I have been spending this time of COVID, not researching, but working through my files and organizing. The past few days has been spent with loose newspaper files, scanning, giving them a file name and description in my Excel document, and then filing them away.
The next article in the pile was a wedding notice. One of the good ones. The article was published in The Hilbert Favorite (I know this from reading a note from the editor on the back of the clipping). I, unfortunately, don’t know the date, but I do know about the wedding.
I have in my collection a group wedding portrait from that day. Black and white of course, but in this portrait, my seventeen-year-old mother-in-law stands proudly as maid of honor for her cousin, her future sister-in-law, sister of the groom stands next to her. They are holding prayer books and a rosary.
To add color to the day, you just have to read…
“The bride wore a princess style dress with lace and net insertion, a long tulle veil, edged with lace, and a coronet of seed pearls. Her accessories were white and she wore a corsage of lilies, roses and baby breath and carried a white prayer book and pearl rosary. The pearl necklace, which she wore, was given to her by her great, great aunt and uncle…”
“Miss Marie Campbell…was maid of honor and was attired in a salmon colored princess dress with lace and net insertion. She wore a coronet and salmon colored veil.”
“The Misses Ann and Alvina…sisters of the groom, were bridesmaids. The former wore aqua and the latter chartreuse, both dresses being made princess style with lace and net insertion. Both wore coronet’s and veils to match their dresses. All had white accessories and wore corsages of lilies, roses and baby breath. The maid of honor and the bridesmaids carried white prayer books and pearl rosarys which were given to them by the bride.”
I know I can colorize this photo using the new tool at MyHeritage, but even without actually colorizing the photo, reading the above description gives so much color to this summer wedding.
Having spent the majority of my life in the Midwest, many things are new to me. And I recently added some interesting information to my New England knowledge. My son purchased a 1920s bungalow in Pawtucket, Providence, Rhode Island in 2018. The home has a detached garage set back on a rear corner of the property. As we helped him move in, we noticed a weird metal cover that reminded us of a manhole cover. Opening the cover, we discovered that it covered a hole which was now filled with rocks. We chalked it up to a Rhode Island oddity, and continued to move things into the home.
Fast forward to 2020, and I have also moved to Rhode Island, but reside in a neighboring community. This is where the neighborhood Facebook group comes into play, as one day a woman asked if anyone wanted a metal cover that was in her yard, and it sparked a very interesting conversation. It turns out that this cover complete with a foot lever, covered a hole that was intended as a place to get rid of kitchen scraps. It originally held a smaller can that the waste was emptied into, and once a week or so, farmers, (some say pig farmers), would drive through and empty the smaller container into a larger one. The smell must have been awful on a 100° day in the summer! One man remembered that they called these receptacles “honey dips” and the older kids would stick the smaller kids head down into them as punishment for bothering them.
The people remembering the buckets or sharing images of their own covers did not mention when this practice ended, but it is obvious that my son is not the only one with this remnant of days gone by in his garden.
I love house histories. I love to teach people how to research them, I love to tell my own family stories through the history of our homes. There is so much to learn when looking at a place that shelters and protects your ancestors.
Today, we are sheltering in our homes due to the COVID19 virus. We are grateful that our home will assist us in protecting our family from this deadly virus, now turning into a pandemic as everything closes around us. Our lives changing and morphing into something new and unknown.
Oddly, I was in this same place of limbo a year ago today as I left my home of 26 years for a new home, where I knew my life would change forever and would morph into something new and unknown.
We closed on our home in Appleton, Outagamie, Wisconsin on 15 Mar 2019. We started the two-day drive to Rhode Island the next day, and a year ago today we arrived here, and settled in with our son for the night. We closed on our new home on the 18th, and quickly headed to the house to meet the moving van.
The home we left behind was the fulfillment of a dream that started five years before the building process began. We designed every inch of the house, and we have a 20+ page list of design direction to prove it. Our son was nine months old when the weather finally allowed us to break ground. Our daughter had just celebrated her fourth birthday. I have not yet put to paper the story of this house, but I have the photographic journey well documented. The decision to downsize was a hard one to make, but there were many personal reasons more important than the love of a house to push us to make the move. We will always have our memories.
As we drove through upstate New York, down into Massachusetts and finally into Rhode Island, the sense of being in limbo was weighing heavily on my heart.
A year later, the sense of limbo is again weighing heavily on my heart, but like the move, I have confidence that our country, and our world will get through this, and we can again have Hope and move Forward.
