A Year of Silver Linings, Happy Anniversary: Legacy Writing

One year ago on March 24 2021 I published my first general genealogy blog post! Between 2012-2015 I had written an occasional WHEATON DNA private blog. During this past year I have averaged more than two posts a week and have over 115 posts, even though I never set out to be a regular blogger. Sometimes you just start writing and find out you have a lot to say, even though you didn’t know that in the beginning. I keep waiting to run out of things to write about—or the inspiration to do so, but so far they keep coming. Perhaps writing is an antidote to all the things I cannot control like Covid-19 and the War in Ukraine—writing as an outlet for organizing one’s thoughts. It has given me the opportunity to learn more about my ancestors and bring their stories to life. And in the process learn more about myself.

But the biggest surprise is that I am writing about writing. I am neither an English major nor a professional writer and yet I encourage others find their voice. I write about doing genealogy and family history in an intuitive, informative way, as an antidote to all those telling you to use a more methodical approach. I especially want to urge those who are discouraged by all the do’s and don’ts to research, write, and have fun, any way you wish! Write what you want, any way you want and stop worrying about what others will think. What matters is you have put something down on the page and someone will appreciate it, long after you are gone. If only I could tell my great grandmother Lulu how much her diary has meant to me. Her diary was supposed to have been destroyed upon her death, but her eldest daughter Jessie kept it and it passed on eventually to my second cousin who gave me permission to share it with a wider audience. Lulu, her son Milo, who is my grandfather, and his son Duane, my dad; all were writers even if the world did not know them. They had the courage to record their feelings and I can think of no greater gift to me.

The most intimate thoughts shared in a diary, in letters, in stories or poems has allowed me to know my ancestors, even my father, in a way I will never know my silent ancestors. They left behind a written legacy and I suppose that is what I am doing through my writing. Even the briefest of quotes gives you a deep picture of who they were. Here is a sampling of each.

July 31 Sat. Began the day with a senseless quarrel about Milo filling the woodbox. F.S. [Franklin Stewart, husband] told him to fill it at night and he said he did. F.S. said he didn’t whereupon I said he, Milo, had filled the box and that I had burned it up after dinner on the night before (fri) when I mopped up the floor, baked apple turnovers for his and Deweys lunch and washed and upped the dishes, as Lolita had gone to spend the week end with the Freyers. Frank flew into a rage and said I lied and talked like a fool and he was tired of my butting in and for me to keep my mouth shut when he was correcting the children. He is or wants to be absolute monarch. I told him I should talk whenever I felt like it and he answered by saying Id talk once to often some day. I wonder.

Lulu’s Diary San Francisco, California, 1915 Mary Lulu PADEN MOSIER, 47 years old
Oakland Tribune 27 Nov 1957

Dear Leo, this letter started out as a penciled scrawl. Then I had to type it to find out what I had said. The maples in my yard are flaming now—Red and gold. I imagine those in your neighborhood are long since bare. The rains have come, gone, and they are now clouded up to come again. We are awaiting with much interest the attempt at rendezvous of the two Gemini space craft. On November 27, 1957, my PRAYER appeared in the Oakland Tribune. At the time no one had done more than go swimming in the atmosphere. Eight years ago–“Dieu, qui le temp passe vite! [God, time flies!]

Milo D. MOSIER, Napa, California , 66 years old; letter to his brother Leo in Minneapolis

“I don’t know whether this year in the corps is going to mature me or bring about a premature second childhood. Since I last wrote I’ve done a lot of thinking about the Marine Corps lost time and I find the facts regarding the Corps achievements in the past haven’t changed much, but my sense of values has and I feel that fear, misinformation, disregard for human life, narrow mindedness, naive pride and prejudice tied together by mutual suffering and so called guts have made the Marine Corps what it is and was–a myth that accomplishes its end by drawing a curtain in men’s minds–like religion–if you begin to questions it, it’s gone, if you believe there are no questions, no problems, no nothing, but glory.”

Duane F. MOSIER, San Clemente, California, 25 years old; letter to his father Milo D. MOSIER, 4 Oct 1951

So reflecting on those before me– perhaps it is not an accident that I should find myself writing my way through whatever life is dishing up. I am lucky to have a family of role models. May they continue to show me the way. From a grateful daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter.

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved.

Registered at UC Berkeley: A Soprano’s Aria Chapter 35

Feb. 14 – Life was some what of a drag all around.  I have all my notes to show that I attended class regularly and made good marks. Finished textiles and took up a short course in  Psycology  Also a few private lessons in dress drafting from Mrs. Percival.

Feb. 23 Jessie went to Fabiola hospital to be operated on for appendicitis.

Fabiola Hospital, Oakland later Kaiser

Feb 24Sylvester and I went down and stayed while she was operated on. It was very successful. I kept house for Syl. Dull quiet days about all alike. Jessie convalescing. Syl at work me doing house work and going to class at regular intervals at night in Oakland.

Mar 4 – Lolitas 19th birthday.

5 – I had a caller for a few min before I had to go to The Fabiola to help Jessie home. She is fine and getting better all the time. The next two weeks were spent in nursing J back to health and strength. Some time after Jessie went to the Hospital Jessie sent Lolita a couple of baby quilts.

Mar 10 – Sylvesters birthday Ray’s baby was buried. J. invited to dinner didn’t come because he never got the invitation. Mother Miller came had a fine Rabbit pie. He was 30 years old.

Mon routine in the same old way. Pleanty of humdrum work.

Mar 30 Jessie 27th birthday We had a birthday dinner at Eilenes for Jessie. Joe was an honored guest. We had a good time. Jessie Sylvester J and I left for home about 10 oclock. Jessie & S. and I comming on over to Berk. We had a chicken noodle dinner—very good

1 April – Spring and sad memories. No spring sewn for my sweet kiddies who are wearing their black uniforms in a San Rafael convent.

APRIL – 10 – Josephines [Mrs Freyer’s daughter]—11 B DAY — I gave her a book of poems.

April 17 – Lois Cameron born to Charles and Lolita Cameron in Humbolt Co California.

Apr 18 – Dad Miller came and took Jessie Syl and myself to Westlunds in Castro Valley. I stayed 4 days sewing and made 4 dollars a day. Hard work. Come home on 22 April to find my bro Horace here. I was glad to see him.

22 April – Bro and I took a street car ride to San Leandro and back. We stopped in Oakland to do some shopping for Lolitas baby. I sent her the box soon after. It contained a lot of nice baby clothes that we had collected together. Bro sent some socks and bunny booties which were very lovely.

Sat Apr 23 – We went to S. F to see Allie and Agnes.

Sun. Apr. 24 – Bro. went back to Madera. He soon wrote he had secured employment for Sylvester, who was temporarily out of work.

May 2 (sun) – Syl went to join bro. Horace in Madera.

May 12 — Big Graduation day at U. C. 1300 students received their sheep skins. It was a great day, impressive in the extreme. The chimes played “Theres a long long trail awinding.” [Chimes would be the campanile bells]

10 May 1920 San Francisco Examiner

May 13 – Jessie obtained employment at a Kodak shop in Oakland.

May 30 – Gave Mrs. Johnson a large sheaf of white gladiolas for her mothers grave.

May 31 – Jessie stayed home for the holiday.

June 1 – A most wonderfully perfect day beginning and end. I went down to class in the evening as I passed Irenes aunts place I saw Joe’s car in front. This winds up the terms work in Trade Analysis. I have my paper to write yet.

June 13 – “Pop” Miller drove over in his ford and took us down to Neptune beach. Dewey and Dutch, Jessie and I. When we returned Frank and Leo were here. I was very sorry we missed them

June 19registered at the U. C.

University of California Berkeley Campanile

June 20 ? – Jessie & Vestina, Mrs Smith and I went over to Smiths place in the Sand Dune dist of S. F. for a picnic. I cooked 2 rabbits and they made the salad It was a fine dinner and a grand good time. The fog came wet and cold, a great contrast to our Berkeley heat. I enjoyed every minuit of the long day. We came home late tired and happy.

June 21a great day. I started to Summer School at the U. I find it very interesting

June 23Had a telephone installed step forward. Another desire realized. Had a fine auto ride to Oakland, and dinner at a cafateria after the morning session of School.

June 24 Entered another class today. It is still another step forward. It is a class in Part time work with the regular academic teachers. This with my other class in Smith Hughes work is the training to fit teachers for the public schools under the new laws that will bring hundreds of new scholars into the school this fall.

Sat June 26, 1920 – Did a big days work today. Washing ironed and cleaned house. Of course I tired myself out but had the satisfaction of seeing it accomplished at any rate. Jessie called up Ruth Westlund Fri and made a date to go out to Castro Valley on Sunday.

Sun June 27 – Jessie and I got up early and did up the work and started. The day was fine. We had a lovely trip thru the cherry orchards. When we got to Hayward we found Ruth waiting for us. Jessie got 2 qt of ice cream and we went out thru the golden sunshine cool breeze and sweet perfumes to Westlunds. She our hostess was glad to see us. She was Frying chicken when we arrived 4 of them. My but they were good. I could have eaten a whole one myself, the little fryers. I didn’t care so much for the ice cream. After lunch Jessie snapped our pictures and we talked, read the news of the Democratic Convention now being held in S. F and napped. Then we had coffee and cake and then Mrs W. took us to Hayward where we took the street car for home arriving at 10.15. J bought 3 doz. egs and brought them along. I studied Mondays lesson a bit and went to bed.

Monday June 28Went to class at summer session of U. C. Cal. Took up all morning from 8 to 12 enjoyed it very much. Got a new binder for my blanks in Part Time. 85 cents. Filed my registration card and got my assembly ticket. Walked home by Gas & Electric and paid bill. Stopped at City hall and paid taxes. Stopped at store and bought meat and potatoes. Came home cooked lunch ate, and rested. Watered flowers, read paper, posted diary and am cooking dinner for J. and I. Am ready to study my lessons for tomorrow.

Wed June 30 — Went home with Mrs. Milliken after hours at the U. C. Jessie came over and we came home tog. had dinner. Jessie then went for a short call on Vestina. I am studying the new state and Federal school laws all alone.

July 8 1920Came home from U. C. with a head ache. J. rang up and later called. Didn’t stay long. Had a nice visit while it lasted. Am working hard on course of study for my class tomorrow.

Sat J. 10 – Went down to Oakland and bought a Boston bag.

Sunday July 11 – Jessie and I are trying to catch up with the work which has been neglected during the weeks occupation with other duties. I am almost too tired to study which must be done if I am to make any headway at the Summer Session at the U.C. Lost my Smith Hughes bulletin tough luck. [Smith-Hughes Act, formally National Vocational Education Act, U.S. legislation, adopted in 1917, that provided federal aid to the states for the purpose of promoting precollegiate vocational education in agricultural and industrial trades and in home economics.]

July 17 – Put in time at U. C. since last entry. Mrs Ludwick gave me an extra Smith Hughes so I am all O K again. Home sick with a bad cold in my head. Allie called up Jessie ditto. Great invention, the telephone, I’ll say. I have written to Goldie Louis and Lolita today. I will now read up on my studies for Monday.

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All RIghts Reserved.

Catch & Release, Word Fishing: Writing Challenge

“Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If fishing is a metaphor for writing, the title is the bait. I often start with the title. It’s setting the hook, attracting the reader, but it has another purpose. It sets the scope and determines what it is I am hoping to write about. I know many people don’t select a title until they are done. With Lulu’s Diary I typically read over the transcription, picked the time frame and then the title from something in the entry. Do what works for you. Working with a title prevents me from getting lost. Stay along the stream, Kelly: you can go upstream or downstream. You can go for a swim or dry off on the bank. The title helps me to focus.

