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Archive for the ‘Kalamazoo late 1800s – early 1900s’ Category

When I was a kid growing up in Kalamazoo, it was known as “The Paper City.” Our fifth grade teacher–a very eccentric personality–told us about the way paper was made and emphasized that the reason we were not to eat paper (a common habit in elementary school) was that the workers in the paper mills would chew tobacco and spit it at random into the vats of liquid paper. That was why we would occasionally see a little burst of tan, like a star or partial star, on a sheet of white paper.

Kalamazoo was home to several paper mills and companies. Here is a little info I found online:

Taking advantage of the area’s bountiful water resources, in 1867 the Kalamazoo Paper Company opened its first mill. According to historian Larry Massie, the company provided a training ground for paper makers and “was one reason for the amazing proliferation of paper mills throughout the Kalamazoo Valley.” The area’s proximity to Chicago, its excellent railroad network and its large labor force further aided the industry’s development. By the early twentieth century, Kalamazoo County was the state’s dominant paper producer. According to 1904 state census figures, its five paper and wood pulp mills (one-sixth of the state’s total) represented 25 percent of the industry’s capital value. By World War I, Kalamazoo was the center of the largest paper-producing area in the United States. The industry employed one-half of the city’s labor force.

My mother-in-law, Diana Dale Castle, painted one of the mills in 1970. This is the Monarch Paper Mill, owned by Allied Paper Company.

 

The Kalamazoo Library has a terrible image of the Monarch mill from 1910 here. And this one slightly better.

Here is a photo of the machine room and of the male workers in 1915. There is also a photo of one John Bushouse at the mill in 1915. All this is left now of the Monarch Mill is the pond. In a Facebook group for old Kalamazoo, people talked about swimming at the mill pond. I can’t imagine this because I remember driving past the pond and thinking ICK and SCARY.

A quick search on Ancestry for John Bushouse reveals that it is a somewhat common name in Kalamazoo and that the owners of the name are immigrants from the Netherlands or their children. I could not find the John Bushouse that worked at the mill in 1915.

I found an unidentified photograph made from one of Joseph DeKorn’s glass negatives that seems to be from the heyday of paper manufacturing in Kalamazoo. Since it was one of the DeKorn negatives that means that the photograph was probably taken between 1903 and 1918. I suspect that it is an image of a paper mill. If you agree that it is probably a paper mill, do you think it is the Monarch mill or a different one? Before you answer that, you should check the photo in the second library link so that you have enough information.

According to one source, at one time, paper mills were the 5th largest employer in Kalamazoo. According to the source I quoted above, HALF the labor population worked in the paper industry! But that business dried up in the 80s. Obviously, paper is still being made, so why not in Kalamazoo?

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With a lot going on right now, I haven’t had time to return emails to genealogy contacts, research, or even write a proper post. But I do have a picture of a beautiful young lady I can share. The photograph was created from a glass negative taken by Joseph DeKorn. All of his photographs were taken between approximately 1895 and 1918, and the majority were shot in Kalamazoo.

Although I don’t know who this lovely girl is, I have hopes that I can eventually discover her identity. The juxtaposition of the two houses might lead to a solution, for instance.

Any ideas on the time period of the dress, hair, and shoes (within that 1895-1918 range)?

I remember wearing tights that bagged at the knees like these stockings. Do you think they are cotton?

I’ll put Balch Street and Burdick Street in the tags for this post, just in case it was taken in the neighborhood where Joseph lived.

 

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Finding neighbors and friends of my ancestors is always fun. Alice Leeuwenhoek received two postcards from girls who posted them from Portland, Oregon. Luckily, one girl, Eva Maul, signed her entire name so it was easy to look them up.

 

As Eva’s July 28, 1909, postcard states, the Maul family moved from Kalamazoo to Portland, Oregon.

 

On the 1910 census they are living in Portland:

Peter and Jennie Maul, with their children: Henry, Gertrude, Maurice, Eva, Jeannette, Garrett, and John. Eva was fourteen, so when she wrote the postcard, she was about thirteen. Gertrude was 17. She wrote the other postcard in 1912, when she was 19.

Notice she complains Alice hasn’t been writing, which makes me wonder how many friends the Maul girls made in their new home.

“Lovingly” seems to indicate that Gertrude and Alice had been very good friends. Alice was born in 1897, so in 1912 she would have been 15, so she was actually closer in age to Eva–even a bit younger.

