My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Thursday, March 28, 2013

WEDNESDAY'S WEDDING - Horst - Dilworth Wedding, June 1904

On June 29, 1904, Eliza Loy Dilworth married Charles Frederick Horst in Birmingham, Alabama. She was 19. He was 23. Here is their story.
Eliza Loy Dilworth

Eliza was born February 18, 1885, in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of coal mine owner John Edmond Dilworth (1858-1930) and his wife Mary Eliza Loy (1862-1933). John was born in New Jersey; Mary was born in New York City, New York. They had settled first in Damascus, Pennsylvania, where they started their family of four children. The family had relocated to Alabama by the turn of the century.

Charles was born in Mobile, Alabama, on November 15, 1880. He was the oldest son of five children born to my great-great-grandparents Charles Frederick Horst (1856-1912) and Odalie Felice Fortier (1857-1920). Charles was the older brother of my great-grandmother Pearl Alphonsine  Horst Flemming (1884-1961). Charles and Odalie had first moved from Mobile to Cincinnati, Ohio, for health reasons, and lived with his paternal aunt's family for a while. The family then settled for good in Birmingham.

By the late 1880's Birmingham was the primary site of coal mining in the state of Alabama. Walker County, located northwest of Birmingham, was second. This may have been where Eliza and Charles first met. The 1900 U.S. Census shows that Charles was living in a boarding house in the mining town of Corona in Walker County, working as a stenographer for a coal mining company. The same census shows that Eliza was also living in Corona with her parents and three siblings; her father listed his occupation as "Superintendent - Coal".

Wedding Photo of Eliza Dilworth
June 1904

This wedding picture (left) was one of several family photos that my father had, that were left by Grider Horst (1908-1995), their daughter and oldest of their two children. I searched the local papers for a write-up that would describe their wedding but found nothing. Most personal or social events, even most obituaries, weren't published in our city's newspapers in 1904, but there were some. Unfortunately, in the case of the Horst-Dilworth wedding I could find none.

Charles and Eliza settled in Birmingham, living first in the Highlands section of town, along with her brother John Fulton Dilworth (1888-1942) at 2930 Pawnee Avenue. Later they moved to the Hollywood section of Homewood, a suburb outside of the city, on the English side of Poinciana Drive. Charles continued working in coal sales, first with Grider Coal Sales Company (after which he named his daughter) and later owned his own company, C. F. Horst & Company, where he was quite successful. He and Eliza had two children - Frances Grider (b. Dec. 23, 1908) and Charles Frederick Jr. (b. Nov. 10, 1911). The Horsts were lifelong members of Highland Methodist Church.

Charles and Eliza Horst - Still in Love (ca. 1935)
At Home on Their Front Porch Swing - Pawnee Avenue

Charles retired in 1945 and he and his wife, along with daughter Grider, moved to Tampa, Florida. After 56-years of marriage, Eliza passed away on September 17, 1960. She had been visiting her son and his wife in Birmingham when she died. She was 75 years old. Eliza was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham.

Day after Eliza's Funeral
September 18, 1960 - Elmwood Cemetery
On September 2, 1964, Charles died at his home in Tampa. He was eighty-three. He was buried next to his beloved wife in Elmwood. Charles died at age 72, on April 29, 1984. His wife Kathryn Olsafski (b. December 30, 1917) died June 2, 1999, at the age of 81. Having returned to Birmingham after the death of her father, Grider passed away on April 1, 1995. She was eighty-six. No grandchildren were born. Charles, wife Kathryn, and his sister Grider are buried at Elmwood Cemetery, next to their parents.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

SATURDAY'S STRUCTURE - Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, AL

The oldest section of Elmwood Cemetery
Birmingham, Alabama
Elmwood Cemetery is located on 412 acres on Martin Luther King Drive in Birmingham, Alabama. It is the resting place of over fifty members of the Flemming, Horst, and O'Donnell families, to name a few.

