Uncle Dave's book

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

52 Ancestors #52: Lucas Carlisle Kells, Attorney and Father

     My mother had a deep love and admiration for her father, Lucas Carlisle Kells, and frequently talked about him and wished we had known. And perhaps some of my research on the family has been an attempt to know him a little myself.

     Luke, as he was called, was born on 17 June 1882 on the family farm in Melrose, Stearns, Minnesota.  His father, Stephen Avery Kells, had been a Union soldier in the Civil War.  His mother, Isabella Duncan had been a school teacher before marriage. Luke was the second son and third child out of what eventually totaled eight children.  Plus his father had a son and a daughter from his first wife, so ten children in the family altogether. Luke's father, Stephen, was much bothered by physical conditions resulting from his Army service (he got dysentery in the swamps of Georgia while on Sherman's march).  So, Luke never talked much about him to his own children (I was the one who discovered he'd been a Union soldier and on the famous march through Georgia, Luke never told them this).  But he talked much about his mother, Isabella.  She taught him a great appreciation for literature, poetry, philosophy and music.  He passed this on to his own children as well.

     His beloved mother died of breast cancer in February 1897 when Luke was just 15.  His father died a year later in December 1898.  At this point his father's brothers wanted to break the family.  To prevent this his older sister, Madge, married the handyman and raised her younger siblings as her own, thus keeping the family together. Luke worked his way through the University of Minnesota and earned a scholarship to Columbia University where he graduated with a Ph.D in Philosophy. He went to Seattle and was a professor at the University of Washington for a year before deciding to study law, which he did and became a lawyer.  He married Edith Stefani  in August 1916 at the age of 34.

     Luke and Edith had four children, Lyman, the twins, Milton and Margaret, and Doris. During the depression his kind heart often led him to take barter for his services in lieu of money or allow people to owe him rather than pay promptly. This annoyed his wife but endeared him to many.  he loved his children and made the time to play with them.  He encouraged them in education and music, all the children had singing lessons, for instance. He loved to sing himself and also played the harmonica. his niece Cecil wrote to my mother of remembering him, "playing the mouth organ-(with feeling!)" and of once seeing him "singing an old plaintive ballad and I can see a dreamy far-away look on his face and hear the refrain over and over."  He loved to visit the old home in Melrose, going almost every summer, often with Edith and the kids.  He would work on the farm and visit with his brothers and sisters and feel very much at home.

     As a lawyer, Luke was greatly respected for being an honest, able, and caring one. He was also active in the Church, the family having joined the Madrona Presbyterian Church which was only half a block from their house. My mother said that, " when he taught a Sunday School class it wasn't like others because it included a thoughtful, questioning look at Bible stories and teachings while never including prayer. His approach to the Creation Story in terms of millions of years rather than days was a revolutionary idea to us."

     In he 1940's his health started to fail and he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.  Edith took care of him and he declined slowly but eventually came to a point where he didn't know Edith and would get violent. At this point he was sent to Western Washington State Mental Hospital.  He died there on 6 Oct 1946 with his wife and youngest daughter by his side.  He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Seattle with a headstone of granite from Minnesota to mark the grave.  His wife was buried at his side 36 years later and his daughter, Doris', ashes were buried at his feet in 2000.  He was a kind and honest man, one who was very intelligent and cultured but also greatly enjoyed life.  His younger sister, Marian, wrote this of him, "The memory of a good and noble being can not be lost; and Luke had goodness and had nobility."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

52 Ancestors # 51: Georgiana Agnes Cookson

     Georgiana Agnes Cookson was known as Agnes.  She was born on 3 Aug 1868 in Vienna, Elgin Co., Ontario, Canada, the daughter of John Marshall Cookson and Hannah Elizabeth Buck. The name Georgiana was for her father's sister, Georgiana Cookson, but the Agnes seems to be hers alone. Not long after she was born the family moved to Saginaw, Michigan where they are found in the 1870 Census.  By 1880 they were living in Au Gres, Michigan, around the Bay from Saginaw.  Her father was a lumberjack and her mother had a sewing machine and sold sheets, I suppose to lumberjack as this was a booming business at that time.

     Agnes had three younger brothers: Daniel Edward "Teddy" born in 1870, Henry John "Harry" born in 1873, and Samuel Lane "Sammy" born in 1876.  There was also a stillborn sister in 1877. I don't know much about her life at that point except that the winters were very cold and harsh in that area. The family records say that she graduated from school and became a school teacher.  She taught her younger brother, Sammie, in a one room school, probably around 1884 when she was 16.

