Wednesday, August 26, 2015

#13 Sylvanus Crosby White

After I spent some time digging into and researching family history, I considered it a gift when I come across an ancestor with a unique name.   After trying to find a “John Ryan” and a “John Hayes” among seemingly hundreds with the same name, I was happy to come across a “Sylvanus”.  However, while unique to me, it was not uncommon in the mid 1800’s…and, as a family name, there were several within the extended White family.

Sylvanus Crosby White, also called “Veen” or referenced as “S.C.”, for some reason, left Shabbona Grove, IL where he lived with his mother and siblings, and came to Sheldon, Iowa in the early 1880’s.  By the 1880 census, he did have an aunt (Samantha White Peck) who had moved to Sheldon (Franklin Township) with her family.   By April 1884, Sylvanus was in Sheldon and married my gg-grandmother Margaret Donohue in the local catholic church, St. Patrick’s, in Sheldon, Iowa. It was through my research into Sylvanus’ background (who my grandmother only knew as “Grandpa” and did not know his name), that I found the link to the Mayflower.  

I was floored.  There was never any mention by any maternal relative about my grandmother being a direct descendant of a Mayflower passenger.  As many stories do, it just stopped being mentioned and soon no living descendant knew. It has been my quest since, to prove the connection via the documented path through the Mayflower Society.  The first 4 generations are clearly documented by the Mayflower society.  The 5th generation (Hosea White) was not documented, and the remaining generations, 6th through 11th (me) are documented.  So, as soon as I can verify in an established record that Hosea White was a son of Caleb White, I will be able to officially verify the Mayflower link.  Until then, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the path back to William White and Susannah Fuller White, the Mayflower passengers, along with sons Resolved (my direct ancestor) and Peregrine, who was born on the Mayflower.

Sylvanus was born in Whitestown, Boone County, Indiana in 1857 to Lemuel White and Nancy Morrow White.  Lemuel and Nancy had met and married in Preble County, Ohio and had the first four of seven children while living in Jackson, Ohio.  In 1851, Lemuel and Nancy moved to Indiana (Boone County) where their remaining three children were born. Unfortunately, two of the seven children died before the age of 3.  The family was prosperous in Indiana, donating land to established and grow the town... and, there is some dispute over the naming of their small town of “Whitestown” as being named after Lemuel or after a Railroad President.  I, of course, choose to believe it was named after Lemuel.  His son Ovando’s obituary notes that it was named after Lemuel, so if the direct family thought it so, then I choose to believe it so as well.  

Lemuel and Nancy were very involved in the Latter Day Saints in the 1850’s and 1860’s and had interacted with several notable figures in Mormon history in the Illinois/Indiana areas.  It appeared that just this generation was involved in the Latter Day Saints, so I am not sure if this was a small or great area of difference for the family.  In the Mormon Church archives, the Saints Herald (Volume 2) noted that the Indiana and Illinois churches were laboring to "spread the truth" and "planting the seeds" of the Mormon church.

Sylvanus Crosby White, date unknown

With Sylvanus’ move to Sheldon, O’Brien County, Iowa, he remained connected to the Catholic Church as his wife, Margaret, and her family were strong Irish Catholics.  They were married at St. Patrick’s just a few years after it was built in 1880.  Sylvanus and Margaret’s 5 children were baptized, raised, and some married in the same Catholic Church:  Helena Agnes, Francis Parnell, Florence Rose, Leo, and Marie Margaret.

Sylvanus’ two older sisters (Philena and Melissa) both married but died young before having children (one dying in childbirth along with the baby).  His older brother Ovando remained in Shabbona Grove, IL where his parents moved in 1865.  Sylvanus’ younger sister, Miranda Clarissa “Clara”, moved out to Southern California after her parents died; she never married or had children and worked as an artist until her death in 1945.  

