Posts Tagged ‘Ferguson’

A Potential Breakthrough! – Jennie Ferguson

My “Greatest” Aunt Natalie was instrumental in piquing my interest in genealogy and most recently entrusted me with her work of 30+ years.  When she passed, exactly a year ago today, I wrote “Rest in Peace my Greatest Aunt Natalie and thanks for the wonderful legacy….AND if you can hear me, please send a SIGN to help us FINALLY find Jennie Ferguson’s parents John and Elizabeth!!!!” (click here for post about Aunt Natalie).

This post tells what I know of Jennie Ferguson’s life (click here).

In a nutshell, Jennie might have been born in the area near Richibucto, Kent, New Brunswick, Canada (according to daughter Jennie Haines Johnson’s 1919 death certificate, informant was her husband Ernest Johnson; other records specify a generic birthplace of New Brunswick) likely about 1858, records place her birth between 1856 and 1864**.

** Jennie’s birth year ?

  • The Boston Globe death notice lists her as age 82 (b. abt 1856) Her death certificate puts her age at 74 (b. 1864);
  • Her gravestone reads 1858-1938;
  • the 1880 census puts her age at 22, b. abt 1858 (assuming it is really her and not someone of the same name – she is working as a domestic);
  • She is listed as age 23 when she married in 1882 (b. abt 1859);
  • the 1900 census lists a birth date of Jun 1866, age 33 and says she was married 18 years. If correct, this would put her age 15 at marriage;
  • the 1910 census gives her age as 51 (b. 1859);
  • 1930 census, there is a woman of the same name as an inmate at a hospital in Boston, age 73, b. 1857 – not sure if this is her as she supposedly owned and was living in a house in Billerica (no records in Billerica have been located – land deeds of Middlesex North are not online and I have not had the opportunity to visit)
  • If she is really the Jane Ferguson in the 1861 Canadian census (mentioned herein), her age was 4, thus she was b. abt 1857

jennie-ferguson-haines

Jennie relocated to Boston in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s where she likely was employed as a servant. She married there on 7 March 1882. Her husband was William John “John” Haines, born 7 Mar 1856 in Richibucto, son of John Haines/Hains and Alice Edith Childs. They likely knew each other before arrival in Boston, from Richibucto, as Jennie was a best friend to John’s sister Mary Haines (according to Mary’s diary).  The marriage record names Jennie’s parents as John and Elizabeth. The Rev. John Hood, who married them, is listed in Boston City Directories in that time period at United Presbyterian, corner of Berkeley and Chandler Streets (the church record of this marriage has not been located).

An entry in Mary Haines’s diary reads:

26 January 1882: “John came over from Chelsea this evening. We had a lovely time together. Jenny Ferguson my dear friend came down from Richibucto. She was here tonight.  Just came on the boat today. I am so glad to see her. She is my dearest friend” [ship manifest not located].

All available birth, marriage and death records for Jennie, John and their eight children have been reviewed.  She is named as Jennie or Jennie Ferguson in all except one – her daughter Margaret Elizabeth’s marriage in 1909 names her as Jennie Garfield. Garfield might be a typo or a clue….

Another “clue”might be the name Glatis/Galatis.  Jennie named her first son John Glatis Haines.  Glatis is not a name of the Haines family, so perhaps it is linked to the Fergusons.

Records were examined in New Brunswick and no individuals with a surname similiar to “Garfield” or “Glatis/Galatis” seemed to be associated with Fergusons. Both names were uncommon in that area.

Other children’s names may offer clues: Ella May, Margaret Elizabeth, Minnie and Jennie (Edith, Alexander, John and Joseph are Haines family names). Mary Haines’ diary mentions her closest friend besides Jennie is Minnie Gordon, was Jennie’s daughter named after this Minnie? Minnie has not been identified in records, but there was a Gordon family who resided near or next door to Elizabeth (Potts) Ferguson, Jennie’s probable grandmother, in 1861 in Weldford, Kent New Brunswick.

Jennie was Aunt Natalie’s (and my grandmother Edith’s) paternal grandmother, thus my paternal gg-grandmother.

