Namesake

Once again, I’m thinking in reverse . . .

Rather than write about a person who was named after someone else, I’ve decided to focus on the inspiration for the name.

Growing up, I knew my dad’s oldest brother, Henry, better than any of my other uncles—or aunts, for that matter. He worked with my dad in the rug cleaning business, so I saw him five days a week, in the morning, the afternoon—or both! When I started on genealogy, I learned his middle initial was “U.” As a kid, I couldn’t imagine any name beginning with a “U,” but I soon learned it stood for Urban.

Robert Haws (left) and older brother, Henry Haws (right) over the holidays, some time between 2001 and 2008. After Aunt Mary died in 2001, Uncle Henry moved back to the Chicago suburbs, and the brothers became “partners in crime” once again. Dad provided Henry with transportation to appointments, and they’d enjoy lunch out.

Now, back when Uncle Henry was born, the Catholic Church was very particular about children being baptized with saints’ names. There are eight Pope Urbans, with Urban I being a saint, and II and V being “Blessed” (a step below sainthood—they need more miracles!). There are also a couple “local” St. Urbans, so I can’t really pinpoint which might have been the one he was named after.

During a visit to Sacred Heart Church in Winnetka, Illinois (near Glencoe, the Schweiger stomping ground), I found Henry’s baptism record in the church register. The names were all Latinized, but it was clear that Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Urban Levernier were his godparents. NOW his having Urban for a middle name made sense! Lizzie was the older sister of his mother (Victoria), so Urban was an uncle by marriage.

Urban Alexander Levernier was born 25 January 1887. He was at least eighth out of thirteen (perhaps more) children. The 1900¹ census showed the entire family; parents Honorius and Barbara [Happ], and all the kids, ages 7 months old to 25. His father farmed, with the help of the three older boys, but “Ervin” (yes, his name is often creatively spelled!) was still attending school.

By the 1910² census, his father and sister, Emma, had died (they were both buried in St. Mary cemetery, Highland Park). A brother and two sisters had moved from home (presumably married). Barbara was widowed, head of household, and listed as a farmer. She also said she had 13 children, 12 living. The additional four children included in the 1900 census count were ignored. Urban and his brothers (Matthias, George H., and John) were working on the farm.

Urban married my grandmother’s sister, Elizabeth Schweiger, 23 April 1912, at Sacred Heart Church, in Winnetka, Illinois. When Urban registered for the WWI draft³ in 1917, he was living in Shermerville, but farming for himself in Northfield. It may not have been his mom’s farm, because in 1920,4 he was on Seltzer Road, in Northfield, just down the road from his brother Matthias. Matthias and the two youngest siblings were living with their mother, Barbara—presumably still on the original family farm.

The 1930 census5 placed him on Pine Street, in the town of Glenview. He moved his family into the home in June, 1925:  

Mr. Urban Levernier is the purchaser of the M. Grenning, Jr., house on Pine St. He expects to take possession about June 1.

Glenview” 1 May 1925, Newspapers.com: accessed 9 June 2019, record number: 71504029; citing original p. 13, col. 4. The Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

In ten years, his occupation changed from farmer to “contractor, trucking.” From other documents and family stories, I know that he had a “black dirt business.” That’s probably what the census description is referring to.

Shortly before Christmas, 1934, Urban died under unusual circumstances:

Irvin Levernier, 48 years old, was found shot to death early yesterday in the yard of his home at 1153 Pine street, Glenview. A shotgun lay beside him. The police said they believed the death a suicide, but a coroner’s jury returned an open verdict.

“Shot to Death in Glenview ,” 23 December 1934, Newspapers.com: accessed 6 June 2019, record number: 354863040; citing original p. 2 col. 4. Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

An “open verdict” means the coroner’s jury confirms the death is suspicious, but is unable to reach any other verdicts open to them. That margin of doubt was sufficient to allow for Urban to be buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery, not far from his sister’s grave. If his death had been ruled a suicide, that would not have been permitted in 1935.

Funeral card for Urban Alexander Levernier, 1887-1934. Burial was in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Northbrook.

