In honor of National Pi Day (March 14th), I’d like to present a letter that my great-great-uncle Clarence H. Bailey wrote home to his mother while serving in Europe during World War I. He cut out an illustration of a pie, pasted it to a sheet of paper, and wrote an ode to his mother’s pies around the margins.
Unfortunately, the one-page masterpiece is undated, but it was found among a bundle of letters that Clarence sent to his mother Belle Jarbeau Bailey during the Great War. It’s amazing how war seems to focus a young man’s thoughts on home-cooked pies.
As I was going through and organizing a series of letters home from my great-great-uncle Clarence H. Bailey while he served in Europe in World War I, I came across one letter that was not from him. Instead, it was a letter to his future wife from a man named Byron O. Seeburt.
Rather than set the letter aside and focus on Clarence’s letters, and risk Byron’s letter being forgotten or lost with time, I’d like to briefly spotlight it here. Perhaps by doing so, Byron’s descendants or family may one day find it.
Byron’s letter is a century old, having been written on December 17th, 1918. The letter itself is just three pages of cursive writing in ink on ruled paper, held together in the top left corner by a straight pin.
In his letter to Dorothy Bailey (“Dot”), Byron refers the Spanish Flu epidemic, to trench warfare, to time spent with Dot and her friend Olive in Tacoma, and to all the food that a home-sick American soldier dreams about in the trenches.
While re-reading Anelia Shearer’s letter to me from 1994 (the subject of my previous post), I realized her letter is due for an update. In preparing to write that update, I’ve been trying to do additional research on some Shearer descendants that to the best of my knowledge haven’t received any research attention.
One such person is my great-grandfather Ray Shearer’s only full sibling, his sister Annetta Fern (“Anita”) Shearer. In her family history of the Coddington, Shearer, and Stokes families, Anelia (Shearer) Hayes had only the following brief lines about her, her husbands, and her son:
I and others have tried to find more information, but it seems no one has been able to go further than this. Until today, that is. I decided to test my hunch that Anelia (or whomever Anelia got this information from) got the name “Horandez” wrong. My first guess as to the correct name (“Hernandez”) turned out to be correct, and I’ve now learned quite a bit more about Anita’s husband and son.
Normally I don’t write about cousins unless there’s a compelling story to be told, and with Anita’s son Gilbert Hernandez, there definitely is. I don’t know all the details yet, but I’ll share with you what I’ve learned so far.
A little over twenty-six years ago (December 12, 1993) I wrote a letter to my great-aunt Anelia (Shearer) Hayes asking her what she knew about her father Ray Shearer’s family history. Anelia was my grandfather Vernon’s sister. My grandfather was old enough to remember his father Ray Shearer leaving their family, and he went to lengths to distance himself from his birth father, including unofficially but permanently changing his last name to that of his mother’s second husband, Frank Black.
Vernon’s sister Anna Cornelia (she preferred “Anelia”) was born around or just after when her father left the family. Unlike her brother, she kept her father’s surname and she went on to develop a deep interest in family history. Anelia was the one who compiled the “Edell Family History” in 1991 and hosted the Edel/Edell family reunion.
Today’s post is about the response Anelia sent to my letter of twenty-six years ago. When I received her response, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new fascinating information she provided to me. To this day, the letter she wrote is still the sole source for many pieces of Shearer family history that might otherwise have been lost forever.
In the family stories I was told about my father’s father’s father Ray Z. Shearer, Ray was always portrayed as poor, but he was a very capable, mechanically minded man who worked for a bunch of different garages as mechanic, drove a truck for a while, and even raced dirt track race cars. The details in these stories were thin, but consistent. I was under the impression that the most important parts of his work history were included in this brief overview. I figured that if he had been involved in something grand—for instance, let’s imagine that he established and ran his own business, that he advertised it extensively in the local paper, that he built a custom race car in that business, and that he then watched as his business was lost in a tragic accident that made headlines—well, that surely would have merited a mention in the brief story of Ray’s working life. Right?
So imagine my surprise when I found an advertisement in the August 1, 1919, edition of The Palco News (of Palco, Kansas) for The Star Garage—open day and night, Ray Shearer, proprietor. How had no one managed to remember such a big deal, especially for a man of apparently rather modest means?
After finding this 100-year-old ad, I did a deep dive and looked for any and all mentions of The Star Garage in local papers. What I found was nearly 60 mentions of Ray Shearer and/or The Star Garage in The Palco News between January 30, 1919, and March 19, 1920. Most of these are ads belonging to one of several advertising runs in the newspaper, and just a couple mentions are actual news pieces about Ray or The Star Garage. But even the advertisements have stories to tell.
Today’s post is not only about a new mystery photo I just discovered. It’s also a reminder to double-check anything possibly related to family history before throwing it out. You never know what might be hiding within unless you check thoroughly.
