Uncle Dave's book

Saturday, January 31, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #5: Jacob Ellsworth Key, Farmer

     Jacob Ellsworth "Jake" Key was my mother's Uncle by marriage. He was born on 24 July 1875, the son of Lourantes "Rant" Washburn Key and Martha Ellen Poorman.  He was the second child and oldest son in a family of 10 children living in Saratoga, Randolph, Indiana. His farmer is listed as a Farm Laborer in 1880 but by 1900 is a Farmer. By then, though Jake was gone with a family of his own in Minnesota.

     At some point Jake came to Minnesota and was the hired man on the Kells family farm in Melrose, Stearns Co., Minnesota.  I don't find him there in the 1895 Minnesota Census and he was there at the time of Stephen Kells' death in 1898, so between those dates he must have been employed. My family has always told the story that in December 1898 when Stephen Kells died, following the death of his wife in 1897, he left his 8 children ages 19 to 5 orphaned.  His brothers, the infamous "bankers" in family lore, wanted to split the children up and have them live with various relatives. To prevent that the oldest daughter, Margaret Hamilton "Madge" Kells, married the hired man, Jake.  They kept the farm and raised the brothers and sister. Her younger siblings always loved and honored Madge for this. But his daughter, Leora, tells a slightly different story in a 1982  letter to my mother, her cousin, Margaret.  She says, "Mama kept the family together--as the "Bankers" Kells--Stephen Avery's Bros.--wanted to farm them out to families (they'd run away  and  come home.) My father Jacob Ellsworth Key from Indiana (long story) worked at Aunt Phoebe's and would send him over to do the outside work--they decided to marry (Mama & Papa) to keep the family together."  And in a 1983 letter Leora wrote, "Our father came from Indiana--fell in love with Margaret Hamilton Kells and that's how we are Keys." So I think this is a possible scenario for this family story: Stephen Kells dies, his brothers, the Bankers, want to break up the family and send the children to live with several different relatives. Madge is distraught and confides in the young hired man, Jake. He tells her he loves her and the solution is for them to get married, keep the farm and raise the children.

     And raise the children they did, plus eight of their own. I think Jake must have loved children, he seems very happy to be with them in the pictures I have. Their oldest son was only seven years younger than her youngest brother.  I'm sure it was a struggle to make the farm produce enough to support both families. But they did it. And made it so that a common thread of the letters and stories I've heard from both the Kells siblings and the Key kids is how wonderful it is to go home, go back to the farm. In fact the farm is still in the family.  And that is a tribute to Jake and Madge.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #4: Magnus Jonasson, Hemmansagaren

     Magnus Jonasson is my third great grandfather and we share a birthday, although he was born 224 years before me.  Magnus was born 26 Dec 1790 in Linneryd, Kronobergs Lan, Smaland, Sweden.  He was the son of Jonas Danielsson and Catharina Jacobsdotter. In 1823 he moved to Dadesjo where he married Elin Svensdotter on 16 May 1823.  They had a son and three daughters , the youngest of whom was Anna Magnusdotter, my second great grandmother. Magnus is listed as a hemmansagaren, or a free farmer who owned his land.  His farm was called Rydholm and he also is noted as "Magnus pa Ryet".  So perhaps he had a second home near the first one.  When my grandfather visited Sweden in 1957 Magnus' house was still standing and he took a photo of it.  However, when my sister and I visited in May 2014, the house was no longer there.  We did find a barn marked "Rydholm" and a sign for "Ryet" and the area where the house had been. Magnus died at age 75 on 13 Mar 1866,  Elin outlived him by quite a few years, dying on 4 Feb 1896, age 92.

     My grandfather's father, Adolph Peterson, was close to Magnus when he was growing up. He told a story of almost being hit by a tree that Magnus was chopping down but rescued by his grandfather just in time.  My grandfather's cousins in Sweden, also descendants of Magnus, told him that he wore velvet knee breeches with pewter buttons and had a brother in France.  I found another descendant in Sweden who had done a very good family tree and asked him about this.  He told me that as far as he knew there was no brother in France.  My thought is that he would have been 28 when Charles Bernadotte became King of Sweden from France, possibly in the Army, possibly had close friends in the army who were French, "brothers" in that sense.  I have yet to find any military records or anything else that would shed light on this. I did find that French Military Uniforms at the time did include knee breeches in some areas. Or perhaps he was just an eccentric dresser!

     That is all I know of Magnus at this time.  His son Jonas Petter and daughter, Karin, both produced a number of descendants some of whom my grandfather visited in 1957 and two of their descendants my sister and I met in 2014!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #3: Maria Wegher, a woman of Maso Milano

     Born Elisabetta Maria Catterina Wegher on 14 Nov 1830 she was my great great grandmother.  Called Maria in the records I saw, she was the daughter of  Luigi Paulino Wegher and Elisabetta Facchini. Maria was the youngest of their nine children.  They lived in Maso Milano.  This is an area in a valley below the town of Sporminore in Trentino, Italy(today, at the time she lived there it was in Austria).  I saw the designation "Maso Milano" in her birth record and all records of her family.  This puzzled me until I found the Sporminore website and there was a page about it in Italian.  Using Google Translate I discovered that this is a small area that was founded by a man from Milan who came there and started a blacksmith shop in the 1500's. Maso is a mass or place, Milano is because he was from Milan.  In the 1700's the Weghers came and took it over.  Today there is a restaurant there owned by the present day Wegher family) and several residences.

