For Week 40 of #52Ancestors, the theme is “Harvest.” I decided to look and see how many of my great-great grandfathers (you have 8) were listed in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census/1881 Canadian Census with an occupation of “Farmer.” Here we go:
James Wells – Farmer, aged 40, Horsepasture District, Henry Co., Virginia
Willis Clark – Dead
Arthur Belknap – aged 11 – his dad was a laborer in Dover, Fulton Co., Ohio
William Bost – Farm Laborer, aged 20, Marion Twp., Henry Co., Ohio
John Wilson – Farmer, aged 48, Howe Island, Frontenac, Ontario, Canada
One of my great-great grandfathers, Fred Lowell Moore, worked on the railroad, as did his two sons Glenn and Earl. The first time I can find an occupation for Fred is on his marriage registration to Mina Bolt on September 10, 1885 in Plymouth, Wayne, Michigan. He was listed as a railroad agent.
According to a September 19, 1892 Detroit Free Press article, Fred was a conductor at the Plymouth station.
In an April 28, 1899 article from the Yale Expositor about his daughter Helen’s accident, he is said to be the baggagemaster at the union depot in Plymouth. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census for Plymouth, taken on June 2nd, Fred’s occupation is give as Railroad Freight Agent. A July 8, 1900 Detroit Free Press article about the newsboys of Plymouth, Michigan features his 10-year-old son Glenn and says that Fred is a “veteran employee of the D., G.R. & W. Railroad.” The D., G.R. & W. was the Detroit, Grand Rapids & Western Railroad, which started as the Detroit, Lansing & Northern Railroad. The D.,L., & N was reorganized as the Detroit, Grand Rapids and Western Railroad on January 1, 1897, and in turn became part of the Pere Marquette Railroad on December 7, 1899 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit,_Lansing_and_Northern_Railroad).
His son Glenn (also called Fred) was also employed by the railroad. In the 1915 Benton Harbor city directory, he is listed a a brakeman. On Glenn’s WWI registration card from June 5, 1917, he lists his occupation as yard conductor for the Pere Marquette Railway Company. In the 1920 census, he is listed as a yard switchman. In the 1930 and 1940 censuses, he was a yard conductor. In his 1942 WWII registration, his employer is listed as the Pere Marquette Railroad in New Buffalo. Glenn’s obituary from January 1963 says he was a retired yard master for the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad and a member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen lodge.
My grandfather Edward Lee Wells (1905-1955) worked in various capacities for Timken-Detroit Axle Company from the 1920s until his death on June 19, 1955. The company started on Clark and Fort Streets in Detroit in 1909.
Edward, his mother Nannie, and his siblings Willis, Mary, William, and Jesse came to Detroit from Virginia in about 1923. He married my grandmother Velma Belknap on November 23, 1932. On the marriage license, his occupation was factory work.
In 1933, Edward and Velma were living in Lincoln Park, Michigan and he was a truck operator at Timken-Detroit Axle Company. In the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Edward, Velma and their four children were living in Allen Park and his job was as a stock chaser at the axle company. His income was $1600 and he had worked 50 weeks out of the year. In 1947, now with seven children, the family was living in Melvindale and Edward was a press operator at Timken Axle. In 1953, with eight children, Edward was listed in the city directory as a mechanic at Timken. In 1954, the last directory before his death, Edward was a service representative for Timken.
In the 1950s, my grandfather had to travel a lot to Chicago and back for his job.There is a family story that my grandmother once visited him there and that is where my youngest uncle was conceived (he was born March 31, 1953). Edward died ten days shy of his 50th birthday of a heart attack.
I couldn’t think of anyone that would fit into the “musical” category (although I did play the clarinet in 6th-8th grades), so I thought I would focus on someone that worked in a Detroit theatre. Or more specifically, focus on that theatre.
In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census (enumerated April 27, 1910), my great-grandmother Mae Oakes was listed as aged 19 (although she was born May 18, 1892 and, if my math is right, that would make her 17 almost 18). Mae had been married in December 1908 to my great-grandfather, but he wasn’t living with her in 1910. Anyway, her occupation was ticket-clerk at “Laf. Theatre.” She and her mother Mina were lodgers of Alta Fisher at 77 W. Elizabeth St.
77 W. Elizabeth St. didn’t exist in the 1921 Old and New House Number for the City of Detroit, but 79’s address was changed to 203. If I look at Google Maps now, 203 is about at the corner of W. Elizabeth and Clifford, smack dab in the middle of parking lots for Comerica Park and Fox Theatre.
The “Laf. Theatre” listed on the 1910 census stood for the Lafayette Theatre. Here’s a little history on the theatre where my great-grandmother worked. The Lafayette Theatre first opened in 1893 as “Campbell’s Empire Theatre.” According to the New York Dramatic Mirror of 12/30/1893, it was built on the former Latimer’s Livery Stable and was located at 17 and 19 Lafayette Avenue, near Griswold.
The Empire Theatre closed in May 1904 and reopened as the Lafayette in August 1904. In Polk’s Detroit Directory of 1907, the Lafayette was located at 15-17 Lafayette Blvd. Here is an ad from Wood’s Official Railway guide from about 1909.
Sometime before 1913, the Lafayette came down and a new theatre, called the Orpheum, went up in its place. It opened in 1914.
In 1925, the interior was completely remodeled and the theatre was eventually named the Schubert-Lafayette. It was demolished in 1964. The spot is now a parking lot for the Dime Building.
Hauser, Michael. “Downtown Detroit’s Magnificent Movie Palaces.” Presentation at the 2013 Michigan in Perspective: The Local History Conference.
My grandfather, Charles Wilson, was a milkman. He first delivered milk by horse and buggy and then moved on to truck delivery. In the 1930 and 1940 censuses, he was listed as a truck driver for a creamery company. On his Social Security application from 1939, he listed his employer as Ebling Creamery.
The picture below shows Papa receiving an award of some sort from Sealtest in the 1960s or 1970s, perhaps for his retirement.