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A letter written by Granddad X. T. to Nana on her sixty-seventh birthday:

Jan. 22, 1966

To My Sweetheart —

I do not want to appear nostalgic, but I have many memories of our lives together. School days — summer nights. The first time I kissed you. Separations — Reunions, misunderstandings, understandings. Moments of ecstasy — Disappointments and on and on, but all of these have helped us to build a life together. Thru it all we have clung together and become as one and from this union, our children came and dwelt among us. You were always closer to them, because you gave so much more than I — They were nestled in your bosom. You nurtured them. You suffered with them, but somehow God in his infinite love and wisdom has made me, too a part of the plan and when you and the children suffer, I suffer too. I love you and I love them. Sometimes I think I am almost selfish for all of you. I feel so inadequate, but I hope you and the children will all understand and when time ends on earth, I trust we will all extend our hands to the Divine and walk together, serving him who has been so gracious, so kind, and so forgiving.

My love — my all, and many more Happy birthdays!

X—

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(A recent story addition to my Great-Grandparents Glasier and Louisa‘s pages on my online family tree.)

Louisa and Glasier were my father’s paternal grandparents. I never knew them, but heard stories about them over the years from those who loved them.

Louisa moved from Pennsylvania to Iowa with her very close family in 1867.  On the 1880 census, several of the children in her family were recorded incorrectly. She is listed as Mariah L. Sams, age 15. She was also Mariah L. on a previous census, but was known in married life and by her descendants as Louisa Maria, or more affectionately, as “Lou.”  With her name written variously on different records, I am not certain which was her middle name and which was her first, or if Maria was spelled with or without an ending “h,” but I recall seeing her name written as Louisa Maria in a family Bible and my grandmother noted in writing that her name was pronounced “Lou-eye-sa.” She worked in a millinery shop in Mount Ayr before marriage.

Eli Sams Family

Eli Sams Family (Louisa: back row, center)

Glasier and his siblings, born in Indiana during their parents’ residence there, moved with them by covered wagon to Delphos, Iowa where they settled on a 120-acre unimproved prairie farm. Their mother was killed in a run-away buggy accident at the Ringgold County Fair in 1884, and their father, being ill with “lung fever” (pneumonia) for some time, died only a few months later in 1885. Orphaned, Glasier and his siblings went to live with their aunt named Mary L. (Glasier) Walker.

It was in Ohio that Glasier first married Eva Ellet (pronounced “Eh-va”). They soon moved to Iowa where they had son Fenton, but when he was only eight months old, Eva also took ill with typhoid and died. Not long after her death, Glasier married Louisa. On their honeymoon, they traveled to Bedford, Ohio to pick up little Fenton, who had been staying with his Great-Aunt Mary Walker since his mother’s death. Fenton was by then probably about two years old.

Louisa was a good wife and gave him three more children, but as Dad’s sister Anne wrote many years ago, Louisa was remembered as being “especially kind in the way she accepted Fenton as her own child” after the death of his natural mother. My grandfather and his three full siblings never considered Fenton a “half” brother; There was never a distinction made between the children. Sons X. T. and Fenton even looked more like one another than Glenn.

Louisa was a very good cook and love to bake pies. My grandfather remembered having pie on the table every morning after their main breakfast, which they ate after chores.

Glasier had suffered the loss of many loved ones early in life. As a result, he was often quite somber, but as Anne wrote, he was a “good, substantial farmer of excellent repute.” She added that he was “rather stern and almost never allowed his children to sing or speak at meals, except to ask for food,” although apparently he was less strict about this with daughter Florence. He loved nature and enjoyed roaming the timber in pursuit of a “bee tree.” When found, “a special occasion was made of cutting the ‘bee tree,’ and after the harvest, huge dishpans of honey were often gathered. Glasier was a good fisherman and served in several township and school officerships. He always hoped his son X.T. would run for and be elected to the State Legislature, which did eventually happen. He was a religious man and was always faithful to the Christian Church.”

Glasier Edwards Prentis

Glasier Edwards Prentis

In the 1920s, Glasier became a police officer. Deciding he could earn a better living in a larger city, in about 1926, he and Louisa moved to Detroit, Michigan. Apparently Detroit was violent with race riots at that time. Concerned for his safety there as a police officer, their children eventually convinced Glasier and Louisa to return to Iowa to operate one of my grandfather’s chicken hatcheries in Leon, Iowa.

