Monday, February 23, 2015

Winchester '73 Rifle

An example of a Winchester 1873 Rifle [source: Winchester Guns]

I recently told the story of my second great-grandmother, Annie Dickson.  After Annie's second husband, Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd, died suddenly of pneumonia in 1913, she moved from Wyoming to Los Angeles with her five sons.

My late grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, left me her genealogy files and family photos. Among her paperwork, I found a letter from her cousin.  This cousin, a child of Annie's son Archie Rutherfurd (1899-1972), relates in his letter a story about events that occurred after Malcolm Rutherfurd's death.  Here is the letter in full:

Upon the death of Malcolm B.O. Rutherfurd in April of 1913, his widow, my grandmother, Annie Amelia Dickson Rutherfurd, made arrangements to leave Douglas, Wyoming with her five young sons and go to Los Angeles, California to be closer to her family.

Ferris Bruner and his father took them to the railroad station.  Ferris was about 14 years old and a very good friend of my father Archie.  They had all of their personal belongings in several large trunks or crates, and strapped to the outside of one of the trunks was Malcolm's Winchester rifle.  This was done probably because it was too long to fit inside.  The station agent told them they could not ship the rifle that way, so they left it with Ferris to be reclaimed when they returned to Wyoming.

In July of 1962, my father, Archie and I made a trip to Douglas.  This was my first time there and his too, since leaving in 1913.  We went to the Ranch that Malcolm and his brother Archie owned and met the current owners, the Pextons.  We asked if Ferris Bruner was still in the area and they said he was and gave us directions to his place.  We looked him up and had a very nice visit for two days.  As we were visiting one evening, Ferris said, "I think I have something that belongs to you" and went in the back room and came out with the rifle, and related the story to us.  I am sure that my Dad had forgotten about it and was rather surprised.  Ferris said that he had never used it and had just been storing it for all those years and insisted that we take it.  I had the rifle appraised about 10 years ago and it was worth about $1700 at that time.

The Rutherfurd ranch in Douglas, Wyoming

I hope someone in the Rutherfurd family still has this rifle, which is over 100 years old by now.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Elizabeth Davock Dickson and the Douglas Hospital

Elizabeth Davock Dickson1 was the sister of my second great-grandmother, Anne Amelia Dickson. She was born in 1868 in Point Edward, Ontario, Canada.

As a young woman, Elizabeth studied nursing in Detroit.  My grandmother told me that Elizabeth also went to New York to obtain specialty training as a surgical nurse.  When Elizabeth's parents, George and Mary Bellangee Dickson, moved from the Detroit area to Douglas, Wyoming in the early 1900s, Elizabeth went with them.  In Douglas, she founded the community hospital.

Elizabeth never married, and devoted her life to working in medicine.  She was known fondly to my grandmother as "Auntie" and was close with her family until she died in Los Angeles in 1952.

Elizabeth Dickson, at left, with her sister Annie.

Among my grandmother's papers, I discovered a newspaper article that describes the origins of the hospital in Douglas and the role that Elizabeth played in its founding.

The Douglas Budget
Wednesday, July 15, 1992

Memoirs of the Old Douglas Hospital
by David Johnstone

The old hospital was located on South Sixth Street.  It faced east toward what was then the only school in Douglas.  It was a combination of Elementary and High School.

Close by was a small building that housed one of the grades and was nicknamed "Chicken Coup" by the children.  Across the street and a little north was the home of Tom Rowley and across the street on the corner stood the fine brick home of John T. Williams, a stockman and banker.

The hospital has been a very nice residence for the day and age.  The living room, dining room and two bedrooms had been remodeled some but not enough to destroy the original home-like atmosphere.  A four-bed ward on the first floor and two rooms for nurses on the lower floor had been added.

The original operating room was small but adequate at that time.  Some of the staff slept on the second floor.  Facing the east on the front was a very fine porch where convalescing patients could enjoy the good old Wyoming air and sunshine.

