Category Archives: family

Grandma’s World War II Garden: Family Letters

Vera Anderson, August 1944

Vera Anderson, August 1944

Throughout the letters that my grandmother, Vera Anderson, wrote from Killbuck Ohio to my mother in Ames Iowa in 1943, she included many reference to her World War II garden.

Victory Gardens

Victory Gardens were just one of the many ways that everyday citizens on the homefront were enlisted to help the war effort.  The government helped people learn how to grow gardens, gave them brochures and recipe books to take advantage of the vegetables they grew and exhorted them to save the produce grown by farmers for the troops. And of course–Posters!

World War II Garden Poster

Patriotic gardening poster during World War Two

I’m pretty sure, however, that Grandma never thought of her World War II garden as a Victory Garden–let alone a Munition Plant. She planted gardens every year. She was still doing so more than ten years after the war when my family lived in Killbuck and my father also planted a garden.  People in small rural communities like Killbuck did not need the government to tell them that growing gardens could save money and provide healthy eating.  They always planted in the spring and harvested everything before the first hard frost.

Grandma grew flowers as enthusiastically as she grew vegetables–possibly more so, because flowers caused a lot less work, as you can see below.  An apple tree in her back yard provided small, misshapen but delicious apples as long as I could remember.

In her letters she is as obsessed with the effect of weather on the crops as any farmer would be.

Grandma Writes about Her World War II Garden

Undated letter, probably October 4th :

I gathered in my green tom. & mangoes [ bell peppers] also flowers tonight as they will surely go tonight. The frost hasn’t hurt anything yet.  The trees are beautiful.

Letter written October 12, 1943

Well we are having lovely weather –awful dry. I hear farmers say they are afraid the wheat will not get started for winter. (Coshocton Tribune front page article on October 11 reports the area has had only .77 inch of rain in six weeks, and none in 25 days.)

Later in the letter, she says,

I made 16 pts. of green tom and mango [bell pepper] relish last week and also 7 more pts of tom juice and 3 cans of Kraut like you said.

Salted Green Tomatoes for Relish

Green Tomatoes and Red Peppers, salted. (These look like tomatillos, but the seller at the farmer’s market said they were small tomatoes.

Unfortunately, Grandma did not leave recipe cards for these items. If you would like to make something like her green tomato and mango relish, check out this recipe that I found for “green tomato pickle” in a Mennonite cookbook. Or you might want to try grandma’s recipe for red pepper jam”.  I wrote about her canning in general and in a later article related my experience in following her recipe for “red pepper jam.” When you read these articles you will see that it would take A LOT of “mangoes” to make 16 pts of relish!

Making Canned Food--Re Peppers

Red Peppers for Ready to Make Grandma’s Red Pepper Jam

In an undated letter probably written in soon after the one above, Oct 13? she wrote:

I made some more catsup today. That is the last of tom. Only green ones now. Frost hasn’t hurt anything here.

Another undated October letter remarks on the weather, “No killing frost yet.” then later says:

We haven’t had any frost that harmed anything. My flowers are beautiful yet.

Oct. 16

It is raining here and cold. Glen Orr said it hailed a little.

 

But she is starting work at her GoodYear “Rosie the Riveter” job, so she would have no time for her World War II garden, even if the weather were favorable. Another letter in October says that Irene, my father’s sister, is busy canning.  Irene was a prize-winning gardener. November letters have remarks about rain and December it is ice and cold weather. But Grandma and Daddy Guy would have vegetables galore all winter.

While other vegetables had been harvested earlier in the summer–beans, peas, cucumbers, and most had been canned, at the end of the year, we hear that she is canning tomato catsup, tomato juice, green tomato relish and sauerkraut.  Her basement shelves were full of those jewel-tones in glass jars (like these from a farmer’s market) created from Grandma’s World War II garden.

