Monday, January 30, 2017

Mary Smith Raney's Father, Eugene Smith - His Family

Clipper ship similar to the Charles Carroll
When the packet clipper ship Charles Carroll made port at New York City on May 29th, 1830, it was carrying French immigrants, among them the Jean Claude Schmitt family and the Alexis Xavier Monnier (Meunier) family.  They had crossed France from Belfort in the Franche-Comté for passage at Le Havre to America. Despite the name Schmitt, the family was French-speaking.

The men are listed on the passenger list as farmers - the Franche-Comté is currently known for producing butter and cheeses, breeding dairy cattle, growing cereal grains and wine grapes -- but what made entire families leave in 1830? Jean Claude Schmitt was 56 and his wife Jeanne Marie (Roi) Schmitt 59.  Alexis Xavier Meunier (Morrin on the passenger list) was 42, his wife Brigette (Voisinet) Meunier 47.  Alexis' brother or cousin Jean and his wife had come, too. The children of the three couples numbered ten, including Jean Auguste Schmitt, age about 17, and Marie Morrin, age 13, our great-great grandparents.  Who knows how many extended family members with other surnames were among the passengers.  It took them a few years to save enough money to sail to America; these families had made the decision to leave France well before 1830.  Why?
Belfort, Franche-Comté
The area had always been vulnerable to invading armies, its Belfort Depression naturally connecting the Rhine Valley with the approach to Paris. Its inhabitants had suffered from invasion for centuries, but the Napoleonic Wars had ended in 1815, and Europe was finally at peace. 

"It's the economy, stupid!" The Revolution of 1789 transformed agriculture, abolishing tithes owed to local churches as well as feudal dues owed to local landlords. It nationalized all church lands (and they were immense), as well as lands belonging to royalist enemies who went into exile. With the breakup of large estates controlled by the Church and the nobility and worked by hired hands, rural France became permanently a land of small independent farms. The rural proletariat and nobility gave way to the commercial farmer. Life was pretty good for our farming ancestors. What changed?  A hint lies in this short history of 1820s France from an Internet site:

The Restoration: 1815-1830
With Napoleon safely removed from the scene, in distant St Helena, the Bourbon king Louis XVIII - restored to the throne now for the second time - attempts to establish the constitutional monarchy which has been the condition of his dynasty's return.

The pattern is intended to echo the parliamentary system established in Britain, with one chamber made up of peers and another of elected deputies. As with the Cavalier parliament after the English restoration in 1660, the first elections result in an ultra-royalist majority. Vengeance for the recent sufferings of the landed classes is high on the agenda.

The king, personally inclined to moderation, contrives to steer a middle course for a few years after 1816, when new elections return a more centrist parliament. But his task is made more difficult after the assassination, in 1820, of his nephew the duc de Berry.

The event prompts an immediate swing to the right, accentuated because the young man's father - the future Charles X - is already the leader of the ultra-royalist faction in the country. The 1820s see a continuous drift towards reactionary policies, including the unscrupulous revision of the franchise to favor the rich. The process accelerates after Charles X succeeds his brother in 1824.

At the very start of his reign Charles X makes a dramatic statement of his intended policy. He has himself crowned in the cathedral at Reims. The Holy Ampulla believed to have been brought from heaven by the Holy Ghost, has been smashed by a republican in 1793. But Charles is relieved to discover that faithful royalists have rescued the few drops of the sacred liquid needed for his anointment. The ceremony can be carried out with full medieval pomp.

Appropriate political measures follow. Power is returned to the clergy. Large sums of money are allotted to recompense the aristocracy for lost lands.

The Revolution that our families lived through had failed and taxes were increasing. Whatever their reason for leaving, they saw America as a better place for their children to marry and rear families.  They might have passed through Paris on their way to Le Havre; if so, they missed by only a few months the July Revolution that put "the Citizen King" Louis Philippe on the throne.  Had their timing been different and they'd waited, they might have changed their minds and stayed.

A Shelby County, Ohio, history describes our ancestors and the many who came with them as "a colony of immigrants from France, Alsace and Lorraine." Our two family surnames appear in the Shelby County 1850 census, but not for everyone.  Within a year of  his arrival in America, Jean Claude  Schmitt (1784 - 1831) died farther east in Stark County, Ohio, and his widow, Jeanne Marie (Roi) Schmitt (1771-1847) died in Darke County, adjacent to Shelby County (also heavily settled by French immigrants and collateral relatives).
Jeanne Marie Roi (Schmitt) headstone (or so we think), Holy Family Cemetery, Darke County, Ohio

  Their names now Americanized, son John Augusta Smith (formerly Jean Auguste Schmitt) (1811-1895) married Mary Francis Money or Monner (formerly Marie Francoise Monnier or Meunier) (1815 - died btw 1885-95), who was on-board ship with him. Nine of their sons are listed in the census; the second to the youngest is Eugene Smith (1850-1928), our great-grandfather.  Shelby County's soil is rich and John Augusta Smith does not rent; he owns his farm. 

How did this large group of French immigrants travel with their bit of goods from New York City to Shelby County, Ohio, in the 1830s? They might have made their way up the Hudson River and then by the Erie canal across New York State to Lake Erie, sailed to Cleveland, Ohio; from there they could have come down the Ohio and Erie Canal to Canton in Stark County, where Jean Claude Schmitt died. It appears some of the group, including some Monniers, stayed in Stark County; they appear in the 1840 census, as do a few Smiths (but are they our Smiths?) From Stark County it was a relatively short distance to the Cumberland Road (renamed the National Road), over which even stagecoaches were jolting along to Zanesville by 1830. And from there -- well, it's anyone's guess. It wasn't an easy journey.

John Augusta Smith and Mary Francis (Monner) Smith c 1855-65

Mary Frances' father Alexis Xavier Monner, (Meunier) (b 1788) died in Loramie Township, Shelby County, in 1855; her mother Brigette (Voisinet) Monnier (b. 1783) died in Loramie Township in 1870.  When the 1870 census was taken of the Smiths, of the nine brothers, only Eugene (our great-grandfather, age 21) and his younger brother Alfred (age 19) remained on the farm. They had attended school and were literate.  Five years later, Eugene married Louise Petitjean, whose family had come from France in 1854.

