52 Ancestors: Week #16 – Live Long

The prompt for Week #16 of the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Challenge is LIVE LONG. Time to feature a long-lived ancestor.


“Grandma Witzke,” c. 1952

My maternal great grandmother was born Emma Baxter. She was born in Indiana in 1868, brought to Colorado as a small child with her pioneering parents, Alonzo and Elizabeth Robinson Baxter, married George Witzke, an Austrian-born stone mason, and with him had ten children, three boys and seven girls. She died in 1962 in Florida at the age of 93. Emma was married to George Witzke for 40 years; “Grandma Witzke” was widowed for more than 30 years. I know some facts about Emma’s years as a widow, but I’d like to know more.

I met Grandma Witzke at least one time. I might have been around ten years old, and although I don’t remember the circumstances surrounding the meeting, she made a distinct impression on me. She was probably the oldest person I’d ever met, a tiny woman in a wheelchair, which put her at about my height, face to face. I remember being rather terrified of her, and not really understanding who she was. CA02515The most astounding thing about her to me was her enormous (enormous, as it seemed to me, but it probably wasn’t) ear trumpet. She held that thing to her ear, and anyone speaking to her had to yell into it. I was told, “Go ahead, Becky, talk into Grandma Witzke’s ear trumpet, and be sure you speak up.” Good Lord, I had no idea what to say to her, but I must have managed something, because she yelled back at me, with a high-pitched wail that I will never forget, “Aaaaayy???” Now being deaf is no joke, especially before hearing aids were perfected, and poor Emma it seems was profoundly deaf. But you would think that someone would have prepared me for meeting this old lady with her ear trumpet. That’s my one and only memory of Grandma Witzke.


1930 | 26 Feb. George Witzke died from injuries in a car accident in Raton, Colfax County, New Mexico, where he was living at the time of his death at age 64. article_car_accidentHe was living at 335 Cook Ave. The informant for the death certificate was Mrs. Francis Beacham (Emma), George and Emma’s second daughter. He died a Miner’s Hospital. The death certificate indicates he had been living in Raton for about eight years.

1930 | 10 Apr. Emma Witzke is found in the 1930 U.S. census for Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa. She is living with her oldest daughter, Ernestine Messer, and Ernestine’s husband Leon. Ernie and Leon never had children. Leona Witzke is living with them, Emma’s 28-year-old single daughter, as is Emma, age 61, and Emma’s two youngest children, Nina, age 16 and Violet, age 13.

I guess I’m just naturally curious and skeptical, but the dates of these two records make me wonder if there is some detail that’s missing. George Witzke died unexpectedly. He was 64 years old and still working as a stone mason, a fact also recorded on the death certificate. He died on 26 Feb, and barely six weeks later his widow and two teenaged daughters are living in Sioux City, Iowa. It seems like fast work for Emma and her two young daughters to have moved 800 miles away from New Mexico to Iowa only 6 weeks after the death of their husband and father. I have a suspicion that Emma and her daughters might already have been living with Ernie and Leon when George Witzke’s accident occurred. Or perhaps the two girls were living there, and after George’s death Emma joined them? Otherwise, it would seem more logical that Nina, age 16 and Violet, age 13 would have finished out the school year in Raton before they moved to Iowa.

The photos I have of this period are more problematic than they are helpful. One of them comes from a collection

to be continued . . .

I’m moving soon, so I have to put away my genealogy until we get settled in our new place. This challenge has been a lot of fun. I’ll be back when life settles down a bit.


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52 Ancestors: Week #15: How do you spell that?


Tjerk Jacobus Roorda, aka Richard James Roorda, c. 1925, age 37

The prompt for Week #15 of the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Challenge is HOW DO YOU SPELL THAT? What ancestor do you imagine was frequently asked that? Which ancestor did you have a hard time finding because of an unusual name?

My paternal grandfather was Tjerk Jacobus Roorda, born in 1887 in the province of Friesland, Netherlands. When he emigrated to Iowa in 1902 at the age of 14, leaving his parents and siblings behind in Friesland, he changed his name to Richard James Roorda. I’ve never heard the story of his name change–why he choose Richard James–so therefore all I can do is speculate about his choice.

It’s easy to imagine why my grandfather changed his first name. The name “Tjerk” doesn’t sound quite so much in Dutch like the work “jerk” as it does in English, but because of the similarity to the English word, I doubt that there were very many Dutch emigrants named Tjerk who didn’t change their name, pretty fast, once they got here. I know of one other “Tjerk” in the family (I won’t go for the easy joke there–ha), and his name became Dirk. My grandfather was commonly known as “Dick,” so it’s reasonable to assume that he chose Dick to replace his first name and then elevated the nickname to the more formal “Richard.”

“Jacobus” was his father’s name. Dutch naming conventions are very particular. In her blog about Dutch Genealogy, professional genealogist Yvette Hoitink has this informative post: Quick tip: naming patterns. In a Dutch family, the first son was named after the paternal grandfather. Since my grandfather was the family’s first son, he was named after his father’s father–Tjerk Jans Roorda. His middle name was his father’s first name, Jacobus Tjerks Roorda. The “Tjerk/Tjerks” names go back through the generations in this Roorda family, Tjerk when it’s used as a first name and Tjerks when it’s the middle name (probably used, in the middle name, as the equivalent “son of,” so in this case, Tjerks = son of Tjerk). All of my grandfather’s male siblings have “Jacobus” as a middle name. According to Yvette Hoitink’s post, the English equivalent of Jacobus would be “Jacob.” So it’s interesting that my grandfather changed his middle name Jacobus to James.

So it was that the newly-minted immigrant Tjerk Jacobus Roorda became Richard James Roorda, known as Dick or often just by his initials, RJR.


Naturalization Certificate for Richard James Roorda. RJR was naturalized in 1921; this certificate is dated 1961.

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52 Ancestors: Week #14: Favorite Photo

The prompt for Week #14 of 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Challenge is FAVORITE PHOTO: Who is in a favorite photo of yours? Tell the story of the photo itself–where was it taken, what was the event?52ancestors_2015_14

I love old photographs, and I love the detective work that goes into figuring them out. Someone who has managed to make a career out of their love for old photographs is Maureen Taylor, who bills herself on her website as THE PHOTO DETECTIVE. Her book is also excellent: Family Photo Detective: Learn how to find Genealogy Clues in old photos and solve Family Photo Mysteries.

One of my favorite photographs came to me a couple of years ago in a collection of papers (actually, it was a huge cardboard box) that belonged to my maternal great grand uncle, George Baxter, son of my 2x great grandparents, Alonzo Baxter and Elizabeth Robinson Baxter. George was a rancher who made lists of everything–like the daily temperature outside his barn for 47 years. By the time he retired from ranching, he was one of the longest-living residents of Prowers County, Colorado, and he became something of an amateur county historian, collecting information about his family and the county and giving talks that he illustrated with enlarged photos. There’s a receipt in his papers that shows he donated those photos to the Colorado Historical Society in Denver, which is now the History Colorado Center. I’m dying to see this collection, and I’ve made it a must-do on my next research trip to Colorado.




