Uncle Dave's book

Saturday, December 17, 2016

My Grandparents and I, Part II: My Paternal Grandmother

     My father's mother was named Elizabeth Hudson at birth but was called Bessie. I never heard anyone call her by any other name than Bessie. She was always warm, kind and gentle with a sweet smile.  In fact, pretty much the way you want a grandmother to be!

     She and my grandfather loved to visit family. They kept in touch with everyone as I saw when my father died and I inherited my grandfather's (and grandmother's) address book. They had siblings, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, cousins, the families of their siblings' spouses and ex-spouses and on and on in the book! They regularly visited everyone all over the U.S. My grandmother was particularly close to her sisters, Alma and Mable, and I recall many visits with them. It gave me a real feeling of belonging to a family and having a wide circle of relatives.

     When I was having some trouble with sleep and talking in my sleep as a child she said she  understood and told me two stories I have never forgotten about herself. It seems that she used to sleep walk as a child.  One night her parents woke up hearing a noise of someone walking around downstairs. Her Dad picked up his rifle and started down the stairs, swiftly followed by her mother saying, "Don't shoot, Ben! It might be Bessie!" This became a family catch phrase after that! (It WAS Bessie.) Another time they followed a similar sound only to find Bessie walking in her sleep on the top of the railing around the front porch. The house was built over a basement and on a hill so this was actually quite high up. They didn't want to startle her so they watched silently with their hearts pounding as she walked around the railing. Fortunately she didn't fall and when she got down they picked her up and took her back to bed.

     Bessie was the youngest of four girls but she was the first to marry. When she came home from College with her young man in tow the family tried to convince her that she was too young to get married.  But she prevailed and they were married. And they were married the rest of her life. It was always apparent that they were devoted to each other, equally in both directions. My grandfather was a commanding figure and could dominate a conversation but when she quietly and calmly gave her opinion he always listened. He was raised a Lutheran and became a Presbyterian minister. I asked him once why he had become a Presbyterian, not a Lutheran, minister.  He said, "Because Bessie was a Presbyterian." That says a great deal about her position in his life.

     As I have researched the family tree,  I have come to have even greater admiration for her. In about 1931, with the "Great Depression" in full sway, my grandfather decided to go to Seminary and become a Minister. In my mind most wives would go, "Are you out of your mind? We have three small children to feed and there's a depression on!" But instead, she went to work and supported him and the family while he went to Seminary. (She might have said that, too but her actions were completely supportive.) She had a College education when most women didn't and she used it to support her husband and family. Because her family came first.

     In an entirely different area she always amazed me because when we went places she would know the names of all the trees and all the flowers. She loved flowers and we often went to visit gardens with her
Bessie about 16 and her Dad
Bessie on her wedding day
Bessie and Walter wedding photo
Bessie and Family 1925
Bessie and Walter, 60th Anniversary, 1977
. I found a description of her wedding in the local newspaper and it described the Church as being abundantly decorated with smilax. I had to look that up, smilax, a small white flower. So I see her there surrounded with flowers. I will always think of her with her Walter and her flowers!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

On Grandparents' Day: My Grandparents and I, Part 1, My Maternal Grandmother

     My sister reminded me today that it is Grandparents' Day. My grandparents were very important people in my life. One grandparent, though, I didn't know.  That was my mother's father, Lucas C. Kells. He died in 1946, two years before I was born. I feel a strong connection to him, nonetheless, because my mother spoke so highly of him and wanted me to know him through her.

     My mother's mother, though, Edith Rosetta Stefani Kells, I knew quite well. When I was younger she would come visit us in the summer, staying for a week or two. I remember picking her up at the Greyhound or Trailways bus station, marveling that she came all that way on a bus! The main thing I recall about those visits is that she taught us card games Old Maid and War when we were young, Gin Rummy and Canasta when we were older. But, especially, she taught us Solitaire. My recall is that she taught me that when you couldn't make any more moves then you went through the remaining cards one by one instead of by threes. So this is how I played it (you win more often that way!). One day I was playing it and someone saw me and said that I was cheating. I said I was playing it the way my Grandmother taught me. He told me that if I played it that way in Vegas they'd toss me out of the casino! But since I don't care what some guy in a casino thinks I go ahead and play it the way she taught me.  Like I say, you win more that way!

