Friday, May 27, 2016

Sells Out Laundry Business

Westerly Public Library Scrapbook #3, 2016
kindly located by Barbara Fallon

Sells Out Laundry Business
March 22, 1927

My family business has has many names (Westerly Laundry, Westerly Steam Laundry, Victor Laundry, Victor Cleansing Company) over the operating years from 1890 until my grandmother sold it in the early 1970s. 

This small newspaper article from the archive newspaper scrapbooks gives me additional evidence for my timeline that I have been building for several years. Some of the gaps occur because I have had to track my great grandfather, Charles E. Stewart and his sons, my grandfather, Evans Stewart and my great uncle Dudley Wheeler Stewart as to where they lived through three New England States (Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island). 

Great uncle Dudley W. Stewart (1891-1943) wasn't talked about much in my family. My mother called him the Black Sheep of her father's family and quite honestly, I have no real hard evidence that he did anything to deserve this label.  A veteran of World War I, Dudley served for Rhode Island, worked hard all his life, married and had no children. It has been up to me to find out about his life and tell his story. He died in 1943 before I was born and it was his gravestone that made me ask about him. 

In this article, I have learned that the laundry business in Westerly, RI was "sold out" to Dudley in 1926. I learned that my great grandfather was at this time only associated with his son, my grandfather and that there was an obvious split in how my great grandfather felt about his sons. I was suspicious of this when I tracked my great grandparents from their marriage in Massachusetts back to Connecticut where in 1890 the Westerly Laundry was founded. Since we have no 1890 federal census to go by, I turned to the first record I could find, the 1892 Westerly, RI City Directory. 

The Genealogical and Biographical Record (published in 1905) gives a biography of my Stewart family right down to great grandpa Charlie and it reads as if he wrote the section himself. It was a miracle find for me and made me keep going with this research.

This article (probably from The Westerly Sun) states that the business was started 36 years prior to the writing which confirms that 1890 is the correct date. This pinpoints the date where Dudley is on his own as proprietor or manager and fits into the migration pattern of my grandfather and great grandfather to the Cranston and Providence, Rhode Island area.

Dudley's marriage to a local woman is only recorded in my family Bible and may be part of the "black sheep" attitude. She is not buried with him but she is buried with her family in North Stonington, CT where she lived many years after him. I never met her and she didn't die until 1982. 

I am still stuck trying to find the 1930 census for Dudley and Stella. The 1940 census tells me that they lived in the "same house" in 1935 on a farm in North Stonington. Just writing this blog post made me realize that they might have moved in with her family. (update! her father is widowed and living alone)

There is always more research to do, isn't there? Thank you Barbara for finding this great article. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Remembering Fanny

Feeling Sentimental About Fanny
(Repost from Granite in my Blood)

Fanny White was the lady who worked cleaning my grandmother's large home when I was a little girl. Her name was Mrs. Fanny White and she was black. 

She probably came to clean twice a month. I think she took the bus and as part of the agreement, my grandmother fed her a hot lunch. I remember that she liked Chicken a la King. I have no idea why I remember that.

Now, you can imagine that I had a lot of questions. To a small white girl, Fanny's color and her name did not seem to work out as sensible! The next door neighbors to my grandmother, were named Brown and they were white. That caused confusion in my child's mind. 

I can see Fanny sitting at the dining room table, newspapers spread all around, polishing the silver tea service. The polish was pink. However, all I can see in my mind, is Fanny's hands smeared with the pink goo. I wish I could remember what she looked like. If the weather was bad, my grandmother would drive her home. I used the RI City Directories to find her and I am comfortable saying that this is her because of the miracle of technology. After finding this in the Providence City directory (1952) for 656 Hope St. I compared the house (which I can see with the street view) and see the church view across the street. I went with them so I know this is the right place.

The church sticks in my mind because it resembles the one near my grandparent's home where my parent's were married. Today it is the Episcopal Diocese of RI. According to the city directory, notice that The Church of the Redeemer doesn't have a telephone and neither does Fanny. The home of John Russell was the nearest one with a phone (which is why I included it). I can't imagine not having a telephone but my mother told me that we did not have one until just after I was born.

I can still hear my grandmother laugh when I asked after taking her home, "Does Fanny have a husband and kids?" Since neither my grandmother nor my mother worked, you can see why I wondered this. My grandmother told me she did  have a husband but her children were grownups. So, she must have been near the age of my grandmother but I don't know anything else about her. She was just a great person.

When I got my first iRobot cleaning robot, I named her Fannie after this delightful lady of my past. While she is cleaning I talk to her just as I must have done with the real Fanny. I can still hear my grandmother telling me not to bother her while she was working so to keep her memory alive, I promise to let her alone and do her work. She's a big help. My grandsons love to play with my cleaning robot.

Remembering Mrs. Fanny White. I hope she doesn't mind having a robot named after her.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Special Edition: John Whit Davis Dies at 91

Photo by Midge Frazel, 2008-20016
The Last of the Yankee Farmers

On 6 May 2016, the last of the Yankee Farmers passed away. I met Whit at the 2008 Stanton Reunion, held under a tent at the Stanton-Davis Homestead in Pawcatuck, CT. 

Whit was full of wit. Charming, spry and full of stories, his life was one of farming and conserving farm land.

I bought his father's book and Whit signed it for me while I took his photo. Just moments before, I visited the cemetery on the property and took several photos before the meeting. On the way out, I noticed that Whit's gravestone was already in place and was already corroded with lichen. His first wife, Hazel, was buried next to the stone. 

During our visit inside the house, which was being cataloged and sorted, I took several photos of the family photos on the wall and I can attest that my cousin Fred Burdick, has scanned those photos and put them in his family tree so that I can add them to mine.  

In this cemetery is buried Cuff STANTON, son of Venture SMITH who died at 92, so Whit will not be the oldest person buried there. 

Whit was my 8th cousin. He will be missed by his Stanton and Davis family.