Saturday, May 30, 2015

Four Months Later - August 21, 1922

Sarah Jane's last living child, Ginevra, died only four months after her mother.  Anna Josephine, Sarah's other adult child died two years earlier in 1920. After finding out that Ginevra died of carcinoma of the uterus, I was curious as to the cause of death listed for her sister. Anna Josephine's listed cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis. I don't know how this differs from the consumption from which the other children of Sarah and Joseph died.

Obituary of Ginevra Withrow Vorhies - mother of Estella Vorhies Smith

Mrs. J.M. Vorhies Passes to Reward

     Ginevra M. Withrow was born in Butler county, Ohio, March 5, 1855, and died at the hospital at Carroll, Ia., August 21, 1922 at the age of 67 years, 3 months and 16 days.  With her parents she moved to Jasper county, Ia., where she was married to John M. Vorhies May 27, 1875 and the following year in February they came to Scranton, where they have lived continuously ever since.  Three children were born to them.  Mrs. H.L. Smith and Gene Vorhies of this vicinity, and LeRoy Vorhies of Pikeview, Colo.  She was a member of the Church of Christ and enjoyed the services of the church, but in late years was deprived of attending on account of the care of her aged mother.  Besides her husband, J.M. Vorhies, and three children, she leaves two grandchildren and one great grandchild, together with many friends and neighbors to mourn their loss.
     Funeral services were held from the Church of Christ yesterday at 2:00 p.m. by the pastor, Eld. C. A. Burkhart.  Interment was made in the Scranton cemetery by the following pall bearers:  John McDonald, Sr., John Moran, William Hutchison, George Knauss, S.M. Hall and G.D. McDonald.
     In the passing of this wife and mother the community mourns the loss of a member who was faithful and true in every test of life,  She has lived long among us, being almost a pioneer and during all of those years she has been known as one who was untiringly carrying forward her commonplace duties.  There has been no blot to her good name.  She has devoted her life to her husband and her family and the good causes of her community. She has been gathered to her fathers.  It is the way of all the earth.  The Journal joins with the entire community in extending the most profound sympathy to this husband and father and the children who have lost their best friend on earth.

O.K. Let's discuss this a little. My mother, Mary, was the great grandchild referred to. However, there were certainly more than two grandchildren.  Estella Vorhies Smith had six children who lived to adulthood: Nina, Merroll, Neva, Ardea, Dale, Leah.
Eugene Vorhies had two children: Lester and Viola. Leroy had three children: Verle, Fern, Harold.

I say she had eleven grandchildren.  I guess you just can't believe everything you read. In John M. Vorhies' obituary, ten grandchildren are mentioned. This would be correct because his grandson, Lester, died in 1933 at age 23. Curious about this anyone?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Passing of Pioneer Mother

I have been saving some of the obituaries of some family members. I just could not decide where I wanted them to fit in. Since I have been descending the Withrow/Vorhies/Smith line and have discussed most of the relatives, I am about to the 1920's in my mind. However, I have not branched off into what I have learned is called collaterals.

Collaterals are relatives that are not your direct line of grandparents, great grandparents, and on back. The brothers, sisters, and their descendants fit this category.  For example, my great Uncle Gene was Stella Smith's brother as was Uncle Roy. These two brothers along with their wives and children are all part of that family portrait of 1913. See The Family Grows and Grows  They are the three children of Ginevra and John Mac Vorhies. Another name that you have read about here is Viola. She is the daughter of Gene and Carrie Vorhies and was a family genealogist. In fact, remember those boxes she had full of genealogy files. I finally have them in my possession, and I am sorting. They have not been the treasure trove I thought they might be, but I am learning a few new pieces of information. (So far no clues on Carrie Plath)

So, where do these obituaries and assorted information on collaterals fit in? I guess just anywhere I want.  Let's go back to where we started with Sarah Jane Swartzel Withrow and read her obituary. 

