Intro to Aunt Etta And Her Great Adventures

My family has a long line of strong, independent-minded women and Henrietta Jane James was certainly one of them. By studying many of her postcard correspondence, I have learned she had a spark for adventure. Being the sister of my great-grandfather, Aunt Etta was actually my great great Aunt. She was born in Providence, Rhode Island on April 17, 1861 and lived to the age of 82, dying on April 24, 1943. She was one of ten children (siblings listed toward the end of this piece) born to Charles Henry James (1824-1892) and Julia Ann (Moore) James (1836-1914).

Learn more about Etta’s mother Julia (Grandma Julia) in blog post: Intro to Grandma Julia and the Bitgood’s Pine Knoll Laboratory

The earliest picture that I have found of Aunt Etta is shown here to the right, it is a tintype photo. Most likely, this picture dates to the mid-1870’s which would be her teen years.

At the age of 17, Henrietta was married to William T. Hooper on July 10, 1878. He was born about 1860 and died in 1932. According to the 1930 Census, William was living on Peck Street in Franklin, Mass., where he and Aunt Etta had lived for many years. He was still working as Deputy Sheriff for the District Court in Franklin. For some reason, on this 1930 Census, Aunt Etta was actually living on Spring Street, in Franklin, as a “lodger” in the home of Francis and Beatrice MacDonald. In the near future, I may find some clarity on this–were they separated, or perhaps she a caregiver of some kind? Over the years, Aunt Etta had lived in other places including at St. John’s Parish in Providence and for a time in Worcester, Mass.

This photo with bikes, to the left, was taken of Aunt Etta with her husband Bill around 1900 which would make her close to 40 years old at the time.

She and William had two children, both of whom tragically died early on: Ethel May was born on December 14, 1879 and sadly drowned on May 31, 1884; Irene was born on July 4, 1885 and died nine-months later on April 1, 1886.

There are two pair of shoes that belonged to Ethel May that have been passed down to me via my grandmother (Gra Gra). It seems that I remember my grandmother mentioning that someone in the family was a shoemaker that made them. These baby shoes were made in 1879 and 1881 and are pictured below.

The photo below was taken in 1913 with Aunt Etta wearing the print dress at age 52 and her husband Bill on the left in the picture. The other ladies I believe to be nieces, I am working on getting better able to specifically identify them. From the expression on her face, one can only wonder what she was thinking at the time.

In time, Aunt Etta became involved in organizations, one of those was the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) which was the official Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The group of pictures shown below are from a very small luncheon brochure from 1926 that has been passed down that belonged to Aunt Etta, the last page of the brochure shows the symbol for the WRC.

The GAR, sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, was founded in Decatur, Ill. in 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson and disbanded in the late 1970’s. The membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who had served from 1861-1865. The GAR held Annual Encampments with the final one being held in 1949, in Indianapolis, Ind.

The 49th National Annual Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic was held September 27th thru October 2nd, 1915, in Washington, DC. There is a postcard pictured below that Aunt Etta had sent to my grandmother (Gra Gra) on Friday, September 24, 1915. She noted, “I leave Boston Sunday morning, (September 26th) at 9 o’clock for Washington, DC with the Grand Army”. At this time, Aunt Etta would have been 54 years old.

The Annual Encampment, in 1915, recognized the 50th Anniversary of the Grand Review when in 1865 the Union Civil War Armies marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. This event in 1915 was to be a reproduction of the original Grand Review and included a parade which passed by President Wilson and cabinet members. Many aging Veterans participated in this march for the last time. Some of this information was found from a historical newspaper article that appeared in the Herald Democrat dated July 6, 1915 that had been published in advance of the event.

My featured postcard at the top of the blog is of the Tea Room at the Sweet Heart Inn, Shelburne Falls, Mass. This 1920’s postcard was from The Albertype Co., of Brooklyn, NY.

According to “The History and Tradition of Shelburne, Mass.” the Sweet Heart Inn was built in 1914. Later, more seating and foods were added and it became the Sweet Heart Tea House. Alice Brown made heart-shaped molded candy from maple sugar called “Maple Sweethearts”.