Preserves at farmer's Market

St. Phillips’ Farmers’ Market in Tucson, Grammy’s canned foods

Just the Facts: Elizabeth Stahler and Her Family

ELIZABETH STAHLER (Kaser) (1775-1843)

My 3rd Great Grandmother on my father’s side, Elizabeth Stahler Kaser, was born to a German immigrant family who settled in Berks County Pennsylvania.  Unlike many of my ancestors on my father’s side who belonged to reform churches, the Stahler family belonged to the Catholic Church.

As I am researching the Stahler family, that religion has proved to be a blessing  because the earliest generations in American show up in the oldest church registry still extant for the eastern United States–the Goshenhoppen Register.  Because once the German settlers left the Philadelphia area they were venturing into virtual wilderness, with, at best, very small towns, Catholic priests traveled from settlement to settlement until churches could be built.  Two who covered the circuit out of Goshenhoppen from 1741 until 1764, wrote down every wedding, conversion and baptism they officiated at in a small book. That treasure was translated in the 19th century, and is available on Google Books today. (See research notes).

I will talk more about the traveling priests when I get to Elizabeth Stahler’s grandfather–the first comer of the Stahlers–Christian Stahler.  But for now, her family history leaves me with a couple of religion questions.

  1. Where the heck is the record of her marriage to Joseph Kaser? I cannot find it either in the Catholic church records, nor in the Lehigh County Zion (Lutheran) Church records that records many Keiser/Kaser families.
  2. Did she convert from Catholic when she married Joseph, or had her family drifted away from the Catholic church before that?

The Birth Family of Elizabeth Stahler

According to the records (written in German) kept by Jesuit priest, Rev. John Baptist Ritter, Elizabeth Stahler was born January 19, 1775. The priest baptized her on the 19th of March at the home of her grandfather, Christian Henrich.  Christian was a man as religious as his names sounds.  He built a sort of way station for the priests on the circuit who stopped by to say Mass and officiate in church rituals.  The name, Asperum Collum, meaning ‘sharp-pointed mountain’ in Latin, appears frequently in the Goshenhoppen Register as the site of baptisms and marriages. Today the place, in Berks County, near Allentown Pennsylvania, is known as Spitzenberg Mountain (or Hill) (sharp pointed mountain/hill in German).

The Registry in translation lists Elizabeth’s parents as Adam Stahler and his wife Mary. This may be a simplification by the translator, as their “real” names were Johann Adam Stahler and Eva Maria (or Mary).  The sponsor at Elizabeth’s baptism included her grandmother, Margaret Henrich.

Elizabeth had an older sister Catherine, born in 1768.  Either I am missing some records, or the couple may have lost some children in infancy, but for five years there are no more additions to the family.  Following Elizabeth in quick succession came Christian, 1776 (named for their Grandfather) ; and Eva Maria/Mary, 1777, named for their mother. If there were other children, I have not seen them in church records.

Besides having lots of little children around the house, the big event in young Elizabeth’s life must have been her father’s military service. During 1776 and 1777, Adam was serving in the militia as a Captain fighting the British in the American Revolution.  (His service record will get more detailed attention when I talk about his life.) As a toddler, Elizabeth might not have understood, but she would have been very aware of his activities with the militia.

That military service must have proven disrupting, not only because there were four small children at home for their mother to care for alone, but also because the war was not very far away.

Building a Family with Joseph Kaser

Between 1798 (speculation) and 1800, Elizabeth Stahler married Joseph Kaser (also spelled Keiser, Kaiser, Kayser). He was nearly two years younger than Elizabeth, and of a different religion.  Joseph and Elizabeth had nine children while they lived in Pennsylvania. I listed the children and my reasoning behind certain assumptions when I wrote about Joseph Kaser. You can check that post here. Since I wrote about Joseph, I have read the Kaser History on microfilm at an LDS Family History Center.  I have also scanned the church records that I previously had only seen indexed. I will continue to review that material and update any information I have written about the Kaser family.

About 1824, they moved to Ohio in the area of Clark, a small town bordering Holmes County and Coshocton County.

