Children of Samuel M. Parmer and Hetty Eckman: Siblings, below, clockwise from top left: John Jacob Parmer, Luther James Parmer, Samuel Elwood Parmer, Aldus Arthur Parmer, Margaret Alice Parmer Rote, William Eckman Parmer. Siblings not pictured: Martha Parmer (died in childhood 1877), Annie E. Parmer, Harry Allen Parmer.
Mary passed away July 29, 1962 at 80 years old. Her death certificate lists cardiovascular disease as the cause of death; however, it also lists “Status Post CVA, old, with Left Hemiparesis.” Medical terminology is not common knowledge, so it’s always a good idea to get definitions, and in this case looking up that term provides some new information that helps us better know Mary. Hemiparesis is a slight weakening, loss of strength, or paralysis, which could be a side affect of a stroke or several other medical conditions. The abbreviation “CVA” means cerebrovascular accident and is the medical term for stroke. The death certificate lists the condition was known for 10+ years, so it’s possible she had a stroke some time before her death that caused her left side to be weakened.
Aldus passed away in 1964, in July, just two years after Mary (almost to the day) and a month after his son Earl. Aldus also had cardiovascular disease. In addition, pulmonary emphysema and brain syndrome were listed as significant conditions at the time of his death. Brain syndrome could be a variety of things related to loss of brain function, from memory loss to loss of motion. Pulmonary emphysema is primarily caused from smoking; however, it is also caused from occupational exposure. Since Aldus was an auto mechanic, it’s likely the fumes and chemicals he was exposed to were a contributing factor. Nevertheless, he lived to be 83 years old, a good age considering the average life expectancy in 1960 was 66.6 years old (Source).
Mary and Aldus’ granddaughter remembers that Aldus fixed cars and Mary was super concerned with keeping things clean. She remembers visiting her grandparents on Christmas Eve–likely a time much enjoyed and looked forward to by Mary and Aldus.
What was your first job? How old were you when you started working? I was 16 years old when I started working (other than babysitting). My first job was at Dairy Queen. While school was in session, I worked part time–nights and weekends. During the summer I worked full time. I enjoyed working and earning money. It was exciting being able to pay for things myself. On top of that, we had some fun times at the DQ–the manager-owner made sure of that! Having a job wasn’t a necessity. My parents housed, clothed, and fed me. But earning money to have extras was very motivating.
Remember Aldus was 16 1/2 years old when his mother died in 1897. One census record indicates he had an 8th grade education. Interestingly, the city directory for 1897 lists Aldus individually, as an adult. No occupation is listed; nevertheless, seeing him listed individually is intriguing. It attests to the expectations of youth at the time. So Aldus began to work in factories.
According to the city directories, his factory career began as a box maker, which is what the directories list for his occupation in 1898 and 1899. What kind of boxes he made will likely remain a mystery. Lancaster had a variety of factories. Some that may have required box makers are Hershey’s candy and cigars. Or perhaps it was larger boxes to ship in bulk things like umbrellas or cork products. In any case, the job was likely long hours, for little pay, and in not so good conditions.
Aldus would hold various jobs before finally settling into a career. Here’s what the city directories has listed for him:
1905 Harness Maker
1911, 1913, 1916 Salesman (The 1910 Census, Aldus is listed as a Salesman at a seed store.)
1917, 1919 Machinist
On Sept 12, 1918, he registered for the draft. He was living at 507 Green Street, Lancaster, PA. His occupation is listed as an auto machinist working for Queen Motor Co. at 432 N. Queen, Lancaster.
The 432 N. Queen location had been used as a repair shop previous to it becoming The Queen Motor Company. In 1915, Butzer Brothers opened a shop at that location. Edward A. Carney decided to enter the auto business and secured a job there in 1915. Edward would eventually become a partner in the company and then sole owner.
On November 14, 1919, The Queen Motor Co. building at 432 N. Queen burned down. According to the 1924 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a History Volume IV found here, The Queen Motor Car Company was “popularly known as ‘the busiest corner in the city.’ No hour of the twenty-four finds the doors closed, no day of the year” (335). Carney held a banquet for his employees “on the evening of January 30, 1920. This was following the November of the fire, and before the new building was even started. He gave his organization the finest banquet and entertainment the city afforded, and without a word of regret for the misfortune, mapped out an enthusiastic campaign for the season shortly to open” (335). The new building was located at a different spot, but it seems that the old location was used as a repair shop by other companies as this 1920 directory shows.
