Friday, May 27, 2016

Memorial Day Thoughts, 1897

In honor of our upcoming Memorial Day, here are some excerpts from an article published in The Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania) on Saturday, May 22, 1897:

     "Approaching Memorial Day reminds us of our duties to our beloved dead, not only to those whose last resting places may be under the cypress, in the swamp, on the hillside, in the valley, on coral reefs or in the ocean depths, but to those who have followed later and left vacant chairs in our homes.
     Nearly three thousand years ago ancient Greece, that nation of pioneers of the higher civilization of the world, paid tribute to its dead who died in their Country's cause. Let us then pay homage to our Comrades, our brothers who fell in the cause of liberty for all mankind; let us gather the brightest and fairest of Spring's most beautiful flowers, and with music and with speech eulogize those who dying left the priceless heritage of citizenship in free America.
     Let us so observe this day of ours--this day of America's people--that no reproach may come to ourselves and no indifference to the deeds of our noble dead."

This Memorial Day, take time to remember those who died for our freedom.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kansas Connections

My husband has several relatives with connections to Kansas, including the surnames Cowden, Lee, Dawson, Kirkendall, and Klingensmith. Using the Kansas Historical Society's name search, I found this item of interest about Orville A. Lee, the husband of 3rd great-aunt Martha Jane Pollock:
"O. A. LEE, city weighmaster, is a native of Pennsylvania, and was born in Erie County, December 22, 1817. His father, Stephen C., was a pioneer in Erie County; he had been Captain in the army during the war of 1812. The paternal grandfather of the subject of this sketch was a soldier in the Revolutionary war. O. A. received the advantages of what was considered a liberal education in the common schools. He adopted and pursued for several years the vocation of school teaching, in Alleghany [sic] County. He eventually embarked in the coal trade and was identified with that branch of industry for fifteen years, doing business in Pittsburgh and McKeesport. In 1858 came west, went to Pike's Peak, was at what is now Denver City before there was a house built; was engaged in mining and speculating until the spring of 1862; came to Kansas, locating temporarily in Jefferson County; came to Atchison County in January, 1863, engaging in farming four miles south of Atchison; for a number of years was closely identified with the agricultural development of the county. A few years ago removed to Atchison, and was the first to open a coal yard in the city which he did in connection with a feed store which he still operates. Mr. Lee is a well-informed gentleman, thoroughly conversant with the important issues of the day. He is one of the most public spirited citizens in the city - one who aims to keep pace with the progress of time. He was married in 1843 to Miss Martha J. Pollock, of Elizabeth township, Alleghany [sic] County, Pa. They have by this union three daughters - Mary A., now Mrs. Hanson; Lizzie and Ella. The last mentioned ladies are favorably known in Atchison as educators, being teachers in the city schools for the past ten years. Mr. Lee, wife and family are members of the Presbyterian Church." (Source: William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas)

There seems to be some good information on the site so, if you have Kansas ancestors, you should definitely take a look.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Immigrant Ancestors and the Elusive Town of Origin

I have 17 direct ancestors who were immigrants in the United States. The earliest arrival appears to be my Rüttger branch in 1846, which is very different from those of you whose families have been in the U.S. since colonial times! My immigrant ancestors include great-grandparents (4), 2nd great-grandparents (7), and 3rd great-grandparents (6). Most of my immigrant ancestors (12) came from Germany, three from Canada (though two were born in the U.K.), and two from France.

I have A LOT to learn about them, with the most important unknown being that often elusive town of origin. The only towns that I'm sure of are Artolshiem and Dambach-la-Ville in France, Pirmasens and Miesenheim in Germany, and Seneca Township in Ontario, Canada. That's not good. I have 10 direct ancestors where my research is stuck in the U.S. unless I determine the German towns where these ancestors used to live.
From the 1890 U.S. Passport Application for my 
2nd great-grandfather who arrived in the U.S. on 1 May 1854

Online trees from sites like, index-only records on FamilySearch, and sibling church records have given me a place to start, but there's more work to do before concluding that these are definitely the towns. These places in Germany include Bettingen, Großkarlbach (2), Lambsheim, and Wiesbach (2). And then there are the 4 German ancestors who have given me zero clues pointing to where they came from. Sigh.

A recent birthday gift has given me renewed inspiration to continue the search for these towns. I've just read a few chapters of James Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, which was released at the end of April, but it's pushed me to revisit these immigrant ancestors. I'll definitely post any progress I make.

If you have any success stories about locating the towns of your German immigrant ancestors, please share them with me!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A History Teacher Through the Years

University of Washington,
This month, more than 100 years ago, a future history teacher was born. Thanks to the yearbook collection on, I can see images of her through the years...and even her signature!

