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 ( 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