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.
John Jacob Parmer
Gray-Eyed Aldus Parmer
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.
Tribute to John J.
John Jacob Parmer passed away January 25, 1952. He had heart disease and had been in a long-term care facility for eight months.
Although he passed away in Montana, the funeral services were held in Rigby, Idaho and he was buried next to Lizzie in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Surviving at the time were 8 children, 41 grandchildren, 38 great grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren. At his funeral service, the following was said:
My first recollection of him was the interest he took in the children [referring to John’s grandchildren]. He was enjoying them very thoroughly….Grandfather Parmer loved very much his family….He expressed the desire to visit the rest of the children. He missed them and wanted to see them. I have heard him on many occasions express anxiety to their welfare and express his love for them and his desire to see them.
So for those who are descended from John J., know that he cared about you and your welfare. And for those who are not descended from John J., be assured that your grandparents, and all those who came before you, cared about you and your welfare.
I never knew my Great Grandfather John Jacob Parmer. Yet I am glad for his life. For some reason, I am drawn to my ancestors. I echo this quote:
I am bound to them, though I cannot look into their eyes or hear their voices. I honor their history. I cherish their lives. I will tell their story. I will remember them. — Author unknown.
Life as a Widower
John Jacob never remarried after his wife died. I often wonder what leads a person to remarry or stay single after a spouse passes away. He lived 27 years as a widower. At his own funeral service, it was said that “He missed greatly the association of his mate that he loved and lived with for many years. He lived alone for some 27 years, but he never lost that love or lost sight of that smiling face that lived with him.”
During those years as a widower, I imagine he had lots of time to spend with his posterity. In 1932, he sold his property and moved to Bozeman, Montana. Here are a few photos from his later years.
A Bit About Lizzie
On October 5, 1925, Lizzie passed away. Her appendix had ruptured, causing peritonitis, which is inflammation of a membrane that lines the inner abdominal wall. The inflammation is from infection, which can lead to infection throughout the body. I haven’t researched Lizzie’s life specifically, but I love the photos of her that I have gathered. She’s always smiling. From the photos, it’s obvious that her life was full of hard work and was without modern conveniences. Nevertheless, her smile is indication that no matter life’s circumstances, a person can be happy. Enjoy the slideshow!
Homesteading in Montana
John Jacob decided to get his own homestead in Montana. He got a piece of land near the back waters of Hebgen Dam. You can read the land grant at this site. It’s dated November 5, 1925. I thought it interesting that, after the date, the documents states the number of years of independence–150 years. The United States was so young! And it still is, relatively.
I wondered if Calvin Coolidge signed the grant personally. So I did a little research and found that autopens, machines that use a pen to write a signature, were not really employed until the late 1940’s. But most presidents had at least one person that signed documents for them, especially land grants. So it’s very unlikely that the signature was by Coolidge himself.
Even thought he Land Grant is dated November 1925, John J. lived there before that time. A few biographical accounts place them on the property in 1920, after leaving the hay ranch. In addition, we have photos of Lizzie on the property, and she passed away the month before the land grant date. So we know they were on the property before the dated document. So I did a little research and found that under the 1862 Homestead Act, a person could fill out an application, move onto the land, and live on it for five years. After the five years, they could complete paperwork to receive a patent upon providing evidence that they met all the stipulations of living on the land continuously for the five years. So if they filed the initial application in 1920, then the five years would be up in 1925. And that corroborates the biographies that they moved to the homestead in 1920.
The property included 147.58 acres. Here’s a map that shows the property, which is the yellow highlighted area.
If you have ever driven from Island Park to West Yellowstone on Highway 20, you have driven right through what was John Jacob’s property. I have driven right through it and didn’t know! It’s quite a large piece of land. Below is a photo taken before June 13, 1934. I know that because there is a stamp on the back that it was received in a loan office on that date.
Also on the back of this photo it says Hwy 191. That confused me for a bit because the highway that runs through John J.’s property today is Highway 20. After a little research, I discovered that Highway 191 was designated in 1926 and ran from Idaho Falls, Idaho to West Yellowstone, Montana on what is now numbered Highway 20. So that confusion was cleared up.
The winters in that part of Montana were brutal. The following is from a newspaper article (see image below). Sorry I don’t have the newspaper name and date, but I will add it if I am able to learn it.