In my next blog, we'll take a look at the Petitjean family, which became the Petitjohns.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Frank Whitman Raney & Mary Smith Raney - Part 3 - Canada to Spokane 1920

Whitman moved Mary and their four children fro
m Didsbury, Alberta, to Trail, British Columbia, most likely in October or November, 1919. Mary's parents, and siblings, Laura (b. 1888) and Gus (b. 1875), soon followed, buying a place and taking in boarders within walking distance of where Mary and Whitman were living.
Trail, BC. Red dot on the international border.
The refinery shut down temporarily.  Unemployed, Whitman and Gus traveled by train to Spokane at the end of March, 1920, to look for work. They took a room near Skid Row at the Everyman's club, 319-21 Trent Ave, run by the Catholic War Council (and later the Knights of Columbus), which offered a free employment service for former servicemen. He writes Mary on April 6, the day they arrived, ". . Sweetheart this shure [sic] is some beautiful town . . ." The next day he writes that he's found work repairing cars for the Spokane International R.R. [a short line between Spokane and the Canadian Pacific at Kingsgate, B.C.]. "I only work six days a week [he'd worked Sundays at the refinery in Trail] but I wont [sic] make as much as I would there if I were working in the copper plant. I would only make one hundred and fourty [sic] dollars a month so if you still want to come to Spokane to live just write and let me know and if you don't want to move down here go ahead and put out some garden stuff and I will come back when the copper plant starts again. This is shure[sic] some fine city . . . There are twelve large Catholic churches here in town and I don't know how many schools and colleges. This . . . is some fine club here all kinds of books and papers to read. They have a Phonograph and a Piano. They have free moveing [sic] pictures and some big man gives a talk once in a while and everything is free including this paper I am writing on . . ."

The opening on his next letter, dated May 3, 1920, surprises us. ". . . I will try and wright [sic] a few lines this evening setting [sic] around the camp fire in the rocky mountains some where in Washington but I don't know where I will mail this letter to-morrow - in the first town we come to. Sweetheart this reminds me of days gone by when I used to write my own dear little girl when I was in the army . . ."  In Northport, Washington, a few days earlier, he and Gus had stabled the horses and while he watered the mules a horse kicked him above an ankle. "Geewhize but it did hurt some and it is still awful sore now I can't hardly walk." They'd slept in a barn the previous night. The next evening, camped out again, he writes that they are about 45 miles from Spokane, but "can't make much headway on account of the roads being so ruff [sic]." He mailed the letter in Tumtum.  Once more at the Everyman's Club, he writes on May 8th ". . . Gusta left town to day. I don't know what he intends doing . . ." [Gus found a man to pasture his horses and mules.] After telling Mary how much he misses her, he adds a postscript to his children. "Hello kiddies how are you? I hope you are all well. Papa misses you awful much. Now be good boys and mind mamma and help her with the work and take good care of sweet little sister. [B]less her little heart how papa does miss her. Well goodby children from your loveing [sic] papa to James, Paul, Dennis and little Sister."

May 9, 1920, ". . . I went to mass this morning. [M]y but it was some crowd there and such a big church. I bet there were a thousand people there. [T]here was two priests at the alter [sic] and oh how fine and beautiful inside you never saw anything like it . . ."  He must have been referring to Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, completed in 1908.

"I have to go about five miles [to work]. I take the car [trolley] to go out and back. It cost[s] me twelve cents a day for car fare. I make five dollars and thirty-six cents a day and Sundays off . . . Sweetheart I don't know how I am going to stand it here without you my love . . . You know dear my balls hurt me so bad I can't hardly sit down. Gee kid I wish you were here so I could ease them . . . Well sweetest girl I hope you don't want a piece as bad as I do for if you do I pity you my dear . . ."  Grandma told Mom he was "an every night man" until his prostate problems when he was 80 -  it was when he gave up on life she added.

Mary writes on May 10 that she misses him, especially his keeping her warm because it's been raining and her feet get cold in bed.  She was having second thoughts about moving to Spokane. She and the children went to her parents every Sunday for dinner and stayed for supper, and her mother would cry, missing Gus and already missing Mary and her grandchildren. She was in a dilemma whether to plant a garden. Her mother's garden was already coming up.  The next day she writes, ". . . Is house rent high? . . . James he wants to stay and Paul he wants to go . . ." She tells him being apart is making her crazy and whatever decision he makes about where they live will be fine with her. And then, "Sweetheart when you write to me you must be careful what you write for the folks love to read your letters [especially] Laura . . ."

Her admonition failed to temper Whitman's writing. Having an audience encouraged him. " . . . Now dear I don't think it will hurt sister to read such letters because she knows if it hadn't been for that we would of never got married and besides if she ever gets married she will get used to such letters as that and she will know also what it will mean to be without all that good stuff if her old man should go away. My dear girl you don't know how much I am suffering without some - they are getting so big I can't hardly sit down any more without hurting them. And your toy is getting so it is hard all the time. I don't know what I am going to do with it . . ."
In another letter he reminds her that their anniversary is coming up on June 14, ". . . and sweetheart I can't stand the thought of being away from my dearest little wife on that beautiful day. I wonder dear girl if we can't arange [sic] some way for you to come down here for that day. I think we can. You could leave all the kids with the folks and come and stay two or three days with me. I will have another pay day on the fifteenth of June and you could borrow ten dollars from the folks and then pay them back when you go back and that would give you time to see the town and see if you would like to live here or not . . ."

Mary worried about finances. She had no money and here was a dunning letter for $14.80 from Straus & Schram of Chicago.

Straus & Schram was a mail order catalog company; they must have purchased a living room stove (or something similar).

 "My dearest I dont [sic] see what I will do [with] no money. My wood pile is going fast and I just save as much as I can dear. I sure dont [sic] cook very much but when I bake bread and wash it takes so much [wood] . . . and things are going up higher . . . potatoes are $8 now [per 100 pounds]. We have a few left. I havent [sic] bought any since you left and syrup . . . is up [to] $1.60 for 10 lb. . . " She was sorry he was in such a misery. And she'd run out of writing paper.  He wrote every day and expected her to, also. She replied to the letter in which he told her to sell all the furniture and come down on May 14, " . . .I think it best if you come back. I am afraid that we wont [sic] get very much for our furniture, not half enough to pay what we owe to the store and it will cost some to send the rest of the stuff . . . [I]t will be hard to find a place with these kids . . . [Y]ou would have a nicer place to work here this winter . . . inside out of the cold . . . [I]t is an awful job to move. I hate to be all broke up again and no money you know. The childrens [sic] clothes are looking plenty bad to go there. Of course things are cheaper but it will take some time to catch up again. . . Laura said for you to come back and we would celebrate our wedding day. She would shoot firecrackers . . ." After telling him how much she misses and loves him, adds a P.S. "Now Dearest you do just as you like about comming [sic] back. If you would rather live there than here then it will be all right with me. Its you[r] work and [you] make the living. [B]ut I guess it [would] be a bad town for our boys . . . a lot of dirt goes on I guess."

Whitman writes on May 14: ". . .[I]f you could only see this place you would never want to go back to Trail to live. The longer I stay here the more I like Spokane. And things are so cheap out here . . . Gusta likes it fine here . . . driving a team for someone and gets five dollars a day and it doesn't cost him any thing for a room. He sleeps in the office at the Barn. . ." He asks, "Are you getting fat and stout like . . . before you had those measles . . ."