The photo is 8″ x 7″; the cardboard mount is 10.5″ x 8.5″.

There is an embossed photographer’s studio imprint in the right lower corner that I can’t read. It looks to be a stylized cursive stamp of the studio name–either one name of about 10 letters or two short names. Later I’ll discuss a possible location for this photo and then look to see if the name of the photographer might be found, based on the location. It’s possible that one of these families used this photographer for other photos that are in my collection. I’ll put that on the to-do list–to see if I can find a photographer’s stamp that is legible that appears to be the same as this one. Update: I went through every photo in George’s collection, but none of them have a stamp that looks like the one on this photo.

There is no writing on the front or the back of the photo.

The photo does not appear to have been altered.

One of the interesting aspects of this photo is that, unlike other studio photographs, the people aren’t perfectly groomed. This is particularly evident with some of the children, who look like they were grabbed in the middle of playing some game, their hair not particularly combed and their ribbons not straight. Alonzo Baxter, who normally looks so handsome in all of his studio portraits, looks in this one like someone said to him, right before the photo was shot–“Take off your hat, Alonzo!”

Dating the Image

This photograph is unique in my collection in that the others I have of these families are either a good deal earlier or later. I was so excited to find this photograph, because it shows all the women before they bobbed their hair. It also shows my grandmother as a little girl at an age that is undocumented in any other photo I have of her. Based on the apparent age of my grandmother in this photo and other internal clues, my best date for this photo is sometime in 1907, probably spring or fall, since the clothes they’re wearing would have been very hot for summer.

The Families of this Photo

When I set out to identify everyone in this photo, I knew for sure who several of the people in it were. This was a multi-family, extended family photo that included the patriarch and matriarch, Alonzo and Elizabeth Baxter. Also included were many of their children, plus grandchildren. Some of the easiest people to identify in this photo weren’t blood relations, but rather they were the in-laws–George Witzke, Tom Sanborn, Welby Fertig, and Etta Pearl Hodge Baxter–all married to children of Alonzo and Elizabeth. What was a more difficult was to identify Alonzo and Elizabeth’s daughters, since there was such a family resemblance between them and also they hadn’t yet bobbed their hair, so they looked very different from the later photos of them that are part of my collection. The grandchildren tended to be more difficult still, although there were two who I knew for sure–the little boy and girl sitting together in front.

The Grandchildren

These are the children, as of 1907, appearing in the group photo of George and Emma Baxter Witzke. Of course I had to convince myself that I had each one right.


The little girl sitting in the front is my maternal grandmother, Margie Witzke. She is there with her parents and siblings. Like her mother and grandmother, Margie had a prominent forehead, which helps in identifying her in the group photographs. In most of her early photos, she doesn’t appear to be particularly comfortable with being photographed. If this photograph was taken in 1907, then Margie was 7-8 years old.


If this photo was taken in the fall of 1907, then Margie had just turned 8 years old.

I looked closely at all of the other children, not only to identify them but also to see if their apparent ages fit the year I’ve assigned to the photo, 1907. The next are the two boys of Welby and Olive Baxter Fertig. Their apparent ages fit with the 1907 year. Margie is sitting next to her cousin, her pal Wendell Fertig. I think Margie and Wendell were of like minds. She was always well-turned-out, and it looks as if Wendell is one of those little boys who could be trusted not to get dirty in his Sunday clothes. Wendell almost has a “Little Lord Fauntleroy” look about him, probably due to his mother Olive’s prissy ideas about her two boys, her only children, a point of view that is evident in Ollie’s letters. That Fauntleroy look is ironic, since Wendell grew up to be a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army during WWII and gave the Japanese more than they bargained for on the Island of Mindanao.


My grandmother Margie was the daughter of George and Emma Baxter Witzke. Several of Margie’s siblings are found in the photo. These are my mother’s aunts and uncles, so Mom knew them well, although I never met them. My mother used to take out her photo collection and flip through them, telling me stories of her mother’s sisters. The oldest child was Earnestine, although she was always called Ernie.  Again, I confirmed the identification using other photos; the apparent date of 1907 would make Ernie 16 years old, which seems right for this girl.


Ernestine (Ernie) Witzke, daughter of Emma and George Witzke.

The second child of George and Emma is Emma Witzke. This one was a difficult identification, but process of elimination and also comparing this photo of her with photos at different ages convinced me I had identified her correctly. It doesn’t help that in this photograph she isn’t part of the Witzke family grouping.


Emma Witzke, daughter of George & Emma Witzke, age 13 in 1907.

The next child in line belonging to George and Emma Witzke is their third child and oldest son George. I didn’t identify him until late in the process, relying on process of elimination. In the earlier known photos of him, George always has a prominent part in his hair. This little boy does as well, although clearly his hair wasn’t combed right before the photo was taken. It makes logical sense that an 11-year-old would appear in a family photo and not be somewhere else that day, like working at a job. This boy isn’t sitting near his parents, George and Emma, perhaps for the simple reason that he wanted to sit near his playmate cousin.


George Witzke, age 11 in 1907, son of George and Emma Witzke.

George & Emma Witzke’s fourth child was Margie, my grandmother, who has been discussed. Their fifth child was Leona (not to be confused with her aunt Leona Baxter–an unfortunate confusion to this day in many of the family trees found at Ancestry.com).


Leona Witzke, daughter of George and Emma Baxter Witzke.

to be continued. . .Unfortunately, due to life getting in the way, this post isn’t going to be finished in time for Thursday’s Week #14 posting. I worked on this photo as an assignment for my Boston U genealogy course. I went through each person in the photo the way I did here for Margie Witzke and her cousin Wendell Fertig, proving to my own satisfaction each person’s identity. To my surprise I was able to identify the two “mystery people” who turned out to be Elizabeth Baxter’s sister and brother-in-law, visiting from Indiana, perhaps on their way to Oregon. It was an interesting exercise, and I learned a lot about photo identification.

