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Archive for the ‘Caledonia Michigan history’ Category

Charles Peter Mulder was born to Clara (Waldeck) and Charles Mulder on 30 July 1917 in Caledonia, Michigan, most likely at home. He was the youngest of the five Mulder children. They grew up on their parents’ farm.

Chuck Mulder, high school graduation photo

As a teen, Chuck, as he was known, was very good-looking and a favorite with the ladies. But he was a bit oblivious to all the girls fawning over him. He wasn’t as outgoing as his brother, but he was no doubt very intelligent.

Around the age of 22 Chuck left Caledonia and boarded with the Patrick Slattery family at what I believe was 911 S. Park Street. It was transcribed from the 1940 census as Stock Street, but that is incorrect. This is a Google maps image. It looks like the house is still standing.

Also according to the 1940 census, Chuck’s fellow boarder was his brother Peter Mulder and their first cousin, Herbert Waldeck. I don’t recognize the names of the other boarders, although several of them are the same age range as Chuck, Pete, and Herb. Lines 21, 22, and 24:

Both Chuck and Herb enlisted on 16 October 1940 in Caledonia. Chuck’s employer is listed on the draft card as none. Herb’s lists his employment as the Fuller Manufacturing Company.  Because they enlisted together, it’s a bit surprising to me that Chuck went into the U.S. Army, and Herb became a sailor in the U.S. Navy. Chuck’s brother Pete had suffered a ruptured appendix and was therefore exempted from military duties.

On the front of the draft registration, we see that Chuck’s telephone # was 28F2. Imagine a phone number like that!

From the backside of the draft registration we can see that Chuck was nearly six foot and had brown hair and hazel eyes.

This whole project to write about my grandmother’s siblings began with my Uncle Don telling me that Uncle Chuck (his uncle, my great-uncle) was a war hero and that perhaps his story could be researched.

I did as much online research as I could do before I asked Chuck’s daughter Susie to order his military records from the National Archives. Then Covid struck, and the archives have been unavailable for family history research purposes. I asked Myra Miller if her team at Footsteps Researchers would be able to help. They are also stymied by the closure of the archives, although one of her people sent me a few online documents. One of them was a newspaper article I had not found myself.

In the meantime, since I started with the oldest of Grandma’s sibs, Dorothy, I had some time before I would put together Chuck’s story as he was the youngest of the bunch. I’ve long since finished stories of the other three siblings. I’ve stalled a long time, but have decided to go ahead and write about Chuck since the archives are still unavailable to us.

In a newspaper clipping from the Ironwood Daily Globe, Ironwood, Michigan, on 19 June 1944, Chuck, a machine shop worker, according to the paper, is quoted: “We’re going to give them the works; that’s all there is to it.”  At that point, Chuck was eager to go after the enemy.

Then I have the data from the army enlistment records.

The above enlistment record states that Chuck had four years of high school, but he was considered “unskilled labor” for the army. He would be trained by the army and gain a skill, though, in communications.

5th from right 2nd row

Below is a photo of Uncle Chuck from 1944 in Germany.

Here is another group shot, but we do not have the date. Doesn’t this look like it was taken the same time as the solo shot?

This group photo was taken 10 March 1944. He is front row, 3rd from right.

I wanted to find out if Uncle Chuck was really a war hero. An article in The Grand Rapids Press 8 March 1945 corroborates the story that Uncle Don had told me about Uncle Chuck’s radio team being involved in a dangerous mission to communicate across enemy lines in Germany.  Chuck (Sergeant Mulder) was Radio Team Chief.

Here is the article, and I follow it with a transcription for ease of reading.

CALEDONIA MAN GETS BRONZE STAR

Caledonia—T/4 Charles P. Mulder, Jr., has been awarded the bronze star for “zealous determination and unselfish devotion to duty” with the army signal corps in Germany, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Mulder, sr., have learned.

“His parents have received a citation accompanying the medal, which asserted the award was made “for meritorious conduct in action in Germany.” It declared Mulder distinguished himself “by outstanding performance of duty as a radio operator with a communications team of an infantry regiment engaged in rolling back the Siegfried line after a penetration and in encircling a strongly defended enemy city. The courage, zealous determination and unselfish devotion to duty contributed much to the efficiency of the communications in this most difficult period.”

The citation is signed by Maj. Gen. L. S. Hobbs, commander of the 30th division to which Mulder is attached.

Below you can read the letter that Maj. Gen. Hobbs wrote about the “30th Signal Company.”

Chuck’s grandson Andy believes that the bronze star, since there is no mention of a “Combat V,” suggests that the award was given for doing a difficult job in arduous circumstances exceptionally well rather than for a single act of valor or gallantry. He said this makes sense since Chuck was a technical specialist and not a line infantryman. He still had a complex, difficult, and dangerous job to do.

Andy also clarifies Chuck’s rank since we do not have the archival records. He inherited 30th ID patches and a rank insignia for Technical Specialist 4, probably the highest rank Chuck held. This was a specialist rank equivalent to a buck sergeant – E5 in today’s pay scale. While this was a non-commissioned officer rank, technical specialists held no command authority.

Backing up a little over a month, in a letter written February 1 from Belgium to his parents (quoted in the above newspaper article), Chuck wrote: “Yesterday I had quite a surprise when I was awarded the bronze star medal by our commanding general. He gave it to me and then shook hands. This bronze star means five more points in the discharge point system.”

