Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Jennie Morrison Cooke

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Jane Morrison Cooke, Leighton & Marion Cooke, c1906

My mother’s maternal grandmother was Jane (Jennie) Morrison Cooke, born on 2 October 1871 in Larksville, Luzerne County, Pennsyvania. She was the fourth of five children born to Scots immigrants Charles Morrison and Margaret Brookmire. Her parents were founding members of Snowden Memorial Presbyterian Church in Larksville and Jane was baptized there on 28 October 1872.

The 1870’s were difficult years, including the deaths of two of Jane’s four siblings. Her father Charles, an injured Union veteran of the Civil War, was a coal miner who survived a mining accident and suffered probable brain damage. He was admitted to the Danville State Hospital for the Insane in November 1874, leaving his wife Margaret and three small children to fend for themselves. He owned no property, so there was nothing to inherit. It is possible that Margaret worked as a nurse, an occupation she was known to perform in later years.

In 1880 Jane’s mother Margaret married again in Wilkes Barre, PA, telling her children that their father was dead, although he still a patient in Danville Hospital.  Jane did not know of the deception for many years. By spring 1890, the family had moved from Pennsylvania up to New York City, where her step-father Andrew Seger grew up. He worked as a boot maker but was disabled due to injuries received in the Civil War. Jane’s sister Isabella married in Brooklyn in 1890 and her brother John in 1895.  Their father Charles died in the hospital in November of that year.

Jane Morrison married Robert Thomas Cooke on 9 August 1899 at South Third Street Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. It’s possible that they met through their parents: Jane’s step-father Andrew Seger and Robert’s father William Cooke were both shoemakers in Brooklyn. Through their married life, Jennie and Robert lived in Brooklyn and Queens, moving back and forth between boroughs. They had two children, daughter Marion Stokes Cooke (my grandmother) born in May 1902 and son Leighton Brookmire Cooke, named for his grandmothers Eliza Leighton and Margaret Brookmire, born in March 1904.

IMG_20180719_152229By 1920, Rob and Jennie’s home included their children and her mother and step-father, who were in their 80’s. Rob died on 2 September 1925 in Brooklyn, and Jennie moved across the Hudson River to 900 Lake Street in Newark, New Jersey, five houses down the street from her daughter Marion. She owned the home, valued at $13,000. Her mother lived with her and in 1930, so did three boarders. When her mother died in 1939 at age 93, Jennie moved to Madison, New Jersey, and lived with her son Leighton and his family. She died on 25 March 1946 in the Home for Aged Women in Newark.

Robert and Jennie enjoyed each other, their children, and their extended families, who also lived in the New York area. They were not wealthy but their lives were comfortable. He worked as a “paper dealer” or salesman (details not known) and she kept the house and raised the children. As a family, they attended South Third Street Presbyterian Church. Jennie was an expert needlewoman who made beautiful cutwork pieces that are still being used today. She passed that love and skill on to her daughter Marion, who graduated from Pratt Institute with a degree in trade dressmaking.

4-Generations

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The Mystery of Anna Conway O’Connor

ConwayAnna Will 1926I didn’t know who Anna Conway O’Connor was but I had a privately printed copy of her Last Will and Testament, dated 1926 and probated in 1928. It was with other documents that came from my grandfather’s house. Why we had it was a mystery, and why we held on to it for almost a century without knowing who she was is yet another one.

So what did it tell me? At first reading, I was struck by how much money she was giving away in pre-Depression New York.  Ten thousand dollars here, ten thousand dollars there — which is $146,000 in 2018 dollars. That was a lot of money!  A second reading showed me that Anna also left bequests to names I recognized, including my great-grandmother Charlotte Flanders and her Heginbotham cousins.

ConwayWillp.3The big surprise was finding a stated relationship to “Alice McCormick, widow of my deceased uncle Peter McCormick” – and further, to “Annie McCormick, widow of my deceased uncle John McCormick,” and a large bequest to her beloved uncle Francis McCormick.  Alice and Peter were my great-great-grandparents, but who were these other people?  I clearly had work to do.  I started with the will and worked backwards. But once my eyes were focused, I started seeing Conways pop up near my known relatives for years.

