Saturday, November 23, 2013

Surname Saturday - WERST

Dear Grandparents,
While researching the origins of grandparents, one always hopes to come across notes from cousins who are researching the same lines.  I was lucky enough to come across the query below written by cousin Martha (Werst) Jackson. Her great grandfather George Washington WERST is my 2nd great grandfather so we are are first cousins once removed. Martha was an excellent genealogist and well known for her books on Allen and Simpson Counties, Kentucky. How fortunate to have a summary of her detailed research on the WERST family. Her query was found in:

Bound Book
Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists Newsletter
Spring 1996 Vol. 28, Number 1

The WERST Story

This story of the WERST family is being told because there are so many ties to Brethren families, that someone, somewhere, will have to see an item which I have not noticed. To date I have collected over 50 spellings of this surname.

The earliest record I have of Tobias is his War of 1812 service with Capt. Robert McGUIGAN, 123rd ; 81st Regts, Pennsylvania Militia, Commanded by Lt. Col James MONTGOMERY. He served from 12 to 24 Nov 1814 (PA Archives Series VI; Pension papers of wife, Nancy (CARR) WERST dated 23 Mar 1857, Wabash Co. IN) serving under the name WERSHT. He enlisted from Heidelberg Twp., Northampton Co, PA and was discharged at Danville, Northumberland Co, PA in 1814 when Nancy states he was "disabled". He was a Private.

Nancy sated, in her request for Bounty Land, that they were married by Rev. John BRYSON, Minister of the Gospel, in Dec 1819. However, their oldest son, Joseph Carr WERST, was b. 22 Sep 1816, per the Bible record belonging to Frances McKILLIP of Kokomo, IN (deceased in 1988).

In the 1820 census Tobias & Nancy were living in Turbet Twp, Northumberland Co., PA. Next door was "John CARR, whose wife was Jane." By 1830 they were living in Darke Co, OH where their daughter, Catherine Frank WERST (1830) and son, Francis Marion WERST (1836) were born.

Tobias WERST was born, by his Bible record 9 May 1793 Northampton Co., PA. He died in Wabash Co, IN 20 Apr 1855 and is buried in the Ogan section of the Mississinewa Memorial Cemetery on Hwy 13. Nancy (CARR) WERST was born 5 Feb 1791, the d/o Joseph CARR, whose whereabouts I have been unable to learn.

Children of Tobias & Nancy WERST:

1. Joseph Carr, born 22 Sep 1816 Northampton Co, PA, married Louisa Catherin MERCER in Wabash CO, IN about 1860. Daughter, Mary Ann, 16 Nov 1861 - 10 May 1866 is buried in the Ogan section. Louisa's marker was below ground.

2. George Washington, b. 3 Nov 1818 "near Keystone Run" Northampton Co, PA, md/1 Elizabeth PUDERBAUGH, d/a Jacob, Jr., on 7 Dec 1841, Greenville, Darke Co, OH. He md/2 Mary McFARLAND, his first wife's niece, d/o Susannah &?; James. "Betsy" died on 20 Oct 1861 and is buried in the above cemetery. She was the d/o Jacob Puderbaugh; Magdelena (SCHLECHTY) of Neave Twp. Mary McFARLAND was born 27 Oct 1833 and died 23 Jan 1912 Jefferson Co. KS. George died 27 Mar 1900 and they are buried in the Ozawkie Cemetery. He was the executor for his father-in-law, Jacob PUDERBAUGH, Jr.

3. Andrew Jackson, b. 5 Apr 1821 Northampton Co., PA, md. 31 Dec 1843, Butler Twp, Darke Co, Mary HARTER. He died 19 Feb 1905 Wabash Co and is buried in the Friends Cemetery.

4. Decatur, b. 18 Feb 1823 Northampton or Northumberland Co, PA Died 23 May 1824.

5. Stephen Decatur, b. 22 May 1826 Northampton or Northumberland Co, PA, md. 8 Nov 1848 by John Rosier, JP, Darke Co., OH Lydia PUDERBAUGH. She was the sister of Betsy and d/o Jacob and Magdelena. He died 8 Jul 1914 and both are buried in the Bowman Cemetery, South Bend, IN. Stephen worked at the STUDEBAKER factory where he was a Master Wagon maker who spoke only German.

