52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

52ancestors-sidebar-1I started this blog to share my family stories and I’m using the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks writing prompts from Amy Johnson Crow to chronicle those stories. I’ve always loved a good mystery. Genealogy leads me down the path of my ancestors past to uncover their stories and how those stories affect my story.

In Grandma’s Kitchen

The phrase “Invite to Dinner” (52 ancestors theme) invokes so many memories of the many meals in Grandma’s Kitchen. She was always having a picnic or planning a family reunion and the holidays were filled with many wonderful flavors and sweet treats. So I pulled out a well-used cookbook printed by the Ladies Aid of the Martintown Church looking for some of the recipes by my grandmother, Martha Hanson. The recipes lack a lot of details such as this recipe that is wonderful with the summer lettuce from the garden.

Sweet and Sour Dressing

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 2 very well beaten eggs
  • Butter the size of a walnut

Cook in saucepan until thickened. Chill.

By the way “butter the size of a walnut” is about 2 tablespoons. A “hen’s egg of butter” is about 3-4 tablespoons. And if you come across a recipe listing “sweet milk” it is whole milk distinguishing it from “buttermilk”.

This recipe for “Chocolate Chip Custard Pie” reminded me that my grandmother did not have the luxury of instant puddings, chocolate chips in a bag or frozen whipped topping. And as a farm wife she used what they raised and grew.

Chocolate Chip Custard Pie

  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • ½ c. semi-sweetened chocolate, chipped
  • 4 egg whites
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 2 c. milk, scalded
  • ¼ t. cream tartar
  • 1 T. gelatin
  • ½ c. sugar
  • ¼ c. cold water
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 graham cracker crust

Beat egg yolks, add sugar and milk. Cook in double boiler until thick. Add gelatin softened in water. Add vanilla. Cool. Add the chipped chocolate. Add cream of tartar to egg whites and beat stiff. Add the ½ c sugar and spread over mixture. Chill 1 hour

If you try this recipe remember the listing of ingredients does not follow the order used in the recipe. And I am sure the graham cracker crust wasn’t purchased.

In the cookbook was also a recipe by my grandmother for “Raised Doughnuts” which shows there was no concern for things like “low fat” or “watching cholesterol numbers”.

Raised Doughnuts

1 ¼ c. milk, scalded and cooled. Take out ¼ c. and add 1 cake fresh yeast and 1 t. sugar. To rest of milk add 1/2 scant c. butter or other shortening, ½ cup sugar. Stir and add yeast, then add 4 c. sifted flour, 1 t. salt, 2 beaten eggs, beat until ball or loaf. Let rise 1 hour or until light. Roll, cut and let rise again until light. Fry in deep fat. These are not tough.

That last line “These are not tough”, did it mean they were not a tough doughnut or that they were not tough to make?? When it came to cooking I don’t believe anything was too tough for my grandmother to make.


My Grandmother, Martha Hanson, in her kitchen.

Every year on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day my grandpa looked forward to my grandmother’s oyster stew. As kids we were not so excited and grandpa liked to gross us out by picking out the oysters and eating them whole. Me….I sipped on the soup and left the oysters behind but I remember how delighted my grandpa was at enjoying the soup and teasing us kids! There was never a dull moment in grandma’s kitchen!

Grandma’s kitchen was in the family for three generations but there is nothing like the memories of working with my grandmother as a child in her kitchen.

The Bruehlmann Family Start a New Life

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks has started for 2018 and the writing prompt for the first week is “Start”. As I considered what ancestor I would write about I thought of my husband’s grandparents and mother and their start in a new country.

Johann Thomas Hefty was the son of a Swiss immigrant who became a farmer in Green County, Wisconsin. Johann became the owner of the Hefty property after buying out his three brothers’ shares. He was influential in welcoming and sponsoring families to America. Johann sponsored my husband’s grandfather, Gustave Bruehlmann, in March of 1906 and he came to the Hefty farm to live and work. Sometime between 1906 and 1910 Gustave returned to Switzerland. On a 1910 passenger list he is stamped as a non immigrant alien and listed as returning home to Monticello, Wisconsin.