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52 Ancestors: Week #13 of 52 – Preston Denton, 1811-1860

The prompt for Week #13 of the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Challenge is DIFFERENT: What ancestor seems to be your polar opposite?52ancestors_2015_13

Preston Denton, 1811-1860, my 3x great grandfather

I had trouble deciding who to write about this week, since so many of my ancestors lived lives so different from mine. So many of them were pioneer farmers with little formal education. Or they were railroaders. Very few were city dwellers involved in academia. However, I like to think I got my work ethic from these people, so in some ways I feel a very bedrock identification with most of them. One of them, however, seems to stand out as different from the others. In fact, the question I have about him, a question I can’t imagine asking about 99% of my ancestors, is this:

“Was Preston Denton a Ne’er-Do-Well”?*

Preston Denton was born to Jonathan and Susannah Conlee Denton in Barren County, Kentucky on 4 Dec 1811. He was the ninth of fourteen children. The family moved from Kentucky to Madison County, Illinois in 1820 when Preston was nine years old. While Preston’s siblings would eventually settle, at least for the most part, in Shelby County, Illinois, Preston seems never to have taken root anywhere. In every decade of his life, he had a new home. Here’s what I know of his many moves:

  • 1811 | Born in Barren County, Kentucky. The family was in Kentucky at least until 1816.
  • 1820 | 9-year-old Preston was living with the family in Madison County, Illinois. Maybe the family stayed there until Jonathan Denton’s death in 1828.
  • 1830 | 19-year-old Preston was in Montgomery County, Ill., still living with his mother and the younger children.
  • 1835 | 24-year-old Preston married Elizabeth Traughber in Shelby County, Ill.
  • 1836 | 25-year-old Preston bought land in Christian County, Ill. Shelby and Christian share a boundary line. His brothers Jonathan and Reuben also bought land in the area around the same time.
  • 1840 | 29-year-old Preston and his family are still in Christian County. Maybe the marriage to Elizabeth stabilized his life somewhat. Their land was next to land owned by Martin Stombaugh, who was married to Catherine Traughber, Elizabeth’s sister. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died in 1848, an event which may have precipitated another move.
  • 1850 | 39-year-old Preston was in Flat Branch Twp., Shelby County, Ill., married again but seemingly down on his luck, since the census shows him not owning any land of his own. His brothers, on the other hand, were prosperous landowners in the area. The census shows him living near his brother Reuben Denton, so I wonder if he wasn’t living on Reuben’s land.
  • 1855| 44 year-old Preston and family were still in Shelby County in 1855, but shortly after the Illinois State Census was taken, Preston moved again, this time to Birdville, Tarrant County, Texas. Did he move there with other families? How long did he stay? I can’t answer those questions, except that I know he was back in Shelby County, Illinois again before he died in 1860. I’ve never found his gravesite, but there’s a good chance he was buried in Cemetery Unknown (Campbell Cemetery).

So why do I refer to Preston Denton as a ne’er-do-well? I don’t call him that just because of his many moves, although the moves are a part of it. The 1850 census gives a good snapshot of what seemed to be going wrong with Preston’s life.


Preston Denton (“Denting”) in the 1850 U.S. census for Flat Branch Twp., Shelby County, Ill.

At the age of 38, with nine children of his own and a very young second wife, Preston evidently owned no land, since the “Value of Real Estate Owned” box is left blank. When he died ten years later at the age of 48, he left only a small amount of household items and also left small amounts of money in debt, owed to various men all over the neighborhood. What had gone wrong in Preston’s life that he seemed to be so different from his prosperous brothers?

Preston was the ninth of fourteen children, so it was probably easy to get overlooked in a group that size, especially coming in towards the end. Preston’s father died when he was 17 years old. On my shelf is a book about Abraham Lincoln and his family that calls up an interesting comparison between someone like Preston Denton and Abe’s father, Thomas Lincoln. The book is The Young Eagle, by Kenneth J. Winkle (2001). Thomas, writes Winkle, seems to have had difficulties all his life with “getting on,” and he relates this to the fact that Thomas’s father died at a young age, like Preston’s.

[Thomas’s] holdings were modest compared to those of his father, whose early death had definitely taken the Lincolns down in the world.

Preston’s father, Jonathan Denton, much like Thomas Lincoln’s father, was only 54 years old when he died, and Susannah Denton, Preston’s mother, had five children to raise who were younger than Preston. At the age of 17, Preston wasn’t old enough when his father died to be established on his own, yet he wasn’t really young enough to be a dependent part of his mother’s household. He was certainly old enough to be expected to work to help his mother, but working for his mother would have only delayed his ability to go out on his own. His older brothers, already established when their father died, were expected to continue to work their own land. The only brother younger than he was, Reuben, cared for his mother as he got older and was the one who inherited the family farm. Winkle could have been writing about Preston when he wrote about Thomas Lincoln:

Lacking a father’s example, perhaps, Thomas managed his land holdings carelessly for the rest of his life. In short, Thomas devoted little, if any, attention to leaving his son Abraham a landed patrimony of his own.

In 1838 when Preston was 26 years old, married to Elizabeth Traughber for three years and with two children in the family, Preston bought 40 acres of land in Christian County, Ill., paying $50 cash. Elizabeth died ten years later, in 1848, and by 1850 Preston owns no land, according to the 1850 census. Land records have yet to be researched to see what happened to Preston’s 40 acres. Several of Preston’s brothers bought land around the same time. Unlike Preston, by the 1850 census all of his brothers who lived in the area had increased their land by hundreds of acres. In the agricultural society that was mid-19th century Illinois, the worth of a man was measured by his land holdings. By this measure, Preston was seriously lacking.

Another description of Thomas Lincoln in Winkler struck me as something that might help illuminate Preston’s life in a more helpful way:

One of the Lincolns’ in-laws, Nathaniel Grigsby, remembered Thomas Lincoln as ‘not a lazy man’ but a ‘piddler–always doing but doing nothing great.’ Thomas ‘had but few wants and Supplied these. He wanted few things and Supplied them Easily’ (135).

“Always doing but doing nothing great” seems to fit my estimate of Preston. He seems to have been rather restlessly on the move, which also fits Winkler’s description of the pioneer vs. the civilizer:

Pioneers took the land from the Native Americans, broke it, and prepared the way for the ‘civilizers,’ who built towns and brought refinement. Yet the pioneers lost their independent way of life precisely as the land they clear grew civilized . . . . they ceased to live a frontier life when the frontier moved beyond them. One solution was simply to keep moving (147).

Which is what Preston did–keep moving. He married a second time shortly after his first wife died, had more children, and then made a lateral move to Birdville, Texas, a move which evidently did nothing to change Preston’s luck. He was in his mid-forties when he moved his family to Texas sometime after 1855; he moved them back to Shelby County, Ill. before he died at the age of 48 in 1860. Another comparison from Winkle might be helpful in understanding what was in Preston’s mind concerning this move to Texas. Abe Lincoln’s stepbrother, John D. Johnston, made the same sort of lateral move that Preston made, going from Illinois to Arkansas, and his brother Abe had some harsh words for him:

My life upon it, you will never after, own a spot big enough to bury you on (147).

Lincoln’s words seem to have been prophetic. John D. Johnson died at the age of 43, leaving an estate valued at less than $56. Preston’s probate record shows him to be in similar shape, owning what seems like a pitiful few worldly goods for a man of his age, the bare minimum even for a subsistence farmer. He owned one lot of oats; one lot of corn in the field; a hoe and an ax; one sheep, one gray horse, and one two-year-old colt; a cow and a calf; one churn, one tub, one washboard; one wagon & harness. He also had three beds and bedding, six chairs, and one stove.

