21 November 2013

NE/SD Family History Road Trip (part 6)

Day 8, Saturday, Oct. 25

Time to head for home. We had an afternoon flight to catch in Omaha, so we headed over to I-29 south, which took us through Elk Point, Union County, SD where my Grandpa Ogden was born. It also took us along the Missouri River into Iowa, our fourth state in a week. We stopped in Sioux City for breakfast. They had some pictures on display of the long-gone Sioux City Corn Palace. I never knew that there was more than one of them.

All in all it was a great trip. We got in all that we wanted to do. We had great weather. I got to visit the graves of six of my eight great-grandparents, three of my great-great-grandparents and one of my third-great-grandfathers. I saw, photographed and took soil samples from six farms. My wife got to see where Willa Cather lived and visit a quilt museum and a quilt shop. Next vacation we go wherever she wants and do whatever she wants. She earned that and more.

20 November 2013

NE/SD Family History Road Trip (part 5)

Day 7, Friday, Oct. 25

Our last day of planned family history activity began by heading to the small town of Kaylor, Hutchinson County, SD. West-southwest of Kaylor was the site of an earlier farm of JR Ogden, in Sharon Township. He was there from about 1879 to somewhere before 1885. It’s going to take another road trip to look at land records to sort out exactly who lived where when. Maybe a bunch of letters to courthouses would be easier.

Leaving Kaylor, we headed for Scotland—Scotland, SD that is, in Bon Homme County. My third-great-grandfather, John Gibbon had settled near there in about 1873. Originally from Scotland (probably from Aberdeenshire), he lived for several years in Ontario, Canada before moving to SD. One of my favorite pictures is him and his second wife seated outside there sod house with their grandson, William Ogden, my mom’s grandfather. John died in 1889, the year South Dakota became a state.

We started in Rose Hill Cemetery looking for the graves of Gibbons. We quickly located a Gibbon marker that marked the family plot William Gibbon’s family. He is one of three sons of John Gibbon, a 2nd great granduncle. There was also a very old marker for Margaret Gibbon with no years on it. That must be a marker for his sister because his mother, Margaret Gibbon died in Ontario. I suppose it’s possible that they put up a marker for her there in Scotland. It’ll take some more research to sort it out.

We looked around for quite a while to find the other Gibbon graves, but could find nothing. Since it was lunch time, we headed into town. We ate at a small “diner” in a corner of a gas station. It appears to be the place for lunch in town as several people came in to eat while we were there. After explaining what we were doing in town (I’m so lucky that my wife will talk to anyone), one of the women working there suggested we visit the City Finance office where the cemetery records are kept. 

We had some time to kill since the women who ran the office was out to lunch until 1. We started by doing some shopping at a small department store in town. The smell when we walked in took me right back to a similar store my Grandpa Ogden ran in Martin, SD when I was a kid. We bought some t-shirts for us and the grandkids (my stepson’s fiancé is from Scotland, the country) and some post cards. We mailed the cards from the Scotland post office to the grandkids, who live in Hong Kong. Those may be the first pieces of mail ever sent from Scotland, SD to Hong Kong. We still had time, so we headed a little way west out of town to the site of John Gibbon’s farm in Washington Township.

By then we could visit the City Finance Department, which is located in a small office in the back of the fire station. Linda, the woman who works there, was very helpful. She pulled out her file of index cards, found the info on John Gibbon’s plot and gave us a cemetery map to show just where to look. Even with that help it took us a while to find the grave markers, but find them we did. John and his second wife, Isabella, are buried near his oldest son, James.

With that we had finished all of the family history work I had planned for us. We headed back to spend the night in Vermillion. Before checking into the hotel we stopped at the National Music Museum on the USD campus. They have a collection of over 15,000 instruments from around the world and from several centuries. Being a tuba player, my focus was on the serpents, ophicleides and other early low brass instruments. 

They also have pictures up of the members of the SD Bandmasters Hall of Fame. I was disappointed that my high school band teacher, Jack Knowles, is not included. Milo Hamilton, the band director from crosstown rival Stevens High is there. I played under him a few times in the all-city band.

(to be continued)

19 November 2013

NE/SD Family History Road Trip (part 4)

Day 6, Thursday, Oct. 24

Thursday we headed east for Geddes, SD passing through Yankton and Bon Homme County on our way there. Our first stop was the cemetery. It did not take us long to find the graves of another set of great-grandparents, William and Mary (Herren) Ogden. We also found the graves of Mary’s parents, my great-great-grandparents John and Julia (Adelbush) Herren.

After the cemetery, we headed out to find the farms of my ancestors in Charles Mix County. I had located the descriptions of the farms and maps of their locations at the General Land Office website of the Bureau of Land Management. I was able to use Google Maps to find them and figure out how to get there. The first one was a doozy. It was the farm of John Frederick Herren, who owned the northwest quarter of section 29 and the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 30 in Jackson Township. I had expected we’d be on some unpaved back roads, but the “Minimal Maintenance” sign we passed made me question the wisdom of our quest. It was worth the effort though--his land was high on a bluff from which you can see the Missouri River to the south. Very picturesque. He farmed there from about 1895 to 1910. It was his second farm in SD, the first being somewhere in Union County.