In the evenings, the off-duty nurses could entertain their boyfriends.  The hospital staff worked and ate together so much that they were like a big family.  Miss Elizabeth Dickson, a registered nurse, owned and supervised the hospital for several years.  Her brother George Dickson was agent at the Chicago and Northwestern station and was later interested in the hardware business.

In 1908, in order to take a vacation to California, Miss Dickson had a registered nurse from Chicago come to relieve her and to supervise in her absences.  Janet Adams2 was her name. She was one of three girls, all of whom were born in Ontario, Canada, and who trained and graduated in the class of 1902 at the Presbyterian and Cook County Hospitals in Chicago.  Mary Brown and Grace Galbraith were the other two classmates.

When Miss Dickson and her father returned from California, Miss Dickson had decided to sell the hospital and retire in California.  In short time Miss Brown and Miss Galbraith came from Chicago to investigate buying the hospital.  A few days later a deal was closed and the new owners took over.

The old Douglas hospital is famous as the spot where the cattle rustler and gambler George Pike died in 1908.  He was a notorious figure in the area, having established a ranch near Douglas where he corralled his ill-gotten animals.  Elizabeth Dickson was running the Douglas hospital when George Pike was brought to the hospital with a abdominal ailment, and her nephew George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd remembered peeking into the windows of the hospital to see the commotion inside.  George Pike did not survive, but his legend lives on in Douglas.

The hospital that Elizabeth Dickson founded and ran is now a private residence.  A larger and more modern hospital is located elsewhere in Douglas. 

1 I have often wondered about the origins of Elizabeth's middle name, Davock.  It's not a family surname to the best of my knowledge.  I recently found a clue while reviewing the 1865 Census for New York.  It shows young George Dickson and his bride Mary Bellangee Dickson living in the same household with a widow by the name of Maria Davock and her five children.  I still haven't determined the relationship between the Davock and Dickson families, but it seems to have been a close one.

2 According to a note handwritten on this article by the daughter of this nurse, her actual name was Janet Adamson.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Rutherfurds in Douglas, Wyoming

Malcolm Rutherfurd (back), his brother Archie (center) and two farmhands in Douglas, Wyoming

I've been writing about my Dickson and Rutherfurd ancestors and the years they spent as ranchers in Douglas, Wyoming.  Recently, I found a newspaper clipping amongst the files of my grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith.  It reveals interesting information about the lives of those ancestors in Douglas, including some anecdotes I'd never previously heard.  People mentioned include my second great-grandmother Anne Amelia Dickson, her second husband (my step-second great-grandfather) Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd, and Malcolm's brother Archibald Aymer Oliver Rutherfurd.  The entirety of the article is posted below.

November 11, 1992
Douglas Budget

The Search for Roots Never Stops
[Column: The View From Pex's Pasture by John Pexton]

The search for one's roots never stops.

As one travels down the family tree, the trail usually weaves all over the country; and on occasion, some interesting stories and events turn up.

Connie and Claude Sipe of [removed for privacy], California were in Douglas last week.  They were hot on the trail of Connie's ancestors, the Rutherfurd family.  I had the honor of helping them climb down their family tree looking for the roots.

We started by going out to where her grandfather, M.B.O. Rutherfurd and his brother Archibald Aymer Oliver Rutherfurd lived.  The Rutherfurd ranch was located on Reid Creek (also called Rutherfurd Creek) 30 miles south of Douglas.  Charles and Gene Pexton are the present owners of the property.

The Rutherfurd trail really starts in Scotland where the brothers were born.  They evidently were from a wealthy family because in reading Archibald's will it mentions a trust.  It is thought that they came to America because of an invitation from the Foxton Family who were also from Scotland.  The Foxtons settled on land presently owned by Jerry Sober and where Tim Pexton lives.  The Rutherfurd name was really Oliver-Rutherfurd as evidenced in the brothers' names.  The "Oliver" has since been dropped.

