About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

U.S. Postmasters, Part 6 - Early Arizona, Apache County

My husband (Lynn Alden - Butch - Hibben) comes from early Arizona (and Utah) stock. His mother's family consisted of pioneer Mormons, but his father's family (non-Mormons) also settled Arizona in the early years. His father, Lynn Maxwell Hibben, was born on the Navajo reservation at Hubbell Trading Post where the elder Lynn's grandfather was employed. Known as "Dad Hibben(s)" by the locals, Harry Cobb Hibben was meticulous with the books he managed in the Winslow, Arizona location. He was highly respected by his boss, who seemed to consider him more a father than an employee (Martha Blue, Indian Trader: The Life and Times of J. L. Hubbell, Walnut, CA: Kiva Publishing, Inc., 2000, p. 253). Harry had brought with him the training from his trade as County Recorder from his days in Flagstaff and ended his life selling Indian curios in Hollywood, California (still under the employ of Hubbell) (George C. Hibben, ". . .60 Poles to a Sugar Tree and Thence to the Beginning": A Social History of the Pioneer Hibben Family 1730 to the Early 1900s, Charlestown, MA: Acme Bookbinding, 2003, pp. 318-319). 

Let's look at the boss: Lorenzo Hubbell, Jr. was the son of the entrepreneur, J. L. (Juan - AKA John - Lorenzo) Hubbell. Lorenzo, also an entrepreneur, handled much of his father's establishment in Ganado, Arizona. But the area that the trading post serviced stretched almost to Holbrook and Winslow, Arizona, and Gallup, New Mexico. In the middle of the Navajo reservation sits the Hopi reservation; Hubbell provided all with goods and services, running freight and mail to the nearby (to us, if not to them) communities (Indian Trader, pp. xi-xv).

With this history as a spring-board, let us see what the United States government recognized as the postal
 service area.

On 15 February 1883, Charles Hubbell was appointed postmaster of the Ganado "Post Office"; it likely was not what we would consider the regulation postal facility, but in the early days of Arizona territory, many buildings were nothing more than tents. Later Hubbell buildings were far more permanent in appearance and purpose (Indian Trader, pp. 43-44). It appears that the Post Office (at least as an official location) was discontinued shortly after that, only to be reestablished on 27 October 1884 with Clinton Cotton as Postmaster. A year later, the mail was rerouted to Keams Canyon. On 18 January 1895, John L. Hubbell (this would be Juan Lorenzo, Sr.) was named Postmaster at the Ganado location. The position was assumed by Charles H. Bierkemper on 10 October 1908. Who were these people and the places referenced?

Charles (AKA Charlie) Hubbell (1856-1919) was the brother of J. L. Hubbell (Indian Trader, pp.xiv-xv) and worked with him in their efforts to establish a successful business with the Native Americans (p. 43). Unfortunately, Charlie did not share his brother's opinion of alcohol. J. L. firmly opposed the use of liquor, stating that it would render a man unable to think effectively (Indian Trader, p.87). It is possible that Charlie's love of booze led to the discontinuation of the Post Office at Ganado so soon after it was established. That is just speculation. It is clear that J. L. relegated his brother to the locations as far from Ganado as possible and suspected that such action was due to his drinking (p. 118).

Clinton (AKA C. N.) Cotton was a friend of J. L. and on 23 September 1884, bought a half-interest in the Trading Post at Ganado. With the new rail line now serving that area of Arizona, a telegraph was a necessity and C. N. arrived a couple of years earlier to run it. He also developed a mail order business for the Trading Post, shipping out Navajo blankets and other items. Perhaps that is why, in October, Cotton took over as the Ganado Postmaster. In 1885, Cotton received a license to trade in Chinle, a short piece north of Ganado (Indian Trader, p. xi). That may be the reason that the Ganado location discontinued service. It's hard to tell for certain as many records are unclear, according to the author of Indian Trader (pp. 82-83).

Keams Canyon is located just inside the Hopi reservation boundary that, as mentioned earlier, was contained in the Navajo reservation (Indian Trader, p. xi). Thomas Keam, owner of the Keams Canyon Trading Post, eventually sold it to Hubbell in 1902. It was there that Lorenzo Hubbell, J. L.'s son and eventual employer of Harry Cobb Hibben, "cut his teeth" on the trading business.

