Sunday, March 10, 2019

Munson Descendants: Simmons Family in Society in Early Oklahoma City


A long time ago, I talked about the Simmons family which had its roots in the family of the sister of my 2nd great grandmother, Mary Ann Munson Smith. William Wallace Simmons and his wife, Alice O. Carpenter, married in 1889, the same year the first White settlements started in Oklahoma City. In 1901, the couple and their only child, Merle Phillip Simmons made the trek from Iowa to Oklahoma City where they established their household. Oklahoma City was still young.

Alice Simmons opened up a bakery in 1913, which started by baking four loaves of bread per day. It grew over the course of time to a very large bakery serving the entire city. William Wallace Simmons died suddenly while on a business trip in 1915. Mrs Simmons kept on growing her business when WWI took her son for service in France. One of his letters home to his mother made the Daily Oklahoman paper.
Mrs WW Simmons,
Oklahoma City
Received your Christmas box about three weeks ago. We have nothing to worry about
over here as we are comfortably located, have warm weather, and lots of work to do, a place to sleep, something to cat and no place to go, so why should we worry?
France is very interesting, especially are the quaint customs. The roads are of gravel and clay and are in fine shape for motoring as they are so smooth. There are no mud holes or ruts. All over France the roads seem to be the same. A hard sandstone lays just beneath the top soil. Timber is very scarce and as a result the people naturally build their homes of stone and whatever is built of this material lasts forever, it seems. All along the roads are stone walls, three to four feet high. They also surround the farms, which are small and irregular. If stone is not used, a thick hedge is grown. And when you look into the valleys from the hilltop, it is easy to pick out each individual farm. There is not much waste land as the farms are kept clean and in excellent condition.
 Grape vineyards appear to be plentiful as the French seem to be great wine drinkers. The Frenchman's wine to him is as necessary as beer to a German. The farm houses are large, built of stone, with a red-tiled roof which is usually covered with green moss. The house is usually two stories and connecting on one end is a barn and the other a porch or shed used for drying corn, beans, and the like. The farmer wears a loose-fitting work shirt which slips on over his head and is fastened with a draw string around his neck. He wears these instead of overalls. Wooden shoes are very popular.
On market morning the farmer and his family get into a two wheeled cart and go to town. There seem to prefer the carts. Geese and p*** are about all they bring to down now as it is spring and most of the cr**** have been marketed.
I guess we will be paid in a couple of days? We are all broke because we haven't been paid for two months. It is one way to save money, because when a fellow gets broke he can't spend and he can't find anybody to borrow from.
Merle P Simmons
The Daily Oklahoman
(Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma, United States of America)
10 Mar 1918, Sun  •  20
Her reputation in the city for her business acumen was growing and her activities frequently made the society pages of the Daily Oklahoman. In 1925, she remarried Mr Horace W. Hakes. The divorce, which occurred during Mrs Simmons final illness in 1938, included a financial settlement of undetermined amount to Mr Hakes. Mr Hakes blamed his stepson, Merle, for his marital troubles. Merle had been slowly taking over the business the past few years and Mr Hake's opinions on the course of the business were ignored.
`1924 Ad for Mrs Simmons Home Bake Shop

Mrs Simmons passed away on 13 Mar 1939 from her long illness. She left her son, Merle and his wife Esther Day and their three boys, Merle Jr., William Wallace, and Robert Day. A daughter, Betty Lou, died at 17 months in 1923.

Two of Merle and Esther's boys, Bob and Bill's weddings made the society page. Son Merle worked with his father in the bakery business, but never married. The advertisements I found for the business ended about 1949.

Bob served as a pilot in the US Air Force. He later worked from Superior Oil and then with Prudential Bache Brokerage Firm, and then worked as an independent oil and gas broker. His wife, Sue Ellison had four children. He died in 1997. Bill married Sarah Jo Durland and they had two children. I don't know a lot about him, but he for several years worked as the North Texas State University as associate director of admissions. He died in 1971 at the young age of 41.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

An Empty Place at the Table: Cora Redington

David Owens > Lucy Owens & Ira Miller > Josie Miller Redington Swanger > Cora Redington

A child. Born after the last census and dies before the next, can be lost to history. Their place at the table still goes missed.