Sylvanus, who at one time worked as a railroad section boss, was killed by a train as he was walking along the Omaha railroad yards track on a very cold day.  His obituary reports that he “…was walking through the yards, and as the night was very cold he had his head and ears well protected from the severity of the weather, consequently he did not hear the approach of a box car until it was upon him.  As a result both feet were so terribly crushed that immediate removal to the Grain hospital was deemed necessary.  This was at once done, but the shock proved too great for the system to endure, and the end came on Thursday morning.”  An awful way to go, he died on January 17, 1918 at the age of 60.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

#12 Nels Peter (Persson) Utterberg (1854-1929)

My paternal great-grandfather was born July 30, 1854 in Utterbyn, Fryksande Parish, Varmland, Sweden.  He was the 9th child of Per Persson and Marit Ersdotter.  Sadly, as was somewhat common for those times, at least 3 of his older siblings died as infants or toddlers.  Utterbyn is a small town outside of Torsby, Sweden.  Nels was primarily raised by his father as his mother died when he was 2 years old.

Nels joined the Swedish Army in July 1876 and was a soldier in the Varmland’s regiment, soldier number 100 at Alvdals Company. Nels took the name of Utterberg from his home town after serving in the King’s Guard (a common practice in the Swedish Army).    Later that year, he married a local young woman, Matilda Nilsdotter, in Utterbyn on November 26, 1876. 

It was understood that Nels immigrated to Minnesota in/around 1880, along with several men from his hometown/general area.  They traveled as a group and, upon arrival, built sod houses; after which, their wives followed from Sweden and joined them in Minnesota. Nels and his cousin, Nels Dahlman, spent several winters as lumberjacks in Brainerd, MN.  Gothenburg, Sweden passenger records show Nels Dahlman left Sweden in July 1881 with an identified destination as Cokato, Minnesota; it has been harder to find the passenger listing for Nels Utterberg.  

It is thought that Nels immigrated between 1880 and 1882. They eventually settled in French Lake, Wright County, Minnesota. Swedish records indicated that Matilda left Utterbyn with Frida, Carl, and Amanda on May 4, 1883, and left Sweden (via Gothenburg) on May 11, 1883 via the same ship that her husband’s cousin, Nels Dahlman, arrived two years earlier, the Romeo; they arrived in New York on May 31, 1883.   
The Ship, Romeo

Their 4th child, Hilma, was the first to be born in the U.S. in January 1886.  Nels and Matilda were expecting their 5th child shortly thereafter; however, both Matilda and the baby girl, also named Matilda, died in 1887.

Emma and Nels Utterberg
Nels contacted his relatives, as well as Matilda’s relatives, back in Sweden.  Matilda’s younger sister, Emma Ingeborg, was sent to help with the children.  It is said that she had a suitor who had immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Wisconsin.  She, however, came to help Nels, arriving in the US in December 1887.  Nels and Emma married a little less than a year later in October 1888.  They had 7 children together between the years of 1890 to 1903.  The Utterbergs ran a farm in the town of French Lake.  A busy house full of 11 children helped with the many duties of the farm.  

Utterberg Farm, in French Lake, Wright County, Minnesota

Brothers, Nels (Persson) Utterberg and Erik Persson

Around 10 years after Nels’ arrival, he arranged for 3 of his brother Erik’s 6 children to come to Minnesota (John, Erik Conrad, and Anna).  After working to earn money, Erik’s oldest son John purchased a local farm and sent for his parents and remaining siblings in 1897.  They also settled in the French, Lake and other nearby towns in the Wright County area.  Emma’s two sisters, Joanna and Karolina, also came to Minnesota and with their families settled in nearby Pine and Hennepin counties.

L to R: Nels' youngest son, Alexis, sons-in-law John Matson, and Henning Ottoson
L to R:  Daughter Annie  Utterberg Matson, granddaughter Dorothy Matson, Bill Kittleson and daughter Amanda Utterberg Kittleson, and sons-in-law John Matson, and Nels Shogren.

As children grew and married, the Utterberg Farm continued to be a 
meeting place for family gatherings; my father, one of Nels’ grandsons, had many wonderful memories of spending summers on the Utterberg Farm. 

