Dr. Frank Lukenbill Jenkins, Sr.
August 11, 1896 - May 30, 1976
The Life and Family of
Frank Lukenbill Jenkins, Sr.
William Barnum Jenkins, Sr.
November 15, 1994
Lombard, IL 60148
© 1994 / 2005. Family of William B. Jenkins, Sr.
SANDWICH, MASSACHUSETTS ………………….…………3
The End of the Beginning……………………………….………6
Major Jenkins and His Early Years……………………………15
Iowa and Major Jenkins……………………………..…………17
Major And Jemima…………………………………..…………22
Skeletons In The Closet………………………………..………24
John Andrew Jenkins - The Early Years………………………29
OSCEOLA, IOWA and John Andrew Jenkins…………………32
SHANNON CITY, IOWA……………………………….……36
1900 TO 1906………………………………………….……36
CURTIS NEBRASKA 1906 TO 1909……………..…………40
TOLLEY NORTH DAKOTA…………………………………45
1909 to 1917……………………………………..…………45
GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA………………….……53
1917 TO 1924………………………………………………53
Chicago - 1920s and Early 30s………………………..………57
Louisa Lukenbill Jenkins………………………………………63
The House on Pine Avenue……………………………………70
Vacations and Trips………………………………….…………77
The 1940s and 50s………………………………………..……82
The 1960s - Chicago……………………………………………84
ELMHURST, ILLINOIS - May 1976………………….………90
Some Final Notes………………………………………………100
Comparison of the Rhode Island Jenkins Line with my Line…105
This book originally was started as a reference sheet for my research needs only. Then, it was just a sequential list of events that occurred in the life of my grandfather, John Andrew Jenkins. After that, it was expanded to add some narrative so I could remember how some of the data fitted together and from there it just grew and grew.
In some ways, I would like to claim that this work is the output of my genealogical efforts of the last twelve years. That probably is an overstatement. The book fails in providing the rigorous documentation that is required. But what the heck, nothing is perfect.
So, this book will have to stand on its own merits. One of the most important merits is that it even exists and for that accomplishment, I am pleased. There must be many people that have undertaken genealogical efforts and have ended up with nothing more than file folders filled with data and no one to read them.
I suppose that every person who has put a pen or word processor to paper in an effort to write a book has always wished that there had been more time to do a better job. I have my wish list too. I would have liked to add more narrative about my father’s brother George. More information about details of what my father did before he completed his college days. There were descendants of Major who were only one generation away from knowing him. The last one, Flonda Hedeman, Major’s grand-daughter, died in 1992 at the age of 95. And that presents the likelihood that someone in her line is in possession of Jenkins memorabilia. I wish I had the time to search them out.
So many people that could have contributed more to what this book is are gone. As usual, I would ask that I be contacted by anyone who has information to add or corrections to make. Just don’t take too long to do it.
William B. Jenkins, Sr.
The Life and Family of
Frank Lukenbill Jenkins, Sr.
William Barnum Jenkins, Sr.
Every story is supposed to have a beginning. Stories of families have a special problem. They don’t have a beginning. For every early generation that can be found, each person in that generation had two parents. And so it goes, moving backwards in time, generation by generation. The search never ends.
Our story of the Jenkins family has a special wrinkle. It has two beginnings. The first begins with ancestors that are definitely known to have produced those of us that came after. The second is a “maybe” beginning.
There is an early line of Jenkinses that begin in New England in the mid 1600s. It ends with the birth of a John Jenkins in 1737. Then he disappears; but, not without leaving some tantalizing clues that “maybe” he belongs to our line. Let’s start with the “maybe” family line. If nothing else, it’s an interesting story.
A John Jenkins appears to have been a resident in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1644 and probably earlier. In 1648, when he was about 23 years old, he moved south down the coast to Sandwich.
Sandwich is located where the arm of Cape Cod joins Massachusetts. He married Susanna Cooke, daughter of Job Cooke, one of the prominent Quaker families in Sandwich. John was born in about 1625 and died in 1684, but, his estate remained unsettled until April 2, 1708. The estate was valued at 116 pounds. It’s difficult to translate this amount into current values, but it is safe to say that 116 pounds would be equivalent to a comfortable amount in modern terms. The real estate was assigned to his son Zachariah. He paid 46 pounds to heirs of his brother Job, who had died, and 52 pounds to his spinster sister Elizabeth.
Zachariah was born in Sandwich in the 7th month of 1651. This is a Quaker manner of referring to dates. As a point of their religious belief, Quakers rejected the use of conventional names of the months and names of the days of the week. On December 11, 1686, he married Abiah Allen.
Abiah was born December 10, 1666 to her parents Francis Allen and Mary Barlow. The Barlow family name is one found later in the ancestral line of Beatrice Moreland Riffle who married Frank Lukenbill Jenkins, Sr. No claim is being made from our line back to these Barlows. I point it out only to note that many of the ancestors which produced us have been in this country for a long time.
Zachariah and Abiah produced twelve children over the years from 1689 to 1711. One of them, Zephaniah, their ninth child, who was born on December 10th, 1704, is of interest to us.
Life had become more difficult for Quakers in the Massachusetts colony in the latter half of the 1600s. Persecution became intense and to those professing their Quaker beliefs, punishment was severe and without mercy. The Rhode Island Colony, on the other hand, was founded by Reverend Roger Williams for the express purpose of providing a haven to all, free from the threat of religious persecution. Roger Williams plays into the Jenkins history on this occasion because of the colony he founded. He is also important because he is another one of our Jenkins ancestors. We’ll see how he fits into the story of our known Jenkins line a little bit further on.
After their tenth child, Abigail, was born, Zachariah, age 57, and Abiah, age 41, moved the family from Sandwich to Greenwich, Rhode Island.
When a Quaker moved from one location to another, it was necessary for them to obtain a certificate from their Quaker organization that certified that they had left in good graces. Quakers are not organized in quite the same way as other churches. Their main meeting is called the Monthly Meeting and is where Quaker business is recorded. The Quaker belief holds that the individual is supreme, answerable first to God, before Country, governments or any other social system. In order to avoid coming into conflict with these systems, Quakers often made it a point to avoid being recorded in the public records whenever possible. This often makes it difficult to locate a Quaker ancestor in the usual civil records. The Monthly Meeting Records often are the only place to find proof of the existence of a Quaker ancestor.
And so it is that Zachariah appears in the records of the Greenwich Monthly Meeting held the 16th day of the 6th month of 1708. The record reads:
“Zachariah Jenkins, with family, settling among us, hath produced a certificate from the meeting he did belong to, and is admitted a member of this meeting.”
Zachariah and Abiah had two more children in East Greenwich where they had settled. The last one, Rebecca, was born in 1711. Less than three months later on the 10th of the second month in 1712, Abiah died. Zephaniah was a little more than seven years old.
When Zephaniah was 19, his father died. There is a gap of 14 years until we find him again. Perhaps he was out making his fortune. More likely, as a good Quaker, he was working the family farm, helping raise his two younger sisters.
By 1737 when he was 33 years old, Zephaniah had married a woman named Hannah. Her last name is lost. In that year on November 11, their first child, John Jenkins was born. On January 25, 1740, a second son, Zephaniah, was born. Their mother Hannah must have died in childbirth, because by September 19th of that year, Zephaniah had remarried. His new wife was the widow Mercy Baker. You didn’t wait too long in those days to find another wife if you had two small children that needed care.
Zephaniah and Mercy produced George in 1742, Hannah in 1744, Benjamin in 1746 and Marcy (or Mercy) in 1748.
At this point, it is important to keep some of these names in mind. We’re drawing near the end of this ‘maybe’ Jenkins line and when we pick up the beginning of our known Jenkins line, we’re going to see some of these names crop up again.
In the records, we lose information about this John who was born in 1737 and Zephaniah who was born in 1740. From the second marriage, there are records for the boys George and Benjamin. As is often the case with females, we lose track of Hannah and Marcy.
In 1756 when he was 52 years old, Zephaniah died. In his Will, he left his real estate to his sons of the second marriage, George and Benjamin. To John, from his first marriage, he left his farming and shoemaker tools. No mention is made in the Will of his son Zephaniah whom we could guess had died before then. The first impression of how the father Zephaniah divided his estate is that he gave George and Benjamin the gold mine and John got the shaft. It does seem to be unfairly divided. Perhaps not. In 1756, John would have been 19 years old. Old enough to become head of the family. His stepbrother George and Benjamin would have been fourteen and ten years old. His stepsisters, Hannah and Marcy, would have been twelve and eight years old. How old his stepmother would have been is a guess. As a widow, when she married Zephaniah, she could have been as young as in her mid thirties or as old as her mid forties. I prefer to guess that she was in the older age range.
Now we’re at that misty interval that comes at the end of the ‘maybe’ Jenkins line that can not be proven to be part of our known Jenkins line. Before we start on the story of the known line, let’s do some creative guessing. But, be sure to remember that guessing is all we are doing.
So, here is John Jenkins in 1756. He plays his situation over in his mind...
He is 19 years old. His father and his brother, both named Zephaniah, are dead. If his brother had lived, he would have been a big help to him now to help in the raising of his young half-siblings. In a sense he was alone. He never knew his real mother. He was less than three years old when she died. His stepmother is the only mother he ever knew and she needs him now to help raise the younger children. It might have been unfair that George and Benjamin got the farm and him only the tools. In one way, it didn’t seem fair. But, if something happened to him, they would need the security of the farm to keep the family together. In four or five more years though, George would be old enough to take over the family. Then he could be off on his own.
That wasn’t quite the way it worked out. Nine years later, in 1765, George married and sold the house and land to his brother Benjamin who was now 19 years old. By 1769, Benjamin had married and could care for his mother, if she was still alive. She would have been in her late fifties. The youngest girl, Marcy, was now 21. She could care for the house.
For John, the years and life were passing by. He was 32 years old now. It was time for him to get on with his own life. He had given his early years caring for his step family. All he had to his name either was on his back or could be carried in his hands. His responsibilities had been fulfilled many times over. He had nothing left in East Greenwich to hold him. There were stories of promise and opportunity in Taunton, Massachusetts. Taunton was only about twenty five miles away across Narragansett Bay. Close enough and yet far enough to make a new start.
page of letter titled “The Jenkins Race”
by George Jenkins
(b. 1800, brother of Major Jenkins).
Now, the second story, the real one begins.
In this story, there are a lot of people in different generations that have the same first names. It can get confusing. Formal genealogy papers are filled with names that have those superscript numbers such as: 1 attached. It may tend to distract the reader’s attention; but, it does help eliminate confusion when there is a collection of generations and the same given names are used. I’ll use them every once in a while where it seems that it will help avoid confusion.
In 1880, Major Jenkins’ older brother George still lived in Springfield, Vermont on the family homestead. On Christmas Day of that year, George wrote a letter to someone in Iowa. The letter was written on fine blue vellum paper and bound with cotton thread. The threads have long since disappeared, but the words that George wrote remain clear. He wrote of the history of the family as he knew it.
He went on for pages and efficiently named children, nieces and nephews and whom they married. He wrote in a firm, even hand with a style that showed his early education learned in the last days of the Colonial period. This letter forms the beginning of our story. George’s letter begins:
“My Grandfather whose name was John1 was a Quaker by profession and a Tinker by trade. He was from Taunton Mass. His wife was Elizabeth Knap. They moved into this part of the country [Vermont] in 1790”.
They had six children:
John, b. 1770; Zephaniah, b. 1773; Samuel, b. 1774; Elizabeth ‘Betsey’, b. 1776; Nathaniel, b. 1778 and Hannah, b. 1779.”
To the modern ear, the term of being a “Quaker by profession” might be interpreted as meaning he earned his living as a Quaker. That wouldn’t be so; there were no paid Quaker Church positions. It simply meant that he declared himself to be a Quaker. John earned his living as a Tinker, a person who fixed pots and pans.
So now we have our John1 Jenkins, married and producing children of his own with his wife Elizabeth. The first one was named John2 which is no surprise. The second child who was named Zephaniah2 is interesting. Was he named after his paternal grandfather and deceased uncle? The next child was named Samuel, which could have been given to follow the tradition of using the maternal grandfather’s name. So was his name Samuel Knap? We don’t know. Elizabeth, the daughter, was likely named after Elizabeth, the mother. Her nickname of Betsey is also appropriate for the year 1776. The reason for Nathaniel’s name is unknown, but Hannah’s name could have come from the name of John’s real mother who died when he was three years old.
So these are the guesses made to link both sides of this misty interval of these two Jenkins lines. The Addenda at the end of this book has more detail on this subject.
Moving on to the facts, the Latter-day Saints’ records show the following for John and Zephaniah:
John2 Jeakins, parents: John Jeakins/Elisabeth.
Christened 1 Oct 1770 in Bristol Co., Dighton Mass.
Zephaniah2 Jinkins, parents: John Jinkins / Elizabeth.
Christened 2 Aug 1772 in Bristol Co., Dighton Mass.
It’s usual to find variations in the spelling of family names in early records. So many words were written the way they sounded. Given a full New England accent to the name Jenkins, Jeakins or Jinkins is as close as you can hope for. The variation of a year of 1772 and 1773 for Zephaniah’s birth is also quite close. George Jenkins wrote his letter more than 100 years after the fact. This allows him to be off by one year. Dighton, Massachusetts is about seven miles south of Taunton, Massachusetts.
We can gain some understanding of the country of Vermont that John1 moved to in 1791 if we briefly look at the history of the state. It had been no more than twenty or thirty years since it became a settled area. Its early years had been turbulent and in 1791 were only beginning to settle down. Vermont was a new opportunity.
For some years prior to 1791, Vermont was an independent country. It was not part of the original thirteen colonies. It has an interesting history that results from conflicting land claims that New York and New Hampshire had over the same areas of Vermont.
When the English Crown was issuing grants of land, part of the Eastern boundary of New York and the Western boundary of New Hampshire were carelessly defined. Vermont was caught in the middle, both politically and geographically. Things got really tough for the new settlers when deeds that were issued by New Hampshire were declared invalid by New York. New York then ordered the settlers in Vermont to pay for their land a second time, but this time they were to pay the New York owners of the land. This upset the people who lived in Vermont. They had a little war that ended with both New York and New Hampshire giving up their Vermont claims.
Vermonters had had enough with outsiders. They didn’t want to align themselves with anyone. The new government of the United States was on shaky ground. They couldn’t seem to get their own act together on drawing up a Constitution and the War of Independence was still going on. So Vermont decided to go it on their own. They established the Republic of Vermont.
By 1790, Vermont realized that being caught between Canada on their Northern border and the now officially constituted United States on the other three borders didn’t make for a promising future as an independent Republic. Wisdom ruled and they petitioned the Congress for admission to the United States as the fourteenth state.
Before we move onto the next generation, we have one more record that comes from “The History of the Town of Springfield Vermont”.
“JOHN1 JENKINS came to Springfield in 1789 from Taunton, Mass., with his wife and six children, four boys and two girls. He settled in the west part of the town, on a farm now owned by Herbert W. Jenkins. He was a Quaker and by trade a tinker. The first three boys were nail makers.”
For more accuracy, the Federal Census shows that John1 and family were still in the City of Taunton, Bristol County, Massachusetts when the 1790 Census was taken. The Federal Census for Vermont was actually taken in 1791, after Vermont became part of the United States. John and his family could have arrived in Vermont after the Census was taken, or he could have been missed in the count. It is also possible that he declined to be counted in Vermont and told the Census Taker that he had already been counted in Massachusetts the year before.
John1 must have died before the 1800 Federal Census was taken. He is not shown on that Census. His son Zephaniah2 is shown as the head of the household with a female between 26 and 45 years old and another female over the age of 45. The older female might have been Zephaniah’s widowed mother, Elizabeth Knap. If our John1 is the one who was born in 1737, he would have been sixty three years old in 1800 if he had lived that long.
John Jenkins1 is the father of John Jenkins2 who was born in 1770; the Grandfather of Major Jenkins3, born in 1807; the great-Grandfather of John Andrew Jenkins4, born in 1852 and the great great Grandfather of Frank Lukenbill Jenkins5, born in 1896. Each one who reads this will have to figure out where they fit after that.
Our John Jenkins2 was born in 1770. We’ve given the cold hard facts about him up to now, so let’s take a romantic side trip. It’s found in another entry from the book “History of the Town of Springfield, Vermont”.
“John Jenkins2, oldest son of John1, learned the mason’s trade at the age of twenty-two and he followed that business during the rest of his life. At the age of twenty six he married Deborah, daughter of Levi Philips, who was from Rhode Island. It is related that he was engaged by Mr. Philips to build a chimney and while on the roof, topping it out, saw Deborah laying the pewter plates, which she had washed and scoured from the dinner table, in the sun, and while noting the neatness and agility with which she spread the shining dishes, a little piece of mortar slipped from the point of his trowel and fell to the center of one of the shining plates. As a result of this bit of pleasantry their marriage occurred not long after. Twelve children.”
Here we get another link back to Rhode Island. John’s future father in law, Levi Philips, came from Rhode Island just as John’s father possibly did.
We also get the family connection at this point back to the Reverend Roger Williams who founded the Colony of Rhode Island. We’ll take the line back to before Roger in a very quick way.
Deborah Philips, b. 1773, married John Jenkins2, her mother was Mary Bradway.
Mary Bradway, b. ca. 1740 and her mother was Mercy Angell.
Mercy Angell was b. 1716, her mother was Hannah Winsor.
Hannah Winsor, b. ca. 1679, her mother was Mercy Williams.
Mercy Williams, b. 1640, her father was Roger Williams.
Those born in England:
Roger Williams, b. ca 1603, his mother was Alice Pemberton.
Alice Pemberton, b. 1564, her father was Robert Pemberton.
Robert Pemberton, b. ca. 1520, his parents are unknown (to us).
And that’s as far back as this line goes. What does it all mean when you’re back that many generations? Genetically it means less and less. Robert Pemberton is thirteen generations back from the grandchildren of Frank Lukenbill Jenkins, Sr. Robert is therefore only one of 8,192 other ancestors thirteen generations back who contributed their genes to making those grandchildren who they are today. Still, those genes are in all of us and you can never predict which one will pop out in the next descendant.
After having met in that romantic manner, John Jenkins and Deborah Philips were married in about 1795. Then the kids starting coming and they ended having twelve of them.
The first was Polley in 1796, then John in 1798.
