Thursday, August 20, 2020

Remembering Harold James Ripley, 1928-2020


Click to enlarge

His early years were marred by terrible strife. The man himself defied the odds of his childhood and built a highly successful life. He had four children and raised two more who came from his second wife. He ended up with scads of grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren. When his time came, he went out with a heavy sigh, in his sleep, at the age of 92 after a brief illness.

He was one of the hardest working people I ever met, was sharp as a whip, and did not suffer fools
Harold at the Orphanage (right)
Harold at the orphanage (right)
gladly. He had a keen insight and knew everyone in the Butler/Bremer County area from his long career in agriculture - either as a solo farmer or as senior manager for massive ag operations. He was also an entrepreneur, starting a Mad Hatter Muffler back in the 1970s among other business ventures. He was also a great storyteller. Because he was not a gossip by nature, it was tough to pull out details and dig deeper sometimes, but it was always going to be a fun ride if you were lucky enough to get this very stoic guy going on a tale to tell.

He was born the first child of Rasmus Theodore "Ted" Michaelsen, a 2nd generation Dane on March 15, 1928 in Plainfield, Iowa. His mother, my grandmother, Verlie Lynette Smith, like Ted, came from a large family. His lived in Cedar Falls, hers lived in Plainfield. 

Over the next years, three sisters would join him: Janis, two years younger, Dixie, four years younger, and baby Judy. The depression, now in full gear by 1936, had decimated the Michaelsen's ability to thrive. They were usually one step ahead of the sheriff who was looking to evict and the entire family had to be resourceful in finding ways to put food on the table. It didn't help that Ted liked to drink. Or had a tendency to be physically abusive to his wife.

Janis told me about one Christmas, when there was no money for gifts. Harold found an old cedar chest
Harold & Ellen (left)
with a leg missing. He fashioned a new leg for it and gave it to Janis and she kept it until her death. That year, she saved her pennies from selling eggs to buy each of the children a bar of soap.

Janis recalled to me that one day, they had all been sitting on the porch on a hot day. Verlie was nursing baby Judy. Ted hit Verlie and they both went flying. She also recalls that it was not long after that Verlie left. Without the kids. She had no job, no chance of a job, and no money.

Ted had the kids and the support of his sister Margaret. Margaret hadn't been able to reach Ted after several days, so she went up to where they were and found the children alone. Ted had taken a job in a CCC camp as a cook, and put Harold, the 9-year-old, in charge. Janis, age 7, cooked whatever they had and cared for baby Judy. She recalled that she knew she needed to wash the diapers, but no one had ever told her she needed to rinse them out. Baby Judy ended up with a serious diaper rash by the time Margaret made her way to them to check on them.

Quick-action was required. She loaded them on the bus and they all went to the Bremer Lutheran Orphanage, where they were placed and now had steady care. Janis thrived in the institution. Harold seemed to be doing fine and was in school and participating in activities. One day that winter, Verlie arrived with winter coats for them all. Janis was in no hurry to go anywhere, she liked the routine.

Margaret worked hard with the Smith's and the Michaelsen's to find permanent placement for the
Harold's 1950 Studebaker
children. Janis and Dixie went to Ted's sister Dagmar in Mississippi and would get involved with 4-H and excel in school. Harold was eventually sent to Verlie's brother Claude and his wife but was treated poorly, by all accounts, and ran away.  Verlie's younger sister Evelyn, who lived in Plainfield caring for her mother, Kate Smull Smith, brought him in. Her husband Marvin Ripley was often away at sea as a Navy man, but they adopted him. Baby Judy, for some reason, did not end up with the family, but was adopted to a wealthy rural couple. Some of that story can be found elsewhere here and here. Verlie would have another family with Leo Linsey - three boys, the oldest of which is my dad.

Harold had a happy life with the Ripley's. Things became normal. He grew up and married Ellen Chester, a very pretty local girl, and a few months later, their first child was born. Three more would follow. He farmed in Bremer County and later, was hired by a large ag firm to manage farms all over the area. He knew his stuff and did well. By the early 1970s, the marriage was failing. After the divorce, he married Judith Stigers, a divorcee with three children. Her two sons lived with her and Harold would adopt the youngest and raise them both. Out of this, I got my cousin Tony, who chose not to take Harold's name, but lovingly supported his parents in their old age and fondly called Harold, "Dad." They were married 48 years-ish when Harold died.

