Thursday, October 27, 2016

Family history - my maternal grandfather

This is my grandfather, William Feaster, on his farm in central New Jersey.  I estimate his age to be about 30 and the year to be 1917.  It's possible that the picture was taken by his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Mildred, or by his wife of six years, "Lizzie."  Here is a dress up picture from about the same time.

He was born in 1887, the son of a veterinarian, and grew up in Jacobstown, New Jersey.  He was deaf in one ear from being hit in the head by a baseball bat during a boys' game.  He became a veterinarian through a correspondence course from McGill University and became renowned among farmers in his area.  He also learned harness racing.

I have three pictures like this, all undated, and from the look of his features, as well as the clothing of the people in the background, I guess he might have been about 30 here, the year being 1917.  He always liked that style of cap.  I remember him wearing one when I was a boy in the 1950s.

Back then, when he lived in his retirement at 32 Magnolia Avenue in New Egypt, he often took me on drives past the magnificent horse farm of Stanley Dancer, who won his first race at the age of 18 in 1945 and who set up his stable in 1948.  That name was a household word.  Look him up on Wikipedia.

Here's another picture of him behind a horse, but this nag is obviously no race horse!

He looks to be in his forties here.  I can't imagine why he is dressed up.

At some point in the 1920s my grandfather gave up veterinary work are started a produce trucking company.  He had formed the idea during winter vacations in Florida that he could pick up starts of tomato plants in the south and provide them to farmers in New Jersey to help them bring in a crop earlier.  He picked up the harvest from client farmers and had a crew of women sort through and select the best-looking specimens, polish them, and place them in small baskets.  He trucked these to Philadelphia and New York to fine restaurants.

This is my grandfather at the wheel of a Ford Model AA livestock truck filled with boxes of tomatoes.  This model truck was built from 1929 to 1932.  The picture is undated.  My Aunt Millie was one of his truck drivers.

This truck looks to be a 1940 Ford.  My grandfather would truck empty tin cans into the cranberry factories and truck finished product out again.  He had a fleet built up by then.

This world was in the past when I was born toward the end of 1944.  My grandfather had begun to acquire rental houses in New Egypt to supplement his retirement funds.  Fort Dix was seven miles away, and married soldiers found rental housing in the nearby towns.

This is my grandfather as I first remember him.  He enjoyed vegetable gardening in a big way.  This picture probably dates from early in 1948, when I would have been a bit over three years old.

This is his garden in the 1950s.  I remember riding on his lap as he worked his big garden.

In 1957, age 70, he no longer used a tractor, but still enjoyed growing massive tomato plants, beans, squash, strawberries, asparagus, watermelons, and blueberries.  He died in 1971, age 84.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Family history - hints of prosperity in 1921

Because the car behind the people looks new, I think this family portrait dates from either the late autumn of 1920 or the early winter of 1921.  The shape of the windows and roof line suggest the car is a 1921 Ford Model T.

My mother, Edna "Ned" Feaster, is on the left.  She was born in February, 1913, and she looks to be about 8 years old here.  There appear to be leaves hanging down in the upper left part of the picture, but there is a reflection of a tree without leaves in the rear window of the car.  It appears to be a chilly and windy day.

My Aunt Millie Challender, Mom's half sister, is on the right.  If this is 1921, she is sixteen and in high school.  That cape collar coat was fashionable then, and it looks new.

My grandmother, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Feaster, is second from the left.  In 1921 she would have been 34.  Her mother-in-law, Mary Costello Feaster, is on her left.  The picture was taken in New Egypt, New Jersey.

Lizzie Pierce married Frank Challender at the age of 17.  She bore him two daughters and became his widow at the age of 22.  She went to work as a chambermaid in a small hotel in Cookstown, New Jersey.  She could not manage to support two daughters, so she kept Millie and gave the other daughter, my Aunt Gertrude, to be raised by Frank Challender's childless sister, Cora Morris, who lived in Cookstown.  Thus, I knew Winfield and Cora Morris as "Aunt Cora and Uncle Winfield," despite the fact that we were not blood relatives.  Aunt Gertrude called Cora "Mom."

Lizzie was then courted by Bill Feaster, a young veterinarian who she knew in the neighboring town of Jacobstown.  They were the same age, 24, when they married in 1911, two years after the death of Frank Challender.  Mom was their only child together.

My grandfather had arrived in Jacobstown at age 10, the son of a prominent veterinarian.  Bill Feaster obtained his degree by correspondence courses from McGill University and was highly respected in central New Jersey.

Aunt Millie lived with my grandparents all of their lives and never married.  My grandfather formally adopted her in 1952 when he was 65 years old and in retirement.  Aunt Gertrude remained a Challender until her marriage to Bill Ellis.

This was my family circle when I was a boy in New Egypt.  My mother's family had lived in that part of New Jersey for generations.  Mary Sheerin was born in the vicinity of Dublin, Ireland in 1861.  The Feaster side of the family were likely Swiss immigrants (Pfister is a Swiss name).  There were Feasters in eastern Pennsylvania in the late 18 century, and there is a town named Feasterville in the school district where I went to high school northeast of Philadelphia.  Some of the Feasters migrated to southern New Jersey in the 19th century.  My great-great-great grandfather, Rulof, was located in some old census records when my mother undertook a study of her family history in the 1990s.

When my mother was elderly and living in Florida, I passed some of the time during my visits by doing oral history with her.  I wrote many tales of woe and mercy into one of my garden notebooks.  How I wish I had transcribed those notes and run them by my mother while she was alive.  But I didn't transcribe them, and now the notebook is missing.