In a biography of Mrs. G. Bruehlmann-Bauman it says Gustave returned to Switzerland in 1919 for five years. On December 1, 1924 Gustave married Klara Marie Baumann in the Holy Cross Church in Heudorf, St. Gallen. They lived on a farm and on August 9, 1925 their daughter, Klara, was born. With the hopes of a better life, they sold the farm and made the journey to America. But this time the journey would be through Canada. They arrived in Montreal, Canada on May 31, 1926 sponsored by friend, Max Baumel, who had been in Canada for 10 years. They settled in Magog, Quebec which is about 75 miles east of Montreal. Their second daughter, Etta (Dennis’ mother), was born August 24, 1926. She says she’s part of three countries, “conceived in Switzerland, born in Canada and naturalized in America.”

On July 18, 1927 the Bruehlman family returned to the Hefty farm via Detroit. This time Johann’s son, Fred Hefty, sponsored the family and the “hired-man’s” house pictured below was their home until 1932 when they moved to Argyle, Wisconsin. Four more children were born while living on the Hefty farm.


Photo courtesy of Linda Schiesser

But their start in a new country was not easy. They could not foresee what would lie ahead raising a family during the depression years in a new country with a strange language. Their oldest daughter, Klara, became ill and would die on February 9, 1935. In September of 1936, their 6 year old son, John, would contract polio. One day he had a terrible headache and fussed and cried and the next morning he was paralyzed with infantile paralysis.

While looking through Klara Bruehlman’s Bible I found a piece of paper written in the Swiss/German language with “Testamony” written at the top. I could make out that she was writing about her faith in Jesus Christ. With some help from someone who could read the language the essence of her story was that she was experiencing health problems and pain. She had six little kids, no money and nobody to talk with so she wanted to end her life because of the pain. She found relief through faith in God and a Bible verse that encouraged her was, “Earth has no pain that God can’t handle.” God healed the pain, except for the bad teeth. “I don’t complain anymore.”

Jana Duval Crandall, “Swiss and proud of it,” The Monroe (Wisconsin) Times, 1 June 2016, sect. A, p. 3, col. 5-6.

Manifest, La Lorraine, 11 March 1906, List 1, p. 5, for Mr. Gustave Bruhlmann (age 23 years, 8 months), digital images, New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (https://ancestry.com: accessed 14 July 2015).

Manifest, Kroonland, 29 March 1910, List 2, p. 6, for Gustav Bruhlman (age 27 years, 9 months), digital images, New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (https://ancestry.com: accessed 22 May 2011).

Manifest, Muenchen, 31 May 1926, sheet 1, vol. 6, p. 175, for Gustav Bruehlmann (age 44), digital images, Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 (https://ancestry.com: accessed 22 July 2015).

Manifest, Port of Montreal, Canada, 18 July 1927, for Gustav Bruhlmann (age 45), digital images, Vermont, St. Albans Canadian Border Crossings, 1895-1924 (https://familysearch.com: accessed 19 July 2015).

Klara Bruehlman, “Biography of Mrs. G. Bruehlmann-Baumann,” date unknown; privately held by Ida Gerber, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Monroe, Wisconsin, 2018. Ida is the daughter of Klara Bruehlmann.

Karen Bogenschneider, “The Day We Opened Grandma’s Trunk,” 10 February 1984; privately held by Ida Gerber, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Monroe, Wisconsin, 2018. Karen Bogenschneider is a granddaughter of Klara Bruehlman.

Klara Bruehlman, “Testamony,” date unknown; privately held by Ida Gerber, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Monroe, Wisconsin, 2018. Ida is the daughter of Klara Bruehlmann and owns the Bible of Klara Bruehlman in which the testimony, written on a piece of paper in the Swiss language, was found. The paper was examined by someone with knowledge of the Swiss language and the essence of the testimony was translated.