Passing of Pioneer Mother

     Sarah Jane Swartzel was born in Montgomery county, Ohio, Nov. 9, 1831.  She departed this life April 18, 1922, aged 87 years, 5 months, and 9 days.  She was married to Joseph Withrow, of Butler county, Ohio January 11, 1853.  To this union seven children were born, six girls and one boy, and all except Mrs. J.M. Vorhies have gone to the great beyond.  Mr. Withrow passed away Jan. 5, 1902.  She united with the Methodist church when twelve years of age.  She has been an invalid the past nineteen years, and during the last three years she has been confined to her bed. Though a great suffer, she has borne it patiently.  She leaves her daughter, thirteen grandchildren, a large number of great grandchildren and three great great-grandchildren to mourn their loss.

     Funeral services were held at the J.M. Vorhies home Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock by Eld. Chas. A. Burkhart, pastor of the Church of Christ.  Interment was  made in the Scranton cemetery.

     There is little to add to the above brief biography.  It is the age-old story.  We tread the same paths which our fathers have trod.  Mrs. Withrow was privileged  to live long in the land and her eighty -seven years included the most wonderful era in earth's history.  Her activities, her friendships, her life record are largely in a generation that has passed.  She filled the commonplace niche in the infinite earthly plan of a good and true wife and mother, friend and neighbor.  She will be kindly remembered with the highest esteem.  Profound sympathy is extended to the relatives who mourn her passing.

There are several lines that speak to me:

We tread the same paths which our fathers have trod.

She filled the commonplace niche...

...her eighty-seven years included the most wonderful era in earth's history.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

C. Dale Smith

Remember him. I wrote about him in Clifford "Dale" Smith (1914-1984) the post of 5/8/15. It turns out I have a little more information on him that might be interesting to some of his relatives. (me)

I might have mentioned that a few years ago I was involved in the collaborative process of producing The Heritage of Greene County Iowa 2011 . There was a military section to which I made several contributions. I wrote entries for John Grisso, William Grisso, Marvin Grisso, made mention of Bert and Donald Grisso, Tom Tolsdorf, Howard Ray, George Ray, Dale Ray, Jess Ray, Calvin Ray and Clifford " Dale" Smith.  For some of these entries I used a book I found in the Scranton Public Library, Service Record-World War II Scranton and Community.

With Memorial Day just passing, this seems an appropriate time to add this information.

About Dale it said, "He was engaged in five major battles and six minors battles during the war.  He served in the European Theatre and was awarded the European Theatre Ribbon and the Victory Medal.  He was wounded in the right leg in 1943.  His SC 651 was sunk on the Invasion of Marseilles in 1944 and the SC 498 was sunk off Crete in 1944."

This article also says he was buried at sea, which I do not believe is true. So many family mysteries, so little time.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day

Memorial Day in 2015 is not much like it was when I was young or at least how I remember it.  In our small hometown there is some resemblance, but even that has changed.  One sees real flowers here and there, but the cemetery is decorated these days with lots of plastic. I always try for natural flowers. One aunt said her mother would roll over in her grave if anyone placed plastic flowers on her grave.

As a kid, getting ready to decorate the graves was like a party. My mom, her cousin, my great-grandma and my great aunts went happily into their gardens looking for the best flowers to cut, bring into the house and arrange in bouquets.  Each year the bouquets were different depending on when spring came to our area. Some years the peonies were not even open yet. Other years they had bloomed and been gone for weeks. If everything went right, the peonies were perfect. Iris were favorite additions, but the tulips were usually gone.

Families still go to our small town cemetery, take flowers and honor those loved ones who have departed.  The cemetery has a nice program and displays what is called The Avenue of the Flags.
Sometimes the local high school band plays and the boy scouts help with the ceremony.

When I was a little girl, many people still called this day Decoration Day. It was observed on May 30 as opposed to the last Monday of May as it is today.  I didn't understand as a kid that it was a day to honor military men and women who had died while serving in the U.S. military. I thought it was the day to go to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of my family.

