About Me

My Photo
Riverside County, California, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 24 times over and a great-grandmother of 13. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I am a Board Certified genealogist and more information on all this, as well as direct contact info, is on my Circlemending website.

Friday, January 31, 2014

L. Roy Wilcox, PhD - Autobiography, Part 4

                                      EO: PRE-BIRTH, PRECURSORS

This chapter should, of course, have been written by my parents. But this project was conceived too late, and so I am required to depend on hearsay plus memory. My knowledge is necessarily spotty and irregular. I am truly sorry not to guarantee full accuracy throughout the chapter.

So far as I know, my ancestry on the paternal side (as to males at least) is heavily Scotch. Peter Wilcox emigrated from Scotland;* his son was Nathan, whose son Edward sired Lee, my father. On the paternal side I know less about my grandmother Gertrude’s[1] ancestry, except that it contained a mixture of German and French. She emigrated from Bonn, Germany for reasons that are not entirely clear. What I know is that she had been Catholic, had aspired to become a nun, and to that end had been in a convent. 
Gertrud, ca 1873, Germany

For some reason she had become disillusioned with Catholicism and had left the church and the convent. Probably her migration to America was an escape from expected unpleasantness related to her withdrawal from the convent.** Her accounts included little concerning her husband, from whom she became estranged early (but not before three children had been born to them***); he too was a German immigrant. 
Fritz and Gertrude Mueller, ca 1875

She was clearly negative concerning him (and indeed concerning most men, so far as I could tell); the only positive thing that I recall her saying was that he was musically inclined, perhaps proficient (and presumably not capable of supporting his family). Her daughter Pauline was my mother.


Lee’s childhood was an unhappy one. His father was an ultra-stern man, and his one brother, older than he, was something of a bully; his mother having died early, he was reared by a stepmother who had joined the family perhaps more for benefit for herself than for love. The family was thoroughly Southern in all respects;**** Edward had settled fairly early in Dallas, Texas and remained there until his death.
Edward Everett Wilcox, ca 1920, Dallas, Texas

Most of Lee’s relatives also lived in the South, as did Lee throughout most of his adolescence. (He completed eighth grade and went to work thereafter.) He was evidently fed up and chomping at the bit to leave, which he did, joining the Navy. Shortly after his discharge he moved to Chicago for reasons unknown to me.* 
There he attended and was graduated from, the Moody Bible Institute, a fundamentalist school (named after the evangelist Dwight L. Moody) designed to prepare graduates to become ministers of the Gospel in the informal world of evangelism. Indeed, Lee did secure the post of part-time pastor of a fledgling church in Galewood (a western suburb of Chicago, now incorporated therein) which church was labeled “Congregational” but was actually independent. Lee was highly successful in effecting the growth of the church and was well-liked by the people; he was especially effective in working with young people. (Unfortunately, much later he was forced to resign from the church when it moved toward becoming formally a Congregational Church, since he was unqualified for ordination.) To make a living, Lee worked as a stockman at Sears Roebuck & Co. in Chicago. For the rest of his life, Illinois was his adopted home.

While Lee benefited a bit from the Navy stint in that he became muscular and strong and was able to overcome some of the demeaning he suffered during early life, there were also some negative effects. 

He became a heavy drinker and smoker and seemed to get into fights frequently; one fight led to a permanent injury to one year. He said later that when mustered out he was seen by a doctor who refused to recognize the injury as Navy-related and whose only apparent function was to ensure that he was free of venereal diseases. Eventually he lost his hearing completely in that ear; and throughout his later life his hearing in the other ear deteriorated steadily for some reason, ultimately almost to zero.

My contacts with Lee’s relatives were too superficial to lead to any further recounting of events or ideas involving them here; occasional references will appear later.

Much more is known to me concerning the maternal side of my ancestry, limited mostly to relatives of one or two generations back; I also know or knew cousins and some of their children. 
Gertrude (left) with Pauline (top), Ottillie (right), and C. Arthur (bottom)

Gertrude was able to make a home in a German neighborhood in Chicago’s near Northwest side (about a mile north and 2 miles west of the Loop). She was now a Baptist, nurtured by the First German Baptist Church, of which she and most of her friends were members. In the course of events, she had two daughters, Ottilie and Pauline Elizabeth and one son (Chester) Arthur in that order;** all of them, along with Gertrude, or to figure heavily in my early, and to a degree in my adult, life. Because of an early as strange men between their parents, Gertrude’s children had to be provided for through Gertrud’s efforts alone; having few skills, Gertrude[2] was limited to menial jobs.***

Gertrude is front, left, sitting (photo, ca 1920)

Pauline, like Lee, had an unhappy childhood. Her mother was stern; her older sister Ottilie was a stuck- up snob who mistakenly regarded herself as superior to both her siblings. Also, Pauline had an early illness which threatened a possible malformation of her upper torso. To treat this condition a doctor put her in a cast, in which she remained much too long (because the doctor disappeared and Gertrude didn’t know enough to find another). When the cast was finally removed, a real malformation was evident, and she lived with it all her life. This handicap led to increased taunting by Ottilie;
Pauline and Ottillie


but the positive outcome was the creation in Pauline a strong determination to excel in at least some ways. As it turned out she succeeded magnificently.
Gertrude with Pauline (who is about 6 years old in this photo)


