Friday, August 9, 2013

Katharina Elizabeth Neumayer Vetter, (1857 – 1903), my Great-Grandmother on my Father’s side

Katharina Neumayer Vetter
I decided to write about Katherine Vetter now for two reasons.  First, so far I’ve written very little about any of my Vetter relatives, because I know so little about them.  Katherine and her husband George were born in Germany and did not immigrate to the United States until 1883.  Since I have yet to develop my research skills beyond the United States I do not have any documentation about their lives before they came to this country.  Katherine died at 46 so she only lived in the US for 20 years.  She appeared on the 1900 census living in Chicago but had died before the 1910 census.  The 1890 census was destroyed in a 1921 fire.  Census data provides valuable information for genealogists – not having these records means a dearth of information.

The second reason I’ve chosen to write about Katherine is that I recently “met” the great-granddaughter of one of Katherine’s daughters, Rosie Elizabeth Vetter – one of my grandmother’s four sisters.  The great granddaughter’s husband Chris contacted me after seeing an article and photo I submitted to the California Genealogy Society.  The photo depicts George Vetter in front of his liquor store in Chicago.  Chris had heard the story about George owning a liquor store and my photograph proved the story to be true.  Making connections with distant, unknown relatives is one of the great joys of doing family history research.
Katherine in hat & muffler
Chris provided a birth record showing Katherine was born on February 25, 1857 in Wattenheim, Frankenthal, Bayern, Germany. This location jibes with records from Gramma Pattillo. If you Google this place a link to the Family History Center in Utah comes up and this message: “This place has no commentary yet.”  So, I cannot tell you anything about where Katherine was born. According to the same document, her parents were Guilelmi Neumayer and Maria Anna Hofmann.  I know nothing more about her parents – will save that for a future post when I’ve completed more research.

The spelling of her maiden name is a real puzzle.  So far I have found 7 different spellings on various documents.  It is spelled:
Neimeyer on Emma's birth and death certificates.
Neumeier on Kate's birth record.
Neumeyer on Lizzie's death record.
Newmeyer on Kate's death certificate, Anna's birth, and in Anna's bible.
Newmayer on Anna's wedding record.
Newmeir on the Wallace Family Tree on Ancestry,
And Neumayer on Katharina's own birth certificate – so that is what I’ve chosen to use.

Katherine was born during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and though she lived in Germany until she was 26 she would no doubt have been influenced by the Victorian era. According to Wikipedia "It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence for Britain."
Katherine with her hair up

When she was 14 years old in 1871, and still living in Germany, the city of Chicago was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. The city burned for two days, destroyed 3.3 square miles, and killed hundreds of people. It was one of the largest disasters of the 19th century, but led to the rebuilding of the city into one of the great cities of the world. Twelve years after the fire, George and Katherine immigrated to Chicago, joining a large population of German immigrates who chose Chicago to start new lives.

Katherine and George Vetter were married in 1883. The source for this date is the 1900 census which included a column for “number of years married”. The amount and type of information gathered during each census varies and reflects the trends of the time.

Katherine and George immigrated to the United States on July 25, 1883 shortly after they married. They travelled by ship departing from London and arriving in New York. The name of the ship was “France” owned by the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique. The France was in service from 1896 – 1915 when it was sunk by a submarine.

New York passenger list for the "France" showing George Vetter, stonecutter and Catherine "wife" heading for Chicago
The 1900 census also included a column that recorded how many times a woman had given birth and how many of the children were living. This is how I learned that there was a sixth child born to Katherine and George – previously I’d only known of my grandmother Anna and her four sisters.

The sixth child was another daughter named Augusta Elizabeth Vetter. Augusta was born May 13, 1884 in Chicago and died October 16, 1884, so she only lived five months. At the time Augusta was born the family was living at 500 S. Halstead Street in Ward 7 of Chicago. The cause of death listed on the death record was noted as convulsions. Augusta was buried in St. Bonifacius Cemetery which was consecrated in 1863, and according to their website was the first German catholic cemetery. Buried there are the “builders of the German catholic community” in Chicago. Augusta is also the middle name of another Vetter daughter – Mary, born in 1888 has Augusta as her middle name. This seems significant and suggests that Augusta is a family name. Hopefully, sometime in the future I’ll figure out the source of this name.
George, Katherine and daughter Kate

In 1885 Katherine gave birth to her second daughter and named her after herself. Kathe or “Kate” Vetter was born July 16th. Followed by Mary Augusta born November 2, 1888, Rosie Elizabeth “Lizzie” born February 22, 1890, Emma born November 9, 1891, and finally my grandmother Anna on September 17, 1893. All were born in Chicago. They were still living on Halstead when Kate was born. Mary, Lizzie and Emma were all born while the family was living at 1328 W. 20th Street in Ward 10 of Chicago. I don’t have the exact address of where they were living when Anna was born. I have found one or more birth records for each of Anna’s sisters but none for Anna. I do know she was born in Ward 10. Chicago is divided into 50 wards each represented by an Alderman. Ward 10 is the largest ward and is located in the southeast corner of the city.

