Silent Film Star Mary Pickford

Over a morning cup of tea–which I was only allowed during my weekend visits with my grandmother (Gra Gra)–the stories were learned of the “old” days when they had dishware give-aways at the movie theaters. She had quite the dish collection from these weekly movie shows, including many from the days of silent films.

Gra Gra was quite theatrical at heart. She directed Minstrel shows prior to the second World War. They ended those show productions because so many of the young men had to go off to war. A large trunk in the basement contained costume items which she would go through with me from time-to-time, reminiscing all the while of which costume belonged to which show. Although I no longer have the costumes, somewhere within all the old stuff that I do have are some posters from a few of those shows. My mom had appeared in some of those productions and I remember seeing her listed on the posters as a singer. When I eventually uncover those posters, again, they would be something nice to share within this blog.

LOCAL THEATERS

Over the years, there have been three old theaters in the West Warwick area of Rhode Island, that I know of anyway. I am not certain which movie theater Gra Gra attended most often during that time she collected all the “free” dishware. Nor, do I know which theater held those minstrel shows she directed (at least until I find those posters again). However, the oldest theater in town was called Thornton’s and was located in the Riverpoint section of town. This theater opened in 1895 and was destroyed by fire in 1910. The original building was replaced by a new theater but then was demolished in 1968.

In the Arctic section of town, the Majestic Theatre opened in 1901. It replaced a previous theater which was destroyed by fire. The theater was part of the Majestic Building, which is pictured on the postcard shown below and I remember as a hardware store. The theater portion of the building closed in the late-1920s and the entire building was demolished in the late 1990s.

The third old theater in West Warwick was also in the Arctic section of town, it was called the Palace Theater and was located at 85 Washington Street. This 1000-seat theater opened in 1921 and had been demolished by the end of the 1980’s.

MOTION PICTURE CAMERA AND SILENT FILM

The motion picture camera was invented by Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931). He made a patent application in 1891 for what was called a Kinetograph and a Kinetoscope, a motion picture peephole viewer. He went on to adopt a projector developed by Thomas Armat and Charles Francis Jenkins and called it the Vitascope, which premiered on April 23, 1896.

Although the Silent film era is usually noted as occurring from 1910 to 1929, the first silent film was actually made in 1903 (with multiple-reel films appearing in the US as early as 1907). This first silent film was titled: The Great Train Robbery and was produced by Edwin Porter and published by the Edison Manufacturing Co.

By 1916, in the US, there were more than 21,000 movie theaters.

MARY PICKFORD

My featured postcard today is a real photo style card showing Silent film star, Mary Pickford. By 1914, Mary became “the world’s highest-paid actress” and was soon afterward referred to as “The Queen of the Movies”.

Mary Pickford, was named Gladys Louise Smith at birth. She was born in Toronto, Canada, on April 8, 1892 and died on May 29, 1979, in California. Gladys was the daughter of John Charles and Charlotte (Hennessey) Smith.

Her middle name was changed to Marie in 1896 by a Catholic priest when Gladys became sick with diphtheria. She had two siblings: a sister Charlotte Smith, also known as, Lottie Pickford and a brother John Charles Smith, Jr., also known as, Jack Pickford.

Their father, John Charles Smith died in 1898 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 1900, Gladys made her stage debut at the Princess Theatre, in Toronto.

It was in 1907 that theatrical producer David Belasco suggested Gladys change her name to Mary Pickford. The last name being inspired from her maternal grandfather’s name, John Pickford Hennessey. Her mother and siblings took the last name of Pickford, as well.

In 1909, Mary performed in her first film, Her First Biscuits. It was during this time that she met her future husband, actor Owen Moore (1911-1920). They married on January 7th, 1911 in a secret ceremony, in Jersey City, New Jersey.

In 1912, the Famous Players Company was started by Adolph Zukor and in 1913, Mary played the role of Julia in her first feature-length film, A Good Little Devil for this new company. The film was actually released in 1914.

Notice along the bottom section of the front side of the postcard shown above, (as well as on the postcard shown below) the words printed: “MARY PICKFORD Appearing Exclusively in Famous Players Film Co. Productions”. The Famous Players Company formed a merger, in July 1916, with Jesse L. Lasky’s Feature Play Company, becoming Famous Players-Lasky. So, that would lead me to assume that both of these postcards would date prior to 1916, most likely sometime between 1913 to 1916. Both postcards were “unused”–no postmarks and no writing.

The back side of my featured postcard (shown first above) has the publisher printed as Kraus Manufacturing Co. (1912-1930), New York, NY. The second card (shown just above) does not show a publisher on the back. Kraus was known to publish halftone lithographic view-cards and cards related to the theater.

Both postcards have some fine print on the front indicating that each photo had been taken by the Otto Sarony Co and each are numbered. My featured card is numbered 10 and the second card is numbered 20.

Otto Sarony (1850-1903) was a photographer during the timeframe of 1875 to 1903. Although his name appears on the postcards they were most likely taken by a different photographer. In 1902, Otto sold the right to his name to Theodore C. Marceau. Otto died in September of 1903 and afterward the Otto Sarony label issued photographs taken by other photographers. In 1906, the Marceau Studio merged with the Otto Sarony Studio.

In August 1916, Mary formed the Mary Pickford Film Corporation and produced only Pickford films.

On March 28, 1920 Mary married Douglas Fairbanks (1920-1936), in California. They were the first stars to get their hands and feet imprinted in cement at the Grauman’s Theater, in 1927, in Hollywood. They were among the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Doug being the first elected president.

Mary’s mother Charlotte died on March 21, 1928 of breast cancer.

Mary’s first “talking picture” feature Coquette premiered on April 12, 1929, which would earn her an Academy Award for Best Actress the following year.

Her brother, Jack, died on January 3, 1933, at age 36, in Paris and her sister, Lottie, died on December 9, 1936, of a heart attack.

On June 24, 1937, Mary married Charles “Buddy” Rogers (1937-1979). They adopted a son in May of 1943, Ronald Charles Pickford Rogers and a daughter, Roxanne Pickford Rogers, in 1944.

Her autobiography Sunshine and Shadow was published in 1955.

In 1956, the Mary Pickford Charitable Trust began and was later renamed the Mary Pickford Foundation.

Her films are housed at the Library of Congress, she hoped they would be of interest for future generations. In January of 1979, Mary placed her memorabilia collection at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library to establish “The Mary Pickford Collection”, allowing for use by students and scholars.

Mary Pickford passed away on May 29, 1979 after having suffered a stroke.

During my research, I did find where there have been several years of an event called the “Annual Mary Pickford Celebration of Silent Film” with some years in collaboration with other entertainment-related organizations. Due to all the restrictions of this past year, I don’t think that it took place this time around. The event may be something to watch for in the future if that is of your interest.

If you would like to learn more about Mary or the Mary Pickford Foundation, see their website at: marypickford.org

Until next time…

RELATED BLOG STORY LINKS:

Intro to my blog

Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital

Radio Star Bess Johnson: Fan Letter

RESOURCES:

Britannica; History of Film; britannica.com/art/history-of-the-motion-picture/The-silent-years-1910-27; Accessed 21 March 2021.

Cinema Treasures; cinematreasures.org/theaters/united-states/rhode-island/west-warwick;
Accessed 21 March 2021.

Library of Congress; Film, Video; Barnes, J. D. , Cast, et al. The Great Train Robbery. prod by Porter, Edwin S. Uction, Camera United States: Edison Manufacturing Co, 1903. Video; loc.gov/item/00694220/; Accessed 20 March 2021.

Library of Congress. Life of Thomas Alva Edison; Biography; Articles and Essays; loc.gov/collections/edison-company-motion-pictures-and-sound-recordings/articles-and-essays/biography/life-of-thomas-alva-edison/; Accessed 21 March 2021.

Mary Pickford Foundation; marypickford.org/mary-pickford-chronology/; Accessed 19 and 20 March 2021.

The MetroPostcard; Metropostcard.com/publishersk.html; Accessed 20 March 2021.

Photography & The American Stage; broadway.cas.sc.edu/content/otto-sarony; Accessed 20 March 2021.

Born 100 Years Ago: Mom

Much to my surprise (and shock), just about two years ago, it became clear that it appears my mom was actually adopted. To be honest, I had no clue prior to that point and I really do not think she knew either. There is still much research to do in order to “prove it” but hopefully soon I will get a break in the case.

