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Orphan_Train

In January 2012, I wrote an article about Orphan Train Riders in my family. Over the last month, I have learned that there was more to that story. To summarize, my great-grandmother’s brother, James William Goul, took in two young brothers, Clarence and Matthew Brown, who had ridden the Orphan Train from New York to Kansas.

One year after the last census James W. Goul appeared on (as he died a few years later), the Columbus Weekly Advocate located in Columbus, Kansas, reported on page 5 of the April 27, 1911 edition that a sister of the brothers had searched to find them. Her name was Anna and she lived in Elmire, New York. The boys (reported in the paper as Clarence and John Brown) were not orphans, and they had been”kidnapped from their home.” The newspaper also said that the brothers were inseparable and neither knew that they had an older sister who had been searching for them. I never found a follow up to find out if the brothers met their sister after being separated since before 1893, but if they did, I wonder what happened after that.

Historically, children who were transported on the trains from the east coast to the heartland, were true orphans or those who had been given up so they could have a better life and those children who were children of the street. Families who took in these children either did so because they really did want a child or because they needed labor for their farms. In the news article I referenced above, it is reported that J. W. Goul first picked the youngest of the two boys, Clarence. That leads me to believe that even though the farmer and his wife had a daughter and son, that they did want to provide a home for a new child. It was only after the young boy cried that he didn’t want his brother “taken away” that Mr. Goul took the older boy as well.

For more information about the Orphan Train: Washington Post article; PBS: American Experience; as well as a number of books written on the subject.

 

Orphan Train Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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fred wilt track and field

Frederick Wilt was born the middle of December in 1920 in Madison county, Indiana to Jesse and Inez (Franklin) Wilt. He was my mother’s first cousin as his father and my grandmother were siblings. He attended Indiana University and went on to Purdue for his Masters. At the age of 28, he competed in the Olympics held in London and then four years later, in Helsinki, Finland. Google him – “Fred Wilt” and Olympics and see what you find. My grandmother was quite proud of her nephew. His book, Run Run Run, is in my collection. Talented, breaking records in track, and then going on to a successful career as a Special Agent in the FBI. I saw Fred, his wife, and his three daughters each year in Indiana at the annual Wilt family reunion. He was tall (at least to me as I was a child), had red hair, and a smile on his face.

Wilt Reunion - Fred Wilt family

Here is a picture of him in October 1969 with his wife, Eleanor and their daughters at the Wilt Reunion in Noblesville, Indiana

When he passed away in 1994, a very nice biography was printed on his memorial page. I have a memorial bulletin, and I would suspect that his wife and daughters were the ones who wrote the memorial. I give them all the credit for the written biography and the funeral home  the credit for placing it on the bulletin and printing them. I do not intend to devalue their words or make them my own by using the following information.  In part, this is what it reads:

Mr. Wilt, a prolific author, wrote over twenty books on the subjects of Track and Field athletics and physiology. His programmed physiology text Mechanics Without Tears is used in many colleges. Mr. Wilt received numerous accolades During his lifetime. He was chosen the 1950 James E. Sullivan Award winner, presented to the outstanding Amateur Athlete in the U.S.A. He was named to the Indiana University Hall of Fame, Purdue University Track & Field Hall of Fame, the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame, and in 1992, to the New York Athletic Club Hall of Fame. He represented the USA on two Olympic teams, London in 1948 and Helsinki in 1952. He held the world record for the indoor two-mile run in 1951. He won the NCAA two mile and cross Country titles in 1941 while competing for Indiana University. He won eight national titles in cross Country, the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, and the U.S. indoor mile from 1949-1954, running for the New York Athletic Club. He established Five American records at distances from 3,000 to 10,000 meters.

(Original photos, slides, and digital images owned by Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)

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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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Unless you have been living on another planet, then you know tomorrow marks the release of the 1940 U.S. Census. Many people hope to find their parents for the first time. My parents were both born before the 1930 census, and I found my mom as an 8-year old in that one. I still can’t find my dad or his parents.

Only a few States will be ready for indexing tomorrow. One is Oregon. My maternal great-grandmother, Martha Jane (Stern) Clawson was living in Lane county, Oregon. I have an address & enumeration district so I’m ready to roll on that one.

When more States are ready for indexing, I’d like to be able to work on Ohio because so many of my relatives were living there in the following counties: Greene, Coshocton, Champaign, and Muskingum.

Unfortunately, I won’t get to stay home and start at 9 a.m. (8 a.m. Texas time) because I’ll be in class & then at work until noon. But guess what I’ll be doing after I get home?

Happy 1940 census day!!!!

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This is the third installment on my “Travel Thursday” series of “Over the Rainbow” and our journey from Ohio to California and back in 1966. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

It was mid-September, and Mom, Dad, and I had just finished visiting their friends, the Manning family, and my great-aunt, Nellie Lilly, in Washington state. We were on our way south toward California. Next stop was Crater Lake National Park in Klamath County, Oregon.  The lake was formed from a massive volcanic eruption about 5700 B.C. (according to Wikipedia). We arrived just before the snow covered everything, and the view was breathtaking . . . 

. . . even to a four year old child.

