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.

#10 Timothy Donohue –The Politician (1839-1916)

Growing up, I recall at gatherings of friends and family that to keep the peace at parties and holidays, you should avoid topics of religion or politics.  I did not give it much thought at the time and it seemed to make sense.  As I grew up, married, and had children of my own, I am less inclined to think that is so necessary.  In fact, I rather enjoy a spirited, but respectful, discussion of different viewpoints.  Different is not bad, it is, well…just different.

In my search of family history, I have uncovered a myriad of religious beliefs and practices in my family tree from Lutherans on my Swedish and German side, Catholic on my Irish side, and a mix of varying faiths:  Anglicans, Baptist, Jewish, Presbyterian, Quakers and Mormons.  Nothing earth shattering and I found it interesting to see how families grew and shifted their religions and where they attended church.

However, when I first encountered that I had a politician in my family tree, it stopped me cold.  What?  In my family?  Granted, at family gatherings, it is not uncommon for a healthy debate between the democrats and republicans in the room, or with the more “spirited” discussion, between the liberals and conservatives.  While head shakes are common, everyone leaves without hurt feelings, and we remain a close family.

So what stopped me cold when I uncovered a politician in the family tree was my concern that he was shady or corrupt!  Why that was my first concern is clearly a sad statement and probably reveals a little too much about me.  I have always thought that politicians like the limelight a bit too much and independent of party affiliation, anyone can be negatively influenced by power…and, what started out as a honest and sincere interest in making a difference in our communities can erode over time.  Clearly, not all politicians are corrupt, I just don’t believe all that they have to say. So, what kind of politician did I have in my family tree…? 

The Politician:

Timothy P. Donohue was born in County Kerry, Ireland in July 1839 to Florence Donohue and Mary Archibald.  The family, which included at least one sister (Nora) and brother (Patrick) immigrated to Canada when Timothy was a teenager around 1853.  Timothy made his way down to Boston in the late 1850’s and married another Irish immigrant named Margaret Roche.  They married on November 10, 1860 and their first 3 (of 12) children were born in Boston.  Tim served, with honors, in the Civil War from 8/27/1863 (when he enlisted in Company E, Third Mass Heavy Artillery and served in forts near Washington D.C.) to 7/17/1865 (when he was discharged in Savannah, Georgia).  

Timothy and Margaret (Roche) Donohue, Sheldon Iowa

After the Civil War, Timothy and Margaret moved to Negaunee, Marquette, Michigan, where their remaining 9 children were born. The 1870 census shows Timothy as a blacksmith. Drawn to public life, he also served as constable and deputy sheriff for 12 years. In June of 1878, they moved to a small but growing community in Northwest Iowa -- Sheldon, O’Brien County, Iowa -- where he settled as a farmer. While in Sheldon, he was an active Republican, often a delegate to county and state conventions and served for 19 years as treasurer of a district in Floyd Township (township of Sheldon). 

In 1901, Timothy ran a campaign to serve as representative in the Twenty-ninth General Assembly of Iowa, being a member of the lower house of the Iowa Legislature from O'Brien County.    He was officially sworn in on January 13, 1902 and concluded his service on January 10, 1904. 

One of my all-time favorite finds in researching genealogy was the newspaper article that commented on the campaign between Timothy Donohue and his running mate, George Hakeman.  You will note amongst the seemingly itemized list of candidate attributes was drinking beer, “…Donohue likes to tickle his Adam’s apple with a schooner of foaming beer; so does Hakeman.”  I just had to chuckle…in a modern day campaign, this would have had alarm bells going off…in 1901, apparently not so much.

Timothy died on April 14, 1916 having lost a battle with stomach cancer.  In his obituary, he was described, amongst other descriptors as, “…a true blue republican, was fearless in politics, as in community life or as a private citizen.” 
I am pleased to say no corruption was found, only a dedication to community service, his family, and a fondness for a schooner of ale.  

With that I will leave you with the campaign article dated May 15, 1901 in the Davenport Dailey Republican (reprinted from The Sheldon Sun), titled, “The Two of Them” – I can’t imagine it really helped sway the constituency one way or another, but it put a smirk on my face:

Sheldon Sun:  
George Hakeman is a candidate for representative; so is Tim Donohue.  Donohue is about 64 years of age, so is Hakeman.   Hakeman is tall, slim and imposing, so is Donohue.  Donohue wouldn’t vote for a Democrat under any consideration; neither would Hakeman.  Hakeman is not a pious man; neither is Donohue – he only thinks he is.  Donohue likes to tickle his Adam’s apple with a schooner of foaming beer; so does Hakeman.  Hakeman is well off; so is Donohue.  Donohue is an old settler; so is Hakeman.  Hakeman has raised a large family of excellent children; so has Donohue.  Donohue is genial as a May day sunshine; so is Hakeman.  Hakeman has been on O’Brien county supervisor; Donohue has been doorkeeper in the legislature – therefore Hakeman is well qualified for representative and, by the same token, so is Donohue. Donohue doesn’t want the office for the money there is in it; neither does Hakeman.  Hakeman offered his young life as a sacrifice for his country; so did Donohue.  Donohue will receive the hearty support of his precinct; so Hakeman will his.   Hakeman hardly ever thinks a thing is so and so, but knows it; so does Donohue.  Donohue is in the race to win; so is Hakeman.

LINK to Iowa Legislature History: Representative Timothy Donohue