52 Ancestors: #12 of 52 – The Baxter Sisters: Daisy, Minnie, and Leona

The prompt for Week #12 of the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Challenge is SAME. 52ancestors_2015_12What ancestor is a lot like you? What ancestor do you have a lot in common? Same name? Same home town? I would change this topic a little bit to read: What ancestor are you drawn to? Which one do you have an affinity for? Which one would you like to meet?

If there is a heaven, then I absolutely know that someday I’ll sit down to have lunch with my three great grand aunts, the three Baxter sisters–Daisy, Minnie, and Leona. Although I never met them, I feel like I know these aunts. Here is my tribute to the “Baxter girls”–daughters and sisters, and aunts and wives, but none ever mothers.

They were born in Colorado in the last quarter of the 19th century to my 2x great grandparents, Alonzo and Elizabeth Baxter; and they all died in Colorado in the mid-20th century–or before, in Minnie’s case. Their other sisters were Olive Baxter Fertig and Emma Baxter Witzke, who was my 2x great grandmother, but they are for another day.

1926_Baxter_Sisters_shoebox

The Baxter Sisters, 1926. Back row: Minnie, Olive, Emma; front row: Daisy, Leona. All of these Colorado photos around this time were taken outside, in the bright sunshine. The subjects are always squinting into the sun.

I am so fortunate to have a set of wonderful photos of these women. Some of them came from my mother. I suppose she got them from her mother, the niece of these three Baxter sisters. I used to confuse these Baxter sister stories with stories about Emma Baxter Witzke’s daughters. There were five Baxter sisters, and then one of those sisters, Emma Baxter Witzke, had seven Witzke daughters–a couple of them named for their Baxter aunts–so there were a lot of women to keep track of and reason for confusion. I also have a collection of photos of these three Baxter sisters that belonged to their brother, George Baxter. I only wish I had as many stories about these Baxter sisters as I do photos. High on my Research To-Do List is to find the newspapers from the towns where Daisy, Minnie, and Leona were living as adults and see what small-town gossipy newspaper snippets about them I can find.

Daisy Baxter Jordan Jefferson, 1876-1959

The order of birth for the sisters was Emma, Olive, Daisy, Minnie, and Leona (a sister, Lottie, born between Minnie and Leona, died when she was only 2 years old). Daisy was the oldest of this group of three sisters. She was born in Prowers County, Colorado when her father was still hunting buffalo on the southeastern Colorado plains. I don’t know how much schooling Daisy had, although in the 1940 census she reports that she had two years of college. If she graduated from high school when she was 18 years old, then she graduated in about 1894. I believe the family was living in Trinidad, Colorado at that time, which means she would have graduated from Tinidad High School. If they weren’t in Trinidad yet, then she graduated from Granada High School. Where she completed two years of college, I simply don’t have a clue.

Daisy_1912

Daisy Baxter, c.1912. Place unknown.

One of the big surprises I had when researching these women was to learn that Daisy was divorced from her first husband, Alexis Jordan, somewhere in California and sometime around 1912. She and Alexis had been married for about 14 years.

The only husband I ever knew she had was Thomas B. Jefferson. My mother always spoke of them as a unit, “Daisy ‘n Tom,” so to learn that she had a husband before Tom was a surprise. Daisy and Tom never had children (and neither did Minnie or Leona, which I find very curious), although in every photo Daisy was almost never without her dog–and it always seems to be the same dog, so she must have been fond of one particular breed.

Daisy lived in Colorado, California, Salt Lake City Utah, and then finally Colorado again. She and Tom worked in retail in Salt Lake: he was a salesman in a shoe store; Daisy was a “sales lady” in a department store. At one point, they may have owned their own store, since my mother always said they “lost it all” during the Depression, which was when they moved back to Colorado.

It does seem that after 1935 Daisy and Tom changed their address a lot. They seem to have bounced back and forth between La Junta, Colorado, where her sister Olive Fertig was living, and Walsenburg, Colorado, where her other sister Leona Lepkovitz lived. They also may have lived for a short time in Pueblo. I’d like to know more about Daisy’s story. Daisy always had a job and so did Tom, so even if they lost “everything” during the Depression (my mother’s shorthand way of saying that they were definitely hurt by the Depression, like a lot of people), they both later continued to have jobs. They didn’t have children. So why does it appear that they were such vagabonds? Daisy was 59 years old in 1935 and Tom was 50. Perhaps her health was poor and she wasn’t able to work? Or maybe it just seemed too late to start over at the age of 59.

Daisy_andTom_1946shoebox

Daisy and Tom Jefferson (and of course, the dog), probably taken during the 1946 “big snow” in Walsenburg, Colorado.

Daisy lived until 1959, until the age of 82. What did she do with herself in her 60’s and 70’s when she was (probably) no longer working. This is where research into those small-town newspapers would probably be very fruitful. Was Daisy a joiner, like several of her nieces? Was she a clubwoman? One of my favorite novels is And Ladies of the Club, by Helen Hooven Santmyer, published in 1984. The story is about a group of women in the fictional town of Waynesboro, Ohio who begin a women’s literary club. The book covers the years between 1868 and 1932. If anyone has women they are working on who lived a small-town American life during this period, I highly recommend this book. I imagine that Daisy and her sisters belonged to one or even several clubs, and reading through those newspapers might give me an idea of which ones.

“Aunt Daisy” was my mother’s great aunt–her grandmother’s sister. When my mother graduated from high school in 1943, Daisy sent her this note:

La Junta, Colorado
12 May 1943
Dear Alta,

Thank you for the Graduating card and as I can’t get to town I am wishing you a long and happy life in all the years to come and may riches & health come to you in all the years to come. These two little handkerchiefs were made for me by your Great Grandmother in 1922.

hankie

Aunt Daisy’s graduation gift to my mother. The perfect, tiny crochet work is done around the edge of a pink linen square, made by Elizabeth O. Robinson Baxter, Daisy’s mother. Why does Daisy remember the year, 1922, so specifically? Her mother died in 1924; Elizabeth was ill for several years before she died, so perhaps the handkerchiefs were the last thing she made for Daisy. How did Elizabeth see that tiny crochet work?

So you may like them and you may not but they have Great & Wonderful memorys [sic] to me and if they are too old Fashion for this day and age in the years to come they will bring memories of the Past so keep them with our Best Wishes all through life.

Your Uncle Thomas Jefferson and Aunt Daisy

Daisy_signature

One thing I know that Daisy accomplished during her later years was to publish two articles in Colorado Magazine, a publication of the State Historical Society of Colorado, as it was known then. In 1947 she published a 3-page article titled “Pioneer Conditions in the Arkansas Valley,” a story about her family’s pioneering life in Colorado. The second article was published in 1949, titled “O.H.P. Baxter and Early Pueblo,” an article about her uncle, Oliver Hazard Perry Baxter, one of the earliest residents and co-founder of the city of Pueblo, Colorado. Clearly Daisy, like her brother George Baxter, was interested in the family history and in passing on their stories.

Daisy was widowed at the age of 79, and she was living with her sister, Leona Lepkovitz, also a widow, when she died in Walsenburg, Colorado three years later. Daisy was buried with Tom near her parents and some of her siblings at Fairview Cemetery, La Junta, Colorado.

The second Baxter sister of this trio is next, Minnie Baxter Sanborn.

 

 

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