14. Agnes V. Tolle – “The Singing Harpist”

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WEEK 29: MUSICAL. The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “Musical.” I thought I would re-blog this post I did last year on Agnes Tolle, the only musician that I am aware of in our family.

Originally posted on Shaking The Tree:

This past week, I was enjoying browsing through Newspapers.com and GenealogyBank.com finding old newspaper articles about various ancestors. That is when I stumbled on to this distant cousin, and immediately knew that she would be this week’s post for the 52 Ancestors challenge.

Advertisement from The Springfield Republican, Springfield, MA. March 17, 1946.

Agnes V. Tolle is my 1st cousin, 2xs removed. Her mother, Agnes Donnelly, was a sister to my great, grandmother, Elizabeth Donnelly. Their eldest sister was Mary Ann Donnelly, who was the grandmother of comedienne, Imogene Coca. So, I had always known there was a little bit of showbiz on that branch of the family tree.

She was born on February 1, 1905 in Philadelphia, the daughter of Albert and Agnes (nee Donnelly) Tolle. Agnes began playing the harp at the age of seven.

“Well, my mother decided that I should play the harp, and after all, it’s an…

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WEEK 28: My 2nd cousin 1x removed found out long ago… it’s a long way down that holiday road

This week’s theme for the 52 Ancestors challenge is “Road Trip.” I would say that my second cousin, 1x removed, hands down, went on the most epic road trip.

Back in 1983, Edna was staying with the family of her daughter, Catherine, in Kansas. However, Edna wanted to go stay with her son, Normy, who lived in Phoenix. Fortunately, her niece, Ellen and her family, from Chicago were coming to visit. They were passing through on a road trip to California. So Edna, and her dog, Dinky, decided to ride along with Ellen’s family and have them drop her off in Phoenix.

However, it was a tragic road trip for both Edna and Dinky. Ellen’s husband, Clark, was a terrible driver who was always driving above the speed limit and arguing with Ellen. Along the way, they stopped at a campground to eat. Clark tied Dinky to the bumper of the car, while they ate. However, Clark forgot to untie poor Dinky when they drove away. Clark did not realize his mistake until a state trooper pulled him over to cite him with animal cruelty. Dinky’s little body was not seen and all that was left was the leash and collar still tied to the bumper. Sadly, Edna also passed away at some point after a stop at the Grand Canyon. Instead of calling for officials, Clark wrapped up Edna’s body in a tarp, and tied her to the roof of the car. They dropped off her body at Normy’s house, only to find that he was not home. Clark insisted that they leave her body on his doorstep, in the pouring rain, and continue on to California.

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Many of you are probably thinking that this story sounds very familiar. That is because my second cousin 1x removed is actually actress and comedienne, Imogene Coca, who played “Aunt Edna” in the iconic road trip movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Imogene Coca was born on November 18, 1908 at 3009 North 11th Street in Philadelphia, PA. Her parents were Joseph Fernandez Coca, an orchestra conductor and Sadie C. Brady, who was a magician’s assistant and vaudeville performer. Sadie’s mother, was Mary Ann Donnelly, who was a sister of my great grandmother, Elizabeth Donnelly.

Imogene was encouraged to become a performer and took singing, dancing and piano lessons. She had her first job as a dancer at the age 11 and also sang at the Dixie Theater in Manayunk, PA. At the age of 15, she moved to New York City to try and become a singer and dancer on Broadway. She spent much of the 30s, unknown, and performing in various shows and clubs in New York. She became a comedienne by accident one night while performing in a theater where the heat did not work. She borrowed a coat from another performer in the show. She was only trying to keep warm, and began jumping up and down, dancing and performing a mock strip tease while dressed in the rather larger, woolen overcoat. The director thought it was funny and incorporated into the act. Critics also found it funny, which encouraged Imogene to continue to develop her comedy skills.

In the fall of 1950, Imogene was paired with performer Sid Caesar to star in Your Show of Shows. This was the show she was best known for. Imogene won a Best Actress Emmy for her work in 1951. The show lasted until 1954 when she and Caesar left the show to pursue individual careers. Imogene continued to work on several short-lived TV shows and many guest appearances.

Imogene was first married to music arranger, Robert Burton on January 7, 1935. They were married for 20 years, until he died in 1955. On October 17, 1960, she married actor, King Donovan.

