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, accessed 9 June 2019, record number: 71504029; citing original p. 13, col. 4. The Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (

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, accessed 6 June 2019, record number: 354863040; citing original p. 2 col. 4. Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (

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, 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.


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, (

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, (

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, (

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, (



Something new always pops up . . .

USS Alchiba, AKA-6. Image linked to the Wikipedia article² for the ship.

As I prepare a post for publication I try to confirm (as best I can):

  • the facts are accurate
  • my spelling is correct
  • the story will make sense to someone having no background with my family
  • I’ve filled in as many gaps as possible with additional research
  • my logic and analysis are sound
  • necessary links and footnotes are in place

Unfortunately, life intervenes on a regular basis, pushing my writing right up to—sometimes past—my scheduled publishing time! Yesterday was no exception. That post had a lot of moving parts I needed to line up, so it took longer than I anticipated.

As I worked on it, I thought I remembered seeing the name of the ship bringing Bob, Spike, and Cliff back to the states, but I couldn’t find it. I checked and double checked the papers and notes I had from Mom, the Christmas cards from Cliff’s wife, Esther, but it wasn’t there. I decided I must have been mistaken, and left it as a mystery. I was okay with that.

So today I was cleaning up and sorting through some papers on a different table, and what pops up, but a 3″ x 6″ paper with:

David Gaillard: went over on this ship

USS Elsheba: came back on this one

<Forehead thump>

Seriously? Why couldn’t I find this yesterday?? A ship’s name meant I could check for more information, so I started with a quick Google search. No Elsheba but there was an Alchiba in the Navy during WWII. The spelling was wrong, but the pronunciation worked. Was this the ship they were on? The “War Diaries” on Fold3 described her mechanical issues and the attempts to solve them:¹

In June of 1944 the Alchiba returned to the states for repairs to her engines. This was to mark the end of the Alchiba’s active part in the Pacific, for newer ships were brought in to replace the older war-tattered ones. She was placed in the Service Squadron of the Pacific and continued carrying supplies to the advanced bases, making two trips, one to Espiritu Santo and one to Ulithi atoll, taking in Guam and the Philippines.

It sounded promising! The Wikipedia article² tied in even better with my dad’s timeline;

On 30 May [1944], Alchiba entered the Moore Dry Dock Company, Oakland, California, to undergo extensive alterations and repairs. The work was completed late in August, and the cargo ship got underway for sea trials in San Francisco Bay. Engine trouble developed during these tests, and the ship returned to the yard on 1 September for further repairs. She took on cargo at the Hunters Point Navy Yard on the 22nd and sailed once again for Espiritu Santo.

While en route, the ship experienced more engine problems, but she reached her destination on 9 October and commenced repair work. This process continued until early November, when the vessel shaped a course back to San Francisco. She arrived at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California, on the 29th and underwent extensive repairs to her main engine.

So . . . not a bent screw, but engine problems. That could certainly slow her down. The Alchiba arrived in Espiritu Santo 9 October, but repairing her mechanical problems prevented her leaving as scheduled on the 13th. “Early November” could easily accommodate their 7 November departure, and arriving in San Francisco on the 29th is dead-on with the information I had. I think we have a match!

I was unable to locate any records documenting the guys actually being on that ship—no transit list or transfer documentation. Finding something like that would have put a lovely bow on the whole story, but sometimes it’s not to be. Perhaps I’ll find those records digitized some day, but in the meantime, I’m happy to have reduced my mysteries by one!


¹”World War II War Diaries, 1941-1945″, digital image, The National Archives (, accessed 27 May 2019, dated n.g.; USS Alchiba, image 302745269; citing World War II War Diaries, Other Operational Records and Histories, compiled ca. 01/01/1942 – ca. 06/01/1946, documenting the period ca. 09/01/1939 – ca. 05/30/1946; Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group Number 38, ARC ID: 4697018, roll 1970; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

²Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (, “USS Alchiba (AKA-6),” (accessed 27 May 2019).