Perhaps based on the mishaps of The Queen Motor Co. building, Aldus decided to go into business for himself. In the 1920 Census, Aldus and Mary live at 507 Green Street and own the home with a mortgage still on the property. Aldus is shown as age 39, which is consistent with him being born in 1880 and being 18 years old at the time of his marriage. He is listed as a proprietor in the “Garage” industry. Also, the 1927-28 city directories list his occupation as auto repair working in the rear of 507 Green, which is his home. Maybe opening his own garage was out of necessity to provide for the family when the company building burned down. It seems perhaps he did well enough to stick with it because this is his main occupation for the years ahead.
The 1930 Census has a few interesting questions. One asks if the home has a radio. Aldus’ family does not. Also asked is if the individual is a veteran, to which Aldus indicates he is not. Another question asks if the individual was actually at work the previous working day. That’s an interesting question! Aldus’ record indicates he was at work the previous working day. This question was a result of the stock market crash of 1929 and the resulting situation that we refer to today as the Great Depression. If a person indicated they were not at work the previous working day, additional questions, on a supplemental sheet, were asked in an attempt to discover whether or not the person was regularly employed or was without a job. The census unemployment results were controversial and many thought the numbers didn’t reflect the true unemployment rate. Likely some thought they were only temporarily out of work and indicated so when they were really not going back to work. Other unemployment censuses were commissioned as a result.
A few items to note on the 1930 Census is that Aldus and family still live at 507 Green Street where they own the home, which they valued at $4,400. Aldus is listed as 49 years old, still consistent with being 18 years old when he married, but his age at first marriage is listed on the 1930 Census as 19. Mary is listed as being 18 years old at first marriage, but we know from the marriage license that she is 17 years old. Aldus again is listed as a proprietor of a “Garage”. Also of note is that the family has a 25 year old male boarder who worked at odd jobs.
1940 Census reveals a few more details about Aldus and his family. He is still a mechanic, but now works for City Water Works. He had worked 50 hours the week of March 24-30, 1940. He had worked 52 weeks in 1939 and had earned $1200 during the year. Aldus and Mary’s two youngest sons, Ned (age 31) and James (age 29) lived at home, which was still 507 Green Street. Ned listed his occupation as auto mechanic at his own garage, so it was likely the garage on the home’s property.
So what did Aldus do as an employee of the City Water Works? The 1946 and 1948 city directories provide the link — he was an auto mechanic at the City Bureau of Water. Why did he now, after 20 years being self employed, start working for someone else? The answer may be the Social Security Act of 1935. In order to qualify, he would have had to be employed. Working for someone would have likely been the best option to maximize his benefits.
With our first indication of his being a machinist in 1917, Aldus spent over 30 years as an auto mechanic. He had been employed for half a century. He would have been 65, and thus eligible for Social Security benefits, in 1945. It appears from the city directories that he retired around 1950.
An interesting fact shown in the 1940 census is the highest grade of education completed. Aldus is shown as completing 7 grades. Mary completed 8. Of Aldus and Mary’s sons, Ned is shown as completed 8th grade, and James had what looks like 4 years of high school education. Historically, from 1850, only about 60% of youth ages 5-19 years old were enrolled in school until about 1910 when the percentage began to increase (Source for all statistics in this paragraph). Of those enrolled, they were virtually all in elementary school. Until 1910, less than 10 our of every 100 youth aged 17 had completed high school. Even in 1940, only about 25% of the Caucasian population aged 25+ had completed 4 years of high school. Likewise, college admission rates were extremely low. Although the number of enrollments in college began to increase around 1910, enrollment didn’t really take off until about 1950. In 1870, 20% of the population aged 14+ were illiterate, and the percentage remained in the double digits until after 1900.
I share all these statistics because they are really helpful in understanding the differences that existed in our ancestor’s lives. What seems so basic to us today was just not so basic in the past. As a result, we have to look at history from the eyes of those who were living it. Just earning a living to survive was so time consuming then, producing the very basics of food, clothing, and shelter. It helps us to understand why small children were hired out and why teens stopped going to school and were employed full time. Mindsets, family patterns, and life circumstances stick around from generation to generation, which we see in the history of education. Nevertheless, situations change over time. Referring back to the 1940 census, Ned, who was born in 1909, had completed 8 years of education; however, James, who was born in 1911, appears to have completed high school. Just the two years difference in birth likely boosted James’ educational opportunities.
