Tag Archives: Millette

Tombstone Tuesday: Timothy and Odile (Millette) Adam

Timothy and Odile (Millette) Adam experienced nearly forty years of marriage together that were anything but ordinary.

Timothy, baptized in St. Pie, Quebec on 8 August 1846, the son of Timothée Adam and Marguerite Chicoine, crossed into America with his family as a teenager.1 They settled near the textile mills of Indian Orchard, Hampden County, Massachusetts, which is where Timothy married at the age of twenty-one on 22 September 1867 to Odile Millette.2 Odile had been born in the French Canadian community of Rouse’s Point, Clinton County, New York on 11 July 1847, the daughter of Maurice Millet and Isabelle Quemeneur dit Laflamme.3 She, too, had relocated to Massachusetts as a teenager, where she also found work in the mills.

The couple was said to have had ten children together, eight of whom have been identified: Timothy Maurice, Alexander Amadée Edmond (known as Edward), Joseph Frederick (known as Alfred), Marie Julie Malvina, Albina Lena, Henry Joseph, Martin Theodore, and Permelia Marie.4 Only five of these children are known to have survived to adulthood; at least one succumbed to scarlet fever as a toddler.5

In 1883, the family made the decision to move west.6 I have to wonder if this move was spurred by the deaths of at least two of their own young children circa 1880, as well as by the deaths of Timothy’s younger brother and sister who died within a week of each other in February of 1883: one of pneumonia at twenty and the other of tuberculosis at twenty-four.7 In fact, tuberculosis had caused the death of Timothy’s mother just five years before.8 Perhaps the idea of fresh air and the countryside appealed to the couple as they must have feared for the health of their children.

Timothy and Odile first joined French Canadian relations in southeastern South Dakota, where a son was born to them in the summer of 1885.9 In December of the following year, Timothy claimed a homestead a short distance away near Moville, Woodbury County, Iowa.10 The family would remain here for a number of years; by 1900, they had relocated to a dairy farm closer to Sioux City.11

The coming years were unexpectedly tumultuous for Timothy and Odile. First, in 1900, their twenty-nine-year-old son Edward, who had been out of touch for nearly a decade, returned home and began harassing his parents and younger siblings. Timothy went to court in order to obtain a restraining order against him.12 Then, over the next several years, Timothy and Odile may have suffered marital discord. Timothy was not recorded in the 1903 Sioux City Directory; he appeared again in the same household as his wife the following year.13 In 1905 he was again absent, and it was at this time that Odile implored the enumerator of the 1905 Iowa State Census to bring her any word of her two eldest sons, Edward and Fred, who had traveled west and had not been heard from in several years.14 It was also in 1905 that Odile recorded her will, leaving her real estate to her three youngest children: Henry, Theodore, and Permelia. No mention was made of her absent sons – or her husband.15

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Grave of Odile Milliette Adam (1847-1906) and Timothy Adam (1840-1919), St. Joseph Cemetery, Elk Point, Union County, South Dakota; 2014, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015. Note: Timothy’s date of birth on his gravestone is incorrect. He was born in 1846.

In 1906, the final year of Odile’s life, she operated a boarding house at 508 Perry in Sioux City.16 Notably, Timothy resided not at home, but at the Washington House Hotel.17 It does seem possible, however, that the couple reconciled whatever differences they may have had by the time of fifty-nine-year-old Odile’s death from hepatitis on 16 December 1906 in Elk Point, Union County, South Dakota.18 Notably, when the 1907 Sioux City Directory was printed at some point in late 1906, likely shortly before her death, both Odile and Timothy were named as residents of 508 Perry.19

Timothy, a carpenter again as he had been in his younger years, remained in the house with his children for only a short time before resettling in nearby Jefferson, Union County, South Dakota. He remained here for the next decade; as of 1910, he operated a billiard hall in this small, largely French Canadian community.20

By 1917, Timothy, now seventy, had returned to Sioux City where he lived with his married daughter.21 He died there on 22 February 1919 at the age of seventy-two, his cause of death recorded as senility.22 Timothy Adam was buried beside his wife, Odile Millette, at St. Joseph Cemetery in Elk Point, Union County, South Dakota, his name squeezed as though an afterthought at the base of her gravestone.

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Mystery in the Margins

All I can think is that Odile must have been desperate. She hadn’t seen her eldest son, Edward, in five years, and it had been at least two since she’d laid eyes on his younger brother, Fred. The last she’d heard, the two men, both in their thirties, had left the state, and she had no way of contacting them.

