Monday, August 18, 2014

Soldiers' Mail

Joseph Kenedy Masterson, my grandfather, was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Europe in July 1918 as part of the American Expeditionary Forces. He was 23 years old.

Grandpa was born and raised in New Hope, Kentucky, a tiny farming town. Everybody in and around New Hope not only knew everybody else, but the chances that they were cousins were very high. Ken met and began courting Mary Ethel Peake of New Haven (six miles from New Hope) before being drafted into the military.

Grandpa corresponded with Ethel while he was away–she kept all his letters and postcards. He closed his first letter to her written from boot camp with "lots of love & kisses to my sweet little Wife" and addressed her as "Dear" and "Deariest" in all of his correspondence during the War. Although he tended to tease her about flirting with the French and German girls, it was obvious from his letters that he was lonely and was anxious to return home to marry her.

The postcard to the right was postmarked July 30, 1918. Notice he wrote a "K" (for Ken) on the soldier's sleeve and an "E" (for Ethel) on the woman's sleeve. Under the printed words of GOOD-BYE, SWEETHEART he wrote "Until this war is over over there." At the bottom of the card he wrote "From your little one Dear excuse writting [sic] as I am on the train and cant steady my arm." On the other side of the postcard, he wrote:
"Hello Ethel how are you. Well I am on my way but I don't know where. We just passed through Paducah & sure had a nice time there. The Red Cross girls gave us all the ice cream we could eat & the best of all they gave us there addresses & told us to be sure & write to them. haha"

The next card we see is a Safe Arrival notice postmarked August 1, 1918.

Every letter from that point on was reviewed and signed off by a censor.  Below shows that the censor approved this letter from January 15, 1919 by signing on the last page of the letter and on the envelope.

Knowing that his letters would be read by a stranger must have made it very awkward for Ken to express any tender feelings he had for Ethel. But on March 31, 1919, he expressed his concern that she would not wait for his return.

"...if the girls keep marring [sic] like they have been, there won't be any one left for me, for I know the next marriage I hear of, will be you. I am ...


"...looking every day for some one to send me the clippings saying you have gotten married, so then I know I will be out of luck. But dear, dont forget me, for I wont always be in this God forsaken country, I'll be coming back to you some day, or at least I hope so."
This letter was four pages long and across the top, one word per page, he wrote: "I'll Keep My Promise."

Ken was discharged from the Army on May 21, 1919 and, after a short visit home with his family, he went to Copley Township, Illinois, to work as a hired hand on a farm where he had often worked before being drafted. Ethel's father moved their family to St. Augustine, Illinois, in 1920, which brought them within 35 miles of each other. Ken would travel to St. Augustine by train and Ethel would come into town to spend the day with him. They were married on December 29, 1921.

I never met Grandpa–he died at the age of 48, when my father was ten years old. If it hadn't been for the Soldiers' Mail, we would not have known him at all.

Visit the Sepia Saturday blog to see other letters home from the front, or from school, or from summer camp.

Thanks for dropping by.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Not Wedding Wednesday or Wordless Wednesday

My PC's desktop wallpaper cycles through my family photos every few hours and this photo comes up randomly. Last Sunday, I was admiring it for the umpteenth time and decided that I would schedule a blog post for Wordless Wednesday; then decided that since it was a wedding photo I would post it for Wedding Wednesday and write something about the couple.

The photo has been annotated as "James Cecil and Minnie Peake, c 1915." As I looked at my family file for Minnie Peake, I noticed that I never recorded her marriage nor did I have any death info or children or anything for her! So, I set out to discover the family. The first thing I did was to check–they had a death certificate for "Mrs. James Cecil" in Kentucky. That must be her, I thought, and pulled up the image. But wait. Written above "Mrs. James Cecil" on the death certificate was "Mary Ella"! What??!?? I continued my online searches and found a marriage record on for Lorenzo Cecil and Ella Peak on 25 January 1915 in Louisville, Jefferson county, Kentucky.

