Sunday, July 10, 2016

Little Compton, Rhode Island....Cradle of Grinnell's

Little Compton is a picturesque town located on the east side of the Sakonnet River and overlooking Aquidneck Island in Rhode Island.  The main "village" consists of the Commons, which is a beautiful triangular shaped lot filled by the United Congregational Church and the burial ground.  Around the roads that border the Commons are a mixture of historic Colonial and 18th century buildings.  The main "highway" is a road running north and south (from Fall River, MA to Little Compton) called "West Main" that is dotted with many historic homes of colonial era families that settled the area when it was still part of "Plymouth Colony."  Little Compton was the home to many of my Grinnell ancestors from the mid-1600's through the American Revolution and I have visited it a number of times and with each visit feel a spiritual connection to this land that my early American ancestors walked, lived, worked, worshiped, and were laid to rest.
    Last summer, when I last visited, I purchased Janet Lisle's First Light Sakonnet: The History of Little Compton, published in 2010 by the Little Compton Historical Society.  The time frame Lisle used for this volume is 1660-1820, pretty much the exact time that my ancestors called this place home.   I found this publication very worthwhile reading.  Although it is not a lengthy book, Lisle paints a lively picture of life in the community.  The book is filled with colorful reproductions of artworks depicting the town, which bring so much energy and imagination to her text.  Lisle utilized many primary sources to compose the narrative of life in Little Compton.  She used  pages of town records, diaries, and court records to uncover personal narratives of the inhabitants of this small town that were faced by trails and tragedies as the town transformed from a distant outpost to a thriving colonial settlement faced by political realities of the day.  The town struggled between the rule of Puritan dominated Massachusetts and separated itself from the confines of their laws to the more accepting (or perhaps libertarian) Rhode Island Colony.  During the War of Independence, Little Compton farmers found themselves arming themselves and creating organized militias to help defend themselves from British invasion, but also to keep a look out on the British who had occupied Newport and Aquidneck Island.
   There are many mentions of the Grinnell surname in the pages of First Light, perhaps none more heroic to me than the list of Patriots from the town who served in the Revolution bearing the name.  Overall, the book is an excellent short read (only 158 pages of text) for anyone wishing to understand the early life of a small and often isolated New England village.  My first read on this years summer vacation.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Remembering on Memorial Day 2016

(Source: )

Remembering my ancestor who served:

Served in the Union Forces during the American Civil War:
Alfred Fuller Aldrich—Michigan Engineers and Mechanics
Abel Aldrich--9th Michigan Infantry
Phylander S. Aldrich—Michigan Engineers and Mechanics
Robert G. Burling—42nd Illinois & 19th Michigan Infantries
Edward Carley—9th Michigan Infantry (James Island C. W. Battlefield, SC)
Oren A. Carley—8th Michigan Infantry
John C. Crofoot--13th Michigan Infantry
Vinson Detterich--2nd Missouri Cavalry
Giles Galusha—4th Michigan Infantry (Stones River Nat. Cemetery)
Henry H. Hoyt—122nd New York Infantry
Lawrence Hobart McCreery—Michigan Engineers and Mechanics
James Nelson McCreery—12th Michigan Infantry
George Wightman McCreery—6th Michigan Infantry
James Z. Murray--1st Michigan Infantry
Nicholas Neiderlander--98th New York Infantry
Uriah Reams—12th and 19th Michigan Infantries
Oscar Reams—U. S. Engineers (Alexandria Nat. Cemetery)
Erastus E. Reams—19th Michigan Infantry
Samuel Colyar Reams—13th Michigan Infantry
Zephaniah Reams—11th Michigan Infantry (Nashville Nat. Cemetery
Jonathan Reams—177th Ohio Infantry (Arlington Nat. Cemetery)
Josiah A. Risdon—1st California Cavalry
William Henry Skelcher—8th Michigan Infantry
Isaac S. Young—2nd Michigan Infantry

Served during Peace Time:
Ross R. Reams—U. S. Army (c1904-1910)

