Gertrude Cain, daughter of John Cain and Carrie Rosa, was born the 9th of August 1877 in Oconto, Oconto County, Wisconsin1. She is my great grandmother.
Her ancestors were all Irish on her father’s side, and a mix of German, Dutch, Scottish, and English (with a royal gateway ancestor thrown in) on her mother’s side.
Gertrude grew up in a large Catholic family of 8 children in Oconto. Her mother had actually had 10 children, according to census2 records, but her eldest sister Elizabeth died when Gert was 13 years old3, and her mother had another child that never showed up in census records.
I can speculate on her upbringing, as I will for most of my ancestors, but certain things will most likely be true. This we do know, Gertrude’s father was a hard working Irish Catholic man who had partially been raised by his grandparents. I am doubtful that he had much of a hand in the bringing up of his own children, but then that would be in line with the times. Carrie, her mother, was definitely Catholic and it is possible she became Catholic because of her husband (Carrie’s parents were Methodist). Gertrude did not practice catholicism when she left home. In fact this gossip bit appeared in the local paper on 1901:
September 26, 1901 c3 — Mrs. V. H. Johns visited relatives and friends in Gillett this week [also donated $1 to German Lutheran church building committee]Northern Wisconsin Advertiser, Wabeno, WI (Madison, WHS micro PH 73-1888)
Gertrude went to school until the 8th grade and then she was done, (this we know because of an entry in the 19404 census which asks what the highest grade was that they had completed.) As her mother had all those kids to raise and she was now the eldest, Gertrude most likely had quite a hand in helping out around the house, and keeping everything in order. Getting a higher education was not on her agenda, and it doesn’t appear that her parents encouraged her to pursue any further education either. The family did not live on a farm, her father worked for the lumber mill as a pile driver on the river. She grew up a ‘City’ girl in what they called “French Town” in Oconto. (Land and census records appear to place their abode at 301 Smith Avenue by 1888, earlier her parents lived a few blocks further down the road on Smith, where there is now a gas station.)
Gertrude lived in this house until she was 20, at which time she had her own house to keep.
On Saturday August 28 1897 Gertrude tied the knot in a romantic wedding on a train. The groom was a local man, and the youngest son of an Oconto and Gillett pioneer couple. His name was Victor Hugo John. Gert had just turned 20 that month, Victor was a mere 5 years older.
Vic and Gert made their first home in Wabeno, Wisconsin where Vic had a job as a station agent for the C&NWR railroad.5 Today the trip from Oconto to Wabeno takes about an hour and a half. In 1897 it would have taken a bit longer. But at least you could take the trip by train because in 1897 the C&NWR railroad had opened up their new tracks and Wabeno was a new and bustling…well…new town created by the logging business.
They actually lived in the Town of Cavour7 for the first couple of years that Vic worked at the depot, which is just north of Wabeno. By 19058 they were living in Wabeno, according to the state census. The town newspaper always seemed to indicate that they were of Wabeno, when ever they were mentioned in the news (Cavour is never mentioned).
As a newly established town there were not many people living in the area, so I can see why Gert was always going to visit her family in Oconto, or her in-laws in Gillett. According to newspaper gossip every other week was a trip to visit family. Something she did even more in the fall of 1898, as she was pregnant with her first child, my grandfather.
Here’s the local gossip on the matter:
September 29, 1898 c5 — Mrs. V. H. Johns is visiting her parents at Oconto.
October 6, 1898 c4 — Station Agent Johns looks lonesome since his wife went visiting.
October 20, 1898 c4 — Station Agent Johns went to Oconto Tuesday evening to see his wife who is visiting with her parents at that place, returning on the special the following morning.
November 3, 1898 c4 — Born—To Mr. and Mrs. Victor Johns, on Saturday last a 9 1/2 lb. Bouncing baby boy, mother and child getting along nicely. Vic feels himself to be the happiest man in town.