1861 Ferguson Family

In Weldford Parish, Kent, New Brunswick, 1861 (census page 27), an Elizabeth Ferguson was enumerated with her “brother” Archibald and his two nieces, 4-year old Jane (a common nickname for Jennie) and infant Jepie (perhaps Jessie). Further research places the family in South Branch, a village about twelve miles from Richibucto. Mary Haines’ diary circa 1880-1883 mentions her visit home to Weldford.

south branch

1861

Right next door to Archibald Ferguson is James Alexander Clare.  John Hains (Jennie Ferguson’s father-in-law) married a Jane Clare in 1865; online trees name James and Jane as siblings. Thus a potential connection as neighbors, between the Ferguson and Haines families.

Two pages away, and thus likely nearby, in this same census (page 25), listed just after the family of Thomas Gordon, is Elizabeth Ferguson, of the age to be Elizabeth and Archibald’s mother, with her children Agnes, Robert, Andrew, Mary and granddaughter Mary, age 6 [this granddaughter is listed as age 21 in 1871, then is not found marrying or in later censuses – who are her parents? – could this be Jennie listed by a middle name? or her sister?].  There is also a John Graham listed as Elizabeth’s son. The census is unclear, but further analysis indicates this may be her son from a prior relationship.

1861 elizabeth

The Robert Ferguson named in this census as a son of Elizabeth Ferguson, filed a delayed birth record in 1932 where he names his parents as William Ferguson and Betsy Potts, he writes that his mother had 6 children, all of whom were living.  If Elizabeth had eight children, he would have been Elizabeth’s 6th child in birth order: (1) John Graham, (2) Jane, (3) Elizabeth, (4) Archibald, (5) Agnes, (6) Robert, (7) Andrew, (8) Mary.  Or if his statement is accurate, it is possible two of these children were not born to Elizabeth (a land deed, discussed later in this narrative, names children 2-8 as heirs of William Ferguson).

Side note: Robert named children Jennie and Jessie (perhaps family names?)

delayed birth.jpg

The marriage of this couple was published:

PANB, Daniel F. Johnson. Date December 28 1830, County Northumberland, Place Chatham, Newspaper The Gleaner and Northumberland:

m. Thursday 10th, by John Jardine, William FERGUSON, Esq. / Elizabeth POTTS, Harcourt (Kent Co.)

Land deeds further connect the Ferguson, Potts and Graham families.

land deeds ferguson.jpg

For example, in 1856 Archibald Ferguson, Andrew Ferguson and John Graham all of Weldford jointly buy land of John Potts of Wellington.

land purchase.png

A cemetery transcription at GALLOWAY CEMETERY in Rexton (formerly Kingston, just south of Richibucto) reads:

FERGUSON, William  died  Apr 19 1844  aged 59
native of Dumfrieshire, Scotland

William Ferguson and Elizabeth Potts’s apparent last child, Mary was born in 1841.  The 1851 census for Kent County did not survive.  Elizabeth is widowed by 1861 and the census offers a race/where born of “Scotch Newcastle Dumfries”.  Thus, this grave transcription could be her husbands (although there was a land deed filed in Weldford, 18 October 1844 where William Ferguson and his wife Betty sell land to John Graham – the deed reads that William appear on this date, if accurate he could not have passed six months prior to his appearance).  Jannet (Dunn) Childs, mother to Alice Edith Childs and James Childs, grandmother to William John Hains was also said to be of Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Perhaps a connection between the families.

Elizabeth is buried at St. Andrews in Rexton next to Captain Simon Graham’s second wife Mabel Plume. Was Simon related?

FERGUSON, Elizabeth  died Jan 16 1872  age 72
wife of William FERGUSON

Elizabeth potts death

Elizabeth’s grave states that she is of New Castle on Liddesdale, Rocborough Shire [Newcastleton, is a village in the Scottish Borders and within the historic boundaries of Roxburghshire, a few miles from the border of Scotland with England. The village is in Liddesdale and is on the Liddel Water, and the site of Hermitage Castle. The planned village of Newcastleton locally titled “Copshawholm” was founded by Henry Scott the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch on the 4th March 1793 taking the place of the original village of Castleton as a centre of development for flax, wool and cotton handloom weaving].

map.png

Weldford Scots.png

Kent County probate records were destroyed by fire, however an 1869 a deed was filed that names the heirs of William Ferguson:

Andrew Ferguson, Archibald Ferguson of Weldford….Agnes Ferguson, Elizabeth Ferguson and Mary Ferguson, all of the same place spinsters.  Jane Evans, wife of John Evans of the same place, all heirs of the late William Ferguson deceased.  It then goes on to name Eliza Ferguson wife of Archibald Ferguson and Robert Ferguson also heirs.

william heirs

page 2

Marriage

While it is possible that Elizabeth Ferguson had two children out of wedlock, she may have also have been widowed and thus Archibald’s sister-in-law.  However, she is named as a heir to William Ferguson and a “spinster” indicating that perhaps she never married.  Since Elizabeth Potts named a son John Graham, she likely did not name a subsequent son John Ferguson. This might indicate that although Jennie’s father may have been named John, his surname would not likely have been Ferguson.

