When our cousins laughed and told my youngest brother that Grandma Jen wasn't our Grandma he just smiled and walked away. "She's my Grandma," he said. When they told me, I was irate. I was eight years older than my youngest brother, and I knew it wasn't possible for Grandma to be my cousins' great Aunt. I also hate being confused and I knew Grandma Jen was our Grandma.
In a family tree Grandma Jen was our great Aunt, our real grandmother's younger sister. We have very little information on our grandmother.
Elva Gertrude Elston was born in Sanilac County, Brown City, Michigan in 1915. She left the farm and her family and moved to the big city of Detroit when she was eighteen. According to relatives she never used the name Elva, but went by the name Peggy. She was very beautiful.
My Aunt Ida (Peggy's youngest surviving sister) told me that Peggy came home to the farm for a few weeks during one of the summers. When a letter arrived addressed to "Peggy Stone" my great-grandmother apparently was ready to give the mailman a tongue-lashing. After all, the man knew the Elston family lived on the farm. That was when Peggy told her mother she was married.
I know from the 1940 census record that their young family rented 113 Warren, Wayne County, Detroit, Michigan. Elva G. Stone supplied the data to the census taker. She was 24. The highest grade she completed was H4, which I assume means four years of high school. She worked as a waitress at a Beer Garden and had worked 48 hours the week previous to the census. She worked 12 weeks in 1939 and made $180.
Also listed was her husband Earl B. Stone, age 38 and born in Mississippi. He completed eight years of school and was unemployed for nine weeks as of March 1, 1940. At the time of the survey he was looking for work. His previous job was a punch press operator in an auto parts factory. Detroit would be the place for that. He worked 16 weeks in 1939 and made $600. He is recorded in the census as a white male, but family stories declare he was half-Indian, and family fables make him the son of a chief somewhere, and born in the state of Texas. Investigation on all those claims is ongoing, but the 1940 census at least gives us an accurate birthplace and year of birth for him.
Three children are listed: Earline (age 5), Anita (4) and Janice (3). Earline and Janice were both born in Michigan. Anita was born in Texas. Mom hated the name Earline and I have no idea why it is recorded that way on the census sheet. Her name was Fran.
Mom told me one story of a blue roan horse that my Uncle Don owned. Uncle Don was going to put the horse down, convinced the horse would never recover from an infected hoof. Earl talked him into letting him try to heal the horse. He did. Mom often told me her dad was a real "horse whisperer" just like in the movie.
Earl was an alcoholic and he beat Peggy. Mom told me they were all staying in Grandma Jen's house (she would have been Mom's young Aunt Jen at the time) and Mom heard a commotion downstairs. She crept part way down the staircase and saw her father hitting her mother and pushing her head into the stair railing. Jen's husband Mac put a stop to that particular incident, tossing Earl out. Grandpa Mac wasn't a big man, but there's no doubt in my mind he could be fierce if he needed to be. Grandpa Mac and Grandma Jen were both enlisted in WWII, which is where they met. I can't imagine that Earl was a very big man, though, if Grandpa tossed him out. Well, maybe Grandpa used a ball bat or something.
Earl suffered bouts of paranoid jealousy concerning his much younger and very beautiful wife. Perhaps the concerns were valid.
Peggy (Elva Gertrude) Stone died on February 15, 1947 in Hitchcock, Galveston, Texas at the age of 31 years, 7 months and 8 days. Family stories say Peggy died in a car wreck in Alvin, Texas. The man driving was not her husband, but we don't know if he was the husband of anyone else either. I have no idea how a small town girl from Michigan would find someone in Texas, but Anita was born in San Antonio, in 1936. That's probably a clue. There is no marital status on Peggy's death certificate and it lacks a spouse's name. The certificate records the burial place as Yale, Michigan and the burial date as Feb 18, 1947.
Grandma Jen told me that when she received word of Peggy's death she sent a telegram to Earl. She had some idea where he was since he followed the horse race tracks. She got a telegram in return, saying that Earl would be at the funeral.
My mother never saw her father again, though Anita told me that she heard from him a number of times, "but," she said, "I was always his favorite."
Mom and her sisters lived in Brown City, Michigan with their grandparents, Lee and Minnie Elston. I posted a short story Mom wrote about Christmas which gives a glimpse of her younger years. When she was older, Mom lived with her Aunt Jen and from there she enlisted in the Navy.
So our grandparents were Grandma Jen and Grandpa Mac. Sometimes facts just confuse the real story.