J. L. Hubbell became the Postmaster of Ganado in 1895. Why would this entrepreneur, who has established trading posts all over the territory, employing a number of qualified individuals, elect to take over this responsibility? 1895 was the year in which J. L. Hubbell was focused on building up the Ganado location. Its geographic position made it a perfect "crossroads" for trade going from Gallup to the Indian reservations as well as from Holbrook to those same destinations. And many goods, as mentioned earlier, were shipped out from Ganado to the east and other areas, as well. Also, at this point, the 42-year-old J. L. may have been interested in being more established in one location. He apparently stayed in that role until 1908 (he died in 1930).

The last listed Postmaster for Ganado is Charles H. Bierkemper, who took over on 10 October 1908. Bierkemper actually was a young seminary graduate who showed up at Ganado in 1901 to establish the Ganado Presbyterian Mission on land donated by  Hubbell, arranged with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Bierkemper, originally from Pennsylvania, had been recently married and Hubbell provided him with lodging while the chapel and residence were under construction. J. L. apparently took to the young pastor and their relationship continued for ten years, after which the now-seasoned minister was transferred elsewhere. That means that his role as Postmaster was maintained for only about three years. It is clear that he was well-ensconced in the life of the Southwest during his stay in Ganado (Indian Trader, pp. 164-165, 200).

Who took over the Postmaster duties after Bierkemper left in 1911? The records are not clear on this. The microfilms of Postmasters do not always totally clarify all time periods, but they give another glance at the communities that are covered and the lives of those people in charge of handling the area's mail. I have found Barbara H. Goodman, daughter of J. L. Hubbell, living in Ganado and listed as "Postmistress" on the Federal census in 1930 (1930 Federal Census, Ganado, Apache, Arizona; Roll: 55; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 9; Image: 90.0), so maybe the family just handled it as necessary (note: because she is listed as living in Ganado does not mean that she was the Postmistress of the Ganado Post Office . . . she may have commuted to Keams Canyon or another area nearby . . . never assume that the person worked in the town in which he/she lived).

Hubbell Trading Post is a National Historic Site and is open for visitors. Check their website for more information. For researchers interested in the Hubbell, Cotton, and Bierkemper families, the U.S. Postmaster films, available for viewing at a number of National Archives locations (see earlier blog), makes for an interesting expose of their lives, possibly not accessible in any other record collection.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A music break - the Theremin

Last week I was watching History Detectives (I love that show) and they featured a Theremin. I had had a little exposure to the concept of a Theremin in the past when my husband explained that it is similar in sound to the saw (which he plays so very well). The sound is truly like a saw, but it is an electronic instrument.

I am not really the person to explain this instrument or its operation - check the information on Wikipedia for that. When I read the listing of movies that have made use of the Theremin in the background music, I wonder how many times I was hearing a Theremin when I thought I was listening to a saw. The sound is unique - check that out on YouTube, as played by its inventor, Leon Thermin. There's also a great version of "Over the Rainbow" on the Theremin, played by Peter Pringle . . . my husband loves to play that song on the saw and it sounds very much like the Theremin version. Wonder what they would sound like together? Well, maybe not.

It is a very visual instrument - the player with good technique appears to do a hand-ballet over the components to create the music. Impressive. Of course, now I think we should get a Theremin to make our instrument collection even more complete (no, it will never be finished!). Anyway, if you haven't seen one or heard one, check out those links and others they will take you to so you can add to your musical education!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

U.S. Postmasters - Part 5 . . . Early Arizona, Heber/Overgaard

My husband's family were early settlers of Arizona (all over the place, it seems). So it just seemed natural to do some checking on his ancestry to see if any family members had been Postmasters (see previous posts on this subject). I also was intrigued by the fact that our daughter is a Postmaster at the Heber/Overgaard Post Office, a few hours north of Phoenix. What was the history of that location? I'm pleased to say that it is not one of the POs scheduled to be closed down. People in that area do not get mail delivery; they need to go into the PO to collect their incoming mail.