6. Sidney Ann, b. 15 Mar 1828 Northampton or Northumberland Co, PA, md. 23 Aug 1849 John ANDERSON. She d. 14 Sep 1890 Dayton, OH.

7. Catherine Frank, b 8 Dec 1830 was a school teacher, unmarried. She died 20 Sep 1901 at Andrew's house, Wabash, IN. She is also buried in the Friends Cemetery.

8. Francis Marion, b. 3 Aug 1836 Darke Co,  OH, md. Permelia Andres FISHER b. 3 Sep 1835 d. May 1913. Frank died 11 Dec 1919 at the Marion Soldiers Home, Grant Co and is also buried at Mississinewa, Ogan section. They had 2 children, Albert Carr and Ida Ellen. They were the grandparents of Frances McKILLIP.

Decatur WERST is listed in the 1850 Wabash Co, IN census along with his wife Lydia PUDERBAUGH and a son, Francis M. 2/12. A stone in the WERST row at Mississinewa, reads, "Melissa, d. 8 Mar 1859 d/o D. ?; L. WERST." Tobias, his father, probably came later to Wabash Co.

In the 1830 census of Darke Co, OH, on George WERST is listed next to Jacob PUDERBAUGH, Jr. Was he the one who had the patent from the state dated 1820? And, being so close to Jacob PUDERBAUGH, had they known each other at an earlier date? Was George WERST related to Tobias WERST.

In 1838 Peter WERST, from Cumberland Co, PA, migrated to Crawford Co, OH and was the minister who married Nicholas FAILOR to his wife, Mariah MILLER, daughter of John Michael MILLER.  Was he a relative? Who were Joseph & David WORT of Crawford Co? They too, were living close to Nicholas FAILOR, who was the younger brother of Elizabeth who had married Patrick FITZSIMMONS in Cumberland or Franklin Co, PA.

In 1840, German Twp, Darke Co, was Samuel WERST, John  PUTERBAUGH, George MILLER and Michael KUNKLE. Peter WART was listed in Twin Twp. Listed next to Tobias WERST in Neave Twp was one Matthew CARR, probably a brother of Nancy's, along with Nicholas and John HITTLE. Mellisa Belle HITTLE had married Benjamin Franklin WERST, s/o Joseph CHRISTOPHER & Nancy Jane (CARR), d/o of William from IA.

Jacob LANDES is listed next door to Tobias WERST in Darke Co, in 1840. Considering I also have GARYBILL &?; LANDES ancestry, I wonder if these families are all related?

One of the deeds I have located is between John WERTZ and George SUMPTION of Darke Co. It was witnessed by James BRYSON and Abiah SUMPTION on 1 Apr 1830 (DB C1, pg 482.) A Peter FARST (one of the spellings I have found) is listed in Darke Co on 16 Mar 1892 (DB F, pg 198.) Was hew the one who married a SCHLECHTY relative? Then also in Wabash Co, Mary Ann JOHNSON sold land to Frank M. WERST in 1867 (DB 13 Pg 70).

Listed in Northampton Co, PA is a deed between Jacob WERTS & John JOHNSON, dated 10 Jan 1753; rec 14 Feb 1753, DB A-1, pg 3-4. This land was on a Saucon Creek Branch "in or near Saucon Twp formerly in the Co of Buck but now in the Co of Northampton.... line of Adam SCOOLER's Land..... Johannes HELFRIG ?) ... Land of the said John JOHNSON ... to George SHOEMAKER's land... (tear) by a line dividing this from the said JOHNSON's other land... The same which by Patent dated the ninth Day of December last past On Record at Philadelphia in Patent A: Vol.. 7 page 19A7 was granted the said Jacob WERTS..." It was signed Jacob WERTH (Seal ) and Elizabeth WERT (her mar,). Witnessed by HU WILSON and Jost MEYER.

