Who are all these people again?

If you’ve just recently joined us (ME) here at this blog, here’s a fresh introduction to the folks whose lives I’ve been researching, as well as few I plan to talk about soon.

All of these people are related to me through my mother’s father, Malcolm MacGregor Jameson, known to me as “Grandpa Mac” and to others in the family as MacGregor. He didn’t talk much about his family and the relationship I had to him and my grandmother wasn’t a close one. So some of this stuff I’m learning is very new to me.

On Mac’s dad’s side is my great-great-grandfather Joe Lee Jameson, a Texas bureaucrat who had been bookkeeper at an insane asylum, the State Revenue Agent of Texas, endorser for an adding machine, and had recently become an oil company executive when he died of typhoid fever at the age of thirty-four. He was married to Amaryllis Routh Jameson (whose later married name was Ward and who took the nickname “Jamie”), and at least half the stuff I know about this family comes from her scrapbooks, so she is my hero.

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Joe Lee Jameson, looking very important

They had three children,* all born in Texas:

The eldest, Malcolm Routh Jameson (my great-grandfather), also died relatively young, in his fifties. He had been a Naval officer during WWI and later in life became a science-fiction writer. I’ve built a web site for him and I’ll sometimes call him MRJ for short.

The second child was Vida Jameson (or “Vida I” because MRJ named his daughter after her). She died when she was just five. *There were also twin boys in the family who were born and died (or else were stillborn) in 1901. They’re the ones with unsettling little angel baby jpegs on their Ancestry.com profiles (no, I don’t know who put them there).

A year after the twins, and two years after Vida’s death, House Baker Jameson (named for his father’s mentor, Colonel Edward M. House), was born. He became an actor and worked on stage, radio, TV and film from the 1930s into the late 60s. His first wife was Edith (Edie) Taliaferro, a stage actress who had been a child star and who also had appeared in a handful of silent films, only one of which survives. After she died, House remarried, to actress and dancer Liz Mears. (And while he’s not a blood relative, I’ll tell you about her dad sometime, because… well, you’ll see.)

MRJ was the only one of his siblings to have children of his own: my Grandpa Mac (the second born), and Vida Jameson (aka Vida II), who as a young adult became friends with some Golden Age sci-fi writers her father knew, and eventually published stories of her own.

Vida and Mac’s mother was my great-grandmother Mary MacGregor Jameson (I grew up hearing her referred to as “Nana”), who first met MRJ when they were kids, when both his family and hers were living in the administrative staff quarters of the Southwestern Insane Asylum in San Antonio, Texas, around 1897. If you’re following along, you’ll remember my great-great-grandfather Joe Lee Jameson was the bookkeeper; my other great-great grandfather was the superintendent.

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MRJ and Nana (Mary), 1920s: “Of course we’re crazy about each other. We met at the insane asylum!”

Like MRJ, Mary was the only one of her siblings to have children. She was the second of five sisters, the four others being:

  • Anna MacGregor Collins, the oldest, who was the family archivist and genealogist, and whom I have to thank for saving a lot of this stuff.
  • Helen MacGregor, who never married and became a schoolteacher (oh, but she left some compelling stuff).
  • Margaret MacGregor Morgan, who moved to New York City in the 1930s. Still trying to figure out her story.
  • Kathryn MacGregor Burgess, who along with her sister Anna married military officers stationed in the Philippines.

The MacGregor sisters’ parents (see how I pivoted and am now going backward through the generations of my Grandpa Mac’s mother’s line?), were my great-great grandfather Dr. William Wallace MacGregor, a physician and surgeon, and Anna Jones MacGregor, my great-great grandmother (whose birth was celebrated in this lovely letter).

Beyond this generation and going backward, Anna Jones’s line is the most well-documented—most of the material I have from the 1880s and earlier is from her side, and she and some of her daughters claimed DAR membership based on her ancestors (the Moores, the Markses, and the Meriwethers). We’ve already had a glimpse of Anna’s maternal relatives, and there are some letters from her father and his people too.

