Wednesday, December 31, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #52 Leona Violet Crispen Cole Allee

As the 52nd and last ancestor featured in 2014, I'm honoring my grandmother, who started me on this journey.

Over 20 years ago, my grandmother and I spent many hours going through her photo collection. If it were not for the photos, I might never have delved into my family history. When we started going through them, I had no idea who all these people were and how they related to me or to each other. I couldn't keep them straight on paper, so I bought my first genealogy program and started putting in names and dates.

The unknown photos captured my imagination, and I soon found myself launching into the research that has now grown my database to nearly 6000 names. Along the way I've identified unknowns, met new cousins and acquired photos for relatives I never knew I had. And I also turned to scrapbooking as a way to present and preserve the photos.

Leona Violet Crispen was born in Van Buren County, Michigan, on October 1, 1909, the youngest of three daughters of Daisy Myrtle Maddox and Clark Earl Crispen. The family later settled in the Lake Michigan resort town of Benton Harbor. Leona was the son her father never had. Instead of sewing, she learned to use his blacksmith forge, work on cars, develop film and print photographs.

Her parents divorced in 1921. I can't begin to image the impact on the young Leona. She must have lost friends and certainly her home life was disrupted. Her father moved to the house across the street, so she was able to move freely between her parents' homes. Because they had a civil and close relationship, she never doubted their love for her and her sisters.

During high school, Leona wrote poetry for the school newspaper and for the yearbook. Her love of writing poetry persisted through her life, as she contributed poetry to church and civic publications. After high school she took a job as a telephone operator.

On March 20, 1928, she eloped to South Bend, Indiana, with Clifford Royal Cole, a young man who worked in a foundry. She soon learned that he was unfaithful and cruel. His actions left their only daughter nearly blind and left Leona unable to have more children.

As the stock market crashed in the fall of 1929, her father lost the portfolio he had inherited from his sister. He was able to keep his house and, Leona, living with her father and her husband, decided to file for divorce. Imagine, for a moment, being 20 years old with a blind infant, an aged parent with no job, the economy in free fall and still choosing to end an abusive marriage. Her strength amazes me.

Leona decided about 1931 to leave the cold of Michigan and move to the warmth of California. Following the famous Route 66, she miscalculated a bit. She ran out of money and gas in the Northern Arizona town of Kingman. With her daughter, she lived under a bridge and in their car while she looked for some way to support them.

Her photography experience was her salvation. The old man who ran the local photography studio wanted to retire, so he hired her and she eventually was able to take over the business. However, she lived day-to-day and struggled through two more bad marriages and divorces during the Depression years. She married Everett Melvin "Jack" Stormer in 1932 and James Robert "Jim Bob" Turner in 1940.

About 1935, Leona had to place her daughter in boarding school at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson. She left Kingman behind and relocated to be near her daughter. World War II found her fixing airplanes and later working at the ration board.

On December 20, 1941, she married Fayette Franklin "Fate" Allee, her daughter's math teacher and, as a family, they built a stable life. After the war she found a secretarial job in the Tucson school district, where she worked until retirement.


Template and elements from Weekend at Home by  Kate Hadfield for Digital Scrapper, 2014

Leona cared for her mother in her final years, as well as helping her sisters care for their father during his decline. She was a nurturing person who also raised a nearly blind daughter and married a nearly blind man. Her kind, loving, fun and generous spirit was an anchor for our family throughout her life.

She was diagnosed with both breast cancer and skin cancer in the final few years of her life. Gardening in the hot Arizona sun for many years was the likely cause of the skin cancer that took her arm in 1997.

We invited family, neighbors and friends to help us celebrate her 90th birthday at her Oklahoma retirement center in October of 1999. She had a blast being the birthday girl.

The cancer took her from us on February 13, 2001. She was buried with her husband and her mother in South Lawn Memorial Park in Tucson.

As Leona's choices shaped her life, they affect her family to this day. Her descendants are an Arizona family because she stopped and stayed in Kingman. Her photographic experience became a life-long passion, leading to the vast collection of photographs, negatives and slides that came to me at her death. It is directly due to her choices that I am a scrapbooker and genealogy buff. And, of course, because of those hobbies, this blog exists.

