Dear Sinterklaas…

Dear Sinterklaas,

I have been a good girl this year, truly I have. And you were very good to me this year. My wish list last year was “to uncover a few more family secrets in 2007…a few more surprises, a few more times exclaiming ‘so THAT’S where they were!’ and many more genealogy happy dances to jig!” You granted my wish, dear St. Nick, because I did uncover a few more family secrets (which I can’t even reveal on my blog!), and I had many reasons to do the “genealogy happy dance” this year.

You didn’t give me new branches for either my hubby’s or my own family trees, but that’s OK, because you gave me tons and tons of photos, documents, letters, and stories so that our family trees are really leafed out, blooming full, and bearing fruit. In fact, I’ve got envelopes and packages and totes full of things I need to scan, label, analyze and input into my databases…so much so, that I could have a Scanfest everyday and not be caught up for a while! You even sent me a copy of Elizabeth Shown Mills’s new book, Evidence Explained, so that I could do a quality job of citing my sources!

So St. Nicholas, my wish list this year only includes two things: 1) time to get caught up on all these necessary duties; and because I know that as wonderful as you are, you can’t control the rotation of the earth and make my days longer, I wish for 2) wisdom to use the time I have more efficiently, so that I can produce some quality family trees to share with my family members.

I’m putting out my klompen with great anticipation and stocking up on olie bollen for you and Zwarte Pieter, and I’m looking for the freshest, crunchiest carrots I can find for your dashing white horse. I’ll be looking for what you’ve left me early on the morning of December 6th.

Sincerely,
Miriam

Dear Sinterklaas…

Dear Sinterklaas,

I have been a good girl this year, truly I have. And you were very good to me this year. My wish list last year was “to uncover a few more family secrets in 2007…a few more surprises, a few more times exclaiming ‘so THAT’S where they were!’ and many more genealogy happy dances to jig!” You granted my wish, dear St. Nick, because I did uncover a few more family secrets (which I can’t even reveal on my blog!), and I had many reasons to do the “genealogy happy dance” this year.

You didn’t give me new branches for either my hubby’s or my own family trees, but that’s OK, because you gave me tons and tons of photos, documents, letters, and stories so that our family trees are really leafed out, blooming full, and bearing fruit. In fact, I’ve got envelopes and packages and totes full of things I need to scan, label, analyze and input into my databases…so much so, that I could have a Scanfest everyday and not be caught up for a while! You even sent me a copy of Elizabeth Shown Mills’s new book, Evidence Explained, so that I could do a quality job of citing my sources!

So St. Nicholas, my wish list this year only includes two things: 1) time to get caught up on all these necessary duties; and because I know that as wonderful as you are, you can’t control the rotation of the earth and make my days longer, I wish for 2) wisdom to use the time I have more efficiently, so that I can produce some quality family trees to share with my family members.

I’m putting out my klompen with great anticipation and stocking up on olie bollen for you and Zwarte Pieter, and I’m looking for the freshest, crunchiest carrots I can find for your dashing white horse. I’ll be looking for what you’ve left me early on the morning of December 6th.

Sincerely,
Miriam

World-Famous Bear Has a Name: Alice Teddy

You just never know what tracing your family tree will lead you to!

First of all, I was doing some searching this evening for more information on George Bayard CRAPSEY (see previous post). Mike Kirchmeier had told me that he and his wife, Carrie, had died in Oregon. So I went to Ancestry and searched the Oregon Death Index. I found both their deaths listed in Jackson County. Carrie died 16 Apr 1941, and George died 12 July 1943. It appears that George may have remarried in the two years between Carrie’s death and his own, because there is also an Anna Mae CRAPSEY who died in the same county on 13 March 1985. Her birth date was 10 May 1890, and her spouse is listed as George. Since George and Carrie did not have any children, it is possible that Anna was George’s much younger wife, rather than a daughter-in-law. I Googled to see if I could find more information on Carrie, and did find her listed as “CRAPSEY, Carrie L.” in the Lincoln County, Wisconsin probate cases index. I’m fairly certain this was the same Carrie that George married, as the county seat for Lincoln County is Merrill, Wisconsin, and I had already found several pieces of information online about George residing in Merrill.