I’ve also started to find out a little more about Dr. MacGregor’s family, who I think came over to the US from Glasgow, Scotland, around 1850. I have a few scraps (and I mean, literally, scraps) from that side.

And then, jumping ahead about a century (oh, the whiplash!), I have some stuff that provides some interesting glimpses of my mother’s very early childhood in New York, when she and my grandmother lived with MRJ and Nana while Grandpa Mac was off in the Pacific in WWII.

I’ve set up a category list in the sidebar to be a sort of index, so feel free to click on those names (or places or details) to see where else they come up. And I’ll be updating the family tree info when I get a chance. Until then, consider this your cheat sheet. Any questions?

The New York City years (Part 1) with bonus House & Edie mystery!

Way back in late 2012 I promised to post my photos from New York, where I’d visited places where the Jamesons and MacGregors (well, Margaret at least) had lived in the 1930s and 40s. So here’s 244 E. 48th Street in Manhattan. The building shows up in a photo album that belonged to (my great-great uncle) House Jameson and his wife. Edith:

2016-02-20 21.51.53 But since there are almost no notes or captions the album (shakes fist at ancestors ) I didn’t know this was the 48th Street place until I went there myself, using an address that I’d found for House in the 1930 census. And as it happened, it looked almost exactly the same:

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Obviously this was an ideal location for House and Edie, who were both performing in Broadway plays on a regular basis at the time (and House’s radio career might have started by then too).

But apparently, for a time, House’s brother and his family lived in the building too. Here’s the 1930 listing for all four of them—Malcolm and Mary (my great-grandparents), 13 year-old Vida, and 11 year-old Mac, my grandfather.

recordWhich is why the row of buildings across the street from the 244 building looked so familiar:

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Malcolm (my great-grandfather) and his mother-in-law, Anna Jones MacGregor (who must have been visiting)

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Mary (my great-grandmother), her daughter Vida, her sister Anna, and her mother.

The family posted for several photos at this spot. When I visited this street, I noticed  those ornaments between the windows on the top story of one of the buildings across the street, and they helped me confirm I was in the right place. Cool, huh?

According to the census record, Malcolm was working as a salesman for International Correspondence Schools at the time. He had retired from the Navy just a few years before for health reasons, and after working various jobs in Texas (I think), perhaps it seemed a good idea to join his younger brother in the city. I also found a brief mention of this time in a journal written in the 1990s by my grandmother (Mac’s wife), who said that Malcolm and Mary had originally come to New York with plans to open a Mexican restaurant. Really?

House had been in the city after graduating from Columbia in the late 1920s (except for the times he toured with theater companies around the US and Australia). I’ve found a couple of other Manhattan addresses for House, but in at least one case the entire block had been razed for office buildings. This block on East 48th is relatively unchanged, although the 244 building has since been rehabbed into a single-family home that sold for over four million dollars a few years ago. (It originally listed for $12M!) But at the time the Jamesons lived there the building had several units, with Malcolm and Mary and the kids in one apartment and House and Edie in another. At least that’s what it seems when you go by the 1930 Census, which visited Malcolm’s place one day, and House’s place a few weeks later.

Which brings me to the little mystery about House and Edie that arose from reading their census record! See below. (I know, it’s hard to read. You can look here, too. And here, and here.)

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You’ll notice that Edie is listed as head of household, and House is a “roomer.” Interesting! But weren’t they married to each other by then? We thought so, but the census lists “Edith Brown Taliaferro” as married and House as single. Oh my. Of course census records get stuff wrong all the time, and it’s possible that the census-taker didn’t know how else to list two people with two different last names (which House and Edie had for professional reasons) living in the same place. Or perhaps the place had been Edie’s first and her name was on the lease. (She was ten years older than House, after all.) Or maybe House and Edie were having a bit of fun with the census-taker. At any rate it makes me realize that we don’t seem to have a record or even a date for when House and Edie got hitched. Edie’s Wikipedia page says she married House in 1912, but that would have been when House was ten, so let’s assume that was wrong. Perhaps Edie married someone in 1912…maybe that’s where the odd “Brown” in her name in the census record (which I’ve never seen anywhere else) comes from. But I guess I’ll have to add House and Edie’s marriage record/date to the list of things I need to look for.