Anna C. O’Connor was the widow of Thomas J. O’Connor when she died in January 1928. They are buried in Old St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx in a large plot that includes O’Connors, Conways – and McCormicks, including my great-great-grandfather Peter McCormick, who died in December 1898. He had originally been buried separately in the cemetery but Anna had his body moved to this new family plot when her husband Thomas died in 1926. Okay, that was weird, that someone I’d never heard of  had my ancestor moved to her family plot. But it was also intriguing. Peter’s wife Alice was a Protestant so therefore banned from burial in this Catholic cemetery.

1900censusclipThomas O’Connor was a widower with a young daughter when he married Anna. His first wife was Elizabeth Conway, Anna’s younger sister, who died of tuberculosis in 1912. Both were from Irish immigrant families; Anna and Elizabeth were born in England before the Conways migrated to the United States, where they lived in the Bronx. When I found them in the  1900 census, my heart skipped a beat to see who was not only living near them but in the same house: my great-great grandmother Alice McCormick, and her daughter and son-in-law, my great-grandparents. And two house numbers down the street we find John and Bridget O’Connor with their son Thomas, who later married both Elizabeth and Anna Conway. Wow.

My hypothesis was that Mary Conway was the sister of Peter, John, and Francis McCormick, based on relationships stated in Anna’s will.  Death certificates for  Elizabeth Conway O’Connor, Anna Conway O’Connor, and their brother Francis J. Conway all list their mother’s maiden name as Mary McCormick, which confirms it. I knew that Peter was indentured to a stone mason in Glasgow in 1856 but that the indenture was broken by the death of his master. I found him in Liverpool in the 1861 Census, listed with parents Patrick and Catherine McCormick with their children Mary, Francis, Peter, and John. All of the men were stone masons. All of those names appeared in Anna’s will and/or census and death records.

The 1880 Census finds the Conways and McCormicks at 347 76th Street in Manhattan, living in the same building and with consecutive family numbers.

1880 census ConwayMcCormick

Both Mary Conway and Catherine McCormack are listed as widowed, which is new information and can help me locate death records for their husbands. Mary is living with her children Francis, Elizabeth, Ann, John, and Lewis – all familiar names from Anna’s will and confirmed by other census records.  Catherine McCormack has sons Frank and John, both stone cutters.  Ages are consistent with other records.  It appears that widowed Mary Conway was living near her widowed mother and brothers. Peter McCormick, now married, lived a few blocks away on Lexington Avenue.  Anna’s brother Francis J. Conway, also a builder, was a witness to his uncle Peter McCormick’s naturalization and oath of allegiance in October 1886.

So now the question is, who was Catherine McCormack?  I know she was born in Ireland and I knew who her children were but I didn’t know her maiden name.  Her son Peter (my great-great-grandfather)’s 1898 death certificate lists her name as “Catherine” but no surname.  Now armed with additional names, I am researching death certificates for her other children. Francis McCormick’s record shows her maiden name as Catherine Murray which is lovely, but it only one source; I am still searching for records for her other children. However, the name also gives me a starting point for other research in New York, England, and Ireland.

The Conways and McCormicks overlapped in their residences, occupations, relationships, and even their resting places. I had never heard of Anna Conway but her little will allowed me to open new doors and uncover connections I would have missed.


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Grandfather William Charles Flanders

Pop c1920William Charles (“Bill”) Flanders was born on 5 October 1900 in Belleville, New Jersey, the only child of Englishman William John Flanders and his wife Charlotte Ann McCormick, who was born in New York City. He was the fourth William Flanders in his line, following father William John Flanders (b.1865), son of William Flanders (b.1834), son of William Flanders (b.1811). The legacy of the name died with him, as he had only daughters, neither of whom were named William. Good thing!