Before, I'd talked about the husbands of Josie Miller, James Irving Edward "Ed" Redington and Charlie Swanger. Ed was a wild one - a town eccentric and multiply married fellow. Charlie was a wild one when younger, but found The Salvation Army and led an exemplary, alcohol-free life in the latter part of his life.

To date, the only child I was aware of in the Redington-Miller marriage, was Ira Edmon Redington, namesake of Grandpa Ira Miller, who was born in 1905 and suffered from some sort of disability that eventually had him living Woodward State Hospital for the "feeble-minded" in Boone County, Iowa. He died at the age of 61.

In searching for something else completely, I ran across this article:

No name is mentioned and I certainly hadn't run across anyone having died so tragically in previous research. No mention was ever made that I recalled of any such horrific event. The story, which began on a beautiful day with children playing and ended in an instant in calamity of the worst kind, went like this:

Young Cora Mae Redington, born in 16 Apr 1903, died on her 3rd birthday,16 Apr 1906, in Harrison Township, Benton County, Iowa at the home of her grandparents, Ira and Lucy (Owens) Miller. The uncle mentioned is unknown as none of the children of Ira were 13 at the time of this event. Jesse was 11 and is the most likely solution. She was buried in Bear Creek Cemetery in Benton County, where several other Miller descendants are buried.

The Redington's had not married until February of 1905, so whether Cora is his biological daughter of Josie, Ed, or both, is not known, but she did carry the Redington name.

No mention is made in Edmond or Josie's obits about Cora, nor Ira Edmond Redington, their child born in 1905 who lived in the Woodward State Hospital for the "feeble-minded" for most of his life.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Little Pile of Treasures

Click on photo to enlarge
My dad and I have spent much of the last forty years either estranged or annoyed with one another.

When he remarried when I was 14 years old to a woman only 9 years older than me who spent a lot of time subtly sabotaging our relationship, we were never the same. Then, though many years younger than my dad, his wife died last December, quite unexpectedly. In that moment, our relationship moved from eternal darkness to dawn.

As his life went on, the retired Army recruiter, his son and wife, plopped themselves down in a house near a major military base in the Midwest. He made his home there for over 20 years. A rambling house, of good bones, but which had little attention in the past few years as my dad became more and more challenged to finish projects, it had become too much for him to care for. Now, he's moving out of his home and to a new adventure in a seniors community here near me.

My sister and I helped for a week organizing him in the first step to prepare and in the meantime, I located photos he hadn't seen in forty years. Photos he'd forgotten about. Photos no one else living had seen. I got my first glimpse into the childhood of my dad and his brothers. Into my grandmother's relationship with her first family's children. Into what my grandpa looked like with hair. No one knew him then. I don't think they ever owned their own camera, strictly based on the fact there are so few photos. I have a lot of work to do.

What a treasure.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Aaron W. Cooper and His Neighbors


I talked about John Cooper's kids here - they just seem to be a bit of a mess generally. I recently ran across this article regarding Aaron before he left Stephenson and Winnebago Counties, Illinois for /Butler/Bremer County and later Franklin County, Iowa.

The divorce of Anna Blaser from Aaron took place in 1904 in Butler County.

This may well have had something to do with the sale of property in 1904 and early 1905

He died in 1920, having never married again. 

Hannah Cooper: Crazy as a Hawk

Elgin Asylum
This small mention of the life and times of Hannah Cooper, who died at the young age of 45 during a brief stay at Elgin Insane Asylum in Illinois. Living with her single brothers and parents as of the 1880 census in Stephenson County, Illinois, it's likely she was still with the brothers remaining in  the area in 1891. Learn about her brothers here.

She died on 16 May 1891, after being committed only two weeks previously.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Jacob Smith: Bits and Pieces for Discussion Including the Custer Connection

JAMES SMITH > JACOB SMITH m Mary Catherine Randolph

Rumley Township is at the top in Harrison County
Click to enlarge
I've been incredibly frustrated by my inability to move my SMITH line beyond 3GG Jacob Smith and
his purported father, James Smith. Anectdotally, James is Jacob's father and they were originally from the Monmouth, New Jersey area before moving to Ohio somewhere before 1830.
1830 Rumley Township Census
Click to enlarge

Also, little is known about Mary Catherine Randolph, Jacob's wife, who went by "Cathy" from what I've learned. Jacob's son, John R. Smith married Susan Randolph, who I will guess is a relative of Cathy, but again, I have nothing. I've got a couple lines of inquiry I'm pursuing, but records are spotty in the wilderness during this time and without birth or death records, it's going to be non-definitive, even if I feel I've solved it.

