When life gets tough put on your (boxing) gloves – much needed advise for Charles W. Brewer

On Wednesday, April 21, 1915, Charles W Brewer kissed his wife goodbye and set off to work.  Just another day at the gold mill, except this day  changes the course of his and his little family’s life forever.

Charles was born August 28, 1866 in Linn or Chariton County, Missouri to Henry J and Narcissa S Cornett (Barbee) Brewer.  It was the second marriage for both of them.  Charles’ father was 50 when he was born, his mother was 43. Both Henry and Narcissa each had 6 children in their previous marriages.  The oldest children were grown and on their own by the time Charles was born; only one of Henry’s daughters, Milbery Susan Ann was still at home, she was 13.

The 1870 Census shows Henry, Narcissa and Charles living in close proximity to Charles’ half brothers and their families, William J,  Jessie H, and Francis M Brewer,  and William F. Barbee.  All are farmers in Chariton County, MO.

Henry passed away in March of 1885 when Charles was 18.  The following year, in February, Charles married the widowed Lucinda Jane “Lucy” Gee (Baise).  She had one son, William.

Charles W Brewer weds Lucinda Gee
Marriage Certificate for Charles and Lucinda Brewer

Blessings abounded with the birth of their children. Henry Otis,one year later in 1887; in 1892, Lillian May; and  in 1899, a son Charles Frederick (Fred). Charles worked as a coal miner, according to the 1900 Census.

In 1901 the family emigrated to Colorado and settled in Colorado Springs.  Charles found work in the gold mills.  He worked at the Portland Mill in 1905 and the Golden Cycle Mill in 1908.

Two informative and interesting articles regarding Golden Cycle Mill and it’s significance to the history of the area are:

Rocky Shockley’s  Exploring the lesser known Pikes Peak Region 

Golden Cycle Mill / Gold Hill Mesa

and the Gazette newspaper:

The $305,000,000 Pile

In 1909, Charles and Lucy purchased a house at 316 S. Institute Street.  Amazingly, this house, built in 1901, is still standing.  According to county records it has undergone at least 1 renovation in 1925 and 1 addition in 2005.   It is just blocks from Prospect Lake, a favorite fishing hole for their son, Otis.  I imagine he and Charles spent quality time there.

Charles W. Brewer's home as it looks 100 years later
316 S Institute in 2015

On Wednesday, April 21, 1915, maybe at work or maybe working around the house  Charles got a sliver in his hand.  Was it wood or metal?  Were there other injuries to go along with it?  We will never know.    With the sliver, deadly bacteria entered Charles bloodstream, setting off a septic infection.  Perhaps years of working at the mill had compromised his health, as indicated on his death certificate, he had suffered from Blight’s Disease (kidney aliments)for about 1 year.   Did this contribute to his inability to fight off the infection?

By May 7th, Charles realized he needed to see a doctor.  But penicillin was not discovered until 1928 and the prevailing medical treatments of the day were not able to save him.  At 8:05 P.M. on Tuesday, May 16, 1915, he passed away at his home.  He was 48 years old.

At his deathbed was his family:  Lucy – 51, Otis -28, Lillian, now married – 23 and Fred -15.  Fred’s 16th birthday was just 5 days away on the 21st.

Gravesite for Charles W Brewer -
Otis at Charles W Brewer’s Grave

After his death, Lucy and Fred returned to Missouri and she married Richard M. Buchanan in 1918.  The US entered World War I in April of 1917 and both Otis and Fred joined the army in 1918.  Otis served in France and Germany and returned to Colorado in 1919.  Fred contracted the Spanish Flu and died while at boot camp in West Virginia in October of 1918, he was 19 years old.  The family buried him next to Charles in Evergreen Cemetery.  Lillian remained in Colorado Springs with her husband Miles Bright.

My granddad, Otis, told the story of his father’s death in a matter of fact manner, “he got a sliver and died of blood poisoning” without too much more elaboration.  The date and emotional details remained in his heart.  Obtaining Charles’ death certificate from the State of Colorado and searching city directories and county records provided clues to the whereabouts and goings on of the family as well as pinpointing the exact date of his death.   I noticed on the tombstone his birth year is 1865 and the death certificate states 1866.  Another mystery to unravel!

What is the saying about “an ounce of prevention”?  One wonders if a simple pair of work gloves would have fostered happier memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No kinder, gentler man

There is not a kinder, gentler man than my grandfather, Henry Otis Brewer.  My siblings, cousins and I called him Granddad, his friends and wife called him Otis or Pops.  He was known for his humility and quiet demeanor.