In a postscript, Mulder wrote: “I also have an ETO (European theater of operation) ribbon with two battle stars on it. I nearly forgot to tell you this. The two stars are for Normandy and the other countries. We will get another one, at least, for the Germany campaign.”

You can see that Chuck went from an eager entry into service to counting up points until he could be honorably discharged. This shows that he had experienced and seen a lot of war.

I wanted more information about Chuck’s participation in the war. He was with the 119th Infantry Regiment, which was a part of the 30th Infantry Division. According to Wikipedia, “The 30th Infantry Division was a unit of the Army National Guard in World War I and World War II. It was nicknamed the “Old Hickory” division, in honor of President Andrew Jackson. The Germans nicknamed this division “Roosevelt’s  SS.” The 30th Infantry Division was regarded by a team of historians led by S.L.A. Marshall as the number one American infantry division in the European Theater of Operations (ETO), involved in 282 days of intense combat over a period from June 1944 through April 1945.

Let me repeat that: “the number ONE American infantry division in the European Theater of Operations.”

In a book owned by grandson Andy who has made his career in the military, Chuck is mentioned in an incident that occurred. This book has no ISBN and most likely was printed as a souvenir. Andy explains that “there is a long tradition of books like this in US military service. Think of it being akin to a high school yearbook, and assembled by some of the soldiers themselves. The Navy calls these ‘cruise books.’”  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruise_book Do any readers know what the army calls these books?

Andy continues:  “The best I can say is that the book was probably printed over the summer of 1945 (while the 30th was waiting their turn to be sent back stateside). Unfortunately the author(s) are not credited by name in the book. It’s remarkable to me that a company would have had their own book in some ways – a U.S. army company is generally 3-4 platoons and no more than around 200 people at full strength. A reasonable assumption is that compiling the book may have been something for otherwise bored officers and senior NCOs to do during the summer of 45 to keep them productive, though it’s entirely possible that more junior personnel did most of the work. We’ll never know unfortunately. I don’t know if it was common for companies to have produced souvenir books like this in WW2.”

Andy surmises that Chuck was probably stateside when the book was printed. His photo is one of those “unavailable” on the bottom left of the second page.

In memory of the lives that were lost.

Note the name Dale E. Stockton as one of those lost and keep reading. I will post the pages here and transcribe them below.

BOOK PAGES

“Sergeant Mulder’s team was with the 119th Infantry Regiment at the time the great offensive for St. Lo began. Our artillery had been pounding away for hours. Planes were overheard, flying in the initial bombing assault. The Regiment was on the road moving forward to the attack.

Orders were that only two men could ride in a vehicle. So Bennie Keech drove the Radio command car. “Dale” Stockton sat in the back operating the set, and “Chuck” Mulder marched to the side and a little ahead of the car. Bennie had to keep the car right in the center of the road, because the Infantrymen were marching in column on both sides of it.

As they moved down the road, the fury of the great battle grew in intensity. Then came the sound of falling bombs. Dale Stockton was fataly [sic] wounded. Bennie Keech was knocked unconscious by a bomb blast, a blast that lifted the car from the road and pushed it over to the side. Bennie was evacuated to a first aid station, where it was discovered that he had suffered a severely sprained back. “Chuck” Mulder was uninjured but his nerves were badly upset by the experience.

Bennie was able to rejoin the Company in a couple of days, and he and Chuck were together until just a few months before the war’s end. Then Bennie received a furlough to the good old USA, and shortly afterward, Chuck was evacuated for a physical check-up. The men of the Radio Section miss Chuck Mulder and Bennie Keech. They miss and salute Dale Stockton.

His grandson describes it this way:

The book talks about how this incident occurred during the offensive for  Saint-Lô with planes that were flying overhead in the initial assault. Tragically, it would seem that the event described in this book was a friendly-fire incident. The 30th Infantry Division was tragically bombed by our own aircraft in one of the most controversial incidents in WW2, which involved the attempted use of heavy strategic bombers to support ground forces. http://www.30thinfantry.org/st_lo_battle.shtml

At the same time or shortly after he wrote that letter from Belgium, Chuck was admitted to a convalescent military hospital where, according to the following index, he stayed until August 1945.

The diagnosis is withheld by NARA, so it’s possible that if we get the records from the archives the information will be in there.

We do know that after what Chuck experienced in Europe, he suffered from what is now called PTSD. It used to be called “shellshock” or “battle fatigue.” Seeing his fellow soldiers killed, especially by friendly fire, was a defining moment in his life.

On a light note, at one point during the war, Chuck and his cousin Herb went to Missouri on leave. They went to a restaurant and bar in either Kansas City or St. Joseph. A pretty girl named Ruthann Holton (a resident of Sparks, Kansas) who worked for the Chase Candy Company in St. Joseph, MO, was out with her friend. Chuck and Herb flirted with the girls.  It turns out that Chuck really liked Ruthann, but Herb thought it was a mistake for him to get involved with her. So Herb did his best to confuse Chuck about her name and address. Chuck sent Ruthann a letter to Miss Maryanne Holman. Somehow what happened next was out of Herb’s hands as the letter was delivered to Ruthann anyway.

On 10 December 1944*, Chuck sent RuthAnn a Christmas V-mail, so they had definitely become “sweethearts” by then. (*I am not sure exactly how V-mail worked. If Chuck didn’t post it on the 10th it would have been before that date).

Here is a letter that my great-grandparents sent to Ruthann.

On 9 July 1945, Chuck and Ruthann married at Raton, New Mexico. He was back from Germany and stationed at Camp Carson, Colorado. The couple were to live in Colorado Springs, which is where Camp Carson is located.

