52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – HALFWAY

Theresa Hanlach Yess (1824-1910) August Yess  (1829-1905)

Theresa Hanlach Yess (1824-1910)
August Yess
(1829-1905)

This week marks the halfway point in my 52 Ancestors Challenge and the theme is appropriately halfway.  A suggested twist on the theme was to discuss an ancestor who you feel you have only halfway researched.  With much thought, I decided to further discuss my 2nd great grandfather, August Yess.

Here’s what I do know:  August Yess, as he was known in Peoria, IL, was born 29 January 1829 in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. We believe he immigrated to America via Baltimore, Maryland in 1852.  In 1855, he married Teresa A. Hanlach, also originally from Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.  They had six children: Charles, Mary, William, Amanda, Joseph and John.  August died in 1905 and Teresa died in 1910.

I feel I only know half his story because Yess  cannot be his true surname.  Yess is not a German surname.  Much like many Germans who immigrated to the United States, the spelling of their surname was changed. Naturalization papers from 29 October 1892, show August Gess becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States.   He would have been 63 years old at the time and had lived in the U.S. for a length of 40 years.  Why did he suddenly feel the need to become a naturalized citizen after 40 years?

August was only 23 years old when he came to America.  I don’t know why he immigrated here, but I have learned a lot about Germany at the time from an Latter Day Saints genealogist who specializes in Germany.  King William and Baden were in upheaval during the 1850’s and he subsequently lost power to his son, Charles.  The political upheaval led to military action which led to emigration of many Germans.  Economic pressure also caused many Germans to emigrate to the United States.  Was it military servitude or no money that caused August to leave?

I don’t know anything about his family.  I haven’t successfully found records indicating who his parents were, how many siblings he had, where exactly was his home?  Funny how these pieces to the puzzle tell so much about an individual.  Without these important components, one can only speculate on motive.

I don’t know if he came to the United States with any funds at all. Records did indicate he worked as a teamster for a time in Peoria County, Illinois after he immigrated.  He also owned quite a bit of farmland in Jubilee Township of Peoria County, Illinois near the Princeville area.  The Yess family still lives on Yess Road near Princeville.  I do know upon his death, August had amassed quite a bit of money and land.  Peoria County, Illinois probate records indicate he had 15 different Certificates of Deposits in five different banks; three different personal loans he held from individuals, and rent due from a piece of real estate identified as “No. 1311 First Street” – town unknown,  another listed as “H.A. Tuttle house” and “Lynch house” and various farms.

In total, August Yess or Gess of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany was worth $19,983 in 1905 which would be worth nearly $540,000 in 2015.  How did he purchase so much land, so many city lots and collect so much money?  It’s going to require more research. Below are a just a very few of the probate records I have for August Yess.

August Yess Probate File Page 1

August Yess Probate File Page 1

August Yess Probate File Page 2

August Yess Probate File Page 2

August Yess Probate File Page 3

August Yess Probate File Page 3

August Yess Probate File Pg 4

August Yess Probate File Pg 4

Halfway through the year with 52 Ancestors Challenge and I am compiling a list titled “I Want To Know”.  #1 on this list will start with August Yess/Gess family history.  In order to learn some of this information, I’ve decided to take the next step and study German at my university this fall.  I don’t expect to become a phenom at it or a native speaker, but I do hope to be able to understand some of the basic documents I attempt to read.  I’m hoping if I meet August halfway by learning German, he will disclose more information as a thanks.

Knowing only half his story is like viewing a two dimensional photograph and attempting to see a three dimensional person.  There are too many missing details.  It’s time to fill in the details.

August Yess -Probate-List of Assets and Notes pg 1

August Yess -Probate-List of Assets and Notes pg 1

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 2

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 2

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 3

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 3

52 Ancestors Challenge – The Old Homestead

William and Martha Chenoweth home, Hickory Grove area, Farmers Twp. Fulton Cty, IL

William and Martha Chenoweth home, Hickory Grove area, Farmers Twp. Fulton Cty, IL

Elias Chenoweth home in Table Grove.

Elias Chenoweth home in Table Grove.

Vera KC and Dean

Elzie and Vera Chenoweth homestead on West Adams Road, Macomb, IL

It could be called a dwelling, a domicile, a house or a residence, but when we call something a home we invoke emotions of comfort food, family, holidays and warm feelings.  Home is an emotionally loaded word.  My genealogical searches are scattered with homes that lead a path from Germany, England, France to Massachusetts, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Illinois and on to Kansas.  All those houses were homes to part of my family.  I hope to share next week the story of another home in our family that holds special feelings, but for this week I want to share these three homesteads.

