Tuesday, March 18, 2014

52 Ancestors - #10 Joseph Samuel Marrom

Joseph Samuel Marrom, my husband's maternal grandfather, is our most stubborn research brick wall. While we have located several cousins, filled in family members for his children and visited his grave, we have been unable to document his parents, the names of relatives he may have lived with in New York City and Chicago after his emigration to the United States or discover the name(s) of half brothers or sisters that emigrated to South Africa.  The timeline below spotlights what we know and what we have discovered about Grandpa Marrom.

  • January 2, 1874:  Joseph is born to Samuel and Esther Marrom.  His birthplace is either Tilsit, East Prussia as stated by his son William Lionel Marrom or Tauroggen, Russia as stated on his naturalization paper.  Tilsit and Tauroggen are both located in the Baltic.  East Prussia was a province of Germany and Joseph's parents are listed as being born in Germany in the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 US Censuses.  Tilsit located on the Lithuanian - Russian border became Sovetsk, Russia after 1946.  Tauroggen is now Taurage, Lithuania. This birth date was stated by Joseph on his World War I Draft Registration Card.
  • Esther passes away while Joseph is still a baby.  Samuel remarries and has several more children.  Lionel remembered his father receiving a letter from a half-brother who lived in Capetown, South Africa.  The half-brother spelled his name "Meram."  When Lionel asked about the difference in spelling, his father explained the family in the United States felt the spelling of Marrom looked better.  In an effort to locate Merams in South Africa, we searched available South Africa directories.  Finding no Merams, we mailed letters to the Marams we found.  While this led to finding a family that had emigrated from Lithuania and had ties to the United States, we could not make positive connections.
  • Family story indicated Samuel operated a hotel in Tilsit.
  • About 1886 (best estimated from family stories). Joseph left his home for the United States.  The family story claims he traveled alone (he was 12 or 16 if one uses the age he claimed when he joined the US Army) and stayed with relatives in New York and then Chicago when he arrived.  No names of these relatives have survived.  In searching indexes and censuses, I have identified a few potential names but have not been able to confirm or located surviving family members to establish communication.
  • November 7, 1891:  Joseph enlists under the Sam Marrom in the United States Army in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He states his age as 21 years, one month.  He is described as 5 feet 5 1/2 inches tall with dark brown eyes and hair.  In addition it was noted that he three vaccinations in each arm with a scar over his left eye and a scar on his right knee.  He served in the army for a period of five years.
  • April 21, 1896: Joseph marries Annie Selk in Paris, Idaho.  Paris is near Bear Lake. (Idaho, Marriages, 1878-1898; 1903-1942, FHL microfilm 1450967)
  • December 21, 1896:  son, William Lionel Marrom, is born in Dingle, Bear Lake, Idaho.
  • May 30, 1899:  daughter, Norma Marrom, is born in Montpelier, Bear Lake, Idaho.
  • July 18, 1901: son, Howard Marrom, is born in Montpelier, Bear Lake, Idaho.
  • August 8, 1902: Joseph receives his Certificate of Naturalization in the Fifth Judicial District Court in Bear Lake County. In this document, Joseph renounces allegiance to the Czar of Russia.
  • 1903:  Joseph starts the Eagle Clothing Store in Preston, Idaho.
  • March 30, 1904: daughter, Grace Marrom, is born in Blackfoot, Bingham, Idaho.
  • April 26, 1906: son, Clifford Stanley Marrom, is born in Preston, Franklin, Idaho.
  • September 23, 1910: son, Nathan Aaron Hawley Marrom, is born in Preston, Franklin, Idaho.
  • 1912:  Joseph enters politics and is elected to serve as a City Councilman for Preston.
  • October 15, 1913: daughter, Alice Marrom, is born in Preston.
  • February 14, 1915: daughter, Esther Kay Marrom, is born in Preston.
  • 1919 - 1921: Joseph serves as Mayor of Preston.
  • May 1, 1924: daughter, Beverly Ann Marrom, is born in Preston.
  • 1930: Joseph and family still at home move to Salt Lake City.
  • July 16, 1935: Beverly dies in Salt Lake City.
  • October 1937:  Joseph suffers a stroke.
  • December 1, 1937: Joseph dies of pneumonia.
In our efforts to discover more information on Joseph's ancestors we started a blog, Marrom Quest, several years ago.  If you are interested in additional information on our quest, visit http://marromquest.blogspot.com/