So was Preston Denton a ne’re-do-well? He seems to have been, compared to his brothers, and certainly seems to have been one of those people who just couldn’t quite get on in life. And yet maybe there’s another way of looking at Preston’s life. Preston seems to have had the pioneer mindset, as Winkler describes. However, I found a different, perhaps less harsh description of the pioneer in a book written about Isabel Paterson, an original and influential thinker who wrote the 1943 book, The God of the Machine. Remembering her own family’s covered wagon trip to their new home in Canada when she was a child, Paterson suggested that pioneer life had a kind of peacefulness and monotony “which we suspect is what the pioneers wanted,” quotes her biographer Stephen Cox in The Woman and the Dynamo:

They tried to get away from the hazards of civilization, its demand on their nerves and brains, of competing, adapting, and sharing. . . . on the frontier, where freedom to loaf was more highly prized than hard work and stern ambition (172).

Maybe Preston Denton was a man like this, someone who prized his freedom more than he prized “getting ahead”; someone who really didn’t give a damn about what other people “expected” of him; someone who was content to live and let live. If that was the case, then maybe in many ways I’m more like Preston that I thought.

I can’t know what was in Preston Denton’s mind and heart. He left precious little trace of himself. He can’t have been expecting to die at the age of 48. The 1860 census shows that Preston’s widow and some of their younger children had moved in with the family of Preston’s nephew, his young wife evidently not having a home of her own once Preston died. His legacy was to leave his family in perilous shape, as further illustrated by the fate of his oldest son. In the way that he was failed by his own father, Preston evidently failed to provide a patrimony of some kind for his eldest son, either land or education or skill. Preston’s son, Fleming Denton, never married, never had a home of his own, and died in the county poorhouse, a fact that seems to be an indictment of the father as much as it is of the son. Or maybe it’s no indictment at all, but is simply the way of the world, the luck of the draw. Preston had another son, Jonathan, my 2x great grandfather, who managed better than his father or his older brother–a story for another day.



Cox, Stephen. The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America. Transaction Publishers, Brunswick, New Jersey, 2004.

Winkle, Kenneth J. The Young Eagle: The Rise of Abraham Lincoln. Taylor Trade Publishing, Dallas, Texas, 2001.

*I’ve posted a version of this story at Ancestry.com, shared as “labwriter.”


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Researching the Baxter Sisters, Ancestors #12 / 52

Here is the main post for the Baxter Sisters, Daisy, Minnie, and Leona, Ancestors #12/52


The Baxter Sisters: (standing, left to right) Minnie, Olive, Emma. Seated in front–Daisy, Leona. The year is about 1926.

The Baxter Sisters in the Records

I notice that Amy Johnson Crow, the originator of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, is going to be speaking in April at the Ohio Genealogical Society conference. One of her topics is “Timelines: The Swiss Army Knife of Genealogical Research.” I hugely wish I could be there to hear her talk. I’m a great believer in the efficacy of using timelines in genealogy research. I started using them after participating in a Webinar put on by the Illinois State Genealogy Society (ISGS), presented by Laura G. Prescott. [The ISGS puts on free Webinars on the first Tuesday of every month. You don’t have to be a member. All you do is sign up at their website:  ISGS Webinars.] One of the main benefits I’ve found from creating timelines is that when you conflate an ancestor’s timeline with those of people in the family or others in the community, what often happens is that you end up “creating” new information. Connections pop out at you that hadn’t been visible before. I love timelines, and I only wish I’d started using them 20 years ago.

So here’s the conflated timeline I’m working on for the three Baxter sisters, Daisy, Minnie, and Leona. These things are always a work in progress, which is one of the aspects of timelines I really like–they can so easily be added to.

1876 | 28 Jun. Born, Daisy Jessie Baxter. Fourth child of Alonzo and Elizabeth Baxter.

1878 | 12 Oct. Born, Minnie May Baxter. Fifth child of Alonzo and Elizabeth Baxter.

1880 | Federal Census. The family was residing in what was then Bent County, Colorado (later Prowers County). Alonzo, their father, is a farmer. There are four children: Emma, age 10, George, age 8, Olive, age 5, Daisy, age 3, and Minnie, age 1.


1883 | Sep. Born, Leona L. Baxter. Seventh child of Alonzo and Elizabeth Baxter. Leona was born in Coolidge, Hamilton County, Kansas, the only child of Alonzo and Elizabeth, besides their two oldest, not to be born in Colorado. The family lived in Coolidge for a short time around the time of Leona’s birth. It took me a long time to figure out why Leona’s place of birth in all the census records was always “Kansas.” I can’t believe I don’t have an exact DOB for Leona. I need to order her death certificate.

1890 | Family portrait. I don’t know where the family was living in 1890, but I think they might have moved to Trinidad, Colorado and that’s where this family portrait was taken. Photo from the papers of George Baxter.


Alonzo H. H. Baxter family, c.1890. The youngest girl standing at her father’s knee is Leona. The teenage girl standing in the back between her older siblings is Minnie–if the 1890 date is correct.

1892 | Below is a photo of the Trinidad newspaper staff.


1894 | 20 Dec. Married, the Baxter sisters’ brother, George Baxter, to Etta Pearl Hodge. Etta says in a 1941 letter (an angry letter she wrote to Olive Baxter Fertig): “I kept Edd the first six years we were married but of course you folks have all forgot all I ever did for you.” So that means from 1894 to 1900 Edward (Eddie or Edd) lived with George and Etta from the time he was 6 to when he turned 12. Why? By 1900, Alonzo and Elizabeth were living in Trinidad with their two youngest children, Leona and Eddie.

1895 | This next photo is a cabinet card from Miller Studios, Trinidad, Colorado. It could be dated anywhere from 1894-1897; however, I think the 1895 date is correct because of her huge sleeves, fringe bangs, and the little “feature” sticking up at the top of her head. If this is 1895, then it might be Minnie’s graduation photo. Minnie would have been 17 years old in 1895. That looks right. The way she’s dressed encourages the viewer to think “older,” but I think her face still has a young, almost “baby fat face” look to it. From the papers of George Baxter. I need to track down this photo with the genealogy society in Trinidad. I would imagine they have others from the same time at Miller Studios. Or {{heavens!}} were they all destroyed in the 1904 flood?


c.1895 – Probably Minnie Baxter. High school graduation?

Minnie, if this is Minnie, is wearing her hair in what was called the “psyche-knot.” The little embellishment sticking up at the top is a Spanish comb, very popular at the time evidently, since I’ve seen it in many photos. This is a formal portrait, (I hope) taken in the winter, judging from her dress, and probably commemorating a life event. Because of her age (17), I’m guessing a high school graduation photo. But that’s just a guess.

The following photos come from the Willa Cather Archive website. They are all from 1895.