The 1900 Chicago census is a gold mine of information for our Vetter family. The data was collected on June 14, 1900 at which time they were living at 409 21st Street, Chicago in Cook County. Six family members are listed: George 42, Kate 43, Kate 15, Mary 12, Lizzie 10, Emma 9 and Anna 7. Off all the people listed on this census page, 37 showed both parents having been born in Germany, 9 showed both parents born in England, and only 6 parents from other places. Clear evidence that this was a German community.

Mary, Lizzie, Anna, Kate & Emma with their father George ca. 1903
I believe Katherina died in 1903 because Gramma told us that her mother died when she was ten years old, but I do not have a death certificate or other document to prove the death date. My notes also state that she died from asthma, but I don’t have a source for that fact either. It seems likely that George would have buried her with her first born in the Bonifacius cemetery – something to follow up on. I don’t recall Gramma having said much about her mother, probably because she was so young when her mother died, so I have no personal information about her – what kind of person she was. The few photographs I have depict her with her hair always up and wearing somewhat severe clothing – typical of the Victorian era.

During her prime – from age 27 to her death – Katherine witnessed an era of great transportation innovation. The first motorcycle, automobile and airplane were invented during this period. She also experienced three major information technology milestones – the first musical record, Tesla’s invention of the radio, and the first movie being made.

Sources: Birth and death records for Katharine's daughters, New York passenger list, Google, stories from Gramma Pattillo, and other family trees on

Sunday, June 30, 2013

John R Thornally (1882 - 1955) - my Grandfather on my Mother's side

John Roger Thornally was the third son of William Gilliat and Mary Thornalley.  John also had a younger brother Samuel and two sisters, Charlotte and Rosemary.  His older brothers were Will and Harry.  John was born when Chester Arthur was President of the United States, on October 18, 1882 – the same year Franklin D. Roosevelt was born. John was born in Sacramento, California, which is curious.  His parents William and Mary emigrated from England to San Francisco in 1868.  They moved to Oakland in 1871 and remained in Oakland until their deaths.  Their first three children were born in San Francisco.  Sam and Rosemary, the two youngest were born in Oakland.  So why was John born in Sacramento? In all of my research there are no other references to an event occurring in Sacramento in the William and Mary Thornally family, so I may never find an answer.

The family settled in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland and John attended Fruitvale elementary school. Fruitvale had merged with Oakland in the 1870s.  John left school after completing the 7th grade. At this time his family lived on Bray Street (now 34th Avenue) between 14th Street and Old County Road (probably International Boulevard), near what is now the Fruitvale BART station. 
John with grandson Terry by the greenhouse and pond
in his Sybil Avenue backyard
On the 1900 Oakland census John, now 17 was working as a painter.  A 1901 Oakland Tribune  article reported that he was elected steward for the Fruitvale Fire Department, and at the same time his brother Will was elected as a trustee.  This does not mean they were firemen by trade – in those days men of various trades were expected to serve as volunteer firemen. 

When John was 20 he started working for Oakland Iron Works and he continued working there until 1938 when he was 56 years old.  The building that housed the business was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.  It is also a City of Oakland landmark.  The building was constructed in 1882 – the same year John was born.  The founder of the business, Ives Scoville patented the Climax Side Hill Plow in 1878.  The business manufactured all kinds of cast iron machinery and was considered a pioneering operation in the East Bay.  They built steam engines, hoisting gear, and machinery used in mining. An 1884 drawing of the building complex notes that they made marine engines and boilers, sheet and wrought iron products, shafting pulleys and hangers, brass and iron castings, and boiler, ice and refrigeration machinery for breweries, packing houses, cold storage, etc. In 1904 – shortly after John started working there – the name of the company was changed to the United Iron Works.  The business continued under that name until 1955, which interestingly coincides with the year that John died. 
United Iron Works Christmas 1938 - John 2nd row, right with hat and milk bottle

United Iron Works - John in middle of the shop sitting on equipment with a black hat
When John was 23 he married Emma Louise Menge on June 19, 1906 in San Rafael, California.  A few days later the Oakland Tribune ran an announcement of their wedding.  The announcement reads: 
Emma & John with granddaughter Chris


The marriage of John Thornalley and Miss Emma Menge, which took place June 19 at San Rafael, has just been announced, and comes as a great surprise to the friends of the popular couple. Mr. & Mrs. Thornalley have been residents of Fruitvale, but will in future occupy a pretty home on Bay Street, Alameda.   

