Sunday, November 30, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #47 Nerinda Margaret Kerr Crispen Tookey

One of my favorite heritage photos is my great-great-grandmother sitting on a camel in Lincoln Park in Chicago around the turn of the last century. Nerinda Margaret Kerr Crispen Tookey was quite a character and taking a camel ride was yet another measure of her adventurous spirit.

Quick drop page from Sorrento, ClubScrap

Every story that I've ever heard from this branch of the family has been riddled with untruths. Many of the census records are suspect, as are the death records.

The 1850 census shows Nerinda, age 8, living with the blacksmith William T Kerr and his family in Toby Township, Clarion County, Pennsylvania. Mary Williams was the first wife of William Kerr, though the 1850 census is very unclear about the family structure. An 1852 deed confirms Mary as the name of William's wife. DNA testing has confirmed my match to others descended from that couple, though not with a scientific match (yet).

Nerinda's death record shows a birthdate of April 2, but a different year. Based on her age of 8 in 1850, I believe 1842 is the best estimate of her birth year. On February 22, 1858, Nerinda signed a deed to sell land with her husband, Jacob Crispen. That would have made her just shy of her sixteen birthday, yet a married woman.

In 1860, Jacob and Narinda Chrissman (misspelled) were living on a Porter Township farm worth $850. They had a one-year-old son named William H. Meanwhile, oil had been discovered just north of the area, in Venango County. Jacob abandoned farming to work in the oil fields. He became a torpedo shooter, a man who fired oil wells using nitroglycerine.

The years after 1860 are very much a mystery.  Three more children were born: Mary, Clark and Laura, the youngest, born about 1864. For some reason, possibly the job, Jacob and Nerinda separated. My ancestor, Clark, was apprenticed to a blacksmith. How Margaret and the girls survived is not known, except that their lives were difficult. Brother William was never mentioned, so must have died young. Jacob filed for divorce in 1867, but Nerinda failed to respond. She then filed in 1874, using the name Margaret Crispen. The divorce was kept a secret from later generations, with the family claiming instead that Jacob had died young.

Margaret married Thomas Seymour "Charlie" Tookey about 1882. The couple made their home in Chicago, as did the Crispen children. She shaved years off her age in each census, likely because her husband was some ten years younger than she was. In their later years, Margaret and Charlie moved to the area of Benton Harbor, Berrien County, Michigan.
She was able to enjoy her four grandchildren until her death on March 1, 1923. Margaret was buried in the Crystal Springs Cemetery in Benton Harbor.

Friday, November 28, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #46 Philip Fry, Patriot Soldier

When I began my genealogical journey, I had hoped to identify Revolutionary War soldiers. I expected to find them in my Mom's ancestry, but not my Dad's. His ancestors were mostly 19th-century immigrants. Surprisingly, his ancestry was the first to reveal one of those early patriots, and a well-documented one at that. My fourth-great-grandfather was honored at his 1840 death with a lovely obituary.

The Democrat

Huntsville, Ala., Saturday Morning, May 2, 1840

Another Revolutionary Soldier gone.
Died -- At his residence in Marshall County, Alabama, on the morning of the 18th of April, instant, Mr. Philip Fry, in the 83rd year of his age. Mr. Fry was a native of Pennsylvania, from whence he emigrated to Virginia, from thence to East Tennessee and thence to Alabama. He was one of that glorious band of patriots who, under god, assisted in achieving for us the liberties we now enjoy; he was truly the kind husband, the affectionate father, the obliging neighbor, the honest and industrious citizen. Mr. Fry had many trials through life, having buried an affectionate wife and six children; but he is now gone, leaving a disconsolate widow and nineteen children, one hundred and thirteen grand and great grand children, together with a numerous circle of friends, to mourn their irreparable loss; but to them we say, sorrow not as those that have no hope, for if you believe that Jesus died and rose again, them also that sleep in Jesus will god bring with him, then blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, yea saith the Spirit, from henceforth they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.

Elements from American Flag, ClubScrap, 2010

Philip Fry was born about 1757, somewhere in Pennsylvania. There has been much speculation about his parentage, but to date it's a mystery which will likely be solved only through DNA.