In 1871, Elizabeth, a servant, and Jessie Ferguson were enumerated in Richibucto Parish (Jennie/Jane was not found this census year); given the age variations for Jennie in various documents, it is also possible that she was “Jessie” and her name was misinterpreted by the census enumerator:

William Fitzgerald (widower, wives were Honora Hickey/Jean Potts)- 78
Elizabeth Ferguson – 32
Jessie Ferguson – 9
John McWilliams – 4

That year’s city directory places Fitzgerald in Weldford, South Branch.

1871

William Fitzgerald was likely related through his marriage to Jean Potts, probably a sister to Elizabeth Ferguson’s mother, thus William was probably an uncle.  In 1871 there was an exchange of land between William Fitzgerald and Robert & Andrew Ferguson, his likely nephews. Fitzgerald’s will is found in December 1875 New Brunswick land deeds; assets are left to his son-in-law and daughter, Richard English and wife Mary.

No definitive connection has been found between the Fergusons and John McWilliams, but he could be a relative. There was a John Childs, age 14 enumerated with Elizabeth in 1881. This could be John McWilliams enumerated with another surname in error. He was not found under either surname after this date. In 1871 there is a McWilliams family near Elizabeth (Potts) Ferguson in Weldford: William (63, b. Scotland), Christine (58, b. Scotland), Alexander (30), David (22), Janet (24), Anne (20), Christina (18), John (18), Archibald (10).

Elizabeth Ferguson married James Childs, son of Joseph Childs and Jannet Dunn, 28 January 1875; both were of Richibucto.  The marriage was solemnized by Rev. James Law (1822 – 1882) minister of St Andrews Church, Rexton for 32 years from 1845 to 1877 – the church yard where Jannet Dunn and Alice Edith Childs are buried). More of the church and it’s origins here – A-historical-account-of-St-Andrews-Church. Witnesses were Nicholas Childs (James’s sister) and William English.

Note: In the 1871 census, Elizabeth Ferguson was enumerated as family #155; James Childs’s with his father and siblings are listed on the prior census page, families #147 & 148 – this is also where Mary Haines was enumerated in 1861,  she and Jennie Ferguson might have crossed paths and become friends while neighbors between 1861 and 1871. 

An entry in Mary’s diary dated 1 Dec 1881 reads: Seven years ago today [1874] dear Joseph [her brother] and I left Weldford for Nova Scotia.  Confirmation that both Haines and this Ferguson family were residing in Weldford.

A witness to Elizabeth and James’ marriage, William English (son of Richard English and Nancy May Fitzgerald,  daughter of the William Fitzgerald with whom Elizabeth resided in 1871), was part of family #149.  There were also several land transactions recorded between William Fitzgerald and William English.

childs feg marriage

James Childs was brother to Alice Edith Childs, who was mother to Jennie Ferguson’s husband John Haines and her best friend, Mary Haines!!  This seems to be another connection between the Haines and Ferguson families!!!!!! (more details on the Childs’ family here).

In 1881 and 1891, James and Elizabeth were enumerated in Weldford Parish.  They had two sons, James and William Joseph (neither seemed to marry or have children).

There was a John Childs, age 14 enumerated with them in 1881 (possibly the John McWilliams listed in 1871). It appears this John died in 1888.  The newspapers reports: “John CHILDS of New Brunswick, while at work in a gravel pit on Sourdinahunk stream, Maine [Nesowadnehunk, Northern Maine near Mt Katahdin] was killed last Friday by the bank caving in on him. He lived a few hours”.  He is buried at St Andrews near James’s mother Jannet and sister Edith.  Death records list cause as an accident, his age as 22 but a residence of New Hampshire.

john childs grave

By 1901 James and Elizabeth relocated to British Columbia, where Elizabeth died 31 July 1913.

