dee_burris: (Default)
2017-04-03 06:41 am

The kindness of strangers...

Right before Thanksgiving last year, I got an email from a stranger.

He and his sister had been going through the contents of his mother's home, and found of box of photos that belonged to his paternal grandmother, Blanche Willis Beach. From what he could determine, it looked as if his grandmother and one of my far flung Chapin cousins, Augusta Genevieve Chapin, were good friends.

He sent a snapshot of a letter written to Blanche by Genevieve, along with a photo of her, taken when she was a teacher at American Baptist College in Shanghai, China.

Now, I needed to know more about her.
I already knew that Augusta Genevieve Chapin was the only child of Elmer Judson Chapin and Hannah Elizabeth Scott, and that she was born on 24 Feb 1876 in Fort Scott, Bourbon Co., KS, where my direct ancestral line of Chapins had settled.

In 2011, I discovered a Find a Grave memorial for her, and so I knew she died in Greene Co., IL on 17 Oct 1932.

But I knew little else about her, although I now had a photo apparently taken later in her life, due to the kindness of a stranger.
 photo Genevieve close up edit.jpg
back of photo says Genevieve Chapin, teacher at American Baptist College in Shanghai China

From the Find a Grave memorial, I was pretty sure Genevieve had not been married. One of my questions was why she was buried in Greene Co., IL when her parents were buried in Fort Scott - in the same cemetery with my third great grandparents, Nathaniel Chapin and Elizabeth Harris.

The obvious answer to that question was that she died in Greene Co., IL, and there was not enough money to send her body back to Fort Scott.

But given this new news - that she taught at a college in Shanghai - I felt there must be a story behind this relative - another of my orphan relatives.*
And there was.

For most of her life, Genevieve lived with her parents in Fort Scott. The 1900 census, taken on 1 Jun 1900, showed that she was a schoolteacher. The 1905 Kansas state census, taken on 1 Mar 1905, stated that she was a clerk. That did not necessarily mean she had given up teaching school. March was the beginning of the planting season in rural Kansas, and schools often closed to allow children to help get the crops sown.

Genevieve's parents lived long lives, and died within a year and a half of each other. Elmer Judson Chapin died on 3 Mar 1923. Elizabeth McIntosh Chapin followed her husband in death on 13 Nov 1925.

But even while caring for her elderly parents, Genevieve had been actively engaged in her community, and was an advocate for social responsibility. And she had traveled.

In the summer of 1915, she went to Alaska for two weeks. The Fort Scott Daily Tribune and Fort Scott Monitor had a small article noting a talk Genevieve was to give to the Women's Current Topic Club about her trip on the evening of 31 Jan 1916.

 photo Fort_Scott_Daily_Tribune_and_Fort_Scot_Daily_Monitor_31_Jan_1916_p2_Genevieve_Chapin.jpg

An article in the Springfield Missouri Republican, on 26 Oct 1921 (page 10), gave details of the speakers addressing the Pierian club in Fort Scott:
...Miss Genevieve Chapin spoke interestingly on social responsibility and unemployment..." The article went on to note that Genevieve was one of the delegates to the Second district convention later that year in November.
 photo Springfield_Missouri_Republican_26_Oct_1921_p10_Genevieve_Chapin.jpg

It was after her parents' deaths that Genevieve traveled abroad. The List of United States Citizens sailing on 5 Oct 1929 aboard the S S Deutschland from Southampton to New York shows that Genevieve had been issued her US passport in Fort Scott on 29 Jun 1926 and had renewed the passport in Shanghai on 28 May 1928.

 photo Genevieve Chapin travels crop.jpg

She wrote her friend Blanche about her time in Shanghai. ...I am well, but carrying heavy work...

 photo Genevieve Chapin.jpg

So how was it that Genevieve died in Illinois? Two news articles published in the Jacksonville Daily Journal (Jacksonville, IL) cleared up that mystery.

From 1930 until her death, Genevieve had settled in New York, and had been doing welfare work for Grace House in New York City. At the time of her death, she was visiting her cousin, Edith Chapin. Edith lived in Jacksonville, IL. Genevieve had taken ill, and never recovered.

 photo Jacksonville_Daily_Journal__Jacksonville_IL__1_Dec_1932_p4_Genevieve_Chapin.jpg

 photo Jacksonville_Daily_Journal__Jacksonville__IL__18_Oct_1932_p1_Genevieve_Chapin_death_notice.jpg

Everyone has a story. I am very glad that through the kindness of a stranger, I was able to piece together at least a part of the story of this eighth cousin, a woman I would like to have known.

