This post is the final post in a series on building context for the events in your ancestor’s lives. Read the first installment here. In the last post, I discussed how phone directories, maps, and photos add geographic context to a 1918 Salt Lake Tribune newspaper article where George Neuman was required to obtain “zone privileges” to work as a butcher.
Finally, personal context
During the course of 1917-18, George Neuman changed residence and also changed employers all during a time when unnaturalized Germans were subjects of suspicion and outright surveillance. Remember, a fellow sausage maker, Max Graeske, who worked in the same area of town as George (also information we can ascertain through the City Directory) was interned as an alien enemy at Fort Douglas.
We won’t ever know definitely if the permit requirements of 1918 influenced George’s decision to change employment and residence. There is, however, one final indicator of how this uncertain time influenced George.
In March 1917, just a few days before the U.S. entered into WWI, George filed a Declaration of Intention to become a citizen. At the time, this was the first step of becoming a U.S. citizen. Of note, in his Declaration, George identifies his date of entry into the United States as October 20, 1896.
However, George did not complete his naturalization in 1917 or in the years that followed. According to the Zone Privileges article no Germans were granted naturalization during WWI.
However, George waited another nineteen years to pursue naturalization. In March 1936, in the lead up to another world war with Germany, George again filed a second Declaration of Intention.
This time, George identifies his date of arrival as October 20, 1905 (Ship Manifests indicate he likely arrived on November 15, 1904). Perhaps not coincidentally, George’s first Declaration, which was filed at a high point of anti-German sentiment, indicated he entered the U.S. eight years earlier than when he actually entered the country.
George eventually gained citizenship on June 27, 1941, just six months prior to the U.S. entry into WWII.
George died in 1947, just six years after becoming a U.S. citizen.
Through the historical context, surrounding articles, geographic knowledge, and the personal events in George’s life we are able to gain much greater insight and understanding of how one event may have shaped George in 1918.
For me, gaining a greater understanding of how singular events in an ancestor’s life fit into the larger context is one of the primary goals of family history. It is only by adding context that a richer picture of our ancestors’ lives can be achieved.
This post is the fourth post in a series on building context for the events in your ancestor’s lives. Read the first installment here. In the last post, I discussed how to build context by searching other newspaper articles to build context about a 1918 Salt Lake Tribune newspaper article where George Neuman was required to obtain “zone privileges” to work as a butcher.
Third, geographic context
Because the Zone Privileges article mentions such a seemingly small area, just a half mile radius around two military facilities, it is important to get geographic context.
This is where another great genealogical aid can help: The City Directory. If you’ve researched ancestors on Ancestry.com you’ve likely been given hints from city directories. Sure, directories are great at giving you an idea of where your ancestor lived in a given year, an address, sometimes an occupation, and perhaps a phone number.
#GenieTip: City Directories offer a wealth of information about the city, occupation, businesses and culture of your ancestors' city and time. Plus, the ads are awesome.
But there is so much more info that City Directories can provide.
In particular, by comparing the 1916 – 1918 Salt Lake City directories for George Neuman, I learned that George moved twice. The residence George moved to in 1918 was the home he would live in for the rest of his life.
All three entries also tell us that George was a butcher. Beginning in 1919, George’s city directory identifies his employer as the Colorado Meat Market and his profession is “sgemaker”. Using the city directories, we can conclude that George was hired by the Colorado Meat Market sometime in 1918.
Now, you may not have the foggiest idea of what “sgemkr” means. But guess what? We don’t have to guess. If you scan (or skip) to the beginning of the 1919 Salt Lake City Directory, you’ll find an “Abbreviations” page. And yes, “sgemkr” is a sausage maker.
The fact that George was indeed a sausage maker for the Colorado Meat Market (for 30 years) is mentioned in George’s obituary in 1947.
As a side note, these four side-by-side directory entries for George Neuman also provide several other genealogical nuggets:
In the 1916 directory, no other Neumans are listed. So that lets us know this was not a widely popular surname and that it is unlikely that the George Neuman in the Zone Privileges article is a different person.
In 1917, an August Neuman (there is also an abbreviation chart for names. That’s how where we can learn that Geo=George and Aug=August) has moved to town. He’s a musician (“musn”).
In 1918, August Neuman has moved to Long Beach, California (a useful tidbit if you’re related to August). Martha A Neuman has moved into town and is working as a domestic (aka maid).