John Herren's farm in Jackson Twp., Charles Mix Co., SD
The next two farms were easier to find. James Robert Ogden’s was northeast of Geddes in Moore Township, as was his son’s William Ogden’s. JR farmed there from about 1882 to 1895, when he headed farther west to Rapid City, where he and his wife are buried. William was on his farm from sometime in the late 1890s to between 1906 and 1910.

James Robert Ogden's farm in Moore Twp., Charles Mix Co., SD

William F. Ogden's farm in Moore Twp., Charles Mix Co., SD
After visiting all of the sites in Charles Mix County, it was on to Mitchell, SD for the night. We of course had to visit the Corn Palace. There is not much else to see or do in Mitchell. 

Heading back to our hotel room after a dip in the indoor swimming pool, we met a group of pheasant hunters who like us were from the Chicago suburbs, Frankfort, Bourbonnais and a third one that I cannot recall. 

(to be continued)

18 November 2013

NE/SD Family History Road Trip (part 3)

Before leaving O'Neill, we stopped off at the quilt store so I could drop off the family history of our parents’ family that I had written in 2006 for my dad’s 80th birthday. My cousin Julie wasn't there yet, so I left it with one of her employees and my wife bought a pattern for a patchwork quilt skirt for our granddaughter. Then it was on to Creighton, NE.

We were early in arriving in Creighton so we drove around a little (very little since it’s so small) and saw the Catholic church, which is a newer construction than the building where my grandparents were baptized and married and where their kids (except for my dad) were baptized.

We went to the café and Pat arrived with her 86-year-old aunt, Flora Jean, who was married to my dad’s first cousin, Lawrence Mattern. Pat is my second cousin through one of my dad’s other Mattern cousins. Phyllis, one of my dad’s other cousins who still lives in Creighton, had business in Norfolk, NE that day so she was not able to join us. I learned that Mary Ann, another of my dad’s cousins with whom I had corresponded had passed away a couple of years ago.

Flora Jean knew our great-grandparents, John and Mary Huigens. She remembers them as very kind and warm people. I shared some of the documents and pictures I had brought about John and Mary’s life near Henry, IL and that of their parents. They told us how to find John and Mary’s old house in Creighton, but did not know where the farm was located. I had been unable to get the 1903 Knox County plat map I have to match up with Google maps and was counting on someone there being able to direct me. Pat and her husband own an appliance repair business and have a current plat map, so she took a copy of the old map with her to figure out who lives there now. Flora Jean also gave me a wonderful photocopy of a pair of large photos of John and Mary.

After we said good-by to Pat and Flora Jean, we drove by John and Mary's house. 

Julie knows the location of the house of our other great-grandparents, Frank and Margaret (Kennedy) Kain, but she couldn't figure out a good way to explain how to find it. She didn't know the address, just how to find it if she needed to.

Our next stop was St. Ludger's Cemetery. My brother and mother had been to Creighton three years ago and had sent me lots of photos of grave markers, but it was nice to be able to visit in person and pay my respects. My brother said it was strange seeing our rare name all over on tombstones. It did seem like every few feet Anne Marie and I were finding another Huigens grave marker. Not to mention Tharnishes and Matterns. We found the graves of both sets of great-grandparents who are buried there and that of a great-great-grandmother, Mary's mother.

Although we didn't find the Kain's house in town, I had, been able to find their farm in the 1903 plat map and had succeeded in locating it’s location on Google maps. We drove by the farm and I collected a small sample of dirt from it on our way out of town after visiting the cemetery. It felt good to be at the site where my Grandma Julia had been born. 

As we headed north to South Dakota, we passed through the little town of Bazille Mills, which my grandmother claimed as her birthplace.

Later that evening, we crossed over the Missouri River into South Dakota, land of my birth. OK, so I was born hundreds of miles from where we were, but still. We spent the night in Vermillion, home of the University of South Dakota, where several of my high school classmates had attended college. We stayed across from the street from the Dakota Dome, the schools stadium. I had been to USD a couple of times with the high school French Club to attend plays in French by Moliere and Ionesco. I probably also played there with the high school marching band. That was so long ago, I don’t remember everywhere that we played.

(to be continued)

17 November 2013

NE/SD Family History Road Trip (part 2)

Day 4, Tuesday, Oct. 22

On Tuesday, we drove from Grand Island to Osceola, NE to visit my mom’s sister and her husband, Roselyn and Alan. They have a lovely home that, like ours, is next to a fire station and has freight train tracks running nearby. Their basement walls are covered with family photos of their five children (my first cousins including Nancy who lives in Grand Island), their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. Several years ago they made a trip to Sweden and visited Locknevi, where my great-great-grandparents, Carl Jacob and Christina (Jonsdotter) Johnson, lived when my great-grandfather Gustaf was born. They even have a painting of the house where he was born.