In 1800 and 1801 there were George and Benjamin. Remember the George and Benjamin, the ‘maybe’ John Jenkins stepbrothers who got the land when their father Zephaniah died? If the connection between these two Jenkins lines are valid, George and Benjamin from Rhode Island would be the uncles of John2, the father of George and Benjamin born in 1800 and 1801. The George Jenkins3 born in 1800 is the one who wrote the letter to Iowa in 1880.
Next came Salmon and Joan who were born in 1803 and 1804.
Then came our Major Jenkins3 who was born January 20, 1807.
Following Major was Elizabeth in 1809 and another Benjamin in 1810. The first Benjamin born in 1801 must have died. William was born in 1811. He went west with Major to homestead farms in Iowa.
The last two children that John2 and Deborah had were Harriet and Ruth, who were born in 1812 and 1817. By this time Deborah was 44 years old and probably worn out. She died sometime before 1830 which is the year that John married again. Joanna Hulett was his second wife for his twilight years. He was sixty years old when he married Joanna on Christmas Day of that year. She was 36 years old. Apparently he was energetic enough to produce one more child, Susanna Amanda, who was born in 1833 when he was sixty-three.
John2 lived on in the Chester/Springfield Vermont area until he died in 1847 when he was seventy-six years old. In his will, which he made on July 10th in 1844, he gave all that he had to his second wife Joanna with his daughter Susan to live with her mother and to be supported from his estate for as long as she may wish. The estate, when probated, amounted to $187.97 in possessions with the land and buildings thereon being another $425.00. Claims against the estate came to $80.76.
Major Jenkins3 had just homesteaded his first 40 acres in Iowa when his father died. He did not share in his father’s estate nor did any of the other children from the first marriage. They were all grown by 1847 and John must have felt that he should provide for the security and comfort of his widow Joanna and their daughter Susan.
As we get closer to contemporary times, more information becomes available. The cold records and facts are still there to keep us on a true and accurate course, but we begin to get more of the stories and lore of the people. They become more real. Instead of faces looking at us from old photographs, we see a little bit of ourselves. We come to know more of who they were as people. Soon we can decide whether or not we like them and if we are happy that they are our ancestors.
Major Jenkins is one of the first in the line to get fleshed out as a real person. Even though the greatest part of his life was spent as a farmer, the early years were anything but ordinary.
As a matter of clarification, Major’s name does not come from any recognition of military honor in the family. Military service was contrary to the beliefs of Quakerism. Major is simply a given name that was used in that period of time. As a matter of fact, the Jenkins line is distinguished by a lack of military heroes. It must be those Quaker genes.
We know that his early years were spent in Springfield, Vermont and that he grew up as one of the middle children of a large family. The family was not rich but it seems that they were close. When Major was fourteen years old, his father became embarrassed. That was a nice way of saying that he couldn’t pay his debts. Major’s older brother George, who was 21 years old then, bought the lease on his father’s farm so it wouldn’t be lost. George then worked the next four years in Boston paying off the lease.
Land was not always owned outright on early New England farms. More often than not, only a lease was obtained even though a person would live on and farm the land all of their life. This was the case with the property that John leased. After paying off the lease, George was then able to buy “the right of soil.” The land was now owned by Jenkinses!
Major could see that his future did not lie with the family homestead. He was too far down on the list. His brother George was ultimately going to own the land outright. At the age of seventeen, Major left for Boston. George was working there to pay off his father’s lease. Major sailed for two years in order to earn money to complete his education and after that, he returned to Vermont in 1826. After a common school education, he learned the trade of a mason, becoming proficient in brick and stone work.
Major Jenkins and His Early Years
The Erie Canal had been completed and opened in 1825. The United States was growing and expanding. The Indians were being removed from their ancestral lands. New lands in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois were being opened for settlement. People from New York and New England took advantage of this new and easy transportation route to the West. Passengers were picked up by the canal barges as they moved along the way from Albany on the east to Buffalo, New York on the west. From there, the boats on the Great Lakes could take them as far as Fort Detroit.
Major must have felt the lure and adventure that the West offered. Around 1829, when he was twenty two, Major left Vermont again and headed west. From Fort Detroit, he moved on further west through the Michigan Territory.
The stagecoach road had been little improved since it was originally built by the Army to move supplies from Detroit to Fort Dearborn near the village of Chicago in Illinois. The Army construction specifications for the road called for the removal of trees with stumps to be cut no higher the three feet. This would allow the bottom of the wagons to clear the stumps. What resulted was called a road and became known as the Chicago Road. Today, U.S. Highway Route 12 closely follows the original road. At that time though, it passed small homestead farms that had been laboriously cut from the dense virgin forests. Farms so small and among trees so tall that in the summer, the sun would not shine on the small farm field plots until midmorning.
Major went as far as Prairie Pond, near present day Kalamazoo, Michigan. He stayed there for a short while and then returned to Vermont. There, in 1831, he married Eunice (or Emily) Fletcher. By August of 1832 their child Lucia Christina was born. According to Major’s obituary, he and Eunice had seven children of whom only Christina survived. From another source, it was said that they had five children. Four died in infancy. This has never been proven one way or the other. No record of any other children has been found. Eunice later died in 1845 shortly after Major went to Garnavillo, Iowa.
Throughout all of her life, Christina, or ‘Tinny’—pronounced ‘Teeny’, as she came to be called—lived with her father. An early census did not treat her kindly as she is listed as “idiotic”. The 1900 Census indicates that she could read and write. Somewhere in the middle is the truth. Whatever sort of life she had, happy or otherwise, she died at the age of 82.
One of Major’s biographies claims that he was in the Blackhawk War. It may be so but I’ve never found him listed in any military records I’ve searched. Possibly he provided some sort of nonmilitary support. It’s another one of those stories that adds some spice but not much substance.
Major had a wanderlust that wouldn’t be satisfied until he finally settled down in Iowa in 1846. In about 1832 he headed west again. His cousin Truman Jenkins, son of his Uncle Nathaniel, planned to homestead in Newton, Jasper County, Indiana. Truman’s third child was born there in 1833. Major worked his stone mason trade in Newton for four years but was then ready to move on. Truman stayed in Newton and became the patriarch of generations of Jenkinses, some of whom still live in the area.
This time, Major set his eyes on Galena, Illinois. He may have stopped in Chicago on the way. If he did, Chicago probably didn’t hold much interest for him. It was a squalid, dirty little settlement at the edge of a shallow sluggish creek that drained the nearby smelly swamps into Lake Michigan. The population was 100 people. The few houses there were built of wood. A town like that didn’t have much need for a stone mason.
On the other hand, in the 1830s, Galena Illinois was beginning to boom. The lead mines were producing riches and millionaires. Work, opportunity, and limestone quarries were there for a person with Major’s masonry skills. In about 1837, Major went to Galena and worked there for two years. In 1839 he moved on to Iowa. There are no land records for him until 1846, but he possibly was with his younger brother William in Jackson County, Iowa in 1840. There is also no other information about what he was doing during the early 1840s.
Iowa and Major Jenkins
Clayton County in Iowa is north of Dubuque and is bordered by the Mississippi River. The Military Road out of Dubuque, later known as U.S. Route 52, passed through Garnavillo and continued on further north. Homestead land was available here. It was good, rich and well watered land. And, it was cheap: $1.25 an acre. Major had at least that much money.
Major was there on a gray day in the early winter of 1846, in his search for land to buy and homestead.
As he left town, he took notice of the woods that covered the countryside. This wouldn’t do. He knew all too well how difficult it was to clear the land of trees to get a farm started in Vermont. He would have to find something better. He continued north on the Military Road, past the farm that Moses Davis was homesteading. At the time, Major probably did not know that Moses’ niece, Jemima, lived there. Two-and-a-half miles north of Garnavillo, the road angled slightly to the west, then turned north again. The land was still wooded, but not as heavily as before. Those trees that he would have to cut would see a new life as timbers and planks in the house and buildings that he would build.
On the east side of the road, the land rose in a hillock. A clear, cold spring issued from the side of the hill. As he stood in the lee of the hill, he appreciated how it sheltered him from the north wind that blew on that cold early winter day. He eyed the land carefully and liked what he saw. This was land on which he could raise a new family and provide a home for his poor Tinny.
On December 15th, 1846 Major bought the first piece of land he would own in Clayton County. He paid his $50.00 for the 40 acres. By June 28th, 1848 he had bought two more parcels totaling about 160 acres in all.
At the age of forty one, Major had finally reached the end of his wandering trail. He would build the family homestead on this property and live there with his second wife, Jemima, until the autumn of 1892 when they would give up the farm and move into Guttenberg. Eight children would be born on the farm, five would survive and be raised there, but not without trials and tribulations.
Major married Jemima Harper on September 28th, 1848 three months after he bought the 160 acres. Jemima was born in January of 1831 in Illinois and was the daughter of a Scotch Irishman named John Harper. There is a family myth that Jemima was part Cherokee. This came from two sources. The first says that a band of Indians came into town one day and when they had gone, Jemima was left behind. The second source is from the 1880 Census which lists her as “not white” with the letters “Ckee” after. The photograph I saw of Jemima that was taken in about the 1890s, is that of a stocky, unsmiling, thoroughly white looking older woman with an arched left eyebrow.
With the letter from George Jenkins, Major’s brother, in Vermont was a note giving some information about Jemima Harper, Major’s second wife.
Before getting into the details of the note, a little background would be interesting. The note about Jemima and the letter from George came from Mabel Runkle. She was the daughter of Frank R. Jenkins, John Andrew’s brother.
In the late 1950s, my mother contacted Mabel who at that time was living in Vancouver, B.C. In the correspondence that followed, Mabel ended up writing to her daughter back in Iowa. Whoever the daughter was or where she or her descendants are now, is lost. My Mother can’t remember any of the details. Mabel was born in 1882, so she is gone. Her children would be in their eighties. The threads of genealogical searches are very thin indeed and are easily broken.
What my Mother was sent was considered by us to be a gold mine of precious photographs, original documents and vital information. My Mother, my brother Frank and I spent hours trying to decode the relationships that George Jenkins wrote about in his letter. The answer eluded us and it was early in the 1980s before we even had the answer as to who wrote the letter. Since Mabel’s daughter parted with it so easily, I’ve often wondered if what we were sent were just the dregs of a larger treasure.
Back to the information about Jemima Harper. Jemima’s father, John Harper, was likely one of those early nineteenth-century frontiersmen. He was in the Western counties of Illinois before 1830 and was in Pope County along the Ohio River. Where he was before that is nothing more than a guess, but the best guess would be that he migrated westward from Kentucky or Tennessee. Before that, his family could have come from Virginia or North Carolina.
The given name of Jemima’s Mother is unknown. However, the note offers a tantalizing clue that the family name was possibly Davis.
The author of the note is also unknown. It was written sometime between the mid 1880s and 1903 on a store receipt with the name ‘P.P. Mast Co., Springfield, O.’ printed at the top. It was probably written earlier than later since it refers to Thomas Harper, Jemima’s brother, as being killed in 1862 in the “Late War”. The Civil War as a proper noun did not come into common usage for some time after the war. Before that, it was simply referred to as “the late war”.
John Harper was not likely in a position to provide proper care for Jemima and after her Mother died, she was moved from one relative to another—as was her brother Thomas.
Now for the note (the information and dates in parentheses are mine):
Jemima Harper Born Schuyler Co. Ill. Jan 22, 1831, moved with her father to Pope Co. Ill. when about 9 years old (1840), where her mother Died & Father married again & moved to James(?) Co. Ill, when about 11 years of age(.) (1842) & then she was adopted by her aunt Mrs. Fannie Guim where she lived 1 summer, Then was Transferred to a family by the name of Capp where she lived 1 year & from there Ams?? Davis from Schuyler Co. came & Took her from Capp.(1843) Mrs. Davis was an Aunt, & they moved from there to Wis grant Co. & when she was about 14 years old (1845) Removed with her uncle (Moses) Davis to (Garnavillo) Clayton Co. Iowa & was united in marriage to Major Jenkins in 1848 Garnavillo Clayton Co. Iowa. To them were born 8 Children. 1st Narcisca died in infancy. Alice Jane Stebbins B?B Sie??? Iowa, John A. of Oceola Iowa, Frank R Arlington Ia., Horace G. Guttenberg, Marcia A. Heddeman Clayton Iowa Ransom, Died of Diptheria age 4 years Lewis(?) Died in infancy.
Her mother was scotch Her father was scotch irish Grandfather scotch & grandmother Irish on fathers side
She had 1 brother Thomas Harper Born 1836 was killed in the late war in 1862.
And that’s how the note was written. One thought is that Jemima was taken care of by families that were more likely her Mother’s family than her Father’s.
A fact given in the note is that Moses Davis was her uncle and therefore could have been the brother of Jemima’s mother. Aunt Fannie Guim (Gwinn?) was probably her Mother’s sister. Jemima was born in Schuyler Co in 1831, the place where her Uncle Moses Davis was in 1843. Likely John Harper met Jemima’s mother in Schuyler where she was probably living with her parents and married her in 1830.
Then there is the family myth that Jemima was part Cherokee. If that is so, then it would have had to come through Jemima’s Grandmother. The note says that her mother was Scotch, and the note tells us of her paternal grandparent’s nationality. It does omit, perhaps diplomatically, any information about her Davis(?) grandparents. Is it possible that Jemima’s maternal grandmother was a Cherokee?
Before we leave the story of John Harper’s children, there is a little more to tell of his son, Thomas Harper.
In the 1850 Garnavillo Township, Clayton Co., Iowa Federal Census, Thomas Harper is listed with his Uncle Moses Davis on his farm. Moses is shown as 47 years old and as being born in Kentucky. His wife, Martha, is also 47 years old and is indicated as having been born in Tennessee. Thomas is thirteen years old and is shown as being born in Illinois. Moses’ children are shown as having attended school within the year. Thomas did not. For the record, Moses’ children are shown in the Census as: Joel(?), age 19; John, age 17; Mary A., age 15; Sarah, age 12; Elizabeth, age 8 and Frib?? a male, age 6. All of the children were born in Illinois, so Moses came to Iowa in 1845 or after. This fits with the year of 1845 as indicated in the note.
Ten years later in 1860, Thomas, age 24, is listed in the Census for Eldora Township in Hardin Co., Iowa along with his wife who is identified only as A. Harper, age 23. Thomas’ occupation is shown as Day Laborer with personal assets of $25.00. Their two male children (L. Harper, age 1 year and P.D. Harper, age 3 ½) are also listed.
Thomas did enlist in the Civil War just as the note said, but he wasn’t killed in the war. He enlisted at Wagoner, Iowa on July 4, 1861 and was mustered into service on the 17th. He suffered from constant diarrhea and Hepatitis and was discharged on July 7th, 1862. He died before leaving camp in Moscow, Tennessee. In his military papers, he is shown being born in Tippecanoe Co., Indiana; He was five feet, eight inches tall, his complexion is shown as quite dark and he had black eyes and black hair. If there was any Cherokee blood in his past, this description would certainly fit.
Major and Jemima
By 1849 enough of the homestead must have been built to justify bringing children into the world. The first one born to Major and Jemima was Alice in 1849. John Andrew came next on May 7th, 1852, followed two years later by Frank R. in 1854. Horace was born in 1859 then Marcia in 1862. Two children, Narcissus and Lewis, died as infants and another, Ransom, died at age four.
Tinny always lived with Major and Jemima but the rest of the children, except for Horace, eventually moved away from the farm. John Andrew we’ll learn more about soon. Frank R. settled down in Arlington, Iowa and died there in 1933. Later, Horace G. settled down in Guttenberg and was the topic of several unhappy events in the lives of Major and Jemima. Marcia married Fred Hedeman and settled on a farm about seven miles north of the family home. Later, they moved into Guttenberg.
For more than fifty years and into the 1930s, the old family homestead survived. In 1906, a photograph was taken by someone standing in the same place where Major might have stood in 1846 when he first saw the empty land. The scene the camera captured was now different.
Directly in front are the house and the dirt path from the main road leading to it. There is a wagon and a two-horse team standing in front. To the far right is the old granary, next down is a hen house. Then the Spring House which covers a wonderful big boxed in spring that was used to cool the milk and supply all the water for the farm. The spring flowed through the farm all year round. The big old barn is off to the right. You can notice the farm yards leading from it. To the back, in a clump of trees at the left end of the house is a large two-story brick building, the milk house. A little out of our view is the family cemetery plot.
The Homestead remained for some years after. It was still reported as existing in the mid-1930s. Then it was all gone. When I visited there in 1992, plowed fields had taken its place. All traces were indeed gone.
Skeletons in The Closet
Henry Jenkins5 was the son of Frank R. Jenkins4 and the nephew of John Andrew Jenkins4. By this simple relationship, Henry was the cousin of Frank Lukenbill Jenkins5. It was in 1941 that Henry wrote a letter to his cousin Frank. In it, Henry gave us a glimpse of the skeletons in the Jenkins family closet.
“After the others were all married and off by themselves, Horace remained with his family (and parents), on the homestead, for many years. An addition was built to the old log house and both families lived there. Finally, at the age of 94, grandfather contracted pneumonia and nearly passed out. It was during this spell of sickness, that Uncle Horace took advantage of all of grandfather’s children, except Aunt Marcia. He beat them all out of their inheritance.”
“The children did not find this out for five years after it took place. Then it was too late to do anything about it. He,Uncle Horace, had it fixed in the Will, so all the rest got $500.00 each. He got the farm, livestock, machinery and everything. It amounted to about $70,000.00.”
“Then in about 3 years he moved to Guttenburg taking grandfather, grandmother and Tinny with him. He put the old people off in an old shack of a house by themselves and he built himself a mansion.”
“It was in this old shack of a house that grandfather and grandmother died. Grandmother burned herself to death starting a fire in the stove one morning. It was terrible. He buried grandfather and grandmother in Guttenburg. Tinny was left to the mercy of other relatives. I lost all track of Tinny. She was always a little feebleminded, but she was always a lot of help to the old people as she was never sick.”
Horace married for the second time in November of 1899 to Emma Kords Rau who was born on Guttenberg in 1861. They had a daughter Bernice who was born in September of 1900. She died in about four or five months. It was also the second marriage for Emma and by her first marriage she had a son, Albert Rau, who was born in 1892. Albert figures into the next bit that Henry tells us about.