Snow fell to the depth of seven feet and Grandpa Parmer had to crawl through a window in order to remove the snow from the blocked doorway. Then the mercury hit a winter stride and did loops and banks to finally call the whole thing off when 65 degrees below zero was registered. The mercury had hit the bottom of the deck with no room to go lower.
This was not the winter of the great snow but was just an average event for the sourdoughs at West Yellowstone. Tunnels were dug from house to store and an eskimo would have declared “This is it” and gone seal hunting during the inclement weather.
Then that was not all. The ranger in the park called upon the citizens to state that the weather was really cold in the area known as Yellowstone Park. The thermometer had hit a frigid 72 below and the North Pole called off all competition with West Yellowstone and sent to a mail order house for gadgets that started at zero and went the other way.
Here’s an image of the newspaper article, which you can probably read if you enlarge it on the screen. It tells about John J. becoming a great great grandfather.
And here are some winter photos from various years. The first shows just how much snow there was. There’s a house under there somewhere!
I love this next photo simply because it’s not really staged and it seems to really capture the emotions of the moment. You can tell it’s a large gathering and everyone is having a great time.
Notice the girls are all in dresses and bundled up. Some of the guys have skis on still, and there’s a pair of skis stuck in the snow. Kids are on top of a big snow pile in the background by the building.
Here’s another picture with the kids on the roof of a home surrounded by snow. This may be their home on one of the ranches, not the homestead. Or it could be an early photo of the homestead before windows were installed. In addition, June Parmer Steinmetz said they lived across the street from John J., so this could be their home.
For this next photo, I’m not sure who is standing and who is on the sled, but it looks like the person on the left could be John J. and the person on the sled could be Lizzie.
Eventually, John Jacob had a store and gas station at his homestead. Here are a couple pictures taken at different angles so you can see the surrounding terrain. The road in front would be Highway 191/Highway 20.
You can see that there were a lot of trees on the property. And the earlier photo shows some of the land had a lot of sage brush. It was a lot of acres of undeveloped, unused land. How much of it has changed in the last 100 years? There’s more homes for sure. Maybe less trees? But still a lot of pure nature. Here’s an image from google earth that shows the same property today.
John and Lizzie’s granddaughter, June Parmer Steinmetz lived across the street from the gas station when she was a child. She remembers her grandfather being a jolly, happy person. She also said that her grandmother Parmer was very strict. I imagine she was strict at times, but she also looks like she knew how to have fun. You’ll read more about Lizzie in the next post.
As their granddaughter Joy notes in an obituary of John Jacob, “in 1913 the spirit of adventure penetrated the Parmer family. Father John and mother Lizzie packed up their belongings and their eight living children and moved to West Yellowstone, Montana. From then until 1917 the Bar N Ranch was under John’s management.”
Certainly life in the west had it’s challenges, particularly without our modern day conveniences. Keeping a house and just providing food for a family was a lot more physically involved than most people have to do today. Remember John and Lizzie were accustomed to the city. We even saw some of the homes they lived in (see previous posts). They also had lived on a farm in Pennsylvania before moving to Montana. But I imagine they had no idea what the “Ranch” life would be like when they moved West.
This next photo is one of my all-time favorites. I love that it catches a moment in time. Notice Lizzie is wearing her prayer cap, which again has the black tie strings. The laundry goes through the ringer and falls into the laundry basket, which isn’t much different than some laundry baskets today. Doesn’t the porch look tidy? A few items are hung and a few items are tucked under the bench and the rest of the washing items are on the bench. I wonder what the temperature was like that day….and whether or not the porch was in the sun or on the shady side of the house.
The bucket furthest right says “Swifts.” At first research, I noticed some Swift Borax brands, so I thought it might be the laundry soap. But upon further research, it is a bucket for lard. Could you imagine getting a bucket of lard that big? Here’s a close up of a Swifts Silverleaf Brand Lard bucket I found online.
I find it interesting that people of that time ate what we call terribly unhealthy food, and they still lived long lives. Makes you wonder if the bad rap those kinds of fats get has any truth to it. Reduce, reuse, recycle was a necessity then, not an option like it is today. Only then, instead of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” it was “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Some of you may have heard that before. Lard wasn’t wasted when butchering, but was put to use, and an empty lard bucket wasn’t wasted either, but was put to use.