House Histories. The purpose of this post. When we purchased this house on a double corner lot in Rumford, Providence, Rhode Island, it had what the neighborhood called: The Wood Room. It seems it was a bit infamous, and it definitely was ugly. It certainly didn’t deter us from purchasing this home, but it did present a challenge. The couple from whom we purchased the home had lived here for 25 years, raising their three daughters, and by their own admission, not doing much to the home. The Wood Room was created by the previous owner, Dr. Frederic Ripley and his wife Miriam and their three children who purchased the home in about 1959.
When the home was designed in 1935, the garage was built about 17 feet from the house. This space later hosted a patio, and also a screen porch (according to neighborhood information). Sometime in the late 1960s Dr. Ripley came up with the idea to create a true addition to the house, connecting the house to the garage. He had access to 200-year-old barn wood from an old barn in Massachusetts, and English hand-made brick, also 100s of years old. He would panel the walls with the barn wood, and build a fireplace using the brick.
Because the home would be losing the service door into the garage, a window in the powder room, the kitchen window over the sink, and access to the outside from the kitchen, as the exterior doorway became an interior doorway, the Ripley’s installed a large, double sliding door on one end of the room, providing access to the back yard. An entryway with closet was designed for the opposite side of the room to provide access to the driveway, and garage.
The footings were laid, and clear pine was used as flooring material. The paneling was hung first, then the ceiling was boarded and plastered. The paneling was left rough, and much as it must have been when it was salvaged. The Ripley’s dream for a fireplace became a large, rounded, raised hearth fireplace. The room was heated with its own steam heat system, utilizing large, floor mounted radiators placed all around the room.
The Ripley’s lived in the home until 1993. Miriam Ripley passing away in January, and Frederic in June. The house was sold the following May. Fast forward to 2018, and the current owners wish to move on. The room looked much as it did when the Ripley’s had a dream, albeit now a bit dusty and covered with cat hair.
Today in 2020, the room has a new life. We, as the new owners also had a dream for the room. Twelve years spent as remodelers in Appleton as Distinctive Renovations helped us to hone our own vision, and work to make it a reality.
The fireplace was rebuilt by a very talented mason who knew just what to do to transform it into a Rumford fireplace. Yes, I live in the community named for Count Rumford who was the inventor of this efficient fireplace design. The demolition produced 8 mice nests that needed to be removed, evidence that fire had been licking its way through cracks in the original mortar, and could possibly have created a house fire, along with a very strange way of building a fireplace.
The brick was salvaged, and some of it was used to create a beautiful hearth. We next hired another talented man to custom build a wall of shelves and a mantel to grace our new soapstone surround fireplace. Work still needs to be done as we need to install the finish molding, but that will come in time.
What about the barn board you may ask? Well, we demoed it ourselves, pulled all of the nails, stacked, measured, and then sold it. We did keep one piece that measures 16 ½ W X 60 ½ L X 1” thick. That was not the longest, nor the widest board, but it was one of the best looking. What we will do with it, time will tell.
This house, a colonial revival built in 1935 is getting a fresh look on life. Our fixer-upper is starting to come back to life. Just as the spring crocus outside my window, it is looking forward to the hope of a new spring…and not being stuck in limbo any longer. Just as I wish and pray for a new spring for our country, that the virus will soon be contained, and we will all be out enjoying the freshness of a new life.
The oldest maps, August 1884 and September 1887, do not include the block that the home which was reportedly built in 1875, was built upon, but I find it in 1891, 1895, 1900, 1906, and 1913. The Key tells me that it is a Dwelling, Frame construction, two stories, with a shingle roof. There is a “stable” on the property, although it is not very large in relation to the house. The 1906 and 1913 map tell us that the stable is approximately 30’ from the Fox River. Residing with S. A. and his family in the 1900 Federal Census is John Pahlman, a servant, age 26, occupation: care of yard and barn. By the 1905 Wisconsin State Census, Enoy Chenett, age 24, had taken John’s place as the “coachman.” In 1910 Enoy had moved on, and John Demandt, age 22, occupation: servant, industry: private home, was residing with the family. So we now know there was a “stable” on the property. S.A. was an early adopter of the automobile, owning one by the August 1906 family reunion, as it was reported by his nephew, L. H. Cook, editor of the Marathon County Register that “Saturday morning S.A. Cook with his touring car and three other like machines that he had chartered left Neenah with the party for a trip around Lake Winnebago.”
Taking a look at the change between the 1900 map and the 1906 map, you can see where they closed in part of the original open porch. Moving to the second image of the home from the Neenah Public Library, I have marked in red this part of the home that was enclosed sometime between 1900 and 1906.
I am very curious as to what the plain small (as shown in the photograph) one story building (as indicated by the number 1 on the maps) at the back of the much more ornate 2 story section, was actually used for – could this have been the kitchen?
