Below is a portion of a transcript written by my maternal grandmother, Letha Rae Stewart Stephens on her memories of summer life in Mountainair, New Mexico.
“In summer large crowds attended Chautauqua meetings in town. There were big Fourth of July celebrations with a bandstand set up in the center of Broadway, which played lively music all day and evening. County Fairs at Willard were well attended. Many times after bean crops were laid by there would be a week of camping for us. It took a long day to make the trip by wagon to Red Canyon campground with lunch at Manzano Springs.”
Several years ago I posted about a family mystery that existed on the Pyatt side of my family. Click here to see my original post. The mystery concerned what happened to my Grand Aunt, Maggie Elizabeth Pyatt, who passed away at the age of 17. Over the years, I have done numerous searches on various sites in my quest to find her. No luck. Nothing. I knew, from my father’s recollection, she either moved to Chicago or Detroit. For some reason I decided to check out records available in Detroit first…good thing I did! I discovered that Michigan has all their death certificates digitalized and copies made available online. In searching their database I found Maggie’s death certificate, although her name was spelled a little differently. Her death certificate listed her as Margarette Elizabeth Piatt. After years of researching my Pyatt side of the family, I have become aware of the numerous variations in spelling of the name! What further convinced me that this was my Grand Aunt was that her parents are listed on the certificate and they matched up to my Great-grandparents. John M. Pyatt (Piatt) and Sarah Keele (Keell) both from Missouri. Below is a copy of her death certificate:
What intrigued me even more about the death certificate was the mention of an Inquest Pending, and the cause of death “Shock from being run over by automobile“. One has to remember, this was back in 1907. Commercial production of the automobile in the United States began at the beginning of the 1900’s. This had to have been an unusual case. After doing further research and finding two newspaper articles regarding this incident, it became clear the circumstances of this incident. The headlines of the paper read “SHOCK CAUSED DEATH Margaret Piatt was victim of auto. Young Woman Makes Fifth Whose Lives Have Been Sacrificed to Speeding Machines.” An inquest was scheduled and a jury empaneled to hear the evidence in the case. “Something should and can be done to stop the slaughter of persons by reckless automobilists” states the Prosecutor. On July 4, 1907, a jury heard evidence regarding the incident. Apparently a sightseeing auto was driving along the street when Margaret stepped out in front of it. She sustained “fractures of both bones of the lower right leg and that both the right and left femurs were broken, the former being a compound fracture. Death occurred due to those injuries and the shock.” One witness stated that no warning signal was given by the auto…but another witness stated that Margaret “became confused and the cause of the accident was from her own carelessness.” There was a dispute as to how fast the car was traveling with some witnesses says between six to eight mph and others saying twelve to fifteen. Therefore, according to the article, the differences confused the Coroner’s Jury and no responsibility was fixed. No further action was taken against the driver.
I am so thrilled to have been able to find this information, all online! I only wish I could have found this our before my father passed away in 2010…I am sure he would have loved to learn the true facts surrounding Maggie’s death. There is also a mention of a Mrs. Mary Archer, both on the death certificate and in the newspaper articles, who is said to be Margaret’s aunt. This name is unfamiliar to me in my research…so looks like another mystery that needs to be solved!
Katharine Taff O’Neill (1925-2003) was my mother-in-law. She was one of those rare special people who come and go in your life. Having never met me until a few days before I married her son, she was able to embrace me and make me feel a part of her wild and crazy little family. I could probably write a book about her. But, I thought I would let me son do the writing this week. When he was in 3rd grade he had to write a paper about the life of one of his relatives. He chose Kate. Below is the paper he wrote:
A Spoiled Child
By Graham – written in Spring 2000.
“My Grandma, Katharine Taff O’Neill, was born May 8, 1925 in Philadelphia. She was the only child in her family. The house she grew up in was a 3 story rowhouse. Next door to her lived her Uncle. Her Uncle had 6 boys. She was a spoiled child. In elementary school she was taught by nuns in a parochial school. She liked the subjects of history, reading and math. She remembers when she was little going to Atlantic City to walk on the boardwalk, swim at the beach and play in the amusement park. They did not have sunscreen back then. She also remembers traveling to Boston to visit relatives.