“The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes — eh — a little bit longer.”
― U.S. Navy Seabees Construction Battalions WWII

Four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, my dad, Robert William Haws, turned nineteen. I’m sure he saw the handwriting on the wall when FDR declared war the next day. His older brother, George, had enlisted in the Army prior to Pearl Harbor, but Bob knew, as an unmarried young man, he was likely to be called up early. He registered for the draft 16 February 1942.¹

Rather than wait to be drafted, he decided to take matters into his own hands and enlisted on 19 August 1942. That allowed him to choose the service branch he wanted (Navy), instead of whatever Uncle Sam decided. He always said he chose the Navy because the uniforms fit better than Army uniforms, but it made sense for a couple other reasons. As a teen, he joined the Sea Scouts, so had experience with that. Great Lakes Naval Base (the nearest training center) was only thirteen miles away—not too far from family and girlfriend.

Robert Haws as a Sea Scout. Year undetermined, but around 1938 or 39, maybe? Sea Scouts currently encompasses ages 14-20, I don’t know if it was different in the late 1930s

According to notes my mom made, Bob had five weeks of “boot camp” at Great Lakes, followed by nine days leave before starting Storekeepers School back at the base. That service school lasted sixteen weeks, completing on 22 February 1943.

Storekeeper Class, January 1943, Great Lakes. Bob Haws is 2nd from the left, in the 2nd row from the top. In the middle of the bottom row is Cliff, destined to be a life-long friend.

Bob left Great Lakes four days later, and was on a train headed for the West Coast 4 March 1943. My parents were a pretty serious item at that point, and Mom was willing to get married before he left. He said no, he didn’t want her to possibly be a widow, potentially with a child to raise. Nor did they get engaged, because he didn’t think it fair for her to be tied down while he was overseas. Her behavior would have been under scrutiny at home, whereas his—not so much. He didn’t plan on “misbehaving,” but realistically, what happened in the Pacific could stay in the Pacific. They exchanged lovers knot “promise rings,” however, and wrote regularly.

The next part of his timeline is a little sketchier. Bob & Cliff left San Francisco the 29th of April aboard the USS David Gaillard (hull# 441, built in Richmond, California).² The ship crossed the Equator on 10 May 1943, but due to security concerns, Bob’s Neptune certificate lists the longitude “secret,” headed for “A mission of war in the South Pacific Ocean.” He may not have known the longitude at the time, either.

Neptune certificate for crossing the Equator the first time. The original exceeded my scanner bed. It had to be scanned in sections and stitched back together!

The ship was headed for New Caledonia. Bob and Cliff made a practice of stashing a couple pieces of fresh fruit in their “ditty” bags, which presumably would go with them if they needed to abandon ship. They put that day’s fruit in, and ate the fruit they’d put in the day before. A number of Liberty Ships had sunk, some due to possible enemy attack, some due to fatigue failures.  My metallurgist brother educated me about those issues in 2005, but Bob & Cliff wouldn’t have known reasons in 1943. They just knew there was a risk, and didn’t want to starve, waiting to be rescued. Fortunately, it never came to that!

My mom’s notes next mention he was in Noumea, New Caledonia, on 29 May, which fits with her comment that it was a “31 day trip from the states.” They lived in tents in the hills, and had pesky mosquitoes. Orders arrived 24 June to leave for the New Hebrides—specifically, Air Center Command, Navy 140 on Espiritu Santo (now the island of Vanuatu).

Long before Survivor brought the show to Vanuatu (Lelepa Island, off the northwest coast of Efate), the United States brought the Seabees (referenced above in the subtitle) to Espiritu Santo to clear the jungle and build an airstrip. More construction followed, including quonset huts designated for the supply depot.³

My parents’ bookshelves held a 1977 book titled Journey to the End of the World: A Three-Year Adventure in the New Hebrides.8 It was written by Charlene Gourguechon and had nothing to do with World War II. Rather, she described the native people of Espiritu Santo, their culture and beliefs. Not many books are written about the island, though, so my dad bought a copy. A map of the island faced the title page, and my dad attached a post-it note at the bottom of it:

Map facing the title page of the book. Notice that my dad added a label “NSD” (Naval Supply Depot) for the NE peninsula. That caused some confusion for me. I believe it’s pointing to the wrong location, but I think I know what happened. Read my theory below.
Note on the title page: “I arrived in New Caledonia in April 1943. We waited 2 weeks for a ship to Espiritu Santo. We opened a Naval Aviation Supply Depot, the first one in the Pacific. We supplied all carrier and land based planes from 24 40′ x 100′ warehouses + jungle storage. Left for California November 1944. Dad” They actually LEFT the USA in April, arriving at New Caledonia in May.