The homestead at the top is the William and Martha Chenoweth homestead.  The farm and house no longer exist.  They were destroyed the federal government to make way for Camp Ellis in 1942 during the war effort.  William and Martha Chenoweth moved there sometime in the 1850s with their children.  William and Martha were my 3rd great grandparents, both born in Ohio, married in Indiana and died in Illinois.  The family in the picture is that of their son, Elias Chenoweth, his wife Permelia Jane Ellis Chenoweth and their children.  Martha Chenoweth appears in this photo so it most likely was taken after William’s death in 1884 and obviously before Martha’s in 1898. Five generations of my family had, at one time or another, lived on this homestead.  I’ve had my dad sketch out the layout of the farm.  He placed the buildings, house, orchards, lane, sawmill and everything on the map to give us perspective as well as leave a record.

The stories of this homestead weave a very interesting tapestry.  Dad climbed the windmill on this farm when he was only two years old.  My grandmother coaxed him down after awhile and Dad still remembers watching the blades rotate on the windmill.  He later became a pilot and I always wonder if that wasn’t the precursor to his love of flying.

The house had a second story covered porch above the kitchen window. Dad and his brother,  K.C. Chenoweth, thought it would be great fun to make parachutes for cats.  They attached the handkerchiefs to the cats and dropped them from the upstairs porch. The fun came to a quick end when Grandma suddenly saw a cat dropping past the kitchen window while she was baking.  The parachutes didn’t impress her!

One of the barns on the farm was a design called a “bank barn”.  The barn was built into the bank and had buttresses to keep the lower wall from pushing out.  The buttresses were made of concrete and very rough.  Dad and Uncle K.C. thought sliding down the buttresses would be a great recreational activity, but they tried it with new blue jeans on.  Again, Grandma was less than impressed with their decision making!

When my Grandpa Elzie was a young man and living in this home, his brother came home a little too late one winter evening.  He thought he had successfully sneaked into the house without tipping his hat.  Uncle Arthur was cold though and he stirred up the stove to warm himself up. Apparently he was a little too good at stirring up the fire as a chimney fire broke out and gave away the secret of his late arrival.

The old homestead was full of so many stories and memories and I’m sorry the only way I got to see it was through the mind’s eye of my family members.

The second home, Elias and Permelia Chenoweth’s new home in Table Grove, IL was quiet impressive. Elias, my 2nd great grandfather, is shown standing in the yard with his daughter.  He was a conservative man when it came to business dealings and from what I have read, was pretty humble.  A fire broke out in the house not long after it was built.  Elias and Permelia survived the fire, but never rebuilt the house. Permelia felt the fire was God’s way of telling them they were too proud of the home.  Story is there is an identical home to it still surviving in Table Grove; both built at the same time.  This picture was taken sometime prior to his death in 1915.  Permelia died in 1911. Most likely this photo predates her death also.  It looks to be a beautiful house and with my love of old houses, I surely would have liked to see the details of it.

The third home was that of my grandparents, Elzie and Vera Chenoweth, west of Macomb, IL.  This is the house my dad and uncle moved to when they were young boys and where they lived until they were married.  My dad and mom moved to this house in 1968 until August of 1970 while they were building a new house. Grandpa and Grandma’s house was very special. I can close my eyes and still see the built in glass-doored bookcases, the beautiful wooden stairs, the secret upstairs porch and the attic that seemed to hold many magical things.  This is the home I remember going to for Christmas and sleeping upstairs in the big feather bed with my sister and cousins.  This home always smelled of freshly baked cookies, homemade noodles and beef.  It felt and looked like love.

Houses are simply dwellings; wood, brick or other material bound together to provide shelter.  Homes are magical places where families share the joys and sorrows of life with one another.  If only the walls could talk then the stories we have wouldn’t be limited to those we managed to write down.

52 Ancestors Challenge – Heirloom

“The most treasured heirlooms are the sweet memories of our family that we pass down to our children.”  Unknown 

Quilt block of Nona Salmans Foreman

Quilt block of Nona Salmans Foreman

Friendship Quilt of Lena Belle Salmans

Friendship Quilt of Lena Belle Salmans

IMG_0279

It wasn’t the most stunning or fancy quilt I had ever seen, but it had the sweetest story surrounding it like the arms of a loving grandmother.  I seem to remember this handmade quilt on one of the spare beds at Grandma’s house.  It was only used when my sister, cousins and I  came to visit.  I’m not even sure at what point I asked her about the story of the quilt, but Grandma Vera Chenoweth shared it.

