Recreating family history one piece at a time.

Archive for the ‘Individual Stories’ Category

Trials of a Young Widow and Her Children

My Great-Great Grandmother on my father’s side,  Katherine Philomenia Guehtle Morris,  found herself a widow at age 27.   She had three small children and was pregnant at the time.    Her youngest would be born over a month  after the death of her husband.

Katie’s early life is still sketchy and full of lots of holes yet in my research.  Though her own mother passed away when she was just five.  The period after the loss of her husband has left lots of clues about what happened to the family.  This would impact all her children for all their lives, one of these being my Nanny (Great-Grandmother for the rest of you).

Her oldest Eddie would go to live a prosperous Iowa cattle farmer, Cyrus Tow,  at the young age of eight.   There was a convoluted sort of family relationship there, but I doubt the young lad knew much about the family since they lived several counties away.   He was allowed to go to school but at age of 13 was listed as a farm hand so I am not sure it was family relationship as much as cheap labor.  When he was in his late teens he would go to live with his mother.

The next was my Nanny, Viola.   At the age of 3  she would go to live with the Hoskins, a local childless couple.  Bertha and Del were not related and I am not sure how they were chosen.  Of all the children Viola  appeared to have landed in  the most stable home any of the Morris  children would find.  Viola was never formally adopted by the Hoskins.   They took in a second child, a nephew, Ralph,  as well, so it was a complete family with a mom, dad, son and daughter.     Viola was the only one of Katie’s  children to graduate from high school.   Ralph considered Viola a sister, and he and his family would visit her even years later when she lived in California and Ralph was still in Iowa and visa versa.  Ralph’s children talked about Aunt Viola with great affection. Bertha and Del would visit Viola after she moved away from Iowa.  I think that these were really strong ties for Viola.    Until I started research I always thought Great Grandma Bertha Hoskins was a genetic grandmother.   Unfortunately that area of Iowa suffered a devastating flood and many of those historical records were lost, so some details will never be known.

Dora,  who was less than one when her father died was adopted by a family from Iowa who moved to California.   I am not sure what happened but her biological mother would have her again when she was nine.

Pearl, who came after her father’s death, would be kept by her mother the whole time.

Katie, as Katherine was known, moved to Kansas where she married a second time to Mr. Driskill.  It appears that during this marriage she called all her chicks back to her.   All the children, but Viola, suddenly no longer appeared with the families that they had lived with for the past eight years, instead they were in Oklahoma.    Even Dora, who was adopted and living in California ended back with her mother and her second husband in Oklahoma.   Viola never was subject to this upheaval.  I wonder if the Hoskins prevent this.    Husband number two would pass away only eight years later.

One year later Katie would marry a third time to  Mr. Kime.  This appears to be another period of great unrest for the children living with Katie.  Pearl and Dora would marry  two months after their mother did on the same day.  What made these young women marry so promptly after their mother did?  They were only 15 and 16 years old.   Their older siblings were busy with their own lives so it appears that they were not options for these young women.   Ed was away serving in the Army during World War I.   Viola had graduated from high school in Iowa, and was married with her own household during this time.

Katie and George Kime would be married for 25 years until his death in 1944.


Dr. Edna Davis Timms, women’s activist

Dr. Edna Davis Timms is one of my proudest finds in researching my family history.  She was a women’s activist and a revolutionary thinker of her time. Edna was born just two years after the close of the Civil War in northern Illinois where so many of our family resided.  The Harvey Mann Timms family would eventually leave Illinois and make their way to the west coast.  The first to arrive was Edna’s twin brother, Eugene in 1893, and Edna came just two years later.  It appears that the rest of the family arrived in Portland by 1897 or 1898.

Edna’s first job in Portland was as an artist for the newspaper, The Oregonian.   I do not know when she entered medical school, but by 1897  city directory  her occupation was medical student. In 1899, at age 32 Edna graduated from the University of Oregon as a medical doctor.

As a physician she specialized in  gynecology.  She travel to Vienna to further her studies in 1901.   Edna  was the first woman listed as an instructor at the University of Oregon medical school in 1910.   She appeared to have been highly respected and presented often presented papers to the state medical society about women’s gynecological health and childbirth.   She was elected to multiple offices, treasurer and vice-president for the Oregon State Medical Association.   She also belonged to the AMA, the Women’s Medical Association and the Portland public health board.

Dr. Timms was the mistress of ceremonies in 1905 for the placement of the cornerstone of the building of the Oregon Nurses Association.   I think she was respected by nurses as she often spoke in their favor, to the outrage of some male doctors.   She once stated at a state medical association that she would rather deliver a baby in a home with a good nurse than in a hospital.  Boy  that got lots of comments from the floor.