I wandered around the Internet (particularly trying to locate corroboration for the note and map label. Dad had a good memory, and  was really good with directions, so I trusted his labeling, but it had been 30+ years! The location he marked for the depot seemed a long way from Luganville, where the airstrip and port were located. To me it seemed inefficient to transport supplies to the opposite side of the island, and then back to where they started, for use or to ship elsewhere.

Fold3 had lots of documentation about the island (we’re talking hundreds of declassified pages!), including a map (below)6 of the base area. One page described the supply depot being located on Pallikulo Bay—which I promptly looked for. There it was, east of Luganville, on the tip of the “thumb.” It was a peninsula pointing north, similar to the one Dad had marked, just smaller—too small to be seen on the book’s map! While there were roads heading north on the island, nothing else I read seemed to indicate the supply depot was at the north end. If Dad had seen a better (larger) map of the island, I’m sure he would have caught the mistake himself, and corrected it.

Photo credit:, “World War II War Diaries, 1941-1945” 6

The Navy Muster Rolls7 on Fold3 provided a quarterly snapshot of where Bob was, and his rank while in the South Pacific:

  • 30 June 1943—SK3c (storekeeper 3rd class)4 at US Air Center, Ebon-Aviation Supply Annex, Field Torpedo Unit #17, received at Receiving Station, Noumea, New Caledonia
  • 16 September 1943—US Air Center Command, Navy 140, change in rank to SK2c, V6—”V6″ may indicate General Service and Specialists (USNR classification)5
  • 31 December 1943—SK2c (V6), US Air Center Command, Espiritu Santo
  • 31 March 1944—SK1c, V6, US Air Center Command, Espiritu Santo
  • 15 June 1944—change in rank to SKV1c, V6. US Air Center Command, Espiritu Santo. The “V” in the first part was added to indicate Aviation Branch
  • 20 September 1944—SKV1c, V6

We have a letter (undated) from D. D. Hunt, Officer in Charge, to The Commander, Air Center, Espiritu Santo, recommending that Robert Haws be promoted to SK1c, 3½ months early, effective 1 March 1944. The rational to waive the standard time was:

Haws has been in charge of building #14 with direct responsibility for the arrangement of and the development of considerable storage facilities. His good judgment in this respect has been amply demonstrated by many compliments on the appearance and outlay of his stocks. His initiative has never been dimmed by the volume or condition of the stocks poured into his building. He has assumed the qualifications and responsibilities of a first class storekeeper.

Pretty good, for 22½! Of course, he had help, and certainly wasn’t the only storekeeper on the island:

Undated (June 1943-October 1944) photo of the Aviation Supply Depot guys. Bob Haws is in the back row, far left. I don’t think we had names for the others.

Life at the Supply Depot wasn’t all work, however. The guys developed friendships with the locals: Bob Haws Like Brothers

They also had time for fun and games:

Note on back: “Shipwreck sailors or something.”
Poker was always popular, though Cribbage came in a close second. Bob Haws is 2nd from the right. One of the others is “Spike” Haessly. I’m not sure about the rest.

After a year and a half overseas, the guys finally were scheduled for home leave. Bob, Spike, and Cliff transferred to a Receiving Ship (RS) 13 October 1944. Unfortunately, they couldn’t obtain passage back until 7 November! They waited and waited, frustrated by the delay. The return ship’s name is lost to us. Apparently it also had a bent screw and could make only 8 knots. Perhaps they simply tried to forget that trip?

They slid under the Golden Gate Bridge 29 November 1944. A new waiting game began, this time for seats on a train to Chicago. They finally arrived 16 December 1944. Bob’s next assignment would be states-side, so he proposed to Ardyth by mail. He could bring a spouse with him, if she wanted, but his leave wasn’t very long. She needed to make arrangements before he arrived. You’ll find that next chapter in Going to the Chapel.

My dad never joined any of the veteran’s organizations after the war. I don’t think he regretted the time in the service, but he didn’t seem to want to rehash it, either. He certainly left the Navy with a number of very good friends, despite them being scattered around the country. Their shared experience created a bond that survived time and distance.

An update to the post can be found here.


¹”Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations”, digital image, The National Archives (, Robert William HAWS, serial no. 1497, order no. 10620, Draft Board 1, Lake County, Illinois; citing WWII Draft Registration Cards for Illinois, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Microfilm Roll: 44008_14_00104; accessed 25 May 2019.

²Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (, “List of Liberty ships (A–F),” (accessed 26 May 2019).

Ship name  SS David Gaillard Namesake David Gaillard MC Hull # 441 Ship type standard Laid down 5 November 1942 Launched 14 December 1942 Fate Scrapped 1971

³Otto Torriero, Patrick Clancey, Larry W. Jewell, Hyperwar: A Hypertext History of the Second World War (, accessed 24 May 2019, “Chapter XXIV, Bases in the South Pacific,” (, pages 228-232.


5Navy History and Heritage Command.

6“World War II War Diaries, 1941-1945”, digital image, The National Archives (, accessed 25 May 2019, dated n.g.; Naval Air Center Command, Espiritu Santo, image 302005027; citing World War II War Diaries, Other Operational Records and Histories, compiled ca. 01/01/1942 – ca. 06/01/1946, documenting the period ca. 09/01/1939 – ca. 05/30/1946; Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group Number 38, ARC ID: 4697018, roll 2046; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

7“U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949”, digital image, The National Archives (, accessed 22 May 2019, Robert William HAWS entry, dated 30 June 1943-20 September 1944; Air Center, Ebon – Aviation Supply Annex, Field Torpedo Unit #17, Report of Changes, assorted images; citing Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 01/01/1939-01/01/1949; Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group Number 24, ARC ID: 594996, roll 32664_b042818 of 10,230 rolls; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

8Gourguechon, Charlene. Journey to the End of the World: A Three-Year Adventure in the New Hebrides (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977).


“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”—Albert Einstein

When my grandfather, Christoph Meintzer (Storms), was born in the Riverwoods, in 1888, his parents’ Lake County, Illinois (Vernon Township), farm house was situated on a road (lane?) angling northwest just north of the intersection of Deerfield and Saunders Roads. The last census (1910) when the family lived there did not show a street name or address, as I’m sure all the nearby properties were farms. It is now named Riverwoods Road.

In the late 1970s or early 1980s, my mom drove me past Christoph’s childhood home—visible from the road. It was easy enough to find, despite Mom not knowing the road name or house address, because she remembered it being just down the road from the Orphans of the Storm animal shelter. That shelter opened in 1928, and she remembered it when her father would drive them to his old house.

I now regret not turning into the driveway or pulling over to snap a photograph, because it appears the house has since then been torn down and replaced by a newer home. I have only two photographs with the house faintly in the background. Extended cousins, if you have a better photo of Christian & Sophia’s house, I’d be delighted to have a copy!

When my grandfather was growing up, there were woods in front (south) of the house. Presumably he played there after chores were done, and honed his hunting skills when he was older, adding squirrels or other game to the family’s table. The Des Plaines River was two miles away, providing an excellent fishing spot. One way or another, most aspects of his life were tied to nature.

How do I “know” any of this, since he died when I was eight? Trust me, I recall no conversations with him about those topics! Yet he left a trail of seemingly random bread crumbs that help paint a picture of him, if we pay attention.

His love of fishing was legendary, and I have numerous photos of him holding a stringer of fish. According to Uncle Gail’s information when I was researching the postcard from Arkansas (So Far Away), his dad sometimes traveled to Arkansas to fish!

Christoph Meintzer (right), his son, Gail, and the catch of the day. My dad snapped this photo, taken between 1957 and 1964, somewhere near Green Bay. Minnie died in the summer of 1958, so if Gail is correct in remembering her coming along to visit that trip, then it must have been 1957. If he’s mistaken about her presence, then the wider range in the quote below is possible.

When I emailed my uncle about this photo, he replied,

. . . 1957 and it was during the time we lived in that place that your Mother & Dad came up with your family and my Dad [Christoph] & Mother [Minnie] and the three of us went fishing. My Dad didn’t want to fish in the small lake I took them to, so your Dad [Bob] got out of the car, made 1 cast and caught a 3 or 4 pound Bass, and my Dad almost broke his leg trying to get out of the car to start fishing. Most of the fish on the stringers were Bull Heads. We spent a couple of hours cleaning them when we got home and then ate them. I would recall the year was between 1957 and 1960.

