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!

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday – Sarah (Sadie) Helen Murphy

September 18th is the 124th anniversary of my paternal grandmother’s birthday.  Sarah Helen Murphy was born in Aspen, Colorado in 1893, the 3rd of 6 living children born to John Joseph Murphy (about 1861 – 6/23/16) and Maria (pronounced Mariah) (Moore) Murphy (about 1868 to 5/15/1908)

According to the Aspen Historical Society: by 1893, Aspen was a booming silver town with 12,000 people, six newspapers, two railroads, four schools, three banks, electric lights, a modern hospital, two theaters, an opera house, and a very small brothel district. In 1893 the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act demonetized silver and marked Aspen’s decline as a mining town.

The family lived in Victor, CO for a short time.  ‘The discovery of gold in Victor and Cripple Creek, in the late 19th century  produced the second largest gold mining district in the country.  In August of 1899, a five-hour fire destroyed the entire business district. The town had about 18,000 residents at the time.’ [Wikipedia]  Sadie was almost 6 and she remembers standing on the hill and watching the town burn.

Sadie’s mother and the child died in childbirth on May 15, 1908 in Roswell, CO (now incorporated into Colorado Springs).  As the oldest daughter, Sadie took over the cooking and caring for her 2 younger sisters and brother.  She was 14 years old.  The 1910 Census shows the family living in Roswell, Colorado; all the children, but Sadie were attending school and her father worked for the railroad.

Life did not get any easier for the family when John passed away in  June of 1916.  Sadie was just 22 years old.  She married Perry Deeter in October of 1916 – he was 20 years her senior.  Perry died in the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.

Sadie Murphy (end) and ? ? 1918

On July 6, 1920 Sadie married my grandfather, Henry Otis Brewer in Pueblo, CO. They settled at 1928 E Monument Street in Colorado Springs and after several miscarriages/still births, my father was born in 1927.  In 1931 Sadie and Otis adopted a baby girl.   They struggled raising their family during the depression years but managed to keep food on the table and the mortgage and property taxes paid.

Sadie was a devout Catholic who walked to church almost every Sunday and sent her children to St Mary’s Catholic school.  She was a member of the Catholic Daughter’s of America, the VFW Ladies Auxiliary Post 101 Colorado Springs, CO; a member and officer of the Knob Hill Community Club and prominent in 4H work.

She passed away of heart failure December 14, 1968 as she sat in her chair reading her prayer-book and saying her nightly prayers.  She was 75 years old.

My brothers and sister and I were fortunate to have lived close by and spent a lot of time with Sadie and Otis.  I am very thankful for that.

My grandmother kept all of her photos loose and in the bottom storage space under the fold down couch.  We used to go through them on evenings when we spent the night.  I do not know what happened to all those pictures after my grandfather died and the house sold.  If I had a few, I would show them to you.

What questions do you wish you would have asked your grandparents?  I wish I knew how my grandparents met.