I was reflecting on my writing process and it brought to mind the many excellent English teachers I have had. Collectively they were a very demanding lot. Not a slouch or easy teacher in the bunch. From my 4th grade teacher Miss Buckley where our text was “Laugh and Learn Grammar” to the dreaded diagramming sentences at the black board with Mr. Tolland. Mrs. Larm in 9th grade would stand in front of the class, feet planted in a wide stance, while gazing out the windows at the San Francisco Bay, “It’s lovely isn’t it?” she’d ask then answer, “Even though I know the stinky Emeryville mudflats are there at mid horizon, I don’t have to focus on them.” It was she that taught me to love Shakespeare and how to concentrate on what is important. To Mr. Hewes who lived in Bolinas and knew Janis Joplin. He had us select quotes from everything we read and write them on index cards. He created in me, a life-long quote collector. And finally Mr. Monsees whose red pencil could bring a student to tears, but thanks to my previous teachers, I was not one of them. Each contributed to my writing, so here is a much belated “thank you” to my writing teachers.

Writing is not about perfection, although for many years I thought it was. Perfection is a writing killer. It is the enemy of all writers. It’s what keeps a page blank. Forget about perfection and practice perseverance. Fish with words. Stop trying. Cast the line, reel it in, repeat…Fisherman’s luck is about rhythm, intuition and putting yourself out there. You don’t catch anything without trying. A fisherman has to be willing to come back empty handed. A writer must write even if it comes to naught. The effort is never wasted.

If you are a genealogist or family historian who has not written a story or narrative—I am talking to you. You can do this. What you will need:

  1. You must have something to say–if you draw a blank you aren’t ready to write
  2. You must know what that is–and sometimes it’s by writing you can figure that out
  3. What you say should evoke emotion–make the reader care
  4. It must have energy and authenticity
  5. Be realistic. If you want to set yourself up for failure, then set out to catch a dozen fish in two hours.
  6. Writing isn’t talking. The fewer words we use the more power the remaining ones have.
  1. You must have something to say. If you have an ancestor you want to write about–you need to know your subject. You need to place them in time and space. Give them a context. Were they the eldest child? The youngest? Only? Was their mother 14 or 44 when they were born? The key to being able to write about someone is finding out everything you can and carefully analyzing what you can find. If you can’t find anything much about the individual then maybe the story should be about someone else in the family. If your great great grannie was the daughter, sister, mother of someone with more history or information maybe you can write about them in the context of someone for which more is known. If it is someone close to you like a parent or grandparent maybe you know too much about them—in that case focus on some part of their life that interests you. If your grandfather was a blacksmith—maybe learn all you can about what that meant in the proper time frame. What sorts of things might he have been called on to do? If you write about what matters to you—you are more likely to write something that matters to others.
  2. You must know what that is. If you don’t know what you want to say just start writing and keep writing until a theme emerges. Write everything you can about the person. If you knew them describe what you remember. What the wore, how they combed their hair, knitted their brow, tapped their fingers—what did “you” notice or remember about them? Why did you loathe them, love them, or listen to them? Why did you care? Why will the reader care? Maybe they weren’t a particularly interesting person but they lived through something historical. A war, a tragedy, a victory, a celebration. As you research someone pay attention to what was going on around them.
  3. What you say should evoke emotion–make the reader care Are your ancestors flat? Do their narratives read like a grocery list? Aunt Mabel was born 20th of March 1906, blah, blah blah. Aunt Mabel was born the first day of Spring in 1906, but you would never have guessed it from the 3 feet of deposited snow that fell in the several hours her mother had been in labor… Great grandfather was married blah blah blah. John Lewis Henager, my great grandfather, had waited ten years to marry my great grandmother. He was 26 and she a few months shy of her fifteenth birthday… Everyone’s life has stories in it. You need to find them, and make them real.
  4. It must have energy and authenticity. A story has energy if you want to turn the page to see what happened. Authenticity means it reads true—that the author gains our trust and we are willing to follow along. Energy can come from struggle, desire, humor, passion, curiosity, any human emotion. It can be subtle or intense—but a story without energy will fall flat and the we will lose interest—both in the writing of it—or anyone reading it.
  5. Be realistic. Let’s face it, most people aren’t going to read what we write. That’s okay, it takes the pressure off. So if our audience is small then we can adjust our aspirations to something doable. If you have spent a portion of your life building your family tree that’s great. But if you can’t tell me any interesting stories about your ancestors you need to take a deeper dive into the tree of life. Write about what you love and how that might connect with your ancestors. Do you love to cook, travel, sing, sew, paint, or write? Where did that come from? Can you use that love to illuminate your writing about an ancestor?
  6. Writing isn’t talking. Some of us get too chatty when we write. In the draft phase write to you heart’s content. Be superfluous. Say the same thing 3 ways. Write out of sequence—you can fix that later. Many times a story is more interesting when told out of sequence. Keep the reader guessing why the subject ended up here. A story does not have to start with their birth. Maybe start with the dying and have your subject reveal stories from their past. Maybe they took a story to their grave and at the funeral someone told it. Be creative, have fun. The beauty of writing is we get to edit it. We get to mix up the order and remove anything that did not work. Editing is your chance to throw back the fingerlings and only take home the trophy catch. Edit with a passion. If a sentence has 3 clauses and 17 words can you say it better in 7? Can a different word choice make a difference? Be ruthless. You can always put it back. And finally read it out loud. Not out loud in your head, but literally out loud.

Recommended Reading

Writing with Power by Peter Elbow 1998

You Can Write Your Family History by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack 2003

Bringing Your Family to Life through social history by Katherine Scott Sturdevant 2000

FAMILY HISTORY WRITING Guidelines and Challenges

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved

The Culmination of a Long Dream: A Soprano’s Aria Chapter 34

Editor’s note this chapter is of particular interest to me as it recounts Lulu’s perspective in her meeting of her son Milo’s girlfriend, my grandmother Carrie Henager

Nov 12 — Yesterday Jessie and I went down to the auditorium to hear a very fine program in Memoriam to the American Army. When we got home We found Eilene and Milo there. After dinner we all went down to Lake Merritt to see the fire works which were very beautiful. [I remember going to see the fireworks at Lake Merritt as a child]. I was tired when I got home but stood it fine limping around on my sore foot which I scalded accidentally a few days ago. This morning I got up early and got Allie off and went back to bed I slept soundly awhile then the bell rang and when I got up and looked out I saw Joe standing there. I stepped in a kimono and opened the door. He came to see if I still wanted to go on with my classes and whether he should sign my recommendation. I assured him I still wanted to go on with it so he promised to recommend me for the position of teacher of sewing in the public schools. This is a truly beautiful day sunny and crisp and cool. It seems as if it is also the fulfillment out of all promises the culmination of a long dream. The end of an intensely interesting chapter and the beginning of another. May it begin and end happy!

Nov 14 – I went to the O. H. S. class Designing. It is growing more interesting every lesson.

Oakland Technical High School

Nov 15 – Did a very good sat house cleaning job. Studied in afternoon Uncle came over to see us.

Nov 16My 52 birthday I feel quite the same as I did yesterday. Jessie and Syl gave me a nice box of writing paper. Allie and Agnes went to the city Allie gave me an eversharp pencil. I bought me a set of hair combs. Lolita and Charlie contributed a box of Humboldt apples and Leo sent me a 2 dollar bill to buy me something with.

Nov 17 – getting Lolitas things ready to send. Jessie and Syl went to the country to make fence.

Nov 18 – Went to Dr. Blood pressure 190 still high. Called up 1520 Morton [Mrs Fryer’s address]. Every body all right.

Nov 26 – Sent Lolitas box very glad to have it off at last. Went down to Oakland and got the buttons for Agnes coat and sewed them on in even, so she would have something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Nov 27Thanksgiving day. I made the pumpkin pies and cranberry sauce and then came over to Eilenes to a fine turkey dinner. Dewey took me to a show at the Portola in the evening I went back to Jessies for the night. She came home for T.G. [Thanksgiving]

Nov 28 – I packed up and came over to stay with Eilene awhile. We have been cleaning house and washing cloths. Milos new girl Miss Caroline Hagerman [Henager, my grandmother] came over to dinner on Sunday Nov 23. We had a very pleasant visit with her She is small petite and pleasant quite nice looking and a nurse in the Letterman General Hospital. Milo says they are engaged I trust they will be happy.

Milo & Carrie c. 1919

Nov 25 – Visited Josephines school to get information on the sub. of supplies in the sewing classes. I enjoyed it very much and went to 1520 Morton [Mrs Freyer’s family] for dinner. It was very depressing for the place seemed so empty and dull with Irene gone. J. brought me home in the sedan. I enjoyed the ride. The weather was perfect we talked of many interesting things and parted friends hoping to meet again.

Nov 29 – Cleaning house at Eilenes 1415 Oak St San Francisco

“ 30 Sun — Eilene had Caroline Hagerman [Carrie Henager] to dinner. Later we went to a show on Haight St.

Monday Dec 1 – Helped Eilene wash. First rain of season. Very good

Tue 2 – Still raining and sunny by spells. Am going to Oakland to my class this evening.

3 — Wrote to Lolita. Milo and his father are in Colusa Co. Cal. Later went to Oakland and had a very instructive lesson on The Psychology of teaching.

Dec 4 – attended Oak Down town school in evening. Enjoyed a fine lesson on artificial silk and decimal Fractions.

Dec 5 – At O. H. S. evening classes on Colors. Their fundamental principals.

Dec 6 – Still at Eilenes helping with the work.

Sunday Dec. 7 – Very quiet Christmas at Eilenes Syl and Jessie came over for a few minutes.

Dec 8 – Making Eilene a coat.

“ 9 – Tuesday evening class Allie came in for a few min.

“ 10 – Still at coat. Went to Divisadero theater in evening with Eilene

“ 11 – Class on Methods and review on silk Textiles

“ 12 – Our usual Fri evening class on Applied Design Miss Lellender our very eff Teacher giving us another interesting lesson on the blending and grouping of colors.

13 Sat. – Went up on Haight St and had my picture taken for the application for teachers certificate.

14 Sunday – Caroline [Carrie Henager] came and we had a nice dinner

15 – Washed for Eilene Sunny day

16 – Finished wash and went after the pictures which were not ready. I had planned to go direct to Jessies but this will change my plans. (Later) I went to Oak. Saw the Dr, the Notary and the Post Master got all the papers and went to the office of Mr Jacobs and handed them in then went out to Jessies for dinner. Had been there but a short time when J came. We all chatted awhile and he took me down to the Key Route station where I took train for S. F.

Dec 25 1919 Eilene had a big tree in the front window and all the family present but Lolita and Leo and their father who were all out of the city. We all worked hard to make it a success and so it turned out to be. Every one enjoyed it immensely We all got nice presents which were also appropriate and useful. I received a beautiful silk umbrella from the family. 25 dollars from mother and $5 from Milo and 2 from Leo 3 from Dewey so I can say Santa Claus remembered me. I also got a box of Chickens and sausages from Goldie and then got the news that their beloved and only son Richard was shot and killed instantly with a 22 accidentally discharged on the 21 of December. It was an awful shock to me. Poor Goldie who was so kind and good had to give up her only son.

Dec 30Went to Oakland to see the Dr. My pressure was 175 and my skin not better. He thinks my trouble is nervousness. He has changed my treatment. I went to Mr Jacobs office and turned in the letter Albert got for me from Mr Drew. Then I went out to see Jessie. Milo and Carrie were already there and we all had dinner consisting of Goldies chicken. Then Agnes and I went to the Oakland auditorium to hear Alice Gentle in the Messiah. It was very grand and impressive. That night I spent at Jessies and returned to San Francisco

Oakland Tribune Dec 26 1919

Dec 31. Allie and Agnes accompanied me and in the evening we all drove down Market st to see the fun such an abandon of formalities. Every one tried to out do the other in making the last day of the old year and the 1 of the new year a merry one.

Jan 1 1920 – At Eilenes. Dewey Milo and Caroline Henager present. Crocheted Lolita some holders which makes 9 I have made 3 for each of Lolita Caro and Eilene. I also crocheted 5 table mat covers for Jessie. Eilene furnishing the thread. So I have been quite busy the last few weeks. We went out for a little spin around the Park with the good old trusty Jeffries. It was keen and cold and foggy. The bunch are playing cards and I am writing this at 10.30 Good night. And may the year prove a successful one and may happiness be with us.