My father (Ray Prentis) said that while he couldn’t recall her being as affectionate as his maternal grandmother, he had mostly good memories of Louisa and her sisters. After Glasier died in 1936, Louisa lived for a time with each of her children. When she lived with my dad’s family, their home was the two-story house next to their hatchery in Mount Ayr, between the railroad tracks and the school. In years following, that same house was the home of my dad’s brother. Louisa’s bedroom was upstairs and the only access was a very narrow staircase. Louisa was a large woman in her later years, so Dad and his siblings, at the ring of her bell, ran up and down the stairs whenever she needed things.  Aunt Jean recalls some embarrassment whenever she had to hang her grandmother’s significantly sized undergarments on the back yard laundry line to dry, cringing at the thought of everyone passing by on the train being able to see them.

Also while Louisa lived with my dad’s family, there was an obvious and unfortunate rift in the family concerning her. My father, being young, was never informed of the reason, but at some point, her daughter Florence’s husband refused to even let her visit their home.  My grandfather and his sister were very close, but after that, Dad recalls that Florence had to “sneak” visits to see her mother and Granddad so as not to upset her husband. He apparently didn’t mind so much, as long as he didn’t have to be involved with her in any way. It must have been soon after that she moved for about a year to an apartment at the Lamb Hotel on the square in Mount Ayr. During her residence there, it was my father’s job to stop by every evening after school to carry out the ashes from her stove and to run errands for her groceries and other needs. Then, sometime after her widowed sister Ollie moved from Liberty Township (within the same county) to a house in Mount Ayr, Louisa and another sister Delphene, who had never married, moved in with her, each remaining there for the rest of their lives.

Louisa (Sams) Prentis

Louisa (Sams) Prentis

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(A recent story addition to grandfather’s page on my online family tree.)

My grandfather X.T. was named for his grandfather, Xavier Thomas Prentis, but was only called by the initials, and to his knowledge, so was his grandfather. In fact, Granddad didn’t even know he had a full name until while serving in the Iowa Senate,  a news reporter, frustrated that Granddad would not reveal his full name, bet Granddad that he could find his full name on his birth certificate. Granddad didn’t think he had one of those either! The reporter had done his homework and had either already found a copy, or then went and searched for it, but much to my grandfather’s surprise, a birth certificate bearing a full name of Xavier Thomas Prentis was later produced.

Apparently when he was born, his “Uncle Doc,” Percy L. Prentis, was the physician who delivered him. When Percy asked Granddad’s parents what name he should put on the birth registration, Glasier told him to name him after their father. With those instructions, Percy wrote down the full name, but thereafter, his parents and everyone else only ever referred to him as X.T.  On all official records besides his birth certificate, he was, as Granddad would always say when asked for his full name, “X.T. Prentis. Just X.T.” In unofficial matters, he was sometimes just “X”.

X.T. was an Iowa State Senator for fourteen years, holding the office of State Representative four times in succession, and serving a number of years as Iowa State Tax Commissioner.  His uncle Percy was also an Iowa State Representative for three consecutive terms.

In April, 2009, I received the following comments from a distant cousin on my grandmother’s side, Richard L. Stephens, related through Cora (Tennant) Trimble, a sister of George Alexander Tennant (Nana’s father):

“I knew X.T., his wife, and son Dick and wife well. I went to school with their kids and we attended the same church. X.T. helped me with one of my high school assignments and the sly old fox taught me more on that project than any teacher I have ever had.

“The assignment was about property tax. Since we were in the same church and he was a State Senator at the time, I thought it would be a slam dunk. I told him all of the information I needed and he said he would get it for me. Instead of the neat, concise report I expected, X.T. gave me a stack of books, pamphlets and reports six inches thick! It was all there, but much of it had to be compiled and correlated to make it what I needed. I learned so much in the process about the Iowa property tax system, and more importantly about research and data compilation. I got an A, but got a lot of much more valuable education. He could have just given me the information, but instead he gave me an education! I finally grew up enough to realize it while he was still around and thanked him for it! Sly old fox!”