Christoph also hunted in his younger days. That definitely gets you out in nature! At least one postcard to Minnie while they were courting mentioned his plans to go hunting the next Sunday. A later postcard from Minnie’s sister-in-law, Caroline, mentioned her husband, Jake (Christoph’s brother) was going hunting on Sunday, and did Christ (short “i”, remember?) want to go along? My mom never mentioned having fresh game meat while growing up, so perhaps as the north suburbs of Chicago became more populated, hunting was less successful? Or maybe Forest Preserves and incorporating towns effectively “outlawed” hunting.

I imagine by now you’re wondering why there’s a photo of mushrooms at the top. Well, it turns out Christoph liked hunting mushrooms, too! He took my mom and her brother with him when they were kids, back to the woods across the street from his parents’ former farmhouse. She remembered the animal shelter, so could always find her way back, even 50 years later. The siblings ran around and had an adventure, while their dad searched for mushrooms.  

Mom didn’t remember what kind of mushrooms he looked for, and the kids never got to taste them. He always told them it was because there were mushrooms that were safe to eat, and ones that weren’t, but he didn’t want to risk them accidentally getting sick. She said he cooked them with a silver dime that was somehow supposed to indicate whether or not they were safe.

It’s a totally bogus method, and does not work. I’m being intentionally vague about the supposed technique, so you are not tempted by it. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! My opinion is that he simply wanted the mushrooms for himself, and “possibly not being safe” was a convenient way to justify the kids not getting any!

If I would have asked my grandpa if Nature was important to him, or influenced his life, I’d wager he’d have given me a funny look. He’d have wondered what on earth I was talking about! Yet nature wove itself through his life, perhaps without his noticing. That same thread continued on through later generations, manifesting in one way or another: fishing, camping, golfing, marathoning, gardening. None of his descendants use their “outdoors gene” (is there such a thing?) the same way, but it regularly shows up in our lives.


Road Trip

Are we there, yet?

I’ve had more than my share of road trips, racking up 50 states, and 32 countries so far. When my dad was a kid, though, road trips were were much rarer. It’s likely that until he joined the Navy, he traveled only between Wisconsin and Illinois!

He was born in Wisconsin, not too far from his paternal grandparents, Frank Haws (The Old Homestead) and Anna Bruder Haws, but that would soon change.

His family returned to Illinois not long after my dad was born. They appear in the 1922 city directory, living in Glencoe¹ with Victoria’s recently widowed mother, Dorothea Harry Schweiger (Back to School). By 1925, they had moved to a rental house (25 East Webster) in Highwood,² while my grandfather, Edward Haws, built their house on Rosemary Terrace, in Deerfield. They now lived a long way from Dad’s paternal grandparents, so couldn’t see them often.

Once, though, on a trip to Manitowoc or Door County when I was a teenager, Dad reminisced about his trips up there when he was a kid. It was Ed, Victoria, and 4 kids piled into the family car. I’m not sure if it was a Model A or a Model T, but my money is on the Model T, being a more reasonably priced car. Dad said they always had at least one flat tire on the trip—maybe more!

If I’d thought about it at the time, I’d have pressed him for more details, and written down the answers. Ah, the foolishness of youth!

Frank Haws and Anna Bruder Haws outside their house at 508 Birchwood Drive, Francis Creek, Wisconsin, after he retired and sold the farm. They are with 6 of their grandchildren: my dad (little guy on right), his siblings (George & Henry next to Frank, and Marie next to Anna), and two of their cousins: Paul and Lorraine, I think. I’d estimate the year to be 1926 or 1927, based on my dad’s size. That’s a couple years earlier than the 1929 date I have for Frank and Anna moving from the farm, but that year is estimated from Frank’s obituary—not necessarily the most accurate source! Dad looks 5 or 6 in this photo.

This week’s prompt jogged my memory, so I started thinking about those trips up north. According to Google maps, it’s 164 miles from Deerfield to Manitowoc, and takes 3 hours 47 minutes on non-interstate roads. The roads in the late 1920s/early 1930s were not as good as roads today, and the cars slower.

The top speed for a Model A was 28 MPH; 40-45 MPH for the Model T. I’m sure neither car drove those speeds on the roads of that era, but let’s be generous! If the Model T went 30 miles per hour, that’s a 5 hours and 28 minutes trip, minimum.

Then there’s stopping for gas, bathroom breaks—4 kids, remember?— lunch at a “roadside park,” slowing down for towns, plus time to fix a flat tire. We’re looking at an all-day trip, each way. If they went up to visit, it probably wasn’t for a day, or even a weekend; a week is more likely, maybe two.