So ends the series, 52 Ancestors in the 52 weeks of 2014. Please join me in 2015 for Murder at Mauvaisterre Creek, as I share the story of the murder of Leona's great-grandfather.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #51 Thomas Jefferson Alexander of Weakley County, Tennessee

The birthplace of my great-great-grandfather is a puzzle. His death certificate shows that he was born on January 29, 1829, to Sampson Alexander and Beulah Ann Nix. Following the census records over time, his birthplace is stated as both South Carolina and Tennessee. Consistently, his parents are listed as having been born in South Carolina, except on his death record.

The whereabouts of the family in 1830 would appear to be Union County, South Carolina, except that the count of three young boys doesn't match the anticipated four sons. It's one short, which would be our subject. Additionally Sampson's age is too high, so it may be the wrong family. What is known is that the Alexander family tended to have a lot of twins and the related men who lived in Weakley County, Tennessee, came from Union County, South Carolina.

Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Alexander was the fourth of five known children born to Sampson Alexander. Jeff was a farmer and was a son of a farmer. Sampson had arrived in Weakley County by 1838 and had purchased 195 acres in that county in 1848.

On February 20, 1855, Jeff married the fifteen-year-old Rebecca Ann Maynard in Weakley County. By 1870, he was growing corn on his 36 acres of land. Rebecca bore two sets of twins, along with eight other children, for an even dozen.


Template and elements from Memoirs, ClubScrap

Jeff continued to acquire land throughout his life. He lived on and ran his farm, with help, until at least 1920. He died on September 10, 1922, and is buried with his wife in Jolley Springs Cemetery in Weakley County. His widow, Rebecca, was the informant on his death certificate and was inaccurate in her answers. Unpuzzling this man truly requires collecting and assessing records.

Monday, December 29, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #50 Daisy Myrtle Maddox

I don't remember my great-grandmother, Daisy Myrtle Maddox Crispen Hull Votaw O'Neil, who died while I was just a toddler. It was she who passed on the family legends to her daughters, who told them to me. Her wonderful, but unlabelled, collection of old photographs started my journey into the past.

Daisy was born on February 16, 1878, in Morgan County, Illinois. Her parents, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Estella Lake and Joseph Allen "Al" Maddox joined a wagon train within the next couple of years and relocated in Kansas, where three more girls and one boy joined the family. Lizzie was a milliner and trained Daisy in the art of making hats.

In 1893, when Daisy was 15, the last Oklahoma land run enticed her father, who was successful in claiming 160 acres of land not far from Enid, Oklahoma Territory. The family moved into a soddie, a sod house, cut into a hillside, while waiting for Al to build a permanent house.

Daisy was tasked with watching the younger children when her parents went to visit family or to take care of business. One day a rattlesnake hid under a chest of drawers. The children were terrified and poor Daisy had to find a way to kill the snake. I believe she used a shovel after sliding the dresser away. I can't imagine being that brave as a teenager.

Daisy had dark eyes, long black hair and an olive complexion, indicators of her Native American heritage. The blacksmith Clark Earl Crispen who lived a few miles away was enamored of her looks. The 32-year-old Clark wooed the 17-year-old and married her on October 2, 1895, in Enid. Daisy's father had died about six months before and it may be that she was looking for an escape from her mother's home.

Daisy was a farm girl and soon found herself tending the home, working the farm and teaching her city-slicker husband the many things he didn't know about farming. At one point she grew frustrated and walked home to her mother's house. Lizzie told her that she had to lie in the bed she had made and sent her right back home to Clark.

Clark and Daisy had two daughters born on the farm, near Meno: Effie and Esstella. Eventually, Clark decided that farming was not what he wanted to do. He leased his farm to Daisy's brother, Archie, and the family joined his mother in the Lake Michigan resort area near Benton Harbor, Michigan. Clark went to work at one of the many manufacturing facilities in the area. A third daughter, Leona, was born to Daisy and Clark in Van Buren County, Michigan, before the family settled in Benton Harbor.


Template and elements from Oopsie Daisy, ClubScrap


Daisy grew tired of Clark's tendency to put people ahead of financial security for the family. She divorced him in 1921, after the two older girls were married. Over the years, she worked as a milliner and a photographer, as well as making quilts for her family.