My great-grandfather , George Washington WERST, had children by the following names which seem to tell me Tobias' parents' names.
1. Nancy b. 27 Oct 1842 (named for grandmother)
2. Mary Magdelena b. 1843 (Twin) (Named for Magdalena SCHELCHTY?)
3. Catherine b. 1843 (Twin) (Named for Tobias' mother?)
4. Tobias b. 10 Sept 1844 (Named for Grandfather)
5. Matthew b. 28 Oct 1845 (Named for Nancy's brother?:)
6. Jacob b. 18 Mar 1846 (Named for grandfather)
7. Joseph Christopher b. 23 Jul 1850 (Named for Great Grandfather CARR).
8. Charles Ellis b. 30 Dec 1851 (unknown)
9. Barbara b. 28 Sept 1853 (Named for Barbara SCHLECHTY?)
10. Reuben Samuel b. 4 Jan 1855 (Possibly named for the LOWERY's)
11. Lewis (Joseph) b. 20 Sep 1856 (unknown)
12 Susannah b. 1 Jul 1858 (Named for sister of Susannah ULRICH)
13. George Washington b. 4 Apr 1860 d. 9 Sept 1861 (for father)
14. Sarah Lydia b. 8 Sept 1861 (Named for sisters? of Nancy & Betsy ?)

Was there a George WERST & wife Catherine Frank, living close when Tobias WERST entered the army for the War of 1812? Did it cause a big commotion upon his going into the military? I presume these were the names of Tobias's parents. However, the only WERST men whom I have located with sons name Tobias, were Andrew WERST of Northampton Co, PA and Peter WERST of Lancaster who died in 1822 and stated in their wills.

Page 12
A correspondent sent a picture of Robert WERST, who has family features. I wrote him, and he stated he was descended from John and Maurice WERT of Luzerne Co. PA. I am familiar with those names, since I had found John and Morris WERT listed in the Otsego Co, NY Census but there are no land records. Morris WERT is listed in the 1790 census there. My 3 great-great =grandfathers on my mother's side came from there however my parents' lines cross with the ELLSWORTH family of Franklin Co. PA and Mechanicsville, NY. I welcome any and all correspondence on this family.

Martha (Werst) Jackson (Martha died in 2008 but the search for the WERST immigrant continues.)
Tobias Werst Headstone from Mississinewa Memorial Cemetery in Wabash County, Indiana
Cemetery was relocated from original spot.
We do not know the origin of the surname WERST though it is most probably German.  By distribution through the population it is a fairly rare name in both Germany and the United States. Twenty years ago when we lived in Germany we visited the hamlet of Borrstadt, near Kaiserslautern because research had shown more that 10 families with the WERST surname resided there. Knocking on doors and talking with those families revealed that none of them considered themselves related to the other Werst families in the community of about 300. The genealogist in me doubts that but those were the days long before DNA testing was available.

Hopefully someday a WERST surname DNA study will be initiated and the place of origin in Germany will be revealed.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Where I was when I heard President Kennedy had been killed....

Dear Grandparents,
We're told that people who were alive at the time, remember where they were when they heard President Lincoln had been assassinated,  Pearl Harbor had been bombed, planes had crashed into the World Trade Centers, and for my generation when they heard President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. I am no exception and thought that on this 50th anniversary of Kennedy's death, I should write about what I remember about that day and those that followed.

I was home from school sick and watching television (CBS), doing French verb conjugation homework, while my mother ironed. They broke into the broadcast with a bulletin that the "President had been shot in Dallas, Texas. He is being taken to the hospital and his condition is not known." We were shocked and waited, and waited for some word on his condition. It seemed like a long time but probably was about 30 minutes until Walter Cronkite appeared in the oft seen clip and announced "President Kennedy is dead."

We were stunned. Our family were not democrats, nor were they Kennedy supporters. We had recently moved to Willingboro, New Jersey from La Habra, California. Richard Nixon had law offices in La Habra and his mother lived next to Starbuck Junior High School where I had attended. Still.... the President, his beautiful wife and those little children...

My sister Peggy (Leslie) was a sixth grader at Pennypacker Elementary School in class when a teacher came by and told her classroom teacher that the President had been shot. She overheard the conversation and then was asked to keep the information to herself. Less than an hour later, an announcement was made that President Kennedy had been killed and most of the teachers and children were crying. During the 1960 campaign, John F. Kennedy had visited Willingboro and many people in the community had turned out to hear him speak. His death seemed very personal. School was immediately dismissed. All students lived within walking distance of the school so no provisions were made to notify parents that the students were being sent home. It was expected that there would be someone at home for them.

Peggy clearly remembers what she was wearing that day.... a madras plaid sleeveless dress that Mom had let her wear over a turtleneck as it was cold.

