Tag Archives: William Morgan Stout

Mother’s Death Causes Family Conflict–A Letter from Will Stout

The Cast of Characters in a Family Conflict

William Morgan Stout (1873-1944)  intrigues me. He seemed to attract family conflict.

William Stout

Ancestor Great Uncle William Morgan Stout (1938) 65 years old.

I don’t believe I ever saw Will Stout. If I did meet him on one of his brief visits to Killbuck Ohio, I was too young to remember. My great-uncle, older brother of my grandmother Vera Stout Anderson, lived in New York City during the Gilded Age.

Recently I found a letter that he wrote to my grandmother, Vera Stout Anderson in 1937. This one letter to my grandmother is the only thing that I have in his own handwriting. It nicely fills in the personality of my elusive great-uncle Will.

Will Stout’s Life

Very little factual information about Will Stout survives. For instance, it took me years to discover that he died in Palm Beach Florida rather than New York or New Jersey.  I expected to find him still near his relatives in New Jersey in the 1940s.  I only recently was able to uncover Will and Jean’s marriage record. There I learned her last name and that she was a widow rather than a divorcee.

He did not quite have the distinguished career that my mother described as “a railroad attorney”. Nevertheless Will lived in magical Manhattan. Actually, he was one of many lawyers who worked for the New York  street car company, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company.

Will left Killbuck Ohio for school in upstate New York, and then law school in New York City after his father Dr. William Stout nearly disowned him for what Doc Stout saw as dissolute living. This may have been the first of his involvement in family conflict.  His life turned far away from small town Mid Western living and values.  He married a widow several years older than he was.  She had a daughter who he reportedly adopted, but the couple never had children of their own.

  The Interborough Rapid Transit Company opened the first New York subway line in October 1904. Previously, they owned the first elevated lines (The El).  The city bought the IRT in 1940, and the IRT originally ran the subway lines that today are the numbered lines in the subway system.In 1929, Will would have been working for the company when they took a fare increase appeal to the Supreme Court. They asked to raise their fares from the 1904 rate of five cents to seven cents. They lost, which probably played into the end of the company in 1940.

When he wrote the letter in 1937, Will still struggled through the Great Depression. His company had some serious problems, which probably kept their army of attorneys quite busy.

Maude Stout Bartlett’s Life

Maude Bartlett at Stout-Anderson house, Killbuck (c.1952)

Maude Bartlett at Stout-Anderson house, Killbuck (c.1952)

No one every used my great-aunt Maude’s real name, Mary Emeline Stout (1875-1963).  From family letters and the family picture, I suspect that Hattie Stout favored Maude above her other children.  This made perfect sense because Maude was studious, well-behaved, musical–all the things that my rambunctious grandmother and rebellious great-uncle were not. In this picture you see Maude standing at Hattie’s shoulder and Vera beside her father, while Will sits alone.

 

Stout Family Home in Killbuck, Ohio

Dr. William Stout and family in front of family home, circa 1885

Maude married at the age of 23 to Carlos Bartlett, and not long after their marriage, the couple moved to Buffalo, New York. She lived a social life their, filled with books and music and entertaining.

Sadly, Carlos died in 1915 at the age of 42.  For the rest of her life, Maude mourned her “dear Carlos.”  She remained in Buffalo, took in a boarder and taught piano lessons, until in the 1950s she moved back to Killbuck, Ohio.  She and my grandmother Vera had a prickly relationship, (more family conflict).  Though as my mother said, they still cared for each other. They lived at opposite ends of the small town, about 1/2 mile apart. In their later years, they  called each other on the phone on days they could not visit.

When Will wrote the letter to Vera in 1937, Maude was still living in Buffalo with an Englishman boarding in her upstairs to supplement Carlos’ Railroad Stocks income.

Vera Stout Anderson

I have written extensively about my namesake grandmother.  In 1937 when she received Will’s letter, she and my grandfather Guy were running a restaurant in their home (see the picture at the head of this blog).  A short time before, they had been running a boarding house.  Guy may have already been showing signs of the heart trouble that forced them to close the restaurant in the early 1940s.  Her youngest son Herbert had married ten years earlier when he was 19, and he already had four children.  Her oldest child, William J. Anderson had one child. her daughter, Harriette was dating a man she did not entirely approve of.  In other words she had troubles of her own.

