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Posts Tagged ‘Caledonia Michigan history’

Clara Mulder, my great-grandmother, passed away on 6 September 1953, as I mentioned on Discovering My Great-Grandmother. I posted her obituary on My Great-Grandmother’s Lifetime of Service.

Two and a half months after her death, the family gathered together for Thanksgiving at the home of her oldest child, Dorothy (Dorothea Rosa) Mulder Plott, and Dorothy’s husband, Conrad Plott. As of the 1940 census, they lived at 148 North Union Street in Battle Creek, Michigan. But my mother believes that they then moved to their farm in Pennfield Township and that this gathering took place in the farmhouse.

In these recently discovered photos (from an album my mother put together), the family can be seen gathered together at the Thanksgiving feast.

The bottom photo lists “Grandpa,” and that is Clara’s widower, my great-grandfather, Charles Mulder. “Mother” and “Dad” are my grandparents, Adrian and Edna (Mulder) Zuidweg. In the top photo, the man on the left, “Uncle Pete,” is Clara’s #4 (of 5) child, Peter Mulder.

In the top photo, “Mother,” “Aunt Dot,” “Uncle Chuck,” and “Vena” are Clara’s other 4 children (besides Pete). Dorothy, Edna, Vena, Pete, and Chuck, in order of birth.

Aunt Ruby was married to Uncle Pete. Most of the others are my mother’s brother and cousins. You saw them as children in Discovering My Great-Grandmother.

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When I was a little girl, my grandmother gave me a ring that belonged to her mother, my great-grandmother, Clara Waldeck Mulder. She told me it was her Eastern Star ring and asked me to take good care of it.

For years I’ve felt that Clara was a bit of a mystery to me as I knew so little of her. Then a few weeks ago, I found a photo of her while I was scanning an album and posted it in Discovering My Great-Grandmother.

The stars must be aligned right because two weeks ago I was scanning another album and found Clara’s obituary! You can see how loved she was by what is written about her.

 

I think the obituary is readable online, but I want to draw your attention to one particular paragraph:

She was a . . . member of Caledonia O.E.S. No. 97, a Past Matron of Caledonia Chapter, a member of the Past Matrons Association, and has been secretary of the O.E.S. for many years. She was also a member of Golden Star Rebekah Lodge, a Past Noble Grand and a member of the Past Noble Grands Association. An active member of the Caledonia Methodist Church, she served ten years as president of the East Caledonia Ladies Aid Society.

O.E.S. is Order of the Eastern Star. I used to think that Eastern Star was the women’s branch of the Masons, but the Wikipedia article shows that I am wrong. Apparently it is for men and women, although it is affiliated with the Masons. But I must say that the names of the top titles (using the word “matron”) sounds like it was for women. My great-grandfather was a Mason, so it made sense to me that my great-grandmother would be Eastern Star. Also, she was a Past Matron, so I think she was the presiding officer of her chapter at one time.

I read this far and got out the ring that Grandma gave me. I have taken good care of it, but age has taken a toll on the ring. The stone is no longer affixed to the band, and I am not sure if it can be repaired or not. I don’t want to take it in because I don’t want to risk more harm coming to the ring.

Since I had the ring out, I thought my friend Google could show me if the design was a common one or not, but I couldn’t find hide nor hair of the ring in my search for Eastern Star rings.

Then I read a little farther: Golden Star Rebekah Lodge. I didn’t know what that was, but I looked it up. The Rebekahs are a fraternal and service organization affiliated with the Odd Fellows. You can read about it here. So for kicks I looked up images of Rebekah rings. Sure enough, that’s what it is. Grandma must have thought it was Eastern Star because her mom was so entrenched in O.E.S. culture, and the R does look a bit like an E. Maybe the R is a bit  worn off, in fact.

Although I am not a “joiner,” I am proud of my great-grandmother for her lifetime of service. It was women like Clara Mulder that made life better for others in the first half of the 20th century.

 

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Because my mother’s grandmother, Clara Waldeck Mulder, died less than two years before I was born, I always felt that I had missed out by not knowing her. It seemed as if our paths had almost crossed, but missed. By the time I knew what was what, Great-Grandpa was married to Margaret, a sweet lady who was a good great-grandmother. But I knew I had missed out on meeting the mother of my grandmother, the woman who once managed that scary and fascinating stove in the old farmhouse in Caledonia, Michigan. I knew Mom thought she was a good cook.

So it was really fun that as I was scanning the photo album my mother had made documenting her teen years I found a photo of Great-Grandma a year before she died.

How well I remember those aprons! When you cook, they are the smart thing to wear, although the tummy area always gets the worst of it because it’s convenient to wipe your hands there. They were a style of the past when I was young and newly married, but I still prefer an apron that really covers me up like that to one that ties at the waist.

Jeanne mentioned at the top of the photo is my mother’s cousin Jeanne who in a lineup of cousins is #2 to my mother, my mother being the oldest.

Their Grandma was photographed by Jeanne in the summer of 1952, and she would die 6 September 1953, at the age of 69 years old of uterine cancer. (Yes, her death certificate is posted here).

Great-Grandma Clara is pictured here as a young bride with her husband, Charles Mulder, my great-grandfather.

You know that lineup I was mentioning? Here is one!

That’s Mom there on our left with the big bow and Jeanne right next to her.

The littlest ones aren’t in the photo and probably not yet born, but this is a good start on all the cousins, the grandchildren of Clara Mulder!

 

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This story is very tragic, and I hope family members don’t mind me sharing it because we need all types of stories to do justice to our history. Having read family history stories for years now, I know that every family had events like this occur. This post is about the Noffke branch.