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Odile (Millette) Adam, Sioux City, Iowa, circa 1900; digital image 2004, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

When the census enumerator arrived at the door of her home in Sioux City, Woodbury, Iowa, Odile (Millette) Adam saw in him a reason to hope. Here was someone who surely knew a thing or two about tracking people down. If nothing else, perhaps he could ask around? Had anyone seen her sons, Edward and Fred? The census enumerator strayed from the lines gathering information about Odile’s age, address, and origin, and jotted some hasty notes in the margins:

“Mrs. Adam wants information of her sons Edward and Fred. […] copper mines Ed. Fred left for Seattle. Fred 1903. Edward 1900.”1

Odile Adam 1905

“Iowa, State Census, 1905,” Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, O.T. Adam [Mrs. T. Adam]; digital images, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 08 October 2014).

Although some words are indistinct (can anyone make out what it says?), the message is clear: The Adam boys had made their way west, and, whether dead or alive, they had disappeared without a trace. There may not have been much of anything that the census enumerator could have done, save for keeping his eyes and ears open in case the men turned up around town, but at the very least, he appears to have been sympathetic to Odile’s concerns.

Fred, also known as Alfred G. Adam, would eventually return to Sioux City, though perhaps not for a few more years; records suggest he returned to the area around 1909.2 Of Edward Adam, however, there seems to be no paper trail. In the summer of 1900, the Sioux City Journal reported that the then twenty-nine-year-old Edward, who had left home at the age of fourteen, had returned to his family, but his behavior towards them was “abusive, inconsiderate, and contemptuous.”3 His ailing father submitted a petition requesting a restraining order against him in order to protect himself as well as his minor children, and Edward, at least under his given name, is seemingly absent from record thereafter.4

Odile’s apparent distress according to the 1905 Iowa State Census is made more interesting by the fact that her husband of nearly forty years, Timothy Adam, was not recorded as a member of her household.5 Was he away searching for their sons, or was he simply visiting relatives across the state line in South Dakota or in his native Massachusetts? Was he aware that Odile was seeking word of their sons, or had he washed his hands of them? We may never know, just as Odile may never have learned the fate of her two eldest surviving sons before her death late the following year.6

The 1905 Iowa State Census images are available for free on FamilySearch. Even if there aren’t any notes written in the margins, you can learn a great deal about an ancestor from the details that were formally requested, including military status, level of education, and number of years as a resident of the state. If you would like to know who lived in the same household as your ancestor before turning to the individual cards, see the index available in the Iowa State Census Collection on Ancestry.com.

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Back to the Land: Finding an Ancestor’s Iowa Homestead

While tracking down the exact location of your ancestor’s land may seem daunting, last month, I learned that it’s entirely possible to get from this: Timothy Adam BLM…to this:

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Timothy Adam Homestead Site, Moville Township, Woodbury County, Iowa; digital image 2014, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that my ancestor Timothy Adam homesteaded in Woodbury County, Iowa.1 I was excited to find that his homestead was just a short hop from the Woodbury County Fairgrounds in rural Moville Township, making it an area that, thanks to my years in 4-H, is familiar to me. I thought how funny it would be if I would happen to know who lived on his land today.

That thought remained in the back of my mind as I prepared to plot the location of the NE ¼ of Section 29, information obtained online from the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records and verified in record copies from the National Archives. Armed with the legal land description, I turned to the Plat Book of Woodbury County, Iowa, available online through the Iowa Digital Library.

After locating the quarter section where the Adam family spent the latter part of the nineteenth century, I took note of any landmarks – including nearby towns, roads, and waterways – that would help pinpoint the homestead site on a modern map. As Moville Township is still comprised of farmland broken into the orderly squares that make up the Midwest’s patchwork landscape, it was easy enough to identify the right quarter section via satellite image on Google Maps.

Timothy Adam Google MapsAfter zooming in on a grove of trees on the appropriate quarter, it was even possible to see that there was an old home site located there. Thank you, Google Maps!

Timothy Adam Home Site Google MapsThe next step, of course, was to visit the land where Timothy and Odile (Millette) Adam, pictured here, once lived. My parents and I embarked on an expedition to the back roads southeast of Moville, where we stopped at a neighboring farm to ask if we might have permission to trek to the home site. There, we discovered that the owners were, indeed, a family that we knew from 4-H! Despite the shock of us showing up on her doorstep for perhaps the most unexpected reason imaginable, our friend kindly gave us permission to take a shortcut across the pasture with our truck.