Her husband Hugh remembered he was working at the Bureau of Land Management Office in Salem, Oregon and they were notified when someone rushed into their office. His brother Paul was working, building Clearwater River Road in Idaho. Someone had a radio and that was how they heard.

Sister Trude's 4th grade class was on a field trip to the Township Library which was about 4 blocks from Pennypacker School.  The class had walked there for their special tour. At the announcement of Kennedy's death, the students were dismissed directly from the Library and expected to walk home. She remembers being scared. While we were living in California during the Cuban Missile Crisis, there had been air raid drills where each student was made to crouch beneath their desk while sirens blared, waiting until the 'All Clear' bell was sounded. At nine, Trude didn't really understand the emotions of the adults. That night she dreamed that witches were trying to bite off her toes. She recalls the need to keep her toes under the covers and safe from the witches stayed with her well into adulthood.

Her friend Michael Blackman was a high school student in Philadelphia. He remembers a student passing in the hall saying that the President had been shot. He did not believe him. After arriving in his next class, it was announced that Kennedy was dead and a moment of silent prayer was offered by everyone. He does not remember that school was dismissed.

My brother Rusty was a 7 year old 2nd grader at Pennypacker. He remembers being dismissed early and walking home with some friends. One boy yelled that the President had been shot but Rusty wanted to wait until he heard it from his mother to be certain. He's not sure if they told the younger kids that Kennedy had been killed or if it was lost in the excitement of getting out of school early.

The family spent the next several days huddled in front of our black and white television set. We were mesmerized by the steady parade of events. There were so many things that we had never seen before. The silent vigil in the Capitol Rotunda, the family walking behind the casket. I'll never forget the sound of the muffled drums accompanying the caisson. Lee Harvey Oswald killed in front of so many. Most unsettling for me was the tears streaming down my father's face as the coffin was carried down the steps of the Capitol.
Photo from NY Daily News
For all of us, the images of John John saluting his father's coffin, the caisson's slow progress to Arlington National Cemetery are burned forever in our minds.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mayflower Compact 1620

Dear Grandparents,
As we begin to prepare for our annual commemoration of Thanksgiving, my mind has been turning to those of you who made Mayflower's historic voyage from England to Massachusetts. What courage it must have required to board that tiny ship leaving every place you had ever known behind! I hope I would have had the courage to join you.

We often focus today on the feast of Thanksgiving you hosted with the Indians and many forget some of the other contributions made by the settlers at Plymouth. We've read about the religious congregation from Leiden and probably most of us think of you as one group. I wonder if you realize that you are often referred to as the "Saints" and "Strangers." I think the implication being that the "Saints" were members of the Leiden congregation and the "Strangers" were the other English families who were hoping for more opportunities in a new land.

What foresight it took to understand that you needed some rules to govern the expectations and behaviors of the community before it was established ashore. I wonder how many of us would have come to that realization.

Mayflower Compact 1620

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, bu the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politck, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Futherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.

IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

Mr. John Carver, John Billington, Thomas Williams, John Ridgdale, Mr. William Bradford,        Moses Fletcher, Gilbert Winslow, Edward Fuller, Mr. Edward Winslow, John Goodman,                Edmund Margesson, Richard Clark, Mr. William Brewster,  Mr. Samuel Fuller,                             Peter Brown, Richard Gardiner, Isaac Allerton, Mr. Christopher Martin, Richard Britteridge,          Mr. John Allerton, Myles Standish, Mr. William Mullins, George Soule, Thomas English,             John Alden,  Mr. William White, Edward Tilly, Edward Doten, John Turner, Mr. Richard Warren, John Tilly, Edward Liester, Francis Eaton, John Howland, Francis Cooke, James Chilton,                    Mr. Steven Hopkins, Thomas Rogers, John Craxton, Digery Priest, Thomas Tinker*

*I have bolded the names of my ancestors who signed the compact.

There were women on board the Mayflower though they were not included in the affirmation of the compact they were certainly expected to live up to its requirements.

The transcription of the Mayflower Compact 1620, as well as the signatories, comes from the General Society of Mayflower Descendants Website. Commonly referred to as the Mayflower Society, it is an organization of those who prove their descent from one or more Pilgrims. It is estimated that there may be as many as twenty million descendants of the 102 hardy souls who sailed on the ship including nine American Presidents. My Great Grandfather Frederick Naaman Cone was a member of the Society, as was his son William Laurence Cone.