The handmade “signature” block quilt had embroidered on each block the name or signature of a different family member in Kansas.  In my last post – titled Wedding – you’ll recall I told the story about my Grandma Lena Belle Salmans France Westlake and how she suddenly moved, with her family, back to Illinois after her mother-in-law’s death.  This was Grandma Belle’s quilt.  Grandma Vera told me she remembers her mother putting the quilt together when she was a child.  Grandma Vera married in 1921 so this memory had to be from an early time.

Grandma Vera was always very practiced in “hand” skills.  He should crotchet, tat and sew with the best. She was no slouch when it came to sewing. She had asked her mother if she could help piece the blocks of the quilt together and help hand-sew the quilting stitches.  She said her mother smiled and said, “No, thank you. This is how I visit with my sisters and family.”  It seemed when she picked up each block, she thought of her sisters and nieces in Kansas. It had to be difficult to be so far away from her very close family.  The remaining siblings all lived near each other in Kansas. Grandma Lena Belle was the only child to move away.  Her quilt was much like a “prayer quilt” to her.  Each time she touched the blocks, she thought of or prayed for the family member.

The quilt has survived what has to be approaching 100 years.  It still seems very mystical to me.  I love to look closely at each block and divine the true personality of the owner.  Some were much more fancy than others; some were simple and plain in light colors. Others probably have hidden meanings long ago lost much like symbols on tombstones.  When I touch it, I see the loving hands of a great grandmother I never met, but know a lot about.  The stories I have been told about her keep her very much alive and this quilt rests on her lap while she carefully stitches each block together with sad, longing eyes and nimble fingers.

52 Ancestors’ Challenge – Wedding

Ed and Lena France Wedding Day_small

He was 29 and a bachelor who had moved to Kansas to take advantage of what was thought to be a better environment for his health.  She was 18, the third oldest daughter of a family of ten.  She had lost her mother in December of 1888 due to childbirth and now was taking in laundry and baking for bachelors in the neighborhood.  Her next oldest sister had been married just a year before while Mother was still living.  Belle was not so lucky.  She was not married until after her own mother’s death.  Thomas Edward France and Lena Belle Salmans were married on the 17th day of February 1889 most likely in Larned, KS.  The photo above was of their wedding day.

After living in Kansas for nine and a half years, Ed and Belle made their way back to Illinois to attend Ed’s mother’s funeral.  Lavina Clanin France had died at the age of 60 years.  Ed’s father, John, was still living in Fulton County, Illinois.  Ed and Belle had two living children by this time.  Lola was born in 1890 and Lee was born in 1892.  An infant daughter had died in 1895.  Ed, Belle, Lola and Lee supposedly took the train back to Illinois.  Once there, John France asked Ed and Belle to remain in Fulton County and set up housekeeping in his house.  He was 63 years old and didn’t want to keep house by himself.

It was well past six months before Belle could return to Kansas to bring back their things and say goodbye to her family.  The remaining nine Salmans siblings all lived in Kansas until their deaths.  Belle would never return to live there, but merely to visit her siblings.Two more children were born to Ed and Belle – two daughters – Essie in 1899 and Vera in 1902, but their son Lee died in 1906 of pneumonia breaking his parents’ hearts.

At the age of 51, Ed succumbed to pneumonia and died in 1910. It’s hard to say if abiding by his father’s request to move back to Illinois actually caused his demise.  Breathing issues are what had prompted his move west in the first place. Nevertheless, Belle was left with a farm, a father-in-law, and four children to care for.  Her daughter Vera often commented on Belle’s industrious nature and “farming” intelligence.  She was well known for the quality of her horses.  She managed the farm and put her share of physical labor into it with the help of a hired man, Milton Westlake.  Westlake was a widow also and worked for Belle for five years before they finally married in 1915.

Westlake, Milt & Lena Belle Salmans France

December 8, 1915 Milton A. Westlake and Lena Belle Salmans France married, both for the second time. Belle was 45 years old at the time of her second marriage; Milt was 47.  They were together for 31 years until Belle’s death.

She looks very proper in her first wedding photo.  She was only 19 at the time of her wedding and the world had no doubt weighed heavy on her shoulders.  She looks very happy in her second wedding picture.  Her children were grown, She had moved from Kansas to the France farm in Fulton County, IL and then moved again when the government bought her farm for an army camp.  Her life was ever-evolving.  She was a pioneer in more than one way during her life, yet she seemed to embrace the happiness of a new marriage and a new companion later in life.

it would be interesting to hear how different her thoughts were at her wedding at age 19 and her wedding at age 46.  What comparisons and contrasts could she provide.  What perspectives on life could she offer.  I hope to get to ask her someday in the Great Beyond.