Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ladies in the WPA

How do I love reading Annual Town Reports?  Let me count the ways.

We may be familiar with heavy construction projects which were the fruit of the WPA during the 1930s.  The 1937 Report for the Town of Greenfield, MA lists 20 projects, including "Sewing for the Needy."

It states that this project furnished employment for up to 64 women over 50,000 hours and $23,000 in wages during the year.  Statistics were tallied and resulted in 17,751 distinct articles being made from 49,000 yards of material. 

They made:
Boys' pajamas           609
Boys' pants                257
Boys shirts             2,333
Boys shorts               254
Children's sleepers   516
Girls' bloomers           72
Girl's dresses            647
Girls' pajamas          535
Girls' slips                 156
Infants' diapers      1,159
Infants' dresses          48
Infants' nightgowns  48
Infants' slips               96
Ladies' bloomers     240
Ladies' dresses         956
Ladies' nightgowns 382
Ladies' pajamas      340
Ladies' slips               39
Men's pajamas        375
Men's shirts         4,960
Men's shorts           528
Towels                   1,774
Pillow Cases           894
Sheets                      515

The Town Accountant's Report lists $216 expended in materials.  All of these items were given to needy families in Franklin County, mainly Greenfield residents.  Quite an achievement!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Midnight Mass

My father wasn't a church-goer.  He would drop us off at St. Mary's church in Clinton NY on Sunday mornings, and we would often walk down to Holland Farms for a doughnut afterwards, and meet him there.  I moved on to riding my bike to church, some weeks, and later we enjoyed attending Mass at Hamilton College, where the atmosphere was casual.

When I was in high school, my mother worked two nights a week at the Lutheran Home, a residential care facility.  She didn't drive, and one of us had to drop her off, but that is another story.  She would volunteer to work the 11-7 shift on Christmas Eve to allow the other nurses with younger children to be at home.  Around that time we started to enjoy Midnight Mass at Christmas and Dad participated.  Was it because I didn't have my license yet?   

You might think that with students on the holiday break there would not be a Mass at the college.  For some reason, Christmas remained on the schedule and there always seemed to be a good crowd. There would be candles, and someone played the organ.  I remember one year that we got a significant snowfall during the time we were inside.  It was magical to come out to the sparkling darkness with carols in our ears.

After the first year, I am pretty sure that it was the promise of breakfast with the Burns family in Franklin Springs that kept Dad coming, but it was a special time of togetherness for me.

(I'd like to credit the photo, but clicking it took me to an unsavory web site, so I'll just leave it at a google image search)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The First Ornament

My Christmas tree is covered with memories.  Some of the ornaments came from my childhood, some from my first Christmas in my own apartment, some gifts, and now some given to my children for their own trees someday. 

There is a singular golden ball that comes with a story of its own. My mother says that someone (who?) came to visit her grandparents' home when her father was young.  It was Christmastime and they had no tree.  The guest insisted on giving them a gift of the ball.  Were there more?  How did their celebrations change after this gift?  When I visited my grandmother in the same house as a child, Christmas happened in the front parlor, with a wall sized mirror, the piano and a well decorated tree.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Memorial in Cooperstown

My grandfather, Bill Coleman, served in France during the first World War.  His sister, my great aunt Bess, wrote to him often during the war and later served on the committee to establish a memorial to the war dead. The list includes their cousin, Joe Coleman. She saved the program, which I have transcribed here.

Program of the Unveiling and Dedication of the Cooperstown World War Memorial
Armstice Day, November 11, 1931

The Memorial

Thirteen years have passed since that memorable Armistice Day of November 11, 1918. Since that time there have been several attempts to secure a World War Memorial all of which have proven unsuccessful.  Finally the ladies of the American Legion Auxiliary, Unit No. 579, pledged themselves to the task of properly commemorating to posterity the deeds of those who served and the names of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War and to that end asked the Cooperstown Exchange Club and the Cooperstown Rotary Club to name a joint Committee to select a site and a suitable form of Memorial.