Living in New England, the fall season becomes a brilliance of color with the changing foliage. Even in the present day, we enjoy a beautiful fall ride along the Mohawk Trail, also known as Route 2, in the northwest section of Massachusetts. And so it was the opportunity for such an adventure, perhaps, that in 1922 on October 14th and 15th, Aunt Etta took a fall automobile ride which would include the Mohawk Trail. According to Aunt Etta’s budget list, one of their stops was for dinner at the Sweet Heart Inn. One of the other images shows the list of towns they visited: “going through” and “Returning through Mohawk Trail”. Their journey began in Worcester and went as far as North Adams, having gone through the Berkshires. Aunt Etta, age 61 at the time of the trip and is standing in front of the auto wearing the dark-colored hat and lighter colored dress in the front row along with her traveling companions.




One of the pictures above (with the little roof) is of the “well at Jacob’s Ladder” which would have been on the first part of their journey, the “going through” section of her travel list. The picture would have been from the Jacob’s Ladder Trail Scenic Byway, part of what is also known as Route 20, as they went through the towns of Chester and Lee. This trail opened in 1910 for the new “horseless carriages” and there was a 100-year celebration held in 2010.

As I will explore some of the family interactions via postcard correspondence in future blogs, it will be helpful for me to provide some genealogical information here and make additions to it along the way. The following list will show the siblings of Aunt Etta and their spouses, I will save listing any offspring for future writings:

  • Harriett Ann James was born in Dighton, Mass., on November 12, 1854. She married William J. Young (born 1858) on July 4, 1878 and in the 1880 Census they were living in Providence and William was listed as a Jeweler. Harriett died of childbirth on December 8, 1893.
  • William Henry James was born in Dighton, Mass., on November 4, 1856. He married Mabel A. Dollof on December 25, 1877, in Providence.
  • Charles Edward James was born in Providence, RI on February 10, 1859 and died July 13, 1861.
  • Martin Royal VanBuren James was born in Walpole, Mass., on May 22, 1864. He married Mary (Mollie) J. Pease on November 20, 1895 in Boston, Mass. 
  • Ethan Allan James was born in Providence on November 25, 1866. He married Jennie Taylor in Conn. He died on November 6, 1928 at Backus Hospital, in Norwich, Conn. They are both buried at River Bend Cemetery, in Westerly, RI.
  • George Lang Parkhurst James (my great-grandfather) was born in Providence on February 25, 1869 and died March 15, 1926. He married first to Martha Ella Carr in 1890 and second to Susan Mary Henrich, from Plainville, Mass., on October 12, 1899.
  • Charles Frederick James was born in Providence on December 27, 1870 and died on September 7, 1871.
  • Byron Madison James was born in Providence on September 23, 1874. He married (unknown name at this time) and divorced. He was said to have disappeared for twenty years and died about 1935 near Schenectady, New York.
  • Frank Daniel James was born in Providence on November 29, 1876 and died on June 5, 1883.

The picture, just above, with Aunt Etta standing on the right with the man sitting who I think is her brother Ethan Allan, not her husband. I may be able to make a better determination in the near future.

We will learn more about Aunt Etta together in future blogs.

The picture you see here to the left is probably one of the last ones taken of her, so it is most likely from the 1940’s.

My mother used to mention Aunt Etta from time-to-time since she was fortunate enough to know her in person. By reading her extensive collection of postcards, in part at least at this point, I have grown to know her better and find her fascinating.

For myself, and for those that may choose to read my blog, I look forward to learning and sharing more about her life, as well as, her extended family.

Until next time…


Intro to Grandma Julia and the Bitgood’s Pine Knoll Laboratory

She was the fourth born of eleven children, Julia Ann (Moore) James and she was my great great grandmother. In 1907, according to the postmark on my featured postcard, Grandma Julia was residing at 18 Pleasant Street, in Plainville, Mass. Upon some effort on my part via the Internet, I made an attempt to find an existing home in the present day at that address with no success. Therefore, I assume either the address numbers on the street have since been changed or the home no longer exists.

The Bitgood’s Pine Knoll Laboratory, was operated by George E. Bitgood and was located in Farnumsville, Mass., which is a historic district encompassing the Village of Grafton. Located on the Eastern bank of the Blackstone River, the Village has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1996. According to the front of this postcard, Bitgood’s sold an Original Compound, vegetable syrups, ointments and powders including the use of roots and barks.

It seems that the postcard was sent to Grandma Julia to serve as a reply after her payment for an order was sent.