Reading about the history of Memorial Day has been interesting.  "It was officially proclaimed on 5 May, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No 11. 'The 30th of May, 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land' ".(

According to "On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there."

In 1971 congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971.  This gave a three day weekend for Federal holidays. I found an interesting bit of information that said several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the confederate war dead.

Does anyone remember the red poppies? My mother used to always have a red paper poppy attached to her purse around Memorial Day to show her respect to lost soldiers. In 1922, the VFW started to nationally sell poppies. More can be read about the origin of this commemoration  at This tradition still exists in some communities, but I don't know if my children or their children know anything about it.

On this same website I  learned about the National Moment of Remembrance for Memorial Day. "The Nation Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3:00 p.m. local time, for all Americans 'To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps' ".

Yesterday I went to the cemetery. These direct line ancestors you have been reading about on this blog all have real flowers decorating their graves now.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

News to me!

You know my goal is to share the family stories, facts, and details I already know.  However, yesterday I stumbled upon a couple interesting pieces of information that were new to me and that I wish to share. Discovering new family details is exciting for a family historian.

Since I was already in the area, I decided to stop by our local genealogy library and look at the index of  Greene County deaths. I wanted to confirm the death date of Myrtice Avril Smith, the 5th child of Hiram and Stella Smith. Sure enough, she died May 19, 1913 as her gravestone says. Out of curiosity, I decided to go to the Court House to further check some facts on this death. The cause of death was listed as pneumonia and whooping cough. She was 4 months and 19 days and had been sick for five weeks. I also found an error in the record. It says she was buried in Glidden. This is not so. She is buried in The Scranton Township Cemetery next to her parents.  Of course, in reality they are buried next to her. Stella's parents, John M and Ginevra Vorhies, both of her brothers, Eugene and LeRoy and families are all buried in close proximity. After all the years I have visited these graves, I never realized little Myrtice was the first internment in this grouping. ( The Withrows are in another section. Aurilla would have been the very first family internment.

As long as I was at the courthouse and had found these huge books of records so fascinating, I decided to look up a couple other death notes.  What could I learn about Bert and Nina's first born child Lena?   She was born on October 31 and died the same day. Interestingly enough, she was also buried October 31. The record shows that the baby was premature, only seven months developed. Now the really interesting question. There is a column in these records that lists the funeral home/mortuary involved. In this column the words "none called" is recorded. Now what does this mean? I know where Lena and her brother, who also did not survive infancy, are buried. Who dug the hole? Was there some sort of box used or not? I am so curious about this.

Lastly, I discovered something that really surprised me, and I think it is an important piece of information for all my female cousins in this familial line to know.  Great Great Grandmother Ginevra Withrow Vorhies' cause of death was carcinoma of the uterus.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Nina Lorene Smith Grisso ( 1901-1984)

The first child of Hiram and Estella Smith is the last one I am writing about in this family group. Nina was the oldest of seven children, six of whom grew to adulthood.  She was a sweet kind soul, and she was my grandmother.  In 1920 on January 31, she married Bert Roscoe Grisso.  They were married in her parents house, which to this day is a lovely home. I don't know the circumstances but Nina and Bert went to Oklahoma following the marriage. I once saw a card that Nina sent to her parents. She signed it " Mrs. Bert Grisso". One could almost feel the joy and happiness in that signature. She was no longer Miss Smith, she was "Mrs. Bert Grisso".

A little further research in those digital newspapers that I love, I found this:

March 31, 1920
     Mr. and Mrs. Bert Grisso returned Friday evening from their winter sojourn somewhere in Oklahoma.  Mr. Grisso says no more of the southern life for him. Mrs. Grisso was formerly Nina Smith, daughter of H.L. Smith south of town.

I think he was referring to Oklahoma not Missouri where he grew up.