For family members, we can trace our linage to William Bradford, William Brewster, Steven Hopkins and his son Giles Hopkins, and Edward Doty (who's name was written at Doten on the compact).

Thank you for your bravery, foresight and spirit. I want to tell more of your stories before Thanksgiving.


A coincidence of dates.... the Gettysburg Address and Van Eps Hugunin's Birthday

Dear Great Grandfather Hugunin,
Today our nation is observing the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's delivery of the Gettysburg Address. They tell us that not much was made of Lincoln's speech when delivered. He wasn't even the keynote speaker that day in 1863 at the dedication of the new national cemetery on the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The Honorable Edward Everett delivered a two hour speech that cold day in November and then Mr. Lincoln began... "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers..." words that every school child in America memorized for more than 100 years.

Few of us realize that a little known girl reporter, Mary Shaw Leader, was responsible for acclaiming Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address as remarkable. In a report that was published in the Dallas Morning News, November 17, 1941 in Section I, Page Nine (and available through, the community of Hanover, Pennsylvania dedicated a monument to her shortly before the seventy-eighth anniversary of the speech. Marking her grave, the stone carries the following inscription;

          "Her first-hand report of Lincoln's Gettysburg address bore witness to its greatness. In her account for the Hanover Spectator she garnered Lincoln's words from his own lips. She helped the world to long remember. Her fellow townsmen pay this belated tribute to her courage, enterprise and fortright that we may never forget."
Mount Olivet Cemetery, Hanover, York County, PAPhoto provided by Izzebella for Find A Grave Memorial #11051041

 No copies of the speech were distributed to the press corps that day. Mary had walked the fifteen miles to Gettysburg that blustery day to report on what was said at the cemetery's dedication. Unlike most of her male colleagues, she published the full text, as she had transcribed it, in the weekly Hanover newspaper.

Ironically, Mary Shaw Leader had died during the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913. A celebration to which she was not invited.

November 19th is already a date of note in our family genealogy, as you,Van Eps Hugunin, were born on that date in 1832. Son of Richard "Dirick" and Janetje Van Eps Hugunin, you were born in either Fonda or Fultonville, New York. The family emigrated to Johnston, Rock County Wisconsin about 1840.

Your father Richard was a War of 1812 veteran, so it was not surprising that you enlisted in Company B of the Wisconsin 13th Infantry Regiment on 16 September 1861. Elected Sergeant, there was a quick promotion to Full 1st Sergeant. Leaving Wisconsin January 18, 1862, the Regiment was sent to Leavenworth, Kansas by railroad via Chicago, Quincy, to Weston, Missouri and then marched to Leavenworth City.

According to E. B. Quiner's "Military History of Wisconsin" published in Chicago in 1866 and available at the Wisconsin Historical Society website, the next 18 months consisted of long marches, skirmishes, and garrison duty. At the time President Lincoln was delivering the Gettysburg Address, the 13th fresh from a battle with Rebel leader Woodward at Garretsville was on duty at Fort Donelson, Tennessee. Quiner reports they had marched more than 160 miles.

When did you hear about the Battle of Gettysburg? In the thick of battles yourself, did the horrific number of soldiers killed give pause or cause a great deal of discussion among your troops? You served another year before being mustered out. When did you learn of President Lincoln's Address and did you think it applicable to your efforts also? There are so many question I want to ask you.

Happy Birthday and Thank you for fighting to keep our nation whole. We will never forget.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Honoring Their Service on Veterans' Day

Dear Grandparents,
Each year on November 11th, we honor our country's men and women who have served in our armed forces in both peace and war. This November is the first since 1971 where the family has no one currently serving on active duty. In the honor of those who served, I am endeavoring to put together a list by name, rank and service. These are the family members who have served in the 20th and 21st centuries, I'll cover the 18th and 19th centuries in another post. If you have additions or corrections please leave me a comment.