Buying the ranch from Charles Reid, Sr. (Beef Bolin's grandfather) in 1892, they continued to live there unitl 1909 when the ranch was sold to J.C. Saul.  Do any of you readers know where the M.B.O. Rutherfurds lived between 1909 and 1913?

Connie read for the first time a story about Archibald Rutherfurd.  Since it is the Halloween season, it is a very fitting story to be retold.  Laura Reid, a daughter-in-law of Charles Reid, Sr., recalled the story in an article about Pioneer Cemeteries several years ago. She wrote:

"Archie Rutherfurd was numbered among the early day ranchers of the Laramie Peak region.  In order to get to his ranch, he had to cross a sandy creek bed, which at times had a trick of water, sometimes dry, and occasionally went on a rampage.  Among Archie's friends, perhaps his closest, was a sheepman by the name of Vetter.  While tending his sheep camp one day, Vetter was shot and killed by sheepherder John Koch, an employee of another sheepman.  Koch was apprehended and jailed in Douglas; but upon being made a trustee until the spring term of court convened, he fled the country never to be heard of again.  A short time after the incident, Archie bought a mowing machine in Douglas and loaded it on a wagon to be hauled to his mountain ranch.  Nearing home towards evening, the heavy load pulled by the tired team felt the jar of crossing the narrow creek.  Archie looked back to see if his machinery was okay.  Much to his great surprise and shock, he saw the ghost of his good friend, Mr. Vetter sitting on the seat of the mowing machine."

Mrs. Reid doesn't explain what happened after the sighting, but she does go on to say that, "From that day to this, the creek has been called 'Ghost Creek.'"

Archie (a bachelor) died in 1899 at the age of about 32 in Douglas after a winter's ride to town.  He was found dead in the morning after retiring to his room in the Reid house on North 2nd Street.  He had complained the night before of not feeling well.  Pneumonia was determined to be the cause of death.  Archie is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery.

M.B.O. (Malcolm Brakspear Oliver) died in 1913 and his body was shipped to Los Angeles for burial.  He had married Mrs. Annie. A. Griffin on April 29, 1897 in Douglas. George Dickson and Dr. Mortimer Jesurun were the witnesses.  The new Mrs. Rutherfurd was the former Annie Dickson, a sister of George Dickson who owned a hardware store and Elizabeth Dickson who built and owned the first hospital on North 6th Street.  After her marriage, Annie used the name Annie Oliver Rutherfurd.

Connie never knew where or when her grandfather M.B.O. had died.  You can imagine the look on her face when we found his obituary in the files of "The Douglas Budget."  Connie's dad's name was also Archie.  She said because of personal circumstances and not because of the kind of person he was, his mother always called him by the nickname of "Odd."   He is buried in northern Utah.

The family story goes on and on.  It was such a delight to meet such nice people like Connie and Claude.  I had the opportunity to smell the roses with them as they dug out their family history.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Anne Amelia Dickson

Anne Amelia Dickson

Anne Amelia Dickson was my second great-grandmother.

Annie was born in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada on October 27, 1870. Her parents were Mary Elizabeth Bellangee and George William Dickson. Anne was named for her aunt, Anne Amelia Bellangee, sister of her mother, Mary Bellangee.

Annie was the second of the four surviving children of Mary and George.  Their first child, Mary, died as an infant in 1866.  Annie grew up with an older sister, Elizabeth Davock Dickson (b. 1868) and two younger brothers, George William Dickson, Jr. (b. 1872) and Wilfred Bellangee Dickson (b. 1875).

Annie Dickson in 1879 (age 9)

Sarnia is located directly across the St. Clair River from Michigan.  Annie's father, George, was a sailor on the Great Lakes, and the Dickson family had moved from Buffalo, New York to Sarnia some years earlier to support George's career.  Life in Sarnia focused on the river.  "Located in the natural harbour, the Sarnia port remains an important centre for lake freighters and oceangoing ships carrying cargoes of grain and petroleum products." [Wikipedia] Annie surely watched the ships come and go along the St. Clair, and had fond memories of playing on the beach in Sarnia with her siblings during her childhood.

My grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, knew Annie well and spent quite a bit of time with her grandmother during her childhood years.  She described Annie as rambunctious, opinionated and impulsive.  She told a story about Annie paddling out onto the Great Lakes in a small boat, right in the path of large freighters, and needing to be rescued.  Annie found this incident amusing and exhilarating.  Annie's mother, Mary Bellangee Dickson, was a very refined woman; a true lady.  By comparison, Annie was a bit of a loose cannon.  This is not to say she was not responsible.  She had five sons and was fiercely devoted to them.  She was simply spirited and adventurous in a way that other women of her circle were not.

As a young woman of 23, Annie Dickson was working as a nurse in a hospital in Detroit, Michigan when she met John Griffin. John was thirty years older than Annie, a widower with five children.  Family lore has it that John was a patient at the hospital where Annie worked, and a May-December romance bloomed.  On January 2, 1894, Annie and John were married in Sandwich, Ontario. My grandmother, LaVerne Smith, told me that Annie and John's honeymoon involved a long boat trip to Florida. The specifics of this trip are unknown. What is clear is that the romance quickly faded. John and Annie separated after the honeymoon, and were divorced in less than a year. However, by the time of their separation, Annie was pregnant.

Annie’s parents and siblings had recently moved from Canada to Douglas, Wyoming. It is said that one of Annie’s brothers took a job at a telegraph station there and the rest of the family went with him. The Dicksons were a close bunch who preferred to stay near each other.  Pregnant and separated from her husband, Annie joined her family in Douglas in 1894.  She moved back in with her parents and her sister Elizabeth, who had helped build the Douglas hospital and was working there as a nurse.

Annie (at right) with her sister, Elizabeth Davock Dickson.

Annie and John's son, George Roscoe Griffin, was born on January 23, 1895 in Douglas, Wyoming. There is no indication that he ever met his biological father.

On April 29, 1897, Annie married Malcolm Rutherfurd, a Scottish immigrant. Malcolm and his brother Archibald had moved from Jedburgh, Scotland to Wyoming and were running a ranch in Douglas.  A year after the marriage, Malcolm adopted young George, who was known to most as “Roscoe.” His name was legally changed to George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd. Annie and Malcolm then had four boys of their own, Malcolm, Archibald, Robert and Arthur, before Malcolm’s untimely death from pneumonia in 1913.

Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd

After Malcolm's sudden death, Annie moved with her boys to Los Angeles, California.  Her parents and sister Elizabeth had moved there several years previously, and Annie thought it was best to join them.  She also sent Malcolm's body to Los Angeles via train and had him buried at Evergreen Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

My grandmother recalled that Annie's home in Los Angeles, shared with her sister Elizabeth, was always full of books.  The Dicksons, Annie's parents, were great readers, and this love of literature was passed down to their children and their grandchildren.  George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd was quite a reader, and this trait continues with his descendants.

Annie Dickson Rutherfurd in 1925

By 1940, when Annie was 69 years of age, her heath had declined.  In 1940, the census shows her living at Woodcraft Home in Riverside, California. This was essentially an assisted living facility for the elderly.  I'm not sure what the circumstances were surrounding her stay there, or how long she lived there in total.  She had been living with her sister, Elizabeth, for many years, but sometime between 1930 and 1940, Elizabeth went to live with other relatives and Annie went to Woodcraft Home.  Later, Annie moved north to Oregon, for reasons that are also unclear.

Annie died on August 29, 1952 in Hood River, Oregon.  She died just 24 days after her beloved sister Elizabeth.  She was survived by four of her five sons (her second son, Malcolm, died in 1937) and several grandchildren.