Now, how did the couple get married in July if Chuck was still in the hospital until August? That question led me to wonder if he was hospitalized, but more as an outpatient, at a hospital at Camp Carson. Camp Carson was huge and had at least eighteen hospitals!

My Uncle Don has some of his own memories of Chuck that I’d like to share. Uncle Chuck was his hero while my uncle was growing up. He tells me that my grandmother, sibling #2 had a special bond with her younger brother. Chuck was the youngest of the siblings, and he turned to my grandmother for advice. This is probably quite usual in larger families where an older sibling becomes close with the youngest.

Chuck and Ruthann had one child, their daughter Suzanne, who studied at the University of Michigan, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Malawi, and went to medical school at Johns Hopkins University on a full scholarship. I still have the wooden figurine that Susie brought me back from Malawi.

Chuck and Ruthann both worked very hard until retirement, although they did like to go out dancing before Ruthann experienced foot troubles. I remember them enjoying polka dancing. Chuck was the first to retire from The Upjohn Company, as he was seven years older than Ruthann. He walked most mornings with some retired friends. He also did most of the housework, yard work, and made dinners for Ruthann. He had atherosclerotic arterial disease in his legs, which caused him a great deal of pain. He also became legally blind from glaucoma. This disease runs in my family. Chuck would have inherited it through his mother’s Waldeck branch. Chuck voluntarily quit driving when he retired, and he used to try and read the Kalamazoo Gazette every day with the use of magnifying glasses.

In the photo below, Grandma and Grandpa are surrounded by her siblings and their spouses. Chuck is in the front row in the pink shirt. Ruthann is to his right.

Ruthann retired at age 65, but she wouldn’t have retirement time to spend with Chuck. He passed away far too early from a fast and mysterious affliction. Susie suspects he infarcted (blood clot to artery) his intestines as he went to the hospital with sudden, severe abdominal pain and became septic shortly after his admission. He was only 72 years old.

Chuck and Ruthann are buried together at Mount Ever-Rest Memorial Park South in Kalamazoo. For years now, on Memorial Day, my brother has visited  their grave with flowers to honor Uncle Chuck’s service and heroism.

 

 

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When I posted about Uncle Pete and Aunt Ruby, I didn’t have the best photo of their headstone, so I put in a request at Find-A-Grave. A kind volunteer obliged me by taking these. I’m going to add them to my original post as well.

Here are closeups with the locket closed and open.

The headstone mentions Psalms 23, so I thought I would share a version here.

Psalms 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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When I was growing up, I was given a vague idea that my maternal grandmother’s mother wasn’t Dutch like the rest of my mother’s family, but German. Once I began to search my family history, I quickly saw that the records were Prussian, not German. That still sounded German to me. (Before you tell me there didn’t used to be any such thing as “Germany,” but rather German states, I know that, but they were “German,” to my mind).

My Prussians were quickly my worst brick wall, and although I picked at the threads of the mystery a bit over the years, I didn’t accomplish too much until a couple of years ago. That’s when I found some records for the births of my great-grandmother’s siblings. This was a short-lived accomplishment because my great-greats may have moved around for work, so I still had no idea which province of Prussia they were from.  Without that knowledge it is impossible to find their birth and marriage records. To find their parents and grandparents.

Very recently I began to piece together enough information and knowledge to theorize that my relatives were actually from Pomerania, which was the part of Prussia which bordered the Baltic and is now in Poland. I even wondered if they were from northern Pomerania, right near the sea, and even more, from Slupsk or that vicinity. The place names on documents are garbled and there are versions of each place in several languages, but a doc seemed to indicate Świecichowo (Polish) or Schwetzkow (German). This town is in Slupsk County. I explain this doc here. I felt  confident enough to present this theory on this blog, but I’ve been busy so I didn’t write that blog post.

Then something else happened. I went onto my Ancestry DNA “headquarters,” and looked up the new and more thorough ethnicity info–specifically for my mother since her maternal grandmother was the Prussian. And guess what? I don’t have to theorize any longer. Ancestry has done that for me. According to Ancestry, my mother’s Prussian Ancestry is precisely NORTHERN POMERANIAN and NORTHWESTERN POMERANIAN–and if you look at the map, most likely the Slupsk region. Furthermore, the reason Ancestry can fine tune to this region is that Mom’s ancestors lived in that area for many years.

I had to look up Slupsk, of course. From Wikipedia:

Słupsk (Stolp, in German) had its origins as a Pomeranian settlement in the early Middle Ages. In 1265 it was given town rights. By the 14th century, the town had become a centre of local administration and trade and a Hanseatic League associate. Between 1368 and 1478 it was a residence of the Dukes of Pomerania, until 1474 vassals of the Kingdom of Poland. In 1648, according to the peace treaty of Osnabrück, the town became part of Brandenburg-Prussia [and was under Swedish military control (Swedish dominion)]. In 1815 it was incorporated into the newly formed Prussian Province of Pomerania. After World War II, the city again became part of Poland, as it fell within the new borders determined by the Potsdam Conference.

In a nutshell, the area was Slavic tribes, then Polish, then Swedish, then Prussian, and after WWII Polish again. This is with little blips of time as German and Danish.

It’s very satisfying to feel this close to finding Gottfried and Alwine (Noffke) Waldeck’s origins. Maybe before too long I will find their birth and marriage records.

