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.

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