Served during World War I
Donald Ivan Grinnell—56th U. S. Engineers
Harry Duane Grinnell—U. S. Army Medical Corps
David B. Johnson—U. S. Navy & U. S. Army (1917-1925)
John V. Johnson—U. S. Army

Served during World War II
Howard J. Berry
Jack D. Crabtree
Harley R. Grinnell
Darrell R. Grinnell
John J. Marsden                                
Robert R. Wetzel

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Red Cross activities in Munith during World War I

I recently ran across this column entitled "Red Cross News and Notes" in the Jackson Citizen Patriot on May 8, 1918.  It includes a short report on the activities of the Munith Branch, which states that Annie Carley's three daughter had pieced together three quilts for the Red Cross.  While the article don't get their names correct--Ida Pearl (should be Ila Pearl), and Eva May (should be Iva May), and Clara helps me confirm some of the stories my grandmother shared concerning community involvement during the war effort.  Sometime about 1992, I interviewed grandma about this subject and she told of how the women and girls would collect rags, clean them, and bring them to the Munith church where they would cut them into strips for bandages.  What she didn't tell me was about the quilts that she and her sisters made!  Can you image a 11, 10, and 9 year old sewing something for wounded military personnel today?  Not sure I can.

Two things this brings to the mind--How even a small community like Munith was empowered to contribute to national wartime efforts and secondly, the great traditions of Munith women coming together to make at difference in the world, whether it was their activities in the Red Cross, the 4-H, the Henrietta Helping Hands or the Waterloo Needlework Club...well done!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lillian Reams Smith and the Greenwood Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church

In the last few years, I've developed a desire to collect vintage postcards related to the communities where my ancestors and extended family took up residence.  Searching Ebay is always a lot of fun during my hunting for postcards and once in while I find a gem...particularly if its an image that I had
Greenwood Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, c1910
always hoped to find, but had little hope that one existed.  Last week was one of those great moments when I made a rare discovery....a real photograph postcard of the Greenwood Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church.  This congregation was the home church for Lillian (Reams) Secord Smith, the oldest sister of my grandmother Mabel Reams Grinnell.  Aunt "Sis", as she was called by my dad, appears to have moved to Jackson about 1916 from Decatur.  In Decatur, she had been married to a widower, Mr. Royal A. Secord, who was a carriage painter and wall paper hanger.  While living in Decatur, Lillian worked as a milliner and in the 1910 Census it is recorded that she owned her own shop.  Sounds pretty remarkable for a married rarely hear about married women owning their own business.  Leads me to think the Mr. Secord must have been at least somewhat supportive of his wife's entrepreneurial endeavors. Mr. Secord died in 1915 which must have been a financial blow to Aunt "Sis".  Just a few months over a year following Secord's death, we discover that Aunt "Sis" has married again, to Mr. Rufus Carlton Smith, a traveling salesmen residing in Jackson.  The marriage is recorded in the records of the Greenwood Avenue Church on May 15, 1916 and indicates that there was a 20 year difference in their ages.  Mr. Smith, like Mr. Secord, was a widower so It appears that Aunt "Sis" must have been fulfilling a role as a mother and housekeeper in the family.  While in Jackson, it is clear that Aunt "Sis" ran their home as a boarding house, but its not clear if she maintained her career as a milliner.  Soon, her mother, Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Burling Reams would come to live with her and Mr. Smith at their 1019 Griswold Avenue home.  It is here where Mrs. Reams would spend her remaining years and where she eventually passed away on November 24, 1918.

Lillian S. (Reams) Secord Smith
Aunt Sis would once again finder herself a widow in only a few short years, for Mr. Smith passed away in 1921, only 5 years following their marriage.

I believe that Aunt Sis was the person who laid the groundwork for my grandparents, Amos and Mabel Grinnell, to relocate to Jackson.  Jackson was a booming town and there were many opportunities for work.  Amos had previously worked at Kellogg's and Post's in Battle Creek and then found himself as a farm hand in Assyria.  Upon moving to Jackson about 1925, we find Amos as a truck driver.  Eventually, Amos and Mabel would be living in their own home on Levan Street in 1929, but we know that they arrived in Jackson several years earlier and Aunt Sis would have had the space to provide the Grinnell's a temporary home.