My grandmother went to an all girls high school called Little Flower. She tried out for choir and she made it. She also had to study hard. She enjoyed hanging out with her friends, Anna and Jeannie. They liked to go to parties and movies together. She doesn’t communicate with them anymore because they have passed away.
She didn’t go to college because her mother couldn’t afford to send her. She got married in 1952 at the age of 27 to my grandpa, William Francis O’Neill. She raised three boys, which was the joy of her life. My dad, Bill, was one child, Uncle Dave was another. Uncle Donald was born a couple of years later in 1963 when my dad was in the 4th grade. My grandma worked in a department store, Wanamakers, and she enjoyed meeting and helping people.
My grandma is now 74 years of age. She is kind and nice to everyone. I like to visit here in Philadelphia. She lives with my funny Uncle Donald. She stays at home now because she has been sick.
My grandma enjoys seeing me and spending time with me. She is very loving to me and everyone else. I really like my grandma. My grandma is nice to everyone she knows.”
This post is the first in a series of posts about my ancestors. Amy Johnson Crow issued this genealogical challenge (to write about one ancestor each week for 52 weeks) on her blog No Story Too Small. Having accepted the challenge here is my first post!
Perry Stewart was my second great grandfather on my mother’s side. He was born October 9, 1845 in Washington Township where his father, David Stewart, was a farmer. By 1860 the family had moved to Paris, Illinois where Perry and his older brother, Marion, helped their father with the family farm. After the Civil War broke out and Perry had turned 19, he enlisted in the 66th Illinois Infantry, Company E, on February 4, 1864 as a Private. This company was part of the Atlanta Campaign under Major General William T. Sherman who was charged with preventing the Confederate troops from moving northward. After capturing Atlanta, these same units proceeded on the March to the Sea and the capture of Savannah. In May 1865 the 66th was part of the Grand Review in Washington, DC and later Perry was mustered out on 7/12/1865. He met Mary Ettie Guthrie and they were married in 1873. They continued to live in Paris, Illinois and raised 11 children. Perry worked as a farmer and also in a cigar store. Around 1911 he was admitted to the U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, in Milwaukee. He remained there for 8 years. After 1911 Perry and Ettie both listed themselves on census records as either widowed or divorced. Perry left Milwaukee in 1919 and proceeded to Oakland, California where he died on November 24, 1924. His remains were returned to Paris, Illinois for burial.
Continuing series from the Facebook group called The Book of Me, Written by You about an interesting writing project created by Julie at Anglers Rest which will suggest a writing prompt every week for 15 months.
Our second prompt is:
“Your birth –
Do you have any baby photos?
Where were you born?
Who was present at your birth?
What day was it? Time?
Did you have hair? Eye colour
Are you a twin?”
I was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico at 6 a.m on October 16, 1954 . My sister is 2 minutes older than I am…therefore I am “Baby B”! When we were born we had two older brothers. They were 4 and 2 years old. My mother knew something was different about this pregnancy…she was huge…but in those days, at her age, there were no ultrasounds and the doctor did not want to use X-ray. The story goes that the doctor could only hear one heartbeat…so he pulled my father aside and told him that one of two things would happen…either it was twins and one was dead or that this was a large deformed baby. What horrible news to hear! Luckily my Dad did not share this evaluation with my mom. As it turned out we apparently were lying on top of each other in the womb and that is why no second heartbeat. My Dad said the evening my mom’s water broke she was standing over a floor heat register. When she called his name he looked up at her and steam was rising up and surrounding her. We were small at birth and spent the first week or so in the hospital. I know my mom was glad to finally get us home. I still have the hospital baby bracelets. Two pink beaded bracelets with Pyatt A and Pyatt B beaded into them.