In 1919, Olga Neuman, a student is living at the same address as George. Wanna bet she’s related?
And by looking under the entry for Colorado Meat Market, we learn that it was located at 594 W 2d So and the owner was Jacob Dorr.
And if you were wondering how common butcher shops were in Salt Lake City in 1918, take a look at the “Classified Business Directory” which are generally found at the back of the directory. That’s almost a full page worth of meat markets to choose from!
And if you want to know what the meat markets of 1918 looked like, online digital archives like the Shipler Commercial Photographers at the University of Utah online collections give us a great idea.
Before we leave the wonders of the City Directory, let’s take a look at where exactly the military installations were located. For this, look again at the index at the beginning of the Directory. There, on page 55 is a list of military installations with addresses.
Again, digital photography collections can provide images to see what widely known buildings and streets looked like during this time period.
Now, if you are not familiar with Salt Lake City and the oddly numbered street names, there is even a page for that in the Directory as well. At the beginning of the Street and Avenue Guide, there is this brief explanation of how Salt Lake City streets are configured as well as entries for each street so that you can learn where a specific street is situated and even if there have been any changes to the street names since the last directory.
Unfortunately, the 1918 Salt Lake City Directory, or at least the version scanned onto Ancestry, does not include a map. The map below, published in 1920 gives an idea as to the location of Fort Douglas and it’s proximity to downtown Salt Lake. This map is not detailed enough to show the Headquarters and Armory on Pierpont Avenue. However, a Google Map search shows that the addresses of the Colorado Meat Market and the Armory are just under a mile apart.
So, either the zone requirements were broader than the Salt Lake Tribune article indicates, or George was working at a meat market closer to the armory in January 1918. The fact that he’s listed as a “poultryman” and not a “sausage maker” in the Zone Privileges article is a good indication that George gained employment with the Colorado Meat Market as a sausage maker after January 1918.
This post is the second in a series on building context for the events in your ancestor’s lives. Read the first installment here. When we left off, George Neuman was listed as an “alien enemy” in a 1918 Salt Lake Tribune newspaper article and was required to obtain “zone privileges” to work as a butcher.
What was going on? First, historical context.
Online sources can provide valuable historical context as to what led to German-born residents in Utah being required to register as alien enemies. With the wealth of information available, building basic historical context can begin with a simple Google search.
The Utah History Encyclopedia explains that in the months/years prior to the U.S. entry into WWI:
Most felt that the fight had little to do with United States interests, advocated a strict policy of neutrality, and insisted that the United States not become embroiled in a European conflict. There were exceptions, of course, primarily among the Utah immigrant groups including the South Slavs, Germans, Greeks, Italians whose homelands had been caught up in the Great War. Utah German-Americans openly demonstrated their sympathy for Germany, held rallies, collected money for the German Red Cross, complained of the virulent anti-German propaganda in most English-language newspapers, and, in some cases returned to Germany to fight.
Less than a year before the Zone Privileges article was published, on April 6, 1917, the U.S. declared war against Germany. On August 5, 1917, the Utah National Guard was drafted into Federal Service. So, when the Zone Privileges article was published in January 1918, Utah’s involvement in WWI was in full swing.
In addition, it is important to remember that the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, otherwise known as “naturalization”, and the requirements for entering the U.S. were not like they are now. Between 1900 and 1920 the nation admitted over 14.5 million immigrants with very few restrictions. The INS was not formed until 1906 and visa requirements did not begin until 1924. By 1918, several restrictions were enacted regarding immigration but the process to become a naturalized citizen was fairly straight forward: it required a Declaration of Intention (“first papers”) and a Petition (“second papers”) to be filed with a local court before a Certificate of Citizenship could be issued.
This post is the third in a series on building context for the events in your ancestor’s lives. Read the first installment here. In the last post, I discussed historical events relevant to the 1918 Salt Lake Tribune newspaper article where George Neuman was required to obtain “zone privileges” to work as a butcher.
Second, article context.
To glean an even more specific context for the Zone Privileges article, I rolled up my digital sleeves and perused the newspaper the day the article was published. Online newspapers are a favorite of mine: no noisy paper folding or black inky fingers.
#GenieTip: Read articles and newspapers for the days before and after an event. Use either an article index or simply tab through the pages.
