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.