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When I was growing up, my grandmother’s sister Vena and brother Chuck lived in Kalamazoo. I knew the family grew up in Caledonia, which is in Kent County, not Kalamazoo, so it was more surprising that three of the siblings ended  up in Kalamazoo than that Peter and Dorothy lived out of town in more rural areas. Here are the five siblings: Chuck, Vena, Edna (Grandma), Dorothy, and Pete.

Peter Godfrey Mulder was the fourth child and older son of Charles and Clara (Waldeck) Mulder. Godfrey was the Americanized version of Gottfried, the name of his Prussian maternal grandfather. Peter (Pieter) was his Dutch paternal grandfather’s name. He was born on 2 November 1915, most likely in Caledonia. He’s the baby in this photo

As he grew older, Pete became an all-star athlete at Caledonia High School. He was very popular with the girls. Pete wanted to go to engineering school after high school, but that dream was cut short because he suffered a ruptured appendix. He was not able to serve in the military.

When Pete recovered from the medical emergency, he lived in Kalamazoo and worked in a factory; he lived with his brother Chuck and cousin, Herb Waldeck.

Pete met Ruby Elizabeth Ayers, a cheerleader from Martin High School, at the Dixie Pavilion, a popular dance club overlooking Doan’s Lake, south of Wayland. Duke Ellington and his orchestra played there. Both Pete and Ruby loved to dance.

Pete and Ruby (born 6 February, 1920) were married on 10 August 1940, when Pete was 24 and Ruby was 20. Here is their marriage record. They were married, as were Vena and Al, by Pete’s cousin, Ed Waldeck.

At that time, Ruby had been living in Martin and already working as a teacher. She attended “County Normal,” where one could teach school in a rural setting with little formal education. Ruby taught at Jones School in Dorr in a one-room school house.

Later, Ruby took correspondence classes to finish her teaching degree. Her daughter, Shirley, remembers taking classes with her mother when she was a teenager. Ruby later taught in an elementary school for Wayland Union schools, which she loved.

Pete and Ruby lived with his parents on the farm in Caledonia for a few months before buying an 80-acre farm in Martin, which is in Allegan County, NW of Kalamazoo. All three of the children, Larry, Shirley, and Sharon, were born in Allegan County. At the back of the property was a lake, called Lake 16. Ruby liked to swim and made sure all the children took swimming lessons and craft classes in the summer through the school district.

Pete became a dairy farmer, milking all of his cows by hand. The whole family drank their milk from these cows and it made wonderful whipped cream as well. Later, Pete gave up being a dairy farmer and raised beef cattle (angus). The whole family would put buckets on the maple trees in the spring of the year to collect sap so Pete could boil it down to make maple syrup. Then Ruby would can the syrup and other fruits and vegetable to hold them over for winter. The children were always present in activities around the farm. Pete continued to work in the shop in Kalamazoo as a Tool and Die Maker in the winters for additional income. Pete and Ruby
loved to live life to its fullest. They were active in their community. They were always entertaining relatives or visiting relatives on a weekly basis. They participated in a square dancing group.

 

Here is Uncle Pete and Aunt Ruby’s whole family at their farmhouse on Thanksgiving, November 1952. All Grandma’s siblings and their families attended, as well as her parents. This was the last holiday season her mother was still alive. The next year they would hold Thanksgiving at Dot and Con’s house. Photos here.

And here is Ruby from the same day:

Here is a photo at Pete and Ruby’s on the same day with all of Grandma’s parents’ grandchildren.

It was fun to visit their farm in Martin because Shirley (who was on the Queen’s Court, Allegan County Fair (one of the largest fairs in Michigan), and won the Cherry Pie contest, and Sharon were teenagers when I was a little girl, and they were very sweet to me. Aunt Ruby herself was a very sweet woman. She reminded me of country and gospel music, so I must have heard it at their house. Uncle Pete loved to sing country music. The stereo was right where you walked into the living room. Uncle Pete used to sit with the other men on lawn chairs outside under the big tree. Pete loved to play horseshoes in the summer and bowl during the winter time. When the children were teenagers, he bought a speed boat and took the children waterskiing on the lakes in the area.

When the couple neared retirement age, they built a mobile home park on their farm along the lake. They also sold mobile homes as a side business. They traveled to Hawaii and made several trips to Las Vegas.

Pete and Ruby’s daughter Sharon experienced a great deal of loss and succumbed to cancer at the age of 67.  She was a teacher of K-2 and also Headstart. As a teen, like her big sister Shirley, she was a drum majorette and later on Sharon took over her sister’s baton twirling business. Their brother Larry, who was a draftsman and engineer for a Volkswagen subcontractor, died at age 59 of brain cancer.

Pete died in 1986 at the age of 70 of cancer.

 

 

You can see from Pete’s obituary that he developed and was the owner operator of the mobile home park, but there is no mention of his earlier life as a farmer.

Ruby was living in a mobile home park in Wayland when, on 6 February 2007, her mobile home caught fire and Ruby was not able to get out of her home. Tragically, she died on her 87th birthday.

I put in a request at Findagrave for a good photo of Pete and Ruby’s headstone. A kind volunteer obliged me by taking these.

Here are closeups with the locket closed and open.

The headstone mentions Psalms 23, so I thought I would share a version here.

Psalms 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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In my story about Grandma’s sister Dorothy and her husband, Conrad Plott, dated February 17, we left off with this photo of my mother with Aunt Dorothy and Aunt Vena.

Today I am writing about Aunt Vena (to mom’s right–our left–in the photo) and her husband, Uncle Al.

