Monthly Archives: March 2015

Great-Grandmother Eva

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Eva Bowers

Eva Bowers

Today I’m honoring my great-grandmother Eva Reinhardt.  Eva was born in Heidelberg, Baden, Germany to Johann Konrad Reinhardt and Anna Maria Schwebler on February 14, 1877. [1] Eva came to the United States when she was almost two years old.[2]  Her brother John was born on the boat.[3]  Her first home in the United States was in Amana, Iowa.[4]  They spent a few years in Amana and then moved to Ottawa, Illinois where Eva grew up with her brothers and sisters.[5]  I’ve already written about her sisters, Emma, Liz, and Agnes.  It seems that all of them lived interesting lives.  Eva grew into a young woman and sometime around 1896 she married Robert Bowers also of Ottawa, Illinois.[6]  The family story is that Robert and Eva ran off to Chicago to be married.  I have never been able to find a marriage record for them in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. According to family stories, Robert’s family never accepted Eva as his wife or acknowledged that any of the children were Roberts.  I started to wonder if they were ever really married and that is why Robert’s family didn’t want anything to do with Eva or their children.  However, when Robert’s father died, Robert and Eva as his wife signed a quit-claim deed to a piece of property to Robert’s mother.[7]  I was told that if they were not married, Eva would not need to sign the quit-claim deed.  Perhaps they were married somewhere other than Chicago.  Robert and Eva had three children, Ralph born in 1897,[8] Helen in 1898[9] and Frances in 1900. [10]  Shortly after Frances was born Robert left Eva.  Again family stories say they were divorced, however I have never found divorce records for them.  In 1900 Eva was on her own and had to make a living for her and her three kids.  According to the 1900 census she and two of her children are boarding with Enoch and Anna Lindstrom and her occupation is Milliner.[11]  One of the children missing is my grandmother, and I haven’t been able to figure out where my grandmother was living.  I checked the logical place with her maternal grandparents and she is not with them.  I remember my Aunt Fran talking about how her mother sent her to live with some people in Wisconsin and when her mother went to get her back, the people didn’t want to give her back.  I don’t remember Aunt Fran’s age when this happened, but Aunt Fran said she loved these people and didn’t remember her mother anymore.  So she didn’t want to leave them, however Eva got her back.  Maybe she sent my grandmother, Helen, to live with someone before she sent Frances to live with someone else.  I’m sure financially things were hard as there was no welfare or food stamps for single mothers in those days.  Sometime later she moved to Chicago where she took in boarders and was a dressmaker.  They moved to Oklahoma for a while and were in Oklahoma when it became a state.[12]  Eventually they came back to Chicago.  According to my grandmother, Eva married a man by the name of Andrew Schmidt.  He was supposed to be a doctor.  I have not found evidence of this marriage either.  Unfortunately, when my grandmother told these stories I was young and not into genealogy so I didn’t ask questions.  Now I wish I had dates of this supposed marriage.  They divorced too, however Eva didn’t use the surname Schmidt.  Eva went by the surname Bowers until the day she died.  She managed to support her children and they all adored her.  She died in 1941 and according to her death certificate she was widowed[13]  I never knew her, but not only did her children adore her so did her grandchildren.  I have some quilts she made and some candle stick holders that belonged to her.   I hope one day to find answers to questions that linger about her mysterious marriages and divorces.

Quilt made by Eva

Quilt made by Eva

Another quilt made by Eva

Another quilt made by Eva

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[1] Certificate of Death for Eva Bowers;  State of Illinois, Department of Public health, Division of Vital Statistics, Springfield, Illinois, Registration Number 34633. Date of death: December 23, 1941; Place of death: County of Cook, City of Chicago.

[2] Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filbry, ed., Germans to America: List of passengers arriving at U.S. ports, Volume 34 October 1878 – December 1879; ( Wilmington, Delaware, Scholarly Resources,1993), Page 106.

[3] Ibid

[4] Conrad Reinhardt household, 1880 U. S. Census, Amana, Iowa; Roll 345; Family History Film 1254345; page 146D; Enumeration District 201; Image 0155.

[5] From family stories told to this author.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Quit-claim deed record from Robert Bowers and Eva Bowers, his wife to Alexena Bowers, City of Ottawa, County of LaSalle, state of Illinois; deed book 448, page 167.  LaSalle County Illinois Genealogical Guild collection.

