Friday, October 31, 2008

Winter of Death

I recently blogged about my great aunt, Emma Kostal Psota, who died at a young age as a result of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919. This week I received a copy of a new booklet by local Ravenna author, Valerie Vierk, that chronicles the flu pandemic.

The booklet is called Winter of Death: Ravenna Area Victims of the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic. Readers of this blog who may be interested in obtaining a copy of the booklet can do so by contacting Valerie directly by e-mail. The cost of the booklet is $10.00 plus $1.50 shipping.

[Disclosure: I provided Valerie with some material for her book. I have no financial interest whatsoever.]

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brad Tilsch

A “shout-out” to my old neighbor, Brad Tilsch. He and I lived in the old Northbrook neighborhood in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I spoke to him on the phone a few days ago and he told me his daughter had read this blog!


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Emma Kostal Psota

My grandfather, Edward Kostal, had four step-siblings and three full siblings. He was the only boy among his full siblings. Two of his three sisters grew to adulthood and lived long, long lives. I knew both of them.

While in France with the AEF, my grandfather learned that his third sister, Emma Kostal, contracted Spanish Flu during the great pandemic of 1918. Even though The Great War ended on November 11, 1918, my grandfather was severely wounded and did not return to the states until the following spring. It was too late as Emma succumbed on April 2, 1919. She was 23 years old.

Emma married Fred Psota and they had a daughter together named Jeanette. After Emma’s death, my great grandparents took care of Jeanette. Fred remarried another Emma and moved to Fairbury, Nebraska.

Emma is buried in the Ravenna cemetery. This photo has been in the family for a very long time. Back then, it was common practice to hire a studio photographer and have him/her take photos of the deceased with all of the floral decorations. For a small town like Ravenna, this was a lot of flowers!

I’m unsure if this was photographed at a funeral home or in a private residence. I know that some memorial services were held in the home rather than in church or a funeral home. For example, the service for my great grandmother (Emma’s mother) was held at her home.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Nebraska “Rocks!”

I thought it would be fun to post a slideshow of photos taken during my ancestral homeland visit to Nebraska. Here are photos of Courthouse, Jail, Castle and Chimney Rocks. Flickr has a new slideshow application that I wanted to try.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Those Kostal Kids

My mother recently found a photo taken of her father and his three sisters. In his family, there were a total of eight children – four half brothers and sisters, his three full sisters and himself.

In this picture, from left to right, is Albie Kostal Psota, Edward Kostal, Emma Kostal Psota and Agnes Kostal Glodowski. Three years ago, I posted a photo of all eight children with my great grandparents.  I guessing the picture above is more recent than the full family photo. I’m basing that solely on Aunt Albie looking slightly older in this picture – maybe a year difference at most. She was born in 1899 so this picture was probably taken somewhere in the 1904 – 1906 range.

I really wish I knew more about these old pictures.

Friday, August 01, 2008


For the fun of it, I took this weblog and created a word cloud in Wordle. Here’s how it looks! Click on the cloud for more detail.

Brief Autobiography of William S. Cornelius

William S. Cornelius – Hunting trip
Red Bluff, California, 1883

In going through some family material, I came across this autobiography of my great grandfather, William S. Cornelius. I guess everyone referred to him as “W.S.” This autobiography was written on April 12, 1942 when he was 81 years old. He still had another 20 years to go!

It’s great to have this written account and it is contained in the Cornelius Roots and Shoots book written by Uncle Jay Cornelius, one of William’s sons.

Brief Autobiography of William S. Cornelius
April 12, 1942

I was born near Delavan, Tazewell County, Illinois February 14, 1861, and lived there for eighteen years except for one-half year I lived in Missouri. We left Illinois on June 26, 1879 for Columbus, Cherokee County, Kansas to join my Uncle Edward who had left in March 1879. The whole family moved except for two little sisters. One had died before we left Tazewell County and the other, Sarah, died on the trip and was buried near Hannibal, Missouri, where we crossed the Mississippi River by ferry.

Father and I worked for Les Patterson, whose wife was a “school-marm” until the early part of 1882. On February 8 of that year, I started for California by train, came through Salt Lake City, Utah. They were just putting up the big Mormon Temple and I stayed over one day and attended the Mormon Communion meeting that evening.