Oh to actually see interior images of this home, plus more detailed exterior shots. For now we have the Sanborn maps combined with the few images we have. I guess I should count myself lucky.
 Neenah Citizen, News Item, Neenah Citizen (Neenah, Wisconsin), 1998 Calendar produced by the Neenah Citizen, “Lost Neenah ~ Neenah’s architectural heritage, lost but not forgotten.” Cit. Date: 10 Nov 2005.
 1900 U.S. census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, City of Neenah, 3rd Ward, enumeration district (ED) 127, sheet 1, p. 141A, dwelling 12, family 13, S. A. Cook household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 Apr 2001); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 1824.
 1905 State Census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Neenah, 3rd Ward, p. 10, family 1, line 1-6, S. A. Cook household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Feb 2007).
 1910 U.S. census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Town of Neenah, City of Neenah, Third Ward, enumeration district (ED) 126, sheet 5, p. 279A, dwelling 52, family 53, Samuel A Cook household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 Aug 2004); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 1744.
 “From The Chilton Times,” (Unity)Marathon County Register, 17 Aug 1906, Friday, p. 2, col. 3. Cit. Date: 18 Nov 2003.
There is a modicum of truth in every family story. I am not saying that family stories are meant to mislead, but just like the telephone game we played as children, time has a way of losing some of the fine points of the tale.
Included in the “Cook Book”[i] is the story of Conner Healy’s emigration from Ireland to the United States. According to the story, Conner and a friend, who were about 12 years of age, took an orange flower to the priest, and the result was that they were threatened with excommunication. Fearing for his life, Conner’s parents made arrangements for him to leave the country with distant relatives who were about to depart for America. The story goes on to state that it is believed that the relatives name was Robinson.
Conner, born in Kells, County Meath, Ireland,[ii] (Kells is about 40 miles north of Dublin) was married in Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin by an Episcopal priest[iii], and buried by a Methodist minister[iv]. If he had given an orange flower to a priest, while it would not have been a good gesture, I am not sure how he could have been threatened with excommunication. But I will leave that for another story. I do know that in 1848 the country was still reeling from the effects of the potato famine, and that the Young Ireland movement unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the British rule in July of that year.
Whatever the reason for his leaving, Conner boarded Caleb Grimshaw[v] in the company of Henry Power, age 40, George Power, age 42, and Maria Power, age 38. He is listed on the passenger list as: Conner Heloe, age 13. The ship landed in New York Harbor on 11 Sep 1848, and it is assumed that the Powers, along with Conner, immediately departed for Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin.
By the 1850 Federal Census[vi], Conner was living with the three Power (sometimes spelled Powers) siblings on a farm in the Town of Friendship, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. George is listed as the Head of Household, with a Value of Real Estate Owned of $800. Conner is enumerated as Conard W. Haley, age 30. Put on your best thick Irish brogue and say Conner Healy, age 13, and you can almost hear what the enumerator wrote in the entry. (Did Conner pronounce his last name as hay-lee, not he-lee as we now think of it?) In this 1850 census, the Powers were living on the farm next door to Andrew Cook, so this would have been his first introduction to the Cook Family, as Andrew is the younger brother of my ancestor William Palmer Cook.
Five years later, on 14 Dec 1858, Conner and Mary Catherine (Kate) Cook, daughter of William Palmer and Jane McGarvy Cook, were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral (Episcopal) in city of Fond du Lac by the Rev. George B. Eastman, Rector of the church.[vii]
The 1860 Federal Census[viii] enumerates the couple, now with a son, Henry, living in the city of Fond du Lac in the 5th Ward.[ix] They were enumerated two dwellings after Ebenezer Austin, his wife Anne, and their family. Anne is the sister of William Palmer Cook. Residing with Conner and Kate was Maria Power, now listing her age as 75. Unfortunately, her brothers have not yet been located in this census, but Henry is found enumerated in the 1870 Federal Census residing in the city of Fond du lac with J. C. Robertson, Female, age 70. Henry is listed as being a farmer, with a Real Estate value of $5,500.00.
The story comes together upon the death of Henry Power in 1873, when his last will and testament was presented to the probate court 23 May 1873.