Cdr, Raul Dominguez, U. S. Navy 2002-2020
Maj. Amanda M. Kelly, U. S. Air Force (ret) 2002-2012
Lt. Kristen Cone, U. S. Navy 2005-2009
Cpl. Agye Danso, U. S. Marine Corps 2003-2007
Maj. Roger Moore, U. S. Army National Guard
Capt. Edward W. Kelly, U. S. Navy (ret) 1971-2001
PH2 Ronald A. Pearce, U. S. Navy 1972-1982
Lt. Charles "Rusty" N. Cone, III U. S. Navy, 1978-1983
Lt. Frederick Allen Cone, JAG, USNR 1957-1960
Sn. Dana A. Pearce, U. S. Navy 1954-1956
1st Lt. Hugo Riecken, U. S. Army 1954-1958
Lt. Marge Riecken, U. S Navy Nurse Corps 1950-1956
Capt. Charles N. Cone, Jr, U. S. Navy, 1944-1984
PFC Phelps Wilson Long, Jr,  U. S. Marine Corps, Killed in Action Dec. 16, 1943 Bougainville, Solomon Islands
Pvt. Kenneth M. Branchflower, U. S Army, 1936-7; 1944-1946
Sn. Charles Robert Brim, U. S. Navy, 1942-1945
Cpl. Josephine Mary Brim, U. S. Marine Corps, 1943-1945
CM1 Charles C. Black, U. S. Navy 1942-1945
Pvt. Edward Ebert Kelly,  U. S. Army, 1944-1946
PFC James R. Caldwell, U. S. Army, 1944-1947
Sn David Earl Propes, U. S. Navy, 1944-1945
Pvt. Vern B. Werst, U. S. Army, 1942-1946
Pvt. Emerald J. Caldwell, U. S. Army, 1918-1919
Pvt. Charles N. Cone, U. S. Army, 1918-1918
Pvt. Charles Richard Brim, U. S. Army, 1918-1919
Sgt. William Laurance Cone, U. S. Army, 1917-1919
Cpt. Chester D. Allen, U. S. Army Medical Corps, 1917-1923

Their contributions represent over 100 years of service to our country.

Our family has been blessed that only one member was killed in action. Phelps Wilson Long, Jr. was the daughter of my Grandmother Hazel Bynon Allen Cone's sister Martha Marinda Allen Long. Phelps was my Dad's first cousin. He enlisted in the United State Marine Corps shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and was trained at New River, North Carolina. He was part of  Company I, 21st MAR, 3rd Marine Division.

He was killed in action at Bouganville, Solomon Islands on December 16, 1943 and posthumously award the Silver Star for Conspicuous Gallantry and Intrepidity Against Enemy Japanese Forces in the Cape Torokina Area. I do not know if his body was returned to the family for burial in Florida or if they erected the marker just in remembrance. Once while visiting Oahu, My mother, Ed and I paid our respects at the Punch Bowl National Cemetery in Honolulu. My mother had been under the impression that Phelps was buried there but we did not find him.

My Grandmother said her sister never recovered from Phelps' loss. She died five years later at age 48.

Thank you all for your service. For the time you spent away from spouses, children and homes which did not come without sacrifice on both your part and that of your families.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Haunted Houses ?!?

Dear Grandparents,
There has recently been some discussion in the genealogy community about people starting a website documenting deaths that have occurred in a particular house. Reading about this led me to think about the simple farmhouse outside Newberg, Oregon that had been the home to three generations of my family. It seemed a little creepy to write about yesterday on Halloween, but hopefully it is more appropriate today, All Saints' Day.
House at Pine Lawn Farm showing fruit house.
About 2 miles north of Newberg, Yamhill County, Oregon
This is the house that was home to my great-grandparents William Wallace and Mamie (Hugunin) Colby. They moved into the house in the spring of 1912, leaving their farm in Kirwin, Phillips County, Kansas for Mamie's health. I do not know the origin of the fruit house, but my grandmother and their daughter Ada Grace Colby, said that her father had found a farm with a small house outside of Newberg. He agreed to buy the home if a larger house would be built before the family arrived in Oregon. In the photo above, one can see the original small house to the left. Behind and obscured from view is the larger, two-story addition.