So in this part of my US Postmaster series, I will examine the history of the Heber/Overgaard PO (for my daughter, of course) and the Post Offices that covered the territory that my husband's family settled. Views of the log book for these are very difficult to read. The paper must be very thin as it is almost as easy to read (backwards) what is written on the other side of the page as it is the page one is reading frontwards. Subsequent entries are also not always clear as one line blends into the next and it is difficult to determine which line a notation refers to. However, I can still get a little picture of the families who settled those areas back when my husband's ancestors were Arizona pioneers.

The first postmaster I find for the Heber (named for Mormon pioneer Heber J. Grant) PO was in 1890, when Arizona was still a territory (Arizona became a state on 14 February, 1912 as the 48th state . . . even I remember when the U.S. had only 48 states, just before Alaska and Hawaii joined us . . . until now, I hadn't realized Arizona was so late in joining the union). The first postmaster was James E. Shelley and he was appointed on 11 September 1890 (this information is collaborated on the history of Heber/Overgaard website). James E. Shelley was one of six men who were accompanied by their wives when they were sent, by the LDS Church, to establish the area in northern Arizona. There is a notation above his name that reads "N.B. 9 Oct." This means that on 9 October there was a notice about this location and, probably, the new postmaster, placed in the Postal Bulletin, "a publication of the Post Office Department. Copies of these publications are in the Reference Library of the Post Office Department, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives Building" ("Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-September 30, 1971," M-841, RG 28, Publication Document, Washington, DC: National Archives, 1977).

One can get a feel for this area of the country just by reading the history of the Heber Post Office. On 5 January 1906, it was decided that the mail would be directed to Holbrook (that's about 45 miles away! While in the same county - Navajo - it was hardly an easy commute). That change took effect on 31 January 1906. I located Mr. Shelley, with wife Margaret, in Holbrook in 1930 (he was 78 years old) (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1930 Federal Census; Holbrook, NavajoArizona; Roll: 60; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 7; Image: 702.0). I find James, age 68, is a farmer in St. Joseph, Navajo County (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1920 Federal Census; St Joseph, NavajoArizona; Roll: T625_50; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 91; Image: 271). Joseph City (as it is now called) is only about 11 miles from Holbrook, quite a distance from Heber, but he was no longer the postmaster. (I need to emphasize here that a person's residence may not be in the same town where he/she works, so commuting is possible, just not always practical.)

The Holbrook delivery order was rescinded on 18 May 1907, after Mamie Baca had stepped in to handle things at the Heber location on 26 December 1906. She was officially assigned to the role of postmaster on 25 January 1908. Exactly what the legal situations were is not clear from the information in the Postmaster records and websites on the area are not helpful on this. Mamie was young (about 21) when she took on the responsibilities and she didn't last long in the position. Perhaps she got married. She was living with her father Juan in 1910 and lists no occupation for herself (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1910 Federal CensusNavajoArizona; Roll: T624_41; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0088; Image: 470; FHL Number: 1374054). It is likely that anyone researching the Baca family would not even be aware that Mamie had been a postmaster for about four years of her life.

Alva Porter took over on 6 December 1909. Alva lived in Heber and was a farmer, by occupation (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1900 Federal Census, Heber, NavajoArizona Territory; Roll: T623_46; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 43), but in 1900, when that information was retrieved, he had not yet taken over the Post Office responsibilities. In 1910, he is listed as a 48-year-old farmer in Pinedale (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1910 Federal Census, Pinedale, NavajoArizona; Roll: T624_41; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0140; Image: 707; FHL Number: 1374054), 23 miles from Heber. It would seem that he was doing his postmaster duties as a part-timer as that commute, in 1910, would be terrible as a daily routine (the roads up there were not paved the way they are today).