Elizabeth Childs death

In 1915, James next married his g-grand niece, Elizabeth Mitchell, who was 20 years his junior (widow of Adam Stothart; daughter of James Walter Mitchell and Elizabeth Mary Haywood), with whom he had four children – Janet Bertha (1915-1922), William Albion (1916-1976), Sarah Jean (1919-1930)  and Hattie (1922-2011) before he died in 1923.  Elizabeth Mitchell mother, Elizabeth Mary Haywood was the daughter of James Childs’ sister, Jane Childs.

Jennie’s best friend, Mary Haines’s grandson Ralph Stevens, inherited a photo from Mary’s collection. Mary kept in touch with her uncle James and his wife, the photo was included with a letter by Elizabeth (Mitchell) Childs.  The photo reads: These are Bertha and Billy Childs my half bro. + sis. Don’t you like my little Billy boy? Yes, he is a little darling + mouse.

Billy and Bertha

 

To date, I have only located Hattie Childs’s obituary and it it has no mention of Jennie. If a Stothart descendant wrote the obituary they may not have been aware of a relationship if there were one.

Hattie Childs.jpg

Maps

A map of the area and the 1865/6 Kingston (now Rexton) directory further connects families.  William Ferguson is in RED.  Nearby in GREEN are the following connected families:

James A. Clare – father of Jane Clare, second wife of John Hains (m. 1865) and step-mother of Jennie Ferguson’s husband John and best friend Mary Haines.

Joseph Childs – Grandfather of William John Haines, Jennie Ferguson’s husband.

Richard English – son in law of William Fitzgerald, likely his wife is 1st cousin to Elizabeth Ferguson.

Simon Graham – Elizabeth Ferguson seems to have had a child named John Graham and she is buried next to Simon’s second wife Mabel Plume.  They could be related.

James Morton – father of Alexander Morton who married Mary Childs, sister to James Childs (husband of Elizabeth Ferguson) and daughter of Joseph Childs and Janet Dunn

William Fitzgerald – likely family with whom Elizabeth Ferguson was living in 1871, likely a maternal uncle.

John Potts, Jr. – likely relation to Elizabeth Potts, wife of William Ferguson.

map.png

Kingston.png

Potential Jessie connection (likely not accurate if Elizabeth Ferguson was a biological daughter of William)

A search of the 1871 New Brunswick census reveals only one Jessie Ferguson born between 1855 and 1865 in New Brunswick (using search criteria Jes* F*s*n – where * is a wildcard).  There is one other enumerated in New Brunswick as Jessie C Furgusson who was born in PEI  abt 1857. Her parents seem to be John and Sharleen. The same search in the United States, in 1870 with a birth place of Canada (and Maine), yielded no matches.

A Jessie Ferguson of the correct age to be Elizabeth’s daughter, born in New Brunswick, is found in 1880 working as a servant in Portland, Maine.

On 07 Nov 1882 in Portland, Cumberland, Maine, she married George W. Johnston.  The couple relocated to Wisconsin and then to Washington State. Children included Ernest, Ada, Sarah, Gordon and Bernice. Most census records list Jessie’s birthplace as Maine, only the 1880 census lists New Brunswick.

Jessie died 17 Oct 1934, Port Angeles, Clallam, Washington.  Her death record names her parents:

death jessie

Jennie Ferguson’s parents were also named as John and Elizabeth!  Could Jessie be a sister and Elizabeth’s maiden name Wallace?  Or did Jennie’s sister die young and Elizabeth Ferguson daughter of William have two children out of wedlock?

Conclusion

I am still searching!  But this information is intriguing…Aunt Natalie, are you listening? – send me a sign!!

A few last notes: The only other Ferguson family in the area of Richibucto was that of Jacob Ferguson (first wife Elizabeth McNarin , second wife Agnes Dickie).  I took a photo of his grave at Saint Andrews, Rexton cemetery when I visited in 2014.  His stone states that he was a native of Wallace, N.S. (census record also list a Nova Scotia place of birth about 1824 – 6 years prior to the Ferguson/Potts marriage).  Descendants of this Ferguson family appear in the Drouin Collection of Catholic Church records, Richibucto; the Ferguson family I’ve outlined and Jennie were likely Presbyterian.