On 24 Jun 1871, Henry Power made his last will and testament which was witnessed and signed in the city of Fond du Lac.[x] In this document he states: “I give to my Sister, Cherry or Charity Jane Robinson, my house and lot on Division Street Fond du Lac, where she now resides…” “I give to my Brother George Power my house and lot on third street, Fond du Lac…” “I give to my adopted son Conner Healy now residing in Fond du Lac, twenty acres of the land which I own in the Town of Friendship, being adjoined to the land now owned by him…” “The remaining ninety [acres] or there abouts of the land which I own in the Town of Friendship, being the south part of the [sadly a piece of tape covers this word] I give jointly to my Brother George Power and my sister Cherry or Charity Jane Robinson, both of Fond du Lac, and to my Nephew William H. H. Robinson, now residing in Oshkosh; wish [sic] whenever dividing [blocked by tape] they will make an equitable decision…” He named George and Conner as joint executors. Maria was not named in the will, as she had passed away in 1864[xi] at the age of 52.
The story is now starting to come together. Conner Healy emigrated with the Power siblings, and sometime after their arrival, Henry “adopted” Conner, whether formally, or informally. If I were to guess? I would guess informally, as Henry was naturalized 15 May 1855,[xii] and Conner appeared before the circuit court to petition for naturalization 5 Nov 1860[xiii]. If he had been formally adopted shortly after arrival, wouldn’t he, at age 19, gone with Henry when he petitioned for naturalization in 1855?
It was not C. J. Robertson who was living with Henry in the 1870 census, but his sister, Charity Jane Robinson. Charity Jane lived to be 101 years old, and because of this we get a glimpse into the history of the Power family.
On the occasion of her 100th birthday, the story of her life was printed in the newspaper.[xiv] She was born at Kells, County Meath, Ireland, and the article states that her birth was recorded in the “little Episcopal church.” She was very well educated as she “could write and speak fluently seven different languages, and besides was an accomplished short hand writer.” The story goes on to say that her grandfather was Richard Power, a captain in the British Navy, and that he had died at age 56 on 2 Sep 1770 at Kells. Her father was a captain of a British war vessel and had sailed to all parts of the world, three times being shipwrecked. Charity Jane was married to Alexander P. Robinson, and together they had five sons, and one daughter, all who emigrated to Fond du Lac County. In 1865, the Robinsons set out to follow their children to the United States. It is reported that shortly before they were to land, Alexander passed away, and was buried at sea, leaving Charity Jane to continue on to Wisconsin, where “for a time resided with her brother, who had a handsome little cottage here.” By 1885, four of her children had passed away, only her son William Henry Harvey was still living. William H. H. was a well-known photographer living and working in Oshkosh, Winnebago County, Wisconsin between 1870-1893.[xv] He passed away 11 Mar 1893 in Oshkosh.
Following her son’s death, Charity Jane, known as Grandma Robinson, resided at the Home for the Friendless, aka The Home, on Arndt Street in the city of Fond du Lac. She passed away 6 Nov 1900 in Fond du lac, at the age of 101.
We may never know why Conner was placed in the care of the Power siblings and sent to America, but it is evident that they were committed to caring for each other. The Powers, especially Henry, while Conner was still a young boy, and later Conner taking in, and caring for Maria at the end of her life.
The George, Henry and Maria Power, Charity Jane Robinson, Conner Healy. Distant relatives? Maybe. But most certainly family in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, USA/
[i] Frederick Douglas Hamilton Cook and Kathryn Ellen May (Somerville) Cook, Echoes from Andrew and Anna: A Historical/Genealogical Story of Andrew & Anna Christina (Palmer) Cook – The Gentle Cook Embrace, 2 volumes (Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada: The Andrew Cook Genealogical Society, 1992), II: 990.
[ii] “Connor Healy,” (Colby)Colby Phonograph, 9 Sep 1909, p. http://www.wiclarkcountyhistory.org/1data/23/23084.htm. Cit. Date: 16 Oct 2018.
[iii] Civil War: NARA – Civil War Pension Records, Civil War Pension Records (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC), Pension Application for Conner Healy, dated 2 May 1881. Cit. Date: 29 Dec 2003. Cit. ID: Robert D. Sternitzky Family Archives.
[v] Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C., “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Oct 2018), entry for Connor Heloe; citing: Year: 1848; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 075; Line: 1; List Number: 1027; Page Number: 9.
[vi] 1850 U.S. census, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, population schedule, Town of Friendship, Dist. No 9, p. 556, 557 [penned], 278-279 [stamped], dwelling 544, family 560, George Powers household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Sep 2003); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 997. Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2016.
[vii] Civil War: NARA – Civil War Pension Records, Civil War Pension Records (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC), Pension Application for Conner Healy, dated 2 May 1881. Cit. Date: 29 Dec 2003. Cit. ID: Robert D. Sternitzky Family Archives.
[viii]1860 U.S. census, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, population schedule, City of Fond du Lac, 5th Ward, Post Office: Fond du Lac, p. 140 (penned) p. 634 (handwritten), dwelling 1071, family 1020, Conner Healy household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Sep 2002); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1408.
