Tag Archives: New York City

Ancestor Tracking: Grandma Vera’s Lost Love

Ancestor Tracking

Vera Anderson (circa 1960)

Vera Anderson (circa 1960)

Once when I was in high school, I was sitting on Grandma Vera’s glassed-in front porch in Killbuck Ohio, watching the town go by, when a tall, lean old man came walking down the alleyway between her house and the next one.

Grandma watched him and said quietly, “That’s the man I should have married.”  What a shock! Not just that there was a lost love in her life, but that she had a wistful tone. Grandma was not generally wistful.

Sometimes ancestor tracking leads to facts like dates and places. Sometimes it leads to puzzles about the facts.

Me and a boyfriend.

Me with a boyfriend, 1952

  1.  I was a teenager and therefore sure that my Grandmother didn’t understand love, let alone have a lost love.
  2.   Why had I never heard this story before? After all, the man obviously lived in the same town that she had lived in for most of her 70-some years.
  3.  I took this rather personally. “How dare she! If she had married that man, I wouldn’t exist!”, I thought.

Just like Great Uncle Bill Stout who I talked about last week when I was ancestor tracking– his sister, Vera Stout (1881-1964), also got in trouble with their father,Dr. William C. Stout(1845-1910).

Vera Anderson 1899

Vera Anderson 1899, the year she graduated from Killbuck High School

It happened after she graduated from high school. In May 1899, Vera had turned 18.

Dr. Stout and his wife “Hattie” Morgan Stout were great believers in education. “Hattie” had been a teacher and most of Dr. Stout’s brothers had advanced education.  Therefore they were active in insisting that a high school be established in Killbuck, and the first graduating class consisted of one girl, Vera May Stout, and one boy, Otto Welker.

By the time she graduated, she had fallen for a young man of the village of Killbuck and assumed that she would marry him.  However, the young man had a reputation of drinking a bit too much, and when her father, “Doc” Stout, learned about Vera’s intentions, he put his foot down.

He had already shown that he would not put up with someone who imbibed, having refused to pay for (Great Uncle Bill) William Morgan Stout’s attendance at law school because he thought his son was partying too much. When it came to Vera, his answer once again was to send his “straying” child away to school. By 1899, he had accepted William Stout’s success in New York, and decided Vera should go to New York City to stay with her brother and go to secretarial school.

She must have had very mixed feelings, since she adored her older brother, and loved to boldly seek new adventures, but she certainly did not want to leave the love of her life. On the other hand, her older sister Mary E. Stout (known as Maude, 1875-1963) had married Carlos Bartlett the year before. So staying in Killbuck would mean Vera would have to put up with their strict father and the constant comparisons to Maude, who had married a decent young man who was a lawyer for the railroads.

The complexities of family life included the fact that Vera was always questioning authority and Maude was the “good daughter”–studious, talented on the piano, and genteel–and was the clear favorite of their mother. On the other hand, Vera was just adequate at studies, preferring practical things and not a big reader, never mastered the piano and preferred to tell it like it was rather than “putting on airs.”

My grandmother never told me anything about that secretarial school, but since she never worked as a secretary, I have to assume it was not a good fit.  She did like to talk about being in Times Square at the turn of the century, as people rang in 1900. That was an event that stayed with her all her life.

Guy Anderson

Guy Anderson (date unknown)

And the rest of ‘all of her life’ was spent in and around Killbuck, Ohio, with travel as frequently as she could manage it. I’m not sure how long she remained in New York City, but in 1904, she married Guy Anderson (1878-1944) in Killbuck. The county newspaper announcement said with the hyperbole common of the period, “The groom is one of the most prosperous young farmers of Monroe township, while the bride is a talented and accomplished young lady and enjoys the high esteem of the best citizens of our neighboring village.”

Anderson Wedding announcement

Anderson Wedding Announcement 1904

She was 23, and reluctant to take on the care of his two children from a previous marriage, so Guy’s brother Ben Anderson and his wife raised Rhema Anderson (Fair) and Telmar Anderson.

According to my mother’s [Harriette Anderson Kaser’s] recollection, Vera and Guy knew each other from school, but he was several years older than she. Mother also said that Guy taught school when he was younger, so perhaps he was a teacher when Vera was in school.

When they married, however, he ran a family farm outside of town, and she went from the glamorous life in the household of a New York lawyer to being a farm wife. In a new version of “How you going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” Vera did not like it a bit. It wasn’t long until they moved back into town, where Grandpa Guy, who we called Daddy Guy, tried various jobs to support their quickly growing family.