After lunch with them, we drove 122 miles north to O’Neill, NE. This is a photo of a barn quilt square we saw on our drive. 

In O’Neill we visited my cousin Julie, who I had not seen since our Aunt Toots’s funeral in 1976. Julie is the daughter of my dad’s sister, Berneice AKA Babe. She manages a quilt shop in O’Neill, which is where we met her. (The quilt leitmotif to this tale was for the benefit of my wife, who loves all things quilt related. I really appreciate her for making this trek with me and tried to do everything I could to keep it interesting for her.)

Julie and I talked a lot of family history. She says I look like my father, which I get a lot. She shared with me the story of how her parents met. Her mother served in Europe as a WAC in WWII. After she returned from the war, she took a job as a switchboard operator in O’Neill. She used her GI Bill money to take flying lessons out at the airport. One day she met Louis Coker, who was a pilot, and he became my Uncle Louie. Her mother did get her pilot’s license, but never had a driver’s license.

One of our great-grandparents, John and Mary (Fitzler) Huigens, our parent’s paternal grandparents, died 38 miles due east of O’Neill in Creighton, NE during the blizzard of 1949. The roads were impassable, so Louie flew Aunt Babe to the funeral. There are advantages to knowing how to fly a plane.

She also told me the story of how our parent’s mother, our Grandma Julia, came home from church one Sunday, opened the trunk of the car and discovered she had forgotten to deliver the Memorial Day flower arrangements. She uttered a four-letter expletive for manure, a word I cannot imagine my grandmother using. This caused my Aunt Babe and Aunt Sis to laugh until their sides hurt, although my grandmother saw no humor in the situation.

Julie then took us out to the cemetery where her mother is buried, so I could pay my respects. We both had a good cry. Then she showed me the grave of our grandmother’s sister and her husband, Leo and Margaret (Kain) Carney.

After we said good-bye to Julie, we headed to our hotel in O’Neill, NE. That evening I got an email and a phone call from a second cousin from Creighton that found me through this blog. I had let her know that I would be visiting and we made arrangements to meet at a café in Creighton the next morning. 

(to be continued)

16 November 2013

NE/SD Family History Road Trip (part 1)

My wife, Anne Marie and I just completed an eight day family history road trip around eastern Nebraska and south-eastern South Dakota.  We drove more than 1100 miles in four states to visit my aunt and uncle, one of my first cousins, a new-found second cousin of mine, three cemeteries and six farm sites.

Days 1 and 2, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19 and 20

We started by flying from Chicago to Omaha, renting a car and driving to Lincoln, NE to visit my daughter and her significant-other/boyfriend, Blake. Over the weekend we saw the flood plain garden Blake works on for the city’s park department and two other lovely city parks near their house, Sunken Gardens and a rose garden. We visited the Quilt Museum on the University of Nebraska campus and saw three great quilt exhibits. We also took a tour of the Nebraska state capitol building. Fun fact: when Nebraska became a state, there were twelve trees in the entire state. Twelve. We toured the impressive new preschool where my daughter works as an Intake Counselor for a Head Start program. We had a very lovely time with them seeing the sights of Lincoln, NE. That makes six state capitols my wife and I have visited together in six years of marriage (Springfield, IL, Des Moines, IA, Madison, WI, Phoenix, AZ, St. Paul, MN and Lincoln, NE). 44 more years of marriage and we’ll have seen all 50 of them (and be 100+ years old).

Day 3, Monday, Oct. 21

My wife wanted to visit Red Cloud, NE where the Willa CatherFoundation has preserved the house she grew up in. We drove the 150 miles from Lincoln to Red Cloud and found the foundation’s headquarters where we watched a 20-minute video biography of Willa. I bought a book of her short stories in the gift shop. We toured her childhood home led by a retired schoolteacher who taught Cather to students for three decades.  The house is an historical treasure. The foundation has tracked down many of the items auctioned off after her parents’ deaths and has restored them to the house. Her attic bedroom still has the wallpaper Willa hung herself. It must be every family historian’s dream to have an ancestor’s house restored and preserved like that. I know it is something that I would love to see. 

We drove five miles south of town to see the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. It consists of more than 600 acres that have never been plowed and from which they have removed all the non-native trees. We walked the paths around and across the grasslands. My wife had never experienced the Great Plains before and found it all very beautiful.

 Afterwards we drove south for less than a mile so we could cross the border into Kansas and add another state to our list. (Come on, it counts!) We drove north to Grand Island, NE to spend the night. We missed getting to see my cousin Nancy who lives there. Her son had gotten married that weekend in Colorado.

(to be continued)