Low and behold, I found some good ‘uns.
The Zone Privileges article stated that “Three of the men whose name appear in the list have broken their promises to conduct themselves in an orderly manner while in the restricted zones.” What the first clipping did not show was this lovely mugshot line up that accompanied the full article as it was published.
But wait, there’s more!
This is a rather lengthy article, the highlights of which are:
The seven men were “interned” in the war prison barracks at Fort Douglas.
After a “long period of surveillance,” one man was determined to be an agent of the German government engaged in recruiting Germans for the imperial army and shipping the recruits to Mexico.
Another man, a dynamiter, was found with a large quantity of dynamite and explosives and was known to have expressed anti-United States sentiments.
Another two men were interned based upon the statements that they hated the United States and expressed sympathy for Germany.
The men were to remain at the war prison barracks until the close of the war.
The Enemy Alien article also outlines the U.S. Government plan to “register every enemy alien in the country”. The U.S. Marshal for Utah estimated that there were approximately “1500 person of German nativity, about 1100 of whom are naturalized citizens of the United States, leaving about 400 unnaturalized, who are classed as enemy aliens.” The majority of the unnaturalized Germans were residents of Salt Lake, as “in order to prove up on government lands or homesteads it is necessary for all of foreign birth to become naturalized citizens.” In other words, there were not many unnaturalized Germans living in rural areas because obtaining homesteads and governmental land grants required a person to be naturalized.
The registration of Germans was carried out by the police and postmasters in each community and “the necessary registration affidavits, registration cards, and other forms” were to be retained by in the communities with one copy transmitted to the U.S. Marshal in each district, and a third set send to the Department of Justice in Washington D.C.
I realize that to most people that last bit probably doesn’t mean much. As a genealogist, I would love to get my hands on the registration affidavits.
My take away from the newspaper context is that some of the men who were interned were done so based on anti-American statements alone. There is no mention of trials or due process rights (the Geneva Convention was still years away). Within a rather small community of German-born residents, to have seven men interned as enemy aliens likely caused a stir and alarm. For George, it likely was alarming to be subjected to registration requirements and possibly surveillance. In short, it must have been a frightful and insecure existence to be a German-born resident of Salt Lake City in January 1918.
Final note: For the sake of brevity, this post covers only one day of newspaper coverage on this issue. Certainly, a more in-depth search of historical newspapers, both in Utah and elsewhere, would provide even more context.
Once there was a butcher. George Neuman was his name.
George was required in 1918, in Salt Lake City, Utah to register and obtain a special permit to work as a butcher. Not a special license because he was a butcher, but a special permit because he was German. A non-naturalized German working within a half a mile of a military facility.
When I came across this newspaper article, I was taken aback.
#GenieTip: Online Newspapers are a family history goldmine. Read more here on how to find and search historical newspapers.
According to the article, “the list is practically complete of German residents of Salt Lake”. And there, in the list of names is George Neuman.
In an effort to figure out the significance of the registration requirements and how it may have impacted George Neuman as a German-born resident of Salt Lake, we need context. In this series of posts, we will explore how to build historical context, article context, geographic context, and the personal context of events in George’s life that may provide insight as to how the registration requirement of 1918 may have impacted George.
When I was young I was sort of obsessed with horses. That’s probably not too unusual for young girls.
I imagined that if I could only be around a horse we’d have some kind of cosmic connection. Me, the horse whisper ingénue, leading a horse with a long flowing mane around a field covered in grass well past my knees.
When I was eight years old I finally got the opportunity to fulfill my dream and ride a horse. At a family reunion, someone brought horses to ride; several steady adult horses and one spunky colt. I somewhat timidly asked if I could ride the beautiful young colt. Knowing nothing about horses, I didn’t fully grasp what it meant that the colt was not yet saddle broken. I thought it’s diminutive size meant it would be easier to manage.
This could work with my fantasy vision, I thought.
I was told the colt would follow the other horses up the small hill, around the field, and back down again. Easy enough. Except it wasn’t. That darn colt followed the other horses into the field but not out again.
Kick it in the flanks, they said. Hit it with this stick, they said. No, like this they said.
Colt bucked. I fell off, acquiring my first and only broken arm.