On a foggy New Year’s Eve 1973, Imogene and her husband, King Donovan, were driving to their theater performance in Florida when her husband accidently ran a red light and crashed their car. Imogene had extensive facial injuries because the rear view mirror ended up entered her right eye and also smashed her cheekbone. She lost sight in her eye and had to undergo plastic surgery to repair the damage to her face. She also developed a huge fear of being in automobiles after that accident. This proved to be a challenge for her while filming Vacation, since most of her scenes were filmed inside a car.

Imogene had initially turned down the part of Aunt Edna, because she did not think she could play someone that mean. Eventually, did accept the part. However, even during filming, Imogene, who was actually a gentle and shy person, was concerned that she was being too mean to her fellow cast members.

During the filming of Vacation, Imogene also suffered a mild stroke. She had shot a scene during the morning. However, in the afternoon, she could not remember anything they had did. So, she went to the hospital. After being released, her husband, King Donovan, helped her re-learn her lines and soon she was back on set and finished the movie.

Imogene went on making guest appearances on several TV shows and on Broadway. In 1988, she received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series for her role as the mother of character, Agnes DiPesto, in the TV series, Moonlighting.

Imogene died on June 2, 2001 in Westhaven, Connecticut at the age of 92 after suffering from Alzheimer’s. She had requested that there would be no funeral service and her remains were cremated. She had no children. However, many performers have said that she was a huge influence on their own careers. The television series, Your Show of Shows will always be considered a television classic.

WEEK 27: Daniel Davis – a fighter for Independence

This past weekend, we celebrated Independence Day. My husband and I both have ancestors that served the Continental Army and fought for our America’s independence. My 5th great grandfather, Johannes Serfass, was among these. But for this week’s 52 Ancestor Challenge, I will focus on my husband’s 4th great grandfather, Daniel Davis.

Daniel Davis was born December 25, 1744 near Reading, Pennsylvania. Daniel served as a private in the Company of Captain Charles Gobin of the Sixth Battalion of the Berks County Militia.*  An affadavit, filed many tears later, by Daniel’s son, Israel,  recounted that Daniel had told stories about fighting at the Battle of Brandywine.

Daniel married Sarah Albright, and had 17 children. The Davis family moved from Pennsylvania, to Carroll County, Ohio. Daniel died on November 16, 1846 near Dayton, Ohio at the age of 101.

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*Page 237, Volume 5, Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series.

WEEK 26: Peter Hawk – Not even halfway

The theme for Week 26 of the 52 Ancestors challenge is “Halfway.” I decided to write about my 4th great grandfather, Peter Hawk, since I’ve had to dig a little deeper on him recently when someone who was a close DNA match contacted me. So far, it looks like our connection is from our Hawk family tree. I feel like I’ve been ignoring my Hawk ancestors, so my research on them is not even “halfway.”

Peter Hawk was born May 1, 1791 in Polk Township, what is now Monroe County, Pennsylvania. His parents were Conrad and Elizabeth (Borger) Hawk. Peter married Elizabeth Eckhart some time before 1814. Peter and Elizabeth had at least 5 children: William, Maria, Elizabeth, Adam and Peter.

Peter was only around 33 years old when he died in 1824. He left behind his wife and young children. He is buried in the cemetery at St. Matthews Church in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania.

This is about all I know about my Hawk ancestors. Now that I have been corresponding with a Hawk “cousin,” I hope to learn more about them.

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WEEK 25: The Old Homestead – Sparta, Wisconsin

This week’s 52 Ancestors‘ theme is “The Old Homestead.”

Sometime around the early 1960s, Eldon and Harriet Dutton purchased a large Queen Anne-style Victorian home located on the corner of Franklin and Belton Streets in Sparta, Wisconsin for themselves and their 10 children. Over the years, the Dutton family celebrated graduations, weddings and the birth of grandchildren in that house.

Sparta

After the children were grown, and had families of their own, Eldon and Harriet sold the home. Decades later the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, renovated and was turned into a bed and breakfast.

A few years ago, Eldon and Harriet’s three daughters decided to spend a night in their old home. They even stayed in their old rooms.

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WEEK 24 – Dad’s Arrowheads

My Dad had a small collection of arrowheads that he had since he was a boy. I would make him show them to me and loved to listen as he explained that Indians had actually carved the small rocks into points, tie them on branches, and used them as their arrows and spears for hunting. It amazed me that I was touching something that someone had made hundreds of years ago. Earlier this year, my Dad was moved to a nursing home for patients with Alzheimer’s. So, when my mom asked if I wanted my Dad’s arrowheads, i immediately said, “yes.” They are a precious heirloom to me, not only for the historical value, but also for the memories of listening to my Dad explain what they were, and how he had found them. They also fit in nicely with the theme of this week’s 52 Ancestors challenge is “heirloom.”

