Archive for December, 2015

On May 6, 2015, I posted about a photograph I found in the box of glass negatives that had been taken by Joseph DeKorn. I’ll copy here what I posted and then give you the information that has come to me since then. If you remember the story, skip to New Information on Louis Van Wyck

It seems to be an elaborate headstone for a man named Louis Van Wyck. Placed on top of the headstone is a cornet. The inscription reads, in part, “Last cornet solo played in Y.P.L. meeting June 18, 1911.”

His birth and death dates are also engraved on the headstone. He died the day after the cornet solo, on June 19, 1911. He was 17 years old–not a man, but a boy!

A photograph leans against the marble base. He looks young and blond. The stone is further engraved with images and a poem.


Although I have his dates, I can’t find Louis through Ancestry’s search function–or Find-a-Grave either. So I turned to Genealogy Bank where I found one article about his memorial service.

Read it here: Louis Van Wyck memorial service.  Note that the passage about the funeral is at the VERY END of this article.

I didn’t know what Y.P.L. on the headstone meant, but after reading about the Salvation Army hosting Louis’ memorial service, I looked it up online. It seems to mean Young People’s League. Now I have to admit I don’t know much of anything about the Salvation Army except that it is a Christian denomination and a charity, I sometimes donate furniture or clothing to them, and they (or volunteers like my family and friends) ring bells at Christmas outside shopping malls. I think Sarah in the musical Guys and Dolls belongs to a fictional representation of the Salvation Army.

That is kind of fitting because I just read up a bit and discovered that music has been important to the Salvation Army from the beginning. How fitting this headstone was, then, for poor Louis. But how did he die at such a young age? And how was he connected with Joseph DeKorn or my family? He would have been about 12 years younger than Joseph.

New Information on Louis Van Wyck.

I was frustrated that I knew so little about Louis Van Wyck and yet my grandfather’s uncle had photographed his beautiful headstone with his cornet and photograph adorning it and left it behind for our family. Who was Louis Van Wyck? Many of you offered advice. Pastsmith really went to work on the problem and found Louis’ death certificate and his grave.


Things to notice in this death certificate are that he died of “accidental drowning” at Bryant Mill Pond. I looked up Bryant Mill Pond and discovered it is related to the Bryant (Paper) Mill. There were many operating paper mills at that time in the Kalamazoo area, all along the Kalamazoo River and Portage Creek. You can find quite a lot of information online about the cleanup that has been necessary in this area. I can’t imagine what the pond was like in those days. Was it full of papermill sludge or was it a clean pond that begged a boy to come swimming? Note that he drowned on June 19, 1911, just at the start of summer.

Louis’ parents were both from Holland, his father named Louis also and his mother born Rachel Du Floo. With this information I was able to find the family in the 1910 census, a year before Louis passed away. Louis had two sisters: Mary was 5 years older and his sister Kate was only 5 when Louis died. The senior Louis was a typesetter and worked for a newspaper. I wrote about how some members of my family worked on the Dutch-American newspaper here. Possibly Louis worked with them. In the 1920 census, Louis was listed as a price lister, whatever that is. It’s possible that the newspaper was out of business by then.

The family lived at 913 Boerman Avenue. This does not make them neighbors of my family, but it is within a long walk–the sort of walk my grandmother and I used to make when I was little. The house no longer exists as the area seems to be commercial now.

Since the families did not go to the same church, Joseph was 12 or 13 years older than Louis, and they were not neighbors, the connection could have been the typesetting.  After all, Louis, Sr., was born in the Netherlands and spoke Dutch. It seems that it would have been easier for him to be a typesetter in Dutch than in English.

As the death certificate mentions, Louis was buried at Riverside Cemetery. Through Find-a-Grave, it appears that he has another headstone than the one above.


Two headstones, one very elegant and detailed and the other more simple, certainly does create a mystery. They also share dates of birth and death. However, Louis’ date of birth is different on his death certificate. There it reads November 24, 1894. Since the simple headstone appears to be the one at Riverside Cemetery, where is the other one or what happened to it?

After Pastsmith’s generous help, I was contacted by a reader from Kalamazoo who shared valuable insights. Joel wrote:

YPL stands for Young People’s Legion. As a child I was a member of the YPL. It was a group in The Salvation Army for 12-30 year olds. It was a Christian fellowship group and we had junior worship meetings. It sounds like LVW Jr played a cornet solo that Sunday, 6/18/1911 and drowned the next day. . . . More than 20 years ago I had possession of historic documents from his relatives published by The Salvation Army Chicago which told of his untimely death, or as we say in The Salvation Army, his “promotion to Glory.”