November 17, 1898 c4 — Mrs. V. H. Johns and little son arrived home yesterday after an extended visit with her parents at Oconto.— Northern Wisconsin Advertiser, Wabeno, WI (Madison, WHS micro PH 73-1888)
On October 29 1898 Gertrude safely delivered a baby boy9. They named him Clarence Fredrick John (Fredrick was in honor of Victor’s father). They eventually had a total of 3 boys, adding Lincoln William in 1901, and Victor Hugo, jr. in 1903.
Over the next 8-10 years Gert occupied her time by visiting her family, or someone in the family visited with them. She joined the Ladies of the Macabees (an insurance organization for women created in 1892 by Bina West Miller).
March 27, 1902 c3 — Mrs. V. H. Johns was at Gillett the first of the week to join the Ladies of the Macabees[sp].— Northern Wisconsin Advertiser, Wabeno, WI (Madison, WHS micro PH 73-1888)
Helped out at the depot when Vic was too ill, kept the home and raised the boys.
The family continued in this vein until their first big adventure, which came for Gert, and the family, in May of 1908. It was a few weeks after Vic’s mother died that Gert packed up their family and all their belongings, for a big move out west to Wyoming.
It was a grand adventure — that was short lived. Less than a year later Gert was packing up their belongings again, as the family was heading back to Wisconsin, to stay. It was rumored by an older cousin that Gert was extremely homesick and wanted very much to come back to her family and friends.
While the first 11 or so years of their marriage the family had made their home in the area of Wabeno, and Victor supported the family as a railroad station agent, this changed when they got back to Wisconsin. Victor spent the next 4 or so years moving his wife and family around the state. Maybe it was a reflection of his own restlessness. According to the papers they were of: Clintonville in Jul of 1909, Odanah in Sep of 1909, Hackley in May of 1910, and Friendship in Jul of 1912.
Then another big change happened.
Victor quit his job as a station agent completely and went into banking. Maybe this is what he wanted all along, and he had been working his way to it. His first bank brought the family back to Wabeno in 1913, it was the Leona State Bank, where he was the cashier. And over the years he helped establish several banks across the state.
In 1916 they were living in Crandon while he worked for the Citizens State Bank of Crandon.
In 1919, just to be contrary, he ran for Sheriff, and won. What a boon for Gert, now she got to prepare meals for all the prisoners, along with take care of her own dwelling and family.
Vic served two terms as Sheriff of Forest County, after which he continued establishing and working in banks. On to Laona in 1922-1925. Gillett by 1926-1933. Wabeno by 1933-1947. These dates that I am using are very approximate, because I am using newspaper gossip to try and estimate their moves. It looks like it was sometime after 1947 that Vic and Gert finally settled down to retire. The place they picked was Gillett, Vic’s hometown. They were both now in their 60s.
Gert’s retirement years were spent attending Order of the Eastern Star meetings, playing bridge, visiting friends and relatives, and celebrating.
50th Wedding — Mr. and Mrs. Vic John of Oconto, formerly of Crandon and Wabeno, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at Crandon last Thursday. They were married Aug., 28, 1897, in a railway coach, south of Wabeno, just within Oconto county, as there was no justice of the peace in Wabeno at the time. The nearest justice was in Oconto county.10
Gert had become a grandmother in 1921. Her eldest son Clarence had run off to Illinois to marry Ester Edwards, (so it is possible he has gotten her pregnant). They had a girl whom they named Gertrude Marie. This marriage didn’t last though, but Ester and her daughter stayed around the White Lake area and visited with Gert and Vic on occasion. (We know this because of newspaper gossip, boy that stuff comes in handy.)
Her other two sons never had any children, although Lincoln did marry in 1930 out in Wyoming. Clarence married for his second wife Myrtle Caroline Hamm, my grandmother. Together they had 3 children that lived to adulthood. So Gert had a total of 4 grandchildren to enjoy in her later years.