They both were relieved that she menstruated in May. She writes "I had cramps and you know what that means." He replies, ". . I am just awfully glad to hear you are unwell. I was just afraid that last piece we had I had fixed you up again . . . " She writes that she didn't want to wash clothes at the beginning of the week while "unwell."  A common folkways belief was that women shouldn't touch water while menstruating, difficult to adhere to if a woman was rearing a family. " . . I wish you were here so I could stick [my cold feet] against your back to make you jump." Then turns serious. " . . I wish you would write to the mercantile store [in Trail] and tell [them] you will send them some money when you can. I havent [sic] bought very much . . . a pair of shoes [for Louise] . . . a pair of slippers that cost $2.25 . . . her old shoes were wore out and the[y] look awful bad. I guess I will have to buy some flour next week we are about out of something to eat. I guess I will have to borrow . . . from the folks to buy some wood. I havent [sic] got very much. I don't make fire for supper sometimes so I can save the wood . . ."

 She sent him the 2nd dunning letter, which threatened to go to court to attach their furniture and goods, on which they still owed money, and sell it at auction. 

Whether Whitman believed the contents of this letter is uncertain, but it was an excuse to pressure Mary to move. On May 19th, he writes, ". . I see you are in a notion of coming to Spokane to live. Gee kid I am so glad of that. Dearest I think I will get a house and buy a few pieces of furniture to start on like we did there. Yes you may sell everything. You can have the second hand man come out and ask him what he will give you for everything and ask him what he will give you for the phonograph . . . It might be that those people in Chicago might have that stuff sold and it might be a good idea to sell the stuff and stay up to the folks till I send for you . . . I don't know when I will be able to send them [Straus & Schwam] any money but when I do I will send it all so we will be through with them." On May 20th she writes ". . . papa came over and cut me some wood . . . he will buy me some tomorrow . . . Father [a priest] came and told me he would like for James to come ever[y] evening after school for instruction and he said Paul could go to[o]. [T]hat will keep them out of mischief . . . I dont [sic] know what we will do without money to pay my lights and rent and stamps . . . ." She told him she wouldn't come to Spokane for their June 14th anniversary, claiming she wouldn't want to leave him once there. 

On May 21st, he writes, ". . . I am afraid you will run out of things to eat before I will be able to send you any money. Dear sweet wife you mustn't go hungry that will never do . . ." He'd decided to quit his job and go back to Trail, but didn't have enough money "to square up with" all the bills they owed.  "Yes dear, I will write the people there in the store and tell them to let you have any thing you want as I will pay them just as soon as I can . . . Just order what you please and we will make it all right when I get back." Mostly, he wants her to tell him her dreams about him and to call him "baddy boy."

On May 22, she writes that she lay awake worrying about moving and coming down by train with four children (would they have trouble crossing the border?) and selling everything (the second-hand man offered less than what they owed on their furniture) and had a "spell with my old head." Her father gave her $10.00 and she bought $5.00 worth of wood. She begs him to borrow $5.00 from Gus to send to Straus & Schram in Chicago. ". . .[D]ont [sic] let them write here no moor [sic]. Dearest if you only know how it worryes [sic] me. I am afraid that the[y] will [cause] us some trouble yet . . ." When she became upset, her spelling suffered. A serious problem was her growing deafness caused by mastoiditis. When a missionary priest gave a talk one evening, "he talked so loud I heard a few words," but she had to leave because "Sister start[ed] messing her pants and she began to cry and Dennes [sic] he was bad . . . he wanted a drink,  he would not sit still." 

Changing his mind about returning, on May 23 Whitman touts the wonders of Spokane to a woman not getting enough to eat. Butter 61 cents; eggs 40 cents; corn 18 cents; tomatoes 18 cents; the best brands of bacon 32 cents; hams 27 cents a lb. "Fresh meats are very cheap."  Pot roast 10 cents a lb; rib roast 18 cents a pound; round steak from 17 1/2 cents to 22 cents a pound, but potatoes are $6.00 a hundred [weight].  "I think if we was to move here it wouldn't be long before we could have an Auto. You can get some fine looking Autos here pretty cheap . . . [Stores] have cut prices [to] just half of what they were. [F]or instance they had a suit here for a lady that was marked $150.00 last week and last night the same suit was marked $75.00 . . . I have just about made up my mind to stay here for good, so if you want to come to Spokane to live just say so and Spokane it will be . . ." At the end of the letter, "If you want to stay in Trail I will come back . . . anything to please my little lady." The letters cross one another between Spokane and Trail, Whitman and Mary changing their minds again and again, Mary expressing her reservations in each letter, and then telling him she'll do whatever he wants. She never did put in a garden.

One month to the day after he left, she wrote that she'd spent only $6.50 on groceries during those four weeks, but was going to have to buy flour, telling him they won't starve as long as they have bread. She did have to spend 15 cents each on rosaries for James and Paul because the priest wanted them to have them and to attend mass every morning. And now I know what happened to our grandmother's satin wedding gown (a swatch of which I possess) - she made a coat for Louise out of it.

On May 31, he writes, ". . Gusta and I went out to one of the parks to-day. It is shure [sic] a beautiful place and all kinds of amusements there and some wild animals . . . gee what a crowd of people was there. I wish you could have been with us."  They must have gone on the streetcar to Natatorium Park and probably watched children ride the Loof carousel. 

Mary writes him on June 1, 1920, that they owe the [grocery] store in Trail $98.68. "I haven't bought much eather [sic]. I haven't bought a[n] egg, no meat, not butter and no potatoes since you left." She asks him how much he wants her to pay on the grocery bill if she sells the furniture. "I will half [sic] to keep enough to pay our way [and for freight] and have some left . . . The folks sure hate to see us go. Mama said ever time we are close together we run off.  I sure hate to leave them but I guess it cant [sic] be [helped]." Whitman is paying $3.75 a week for his room at his "club" in Spokane; he's been paid at least once - maybe twice - but he hasn't sent her any money . . . and she doesn't appear to expect any.

He decides again to come back to Trail, writing not to sell the furniture. She hadn't gotten around to it, anyway, hoping he'd change his mind. He told her all the things he'd do to her when he saw her, "but it will be just my luck when I come home the monkey will be sick." [An aphorism new to me.] The last week he's in Spokane, Mary writes loving letters to him everyday. He tells her not to write after she gets his letter of June 10. Her last letter is dated June 11, in which she tells him how dearly she loves him and how she hardly can wait to hug and kiss him. "I sure will be glad when you come back. Maby [sic] we can have more. The potatoes are so high now that we cant [sic] afford to buy them. I got a quarter's worth . . .7 potatoes. I cook[ed] them all in one mass . . . Well, dear I guess this will be the last letter I write to you for . . . you come back next week. . ."

