This photo has always seemed sad to me, but I recently found out more about it and it made it even more sad.
It was taken in Denmark less than a year before they emigrated to the United States. In the back my great Grandfather Kristian is holding Elna. She was very sick and died shortly after this photo was taken. A cousin on Facebook thinks it was from leukemia, but I seem to remember my grandmother telling me her sister died of diabetes.
On the right, my great Grandmother Ane Marie is holding a baby that, apparently, at the time of the photo was not yet named. After the original Elna died, they named the baby Elna. (Also according to the cousin on Facebook). In the front, on the left, is Antonie (Toni), then Harry, then my Grandma, Emily, on the right.
No one in this photo looks happy and now I know why. I only wish I knew more.
I wish I knew more about their reasons to move to the United States. I think a brother may have been here, but I might be mixing that up with another branch of my family tree.
As I mused in the post about the circus folk who owned the inn my great grandparents ran: Were they out of a job and needed to move somewhere more promising or did they decide they needed to move somewhere more promising which caused the circus and inn owner to quit the circus and run the inn?
Note that the spelling of Nielsen is different depending on what family tree you look at and what census record you view. I am pretty sure Nielsen is correct based on my grandma’s record of baptism.
Two Rivers, Wisconsin Tuesday Evening July 3, 1945
Recalls Early Fishing Days When Indians Hunted, Fished in Vicinity
by Eunice La Pean
There’s an open house celebration at the Koeser Homestead this afternoon and evening, for the regal “lady of the house” on 1322 Madison Street is 90 years old today and 89 out of her 90 years were spent in Two Rivers.
That’s almost a century of living. And yet today Mrs. Koeser is as alert and vivaciously interested in things surrounding her as her only son and four daughters. She can converse with any caller on current wartime problems, having lived through five wars herself and knows all the ace radio commentators by name.
Mrs. Koeser’s story has a new angle. Shipwreck.
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Degler were coming over from West Prussia in 1855 when their boat was ship-wrecked off the coast of Nova Scotia, and on July 3, 1855, on the straw tick of a warehouse on a little island off the coast, little Elizabeth Degler was born. She was only one year old when her parents came to Two Rivers from Quebec and almost twenty one when she became the bride of the late Ernest Koeser. Now she’s the lone survivor of a family of 13 children.
She can tell you about the Indians who used to hunt and fish in Two Rivers, about picking berries where the Emanuel Evangelical church stands today, about her husband who tied up his boat in the swampland that once oozed into the area where her house is now built, and about the time when Lake Shore park was a row of shanties.
Irish on Southside
She can talk about the old Irish settlers on the Southside and about others she recalls — the Hayes, Van Nostrand, Walslh, Ahearn, Eggers and Grimmer families.
The most remarkable change in affairs within the last century, she believes, is the introduction of the modern household conveniences.
“There’s a difference of night and day between the old days and the present time,” says the nonagenarian who confesses that one of the secrets of her longevity is “good hard work.” Modern appliances turn talk of pumping water and heating irons on the stove to ancient myths, according to the lady.
Until lately, when her eyesight dimmed slightly, Mrs. Koeser quilted constantly. Now she spends more time listening to the radio, especially to political speeches, commentators and plays. Her taste in radio music is partial to hymns and “anti-jazz.”
Active in Evangelical church circles since she was 11 years old, the celebrant is the second charter member of the Ladies Guild of the church and still participates as a member of the Sunday school Adult Bible class.
Grandsons in Service
She has 23 grandchildren and more than 30 great grandchildren.
Helping her receive guests at today’s open house are her four daughters: Mrs. William Klingholz, Indianapolis, Ind.; Mrs. Clyde Nelson, Chicago; and Mrs. Lillian Kaiser, who makes her home with her mother in the city. Her son, Silas Koeser, is also a resident of Two Rivers.