I want to recount a time I had questions about my great aunt Mary and a conversation I had with Harold to tell you a little about his absolute disdain for gossip.

I had been trying to talk about his aunt Mary Marie Adaline Smith, who so far, I had found two husbands for. I peppered him with questions about her Greek immigrant husband and the time they lived in Michigan running a Greek restaurant. He gave me very basic information. I also asked about her last husband - the one she lived with in California when she died. Again, all he said was that she married him because she had known her when she was younger.

After much more research, I came back to him, only this time, I took a different tack: "Uncle Harold. Here's my theory, tell me if it's right. Aunt Mary married the first time to the guy name Hoard and got divorced. It looks like she met her second husband DL Albert right after that and they also got a divorce. Then she married the Greek guy. Then she married DL Albert AGAIN, not because she knew him when she was younger, but because she'd been married to him before!  Is that right?  He said, "Yup."
I loved him a lot, just as I do his lovely wife, my Aunt Judy. I will miss him. 

Judy and Harold

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Schmoll/Schmehl/Smoll/Smull Connection Looks Like it's Coming Together at Last

Two years ago, I wrapped up with what I could do on my 3X great grandfather, Peter Smull's family tree. I was blocked not knowing who is father and mother were, but I knew some things to help me in the dig. Still, it got me no further. With the advent of rampant DNA testing and more time, I think I have come up with a theory on the parentage of Peter.

The basic story is here and here. The stories involved my four Smull relatives:  Jacob, Peter, Henry, and Jesse. You can read other Smull stories here.

First, here's what I knew:

In Peter's grand-nephew's (brother Henry's grandson George's) bio in the Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania:

"...The first of the line in America was _____ Smull, the great-grandfather of our subject. He was a native of Ireland, whence he came to this country in the latter part of the 18th century to locate in the eastern part of Pennsylvania. Six of his children lived to adult age - two daughters and four sons, the names of the latter being Henry, Jacob, Peter, and Jesse. The Smull family in Brush Valley is descended from the first three sons, who were skilled masons, and all went at the same time to Rebersburg to build the wall for the Lutheran Reformed Church. They remained in the Valley, and living in German settlements, they and their children adopted the language and customs of their neighbors...
...Henry Smull, our subject's grandfather, born in eastern Pennsylvania, February 2, 1799; and, coming to Brush Valley in early manhood with no capital except his own abilities and strong physique, obliged to work for many years as a day laborer. He saved his money, however, and in time managed to buy a farm between Kreamerville and Centre Mill. The care of the place devolved mainly upon his family as he comtinued to work at his trade." 
There is a lot wrong with this. But, again, these are paid bios made by a company that did this in towns and villages across the country whose writer's were not necessarily worried about accuracy. George Smull, the subject, is bound to have made the same mistakes we all have in repeating our own family lore (I always think of a game of telephone). His grandfather died while George was a very young child. George most likely had no contact with the non-Brush Valley Smulls. And, they are definitely not Irish and German was their native tongue. Still - the most interesting thing I got out of this was there were two sisters and their non-Brush Valley brother was Jesse.

I then moved on to another Commemorative Bio - this time, for Henry Smull (1842), son of Peter (born in 1796 or 1797-depending on source) and who left Brush Valley for Stephenson County, Illinois in the mid-1800s. Henry's bio had this to say:
"HENRY SMULL, a retired farmer now residing in Macon County, is a native of the Keystone State. He was born in Centre County, Pa., February 23, 1842, and is a son of Peter and Mary (Waggoner) Smull, who were also born in Pennsylvania. The latter was of German descent. The paternal grandfather of our subject was a hero of the Revolution. He left the Old Country to avoid entering the army, and arrived in the United States just in time to aid the Colonists in their struggle for independence.
For seven years he participated in the Revolution. The father of our subject was born February 27, 1796, and died in February, 1869, being buried in Rock Grove, Stephenson County, Ill. His wife, who was born February 4, 1801, died and was buried in the same place in September, 1878. Mr. Smull was always a supporter of the Democratic party. He was a mechanic, and always followed the occupation of farming. He came to Illinois when Henry was a lad of twelve years, and located upon a farm in Stephenson County, where he spent his remaining days." Portrait & Biographical Record of Macon County, Illinois, 1893
The Schmoll I found who fit this criteria, was Johann Peter Schmoll, born 1752 in Eastern
Pennsylvania. Additionally, they had a son Jesse. Most interestingly, there were two sisters.