Originally established in 1900 as "Elm Leaf Cemetery", its name was changed in 1910 to Elmwood. It was developed by several groups of fraternal organizations in the city who saw a need for a second burial ground for the city's dead, beginning with 286 acres of property. It wasn't long before it eclipsed the city's first cemetery, Oak Hill, as the most popular cemetery in town.

It's not surprising that Elmwood Cemetery was a "whites-only" cemetery for much of the past century. Not until 1970 were blacks allowed to purchase burial plots to bury their loved ones here. [See story below]

Elmwood Cemetery, like most cemeteries across the country, has sections that are dedicated solely for Catholics, solely for Jews, and solely for Greeks, to name a few. There are also several large Mausoleums on the property.

Gravesite of Charles and Odalie Horst - Block 9, Elmwood Cemetery
The first relative buried at this Elmwood appears to be my great-great-grandfather Charles F. Horst (1856-1912), buried on August 31, 1912 - 100 years ago. Other members of the Horst family buried beside him include Charles' wife (my great-great-grandmother) Odalie Fortier (1857-1920), and two of their sons: Edward Horst (1882-1916), who never married, and Omer Horst (1887-1945). They are buried in Block 9 - part of the oldest section of the cemetery.

Charles & Odalie's oldest son Charles F. Horst (1880-1964) and his wife Eliza Dilworth (1885-1960) are buried nearby in Block 17. Buried with them are their daughter Grider Horst (1908-1995) and son Charles F. Horst, Jr.(1911-1994), along with his wife Kathryn Olsafski (1917-1999).

Final Resting Place of Harry & Pearl Flemming
Block 4, Elmwood Cemetery
Charles & Odalie Horst's oldest daughter Pearl Horst (1884-1961) and her husband Harry Flemming (1878-1955) - my great-grandparents - are buried under a tree in Block 4.

Five of Harry & Pearl's 8 children are buried together in Block 29 along with their spouses and other family members, including:
  • daughter Pearl (1907-1986) and her husband William Barriger (1904-1979);
  • daughter Susie (1909-1989) and husband Huber O'Donnell (1905-1964), my grandparents;
  • son Harry (1913-1972) and his wife Fredericka Perry (1913-1967);
  • son Jack (1918-2008) and his wife Georgia Rice (1918-2005);
  • daughter Ann (1923-2012), her husband Aubrey Pilkerton (1925-1999), and their son Aubrey Pilkerton, Jr. (1949-1998);
  • granddaughter Mary Ann Selman (1944-2001).
Block 44 is the final resting place for Frank Selman (1920-2012), husband of Harry & Pearl's last surviving daughter. Also buried here are their daughter and son-in-law Kathie (1951-2011) and Alan Holmes (1936-2009). [Daughter Mary Ann is buried in Block 29 - see above]

Headstone for Elizabeth "Lizzie" McCaffrey Flemming
Block 7, Elmwood Cemetery
Buried in Block 7 are the first Flemmings to settle in Birmingham, another set of my great-great-grandparents, Charles Flemming (1854-1932) and Elizabeth McCaffrey (1858-1922). Four of their eleven children are buried along side them including:
  • daughter Imo Thompson (1886-1919);
  • daughter Lottie McMurray (1891-1937);
  • son Thomas (1896-1919);
  • (son Harry is buried in Block 29 - see above; son James is buried in Block __ - see below; daughter Sarah is buried in Block 32 - see below)
Also buried close-by in Block 7 is a sister of Elizabeth McCaffrey Flemming. Agnes McCaffrey O'Brien (1879-1919), along with her husband Edward O'Brien (1867-1922)

Another child of Charles and Elizabeth Flemming, son James (1889-1932) is buried in Block 42. Buried beside him is his wife Elizabeth Cahalan (1891-1972). Also buried here are their children: daughter Elizabeth (1914-1982); son Charles (1915-1932); daughter Catherine (1911-1985) and her husband Fred Caver (1905-1975); and son Frank (1924-2003) and his wife Sally Sherrill (1928-2010);

Charles & Elizabeth Flemming's youngest daughter Sarah (1893-1963) and her husband James Thomas (1891-1954) are buried in Block 32. Buried along side them is their only child Delore (1917-1999), along with her husband James Roper (1914-1993).