Stay tuned for more New York photos (at some point), including one photo—the only one I’ve ever found!—that shows Edie with other Jameson family members. And I bet you want to see more House and Edie, too, don’t you?

How’s this for starters? IMG_7477

Flash-forward with the MacGregor sisters

Remember these gals? My great-grandmother Mary and her four sisters.  When we last saw them they were little girls in white dresses in south Texas around 1900. Their mother was Anna Jones MacGregor (whose baby photo we saw in the last post) and their father was Dr. W.W. MacGregor (bearded wonder doctor and one-time superintendent of an insane asylum). It’s been a few years, and now the Sisters MacG have grown up into… young women in white dresses in south Texas.

(They were on the Mexico border, though, and it must have been hot. White probably was a good choice.)

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From left to right: Margaret, Mary, their mother (Anna Jones MacG), and Kathryn.

My guess is that these photos were taken around 1907 or 1908, with Mary in her late teens, Margaret around 13 or 14, and Kathryn around 12. (Was 15 the age girls graduated to longer skirts?)

Here’s Anna, who would have been just out of her teens, old enough to occasionally don black dresses and alarming corsets:

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Anna MacGregor and shadow of unknown photographer (Mary?)

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Anna, on right. (Dear God, that WAIST!)

Continue reading

Letter: Aunt Hannah to baby Anna Jones, 1862

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Letter to Anna Jones MacGregor (my great-great grandmother), who was exactly three weeks old at the time, from her aunt Hannah Moore. It’s one of the first letters I transcribed, and it’s so completely charming that it was worth the effort:

Corpus Christi Texas
May 23 1862
My dear little Niece
Welcome three welcome to this beautiful world of ours  May yours be a life of sunshine and happiness    A blessing all around you.
Grand Pa told us of your arrival as soon as he came. The news was received with many smiles and exclamations from your many Aunts and Uncles.
Uncle Chappie declared he could not sleep for thinking of you. And call himself Uncle Chappie all day. Aunt Nelie says she will nurse you and take the greatest care imaginable of you —If you are pretty. But she seem to doubt that.  She has some things to hand down to you as soon as Mama  can trust you with them.
I fear you will find Uncle John a rough but loving Uncle. Aunt Maggie will be as patient as possible with you.
All the servants from Aunt Peggie down had some comment to make about you, wondering if you looked (like) your Pa or Ma.
We are all very anxious to hear from and see you.
Ask your Pa to write soon and describe you to us.
Perhaps you will wonder what use to make of letters.  The best use to make of mine is to pull them out of your Mama’s hand and tare it to pieces for amusement.
Don’t let Grandma spoil you while she is up there. You had better come down with her and visit the sea shore.
Kiss yourself in the glass for me. Give my best love to Pa Ma and Grandma and accept a large share for yourself from your loving “Aunt Hannah.”

 

Anna’s records show she was born in Montgomery, Texas, about 250 miles from Corpus Christi. “Aunt Hannah” is Hannah Moore, sister to Anna’s mother Mary Ann Moore, who was 23 at the time of her first daughter’s birth.

Down in Corpus Christi, Hannah was 19, apparently still living at home with a passel of mostly younger siblings—all of whom, from the sounds of of this letter, had just become uncles and aunts for the first time and were thrilled to bits. “Uncle Chappie,” AKA Elisha Chapman Moore, who was nine at the time; Cornelia, AKA “Nelie,” who was 11; John, 16, and Margaret, “Maggie,” 21. (There was an eldest sibling, William, who seemed to be elsewhere.)