Sunday, March 16, 2014

52 Ancestors - # 9 Edith Louisa Gill

Welsh Flag
While Wales is a relatively small country it plays a fairly significant role in my family history.  Lines on both sides of my family go back to this corner of the United Kingdom.  With mystic stories of the knights, wizards, Druid priests and bards, the heritage is colorful and fascinating. Beyond the tales of King Arthur, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table, stories of the hard life of coal miner families, Tom Jones, the title Prince of Wales bestowed on the heir apparent to the English throne, I knew little about the country.

As I go back on my family lines, my great grandmother, Edith Louisa Gill Backman, is the first of my forebears on my direct line to have been born in Wales. So I decided it is high time to gather a few facts about this ancestral country. Continuous human history in Wales, or Cymru in Welsh, dates back to 9000 BC. With this extensive history I obviously won't have space or time to do more than mention a few highlights and perhaps some favorite tidbits of information I have unearthed.

The Iron Age was the period associated with the Celts who dominated the area until the arrival of the Romans in 43 AD.  The Romans retained control until the 5th century when they departed their outposts on the island.  This opened the door to invasion by the Anglo-Saxons.  In the subsequent splintering of the British language ad culture throughout the island, the Welsh people were the largest group to successfully retain their language and culture.  This continued through centuries of dominance by the English and incorporation into the United Kingdom.

The Welsh Methodist revival in the 18th century led the country to turn increasingly nonconformist in its beliefs and away from the UK's dominant Church of England.  The Industrial Revolution brought dramatic increases in population as a result of the explosive growth of the coal and iron industries.  I will stop here as it was in the late 19th century when my ancestors left Wales for the United States.

Dragons have always intrigued me so it was not surprise that the Welsh flag is one of my favorite national flags.  The white and green bars of the flag are associated with the Tudors who claimed Welsh ancestry while the dragon dates back to a dragon banner carried by the Welsh hero Cadwaladr in the 700s.  The flag is known as Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon.

The color white in flags is often used to represent peace and honesty while the color green is often used to denote hope, joy, and love.  In many cultures it also has a sacred significance.  The color red of the dragon is often used to represent bravery, strength and valor.

Let me introduce you to Edith or Edie as she was often called.  She was born July 20, 1870 in Pontypridd, Glamorgan, Wales.  Located in South Wales, Pontypridd is about 12 miles north of Cardiff and is the gateway to the beautiful valleys of south Wales.  It is also famous for its Old Bridge which has stood since 1750.

Edith Louisa Gill
Edie's parents were David Richard Gill and Sarah Ann Hodges Gill. At the time of her birth she had three older brothers; David Richard Gill named after his father, Thomas George and Henery (Henry) Hodges Gill, an orphaned cousin who was adopted by her parents.  Two other siblings, Sarah Jane and William Henry, had not survived childhood.  Four other siblings would be born after Edie:  Elijah, Emily Jane, Albert James, and Joseph John.

Prior to her birth, David and Sarah joined the LDS Church and the family left Wales and set sail for the United States in 1878 aboard the Nevada. Departing from Liverpool, the ship arrived in New York on July 10, 1878.  Next the family traveled by train to Salt Lake City and eventually to Fillmore, Utah.  They would return to Salt Lake City and make that their final home.

On November 26, 1890, Edie married William Jacob Backman in Logan, Utah.  Logan was selected as it was the site of the nearest LDS temple.  The Salt Lake temple was not dedicated until April 6, 1893.  The happy couple would welcome their first child almost a year to the day later.  Little William David Backman (Bill) was born November 19, 1891 in Salt Lake City.  There would be a little gap in additional children as her husband would leave to serve a mission in Sweden.