Edna most pivotal contribution came after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  Many of the refugees from the disaster left California and headed to Portland.  Once in Portland  the refugees found aid in the form of free medical care, clothing, food and more at a new organized The People’s Institute.  After the crisis abated these Edna continued on with the fledging organization as one its first physicians.   The People’s Institute at the turn of the century recognized that women’s health was an important issue.   It started  in one of Portland’s poorest and seedier neighborhoods.  The People’s Institute, with support of  financial benefactors and  physician’s like Edna, would establish  a kindergarten,  well baby clinics, social services, medical clinics, visiting nurse services, parks, nutrition programs  and more.   The People’s Institute  would eventually become the outpatient clinic of the University of Oregon medical school.

Unfortunately Edna’s  fullest potential may have never been known.  At the age of 43, only ten years after she became a doctor she was killed, when the auto she was riding in making an emergency call  was struck by a street car.  She made such a difference I am sure on so many lives, though it was cut short in what was the prime of her life.  If you are a member of the Timms family you should stand proud to be related to Edna Davis Timms,M.D.

2nd Great-Great Uncle Uriah L. Davenport – Civil War Pension file

Uriah is related on my Grandma Mae Davenport Virtue side, for those in my family who are following.   This story was generated from census records and  his Civil War Pension files

Uriah was the third child of Alfred and Lucinda (Tolley) Davenport.  who at the age of 18 enlisted in the Union Army.  He was assigned to the Mississippi Marine Brigade.  No it is not the state of Mississippi, but the river.   This group of solders patrolled the Mississippi River with gunboats.  Based on the dates of service, Uriah was likely involved in no great battles.   He mustered out September 18, 1865.

Uriah was by 1890 at the age of 45 applying for invalid pension for general disability and hemorrhoids.  His pension of $10 a month started in November 1890 and continued until his death in 1901.  In the pension file there is a record of a doctor’s exam who explains them as “…worst kind of piles… as large as quails eggs”  The doctor goes on to say this would greatly disable him from manual labor.   His disability was rated a 10 on a scale of 18.

Uriah and his wife,Mary, had 12 children, three who were still minors when Uriah passed away.   The bulk the pension file is Mary asking for the pension to continue for her and the 3 children.   Because so few records were kept at the time she had to get affidavits from people regarding her marriage and her children.   Not just one but several for each fact, marriage, birth of each child, and  relationship status.   The board of pensions looked at the reputation of not only Mary, but the people who completed affidavits.   These affidavits are sometimes difficult to read but full of information on the family.  Co-habitation was asked about for Mary.  The children except for one were born at home without a doctor or midwife.  In one case a daughter provides a statement about her mother’s delivery of a sister.   They question her economic means.   Her address was given as a house near the coal mine shaft; I doubt anyone with even meager means would choose to live there.

Mary went through all of  these trials to only die two years later.   There were still minor children.  Again the documentation trail started as the guardian of the children asked for their pension to be continued.

This file is over 100 pages long and full of information.   I may come back to Uriah later, but this is the first part of his story

Not a Family – A Small Nation

Today’s families are generally small and planned.  It is hard for many of us to imagine how our mothers and grandmother’s coped with all the children they had. Having been researching my family for nearly 30 years I seen all sizes of families, but none as large as my 4th Great Grandfather James Virtue.  He had a total of 17 children who lived to adulthood.  This was more than a family, it was a small nation.

James is a dead-end brick wall in our family history.   We are unsure who his parents were, or where they came from.  Yet his family is well documented and I am quite sure that this family of 17 really did exist, though in many ways it was unusual for the times.  Members of the family on this side of the pond have been back and visited where the Virtue family of Ireland lived.

Jame’s first son was born when he was 33, which was quite late for a man born in 1772.    His wife, Jane,  was 12 years his junior; she was 21 when she had their first child.  Jane would have 11 children in the next 24 years.  Assuming that she had no other children, which is highly unlikely, she spent half her married life pregnant and all of it likely either pregnant or nursing.   We are unsure exactly when Jane died or of what.  Based on facts we do know  Jane died in her mid 40’s or early 50’s.  I would guess her body was just worn out.

James was an aging  man in his late 50’s and early 60’s with young children and without a wife.  The older daughters who could look after the children were marrying and starting families of their own.  Though the details are not complete it appears that about the time that the 3rd daughter married, James also remarried.

Jame’s second wife, Ann,  was 34 years his junior.  Younger than children from his first marriage.  I wonder if this was scandalous, or if this was a norm of the time.   Did he take on a young woman because many women his age already had a passel of children and he felt he had as large of family as he could support?  What did Ann’s family think of such an arrangement?  Many modern questions run through my mind for which there are no answers.

From James marriage with Ann would six more children who would be born who live to adulthood.   Keeping a schedule like in the first marriage there were  six children in 11 years.   The last child James would have was born in 1849 when he was 77 years old.   Eight girls and  nine boys.  James would stay in Ireland and  live in to his 90’s.

My 3rd great-grandfather was the 3rd child of James and Jane.  He came to the US in about 1836, and was the first of many from James’ family to immigrate.

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