Seems like George’s rollerskating bear really was a globe-trotting show! First of all, I found this family history website by Thomas J. DALEY, great-grandson of John AKEY. AKEY was a personal friend of George CRAPSEY, and he, too, trained a bear to rollerskate. On the website is a transcription of an undated newspaper clipping from what appears to be the Merrill Daily Herald:

BEAR LEARNING TO ROLLER SKATE

MAKES GREAT PROGRESS WITH-IN LAST TEN DAYS. IS OWNED BY LOCAL BUSINESS MAN.

John Akey, the Second street business man, has been quite busy the past ten days teaching his bear to roller skate. Mr. Akey has only had the bear for about three weeks and for the past ten days has been teaching it to skate at the Union Roller rink. From the progress that has been made in that time, Merrill will undoubted be made famous by being made the home of two roller skating bears. Geo. Crapsey has traveled for several years with Alice Teddy; and is known not only in this country, but has also exhibited for the crowned heads of Europe.

Here’s another one from the same source:

AKEY’S BEAR AT PORTAGE

QUEEN WAS CAPTURED MAY 28, LAST, FIFTEEN MILES FROM THIS CITY.

The following article was clipped from a recent edition of the Portage Daily Register and will be read with interest by local people:

“The people who were about the streets Monday were given the unusual sight of seeing a bear driving an automobile. The sight was an unusual and much commotion was created to get a peek at this bruin at his new job. The animal was owned by John Akey of Merrill and is known about the fair and show circles as Foxey Queen. She drives a car us through the main streets, making all the turnouts and appears to be a cautious driver. Mr. Akey is seated with the bear on the front seat and she presides at the steering wheel absolutely, Mr. Akey pointing the direction she is to take.

“‘Queen was captured, May 28, last, fifteen miles from Merrill,’ said Mr. Akey, ‘and we have been busy domesticating her since. She appears to take a liking to humans and performs roller skating stunts as well as other tricks. We are touring the state giving exhibitions with Queen and expect to give the people of Portage a chance to see her perform.’

“Akey has a large collection of wild animals at his place in Merrill, a bear, monkey, porcupine, coon, wild cats and ferrets mingle with the patrons of his place at the northern city.

“Akey is a personal friend of George Crapsey, who was here at the fair a few years ago with his world famous “Alice Teddy” the roller skating bear which is now exhibiting Manitoba and has netted Mr. Crapsey over $55,000.”

I also found this newspaper article from the front page of the 1 Jan 1911 Greensburg [Pennsylvania] Morning Review at the Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania archives at RootsWeb:

Skating Bear A Wonder

Alice Teddy draws record breaking crowd at the big rink, will be here all week – one of the world’s animal wonders.

Amid the enthusiastic applause of fully two thousand people, Alice Teddy, the wonderful skating bear, made her initial appearance and performance at The Big Rink carnival last night.

To say that this wonderful skating bear is one of the most unique animal wonders of the world is merely stating a fact and voicing the verdict of two thousand people who saw her performance last night. Following is Alice Teddy’s history.

Alice Teddy, the wonderful roller skating cinnamon bear appearing here this week, was a tiny baby bear when captured in Oregon. Geo. B. Crapsy, her present owner, who also made the capture, says that at the time little Alice weighed four pounds. Today Alice is past two years old and weighs 215 pounds.

When Mr. Crapsy returned home to Merrill, Wis., he brought Alice along. Her remarkable intelligence prompted hi2m to spend his spare time in teaching Alice tricks. She readily learned to wear shoes, clothes, to walk upright and finally, after months of hard practice, to skate on ball-bearing rollers. Alice is the only bear in the world skating and dancing on skates.