Buried in Block 10 is Charlotte McCaffrey Morris (1875-1925). Lottie is another sister of my great-great-grandmother Elizabeth McCaffrey Flemming. Buried with her are her husband William Morris (1868-1955), their son William (1903-1924) and daughter Charlotte Rainey (1906-1996). Infant son Joseph (1904-1904) was buried in an unmarked grave in Block 4.

Buried in Block 24 are a daughter-in-law and a son-in-law of Huber & Susie Flemming O'Donnell. Celeste Rafalsky O'Donnell (1950-2008) is buried alongside her parents and brother. In the same block but at a different location is buried my father William A. Powell, Jr. (1929-2009).

Block 22 is the site of the burial place of Karl McCaffrey (1889-1950), nephew of Elizabeth McCaffrey Flemming, and his wife Tennie Williams (1899-1978).

Integrating Elmwood: "Terry vs. Elmwood Cemetery"

 Elmwood Cemetery, a whites-only cemetery since its beginning, has been open to all races due to a lawsuit filed in federal district court in 1969 - "Terry vs. Elmwood Cemetery". On July 3, 1969, a soldier named Bill Terry, Jr. was killed in Vietnam, dying from a fragment wound to his chest, sustained in combat near Xuan Loc. Because of his honorable Army record he was given the traditional military escort back to his home in Birmingham, where his body was taken to Elmwood Cemetery to begin the internment process. When Terry's widow and mother attempted to buy a burial plot for his remain, they were refused by the cemetery manager. The reason? Bill Terry was black. Since other funeral arrangements were already in place, his widow and mother purchased a plot at the traditionally black cemetery of Shadow Lawn Memorial Park.

About this time, another African-American - Belvin Stout - was denied purchase of a burial plot at Elmwood and joined Terry's widow and mother in filing suit in federal district court against the cemetery. In making their decision for the plaintiffs the court struck down all of the cemetery's rules and regulations regarding discrimination based on race. Following the ruling, along with local and national support, Bill Terry's body was exhumed and reburied at Elmwood Cemetery on January 3, 1970. Twelve hundred marchers followed his body from Our Lady of Fatima Church to the cemetery. His remains now rests at Elmwood - just as he asked his family to do in case anything happened to him, just before leaving for Vietnam. [from" Integrating the City of the Dead: The Integration of Cemeteries and the Evolution of Property Law, 1900-1969",  Alabama Law Review, May 23, 2005, pages 1153-1166]

Saturday, March 9, 2013

FRIDAY'S FAMOUS - Omer Albert Fortier (1890-UNK), alias "Kid Doe"

New Orleans' "Kid Doe" - ever heard of him? If you were around the Big Easy in the early 1900's he was quite the "character", as one city newspaper described him. He was a notorious pickpocket, thief, and "one of the shrewdest crooks in the city", according to the police at the time. Omer Albert Fortier, alias "Kid Doe," is my 1st cousin, 3x removed. And since Friday's post topic is either 'Famous' or 'Forgotten', today's post will be more about my 'Infamous" relative, that I'm sure no one in the whole family has ever heard of before.

Omer Albert Fortier was born on January 10, 1890, in New Orleans, Louisiana. His parents were Omer Auguste Fortier (1855-1897) and Laura Octavia Eslava (1859-1910), she a native of Mobile, Alabama. [Omer Auguste was the 6th child and oldest son of my 3rd great grandparents Jacques Omer Fortier (1813-1867) and Augustine Melanie Laperle Degruey (1822-1872). He was the older brother of my great-great-grandmother Odalie Felice Fortier Horst (1857-1920).] Omer and Laura had six children - five girls and Omer, their 5th child, their only son. Omer's sisters were Pearl C. (1881-1911), Elodie Corrine (1883-1884), Elonie Leonia (1885-1949), Odille L. (1887-1956),  and Lucille (1893-1969).