In addition to his long political career, Granddad also owned and operated chicken hatcheries in Bedford, Leon, and Mount Ayr, Iowa for fifty-four years. In 1924, the Prentis Hatchery was opened in Mount Ayr with a capacity of 2,400 eggs and by 1936, this had been increased to 100,000.  It was at that time, the only state-inspected hatchery in the county.  The modern hatchery used electric equipment to incubate as well as to hatch, and a good part of its business was “custom” hatching for local farmers and poultry raisers. The hatchery was later operated by his son, Richard, and finally by Richard’s son-in-law.

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Since I recreated a six generation photo montage for male descendants in my dad’s family several weeks ago, he asked me to try to come up with something similar for the girls in the family. There weren’t as many photos of the women in his family, at least not in the same line of descent, but I am lucky enough to have six generations of women’s photos from my mom’s family, including my daughters and me. The oldest photo, of my 2nd great-grandmother Emma, turned out fairly well considering the condition it was in, but as I brought the photo to life with  digital colorization, I was taken with her uncanny resemblance to myself — almost as much resemblance as Dad had to his 2nd great-grandfather!

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There are so many opportunities for names to be, not just misspelled, but completely butchered. What a mess as far as researching family lines goes! Too bad they didn’t have computers “back then.”

I’ve been researching my family for forty years and have found some errors that leave me wondering about the common sense of record keepers, census takers, and the original transcribers — and some leave me laughing.

My 2nd great-grandfather’s name, Xavier Thomas Prentis, was transcribed from the 1850 census as Havier Runtz! I kid you not. No wonder it took so long for me to find it. The name of his widowed mother, above his, was correctly transcribed as Mary Prentis. Ten years later, the 1860 census was transcribed correctly — but his name is incorrect on the original as Exavier Prentiss, handwritten with the long s: Prentiſs.  In 1870, it’s transcribed as Xame Prentiss, again handwritten as Prentiſs, but reads Xavier on the original. According to my family, he typically used only the initials, X. T., and no wonder! Also living with them in 1850 and 1860 was Mary’s unmarried, older sister. In 1850, she was Philona R. Edwards. In 1860, she is Philora. (Was it Philona or Philora?) On the Iowa WPA Graves Registration site, Xavier’s name is recorded as Xaviert Prontis! and on Findagrave.com, his name was Xavier T. Prentice (until my correction was accepted), while his actual headstone is correct according to my father. (Edit: Thanks to a volunteer photographer, this can now be verified). Even his name in his obituary printed in the 1884 Ringgold Record was misspelled (and while the year of death in the obituary is 1884, by golly if the year doesn’t appear to be 1885 on the headstone photo). Transcribers for WGA blessed my great-grandfather with the Prontis alias, too, and in the 1870 census, he was Elizier E. Prentiſs.

Xavier Thomas Prentis

Xavier Thomas Prentis

My grandfather, with the same name as his grandfather — except he didn’t know it for about 40 or 45 years — used only the initials, even as a child.  Oh, he knew he was named for his grandfather, but he apparently thought his grandfather’s name was only X. T. too. Anyway, in several census records, all handwritten correctly if you look at the actual documents, Granddad’s name is transcribed incorrectly as A.T.  Prentice, K.T. Prentis, and N.T. Prentis.  Only in the social security death index is he X. Prentis. If I hadn’t known the names of others in the family, I would probably still be looking for those records.

Besides errors like those — and the fact that there have been three predominant variations of my maiden name in this country since the 1600s (PRENTIS, PRENTISS, and PRENTICE — all here at that time believed to be somehow related to one another), there were also a few “creative” variations with extra t’s, s’s, or e’s thrown in here and there for about the first hundred years  in America (PRENTIES, PRENTTIES, PRENTS and others — possibly even some colonial familes called PARENTS and PRINCE may be related too).  Prior to 1600 in England there were yet more variations of the name with z’s instead of s’s (PRENTZ, PRENTIZ, PRINTZ), etc.

Before my great grandfather, who complicated matters more with the spelling of his first name (was it Glasier or Glazier?), the spelling of our surname varied even within generations, or in one instance between husband and wife! The headstones of my 7th-great granduncle and his wife, side by side, show two different spellings of the couple’s last name.  Yes, really. Their children’s and grandchildren’s headstones in the same cemetery show other variations, as do those of other relatives. Many of these were educators, doctors, businessmen, community leaders and politicians, so it wasn’t a case of uneducated people misspelling their own names.