What drew the family West? It may have been family. John Jacob succeeded the Abraham Rote family at the Bar N Ranch. Abraham Rote was the husband of John Jacob’s sister, Margie Alice. Ted says in his history that the Rote family moved to Montana 6 years previous to 1913. So it is likely John and Lizzie were persuaded to move West and work for the Bar N. The Bar N Ranch is still around. You can stay there for a fee. The website is https://bar-n-ranch.com/
The Bar N Ranch was a cattle ranch seven miles west of West Yellowstone, but it was also used for hay that the L.A. Murray Co. freighted into Yellowstone National Park for the work and stage horses. The Ranch was originally homesteaded by Mattie Canton, the mother-in-law of L.A. Murray. The Parmers stayed at the Bar N Ranch for three years. When the Hebgen Dam was built, Hebgen Lake flooded the meadows that were used for Hay. Without hay for the cattle, the cattle were sold.
This photo could be of the Bar N Ranch or the Murray Hay Ranch.
John and Lizzie decided to move to Idaho Falls, Idaho, where they stayed until 1920. During that time, John worked as a butcher. Here’s a photo in Idaho Falls. Notice Lizzie has on her prayer cap.
In 1920, the family moved back to the Madison Basin to work at the Murray Hay Ranch. The hay was sold to the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co Stage Line.
When the buses took over the stage line, there wasn’t as much need for hay. Then John and Lizzie decided to get their own homestead. More about the homestead will be coming up in the next post.
I haven’t found much written record of their life between 1913 and 1920, but I’m grateful for these few photos. They really help to imagine what life was like for them.
Life in Pennsylvania
I wish we had more information about their life in Pennsylvania. We do know that Lizzie wore a prayer cap, and her grandchildren tell us that she was Amish. However, the Ebersole family was an established Mennonite family. We do have this photo of John and Lizzie in Amish/Mennonite dress.
It is often difficult to identify what Anabaptist sect a person is from based on dress because every congregation could set their own standards and the Amish and Mennonites had so much in common. Even people who grew up among them might determine they are one only to later learn they are another. I did notice that Lizzie’s prayer cap is white and the ribbons are black. I spent a lot of time researching this detail and finally came across a reference stating that “the Old Colony Mennonites wear white head shawls until they are married and it is changed to black. Similarly, Old Order Mennonite single women wear white strings on a white cap, then the strings are changed to black after marriage. (Source: Bree Komiske ). This is the only reference I have found of the black ribbons with a white cap, which makes me believe they were Mennonite.
Another indication that they were Mennonite is the fact that Amish men more beards, without a mustache, after marriage, and John Jacob does not have a beard in this picture or in the family picture below, which was likely taken about 1913 before they moved West. I believe the picture was taken before they moved west because their son, Ted, wrote a short history and talked about a picture of “Mother Dad and our family in Penn,” and I believe this family photo was one of those pictures that was taken in Pennsylvania
In fact, I have not seen a single photo of John Jacob with a beard. Mennonite men were either clean shaven or wore beards along with mustaches. In addition to John Jacob not wearing a beard is the fact that none of their children are dressed in traditional Amish clothing. Amish children would usually have traditional dress, including caps, whereas Mennonite children were typically not dressed in traditional clothing. Note that none of the female children are wearing prayer caps.
A final thought is that Amish do not have their pictures taken, whereas Mennonites are not against photos. So the fact that John and Lizzie have several intentional photos, including one where they are wearing traditional clothing, is another indication that they were likely Mennonite and not Amish.