     It is quite a trek up the hill to the town of Sporminore but that is where the Church is and I imagine the market was there. And the school. At any rate Maria met Giovanni Luigi Stefani and on 20 Oct 1849 they were married in the Church there.  I have no photos of them, but the ones I have of their son, Francesco, suggest that Giovanni was probably a handsome man.  Apparently Maria was given a house in Sporminore, probably as a wedding present, as the family story is that the house they lived in belonged to her.  Her death record says she lived in house #54 and I believe that I found that house when we visited Sporminore last May.

     Her life was hard.  She bore seven children, all but two of them died before the age of 13. Her second daughter, Adelaide, injured her back as a small girl and spent most of her childhood confined to her bed. She had a hunchback the rest of her life as a result. Giovanni was a peddlar but he also was a drunk.  He would spend most of what he made on alcohol.  Their son, Francesco, would go with him on his peddling trips and hide as much of the money as he could to give to his mother when they got home.  Francesco hated and despised his father but was devoted to his mother. After finishing school he went to France and worked and sent home most of his wages to his mother. He was intent on taking care of her and his sister.  Giovanni died in 1881 and Maria followed him om 23 Nov 1884. This freed Francesco to go to America in May 1886 and Adelaide to get married which she did on 27 Aug 1887.

     I don't know much about Maria but that her life was an unhappy one with a husband who was a disappointment at best and the loss of five children.  But the fact that her two remaining children were so devoted to her says a great deal for her good nature.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #2: Duncan I of Scotland

     Duncan I of Scotland ( in Gaelic, Donnchadh mac Crionain) or Duncan Mac Crinain was the grandson and successor to Malcolm II who united Scotland into one country in about 1027.  Duncan was born in about 1001, the son of Crinain, hereditary lay abbot of Dunkeld and Bethoc, daughter of Malcolm II. Malcolm apparently chose Duncan to be his successor as his own sons were dead and there was no opposition to Duncan becoming king even though there were other possible successors.

     Duncan became King in 1034. He was known as both "le Gracieux" (the gracious) and "An t-llgarach" (the diseased), I find no explanation for either appellation.  His reign was relatively quiet at first.  Then in 1039 he led a large army to beseige Durham, in northern England, which ended disastrously for him. Almost immediately after that he took his army to Moray to fight his Uncle MacBeth who, along with his wife, had an equally good claim to the crown.  Duncan was killed in this battle at Pitgavenny near Elgin and buried at St. Orans' chapel on the Isle of Iona. He left three sons, two of whom, Malcolm and Donald became King after defeating MacBeth. Duncan founded the House of Dunkeld which ruled Scotland until 1286.

     Duncan would not have been particularly know if William Shakespeare hadn't written MacBeth, a play that was based on the story of Duncan and MacBeth.  However, in Shakespeare's play Duncan is an older monarch, who is a model of a wise and benevolent king. And the play is really about evil and the price of guilt. Still it is interesting to find that we have an ancestor who was immortalized by Shakespeare! I also find it interesting to note that we find Duncan I on the Kells family tree, through the Avery family.  In 1877 our ancestor, Stephen Avery Kells, married Isabella Duncan.  In researching her tree I found a statement that her father, James Duncan, was descended from "King Duncan" but I have not been able to corroborate this. It may be, then that both sides of my grandfather, Lucas Kells', family were descended from King Duncan I!

     Let us let Shakespeare have the last word here.  These lines are spoken by King Duncan in MacBeth Act I, Scene 4:

     "But signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine
      On all deservers.  From hence to Inverness,

      And bind us further to you."

Sunday, January 4, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #1: John Marshall Peterson, Economist and my Father

      My father, John Marshall Peterson, was born on 6 Jan 1922 in Ft Worth, Texas.  His father, Walter Leonard Peterson was Physical Education Director for the YMCA and his mother later became Physical Education Director for the YWCA. He had an older brother, Wally and sister, Betty. John was named after his mother's grandfather, John Marshall Cookson. It occurs to me that everyone in the family was known by a nickname except for Walter, who always has been called Walter.  Walter, Jr., was known as Wally, Elizabeth as Betty, his mother, also Elizabeth was known all her life as Bessie and John was Jack. He was Jack until in High School there were so many John Peterson's that he became known as Pete. Pete is what my mother called him when they were married, although later she called him Jack. But his second wife and his friends and colleagues later in his life called him John.

