Friday, August 22, 2014

Going to College

During the past few weeks, I have been observing friends begin the journey of taking their children off to college for the first time.  It has made me remember that summer before my first year in college and what my grandmother told me about her first year.  The experiences couldn't be more different – but there are some things that still remain the same.

Grandma Cappy at the top of the pyramid - 1932 Lewis Clark Normal Tumbling Team
When my grandmother left for college, she didn’t go far.  However, I bet her journey to school took her longer than my drive from Lewiston, ID to Moscow, ID (University of Idaho).  Her trip to school involved a horse on most days and she road from the Lewiston Orchards down to the Lewis Clark Normal School (today’s Lewis Clark State College).  I had money in the bank to pay for tuition and books – Grandma Cappy’s father butchered a hog and sold it to pay for that tuition and necessary books.  There were student loans available in my day, but my grandparents had made sure that when it was time for me to go to college, there would be money available.  

Many of today’s students have to rely on student loans to get them to college.  They have microwaves, laptop computers and matching bedding.  I look at what these kids today are taking to college with a bit of wonder and envy.  I am sure my grandmother must have felt the same about my preparations.  I had a refrigerator and electric typewriter and a car to take me to school.
That summer before my first year of college was full of a lot of changes for me.  I had never even driven a car outside the Lewiston – Clarkston valley.  Just after graduation, one of my friend’s parents gave us a weekend up at Three Rivers resort which was a few hours’ drive up the river.  So, that was my first drive outside of the valley on my own.  Then later that summer we traveled down to Santa Rosa, CA to help my Uncle Jack and his wife, Hilda move from Santa Rosa to Roseburg, OR.  I was tasked with driving the little car that Uncle Jack drove around during errands which was a Chevette as I recall.  It had a working radio –but where we were traveling, there was no radio signal.  I had a problem staying awake driving in our little convoy heading north…but I made it.  I can still remember sitting on the floor in my Uncle’s new house with my older brother and parents.  As we set there discussing numerous topics, my mother told my uncle that he needed to make a trip to Lewiston soon to visit my grandmother (his younger sister).  My grandmother’s heart was failing and Mom didn’t know how much longer she would live.  This was sobering news for Uncle Jack.  Grandma Cappy and he had a special relationship…and while they had lived miles apart most of their adult lives, there were always phone calls and letters that kept the close relationship constant.  However, it had been a few years since he had been home and he hadn't seen the decline of my grandmother’s general health.
Left to Right: Aunt Hilda, Uncle Jack, Russ (aka Bub) Gene (Dad) , & Betty (Mom) 
Left to Right: Hilda, Jack, Carmen, Gene & Betty

So, we said goodbye and started the trip back to Lewiston.  During the car ride home, Mom and I made plans on what we were going to do.  We hadn't really done anything to prepare for my move to college.  We needed to buy sheets, towels and many of the other toiletries that a girl needs.  We arrived home on Monday afternoon and decided that we would do our shopping on Wednesday.  On Wednesday morning, Mom called me upstairs at 6:30 am.  She had been listening to the police scanner and had heard a call for an ambulance and my grandparent’s address with a Code Blue.  I went down and got dressed and came back upstairs as Mom and I waited for the phone call telling us which one of my grandparents had had a heart attack.  Twenty minutes later, we knew it was my grandmother and we were on the way to the hospital.  We found my grandfather in the waiting room with a lost look on his face as he told us that they had restarted her heart.  A few minutes later, a doctor told us that she had been without oxygen for too long and he honestly didn’t know how her heart was still beating.  I was tasked with calling my father at work and my brothers to let them know what had happened.  My grandmother’s younger brother was able to see her, and Jack was on his way up.  He was due to arrive Saturday morning and before he arrived, Grandma Cappy slipped away. As I was packing my car, with what I had bought on my own, tears were running down my face.  Going to college which had been an exciting adventure a week previously was now something that I didn’t want to do.  Mom told me that I needed to get my dorm room assignment and meet my roommate.  This was something that Grandma would want me to do.   So, I went through the motions of driving up to my new dorm room, met my roommate and took my things in and then I got back in the car and headed back home.  On the following Tuesday, we buried my grandmother and then my brother and I headed up to Moscow and had to register.  As a freshman, I was registering near the last and didn’t get most of the classes I wanted and had to settle for the classes I could get. 

It wasn't until a few weeks later, when my mother was finally able to come up and visit. By that time, I was in a room on my own and my mother arrived with matching comforters for both of the beds in my room and a small black and white TV as well as whatever else she thought I needed.  Mom and I never got our shopping trip together – so she decided to take care of it on her own. 

I must admit to being a little envious of those going to college.  There is so much excitement at starting a new pathway in life.  I know that my grandmother felt that way as she started going to school on that first day 55 years before my first day.  She was the first one to graduate from college in her family and had a teaching degree in 1932 to show for her efforts.  Needless to say, I will always remember that first day – getting my dorm, carrying my things into my new room and meeting my roommate and hall mates.  However, what I will remember most is the news that morning that Grandma had slipped away from us – it was August 24, 1985 and she was 73 years old!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Early Military Photo of Uncle Jak!