Capt. Jonathan Prentties, 1657-1727

Capt. Jonathan Prentties, 1657-1727

Elisabeth Latimer Prentis, 1667-1759

Elisabeth Latimer Prentis, 1667-1759

Names in church and parish records weren’t always recorded correctly, or spellings sometimes changed depending on who entered them — a name on a birth record may be spelled differently on a marriage or death record. The same minister could have even written it different ways at different times. Further complications arose with errors on deeds and military records and when typesetters for newspapers made mistakes in obituaries.  I’ve even seen records with the names in the body of the document reading Prentiss and/or Prentice, then signed Prentis — or vice versa. That’s not even accounting for nicknames or being called only by initials or a middle name rather than a given name, or the delivering physician (who happened to be an uncle) filling out a name on a birth certificate incorrectly — and forgetting to correct it — then realizing 40-some years later when you lose a bet because the birth certificate you thought didn’t exist does, and you “suddenly” have a full name by which you’ve never been called.*

I’m not even going to get started with the TENNANT, TENANT, TENNENT fiasco… yet.

One thing after another, and something as simple as a name can get pretty complicated!

* Granddad was always “just X” or “just X. T.” and didn’t know he had any name but the initials until when serving in the Iowa Senate, a news reporter asked his full name. Like the many other times he’d been asked, he told the man his name was  “just X. T.” The reporter bet him that he had a full name on his birth certificate, but Granddad didn’t think he had one of those either. The reporter had done his homework and had either already found a copy, or then went and searched for it, but a birth certificate bearing a full name of Xavier Thomas Prentis was produced. Apparently when he was born, his uncle Percy was the doctor who delivered him, and when he asked what name he should write in the register, my great grandfather told his brother to “name him after Dad.” “Uncle Doc” wrote down the full name of his father, Xavier Thomas Prentis, but Granddad was only ever referred to thereafter as X. T.  On all other official (and correctly transcribed) records — besides his birth certificate, apparently —  he was “just X. T.”

Six Generations

Six Generations

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It’s somewhat ironic that I should stumble upon this just today.

October 30, 1982
Mount Ayr, Iowa
Nana
Gladys Tennant Prentis

I am compelled to write. We are in the last stages of a political campaign. Ronald Reagan is President. Governor and Congressional races are the important issues. I do not feel very strongly in favor of any particular candidate — but as a life-long Republican, I will vote mostly that way.

I am disturbed at the smear campaigns so many are conducting. We are in the midst of a depression or recession — unemployment is high, many are on welfare. Prices to the farmer are low — prices of things they must buy are high — but I remember. I will soon be 84 years old, and I can’t remember where I laid my scissors down — but I remember when things were much worse than they are now. My radio and TV blare out the political slogans — “Iowa is losing her people, they are going to the Sun Belt, the young people are leaving Iowa, and they will never come back.”

Sound familiar? Anyway, she continues…

They do come back, or I wouldn’t be here. This is my story.

My parents were farmers. They had two small children. One day they noticed the little girl was limping. She continued to limp more and more. When she was three years old, my parents took her to Chicago to a famous children’s hospital. There the doctors diagnosed her problem as tuberculosis of the bone. This of course, is your Aunt Edna. This was about 90 years ago, and the doctors thought an operation would help. My father always thought that perhaps he had had a tuberculous cow and that Edna had contracted the disease from the fresh milk. Iowa has since taken care of that problem. Cows are tested for TB and milk is all pasteurized. We do make progress.

The doctors operated — removed the diseased bone and literally carved out a new hip socket. She was in the Chicago hospital three months. Mother stayed with her. Carl was a baby and he was with Grandma Tennant in Mount Ayr. Dad felt he had to get back to the farm and try to make some money to pay the tremendous bills. When Edna and Mother came home, Carl didn’t remember her, and it took a while before he would leave Grandma (Christinia*). Soon another baby was on the way and Uncle Maurice was born. The farm was two miles from the country school where my mother had gone to school and later taught. (Later I attended that school for one year.) My parents realized Edna would never be able to walk those two miles, good days and bad snow, rain and sunshine, so my father looked around for other employment. He finally decided to go to school and study to be an Osteopathic Physician. So he rented out the farm (80 acres my mother had inherited from her parents) and moved his little family to Kirksville, Missouri. This was in 1898 and my mother was again pregnant, and I was on my way to join the family.

