Animal skins were used for clothing and blankets for centuries. People didn’t have other options in ancient times. The fur trade continued into the Old West, and it’s history is filled with stories of adventure, daring, and savage warfare. It is said that being a trapper took a man of strong constitution. It wasn’t a job for sissies. The trappers suffered isolation in the wilderness, and battled constantly against wild beasts and wild men. Many trappers didn’t survive it, and in fact, the majority died in the silence of remote regions.
One of those men was my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer. Grandpa, along with his brother-in-law, my Uncle Albert Schumacher decided to become trappers. Northern Minnesota was filled with animals that were perfect for trapping, and they had decided to make their fortune. It was a noble decision, but they really had no idea just how tough it would be. This was not a job for the casual trapper. Most trappings occurred in the great mountains. Here, the trappers spent the larger part of their lives. I don’t think my grandpa and my uncle really had any intention of living their lives in the isolated wilderness. They just wanted to make a living.
They trapped for a time, and really they didn’t do too bad, when it came to trapping, but I don’t think they were prepared for the cold and isolation. Northern Minnesota is one of the coldest places on earth. That would prove to be their undoing. Camping out in a tent in the winter in northern Minnesota…well, it was kind of crazy. I guess in that way, so were they. After a while, they realized just how crazy it was. While they had modest success at fur trapping, they decided that it wasn’t really worth it in the end. I can understand that. If it were just the cold, it might be one thing, but there were the wild animals too. Bears, mountain lions, wolves, just to name a few, while prime furs, are still a force to be contended with. When you pit man against beast, all too often, the beast comes out on top, Of the many trappers in the old west, many went out to trap, and never returned…not only never returned, but were never heard from again. I’m glad that was not the fate of my grandpa and my uncle.
So, since they were already in the woods in northern Minnesota, and it was an area known for its lumber trade, they decided to abandon the fur trapping business, and go into the lumber business. That turned out to be a far better decision. Not only could they make a decent living, but they were able to sleep in a warm bed at night.
The United States has long been known as “The Melting Pot,” in reference to the immigration of many of its citizens. The United States was not a country that began with all of its people in place. I suppose no nation was really. There is, however, a legal way to immigrate, and an illegal way to sneak into a country. For the purpose of this story, the melting pot refers only to legal immigration. Beginning in 1892, and continuing until 1924, Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor, was the entrance for immigrants entering the United States. Not everyone who entered the United States had to go through Ellis Island, however. First and Second Class passengers were not so required. They were allowed to do all of their immigration paperwork, and inspections onboard the ship that arrived on. The Third Class passengers, however, were required to go through Ellis Island. There, they had medical exams and legal inspections to determine if they were fit for entry into the United States.
It is estimated that 12 million immigrants came through Ellis Island in those years. In all, about 2% were denied entrance into the United States. Our nation was quite generous with its legal immigration requests. One of the main reasons for the opening of Ellis Island was the change in the immigration requests. “Fewer arrivals were coming from northern and western Europe—Germany, Ireland, Britain and the Scandinavian countries—as more and more immigrants poured in from southern and eastern Europe. Among this new generation were Jews escaping from political and economic oppression in czarist Russia and eastern Europe (some 484,000 arrived in 1910 alone) and Italians escaping poverty in their country. There were also Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Serbs, Slovaks and Greeks, along with non-Europeans from Syria, Turkey and Armenia. The reasons they left their homes in the Old World included war, drought, famine and religious persecution, and all had hopes for greater opportunity in the New World.”
At one point, one of the men working on Ellis Island decided to bring his camera, and document the variety of people coming through. His photos really do show the “melting pot” that the United States was. He photographed a Romanian shepherd, a Serbian gypsy family, Danish captain, a bearded Greek priest, a Turkish bank guard, an Albanian soldier, an Algerian (wearing his finest clothes), and a tattooed German stowaway (who was eventually deported). It gives an inside look at the varied people who came to the United States, and these were just the third class passengers, seen on Ellis Island.
Ellis Island was used as an immigration center until 1924, at which time it was used until 1954 as a detention and deportation center for illegal immigrants. Now it is a museum, and a place where people can go to see if their ancestors came through on their way to a better life. The island had a varied past, and played a major role in creating “The Melting Pot” the United States was.