Maybe I'll meet her on the other side.

*I call my relatives who died with no direct descendants orphan relatives, as there often is no one to tell their stories.
dee_burris: (Default)
2014-04-22 05:58 am

Cyrus Foster Chapin, 1853-1926

He's one of my orphan relatives. Cyrus was the oldest of 10 children born to my third great grandparents, Nathaniel Foster Chapin and Elizabeth Pancoast Harris.

He never married or had children. Census and city directory records say that he followed in his father's footsteps and became a carpenter, but he doesn't seem to have been able to work at that trade consistently enough to support himself.

Cyrus never married. He also didn't seem to have set up his own house in his lifetime, living first with his parents into his young adulthood, and as an older adult, with his younger sisters and their families.

He lived with sister Addie the longest - from at least 1900 until her death in 1925. Then he moved from Denver, CO, to Altoona, PA, where he lived out the remainder of his life with his sister, Essie.
Cyrus' obituary made me curious.

Died at 3 o'clock this morning at the home of his sister, Mrs. Essie Lebolt Finn of 1421 Second street, following an illness of six weeks. He suffered from a complication of diseases.

I wondered what "complication of diseases" he had. As previously noted in this post, the 1880 census form said he had sciatic rheumatism, a very painful nerve disease that sometimes makes walking almost impossible. I found it really strange that a 27 year old man would have an illness that usually comes with advanced age.

So I ordered his death certificate from the State of Pennsylvania.
Cyrus' death certificate didn't note any central nervous system disorder.

It says he died of senility.

I've seen scads of death certificates that say that. Searching for it as an "olden days" cause of death, I've also found cautions to doctors about ruling out any other cause of death before just saying someone died of old age.

Cyrus' death certificate also lists a contributory cause of death. But it's the one I think probably killed him.

Chronic interstitial nephritis. In truth, he probably died of kidney failure and also had some form of senile dementia. The death certificate says he was attended by his physician from 15 Feb 1926 until his death at 3 a.m. on 3 Mar 1926.

His obituary said he was ill for six weeks. Makes me wonder how long people waited back then to call the doctor for an ailing 72 year old brother.

And about that "complication of diseases" noted in his obit.

I guess I'll find out on the other side.
dee_burris: (Default)
2014-02-08 09:00 am

The tragic end of another "orphan" relative...

I wrote about my naughty, naughty auntie recently in this post.

I have now found all of Rebecca Parrish's husbands' dates of death and final resting places. Alas, not Rebecca's...

[personal profile] rainbow often helps me out with research dilemmas, and does a fine job.

When [personal profile] rainbow commented on the entry about Rebecca Parrish, I mentioned that Rebecca's son with Ulysses Grant Bond - her first husband - was unaccounted for.

[personal profile] rainbow went to work and found a bunch of information for the 14 year old "Stevie" I found living with his dad in the 1900 census in South Leitchfield, Grayson Co., KY.
Stephen Washington Bond was named for his paternal grandfather. He was my first cousin, 3 times removed.

It's been hard to account for how he spent his life. His father didn't die until 1948, and stayed close to home. Very close to home. Ulysses Grant Bond is buried in the same cemetery as his parents, five year old daughter, siblings and grand nieces and nephews in Caneyville, Grayson Co., KY.

Stephen could have stayed close to his dad, but seems to have had some wanderlust that took him all the way across the country.

In the 1910 census, he was employed at the Hot Lake Sanitarium in Union Co., OR. Click here, and here for photos from 1940 and the time during which Stephen would have recognized the building, which also served as a hotel. This photo shows the destruction of one of the buildings in the complex by a fire on 7 May 1934.

On 12 Sep 1918, Stephen registered for the draft for World War I in Santa Barbara Co., CA. He gave his occupation at that time as an oil pipeline worker for Associate Oil Co. of the same county. He listed his dad as his next of kin on the card.

And after that, I cannot find Stephen Washington Bond - not in the 1920, 1930, or 1940 censuses, which leads me to believe that my cousin may have been what was then called a hobo.

The next time I can locate him (thanks to [personal profile] rainbow) is at the time of his tragic death on 11 Nov 1951, in Lewiston, Nez Perce Co., ID.
Pensioner Perishes on Rails of Engine Turntable

Lewiston, Idaho, Nov. 11 (AP)

An elderly pensioner was crushed beyond recognition last night under a locomotive turntable in the railroad yards of East Lewiston.