Let’s get back to Aldus, who is shown as completing 7 grades of school. If he started school around 8 or 9 years old, he would have completed his 7 grades at about 15-16 years old. Remember that his mother died in 1897 when Aldus was 16 1/2 years old. It’s likely that he had finished his education and was employed at the time or shortly after. This was common for the time. I have a fifteen year old daughter. She’s still in school and she does not have to worry about working to support herself or her family. Life is different now. For Aldus, it was just the norm. Very likely, his friends had stopped going to school and were getting jobs too. And so the beginning of an adult life began at 16 years old.
What do people do besides work when they are an adult? Getting married is quite common. About two years after his mother died, Aldus married Mary E. Troop. The marriage certificate says Aldus was 21 years old and Mary was 17 years old when they applied for a marriage license on April 25, 1899. If the date is correct, and his birthday is correct, he would have been 18 at the time, not 21. They were married April 29, 1899. In Pennsylvania in 1900, the legal age to marry without consent from a parent was 21, so it’s likely Aldus lied about his age so he wouldn’t have to get consent from his father. Why he felt he had to do that will likely remain a mystery.
In June 1900, Aldus and Mary lived with her Parents at 347 North Concord Street. They would have been married less than a year.
The 1900 census indicates that Mary had not given birth to any children. Aldus’s birthday is listed on the census as Nov 1879, although the provider of the family information may have gotten the year incorrect; however, his age is listed as 20, which would mean he was 19 when he married, not 21 or even 18. On the other hand, if he was born in 1880, he would have been 19 years old in June of 1900 as he wouldn’t have had his 20th birthday until November. I’m always amazed at the inconsistency of ages in historical records. I’ve written about that for several of his siblings.
The 1910 Census, taken in April, shows Aldus is 29 years old. This would be consistent with him being born in 1880. It also indicates that he and Mary have been married 11 years, which is also consistent with Aldus being 18 years old at the time of his marriage. Aldus is listed as a Salesman at a seed store. Mary is listed as being the mother of 4 children, 4 of which are still living. This is interesting as I found on Elvin’s birth certificate that he is the fourth child born, with three still living. Elvin was born in 1906. His younger brother, Ned, had been born and was listed in the 1910 census, which means the census record is likely wrong and should indicate 5 children had been born and 4 were still living. Aldus and Mary had six kids. Raymond Earl, Grace, a baby, Elvin, Ned, and James.
Aldus and Mary lived with their family at 509 Green Street, which they were renting, and were living next to Aldus’ brother William and family who lived at and owned 507 Green Street. Eventually, William and his family would move to Florida and Aldus and his family would buy William’s home.
So what did Aldus do to support his family? That will be the topic of the next post.
Aldus made his entry into this world on November 28, 1880. That was a Sunday and just 3 days after Thanksgiving day. He arrived into Samuel and Hetty’s home with 6 living siblings. One sister, Martha, had previously died in 1877 at 3 years of age. The oldest sibling, John Jacob was 13 years old. His mother, Hetty, must have been very busy because her two youngest children at the time were not very old–Annie was not quite three years old and Harry had recently turned one year old. Samuel was five, Margaret was nine, and William was eleven.
A new baby brings lots of joy, and, as every new mother knows, a lot of exhaustion and sleepless nights. I’m sure the children had chores and helped out. Still, cooking and cleaning were a whole lot different then. There were no refrigerators for home use yet–that wouldn’t be for about another 25 years–but the home may have had an icebox. The stove would likely have been a cast iron or steel stove that burned wood or coal (Source). And doing laundry? That was a lot of work. A pail of water, a plunger, and a washboard were the common implements, along with homemade lye soap, which was quite a process to make too (Source).
In 1918, according to the draft registration card, Aldus had black hair and gray eyes. The gray eyes is interesting. I was born with dark brown eyes and had dark brown eyes for many years. Somewhere along the line, my eyes have changed color and are now more hazel. I wonder when Aldus’ eyes became “grey.” He’s also shown as medium height and slender build at registration.