Following William's return in 1893, the family would continue to grow.  In 1894, Evelyn joined the family.  A second daughter, Edith Louise was born in 1896 followed by Richard Samuel in 1899.  Little Richard would not survive the day.  Three more sons would be born to the couple:  Franklin Gill (Bud) in 1901; Herbert Spencer (Spen) in 1903; and, finally George Siegfried in 1909.

As difficult as it was to deal with the death of little Richard in 1899, a more difficult time would face the couple in 1902 when little Evelyn would become ill and pass away on November 16, 1902.  She would be buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.  Her death was very difficult for Edith to come to terms with.

Hand-painted dish belonging to
Edith Louisa Gill Backman
Edith was a kind, loving mother.  Her daughter wrote of how grateful she was for the help her mother gave her with her children, Donna and Jack, who were born just 13 months apart.  She helped Edith again when she was pregnant with her second son, Bill who was born in January 1925.  Shortly after his birth Edie was diagnosed with liver cancer.  She had surgery in February but her condition continued to deteriorate until her death on December 13, 1925.

My grandmother, Edith Louise Backman Martin, gave me the hand-painted dish pictured at the right.  This dish had belonged to her mother and she remembered it being used on many occasions on her mother's table.  
David Richard Gill Family
Back row:  Elijah, David, Independencia Ruth, Albert, and Joseph
Front:  Sarah Ann, David R. Gill, Edith and Thomas
Photo from Amber McKean family collection

Thursday, March 6, 2014

52 Ancestors - #8 William Jacob Backman

William Jacob Backman
August 14, 1886 (age 18)
William Jacob Backman is my other paternal great grandfather.  I am fortunate to have a copy of a collection of his thoughts which has given me a better appreciation of the person he was.  I will be using many direct quotes to help you get to know him as well.

His life story begins in Sweden and had a bit of a twist as his parents joined were early converts to the Mormon Church.  As a result, he was one of the few Swedish children who were not baptized by a "Priest of the State Church." This created a bit of a situation for William at the age of seven when he was to start school and there was no legal or accepted religious documentation of his existence. Finally at the age of eight, he was able to start school with the help of a family friend.

As converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon Church as it was more commonly known, the family looked forward to the time when they could emigrate to the United States and move to Utah.  The opportunity for William and his brother Gustave came in the summer of 1877.  Gustave left Sweden with his Uncle John and William left under the care of John C. Sandberg, a LDS missionary returning to Salt Lake City.

William arrived in Salt Lake on October 6, 1877 and lived with the Aaron Jacobsen family until the following year when his parents, brother George, and sisters, Anna and Bertha arrived in July 1878. Shortly after their arrival, little Bertha passed away.  This was William's first experience with the death of a loved one.  As a boy of 10, he remembers his Mother's grief causing him the greatest pain at the loss.

Adjusting to life in America William remembers feeling shocked when he was teased by other boys as he tried to speak English.  To add insult to injury, they called him a Dane. It seems the boys thought all Scandinavians were Danish.  His English gradually became more fluent as he spent more time with the Jacobsens.

In the 1880 US census, the Backman family is shown as living on Second South in Salt Lake City.  The surname is spelled "Bachman."  The "h" and "k" in the name seem to be used interchangeably in many documents.  At the time the family consisted of his parents, Samuel and Hannah (Anna Johanna), brothers (Gustave and George), sister Anna and William.  Samuel is listed as working for the railroad.

In his memoirs, William explained the Backman name came from the Swedish Army to distinguish one of his ancestors from the multiple Swensons, Nilsons, etc.

William wrote about some of the jobs he did during his life.  He started working in 1879 at the age of 11.  His first job was weeding and thinning carrots and turnips for a man name Levi Reed.  Other youthful jobs included peddling vegetables door to door, delivering hats for a Millinery shop, and washing dishes at a saloon up Little Cottonwood Canyon. In 1883, he started work in the railroad's tinshop with his father. He would work as a tinsmith for the rest of his life.