Harriette (Hattie) Morgan Stout

Hattie Stout in Buffalo

Hattie Stout and Maude Bartlett in Buffalo Circa 1910

I have written about Hattie Stout (1842-1928) who was a school teacher during the Civil War. She was a woman who was widely read and curious about everything.  She explored life to the fullest. My mother said that she even smoked a cigarette in the teens when women were expressing new-found freedoms, just to see what it was like. Her desire was to live long enough to vote, and she did indeed live to see Woman’s Suffrage.

Hattie served as her husband Doc Stout’s assistant, keeping the house and his instruments spotless. She even took care of patients who had to stay in the Stout home in Killbuck for a brief time while they recovered from some illness.  The couple loved to travel, and Hattie accompanied her husband to medical conventions, went to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893  and visited her son in Manhattan and rode on a double-decker bus.

When Doc Stout died in 1910, Hattie had Vera’s husband take over managing the farms she inherited. She moved into a small house so that they could occupy the large house Doc Stout had built in the center of town.

Hattie visited Maude in Buffalo after Carlos died. By 1920, her health failing at age 78, she had moved to Buffalo to live with Maude. She died in Maude’s home in 1928 at the age of 85.

Cause of Death

Hattie Stout Death Certificate Cause of Death, 1928

The family story ran that Hattie had turned away from the medicine practiced by her late husband Dr. William Stout and her belief in some alternative treatment contributed to her death. When her son Will Stout wrote a letter to her daughter Vera in 1937, Hattie had been dead ten years, but he was still angry.

I was curious about her cause of death. Because she was in New York State, I had to pay $18 and then wait about 9 months before I received the copy of the death certificate.  I have more to say about the cause of death, shown above, in a little bit.

The 1937 Letter from Will Stout to His Sister Vera

Here’s an image of the first page of the four-page letter that Will sent to his sister on April 22, 1937, revealing another family conflict involving Will. As you can see, it is not the easiest handwriting to transcribe, but I have transcribed pertinent parts of the letter below.  Here you can see the name of the company he worked for.

family letter

Letter from Will Stout to Vera Anderson, 1937, page one

…she is impossible it seems to me, & the six weeks or so that I indured (sic) during Mother’s Illness, was sufficient for a lifetime.

Dear Vera & Family,

[ He opens with a response to a recent letter and the fact Vera had not written frequently, which worried his wife. He goes on to complain about his financial circumstances. That may have seemed a bit strange to his much poorer relatives. After all, they did not live in a big city and have a job as lawyer with a large corporation!]

Fortunately for my peace of mind we have been very busy here in the office and have had little time to worry about being the under dog.

It will not be long now when we will be completing our plans for our vacation which as usual I hope to take in August. So far our idea is to drive to Ohio for a day or so & then skip back to a little cottage on a nice little lake upstate where we were for 3 wks last year. It is very unpretentious, very quiet, & cheap & the best place for complete relaxation & rest that we have found yet, so if nothing happens to disrupt our programme (sic) We will start the last Friday or Saturday in July & ought to be in Killbuck the following Monday & Tuesday Aug. 2nd or 3rd, but don’t make extra plans for us we can not stay long for which you should be thankful,

[Here Will mentions possible visits to relatives along the way]

…  the time will be short enough, in fact too short so that we will get ourselves disliked all along the line, but that seems to be the best we can do for I have engaged our cottage starting the 10th of Aug. & so what we are thinking of doing before that date means that we will have to hustle.

[Then he gets to the matter of avoiding his sister Maude. I have bolded the significant statements.]

I don’t suppose you know what Maud is going to do this summer as yet. So when you find out let me know. I have not heard from her in year and I don’t intend to have any Part of my vacation disturbed by a possible scrap, so if she is going to be at Killbuck the 1st week—Aug that will change our plans Of course if she is in Buffalo when we drive thru I will stop & say hello. But that will be all as I recall it she was not at Home the last time we stopped and I suspect she was just as pleased as we were. The last time we did see her she never asked us in the House. But that is all right by me, I am not mad about it & Jean [his wife] is very sorry for her & about the whole thing & gave me fits for not trying to placate her but she is impossible it seems to me, & the six weeks or so that I indured (sic) during Mother’s Illness, was sufficient for a lifetime. That is enough of that, So don’t fail to let me know when she will be if you learn.