Bert was from Moody, Missouri which sits just north of the Missouri/Arkansas border. His family goes back through four generations in Fulton County, Arkansas. Three Grisso brothers and wives migrated from Virginia in the mid 1800's. There has been a huge amount of Grisso research already done. (More on that to come).  So, how did this young Grisso man end up in Greene County, Iowa? Some family lore says he came to Iowa to work. Picking corn (by hand)  was a common source of employment in those days. It was hard work suited to strong young men.  It is possible Bert's future father-in-law, Hiram Smith, came to the area for the same reason many years earlier.

I don't know much about grandma Nina's formative years. I imagine she was busy helping her mother with babies. She was approximately  8, 9, 12, 13, and 16 when new babies joined the family. She always loved kids. Maybe this is where her training came from. Her grandmother, Ginevra Vorhies and her great-grandmother, Sarah Jane Withrow lived nearby. I imagine they taught her many things.

She attended country school with her brother, Merroll.   I love this keepsake. It is probably my teacher side showing.

With pleasant memories of
happy days
spent together in the schoolroom
this souvenir
is presented to you with the
best wishes of your teacher

As I was working on this post, I found the following letter. I have    no idea what grandma Nina was asking for, but I do think this must have been from her teacher, W. C. Henning. I love the beautiful penmanship.  I scanned the envelope as well as the letter. Notice the 1 cent stamps.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Who is Carrie Plath?

As I said once before, I am picking up the fruit that has fallen from the family genealogical tree. This means I am just sharing what I already know from documents, photos and information I have  accumulated from my mom, her mom and so on. This is also an attempt to organize myself with a new genealogy "system". ( I was known for my new "systems" when I was a teacher.  It was a source of amusement for those who knew me. )

Now I have mentioned the valuable research source of  our counties' digitized newspapers. has been a great place for me to search for tidbits that might add a little of our ancestors social endeavors or unlock some missing information. This is what I was doing when I came across this snippet.

November 6, 1941 

Mrs. Stella Smith and Dale attended the funeral of Edwin Plath Wednesday at Mason City.  This young man was 19 years old, and he was killed when he took his gun from the wall and it discharged. He was preparing to shoot a chicken.

He leaves his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Plath and four sisters;
Two brothers preceded him in death within the last five years. The deceased was a nephew of Mrs. Smith.


After further exploration, I found two more references to Fred and Carrie Plath in the newspaper.  In early March 1945, they attended a family dinner at Stella's home honoring her son, Dale, who was home on leave from the Navy. I was there too, but only about three weeks old. I don't remember much. However, I was considerably older in 1970 when they attended the 50th anniversary party of my grandparents, Nina and Bert Grisso. Again, I don't remember ever hearing of these people. Was I introduced to them? Are they related? If so, how?

I still have those family boxes that belonged to my grandmother's cousin, Viola, that can be searched. I haven't picked them up yet.

Now stay with me here. I am going to appear to segue. I planned that this post would be to finish the children of Hiram and Estella Smith by introducing their oldest child, Nina Lorene, born June 13, 1901. She was my grandmother.  I am a bit overwhelmed because as I move down the ancestral family tree the photos, documents and information multiplies. This is both good and bad. I am in a bit of a quandary about how to proceed. So, this morning I took out a box of photos that looked promising for telling grandma Nina's story, and I picked up a photo I had never seen before.

Drum roll, please...............

                                The back of the photo says Nina Grisso and Carrie Plath.

Who is Carrie Plath?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Useless Information

O.K. it is time for Useless Facts and other Related Information

I attended a genealogy conference this year on my 70th birthday. What a way to spend the day! Probably only those with a similar interest could find this a remotely great way to celebrate the day. I even won the door prize of a free admission to next year's conference. I find that almost spooky! (there were about 250 people there) Anyway, the point...we received a handout by William Dollarhide called "Dollarhides' Genealogy Rules".  I would like to share a few of my favorites. I also hope I have made the correct sourcing credits. I don't want to end up in genealogy jail.

When visiting a funeral home, wear old clothes, no make-up, and look like you have about a week to live.  The funeral director will give you anything you ask for if he thinks you may be a customer soon.