My Dad grew up in the city. He was raised with his older brother and younger sister in northwest Philadelphia. One of the things he always looked forward to every summer, was escaping the city and traveling north with his family to visit cousins of his mother in Laceyville, Pennsylvania. My Dad had many fond memories of visiting the O’Mara farm, which used to belong to his great-aunt, Mary O’Mara and her husband, John and passed down to their children.

My Dad (in the middle) with his Uncle Albert, cousin Al, Jr., his mother, Emma and his brother, Daniel.

My Dad (in the middle) with his Uncle Albert, cousin Al, Jr., his mother, Emma and his brother, Daniel, on one of the family trips to the O’Mara farm in Laceyville, PA.

My Uncle Dan and his catch.

My Uncle Dan and his catch.

Dad riding a pony at the O'Mara farm in Laceyville, PA.

Dad riding a pony at the O’Mara farm in Laceyville, PA.

My Dad loved roaming the wide open fields with his brother, Daniel and fishing in the nearby pond. And my Dad also got to ride a pony, something that inspired him to get his own horse when he became an adult.

Nearby, was a scenic overlook known as the Wyalusing Rocks. The rocks are almost 500 feet above the Susquehanna River. The rocks were also known as the “prayer rocks” and were used by the Indians as a signaling point. Some of the tribes that had lived in the area were the Susquehannock and then later the Tuscarora, which was a tribe of the Iroquois Indians. My grandfather, who was quite the shutterbug, liked to go there so he could capture some of the scenery on film. My dad like to explore the rocks and the Indian path.

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It was here that my Dad found his arrowheads. No doubt they were left behind by someone who had been standing as a lookout hundreds of years before. Dad came home with 5 arrowheads on that trip. My grandfather built him a shadowbox frame and lined it with green felt, and they glued the arrowheads on that.

hope my Dad would be happy knowing that his childhood treasures will be with me. I intend to get them into a new frame and display them on the bookshelf we have in our family room.

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WEEK 23: Mom and Dad – their wedding photo

The theme for week 23 of the 52 Ancestor Challenge is “wedding.” These days, my parents are in my every thought. My Dad is suffering from late stages of Alzheimers, and may not be with us much longer. So, I have decided to honor both him and my mom with in this week’s post.

There was a place in Philadelphia back in the 1950s called ‘Al’s Riding Academy.” It was a place near Fairmont Park, where Philadelphia residents could own and board their horses. A young woman named Lorraine, boarded  her bay gelding named ‘Krimpet” at Al’s.  He was named after the popular snack cake, “Butterscotch Krimpets” produced by local bakery, TastyKake, which is where Lorraine had been employed. In a stall next to Kandy, was a big pinto gelding named “Davy Crockett.” Davy was owned by a young man named Jim, who obviously was a fan of the latest blockbuster of the day. Not only did Kandy and Davy become good friends, but their owners did as well.

Jim and Lorraine eventually married on June 20, 1959 at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia. Many of their friends from Al’s Riding Academy were guests at the wedding, including their friend, Gene O’Neill, who served as the best man.

Jim and Lorraine had two children, and moved to Lehighton, PA where they bought a small farm and raised Arabian horses. The farm was sold several years ago, and is no longer standing. However, Davy Crockett is still buried there, at the top of the hill under the apple tree, where he used to hang out and eat apples to his heart’s content.

WEEK 22 – Eldon Dutton and the commencement of generations.

I am behind on my 52 Ancestors post, because I was out of town to attend a high school graduation. Ironically, the theme for last week is “Commencement.”

However, I was stuck on who to write about as far as “commencement.” So, I decided to search through Ancestry’s U.S. School Yearbooks collection to find some inspiration. I discovered  the yearbook of my husband’s grandfather, Eldon W. Dutton.

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Eldon was part of the 1939 graduating class of Sparta High School in Wisconsin. His profile said that his nickname was “Red” and that he was a participant in “Jefferson 1″ and “Oratory 2.”

Eldon enlisted in the Navy on April 2, 1940. He was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1944, and survived. I will save that story for another day. He went on to serve in the Navy throughout  World War II. After his discharge, Eldon returned to Sparta and settled on a farm with his wife, Harriet and started a family of 10 children.