At 16 years old, another horse decided to lie down for a back scratch while I was learning to ride it. Somehow I managed to step out of the saddle before I was caught under the horse and crushed. I think that was when I finally realized my horse dreams had come to an end. No more horses for me.
Recently, I re-read a brief biographical sketch, my grandfather, John Steiner Houston wrote. Unlike me, Grandpa Steiner’s relationship with horses was rich, long, and real.
“From my earliest recollection, I could ride and handle a horse. I owned my own pony long before I was large enough to bridle and saddle him. I remember of having to get in the stable manger to bridle my horse.”
Grandpa Steiner was born into a ranching family. His father and uncles were well known, successful ranchers in Garfield County, Utah. Horses were necessary to their livelihood and part of his early childhood chores and duties.
“At seven or eight years of age, I would herd the milk cows. I always took lunch in a bucket. My Father never let me use a saddle when alone, so I herded cows bareback. Coming home one night us herd boys put our dinner pails on the end of the tie ropes that we had on our horses. My bucket got between my horse’s legs and off I went the horse kicked the bucket loose, bail came off, I went again right on my face taking all the skin off as I skidded along the ground. I led the horse from there home. My face healed up good and once more I was thrown from another horse got my right arm broken at the wrist and my face peeled again. Uncle Riley Clar set my arm and it is as good as new.”
Boy, could I relate with Grandpa Steiner…well, except the whole getting my face skinned off bit. As I read Grandpa’s words I began to feel like a whiner.
Oh, but it gets better.
“I hauled a great deal of wood as a young man. Was crippled for a time in the left leg. A drag of wood hit my left leg below the knee and tore the ligaments loose. The Dr. said it was worse than a break. Another time a 1600 lb horse fell full length on me, his hips hit between my legs, his wether hit my shoulder. With my hip and shoulder broke I was laid up for five to six months through the summer. The doctor pronounced it a miracle the way it was done and the way it healed. After making me as uncomfortable as he could (it seemed to me at least) he went home and said to be called back later to see me passed out. I had a terrible pain in my groins. Brother Partridge and Bishop Gardner administered to me. As soon as they laid their hands on me the pain left. I was up and trying to struggle around after nineteen days in bed. “
Despite years of horse riding, Grandpa’s accident could have scarred him physically and mentally for life.
But it didn’t. He focused on the miracle of his recovery.
While Grandpa’s autobiographical sketch doesn’t specifically mention riding a horse again, I think he did. He had grit. True grit.
This was the man who taught himself to walk and speak again after a major stroke. This is the man, who when taken along on a deer hunt, even though he was paralyzed on one side, greeted his fellow hunters (who were unlucky in their hunt) with a big grin, blood past his elbows, and a deer lying in the nearby field. Grandpa not only shot the deer from the passenger side of the truck but then dragged himself out to the deer and gutted it.
Here’s my takeaway. Focusing on the positive matters. Getting back on the horse when you get bucked off matters. Life is not about the pain that you get dealt – the skinned off faces, broken arms, and blows to the groin – it’s about how we choose to view those experiences and what we can learn from them.
That…and being able to gut a deer while paralyzed.
If you are just tuning in now, this post is the second in a series on Nova Scotia genealogy and the McLeod clan. Read the first post here.
When we left off last time, we had disproved the connection between Norman Chisholm McLeod (“Norman C”) and Norman, Sr. and Mary McLean McLeod of West Bay, Nova Scotia.
Where and how to begin again?
We backed up and started with what we knew. From Norman C’s death certificate his birth date is December 27, 1870. Neither of his parents is listed and his birthplace is listed as “Wycogomma, N.S.” (sic).
Now, the thing to remember about death certificates (and birth certificates) is that another person has to report the information. In this case, the “informant” is E.W. Walker, Norman C’s son-in-law. What that means is that while helpful, death certificates are not always 100% accurate.
Before leaving the death certificate, there is one more useful bit of information it provides. Did you spot it?
Norman C’s social security number! Social Security numbers on death certificates are fairly rare, and especially in 1947 because the Social Security Act was only passed 12 years earlier.
I was able to locate a claim for Norman C. in the Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 (Claims Index). Unfortunately, this record provided nothing new. Again, the Claims Index, like the Death Certificate is usually completed by someone other than the person we are researching. In most cases, the Claims Index is information provided by a relative who filed a claim for death benefits.