Grandma Book

I had a request to share some pictures and explanation for my “Grandma Book” Christmas project. Last year I did a “Grandpa Book” for the grandkids and followed up with a “Grandma Book” this year as a Christmas gift to each of the grandkids. The parents loved them, too! The book is actually a photo journal of my life. Hidden in boxes and on my computer are pictures that tell my story but no one sees them but me. So I wanted a way to share some of them with my grandchildren (and children, too) in a meaningful way that would give them a glimpse into my life.

The major work was sorting the pictures and scanning them. Once that is done it’s deciding which photo service you would like to use to create your book. There are many like Shutterfly or Flicker that offer photo books. I chose Walgreens Photo mainly because of economics. (I have lots of grandkids and needed 22 books.) It’s where I get the best price and between Thanksgiving and Christmas they offer special discounts. This year they offered a 75% off coupon on their photo books. My cover is simple but it makes my project affordable.

I can do all this from the comfort of my home at any time day or night. I upload the pictures to the photo service and create my project. There were several themes to choose from and many page designs offered. Within a couple of hours my project is completed. I place the order and because the Walgreens store is a short distance from my house I can pick up the completed books within a few days.


I choose a cover picture and then start at the beginning with birth pictures and parents. I include a family tree and pictures of grandparents and great grandparents. Then it’s those pictures that most of my kids have never seen of my growing up years. They all loved my “Beatles Fan” picture from the 60’s. The grandkids enjoy seeing the pictures of their parents when they were kids. Then I end the book with a picture page of all the grandkids.


The fun part is the stories the pictures inspire and are shared with one another. I didn’t hear a lot of stories from my family growing up and most of the pictures were received after family members were gone and no one could tell me the story. This is a great gift for telling your story.



Christmas Magic Comes From Dad

I wrote this story in 1997 when the local newspaper held a contest for writing about a Christmas memory. This Christmas eve moment took place when I was about 6 years old. We lived on a farm south of Winslow, IL on a dead end road. It was an old farm house with a servant’s stairway from the kitchen to a bedroom that was separated from the other bedrooms with a small hallway/landing area. That was my bedroom where I waited with great anticipation for the arrival of Santa. 

My Dad’s appeal to my imagination created the magic of Christmas in my heart. I cling to such memories because reality wants to steal magic moments.

On Christmas Eve, Dad is ready to tuck his excited girl into bed. He turns the light out, but instead of being nestled into bed; we press our faces into the window.

“I’m sure that’s it,” he says pointing out into the darkness.

I squint my eyes searching for the red glow in the far distance that will prove Santa Claus is on his way. I dance with anticipation. Of course, Santa Claus does not visit little girls who are still awake, so I scurry off to bed. Dad leans down to kiss me goodnight.

“Listen for the reindeer on the roof, but don’t be awake when Santa comes,” warns Dad.

I am left to overcome my excitement and fall asleep.

In the silence of the night, I hear a muffled noise. It must be coming from the roof. Only Santa’s reindeer could make such a noise. I squeeze my eyes tight, but sleep will not come. Tossing and turning, the world of dreams eventually blankets my being.

The morning light splashes across my face and awakens me. I jump out of bed and dash down the stairs. With wide eyes I touch the many packages piled under the tree. The red light in the night sky and the noise on the roof truly were Santa Claus.

Printed in the Monroe Evening Times, Monroe WI – December 24, 1997


I’m standing near my dad, enjoying Christmas morning with my brothers

Ginny Gerber

Thankful for a Fireman Nearby-Maybe

Nellie Trotter was born Ellen Agnes O’Rourke, the daughter of Charles & Dora (Pinkham) O’Rourke, in Jordan Township, Green County, Wisconsin on 12 January 1896. She married Ray Trotter on 14 November 1914. Ray, born 22 August 1888 in Jordan Township, was the son of William & Calista (Sawin) Trotter and he was a second great uncle of my husband. Nellie was most remembered for owning the Argyle Hotel in Argyle, WI in Lafayette County. The hotel was razed in 1970 and the Norseman Supper Club was built on the location. But my curiosity about Nellie was piqued when a fellow genealogist who grew up in Argyle, “raised her eyebrows” and said she remembered Nellie. As a young girl she recalled Nellie leaning against one of the buildings with her arms crossed watching the people activity on the main street of Argyle. It wasn’t an “I’d like to chat with you today” leaning but a “Don’t bother me, I’m watching you” attitude of leaning. What was the story of “Nellie Trotter?”