So it appears that George found Alice in Oregon, and not Wisconsin, as Kirchmeier believed. Another archived RootsWeb source, DC Old News, has this article from a list of amusements on page 4 of the 4 April 1912 Washington Post:

AT THE ARCADE
Fourteenth Street and Park Road.
EVERY NIGHT THIS WEEK AT 9:20
JOE TURNER, Champion Middleweight Wrestler of
the World, Will Meet All Comers.
Agreeing to Throw in 15 Minutes or Forfeit $25.
THURSDAY NIGHT
Turner will attempt to throw in 15 minutes be???
HARRY FIDDISO?, ?????????
and VINCENT COSIMANO, “Young Greek” Of Washington
ALICE TEDDY The Bear That Skates on Roller Skates
EVERY NIGHT AT 9 0’CLOCK
Tues., Thurs., Fri. also Sat. Afternoon at 4.
ROLLER SKATING WRESTLING BOUT-ALICE TEDDY
ALL FOR ONE ADMISSION, 25 CENTS

At Google Books, you can download a copy of The Vaudeville Theatre Building Operation Management by Edward Renton (New York: Gotham Press Inc. 1918). On page 257, you will find the following line:

Alice Teddy, roller skating bear, lobby stunts.

You can also view some of the flyers used to advertise the act at various theaters. HistoryLink.org, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History (a fabulous site, by the way!) has an image of a flyer from the Pantages Theater in Seattle in the 1910s here. And a similar one, c. 1909, for the Empress Theater (location unknown) sold on Hake’s auction website for $50.14 last year.

The Schuco toy company of Nuremburg, Germany, founded in 1912,

made a roller skating bear toy that was probably inspired by Alice Teddy, a real-life bear whose skating party trick wowed audiences in the United States before the First World War,

according to Christopher Proudlove at this online article.

I’m sure if I look at some newspaper database websites, I could find more. Isn’t this fascinating? As I said earlier, you just never know what you’ll find when you start digging through your family roots!

World-Famous Bear Has a Name: Alice Teddy

You just never know what tracing your family tree will lead you to!

First of all, I was doing some searching this evening for more information on George Bayard CRAPSEY (see previous post). Mike Kirchmeier had told me that he and his wife, Carrie, had died in Oregon. So I went to Ancestry and searched the Oregon Death Index. I found both their deaths listed in Jackson County. Carrie died 16 Apr 1941, and George died 12 July 1943. It appears that George may have remarried in the two years between Carrie’s death and his own, because there is also an Anna Mae CRAPSEY who died in the same county on 13 March 1985. Her birth date was 10 May 1890, and her spouse is listed as George. Since George and Carrie did not have any children, it is possible that Anna was George’s much younger wife, rather than a daughter-in-law. I Googled to see if I could find more information on Carrie, and did find her listed as “CRAPSEY, Carrie L.” in the Lincoln County, Wisconsin probate cases index. I’m fairly certain this was the same Carrie that George married, as the county seat for Lincoln County is Merrill, Wisconsin, and I had already found several pieces of information online about George residing in Merrill.

Seems like George’s rollerskating bear really was a globe-trotting show! First of all, I found this family history website by Thomas J. DALEY, great-grandson of John AKEY. AKEY was a personal friend of George CRAPSEY, and he, too, trained a bear to rollerskate. On the website is a transcription of an undated newspaper clipping from what appears to be the Merrill Daily Herald:

BEAR LEARNING TO ROLLER SKATE

MAKES GREAT PROGRESS WITH-IN LAST TEN DAYS. IS OWNED BY LOCAL BUSINESS MAN.

John Akey, the Second street business man, has been quite busy the past ten days teaching his bear to roller skate. Mr. Akey has only had the bear for about three weeks and for the past ten days has been teaching it to skate at the Union Roller rink. From the progress that has been made in that time, Merrill will undoubted be made famous by being made the home of two roller skating bears. Geo. Crapsey has traveled for several years with Alice Teddy; and is known not only in this country, but has also exhibited for the crowned heads of Europe.

Here’s another one from the same source:

AKEY’S BEAR AT PORTAGE

QUEEN WAS CAPTURED MAY 28, LAST, FIFTEEN MILES FROM THIS CITY.

The following article was clipped from a recent edition of the Portage Daily Register and will be read with interest by local people:

“The people who were about the streets Monday were given the unusual sight of seeing a bear driving an automobile. The sight was an unusual and much commotion was created to get a peek at this bruin at his new job. The animal was owned by John Akey of Merrill and is known about the fair and show circles as Foxey Queen. She drives a car us through the main streets, making all the turnouts and appears to be a cautious driver. Mr. Akey is seated with the bear on the front seat and she presides at the steering wheel absolutely, Mr. Akey pointing the direction she is to take.