I arrived at The Willows, California on February 17, 1882. I came out with Frank and Marion Hilliard and we went over to Dr. Hugh Glenn’s Ranch Headquarters at Jacinto, east of The Willows on the Sacramento River. Frank had come out to California seven years before and had a good job as foreman of the Glenn Ranch. The next morning I had a job about three miles southwest of the Headquarters on the G.W. Hoag Ranch. Charles Newman was the boss.

I worked there about two and a half years, then went into stable boss and then herded geese off of the wheat fields during the winter months. The bookkeeper and foreman for the goose herders was W.P. Mason. I rode a horse most of the time while herding; her name was Daisy. She was a good mare because you could shoot off of her and she wouldn’t scare. We herded from the first of November to the first day of May and used Winchester rifles “45-60,” which used big bullets and made lots of noise. I killed hundreds of geese and just let them lay. A Chinaman on the ranch moulded and loaded all of the ammunition for the seven herders. They bought lead by the bar and powder by the keg. We had to save our empty shells for reloading.

The important thing was to keep the geese moving and not to let them light. The foreman said that the best herders killed the fewest geese. Each herder had a regular beat to follow. About a half section was an average beat. We were paid $30 cash per month, plus board and room, and they supplied us with a horse and ammunition.

In 1885 I went over to the Glen Ranch Headquarters and worked with the Hilliard boys. There were many Chinese around at that time. Every town had a Chinatown and everyone who could afford it had a Chinese cook and laundryman. I had herded about two months for the Glenn Ranch when I received a telegram that my father was very ill, so I immediately left for Columbus. But when I arrived back home in Kansas, Father had died a few days before, On Christmas Day, December 28, 1885.

I stayed there for a while and farmed Father’s place. I had bought a team of horses and a little equipment. Mother later married David Lewis and moved to town. Lewis was a butcher in a partnership with a man by the name of Duncan. I decided to return to California the following spring, so sold the team and machinery and rented the place out.

I went back to California to work on the Dr. Glenn Ranch in the summer of 1886. I got the same job back again that I had before. The same job I had the day that Dr. Glenn was shot and killed on February 11, 1883.

I went to work on the Mud Ranch, also owned by Doc Glenn, and that was in 1886 and Jim Snowden was then the foreman. I drove a jerk-line team of ten mules. They never allowed less than ten for each foreman, there were usually about fifteen for each foreman. We were never allowed to let our team stop and rest. Each driver had a big black snake whip. A driver could either ride a mule or walk or sit on the wagon and had to pull off of the road if anything went wrong. I quit the Mud Ranch and went to work for Jim Boyd for a while, then from there went to Vacaville for one winter and worked for Duff Hawkins as a roustabout. I finally decided to return to Kansas. I married Cassie S. Evans in Columbus on February 14, 1888 and had planned to return to California to make our home, but Mrs. Evans objected to Cassie leaving Kansas because she was not yet eighteen years old. So, we stayed in Kansas.

Times were very hard in the 1890s. I sold fat hogs for $2.25 per head. I worked hard; all horses and walking machinery. Had to hunt and trap in spare time to make a living. Corn was selling for 10 to 12 cents a bushel. There was a $400 mortgage on the home place when my father, Jesse, died that hadn’t been paid. So I farmed it and rented an adjoining 80 acres. I had about $100 left so bought thirty-seven shoats. I cut and threshed my grain and ground it to fatten the hogs to sell so that I could pay off the mortgage. Later bought 40 acres, [another] 80 acres and [then] another 40 acres from Tommy Orbison. Then, in 1910, I sold and traded the Kansas land and bought and moved to a new farm in Perkins County, Nebraska. The war started a few years later and farm products went sky high and I made a “barrel of money” in just a few years. I bought a big house in town for $4,500 [in] Madrid, Nebraska, in 1918 and moved there, leaving the farms for the boys to run (Evan, Leland and Floyd).

In February 1922, when I was the President of the Farmer’s Union of Perkins County, I made a trip to Sacramento, California with seven carloads of hogs. I sold them all there in Sacramento and went up to Willows, California to see if any of my old friends were still there. Found Marion Hilliard working for Golden State Orchards south of Hamilton City (Monroeville). We had a good long visit – too long –  I missed the train back to Orland. I still liked California, so bought a house and 10 acres on south side of Orland, California for $7,000 and moved there in June 1922 with my wife Cassie and two children, Gladys and General. This is where I am living now.

W.S. Cornelius

Thursday, July 31, 2008

William Seborn and Cassie Evans Cornelius

Here are photos of my great grandparents -- William S. and Cassie Evans Cornelius -- courtesy of my Uncle Eldon. The photo of my grandmother states it was taken in 1920. I assume the photo of my grandfather was taken around the same time.

