Our House: Another Piece of the Puzzle

Apparently, I started a little post about some more history on our house. Somewhere along the way, the post was set aside and I completely forgot about it. So, I think it’s time I revisit some of our house’s past.

Some time ago,  I was watching a local University of Wisconsin program on PBS about historic aerial photos. They discussed a lot of cool features for the photography and mapping system, and a lot of then-and-now photos. I of course had to check it out. Many states have similar websites for historic aerial photos but, for Wisconsin, you can easily search for photos taken in the 1930’s by going to https://maps.sco.wisc.edu/WHAIFinder/.

I had to look up our house. I was easily able to find our neighborhood. If you read my my first two posts (here and here) about the history our home, you’ll know our lot was once part of a larger farm. This 1938 photo shows that! You can seen the farm and it’s original outline, which now coincides with a few of main roads in our neighborhood. It is fascinating to see what our part of town looked like as outskirt farms and newly built rows of little houses.

To pin point where our house would be in 1938, I used Photoshop to overlay the two images. I placed green squares over the houses already existing on the 1938 image and a purple square over our house on today’s modern Google image. With a little adjusting and aligning of a few landmarks, I am able to see where our house would be on the 1938 image. I used a real-estate website to get the ages of the houses behind ours, so I could figure out which houses they were in relation to ours. You can also do this with your county’s GIS map and tax info.

Old maps and aerial images are so wonderful. I can spend hours studying them and relating it to what still exists or digging into the stories of what used to be. I highly recommend it! It’s also fun to build on to the story of our home and the land.

 

 

City Connection: We aren’t the First Chamberlains in Point

Winter sucks. We don’t going anywhere and I spend my days dreaming about all the cool ‘ancestral’ places I’d like to visit. Yesterday, I was particularly bummed about it being February, -25, and the ground covered with snow, then I remembered something I had stumbled across quite awhile back. We aren’t the first Chamberlains to live in Point . Of course, there are quite a few families with that surname but not all of them belong to my husband’s Chamberlains. I decided to revisit that little discovery.

While researching Todd’s 2nd Great-Grandfather, William Henry Chamberlain, I spent some time investigating William’s brother. Joseph Addison Chamberlain isn’t particularly interesting to me, I was hoping to find more clues about the brothers’ father. Joseph’s obituary popped up in the Ancestry hints section with some surprising information in it. One of his daughters lived in Stevens Point. How cool!? I left that tidbit floating in space for over a year, until last night.

This home isn’t a deeply important connection to our family history, but it’s a fun one.  It took me less than hour to track down, Carrie May Chamberlain and her husband, Joseph Robert Weyher, living in Stevens Point. They lived here for at least a few years between 1918-1920 based on the obituary and census records. By the 1930 census, they lived somewhere new.

Which house!? That was the real question. The 1920 census has the street name and house number. They lived right on Main Street. Sometime in the 1970s (If I remember correctly) Point renumbered their streets/addresses, so I had to do a little digging. Using the Sanborn Maps from the Library of Congress, I was able to track down the old address and figure out which house it is today. It’s still standing!

I checked it out on Google Maps to see what it looks like now. I’m hoping to get a chance to drive by it soon. It will be fun to think of that little connection we have to the town, however small it may be. And it’s fun to think there were Chamberlains living here 100 years ago!

Refocusing for 2020

Sometimes, I get wrapped up in sharing so much about my garden,  that I forget some of my other plans for this project.  Beautiful flowers and plants are just so dang distracting! I’ve shared a lot of my garden already, but I have more plans for the other side of my “Grow Your Roots” project, family history.

Last year was quite a reality check for the complexity of my project. There are so many factors that go into growing and writing about a heritage garden that it easily overwhelmed me. I also felt I spent so much time working on weeds, at my real life job, and strict genealogy, that I missed out on some of the more fun and probably more interesting aspects of this project (the  journey and experience).

I want to share the excitement of finding new information about my ancestors and finding their homesteads (or whatever is there now). I also want to embrace the travel aspect of it. While visiting my grand-father’s likely birth place was amazing, I missed the chance to experience more of the area and culture. While it is obviously different from the culture of 1915, spending time in the area can teach me about the landscape, people, and history of that place.