     Teddy died in Oct 1881 of a fever and Harry drowned in Aug 1882. This must have been tragic for the family.  Perhaps because of these deaths the family moved again to Fayetteville, Arkansas in about 1885. On 20 Oct 1888, Agnes married Benjamin Melvin Hudson. They had met in Saginaw as that is where he was from. In fact, the family account said that they married in Saginaw.  Yet, I found the marriage  certificate in Fayetteville.  He must have followed her there, leaving his family and life for her.  She was 20 when they married.

     Agnes and Ben had four daughters: Edna, Mabel, Alma and Elizabeth (Bessie).  They lived next door to her parents for several years but eventually moved to Fort Worth, Texas where they lived most of their lives.  Agnes and her daughters frequently appear in the social columns of the local Fort Worth paper of the early 1900's, active in Church and school activities.  Bessie's husband, my grandfather Walter Peterson, said that Agnes stressed education and music in her daughters' upbringing.  Certainly they all were top students and all went to College, something rare for women in those days. Edna and Mabel were also teachers, following in their mother's footsteps.  And Bessie also taught Physical Education in Chicago. Agnes must have been proud of her daughters!

     I only have four pictures of Agnes. In one taken in 1925 she is very stylishly dressed in a cocoon-style coat, high heels and long necklaces with a cloche hat.  She was about 57 at the time! In all four photos she has a very sweet expression.

     Agnes died on 27 Dec 1936 of pernicious anemia.  She is buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Fort Worth, Benjamin, Edna, Mabel and Alma are all buried there with her.

Friday, December 19, 2014

52 Ancestors # 50: Elizabeth "Bessie" Hudson. my Grandmother Peterson

    My Grandma Peterson, Elizabeth "Bessie Hudson Peterson, was a wonderful woman: sweet, loving, quick to laugh, easy to talk to.  She genuinely liked and welcomed people. She was born on 16 December 1896 in Texarkana, Texas. Her father, Benjamin Melvin Hudson, was a railroad construction and maintenance supervisor and the family moved around a bit but eventually settle in Fort Worth, Texas. She had three older sisters, Edna, Mabel, and Alma. Her mother encouraged them all to get a good education and all four went to College at a time when most women did not.

     As a child, Bessie considered herself to be a "tomboy", perhaps why she majored in Physical Education in College.  I only recall two stories of her as a child, both related to the fact she was well known in her family for walking and talking in her sleep. I know those stories because I had the same tendency as a child. Story #1: One night her parents heard a noise downstairs.  Her father, thinking it was a burglar,  grabbed his gun and started down the stairs to check it out.  Suddenly her mother came running after him, yelling, "Ben, don't shoot! It might be Bessie!". I never heard the outcome of that one!  Story #2:  One night, awakened again by a noise downstairs, her parents came down and found Bessie walking in her sleep.  She was walking on the railing surrounding the front porch.  This porch was quite high off the ground, the house being on a hill.  Her parents were horrified but didn't dare move or make any noise for fear they'd startle and she would lose her balance and fall. So, with bated breath, they watched her walk around the railing and get down without a hitch.

     After graduating from High School in Fort Worth, Bessie attended George Williams in Chicago, Illinois where she majored in Physical Education. Here she met Walter Peterson and they fell in love.  I described their meeting in my blog on him.  Bessie had to overcome her parents doubts about her getting married so young (she was 20) but she won their approval and they were married in her home church. They were Presbyterian and in my research I found that from 1816 when her great grandfather was married in a Presbyterian Church in Canada, every reference to religion in her family was to a Presbyterian Church. According to Walter, she persuaded him to switch to the Presbyterian Church from his familial Lutheran one.  In fact, he became a Presbyterian Minister,

     On 19 Aug 1917, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported on Bessie and Walter's wedding as so:

"Miss Elizabeth Hudson and Mr. Walter L. Peterson were married Friday evening at 6:30 o'clock in the Hemphill Presbyterian Church...The bride entered on the arm of her father, Mr. B.M. Hudson. She was beautifully gowned in white net satin. an extremely graceful tulle veil was draped over the folds of the skirt, falling from a lace cap of Mexican drawn work and held secure by two white asters on either side. The bridal bouquet was of white asters and tube roses."

     Their first son, Walter (Wally) was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1918 followed by Frances Elizabeth (Betty) in 1920 and John Marshall (Jack) in 1922, both in Fort Worth. Walter's pacifist beliefs kept him from joining the Army in WW I but he did work for the Army in the YMCA.  Bessie made him wear his Army YMCA uniform outside work so that he wouldn't inspire violence in people who didn't want to see a young man who wasn't fighting for his country. Years later their son-in-law, David Dellinger, was one of the most famous pacifists of the 20th Century!