Aside from a few colds & minor bellyaches we have faired (sic) very well physically, & I can think of nothing else by way of news. We are looking forward to seeing you & those wonderful kids that a doting Grandmother is crazy about.

[Vera’s son William had a son and her son Herbert had four children by April, 1937.]

Don’t wait so long in finding time to write again.

Love to all

Jean & Will

What Happened in 1928?

Particularly, what happened in Buffalo during that “six weeks or so” that Will refers to? Of course we will never know for sure. But thanks to the doctor who signed the death certificate on January 24, 1928, we know that Hattie died of Diabetes Mellitus (commonly called just diabetes). According to the certificate, she had suffered from Diabetes for twelve years. That was not a particular surprise, as diabetes crops up in several generations in my family. My grandmother (Hattie’s daughter), my sister and one of my sons all have been diagnosed and treated for diabetes.

The most common modern treatment for diabetes, insulin, began to be used in the early 1920s, so would have been available to Hattie.  Read History of treatment of diabetes here.  Did she feel that insulin injections were unnatural?  Did she prefer to use some alternative treatment, like the treatment with high fat diet, which had some supporters at that time? Was she afraid of needles? Or did she, as my family suspected, join a religion that forbade medical treatment?

When I saw on this death certificate “Contributory” [cause of death] as gangrene of the foot I thought of another possibility.  The most common recommendation to deal with the gangrene would be amputation of the foot. She might, understandably, be reluctant to lose her foot, and refused treatment. So perhaps it was the infection that killed her.

The Death Certificate

A minor point: her birth date is given as August 4, 1842 on the death certificate, and date of death is January 24, 1928.  The calculation that she was 85 year, 4 months and 20 days old therefore is slightly off.

One more mystery popped up when I read the death certificate.  I mentioned earlier that Hattie had been living with Maude in 1920.  However, he death certificate says that she has only lived at that address for four months.  Either she had changed her address back and forth from Buffalo to Killbuck, or the census had caught her just visiting in 1920. In that case, she didn’t actually live with Maude until later.  So why would she go to Buffalo in October of 1927?

Presumably Hattie was quite ill by that time. Travel away from home would be difficult, even though she was fleeing to be with her favorite daughter. The only logical reason I can think of for the trip would be to receive some kind of alternative treatment not available in Ohio.

Whatever reason she had, it is clear from Will Stout’s letter that he was present in Buffalo when his mother died. He argued with Maude (and presumably his mother) about Hattie’s treatment.  I can picture the New York attorney descending upon the two ladies at 16 Robie Avenue, ready to take charge.  He was, after all, an attorney–used to arguing.  However, from what I know of Maude, she could be very determined. She may have decided to go along with their mother’s decision about her illness. If so, she would dig her heels in and her older brother would hold no sway. And as we can clearly see, Will lost the argument. His mother lost her life. However, William M. Stout signed the death certificate, listing his address as 537 West 149th Street, NY City.

I am glad to have this glimpse into the personality of William Morgan Stout. However, I am sorry that it is a letter that reveals a family conflict. Despite his wife’s gentle admonitions, Will did not seem to be one to easily forgive.  On the other hand, judging from her refusing to  invite him into her house, neither was his sister Maude.

“Remember Me”–Heirloom Autograph Books

Some heirlooms really bring to life their owners and their time.  I am thrilled to have three autogaph books from the 1880s and 90s that belonged to my Great-Aunt Mary Emmeline “Maude” Stout (Bartlett) 1875-1963 and to my Grandmother Vera Stout (Anderson) 1881-1964.  Every page is precious, but I only have space to share a few pages with you.

Autograph books

Vera’s large and Maude’s smaller autograph books. That is NOT Maude’s photograph on the bottom left book.

Paging through the autograph books, I notice that my grandmother Vera’s is packed full, while the two by Aunt Maude have many blank pages.  Also, there are more boy’s signatures in my grandmother’s book.  This confirms my impression that grandma was always more sociable and probably more popular than her more serious sister.  The inscriptions in both range from religious in nature to silly verses.