According to an inquiry I made a while back at the RI State Archives office they will receive the 100-year-old birth records for 1920 in the month of January 2021. Whether there will be a delay due to the current health crisis is unknown–hopefully not.

In my blog today, I begin to tell my mom’s story, highlighting some of her background before my time–up until the time she married my dad. My next blog will include some of my personal memories of her. In the future, I hope to share some concrete research findings leading to a true biological maternal genealogy.

“Maid Marian” was born the 28th of August, one hundred years ago, in Cranston (at least that’s what shows on the birth certificate I have). She resided in Rhode Island for all of her days, living in West Warwick prior to marriage (1948), then in Warwick with summers spent in Charlestown Beach. In 1974, she and my dad became full-time Charlestown residents.

My mom, as a baby, is shown in the pictures below with her only known “parents”: Bertha (James) and Thomas William Watts. My page contains previous blogs about Gra Gra and Pop Pop, including: Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital.

Many stories were shared to me, over the years, of my mom’s younger days. She was very intelligent and according to what I was told was allowed to skip ahead during her elementary school years–not once but twice. She was a child (and adult) who could not sit still, always on the move or finding ways to keep busy.

My mom grew up in West Warwick, Rhode Island, living mostly in the Fairview Avenue Historic District, known as Phenix, in the northwest corner of the town. There were multiple mill villages in West Warwick and we still refer to the various sections of town by these village names. Phenix was the third smallest of these mill villages.

Specifically, my mom lived in the Carr-LeValley homestead (c. 1722) on Fairview Avenue, from the time she was five years old. She absolutely loved that house, a 1-1/2 story Colonial farmhouse with a gambrel roof. It had a one-story ell at the left side that has since been removed. The house appears in two pictures shown above, one just above this paragraph of my mom on a sled and one further up the page of her riding a tricycle. She spoke of this house often. It is still standing to this day, although the rear attached sections have been removed and the interior is currently gutted. Please see my previous blog for more on this home: LeValley Homestead & Moore’s Motor Service.

There was a portrait painting done of my mom when she was five or six years old, it is shown below. It was painted by a professional artist. From what I was told, it was agony for her to sit still while it was completed. Gra Gra always had the portrait hanging on her dining room wall above an artificial fireplace (there was a real fireplace in the living room).

Since Gra Gra was a 4-H Leader for so many years it would come to pass that my Mom would become involved in 4-H Club activities, as well. She also became a leader at some point and I think she told me the name of her club was the “Sew-and-Sew” Club or should it be “So-and-So”–I am not sure. To the best of my knowledge, it was through 4-H that she met my dad, I think during one of the annual camps they held down at the URI campus. My mom told me often about how she was staying up at the Springfield Fair with the 4-H Club when the 1938 Hurricane hit.

My mom was also a member of the Rainbow Girls during her younger years and she spoke of that experience from time to time.

Both of my parents were members of the 4-H All-Stars and continued to attend some of their events even later in their years. After my dad was retired, they volunteered at the Washington County Fair in the 4-H food booth for many years.

Recently, I came across two of my Mom’s 4-H pins, (shown below). There is also a picture (shown below) of a parade she attended as a youth 4-H member, she is leading the group holding a sign.

She attended the “old” West Warwick High School, in the Westcott “village” section of town, graduating in 1938. Below is shown the cover of her yearbook, which I found to contain many newspaper clippings. She clipped and saved pieces from the paper, over the years, whenever a schoolmate was listed. Tucked inside the yearbook I also found her original Commencement Exercises and Senior Banquet booklets.

According to the yearbook, my mom had a nickname at school, looks like they called her “Wattsie”. Her ambition was listed as Commercial Advertising which was surprising to me but maybe that ties into her artistic abilities then it makes more sense.

For each student, the yearbook listed a “gift”. The class gift to my mom is listed as follows: “We give you these curlers, Marian, to help you preserve your curly hair”.

She participated in the following school activities in the year(s):

Volleyball: 36, 37, 38.

Intramural Basketball: 36, 38.

Baseball: 36.

Glee Club: 36, 37, 38.

Minstrel: 36, 38.

Student Council: 38.

Tennis: 36, 37, 38.

Junior Varsity Basketball: 37, 38.

The original “old” high school was built in 1904-05, located in the Westcott section of town. There was a fire on the third floor several years ago. Below is a newspaper photo from the fire that I found within my mom’s clippings, I am not sure of the exact date (I remember when it happened but not the year). After that time there was an expansion and it was transformed into elderly apartment housing.

My mom was very artistic and during the 1940s she drew the picture, shown below, that I use as my gravatar image, it was drawn on a handmade card she gave to Pop Pop at the time.

My mom used her wonderful artistic talent working in a jewelry factory for a while, hand-painting jewelry pieces, like pins. She was able to keep some of them, I still have a few.

After high school, she worked as a bookkeeper for Universal Winding for six years, prior to marrying my dad.

In the group of four pictures, shown above, the one on the top left was the picture they used for my mom’s yearbook picture. The picture on the top right is her working at Universal Winding. The bottom left was taken during the early 1940s, I think while my dad was in the service. The picture on the bottom right is my mom wearing her high school sweater standing with my dad’s brother Richard.

My mom and dad are shown in the picture above, I think prior to their marriage but not sure of the year. My dad served in Europe during World War II and they had made the decision to wait until he returned before getting married. Previously, I wrote a blog about my dad’s service, please see: My Dad: A Soldier of World War II.

After my dad had returned from his service in the second world war, my parents were married on June 24, 1948. One of their many wedding pictures is shown below.

My mom gave birth to two sons, my older brothers, prior to my arrival.

Next time, I will share some of my own memories of my mom and her unique qualities. The rest of this blog will highlight my featured postcard.

This postcard was published by Arthur Kinsley, Riverpoint, R.I. Made in Germany, about 1915. There is a number on the front of card: A53955

Riverpoint is another mill village area of West Warwick. In this postcard picture, up the hill in back of where it shows the trolley is where a Junior High School was built in 1928. The school is still there but is now John F. Horgan Elementary School.

The mill shown on the right side of the postcard, with the tower, was Royal Mills and was extensively renovated several years ago into apartment units.

The building shown straight back has also been renovated and is used as a medical facility.

As mentioned earlier in this piece, my mom went to the “old” high school in Westcott. The newer high school was built up on Arctic Hill in 1965 from which I graduated in 1975. The middle school is connected next to the high school and was built in 1970.

Below is the back view of the postcard. It was sent or given to Miss Bertha James (Gra Gra), in Riverpoint, RI, from Bertha Berard. Since Gra Gra was married in June of 1915 this card would be dated prior to that, since there is no postmark the exact date is unknown.

Until next time…

SOURCE:

Website: westwarwickpublicschools.com; WWPS History; Accessed: 12 Aug 2020.

One Postcard Saturdays: Hotel Gerald

Hotel Gerald, Main Street, Fairfield, Maine

Businessman and longtime resident of Fairfield, Maine, Amos F. Gerald (1841-1913) was an investor in electric trolley systems, industrial mills and amusement parks. From 1899 to 1900 he built a Renaissance Revival-style hotel that was designed by architect William R. Miller.

Located at 151 Main Street, in Fairfield, Maine, the Gerald Hotel operated for 35 years with storefronts being on the ground level, including Lawrie Furniture that was in operation until 1963.

The Gerald building still exists but the original rooftop pavilion and dome pieces were removed in the mid-20th century. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. There are no longer any buildings on either side of it and the three prominent buildings, across the street,  still exist with slight changes from the originals shown in the postcard.

Fairfield, Maine, Main Street showing Hotel Gerald

In 2013, the old Gerald Hotel building saw its first tenant in 76 years, providing affordable senior housing and is now known as Gerald Senior Residence. The building had undergone $6.5 million in renovations.

The town of Fairfield was incorporated in 1788 and currently covers nearly 55 square miles.

Miss Sarah Potter, St. John’s Church

My featured postcard was postmarked in 1905 from Stark, Maine and was sent to Miss Sarah Potter, 271 North Main Street, in Providence, Rhode Island. This address is the location of the Cathedral of St. John, Episcopal Church. It was known as St. John’s Church at the time of this postcard.

The parish was organized in 1722 as King’s Church and was renamed St. John’s Church in 1794. The original building was wooden. In 1810, work began on the Cathedral. In 1929, St. John’s Church became the Cathedral of St. John.