Nellie and Ray farmed for several years but sometime in the 1930’s they purchased a tavern in Argyle. The first indication of trouble I discovered was a news article concerning Ray’s arrest for having a slot machine in his tavern. A raid took place on 11 March 1936 and the slot machine was seized. Sometime in the early 1940’s Ray left the tavern business and went to Beloit to work at the Fairbanks-Morse Co until he retired. I don’t know when the hotel was purchased but Nellie operated it until Ray’s death in 1965. Their story begins to create a lot of questions. Were they separated? Did Ray help with running the hotel? According to Ray’s obituary he lived in Beloit for about the last 25 years. In one of Ray’s obituary it doesn’t even mention Nellie as his wife. Ray died 22 February 1965.

Then there is the news article about the fire at Nellie’s house. It’s Thanksgiving Day 1962. Peter Kurth, a volunteer fireman, set a fire in Nellie’s house. He was intoxicated at the time. He even helps the firemen extinguish the fire. That may have been a cover up because after he was arrested he admitted to starting the fire. Thankfully there was only minor damage and she didn’t lose her home. But more questions. Why would someone want to set her house on fire? What was their relationship? Was he angry with her for some reason? The news article said it was Nellie’s residence not Ray & Nellie’s. I asked my friend if she knew or ever saw Ray around Argyle while she was growing up. She had no recollection of Ray.

Nellie died 12 July 1983. Her obituary is a glowing summary of their years together of farming and owning the hotel in Argyle. There is no mention of Ray living and working in Beloit, only their joint venture at owning a hotel. But that’s as it should be…..being thankful and remembering the best of our days. And Nellie is best remembered as the owner of the Argyle Hotel.

Argyle Hotel

Argyle Hotel


“Seize Slot Machine At Tavern In Argyle,” Morning Star (Rockford, Illinois), electronic newspaper, archived, (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 22 November 2015), p.2, col. 2.

“Volunteer Admits He Set Blaze,” Morning Star (Rockford, Illinois), electronic newspaper, archived, (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 22 November 2015), p. 3, col. 6.

Ray Trotter Obituary from “Trotter Family History”, December 1997; Updated February 2004

“Ray Trotter Dies, Rites On Thursday,” Morning Star (Rockford, Illinois), electronic newspaper, archived, (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 22 November 2015), p. 4, col. 7.

“Nellie Trotter,” Monroe Evening Times, 13 July 1983; Green County Genealogical Society, Monroe WI (accessed 7 November 2015), vol: 1983 Obituaries, “T”.

Dillon, Dennis G, “Second to None, A History of Argyle, Wisconsin, 1844-1990”, (Mt Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc/Lafayette County Historical Society, 1994), p 127; digital images, Green County Genealogical Society; Monroe, Wisconsin (accessed 24 November 2015).

The Orphan Sisters

The 1900 census of William and Calista Trotter (My husband’s 2nd great grandparents) listed their granddaughter, Alice Thompson, as living with them. I decided to investigate why she was living with them and discovered the two orphaned sisters, Alice and Wilma Thompson. I have attempted to put their story together from census, school and marriage records. I still have several questions but Trotter researchers before me didn’t find those answers either.

