Tag Archives: Sioux City

Suiting Up at the Turn of the Century

I’ll admit I feel rather proud of my namesake for marrying such a debonaire young man. Henry Joseph Adam of Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, pictured at right, married Melanie Veronica Lutz in 1905 at the age of twenty-four, which allows this photograph to be dated to approximately 1900-1905.1

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Henry Joseph Adam, at right, with an unknown individual, Akron, Iowa, ca. 1900; digital image 2014, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015. Collection courtesy of David Adam.

Census records confirm that the photographer who made this cabinet card, Gene Frank of Akron, Plymouth County, Iowa, did indeed operate a photography studio in the early twentieth century.2 However, I’m not entirely sure what Henry was doing in Akron himself. He lived in Sioux City, thirty miles south, where there were certainly a number of photographers; however, Akron was a bit closer to the French Canadian communities of southeastern South Dakota where Henry had a number of relatives. It’s also possible that he had hired out to work in the area or that he had simply gone there for a visit – or, as the case may be, for a shopping expedition.

As with all photographs, an important question comes to mind: “What was the occasion?” While I don’t note a strong family resemblance between the other young man and Henry’s male relatives, one possibility is that he could have been a cousin. He could not have been a classmate, as Henry attended school only through eighth grade, but it is possible that he and Henry worked together in some capacity. If nothing else, he was a friend, and I wonder if he and Henry purchased these suits together. The textured suit jackets are nearly identical in terms of cut and fabric, but not quite, while the stiff-collared shirts seem to be the same; the young men expressed their individuality by way of their accessories. The friend, with wet hair slicked in a part, wears a vest with a knotted striped necktie and a watch chain, while Henry omits the vest in favor of a fleur-de-lis-printed necktie tied in a bow. It wouldn’t have been unusual in this era for two young men to have a photograph taken together to document their friendship.

What strikes me about this photograph is that from what I know of Henry, he wasn’t typically quite so refined! He spent his teenage years as a dairy farmer and his adult years as a carpenter, so such dapper attire was in all likelihood limited to his early adulthood and might have been worn to church or while courting. The high detachable collar fully encased his neck, and I particularly like that he wore the fleur-de-lis as an apparent nod to his French Canadian heritage; Henry in fact spoke both French and English.

There are a number of photographs of Henry in my collection, but this may be the most dapper of them all. For more photographs of the family of Henry Joseph Adam (1881-1944) and Melanie Veronica Lutz (1884-1973), stay tuned for the new Adam Family Album. 

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Goodly Bit of Romance

The newspaper headline must have brought a few chuckles: “OLD FOLKS HAVE ROMANCE.” The story continued, “Romance is not all reserved for young people, as the marriage of Isaac N. Holman, aged 70, of Decatur, Neb., to Mrs. Sarah E. Fenton, aged 51, of Springdale, in Sioux City, will testify. […] This is the third marriage for each of the contracting parties. Both are well along the avenue of life and to them the marriage represents good judgment as well as a goodly bit of romance. They have known each other a long time and the mutual admiration they have entertained has grown gradually until the marriage yesterday placed its happy seal upon their growing affection.” Following their marriage on 24 August 1908 at the home of the Reverend W. H. Montgomery of the Haddock Methodist Episcopal Church in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, the couple was to visit Omaha. They would settle in Decatur, Burt County, Nebraska, where Holman, “said to be quite well to do,” made his home.1

That evening, their story appeared in another Sioux City newspaper: “LOOKING FOR LAND HE FINDS HELPMATE.” This version of the story was written with a level of flowery detail that, while entertaining, I don’t quite trust:

“I.N. Holman, a wealthy retired farmer of Decatur, Neb., came to Sioux City several months ago on a land deal. At the office of a real estate dealer he met a charming black-eyed widow, Mrs. Sarah E. Fenton, who had chanced in there on business. When they were introduced, he immediately lost all interest in Sioux City property or any property for that matter, and devoted all his time to the widow. Holman is 70 years old, and he pressed his suit with such ardor that before he returned to Decatur he had made a contract for something which he wouldn’t trade for all the farms in Iowa, namely the attractive widow. Today he returned to close the deal, which he says is the best he ever made. A license was issued this afternoon, the bride giving her age as 51. They will be married this evening and after a two weeks’ wedding trip will make their home at Decatur. “Maybe people think we’re foolish,” said the bride, blushing like a school girl, “but we don’t, we’re too happy.”2

This is far from the whole story. First, there are, in fact, two stories presented by these competing news articles. Did the couple meet at the land office, or had they been acquainted for years? This we may never know for sure; it seems unlikely, but not impossible, that the couple had crossed paths before meeting in Sioux City. Second, the “attractive widow” most likely did not have the black eyes of Bess the landlord’s daughter, charming as the description may be.3 And was she even a widow? Well, yes and no. Her first husband, George W. Fenton, died tragically in 1880 when accidentally shot by her brother-in-law.4 Her second husband, however, was still alive and well at the time of her third marriage; Sarah had divorced John Hoffman in 1902 citing his drunkenness and death threats.5 However, it would have been far from unusual for a woman to claim widowhood over divorce.