I believe the receiver of this postcard, Sarah Potter, was a friend of Aunt Etta’s, not a family member. In case you are new to my blog, Aunt Etta’s full name was Henrietta Jane (James) Hooper. I am uncertain about her personal history involving St. John’s Church; however, I have other postcards that were addressed to Sarah and also cards that were addressed to Aunt Etta at this location in care of the church. I don’t know if Etta had worked there for a while or if there was a residence there where she lived (and perhaps met Sarah in the process). It is still an unsolved mystery, at this time, and research for another day.

Postcard Publisher Leighton

This postcard was published by the Hugh C. Leighton Co., Manufacturers (1904-1909), Portland, Maine and was printed in Frankfort, Germany; No. 4523. They printed and published national view-cards, most were tinted halftones and numbered. Also, most were manufactured in Frankfort, Germany although some were printed in their US location. This publisher merged with Valentine & Sons in 1909.

Until next time…

Reference Sources

Websites:

Centralmaine.com; article dated Nov 16, 2013; Accessed 30 May 2020.

En.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Hotel; Accessed 30 May 2020.

Episcopalri.org/about/the-cathedral-of-st-john; Accessed 30 May 2020.

Fairfieldme.com/town/pages/history; Accessed 30 May 2020.

Metropostcard.com; Accessed 30 May 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

Radio Star Bess Johnson: Fan Letter

For the first fifteen years of my life, until we moved, I was able to admire a certain 8″x10″ framed photograph on a daily basis.  This photo was of radio actress Bess Johnson and it always sat on my mother’s sewing machine, which resided in the corner nook of our dining space. The picture of Bess, shown below, is not the same one referred to above, which I still possess but could not locate it in time for this posting.

Radio Actress Bess Johnson

This blog piece will be the first part of a three-part series focused on Bess Johnson. I will begin the series with some background on the friendship that developed between Bess and my family. The second piece will provide more details about her own family history background and the final piece will focus on her career highlights. Unfortunately, I cannot pinpoint exactly when the other two pieces will be written, but I will try my best to complete them in the very near future.

Bess was born in Keyser, West Virginia, in 1901, and grew up in Elkins, West Virginia. She died in 1975, in New York City. She had attended drama school in New York. Her radio work began in 1930 and she became known as the “Queen of Daytime Radio” on serial soap opera’s such as the Hilltop House and Lady Esther. In my third part of this series, I will explore her career in greater detail.

Bess was married in 1923 to Dr. Solomon Perry. They had a daughter, Jane Orr Perry. They were divorced in 1936. Bess was granted custody of their daughter Jane and she waived alimony, stating she earned more than her husband.

Bess with daughter Jane

Though not blood related, in our home she was fondly known as Aunt Bess. Through the years, I had been told that she was my eldest brother’s Godmother. To the best of my determination, it was about 1932 when my grandmother “Gra Gra” had sent a fan letter and it began a warm friendship between she and Bess. The letter had been sent to Bess via the National Broadcasting Company in New York City. In the letter, Gra Gra had expressed concern of why Bess had not been making her daily appearances on the Hilltop House program–for which she was known at the time. Bess had been confined by illness in her apartment when the letter reached her.

To learn more background about Gra Gra, you might like to read my previous post: Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital.

Bess Johnson and Bertha Watts

Around 1940, Bess invited Gra Gra to be her guest in New York, which she immediately accepted. My grandmother was not a traveler, only doing so on a couple of occasions–this weekend visit to New York being one of them. Many times, as we sat at the breakfast table during my weekend visits, I would hear Gra Gra tell the story about her visit to see Bess and the lasting friendship that developed.

Bess with daughter Jane, sitting is Pop Pop and Gra Gra standing behind him

On June 24, 1940, my grandparents (T. Wm. and Bertha Watts) celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. At the time, they were still living in the Carr-LeValley homestead on Fairview Avenue, in the Phenix section of West Warwick, RI. According to a later newspaper article, Bess had been among those who attended the celebration. The picture shown above I believe was from a different occasion at a later date. To read more about the Carr-LeValley homestead, please see my previous post: LeValley Homestead, Fairview Ave and Moore’s Motor Service Postcard.

The Carr-LeValley homestead in 1939, Fairview Avenue

My grandparents moved from Fairview Avenue shortly after they celebrated that anniversary and lived for a short time on Maple Avenue before purchasing their home on South Street.

In 1941, while residing on Maple Avenue, Pop Pop got a surprise phone call on his birthday which would have been February 20th. At the other end of the line he heard a birthday-greeting song that Bess had recorded for him via a special disc. At first, he thought someone was playing a joke on him.

Headline from a local newspaper article telling the story of Pop Pop getting a birthday greeting from Bess Johnson

Over the years, Bess and Gra Gra continued corresponding and I have found some of the postcards that Bess had sent while traveling. For each of the three pieces I write in this Bess Johnson series, I will feature a different postcard received.

In March of 1941, Bess sent this featured postcard to Gra Gra when she traveled to Indian River Ranch, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. This linen postcard was published by Curteich, Chicago, it is a “C.T. Art Colortone” and was distributed by Doubleday & Co., Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The handwritten message reads: “Dear Bert, Will try to write a letter soon. Its lovely here. Jane and I are having a grand time. Its been so nice and warm. We came by train and were sore all the way. Give my best to the family. Bess.”

Later in 1941, my grandparents purchased their home on South Street, in West Warwick, where they would live out the rest of their years–pictured below, before there was a garage addition.

Bess would come to visit them at the South Street home at least twice that I have found documented, possibly more. When daughter Jane was gearing up to graduate from school in Norton, Mass., they spent several days. My mom, Marian, was noted to have accompanied them while attending a play presentation “Twelfth Night” at the school in which Jane appeared in the role of “Sir Toby”.

Headline from a local newspaper article outlining their visit from 1942

Here are some pictures taken during that visit, showing the large backyard garden and goldfish pool. Gra Gra and Jane are looking at the pool and Bess is relaxing in a chair for one photo while picking flowers in the other.

 

Below are pictures taken during a later visit, about 1952, showing my eldest brother, Mark, with the two poodles that belonged to Bess.

 

My mom, Marian and Jane (with the flower in her hair) are pictured below.

More pictures will be shared in the next two postings. Please be on the lookout for my second-part in this Bess Johnson series, when I explore a bit of her family history.

Until next time…

 

Turkey Day Memories

I am thankful for the memories!

I am grateful that at this stage of my life I still have the ability to actually recall the memories–something that I do not take for granted.

My intention for this Thanksgiving blog was simply to find a greeting postcard that would have some interesting background that I could highlight in a brief posting. My focus changed after finding my featured postcard. It had a picture I really liked but the background surrounding the card is lacking in substance.

I do not know the publisher of this embossed postcard, I only know that it was printed in Saxony.

This postcard was sent to Grandma Julia in 1909, in Plainville, Mass. The sender was “The Three Graces”, postmarked from Providence, RI. I have not yet been able to determine the exact identity of the three Graces. However, a while back I started trying to put the pieces together and if memory serves me correctly there is a connection somehow with her sisters. For more background on Grandma Julia, please see a previous posting such as: Intro to Grandma Julia and the Bitgood’s Pine Knoll Laboratory.

Since I had so little background to share about this postcard, my thoughts began to focus on some of my own Thanksgiving memories–those from younger years. And so it goes that the remainder of this writing will highlight a few of those memories and spotlight my grandfather’s sister, we called Auntie, and her son David. In addition, I will close with an honorable mention of my brother Mark, whose birthday would have hit on Thanksgiving this year, November 28th.

Auntie and David in the mid-1960’s

During my youngest childhood years, my mom was always the hostess for the family Thanksgiving Dinner, as well as, for Christmas. It was a tight squeeze in our apartment for the average of 14, or so, family members attending. Out would come the folding metal table, that I still possess to this day, being set up alongside our normal table. There was an archway between the living room and dining area and this extended seating area would encompass both spaces.

My mom would cook a huge turkey, always 20-something pounds. I can still remember going with her to the local turkey farm to get a fresh turkey. I seem to remember the entrance to that farm being on the south side of Route 117 past Quaker Lane heading into the West Warwick area–I could be wrong, of course, but it was in that general area.