Young Omer was born in a New Orleans very different from the one his father was born in before the Civil War. Omer's father was a clerk, according to numerous City Directories. He was also a businessman and at one point ran a gambling house at 100 Customhouse Street (now Iberville Street), in the city's "Red Light District".  It was here in April 1888, two years before his son was born, that Omer Auguste was shot in a dispute with his former 'partners'. He was only slightly wounded, sustaining a minor shoulder wound, and survived his injuries. But death was just a few years away for the elder Fortier - he died on April 13, 1897, at the age of 41. He left behind his wife Laura, 38, and five young children (daughter Elodie had died at the age of 1 in 1884). At the time of his death the surviving children ranged in age from their oldest Pearl, 16, to youngest Lucille, just 4 years old. Omer was 7 when his father died. [NOTE: Omer Auguste was just 12 years old when his own father, Jacques Omer, died.]

Life for Laura Fortier and her young family from this point on was no doubt very difficult, with the breadwinner of the family now gone. The 1900 U.S. Census reports that both Laura and daughter Pearl were worked as dressmakers. Ten years later the Census showed Laura still had all five children living at home with her - ages 28 to 17 - and that no one was employed. [It's interesting to note that Laura died in her hometown of Mobile, Alabama on May 22, 1910, even though she was listed as a resident of New Orleans in the 1910 Census, enumerated on May 25, 1910, three days after she died.]

from New Orleans Item;
Jan. 26, 1913; p.9
In 1917, when registering for the draft during WWI, Omer was 27 years old and was unemployed; he gave his profession, as his father had done, as 'clerk'. But it was several years before the draft when Omer's true profession was noted in the city's newspapers. In January 1913, at just 23 years of age, Omer was arrested by city police for working with an inmate - known pickpocket Edward Klein. It was discovered that Omer had arranged for a lawyer to bail Klein out of jail. A Times-Picayune newspaper article called Omer a 'Promoter', claiming he induced Klein and other criminals to come to New Orleans where he would help them in their crimes. In turn, "Kid Doe" would receive a portion of their take. For helping Klein, he was sentenced to a $20 fine and incarceration for 9 days.

December 1913 another news story reported that Omer Fortier was being arraigned in court. He had been arrested earlier in the day at the public funeral for a popular local politician, where he was working with a "gang" of pickpockets. He also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest from Dallas, Texas, where he was wanted for larceny.

from New Orleans States, July 12, 1917; page 4

No doubt, Omer continued his criminal behavior in the months and years to come. Finally, in June 1917 "Kid Doe" was arrested for shoplifting 12 silk ties, and the next month was arrested again for stealing a $25 dress. These crimes were each reported in the New Orleans State newspaper. In August the paper reported that Omer had joined 19 other convicted criminals when they were taken to Baton Rouge State Penitentiary.

from New Orleans Item;
August 31, 1917

Upon entering the prison, a description of Omer was listed in the record as follows:
     27.   5'9".  139 pounds.  Sallow Complextion.  Dark Brown Hair.  Brown Eyes.  Round face.   No Lobe on right ear.  Eagle Tattoo, right forearm.   Red Scar, lower left leg above ankle.   Small Brown Splotches, left upper arm.  No. 6 1/2 shoe.
Omer had been sentenced to 1 year minimum, 2 years maximum. He arrived August 31, 1917. Prison records show he escaped on October 8, 1918. He also escaped on February 28, 1919. He was released from prison on August 31, 1919, having served his full sentence.

Where he went after he was discharged is unknown. His name doesn't appear in any Censuses in the future. He must not have lived long enough to have a Social Security Number to be able to document his death from these records. Did he get married? Have children? Did he leave America, or maybe just change his name to escape his past? There's so much more to Kid Doe's story. Maybe someone out there knows something.