Mary Ella Peake and Minnie Peake were sisters. Mary Ella was born May 1896 and Minnie was born January 1898. How did the wrong names get written on this wonderful wedding photo? It appears that whomever wrote on the back of the wedding photo married James Lorenzo Cecil to the wrong sister.

And is this other photo I have that is marked as Minnie Peake also her sister Mary Ella? She looks just like the bride in the wedding photo above.

I'm fairly certain that this family photo taken around 1905 has Mary Ella and Minnie labeled correctly (I added the names on the front for purposes of this blog post).

Mary Ella, who went by the name Ella, is in every census from 1900 to 1930, first with her parents John O. and Martha L. (Fogle) Peake, then with her husband James Lorenzo Cecil. She and Lorenzo had 10 known children. Lorenzo registered for the draft in 1917 but claimed total disability due to the loss of his thumb and index finger off his left hand. This disability did not seem to keep him from working as a house carpenter in 1920, nor from working his home farm in 1930.

But what became of the sister Minnie? The last record I find for her is in the 1920 census living with her uncle (my great-grandfather) Robert Damascus Peake in Trappist, Nelson county, Kentucky. She was 21 years old, single, and working as a public school teacher. She seems to have dropped off the face of the earth after that. Did she die? get married? whisked away by renegades and taken to their hide-away when the census taker came around? I may never know.

Instead of either Wedding Wednesday or Wordless Wednesday, it's Wondering Wednesday for me!

Thanks for dropping by.

Wedding Wednesday and Wordless Wednesday are daily blogging prompts from GeneaBloggers.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hot on the Trail

When I saw the image prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday challenge, I was dismayed. The image was a 1902 photo of a man arrested for False Pretences holding a placard with his name and the charges. As far as I know, I don't have any criminals or con man skeletons lurking in my closet. About the best I could come up with is a photo of great-uncle Lee (star of That's No Lady…) holding up a "Just Married" sign with his new wife standing on one side of him and his mother (of Great-Grandma was a mischief maker fame) on the other.

As I started to write the disappointing blog post, I remembered this newspaper clipping. I saw it in 2003, framed and hanging on the wall in one of my aunt's homes near Chicago. I have been unsuccessfully looking for the source in various newspaper archives ever since.
    "Vincent Heinz, 28 years old, and Steve Rubino, 30, were arrested yesterday by agents of the federal alcohol tax unit. They were charged with possessing and manufacturing untaxed alcohol after the agents raided a 200 gallon still in Heinz's home on Skokie road near Simpson Street, Skokie.
    "Heinz is a cousin of Theodore Heinz chief of police in Skokie, who recently testified before the grand jury investigating gambling in Cook County. Chief Heinz said he knew nothing of the activities of his cousin.
    "United States Commissioner Edwin K. Walker continued the case against the two men until Tuesday and released them on bond. Rubino lives at 3039 Lexington Avenue and operates a gasoline station at Washington Road and Dempster Street, Morton Grove."
Vincent Heinz was my grandfather. Based on his stated age of 28 years, this arrest happened between November 10, 1942 and November 9, 1943. I figured it was again time to try to find the newspaper in which it was published and fired a shot in the dark by sending an email via the Ask a Librarian feature at the Skokie Public Library. Jackpot! A copy of the clipping was in my email inbox the next morning. The article was published in the Chicago Daily Tribune on November 30, 1941. It seems either grandpa lied about his age, or the newspaper reporter got it wrong.  

My mother, who would have just turned 8 at the time, remembers that the door to the basement in their home on Skokie Road was kept locked and they were told to never go down there. She also remembers some men with axes going down to the basement one night when she and her sisters were home with a sitter. 