The victim was identified as Stephen Washington Bond, 65. He lived in a shack about 150 feet from the turntable.

Police theorized that Bond slipped and fell into the turntable pit sometime after 10:30 last night. He was last seen alive leaving a Lewiston tavern at that time.

Lay on Track

Officers said Bond had apparently struck his head on a rail in the pit. They believe he was seriously injured by the blow but that he managed to drag himself 77 feet across the pit where he collapsed.

He lay beside the track upon which the turntable revolves as it swings around the reverse [of] the direction of the locomotives.

The table was used during the night, and Bond was crushed by the tremendous weight of the table and the engine it carried.

William Hart, turntable operator, found the body early this morning when he noticed some coins and a shoe beside the turntable. A hat and an unopened can of coffee were lying beside the crushed body.

Source: The Spokesman-Review, 12 Nov 1951
Perhaps Stephen chose to live in that little shack by the railroad because of his memories of the sanitarium where he worked in 1910. Maybe he was just very poor or anti-social - or a combination of those or other things. Telling the story of the orphan relatives is never easy.

I've asked for the necessary corrections to Stephen's Find a Grave memorial to make it more complete.

And I'd love to know more about the little boy whose mother left his life all those years ago.
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2012-01-28 09:05 am

In search of Ruth's story... Part 1

I think of them as my orphan relatives.

The ones who left no descendants - no one to tell their stories. The aunts and uncles who may or may not be remembered fondly - or at all.

As generations pass, those who knew the stories of the orphan relatives pass on also.

The stories are lost.

I'm going to try and piece together the story of my grand aunt, Ruth Lucille Balding. I'm getting some help from first cousins in California and New York, an aunt in Texas, my sister, and all the old familiar resources available to family historians.

I recognize that perspective is subjective. Ruth's siblings no doubt had their own perspectives on their family of origin, and passed those down to their descendants.

I hope I do Ruth justice in the telling of her story.
Ruth Lucille Balding was born in Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR on 9 May 1903 to her 15 year old mother Hattie Belle Chapin, and her 29 year old father, Victor Claude Balding.

Ruth lived in Little Rock all her life.

I believe she was named for another Ruth, her mother's sister, who died when Hattie Chapin was about 5 years old. Three years after Ruth Chapin's death in 1892, Fred Chapin brought his wife Eada, and 8 year old daughter, Hattie, from Fort Scott to Little Rock.

I think her sister must have been on Hattie's mind when her first daughter was born.

Hattie and Victor had six other children after Ruth - Eugene Victor in 1905; Doris Geneva in 1907; Vera Virginia in 1910; Marion Chapin "Murnie" in 1912; Marvin Parrish in 1915; and Russell Ellington in 1917.

As was often the case in large families, Ruth became a surrogate mother to her younger siblings. She may have felt she lost her childhood, as evidenced by a conversation one of my cousins remembers being related to her by one of our relatives. Teen-aged Ruth stumbled upon her parents getting frisky, and told them to cut it out, because she wasn't going to raise any more of their children.

By 1920, Ruth was employed at the Brandon Stove Company (later The Brandon Company) as a stenographer. She was 17 years old, and with her father, provided the financial support for the family of nine in their home at 217 Dennison Street.

Until she married the owner of the Brandon Stove Company, Walter Nathan Brandon, Sr., in 1932, Ruth lived at home with her parents, contributing her income to the common good, including that of some of her teenaged and adult siblings.

But she did find some time for fun with her we'll see in Part 2.

Part 3
Part 4
dee_burris: (Default)
2012-01-28 09:03 am

Ruth's Story...Part 2

With much thanks to my cousin, we have some photos from a scrapbook Ruth kept of travels of the Balding clan to several states in the United States, beginning in the roaring 20s.

Before my cousin and I spoke by phone about my plan to write this series of blogposts about Ruth, I never knew the album existed or that the Balding family had taken these vacations.

Neither had my cousins, or my sister. None of us can recollect our grandmother, who went on many of these trips, saying a word about them.

The photos provide a rare glimpse of our Balding family taking pleasure in travel, and in each other's company.
One question I had was - how did the family afford to travel? My remembrances of discussions with my grandmother focused on how tight finances were for the Baldings. Ruth and her father supported the family with their jobs.

