Archive for July, 2014

When my father ran Ramona Park, he used to sit on a ticket taker stool to admit dance patrons. He still had the stool until recently.


The other day, he gave it to Paula Taylor, who is writing a history of Ramona and Long Lake.




Update on why the Ramona/Long Lake photos say Vicksburg:

Maggie Snyder for Vicksburg Historical Society says this:

Vicksburg never included Ramona Park, which was at Long Lake. However, at that time Portage as a town was much smaller than Vicksburg, so it would have been the closest “big” town. Also, the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad had a flag stop at Ramona Park, and their closest depot was in Vicksburg.

On another note: here are a couple of online articles about Long Lake:

Long Lake: from sinking houses to sea serpents

Portage Couple Has Spent a Lifetime on Long Lake


More posts about Ramona:

The Park with a Literary Name
A Re-telling of Ramona: The Park with a Literary Name


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When I was a kid my father used to bring me (and sometimes my friend, Jill, a reader of this blog) to Ramona Park. We explored and played while he worked–maintaining and refurbishing the pavilion, the grounds, and the shore of Long Lake that ran along the property.

I’ve written before about this park, located in Portage, Michigan here:

The Park with a Literary Name
A Re-telling of Ramona: The Park with a Literary Name

I remember trying to imagine what the pavilion, which was called Ramona Palace, was like back in its heyday, when people came to listen to live music and dance in the ballroom.

Notice that this old photograph locates the park in Vicksburg, but it is now Portage, Michigan. This is the ballroom as I remember it–big and empty.  The lake was just outside those windows.

A while back I was contacted by Shawna (Smith) Raymond about those days. Her grandfather, Eddie Smith, and his Big Band used to play at Ramona Palace.

Eddie Smith and the Revelers courtesy of Shawna (Smith) Raymond

Eddie Smith and the Revelers
courtesy of Shawna (Smith) Raymond

Shawna passed on a story from her aunt about those days.

When Mom, whose name was Margene, would walk into the Ramona Palace ballroom where Dad was playing, he’d always stop whatever song they were playing and play ‘My Little Margie.’

Shawna’s aunt has a framed collage of the sheet music to “My Little Margie” and Shawna’s grandfather’s conducting baton. According to Wikipedia:

Margie“, also known as “My Little Margie“, is a 1920 popular song composed in collaboration by vaudeville performer and pianist Con Conrad and ragtime pianist J. Russel Robinson, a member of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Lyrics were written by Benny Davis, a vaudeville performer and songwriter. The song was introduced by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1920 as Victor 78, 18717-A, in a medley paired with “Singin’ the Blues”. The B side was “Palesteena”.The Rega Dance Orchestra recorded the song in October, 1920 for Okeh Records, 4211. The ODJB recorded their instrumental version on December 1, 1920. The song was published in 1920 and was named after the five-year-old daughter of singer and songwriter Eddie Cantor. Cantor is credited with popularizing the song with his 1921 recording that stayed at the top of the pop charts for five weeks.

Here is a Benny Goodman version from 1938:


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After I posted the wedding invitation for John DeSmit and Nellie Squares, the mystery of Nellie was solved by Adri van Gessel.

Nellie was born Pieternella Paulina Schrier on Sunday, October 5, 1879, at Kortgene, the Netherlands. She immigrated to the United States in 1891 with her mother, the widow of Paulus Schrier, and 5 siblings.

On Thursday, July 20, 1899, Nellie married John DeSmit in Kalamazoo.

Wedding dress circa 1900

On May 9, 1900, Nellie died in Kalamazoo. She was a 20-year-old housewife, according to her death record.

But the story does not end here.

Adri found the birth of a girl, Nellie D. DeSmit, born April 30, 1900, in Kalamazoo. The daughter of Nellie and John. Sadly, Nellie must have passed away from giving birth.

Baby Nellie was not listed on the 1900 census with her father, John, who was living at home with his family. Instead, the baby was listed as an adopted daughter in the family of Christopher (Christiaan) Schrier, Nellie’s brother and baby Nellie’s uncle.

Baby Nellie, no longer a baby, was married on June 13, 1918, in Kalamazoo, to Garret Johnson, son of J.G. Johnson and Nellie Groenhuizen. Garret was born on May 11, 1895 at Hilversum, the Netherlands. He died August 18, 1961, in Kalamazoo.

It appears, though, that baby Nellie still considered herself the daughter of John DeSmit because in the 1940 census she, her husband, and son Robert (born 1935) lived in the household of John DeSmit and was listed as daughter.

One of the biggest mysteries has been why Nellie’s parents are listed as Mr. and Mrs. A. Ver Sluis.  At first I thought, well, Nellie’s brother Christiaan  married Nellie Ver Sluis in 1898, only a year before our wedding invitation for Nellie Schrier and John DeSmit. Does this have something to do with the fact that there was not a living father to give Nellie Schrier away?

No, it does not!

Nellie’s mother Pieternella de Looff Schrier was married on Wednesday March 2, 1892, in Kalamazoo, to Abraham Jacob Versluis, son of Willem Versluis and Pieternella de Lange.  Abraham had been previously married to Cornelia Verburg and had two children by her. He immigrated to the United States in 1891. Abraham was born on Sunday October 13, 1850 at Kortgene and died on Tuesday November 1, 1938 in Kalamazoo.

Look at the timeline:

1891, Pieternella and her children, including Nellie, arrived in the United States AND Abraham Ver Sluis and his two children, including his Nellie, arrived in the United States

1892, Pieternella married Abraham Ver Sluis (they got married in March, which is quite early in the year–is it possible that the two families traveled together, intending to marry in this country?)