I don't have any mug shots of Grandpa Vince, but here is one of him with wife number 2 a few years after the arrest. They are in a bar, probably the one that he leased in Chicago.
He must not have spent any time in prison because Mom doesn't remember him being absent for any length of time. She seemed to be as surprised as I was when seeing the newspaper clipping hanging on that wall 11 years ago. Even though Grandpa operated taverns his entire adult life, and apparently made his own alcohol which he presumably sold in those taverns, Vince never drank the stuff.  

Now that I know when this arrest was made, I am hot on the trail to find his arrest and trial records. This is going to be fun! It's an entirely new learning experience for me to obtain records from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). There is a fascinating press release from 2008 that tells the history of ATF through the badge changes here. And a whole lot more history on their website here. I had wondered why anyone would make their own liquor after the Prohibition ended. Turns out that it was much cheaper because of the taxes levied on alcohol and that the reason it was illegal was the non-payment of those taxes. Sometimes I am stunned by my naiveté.  

Now skedaddle over to this week's Sepia Saturday blog to see the criminals, spies, con men, and others operating under false pretenses found in their families.

Oh, you're disappointed that you didn't get to see great-uncle Lee with his sign? Well, I wouldn't want that. Here it is. Isn't Grandpa Vince's arrest a much better response to the challenge?

Thanks for dropping by.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Great-grandma was a mischief maker

If the proverb "A girl unemployed is thinking of mischief" is true, then my great-grandmother Frances (Bye) Jackson had way too much time on her hands. I have lots of photos with her being mischievous. Here are some of my favorites.

This is probably where Frances got started with her funky photos. She is the young girl pulling the cart. Her mother, my 2xgreat-grandmother Julianna Bye is "driving". The young boy is Frances' nephew, Julian Tvedt. This photo is taken around 1900, most likely in Kennebunk, Maine.

Frances also kept up with the current fashions. This photo of her wearing knickers must have been quite scandalous at the time. Then she promptly turned around and grabbed her ankles to get a perfect shot of her bum. Obviously, the devil made her do it.

She must have gotten the idea for this one from her mother (see the first photo above). Frances is the one with the tire around her neck. 

Her playful nature continued into her golden years. Here she is riding her grand-daughter's bike, pretending to race their old dog. She was at least 60 years old in this photo. She wrote on the back "Just me, but I won the race."

Visit the Sepia Saturday blog to see how others responded to this week's challenge.

Thanks for dropping by.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

That’s No Lady…

Alan gave us this intriguing photo for this week's Sepia Saturday challenge and invited us to "go to the ballet, or the dancehall, or the theatre or anywhere you find lots of chiffon and over-dramatic poses."
What he doesn't tell us is that the ladies depicted in the photo are not ladies—they are all men! That is the theme I have chosen for my contribution to this challenge.

My grand-uncle Lee attended an all-boys school in Chicago from about 1938 to about 1941 when he enlisted in the Army. From all accounts, he was always a comedian and show-man, taking every opportunity to entertain those around him. The school put on a production where every single part was played by a male student. The family story says that Uncle Lee was so delighted with how well his costume and makeup turned out that he arrived at his mother's house in full regalia. She didn't recognize her own son!

This is the entire cast of that play. The back of the photo is written: "Lee Jackson - second from left - an all boys school – Chicago."
This is a photo of Lee about the same time. What do you think? Is he the 2nd from the left in the school play? He's got a really pretty face, especially with those nice full lips.
Visit the Sepia Saturday blog to see what theme others have chosen to answer this week's challenge.

Thanks for dropping by.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Real Aunt Jack

Ethel Jackson about 1910
Ethel Jackson, or “Aunt Jack”, was the only sibling of my great-grandfather Harry Edward Jackson. Harry lived with his family in and around Boston, Massachusetts until my great-grandmother Frances packed up their four children and moved to Chicago to live with another man. The children never saw their father again and no one in the family even knew he had died until Ethel wrote to them about six months after his death. She had evidently disposed of all Harry’s assets before informing his family. She was never heard from again and she died an old maid. 