       

We checked out the view, took lots of photos, and encountered local wildlife. It seemed the chipmunks had no fear – especially if they were fed – and the deer was injured, but didn’t get too close to us.

As we drove through Oregon toward California, we encountered logging operations.

On toward Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon. According to the newspaper article, trees at Sequoia were over 3500 years old with the General Sherman being the tallest at a little over 270 feet high with a circumference of a little over 100 feet.

     

   

We were in awe at the size of those trees!  One hollowed out tree was on its side, and I thought it was really neat how people walked into the tree without having to duck! It was that big around!

And as we traveled on toward southern California, we saw these sights:

Olive trees and citrus trees – along with trucks taking fruit to wherever they needed to go in order to be processed and shipped.  We saw grapes going to wineries.  Some of this I remember and some I don’t.  Mainly we saw long stretches of highway!

But the journey is only beginning for me – soon we will be “Over the Rainbow”! Stay tuned for the next installment!

Sources: personal knowledge and written description published in the Beavercreek News (Beavercreek, Ohio), Oct. 19, 1966.

Photos: Photographer on all photos – Gene Amore; all photos – print, slide, digital in the possession of Wendy Littrell to be used as needed.  No reprints without permission.

Copyright for this blog post 2011 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog.

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The USA Today article, Orphan Train Riders, Offspring Seek Answers About Heritage, (posted 25 Jan 2012) by Judy Keen, describes the search that descendents of those who rode the Orphan Trains in the early 20th century find themselves on. They want to find out more about those train riders, their parents, siblings, and heritage. Even some of the Orphan Train riders themselves are searching.

While researching my own family history, I came across two brothers who rode the train from New York until they arrived in Columbus, Kansas and were adopted by James William Goul (my maternal grandfather’s relatives). J.W. Goul was born in Ohio about 1839 to John and Martha (McManaway) Goul.  James William was the 2nd to youngest brother of my 2nd great-grandmother (Malissa Goul). He married Mary McAdams (b. 16 Sep 1840) and they had Martha E. and George Edward Goul. Before 1894, the family moved to Cherokee County, Kansas.

The Star-Courier newspaper of Columbus, Kansas of June 21, 1894 mentioned that two young brothers who did not want to be separated from each other were taken by “one kind hearted man.”  These two brothers were Matthew and Clarence Brown of New York.  Matthew was born about 1887 and Clarence was about 3 years younger.  Both reported on the 1910 Census that their parents were born in Italy.    

Discovering there were Orphan Train riders in the family history, led me to find out more about these children and the reasons they were sent from New York to other parts of the country.  The short version of the “why?” includes the fact that these children were abandoned or orphaned so the Children’s Aid Society and New York Foundling Hospital decided these children needed homes somewhere else.  Children were sent to Canada and the other 47 states. Some were adopted while others were foster children. Others were made to be “servants” to whomever chose them.  Children were picked the same way that slaves had been a century earlier – checking their muscles, sturdiness, and temperament. Some were loved dearly while others were beat constantly.

There are many places on the internet to read the history and stories of the Orphan Train movement including: Orphan Train History (has many links included), Children’s Aid Society, PBS Documentary, Iowa GenWeb Orphan Train project, Orphan Trains of Kansas, and Adoption History: Orphan Trains. There are some videos: Orphan Train in Michigan and Orphan Train Movie (1979).

With all of the newly digitized records on free and subscription databases, I sincerely hope that the descendents of the “riders” will find the answers they so desperately seek.  Perhaps they will be the recipients of Genealogical Acts of Kindness!

Do you have Orphan Train riders in your family? Have you learned about where they came from? Did they remember their background and parents? Were they treated like members of the family upon their “adoption” or was their life very difficult?  And what about the family they left behind or were torn from? What is their story?

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If you have not read my previous articles: Lester’s Despair – Part One and More Tragedy for Lester House, then I urge you to do that before continuing.

I learned more about Lester and Mary’s (Besser) son, Jarold, than I really cared to know.  It was concerning why he was sent to the state mental hospital and to jail.  The morals charges were of the worst kind – out of regard for his living descendents I will not post the details.  I will, however, say that it is all spelled out in some newspaper accounts (so if they go looking, they will find the stories). 

Jarold and his wife, Margaret, had four sons.  I don’t believe they were very old before they were sent to live with foster families.  Since some of the sons are still living I will call them Son One, Son Two, Son Three and Son Four (again some of the events of which I will write about are all available to be found in newspaper reports). 

In the mid 1970s, Son Two and Son Three, along with at least one other young man, killed a man.  Apparently there was kidnapping and mutilation involved.  As I perused the newspaper articles, the nagging thought I had, was to wonder if the father’s actions towards his sons had any bearing on their emotional states as young men.  At least their grandfather, Lester House, had already passed away.  This new tragedy would have been more than enough for him after all that he had been through.

Son Two and Son Three were convicted of kidnapping and murder and sentenced to prison.  Son Three was killed in prison and Son Two is still incarcerated.  Son One passed away several years ago.  I haven’t uncovered any information on Son Four – so it seems he has left his family and past behind – and really who could blame him?

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