Jan 2 – 3 – Washing and cleaning house

Jan 4 Sun – Still cleaning up tiresome dull day.

Jan 5 – Schools begin. Carrie and I take a walk in the park.

Jan 6 – Our night school opens. I attend good class. Interesting lesson on psychology. J called at Eilenes soon after I left.

Jan 7 Wed – Busy as a bee at house k duties. J [Joe Richardson allegedly Mrs Fryer’s husband who turned out to be her widowed husband] Called in afternoon to tell me he had sent in my recommendation. I am so glad but not gay. I feel blue somehow. I hope every thing will turn out all right. Miss Carrie went back to the Letterman [Hospital at the Presidio] Milo is going tomorrow to Belden [Plumas County] to work. Albert was over to attend night school. Milo bought and presented to me a book on Textiles by Paul Nystrom. It is much better than the other authors we have been studying.

Jan 8 – Went to night school and had a fine lesson out of my new book on cotton.

Fri 9 — Went to night school in Oakland had a most interesting lesson on colors. Miss Lellander is a fine teacher and knows her subject well. She is going to try to give us a course in advanced costume designing.

Jan 10 Sat – Clear cold and frosty as so many of these winter days have been. Jessie and Agnes called a while last evening. Milo didn’t get started so thinks he will get off today. Am going to study a whole lot and try and catch up.

Jan 11 – I went over to Oakland to our class in applied design and found out that Miss Lellender was ill so we put in the time reviewing the previous lesson on colors their tints shades hues and near and distant relations. Mrs Percival gave us a talk on her method of drafting and we may take it up later.

Jan 10 – Sat work as usual.

11 Sun – Dewey came Attended regular classes as usual all week. Nothing of moment happened save on Thursday I was vaccinated as small pox had broken out in the O. H. S. I refered to our Friday meeting in a previous paragraph a week ahead of time.

Sat 17 – found us all still busy

Sun 18 – Dewey was going to give us a ride when the lights refused to go so we sat in the machine and watched the world go by awhile. The weather was ideal and we enjoyed the fresh air. Eilene entire household was present.

Mon 19Dewey left for Mare Island. He didn’t get to go to Siberia on U. S. Transport as he had desired to but may get to go later. Studying and washing cleaning house and ironing very busy day. Arm lame and sore.

Jan 20 – Attend class on Method as usual. Test paper and reviewed next lesson. Arm and side swollen and sore. Allies Birthday he is 30. The years continue to roll on. Long time since he was born in Rogers on a cold winter day.

Jan 21

Jan 22First rain for a long time. Put in the day on my lesson mixing water colors in a painting of various hues on paper to cut out in circle to make up the family circle of colors later ie. tomorrow night. I want to go to the library now to study up on the Jaquard loom. My arm is better. I helped Eilene with her sleeves and Leos pajamas. It has quit raining and is cloudy and cold.

Jan 23 – Last lesson on applied art by Miss Lellender. –Sorry–

Jan 24 – Sat with all that goes with it.

Jan 25 Sunday – Milled around home at Eilenes all day.

26 – Housework and study Attended class at O. H. S. on Method as usual on tue.  When I got back Eilene told me that J called after I left.

28 – More study and work.

29 Attend class on Textiles

30 – At home writing up notes on last nights lesson

Occasional dates [from this point on the Diary is occasional entries]

Feb 1 – went to Jessies in Berkeley

  “     3 – Eilenes birthday.  Jessie and I went over to S. F. and gave Eilene some birthday presents.  I came over to Oakland to class and Jes. went home to B.  I return to Eilenes.  Caroline Heneger is a guest.  Eilene, Carrie, and I visited Letterman Gen. Hospital had a pleasant time  I may have mentioned this before. 

Letterman General Hospital

Carrie is preparing to go home to her people in Orofino Nevada [Actually Idaho] in a short time.  She made Frank H. a fine bathrobe.  Eilene bought the stuff.  Carrie made Eilene a beautiful tray.  On the 12th she and Milo went to Berkeley to make Jessie a visit on the 13th of February 1920 they called me up and I went over to sanction and give my consent to their marriage. Milo and Carries Wedding Day. Carrie looked sweet in a neat blue outfit which she changed for a rose silk dinner gown later.  And so they leave me one by one. Only good old Dewey left single of them all.  Carries leave being up, she went north the next day as her army nurse’s transportation was void after that day.

Editor’s note: Milo wrote the story of going to work on the Feather River with his father in order to save up enough money to marry Carrie. I have these entries from Lulu’s diaries as well as the letters he wrote to Carrie while away. Very nice the way they all compliment each other. I cannot fail to note that both Lulu and her now daughter-in-law Carrie are accomplished seamstresses. Perhaps when Lulu’s dairy is finished I will recount Milo’s story “Sierra Sojourn.”

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved

Writing the Tough Stuff: Writing Challenge

After writing several of the last few blog posts I had to ask myself—what’s this with all this writing about loss? And I don’t have an answer, but I suspect the impetus to handle the tough topics has to do with the war in Ukraine. Seeing death and destruction causes me to wonder about all our forebears and what they went through and all the trauma for those in Ukraine and even those in Russia whose children will not be coming home. And all of us a world away who feel helpless, trying to make sense of it. And this comes after two years of Covid-19 and the looming threat of global warming. We all deal with loss differently and we all tackle family stories differently. The thing for me is, if we are dishonest in our portrayal of the past, if we sugar coat or leave out the “tough stuff” we deny understanding and inspiration for future generations.

The other day I was talking with my granddaughter and I mentioned a “phase” her mother had gone through. My granddaughter was shocked to hear her mother went through something similar. Understanding that you are not alone in your struggles, that your ancestors or family members went through rough times, is not meant to discourage or depress—it is meant to tell us– WE have been here before. Wars, famine, death, loss– these seem to go hand and hand with the human condition. There is a value in realizing, people survive unfathomable tragedies and still they have meaningful lives.

I will be honest with you, when you dive deep into your own story or that of your forebears it will affect you. If you aren’t feeling it, you have only scratched the surface. And maybe you are just not ready to “go there.” Fair enough. But if you are at the stage where you are thinking of writing family stories and tackling the tough stuff. The stuff no one wants to talk about, I want to encourage you to do so. Before writing Catherine’s story in My Woman Warrior or my own in My Sister is Gone, but still I Smile I really hadn’t understood how profoundly loss can affect us. Even what appears on the surface to be an ordinary loss that many families face does not affect people the same.

If you are a genealogist or family historian it is easy not to see what is right in front of your eyes. Yes we know women died in childbirth, men in wars, children died young, people died prematurely of illness and disease that seldom happen these days—but how many times do you ask yourself how did it affect them? How did they manage? How did they do it? And the answer is they had no choice. They did not get to choose any more than we do. We are all dealt a hand and we must play it the best that we can. There’s very little that we face that has not been faced before. What is different is how much we know. And how we manage to make sense of the past, the present and the future? The answer is we can’t. For the future we can only leave bread crumbs. Letters, stories, diaries, poems, paintings, photos something that might outlast us. Something which will allow someone in the future—likely someone we will never know, to recognize themselves in our journey, in our struggles.

“We read to know that we are not alone.”

C.S. Lewis

“I write to know what I think.”

Joan Didion

I agree with both. Reading connects us and writing forces us to make sense of the things we care about. In my post Write it Down I meant to encourage you to leave something behind. You can share it now if you so choose. Or leave it for the future.

So how to handle the tough topics. These include but are not limited to:

  • Death
  • Loss, tragedy, heartbreak
  • Illness, including cancer, depression, insanity
  • Crime, imprisonment
  • Physical, mental or sexual abuse
  • War
  • Misattributed paternity, incest

Any one of these topics can be broached in our family stories. They are the subjects of movies, novels, and TV shows so they can be dealt with. How you approach difficult topics is revealing and thus our tendency to walk away, to not expose the most vulnerable parts; not just of the stories, but of ourselves. No one wants someone to reduce who we are to the losses or traumas we have endured. Do we want our readers to say, “ah, so that’s what’s wrong with them?” No we don’t, but that’s what we must risk.

So if you want to write about a difficult topic. Here are some questions to ask yourself?

  • Are you being honest?
  • Are you exploiting someone’s tragedy for your own gain?
  • What do you want the reader to take away?
  • Are you being courageous?
  • Are you facing facts or couching the truth behind a more palatable story?
  • Do you have something to say, that someone, particularly your family, will find illuminating or useful?
  • Will exposing a family secret cause another person harm? If so, does exposing it prevent future pain for others?
  • Are you prepared for reactions that may be different than you expect?
  • If it is a personal story do you have a safety net, or professional support?

If you have answered the questions and are still prepared to write, remember that sometimes there’s humor in the midst of sorrow. Or maybe there’s something universal that you touch upon that helps others to connect even when they want to look away. The image of the fields of sunflowers under a blue sky as reflected in the Ukrainian flag. A dandelion coming up through a crack in broken pavement. The human heart and the human spirit survives. In the midst of sorrow, life goes on. Babies are born, couples are married, seeds are planted and flowers bloom. Take a risk. Write the unspeakable.

Naked Ladies bloom after a Forest Fire

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved.

My Sister is Gone, But still I Smile

I often try to remind readers and myself, not to forget our own stories. However, the closer they are, the harder it is to share them. I wrote the original piece on which this is based many years ago. It was the story of sharing a name with my sister, but so many more pieces have been added, that the story has shifted on its axis, multiple times. Our understanding changes and so do the stories we tell ourselves.

“Absence is a house so vast

that inside you will pass through its walls

and hang pictures on the air.”

Pablo Neruda

I don’t know how old I was when I realized I shared her name. I don’t know when I came to know of her existence –though it would have been difficult not to feel her presence. A ghost–never seen–but still ever present. She was the sister I never knew, though we shared the same name. 

These are the only 3 photographs that exist of my sister. They never felt quite enough. How could I know her from a face smaller than my little finger nail? She was born with a congenital interventricular septal heart defect, where the wall which divides the lower chamber of the heart failed to form properly. This defect lead to Eisenmenger’s syndrome, that made her heart have to work very hard and still not be able to deliver enough oxygen to her body. My parents are holding her upright to ease her burden. My father’s mouth open echoing hers. My mother so young.

Expectant parents worry about their unborn children but a letter my father writes to his parents the 4th of October seems to foreshadow her arrival in December. “Janie is having a few trials and tribulations with the baby but I think her troubles are much less than average and she is handling the situation well. It would be very nice if there are no serious complications because for me it’s better if I have less troubles of the type which I can do nothing about.” That followed by this letter on December 20th where he suggests that he might need them to come down to help. “Dear Mom & Pop, No news yet– we went to the hospital today — It is back in breech presentation, it has settled and it’s too big to move according to the doctor. They took some x-rays and Jane is to return Monday morning. I don’t believe they have decided yet what they can do. Evidently it is a fairly long child, anyway with the RH negative, fairly low blood count, the cyst etc. I am beginning to think that it is quite possible she may require a little more help than ordinarily would be necessary.” All details of which I was woefully unaware, except the RH blood incompatibility.

Kelly Margaret arrived the morning of December 28th at the Naval Hospital in Oceanside, California, on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. My father was in the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton, thus the birth at the Naval hospital. My parents would tell me that when Kelly was born they knew something was wrong but the doctors kept telling them she was fine and that they were worrying too much. In a letter of Dave Dowdakin to his parents he writes: “Duane & family have been up here for several weeks on a vacation. The baby had not gained any weight since birth so they took it to Oak Knoll Hospital [Naval Hospital in Oakland] where they found out that she has a congenital heart defect which hasn’t been diagnosed exactly as yet. She is still in the hospital & seems to be getting stronger but they believed that sooner or later an operation will be necessary but prefer to wait as long as possible. It is kind of a rough break since they are not sure the child will live long enough to be operated on.” She was baptized February 27th by an Episcopal priest Father Kuhn.