According to a local newspaper, a tornado that hit the area in 1928 was said to have caused significant damage to what remained of the homestead: “Southwest of Moville on the old Timothy Adam farm now owned by W. H. Rawson trees in the orchard were uprooted, corn crib, machine shed, barn, hog house and chicken house were swept away. The house is the only building left standing.”2 Today, not even a house remains, but it was fascinating to explore the old foundations and to imagine just how little, perhaps, the view from the homestead had changed.

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Timothy Adam Homestead Site, Moville Township, Woodbury County, Iowa; digital image 2014, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

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An Iowa Homestead

Winter was well on its way when Timothy Adam claimed a homestead near Moville, Woodbury County, Iowa, in December 1886. At that time, only a claim shanty existed on the property.1 I have to wonder if Timothy weathered the winter alone, with his wife and children situated somewhere in town, or if they joined him in what certainly must have been far from ideal living conditions. In any case, the next year, Timothy built a house that measured fifteen by twenty-one feet – three hundred and fifteen square feet for a family of six.2

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Timothy Adam (Woodbury County) homestead file, final certificate no. 2560, Fort Des Moines, Iowa, Land Office; Land Entry Papers, 1800-1908; Records of the Bureau of Land Management, Record Group 49; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

The Homestead Act was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on 20 May 1862.3 My first ancestor who took advantage of the one hundred and sixty acres offered to qualified applicants who lived on the land for five years and made specified improvements was Jens Madsen Schmidt, a Danish immigrant who settled in South Dakota in 1870.4 I had assumed that any ancestors who claimed homesteads in the years to follow would have had to journey even further west to find available land, but as it turns out, this was not necessarily the case. It would be sixteen years before Timothy would claim his homestead to the east, in northwestern Iowa.

The new yet modest house must have seemed positively roomy in comparison to the original shanty, and perhaps it was an improvement over what may have been an even more crowded situation back in Massachusetts. Timothy had been born and raised in St. Pie, Quebec, but by the time he was twenty, he had settled in Indian Orchard, Hampden County, Massachusetts, with his wife, Odile Millette.4 For nearly two decades, they relied on the cotton mills to earn a living, although Timothy was a carpenter by trade.5 Life in Massachusetts was likely difficult; Odile reportedly gave birth to ten children, of whom only five survived to adulthood.6 At least one succumbed to scarlet fever.7

Life in Iowa proved to be a fresh start for the family. Within a few years, the homestead boasted a barn, corn crib, hen house, shed, two wells, and fencing, valued altogether at eight hundred dollars. Timothy had cultivated ninety acres, and had raised crops every season. In addition, he had become a naturalized citizen. Finally, in 1893, at the age of forty-five, Timothy Adam became the proud owner of the NE 1/4 of Section 29, Township 88N, Range 45W in Woodbury County, Iowa.8

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A Little French Boy

An American by birth, Henry Joseph Adam spoke French until he started school.1 He was born in Indian Orchard, Hampden County, Massachusetts, on 5 August 1881, the son of Timothy and Odile (Millette) Adam, both of French Canadian heritage.2 His father had been born in Quebec, while his mother had been born in upstate New York.3 Regardless of their nationality, their roots ran deep, and the French language likely remained more familiar to them than English.

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Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, ca. 1886-87; digital image 2013, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

Pictured here circa 1886-87, when he was about five years old, Henry is simply but neatly dressed. He wears breeches with high patterned stockings, and a white or light-colored shirt with a contrasting bow-tie. His boots, perhaps hand-me-downs from an older brother, have been polished till they shine. He may hold a cap in his left hand, although it is indistinct due to the quality of this tintype. Despite the fact that cabinet cards grew in popularity during this decade, tintypes were still certainly not unusual. The faintest blush of pink is visible on Henry’s cheeks from a painted accent.

The studio setup is interesting and not particularly professional. Henry stands upon a small stool, and leans against a piece of furniture covered with heavy fabric. The painted backdrop behind him depicts a scene of a house, fields, and a tree, which doesn’t tie in well with the wood floor in the foreground. I suspect that this photograph may have been taken in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa; the Adam family moved here sometime in the mid-1880s, perhaps because of its proximity to the large French Canadian community in nearby Jefferson, Union County, South Dakota.4 Thus, this little French boy remained in good company; he may have learned English at school, but he would not have forgotten his French!