Alice Bell Trotter was the oldest child of William and Calista Trotter born on 23 Aug 1863. She lived with her parents in Jordan Township, Green County, Wisconsin until her marriage to Charles Bradford Thompson in 1885. Charles was born on 21 July 1855 to Alden and Mary Thompson in York Township, Green County, Wisconsin. In 1870 his family was living in Jordan Township and it was probably during the years from 1870-1880 that the family had a relationship with the Trotter family. By 1880 the Thompson family moved to Hamilton County, Nebraska. But I believe Charles may have already had his eyes on Alice Trotter but because Alice was only 16 years or younger (Charles was 8 years older than Alice) when the family moved to Nebraska he moved with them to Nebraska to help his father with the farm. Charles returned to Green County to marry his sweetheart, Alice, on 20 Sep 1885.

Charles and Alice settled in Edgar, Clay County, Nebraska. Their first daughter, Wilma Irene was born on 11 July 1886 and their second daughter, Alice Charlene, was born 16 Apr 1894. Then tragedy strikes the family. Charles dies on 9 Jun 1894 and he is buried in the Edgar Cemetery. Then Alice dies on 12 Dec 1894 and she is buried in the Lewis Cemetery in Green County, Wisconsin. I have not been able to find any record of what happened. Was there an accident or did disease cause their deaths? It looks like after Charles death that Alice and the children were brought back to Wisconsin, possibly to be cared for by her family. When Alice died she left two orphaned daughters, Wilma, 8 years old and Alice, 9 months old.

Wilma Thompson

Wilma Thompson

In the 1900 census Wilma, now 13, is living with her aunt and uncle, Henry and Ada McDaniel in Oneco, Stephenson County, Illinois. Oneco is south of Green County across the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Ada McDaniel was Alice Bell Trotter’s sister. Alice, age 6, was living with her grandparents, William and Calista Trotter. Over the next 10 years many changes take place and I can only put pieces together and guess at the reasons why.

In 1901 Alden and Mary Thompson (Wilma and Alice’s paternal grandparents) move from Nebraska to Kalispell, Montana. This may be related to the reason that Wilma is attending Central School in Kalispell, Montana in 1904. She is now about 17and in the 8th grade. Also some time before 1910 Henry and Ada McDaniel moved to Pawnee, Kansas. Did this effect Wilma’s decision to move to Montana with the family of her paternal grandparents? Wilma’s grandfather, Alden Thompson, dies on 4 Feb 1905. Wilma marries Alexander Reid in Kalispell, Montana on 17 May 1905.

In 1910 Alice, age 16, is living with her aunt and uncle, Franklin and Martha Thompson, in Edgar, Clay County, Nebraska. Franklin was a brother to Charles Thompson, Alice’s father.  What were the reasons for the move? Were William and Calista getting to old to care for her or was it an invitation and a desire to be with her father’s family?  Alice Thompson marries Clair Stout Vorhees on 30 Oct 1914 in Edgar, Nebraska.

Wilma and Alec Reid had 10 children. They lived in Montana following their marriage, Washington in 1920, Idaho in 1924 and Joplin, Montana in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Wilma Irene Reid died 6 Dec 1963 in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 77.

Alice and Clair Vorhees had 4 children. They lived in Nebraska until between 1935 and 1940. Sometime prior to 1940 they moved to Stanislaus County, California. They moved around between Ceres, Modesto and Monterey. Alice Charlene Vorhees died 27 Oct 1985 at the age of 91 in Turlock, Stanislaus County, California.

It appears the two orphan sisters were separated after the death of their parents. They may have had contact in their younger years while living in Wisconsin but were soon separated by the ages of 10 and 17 living in different states. It looks like they did not live close enough to have much contact while raising their families. I wonder if they had enough of a relationship to write each other over the years or if the loss of their parents produced a loss of a sister relationship.

Wilma Thompson photograph, Ancestry Family Trees, 8 April 2014, Russell Violett/Violett family tree, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 September 2015); Portrait of Wilma Thompson as a young girl.

School Days of Frank Hanson

This week the kids started school but their school days are very different from the one room schools that were attended by my Dad and even myself. There were no bus stops, hot lunches, or gymnasiums. Franklyn Hanson, along with his brothers Bud and Jerry and his sister, Phyllis attended Jordan Center School, School District No. 1. Jordan Center School was located at the intersection of Highway 81, County Rd M and Jordan Center Rd in Green County, Wisconsin. Today the building is the Jordan Township Hall.