“All that money did Horace no good, and his children are none the better off for him stealing it, although they all were big guys for a while. If Uncle Horace’s second wife had not had enough of her own money left to bury him with, he would have went to a pauper’s grave. He got rid of about all of her money too, before she got next to him. Her son (Albert) give Uncle Horace such a beating and he never got over it.”
Horace, who died in 1914, was survived by Emma who died in 1934. Their son Albert died five years later.
“You see at the time Uncle Horace got that crooked Will made out, Aunt Marcia and her husband, Fred Hedeman, lived on a farm only 7 miles from Grandfather Major’s farm. I have always said and believed that they got a goodly share to keep them quiet about it. Grandmother Jemima could not read or write. They [Marcia and Fred] owed Grandfather quite a sum of money for land and borrowed cash. I can’t help believing they got all this to keep them still.”
“One time, years afterwards, Uncle Fred and Aunt Marcia were to my home here and while we were at the supper table, my father [Frank R.] also was here. We got to talking about Uncle Horace and it came in just right. So, I remarked that it was just too bad that Uncle Horace did not live long enough to go to prison and sit out time enough to pay for all his crookedness. Well, Aunt Marcia did not like that a little bit and she never was the same to me after that.”
“Uncle Horace’s children [from first marriage] were: Charlie, Walter and Arthur. Arthur got killed. Charlie Jenkins lives at 2575 White Street, Dubuque, Iowa. Walter, you know, lives at Guttenburg, very wealthy [his underline].”
“Well this is about all about Grandfather.”
Marcia married Fred Hedeman, whose father had the farm next to Major’s homestead. Their children were Lottie, Elmer, Edna, Lulu and Flonda.
If Horace didn’t seem like a nice guy, one of his children, Walter, was truly strange. We’ll get to know more about Walter further on. Charles Blanchard Jenkins5 was Horace’s first son from the first marriage and was born in 1876. From all appearances, he lived out his 92 years in Guttenberg. The third son, Arthur L. Jenkins, died at an early age. No problems there. That leaves Walter5.
In 1937, my parents spent a little time in Iowa. When they were heading back to Chicago, they stopped at a gas station in Dubuque to get gas. My Mother noticed the old man who was servicing their car and said jokingly to my father, “That’s how you’re going to look when you get old.” By sheer coincidence, and unknown to either of my parents, they were at Walter’s gas station. As I remember the rest of the story, after they made their introductions, Walter was disinterested and abrupt with them. While denying that he was any relation at all, he directed them to a Lottie Ihm whom he said was a Jenkins.
Lottie was a daughter of Marcia and Fred Hedeman and therefore the granddaughter of Major and Jemima Jenkins and as a result, my father’s cousin.
Walter Jenkins5 was the second child of Horace’s first marriage. Born in 1878, he lived most of his life in Dubuque Iowa where he married Elizabeth Arendt. Their only son, Floyd Major Jenkins6, was born in December of 1899.
Walter denied that he ever married Elizabeth and consequently never acknowledged Floyd as his son. He abandoned both of them. Whether or not there was a marriage or a divorce, Walter did marry two more times. The second marriage was to Anna Margaret Born and the third was to Alice Sylvania Kafer Brandenburg.
Floyd6 was raised by Charles4 and Alice Amanda Hampshire Jenkins, but he was never legally adopted by them. (Charles was a nephew of Major’s and the son of William3, Major’s brother.) While they were raising Floyd, Floyd’s mother worked in Dubuque and sent money as she could, to help in raising Floyd.
Charles William and Alice Amanda Jenkins struck me as down-to-earth, nice people. A little information about them would be nice.
Charles was born in July of 1852 which made him about the same age as John Andrew Jenkins. William, Charles’ father, had the farm next to Major’s farm. In 1883, Charles married Alice Amanda Hampshire. In addition to raising Floyd Jenkins, they had three children of their own; Charlotte M., William C. and Milton H.
Charles William Jenkins was a stone mason, farmer, fisherman and blacksmith. He and his wife, Alice, raised Floyd Jenkins. They were very kind people, always helping their neighbors. The son Milton and his wife lived with them for some years after their marriage. Alice was very good to her daughter in law, Clara, and nursed her after the stillbirth of her first child.
Later, Charles and Alice lived with Milton and Clara in Beloit. There Charles died in 1930. Later that year, Milton and Clara named their newborn son after his grandfather. After Milton and Clara separated, Clara went back to live at McGregor. The Jenkinses and Hampshires were very good to her and her children, helping her to find jobs for herself and the two boys.
Charles died when he was 77 years old, in Beloit Wisconsin in March of 1930. Alice died four years later at age 69 in April of 1934 in Clayton County Iowa.
One week short of Floyd’s twelfth birthday he received the following sad information about his mother:
“Lizzie Jenkins ..., single, age 31, ... died of acute intestinal intoxication, informer Miss Elsie Marquard, 3614 Delhi St."
“She d. 11 Dec 1911 of an ‘overdose of headache medicine, fore lady at Bishops shirt factory, died Monday at 7:30 a.m. at her home at second and Locust.’”
Later in life, Floyd offered these several recollections:
“I didn’t think much of Horace either and he was my grandfather. Major had $20,000 in gold and Horace had gotten that. Horace was a big man.”
“One time, I needed a legal paper signed by my father, but he wouldn’t sign it.”
Floyd married twice. The first to Dorothy Brown and the second marriage was to Enid Reese Shuey. From the second marriage they had three boys: Neil W. born in 1935, Dale H. in 1936 and Reid Shuey Jenkins7 in 1942.
I talked to Dale on the phone in 1991. He told me that Floyd had been a policeman in Evanston for many years. He also said that one day in October 1953, his father got dressed up in a suit and tie and disappeared for a few days. Sometime later he said that he had gone to Dubuque to attend his father’s funeral. He said that other family members were shocked when he walked in. It seemed that they were concerned that Floyd was going to claim his share of Walter’s estate.
Floyd died in Evanston, Illinois in February of 1988.
John Andrew Jenkins The Early Years
In another letter from Henry Jenkins, we are given an opportunity to know a little of John Andrew’s life, his brother Frank R., and a little about Henry himself. In his 1941 letter to his cousin Frank he wrote the following:
“Now I will try to give you something concerning your father, mine and the rest of the family, as nearly as possible for me to do.”
“It seems like all Grandfather’s children remained at home on the farm a year or two after their marriage, then they would work grandfather for a little money, stock, etc. and then pull off for themselves.”
“Well, after your father [John Andrew] was married and when your oldest brother [half brother] Major and your oldest sister [half sister] Mamie, were just little tots, your parents came out west here [in 1875] and bought 160 acres homestead land up in Sac County, near Storm Lake, Iowa.”
This is as good as time as any to point out some of the name changes that people chose in John’s first family. John Andrew’s first son, Major, was later known as John and still later as Pat Jenkins. He lived in Wisconsin in his later years.
Mamie changed her name to Eve. She was married to a man named Will Willerton. They had two little girls, Agnes and Pearl. Eve and her husband came to live at their Uncle Frank R.’s home, but he soon got them located by themselves. They lived there in Arlington, Iowa for ten or twelve years. Finally Eve and Will separated. She later was married to a railroad man and lived in Oelwein, Iowa.
A son born later, William H. Jenkins, decided that his name was going to be Harvey. Maybe that was his middle name.
More from Henry:
“The next year in 1876, my parents Frank R. and wife, got a few head of stock, plows, etc. and came overland in a covered wagon, and bought 160 acres adjoining your folks. I was born out on the prairie in 1876. Both families built one room shacks and stables and broke up the wild land and got a lot of it into crops. They had fine prospects. Then came the hail storms and destroyed it all. This made them pretty sick; but, they fought it out and stayed another year.”
“That year the grasshoppers came so thick they destroyed everything most as quickly as did the hail the year before. Well that was more then they could stand, so they pulled up stakes and hit for back to grandfather’s farm again.”
“Your father’s and mine homesteads out here are now covered by the city of Storm Lake, Iowa. If they could of held onto them, they would have been rich years ago.”
“Your father rented a farm out between old Clayton Center, Iowa and Elkader, Iowa. There they lived and farmed for several years. Your brother [half-brother] Harvey who lived in Oelwein Iowa, and your younger sister [half-sister] Nellie, was born in that community.”
“My father took his family and moved to Clayton City, Iowa down on the Mississippi River where we lived till I was 6 years old, then he moved to Arlington, Iowa. Your father and family also came a few years later [in about 1885] and lived there for many years thereafter.”
“Finally John and his wife Eliza sold their home there and went to North Platte, Nebraska. His first wife Eliza, died out there and was buried there. Then your father and children came back to Arlington and other points around there.”
“I have two brothers and two sisters living [in 1941]. Fred, the one next to me, died at the age of 22, and is buried in Arlington where my parents are buried. It’s the Taylorville Cemetery though. Mabel, Mrs. Fred Runkle and Oscar, my youngest brother, live at Stanhope, Iowa. My father had the phone exchange there for over 30 years. Neva, Mrs. C. F. Rose, my baby sister lives at 440 E Yerby St. Marshall Mo. and my brother Roy is a chiropractor at Moulton(?), Iowa.
“Well Frank, I think that just about does it up. Hope it will be of interest to you. I was a rural mail carrier out here for over 19 years. Got injured away back in 1925 and have been almost an invalid ever since. Can’t get out and go anyplace. Haven’t been down the street for over 3 years, just have to sit and lay around all the time. On top of it all, my dear wife passed away 2 years ago last February.”
“I have 4 children, Madge, Mrs Harold Norlin of Ames Iowa. Bernice, Mrs Homer M. Lantz of Sharonville, Ohio. Herbert of this place, married also and Reatna 36, at home here with me. We two are all there is at home. Reatna had infantile paralysis when he was 6 years old, leaving him crippled in one leg.”
“Well Frank, I think I have done well for a sick man, so will close for this time, with lots of love to all from your faithful cousin. Write when you can.”
Henry H. Jenkins
OSCEOLA, IOWA and John Andrew Jenkins
Osceola Iowa is a small town some 30 miles south of Des Moines. It is typical of many towns in the Midwest. A town square that is surrounded by businesses on all four sides. The County Courthouse for Clarke County, an unimpressive modern building, sits in the middle of the square.
Though the town has kept up with the times, if you look around the corners and down the streets, you find a town that hasn’t really changed that much in a hundred years.
The year we’re concerned with is about one hundred years ago. It is the year 1895 and is the year that John Andrew Jenkins married Louisa Lukenbill Anderson. It was the second marriage for both of them.
John was first married to Eliza McLaughlin in May of 1872. They had five children. Major, who was named after John’s father, was born October 11th, 1873. May was born in 1874. William H. was born May 17, 1877. The last children were the twins Nellie and Stella who were born July 30th, 1879. Stella died a month later on August 30th.
Louisa had married H. T. Anderson on January 10, 1885 in Osceola. The records show that he was a Dealer in Patent Rights. Louisa and H.T. had a daughter Nellie who was born in about 1886. Nell later married Art Miller in Iowa in about 1905. Within several years, Art and Nell took up land in Tolley, North Dakota. Louisa was to follow to Tolley in later years after her business and home were burned in Curtis, Nebraska.
This gets us a little ahead of our story. First we have to get Louisa married to John Andrew Jenkins.
By an untold and unknown story and after he returned to Iowa from Nebraska where his first wife Eliza died, John ended up in Osceola. With John and Louisa’s spouses gone, John and Louisa were married on August 8th, 1895 by Rev. Infield. They settled down in Osceola.
What happened to or who cared for John’s children from his first marriage isn’t clear. After the death of his first wife, he may have raised them himself or they may have stayed with the family of his brother Frank R. in Arlington Iowa. By the early 1890s, the older children were almost grown. The youngest, Nellie, is mentioned in the Osceola paper from time to time so she may have been close by. There is this news item in January 1899:
“Miss Nellie Jenkins became quite sick last week at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Will Jeffery for whom she was doing housework. On account of the serious illness of Mrs. Jeffery, the young lady was removed to the Sanitarium on Sunday.”
She apparently recovered, for in June the paper reported that: “Miss Nellie Jenkins went to Creston Sunday, where she has employment in the Summit House, the leading hotel of that city.”
Since 1893, Louisa had dressmaking rooms in the millinery shop owned by Louisa’s sister, Mrs. McNichols. It was a business that in different forms would be the source of her income in years to come.
John’s occupation isn’t known. As we read in Henry’s letter, when John was 23 years old, he homesteaded 160 acres of land in Storm Lake, Iowa with his first wife. He built a one-room house for his wife and two children, broke the ground and got the crops in. Hail storms destroyed it all. The following year, he was joined by his brother, Frank R., who homesteaded an adjoining 160 acres. Between the two of them, they got the crops in again. This year, the grasshoppers destroyed everything as quickly as did the hail the year before. This was more than they could take so they pulled up stakes and headed back to Clayton County. John rented a farm out between old Clayton Center and Elkader, Iowa and farmed there for several years.
By the time of the 1880 Census, John and his family were living with Major and Jemima back on the family farm. Henry Jenkins’ letter detailed where John was before he ended up in Osceola. A photograph of John, Eliza and their family was taken in about 1887 in Brush Creek, Iowa. No town of that name is shown on present day maps of the State. As the years went by, he is known more as a carpenter. For a period of time after his second marriage, he ran a restaurant and hotel with Louisa in Osceola.
Like his experience with homesteading and farming, his career as a merchant was not destined for success.
In January of 1898, the Osceola newspapers announced: “J.A. Jenkins opened a first class restaurant and boarding house at the second door west of the N.E. corner of the Public Square”. In February, Louisa’s sister, Mary C. McNichols, sold her interest in the restaurant to John. As the year went by, news items appeared in the town newspapers promoting the restaurant and boarding house. These were likely the handiwork of Louisa. They read with the same tone and flavor as the news items that, in later years, Louisa got into the Curtis Nebraska newspapers for her hat shop.
How well the business was doing is unknown. In September of 1898, they boarded prisoners, for which they were paid $30.75. Whether they were doing well or not, Louisa was now one month pregnant with her son George. Little Frank, who was born on August 13th, 1896, was now into his “terrible twos”.
On December 10th of 1898, less than a year after they opened for business, fire brought an end to their enterprise. The Osceola Democrat told the story:
“About half past nine on Saturday night on December 10th, citizens were startled by the awful cry of fire. The building owned by Mr. Morrison and occupied by the Jenkins Restaurant was totally destroyed. The building was insured for $400. The family lost all wearing apparel and some bedsteads and mattresses. The loss was $200 with no insurance. Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins have moved into the old Dunbar House and are again in business.”
Somewhere in this story, there comes the growing feeling that it is Louisa who is the unrelenting pillar of strength of the family. Both emotionally and physically. Some several years ago, I was told that if someone wanted to get an unmanageable horse saddled, Louisa was the one sent out to the corral to get the job done. It was said, “She could do the job better than any man!” Somewhere along in her life she took up golf and continued to play until she was almost 70 years old.
John Andrew always seems to have worked hard at everything he attempted. For one reason or another though, nothing ever seemed to really work out. As a person, he was remembered by his son Frank as a good-natured man and a caring, gentle father. What is success in life?
A little more than two months after the fire, the following advertisement appeared in the Osceola Democrat newspaper:
“We have cleaned, renovated, repaired and refurnished and
thoroughly overhauled the old Lyon Hotel, South of the Southwest
corner of the Square and named it Hotel Jenkins. Transient rates
$1.00 a day. We have clean beds, comfortable rooms and serve
good meals. Special Rates for Regular Boarders.
Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Jenkins”
In February of 1984, at the Southwest corner of the Square there was a building that has the architecture of the late 1800s. It has several apartments above the stores. It is a good candidate for being the building that was the Hotel Jenkins.
At this point in time, Louisa was seven months pregnant. In May, 1899, George William Jenkins arrived. Family names always seemed to thread their way into the naming of the children. John and Louisa probably named their first son Frank after John Andrew’s brother and gave him the middle name of Lukenbill, which was Louisa’s maiden name. Their second son was most likely given the name George after Louisa’s father, and the name William could have come from John Andrew’s uncle William, Major’s brother.
Music came into Frank’s life at an early age. One year he only wanted a brass toy kazoo horn for Christmas. The horn. Nothing else. Just the horn. He was teased by his parents. They had gotten him the horn, but he was going to get it last. Frank tore through one present after another. As soon as he opened a package that did not contain the horn, it was cast aside. His mood grew more ornery. Finally he was given his last gift. The horn! Frank later recalled that his joy was unbounded. With his horn at his lips and decked out in a new bathrobe, he marched around the room making the best music he knew how to make.
Around the same time, a Happy Hooligan band came to town. Frank was playing nearby. When he heard the sound of the band, he immediately dropped what he was doing and ran off to find the source of the music. Frank followed the band as it marched through town and stayed with it all the way to the hotel where they were staying. He followed them into the hotel and for some reason latched onto the trombone player. He followed him right to his room. The trombone player by then was sitting in his room talking with another man. Frank kept hanging around the edge of the door until the trombone player finally let him blow through the horn. He even took time to teach Frank how to play a scale (Bb) on the horn. Some five or six years later, Frank was able to order a trombone of his own.
1900 TO 1906
The story gets a little fuzzy at this point. It won’t be the last time either that our story will have some unexplained gaps.
In December of 1899, John Andrew and family were still in Osceola and the local paper reported:
“John Jenkins, of the west side hotel, lost a mare, it ceased from labor and went to horse heaven last Friday night.”
By as early as 1900, the family had moved to Shannon City, Iowa, a very small town about 30 miles west of Osceola. The story of what happened with the Jenkins Hotel is unknown. What was attractive about Shannon City is an equal mystery. In 1984, Shannon City looked very much like a photograph that was taken of it by Frank when he visited the town in 1947. At that time, he said it still looked very much like he remembered it as a boy. I also visited the town in the winter of 1984. I wrote in my notes at the time: “It is an old town. It is a tired town. Shannon City, when visited on a cold, dreary, gray February winter day, does not sing well its praises. I’m not too sure the song improves with the weather.”
Shannon City, Iowa
There is a Methodist Church a little way down the main street, though there are no street signs that officially designate the street name. The church is a white frame building. The front door is new, though the steeple is weatherworn and unpainted. The foundation stone is marked 1889/1947. Presumably this means the church was organized in 1889 and the present building built in 1947. I asked a young boy who came out of a house across from the church about the pastor. He knew nothing about him. The pastor’s flock must be very small.
