Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grandpa Matthiesen

Here's the story as I know it of my mother's mother's father: my great-grandfather Lauritz Matthiesen (sometimes found spelled as Mathisen, or Matthisen. My mom always pronounced the name as "ma-TEE-sen").
I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of a gal from Denmark recently who graciously came to my home to translate a few old documents for me which allows me to put this story together. Many of the old documents are written with the old Gothic alphabet, but my friend was able to scan them and sent them to her dad in Denmark and he helped translate as well.
Lauritz was born in Hojrup, Denmark, June 22, 1852. He was born to farmer Soren Matthiesen and Ellen Juul Matthiesen. The following photo is scanned from a scanned copy of a photo of Lauritz, date unknown.

The next photo is from an old postcard-like photo that on the back is written in Danish "home of Lauritz Mathisen" (in Denmark) and it states it was sent by "sister Dorthe and family" and states in Danish "goodbye dear family". It is not stamped so it probably was enclosed in a letter when it was sent or it was hand carried to America. My mom told me her grandpa Matthiesen told her many times the story of his leaving home and walking across a big field to go to the city and turning many times to wave to his mother standing outside their home. He would tell that the last vision he had of his mother was a speck of white handkerchief she waved at him as he left and kept waving till he disappeared from her sight.

We have documents that tell that Lauritz was baptized in the Lutheran Church Feb 7th and vaccinated Oct 1853 (smallpox I assume since that was used since the 1700 and before).
He was confirmed April 28, 1867 the first Sunday after Easter that year. In the "church book" it is noted that he "does well for knowledge and behaviour." the next Sunday he did communion for the first time. These notes were made in Ribe, Dec 1867, as part of a document or "Book of Character" that all boys had. Lauritz kept his when he came to America and my mom passed it on to me.
My Danish friend's dad told us all children got a book of character as they were leaving school. It contained rules and regulations that were of importance to the person owning the book. If one disobeyed the rules or lost the book and did not report it to the police, you could be fined or go to jail for a few days on nothing but bread and water.
We have a document stating "at the requested time, his papers are not in order and he has been asked to leave immediately and return to (the town of )Ribe... per Varde police January 1872."
Lauritz did obtain a Royal Danish passport in April 1872. On it is stated that all military or civilian citizens had to offer assistance to a Danish passport holder. He apparently came to America in 1872, possibly with his brother "Mads" Matthisen who was born in 1848.
The history of Denmark is interesting. The Southern part of the country was at times part of Germany and at other times it was part of Denmark. The Matthiesens were from the Southern part and were Danish as my mom told me, but some of the documents and pictures are in German.
The next photo has no date or names on it but the photo frame in in German from the town of Tondren, in the area that was at times Danish and at other times German. This couple could be Lauritz's parents, or they might be Lauritz wife Meta's parents.

Lauritz settled in Chicago, Illinois, and became a naturalized citizen of the USA on October 26, 1880. He had to renounce allegiance to the Emperor of Germany at that time.
My mother told me many times that her Danish grandfather's first wife died giving birth to their child, and the infant died as well, so Lauritz buried them in the same casket. This always struck Mom as odd for some reason because she'd say, "imagine that!" as if this practice was odd. Maybe it was.
Anyway, Lauritz married again to Metta Maria Christina Thomsen in Chicago. I have an old Danish vaccination record from her in Denmark dated 1863. It is in German. I believe she was born in 1856. She was always called Meta, and she was a member of the South Jutland Settlers organization of Chicago for many years. (Apparently Denmark is known as Jutland, and the southern area that was fought over by Denmark and Germany is South Jutland.)
Meta bore Lauritz nine children but apparently only 6 made it to adulthood. This I found out from viewing online a census that listed Lauritz and Meta and 6 kids but indicated Meta had bore 9 children total with 6 living. (The US census used to ask personal questions!)
I have three documents from a Lutheran Church in Chicago "The Independent EV Luth. Bethania Church" telling of baptisms of children.
One is for Charlie Soren Mathisen born Sept 24, 1882, and baptised Dec 18, 1882. Another is for Ingebor Marie born Oct 14, 1883, and baptised Nov 1885. (I think that is an error because all 3 documents were signed by the same guy on July 31, 1885. Ingebor must've been baptised in Nov 1883 because they did infant baptism).
The third is for Christian Thomsen Mathisen born June 1885 and baptised July 1885.
Then I have a receipt for burial for a Christian T Matthisen dated Dec 18, 1888 at Oak Woods Cemetery on Sixty-Seventh street in Hyde park, Illinois. The receipt says six dollars was received from "Lawrence Matthisen" for interment of the remains of Christian T Matthisen.
(It's funny how "historical documents" change things. We overlook mistakes like that and history changes a bit. Anyway, I find it interesting.)