As I grew a little older, my dad decided that all the work my mom had to put into the Thanksgiving Dinner was getting to be too much. He suggested we start a new tradition of going out to eat for the Thanksgiving dinner, still with a gathering of the same family members–and so a new tradition began and continued for several years. Of course, over those next few years we gained a member or two and we also suffered a few losses.

For a few years, we held our “new tradition” Turkey Day gathering at the Showboat, in Coventry, on Lake Tiogue. This local favorite landmark was shaped like a large boat. It began in the 1940’s, prior to World War II and was tragically destroyed by fire on January 16, 1976. Of the select few places we went for these Thanksgiving Day feasts, this one location remains my favorite memory.

According to my memory, the Showboat dinner began with great soup that was set out on the table in a large tureen–I can still picture that in my mind. Each family received their own whole turkey at the table and all the trimmings were served family style. Any leftovers were brought home and we had no clean up to worry about.

Holiday dinner at Meadowbrook Inn

Other than the Showboat, we went a few times to the Meadowbrook Inn, in Charlestown, where both my brothers had worked at one time. We went to the Carriage Inn, in North Kingstown, at least once, maybe twice. The last of this dining-out tradition that I can remember was probably the very early 1980’s, at a place in South Kingstown that is long-since gone–it has changed hands several times since then.

The holidays always bring fond memories of Auntie and her son “Uncle David”. I tend to think of them both during this time more so than any other time of the year. She had one of the kindest souls that I have ever known.

My mom and David, probably about 1932.

I always looked forward to Auntie coming over to attend those early dinners, held at our apartment. We lived in the Greenwood section of Warwick, right on busy Route 5, Greenwich Avenue. She lived across the street from us in a little rental cottage during my younger years. Later on, her landlord, Mr. Palumbo, tore that place down to build a large apartment building. He was able to move her down the road a piece, to another place he owned. Her new apartment had been a barn that was renovated into living space for two single-level apartments. So, she did have one neighbor, it may have been a couple or just one younger man–can’t quite remember for sure. However, I can remember the man volunteered for the Big Brother organization and sometimes he had his young sidekick with him.

As the holidays approached, I always felt great anticipation for the arrival of my mom’s Cousin David from New York City–where he resided for many years. Us kids used to call him “Uncle” David because there was a large gap in age and it was not seen as proper for us to call an adult by their first name–even a cousin, I guess.

Auntie was born Annie Irene Watts on June 15, 1897, in England. She died in 1971, on a day that I will never forget–even though the actual date is not fresh at hand. She was in the hospital at that time. I can remember we were at the cottage in Charlestown and our close family friend, Mrs. Michaels, came over to deliver the message to my mom from the hospital–we had no phone there. It was like the world stopped for me that day.

Annie Irene Watts

Auntie was the youngest daughter of Jonas (died 1923) and Mary Jane (Pepper) Watts (died 1921)–they were married in 1880. They lived in Nottingham, England. Auntie was half-sister to Emma (from a different father), and full sister to Alice, Thomas William (my grandfather), and George Watts. She moved to the USA sometime after 1910 but prior to 1923 and remained here the rest of her life.

Photo taken about 1923 so Auntie was living here in the US by that time. Siblings standing in the back, Auntie and Pop Pop (Annie Irene and Thomas William Watts) And Gra Gra holding my mom’s hand.

When I was very young I can remember when Auntie was blind, I don’t know when it first happened. I remember she had surgery that allowed her to see from one eye but she lost the other, which was replaced with a glass eye. She always lived close by to us and spoiled us very much–especially my middle brother Keith and myself. My oldest brother, Mark, seemed more favored by my grandmother since he was the first born so I think that had something to do with Auntie giving us younger two a little more attention. It was later on that I would have a closer relationship with my grandmother.

Picture taken in 1950, Auntie, Pop Pop and Gra Gra, sitting on the black rattan couch. I loved that piece of furniture!

Since Auntie did not drive, my mom usually took her shopping on Saturday mornings, then my brother Keith and I would visit her. We watched cartoons followed by the other Saturday shows on her little TV.

Auntie with my brothers, probably about 1956, at her cottage.

When we had time off from school, Auntie would often take us on a bus ride to downtown Providence, or East Greenwich–back in the days when it was a pleasant thing to do. At that time Westminster Mall was closed off to traffic. Our first stop, downtown, was always at the Woolworth’s store–I can still see their lunch counter in my mind. One day, I had forgotten my shoulder-strapped hand bag at one of the counter stools and felt my heart race when I realized it. Luckily, when I ran back it was still there.

Our trips downtown always included shopping but I can remember Auntie having eye specialist appointments, as well. Before heading to the return bus stop, we commonly ate lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant. We also bought popcorn to feed the pigeons while waiting for the bus.

The below pictures include Auntie’s brother Uncle George, with two of them taken in 1964 when he came over for a visit.

The pictures are not the best, a little blurry, the one that shows him sitting outside on the lounger chair was taken at Auntie’s little rental cottage, when she lived across the street from us. The photo with the boats was taken at Galilee, Narragansett, RI, during his visit in 1964.

It was probably within the next couple of years that Auntie moved from the little cottage to the place further down the road. Sometime after she moved, I can remember that she had an operation on her leg that replaced a vein with a plastic version.

Auntie worked at Leviton Mfg., in Warwick, for many years as an inspector–of some kind. I can remember helping her by stamping green slips that went into the items she inspected.

This picture was taken in June 1969. Auntie is in the light-colored coat, my brother Mark is almost 20 years old here, standing on the left end. Gra Gra is in the blue dress and my mom is on the right end. Photo was taken in the gardens outside Gra Gra’s house, in West Warwick, RI.

About 1969, or so, Auntie went to live in a newly-built senior housing place, West Shore Terrace, in Warwick–the same place as my paternal grandparents. So, she was a little further away from us over those last couple of years, too far for us to walk–for the first time.

Auntie had never married. She became a single parent with a son born in 1930, David Bruce Watts. He died in 2010, after suffering with dementia issues.

David attended and graduated from St. Andrew’s School, in Barrington. He served in the Navy for a while. I do have his service records but they are not handy for me as I write this piece. David settled in New York City and worked for a large advertising company. I can remember him bringing us “Leg’s Eggs” when he came home for the holidays.

Every time he was visiting here in RI, he would go out running every day. I can remember running along a time or two when we were down at the beach cottage. He used to tell us stories about his routine of running in Central Park, near where he lived in NYC. He also spoke about dreams of moving back to RI and opening a Judo school. He was a Judo instructor in NYC for many years, I do have some of his papers and awards for that, as well.

When I was young, David had a Japanese girl friend, she had come home with him to RI for Christmas several times. I remember she was a dancer in the Martha Graham dancers. She was just beautiful and I was quite fascinated with her. One time, she even wore her traditional Japanese Kimono for us and explained it all.

David never married, though, and had no children.

After Auntie died, we gave David the Concertina that had belonged to her and he found someone in NYC to give him lessons and he would play for us when he came to visit. I think he even purchased a new one at some point and played in a little band. Just for fun, I think.

He disconnected with the rest of us left in RI after my grandmother died, so sometime around 1983. It became a very difficult issue for me and something I still don’t understand what his reason was for doing so. I also wondered if I did something or said something. At some point, he talked with my middle brother to discuss his health issue which was not discussed with me. Personally, I never heard directly from him again.

It was much later that I learned of David’s dementia issues. When I learned of the facility where he was living, I sent him a letter but I don’t have any idea if he was able to comprehend it or not. I tried to find him when we visited NYC a short few years before he died but we were not successful. He had been moved from that facility to a different one and the staff would not release any information to me about his new location. The only question they would answer was when I asked if he was still alive, they said yes. For all the good that did me, because I was never able to find him. I do know now that he had been moved to a place New Jersey, which was the location of his death–sadly, something I learned about much after the fact. At least I know I tried, but it would have been nice to see him one more time.

On a side note, my oldest brother, Mark, was born on November 28, 1949. He died of cancer in 2000. His birthday often fell on Thanksgiving Day.

One of my favorites pictures of Mark as a baby was taken at Thanksgiving, in 1950, when he was one year old. They gave him a turkey leg to chomp on.

My brother Mark, Thanksgiving in 1950.

Another picture taken on Thanksgiving in 1950 is multi-generational. Mark is sitting with Grandma (Henrich) James, she is Gra Gra’s step-mom. Looking at the picture, sitting on the left end is our maternal grandmother, Gra Gra–Bertha L. (James) Watts. On the right end is paternal grandmother, Grammy–Alice (Holden) Lindall. Our mom, Marian, is sitting in the back.