During her life spent in Jackson, Aunt Sis became an active member of the Greenwood Avenue Church, which was located only a few blocks from her home.  Dad remarked that as young adults the family would attend church with Aunt Sis....even though the only thing that really interested him and his brother Merle were the girls who attended. 

Membership at the church had a lasting impact on Aunt Sis, for when she became too old to live on her own, she moved to the Methodist retirement home in Grand Rapids.  The M. J. Clark Memorial Home on Sherman Avenue in Grand Rapids became her residence by between 1938-1940.  She passed away on December 10, 1954 at the Clark home, just 5 days shy of her 86th birthday.  She was laid to rest next to her first husband, Mr. Secord at the Lakeside Cemetery in Decatur, Michigan.

Aunt Sis was held in very high regard by her numerous nieces and nephews.  Although she had no children of her own, she had a very special place in the hearts of her extended family.  Today, the Greenwood Avenue church is known as Trinity United Methodist Church and it remains an active congregation.  The Clark Home also remains in Grand Rapids and provides many services to meet the needs of the elderly.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Henrietta Helping Hand--Munith, Michigan

It was 1910 and a group of twenty-nine women met at the home of Augusta Pixley near Munith, Michigan to discuss what they could do to help people in need.  This was the beginnings of the Henrietta Helping Hand, a women's organization that was active in the Munith area for more than 70 years.  The group met monthly in the homes of one of its members and they would knit socks, make quilts, pack boxes of holiday baked goods, pretty much anything that was needed.  During World War I they would gather rags that could be cut into bandages for the American Red Cross but generally most of their charitable work was for community members in Henrietta Township, Jackson County.  When ever there was a family left homeless following a fire or other disaster, the ladies of the Helping Hand were ready to help supply the family with needed quilts and other household items.

Shown here are members wrapping boxes of homemade baked good for distribution to shut-ins in the late 1970s.

Four generation of my mothers family were part of the Helping Hand.  Through those years, my grandmother saved so many mementos about the organization.  I'm lucky to have the several anniversary program booklets (25th, 50th, 65th), newspaper clippings, and photographs that document the work of these busy women who always had time to do a bit extra for those that needed "a helping hand" in their community.

As a young boy, I remember attending some of the meetings with my mom and grandma.  They always began their time together with singing "The More we get together...the happier we'll be." They would then work on their projects together and would end their time with a light luncheon.

Its hard to know how many people these women provided service to over the years. The Henrietta Helping Hand was still functioning in 1980, but I'm sure that it didn't last much longer.  During their 70th Anniversary, all the press coverage of their celebration showed a very elderly group, which by that time also included a few of the guys.

Here is a list of the names of members that I have been able to determine from the various anniversary programs.  When I review this list, I can only identify my Aunt Esther Marsden as the lone survivor of the group.