Urban died before I was born, so I have no first-hand knowledge of him. One thing I know, is that he liked to fish! Ramones1234, at Ancestry.com, shared two photos of Urban, demonstrating that:

Urban A. Levernier, as a somewhat younger man. I don’t know the date, or who the children are, but he clearly made his catch that day! Photo credit Ramones1234.
Urban A. Levernier, 1934. This was earlier in the year in which he died. Only one fish this time, but he seems pleased with it, nevertheless. Photo credit Ramones1234.

My Uncle Henry wasn’t the only person named after Urban. As I was looking through my database, I found:

  • a living grandson of Urban, with Urban for a middle name (son of daughter, Lucy)
  • George “Urbie” Levernier (son of brother, George)
  • Richard Urban Levernier (son of brother, John)
  • Caroll Urban Beinlich (son of sister, Lucy)

It’s entirely possible other, more recent descendants have kept the name alive in the family. I’m not as caught up with that family as I should be. Even though Urban died relatively young (age 47), he left a naming legacy that reached forward several more generations.

#52Ancestors


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, e.d. 1176; Page 2A; dwelling number 75; family number 78; line 21; Honory LEVERNIER household; accessed 7 June 2019. Ervin LEVERNIER, age 14, January 1886 (written over 1887 and 13); NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 294; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 63; Page 4A; dwelling number 40; family number 41; line 9; Barbara LAVERNIER household; accessed 7 June 2019. Irvin A. LAVERNIER, age 23; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 238; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³Urbin LEVERNIER, serial no. 1162, order no. 61, Draft Board 1, Cook County, Illinois, citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 1504100. accessed 7 June 2019

41920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 137; Page 6A; dwelling number 99; family number 99; line 7; Urbin SAVERNIER household; accessed 7 June 2019. Urbin SAVERNIER, age 33; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 358; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

51930 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glenview, e.d. 16-2236; Page 4A; dwelling number 73; family number 75; line 33; Urbin LEVERNEIR household; accessed 7 June 2019; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 528; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

 

3 thoughts on “Namesake”

    1. I’m sure it did for everyone! I don’t specifically know Uncle Urban hunted, but I know his son, Raymond, did. I found an article where Raymond had been in the Glenview police chief’s car when there’d been an accident, and the police chief died. It was an early Sunday morning and the two of them were headed out with a couple other guys for a day of hunting. It’s possible Raymond didn’t pick up hunting from his dad—though I think it’s unlikely. So an accidental discharge or carelessness while cleaning are certainly possible. I don’t have Urban’s death certificate, which I assume is more specific about where the bullet landed. That would give more clues. The only news article I found was the quoted one regarding the inquest.

      As for the “black dirt” I’m not sure I’d assume manure. The 1930 census just said “contractor, trucking,” not mentioning what he hauled. The “black dirt business” came from notes from a relative interview. Even in the Chicago suburbs, we know manure from dirt, so probably would have been more specific, if that was the case. I haven’t found any city directory entries for him that might clarify further.

      The land in northern Illinois has good, black topsoil (thank you, glaciers!!), so he could have been hauling topsoil. Googling for “black dirt” I found this interesting website: https://homeguides.sfgate.com/black-dirt-vs-topsoil-88273.html . It differentiates top soil from black dirt in the “other types of black dirt” section, describing “a specific type of dirt created from drained swamplands.” While Chicago doesn’t really have swampland, four large rivers: Chicago, Illinois, Des Plaines, and Calumet, all required regular dredging, and I think would produce a “black dirt” that could qualify under that definition. The Calumet is a little too far south, but the others could be fair game.

      So, no, I can’t really clarify more than that right now. Thanks for raising the question, though, because it prompted me to research a little further. I had actually wondered where he got the “black dirt” from, just ran out of time right then.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Excellent answers. I wrote about a relative who I first read had shot away a portion of his face and at first assumed he died from suicide. Neither assumption turned out to be correct. He didn’t die from the wounds and it was an accident while loading a gun.

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