Aren’t they just the sweetest couple? I particularly like “Uncle Ben’s” pompador. This is probably a wedding portrait, from the 1901 wedding of Bernard (Ben) Franklin Anderson (1881-1963) and Nettie C. Andress Anderson (1882-1911). I think theirs was a true love story.
It is just as well that Ben and Nettie Anderson did not know what was in their future on that May day in 1909 when the extended family gathered at Guy and Vera’s farm.
Despite the fact that Uncle Ben’s real name was not Benjamin, but Bernard, my mother said that he liked to claim that he was named for Benjamin Franklin, and identified himself as Ben or Benjamin in some official records.
I wrote earlier about the picture of Guy and Vera Anderson’s family that was taken on their farm. Here’s the portion of that picture showing Ben (2nd from right) and Nettie (to his right –our left).
You can see their son, Estill Anderson (1905- 1926), seated on the ground in the front row of the picture below, the light-haired boy. He would have been four when the picture was taken. On the far right you see Telmar Anderson (1903-1982), son of my grandfather Guy Anderson and his first wife.
Ben and Nettie took in Telmar when Guy’s first wife died and he married Vera (my grandmother). You may have noticed that Nettie died at the age of 28, only three years after posing for the big family photo. Estill was only six years old when his mother died. Estill was just a little more than year younger than Telmar.
When the family picture was taken, Ben was a fruit farmer, according to the census. That confirms my mother’s childhood memories of Ben having an orchard of apple trees (one of the principal exports of Holmes County in the 1800s according to one history.) His farm was located in Killbuck Township, but could not have been too far away from the farm bought by Daddy Guy, shown in this picture.
The two brothers were close, and were very similar physically–small and wiry. Ben was ineligible for service in World War I because of his poor hearing, and when I was young, the fact that my Daddy Guy wore a hearing aid made a big impression on me. No wonder. He carried the instrument, as big as an early transistor radio in his shirt pocket and the wire to his ear was very visible. (My mother inherited the hearing problems, as did I.)
From Apple Blossoms to Motor Oil
After Nettie died, Ben left the farm and lived in Killbuck, where he sold cars. The Uncle Ben I remember seemed more like a salesman than a man who would be happy at the solitary job of farming. He was outgoing and always joking, like my Daddy Guy. His draft card in 1917 describes him as having dark brown eyes and gray hair (although he would not have been forty years old.)
Unlike the many male ancestors who remarried soon after their wives died, Ben remained true to Nettie. Although he had the responsibility of raising two young boys, he never remarried. He managed for a time on his own, and then with the help of other family members. In 1919, Ben and Guy’s mother, Mary V. Brink Anderson, who had been a widow for 40 years, remarried, and Ben and the two young boys he watched over, moved in with his mother and James Kline, her new husband. Ben continued to work as a salesman in Killbuck.
A Sad Decade
During the 1920’s tragedy struck. In 1926, Estill, the only son of Nettie and Ben, died at twenty-one, leaving just Ben and his ward, Telmar.
During that decade, a terrible accident occurred. It might have had something to do with a railroad accident–falling on a track perhaps. I don’t know for sure. I do remember the novel sight of Uncle Ben, a man of good humor, who had a hook where one of his hands should be. As a little girl, I knew nothing of his other two losses, and the hook seemed more fascinating than tragic. How amazing, that he could pick up things and get on with life with a piece of metal where his fingers should be!
From then on, he was unemployed, I suppose living on government “dole” or insurance money. My cousin Herb remembers Uncle Ben hanging around the Killbuck pool hall, where he played an excellent game of one-handed pool.
Ben’s mother died in 1935, and he moved in with his grand daughter Ruth, who had married Elbert Steele. Ten years later his brother Guy died. By then Ben had moved away from Killbuck to the Akron area where he once again lived with family members–but without the sweet Nettie and their only son. He died there in 1963. And it puzzles me that I do not recall hearing anything about his death. He and Telmar seemed to drift away from the remaining members of Guy’s family. There was no great falling out–just falling away.