Frances Stephens (1851 – 1915), 64, was a Canadian philanthropist of Scottish descent and a prominent lady of Montréal high society. She was the wife of the landowner and lawyer George Washington Stephens, a Cabinet minister of Québec. She was traveling aboard Lusitania with grandson John Harrison Chattan Stephens, maid Elise Oberlin, and nurse Caroline Milne. The entire party was lost in the Lusitania sinking. Frances’ body was recovered, but while her body was being transported back to Canada aboard the RMS Hesperian, the U-20, the same German submarine that sank the Lusitania, torpedoed and sank the Hesperian. Frances Stephens was twice a victim of Kapitanleutnant Walther Schwieger and the U-20.
Genealogy & Family History Community
Like I said, my grandfather was a German born in 1890 in a German village in Russia. In 1913, his Uncle Gottfried (his mother's brother) sent him some money from Winnipeg so he could make the journey to Canada. As I've mentioned many times in the past, his parents did not join him because he had a younger brother who died tragically at the age of one. His mother refused to leave his grave behind.
I've mentioned one of the possible reasons my grandfather didn't talk about his family might have been a feeling of guilt because he was evidently supposed to be watching his brother when he was kicked and killed by a horse. I'm still trying to find the church records from Galka to discover when his brother was born and when he died and, by extension, the age of my grandfather at the time. My aunt wrote that the brother was only one and a half when he died. I'm sure my grandfather couldn't have been more than 8 years old or so. He could have been as young as 4 or 5 or 6. I can't imagine the guilt and pain he must have lived with his whole life. It makes me think of the movie "Ray" about Ray Charles. There's the scene where Ray (as a boy) watches in a frozen terror his little brother drown (this was before he lost his sight). In the movie, he's haunted for the rest of his life by the image. What a terrible thing for a young child to have to witness and carry for the rest of his life. Did my great-grandmother noticeably hold this against him?
Anyway... Here is a picture of his uncle and aunt who saved his life by helping him get out of Russia just a few years before it became nearly impossible leave:
My Grandfather lived with his aunt and uncle for a couple years. During that time he tried to send food and money to his parents back in Russia. But after the Revolution, none of that ever made it past the Russian authorities.
At some point, Grandpa heard about a large community of German-Russians in Sugar City, Idaho. He decided to head down there to look for work.
He started out working in a sugar factory for a while before he went to work for a local cattle man, Joe Woods. Grandpa soon became acquainted with the Kerbs family (a daughter of whom was married to my Grandmother's brother).
In March, 1916, Grandpa and Grandma (Maria Bischoff) were married. Nine and a half months later, their son Edward was born. Grandpa worked for various local farmers the next few years. In 1918, his very pregnant wife was caught in the influenza pandemic. She was so sick, she gave birth to my Aunt Alvina without realizing it. The doctor didn't think the baby would live and asked Grandma's sister Katie what name to put on the birth certificate. She told them Againa (Agnes) after their oldest sister who stayed behind in Russia. Apparently, Grandpa did not get the memo. When they had the baby blessed, they named her Alvina.
Grandpa had a hard time caring for a sick wife, newborn baby, and a two year-old. I'll let Aunt Alvina explain (from her memoirs):
My dad had quite a time taking care of me and my older brother, as people were afraid to go where people were sick. Dad said he didn’t know what to do, so he would take the bottle out to the cow and fill it with milk and then bring it in to me. Dad never strained the milk. He was very worried that I may not survive. He said I got really thin. (I must have looked like a scarecrow.) One thing he said – he never had to wash diapers. He said I was so constipated, he just took the diapers out and shook them clean and put them on me again. But he said soon I started to gain some weight."Never ever quite forgave...". Apparently Grandpa could hold a grudge (a trait Dad inherited). Another example: He traded some horses in for a tractor one year, but soon after the crops turned out a little thin. Grandpa had to ask the bank for an extension, but the bank refused because another farmer by the name of Fred Hines had agreed to buy the tractor. As it turned out, Mr. Hines was friends with my grandma's brother, Henry Bischoff, who liked Grandpa. Uncle Henry told Mr. Hines, "If you buy that tractor, I'll never have anything to do with you again." So Mr. Hines decided against buying it and the bank came back to Grandpa agreeing to give him an extension. Grandpa told them, "You can take your extension and stuff it. You wanted the tractor, you got it." This was in 1938. Nobody bought it. It sat in the lot until after the war.
Mom got well, but dad said he couldn’t ever figure out why grandmother didn’t at least come and get the baby and care for it. People were so afraid of the 1918 flu. He said a German lady brought chicken noodle soup but wouldn’t even come to the door. Dad had to open the window to take in the food.
Dad never ever quite forgave mom’s folks for not helping him out when I was first born. My Aunt Mollie came and helped mom later, although the rest of the family didn’t want her to.
In 1953, Grandpa had his first heart attack. The doctor told him he was lucky and that the next one would take him. And that it did - 6 years later in 1959 at the age of 69. Seventeen years before I was born.
Grandpa never became a naturalized citizen. He had filed a Declaration of Intention in 1916, but never followed through on completing his naturalization. Sometimes Dad says that Grandpa couldn't find some needed information to complete it, other times he says he doesn't know why he never did. Whatever the reason, it didn't happen. Grandma was the same - never officially became a citizen. Obviously I think of them and the stories of being called "the dirty Germans" during a lot of the current immigration debates. Especially when it gets nasty. It seems so many people take for granted how easy it was for our ancestors to become citizens and don't realize how much more difficult our country has made it now. There also seems to be a surprising lack of sympathy from people who's own parents or grandparents were subjected to the same hatred and bigotry that is directed to today's immigrants.
I haven't figured out how to fit this in to the diary, but wanted to share it. Here's a funny story from my Aunt's memoirs about Grandpa:
I can remember one time dad took me to town with him to buy me a pair of shoes. He bought me shoes then left me sitting on the window box in Penneys, saying he would be back soon. I was only 5 years old. This was about six in the evening. I waited and looked for dad, but he never came. He left me there for about four hours, while he was in the pool hall. Finally, I got terrified and started to cry. (They kept the stores open until eleven o’clock in the evening in those days.) Anyhow, people would come up to me and wanted to know my name (I guess). Anyhow, I couldn’t speak any English, so I couldn’t tell them. I guess they figured I had been deserted. (I only got to go to town once a year.) Finally, our neighbor came along, picked me up, comforted me and assured me that he could find my dad. Sure enough, he headed straight for the pool hall with me, went in, and got my dad. He gave him a talking to for leaving his little girl alone for so long in a strange place. Dad felt bad. I guess after he got visiting with the fellows, he forgot about me. This experience still stands out in my memory. (I forgave dad, though. I’m sure he just wasn’t thinking.)
Gaa! Just found a clue to my grandfather's family in a pile of papers I swiped on a previous trip back to visit my Dad. I'll put that in the comments.
It's open thread time, what gifts and headaches have the Genealogy Gods bestowed upon you this week?