A year and a half ago, I wrote about Louisa/Louiza/Louise Rutkoski, who had married my 3rd great uncle, Charles Noffke, back in Prussia–before immigrating to the United States. When they arrived here, they had a son, Herman, and after settling in Kent County, Louise gave birth to a daughter, Clara. The reason I wrote about Louise was that I had discovered through old newspaper articles that on 7 July 1920 she had drowned in Emmons Lake while suffering an acute attack of “indigestion.”

At the time, I didn’t mention a much earlier article I found about Louise, Charles, and Herman. However, coupled with the story of Louise’s death, that earlier article did inspire a poem, called “Half-Naked Woman Found Dead,” that I included in Kin Types. 

This is the article I found quite some time ago, published in the Grand Rapids Press in 1893.

At the time I read this article, I was saddened for the whole family, but I saw it as a terror for Louise and Herman.

The other day, I was organizing my files on this family and made a little stop at Genealogy Bank to recheck the articles. They have changed the site, and I’m not familiar with it yet. It seems to me that some articles are no longer easy to find, but one I had never seen before popped up.

It’s not only a tragic story in its own right, but it happened a year and a half before Herman put a stop to Charles’ violence. I can’t help but wonder if the event sparked a worsening state in Charles, his emotions, and brought about or increased his drinking.

My great-great-grandmother, Alwine Noffke Waldeck had only two siblings (that I know of), brothers Charles and August. What could have happened in 1891 to send Charles into a state where his violent actions were recorded in the local newspaper?

This is what I found about brother August in the 22 May 1891 issue of the Grand Rapids newspaper, The Evening Leader.

Look at that sensational headling: SHOT THROUGH THE BRAIN. Then the subtitle: August H. Noffke Commits Suicide After Threatening His Wife. So when Charles came home and “proceeded to make things lively,” endangering his wife, son, and the brindle cat, his only brother had somewhat recently been extremely intoxicated and killed himself.

If you read the whole article, you will see that there are two sides to this story–or maybe three. Was Mary Mueller/Miller Noffke mentally ill, cruel, and a nag, causing an unemployed depressed man to finally take his own life? Or was August abusing her and she was trying to put a stop to it through the courts when he got drunk and violent? Did he truly kill himself or did she shoot him? What really happened in that family–and what happened that day?

The way the article ends does try to slant the story against Mary with her cavalier attitude toward August’s death and funeral.

Of course, I’ve only found three (not four!) Noffke children: Maria, Otto, and Emma. I have no idea what happened to any of them except that Otto got married when he was twenty in Montana where he was living at the time and Maria (called Anna) married a man named Benson and ended up living in Illinois (but her body was returned to Michigan for burial). After such a dysfunctional upbringing and the suicide of their father, I’m a little worried about what happened to August’s four children.

One last thing. When I was researching Maria Anna Noffke, I found her death record–and on it was the only mention I’ve ever found of a birth place in Europe for the Noffkes–the birthplace of her father, August. I had already been told by a professional German genealogist that the Noffke surname could be found in Pomerania, so I hoped I would eventually find them there. And that’s what has happened. It lists a place called Schwitzkow. I couldn’t find this place anywhere. But then a man on the Prussian Genealogy group on Facebook identified it: http://gemeinde.schwetzkow.kreis-stolp.de/.  This was in Pomerania. I don’t know how big it was when the Noffkes immigrated from there in the 19th century, but in 1925, there were about 300 people and about 56 residences! TINY! And everyone was Protestant–no Catholics or Jews at all. Schwetzkow lies 57 miles west of Gdansk (Danzig), and I have seen that name mentioned somewhere in my years of searching my Prussian branch. But do you think I can now remember where I saw it? No . . . .

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My 3rd great uncle, Charles Noffke, married Louisa Rutkofski. This event must have occurred back in the “old country.” Just where the old country was has not yet been determined. All I know is that the Noffkes (and the Waldecks) were some sort of “German.” They might have been from Pomerania, but maybe not. The Waldecks-Noffkes had regular family reunions for years, decades actually, and yet their origins are more murky than my other branches. It would make sense if these people came from an area that is now Poland because I do have Polish DNA, but also it might fit Louisa’s maiden name (which can be German or Polish, according to trusty Google).

Anyway, I am writing about the disturbing story of Louisa’s death. Charles, who was born in 1843, passed away on 26 May 1897 in Caledonia, Michigan, where the family had settled. Louisa, born 24 April 1845, never married again and passed away on 6 July 1920. So she lived alone, presumably, for many of those 23 years. The couple had two children, a son Herman, born 1871 and a daughter, Clara, born 1875. Herman was married in 1900 and Clara may have married soon after.

I had never heard of Louisa until I began to do family history research, particularly on Ancestry.com. That’s when the Noffkes began to populate my family tree. She threatened to remain an enigma because I had little information and, after all, she is not such a very close relative.

But when I plugged the name Noffke into the newspaper database on Genealogy Bank, I was startled to learn the circumstances of Louisa’s death.

 

Clothing torn from her body? Some articles of clothing missing? Trampled weeds along the lakeshore? Scratches and bruises on the body?

DEATH FROM INDIGESTION?

It sure sounds as if she was murdered.

Clearly this shows that an investigation was opened into her death.

THEN SILENCE. Nothing else appears in the newspaper except information about probate of her estate.

What do you think happened to her?

For a link to a beautiful image of the lake go here.

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Adding Louisa’s death certificate, thanks to Su Leslie’s comment. Notice that the cause of death is even stranger: that she died by drowning in the lake while ill with acute indigestion. HUH? And notice that there is no DOB, although they seem to know her age in days. There are no parents listed, although her only son gave the information. I can’t tell who signed the certificate because of the spot on the paper.

One more thing. Her daughter Clara died eight years later, at age 53, in bed–dead from the gas from a coal stove.

 

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