Nels farmed and lived on the Utterberg Farm until his death on October 9, 1929 at age 75, 20 days before the stock market crash, on black Tuesday, that launched the U.S. into the depression. Fortunately, the family farm stayed in the family, with Nels and Emma’s daughter, Hulda, and her family moved onto farm, living there in the 1950’s and 1960’s. 

Nels Peter (Persson) Utterberg

Saturday, April 25, 2015

#11 Edward Christopher Merklin (1880-1960)

In the original letter from my maternal grandmother that helped launch my interest in genealogy, the four actionable search avenues within her letter included (a)  her parent’s names (Edward C. Merklin and Helena Agnes ), (b) her grandparent’s names (Margaret Donohue and “Grandpa” White), and (c) her great-grandfather, Timothy Donohue.    My grandmother was 4 and 6 years old when her grandfathers died and 11 when her maternal grandmother died (her paternal grandmother died well before she was born).  With that, I am not terribly surprised that she did not recall much.

I began to dig much deeper into my family history when I was an adult and several years after my grandmother passed away.  I wished I had asked her more questions while she was alive. From speaking with my mother, she recalled a maternal aunt and 4 maternal uncles.  That, along with what my grandmother shared, got me started.

My first step was to go find Edward, my grandmother’s father.  I was able to start my family tree on and was thrilled to find each new layer and tidbit – census information, military draft registration, and newspaper articles.  What eluded me was his death information (and burial details)…and anything that would provide insight into his parents and siblings.   In June of 2008, I was able to track down my grandmother’s brother, Jim, and called him at his home in Iowa Falls.

We had a great conversation and he shared information to help me continue on….Edward’s middle name, how many siblings Edward had (and their names), Edward’s father’s name,  what happened between 1930 and 1940 when the census records showed a split in the family, and what his father liked about the blacksmithing profession.  

This information opened up my search quickly and helped me differentiate my g-grandfather’s family from others (interestingly, there were a lot of Merklins from Illinois in the mid to late 1800’s).  Jim and I exchanged letters a few more times and then I received a letter from one of his sons that he died in November 2008 at age 90.  It was a blessing that I had the chance to speak to him live…it also helped introduce me to his family who I would meet in person the next summer when my mom, sisters and I went on a family history trip in Minnesota and Iowa. To this day, I am grateful to my Uncle Jim, as I may not have been able to find, or find as quickly, the information I was looking for. I had so many more questions about Edward, but I was now equipped with more information to understand more of his life and his ancestors. 

Edward Christopher Merklin

My maternal great-grandfather, Edward, was born June 15, 1880 in Marine, Madison County, Illinois to Nicholas Merklin and Elisabeth (Hans) Merklin.   Edward was a 1st generation German-American, as were his 5 siblings who survived to adulthood.  His father’s family came from Southwest Germany in a town named Bahlingen, not far from the Black Forest, and his mother’s family came from Marienthal, Germany, formerly in Bavaria.

Edward was the 5th child born to Nicholas and Elisabeth -  his older siblings were Nicholas (who died as an infant), Katherine, Lena Maria, and George.  His younger siblings were August Otto “Gus”, and Louise Elizabeth “Lucy”. Both Nicholas and Elisabeth’s families were in Marine, Illinois or adjacent cities.  There was a strong and growing German community in the area…many having immigrated through New Orleans, up the Mississippi to just outside St. Louis, and, finally to Marine, a growing community of German immigrants.

Edward Merklin and his siblings: Standing, Gus, George, Lena, Lucy; Sitting:  Edward, Kate

They were farmers in the area and were surrounded by family.  In 1888, when Edward was 8 year’s old, the family moved to Graettinger, Palo Alto County, Iowa….joined also by Nicholas’ brother, Jacob.  Unfortunately, Edward’s mother died young at age 43 when Edward was 15.   