At the age of 21, William noticed Ede Gill (Edith Louise Gill) standing by her gate visiting with another young man.  He stopped to talk and joke for just a few minutes. Even though he had known Ede for several years, those few minutes changed his life.  He courted Ede and they were married November 26, 1890.

The happy couple soon started their family.  A son, William David (Bill), was born November 19, 1891. In the fall of 1891, William received a call to serve a mission for the LDS Church.  With the backing of his brothers he departed for Sweden on February 20, 1892.  While his wife and young son were in the care of her father.

While he enjoyed the social aspects of religion and the values it encouraged, he had never had strong feelings for the doctrines of any organized religion.  His time in Sweden was filled with internal conflicts.  He suffered horribly from homesickness for his wife and little boy and struggled to reconcile his feelings toward religion and preaching it to others.  The financial panic of 1893 provided the final push he needed to return early from his mission.  With money becoming tight for all of his family members back home, he received a letter from his wife with a few dollars in it that she had earned to laundry.  He felt the time had come for him to return home and look after his family.

William Jacob holding little Bill, Ede,
Ede's sister Ruth holding Lyn in front of the
Backman home at 24 Jeremy Street
Upon his return to Salt Lake his life seemed to pick up right where is left off with his wife.  He
struggled a bit with his now almost two-year old son.  Father and son struggled to get close until the birth of his new sister, Evelyn (Lyn) in 1894.  With his mother so involved with the care of a new baby, little Bill discovered his Father again.

The family would continue to grow with the birth of Edith (Babe) in 1896.  The joy at the birth of a second son, Richard Samuel on April 30, 1899 would be short lived as the little infant did not survive the day.

Another son, Franklin Gill (Bud), was welcomed on July 30, 1901, Herbert Spencer (Spen) joined the family on December 12, 1903, and finally, George Siegfried on October 9, 1909.

As William wrote in his memoirs, the family enjoyed a pleasant life and always had enough to meet their needs in comfort.  There were difficult times as well included the death of little Lyn at the age of eight in 1902.  Ede would begin suffering from the symptoms of liver cancer.  She would pass away on December 13, 1925 leaving a gaping hole in William's heart.

After a few years, William married a widow, Mary Ann Haywood Gillespie in 1929.  They would enjoy watching their children's families grew.  William passed away on September 17, 1943.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

52 Ancestors - #7 Bertia Mae Duncan

The epitome of a loving, caring and brave frontier mother, Bertia Mae Duncan was the last child born to Matthew Madison Monroe Duncan and his wife, Rebecca Baxter Duncan.  She was the only child to be born in the Indian Territory that would become the state of Oklahoma.  Prior to her birth all of her siblings had been born in Tennessee. Sometime between the birth of her brother Nathan in 1873, in Tennessee and her birth on February 19, 1877, the family had moved to Lebanon, Indian Territory.  At the time of her birth, Lebanon was part of the Chickasaw Nation.  It is now part of Marshall County which was created when Oklahoma became a state.

In 1894, she married Alexander Campbell Martin in Mannsville, Indian Territory.  Mannsville would be included in Johnston County when Oklahoma became a state. Alex and Bertie would become the parents of 11 children.  Lovingly caring for her children and home made for full, busy days.  In addition to her other homemaking skills, she was an accomplished quilter and cook. She was known to have the talent of being able to recreate any dish she tasted without needing a recipe.

As a child of the plains, she discovered an aversion to mountains, which she discovered when she made a visit to her son and his wife in Utah. John and Babe were excited to share the beauty of their state with his parents; however, a drive to Park City proved to be rather terrifying for Bertie as she felt the mountains might topple on top of her.

