Thursday, November 27, 2014

East Orange, Vermont -- June 16, 1909

 This postcard, a view of East Orange, Vermont,  was sent by 17 year old Eva Richardson to her great aunt, my Great-Great Grandmother Rosina Jane Richardson Stevens who at that time was 74 years old and had been gone from Vermont for more than 50 years.  But Jane, as she was known, was very familiar with all the Vermont Towns of Topsham, Corinth, Orange, and Washington.  She had been born in Topsham, Vermont in  1835 and when 21 she and her new husband, David Stevens, also of Topsham, moved to Wisconsin. 
I do not know if any of the farms seen in this photograph were the farm that Eva's parents, William and Bertha (Page) Richardson. The church still looks almost the same today but is painted in a nice, colorful manner which does not show up in this old postcard. 

A couple of years after sending this postcard, Eva married a Frank Richardson -- so no name change for her -- but confusing for family history buffs!  They had six children, one boy and five girls. Eva lived to be 77 years old and is now buried in Waits River Cemetery -- just down the road a piece.
Our family tree is packed with Richardsons, Dexters, Kings, Welchs, and Pages as well as Healys, Churchs and Tabors. It is fun to wander around Vermont and New Hampshire and come upon the family names on road signs, like this one in Washington, Vt. Maybe someday I will find out which part of the family named this road.  And since Washington is right next to East Orange, maybe the William and Bertha Richardson land is in the view on the post card.-- but we'll likely never know!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Short Update on William Weber, Renaissance Man

After my last post, I received a phone call from my Aunt telling me that she liked the post but had a little info that would make it more accurate!  I called her back and discovered that while she doesn't "do" computers, my cousin had printed it out and had taken it over for her to read.  She said she was really pleased with what my blog said, but thought I would want to edit it a bit. 

She mentioned that in spite of his Conscientious Objector status, at some point he had joined the Coast Guard.  She discovered this because she said she found his discharge papers.  Apparently the only job he talked about at that time was a trip across the Atlantic where they were shipping wild horses from the American West to Italy to replenish the horses that had died either in the war or had been decimated by being eaten when times were hard. Because Bill had grown up on a farm and was good with horses he was chosen for this trip. He had told his wife that the crossing was pretty rough going. 

The error in the blog was that Uncle Bill did not help with releasing Jews from the concentration camps but instead was over there working as a part of the American Friend's Service Committee that was run by the Quakers.  He spent two years there. He started out working in Paris before they could get into Germany, and then after Germany was divided up, went to work in the French sector.  He spent a lot of time driving truck and carrying milk and flour and sometimes vegetables through the Rhine River area.  He would dole out milk in buckets.  He drove trucks most of the time, a lot of  it through hazardous winter weather.  The trucks had worn and bad tires and he had a couple of close calls.

When they had gone from France to Germany initially the French officials were telling the Germans to move out of their homes as they were needed by the American Friends Service Volunteers.  Uncle Bill and the others objected and worked to find homes with extra rooms where they could stay without making them leave.  He and a friend of his ended up boarding in the home of a widow who has lost her husband in the battle of Stalingrad.  The house in Koblenz had been largely destroyed by bombings, but she had two rooms.  She and her daughter lived in one room and Bill and his friend lived in the other.  The volunteers also, when not moving supplies around, also helped rebuild homes for the people in the area.  In addition, the Volunteers would get "care packages" from the US that included cigarettes.  As Bill did not smoke, he gave the cigarettes to the widow who then traded them for house repair work.  Bill also started a youth service group in the area which included the widows daughter and, I think my aunt said, a young man who told Bill he was the "first American he had ever seen" and who later (I think she said) went on to become the mayor of Koblenz. 

After his years of service, Bill returned to Wisconsin and later married his sweetheart who became my Aunt and mother of my three cousins. 
Bill stayed in touch with the widow and her daughter for years and later the daughter and her husband owned a hotel in Koblenz and her husband was the president of the hotel association. In 1987 Bill and his wife traveled to Europe and visited them and stayed in their hotel. Seventeen of the original Volunteer members traveled at the same time and were reunited after all those years.  My aunt received a scarf and Uncle Bill received a book about the history of Koblenz and they discovered that the book was dedicated to Uncle Bill. They were given a tour of the city and taken on a cruise down the Rhine River.  They also spent two weeks in Munich.  A link to info on Koblenz that I came across provides a few photos of the area.  My aunt also mentioned that they spent a week with "Bill's former girlfriend" and her husband.  Now THAT simple statement sounds like the beginning of a longer story which would involve all my cousins!! -- but she didn't elaborate.

In 2002 they took a trip to Ireland to visit another woman, Mary Clare, who had been a Volunteer.  They were able to spend two weeks in Dublin visiting with her and her family.  Obviously their volunteer work together forged some strong bonds.  It was very fun to get the phone call from my aunt and to expand the stories about Uncle Bill. 