Accordingly, after completing the eighth grade, she went to business school to learn shorthand and typing, hoping to become an expert secretary. I later learned that she succeeded beautifully in her aim: she later worked as a private secretary to high executives in several corporations, including, for example, William Wrigley, Jr., founder of the gum company bearing his name. I am sure that, had she competed in a speed typing contest, she would have finished the winner. She proceeded to earn enough money to put her brother Art through college and to better living conditions for herself and her mother; she even managed to buy a house for Gertrude and herself in Irving Park (Northwest side of Chicago, then a choice neighborhood). By the time they moved, Ottilie had been married, divorced and remarried to a Carl Dallmann, by whom she had three children, Wilbur, Myra, and Edith. 
Wilbur, Edith, and Myra Dallman, ca. 1910


The Dallmanns lived a few miles northeast of Irving Park. Also, Art married Leora Price: they lived in Oak Park, a west suburb of Chicago. My recollection is that Art had prepared for the ministry, but had withdrawn from that almost immediately and started his own food-supply business, which he operated until the great depression. Carl Dallmann was a salesman, also in the food business.


During her adolescence and early childhood, Pauline became involved in evangelical religious activities; it was this interest that led her to meet Lee (ca. 1910). They were both involved independently in evangelizing institutionalized persons, and chanced both to be active briefly in the same place – “Dunning” – known then as an “insane asylum.” (Why the “insane” were targets for evangelism is unclear.) Lee and Pauline were married in August 1911 in the house of Pauline and Gertrude at 4150 N. Kildare Avenue, the location which ultimately became part of an exit from the Kennedy Expressway. 


It was natural that Lee moved to the Kildare house, at least temporarily (though it didn’t quite work out that way). By that time a woman, Jenny Schultz, whom Gertrude had befriended, was rooming there. (By odd chance, she had emigrated from Bonn, Germany.) Poor Lee: he was stuck in a house with three women, one (Gertrude) as strong-willed as he, leaving him no voice in household management.


The newlyweds planned to become missionaries to Central America. (Why Central America? Not clear. Where in Central America? Also not clear.) All that remains of these plans is a Spanish-American dictionary, never used by them, but now in use by me in my work with crossword puzzles. Almost immediately Pauline became pregnant (with me), and plans had been to be changed. Pauline could probably have learned Spanish, but I doubt that Lee could. Though he lived for many years in a German environment, he learned, so far as I know, only two words: Schluessel (key) and Spazieren (take a walk). I learned later that the missionary zeal lasted for quite a while – that they planned to enter the field after the baby was born. Fortunately, especially for me, this didn’t work out. (Fundamentalist missionaries never fared well in foreign countries, and their children, if any, fared worse.)

It’s not clear why I remained an only child. Pauline had said early in the game that she planned to have six children – all boys. I’ve often wondered whether the absence of any more children stemmed from her belief that the machinery of reproduction was sinful; she must certainly have realized the machinery to have been God’s invention. In any case, I have always felt satisfied with my “only child” status.





* There is no indication in any documentation that the family came from Scotland (this includes DNA testing via Robert H. Wilcox, direct line male). It is reported by earlier generations (notably, Nathan’s brother Luther) that the immigrant ancestor was Caleb Wilcox (Willcockson), father of Peter, and that he hailed from England, settling in Vermont prior to the 1800s.
[1] Originally in German form Gertrud, but later changed to the more anglicized form
** The reasoning for the immigration of Gertrude is explained in her mother’s biography: Elisabeth: The Story of a German Immigrant by Jean M. Wilcox Hibben, ©2012. Gertrude and her siblings were actually raised in an orphanage attached to the convent of the church the family attended in Bonn, Germany. Elisabeth had immigrated to the US, then sent for her children. Gertrude came to America in 1874, ten years after her mother had left Germany. Disillusionment with the Catholic Church appeared to have developed after she arrived on these shores.
*** There were actually four children; the fourth was Oscar Friederick. He died a few months after birth, likely during the blizzard of 1888.
**** Not really. Ed had been born in Michigan and raised till adolescence in Iowa. When Nathan and family moved to Tennessee, Ed came along reluctantly and was often in fights because of his Yankee position (the Civil War having just ended). Ed moved to Dallas in about 1880 with friends of his first wife’s family (the Lees). His first wife, Lee’s mother – Amanda Williford – was the Southerner (Georgia and Tennessee). She died after the first four children were born and Ed married her nurse, Leonora Stickle Caskey, another Yankee (she was from Pennsylvania).
* Lee had met a Christian man (a Negro) while in the Navy and was converted to Christianity (a belief not shared by his father). He went to Chicago to further that new belief and develop it into a potential career at Moody.
** Plus the fourth, Oscar, mentioned earlier
[2] Gertrude’s married name was initially Mueller; at Art’s insistence, it was changed later to Miller.
*** Gertrude’s maiden name was also Mueller. The spelling change, according to Art, was for purposes of making the pronunciation easier. It is suspected that it was more to avoid the prejudice towards Germans that was prevalent throughout the US.

No comments:

Post a Comment