William was a grandson of Henry Profitt Cornelius.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just back from Nebraska

We returned late Tuesday afternoon from our trip to Nebraska. We met up with cousins Sarah and Amanda Johnson in Grand Island and then some genealogy work in the Ravenna area. We toured the two Ravenna cemeteries and found the Horak Cemetery, an old Czech cemetery located out in the country north of town. Sarah found her great great grandfather’s grave – John Helebrant.

We then moved on to North Platte and met up with Eldon and Jeanie and then on to the Madrid area. We saw a number of cousins (Kevin was a little overwhelmed with the size of his family!) and then found time to drive up towards Scottsbluff to meet Mack and Sandy.

Kevin said the highlight of his trip was seeing Chimney Rock (plus Scotts Bluff National Monument, Castle Rock, Courthouse and Jail Rocks).

We then started our trip back. First we laid some flowers on Dad’s grave (saw Rod’s wife Robin in the Grant flower shop).

We then drove back to Ravenna for a little more family detective work. Sarah and Amanda stayed on in Ravenna for a little bit and then they headed home.

On our way back, we stopped at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa.

Here’s a little picture tour of our trip. I’m adding more pictures as I sort through them.

It was great to see everyone again. Eldon gave me a lot of family pictures that I’ll be adding to this weblog.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Henry Profitt Cornelius

[Update: August 10, 2009] There seems to be some uncertainty regarding the correct spelling of Henry's middle name. The name is actually his mother's maiden name and her records show the spelling as Proffitt.  As I wrote below, one of Henry's sons was named Jesse with the same middle name. Today I found Jesse's gravesite and it also shows his middle name spelled as Proffitt. I am going to assume this spelling is the correct spelling as opposed to what Henry's record shows. Incidentally, I received photos of the gravesite of Henry's parents -- John and Patcey.

# # # #
I had a fun day today. I fulfilled a long-held desire to take a short trip back in time and visit the gravesite of my third great grandfather. His name was Henry Profitt Cornelius
Henry was born on March 16, 1806 in Christian County, Kentucky and was the oldest of eight children. He was first married to Mary Ann Quisenberry in 1828. They had ten children together with the eighth child being my second great grandfather, Jesse Profitt Cornelius. (“Profitt” was Henry’s mother’s maiden name and was used these two times as a middle name.) Mary Ann passed away in 1845 and is buried in the Hittle Grove Cemetery, Tazewell County, Illinois. Henry married Mary Ann’s cousin, Catherine Quisenberry, in 1847 and they had eight more children together. Thus, Henry fathered 18 children!
Henry passed away at the ripe old age of 89 on August 29, 1895. Catherine passed away in 1902. They are buried together in Mt. Hope Cemetery near Foosland, Illinois.
I became aware of Henry’s existence when I read about him in my Uncle Jay’s Roots and Shoots book. It became somewhat of an obsession for me to find Foosland and to find Henry’s grave. In fact, Dad and I talked a number of times about driving down to find the location, but his declining health made the trip unlikely.
I’m on a four-week sabbatical from work and I decided this morning to make the trip. I packed a cooler of water and energy drinks and made the trip to Foosland. Actually, it’s not a bad drive at all and certainly one we should have made years earlier. The town is “off the beaten path” and it took several turns before I found the county road leading to it. It took even more time to locate the cemetery. I had to ask some locals to point me in the right direction.
But I found it!
Foosland is located northwest of Champaign which is home to the University of Illinois. I thought my father’s hometown of Madrid was small, but I believe Foosland is even smaller. It’s accessible by county roads only.
The cemetery is very well maintained. It took me about an hour to find his tombstone. Since they both passed away over 100 years ago, I was fearful of not finding the grave at all or finding a tombstone that was weather-worn or in very poor condition. To my relief and surprise, their tombstone is in excellent condition.
Here are some photos that I took. I thought of Dad today as I was sitting at the tombstone.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Michael Jones

Found a photo of my stepson, Michael Jones, on the Internet today. Michael is currently serving in Iraq and is located “somewhere"" in Baghdad. He's a military policeman and will hopefully be coming home this September. Michael is on the far right.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Agnes Rogers Kostal