     When I was 11, my parents got divorced and my mother, my sister and I moved from Little Rock, Arkansas to Seattle, Washington and moved in with my grandmother.  My grandmother was quite upset with my father plus, my mother had changed from having been a woman living on her own away from home as compared to when she was a girl. So I heard much harsh criticism of my father from her and overheard several loud shouting matches between my mother and her. I didn't like hearing bad things about my father or angry words addressed to my mother. I really didn't like hearing my mother cry.  So my grandmother and I got off on the wrong foot at that time. I never said anything to her or my mother about any of that. Meanwhile, I was a pre-teen and then a teen.  My grandmother was very critical of me, mostly to my mother and other people in the family.  I was lazy, I ate too much (my sister ate too little, neither of us seemed to be satisfactory in this area), I didn't help enough around the house or the yard (this was true). So, the relationship was somewhat strained. To be honest, I pretty much ignored her criticisms. None the less, we did often have a good time together.  I wish now that I had asked her to teach me to knit and crochet or to bake the Christmas cookies she made every year.  Even how to take care of a house and yard. She could have taught me all these things. I did learn to crochet and made one shawl. But since then I have forgotten the technique.  My daughter recently started to learn and I told her how happy my grandmother would've been to know that she was learning to do that.

     Now, after many years of working on my family tree I feel quite different toward her. Having inherited many of her photos I have been struck at the resemblance between her and my daughter. And now my granddaughter always asks me about a picture I have of my grandmother in my bedroom. I realized that my granddaughter looks a lot like she did in that picture. We are all on the maternal line together. I have had great satisfaction in tracing my grandmother's family, both of her parents from Northern Italy, her mother from Piemonte and her father from Trentino. In so doing I suppose that I have gotten to know her better as well. I wish that she had been here to hear all that I discovered of her Italian roots! Perhaps she would have felt that all that reading wasn't a total waste!

Edith about age 8
My daughter, Devin, age 6
Edith, age 18 (the picture on my wall)

Elinor, age 3
My grandmother, my mother, my daughter and I November 1981

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Pacifism, Peace Marches and the Petersons

     Recently it was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima that ended WW II.  This got me to thinking of the history of the Peterson family in relation to war and anti-war sentiments.

     My father's great grandfather, Johannes Peterson, immigrated to the US from Sweden in 1869. Much of the reason was economic as Sweden was mid a several year long drought and crop failure. But, according to my grandfather, Walter Peterson, another reason that he left Sweden was that he disagreed with the long years of compulsory military service required.  I don't know if he was opposed to war itself or merely to the enforced military service. It is interesting that this was one of his reasons for leaving because HIS grandfather was considered a military hero who had fought in the Battle of Svenskund, a famous Swedish victory in 1790.  This grandfather's name was Peter Eriksson but he took the last name of Hedenberg as his "soldier name". It was the practice to take a soldier name because with the use of patronymics and a limited number of first names in use, there were just too many men with the same last name to be practical in the army. It was an army name but he kept it all his life, as shown by the fact that in his death record, 23 Nov 1842, he is listed as "Peter Ericsson Hedenberg".  His son is recorded as Peter Petersson in the parish records but in the family records he is called "Peter Hedenberg" and his home was known in the area as "Hedenberg's hanne", so he kept his father's army name.

     Johannes Peterson, however, did NOT take the soldier name. His son, Adolph, never was in the army in America and really wasn't the right age for any major US war.  His grandson, Walter, my grandfather, though was prime military age when WW I broke out. He was morally opposed to war and, although he filled out a draft registration card, he had no intention of serving.  My grandmother was quite concerned for him because public sentiment was rather violently opposed to young men who were not in uniform.  So he became a physical instructor for the YMCA to the military. As such he wore a uniform thus easing my grandmother's fears. He became a Presbyterian minister and after WW II took some heat for offering jobs to displaced persons from Europe. In the 1960's he marched in racial equality marches in Tacoma.

     When WW II came his sons, though, both signed up and served.  My Uncle Wally joined the Navy and sailed in the Pacific theater.  My father joined the Army and went to Europe in the Quartermaster Corps. My father did not actually fight so he perhaps stayed in the pacifist tradition to that degree.  Their sister, Elizabeth, married a famous Conscientious Objector named David Dellinger. He refused to sign the draft papers and went to prison along with 7 other young divinity students. He remained an active and influential voice in the anti-war movement and in 1968 again went to jail as one of the famous Chicago Seven.

     This brings to the War in Vietnam. David had several sons and I don't know how they managed to stay out of the war but they did. My father had two daughters.  But Uncle Wally had a son who was in College in 1966 and ripe for the draft. When they did away with the student deferment he received his draft notice.  He decided to move to Canada rather than fight in a war he disagreed with. He finished college in British Columbia, got married, raised a family etc. But he could not enter the US or he would have been arrested, a point of sorrow for his family. One day around 1971 he was on a  flight bound to Mexico and it stopped in Seattle. He stayed on the plane so as not to enter the US.  However, Federal Marshalls came onto the plane and arrested him, pulling him off.  This was illegal and he went to trial and won. After that he could come into the US with no problem.