The WWII draft registration card is more specific. Aldus is included in the April 1942 “Old Man’s Registration.” This draft was the Fourth Registration and was for men ages 45-64 who were not already serving in the military. At that time, he was 61 years old, standing 5’5″ tall, weighing in at 190 pounds, and had gray hair and, still, gray eyes. He also has a scar on the end of the index finger on his left hand.
So it appears that Aldus grew up with black hair and gray eyes. Tragically, when he was 16 1/2 years old, his mother died. We don’t have any information regarding her death in 1897. If mothers were as central to their children’s lives then as they are now, I imagine that had a profound affect upon Aldus.
What was life like for Aldus after his mother died? We’ll take a looks at his life in the next few posts.
Old newspapers are very interesting. They can draw interest in people never heard of before. Reading them is like taking a step back in time, but it seems as though it’s the present. You can learn all kinds of things in a newspaper–theft, the price of crops, and who was arrested for drunkenness, among other things.
Annie Parmer was the third daughter and the sixth child of Samuel and Hetty. She was born one year after her older sister died at age 3 years and 3 months. I cannot help but think that her mother must have been grateful for another daughter. Since Samuel had a sister named Ann, it’s possible his new daughter was named after his sister.
Annie’s exact birth year is a little hard to pin down. We first find Annie in the 1880 Census at age 2, shown below in the census excerpt taken from ancestry.com.
The family lived in East Lampeter Township, but the census taker did not record the street.
The 1888 Williams’ Lancaster City Directory lists Samuel Parmer living at “Rockland n Old Factory”, which translates to “Rockland Street north(of) Old Factory.” It’s possible they lived at that location for the 1880 census. But we have a second record that confirms they lived there in 1888.
On October 4, 1888, the Lancaster City School Board met. The meeting, and various reports given at the meeting, were reported in detail the next day in the Lancaster Daily Intelligencer. The City Superintendent’s Report began with statistical information about how many students attended school. Several options existed for school then, just like today. The report included students attending high school, grammar school, secondary school, ungraded school, intermediate school, and primary school. A little research is needed to learn the difference between them, but that’s part of the fun of learning history! My favorite–ungraded school. Students are not grouped by grade, but by what they need to learn. Once they learn a topic, they move on to the next group. So if they are grouped in the subtraction group, and they master subtraction, then they might move to the multiplication group. Just a fun fact!
After reporting the number of students, the newspaper listed the non-resident students by name. Here’s an excerpt taken from the October 5, 1888 Lancaster Daily Intelligencer digitally located on the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website:
Do you see the Parmers listed as non-residents attending the Rockland Street Primary School? There’s Annie, along with her brothers Harry and Aldus. Also, did you notice that none of Annie’s siblings were attending the Rockland Street Intermediate or Secondary schools? Annie would have been about ten years old at the time. Her brother Samuel E. would have been about 14 and her sister Margie would have been about 17 years old. They possibly were not attending school anymore. Or they could have been attending school at night. Night school?! Yup. The report indicated that 203 students, including 45 under the age of 14, attended night school. But then the older Parmer children would probably still be listed as non-residents. So it’s likely they did not attend school at all and that Annie was then the oldest of her siblings still in school.
The fact that Annie, Harry, and Aldus attended Rockland Street Primary School is consistent with their home’s location. The Rockland Street School was created for students in that area, as noted in the quote below from One Hundred and Fifty Years of School History in Lancaster, Pennsylvania by William Riddle:
The first move for the erection of what is hereafter to be known as the " Rockland Street " school house, came at the February meeting of 1869, as a motion from Robert A. Evans, requesting the Superintending Committee " to inquire into the matter of more convenient school accommodations for the children who reside on the ' Old Factory Road ' and its vicinity and make report to the board when convenient."
The school was completed in 1876, just 12 years before Annie (and her brothers) were listed in the newspaper. Why were they listed as non-residents? I don’t know. Maybe they lived outside of the city limits. After all, the city directory listed them as “north of” Old Factory Road.
And that’s all we know about Annie until we find her marriage license in 1895. If she was two years old in 1880, then in 1895 she would have been about seventeen years old. At seventeen, she would likely have needed consent to marry. But did she get it?
That’s a question for the next post…..