     In 1927 the family moved to Chicago and in 1929 to Detroit.  Walter continued to work for the YMCA. In 1930 at the age of 8 Jack spent a year with his Grandma and Grandpa Hudson and Aunt Edna in Ft. Worth. In 1932, at the height of the Depression, his father lost his job at the YMCA.  He decided to enter the Seminary and become a Minister. So the family moved back to Chicago. His father worked as a Park Director and is mother also worked.  They lived in a slum neighborhood populated mostly by Sicilians.  He was a latch key kid, letting himself in after school.  In 1933 he contracted polio and spent about a year in the University of Chicago Hospital.  He spent 8th Grade in a special school for crippled children, although he wasn't really crippled.  One lasting result of the polio was a weak neck (we weren't allowed to hang on him as kids) and occasional recurring bouts of claustrophobia.  One instance he told us about was when he was in the Army in WW II.  He was a Lieutenant in the Quarter Master Corps and woke up screaming in his sleep from such a claustrophobic episode.  This didn't help his ethics presence with his men!

    In 1935, his father graduated from McCormick Seminary and got his first Church in Bessemer, Michigan. Jack went to High School there.  He was on the Basketball team, acted in several plays and participated in the Debate Team.  Here he became "Pete". He graduated from High School in 1939.  His father's sister, Alys, got him an offer of a pastorate in Seattle, Washington and so the family moved there.  Here he attended the University of Washington where he received his B of A in Political Science. I have his transcript which says he got a 3.59 Grade Point Average in High School and a 3.66 GPA in College.  When WW II came along he married Margaret Kells and went to Harvard Business School as part of an ROTC program for the Quartermaster Corps.  He received a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard in 1947 and went on to the University of Chicago where he eventually received his PhD in Economics in 1956.

    In February 1945 he went to Europe as part of the 15th Army in the Quartermaster Corps. They were stationed near Aachen, Germany.  In June they were ordered to re-deploy to the Pacific and moved to Marseilles, France but soon were ordered back to Verdun, then to Metz.  Here he met Irene Remis, with whom he had an affair. While stationed in France he learned many french songs that he used to sing to Rhonda and I as lullabies. In July 1946 he returned home from the war.

    After his return, Jack completed his MBA at Harvard and then went to University of Chicago to get a PH.D in Economics.  Many prominent economists were there at the time and he felt privileged to have met them. I Jun 1950 he received an MA and just had to do his thesis to complete his PhD.Riverdale, Maryland.  In Dec 1948, Wendy had been born and in Nov 1951 Rhonda was born. In March 1953, he moved the family to Alcoa, Tennessee where he worked for TVA. In June 1955, Jack got an offer to head a new Industrial Research and Extension Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.  So we moved to Little Rock.  Here Jack found success with the Center, managed to complete his thesis and get his Ph.D. Here he was active in the Unitarian Church, both he and Margaret having decided that their personal ideas and beliefs fit much more with the Unitarians than the Presbyterian Church they had been raised in.

He took a job with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and moved to Washington D.C., actually living in East

    He was a very good father, especially in the Little Rock years.  Frequently taking us to historical sites, parks, the Municipal Swimming Pool and various trips to visit family. We took a big Western trip in 1958 where we drove from Seattle down the coast, went to Disneyland and then drove through the Southwest seeing many places.  He asked me about it some years later and I told him it was one the highlights of my life, which made him very happy.

    However, but 1959 he had fallen in love with his Secretary, LaVerne Shearer.  He and Margaret were divorced  and John and LaVerne were married in February 1960.  Margaret decided to move back to Seattle and so she and John's daughters moved to Washington.  This was very upsetting to John and his daughters.  He visited yearly and Wendy and Rhonda visited him for a month in 1965. In 1962, John accepted a professorship at the University of Fayetteville and he and LaVerne moved there.  This worked out well.  At one point Bessie's sister Mabel visited for a few months and she and John found the farmhouse that John Marshall Cookson had built and did other family research in the area.

    In 1966, Winthrop Rockefeller became Governor of Arkansas and John went to work for him.  He started as his Economic Advisor and then became Director of the Employment Security Division.  He attended several Governor's Conferences. He found this relationship exciting and fulfilling. He was in Who's Who several years in a row which he was proud of and he said made his Dad happy!

    In 1970, Rockefeller failed to get re-elected and John accepted a Deanship at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  He held that post and then became a Professor and basically did that until the end of his life.  He and LaVerne had a very good marriage and I think he was happy with his life.  In about 1984 he had congestive heart failure and was on bed rest for six months.  He was doing much better when he suddenly had a heart attack and died on 14 Apr 1985.  He had a memorial service in Athens which was very well attended. My sister and I were surprised by all the people who talked about how much my Dad had helped them.  He also had a very well attended memorial service in Little Rock. He had really touched many peoples' lives and was well loved.

    My sister wrote a Recollection of our father and I just want to summarize her main points, since I also found them to be true.  She said he had a wonderful sense of humor and he liked to play and have fun, even he was generally very serious about things.  He had great warmth and love for his family.  He was a patient listener and also loved to give advice. He was a "developer and nurturer of people." And I think this is why so many people felt that he had really helped them.  He was a natural leader. He had vision and could see the big picture. He was "strong and tender, passionate and calm." In researching this post I read a letter he wrote to his brother during the War.  He says, "But regardless of how adverse the situation seems...my fundamental attitude is:  it is what is done next that counts, that will help or hinder just that much more. 'It is better to stumble toward a better life than to take no step at all.'" And I think that is how he lived.