During her lifetime, she personally witnessed the entry of Oklahoma into the Union as its 46th state in 1907; the devastation and tragedies associated with the Galveston Hurricane in 1900; the shift from horses for travel and farming to the automobile and tractors; the oil boom and its resulting oil fields; as well as two World Wars.
Martin Family about 1902
Front:  Walter, Bess, Verna
Back:  Alex, John, Bertie
Martin Family about 1926
Front:  Ethel, Bess, Alex, Ken, Bertie, John
Second Row:  Don and Vieva
Third Row:  Edith, Ora, Bill, Walt, and Verna

Saturday, February 8, 2014

52 Ancestors - #6 Alexander Campbell Martin

Now I move into the ancestors I never had the opportunity to know personally.  I appreciate the tools that provide information to gain an understanding of these folks without the privilege of a face-to-face relationship.  Technology is helping to create this understanding in a convenient and more economical way. Sharing also increases our appreciation for our ancestors as more stories and information come to light.  As you look at the blogs shared in this challenge (other participant posts as well as my own), please share your memories of the individuals spotlighted.

Alexander Campbell Martin
Alexander Campbell Martin was born August 27, 1874 to Edward Lovell and Leann Hill Martin.  At the time the family was living in Eagle Creek, Overton, Tennessee.  Eagle Creek, no longer a town, was located in middle Tennessee not far from the Kentucky border.  It was between two current Tennessee State Parks, Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park and Standing Stone State Park.  Dale Hollow Lake is to the north.

Alexander was the fifth child of Edward and Leann.  His older siblings were: Thomas Welcome, known as Welk; John Stokely, known as Stoke; Mary Catherine; and William C.  He was followed by:  Nancy Elizabeth, known as Nannie; Carlis Chilton; Cordelia; and, Belle.

Sometime between the time the 1880 census was taken in Tennessee and 1883, the Martin family moved to Texas in search of better opportunities. Leann passed away in Hardy, Montague, Texas in 1883.  Alexander was just nine years old and the baby, Belle, was just one.

By the 1890s, the family had relocated to the Indian Territory, what is now Oklahoma.  Here Alexander met his future wife, Bertia Mae Duncan.  They were married on December 23, 1894 in Mannsville.  Mannsville was located in the Chickasaw Nation Territory.  Alexander and Bertie made their home in Earl, a small town less than five miles from Mannsville. It would become part of Johnston County when Oklahoma was made a state.  Within the coming year, Alexander's sister, Nannie, would marry Bertia's brother Nathan.
The family of Alexander and Bertia would begin to grow with the birth of their first child, John Eldredge Martin in October 1895.  John would be followed by Bessie (Bess) in 1897 and Walter in 1899.

Alexander, John, Bertia
Walter, Bess, & Verna 1902 
In 1900 the family is found in Brazoria County, Texas seeking the opportunities offered by the booming Galveston economy.  This would come to a sad ending with the Galveston hurricane in September 1900.  The storm wiped out their worldly possessions and claimed the life of Bertia's father from injuries sustained during the storm.  The little family would return to Earl and Indian Territory to start over again.

Alexander and his family returned to Earl where he became a tenant farmer.  Tenant farming in Oklahoma was a bit different than other locations in the South.  The main difference being that most of the tenants were white.  Indian Territory was about the last frontier with good farm land.  However, Indian law prohibited white land ownership as well as prohibiting Indians the right to lease their land to outsiders, but this was worked around by employing whites to work their land.  Under this work around, a flood of white tenants came to the territory between 1870 and the 1890s.  By 1900 three-fourths of all tenant farmers in Oklahoma were white.  Between 1900 and 1910, this number had doubled.

The usual arrangement with tenant farmers in Oklahoma was to return one-third of the grain crop to the landlord in addition to one-fourth of the cotton crop produced.  The Tenant was responsible to provide most of the equipment, animals, and furnishings.  Alex would remain a tenant farmer until 1920 when he moved the family to Healdton, Oklahoma.