My father had received a compassionary discharge a few months early because of my sister’s condition. They were in the process of moving when she died at 7:05 PM on March 7th at Oak Knoll Hospital in Oakland. My mother would tell me she knew the moment Kelly died as she turned to my Dad and said, She is gone.” In another undated letter from Dave to his parents: “The Mosiers baby died several weeks ago while in Oak Knoll Hospital. It so happened that Duane & Jane were moving north again since he got a transfer and didn’t find out the news until they reached Albany. They had more or less reconciled themselves to this outcome so things were not too bad for them. But between the two elder Mosiers there was quite a fight about something. I’m afraid to go down that way any lo get since there always seems to be some kind of crisis going on. There seems to be a lot of animosity between Duane’s parents & Jane & vice versa. Duane doesn’t say anything but looks at them all as though they were refugees from a zoo.”

I never met Kelly, for she died before I was born. “Who would I have been if she had lived? We certainly would not have shared the same name, then.”  In the silence the questions insisted on being asked, but there were never any answers. “Was I, who I was, by default? If she had lived would I not be me?  How different might I be. if I were called by a different name?” My sister was born Kelly Margaret Mosier. Three years later I was officially born Kelly Margaret Mosier II. My parents never had any idea of the secret pain sharing a name entailed. I finally told them in my forties. They had innocently chosen to name me as they did my sister because “they liked the name.” It did not seem at all odd to them, and in years past it had been a common practice to name a child after their deceased predecessor–but not so common when I was born. “Can you imagine them naming their second daughter the same name?” I heard a neighbor remark to another when they did not know that I was listening. I was not even 5 at the time. I felt shame, yet had no idea why. It was years later that it was reframed when I read this:

The occasional births were celebrated with emotion, and the children were given the names of the dead, so that no one would ever forget them.

Isabel Allende’s book ‘Of Love and Shadows’ 1987 pg 231,

And so in that moment a name went from being a burden to an honor. Although I did not know it then, the pain was not from sharing a name, rather it was in not sharing life. It was in not knowing who she was and how her life may have changed my own. How her death and subsequently that of our brother would leave me alone with two grieving parents. And I the child that lived, that could not mend what was broken…It’s hard for me to imagine what strength I would have drawn from an older sister, a younger brother. I never dared imagine what I had missed, but there loss, was with me always. I heard a song by Capercallie written by Manus Lunny called “Claire in Heaven” it shifted things yet again:

I was no more than three days old
too young to speak too young to count my toes.
I think of fields where I might run,
this moral twilight I've been plucked from.
Up here we have no goals.
You tear your hearts, you claw your souls.
I wonder at this life that passed me be,
But still I smile.

Although I’m not with you down there
I sit alone up here and stare
It’s me, my name is Claire.
Claire in heaven.
I wait for my next life patiently.
I’m in no rush because of what I see.
It’s hard for me to understand.
I gaze from poisoned sea to poisoned land.
Up here I see a new tomorrow
Your world’s not round your world is narrow
For me I just had a while,
But still I smile.

Although I’m not with you down there
I sit around up here and stare
It’s me my name is Claire
Claire in heaven.

At last a image of my sister, with a life that passed her by. And perhaps of my brother too? I remember seeing my birth certificate for the first time. “Why is there a II after my name?” I asked. I don’t remember the answer, only that it was unsatisfactory. That II always unnerved me. It separated my identity from that of my sister, but it wasn’t enough. But what was once a desired separation, is now a connection that draws me to her. The gap, that once seemed impossible to breach, is not so far away.

I have a book of poems written by my grandfather. It is inscribed “To my Grand daughter Kelly Margaret II with much Love, Grandpa Milo.” Among its poems is one called “Kelly Margaret.” It begins “We buried Kelly Margaret today” and ends:

Kelly Margaret

And now she is gone–Kelly Margaret–

And we, once so full of our love,

Are emptied to nothing

Kelly Margaret is dead

God Love her



Milo Mosier

For many years I did not know where Kelly was buried. We never visited her grave, we never marked her birthday or the anniversary of her death. It was as if she never existed, but she did. Once I located her resting place my husband and I went to meet her. Golden Gate National Cemetery is where servicemen and their immediate family members are buried. We parked in a designated area, but nothing could have prepared me for this section of the cemetery where hundreds of infants and children are buried together in row after row after row. All that loss, all that sorrow… And then finally to find her grave and lay your eyes upon your own name on the headstone. It was the first time the ghost became real and the grief had an opportunity to be expressed, the burden shared. The loss was mourned then, as it is now. It was then I remembered being at the cemetery for my great uncle’s burial and my parents slipping off without me. At the time it felt odd. I know now, that they were visiting her grave.

Golden Gate National Cemetery

Yes we were two different people my sister and I. Just now I look at her footprints and mine to see those differences. Her footprints at 2 days and mine at 15 days. She was 21 inches long and weighed 6 pounds 14 1/4 ounces. I was only 19 inches and weighed 6 pounds 11 ounces. I will always be her little sister. Would we have fought? Would she have been an ally and a comfort?

The tears well as I write of her, the sister I did not know, whose life and death are deeply entwined with my own. The sister who shares my name, Kelly Margaret. I am not sure whether her absence was my parents trying to protect me, or themselves. What I can say, is for me, ghosts and secrets extract their toll, regardless of our acknowledgement of them. I was left alone with tragedies too big for a child to carry and yet you do. One of my father’s dying gifts was an apology. He said, “I have always leaned on you.” I said it was okay, but we both knew it wasn’t. I never had Kelly to lean on, because she was, but a ghost. The older we get the more ghosts we befriend. The more we realize what we have lost.

For me I just had a while,

But still I smile.

Capercallie Lyrics by Manus Lunny ‘Claire in Heaven’

Kelly Wheaton ©2022 All Rights Reserved.

No More Favorites! Plus a New Writing Challenge

It is asked constantly in Genealogy circles: Who is your favorite ancestor? What us your favorite heirloom? What is your favorite story about…? Everytime I hear the word “favorite” I cringe. I immediately react negatively even though I may like all other parts of the question. Even a slight change to the question such as ” Tell me about one of your favorite [fill in blank]? Perhaps I am unusual, but I don’t have just one favorite of any category you might choose. I have many. And I feel choosing is a slight to the rest. I have favorites, but never “a” favorite.

Let me put this another way. Tell me who is your favorite child, sibling, grandparent? Perhaps these are easy questions for you? Not for me. How would I choose when I only knew two of my four grandparents and of that couple, she suffered from dementia so I only knew the shell of who she once was. So do I pick my grandfather by default? That seems a disservice to them all. Maybe this is just a personal flaw. I don’t have a favorite color either. I do have the color that was “assigned” to me but it was never “my favorite.” (It was yellow by the way). I like yellow because it is the color of sunshine, daffodils and happiness. What’s not to like? But it isn’t enough. Even with a complement of ochre, sand, lemon, gold, and buttercup, still not enough.

So it’s a simple request fellow genealogists. Stop asking about favorites. Change up the questions. Which ancestor would you like to meet? Which place an ancestor of yours lived would you like to live? Which ancestors’ stories upset you? Which photo beckons you to know more? Favorite is arguably a lazy word. And it’s a word that, for me, forces unnatural choices. If you must ask these sorts of questions ask “do you have a favorite color?” Not the one that forces a choice and does not invite one into a more thoughtful answer.

Which gets me to the second point which is how you frame questions makes all the difference in what the response will be. Let’s look at the subtle differences between questions.

  • What is your favorite color vs. what color reminds you of something that happened to you?
  • Who was your favorite teacher vs. Which teacher most embarrassed you? Tell us about a teacher that inspired you? Tell the audience about a teacher you would credit with changing your life in some way.
  • What is your favorite heirloom vs tell us the story of an object you inherited? What heirloom would you like to know more about? Or better yet tell a story through the object. Where did it come from? Who made it? Where did it travel? How did you come to have it? What does it mean to you?

The key is to ask open ended questions that invite complex answers. The same is true when we write about the past. What can you do, to make your ancestors real? Is your tree, like your questions, flat and uninteresting? Look carefully.

I have one great grandmother who was married at 14! And a great-great-great grandfather who married at 38. How do those details shift the story? What was going on in their lives that influenced those choices. Was she pregnant? [No] Was he a confined batchelor? [Maybe] Even in the absence of diaries, letters etc there is lots to be gleaned from placing your ancestors in context. In my search for Catherine just reading the weekly papers gave me a much better idea about the world she lived in. [Not just the ones she was mentioned in.]

Personally I would rather you spend your time telling the stories of your ancestors rather than putting another 1,000 people in your tree. And here’s a take away when you dig deep, you add ancestors. Even though I finished my piece on my Woman Warrior Catherine I have already discovered a few more names and another loss. Her first born son John A Murphy went to California with his step uncles and died of heart disease in his 50’s. Remember she lived to be 92! Another child who predeceased her.

It’s better to tell a few stories well. Another often asked question what would you do differently if you were to start your genealogy all over again? I would write more stories. I would ask more probing questions and I would write down the answers. Like my post Write It Down, anything that survives is better than nothing.

So here is another writing idea. I have not done this myself but the idea intrigues me. Pick a real or imagined heirloom of an ancestor and tell its story and what it can reveal about your ancestor. It can be anything from an article of clothing to a tool or simply an object: Something of beauty or something of terror. Just pick something and let the object guide your story. Here are some possibilities to prime the pump:

  • a bible
  • a letter
  • a watch
  • a walking stick
  • a pair of shoes or boots
  • a piece of jewelry
  • a scarf
  • a pair of knitting needles
  • a fishing reel
  • a camera
  • a book
  • a fountain pen

Have fun!

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved.

The Days Are Passing Swiftly by and I Am One Day Nearer Home: A Soprano’s Aria Chapter 32

June 13I have been here [at Mrs. Fryer’s] a mo[nth] and Joe gives me 45 dollars for my month’s work which I have earned every cent. A week later The Elijah comes off

June 21 – I do a tremendous forenoons work, eat lunch that Mrs Fryer Irene cooked, and dress up in my white suit for to go out and help sing Elijah at the Greek theater. I arrive in pleanty time Madame Schumann-Heink sings several solos in her wonderful style which holds the vast audience grilling there in that pitiless sun, breathles. Then our Choruses goes off without scarce a hitch and then home alone lonesome but still glad to be back in our little Berkeley Bungalo again to rest up and recuperate.

Oakland Tribune 22 June 1919

June 22Joe and Eilene drive out with my suitcases and pay me my last weeks wages and that chapter in my life ends which never will be quite the same as before I went but, if joy or sorrow most is mine I know not, they are so closely comingled.

June 23 – Enjoying a good rest at Jessies. Finished Josephines plaid waist and left it with Mrs. Bursick at Capwells store on 25. The rest of the month was spent quietly at Jessies in Berkeley.

Capwell’s Oakland

July 1 to 3Preparing to go Camping.

4 Jessie & Syl started on the 3 and went over to Ferry to meet Ester and Herbert to go to Lagunitas I started on morning of July 4 to meet the boys and Lolita at the Ferry. I had my new Gray Blanket and a box of cooked food and camping necessities. They were there with the car and we waited our turn to be taken on the Ferry to Sausalito. The boat was crowded with 100 cars and there was barely room to pass between them. We had a most enjoyable trip.

Sausalito, Marin, California

The scenery from Sausalito to Tomales is very beautiful and diversified comprising dry and marsh land mountains and open sea. We had a puncture and blow-out the latter necesitating the purchase of a new tire at San Anselmo. The foggy drive did not tempt us to tarry at Tomales so we came back to a friendly field near to Calonia and made camp. We parked the car in a stubble field near Paper Mill creek and after building a bridge across the lively little stream by throwing in rocks topped by a rotten log, we crossed dry sleeved? with our camping outfits to the opposite bank which was covered with trees with a nice level gravelly place near the water to build our cozy fires on.

Paper Mill Creek

The day had passed and night had fallen on the rim of the world when at last we made our first meal, and our camp beds under the sheltering bay trees. Lolita, Little Leo Hoffman and I slept together. Dutch and Milo found a soft bed of leaves further up stream and Albert & Dewey slept near the machine. In the night I felt cold and got up and made a big fire of the abundance of brush wood all about and Allie came over to enjoy it. Later I layed down and slept til morning.

