Early Memories

Early Memories

My first childhood memories are connected with our home at 1117 Phelon Street in Saginaw.  In 1956 we moved to that home from our little country house and lived there until 1958.  For most of us, any memories from our preschool years are vague, but a few things have stayed in my long term storage – perhaps only because I’ve heard my parents tell those stories.

David in front of 1117 Phelon Street - about 1957
David in front of 1117 Phelon Street - about 1957

I have a fuzzy memory of the front porch of this house.  Did we play there?  Sleep there in the summer?  I can’t recall details, but it’s interesting that the porch is the only part of the house that I remember!  Our landlords were Bea and Murray Muellerweiss who lived around the corner from us, and with whom my parents remained friends for many years after we moved away.  I recall that they had a long, tall wooden stairway leading to the second story of their home.  Maybe they rented the upstairs to another family?

My most significant memory of this house and neighborhood still has an impact on me today.  One day while outside with my mom, a large – maybe German Shepherd – dog came bounding towards me. He was not vicious, just happy, friendly, and looking for a playmate. Because of  his substantial size, my skinny little body was no match for his energy, and he knocked me to the ground in his excitement.  His enthusiasm to play was obvious as he licked my face all the while jumping around and wagging his tail!  I can only imagine my shrieks of terror, but Mother has described them as loud, long, and impressive.  When she was finally able to get to my rescue, in probably only a matter of seconds, she pulled me to safety and assured me that I was fine.  I suffered no cuts, bruises or scrapes – just a little dog slobber on my face!  But to this day I have a “healthy respect” for large dogs and avoid them whenever possible!

As a child in the 1950’s, I spent many  hours playing outside.  Because of my naturally darker skin tone (and the lack of sunscreen), the summer sun tanned my skin to a deep shade of brown.  My elbows and knees were particularly dark, and no amount of scrubbing with Comet cleanser would clean them up!  Mother had to resign herself to the fact that I just looked a little unkempt during the summer.  However, in the mid 1950’s segregation was still an issue, and one of the neighbor girls refused to play with me, because she didn’t want to play with “that little colored girl.”

1117 Phelon Street - Saginaw, Michigan
1117 Phelon Street - Saginaw, Michigan

August, 2010
August, 2010

This house now sits in a run-down and somewhat questionable neighborhood, but after 50+ years I guess that’s to be expected.

A tragic ending

A tragic ending

Remember those lovely letters requesting and granting her hand in marriage?
My continued sorting uncovered the sad news of a very short marriage.

The Northern Budget (newspaper)
Troy, Rensselaer, New York
23 September 1850

DIED
In this city [on 22 September], of the congestion of the lungs, Mrs. Caroline W. Pratt, wife of B.P. Pratt age 23 years.  Her funeral will take place at 11 o’clock tomorrow the 24th from the residence of B.P. Pratt – 69 N. 2nd Street.  Friends and acquaintances are invited to attend.

From this marriage came my great-great grandfather, Lansing Taylor Pratt,
born 21 June 1850 -just three months before his mother died. 

Family Friend

Family Friend

susan_b_anthony

When my mom turned 50 years old, we had a family party to celebrate the major milestone.  One of the gifts we gave her was 50 shiny, new Anthony dollars.  These coins had just been released in July of that year, and not only were they the first dollar coin to be released in a long time, but Susan B. Anthony was the first women to be honored by having her “picture” on a US coin.

Susan Brownell Anthony was an influential American civil rights leader who played a crucial role in the women’s rights movement in the 1800’s.  She was arrested in 1872 for voting illegally, but her influence eventually led to the adoption of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution which gives women the right to vote.

However, in spite of all Miss Anthony’s accomplishments, the dollar was very unpopular because of its similarity to a quarter in both size and weight.  In spite of the government’s best efforts in promoting the coin, it never really became mainstream and eventually was replaced with the golden dollar coin – so you probably haven’t see very many of them.

Interesting, but what does this have to do with me or you?

This past week while continuing my genealogy organizing project, I came across a piece of paper that caught my eye.  My mother had in her files a letter from the Fort Edward, New York Historical Association which was a response to her request for information about the marriage of Benoni Pratt and Caroline Taylor – my 3rd great grandparents.  Mr. Paul McCarty, director of that organization, wrote that he had been unable to find any information about the marriage, but did have some additional information on the Taylor family.

Susan B. Anthony - really?
Susan B. Anthony - really?

“However, I do wish to convey to you some additional information on the Taylors.  Lansing Taylor built a large home on the corner of what is today US Route #4 and Patterson Road at Moseskill, which is very near Fort Miller.  The house has since been destroyed by fire and the location is today occupied by another house.

“Susan B. Anthony was employed by Lansing B. Taylor for a period of two years after 1839, most likely Caroline was one of her students.  Miss Anthony’s  family lived in nearby Greenwich, New York.”

A little searching on the internet produced this information from Wikipedia:

“In 1837, Anthony was sent to Deborah Moulson’s Female Seminary, a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia. She was not happy at Moulson’s, but she did not have to stay there long. She was forced to end her formal studies because her family, like many others, was financially ruined during the Panic of 1837. Their losses were so great that they attempted to sell everything in an auction, even their most personal belongings, which were saved at the last minute when Susan’s uncle, Joshua Read, stepped up and bid for them in order to restore them to the family.

“In 1839, the family moved to Hardscrabble, New York, in the wake of the panic and economic depression that followed. That same year, Anthony left home to teach and pay off her father’s debts.”

And that would have taken her to my great-great-great grandmother’s home!

Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony

February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906

An old fashioned engagement

An old fashioned engagement

My 3rd great grandfather, Benoni Preston Pratt, asking Lansing Gaylor Taylor for the hand of his daughter,
Caroline Wing Taylor, in marriage.

They were married 30 August 1849.

May I please marry your daughter?
May I please marry your daughter?

(On) July 14th 1849

L.G. Taylor Esq

Dear Sir

I have the consent of the hand of your Daughter Caroline should it meet the approbation of the parents.  Will they favor me with an early reply.

I await their pleasure

very Respectfully

B.P. Pratt

the parents cheerfully consent
the parents cheerfully consent

Fort Miller 14 July 1849

Mr. B.P. Pratt

Dear Sir

Your note dated 14 July came to hand this day and in reply to the matters set forth in the same I would say that the parents of Caroline cheerfully consent and hope that the arrangement may prove ( ?) happiness to all the parties concerned it it.

Yours

Truly

L.G. Taylor

A Binding Project

A Binding Project

This is another in an ongoing series of my organizational efforts – here and here, for example.  It’s an important part of how I work, so I’m documenting it here for my reference.  This is my personal record, after all!

TMother's genealogy repository
Mother's genealogy repository

Last July I returned from a visit with Dad with this in tow.

All of my mother’s genealogy research and information was filed in this box, categorized by just a few broad labels like “Roberts” or “Pratt.”  Mother had been researching her ancestry for years (I found several letters of inquiry dated in the 1960’s) and she had accumulated a wide assortment of documents.  Dad was happy to see the box go; he had no plans to continue the research on the Pratt/Roberts side of the family, and I think it made him feel good to know that even if I never did anything with the information, at least I had it available.

I rifled through the files and decided that I probably had a treasure chest of genealogy information, but many of the names were unfamiliar to me.  I knew I had heard “Buker” before, but I had no idea what family line that name belonged.  “Benoni Pratt” kept turning up, and I finally realized that name belongs to two different ancestors – my great-grandfather and his grandfather.  I wasn’t really sure how to make sense out of my inheritance, and I was very overwhelmed, so I did the natural thing and ignored the box for several months.

My new and improved respository
My new and improved respository

One day when I couldn’t ignore the hodgepodge any longer, I read about a filing system that made sense to me.  So armed with file folders in 4 colors – indicating my four direct lines – I sorted and filed.  Going into this project, I was very afraid that my need for organization coupled with my ignorance and inexperience in the field of genealogy could result in the loss of valuable information.  So as a precaution, I threw almost nothing away, which is highly unusual for me. I simply filed every document where I thought it belonged, knowing that I would have to do some rearranging later.  The file folders were still bulging, but it was a more organized bulging!

That system was a great improvement, but I still didn’t know which documents I had for which people or what information they verified.  So following a genealogy class at the local library, I knew I had to do something to create easier access.  About this same time, I saw this Organizational Checklist on Dear Myrtle’s blog, and I was pretty sure I had found my answer.

Gram & Pop's wedding pictures right beside their marriage license/certificate
Gram & Pop's wedding pictures right beside their marriage license/certificate

So now I’m in the process of creating my surname binders, printing family group sheets, scanning pictures and documents and getting everything for each family name all in one place.  It’s great!  I’m only making slow progress, because  scanning and labeling scans and pictures is a time consuming and tedious process.

Death Certificate for Lansing Taylor Pratt - died 23 April 1923
Death Certificate for Lansing Taylor Pratt - died 23 April 1923

But I am making progress.  And I’m finding some amazing things – like the death certificate for my great-great grandfather.  I’m almost through with the Pratt binder – then it’s on to Berrett, Butler, Carpenter, and all the names within those families. . .  Don’t look for this project to be completed this week!

Out in the country

Out in the country

5606 Swan Creek Road, Saginaw, Michigan
5606 Swan Creek Road, Saginaw, Michigan

From my dad’s personal history:
“In the spring of 1955 we moved [from 707 Michigan Avenue] to 5606 Swan Creek Road, which was a few miles out in the country.  The rent was cheaper, and we thought we’d like to be out away from the city.”

5606 Swan Creek Road - August, 2010
5606 Swan Creek Road - August, 2010

The little house has aged well - August 2010
The little house has aged well - August 2010

It’s a small, white, cement block house sitting on a large lot.  Even today, 55 years after we lived there it is still “out in the country,” and it almost looks like time has stopped.   The surrounding trees that have grown and matured and the new[er] model car in the driveway are the only outward indications that many years have passed.  To the curious passerby, the house looks very much the same today as it did when we lived there when I was a year old.

Having been raised on a farm in North Ogden, Utah, I am quite certain that Dad loved living in the wide open space out of town.  But as I look at these pictures,  I wonder if Mom loved living out there, or if it was a huge inconvenience.  The surroundings were green and peaceful with no background noise from neighbors or traffic.  I could see plenty of room for rowdy preschoolers to run around.  And surely the pace of life was slower and more relaxed out there.  But my mom has always been a city girl, and maybe she missed the noise and activity of a downtown neighborhood. Maybe she worried about her three little children running out to the road.  Maybe she hated having to drive 5 or 6 miles to the grocery store.  Or maybe it was a toss up . . .

Yvonne - Lynnette - David
Yvonne - Lynnette - David - Fall 1955

Those three little children on the front porch look perfectly happy with their country home.  (But why do I have on a snowsuit and my siblings are just in short sleeves?)  Because I have no memory of our time there, I can simply wonder and imagine about that year.  I picture it as cozy, comfortable, and a great place to chase after a young family.  And I hope my mom did too!

Lynnette - 18 months old
Lynnette - 18 months old