Virginia's Shenandoah Valley was a migration path into and out of Pennsylvania and it's on that path that we find Philip. Two sources tell us a bit about his life in the Shenandoah.
1781, June 11 - Philip Frye married Mary Dirick [Derrick]
Philip Fry served from 2 Aug. until 5 Oct. 1781 as a private in Capt. Linchfield Sharpe's Company of Shenandoah County, under the command of Col. Elias Edmundson, of Gen. Stephen's Brigade.
Philip also was one of the Overmountain Men led by Colonel William Campbell. They fought at the Battle of King's Mountain, the turning point of the American Revolution, on October 7, 1780.

My ancestor, Philip and Mary's daughter Kezziah, was born in Tennessee about 1809. Her brothers and sisters were born in both Virginia and Tennessee. Their births show that the family moved about 1795. Mary Magdalena Derrick Fry died between 1812 and 1819.

Philip married Mary "Polly" Davis in Jefferson County, Alabama on December 4, 1819. They had several more children before his death.

Philip was buried in the Fry Cemetery near Arab in Marshall County, Alabama. The Fry family has placed a nice monument and the Heroes of King's Mountain DAR chapter has also placed a plaque. Thanks goes to the generous photographer for allowing me to use his FindAGrave photo of Philip Fry's markers and to Suzy Burt for all her research, writing and explanations about the Fry family.

For my confused cousins, our Fry ancestry is through this line:

Monday, November 24, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #45 William W Maddox, The Victim at Mauvaisterre Creek

145 Years Ago, near Merritt, Illinois

November 24, 1869, 2 PM

A gunshot rang out, echoing across the barren fields of Scott County. William Maddox, 49, was mortally wounded by his son, Lewis. Both men had been drinking.

Murder at Mauvaisterre Creek

How did an ordinary farmer come to kill his father, have his name splashed on newspapers all over the midwestern United States and fuel family legends that persist to this day? Did the jury make the right decision? There are no surviving transcripts of the trial, but we can read the evidence presented to the grand jury.

As we meet each family member over the next few months, bear in mind that there is a family history of alcoholism, especially in the 19th century. Our Native American heritage left our ancestors unable to metabolize alcohol. My great-grandmother, niece of Lewis, claimed to have one-eighth Native American blood. That would have made Lewis one-quarter and William, the victim, as much as one-half. There is no proof to date of these claims; however, the oral tradition lives on in several diverse branches of the Maddox family.

Meet the Victim

William W Maddox was born in Ohio, about 1820, to Lazarus Maddox and Elizabeth Greaton (Gratton) of Pickaway County. He was either the first or second son, with an older sister and a total of seven siblings. The family owned and worked small farms of 75 to 90 acres.

William married Nancy Jane Webb on February 21, 1840, in Pickaway County. He worked as a farm laborer, according to the 1850 census. They were the parents of at least seven children: John, David, Lewis, William H, George S, Joseph Allen and Margaret. John and Margaret died young, while David, a soldier, died near the end of the Civil War. Gaps in the birth years indicate a possibility of two other children who would have died young.

Image credits: GZitzmann custom sketch, Scrap Girls template, elements by Mommyish for Digital Scrapper

In about 1853, after the birth of George, the family moved to Scott County, Illinois. The Maddox family moved near the Greaton/Gratton family members of William's mother. They had settled in the area some 20 years before. William had been charged with assault in Pickaway County shortly before the move out of Ohio. Did he move as a way to avoid the consequences?

William bought land adjoining a deep bend of Mauvaisterre Creek. The agricultural supplement to the 1860 census shows that some 75 acres had been improved, with another 85 acres yet to be planted. By the time of his 1869 death, William owned 270 acres, much of it in fields of wheat, oats, rye, corn and barley. He also produced wool. As well as sheep, the family also kept pigs, cows and bees. There were likely chickens, though they are not shown in any record.

William and his sons had been industrious. He had tripled his father's peak of 90 acres and his sons wanted some of the land to start their own family farms. The boys wanted to receive their portion as a birthright, but William agreed only to lease half the tillable land to sons Lewis and William H. Witness statements reveal that Lewis and his father had been arguing about the land on the day of the murder.

After he was shot by Lewis, William needed someone to care for him. His treatment of his family had been abusive, based on the family stories. His assault charge adds weight to that legend. The family faced a problem. If William died, Lewis could be charged. Thus the family had every reason to keep him alive, though wanting him dead.

The hired hand, Samuel Coleman, must have been trusted by everyone, as he tended William throughout the agonizing days of his decline. William W Maddox died on December 1, 1869. His burial place is unknown, though it is likely on or near the family farm.