July 6 – We passed Jessies and Syls camping place which was already deserted. We had a most enjoyable auto ride skirting the hills homeward bound. A long wait in line at Sausalito and then packed in the ferry boat to cross the S. F. Bay at the Ferry building. I said good Bys and go home to Jessies again where they have already arrived. We swap “yarns” and retire for a good rest in a real bed. Glad to be home again

July 7 — a very hot day. I take a slight cold

July 8 & 9 – washing and ironing

10 – Dewey went to San anselmo to redeem my watch which we left at the garage when we bought the tire on our camping trip. I got a letter from Jennie Palmer saying she would come to see us. We start planning

11 – Decide to get a bedroom set and clean house

12 – Went to several places and at last found what we were after in Oakland. A beautiful Russian walnut dresser and bed for $135 and mattress and spring for $20 to be delivered Tuesday 15. Upon arriving home we found Lolita had come and gone.

July 13 Sun. – I went over to see the children and Dewey came over here I waited there for him and he waited here for me. We each stayed all night at the others place.

Mo. July 14 — In the morning I got up saying he wins and hurried over, finding him still in bed. Had a pleasant chat with him. He had got my watch for me. I was glad to have it back. The bedroom set came. It is very beautiful to look at and restful to sleep on. I wrote to Jennie and she did not come. Jessie and J. Ralsomme? the kitchen and clean the whole house.

16 – Mrs Miller came over as we were finishing. She wants her dress

17 & 18 – Finishing Mrs Millers dress.

19 Lolita and Leona Pfeiffer came and broke the news to me that she was to be married Mon. I am astonished incredulous dismayed disappointed dissatisfied desolated grieved. I expostulate exhort argue complain. I wonder and regret and repeal and learn nothing. Lolita departs in tears promising to come on the morrow and tell me all about it. They come

July 20 Sunday – I give Charley a collar bag I have made for him and Lolita a collar that was Lois’s and a pretty hanky I bought for her. I clean her cape and hang it up to air over night. Charley very meekly and sweetly asks me if I care and I tell him I was sorry I didn’t know of it in time to make her trousseau. He said she had enough and was glad that I didnt object to him personally.

Monday July 21Lolita Mosier and Charlie Camerons Wedding day – Lolita comes over with Toots and gets ready for the ceremony. J, T. L. and I start on time and arrive at the courthouse in S. F. at 2 oclock. The rest consisting of Dewey Allie Milo and Eilene also Charley and his mother have just arrived. After introductions all around we go to the county clerks office and procure the license. Then up we all go to Judge Trouts office and listen to the service that unites my little “bito dale” to Mrs. Camerons pride and hope both 18 yrs. old in the holy bonds of matrimony and hear him say with this ring I thee wed. Hear their clear proud responses to love and cherish each other and hear the Judge pronounce them man and wife and hear her addressed as Mrs. Cameron. Dewey took Mrs. Cameron the mother Leona, and the bride and groom out to Ingelside to get their suitcases while Jessie & I went to the jewelers to get Lolitas watch. I also bought her a pretty pin. We met them at the Ferry (the worlds meeting place) and gave them to her and said good bye taking the boat for home while they went on the Sausalito ferry to take the train for Sonoma Grove where they will spend their honey moon.

Tue July 22 – aftermath. Jennie didn’t come rather sorry and lonesome

Wed. 23 – Making a shirt case for Deweys birthday.

Thu “ 24 – Deweys 22 birthday I went over and gave it to him and had dinner there. Eilene was cleaning house. We plan a shower on Lolita and Charley when they return. Lolita wrote of a happy honey moon. Jessie writes and receives a letter from Agnes. I meet Joe at the Ferry and tell him the news. He says let them be happy while they are young, they’ll be old soon enough. Said Irene was doing fine but nervous. Explained his booth in Ferry building for advertising by slides and mooving pictures and we crossed the bay together the first time.

Fri 25 – Jessie is ironing and making Lolitas middie out of a serge dress Mrs Fryer gave her a long time ago. She is talking of going down town to do some shopping later in the day I accompanied her to Oakland and as she took her treatment at the Dr’s shopped around and wound up by leaving my magazine and patterns at Osgoods drug store and when I went back for them they had been picked up by a woman who saw a chance to get something for nothing. It will profit her nothing. I was very disgusted with myself and wonder why I am getting so rattle brained.

Sat. July 26 I worked on a quilt for Lolita some of the blocks of which I pieced in Minneapolis so long ago. Sat. with its usual house cleaning. In the evening we went to see the Little Shepherd of the hills in the mooving pictures at the Oakland Orpheum. It was very good and touching. Jessie cried but I guess most of my tears have been shed, Or maybe they drip inside. When Lolita and Charley came home from their honey moon they found the house empty but by accident the song book was turned to Home Again and and standing on the music rack of the piano. They both thought it very strange, and spoke of it when we returned from the show. Lolita cried because she thought I didn’t love her any more but I guess she knows better now! I was glad to have them “Home Again”.

27 Sun – J & S. L. & C and I went to the little corner Presbyterian church and listened to a good sermon by a visiting minister. Then they all went away but me returning later in the evening.

Mon. July 28 – I accompany Lolita to the city to look for appartments. She finds one after a weary search and engages it. Then we went to Eilene’s to get some lunch and Lolita returns to Jessies to get Charlie to help her carry their suit cases to their new home. C went to work in earnest today. He said he made $10.00 today some wages but then the cost of living is very high. Their appartment is 37.50 for 3 rooms (bath and kitchen 2 wall beds 2 closets. It is much the lightest cleanest and best furnished we found for the money.

Tue JulyWell my last little girl is off to her new home. May she find a refuge from the world and haven of happiness. Im glad she has a home of her own. It puts her on an equal footing with the other two girls.

July 30 – Jessie and I go to Sabins Jewelry store on Filmore in the city to look at some silverware. I decide on 3 articles of 6 each –knives forks and teaspoons $6.00 best grade community silver.

31 – Last day of memorable old July. Working on a quilt for bride.

Aug 1 – Still at Quilt & Eilenes dress

2 – Finish making over “ Golden poplin dress 3rd time. Looks fine pack suit case with changes wedding cake and go to Eilenes Find her busy hanging pictures and nearly ready for party. I clean kitchen and laundry and dishes etc. Then we all dress and the party is on. Last to arrive is the Bride and Groom . They put new life into the party. The time was spent singing and dancing and then Lolita was led in blindfolded to a seat on the davenport which was piled with bundles. When the blindfold was removed she looked at the presents rather sheepishly and then began unwrapping and holding them up for admiration thanking each giver sweetly. The presents were all appropriate useful and in good taste comprising china silverware glassware table linen and crackers and bowl vase picture and electric Iron. She and Charlie are both very proud of their presents. Jessie Sylvester & I accompanied them home and remained over night. N & J went early to church next morn.

Sun Aug 3 – Later in the day L. & C went to the civic Auditorium to hear Lemare play. I stayed in and read “20 Years After” by Dumas.

Aug 4I went down to see about a position as solicitor for a real estate co. They took my name and address. Then I went back to the St. Regas appts. And read while waiting for Milo to bring my shoes which I left at Eilenes the night of the party. Soon he and Dutch came and I went to Oakland to get another pattern like I lost and met Josephine at Kahns soon Mrs Fryer came and we talked of her health which is still poorly. She talked of mooving. I offered to help, if she’d call up.

Aug 5 – I went down to Hinks store for some lead weights to put in the coat I’m fixing for Lolita. I went into a book store and got a box of writing paper to send to Betty my dear whose birthday is on…

Aug 6 – Betty Richardson is 9 years old today and I hope she gets the present I sent and likes it well. I did not mention that Mrs Miller came over yesterday and I fixed the dress I made some time ago. She paid me 6.00 for it. I finished Lolitas coat and cut and basted my new silk waist washed up the dishes and am now going to bed at 10:15 oclock. I wrote a long letter to Leo today in ans to one I got recently. It closely covered 3 sheets of note paper.

Thu Aug 7 – Did a big wash and sewed some in afternoon.

Fri 8 – Still sewing on my champain crepe de chine

Sat 9 – Cleaned 2 suits for myself and long check coat J and I did a big ironing and washed up the odds and ends of the week. I made a red striped clothes pin sack for L.

Sun 10I rather looked for a phone message from Mrs Fryer but none came. There 3rd month at the Vill at Lovely Broadmoor is up today Jessie and Syl went down to Melrose to see Rosie who came back with them. After she went away J. S and I called on the Smiths across the corner. We had a pleasant time playing records on the victrola and came home to find Eilene and Mrs Shiman here. We had a lively time chatting for an hour and when they left I accompanied them to the Vine St Station. I am now about to retire it is nearly midnight beautiful and cool and moonlit. They say its very hot in the east

Mon Aug 11Finished reading 20 Yrs After by Alexander Dumas. A very exciting story full of warlike characters who play their part to the last page where all ends happily. I sewed a little and washed dishes. Am not very well. Jessie went to the Dr for a treatment.

Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

Tue Aug 12 – Spent the day sewing on my pongee dress and Little Leo’s coat. Milo came and got Lolita’s coat that I fixed for her and some other things. I was glad to see him. Mr. Jeune called in the evening to talk with Syl and Jessie about church and mission work.

Wed Aug 13Just 3 mo since I went to Beautiful Broadmoor and it seems so long ago. All time is not measured by length of days. O heart of mine what happiness it would be to dwell amid those sylvan scenes surrounded by those we love, forever; Today I busied myself finishing Leo Hoffmans coat. This evening I practiced some on the piano and took a short walk, getting a pink & white geranium on my way.

Thu Aug 14 – Jessie washed cloths I cleaned up the house and stamped my waist for embroidering. I got a good long letter from my sister Goldie. She asks for advise I hope I can give it to her right. It is a hard task. Mrs Miller came in time for dinner and then we all went down to Rays to get some rabbits. Ray and Rose have exchanged their place in Melrose for a small ranch in Castro valley and will moove to Napa while R. works in the ship yards at Mare Island. Mother Miller lent me an old book that was her mothers, to read. Wormwood by Marie Corelli, about the effect of Absynthe on the minds and morals of Paris. An awful tale. I turned off the light at 3 oclock.

Fri Aug 15 –I got up late had a light breakfast and finished my story in bed. And now in the light of truth that has dawned on the world since right triumphed over wrong and France did so nobly and bravely fight and conquer (with our aid and Englands’) over old foe, Germany. We can see that Wormwood was wrong. Absynth did not ruin France and cause her downfall. They must have seen its danger and averted it, and I am glad my faith in the ultimate triumph of good over evil of right over wrong of love over hate is justified. It is noon my work calls and bids me back to sanity and peace in its accomplishment. Spent rest of the day in sewing and housework.

Sat Aug 16 – “The days are passing swiftly by and I am “one day nearer home.” Help me O Lord to live each day as if it were to be my last. Help me to keep a sweet faith and childlike trust. Help me to enjoy the life Thou hast given and to give of that joy to others. Help me to make friends and to keep them to help and comfort them in their hours of affliction and to rejoice with them in their hours of gladness. Drive out of my heart envy and suspicion malice and hate that there may be more room for love for Thee and thy creations Help me in my weakness Keep me in health and let me live long in thy service. Give out of thy abundance O father my hearts desires in Jesus name Amen.

Today I finished my silk waist and went down to Oak. Got some buttons for Leos coat a pair of gloves and a magazine. Saw Mrs Fryer but didn’t speak to her. I think she is still at 13 Broadmoor

Sun Aug 17 – Jessie & Syl went to Alameda to visit Dorens I stayed home alone all day. Dewey came over at 7.30. I cooked dinner and as we were eating J. & S. came back. They are talking shop (machinist) now. I am tired and will soon retire. Dewey is working at Mare Island now. I gave him Leo’s coat to take home. I hope it fits him all right.

