When my g-grandmother Georgianna (Hughes/Clough) Hall passed in 1964, a Cecelia Stevenson sent condolences from Indianapolis, Indiana. Next to her name, in my grandmother’s handwriting, was written “relative”. Something about this intrigued me. I searched for cousin Cecelia “Celia” Perry/Parry for years and am finally able to share a small part of her story.
In Georgianna’s address book was written:
• Mrs. L.A. Stevenson – Celia Cynthia [address crossed off] Indiana.
• C.K. Stevenson – 1320 N. Delaware Indianapolis Indiana
I never put two and two together! I hadn’t realized this was my missing Celia Parry!
Cecelia “Celia” was born 12 August 1899 in Galeton, Pennslyvania to George Perry/Parry and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Phillips. She was a first cousin to my g-grandmother, Georgianna. Georgianna’s mom, Kittie (Perry) Hughes/Clough/Shipman, was a sister to Celia’s father George.
Lizzie (Phillips) Parry
Celia’s mother gave birth to at least eight children (censuses indicate nine), three of whom died in 1891 of diphtheria. At the time, Celia’s father, had deserted the family, to marry another woman (story here). Her mother’s sister, Miss Alice Phillips, cared for the family. Celia’s mom and eldest brother Daniel, age eight, recovered, but the younger children—George, Alice, and Arthur—died. When George’s second wife learned he was a bigamist, he disappeared.
By 1893, George and Lizzie reunited and relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota where their children William “Will” and Elizabeth “Bessie” were born. George’s mother Ann (Jones) Perry Evans passed in 1896 and her obituary places George in Oregon (no other evidence places the family there). By 1897 the family removed to Galeton, Pennsylvania, near George’s sister Cordelia (Perry) Palmer/Spoor, where their last two children, Celia and Frederick “Fred” were born. By 1910, they were living in Westmoreland, Oneida, New York.
When Celia was thirteen (5 April 1913), her 50 year old mom died in Oriskany, Oneida, New York, cause unknown.
It seems the family then returned to Pennsylvania. On 30 March 1916, at age sixteen, Celia gave birth to baby boy in Williamsport, Lycoming, Pennsylvania. She named him Richard [side note: my Autosomal DNA matches that of Richard’s daughter]. The name of the boy’s father is unknown, but based on family lore, it is possibly something like “Schwartz”.
The boy was adopted by Henry and Jennie (Dykeman) Seltz of Galeton, Pennsylvania. Perhaps Celia selected the adoptive family, as they were neighbors to her aunt Cordelia’s step-son, Leland Spoor (she likely thought of Leland as a first cousin; his mother died when he was two and Aunt Cordelia raised him).
Celia’s photo album (now with her granddaughter) includes photos of little Richard and Mrs Seltz. The Seltzs must have kept in touch!
By 1920, Celia was a “roomer” in the home of Eugene and Laura McKee in Jamestown, Chautauqua, New York. She was employed at a garment company as a machine sewer. On 1 March 1920, she married her fellow roomer, Phillip Lee Kessler, a street car railroad conductor, son of Charles Kessler and Nellie Phillips (no known relation to Celia’s mother). The marriage was short lived; the pair divorced 12 Aug 1921. Despite the divorce, Celia’s nickname “Kess”, stuck for the remainder of her life.
When Celia’s dad passed in 1923, she signed as the informant on his death certificate, listing her residence as Galeton, Pennsylvania.
Her father’s obituary, however names Cincinnati, Ohio as her place of residence.
She was enrolled at the Good Samaritan Nursing School in Cincinnati, Ohio, and graduated in 1924. After graduation, she took a position in the same town as a nurse for a private family, rooming with fellow classmate and good friend, Marie Barlow and a 59-year old widow named Mary Sohngen. The three paid a total of $75/month rent.
Celia next married Lincoln Augustus Stevenson, son of Frank Stevenson and Catharine Freil. In 1932 they were living in Columbia, South Carolina. They had a daughter, Mary Cynthia Stevenson, born 12 Sept 1933 in Indiana. She was likely close to Lincoln’s 10 year old son by a prior marriage, Richard Lincoln Stevenson, as he was named in her obituary.
Although Celia and Lincoln were divorced by 1940, she continued to use the name Mrs. Celia K Stevenson for the remainder of her life; Celia appears in the 1940 census as a nurse at St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove, Marion, Indiana. She worked 48 weeks that year and made a total of $660 (she also received more than $50 from other unnamed sources). Eight year old Mary Cynthia was not found in 1940, but when her father died in 1950, she was listed as resident of Indianapolis.