Under the able leadership of Hon. Walter Watson Stokes, who became the Chairman of this joint committee, the site was secured, the form of Memorial agreed upon by the committee, adopted by the American Legion Auxiliary, Unit No. 579, and the campaign for the necessary funds instituted, all of which culminated in the splendid Memorial we are now here to dedicate.

The Committee here wishes to extend its appreciation to those whose services made this Memorial an actuality.

The designer and sculptor of the bronze figure is John Horrigan, Sr., of Boston, Mass.  The Studio in which the statue and markers were modeled and cast is T. F. McGann & Sons Co., Boston, Mass.  The beautiful granite boulder upon which the bronze figure stands is the gift of Mr. William Lighthall of Starkville, New York.  The moving and transporting of the huge boulder from its location near Starkville, Herkimer County, N.Y. , to Cooperstown presented a very difficult engineering  problem which was successfully completed by Hans H. Frey, as principal contractor and the sub-contractors Bart J. Ruddy, Inc., and Utica Trucking and Cartage Co., All of Utica, N.Y. The markers were placed by Everett A. Potter and Peter Jones of Cooperstown.  Miss Elizabeth Patterson of Cooperstown, suggested the inscription on the tablet on the front of the Memorial.  Alfred R. Cobbett and Ernest F. Tyler of Cooperstown, supervised the architectural details regarding the general design and the placing of the Memorial.

And last but not least the Committee is deeply grateful to those loyal and patriotic citizens of Cooperstown and vicinity whose suggestions, advice, and generous contributions have made the Memorial possible.

In Memoriam
Gold Star Mothers
Harry J. Andrews
Mrs. Viania O’Dell (deceased)
F. Clifford Bliss
Mrs. Frank Bliss
Robert G. Cobbett
Mrs. William Cobbett (deceased)
Joseph A. Coleman
Mrs Charles Coleman
James Fenimore Cooper, Jr.
Mrs.  James Fenimore Cooper
Vinton A. Dearing
Mrs. Mary H. Dearing
Foster Eggleston
Mrs. George Eggleston (deceased)
James Franklin Hayne
Mrs. James Hayne
Charles E. Hecox
Mrs. Kendrick Hecox
Walter Herrick
Mrs. James J. Shartz
Charles N. Hopkins
Mrs. Charles L. Hopkins
Leo A. Leach
Mrs. L. Leach (deceased)
Stephen J. Johnson
Mrs. Stephen Johnson
Charles Mc Graw
Mrs. Cora McGraw
Lewis N Mallory
Mrs. William Mallory
H. Lynn Marble
Mrs. James L. Marble (deceased)
Albert S. Peet
Mrs. Fenimore C. Peet (deceased)
George T. Record
Mrs. Chauncey A. Record
Henry Reed
Mrs. Hiram Reed (deceased)
Ralph R. Rexford
Mrs. L. Rexford (deceased)
Lewis W. Ross
Mrs. Fred Armstrong
Albert L. Seeber
Mrs.  George Seeber (deceased)
Walter A. Seeger
Mrs. Lester C. Seeger (deceased)
Clark F. Simmons
Mrs. Frank Simmons
John W. Stiles
Mrs. James Stiles
Fred L. Stilson
Mrs. M.D. Stilson
Harry A. Winn
Mrs. Abram Winn

                        Walter Watson Stokes, Chairman                
Berton G. Johnson, Vice Chairman                             
Alfred Rcobbett, Treasurer                              
Mrs. Fletcher A Blanchard, Secretary             
Mrs. Floyd J. Atwell                                    Miss ElizabethG. Patterson
Fletcher A. Blanchard                                  Mrs. Alfred J. Peevers
Harold D. Carpenter                                     Adrian A. Pierson
Mrs. Alfred R. Cobbett                                 Dr. Leroy Pitcher
Miss Elizabeth Coleman                               Benjamin Reisman
Newton E.D. Gilmore                                   Mrs. Frank Simmons
Berton G. Johnson                 `                       William C. Smalley
Mrs. Berton G. Johnson                                 Mrs. James Stiles
Joseph P. Leary                                               Clermonte G. Tennant
Moses E. Lippitt                                             Orange L. Van Horne
Mrs. A. John Wedderspoon