Abbie Clark
Ada Harkness
Addie Garfield
Agnes Hoover
Agnes Moeckel*
Agnes Randolph
Alice Morehouse
Alice Woodworth
Alta Moeckel*
Alta Smith*
Alta Stowe
Angie Leece
Anna Bartig
Anna Carley*
Anna Shuart
Annie Smith
Augusta Pixley
Belle Pixley
Beryle Collins
Bessie Adams
Bessie Barton
Betsey Morehouse*
Betty Grinnell*
Byrle Collins
Carrie Hoffman
Charlotte Carley*
Clara Ackerson
Clara Hanchon*
Cora Pollock
Dariel Harris
Dell Smith*
Della Suylandt
Doris Grow
Doris Roderick
Dorothy Dwyer*
Eda Carley*
Elizabeth (Harr) Walz
Ella Coin
Ella Dixon
Ella Spears
Elsie Drew
Emma Carley*
Emma Jane Adams
Emma Southwell
Esther Marsden*
Ethel Call
Etta Crane
Etta Sackett
Eunice Wetherbee
Eva Blakeman
Eva Clark
Evelyn Lantis
Evelyn Robertson
Fannie Leece
Flora Reeves
Flora Stanfield
Flora Walker
Florence Frinkle
Francis Peek
Geneva Hoffman*
Genie Pickett
Gertrude Freymuth
Hazel Katz
Helen Cook
Ida Adams
Ida Gibbons
Ila Hartley*
Ilene Crabtree*
Imogene Cavender
Inez Sweet
Ione Musbach
Irene Wetherbee
Iva Johnson*
Iva Musback
Jennie Ford*
Jennie Pickett
Jennie Porath
Jennie Sackett
Jessie Poxson
Josie Randolph
Joyce Wetzel*
Kate Bartig
Kate Dixon
Kathleen Abbey
Lena Hoyt*
Leo Baxter
Lizzie Mount
Lorraine Ewing
Louine Miller
Louise Hayford
Louise Rappeleye
Lucille Knott*
Lucille Winters
Lulu Smith*
Lydia Leece
Lydia Stanfield
Mabel Honerkamp
Mable Libey
Mae Cook
Margaret Hoffman
Margaret Reid
Marian Meyers
Mary Densmore
Mary Dorer
Mary Ewing
Mary Jane McIntee
Mary Kinch
Mary Lee
Mary Merklinger
Mattie Killam
Mayme Mayer
Mazella Armstron
Mildred Mayer
Minnie Adams
Minnie Van Horn
Miranda Southwell
Myrtle Spry*
Nellie Sackett
Nellie Walz*
Nettie Clark
Nettie Hoy
Notta Leece
Ora Kitley
Orpha Disler
Phoebe Fink
Phoebe Hayes
Phyllis Allshire
Phyllis Wetzel
Rena Pixley
Reta Davis
Rita Broesamle
Rita Davis
Ruth Call
Ruth Carley*
Tina Carley*
Ulah Libey
Vina Moeckel
Vine Gibbons
Winona Pickett
(*) indicates a family member of mine

Many hands that made so much difference in the lives of their community.....lets never forget the work these folks did as good neighbors in Munith.

It would be great to know if anyone in the Munith area might have the record books of this organization.  I would be delighted to know.....



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Memory....

This little plastic light up Santa Claus has been a favorite Christmas decoration since I was very young.  I must have been 4 or 5 years old when my half sister Phyllis took me shopping in the great Toy House in Jackson.  She told me that I could pick out something and I choose this awesome little figure that stands about a foot tall.  Each year, this little guy has held a prominent place under my Christmas tree.  But, that wasn't the only purchase that day....I remember saying to Phyllis, can't we get something for my sisters at home?  She agreed and we found this package of 6 colorfully clothed angel ornaments for the tree.  It was perfect because, as I remarked at the time, there was one to represent each of my sisters--Phyllis, Sandy, KenNetha, Shelley, Mary and Annie.  I don't know what ever happened to that little package of angels that adorned our tree for many years,  but each time I pull out this Santa Claus, I think about my family and the wonderful Christmas seasons we had in our little house on Sunnyheart.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The "Ladies Extension" in Munith, Michigan???

Here is a group picture that was taken in the front yard of Iva Carley Johnson's residence on Coon Hill Road in Munith, Michigan.  Written on the back is "Ladies Extension."  Does anyone know what the group did or was related too? I believe this group must have been related to something like the Farm Bureau or some other organization that was prevalent in a rural farm district.  What I know is that it wasn't part of the American Legion Auxiliary, or the Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Church, or the Women's Society for Christian Service of the Methodist Church.  Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.  The picture was likely taken sometime in the mid-to-late 1950s.

We are able to identify many of the women pictured in this image, but not any help in identifying the remaining would be greatly appreciated.

Back Row L to R: Iva Johnson, Helen Palmer, Elsie Drew, Mary Shew, Pauline Dixon, and Emma Carley.

Front Row L to R: unknown, Ruth Carley (?), and unknown.