To learn more about the Henrich family connection, please see post: What’s in a Name, Lena Henrich?

To learn more about Gra Gra, please see post: Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital

I am, indeed, thankful for the memories!!

Until next time…

 

 

A 50th Anniversary Celebration: Hiram & Hannah Lindall

In the year 1846, on the date of November 9th, my paternal great great grandparents were married. In 1896, Hiram and Hannah (Jordan) Lindall celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with their children and grandchildren. The event was notated in more than one newspaper article, including the one shown below.

 

Hiram, pictured below left, was a farmer and house carpenter and was still quite active into his elderly years. He was a hard worker and known to take the early morning train from Coventry to Providence and return at night. Hannah, pictured below right, was admired for her beauty and it was said that her daughters inherited that same quality.

Hannah Jordan Lindall

Hiram Lindall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a poem printed in one of the newspaper articles in tribute to them:

 

“Now here’s a health to the jolly pair,
I avow, we all admire ’em;
We wish that all the boys had fare,
Of sand like uncle Hiram.

He says with 50 years gone by,
His wife should have the banner;
In love and toil and constancy,
There’s nothing the matter with Hannah.”

Over the years, I have spent a lot of research time on my paternal Lindall family branch but am really just starting to dig deeper into the Jordan connection. Below is a reunion photo of the Jordan Homestead in 1900.

About a week ago, I revisited the Hopkins Hollow Cemetery (CY012) which I had first visited several years ago. This historical cemetery is located in the Greene section of Coventry, RI, and it is where some my Jordan ancestors are buried.

Hannah’s father was John Jordan (1800c-1883) and her mother was Mercy (Weaver) Jordan (1800c-1893). According to John’s gravestone he died at Aged 83 years 8 months & 8 days and words carved say “Shall we meet beyond the river, I am safe within the harbor.” John was the son of Edmund Jordan.

The gravestone of Mercy (Weaver) Jordan, states she died Aged 93 years, 1 month, & 22 days with words carved that say “There is rest for the weary.” Mercy was the daughter of John Weaver (1769-1853) and Ruth (Wilbur) Weaver.

During my recent cemetery visit, I noticed gravestones next to John and Mercy for several daughters, as follows, with age at death:

Caroline, Aged 1 year
Sally, Aged 11 years
Sarah Jane, Aged 16 years
Mary, Aged 1 month
Ruth, Aged 3 years

Hiram Lindall and Hannah Jordan were married by Elder Thomas Tillinghast, at Maple Root Church, in Coventry, on a dark and rainy day.

Home located at 2 Wood St., in Washington Village, Coventry, RI. It is thought to be the home of Hiram and Hannah. She is the lady in the center.

Hannah was born on April 23, 1827 and was 8 months younger than Hiram.

Hiram Lindall

Born on August 4, 1826, Hiram was the son of Abel Lindall (1784-1828) and Mary (Potter) Lindall (1797-1875) of Coventry, RI.

Abel’s ancestors were among some of the earliest settlers of Salem, Mass., and I may focus on that line in future postings. Mary was the daughter of George Potter (1761-1837) and Phebe (Pitcher) Potter (1764-1834).

Phebe was the daughter of John Pitcher (1728-1822) and Mary (Carr) Pitcher (1736-1832).

Abel died when Hiram was 15 months old. Hiram had lived in Coventry most of his life and also in Warwick, moving to the Washington Village area of Coventry in 1875 to settle in a permanent home. Hiram died in 1918 and had out-lived his wife Hannah who died on January 11, 1904. They are buried in Knotty Oak Cemetery.

My great grandfather, William O. Lindall (1854-1939), was the fourth of nine children from the marriage of Hiram and Hannah. William was married to Elnora (Bennett) Lindall (1866-1916). She was the daughter of Jeremiah Bennett and Emily (Waterman) Bennett. In future blog writings, I plan to explore Jeremiah and Emily Bennett in further details.

Below is a tin photo of William, (under the arrow) and the other photo is of Elnora.

The children of William and Elnora Lindall are as follows:

* Claudia Lindall (1896-1995) married Gustaf Frederick Irons (1896-1958)

* James Burton Lindall (1898-1972) married Alice Holden (1901-1985)

*Jessie May Lindall died in infancy

* Hazel Lindall (1905-1990) married Vernon Magnuson (1900-1971)

My grandfather James and his sister Claudia

My grandfather’s sister Hazel in 1923

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My grandfather with his sisters during the 1960s, in Galilee, Narragansett, RI. Looking at the photo, Aunt Hazel is on the left and Aunt Claude is on the right.

Aunt Claude (Lindall) Irons, with my grandfather James and great grandfather William Lindall

My grandparents were James and Alice (Holden) Lindall. She was the daughter of John Holden (1866-1942) and Elizabeth (Wilde) Holden (1865-before 1942). They had two sons, Earl (my father) and Richard. See my blog about my dad’s WWII service, My Dad: A Soldier of World War II.

My grandparents, James and Alice (Holden) Lindall in 1929.

My dad, Earl F. Lindall, at age 8, in May 1929.

Below you will find a list, in birth order, of the children born to Hiram and Hannah Lindall and their spouses. Some of this information was taken from a genealogy of the Hiram Lindall family that was compiled by Ethel Lindell Band, in 1940. Ethel was a daughter of John Alonzo Lindell. You might notice that some family members use an “e” to spell it as Lindell rather than using an “a”; however, all members are related just the same.

  1. George Abel Lindall (1847-1932)
    married Louise Webster (1847-1932)
  2. Mary C. Lindall (1849-1932)
    married James B. Mathewson
    married Samuel Butler
  3. John Alonzo Lindell (1851-1937)
    married Julia E. Thompson (1855-1922)
  4. William Olney Lindall (1854-1939)
    married Elnora Maria Bennett (1866-1916)
  5. Phoebe Jane Lindall (1856-1932)
    married William B. Nichols (died 1933)
  6. Ellen Francis Lindall (1859-1911)
    married Bradford F. Harrington (1860-1935)
  7. Sarah Elizabeth Lindall (1861-1936)
    married Walter Thurston (1867-1921)
  8. Annie Margie Lindall (1863-1890)
    married Orville Harrington (1863-1890)
  9. Henry Irving Lindall (1867-1940)
    married Lina Marlow (died 1940)

This photo was taken between 1920-1932. My great grandfather William on the left in the derby hat, his brother George on the right and George’s wife Louise (or Louisa).

I have a huge photo from the Hiram Lindall Family Reunion that took place on August 7, 1937, as shown below. The photo is so long that I had to scan it in two pieces and then try to reconnect it into one. The two older gentlemen in the center wearing vests over white shirts, (sitting on each side of my splice line) are brothers William (my great grandfather) and Henry. My grandparents are in the photo, as well. On the back of the picture I do have many names listed but I am not going to list them all at this time, perhaps in a future posting.

Hiram Lindall Family Reunion, Aug. 7, 1937

My featured image is a postcard with a copyright of 1905 by J. Murray Jordan (1861-1909). He was a Philadelphia photographer who went on to publish and print postcards and he founded the World Post Card Co., in 1903.

In my search for an appropriate postcard to feature along with this story of Hiram and Hannah (Jordan) Lindall, I found it pretty ironic that I came across one published by a Mr. Jordan. I have no idea if there was any actual relation there, it would require further research to make that actual determination.

However, I did learn a few quick points of interest about J. Murray Jordan. He was born in 1861 in Sacramento, Calf., to John M. Jordan who had left rural Penn., years earlier. John had headed out to California in search of gold, he had died by the time J. Murray Jordan was 8 years old. After his father’s death, J. Murray was raised by a maternal Uncle John Duffield, in Princeton, NJ.

Until next time…

One Postcard Saturdays! Hurricane Of 1938 – New London

Growing up in Rhode Island, I heard various pointed comments, from various family members, about the ’38 Hurricane on a semi-regular basis. What I learned along the way instilled in me a great respect for the power of that Atlantic Ocean–a force not to be taken lightly.

Recently, while looking through some of my grandmother’s old pictures, I came across a set of postcards focused on the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. They each show a different black and white photo from the Int. News Service and were printed by Tichnor Bros. Inc., of Boston, Mass.