According to  The Kaser History: A History of Dates and Other Interesting Facts (1994) edited by Deborah D. Morgan and others, of the nine children of Joseph and Elizabeth, seven remained in Ohio and two moved to Indiana after the deaths of their parents.

1800: George Kaser (G.B., Census reports 1840-1870) [My ancestor.]

George married in 1822, had a son born in Pennsylvania in 1823, and another born in eastern Pennsylvania in 1824.  I believe they were traveling with his parents and his wife was pregnant when they left Lehigh County and had the baby along the way.

1802/3: Elizabeth Kaser born (according to G.B. No other evidence yet.)

1806: Jonathan (Find a Grave–buried in New Bedford, OH; 1860 census)

1807: Lydia Kaser (Church birth and baptism dates)

1808: Joseph Kaser, Jr. (Census records and Find a Grave , buried at New Bedford, Ohio)

1810: Anthony (or Andrew?) Kaser ( Church birth records)

1814: Nathan Kaser (Church records; some census records)

1816: Timothy Kaser (Church birth records; Find a Grave–died in N. Liberty,St. Joseph County, Indiana)

1818: William Kaser (Church birth records; Find a Grave–died in St. Joseph County, Indiana)

(The Kaser History also mentions a “Tom” and an unamed infant who died early, but I have found no record of them.  It is possible that “Tom” could be a misreading of Tim for Timothy, but I do not know for sure.)

Although the oldest five would have certainly been old enough to help with the move, it certainly was quite an undertaking for Elizabeth to move her entire household with children from six years old to twenty-four years old. You can see a map that clarifies how difficult the terrain was, if you click on this link to George Kaser.

Questions:

Is my speculation about the birth of Joseph Kaser III correct?

What is the relationship of Elizabeth Stahler (Kaser) to the wife of George Kaser –Lydia Stahler/Stehler/Staehler (Kaser)?

Apparently the Kaser family was close–quite literally because they lived on farms that were adjoining or very near each other in Holmes County, Ohio.

End of Life

The children were grown and independent by the time their father died in December 1842. Joseph left Elizabeth one stove and a cow, two beds and bedding and such other household and kitchen furniture as she may select, not exceeding eighty-dollars in value. You can see what else the will said at the updated Joseph Kaser post. Joseph signed his will in German and from what I have learned about the German immigrants and their church, I doubt that he spoke much if any English.  I wonder if Elizabeth also spoke only German?

I believe that Elizabeth went to live with her son William in or near Nashville, Ohio after Joseph died. William was married, 24 years old and had been named executor of his father’s will.

Elizabeth received news earlier that year that her mother had died in Pennsylvania.

Five months after her husband, Elizabeth Stahler Kaser  died at the age of 68.

Although Joseph had been buried in the churchyard if the New Zion Church in New Bedford, Ohio where many Kasers lie, Elizabeth was buried in the cemetery in Nashville, Ohio.

I always try to weave a story around an ancestor’s life, but I can only share the bare facts about Elizabeth, because there is very little evidence to build stories.  She married in Pennsylvania, had nine children–about one every two years before the family moved across the central mountains of Pennsylvania to settle in the sparsely settled northwest territory of Ohio. There her sons’ farms thrived and they lived close together, with, I imagine many family dinners and much sharing of work.  Her husband left enough to care property to be sold and provide for her, but she only outlived him by a few months.

Her legacy is a family that grew and spread, not only in Ohio but particularly in Indiana and now far beyond the midwest.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser (Badertscher) is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, who is the son of
  • Clifford Kaser, who is the son of
  • Joseph Kaser II, who is the son of
  • George Kaser, who is the son of
  • Elizabeth Stahler (Kaser)

