As you know, my grandmother's mother (Ora) was one of three sisters born to Otis Vaughn and Fannie Brittain Vaughn on the family farm in Spring Prairie, Wis. And it's tempting to call Hattie (Harriet) the oldest, although technically, there was a baby born before her. Julia Vaughn was born in 1870, but died in 1871. There's a heartbreaking photo in the collection with what must be Fannie's handwriting on the back that just says, "Julia August Vaughn. Our first little girl, born April 25, 1870."
|First-born daughter Julia would only live about a year.|
|Ora (left), Edna and Hattie (right) at Loomis farm; the caption on the back of the photo says, "Lottie [Loomis] took this at Aunt Hannah [Loomis]'s farm home, 1898)|
Hattie is also probably the best-represented sister in the clippings in the scrapbook. It begins when she is just a child, when she has a starring in this dramatic piece of "news" printed by a local paper:
"Mr. Otis Vaughn and wife of Spring Prairie had a remarkable escape from what might have been serious and fatal.
The facts as we learn them from Mrs. Silas Patten are as follows: Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn were returning home after passing a portion of the early evening at the residence of Mr. William Hubbard. In passing the house of Vernon Raleigh and turning the corner, Mr. V. turned himself to look and see if any one was at home or lights to be seen, when the horse started rather suddenly, instantly throwing Mr. Vaughn to the ground, becoming insensible and unable to move; the line and the robes went with him. In this dilemma, Mrs. Vaughn considered what was best to be done; both children were on the seat beside her. Failing to stop the horse by repeated cries of, "Who," she took the youngest child [Edna, in this case -Ed.] under her arm and jumped, fortunately clear of the wheels and safe. The horse continued to run with the other child [Hattie - Ed.]. Mrs. Vaughn hesitated between going back to see her husband or to go forward and try and rescue the other child.
As soon as possible, she made an alarm and roused the people at Mr. William Vaughn's, where was a party. Instantly parties came out and learning the facts, Mr. Allan Cocroft started upon a run, and as the horse was rising another hill slackened somewhat his speed, when Mr. C. caught the rear of the buggy, drew himself up under by the reach, grasped the reins, and then called to the horse to stop, which in a moment he obeyed. The horse was not frightened but loose and of course was on his way home.
Getting into the buggy, Miss Hattie, 6 to 7 years of age, said to Mr. Cocroft that she kept calling Who, Who, Who, to Billy, and who can say that the animal was not quieted by the child's voice. She told her mother afterwards that she tried to get out but the wheels turned so fast she could not, she got back in again. Mr. Vaughn was immediately cared for. It was found he had cut several places in his head, beside bruises, &c. He fainted after being taken into the house, but gradually recovered. Altogether it was a most fortunate escape."
(I think the most incredible part of that story is the part where Allan Cocroft runs fast enough to catch a runaway horse, then pulls himself onto a moving carriage and climbs forward enough to grab the reins and stop the horse. Action movies have nothing on these early pioneers.)
|Hattie, around the age she would have been when she survived the harrowing runaway carriage incident|
Other mentions of Hattie in the clippings:
Miss Hattie Vaughn remained over Sunday with friends at Elkhorn.
Misses Hattie Vaughn and Leta Holmes are attending school at Burlington.
Miss Rispah Harriman spent Thursday with Hattie Vaughn.
|Hattie, front left, and Jack Cheeseman, back right, pose for a photo with Ora and Clarence|
In October of 1903, this marriage announcement appears in the Burlington paper:
"The marriage of Miss Harriet Vaughn and John J. Cheeseman, of Chicago, took place last Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., at the home of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Otis Vaughn, in the town of Spring Prairie. The ceremony was performed by Rev. P.H. Linley, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Elkhorn, in the presence of only the immediate relatives and a few intimate friends. The house was very prettily decorated with fall flowers and autumn leaves. An elaborate wedding dinner was partaken of by those present, after which Mr. Cheeseman and bride departed on a two weeks wedding trip to the east, after which they will make Chicago their home, where the groom has a desirable situation. The bride is well-known in this city, where she made her home for a number of years and was also a teacher in the public schools. She has a wide circle of friends who will extend their best wishes for a happy future."
Another announcement from Elkhorn, dated Oct. 7, 1903:
"The marriage of Miss Harriet Vaughn and John J. Cheeseman of Chicago was solemnized yesterday afternoon at the home of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Otis Vaughn at Spring Prairie. The ceremony was performed at 12:30p.m. by Rev. P.H. Linley of St. John's Episcopal Church of this city, in the presence of relatives and a few intimate friends. The house was very beautifully decorated with autumn leaves and flowers. The wedding march was played by Mrs. W.H. Brigham of Chicago.
