The search for toots ...
As mentioned in my last post, I was heading out to Albion and St. Edwards to see where Toots had lived and where her husband and sons were buried. It was a disappointing day as I never found the grave after 2 hours of walking the cemetery and I wasn't sure about the location of their homestead site, even with a map. I met some very nice people, however, at the St. Edward's Senior Center, at the post office there, and at the library in Albion; the librarian, Stacie, even called her father-in-law for some help, but I was tired and didn't have the energy to follow-up. On my drive back to Lincoln, I considered a second trip as I did have the time. I went to the Nebraska History Museum the next day and then set out yesterday for a second try, this time with success!
The primary goal of my trip was to see where Toots had lived as a homesteader--to get a feel of what that might have been like. Their homestead was a beautiful section of land with rolling hills and fields. I was told it had been a very dry summer and the harvest had started earlier than usual, so while there was still corn on one side of the highway (at the bottom of the hill), the fields on the other side had been harvested.
I took photos of several houses looking to be of the approximate age of the period and immediately located where I supposed the farmhouse might have been for these fields, but wasn't able to determine which might have been hers. My most likely guess would be the first one with the cows. I was surprised to see a number of farms where the cows were in these penned areas, but didn't think to ask anyone. There were a lot of questions I never thought to ask!
As mentioned, another goal had been to see where Toots' husband, Michael, and her 2 sons had been buried. I returned to the Senior Center in St. Edwards and learned from Maxine--a participant there who helped map the cemetery--that there were sides in the cemetery depending on whether one was Catholic or Protestant. From there I went back to Kent in the post office--he cares for the cemetery and was the one who had given me the original directions--and he clarified those directions. With that, I returned to the cemetery and found the graves within minutes. There are no markers for the children, but the depressions in the upper right corner are the indication, matching the records on file.
A remaining mystery is how a woman in Chicago met and married a guy from Nebraska. While there will never be an answer, I believe it was my grandfather who was the connection. He worked as a freight conductor for Northwestern Railroad for 42 years; they had a line which came out of Chicago and once had a stop in Albion, where one of Michael's brothers worked at that station. Toots married in 1918 at the age of 30, which in those days made her a spinster; Michael--who ran the farm--was also unmarried at the age of 38. It seems possible the brother-in-law and brother conspired to bring these two together.
Another link: my grandfather came to Michael's funeral. He also supposedly (family report) came to Albion to take Toots back to Chicago, but that's not clear as the decision on the homestead wasn't decided until 1935---another story. Furthermore, there is no verifiable record of what happened to Toots after the 1930 census, until she returned to Chicago to live with family in the 1950's. Below is a photo of my grandfather (on the left), the old Albion freight train station, and a picture of what I think is how rail cars were filled with grain then and today, i.e. an opening in the top of the railcar, where grain is filled from a silo.
This is the last post on my search. What I'll do with the information collected is yet to be decided. It is family history, but I think it could also make the great story of a woman who left her birth country at the age of 10, came to a new country to work as a servant, moved and lived in an even newer state where she eventually lost both her family and property, and then disappeared in all records for nearly 20 years before reappearing in the family history. To be continued......
Find my previous posts on: my Facebook page: M.E. Roche; Instagram: author_meroche; and here on my website: www.meroche.com. I hope you'll join me on the journey!