From about the mid 1970s to the late 1980s, my father and grandparents accumulated a number of faux vintage photos and frames. I don’t know whether they were fans of the style or whether that’s just the way that the stores they frequented marketed their frames. In any case, they accumulated piles of these that I later inherited and am still going through.
What I mean by ‘faux vintage’ are generally stained and sometimes artificially distressed oak frames with matted black-and-white or sepia-toned prints behind glass. And to add a layer of realism, my grandmother and father were both heavy smokers for periods of their lives, so the glass and frames were coated with a nicotine patina that made them look like they had been hanging in an old house for decades. But when you turn over these faux vintage frames, their modernity becomes a little more apparent. Relatively clean cardboard is held in place by shiny staples that were hastily and asymmetrically placed during mass production. Remove the cardboard and you find that the antique print is just a modern print on thin, glossy paper.
There are brick walls (ancestors whose own ancestry resists all attempts at discovery) who will probably always be brick walls. These individuals often lived in times and places where record-keeping was sparse or non-existent, or were trying to run away from their past or reinvent themselves, or had descendants who purposefully or accidentally destroyed evidence of the ancestor’s life, or had other circumstances that make it understandable why we may never learn about their ancestry.
And then there are brick walls who have no reason being brick walls. These individuals lived lives that were relatively well documented, they were not trying to hide their past, they had/have descendants who cherish their memories, and they’re only a couple/few generations removed from living descendants. My third-great-grandmother Margretha (“Marg”, “Maggie”) Gores is just such a brick wall. She’s one of my most enduring brick walls and she’s certainly the closest to me in time. For my Prettyman cousins reading this, Margretha was Judge F.E. Gores’ mother.
Dirk van den Heuvel (1725–1800) is my 5th-great-grandfather; a Dutch man who apparently spent his entire life in the Netherlands. In fact, his children and grandchildren on my line stayed in Holland as well. It wasn’t until his great-granddaughter (and my great-great-grandmother) Anna Kant van den Heuvel came to North America that his family ventured beyond Holland.
In my great-aunt Anelia Hayes’ 1991 “Edell Family History,” she stated on page 58 that “Anna Kant Vanden Heuvel’s other great grandparents were Dirk Vanden Heuvel born in 1725 and died in 1800 and Cornelia Zweart born in 1734 and died in 1814.” She appears to have based this on a pedigree chart done by Marie Hogan on November 3, 1990, and included on page 61 of Anelia’s family history.
This was how I first learned the names of Dirk van den Heuvel and his wife Cornelia Zwart. Almost 30 years ago I added these names and dates to my family tree and there they’ve stayed without much further attention for three decades. Until today.
Today’s post is just a brief one to share an interesting discovery with you. I just learned that my third-great-grandfather Frank (“F. E.”) Gores traveled to England in 1930 with his second wife Gertrude.
Traveling with them on the six-day transatlantic return trip were Frank’s 64-year-old sister-in-law Mary Magdalena (Doffing) Gores, her youngest daughter Gertrude Josephine Gores (27), and her daughter Magdalena (“Lena”) Margaret Gores (38). The elder Magdalena’s husband and father of the two girls was F. E. Gores’ eldest brother Nicholas Paul Gores, who had passed away two and a half years prior on March 9, 1927.
While in England, they were all staying at the Royal Hotel in WC1 London. I haven’t been able to find a photo of the hotel, but I did find this fabulous photo of a London street taken in April 1930 that might help you visualize the London that Frank and his family saw.
Veronika (Evertz) Gores (her maiden name was sometimes spelled Ewertz) was my grandfather Bill Prettyman’s maternal grandmother—she was his mother’s mother. She was born in Germany around 1860 and immigrated to the United States, where she met and married the son of German immigrants. Bill never had the chance to get to know his grandmother Veronika, as she died when Bill was less than a year old. Bill’s mother also died tragically early (read that story here) and after a prolonged period of strain in their relationship that had its origins in a fatal car crash eight years earlier (read that story here). Whatever details Bill’s mother Rose (Gores) Prettyman may have known about her own mother’s German origins apparently never got told to Bill, as he had no stories about Veronika to pass on to me.
Additionally, the stigmatization of German ancestry in the United States that began in the 1910s and carried through the end of World War II caused American families of recent German descent to hide their German ancestry (see here and here for more on this topic) for fear of being seen as un-American or unpatriotic.
Whatever the reason, there is a lot that we don’t know about Veronika Evertz’s German heritage. What we do know is that Veronika was born in Germany to German parents—Peter Evertz and Magdalena Kaufmann, that she had eight siblings (although we don’t know who they were), that her parents also came to the US, and that her mother lived with Veronika and her husband Frank E. Gores in her old age. But that’s just about all we knew for certain.
In an attempt to keep today’s post more brief than it might otherwise become, I’m going to be focusing on just one aspect of my research into Veronika’s German heritage—my discovery of the identity of her maternal grandparents. To the best of my knowledge, this is information that has been lost for nearly a century—since the death of Veronika herself on February 13, 1920.