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Sarah Ellen (Hall) Fenton Hoffman Holman Eklof, Iowa or Nebraska, ca. 1908; digital image 2001, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015.

Finally, would Isaac and Sarah live happily ever after? Unfortunately not. Isaac was granted a divorce from Sarah in 1914;6 a probate petition filed by his son the previous year, while suggesting that Isaac “indulged in intoxicating liquors to excess” and was “changeable, forgetful, and stubborn,” also stated that “the amount of money demanded from him by his current wife annoyed him considerable.”7 Oh dear. Isaac did not remarry before his death in 1922,8 but Sarah would marry – and divorce – once more.9 She resumed the use of the Holman name and at the time of her death in 1930, she was referenced as the widow of Isaac Newton Holman. Her short-lived marriage to this “wealthy landowner” was, perhaps, her one claim to local fame and financial stability.10

Lesson learned? Never assume. I had assumed that because this was the couple’s third marriage, and because they married in a community with a population greater than thirty thousand, that no mention would be made of their marriage in the local newspaper. In fact, I didn’t bother to check until their names turned up in the Findmypast database featuring a newspaper from across the state, and then learned that more than one version of the story existed. As it turns out, you never know what details of your ancestor’s experience might have made a compelling story deemed worthy of reprint!

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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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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Brotherly Love

It might have been a late summer’s day when brothers Roy and James Walsted of Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa posed for this snapshot circa 1924. Six years apart in age, Roy was perhaps twelve and Jim perhaps six when this photograph was taken some ninety years ago.1 The park-like setting and the blanket at their feet suggest that the occasion may have been a picnic. Classic car aficionados could likely date the vehicle parked behind the boys.

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Roy Louis Christian Walsted (back) and James Herman Walsted (front), Sioux City, Iowa, ca. 1924; digital image 2015, privately held by Valene Petersen, 2015.

Roy suffered from polio as a child, which resulted in a limp as one leg was left shorter than the other. His younger brother was said to have come to his defense when Roy was bullied or was the last to be chosen for a neighborhood baseball team.2 Even in this photograph, it appears that Jim stands guard in front of his brother, his arms protectively curved back around Roy’s legs as Roy clasps his hands atop his brother’s head. Both boys wear short pants and newsboy caps; Jim is in a sailor suit, a style that remained popular for young boys in the post World War I era.3

I have to wonder who the man off to the side of the photograph could be. I have only seen two small snapshots of Roy and Jim’s father, both of which were taken late in his life. (I suppose there is a third if I count a postmortem photograph of him at his own funeral.) From those, I know that he was a man of slight build, but beyond that, I have no way of telling whether this gentleman in a straw boater hat and rolled shirtsleeves is in fact James Jacob Walsted or not. If this picnic was a family affair, perhaps the boys’ mother, Kathrine, was behind the camera.

This charming snapshot is one of a handful of photographs that I have in my digital collection of the Walsted brothers and their parents, both immigrants who came to Iowa from Denmark in the early twentieth century. For more photographs of the family of James Jacob Walsted (1886-1956) and Kathrine Christensen (1886-1971), check out my new Walsted Family Album

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Letter From the Shipyards

Although Henry Joseph Adam was sixty years old when the United States entered World War II, he made the decision to apply his skills as a carpenter more than fifteen hundred miles from home at the Kaiser Shipyards in Portland, Oregon.1 This was one of several emergency shipyards established during wartime that oversaw the construction of numerous Liberty and Victory ships.2

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Henry Adam (seated at center) at work, Sioux City, Iowa, ca. 1930-40; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015.

Henry ventured to Oregon in 1942, although he was not there continuously; his wife of thirty-seven years, Melanie, remained at their home in Iowa.3 However, we know that Henry was in Portland in June of 1943 when he mailed the following letter:

6-4-43
Dear Mealane
red your letter last night and it seam funey to me to here of so many people dying sent i left. i just got back from supper i was out to cool and here it is quarty to eight so will send you my first check rent i got sick and it leave me purty short you ask me what i am doing well i send you the slip of the copany witch i am with and i is house prog work and i am in side setting up book case and kitchen cabinet and thresh hold and it is a snap so far. and the Boos pick me up right at the door so that make it fine i leave here at half past 7 and we get back about 5.75 and by the time i get to cool it is 6.00. well Mealane i will send you my driver licin so you get me a new one and i wish you would send me the last MWAR so i can go and play cribag with the man that live in the back room that old lady say you aught to be out here now to see the purty flowrs and so many it rain every day a little bit and the night are fine so i guest that about all i think of so good By and good luck
Henry xxxxxxxxxxxxX

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I don’t have the impression that Henry had occasion to write many letters in his lifetime. His spelling errors are numerous, and at times humorous – for one, his wife actually spelled her name Melanie, not Mealane! However, his apparent lack of practice in spelling and grammar is understandable for a hardworking tradesman of the era. After spending his early years in Massachusetts surrounded by so many relatives of French Canadian descent that he had no reason to speak English until he entered school, Henry moved to Iowa where he spent the remainder of his childhood on his father’s homestead. He did not attend school beyond eighth grade, at which point he likely entered the workforce.3 By the time he was thirty, he had settled on carpentry as a profession.4

A carpenter Henry remained until his death. On 28 March 1944, Henry suffered a fatal heart attack in Long Beach, California, where he had been a resident for less than a week.5 He had likely pursued work at the US Naval Dry Docks, later the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, as the United States was still in the throes of World War II. His letter, written less than a year prior to his death, documents this final chapter of his life.

