2016 was a rough year, but with the new year it’s time to try to get back into the family history groove. It’s been so long it’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll start with some small, fun discoveries. Rather than documenting my exploration of multiple related research avenues in these first posts, I’ll just focus on the discovery itself, and I’ll include just a small amount of related research.
One of these small, fun discoveries was finding my great-grandfather Charles Austin Prettyman (or C.A. Prettyman to his friends) mentioned in a nationally syndicated humor column.
A Cincinnati humor columnist apparently found C.A. Prettyman’s name amusing and mentioned C. A. in his column in the Wednesday, May 16, 1917, edition of The Enquirer. The column was called Bits of Byplay and it was written by James S. Hastings, using the nom de plume of “Luke McLuke”.
George Irvin Prettyman (or G.I. Prettyman, as my grandfather told me he liked to be called) was my grandfather’s uncle. I recently learned that a cousin was looking for some information on G.I. and his wife Frances, and I discovered that while I had some new information for him, a lot of what I had was contradictory and could use some dedicated research. For instance, my grandfather William Prettyman once told me that his uncle G. I. Prettyman didn’t make it past the fourth grade, as he was needed to help out at home on the farm. However, according to a contemporaneous biography (Minnesota and Its People, 1924, by Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist),
[G.I.] “was reared and educated in Hewitt, attended the grade and high schools of the town, and then took a course in a commercial college at Little Falls, Minnesota.He was then sixteen years old and after completing his education entered the banking business and continued in it until 1911…”
I’m hoping that relatives reading this summary of what I’ve learned about G.I. Prettyman may be able to contribute considerably more than I’ve presented here. Please leave a comment below if you have additional information or stories about G.I. Prettyman or his family.
Today’s post highlights a photo that my second cousin once removed Ruth Rogers recently scanned last fall from the collection of family photos she received from her mother Ruth (Manfred and Hope Askew’s daughter).
Col. Joseph Askew was the first distant ancestor I researched as a boy, and I’m always delighted when I find a new photo of him. Until this photo, I knew of only eight different photos of the Colonel (dozens and dozens of prints and illustrations derived from these, but only eight distinct photos). Today’s photo is number nine.
This is definitely the latest photo taken of Joseph and his wife Jane—he’s clearly much aged beyond the photos I have of him from 1909 and 1910. Since he died on September 21, 1911, I’d estimate that this photo was taken in the year of his death—1911. Given the outdoor setting and the warm weather clothes being worn, especially by the children, I’d guess that this dates to either summer or early fall, 1911. It may well be the last photo taken of Joseph before he died.
My grandmother, Dorothy Ruth McMurry, told me that her father, Frank Ross McMurry (1886–1949) was among other things a merchant. His 1912 marriage certificate lists his occupation as merchant, and his obituary in The Olympian from March 13, 1949, also notes that he was a merchant. Until last week, though, that was the extent of my knowledge of his early profession.
Last week, I was contacted by Katy McMurry, the wife of Glenn McMurry (nephew of my grandmother and grandson of Frank Ross McMurry). It turns out that Katy and Glenn have inherited much of the McMurry tangible heritage, and she was more than happy to show me what they’ve got.
Among the photos that she’s got are at least a couple of Frank Ross McMurry’s store, which was apparently in Prince George, British Columbia.
Another of the finds that my cousin Sharon Black sent along to me earlier this week is a newspaper account of Ruth Black’s old sod house. I had heard tales of the old sod house from my grandparents, Vernon and Dorothy Black, and I have several artifacts from the sod house that they brought back with them from various trips to Kansas in the 1950s through 1970s.
It’s always been a hope of mine to one day see the old sod house, but as I don’t know of any living person who’s been inside the old sod house, or even knows where the sod house is, l figured that the old family house has long since returned to the earth. The following transcription of a 1932 newspaper article that Sharon sent to me appears to support this unfortunate conclusion.
My adopted great-great-grandmother Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black lived most of her adult life in a humble sod house in Jewell county, Kansas. Like nearly all of the citizens of Jewell county at that time, she was not born there, but immigrated from elsewhere. I had thought that Ruth was born in Ohio, as that was what she (and later, her son Frank) reported on numerous federal and state censuses. Oddly, though, I was never able to find a record of Ruth before she was married. Thanks to my cousin Sharon Black, that’s no longer the case.
Earlier this week Sharon sent me a couple of stories that she found in the course of her research. One of these is an utterly charming recollection of a woman named Winnie Bonecutter Riemensnider, who took Ruth as her adopted grandmother. Winnie’s mother died when Winnie was only a year and a half old. Winnie (born Winifred Alice Bonecutter on January 8, 1896) was 54 years younger than Ruth, and when Ruth died on February 15, 1915, Winnie was only 19 years old. Clearly, however, the two had a close and abiding relationship.
My paternal great-grandfather Ray Shearer continues to prove a mystery. I’ve never seen a photo of him, and until today I’ve found only a single artifact associated with him: a letter he wrote to his son on July 2, 1932. Today I found three more objects associated with Ray, as well as an unidentified photo postcard that might be of Ray, his sister, and their mother.
The first postcard was postmarked December (25?), 1908, from ___dyville, Iowa (possibly Braddyville, Iowa), and was from Ray’s aunt Cynthia. Cynthia is Ray’s father’s older sister, Cynthia Anne Shearer Maxwell (1863–1926). Ray’s father died traumatically when Ray was less than 2½ years old, of injuries suffered from a fall off of a roof onto a stump.