Vena’s full name was Alvena Nell Mulder at birth. She was named after her grandmother, a Prussian immigrant, Alwine Noffke Waldeck. Although the names are spelled differently in German and American versions, they are pronounced similarly. I never heard Aunt Vena called anything but Vena, so I think she generally went by her nickname.

Vena was the third girl (Dorothy, then Grandma, then Vena) and third child of Charles and Clara Mulder of Caledonia, Michigan, and she was born 20 October 1913, probably in Caledonia at the house. Although I have no birth records for any of the siblings, it’s likely that Dorothy was born in Hastings, and then Grandma and the rest were born in Caledonia, after great-grandpa bought the farm.

You can see that Vena was a very pretty girl.

Much of my information about Vena and her husband Al comes from Uncle Don and their middle daughter, mom’s cousin Elaine.

Vena attended Caledonia High School just as her older sisters had done. She was a year and a half younger than Grandma, so the question is, was she “on track” for her age for graduation or did she graduate early as Grandma did? Did she graduate in 1930, 1931, or 1932? The school records I’ve found only go through 1925.

Vena followed her older sister, Edna (Grandma), to what was then called Western State Teachers’ College (now Western Michigan University). I don’t know how Aunt Vena met Uncle Al (although I remember hearing the story years ago and thought it involved horses), but he also attended Western.

Al was born Alton William Stimson in Middleville, Michigan on 20 January 1911. Middleville is a little village near Grand Rapids, and Uncle Don says Al grew up on a farm, and this is corroborated by the 1930 census.

Uncle Don gave me some information about Vena and Al. He said that they were close in age to his parents (Grandma and Grandpa) and that the two families were close. Al actually lived with Grandpa for a time while Al and the two sisters were attending WMU. Al washed the dishes once a month or when they ran out of dishes. Grandpa liked to tell that story.

This is Uncle Al’s 1934 Western yearbook photo. Next to his name is his degree earned: an AB.

I don’t know if Aunt Vena boarded with someone while she went to college, as my grandmother did (with the Schensul family).

Al and Vena married 1 June 1935 in Caledonia by Edward August Waldeck, pastor of the Portland Baptist Church, Vena’s first cousin. I wrote about his bike accident (as a teen) quite some time ago. Here is a 1912 newspaper article about the accident: CLICK HERE

Al graduated from WMU as an Industrial Engineer. He might have first worked as a teacher and then for Atlas Press, before he was hired by the Upjohn Company. He was a a time and motion analyst—time-study. He stayed with Upjohn until he retired at the end of his career.

At the beginning of their marriage, Vena and Al lived on Balch Street in that same area where my grandfather and then my mother grew up. The address was 317 Balch Street, according to the 1940 census.

But then they built a new house on a beautiful lot on Kilgore at the border of Kalamazoo and Portage. Their house and yard were characterized by an excellent sense of design and a lot of hard work. Elaine said that their lovely yard was designed by a friend of theirs so that there were flowers blooming year round when weather permitted. They both liked to garden. Al also kept a small vegetable garden alongside the house. As a kid, I was so impressed by the flowers and the birds that Vena and Al attracted to the yard. The inside of their house was also beautiful with a living room that looked out upon that backyard and a fish tank that mesmerized me. At least three generations of family had many wonderful family gatherings at their home.

Vena left school to start their family, and beginning in 1937, they had three girls in this order: Joan(ne), Elaine, and MaryAnn. The three girls attended State High up at Western’s old campus which was a state training school for teachers and was reputed to be one of the top schools in the state.

Al registered for the WWII draft, but he was not called to service. I do not know if it was because of needing to support his children or because he was color blind.

When the girls were “well along” in school, according to Uncle Don, Aunt Vena went back to college and graduated with Honors in 1962, the same year their youngest daughter graduated high school. This reminds me of my mother who did the same thing. I hadn’t realized when my mother graduated a year ahead of me from college that her aunt had been a groundbreaker in the family.

The Portage Public School System hired Aunt Vena as a kindergarten teacher, which she remained (1st and 2nd a bit, as well) until she retired. I’m sure she was a favorite with the kids and their parents because she had a gentle and elegant manner.

Aunt Vena and Uncle Al were members of the First United Methodist Church in downtown Kalamazoo for over sixty years. This is the same church that my grandparents belonged to and where my mother is still a member. I remember Uncle Al was an usher and my grandfather worked in what I thought of as the “money office.”

Aunt Vena and Uncle Al enjoyed their retirement years golfing, bowling, being members of Club 75, and the Cloverleaf Square Dancing Clubs.

Al kept busy with many craft hobbies. He made Christmas presents of shop gadgets and jewelry that he had made. He made jewelry out of plastic, drilling the flowers into the plastic. He made pins, necklaces, cufflinks, and so on. Some pieces he colored in with nail polish.

When I was a little girl, Uncle Al taught me to say what sounded like oskeewawa every time I saw a white horse. I thought it was a Native American word. When I tried to look it up, I couldn’t find anything until I discovered the University of Illinois school song:

Oskee-Wow-Wow
Old Princeton yells her Tiger,
Wisconsin, her Varsity
And they give the same old Rah, Rah, Rah,
At each University,
But the yell that always thrills me
And fills my heart with joy,
Is the good old Oskee-Wow-Wow,
That they yell at Illinois.

Uncle Don has fond memories of going on many camping trips with the family. He felt a bit like Uncle Al’s substitute son for these adventures. After all, Uncle Al lived in a house with four women/girls ;).