One of my core beliefs about history in general is that if you can find a way to personally connect to a historical figure, event, or place, history becomes much more important to you. While I have a degree in US History, I will admit much of it just went in one ear and out the other, aside for some cool bits of trivia. It wasn’t until I started researching my genealogy that history really became important to me.

Two examples of this are inspired by one ancestor. John Finley. Oh, is he a thorn in my side. But I have to give him credit for sparking my interest in the War of 1812 and the pioneer history of Illinois. I had really never given much thought to either topic, until researching him. Through that one ancestor so much history has come to life and I gained deeper appreciation for a state I previously only grumbled about.

So this year, in my quest to find ancestral homes and plants. I want to stop, take in everything about the place, and really dive into that moment and all the history that has lead up to it.

Plus,  tracking down the actual plants and flowers, is much more difficult than I originally expected.  Even if I don’t come home with a cool plant, an experience is worth it. And I can find an appropriate plant to honor my ancestors that will live in Zone 4!

A Home with a History: The Hall Homestead

It’s been a while since I’ve done a family history post, now that I am in gardening mode. This one also took a while to research!

I have done some research on Todd’s side of the family and he has some deep roots in Wisconsin. Lucky for us! I’ve also been researching his ancestral homes. Many are no longer standing, including one in Madison (where the iris his great-aunt gave me originally came from).

Before we moved to Wisconsin, Todd and I would come to stay with Janet, his great-aunt, for a weekend or even longer (she also helped Todd plan his marriage proposal to me!). She lives just a block off one of Wisconsin’s largest lakes. And it wasn’t like visiting some old stuffy lady. Janet is a character and a well-loved, well-known local. On occasion, she would pull out old family albums and tell us all the stories. I loved it.

She told me many stories of her grandparents farm in Viroqua, and that the farmhouse was moved into town many years ago. I’ve tried to figure out which one it may be and even where the Leonard farm was. I have yet to find that house. In the process of searching for that farm, names started popping up in old maps that were familiar and I started discovering even more family ties in Vernon Co, but never pursued them.

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Aunt Janet, Todd, and myself at one of our favorite lunch spots!

A couple years ago, we were visiting and looking through some stacks of albums and photos and an old faded family portrait jumped out at me. Behind an old frame, the faded picture showed a family standing in front of a house. Not exciting. Unless, you’re me and you’re trying to track down ancestral homes.

The Hall House

The old photo in the old frame

I immediately started interrogating Janet about the photo. She wasn’t sure who was in it or where it was, but I wasn’t about to give up. She ruled out it being the storied Leonard farm, but not the other side of her family, the Halls.

I took several photos of the photo and worked on enhancing the features on the computer when I got home. Soon, the figures became somewhat familiar. They looked like people I had seen before. Not in person, but in many other old family photos. Their features were too small and blurred to make out, but other things like height and statures gave me clues.

Hall Home Enhanced

I determined it was members of the Hall family and based on the age and my own recognition from other photos. I believe the photo may be of John R. Hall, his wife, Effie (Osvald) Hall, and three of their children. The children should be Clarence, Elda Mae, and Elmer Eugene. Elmer Eugene would be the youngest, born in 1894. Their youngest brother, Harold, was born in 1897.  I think that should place the photo right around 1896? Below are some photos of John, Effie, and a portrait of the family.

I did some searching, as always, through some historic maps and found J.R. Hall owning land just south of Viroqua in the late 1890s. Sure enough, when I overlaid the maps, I found a house that looks suspiciously similar to the one in the photo. At least from what I can tell on Google Maps!