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Paper Moon

When I began researching the topic of paper moon photography, I was surprised to find that these crescent moon photo booth props are making a comeback by way of trendy, vintage-style wedding decor. In case you didn’t know, flappers are big these days, and the popularity of this era has influenced a new generation to pose for classic shots with a smiling man in the moon. However, paper moon photo booths got their start even before the days of Gatsby, likely around the turn of the twentieth century.1

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Melanie (Lutz) and son Gerald Adam, Sioux City, Iowa, ca. 1912; digital image 2014, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015. Collection courtesy of David Adam.

This particular paper moon photograph was printed on a real photo postcard circa 1912. The moon backdrop itself is not one of the more elaborate, with an obvious break in the night sky for seating purposes. In fact, what looks like a wheel to roll the seat into place is also visible, and a small “magic carpet” conceals the primary seating area. The crescent moon smiles, and the stars, as is typical among paper moon photography, are present even within the crescent – where, realistically, they would be blocked by the moon in shadow. A shooting star can be spotted at the upper tip of the crescent, and a planet appears below the moon.

The mother and son posed here are Melanie (Lutz) and Gerald “Jerry” Adam of Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa. Both are dressed in long fur coats, Melanie’s of a fashionable collared design while Jerry’s is fastened simply with three large buttons. A glimpse of Melanie’s leather gloves is visible, and a stylish plumed hat is atop her head. Jerry wears a practical stocking cap and high button boots. His curls are long, to his shoulders, which was not atypical among young boys of the era.

Given their attire, it is obvious that this photograph was taken on a cold winter’s day. Perhaps the paper moon photo booth was set up outdoors or in an unheated (or under-heated) space as a temporary attraction; this mother and son may have simply stumbled upon it and decided to surprise Jerry’s father with their fun souvenir. As Jerry was born in the summer of 1908,2 it seems most likely that this photograph dates to the winter of 1911-1912, or, at the latest, the winter of 1912-1913. January 1912 in particular was a cold month, with Sioux City registering a record low of −35°F on 12 January.3 However, even beyond such extremes, Sioux City was no stranger to weather that would have required one’s warmest winter coats for a visit to the moon!

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Wedding Wednesday: A Question of Nationality

I’m not sure if it was meant as a joke, or if newlyweds Gerald and Fern (Thoma) Adam of Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa were genuinely confused. When asked to state their nationalities at the time of their marriage, their answers should have been simple; they were the American-born children of American-born parents, after all, so there was really no question that they were American themselves. Jerry, however, stated that he was of French nationality, while Fern declared that she was German-English.1

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Gerald Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Iowa, ca. 1929; digital image 2012, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

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Fern Lavonne Thoma, Sioux City, Iowa, ca. 1929; digital image 2012, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

From a genealogical perspective, I love it. How often does one have the chance to learn what their forebears knew of their own ancestry? However, if I didn’t already know so much about this couple and their heritage, I might have been thrown off. Jerry’s ancestry was indeed French – and French Canadian, and Polish. Fern’s ancestors, many of whom were likely early arrivals on American soil, can thus far be traced to Germany and the British Isles.

I don’t know when exactly the couple met while on their way downtown to the movie theater, but Jerry and Fern married in their hometown on 8 June 1929 – eighty-five years ago this week.2 Fern was twenty-one, and although Jerry would not celebrate his twenty-first birthday for eleven more days,3 he claimed to be the same age as Fern.4 Their wedding attendants were close friends Merle Montgomery and Dorothy Thompson,5 and, following their ceremony, led by Reverend R. M. LeCair of St. Jean Baptiste Church, the couple took a “motor trip” to the Black Hills of South Dakota.6

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“Iowa, Marriage Records, 1923-1937,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 June 2014), Gerald Adam and Fern Thoma, 8 June 1929, Sioux City; citing “Iowa Marriage Records, 1923–37,” microfilm, State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines.

If your ancestors married in Iowa between 1923 and 1937, be sure to visit Ancestry.com’s digital image collection, “Iowa, Marriage Records, 1923-1937,” new this year. This database has plenty of detail to offer, as marriage records included such information as age, place of residence, occupation, place of birth, father’s name, mother’s maiden name, number of marriages, and the names of the officiant and witnesses. It’s also an opportunity to see the signatures of the couple – likely the last time the bride would sign her maiden name. Have you found any surprises in this record set?

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