Thursday, January 17, 2013

Grandma

Mom would have been 78 this year. Happy Birthday, Mom.
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.
Earl B. Stone never appeared.
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.

7 comments:

  1. MY MOM REMEMBERS GRANDMA MINNIE TELLING HER THAT THE MAN WHO WAS IN THE CAR ACCIDENT WITH PEGGY SENT MONEY TO BUY THE HEADSTONE FOR HER GRAVE. SHE'S BURIED IN YALE NEXT TO GRANDMA MINNIE AND GRANDPA LEE AND HER SISTER JEAN ANN. MOM ALSO SAID THAT A FEW YEARS LATER EARL STONE HIT IT BIG AT THE RACETRACK AND SENT GRANDPA LEE $3000. A LOT OF MONEY BACK THEN. AS FOR ANITA, SHE GREW UP AND ULTIMATELY MARRIED HER "FATHER" AN ABUSIVE ALCOHOLIC
    WHO OFTEN WENT ON PARANOIC JEALOUS RAGES,SAD TO SAY BUT IT WAS PROBABLY BETTER FOR HER THAT HE DIED AFTER THEY WERE ONLY MARRIED THREE YEARS. AS FOR AUNT JEN, I KNOW SHE LOVED BEING YOUR GRANDMOTHER, AND UNCLE MAC WAS A REAL SOFTIE UNDERNEATH ALL HIS GRUFFNESS.ML

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  2. Hi Mary. Thought I lost you as a reader!
    Thanks for the added information. It's sad how little we know of Peggy and Earl. Does your Mom have any other stories? Pictures, maybe?
    What is really sad is that according to the SSDI, Earl could have died as early as 1965 or as late as the mid 1980s. Mom might have been able to actually spend some time with her father if he had tried at all.

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  3. I will pick mom's brain to see if she remembers any more info. I'm sad that I didn't ask more questions about the family years ago. Almost all the ones who knew the answers are gone now. I do have a picture of your mother and you,(I think) on a beach somewhere, found it in Anita' stuff. I'll keep trying to find out more stuff.

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  4. Oh how I wish I had listened and asked more about our family! This was very interesting. Some I knew but some I did not. I'm quite sure I have a picture of you and your mom as well. I'll see what I can find. Love your writing!
    Kath

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  5. Ham's Beer. Miss mom though. She was just hitting her stride as Grandma.

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  6. Hi Vince,

    My name is Shannon Stone Harrison and my Great Grandfather was Joseph A. Stone who was apparently Earl's father. This would make us second cousins. I believe he was married first to Earl's mom and then he married my Great Grandmother and had kids much later in life.. One of which was my Grandmother Diamond Stone who was born in 1932. She was an amazing lady-had a hand in raising me as we moved from Mississippi to Phoenix in the early 80's. She always spoke very highly of her father Joseph A. Stone but little was said about his prior family with his first wife. Legend has it that he came home from work one day and found his wife(Earl's Mom) in bed with another man. I'm not sure what kind of relationship he had with the kids after that(if any). Joseph was part Cherokee but was also born in Mississippi. According to Ancestry DNA we are related through that connection. My Grandmother and Earl would be half siblings. She worked at Ole Miss as a security guard(knew Archie Manning) and had 4 kids that she raised in Water Valley, MS. All four of her kids and all six of her grandchildren live in the Phoenix area. I don't know anything about Earl's life but it's interesting that I knew his younger half siblings.. FWIW when Joe Stone passed away it was said that he looked like an old Indian Chief in the coffin..

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    1. Thank you for the kind and informational reply, and thanks for reading my blog (or, at least this post!). Did Joseph have other children with his first wife besides Earl? Too bad we don't know more. Every little bit helps, though.

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