Mon Aug 18 – Jessie went to S. F. and got a bundle of rompers from the Factory to make up. Saw the whole family upon her return. Baby was very proud of his coat. They are all well. I am blue and lonesome to the nth degree. I worked on my pongee dress today.

Tue 19 – Jessie worked awhile on her rompers and then went to city. I did up work and sewed on pongee. J came home and got dinner. Syl is figuring on a goat pen and rabbit hutches. It is 10 oclock and bed time. Every thing is tranquil.

Wed 20 – Sewing and housework all day

Thu 21 – Jessie and Syl burned the grass in back yard some fire. I came in with a headache. Very blue and despondent.

Fri Aug 22 – J cleaning house and washing I worked on rompers all day. Milo came to dinner. ???? all night. Vestina came to call a few minutes. Tired am I.

Sat Aug 23 – Sewed on rompers awhile and cleaned up sewing room Jessie worked hard at cleaning house and baking Dewey came in evening. I went over to Lolitas after a light dinner with Dewey J & S having dined earlier. I left before their guests arrived. Met Milo, Dutch David and John Armstrong arriving at C & L Cameron’s.

Sun 24 – Next morning I arose and cleaned up after last nights festivities rested and read the papers came home to Jessies at 7 oclock found them enjoying the Sunday paper on my new Circassian bed. Dewey had gone before I arrived. Went to bed and slept fine.

Mon Aug 25This is Leo Mosiers birthday. I wrote him a long letter. J and S went to O Tech H. to enroll couldn’t get in. Went to Berk. Tech High with same results. Will try again. Emense enrollment all schools this term 10% gain over last.

Tue Aug 26 – Jessie and I finished the 3 ½ doz. rompers and took them back to the factory. She received 1.25 per doz plus car fare 22 cents. We decided there was nothing in it for us and did not take any more. We called on Eilene and then came back to Berkeley in time for dinner. Lolita came over but left early.

Wed 27 – I finished embroidering corset cover. We all called on Vestina and Mrs. Smith. Syl favored us with selections on the phonograph. It is quite warm today. The West is in the midst of a R. R. strike. To bad Allie was going to send for A.

Railroad Strike Oakland Tribune 26 Aug 1919

Thu Aug 28 – Spent the day mending In evening attended a rehersal of the Berkeley Community Chorus to practice for entertainment of Sailor boys of Fleet Sept 3 [Fleet Week].

Fri Aug 28 Went down to Oak High School to see about vocational training to teach dressmaking in the Public school.

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved

One Fine Autumn Afternoon at the City Hotel

This is a work of historical fiction grounded in the facts as catalogued in My Woman Warrior . This is just one incident in my 2nd great grandmother’s life. It is my first attempt at historical fiction, so be kind. At the end I will briefly talk about my process.

Mrs. Catherine Adeline Mosier ran a tight ship. Lunch for full board guests of the CIty Hotel in Dodge was promptly served at half past one, as it always was on weekdays. This being a Tuesday, it would be promptly at half past. She knew her honeymooning couple would be starving as they had not been down for breakfast, nor requested a tray. She simultaneously grinned and said a “tusk, tusk” to herself when thinking on it. Her daughter Emma was married in this very hotel six years ago and her daughter Anna five years, next month. My how time flies she thought. Wonderful smells coming from the kitchen quickly ended her reverie. She went to check on the fresh apple cake she was serving for desert, with warm cream of course. It was her first cake of the season from her Cox’s Orange Pippin trees from out on her husband’s farm. The orchard was planted nine years ago, in 1886, when they bought the farm outside of Dodge. The apples were producing nicely and this years crop was the best yet.

Today’s lunch fare featured Catherine’s own pea soup and squash biscuits, as well as some fine sausage, homemade breads, jams and preserves. Mr. Arnold, one of her regular travelling salesmen, was always good at entertaining the other guests and today was no exception. However, our newlyweds seemed more interested in each other than Mr. Arnold’s exciting tales of adventure. There were two couples who would be headed out tomorrow. Mr. Arnold had his wares set up in Catherine’s sample room. They included books, stationary, fine fabrics, linens, notions, jewelry, watches, perfumes and even some crystal. These always attracted some of the local merchants, farmer’s wives, as well as those staying at the hotel. It was a lucrative arrangement for both Mr. Arnold and Catherine. He got a discount on lodging and she got a discount on all her purchases plus a small percentage of his sales.

This September afternoon was particularly warm, with temperatures expected to reach the upper 80’s. The only thing that kept them from sweltering was the rather robust breeze that was turning downright gusty. Catherine watched as the lace curtains began dancing rather vigorously in the wind and decided to close the sash windows to the south and west as it seemed a storm might be brewing. As she reached up to close the window she caught the acrid smell of fire. Followed moments later by the rigorous clanging of the fire bell. “What can it be now?”, she thought. Walking out onto the front porch and looking down the street she could see the billows of dark smoke and flames being whipped about by the wind. People came running and shouting, “get out, get out now!” In the moments that she had stood there it seems the fire consumed the block between them.

As she entered the dining room the guests were already headed outside to see what the commotion was about. Catherine quickly exited out back, rushed across the small yard, unlatched the gate, and urged her chickens to flee for their lives. Meanwhile, Mr. Arnold had wasted no time in gathering up as much as he could and was dragging two large trunks onto the porch and down the front steps. Most of the other guests grabbed their bags as best they could and quickly moved down the street to be further away from the encroaching flames. Catherine slipped the crystal and silver salt and pepper shakers from the side board into her deep pockets. They had been a wedding gift from her grandfather Daniel Stewart. She clutched the guest registers in her arms and glanced around her hotel knowing it might be the last time she did. Some made efforts to pull as much out of the buildings as they could. Mr. Arnold was back and helped her move a few things outside; a side table, a mantle clock and several ornate lamps. Catherine found it hard to choose what to save. She took one last look, sighed heavily and joined her guests down the street. She looked at the watch pinned to her breast it read 2:17 and wondered to herself, why she was checking it.

Even though the fire was still half a block away the smoke was causing her eyes to water heavily. It looked as if she was crying and many people were, but Catherine stood stoically as she watched the flames licking their lips at the back of the hotel where the sample rooms were being consumed by a fire breathing monster. She comforted herself having seen her hens headed to a nearby cornfield. All you could do was watch mesmerized by the flames. Even the hook and ladder truck and fireman stood silently watching the beast devour everything in its path. There was no water and the wind was a gale making short work of it for the monster.

1895 Hook and Ladder Advertisement

It seems it was over almost as quickly as it began. All that was left of Dodge was smouldering, steaming, rubble. Aside from 3 brick buildings that were saved and a wagon here and there with a tumble of furniture and wares there was nothing left where the town of Dodge once stood. Some 50 business and 16 homes were gone! Just like that! Only one person had been injured in the fire, she was grateful for that. Joe Wiesner had a badly blistered arm from trying to pull goods from his store as it was being engulfed in flames. “Silly man,” she thought. Catherine mused this must be what it looks like after a tornado, although she had never seen one. She was circumspect; yes she could rebuild but she had no insurance. It was exorbitantly expensive so few had insurance and even those that did were underinsured. She hadn’t noticed how exhausted she was. She enjoyed running the hotel, she liked the changing kaleidoscope of visitors, but at 66 she was getting tired. It had been a good eight years at the hotel, perhaps she needed a rest. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. She knew this all too well.

Husband John showed up in his wagon having seen the smoke from the farm. He was devastated. All he could think about was the money and how the sample rooms he had helped to build were in ashes. He was talking about rebuilding the hotel in brick. Meanwhile Catherine was thinking of where she might live—surely not with John—full time? She liked the Hotel precisely because it gave her just the right excuse to be away. There were rumors that the Railroad had started the fire and another that it started in the hay barn at the livery. Catherine didn’t much care. Friends and family were gathering and neighbors from nearby towns of Snyder, Clarkson and Howells as well as larger North Bend were bringing food and household goods. Catherine was lucky she had her home and farm to return to. She had lost her livelihood, but not her life. She turned back once to look at where her lovely hotel had stood then climbed up into the wagon and fixed her eyes on the sun, slipping below the horizon.

It started with the word “acrid” which I couldn’t get out of my head as I stared with the horror at the War being waged on Ukraine and feeling helpless. Ideas occasionally surfaced and a story started to take shape. Then I woke up early one morning and managed to fall back to sleep. In that dream state more images materialized. Once I had the basic outline in my head I revisited articles about travelling salesmen, sample houses, newspaper accounts of the Dodge fire, old cook books and menus etc to make sure what I was writing was historically accurate. I tried to give Catherine a voice that was consistent with her life. All the events are fictionalized. I hope they do her justice. A note on the flower picture—I just thought it needed a flower photo. I did not know its meaning at the time but the photo is of Hypericum [St. John’s Wort] which literally means above a picture and comes from the tradition of hanging plants over images, pictures, or windows. Furthermore common folklore suggests it wards off evil influences and protects against harmful, unseen forces.

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights reserved.

My Woman Warrior: Pioneer Mother Catherine Adeline Stewart Murphy Mosier

The impetus for this blog post was my writing challenge to resurrect one of your women warriors. A woman in your tree whose story lies hidden in the names, dates and places. I have spent the last few weeks on Catherine. I offer this as an example of what is possible to resurrect a woman in your tree. This is a recounting of all that I have been able to stitch together, that may be revised later. If you have any doubt what battles our womenfolk endured, give it a read. All heroines deserve to be remembered.

To the Pioneers–Who blazed the way, braved the elements, forded streams, repaired cabins on the storm swept prairies; the spacious landscape their only scene by day; the tinkling cow bell in the distant corral and howling wolves the only sounds at night; But who, with brave hearts and willing hands, defied the wilderness and in after years transformed it into fruitful fields and caused it to blossom like the rose…

Dedication from A History of Montgomery County, Iowa by William Wallace Merritt 1906

In my tree Catherine has always been an intriguing ancestor. She is my 2nd great grandmother, part enigma and part icon. [She is mother to Frank, the husband to Lulu of a Soprano’s Aria. We all have people in our trees that call to us and Catherine calls to me. For many years I have sought a photo of her, but to date none has been forthcoming. There were two things about Catherine, told to me by my great aunt, her granddaughter Jessie MOSIER MILLER, that surprised me. First, that she owned a Hotel in Nebraska. And second, a family legend— that she was descended from the Royal STEWARTs and had received an inheritance of $3,000 and a book of family history of the STEWARTs from a Scottish lawyer. This was a woman with a story!

Royal Stewart Plaid

So how much of a life can we give back to Catherine? When Catherine Adeline STEWART was born in Columbus Ohio, 20th of November 1828, she was the second child of Andrew J STEWART, age 42, and Sarah “Sally” RUTAN STEWART, age 25. They married just 3 years earlier in Urbana, Champaign Co, Ohio, on the 21st of April 1825. An intriguing age difference, yet neither had been married before. Andrew J STEWART was born in Connecticut, the son of a Revolutionary War veteran and Sarah RUTAN was born in Maryland. Both of their families were early pioneers of Ohio. At the time of Catherine’s birth the total population of Columbus, Ohio was less than 2,400 souls. It was at the time on the edge of a forested wilderness.

Columbus Ohio—First State Office Buildings from The History of Columbus Ohio by Osman Castle Hopper 1920

Catherine’s parents were blessed, first with her older sister Eliza in 1826, then Catherine in 1828. Then another daughter Delilah follows in 1832. Then in 1835, the long awaited son George. He is followed in 1837 with another daughter Ann. Somewhere along the line brother George dies. Then the 2nd of February, 1843 in Van Buren, Iowa, Catherine’s father Andrew J STEWART dies. Her mother Sarah is left with four girls and she is 5 months pregnant. Catherine is but 14 years old, likely helping out with her younger siblings. That same year her older sister, Eliza (17) marries, on the 17th of June and three days later their brother, Andrew Jackson STEWART is born. Likely, Catherine is there to help and support her mother, now being the oldest child in the household. I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a brother and a father to death, and a sister to marriage and welcome a new brother in the space of a few months. Was her mother despondent? Stressed? With her older sister gone did Catherine willingly take on the role of mother’s helper? We cannot know the answers but we can guess at the turmoil.