Note the spelling of Thornalley in the newspaper article.  This is how John’s father and older brother spelled their last name.  John and his other brothers dropped the “e” but it still appears on some documents.  

By 1908 John and Emma had moved to 3517 Elm (now 17th Street) and in 1910 they were living at 1665 35th Avenue – about a block away. Both of these addresses were within the Thornalley Tract in Brooklyn Township, owned by his father. Brooklyn too had been a separate town but merged with Oakland in 1872. They remained on 35th Avenue until 1922 when they had their home built on Sybil Avenue in San Leandro.  Until 1927 that house was located at 604 Sybil Avenue, but in 1927 the city required them to move the house to 636 Sybil – to accommodate the widening of Bancroft Avenue. The city took the house and Grandpa had to buy it back.  He paid $1165 for the property and made a 10% down payment on June 6, 1927. On the 1930 census the home was valued at $4000. In 1940, the value was recorded as $2500. Today, according to it is worth $323,717.
Ed, John, Emma, Lottie & Kathy, Lewis Pattillo
In 1910, when John was 27 the The Oakland Tribune reported on an event that was organized to raise funds so that the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West (NSGW) of Alameda County could participate in the upcoming Admissions Day celebration in San Francisco.  The article described a theater party and vaudeville program, and it mentioned the Athens, Aloha and Fruitvale parlors, as all participating in planning the fund raising events.  A parlor is what they called a chapter of the organization. John and his brother Samuel were both involved – Sam was part of a group who made arrangements for the event and John was on the reception committee.  They were both members of the Fruitvale parlor No. 252 which had 84 members in 1910.  For the event they planned a grand ball which was to be held at the new Eagles Hall on 14th Street near Fruitvale Avenue. According to the article “The proceeds will be used to purchase a banner that will head the Fruitvale “delegation” during the big parade.”  The parade took place on September 8, 1910. 

Below is a photo of Grandpa riding on a horse-drawn wagon in a different parade.  In the photo there is a banner promoting the United Iron Works Local 284 at 2nd and Jefferson Streets, where he worked. It says “Hydraulic and Refrigerating Engineers”. I imagine the banner for the Fruitvale parlor of the Sons and Daughters of the Golden West was similar.
United Iron Works float in parade - John up front in the white hat
The Native Sons of the Golden West was founded July 11, 1875. Its purpose was to preserve pre-Gold Rush California history.  When the Gold Rush began in 1848 the state was overrun by a massive influx of gold seekers.  Native Californians recognized the need to preserve the history of the state.  Some of their first efforts were to raise money to preserve the California missions, Sutter’s Fort and the Customs House in Monterey.  They continue to exist today and continue to install monuments and historical plaques featuring California’s history.  From the beginning, the NSGW was a progressive organization accepting membership from a broad spectrum of California’s diverse population.  Earl Warren, California State Attorney and Governor was a member of the Fruitvale Chapter of the NSGW, and Joseph Knowland, Legislator, Congressman and publisher of the Oakland Tribune was a Grand President of the NSGW. 
John Thornally in Service for America during WWII

John’s mother Mary McGowan Thornally died in 1912 the same year that the Titanic sank, and his father died about year later.  That’s the year that his son John Earnest was born on June 22, 1913.  John Earnest was baptized on June 29th but sadly died July 12, 1913.  Unlike all the other Thornallys John Earnest is buried in Saint Mary’s cemetery adjacent to Mountain View Cemetery.  This is because Emma and her baby were catholic and she believed they had to be buried in a Catholic cemetery. It was another seven years before his daughter Lottie Gertrude was born on Christmas Day in 1919.
John with grandson Terry
While working at Union Iron Works, part of John’s job involved traveling to places where the machinery he built was to be installed.  My collection of family photos includes several pictures from these trips. Most have few or no labels to explain where he was or what kind of equipment he was installing, but I have two post cards he wrote to his shop mates on April 15, 1934 that provide information about his work.  His notes read: “Just a line to tell you that I’m OK and will be home soon, crossed this bridge today.  It’s the highest in the world.  The wind never stops blowing here.  Had 2 snow storms, but it is warm now.  Job is going fine. We had an earthquake yesterday.” And the second card says, “I had to send 2 cards so you could see all the bridge and the rest of Idaho.  Well, this is a great state.  We in California hardly know it. There is a little of everything here, even sage brush and sheep, but no Indians as you fellows told me.