I started to wonder if these girls had been neighbors of Alice and could be found in my old photographs.  So I did another search. Well well well. In the 1906 Kalamazoo City Directory Peter Maul was a butcher who lived at 112 Balch Street, right next door to Alice’s family! Uncle Lou was a grocer who lived at 110 Balch Street with his family. Alice’s mother’s name was Jennie–and so was the mother of Eva and Gertrude. I guess they all had a lot in common.

But why would Eva have to send Alice a postcard saying that they had moved when they lived next door? How odd.

Although I couldn’t spend too much time on this, a naturalization document popped up from decades later for father Peter Maul in Portland. His history is convoluted. He listed his race as Dutch, but his nationality as British. He emigrated from Calgary, Canada, but was born in Zeeland, Michigan, in 1866. WHAT? It makes no sense. By 1933 he was married to a woman named Blanche who hailed from the western part of the country. Before you think it’s a different Peter, the document lists all his children as well as an additional child.

This would be a fascinating thread to follow, but alas, there is so much to be done in my own branches, I have to stop here for now. For those of you who follow this blog and have been in contact over family branches–and posts you have not seen–I plan to spend a little more time in 2017 on genealogy and share some of the information I’ve been blessed with from all of you!

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I’ll be taking a blogging break for the holidays, so I’ll leave you with this gift (that I first posted three years ago)  from Alice Paak (Richard) DeKorn to one of her children, possibly her daughter Cora, my great-grandmother. What a family and genealogy treasure–now 109 years old.

1907

Merry Xmas

from

MOTHER

In case you’re wondering about the use of the word “Xmas” instead of “Christmas,” this is what Wikipedia has to say:

There is a common belief that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas by taking the “Christ” out of “Christmas”, but its use dates back to the 16th century.

I’m sure that this was just a way to fit it all on the tiny shell. What a lot of work to paint and letter this shell. I wonder if she made three, one for each of her children.

Happy holidays to you and yours! See you in the new year!

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Blogger buddy José at Enhanced News Archive sent me a link to the 1869-1870 Kalamazoo City Directory that lists only one person with one of my family surnames. His name was William DeKorn, and he was a laborer who lived right downtown (194 S. Burdick Street). This seems much earlier than my family came to Kalamazoo. “My” DeKorns first settled in Ottawa County, near Holland, Michigan, before they made their way to Kalamazoo.

I decided to see if this William DeKorn could be related to my family. There is another branch (connected much further back) that settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so I wonder if he connected with them or with my family that first went to the Holland, Michigan area. I wrote about the other branch in this post: The Confusing Saga.

First I went to Ancestry and discovered that  this City Directory is the only item that comes up for the name William DeKorn, living in Kalamazoo.

Next I went to the Dutch genealogy website, WieWasWie , and there were not any William DeKorns or DeKornes, with or without a space between the De and the Korn. So, knowing that Willem is the Dutch version of William, I looked up that name. Only one Willem DeKorne who had any documentation in the years before 1869-70. He was from Hoedekenskerke, which is apparently 6.5 miles from Kapelle where my DeKorn/DeKornes come from. The Willem documents that come after 1869 are from a town in between these towns, so all the DeKornes seem to be in the same general area. The Willem I found is the son of Paulus. So I looked up Paulus, and they were all connected with those same three towns.

At that point, it would have seemed logical to try to connect Paulus with my ancestors. I have the DeKorns going back five more generations before Boudewijn.

Instead, I thought I would check to see if my ducks were in a row first. In other words, instead of searching farther outward, I went inward and took a peek at my family tree.

I was astonished to see be reminded how early those first immigrants, Boudewijn and Johanna (Remijinse) DeKorn, must have moved to Kalamazoo. In the 1860 census, they were still living in Ottawa, four years after immigrating from the Netherlands. But Johanna died in 1864 in Kalamazoo. Boudewijn died in Kalamazoo in 1873 or 1875. As you can see, Johanna’s death predated the City Directory publication.

So I took a look at the 1870 census. There was William DeKorn, much as he was in the City Directory, except the census recorded that he lived with his three children: Richard, Mary, and Jennie. In short, William WAS Boudewijn. And why wouldn’t he have changed his name to an “American” one? With a name like Boudewijn . . . . Richard was already listed as a brick mason in the census, although he was only nineteen years old.