A number of years passed between the first time I met Uncle Butch Schulenberg, who is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s half-brother, and the reconnecting we had to him after my father-in-law’s passing. I consider those years a great loss, but I am thankful to have him back in our lives. There was no falling out or anything, just a lack of getting together, which is why I consider it such a great loss. It didn’t have to take that long. Uncle Butch is such a wonderful person, and I enjoy his company, and that of his lovely wife, Charlys very much.
Butch is a great teller of stories, and I mean the kind I love to hear…family history. The best place to get those family history accounts, is from someone who lived them. Growing up the son of the local sheriff, I don’t know if Uncle Butch had to be good so his dad didn’t get after him for embarrassing him, or if he was one of those who got into a bit of trouble because he knew that his dad could get him out of it. I might have to guess that it was a little bit of both, because I think that Uncle Butch has a mischievous side to him. I don’t think he was ever really bad, but as we all know, boys will be boys, so at least as a kid, my guess is that he tried to find out what his limits were.
By the time he got into high school, Butch had discovered football, and that proved to be a great part of his school years. Lots of guys love to play, watch, eat, and sleep football, so to get to be part of the team is a cool thing. Uncle Butch was a good athlete, and was often talked about or written about in the local paper. He still loves all the local sports in Forsyth, Montana where he lived then, and still lives. He is probably one of their greatest boosters, and he knows the local talent personally, because it is a small town, so everyone knows everyone else. He is able to see their athletic growth, and knows the local teams’ stats. That’s what being a booster is all about. It’s one thing to cheer for a team, because they are the local kids, and another to know just how good the local kids are. The kids and the townspeople love Uncle Butch too, because he is a friendly guy who can always be counted on to lend a helping hand, or just to shoot the breeze. Uncle Butch is well liked, because he is so friendly.
While Butch did live away from Forsyth for a short time, mostly while he was in the service, he has always been a local boy. He was born in Forsyth on November 9, 1940 to Andrew and Barbara (Fadhl) Schulenberg, and Forsyth would truly always be his home. Today is Uncle Butch’s 79th birthday. He doesn’t seem a day over 60 if you ask me. I think he’s a kid at heart and always will be. I will always treasure him. Happy 79th birthday Uncle Butch!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
From the moment he first saw her, my future uncle, George Hushman, knew that Evelyn Byer was the girl for him. He was taken by her beauty, and he never had eyes for another…nor did she. Theirs was a match made in Heaven. They married on September 1, 1947, and they would go on to celebrate 67 years of marriage together. Her passing on May 4, 2015 was the saddest day of his life.
Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George decided to build a house for their family soon after their marriage. They, with the help of family members built the iconic house that stood next to the Mills Fire Station ever since. Everyone in town knew the beautiful house. Until Uncle George’s passing, they would be the only family ever to live there. That is a sad thought to me, but some things cannot be helped. A home is meant to be lived in, not held as a shrine to it’s builder.
Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George would be blessed with five beautiful children, Susie Young, George Hushman, Shelley Campbell, Shannon Limmer, and Gregory Hushman. They would also be blessed with grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren, who are too numerous to name here. I have been blessed to be a niece to my aunt and uncle, as ar so many other nieces and nephews. Aunt Evelyn has always had a generous spirit, and many of us credit her with making our weddings perfect, by making the perfect wedding cake.
For years, Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George bowled as teammates to my parents, Allen and Collene Spencer (Evelyn and Collene being sisters). They had often double dated years ago, so bowling together was a logical next step. When the team decided they didn’t want to bowl any longer, Aunt Evelyn continued on by getting a team of some of her daughters together. I had the pleasure of being a substitute for them, whenever they needed one. We always had a great time. Those were really great days, and I miss them very much. We were close, and enjoyed each other’s company. There was lots of laughter and fun, every week. Time goes by so quickly, and before we knew it, we were saying goodbye to Aunt Evelyn and then, Uncle George. As it was with my parents, aunts, and uncles before them, we find ourselves losing all the elders in our family, and I find that very sad, because they were in great respect the glue that held us all together. Today would have been Aunt Evelyn’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Evelyn. We love and miss you very much.