The letter is even sweeter when you see this adorable photo (tintype?) of Anna:

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KISS YOURSELF IN THE GLASS FOR ME, YOU CUTE LITTLE THING

This letter was found in a binder that Anna Collins (Anna’s daughter) had put together in the late 1960s. Thank God for the note she left along with it, otherwise I don’t know if I’d have been able to figure out who the hell these people were.

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Based on Anna C’s note I was able to go into Ancestry and link to some family tree info that matched the information in the letter. These Moore kids were all born in either Alabama or Mississippi (!) and show up in Corpus Christi in the 1870 census.

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Aunt Hannah had gorgeous handwriting and she sounds fun. I’ll keep my eye out for photos of her.

 

Three years later…

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Three years later, about 90% of the contents of the Trunk (and its related boxes) are finally here in Chicago after schlepping them back from New Mexico after the holidays. There are far more scrapbooks than I remember. There are a few things I hadn’t seen before. It’s all still blowing my mind.

It may be just as well that it’s taken this long to get everything here (and to get to everything), especially the scrapbooks, since over the past few years iPhone cameras have become even better at capturing images of things that are too unwieldy and fragile to go on flatbed scanners, and there are now plenty of scanning apps too. The lighting on the spread above (from one of Ammie’s aka Jamie’s scrapbooks) could be better, but it’s high-res enough to zoom in and read everything. I’ve been saving most of the scrapbook digitizing for later, though—just organizing all the photos has had to come first.

Here’s what the front room of our apartment looked like this weekend:

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I set up some extra tables. The gray boxes behind the chair are the archival boxes where photos, letters, and various ephemera are filed, most of them in plastic envelopes. So far I’ve filled six of those boxes. Some of the duplicates can go into albums, the nicer photos will eventually be flatbed-scanned for posterity, and for now I’m just taking iPhone shots of anything that I want to study closer (i.e., snapshots) or anything else that looks interesting. You’ll see. (Oh, you’ll see.)

I’ll also be uploading photos to this album on Flickr. Not much there now, and some of it is from 2012, but check back in the next month or two—I’ll be uploading much more (I’ve had an account there for years, and it’s the easiest way to share). And if you look in the corner of this site, there should be an email signup option where you’ll be notified whenever I update.

Sign up now! Our ancestors are standing by!

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Drifting back

It’s been a few months. Ahem.

This summer I found myself focusing more on researching the Jamesons in the 1930s and 1940s, which included a couple of excursions to old New York City and Brooklyn addresses, and lots of letter-reading. I do have a few things to show for all this, including some location photos, which I’ll post sometime in the new year.

I also put up a site dedicated to Malcolm Jameson’s sci-fi career, which is pretty bare-bones now but I’ll add photos and scans when I get a chance. Some material will likely be cross-posted here.

Additionally I’m thinking of moving this blog to a subdirectory on wendymcclure.net and cross-posting some of the entries on my personal site. I’ve been treating this blog as a private site, but I haven’t sensed a lot of family interest, so I might as well open it up to the public and to search engines.

It’s entirely possible that I’m the only one interested in these old photos, but I can’t help wanting to share them. Why is that? I think maybe it’s because my whole life I had only the faintest notion that these people existed, these great-great grandparents in Texas and all their children, and now so much has surfaced to show me who they were and how they lived that I have to put it all together; I have to affirm that they were real.

My dad came for Thanksgiving and brought back some more photos from the big stash in Albuquerque. The first thing I did was search for a photo I’d seen last December. I remember it as being so dreamlike and strange that as time went on this past year I wasn’t sure it really existed.

But here it is: my great-great grandparents and their children in a boat, in 1897, staring out at us from across the water.

Isn’t it amazing? How could I not post it?