That’s the family legend. This is the real story as it is gleaned from public records.

Ethel Camilla Jackson, daughter of John Harry Jackson and Ida Estella Whittemore, was born on 17 September 1886 in Ashland, Middlesex county, Massachusetts.[1] Her father had moved to Ashland between 1870 and 1879 where he worked as a hat blocker and then as a boot maker, probably working in the same boot shop as his future father-in-law. John and Ida were married in Ashland in 1881 and their first child Harry followed barely nine months later. It was another four years before Ethel came along, their second and last child (according to the 1900 and 1910 population schedules, Ida was the mother of two children). 

99 High Street in Malden, Mass as it
appears today. (Google Earth)
By 1900, John had moved the small family to 99 High Street in Malden, Massachusetts, abandoning his career in boot making and taking up that of “market meat cutter”.[2] We next see the family in 1910 residing at 378 Bowdoin  Street in Boston. By this time Harry had married and set up his own household. Ethel was 23, living at home with her parents, single, and attending school, presumably college but I have found no direct evidence for that assumption[3].

John died in 1915 at 333 Quincy Street in Boston[4]. In 1920, Ethel and her widowed mother Ida were lodgers at 16 Sayward Street in Boston. Ida was working as a stitcher of neckwear and Ethel, still single, was a teacher at a commercial college.[5] Ida, Ethel, and Harry’s daughter Signa made a trip out to Coronado Beach, California in June 1922 to visit Ida’s sister-in-law Annette (Aunt Nettie) Jackson. 

"Coronado Beach Ladies", June 23, 1922:
Ida, Nettie, Signa, and Ethel Jackson
Ida died in 1924[6]. By 1930, Ethel was living alone at 88 Charles Street, Boston. She was still single and still employed as a college teacher.[7] No public records have been found of Ethel for another twelve years so we switch our focus for a moment to her brother Harry.

Although Harry seems to be absent from the 1930 census, we know that he was living somewhere in Boston from 1932 to 1936. These were the years that he was filing divorce claims with the Suffolk County Probate Court. His initial claim filed in 1932 charged his wife Frances with being unfaithful in Boston “on or about the 15th day of October 1928” and of being guilty of “cruel and abusive treatment” of him.[8] Frances and their children are enumerated in the 1930 census for Chicago with Allan Wendergren, boarder[9], whom we now know to be her lover.
Ethel and brother Harry probably
late 1930s
Neither Harry nor Ethel ever saw Harry’s children again and the family believes that they made very little contact with them from that point forward. Since none of those children are alive today, we will probably never be certain if that is true. It is my belief, however, that someone was in communication with them because we are in possession of some photos of Harry with his winter home in Florida—something that he did not own before the divorce. Given the circumstances of the divorce, it is not inconceivable that Ethel would hold some resentment towards Frances and, by extension, her children.

Both Ethel and Harry are missing from the 1940 census. Harry died on 27 December 1941 in Tampa, Florida[10] where he spent his winters in his semi-retirement from the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad. Ethel was the informant on Harry’s death certificate and gave her Boston address as the same as Harry’s usual residence. She also gave his marital status as ”Married”, although the divorce had been final for nearly ten years. His body was removed to Ashland, Massachusetts on 2 January 1942 for burial in his mother’s family plot at Wildwood cemetery. Ethel waited several months before informing Harry’s children of their father’s death. The family believes she had disposed of his assets before informing them because none of the children received any of Harry’s personal possessions.[11]
Harry's winter home in Tampa, Florida
This is the last any of the grandchildren knew of Ethel—she was still single when Harry died and as far as the family knew, she never married. Imagine my surprise when, as I was searching for online records for Ethel, I found a North Carolina death record for her with the surname Bridgham and spouse Albert S. [sic] Bridgham.[12] This discovery has made it possible to find some of the rest of the story.