“‘Queen was captured, May 28, last, fifteen miles from Merrill,’ said Mr. Akey, ‘and we have been busy domesticating her since. She appears to take a liking to humans and performs roller skating stunts as well as other tricks. We are touring the state giving exhibitions with Queen and expect to give the people of Portage a chance to see her perform.’

“Akey has a large collection of wild animals at his place in Merrill, a bear, monkey, porcupine, coon, wild cats and ferrets mingle with the patrons of his place at the northern city.

“Akey is a personal friend of George Crapsey, who was here at the fair a few years ago with his world famous “Alice Teddy” the roller skating bear which is now exhibiting Manitoba and has netted Mr. Crapsey over $55,000.”

I also found this newspaper article from the front page of the 1 Jan 1911 Greensburg [Pennsylvania] Morning Review at the Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania archives at RootsWeb:

Skating Bear A Wonder

Alice Teddy draws record breaking crowd at the big rink, will be here all week – one of the world’s animal wonders.

Amid the enthusiastic applause of fully two thousand people, Alice Teddy, the wonderful skating bear, made her initial appearance and performance at The Big Rink carnival last night.

To say that this wonderful skating bear is one of the most unique animal wonders of the world is merely stating a fact and voicing the verdict of two thousand people who saw her performance last night. Following is Alice Teddy’s history.

Alice Teddy, the wonderful roller skating cinnamon bear appearing here this week, was a tiny baby bear when captured in Oregon. Geo. B. Crapsy, her present owner, who also made the capture, says that at the time little Alice weighed four pounds. Today Alice is past two years old and weighs 215 pounds.

When Mr. Crapsy returned home to Merrill, Wis., he brought Alice along. Her remarkable intelligence prompted hi2m to spend his spare time in teaching Alice tricks. She readily learned to wear shoes, clothes, to walk upright and finally, after months of hard practice, to skate on ball-bearing rollers. Alice is the only bear in the world skating and dancing on skates.

So it appears that George found Alice in Oregon, and not Wisconsin, as Kirchmeier believed. Another archived RootsWeb source, DC Old News, has this article from a list of amusements on page 4 of the 4 April 1912 Washington Post:

AT THE ARCADE
Fourteenth Street and Park Road.
EVERY NIGHT THIS WEEK AT 9:20
JOE TURNER, Champion Middleweight Wrestler of
the World, Will Meet All Comers.
Agreeing to Throw in 15 Minutes or Forfeit $25.
THURSDAY NIGHT
Turner will attempt to throw in 15 minutes be???
HARRY FIDDISO?, ?????????
and VINCENT COSIMANO, “Young Greek” Of Washington
ALICE TEDDY The Bear That Skates on Roller Skates
EVERY NIGHT AT 9 0’CLOCK
Tues., Thurs., Fri. also Sat. Afternoon at 4.
ROLLER SKATING WRESTLING BOUT-ALICE TEDDY
ALL FOR ONE ADMISSION, 25 CENTS

At Google Books, you can download a copy of The Vaudeville Theatre Building Operation Management by Edward Renton (New York: Gotham Press Inc. 1918). On page 257, you will find the following line:

Alice Teddy, roller skating bear, lobby stunts.

You can also view some of the flyers used to advertise the act at various theaters. HistoryLink.org, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History (a fabulous site, by the way!) has an image of a flyer from the Pantages Theater in Seattle in the 1910s here. And a similar one, c. 1909, for the Empress Theater (location unknown) sold on Hake’s auction website for $50.14 last year.

The Schuco toy company of Nuremburg, Germany, founded in 1912,

made a roller skating bear toy that was probably inspired by Alice Teddy, a real-life bear whose skating party trick wowed audiences in the United States before the First World War,

according to Christopher Proudlove at this online article.

I’m sure if I look at some newspaper database websites, I could find more. Isn’t this fascinating? As I said earlier, you just never know what you’ll find when you start digging through your family roots!