In 1922, she married David Antisdel Hull, divorcing him a few years later. She married Argus Joshua Votaw in 1936, and was widowed in 1943. By that time her eldest daughter had moved to California and her youngest to Arizona. She spent time visiting them and finally settled in Arizona with Leona.

In 1945, she advertised:
If you are healthy, white Christian gentleman, alone, unencumbered, not more than 60, looking for a good cook, write Star-Citizen Box 82
Was that a veiled singles ad? A construction boss some 45 miles away responded. The two of them engaged in a romance fueled by letters and bus trips. There was a small problem: he was still married. After his divorce was final, Daisy married Meredith Lewis O'Neil on September 20, 1947, in Lordsburg, New Mexico.

One of the puzzles in my research is who this man really was. He walked away from Daisy after being married only a few months. The family didn't know if he met with foul play or left of his own free will. I only recently learned that he died in 1961 in the Arizona state mental hospital and is buried in a pauper's grave in Mesa. His death certificate shows he had dementia and give no useful information about his past. I can't trace him before 1940 and suspect he had an assumed name. I also wonder if he wandered away due to dementia.

Daisy spent the rest of her life living alone in a small guest house on her daughter's property. She died on December 2, 1957, in Tucson, and was buried at South Lawn Memorial Park. She left behind several quilts, hundreds of photos, a bundle of letters and a handful of old family stories.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #49 Joseph Allen Maddox

My great-great-grandfather, Al, was just a boy of twelve when his father, William Maddox, was killed by Al's older brother. His life was forever changed on that day in November of 1869. With his two older brothers in jail, the responsibility of a 270-acre farm rested on the shoulders of 16-year-old George and 12-year-old Joseph Allen Maddox, along with their mother, Nancy Jane Webb. Previously, Al and George had attended school, but no doubt the spring planting season of 1870 put an end to their schooling.

Joseph Allen Maddox was born on October 24, 1857, in Scott County, Illinois. He went by the name Al later in life, though all the records found through 1878 show his name as Joseph. His escapades as an adult indicate that he was a bit of a rascal. The image I have in my mind is of a prankster who tried to bring some levity to a stressful family life.

His first documented adventure was his marriage on June 13, 1876. Under the age of 21, he needed permission to marry from his mother. His bride, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Estella Lake, barely 15, also needed parental permission. The couple went to the Scott County courthouse with this single permission note, written in pencil:
"Mr Marten please let Joseph Maddox have his licence and it will be all right we are perfectly willing for them to get married. (signed) Mr Aaron Lake and Mrs Sarrah Lake"
The marriage license itself stated that Lizzie was 18 years old and that the mother of the 20-year-old groom had given her permission. The couple was married in the little community of Merritt by the minister George W Simpson, likely a lay minster of the M.E. Church.

This combination of marriage documents implies an elopement, with Lizzie lying about her age when they found out that Al needed a permission note. The couple must have lied and said that the note was from Al's mother. Additionally, it appears that Lizzie wrote the note herself. The signature of Aaron Lake is too neat and does not match his signature in the chancery case he filed against his father's probate. The misspelled name of Lizzie's mother and the use of pencil rather than ink also lead me to think that Lizzie wrote the note.

The young couple lost a pregnancy early in their marriage and the next child, Daisy Myrtle Maddox, was born in Morgan County, Illinois, on February 16, 1878. Between the birth of Daisy and the 1880 census, Al's mother remarried and died. Lizzie's grandfather's estate was resolved in chancery court about 1877.

The families decided it was time to leave Illinois and move on, joining a wagon train to Kansas. Al had been working as a miner, as well as a farmer. The 1880 census of Wilson County, Kansas, finds Lizzie and Daisy living with her parents and siblings. The home also included her older sister Nellie and her husband, George Maddox, the older brother of Al. However, the whereabouts of Al in 1880 has not been determined. Was he off mining somewhere? Was he looking for farmland?

