Monday, November 4, 2019

Week 45: Rich Man

     This week's prompt for the 52 Ancestors Challenge is Rich Man. Out of all the research I've done on my family and my husband's family, there is only one man that can even come close to this title. That man is Thomas H. Swope, my husband's 1st cousin 4x removed. I know I had to go around a long way to get to that one. The reason I know about him is there is a story behind him.

     Col. Thomas Hunton Swope was one of Kansas City, Missouri's most prosperous land developers, who donated tracts of land for a hospital and a city park. Born in Kentucky in 1827, the Yale-educated Thomas Swope speculated in mining and real estate in New York and St. Louis before moving to Kansas City at the age of 30. Once there, Swope entered into the real estate business and eventually owned more land than anyone else in the city. One of his most notable real estate ventures, known as "Swope's Addition," was located at 10th Street and Grand Avenue. [1]
     Swope is best remembered today not for his real estate activities, but for his gift of Swope Park to Kansas City. The park's expansive 1,334 acres, located adjacent to the Blue River, provided a space where eventually the city's residents could enjoy picnics, a night
at Starlight Theater, trips to the Swope Park Zoo (now the Kansas City Zoo), and golfing. When the park opened in 1896, nearly 18,000 people arrived to celebrate. Swope, who was a bachelor, lived in an Independence, Missouri mansion with other family members. [1]
     Over a hundred years ago, however, mention of the name "Swope" would instantly summon conversations about a string of mysterious deaths in the Swope family. On October 3, 1909, just two days after the unexpected death of the executor of Swope's will, Thomas Swope himself died of an apparent "cerebral hemorrhage." More family died while others became violently ill within a very short time of each other. Suspicion fell upon the family doctor, who was also Thomas Hunton Swope's nephew, Dr. Bennett Clark Hyde. Hyde was charged, tried and convicted on May 16, 1910, of the murder of Thomas Swope.[1] On appeal, the verdict was overturned on procedural grounds. Three more trials, seven years and a quarter of a million dollars later, the charges against Hyde were dropped and he was released. [2] To learn more about this tragic story, pick up the book, Deaths on Pleasant Street by Giles Fowler
    Eight and a half years after his death, Col. Thomas Swope was laid to rest in Swope Park. On April 8, 1918, he was buried high on a hill amid a forest of trees, overlooking his gift to Kansas City. His remains lie beneath a Greek temple of white granite, guarded by a pair of stone lions.

Mark's great-grandpa James Albert Swope in front of the Memorial

[1]  Dr. Hyde & Mr. Swope
[2] Wikipedia
Photos: and personal collection

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Week 44: Trick or Treat

In celebration of Halloween, here are some photos of me dressed up for the holiday when I was little.

abt 1985

abt 1989

2nd grade Halloween Party
abt 1989

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Week 43: Transportation

     How do you get around? What is your mode of transportation? A car, bicycle, skateboard, scooter, city bus, train, airplane? Whatever the case, we all use some form of transportation. And if you own your own mode of transportation, you had to get it from somewhere: Store, friend, dealership, etc. Well, if you lived in or near the town of High Ridge in Jefferson County, Missouri, it's possible you bought a car from (or had it repaired by) my Grandpa, Les Wheeler.
     Between the 1950s-1960s, my Grandpa owned his own used car dealership, repair shop and towing business. They operated their business out of their home off Carol Park Road in High Ridge. Sadly, the house is no longer standing. When they redeveloped Hwy 30, they had to tear down the house to put the retaining wall in. The line on the map is where Carol Park Road used to meet up with Old Gravois Road.

Their property sat right at the end of Carol Park Road half on Old Gravois Road. Talking to Mom and Dad (Dad was friends with my Uncle Les), they both told me a lot of accidents happened right there at that intersection. You can see the stop sign right in front of their house in the picture below. That's where Carol Park Road ends on Old Gravois Road. You can also see some of the Used Cars my Grandpa Les had for sale.