On the front right edge is a handwritten message for a receipt, to the best of my ability, it says: “Your check received allright, many thanks for same and promptness. Yours in Respect, G.E. Bitgood Farnumsville, Mass. 8/14/07”

Grandma Julia was born December 19, 1836 in Salem (Chesterfield), Conn. to George Martin Royal Van Buren Moore and Harriett Otis Daniels. Her father was born in the Chicopee Mountains, Monson, Mass., on April 5, 1804 and died at the age of 79 in 1882. He married Harriett Otis Daniels in Old Lyme, Toron, Conn., they had eleven children. In upcoming blog postings, I will get into more details about some of the siblings and other extended family as they come into play with exploring the postcard correspondence.   

Grandma Julia’s mother Harriett was born in 1812, the only child of Betsey Widger and Ransford Daniels. He was a sea Captain and was lost at sea, leaving behind his widow and daughter. Betsey Widger remarried to Stephen Otis and they had ten children.

At the right here is a tin type photo of Julia Ann (Moore) James probably from the late 1800’s.

In 1853, Julia married Charles Henry James, in Massachusetts, and they had ten children, two of whom died as infants. In a later blog, I will list their children. Charles Henry was born July 1, 1824 in Bennington, Vermont. He was the son of William Henry James and Catherine Jane (Simmons) James Northup. From his parents William and Catherine, he had two siblings Henrietta and Sally. After his father’s death, at about the age of ten, Charles Henry and his sister Henrietta were placed with the family of Dr. Wilcox who sent him to Williams-Town College. After the death of Dr. Wilcox he lived with a family named Mattison at North Pownal, Vermont.

According to my grandmother’s notes (Gra Gra), that were passed down to her from her own father…this William Henry James was a writing and music teacher. He hired a school and taught evenings in Providence and surrounding towns, 12 lessons for a $1.00. When he was not teaching, he ran a shingle mill.

After William’s death, Catherine remarried to Ichabod Northup, Jr. and they went on to have a son also named Ichabod. I may explore this further in future blogs, as my genealogy research continues on this branch.

Both Grandma Julia and Charles Henry James were Nurses by occupation. Julia retired in 1909, only five years prior to her death. In this photo, Julia is on the left. I am not sure who the other girl is.

Prior to 1860, Julia and Charles resided in Dighton, Mass., then in at least the 1860, 1870 and 1880 Census they lived in Providence, R.I. In reviewing some Census information in prep for this blog, I noticed in 1860 they had a Phillis Moore, age 84, living with them. There will need to be some more research with this but it is possible she is Julia’s Great Aunt. At first, I thought maybe it would be her grandmother but her father’s mother’s name is supposed to be Clarissa. So, perhaps I can get the mystery solved and share that another time.

Charles Henry James died on December 19, 1892, in Providence (sadly, notice that was on Julia’s birthday). From reading the postcard correspondence, from the collections passed down, I have learned that after this timeframe, Julia tended to reside in Plainville, Franklin and Attleboro, Mass.

This photo was appears to be taken not long before her death and it is actually a real photo postcard. The gentleman standing in the back would be her son, it was either William or Martin. The two ladies, I am not certain who they are but I think they would be either her granddaughters or nieces. I am still working on better identity for them. Although I have most of the genealogical data on this branch, trying to figure out who they are in the pictures can be a bit difficult.

Grandma Julia Ann (Moore) James died on April 12, 1914 at the age of 77 yrs., 3 mths., 24 days. Her residence was listed as 121 Peck Street, in Franklin, Mass. According to her death certificate, she had Cancer of the Pylorus (stomach) over the previous year and had been sick for a month from February 27th until the 12th of April. She and Charles Henry (along with their daughter Harriet) are buried in Springvale Cemetery, in Rumford, R.I. Since I learned this a few short years ago, I have made the trip a couple of times to visit their graves, I do have photos but they are not handy at the moment.

This introduction for my great great Grandma Julia is compiled of a few more “facts and figures” and a little less personal touch than I might like. However, as I am able to share some of the postcards that belonged to her and can share her correspondence between family members then more will be learned and shared about her life in a more personal way.

My next blog will introduce you to the last of my three “leading ladies” Aunt Etta (Henrietta). She is the daughter of Julia and Charles Henry…assumably named after Charles Henry’s sister Henrietta. Until next time…


Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital

My blog today will be introducing you to my grandmother, otherwise known as Gra Gra, one of my three leading ladies as was mentioned in my first post. She was assigned the name by my eldest brother and later discovered that the word “gra” was a Greek derivative for the word “love”, this being learned within the context of completing a Crossword puzzle. Gra Gra was thrilled to think her grandson had been smart enough to create this name that would turn out to mean “love love”.