Happy Independence Day!
Having a family connection to an event always makes it more meaningful. Finding a connection to 1776 can be a bit tricky. How patriotic were the Parmers? Tracing back that far is a bit difficult for the Parmer family. But many Parmer descendants have served in the military and defended freedom. Samuel M. Parmer’s son, Robert E. Parmer, had six sons serve in World War I.
The photo above was published in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal on May 23, 2004 with an article about Lancaster’s World War II memorial. According to the article, “The memorial was erected to honor those from the Cabbage Hill neighborhood of Lancaster who served during the second world war. The names of 160 men are inscribed, including nine who were killed.” Six of Robert Parmer Sr.’s nine sons served in World War II.
In 1863, the Union instituted a draft for men ages 20-45. John Parmer, the probable father of Samuel M. Parmer, was 46 years old at the time.
Samuel M. Parmer was 24. He would have been required to register. Below is what likely is his record of registration, along with his brother, Daniel.
I could not find any record of Samuel serving in the military, nor could I find any record of his children serving in the military. However, I did find records of several of his sons’ draft registrations. All Samuel’s sons who registered for the World War I draft did so in the third draft on September 12, 1918. Those who registered for the World War II draft did so in the fourth registration, also known as the “Old Man’s Draft,” which was not to enlist soldiers but to determine the skills and abilities of men who could support the war effort at home.
Draft registrations are fun to look at because they have valuable family history information that is not usually found elsewhere, like physical characteristics. Here’s what we learn from Samuel’s sons’ draft registration cards:
John Jacob and William E. were born after the Civil War ended and were past the age of the draft for the World War I.
Samuel E., World War I registration on 9/12/18, blue eyes & black hair 45 years old, lived at 542 Dauphin Street, worked as a watchman at Donovan Co., a garment manufacturer.
Harry, World War I registration on 9/12/1918, blue eyes & dark hair, 39 years old, lived at 439 E Mifflin Street, worked as boiler foreman at Lancaster Iron Works.
Aldus, World War I registration on 9/12/1918, grey eyes & black hair, 37 years old, lived at 507 Green Street, worked as an auto machinist at Queen Motor Co.
World War II registration on April 27, 1942, 5’5″ tall and 61 years old, grey eyes and grey hair, physically identifying characteristic was a scar on the end of his index finger on his left hand. He still lived at 507 Green street and was working at Lancaster City Water Works.
Luther, World War I registration on 9/12/1918, blue eyes & dark hair, 33 years old, lived in Coatesville, worked as a boiler maker at Midvale Steel and Ordinance Company.
World War II registration on April 27, 1942, 5’6″ tall and 56 years old, blue eyes and grey hair. Self employed and living on his farm in Londonderry Township.
It’s interesting that many of the brothers had blue eyes and dark hair. And they were not very tall. I love that this information is preserved! What do you remember that can be shared and preserved?
It’s fitting for my first post to be about Samuel and Hetty. As I began my quest to find living Parmer relatives in Lancaster, PA, my starting point was Samuel Parmer and Hetty Eckman. Nine children were born to them in Lancaster. Surely some descendants would still be living there.
The 1870 census excerpt below, from Ancestry.com, is the first census record showing Samuel and Hetty together. Their sons, John and William are also shown.
By 1880, John was living as a boarder down the street from the rest of the family. William still lived at home, along with Margie, Annie, Samuel and Harry, shown in the 1880 Census excerpt below, from Ancestry.com. Missing is Martha S., born in 1873, after the 1870 census. She died in 1877, before the 1880 census.
Samuel and Hetty had two more children, Aldus and Luther. Aldus was born in 1880 after the census was taken. Luther was born in 1885. They would have shown up on the 1890 census, but much of that census record was destroyed in a fire. Aldus married in 1899, before the 1900 census, so he again is not shown living with Samuel. But the 1900 census does show Luther living with Samuel, as seen in the excerpt below, taken from Ancestry.com.
With Samuel and Hetty’s children identified, I began my quest. Little did I know that finding living relatives is a bit more difficult than finding those who have already passed on.
Born to Samuel M. Parmer and Hetty Eckman on November 28, 1880 in Lancaster, PA. Married Mary E. Troop on April 29, 1899 in Lancaster, PA. Died in July 1964.