If you love old photos the way I do, then I hugely recommend Maureen A. Taylor and her photodetective blog. Here is Maureen’s discussion of the 1890s sleeve. Maureen also has a website: Maureen Taylor The Photo Detective. Find her books at the website. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day–I really need to spend about 3 months or so with her books and my photo collection. I just grabbed her Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries at Amazon for free as part of their kindleunlimited program.

I just found a collection of photographs taken in Trinidad, Colo. that have been archived at History Colorado: Aultman Studio, opened in Trinidad in 1890. Oliver E. Aultman made studio portraits of thousands of southern Colorado residents. The collection includes approximately 50,000 negatives, as well as studio registers, which provide a record of individuals and families who sat for and purchased Aultman photographs. Whoo-hoo! Searching through the index, it looks as though some of my Baxters were photographed by Aultman.

I found a portrait from the Aultman Studio in George Baxter’s papers–a photo of George. He seems to be wearing the same tie (tied the same way) as the family portrait I’ve dated as 1890. I need to look at these photos more closely, because I think this photo might be later. Are the Aultman photos found at History Colorado in Denver dated? I’m going to have to check that out on my next research trip to Denver.


Well! Look at that! On the verso of the Aultman photo is a date, written in pencil: 1890. That makes me wonder if the Alonzo Baxter family portrait that I dated as 1890 was also taken at the Aultman Studio. Logic says that it was. What a miracle it would be to find the negative of that photo!

1898 | 3 Apr. Married, Daisy Baxter to A.B. (Alexis Burton) Jordan. The 1930 census confirms that Daisy’s age at her first marriage was 21. That was my first clue that her marriage to Tom Jefferson wasn’t her only marriage. Daisy and Alexis married in Colfax County, New Mexico which is right across the county line from Trinidad, Huerfano County, Colorado. Why they married in New Mexico is unknown.

1899 | From the Pueblo city directory: Alexis B. Jordan living at 317 So. Main, working as a telegraph operator. Daisy isn’t listed in the city directory with Alexis, so she evidently wasn’t working.

1900 | 8 Jun. U.S. census for Pueblo, Colo. Thomas Sanborn, age 18, single, living at the home of his parents at 313 So. Main. He was a hostler at a livery stable.

1900 | I can’t find Minnie Baxter in the 1900 census. She was still single. She would have been 22 years old. She was probably living and working as a “single girl” in Pueblo, but so far I haven’t found her.

1900 | 8 Jun. U.S. census for Pueblo, Colo. Alexis B. Jordan [looks like “Jodan”], age 23, b. Kentucky, telegraph operator; his wife, Daisy M. [where does the M come from?], age 23, b. Colorado, no occupation listed. They’ve been married for 2 years. They live at 225 Victoria Ave. which seems to be a multi-family building (three married couples living at that address).

1900 | 8 Jun. U.S. census for Trinidad, Colo. Alonzo Baxter, wife Elizabeth, Leona age 16, and Eddie age 12. They live on Baca St. (629?).

c.1901 | Pueblo, Colo. A formal family portrait of Alonzo Baxter, his wife Elizabeth, and their two youngest children, Leona and Edward. If they were living in Trinidad, why was the portrait taken by a photography firm in Pueblo?


The Alonzo Baxter family, c. 1901. Leona and Edd are standing. I’ve dated the photo based on internal evidence. From George Baxter’s papers.

1902 | Trinidad City Directory. Alonzo H. H. Baxter, mason, 629 Baca.

1902 | 3 Sep. Married. Minnie Baxter‘s divorce decree from Thomas G. Sanborn indicates that they were married on 3 Sep 1902 at Raton, Colfax County, New Mexico. The date might be right, depending on when the 1903 City Directory was published. Why didn’t any of these sisters get married at their home in Colorado? Their marriage record doesn’t show up at FamilySearch.

1903 | City Directory, Pueblo. Minnie Baxter, ironer, boarding at 217 So. Main. Mrs. Elizabeth O. Baxter, seamstress, Crews-Beggs Dry Goods Co., rooms 217 So. Main. So Minnie and her mother were rooming together in Pueblo. No mention of Alonzo Baxter. Minnie was living a block away from where Daisy and Alexis lived in 1899. It was also a block away from Tom Sanborn, whom Minnie would soon marry.

1903 | City directory, Pueblo. Leona Baxter, student, Central High School, boarding at 1604 Claremont av. Leona would have been 20 years old in 1903. I don’t understand why Leona would have been a high school student when she was 20 years old.

1904 | 30 Sep. The Trinidad flood. Did Alonzo Baxter still have a residence in Trinidad in 1904? A “terrific flood” struck the city of Trinidad and the whole valley along the Las Animas River, devastating a wide section. Every bridge in the city was out; the Santa Fe train station was demolished–carried away in the flood; the telephone and telegraph service suspended. More than 80 city blocks were under two to four feet of water. The flood was caused by heavy rains, and the river went over its bank at 2 a.m. Since the electric light and gas plants were flooded, the city was in complete darkness. The new Baca Hotel was destroyed. If Alonzo and family were still living in Trinidad, they were almost certainly affected by this flood.

1904 | Trinidad City Directory. Alonzo H. H. Baxter, “moved to Pueblo, Colo.” However, Alonzo doesn’t appear in the Pueblo city directory for 1904. Did he move before or after the flood?

1904 | Pueblo City directory. Thomas G. and Minnie Sanborn. They were living at 313 So. Main–Tom’s parents’ house.

1905 | Pueblo city directory. Thomas G. and Minnie Sanborn. Minnie is a laundress for Minnequa Hospital; Tom is a clerk for McLeod Bros. They live at 1221 Claremont Ave., a small, single-family home.

1906 | 15 Dec. Married, Leona Baxter and Leo Glatzel; married in Denver County, license #39651. I found this information about Leona and Lee at the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center in Cañon City, Colo. Leona was 23 years old when she married Leo.

1906 | Pueblo city directory. Leona Baxter, clerk, Grand Union Tea Co., rms. 221 1/2 N Main. In 1903 her mother and sister were at 217 S Main. Elizabeth Baxter isn’t found in the 1906 Pueblo directory.

1906 | Pueblo city directory. Thomas G. Sanborn, listed at 1221 Claremont Ave., working as a clerk for Tufts & Little. Minnie Sanborn isn’t listed in the directory.

1907 | Pueblo City Directory. Leo A. Glatzel, clk D&RG RR, res. 28 Block S. Leona isn’t mentioned in the city directory because she doesn’t have a job. So from the beginning, it would seem that Leona didn’t work outside the home. The only one who worked from day one of her marriage was Minnie.

1907 | Pueblo city directory. Thomas G. Sanborn, working as a driver for Wm. Behrens. Rooming at 15 Physicians’ Bldg. No mention of Minnie, probably because she didn’t have a job. So this is three different jobs in three years for Tom Sanborn–not a good pattern for a stable home life.

c.1907 | Summer. The family gathered, probably at George Baxter’s ranch, although I don’t know that for sure. Elizabeth Baxter’s sister and her husband were visiting, which may have been the reason for the get-together and photograph. From the papers of George Baxter. Daisy is not in the group photograph. Minnie and Tom Sanborn are in the group, as are Leona and Leo Glatzel. I have to assume that Daisy wasn’t in Colorado; otherwise she would have been there. She’s the only one of her siblings who is missing.