CRAPSEY Photos…and a Rollerskating Bear

A week and a half ago, I posted some transcribed news clippings about my ROBBINS ancestors and their extended family who lived in Southbrook Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota from the mid-1870s to the early 1880s. These were sent to me by Mike Kirchmeier of Windom, Minnesota, who is working on a genealogical project of Southbrook Township citizens. He also sent me some photographs, as well as some genealogical information on these family members. I was very excited to get all of this. These have helped to “flesh out” some of the people in my family tree who were little more than names, dates, and locations to me.

First a little background: one of my paternal 4th-great-grandmothers was Lura Ann JACKSON (1826 – bef. 1900), whose earliest residences I’ve found have been in Potter County, Pennsylvania. She first married my ancestor, Nelson H. PECK (c. 1819 – 1849), and they had one child, my 3rd-great-grandmother, Viola Gertrude PECK (1848 – 1918). After Nelson died, Lura Ann married a widower, the Rev. John CRAPSEY (1816 – 1903), who had one child, Angelo M. CRAPSEY (1842 – 1864), by his previous wife. The family moved to neighboring McKean County, Pennsylvania, to land adjoining that of the ROBBINS family in Liberty Township. Angelo’s best friend was Charles H. ROBBINS, and the two signed up together after Fort Sumter was fired upon, and served in Company I of the First Pennsylvania Rifles (a.k.a. the Bucktails). Angelo was captured during a battle and spent some time in Libby Prison, the infamous Confederate prisoner-of-war prison in Richmond, Virginia. Although released later, he was there long enough to lose his mind, and tragically committed suicide after several unsuccessful attempts, at the home of a family friend, Laroy LYMAN, in Roulette, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

Charles and Viola were wed at the war’s end, married by her step-father, the Reverend CRAPSEY (see the photograph likely taken at that time, here). First, the ROBBINSes accompanied Charles’ parents to Oceana County, in Western Michigan, but later removed to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, where Viola’s mother, step-father and half-siblings were living. Angelo and his friend Laroy had purchased some land in Minnesota before his death, and that may have been what prompted the CRAPSEYs to move to that state. Charles and Viola lived about eight or nine years in Cottonwood County, on land neighboring her parents and also some of her adult half-siblings. By 1884, the ROBBINS had returned to the Oceana-Newaygo County area in Western Michgian. They named one of their sons Angelo, after their friend/step-brother. He is Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, Sr., the father who is mentioned in the “Polar Bear posts” I have been writing.

Viola’s younger half-siblings (John CRAPSEY and Lura Ann JACKSON’s children) were:

  • *Alice (CRAPSEY) HANDY McBAIN (1855 – 1905)
  • *William “Willie” Merrick CRAPSEY (1858 – 1946)
  • *Harriet “Hattie” or “Suky” (CRAPSEY) HARDY (b. 1860)
  • *George Bayard CRAPSEY (b. 1863)

Below is a photo of Willie in 1940:

SOURCE: Crapsey, William “Willie” Merrick. Photograph. 1940. Digital image. Privately held by Michael Kirchmeier, Windom, Minnesota, 2007.

Here is a photo of George and his wife Carrie [–?–]. She’s the one in the skirt!

SOURCE: Crapsey, George Bayard with wife Carrie [–?–] and trained bear. Undated photograph. Digital image. Privately held by Michael Kirchmeier, Windom, Minnesota, 2007.

Mike tells me that George found this bear as a cub while living in Wisconsin. He trained the bear and used to travel all over the country–possibly the world–to feature him in shows. Now isn’t this some fun information to add to my family history? Seems like the Robbins family and bears are destined to go together…first the rollerskating bear with my Great-great-great-grandma Robbins’ half brother; then my Great-grandfather Robbins’ experiences as a Polar Bear in Russia; and, oh yes! the bear that kept raiding my parents’ Alaskan farm back in 1975…but that’s another story…maybe even another blog altogether.

CRAPSEY Photos…and a Rollerskating Bear

A week and a half ago, I posted some transcribed news clippings about my ROBBINS ancestors and their extended family who lived in Southbrook Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota from the mid-1870s to the early 1880s. These were sent to me by Mike Kirchmeier of Windom, Minnesota, who is working on a genealogical project of Southbrook Township citizens. He also sent me some photographs, as well as some genealogical information on these family members. I was very excited to get all of this. These have helped to “flesh out” some of the people in my family tree who were little more than names, dates, and locations to me.