On June 14, 1920, he wrote the last of the letters I have. ". . Well my dearest sweet loveing [sic] wife what is the matter I didn't get a sweet letter to-day from my baby doll? . . . I am awfully much disappointed . . . and on our wedding anniversary to[o] sweetheart. I don't think you treat me wright [sic]. Well sweetheart if you hadn't been so selfish you would be here in Spokane with your boy to night to spend the night of all nights with the one who loves you dearly and honestly with all his heart and soul. I don't believe you care as much for your boy as you say you do or you would have come down for this special occasion. Ten years ago to-day dearest I was the happiest boy on earth and to-night I am sad and discouraged and no body knows how lonesome . . . I feel . . . I hear we got a pretty good raise and if we did I don't think I will come back to Trail for we could do better here than there so if I am not there Thursday evening you may not look for me for chances are I won't come . . . so good by my own dearest wife with all my love and a million sweet kisses from your loving husband and papa."

They were in Trail at least through October, 1920. On October 26  Frank Raney (he used that name) received an invoice from Virtue & Co. of Toronto, representatives of Harper & Bros of New York for one set each of Arthur B. Reeve, 12 volumes, and Edgar Allan Poe, 10 volumes, with cloth bindings, price $29.00. A dollar down and $2.00 per month. I read "The Tell-tale Heart" from one of those Poe volumes when I was a child. 

Their daughter, Mary Agnes Raney, was born on June 12, 1921, in Spokane, Washington.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Frank Whitman & Mary Smith Raney Part 2 - Early Marriage

Mary Smith Raney suffered from migraines, as had her father Eugene Smith. My mother Jean had them and I've had them, so if you get migraines, you know from whom they are inherited. She writes one last letter to Whitman before their marriage in June, dated April 4, 1910, thanking him for being so good to her the previous evening when her headache spoiled their time together. " . . my dearest one, your kind and loveing [sic] words was such a healp [sic] . . ." Although she claims to be feeling better, though "still weak and [nervous]," her handwriting shows she's feeling pretty awful. But the next line is so much our grandmother. "Well, my dear, I hope you got home all right and I hope you are well. [N]ow don't worry about me I will be all right. So goodby [sic] my dearest lover till I get to see you again, from your truest love . . . a thousand kisses to your dear."

James was born the following April (1911) and than Paul (1913). But Whitman Raney was always restless. He took a job in Neodosha, Kansas, still in Wilson County. She writes on July 1, 1913: ". . We are all pretty well except little Paul [born Feb 14th that year], he don't seem to feel very well. I guess it must be his teeth . . . I hope you can come Saturday. You surely [ought] to have a little money left . . . last Sunday was such a long day. I was so lonesome . . . Little James often say[s] papa. He say[s] papa went on toot toot. He found your picture Saturday and began to jump up and down and just kiss your picture. It made me feel so bad I had to cry . . ."

They lived for a short time in Coffeyville, Kansas (I don't know what years) and then moved back to Princeton, Indiana, where Whitman's dad got him a job on the Southern Railway where he worked. Dennis was born in Princeton (1915).  Mary and the boys returned to Fredonia in late September 1916 for a visit. In her letter of October 4th, the first thing she tells Whitman is that she hasn't had a sick headache since she came home. "I went down [to] Uncle Frank Petty-John Sunday afternoon and stayed till Tuesday . . . [T]oday we went down [to] uncle Jules . . ." A lot of Louise Smith's Petitjean relatives lived in the county.  " . . Mamma, Laura the babies and I, we sure had a good dinner. Dearest I wish you was here. I eat chicken nearly ever[y] day . . . the[y] all have such nice big chickens. Last Sunday morning Gus (her brother) kill[ed] two ducks. There are lots of ducks around here now. . ." And here is the first hint that the family is going to move north.  "Papa is almost afraid to go to Montana. [H]e is afraid he cant [sic] stand the cold. . . " She speaks of five-year-old James enjoying himself and "Little Dennis . . . what a time we got to keep him in the house. He wants to get out and you know there is no grass in the yard and my what a sight. He gets so dirty. Laura thinks he is the sweetest baby. . . We have to watch them so close on account of the horses. They are not afraid of them."  She tells him that her [railroad] pass runs out on October 19th, so she'll have to start back on the 14th and he can meet them in St. Louis on Sunday.  She was having a great time, but not  so Whitman back in Princeton. Typhoid fever was sweeping through southern Indiana and  acquaintances were dying. "Carl Cline died Wednesday morning . . . He will be buried Friday morning at Mt. Tabor where they buried their little girl. Mrs. Cline is a little better this evening, but they don't think there is much of a chance for her (she is mentioned in a letter a few years later, so survived). Mr. Revise, that lives where we used to live has got the Typhoid Fever now and Mrs. Ritchie's father has also got it. You know they live up toward Grover's there [at] that Red House. . . Well, dear, when are you coming home. I am so lonesome I don't know what to do with myself. Sweetheart you don't know how I need you . . .Well, dear I won't beg you to come home any longer as I see you don't pay any attention to it . . ."

Princeton, Indiana, depot. Of course Whitman worked at the roundhouse (long gone)
Louise Ann Raney was born in April 1918 in Princeton, Indiana.  The Great War had been ongoing since August 1914, seemingly unending.  Now the United States was embroiled in it. Wheat prices were sky-high.  I think it was our great-uncle Gus who that summer convinced the Smith family to pack up, leave their rented farm, and move up to Canada -- to raise wheat.

Gusta Smith standing to the side of wagon

The Smiths settled outside of Didsbury, Alberta. The war ended that November, 1918 and the price of wheat plummeted. Mary's sister, Laura Smith writes Mary and her family a Christmas letter in the family's name: "Dear Children and Babies . . . Christmas is near. There will be some sad and others happy this year with this flu and the war. We seen on the paper [the hometown Fredonia newspaper, which came by mail] that Father Dominic died at Pittsburg, Kansas with the flu . . . and there are many others. . . We will send you a little Christmas present this year as Laura crochet[ed] some lace for Louise['s] little skirt and a pin cushion for you, Mary and also a $5 bill for all of you.children, as this is all we can send you this time. We can't hardly buy anything in this old town as ever thing is so high and not very good . . . There will not be no Christmas entertainment at the school house on account of the flu. It is starting again . . . Tell the dear Babies that Maw said for them to be good so Santa Claus will bring them lots of presents. . ." It is a sad letter Laura wrote. The family realized they'd made a terrible mistake moving to Canada. And fear of the flu pandemic that was killing thousands was making life even less secure.

The following summer, 1919, Whitman, Mary and the children traveled by train pass to Didsbury, Alberta, and to the rented farm outside town, initially to visit, but then decided to settle there. Whitman, ever restless for a new start, returned to Princeton to sell off their household goods while Mary and the children remained with her parents and siblings. It appears that Mary was pleased with this decision. Although the town had burned down in 1914, at least it was on the Canadian Pacific Railway line.

