Monday, January 22, 2018

Laura Alice "Allie" Busby Thomas: Another Nonagenarian (52 Ancestors #30)

You'd think that the more contemporary my ancestors become the easier they'd be to learn about. Well, think again.

Laura Alice Busby Thomas is just another in the long list of my barely visible female ancestors.

Laura Alice, called "Allie" as an adult, was born August 26th 1861 in Mahaska Co, Iowa. She is my great grandmother. Laura's parents were Elijah Busby and Eliza Ann Bass. I've had trouble with the Bass family before, but the Busby's have always been forthcoming and relatively easy to find. Laura must have had quite a bit of the Bass side in her!

Anyway, back to Laura Alice.

Laura was the second child and first daughter, born to a family that ultimately would contain three sons and three daughters. Laura's father enlisted in the Union Army in October of 1861, just two months after her birth. He would be out of her life completely for the next two years, returning home for only one month in 1863, then returning to battle until the close of the war 2 1/2 years later. As you might imagine, there was quite a gap in the ages of the children, Laura's little sister didn't come along until 1867.

Once the war was over, the Busby family began to return to normal. Laura was the daughter of a farmer, an occupation that most families engaged in in that time and that place. As with most children, the story of Laura's early life is not know, except by the happenings and circumstances of the family. The Busby farm consisted of at least 200 acres, the family being well known in the community. The father, Elijah, being actively involved in politics upon his return from the war.  He was also a township trustee and a member of the school board.

Education was very important in the Busby household. All of the children were well educated. The boys becoming a doctor, a lawyer, and a pharmacist; the girls all attending college before marrying. By 1880 Laura herself was employed as a school teacher, residing with her family in Adams Twp, Mahaska Co, IA.

The South School - Brooklyn, IA
I do not know where Laura actually taught school, unfortunately.

Sometime between 1880 and 1885 Laura met a young man named ZW Thomas. On the 1880 census he was recorded as being a teacher, residing in Monroe Twp, Mahaska Co, IA. Perhaps they taught at the same school?

On January 1, 1885 Laura, a single woman, school teacher, was residing on Mills Street in Brooklyn, IA, in the household of Dr Charles Conaway. Later that year Laura married ZW, who was now practicing law.

The marriage took place October 1st, 1885 in Brooklyn, IA and was officiated by RA Carmine, minister. I do not know what church, there were several in Brooklyn at the time of the marriage.

The following year the newlyweds were living in Fort Dodge, IA, where ZW was practicing law, as well as being involved in real estate and insurance. Laura, now called Allie, spent most of the first year of their marriage pregnant with the couple's first child. On August 5, 1886 Laura gave birth to a son the couple named Dana.

The Thomas family was living the American dream by all accounts. Allie's husband was not only a prominent lawyer, he was also a smart real estate investor/developer and was, in short order, amassing a very handsome nest egg for himself and the family.

Their second child came along in 1891. Another son, born July 24th, named Lauren. By this time ZW had an interest in a number of businesses and properties around Fort Dodge and the family was continuing to prosper. They resided at 1518 2nd Av N, which is today an empty lot, sadly.

Trans-Mississippi Expo 1898
1898 opened with the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor, Cuba as the US prepared to go to war. Meanwhile, Allie was pregnant with her third child and gave birth to a daughter they named Edith Irene on April 10th. Ten days later the Spanish-American war began. Among the topics of conversation that year were the Mare Island earthquake near San Francisco, the continuing war, and the sale of the very first automobile! Closer to home, the Trans-Mississippi Exposition, or 1898 World's Fair, was taking place in Omaha, Nebraska. The fall of the year brought the ultimate sadness to the Thomas family. Little Lauren, just 7 years old, died on September 30th. The family buried their son in the Oakland Cemetery just blocks from their home.

Fort Dodge, IA c. 1900
The family got on with their lives, ZW continued to amass wealth and property. By 1900 there was a 23 year old servant by the name of Mary Fiferlich, a Bohemian immigrant, residing in the household. I wonder if Allie was teaching her to read, write and speak English? Allie was now the wife of the city's most prominent dairy man, her husband owning all of the dairy farms in the area. He also was mining coal on one of his farms and owned a stone quarry. The family certainly was living an exceptional lifestyle and I would like to believe Allie was the "woman behind the man".