Cynthia’s daughter offers the following detail:
Due to WWII, my mom Cynthia “Cindy” was sent to a Catholic boarding school, St. Joseph’s Academy, in Tipton, Indiana. She became a Nun but never did her final vows. She went to St Mary ‘s Notre Dame and then to St Louis University where she met her husband (“my dad”)..
Cindy has another half brother- Young Stevenson, of Montgomery Alabama. He has five kids and lots of Grandkids!
Cecelia never drove a car and lived for years at 1320 N. Delaware, Indianapolis ( I still remember that address); a studio apartment. She inspired me to become a nurse.
On 10 September 1946, Celia’s eldest brother Daniel died in Wellsville, Allegany, New York.
In 1947 Celia’s aunt Alice E. Phillips (her mother Lizzie’s sister) died. Alice had never married and did not have children. There was a four year court proceeding over her will – numerous newspaper notices offer details of her sister and brother arguing over the inheritance – A number of them named “Cecelia Parry Stevenson” as a heir (she was not one of those directly involved in the suit).
Celia’s mother Lizzie (Parry) had siblings Alice, Arthur, Lena (Hatcliffe), Mary Ann (Valentine), Rose (McBride) and Fred. At the time of the trial, only Lena and Fred were living. Alice never married, worked hard, lived frugally and left a sizable estate. She had changed her original will, which was essentially a 50/50 split between Arthur and Lena (with Arthur’s portion in a trust, paying him income for life) to one which left the majority of the estate to Arthur..Lena contested this, saying he forced Alice to revise the will, utilizing his attorney (just six months after the initial will was written) and supplying his own associates as witnesses. She further claimed Arthur was a drunk who rarely worked, who physically and orally abused Alice, forged signatures on checks to draw money from her bank account and threatened her with “the bug house” if she didn’t modify the will to be in his favor. Alice feared him; he kept her isolated from friends and family as she was not mobile in her last years..The testimony of the witnesses tended to prove these facts. Arthur admitted that he threatened Alice with the “bug house”. Lena won the case, the jury having found that the will was procured through undue influence. Arthur appealed and lost. According to newspapers, the case was settled in 1951..Read details here, type Alice Phillips in the search box
In 1953, Celia served on a panel at St. Vincent’s entitled “The Nurse as the Priest’s Assistant in the Spiritual Care of the Sick”.
In 1954, Celia’s picture was in the local paper, as an attendee at a private duty nurse’s brunch (likely on the far right).
In 1968, she was a prize winner at the Grand Opening of a local shopping center!
On 1 May 1977, Celia’s brother Fred died in Conneaut Lake (shore), Pennsylvania. She never mentioned other siblings to her grandchildren. Although one grandchild, while in college was in touch with her brother Daniel’s daughter, Elizabeth I. “Bette” (Parry) VanDurme in New York.
The whereabouts of Celia’s sister Elizabeth “Bessie” Parry (who married John Burge) and brother William “Will” Parry are unknown. The last source mentioning them was in probate notices, related to their Aunt Alice, in 1951. Her sister might be the Elizabeth Burge who died 8 Dec 1966 and is buried with John Burge (d. 1978), at Pleasant Valley Cemetery, Hammondsport, Steuben County, New York.
UPDATE: Celia’s granddaughter writes: “We called her Grandma Cel”….”By the way, ” Mrs. Santa Claus” was because she always sent cards at Christmas signed that way. I think I was a teenager before I realized it was her!”
- Son Richard Dykeman Seltz, who she gave up for adoption, married Mary Johnson and had four children. He died 12 March 1996 in Kissimmee, Polk, Florida.
Richard Dykeman Seltz, 79, of 728 Yucatan Court, Poinciana, died March 12. Born in Williamsport, Pa., he moved to Poinciana from Galeton, Pa., in 1986. He was a self-employed glove manufacturer and a member of the Masonic Lodge of Couldersport, Pa., and the Elks Club of Kissimmee. Survivors include his wife, Mary; sons, Richard H., Houston, Texas, Scott J., Chatham, N.J.; daughter, Jeanne Wenzel, Jacksonville, Anne Seltz, Rockville, Md.; eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Fisk Funeral Home, St. Cloud, was in charge of arrangements.
- Daughter, Mary Cynthia Stevenson, married a man named Charles Ford and had three children. She died 9 July 1989 in Sarasota, Florida.