The Baxter Clan, c.1907. Alonzo and Elizabeth Baxter, Elizabeth’s sister and her husband, Mary Robinson Mowreader and Frank Mowreader, and Alonzo & Elizabeth’s children, children-in-law, and grandchildren

1909 | Pueblo city directory. Mrs. Elizabeth O. Baxter, dressmaker, 221 1/2 N. Main. This was the same address her daughter Leona had in 1906.

1910 | Pueblo city directory. Elizabeth Baxter does not appear in the Pueblo city directory for 1910. Tom & Minnie Sanborn don’t appear in the directory.

1910 | Pueblo city directory. Mrs. Daisy M. Jordan, clk, Williams-Smith D G Co., r 24 Block S. There’s no sign of Alexis Jordan in the 1910 Pueblo directory. Perhaps Daisy and her mother were living together?

1910 | U.S. census. I can’t find Daisy Baxter Jordan or Elizabeth Baxter in the 1910 census. Nor can I find Tom & Minnie Sanborn. I almost think that Tom & Minnie routinely deliberately ducked the census taker, since they aren’t found in the census records more often than they’re found.

1910 | 23 Apr. Federal Census. Alonzo Baxter is listed with the Welby Fertig family in La Junta, Colo. Welby Fertig is the husband of another one of Alonzo’s daughters, Olive Baxter Fertig. Olive lived in La Junta most of her adult life. Alonzo was living with the family, but his wife Elizabeth isn’t listed in this 1910 census. Where is Elizabeth? I’m betting she was living in Pueblo, possibly with Daisy. Alonzo’s youngest son, Edward Baxter (aka Eddie or Edd) was 22 years old and working for the railroad. His obituary says that he “left La Junta in 1914,” implying that he lived in La Junta until 1914. However, since he worked for the railroad, there’s no telling where he might have been living in his early years with the railroad. He might have been living in any of the little small towns in the area that were part of the Santa Fe RR. It would be possible to get his railroad employment records if I can get the equivalent of his social security number. For that, I need his death certificate. He died in Walsenburg, so when I get Leona’s death certificate, I’ll also get his. $$ They’re not cheap.

1910 | 24 Dec. Daisy Baxter Jorden sent a post card to Mrs. George Baxter from Vancouver, British Columbia. Daisy says she sent their Christmas cards to Emma’s, since she thought they would be going to the wedding. Clearly Daisy is referring to the wedding of Emma Witzke and Frank Beecham in Vineland, Colo. “Why didn’t you go?” asks Daisy. What was Daisy doing in Vancouver? Was she living there or just visiting?

1911 | Pueblo city directory. No Elizabeth Baxter. No Daisy Jordan. There is a Thomas G. Sanborn (he’s the right one), waiter, [another new occupation and employer] boarding 313 S Main. Tom is living at the address with two of his brothers. No mention of Minnie Sanborn. Minnie might living with Tom, although since they later divorced, and Minnie seems almost always to have had a job, I can’t just assume that they were together here–especially since Tom is rooming with his brothers. Maybe they had an on-again, off-again marriage. Minnie was close to her brother Edward Baxter. Where was he in 1910? My notes say I can’t find him in either the 1910 or the 1920 census records. However, in 1918 he shows up in Salt Lake City, Utah in a WWI draft registration card. His obituary says that he left La Junta in 1914.

1911 | According to his obituary, Edward Baxter started working for the Santa Fe RR. and it’s implied that he was living in La Junta, Colo.

1912 | The Aultman Studio Register (Trinidad, Colo.) has this photograph: Elizabeth Baxter, 1912, Negative #21522. Where was Elizabeth in 1912? It’s unlikely that this is my Elizabeth, since the 1910 city directory for Trinidad lists an “Elizabeth Baxter, student High School.” There’s no reason to think that Mrs. Alonzo Baxter would have had her portrait taken in Trinidad in 1912. Damn.

1913 | 20 May. Alexis B. Jordan married Lillian L. Elliott in Marin County, California. When and where did Daisy and Alexis obtain their divorce? If I have the right Lillian, then she was born in March 1890 in Pueblo, Colo. Lillian had been married once before in 1908 at the age of 18. So Alexis and Lillian–both divorced and both from Pueblo–were married in California. Where was Daisy in 1913? It’s possible that Daisy was also in California. I think that’s probably where she met her second husband, Thomas Broome Jefferson. I haven’t found a marriage record for them, but the 1930 census says that Tom’s age at first marriage

1914 | According to his obituary, Edward Baxter left La Junta in 1914 and “railroaded in Utah and Arizona for 25 years.”

1918 | 12 Sep. Edward Baxter, 617 Carson St., Salt Lake, Utah. He was age 34, a locomotive engineer for the Garfield Smelter. He lists Elizabeth Baxter (mother) as his nearest relative, and he lists her address as 617 Carson St., Salt Lake. Clearly, from this record, Elizabeth Baxter was living with her son Edward in Utah.

I’m thinking the next two photos were taken in about 1918. On the left is Ed Baxter, Elizabeth Baxter, and Tom Sanborn. On the right is Ed, Minnie Sanborn, and Elizabeth. There’s another picture of Minnie and Ed taken the same day. Minnie’s hat is full of what look like pecans. That tree behind them in the two photos looks like it could be a pecan tree. Pecans could grown in southeastern Colorado. It’s also possible to grow pecans in Utah. Ed’s short pants and “fancy” dress shoes fit the fashion for men of about 1916-1918. Minnie’s and Elizabeth’s hats fit with about 1918. This can’t be as late as 1920, since Elizabeth was constantly using crutches by then.

1918 is a pretty good approximation for the photo, showing that Minnie and Tom Sanborn were at least in the same place at the same day. I wonder if Minnie had traveled to Utah to take her mother home to La Junta?


1918 | 12 Sep. A third registration was held for the draft for WWI which was for men age 18 through 45. Tom Sanborn would have been 37 years old in 1918. Did he register for the draft? Yes! WWI_draftRegistrationTom and Minnie Sanborn were living in La Junta in 1918 when Tom registered for the draft. I don’t know why I’d never thought to look for his draft registration before. “Tom Galno Sanborn” was working for the Santa Fe railroad. It’s seems strange that they had a post office box instead of a street address. He lists Minnie “V” (probably mistakenly written for “B”) as his nearest relative. Tom seems to have “fudged the numbers” on his date of birth. He wrote 1878 instead of 1881. The earlier date put him in a different category for the draft.

