Great-Great Grandfather Robert Fenwick Lipsett

Robert Fenwick Lipsett (whose name I love, by the way) was born on January 23, 1866 in Manchester, Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, to Robert Bruce Lipsett and Christina McMaster. He was the fifth of eight children and the third son.

Robert married Sarah Sophia O’Brien (who went by her middle name) on January 18, 1893 in Manchester by a Methodist minister. Prior to marrying Sophia, Robert was a member of the Church of England, like his father (his mother was a Methodist).

Throughout his life, Robert’s occupation was pretty much the same: sailor/mariner/seaman. He was of good height (5’11”) and had blue eyes. I can almost picture what he may have looked like as he went about his hard work at sea. (Alas, I have no pictures of him!)

The children born to Robert and Sophia were mostly reviewed here, but below is a summary of them:

  • Eva Christina, born November 7, 1893
  • Beryl Sophia, born January 17, 1896
  • Leona Carolyn, born 1898, died 1900
  • William Croft, born August 29, 1900, died 1904
  • Claude Stanley, born December 18, 1902

Sometime between 1901 and 1902, the Lipsett family moved to Guysborough, where Claude was born. One by one, each child grew up and moved away, Claude being the last in 1923. With an empty nest, Robert and Sophia moved to Halifax, Halifax County, Nova Scotia, sometime between 1921 and 1932.

On July 23, 1932, Sophia died at home (110 Chiebrieto Road, Halifax) of chronic valvular [something?]. It doesn’t seem that Robert stayed in that home alone very long. By 1935, he was living with his daughter Eva Atwell, at least part of the time. There are some passenger lists that show him traveling from Halifax to Boston or the Port of Calais, Maine, so perhaps he went back and forth with the changing of the seasons. After all, his daughter Beryl still lived in Nova Scotia.

I was excited to find Robert listed on the 1940 Census as part of a three-generation household in Lynn, MA: himself, his daughter Eva & her husband Thomas F. Atwell, and his grandchildren Thomas II and Eugenie (with her husband George Edmund Pleau). The household became four generations in late 1941 when my father was born, and Robert rejoined the family from Nova Scotia in October. Eventually, Robert’s Nova Scotia home became Manchester again.

The end of Robert’s life was similar to so many in their advanced years. On November 21, 1847, he fell down the stairs at home in Manchester and suffered such trauma to his spinal cord that he became a paraplegic. He spent the rest of his life in St. Martha’s hospital in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, finally passing away on February 19, 1948. He was buried with his wife and two small children in Evergreen Cemetery, Aspen, Nova Scotia.

Military Appreciation: Grandfather George Edmund Pleau

For Military Appreciation Month, I thought I would highlight a few of my military ancestors and relatives. The first is my paternal grandfather, George Edmund Pleau. Yes, the son of George Edmund Pleau (of Rochester) and Bertha Colomy (of Lynn), who I’ve written about before.

By the time Word War II rolled around, not only were my grandfather’s parents dead, but my grandfather was married to Eugenie Beryl Atwell and had a baby son (my father). It seems that George’s young family was living with his in-laws, Thomas Francis Atwell I, Eva Christina (Lipsett) Atwell, and his younger brother-in-law, Thomas Francis Atwell II. A veteran of The Great War, the elder Thomas went back into active duty in the Navy at nearby Boston Harbor (more on that in a future post). Not long after turning eighteen in 1942, the younger Thomas followed his father’s footsteps into the Navy (more on him in the future as well).

For some reason, George did not go into the military right away. Was it because he was newly married? Was there an immediate need for him at home at the beginning of the war? Whatever the reason, he did eventually join the Navy before October 20, 1944 (the date of a picture of him in uniform). (I’m sure being in a family of Navy men and the proximity to Boston Harbor were factors.) While I have not yet found any records prior to his muster rolls on active duty, George must have gone to naval basic training, which I assume was in nearby Newport, Rhode Island. On Friday, March 2, 1945, George boarded the Evarts class destroyer escort, USS Dobler (Hull No. DE-48) in Boston Harbor. The weather was overcast and cold, but warming as the day went on, in spite of a brief snow squall. Perhaps his father-in-law was able to see him off or shake his hand; at the very least, I’m sure Thomas Atwell knew his son-in-law would be boarding the ship that would protect Allied submarines and other ships in the Atlantic.