The year after they were married Vera and Guy had a boy baby. One year later, Harriette was born, and two years after that the youngest son was born. Grandma Vera, in her plain-spoken way, said, “Every time he hung his pants on the bedpost, I had another baby.”

Interestingly, through my youth, I always dreamed of living in New York City for a few months–not permanently– I always said. Was I trying to relive Grandma Vera’s life? Although I obediently, and happily went through college,  I inherited her travel itch. And when I was married, I had three children in three years, just like Grandma. This ancestor tracking has made me realize how like some of our ancestors I am.

As we sat on her porch in the 1950’s, Vera gazed after the tall old man walking down the sidewalk, and mused, “He never was known to be drunk.” She never spoke again about her lost love.

Ancestor Tracking: Great-Uncle Will, Willie or Bill Stout

William Stout

Ancestor Great Uncle William Morgan Stout (1938) 65 years old, according to family notes.

 

It is time to move on to some other members of the family in my ancestor tracking. Since I have talked quite a bit about Vera Stout Anderson, I’ll start with her older brother, William Morgan Stout (1873-1944), known as Bill Stout or Will Stout.

My great-uncle carried the name of his father Doctor William Stout and his maternal grandfather, Jessie Morgan. One of these days I’ll tell you why it has always seemed very odd to me that Uncle Bill’s mother decided to give him the name Morgan.

 

 

The Gay Nineties in Manhattan

My favorite of all my ancestor pictures is this one from 1909 of Uncle Bill Stout and his wife Jean at a dinner party.

1909 Diner in New York City

Great-Uncle Bill Stout and wife Jean at dinner party with friends.

“”””‘”Taken Jan 21-09 about 10:30 p.m. In dining Room of the Brown’s apartment 545 W 138 St.”  These notes were made on the back by Jean, bless her heart. She introduces the people from right to left as Brown, Yarnell, Bill, Benedict, Brown, Yarnell, Jean and Benedict.

So Jean is the pretty lady with her chin in her hand, and Bill is the guy with the heavy black mustache. I have great fun trying to figure out what they had for dinner, served up in all those lovely china and crystal dishes. Isn’t that a sherry decanter I see? And they are having after dinner coffee.Looks like someone on this end of the table didn’t eat his/her vegetables. What’s the guy on the right have in his hand? Is that a remote switch for the camera, or more likely a very fat cigar?

Uncle Bill Stout was born in Killbuck, Ohio, but lived in New York. Since he is the only member of the family who wound up in the big city, it is interesting to see how and why that happened.

Bill Stout at School

Ancestor William Stout

William Stout, a college swell (circa 1892)

Here he is as a college student, at 18 years old. (And I’m NOT the one who drew a circle around his picture!) I’m sure that the family had high hopes for their only son, since papa was the town doctor and came from a family loaded with ambitious men. They included his uncle Frank Stout, an attorney in Omaha.

However, Bill Stout, it seems, liked to party. His father, a strict church goer and teetotaler, finally had enough and turned his back on Bill.

There is a family legend that a woman living in a nearby town, who was a bit of a Bohemian–an artist– took a fancy to the much younger man and decided to finance his law school education in New York. So off went Bill to law school.

Note:  UPDATE May 2017.  I have learned that Will apparently didn’t spend much time at Mt. Union, but instead in October 1895, he enrolled for four years of college at St. Lawrence University in the town of Canton in upstate New York.  In his freshman year (he was already twenty-two years old) he was selected as captain of the baseball team. In May 1899, he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in the College of Letters and Science.

Although he was listed with his parents in the 1900 Census in Killbuck, Ohio, under occupation, the entry was “at school.”  He must have enrolled in law school after graduating from St. Lawrence College because he graduated in 1900 from New York Law School.

William Stout college days

Wm Morgan Stout in back of carriage riding in Central Park perhaps

New York Law School

If his obituary, which says he graduated in 1891, is correct he was part of an exciting academic rebellion. Given the other things I have learned about Bill Stout, that would not surprise me in the least.

Since New York Law School was officially founded in June 1891, it is possible that Bill Stout started school at Columbia College School of Law and joined the group of students and professors who rebelled against controls imposed by the board of that school.  They founded the new New York Law School which quickly became (and remains) one of the outstanding law schools in the nation. This story would also explain why my mother always said that Bill Stout attended Columbia. Updated May 2017

Bill Stout Makes a Life in New York

At some point around the time he was in law school, he met and married his wife Jean.  She had been married before and had one daughter, according to my mother’s oral history. Uncle Bill Stout adopted the daughter, who mother remembered was named Margaret and owned an antique store as an adult. I have no idea if she took the name Stout, but it would be interesting to find out more about that relationship.