There are five grandsons in service. Tehy are Corp. Carl Nelson of Chicago, a paratrooper now stationed in occupied Germany; Corp. Ernest Nelson, serving with the marines somewhere in the Pacific; Sgt. Donald Koeser of this city, now at Ft. Myers, Fla., after three years overseas; Pfc. Harold Koeser of Elgin, Ill., stationed in France; and Colonel Wm. C. Jackson of Indianapolis, formerly working with the French underground who will soon report to Washington, DC for a new assignment.
Two great grandsons are with the Navy somewhere in the Pacific. They are Donald and Neal Lonzo, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Lester Lonzo of the city.
Note this is from a Two Rivers, Wisconsin newspaper, July 3, 1945 (it was photocopied but the print is very light and I was worried the ink would eventually fade away completely, so I’m documenting this here. The article is about my mother’s mother’s father’s mother; my great-great grandmother.)
First of all, she identified a couple more photographs on the Old Photographs blog as being her grandmother. Upon careful inspection, I agree with her. She has my grandfather’s nose.
Then my mom assured me that she didn’t dislike her grandmother, and told me that she and her brothers and sisters used to eagerly anticipate the arrival of their grandmother and her husband, Frank Harris each Sunday when they’d come to my grandparent’s house for dinner. She did admit that her mother wasn’t all that pleased that her in-laws came for dinner every Sunday — perhaps it just got old. Mom said that her grandmother would tell them all stories and that she loved that.
Mom also mentioned the divorce — that Jessie divorced her first husband who was my grandfather’s father. Since that was highly unusual back then, I suppose it left a mark on Jessie.
It is impossible for me to know, now, if Jessie was married to my great-grandfather when these photos were taken, or not married at all or perhaps married to Frank Harris.
This all has a tragic ending though. Three tragic endings, actually.
My great grandfather, (I think his name was Walter Green, just like my grandfather) Albert Green, was killed on the train track in South Elgin. I’m not sure if he was in a car at the time or if he was killed when walking across the track. I used to think he threw himself in front of the train, but it was an accident.
Frank Harris, Jessie’s second husband, did kill himself though. He hanged himself. I don’t know if this was before or after Jesse died though.
Jessie herself did not die an old woman in bed surrounded by her family. She was struck by a car in Elgin.
It surprises me that I didn’t know any of this — or at least didn’t remember any of it or tie it all together. But looking carefully at the photo of Jessie with her son, she does not look like that defiant, teasing woman whose photo I adopted. She looks very sad.
Edited 4.30.09 — Mom corrected me on two things 1) Jessie’s husband Frank committed suicide after Jessie was struck by an automobile and 2) the photo of my grandfather and the woman — the woman is not his mother. Mom doesn’t know who she is, but is sure she is not Jessie.
Edited 4.15.17 — 1) Changed the spelling of Jessie’s name based on her signature in a book she owned and 2) added Albert Green’s name, crossed out speculation about his name being Walter Green.
I love happy endings. I love connections. This is about both.
When I was a child I found a book that belonged to my grandfather’s mother, Jessie Tyler. I knew it was hers because she’d written her name inside the book. She may even have written her age — I seem to recall that she was 12 when she wrote it. However, that may have simply been part of my fantasy, because, fantasize I did. I wondered what her life was like and what she looked like when she wrote her name in neat script on the inside of the book. I wondered how she liked the book — although I don’t remember the title (I thought it was The Secret Garden — but when I looked now, all I saw was some graffiti from pre-WWI Elgin High School students). I also looked in Ivanhoe, but neither of our copies of Ivanhoe have writing in them. I suspect that either the book is long gone or somewhere else in the house or the writing has faded so much that I cannot see it anymore. I even had imaginary conversations in my mind with young Jessie.
When I first saw the name in the book, I asked my mother if she knew who Jessie Tyler was. She told me it was her grandmother — her dad’s mother. I asked my mom about her — hoping to learn that Jesse was a sweet and loving grandmother who doted on her grandchildren. My mom didn’t have a lot of good things to say about her grandmother, however. She mostly remembered her as being selfish or something. [Mom — if you read this, remind me what you said about Jessie Tyler.] She was married twice — the first ending in divorce, I believe. (For years I thought she was a widow but found mention of the divorce on the Internet).