I haven't felt on top of the world the past week or I thought I would post a picture of a favorite uncle and what I don't know about it!

Long after my mother died, I was going through an old photo album and found this picture.  I knew that it was my great uncle Jack Friddle...but I was surprised to see a photo that so obviously predated World War II.  Jack was born on 8 Oct 1909 in Mountain City, Johnson Co., TN to David Carl Friddle and Sophia Vestelle Friddle.  I think he probably graduated in about 1927 or so from Pomeroy High School.  My great grandparents homesteaded up on Grouse Flats, Wallowa Co., OR and while my grandmother and great uncle went to the small local school, my great grandmother insisted that her children have the opportunity to go to high school, so in 1924, David Carl Friddle and Sophia Dollar Friddle moved their family to Pomeroy, WA and a few years later they moved to Lewiston, ID where my grandmother graduated from high school. is what I find curious about this picture.  I know that Jack worked in a retail store after high school and I know he was a paratrooper in World War II - but when was this picture taken.  I asked his brother, Claude, who was still alive at the time about it...and he didn't really know anything.  There is a problem with finding military records from the World War I to II era because so many of the records burned up in a fire.

So, my best guess was that this photo was taken around 1930 to 1932.  I am sure it was taken before he and his wife Hilda Heitmann married in 1934 but other than that -  I can't be sure.  So, my theory is that Uncle Jak (which is the way he used sign letters and cards to me) was probably a member of the local militia and judging by his uniform most likely in the Army.  It is really too bad that I have no one left to ask.  Uncle Jack was definitely a favorite of mine...and I am sorry I don't know more!

Friday, August 1, 2014

George Christian Shawver - 3rd Family

So, it is 1904 and George Christian Shawver is left with five children to care for after the death of Rebecca Jane “Frankie” Pitsenbarger.  According to Harvey (Oldest son from first family) Chris made overtures to his first wife, Sarah Emaline Pitsenbarger.  Also according to Harvey – she wanted nothing to do with him.  I am sure that Jessie took over as the oldest child…and perhaps Chris hired someone else to help out.  It is impossible for me to know.  It isn’t until 20 Jan 1906, that Chris married Tamsey Omisca Perry Davidson – and so begins a new chapter.

Marriage photo - 1906
Tamsey Omisca Perry was born on 2 Apr 1882 in Carl Twp, Adams Co., IA to Joseph Henry Perry and Sarah Ada Drake.  She married Charles V. Davidson on 25 Dec 1901 in St. Clair, Monona Co., IA.  She had three children:  William Merle Davidson b. 21 Nov 1902 Whiting, IA d. 27 Aug 1967 Tulare, CA and twins John b. 12 Dec 1904 and died at birth and Ralph b. 12 Dec 1904 d. Jan 1905.  I had always understood that Tamsey was a widow.  However, after a bit of research on who she married, I have discovered that Charles Davidson did not die and remarried to a Myrtle Williams on 4 Sept 1907 and lived until after 1940.  Tamsey married Chris Shawver in 1906 and had a ready-made family with her son and Chris’ five children.  I remember that my great grandmother (Florence Shawver Gage) always referred to Tamsey quite fondly as Mama and I am certain that Tamsey provided the mothering her step children needed. 

It wasn't too long before Chris and Tamsey’s first child was born.  Aida Elizabeth Shawver was born on 13 Dec 1908 in Lyons, Burt Co., NE followed by Ruth Margaret Shawver b. 7 Mar 1911 in Lyons, Burt Co., NE.  Harold Christian Shawver was b. 16 Jun 1913 in Lyons and Ernest Perry Shawver followed on 22 Jun 1914.  Virginia Rachel Shawver was born on 3 Jan 1918 in Lyons.  Then on 3 Jun 1926 when Tamsey was 44 years old, their last child was born – Naomi Jeanne Shawver in Lyons, Burt Co., NE.  Their family was complete with six additional children along with the five children from Chris’ second marriage.
Taken about 1919 - Top Left - Dewey, George, Merle, Florence, Nettie
Bottom Left - Harold, George "Chris" Aida, Ernie in front, Tamsey holding Virginia, Ruth

At this point, some of my information comes from my great grandfather, Ora Gage.  He and my great grandmother were married in 1917 and I think that they actually became quite close.  There were a lot of combined trips to Chicago to sell farm stock and I know that my great uncle spent a lot of time working for his grandfather on his farm.  Chris was actually quite a prosperous farmer.  However, from what I understand, there were some issues with his step son, Merle Davidson.  He made several careless ventures and a lot of money was lost.  In 1930 or so, Chris went back to West Virginia for the first time that I know of since he left in 1888 or so.  There are photos taken with his brother, cousins and nieces as well as photos of his childhood home.  I know from what was told to me that he also went to a bank and watched his son work for a short time.  This makes me think that his older children were still on his mind.  In 1931, shortly before his death, Chris and his son Dewey disappeared for a weekend with a load of goods.  It was thought that he was taking that load to someone from the first family.  I don’t know if his suicide happened shortly after that for later – but on 13 Apr 1931, Chris Shawver was found hung in a barn. 