Otis and Eleanor 1971

Born in Rothville, MO January 12, 1887, he was the first son of Charles W. Brewer and Lucinda/Lucy J. (Gee)(Baise) Brewer.  In 1900 the family, consisting of Charles, Lucy, Lucy’s son William Baise, Otis, Lillian, and little Fred was in Marceline, MO about 10 miles NE of Rothville.

Charles W Brewer Family about 1893, Fred was not born until 1899

Being from Colorado, I had no idea where these towns were; turns out they are in north central Missouri.  I would love to know what prompted them to move to Colorado in the early part of the century.  What a trip it would have been!  Did they travel by wagon or rail, in a group or alone?  More research!!  Good thing winter is coming, it will keep me busy!  Today, the drive of 709 miles, is 11-12 hours, straight through.

Rothville, Chartiton County, MO

By 1902, the family lived in Colorado Springs.  At some point, as the story goes, William Baise, who was 19 in 1902, left to seek his fortune in Alaska and was never heard from again.  Otis, on the other hand, stayed with his family and worked as a clerk at JW Musick and as a millman at Gold Cycle Mill alongside his carpenter Dad.  His father died in 1915 from blood poisoning from a splinter that he had received.  That story makes more sense to me now that I know he was a carpenter at a mill.  His mother moved back to MO with his younger brother Fred and remarried in 1916.  His sister Lillian married sometime between 1911 and 1912 and remained in Colorado Springs.

In 1918, Otis enlisted in the US Army and deployed to France for the final battles of WWI, he served in Company F, 314 Engineers, 89th Division and earned the rank of Corporal.  Before being discharged in June of 1919, he served with the occupying army in Pelm, Germany.

Pressed into Otis’ pocket Bible: what is left after 99 years! “Received this flower bud on Friday the 13th day of December 1918 at Pelm, Germany.

When Otis was in France, his younger brother Charles F (Fred) Brewer, enlisted in the Army.  While at training camp, he contracted the Spanish flu that was epidemic at the time and passed away on November 4, 1918, he was 19 years old.

Corporal H.O. Brewer about 1919

Otis returned to Colorado Springs after the war, he married Sarah/Sadie (Murphy) (Deeter) on July 6, 1920.  A son born in February 1923 lived for 5 days, they named him Charles F. Brewer, burying him at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.  My mother told me my grandparents suffered the loss of 4 other babies.  A son born July 6, 1927 did survive, my Dad, John Joseph Brewer.  And in 1931 they adopted an infant girl, my Aunt, Mary Katherine (Brewer) (Canfield) Meyer.

Shortly before the birth of John, Otis and Sadie bought the home they lived in for the rest of their lives at 1928 E Monument Drive in Colorado Springs, CO.  They struggled through the depression years, as did most Americans.  Otis worked as driver for various employers: El Paso County Highway/Roads, Mowry Creamery, Dern-Brady Company and as a chauffeur for Rainbow Contr. before retiring in about 1956.  Despite the struggles and hardships, Sadie and Otis were happy and raised a happy family.

H. Otis Brewer sometime in 1930’s

By the time my siblings and cousins came along, Otis spent his days working in the yard, maintaining a large vegetable garden, tinkering in his garage that had a pot belly stove and stacks and stacks of ‘treasures’ i.e., junk.  Buried in the junk was a midget racer of my Dad’s.  We loved to climb the stack to the racer, throw off the junk and sit in it.  He and his best friend, Bill Perkins, spent hours together, hanging out in that garage – an original ‘Man-Cave’.  The grandkids tried to hang out in there too; occasionally, we found the hidden stash of “girly magazines” when he was not around.  He kept Prince Albert tobacco cans full of nails, screws and other ‘guy’ things on his work bench.  The tobacco in those cans, he thoroughly enjoyed.

Granddad used Prince Albert tobacco – loved the way he smelled because of it.

Otis was an avid fisherman, passing that love and skill to his son and grandsons.  My cousins can out fish the best, and do!  Prospect Lake was his closest and most frequented spot, he walked to it from his house.  His passion for fishing was so great, he even braved going there alone with 3 or more grandchildren at a time.   He also fished 11 Mile Reservoir when he could get there, which, as I recall was often; ’11 Mile’ is part of our family vocabulary!

Prospect Lake with Pikes Peak in the back ground and fisherman, not Granddad, in the foreground!

