Thursday, March 27, 2014

Elmira Lyons, loved her community and her chickens (52 Ancestors)

Elmira Lyons > Lillian Emma Ransom > Charles Lloyd Walters

Elmira was born in Blairstown, Iowa to John and Emma Elizabeth (Sanderson) Lyons on June 25, 1875. At the age of 17 she married Charles Francis Ransom in her parents’ home.  They were married by Methodist minister, Rev. Robert A. Miller before 60 guests. The couple would be married for over 64 years. 

Elmira gave birth to 6 children. One son, Kenneth Keith, died shortly after he was born. The regular doctor wasn't available and a young doctor delivered the baby. According to my great-grandmother’s “life story,” after the delivery, the doctor thought he was rubbing sweet oil on the baby, but instead it was carbolic acid. Baby Kenneth died the following day and the doctor wasn't seen by the family ever again.
Wedding Photo
For the next several years, the family moved several times, finally settling in Clear Lake, Iowa. See the previous post on Charles Ransom for the complete story.

Issues of the Mason City Globe newspaper for years beginning 1929 (with complete listings starting in 1930) can be found on Charles and Elmira are mentioned often in the pages. I wonder if they were as active in the previous years.

Elmira was chairman of the County 4-H committee and often gave reports at Farm Bureau meetings. She was part of the executive committee for the North Iowa Golden Wedding Jubilee Club, a member of the Retired Farmers Association and a member of the Daughters of Union Veterans (her father, John Lyons, fought in the Civil War). In September 1961, Elmira received “a life certificate for faithful service” in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
Elmira with grandchildren Charles
(my grandpa) and Lloyanne

Elmira is often listed in the local paper as being in charge of putting a program together, giving devotions or other readings at various meetings, as well as acting as hostess to various meetings and clubs. She belonged to the Oweso Club and Star Club, being named president of the later in 1943. Although I haven’t been able to find out exactly what these clubs did (if anyone knows, please let me know!) I did come across a few of the meetings topics of the Star Club, topics including: “Lessons on Flags,” “Fashions of Today and Yesterday,” “Freedom of Women of Foreign Countries” and “Storing Fruits and Vegetables.”

It appears that Elmira had a fondness and talent for raising chickens. In February 1931 she received the prize for grand champion pen at the Clear Lake Poultry show. Her Buff Orpington chickens did extremely well in their individual categories as well, giving Elmira first and second pen; first male; and first, second and third female. The previous year, Charles was credited with a fine showing of poultry as well. Elmira also served several terms as president of the Clear Lake Poultry Improvement Association. She retired from her position in 1945 and was named vice-president.

Elmira died on July 11, 1963 after a six week illness. She is buried next to Charles in the Clear Lake Cemetery.

Grandma Ransom's final visit,
with my aunt and mom
Sources: Various issues of Mason City Globe from 1929 and beyond,; family photos and newspaper clippings, Life Story of Lillian Ransom Walters, and census records.

Charles Francis Ransom, Iowa Farmer and County Weed Commissioner (52 Ancestors, week 12)

Charles Ransom > Lillian Emma Ransom > Charles Lloyd Walters

Charles Francis Ransom was born in Perry Hall, Maryland on Oct 7, 1870. My great-grandma, Charles’s daughter, believed he was born in the Perry Hall Mansion, a historic home now on the National Register. While I have yet to find proof he was born in that great home, there are several family connections with the owners of the house. At the time of his birth, the owner of the home was married to Charles’ aunt and his grandmother was living in the mansion. In the 1870 census, Charles’ parents, Jamison Harvey and Elizabeth (Winchester) Ransom, were listed just two households away from the mansion. Later, Charles’ sister married the following owner of Perry Hall Mansion. While I may not be able to prove he was born there, I am certain he and his family knew the great house.

The family moved from Maryland to Illinois in 1880 and by 1884 they were living in Benton, Iowa. In 1892, Charles married Elmira Lyons at her parents’ home in Blairstown, Iowa. The couple lived in Blairstown for 7 years before moving to an 800 acre ranch near Grinnell, Iowa. They lived there for one year before moving to a 40 acre farm south of town. After two years, Charles purchased a farm near Parnell, Iowa, a farm that included a creek, walnut trees, hickory nuts, hazelnuts, apple trees, peach trees, raspberries, blackberries and wild plums, as well as a large garden. There was a windmill used to get water for the cattle and a cow barn. When the old granary was struck by lightning, Charles built a new one and a new, level hog house was built to replace the straw-roofed model built on a hill. The family also raised ducks and chickens.