After some more sleuthing, I am certain this is the Hall farm just south of Viroqua. The farm itself has a long history from what I’ve been able to pull out of various maps and a great excerpt from History of Vernon County, Wisconsin, together with sketches of its towns, villages and townships, educational, civil, military and political history; portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens; history of Wisconsin, published in 1884. You can see the entire book here

Mrs. Martha A. (Sabin) Hall is the relict of Ralph Hall, who with his family came to Vernon county in October, 1856, and settled on section 5, town 12 north, of range 4 west, where Mrs. Hall with her family still resides. Mr. Hall purchased the farm of Oscar Henry. He was born in England in 1830, and came to the United States in July, 1843, with his parents, who settled in Cook Co., Il. He was married in Illinois in 1851, to his present widow, Martha A. Sabin. Mr. Hall died July 6, 1872. His father, George Hall, died in Illinois. His mother came to Viroqua in the fall of 1865, where she still resides. Mr. Hall was a highly respected and industrious citizen; was a charter member of the Vernon County Agricultural Society, and was also for some time treasurer of that organization, and was also at one time chairman of the town board of Viroqua. Mrs. Hall was born near Cleveland, Ohio, in October, 1830. Her parents, Sylvester and Phebe Hall, settled in Cook Co., Il., in 1841, where they lived till their decease. Mrs. Hall has three children — Phebe A., wife of Henry McDermott, was born in Cook Co., Il.; Ananias, born in the town of Viroqua, in December, 1858, and John, born in 1868. She still resides on the homestead farm, which contains 140 acres.

I completely lucked out finding this bit of information. It is super rich not only in genealogical information, but for tracking down the ancestral home. I had seen this biography before, but used it only for the genealogy. When I reread it, I was excited about it all over again.  All the bits and pieces are adding up. And to have a photograph of the home from so long ago is even more special.

Martha and Ralph Hall

Ralph Hall and Martha (Sabin) Hall

In the decades after this biography, based on a few historical maps, the farm went to John Ralph before 1896 then on to his brother Ananias some time before 1915. I have yet to do much research after that. I am just too excited to see what’s still there knowing that the land hasn’t been turned into a neighborhood yet, and there still seems to be an old farm house on it.

My next plan of action is to contact the current owner of the house and send a copy of the photo to them. Hopefully, as with all attempts to visit ancestral homes, they current owners will respond positively!

Last year, I visited my paternal grandfather’s birth site, and the year before we collected my maternal grandmother’s flowers. This year, I think this is the farm to see!

A little side note for genealogy nuts: Ralph Hall, is my husband’s 3rd great-grandfather on his paternal grandmother’s side.

 

Our House: Part 2

As promised, I looked into C.F. Russell and W.H. Dumbleton. They are connected!

After a lot of digging around through census records on Family Search, I finally found a “Charles F. Russell” living in about the right area, with the right neighbors. In 1880, he was living with his niece Mary Russell. By 1900, Charles was no longer found, but Mary was married to Walter H. Dumbleton and still living on Minnesota Ave. At the time, that would have been the correct address for the farm, which our lot was a part of.

Below are the selected lines of the 1880 Census and 1900 Census via Family Search:

1880 Census Charles and Mary

1900 Census Walter an Mary

I looked through more census records to find out a little about Mary and Walter. They had several children. Mary was born in New York, before she came to Stevens Point to live with her uncle, Charles. Walter was born in England and arrived to the U.S. in 1873.

By 1920, his listed occupation was “truck farmer.” This term I had to look up, because I had no idea what it meant to be a truck farmer. It turns out truck farms grew produce on a small scale, family farm to take to market. Being relatively close to the long running Stevens Point Farmers Market, I would guess, that is where their produce was sold.

Below are the selected lines from the 1920 Census via Family Search:

1920 Census Walter and Mary

This is so charming to me. The Point area’s market is still thriving, and truck farms though no longer called that (as far as I know) have seen a bit of a revival. There are a lot of small scale “farm to table” and CSA operations growing and popping up throughout the area. It is interesting to see those type of farms having a history here. Living on a little slice of what was once a truck farm is added inspiration for my garden.

Above: Stevens Point Market Square, 1900 (via Wisconsin Historical Society), The Point Farmers Market Recently, (via Pinterest), and “Making a purchase at farmer’s roadside stand, Eau Clair County, Wisconsin,” 1937 (via Library of Congress)

The Dumbleton’s still lived on this farm at least until 1930. After this census, I no longer find Walter or Mary. 1930 is only 26 years before the Naramore’s built our house. I’ve closed a large gap in the history of the land.

Below the selected lines from the 1930 Census via Family Search:

1930 Census Walter and Mary

Next week, I will double post.  A continuation of our home’s story (this time, I promise to start the renovation story) and a post to introduce the gardening portion of this blog.