Our family was fortunate to have many years with Otis before he died in 1976 at the age of 89.   We spent many many hours at his house as we were growing up.  We played cards and BIG checkers, watched Gunsmoke and Bonanza with him, wore his T-shirts as PJ’s, raided his garden and garage, climbed his trees and loved on him as much as we could.  He taught us unconditional acceptance and love, how to fish, play cards, checkers and garden.  His patience was remarkable, I can’t recall even once that he lost his temper or was short with us.

And so, my friends and family, your call to action is to cherish the memories of your granddad(s) and share their stories to keep them alive.   This blog is for that purpose….add your stories…..share the link with your kids and grandkids and count yourself blessed if H.O Brewer was your Granddad!

 

 

 

 

 

Every Quilt Tells a Story

An Heirloom is a physical object saved and treasured by our ancestors and passed down for generations.  We encounter many objects over a life time, saving some for pure enjoyment and others for sentimental reasons.  Packed away and revisited – they conjurer up the emotions that made them special in the first place.  Stories shared about the object give it life and meaning and become a means to share and document our lives with future generations.  Revisiting the treasured objects of the deceased brings them back to us for a moment.

Quilts are familiar family heirlooms.  They embody the love and devotion of the quilt maker.  Antique quilts that have survived 50-100 years have done so because they were special; beyond all the time spent stitching and quilting, they had more meaning than a bed cover.  Each one tells a story.  Why was it made and for whom?  Who has cared for it over the years?

I’d like to share the story of 3 heirloom quilts.

The Quake Quilt

The Quake Quilt, as I call it, is a quilt made by my Great Grandmother, Maude C. (Rumping) Rasmussen with the help of my Grandmother, Eleanor A. (Vennes) Owen probably in 1936.  It has 30 appliquéd butterflies outlined with an embroidered blanket stitch.  Several of the butterflies contain embroidered dates of earthquakes and aftershocks that took place in Helena, Montana in 1935.

Imagine Eleanor and Maude designing, choosing fabrics, sewing, embroidering and quilting this treasure, it must have been very satisfying and I am sure it deepened the bond between them. Eleanor and I crocheted a granny square afghan together in the 70’s; mailing yarn and completed squares to each other.  It was great fun and a great memory.

Maude was living in Helena at the time, this is all I have of her memories of the quakes.  They definitely made an impact on her life, memorialized in her quilting artwork.   What extent of damage did she experience?  The picture below in Eleanor’s scrapbook shows a friend’s house, leading me to believe Maude’s escaped extensive damage.  I am eager to research more of Maude’s experience in the 1935 Helena earthquakes.

From Eleanor’s scrapbook, Helena, MT earthquake 10/31/1935

The Quake Quilt was given to my sister, who graciously gave it to me 30 some years ago.  I displayed it for years, now it is safely packed away but treasured all the same.

The Lost/Found Quilt

In response to the September Genealogy Blog Party Lost&Found I am posting  this beautiful quilt.

This is an heirloom quilt that has lost its story, how sad is that?  I found this beautiful Double Wedding Ring quilt at an antique show in Denver this summer.   The information provided by the seller was obvious: “Double Wedding Ring, 30’s fabrics in rings with white centers, hand pieced and hand quilted, orange gingham binding, white back – pieced, very little fading, some small stains, scalloped perimeter”

It is clear to me it was well-loved and cared for.  It has me asking so many questions:  Who made it?  Was it made for a wedding or an anniversary?  The double wedding ring pattern is not the easiest to make, it requires a lot of time and mindfulness – love.  Was it made in Colorado where I bought it?  Why was it sold and who sold/gave it away?  With no documentation, can it ever find its way home again?

I really don’t know how to go about finding this quilt’s family, so for now, I have adopted it. I bought this on a day spent with my daughter-in-law, Jess, it will always remind me of our time together and the joy we shared ‘antiquing’.  And so its story continues….

The Lucy J Brewer Quilt

This is a quilt made by my Great Grandmother, Lucinda Jane (Gee) Brewer.  Is is an unfinished crazy quilt top approximately 36″x 45″. Lucinda (Lucy) died in 1930, I believe she made this exquisite little quilt around 1916.  She embroidered her initials above the center flower and her husband’s (Charles W. Brewer) below.  Charles died in 1915.

My father had this quilt for years, he framed and displayed it proudly.  Many years ago, knowing of my passion for quilts, he gave it to me.  Now, I proudly display it in my home, memorializing the love between by great grandparents.

Heirlooms document our history and our stories.

Hang on to the heirlooms, visit with and share them often.

What heirlooms do you have in your possession and what stories do they tell?   Won’t you share them with me? I’d love to hear from you.