Invocation                                           The Rev. Gordon L. Kidd
Huggick-Purcell-Shepherd Post, American Legion, Richfield Springs Singing “America”
Presentation of Monument               Rowan D. Spraker, 
                                                              President of the Village   
Acceptance of Monument                Alfred R. Cobbett
                                                              Clark F. Simmons Post No. 579, 
                                                              American Legion, Cooperstown
Unveiling under direction of A. Leo Stevens, formerly chief instructor in Aeronautics, U.S. Army.
Dedication                                             The Hon. Clermonte G. Tennant, Cooperstown
Singing National Anthem 
Salute to the Dead
Program by courtesy of the Freeman’s Journal Co.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

If Walls Could Talk

The village of Farley grew along the Millers River in the Town of Erving, MA when the Farley brothers established their paper mill  across the river in Wendell, about 1888 (MHC Reconnaissance Report - Wendell, 1982).

I moved into my new/old house in Farley last December.  I was taken by the high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, dental moldings, dual fireplaces (not operational) around the massive central chimney, and by a feeling of history in the walls.  Since then, I've been wondering what those walls have seen.

My predecessors lived here for 53 years.  It must have been a great spot for a family, with the river in the back yard and remains of the mill buildings nearby. The lady of the house was quite a gardener, and the catalogs continue to arrive by mail.  The husband was a carpenter, and identical custom cabinets in the kitchen, pantry, and two bathrooms show his handiwork.  A neighbor said the arched opening in the entry was his making as well.  Do the knots emerging from under the paint of the crown molding show them to be newer than they look? There is evidence of hinges on the remaining doorways, where doors would have kept the heat contained in the living areas. What other renovations happened during their tenure?  The gold sparkles on the kitchen counter say early 1960s to me.

Evidence of history can be found in the stone-walled basement. The floor is partially dirt, and begs for more exploration. There are no partitions, no coal room that is found in many old cellars. It has adequate headroom for its use as a workshop for the past owner.  A bulkhead door in the back was  blocked when a deck was added. Part of the kitchen has no basement under it, although the bowed front window does.  Was a side porch enclosed to expand the kitchen? 

The gambrel roof makes room for a full attic on the third floor.  Partition walls clad with bead-board establish four distinct rooms, two with closets.  Servant's quarters? The kitchen rehab eliminated the back staircase, which would have allowed the kitchen help to get up to their attic quarters without disturbing the family in the main part of the house.  The remaining doorway molding at the landing was the first clue, as well as the bottom step visible in the basement. I would like to make measurements of the current walls to understand their relationships. I'm having a hard time imagining the original kitchen layout.

Reading the deeds and the 1900 census reveals that this was not the home of one of the Farleys, but their company accountant, George Monroe.  Sophia Bergstrom was the family's 25 year old servant from Sweden.  The records of the Town of Erving include three Monroe children born to George and his wife Minnie Blodget: Alice in 1892, Harris in 1895, and Barbara in 1902. That places them here at least during those years.  In 1910, they were in Orange, where the family continued to live until at least 1940.

More questions come to mind in the four bedrooms upstairs. The second floor bathroom is an obvious add-on, and the full length window in the northern bedroom might have been a door to the small porch.  The only means of access now is through one of the window. The smallest bedroom is connected through the sunny southern bedroom.  Was it a dressing room or nursery?

I may never answer these questions definitively, but the fun is in the puzzling.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Notes from NGS

Thomas W. Jones, Elizabeth Shown Mills, Warren Bittner, D. Joshua Taylor, Jane E. Wilcox: people I had heard about, but by whom I had never attended a presentation before this week. Ceil Jensen, David Ouimette: familiar faces in the crowd and speakers I had met before. Building evidence, computer applications, women's resources, context of place: familiar topics with new tidbits gleaned.

