Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Photo Detective Study of Produce Row

Last week we began to explore the great flood of 1935 which greatly impacted all of downton. Kathy Morales's photo, showed the area where both our families owned business since the early 1900s,  completely inundated.

History of Flooding in Houston's Downtown 

Before studying the photos and the effects of the flood on Produce Row and my family, a look back at the history of Houston's relationship with flooding is in order. The Allen brothers, who established the city of Houston in 1836, neglected to take take flooding into account. They built the new settlement where the White Oak and the Buffalo Bayou converged. By design, main street, ended at this exact spot. The strategic location was ideal for transporting goods, but being in a flood zone, was not conducive for building or farming. Early settlers were hit hard by flooding. They lacked understanding of flood prevention and instead focused on draining the water by directing the channels downhill without making provisions for heavy rains. In the next one hundred years, the downtown area experienced 16 major floods, culminating in the great flood of 1935. The 1929 caused staggering damages, but the 1935 flood was twice as costly, killed seven people and damaged many important buildings, destroyed miles of rails and paralyzed the port for months. This was the last straw for the citizens of Houston, whom finally demanded a better solution. The flood coincided with the great depression and the federal government's unprecedented investment in infrastructure projects. In 1937, the City of Houston submitted a petition to create the Harris County Flood Control District. This enabled the city to tap into the Federal fund. Thanks to this project, the Army Corp of Engineers build a dams and reservoirs to regulate water flowing into the bayou. This project has largely prevented Houston from major flooding. (

Photographic Evidence

Source: "Flood on Franklin Avenue." December 9, 1935. Online Image. University of Houston Digital Library. 25 June 2013. <,119>
The photo above from the University of Houston Digital Library Collection is very similar to Kathy Morales's photo (see last week's post: The Flood, Blog Hopping and Produce Row. The GE building is on the right, the Guenard Speed and Clemens building is on the left. Kathy's picture is of much better quality, but on close inspection, the sign on the Guenard building is different. In Kathy's photo the sign states: Wholesale Fruits and Produce Guenard Speed and Clemens. In the U. of Houston photo, the top part of the sign is illegible but the lower part clearly reads The Grocers Supply Company. Since this photo is dated 1935, I think it is safe to say, that Kathy's photo must have been taken during the 1929 flood.

The same collection, also had a photo of the front of the building taken at the corner of Commerce and Travis Street. It was difficult for me to identify at first, because the name of the business was The Grocer's Supply, and the familiar Guenard Speed & Clemens sign was missing, but once I understood that by 1935 the Guenard company had relocated, I was able to clearly identify the location. This picture is the first I have discovered which shows the other side of Commerce street, where the even numbers were. The front building, may be the 906 building where my family's business would have been prior to 1927. I have requested a high resolution copy of this image from the library, which may help confirm my theory. The Morales & Sons store should be on the far left side block, where the 800 numbers were.

Photo of Commerce Street from the 1935 flood. Note the Guenard building on the right, across the Travis street from the Myers Sidney Inc building. (Click to enlarge).
Source: "Flooded street." 1935. Online Image. University of Houston Digital Library. 25 June 2013. <,130>
Business Directory of Commerce Street-Produce Row

Produce Row Businesses
1929 Houston City Directory
A list of the business on Produce Row from 1929 and 1935, will help clarify and confirm the date of Kathy Morales' photo:

812 Morales M and Sons produce-Kathy Morales' Banana Business.
817 Topek Produce Company- Where Morris Aaron Pomerantz worked, looked next to the  819-821 Building known as the Guenard Speed & Clemens earlier (see picture of William Bloomfield in front of this building around 1919).
819-821- Vacant building. This explains why in Kathy's photo the sign on the back of the building advertises the Guenard Speed & Clemens Co. The Company had actually moved out, but the building was yet to be occupied by someone else.
901-905- Myers Sidney Inc- The building seen in the above photo.
906 Lang Paul produce- This was owned by the Houston Fruit and Produce company until 1927 when Morris Birnebaum one of the partners died and they closed the company.
907 Speed-Clemens Co Inc, Produce (Note: Guenard was no longer part of the partnership), they had moved out of the larger building, and occupied a different warehouse on the next block.
Picture of the a Speed and Clemens truck
with the buisness located at the 907 Commerce Street
Location, next to the Myers & Sidney Inc.
(Click to Enlarge).