 

Your handy guide to identifying the MacGregor sisters

Meet the MacGregor sisters. All five of them! One of them is my great-grandmother Mary MacGregor, aka “Nana,” my mother’s paternal grandmother. They are the daughters of William Wallace MacGregor and Anna Jones MacGregor.

I think this picture was taken around 1901, most likely in Laredo, Texas.
The tall girl in the back is Anna, the oldest. Then from left to right it’s Mary, Margaret, Helen, and Kathryn.

When we were going through the stash of family photos back in December we were having a hell of a time telling all the MacGregor girls apart. There were so many unlabeled portraits—baby pictures, graduation pictures, all of the girls’ features just a little different. I don’t think it was until recently that I even really knew there were five of them. Mary/Nana I knew about of course, and when I was growing up I’d hear about Kathryn, who was very old and living out in San Francisco. Still, it took a while to get them all straight.

The photo above is one of the few that shows them all together, and someone took the time to label the back carefully and say who’s who. I can tell them apart now, but when I first got this picture from my cousin’s collection it was like the Rosetta Stone.

Here’s a picture from the same day:

Here Kathryn, the youngest, is on the far left next to Anna, I have some of their silver and my engagement ring belonged to Kathryn. Both she and Anna married military officers and lived in the Philippines for a while.

Helen is the one with the doll. She never married and became a high school teacher in Texas. Behind her on the right is Mary, who also became a military wife when she married my great-grandfather. And then on the end is Margaret, who I don’t know much about at all and tend to think of as the Mystery MacGregor. She married and lived in New York for many years but was buried back in Laredo.

There will be a quiz on all this later.

I love their white dresses and their black stockings. I wonder if my mother’s curly hair came from Nana.

This photo kills me because I always wanted sisters but never had them. I was the second child in my family, and the first girl born in my father’s line for several generations. My mom was told that “McClures don’t have girls.” So when I look at this picture from my mom’s side in terms of genetic probability, I like to think these sisters had some kind of hand in my being born a girl.

The house in Austin: mystery solved

You may remember that I was a little obsessed with this house in Austin, where the Jameson family lived at the turn of the century:I knew that it wasn’t standing anymore but aside from another old photo which I’d found at the Austin History Center’s website, I couldn’t find out a thing about it. The history center has a number of historic building files and lets you search their archives by street address, but nothing came up for 1108 Colorado Street. There was a file, though, for 1104 Colorado, but the contents weren’t online. I was beginning to suspect that it was the file I was looking for, and when I finally emailed a librarian at the history center and showed him the old photo, he explained that at some point, a few years after my great-great grandparents moved out, the house had been moved down the block on logs.

I ordered photocopies of the house file contents, which included photos and ownership records. Sadly, there are no photos showing the actual house-moving, because how awesome would that have looked? But there was a copy of the photo above, showing the Jamesons, with their names listed on the reverse and everything. And then photos of the house at different angles:

Not sure when the above photo was taken, or whether the house was in its original or moved location (moved, I think). The diagram below seems to indicate that the one-story wing on the back was added later. Does that mean the house originally had just two big rooms on the first floor, and two on the second? What was it like when the Jamesons lived there?

(The little drawings of the bannister finial and the light fixture are a nice touch.)

The house, built in 1852, has come to be known as the Haynie-Cook House. Dr. Samuel Garner Haynie, who had been the mayor of Austin in 1850 and 1851 (and again  in ’63 and ’64), commissioned Abner Cook, a prominent Texas architect who worked on the interior of the 1852-3 state capitol and later built the Texas Governor’s Mansion, to build a residence on some land he owned across from the Capitol grounds.

Prior to that, Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston had lived on the property, in a cottage Haynie had built around 1850. It’s possible he also lived for a short time in this new house Cook was building, as Joe Lee Jameson believed, even though it was being built for Haynie. Confused? I know I am. Suffice it to say Albert Sidney Johnston had at least been around.

