Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mother Elizabeth Simington and her Blood Purifier

Elizabeth and James Simington
Courtesy of Dannielle Petrick

My current favourite mode of research is checking out databases of historical newspapers. This led me to discover more about my three times great aunt, Elizabeth Crawford Simington, who was a minor celebrity in her corner of Iowa for her production of “Mother Simington’s Blood Purifier”. I am grateful to Dannielle Petrick for her permission to use the above photo, and for providing me with further information about Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Simington, born Eiizabeth Crawford, was the sister of my great great grandmother Jane Crawford Monk, also known as Jennie. Elizabeth and Jane were both born in Ireland, likely in the Belfast area, and came to Canada with their siblings, parents and at least two uncles and their families, in the 1840’s. Both Elizabeth and Jennie referred to themselves interchangeably as “Scotch” and “Irish”, which likely indicates that they were born in Ireland of Scottish descent. Elizabeth was born to John Crawford and Margaret Diamond Crawford, both Protestants, on September 9, 1831, and married James Simington, also Irish, in 1855 in Ontario, Canada. They had eleven children, at least the first six of which were born in Canada. Most, if not all, of the whole Crawford extended family moved on the United States in the mid 1850’s, the majority going to Iowa, and mostly to Winneshiek county, including Elizabeth’s sister Jennie and my great grandmother Susan Monk. Elizabeth and James were late to make the Iowa move, which occurred around 1869. They moved directly to the town of Dickens in Clay County, where Jennie and her husband Jacob Monk, a.k.a. “Jake”, also resided. It is not clear which of the two families moved there first, but it seems that the sisters must have been close, as it appears that there were no other Crawford relations living in the area. With their families, they are both considered to be early settlers of the area.

In about 1896, at the age of sixty-five, Elizabeth patented and started manufacturing her “blood purifier” out of her home. It was sold in drugstores, by agents in Iowa, and by Elizabeth herself. A family story related to me by her great great granddaughter, Dannielle Petrick, is that Elizabeth and her granddaughter Mabel used to travel the countryside in a covered wagon selling the elixir. She apparently knew all the old settlers in the district. It was also sold nationwide, and Elizabeth received testimonials from all over the country about its efficacy for many ailments. According to a newspaper advertisement I found in the October 4, 1899 Emmetsburg Democrat, it was apparently a panacea for every disease known to man, from liver ailments to cancer. I have not been able to ascertain the ingredients, but “blood purifiers” of the age were often potions of herbal ingredients such as sarsaparilla and echinacea.

From the Emmetsburg Democrat, October 4, 1899

Her husband James Simington passed away in 1899, the same year as the advertisement above. Elizabeth manufactured the blood purifier until about 1918, when at the age of about eighty-seven she was too old to continue. As a side note, as part of my research for this article, I discovered that Elizabeth must have visited her daughter Margaret Ann Chapman in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada in 1911,  at the age of eighty, as she appears on the 1911 Census of Canada with Margaret and her family. It was also interesting to discover that the Melvin Hart family was not the only family on my tree to migrate to Alberta from Iowa. So far, I have found no direct connection between the families, except that they were related and they would have known each other, both having lived in the same town in Iowa for many years.

Elizabeth Simington passed away on February 22, 1926 of old age and a heart ailment at the age of ninety-four, (the same age at which her sister Jennie died), at the home of her daughter, Della Marquette in Dickens. She is buried with her husband in the Dickens Cemetery. Only three of her eleven children had survived her.  Her funeral, held on February 23rd, was at the Methodist Church, as she, like Jennie, and many in the extended family, was a Methodist from an early age. According to one of her obituaries, she liked to read the Bible, and had a good portion of it memorized.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dell M. Hart 1880-1918

Alva, George and Dell Hart
about 1905

Dell Hart, my great uncle, and brother of my grandfather, George Leslie Hart, has been a bit of a mystery. His sister Lottie Hart does not mention him in her accounts of the family in the Lougheed Alberta local history books, Verdant Valleys In and Around Lougheed or Cambridge School District Memories. I originally found him on a U.S. census, and then in a photo in my mother’s possession. Dell was the one child of Melvin J. Hart who did not emigrate with the family to Alberta, Canada. In 1905, the year the rest of the family moved to Canada, Dell is still living with them in Freeman, Clay, Iowa.