Albert Fayette Bridgham, son of Levi Bridgham and Fannie Morrill Bradbury, was born on 11 March 1891 in Dexter, Penobscot county, Maine.[13] He married Emily R. Malcome (or Malcomb) about 1916 and had two children: Jean A. Bridgham (born about 1918) and Frederick A. Bridgham (born about 1920)[14]. Albert was a business school teacher in the Boston area at Burdett College, which has since been closed.[15] It is possible that Ethel also taught at that school, which would explain how the two met. Emily died in 1941; Ethel and Albert were married sometime after that and they moved to North Carolina before 1961. 

Ethel died on 13 November 1961 in Salisbury, Rowan county, North Carolina at age 75, and was cremated on 15 November  in Winston-Salem, Forsyth county, North Carolina. The cause of her death was “natural causes - cause undetermined (sudden)”.[16] Her ashes are interred in the Bridgham family plot at Mount Pleasant cemetery, Dexter, Penobscot county, Maine.[17]  Albert followed Ethel in death on 29 December 1965 in Salisbury at age 74, and was cremated on 31 December in Winston-Salem. The cause of his death was “natural causes, causes undetermined, no evidence of foul play”. [18] His ashes are also interred in the Bridgham family plot at Mount Pleasant cemetery in Dexter, Maine.[19]

It is clear that more research must be done to complete Ethel’s story. It might be interesting to track down Albert’s children or grandchildren to hear what they know about her. Since none of Harry’s living descendants ever met her, it would be interesting to get to know the real Aunt Jack.

Ethel Camilla Jackson Bridgham certificate of death.

By now, my fellow Sepians are scratching their heads wondering what any of this has to do with this week's Sepia Saturday challenge—no boats, water, steamers, piers, or writing on photographs in sight. But the main thing I  noticed in the image prompt were the TREES, especially the tall one in the foreground. It immediately brought to mind the top photo of Ethel with the trees. So naturally I had to blog about her.  Nearly all of my photos in this story has a tree in it, or at least a bush. Find out how other interpreted this week's image prompt by following the links on the Sepia Saturday blog.

Thanks for dropping by.