George Edmund Pleau, October 20, 1944.  Author's collection.

George Edmund Pleau, October 20, 1944. Author’s collection.

I have found exactly three muster rolls for George’s time in the Navy: March 18, March 31, and June 30. During that time, his rank was Seaman, First Class (Gunner’s Mate), and also during that time, the war in Europe ended! (V-E Day being May 8.) I’m not sure exactly when his time on the Dobler concluded. According to Wikipedia, the Dobler went to New London, CT for training duty on July 18 and was finally decommissioned in New York City on September 11, 1945. I assume that one of these two dates was when George disembarked and went home, as the remainder of the war had already come to an end in August. I imagine that George probably saw minimal battle action, if any, considering the point of the war at which he was at sea.

Battle or no, my grandfather received the military honors due him at his death. I remember the American flag draped over his coffin, then carefully folded into a triangle and gently laid in my grandmother’s arms. A special military marker denotes his place of burial at Pine Grove Cemetery in Plot T, Section 3.

George Edmund Pleau Sr.  WWII plaque at Pine Grove Cemetery.  Author's collection.

George Edmund Pleau Sr. WWII plaque at Pine Grove Cemetery. Author’s collection.

Family Mystery: The Book in the Basement

I was fifteen years old in 1980 when my paternal grandfather died.  My family went up to Salem, MA, to stay with my grandmother a few days and take care of the proper arrangements.

While the grown-ups did their stuff, we kids liked to hang out in the basement.  We’d bang away on my grandfather’s piano or maybe look at some of my grandparents’ old books.  One day I was really bored and I perused each book one by one.  My grandmother’s old copy of “Little Women”, my aunt’s Annie Oakley books, and a slim dark blue volume without a title.  I pulled it out.  It was an old blue notebook with gold lettering on the front:  “Compositions.”

Compostions

I opened it up and found old newspaper clippings carefully pasted on each page.  And what were the clippings?  Every chapter of “All Quiet on the Western Front.”  Although I was never crazy about the story, the fact that someone in my family put this together intrigued me.  I supposed it must have been my grandfather’s, so I decided to keep it.

front page

Like so many other family mysteries, I never asked questions about it.  My grandmother lived with us for years, and I never asked her whose it was, or how it came to be.  (And she would know; she had related extensive genealogical to me that I later discovered was all true.)  I never asked my dad about it; who knows?  It could have been his.  I never asked my aunt, who was such a bookworm and likely would have read it.  And now they’re all gone.

So now I’m left with the book.  Some of the center pages of the notebook were carefully cut out, but pages were not removed from the story; it must have been done before the story was pasted in.  Whoever cut out the story cut out whatever newspaper it came from and whatever date it was printed.  There is no writing anywhere in the notebook.

Yet I still want to know:  who did it belong to?  Is there any way I can figure that out?  A couple of ideas popped into my head:

  • when was that style of composition notebook made?
  • what newspaper might have published the story and when?  I could do search on the phrase before the one instance of “(continued…” that I found.

If I get the answers to these questions, I can narrow down whose notebook it was.  If it was Baltimore, Maryland, then my imaginary story of my great-grandfather George Pleau sitting down with my grandfather would be true.  If it was the Lynn/Boston, Massachusetts area, it’s a whole other story.  Maybe my great-grandfather Thomas F. Atwell, who fought in World War I (albeit in the Navy) put it together.  Maybe the story was published much later and it was my dad who assembled it.   We’ll see what the story will end up being.

Great-Grandmother Bertha Elizabeth Colomy: Between Percy and George

Once Bertha returned from her escapade with Percy St. Clair in 1892, she settled back at home in Lynn, Massachusetts. She witnessed the dissolution of her parents’ marriage and eventually got a job as a stitcher with one of the many shoe manufacturers in town.

Despite the stain on her virtue, Bertha still managed to attract a man her own age who asked to marry her. Frederick Morton French was a dry goods salesman in Lynn, and he and Bertha were married on June 27, 1900 by Rev. Tillman B. Johnson (probably of First Baptist Church). I know nothing about the nature of their marriage; but in any case, they were divorced before 1910. I found Frederick in the 1910 Census living with his family with a marital status of “D”.