     I am a member of a group on Facebook called: You Grew Up In High Ridge, Murphy, House Springs, Ceder Hill area if... and I posted these photos in the group hoping to get some stories. I was not disappointed. I found a few people that were very familiar with my Wheeler family and Grandpa Les' Auto Sales. 
Ira Culley: I went to school with Les Wheeler the son I guess and Ruth was my Sunday school teacher
Robert Baumhoegger: Didn't Wes drive a red 1964 vet. or am I thinking of a different guy
Doug Woolford: Yep the vet he wrecked was a 1960. I was home for the holidays, Dec 64, pegged the speedo going down Antie hill on 44. Yep he was a little wild lol!
Lou Mayes: I think the new Highway 30 took the House because of the retaining wall they had to build. When you are coming out of Carol Park Road now, the wall is right square in from of you with old Highway 30 on top of the wall within 20 to 30 feet.
Eddie Buck: Didn't one of the Les Wheelers have dump trucks?
Jen Rickards: Yes, they had dump trucks and tow trucks. Tow truck said 23 1/2 hour towing and had Ruth's name on the hood.
Don Masson: Last one I remember Les have was an LTL 9000 Ford parked down on Hunning road, along with Ottie Evans and a few others.
Lou Mayes: I think that house was on the corner of Old Highway 30 (Gravois) and Carol Park Road. I remember that they were putting up some kind of CB antenna and using an Aluminum extension ladder and it got away from them and hit the power lines. I think no one was hurt real bad but did suffer some burns. In the one picture, you can see the stop sign and the angle Carol Park Road comes into Gravois. I grew up across the street from the Wheeler’s in Starlight subdivision. Always heard them revving up their engines over there and Doug Woolford always hung around there. To get back to the Powerline accident, JD Weiskopf feet got burnt but I don’t remember how bad. It seems to me someone did die but my memory doesn't serve me very good.
Marshall Munzlinger: He [Les Jr.] drove 49 mercury then he had Corvette and many more in the years.
Donna Hoffmann: He had a 56 Chevy that he shifted with vice grips and he drove an-old Lasalle that belonged to his dad.
Doug Woolford: Les[Jr.] and I ran together all the time. My best friend. That 1960 Ford conv (convertible) Margaret’s mom's car; road in it a lot. Les and I ate dinner well we call my mom see what she had and then see what his mom was having and we ate what we liked the best. Oh sometimes we ate at both lol!
Marian Rowden Umfleet: Les Wheeler jr. Was going too fast and hit me in the backend in a 1961 Chev. Impala. My sister and I both had real bad whiplash! But that was a long time ago.
Ray Bequette: I knew the Wheelers. Knew Les Sr and Jr and went to school with Margaret. Great people.
Robert Baumhoegger: Les Jr. used to drive around in a (I think ) 1964 red Corvette.
Jody Clardy Hedge: I went to school with your mom (and with Ray Bequette). I lived on Carol Park Road (Old Gravois). Long time ago!!
Sonny Kolaks: I remember Les senior's car lot I also remember less Junior having a trucking business pulling in dumps around the area worked with him for a year or so good people.
   I was so excited to hear stories about my family from the members of the group. It really made my family's stories come to life. After reading this, you can understand why I chose to write about my Grandpa for this prompt.

This is my Uncle Les Wheeler Jr standing in front of their house on Carol Park Road in High Ridge.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

What's Your Song?

     A story was posted in the Genealogy Forward The Storykeepers Facebook group from my friend Darry about the song that eventually became his wife's song. The story was beautiful and moved many to tears. Then he posed this to us: "What was your song for your significant other? Why? Do you still know all the words? Tell us the story." So here is a story about a few songs that are very special to both my husband and me.
     Back in 2002, Mark and I were working together at One Way bookshop off Manchester Road in West County. We had met in November of 2001 and quickly became friends. As time went on, our friendship grew into more. We were working together almost every shift. It was obvious to everyone around us that we should be together, but we were very gun shy. We didn't want to ruin the friendship we had developed and we had both been hurt in the past by others. But there was no mistaking the feelings we had for each other.
     The first song that began to mean something to us was Carolyn Dawn Johnson's song, "I Don't Want You To Go." After work, we would sit in one of our cars with the radio playing and just talk. We would talk about anything and everything. I never met someone I could just talk with for hours on end and not be self-conscious. Before we knew it, it would be very late and we would have to go. We didn't want to, but we knew we had to. But it seemed like every time, this song would come on the radio. And we both felt the same way. We didn't want the other person to go. I still smile when I hear that song, thinking back to those nights.