The bride is a sister of Miss Edna Vaughn of this city, and was a teacher in the schools here three years ago. She has many Elkhorn friends who will extend their best wishes for a happy future. Mr. and Mrs. Cheeseman departed for a two weeks' trip through the east, after which they will live in Chicago, where the groom has a good position."
(This means that Hattie was 30 years old when she got married. We have this nostalgic idea that everyone got married so young back then, but over and over again, my family seems to have bucked that tradition.)
Two years later, Hattie is mentioned in Edna's wedding announcement; "Owing to the continued and dangerous illness of the bride's sister Mrs. Cheeseman..." so it appears that not long after being married, she developed some sort of dangerous illness, though I suspect it may have been related to the birth of her first child, a daughter named Loraine, in January of that year (1905). She must have recovered, because she had a second daughter (Harriet) on August 21, 1909.
Then nine years later, in 1918, her husband (known by the family as "Uncle Jack") died suddenly and unexpectedly of the horrible Spanish flu pandemic. His obituary, dated December 17, 1918, reads:
"Friends of the family here were shocked on Tuesday to hear the news of the death at his home, 775 Pennsylvania Ave., Milwaukee, of John J. Cheeseman, a son-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. Otis E. Vaughn of this city. Mr. Cheeseman's death was due to pneumonia, which followed an attack of influenza he contracted the previous Friday. The remains will be brought here over the interurban* on Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock for interment in the city cemetery, short services being held at the grave.
Mr. Cheeseman was born in England in November, 1867. He came to this country at an early age and was living in Chicago when he was married to Harriet A. Vaughn in October 1903. They moved to Milwaukee four years ago, where Mr. Cheeseman was holding the position of traffic manager for the Cudahy Rubber Co. at the time of his death. He is survived by a wife, two daughters, Loraine and Harriet, and two sisters."
After his death, Hattie moved with her two children, then 9 and 13, back to Burlington where they lived with her parents. My grandmother Genevieve was just 8 at the time, and since she lived on the Potter family farm in nearby Elkhorn, I believe she saw her cousins Loraine and Harriet fairly frequently. (Corrine would have just missed them -- her family moved up to Manitowoc right around the same time, though she remembered spending time with them on her trips to visit "Grandma and Grandpa Vaughn" in the summers.)
Hattie lived to 1950, dying one day shy of her 77th birthday.
As I type up the condensed life stories of these people I didn't really know, I am repeatedly struck by the truism that no one's life is easy. Hattie was a survivor; first she survived infancy (when her older sister Julia had not), then she survived a harrowing runaway carriage incident, then a "dangerous illness" probably related to giving birth, then the Spanish flu and the death of her husband.
The human ability to rise above tragedy and heartache is never more clearly on display than in the stories of those who came before us, and who persevered and made an enviable, beautiful, complicated whole out of the sum of the parts of their lives, many of which were devastating. You can see it in their faces as they age; graceful, determined, steely, human.
|Hattie as a baby|
|Hattie, age 3 or so?|
|Perhaps a year or two later|
|Hattie, right, and possibly Ora? I can't quite tell. Hattie looks to be 12 or 13?|
|Hattie at high school graduation?|
|This looks to me like a school photo from her teaching days, though I can't be sure.|
*Interurban railways were electric railroads that connected urban centers in the first part of the 20th century. From an article I wrote about them for At the Lake Magazine:
"The words “light rail” or “commuter rail” are a fixture of modern politics these days, but most people don’t realize that a century ago, the communities of southeastern Wisconsin were leaders in the burgeoning light rail service. At that time, the mostly passenger service lines were called interurban railways, or “interurbans” and they were designed to provide residents in outlying rural areas with access to nearby urban communities. Interurbans proliferated in Midwestern states from Ohio to Wisconsin, where greater distances between cities and poor road quality made carriage travel slow, difficult and unpredictable.
Around 1900, as electricity became more widespread, the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company (TMER&L for short), under the direction of John I. Beggs, began plans for an ambitious interurban railway plan for southeastern Wisconsin, one of the most ambitious in the country at that time. Though the plan was never fully realized, track was laid from Milwaukee as far south as East Troy... Residents could now make a trip into Milwaukee in about an hour-and-a-half; a considerable improvement over horse-drawn carriage."