The MacGregor Minera mystery SOLVED!

Sometimes all you have to do is ask the question and the answer will come. A few weeks back, shortly after I posted the previous entry (in which I speculated that perhaps my great grandmother and her sisters taught school in the mining camp town of Minera, Texas), a researcher friend of mine saw the link on Facebook and did a few quick searches in the newspaper databases he can access. (It happens he is a very good researcher.)

Sure enough, he found a number of clippings in the Laredo papers that show that Anna and Mary (along with other girls), taught school in Minera, and they stayed there during the school term with occasional visits home.

March 1908: Anna is around twenty years old.13726586_10153178152687465_3255580076689247602_n  September 1908:13700044_10153178154497465_8451705861865473216_nNovember 1908:  Little ten-year-old sister Kathryn comes up to visit! (Bonus: Mrs. Roy was the wife of the mine superintendent.)13669569_10153178159942465_6624088838219020197_n Mary had the teaching gig by September 1910, when she was around twenty. Obviously she survived the ordeal described below. (Homesickness maybe?)13668942_10153178161777465_3869447850786804958_o February 1911: Guess they had a long holiday break. Interesting that Anna was living in Corpus Christi at this point. She might have been staying with the cousins and great-aunts/uncles who might have still been living up there. Was she teaching school there, too?13699979_10153178146402465_2137777451326325954_n

May 1911: Mary comes home for the summer.13709948_10153178148707465_5097446005712145508_n

Not yet known: how many terms they taught. And did they need the money and/or experience? Or were they in it for the adventure?

We know that Helen, who came next in age after Mary, taught in the mining town of Dolores. That might have been around the time Minera shut down in 1915. Did the two youngest MacGregor sisters—Margaret and Kathryn—teach as well when they were old enough? And if so, did they teach in places like Minera and Dolores?

(Ed. note: didn’t mean to stay away for a whole month! I try to post weekly when I can, but sometimes it’ll be more like once a month. Sign up for email notifications if you want to know when I’ve updated.)

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EVEN MORE Joe Lee in the White City

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Ferris Wheel stereoscope image (found for sale online)

Maybe it’s because it’s summer, but I wish there were enough stuff in these scrapbooks to let me blog about the World’s Columbian Exposition for about ten more weeks, because jeezle pete, I really love old world’s fairs. Two summers ago I was working on the first draft of a children’s novel set at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, which had the same grand Ferris wheel (the first ever, you know) from the 1893 fair. I stared at pictures of that thing so I could write the scene when the kids in my book see it for the first time. It’s even on the cover of the book (and yes, I know it wasn’t that close to the waterfront), and it turns out my great-great grandfather had been on it in Chicago. I mean, so had a lot of people, but still!

Anyway, when we last left Joe Lee Jameson, he was wandering daily around the fair and the Midway Plaisiance, sending postcards and checking his mail at the Texas building in hopes of getting a letter from his wife, Ammie. He was also most likely having a complete blast.

Where did he stay? Making an educated guess, based on this pasted-in bit in Ammie’s scrapbook:

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The Stamford

This picture is only a couple of inches square, small enough to have been clipped out of a sheet of letterhead or a brochure. The buildings looked pretty Chicagoish to me and when you zoom in on the image you can see “Chicago” in the engraver’s signature. You can also see, on the teeny tiny banners atop the building, the words The Stamford. I did some searching and sure enough, the Hotel Stamford, on Michigan Avenue at Thirteenth Street, is listed in a 1893 Chicago guidebook. You can see it in this birds-eye-view here (it’s marked with a “5”). Rates were $2.50 to $5 a night, or about $60 to $130 in today’s money. For comparison’s sake, the famous Palmer House hotel had rates of $3 to $15 dollars per night, so the Stamford was probably a mid-price kind of place.

From the Stamford it would have been just a couple blocks’ walk to the elevated train (what’s now the Green Line) going south to the Exposition grounds at Jackson Park. About a mile to the north of the hotel was—is!—the Auditorium theatre, where Joe Lee apparently caught a show.

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Auditorium theater program, in Ammie’s scrapbook

The show Joe Lee saw was America, a “grand historical spectacle” produced in honor of the Exposition. Going by the program and the little bit I’ve read about historical spectaclesAmerica appears to have been a plotless but extravagant maelstrom of dance, pageantry, and stagecraft, with performers playing allegorical figures such as “Progress,” “Liberty,” and “Bigotry” (just try to imagine the costume for that last one). There might also have been dancers portraying “Whitney’s Cotton Gin” and “Morse’s Electric Telegraph” in the Grand Ballet of American Inventions. (I would have liked to have seen that.)