Again, we don’t have a lot of info on their life before they moved West. However, I was happy to find a short history, which appears to be a rough draft, written by John and Lizzie’s son, Ted, that includes a little bit of information about his life in Pennsylvania. He’s the boy in glasses in the bottom right corner of the photo above. Here is what he wrote in his own hand, which I have transcribed without correcting spelling, grammar, or punctuation:
“Spent the first 9 years of my Life in Penn. The Last 3 of them we lived on a tobacco far[m] and raised tobacco Acorn and Hogs. We had one white mule that my Dad used to cultivate with Drove by jerk line and Ge and Haw also had 2 more mules Tobe and Pet leaders of a 4 horse hitch and 2 horses,Jack and Mike. I drove this four horse hitch in tobacco harvest by Jerk Line and Ge and Haw–Ge to the right Haw to the left. The wagon had a rack 4′ high four standard and 2 long poles one on each side. Tobacco lath was five foot long sharp on one end. We would put Five tobacco stalk on each lath and hang them between the poles on wagon and haul them to tobacco shed hang them up to cure. In the winter we would strip the tobacco leafs and bail them Ready for the auctioneer to come sell them to the tobacco companys to the highest bidder besides this I had to help gather the acorns for hog feed. Are home was beautiful around the house and fences yard we had Vine trelles’s covered with Hop’s grape and morninglories Vines a big beautiful yard. We had two miles to walk to school. And always had fun going to and from school we would pick poposis that Grew along the Fences on both side of the road. We had a herd dog name Spot that would go with us kids to school. I also plaid a 5 string bango and sister Emma plaid organ…We would all go to uncl[e] Martin Eberso[l]e Mother’s Bro at Mount Joy to his farm and for a family Reunion once a year. And would we have fun”
A good explanation of the tobacco growing, harvesting, curing, stripping, and selling process can be found at https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/d513b480-8a84-4dd6-a53c-03ca21712e7d Go to page 10 to read about the process that Ted describes above. You’ll learn why the plants were hung and why they waited until winter to strip the leaves. The pdf as a whole is interesting to scan over. It also talks about the early settlers of the area and why Lancaster, PA was such a good place to grow Tobacco. Here’s a 1939 photo of a Mennonite farmer taking tobacco to the barn.
I am so happy to have this little bit of information. It allows me to picture a little bit of what their life was like. Our own lives may seem rather ordinary, but writing down a little bit about our daily life may be the only information our posterity will have about us in the future.
Work, Homes, and Children
Over the next several years after John and Lizzie married, John Jacob worked as a hostler, a clerk, and a stableman. The City Directory show that he worked as a clerk for the Grand Union Tea Company in 1898. And the 1899 city directory shows that he is a clerk for the H. Y. H. Tea Co. Did the tea company change names? No, the manager, John M. Young, of the Grand Union Tea Company resigned in 1899, becoming a partner in the H. Y. H. Tea and Coffee store. John must have been a good employee for the Grand Union Tea Company because it appears he left the company and went to work for Mr. Young and the H. Y. H. Tea Co. when it opened. John Jacob must have been recruited by the manager to leave the company and follow him to the new store. Interestingly, the new company enjoyed a profitable business for two years and then closed up. Mr. Young then returned to the Grand Union Tea Company as manager. (Source: Biographical Annals of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania)
Here’s a photo I found online of the Grand Union Tea Company store in Lancaster, PA.
You can read more about the Grand Union Tea Company, and see some great photos, at https://oldmainartifacts.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/grand-union-tea-company/
The 1900 Census lists John Jacob’s occupation as Hostler. The 1903 City Directory shows that he is a driver. And the 1910 Census shows that he is a stableman. According to an obituary written by his granddaughter Joy, he drove drey for the Tea Co. and the Hershey Candy Co. So it’s possible that instead of a clerk, he was a driver/hostler. Later, before the family moved to Montana, John lived on a farm and grew tobacco, a very common crop of the time. More info about John’s employment after moving to Montana will be shared in later posts.
Jacob and Lizzie seemed to move frequently. Remember they married at the end of 1887, and they stated on the marriage license that they were both from Whitmer. Here are their homes as listed in the City Directories over the next few years:
- 1896-Rockland (possibly with John’s father)
- 1897-31 N Arch
- 1898-21 Hazel
- 1899-216 N Arch; John’s brother Harry is listed at the same home
- 1903–522 Dauphin; John’s brother Luther is listed at the same home
- 1905-601 Rockland
- 1907–Not listed in Lancaster City
- 1911–725 N Christian
I love that Pennsylvania still has so many old homes in use today. Some of the homes where John and Lizze lived have since been demolished and replaced with parking lots or other structures. But here are some photos of homes they lived in that are still in use today.
Amidst the various jobs and homes, their family grew as children were born.
