Montgomery, Montgomery Line

Employed by a Cult

Sometimes you uncover family history facts and immediately comprehend their significance; other times you write down the facts and only later realize how important or interesting they are. I had the latter experience recently when I discovered that my great-granduncle, Joseph Theodore Montgomery, was employed by a cult. But let me take a step back.

Joseph was the sixth son born to John and Mary Ann Belinda (Simmons) Montgomery. He was born 16 July 1872 in Olney, Illinois. His oldest brother was my great-grandfather, Charles William Montgomery. Some time ago I had seen a clipping of his 1945 obituary on Ancestry.com, dutifully saved it to my files and updated my records, but didn’t dig any deeper.

Then I got interested in podcasts. I haven’t started listening to genealogy podcasts yet (though I have a lot of them saved and waiting), so this is an example of two worlds colliding, more or less. Mostly I listen to true crime podcasts (any murderinos out there?), but I also listen to podcasts on other semi-morbid topics, like one called Zealot, by Jo Thornely, which digs into the stories of various cults. As with a lot of podcasts, a major colorful-language warning goes along with this one, and sometimes the impact these groups have had on others are pretty grim.

But in episode 19, the podcast discusses the House of David, a religious movement founded in 1903 in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The group, among other beliefs, promoted communal living, prohibited cutting their hair, and operated numerous business enterprises, including an electricity plant, amusement park, musical groups, a cannery, and a barnstorming baseball team. I shared this story with my brother, who even purchased his own replica House of David cap and jersey. Here he is, modeling the hat last October (along with Ben and Dad):

Matt (in House of David cap), Ben, and Ted Montgomery

So what does this have to do with Joseph Montgomery? I’ve been trying to do some major organizing and overhauling of my genealogy files, thanks in large part to the American Records Certificate from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies I am now pursuing. As part of this overhaul I ran across Joseph’s obituary again, and now the part I’d glossed over before jumped out at me: “Mr. Montgomery…was chief of the refrigeration plant of the House of David cold storage plant…”

Of course, I had to delve into this further. I learned that the House of David had the world’s largest open-air fruit and vegetable market (the Benton Harbor Fruit Market), and the cold storage plant, which was completed in 1937, enabled farmers to store their produce rather than having to sell it right away. So it’s no wonder Joseph’s position as chief of the refrigeration plant got prominent notice in his obituary. Unfortunately, the plant was demolished in the 1990s after it was heavily damaged by fire.

Benton Harbor Fruit Market; cold storage building in the background

This was almost up there with discovering my connection to Lizzie Borden! Unfortunately, it does not appear that Joseph Montgomery had a long crazy beard or played baseball (his funeral was officiated by a Methodist minister), but he was definitely cult-adjacent, and now Matt has even more reason to sport his cool hat.

The Herald Press (Saint Joseph, Michigan), December 1, 1945

#52Ancestors, Blogging Prompts, Family News, Hoffmann, Hoffmann Line, Montgomery, Montgomery Line, Oral History

Start: High School Sweethearts

Mom and Dad, 1962

So it’s January 2. As usual, I’ve made about 45962 resolutions, one of which is to resurrect this genealogy blog. I’m trying something new this year; I recently came across Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Each week has its own prompt, intended to encourage selecting one ancestor or relative to share in some way.

This week’s post? “Start.” There are many ways to interpret that one (the system describes the prompts as “intentionally vague”), but for me, and for all of us, we get our start from our parents. So where did my parents’ shared story start?

For Theodore Richard (Ted) Montgomery and Linda Jo Hoffmann, that start was in the first grade. They were in the same class at Van Buren Elementary in Caldwell, Idaho, though both had been born elsewhere (Mom in Portland, Oregon; Dad in Scottsbluff, Nebraska). Both have very different memories of that first grade class, as well, and not much memory of each other at that time. Mom seems to have a fairly positive memory of the class; for Dad, everything was marred by the fact that during a fire drill on the very first day, he asked the teacher (who shall remain anonymous) if there was a real fire, and she slapped him. I don’t like that teacher much, but she is long since dead. I checked.

Mom and Dad continued through school together, but it wasn’t until they were in high school that they had much contact. If I have my story straight, they got to know each other as more than just vague acquaintances toward the end of their junior year. The following summer, while Mom visited relatives in Illinois, Dad wrote her letters. A lot of them. At some point in here, they had their first date, playing miniature golf. Mom won. It wasn’t until Homecoming of their senior year, however, that they became more serious – Mom was elected Caldwell High School’s Homecoming Queen for 1959, and Dad was her escort and crowned her during the game. At least I think it was during the game; a secondary goal for 2018 is to gather more oral history details from family….

Soon after Homecoming, Mom and Dad began going steady. They dated all through their senior year and graduated in May 1960. Both attended the College of Idaho for one semester that fall (both had scholarships to cover that much college), but they knew already that they wanted to get married and start their lives together and not just “soak up knowledge,” as Mom accused my brother and me of doing when we went on for impractical degrees in English/Classics (Matt), and Medieval Studies (me).

They were engaged in December 1960 (again, I’m waiting for Mom to correct me if I’ve got that wrong). Dad then went to work at The Crookham Company, and Mom took classes at a business school. They were married at Grace Lutheran Church in Caldwell on August 26, 1961, which was also Dad’s father’s 60th birthday. Dad was 19, and Mom was still 18; she would turn 19 in about 6 more weeks. They would wait more than a decade to start a family; my brother was born in December 1971, and I in April 1974. But I still consider that first grade classroom where their shared history first began.

One final postscript: Mom and Dad’s glamorous honeymoon was spent at the 7K Motel in Garden City, a suburb of Boise. Like their marriage, the 7K is still in existence, 56 years later.

 

 

Blogging Prompts, Montgomery, Montgomery Line, Sympathy Saturday

Sympathy Saturday – Manhattan (the Kansas One)

 

My mom and I attended the National Genealogical Society‘s annual conference last week.  I’d never been before – what a great experience! I’m now determined to bring some semblance of organization to not only my genealogy files and records, but also to my genealogical searches. So now my genealogy tasks are threefold:

  1. Continue the never-ending census project (tracing all families in the “easy” censuses, from 1850-1940)
  2. Share my various findings through this blog
  3. Select one mystery or problem, and focus on trying to solve that in a structured and organized way

First mystery? Trying to trace the elusive Montgomery family’s origins in this country (or at least back another generation from William Montgomery, my 3G-grandfather, born 1802).

With this aim in mind I’ve been focusing more on those Montgomery connections, so Joseph (William’s son and my 3G-uncle) seems a logical topic for today’s post. Joseph S. Montgomery was born in August 1847 in Ohio, son of William and Mary Ann (Extell) Montgomery. He was the eighth of thirteen children and on New Year’s Eve in 1874, he married Sarah Ann Achor.  Joseph, Sarah, and their first child, Viola, then five years old, appear in the 1880 census, enumerated in Clarke, Clinton County, Ohio.

By 1900 the family had moved to Liberty Township, Geary County, Kansas.  Viola is no longer in the household, but two new children are listed – J.W., a son born in February 1882 in Ohio; and Vellah, a daughter born in August 1886 in Kansas.  In 1910 and 1920, J.W. is not with the family, but Joseph, Sarah, and Vellah continue to live in the same household. Sarah died in 1923; by 1940 Vellah, unmarried, is listed as head of the household in Lawrence, with Joseph enumerated as her 92-year-old father.  He would live six more years, dying in 1946 at nearly 99 years of age.  Vellah lived to be 87, dying in April 1974.  Joseph, Sarah, and Vellah are all buried together in Sunset Cemetery in Manhattan, Kansas.