Veterans Day 2021

US_Flag_BacklitWorld War I—the “war to end all wars”—was ended by an armistice that took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson gave an address to the nation on what had come to be called Armistice Day in the U.S. and allied countries. In 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday, and in 1954 the day was renamed “Veterans Day” to honor all veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, not just those who served in World War I.

My family has a proud heritage of serving our country. My father Keith V. Black served in the Navy immediately before the Vietnam War. My paternal grandfather Vernon C. Black served in the Army in Europe during World War II. My maternal grandfather William E. Prettyman served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. And many, many more of my ancestors and relatives have served in the many wars our nation has engaged in over the past 400 years.

I present this list to honor their service and their memory.

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Armistice Centennial


Exactly one hundred years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed with Germany to cease fighting the Great War. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the day would be called Armistice Day, to honor those who fought in World War I. More than three decades later—after the “war to end war” gave way to World War II and then the Korean War—the holiday was renamed Veterans Day, and was intended as a day to honor all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

In today’s post I’d like to honor all of my family members who served in defense of our country.

This is a revised version of a post I did five years ago. Since then, some family members have died, and I’ve discovered twenty-seven additional family members who served our country. Note that I have included only relatives who served the United States or the colonies that would eventually become the United States.

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Mystery photo #2: Boy and girl with doll (part 2)

I wrote my first post on this mystery photo two and a half years ago. Thanks to my grandmother’s memories, as well as a great find made by my second cousin once removed Ruth Rogers in a set of family photos now in her possession, I can now declare the case closed on this mystery.

This mystery photo was actually identified last Fall, but the preparations, anticipation and excitement of becoming a new dad led to me setting this blog aside for several months until just a couple of weeks ago.

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Chester Eddy’s later years

Chester Eddy 1927My 3rd-great-grandfather Chester William “Chet” Eddy (1846–1928) was the contemporary of my 3rd-great-grandfather Col. Joseph Askew (1840–1911), and the two men had much in common. Both left the familiar regions of their childhoods and decided to settle in Wadena County, Minnesota, to be able to homestead and own their own land. Both were among the earliest settlers of Menahga, MN (Joseph built the first framed building in Menahga, the Arlington Hotel, and Chet built the first sawmill in Menahga), and they were both industrious, hard-working men who worked a variety of jobs over their lifetimes (Joseph: miner, land-clearer, farmer, sawyer, hotel proprietor; Chet: gardener, farmer, sawyer, carpenter, grocer, bicycle mechanic).

The lives of the two men became intertwined when Joseph’s son Wilfred married Chet’s daughter Hattie around 1894, presumably in Menahga, MN—the village that Joseph and Chet helped found, and where Wilfred and Hattie most likely met.

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The mysterious death of Hattie (Eddy) Askew

Detail of obit headlineThe death of my great-great-grandmother Harriet S. “Hattie” (Eddy) Askew, young wife of Wilfred L. Askew, was a bit of a mystery at the time she died, and it’s been a big mystery to me for years, given that the evidence I had (mainly family stories until recently) was scant and often contradictory. I had reported in previous posts (here and here) that Hattie died of pneumonia while on a trip to Cripple Creek, Colorado, and that she was buried in Cripple Creek. I had also heard that she died on a train while travelling between Cripple Creek and Wadena, Minnesota. More recently, I heard another version, that “Hattie’s death was in childbirth, the baby died too. It was in a snowstorm and they could not get the doctor there in time.”
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Hattie Eddy Askew and her well-hatted friends, part 2

Four turn-of-the-century women in magnificent hatsThis post continues part 1, in which I investigated a photo I found in early August.  I hadn’t originally intended this post to be a two-parter, but then I found a matching photo on my last trip down to my grandmother’s house in late August.  This latest photo was clearly taken on the same day in the same studio, and this one has a date on the back. Continue reading

Mystery photo #2: Boy and girl with doll (part 1)

Another as-yet-unidentified photo I got from my grandmother’s house while helping my family get her old home ready for sale. This one is of two children and a doll. I’m not good with estimating ages, but I’d guess that the boy is somewhere around 3–5 years old, and the girl is 8–12 years old.  Let’s see if we can figure out who they are. Continue reading

The last family portrait of Wilfred and Hattie Askew

Updated 2013-08-03: Details of Hattie’s death and burial have been revised. Incorrect details have been left in, but stricken out, and revisions are highlighted in blue.

I received this photo from my grandmother, Harriet (Askew) Prettyman a few years back and it’s one of my favorite family photos.

I love the way the edge of the painted backdrop can be clearly seen on the left side of the photo, and that the bottom of the backdrop sits rumpled on the floor, visible in the gap between a child’s arm and his torso. The backless, single-armed chair upon which the father sits contributes only briefly to the verisimilitude of the family sitting casually in their living room. The sad potted plants that appear to have surrendered all dignity complete the scene. All of this stands in stark contrast to the proud, grounded, and solidly built family that is the subject of the photo.

Compositional details aside, this photo is tragic in many ways. It documents a family together for perhaps the last time. It speaks to the effects that death can have on a family. It also serves as an example of how the decisions we make about where to live and where to work can have large and unintended consequences. Continue reading

Hattie Eddy Askew and her well-hatted friends, part 1

Updated 2013-08-03: Details of Hattie’s death and burial have been revised. Incorrect details have been left in, but stricken out, and revisions are highlighted in blue.

Four turn-of-the-century women in magnificent hatsOn August 7, 2012, Harriet Prettyman gave me a few of her older family photos, including the photo pictured below.  The woman in the lower right of the photo is my great-great grandmother, Hattie Eddy Askew.

Hattie Eddy Askew lived a short life, dying in her early thirties (32-34) at the young age of 33.  She died around 1908-1910 on February 14, 1909, at her farm home outside Casselton, North Dakota. She died of pneumonia, which I was told she caught on a trip to Colorado as a result of a sudden and unexpected heart failure following an illness of about a week’s duration.  Not only did her grandchildren never get a chance to meet her, but her own children were only about 1, 8, and 10 1 ¾, nearly 9, and 12 ¾ years old when she died, so they also didn’t get much of a chance to learn about their mother as a person.

This is only the second definitive photo I’ve found of Hattie Eddy Askew, which is why I’m interested in learning as much as I can about this photo.  What follows is a log I kept of my initial research on this photo. Continue reading