Charles Ransom Clear Lake Farm
Farm near Clear Lake, Iowa 1925
After 5 years here, in 1908, the family moved again, this time to Marengo, Iowa. My great-grandma writes about the 21-mile move in the rain and ice in their open buggy while the men drove the cattle on foot. The new farm was 200 acres with a big house and large horse barn and cattle shed. There was also a corn crib, granary, buggy shed, chicken house, and other out buildings. Although the family only lived here for 2 years, Charles was able to clear $2000 in the sale, enough to purchase a 200 acre farm near Clear Lake, Iowa and he farmed here for the next 26 years. As with previous farms, Charles made improvements to the Clear Lake farm as well, this time adding a large horse barn and cattle shed, a hen house and hog house, a silo and a large corn crib with an elevator that was run by horses. They also remodeled the house, extending its dimensions, adding upstairs rooms and a full basement. It was here the family had their first bath tub (although the hot water was still heated on the kitchen stove).

 After he retired from farming in 1936, Charles worked as the County Weed Commissioner for the next 21 years, retiring a few months before his death due to his declining health. I was excited to find Ancestry has a large number of issues of the Mason City Globe Newspaper, which included much of the Clear Lake area news. Their collection from 1930 and on is quite complete and I was able to find a lot about Charles and Elmira include a Q&A article with Weed Commissioner Ransom. Written in 1937, it seems from the article that the position was fairly new. Charles tells about his duties which included educating farmers of dangerous weeds and working with them to get rid of the weeds and help protect the agriculture in the county. While the 1940 census lists Charles in the same occupation, it also says he was unemployed for 28 weeks of the year, only made $300 the previous year, and was currently looking for work. As he continued as weed commissioner for another 17 years, I wonder if the position became more stable as the years went on. There are still County Weed Commissioners throughout Iowa today.

After retiring from farming, Charles and Elmira moved into Clear Lake, living first at 609 N East Street for a number of years and then lived at 804 N. 8th Street. This would be the final earthly home of Charles. He died on August 26, 1957 and is buried in the Clear Lake Cemetery.

64th Wedding Anniversary
Both Charles and Elmira were involved in the Methodist Church and Charles served as an active board member for a number of years. Charles and Elmira were also members of the North Iowa Golden Wedding Jubilee Club, a club whose members have all been married 50 or more years. In honor of their 50th wedding anniversary, an open house was thrown for the couple and was attended by over 100 guests who presented them with “gifts of furniture, silver, dishes, potted plants and flowers.”

Mildred, Jim, Lillian
Edmund, Charles, Elmira, Joy
Family seemed an important part of their lives – the paper reports of several gatherings, trips, and dinners. As years past and family members began moving away, many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren still gathered around Charles and Elmira to visit and celebrate. The couple would also travel to visit family, including trips to visit to Minnesota to see relatives, including his young great-granddaughter, my Mom.

Sources: Various issues of Mason City Globe from 1929 and beyond,; family photos and newspaper clippings, Life Story of Lillian Ransom Walters, and census records.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

James Weaver, Revolutionary War Soldier (52 Ancestors, week 11)

James Weaver > William Weaver > Mary “Polly” Weaver > Elizabeth Rebecca McPherson > Amy Phares > Cecil Lloyd Walters > Charles Lloyd Walters

Most of the information for James comes from pension records for his service in the Revolutionary War. The records hold many pages and include 3 different appeals. James makes an appeal for himself in 1818 and again in 1821. Later, in 1855, his eldest daughter Judith (Weaver) Clark is acting as the main applicant, trying to receive her father's pension, which she claimed her mother had not drawn from. There are several pages from the 1855 claim, many of them to prove that Judith is indeed the daughter of James and Nancy Weaver, that James and Nancy were married, that Nancy never remarried, etc. The file includes many names and dates, including the birth and death dates of James, the death of Nancy, their marriage and the birthdays of all of their children – in other words, a genealogy gold mine!

James Weaver Pension File
James was born c. 1745 (he was 73 in 1818) and he died on January 21, 1825 in Lee, Virginia. James and Nancy were married in July 1767 in Charlotte, Virginia by Parson Johnson of the High Church of England. Nancy outlived James by 13 years, dying on July 18, 1838. The couple had 9 children, including my 5xs great grandfather, William Weaver.

James Weaver’s Revolutionary War Service
James enlisted for 18 months around July 1, 1780 and was in Captain J Anderson's company. He marched to Petersburg, Virginia and joined the 2nd Regiment of Virginia under the command of Colonel Hawes. In the spring of 1781 he marched south and joined with the army under the command of General Greene. It was here that he fought in the Battle of Guilford, a battle that took place in North Carolina in March of 1781 and is thought of as a critical victory as it prevented the British troops from gaining control in the south. He also participated in later battles in South Carolina, including the Battle of Eutaw Springs, the second Battle of Camden, and the siege of Ninety-Six. He was honorably discharged from service at Salsbury, NC on January 17, 1782.

His discharge papers read as follows: "The bearer hereof James Weaver soldier in the second Virginia detachment and Captain Anderson's company having served til the last day of December 1781 the time for which he engaged is hereby discharged from the service and we do certify that he had behaved as a brave and faithful soldier. Given at Salisbury the 17th of January 1782."