The place cost between $7500 and $9000 to build, making it one of the most expensive houses in Austin. It turns out the Haynie family lived in the house for only a short time—if at all—before selling it to Abner Cook due to financial difficulties. So Cook moved into the house that he’d built and lived there with his family the rest of his life, with his widow remaining there until 1885. After that, the house was bought by another former Austin mayor, Leander Brown.

From there the ownership records get a little murky because they refer to lots, not house addresses—all I can tell is that the place passed through the hands of a few more people, described in the historical summary as real estate banker types, who may or may not have lived there. The occupancy record, compiled from old Austin directories, doesn’t list the Jameson family at all, although it shows a window of time from 1897 to 1902 in which “Not Sansom or Nalle” lived there—Sansoms being the residents previous to 1897, and Nalle as the owner in 1903. This corresponds roughly to when the Jamesons lived there. So while my great-great-grandparents appear by name in the oldest photo of the house in the history file, they never owned the place, and for some reason their residency was never reflected in the city directory.

I have a theory as to how the Jamesons wound up living there.  I can’t help but wonder if the house was something of a white elephant throughout its existence, starting with the original owner who couldn’t afford the place. Certainly it was considered an important house, but by the end of the 1800s, nearly fifty years after it had been built, would it have been considered outdated, perhaps difficult to heat, an impressive but impractical showplace? The well-to-do in Austin could build fashionable Victorians with more modern features (like kitchens and servants’ rooms, instead of outbuildings dating back to the slavery era), and the Haynie-Cook house may not have been able to serve the needs of an established wealthy family. But for the small family of a rising young bureaucrat who had been an aide in the newly elected governor’s campaign, and who had recently relocated from staff quarters in an asylum downstate, the house could have been a step up, and no doubt the location across from the Capitol building would have suited them well. Whoever owned the house at the time would have likely had influential connections to Texas politics; giving Joe Lee Jameson and his family the opportunity to live there could have been a reward for service and loyalty to the current administration. Perhaps also the Jamesons, or whoever arranged for them to live there, were doing the owners a favor by keeping the place occupied and maintained. In the letter Joe Lee wrote about the house, he seems to be proud of the history of the place but there’s no indication that any of it belongs to him.

About a decade after the family vacated the house (moving to Beaumont), the house was moved down the block by a new owner, and the owner’s sister, Fanny Andrews (aka “Miss Fanny”) opened a gift store on the first floor called “Ye Qualitye Shoppe” and then eventually moved in upstairs.

Miss Fanny (or is it Miss Fannye?) seemed to be a fixture in Austin—a longtime resident and one of the first women to attend UT.  She even had her own biography, a booklet of interviews she gave to a local historian in the late fifties, and I found a used copy for cheap in hopes that it would have another picture of the house. Sure enough, there was this photo from the 50s:

By this time the house had clearly seen better days. By Miss Fanny’s account, the place wasn’t in such great shape either back around 1910, after her brother had bought the house because “it was too good a house to waste” and moved it down the block to the lot he owned. “The house was terrible,” she was quoted as saying in her biography. “The colors in the house were terrible. One bedroom was red, one green, the west bathroom was red.” Miss Fanny fixed up the place and then opened the shop, which she ran for more than forty years until it closed in 1953. The house was demolished the same year as part of developments to the Capitol area.

Today the Westgate Tower at 1122 Colorado, completed in 1966, stands in its place.

I visited Austin this past April and one of the first things I did was to visit the historical marker for the house that stands in front of the building:

Despite all the development, I could still see the land ridge that ran beneath the whole block. And when I turned around and looked across the street, I could see what the view must have been from the front porch of the house at the time the Jamesons lived there. Except for the trees, it wouldn’t have been much different—the Capitol and the surrounding grounds.

For extra credit web fun:

This has been the deepest historical research I’ve done so far on a family history topic. It started with that one photo, and I suppose that image represents an anchor for me, a point in time that makes me want to find out more about everything that led up to it and everything that came after. That photo was meant to convey that the family had arrived; I have to wonder what it—and the house—meant to them after tragedy struck there not long afterwards. It’s one of those things I guess I’ll never know.