My theory about how they were able to travel is connected to Pop Balding's job. In 1904, Victor Balding began working for the railroad as a telegrapher. He advanced to chief telegrapher, and worked for the railroad for 38 years, until his retirement in 1942, just three years before his death.

I think it was likely that, as a perk of Victor's job, he and his family were able to travel by train either at greatly reduced fares, or perhaps, free.

Ruth, 1922. Photo was captioned, "Sweet 19."

Ruth (r) and her friend, Anita (l). Photo, 1922

Doris Geneva Balding. Photo circa 1923-1924.

Russell Ellington (Linky) and Marvin Parrish Balding. Photo circa 1923.

Hattie Chapin Balding.

Hattie playing in the ocean,. Photo circa 1925.

Harassing the wildlife. Photo circa early 1920s

Sombreros on Russell (Linky), Murnie and Vera.

Ruth, Santa Monica CA, July 1926

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
dee_burris: (Default)
2012-01-28 09:01 am

Ruth's story... Part 3

On 21 May 1932, when she was 29 years old, Ruth married her boss, Walter Nathan Brandon, Sr. He was just a few months younger than Ruth's father. Ruth was Walter's third wife.

From a business standpoint, the match was an excellent one. Ruth was already the company bookkeeper, and the 1937 Polk's Directory for Little Rock/North Little Rock listed principals of the business as Benton D Brandon, President; Walter N Brandon, Vice President, and Ruth Brandon, Secretary/Treasurer.

According to the company's current website, ...the Brandon Co was founded in 1903, as a supplier of sundries, heaters, stoves, linoleum, and rugs to hardware and general stores throughout Arkansas. The company distributed products from several flooring manufacturers including Sandura, Rubberoid, Pabco, Armstrong, Mannigton Mills, and G.A.F. Brandon quickly gained a reputation for being the leading distributor in Arkansas for flooring, as well as stoves and hardware.

The Company was originally located at 610 East Markham Street in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the 1930's, Brandon Co. suffered a fire at its original location and moved next door to 608 East Markham Street. This is where Brandon Company called home for the next 60 years, until 1994 when Brandon Company expanded to its current location at 401 North Vine Street in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

By 1942, the principals in the Brandon Company were Walter and Ruth.
After their marriage, the Brandons lived in Walter's home at 1922 South Battery Street in Little Rock. For a period of time, Walter's son from his second marriage to Alma Mabel Spinner (who died in 1930), Walter Nathan Brandon, Jr., lived with them.

Photo taken 2 Jan 2012

It was from Walter Jr.'s young daughter that Ruth purchased cartons of Girl Scout cookies to ship to one of her nephews stationed overseas - an act of thoughtfulness that got her nephew teased by the men in his unit about which troop he belonged to.

That same nephew sought Ruth's career advice when he returned from his military service, and he was employed by the Brandon Company for several years.

Ruth and Walter Brandon, undated photo.

Although Ruth and Walter Brandon were married for sixteen years, they did not have any children together.

Several members of my family think it was possible Ruth had enough of raising children while she was growing up.

On her 45th birthday, 9 May 1948, Ruth's husband died. He was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock, in the Brandon family plot.

And the dynamics of Ruth's family began to change.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4
dee_burris: (Default)
2012-01-28 09:00 am

Ruth's story...Part 4

The end of Ruth's life is, unfortunately, the part for which the greatest amount of information survives, both in terms of family anecdotes and written documentation.

For years, all I knew of Aunt Ruth was what I as a young child had taken from snippets of adult conversation I overheard. In my mind's eye, I pictured a stern, no-nonsense woman in sensible shoes - one with a good head for business, but not much heart for people.

This photo, taken not long before her death in 1959, seemed to support that vision.


However, that's not what the evidence - sketchy as it may be - shows.
After her husband's death in 1948, Ruth's role in the Brandon Company changed, but she remained a vital part of the business until her death.

The 1949 Polk's Directory for Little Rock.North Little Rock shows the principals of the business as as Walter N Brandon (this was Walter Jr., Ruth's step-son) President, Mary P Brandon, Vice President (Walter Jr.'s wife) and Ruth B Brandon, Sec/Treasurer.
Two letters found among my grandmother's personal effects after her death in 1998 painted vastly different pictures of Ruth Balding.

The first was a letter from one of Ruth's sisters to another in 1957, relating the first sister's disgust with Ruth's behavior on a recent visit to her sister's home. In it, the sister said (among other things), "You've let her get by with everything just because of that disease she has and she's making herself obnoxious to everybody." She closed the letter with, "If you repeat any of this, I'll deny it."