Many of the business on Produce Row either moved or closed by 1935. The flood of 1929 as well as the great depression must have severely hampered commerce in the area. Here is the list of the relevant business and their locations on Commerce in 1935:

810-812 Morales M & Sons wholesale bananas Produce Buffet. Note, they took over the 812 locale and seemed to have expanded and specialized in Bananas.
817- Topek Produce Company- remained at the same location.
819-821-The Grocery Supply Company. Hence the new sign on the front and back of the building!
901-903 & 905-Myers Sidney Inc
906 Lang Paul Wholesale Produce

Produce Row Businesses
1935 Houston City Directory

The next natural questions is where was my family during the floods and how were they affected by it? 
In the late 20's and 30's there were four branches of our Pomerantz family residing and working in Houston: the Kaufmans, the Pomerantzs the Birnebaums and of course the Bloomfields. I mapped out their whereabouts during 1929 and 1935.

View Pomerantz/Bloomfield/Kaufman 1929 & 1935 in a larger map

This google map, clearly shows both bayous, Produce Row and the various homes and business owned by the family, as listed in the 1929 and 1935 Houston City Directories. (Note: none of the original buildings remain standing). I plotted Morales & Sons with bananas. To get a better appreciation of the locations and the proximity to the flooding, I recommend zooming into the map. Note that Morris Birenbaum, original partner of the Houston Fruit and Produce Company, passed away in 1927. This is an important fact. It seems the remaining partner, Morris Aaron Pomerantz, closed the business, following his partner's premature death. In 1929 he was working as a manager at another produce company, the Topek Produce Company, located just down Commerce Street (see businesses listings above).  I was unable to identify the location of Morris Birnebaum's family and therefore they are not on this map.
Pomerantz Siblings with Spouses Dec 1956
 (photo from the collection of Martha and Seymour Pomerantz)
Left to Right: Fanny Pomerantz (Birenbuam), Morris Aaron Pomerantz,
Jake Palmer (change from Pomerantz),
Evelyn Palmer, Ethel Kaufman (Pomerantz) and Alex Kaufman.
Note: Jake was one of the original partners of the Houston Produce Co. He
remained in the produce business for many years in La Grange, Texas. The
Kaufman's were the first to arrive in Houston and were in the grocery business. 

From everything I've read, it's difficult to say how far the rising water reached. Some sources state that 25 square blocks in downtown were affected, while others state as many 100 square residential blocks. It is unclear what happened to sections further down the bayou, such as where the Bloomfield's home and store were located. Canal street is only a block away from a section of the bayou, but I can not yet state with certainty that the water reached the street. I can conclude that the two blocks of Produce Row were some of the most heavily affected by the flood. Morris Aaron Pomerantz, though no longer owned a business on the "Row," was working for the Topek Produce Company, which must have suffered heavy losses.

A Special Treat
The Texas Archive of the Moving Image has amazing footage of the 1935 flood from the Orris D. Brown Film Collection. It is a seven minute silent film mostly of the downtown area. I'd like to call your attention to minute 4:26 where I believe we see a glimpse of the Morales & Sons store and the damage near the store. I recognized the store thanks to the large banana sign. What do you think Kathy? Is this the Morales store? Also note, at minute 1:24-1:31, a boat floats in front of a grocery store called Minnie's Place. I don't believe this is my great-grandparents grocery store, but the name Minnie, did jump out at me, and the woman standing outside the store, could pass for my great-grandmother Minnie Bloomfield. Unfortunately, I have never seen a photo of the front of their canal street store. I also, don't know the name of their store. In the Houston City directories it is always listed as Bloomfield, William, grocer. In Laconia their store was called Bloomfield Market. Most likely, they used the same name in Houston, but I can not be sure. I do doubt it is their store but it did seem to be an amazing coincidence.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Flood, Blog Hopping and Produce Row

Last week's heroic flood rescue story, was brought to my attention by his Barney Kenet's daughter. My interaction with her required a deep knowledge of our joint family history, local Vermont history and the power of the internet which brought us together. The next part of the flood series is less about heroism. There is no 150 feet chasm opening up in the middle of the night and taking with it, eight houses, leaving half of a house hanging over the cliff. Rather this tale, has more to do with serendipitous discoveries, the importance of natural disaster such as a flood for genealogical work and once again, the internet, which never ceases to amaze.