I knew the name Tyler though. I knew my ancestors were named Tyler and Tyler Creek in Elgin was named after our Tylers. Jessie’s father, Dr. Alexander Tyler, was a veterinarian and my grandfather had many of his grandfather’s instruments in his basement. My grandfather’s middle name was Tyler.
Last year I began scanning some photographs that I took from my mother’s house and uploading them to another blog. Some of the people in the photographs I knew, but others I did not. One photograph that I especially liked was of a woman, arms akimbo, standing in front of greenery. I recently made that photo the background for my twitter profile as well as the gravatar icon for one of my email addresses. I even looked into registering “akimbo.org” or “akimbo.net” but they were both taken. If I had been successful, I would have used the photograph of this unknown woman as my “brand”.
Something about this photograph called to me — the look on her face perhaps, or her posture maybe? Sort of teasing — kind of defiant? Whatever it was, I liked the photo enough to make it a part of me.
Last night, just before I went to bed I checked my email once more and noticed that someone had commented on my Old Photographs blog. It was my mom. She’d finally gotten around to looking at the photos there and commented that one of the photos of ancestors I didn’t know was her father, my grandfather and that the photo of the woman in the white hat, arms akimbo, was my great grandmother, Jessie Tyler. The same woman whose book I owned. The same woman who spoke to me as a child.
I’ve got Wisconsin in my blood. No, really, I do. My great grandmother’s family settled there after emigrating from Germany sometime before the US Civil War. I’m not sure where the man she married, Silas Koeser, was from, perhaps Michigan since my grandmother was born there, but he eventually moved to Two Rivers, the town where his wife was born. She bore nine children and died when some of the children were very young. Silas remained in Two Rivers the rest of his life, as did most of his children.
As many times as I’ve been to Wisconsin, I’ve only been in Two Rivers once. When I was about three years old. And had a bad case of the measles. I don’t remember it at all, but I’ve seen photographs of me at a beach, and perhaps a video or two. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized it was not an ocean beach in the photograph, but Lake Michigan.
Starting this summer, I want to visit some of the places in Wisconsin that have meaning for me. I might not start with Two Rivers, but someday I’ll go back and see where I’m “from”.
The Internet is pretty cool when you want to research something. A number of years ago I found a website dedicated to a branch of my ancestry. The family name McCornack is not that common, so anyone with blood connections to that name is probably a blood relative of mine. That site, and Mr. McCornack himself, were helpful when I was planning our 2002 visit to Scotland. I’d always wanted to see our ancestral home and maybe meet some Scottish relatives – but never really thought I’d get the chance. Here was a man that had done it – he visited Annabaglish in Kirkcowan, near Newton Stewart (which is in Dumfries and Galloway), Scotland and was willing to assist anyone else who wanted to do the same.
My mom was along on the trip – it is through her that I am related to the McCornacks. Her father’s grandmother was, I think, a McCornack. I’d have to check the family tree to be sure.
Anyway, we visited the farm and met the current (non McCornack) owners. They said that every so often Americans stop by to visit the ancestral home. They invited us into the house and onto the grounds where we had a bit of a look around.
A couple of years after our visit I looked up Annabaglish, hoping to get to the McCornack site again, but misspelled it Anabaglish. I was taken to this site (no longer working but try this instead). It turned out that a distant relative of mine, Jane Freeburg, had also taken the trip to Annabaglish and used a photo of the house as the cover of a CD she and her band, Queen Mab, released. After a couple of false starts I ended up getting in contact with Jane Freeburg. We exchanged a few emails and she sent me a small handmade book she’d put together about her trip to our ancestral home.
I also bought a few copies of the CD – one for me and one for my mother and aunt. I love Celtic music so this was a perfect find.