My grandmother’s book seems to have been a Christmas gift in 1890 when she was nine years old. The first signatures in the book are from New Year’s Eve, 1890. The book is nine inches wide and six inches high. There are 34 pages in all, with signatures on both sides of all pages except the title page. The pages have become very brittle and edges are disintegrating.  Most pages are tan (presumably originally more white) but a few are pastel shades. While some pages seem as clear as the day they were written, some have faded considerably and are difficult to read.

The first entry is Vera’s invitation to her friends. She always had beautiful hand writing, but I am amazed that this was written by a nine-year-old.

Vera's Autograph Book page one.

Invitation to sign my book, written by Vera Stout

To All

My Album open! Come and see!

What! Won’t you waste a line on me?

Write but a thought– a word or two

That Memory may reverse to you.

Note:  The words in italic are added in a different hand as though someone was improving her poem.

Some of the entries are very plain, but some are quite fancy. In this case, decorated by the friend, Carrie Wood, who wrote a plainer entry later in the book.

Autograph Book fancy page

Artwork by Vera’s friend, Carrie Wood, 1892

Carrie’s embellished words say

Feb. 16, 1892, Killbuck Ohio From your true friend (___?) Dear Vera Remember me in the days of thy youth. Strive and you will win Strive + Diligence leads to Victory. From your true friend and schoolmate. Carrie Wood

Some adults signed the book, too–church and school officials.  Here are signatures by two adults with more artwork.

Autograph book adult signature

Art work by the Superintendent, S. D. Lisle and wife 1891

Dear Vera:

“A man that can tell good advice from bad advice, does not need advice.”  Mrs. S. D. Lisle

To be content with little is already a step towards greatness.”  S. B. Lisle, Supt. Schools.  Killbuck, Ohio, Jan. 12, 1891.

For those not confident of their artistic talent, the book apparently came with stickers from which the signers could choose.

Autograph book with sticker

Autograph book page with sticker 1891

Killbuck, Ohio, Jan 10, 1891

Friend Vera, “Do good deeds And You will be rewarded.”  Your friend, Lillie Wilson.

Every autograph book has to have some of these silly sayings, and the same ones might have shown up in my own autograph book fifty years later.  Boys, particularly, did not want to say anything mushy or religious.

Autograph book silly verse

Charley Lowe, silly boy May 1892

Killbuck, Ohio, May 12, 1892. Vera.  Remember me when far away If only half awake, Remember me on your wedding day, and send me a piece of cake.  Charley Lowe. (Bottom corner; “Remember”)

Most precious to me in these autograph books are the signatures of Vera’s brother Will (William Morgan Stout) and her sister Maude and other relative and friends I know.

Unfortunately, Will’s page has faded very badly, but I am delighted to say that he signed as “Bro” which is the way that my brother signs notes to me as well.

Autograph Book-Brother's signature

William Stout signature 1893

I am not absolutely certain of the year, thinking at first it was 1899, but by then he would have been in New York in School, so 1893 is more likely. He would have been 19 years old.

Feb. 9, 1893

Compliments of your Bro, W. M. Stout

Short message, but I love the sweeping hand in which he writes, full of confidence.

Maude, the 16-year-old sister, had advice to impart from her advanced age. Interestingly, she signs these pages as Maud (with no “e” on the end), but as an adult, she signed with an “e”–Maude, so that is the spelling I use.

Autograph Book -Sister

Message from Sister Maud Stout 1891

Killbuck Ohio, January 21, 1891

Dear Sister, “When the name that I write here is dim on the page and leaves of your album are yellow with age, still think of me kindly and do not forget that where ever I am I remember you yet”  Your loving Sister Maud Stout

The following year, Maud wrote another entry with an interesting P.S. at the bottom.

Maude’s autograph

Killbuck Ohio    Sister Vera

Ever keep in mind that the virtues of modesty candor and truth in woman exceed all the beauty of youth. Your sister Maud

May 20, 1892 [Grandma’s 11th birthday was May 23] Your last day of school in the old tin shop.

I have no idea what exactly that means, but apparently the town was building a new school. And this was the school in 1893. Grandma is to the left of the teacher in the front row.

Killbuck School, Vera Anderson to left of teacher. 1893

Killbuck School, Vera Anderson to left of teacher. 1893

Finally, tucked away in the book is a piece of paper art with the initials of brother Will Stout, and a page from the man who made the art.