My most intriguing potential new source of information: Presidential libraries! Which of my ancestors are most likely to have written a letter to a sitting President? Jane Wilcox presented a copy of a letter she had written to President Nixon, retrieved from his library. She had also made a search through the collection at the FDR library in Hyde Park, which is not indexed. I'm pretty sure that my parents would have written to the White House during my lifetime. Were there other political activists in my family tree? I will have to see what I can uncover.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Who Got Married Here?

I am looking forward to attending my first National Genealogical Society Family History Conference in Las Vegas in two weeks.  It is fresh on the heels of the New England Regional Genealogical Conference in Manchester, NH, where I had a great time conversing with other bloggers in person and attending a few sessions on Thursday.  I had to cut my stay short to attend my son's wedding. An exciting event to add to the family tree!

I don't see a session on the NGS program covering "Las Vegas Weddings" - maybe there should be.  You see, after meticulously planning my first trip to Las Vegas - a week-long vacation - around the NGS conference in May, my son surprised me with an announcement that he was getting married in Vegas in April!  In this way, my first trip became my second trip and I scrambled to figure out how to organize a brief weekend jaunt.

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau, an average of nearly 100,000 marriage licenses are issued there annually. Well over 1,000 of them generally take place on Valentine's Day.   I checked the web page for the Clark County License Bureau and confirmed that they are open daily until midnight to serve the romantic public.  Numerous chapels with a wide variety of themes are available, as are the facilities of the resort hotels.  I was much more of a traditionalist when I married and will admit I never considered an Elvis wedding.  My son and his lovely bride did!

It proved to be both a fun and touching event, pictured above.  The wedding package at the Graceland Chapel included a reproduction of the wedding certificate of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. As a genealogist, that was of much less interest to me than my son's wedding certificate.  Of course it lists the names, dates of birth, and residence of the parties.  Parents' are listed (he spelled mine correctly.) This license came from Virginia, where he is currently living.  I looked closer.  It was executed on March 1, 2013.  It was signed by a Virginia Civil Magistrate.  Wait a minute!  The ceremony that we had just celebrated, although it had all of the words and legal standing, was NOT a wedding.  Technically, I suppose it was a renewal of vows.  Vows that were officially taken seven weeks earlier!

Is this a genealogist's nightmare?  I have a certificate and therefore the date and place of marriage.  A future researcher might find this certificate again someday by searching indices.  The groom is  Massachusetts resident, stationed in Virginia in the U.S. Army.  The bride is a Slovakian, temporarily working as an au pair in Maryland. There is no telling where they may move next.  Rumor has it that there may be yet another wedding in a European church next year.  Without the stories to go with this marriage, the photographs may lead to all kinds of erroneous assumptions.  Good thing this is going on my blog.  The internet is forever...

P.S. When you don't tell Mom the whole story, she will eventually figure it out.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Viva Las Vegas!

What is more fun than a room full of genealogists?  A hotel full!

The largest gathering I have attended was NERGC in Springfield, MA in 2011, within commuting distance of my home.  I have considered the genealogy cruises, but never took the plunge.  When the location for the NGS 2013 Family History Conference was announced, I was more than tempted.  I have never visited Las Vegas, and my favorite traveling companion was game.

We anxiously awaited the opening of registration, and made our plane reservations.  There will be side trips.  One of my father's most memorable trips was his flight over the Grand Canyon out of Las Vegas, and he was not usually a willing traveler.  The research of a range of possibilities continues.

Then a week ago I learned that I had been planning my SECOND trip to Vegas.  My son announced he will be married in the Elvis Chapel on April 20.  I wouldn't miss it for the world!  And I'll be adding that date in the family tree very soon.

Meanwhile, I'll be blogging about the conference.  I am honored to be selected as an Official Blogger and will be sharing my experiences as a first-timer!