Bill’s older half-brother Lester Maris Flanders was born in 1891 to William John and his first wife, Bessie Read.  On her death in 1898, William and Lester leased rooms from widow Alice McCormick on Hunts Point Road in the Bronx, New York.  A year later, William married the landlady’s 21-year old daughter, Charlotte Ann. He called her “Daisy.”

4-916 Lake St.

916 Lake Street, Newark, NJ

The Flanders family settled in Newark, New Jersey, just two miles from Belleville, where Charlotte’s extended Heginbotham family lived. In 1905 they were living at 276 Riverside Avenue but moved in 1907 to a new 5-bedroom house in the quiet Forest Hill residential neighborhood. The home at 916 Lake Street remained in the family for almost 70 years.

Bill Flanders had a high school education, attending Barringer High School in Newark, and was still living at home when his father died in April 1925. Bill cared for his mother in that home for another 40 years until her death in 1967. The year after his father died, he met the vivacious Marion Stokes Cooke and married her on 10 March 1927 in Brooklyn.  They had two daughters, Jane Anne Flanders born on 12 October 1929 and Alice Margaret Flanders, born 9 March 1931.

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The Flanders in 1931:  Marion, Margaret, Jane Anne, William

Bill was a salesman, as was his father, and he changed industries several times.  In 1920 he was working as a purchasing agent for a steel company. During the dark days of the Depression in 1930, he was a salesman for a motor company. But by the 1940 census, he was sales manager for a meter company, an industry he stayed with until he retired in 1965 as president of the Gamon-Calmet Meter Company. Bill hired his daughter Margaret’s husband (my father) in 1952 and taught him the business.

Flanders William - 1942 Newark NJ

Bill Flanders as a Roman Soldier – we dont’ know why!

My grandfather didn’t have hobbies that I knew of, but he was an active member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Forest Hill, serving on the vestry for many years as well as church treasurer. One of his jobs was to buy Christmas trees for the church every year, and he bought the one for his home at the same time – always a big tall tree that rose up next to the stairwell on Christmas Eve. Rector John Borton and his family were close friends of the Flanders and they socialized together in Newark and also Manasquan during the summers. The rector’s daughter even wore the wedding dress made by Bill’s wife Marion for her own daughters.

Bill enjoyed the company of men but was the only one in a home filled with mother, wife, and daughters.  Except for secretaries, his work life was a man’s world as well. He was a member of the Elks Club and also a 33rd degree Mason of Kane’s Lodge 55 in Newark. I don’t remember him ever talking about either one, but he was proud of both.  He was also a director of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – another affiliation that didn’t make much sense to me but was important to him.

Bill Flanders Grilling c1960

Grilling Steaks in Manasquan, NJ – c1960

He was a meat-and-potatoes man, eating relatively plain food but with a sweet tooth for desserts. During World War II, my mom remembers that they would go to a local butcher with bottles of liquor to get extra meat. His mother ruled the kitchen until the war, when she couldn’t figure out rationing; from there my grandmother took over. Her recipe box is full of favorite desserts which he loved. Pop was known for cooking steaks on the grill, trimming every inch of fat off and seasoning with olive oil, salt and pepper until they were “just so.” This was a familiar sight on Manasquan evenings – and very tasty, too.

My grandfather was devastated by his wife’s death from cancer in 1960; it left a hole in his heart for the rest of his life. He continued to care for his mother until she died in 1967, leaving him alone in the house where he grew up. So in 1970 he sold it, moving to an apartment and later, to a retirement village near the Jersey Shore, which he loved.  His world was small and he outlived most of his peers and friends, dying on 27 January 1983 at age 82.  The day before he died, he told his neighbor that he had to decide whether to stay in New Jersey or sell his house to go to California to star in a movie. That always makes me smile.

Flanders & Baby Anne 1954

Four Generations: Bill Flanders, Charlotte McCormick Flanders, Peg Flanders Myers, Anne Myers, 1954

I remember Bill Flanders with love. We grew up nearby and saw him often until we moved to Kentucky in 1970. When I lived in Virginia, I made several trips a year up to see him and enjoyed asking family history questions and spending time with him. Although he lost weight and became gaunt in his final years, I remember him as round of face with the moustache he always sported. He is buried in East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Delawana, NJ, with his wife and parents.