Where my Aunt Evelyn Hushman was the beginning of my grandma and grandpa, Hattie and George Byer’s large family, Aunt Sandy Pattan was the end. Between them were 17 years and 7 siblings. When Aunt Sandy arrived, my grandparents had a disagreement as to what her name would be. My grandfather wanted to name her Sonya (or maybe Sonja, we will never know, since the name lost), but my grandmother wanted to name her Sandra. They simply could not agree, so the decision was made for Grandpa to go home and tell the rest o the children about the birth, and let a majority rule vote of the children settle the dispute. So, Grandpa went home and told the children about their little sister. Then he told them about the name dispute. They were to decide. Trying as hard as he could to make Sandra sound as plain as he could and, Sonya sound like the most beautiful name in the world, Grandpa waited for the decision. He didn’t have to wait long. Almost the split second he said Sonya, the children all said, “Eeeeewwww!! Sonya!! No way!! We choose Sandra!!”
Poor Grandpa. The decision saddened him. He liked the name Sonya. Nevertheless, Grandpa was an honorable man. The name Sandra had been chosen, and Sonya was out. He would accept that. I’m sure Grandma was happy, and my Aunt Sandy has told me that she is thankful, because she doesn’t think she would have liked the name Sonya. Maybe not, but once a name is given, most people can’t imagine themselves as anyone else. People tend to fit the name given, whether it is unusual or common. I can’t imagine having an Aunt Sonya, but then that is because I have always had an Aunt Sandy. That’s who she is, and it’s as simple as that.
Aunt Sandy must have some of the name/heritage gene in her blood, because she is as curious as I am about things like family history, and name history. We like to know if a name came from way back in the family, was made up, or picked out of a book. It doesn’t really matter which one it is, it’s really about the search. Aunt Sandy is a great teller of family stories. She remembers them in great detail. I could sit and listen to her all day. Many people don’t understand the importance of the family history, and people like Aunt Sandy and me, are important, because without someone to keep the stories alive, the family history could die, and that would be truly tragic. I’m grateful to have Aunt Sandy, who is still able to tell me the stories, so that when some of the kids in the family discover their interest, the story will still be there. Today is Aunt Sandy’s 74th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Sandy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My nephew, Tucker Schulenberg has been through a number of big changes over the past year, not the least of which is a name change. This past summer found Tucker’s dream coming true, when his dad, Ron Schulenberg officially adopted him. It is something Tucker had wanted almost since the day his mom, Rachel Schulenberg married his new dad. They are best buddies. Tucker has looked up to Ron for years now, and carrying his name is the ultimate honor for both of them. We are all very happy for them all, because we have all wanted this as well. Now, Ron and Tucker work together and play together. Ron is a great role model for Tucker, and he is very, very proud of his son.
Tucker is in his first year of middle school now, and with that change has come some other changes…some his mother is almost dreading. The biggest “dread” for Rachel is girls!! Nevertheless, try as she might to avoid it, Tucker is a bit of a chick magnet. So far this year, Tucker has had four girlfriends. I guess that his love of girls is definitely in the early stages…nothing serious for Rachel to worry about. Tucker is a complex kind of guy, and that might be what attracts him to the girls. He is well liked at school, for several reasons. Tucker likes to share the wealth, so to speak. He shares gum…by the 6 pound bags…with the kids at school. It’s not just the gum that makes the kids all like him, however. Tucker hates bullying, and will not tolerate it, against himself or others. He stops it in its tracks. While Tucker isn’t one to pick a fight, he will fight it it’s necessary to stop bullying. That is something that makes us all very proud.
Tucker likes LEGOs, YouTube, comics, the outdoors, shooting targets, and his dog. His varied interests, and his friendly nature, make him fit in everywhere. While his new interests make all the kids at school like him, Tucker still loves his daddy the best. They will always be best friends. Tucker is growing up fast, and I find myself amazed at how big he has grown. Where have all the years gone. It seems like just yesterday that Tucker was the almost 3 year old son of my brother-in-law’s new wife, but that was 9 years ago. Today is Tucker’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My great grandfather, Cornelius Byer was a kind and a fair man. He was generous and honest. It was these qualities that earned him the respect of the Indian tribes in the Gordon, Nebraska area. Great Grandpa passed away on October 23, 1930, but the celebration of life, really began before the day of the funeral, and even before he passed away. Over the years of his life, my great grandfather became a great friend of the Indians. He was invited to their pow wows, he was asked his opinions on things…and they listened when he spoke. He was helpful to the Indian tribes, and they, in turn treated him with great respect.