First a little background: one of my paternal 4th-great-grandmothers was Lura Ann JACKSON (1826 – bef. 1900), whose earliest residences I’ve found have been in Potter County, Pennsylvania. She first married my ancestor, Nelson H. PECK (c. 1819 – 1849), and they had one child, my 3rd-great-grandmother, Viola Gertrude PECK (1848 – 1918). After Nelson died, Lura Ann married a widower, the Rev. John CRAPSEY (1816 – 1903), who had one child, Angelo M. CRAPSEY (1842 – 1864), by his previous wife. The family moved to neighboring McKean County, Pennsylvania, to land adjoining that of the ROBBINS family in Liberty Township. Angelo’s best friend was Charles H. ROBBINS, and the two signed up together after Fort Sumter was fired upon, and served in Company I of the First Pennsylvania Rifles (a.k.a. the Bucktails). Angelo was captured during a battle and spent some time in Libby Prison, the infamous Confederate prisoner-of-war prison in Richmond, Virginia. Although released later, he was there long enough to lose his mind, and tragically committed suicide after several unsuccessful attempts, at the home of a family friend, Laroy LYMAN, in Roulette, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

Charles and Viola were wed at the war’s end, married by her step-father, the Reverend CRAPSEY (see the photograph likely taken at that time, here). First, the ROBBINSes accompanied Charles’ parents to Oceana County, in Western Michigan, but later removed to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, where Viola’s mother, step-father and half-siblings were living. Angelo and his friend Laroy had purchased some land in Minnesota before his death, and that may have been what prompted the CRAPSEYs to move to that state. Charles and Viola lived about eight or nine years in Cottonwood County, on land neighboring her parents and also some of her adult half-siblings. By 1884, the ROBBINS had returned to the Oceana-Newaygo County area in Western Michgian. They named one of their sons Angelo, after their friend/step-brother. He is Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, Sr., the father who is mentioned in the “Polar Bear posts” I have been writing.

Viola’s younger half-siblings (John CRAPSEY and Lura Ann JACKSON’s children) were:

  • *Alice (CRAPSEY) HANDY McBAIN (1855 – 1905)
  • *William “Willie” Merrick CRAPSEY (1858 – 1946)
  • *Harriet “Hattie” or “Suky” (CRAPSEY) HARDY (b. 1860)
  • *George Bayard CRAPSEY (b. 1863)

Below is a photo of Willie in 1940:

SOURCE: Crapsey, William “Willie” Merrick. Photograph. 1940. Digital image. Privately held by Michael Kirchmeier, Windom, Minnesota, 2007.

Here is a photo of George and his wife Carrie [–?–]. She’s the one in the skirt!

SOURCE: Crapsey, George Bayard with wife Carrie [–?–] and trained bear. Undated photograph. Digital image. Privately held by Michael Kirchmeier, Windom, Minnesota, 2007.

Mike tells me that George found this bear as a cub while living in Wisconsin. He trained the bear and used to travel all over the country–possibly the world–to feature him in shows. Now isn’t this some fun information to add to my family history? Seems like the Robbins family and bears are destined to go together…first the rollerskating bear with my Great-great-great-grandma Robbins’ half brother; then my Great-grandfather Robbins’ experiences as a Polar Bear in Russia; and, oh yes! the bear that kept raiding my parents’ Alaskan farm back in 1975…but that’s another story…maybe even another blog altogether.

Civil War Hero Ancestor Makes Front Page

Imagine picking up your local newspaper and seeing your ancestor’s photo on the front page in preparation for a monument of him to be unveiled in your community. That’s exactly what happened to Grand Rapids, Michigan resident Patty Provot a few weeks ago.

She was staring at an old photograph of a Civil War veteran, who bore a striking resemblance to her great-great grandfather.

“I thought, ‘Boy, those people looked a lot alike because that looks like Alonzo Woodruff,'” Provot said.

It was.

Read more at the Grand Rapids Press blog here.