Kirksville had two schools of Osteopathy — Still’s and Ward’s. He chose Ward’s because it was cheaper tuition and he could rent a house close to the campus. They haad a grade school for students’ children, so Edna and Carl entered there. Edna had never gone to school though she was almost eight years old. Those were hard times, too, and there was no welfare or help financially as there is now.

The little songs  I sing to the babies are songs Edna and Carl learned at the school in Kirksville — A Little Boy Went Walking; I Saw a Rabbit; Here’s a Ball for Baby; Good Morning, Merry Sunshine, etc. My mother sang them to me… I sang them to my children… my grandchildren and my great grand children. Who knows… I may yet sing (or try to sing) them to my great great grandchildren!

To wind this up — (old people never know when they have remembered more than they should), my father graduated from college, was granted a license to practice Osteopathy and moved his family to Trenton, Missouri, where he began to practice. We’ve come a long way in many respects since those days int he early 1900s. My mother had a very severe case of Typhoid Fever soon after they were established in Trenton. Doctors told my father, in her frail condition, that my mother could not survive a severe mid-west winter. So he closed his office, bundled up his little family — a lame daughter on crutches, two little boys, and a little girl, 3 months — me. My mother was so weak she could not even hold me on her lap, but Dad took the train headed for California — no job — no money, but determined to save his beloved wife’s life.

The only job he could find was a grocery store clerk for $10 per week. He only intended to stay a few of the winter months, but we stayed six or seven years. I attended Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades in Pasadena. By that time Dad had lost his license to practice Osteopathy, the boys were at an age when they needed something to do, so the folks decided to return to the farm in Adams County, Iowa.

Again we boarded the train. To get back to the politics, — we did come back to Iowa. After a city lot, 80 acres seemed like “all outdoors” to us. Dad bought used machinery, a team of horses, a spring wagon, a cow and some pigs, and we were in business.

Now about unemployment. In those days, the man of the household was the only employed person. If all the women who used to stay in the home would go back there, there would probably be jobs for all the men.

The last part of the letter isn’t with the rest of it. Maybe I’ll find it one day.

Nana

Nana

Along with the previous letter is one from my Dad’s cousin Marion to his sister Anne:

Mount Ayr, Iowa
April 14, 1988

Anne:

As for Mother’s surgeries: Hip operation took place in Chicago when she was 3 years old. She does not remember the name of the hospital other than it was a Catholic hospital. The nuns gave her a doll when she left — no, we don’t have it. Operation: they took off the ‘head’ (ball) of the femur and scraped the socket. For several years it would slip out of place, so she lay in the bed with a weight attached to her leg; the weight then suspended over the end of the bed to PULL Mom’s hip back in place. Then her father, G. A. Tennant, observed an Osteopath at work and was impressed… he then moved the family to Kirksvillle, Missouri (school of Osteopathy located there) and proceeded to learn how to manipulated Mom’s hip in order to avoid the weight ordeal attached to leg. So he promptly went to school and learned how to and was successful! Made it easier for both he and Mom. He graduated from the school and planned to set up an office in Trenton, Missouri. Whereupon, Grandma Tennant (Fannie L.) came down with a terrible case of typhoid fever… after nursing Grandma through it. Upon doctor’s advice he took his family of 4 children and sick wife to California!!

Knee surgery: took place in Rochester, Minn. They cut the knee joint removing 1-1/2 inches of dead bone (diseased) — that’s all the way around the knee, nearly severing the leg (as one can see by the scar). Then they brought the two “live bones” together fastening them with a silver nail! Then they put the leg in a cast that went from the ankle to groin, which she wore from October to March… Mom was 25 years old when this operation was performed. That’s it from Mom’s mouth!

Marion

* Note: Nana always spelled her Grandma’s name Christiania. I have corrected it to Christinia per other records I have. Her nickname was “Teen.”

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For some reason, my mother’s thirty-third birthday (April 4, 1965) is a memory to me. I think it was the year I was first aware of her age. I remember her looking so pretty, made up with lipstick and dressed in a fancy brownish-taupe dress with a wide, darker brown silky bow tied at the neckline. I also remember going to Grandma’s for her party. I don’t seem to have a picture from that time, but I do have photos from other times she was all fancied up…

Mom and Barb

With every button buttoned and every press pressed
They’re dressed up, and aren’t they the best?!

Mom and Barb

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you!

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