Monday, May 16, 2016

Mr. and Mrs. Wood

We've talked a little about Henry and Angeline Leatherman but what about Minnie Wood's parents? We know that William S. Wood was a confectioner in Buffalo. Census records conflict as to whether he was born "at sea" or in Buffalo, but we know he was born in 1850. We don't know his parents' names.

Elizabeth Granger (Bessie) was the daughter of Elizabeth and Stephen Granger. They emigrated to the U.S. from England around 1836 or 1856 (still to be determined). On the 1870 census, her mother described herself as a "huckster" and her father "a boatmaker." It appears Bessie had a twin brother, Stephen, and two other siblings, James and Mary (although Mary only shows up in one document). She was born in 1829 in England.

City Directory data indicates and Elizabeth Granger working in a confectionery company in Buffalo, but it is unclear as to whether or not it was Bessie or her mother. It is probably through this avenue that she met William S. Wood.

They were married in _____. And, from this clipping it sounds as though their wedding reception was lovely!

The Woods had moved to Lansing by 1905 (City Directory) and while in Lansing he first worked at Lansing Confectionery Company.

 They later owned grocery stores.

They lived in the house at 833 N. Capitol for at least two years before Minnie and J.P. were married.

Iris recalls a "grandmother or someone" living with them when she was quite young. This would be Bessie.

We know that William died in 1917 and is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Lansing. When Jean and Jeanie would decorate the cemetery graves, stories about his confectionery work were always part of the day. Jeanie has his recipe book -- but that's the subject of another post.

We don't know when Bessie died. A photo of her holding Jean as a baby was taken in 1919. The only Elizabeth Wood in Mt. Hope cemetery died in 1905 so either it isn't her or the dates were badly mangled. She is not in the same plot as William and their son, Irving -- so her demise is (at present) a mystery.

One of the things you discover when you start digging into all this is the difficulty of finding people from England. Yes, you can search the Great Britain and Wales census and birth records. But good luck narrowing down the names of Wood and Granger! Especially if you aren't quite certain from which part of England they hailed. We know Elizabeth Granger (Bessie's mom) was born in Wales from U.S. census data -- but we don't have a maiden name to be able to search Welsh birth records!

So, the mystery of the Wood family will continue. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mothers Day to All the Moms

Here's a Happy Mother's Day recognition of the women without whom we would be here today!

It all started with Minnie Wood.

Here she is with Iris!

Iris, Eleanor and Jean.

And the same trio a bit older!

The four sisters at Otsego Lake.

And here they are on Grace's wedding day. 

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Who was Uncle Irving?

Who was Uncle Irving? Irving S. Wood was Minnie Wood's older brother.


A handsome lawyer, he was born and raised in Buffalo, NY, the son of William S. Wood and Bessie (Elizabeth) Granger Wood. He never married.

Iris recalled how when he would visit at Christmas he would bring wonderful toys for her and Eleanor -- "giant teddy bears with electric eyes from Germany!"

Irving became ill from Bright's Disease and moved to Lansing to be cared for by Minnie Wood Leatherman, his sister. Bright's is a kidney disease -- today we would call it acute or chronic nephritis.

Back in "the day," acute Bright's disease was treated with local depletion (bleeding or blood-letting to reduce blood pressure), warm baths, diuretics and laxatives. There was no successful treatment for chronic Bright's disease, though dietary modifications were sometimes suggested.

He died in 1916, a year after his father. According to the back of the photo, he also died after his mother. We have been unable to locate a death date for Elizabeth Bessie Wood but there is a photo with the three of them in 1915.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What Happened to Henry?

It's interesting, the things you dig out when you are looking up people in your family tree. Those census records are a gold mine!

Take, for example, Henry Leatherman, J.P.'s dad.

What do we know about him? He was a farmer and was born in Guilford Township, Medina County, Ohio in 1937. Eventually he moved to Michigan and somewhere along the way, met Angeline Bendler, a Canadian. (Angeline is often referred to in records as Beutler or Bentler but Bendler is most frequent)

Henry was from a very long line of Mennonite farmers and took a great interest in singing. He and Angeline had six children. J.P. was the youngest and his mother died when he was only four.

But what happened to Henry?

The 1900 census lists him as being an inmate in the Northern Michigan Asylum, later known as the Traverse City State Hospital, which was for mentally ill and wards of the state.

Wikipedia says it was initially established (1881) as a psychiatric hospital. Under Dr. James Decker Munson, it expanded to include housing cottages and two infirmaries, one for male and the other for female. The building itself is quite historical and there are photos HERE.

Munson believed in the "beauty is therapy" philosophy and patients were treated through kindness, comfort, pleasure and year-round flowers from the asylum's greenhouses. Restraints were forbidden. He also subscribed to the "work is therapy" philosophy and residence worked in farming, furniture construction, fruit canning and other trades, keeping the institution fully self-sufficient.

The asylum handled all sorts of cases, ranging from melancholia to epilepsy, dementia to alcoholism. During outbreaks of TB, typhoid, diphtheria, influenza and polio, the hospital was expanded, also caring for the elderly and rehab for drug addicts.

The institution eventually closed section by section and in full by 1989. Here's kind of a creepy video.

So, what was Henry doing there? We have his death certificate, signed by J.P., indicating he died on March 10, 1913. He is buried in Bowne Cemetery, Clarksville, MI, according to the death certificate but there is no marked grave or cemetery record.

To put it in context, that would be a little over a year since J.P. and Minnie were married and the year Iris was born -- or to be specific, ten days after Iris was born on March 1, 1913. Talk about a month of ups and downs.

All the dates synch up (birthdate, death date, census information). There is a gap -- In 1880, he was living in Michigan (Campbell Township, Ionia County) with Angeline and his children. He is not listed in the 1890 census. So, sometime between 1891 and 1900 he probably landed in Traverse City.

The census information does not indicate why he was there -- most likely, at that time, he was there for mental illness, particularly if he was there for any length of time and we know he was there for thirteen years after 1900.

There is also the possibility that he was there for alcoholism-related issues. There is a long-time apocryphal story from the sisters about J.P. and alcohol. They seemed to think it might be because his parents drank and that was why he was so vehement in his opposition. But they really didn't know -- they were just guessing. Finding this info certainly makes it a possibility, although the contrasting argument might be his Mennonite faith, which in the 1800s was more rigid than some of today's Mennonites.

More research is required -- that will involve seeing if I can obtain court records to indicate why he was committed -- and going back that far might be difficult if not impossible.

It is well known from all the sisters that J.P. never really talked about his family, apart from his sister, Ida. It couldn't have been terribly happy -- his mom died when he was so young and then sometime, at least by the time he was 22 and probably before, his father was in the asylum.

That explains a lot.