William Bloomfield standing in front of the
Guenard, Speed & Clemens
Quick Recap
This story, begins with the post, Where Was This Picture Taken?  Back in January, I approached blogger and genealogist Lorraine Arnold, a specializes in the history of buildings and business. Through skillful detective work, she identified the building behind my great-grandfather William Bloomfield to be Guenard, Speed & Clemens building, located at 817-819 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas. William's place of employment between 1915-1920—the family owned Houston Fruit and Produce Company—was just across the street, on the next block at 906 Commerce Street.

Historical background:
Commerce Street, also known as Produce Row, became the heart of the Produce business in Houston. Betty Trapp Chapman of the Houston History Magazine, wrote a nice article discussing the evolution of Commerce Street into Produce Row titled Houston’s First Ward: Producing Food from Farm to Counter. In the article she describes how Main Street was designed to end at the intersection of two of Houston important Bayous, the Buffalo and Oak Bayou. Allen's landing, at the bottom of Main Street, was the main docking point for the boats who transported products into the city and further down the bayou. Warehouses popped up around the docks as a weigh station for the fresh produce. Commerce is the closest street to these docks.

Blog Hopping
Now, for the serendipity. Earlier this month, I recommended Lorrine's services to a fellow blogger, +Jacqi Stevens of A Family Tapestry. Jacqi was looking to identify a building from an old photograph in her Bean Shoebox collection. Another of Jacqi's readers, Kathy Morales, noticed my comment and followed the link to Lorrine's website Kathy, a member of the genealogy blogging community, immediately recognized the Commerce Street building. She continued her blog hopping and landed on my blog, where she learned that "my people" and her "husband's people" (as she put it), were working side by side on Produce Row. She proceeded to leave me a long comment, linking to her blog Abbie and Eveline, and a beautiful post she had written about the Morales family Banana House Business. Her Sepia Saturday post, is complete with photos of the Morales & Son's storefront (at 812 Commerce Street), promotion paraphernalia and some great music videos of two banana songs!
The Guenard, Speed & Clemens building during one of Houston's major floods
Photo not dated. Most likely taken in 1929 or 1935.
Photo belonging to Kathy Morales (Click to enlarge).

Allow me redirect you back to the photo from Kathy's collection of the Guenard, Speed & Clemens, which she has kindly given me permission to share.

The Guenard building (click on the photo to enlarge) is on the top left hand side of the photo. The view here is from the back.  The flood that we are looking at is not Commerce Street, where both our family businesses were located, and where William was standing, but rather of the overflowing bayou which ran immediately behind the Guernard building. Observe the General Electric Supply Company building (on the right). According to the 1929 Houston City Directory, the GE building was located at 5 North Miliam Street, at the corner of what was then Washington Av and the T & N O Railway (Texas & New Orleans Railway). Today Washington Avenue terminates at the freeway and does not reach Miliam Street. Neither building remain standing, but a google map view of the area clearly shows Commerce Street, the Bayou and the train tracks.
The ad from page 143 of the Houston City Directory 1929

View Larger Map

Location B is 906 Commerce where the Houston Fruit and Produce company used to be. The 800 block where the Guernard building and the Morales Banana House were located is the next, between Travis and Millian Street. Location A is 5 North Miliam Street where the GE Building stood on the other side of the bayou. Because of the wide gap between the buildings which seems to converge to a more populated area at the back of Kathy's picture, I believe the picture was taken from the Main Street direction.

Harnessing the Internet 
Cousin bait, using the internet to fish for long lost relatives, is the stated purpose of many family history blogs. Kathy and I pulled each other out of the vast internet sea! We are not cousins, but it's been just as exciting and probably more fruitful (pardon the fruit pun) to find each other. Our common interest in Houston's historical Produce Row has enabled both of us to progress in our own family research.