Grace Marguerite Wiester, my husband's 1st cousin two times removed, was born in Saltsburg, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, on May 2, 1892. With her parents, Harry Lewis Wiester, Sr. and Fannie Belle Kirkendall, Grace moved to Washington state by the time she was 8 years old. The family was first in Spokane and then moved to their permanent town of Wenatchee in Chelan County. Grace's younger brother, Harry Jr., was born in Wenatchee but died when he was only 2 years old.

University of Washington,
From various articles on, I learned a little bit about Grace's teenage years. In 1907, she performed at a piano recital at the Wenatchee Theatre. That same year, she was a pall bearer at a friend's funeral. In 1908, she picnicked at Lilly Lake (located 9 miles south of Wenatchee) with friends and a cousin from Spokane.

When she was 17, she traveled to Seattle with friends. And in 1910, she entered the freshman class of the University of Washington, which would put her on the path of becoming a high school history teacher.

Wenatchee High School,
In the 1920 census, she wasn't employed yet. But two years later, she was listed in a 1922 yearbook as a teacher at Wenatchee High School (with her surname spelled incorrectly as "Weister"). The school's 1921 yearbook isn't online, so it's possible that she may have started at the school a year earlier. In any event, it appears that she stayed at that high school for her entire career.

Wenatchee High School,

The 1940 census specifies that she was a history teacher. In 1957, she was still teaching at Wenatchee High School, which means that she was educating students there for at least 35 years!

Grace Marguerite Wiester died at the age of 83 on December 12, 1975, and was buried in Wenatchee's Home of Peace Mausoleum next to her parents and younger brother. Although she didn't have any of her own children, Grace touched the lives of many, many children who grew up in Wenatchee, Washington.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Pittsburgh's Duquesne Theater, 1890-1924

Last week, I wrote about an autograph book previously owned by Susie Jane Lowery Richardson. Inside that book was a loose piece of paper with a note written by Susie's daughter, Lilia, when she was very young. (Words weren't separated by spaces, so she must have been at an age when she was learning to write.) The paper was actually letterhead from the Duquesne Theater in Pittsburgh.

Susie must have been a fan of the Duquesne Theater, based on having its letterhead as well as this mention in The Pittsburgh Press in January 1900:  "Mrs. David J. Richardson gave a box party at the Duquesne theater yesterday afternoon in honor of her small daughters and their friends. There were about a dozen children in the party."

According to an 1890 article in The Pittsburg Dispatch, the building of the Duquesne Theater was initially a livery stable and renovated for its grand opening as a theater on December 1, 1890. After more than three decades of providing entertainment, the structure on Penn Avenue (between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Street) was torn down in 1924 to construct a nine-story building for the Standard Furniture Co.

Note: Lilia Richardson's message on the Duquesne Theater's letterhead was written to either Susie's mother or mother-in-law. This is what she said (punctuation and spacing has been added by me): "Dear Grandma, Mama has gone to church and I had to stay home and be mama. I am going to see Dela Fox. I am going to get my dress made. I'm going to have it trimmed with green velvet. Marguerite [her sister] cannot go. Lilia"

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Free Search of Montana Newspapers

As you may already know, updates to Cyndi's List can be viewed directly on the website by clicking "Browse New Links," or you can sign up to receive regular emails showing newly added resources. In the April 12th update, Cyndi indicated that she had added a link to Montana Newspapers.

The Montana Newspapers site says: "This full-text searchable database contains 353,220 pages from 44 Montana newspapers dated 1885-2014, which were formerly made available on the Montana Memory Project. An additional 257,000 pages from Montana newspapers can be found at Chronicling America. There is no overlap between the two sites."

My husband has a Montana connection. His 3rd-great uncle, Hugh Kirkendall, was born in 1835 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. During the Civil War, he was a wagonmaster at Fort Scott, Bourbon County, Kansas. By 1870, Hugh was in Montana Territory. He died in 1897 at the age of 61.

A search on Montana Newspapers provided many mentions of Hugh, but the best find was his obituary from The Dillon Tribune:

    "Hugh Kirkendall, a well-known horseman, and one of the oldest pioneers in Montana, died this morning at his home in Helena of pneumonia after an illness of one week. His death was a surprise to most of his friends, for his condition had not been considered serious up to Saturday noon.
     Mr. Kirkendall was born in Pensylvania [sic] in 1835. When a youth he removed to Leavenworth, Kan. Most of his life was spent on the frontier. He visited Montana in 1858 with Colonel Rollin's expedition, sent out by the government to explore the source of the Yellowstone. During the war he was train master of the army operating in Kansas. In 1866 he came to Helena and engaged in the business of freighting and contracting. In 1871 he organized the H.K. Fast Freight between Corinne, Utah, and Helena. He had charge of the transportation of General Gibbons' army in the famous campaign of 1876, and was present at the battle of the Big Hole. He helped to build the Northern Pacific, Great Northern and Montana Central lines, having large contracts from each of these companies. His fast running horses have won many a race in Montana. The dead pioneer leaves a wife and four children."

A big thank you to Cyndi and the Montana Historical Society!