Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Brookings, Oregon

Oregon company towns were often lumber towns - and Brookings, Oregon, founded in 1907, was no exception.  Brookings was right on the border with California, almost two hundred and fifty miles south of Eugene.  The Brookings history site says:
St. George Hotel
Brookings State Bank

It is obvious that Brookings wanted more than a mill town; he wanted a town town. In 1914, Brookings incorporated the Brookings Land and Townsite Company in St. Louis, Mo. That was the same year that the Central Building was built. Bill Ward became the general manager of the company and of the town. One of his first tasks was to hire Bernard Maybeck to design a model town. Mr. Maybeck is famous for his design of the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
The model town may have been some time in the making - one of my favorite pictures is the bank, which is charmingly shack-ish and surrounded by wild ferns.

My great-grandfather Raymond went to Brookings to build buildings, and sent postcards home to Alta.  After their marriage in 1916, Alta joined him in Brookings.  It was hundreds of miles from home for both of them, and must have been quite a newly-wed adventure.

Alta took a picture of her 1917 Sunday School class (looking not very amused), presumably on the porch of the building that the Brookings history site describes this way:  

By 1921, the town had 12 grades of schools, four hotels, a moving picture theater, a church and amusement hall that also was used for town meetings. The biggest amusement was the chickens under the building that would constantly disrupt the church and the town meeting. Numerous letters were written to the caretaker of the building to please remove his chickens.

I like having the whole history of a town's start within the history of a family - the places that they lived later weren't so new, or so well-documented. Clearly they were excited both by their new marriage and the new town they helped to build.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday's Obituary: Emmett Evans

I have written about my great-uncle Emmett, and how sometimes grief is so great that there aren't a lot of remnants of it for researchers.  And last week, I wrote about my experience in Digital Storytelling, which ended up with a much more personal story than this one, the one I thought was going to do.  But this is still a good story, so here you go, the background to Emmett's death, which I've learned since I first wrote about him in May.

After that blog was posted, I was given the diaries of  Emmett’s sister Norma and their grandmother, Rosa Branson, who shared a house with Emmett’s parents, Alta and Raymond.  Through their diaries you get a more complete picture of what happened. I also found his obituary in the Eugene, Oregon paper - which explained details about his death that my mom had never heard before.
Labelled: Emmett and Fontelle, Just Married 1942.  Norma and Tom are seated.
Norma: Emmy and Fontelle were married in July of [1942] on a hot night in Reno and came home happy young married people to set up housekeeping in Eugene which was to be jumped to Klamath Falls and back to Eugene again.

Emmett went to Klamath Falls for the initial phase of Civilian Pilot Training, or CPT.  In 1939, the Army had only 4500 pilots.  So they created CPT Program.  The CPT operated at 1,100 colleges and universities and 1,500 flight schools. They trained 435,000 pilots from 1939 to 1944. 
Emmett was called up to complete his pilot training with special instrument, night flight and aerobatics training, on March 16, 1943. 

Rosa: Pretty good day.  We just did up the work.  I ironed.  Got a telegram for Emmett to go to Coeur D’Alene Idaho to finish his flying course.  They was here for supper.  Emmett goes tomorrow.  I’ve written to Bertha.  Raymond set out one dozen cabbage.
Rosa, March 17: Pretty good day.  Just did up the work.  Alta went to have her hair fixed.  Emmett and Fonnie went to Portland.  Emmett went on to Idaho.  Dickie stayed with us and the rabbits.  Alta is going to Portland tomorrow to Norma’s.
Between December 1941 and August 1945, there were more than 52,000 Army Air Force accidents in the continental United States.  Nearly 15,000 people were killed in these domestic accidents.  But the CPT fatalities were outside the Air Force numbers.  They didn’t receive military honors and weren’t counted in military statistics.  Emmett was one of the unknown number of CPT pilots who were killed in training.

April 2, 1943.
Rosa: Emmett was killed this AM about 3 o'clock.  Died about 8 o'clock.  Raymond and Fonnie and Bettie went to Idaho.  A sad day for us.  I let Raymond have 20 dollars for expenses.
Norma: April the 2nd found Emmy killed in a plane crash in Coeur D’Alene Idaho, a permanent and awful blow to all of us this sting of which we can never lose.  The baby as yet unborn and unnamed came to the rescue and gave courage when and where it was most needed.

That baby was my mother, born 4 months later. 

The last piece of the Emmett puzzle is tracing his wife, Fontelle, and finding out what happened in her life after Emmett died.  I am working on that, and will have that last piece of the story sometime soon.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Motivation Monday: Digital Storytelling

I am back in the home office, after an amazing workshop by the Center for Digital Storytelling at Stonebridge Farm in Lyons, Colorado.

I went into the workshop with an idea to expand on the story of my great-uncle Emmett, a story I started on Memorial Day, but have learned a lot more about since then.  I'll tell you more about it next post.

But the facilitators at the workshop encouraging me to really examine my research motivations, and construct my story around those motivations.  This is a different way of looking at family history, and while I wouldn't want it to be my only technique, I think that it's a valuable and interesting component of genealogy and history work.

One of my central missions in Genealogy Imaginings  is to get to the stories behind the documents.  While I love the documents themselves, I recognize that not everyone is fascinated by land deeds and wills.  Generally, it is story that connects people, not paper.  So I've always tried to find - or imagine - the stories.  From my first blog entry, about the headstone for Darling Davis, there's been a lot of speculation in my blog approach, though I have other areas where I am more rigorous about my research and facts. 

The Center for Digital Storytelling took me to the next level, and I am very glad they did.  I think it's valuable to look, as a researcher, at what motivates you to follow one thread over another, or to trace one storyline more than another.  Behind those motivations could be some really interesting things about yourself, your family, and your connections to them.

Here is the story I ended up telling.