Back in 1891, on this date of September 12th, she was born as Bertha L. James. Her life went on to span the course of 92 years until her passing in the early morning hours of February 4th, 1983.

She grew up in the Foxpoint section of Providence, Rhode Island. Her parents were Martha Ella (Carr) James Cady and George Lang Parkhurst James, both are pictured below.

In 1896, at the age of five, her parents were divorced and at the time there were two younger brothers, Lionel and Howard. The court ruled for Gra Gra and Lionel to reside with the father and the baby Howard to reside with their mother. Three years later, in 1899, her father was remarried to Susan Henrich. From this second marriage, two sons were born–Vincent and Lester.

After completing the fifth grade, my grandmother found it necessary to leave her education in order to help support the family. Her working day, in the mill, consisted of ten to twelve hours with her earnings for the week being a mere $4.00.

Even though her classroom education had come to a halt, she never gave up on her inner thirst for knowledge. She was an avid reader and studied a variety of subjects. In a published article, while in her 80’s, she referred to the benefit of learning from others, those she felt to be smarter than herself.

In 1905, her family moved from Providence to the Clyde section of West Warwick. Soon afterward, Gra Gra joined the local Riverpoint Congregational Church where she was an active member for the following 78 years.

Over time, my grandmother was quite the poet, an animal lover and greatly enjoyed her gardens. Her family was very musical and so it was that she played the piano, the ukulele and Hawaiian guitar.

In 1915, she married my grandfather Thomas William Watts “Pop Pop” who she always affectionately called Bill. They are pictured here together, I am not sure of the exact year of this photo.

Gra Gra was the most selfless person I have ever known, devoting her life to serving others. She was a well-known 4-H Leader for many years and was part of the 4-H All Stars. Prior to WWII, she directed local Minstrel shows. Once the war hit, many of the young men in the area headed off to war so those show productions ended. In later years, she would fondly tell me stories about the various costumes as we examined them from a large trunk in the basement.

My featured postcard today is of the Kent County Memorial Hospital, located in Warwick, the postcard itself was printed by the printcraft shop from Cranston, Rhode Island. This hospital was chartered in 1946 and first opened its doors in 1951. My grandmother was a volunteer at the hospital from the time those doors first opened until the mid-70s, this was some time after she had become legally blind making it too difficult to read. She was a member of the hospital auxiliary and I can remember when they held an annual fundraiser where there would be a large tent set up on the front lawn and my grandmother would serve as a fortune-teller of sorts–using her set of tarot cards.

I have at least two plaques that were presented to her from the hospital for her volunteer work there. The following quoted item (shown below) is from a type-written speech that is attached to the back of a plaque from the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Corporation, held on Tuesday, November 19, 1963. The front of the plaque itself says it is an Award of Appreciation for 2,000 hours of unselfish devotion to Volunteer Service.

The second plaque is in recognition of 20 years of Volunteer Service to Kent Memorial Hospital, presented in 1971.


Bertha began her volunteer and auxiliary service at the opening of K.C.M.H. She is one of the first women to be assigned to the information desk in the old business office, and has moved with the desk to each of its new locations. Wednesday afternoon and Mrs. Watts at the Information Desk have become synonymous, and on the rare occasion when she has been unable to report on that day it’s just hard to believe.

Because of her many other community activities she has a wide circle of friends in Kent County, and the information desk on her day, sometimes has the appearance of a ‘homecoming reunion’. She has also had much experience working with teenagers, and has ‘adopted’ many of our Candystripers, with whom she continues to keep in touch as they pursue their careers.

She has served on the auxiliary board in various capacities, and worked on many of the auxiliary projects. And, like all the women being honored tonight, she is a dedicated, loyal supporter of K.C.M.H. and my friend and neighbor for more than fifty years!

Read and presented by Robert E. Quinn of the United States Court of Military Appeals. He is also a former Governor of the State of Rhode Island.

Gra Gra was known as the “lady with the braids” as she had worn them crossed over in a circle upon her head for over fifty years. Many young folks called her “Aunt Bertha”.

The picture on the left is of my grandmother and parents, taken some time after 1941.

When I was a very young person, Gra Gra was always very heavy-set in weight and I felt she was a bit stern in demeanor. The turning point came when I was about the age of nine, she had a slight heart attack, lost a lot of weight and we became much closer. It was from about this timeframe, I started spending a lot more time with her, staying over on weekends and school vacations. In the beginning, I think it started as me trying to help her but in the end what enrichment she provided to my life was so much more–she became my sanctuary and always listened without judgement.