One thing of the family legends I was able to confirm is that my 2GG, William Custer Smith, did indeed most likely get his middle name from George Armstrong Custer's father, Emanuel Custer. The legend had it that the Custer's were great friends of the Smith in Rumley Township, Harrison County and sure enough, I find them both living there in 1830.  Emanuel and Jacob were contemporaries.

Jacob's father, James, may be living in Cadiz Township at this time. In 1820, the James Smith family was located in Belmont County, which is adjacent to Harrison County. In 1820, James and family lived in Belmont County.


I believe that either Henry Custer or Nevin Custer is the man on the far left 3rd step,
James Calhoun is seated, 2nd from left.
It is probably Thomas Custer next to Calhoun and G. A. Custer is on the top
step, center, his wife Elizabeth Bacon seated to his right. The man below Elizabeth and below Emanuel
I've not identified. Emanuel is in the top right on top step sitting in a chair.
Photo shared on Ancestry by Connie Fullmer

Emanuel Custer was born and raised in Allegany County, Maryland. He was born 10 Dec 1806. His
Emanual and Mary
Image Courtesy 1881 Courthouse
Museum, Custer SD
first wife was Matilda Viers, whom he married in Maryland in 1828. They had three children, two of whom died young. Upon Matilda's death in 1835 in Harrison County, he married Mary Ward Kirkpatrick in 1836. The couple had at least seven children and widow Mary brought a daughter to the marriage. The two oldest, James and Samuel, died before their first birthdays. The arrival of George Armstrong Custer, later youthful West Point grad and Civil War Army General; and later yet, failed battle strategist at Little Big Horn, was the oldest of Mary's surviving children.

Emanuel and Mary were settled in Harrison County by 1830. After serving in the US Civil War himself at a quite advanced age in his 60s, he and his wife moved to Monroe County, Michigan, where they both died. The Smith's moved on to Grant County, Wisconsin in the mid-1840s.

In between, though, the Custer Family rallied at the time of the Civil War and beyond as part of the Cavalry. Four members of the Custer's immediate family died at the Battle of Little Big Horn:  Brevet Maj Gen (Lt Col) G. A. Custer, his brother Boston Custer, brother Capt Thomas Ward Custer (two-time Medal of  Honor winner), and brother-in-law, Lt James Calhoun, husband of Margaret Custer, along with nephew Harry Armstrong "Autie" Reed (a non-military member of the group) and other Custer friends. The historical perspective of G. A. Custer has been tipped on its head in the past decades as the "heroic" nature of their deaths at the hands of Chief Sitting Bull and his army of Native Americans, but it was surely a profound loss to Emanuel and Mary Custer which ranks up there with the tragic loss of the five Sullivan Brothers of Waterloo, IA during WWII in terms of family service tragedy.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

SIDEROAD RIPLEY: Tragedy Follows...Again and Again

Wm Ripley Dorr

I was doing a little dabbling a few months ago and ran across a Find a Grave for Cyrus Thurston Dorr, the son of William Ripley Dorr, who was the son of Julia Ripley Dorr, the noted author and daughter of the business titan, William Young Ripley of Vermont.

A group called "Missing In America" had located and identified Cyrus' remains, which had been left unclaimed in a Nashville mortuary since 1918 and had his ashes interred at Ft Leavenworth, with full military  honors, along with the remains of several others whom the project located and had interred in 2011.

As a veteran, and as the former wife of a career man, the specter of military suicide has always been of special concern to me. When we have so many of our young men and women taking their lives during or after service, it makes me quake with anger that the awareness and treatment options for our service members are so incredibly lacking and the stigma that still persists stifles great strides in treated our psychically wounded warriors. It made me incredibly sad to think of Cyrus' remains and what caused them to sit, untouched, for several generations and I needed to understand why.

The progeny of William Young Ripley were legend. The lineage is chock full of leaders, business luminaries, and adventurers. William Ripley Dorr, the offspring of Julia Ripley Dorr and Seneca Milo Dorr, was no exception.  Raised in Rutland, Vermont, the ancestral hometown of this branch of Ripley's, he was educated at Norwich University, where he graduated in 1873.