When you contact your home state's vital statistics office and ask if they are "online" and they respond, "on what?" you may have a problem.

Always interview brothers and sisters together in the same room.  Since they can't agree on anything about the family tree, it makes for great fun to see who throws the first punch.

The application for a death certificate you want insists that you provide the maiden name of the deceased's mother, which is exactly what you don't know and is the reason you are trying to get the death certificate in the first place.

Your ancestor will be featured in the county history because he was the first prisoner in the new jail.

The roll of microfilm you need for county research is the only roll in the drawer that was sent out for repair earlier that day.

In spite of MTV, computer games, or skate boards, there is always a chance that your grandchildren will learn how to read someday.
( This one certainly does not apply to my five grandchildren, who are all exceptional readers. Now if I can only get them interested in family history)

A first cousin, once removed, may not return.

And my personal favorite

I'm crazy about genealogy, but not necessarily yours.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Leah Olive Smith Lee (1917-1996)

The last born child of Hiram and Estella Smith was Leah. She was the baby of the family and played the role.  She had a life long feud with her older sister, Neva. In death, they are buried next to one another. I guess you call that Karma.

Leah lead a colorful life I have been told. She lived many different places and was married at least twice. Her last husband was Alvin "Tex" Lee. He was a big tall Texan.  Tex and Leah lived in Oregon at the time I was in high school and college. I visited them once and enjoyed going with Uncle Tex to watch him shoe horses. They were the very proud owners of a champion appaloosa named Chief.

The family thought a lot of Tex. He must have been one of Aunt Leah's good choices.

After she was widowed, she spent her last years back in her hometown of Scranton. 

Back row:
Vern Wright, Gus Phelps, Leah Lee, Ardea Stevens, Nina Grisso, Neva Walker
Marilyn Smith Phelps, Tex Lee , Bert Grisso, Dorothy Smith

This picture is dated spring of 1959. Estella died in March of that year. The picture is taken at her dining room table. It might have been at the time of her funeral.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Five or six years ago, I attended a digital scrapbooking conference with my daughter. It was a most enjoyable week-end, but I have 
to admit I didn't retain much of what I learned or tried to learn. I did, however, come away with a compiled picture that is a gem.  It is important to remember I only had access to the photos I had with me at the time so my own daughter's picture is when she was a little girl and my picture is decades old. (no gray hair) Happy Mother's Day to these eight generations of  moms and one future (probably) mom.

Top left to right
Mother Swartzel, Sarah Jane Swartzel Withrow, Ginevra Withrow Vorhies

Middle left to right
Estella Vorhies Smith, Nina Smith Grisso, Mary Grisso Wright

Bottom left to right
Me, my daughter, my granddaughter

Friday, May 8, 2015

Clifford "Dale" Smith ( 1914-1984)

About a week ago, I interrupted the introduction of the children of Hiram and Estella Smith. Their oldest child was my grandmother, Nina, followed by Merroll, Neva, Ardea, and the baby Myrtice that died as a baby and whose death date is still being investigated.  Their next child was Clifford "Dale" Smith born November 23, 1914.

Dale was not around when I was growing up. I found a newspaper article about him being at G Grandma Smith's for a going away party in March of 1945.  I don't know if this was the first time he went away or not. His niece, Jean Stevens Johnson, told me in the past few years that he had been sort of a problem child. He lost his dad at age 15 so it sort of stands to reason. Jean said he "bummed" around as a young man and the family thought this was why G Grandma Smith was so kind to bums that stopped by the house for food. She was hoping that somewhere someone was feeding her son.  I haven't done any research on Dale so will just introduce him briefly and leave it at that. This could be an interesting branch to explore.

What I knew about Dale was that he was in the Navy and married a woman from the Phillipines named Daisy.  I believe Daisy had children but Dale did not.  I made a horrible faux pas/politically incorrect comment one time to a friend of my daughter's. His family was Filipino, and I was trying to say something nice.  I explained that my great uncle had married a Filipino woman. He responded by saying that his great uncle had also married a Filipino woman.