Three years later in Van Buren County, Iowa Catherine’s widowed mother Sarah, marries Ezekiel BENJAMIN, a blacksmith the 20th of June 1846. Hopefully bringing some stability and support to her family. To this union one child is born, a daughter, Elizabeth Hester BENJAMIN about 1847. At the age of twenty Catherine leaves her parent’s household and marries at Keokuk in Lee County Iowa John W MURPHY, a boatman from Ireland on the 29th of May 1849. How did they meet? Was she attracted by his accent, his warmth? Was she hoping for a life of romance and adventure? She is but twenty with a whole life ahead of her. I wonder about her dreams and aspirations.

The Wild Prairie from a History of Van Buren County, Iowa 1878 Western History Company

By 1850 Catherine is listed on the census in Dist 29 of Lee County, Iowa with her husband John and a son John A listed as 9 months old. By my calculations Catherine may have become pregnant just after she wed. In any event John Jr arrives about February. By October tragedy strikes again when Catherine’s step father Ezekiel dies after an illness of 6 days. According to the 1850 Mortality Schedule of unknown cause, however there was a Cholera epidemic sweeping through Keokuk at the time. So at the young age of 22 Catherine has lost a father, a step-father and a brother. Her mother is now twice a widow at 47.

In the 1850 census Catherine is living next door to her mother Sarah and her five siblings. Undoubtedly, a source of financial and moral support for her mother. We do not know what happened next but Catherine’s life and her mother’s seem to be following parallel paths riddled with tragedy. Catherine’s husband, John W Murphy dies. As a boatman he may have died of illness or an accident. He may be the John Murphy who died 23th May 1854 that is buried at the Third Street Cemetery in Dubuque, Dubuque County, Iowa. What we do know is she is a widow by 1854 when she marries 29 October, a widower, John Wesley W. Mosier in Lee County Iowa. In any event, her new husband John was previously married to a Pamela Overton 16th of May 1850 at Keokuk. Pamela died about 1853, and her mother died in 1851. [I am beginning to think this area was particularly hard hit by illness.] Perhaps wisely, the family moves 90 miles north to Iowa City, Iowa where their first daughter is born the 17th March 1855. Catherine’s grandfather Daniel Bertine STEWART dies the 20th Feb 1858 in Rome, Athens, Ohio. Since her father had already died, her grandfather makes his children his heirs. How much she received I am still researching. By 1860 the family has moved 240 miles west and is settled in Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie Iowa where John is listed as a Farm Laborer and Catherine a housewife. Did they move following farm employment opportunities? Was it for land? There is no Real Estate listed but their personal estate is valued at $100. There are 4 children in the family; the oldest John A Murphy 10, Catharine’s son from her first marriage, Sarah 4, Charles W 2 and Albert 6 months.

Meanwhile by 1860 her mother Sarah, now 59 and 4 children have moved to Scioto, Montgomery County, Iowa. The value of her Real estate is $500, and personal Estate $300. Where did her money come from? There is no occupation listed for Sarah but her daughters Sarah 25, and Audria 22 are domestics and her son, Andrew J is listed as a Farm Laborer. Her youngest Elizabeth BENJAMIN is now 13. How she came to move there is not known, but I suspect she followed her sister there. April 13, 1861 a Mortgage is entered between John W Mosier and William Plummer and wife in Section 22 of Washington township for 40 acres with an assign by Hiram Whitney. I do not know who William Plummer’s wife is in 1861 but he marries Catherine’s sister Sarah Ann STEWART 23 Oct 1862 in Montgomery county. This Mortgage recorded 12 Dec 1863. I suspect this maybe the property occupied by Catherine’s mother in 1860 and it may be where John and Catherine first live in Montgomery County.

1875 Atlas of Iowa the property would be about where the N of Washington

In 1862 a daughter Anna is born, followed by twin daughters Luella and Louisa born in 1866. Two years later Franklin Stewart MOSIER [my great grandfather] is born near Milford. Catherine now 42, and John have a total of 9 children, one from Catherine’s first marriage and a set of twins! [Catherine’s mother was a twin as well.] Can you imagine this family arriving in covered wagons and living in same while they construct a log cabin. Maybe they stayed with Catherine’s mother Sarah while building their cabin. The first house in Milford was built in 1857 and the first schoolhouse in 1876. Although Milford is the town nearest to them its Post Office is named Grant. Ten years later in 1870, we find Catherine and John MOSIER in Douglas Township, Montgomery County, Iowa near Milford about 7 and a half miles north of her mother Sarah BENJAMIN. I am going to quote liberally from the History of Montgomery County, Iowa by William Wallace Merritt to give you a flavor of what life was like back then:

“The first habitations were the covered wagons or the ‘Prairie schooners,’ where the immigrant resided until a cabin could be built—parlor, kitchen, bedroom combined. Outside of the wagon cover was the great ‘withdrawing room.’ The furniture was a camp kettle and a few tin dishes on the inside; and the implements of husbandry on the outside were a breaking plow, axe, ox-yoke and chains.”

History of Montgomery County, Iowa by William Wallace Merritt 1906 pg 39
Example of a cabin in Montgomery County, Iowa

A further description from the history:

“The first permanent habitation of the early settler was built of round logs, the space between the logs being filled in with split logs, the space between the logs being filled with split sticks of wood called “chinks,” then daubed over, both inside and out, with clay mortar. The floor was commonly made of puncheons or split logs with the smoothest side turned upward. The roof was made by gradually drawing in the top to the ridge pole and on cross pieces laying the clap-boards which, being three or four feet in length, instead of being nailed were held in place by “weight” poles lad on them reaching the length of the cabin. The fireplace, about six feet in length, occupied one end of the single apartment and was situated in a projection…”

History of Montgomery County, Iowa by William Wallace Merritt 1906 pg 41

By 1870 Catherine’s sister Audria has married Hortense Elson and has moved to North Bend, Nebraska. Her mother Sarah has left Sciota, and is living in North Bend as well. Sarah was likely following her sister, Delilah Rutan STEWART who married James H. Graham and together they were among the first settlers of North Bend arriving in 1857. [The Andreas History of the state of Nebraska by William G Cutler 1882 North Bend] Meanwhile the 1870 census records John W.W. Mosier as a farmer and the value of his Real Estate is $3,200 and personal estate as $1,225 so the family has done well! It makes me wonder if the family legend of an inheritance is true? In 1871 John and Catherine have a son Willie J who dies quite young. Then in 1872 at the age of 44, Catherine gives birth to a son Walter. In late 1874 Catherine at age 46 gives birth to a daughter Fannie. Sadly, Fannie dies in January of 1875. John W.W. MOSIER owns 160 acres in Sections 7 of Douglas Township.

The view below and the map below it are from the Atlas of Iowa 1875.

Milford Montgomery Co, Iowa 1875 Atlas of Iowa Montgomery County

This is the parcel shown on the above map as it appears today.

The parcel as it looks today from Google Maps

“The cabin usually consisted of one room which answered all purposes. Upon entering one would see suspended rings of dried pumpkin and a string of red peppers, while aver present rifle and powder horn were in a convenient place ready for use. Sometimes a loom might be seen; the wife, or mother, busily weaving cloth to be made into garments for family use.”

History of Montgomery County, Iowa by William Wallace Merritt 1906 pg42
From the History of Montgomery County Iowa

“In well-to-do families the ‘loft’ was in evidence, and if not used for the storage of ‘traps,’ took the place of the modern spare room. This apartment was approached by a ladder secured to the wall… When prosperity overtook them a double log-cabin was erected or, as was more usually the case, another cabin Built beside the old one with a space or hall between them and the entrance to the new structure being from the hall.

The articles in the kitchen corresponded with the room ane were few and Simple, a ‘dutch oven,’ a skillet or long handled frying pan, an iron pot or kettle were usual utensils. “

History of Montgomery County, Iowa by William Wallace Merritt 1906 pg 42

Just months after the death of Fannie, John and Catherine’s eldest daughter Sarah, marries John Parks Norcross the 4th of March 1875 in Montgomery Co, Iowa. Catherine’s first grandchild, Walter Hamlin Norcross is born the third of January 1877. Sadly Walter dies seven months later, the 17th of August of the same year. A month later Sarah dies at the tender age of 22, on September 25, 1877, due to complications of childbirth. Sarah and her son, Walter, are both buried at Grant Cemetery near Milford (Grant P.O.), Montgomery County, Iowa. If you draw a line 1.6 miles due west from this cemetery you will run into Catherine and John’s farmstead. Also buried here are Catherine and John’s children Willie and Fannie.

History of Montgomery County, Iowa 1881 pg 560

So Catherine in just a few years has lost two children herself, saw her eldest daughter married, her first grandchild, Walter, born and then they Sarah and Walter die! I wonder how you get through such losses. And yet with 8 children and a husband to take care of life goes on. On February 17th 1878 her son Charles W MOSIER marries Mary Belle FIGGENS at Montgomery County, Iowa. A year later on the 19th of February they give Catherine a new grand-daughter Clementine. In 1880 the family is still in Montgomery County, Iowa now listed in Sherman Township which is West of Douglas.

By 1885 Montgomery County Iowa is left behind and they move 110 miles northwest to North Bend, in Dodge County, Nebraska, following her mother Sarah, who had moved there fifteen years prior. My great aunt Jessie believed that John and Catherine lived with her sister Sarah, and her husband Tance Plummer, in North Bend and she spoke of a photo she had of their house which is where she believes she was born. She mentions a blacksmith shop run by John and the Cathey Hotel run by Catherine, and a farm and house outside town where they lived before the children began to marry.

In May of 1885 the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Railroad was building a branch to run Northwest from Fremont, Nebraska through what became Dodge, about 25 miles north of North Bend. The Village of Dodge was laid out and platted in August of 1885. Less than a year later the estimated population of Dodge was 554. The Fremont Weekly Herald 29 July 1886 lists the school teachers in North Bend among them are Louisa, Ella and Emma MOSIER. In the same paper we find John and Catherine’s grandson Guy son of Charles Wesley and Mary Belle MOISER has died.

Fremont Weekly Herald 29 July 1886

John and Catherine, following the opportunity move to Dodge. I found this wonderful newspaper clipping that proves Catherine did indeed own a hotel! Catherine’s middle initial is A for Adeline. Her son Albert is but sixteen, so I believe this is Catherine [needs more research but Dodge County Deeds have not been microfilmed].

Fremont Weekly Herald 17 Feb 1887

In addition the 1890-91 Nebraska State Gazetteer is this description of Dodge Omaha: J. M. Wolfe & Co., Publishers :

DODGE – Is a village of 450 inhabitants in the northwestern part of Dodge county, on the Scribner and Oakdale branch of the F E & M V Ry, 36 miles from Fremont, the county seat.  It is located in a very rich farming and stock country, being mostly settled by Germans and Bohemians.  This is a lively trading point and is making rapid strides in improvements, several new stores and residences having been erected in the past year.  A splendid brick school has been built at a cost of $13,000.  There are three grain elevators here having a combined capacity of 58,000 bushels and shipping on an average 90 car loads per day during the season.  A splendid full roller system flouring mill located here assists in the consumption of the surrounding products.  The Dodge Advertiser is the local journal and is edited by Mr G W Rosa, one of the early settlers of Dodge.  The financial interests of the community are well taken care of by the Farmers State Bank, which has a paid in capital of $15,000 and authorized to $60,000.  There are two hotels, as also two splendid church edifices, namely, the Catholic and the Congregational.”

Among the Dodge Businesses listed we find Mosier J W Mrs, prop[ietor] City Hotel. And among the farmers Mosier J W, Dodge. Am interesting reimbursements from the County to J.W. Mosier for board and taking care of Ed Steven wick with the measles $12.40 that appeared in the Fremont Weekly Herald 3 November 1887. My guess is that John applied for the reimbursement but the “taking care of” was provided by Catherine at the City Hotel. On the 23 Jan 1889 The City Hotel and Catherine hosts the marriage of her daughter Emma Medora Mosier to Edward Beesom Kelly. A few months later note the second item. “The interior of the City Hotel has been re-painted and re-papered.