1918 | 12 Sep. Thomas Brome Jefferson was living at 815 38th in Oakland, Alameda, California when he registered for the draft. His nearest relative was Daisy “Margarette” Jefferson. Tom’s occupation is listed as shoe salesman. So clearly Daisy was still in California in 1918.

1918 | 12 Sep. Leona is less of a mystery than her sisters. Leona and Lee Glatzel had recently moved to Cañon City, Colo.


 I may be working on this for weeks. . .

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52 Ancestors: Week#12 of 52 continued – Leona Baxter Glatzel Lepkovitz


c.1900. Leona Baxter, age 17

Leona L. Baxter (1883-1967) was the seventh of eight children, and the last girl, of Alonzo and Elizabeth Baxter. Unlike her siblings who were born in Colorado, Leona was born during the family’s short residence across the state line in Kansas. She kept up that distinction in every official record. In the 1900 census, at age 17, Leona is living in Trinidad, Colorado with her parents and younger brother Eddie. She is listed as attending school. Then in 1903, at the age of 20, she is found in the Pueblo City Directory, boarding with a family and again attending school. It would be interesting to know what school she was attending in Pueblo. In the 1940 census, Leona reports that she had four years of college. Southern Colorado Junior College, a 2-year institution, wasn’t established until 1933, so clearly she didn’t attend the Pueblo college. By 1906, again in the Pueblo Directory, and at the age of 22, Leona is listed as working as a clerk for the Grand Union Tea Company. Perhaps her education was some type of secretarial school.

In 1906 at the age of 23, Leona Baxter married Leo Andrew Glatzel. The marriage record indicates they were married in Denver, although they probably met in Pueblo, since that’s where they were both living at the time. In the 1910 census, they are living in a home near Leo’s parents. Leo’s occupation is listed as “Receiving Clerk” for the railroad; Leona’s occupation is “none.” The couple lived in Pueblo until they moved to Cañon City, Colorado, a town about 30 miles from Pueblo. They’re found in that town in the 1920 census, Leo still working for the railroad and Leona’s occupation still listed as “none.” In the census, Leona’s reported age is “30” (actually she was 37). Leona underreported her age in every census. In the 1930 census, 47-year-old Leona lists her age as 39, and in the 1940 census she was 44 years old–12 years less than her “real” age.

So what did Leona do with herself all day, living in Cañon City? She was obviously intelligent. She had no children to keep her busy from morning to night. This census doesn’t indicate that she kept a boarder, although later in the 1930 census she had one boarder. Yet the Glatzel’s were renting their home. It’s hard for me to understand why she wouldn’t have had a job somewhere. It wasn’t uncommon for women of that time to work outside the home. Her husband Leo worked for the railroad. Leona almost surely also could have had a job with the railroad. She could have been a telegrapher like another of my great-aunts who lived in the same area. Or she might have been a clerk in a store, like her older sister. Leo and Leona lived in Cañon City until Leo died in 1934–from 1917 until 1934, when Leona age 27 to 51. What did she do in that small town during those years? Was she a “club woman” like one of her nieces I found in Kansas, joining every club in sight? Again, perhaps the small town newspaper would help–if not to find mention of Leona specifically, then at least to find what clubs might have been available to the women of the town during those years.


c.1928, probably Canon City, Colorado. Alonzo H. H. Baxter and his daughter Leona Baxter Glatzel


Leona’s Marcel Wave, 1926

I think Leona probably liked to cook, since in most family group photos around this time she is wearing her apron. But she also had lovely hair that she wore for decades in a Marcel Wave, and she “kept herself up”–one of my mother’s phrases. Judging from her hair and the way she dressed, it looks as though Leona was a woman who didn’t mind spending money on herself. The only comment I remember my mother making about “Aunt Leona” (her great aunt) was this: “Leona liked nice things–and she had them.” Here is a photo of Leona and her father, Alonzo H. H. Baxter. It’s probably the last photograph taken of Alonzo. Based on Leona’s dress, and also the evidently deteriorating health of her father Alonzo, I’ve dated the photo as summer, 1928. Alonzo had been a widow for four years by then. At some point after his wife died, he moved to Cañon City to live with Leona. I can’t tell for sure where the photo was taken, but it certainly could have been taken outside Leona’s house. Leona’s dress and shoes are lovely, showing she had taste and style.

What Leona also had was a very obvious love for her father. Not only did she take him in and care for him (Alonzo is found in the 1930 census in the Leo Glatzel household in Cañon City), she probably also helped her father with his abiding interest at the end of his life: promoting the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) posts in southeastern Colorado. Alonzo Baxter was the Commander of Kilpatrick Post No. 41, La Junta, Colorado, from 1916 to 1921. Leona wrote a rather flowery “Short History” of this La Junta post, “Dedicated to My Father A.H.H. Baxter”


The cover of the “Short History” of G.A.R. Post No. 41 in La Junta, Colorado written by Leona and dedicated to her father, A.H.H.Baxter. From the papers of George Baxter.

[The Grand Army of the Republic’s] fundamental object was expressed in three words: Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty. . . . No child can be born into it. No proclamation of a president, edict of a king or czar can command admission. No university or institution of learning can issue a diploma authorizing its holder to entrance. No act of congress or parliament secures recognition. The wealth of a Vanderbilt cannot purchase the position. Its doors swing open only upon presentation of the bit of paper, torn, worn, begrimed it may be, which certifies to an honorable discharge from the army, navy or marines of the nation during the war of the rebellion.

Along with the La Junta post, Alonzo also belonged to the Post No. 25 in Trinidad, Colorado, and he was involved in the post associated with Cañon City, Greenwood Post No. 10. Follow the early 1900s history of those posts, and you will probably find Alonzo and Leona. According to Alonzo’s obituary:

Mr. Baxter was the last surviving member of Kilpatrick Post G.A.R. at La Junta, and on going to Cañon City transferred his membership to Greenwood Post No. 10.

In November of 1934, Leona was widowed when Lee Glatzel died suddenly of a stroke. In June of 1935, she married Max Lepkovitz and the couple moved to Walsenburg, Colorado, another small southeastern Colorado town. The 1940 census shows that Max worked for the railroad, like her first husband, Leo. Again, Leona has no listed occupation. For the first time, however, Leona owns the house she is living in. Living with them is her sister Daisy and Daisy’s husband Tom, listed as “visitors.” That’s the first time I’ve seen that designation on a census record.

Leona was the youngest daughter in the family. Not only did she take her father into her home at the end of his life, she did the same with her older siblings. Her sister Minnie was living with her when she died in 1936; her brother Edd died at her home in 1945; and her sister Daisy lived with her after she was widowed and died in Leona’s home in 1959. Other than the fact that she cared for her siblings, I don’t know anything about Leona’s time in Walsenburg, Colorado from 1936 to her death at the age of 83 in 1967. Leona is buried with her second husband Max Lepkovitz at the Masonic Cemetery in Walsenburg.