Now is someone can give me information (no luck yet just using search engines) on how horses were rounded up out West and ended up on ship transports to Europe, and how often this happened, that would be very interesting!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Uncle William Philip Weber, Renaissance Man and Inspiration

November 1st marks the sixth anniversary of the passing of my dear Uncle Bill.  He was an amazing man.  He was the loving and diligent caretaker of his mother, our Grandmother Susan for many years and without him she either would not have been able to stay in her home, or would have declined much earlier if left on her own.  As she lived to be 93 and a half years of age, she obviously did not have a shortened life!  Uncle Bill, as a young man during WWII, was a Conscientious Objector and in place of Army service was first a Smoke Jumper (firefighter) and later helped with the liberation of the Jews who had lived long enough to make it to the end of the War and survived the  concentration camps. He was a farmer,  professional photographer, and was in later years involved in local politics and was a visionary.  He was a man ahead of his time!  I came across this article from the La Crosse Tribune from January 21, 1979 and found it to be very interesting.  I have been to their home a number of times over the years and have always found it to be comfortable but I can't remember if any of my trips were in the winter!
I think it is very interesting that both my Uncle and my father built their "dream homes" aligned to the North Star.  Uncle Bill was looking for maximum sun exposure.  My dad, after years of being a Navigator on a variety of Air Force planes simply wanted his home aligned with the stars that he loved and knew many by name.  My parents also, while not having a solar heating system, had a solar water heating system and the solar panels heated the water in a hot water tank that dumped pre-heated water into two other electric water heaters (that rarely had to work very hard as the water came in very hot)
Uncle Bill would love all the progress that has been made since this article was written almost 36 years ago. 
The large windows, looking out on a somewhat wooded territorial view, creates a light, airy and still cozy environment. 
Uncle Bill sent the article above to my parents, who lived in Portland, Oregon, along with the following letter.  
Tue. 23 Jan 79
Bob and Bernadine,
Hi ~
            Just a short note. The furnace here at the studio has been out for the past week.  We have been using a couple of electric heaters in the darkroom and bathroom and have been able to carry on – expect a new furnace sometime this week.
            It’s been a cold, snowy January.  We have over 2 feet of snow on the ground.  Haven’t had any thawing since Christmas.  Did have 13 nice cold sunny days first part of Jan.  Old solar collector really worked good at that time (am enclosing a copy of an article that appeared in La Crosse Tribune.  But on the whole this winter we haven’t had much sunshine. Oh well, you win some and lose some.
            As you know we didn’t get any wood cut or bought for Mother.  So she has had to depend on the electric heaters for a large share of her heating this winter.  Well her last month heat bill came to $160 – what with her $140 SS check, it won’t even cover it.  Last winter we had the wood Kim and Brent cut so were able to get by. 
            So I was wondering if maybe all of us kids could throw in a few dollars and help cover this and the next bill.  I’ve been furnishing her with 90% of her food this winter and she was able to save enough to pay her taxes last year. However they are about $75 more this year - $815 which is half of what she takes in during the year.  She is planning on selling a few trees along the Eckelberg line as they are cutting lumber on Eckelbergs.  So next year shouldn’t be quite so rough.  She’s worried about the lite bill but I thought maybe if we each put in $25-$35 she could handle the rest.  What do you think?  Or should we borrow it from the bank and pay them back after the timber is sold?
            We are talking now of about $200 for the next 2 months.  She expects to get bail enough on her last years homestead tax credit to pay some on her taxes for this year.  She usually pays half in Jan and the rest in July.
            However, if the Dec heat bill was $160 the Jan bill will be $200 or more as it was a very cold Jan.  So if she can handle $200 out of her $280 for the next 2 mo and plus another $200-$300 tax refund that would leave a bal of 2 or 3 hundred dollars.  We might be able to get the heating bill extended on a budget plan so she could pay it off during the summer.  We will try, but for now I thought a nice birthday gift would be whatever we could afford toward the present bill.  If you got any ideas on this let me know.
            Mother is doing real well this winter. Taking care of herself in many ways.  I bake her bread a couple times a week and have been furnishing potatoes and carrots but we are about out of them (we had a poor garden last year).
            Everyone here is fine – wish you could all stop by and have dinner with us at our warm solar heated house (one sunny day)
            Love to all from all of us ~
[Grandma lived another 8 years after this was written.]

My dear Uncle Bill and with his wonderful wife and sweetheart twenty years after the letter. 
And here are Bill's children around 1962 (at the latest) with his mom, their grandma, for whom he cared so well. Cousins, not only were you so much younger then, but so was Grandma!  She looks relatively young in that photo!
William Philip Weber - 1919 to 2008 -- you are one in a million and you are not forgotten by any of us, no matter how many years go by!
Bill Weber was a loving son, husband and father, he was conscientious and loyal, honest and trustworthy.  And in spite of his self-proclaimed agnostic leanings over the years, I find it only fitting and symbolic that he passed away painlessly and peacefully on All Saint's Day.