The post cards depict the “Twin Falls-Jerome Bridge-Rim to Rim Snake River Gorge, Idaho. 476 feet – the highest bridge in the world, 1400 feet long.”  It was mailed from Declo, Idaho, and he signed it “Jack” – so at least at work he had a nickname.  Declo is in Cassia County on the southern boundary of Idaho.  In 1940 the population was 238 and in 2010 it had grown to a whopping 343 people.  Declo’s claim to fame is that it has the world’s largest potato processing company. It seems highly likely that Grandpa delivered some equipment needed at the processing plant. According to the 1940 census he was working 40 hours a week and earned $1440 a year.   
Post card written from Declo, Idaho to John's shop mates, April 16, 1934
Another aspect of John’s work that cannot be omitted is the time he spent out of work while on strike. His was an era when labor unions were forming and fighting for better wages and working conditions.  As a result John was often not earning a regular salary, which was a hardship for him and his family. 
John working on an unknown site
About this time is when he bought his cabin in Brookdale, near Santa Cruz, California. The Cabin was on Highway 9 across the street from Brookdale Lodge – so named because it had a stream or “brook” flowing through the restaurant.  He purchased the cabin in 1935 and tried to rent it out at a profit without much success. The family enjoyed several visits there before he sold it in 1946.  The cabin was demolished a few years later to expand Brookdale lodge.  His older brother Henry and his wife Blanch also owned property in the same area, and I suspect that may have influenced John to buy his cabin.

John lived to experience the births of three grandchildren.  After retiring he spent much of his time nurturing his orchids, which he grew in a small greenhouse in the backyard of his Sybil Avenue property.  He sold his orchids to a wholesaler for resale.  John was an amateur plantsman who also hybridized camellias.  

John with Terry as an infant
He died on January 26, 1955, two days after my fifth birthday, from a heart attack, and is buried with his wife in Mountain View Cemetery in plot No. 64.
Ed, Lottie & John


John's signature on his draft registration

1900 to 1940 censuses, WWI and WWII draft registrations, death notice, Oakland Tribune newspaper articles, city directories, family stories and personal knowledge.

Friday, June 28, 2013

David Lincoln Stover (1820 - 1858), my 2nd Great Grandfather on my Father's side

David L. Stover headstone in Elizabethton, Tennessee
David Lincoln Stover – why am I starting with him?  Because I’m intrigued by the Stovers.  Ever since I discovered that our family has a tangible link to President Abraham Lincoln I’ve been possessed by this branch of our family tree.  David was Carrie Brooks Stover’s father.  Carrie Brooks married my great grandfather James William Pattillo, so David is my 2nd great grandfather.

I am intrigued by David in part because I know so little about him and want to know more.  He died young – when he was only 38, so his life was short – that’s one reason I have found so little about him. I don’t even know what caused his death. The state of Tennessee did not start keeping death records until 1908.  He did not serve in the civil war because he died before it started.  That would have been a good source of information – the military kept good records.  Both of his brothers served in the civil war and lived longer, so I know more about them.

Land owned by David L. Stover in Tennessee that he inherited from his father, William Ward Stover who inherited it from Mary Lincoln.
What I do know about David L. Stover is that he was born 25 August 1820 when James Monroe was president of the United States.  Monroe was the 5th US President and served two terms. Monroe was from Virginia, where several generations of our Pattillo ancestors lived.  

One of the interesting things I learned about David is that he was elected to attend the 1840 National Whig Convention when he was only 19 years old.  I found this information in an article - Early History of Carter County 1760 - 1861 published by the Watauga Historical Association.  About the same time his brother Daniel attended a similar convention in Knoxville.  So this branch of our ancestral tree was politically engaged at a national level.  The town of Elizabethton strongly supported the Union during the Civil War though they were overruled by the majority of the state which supported the Confederates, and voted to secede from the Union.