I've previously written about Annie's mother, Mary Elizabeth Bellangee, and her son, George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd. I also wrote briefly about Annie's relationship with her sister, Elizabeth.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Finding John Griffin's Place of Death

One of my major research goals for 2014 was to determine my biological great-great-grandfather's place and date of death.  John T. Griffin and his family have been difficult to research.  John and his second wife, Annie Dickson, separated shortly after their marriage and some months before my great-grandfather, George Rutherfurd, was born.  Annie and George had no relationship with John after that time, so my grandmother had to start from scratch when she began researching the Griffins.

I have learned quite a bit about John Griffin's descendants in the past several years, but John's parents and siblings remain unproven.  I have also had a very difficult time determining a place and date of death for John Griffin.  He lived much of his adult life in the Detroit area, going back and forth between the United States and Canada.  However, I could find no record of his death either in Michigan or Ontario.  The good news is that I believe I have finally overcome this obstacle.

Death information for a John T. Griffin in Gulfport, Florida

I found a death record in Gulfport, Florida that appears to be our John T. Griffin.  I was surprised and elated, and immediately set about trying to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that this was my second great-grandfather.  Here is why I believe I've finally cracked this case:

John's Date of Birth
We have two sources indicating that John T. Griffin's date of birth was either November 1838 or 1839.  These include the Griffin-Dickson marriage registration, where John is listed as aged 56 in 1894 and the 1900 census, where his date of birth is given as November 1839.  The newly found death record gives John's date of birth as November 8, 1838.  This appears to be a match with our John T. Griffin.

Excerpt of the 1900 U.S. Census in Detroit, Michigan

1894 marriage record for John Griffin and Annie Dickson.

John's Place of Birth
John's place of birth is less clear than his date of birth.  The Griffin-Dickson marriage registration gives his birthplace as simply "U.S."  The 1900 census says he was born in New York and that his parents were born in Pennsylvania. The Griffin-Rice marriage registration gives his place of birth as Pennsylvania.  However, we believe that the Griffin family went back and forth between Pennsylvania and New York multiple times during John's childhood.  The 1850 census record for the family we believe to be John's (although this is unproven) indicates that all but the oldest child in the family were born in Pennsylvania while the parents were born in New York.  The death certificate I located for John Griffin in Florida states that he was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  So, while this doesn't precisely match the information I have regarding our John T. Griffin, it's well within the realm of possibility. 

Parents of John Griffin
On the Griffin-Dickson marriage registration, John's parents are listed as Thomas Griffin and La Carpenter.  I have long thought that "La" was a transcription error and his mother's correct name was Ella or Eliza, but of course, this is not proven.  On the marriage license of John Griffin and Elizabeth Rice, John's parents are listed as Thomas Griffin and E.J. Carpenter.  On the death certificate I located in Florida, John Griffin's father is listed as John Thomas Griffin.  His mother's surname is recorded as Carpenter.  This appears to be a match with our John.

Marriage Registration for John Griffin and Elizabeth Rice, 1899

John's Occupation
John T. Griffin was a ship's carpenter.  We know this from the documents previously referenced, his 1894 marriage registration, 1899 marriage registration and the 1900 census.  This is also some of the only family lore that was passed down about John.  My second great-grandmother, Annie Dickson, told her granddaughter, LaVerne Rutherfurd, that John had worked on boats on the Great Lakes.  Family stories suggest he may have also sailed those boats, in addition to working as a carpenter.  The death certificate for John Griffin in Florida lists his occupation as "R.R. Ferry."  It has taken me quite a bit of searching to determine exactly what that means.  In the early 1900s, railroad companies sometimes also owned ferry lines dedicated to shuttling passengers across bodies of water.  It appears that John Griffin was working for the railroad company-owned ferry.  This ties in perfectly with what we know about our John T. Griffin, who worked on boats on the Great Lakes.  This appears to be a match with our John Griffin.