     Another song that is really special to us is "I Don't Wanna Go" by Avalon. We were both romantics at heart and would always try to outdo each other with things. This was before we were actually dating. One night after hanging out, we drove back to the bookshop to pick up my car. It was pouring rain, which was frustrating because I had planned something wonderful to do after we would get back to my car. So I improvised.
     I had keys to the bookshop, so I let us in and told him I had a surprise for him. I took the CD that had this song on it and put it in the store sound system. Before it played, I explained I put a lot of thought into this song. I told him I wanted to have a slow dance with him outside by our cars, but since it was raining we would have to have the slow dance inside if he was willing. He said he was. I told him this song just speaks so much to me about how I feel about him. So we slow danced to this song in the middle of the bookstore around 1am. Linda, the store manager, would have probably had a fit if she knew. It was a very special moment. From this moment on he thinks of me when he hears this song. We finally officially started dating soon after this.

     One last song I have to mention is one he picked out for me. He knew I had been hurt by a few guys in the past and was having a hard time trusting anyone. I did not want to get into another relationship right away. Well, one night while sitting in his car, he played this song for me. He wanted me to know that he was patient, and he knew I wanted to be sure before I made any decisions. He wanted to reassure me that he could be trusted. At the time I told him I still didn't know him all that well and I couldn't say if he was or was not "The One". Turns out, he was. So now when I hear this song, I just want to cry. The song is "The One" by Gary Allan.

     Now, these are not the only songs that have meant something to us over our lifetime, but they are the top three. I will include a playlist of songs I call, "Our Songs". It starts with a collection of songs he prested to me after we were married which is the soundtrack to the "Book of Wife"; a collection of letters he wrote to his future bride. The playlist has grown over the years. Music plays a big part in sharing how we feel about each other.

     Here we are, 17 years later, married with one child. The bookstore has been closed for a long time, but the building that once housed it still stands. Every once in a while we will drive by there and stop. Just to reminisce. Our lives together began at that bookstore and it will always hold a special place in our hearts.
     You are probably asking why I am sharing this on my genealogy blog. Well, our stories are just as important as our ancestor's stories. One day this will be all that survives of our lives, just like with our ancestors. How many times do we wish they would have written stories, telling us about their lives? So we must take charge of documenting our own stories and history so it can be passed down. Take some time and write down some important details from your life.

May 2002                         July 2019

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Week 42: Adventure

   When I think of Adventure, the only thing that comes to mind is when ancestors decided to go west. Whatever the reason was, it was definitely an adventure. Packing up your meager possessions and leaving everything you have known behind for the unknown. Most of my family stayed in the midwest, so I never had to research the idea of going west... until I came across the Bell family.
     Daniel Preston Bell was born in Indiana in 1848 and lived there for most of her early life. He married Mary Patrick in 1872 in Indiana and they had three children. Then in 1881, they left Illinois and headed west to New Mexico by train. This was the beginning of a new adventure for the family.
     I have not done extensive research on the Bell family before they left Indiana so I do not know why they decided to go west. I will have to research history more in-depth to understand the motivation behind their decision. I do know that once they got to New Mexico, they took a covered wagon to La Plata County, Colorado. Once there, Daniel Preston Bell acquired a Land Patent in 1886. It's possible he acquired this though the Homestead Act put in place by the government. That could have been a motivator to move west. What an adventure!
     The Bell family farmed the land as best as they could. Although I've lived in Colorado and am familiar with the surrounding area they lived in, it's not exactly the easiest ground to farm. It's very mountainous, dry, desert-like, rocky, so it's possible it didn't work out very well. I wonder that because in 1900, they are living in Durango, La Plata County, Colorado, running a boarding house. It could be that they were just doing that to earn extra money. Their farm property was located about 20-25 miles East of Durango.
     To my surprise, they went from Durango to the little town of Silverton very shortly after this. Daniel Preston Bell decided to jump on the wagon of becoming a miner. According to the 1910 census, he had become a miner in a quartz mine! Wow!
     As I said before, I haven't done extensive research on the Bell family... yet. But I plan to. I plan on taking a trip back out to Colorado at some point to visit Silverton. I wrote a small story about the Bell family when I first learned they lived in Silverton. You can read about them here: Relatives in Silverton, Colorado?!
     Though I can't provide many details about this family, I can still say without a doubt when I think of the word Adventure, I think of the Bell family traveling from Indiana to Colorado. It may be time to trace that adventure.