The stories I have heard about Gertrude were that she was very petite and full of fun. She liked to dress up for Halloween and go trick-or-treating with the kids, having a great time fooling the neighbors, as an adult. She enjoyed hunting and fishing, as did her husband and their friends. And while she might have had an adventurous spirit, she preferred to be around family to feel comfortable indulging in it.
A 2nd cousin told me that his cousins didn’t like having meals at her house because she told them if they didn’t finish, it would be there for the next one. Now I know where my dad got that little bit of wisdom.
Gertrude passed away in 1962 at the age of 84, six years after her husband.
Final Rites for Mrs. John Today
Mrs. Gertrude John, former Ocontoan, died suddenly Saturday evening at Baraboo.
Mrs. John was born in Oconto, the daughter of the late John and Carrie Cain. She was united in marriage to Victor John in 1887, in Carter, WI. He passed away in 1956. Mrs. John lived in Gillett the past nine years. She was a member of the Order of Eastern Star, Gillett, and its Past Matron’s club; a past matron of the Grandon chapter, a member of the Gillett Methodist church and the women’s Society of Christian Service of the Methodist church.
Survivors include two sons, L. W. John, Fresno and Victor John Jr. Saratoga, both of California; three brothers, Milton Cain, Oconto; William, Portland, Oregon; Harry, Milwaukee; a sister, Mrs. Frank (Mildred) Rouseau of Milwaukee; four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A son Clarence died in 1954.
Final rites will be held this afternoon at 2 o’clock in the Gillett Methodist Church. The Rev. C. V. Dawson will officiate, with burial in Wanderer’s Rest cemetery. The Order of the Eastern Star, Gillett, will conduct services at the church. The Kuehl funeral home is in charge of arrangements.
Both Gert and Vic are buried in the Wanderer’s Rest Cemetery in Gillett, Wisconsin, along with the rest of the John family. Her parents are buried in Oconto’s Catholic cemetery.
1. Gertrude Cain, certificate of birth record page 37, Oconto County Register of Deeds, Oconto, Wisconsin.
2. 1900 Federal Census Oconto City, Oconto County, Wisconsin: Clara C., wife, white, female, Apr., 1858, 42, Married 26yrs., 10 children, 8 living, born: Mich, father: Mich, mother: Mich., read, write, speak english.
3. Oconto County Reporter, March 4, 1892 — Lizzie, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Cain, died Thursday, Feb. 25, 1892, aged about 15 years.
The deceased had some time previous to her death eaten prune stones which lodged in her intestines and necessitated a surgical operation, which, however, proved unavailing, and after more than a week of suffering death ensued. Her burial took place Saturday from St Peter’s Roman Catholic church.
4. 1940 census, Crandon City, Forest County, Wisconsin details — Sheet No. 23 B, SD 8, ED 21-8, May 1, 1940 lines 73-74, household no. 60, rent, don’t live on a farm: John Gertrude, wife, female, white, 62, married, did not attend school or college, highest grade completed 8, born Wisconsin, 1935 lived in rural area in Forest County, Wisconsin.
5. Northern Wisconsin Advertiser, Wabeno, WI (Madison WHS micro PH 73-1888) — NOTE: Victor John is listed as station agent of the C &N.W.R. and postmaster in the earliest issue on the microfilm 9-22-1898.
6. Image found at: http://friendsofwabeno.org/history%20summary.html
7. 1900 Census, Town of Cavour, Forest County, Wisconsin details — Sheet No. 5B, 19th June., Enum. dist. #39, Lines 68-70, dwelling 85, family 88
8. 1905 Wisconsin State Census, Town of Wabeno, Forest County, Wisconsin details: — sheet no. 2, page 96 lines 72-76, family number 15.
9. Clarence Fredrick John, Certificate of Birth, Vol. 4, page 48, Register of Deeds, Oconto, Oconto County, Wisconsin.
10. Forest Republican, Crandon, WI —Crandon Public library digital images; Thursday, Sep 4, 1947 p1c4
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