Frank fell when he was a baby just learning to walk. One story is that his father was playing with him. Chasing Frank around the room he reached out to grab him. It was during this play that the accident occurred. His leg was broken and not properly set. The knee joint had fused in a way that caused the lower part of his leg to stick out behind him. In order for him to get around, a crutch was fashioned that fastened to his knee. He got around with that and it didn’t seem to slow him down. Over the years, he would be referred to as “crippled” or in college as “Step and a half”. This name came from the manner of his walk. After his leg was later re broken and reset, the knee was still fused but at least the upper and lower bones were straight.
At the age of four, Frank started school. While in the first grade at the age of five he was learning to read. He remembers that as soon as the newspaper would come, he would take it and underline the words in the paper he knew.
When Frank and George were small boys in Shannon City, Frank liked to coast down a long hill on a tricycle with George riding on the back. When they would reach the bottom, the trike would fall over and the handle bars would catch Frank in the stomach. This would hurt him and he would cry. He couldn’t figure out why, but the trike always fell over at the bottom of the hill and he always ended up being hurt. It wasn’t until some 55 years later that George admitted that he intentionally caused the bike to turn over. On the other hand, George also recalled that Frank would tease him unmercifully. Being three years younger than Frank, George’s plans for a just revenge weren’t easy to make happen. If a ride on the back of the tricycle wasn’t handy so he could get justice, George would simply steal Frank’s crutch.
George wasn’t the only one to be the victim of Frank’s devilishness. Nell, Louisa’s daughter from her first marriage was, by Frank’s own admission, often the recipient of his unmerciful teasing and tormenting. Nor was age any insurance. One day as his father lay napping on the couch, Frank asked if he was feeling OK. His father said he was dead. Frank didn’t believe this, so as a test, he spit in his father’s mouth. In an instant, as his father leaped from the couch and swatted him, Frank learned two things. The first was that his father wasn’t dead. The second was to always pick your victims with great care.
A town, when seen through the eyes of an adult, never seems to look the same as it did when seen as a child. Youth has that ability to make things bigger and better than they really may have been. Frank recalls that on a Sunday, his father would hire a rig and go out for a ride in the country with the family.
John Andrew and Louisa bought a piano for Frank when he was six. He remembers the delight he was filled with when he saw it. “I jumped up and down and clapped my hands with glee,” Frank recalled some years later. So important did his Mother consider his piano training that the piano accompanied the family to Curtis and on the train to Tolley after that. In later years, Louisa told Polly, George’s wife, “George was a strong boy with two good arms and legs. He would always be able to find work to earn a living. Frank would need a good education to get along in the world.” Where Frank’s musical ability came from is uncertain, but his brother George and his mother loved music. Maybe the gene came from Louisa’s line. Perhaps in this love for music, Frank was also doubly blessed with a true talent for playing.
Frank was seven years old when news of the death of his Grandfather, Major Jenkins, reached Shannon City. Major was 97 years old when he died. Frank recalled that when John Andrew received the wire informing him of his father’s death, he went into the bedroom and sobbed like a baby. “I guess he must have liked him,” Frank said when he told this story to his son, Frank Jr., some years later. John left immediately for Guttenberg to attend the funeral.
A little more than a year after Major’s death, John’s mother Jemima was fatally burned as the result of an accident while lighting the stove in her kitchen early on the afternoon of November 4th, 1904, in Guttenberg, Iowa. The fire was discovered by neighbors who saw the smoke. Jemima was found on the floor next to the overturned stove with her clothes on fire. She died later that night. This time, though, John did not make the 250-mile journey to Guttenberg.
In the little Methodist church in Guttenberg, two funerals were held in a year’s time. First for Major in 1903, then for Jemima. John was there, as were Alice, who was now Alice Stebbins, Frank R. from Stanhope, and Marcia Hedeman who now lived in Guttenberg. Horace, who was now Mayor of Guttenberg, also attended. George H. Jenkins also came down from Monona, Iowa. He was Major’s nephew, the son of his brother William who had died some fifteen years before. There were also 22 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren left behind.
Major and Jemima were laid to rest in Lot 300 in the Guttenberg City Cemetery. Arthur L. Jenkins, Horace’s son who was killed one month short of his 22nd birthday (story unknown), joined them in November of 1909. Horace later joined the three of them in 1914.
John Andrew and Louisa stayed in Shannon City for about four or five years. Then, for reasons lost in the past, John Andrew moved the family to Curtis, Nebraska in February of 1906. Frank was almost ten, George not quite seven. Louisa was forty three and John was fifty three.
The last of the sand was running out of the hourglass of John Andrew Jenkins’ life.
CURTIS NEBRASKA, 1906 TO 1909
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad runs through Osceola, Iowa, on into Nebraska to Curtis and beyond. This is the route and the means which John Andrew Jenkins and his family probably used to get to Curtis.
The local newspapers carried the following ads in early March 1906. They have the same style of the ads for the restaurant and the Jenkins Hotel back in Osceola.
On March 6th: “Mrs. Jenkins will open a millinery shop in the Keith Building soon.” Two weeks later there two more news items: “... Ladies, remember the dates of Mrs. Jenkins millinery opening” and “Millinery opening at Mrs. Jenkins, March 30th and 31st.”
There must have been a lot of work to be done getting the millinery shop ready for business. On Saturday, John Andrew came down with a bad cold. It could have been because of the time of the year. Perhaps he was worn out from getting the family settled down in town and getting Louisa’s shop ready. By Monday he was feeling better, but the next day he was feeling much worse. He took to bed and Dr. Jefferyies made a house call at 9:00 in the morning.
John’s conditioned worsened through the day, as he was passing in and out of consciousness. Late Tuesday night, he lapsed into a coma. Louisa called Dr. Jefferyies again.
At 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning on March 28th, 1906, John Andrew died at the age of 53. Louisa and the doctor were with him at the end as he passed away quietly in a coma. In their beds, the boys Frank, age 9, and George, age 6, were asleep, unaware of what they would learn when they woke.
Dr. Jefferyies determined the cause of death as ruptured blood vessels in the brain causing coma and death, with influenza being a contributing cause. Sixty years later, his son George would die of a similar cerebral problem. In 1991, John’s grandson Joel, son of Frank, also suffered a stroke at the age of 49. Joel died June 13, 1994 a few months after his 52nd birthday. Be aware Jenkins males!
The funeral services for John were held the next day at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Curtis with Rev. Carr officiating. John Andrew was buried in the Curtis City Cemetery. In 1983, no record could be found for his cemetery plot location. It was, however, located by my son John7 in the Fall of 1990. It had been without a stone or other marker for over eighty years. Together with his sister Cindy7, who paid for the stone, John made arrangements in McCook to have a headstone prepared. Early in 1991, a simple stone was placed on the grave of John Andrew Jenkins. A touching re affirmation of how great-grandchildren can honor their forebears.
On Friday, the day after John Andrew’s funeral, Louisa’s millinery shop was scheduled to open. More than likely, that’s exactly what happened.
The following story was the result of an interview I had with Frank Jenkins, Sr. in the early 1970s. I accept the story without question. The details of it taking place in Curtis are a problem since Frank was nine years old when he went there. On the other hand, Shannon City, Iowa was not enough of a town to justify a boys’ band—though that is the town that Frank lived in when he was eight. We’ll take the story as it is and leave the details to be sorted out some time in the future.
“John Snodgrass was the blacksmith in Curtis and was a veteran of the Civil War. Every Saturday night, John would get roaring drunk and could be heard all over town. By the next Monday morning he would be sober and back at work at the anvil. One day an Evangelist came to Curtis and by the time the Evangelist had left town, John Snodgrass had ‘got religion’. John was some sort of musician and in his new reformed life, he started a boys’ band. The band consisted of some ten or twelve boys.”
Frank was one of them and at the age of eight, he was playing the alto horn in the band.
Through the several years that Louisa and the boys lived in Curtis, the millinery shop never failed to get a free mention in the papers:
- In August of 1906: “...September 6, 7 & 8 are the dates of Mrs. Jenkins fall millinery opening. ... Something catching in designs of fall hats at Mrs. Jenkins. Call and see.”
October 1906: “... Ladies: Remember the removal sale of hats at Mrs. Jenkins begins tomorrow. All trimmed hats at $2.00, street hats at $1.00 don’t fail to come.”
November 1906: “... Mrs Jenkins carries a complete line of ladies furnishings.”
March 1907: “... Today and tomorrow, big rush of hats at Mrs. Jenkins Spring Opening. Take it cool ladies.”
Her business must have been doing well enough. For her Spring Opening in 1908, Louisa was able to afford a paid advertisement. It was a large display ad measuring two columns wide by 10” high (pictured above).
In June of 1907, the Curtis Enterprise mentioned that Louisa’s daughter was in Curtis on a visit from Montana. By June of 1908, Nell and Art Miller must have been in Tolley, North Dakota. Louisa sent a photo post card to Nell, postmarked June 27th. The message on the other side of the card read:
“Which of the three boys do you think took the best picture. Excuse Franks Peter Piper smile. Rec’d Lyall’s picture and it was mighty sweet. – Mama”
On August 27th, 1909, the Curtis Enterprise carried the following story:
“About midnight last Sunday (August 24th) as time was creeping into the beginning of a new week and when the inhabitants of the Lake City were sound asleep, came the unwelcome alarm of fire, the reports of a gun and the blowing of the B & M roundhouse whistle aroused the anxious and terrified population.”
“The fire was first discovered in the front room of the north side of the Ridgeway Building, occupied by Roy Dempsey as a Bakery and Confectionery Shop. Occupying the South side of the building was the millinery shop and living apartments of Mrs. L. Jenkins.”
“At the discovery of the fire, the occupants had but little time to dress and get out of the building. Mrs. Jenkins and her son Frank barely escaped losing their lives, rushing out into the street in their night gowns.”
“Mrs. Jenkins reports her loss in the neighborhood of $1000, this includes her stock of millinery goods and household effects. She carried no insurance whatever. We understand she saved nothing but her piano.”
“We understand that Mrs. Jenkins will remain in Curtis and again go into the millinery business, occupying the lower floor of the new brick building that is being put up by Mrs. Good. This we are glad to know.”
“The kindness and generosity of the citizens of Curtis are not in the least wanting especially in such times as these. Realizing Mrs. Jenkins loss and her son Frank’s crippled condition, went to work to lend her a helping hand, by donations of articles towards housekeeping and also presenting her a purse of over $200.”
“The proceeds from the Whitney’s moving picture entertainment Thursday evening, after deducting actual expenses, were given to Mrs. Jenkins.”
No mention was made of Frank’s brother George. Sometime before, Louisa’s daughter Nell Miller must have come to Curtis and took George back to Tolley. In trying to put a year to a story George told in 1964 of going to Tolley in January, this is likely what happened. In the same issue of the Curtis newspaper that reported the fire, there was also a news note sent from the Farnum Echo newspaper and reported in the Curtis Courier. This may have been when Frank’s leg was re-broken and straightened.
“Frank Jenkins was at Farnum on the first of the week and Dr. Reeves removed the plaster cast from his crippled leg. Frank still walks with crutches but it is expected that he will soon be able to throw them away.”
The newspaper article about the fire reported that Louisa planned to stay in Curtis. That turned out not to be the case. In the September 3rd issue of the Curtis Enterprise, one week after the fire, there was the following brief news item:
“Mrs. Jenkins and son Frank have finally decided to leave Curtis and will locate where Mrs. Jenkins’ daughter is in North Dakota. They left the first of the week.”
So, on Monday, August 29th, 1909, seven days after the fire, Louisa and Frank boarded the train with their belongings and the piano. Curtis was now their past. Tolley, North Dakota was their future.
1909 to 1917
In the summer of 1989, 80 years after Louisa and Frank arrived in Tolley, my nephew, Glenn Moreland Jenkins7 and his wife, Karen, took a vacation that included a stop in Tolley. Tolley is growing very old and likely won’t last much more than another ten years, at best. I would have thought that nothing would be found after so many years. Instead of a “dry hole”, they struck a gusher. After several false starts, they were directed to Harry Ostlund, the President of the Tolley Historical Society.
Harry made Glenn and Karen very welcomed. He made several phone calls and then took them to meet Blanche Hembree. Several years ago, Blanche had written a history of Tolley. She remembered Frank. In fact, Blanche and another girl, Minnie Strand, took piano lessons from Frank in 1917. They were about 14 years old at the time. Glenn and Karen weren’t able to meet with Minnie as she was working at the Old Peoples Home that day. They had an enjoyable and inform-ative visit with these people and were impressed that Grand-father Frank was remem-bered after all these years. Blanche remem-bered him well too. She said, “This Town needs someone like a Frank Jenkins again.”
Glenn and Karen were able to borrow a copy of the book that Minnie wrote. What follow are excerpts from her book, A History of Renfield and Tolley, North Dakota, by Blanche Hembree.
“The original Tolley Band was organized about 1912 by a young man named Frank Jenkins employed at the Tolley Tribune. They procured their instruments from the earlier band, got a group of young folks interested and began the band. Hugo Schroeder, who took over after Jenkins, said; ‘As soon as I could get permission from my parents I joined the group, and was a member throughout the history of the band. We were the band for the annual Chautauqua which was held each summer for about two weeks at the Mouse River Park. A great drawing card to the town was the Saturday night concerts. The band was also a dance band, which was always ready, willing and able to perform for the many dances held in Tolley in the olden days.’”
There is a photo of the Concert Band, June 23, 1915 (Frank was 18). It pictures the Band marching down main street of Tolley.
Another photo of The Tolley Band, Market Day, is dated August 15, 1915 (several days after Frank’s nineteenth birthday.) The caption under this photo reads:
“Back Row: E.L. Stanley, Hugo Schroeder, Bill Wagner, Frank Jenkins, Frank Schroeder, Dutch Lang, Henry Schroeder, Ernest Sackrieter.”
“Front Row: Roy Johnson, McLain Critchfield, Wallace Johnson, Dr. L.R. Critchfield, Art Johnson and Harry Walters.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Leo Hartfield moved to town for a few years, and she served as pianist. Later Viola Peterson assumed the job. Louis Schroeder replaced George Jenkins on the drums when he moved to Grand Forks. One of the things they recall is when at about three A.M. the lights would blink and you would have a very few minutes to pack up and get ready for a blackout. Frank Jenkins and his widowed mother moved to Grand Forks where Frank graduated and eventually became a Doctor of Medicine.”
“The Stanleys were interested in the Methodist Church and were part of the choir until their health failed. Other members that we can recall who were part of the choir were Mrs. L.R. Critchfield (leader), George Peterson, Melvin Tuper, E.L. McCutcheon, Frank and George Jenkins, Jessie Hill, Amanda McCutcheon, C. E. Spencer, McClain Critchfield, Mrs. H.J. Miner and Hazel Miner.”
Louisa was an operator in the Tolley telephone exchange but for a time she also worked for the newspaper, as did her daughter Nell.
Some of the people in Tolley would use the Souris River to float bootleg whiskey down the river from Canada. Mouse Park was the end of the line for the journey.
Indoor toilets were not a luxury enjoyed by many of the inhabitants of Tolley, including Louisa and her boys. The discomforts of an outhouse were not much appreciated by Frank. When he had earned some money that problem was solved. He remembered how much the family, and especially he, liked the chemical toilet that he was able to purchase.
Take a look at a map of North Dakota and locate Tolley up in the Northwest corner of the State. What to do during long winters? On weekends, Art Miller would drive the sled into town. Frank, George and Louisa would bundle up as warmly as possible and Art would drive them the eight or nine miles out to Art and Nell’s homestead. They would play Norwegian Whist all night, literally, being interrupted only by necessary farm chores as morning approached.
Frank left school at 13 to become a printer’s devil for $3.00 a week. He could set type faster than anyone else. He ran the paper for five or six weeks when he was around 17 or 18. A man named Scott bought the paper and built a new building for it.
Around the age of fifteen Frank made a decision about his future. He met a doctor, possibly Dr. Critchfield who was in the Tolley band, and decided that a doctor was what he wanted to be. He also realized that he would never be able to make much money being a musician. He decided that medicine would be his business and music his hobby. He stuck to that decision for the rest of his life.
Before the Tolley Band was formed, the band from Kenmare would come over to play in town. Frank was allowed to sit in with the band. The band leader, Mr. Woods, thought that anyone who could play as well as Frank, could play tuba in his band. So around the age of fifteen or sixteen, Frank played in the band in Kenmare, then later played the piano with the orchestra.
Molly was the name of Art Miller’s horse. Often on returning to Tolley from a dance job, Frank would find his mother waiting for him with horse and wagon. Together they would ride the North Dakota farm roads back to Art’s. If the night was dark and moonless, it was difficult to see in what direction they were heading. Often at a turn, Molly would fight over the direction that had been chosen. After enough of these battles and after being convinced they were thoroughly lost, Molly was given her head. Having been given free rein, the horse took them directly back home.
Chautauqua is something that is mostly unknown to people today. In the days before television, radio or for the most part even the movies, there were festivities, lectures and concerts that were held in the summer that were known as Chautauqua. The name came from the town of that name in New York.
Frank (second from right)
When Frank was in his early twenties and possibly before he started college in Grand Forks, he played in a band that made the Chautauqua circuit in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and other nearby states.
In 1918 when Frank was 22 years old, he signed a contract with William Norton to play in his band that made the Chautauqua circuit. He was hired as a pianist and trombonist at the rate of $14.00 a week. Norton paid his transportation, room and board while the band was on tour. If the band had any open dates, his salary was suspended, but his expenses were still covered. The $14.00 must have seemed like he was in the big time. It wasn’t a bad wage for the time.
The details of this period are a little sketchy. Little written record survives and all that exists are photographs. Judging from those, it must have been an exciting time of his life.
FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA
1917 TO 1924
The trombone Frank had ordered some years before was used in the various bands and orchestras he played in. This earned him the money that eventually made it possible for him to attend the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks. Though Frank had not had any formal schooling since he was about 12 years old, he had read and learned.
At the age of 21, in 1917, he went to Grand Forks where he spent the first year taking college courses and passing tests which substituted for high school. In his second year, he was admitted to the University of North Dakota as a special student. He was still making up his high school credits. In fact, he received his High School diploma shortly before he received his Bachelor’s Degree. Frank use to like to say that he graduated from college a few days after he finished high school.