     Following in the Peterson tradition I was in college and opposed to the war in Vietnam.  So I went to New York in a van with friends and marched in the April 1967 Anti-War March in New York City. In October of that year I went to Washington DC for the March on the Pentagon. Standing in a crowd of tens of thousands I was surprised to discover that my Uncle Dave was the main speaker. Later, sitting on the steps of the Pentagon I ran into my cousin Ray who was a Marshall in the parade, telling people where to go. I said, "Hi! I'm your cousin Wendy from Seattle!" He was happy to see me and then we carried on. We were told by the DC police that we had to get off the steps or get arrested. The organizers told us that we should stay seated and if we got arrested we would go to jail with Joan Baez and they would make sure that we got bailed out. Now I'm a big Joan Baez fan and I thought about it but in the end I decided to get up and pass on being arrested. Jail didn't seem like a good idea.

     In 1967 when I was protesting the war I had no idea that my 2X great grandfather had left Sweden because he disagreed with the compulsory military service or that my grandfather had refused to join the army in WW I or even that my uncle had gone to jail rather than sign the draft papers. I didn't realize that I was simply following in a family tradition that chose peace over war. Happily it wasn't a situation for my son and I prayer that it won't be one for my grandson or granddaughter either.

(Note: although I have researched the early parts of this the more recent events are either based on my own experience or on stories heard from family so my dates or details on some may not be accurate.  The events happened however.)

Peter Eriksson Hedenberg was in the cavary, this is a painting of Swedish cavalry ca 1790
Battle of Svendsksund on the Baltic Sea in 1790
Johannes Peterson with his grandson Walter about 1898
Walter Peterson in his YMCA uniform in 1918
John in QM Corps in France 1945 (in front second from right)
USS Chenango, Wally's ship in WW II
Dave Dellinger FBI mug shot ca 1940
Cousin Erik ca 1988
Cousin Ray Dellinger ca 1982
Me, 1967
1967 DC Anti-War Protest

Joan Baez Anti-War Protest ( just had to throw this one in!)

Friday, July 15, 2016

For Love of a Car Addition: My Father's Jeep

     I had wanted to include my Dad's WW II jeep in the essay about family cars but I didn't have the photos. Recently I found the photos and feel that the jeep shouldn't be left out,

     My Dad, John M. Peterson, was a Lt. in the Quartermaster Corps in Europe in WW II. After the war while he was still in Europe he had the opportunity to buy a jeep ("Army surplus" so to speak). In his autobiography he says, "I was able to buy an almost-new jeep which I could ship home under the new peacetime rules for officers transferring to and from Europe." Upon return home he and my mother moved to Boston where he attended Harvard University.  The jeep was their main mode of transportation. In the autobiography he tells this story, "One icy day there was a traffic jam when cars were unable to climb the hump of a bridge over the Charles River.  I ducked down a side street, and them drove my jeep on the sidewalk of stately Beacon Street, turned a sharp corner and got onto the bridge to help push two wheel-spinning cars ahead of me. This showed the advantages of small size and four-wheel drive!"

     They drove it from Boston to Chicago ("in below zero weather") when he went to the University of Chicago to get his PhD. In Chicago they sold it at four times what he paid for it! It had been a very good investment. I remember my mother telling me that she hadn't been that fond of the jeep, though, because it was so open and cold in winter. Hopefully she never told him that!
My Dad, Mar 1946, waiting to be sent home after the war
My mother on the hood of the jeep, August 1946
My mother and friends in the jeep, August 1946
Another view of my mother and friends in the jeep, August 1946
My mother on the hood of the jeep, August 1946, you can tell that my Dad was proud of that jeep!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lucy Gifford or How I Lost 1000 Ancestors With One Click

     Several years ago I was looking for the parents of Daniel Cookson's wife, Lucy Gifford. I had found a marriage record for Daniel and Lucy which didn't note parents but gave the location of Whitefield, Lincoln, Maine. It said 1801 but I thought it was likely 1810 as their first son was born in 1811. I looked at the 1800 and 1810 Censuses for every Gifford family and only found one with a female the right age who wasn't likely the wife. This was Paul Gifford. I found data on his family and he had a daughter named Lucy of the right age. No data was known as to her marriage or when and where she died. So based on all available data it seemed that this was my Lucy.

     But yesterday I found a marriage record between that Lucy Gifford and a man named Wall. And her death record in the same town in Maine where they were married. So, it looked like I had Lucy in the wrong family. It's a shame because Paul Gifford's ancestry has been well researched as has his wife's, going well back into English history. I deleted them and lost about 1000 ancestors in two clicks! but they aren't mine so there you go.