Today, I have chosen to show one of the cards from this set for my new Serial posting “One Postcard Saturdays”.

This hurricane hit the coasts of Long Island, New York and Southern Connecticut just over eighty years ago, on the 21st of September, in 1938; it caused destruction throughout the rest of coastal New England, as well.  At the time the storm hit, my mom was staying at the Springfield Fair (now called the Big E), in Massachusetts; having gone up to the fair with her 4-H group, they were staying in dorm-style units. My mom would have been 18 years old at the time.

There were close family friends, and although not actually related, we called them Aunt Jean and Uncle Bill (Carpenter)–my middle name of Jean was named after her. They lost their original summer home during the hurricane; it had been located at Sand Hill Cove, Narragansett, RI. My mom often spoke with fond memories of childhood time spent at their cottage (prior to the storm). I heard stories of how bad the damage was in that area and how homes were swept off their foundations–only very few survived. Some time later, the couple built a new ranch-style cottage at Anawan Cliffs, in Narragansett, where I can remember visiting on several occasions.

My parents bought a small piece of land in the Charlestown Beach area, about one mile from the ocean, in the late 1940’s. They built a small two-room cottage by hand with help from my grandfather and other family members. They always said they purposely picked land far enough from the ocean in hopes to keep it safe should another hurricane hit that coastal area. It always made me wonder why there has been so much re-building on the beach since such devastation was caused by the ’38 Hurricane–it is a high risk decision for sure.

My mom often spoke about storm surge and tidal waves that come along with hurricanes and she told how the tidal wave from the ’38 Hurricane was said to be about 50 feet, which would seem unbelievable. However, when I did a little research for this blog posting, I did indeed see a fact listed on the National Weather Service website that showed the peak wave height for this hurricane was recorded at 50 feet, occurring at Gloucester, Mass.

Some additional facts listed on the National Weather Service site include:

  • The maximum recorded sustained wind was 121 mph at Blue Hill Observatory, in Mass.
  • The maximum recorded wind gust was 186 mph at the same location.
  • The storm surge peaked at 17 feet above normal high tide.
  • There were 700 Deaths
  • The storm left approximately 63,000 people homeless with approximately 8900 homes or buildings destroyed.
  • There were approximately 3300 boats lost or destroyed.
  • The economic cost was estimated at $620 million in 1938 dollars.
  • The hurricane made landfall near Bellport, NY as a Category 3.
  • There was a second landfall made in Connecticut between Bridgeport and New Haven, also as a Category 3.
  • New London, Conn., saw a record storm tide of 10.58′ MLLW (Mean Lower Low Water)
  • Bridges, utilities and railroads were wiped out and there was catastrophic damage to fishing fleets.

My featured postcard today shows a picture of many shattered boats and wreckage at New London, Connecticut.

This card is unused, so there is no postmark and no message. However, there is printed information, from the publisher, on the reverse side of the card, as follows:

September 21, 1938, will long be remembered as
the date of the Big Hurricane which swept New
England–in all history something never before
known to this part of the country.
The loss of lives was appalling; property damage
mounted to hundreds of millions of dollars and
the homeless counted to hundreds of thousands.
The tremendous fury of the wind left behind
destruction, destitution and utter ruin.

In the coming weeks, I may share a few more of the postcards from this ’38 Hurricane set and I also have some newspaper clippings tucked away that may lead to a longer piece–at some point.

Until next time…

One Postcard Saturdays: Naval Station, Newport

Today, I am starting a new series called “One Postcard Saturdays!“. My plan is to share with you special weekly postings, on Saturdays, highlighting just one postcard. These Saturday posts will be quite brief in comparison to my usual lengthy ones–which will continue as time allows.

This series of postcards will span multi-generations and may cover any number of subjects, places or holidays–in no particular order. I will try to list any known information such as the postmark (if readable), the publisher, the sender, the receiver, as well as, any message on the card.

I am starting the series with a 1942, World War II era, linen postcard. This card was sent to my dad, an aircraft mechanic during the war. You can learn more about his military service from my blog posting: My Dad: A Soldier of World War II

The sender of this card was Fred Martin AMM 3/c (Aviation Machinist’s Mate, Third Class) Co- 1014 Newport Training St., in Newport, RI and it was postmarked on November 24, 1942, from Newport, RI.

Fred’s message to my dad reads: Hi Earl, This is really the first time I have had to write. It’s a great life in the Navy, last night I went swimming in a pool and roller skating and tonight I’m going to a movie. Write you later, Fred

The card had first been addressed to Pvt. Earl Lindall, in Atlantic City but the address was crossed out and changed to Airplane Mechanic School, Goldsboro, N.C. My dad had been in Atlantic City prior to being transferred. There is a purple stamp on the back from the Army Directory Service, who perhaps had made the address correction update.

The front side of this linen postcard shows “Bag Inspection” at the U.S. Naval Training Station, Newport, RI.

The postcard was published by the U.S. Naval Training Station, Ship’s Service Dept., Newport, RI

Until next time…

Uncle Lionel: Fort Greble, RI; Vet of WWI

Some of my fondest memories of Uncle Lionel are centered around his visits, when I was a young child, to the small summer cottage my parents owned in Charlestown, Rhode Island–about a mile from the water. They had built the two-room cottage themselves, around the 1950 mark, with family members pitching in to help. Every year, with the exception of one, my whole summer was spent at the cottage location and it was always a special day when Uncle Lionel and Aunt Elizabeth would drive down for a visit. Generally, they would bring Gra Gra down with them, too. If you would like to learn a bit more about Gra Gra, please see my previous post: Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital

Uncle Lionel and Aunt Elizabeth, in 1962, visiting with us at the cottage in Charlestown.

Lionel Henry James was born on September 7th, 1892, in Providence, RI. He was brother to Bertha (Gra Gra) and Howard Allen James (1894-1963).

Their parents were George L. P. James and Martha Ella (Carr) James Cady. Their younger siblings, Vincent and Lester, were born of George’s second wife Susan Henrich. Although I still have research to do on the Henrich family, you could read a little more about them from my previous post: What’s in a Name, Lena Henrich?

My thoughts have been focused a lot on Uncle Lionel in recent weeks, with all the talk about the first World War ending 100 years ago and my remembering having knowledge of his military service, during that era. Fortunately, I found a couple of the postcards that he wrote during the war–I know there are others.

The featured postcard, shown again below of both the front and back side, was sent by Uncle Lionel and postmarked July 20, 1915 from Fort Greble, R.I. The card was sent to his sister Mrs. William Watts (Gra Gra), in Riverpoint, R.I.

Postcard from Fort Greble in 1915, showing the 14th Co. Barrack on lower left and the 109th Co. Barrack on the lower right. The fort hospital is the top photo.

Looking first at his message, I was able to learn a few details of his service. At the time of his writing, in 1915, he was of the rank Quartermaster Sergeant, serving in the 11th Co., C.A.C., R.I. N.J., stationed at Fort Greble, R.I. According to Wikipedia, the C.A.C. stands for the U.S. Army, Coast Artillery Corps which served coastal, harbor defense from 1901 to 1950.

The publisher of this postcard was Bobbe Litho Co., from New York City.

Fort Greble was on Dutch Island, which is located mid-way from Saunderstown (on the mainland) to Jamestown (Conanicut Island), and is part of the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island. According to Preservation RI, the island contains approximately 110-acres. The island was acquired by the federal government during the Civil War to serve as a coastal defense site.

In 1872-73, a barracks for government workers was built. On that featured postcard is shown pictures of two barrack buildings and a hospital.

During 1897-98, Battery Hale was constructed in honor of Captain Nathan Hale, of the Revolutionary War era. The battery had positions for three 10-inch guns with disappearing carriages.

The postcard, shown above, shows one of the 10″ guns from Fort Greble. This card was sent by Uncle Howard, it was postmarked on July 20, 1915 from Fort Greble, and was sent to Mr. & Mrs. T. W. Watts (Gra Gra and Pop Pop), in Riverpoint, R.I.

From this postcard, I was able to learn that Uncle Howard served during the first World War at Fort Greble, along with Uncle Lionel. The handwritten message from Howard reads: Dear Brother and Sister, Having a fine time, hope to see you Friday. Howard xxxxx.

Fort Greble operated from 1898 to 1947 and was named in honor of 1st Lt. John Trout Greble, 2nd Artillery–who was killed in the Civil War.

