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Posts Tagged ‘history of Caledonia Michigan’

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?

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 maternal grandmother’s family wasn’t from Kalamazoo, but from Caledonia, Michigan, which is in Kent (not Kalamazoo) County. Both counties are in SW Michigan, but I wouldn’t want to walk between these places! I’ve written before about the high school graduation of my grandmother, (Lucille) Edna Mulder, and her sister, Dorothy. You can find the posts here:

April 17 Always Reminds Me of Grandma

In the new album of photographs my mother gave me, there is a black and white version of this tinted graduation photo of the sisters.

And for the first time I am seeing high school graduation photos of their siblings!

To give a context, here is a little family tree information. Charles and Clara (Waldeck) Mulder had five children. Dorothea Rosa was born on 7 December 1910, the grandma was born 17 April 1912. These sisters graduated together in 1929.

On 20 October 1913, daughter Alvena was born.

My memories of Aunt Vena are of a retired school teacher and a gracious hostess who had a beautiful home with a fish tank inside and bird feeders outside.

Peter Godfrey Mulder was the first boy, born 2 November 1915. He and Aunt Ruby lived in a farmhouse in Martin when I knew them. I will always associate him with the big tree in the backyard and his (remnants of) curly hair. I saw him as a ginger. My mother says his hair was reddish, but she didn’t think of him as a redhead. Like most of the family he had very fair skin. He was named after his paternal grandfather (Peter) and his maternal grandfather (Godfrey). In my memories of him, he is always smiling.

The “baby” was born on 30 July 1917: Charles Peter Mulder, named after his father and his paternal grandfather.

Uncle Chuck had the same sweet smile as Grandma. He joined the U.S. Army right after Pearl Harbor.

I wish the Caledonia school yearbooks were available through Ancestry as so many are now, but alas, there is only a school record through 1925. I am so lucky to have Grandma’s scrapbook from her and Aunt Dorothy’s graduation.

Then I found another photo of an 8th grade graduation.

You see the girl in the second row, third from the left? That’s Grandma! And her sister, Dorothy, is seated in the front row, second from the right. Seated to Dorothy’s left (our right) is probably Blanche, Grandma’s best friend who became valedictorian when they graduated high school. Dorothy was salutatorian and Grandma was class historian.

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