In the next photo, it is Grandpa and Grandma’s 40th wedding anniversary, and they are standing with Vena and Al on my parents’ front porch. The image is blurry, but I like that the two couples are photographed together.

 

In the Christmas photo above, I see Uncle Al and Aunt Vena from the era I knew them best. In fact, we used to go first to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve, and then to Vena and Al’s–at some point my parents’ house was added as one of the houses visited for the Progressive Dinner.

Uncle Al suffered from Parkinson’s and passed away on 11 January 1996 in Kalamazoo.

Aunt Vena moved into what was then the new, state of the art retirement community in Kalamazoo. She died on 9 June 2000, which is the same year that my grandparents died.

They are buried at Mount Ever-Rest Memorial Park South in Kalamazoo.

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My grandmother, (Lucille) Edna Mulder (Zuidweg) had four siblings. The kids were born in this order: Dorothy (aka Dot), 1910-1996; Lucille (aka Edna), 1912-2000; Alvena (Vena), 1913-2000; Peter (Pete), 1915-1986; and Charles (Chuck), 1917-1989. They grew up on a farm in Caledonia, Michigan. My grandmother’s childhood story that most impressed me when I was young was that all the kids slept in the same big bed. The girls across the bed as usual, and the boys perpendicular at the girls’ feet. I used to try to imagine how five kids could get to sleep like that because somebody would always be annoying somebody else. The upstairs of the farmhouse had two bedrooms–one for  the parents and one for the kids. I imagine that in the winter it was cold up there, too, which meant that the group body heat helped keep everybody warm.

You know the Biblical expression “the salt of the earth,” meaning virtuous, good people? That was the Mulder family. Not perfect, but definitely good, dependable people.

This post is devoted to Aunt Dorothy, the oldest of the siblings, and her husband, Uncle Con. That’s how I knew them: Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Con. But when Grandma talked about them it was always “Dot and Con.”

When Grandma and Dorothy were still in school, they walked a long way every school day. Occasionally their mother would take them or pick them up in an Amish buggy, but walking was much more common.

Grandma on left; Dorothy on the right

Although Dorothy and Grandma were in the same grade, Dorothy was 1 1/3 years older than my grandmother. Grandma had to be pushed ahead so that the girls could be in class together. That must have worked out because both girls were good students. You can read about their high school graduation and experience here:

Who Put the Ring Stain on the Scrapbook?

The following, I believe, if Aunt Dorothy’s high school graduation speech, or Salutatory (2nd highest grades in class).

After high school, Aunt Dorothy went to nursing school at Battle Creek Sanitarium. It gets a little confusing because her yearbook was from Emmanuel Missionary College, but EMC had moved to Berrien Springs from Battle Creek by 1901. Actually, the Training School for Nurses was in Battle Creek, called Battle Creek Sanitarium also, and part of EMC. Emmanuel Mission College, operated until 1938. It was part of Andrews University, a 7th Day Adventist institution.

For the cropped yearbook photo below, I left the photo of the other young woman because their names on the right are both on this clipping.

During the time that Dorothy was at school, she met her future husband, Conrad Rudolph Plott, born 21 March 1905, from North Carolina.

This photo of the Plott family was shared by my 2nd cousin, Mike Plott. Uncle Con is in the back row, on our right. The date is unknown. 

They married on 29 October 1934 in Steuben, Indiana. This is what my grandparents did, as well. The marriage laws were looser in Indiana than in Michigan, so they could go “down” there, buy a license, and be married–1, 2, 3.

I was able to order a copy of this application and license.

I do have Uncle Con’s WWII draft card–he was 35 years old. Mysteriously, his name is listed as Rudolph Conrad, instead of Conrad Rudolph. Since I do not have a copy of his birth record, I can’t verify which one is correct. But, as you can see, the marriage application lists him as Conrad Rudolph.

Conrad Plott

Together the couple had three children: Jeanne, John (Bill), and Pat. Jeanne followed her mother’s footsteps and became a nurse. She had a stellar career as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. I know that my family is very proud of her service to our country. John was a college professor. Pat was employed by Western Michigan University as assistant to the chair of the sociology department for thirty years. She and I attended grad school in the English department at the same time.

Uncle Con worked as a mechanic for the Kellogg Company for most of his working days. He was very active in the Kellogg factory workers’ union, even serving as President for a number of years.

When I was a little girl, we went a few times to visit Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Con, but mainly we saw them at large family gatherings. But one day, and this memory is very vivid to me, they stopped by our house. I don’t know if my mother knew they were coming or not. They brought me a present, and no doubt they brought some of the peanut brittle Uncle Con was famous for in our family. His brother Pryor made the North Carolina classic, and Uncle Con used to help him sell it at state fairs and other venues.

I still have the adorable little apron they gave me.

My Uncle Don told me that Con’s family were very welcoming hosts whenever our family visited them in North Carolina. They always had a room to stay in and huge family dinners–“even when we were just passing through.” I am guessing that the passing through was on the way to Florida from Michigan.

My mother still has photos of a train trip she took with Jeanne to North Carolina in 1952. My mother, being raised in Michigan by Michiganders, was struck by seeing the separate drinking fountains and restrooms for black people. She also noticed that the thunderstorms were so much wilder and more severe than in Michigan.

These two photos are two facing pages in a photo album my mother put together when she was a teen.