Be sure to follow me to a new blog, Murder at Mauvaisterre Creek, where the evidence will be revealed in 2015.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #44 Oliver Ernest Ekstrom

Quick drop page from Destinations, ClubScrap

Ahlver Ernst Ekstrom was born in Chicago, Illinois, on May 22, 1903, the youngest child of Swedish immigrants. His oldest sister, Gertrude, did him the favor of Anglicizing his name to Oliver Ernest when she took him to enroll in school for the first time.

Oliver's father, Gustaf Emil Ferdinand Ekstrom, made a comfortable living as a tailor, permitting Oliver to attend school when many of his peers were dropping out to work. Oliver's mother, Agnes Emilia Fors Ekstrom, was a woman of deep faith, no doubt encouraging Oliver's love of God and dedication to His work.

At one time, Oliver worked for a safe company. One day he was using a screwdriver on a safe and it slipped, gouging into his eye and blinding it. From that time he wore glasses.

He pursued a religious education as a night student at Moody Bible Institute. There Oliver met Ruth Dorothy McFarlane, whom he married in Chicago on July 14, 1923. They had five children. In 1925, Ruth and Oliver were accepted into the Central American Mission (CAM) and assigned to the ministry in Guatemala.

After Ruth's untimely death in April, 1931, Oliver enlisted the help of various family members in the Chicago area. Leaving the children scattered, he returned to the Guatemala work.

In November, 1931, family legend says that he reluctantly traveled to Port Barrios to meet a newly assigned missionary. It was "love at first sight" when he met Bessie Douglas Cushnie. They married on October 11, 1932, at San Miguel Acatán, Guatemala. Bessie and Oliver had two children, one of whom was born after Oliver's death.

Oliver suddenly sickened while on a trip in October, 1935, dying on the 22nd. The CAM article on his death contains an error, as Oliver died from typhus, rather than typhoid. Typhus was a deadly disease requiring quarantine. The attending physician wrote his diagnosis as typhoid instead, because he knew Bessie was a nurse and would be able to care for Oliver as adequately as the hospital.

Oliver was buried in an unmarked grave at San Pedro Sacatepéquez, Department of San Marcos, Guatemala.

The CAM article also tells us about his life and his death:
To know Mr. Ekstrom was to love him and it was not long until his smiling face and cheery laugh were known all over the republic. Besides being a good preacher and a tireless evangelist, Mr. Ekstrom had marked musical ability and any service in which he had a part was certain to be one of life and interest. ...  
Every possible care was given this dear brother by his wife and fellow missionaries and by the local doctor but as the days passed it was evident that his heart could not stand the strain. He seemed to know that his life's work was ended and among other precious words, he said to his wife, "There are four things I am sure of; I am saved, I love you, I am going to heaven and we will meet again some day."
"Oliver Ernest Ekstrom", The Central American Bulletin 203 (Nov., 1935): 3-4, 15-16.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #43 Ruth Dorothy McFarlane Ekstrom

My grandmother Ruth Dorothy McFarlane was born in Chicago, Illinois, the eldest child of Walter McFarlane and Mary Ellen (Vossler) McFarlane on February 7, 1898. She had to drop out of school after seventh grade after her father was badly injured in a streetcar accident. To help support the family, she worked as a retail clerk and a telephone operator.

Ruth attended night school at Moody Bible Institute, where she met her husband, Oliver Ekstrom. They married on July 14, 1923. Dedicating their lives to Christ, they went as missionaries to Guatemala with Central American Mission in 1925.

Quick drop page from Sweet Comforts by Shabby Miss Jenn for Digital Scrapper, 2014

Ruth entered a Chicago hospital for minor surgery in 1931. When she hemorrhaged, her husband's blood was used for a transfusion. Unfortunately, the blood types were likely incompatible, based on the mixed types seen in their children. She died on the operating table at Swedish Covenant Hospital on April 23, 1931.

She was survived by her husband and five children. Ruth was buried in an unmarked grave in Chicago's Rosehill Cemetery. When a marker was laid in 2002, her eldest son, David, chose the inscription: "She was worth far more than rubies."  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #42 Fayette Franklin Allee, Changed by a Rock

Let's play war! "Fate" Allee had turned eight on May 5, a few months before the snow that blanketed western Oklahoma, near Hammon. He and his siblings and cousins and friends built their forts and stockpiled snowballs as ammunition.