North Bend Argus 29 Apr 1890

Catherine must have been kind to the reporter as she makes it into the paper quite a bit. The 17th of April she appears in the North Bend Argus : Mrs J.W.. Mosier, of Dodge was in the city [North Bend]. Business must have been good and I am certain this life appealed to her. Catherine always strikes me as an independent woman. I have a letter from one of my great aunt’s to another and she mentions two hotels. And my great aunt Jessie told me about the Cathey Hotel in North Bend, although I can find no mention of it in North Bend or Dodge. There was the North Bend Hotel built in 1870 and a City Hotel in North Bend built in 1876. It is possible she owned or operated a hotel in North Bend before moving to Dodge. Catherine’s son Frank [Franklin Stewart MOSIER] marries my great grandmother Mary “Lulu” Paden at Fremont, Dodge County Nebraska, and this is most notable for the fact it wasn’t held at the hotel and that neither party had family present. Next Spring more news of the City Hotel.

North Bend Argus 22 May 1890

In the North Bend Argus for May 22 1890 Dodge: “We would advise the farmers to plant no corn until Mr Mosier discards his fur cap which will be May 25th.” This lovely bit of news from June about Catherine’s sister-in-law she has not seen in twenty years is Frances Merla STEWART wife of Catherine’s younger brother Andrew Jackson STEWART. The railroad makes such visits more likely.

North Bend Argus 12 Jun 1890

In the North Bend Argus 3 July 1890 “Mr Mosier, our mail carrier, completed his four years’ contract yesterday for carrying Uncle Sam’s package from North Bend to Dodge.” Interestingly my aunt wrote ” Grandpa used to help the farmers and was also a RFD mail man.” Furthermore she wrote, ” Grandpa ran the stable [livery] and I am sure Grandma ran the hotel. Their three girls, were school teachers and they built a big house for their mother and themselves in North Bend” [ I suspect this was closer to Dodge]. The North Bend Argus reports 17 July 1890 “A gloom of sadness overhangs our town caused by the supposed kidnapping of little Walter Mosier, who it is thought has dropped into unworthy hands.” There is no more mention of wee Walter—yet another loss. This is followed by the birth of another grandson Albert Edgar MOSIER born to Mary Lulu and Frank MOSIER. He is their first grandson to survive. Another marriage ceremony at the City Hotel lightens the heart on the 21st of October, Anna C Mosier marries WIlliam Townsend. Lovely details about the gifts. Note that gifts are given separately by Mrs J. W. Mosier [Bedroom Set] and J. W. Mosier [Center table lamp]. The other gifts are from her siblings. I suspect that Catherine may have been living at the hotel and John W. at their farm, that at this time they had separate lives.

North bend Argus 23 Oct 1890

The City Hotel continues to be mentioned in local news for Dodge. A sample room is a hotel room in which salespeople display merchandise for the inspection of buyers for retail stores. Probably quite a lucrative arrangement.

North Bend Argus 19 Mar 1891

Catherine’s mother Sarah RUTAN STEWART BENJAMIN 88, dies the 8th of June 1891 near, North Bend, Dodge, Nebraska, USA. Unfortunately the North Bend Argus issues are missing from the same time frame as I expect we may have learned a bit more.

18 June 1891 Fremont Weekly Journal

Frank and “Lulu” MOSIER give Catherine and John another grandson the 25th of August 1891. Sarah BENJAMIN’s children gather to remember their mother in September.

4 September 1891 North Bend Argus

In the Fremont Daily Herald for 21st of November 1891 “Mrs J.W. Mosier left Tuesday for a visit with her daughter, Mrs Anna Townsend ar Casbeer, Ill.” [Kasbeer] Catherine’s daughter gives birth to a child who dies in 1891 so I wonder if this is the purpose of Catherine’s visit. Later in the month the 27th of November daughter Emma, gives birth to a daughter Katherine “Kitty” Kelley in Monroe, Nebraska. In 1892 there seems to be a shift away from local news tidbits in the paper, so there is an absence of information. However, in January of 1893 daughter Anna gives birth to a son Walter Roy Townsend. Son Frank’s wife Lulu brings a grand-daughter Jessie Ella the 30th of March 1893 and finally daughter Emma has added another grandchild on May 6th Dessa Louisa Kelley. So now Catherine has 5 living grandchildren! In 1894 Catherine gains to more grandchildren, Ira E Mosier, born the 7th of June to her son Charles W. MOSIER and Charles William BARRETT born the 27th of June to her daughter Louisa. On the third of February 1895 Audrey Eileen is born to Lulu and Frank MOSIER making a total of eight living grandchildren! For a change things seem to be going well. And then:

Dodge Fire 18 September 1895 Fremont Tribune

The business portion of the city [Dodge] is wiped out completely, four blocks square, an area of sixteen blocks, was completely destroyed with the exception of three buildings.”

Fremont Tribune 18 Sep 1895

The fire which swept over the business portion of this town yesterday afternoon made the most complete wreck of it that was ever suffered by any nebraska town.

18 September 1895 Fremont Tribune

Dodge was treated to a deluge of fire and nearly every house in the city was destroyed. The damage is over $100,000. The fire started at 1:50 p.m. in a small shed containing hay connected with the livery barn of William Neuveman, The wind was blowing a gale from the southwest, causing the fire to spread with inconceivable rapidity, and in thirty minutes the entire business portion of the town was destroyed.”

Ponca Grit 26 Sept 1895

The loss of the City Hotel to J.W. Mosier is listed as $2,000 with no insurance. Over the next year a total of 67 lawsuits are filed against the railroad for allegedly starting the fire but testimony shows that it was caused by a discarded cigar. The suits are dismissed. Although this snippet suggests that the Hotel will be rebuilt there is no evidence this happened.

Dodge Criterion 27 Sep 1895

In 1896 Catherine is approaching her 68th birthday it appears she has moved to Morse Bluff which is across the river from North Bend and she is ill.

27 Sep 1896 Dodge Criterion Last item

I wonder whether she ever saw him again once he left in 1872. Catherine’s youngest son Walter married Altene Shelton 14 March 1899 at the Shelton farm in Colman, South Dakota. This brief item below in 1899. John W breaks a collar bone in a fall!

23rd May 1899 Fremont Herald

So we can assume that John, if not Catherine are living in North Bend at this time. It may be that Catherine has already moved to South Dakota. On the 1900 census [22 June] we find Catherine living with her son Walter and his wife Altene MOSIER at Lake View, Lake County South Dakota. Catherine is listed as married but no John W.W. and I have not been able to locate him. Then August 7, 1904 disaster strikes again when Catherine and John’s son Albert D MOSIER dies in a freak accident when the Missouri Pacific Flyer train from Denver Colorado was crossing the Dry Creek Arroyo bridge near Eden Station 8 miles north of Pueblo Colorado. A flash flood wave passed over the trestle shearing off the front half of the train and dragging the people in those train cars to their deaths.

The Weekly Gazette 11 Aug 1904

Catherine’s oldest child John Murphy who has lived in California for 34 years dies the 16 Dec 1906 of heart disease at the age of 56. He is the 4th of her children to die prematurely. I can’t help but wonder if Catherine ever saw him again once he left for California in 1872. Also in 1906 Catherine’s son-in-law Walter became a manager of the Rosebud Indian agency of the White River District which is located 13 miles south of Reliance South Dakota. In 1911 when land first opened up to homesteaders he bought land and John W Mosier took a quarter section just north of his at the same time.

On the 1910 Census Catherine is listed in her own household, in a home she owns in Hudges Precinct, Perkins County, South Dakota. She is listed as married 54 years and as having 12 children but only 8 living. Two died very young Fannie and Willie and then her grown sons Albert in the flash flood on the train and John MURPHY of early heart disease. Right next door is her daughter Louisa Ella “Louella” and her husband Marion BARRETT. Louella and Marion had no children. Meanwhile John W. MOSIER is living in Lyman County, South Dakota listed as “widowed” and 84, although Catherine is very much alive. He owns his own farm and is a farmer on an Indian Government Farm with his son Walter F MOSIER next door. So it appears that Catherine and John have been living apart for some time. And it seems Catherine is an independent woman with her own means. Catherine is no longer living near her son Walter but John W is. Catherine makes a brief appearance in Lulu’s dairy Friday Feb 27, 1914  “Got letter from Grandmother Mosier.” At the time Lulu is living in San Francisco with Catherine’s son Frank. On the 20th of February 1915 Catherine’s husband John Wesley W. MOISER dies in Reliance, South Dakota. He is 88 and his death certificates states he died of “Old Age”

In this sad clipping later that year, we learn Catherine’s daughter Luella is hit by lightning. No doubt mother Catherine was there to nurse her daughter Louella back to health.

The Madison Leader 12 July 1915

This directly from my correspondence with my great aunt Jessie,

” When Grandma was not well and papa went to see her. And she rallied until papa arrived and she recognized him. While he was there she grew weaker and passed away. The card was written April 4, 1921. And he said, she died the night before so that would be the 3rd of April.”

Jessie MOSIER MILLER correspondence to the author

What this tells me is in spite of any other faults Frank may have had, he loved his mother. Catherine was 92 when she died having saw a very long and challenging life. I have not been able to locate a death notice or a death certificate for Catherine.

Yet we still have a couple of big questions to answer. Was Catherine a descendant of the Royal STEWARTs? Well we have YDNA thank for the answer to that question. The first of the line of Scottish Royal STEWARTs was Walter Fitz Alan (1110-1177) was appointed High Steward of Scotland under King David I. His descendants became Hereditary High Stewards of Scotland, and the 4th High Steward, Alexander Stewart (1214-1283) was the first to use STEWART as his surname. King Robert II of Scotland (grandson of Alexander Stewart) via Alexander Stewart’s younger son, Sir John Stewart of Bonkyl all carry the YDNA marker: S781. Descendants of Alexander Stewart (1675-1742), Ballymena, Antrim to Voluntown, Connecticut which include Catherine’s father and grandfather also carry the marker S781, so we know that part is true as confirmed by YDNA tests of their patrilineal male descendants. The part about the Scottish lawyer is, as yet unproven. However, we do see a quite substantial change in the families net worth between 1860 when they had no property and $100 in personal property and 1870 when their real estate was valued at $3,200 and personal estate at $1,225. What we do have of the historical record suggests that Catherine had her own estate which she used to purchase the City Hotel in Dodge and her home in South Dakota. I for one am inclined to think there is some truth in the family legend. We know the money did not come from her immediate family since her father died in 1843 and her grandfather in 1858. This is a mystery yet to be resolved.

But before we lay Catherine to rest I want to add another detail from my great Aunt Jessie which always gave me pause. It was that she was buried with her son who had died, near Red Oak, Iowa. This turned out to be only part of the story. Catherine died in Lemmon South Dakota which is just miles from the border with North Dakota. It was her wish that she be buried with her children near Milford which lies 500 miles away. And that wish was granted. This is a photo from Google Maps of Grant Cemetery near Milford, Iowa. When I found this I found it oddly comforting.

Grant Cemetery near Milford, Montgomery County Iowa from Google Maps

And below is her gravestone adjacent her two children Willie and Fannie and not far from her daughter Sarah and grandson Walter. We may think that the way Catherine survived was to harden her heart against the many losses she suffered but her desire to be buried with these children lost in 1871, 1875 and 1877 is testament to something different. Catherine is my woman warrior because she had so very many losses in her life but she soldiered on, and yet she never forgot those she left behind.

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you’ll learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Mrs C. A. MOSIER adjacent graves of Willie J and Fannie MOSIER Grant Cemetery, Milford, Iowa by Barbara Butcher

For now I will close with a poem from someone with a local connection, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894). Robert and his bride Fanny honeymooned here in the Napa Valley in May of 1880. It seems only appropriate that a fellow Scot is quoted here.


Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Catherine Adeline STEWART MURPHY MOSIER 1828-1921 Montgomery Co, Iowa by Barbara Butcher

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