Gert And Vic Go West!

Buck Lucas on Light Foot American Legion Stampede, Casper, Wyo (Doubleday). (Postcard in the John family collection.) These postcards are probably from the 1920s.

–Coincidentally Victor’s birthday is the 13th of this month, so I guess you could say in honor of his birthday…–

It was May 11 (or 18)* of 1908, a day filled with excitement tinged with a bit of sadness for the family of Gertrude and Victor John. Sadness, because just over a week or so ago they had said good bye to the matriarch of the John family. Johanna (Dedrich) John, Victor’s mother had died on April 30th and the funeral had been on May 3rd. But there was great excitement too, especially for their boys Clarence, Lincoln and Victor, junior, because they were taking a trip to the great unknown. The Wild West! Wyoming.

The Wyoming and North Western Railroad (aka Chicago & North Western) had finished a new line from Casper to Lander in 1906, part of what was known as the “Cowboy Line”, and Vic was going to be a station agent there. This expansion was part of C&NW’s plan to build a line all the way to the Pacific coast. (Spoiler alert: the railroad company ran out of money, so never achieved that dream.)

In 1906, the government announced that 2,285 square miles of Shoshone reservation would be open to settlement. At the time, there was railroad service from the eastern border of Wyoming to Casper. The Chicago and North Western Railroad (then Wyoming and North Western Railroad) extended the tracks from Casper to Lander to transport the settlers and their belongings to the land, located north and west of Lander.1

V. H. JOHN TO LEAVE
Station agent V. H. John has resigned his position and will leave Monday with his family for Casper, Wyoming to accept a position as cashier [station agent] for the Wyoming & North-Western Ry.

LOCAL AND PERSONAL–Mr. and Mrs. V. H. John and children left Wednesday [13th] for Gillett where they will visit a few days before leaving for their new home at Lander, Wyoming, where Mr. John will enter on a more lucrative position with the Wyoming & North-Western Ry. Mr. and Mrs. John were among the pioneers of Wabeno, Vic having been station agent here for nearly eleven years, ever since the road was built. He was also postmaster up to January 1, 1906. They have a host of friends here who sincerely regret their departure.

May 7, 1908, page 1, col. 6–; May 14, 1908, page 1, col. 5 [Thursday]

Shortly before they left they sold some Wabeno property:

Real Estate Transfers.
V. H. Johns to John Bigglin, part of block, village of Wabeno. Consideration $100.

Forest Echo, Crandon, Wisconsin —Crandon Public library digital images
Friday, May 22 1908 p8c5; v2no39

I don’t know exactly how long the trip took, but I am guessing that they took the route to Chicago and then headed west from there. (The two places with a red dot next to them on the map are Casper and Lander.) Using the estimate of about 25 miles per hour, and approximately 1530 miles all told, they were looking at 3-4 days travel by train to their new home.

CNW Railways map from 1912. I am only guessing on the route. They could have taken a large variety of different ways to their final destination.

For the boys this would have been a grand adventure. They had never been anywhere more exotic than Oconto, or up north in the scary, largely unsettled woods of northern Wisconsin. Which could, in and of itself, be a grand adventure in those days. But now they were going west, the place of dime-novel adventure stories.

Their father, Victor, had been places. In fact he went to telegraph school in Valparaiso, Indiana for a couple of years. So he was not unfamiliar with Chicago and Milwaukee, or other similar big cities. But for the rest of the family this was all pretty new. Gertrude, does not appear to have traveled much further from home than the north woods either, at this point in time.

They arrived in Wyoming in the latter part of May. From newspaper articles in the Wyoming papers it looks like he was a station agent at Arapahoe, and not Lander. Maybe he had started at Lander, and then shifted to Arapahoe. (Arapahoe was actually part of the Reservation.)

I am very curious to know what they thought when they arrived at their new home. Looking at Arapahoe using current satellite maps, it looks like maybe 100 people live there, (although the 2000 census indicated close to 1800). What was it like in 1908? If it was as desolate of humans as it appears now, I don’t wonder that the family would have been quite happy to move, about 5 months later, to Casper.

The local newspaper tells us that one way the family enjoyed their new home was by bringing their love of the outdoors and hunting from Wisconsin. The articles also tell us when the family moved to Casper. A helpful bit of information we would never have otherwise been aware of.

V. H. Johns and wife of Arapahoe, and eastern friends [possibly the Howell family] left for home Saturday morning after spending several days in this locality fishing and hunting and taking in the fine scenery in this section. Mr. Johns has been transferred to Casper, where he is now the agent.

October 08, 1908, page 2 Wind River Mountaineer no. 49 (Lander, WY https://newspapers.wyo.gov)

V. H. John lately station agent at Arapahoe, Wyoming has been transferred to Casper. Mr. John is a very obliging agent and the press hopes he has come to stay.

