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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s