The red dot for Didsbury isn't showing - it is about a quarter of the way up Alberta and on the left at the foot of the Rockies.
I know nothing of this migration. I don't recall Grandma or Grandpa mentioning it. On 15 July Mary writes to Whitman, expressing hope that he got to Princeton safely and did his folks wonder why she hadn't returned with him? She mentions that the children are 'so mean and won't hardly mind well." Whitman's initial intention was to draw his railroad pay (he must have been paid monthly), sell everything, except their phonograph, and quickly return to his family.  That didn't happen.  There may have been some railroad union agitation for higher wages, and he expected some back pay out of a railroad settlement, believing he had to be present, or so he wrote her, when these wages were awarded.

On July 21, 1919, Mary writes that "James and Paul caught a gofer [sic] Sunday. They took a twine string and fix[ed] it over the hole and when he come out he got his head through the loop and they pull[ed] on the string and the[y] got it. What a time the[y] had. They [ran] all through the yard with it.  Paul didn't want to kill it, so it got away from them and Paul he cried."  She wrote on July 31 that Laura had the flu as did her father (the children were also sick), that her mother's hand was better and she could now milk the cow. No one died, so possibly they didn't have that killing flu (although both Laura and Eugene Smith were weak for many weeks afterward). There was going to be a big turnout for returning Canadian troops in town and Gus thought he might go. The crops were looking good - the potatoes, anyway. They received a letter from Wilson (a friend?) in Montana, who said horses were going for $10.00 a head with no takers (all those horses bred for the war and for an expected thriving economy.)

When Whitman writes back, he tells her he didn't sleep in their rented house the first few nights for missing her [he stayed with his parents] and then "[s]lept with your nightgown on last night, that was as close as I could get to you, but still it gave me pleasant thoughts, you know." He was a romantic. And a depressant, getting "so blue" he didn't go to work because he hadn't heard from her, accusing her of not wanting to write to him.  He sold their cook stove, bed, china closet, washing machine, her canned gooseberries and canning jars, but hadn't sold much else. And then he got sick, but the doctor said it wasn't typhoid. Still, he told her how sick and weak he was and that he couldn't go to work yet, but added that she shouldn't come home because she wouldn't find much in the house. "Sometimes I think you don't love me as much as you say you do, or you would write oftener. I know it isn't because you are so busy."  He's reading the newspaper and writes her that the Indiana wheat crop was poor, averaging only 19 bushels to the acre; and then ticks off the prices of foodstuffs: butterfat 51 cents per pound; eggs 30 cents; old hens 32 cents a pound; young chickens 30 cents a pound; old roosters 10 cents a pound; new potatoes $3.60 a bushel. "Pretty high, isn't it."  Shipping their goods by rail  to Didsbury would cost $4.04 per hundred pounds. A  week later he sells the rest of their furniture, but after paying some bills has only $20.00 left. His dad sold his old car and bought a larger one, "a great big fellow with six cylinders. It cost him fifteen hundred dollars." That seems a lot for a car in 1918.  On July 21, he writes of how much he misses her (he writes the same in each of his many letters), adding, " . . . how I would love to take you in my arms and hug and kiss you till your sweet lips would hurt. But never mind Dearest I don't think it will be long now until we will meet and then, good night nurse, what a time we will have." This expression arose from a 1918 Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton silent film. Read about it here

Mary writes in early August that the "kids are out of clothes, that is, overalls. I keep patching on patches, and dear my shoes are almost to give out on me. The soles are worn through on my slippers and I won't wear my hightops out here for they are too nice for every day. . . I believe sister [daughter Louise] is getting bigger every day. She is so sweet, her little cheeks are so rosy. . ." On August 8th, she asks if he can get sugar in Indiana because they haven't been able to get sugar for two weeks, but they made sixteen loaves of bread and she wishes he could have been there to have some good bread, sweet butter and clabber milk with them. His missing work for 10 days might have been from having a kidney stone, although he later says the doctor said it was from his being thrown off a horse so hard. [After his death in 1969, an autopsy revealed one kidney shriveled and non-functioning.] He says he'll come the following week.

Then he writes to say that he won't be coming back the following week because all the railroads were out on strike and they won't sell him a ticket. He thinks he'll be called out [to picket]. And he didn't draw much wages on pay day on account of being sick so long [10 days - no work, no pay], "I wish I could send you some money but I am afraid to send it on account of the strike. I am afraid it would get lost. If you need any money just borrow some from the folks and I will pay them when I come out there." He must have been a sort of safety inspector for the Southern Railway [although the 1916 Princeton Directory lists him as a "car repairman."]  "I don't do enough work in a day to get dirty hardly. I shure [sic] am taking it easy while I can. Of course it keeps me pretty busy watching the men to see they don't get hurt but that isn't hard. Just walk around and call them down once in a while to let them know that I am still on the job. We haven't had anyone hurt since I've been back. [T]he yards were pretty well filled with old stuff when I came back but it didn't take me long to get someone cleaning it up. It sure does me good to get a chance to rip one of the big fellows and they haven't no come back at me at all. I had a laugh at my boss today.  I went after him pretty hard and he got pretty sore at me. [H]e said while you were away we had it pretty [peaceable] here but since you came back you raise hell all the time. I told him that was what the company was paying me for . . ."'

He had been complaining about his mother's and sister's cooking and that when they packed his lunchbox they put fried potatoes in it "and you know how much I like cold fried potatoes at any time let alone in my lunch . . . Dearest girl, you are the finest cook in all the world."  He continued to praise her cooking throughout his life.

On August 11, he writes that he won't be back for some time. ". . . we had a special call meeting to night of all Shop men [to] prepare ourselves for a big strike some time this month. It will be all over the United States and part of Canada. I don't know just when we will come out or how long we will stay out, but it will be until we get our settlement if it takes a year."  A few days later he writes that only the mail trains are operating, which is why she's getting his letters. Apparently, he sent her some money.  But, I find no evidence that there was a railroad strike in August of 1919.

He returned to his family some time in August, but then went off looking for work. The rental farm couldn't support so many. The next letter from Whitman is dated September 13, 1919 and he writes Mary from Castlegar, British Columbia, to say that he can't find work anywhere. ". . . This leaves me well but awfully down hearted. I can't find work of any kind no where. I don't know what to do, my money is all most all gone and I am a long ways from home. I guess I will have to go on the bum. . ."  Later the same day, he writes from Trail, B.C. ". . .[W]ho said the thirteenth was unlucky. . . a man came along and I got to talking with him and he said for me to come back to Trail and he would see to it that I got a job so here I am and I got the job to go to work at seven o'clock in the morning, but my, what a choice I have to make. The Refinery is on top of a Mountain but my job is inside. It is a copper refinery [later a lead and zinc refinery].
. . . I get $4.00 a day to start with. It will amount to about $121.50 a month. I have to pay $40.00 a month board here at the [Palace] Hotel. I was lucky to get here. It is about as close to my work as I can get . . . I will send you some money just as soon as I get a pay-day. If you need some money before then, borrow some from the folks and you can pay them back when I send you some. . . " Mary writes back on September 18, that she received a check from Washington, D.C. after cashing in their fourth Liberty Bond  for $62.50 [people were pressured to buy them during the war, but most did out of patriotic duty,  to support its cost] and that she would send him some money for she worried that he would need some before pay-day. But James needed shoes. "He can hardly wear his old ones they hurt his feet." [A fore-shadowing of his sad end.] Gus and her papa got the oats all cut and the hay in. "They are cutting green oats now, dear one, and don't worry, we will get through some way." Always appearing confident her love would sustain him in trying to be a good husband and provider.