O.K. The above paragraphs were written a few weeks ago. I have done a little searching and have found a few interesting tidbits to add.

First of all, my question about when Dale enlisted has been confirmed.  It was December 28, 1941. Notice this is only a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I would certainly guess that played a factor in his enlistment.  I have read in his application to the State of Iowa for World War II Service Compensation that he served on the USS Quick a Gleaves Class destroyer. His listed dates out of the country are as follows:

July 8, 1942-Dec. 1942
April 16, 1943-Feb. 3 1945

Another time, I might do more on his service but for now I am just adding a little more. For example, every time he came home on leave, there is an article in the local newspaper. In January 1942, he was at home on furlough with his mother before going to Dearborn, Michigan to a cooking school. In the Nov. 22, 1945 paper it was reported that he had received his discharge ( Nov. 17, 1945) and now was at home with his mother.  However, his Service Compensation application lists a third out of the country entry.

Jan. 18, 1946-Dec. 30, 1947

Thanks again to those digital newspaper articles, I learned that he re-enlisted in January of 1946.

As I said before, I knew that Dale had married Daisy, a filipino girl, or was she?

I found the announcement of the marriage in the newspaper. Now, keep in mind that undoubtedly G Grandma Stella Smith reported these news articles to the local paper.  See if the article's title catches your attention as it did mine. The paper is dated Feb. 6, 1947.

Exchanges Vows with Irish Girl
A recent marriage of interest to the Scranton Community is that of Clifford Dale Smith, son of Mrs. Stella Smith of Scranton and Daisy Ferrer, on January 13 at Bagnio City, Luzon, in the Phillipine Islands.  The bride is an Irish girl, who came to the islands from Ireland when she was 8 years old.  They are living at Samar, where he is stationed at the Naval airbase.

Was being Irish more acceptable than being Filipino? 

Dale Smith was certainly a handsome man.

He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

For Jenni

The blessings of your mother's love are yours forever.
Your mother's love lives on...
in her wise words,
in the ways she shaped who you are
in the beautiful memories that will always 
bless your heart.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tom Sawyer

People love to find out they are related to famous peopleSo, what is my claim to fame?

I married Tom Sawyer.

Well, maybe I better make a few clarifications.  Remember, I have written about the Scranton Journal (my hometown newspaper) and the A Glance Into the Past section.  Here is the article of 60 Years ago, April 1955.

     "A capacity crowed [sic] was treated to a fine performance of the operetta Tom Sawyer Monday evening at the regular PTA meeting in the school auditorium.  The operetta, under the direction of Mrs. Garreth McDonald, was performed by members of the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades.  Miss Beatrice Gordon, Miss Delores Beck, and Mrs. LaVern Felding served as stage managers.
     The cast of characters included: Tom Sawyer, Tommy Tolsdorf; Huckleberry Finn, Larry Miller; Joe Harper, Joe Smith; Ben Rogers, Bobby Dillavou; Sidney, Martin Peterson; Pudd'n head Wilson, Billy Smits; Steamboat Sam, Darwin Wright; Jim, Billy Eason; Aunt Polly, Carol Hanna; Mary, Pam Pound; Mrs. Sereny Harper, Jane Paup; Suzy Harper, Arlene Monthei; Becky Thatcher, Pam Reinhart; Widow Douglas, Karol Hoover; Miss Watson, Becky Mosier; Mrs. Sally Phelps, Nicki Eason, Ella Mae Phelps, Pam Buckner."

My husband, Tom, (not the fictional character) remembers having to learn 26 songs for the operetta. The only way to recall such events of long ago is with one's own memory.  How wonderful it would be if there had been cell phones with video capability like we have today. I love seeing the antics of my grandchildren on today's videos, but what I wouldn't give to be able to see my own special Tom Sawyer from back then.