The Indians would often show up at his home…something that would most likely panic most people. Most often the women and children would stay outside, while the men went in to visit with Great Grandpa. It was another show of respect. The Indians often camped near the house when the men were visiting. I’m sure it was a very interesting lifestyle for my grandmother.
While all that was interesting, probably the most interesting thing happened as Great Grandpa was dying and after his passing. When he lay dying, the Indians came…long lines of them. Each one, including the women and children, passed by his bed. They spoke words of respect and admiration. I’m sure it took hours, but none were turned away. Great Grandma knew how much they loved him, and how much they needed to say goodbye. I would love to have had the chance to see that scene. These were two groups of people who normally didn’t get along, and yet they showed so much love and respect for one another. There was no warring with, no stealing from, no depriving of one another. There was simply love and respect. I’m sure it made my Great Grandmother Edna (Fishburn) Byer and their children feel very safe over the years.
My grandfather, George Byer arrived at the homestead on October 20, 1930. My grandmother, Hattie Byer stayed home with their newborn daughter, Virginia, who was just 4 months old at the time. Grandpa brought almost 2 year old Evelyn with him. His letter at the time said that all the children were there, or soon would be. Three days later, Great Grandpa Cornelius Byer passed away. I’m so glad my grandpa got to see his dad before he passed. When it was time to have the funeral, they would have to travel into Gordon, Nebraska. We would never think of transporting our own loved one to the funeral, but those were different times. Nevertheless, the Indians would not leave their dear friend to go alone. With the casket in a wagon, and his son driving, Great Grandpa went to his funeral. Little Evelyn sat in the back of the wagon, wide-eyed in wonder as a long line of Indians followed the procession to the cemetery. In death, as in life, their respect for this man, who was my great grandfather, was on display. I can’t think of a greater honor than this. Cornelius Byer was truly loved and respected by all who knew him.
Unfortunately, not every life story is a perfect one. There are among us, who embrace evil, greed, and selfishness, as well as the need to promote themselves as far more important than they are, or ever should be allowed to be. Georgia Tann was purported to be the face of modern adoption practices. She supposedly changed the view of orphan children, from unworthy of better circumstances to simply victims of circumstance who could go on to greatness, if given the chance. She had the backing of many of the prominent members of Memphis society, and officials including Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley. In reality, Tann operated a horrific human trafficking operation under the name of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society (not to be confused with the legally operated Tennessee Children’s Home) from 1924 to 1950. The non-profit corporation might have been legitimate when first chartered in 1897. Beulah George Tann was born in July 18, 1891, so she was too young to bring her evil into the society when it first began, and didn’t work there when the charter was renewed in 1913, but it was under her leadership that it became an illegal adoption agency.
Tann preyed upon people who had lost their jobs due to the depression, as well as single mothers, telling them that she could help them by taking the children temporarily, until they could get back on their feet. When the parents tried to reclaim their children, they found out that they had been adopted. The parents tried to fight Tann in court, but the courts rules in favor of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society…but she didn’t stop there. She had her people take children off the streets, and even their own front porches. The children were listed as abused, neglected, or abandoned. Their names and birthdates were changed to make tracking difficult…records were routinely destroyed. She also had parents sign forms they did not understand when their babies were born, often while mothers were still under medication, saying that this would let the county pay for the birth. Parents were then told the babies had died. When their older children were taken away, they found out that they had also signed away the rights to their them too. There were many corrupt officials involved in this. The corruption ran deep, and everyone covered up for everyone else in the ring.
The problem the children faced after being removed from the protection of their parents, who love them; is that the people who take them do not value the heart, mind, and bodies of these children. The children kept there were routinely malnourished, beaten, imprisoned, and abused…in every sense of the word. They were not allowed to go to school, and they were taken to viewing parties so potential…rich parents could take the ones they liked. Tann took children from poor people and gave them to “high-types” of people…for a price, of course. The cost of the adoptions was high and there were additional fees is the child had to be transported to another state. Only the rich could afford them. Tann pocketed the lion’s share of the fees received, and she lived well, while the children often survived on cornmeal mush. It is estimated that over 500 children died in the group homes run by Georgia Tann. Some were buried in mass graves. The final resting place of many others is unknown.