 Interestingly, they are living next door to the family of John Monk, his uncle and the brother of his mother, Susan Monk Hart. It appears that the Harts were quite close to many of the Monks. There are several newspaper articles, especially from Spencer, Iowa, documenting the visits of the Harts to various members of the Monk family after they have moved to Canada. Both the Monks and the Harts tended to emigrate in family groups, sometimes quite large, from place to place. The Melvin Hart family is an exception to this rule in that they move as a single family, it appears, to Rock Island, Texas and to Lougheed, Alberta. Prior to that, Melvin always had followed or accompanied family members whenever he changed residence, (i.e. New York to Minnesota, and Minnesota to Iowa). The Monks had always emigrated in large groups, even “colonies”. It appears that Dell’s grandfather, Jacob Monk, may have moved to Oxford Township in Ontario, Canada from New York State with a whole community of people, who were possibly a religious congregation. (I will be looking into this further). When the Monks came to Iowa, they appear to have come with several families of Crawfords, the relatives of Jacob Monk’s wife, Jane (a.k.a. “Jennie”) Crawford, who had originally come from Northern Ireland to Canada.

What I am getting to is that Dell may have followed his uncle Daniel “Dan” Monk to North Dakota, where he spent the rest of his life. In the Spencer Herald on February 11, 1903 it is reported, “Dan Monk will move to North Dakota in the spring. George and Dell Hart will work the farm on which Mr. Monk now lives”. The next we hear of Dell after 1905, is that he has married Nellie Bernice Penfield on March 24, 1908 in Bismarck, North Dakota. Nellie is also from Iowa, likely a widow, and is a single mother of two children, Ethel May Lane and Leo Merland Lane. She is six years older than Dell. In 1910, they are found living as a family in Pleasant Hill, Kidder, North Dakota on a farm owned by Dell. Land maps from 1912 show that Dell not only has land in Pleasant Hill, but also owns land in Driscoll, Burleigh, North Dakota, where he is living and farming by 1918.

The one piece of evidence that I have yet found that Dell’s father and my great grandfather Melvin J. Hart ever left Canada after settling there is that he is listed on the North Dakota State Cenus for 1915 as probably part of Dell’s household. “Melvin Hart” is at the end of the page and not listed after Dell and Nellie, but this may have been an error on the part of the census taker, as Dell’s household is listed as having three people in it, and only two are listed together, and “Melvin Hart” follows a family of four, when if he belonged in It he would have been the fifth member. Therefore, I am going out on a very short limb and am going to say that this Melvin Hart, who is the correct age, belongs to us. My guess is that he was visiting Dell at the time of the Census. This may have been the last time they saw each other. This may also be an indicator that there was no rift in the family when Dell chose not to emigrate to Canada with the rest of the family.

On August 3, 1916, Dell’s only child, Vivian Lorraine Hart was born, known as “Lorraine” as a child. What I currently know about her was that she was the first person listed in a newspaper article about a piano recital in Bismarck at the age of eleven, and married a man called Sturdevant William Kennedy, likely in California, and lived most of her life in the Los Angeles area. So far, I haven’t found any evidence of her having had any children. Sturdevant, who had been an accountant, died in 1979, and Vivian Lorraine died in 2004 of the West Nile Virus. She had been in the hospital for two weeks, and had been in a coma. Her neighbours stated that she liked to sit out on the porch, where she may have been bitten by an infected mosquito.

Dell died on October 17, 1918 at the age of thirty-eight at the height of the 1918 flu pandemic in North Dakota. I do not know that he died of the flu, but it is a strong possibility as he fit the profile of the people who typically died of it, that is, a fairly young adult. Nellie died on February 16, 1959 in Torrance, California. She and Dell are both buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Steele, Kidder, North Dakota.