I is impossible to say, whether our "people" knew each other. We have found no evidence so far, besides the proximity of the two business. They clearly crossed paths as they shared the same stomping grounds. It has been eye opening to think of the various immigrant communities, including the Jewish (my ancestors) and the Italian (Kathy's husband's ancestors) communities, obviously interacting with each other during the early years of life in their new adoptive country.

Seeing the photo of the flood, naturally led to the question: was my family's business affected by the floods? Kathy, has shared three other flood photos with me. I have not been able to determine with certainty that the rising bayou waters reached commerce street, but in all likelihood they did. Kathy can document that her relatives experienced the flood. They photographed and document it! To address the question of how my family was affected by the flood, I need to do a bit more digging and write another post!

For now, I'd like to end this post with another Banana Song! This was a favorite in our home when the boys young. I dedicate it to Kathy, the Morales Bloomfield and Pomerantz families and the rest of the descendants of Produce Row!

Raffi singing Apples and Bananas:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Genealogy Quote of The Week: Henry David Thoreau

The lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime and departing leave behind us footprints on the sands of time. 
Henry David Thoreau
Today, Father's Day, I dedicated this quote to all fathers who are leaving their children and grandchildren a wonderful legacy—their "footprints on the sands of time".

Note:  +Mariann Regan deserves a mention, since I would not have necessarily chosen this quote today, if it wasn't for her thoughtful and insightful comment last week. I know Mariann supports, not only my blogs, but many other bloggers in the genealogy community! Last week, in response to the saying I posted by Ralph Waldo Emerson's, Mariann remarked that compared to Emerson, Thoreau was mostly concerned with "solitude and meditation". Therefore, as I was searching for this week's quote, the line from Thoreau jumped out at me. I thought we would all enjoy seeing that Henry David Thoreau, in his solitude did at times meditate on ancestors. Thanks, Mariann for leaving such contemplative comments which help spark great conversations!

Happy Father's Day!

Quote source: 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday's Face from the Past: Risqué Photo

If you were hoping to see a Bloomfield photo from the surprise package I received yesterday, you are going to be disappointed. Those treasures are not quite ready to be shared, as there are too many questions and details I'd like to research first. Instead, I'm going to stick to my schedule, and share the photograph originally schedule for today's post. It promises to be almost as exciting as the Bloomfield bunch still resting in the envelope in which they arrived in.

This is an unusual photo from my collection. It's not an orphan photo, but rather features the new Mrs Bloomfield, my great-grandmother Minnie. The photo is dated and has a fairly large amount of writing on the back. Do you agree, it's a bit strange?

Minnie in Bed
Back in the twenties, folks tended to get dressed when they took the train and when they had their photo taken. Though photographs were becoming more affordable and common, they a certain aspect of glamour and novelty. When I first found Minnie's oldest photo album, I was surprised at the amount of photos she had and particularly the large number snapshots it contained. It almost seemed as if she had a camera, which surprised me, considering she did not have a lot of money. This photo, certainly indicates that Minnie or someone close to her owned a camera. It's quite an intimate shot, with Minnie lying in bed. Note: the dark bunched up section on the blanket which appears strange is actually the flowered comforter. The white duvet cover has a laced opening showing part of the comforter, which is easily discernable when you zoom into the photo with the help of the computer.

The writing on the back, in Minnie's own handwriting, provides interesting clues.

Back of the photo of Minnie lying in bed.
(Click to enlarge)

  • 12/26/1920
  • Please return. 
  • The other picture you have of me was taken in back of mother's house in the chicken coop. 
  • It doesn't look much like the back of a store does it.

Minnie and William Bloomfield were married Oct 23rd, 1920 in New York City, about two months before this photo was taken. For their honeymoon, they took a short trip, stopping in Springfield, Massachusetts to visit the Golds (mutual friends who were partially responsible for setting them up) and then heading to Laconia, where William introduced his new bride to his family. They ended up staying in New Hampshire and opening up a grocery shop.

Caption in the back reads:
Taken on our honeymoon Oct 30th, 1920
Sister Minnie
Minnie must have sent this photo to her brothers, along with a second photo from the honeymoon which she mentions in the blurb on the left. The photo of her "taken in back mother's house" is referring to a photo of Minnie feeding her mother-in-law's chickens (see left). That photo is dated Oct 30th, 1920 and signed sister Minnie. Amazingly, as Minnie requested, both photos were returned and found their rightful place back in Minnie's album.

