footnote 1)

My great-grandmother, Martha Jane Stern, is descended from Hans Peter Raudenbusch and Maria Bremm.  They were both born in the early to mid 1600s in Reihen, Heidelberg, Germany.  It has been reported that the flour mill that Hans Peter operated through the Thirty Years War is still in operation. It was their grandson, Hans Henrich, who emigrated to Pennsylvania upon the Dragon in 1732. He was a founding member of the Abbottsville, Pennsylvania Upper Conowago Church of the Brethren (Mummert’s Church). After Hans Heinrich’s sons were married, the name went through a variety of changes. My direct ancestor’s name was Roudebush. She was the granddaughter of Hans Heinrich and my 4th great-grandmother. Other name variants include Ruebush, Roudebush.  (Footnote 2 & 3)

My 2nd great-grandmother, Malissa Goul, is the granddaughter of Adam Goul.  As a child, he traveled with his parents and sister, aboard the Rawley, from Frankfurt, Germany to Philadelphia.  It has been reported that he was the only one of his family to live to see America.  The rest perished on board ship.  Frankfurt am Main is the largest city in the German state of Hesse.

Footnote 1: Virts Vertz Virts Virtz Werts Wertz Wirts Genealogy; Gary E. Virts

Footnote 2: Wikipedia; 2008

Footnote 3: Hans Heinrich Raudenbusch, THE RAUDENBUSCH FAMILY; John Robert Frank; 2003

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The Carnival of Genealogy 55th Edition is “Show and Tell”.  “Remember that fun little exercise you used to do in your grade school days? Here’s your chance to do it again. Show us and tell us about an heirloom, a special photo, a valuable document, or a significant person that is a very special part of your family history. Don’t be shy now, show us what you’ve got! This is all about bragging rights so don’t hesitate to make the rest of us green with envy! This is your chance to brag, brag, brag, without seeming like a braggart (you can’t be a braggart when you’re merely following directions ;-)… so show and tell!”  This edition of the Carnival is hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene.

Do to the time constraints I have right now – I will be re-running one of my older posts on “The Christening Gown”.

The Christening Gown (originally published on May 28, 2008)

One of the items that I treasure is the Christening Gown my great-grandmother Katie J. (Blazer) Johnson hand made.  I first saw this gown when I was in high school and needed something that had been passed down through the family for an oral report.  Mom dug it out of the storage trunk and handed me the box.  Inside was this off-white gown and some pictures.  In the old photos were babies wearing this gown: my grandfather – Glen R. Johnson; his son – Glen R. Johnson, Jr.; my aunt – Genevieve; and my mother.  I’m not really sure they were all actually baptized or “christened” in this gown as I have other documents and oral histories about each one being baptized as an older child.

The gown is actually in 2 parts.  The slip which is plain gets put on the baby first and then the “dress” goes over that.  It has hand tatted lace and exquisite handiwork.  There are been some rust stains scattered here and there and Mom actually soaked the dress is carbonated water to remove most of them (old laundry hint!).

The dress remained at my mother’s and when it was time for my nephew’s first child to be baptized, the gown came out of storage and used.  When my first born grandson was to be baptized at six weeks, my mother shipped the box from Ohio to Texas to me.  Then my youngest grandson also wore the gown at 2 months when he was baptized.  The Christening Gown has been worn by 3 out of five generations (I don’t believe any of us – children of my mom, aunt or uncle or our children – have worn the gown).  It truly is a treasure that I will keep for future babies to use.

(Picture is of my youngest grandson wearing the gown at his baptism in October 2006.)

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I believe I’ve mentioned my maternal great-grandmother, Martha Jane Stern, in previous posts.  She was the mother of my mother’s mom, Vesta Christena Wilt.  Martha was born on February 9, 1872 in Clarksville, Hamilton County, Indiana to Emanuel Bushong Stern (descendent of the Stern and Bushong families) and Nancy Caylor (descendent of the Kohler/Caylor and Kinsey families).

When Martha was 18, she married 22 year old Joseph Napolean Wilt in Delaware County, Indiana on September 10, 1890.  Between July 1891 and April 1906, the couple had 4 sons and 2 daughters (it is also reported that they had a son who died at birth – but I have yet to find proper documentation).  My grandmother, Vesta, was the oldest daughter and fourth child.

When the youngest, Clifford, was a little more than two years old, the couple had separated.  I’ve written about the bench warrant that was sworn out for Joe Wilt in “An Early Divorce”. Martha’s sister, Margaret Ellen Stern, had married William Franklin (Frank) Clawson in 1882 but Margaret died in April 1908.  On New Years’ Eve 1910, Frank and Martha married and combined their families. 

The family ran a store in Anderson, Madison County, Indiana.  When my great-aunt, Nellie, was diagnosed with asthma, Martha and Frank took her and Clifford to Leaburg, Oregon.  My grandmother had already married and they were living with my grandfather’s parents.  It was many years before my grandmother saw her mother again because people just didn’t cross the country for a “visit”.  She took her grandson, my brother, to visit Grandma Clawson (which is what we all called her), when he was just a few years old.  My mom has always said that my brother met Grandma before she did. 

Frank passed away on May 23, 1923 – not too many years after they arrived in Leaburg.  After John returned from WWI, he moved to Oregon to be close to his mother.  Frank’s son, Ralph, also spent time in the Northwest.  Frank’s daughter, Nancy Clawson Welch, had moved to California and died two years before her father. 

I don’t know if Martha’s sons, Jesse and Clarence, ever saw their mother again.  I’ve not heard or read anything that mentions either one of them taking a trip out to Oregon to visit her and I know she didn’t travel east after she’d moved.

Martha died on November 6, 1956 of congestive heart failure.  She was 84 years old.  Funeral services were held at Buell Chapel and she was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Leaburg, Oregon.

I wasn’t able to meet my great-grandmother and only know her through the stories my grandmother and my mom have told me.  I also have several letters she wrote to my grandmother.  She was highly respected by her children and loved very much.

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In my earlier post My Grandmothers, I included a photo of my maternal and paternal grandmothers. At the time that was written, that was the only picture I had of the two of them together. While on vacation at my mom’s house, I pulled out a couple other boxes of photos that I don’t think I’ve looked at for quite awhile, as well as some old photo albums. Lo and behold! I found the following photograph.


I believe this was taken in Coshocton, Ohio when my parents were married in the early 1940’s. I heard of only two instances both sets of grandparents were together – when my mom’s parents and my dad’s mom ended up in Montana for a visit with my parents in 1944 (shown in the photo on the other post) and when my parents were married. So glad that I now have two great pictures of these two women together!

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