October 09, 1908, page 5, col. 2 Casper Press no. 22 (Casper, WY https://newspapers.wyo.gov)

One can get a sense of how popular the John family was back in Wisconsin by looking in the Wabeno newspapers:

LOCAL AND PERSONAL
The following items from Wyoming papers regarding Mr. and Mrs. V. H. John, former residents of Wabeno, will be of interest to our readers:

W. H. Howell and wife Lovington, Ills., who have been visiting with Mr. and Mrs. V. H. John returned home Wednesday.

J. H. Howe, who has been station agent at this point for several months, left the first of the week … V. H. John, who has been agent at Arapahoe, takes his place in the depot here.—Casper, Wyo., Tribune.

Best display in Class 19, first, Mrs. V. H. John, Arapahoe…Special prize, Best Double Collection, Mrs. V. H. John, Arapahoe. (Display was fancy work at the Fremont County Fair, Wyo.)

October 29, 1908, page 1, col. 6

In October they started selling off some household items. This might have been to lessen the load for the move to Casper. Or, was the thrill of being in the Wild West starting to fade?

If you want some cheap second hand household goods see V. H. John at the depot.

October 16, 1908, page 5 col. 2 Casper Press no. 23 (Casper, WY https://newspapers.wyo.gov)

And in November they tried to sell even more goods. This looks serious!

For Sale
1 bed room set
1 book case
1 large leather rocker
Dishes and two carpets
Enquire at the depot of V. H. Johns [Casper, WY]

November 11, 1908, page 5, col. 5 Natrona County Tribune

By the 21st of December, a mere 7 months after their grand adventure started, the John family was back in Wisconsin. To stay.

V. H. John and family of Casper, Wyoming, are visiting Mrs. John’s mother, Mrs. John Cain, and calling on old friends in the city.

LOCAL AND PERSONAL
Mr. and Mrs. V. H John and children arrived at Gillett Monday from Casper, Wyo.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS
Mr. and Mrs. V. H. John were in town a few hours yesterday visiting friends. They recently returned from Casper, Wyo. and are making Gillett their home for the present.

Oconto County Reporters, Wisconsin —ocnews.co.conto,wi.us digital images
Thursday, Dec 21, 1908 v38 issue 9, p7c2; December 24, 1908, page 1, col. 3; January 7, 1909, page 2, col. 2

Family tradition says that Gertrude was missing her family, friends and life in Wisconsin too much to want to stay in Wyoming anymore. So Victor quit his job and they packed back up and left for good. We don’t actually know why they moved back. Gertrude’s unhappiness might have been the catalyst, or it could have been something else altogether. The town of Casper had been trying to clean up its image to attract a more respectable residential population. But maybe there was still too much unlawfulness, drinking, and prostitution in full view of the kids. I guess it will forever be a mystery.

By 1910 Victor and the family were living in Hackley, Vilas County, Wisconsin where he was again working as a station agent. Six years later he started his new career in banking.

Both Clarence and his brother Lincoln must have retained good memories of their time out West because years later, as adults, they returned to Casper. Lincoln lived there in 1918, and then, after a couple of years break, was back by the 1920s-’30s. He was living in Casper and working as a fireman on the railroad line. Clarence went out to visit him in the ’20s, and he might have done some work on the oil rigs when he was there.

The short time that they had spent in Wyoming as boys had left enough of an impression that they had to return. At least for a little while.**

Clarence at an oil rig.

*It is difficult to tell from the newspaper articles exactly what day they left, it appears to have definitely been on a Monday, so, it was either the 11th or the 18th of May.
**I do not know if their brother Vic, jr. ever went back.

—————————————-
SOURCES:

  1. https://trib.com/news/local/casper/answergirl/answer-girl-casper-lander-train-history/article_a8a6717a-4ea4-5079-a7e5-d8a0072db900.html.
  2. Visit the two following links to see lots of images from Lander and Casper, in the general time period that the John family was there. Both have more than one page of pictures to look at, along with town histories. I could find nothing on Arapahoe. http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/lander.html
  3. http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/nplatte3.html

Lincoln and Hazel (Ward) (Jacobs) John…

Victor Hugo John, the youngest of Frederick William John and Johanna Deadrich’s children, had three children with his wife Gertrude Cain. They were all boys.

Today I want to talk about Lincoln William John (Link), their second son, and apparently the shortest. He must have gotten his height from his mother Gert.

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Here is a great picture of Victor with his three sons in order of birth: Clarence, Link, Vic jr.

Link was born 7 Feb 1901 in Wabeno, Forest County, Wisconsin. He grew up and played in the woods of Wisconsin, but when he hit the age of about 21 he must have developed restless feet because he left the bosom of his family and headed out to the wild west, and other exotic places. He was definitely no longer living in Wisconsin by 1930. (I believe that I found him in the 1930 census as: William John, living in Beckton, Sheridan County, Wyoming, age 23, lodging and working as a farm hand. The age is off, but he is also listed as being born in Wisconsin, so it could be the same Lincoln William of this biography. Then again, if Link was working for the railroad, he might have been missed in this census altogether.)