John's Wife
John married his third wife, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rice, on September 4, 1899 in Windsor, Ontario. Lizzie was 34 at the time of the marriage, making her about 24 years younger than John Griffin.*  She was born in New York.  The death record for John T. Griffin found in Florida indicates that his wife was Elizabeth Griffin.  Furthermore, John T. Griffin and Elizabeth are found in the 1920 and 1930 census records in Pinellas County, Florida.  Each indicates that Elizabeth is about 23-24 years younger than her husband and was born in New York.  Thus, the John Griffin in Florida appears to be a match with our John T. Griffin.

An excerpt from the 1920 U.S. Census in Gulfport, Florida

An excerpt from the 1930 U.S. Census in Gulfport, Florida

* Note: John and Elizabeth's marriage registration lists John's age as 50.  It should have been 59.  I don't know if this is an error in transcription or in reporting, but John was a full decade older than the registration states.

John's Location
Why would our John T. Griffin have been in Florida?  It turns out that it's not such an unusual final residence for my great-great-grandfather.  Apparently, John had traveled to Florida earlier in his life.  He and Annie went to Florida on their ill-fated honeymoon, a boat trip she later described as disastrous.  When Annie filed for divorce in August 1894, she stated that John was "in Detroit but moved to Florida."  My grandmother told me that she thought John had some business in Florida and he may have gone back and forth between Florida and Detroit regularly.  We know from the 1900 census record and a 1907 obituary for Elizabeth Rice's sister Esther that John was still living in the Detroit area during those years.  However, it didn't surprise me at all to find a death record in Florida.  John clearly had a connection to the Sunshine State.  After locating the death record,  I found John and Elizabeth Griffin on census records there in both 1920 and 1930, indicating that sometime after 1907, they relocated permanently to Florida.  At any rate, it makes sense that our John T. Griffin would have been in Florida, so this place of death appears logical.

The green house at left is 2907 Beach Blvd. in Gulfport (modern view), the last residence of John T. Griffin

In conclusion, I believe we have several strong reasons to believe that the John Griffin who died in Gulfport, Florida on April 26, 1933 is the same man who married Annie Dickson in 1894 and fathered her son, George Roscoe Griffin, later George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.  

The next task is to be certain about the parents and siblings of John T. Griffin.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My 2015 Research Goals

I'd like to share my genealogy-related goals for 2015.  I did this last year, for 2014, and found that it helped me stay focused on my top priorities throughout the year.

I did make some progress on my goals in 2014, particularly in terms of the Schmidt and Griffin families, and I'm hoping to continue that momentum in 2015.  Here are my top priorities:

I accomplished a major goal related to my second great-grandfather John T. Griffin in 2014. The next step is to continue to try to prove conclusively his parents and siblings.  This is my primary area of focus right now.

This goal remains from last year.  I am trying to find the parents and siblings of Amelia Brown Bellangee, my fourth great-grandmother.  I know the dates and places of her birth and death, but still have not been able to figure out who her parents were.

This goal is also a holdover from 2014.  We are missing a generation in our Smith family tree.  I know that my fourth great-grandfather, Samuel B. Smith of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was the grandson of Captain Samuel Smith of Winchester, New Hampshire.  We have land deeds and other family records proving as much.  However, I don't know who Samuel B. Smith's father was, for sure.  I am pretty certain his name was also Samuel Smith, but looking for a Samuel Smith in New England is like a needle in a haystack. 

My husband's Pinto ancestors were rumored to be Portuguese pirates.  A few years ago, I discovered they were actually Portuguese Jews who fled to America during the Spanish Inquisition.  However, the connection between the Connecticut and Ohio branches of this family is too tenuous for my liking.  One of my goals this year is to shore up that relationship and definitively prove the parentage of Miles Augustus Pinto and his (presumed) father, Isaac Pinto.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Parents of Lena Schmidt Laun

One of my major research goals for 2014 was to determine the parents of my husband’s great-grandmother, Lena Schmidt.  I am very glad to say that I’ve managed to accomplish this.  Not only does it tick a goal off the list, but it’s the culmination of many years of work on the toughest brick wall I’ve yet encountered.