[ix] 1860 U.S. census, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, population schedule, City of Fond du Lac, 5th Ward, Post Office: Fond du Lac, p. 140 (penned) p. 634 (handwritten), dwelling 1071, family 1020, Conner Healy household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Sep 2002); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1408.
[x] Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Wisconsin County, District and Probate Courts, Probate Case Files, No 3189-3218, O´Brien, Patrick, Cont – Reed Warren, 1848-1900. Henry Power; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Feb 2020).
[xi] Find A Grave, www.findagrave.com, Find A Grave (<findagrave.com> contributed gravestone photos, cemetery and biographical information), Marie T. Powers Memorial, created by Steve Seim, 7 Jul 2011, Memorial no: 72987052. Cit. Date: 12 Feb 2020.
[xii] University of Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center, “Naturalization Records,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 Feb 2020), Henry Power, 1855; citing: Naturalization Records. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center. http://polk.uwosh.edu/archives/courtrecords: accessed 28 December 2015.
[xiii] University of Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center, “Naturalization Records,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Oct 2018), Conner Healy; citing: Healy – Naturalizations – Declaration, item ID: 83343, Call no: Fond du Lac Series 36, volume 6, p. 219, no: 3464.
[xiv]“Lived in Oshkosh,” The Daily Northwestern, 22 Mar 1898, Tuesday, p. 6, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 13 Feb 2020).
A year ago at this time we were reviewing and accepting an offer on our home of 25 years. A home that we dreamt about for five years, designed, and built in 1993. It was time to downsize. It was also the time that we made the decision to move from Wisconsin to Rhode Island to be closer to our children.
With the move no longer at some point in the distance, but with a definite date of 15 March 2019, on January 27th Gary and our daughter Kate left for Rhode Island to start the search for a home. I stayed in Wisconsin and started the long goodbye of sorting and packing for a home that would most likely be 1/2 the size of our current one.
They left me at the coldest point of the month. I have a screen shot of my weather app for January 30th at 6:33 a.m. At that time of the day, it was -24 degrees, feeling like -59. The high that day was expected to be -9, the low -22. I kept packing, my puppy at my side.
I packed for almost two months, seven days a week, from morning to evening. Kate stopped counting after ten trips to St. Vincent De Paul, Goodwill and the ReStore. While I had been fairly diligent about keeping on top of weeding out things we no longer needed over the years, there were many places in our home for small things to hide. Too many places. Too much stuff.
After we closed on our new home in Rhode Island, Gary and I headed back to Wisconsin to finish up some loose ends. Finishing a kitchen remodel project for him, and for me, the planning committee for the Wisconsin State Genealogical Societies Gene-A-Rama. Amy Johnson Crow was our main speaker, and I was also slated to speak. Then back to Appleton to start working through things at my mother’s home as she was going to join us in Rhode Island. While her home was smaller than ours had been, she had lived there for 39 years, and she had a basement full of memories.
Fast forward to a couple of months ago which found me sobbing in my basement, surrounded by boxes of “stuff” that I had brought with me. Looking for “stuff” that I seemed to have gotten rid of.
Ironically I was also catching up on Amy Johnson Crow’s podcast dated 17 Oct 2019: “3 Unexpected Things I Learned in Downsizing.” https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/3-unexpected-things-i-learned-in-downsizing/. In the podcast, and on the transcript she states: “It was mentally exhausting. Decision fatigue is a real thing. There comes a point where you simply cannot make any more coherent decisions. For my mom, my sisters, and I, that point usually came around the two-hour mark.”
I call this two-hour mark the “F#(*U@K it” mark. It was the point for me where I could no longer care if an item gave me “joy” ala Marie Kondo, I could only think that I could not fathom adding it to a box that I would have to then unpack miles from where I was at that moment. It was the point where I thought, “I don’t need this, I won’t miss this. YEAH! I don’t have to pack it.” Let’s just say that I made lots of mistakes. I DO miss some of the things I donated. I just did not have the luxury of time to take a break, and come back to the problem. You may ask why I did not start packing sooner. Well, it is hard to sell a home full of boxes. And I wanted my home to be viewed in its best light.
The reality is that I got rid of a lot of things I now regret, and I brought with me a lot of things I will now be donating.
Time is the enemy here. Once a house is sold the clock starts ticking. Every second brings you nearer to that moment when you will shut the door for the last time. While you may have gotten rid of too many physical things, you will always have the memories of time spent with family and friends in the house that you are leaving. You need to look forward to the opportunity of making new memories, and let’s face it, the fun of adding a few new tchotchkes purchased specifically for your new home.