[8] Eva Bowers household, 1900 U. S. Federal  Census, LaSalle County, Ottawa township, ED 76, line 37, page 6, dwelling 557, fmily124, National Archives film publication T623, roll 317.

[9] Delayed Record of Birth for Helen Bowers, State of Illinois, Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Statics, LaSalle County, City of Ottawa, State of Illinois, Date of Birth: December 3, 1898, Dated August  7, 1957.

[10] Eva Bowers household, 1900 U. S. Federal  Census, LaSalle County, Ottawa township, ED 76, line 37, page 6, dwelling 557, fmily124, National Archives film publication T623, roll 317.

[11] Eva Bowers household, 1900 U. S. Federal  Census, LaSalle County, Ottawa township, ED 76, line 37, page 6, dwelling 557, fmily124, National Archives film publication T623, roll 317.

[12] Story told to this author by Helen Bowers Kaiser.

[13] Certificate of Death for Eva Bowers;  State of Illinois, Department of Public health, Division of Vital Statistics, Springfield, Illinois, Registration Number 34633. Date of death: December 23, 1941; Place of death: County of Cook, City of Chicago.

Copyright ©2015 Gail Grunst

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The Godmother

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pat

March is Women’s History Month and a time for honoring our female ancestors.  Today I am not honoring an ancestor but someone who played an important role in my life, my Godmother Pat.  Pat was my mother’s 1st cousin, and my 1st cousin once removed.  When I was born Pat was 14 years old and lived in Chicago with her divorced mother (my grandmother’s sister) Frances, better known to me as Aunt Fran.  We lived in a suburb of Chicago, Villa Park.  Almost every weekend Pat and Aunt Fran would come out to my grandmother’s house and spend the weekend.  I looked forward to their visits.  They always brought me some little trinket.  Pat had long hair and she would let me brush it and play beauty shop.  Pat was my idol.  She would tell me stories, sing to me, take walks with me, play games with me, and just talk with me.  In other words she paid a lot of attention to me.  She took me places too.  She would take me shopping in downtown Chicago, we would eat in nice restaurants, and she would take me to the movies.  I would spend a week during my summer vacation staying in Chicago with Pat and Aunt Fran.  One time Pat took me to Riverview (an amusement park in Chicago) with her boyfriend.  She didn’t like roller coasters, but her boyfriend did, and he took me on all the roller coasters several times.  Pat and Aunt Fran were good at organizing and holding birthday and Halloween parties.  They would buy all the decorations come out to my house, decorate, and organize the party.  The other kids loved my parties because Pat and Aunt Fran made them so much fun.

Pat had a beautiful voice and sang opera.  She would practice every morning when I was staying with her.  We would not go anywhere until she did her practicing.  She earned a B.A from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.  Her non-professional experience included the Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church and M. B. Sachs Amateur Hour in which she won first prize.  Her professional experience included the American Opera Company in Chicago, Board of Education Radio Station, New York City Opera, American Red Cross (Great Lakes Naval Hospital), Muni Opera in St. Louis, Pan American Council in Chicago, Decca Records – Forgive and Forget record.  She won an award at the  Chicagoland Music Festival Contest 1952 sponsored by the Chicago Tribune.  I know that Pat had won a bicycle and it was given to me.  May be it was the Chicago Tribune contest because that would have been about the right time that I got the bicycle.  Pat was also fluent in several languages.  She married a man from Columbia South America and they had a daughter.    I remember one Christmas Eve she sang I’ll be home for Christmas and my father played the Organ.  No rehearsal for either of them and it was beautiful.  It brought tears to everyone’s eyes.  I wish that we had a recording of that.  Years later I asked her to sing for my husband as he had never heard her sing.  She said, “Oh, I can’t anymore, it takes practice and I haven’t kept it up.”  After my mother passed away in 1987, Pat became my go to person when I needed to talk to someone.  Pat was my Godmother, and I was her daughter’s Godmother, and her daughter is my oldest sons Godmother. Pat passed in April 2014 at age 81. For Pat’s memorial service her daughter made a CD of her mother’s singing.  She recently made a copy for us.  It’s scratchy because the recordings were old, but it is nice to be able to still hear her voice again.  She was a big part of my life, I loved her very much and she lives on in my heart.

Pat and me

Pat and me

Pat and boyfriend, Tom

Pat and boyfriend, Tom

Copyright©2015 Gail Grunst