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Archive for October, 2013

Stalking the Dead

A grade school teacher once asked my son, “What does your mom do?” He replied; “She stalks dead people.” Certainly not your typical response. It took the teacher a minute to figure out what he meant by that.

My most recent “stalking victim” has been my paternal grandfather, Grover Weston Ramsell. He was born 5 December 1884 in Cornish, York, Maine, and died 28 June 1949,  in Los Angeles, California, at age 64, The picture below is the only one I’ve ever seen of him.

Grover Weston Ramsell head shotGrover Weston “Wes” Ramsell c 1938

His early life has always been a bit of a mystery, beginning with his parentage. In May of 1942 (at age 57), my grandfather sent for a copy of his birth certificate. He received the following notarized document back from Florence B. Watkins, Town Clerk in Cornish, Maine .

Grover Weston Ramsell Birth CertificateGrover Weston Ramsell  Birth Certificate

I found it interesting that the birth information was obtained, not from an original birth record, but rather from a sworn affidavit given by a man named John L. Woodbury, who was of no relation to the family.  As it turns out, John L. Woodbury was a neighbor of Grover’s paternal uncle, John Ramsell, in Cornish, Maine back in 1884, the year of his birth.

The  document lists as the parents of Grover Weston Ramsell, Weston Ramsell, a barber by trade, and Lillian B. Decker, a housewife, both born in Maine . It also says that they lived in Cornish at that time. I can find no record of their marriage, or of them ever having lived together in Cornish, or anywhere else.
 
The only record I could find for Weston Ramsell, other than Grover’s birth record, was on the 1860 Census for Cornish, York , Maine . He was 7 years old and living with his parents, Ira Ramsell (1830-1880) and Martha Wentworth Ramsell (1810-?), and four older siblings.  His birth date in 1852 would have made him age 33 at the time of my grandfather’s birth.

Weston Ramsell 1860 Census 15 June 1860 Cornish, York, Maine

1860 Census Cornish, York, Maine, United States
Taken: 15 June 1860

 

The only Lillian Decker I could find, born in Maine, was a Florence  Lillian Decker born 3 January 1871, in Clinton, Kennebec, Maine.  If she is the correct Lillian Decker,  then she would have been 13 years old (just one month shy of her 14th birthday) at the time of my grandfather’s birth in December of 1884.

I have no actual evidence as to where my grandfather lived during the years between his birth and June of 1900.  I remember hearing somewhere that he lived with his paternal uncle, John Ramsell (1845-1891) and his wife, Juliana Hennessey Ramsell (1853-1932), when he was a little boy.  His uncle John died in July of 1891 when Grover  was just 6 years old. If he did live with them, it would explain how the neighbor might have known who his biological parents were.

On the U.S. Federal Census dated 2 June 1900, Grover, age 15, is living with the Edwin Ridlon family, in Porter Town, Oxford, Maine. He is listed as a boarder and was attending school. As far as I know, Grover was not related to this family and have no idea how he would have come to live with them.

Grover Weston Ramsell 1900 United States Federal Census1900 U.S. Federal Census Porter Town, York, Maine, taken  2 June 1900

The Ridlon family consisted of:  father, Edwin Ridlon age 38, mother, Minnie Hodge Ridlon age 34, son. Sidney H. Ridlon age 15, and daughter, Elsie Mae Ridlon age 13, who was two years younger than Grover.  I thought it was of particular note that my grandfather named his oldest child and first daughter, Elsie Mae.

Grover Weston Ramsell 1900 United States Federal Census1900 U.S. Federal Census Porter Town, York, Maine, taken  2 June 1900

On 27 June 1906, my grandfather, recorded here as G. Weston Ramsell, married Harriet Thomas (1884-1970) in Portland, Cumberland, Maine. His occupation at the time was in shipping. From this record forward, my grandfather went by a short version of his middle name Weston, “Wes”.

G. Weston Ramsell & Harriet Thomas Marriage RecordG. Weston Ramsell & Harriet Thomas Marriage Record pg #1
27 June 1906

On the second page of the marriage record, Wes lists his parents as Weston Ramsell and Lillian Davis (not Decker, hmmm…), and states that they are both deceased.

Grover Weston Ramsell & Harriet Thomas Marriage Record pg #2 G. Weston Ramsell & Harriet Thomas Marriage Record pg #2
27 June 1906

On 20 October 1906 Wes and Harriet welcomed their first child, Elsie Mae Ramsell, born just 4 months after they were married.

Elsie Mae Ramsell Birth Record 20 October 1906Elsie Mae Ramsell Birth Record 20 October 1906, South Portland, Cumberland, Maine

The  1910 Census shows the Ramsell family address as 49 Douglass St., Libbytown, Portland, Cumberland, Maine. The following picture is of the “triplex” that they lived in. It was a three family dwelling (one family per floor) with the Ramsell family living on the top floor. Their rent per month was $26.00.

 The triplex was built in 1906, and was owned by John H. Rich in 1924. An appraisal report from 1924 (which I found totally fascinating) estimated the value of the property at $4834. It was reported to be in:

Fair condition, with a clapboard exterior,  flat gravel roof, block foundation, full cement basement, steam heating, open plumbing, set tubs, hardwood floors, plain glass windows and plaster ceilings.

And…..wait for it…

49 Douglass St., (2) Portland, Maine, United States47-49 Douglass St., Portland, Cumberland, Maine c 1924

….the building is still standing! Looks pretty good for 107!

49 Douglass St47-49 Douglass St., Libbytown, Portland, Cumberland, Maine c 2013

Wes and Harriet welcomed their second daughter, Helen Ramsell born 4 April 1912, in Portland, Maine. Not long after Helen was born, Wes and Harriet split up. In a city directory for Portland, Maine, dated 1913, Wes is recorded as  living by himself at 49 Brown Street.

By 1915 my grandfather had moved to Los Angeles, California.

On his WWI Draft Registration card, dated 12 September 1918, Wes listed his wife’s name as “Mrs. Annie (Annette Misner) Ramsell”, when in fact they weren’t married until July of the following year.

G Weston Ramsell WWI Draft Registration Card

Grover Weston Ramsell WWI Draft Registration Card pg#2G. Weston Ramsell WWI Draft Registration Card 12 September 1918

My grandfather indicated, on the below marriage certificate to Annette, that this was the first tine he’d ever been married.  I discovered later that my father and his siblings, and possibly my grandmother Annette, never knew about Wes’ first wife and children.

Grover Weston Ramsell & Annette Marie Misner Marriage RecordG. Weston Ramsell & Annette “Annie” Marie Misner Marriage Certificate 21 July 1919, Los Angeles, California

Wes and Annette went on to have five children;

Roy Gerald RamsellRoy Gerald Ramsell
(1923-1965)

Jean Irene Ramsell

Jean Irene Ramsell(1925-2011)

Ruth M. RamsellRuth M. Ramsell
(1924-1933)

Irene RamsellIrene Catherine Ramsell
(1928-1970)

John Weston Ramsell c1953John Weston Ramsell
(1932-1970)

My grandfather, Grover Weston Ramsell died on 28 June 1949, in Los Angeles, California. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, California.

Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, California Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, California

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