Frank, EK1 (middle of bottom row)
He was admired by his contemporaries of the time. Among his other accomplishments at college, he was one of the founders of the Sigma Nu fraternity chapter at the University. His number was EK 1. Thirty years after he was at the school, he was remembered in the Sigma Nu Alumni publication in 1956.
“Frank Jenkins (EK1) who graduated in the early twenties was a fabulous character. ‘Step and a half’ they called him. He came to UND without any high school work, without financial support, with one game leg, with enormous musical capacity and as good a set of brains as the fraternity ever had. Before he graduated and went on to medical school, he traveled all over the United States with a band, played aboard ships to the Orient, and even acquired some real estate.”
He could come back to the house from advanced chemistry lectures and without notes, repeat the formulas and equations. He had two orchestras which furnished all of the dance music around the UND for five years or more.
“‘Jenkie’ used to show off by switching from one instrument to another in a single dance number, playing all instruments before the number was finished. ‘Jenks’ took high school and college courses at the same time, sometimes as many as nine or ten and made among the highest grades in the fraternity.”
Frank’s formal piano training took place at the University, lasting for about two years. His teacher was a pleasant Italian. Unfortunately, it ended at a recital at which he was to play Liszt’s 14th or 15th Hung-arian Rhapsody. After listening to not very good singers and instru-mentalists and deciding he was not much better, he simply left without performing.
To Frank, music before he attended UND and while there was always a great source of enjoyment, camaraderie and income. After his undergraduate work, Frank continued his band hobby. He had a job playing piano in an orchestra for $3.00 per night plus railroad fare, room and breakfast. On the Chautauqua Circuit, he played throughout Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa.
Two summers were spent traveling on shipboard to Hawaii, Hong Kong and Japan as a piano player in the ship’s orchestra and with his own band.
The life story of Frank has an intertwined closeness with his brother George. They shared a closeness that I easily saw in later years when they were together. I think they liked, admired and respected each other. The fact that they were brothers made it even nicer.
In 1922, Frank went back to Tolley for the wedding of his brother. George married Gladys Mary Grinnell on April 14th. To me, Gladys Mary was always ‘Aunt Polly’. I remember her as a good natured, slim, almost tiny woman with a wry sense of humor. Polly had known George since he first came to Tolley in about 1908.
Polly was born on February 3rd, 1899 on the Grinnell family farm near the river south of Tolley; about 3 months before George was born. Polly moved into town when she was ready for school, which is also when the railroad came through Tolley. Her mother always warned her, “Don’t have anything to do with that ‘dirty’ Jenkins boy.” Polly never did know what her mother had against George. Her mother didn’t want Polly’s brothers to play with him either. Polly remembers, “I didn’t think he was so dirty, certainly not after I got to know him.”
George was a lineman for the phone company in Tolley. He helped wire the whole town and strung wires out of town in Tolley. He worked at that when he was in High School.
The evening that George and Polly were married, Frank provided the music for the celebration. “He was a wonderful musician,” Polly recalled. “Frank could sit at a piano, George would name a piece and Frank would play it. He knew all the popular pieces because he made his living at it.”
They lived on Polly’s Dad’s farm after they were married but that didn’t last more than a year or so. George didn’t like it; he wanted a job where he could sleep a little later in the morning.
Elaine was George and Polly’s first child. She was born April 1st, 1924. Two years later, Donna was born on May 28th, 1926. A short while after that they moved to Grand Forks where they were living at 809 W. 58th St. in September of 1928. Later George and Polly ran a neighborhood grocery store at 1202 2nd Ave North. In Grand Forks, Colleen was born on February 2nd, 1928 and later Gary was born on July 29th, 1932. Years later, Gary discovered that Polly and the mother of a TK E fraternity brother of his were roommates in the same hospital where the two boys were born. Polly’s parents also came down to Grand Forks about the same time and also had a grocery store.
In 1924, Frank was graduated from the University of North Dakota. In that year he was listed as an Instructor of Physiology and Pharmacology at $1500.00 per year at UND for 1924 25. At the same time he made application to Rush Medical School at the University of Chicago.
For the summer of 1924 though, the plans were for his band to play on the President Lines boat that traveled from San Francisco to Hong Kong.
To get to San Francisco, he and his fellow band members drove a 1916 Velie touring car across the top of the United States and down to Sacramento where the car was sold. Those were not only the days before Interstates but in most cases also before paved roads. On the way they stopped at Glacier National Park. They also made unscheduled stops to fill the radiator with water when it boiled over. On the return trip at the end of the summer, he went to Vancouver, B.C. where he took the Canadian Pacific train stopping in Banff, Lake Louise and Calgary before finally turning south to the U.S. and Grand Forks.
Chicago — 1920s and Early 30s
By 1926 or ‘27, Frank had moved to Chicago. His mother stayed back in Tolley and his brother George was now living in Grand Forks with his family. Frank was an intern at St. Anthony’s Hospital in 1927 when he married my mother, Beatrice Moreland Riffle, on September 30th. They spent their honeymoon, a week later, at the Palmer House in Chicago. The hotel bill for the night came to $8.15, $8.00 for the room and .15 for a long distance telephone call.
Frank announced his coming marriage to his mother by letter. She wrote back to Frank on September 17th.
Just got back to town and say I surely was surprised to hear the news revealed in your letter and I hope things will go all right this time for you for you surely have had some experience in your love affairs. I would like to see her. You must send me her picture and I think I can judge somewhat by that, but if she suits you she ought to me don’t you think so.”
In November, Louisa wrote a letter to Bea which read in part:
“I hope you are still going to school and you will get to finish which I think you will for an education comes in mighty nice. I am so glad Frank is so near through he surely deserves a good business when he is. He has stuck by it through thick and thin and nobody is more deserving more then he, and here’s hoping he has all he can do. It will make me feel fine if he does.”
Shortly after they were married, they lived with my mother’s parents at 77 Bluff Avenue in LaGrange. Later they moved to 35 N. Central Avenue back in Chicago, but only lived there for about 6 months.
On December 18th, 1927, Frank was graduated from the University of Chicago. Within the year their son Frank Lukenbill, Jr.6 was born on September 6th, 1928.
Frank had two offices in Chicago for the medical practice he shared with a Dr. Franke. One office was at his ‘Office Residence’ at 5833 Chicago Avenue and the other was at 3361 W. Madison.
In August of 1929, Bea was vacationing in Medicine Lake Wisconsin, little Frank was staying with his Grandmother in LaGrange and the good Doctor was attending to his practice. In a letter to Bea, he wrote:
“Have $40.00 to deposit. By Sat. I expect to have more. Oh, I hope business stays as good after I break with (Dr.) Franke. No reason why it shouldn’t. It ought to get better. A $10 to $15 dollar a day average would be excellent & at least keep us alive.”
Frank and Dr. Franke settled splitting the practice on August 22nd, 1929. From what Frank wrote in a letter, it was an amicable parting:
“My but it surely seems nice to be practicing alone. I forgot to mention that Dr. F. wouldn’t take any money. He had only $7.00 coming. Nice anyway. Now I have but to ply between here & Madison St.”
In another letter, he wrote:
“Lots has happened in the 2 yrs since I proposed. When I saw that big boy of ours this a.m. I thought so.”
In August, Frank was thirty one years old, Bea was twenty one and little Frank, not quite one. October 29th, 1929 was only two months into the future. The Stock Market crash would signal the beginning of the Depression and would bring a future that was not quite what Frank, or anyone else, was expecting.
To anyone who was not an adult in 1929, the Depression might be thought of as an abstract word describing a merely unpleasant period in American history. To those who lived through it, it was much more than that. Years of living and life were taken away from people that they would never get back.
By the time World War II ended, people who were young adults in 1929 were headed towards the middle years of their life. That’s the way it was with my parents. By the end of the War, Frank would be about fifty years old and Bea about forty before economic sense was restored to their lives. During those Depression and War years, three more children would be born to them, Glenn on December 19th, 1930, William on April 4th, 1936 and Joel, February 14th, 1942
There would be times in the Depression years when there was only 25 cents in the house. Patients who couldn’t afford to pay the Doctor stayed away. There were days when Frank had nothing to do but play Solitaire during the day.
My father thought that he would add an Eye, Ear and Nose specialty to his practice. Times were tough and anything would help. He bought a used chair that was designed for this work. It was put in the room in the apartment that my grandfather, Harry Riffle, had helped convert into a office. Frank and Glenn thought that smearing grape jelly on the floor of their father’s office was a good idea. They couldn’t have been very old at the time and apparently not filled with a lot of good ideas. My father came into the room and immediately slipped on the floor. He caught his leg in the metal frame of the Eye, Ear and Nose chair and broke his leg in four places. Sitting there on the floor, he reset the bones himself. Before this break, his bad leg was about four or five inches shorter than his good one. Afterwards, the bad leg was only about two inches shorter. If this was to be the trend, one more break and both legs would be the same length.
The break also put my father out of business for a while. Grandpa Riffle was there with his tools again. This time he built a wood frame to serve as a traction device while the leg mended.
While his leg was broken, he received some sort of disability insurance as long as he couldn’t work. To supplement the insurance, he saw some patients at home. My father treated a new patient and later found out that the person was a spy sent by the insurance company. The money from the disability insurance ended.
I was born at 4815 Madison and lived there until we moved to 604 Lockwood in Austin, a neighborhood of Chicago.
Louisa Lukenbill Jenkins
In September of 1931, my father’s brother George came through Chicago on the way to the Legion National Convention in Detroit. I’m not sure what his involvement was, but the stop in Chicago was at least a chance to visit. By then Frank and family were living at 4815 Madison. I believe that was also where he now had moved his practice. Frank must have been able to buy another car because George bought Frank’s Hupmobile from him and drove it back to Grand Forks.
The trip back could have been typical of the time, but it wasn’t un-eventful. George wrote to Frank and Bea after arriving home.
Oct 5, 1931
Dear Bea and Frank and All,
Arrived home last Wednesday a.m. at 1 o’clock after a long delay at Winona, Minn. After talking to you Tuesday morning I talked the Chief of Police of Winona out of a lost Minnesota license plate to drive home on. Came thru OK from there on with the exception of three flats.
How does the Stearns Knight run and how do you like it? Have not had an opportunity to talk to Dr. Thorginson as yet but as soon as I can get ahold of him will do same.
Am enclosing a check for the Hundred Bucks and you can even cash it. Will let you know what the Dr has to say when I see him. Well so long. With Love.
George’s talk with the Doctor may have had to do with Louisa. Within two years, she died of Cancer of the Liver. Perhaps at this time she was beginning to feel the effects of the Cancer even though it might not have been diagnosed.
Louisa Lukenbill Jenkins (far right)
1931 was the last full year that Louisa lived in Tolley. She lived with George and Polly part of the time. At least she spent the winters with them. The fierce North Dakota winters had just gotten to be too much for her. Up until this time she still ran the concession stand at Mouse Park in Tolley during the summers. She lived as independently as she could for as long as she could, but in late 1932, she moved to Grand Forks and lived with George and Polly.
For as much as a live-in mother in law arrangement can be disastrous, Louisa never caused Polly a moment’s trouble. Years later, on June 26th, 1986, Gary Jenkins taped an interview with his mother Polly Jenkins at a retirement home where Polly was living. In that interview, she spoke of her memories of Louisa. The following is a paraphrasing of what Polly talked about in that interview.
“Louisa was a strong, quiet woman and she was kind and thoughtful. She wasn’t a good looking woman or very homely either. Wasn’t very tall or very heavy. Dark hair. You could see her in her son’s. She was a very closed-mouth woman about her past. She was a telephone operator in Tolley from the time she came there to when she moved to Grand Forks in the early 30s.”
“Louisa always enjoyed visits to Chicago to stay with Bea & Frank. She would stay for a month at a time.”
Bea was a terrible housekeeper and knew it and it bothered her when Louisa was going to visit, Bea once confided to Polly.
“Louisa loved the children and would like to sit and listen to the radio and watch the girls play; but, if they needed correction she would call Polly. She never interfered with Polly’s household in any way. She was one of those woman who was very eager not to be a bother to anyone. When she got sick, she didn’t want to be a bother.”
“Louisa loved music. She told Polly one day that Frank had the bad leg and George had two good legs and two good arms. He would always be able to make a living, but Frank might not. So she put what money she had into Frank’s education. Frank played for a lot of the public dances.”
“Once Louisa got sick she didn’t last long. She didn’t have much pain, but she didn’t get out of bed in her last days. She was only sick for two or three months. She sat upstairs in the apartment most of the time.”
“Louisa died upstairs of the store (middle bedroom) when George was away for a while. Polly thinks that maybe he was out hunting. Louisa died in the afternoon. Elaine, who was almost ten years old, was heartbroken when she came home from school and found Louisa’s bed empty. Elaine should be asked what she remembers about Louisa. She would be the one of the grandchildren who would have known her best. It was hard on George too when Louisa died. He was very fond of her. Around the same time, Grandpa Grinnell also died.”
“Polly has nothing but fond memories of Louisa. Her memories of Nell, Louisa’s daughter from her first marriage, were not as warm.”
“Art and Nell lived in Grand Forks for a while and Nell was very a fastidious housekeeper. When George delivered groceries to Nell’s he couldn’t come in the kitchen with dirty boots on. Everything had to be just so.”
Nell and Art Miller and their son Lyle would sometimes visit Polly and George at their summer place called “Timberlee” on Big Fish Lake. Gary thought Art was a neat guy. He could sharpen an ax, split wood, and so on, and Gary liked hanging around him. Polly thought Art was a grand guy too.
“Lyle was babied a lot; Nell never let him go. When he was going to go to college, she came with him to Grand Forks. Lyle got sick before he could start school. Polly doesn’t remember if Lyle ever got back to college. Lyle married a girl named Doris and later had a little girl. In later years they ran a restaurant in Cavalier ND. Polly couldn’t remember if Art & Nell ever lived in Cavalier.”
“Polly knows that Louisa worked awfully hard in her younger days. But she never talked about it and she never heard her speak a cross word or mean word. She was a lot different from the way Polly remembers her own mother.”
Louisa Lukenbill Jenkins who was born on April 8th, 1863 in Osceola, Iowa to George and Sarah Lingle Lukenbill. She died at 2 p.m. on September 28th, 1933 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, of Cancer of the Liver at the age of 70 years.
Her Death Certificate lists her profession as that of ‘Housewife’. That simple word diminishes the importance of her life. Being a housewife was probably the easiest task she ever had. She raised two boys by herself, solely by her wits, kindness, cleverness and persistence. She gave them more than food and shelter. She gave a constant love and a sense of purpose which served them well throughout their lives. George and Frank were a testimony to the excellence of what she accomplished.
In about 1937, my parents moved to a second floor apartment at 604 N. Lockwood in Chicago. Here I spent my early years and started school while we lived here. Even though it was an apartment, I remember it looking like a house. You went up the stairs to a front porch and entered your own front door.
There are several events I can remember that took place while we lived there. I can remember lying in bed on a summer evening. From the living room, I could hear my father’s voice as he came home after evening office hours. He said to my mother, “It’s too bad Billy’s asleep. We could have gone for a ride.” Summer evening rides were a special treat, one that I didn’t want to pass up. I quickly called out, “No I’m not. I’m awake.” I don’t know where my brothers were, but while still in my pajamas, we were soon in the car heading west on Chicago Avenue. My feet were sticking out of the rear car window to catch the warm summer evening air. That was another special treat. We may have stopped someplace to get ice cream. I can’t remember. The ride was the thing.
Not all of the rides took place at night. My father liked to go for rides in the country with us. Perhaps he recalled when his father would rent a wagon on a Sunday in Shannon City, Iowa to take his family for a ride. We would go out Chicago Avenue to where it ended at Lake Street and soon we would be on St. Charles Road going through Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn and other western suburbs. We sometimes altered the route a little, but our rides generally took us west of Chicago. Sometimes we stop at Graue Mill in Fullersburg. In those years, there was a road on which you could drive into Salt Creek and out the other side. Perhaps it was a holdover from much earlier days, before there was a bridge, and was used to ford the creek. In the 1940s people would use the ford to wash their cars in the middle of the creek.
In the winter, we would drive out to Lake Ellyn in Glen Ellyn where my Mother, Glenn and Frank would go ice skating. Or perhaps the ride would end up as simple as stopping at a country school playground.
Sometimes we would ride out to Kiddieland at North and 1st Avenue in Maywood. As usual, the route was out Chicago Avenue through Oak Park and River Forest. At the corner of Chicago and Lathrop in River Forest there was a vendor who sold balloons. If I would see them, I would beg my parents to buy me one. On future rides, they soon learned to distract me when we got close to that corner. It was my father who would point out the opposite car window and with excitement say, “Look at the moon, Billy”. I got sucked in by this trick for a long time before I caught on. I never did see the moon. I also don’t remember ever getting a balloon either, even after I caught onto the trick. The balloon vendor was there for many years. When my kids were small, years after, I found myself pulling the same trick on them. Either they were smarter than I was at their age or they didn’t like balloons. The trick never worked on them.
When my brother Joel was young, his hot button was Kiddieland, not the balloon man, as it was for me. So my parents figured that what worked for me, would work for Joel too. I think he was cleverer than I was. He ended up at Kiddieland more often than I ever got a balloon.
Another event is a short but dramatic event that I remember. It takes place on the front porch of the house. We must have been going somewhere. The picture I have in my mind is that of my father standing near the top of the porch stairs. He had the family Doberman on a leash. The dog’s name was Zip and earned the name because he loved to run around as fast as he could. As my father held the leash in his left hand, Zip stood at his right side. The leash was draped behind my father’s legs. Something must have startled Zip and he bolted down the stairs, pulling my father’s legs out from under him. I remember him calling out as he bounced down the stairs. It seems to me that he was swearing. The words were vaguely familiar to me. Fortunately, on this fall, his leg was not broken. The dog was later given away to a friend.
Two more thoughts cross my mind. Brief though they are, I still remember them. On the second floor porch of the building next to us, someone was nailing a piece of wood on the brick wall. I couldn’t believe that nails could be pounded into brick. I was too young to know that there were such things as brick nails. Later, using an ordinary nail and a piece of brick, I tried to duplicate this miraculous feat and failed.
