Monday, October 3, 2016

Notes From My Grandmother | Potwin Lineage and Genealogy, Part 8

Somehow, much of my grandmother's hand written and (badly) typed notes and research wound up in my possession. Traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles and back to Chicago again. It sat, in the dark of my mother's closet, until my dad passed and my mom decided to begin her great purge. Knowing I had picked up the torch, the next generation to pursue the Greatest Hobby on Earth, the papers came to live with me. Unsure for many years on just what to do with them, I have decided to bring them out and share them with you - transcribed, of course - no one can read my grandmother's handwriting! But in her own words; mistakes, rambling sentences, and all. I think she will be pleased her work and her writing are once again out in the light.


Gertrude Miriam, the elder sister of Irving (only sister as the first born daughter had died in infancy) was well educated as had been her mother before her (an avid reader of books, belonging to the Women's Club in Corning Iowa) and did teach, as her father had been an instructor before his marriage. Gertrude taught at Northfield College in Northfield, Minnesota and later graduated from the college.

Before her mother's death Gertrude was an accomplished teacher of violin, of which she was very proud; of the ability and determination. Gertrude was sent to Germany to study violin; that undoubtedly created a hardship on the parents, but it was accomplished with love and sacrifice. Gertrude became most successful with concerts in New York, Europe and Asia and she was commanded by the crowned heads of royalty to perform at court.

Some years later Gertrude had a trip to the Orient. Upon her return to the States she stopped off at Irv's home in Des Moines, Iowa. She made a very strong impression on his young daughter with the gifts she had brought back from her journey and the eucalyptus leaves (most unusual in the Midwestern states of America). The fact that her aunt had been so far from home, having crossed two oceans on ocean liners and across continents by train, which mode of travel was unusual in the early nineteen hundreds, was no wonder of such fascination for a young, romantic, adventurous, impressionable young lady. The fact that her aunt encouraged her to play violin because 'you have such beautiful long fingers'. Her stories were most intriguing to one so young and filled with the wonders of the world. Gertrude told of her cottage in the eastern mountains (Adirondacks) that one of her pupils had give her (left to her at death).

She had had very little contact with her brothers over the years. She had no other family, having never married. 

Gertrude came home to Corning to care for her mother during her illness. Ella Burt Potwin was taken into a Chicago hospital for surgery. She had cancer. This was in the fall of the year, and the first part of the year 1902 Ella Augusta Burt Potwin died in her own home in Corning, Iowa.

Gertrude said that her mother's cousins were Thompson and in a letter sent Easter 1917, "we have fourth half cousins in Connecticut; sprung from a first wife. One had a private school in New Jersey." Gertrude was then living at 431 Riverside Drive, N.Y.

Gertrude was sent the family bible after the death of her parents. She relayed some information such a the French spelling - Poitevin - and that they were French Huguenots; also a Rev. Potyn sailed from England settled in Connecticut (changed spelling of name again). He married again after his first wife's death and that our branch of the family descends from that union. Also the Potwin coat of arms is the French iris - the Feur de Lis - a cluster of three and used in heraldry with the blue flag.

Gertrude's last address 5 West 56th St, New York, N.Y. She had lived in West Virginia at one time. There is no known date for her death. Gertrude was living at the time of her brother Cyrus' death in 1952. In the family bible a card was found telling the obituary of Cyrus.

The second son of Monroe and Ella Potwin, Archie Willard, was born in Corning Iowa. There is little to tell of his life for it was very short. A lad of twelve, loving life and fun, went swimming with a friend on a hot day in August probably in the favorite "ol' swimmin' hole". Archie drowned.

Cyrus Burt, youngest of the Potwin children was born in 1892. He followed his father's profession and made his living with his father far into adult life. Cyrus was an outdoor person, an expert woodsman. He was a cyclist; long years before it became a fashionable hobby, and a less expensive mode of transportation. Cyrus drove a motorcycle with an attached sidecar, which was a delight to his nieces and friends. At one time he lived in Washington State.

In 1946 Cyrus moved to Roseburg, Oregon and then to Remote, Oregon where he found a lady of his choice. He and Carol Joy were married and lived in a cabin near Remote.

Carol was visiting at  her brother's home in the month of November, 1952 at Winston, a small town near Remote; as their cabin was damp in the winter months. Carol Joy and Cyrus were planning on enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday with them. Cyrus was returning home and on the way to Winston for Thanksgiving dinner with them, turned off the road to get to a nearby creek. He had to get water for the motorcycle; after caring for the motor, he pulled out onto the road to resume his journey for joining his wife. He was hit by an oncoming car - driven by a friend of his and Carol's. He of course had not been expected or was visible. Cyrus suffered head injuries from the accident, no doubt a concussion.

Cyrus died of the injuries received from the collision of motorcycle and car driven by Mrs Jo Bruns (Louise E) the day after Thanksgiving, 1952; 8:30 am at Mast Hospital at Myrtle Point, at age 60. Carol wife of Cyrus asked friends of theirs to represent his family at the funeral. (Mr and Mrs. Breeze Boyack). They lived in Roal(e)burg, Oregon and later wrote to Cyrus' sister or telegraphed the information and sad news.

A final tribute; from the obituary "valuable worker, knew the edgman's job". Cyrus' body was laid to rest in the cemetery 'at the top of a small hill, where the sun would shine upon the grave the first thing in the morning and the last of the suns rays in the evening' to bless him. The 'woodsman', trapper, hunter returns to his hermit life.


Undoubtedly there are many relatives, clansman, that will never be known to me. There are relatives remaining in England. (The Twining Tea Houses are now coffee spots) descendants in America many years ago heard from earlier generations, as they had received a legacy from families that did not choose to brave the unknown life of pioneers, or suffer the hardships endured in establishing settlement in New England - now OUR AMERICA!

Thus ends the saga, for indeed they were all heroes, of the POTYN, POITEVINE, POTTWIN, POTWAIN(E), POTWIN(E), with or without the 'e', as I have learned to know them and love them over the many generations of my branch of the family tree of POTWIN.


Elizabeth Twining Potwin Thomas
concluded this 26th of April, 1980

END of Part 8

©2016 Anne Faulkner -, All Rights Reserved
©1980 Elizabeth Twining Potwin Thomas - private collection

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