The turn of the new century brought with it a host of modern conveniences for the contemporary homemaker, among them a lightweight iron, the toaster, the vacuum cleaner and the refrigerator. With the wealth that Allie's husband was amassing, I imagine all of these new gadgets made their way into her home expeditiously. One might guess them to have been 'early adopters'?

Corpus Christi Church
The new century also brought some happy times for Allie and family. On May 4th, 1904 Allie gave birth to her fourth, and final, child, a son she named Robert. In 1907, August 28th, Allie's oldest son, Dana was married to Fern Frances at Corpus Christi Church in Fort Dodge. Dana and Fern gave Allie her first grandchild in 1910, a happy girl named Lorraine.

Tragedy struck the family once again, suddenly, on June 16th 1914. On Monday, June 15th ZW was traveling in his buggy, attending to daily business, when he was struck by an automobile and thrown from the buggy, landing on his head. "Mr Thomas was able to resume his duties and had been following his usual daily custom since the accident until, without warning, death overtook him." ZW died at his home on Tuesday June 16th from a fractured skull. He was 58 years old and at the height of his career.  Grieving widow, Allie buried ZW in Oakland Cemetery with their son Lauren. Allie never remarried.

The next year was spent settling the estate of her late husband. With the help of son Dana the two were able to sell off the real estate holdings and close the estate by late 1915.

1917 visited more heartache and loss upon Allie and family. First, with talk of the World War looming, son Dana registered for the draft on June 5th. On July 7th Allie's older brother William died unexpectedly after a brief illness. In December Allie lost both of her parents. Her father Elijah died December 14th, her mother Eliza followed 2 days later.

Certainly things would begin to look up!

Downtown Des Moines, IA
A fresh start took Allie out of Fort Dodge about 1919 and landed her in Des Moines where she purchased a house on Forest Ave for herself and her two youngest children. For extra income Allie rented rooms to some local teachers. But Allie sold that Forest Ave house swiftly, about 1922, and purchased a home on on 31st Street, just across from Drake University where she would reside for the next fifteen years.

Son Dana gave Allie two more grandchildren between 1920 and 1922.

Son Robert married his young sweetheart, Elizabeth Potwin on May 25th 1923 and gave Allie another grandchild on Valentine's Day 1924.

On June 16th 1924, on the ten year anniversary of ZW's death, Allie's daughter Edith Irene married F Dewey Anderson, a young Swedish immigrant she met while working at a bank in Fort Dodge. The couple would remain childless.

Tragedy made another visit to Allie in May of 1926, with the news that her brother Homer, a prominent Fort Dodge lawyer, was found dead at his desk, victim of a self inflicted gun shot wound.

Between 1928 and 1936 Allie welcomed four more grandchildren into her life from son Robert and daughter-in-law Elizabeth. Sadly Robert's second child, named after his brother Lauren, passed away just two months after his birth.

Allie buried another sibling in 1932. Her sister Lena passed away at the age of 55. The 1930's also brought hope, with the marriage of granddaughter Lorraine. Great grandchildren soon followed.

Downtown Hancock, MI
At the age of 75, it appears Allie sold the house in Des Moines and traveled to Hancock, Michigan to reside with son Dana and family. She is found on the 1940 census residing in the Dana Thomas household. Dana, his wife and children, and Allie returned to Iowa in 1942 and set up house in the small town of Humboldt where Dana registered for his second World War.

As life started to wind down for Allie she had one more sibling to bury, baby brother John died in 1949 at the advanced age of 80.

Sometime in 1952, somewhere, perhaps in Iowa, it was finally Allie's turn. At the age of 90 or 91 Allie, Laura Alice, finally, was released from this earth. To date researchers have yet to uncover the exact date or location of Allie's death. I suspect it was in Humboldt, IA. Her son Dana and his wife Fern both resided there until their deaths. As for when? Neither a death certificate or obituary has been located, yet.

We continue to dig.

Meanwhile, Laura Alice "Allie" rests in Oakland Cemetery in Fort Dodge, IA next to her beloved husband ZW.

They probably had a few things to catch up on!

From Find A Grave

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