  An interesting history of the Trail, B.C. refinery is here

 In my next blog, I'll tell how the Raneys and Smiths came to Spokane in the early 1920s.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mary Emma Smith Raney (1882-1979) Part I

She was lovely, our grandmother. No wonder Frank Whitman Raney fell in love with Mary Emma Smith, born 18 July, 1882, and raised on a farm near Fredonia, Wilson County, Kansas.  He first spotted her crossing the street in a red dress.  She had naturally curly black hair and a waist so small, he said he later could encircle it with his hands. She also had a part between her front teeth (a sure sign she'd become rich, the French say - in some manner, anyway).  By the time we knew her, she was deaf, had false teeth and a lopsided smile because of Bell's palsy. But she still retained a sweetness hardship hadn't diminished.  (The stroke was caused by her sitting in a car's back seat with the window open on a trip from Spokane to Kellogg, Idaho, to visit her daughter Louise. The next morning one side of her face was grotesquely pulled down. When Grandpa saw it as she was cooking breakfast, he laughed and asked, "What's wrong with your face?"  And she began to cry. Although the weakness of her facial muscles diminished, they never normalized. Thereafter, she kept a hanky handy to wipe the numb corner of her mouth.)

The Smith Family c. 1897, Mary in black.
Mary was about 17 when the photographer in his buggy came along to ask if the family wanted its photograph taken. Her father Eugene and brother Gus came in from the fields, Laura (age 11) brought out her doll, and Mary put on her Sunday dress. Louise, the mother, kept on her apron, already weary from the summer day's humid heat. Note the wide-open door and blinds drawn in an attempt to keep the house cool.

Wilson County, Kansas

She told stories. Their dog was bitten by a rattlesnake and her mother Louise gave it a basin of cool milk, which it drank down before crawling under the house. A week later, the dog emerged and survived. Or the time Laura used stove-blacking to spruce up her faded straw hat before she and Mary took the open buckboard to town.  On the way a thunderstorm erupted and, with no shelter on the prairie, the rain washed the blacking down over Laura's face. Grandma laughed in its telling.

Whitman stayed at their boarding house in Fredonia while working at the glass factory. He turned18 toward the end of August,  but Mary thought him older - and he thought her younger than she was. They talked a lot. She was stepping out with a young man named Rodgers and Whitman bragged of his girl back in Indiana. Weary of working at the glass factory, he left on 26 November, 1906, to join the army, but stole a kiss from her beforehand.

 He wrote his first letter to her in December from Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, addressing her as his "dear friend," spelling her name "Marry," telling her that he was having fun and "playing tricks on someone all of the time." By the end of December he was out at Ft. Logan, Colorado. He writes on Dec. 23, " . . My folks did not [k]now what to think when they learned I had joined the army. And my wife didnt [sic] know what to do. She wants me to buy out and come home . . . Marry I think the army is a fine place for a[n] old fellow like me. My father told me when I wanted out he would buy me out, but I dont [sic] think I will ever want out. It is such a fine place to enjoy life . . ."  At least Whitman had told Mary he was married, if that's what he meant by "wife" (in later letters he refers to Mary as "wife".  Whatever she thought, it didn't deter her from writing to him with only a 3rd grade education, reared in a French-speaking household. At first he didn't save her letters. But on September 16, 1907, he writes: ". . . I wish it was time for me to be discharge so I could come home to you . . . Say, darling, do you think that you could learn to love me. I [k]now I could love you. I already think you are the only girl I ever saw that I really did love . . . I love you as I never loved before. . ."  Mary must have written back, for on October 3rd, he writes, "My Dearest Beloved," and apologizes for taking so long to write, but they'd been out on a "scouting expedition" in the Rocky Mountains, were attacked by two bears, but killed them, and also killed cougars, wildcats, and lots of deer.  And then he gets down to business.  "But dear it isn't like being with my dear little girl Mary. Oh darling if we was [sic] only together tonight how we would make love. When you was [sic] speaking about the lady friend of mine there was one and a very dear one to[o] but poor thing dies [sic] some time ago and you are the only thing now that I think of. Oh dear if you loved me as I love you. Darling will you promise to be my wife when I am discharged . . . if I could think that I had a dear little girl waiting to come to my arms and I could call her mine. . . I know your folks have no objections of our suit for I am quite sure they are pleased with me. I know I am with them . . . "

Well, Mary was raised to have faith and she decided to have it in Whitman.  The first letter I find from Mary that he'd saved is dated in August 27, 1908, nearly a year later. She calls him, "My dearest Whitman" and "my dearest lover."  But what I want to glean from my grandmother's letters is what life was like for her in Kansas. ". . . I have been so busy this morning [at the boarding house] canning apples and tommatoes [sic] and fixin for company tomorrow. I have a cousin visiting us from Chickasha Okla. . . . It is so awful hot and dusty. . . we are having the hot[est] weather we ever had and it is dry, everything is burnt up. There will hardly be no corn, the men folks are busy cutting there[sic] corn for it is drying up."   In November she writes: "We have [12] boarders now and Mama is not very well . . . and I am very busy . . . the glass factory is in full run, they are doing very well now, since they have rebuilt it.  I wish it was so that you was [sic] here working like you did once before and that would be fine for you and me and we would not be so far away from one another . . . "  On November 25, she writes: ". . Yes, dear one, I remember the night you stole a kiss from me, but deare [sic] I did not know that you loved me at that time. But my love was growing for you ever[y] day you was [sic] with me. But dear I thought there was one ahead of me, that all your love was for her . . . I still can see you the first day you came when Mr. Lentes (the glass factory owner or manager) brought you over, we all seemed to have fell [sic] in love with you for your sweet ways would make anyone love you. . ."  When she signed off in her November 18th letter, she mentioned that she still had to piece together a quilt block for her church's Lady's Aid Society benefit. Years later she took up quilting again, and Grandpa made her a large quilting frame. I have two of her quilts. In January, 1909, she writes that they finally had enough snow to go sleigh riding, but that it did her no good because she never got to go. Running a boarding house was labor intensive