Unlike a claim for benefits, an Application for Social Security Number is generally completed by the person requesting the Social Security number. The information in the social security application may include:
applicant’s full name
Social Security Number (SSN)
date and place of birth
mother’s maiden name
race/ethnic description (optional)
The SS-5 form can be requested online and is well-worth the $27 fee, particularly if you want to verify any of this information. For more info on how an application differs from the indices available online, Legacy Tree has a great article. Also, check out this article by the Legal Genealogist for further tips and tricks when ordering your ancestors’ SS-5.
That’s what we did for Norman C. We filed a request for his SS-5. After a few weeks wait, a golden ticket arrived. No, not really. Just this little gem:
Jackpot! In Norman’s own hand he has listed both his mother’s and his father’s names as well as his birth date (which we now believe is incorrect).
As a side note, part of the reason this SS-5 form was so important is that the marriage record for Norman C does not provide parents’ names. This was Texas, 1903 and they didn’t require many particulars to tie the knot. Apparently, not even full names were required; initials would do.
Research Hint: Search for ancestors using initials as well as variations of their first, middle, and last names.
Now, here’s the thing. Before we received the SS-5 form in the mail, my Mom and I had narrowed down two possible McLeod families living in the Whycocomagh area. Both had Normans that appeared in the 1881 Candian Census and were about the right age. We quickly narrowed down on one family in particular: Donald and Mary McLeod who had six children (ages 13 -4). One of those children was Norman, with a younger sister named Katie (again, something family legend indicated). Also living with Donald and Mary in 1881 were Murdoch McLeod (who we would later confirmed was Donald’s father) and Mary McLeod (Donald’s sister).
By the by, finding the McLeods in the 1891 census was no easy feat. We tried various combinations of the McLeods’ last name and first names but were unable to locate the record. Eventually, I went page by page through the census records for Whycocomagh and located the record. If you take a gander, the record is split between two pages, difficult to read, and lists the family as “Leod Mc”.
Two things struck me about the 1891 census. This would have been just before Norman left for the United States. The family lore was that Norman left not long after his mother died and his father remarried. The 1891 Census shows Donald as a widower. His father, Murdoch is no longer living with the family, but Mary his sister is. So first off, the record confirmed what Norman C. had said about his mother dying. Secondly, it confirmed that this Norman’s middle intial was C.
As I continued to look into the census records, I found what appeared to be the record for Donald McLeod in the 1901 Census. Like the 1891 Census, this one was a toughy because the writing is faded and difficult to read. What appeared to connect this Donald with the other Donalds were: 1) location in Whycocomagh; 2) age; 3) birth in Scotland.
Again, this record seemed to coincide with the family narrative. Donald is remarried (to a much younger woman, I will add). Not only is Norman no longer living with Donald, but also none of the other six children are living with him (the youngest would have been 24). Also, Donald’s sister Mary is no longer in the same home (a mystery for another day).
After the census records, we turned our attention to finding out more about Mary McLeod, the mother of this family. On an initial search of the Canadian Records, we found a marriage record with what appeared to be all the right information.
However, the record showed Mary’s maiden name as McLeod, which didn’t match our guess and birth records we found for two children that Chisholm was not only Norman’s middle name but also Mary’s maiden name.
So what’s a girl to do? We went to the original source. We could not do a simple name search and click on the image because the records had not been indexed. We browsed the 21,950 images that comprise the Nova Scotia Marriages, 1864-1918 record, searching first for County and then by year until we found the correct date.
Here’s what we found:
Yeah sure, the record looks like both the bride and groom have the same last name…but then take a closer look. The record directly below has the bride and groom with the same name too.
Look closer still. The bride’s parents’ names are Alex and Christy Chisholm (also the names of Donald and Mary’s oldest son and daughter), which is also the name of the bride’s parents in the entry immediately following. Yep, Mary and her sister Catherine were married within a few days of each other and they were Chisholms and not McLeods.
What is very exciting about this record is that it confirms the 1871 census record, which reflects that Donald’s parents were Murdoch and Mary, who lived with the family until their deaths in the 1890s.
As if this marriage record were not enough to confirm that these were indeed Norman C.’s parents, we were also able to locate the marriage record for Donald McLeod and his second wife, Sarah McKinnon in 1892.