Uncle Don filled me in on some interesting info about Aunt Dorothy that I could not have gleaned from knowing her when I was a child. He said that when he stayed with “Dot and Con,” Aunt Dorothy talked about her nursing training. She had a lot of strange and humorous (to the listener) experiences. For example, she was assisting in a surgery, not knowing what the doctor was going to do, and he told her to grab the leg and hold it while he performed the surgery. All of a sudden, she was standing there holding a leg and the doctor said, “Just put it over there and help me clamp the veins and arteries.” That was her first experience with an amputation.
My uncle also said that Aunt Dorothy was the best scholar of the siblings and was the “leader of the pack!” She always helped family members and was present when my mother and Uncle Don and their sister were born. She was also there for the death of my great-grandmother, her own mother, Clara Waldeck Mulder. My grandmother trusted her with all medical matters.
Dorothy was very confident and had a take charge personality. She could be a very direct communicator, and the family loved and respected her greatly.

Uncle Con was not only active in the union and busy working at the Kellogg Company, but he was a farmer as well. On their farm, he grew corn, oats, and wheat. They had a big garden and even pasture for the cow.

Notice Jeanne photobombing in the lower right corner. Pretty cute!

 

Here is Uncle Con on his tractor in the 1950s.

 

Dot and Con had a cabin outside of Sault Ste. Marie on the river. One relative says it was the St. Lawrence and another says St. Mary’s. Maybe it was the St. Lawrence Seaway? They spent summers there, but closed it up during the winter.  Con did love to fish and spent a lot of time in his boat,  He also loved to get really close to the big boats. His daughter Jeanne says that very few people would get in the boat with him!

I don’t know what the occasion was for this photo, but here are Grandma’s siblings. The curtain behind them looks like something at a church, so I suspect this must be at a wedding.

Chuck, Vena, Edna (Grandma), Dorothy, Pete

Mike shared this photo of Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Con with Mike’s parents at the wedding of the latter.

In this photo, which was taken in my parents’ front yard, Grandma’s siblings gather with their spouses. The occasion was my grandparents 40th wedding anniversary, in 1972. Standing from left: Con, Dorothy, Adrian (Grandpa), Edna (Grandma), Vena, Al. Kneeling from left: Ruthann, Chuck, Pete, Ruby. So the three sisters and their husbands are in back and the two brothers with their wives are in front.

After Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Con retired, they moved to Florida, where they became an integral part of the community in Estero (Fort Myers area). If I hadn’t already known that, I could tell because I found numerous newspaper articles where Uncle Con, in particular, is mentioned.

Uncle Con passed away on 1 April 1989 in Estero.

At some point after that, Aunt Dorothy must have come back to Michigan. She passed away on 23 May 1996 in Kalamazoo and is buried at Mount Ever-Rest.

 

I have a photo of Aunt Dorothy’s headstone, but I do not have a photo of Uncle Con’s and do not know which cemetery in Lumberton, North Carolina, he is buried.

About a year before she passed, I saw Dorothy at my parents’ house at Eagle Lake. In this photo, my mother is with her aunts, Vena (on our left) and Dorothy (on our right).

 

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My cousin Susie (actually my  mom’s cousin, but that’s being picky)  sent me some treasures the other day.

Here is one of my favorite people, my maternal Grandmother, in a color or tinted photo I’ve never seen before.

(Lucille) Edna Mulder
1929

Then there were some newspaper clippings. In the first one, Grandpa is in a photo I’ve shared on here before, but it’s attached to a little story in the “Looking Back” section of the Kalamazoo Gazette. The photo is of my grandfather, who shared the image and the story.

The next clipping is a mention of my grandparents’ 65th wedding anniversary in the same newspaper (not the same issue).

And, finally, this clipping is an announcement for the senior community where my grandparents lived during their last few years.

I often think of how much I miss these two.

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Introducing my BRICK WALL of genealogy:

My great-great-grandparents, Gottfried and Alwine (Noffke) Waldeck. Gottfried was 1841 – 1913. Alwine 1846 – 1912.

Back row:  Fred (in a terrible accident and lived out the rest of his life at the Kalamazoo State Hospital) married Caroline Meier, Ada (Helene/Lena Ida) married Frederick Steeby, Anna (who was married, but I still need to iron out this “mess”–she was at least married to William Alexander Stewart), August (died in WWI, a bachelor)

Front row: Gottfried, Clara (my great-grandmother), Alwine, Godfrey married Anna Ruehs

There were other children who died young, but exactly who they were needs sorting out.

The family story in America may have started with Alwine’s older brother August. I wrote about him here: Pioneer of the Family

I have written many posts about my great-grandmother Clara and have also written about Fred and his accident and his wife and her family in other posts (search Waldeck).

Gaps might be a ridiculous word for what I have missing from this couple’s lives. I do not know where in Prussia either of them were born, although if the information is correct about August, it is possible that Alwine was born in Pomerania. However, together, the couple seem to have lived in West Prussia, where they may have worked on a large estate or two. I do have birth and/or baptism records for several of their children, but I can’t read them well enough and the place names for Prussia are soooo confusing. I will need help with this portion to create a timeline of locations.

If you are not familiar with Prussia, East Prussia was the province furthest east, but West Prussia is just to the west of East Prussia–still in what is now Poland and on the Baltic Sea. Pomerania, also on the Baltic, is just to the west of West Prussia. Posen is to the south of these provinces.

I don’t have a marriage record for the couple, so I don’t know which area of Prussia they were married–or how they might have met.

Gottfried and Alwine did arrive into Baltimore from Germany in 1882, but I don’t have any other immigration and naturalization records.