In my father’s office on Madison Street, he had an intercom from the front room to his office at the back. When I would go to the office with him, I would talk into the intercom and my father’s voice would answer me. It was just like radio. I wanted one of my own and decided to build one. I cut some boards and nailed them into a wood box that to me looked like a radio cabinet. With this done, I proudly presented my accomplishment to my parents. I spoke into the box and waited for it to answer me. My five-year-old heart was broken when it didn’t work. I don’t remember how they told me that an empty wood box did not a radio or an intercom make. Even if it did have neat thread spools for knobs that I got from my mother. It may have been that experience that planted the seed of my eventual interest in electronics.
The House on Pine Avenue
The early 1940s brought World War II and a new house for the family. The Salvation Army had been bequeathed a house in the Austin area of Chicago. During this time, and for years afterwards too, my father had been donating his Monday mornings to their medical clinic in Chicago. When the Salvation Army finally took title to the house, it was offered for sale to my parents. They bought it for about $4500 in 1941.
706 N. Pine was on the far west side of Chicago. To get to the new house you walked, as far as I was concerned, down Lockwood Avenue to the corner of Huron Street and made a left turn. Two short blocks down Huron was Howe School, the elementary school that my brothers and I attended. Past Howe School, you walked on for another short block then up a gentle hill—a reminder of an ancient shoreline of Lake Michigan. The sidewalk on the north side of Huron Street was shaded with trees on the parkway. Getting closer to the corner of Huron and Pine Avenue, the arch of the tree branches partially blocked the view of houses on Pine Avenue. You almost had to get to the corner before the house was in full view. Four or so blocks from the old place to the new, and there it was!
To my young eyes, it was a magnificent two story, clapboard-sided house with a front porch that ran the width of the house. It shared a common heritage with its architectural sisters on either side. Through the years, each house had changed appearance at the hands of various owners until each one looked unique.
Built in the late 1800s, the house bore the mark of the period of its construction. Entering the front door and passing through a small vestibule, you were greeted by the entrance hallway. An open stairway to the right ascended to a landing halfway up. The stairs then made a left turn and continued on to the second floor hallway. All the while, the view of hallway entrance below was to the left.
It seems to me that we got our Christmas trees from a patient of my father’s. Sometimes it would be a tall tree. If the tree was too tall for the front room, it was placed in the stairwell of the entrance hallway. It would reach up to the second floor. An easy twelve feet tall. The lower part of the tree was decorated from the first floor. Using the staircase, the upper reaches of the tree could be decorated with the ornaments and lights. Finally, by reaching over the banister on the second floor landing and with a cautious stretch into the air, the star was placed on the top of the tree.
Through the wide sliding door, to the left of the entrance hallway, was the front parlor. Directly ahead, through a short hallway that passed under the staircase, was the dining room. Off the dining room, through another sliding door, was the living room. It was connected by an archway to the front parlor and on bright days was lighted by sunlight through the bay windows on the south side of the house. The archway was later removed and the front parlor and living room were united into one large, comfortable room.
The sliding doors were retained. Many times over the years, those sliding doors provided the basis of any number of games that were played by me, my brothers and, in later years, the grandchildren. The doors were part of a playtime racetrack that included the front room, dining room and front entrance hallway as part of the circular path. By quickly closing a sliding door behind you, your pursuer could at least be slowed down. At other times, they made great elevator doors or they would become huge doors that were slid open before a dramatic grand entrance was made through them.
At the rear of the house was the kitchen. Off the kitchen was the pantry and from there a doorway led to the basement stairs. Another doorway from the kitchen led to the rear stairs and to what was meant to be the maid’s bedroom on the second floor in the early years of the house. That became my bedroom. On the rest of the second floor was a bathroom and four more bedrooms. Later, by joining the two front bedrooms, there were three bedrooms.
When we moved into the house, the basement was the usual 1940s horror. It was dark, cob webby, musty, and generally uninviting. In a dark far corner, illuminated by a single bulb, was the coal furnace, coal bin and stoker. A stoker, at least in our house, was a green motorized monster that automatically fed coal into the furnace. Keeping it filled with coal was the responsibility of our white nigger boy, my oldest brother Frank. This job also included hauling out the ashes and clinkers, those wonderful by-products of coal heat. If the stoker was not kept filled on a regular basis, the Laws of Physics would take over. The fire in the furnace would go out and the house would get cold. An unscheduled cooling of the house was the signal that brother Frank would soon suffer the wrath of his father.
Frank went off to college in about 1946 and my brother Glenn inherited Frank’s furnace duties. By the time my turn with the coal scoop would have come, natural gas was available and the old coal furnace had been hauled out. The new gas furnace which took its place required no more attention than setting the thermostat to the correct temperature.
Replacing the furnace was only one of many remodeling changes that took place in the house in the late 1940s and early 50s. To list them all is a fast ride, so hold on tight.
The front lawn was replaced with a new carpet of creeping bent grass. That project involved digging up the existing grass, spreading loads of rich dirt and planting plugs of the new grass. This was being done at the same time my mother was going to school. Occasionally, my father would meet her for lunch and a Rum and Coca Cola. The price of this drink was about the same as a bushel of dirt that was being used on the new front lawn. With this in mind, my father would ask, “Are you ready for another bushel of dirt?”
A concrete driveway was added to the south side of the house. The front sidewalk to the porch was removed. Side porch stairs from the driveway were added and the front porch was enclosed. Inside the house, the old dining room became a new study. The old kitchen became the new dining room. The open back porch was enclosed, a foundation was dug underneath and the back porch was soon the new kitchen. Complete with a modern 1940s style eating nook that overlooked the back yard.
The back stairs that had led to the second floor off the old kitchen were removed. The doorway now led to the new basement stairs. The old top of the back stairs on the second floor became a cedar closet. The old pantry became a new bathroom off the new study.
In the basement, a central air conditioner was added. With the old coal furnace gone, the basement had room for an HO model train layout, a workshop, a photo darkroom and a laundry room complete with a laundry chute from the second floor.
The two front bedrooms became one, with built in cabinets at one end. My small bedroom now had built in bunk-beds at one end and built in cabinets at the other end. The bathroom was remodeled.
The attic was about the only part of the house that was never changed. It was a great space with a large and high ceiling raftered room that had dormers off on two sides. One small addition was made. Flooring boards were added to that part of the floor that had open joists. That was done after it was discovered that I was not able to walk along the edges of the attic floor joists. When I had tried doing this, I lost my balance, slipped and put my foot through the ceiling of my bedroom below.
The 1950s were years of change for the family. By the time the decade ended, two of my brothers and I were married. Glenn was married to Shirley Stojac in 1952. Frank married Barbara Daniel in 1953 and I married Eleanor Doepp in 1956. The house on Pine Avenue was a little emptier now. On holidays though, the house became littered with grandchildren. There was one day, however, when a grandchild dropped in unexpectedly.
My father had the dubious but perhaps proud honor of delivering all but three or four of his grandchildren. The reason for the uncertain count will soon be clear.
When an expectant wife was getting close to delivering, either Frank would bring Barbara up from Urbana where he was in Graduate School or Glenn would bring Shirley in from McHenry where they were living. Eleanor and I lived in Austin so our job was easier.
The parade of grandchildren began with Glenn and Shirley’s first child. Shirley, the younger, was born on December 19th, 1952, on my brother Glenn’s 22nd birthday. The next two came along in a close bunch. Glenn Jr. in November of 1954 and Frank and Barbara’s Frank Jr. in January of 1955.
Shirley was staying at the house to avoid a last minute two-hour drive from McHenry. On the morning of June 7th, 1956 Shirley woke my father and told him that she was in labor. While he was in the upstairs bathroom shaving, she was in the downstairs bathroom getting ready to go. She cried out to my father for help. In a moment, calm became panic. Her water bag had broken and Joel was asking where all the blood was coming from. My mother went next door for help. By the time my father got downstairs, he found Shirley with the new baby, Robert Glenn, together on the bathroom floor. Maybe my father shouldn’t be given credit for delivering this one.
For the next two-and-a-half years, we kept my father busy. Two granddaughters came next—Frank’s Lydia was born five months later in October and my Cindy was born in October of 1957.
My brother Glenn and I made it easier for our father to deliver the next two grandchildren. Late one evening in October of 1958, my wife Eleanor went into labor and we went to Garfield Park Hospital where we met my father. The waiting room was empty as I settled down for the wait. The hour moved past midnight and the date was now October 26th. Shortly after, my brother Glenn came through the waiting room door. He had just brought Shirley in. While our wives and father labored in the delivery rooms, Glenn and I waited. Within several hours of each other, my father had two more grandchildren, William Jr. and Roy.
Brother Frank happened to be up from school when my father came home from the hospital that morning. Glenn and I shamed our brother for failing to keep pace with us. He redeemed himself and a little over nine months later, Andrew was born in August of 1959.
In August of 1963, my father managed to beat the rap with Frank and Barbara’s twins, Christopher and Matthew. For that delivery, all he had to do was to answer the phone to be told they had been born in Cleveland, Ohio.
The last grandchild was my son Donald who was born in 1969. By that time, my father was over seventy three years old. Sometime since my son John was born in 1964, he had given up obstetrics. Sometime long before that he had given up doing surgery. The long hours of standing at the operating table were too much of a strain on his bad leg. He was now just the kindly general practitioner, the family doctor.
The parade was at an end. There were now thirteen grandchildren. He had helped nine or ten of them, depending how you count the birth of Robert Glenn and the way he had been born.
The 1960s was the decade of Civil Rights, Equal Rights and the Vietnam War. In general, it was the decade of Civil Disobedience. The world was changing and so was Chicago. Chicago’s Negro population lived far to the east of us. Some people said that soon we would have Negroes living on Pine Avenue and probably even next door to my parents. We knew that was ridiculous. It would never happen. Then Negroes became known as Blacks and the changing world would literally soon be at my parents’ doorstep.
Unscrupulous Real Estate agents promoted panic selling and almost overnight, neighborhoods changed from White to Black. Once safe and secure neighborhoods, where doors could be left unlocked at night, became war zones of growing crime and fear. Around the corner on Huron Street, the apartment of an older couple was broken into and the old man was stabbed. That was too close for comfort. My father started looking for another house and in 1972, my parents moved to Elmhurst. The house at 706 N. Pine Avenue now stood empty.
When the driveway was added in the 1940s, a small evergreen was planted at the southeast corner of the house. It was about as tall as I was at the time. It was suppose to grow as I did. The remodeling changes that were made to the house were suppose to last forever. But, by 1991, forty five years later, the evergreen is the only thing that did last. Now it stands among the weeds and broken concrete of the driveway. It is tall and scraggly and I am not. Everything else, including the house, is gone.
The houses on either side of where my parents’ house had stood were now aging and faded. The street had changed too. Pine Avenue, which once seemed to be a bright sunny street, was now a dark and foreboding street overgrown with non descript trees, scraggly lawns and shabby bushes. The vacant lot where the house stood seemed to be too narrow to have held the large house I remember. Perhaps I have more room in my memory.
Vacations and Trips
With World War II over and gas rationing ended, there were vacations and trips that the family finally could take. Many of the trips were really one day jaunts taken on a Sunday. That was the only full day off my father had. We were up early in the morning, off in the car, returning late at night on the same day. These would be trips that might reach out as far as Wisconsin, Western Illinois, or parts of Iowa.
On occasion he had a few days for a longer vacation. On October 13th, 1945 our 1941 Mercury headed out on the country road that lead north from Arlington, Iowa. On this long weekend, my parents had been touring Iowa, visiting family and seeing some of the places of my father's childhood. The day before, they visited with Ed & Catherine Erler in Keosauqua. Catherine was the cousin of my mother by several removals. Today, they drove through Osceola, the town where my father was born. Further west of Osceola, they made a stop at Shannon City, another town of his early childhood. Then they headed for Arlington.
Two miles north of Arlington, my father turned east on the next county road and then pulled off onto the shoulder at the first farm on the left. He grabbed his camera, made the necessary adjustments, focused and snapped a picture.
The objects of his attention were two large barns on the old Posson Farm across the road. His father, John Andrew Jenkins had built these buildings in the mid 1880s. The photograph that my father took that day now hangs on the wall in my house and is shown above.
Several months earlier, after checking out the towns of Elroy, Wonewoc and Portage Wisconsin, he located and visited his half brother Pat Jenkins in Wisconsin.
There were other trips that did last more than one or two days. In November of 1945, a four-day trip took the family to the Smokey Mountains. In other years, vacations would include trips to the Ozarks, Florida, Colorado and the East Coast. All of these trips were taken in the days before the Interstates and the other conveniences of today’s vacations.
In those days, if we were traveling in unfamiliar territory, everything was an adventure. Highway markings and road conditions were of unpredictable quality. To avoid surprises, my father would go to the Chicago Motor Club and have them plan the route. Several days later, he would return and pickup the route plans from them. The route plans included Trip Cards, long narrow cards with mileage listings and road information printed on them. Trip cards were an inheritance from the very early days of automobile traveling. Those were the days before highway routes were numbered and were identified only by colored stripes painted on trees, fence posts and telephone poles alongside a road. For a larger overview, the highway maps provided by the Motor Club would have our route marked with a bold red marking pen. Armed with this traveling protection, we could be on our way.
When we left, we would choose a navigator for the trip. By default, the job usually fell to the person who sat in the front seat on the passenger side. That person’s duty was to keep the Chicago Motor Club Trip Cards and marked maps close at hand. While these aids would help us on the open road, we were on our own when the highway entered a good sized city.
Highways of various county, state and federal numbers would often converge on the same strip of concrete leading into town. Upon reaching a traffic light in town, a telephone pole would be festooned with highway direction signs. These signs had arrows pointing up, pointing to the right and pointing to the left. They pointed in every direction but down. If we missed our highway number or direction arrow, we would end up leaving town on a different and unplanned route. Then we would have to backtrack until we found our point of departure. If it was a large city, every downtown traffic intersection had to be checked carefully to see if there was a pole with traffic signs that had our route number.
Sometimes, checking the signs didn’t help. Once, we were on a trip in Missouri and went through Springfield, Missouri. My father decided that as long as we were there, we should see the state Capitol. We drove down several major streets looking for something—anything that looked like a Capitol building. After spending some time in the search, my father decided to ask for directions. We pulled into a gas station and my father got out of the car. Several minutes later he was back with the answer. Sheepishly, he told us that while Springfield is the capital of Illinois, it wasn’t the capital of Missouri. It turned out that the people of Missouri decided that Jefferson City, some 137 miles to the Northeast, was going to be the capital of their state. We drove on, disappointed, but amused.
In the days before Holiday Inns, there were Hotels, Motor Inns, Tourist Cabins and last of all, the very uncertain quality of the Tourist Rooms. Tourist Rooms, for the younger reader, were rooms rented for the night in a house usually owned by an elderly lady. The quality of a Tourist Room would range from charming on down to the pits.
Almost without regard to the type of lodging we chose for the night, the routine was the same. The AAA Directory was checked first to see if the place was listed and if it was, how many stars it had. If it wasn’t listed, then the room was inspected before registering. Hotel rooms that had a connected bathroom got extra credit in the appraisal; if the bathroom was down the hall from the room, it was a definite minus. On the other hand, if we were tired and if the evening was growing late, we adjusted our lodging standards accordingly.
Restaurants were checked out with similar care. The security and predictability of a MacDonald’s or Burger King was still some years off in the future. “Make sure they don’t serve liquor or beer!”, my mother would caution as my father would get out of the car to check out a restaurant candidate.
We could usually trust restaurants with neon signs that claimed “Good Food” or “Truck Stop”. Anything with a sign proclaiming, “Eats” was always avoided and restaurants with signs offering “Mom’s Home Cooking”, were somewhere in the middle of the quality spectrum. Unfortunately, none of these rules were hard and fast and the exceptions were always discovered too late.
A vacation trip to Florida was made twice. Only once successfully. Prior to leaving the first time, my father had bought a long, black Chrysler Crown Imperial. Without exaggeration, it was a limousine. Unfortunately, it was not the best example of Chrysler engineering. It had a series of irritating and goofy engineering features. To change a rear tire, a fender skirt that was held on with screws had to be removed. That’s not too unusual, except the fender skirt used two different types of screws. Two tools were needed for that job. If there was a flat tire, a different problem was revealed. The spare tire was stored in a separate compartment located UNDER the rear trunk. That was nice. At least the trunk didn’t have to be unloaded to get to the spare. But, to get to the spare, a section of the rear bumper had to be unbolted and hinged downwards to get to the tire compartment. Another tool needed. It seems there were other problems, but I’ve forgotten what they were. I know that at one point, my father had to write to Chrysler to get some recurring problems solved. Before that, it seemed the car had spent more time in the garage than it did in our driveway.
This was the car that we loaded to start on the way to Florida in December of 1952. I was now old enough to drive and that’s the duty I performed on the trip. My father was the navigator in the front seat and my mother and Joel had the commodious rear part of the car.
On a bright, sunny day we came into a small town in Kentucky. As we drove through town, Joel stood up just behind me and announced that he was going to throw up. I quickly turned and with my right hand, pointed his head in another direction. Otherwise, the back of my head was going to be the target and recipient of the contents of his stomach. My motives were well thought out, only the sequence of events in my plan were wrong. I failed to realize that when I had turned towards Joel, my left hand had also turned the steering wheel and directed the right front fender of the car into a telephone pole. My mother’s assessment of the accident was that I was too young to be driving.
This small Kentucky town had probably never seen a limousine before. Even if they had, they didn’t stock body parts for it. A replacement fender was ordered from some place in the State. The front tire, however, was an unusual size and it had to come from Akron, Ohio. Three days later we were on our way again.
In two days, we were in Jesup Georgia, not quite to the Florida state line. The car was making a strange grinding sound. We pulled into a garage to have it checked. In a short time, a mechanic told us that there was no fluid in the differential. Apparently the drain plug had not been tightened and had worked loose. A couple more days were lost on this repair. We had run out of the time allotted for the trip and we had to head back to Chicago.
The Fates were not done with us yet. The trip back began with a long drive across the diagonal of Georgia. We had been driving through the State all day and it had been dark for several hours. The Georgia State Police decided that we needed a ticket for reckless driving. At the home of the Justice of the Peace, my father and I had to wait until the J.P. was finished watching Ed Sullivan, his favorite TV show. When the show was over, he convened court, decided that I had no defense and declared that I was guilty. The fine was paid, he was back to his TV before the next show began and we were on our way. And that’s what we did on our first Florida vacation.