Thomas H. Shelley toook over on 18 June 1919 with his commission signed and mailed on 28 July 1919 (he assumed charge on 13 August 1919). Thomas is living in Heber Precinct in 1920 and lists himself as a farmer-merchant (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1920 Federal Census, Heber, Navajo, Arizona; Roll: T625_50; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 86; Image: 201). (Not sure how he was able to do that . . .the man must never have slept!) In 1930, Thomas H. Shelley, age 44, is listed as merchant (at a general merchandise store) living in Standard Justice Precinct 3, District 19, Navajo County, Arizona ("Heber, Arizona" is written in the margin) (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1930 Federal Census; Standard Justice Precinct 3, NavajoArizona; Roll: 60; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 19; Image: 985.0). As mentioned in an earlier post, the Post Office was often housed within the local general store so someone who was a merchant was likely to also be the postmaster, even though he/she might not list that as "occupation" on the census (after all, more time is spent selling groceries than stamping the post). On 30 June 1953, Thomas retired from his postmaster duties.

As of this writing the Federal Census for 1940 is not yet available and the 1950 one is only a dream away. But some additional family information on the Shelleys is available through this Postmaster resource: Leland H. Shelley (apparently born after 1930) became the acting postmaster of Heber on 27 July 1953. He had assumed charge on 30 June 1953, was confirmed on 22 January 1954, and his commission was signed and mailed on 29 March 1954. In this new official capacity, he assumed charge on 31 March 1954 (I have no idea how they straightened out the pay issues through all that).

Meanwhile, just down the road a piece . . . the Overgaard Post Office was established on 14 October 1938. William T. Shockley was appointed the first postmaster, confirmed on the date of establishment, commission signed 27 October 1938 and resigned (W.O.P. - without pay?) on 12 May 1939. The notation reads "4th Class" - I don't know what that means, either. Whatever the case, he didn't last long (perhaps local newspapers may carry more information on the situation). The position was taken over by Christ Overgaard, for whom the town was named, assumed charge on 26 May 1939 and was appointed acting postmaster on 10 June 1939, receiving his confirmation on 29 September 1939. His commission was signed on 1 November 1939.

But the Overgaard Post Office was discontinued on 31 December 1943 and mail was directed to Heber. The location was reopened on 16 April 1952. Possibly the close-down was attributed to the War, but it was a long time before the PO reopened. Somewhere (probably after 1971) the two were merged. Until then, Overgaard was handled by the following:

Mrs. Carmen Moody: acting postmaster, 14 March 1952; assumed charge, 16 April 1952.
Arthur E. Weech (?): confirmed, 25 May 1953; commission signed, 9 June 1953; assumed charge, 30 June 1953; retired, 30 April 1968.
Mrs. Chinesa V. Hagerman: assumed charge 6 March 1971.

The Postmaster films go back to September 1971, so the more recent information would have to be accessed from the PO itself or maybe local townsfolk or newspapers. I know when my daughter was appointed the new postmaster of Overgaard, a huge article appeared in their local paper with a great photo of her and some information about her family. That was a number of years ago now and whether or not the same building houses the local mail as back in the early days is not something I'm privy to (I imagine my daughter will respond, however, to fill in the gaps).

So this one is for you, Patty. Next entries will deal with Graham and Apache Counties.

When the Past Returns, or, Be Careful What You Write Today . . . It May Visit You Tomorrow

Once upon a time, in 1969, I began writing songs. Sometimes I wrote entire lyrics and music; sometimes I adapted my lyrics to other (usually old) tunes; sometimes I made new verses for already established songs.
I still do it. My latest effort is a song set to the old folk tune "Greensleeves," dealing with the Federal Census. Some day (yes, I promise), I will have it as an MP3, downloadable from my website. But this is a story about lyrics written back in 1969.

The magazine Sing Out! (to which I subscribed from about 1963 until about 6 years ago when the politics seemed to overshadow the songs) had a column written by Pete Seeger entitled "Johnny Appleseed, Jr." He would discuss different issues in the Folk Music field, often putting a scholarly slant on it (his father had a doctorate in Folklore and I always thought that was one of the coolest things possible). I responded once to something he had written and he was kind enough to write back. Before too long, we were maintaining a correspondence, however sporadic.