The grave of Lena's father, Herman Schmidt in Belleville, Illinois.  (Photo by Donnie Goss, Jr., 2011)

When I last wrote about Lena,  I had learned what happened to her after her divorce from Harry Laun.  I also had a good lead on her parents, but wasn’t yet able to prove my hunch.  I had found a census record from 1900 that appeared to list her with her parents and siblings.  However, I could not prove conclusively that this was the correct Lena.  Lena Schmidt was a common name at that time and in that location.  Part of being a good researcher is adhering to the Genealogical Proof Standard.  Evidence must be analyzed, sources must be cited, and contradictory evidence must be resolved.  Just because a set of potential parents looks right doesn't mean they are right.  Proof is necessary.  I dug deeper into available records and tried to build a solid case for Lena's parentage.  

Lena’s death certificate stated that she’d been born in Belleville, Illinois in September 1891.  Her father’s surname was given as Schmidt.  Lena also used the surname Schmidt in all of her marriage documentation.  Using this information, I zeroed in on a 1900 census listing for a family in Belleville that included a young girl named Magdalena Schmidt.  This child had a stated birth date of September 1892.  Given the known inaccuracies in census records, I didn't immediately disqualify her as a candidate.  Other than that discrepancy, this family looked promising.  Both potential parents, Herman and Elizabeth “Elisa” Schmidt, were born in Illinois, and Lena’s marriage documents and census listings state that both her parents were born in Illinois.  I could not find any other family in Belleville that had this correct combination of factors.  Still, promising does not equal correct.  I needed something that proved that young Magdalena Schmidt grew up to be Lena Laun Hook.

The document that cracked the case was a probate record for Lena’s father, Herman Schmidt.

I found an obituary for Herman Schmidt but it listed his daughter as Mrs. Magdalena Lang of St. Louis.  I searched and searched for a Magdalena Lang but could not find one that seemed to be connected to Herman Schmidt.  Was it possible that Lang was a misspelling of Laun?  I requested probate information for Herman Schmidt from the Belleville Public Library.  Jackpot!  The very thorough document that I received lists in two different places that Herman Schmidt’s youngest daughter was Mrs. Magdalena Laun of St. Louis.  Lena had married Harry Laun in St. Louis just one month before her father’s death. 

Why I believe the mystery is now solved:

1.     Lena’s marriage license and death certificate list her maiden name as Schmidt.   Her death certificate lists her place of birth as Belleville, Illinois.  I found a 1900 U.S. Census record showing a Magdalena Schmidt of the age of our Lena living in Belleville with her parents, Herman and Elisa.
2.     In the 1920 census, Lena gives her parents’ birthplace as Illinois.  Both Herman Schmidt and Elisa Bosch were born in Illinois.

3.     Herman Schmidt’s will twice references his daughter, Magdalena Laun, after Lena’s marriage to Harry Laun.

4.     This point is more circumstantial, but worth mentioning.  The address that Herman Schmidt gives for his daughter, Magdalena Laun, in his 1913 will is less than a mile from the home where Harry Laun was living in 1910 and only a half mile from the church where Harry and Lena were married.  This is clearly the neighborhood where Harry and Lena settled after they were married in 1913, so it puts Herman Schmidt's daughter in the correct location.

So, I believe that I have now exhaustively analyzed the evidence and can come to a strong conclusion.  Lena Schmidt Laun Hook was the daughter of Herman Schmidt and Elizabeth “Elisa” Bosch of Belleville, Illinois. 

The Schmidt family was Catholic with German roots.  Herman Schmidt fought for the Union in the Civil War. They lived in Belleville, Illinois for decades, establishing deep ties there and owning several plots of land in the city.

Lena was the youngest of eleven children born to Herman and Elisa.  At the time of Herman’s will in 1913, nine of those children were still living.  As I continue to explore this family, I hope I can connect with some other Schmidt descendants and learn what they may know about the family.