The photo on the right was probably one of the last pictures taken of my grandmother and to me this picture, taken in her kitchen, is worth a thousand words.

So many conversations were had at this kitchen table, she passed along so many stories of her life–many were repeated over more than a few times. Even the objects in the picture hold so many memories, the “blue” sugar bowl that would have been sitting on the lazy Susan along with the orange and fiesta green salt and pepper shakers and the sterling butter dish with the little holder for a butter knife. On the counter, in the background, is the pedestal cake stand that may have been harboring a goodie or two. The large double-doored cupboards with a matching set on the other side of the window were filled with dishes, I think there were three, maybe four, sets of dishes–many were collected from the movie shows that gave them away, one piece at a time.

My grandmother followed the “spring cleaning” routine, meaning each spring we would work together taking down the dishes from each shelf row at a time from the cupboards and hand washing each item. The same was done with all the nicknacks located on the whatnot display. During spring school vacations, we also spent many hours raking leaves from the huge yard and garden areas.

She used to tell stories of when she was a child in school and the teacher each day would write a different saying on the board, things like “honesty is the best policy” and “things done by halves are never done right”. Most of these little sayings were taken to heart and “rules” my grandmother lived by over the course of her life.

What a life it was…and so in honor of her birthday, I have explored just a few pieces of her life. In future posts, I will explore other details and explore more genealogy for both her Carr and James ancestors.

Thank you for reading, watch for my next post which should be my introduction to Grandma Julia, another leading lady but whom I did not have the pleasure to meet in person but yet have learned a little about from reading some of the family postcard correspondence.

Until next time…

Intro to my blog

Welcome! Let me begin by introducing you to myself and my brand new blog.

My blog title of Darpity Jean’s Blog is based on my nickname that I had acquired from my best childhood friend, Debbie, to whom I dedicate this first post in dearest memory. Today, being September 8th, would have been her birthday and it just seems to be fitting to finally get this blog off the ground on this day.

With the exception of about six months, I have resided in Rhode Island for all of my life. Though it is the smallest state in the USA, it certainly is the greatest in many ways. Most of my life has been spent within the communities of Warwick, West Warwick and Charlestown (in South County).

My extended family would be considered to be what is called Swamp Yankees, they never threw anything away–so true, it is. Fortunate for the sake of this blog as I will have plenty of material to work with.

This blog has been on my “back burner” for quite a while now. Even in these recent days, when I finally decided to take the plunge, it seemed like I was never going to get to the actual writing due to the sifting through all the technical page settings. Please bear with me, on the technical end of this page, as I may still need to make fine tuning adjustments. By the way, I do have a saying that goes something like “learn something new every day” and this sure has been a learning process.

The intention of this blog is meant to be an exploration, on several levels. My plan is to explore some postal history, from my ancestors, in the form of postcard correspondence as many of these postcards reveal stories about their lives. There will be some family genealogy information shared, primarily from my James branch of the family tree. The actual postcard images that I share on this blog will also be explored, with any notes of a historical nature that I might be able to provide.

To begin unfolding my family stories, the first few blogs will focus on my three “leading ladies”. It is from them that I have inherited quite the postcard collection, many with great images from around the New England area. Each of the three ladies, my great great grandmother (Grandma Julia), her daughter Henrietta (Aunt Etta), and my grandmother (Gra Gra) will each have their own Intro posting, helping to provide some background information for each of them.

My goal is to continue my blog posts at least once per week. If time is short on my end there may be posts that simply show an uncirculated postcard image, or gallery of images with some brief background information.

There will be times when I may post something other than postcard images, like old photos or some vintage memorabilia.

The postcard image leading my blog today is of The Majestic Hotel, Arctic Center, in West Warwick, Rhode Island. The following information was taken from the RI Historical Preservation Commission Survey Report of 1987. The Majestic Block, was located at the corner of Washington and Main Streets, built in 1901 by Joseph Archambault (after the block previously burned down Nov. 3, 1900). In addition to rooms along the exterior, the Hotel contained a movie theatre, bowling alley in the basement, a bar and a drug store at street level. The postcard itself was from prior to 1920. In my younger years, I remember this building being Majestic Hardware, it has been gone now for several years–torn down–it was replaced by a park with gazebo.

My Logo, shown below, is an original drawing by my mom, from 1940. Thank you for viewing my first blog entry. Until we meet again…