Thus Jacob is probably not a member of William Ferguson’s family. Although he is buried in the same churchyard and both of his marriages were also performed by the Rev. James Law….

jacob grave.jpgjacob2

elizabeth graveagnes death

UPDATE October 2016 – We have a DNA match!!!!!!  The tree of a 94 year old tester, J.F., states he is the grandson of Archibald Ferguson, son of William Ferguson and Elizabeth Potts!!!  We mutually match four testers who have not responded to my inquiries (one with a 56 CM match and three in the 20-27 cM range), three of them have no family tree and the fourth has a sparse tree with no similar surnames or locations.

The largest shared match (56 cM) has an Acadian screen name.  When I select “in common with” I get 10 pages of Ancestry matches (thus a connection to my mother and not Jennie who is on my dad’s side)!  Same with one of the other smaller matches. The other two matches and I only have J.F. in common.

J.F. shares 68 cMs with me across 4 segments on Ancestry.com, thus about 1%  (he is not on GEDMATCH so I have been unable to identify specific segments).  A match of this size would predict us being about third cousins, so second cousins three times removed essentially falls into this range.

J.F.’s other lines were reviewed.  He does have a number of French surnames, many of which are likely Acadian. We do not have any common matches back 5 generations on those lines. My mother is 50% Acadian, it is possible that we have common ancestors many generations back.  Given that we only have matches in common with four other testers (and I have about 1,400 Acadian 4th cousin or closer matches on Ancestry.com), despite endogamy, it is unlikely that Acadian ancestors back more than 5 generations could contribute such a high percentage of DNA and if it did, we might expect to see a number of smaller segments vs. just matching on four.

I have hopes that the tester will eventually upload to GEDMATCH (my mother’s results are there) so that I can further prove or disprove matches to my maternal Acadian line, and perhaps increase confidence this is a true Ferguson match.

UPDATE March 2017: My paternal uncle’s results are in!!  He would be a second cousin 2x removed to this tester if my theory is correct.  My uncle shares 183 centimorgans across 7 DNA segments. Second cousins 2x removed on average share 81 cMs, but the range (according to Blaine Bettenger) is 0-201.  dna test

The testers grandson also tested (thus my 4th cousin 1x removed and my uncle’s 4th cousin).  I do not share any DNA with the grandson, however my uncle shares 39 centimorgans across 3 DNA segments (average is typically 31 with a range of 0-90 according to Blaine’s chart).

Another Ancestry.com tester, bwest984, matches my uncle at 26.8 cMs and me at 19.6cMs.  She is a 2nd g-grandaughter of William Ferguson and Betsey Potts, thus my uncle’s 3rd cousin 1x removed (they should share 0-156 cMs) and my 3rd cousin 2x removed (we should share 0-82 cMs) .

Untitled.png

One of Jennie’s grandchildren  has also tested and results are pending.

In summary, Jennie’s grandparents were most likely William Ferguson and Elizabeth Potts and Archibald was likely her uncle.  One of William and Elizabeth’s children was likely a parent to Jennie.  Although not proven, information seems to suggest that her mother might have been Elizabeth.

The Haines Chicken Farm, Vallejo, California circa 1920

My 2nd g-grandfather, William John Haines, “John”, born  7 March 1856, Richibucto, Kent, New Brunswick, to John Haines/Hains and Alice/Alise Edith Childs, married Jennie Ferguson, daughter of Elizabeth Ferguson, on 8 Mar 1882 in Massachusetts.

John and Jennie had eight known children: Edith, John Galatis, Alexander, Ella May, Margaret Elizabeth, Joseph (who died as a child), Minnie and Jennie.  Much of their story can be found here

wj haines chart

A letter dated 20 March 1976 from John and Jennie’s’s granddaughter Ruth (Walsh) Frawley (daughter of Ella), to another granddaughter, Marion (daughter of John Galatis) reads:

…My mother did not seem to have much love for her mother; but her father was her pride and joy. John, her father, was a part time minister in the Congregation church at Orient Heights and a Chemist.  He invented disinfectant and had a small lab in the backyard. Jenny sold the formula to Cabot Chemists and that was the last straw. So they separated….[city directories indicate William John Haines was a “chemist”, working from home, 1906-1908]

After separation, John rented a room at 5 Dwight Street, Boston.

John Haines Dwight Street

In a letter to his sister, Mary Haines Stevens, 27 July [likely 1918] from Boston, John implies a breakup:

Dear Sis, have not heard from you in quite a while, did I offend by my strange statement about my son, but i want you to know he is no good [likely John Galatis Haines], he aided his mother to break me up in business and when they got possession of it, they began to rage each other and soon broke up, so you can understand how i feel towards them. i am now living a happy lonely life, hoping to hear from you soon, i remain your brother John.

letter from John to Mary

John and Mary’s siblings, George Haines and Lizzie Haines Heggland died, and the pair corresponded of jointly inherited property in California.