Tann’s rich parents were victims too. They had unknowingly adopted children who shouldn’t have been up for adoption. If they found out what she had done, Tann blackmailed them into silence. Actress, Joan Crawford’s twin daughters Cathy and Cynthia were adopted through the agency. Actors, June Allyson and husband Dick Powell also used the Memphis-based home for adopting a child. Professional wrestler Ric Flair was stolen from his birth mother and placed for adoption. Auto racer Gene Tapia had a son stolen by the agency. A 1950 state investigation found that Tann had arranged for thousands of adoptions under questionable means. State investigators discovered that the Society was a front for a broad black market adoption ring, headed by Tann. They also found record irregularities and secret bank accounts. In some cases, Tann skimmed as much as 80 to 90% of the adoption fees when children were placed out of state. Officials found that Judge Camille Kelley had railroaded through hundreds of adoptions without following state laws. Kelley received payments from Tann for her assistance. Tann died in the fall of 1950, before the case could go to trial. Kelley announced that she would retire after 20 years on the bench. Kelley was not prosecuted for her role in the scandal and died in 1955. Over the years that Tann headed up the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, she amassed at least 5,000 victims. The true number will most likely never be known, and in reality, continues to grow with each generation of children born, who will never know their true heritage.
My aunt, Jeanette Byer is a sweet, loving person, who is also very strong and independent. She and my uncle, Larry Byer married on February 11, 1956, just 2½ months before I was born, so she has been my aunt for my entire life. She has always been a blessing in our lives. She never says an unkind word, and she is always very encouraging to everyone around her. Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Larry raised two children, Larry Byer and Tina Grosvenor. Then their lives were blessed with grandchildren…(Twins) Melissa and Melinda Grosvenor, Adam Byer, Matthew Grosvenor, Travis Byer, and Melodie Grosvenor. Their lives were further blessed with several great grandchildren. Uncle Larry passed away on December 22, 2011, after 55 years of marriage. Aunt Jeanette carries on in good health and enjoys her ever growing family, but always missing Uncle Larry.
Years ago, Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette set up a mobile home on their land east of Casper, and inside it she had a family ceramic shop. She didn’t sell ceramics or anything, but it was a place where that family could go and make ceramics for gifts, to sell, or just for themselves. My grandparents, George and Harriet Byer were some of the main visitors at the little ceramic shop, and the things they made were beautiful. They blessed many people in the family with the ceramics they were able to make at Aunt Jeanette’s shop. I can picture it now. The good times they all head there…working on ceramics, while talking and laughing…just enjoying each other’s company. I’m sure Aunt Jeanette misses that a lot. Today is Aunt Jeanette’s 83rd birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Jeanette!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My uncle, Elmer Johnson worked a number of places, mostly as a truck driver of one type or another. He moved furniture for Burke Moving and Storage and for United Van Lines, working for Tom Aurelius, and often taking his oldest son, Elmer along with him for a couple of weeks in the summertime. When his son, Elmer was older, they had the opportunity to work together at Dalgarno Transportation. Uncle Elmer was also a certified welder working on pipeline, and later worked in the Uranium mines at Shirley Basin. While Uncle Elmer worked hard to support his family, his job was never where his heart was. His heart was with his family, and showing them the great outdoors.
Uncle Elmer was raised loving the outdoors, and fishing was always a family fun time. Time spent at the lake, swimming, or just clowning around with his brothers was the way to have fun in the summer. For my cousin, Elmer, those are the times he remembers as the very best part of life. Camping, fishing the most of the lakes and quite a few of the creeks throughout the state of Wyoming. They camped out and rented cabins in places like Louis Lake and Meadowlark Lake. Elmer remembers that his dad was always happiest with a fishing pole in one hand and a beer in the other. It’s no wonder that Elmer has a boat and spends as much time at the lake as he can, often taking his niece, JeanAnn and her kids, Mykenzie and Ethan along so he can show them the great times he had as a kid.
Since Uncle Elmer passed away in 1981, when my cousin, Elmer was just 25 years old, those great family times have become more and more precious. His mom, Deloris Johnson’s passing in 1996 made that family time even more precious. Elmer has worked very hard to keep his dad’s dream lifestyle alive. In many ways, Elmer is carrying on his dad’s legacy, and I know that Uncle Elmer would be very pleased and very proud of Elmer. Today would have been Uncle Elmer’s 86th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Elmer. We love and miss you very much.