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Newspaper Finds

Last night I did random searches at Newspapers.com, looking up people I’ve checked before. Repeating an identical search can bring different results, since new papers are added and as older issues are digitized and made available.

First, this cool article about my grandparents from the New York Daily News (Brooklyn Section), Sunday, 17 April 1927:

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Daily News (New York, New York), Brooklyn Section, Sunday, 17 April 1927, p.265, col.1 ; digital access, Newspapers.com, accessed 29 June 2018.

Second find: this short classified ad from the Asbury Park Press in 1920, placed by my great-grandfather:

Bungalow

Asbury Park Evening Press (Asbury Park, New Jersey), Saturday, 24 Jan 1920, p.9, col. 3 ; digital image, Newspapers.com, accessed 29 June 2018.

I have a photo album of pictures taken in what we think is Ocean Grove, New Jersey, about 1922. But given this ad, and reviewing newer information found about the people in the photos, I believe they were taken in the summer of 1920 at the “bungalow” located from the ad. Here we have my great-grandmother Charlotte McCormick Flanders (right), next to her mother Alice Heginbotham McCormick. Next to Alice is her son, Charles McCormick and his wife Mildred Hartt McCormick. Taking the photo was probably my great-grandfather, who does appear in other pictures in the album.

McCormicks-at-Ocean-Grove

I’ve been off my game in the ancestor profile writing campaign after the death of my father, but I’m still commited to writing about those who came before me. Look for more stories soon – there’s a long list of people who need to be written about!


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52 Ancestors #21 – James L. Keel, Galvanized Yankee

Most of the Confederate soldiers captured at Gettysburg were taken to Fort Delaware; my great-great-grandfather Private James L. Keel was one of them. We call him Grandpappy Jim.

KEEL James L - Captured at Gettysburg - July 1863Keel was born in Martin County, North Carolina on 18 March 1846 and was 15 years old when he enlisted in Company H, North Carolina 1st Regiment on 24 June 1861 in Williamston, North Carolina. He made extra money working as a teamster and was paid bimonthly from 1861 through April 1863.

The 1st North Carolina served everywhere during those years, fighting with the Army of Northern Virginia in Mechanicsville, Sharpsburg, and Chancellorsville, and marched with General Robert E. Lee to Gettysburg in July 1863, where Keel was captured. He was marched with 11,000 other prisoners to Fort Delaware, a Union fortress on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River. Within 10 days, he swore the Oath of Allegiance to the Union and became a prison guard in Ahl’s Independent Battery as an alternative to being a prisoner of war in an overcrowded, disease-ridden prison.

Seven companies of “Galvanized Yankees” were recruited from the prison pen at Fort Delaware in the summer of 1863. They got their name from the color of galvanized steel, which is gray steel coated by blue-tinted zinc, much like a rebel soldier wearing a blue Union uniform.

 

Jim Keel was 18 years old and described as having a light complexion, light hair, grey eyes and standing 6 feet and ½ inch tall.   At some point between August 1863 and March 1864, he married a local Delaware City girl and was granted a short leave of absence at the end of March 1864 to visit Philadelphia with his wife. Due back at Fort Delaware on 4 April 1864, he failed to report and was listed as a deserter on 1 May 1864.  His wife, which the North Carolina family did not know he had, said he was drunk when she put him on board the ferry to return to duty.

He was apprehended on 16 June 1864 on board the oyster schooner  Rainbow in Chesapeake Bay at or near Delaware City and was tried for desertion by a General Court-Martial convened at Fort Delaware on 12 July 1864.  Keel was sentenced to forfeit all pay and allowances from 8 April 1864 and to serve the unexpired term of his enlistment at hard labor at the Dry Tortugas, Florida. While a harsh sentence, he could have been sentenced to death.