A photo of my maternal grandmother, Agnes Rogers Kostal, with two of her brothers -- Clarence Rogers (on the left) and Edward. My grandmother was born in 1898 (and passed away in 1987). We think this photo was taken sometime in 1901 when she was three years old. She was the second-youngest in the family. My Aunt Veronica (Babe), who was the youngest child, was born in 1902.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another sod house photo

Here is another photo of the sod house near Madrid where my grandmother, May Chamberlain Cornelius, was born. I originally wrote about this sod house back in October 2004. This photo was discovered among other photos while we were packing up my mother's belongings. I have not yet gone through all the other photos yet. What makes this photo special is what my grandmother wrote on the back of the photo:

Pioneer sod house built in 1886 southeast of Madrid, my father, George Chamberlain. I was born here in 1900. Soon after this picture was taken, the house was destroyed and replaced by a frame house.

This little sod house served as the family home from 1886 - 1904. My two sisters and three brothers were also born here.

So now we have the exact dates of the house.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Another Mom update

Just a brief update for family members who come across this blog. My mother returned home today. She had been in a nursing home for over three weeks rehabilitating her broken hip. She made pretty good progress while in the nursing home and now she needs to build on that progress.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Christmas 1963

This photo was part of our 1963 Christmas card. I found it as I was cleaning out my mother's house.

1963 Christmas card

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I guess I've posted enough photos of my family members so I thought I would post one of me. This is a photo taken by a professional photographer that we are using for our upcoming annual report. There was some time between photo shoots so he took some employee photos. He said this one makes me look like an Irish writer. I suppose there are worst things I could be called! I added a sepia tint in Photoshop to keep with the spirit of this blog.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Update on my mom

It's been several weeks (or more) since I've posted anything meaningful here. I do know that several of my family members check this humble blog out so I thought it would be easier to bring everyone up to date through this medium.

After 52 years of living in her home in Northbrook, Mom sold her house and moved in with us on February 15. When you consider the brutal market conditions, the sale of the house went pretty smoothly. She put the house on the market in August and immediately received interest from a number of parties. After a bit of negotiation, she accepted an offer around Thanksgiving and began plans to move.

The packing, cleaning and sorting was the most difficult part of the move. Mom's a "pack rack" and when you combine the need to save everything with a 52-year history in the same house, it was a recipe for disaster. After spending many weekends packing boxes and moving them to my house, we finally rented a dumpster and filled it to the top with "stuff." Her really good stuff was moved several years ago and was divided between my sister's house and my house. Thanks to her neighbors and friends, the house was finally cleaned up and the last box was loaded into my van.

Mom then attempted to settle into her new life in Elgin. She gave up her car when she moved out so she relied on me taking her to the store (which also served as her social release!). February was a brutal weather month in Chicago and Mom did not venture out of the house until the third week she lived with us.

Unfortunately, her fourth week was not a good week. On Saturday, March 8th, while she was getting ready to do her weekend shopping, Mom fell in her bedroom. I was in the kitchen and heard her fall, but the sound was very slight. When I ran into the room, she was already on all fours trying to get up. We eventually got her off the floor and had her sit on her bed. She felt no real pain and there was no bruising, swelling or discoloration. She did feel some pain when she tried to walk with our aid, but nothing that caused any alarm. She spent a quiet Saturday, but Sunday morning revealed that she was still having problems walking. I called the paramedics to take her to the hospital where X-rays revealed that she had broken her hip!

On Monday she had surgery where three pins were inserted into her hip. The actual incision was only 2-3 inches in length and the surgery lasted just over an hour. By Tuesday, they had her taking small, measured steps in her hospital room.

Last Wednesday she was moved to a rest home (they refer to it as a "transitional center") for physical therapy. That's where she is right now. She hates it and is itching to get out! Although she wants to be out for Easter, she will probably need to stay there for another week. She's making good progress, but needs to regain her strength and balance in order to move back to the house. With Lisa and me working all day, she will be by herself for several hours and needs to be able to walk to and from the bathroom and to and from the kitchen.

Once Mom does move back, the weather will hopefully be warmer making her feel more "at home" in her new home.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We're an American Band!

Here's an old photo I found in my mother's basement as we are cleaning out her home in preparation for her move. (She is moving in with us in Elgin.) I took lessons at an accordion studio in Ravinia, Illinois for several years back in the '60s. We won several band and individual awards and the studio owners decided to sit all of us (including those crazy guitar students!) for a group portrait along with all the "hardware" we won. I'm curious where everyone is now.
We're an American Band!