On 12 September [likely 1918] from Boston, John writes:

Dear Sis just rec[eived] your letter today was glad to hear from you, i had a letter and documents from your lawyer but i considered him insulting and did not answer him, but will sign and forward the papers to you, and if i should come you can give me a small corner on a rainy day, if i come i will fix it up for you.

my address is 5 Dwite St Boston care Mis Sulivan

i am rooming and take my meals in a restaurant, i am surprised that there is anything left from George’s estate, do what you think is best.  Edith is working in Lowell, will write a long letter next time, i am sending you back the envelope, you will laugh to see it, i have hid it away from everybody and enjoying good health and a fair share of the world’s goods.

i met the old lady the other day [Jenny ?], she turned her back on me, she has got quite vain, she dies [dyes] her hair brown, so you see what I am missing, believe me she is some babe.

i have a nice room and enjoy the evenings reading. my youngest boy is on a troop ship he has maid [made] a number of trips to France, my oldest boy is working in the fo__ river yard, they are launching a destroyer every four days, he gets 65 dollars a week, Minnie is working at a bank on State St, good by[e] for the present.

another letter 2letter page 2page 3page 4

Next on 30 September from Boston, John writes:

Dear sister Mary, just rec[eived] your two letters tonight , i am mailing you a quit claim on Lizzie’s land so the home will be yours, and make that man put everything back as it was. i think the fairest way to settle George’s land is for you to sell the land and divide it fifty fifty, if i should come out i will fix up your little home for you, if this propishing [? proposing/proposal] meets your approval go ahead and sell George’s land, i remain your brother John

another letter

On 2 October, John writes:

Dear sis i wrote that letter in hast[e] but on careful thought you had better sell the land in napa and reserve the other land, we can divy fifty fifty on the napa land for i may have Christmas din[n]er with you and then we can make plans for the future. your brother John

That was my son Alex’s letter [he encloses a letter he received from Alex who was aboard the Ticonderoga in WWI], he is on a troop ship, he has be[e]n acrost [across] a number of times. i mailed you the quit claim yesterday.

john pg 1 john pg 2

The next letter written was postmarked 17 October 1918, a few weeks after his son Alex was killed [read Alex’s story here: https://ticonderogashiplog.wordpress.com/]:

Dear Sis,

I am moving tomorrow near my work _ a steam heat, elec[tric] lights, write to Boston Consolidated Gas Co Everett, ____, Mass.

Use your own judgement about the property.

My son went down with the transport that was torpedoed, I regret that they didn’t have a fighting chance but were brutally murdered.

Your brother John.

Letter to Mary from John

An undated letter, likely in the same time frame:

Dear Sis – Rec[eived] your letter i read the case of your cousins husband in the Boston paper and wondered who he was.  you can send the deed to me and i will have it filled out and send back. You can send the check to the gas works making it payable on the National Shaumut Bank of Boston.

Jenny is tooling around with Alice Emroe, the Emroes are a bad lot, there is only one good one among them, that is Jim, i have not seen him for years, your brother, John [James Ameraux/Emroe is the son of Patience Haines, John and Mary’s aunt]

john letter to sis

In a letter dated 7 Dec [likely that same year], John further expresses interested in coming to California and asks for a chicken:

Dear Sis rec[eived] your letter, i want you to come to Boston next summer and we will go to our Old home town and go back to Cal[ifornia] together. i have too [a] young couple who are going with me to settle down, he was in the navy and is very happy [?] he wants to buy that lot of land in Vallejo but i stared [steared] him of[f] as of i want him to go out and look the field over and then buy, his wife is an angel. How many foot of land is there in that lot, is it a corner lot or center lot.  Let the Napa land go for what you can get for it.  I am alone in the world, get me a chicken when I come, brother John.

john dec 7 letter pg 1 john dec 7 letter pg 2

In February [likely 1919] John writes again from Boston:

Dear sis just rec your letter tonight and am more prompt in answering, you are mistaking about me not coming, i am leaving boston the first of august, i lent a young couple two hundred dollars on a short loan, they were to raise a loan and pay me back, they could not raise the loan as they had no security to give so I told them they could pay me five dollars a week without interest, if i only get part of it by the first of august i will come, i have some stock in the company, i can turn into cash so i will have a little start when i get there, i shall perhaps come by water and see the canal, there are nothing here for me to stay for, remember me kindly to george and mildred, i remain your brother John.