Keel Court Martial Sentence

Except he didn’t.  Instead, he returned to company duty with all pay and allowances due from the date of his desertion, as directed by “Special Order No. 324 dated September 7, 1864, Headquarters, Fort Delaware.”  He went back to being a prison guard and mustered out with Ahl’s Battery at Wilmington, Delaware on 25 July 1865 receiving all due pay and allowances.

So what on earth happened?  Why was this deserter (or traitor, if you looked at him from the perspective of his former Confederate comrades in arms) suddenly returned to duty with rank and back pay? Who was this mysterious “wife” that we knew nothing about and what happened to her? So many questions and no one had answers!

After wondering for 40 years, we now have his court martial file from the National Archive. While it doesn’t really explain the wife at all, we know that Keel pleaded “Not Guilty” to desertion but did not present any evidence in his own defense. But there was a bigger legal issue going on than whether he was a deserter: in the opinion of Joseph Holt, the Judge Advocate General of the Union Army, Fort Delaware’s commander Gen. Shoepf did not have the authority to call a general court martial, so the sentence was overturned.

Keel’s file includes a 4-page letter from Joseph Holt to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, laying out his argument that the prison did not constitute a Brigade and therefore was not legally able to convene a general court martial. It bounced around to other officers for their review and input, ultimately leading Stanton to agree with Holt’s original opinion. This decision was telegraphed to Gen. Shoepf at Fort Delaware

Telegram From Sec of War

And just like that, Keel was released back to his service.

Revocation of Keel Court Martial

James Keel disappeared for a few years after the war ended. I wouldn’t have wanted to return to North Carolina, either, after changing sides – but he was not the only one in his county. He may have been with this first family during these years, though to date I have found no record of a marriage in the Delaware City area. But at least the mystery of why he was not sent to Dry Tortugas, Florida, has been solved – and was the subject of a legal decision to boot.


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52 Ancestors – #20 Medical Language

I had a plan for writing this week’s theme of Other Language. But then life intervened.

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-23,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-veMy 90 year old father fell on May 1st and hit his head on a low brick retaining wall. It was a bloody mess. We went to the ER and he got staples to close the wound, fluids, and a CT scan which was negative. No one mentioned concussion and the list of things to watch for was, in retrospect, woefully limited. After a few days he was sleeping more, eating less, and having more verbal confusion. When we brought him in to get his staples out, the doctor  decided a brain MRI was in order to see if there was something going on to explain the changes we were seeing.

Last Saturday, Dad was able to drive his golf cart and had dinner at the club with my brother. Sunday he wasn’t feeling well. Monday, the day of the MRI, he was unable to stand and dress himself. The MRI showed a subdural hematoma, bleeding or fluids on the brain, pressing on the areas that control speech and motor functions.

So now we entered a new world of neurology. Terms like “confusion” that mean one thing to lay people mean something else to doctors. The hospital is crowded, busy, and really loud, the worst possible environment for elderly neuro patients. Surgery to drill a hole in his head to drain the fluid was quickly deemed unrealistic for Dad, given his age and condition. When a neurosurgeon says “no surgery” when their job is to operate, that says a lot. Not operating brings its own risks, as we have no idea what happens next. We don’t know if the bleeding will continue or subside and reabsorb on its own. It will be 6-8 weeks from the fall to assess the full long-term changes.

We scrambled to find a care facility in a matter of 30 hours. Thankfully my brother was here and we could do it together. The first place, while certainly competent, dropped my heart and my head screamed, “No, no, not that for my Dad.”  The doctors mentioned skilled nursing hospice – another word that threw us for a loop. I know about hospice, of course, but almost always in the context of life-ending cancer. I know hospice care happens at home, in a care facility, or in their own facility. But did that mean Daddy was dying?  What were we planning for?  Why weren’t they being more precise or at least explain? And why weren’t they saying the same things when we asked?