According to the 1940 census record my grandparents, Art and Martha Hanson, rented a farm on Lewis Rd which was most likely a mile or two from the school. I can find one of their neighbors on a 1936 plat book so I have a general idea where the farm may have been on Lewis Rd. Art’s sister and brother-in-law, Irma and Dennis Flannery, lived nearby on County Rd M. Therefore dad went to school with his cousins, Donald, Maxine, Glen and Rosella Flannery. In 1936 Mildred Galway was his teacher. In the picture below my Dad is on the far left in the middle row (the one standing with his hands in the pockets).


They did not have fancy clothes. You will notice all the boys are wearing bib overalls and button shirts with collars. No t-shirts back then. The girls are all wearing dresses. Even in the late 60’s I still wore dresses to school as slacks were only allowed to be worn underneath the dress coming and going to school during cold weather. I think everyone was dressed in their better outfits for this picture as I notice there are no patches on any of the clothes.

Because Dad lived on the farm I’m sure that before going to school he and his sister and brothers had chores to do. They may have fed the cows or gathered eggs from the chickens before grabbing their lunches to walk to school. The lunch bucket was made from an empty lard pail or a Karo syrup pail which had a lid and metal handle for carrying to school. His lunch may have consisted of a bologna or peanut butter and jelly sandwich on homemade bread. During the fall some fruit such as an apple may have been included along with other treats like a hard-boiled egg, a pickle or a cookie or cake.

There would have been no plumbing or electricity in his school. Out back somewhere were 2 outhouses and during the winter someone had to shovel a path to them. As one of the older boys I’m sure dad did that a few times. Most one room schools had tall windows on both sides of the room to let in as much light as possible. The room contained many sizes of desks in rows facing the chalkboard. The littlest children were in the front of the room, while the oldest children sat in the back. A water cooler sat at the back of the room and one of the students had the job of carrying a pail of water from the pump outside and filling up the water cooler. During the winter the boys filled the wood box for the woodstove. The teacher would come early to start the fire so it was warm when her students arrived. A large bookshelf with many books consisted of the school “library”. Above the chalkboard a chart of cursive handwriting and printed alphabet helped the students learn penmanship. Attached to the chalkboard hung a set of maps that pulled up and down, like a window shade. Maybe on the teacher’s desk or on an upright piano you would find a battery-operated radio for listening to educational radio programs. Wisconsin School of the Air had begun airing 10 programs weekly in the 1930’s that continued to air for the next 45 years. I remember listening to programs like “Let’s Draw” and “Journeys in Music Land”. These programs opened up opportunities beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. Recess was filled with games like Anti-I-Over, Hop Scotch, Marbles, Fox & Goose, Red Rover and Baseball.

In 1934, 1936, 1937 Frank Hanson received awards for punctual and regular attendance for not being tardy or absent during the school year. The students receiving the award were recognized in the community newspaper by the school district. He would not attend school much beyond that as he would have graduated from eighth grade in 1938 or 1939. On the 1940 census he was working on the farm with his dad.

Below is a picture from around 1990 of the Jordan Center School reunion. Dad is in the third row far left.


Bodilly, S. (2013). One room schools: Stories from the days of 1 room, 1 teacher, 8 grades. Madison,, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

The Wisconsin School of the Air: Success Story with Implications. (n.d.). Retrieved September 3, 2015, from http://www.ifets.info/journals/5_1/bianchi.html

V-J Day For My Family

70 years ago August 15 marks the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II. The formal surrender ceremony was held in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945. President Truman declared that day to be V-J Day.

Germany had already surrendered on 7 May 1945. President Harry Truman felt the atomic bomb was the answer to Japan’s refusal to surrender. Mr. Truman understood the powerful rain of ruin that was contained in the bomb and at the same time made recommendations that Congress be a forceful influence towards the peace-time potential of atomic energy. On August 6 the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and another on Nagasaki on August 9. On August 14 Japan surrendered and the news of the surrender was announced to the world on August 15.