1898, Christiaan married the daughter of Abraham Ver Sluis and his deceased wife Cornelia Verburg

1899, John DeSmit married Nellie Schrier, daughter of Pieternella and the deceased Paulus and stepdaughter of Abraham Ver Sluis

Was it customary to marry step-siblings, as Christiaan did?

Ring any bells?

In case the name Schrier rings any bells for those from Kalamazoo, there have been many residents with that surname.  The name comes from the Zeeland province of the Netherlands. Paul J. Schrier was the mayor of Kalamazoo from 1967-1969. He was the son of Peter Schrier, who was a brother of Nellie Schrier DeSmit. Therefore the mayor was our Nellie’s nephew, although he never knew her since she died at the age of 20 from giving birth to her daughter.

Paul J. Schrier Mayor of Kalamazoo 1967-1969

Paul J. Schrier
Mayor of Kalamazoo

What I don’t know:


If baby Nellie ever had any half siblings. Her father apparently married Margaret when he was between 42 and 52.

When baby Nellie passed away.

If baby Nellie perhaps lived with her uncle so that she would be raised with his two children. Did Christiaan and his wife already have their babies when Nellie was born or did they come after?

This still doesn’t explain the Corliss home for the wedding.

And we think families are confusing today . . . .



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Let’s take a little break from Theresa’s story this week. We can return to it next week.

Another branch of the family that I have not yet spent any time investigating begins with Richard DeKorn’s other sister Mary. His sister Jennie is the one who married John Culver, had two little girls, and took off for Seattle. It wasn’t until Joyce sent me the photo album that I began to learn more about that branch. But Richard’s other sister, the one who stayed put in Kalamazoo, I still haven’t spent any time with.

Mary DeKorn DeSmit

Mary DeKorn DeSmit


Mary died at age 98, two years before I was born. Maria Catharina de Korne was born on 4 Jan 1855 in Kapelle, Zeeland, the Netherlands.  Mary married John DeSmit in Kalamazoo in 1873 and they had seven children–3 boys and 4 girls. That means that there are a lot of children to investigate. I wonder how many of their descendents are living in the Kalamazoo area.

In order to begin researching the DeSmits, I looked through my documents to see if I already had anything, and I discovered a wedding invitation from 1899. It amazes me how much it resembles a contemporary wedding invitation. It lists the names of the bride (Nellie) and groom (John) and her parents, although not his parents. The place is a residence with an address. I don’t know the connection of the location to the bride and groom.

The wedding was on Thursday evening, which seems like an odd time to me. Also, I wonder if it wasn’t the residence of the bride’s parents because perhaps they weren’t from Kalamazoo? Or perhaps their home wasn’t large enough? I wonder why the bride has a different last name, Squares, from her parents, Ver Sluis.

I found a newspaper announcement which lists Nellie’s surname as Squires, which makes more sense, but wouldn’t the printed wedding announcement be correct? Also, the newspaper lists John’s home as Battle Creek and Nellie’s as Kalamazoo.

But what is the bigger mystery is this. I show that a John DeSmit, the son of Mary and her husband John, and born approximately June 1877, was married to a woman named Margaret. The age would be right for John to be marrying in 1899, as he was 21 or 22. But who was Margaret?

On closer examination of the 1900 census, I see that John was listed as 22, living at home with his parents and siblings, and already a widower! Poor Nellie?! It seems that Margaret was a second wife, later in John’s life.


You can see that this invitation brings up more questions than I had to begin with, but it does give me some information to pursue.  The next thing I went to check out was the address listed: 702 East First Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan. According to Google Maps, it doesn’t exist.



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In Part II, I described Theresa Pake’s high school and college education, but although she was 25 years old and had had a great deal of education for a young woman of her time, she wasn’t satisfied.

Her next step was to attend nursing school at the Kalamazoo State Hospital. I’ve written here about how my great-great-grandfather Richard DeKorn built the historic landmark water tower at the state hospital.


Here is an engraving of the hospital circa 1863:

Kalamazoo State Hospital

Kalamazoo State Hospital

The Michigan Asylum for the Insane was built in 1859, the water tower in 1895, and, in 1911, was renamed the Kalamazoo State Hospital. According to internet sources, nurse’s training was a pioneering program (perhaps started in 1906? I’m not certain), and Theresa would have been there during a vibrant period for the program. After Theresa left Asbury College, she began training as a nurse and graduated in 1925. On May 15, 1925, Theresa was registered by the state.

Notice the pin she wears in this graduation portrait. She actually received two pins. One says “Kalamazoo State Hospital” and the other has the initials KSTS for Kalamazoo State Nursing School.

Theresa Pake Graduate nursing school

Theresa Pake
Graduate nursing school

Here is Theresa with a classmate or coworker sitting outside the hospital. The caps they wear do not yet have the black stripe that is on Theresa’s graduation cap. Also, I wonder if the pinafore style uniform is an example of a student nurse costume.

And here Theresa sits alone:

Theresa’s career as a nurse meant that she worked hard her whole life. She was employed as a private duty nurse for many years. She also worked at Beloit Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin:


After graduating with a nursing degree, Theresa was free to begin her life with a career, quite a feat for a young woman in 1925.

A Series of Disasters

The Children After the Fire, 1902


Saved from the Fire

Who is George Paake, Sr.?

Curious about George

George Paake’s Legacy, Part I

George Paake’s Legacy, Part II: Theresa’s Pre-Professional Education


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