To my knowledge, four deaths have occurred in this home. First, my great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth "Mamie" Hugunin Colby October 15, 1917. Her obituaries tell the story. "In December of last year, Mrs. Colby underwent a very serious operation at the Swedish hospital in Kansas City. She rallied from this grave condition, and seemed much stronger. While convalescent, she visited for some time with her relatives and friends here (presumably Kirwin, clipping is from scrap book with out source). It seemed then that she might hope for many happy and comfortable years. During the summer, she complained of much weariness and was not so well. Her death, however came most unexpectedly. She passed from us.... still a comparatively young woman, being 49 years, 7 months and 17 days of age."
More of the story is included in the obituary published in the Newberg Graphic on Thursday, October 18, 1917. "The many friends of Mrs. W. W. Colby were shocked Tuesday morning to learn of her sudden death Monday evening. She walked into town Monday afternoon, seemingly in her usual health. Retiring at 9:30, about 10:30 she woke her husband telling him she felt very ill. He called the
doctor who reached her bedside in a few minutes but a 11 o'clock she passed away."

From left Mamie and daughters Madge, Pansy and Grace
at Pine Lawn Farm circa 1912,

The second death that occurred in the house was that of Mamie's husband William Wallace "W. W." Colby. He continued to live in the house after her death with daughters Madge and Grace. Then after Madge married and Grace went to Oregon State, with his second wife Ada May McNay Colby. After Ada's death in 1931, he invited widowed Grace and her daughters Betty and Helen to share his home.

I remember well the stories told by my Grandmother, Mom and Aunt about his death. Hoo Hoo, our pet name for my grandmother, related that in February she had noticed her father favoring a leg. He made light of the soreness. When she noticed the weakness in the leg continuing, she demanded to see it. The infection had spread terribly. She wasn't sure why he had let the infection go untreated. It was the depths of the depression and money was very scarce. She expected that Grampa Colby was concerned that there would not be enough money to pay for a doctor. Of course, seeing the condition of the leg, Hoo Hoo called the doctor immediately. It was too late, gangrene had set in and there was no hope.

My mother and Aunt remember being sent to stay with friend for the few days until he passed. It was terrifying for them. William Wallace Colby died in the house March 2, 1936.
William Wallace "W.W." Colby and granddaughter   
Betty Werst in front of the house circa 1935

The third death in the house was that of my grandmother Ada Grace Colby Werst Branchflower. Moving there as a child of 9, she had spent most of her life in the home. She was asleep upstairs when her mother died. She had seen two of her sisters married in the living room. It had been a sanctuary when she was able to reunite her two daughters and move in with her Dad. I'm sure she did all that she could to ease his suffering before he died. She struggled to buy her sisters out of their portion of Pine Lawn Farm so she could keep her home. She raised her daughters there and they welcomed her new husband Kenneth Branchflower into the home. It became a favorite retreat for grandchildren visiting from California.
Grace Colby Werst in front of the house
with daughter Betty circa 1938.

She knew that her mother, grandmother Sarah Amanda Hugunin, her Aunt Grace Hugunin Bissell, sister Madge Colby Massey and Ethel May Colby King had all died as fairly young women, many in the forties. It wasn't until she was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease that the family realized that the others had probably died of the same hereditary condition. Grace controlled the disease with careful salt-free dieting for years and tried to qualify for dialysis. Alas, the doctors were not going to approve using that expensive treatment on a woman who was 70. She died of a heart attack January 8, 1973.

The last death to occur in the house, was that of my step-grandfather Kenneth M. Branchflower. With the exception of his time overseas during the Second World War, he had made the house at Pine Lawn Farm his home after he and Grace married May 23, 1944. He had grown up on a farm up the street. After Hoo Hoo died, he talked about rehabilitating his family home which had been vacant since his father's death in 1958. He built a 3 bay garage and shop on that property as the first step in that transition. Unfortunately, he never had the opportunity to finish the job. He died in his sleep, presumably of a heart attack February 15, 1976.
Kenneth Massey Branchflower at Pinelawn Farm 1975

Aunt Helen, my husband Ed and I drove from California to Newberg with heavy hearts arriving late at night. For some reason the power was off and the old house really did seem haunted. We ended up spending the night at good neighbor Alice Nelson's home across the street. It was the only time that I had been concerned about staying in the house.

Today, my aunt, siblings and cousins and I remember the many good times we had in the house. Though it has been rented to others for many years, the house remains in the family. Each time I visit Oregon, I make it a point to visit.

I am certain that you all know of many more stories of houses where family members lived, loved and died. Please feel free to share them with me.