As the battle raged, young Fate popped up from behind the fort and caught a snowball in his face. Embedded in the snow was a rock that hit his left eye. I've never heard the details of what happened right after that. I think it's likely that his parents, Laura Pryor and Thomas Allee, tried to treat him, but soon had to seek medical attention from a doctor.

My grandfather, Fayette Franklin Allee, was very nearly blinded by that rock in the winter of 1913-1914. His life as an ordinary farm boy was over. A newspaper article in the Tucson Daily Citizen in 1970 reported:
During the next three years, the injury began to affect his right eye. Finally, the left eye was removed, but the damage to his good eye had been done.

Fate soon moved to Muskogee to attend boarding school at the Oklahoma School for the Blind. In addition to the subjects we all studied, he learned to read and write Braille and to compensate for his limited vision in all aspects of his life. He was trained in skills that used his hands. During high school he tuned pianos in the area around Muskogee to earn money to help pay his expenses. In some capacity, he stayed on at the school until 1929.

The Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind was in need of teachers in 1929 and letters were sent to schools around the country. Fate was recommended by the Oklahoma staff and shortly thereafter moved to the Arizona school in Tucson.

His wife, my grandmother, wrote a letter about him to the Tucson newspapers and kept her drafts, which I now have. The bulk of this post consists of excerpts from those drafts.

Notepaper from Scholarship, quick drop page from Tribal, both from ClubScrap

In 1929, at age 24, he started teaching classes and supervising the boys (both deaf and blind) at night for the magnificent salary of $70 a month and room and board, which at that time was an excellent opportunity. There were two teachers in the department for the blind and about 10 or 11 students. There were about 50 students in the whole school. 

His parents had moved from Oklahoma to [Pueblo County] Colorado in 1926, but a couple of years before that the whole family had been baptized in a cow pond by a Baptist minister, except for the babies. He has (in 1970) two living sisters and three living bothers (and two dead). [All are now deceased in 2014.]

In 1934, he met his future wife [Leona Violet Crispen] when she brought her daughter, age five, to school for the first time. This tiny red-headed five-year-old soon won the heart of her arithmetic teacher and invited him to her home for Sunday dinner. In 1941, her match-making won out and her teacher and her mother were married [on December 20, in Lordsburg, New Mexico].

He has been a father-figure to hundreds of visually handicapped children in Arizona for three generations. Little five-year-olds have sat in hs lap when homesick and away from their parents for the first time. Others have learned to coordinate their hands by his patient, long-suffering help as they learned to cane chairs, weave rugs, weave baskets, do woodworking projects, lace leather objects, and many other lessons to help them perceive the world around them with their fingers.

Among his former students are many college graduates, lawyers, business men, administrators of programs for the blind, as well as homemakers. His present principal is one of his former students. He has taught reading, language, spelling, social studies, algebra, geometry, as well as the shop subjects with kindness, patience and gentleness these 40 years.

Although he has struggled to attain a great many University credits, he has never been able to accumulate a Bachelor's degree. Any university course is a hardship for this blind man, but he is noted for his patience and persistence. He is a calm, quiet man and all children adore him, send him Valentines and Christmas notes saying, "I love you." When they were grown and married, some have sent him the sweetest letters saying how grateful they are now that he was so patient with them and taught them so much.

Mr. Allee is an avid sports fan, enjoying football, baseball and basketball on radio and TV. In years gone by, he has worked with Boy Scouts as a Leader and conducted camps, cook-outs, and hikes in nearby Catalina Mountain sites. For many years he was chairman each year for the annual Rodeo Party or Picnic in the mountains.

He is a man of very few words, absolute integrity, dedication to his task, self-sacrificing, and accepting of all people and completely without guile, who gives of himself and between 10% and 15% of all he earns to Christian and charitable works.

After his retirement in June, 1970, Fate continued to teach adults through the Tucson Association for the Blind. One of the skills he taught was chair caning, which earned him features in the newspaper and even on TV. Over his lifetime he had two or three corneal transplants. His vision improved with each surgery and worsened with time. He was always legally blind and was never able to drive.

In 1995, Fayette and Leona Allee moved to a retirement community in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, near his former home in Muskogee. He died on December 2, 1997, and was buried in South Lawn Memorial Park in Tucson.