Earl Baars in Sicily

“Uncle Honey” on left in Sicily Oct 1943

So how did this effect my family? My mother, Carol Baars, was 15 years old at this time. She had two brothers and a brother-in-law who were serving in WW II. Her brother, Earl (nicknamed “Honey”) had enlisted on 27 March 1942 and served with the First U.S. Infantry Division. The division departed for England on 1 August 1942. On 22 October 1942 they departed for the combat amphibious assault of North Africa. They were in combat from 21 January 1943 to 9 May 1943. In July 1943 his division took part in Operation Husky invading Sicily. When the campaign was over he returned to England in November to prepare for the Normandy invasion. The First Infantry Division along with one regimental combat team from the 29th Infantry Division comprised the first wave of troops that assaulted German Army defenses on Omaha Beach on D-Day. They drove across France in a continuous offensive, reaching the German border in September. At the Battle of the Bulge his division was moved to the Ardennes front. Participating in several battles they pushed through the Harz Mountains into Czechoslovakia when the war in Europe ended on May 7, 1945. He was discharged on 30 September 1945. Growing up I did not know what his service involved but I was blessed to be able to grow up knowing my “Uncle Honey”.

USS Bollinger

USS Bolllinger during Battle of Iwo Jima March 1945

My mom’s other brother, Carl, enlisted in the navy on 20 March 1944 and served as a baker on the USS Bollinger. The Bollinger joined the Pacific Fleet and arrived at Pearl Harbor 19 February 1945. They departed two days later for the invasion of Iwo Jima providing logistic support. He was discharged on 23 November 1945. I have memories and pictures of birthday cakes prepared for me by “Uncle Carl”. Special desserts were treat when I spent a week with Uncle Carl and Aunt Dorothy.

My mom’s sister’s husband, Harold Siebecker, also served during WW II but I have been unable to locate any of his military records. The only record I have is a newspaper article in which his name is listed on the honor roll for service men in Beloit, WI.

At 6:00 p.m. (Central Time) 15 Aug 1945 President Truman announced at a press conference the unconditional surrender of Japan. The announcement was greeted with elation everywhere and Beloit, WI was no exception. What was it like for my mom and all her family to hear this news? The plant workers of the many factories in Beloit laid on the factory whistles all over town and residents added to the pandemonium with their car horns. Everyone headed for downtown and the crowd peaked at 25,000 around 9:00 p.m. Confetti was everywhere. From the air it looked like the downtown was under 2 feet of snow. High School students formed a long snake dance through town, even zigzagging their way through the post office. It’s possible my mom participated in that parade. A drum corps took part in another parade and a platform was erected at Fourth and Grand for musicians. A group of girls celebrating downtown yelled “Hurray! My man will be coming home!”. That was a celebration my mom could join in on because she knew her brothers were coming home! For others it was a sad moment to know their boys wouldn’t be coming home. The War was over.

September 2 Holiday VJ Day / Victory over Japan Day by Holiday Insights. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2015, from http://www.holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/September/vjday.htm

AP Was There: 1945, US drops atomic bombs. (2015, August 5). The Monroe Times, p. B4.

(n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Infantry_Division_(United_States)

(n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Bollinger_(APA-234)

60 Years Ago. (2005, Summer/Fall). Confluence, Newsletter of the Beloit Historical Society, vol. 12, pg11.

“U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010.”, database, Ancestry.com (http://Ancestry.com: accessed 12 Aug 2015), entry for Earl A Baars, Enlistment: 27 March 1942, Release: 30 September 1945.

“U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010.”, database, Ancestry.com (http://Ancestry.com: accessed 12 Aug 2015), entry for Carl Baars, Enlistment: 20 March 1944, Release: 23 November 1945.

US Navy, “USS Bollinger during the Battle of Iwo Jima, March 1945,” digital images, Wikipedia.org (http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/03/03234.htm: accessed 11 August 2015).