He moved on to Appleton, Wisconsin, where the lumber business was booming and started his life there. Upon hearing of the death of his father in 1884, he returned to Vermont and entrenched himself in the various business interests of the family, including his father's brokerage firm, S. M. Dorr Sons.

Eventually, he moved on to St Paul, Minnesota, where his business acumen was targeted at a number of businesses from gold mining to insurance. In addition to many business interested, he was also President of the Chamber of Commerce in St Paul for many years.  In 1890, he married Helen Thurston, a young woman born in Iowa. From 1891-1900, the couple had four children, Seneca Milo dying in infancy. Once they began getting to the age where they needed an education, William relocated the family to New Jersey so the children would be educated in eastern schools.

In 1904, he  was sent to Chicago as a representative of the American Car Company, and while on business there, he took ill and died suddenly. After William's death, Helen moved to St Paul once more. She passed away in Spokane, Washington in 1922.

Cyrus, the second of four children, was born 30 May 1893 in St Paul, Minnesota. By 1915 he was in Silver Bow, Montana, where he married Kathryn Helen Carpenter on 15 Oct 1915. Kathryn was born in Dec 1893 in Houghton County, Michigan.

Kathryn's family included her parents, William Esau Carpenter and his wife Margaret "Maggie" Sullivan.  Married in 1891, the couple had at least six children, of which Kathryn was the second child.

The Carpenter's young life was marred by tragedy. In 1902, their 3-year-old daughter, Gladys drowned in a nearby waterway while following her siblings as they went to school. In 1907, 4-year-old Fred died of infantile convulsions. It was after this death the couple pulled up stakes and moved to Montana. While there, their 17-year-old daughter, Margaret, died of typhoid in 1913. Son Chellis would become a lawyer and reside in California and daughter Lydia would go on to teach domestic sciences.

Kathryn and Bud had a daughter almost immediately. Named after his grandmother, Julia Caroline Ripley Dorr, young Julia was born 5 Jul 1916 in Broken Bow. From here, things get murky because there is no trace of Cyrus.

It's now 1918 and the war is raging in Europe. Everyone was contributing to the war effort in any way they could. Suddenly, though, Kathryn becomes ill with Scarlet Fever and dies at the home of her parents on 19 April. Both husband and daughter are mentioned in the obit, but at the time, Bud was living in Kansas City, selling bonds.

On 8 Jun 1918, Bud married Margaret Poncelette in Kansas City.  Just in time for him to report to duty on 2 Jul 1918 with the US Marine Aviation Corps at the Philadelphia Shipyards.

He visited his cousin JD Steele in Appleton, Wisconsin,  while on furlough, 24 Aug 1918. Presumably furlough was taken from Great Lakes Naval Air Station. We see no word of Bud until next we hear of his death. The first report to his widow in Kansas City, Margaret, lacked details as to the cause of death. The second posting regarding his death, published in Appleton, indicated it was an accidental death, yet, the article posted in Nashville bared the truth of the matter - suicide.

No interment was made and the ashes were never retrieved. No mention is made of Bud's second wife Margaret. Margaret, through much of the 1920s, remained a widow. What became of her, I don't know.

Mother Helen was alive and living in St Paul when he died, yet one of the articles refers to "parents" - William was long dead.

William & Maggie Carpenter raised their granddaughter Julia, in Montana. Julia married Robert A. Mohr and had at least two daughters. They divorced. The 23-years-older Julia married young naval man, Gail A. Brownlow in 1962. Reportedly, she died of COPD two days after their transfer from Hawaii to El Paso, Texas.

What did I learn from this foray into the life of a veteran who succumbed to suicide? I learned nothing about what drove the man to this permanent solution. Did whatever darkness he carried impact his first marriage? Did he see himself as a failure? Was there some rift with second wife Margaret? What I do understand, is suicide is rarely ever just about one thing.

Why did no one go pick up the ashes? Clearly it was known where they were. Was the stigma of suicide too great? Was the family in disagreement of what would become of his remains? We'll never know, but thanks to the Missing in America project, this Marine received full honors and a very belated burial.

Things look like they might be changing. The Department of Veteran's Affairs, claims the prevention of suicide is the top clinical priority. Let's hope.