The next year, we tried again. We were luckier that time and made it all the way to Miami Beach without incident. My father did some fishing. My mother took a flight to the Bahamas and met with a distant Cooke relation on her side of the family. While she was there, my father and I thought we would drive down to Key West, but we changed our mind before we got too far south of Miami. I spent $50 of my parents money talking on the telephone with my future wife to be, Eleanor. All in all, it was a good trip. I also think it was the last trip I took with my parents.
The 1940s and 50s
During the years of World War II, not much changed in the house. My brother Joel was born and I started elementary school. My mother drove vehicles for the Navy and Red Cross, convoying vehicles around the Midwest for the War effort. My father’s practice included his patients and handling the practice of a Dr. Magill who was in the Army. In his off hours, he played in a little band that had been organized by an old fellow named Tony Milkau. They played at community celebrations held on the Fourth of July or at other concerts held at the Old Peoples Home on Madison Street, near 1st Avenue in Maywood. I would usually go along for something to do and to carry his horn to and from the car. My brother Joel later inherited that job.
After the War, Dr. Magill returned and took up his practice again. This created a problem for my father. During the War, he had given up his office at Madison and Cicero and conducted his practice from Dr. Magill’s place at Chicago and Cicero. Now that Dr. Magill was back, my father had to find a new office place for his practice. By early 1946, he was located at 5711 W. Chicago Ave., an office he maintained until October 1966 when the office was moved for the last time to 2730 N. Central Avenue. About the same time, my mother, who had attended Chicago Teachers College before she married my father, returned to school to complete her degree.
The years after the War also brought a period of relative prosperity to the family. There was certainly more prosperity when compared to the lean years of the Depression and the rationed years of the War when even if youhad money, there wasn’t anything to buy.
In the Post War years we acquired a boat, a small cabin cruiser which we put into the waters of Fox Lake or Long Lake on weekends. Calling it a cabin cruiser, while accurate, is a little pretentious. It did have a cabin, but it was only sixteen feet long and was powered by an outboard motor. There would be pleasant times of going to the lake, spending the day playing on the beach or cruising around the lake on the boat.
At the end of the day, the boat trailer would be rolled into the water so the boat could be floated onto the trailer. It would then be pushed close enough to the shore so the trailer could be hitched onto the car. The trip home would be made down Route 12 with the homeward bound lake traffic of a Sunday evening. In the morning, on the way to the lake, we had been noisy and animated. Now, in the warm summer evening on the way home there was a pleasant and cozy silence. The only sounds, as we drove along, were those of the car radio as it issued something being sung by Mario Lanza or perhaps Enzio Pinza singing “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific”. Sometimes on the way home we would alter the route a little and head south on York Road. Our destination was Elmhurst and a place called Hamburger Heaven at the corner of North Avenue and York Road. A Double Cheeseburger and a frosty glass of Root Beer was the perfect way to end the day. Almost fifty years later in 1994, Hamburger Heaven still does business at the same place.
In 1950, my mother completed her Bachelor of Arts degree from Chicago Teachers College. In a February issue of the Chicago Daily News, there was an item in the Town Crier gossip column.
“CAREER: Beatrice Moreland Riffle went to Chicago Teachers College for 18 months, back when the course was three years. Then she married Dr. Frank L. Jenkins. Son Frank graduates this June from the University of Illinois. Son Glenn graduated from Austin High last June. Son Bill graduated from Julia Ward Howe elementary school yesterday. Son Joel 7 is plugging through the primary grades. Four sons, Dr. Jenkins and friends beamed proudly last night when mama Beatrice Moreland Jenkins finally graduated from Chicago Teachers College as co chairman of her class... a full fledged wife, mother and schoolma’am.”
I never did find out who placed the item in the paper. My parents denied having anything to do with it.
In between various house remodeling projects, my father was a member of several civic organizations. He was President of the Optimists Club in 1949 and 1950. He was also Chairman of the West Side Suburban Child Guidance Center. During the same period, both he and my mother were members of the Oak Park / River Forest Symphony Orchestra and were pictured in the November 12th issue of the Chicago Tribune. [Editor’s note: He was also a member of the Masonic Lodge.]
At the same time, he was a member of the Chicago Businessmen’s Orchestra. They held their concerts at Orchestra Hall in downtown Chicago. During World War II, the Orchestra was almost investigated for espionage. They wanted to play a program of Eric Coates’ called “London Suite”, but copies of the musical score couldn’t be found. The search went out to a variety of possible sources around the country. When copies of the score were finally found, telegram messages were sent back to the other sources that said “I have found the Coates ‘London Suite’”. Some of messages were transcribed as; “I have found the Codes for the London Fleet”. The authorities who were notified of this obvious spy message soon found out the Orchestra was not a danger to the national security.
Frank also played in the Franklin Park Municipal Band. Two of his compositions for band, stirring patriotic marches that he wrote during the War, “America Forever” and “Conquest and Victory”, were premiered by that Band in 1955 and 1956.
The 1960s – Chicago
While the world was going to hell around us, life went on in our family. My mother was teaching at the Ogden School on the near north side of Chicago. My father was adding more Bands to play in to his schedule. Frank now lived in Cleveland, Ohio and Glenn still lived in McHenry, Illinois. I graduated from the University of Illinois in 1963 and bought a house in Elmhurst. Joel was at the Stuart Home School in Kentucky.
My son John was barely a new born baby in March of 1964 when George and Polly stopped over in Chicago on the way back from a trip in the South. By 1963, George and Polly had sold out their movie theaters in Elk River and Cold Spring. For about the next three years, they traveled in the South pulling an 18-foot camping trailer. Gary recalls that one year they spent the Winter in Florida and the other two years in Mexico. As Gary wrote, “They would have continued traveling in the winter if George hadn’t gotten sick.”
I always thought that George and Polly were neat people, so I didn’t want to miss a chance to see them. Eleanor and I bundled up our children and made the trip into my parents’ house.
My father (FLJ) and George (GWJ) visited with each other and reminisced about their youth. While they talked, I had a chance to tape record their conversation.
GWJ “When I came up to this country (North Dakota, January 1909) with Nell,… the time I came here first, we got hopelessly lost in a blizzard going from Mohall out to Art’s farm.”
FLJ “Well that didn’t use to be too uncommon.”
GWJ “No, and I’ll tell you, it was a blizzard. And we turned a corner to go North to Art’s farm, it was about five miles to get to his farm. And his team of horses fought him ... he finally got to the point where he just let them go. And there was a house, a square house out there and the team pulled right up there in the shelter of the house. And Art could have reached and touched the house.”
FLJ “Whose house was it?”
GWJ “Well I don’t remember their name. We stayed there until I believe the next morning. I remember, you know, a kid like me coming up from a warmer country like that, I didn’t have too warm a clothes except some overshoes maybe. My feet were so cold, I just bawled like a baby.”
FLJ “Well I’d freeze to death every time we’d go out to there from town, from Tolley to his farm, it took three hours.”
GWJ “Yeahp. It was about eleven miles.”
FLJ “Whatever it was … and I’d get sled sick.”
GWJ “Sled sick?”
FLJ “Yep. Going up and down those hills.”
GWJ “I never got that.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
FLJ (To GWJ after hearing that Polly’s brother John Grinnell was retiring.) “When are you going to retire? Well, you’ll just look in the Obit column. (Laughter) Well, I guess you retired some years back.”
GWJ “Well I can’t see much good of what you’ve been doing.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The evening passed with conversation and good natured bantering between the two brothers and the wives:
FLJ “...Yeah I have trouble staying in bed too.”
GWJ “You always did, Even when you wanted me to get up and cover you up.”
FLJ “You were always a good kid.”
GWJ “I sure was. You can remember when we use to play ball and I’d throw one crooked and you’d miss it. You’d throw down your glove and go into the house.”
FLJ “I was a spoiled brat.”
GWJ “Yeah you were. The only way I could get even with him was to climb up on the toilet and throw brickbats on his head.”
As the evening drifted on it fell into two conversations. One between my Mother and Polly at one end of the living room and my Father and Uncle George at the other end.
In a quiet voice, George said; “I wanted to ask you something. They put me on Dicoumeral.”
“Are you still on it?”, asked my Father.
“How much do you take a day?”
“Yeah. I skip Sundays.”
“Don’t you ever have blood tests?”
“Well, I’ve had one since I’ve been gone. Three months. It was down a little bit.”
George went on, “The Doctor down in Fort Myers advised me not to increase the dose.”
“No,” my Father said, “I don’t have anyone taking that much a day.”
There was a moments pause.
Then George said, “What I wondered was this. I went to the bathroom ...”
“You lost some blood?”
“No, but I strained myself a little bit. And in my head, there was a sharp pain. And since then I’ve developed these headaches. And every day, I have these headaches, and I never had headaches.”
“You think you had a little hemorrhage or something?”, asked Frank.
“That's what I’m wondering.”
“No I don’t think so.”
“Well then what would be causing these headaches?”
“You think you did ... You were straining?”
“Of course, that’s one thing you shouldn’t be doing. There is a tendency to...”
George cut in, “I can be laying in bed and cough real hard and I’ll get a kinda a sharp pain.”
There was a long pause as if my father was searching for the words that would give George some reassurance.
“Well, I was just wondering if any of this had to do with the Dicoumeral I was taking.”
“Of course, the reason you’re taking that is to keep the blood a little bit thin so it doesn’t tend to clot.”
“Well what do you suppose would be causing it?”
“I suppose there’s an arterial disturbance of some sort.”
Another long pause.
“If I’m laying in bed, Frank, flat on my back and I want to raise up like that [demonstrating], I have a little bit of pain.”
“Well that’s a little bit of that disturbance.”
“It must not be so little or it wouldn’t be so constant.”
George tried to describe where in his head he felt the pain and finally admitted it was hard to localize it in one spot. The he said, “If I thought it was the Dicoumeral that was causing the problem, I’d just as soon quit the stuff. After all, the doctor’s not even sure if I had a coronary.”
Frank allowed another professional, non committal pause. Probably knowing full well what was going on with his brother medically and what the prognosis would eventually be. Because of this, he knew there were no honest words of reassurance he could offer.
The conversation drifted from the present to the coronary George had some twenty or so years earlier when he was about 43 years old. Then it came back to George’s tales of his recent stay in the hospital.
Then, the tape ended.
Several months after their visit, George wrote a short letter to Frank that ended:
“... Don’t know what else to say except we are well and hope to make another trip next winter and probably will see you again.
Love, Geo and Polly”
But, we didn’t get to see him again.
The next year, George suffered a stroke that left his left side paralyzed.
In November of 1965, Dr. Tom Vanderpool, George and Polly’s son in law, wrote to my Father of the medical aspects of George’s recent stroke. Even in spite of the stroke, Tom wrote the following about George:
“He jokes with the nurses and has good emotional control. Polly is stable and has excellent self control and the children are appropriately attentive.”
In September of 1966, I was doing some remodeling on my house in Elmhurst and my father was helping me when he casually told me that George had died. I felt a sharp pang in my stomach and a rush of sadness on hearing the news.
I asked my father if he was going to go to the funeral. He said he wasn’t; but, he said it in a way as if it wasn’t really necessary for him to do so. And without him saying so, I’m sure it was because he and George never parted from each other with a regret of something left unsaid.
George died on September 16, 1966 and was buried in Elk River, Minnesota. George and Polly’s daughter, Donna Dee, was buried there too 13 years later. Polly lived on and later entered the Koronis Manor, a retirement home in Paynesville, MN where her daughter Elaine has lived for many years. She died there on October 30, 1987 at the age of 88. Gary, Elaine and Colleen were there with her when she died.
Less than ten years after George died, my father was gone too. They were human and not without fault; but, they were two great guys. They were brothers who loved the other and who liked each other as people too. They were also pretty good fathers. All in all, not a bad record for two kids from Iowa.
ELMHURST, ILLINOIS May 1976
Several weeks before my father died, my son Bill tape recorded an interview with him at his home at 437 Kenilworth in Elmhurst, Illinois. Frank was 79 years old. Bill was 18 and a senior in High School.
Several years before, Bill’s here to fore unknown musical talent in playing the piano had blossomed. I have always felt that this conversation was the ‘passing of the torch’ from Grandfather to Grandson.
In listening to the tape, I was also surprised to hear in my father’s voice a slight country or rural accent that I was never aware of while he was alive. My mother said, however, it was a voice weakened by being sick. Probably it was a little bit of each. The following is a transcript of that conversation.
WBJ When did you first hear of Tin Pan Alley? Or when did you start? When were you in the Ragtime scene?
FLJ It came gradually.
WBJ I mean with you. When did you first hear about it?
FLJ When I was about 12, about 1908.
WBJ Well, how did you hear about it? Did you just grow up with it?
FLJ Just heard different people playing it. One person would be playing this, another person playing that. A visiting orchestra would come in to play a dance and they would play some of it. Some performer would be playing it on the Chautauqua Circuit. But you gradually heard it. It didn’t all just come about abruptly. It came gradually and you heard some of the things and if it sounded interesting, you’d try to get the music.
WBJ Did you hear a lot of different versions of one song because the music wasn’t printed?
FLJ No. No there was just about one version of any song. They didn’t make special arrangements of anything. There was piano with voice. Then they would arrange that for orchestra which would be very similar.
WBJ The orchestra would just be a five or six piece thing?
FLJ It could vary in size. There would be a fiddle, cello...
WBJ Fiddle? Do you mean like a violin?
FLJ Yeah, a violin, cello, you’d have two trumpet parts, one trombone part, a piano part, a percussion part. Then as time went on if they’d add anything why you’d add those in too. Like a Saxophone Eb and tenor. Not many people played anything bigger than a tenor sax. There were people around, but, the tenor was a pretty good size Saxophone. And they didn’t usually play anything smaller than an Eb. Although they had some piano saxes. But, people couldn’t afford all those things. [Soft chuckling laugh, then continues] ... And then they’d have someone playing a banjo or a ukulele. But you didn’t hear about the guitar very much.
WBJ No ... Did they have those then though?
FLJ They had guitars for years. Many years.
WBJ Wasn’t the Banjo kind of their form of the Guitar back then?
FLJ The Banjo is the one that looks like a snare drum...
FLJ And the guitar looks like a guitar looks now days.
WBJ In the orchestra version...
FLJ [Going on] … and there was the mandolin. That’s the sort of one that has a little fat belly. Which is tuned like a fiddle is tuned except that it has two strings for each note instead of one. It was tuned B, A D and G just like a violin. But, all those things were popular in time, not all of them persisted.
WBJ Yeah ... When a band played, what carried the melody? Was it the violin that usually did it?
FLJ The first violin and violin would have the melody and the trumpet would often have it too. Then the piano part was originally just chords ... bass notes and chord, but the melody was always written in. Then five notes above it, any good piano player would fill it in until he had a complete piana part. Of course, that carried melody too then. Sometimes the trombone might have a little area that carried the melody too.
WBJ The cello kept the bass line?
FLJ Well ... they didn’t have any cello players. They did have a part for them, but you didn’t see very many.
WBJ And you never heard of Scott Joplin except for Maple Leaf Rag?
FLJ Well, you never ... You didn’t pay any attention to any composer. You were interested in the piece of music and the name of it and how it appealed to you and if it was something you liked. If it was attractive. But you never thought much about who was writing it. There were things I played that I never knew who the composer was. I still don’t know.
WBJ Could some of those have been Scott Joplin’s then?
FLJ I never played him.
WBJ Well, you say you never knew the composer.
FLJ I’m sure that the only thing of Scott Joplin’s that was played around that time was his Maple Leaf Rag.
WBJ Yeah ... When did you first hear that?
FLJ Umm ... When I was 13 or 14. I have no way of dating when I heard it.
WBJ Yeah ...
FLJ But, uh ... you’d hear a lot of those things. There are things now that I know that he wrote. Other tunes too whom I don’t know the composers. But ... which we’d all like to hear and play.
WBJ Why do you think people liked it so much?
FLJ It was musically attractive. It sounded good.
WBJ It was fun to listen to ... it was happy? Do you think ragtime is generally happy music?
FLJ Most generally. It has a lilt to it. A beat to it.
WBJ That’s why the younger people liked it?
FLJ I wouldn’t say it was only the young people. Most anybody would like the music.
WBJ Well, you said older people...
FLJ Well, when I say real old ones, I mean those were people who were maybe sixteen ... I just saying that ... using that figure... maybe older. They’d like the things they heard as they were growing up. But a ... the popular tunes would appeal to a big range of people. From the young ones about fifteen or sixteen up to around ... I don’t know how old, but pretty far along. Because they were danceable things and something they would want to keep time to.
WBJ What would they dance. Turkey Trot...?
FLJ Umm ... some one step, two step, turkey trot.
WBJ How can you do a one step?
FLJ Well that’s a real fast moving one.
WBJ Just go from foot to foot?
FLJ Well I don’t know how just exactly they dance to it, but they have to dance pretty fast. And it is, more or less, from foot to foot.
WBJ What would they have danced to Maple Leaf Rag?
FLJ Probably a two step. But I can’t tell you what a two step is like except that it’s slower than a one step. About half as fast. As many times as I’ve watched them, I’ve never paid much attention.
WBJ Did they always dance to them? Was it really popular to dance to them?
FLJ What’s that?
WBJ The ragtime songs.
FLJ Well, they’re ... All those things ... They all had to be popular. Because, the whole evening you wouldn’t play the same tune over and over. You’d probably play 20 or 30 tunes in the course of the night. And they all were liked. Of course, some of them would be waltzes.
WBJ What were some of the better waltzes? Blue Danube?
FLJ Oh ... That would be one of them. I can’t remember the names of them. There were quite a few waltzes out.
FLJ And, uh ... that was usually, of course, a fairly slow dance, it wasn’t very fast. And then there was a three step. Which is much slower. It’s three-four time. It’s much slower time. And then once in a while, somebody would want a Polka.
WBJ Would they ask you?
FLJ Oh ... not necessarily ask, but when we’d start playing, they’d dance to it.
WBJ Umm, yeah...
FLJ But, uh ... the Polka was pretty popular at times. It was a real fast one.
WBJ Was ragtime just another popular thing along with waltzes? Or did it dominate over those?