For some reason, I could not find Bertha in the Census (typical of the family, I think!). However, I don’t think she was very far away. In 1911 she lived at 32 Autumn Street, just down the road from her mother Jennie and stepfather James Starbard. On February 11, 1911 she was wed to James Spratt by Donald H. Gerrish (of St. Paul’s Methodist Society).

On December 28, 1915, Bertha’s mother Jennie passed away, just four years after James. Bertha apparently inherited the house at 63 Autumn Street, for James is listed at this address in the city directory in 1916.

63 Autumn Street, Lynn.  Author's collection.

63 Autumn Street, Lynn. Author’s collection.

By a very odd coincidence, December 28 brought death once more in 1919. James had contracted and died of lobar pneumonia. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Pine Grove Cemetery. Once again, Bertha was a single woman. I don’t know how long it was before she met George Edmund Pleau, but it was obviously no later than February 1921 (nine months before the birth of my grandfather).

There are little bits and pieces about Bertha that I’ve gathered from my grandfather and aunt (who never knew her but knew of her). From the 1930 Census, I know she still played piano since she gave lessons. In fact, my aunt claimed that the piano that my grandfather had actually belonged to Bertha first. Bertha obviously loved music, and perhaps that is what attracted her to George. There had been some opera glasses in the family that were supposed to belong to Bertha. Finally, Bertha had a talent for painting. Growing up, a beautiful life-like picture of a leopard hung in my grandparents’ basement. My grandfather claimed that he also had her painting of a lion, which got lost in one of his moves. Today, my sister has this beautiful painting in her living room.

Painting by Bertha Pleau.  Author's collection.

Painting by Bertha Pleau. Author’s collection.

And so that is Bertha’s life up until her third marriage. The remainder of her time can be seen  here. I think her mother Jennie is deserving of the next look at the family.

Great-Great Grandfather Frank L. Colomy: The Rest of His Life

After learning about the impact John and Mary Goodwin’s tumultuous marriage must have had on Frank and Jennie Colomy, and after daughter Bertha’s indiscretion with Percy St. Clair, it’s not surprising to learn that Frank and Jennie eventually separated and were divorced by 1900.

Frank moved in with his mother  Lucy and stepfather William and worked as a “collector” (whatever that was during that time).  This arrangement worked out well for Lucy, since William had passed away in June of 1901; it was probably good to have Frank to lean on.  Even Frank’s son Edwin and Edwin’s wife Mary lived with them for a couple of years. Of course as Lucy got older, she probably needed more care than Frank could give her on his own.  He hired divorcee Ida G. Rodrick as a housekeeper (and likely someone to look after Lucy) and Charles B. Blackmoore as a “hostler”.

Charles did not stay with Frank long, but Ida did.  After years of working for Frank, it’s apparent that love blossomed between them.  On June 26, 1918, Frank and Ida were married in Boston, but did not enjoy wedded bliss very long.  Not even one year later, on June 1, Ida died of a kidney disease and was buried on June 4 at Greenlawn Cemetery in Salem.  Frank was left with an aging Lucy and no one to care for her while he worked, so he had Lucy put in Danvers State Hospital on June 30.  As stated in a previous post, she passed away there on June 11, 1920.

Frank with oldest grandchild, Roy Colomy.  Courtesy Deb Thompson Colomy.

Frank with oldest grandchild, Roy Colomy. Courtesy Deb Thompson Colomy.

 
Despite working several types of jobs throughout his life, including many years as a retail grocer, Frank stayed in Lynn (even though I still haven’t found him on the 1920 and 1930 Censuses).  Judging by old photographs, it seems that he was close with his son Edwin.  He also participated in a couple of fraternal societies:  as a Grand Chief with the Knights of the Golden Eagle of Massachusetts and in the Knights of Pythias.  The church Frank attended was East Baptist Church in Lynn.  I’m sure that my grandfather, George Edmund Pleau, spent some time with Frank once he and Bertha moved back to Lynn; after all, Frank was the only grandparent alive during George’s lifetime.

Finally, Frank met his end on December 14, 1936 as he passed away in Lynn Hospital after a brief illness.  He was buried in Pine Hill Cemetery in Dover, New Hampshire, where his mother, grandparents and uncle John were laid to rest.