UPDATE: May 2017 He never returned to Ohio to live. About 1906, he was hired by the Interboro Railroad (streetcar line) and according to his obituary he worked there for 34 years, until he retired in 1940.

The family reconciled very quickly. Or at least his mother visited him in New York and I have a picture of her on a double-decker bus.  Not only that, but his mother and father sent my grandmother Vera to live with Bill in New York for a short time — and that’s another story.

Bill and Jean were big travelers, my mother said, and they would go through Killbuck, Ohio and visit from time to time, but if I ever met them, I was too young to remember. Since he and Jean had no children of their own, and the adopted daughter did not stay in touch with our family, I know very little about them, but from the sparkle in his eyes in his photographs, and the stories about his independent nature, I think I would have liked him very much.

I have not made a great effort to track William Morgan Stout’s life, but I do have a note in family archives that his address was 537 W. 149th Street in New York. (I don’t know at what time period, but suspect it may be when my grandmother stayed with him in 1899-1900.[NOTE: Details, details. I have discovered the source for that address was the back of a photo of his mother taken in the late 1920’s. Looks like the photographers note to send him a copy, so he lived on 149th Street in the 1920’s.]) I did a cursory search for on-line city directories and found W. Morgan Stout, lawyer, listed at 21 Park (that would be office) and in the same entry: home 461 W. 155th Street in 1907. I did find some more information and a picture. Read about it in 3 Historic Houses and a Kidnapping.

Retirement

UPDATE: May 12, 2017  When Will retired in 1938, he and Jean moved from Manhattan to Farmingdale, New Jersey.  Since the Stout family’s first settlements were in New Jersey, there are still many, many Stout families there, and no doubt Will was in touch with some of his Stout relatives.  I’m happy that he had family around, but frustrated because I now have to wade through numerous William Stouts in order to find my great-uncle!

For a long time, I was frustrated that I could find no record of his death in New York or New Jersey. However, I finally discovered an obituary–in Palm Beach, Florida.  After three years in New Jersey, Will and Jean had moved to Palm Beach, a fashionable retreat for Easterners, and he died there in March 1944.  I also learned that he had been cremated, which explains the lack of tombstone.  I have yet to find a will (which I believe a lawyer would have had) or a death certificate. But I’m working on it.  The obituary says that his ashes were returned to Farmingdale. However, Jean, his wife, disappears from view, just as she is invisible before their marriage. 

Can you help with my ancestor tracking? I would love to know more about Jean and her daughter.

Since I don’t have first names for any of those people in the dinner picture, I’m hoping someone will see the picture and recognize someone. There’s a good chance that at least one of those men is a lawyer.

Do you have any ancestors who might have been acquainted with lawyer William Morgan Stout or the people he dined with in New York City, 1909?

Notes on Research (Added May 2017)

Oral History from Harriette Anderson Kaser, Bill Stout’s neice, from 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Family photographs in the author’s possession.

U. S. Federal Census, 1880, Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio; 1900, Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio; 1910, Manhattan, Ward 12, New York, New York; 1920, Manhattan, Assembly Dist. 22, New York, New York; 1930, Manhattan, Kings, New York, New York; 1940, Farmingdale, Monmouth, New Jersey

New York State Census, 1905 Manhattan, New York, New York ; 1915, New York, New York, New York

Florida Death Index 1877-1998, Ancestry.com, William M. Stout, 1944, Palm Beach

Ohio Births and Christenings Index, 1774-1973, Ancestry.com,  Willie M. Stout

U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,
William Morgan Stout, SSN 063098893 Life Claim, 17 Aug. 1938.

U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,  William Morgan Stout, Sep 1918, : New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1786805; Draft Board: 146

The Post Standard, Syracuse, New York, “Will Graduate from College of Arts and Science”, May 21, 1899. Source: fultonhistory.com, Repository: New York Public Library.

The St. Lawrence Plain Dealer, “St. Lawrence College Entrance Class”, 2 Oct. 1899, Source: fultonhistory.com. Repository: New York Public Library

Unknown Newspaper, Obituary with dateline “Killbuck, March 31”. Possession of Paul William Kaser.