This is the last photo in my collection of the dear ones, Daisy just days before she died, the dog as always at her feet. Leona is standing in the background. No doubt this was taken at Leona’s house; Daisy was blind by this time, so she wasn’t likely to be leaving her home.


I’m working on a timeline of the three sisters. A timeline is always a work in progress. I may be working on this one for weeks.

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52 Ancestors: Week #12 of 52 continued – Minnie Baxter Sanborn

Minnie May Baxter was the fifth child of Alonzo and Elizabeth Baxter, like her siblings, born in Bent County, Colorado in 1878. However, unlike her older sister Daisy, I had one heck of a time finding Minnie in the records.

The family was probably living in Trinidad, Colorado when Minnie was of an age to graduate from high school. Her father was a big supporter of education, wherever he lived, so I imagine that he encouraged all of his children to finish high school. Whether or not Minnie graduated from high school is unknown. Perhaps records from that time still exist, and looking for those records is one of the items on my research plan–one of these days.


Tom Sanborn and Minnie, c. 1922. Minnie obviously had style. She was such a darling girl.

Minnie would have been 22 years old in the 1900 census, and I can’t find her anywhere. In fact, it took me many research “tries” to find her anywhere. I knew that she had married someone named Thomas G. Sanborn from Pueblo because I had a wedding picture for them that came from my mother’s collection. But when (or where) Minnie and Tom were married escaped me for the longest time. Finally one day I found their divorce record, and from that I learned that they had been married in Raton, New Mexico on 3 Sep 1902. Why Raton? Who knows. It wasn’t because Minnie was underage, because she was 23 years old when she was married. She wasn’t the only one of her siblings to be married in Raton, so there must have been a reason, but so far I haven’t found what it was.

Where was she between the age of 18 when she (probably) left her father’s house and age 22 when she married? My best guess is that she may have been living in Pueblo with either her mother or one of her sisters, but that isn’t confirmed. She’s found in the 1903 Pueblo City Directory, living with her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth O. Baxter. Since both Minnie and Elizabeth were married at this time, what they were doing living together without their husbands is beyond me. Even though her marriage date (from the divorce record, so it’s not confirmed) was Sept. 1902, in the 1903 directory she is Minnie Baxter, working as an “ironer.” Several years later, she’s listed in the same directory and married to Tom Sanborn; her occupation is listed as “laundress, Minnequa Hospital.”


Based on her “peach basket” hat, the photo was probably taken c.1908. Her mother was a professional seamstress and milliner, so I have no doubt Minnie was in style.

Probably my favorite photo in any of my collections is one of Minnie, taken in the first decade of the 20th century. This came to me in a collection of hundreds of other photos from someone related to one of my mother’s uncles. The photos were all scanned at a low resolution, and my requests to get the photo scanned at a higher res were met with silence. However, I love this photo anyway. That’s a “peach basket” hat Minnie is wearing on her head, and I have a photo of Gertrude Stein wearing the same style hat in 1908 in Venice. Wikipedia says the hat was introduced in about 1908, so that sounds right. I would bet money that if Minnie didn’t make that outfit herself, then her mother, the professional seamstress and milliner, made it for her. From the U.S. Association of Retail Milliners:

The last season proved disastrous, short and unprofitable owing to the launching of extreme styles such as the fruit basket hat. . . a concerted effort has been made to tone down all attempts to introduce freak creations.

Minnie looks hot and seems disgusted in this photo, and I love the way she sits with her knees all akimbo and her petticoat showing. She’s a girl I would love to know!

So maybe Minnie was one of those people who ran from the census-taker, who knows. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t (and still can’t) find Minnie in the 1900, 1910, or 1920 census records. So it was a happy day when I found her mother’s obituary, Mrs. A.H.H. Baxter. This is from the La Junta Daily Democrat, Friday, 1 Aug 1924:

Mrs. A.H.H. Baxter, another pioneer of the Arkansas Valley and one who came to this section more than a half century ago, passed away at 11 this morning in the home of her daughter, Mrs. T.G. Sanborn, 402 Smithland Avenue.


c. 1924, summer, La Junta, Colorado. Standing, from L to R: Minnie Baxter Sanborn, Emma Baxter Witzke (my great grandmother), Daisy Baxter Jefferson, Tom Jefferson. Kneeling, Tom Sanborn. The little boy is one of my mother’s cousins.

Well–hoorah! My Minnie was living in La Junta [with husband Tom?] and taking care of her sick mother. And it wasn’t long after I posted Elizabeth Baxter’s obituary on Ancestry.com that someone contacted me with a whole cache of photos. Among them were photos of Minnie and her siblings, and I was able to date them because of the apparent age of a little boy I could identify as my mother’s cousin–dated c.1924, the summer that “Granny B” died. It’s reasonable to think that the siblings had all been called home for their mother’s last illness. Minnie is the one on the left with her hands on her hips, elbows out–a very characteristic pose for her. She also has that same half-disgusted look on her face of the earlier photo. Actually, most of the photos I’ve found of her show her looking just that way. She doesn’t seem to have smiled much, at least not for the pictures. Tom Sanborn is the man kneeling down in front of Minnie. Daisy and Tom are at the right. They never had children of their own, but it is very common to see Tom Jefferson pictured with a niece or a nephew–he seems like a man who would have loved to have children. My mother has said many times, without elaboration, as she is wont to do, “Tom and Daisy wanted to adopt me.” I somehow doubt it, since my mother was a spoiled brat, from everything I’ve heard about her. However, I don’t doubt that Tom might have wanted to adopt some child, and I wonder why they didn’t?

So finally Minnie appears in the census, this one 1930 for La Junta, Otero County, Colorado. Minnie is 52 years old and managing a rooming house; Tom Sanborn is working as a “water servicer” for the railroad. Their address is 405 Colorado Ave. in La Junta, a house which no longer exists, unfortunately. They lived right down the street from the First Baptist Church. Did Minnie belong to that church? I would have said almost definitely not, except that her obituary says that Rev. R. O. McCray of the Baptist church conducted her funeral services, which was only six years after the 1930 census. The next time I’m doing research in La Junta, I need to look for those church records.

The next record for Minnie I was surprised and also rather sad to find. I knew that Minnie and Tom weren’t buried together–Minnie in La Junta and Tom in Pueblo–so I assumed there was a reason, possibly divorce. I found it in the Divorce Records for Colorado found on FamilySearch:


The date on the divorce record “Date of Decree” is a bit strange–9 Dec 1936–considering Minnie died on 14 Oct 1936. However, I imagine the divorce was filed some months before the decree date. According to her obituary, Minnie was living with her sister, Leona (Mrs. Max) Lepkovitz in Walsenburg, Colorado at the time of her death. The obituary says that she had been hospitalized for two weeks and she died “after an operation.” Tom Sanborn attended the funeral in La Junta. Minnie was only 58 years old when she died. I’m happy to have found some details of her life, but I would like to know more.

The third Baxter sister of this trio is next, Leona Baxter Glatzel Lepkovitz.


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