The above photo shows the Lauritz and Mette Matthisen family in Chicago in 1909. From top left is Louis born 1892, Celia Willimena born 1890, Johannes Jack born 1894, Ella Julia (my grandmother, mom's mom) born 1886, and Thomas Christian born 1889. Seated left to right are Meta, Charles Soren born 1882, and Lauritz.
The only ones I ever met were Uncle Charlie because he moved to LA and lived not far from Gram Powers. Uncle Charlie was a painter and did a lot of work for Dad and his father. In 1963 Mom took us kids on another trip to Arkansas and Uncle Charlie went as well to see his brother-in-law Grandpa Dennehy. I must tell the story sometime of "travels with Charlie." It was quite entertaining!
I also of course knew Ella, my grandmother. But mom has left me stories about almost all of her aunts and uncles, and I may write them here someday.
Below is Lauritz in 1926.

And the next photo is Lauritz in 1938.

Lauritz died in Chicago Sept 20, 1941. Just before the start of WWII for America.
I have more to tell about the Matthiesens but will save it for another day. I get long winded. But hope you've enjoyed the family history lesson. If any of my cousins dispute the info here, I will let you know about it.
What say you, Marilyn??

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Gram Powers

Tomorrow is Sept 3rd, our beloved "Gram's" birthday. Wendy also shares this birthday. Gram was born in 1896 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Here is a photo of her about 1 or 2 years old. The photo jacket has "Louisville, KY" printed on it.

Gram's parents left KY for LA about 1900. Gram always said she was 3 when they moved to Los Angeles. But she always talked of LA being "home" not Kentucky. One of her first LA memories she recalled was being up on her dad's shoulders during a parade in LA when the President of the USA went by. I think it was McKinley, but you can look it up if you need to know.
Gram was the first of 4 children. Here is a picture of Gram with her brother Eddie and her sister Elizabeth. Gram may have been 9 or 10 here, I am not sure. But I know Gram was 12 years older than her second sister Helen who is not in the photo.

Gram was about 16 or 17 in the next portrait and then you can see her wedding photo. She married J A Powers on May 6, 1914, in LA. She met him in or near MacArthur Park when groups of kids would hang out to meet each other. She told me that cops on horseback would come around at curfew at night and make them all leave the park. Gram lived with her folks apparently about that time in LA off Main street near where the San Antonio Winery is now. There is an old brewery too where her dad worked. The house still stands where she lived.

When Gram married JA, they lived with JA's mother in LA. One of JA's older brothers, of which he had 3, came to visit and put the make on Gram. It was brother George, a womanizing drunk. This, among other happenings, put Gram over the edge, and she packed her suitcase and went to her folks house. She knocked on the door and her mother answered but would not let her come inside! Her mother told her, "You married him; now go back and live with him!" So gram went back to grandpa but insisted they get a home of their own, so they did.

The above photo is Gram in 1932. She was very active in the Eastern Star ladies organization; Grandpa was a 32 degree Mason, and they led their lodge for a time.
Gram was fun loving and very smart and active in Republican politics, PTA when her kids were in school, and an active partner in grandpa's business.
It was always fun to be with her and she seemed to love spending time with us kids. The photo below was taken in LA's Chinatown sometime in the 1960's. The lady with us was Gram's friend Mae who we saw often. Mae's husband and grandpa both died about the same time in 1952 from mets from prostate cancer. Gram later told me that grandpa, Mae's husband and another friend all got treated by the same quack doctor for "prostate cancer" using some new experimental treatment, and they all died about the same time. All I know is he died too young at 59 or so.

Gram loved to tell me "Your children are not your Children..." which is taken from the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. She said God could take them home to Heaven any time. Gram had a baby daughter who died in the Spanish Influenza pandemic in 1919. She and Grandpa and my dad who was 2 lived in San Pedro at the time. The baby died and no one could come get her body because the undertaker parlours were too busy to go out to get children. Gram told me of having to ride in their car holding the dead baby while Grandpa drove to the undertakers. Gram also knew "the state" could take away your children if you neglected them. She told me she'd seen this happen too as a PTA officer.
Gram lived to be 96, saw family born and buried, married and divorced, happy and unhappy. She survived earthquakes which she dreaded, and saw much "progress", but she always seemed to be glad to be alive and upbeat when we visited.
Some people just stay with you always, even after they've left this visible world; Gram is one of those people for me... with me always!!