By 1900, Edward and his older brother George, had moved further West to Northwest Iowa, and were listed as servants/farm labor in a local German family’s home.  Over the next 5-10 years, Edward, George, and younger brother Gus, would begin professions in the blacksmithing trade.  In 1905, a local paper in Sheldon, Iowa noted, “Ed Merklin of Sheldon and Roy Pinney of Le Mars, have formed a partnership and purchased a wagon and blacksmith business in Sheldon. Mr. Pinney is moving his family to Sheldon,”

By the 1910 census, in April 1910, Edward was shown in Sheldon, Iowa, living in the home of his future wife’s family, listed as a lodger.  On June 4, 1911, Edward married the eldest daughter of Sylvanus and Margaret (Donohue) White, Helena Agnes White. They moved to neighboring LeMars, where Edward purchased a business.  In March 1912, the local newspaper, LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, commented, “Ed Merklin, who has been working in the Belau blacksmith shop, has purchased a half interest in the Union blacksmith shop with Ray Hart. The new firm will be Hart & Merklin.”

Edward (left) and brother Gus (right), Blacksmiths

A few months later, their first child (my grandmother) Margaret was born.  Announced in the LeMars Semi Weekly Sentinel on May 10, 1912, “Born on Friday, May 3rd, to Mr. and Mrs. Ed Merklin, residing in on Cedar Street, a girl.”

Between 1918 and 1930, 5 more children were born:  Jim, Eddy, Donald, Betty and Joe.  All the while, Edward remained in the Blacksmith business.  It was in the early 1930’s after the family struggled, as did many, with the depression, that the family fell apart.  

Circa 1926, The Merklin Family, L to R:  Eddy, Helena, Betty (on lap), Margaret, Donald, Edward, and Jim

Edward with Margaret and Jim, circa 1919

The facts from this point out get fuzzy, only a few recollections remain.  Edward’s son, Jim, told me that he and Edward left the family in the early 1930s (sometime between mid-1932 and mid-1935) and headed up to Minnesota.  Edward continued to travel to find work and Jim was left in the care of a family in Worthington, MN.  Jim later would meet his 1st wife in Worthington and had very fond memories of the family who cared for him.   

Back home in Sheldon, life was more challenging.  At this time, both of Helena’s parents had passed away and she was on her own, but she did have many cousins and her siblings nearby.  It would appear that she was unable to care for the 4 remaining children (my grandmother had already married and move away).  The oldest two sons, Eddy and Donald, were sent to live in an orphanage, St. Joseph's Orphanage in Wabasha, MN.  They would have been around 8 and 12 at the time.  

Helena and the younger two children, Betty and Joe, moved to Blue Earth, Minnesota, where Helena lived until her death in 1967.  The 1940 census listed Helena as divorced; having coming from a strict Catholic family, I can only imagine how difficult this may have been at the time. 

Edward continued to move on and work as a 1935, he was in Worthington, MN and by 1940 he was in Iona, MN.   His son, Jim, had shared that Edward loved working with the horses.  He was known in his blacksmithing career as an expert horseshoer.   

At some point, it would appear that Edward remarried to woman named Cyanthia and they lived in Bryant, Hamlin County, South Dakota. Marriage records have not been located, but he is listed as her spouse on her death record.  The time and details between 1940 and Edward’s death in 1960 have been hard to track down, but I will continue to search.  To this day,  it breaks my heart to read how this family was torn apart…the older 2 children moved out early, the middle two sent to an orphanage, and the younger two stayed with their mother having no memories of their father. I met my grandmother’s sister, Betty, in 2009 and she only knew her father’s name and nothing else. Fortunately, as the children grew up, they stayed in touch with each-other as adults and were able to form sibling bonds.
Margaret and younger brother Donald

Margaret and younger sister Betty

Eddy and younger brother Joe
Joe, Uncle Frank (Helena's brother),Helena and Eddy

Gus (Edward's brother), Joe, Eddy, Frank (Helena's brother), and Jim

Edward died in 1960 from bronchial pneumonia while in the hospital in Watertown, South Dakota, and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.