All the places we looked at have their own vocabulary that conforms with Medicare terms. No matter what, we were basically told Dad would transfer in as a rehab patient because Medicare pays everything for the first 100 days. How did this relate to “skilled nursing hospice”?  I don’t know. I got more confused with almost every person we talked to.

SerenityPrayerDad is indeed in a rehab section of a facility that offers levels of care including rehab, skilled nursing, and memory care – and he doesn’t want to be there. We don’t know how he will respond to rehab but any recovery is dependent on working hard. He hates being in “one of those places” and my heart hurts to see him there, lost and confused. We may have him for a short time or for years.

In a heartbeat, my life changed. After two and a half years as live-in caregiver, I need to find a new normal, and learn to just let go what I cannot change, which is pretty much everything relating to Dad. My nephew reminded me of the Serenity Prayer and the power of accepting things we cannot change, even if we don’t like them.

Please say a prayer for my daddy, for comfort and strength and patience. I need some, too.


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52 Ancestors – #19 Grandmother Susie Keel Myers

Everyone in town called her “Miss Susie.” I called her Grandmama.

KEEL Susie - c1940 - NC

Susie Keel Myers, c1940 – Norfolk, VA

Susie Lanier Keel was born 31 August 1906 in the rural community of Everetts in Martin County, North Carolina. She was named for her aunt Susie (Sudie) Peal Lanier and her middle name became a family tradition, passed down to daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter.  Susie was the seventh child born to farmer William Jesse Keel and his wife, Sarah Annis Peal. Of their eleven children, only four survived infancy, and she and her older sister Mary Magdalene (Maglene) Keel were particularly close.

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Susie and Maglene Keel, c1909 – Martin County, NC 

SCAN0013 (2)She wanted to be a teacher when she grew up and history was her favorite subject in school, she told my father.  According to the 1940 census, Susie completed four years of high school, two years more than her husband, William Marvin Myers. They met in Robersonville, NC, at the movies and something sparked between the social farmer’s daughter and the quiet man from Hertford. They were married at the Baptist preacher’s home in Williamston on 23 July 1926.  Grandmama told me that what she remembered most about her wedding was that her parents didn’t come. I believe that was because she was pregnant; her first child (my dad) was born seven months later.

Bill and SusieSusie spent her life in Martin County, raising sons William and James and daughter Jeanette, and burying a fourth child (Joseph) who died at seven months. When first married, she and her little family lived with her parents, Bill and Sarah (Sade) Keel. By the 1940 census, though, the head of the household was her husband, not her father. Both parents continued to live with her until their deaths in 1948 and 1952.  This was not unusual for the generation or the community.

But money was tight.  Bill Myers worked for the local tobacco company and Bill Keel hunted and fished, providing food. Susie also worked most of her life, sitting in the window of the local dry cleaners doing sewing alterations. She also brought work home, doing piecework for a local dressmaker.  Once when I was feeling guilty about hiring someone to alter my own clothes, I realized that she made a living because people hired her, and that she would probably approve of my helping someone else survive.

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Susie Myers at Alpha Cleaners, Williamston – c1980

Grandmama not only raised her own children, she also raised two of her grandchildren after her daughter remarried in 1960. She and my grandfather opened their home to a new generation, as they had opened it to an older one years before. I was jealous of them because they spent so much time with her and I only saw her about once a year; trips from New Jersey to North Carolina didn’t come easy.

Susie Keel Myers loved her God, her family, and her friends. She cooked wonderful Southern meals and drank gallons of sweet tea on the porch, visiting with friends and family. She grew up in the Primative Baptist Church but spent her adult years as a member of the Williamston Presbyterian Church. She loved to sing, especially hymns, and was a good and supportive friend, respected and loved by her family and community.

MYERS Susie, William, Tom, Bill and Rob - 1985 - Emerald Bay

William Myers, Tom Myers, Bill Myers, Susie Myers, Rob Myers – Emerald Bay, TX – 1985

Grandmama died on 10 December 1987 at age eighty one and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Williamston next to her husband and sons and close to her parents. My life is richer for having had her in it.