This record helped confirm that the Donald in the 1901 Census record was, in fact, our Donald McLeod. The record shows that he is a 53-year-old widower, from Skye Mountain (a hamlet near Whycocomagh) and that his parents were Murdoch (not the clearest version of his name) and Mary.
Research Hint: Make sure to read the records surrounding your ancestor’s record for gems.
Just as the marriage record between Donald and Mary held the surprising entry of her sister Catherine’s marriage, Donald and Sarah’s marriage record also held a surprise. There, just three entries below their record was the marriage record for Christy Ann McLeod and Archibald McLeod (in this instance it was not a typo that they both had the same last name). Christy Ann was Norman C.’s older sister who married just one week after her father, Donald, was remarried.
Needless to say, after a few weeks of waiting, when the SS-5 form finally arrived there was much rejoicing (and even a few tears) to see Norman C.’s parents listed as Donald McLeod and Mary Chisholm. Norman C.’s family was found at last!
PostScript. As a final cherry on the top, as I mapped Whycocomagh to determine if the marriage places, census places, and other records were within close proximity to one another I found something surprising. While the community that was Skye Mountain does not appear to exist anymore, there on the map, between Whycocomagh and Skye Mountain is Donald McLeod road. Could it be named after our Donald? That’s a mystery for another day.
As a divorce lawyer, “Where’s the proof!” (or something like it) was a refrain you could often hear coming from my office as I read through an opposing counsel’s argument.
Divorce law gets a bad rap. Some divorce cases are little more than highly paid mudslinging. Like any other area of law, divorce law done well is one part courtroom oral advocacy skills and two parts well-researched and fact-driven written argument. In an arena where many cases devolve into “he- said/ she- said” a good divorce attorney will work to support her client’s case with documents, expert testimony, and non-biased testimony.
Any attorney who spends time in a courtroom must be one with the rules that govern how evidence is presented to the judge or jury. The Rules of Evidence are these rules. When an attorney cries “I Object!”, she is telling the judge that testimony or evidence violates one of these rules and should not be heard or admitted. The Rules of Evidence embody the idea that some forms of evidence are less reliable, more prejudicial, or just not relevant to making a determination, and should therefore, be excluded.
Hearsay is one of the fundamental evidentiary rules (it’s really a series of rules). There are nuances and exceptions to the fundamental rule, but the basic rule is that hearsay is not admissible. If for some perverse reason you want to know more about hearsay and its exceptions check out this great summary.
What is hearsay you ask? That my friend is a question that has plagued many a law student and attorney from time immemorial. In a nutshell, secondhand testimony, meaning the witness didn’t personally observe or hear what they are testifying about, should be excluded from court. The idea behind the rule is that if someone didn’t personally witness or observe something they really shouldn’t be allowed to testify about it.
Genealogy is not all that different from the law.
The Genealogy Standards, which is the benchmark by which professional genealogists formulate their work, were originally based on the legal “preponderance of evidence” standard of proof.
As with law, genealogy done well requires facts supported by evidence. Some genealogical sources are more reliable and more relevant than other sources.
What is the genealogical equivalent of hearsay? You guessed it, secondhand accounts. Secondhand sources, like family stories, family trees created by others, and even some of the genealogy books that may have been passed down in your family are like”genealogical hearsay”. They may be a good way to start you on your journey to find your ancestors, but they are not good evidence.
As I’ve discussed in other posts, just because a document is an “official document” doesn’t mean it is not secondhand. Death certificates come to mind. The dead person didn’t fill out the certificate, did they? No, because their dead. Someone else filled it out. The person completing the certificate may be misinformed or uninformed about important dates and information in the death certificate.
Sources like marriage applications, social security applications, immigration records (some) and other records requiring the applicant to provide information personally are often the best and most reliable sources of genealogical information.
So good genealogy requires good evidence. Don’t substitute a good story for good research.
So, this is where I have an admission to make.
On occasion….my posts are more bun than beef. Get it? “Where’s the beef”? Bun = genealogical hearsay; small beef patty = short of reliable facts.
In an attempt to relate an idea or concept, some posts have relied more on secondhand sources than on primary materials.
In honor of my favorite fact-checking website, Snopes.com I will be posting “Genopes“, posts that focus on fact-checking the secondary sources that serve as the basis of posts, particularly those posts about my own genealogy.