Autograph Book

Stencil W. S. (William Stout)

Autograph book Paper Art

Signed by makir of the paper art

 

J.R. Welker was a Floral Cut, Paper Artist. I imagine like penmanship teachers and photographers, Welker traveled from town to town, demonstrating and displaying his art for sale in a public place, and perhaps teaching the art while he was there.

Miss Vera  January 18th 1892/

Perhaps, some day on some far distant shore/like one bereft of friends, I’ll sadly roam,/Endearing charms of those I’ll see no more,/dictating thoughts of love, of joy, and home./Gay as the Butterfly that sips the morning dew/each graceful air shall be, my ____paints for you.

{In the white cut-out in the upper left corner} I love a little lady yes it is true/I think that little lady is one like you/ And I think no affection can ever love vain/For what one loses th eother will gain.}

Oh, my, I can just see little Vera begging her mother to buy all of Mr. Welker’s art work after reading that romantic message.

When I look at my autograph book from when I was about the same age, I can only remember a couple of those people pleading with me to remember them.  However, Killbuck, Ohio was a small town and people grew up together.  I recognize some of these names and know that they were life-long friends.

Oh, I cannot close without adding one more page–this one from Aunt Maud’s autograph book, where Vera, then 4 years old, added her signature.  The woman who would learn to write so beautifully, had not yet mastered the art. Fortunately someone, probably her mother Hattie Morgan Stout added the necessary information.

Maud's Autograph book--Vera

Vera at 4 years old New Year’s Day 1886 in Maud Stout’s book.

Family Heirloom: Gift Book for Christmas

This post is dedicated to those of us who are tempted to give an Amazon gift card for a present. Here is a hint on how to make a gift book into a family heirloom.

My Gift Book

Our family frequently gave gift books for Christmas presents.  My mother and father almost always wrote inscriptions in the front of the book and dated and signed them.  I treasure those gifts, particularly this one which probably accounted in large part for my life long fascination with Greece and the culture of the Golden age.  I read that book so much that the hard cover is long gone.  Here is the title page, and the very treasured inscription written by my father, Christmas 1947 when I was eight years and nine months old.

Grandma Vera’s Gift Book

What a nice surprise it was to discover that this tradition went back two generations before me. I found books that my great-grandmother, Harriet Morgan Stout gave to my grandmother and to my great-uncle–writing an inscription in each.  Even more fun, my Grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson) did what many young people do–she “wrote” on the pages. The inscription indicates that she would have been six years old when she received this book, but the book seems a bit young for a six-year-old, and she surely would have known better than to draw in a book by that age!

The book is beautifully illustrated and teaches us much about how children dressed and what they played with. Some things have not changed–skipping rope and blowing bubbles. Some toys have disappeared–whipping tops and hoops.

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Great-Uncle Will’s Gift Book

Vera’s older brother William Morgan Stout (Willy or Will), received a very different book for Christmas 1886 when he was 13.  The inscription is in the handwriting of my great-grandmother, but my mother added the “age 13”.

Review of Davy and the Goblin in American Magazine advertising section January 1888.

Review of Willy's Book

Review of Davy and the Goblin in January 1888 issue of The American Magazine.

This is a very odd book. The author, Charles Carryl, was known as the Lewis Carroll of America–writing humorous fantasy, perhaps as an escape from his day job as a stock broker.

This book published in 1894, obviously aims to cash in on the popularity of Alice In Wonderland which was first published in 1865, and continued to be a best seller.  Carryl tells some original stories, like Davy’s confrontation with the giant Badorful, but he also riffs on familiar tales like Sinbad the Sailor, Jack and the Bean Stalk, and Robinson Crusoe.

The illustrations are black and white, but surely would appeal to an adventure-minded young man.  Thirteen year olds today might find this a bit young for them, but I can imagine my great-uncle “Willy” eating it up.

Willy's gift book.

Willy Stout’s gift book, Davy and the Goblin meet Giant Badorful, 1887

I post this in the hope that it will influence you not only to give books to family members, but always, ALWAYS, write the date, their name, an inscription and your name. It will enhance the value of the book in the century or two to come.  Amazon gift certificates may disappear in the cloud, but books will stick around for a long, long time.