     I now have narrowed down a possible family for Lucy, there is a Lucy Gifford born about 1780 to William Gifford and Priscilla Lawton in Freetown, Mssachusetts. I haven't been able to find out anything else about her yet.

     Another "good guess" that I am making about Lucy is that she married David Corless in Linneus about 1846. In the 1850 Census a Lucy Corless is listed in the family of Daniel Cookson, age 72. Me and every other researcher that I've seen has taken this to be Lucy Cookson, mother of Daniel. But one day I noticed that the name is Corless, not Cookson. Carefuly reading the Census record we find David Corless living in another house with James and Lizabet Lilley. One would assume that she is his daughter, but there is no Lizabet, Elizabeth or even a daughter with the middle initial "E" noted in his family. He was living in New Limerick, Aroostook in the 1830 Census. Daniel Cookson was living in New Limerick in the 1840 Census and this town and Linneus share a border. David is listed as in Linneus in 1840. David's wife, Polly, died in 1845 and I believe that Lucy's husband, Daniel Noyes Cookson, died around 1839. Thus they were neighbors and may well have married. Why they weren't living together in 1850 I don't know.  It could well have been too hard for them to live on their own but their children couldn't take care of both together. So far I haven't been able to find any marriage or death records to confirm this.

     So I am left with some good guesses and a lot of ground to cover to get at the real story.  I have looked at all the probate indexes and records for Aroostook from 1837 to 1860 (online at Family Search) and found nothing but a couple of references to Daniel Cookson  having claims against the estate of William Webster and buying 4 tin plates for .26 and 1 sugar bowl for .05 at his estate sale!

Linneus, Maine

Cookson purchases at Estate Sale ca 1847

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mustaches in the family history

     A recent post by the Photo Detective about men's mustaches in the past led me to look over the photo evidence of these in my family tree. The great great grandfathers I have photos of all have at least a mustache and two have full beards. The one exception I thought I saw was Giovanni Tinetti who lived from 1825-1904 in Northern Italy. But looking at the only photo I have of him it does appear that, indeed!, he has a thin mustache.
Giovanni Tinetti 1897 Torino, Italy

Stephen Avery Kells ca 1877, Minnesota, USA
Johannes Peterson ca 1895, Minnesota, USA
John Marshall Cookson, 1867, Vienna, Ontario, Canada

Benjamin Lester Hudson, about 1915, Saginaw, Michigan, USA

These men all lived from about 1825-1917, except for John Cookson who was younger living from 1848-1936. In Dennis' family the only photos of a great grandfather I have are of his mother's grandfathers, Carl Gustaf Knock and John Mallgren. Both from Sweden and born in the 1840's they still follow this rule.
Carl Gustaf Knock, 1875, Chicago, Illinois, USA
John Mallgren, ca 1911, St. Peter, Minnesota, USA.

Now the next generation, the great grandfathers. They also sport facial hair in their early photos.  But by 1930 or so they have lost it. 
Frank Stefani, 1891 Hurley, Wisconsin, USA
Frank Stefani, ca 1912, Issaquah, Washington, USA
Adolph Peterson, 1885, Dassel, Minnesota, USA
Adolph Peterson, ca 1925 Minneapolis, Minnesota (okay, he never lost his mustache!)
Benjamin M. Hudson 1888, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA
Benjamin M. Hudson, ca 1912, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

By my grandparents generation, though, mustaches and beards were no longer in fashion. It wasn't until the last years of his life in the 1980's that my grandfather sported a beard!
Walter Peterson, ca 1928, Detroit, Michigan, USA
Walter Peterson, ca 1978, New Mexico, USA
Lucas C. Kells, ca 1920, Seattle, Washington, USA

Neither of Dennis' grandfathers had facial hair either.
James C. Negley, 1948, Los Angeles, California, USA
Carl John Knock, ca 1905, Saint Peter, Minnesota, USA

In my father's generation men were clean shaven. Like his father, my father grew a goatee when he was older.  His brother, however, grew one, almost de rigeur for a psychologist! He went full hippie in his old age!
John Peterson, 1944, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Walter H. Peterson, ca 1959, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Walter H. Peterson, 1988, Lodi, Wisconsin, USA
Jim Negley, ca 1943, Los Angeles, California, USA

But, in the 60's and. especially
the 70's, facial hair for men returned. Dennis Negley, 1974, San Francisco, California, USA
My cousin, Eric Peterson, 1988, Lodi, Wisconsin, USA

My cousin, Ray Dellinger, ca 1988, Berkeley, California, USA
My cousin, Danny Dellinger, 1982, New York, New York, USA

My cousin, Larry Kells, 1982,  Palo Alto, California, USA

And now men can go any way they want as shown by my son in law, John Weber
John Weber, 2015, Beaverton, Oregon, USA