During the early 1900s, Battery Hale served in protection of the western entrance to Narragansett Bay, along with Fort Getty, in Jamestown and Fort Kearny, in Saunderstown (now the site of URI school of oceanography)–Narragansett Bay Harbor Defense System.

During the first World War, Fort Greble housed 14 companies of RI National Guardsmen, in a circa 1900 enlisted mens’ barracks near the northeastern end of the island. The batteries of Fort Greble were disarmed between 1917 and 1943 and use of the fort facility was ended in 1947. In 1958, Dutch Island was given to the state for conservation use.

This is a real photo postcard during the first World War and Uncle Lionel is second from the right side of the card. It appears he was the only one looking directly at the camera while the picture was taken.

During my research, for this blog posting, I was able to locate the World War I Draft Registration card records for both Lionel and Howard. In addition, I was able to find one for their cousin Clifford Foster James, born Aug, 29, 1885. He was the son of William and Mabel (Dollof) James–they lived for many years in Hyde Park, Mass. William was brother to George L. P. James, the father of Lionel and Howard.

Below are two pictures; one is of Clifford in 1937 and the other includes Clifford standing on the far right, with his Uncle Martin and his dad William (I believe William is the one standing in the middle).

Clifford Foster James

According to Clifford’s WWI Draft Registration from 1917, his nearest relative was Mabel Alice James, with address listed as: 52 Cleveland St, in Hyde Park. His occupation was listed as a painter for Farnum & Nelson, 1822 Aboretum, in Roslindale, Mass.

The date of the WWI Draft Registration for Lionel was June 5, 1917. It listed previous military service as six years and rank as QM Serg. (Quartermaster Sergeant). His address at that time was listed as: 52 Cleveland Street, Hyde Park, Boston, Mass. This was the same address as was listed on Clifford’s record, which would lead me to believe that Uncle Lionel was living with his Uncle William and Aunt Mabel during that time in 1917. His occupation was listed as wood finisher for John T. Robinson & Co, in Hyde Park. This company manufactured fine paper box and card cutting machinery.

In future blog stories, I hope to explore the family of William and Mabel James a bit further and this Hyde Park area, which is located on the outskirts of Boston. In the meantime, below are shown three unposted postcards of places located in Hyde Park. They were published by Herbert W. Rhodes of Norwood, Mass. They would date to 1907 or earlier, since they each have undivided backs. These cards were part of Aunt Etta’s collection, learn more about her in my previous post: Intro to Aunt Etta And Her Great Adventures.

This is an old postcard showing the Public Library at Hyde Park, Mass.

High School, Hyde Park, Mass.

Y.M.C.A. Building, Hyde Park, Mass.

I was able to find Uncle Howard’s WWI Draft Registration, dated June 5, 1917 and his address was listed as: 141 Lynnfield St., in Peabody, Mass. He was 22 years old and his occupation was listed as Shipping Clerk for Densten Hair Co., in Peabody, Mass., located off of Lynnfield Street. At that time, he was married to his first wife, Alfreda (Tedford) James. The card lists his Military service Rank as: 1st Class Gunner Sergeant, Coast Artillery, for one year, in Rhode Island. There is a question on the card saying: Has person lost arm, leg, hand, foot or both eyes, or is he otherwise disabled? The answer said: First finger, left hand, disfigured. This injury is something I never knew or heard about and I have to wonder if he received the injury during his service at Fort Greble.

Unfortunately, I am unable to locate a photo of Uncle Howard at this time. I am sure that I must have one in the large volume of pictures that have passed down to me but it will have to wait until a future story.

Since Uncle Howard died in 1963, I did not have the pleasure of knowing him as well as Uncle Lionel. I can remember his first wife, Aunt Freda, visiting on several occasions to Gra Gra’s house while I was there on a weekend or school vacation week. I do remember that she drove down from Massachusetts, so I believe she remained living in the Peabody area after they divorced.

According to Gra Gra’s family bible records, Uncle Howard married a second time to Mary E. Dempsey, in January of 1924. I do remember Aunt Mary fairly well and she lived nearby. Since the primary focus of this blog post is on Uncle Lionel, I will save Howard’s family details for a future post.

In November of 1917, Uncle Lionel married Mary Elizabeth Whitney, they had ten children–two of whom are still living and are in their late 80’s.

I found record of Uncle Lionel’s World War II Old Man’s Draft Registration, which was dated April 27, 1942. This registration was required for men born on or after April 28, 1877 and on or before Feb. 16, 1897. On this 1942 record, his address was listed as: 239 Bayview Avenue, in Cranston, RI. His employer was listed as Oscar Leach, Leach England Works, Charles Street, in Providence, RI.

In later years, Uncle Lionel and Aunt Elizabeth moved to West Warwick and lived for a time in a multi-family home on Youngs Avenue, which was the next street over from Gra’s Gra’s house on South Street.

Music was, and still is, an important element in the James family. My great-grandfather, George L. P. James, was a banjo player–known for playing throughout the Pawtuxet Valley area during the early 1900’s. According to a handwritten record by George, he states that his grandfather, William James, was said to have given music lessons, in Providence.

Gra Gra played the piano, the ukulele and the Hawaiian Guitar. I remember that Uncle Lionel played the banjo but I am not sure if he played any other instruments. I do believe all of his son’s played instruments: drums, banjo, guitar, piano and at one time they had a band.

Below are two pictures of the apartment where Uncle Lionel and Aunt Elizabeth lived during the early 1960’s, it was located on Youngs Ave., in West Warwick, R.I.

Photo from 1962, Gra Gra at the piano and Uncle Lionel watching from the couch, taken at his Youngs Avenue apartment.

Another photo of Uncle Lionel at the Youngs Avenue apartment.

My grandmother relied on her brother Lionel when she needed help with “handy” things and I guess that would include snow-shoveling. Apparently, there was a big snowstorm during 1963 and I found three pictures of Uncle Lionel in the snow.

Uncle Lionel, in 1963, in the snow with his car. It looks like he is parked outside Gra Gra’s on South Street at the bend which would mean the house in the background would be up on Greene Street.

Uncle Lionel on the steps of Gra Gra’s house on South Street.

Uncle Lionel and his snow shovel making a path in Gra Gra’s backyard on South Street, in West Warwick, RI.

During 1964, the town constructed their first elderly residence facility, the West Warwick Manor, and Uncle Lionel and Aunt Elizabeth were part of the first residents to live there. In 1967, they celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary and there was a big party (I think it was a surprise) for them in the recreation hall of the manor. It was a great time and there was a honky-tonk band which kept everyone on their feet, including me–dancing and dancing along with my cousin Kim. It is one of my greatest memories.

Around that timeframe, Uncle Lionel was beginning to have some serious health issues and I can remember he was in and out of the hospital a few times. One of the things I loved most about him was his great sense of humor. Although his failing health was no joke he would try to make light of it by telling stories of the hospital nurses giving him the nickname “Old Ironsides”.

His body rebounded on several occasions, even though fighting a tough battle. However, his fight ended on January 19th, 1969. I can still remember that I had to bring a note into school for permission to be released early in order to attend his visiting hours. I was in sixth grade, at the time, and we were in Science lesson when I had to leave for the day. I do not remember going to the actual funeral, only the visiting hours, so I think my mom did not have me attend it.

Aunt Elizabeth was then alone to finish her journey in life, until I believe 1971. I am not positive on the year and I made an effort to find that information to be sure. I did find an entry in the family Bible of February 13th but there was no year listed. I remember her as having a huge heart. She treated everyone in a kind manner and seemed to have boundless energy. I can remember many events at church with her always being there–lending a helping hand.

Below is a picture of Aunt Elizabeth taken at Gra Gra’s house (I recognize the chair) and it may be one of the last pictures of her.

It was my intention to complete this posting sooner, closer to Veteran’s Day, but clearly that did not happen. I wish that I had thought about the first World War family connection sooner in order to allow for me to complete it in time. However, it is always nice to learn a little more about family history and how it ties into local locations. I really did not know much about Fort Greble prior to conducting some research for putting this piece together.

With the clues provided by the family postcards it really helps to serve as a base to learning more about history–events, places and people.

Until next time…

LeValley Homestead & Moore’s Motor Service

Long time, no write! Although putting together blog pieces would be my personal favorite thing to do, my reality is such that the level of priority for it is on a much lower scale.