Me in the Great Smoky Mountains, April 2012
When David was 27 he was involved in a lawsuit Nelson v. Powell. David was one of the administrators of his uncle, Samuel Drake’s estate.  The dispute was about who should inherit the land that had been owned by another uncle, John Drake.  Samuel and John each inherited land from their father, Abraham Drake.  John suffered from some sort of mental disorder it seems, so he never married and he lived his adult life with his brother Samuel.  At the hearing David testified that he believed that John intended to leave his share of the land to his brother Samuel, in part because John understood that their father Abraham had wanted the land kept together – not divided up into smaller plots.  During the court proceedings, David’s aunt Eliza Drake Nelson, represented by her husband Carrick Nelson, claimed they were entitled to inherit John’s portion of the land.   I don’t know how the judge ruled.  

When David was 29 he married Joanna Gaines on 13 January 1848, the same year that gold was discovered in California, and while James K. Polk was in the White House.  They were married in Madison County, Florida by J.Z. Ardis, which seems noteworthy – Florida was a long way from Tennessee.  How did they meet?  Was Joanna from Florida?  I don’t know yet and that is driving me a little crazy.  It's what genealogists call a "brick wall".  Between November of 1848 and 1858 they had six children – four girls - Sarah, Carrie, Mary and Elizabeth, and two boys – William and David Gaines Stover. When David died he left his land to his son David.  I think his son William had died, though I don’t have documentation of that yet. 

County Court House, Elizabethton, TN
David is named on another legal document that I found in the Carter County Court House dated 6 August 1855.  This document is a deed between Robert J. Allen, David L. Stover and James Carriger.  I don’t know who either of the other two parties were. According to the deed, Robert sold David a tract of land for $1 and it was to serve as security for a $267.95 debt owed by Robert to James Carriger.  Robert was to pay Carriger back not later than December 25th, and if he failed to do so David was supposed to sell the plot of land to the highest bidder, pay Carriger in full and give whatever was left to Robert.

David was a relatively wealthy man having inherited land from his father William Ward Stover. William inherited the land from Mary Lincoln, the widow of Isaac Lincoln. Mary left the land to William in her will along with several slaves and other property.  On the 1850 Carter County, Tennessee census the home David and his family owned was appraised at $3025 – nothing by today’s standards, but a lot of money at that time. According to the Lincoln Family Magazine, written and edited by William Montgomery Clemens, “David Lincoln Stover, son of William Stover, built a large frame house near the site of the old Lincoln home.  This house still stands.” That was in written in 1916 – the house no longer exists.
Me in the Great Smoky Mountains

David owned seven slaves, aged 7 to 70, who worked on his plantation. The large frame house was on the Blue Spring Branch of the Watauga River in District 9 of Elizabethton (near Wagners Island).  Elizabethton is in far eastern Tennessee and is where I visited for a week in April of 2012.  I flew to Atlanta, Georgia and drove north through South Caroline to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park which is partly in South Carolina and the northern part is in Tennessee.  I visited other places, with family connections as I drove northeast paralleling the Appalachia Mountains to Johnson City where I stayed four nights.  

View driving towards the town on Elizabethton where our ancestors settled in 1782
Driving from Johnson City toward Elizabethton, where four generations of our ancestors lived and died, I came up and over a gentle rise and as the view opened up to the valley below I gasped out loud because it was so beautiful.  At that moment I understood why they chose Eastern Tennessee and during the next four days that feeling was reinforced over and over.  The valley provided excellent farm land, the Doe and Watauga Rivers that weave through the valley provided fresh water, and the surrounding hills provided protection and lumber.  David spent his entire life in this place and is buried on the land he and his family owned.  After two attempts and tips from a fellow local genealogist I found his grave in a small plot, enclosed by a low chain link fence.  He is buried with Isaac and Mary Lincoln and two others whose headstones are no long legible.  The plot is in a backyard on private property about 100 yards from the Watauga River.  The plot is known as the Isaac Lincoln burying ground.  His wife Joanna died 43 years later and is buried in Stevens County, Texas where their eldest daughter Sarah Stover lived at the time of Joanna's death.

Isaac Lincoln Burying Ground where David L. Stover is buried along with Isaac & Mary Lincoln

Sources for this post include: Correspondence with Dale Jenkins and Robert Nave, notes from the Daniel Stover Sr. family bible, Early History of Carter County 1760-1861, the Drake Family History by Donald Drake, Madison Co, Florida Marriage Records 1837-1974, The Lincoln Family Magazine 1916-17, a slave census and the 1850 US Census.