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Poster of Imre Kiralfy’s AMERICA (found online), featuring a whole lot of costumed performers standing in rows & stuff.

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Click to see the whole program

The program has all kinds of curious tidbits, such as a note strongly recommending that patrons, “especially the ladies,” leave their seats and socialize during the intermission. There’s also this handy description of the air conditioning system:

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“Pardon me, but will you kindly explain how is it so delightfully cool in this establishment?”

“The cooling and ventilating apparatus used for the Auditorium is extremely simple,” it begins. You can click on the pic to read the whole explanation, which involves a ten-foot-diameter fan, a shower of brine, and oh, just 40,000 pounds of ice per day.

But back to Joe Lee, who was still writing home:

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Sweetheart:—I have just taken a stroll on the roof of the Manufacturer’s Bdg. It is the finest view that I have ever seen. Yours, Joe Lee Jameson.

Here was his view, or at least one of the views that was possible from the top of the massive building:

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(photo from Wikipedia)

The building Joe Lee was on is featured in the postcard below, which he sent later that day. He’d finally gotten a letter from Ammie. He was also ready to come home:

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Sweetheart:—Yours of the 18th is rec’d. I see the handwriting on the wall. We are all going dead broke. When that occurs, which will be very soon, we will pack our Saratogas for Texas. Why you can’t breathe at Jackson Park without first dropping a nickle in the slot. Look out for us anytime. Yours, Joe Lee.

No idea if “the handwriting on the wall” referred to running out of cash or something in Ammie’s letter. Either way, Joe Lee and his traveling companions were getting sick of spending nickels. It was time to return to normal life. You know, at the insane asylum.

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(And maybe you’re wondering what that was like, living on the grounds of a nineteenth-century state-of-the-art mental institution? Ammie’s scrapbooks have some clues, and I’ll get into those sometime this summer, so stick around.)

Keeping up with the Joneses, Part 2: Charles writes from Texas

Behold, Anna Collins’s handiwork: the binder of letters from the Jones brothers. (I know, the Jones brothers actually wrote the letters. But great-great Aunt Anna saved them, and I feel I have to thank her constantly, because I have heard from my parents and grandma that she could be JUDGY, and you didn’t want to cross her. Anyway.)

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“Letters from Jones Brothers” (Anna MacGregor Collins’s handwriting). Binder compiled in late 1960s or so

The letters are from or to Charles, Ezra, Lucius, Alonzo, and William, and the dates range from 1848 to the early 1880s. I’m slowly going through and scanning and transcribing these, and you, dear blog readers, are my excuse for getting through them in a timely fashion.

But first I’m going to cheat a little and offer up a letter that has already been transcribed, because Anna Jones MacGregor (my second great-grandmother and Judgy Anna’s mother) sent it off to be printed in a Texas newspapers sometime in the late 30s or early 40s (I’m guessing.) Here’s a PDF of the clipping—appears to have been from a Hebbronville newspaper, but not sure which one. I’m running it because it’s sort of a nice intro to the Jones siblings (and also I’m lazy).

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Intro to letter. Mrs. W.W. MacGregor = Anna Jones MacGregor.

The letter is from Charles Jones, whom we met last week. (I know, the letter intro says it’s Anna Jones MacG’s grandfather, who was also named Charles, but he died in 1843, so it’s clearly a typo). Since it was written to “the folks back home in old New England” and addressed to a brother, I’m guessing the recipient was either William or Ezra up in Boston or maybe New Hampshire.

To summarize the letter: Charles, who would have recently graduated from Dartmouth (at the age of 32?), was traveling with his younger brother Alonzo, then a teenager, down to Texas. They sailed from New York to Galveston on a fifteen-day journey, took a steamboat to Houston, and then traveled some sixty miles north by wagon to Grimes County (not far from Montgomery, where he wound up living and practicing law), noting plenty of traffic along the way, probably from immigrant settlers who were streaming into Texas at the time. 

“The road goes where the wagons are pleased to drive, and there is so much travel that there are sometimes eight or ten parallel tracks, and we could sometimes see twenty teams at once, with four to six yolk of oxen to each, and from ten to twelve oxen. The drivers carry their own snack and whiskey, and the cattle are turned loose to feed. Farmers make money here.”

Was he looking to buy land? For most of the letter he’s talking about the money involved in growing cotton or raising livestock (“A man may keep as many [sheep] as he pleases,” he writes) and the rising price of land, but there’s also no indication that he was more than an observer. He and his brother appear to have known where they were headed, since he mentions they were expecting letters upon their arrival. Was Charles looking for opportunities in Texas, or was he on his way to begin a specific job? And who the heck was Sam?