Finally, the gaps in the births of my Brush Valley brothers Smull fit in beautifully with Johann Peter Schmolls family tree. A fellow researcher also helped me connect Jesse to Johann Peter/Juliana Sara through a baptismal document that wasn't available to me when I started this.

But, I needed the time to work through all of this and there a still a couple of scruffy problems to clear up. Still, I feel fairly confident this theory is on the right track.

This is roster of children I believe were born to Johann Peter Schmoll and Juliana Sara Mueller:

Here is my big issue.  There is another Peter Smull, often attributed to Johann Peter and Juliana Sara who does not seem to have any supporting documentation to support his connection to those parents. Some have that Peter listed with a 1797 birth (I believe this is my Peter) and also with a 1790 birth. Both of these have been connected to Catharina Bischof as wife. I'm very interested to see if anyone has any evidence that Peter m. Catharina Bischof is actually connected to Johann Peter and Juliana.

While it is not unusual for Germans to have more than one child with the same first name, I don't think that's the case here. (See info on naming conventions here).

The volume of Schmolls/Schmehls/Schmoehl/
Smoll/Smull/Schmoels/Smeals in Pennsylvania during the 1780s-1880s is massive. In my DNA, I connect to no fewer than 30 in the 5th to 8th cousin range. Yet, I can find connections only to about a dozen of those (most have a DNA matches of under 15cM across 1 segment - which basically means we're all of some German descent).

That's my surmise. Look forward to other Smull/Smoll/Schmoll researchers who might have an alternate theory, other supporting facts, or theories. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Eureka! A Big Find!

SMITH, Jacob > SMITH, Catherine

I've been doing this for about five years now. Diligently going back to trees and searching for more information. William Custer Smith, my 2XGG, arrived in the Plainfield, Iowa area via Ohio and Grant County, Wisconsin. I had great luck being able to trace his brothers, James, John, and Isaac, but the daughters were tough.

Eventually, I was able to trace youngest sister, Sarah. Elizabeth, I believe, based on no reference in her sister Sarah's obit, to have most likely died quite young. Catherine had been a mystery.  Until a revisit of the documents and information just last week. This is just the introduction to this family.

There she was, bolder than a Hawaiian shirt at church. Born in Ohio around 1833, moved to Grant County, and marrying Alfred Fuller prior to 1860 in Grant County. They then moved on down to the Plainfield area, where cousins and her brother had settled (WC Smith lived just over the county border outside of Plainfield, in Butler County). Catherine gave birth to at least six kids before her death around 1875 (still working that out). The newspaper in the area didn't start publishing for many more years, so there was no reference to her life, nor her death outside of records.

Her daughters married into local families - the Thompsons and the Smiths (the "other" Smith family in Plainfield). Those children, in turn, continued to connect and reweave our lines with the lines of other long-time families in the area. Two of her sons ended up in Chicago - several of her grandchildren would join Chicago Police Department, a tradition that continued for generations. Milton ended up in mining in British Columbia. George lost his wife in 1914 and eventually moved to Los Angeles County, California.

Alfred remarried almost immediately to Hannah Maria Randall, a native of Platteville, Wisconsin. They had six more children, before he died in 1902 in Polk Township, Bremer County.  Hannah then married Enoch Benjamin Townsend, who died the same year she did (1929), in Oregon.