The story goes like this. Years ago, as my Mom asked people around town what they remembered about her Grandma Houston, Annie Maria Davis Houston, their responses were something like this:
“She had a beautiful singing voice. She was the meanest woman ever.”
“Sister Houston made beautiful rag rugs. Not a nice woman.”
“Annie made amazing cheese. Meanest woman ever.”
In her brief history of her mother, Gwen Houston Baxter, described Annie as:
“She was a large woman with a very proud carriage of a dominant and independent nature. She was an outspoken woman, nothing deceptive about her. She was a strong disciplinarian.”
Her daughter-in-law, Della Prince Houston, recalled that Annie “didn’t have many close friends because people were afraid of her, [and] didn’t feel at ease in her presence. She was a sharp-spoken woman at times and was the disciplinarian of the family. Her sons all left home as soon as they were old enough to be on their own.”
When my Grandpa Steiner was 3 or 4 years old, he and his brother were messing around in the snow, looking for long nails that they could use as “diggers” to propel their sleighs. They fought over a nail. Each time Roll would lay the nail down to chop the head off with a hatchet, Steiner would grab for it. Well, someone lost a finger…and that someone was Steiner! Roll promised Steiner the diggers if he wouldn’t tell Mom. When they couldn’t stop the bleeding they went in to face Annie’s wrath.
In later life, Annie sat watching Cecil Prince Reid (who claimed she weighed less than 100 lb at the time) shake out Annie’s rugs. Annie chimed in to let Cecil know that, “She always thought of little people like runt pigs, no good for anything, but it looks like you do alright.”
How about that for outspoken bluntness?
Annie was “a woman of distinction”. “Her wavy white hair and dignified bearing were outstanding.” She was renowned for her fine clothing and both histories of her life report that her wedding dress was made of 18 yards of fabric.
Annie was proud of her home and furnishings. She had an elegant brick home, curtains from France, and beautiful furniture.
Annie’s beginnings were far from grand, however.
Annie was born on September 8, 1860, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her parents Joseph Cadwallader Davis (or Davies) and Maria Williams were converts to the Mormon faith and had both immigrated from Wales.
Annie was the eldest of 22 children born to her father and his two wives. Seven of those children would not survive to adulthood.
The family moved from Salt Lake City to Panaca (a tiny mining town that is now in Nevada) and later when Annie was a teenager to Panguitch, Utah. When the Davis family first moved to Panaca they lived in a potato cellar and Annie’s father attempted to eke out a living by frieghting and making charcoal for the mines and from farming.
One of Annie’s chores was to peddle vegetables in town. Annie, too ashamed to peddle, would hide while her sister, Elizabeth would sell. After helping with housework, Annie would go into the fields with her father to strip sugar cane, pick potatoes, and help with hay and grain harvests.
As a teenager, Annie worked in homes and even taught in a private school for a short time. She was eager to get an education. With the encouragement of her father, Annie married an older man as his plural wife. Reportedly, Mr. Crosby promised to send Annie to school. In later life, Annie told her daughter-in-law, Mr. Crosby accosted Annie as she was returning the cows from the field for milking, and Annie beat him off with a stick. Annie was reportedly treated like a hired hand and never obtained the education she was promised. Annie obtained an annulment after just 6 months of marriage. All before her 18th birthday.
My great grandmother was the meanest woman ever. To read the first installment of her story read here.
By the age of 18, Annie was already the survivor of a short-lived disasterous marriage.
During the two summers of 1879 and 1880, Annie worked for the Houston families at their ranches. This is where Annie first met Joesph Houston, a grey-eyed handsome rancher. Joseph was a widower who was nine years older than Annie.
In 1874, Joseph had married his best friend’s sister, Elizabeth Clark. Joseph’s best friend, Riley Garner Clark II, married Joseph’s younger sister Margaret in a double wedding. Elizabeth died in childbirth in 1879, leaving Joseph with two small children.
What drew Joseph and Annie together? For Annie, Joseph likely offered respectability and financial stability. The Houstons were wealthy and prominent citizens (Joseph would go on to serve two terms as mayor).
Joseph and Annie married in January 1881.