I suppose Ed could have driven Victoria and the kids up, and gone back home to work during the following week, then come back for them, but that’s a lot of driving for him. Besides, most of his siblings lived in the area, so it would have been one of his few chances to see them.

As frequently happens when checking the facts for a blog post, either I find something new, or I unearth a detail I’d forgotten about. This week was no different! I’ve always known they spent time in Highwood—my dad remembered (and talked about) living there before moving into the house in Deerfield. I just assumed that was the only other place they lived in. So I was surprised last fall to discover them at Dorothea’s house so soon after dad’s birth! I always thought Dad lived in Wisconsin for at least a couple years.

While he told stories about Grandma Schweiger’s house, I always thought they were from visits there. Indeed, he may have had no memory of ever living there. Regardless, when I found and documented the 1922 directory listing, I didn’t really think about it, or fit it into a timeline for the family. I was hurrying to harvest as many records as I could, and didn’t mentally process it properly.

Thank goodness I decided to enter it in my software, anyway, instead of blowing it off! I could have easily dismissed it as, “Oh, that’s Dorothea’s house, I don’t need to record that.” That would have been a mistake—I’d be missing dots I needed to connect.

So, what had started as an innocuous road trip story, ended up filling in more dates and places in my dad’s, grandparents’, and great grandparents’ timelines. That’s always a good thing!



¹”U.S City Directories, 1822-1995″, database, (, citing R. L. Polk & Co. Evanston City and North Shore Directory, 1922-1923. Entry for Edw. HAWS, p. 630, accessed 7 September 2018.

²”U.S City Directories, 1822-1995″, database, (, citing Polk’s Waukegan City Directory, 1925. Entry for Edw. M. HAWS, p. 685, accessed 7 September 2018.


“Count your life by smiles, not tears. Count your age by friends, not years.” —John Lennon

As a child growing up in Illinois in the 1960s, I loved the month of February. Not only was it short, getting us to spring quicker, but until 1969, we had two days off from school. Well, at least some of the time . . .

We often had Washington’s birthday off on the 22nd, already having had Lincoln’s birthday off on the 12th. It had to be one of six calendar configurations where that worked. Sometimes one or the other fell on a weekend, but we were guaranteed at least one day off in February, two if we were lucky!

All that disappeared in 1969, due to the prior year’s passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.¹ Goodbye, Abe . . . The switch usually left the two “birthdays” too close together, and the Federal holiday trumped the State holiday.

Of course, in our house February 12th was always a reason to celebrate, Lincoln’s birthday notwithstanding. It was my sister’s birthday. She was tickled to share the day with Illinois’s favorite son. I always felt it was unfair that she had no school on her birthday! By the time the new law went into effect, she was graduating from college, so the negative impact to her was minimal.

Carole also shared her birthday with our grandfather, Edward Mathias Haws! She played that card a lot, too. You have figured out by now that she was the oldest, right?

You’ve met Ed several times, already. Invite to Dinner, Independence, and Work probably have the most stories about him, with additional mentions of him, elsewhere. He was born on Lincoln’s birthday in 1887, but in Wisconsin, so it may not have been a big deal. Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois regularly brag about their Lincoln connection, but Wisconsin really has no claim to him. I’m sure Lincoln is not a rock star in Wisconsin, like he is in the other three states.

Edward Mathias Haws, born 12 February 1887, died 26 March 1966. Date of photo unknown but possibly taken shortly before his marriage in 1914. I believe I got the photo from one of my grandaunts — one of his sisters. I see a lot of my dad in him. Or maybe the other way around?

By the time Ed moved to Illinois, he was an adult, so no one much cared when his birthday was — or who he shared it with! I was young (not quite eight years old) when he died, so never had a chance to talk with him about his tenuous link to Lincoln. I don’t know how he felt about that, or about Carole being born on his birthday, for that matter. Was it something the two of them ever talked about?

I’ll never know. Shared birthdays are just one of those quirky things that pop up in a tree. But every February 12th, I have three people to think about, while I try to determine if the bank will be open, or the mail delivered.



At the Courthouse

Some stories are just sad . . .

Elizabeth Ann Schmitt is my 1st cousin, twice removed. She had a short, and sadly tragic, life, leaving us with more questions than answers.