He also said:

LVW’s sister is Mary A (VanWyck) Fortune, 1888-1976, Find a grave #25812816, Riverside Cemetery, Kalamazoo. Her husband gave the books which archived “The Young Soldier” publication of The Salvation Army to my mother-in-law, shortly after Mary’s promotion to Glory in 1976. They came into my possession in the 1980’s. I have since forwarded them on to The Salvation Army Central Territory’s Museum and Archives in Hoffman Estates, IL.
As for LVW’s two headstones; I am more familiar with the one with the cornet on it. I don’t recall where I’ve seen it before. But I knew it before I saw it in your web site. Perhaps it was in this archive book I had, or in local S.A. archive photos. I would like to see the larger headstone. I’ve also seen the more plain headstone before your web site, I have no explanation for two headstones. The photo of Louis himself is the photo I’ve seen published and in the local S.A. archives, as well as others that are of that era.

I came across the actual Band Commission for Louis VanWyke Jr.(Wyck is misspelled on the document) in our local SA archives from 1909. I have a picture of it but don’t know how to present it here. It has renewal comments written on it, renewing it until 1910, 1911, and 1912. Also, on the certificate is printed the name of the current General; William Booth. After Booth’s death in 1912 all subsequent SA documents say, “William Booth, Founder”, and would also list the current General.
I also have other anecdotal information regarding Louis’s sister, Mary A. Fortune, from my wife. In the 1960-70’s Mary and Neil Fortune lived next door to my wife’s parents, Richard and Shirley Aukes . . .  in Portage, MI. The Aukes’s and Mary were members of The Salvation Army of Kalamazoo, like Louis VW. Neil helped Richard build a garage. Later after Richard’s death in 1968 and Mary’s death in 1976, Neil gave Shirley Mary’s cedar hope chest. The hope chest was given to my wife, who in turn has given it to our daughter Betsy. Besides the hope chest, Shirley received the books chronicling Louis’s premature death.

At this point it became clear that Joel is the brother-in-law of my junior high classmate, Chris Aukes. We were in almost all our classes together for the three years of junior high school.

Note that Mary Fortune who Joel refers to is Louis’ older sister Mary.

Here is the 1909 Band Commission for Louis Van Wyck that Joel found in the local Salvation Army archives.


What talent Louis must have had. I’m so pleased to know more about Louis and hope to find out even more.

I tried to blow up the photo that rests against the first headstone. Though it is faded, it does give an idea of what Louis looked like.


Although Louis was not my relative, I enjoy finding out more about the history of the people who lived in Kalamazoo over 100 years ago.

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My father’s mother used to love Christmas. She celebrated it on Christmas Eve, in the German tradition. Her favorite Christmas carol was “Silent Night,” also from the German tradition.

In this photo, Grandma sits with Aunt Marge.

And here Aunt Marge is with a silly young man. (Yup, that looks like Dad!)


In Chicago, she kept a traditional Christmas tree (yes, also the German tradition) that she decorated with glass ornaments (mainly made in, wait for it, Germany) and strands of tinsel. In this photo, I must be around five and stand between Grandma and my mother.

Look what I got from Grandma!


When I was still young, Grandma changed her tree to a silver aluminum that changed color when a light wheel shone different colors on the tree. She decorated it in all pink balls. That’s the tree I remember from her duplex in Michigan. I looked, but couldn’t find a photo of it.

Another German tradition Grandma continued was putting electric candles in the window. I wish you could see the candles in this pic, but they might have been in the kitchen window. This is the picture window in Grandma’s duplex. She has a wreath up, and the nativity scene with the gifts below. It looks as if she didn’t have a tree this year. Judging by this fabulous hair (Mom, you let me go out like this?!), I was in junior high.

I think she gave my parents at least some of her old ornaments.

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When Joost “George” Paak*  lost his wife in 1900 and then his mortgaged home in 1902, he must have been distraught and wondered how he would take care of five children. He was a laborer who was not even working at the time of the fire.