In the following twenty-four years, Annie gave birth to twelve children:
Josephine (nee Connor Hilton)(1881 – 1953)
Maria Dempster (nee Fotheringham)(1883-1953)
Joseph (1885 – 1885)
Claudius (“Claud”) (1886-1933) b
Margaret Fiametta (nee Ipson) (1890 – 1929)
Arthur Quince (“Quince”) (1892 – 1970)
George Rollo (“Rolley” or “Roll”) (1894 – 1975)
John Steiner (“Steiner”) (1896-1964)
Mary Gwen (“Gwen”)(nee Baxter)(1898 – 1965)
Thomas Ray (“Tom”)(1899 – 1970)
Ellis Dudley (“Ellis”)(1902 – 1939)
David Cameron (1905 – 1905)
“[Annie’s] one big ambition was that her family would be a credit to her and her work.”
Della opined, “I think she [Annie] was a frustrated, broken-hearted woman. Her husband didn’t show much love or respect. Always spoke of her as ‘the other woman’. His Johnny ways annoyed her. She was very proud and wanted her sons to be in prominent positions in the town.”
In his own words when discussing his love of reading, Joseph said,
“My wife (Annie) was always put out about my reading. [P]erhaps I didn’t talk enough to her.”
One thing that is evident about Annie’s life is that she knew how to work and valued hard work in others. Annie was described by her daughter as “very industrious; she disliked seeing others idle”. In addition to her housework duties, Annie made rugs, quilts, crotched lace, knit stockings, and made most of her children’s clothing.
Annie and her family spent the summers on the family ranch making cheese and butter. One summer, Annie reportedly made seven barrels of butter weighing 350 lbs a barrel. This was before mechanical separators were widely available, so in addition to milking cows, Annie would distribute milk into pans, skim the cream, and churn the butter by hand.
Annie was a devoutly religious woman. She was an active member in her LDS ward and loved genealogy and temple work. For over 45 years she sang in the ward choir.
Sadly, even in her religious devotion, Annie’s pride got in the way. Joseph and Annie had two sons who went on LDS missions. Then as now, sons serving missions is a source of pride for Mormons. Quince came home after his mission president questioned why he had not been drafted (WWI); Roll completed his mission but joined a different religion soon after returning home. When Steiner asked for his parents’ support to go on a mission, they refused.
Of all of Annie’s children, only Steiner would remain an active member of the LDS faith.
By 1930, only three of Annie’s sons (Quince, Tom, and Steiner) lived in Panguitch. The other six children had moved away.
My Mom tells that as children they would beg to go to see their Houston uncles. Steiner would go, but they would stay for only a few minutes and then go home. Even when traveling, Steiner would opt to stay with his wife’s sister rather than stay with his own sister, who lived a few blocks away. While Della and Steiner would have Annie and Joseph to dinner nearly every Sunday, the family get-togethers were always initiated by Della and not Steiner.
The last years of Annie’s life were lonely ones. In 1929, Annie’s daughter Margaret Fiametta died at the age of 38 from pneumonia. In 1932, her son Claud died at age 46 from a heart attack. In 1935, her hsuband Joseph died at the age of 85.
Most tragically, in 1939, Annie’s youngest son, Ellis died at the age of 35 as a result of injuries he sustained in a car accident and from exposure. Ellis was an alcoholic.
When Ellis came home drunk and Annie would tell him he had to go elsewhere, Ellis would threaten that he would leave forever and someday when Annie heard about a vagrant getting killed she would always wonder if it was her baby boy.
On the late December day when Ellis was in the car accident that ultimately would take his life, he came home drunk and injured and pounded on the door yelling for Annie to let him in. Annie didn’t let Ellis in. Ellis contracted pneumonia as a result of exposure, which led to his death a month later.
Annie’s neighbor and friend, Cecil Reid said that Annie would feed the neighbor’s chickens to coax them so that she could see them. When asked why, Annie said, “To watch something alive and moving”.
Annie rattled around her grand brick home filled to the gills with stuff she couldn’t bring herself to throw away. The kitchen cabinets were full of kindling, cupboards and containers were full of rags (including cut up pockets of men’s overalls), as well as “great balls of string” that she had saved. After her death, Annie’s children “hauled truckloads of junk to the river.”
Annie died on July 23, 1941, two months after she suffered a stroke which left her bedridden. Her obituary is titled “Pioneer Woman Buried Saturday Afternoon: Was Active in Church Organization in Life – Member of Choir”. All of Annie’s living sons and daughters were in attendance.