Daughter Dottie May was born in 1881; Della Mable in 1884; Deora Maud in 1887. The last child and only son was Archie Franklin Maddox, born in 1890. Al had turned to farming by 1885, as he suffered from tuberculosis or miner's lung. By the time of the 1885 Kansas state census, Al had leased a farm in Kingman County, Kansas. He reported his holdings to the state census taker:
  • 160 acres of rented land
  • 25 acres of corn
  • 5 acres of oats
  • 1/4 acre of Irish Potatoes
  • 20 tons of prairie hay
  • 100 pounds of butter made last year
  • 5 horses
  • 2 milk cows
  • 3 other cattle

Lizzie's parents and family also settled in Kingman County, Kansas, by 1885. This single known tintype of Al was likely taken during the early Kansas years. The tintype is in the possession of my cousin Roger Wright. I've edited it to make it more visible than the original dark image.


Template and elements from Outdoor Dad kit by Brandy Murry for Digital Scrapper, 2014

Al wasn't satisfied with leasing a farm -- he wanted to own land for his son. When the opening of Oklahoma's Cherokee Strip was announced, Al knew he had the perfect opportunity. In 1893 he joined thousands of others on the Kansas/Oklahoma border and raced for his own piece of land. He was able to claim 160 acres in what is today Major County, Oklahoma, not far from the town of Enid.

Joseph Allen Maddox had another problem besides his lung problems. He was an alcoholic. On a trip to Kansas in 1895, he became sick and died in the wagon. My great-grandmother, Daisy, stated in an insurance application that her father had died of alcoholism, leading me to think that he was drinking on the trip and died directly or indirectly due to the drinking.

Al died on March 19, 1895, and was buried in a Kansas cemetery known as Hunt Cemetery. He, along with his brother George, was later moved to Walnut Hill Cemetery in Kingman, Kansas. Although Al and his family spelled their name Maddox, his brother and wife spelled their name Maddux. Al shares a plot with his brother and sister-in-law (Lizzie's sister) under the Maddux name.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #48 Adolph Ekström of Björsäter in Östergötland


Never will I find a distant cousin descended from my great-great-grandfather Adolph Ekström. I've written before about how this family branch in Sweden has died out. I have no photos of this ancestor and little hope of ever finding any in the possession of a distant cousin. Of Adolph's seven children, only my great-grandfather Gustaf has living descendants.

The church records of Sweden are a wonderful resource that tells us about the genealogical events of the citizens. Here's a peek at the life of Adolph through the records.


Template and elements from We Are Family by Dianne Rigdon for Digital Scrapper, 2013


Through the records we learn that Adolph Ekström was born near Lake Risten on May 24, 1827, at a place known as Nässjö in the parish of Björsäter in Östergötland. His father, originally Eric Andersson, had taken the surname Ekström by 1797. Adolph was the 14th of 15 children born to the farmer Eric and his two wives. Adolph's mother was Christina Catherina Olofsdotter, who was originally from Grebo.

After his father's death in 1842, Adolph began his training to be a skräddare, a tailor. He moved from town to town, learning his trade while working for others. About 1850, Adolph finished his training, returning home. The records from that point on call his occupation skräddare. It appears his training and apprenticeship took about 7 years.

He married within Björsäter parish to Anna Charlotta Svensdotter on October 21, 1854. They called their home Kristineholm, which implies an island, likely on Lake Risten. They had seven children:
  • Charlotta, 1855-1855
  • Clara Sophia, 1857-1892, never married, no children
  • Carl August David Ekström Nordén, 1859-1934, 3 children, 1 grandchild who died young
  • Gustaf Emil Ferdinand, 1862-1927, moved to Chicago and has many living descendants
  • Ernst Viktor Leonard, 1865-1939, moved to Chicago, 2 children, no grandchildren
  • Emma Karolina, 1868-after 1939, no children
  • Eleanora Elisabet, 1871-1941, never married, no children

Adolph taught his sons the tailor trade, which Gustaf and Ernst brought with them to Chicago. The brothers opened a tailor shop in Evanston, north of Chicago. Son Carl, who took the surname Nordén, stayed in Sweden and plied his trade as a tailor in the city of Linköping.

Anna Charlotta Svensdotter died of breast disease (breast cancer?) on December 1, 1897, leaving Adolph a widower. He died of pneumonia on April 1, 1901. Their burial place is not known.