The disease Ruth had was called lymphatic leukemia in the 1950s. Today, it is called lymphocytic leukemia, and given the amount of time between the 1957 letter and her death on 30 Dec 1959, I think it's possible she had chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Ruth executed a will on 12 March 1956, almost 18 months before the letter referenced above. Whether she decided to make a will because she found out she had incurable cancer (as it was considered then), or simply because she felt it was time, I don't know. Today, median survival of patients with this form of leukemia is 8–10 years, compared with 5–6 years in series reported in the 1970s.

In her will, Ruth directed that the stock she owned in the Brandon Company be sold, with her step-son, Walter N Brandon, Jr., having the first option to buy it. She also directed that her home, automobile and personal effects be sold, and with the proceeds from the sale of the stock, all net proceeds were to be divided - with one third going to her mother, and the remaining two-thirds divided equally among her siblings.

At her death, Ruth would continue to provide for the welfare of her family.
The second letter was from Ruth to the sister who authored the 1957 letter, and was written five months before her death, in July 1959.

I had the distinct impression as I read the letter that somehow Ruth found out that at least two of her sisters were talking about her behind her back, and one of them had a major axe to grind.

In the letter, Ruth related a story to her sister about one of their brothers who, in 1948 (the year Walter Brandon died and Ruth became a fairly wealthy widow), had borrowed several thousand dollars from Ruth - interest free - to start his own business. As of the date of Ruth's letter, her brother had yet to repay a penny to her, although his business was thriving, and he had purchased two new cars and a boat. He also borrowed money from their mother for his business, and Ruth had insisted that her brother pay their mother interest on that loan, due to Hattie Balding being on a fixed income.

I wondered why this letter was in my grandmother's personal effects at the time of her death. It was not addressed to her. It had been forwarded by the sister who received it to one of their brothers almost one month after Ruth's funeral in 1960.

My aunt was able to provide the explanation for that. Apparently my grandmother had advocated unsuccessfully for her brother (the subject of Ruth's letter to her sister in 1959), the executor of Ruth's estate, to forego taking the 6% of Ruth's estate as her executor, since he still owed the estate the entire debt described in the 1959 letter. Their mother's share of the estate would be reduced by his administrator's fee.

According to my aunt, my grandmother was the lone voice crying in the wilderness. Her brother was unmoved, and the rest of her siblings refused to back her up.

The family photo from which I cropped the picture of Ruth above now seemed to make more sense.


I had often looked at that photo and felt that Ruth was quite separated from her family. In fact, she seemed to me to be poised for flight in her very sensible shoes.
Not long before her death, Ruth fired her housekeeper.

But she couldn't get rid of her. The woman wouldn't leave Ruth's home. Not only that, but the former housekeeper threatened Ruth.

Ruth called one of her nephews to see if he would come over and make the woman leave. He did, by telling her she had two choices - to leave under her own steam or with police escort.

Afterward, Ruth was still fearful of the threat. She retrieved a revolver owned by her late husband, and asked her nephew to load it for her.

On 18 December 1959, Ruth went to see her personal physician. What they discussed is unknown, but I think it is reasonable to believe her illness would have been part of that discussion. That was the last time her doctor saw her alive. From my sister's recollection of conversations with our grandmother (Ruth's younger sister), Ruth was in extreme pain due to her illness for quite some time before her death.

Shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 30 December 1959, Ruth Balding Brandon climbed the stairs to her bedroom in her home on South Battery Street, tied herself into her rocking chair, and shot herself in the left chest. Her nephew felt incredible guilt.

Ruth was the first born of her siblings, and the first to die. She was 56 years, 7 months, and 22 days old.

She was buried in the Balding family plot in Roselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock on 1 January 1960.

From the sermon preached at her funeral, I note the following:

...We thank Thee for her strong sense of duty, her strength of will
and the fidelity with which she performed the tasks of life.
We thank Thee that in the world of business she lost nothing
of her high ideals and made no compromise of her womanly character...
We thank Thee for the heart of compassion that was within her
and which overflowed with countless deeds of generous love and
thoughtfulness. We thank Thee that these qualities of character
were not intermittent or transitory but the expression of a
steadfast purpose, followed through a lifetime.

I wish I had known her.
I'll meet you on the other side, Aunt Ruth.

Feel free to leave virtual flowers at Ruth's Find a Grave memorial, by clicking here.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3