What immediately struck me when i first opened up the page of Eldon’s yearbook photo, was that I could tell who he was, even without looking at his name. I could swear that I was looking at the photo of my stepson.

This immediately prompted me to dig up a photo of another commencement taken only last year to compare the resemblance. It is also a photo deemed to be a classic for future generations, not only because it includes 3 generations (my husband, his son and his father), but also for my father-in-law’s exceptional photo bombing skills.

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Francis Vincent Logue who served in World War I. Original photo privately held by Kathy Ender, Hilton Head, SC. Scanned and emailed to Patricia A. Rohn.

WEEK 21: Francis Vincent Logue – World War I

Memorial Day was this past week, so this week’s 52 Ancestor’s theme is “Military.”

I had recently discovered that my grand uncle, Francis Vincent Logue, served during World War I. He was the eldest child of Michael and Elizabeth (Donnelly) Logue, born on September 9, 1894 in Philadelphia, PA. He was baptized at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church on September 23, 1894. His godparents were his father’s siblings, Bernard and Mary Logue.

In 1917, the United States had entered World War I. However, at the time, the United States Army was small compared with their European counterparts. So the Selective Draft Act of 1917 was initiated, authorizing the government to draft young men to raise an army to go fight in Europe. All males between the ages of 21-30 were required to register for military service.

Francis was 22 years old at this time, and registered. At the time, he was employed at Midvale Steel in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia as a stock accountant.

005270445_04829He was assigned to the 112 Signal Corps, 37th Division and sent to France. His aunt, Catherine “Kate” Logue, was also in France serving with the Army Nursing Corp. The two had never seen each other while serving in France. However, they were very close and in some cases in the same area. One time, Francis had come down with influenza while in Nantes, France and was sent to a hospital ward there. His Aunt Kate was working in the same hospital, and was unaware that he was there until after his discharge.

World War I ended on November 11, 1918. Francis sailed home on the George Washington in March of 1919. He was honorably discharged on April 11, 1919. He went back to live with his parents at their home on Wentz Street in Philadelphia, PA. He got a job as a clerk at the furniture warehouse that his father was also working at.

In 1928, he married Marie R. Collins. They had one child (who is still living). Francis and Marie lived for a short time on Walnut Street, but then eventually they and their child moved back with his mother on Wentz Street. His health was poor since he returned from the war. He had chronic asthma, blamed on the use of mustard gas in the war.

Francis died on March 19, 1941 at his mother’s home from bronchial asthma. He was aged 46. He is buried in the Philadelphia National Cemetery.

WEEK 20: Margaret DeGarmo – Black Sheep Mama

I’ve been busy traveling and visiting with family this month which has put me a little behind on my 52 Ancestors posts. So I’m attempting to get caught up.

This theme for Week 20 was “Black Sheep”. I had already blogged about the most prominent “black sheep” in my husband’s family, James Peter Larry. But how did he get that way? This week, I take a look at his parents, specifically his mother, to see if bad blood really runs through the family.

James’ mother was Margaret “Peggy” DeGarmo. She was born around 1806 to Samuel DeGarmo and Elizabeth Grimes, and grew up in Randolph, Virginia.

It appears that Peggy had 3 children out of wedlock in her early 20s, which must have been scandalous in its day. They were Cushing DeGarmo, born 1825; Angeline DeGarmo, born 1833;  and Jacob DeGarmo, born 1836. All 3 children were born in Virginia.

At some point between 1836 and 1838, Peggy and her 3 children moved to Perry County, Ohio. She had a brief relationship with Peter O’Leary, and had one child; James Peter Larry. It is not known if she had ever married Peter O’Leary. But there’s a story that he ended up being incarcerated for murder. Again, this is a story not proven.

Finally, Peggy settled down with Thomas Downey. They married in 1853 in Perry County, Ohio. However, Thomas and Peggy had about 6 children born before they were married: Elizabeth, born 1840; Margaret, born 1841; Prudence, born 1843; Mary, born 1845; Eli, born 1846; and John, born 1850.

Thomas Downey died around 1858 in Ohio. After his death, Peggy moved to Vernon County, Wisconsin with most of her children. She could be found in the 1870 Census living near her children: Eli, Prudence and Elizabeth, who had all married and had children of their own. There were 2 grandchildren living with her, Isaac and Sarah DeGarmo. They were the children of her eldest son, Cushing DeGarmo, who was killed in the Civil War.

Two years later, Peggy DeGarmo Downey, mother of 10, died in Liberty, Wisconsin.