Dr. and Mrs. MacGregor

Their names came up in the last entry, so it seems like as good a time as any to introduce my other set of great-great grandparents, the MacGregors. So let’s meet these crazy kids!

William Wallace MacGregor was born in 1851, in either New York state or New Jersey.  Anna Jones was born in Texas in 1862. I find myself wanting to double-check these birthdates—there’s quite an age gap between these folks and the Jameson great-greats. Then again, the back of Dr. MacGregor’s photo says it’s from 1886, and he does look like a 35-year-old there. Anna’s photo is probably from the early 1900s.

W. W. MacGregor was a doctor, and, I think, the son of a Scottish or Scotch-Irish immigrant. As for Anna, she seems to have attended college—we found a notebook of hers from Wellesley—and it’s through her that the family line can be traced back to the 1600s.

(Forgive the vague details: we have more information on these folks in some boxes in Albuquerque, and I’ll add/correct things when I get a chance.)

The MacGregors lived in Laredo, Texas, during the early 1900s. They had five daughters. You’ll meet them in a bit.

Fond Memories of the Southwestern Insane Asylum

You’ll remember from the last post that Joe Lee’s resume included a stint as bookkeeper and steward at the Southwestern Insane Asylum in San Antonio in the 1890s. For some of that time he worked under the administration of Dr. William Wallace MacGregor, who took the role of superintendent in 1896. This was nearly twenty years before Joe Lee’s oldest son, Malcolm, would marry one of Dr. MacGregor’s daughters, Mary. In the intervening years, both families moved several times around southern Texas, and I have to wonder if they remained acquainted all that time, but perhaps they really bonded during the time they lived together in the insane asylum.

That’s right, they lived in the insane aslyum. This one here:

I don’t know if any of the family are in this picture. Someone took the time to pencil the name of the place on the back and you’d think he/or she would also mention any known people in the photo. I think it’s possible that Joe Lee is in the group standing off to the left (maybe the guy holding his hat?), and I suppose one of the whiskered gents could be Dr. MacGregor, though I’m less familiar with how he looks to be able to recognize him at this distance.

None of the children shown appear to be quite the right age/sex for the Jameson or MacGregor kids in the 1890s—if this photo is even from that decade. The buildings and grounds look pretty new, which makes me think it was taken not long after the asylum opened in 1892. There are a couple of infants in the picture, and if this was the early 1890s, Malcolm or Vida could be one of those, but who knows; it’s only a guess.

I do find it a little hard to imagine how the children lived there, especially in the case of the MacGregors, because by 1896, when Dr. MacG. became superintendent, there were already four girls in the family. But according to this page about the institution’s history, the asylum “was a self-contained living environment. Crops and livestock were raised on the grounds… A large lake provided fishing and recreational activities for the patients. All staff members lived on the grounds and had to obtain permission to leave.”

So I suppose the children were there, and from the above it doesn’t sound like it was the worst place for a few families to live. It was considered a state-of-the art facility at the time, built in the stately architectural style that reflected 19th-century ideals about asylums.

We found the postcard above wrapped in a note in Amaryllis Jameson’s handwriting:

The center part in picture is the administration building—on second floor to right as you look at it was the apartment of Dr. and Mrs. MacGregor. They had a suite of several rooms. On the third floor on left side front was our suite of two large rooms and bath. The officers dining room was on second floor back where we all ate—the kitchen in basement. On first floor was the large recreation room and Joe Lee and (I) learned to dance there by french harp music—we all had some good times there.

The two wings were patient wards—the females to right—males left.

Whether or not my great-grandparents met as children at the Southwestern Insane Asylum is a Question Worth Investigating. But if there’s one thing we do know, it’s that my great-great grandparents learned to dance there.