There are a few reasons why Chris Shawver might have committed suicide.  He was considered to be an upstanding citizen and leader of his community.  From everything I have ever read – he was well regarded.  My great grandfather had the theory that his financial problems might have prompted the suicide and there is also the thought that he was about to be found out about his first family.  I think that his wife, Tamsey, knew about this first family but his other children did not.  So, after his death this came out and his adult children who had children of their own had the shock of finding out that they had five siblings that they had known nothing about.  In fact, the first family and second family were probably as close as siblings genetically since their mothers were sisters and they shared the same father. This is the obituary that was in the local newspaper:
Chris Shawver was born August 6, 1867, and came to Nebraska when a young man. For a number of years he farmed near Decatur, and later moved to his farm northeast of Lyons. At the time of his death he had attained the age of 63 years, 8 months,and 7 days. He was good to his family, a considerate and helpful neighbor, and honest and straightforward in his business dealings and had the respect of who knew him. He leaves to mourn his death, his wife and 11 children. They are: Mrs. John Bacon, George Shawver, Mrs Ora Gage, Dewey Shawver, Mrs Clarence Davidson, Mrs. Art Frey, Mrs. Dale Besst, Harold, Ernest, Virginia and Jeanne and Merle Davidson. One brother John Shawver of Smoot, W. Va. and one sister, Mrs. Wm Rogers of California also survive. The funeral services were held Thurs. afternoon at 2:00 o'clock from the Presbyterian church in Lyons, and with Rev. L. A Thompson in charge. Interment was made in the Decatur Cemetery. Songs: Face to Face, Nearer My God to Thee, In the Sweet By and By. Choir: Clay Newman, Mrs. Walton, Mrs. Matt Pond, Dr. Heyne Odd Fellows had charge of the services at the Decatur Cemetery. Paul Bearers Osean Swanson, Tom Crippen, Wid Bacon, Earl Bacon, Lewis Frey, Charles Frey.

I would assume that it was several years later – perhaps about 1940 when the older siblings met some of their younger siblings.  Sarah Emaline Pitsenbarger came along and also met the siblings.  I don’t think that my great grandmother was at this meeting – but I know that she traded letters back and forth many years with her sister, Mary Shawver Booker and when her brother Harvey moved to Spokane, WA there were many occasions when they were able to visit.  I imagine that the entire episode was something that was hard to reconcile with their knowledge of their beloved father.  I tried to get a copy of Chris Shawver’s death certificate and it wasn't available…which makes me believe that it was never filed and it was another way to keep what happened secret.  However, there is no way that gossip won’t be spread and that is probably how I found out about the story in the first place.  My uncle grew up near the family in Nebraska and moved out to Idaho about the same time.  So, he had first hand knowledge.

Tamsey still had a job to take care of herself.  She was left with four children still under the age of 18 with the youngest being just five years old.  By all reports, she was an excellent mother and her children certainly illustrated that.  I know that she made a few trips west to visit her family that had moved out to Idaho.  My father remembers fairly well.  She was the only great grandmother that he ever knew.  Tamsey died on 16 Apr 1958 in Lyons, Burt Co., NE at the age of 76.

Here is a list of Tamsey & Chris Shawver’s family:
  • Aida Elizabeth Shawver b. 13 Dec 1908 Lyons, NE d. 27 Feb 1978 Portland, OR m. 13 Dec 1926 Arthur Glen Frey – 4 children m. 1 Dec 1940 Dell Stewart m. Dec 1945 Vaughn Elijah Maxfield – 3 children m. Dec 1954 Guy Emery Neal
  • Ruth Margaret Shawver b. 7 Mar 1911 Lyons, NE d. 12 Nov 2002 Lewiston, ID m. 31 Jul 1928 Dale Elwood Besst – 7 children
  • Harold Christian Shawver b. 16 Jun 1913 Lyons, NE d. 23 May 1989 MT m. bef 1934 Ruth Evelyn Whitney  4 – children m. Opal Blossom
  • Ernest Perry Shawver b. 22 Jun 1914 Lyons, NE d. 7 Mar 1987 Yuma, AZ m. 22 Apr 1933 Fern Lillian Craig – 1 child
  • Virginia Rachel Shawver b. 3 Jan 1918 Lyons, NE d. 15 Sept 1964 San Francisco, CA m. John Guy Bernich m. John Vincent Biagi – 1 child m. Howard Johnson 1 child
  • Naomi Jeanne Shawver b. 3 Jun 1926 Lyons, NE d. 30 Dec 2012 Moscow, ID m. 3 Aug 1946 Warren Philip Renz – 6 children
Shawver Brothers - Left to Right: Harvey, Ernie, Harold, Marvin & Dewey

Back Left: Harold, Dewey & Ernie
Front Left: Ruth, Jessie, Florence & Jeanne - Taken about 1981.