Mary Cynthia Ford, 55, Sarasota, died July 8, 1989. She was born Sept. 12, 1933 in Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind. and came to this are three years ago from Pelham, NY. Survivors include two sons, Christopher of Northport, Conn., and Carl of Westport, Conn., a daughter, Cathleen of Richmond, Va., two brothers, Richard Stevenson of Sarasota and Young Stevenson of Montgomery, Ala., her mother Cecelia Stevenson of Indianapolis, and a granddaughter. Services will be at 11 a.m. today at Toale Brothers Funeral Home, Gulf Gate Chapel. Memorial donations may be made to The American Cancer Society, 3807 Bond Place, Sarasota, 34232.
- Stepson Richard Lincoln Stevenson died 19 April 2010 in Sarasota, Florida
Richard Lincoln Stevenson, 87, of Sarasota, formerly of Fort Wayne, Ind., died April 19, 2010. Services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday at Sarasota National Cemetery.
He is survived by his son, Alan; children by marriage Mark and Marian Kennell, Karl and Becky Kennell and Kathleen and Jon Sutter; grandchildren Lydia Mortensen, Michelle Sexton, Erin Stevenson, Alex, Katie and Trevor Kennell; four great-grandchildren, sister Patricia and Ed Epperson, brother Young and Susan Stevenson; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his loving wife, Shirley; a son David; a sister, Cynthia Ford; and a brother, Sherrad Denley.
Richard was just 19 when he enlisted in cadet school and became a World War II pilot flying in the Pacific. He flew a C-47 called “Gooney Bird” as a member of the legendary Jungle Skippers in the 317th Troop Carrier Group, which later became the 375th. He followed his retirement from the Air Force Reserves in 1956 with a 30-year career as an accomplished jeweler and gemologist. He was also an award-winning gardener, who could literally make anything grow, especially his beloved orchids. He will forever be remembered for his stories that touched the hearts of so many.
Celia kept in touch with her college roommate, Marie. Marie’s son recently shared his memories and photos:
I knew her (1950s – 1990s) as a very caring, wonderful person. She was very close friend, originally to my parents. Kess trained with my mother, Marie Barlow (her maiden name), at The Good Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing in Cincinnati, OH..My mother, before she met my father, came from Grafton West Virginia, to Cincinnati to become a nurse. Kess, my mother and another nurse actually shared an apartment near the Hospital/ school for several years in the 1920s..Unfortunately, much of my info about her is from memories now. My older brothers, who have all passed, may have had pictures and a more complete history of her. But the pictures they had did not survive the years. I have little knowledge of the marriages, or children. (Back in the 30, 40s and 50s, children did not talk unless a parent said okay) So the adults kept private issues among themselves. Later in life, she did talk about a daughter and son-in-law and their children, but I don’t recall details now. I believe Kess actually survived her daughter by a year or so. The daughter had a difficult medical condition, I believe. Kess died at a Convalescent Retirement home near Indianapolis..
Over the years, Kess came to visit when she could, but the last 20 – 30 years of her life were very difficult. Her mobility was very difficult due the pain, arthritis, I think. From about 1940s to 1990s, she lived in a modest apartment on N. Delaware Ave in Indianapolis, IN with a major hospital nearby. She worked there at one time, I think. I visited her a few time over the years. She came to Cincinnati for various holidays and events, including the funerals of my mother and father, for my college graduation, 1968, and later for my wedding in 1978.
She is buried in Section J, Lot 576, grave #8, Washington Park East Cemetery.Kess’ grand-children could be still living. I am thinking also that they are part of the reason for Mrs Santa Claus. I believe, there were times when Kess would send small gifts or notes to children and others, anonymously..Another thought about Kess, relates to her Garden. I believe she was a volunteer at the President Harrison Home. Volunteers would help with the Gardens, among other things, there. That home was nearby on N Delaware Ave. – http://www.bhpsite.org
UPDATE: And the COOLEST part of this whole story??? After this was posted, Celia’s six grandchildren, three by her son Richard “Dick” who she gave up for adoption and three by her daughter Cynthia “Cindy” have met online!! Happy dance! The best part of genealogy – connecting cousins!!
Error in Online Trees and FindAGrave
Several online trees have Celia linked to Curt Stevenson and Lydia Fullmer. These are the wrong parents! This Celia’s maiden name was Stevenson. She married Frank Meals and died in 1978 in Pennsylvania.
Censuses (right click and open image in another tab to see a larger version)