Here are the children of Catherine Smith and Alfred Fuller:

CLARA MILDORA FULLER born 12 May 1860, Grant Co Wis - 03 Sep 1916, Bremer Co, Iowa married EDWARD A SIMBRIC born 10 Mar 1852 in Germany/Austria - 02 Jan 1929, Waterloo, Black Hawk,Ia

LULU BELLE FULLER born 13 Nov 1865 Plainfield, Bremer, Iowa - 08 Aug 1948 Waverly, Bremer, Iowa married OZEM GARDNER THOMPSON 02 Jan 1882 in Bremer County.  He was born 06 Feb 1862 Horton, Bremer, Iowa - 19 Mar 1929 Plainfield, Bremer, Iowa

WARREN J FULLER born 05 Nov 1867 in Story County, Iowa - 02 Mar 1949, Cook, Illinois, married MATILDA WATTERS 18 Jan 1882 in Bremer Co. She was born 09 Jun 1859 in Hainsville, Lake, Illinois - 06 Feb 1935 Chicago, Cook, Illinois.

MILTON J FULLER born abt 1868 in Bremer Co - 30 Mar 1958, Haney, British Columbia, Canada married KATIE MANNINGO 21 Dec 1893 in Des Moines, Iowa. She was born abt 1874.

FRANK N FULLER born Jul 1870 in Bremer Co - Nov 1953, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, married ANN LOUISE STANTON 08 Jul 1896 in Chicago. She was born 27 Jul 1875 in Chicago and died 06 Mar 1941 in Oak Park, Cook, Illinois.

GEORGE MCCABLE FULLER boron 04 Jun 1872 in Bremer Co - 15 Jul 1954 in Los Angeles County, California. He married OLIVE LUELLA SMITH in 1895 in Bremer Co. She was born 22 Nov 1871 in Horton, Bremer Co and died 22 Aug 1914 in Plainfield, Bremer Co.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Updated Ancestry DNA Results updated their regions for me recently. I had taken a 23andMe test as well and found it highly accurate based on my research. Ancestry, not so much. I knew I had no Iberian Peninsula relatives anytime in the recent few hundred years unless there were a bunch on the other side of the blanket.  Not likely.

Anyway, I received my updated map and it is far more in line with what I know to be true. My Danish is typically German or Swedish - as is the case for many Danes. And, Iberian Peninsula is off the map completely.
Iberian Peninsula? I think not.
Massively Scandinavian/German/English
with under 1% Ashkenazi Jewish (I still love my pastrami, okay?)

Ancestry DNA and Mystery Solving

I think that many of us, who do this maddening thing, watch at least one of those Ancestry shows on TV. I like Dr. Gates' PBS show best, but they also clearly have a giant staff of paid and trained scientists and genealogists combing through records all over the world on their behalf. I'd like to be famous for just a short bit so I'd be invited on and he'd get some of my own questions answered.

DNA connections keep getting better and better on ThruLinesTM, now in Beta, is proving to be quite interesting. Of course, it all depends on how accurate your fellow researchers are, and that has proven to be iffy at best, but I have been able to go down at least two paths I couldn't get down before and at least form a hypothesis where I could not before.

It's also proven connections to specific families where I was not sure, or had nothing to cite to make the connection. I'm sure that will give others license to just accept the information at its face and run with it, which will further screw up sorting it out, but I hope not.

One of my discoveries this month was a definitive connection to Sarah Anne Lindsey, child of
Sarah Anne Lindsey Dorathy
(in a classic Lindsey/Linsey look)
Harvey Lindsey and Peace Macumber/Macomber. They lived in New York state and were the parents of my 2GG Oscar Lindsey who pioneered by way of Indiana to Whiteside County, Illinois, and then to Benton County, Iowa. I knew Oscar had an unmarried sister, but was not aware he had at least one other sister, Sarah, who married a Dougherty (later Dorathy) and had a gigantic family who stayed in the Whiteside area and another group of whom moved to Nebraska. It was quite exciting.

Because of DNA, I know I am related to that group and can make the connection at last. It also brings me to my next questions - because of the age difference between Sarah (who was likely one of the older children of Harvey and Peace) and Oscar (likely one of the younger). Are there more siblings out there we don't know about? I'm betting there are and time will tell. I just hate waiting.

What about you? What's been your big discovery this month?

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.