While I am not 100% that I have found him in the 1930 census, I did find this article in the Forest Republican, a weekly Crandon paper, from April of 1922:

Lincoln John, who has been employed at Casper, Wyoming, is expected to return to Crandon to-day to drive taxi for H. H. Patterson.

And in 1926 he took a trip to Cuba. Holiday?:

ship_johnlw_1926cuba

Interestingly, the 1930 census for Hazel is dated April 1 of 1930, and it was only a few weeks later that Link was married in Hot Springs, Fall River County, South Dakota to Hazel (Ward) Jacobs, a 28 year old divorcé with an adopted son, Martin Jacobs. Martin was 5 years of age at the time.

Hazel and Link possibly met through the railroad company, because in 1920, when she was living in Kansas with her parents, Hazel was working as a messenger in a railroad office, and Link was employed as a railroad fireman in the 1940 census.

4874201222_351474ffd4_zmarriage_johnlw_to_jacobshazel_1930nd

Link’s employment in the railroad, no doubt came about because of his father and grand father’s involment with the railroad in Wisconsin. He grew up around trains and the railway. His father Victor, sr. was a station agent for many years before going into banking.

Ten years later, (1940), Link and Hazel were still living in Casper, Wyoming, however Martin is no longer in the household.

The family story was that Martin was ‘given up’ because Hazel and Link went to Panama, where Link was going to be working in the Canal Zone, and they weren’t allowed to take Martin with them. From my research, it appears that Martin went to live with his father in Texas, where he appears in the 1940 census. I don’t know when he went to live with his father, but it was before Link was starting to make trips Panama.

Passenger lists can be found from 1944, ’45, ’47 and ’48 with Link’s name on them. He is traveling to and from the Canal Zone in Panama for work. Hazel appears with him in 1945 and 1947. But I could find only one passenger list showing them leaving the US for Panama, the rest are all arrivals back to the US.

So it appears that a short time after 1940 (about 1944) to about 1948 the Johns had moved to Panama. I imagine that Link’s work with the railroad is what led to his being transferred to the Canal Zone to help with construction or other activities related to railroad work there.

ship_johnlw_1944cz
This is a cool passenger list from 1944, because it is actually from Pan American Airlines. Link is flying in to New Orleans from Panama on his way back to Wyoming. Maybe it had been his first trip to Panama to get things ready for Hazel to  join him.

panama-gulf-of-panama-and-canal-zone-map

Unfortunately, I don’t know much about their experiences in Panama, other than that they were there. It was during part of WWII, and also in a time where there was much unrest in the area, as the majority of the locals really wanted the Americans out of their backyard. (Maybe someone in Hazel’s family has pictures and stories.) We do have one letter that Hazel wrote where she mentions that my mother should enjoy the ‘housegirls’ she had when we lived overseas, in reference to Hazel and Link’s time in Panama:

letter_johnlh_to_johnvs_1972_06_06_p1

hermitage21-08
This would be one of the types of ships that were traveling through the canals at the time they lived there.

When Link and Hazel retired they did so in Fresno, California. I can recall visiting with them in Fresno in the early 1970s, and being delighted with the train set-up Link had in the house. It was pretty cool, with all the little buildings and landscaping. They also kept a wonderful garden on their lot. Hazel always sent hand crocheted slippers for Christmas. I guess we always sent them cheese.

letter_johnlh_to_johnvs_1981_01_04_p2

3089069061_a43c771c48_z
This is a doodle drawing that Link made. Hazel makes a reference to Link always drawing train pictures in one of her letters to us.

3090036346_1d6a790782_z
This is definitely a picture of Link, but I am not positive of the women beside him, it could be Hazel. Looks like she is working on the car.

Hazel passed away in 1987, Link stuck around a few years longer, passing away in 1992. They had no children of their own to pass on their legacy. I remember them fondly, and we do still have the letters they sent to us.


More on Hazel’s early life:
Hazel Ward was born in Kansas in 1899. Her mother Eva was married more than once. When we find the family in the 1910 census her mother is married to Henry Piper and they had one child together. Hazel had two sisters, Blanche and Gladys, and a brother Robert, also one half sister.
Hazel’s first husband was probably Martin Jacobs, sr. and they most likely married in Kansas, where they were both living in the 1910s. I don’t know when they were married, although the 1920 census indicates that she was already divorced. Martin had a child with another women when they were married, because Martin jr was adopted by Hazel according to the 1930 census.
A Martin Frank Jacobs jr., who appears in the Social Security applications and claims index at Ancestry, has the same year of birth as the Martin Jacobs from the 1930 census, and applied from Casper, Wyoming. He died in Texas in February of 1986. This same Martin, jr. appears in the 1940 census living with Martin, sr. and Lucy Jacobs in Texas. Martin, sr. was probably Hazel’s first husband, who took his son back to live with him sometime between 1930 and 1940.