Notes on Research

  • The “Kaser Genealogy” (aka Green Book) referred to is The Kaser History: A History of Dates and Other Interesting Facts (1994) edited by Deborah D. Morgan and others. Out of print. I first obtained information from a cousin who owns a copy of the book, and then accessed it on microfilm at an LDS church Family History Center.
  • Zions Lutheran Reformed Church, Zionsville, PA index of records at Ancestry.com)Unfortunately the website for the church has been updated and they no longer have the history page, but I have given you a link to the “wayback machine” where you can find the old page.
  • Birth and Death records from census and Find a Grave through Ancestry.com
  • Cemetery records from the New Zion UCC church (formerly German Reform) in New Bedford, Ohio.
  • Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Record for Joseph Kaser, Will Records, 1825-1906; Index to Wills, 1825-1965; Probate Place: Holmes, Ohio

My Grandmother and Rosie the Riveter

Family letter 1943

Letter and envelope with 3 cent stamp, October 25, 1943 from Vera Anderson to her daughter Harriette A. Kaser

My favorite photograph does not exist.  It is a picture of my Grandmother, Vera Anderson, as a “Rosie the Riveter.”

The collection of old photographs passed on to me by my mother and to her by her mother and to her by her mother, contains many gems.  I have shared many of my favorites from those photos–Grandma Vera Anderson in her baseball uniform; the whole clan of Andersons and Stouts in front of a farm house that still exists; my mother and her two brothers dressed up like fancy dolls when they were toddlers, the Anderson family during World War II….and many more.

But the photo that I have only in my imagination shows my grandmother as a Rosie the Riveter. You’ve seen the popular poster of Rosie, who went to work in factories building war materiel during World War II.

Rosie the Riveter

J. Howard Miller (1918–2004), artist employed by Westinghouse, poster used by the War Production Co-ordinating Committee.

In a note from “Daddy Guy” (my grandfather) sent October 16, 1943 to my mother:

Guy Anderson 1934

Guy Anderson August 1943, Killbuck

Mom is going to work Mon. morning  at Goodyear. She has her slacks (Hell) and all that goes with the job.

Later in the letter he says:

I may get job caring for three Parks in Holmes Co. $124 year around. I am afraid of inflation. Mom working and if I get parks I can work in Williamson about 4 days a week but just so it doesn’t inflate Mom’s Slacks I don’t care.

He and grandma did care for parks for a while. I remember going with them when I was a small girl.  And Williamson refers to a man who roomed with them, and ran a factory putting together wooden boxes.

Leter from Guy Anderson

Letter from Daddy Guy (Leonard Guy Anderson) to Harriette Kaser, 10-16-43

Vera Anderson

Vera Anderson,August 1943

Since Grandma did not leave behind a picture of her in the slacks that my grandfather hated so much, I have to rely on a picture in words from her letters in 1943 to recreate her life as a Rosie the Riveter factory worker during World War II.

Daddy Guy had more reason to resent Grandma’s job than just the slacks.  He almost had the job himself.

In late September or early October, Grandma wrote to mother:

Dad got notice to come and take ex{am}. For work at GoodYear in Millersburg today at 60 cents an hr. He is all excited about it. I wonder if he will pass. I think we could get along but he seems to want to try and that will be a good way for him to find out. I hope he can for it would be better for him to being doing something and I think he would be happier.

However in the next letter we learn it is not to be.  Grandma and Daddy Guy had closed the restaurant (pictured at the top of the page) when Daddy Guy had a severe heart attack. He had not had a regular job since then.

Dad thought he had a job. They called him and told him to bring birth certificate Social Security Card and come up so he did and they said you go to Dr. Cole for examination and come back here in morning at 7:30. So he did but when they opened the letter from Cole. The man said he was very sorry but Dr. said No. He had a bad heart and there wasn’t any thing they could do. Dad was awful disappointed.

Mr. Williamson said for him to come up to {his} place and see if he could stand to make crates. He could work just as fast as he wanted to or as long as he wanted to as it would be piece work. So I guess he will try that.