A few months ago, I came across some old billheads that belonged to my grandparents from a variety of local businesses here in our Pawtuxet Valley, partially encompassing the towns of West Warwick and Coventry, Rhode Island. As my thoughts began to formulate the potential for a great blog post, including some background information on these businesses, it soon became clear that the volume of material is just too large for one post and would never get completed if left to the full extent. Therefore, I have decided to break the material down into smaller pieces. I make no promise as to a timeframe for the next installment but will do my best for the near future.

In brief, this post will focus on the following: a little history on my maternal grandfather, some background about the home my mother grew up in on Fairview Avenue, known as the LeValley Homestead; a little piece of our Carr family line; and, some history of Moore’s Motor Service.

It is with my featured postcard that I will begin, both the front and back sides are shown below.

This was a postcard sent out by Moore’s Motor Service of Quidnick (Coventry) as a car advertisement in November of 1943. The card was mailed to my grandfather, T. Wm. Watts, during the timeframe when he, my grandmother and my mother, resided at 42 Fairview Avenue, in West Warwick, RI. The message on the reverse side of the card reads: “Your present car may be the down payment on a New 1944 Hudson 6 Sedan. Come in for a good deal now.”

According to the Pawtuxet Valley Preservation and Historical Society, it was in 1927 that Stanley E. Moore, operator of a small repair garage in the village of Lippitt, purchased the former Quidnick Company Store building. He renovated the front, turning it into an auto showroom for new cars. He also built an extensive addition on the rear of the building for his repair garage.

This business provided one of the first dealerships in Coventry, an old ad reads:

Moore’s Motor Service New and Used
Dealers in Hudson-Terraplane, Studebaker Automobiles and G.M.C. Trucks
Providing 24 hr. Towing Service

It remained a dealership until 1954, then went on to operate as an auto and truck repair garage owned by Clarence Moore, Stanley’s son.

One of the billheads, that I found a few months ago, was a repair bill from when my grandfather had some work done at their garage in 1933, as pictured below.

This is one of few businesses that have remained in operation all these years and I took a couple of photos of their building and sign to show what it looks like in current times.

 

If you look at some of my other blog posts, you will see that my family history has a Moore line and I have no idea, to this point, if the Moore family that operates this business is a relation. Maybe as time goes on I can research that further. For a little background on my Moore line, please see my posting: Intro to Grandma Julia and the Bitgood’s Pine Knoll Laboratory.

My maternal grandparents, Bertha L. James (Gra Gra) and T. William Watts (Pop Pop) were married on June 24, 1915 by Rev. Frederick Sandford, in the Clyde section of West Warwick at the home my grandmother lived in since the age of 10.

My grandfather was born on February 20th, 1886 in Long Eaton, England and died on March 24th, 1960. His parents were: Jonas Watts born in Bedford, England, died May 21, 1923 and Mary Jane Pepper-Shepard born in Kegworth, England, died November 16, 1921, in England.

In his younger days, my grandfather played trombone, was a member of the Royal Light Marine Infantry of England and was a boxer, wrestler, weight lifter and bowler. He came over to the United States in 1910, settling in the Riverpoint section of West Warwick.

When he first came to America, he boarded a room at the home of James Lyons, over the Carroll Brothers’ Store, in Riverpoint.

He became Dean of Lace Weavers of the Pawtuxet Valley, Branch 7, Amalgamated Lace Operatives of America. He is on the left in the mill picture below.

He was one of the first to help set up the first lace machines, in 1911, in the Pawtuxet Valley. He was a weaver from the time he was 16 and had been employed at Bancroft Lace Co., West Warwick, RI. He also helped set up machinery when the Phenix Lace Mill on Maple Avenue was getting ready for operation. When he came to America, there were lace plants in West Barrington, Alton and Riverpoint. He went to work for Harry Bodell, foreman, son of Gilbert Bodell, prominent in local lace weaving circles at the time. His pay in those days was $35 per week for a 54-hour work week.

Some of the known associates, to my grandfather, in the lace weaving trade were as follows: George Clarke, Thomas Clarke, Robert Fletcher, William Coates, George Bradford, Clarence Coates, Joseph Tivey, Harry Haywood, Alfred Bell, Jack Thornhill, Bill Burton, Bill Stephenson, Joseph Holmes, Edward Hampson, William Hampson, George Hampson (3 brothers).

After marrying, my grandparents lived for a time on Harris Avenue, West Warwick, in an apartment, but at some point moved into and rented the LeValley Homestead at 42 Fairview Avenue, which was the home my mother grew up in. They later purchased a home of their own on South Street.

My mother told me several stories about living in the farmhouse, as she called it. Without my remembering the exact details, one of her stories had something to do with an area that did not get much heat in the winter and goldfish that froze and would thaw in the spring. Another story focused on the lack of indoor plumbing and having to use the out-house. All stories were told with the fondest of memory on her part.

The Carr-LeValley house, shown above, has quite a history and has been the subject of a few newspaper articles in the past. I will touch lightly on some recorded history I found but will not repeat anything from the newspapers. I do recall reading a story written several years ago about residents that have lived there, but it had no mention of my own family that resided there many years.

The following history information on the Carr-LeValley house was found online from a copy of the 1987 publication: “Historic and Architectural Resources of West Warwick, Rhode Island: A Preliminary Report. By the RI Historical Preservation Commission.”

The Carr-LeValley House, located at 42 Fairview Ave., in West Warwick, was built about 1722 and is most likely the oldest still standing in town. The house is a one and one-half story farmhouse, with a center chimney and gambrel roof.

The house had been built by a descendant of Caleb Carr (1616-1695) (he came over on the ship “Elizabeth and Ann” with brother Robert), who served as 16th Colonial Governor of Rhode Island from May 1695 until his death from drowning on December 17th, 1695.

Caleb’s granddaughter, Sarah Carr, acquired the property. She married Rev. George Pigot, rector of King’s Church (later known as St. John’s Episcopal Church) in Providence from 1723-27, and they lived in this house. In 1727, Rev. Pigot traded this property with Peter LeValley, a resident of Marblehead, Mass. LeValley, was said to be a Huguenot descendant and former sea-captain, and he resided here until his death in 1820.

The house has a plaque located on the front that says “LeValley Homestead 1722”.

The older photo, (second one above), showing the complete homestead was part of my grandmother’s pictures and it shows an addition that had been built onto the back but at some point that was removed. A few months ago, I went by and took some recent pictures, one was of the plaque using my telephoto lens feature and I took a couple of others as shown below. The picture of the side porch was taken from the side street around the corner from it. Some of the trees that were in front of the house have now been cut down.

A few years ago there was an open house here as the son of a previous resident was looking to sell it, I wish that I had taken advantage of that to have a “look-see” on the inside.

The photo below was taken in front of the barn, my mother at about age 14 with my grandfather. It seems she was looking for some dollars.

In the photo below is Gra Gra’s maternal grandmother, Harriet Ann Zuill Carr standing by the porch of the house at 42 Fairview Avenue. She lived until November of 1925, so the picture was taken prior to that time.

This Harriet was a daughter of John and Harriet (Roberts) Zuill. John was a Scotchman, born in 1815 and died in 1881. His wife, Harriet, was born in 1826 and died in 1892–she was brought up by three uncles-Lord Roberts, a Doctor and a Tavern keeper.

Harriett Ann Zuill Carr married George Henry Carr and they had two children, Martha and Samuel George Carr. Martha was mother to my grandmother.

In future posts, I will explore more of this family, branches of both the Zuill and Carr lines. My grandmother always told us that she was a direct descendent from Governor Caleb Carr; however, I am still working on proving that line…it may be that she actually descends from his brother Robert. There is only so much genealogy time to go around and so many family branches to explore, both maternal and paternal, that it may still be a while before I get to solve my many family mysteries.

Here is one last picture of my grandfather taken in 1957 after they had moved to their home on South Street.

In closing, I am not sure what the future will hold for the Carr-LeValley Homestead, I don’t believe anyone is currently living there. Recently, there have been some trees removed so I wonder if there will be other work done in the near future. Often I have thought it would be nice for it to be maintained as a historic site, like a museum…wish I had the dollars, or connections, to do such a thing.

Until next time…

Update Note: My best estimate for the years that my grandparents and mother resided in that homestead would be from approximately 1920 to 1941, I need to do a bit more research to make a better determination.