Saturday, July 11, 2015

New record found for Cecil Oscar Werst

Dear Grandfather Cecil,
Today you remain an enigma to most of your descendants who now number 22. Are you surprised at that number? Not bad for dying at age 27. As far as we know, there is no living person remaining who met you. You are so much a part of our genetic make-up but we really do not know you very well. We always thought your daughter Betty looked like you. Your grandson, Ron Pearce, plays banjo like you did. I'm named for you. Still we would like to know more about you.

Cecil Oscar Werst
b. 16 March 1900 Valley Falls, Kansas
d. 24 October 1927 Spokane, Washington
We generally feel that we have found every record that mentions you, census records, marriage record, death record... including the 1900 census where you are listed as a two month old girl living in Rock Creek Township, Jefferson County, Kansas.

Lines 55-64 Family of Louis Werst including
Cecil O, daughter, white, female, born Mar 1900.
"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 July 2015), Kansas > Jefferson > ED 78 Rock Creek Township Meriden city > image 12 of 35; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
In the 1910 census, you are living with your parents and six siblings in the Belma District of Yakima County Washington. Your father and three older brothers are working building houses, your Dad is the contractor and the others carpenters. You are among the youngest of three who are still in school.

Life changed dramatically for your family with your father's death 23 November 1916. Suddenly, school days were over and you had to support your mother and younger brother Alvin. Your older brothers were either married and supporting their own families or would soon be serving in the Army. I'm sure those were difficult days for you.

Luckily for us, they led to my sister Peg's latest find... an employment application for the Northern Pacific Railway Company in Pasco, Washington. Many thanks to for including the U. S., Northern Pacific Railway Company Personnel Files, 1890-1963 records in their online collections. Their shaking leaves pointed the way. We would have never thought to look for you in these records.

You were just 18 when you filled out the application, listing your birthplace as Kansas City, Kansas and back dating your birth to March 1899.The application includes your signature and describes you as being 5' 8" in height, weighing 140 pounds with 'MB' hair presumably medium brown and blue eyes. A comment is written on the margin that you are "under draft age."

Cecil holding baby daughter Betty circa July 1926
probably Spokane, Washington
The only other document that provides a physical description is your World War I draft registration card. The signature is recognizably the same as on the employment application. However, the description lists you as stout, with light gray eyes and light brown hair. The only photograph we have that shows a nearly full torso does not give the impression you were stout but I suppose those details were subjective to the registrar.

This latest record gives us hope that there will still be other parts of your life revealed to us. Hats off to Peg and for this latest find.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Dear Grandmother Newton,
Another of your great great granddaughters, Flora Dunlap Long, wondered about the origin of the Brown in your daughter, Helen Brown Newton's name. We, of course, wish we could ask you. Barring that, I will share my supposition.

Mary "Molly" Elizabeth (Clarke) Newton
b. 24 January 1847 White Lake, Michigan
d. 29 January 1929 Salem, Oregon
I believe that our great grandmother, Helen Brown (Newton) Cone, was named for your first cousin, Helen Marcia Hart, daughter of your maternal Aunt, Mary Crosby (Hornell) Hart. Helen, because of her marriage to Frank A. Brown, would have been known as Helen Brown when your daughter was born October 1, 1870.

Helen Brown (Newton) Cone
b. 1 October 1870 White Lake, Michigan
d. 20 January 1950 Coulee Dam, Washington
Your mother, Lydia (Hornell) (Ford) Clarke, and Mary Crosby (Hornell) Hart were among the five known children born to George and Sarah (Thacher) Hornell. Their brothers, George Thompson Hornell, William Duncan Hornell and Hastings Hornell, all died before they were 30 leaving no known descendants. The sisters were close though separated by distance.

Lydia (Hornell) (Ford) Clarke
b. 4 November 1819 Hornellsville, New York
d. 1 February 1893 Worthington, Minnesota
Mary Crosby (Hornell) Hart
b. 4 April 1824 perhaps Hornellsville, New York
d. 10 November 1875 Cleveland, Ohio
As the oldest child of Albert and Mary Hart, Helen was very aware of what was happening when her father went to serve as a surgeon with the 41st Ohio Infantry. In less than six months, half of the regiment was killed or wounded at the Battle of Shiloh. The letters Albert wrote home must have been filled with the gruesome details. Today, we can read about Helen's feelings during courtship, her early marriage, her relationship with her mother and news from the Civil War as her diary was donated to the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College presumably by her brother, Albert Bushnell Hart, long time Professor of History at Harvard. I haven't yet read her entries but several authors have quoted from them in their own books.

Helen Marcia (Hart) (Brown) Wright
b. 28 September Clarksville, Pennsylvania
d. before Jul 1887 Hillsdale, Michigan
drawing form Hart, Albert Bushnell and Elizabeth Stevens.
The Romance of the Civil War. New York. Macmillan, 1914, p. 4.
She was used to epitomize the 'Northern Belle."
Helen married Frank A. Brown 17 November 1864 in Cleveland. Her father had completed his service with the 41st Ohio on November 9th but it is not known if he was home in time to give the bride away. She was widowed in 1867. I have not discovered the exact circumstances of the death of her husband but did find an item in the 15 November 1867 Cleveland Plain Dealer reporting on the shooting death of a Frank Brown in Nilea, Michigan. Perhaps, one of the cousins reading this blog will know the story of his death. 

So in 1870, it must have seemed natural to honor your cousin by naming your daughter for her. Sure wish you could tell me if my supposition is correct.


P. S.  Love that each of the women is this story is sporting the same center part hair style.

P.P. S. Helen Marcia Hart was not widowed long. She married Rev. Walter Eugene C. Wright
4 April 1872 in Cleveland, Ohio and they went on to have four children: Clara, Mary, Hornell and Albert.