On October 16, Grandma tells Mother that she will start “school”–training for her new job–at the Goodyear Plant in Millersburg. At the age of 62, Vera Stout Anderson is becoming a “Rosie the Riveter.” Just a couple weeks after her husband was turned down because of his health, she has been hired. He writes his comments about slacks that you read above, and Grandma says:

Yes I am starting to school Monday. 8 hrs until we go through school which is 6 days then we work 10 hours. I am riding with Mrs. Bernard Smith and Priscilla Spellman at 7 a.m. but at 6 when we work. I am still going to help out at the show as I won’t work night shift. I will not stay if I have to.

Sunday night, Oct. 24:

I am sending my exam papers so you can see what a dumb Mother you have. You needn’t return them. I start to work in morning at 6 o’clock. The school was hard for me. I just couldn’t study I am glad it is over. My grades in shop were 92% -85%, 97-94. Not so bad for an old woman. We only went 8 hrs to school {a day} but will work 10. I will tell you all about it after this week.
Vera Anderson letter Nov 1943

Vera’s letter to her daughter about her WWII factory work Nov 29 ,1943

Her factory work was not her only contribution to the war effort. [Delmar Alderman was the owner of the hardware store and good friend of my father. You can see his picture here.]

Buy War Bonds

Buy War Bonds poster WWII

I was out today getting War Funds for Delmar he put me on to get from here up to Apts and railroad St. Which I did. The ones that were at home.

Even while working eight hours a day at the Goodyear Plant, Grandma was taking care of rooms she rented and she also worked some nights at the end of the week at the movie theater which was only three doors away from her house. She sold tickets.

Nov. 18 she writes:

I am still[working] at the show and it makes it awful late for me when I have to get up at 4:30 every morning.

Mon. Nov 29.

Would have written you last night but I was so tired I just couldn’t. I cleaned my house all over yesterday and washed and then ironed my blouse & slacks so I could have them today. I have never bought but one suit.

We know we was somewhere today. They are trying to increase production so we had to step on it. We have had one raise and another one due now soon we are getting $.50 an hour for 8 hours. All holidays and over 40 hrs time and a half. We go to work at 6 and get off at 2:30. I get up at 4:30 every morning.

Note that Daddy Guy was promised sixty cents an hour when he applied for a job at the factory.  After working two months and having a raise, Grandma is still only getting fifty cents an hour. The Rosie the Riveter revolution brought new jobs to women, but at a lower wage than men were paid. Women are still waiting for the satisfactory outcome of that particular revolution.

December 14, she proudly writes:

I must tell you how I rate at shop. They transferred me over to Pre Assembly and it is much nicer and cleaner. We make parts on jigs and then they are drilled. They told Mrs. Bell and me today that tomorrow we would build them and each of us would have a man to drill them so it will be nice.

I must get some new slacks. I only have one pair and they are getting pretty thin. I wash them and dry them in evening.

Apparently the working conditions are not ideal, as she writes in this December 20 letter:

I didn’t work today as Dad had an awful night coughing last night. I guess he took my cold. I have just been sick. 1/3 of the people that worked was off with colds. They did not get the shop warm those cold days and we just stood around and shook. My cold is better. I took tablets every 1/2 hr for 2 days.

Nowhere in her letters does she mention what she is working on.  It is possible that since they were manufacturing parts, they really did not know what the final product was, but as I explained in this post, the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation plant in Millersburg, Ohio, was making Corsair airplanes for the Navy.

It is also possible that Grandma was just being cautious.  Everywhere, posters warned people not to give away where their servicemen were going, and in factories, the Rosie the Riveter gals were warned not to talk about what they were doing.  These “Loose Lips Sink Ships” posters were not an abstraction to Vera Anderson, whose letters are filled with her concern for her son William J. Anderson, a SeaBee deployed to the Pacific.

World War II Poster

A WWII “Loose Lips Sink Ships” warning poster.

Words and posters paint a picture of my Grandma in her role as Rosie the Riveter.  I do not know how long she worked as a Rosie the Riveter, but as long as she was needed to help, she would be there.

[This has been my response to the prompt “My favorite picture” for the 52 Ancestors project.]