But never mind. In the newspaper the clipping is followed by this note, which has some delightfully specific information about two other Jones brothers. There’s Alonzo, who we already knew worked for the railroad; and then Lucius (called “Lu” in this and other letters), who was the chaplain in a Confederate brigade that fought in one of the few Civil War skirmishes in New Mexico, and who met with a tragic (and ironic) death:

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Some choice bits of info about Lucius Jones and Alzonzo Jones.

Yeah, so THAT happened. We’ll find out a little more about Lu’s life and death in the Jones letters. Until then…

A day in New York in 1932

I came across this photo of my great-grandparents while sorting through the trunk stuff. This is an incredibly cool photo, for more than one reason.

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3rd from left: Mary “Nana” MacGregor Jameson. 4th from left (behind Nana): Malcolm Routh Jameson. 5th from left: Edith Taliaferro Jameson. Far right: Vida Jameson. Likely New York, possibly August 1932. Taken by House Jameson?

For one thing, it’s the only photo I’ve ever found that shows my great-great-uncle House’s wife, Edie, in the company of the other Jamesons. You’ll remember Malcolm, Mary, and Vida Jameson from the last two posts, when they were in D.C.; here, Vida is a teenager. You might also recall that in 1930 Malcolm and Mary and their kids were living in the same building on east 48th Street as House and Edie. Despite this, though the two brothers (Malcolm and House) with their respective spouses/families always seemed to be in different worlds. At times this was literally true—in the 1930s House and Edie were touring Australia and the US with a theatre company for months at a time, Then House’s radio and stage work in New York likely came with its own unique lifestyle, whereas in 1930 Malcolm was a salesman with the International Correspondence Schools. In some of the extended group family photos of the Jamesons in the 30s and 40s, House shows up, but never Edie. But here she is, with her brother-in-law and sister-in-law and niece (and some other unknown folks) on a rooftop in what looks to be New York City.

My guess is that House was taking the photo, which is why he doesn’t appear in it. I also can’t help but wonder if they’re all on the roof of their building on 48th Street. But—and this is the other cool thing about the photo—I figured out from looking at the photo closely (which meant scanning it, since it’s only three by four inches) that I could make a pretty good guess as to the exact day it was taken.  Continue reading

The Jamesons go to Washington (Part 2)

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Mary MacGregor Jameson and baby Vida, circa 1917 (Evidently they took close-ups of the baby once in a while.)

Just a little more background on last week’s photos of Malcolm, Mary, and little Vida in Washington DC. Vida had been born in September 1916 in Houston, and in November Malcolm was called to Washington to work as a Naval draftsman, and the family seems to have moved with him.

One of the photos from last week provides a clue about where they lived:

vidababy4 Look closely and you’ll see the word “Fifth floor” scrawled at the top. Look even more closely and you can just make out the word “Ventosa” over the building’s doorway.

I don’t know if I would have known to look if the note on the back of the photo hadn’t urged me:

IMG_7973“Vida in front of the house / See name over door,” it says, in what I think is Mary’s handwriting. So I looked up Ventosa and here’s what I found, from a 1907 newspaper:

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Rooms of good size! Modern plumbing! Speedy elevators!

According to this ad, the Ventosa apartments each had two rooms, bath, kitchenette, and long-distance telephone service. Notice also the line about the building being “Opposite and Fronting United States Capitol and Its Beautiful Park.” That was no exaggeration—B Street is now Constitution Avenue, and if you look at where it intersects Northwest 1st street on a DC map you’ll see it’s kitty-corner from the main Capitol grounds. The place where the Ventosa stood is now part of the extended grounds (the building was torn down in the 1930s).

I don’t have this address for the Jamesons in any records (they would move on to Virginia by the 1920 census), but I’ll keep an eye out for it. I was hoping it would be on Malcolm’s 1917 passport application, but no dice—it just mentions he lives in DC.

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If they really did live at the Ventosa, with the Capitol dome right across the street, it might have felt very familiar to Malcolm, who for a few years in childhood had lived right across the street from the Texas capitol in Austin.

At any rate the family seemed very proud to be there, if the baby pictures of Vida are any indication. (I made a collage of them for fun). And as for why they all look like hostage photos, my guess is they had didn’t have unlimited film—or, for that matter, unlimited time outside with a tiny baby in winter. The easiest thing was probably to get in as much of the scenery as possible and the baby.

 

The Jamesons go to Washington (Part 1)

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This gallery contains 12 photos.

I was away for part of the weekend, so no time for a full post this week. But here are a dozen photos of my great-aunt Vida Jameson, just a few months old, in late 1916 or early 1917 in Washington, DC. Her … Continue reading

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