Elizabeth was the first cousin of my grandfather, Edward Haws. She was born 26 October 1876, in Cooperstown, Wisconsin. Well, at least, that’s according to her grave marker (below). has three different birth index entries for her, each with an 18 October 1876 date. The databases involved are:

  • Wisconsin, Birth Index, 1820-1907 (reel 116, record 002435)
  • Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index, 1801-1928 (FHL Film number 1305082)
  • Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index, 1801-1928 (FHL Film number 1305081)

Yes, I realize the last two are the same database, but note the different film numbers. The database description says it’s a compilation of birth, baptism, and christening details (1.4 million of them!) extracted by volunteers. I assume her birth appeared in two different sources, so it was indexed each time. The first index has a different data set. It contains over 1 million births recorded in the state before 1907, created by combining the index from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, Vital Records Division, with one created by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Ideally I would view those actual microfilms to see the specific information included, and follow up with the original records. It’s on the to-do list.

An additional hiccup (aside from the date!) is that her name is listed all three times as Ann E. Schmitt. “Hold the phone!” you say. “Maybe she’s the wrong girl?” That was my initial reaction, too, but the bottom two index entries list parents’ names: Michael Schmitt and Dorothea Haas (how her name came over from Germany). It seems an unlikely coincidence to have two married couples in the same county with identical names having daughters eight days apart and naming them flip-flopped. What are the odds? I’m betting it’s her, even not having viewed the original records, yet.

While I have no explanation for the date discrepancy, we need to remember people back then weren’t as obsessed about birth dates as we are. It’s possible the index entries are wrong (dates difficult to read in the originals?), though the three different indexes were undoubtedly transcribed by different people. It would be odd for them all to misread the date the same wrong way. As for the name, perhaps her parents named her in a traditional German way (forename, “ruf” name), and later reversed it to traditional American usage. Just a guess!

St. James Cemetery, County Road R, Cooperstown, Wisconsin;
photo taken 29 July 2008, Christine Haws Bauman

We next find 3-year-old Elizabeth in the 1880 census¹, down the road from Cooperstown, in Gibson, Wisconsin. The AWOL 1890 census doesn’t help me at all, leaving a 20-year gap in her information. But she is with her parents in 1900², living in Ontonagon County, Michigan, just outside Bruce Crossing. Her father, Michael, is working as a “lumberman.” In 1880, he was working at a sawmill. I don’t know if he’s employed by the same lumber company—simply changing locations—or if it was a bigger job change than that. Regardless, the family had moved over 200 miles away, without much explanation. I did find a 31 May 1896 death record³ for a younger brother to Elizabeth (Henry) who lived only 3 days. The family was still in Gibson, so I guess that narrows the move window to four years.

Two months later, 21 August 19004, Elizabeth marries Dr. Wallace H. Vosburgh. He was practicing medicine in Cooperstown, so obviously came to Michigan for the wedding. Presumably they had done their courting prior to her move, when she was still nearby. While I’m not one to question “true love,” the match seems a little unusual—he’s an upcoming physician in the area (you can read his bio-sketch from the “History of Manitowoc County Wisconsin”5 —scroll down towards the end for him). While there’s nothing “wrong” with her family, it doesn’t seem they would have had the “social standing” one might expect the young doctor to be looking for. But who knows?

Little more than a year after the wedding, Elizabeth dies on 9 January 1902. Volunteers in Manitowoc have done an awesome job posting information on the county website: a cemetery (St. James) transcription, with links to a tombstone photo, as well as obituaries for Elizabeth:

BRIGHT YOUNG LIFE GOES OUT Wife of Dr. W.H. Vossburg [sic] at Cooperstown Died Suddenly A bright young life closed Thursday with the death of Mrs. W.H. Vossburg , wife of Dr. Vossburg of Cooperstown. The demise was sudden and brought deep sorrow to many friends. Mrs. Vossburg had never enjoyed the best of health, but her condition was in no way considered serious and her death was a painful shock. Decedent was 24 years of age and had been married a little more than a year. She was the daughter of W. Smith of Gibson and was well known here. Friends extend sympathy to the bereaved husband. The funeral will be held Monday.

Manitowoc Daily Herald, Saturday, January 11, 1902, Page 1

Death in Cooperstown on Thurs. of Mrs. W.H. Vossburg, the 24-yr. old wife of Dr. Vossburg there with whom she had been married for slightly over a year. Although the deceased had been ill for some time no one anticipated that her end was near, so her death was unanticipated and a severe blow for her husband. The funeral was held Monday.