Alexander's family continued to grow with the birth of Verna in November 1901.  Seven more little
Front:  Ethel, Bess, Alex, Ken (on lap), Bertia, and John
Middle:  Don and Vieva
Back:  Edith, Ora, Will, Walt and Verna
ones would join the family:  Ora Mae, November 1903; William Alexander (Bill), July 1906; Edith Bertia (Edith), January 1910; Don Edward (Don), January 1912; Vieva Rebecca (Vieva), July 1914; Ethel Marita (Ethel), October 1917; and, Kenneth Paul (Ken), October 1922.

Oldest son, John, served in World War I, married a young girl from Salt Lake City, Edith Louise Backman, and would not return to Oklahoma to live.  Several of the children would marry and live in cities in Oklahoma and Texas.  Son Bill died in an oil field accident on May 21, 1931.  Bill was the first child to die.

According to the 1930 census, Alex worked in the oil fields as an engineer.  In 1932, the family moved to Durant, Oklahoma.

In he 1940 census, Alexander was the proprietor of a lunch stand in Durant.

Alex passed away on July 4, 1949 in Sherman, Texas.  He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

52 Ancestors - #5 Robert Henry McCune

Robert Henry McCune was the maternal grandfather that I knew and loved growing up.  My mother
Robert McCune with his sister, Marie
often comments how lucky she feels to have had two loving, caring fathers.  Having lost his father at an early age, I am sure he understood and related to his wife, Virginia and her two children, Boyd and Iris.

Robert was born on May 21, 1901 to Henry and Mary Jane Slaven McCune.  At the time the family lived in Galesburg, Illinois.  Galesburg is located in northwest central Illinois.  It was built around the foundation of Knox College.  The railroad played an important role in the growth of the city as well. The city has a claim to fame as the birthplace of Carl Sandberg.

During high school, I had an assignment to interview two people who lived during the 1920s.  The following are Robert's responses to the questions I asked.

Where did you live during the 1920s?  "I lived in Galesburg, Illinois, and Salt Lake City, during that period."

What was your mother's occupation?  "Since my father was deceased, my mother worked as a seamstress." (Notice the similarities in the childhood of Robert and his wife Virginia.)

What was your occupation?  "I lived with my older sister, Jane, in Salt Lake City for a while, and worked on the Bingham and Garfield railroad which is a part of Kennecott.  I worked for the CBQ railroad when I was in Illinois, and I worked for Independence Gas and Oil.  I made about $140 a month when I worked for the railroad."

On politicians:
  • Harding - "He was a front for corrupt politicians and they used him as a tool."
  • Coolidge - "He was riding the tide of popularity although he was more capable than Harding."
  • Hoover - "At that time it was not very good"
  • Al Smith - "He would have made a wonderful President.  He did a great job as governor of New York.  I voted for him when he ran for President."
On prohibition:
"Prohibition was a farce, it accomplished nothing.  I feel that a country cannot legislate a man to stop drinking, in fact, I think this caused many people to drink who would otherwise not touch the stuff.

The boarding house, in which I lived in downtown Salt Lake, was a speak-easy.  I helped make some bathtub gin.  We used pure grain alcohol." 

On beauty pageants:
"That was something!  I remember the girl that made my bed in the boarding house became Miss Utah, then Miss America, and then went to Rio to compete for Miss Universe."

On the Teapot Dome Scandal:
"I don't think you would have (heard) very much about Teapot Dome if Sinclair hadn't beaten Rockefellar to get the lease."

On the persecution of Negroes, Catholics, and Jews:
"This had no place here in America.  Everyone, regardless of creed or color, is entitled to his own religious beliefs.

Comparing the 20s to the 60s:
"We have the same short skirts.  There are more tensions today, and the pace is faster today."

Robert married Virginia Sparks Lunn on Valentine's Day 1938.  At that time he became a father to Virginia's son and daughter as well as a husband.  They lived in Virginia's home on McClelland Street.  He was a loving husband and father.

The family enjoyed the typical family life of the period working and playing together.  This pleasant time would be interrupted by the world turmoil of World War II.  Robert enlisted and was made a Navy recruiter.  At lease he was able to stay stateside.