The panic of 1907 occurred during a lengthy economic contraction between May 1907 and June 1908. The interrelated contraction, bank panic and falling stock market resulted in significant economic disruption. Industrial production dropped further than after any previous bank run, while 1907 saw the second-highest volume of bankruptcies to that date. Production fell by 11%, imports by 26%, while unemployment rose to 8% from under 3%. Immigration dropped to 750,000 people in 1909, from 1.2 million two years earlier. Hardly any money was in circulation and people relied on barter.  It touched Fredonia, too. In her January 27, 1909 letter, Mary writes: ". . And dearest Whitman you think you would like to work back at the glass factory. I think it would be hard for you . . . do you know that they dont [sic] make so much money as they use to. They have cut down . . . wages an awful lot and the Fredonia glass factory is the only one that is running in Kansas. [A]ll the other factorys [sic] have been closed ever since Christmas. It sure put lots of men on the [bum], it is something awful. The factory here is crowded with idle men that are watching for places.  Sometime when one of the men gets sick [or] drunk, then there is another man right there to take [h]is place."
A carnival glass vase a boarder made and presented to Mary's mother Louise
Apparently the entire family had moved into Fredonia from their rented farm a few years earlier to run the boardinghouse and then Eugene and Louise Smith (and maybe Gus, too) decided to try farming again, for on February 28, 1909, Mary writes that she was sick when they moved out to the farm and had to stay a few days with a neighbor. "Gus came after me Friday and I am out on the farm now . . I do not know how I will like the farm, but I know it seems lonesome now. . . " April 7, 1909: " . . every[y]thing looks so nice and green. The trees are beginning to leaf out. It makes the farm look so pleasant now. There are so many trees here and the [Fall River] is just a little ways from the house. We all [are] beginning to like to live here. . . Next week is Easter . . . and just think we are going to have a new buggy to go to church [Gus had sent for it from Sears & Roebuck], won't that be fine." She was making white silk waists for Laura and herself to wear for Easter. She signs her letter "and also with sweet kisses" and puts five Xs below. I never knew it was such an old practice.  On April 15th, she writes of the buggy: ". . It's all right if we dont [sic] have no runaway to break it up. Our driving horse he is very bad at times. He tries to upset us . . . but I am not afraid of him; I think he's cute. They are using him on the corn planter today. Gus is planting corn and Papa he is [h]arrowing with four horses. They are short of horses, we lost so many two years ago with the feaver [sic]. Lost seven head and the[y] sold two so they have just six of them left. They are awful wild . . . young horses . . ." She expresses worry that if Whitman returns to Indiana before coming to Kansas in November, his parents will stop him from coming to marry her.

Old mill on Fall River, Wilson County, Kansas

Sometime in the spring he'd written, asking if she still wanted to be married by a Catholic priest.  She replied in early June that, yes, she intended that they be married by a priest. On June 13th she gets up her courage to suggest he become a Catholic. "My dear sweetheart how happy I am to know that your [sic] willing to be married by the priest, I know dear that you love me. Now dear one dont [sic] be offend[ed], but I want to ask you a question. Did it ever enter your mind once, that you would like to join the Catholic church, don't you think you would like to belong to the same church as I do. Now dear don't get angry toward me for asking you this. . ." You won't be surprised to learn that his mother, Nancy Raney, a Baptist, had a fit when Frank Raney later revealed he'd converted to Catholicism. '

 On July 24, 1909, she writes that she'd been cooking for threshers that had come through. [Threshers, their machines pulled by horses began threshing in Texas and gradually worked their way up into the Dakotas.]

She was calling him her "dear little Frank" and "dear little soldier boy." He teased her, saying he might stay out west after he was discharged, and she doubled down on proclaiming her love for him. Her cousins bought land in Texas and were moving. Apparently her folks bought land there, also. "But I guess they won't go for awhile . . . " The land was about 40 miles from the Gulf. They never did move to Texas. His enlistment was finally nearing its end and he told her he'd come back to Kansas for Christmas. She was so excited, vowing to meet the train whatever time it came in, but suggesting the 4:45 would be most convenient. He asked her how old she was and on November 1, 1909, she said she was twenty-four, taking off a couple of years. "I hope the difference in our age[es] will not break our love from one another. I did think that you was older than twenty-one. I always thought that my [intended] husband was nearly as old as I was, but it makes no difference to me.  I love you just the same and I hope you will have the same love for me as you always had." It had been three very long years for them.

November 8, 1909: "Well, dear one, I must tell you about our fishing fun we had yesterday afternoon. There is a lake about half a mile from home. Gusta, papa, my cousin, Laura, and I all went out a fishing. The boys took pitchforks and went out in water and got after the fish. It was more fun to see them catch those fish and they would throw them on the bank. Laura and I would put them in a sock [sack]. We caught about forty pounds in just a little wile [sic] . . ."

Her letters stop now.  He did return to Fredonia, they had a proper courtship and were married in June 1910. They were so poor, there is no wedding photograph.

In my next blog I will tell you about their years together and apart.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Frank Whitman Raney (1888-1969)

Frank Whitman Raney, c. 1910
My grandfather, Frank Whitman Raney, was born on a farm near Princeton, Gibson County, Indiana, on 26 August 1888. In the 1900 census (all 1890 Federal censuses were destroyed in a fire), his father James Raney and wife Nancy, with son Whitman (age 12) is listed as owning his farm. A brother had died, so now Whitman was an only child. His sister Laura Esther would be born in 1902.

During his retirement years from the Northern Pacific RR Frank enjoyed puttering about in his vegetable garden and growing roses, but he never had liked farm work.  There might have been a shotgun wedding while a teenager. Uncle Paul and Pat said they found evidence of it on a trip back to Princeton, but what I located on was a marriage in Pike County, Indiana, dated 9 Aug 1902, between W. Frank Rainey (b. 1876) and Estella B. Armstrong (b. 1878). They had three daughters and are in the 1920 census. Whether Frank ran off because his dad (he always called James Raney "Dad") was a tough taskmaster or because he regretted being married, he left Indiana in 1906 and ended up in Fredonia, Kansas, near the Oklahoma border, working at its glass factory. Mr. Lentes, the glass factory owner or manager brought him to the boarding house run by the Smith family  - Eugene, Louise, Gus, Mary and Laura. [They rented their original farm, but would rent another in 1909 and give up the boarding house.] Frank recalled first seeing Mary crossing the street in a red dress.  She claimed in later letters to him that she'd fallen in love with him during the short time he lived with them. Apparently, so did her  younger sister, Laura. Whitman's stay in Fredonia was short; he left on 26 November 1906 to join the United States Army, his 3-year enlistment papers claiming birth in Oil City, Pennsylvania (to avoid being found by his wife?).  After basic training at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, he was sent to the 21st Infantry at Fort Logan, Colorado, just south of  Denver (and later at Fort Douglas, Utah.)
This photograph was taken toward the end of August 1908 at temporary Camp Emmet Crawford between Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming, in an area called the Vedauwoo.  His infantry unit was on joint maneuvers with a cavalry unit from Fort F.E. Warren in Cheyenne. He must have marked the photo with an X before sending it to Mary in Kansas. They wrote  each other often. According to a contemporary issue of the Laramie Boomerang newspaper, the Fort Logan soldiers had come north from Fort Logan by train to Ft. Collins, Colorado, and from there had marched the 59 miles to Laramie and then east about 20 miles into this rugged area. [When the U. of Wyoming Cowboys football team plays the Colorado State Rams, each ROTC unit runs from its perspective university to a nearly midway point at the state line to exchange the "Bronze Boot trophy." Funny how distances decrease with the years.]  The army could have brought the soldiers all the way by train (Union Pacific), but that was too easy.

