A charmed childhood

Nasonville sunrise (Jeff the Quiet)

Nasonville sunrise (Jeff the Quiet, 2014)

Photo above: Looking southeast across Wood County from the Marshfield moraine at Nasonville, with Powers Bluff in the middle and a plume from a paper mill at Rapids or Nekoosa on the right, almost at the far end of the county.

My Mom and George Washington shared the same birthday, February 22.  Had she lived she would have been 99 this year, the same age as Aunt Marge.  But Mom died when I was in my 20s and I still miss her.  So many times while I work on her family ancestry, I want to share something with her.

Nan, Grandpa and me, Myrtle Beach, 1949

Nan, Grandpa and me with Cubby Bear, Myrtle Beach SC, 1949

There wouldn’t be much to share that she didn’t know, because, unlike my Dad, Mom told me many things about her herself and her family: how her grandparents had sailed to America long before I was born, how great-grandma carried *flag* tubers in her long woolen skirts, and how they had settled in Grand Rapids in Michigan, once a thriving farm community of Dutch immigrants.  Although my grandparents left Grand Rapids after they married, many of their relatives are there today.

The Dutch settlers of the upper Midwest were unrelated the wealthy patroons of the Hudson Valley.  The migrants to Michigan were poor farmers or Boers, the potato farmers in Van Gogh’s paintings.  In America, the men made lives for themselves as craftspeople and laborers.

                                                     —000—

I learned of the Wisconsin settlement of Dutch when Aunt Marge suggested we drive from Sheboygan to Wisconsin Rapids and visit the River and the Kettle Moraine formed during the last Ice Age.  There we found remnants of the settlers in the form of mushy peas at a “Dutch” restaurant, and a Dutch Reformed church.

When asked, Mom would say she was from Grand Rapids, and I thought Wisconsin Rapids had nothing to do with me.**

Maybe the day we visited Wisconsin Rapids Mom’s spirit was guiding us, because I have discovered my Mom spent most of her young life, until age 20, living in a place called Nekoosa in Wood County Wisconsin.  (Wiki tells me Nekoosa is a Chippewa word, referring to the river.)  Nekoosa was a small rural village with a close-knit community near Wisconsin Rapids.

I found 50+ items in the Wisconsin Rapids newspaper about my grandparents. And many other items concerning my Mom.  Mom was in the hospital when her appendix burst, then she was home; different years, she won first and second prizes at the local flower show; she sang in her Methodist church choir, and played piano duets with her sister Faye; she went on sleigh rides in winter and hay rides in summer; she was a Girl Scout who went to camp.

Nana, Babe, Mom, Audrey and Great-Grandma, Grand Rapids MI, 1924

Nana, Faye, Mom, Audrey and Great-Grandma, Grand Rapids MI, 1924

The newspaper noted the family traveled from WI to Grand Rapids MI when great-grandfather died.

Grandpa was a board member and volunteer with the local fire brigade and the police. When a strike occurred at a local plant, Grandpa arrived with deputies to restore order.

He served on the board of the local Garden club.  Grandma won prizes year after year in the flower show (she belonged to the local garden club).  (The Census tells me Grandpa worked for the local power company);  I even found my birth announcement from Texas in the Wisconsin Rapids paper.

On and on the notices go, until the family moves South during the Great Depression so Grandpa can work for TVA as an electrical engineer.

Mom was very proud of her dad, who with an eighth-grade education, who was apprenticed to **Steinmetz** when he worked with GE.  Later Grandpa held various jobs working with the generation of hydro-electricity.

                                                     —000—

*Flags are a type of Iris.  Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag, yellow iris, water flag) is a species in the genus Iris, of the family Iridaceae. It is native to Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa. Its specific epithet, meaning “false acorus,” refers to the similarity of its leaves to those of Acorus calamus, as they have a prominently veined mid-rib and sword-like shape.

**Wisconsin Rapids WI was known as Grand Rapids WI until the 1920s

***Charles Proteus Steinmetz (April 9, 1865 – October 26, 1923) was a German-born American mathematician and electrical engineer. He fostered the development of alternating current that made possible the expansion of the electric power industry in the United States, formulating mathematical theories for engineers. He made ground-breaking discoveries in the understanding of hysteresis that enabled engineers to design better electromagnetic apparatus equipment including especially electric motors for use in industry.

22 thoughts on “A charmed childhood

  1. Pingback: het is het beste wanneer ik ertoe overga thans het zwijgen te doorbreken | michaelisbureas

  2. Gosh… I remember Kettle Moraine. We took the kids there when they were little, but we went only for the geological history. I didn’t know about the Dutch settlers or probably have just forgotten. I’m so sorry you had to lose your mom too early. That’s very painful.

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  3. You know I love those old timey pictures! Love you little page boy haircut as well. Great narrative on the family history. I should think about doing this more myself.

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  4. Easy to connect with this post. I played high school football games against the Nekoosa Papermakers, and did a stint as sports editor of the Daily Tribune in Wisconsin Rapids. My wife’s maiden name is Steinmetz, and her family claimed descent from Charles Proteus Steinmetz. We now live about 30 miles from Grand Rapids, Michigan. How’s that for connections?

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    • Cousin!! Had you played football in the 1930s, you would have played against my Uncle Gerald. It’s a small world. I was so thrilled to uncover this history of my Mom via the Tribune’s social pages.. Mom and my Dad met in Norris TN and must have found talking about “home” exciting. He was with the CCC following college graduation, and her dad with TVA. So both were WI expatriates and probably homesick.

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  5. It’s wonderful, how much you know about your ancestors. Even with research, mine leads to a lot of dead ends, including my Granddad as a baby, left on the steps of Liverpool Workhouse.

    It’s one of the reasons I am so diligent with my notebooks – numbered, dated, details, etc. – I want my descendants to have as much info as possible.

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    • Grand Rapids MI and Grand Rapids WI…two different places. Both settled by immigrants from the Netherlands, and my ancestors lived in both places. In the 1920s, Grand Rapids WI changed its name to Wisconsin Rapids.

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    • Mom was very frugal, and her frugality dates from the Depression era. Times were tough, but they had a small farm in a rural area, and Grandpa kept his job with the local power plant, until he was recruited to work for TVA. Nevertheless, she told me she thought my father’s family was “better off.”

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  6. Fascinating read Dianne, always enjoyable to read about your family and learning a little more of your Mom. The old photos are very special and that is a gorgeous sunset at the top.

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  7. Dianne: I enjoy reading your Blogs. I enjoyed learning more of your mom. There is a HS in Chicago near where I live called Stienmetz. It’s probally named after the man you were talking about. Sue B

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