James’ Pension Appeal
In 1818 and again in August of 1821, James appears before the court in regards to his pension, claiming a poor state of living. He says that he has worked as a farmer, but he was "now so old and infirm as to be totally unable to labor." He states his wife was also infirm and there are no other family members living with them to assist them and in view of his "reduced circumstances in life, he stands in need of assistance of his Country for his support." As proof of the state of his affairs, James provided the court with an inventory of his belongings. They included: one cow, seven small hogs, one flax wheel, four chairs, one pot, one --, one pair of pot hooks, two “piggins,” one washing tub, one churn, two tin cups, three earthen plates, two pewter plates, two mugs, one crock, one axe, one hoe, one pewter dish, two tin pans, two spoons and one tin bucket.  The US Pensioners list shows James receiving $8 per month, starting in 1818 and continuing until his death.

Sources: U.S. Pensioners, 1818-1872 from Ancestry; U.S. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files 1800-1900 for James Weaver

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hans Larson (52 Ancestors, week 10)

Hans Larson - a man of mystery

Hans Larson > Emma Larson > Daniel Erickson

His Name
The information I have on Hans is filled with discrepancies and contradictions. Even his name is a bit of a mystery. From my family, I have always heard his name as being Hans Larson and each census record lists him as “Larson.”

The confusion comes at Hans’ death. His obituary lists him as Hans Larson Opsahl. Hans and much of his family are buried at the Grace Lutheran Cemetery in French Lake, Minnesota. Hans’ and Mary’s headstones simply say “Father Hans” and “Mother Mary.” Their unmarried daughter is buried as “Louvisa Hanson,” and “Anna Larson” (possibly Hans’ mother?) is nearby. These 4 stones are lined up in a neat row, all the same size with same writing, suggesting they are all of the same family. The family stone that appears to go with these markers, however, reads “Opsahl.” If you think his death certificate may answer some questions – nope. His death certificate has no name what-so-ever!

His Birth Date
Hans’ birth date, according to his obituary and Grace Lutheran church records, is September 11, 1852; his death certificate says September 5, 1852; his headstone says October 11, 1852. He died on June 20, 1932 (his obit, gravestone, church records, and death certificate all agree). According to his death certificate, he was 79 years, 7 months, and 19 days old which puts his birth date as November 1, 1852.

Marriage and Immigration
His obituary says he and his wife, Mary Torenson (also Thorson or Thorsdotter) were married in Norway on March 5, 1876 and Hans arrived in America on December 15, 1880. Census records agree. Mary came the following year, I assume with their two young daughters.

Coming to Minnesota
The family lived in LaCrosse, Wisconsin for a few years. Their daughter Emma was born in Wisconsin on September 30, 1884 and the family was in Minnesota by May 28, 1885 for the state census. (Some of the records say they came as early as 1882). The family settled in French Lake, Minnesota, an area where some of their descendants still live today.

Additional Information
These sources also tell us Hans was born in Eidsvold, Norway (today: Eidsvoll) and was the son of Lars Anderson. Hans owned and worked his farm in Minnesota. In 1898, Hans and his family were among the first families of the newly formed Swedish Lutheran Church of French Lake, later renamed Grace Lutheran, and Hans served as a deacon for several years. He suffered from heart problems for a number of years, which eventually lead to his death. Of course, it is possible that other accounts may give a different story of Hans!

Sources: Census records; obituary at Wright County Historical Society; death certificate at Cokato Museum; cemetery stones; Grace Lutheran Church records, Cokato Museum.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Andrew Jonasson Lundeen (52 Ancestors, week 9)

Andrew Lundeen > John Lundeen > Edward Lundeen > Marion Lundeen

Passenger record
Andrew Lundeen was born Andreas Jonasson in the parish of Magra in Bj√∂rlanda, Sweden. He married Annika Eriksdotter in November 1858 (Nov 5 according to his obituary; Nov 19 to Swedish household examination). Andrew and his family arrived in New York on June 13, 1879. The ship record says Andrew was a miner and the family traveled in steerage. The family settled in Albion Township, Minnesota and this would be Andrew’s home for the rest of his life. Andrew and Anna had 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls. 3 of the girls must have died young as I have found no record of them beyond Andrew’s obituary.

Andrew and Anna
Up until a few months ago I didn't know of any photos of Andrew and Anna, however a search on Ancestry, a member tree contained a picture. To my surprise, it was the same as an unidentified photo I had. (There may have been a bit of a genealogy-happy-dance in my house that night) I have contacted the owner of the photo and am hoping to receive a reply.

Andrew died on April 13, 1912 and is buried in the cemetery of the Albion Evangelical Free Church, the same church where he and his descendants worshiped for generations to follow. Albion was the church where my family worshiped the first few years of my life, making me the sixth generation to worship in the same building.

Sources: Obituary from Cokato, MN Museum, Swedish Household records from Wright County Historical Society, Passenger records from Ancestry