     In the 1930's during the height of the depression, Walter decided that he needed to change professions and become a Minister. So he entered McCormick Presbyterian Seminary. Bessie completely supported him in this decision.  She got a job teaching PE in the Chicago schools and supported the family.  My father told us of being a "latch key kid" during this time, letting himself in after school and waiting for his mother to get home.  Bessie helped drill Walter in Hebrew and Greek and even took some courses herself in religious education. Walter graduated in about 1937 with his first Church being in Bessemer, Michigan.  Here their son, Wally, married Grace Basket and Betty and Jack graduated from High School. Bessie became the consumate Minister's wife running Church women's groups, Bible, Summer School, etc. In 1940 Walter became the Minister of a Church in Seattle, Washington.  Here Betty married Dave and Jack married Margaret.

     In later years Walter became the Director of the Council of Churches in Spokane for ten years and they had churches in Woodlawn and Tacoma, Washington.  In 1957 Walter was an exchange minister in Scotland for a year and they also traveled in Sweden and Europe. In August, 1967, they had a large family celebration of their 50th Wedding Anniversary. They retired in Santa Fe, New Mexico, then San Diego, then again New Mexico, finally settling in Westminster Gardens in Duarte, Claifornia near Pasadena.  Here they celebrated their 60th t 64th wedding anniversaries. They were such a devoted couple that near the end of their lives the people in the retirement home put them in separate rooms so that they would have incentive to get out of bed, get dressed and see each other.  They had lunch together every day. Bessie died on 12 May 1982 with Walter following seven months later on 14 Dec 1982.

     I admire Bessie for her courage in supporting her husband and her belief in him even when it meant personal sacrifice. She was a loving mother and grandmother and always had time for her children and their children.  I remember how much she loved flowers and many hours we spent admiring them in gardens and parks.  She knew their names as she did the trees as well.  A strong woman, independent and individual but also loving and feminine. My husband is also a minister, although not in a full time capacity.  From time to time I am with him at a wedding or other ceremony he performs (more and more these are memorial services). I always get a kick out of being "the Minister's wife" because it reminds me of my grandmother and I try to play the role as well as she did, with something of her grace and graciousness. She set the example for me to follow.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

52 Ancestors #49: Adelina Justina Stefani, "Aunt Dell"

     Adelina Justina Stefani is the full name of my mother's Aunt Dell, which is the name we knew her by. She was born on 29 Nov 1896 in Issaquah, Washington to Frank John Stefani and Angelina Margarita Tinetti.  I believe she was named for both her father's sister, Adelaide Stefani, and her mother's sister, Adele Tinetti.  Adele would've been called Adelina in the family just as Dell's mother was christened Angela but always called Angelina. Dell often was called Delina, as well, a name I really like and considered giving to my daughter.

     Delina was the pretty sister and always popular with the boys.  According to her niece, Marian, she would leave notes for the boys in the woodpile behind her house where they would pick them up and leave answers for her.  If her father had ever caught her at this,  she would've been in big trouble! It was a family mystery how she could've been so pretty and popular with the boys and seemingly could've had her pick of them, yet the men she married were not so good to or for her.

     On 22 Mar 1916, she married John Burr Adams, she was 19.  They lived in Seattle at 4130 Densmore Ave. in the 1920 Federal Census.  She and John had two sons, Harold Lewis born in 1917 and Samuel John born in 1918. However, in 1927 she and John were divorced.  The impression I got from the family is that he physically mistreated her, although I never heard the full story on that.  It wasn't talked about and he was never mentioned. She and her sons were very much part of the family, though, you see them in family photos. My mother was quite close to her cousin Sam and his wife, Harmony.

     In the 1930 Census, she is listed as a lodger, divorced and working in a laundry.  This makes sense as she grew up working in her father's laundry in Issaquah so she knew the business. She didn't stay single long, on 2 June 1934 she married Frank Carl Dorner, "Uncle Shorty".  He was height challenged (as they say these days), thus the nickname.  I don't know why the family felt she could've done better than him as he seemed nice enough to me.  Maybe no one would've been good enough for her in the eyes of the family.  They lived in the North end of Seattle not far from where we lived.  My mother, sister and I used to visit them fairly often, especially every Thanksgiving morning to see Macy's Parade and every New Year's Day to see the Rose Bowl Parade. You see, they had a color TV, not that common in the 60's!

     Aunt Dell was fun! She always was cheerful with an air of fun and adventure about her.  When we first moved to Seattle she gave my sister and I dolls that had belonged to my Mom and her sister.  Dell had fixed them up and dressed them nicely for us. She always had time and laughter for us!

     She outlived all her brothers and sisters, dying on 18 Jul 1995 in Bremerton, Washington.  She left a legacy of love, laughter and the spirit of adventure.