I know that he lost a mortgaged home because of the newspaper article (see post links below for the rest of the story) and because the 1900 census shows that he owned a mortgaged home. At that time, he worked as a farm laborer, but had been unemployed 3 months the previous year. I am guessing that this was a hard physical job and if he was sick he wouldn’t be able to work. I also think he had been unemployed for 3 months the previous year because of the winter. So he didn’t have a very stable job. He had immigrated to the United States at age 18 with his family. He was the oldest–he had 4 younger sisters. There was also a young brother who either died in the Netherlands or came here and would probably be known as William. Still checking into this.

In 1908, six years after the fire, George married Addie Amelia Gifford Wilder. This shows up on the 1910 census. At this time, George was listed as Joseph G. Peake (Joost could easily be Joseph or George, I guess), and he now had a stable job as a paper maker at the paper mill. He again owned a mortgaged home and guess where? At 1016 Trimble Avenue, the scene of the fire. So the house was rebuilt. And you know what? It still stands.

The 1920 census shows George still married to Addie. He owned his home free and clear. He was still a laborer for the paper company, earning wages, not salary. And he was 69 years old. Notice no retirement for George at that time!

Paper mills were big business in Kalamazoo, by the way. The city was known as The Paper City. There is a great article published online by the Kalamazoo Public Library. Click the photo of the paper vats to go to the article.


All three censuses show George immigrating to the United States in 1868, although in one of them it looks like 1860. He was naturalized as a citizen in 1891.

What the census does not show is that George married Esther M. Fields in 1906, gaining a 4-year-old stepdaughter, Florence Wilder! But a year and a half after the wedding, Esther died! (Professor Lawrence heard that George might have been married as many as five times, but I do not have the documentation yet on the other two marriages–or the timeline).

In the 1910 census, George’s household includes Addie, Fannie, and George. These are the two youngest Paak children. And the household also includes Esther’s 7-year-old daughter Florence A. Wilder! So George kept her in the household, which must mean she had no other family to take her in. But his own children, Theresa (Tracy) who was 17, Jane who was 20, and Cora who was 22 were not living at home. Theresa, as we know, was living with the Pickards as their perhaps unofficial foster daughter and being sent to boarding school.

Why did Theresa not live at home with her father and stepmother while a stepdaughter of George continued to live there? Maybe after the upheaval in the household after her mother’s death, the fire, and then the death of her first stepmother it was determined it would be better for her to stay with the Pickards permanently?

Professor Lawrence did tell me that he had heard that the children were farmed out to people, especially relatives, after their mother died. But at the time of the fire two years later it seemed that they were living at home with their father. I do wonder if my own great-great-grandmother helped out when her sister-in-law died or after the fire. The clipping about the fire was saved in the family documents, so she (she died 6 years after the fire) or her daughter must have kept it.

Why did Jane who never did marry and lived to be 107 years old (there might be a connection there haha) not live at home? Maybe she had a job and was providing for herself already. Jane lived in a nursing home near the end. In the photo there is a sign for her 100th birthday. I do have a photo of her at her 107th with cake, but she is in bed and obviously not well, so I don’t want to share that one.

Where was Cora? Was she married yet? Her first child might have been born in 1915, although I have not done much research on Theresa’s siblings as of yet. If she wasn’t yet married, I wonder if she and Jane were living together. That would be something to search.

This photo was probably taken in 1925 when George was 76 years old and a happy grandfather. The woman is Cora, his oldest daughter with her son John Rankin. John was not her first child, but the first by her second husband, John Rankin, Sr.


Here is another photo of George with two children. As always, I appreciate any comments about date identification or other important information.

* I’ve changed his surname spelling to the one that my great-great-grandmother used because I see that he did also use that spelling in addition to other spellings.

Here are the other Pake/Paake /Paak //Peek posts:

A Series of Disasters

The Children After the Fire, 1902


Saved from the Fire

Who is George Paak, Sr.?

Curious about George

George Paak’s Legacy, Part I

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

George Paak’s Legacy, Part III: Theresa’s Professional Education

George Paak’s Legacy, Part IV: A Letter to His Daughter

George Paak’s Legacy, Part V: Theresa Gets Married

George Paak’s Legacy, Part VI: Who Were the Pickards



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A beautiful lady and mom now and a beautiful girl then. Here she is by her house when she was a little girl:

I can’t help but wonder if this is a little Easter bonnet and an Easter toy in her arm.

This is when I was a baby.

Have a beautiful day, Mom!!! xoxo

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