 

There never was an earlier DeKorn in Kalamazoo, after all. Boudewijn was the first of the family to venture to Kalamazoo, probably because of the housing boom. I’m not sure if there if a way to locate the address on the census since every entry is listed in numerical order, but apparently not tied to a particular address.

 

It did strike me as odd that there was only one Willem DeKorne listed before 1870 on WieWasWie because, for centuries, the Dutch consistently reused the same names, giving a child the name of a grandparent, most typically. If Willem had been a family name for the DeKorns I would have seen more Willems from earlier years.

 

Knowing that Boudewijn changed his name to William might make it easier to search for other traces of his life in the United States.

 


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I remember my grandfather wearing his Sunoco “uniform” and his Sunday sportcoat, but I never thought of him as at the height of fashion. At least not in his attire.

But take a look at him as a 22 year old in 1930!

At first I saw his sport coat, sweater, shirt, fancy belt, and plaid pants as a spiffy outfit, but didn’t stop to think: why is he wearing bloomers? haha

Well, he’s wearing knickers (no, I don’t mean those kind of knickers), which are short for knickerbockers. Copied from this website:

Knickerbockers, later shortened to knickers, were popular sports wear for wealthy gentleman. Knickers were baggy pants that fit low on the natural waist and tight below the knee, ballooning out around the thighs. For upper class gentlemen wearing white or light striped knickers in summer with a matching Norfolk jacket was the look of the teens and early 1920’s.

Grandpa is not wearing a Norfolk jacket, but one that does look a little preppy over that sweater and shirt collar.

 

Plaid Plus Fours

Variations of knickers included plus-fours, plus- sixes, plus-eights and plus-tens. The plus is how many inches below the knee they hung. Plus fours came in tweeds, linen, corduroy, and flannel. Many were solid colors but to be really trendy men wore stripes, checks, and plaid patterns.  They were already on trend when the prince of wales went on tour in American wearing plus fours. His approval meant any man NOT wearing plus fours was out of  fashion.

Notice that “to be really trendy men wore stripes, checks, and plaid patterns.” That’s Grandpa–“really trendy”!

Knickers were worn for more than just sports and casual entertainment. They were common among both fashion forward industries such as the movies, but also among working classes who found the sturdier material knickers quite useful on the farm, for making deliveries, and for some factory work. The short legs and light weight clothes made them cool to wear in summer.

Not sure what beach this photo was taken at, but his outfit is sporty for the time period, as befitting a walk on the beach. By today’s standards, he’s a little over-dressed!

 

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Some of you might remember the beautiful scrapbook of photographs that I was given by a very kind stranger. It belonged to one of the two adult daughters –Rhea or Lela–of my great-great-grandfather’s sister Jennie DeKorn Culver.

At least one of the three Culvers moved from Kalamazoo to Seattle on August 20, 1918. If only one Culver moved at that time, it wasn’t long before all three were living in the state of Washington. I have not been able to figure out exactly how the move occurred–or why–but it doesn’t stop me from being fascinated with the photos.

 

Although the majority of the photographs in the album are from 1917 and 1918, this one is marked 9-4-1915. It says it is on Riverside Drive. But what are those initials after the street?

In 1910 Jennie lived with her two daughters at 59 Kalamazoo Avenue in Kalamazoo. She was a seamstress in a corset factory. Rhea was 19 years old and a stenographer in a “paper stock company.” Lela, 21, was a teacher in a public school. I would really love to find out if Lela went to Western Normal School to become a teacher.

So is this Riverside Drive in Kalamazoo or elsewhere? According to Mapquest and Google, there is a Kalamazoo Avenue in Kalamazoo, but not Drive. Both Kalamazoo Avenue and Riverside Avenue are on the east side of Kalamazoo. There’s a famous Riverside Drive in NYC. I’m going to make a guess that those initials say N. Y.–New York City. Do you agree?

And is this one of the sisters? Unfortunately, I would say NO as both sisters had narrow faces. My guess is that this is a friend of the scrapbook owner.

On a slightly related subject, I just wanted to say:

CONGRATULATIONS to the WMU Broncos!!!

They are undefeated this season!!!! This is my alma mater. This is the alma mater of so many of my relatives. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you want to get hyped up, watch the video and ROW THE BOAT!

 

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