I am sending you my identification card, it will tell the story.

feb letterpg 2 feb letter

Later in 1920, John made it to California.  Below he is pictured with his sister Mary and nephew (Mary’s grandson, Ralph Stevens)

Mary Steves her brother W John Haines nd grandson Ralph Stevens

In 1978, John’s nephew Ralph wrote to my Aunt Natalie (John’s granddaughter):

william and Ralph.jpg

Note English cap and hanky in pocket – your Grandpa was a dude when he dressed, smoked long clay pipes, had neat pen knives.

FullSizeRender (22) FullSizeRender (20)

Ralph wrote a short narrative of his “favorite” Uncle John and the Chicken Ranch (which he describes as “Home Acres” between Vallejo and Benicia, opposite Catholic Cemetery):

chick farm map

…When Uncle William John inherited half interested in the house at 235 Wilson from Aunt Lizzie, generous brother that he was, he quit-claimed his interest to his sister [Mary]. He and grandma had an understanding that for his share he would have the privileged of living at the house, if he so chose. He was in Boston with his children at that time but soon decided to move to Vallejo.  Uncle John was my favorite man in those days and I shadowed him at every opportunity.

He told me wonderful stories about his many years at sea in the merchant fleet. He had been all over the world and shipwrecked several times. Also he was an expert whittler and bought me fancy jack-knives, which my mother promptly took away since I was only about five.  However she later gave them to me and I promptly lost them all. I remember my favorite one was shaped at the handle like a ladies leg. I remember when he came home with that one, my mother saying “What a thing to buy for a five year old”.

Despite Uncle John being such a neat guy, for some reason Grandma could not abide the old sailor and we inherited him at our house.  I was overjoyed that my favorite man would be living with us. Not so sure mother shared my anticipation, but good Christian that she always was, she agreed, and Uncle John came with his duffle and sea chest.

This raised a question. What could Uncle John be employed at age sixty plus. Dad’s brother John Robert [Stevens] wanted to move to California but had a really fine position with Deluth Railroad, with steady income, pension benefits and all the goodies that go with a middle executive position in a small but very stable railroad that hauled iron ore to the smelter year after year, from the world’s largest open pit mines in the world at that time.  But he and dad had a really good thought. We will set Uncle John up on a Chicken Ranch and Uncle Robert would move in and take over when it began to produce. But that is another story.

ralphs story

Robert Stevens wrote his mother often, and many times asked about the chickens, one example, 8 May 1922:

….How is everybody and the chickens? I suppose Uncle is having an awful time fighting disease and lice. Do not let him work too hard Mother as I know he would kill himself to make a success out of them.  He sure is a good old scout and we sure miss him. When are they figuring on buying new chicks?…

letter from bob to mom

Ralph when writing of his grandmother Mary adds more of his Uncle John and the ranch:

…They decided on a chicken ranch as a family business. Mary arranged for her retired brother William John Haines to move to Vallejo to start the business. [Mary’s] Son George purchased a small ranch between Vallejo and Benicia and stocked it with 5,000 chickens, and Uncle John, an old sailor man, was not a good manager, as he was well into his sixties.  The ranch did not do well….

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What Ralph neglects to mention is the “Rooster Story” as relayed to me by his daughter Catherine:

As a small boy, about age six, it was Ralph’s “job” to feed the hens. He was terrified of the rooster [a farm typically just had one rooster] who went after him daily.  His father suggested that he carry a stick to protect himself. Ralph, far from dainty, took it a step further.  He brought a two by four! The rooster was beaten to death. Boy was everyone mad!

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Chicken farm

We do not know much more of the Haines/Stevens farm, but historically in the early 1900’s, families who had flocks of this size sold eggs as their primary income source (the average chicken would lay between 80-150 eggs per year). Chicken meat was a delicacy being reserved for special occasions and holidays only (although as an adult Ralph had an aversion to chicken; anytime a chicken died or was injured from becoming stuck in the coop wire, they would have to eat it – apparently he was made to eat plenty in his younger days!).

After his sister Mary’s death in 1924, John returned to Boston where he resided with his son John’s family and a few years later with his daughter Ella’s family, until his death, 21 October 1939.

 

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