After the war, Robert worked for Sinclair Oil.  Over the years his assignments took him to Kansas City, Cheyenne, and Denver.  He loved spending time with his children and grandchildren when they visited and shared the highlights of these destinations with them:  Frontier Days in Cheyenne with the colorful parade and rodeo; the Natural History Museum of Denver, the Capitol; The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs; and, rowing boats on the lake in the Denver City Park.

Traveling through his territory in Wyoming, his grandchildren learned that the first numbers on Wyoming license plates indicated the county where the car was registered:  19 meant Uinta, county seat Evanston; 1 meant Natrona, county seat Casper; 2 meant Laramie, county seat Cheyenne; 4 meant Sweetwater, county seat Green River.

Robert and Virginia would move back to Salt Lake in 1963.  His eyesight was failing due to cataracts.  He suffered a detached retina following surgery to remove the cataracts which led to his retirement. he took his grandchildren to Denver Bear baseball games each summer.

Grandpa was an avid baseball fan.  Every summer we made at least one trip to the see the Denver Bears play in their stadium.  He would have been so proud to have a major league team in his hometown.  He missed the Rockies by a few decades.

His other sports interests included boxing, wrestling, horse racing, football and dog racing.  We were fortunate to see the customs associated with horse racing on visits to Englewood.  I still watch the Triple Crown races each year in his honor.  The bugle calling the horses to the track and the color silks of the jockeys combined with the beauty and grace of the horses make racing a marvelous spectator sport.  I never could understand the science behind picking the winning horse and remember one time Grandpa's horse didn't finish the race.  He never bet on a gray horse again.

Robert passed away on March 2, 1973 at his home in Salt Lake City.
McCune Siblings
Bernard, Jerome, Robert
Jane and Marie

Jane, unknown, Marie, Robert,
and Mary Jane

Virginia and Robert in the Redwoods

Thursday, January 30, 2014

52 Ancestors - #4 Edna Virginia Sparks

Virginia Age 14
Edna Virginia Sparks was born April 7, 1903 in Ephraim, Sanpete, Utah.  She was the seventh child of Benjamin Walter and Jane Hilda Fredricka Nielson Sparks.  She went by Virginia and was most likely named after her father's home state.  Older siblings include:  Benjamin Hume (Hume); Hilda Ada (Ada); Claude Ivan (Ivan); Lillian May (Lillian); Walter Nielson (Walter); and, Myrtle June (June).  She was followed by  Rachel Marie, who was the final child.

Ephraim is a small agricultural town located in central Utah.  It was settled in the mid 1850s by Mormon pioneers.  The majority of the population for several years consisted of Mormon immigrants from Denmark, Sweden and Norway.  This industrious group cleared the land and tilled the soil.  At one point, Sanpete County was known as the "Granary of Utah."

Virginia always taught her children and grandchildren the importance of loving and supporting family members.  This was a significant factor in the survival of her family when her father passed away unexpectedly in 1909.  He succumbed to injuries sustained in a fall from horse in a November blizzard.

At the time Virginia was only six and her oldest brother was only 16.  The family pulled together to make ends meet and stay together.  Her maternal grandparents and uncles helped the family as well as they all worked together to maintain their home.  This caring and sharing extended throughout their lives. Family and extended family were always welcome at each others homes and the brothers and sisters continued to help each other whenever they were needed.

Boyd & Iris
Virginia married Wilford Guy Lunn on August 6, 1925 in Manti.  They had two children, Boyd and Iris.  Making their home in Salt Lake City beginning in 1927, they raised their children near Liberty Park enjoying both city and country lifestyles as they visited the farm and fish hatchery operated by Guy and his brother Gary.  Visits back to Ephraim were provided bonding opportunities with cousins, aunts, uncles and Virginia's mother.

For a school assignment, I interviewed about current events of the 1920s. The following are her responses to some of those questions.

