Col. Joseph Askew, part 1

Joseph Askew, my great-great-great-grandfather, was one of the first people I focused on when starting my family history work over 35 years ago. My grandmother Harriet (Askew) Prettyman (Joseph’s great-granddaughter) spoke about him and the hotels he built and ran, even though he died over a decade before she was born. My great-great-uncle Gordy Askew (Joseph’s grandson) sent me photocopies of newspaper articles and a couple of published biographical sketches of Joseph. Joseph Askew was a man who left a large print on the world around him, and was (and is) known to many people who never had the occasion to meet him personally.

While I have focused on Joseph Askew for decades, I realized only recently that I’ve been primarily focusing on his ancestry, bypassing much of the history of the man himself once I had gathered the basic biographical facts on him. It’s about time that I look more deeply into his life, learning about who he was and what he was like. This post won’t go too much in that direction; rather, this will be more of an appetizer, presenting a couple of photos of Joseph that I recently scanned and a few details of his early life. Continue reading

The Arlington Hotel at the turn of the century

The Arlington Hotel was the first framed building to be built in Menahga, Minnesota. My great-great-great-grandfather, Col. Joseph Askew, built and operated the hotel with his wife, Jane (Eilbeck) Askew.

A couple of decades ago, my grandmother Harriet (Askew) Prettyman gave me a photograph of the Arlington Hotel. Nothing was written on either the back or the front of the photo. In this post, I’ll be taking a closer look at the photograph to see what I can learn about this photo and the hotel it depicts. Continue reading

Family history research trip to the Wadena area of Minnesota, part 1

My wife and I have just returned from a 10-day vacation to celebrate our 5th anniversary (hence the drought of posts of late). When we returned, I was greeted by a few responses to letters I sent out before our departure. One of these was from a relative I’ve longed to meet in person—my half great-great uncle, Gordy Askew. Gordy has a wealth of knowledge (first-hand and otherwise) about the Askew branch of my family. After all, he’s the son of my great-great grandfather!

I’ve wanted to visit Wadena and to talk with him for years, but over the years I’ve either been too busy or too poor to seriously contemplate a pilgrimage to Wadena. But the time has finally come, and I’m planning my trip. The trip will last a little over a week, and I’ll be going in about seven weeks—in November, 2012. I thought I’d share some of the details of planning such a trip, for others who might themselves be interested in undertaking such a trip to ancestral haunts. To maximize the results of such a trip, some amount of forethought and planning is required. I’ll have one week there, and I want to make the most of it. Continue reading

Ruth Black and her sod house

This will be another quick post, just to present another couple of gems I found in my family history archives.

Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black is my step great, great grandmother, the wife of Lewis J. Black, a civil war veteran. She and Lewis were born in Fairfield County, Ohio, and when he returned from the war, they settled there and had their first two children in Bremen, Ohio: Ida May (born November 22, 1865) and Perry Commodore Black (born August 4, 1867). In either late 1867 or early 1868, they started heading west.  On May 23, 1878, their son Frank Walter Black was born in Norwalk, Iowa. By June 1, 1880, they had taken a homestead in Jewell County, Kansas. It was on this homestead that they built their sod house. Continue reading

A Civil War letter to Ruth Tucker, part 1

Ruth Jane Tucker is my step great, great grandmother. She married Lewis J. Black, a civil war veteran, and they had four children, including Frank W. Black. Frank Black was the mature, abstinent, hardworking, soft-spoken blacksmith that my great grandmother Lena Edel married after Ray Shearer left her and her three young children to fend for themselves. While not my biological family, I consider Frank Black and his parents to be just as much as part of my family and heritage as if he were my biological great grandfather.

Five months before she married Lewis Black in February, 1864, Ruth Tucker got a letter from William A. Brown, a friend of hers who was serving in the Union army in the Civil War. This letter was clearly important to her, as she kept it all her life. On her death, it passed to her son Frank Black, and on his death it passed to his widow, Lena Edel. When Lena died in 1978, it passed to my grandfather Vernon Black. On his death, it passed to his widow, Dorothy Black, and on her death it passed to my father. As I’m the family historian, my father did me the favor of not making me wait until his death to take possession of this wonderful letter.

Continue reading

Bill Prettyman and his dog-powered cart

Today’s post is about an artifact that tells a charming story about another artifact—one made by my great-grandfather, C. A. Prettyman, for his son (my grandfather), William Prettyman.

This will be a story about a business card. Rather, it’ll be about the stories that the business card tells. The business card is that of my great grandfather Charles Austin Prettyman (who went by the initials “C. A.”). The first story is about the life my great grandfather was leading during the time he was actively using this kind of business card. The second story is about a magical moment that happened about 15–20 years earlier. Continue reading

Death by honeymoon

Towards the end of her life, my father’s mother, Dorothy Ruth McMurry Black, dropped a bombshell on me.  She told me she had accidentally killed her first husband on their honeymoon.  A first husband?  Accidentally killed on their honeymoon?  I was eager to learn more both of these revelations, but she was clearly very emotional about the incident, and I didn’t want to push her too hard.

Over the years, I managed to get her to tell me a few additional details about her first husband, but both he and the circumstances of his death were topics she did not like to talk about, and so the details remained largely unknown to me. Continue reading