From Der Nord Westen, 16 Jan. 1902 (translated from the original German)

The statue added to Elizabeth’s tombstone appears to testify to the doctor’s grief. He certainly spared no expense! Italian Carrara marble was what was used for Michelangelo’s David and Pietà (in St. Peter’s). This statue seems to have been carved in Italy, but the monument company certainly played up their small part in installing the piece!

Advertisement highlighting the statue acquired for the monument above. Green Bay Press Gazette, 6 June 1903, accessed 25 February 2019, from

I know, you are wondering where the courthouse comes in. It’s coming!

If you happened to click the link to Elizabeth’s obituaries, you may have noticed the note at the end:
“(the following sent in by a family researcher/see contributors page) Elizabeth Anna (Schmitt) Vosburgh/b. 19 Oct. 1876/d. 9 Jan. 1902/wife of Dr. Wallace H. Vosburgh, M.D./dau. of Michael and Dorothy (Haws) Schmitt/cause of death: self inflicted drug overdose (morphine) but “not with suicidal intent. She was addicted to drugs.” (emphasis mine.)

WHOA! We’re talking 1902, rural Wisconsin. What was going on? I’m not clueless, and I realize that patent medicines of that era contained alcohol, narcotics, and probably other ingredients we now know better than to use. What could have caused her to begin her use? Initially, I thought maybe she’d lost a baby, or had a miscarriage, or something else causing her to seek escape or relief. The obituaries were decidedly vague as to her health status, and didn’t suggest anything like addiction. I decided I needed to try and verify the facts closer to the source.

We had scheduled a trip to Manitowoc during the summer, more importantly, during the work week! I took one day to go to the courthouse (finally!) and look up records in the actual death registers. I found:

Elizabeth Vosburgh (born Elizabeth Schmidt), died 9 January 1902, Cooperstown, age 24 years, 2 months, 21 days. Born 19 October 1877. Father Michael Schmidt, born Wisconsin; Mother Dorothy Haws Schmidt, born Wisconsin. Cause of death: Narcosis from overdose of morphine taken by herself not with suicide intent. Addicted to drug for 5 years.

Manitowoc Deaths, Volume 7, page 35, record #33

So, there we have it: an official document (albeit one with her maiden name misspelled, her birth date wrong, and her father’s birthplace wrong!) Of course, Schmitt often got misspelled with a “d” replacing a “t,” and her husband might not have known her father was born in Germany. Death records are not reliable sources of birth dates, so we’ll give him a pass on that, too.

More unsettling than confirming the story, is the notation that she’s been addicted for 5 years. Her addiction started before her marriage. Presumably her husband had known about the situation before tying the knot. Had she been a patient of his? Had he initially prescribed the treatment? Was he attempting to wean her off morphine? Did he feel “responsible” for this tragic outcome? We’ll never know. Just as we’ll never know why or how she started down that path.

Death certificates frequently list other conditions the person may have had, but registers do not — their predefined columns don’t provide enough room. So we have no clue what other health issues were at play. All we know is that a young woman met with an unfortunate end, and that is sad.


¹1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Gibson, e.d. 065; Page 35; dwelling number 304; family number 307; line 32; Michael SCHMIDT [SCHMITT] household; accessed 25 February 2019. Elizabeth SCHMIDT [SCHMITT], age 3; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1434; digital image, (

²1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Ontonagon, McMillan Township, e.d. 157; Page 3B; dwelling number 74; family number 77; line 77; Michael SCHMITT household; accessed 2 March 2019. Elizabeth SCHMITT, age 23, October 1876; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 737; digital image, (

³”Wisconsin Deaths and Burials, 1835-1968″, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch Record Search (, accessed 2 March 2019, entry for Henry SCHMIDT, 31 May 1896. Indexed entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records FHL Film Number 1306211, reference ID Pg.132 No.00764. citing St. James’ Cemetery, Gibson, Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

4“Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952”, database, (, accessed 25 February 2019, citing Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Ontonagon County, quarter ending 30 September 1900, record # 418. Wallace H. VOSBURGH (29) and Elizabeth A. SMITH (23).

5Dr. L. Falge, History of Manitowoc County Wisconsin, 2 vols. (Chicago, Illinois: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1912), Wallace H. Vosburgh, M. D.; v. 2, p. 487-488. transcript accessed 3 March 2019 from.