  • President Wilson:  (I felt he was an intelligent person, and I knew he was a professor at one of the Ivy League schools and he seemed to be a member of the social group."
  • League of Nations:  "I felt that the League of Nations was a good idea and I think we should have joined."
  • Fashion:  "I liked the fashions and have always like the fashions of the day.  I liked the one-piece bathing suit."
  • Talkies:  "I thought talkies were magnificent and fabulous.  My favorites were Al Jolson, Ralph Bellamy, Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford and Bette Davis." 
  • Modern conveniences:  We had a beautiful radio, a Eureka vacuum, a new model iced refrigerator, and an electric washing machine.
    We got a new car every two years.  We usually had Chevies, four-door sedans.  When your mother was born, we had a 1926 Model A Ford Sports Coupe with a crank."
  • Iris, Virginia & Rhoda Lunn
  • Charles Lindbergh:  "I thought he was a miracle man - everyone else felt this way also.  No one then realized what aviation would really mean to America and the world.  I can still remember when my son went down to see Lindbergh at Liberty Park."  
Virginia's loving, happy homelife would once again be altered by unexpected circumstances.  In 1934, Guy was kicked by a horse on a hunting trip.  The injury would turn into carcinoma of the leg and be the cause of his death in May, 1935.

Robert & Virginia at their home on
McClelland Street
In 1938, Virginia married Robert H. McCune (Mac) on Valentine's Day.  This romantic start lasted through 34 years of marriage.  Together they would experience the war years with its stresses, sorrows and rationing; work related transfers and resulting separation from family; tragedy with the untimely death of Boyd; health issues, and the infirmities associated with aging.

With their out of state work assignments, Virginia and Mac visited Utah at every opportunity to spend time with their children and grandchildren. These visits often coincided with holidays like Christmas and the Fourth of July.  In addition, they would often invite one of the grandchildren to accompany them home for a week or two of one on one time.  This was often spent on the road with Grandma and Grandpa as Grandpa made service calls for his work.  Grandchildren became familiar with Cheyenne, Riverton and the Wind River Valley, Thermopolis and its thermal wonders; and the highway from Salt Lake to Cheyenne including Evanston, Little America, Green River, Rock Springs, Rawlins, and Laramie.

Assigned to Denver in the late 50s and early 60s, Virginia and Mac would welcome family and friends to their home in the suburb of Englewood.  Summer vacations would include visits to the Denver Museum of Natural History, rowing boats on the lake at the Denver City Park, Estes Park, Royal Gorge, and Colorado Springs and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

With her children grown, Virginia was able to devote time to her hobbies.  These included:

Virginia, granddaughter & Bingo
  • Dog breeding and showing - Virginia raised black cocker spaniels and spent many hours grooming and training them for dog shows.  Her champion female, Bingo, won many ribbons.
  • Ceramics - Using her artistic talent, Virginia made many pieces that were given to family and friends as well as decorative items for holiday celebrations and functional household items.  She shared her talent with her grandchildren on their visits showing them how to clean greenware, painting and firing items of their very own.
  • Sewing - An excellent seamstress, Virginia made wardrobe enhancements for her grandchildren and helped with school clothes as they grew.
Family was always an important part of Virginia's life.  She spent time with family members whenever possible.  Frequent trips were made to Ephraim to visit her sisters and brothers.  For several years her sister June and her family lived across the street from the Lunn/McCune family on McClelland.  June's sons, Robert and Cornell were more like brothers to Boyd and Iris.

Lillian Rust, Virginia McCune,
June Blackham & Rachel Mortensen
The sisters all remained close even when separated by many miles geographically.  Letters and family pictures were regularly exchanged.  Pictured are the four surviving sisters at a gathering in Ephraim at the home of Rachel.  Death was the only separation they could not overcome.  Ada passed away in 1916 due to complications from childbirth; Rachel passed away in 1983 due to cancer; and Virginia passed away August 29, 1988 from heart disease and complications following surgery.  Lillian and June would join their sisters and ancestors in 1993 and 1996 respectively.