FLJ Well ... they weren’t all ragtime. One never thought much about it being ragtime, ‘cause some of the more popular songs didn’t have much ragtime in it. Didn’t have a minimum of syncopation. Then once in a while someone would want a cake walk or a barn dance. Which is a sort of slow four-four thing. And Gottschalk, you’ve heard of him. He wrote some ... Now he was not a ... just an ordinarily dance player, but he was a classical musician. But he still wrote cake walks and things like that. Which is a classical tune really.
WBJ And people like to dance to those?
FLJ As much as they could. It was a more vigorous dance, ‘cause there was a certain amount of hopping and jumping.
WBJ Mmm ... yeah. Do you remember a person named Eubie Blake?
FLJ Blake? No...
WBJ He’s still alive now. He was black. He was around then too.
FLJ What did he write?
WBJ Ummm. I can’t think of the name.
FLJ As I say, we never really thought much about who the writer of the thing was, if it was a catchy tune, that was what we were interested in.
WBJ How about something called Grizzly Bear Rag?
FLJ I remember a tune called Grizzly Bear Rag, but I can’t remember how it went.
WBJ How about Harlem Rag? That was suppose to be the first published Black Rag.
FLJ There were other composers besides Negroes who wrote Jazz music.
WBJ Do you think ragtime originated with Negroes?
FLJ No, I told you that classical musicians often put in syncopation in their stuff.
WBJ Well, I don’t mean giving them credit for syncopation but for what you would call ragtime.
FLJ Well, ragtime would just mean a concentration of that syncopation in one tune. They probably picked it up from a lot of these classical people. But it didn’t predominate the classical music, because they would have such long tunes and they would vary them with different tempos. They still have the catchy rhythms at times. Whereas the ragtime would have the catchy rhythm, then the tune might last three or four minutes. Because that’s what the average tune would be. But all these things were forerunners. If it hadn’t been for them, there wouldn’t be a lot of this stuff later.
WBJ Were there a lot of Expositions around?
FLJ What do you mean ... World’s Fairs?
FLJ Not too many … there was the Chicago World's Fair in ‘93, 1893.
WBJ Yeah, they say that a lot of pianists got together and had what they called “cutting contest” with ragtime.
FLJ Well, I suppose they did.
WBJ Did you ever hear those?
FLJ No. The World’s Fair in Chicago was before I was born. Then, of course, there use to be an awful lot of concert band, military bands that played a lot. And that was catchy and people liked that stuff too.
WBJ So, ragtime wasn’t the whole deal, was it?
FLJ Oh no. Just a phase of it.
WBJ So, it was just a style of music.
FLJ Nothing happened overnight.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
FLJ I heard my first player piano when I was maybe 12 years old.
WBJ Where was the player piano at? A neighbor’s?
FLJ At the local Drug Store.
WBJ Did they have them for business reasons? To attract people?
FLJ I suppose so. I never thought why. I imagine it was an attraction. They had phonographs too, a lot of them were the old fashioned Edison cylinder records. It was wonderful to hear that, because you could hear stuff that you didn’t know existed. You had no way of hearing it otherwise. There was no radio, TV ... moving pictures.
WBJ If you were born in this age, you’d take it all for granted.
FLJ It was fun to hear those things.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
WBJ There are a lot of modern songs that when you look at the sheet music and it says with traditional ragtime beat. Like “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.”
FLJ It probably has, I don’t know that tune right off hand. It probably has a ragtime swing to it.
WBJ Yeah ... maybe like songs like “Alexander’s Rag Time Band.” But, they were really 100% rag.
FLJ A lot of these tunes like “Canadian Capers and Dizzy Fingers,” they have sort of a fast gallop, a steady rhythm. Once in a while it sounds a little like ragtime.
WBJ But there’s a difference. Would they be classified as Jazz?
FLJ Ummm ... sort of in between.. It’s a regular rhythm. Some of that rhythm is pretty intricate. It’s harder to play than you think when you listen to it, especially when you have a group playing it. You often wonder how they keep together. And really if you ever played in a group that did any of that stuff you’d be surprised how that kept on the ball.
WBJ Did you play in any of those?
FLJ In which?
FLJ Oh Yeah.
WBJ Wasn’t it more improvisational with Jazz than ragtime?
FLJ Well, I think anything we played then in the twenties ... because I quit playing entirely in 1925, which is quite a while ago. Up to that time, no matter whether it was a waltz, one step, tango or two step or what, you were always carrying the melody to a certain extent, but you were always improvising a lot of different little figures on it too.
WBJ Just adding more notes?
FLJ Adding more notes, little grace notes. Things like that. Most piano players were doing that same thing.
WBJ What do you think would have happened if you hadn’t quit and decided to stay in music?
FLJ I made up my mind a long time before that I wasn’t going to stick in music. I told you haven’t I that I saw too many people around their 45s, 50s or 55, that were scrounging for a job.
WBJ Why didn’t they teach it?
FLJ Well, they weren’t good enough to teach it. They didn’t have enough brains to go ahead and do a lot of other stuff. They could play their clarinet, they could play their trumpet, play trombone, play piano. They were sitting around the Union Hall waiting for someone to call for musicians. Glad to get a job whenever it was offered. Of course, the real good ones, like Rubenstein or Horowitz and those people, were the artists. They never had to worry. But the real high class ones, like the ones who play in the Chicago Symphony, could play up until around 70 or something, depending on what condition they were in, they were pretty sure of jobs. But, they were exceptionally good musicians too.
WBJ Couldn’t you have kept up a healthy sideline in music or would you have had to devote all your time to medicine? I mean it took up all your time.
FLJ Well, I suppose I could have except I just didn’t want to, I just wanted to cut it...
WBJ Were you getting tired of it?
FLJ No, I wasn’t tired of it. I just didn’t want to play for money. Because I’ve played an awful lot since then. But it’s always been for free.
WBJ Do you resent when people play for money?
FLJ No, if they want to do it, it’s all right.
WBJ Is there anything wrong with it? Or what?
FLJ No, there’s nothing wrong with it.
WBJ Was it just something you didn’t like?
FLJ No, I just didn’t want to do it. But, I wouldn’t practice medicine for nothing.
WBJ Why not?
FLJ [Laughing] Because that’s my business.
WBJ Well maybe that’s how musicians look at it.
FLJ Well, Yeah. I’ve played an awful lot of music since I quit playing commercially.
WBJ For friends and stuff?
FLJ For friends, for little groups, for churches...
WBJ Did you play piano solos or what?
FLJ Oh, once in a while a little bit. And then these different amateur organizations. I’ve practically dropped it all in this last year. For a while there ... I can’t imagine going the schedule I did. It was all for nothing. Ten years ago, on a Tuesday night I would have a rehearsal at St. Procopius and also the Oak Park Symphony. On Wednesday I’d have a rehearsal with the Franklin Park Community Band.
WBJ Did a lot of other guys you played with have backgrounds like you had?
FLJ Some of them. I suppose they did. Also on Wednesday nights the Elmhurst Symphony would rehearse so you’d stagger between the two of them. Friday nights, I had the Chicago Businessmen Symphony … this was years ago when it was a good orchestra. Then in the Summertime, this was ten years ago or fifteen years, for quite a few years, I was playing at the Community House in Hinsdale. We put on a show three nights a week. All summer, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, starting about the middle of June and lasting up just before September. We put on musical comedies. And that took a lot of rehearsing.
WBJ But that was all for free.
FLJ Yes, it was all for free and just for fun. Then at St. Procopius College out at Lisle, that was after the summer at the Community House, in the winter we’d start just after Labor Day and we’d put on three orchestra concerts and a musical comedy in the Spring which would run for seven or eight nights. I kept up that sort of schedule and it was fun.
The interview ended unceremoniously when the tape ran out. But, the torch had been passed.
Within a week after this interview, my father entered Oak Park Hospital for the last time. While he was there, my son Bill played the piano for a musical program given at his high school. He dedicated the Scott Joplin piece he played to his Grandfather.
Frank Lukenbill Jenkins, Sr., died of cancer of the prostate on May 30th, 1976, a few months short of his 80th birthday. He maintained office hours up until the last week before he went into Oak Park Hospital. As far as I know, he also attended some of the rehearsals of the bands and orchestras in which he played.
He was in the hospital for a little less than two weeks. I was in the hospital late one evening and as I sat in an adjacent waiting room, I heard him having trouble breathing. I went into his room and stood by the side of his bed listening to the labored breathing. Then it stopped. For several minutes there was the certainty and finality of the silence. Then, with a deep inrushing of air into his lungs, he began to breathe again. Those trombone lungs weren’t ready to let him go. Not quite yet.
And they didn’t, not for another four or five days.
Some Final Notes
My father had a funeral service in Elmhurst, Illinois. Afterwards, according to his wishes, he was cremated. His ashes were never picked up from the funeral home and as of 1994, he had no final plot or marker in a cemetery.
On June 10th, 1994 my mother was in the process of moving from her home in Elmhurst. The grandchildren were there helping with the move. At the end of the day, we were all sitting on her front porch. The cousins were enjoying each other’s company. They spoke of how their Grandfather had no final resting place. Someone suggested that a headstone should be bought and placed in the Jenkins plot where Major and Jemima were buried in the Guttenberg City Cemetery in Iowa. Everyone there thought that was a good idea. It was even suggested that a symbolic funeral ceremony would be held when the stone was placed.
Three days later their uncle Joel died.
Joel was at the same funeral home that my father had been at. I asked the funeral director to locate my father’s ashes so they could be interred with Joel. After seventeen years, they could not be found.
The cousins gathered once again at the funeral home for Joel’s service. I told them of the unlocateable ashes of their grandfather. They decided that they would each provide a card that they would sign and I would provide a picture of their grandfather. This was done and all of these articles were placed in the casket with Joel. A cemetery marker was ordered for two plots, for Joel and eventually, for my mother. My father’s name was included on the marker above their two names.
My father’s medical practice was sold to a Dr. Zaidenberg a few months after he died. When the office was being closed, I had an opportunity to read through the account books for his patients. On many occasions there was no charge listed after various patients’ names.
Apparently his music wasn’t the only thing he chose to give away free.
Frank Lukenbill Jenkins, Sr.
The following is a predecessor line that could be that of my John Jenkins. It is extracted from a paper written by the Hon. Steuben Jenkins in the late 1800's. The generation Roman numerals are applicable to this note only. Work is proceeding as of 1994 to try and prove the connection between the John IVa of Rhode Island, shown below and my John Jenkins of Mass. These notes should be taken only as a matter of record and not as a conclusive statement of fact. Please! To all who come after to read this, do not convert this speculation of mine into fact without conclusive proof!
In Sandwich, Massachusetts:
A John Jenkins appears to have been a resident in Plymouth in 1644 and probably earlier. In 1648, he became an inhabitant of Sandwich. He married Susanna Cooke, daughter of Job Cooke one of the prominent Quaker families in that town. John, born ca. 1625, died about 1684, but his estate remained unsettled until 2 April 1708, when an inventory thereof was made. The estate was valued at 116 pounds. All the real estate was assigned to Zachariah, he paying to the heirs of his brother Job, deceased, 46 pounds and to his sister Elizabeth, 52 pounds.
The children of John and Susanna were:
IIa Elizabeth Jenkins, b. 30 Apr 1649
>> IIb Zachariah Jenkins, b. 7th Mo. 1651
IIc Job Cooke Jenkins, b. 14th Apr 1655
IId Thomas, b. 1657 (Not a proven relation)
Of these children, the following is known:
IIa Elizabeth had married by 1708. She was then 59 years old.
IIc Job married Hannah Taylor, had issue: Daniel, Desire and Job, b. 1681.
>> IIb Zachariah Jenkins, b 7th Mo. 1651, died about 1st July 1723. He m. 11 Dec 1686, at Sandwich, to Abiah Allen. She was b. 10 Dec 1666 and d. 10th of 2nd Mo., 1712. She was daughter of Francis Allen and Mary Barlow, of Sandwich, Mass. At Sandwich, Zachariah and Abiah had:
IIIa Mary, b. 5 Jan 1689
IIIb Hannah, b. 9 Oct 1691
IIIc Abiah, b. 14 Jul 1693
IIId Susanna, b. 28 May 1695
IIIe John, b. 5 Apr 1697
IIIf Job, b. 5 Jun 1699
IIIg Jedediah, b. 1 Apr 1701
IIIh Dinah, b. 17 May 1703
>> IIIi Zephaniah, b. 10 Dec 1704
IIIj Abigail, b. 1707
In Greenwich, Rhode Island on the 16th of the 6th month 1708 the Monthly Meeting Records record:
“Zachariah Jenkins, with family, settling among us, hath produced a certificate from the meeting he did belong to, and is admitted a member of this meeting.”
At East Greenwich, he and Abiah had:
IIIk Elizabeth, b. last day of 4th mo. 1709.
IIIl Rebecca, b. 18th of 11th mo. 1711.
Of these children, Zephaniah is of interest to our line:
IIIi Zephaniah Jenkins married 1st to Hannah ___?; she d. in 1740, possibly in childbirth, since her son Zephaniah was born in Jan of 1740. Zephaniah, the father, d. 1756, in his will, he gives to his sons George and Benjamin his real estate and to John, his farming and shoe maker tools. Zephaniah and Hannah had:
>> IVa John Jenkins, b. 11Nov 1737.
IVb Zephaniah, b. 25 Jan 1740
He then married 2nd, 19 Sep 1740 to Widow Mercy (Mary Baker). They had:
IVc George Jenkins, b. 6 Jul 1742.
IVd Hannah Jenkins, b. 11 Mar 1744.
IVe Benjamin Jenkins, b. 21 Aug 1746.
IVf Marcy or Mercy, b. 1748?
Of these children, the following is known:
>> IVa John Jenkins, no further record, though he is circumstantially thought to be the father of my John1.
Ivb Zephaniah, presumed to have died before 1756 since he is not mentioned in his fathers will.
IVc George Jenkins, married 7 Oct 1765 to Constant Kettle of West Greenwich. He sold his land and dwelling house to his brother Benjamin on 20 Jan 1767.
IVd Hannah Jenkins, no further record.
IVe Benjamin Jenkins, married 7 Sep 1769 to Martha Albro, daughter of John Albro. They had:
Va Orpha Jenkins, born 11 Jan 1770, married 6 May 1804 to Edward Kittle, Jr. being his 2nd marriage.
Vb Huldah, b. 21 Feb 1772.
Vc Deborah, b. 14 Jan 1776.
Vd Albro, b. 24 Dec 1777.
Ve Lydia, b. 26 May 1780.
Vf Benjamin Tennant, born 12 May 1782.
Vg Anna, b. Apr 1784.
Vh Joseph Martin, born 10 Mar 1788.
The above notes are consolidated from data taken from the following references:
Genealogical Notes of Barnstable Families by Amos Otis, Genealogical Publishing Co. Baltimore, MD. 1979.
The Jenkins Families of Rhode Island by Hon. Steuben Jenkins, Narragansett Historical Register, Vol. 5, pp 151 166.
A Comparison of the Rhode Island Jenkins Line with my Line
Rhode Island Jenkins Line My Line
Editor’s Notes: 1. Research by possible distant cousin Daniel Jenkins and a DNA test may provide more evidence for the connection between these lines. 2. My father intended to include a long genealogical Index as an appendix to this book. It is linked separately as an online resource here:
The Descendants of John Jenkins Born before 1750.html
March and November 2005. John Major Jenkins
William Barnum Jenkins, Sr., died June 6th, 2002, after a two-year battle with kidney cancer. His mother, Beatrice Moreland Jenkins, died December 25, 2003 at the age of 96. Her genealogical line is explored at:
book was salvaged from an old Word Perfect format. Some images were
recovered from early scans my father made. Others were scanned,
blemishes cleaned up in Photoshop, and inserted. Very minor editing
was completed in 2005. I stayed true to my Father’s voicing and
idiosyncrasies of expression. Almost all of the images used were
images identified for use in the book with encoded filename links
which I was able to locate in folders on my Dad’s computer. A few
images were added where they seemed particularly well placed; e.g.,
my Dad at 33 (end of the Preface), Doc laughing it up with friends,
and the picture of Doc at the end of the book. Additional archival
photos will be posted to an online resource at:
lengthy list of collateral relations called “The Descendants of
John Jenkins Born before 1750” was apparently intended for
inclusion in this book, but since it is quite long it will not be
included in the limited print run of this book. Instead, it is posted
online separately at:
The Descendants of John Jenkins Born before 1750.html
A short-run hardcopy version of Doc: The Life and Family of Frank Lukenbill Jenkins, Sr., by William Barnum Jenkins, Sr., is being planned. For now, this online version must suffice. My contact information is: Windsor, CO. 970 686-0865. John@Alignment2012.com. Nov. 27, 2005.
More comments and anecdotes are at: http://Alignment2012/Doc2.html
Frank Jenkins (above). His son William (below)
for Doc2.html below:
Some Thoughts and Observations:
Dad documents by JMJ
1. His mathematical calculations; His inventions; His diary of late 1963;
His emails and letters.
My father was something of a math genius. He loved electronics and formulae. Some of the papers I found after he died indicates a meticulous and carefully calculating mathematical mind. For example, the following images:
2. A recollection of Grandpa Jenkins (leg clamps at age 11)
I remember going to band concerts my grandpa was playing at, particularly at East End and the Library Park in Elmhurst. I also remember when I cut my leg and I was taken over to his house in Elmhurst, where instead of stitches he used clamps to hold the cut skin together so it could heal. I still have the scar. I was young and quiet, but he struck me as a benevolent and gentle soul. I also remember a few Thanksgiving dinners at his house in Chicago, which must have been 1970 or 1971.
3. Roy Jenkins’ discussion with Flonda about Major’s “Hallelejua” cry
My cousin Roy talked to Flonda Hedeman before she died in the early 90s. She remembered Major Jenkins (d. 1903), her grandfather through her mother. One recollection is that when he attended the Sunday services at Church, at the end of the sermon he would stand up quickly, both arms raised, and shout “Halleluja!”
4. Daniel Jenkins DNA and the origin of Jenkins name
5. Photos Major and Jemima, etc etc
6. John Andrew’s gravestone and descendants of his son Major (“Pat” – the “half-brother” Grandpa Frank L Jenkins apparently visited in Wisconsin in the 1940s).
7. The meeting between George and Frank Jenkins in 1964 is visually documented on family movies transferred to DVDs by William B. Jenkins, Jr. in 2003. The relevant disc is Jenkins Family #13.
8. The conversation between William B Jenkins, Jr., and Frank L Jenkins, Sr., in 1976, is recorded.