I remember his discussion in the column once about a story of a little boy who was trying to transport things from his aunty's home to his mother, but never could seem to get it right (he brought home butter in his hands and it was all melted by the time he got home . . . his mother told him that to bring home butter he needed to wrap it in cool leaves and carry it carefully home. His aunty gave him a puppy and he nearly smothered the critter by bringing it home all wrapped in cool leaves. His mother said that he should tie a string to a puppy and bring it home by walking it behind him. His aunty gave him a loaf of bread to which he tied a string, dragging it home . . . well, you get the idea). I had a copy of a book that told that story, but my book was written back in the pre-1950's era when people were less sensitive about ethnicity and it was a very racist portrayal of a particular race. I sent copies of the pages from the book to Pete and he wrote me a nice thank you and even mentioned the receipt of it (sans my name) in his next column, along with reports on his receipt of other versions of the story. How the story was adapted to different cultures was of interest to Pete (and to me) and his discussion of what we call "The Folk Process" often cropped up in his columns.

The Folk Process deals with how songs and stories are adapted and changed over time (much like playing the game of "telephone" at a child's birthday party). Pete wrote a column on the great song by Woody Guthrie, "This Land is Your Land" and how it has become almost more well-known than the National Anthem (at least among school children). What was not included in the initial version of the song are three other (slightly more radical) verses Woody wrote that were almost lost to obscurity. But the folksters out there won't let that happen and the lyrics of those "lost verses" have been added to a number of songbooks and are sung at folk gatherings all over. And others have written additional verses, sometimes adapting them to personal or regional circumstances. Pete included a few in that column and I guess I was inspired. I wrote a couple of verses myself and sent them to Pete via US mail (this was long, long before the Internet). He wrote me a nice little note and said, "thank you for two new verses." And that, as they say, was that.

Fast forward over 40 years to friends of mine, traveling in Virginia, visiting with a gentleman who had received a book from Pete Seeger, autographed to him. My friends were looking through the book and found (on page 144) two "new" verses to "This Land is Your Land," written by "Jean Wilcox from Illinois." They emailed me to ask if I'd ever written verses to that song. At first I started to deny it (it's been 42 years, remember), and then I decided to Google it. Sure enough, in 1999, on the Mudcat Cafe discussion boards, Art Thieme (a Chicagoan that I had known back in the old days of Old Town music and coffee house performances) mentioned one of my verses as having been printed in a magazine or newspaper column by or about Pete Seeger. Well, when I read the lyrics (slightly mis-printed, but not enough to change the meaning), I was taken back in time, remembered the original column, the note Pete had sent to me, etc. Apparently, both verses made it into the book Pete wrote in 1993 (it's on the 3rd Ed. now):

Good thing: it's not already in my library (wouldn't that be embarrassing? to have the book and not even know I'm quoted in it). Bad thing: I have record of only one of the verses I wrote; no knowledge of the lyrics of the second verse (but I've ordered the book and will soon correct that issue). Still not sure how I missed having that book in my collection, but that will be remedied and I look forward to my own little ego trip as well as reading the rest of the material, which sounds to be quite interesting.

Moral: What you write today may pop up somewhere you least expect it tomorrow. And, with the Internet that is even more possible. So, to those asking for those census song lyrics: I have to do some "protection" things before I post them anywhere. I'll get it done soon, I promise.

Where, oh where, has that little blog gone? Again!

No, I have not forgotten that I am a blogger. No, I have not been ill nor have I fallen off the earth. I have been helping to organize two seminars (one in July, one in August) and have been overwhelmed with the necessary obligations. I have also had to make some other writing deadlines for commitments to paying publications (in the vernacular of the folk musicians: "Never give up a paying gig!"). But I have a little time between now and when I head to Illinois for the FGS conference in Springfield (see my post on their blog). I am excited to again represent the Genealogical Speakers Guild at that venue. So, you can see, my life is not static; nor am I bored (what would that be like, I wonder?).

In answer to the oft-asked question: no, I have not yet recorded my census song. Perhaps when I return from Springfield I will have a chance to do that. It is not from lack of want, but lack of time.

I have been collecting some interesting stories to put into posts that will hopefully be put up here in the near future (waiting for a photo from one). And I have some NARA film stories to post as well. So do stay tuned and know that more is forthcoming . . . possibly later today! Gotta get the ducks in a row and quacking in 4-part harmony.

Stay in tune (or stay tuned . . .)