- Roy ‘E’–born and died in Aug 1888
- Esther Mae–Born 19 Oct 1889
- John Solomon–Born 13 Jul 1891
- Hirom Franklin–Born 19 Dec 1893
- Amos Lester–Born 3 Mar 1895
- Sarah Alberta–Born 3 Dec 1896
- Edgar Elwood–Born Oct 1898 and died 1900
- Emma Margie–Born 30 Sep 1900
- Theodore Apple–Born 3 Apr 1904
- Violet Amelia–Born 26 Nov 1906
Names are interesting. Generally, children were named after family members, or the doctor who delivered the child. If the child was the first baby delivered by a doctor, the child often received the doctor’s name. Of course there are exceptions, or naming after friends, or famous people. John Jacob himself is likely named after each of his grandfathers–John Parmer and Jacob B. Eckman. I found a reference that said traditional naming, during that time period, of children is a follows:
- First son is named after father’s father
- Second son is named after mother’s father
- Third son is named after father
- Fourth son is named after father’s eldest brother
- First daughter is named afer mother’s mother
- Second daughter is named after father’s mother
- Third daughter is named after mother
- Fourth daughter is named after mother’s eldest sister
I like to look at families to see how much they followed this traditional naming. So let’s look at John J.’s family. We’ll start with the sons.
Their first child, Roy, died shortly after birth. I don’t see the name “Roy” in any family names. So perhaps he was named after the doctor. Yet it’s interesting to note that John J.’s brother, William, who was just 1.5 years younger than John J., named his oldest son Roy. Could it be there is a family member we don’t know about? Or did William name his son after John’s deceased child? Or did they use the same doctor? Something to think about for sure!
Their third child is named John Solomon. John, of course, was a very common name, so determining who John Solomon was named after can be tricky, but it definitely doesn’t follow the traditional naming pattern. None of John’s children are named after his father, Samuel. But John Solomon seems to combine the traditional 2nd and 3rd son naming into one name. John is the name of John Jacob’s grandfather, as noted earlier, as well as Lizzie’s grandfather, John C. Diffenderfer. So John Solomon could have been named after them, or after his father, John Jacob. Solomon is the name of Lizzie’s father, Solomon Rutt Ebersole. So the middle name is easy to trace.
The next three boys–Hirom Franklin, Amos Lester, and Edgar Elwood–could be named after someone or could be just common names of the time. There are a few Amos’s in the family–Lizzie has a brother named Amos and John J.’s sister married an Amos. And John J. has a brother whose middle name is Elwood. I’d be interested in seeing a birth certificate for them to see if they are named after their doctors. That is what happened with the youngest son, Theodore Apple. He was named after the doctor who delivered him.
Moving to the daughters, John J.’s second child, Esther, is likely named after his mother, Hetty. Hetty is a nickname for Esther, which is what Hetty’s given name was. So they skipped naming the first daughter after the mother’s mother, which would have been Sarah, but they did name the second daughter Sarah. So they flipped the traditional order for their first two daughters.
Their third daughter is Emma Margie. Emma was one of Lizzie’s sisters. Lizzie was the oldest daughter in her family. Emma was the next oldest. So it’s likely that they skipped naming a daughter after Lizzie and went to the mother’s eldest sister in the traditional naming pattern. Emma’s middle name is Margie, which is John J.’s oldest sister. So Emma Margie is named after her two oldest aunts.
The youngest child, and last daughter, is Violet Amelia. I’m not sure where Violet comes from, but Amelia is one of Lizzie’s youngest sisters, who were twins-Ella and Amelia. So a traditional pattern is mostly followed for John and Lizzie’s daughters. Knowing this traditional naming pattern can sometimes help in family history research.
We don’t have a lot of information about their life in Pennsylvania, but we do have a little. Be sure to read the next post for those details.
A Secret Society
Have you ever heard of the Ancient Order of the Knights of the Mystic Chain? It was started by some Freemasons, possibly as an offshoot of the Knights of Pythias. John Jacob became a member of the secret society on June 19, 1889. A funeral benefit was incorporated in the society in 1889, which may have been a factor that drew John Jacob to the group, which was started in Reading, Pennsylvania. Here is a picture of his membership card.
The Ancient Order of the Knights of the Mystic Chain (A.O.K.M.C.) was a fraternity based on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The purpose of the group was to assist one another in illness and employment and to promote good citizenship. You can read more about the A.O.K.M.C here.