I do not have a headstone for either, but have put in a request through Findagrave. I also requested management of their memorials, but have not received a reply. I can only hope for the kindness of the current holder because at 2x greats, they are one removed from my right to manage their memorials. Hmm, but my mother could do it!

I don’t have any military information for Gottfried. Or an obituary.

So what in the world DO I have then (besides anything mentioned above)?

*Gottfried’s death certificate: he died of chronic nephritis. His place of birth is gibberish; nobody has ever heard of such a place.

*Alwine’s death certificate; she died of interstitial nephritis. Her place of birth is just listed as Germany. Notice they both had a form of nephritis and died a year apart.

*Land ownership map in Caledonia, 1894.

*1900 and 1910 census records. The 1890 doesn’t exist, and Gottfried died a few years after the 1910. When there are only one or two census records it really brings home how many of these immigrants only lived 10-20-30 years in this country before dying.

*I know it’s above, but let’s face it, having a photograph of your 2xgreats is pretty cool :).

*Alwine’s obituary, although it’s very limited–and spells her first name Albina. (Alwine is pronounced Alveena)

Finally, I would like to post the property map. The parcel owned by Gottfried is near the bottom, in the center darkened area. His land is a small piece. Do you see the darkened section in the middle at the bottom? His parcel is second from the farthest right (of the darkened section) and the second from the bottom. Although Gottfried and Alwine’s son-in-law, my great-grandfather Charles Mulder, eventually owned a lovely farm in Caledonia, 1894 was long before he purchased his property.

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On my Ancestry DNA account I probably have more matches to this branch of the family than any other. The Mulders were also the extended family we shared holidays and visits with more than the rest. They were my mom’s aunts, uncles, and cousins. The oldest person I knew in that branch was my great-grandfather, Charles Mulder.

Peter (Pieter) and Nellie (Neeltje) were his parents, and they immigrated from Goes, Zeeland, Netherlands when Charles, their first born, was just a toddler. He had a baby brother Jan who did not survive to grow up in the United States. After moving here, they had more children.

Here are a couple posts about this couple:

Pieter the Orphan Peter was sent to the orphanage.

Mulders Everywhere This post has a lot of photos of Nellie and Peter

The Treasure that Arrived in an Email This letter was written by Peter after Nellie passed away

When I went to organize what I had on Peter and Nellie, it was pretty easy because I already had so much information. What I do not have is Peter’s obituary, and I will order it when offices open back up. They are currently closed because of the pandemic. I do have Nellie’s meager obituary. I apologize that it appears blurry. That is the best that can be done with this article from 1932. It gives the list of those that survive her, her address, about the funeral and viewing. It also mentions she was 64-years-old.

From Nellie’s death certificate, we know she died of “pulmonary TB.” Her granddaughter Mary, one of Henry’s (Charles’ brother) daughters, recalled that her grandmother was sickly.  She thinks she was even sick when she came to the US from the Netherlands.  It is possible that she had TB when she emigrated to the US, and if so, very likely that she exposed/infected her family members with TB.  (info from cousin Merry)

Amberly worked on the immigration and naturalization of Peter and Nellie, but I already knew the couple had arrived on the Zaandam on 29 August 1887. There is one more piece of information we need, but I cannot order it until the archives open back up.

I also needed military information on Peter, which I did get from Yvette:

So Peter did not serve in the military. He was able to marry at age 19 and immigrate to the United States at age 21. This would not have happened if he had had to serve.

I’ve been blessed with a lot of information on Peter and Nellie. I also wrote about them in my chapbook Kin Types, imagining them as a young courting couple.

 

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Last maternal great-grandparent: Charles Mulder of Caledonia, Michigan. He was the only great-grandparent I knew–and I adored him.

Luanne and her great-grandfather Charles Mulder

Charles was born Karel Pieter Phillipus Mulder on 6 March 1885 in Goes, Zeeland, Netherlands. On my Ancestry page for Charles, I had posted a link to his birth record, but had not downloaded it. I now downloaded it, added it to his Ancestry page, and put it into a folder for all of his documents.

Amberly is helping me with his naturalization info. I do have a ship record (the Zandaam), so I know two-year-old Charles arrived in the U.S. with his parents and his brother Jan, a baby of one. Jan died very soon after the family immigrated.

In fact, I made the Charles folder because I had not yet done so. To that folder, I added his marriage record, death record, and all the census records that feature Charles: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940. I also downloaded and added his military registrations for both WWI and WWII.

I was surprised to see that Charles had a social security number. For the sake of dotting all the Is and all that, I ordered  his application.

Charles and his wife Clara share a headstone, and I have that photograph. I added it to Ancestry and to the new folder.

I found that I had a copy of Charles’ obituary, so I added it to Ancestry and to the folder on my computer.

Reading over my great-grandfather’s obituary I was shocked to see he only lived to be 82 years old. I was about 12 when he passed away, and I remember feeling frustrated that I was not allowed to attend his funeral since I adored him. But I thought he was about  a zillion years old. No, he was elderly, but only 82. That doesn’t even seem old to me today.

Once again, I had sponsored my great-grandfather’s page on Findagrave, but am not managing it. I have submitted a request to transfer management to me, but I suspect as with the others I have mentioned before, that I have asked in the past and been ignored. We will see what happens.

 

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I’ll be taking a little blog break for a couple of weeks. Hope all is well with you and yours. I also hope that when I begin the search for gaps in my great-greats I don’t get too discouraged!

 

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