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A Tintype Wedding Portrait

One of my favorite aspects of genealogical research is photograph analysis. I can never take just one glance at an old photograph, as I love to detect clues about the eras, lifestyles, and relationships depicted within. I hope to share a photograph and analysis on a weekly or monthly basis, including both photographs from my family’s collection, as well as photographs, unidentified or not, that I’ve come across in antique stores.

Timothy Adam and Odile Millette photograph, 1867, Springfield, Massachusetts; digital image 2013, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2013.

Timothy Adam and Odile Millette photograph, 1867, Springfield, Massachusetts; digital image 2013, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2013.

This is a scan of a tintype of my third great grandparents, Timothy Adam and Odile Millette of Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts, who were married on 22 September 1867.1 At the time of their marriage, Timothy and Odile, both of French Canadian heritage, were twenty years old. Timothy worked as a dresser at a cotton mill; prior to their marriage, it seems likely that Odile would have worked at a mill as well.

This tintype has several features worth noting. Smaller than my hand, the original has hand painted pink accents on the cheeks of the couple. The corner of the tintype has been bent, but the overall quality of the image is good.

Was this tintype made at the time of the couple’s marriage? First of all, we know that tintypes were in use from 1856-1930. They gained popularity in the 1860s as they were inexpensive to produce – Timothy and Odile may have paid only a few cents for this image at a local studio.2

In the image, Odile stands at Timothy’s side while he sits in a chair. His feet are planted firmly on the ground, and Odile rests her hand on his shoulder. Timothy’s gaze focuses directly on the camera, while Odile gazes slightly above. Their expressions are serious, but not unpleasant.

Timothy wears a three-piece suit for the occasion. He appears to be a slight young man, and his dark suit is somewhat loose fitting – perhaps it was not brand new, as closer fitted, ready-made styles became popular in this decade.3 There is trim at the borders and cuffs of his suit, which he wears with a white collar, a cravat, appropriate for a formal occasion, and what may be a pocket watch at the lapel.4 Timothy’s hair is parted on the side, and he sports a faint mustache.

Odile wears a skirt and waist style of dress, the simple waist accented by jet buttons. Over this, she wears a Spanish jacket in a contrasting color with a bold trim.5 Her otherwise plain skirt features a belt or sash and a wide hoop, which is compressed slightly by her position against her husband’s chair. Her dark hair has a center part and is pulled back into a plain snood, or hair net, in an everyday style. She wears earrings, and a brooch adorns her high collar.

Odile’s style of dress reflects a fashion seen in the 1860s. In May 1863, Peterson’s printed the following:

“[…] All the thin summer goods are very much risen in price, so that the present fashion of wearing old skirts, with Spanish and Zouave jackets, is a most convenient one […] pretty jackets in velvet, silk, and cloth […] very useful for wearing with old skirts, the bodices of which are worn out.”6

Furthermore, in June 1866, Godey’s noted “a charming assortment of fancy jackets” worn by women.7 Though the high prices of fabric reported in 1863 were most likely a result of the Civil War, which concluded two years prior to Odile’s wedding day, as she was a young millworker of limited means, it does not seem unreasonable to assume that she might have remade an old dress in an economical fashion for the occasion. With her dark complexion, a Spanish jacket proved an attractive choice.

The clothing and hairstyles worn by the couple indicates that the image was made in the 1860s, and the apparent age of the couple suggests that it was made in the latter half of the decade. It therefore seems likely that this was indeed a wedding portrait of Timothy Adam and Odile Millette, who would have had their picture made on or around 22 September 1867 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. It provides a unique glimpse into an important day in the lives of two young people of French Canadian heritage, who sought opportunity in the textile mills of New England in the years following the Civil War.

Do you have any tintypes in your family collection?



SOURCES
1 “Massachusetts, Marriages, 1841-1915,” digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 30 Aug 2013), Timothy Adams and Julia Mellett, 22 September 1867, Springfield. Odile Millette used the name Julia early in her life.
2 Maureen A. Taylor, Family Photo Detective (Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2013), 37.
3 Joan Severa, Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans & Fashion, 1840-1900 (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1995), 259.
4 Severa, Dressed for the Photographer, 209.
5 Severa, Dressed for the Photographer, 277.
6 Severa, Dressed for the Photographer, 241.
7 Severa, Dressed for the Photographer, 277.