Vedauwoo - a great recreation area
He wrote to her from camp on 22 August, 1908, "My Dearest Beloved . . .Sweetheart we are in camp now and have some very hard work before us. We had to walk two hundred and forty miles before we got in camp. We had some very tuff (sic) days of it where we went to cross the Rocky Mountains. [W]e went through rain, hail and snow and it was oh very cold but is much better now, Dearest. We have to the fifteenth of September to complete this and I hope we will be through before then. Say Darling it wont (sic) be very long until I will get to come home to you and then how happy I will be. When I return it will be something grand. I wish that time was here dont [sic] you darling. . ."  Like most soldiers, he was prone to exaggeration to impress his girl.  He wrote this letter at camp with a purple pencil (or it's turned purple over the last 108 years). Often at Ft. Logan he wrote with a fountain pen. With only an 8th grade education, he still had a Spencerian hand. Note the flourishes on this blue envelope. [My mother Jean tore off all the stamps on their letters during a school stamp drive in the 1930s]

Grandpa was quite a storyteller.  He wrote of hair-raising adventures to Mary, recounting how his unit hunted bank robbers across the Wyoming prairie. When I read that letter some years back while living in Laramie, I went to the library and found the newspaper article about the bank robbery in Laramie and the search for the robbers. It was a long article and I suspect Grandpa read it while out on maneuvers.  His unit may have been told to be on the lookout, but it became his personal adventure.
Whitman wrote of going off on rides with his friend who had an auto and sent Mary this photo. I assume Whitman took the wheel for the photograph.
Another tale he wrote Mary was  of his imminent embarkation to the Philippines and that he wouldn't be in touch for a while. About this time he must have gone AWOL from Fort Logan to enjoy the good life of Denver.  Some time later he wrote that he'd returned from the Philippines.  He always said he'd been in the Insurrection of the Philippines, but that took place before he left Indiana. The Moro War was ongoing on Mindanao, with a battle in 1906, and I suspect he heard stories from fellow soldiers who'd been there or read accounts in the newspaper, for he once told me a gruesome tale about an attack in which his best friend was macheted by Moros. He took  his dislike too far one Thanksgiving in the 1950s by refusing to sit at his son Denny's and wife Junice's table because they'd invited the Filipino students living on the 3rd floor of their house. He finally did sit, but sulked throughout the meal (I received this story third-hand years ago).

After three years in the service he returned to Fredonia, converted from Baptist to Catholic, and married Mary Smith in June of 1910. On their wedding night, Mary's younger sister Laura sat outside their bedroom door and wept all night. Some wedding night! Years later, up at Laura and her brother Gus's farm outside Addy, Washington, Mary Agnes (still a girl) came to the open doorway to get a drink to find her father embracing and kissing Aunt Laura, who had never married. I'm certain Frank was just being kind.

Don't get me wrong. I was very fond of my Grandfather, and Grandma loved him dearly.  In my next blog, I'll get on with Frank and Mary's story.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Frank Whitman & Mary Emma (Smith) Raney - Spokane Washington

There it is, the house at 513 E. Nora, Spokane; Grandma and Grandpa's home where their children and families were always welcome. Son Denny and daughter Mary Agnes were rearing their families only blocks away.  Son Paul in the Merchant Marine would make lightning trips from Seattle when in port. Even the Hunter family, lost for a time after daughter Louise's untimely death, finally made its way back for a visit.  Living across the state line in the Idaho mountains, I looked forward to the family gathering every Christmas from the 1950s through the1960s. The adults sat at the dining room table, its size expanded with leaves, we cousins at card tables. Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, fruit salad with whipping cream, rolls, pumpkin pie - the same wonderful meal every year. Later we'd crowd into the living room, children sitting cross-legged on the floor around the Christmas tree, while Uncle Red Charbonneau usually played Santa Claus, handing out presents, including his gag gifts that made everyone laugh.

The summer evenings were especially pleasant at the house. The top of the glider can be seen on the big porch where our grandparents sat, Grandpa pushing it with his cane. My mother, Jean, the youngest child, had three marriage proposals on that swing. Beneath the birch trees on either side of the walk the grass was cool to play on, even on the hottest days.

Frank & Mary Raney - 1960 50th Wedding Anniversary

Frank and Mary Raney purchased this house in 1935, when being a union worker for the Northern Pacific Railway gave Frank the means to move from an old rented farmhouse without a bathroom on Broadway in the valley (he walked to work at the NP roundhouse in Parkwater) to the St. Aloysius parish neighborhood. They'd produced six children, but James, the oldest (1911-1921), died of blood poisoning from an untreated blister on his heel while Mary Raney and baby Mary Agnes were hospitalized with Typhoid Fever. Years later they still wept over his death.
Children Louise, Geneva, Mary Agnes, Paul (the tall one) and Dennis Raney c.1934

Before we cousins knew them as our grandparents, they'd led interesting, but difficult lives, as had their forebears.  Join me on this journey as I, Karen Charbonneau, daughter of Geneva, delve into the Raney lineage -  back to southern Indiana, and before that to 19th century Kentucky and Tennessee, 18th century colonial Virginia and Maryland, and the Carolinas, and even to the beginnings of our country in the 17th century. Yes, our people were southerners and our mostly British ancestors came early to America. I'm writing this blog for you, a member of our large family descended from Frank and Mary Raney, so I invite you to sign up to receive each blog via email, Feel free to comment and ask questions, too.

Our forebears were agriculturalists, living close to American soil. I was shocked only twice in my research. Here's that first shock. During my life whenever the issue came up that descendants of slave owners should apologize to African Americans for the behavior of their ancestors, I smugly thought, "That doesn't apply to me . . . my ancestors were dirt-poor farmers."  Well, the "dirt-poor" part was in the latter half of the 19th and into the early 20th centuries.  Our earlier ancestors,  and they were many, were slave-owners - tobacco planters in Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas. Slavery is wrong. Period.  I've had to deal with this knowledge and so, too, will you. I'll save the other shock for a later blog. Otherwise, the Raney line and the ascents of their wives and their forebears, whose blood flows in our veins, were conservative, law-abiding men and women. There will be pleasant surprises, too. I'm about to take you on a fascinating journey into America's past.