William Trotter – the Fiddle Player

The theme this week is “musical”. I have no musical talent and the closest I came to carrying a tune was as a teenager I carried my transistor radio with me. Even though my children and grandchildren have inherited the musical genes from their ancestors, I hadn’t given much thought to who those ancestors could be. So I began looking for the musical ancestor.

The only musical story I have been able to find has been for Dennis’ 2nd great grandfather William Trotter and Andrew Laubaugh (who is a possible shared ancestor). Browntown, Wisconsin held a July 4th celebration in 1896 and William played the fiddle and Andrew, the organ. At 57, William (also known as “Skinner Bill”) was considered one of the old timers.

William Trotter played fiddle

Beyond this story I don’t know too much about his music playing, but I suspect that if he played the fiddle well he probably played it often for family and other events. William was a farmer and a United Brethren minister. Would he have played some hymns on the fiddle along with his preaching?

William was the son of John Trotter and Isabelle Brazel born on 5 October 1839. His father died when he was about a year old. His mother raised him and his sister and two brothers in Jordan Township of Green County, Wisconsin. William lived with his mother, caring for her, until she died in 1869. William married Calista Sawin on 24 November 1862. They had eleven children. William died at his home in Woodford, Wisconsin at the age of 73 years, 3 months, and 18 days on 16 March 1913. I wish I could have heard William play that fiddle.

Centennial Committee and the people of Browntown, Cadiz and Jordan, Our Part of America, Browntown, Cadiz, Jordan, 1890-1990, Compiled and edited by Ruth Pintar, 1990: page 60.


910 Highland Ave, Beloit, WI

Mom's Home

My mom, Carol Baars, grew up in Beloit, WI and lived at 910 Highland Ave until she married my Dad, Franklyn Hanson within a month of her high school graduation. He was still in the service when they married on 24 June 1949. After a honeymoon in Chicago he returned to Fort Lewis, WA and my mom returned to home until my dad was discharged from the service on 27 December 1949.

1501 ½ Liberty Ave, Beloit, WI

First Home

According to Frank & Carol Hanson’s 1949 state and federal income tax returns their first home together was an apartment at 1501 ½ Liberty Ave, Beloit, WI. Within a year they had moved to Janesville, WI. He worked for General Motors Corporation for the next 4-5 years until he decided to go into farming.

N511 County M between Browntown and Martintown, WI

Family Farm

Greater Green County Pictorial Atlas 1954

My grandfather’s farm remained in the family for three generations. Art and Martha Hanson purchased the farm for $19,000 in March 1948. In March 1968 my parents purchased the farm for $31,000. My brother, Robert Hanson, purchased the farm in January 1996 for $100,000. All are a fraction of what farms sell for now!

Farm HouseI have lots of memories from that farm which bordered the Pecatonica River and sat on the sharp, accident prone corner of County M. My grandmother loved family reunions and grandchildren, therefore we spent a lot of time together with cousins at the farm. We learned such things as how to pick & clean strawberries, gather and wash eggs for selling and how to rub the popcorn off the cob after it had dried. I’m sure she swept a lot of kernels off the floor when we were done. Grandma had a flower garden that was the envy of everyone and driving by you were able to enjoy it because of the necessity of slowing down for the sharp curve around the farm (take note of curve in picture above). Next to the flower garden stood an apple tree that produced apples for three farm generations.

In the kitchen was a sofa/fold-down daybed with a large aerial picture of the farm hanging above it. It was the place to listen to the radio with the morning local and farm news, to rest from farm labor, to take afternoon naps and to pose for many family and cousin photos. The upstairs of the house was the “cousin” haven – the place we slept and played together. At the top of the stairs on the landing stood a wardrobe for three generations. When my brother sold the farm that wardrobe found a home in my living room – a nostalgic reminder of my childhood days at grandma and grandpa’s farm.

Greater Green County Pictorial Atlas (p. 123). (1954). Chicago, Illinois: Loree.