Source Citations

[1] North Carolina State Board of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, death certificate 123 (1961), Ethel Camilla Jackson Bridgham; digital image,, "North Carolina Death Certificates, 1909-1975,"( : accessed 9 Jan 2011).
[2] 1900 U.S. census, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, population schedule, Malden, enumeration district (ED) 831, sheet 10A, p. 154 (stamped), dwelling 178, family 225, John H. Jackson household; digital images, ( : accessed 14 Jan 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 662.
[3] 1910 U.S. census, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, Boston Ward 20, enumeration district (ED) 1564, sheet 13A, p. 12 (stamped), dwelling 203, family 310, John H. Jackson household; digital images, ( : accessed 24 Jul 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 622.
[4] "Massachusetts, Deaths, 1841-1915", 352, no. 8588, John H. Jackson; digital image, "Deaths Registered in the City of Boston," FamilySearch ( 26 Sep 2011); Massachusetts State Archives, Massachusetts Division of Vital Statistics, State House, Boston, Massachusetts. United States.
[5] 1920 Census for Boston, Suffolk county, Massachusetts, Record Type: 1920U.S. Census, Location: Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Fhl FilmNo: 1820737, Record Info: population schedule, Film: Micropublication Series T625, Roll 737, William G. Brown household, Boston, ED 430, SD 6, sheet 4B, dwelling 58, family 83, lines 80-85, enumerated on 9 January 1920.
[6] Town of Ashland, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, deaths recorded with the Ashland Town Clerk (1924), Ida Estelle Jackson.
[7] 1930 U.S. census, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 150, sheet 12A, p. 130 (stamped), family 3, Ethel C. Jackson; digital images, ( : accessed 7 Dec 2002); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 945.
[8] Suffolk County Probate Court: Harry Edward Jackson vs. Frances O. Jackson; Divorce Case Docket No. 11502 (1932).
[9] 1930 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago city, precinct 7, ward 46th pt, block 123, enumeration district (ED) 1699, sheet 6B, dwelling 61A, family 100A, Francis Jackson; digital images, ( : accessed 16 Jan 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 488.
[10] Florida State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate State file no. 23594, Registrar's no. 1368 (1941), Harry Edward Jackson.
[11] Interview of Harry’s granddaughters by Sherri Hessick, 2002.
[12] North Carolina State Board of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, death certificate 123 (1961), Ethel Camilla Jackson Bridgham; digital image,, "North Carolina Death Certificates, 1909-1975,"( : accessed 9 Jan 2011).
[13] Maine State Archives, Albert Fayette Bridgham; digital image, Operations, Inc., Maine Birth Records, 1621-1922 ( : accessed 13 Feb 2013); "Pre 1892 Delayed Returns"; Roll #: 12.
[14] 1940 U.S. census, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, Braintree, enumeration district (ED) 11-10, sheet 2A, household 29, Albet F. Bridgham household; digital images, ( : accessed 3 Aug 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 1624.
[15] "U.S. City Directories," database, ( : accessed 5 Jul 2012), entry for Albert F. and Emily M. Bridgham; citing Lothrop's Braintree Directory (1928), p 49.
[16] North Carolina State Board of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, death certificate 123 (1961), Ethel Camilla Jackson Bridgham; digital image,, "North Carolina Death Certificates, 1909-1975,"( : accessed 9 Jan 2011).
[17] Find a Grave, online index ( : accessed 15 Feb 2013), entry for Camilla J. Bridgham.
[18] North Carolina State Board of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, death certificate 154 (1965), Albert Fayette Bridgham; digital image,, "North Carolina Death Certificates, 1909-1975,"( : accessed 16 Jan 2011).
[19] Find a Grave, online index ( : accessed 15 Feb 2013), entry for Albert F. Bridgham.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Day's Work

Although my brother has worked in box factories for most of his adult life, I don't have a single photo of him or anyone else at the factory nor of the factory itself. It is probably just as well because the photo would not have been sepia and I would not have felt right submitting it for this week's Sepia Saturday challenge.

I scoured my vintage photos and found not one of a box factory nor of boxes. I did find many women in dangerously long skirts, but none of them were working. I was left with women in short skirts working and men at work but not working.

The photo above has an inscription on the back: "Dad [Henderson Hessick] when he worked for Huffmans." Henderson is my grandfather-in-law. He is the second man from the left, or the man standing on the left. We don't know who the Huffmans were or what he did for them, but whatever it was it must have involved using a pickaxe.

The above photo is my other grandfather-in-law. It, too, has an inscription but it simply says "Claude P. [Parker]". There are no clues of what the short building behind him may be or why he is standing in front of it. But he looks very proud in this photo and we do know that he was very handy with wood, so perhaps he was rebuilding this place. Could it be his first home? We may never know, but will continue to question.

This photo is one of my favorites. The little girl is my mother when she was 4 years old and the woman behind her is her grandmother. This is her first train ride, it was going from Chicago to North Brook. Great-Grama wrote"...and did we have fun. You bet. She enjoyed getting drinking water on train and a great kick out of the toilet." While neither Mom nor Great-Grama are working, the conductor that is helping Mom down is. And he is doing a fine job of it, too.

The above photo is Great-Grama again nearly 30 years later. It looks like she is preparing to enter a motel room. No, she is not working...the lady in the background appears to be a maid and she is working.

This is me mowing my grandparents' lawn. I was not paid for this hard labor, probably because my grandparents did not wish to be arrested for violation of the child labor laws. I can only assume that they used some sort of Tom Sawyer-like logic on me to get me to happily perform this work.

If you want to see some boxes, or box factories, or women in dangerously long skirts working, follow the Sepia Saturday blog posts. Then join the fun with your own interpretation of the prompt.

Thanks for dropping by.