The comment on the right refers to "the back of the store". I this comment references their new store, the Bloomfield Market, rather than her mother-in-law's grocery store which was located only a few miles away. My assumption implies that in the two months, when the honeymooners arrived in New Hampshire and the day after Christmas, when the photo of Minnie lying in bed was taken,  they were able to start their own business.

Two things lead me believe this is Minnie's own New Hampshire bedroom. The first is the comment about the back of the store. I know from her memoir (Stored Treasures), that they lived in a small room at the back of the store. The note to her brothers indicate that she told them about the store and their modest living arrangements. The second clue, is the framed photo above the bed. Easy to miss initially and difficult to make out, there is a single picture hanging on the wall above Minnie's head. Thanks to high resolution scanning and further zooming on the computer, I could easily recognize the Crane family portrait taken in 1918, when Minnie's brother Will returned safely from World War I.

Remember this photo?

It's one of the earliest family photographs in existence and the only one, with the five Cranes who made it to America, including Max who committed suicide a few years later. I have yet to see the original of this photo, all I have is a xerox copy. but I loved discovering that the original was hanging next to Minnie's wedding bed. I bet that when she sent the photo of herself in bed, she must have wanted her brothers to notice the portrait above her head, and I am pretty sure the didn't need a computer to take note.

Here is the big question? What was Minnie doing in bed? Was she sick? Why would she send a picture of herself in bed? It seems an odd way to show off her new home.

We many never know the answer to these questions. She doesn't look very ill in the photo. To me, she appears healthy and happy. In her memoir, she mentions falling ill to the Spanish Influenza in 1918, but she does not mention any sickness early in her marriage. I ran the date in my handy day of the Week Calculator, and discovered that Dec 26th, 1920 was a Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas. It's very possible the store was not open that sunday, and the new Mrs. Bloomfield could enjoy a lazy day in bed while her new husband snapped away risqué pictures of his bride. But why send such a picture to your siblings?

 My only guess is that she was in bed rest. My grandmother Ethel was born August 6th, 1921, eight months and ten days after this picture was taken. If she was born on time, then Minnie would have been barely three weeks pregnant in this photo. If Ethel was born a bit late, maybe Minnie was a much as five weeks along. Could she have been bleeding a bit? Did she know she was pregnant or was she hoping to conceive? Was the custom back then to stay remain in bed rest during the first trimester in order to improve the chances of a successful pregnancy? Perhaps by the time, she sent the photo, she knew she was pregnant in the photo and that is what she was showing off to her brothers.

I find it remarkable how much we can learn about Minnie from this one unusual photo. Much of the story behind the photo may be conjecture on my part, yet it comes from years of researching my ancestors and Minnie in particular. I'd love to hear what you think about these theories.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Surprise Package

I'm jumping onto the Treasure Chest Thursday bandwagon today! I know I don't have a blog corner dedicated to this particular geneablogger daily prompt but I just couldn't help it!

As I was leisurely sipping my morning coffee, browsing my favorite blogs and answering some of my followers comments from last night, the doorbell rang! Lincoln was at the door. Remember Don Lincoln? He's my amazing handyman who successfully assembled the now—somewhat famous— "Tienda" in my office (see: La Tienda Part I and Part II). This achievement has already earned him a place in my family's history. Lately, he has been spending so much time in our home, that he has pretty much become part of the family. Yesterday, he finished installing the garage shelves which replaced the bulky antique (see photo), and he is still working on a few left over projects. In addition to expert handyman, today he took on the role of treasure bearer.
The garage after Lincoln finished replacing the "Tienda" with
garage storage. His work table is still taking up part of the garage
will be gone soon! Notice the amazing bike rack! 

"You have a package," Lincoln said, and handed me what looked more like a thick white envelope.

"Not much of a package" I thought, thanked him and accepted the envelope. The padded envelope, was addressed to me. When I spotted the sender, I became a bit more intrigued.  My grandmother Ethel's (from Ethel's Scrapbook) first cousin Marty Bloomfield had e-mailed me a few days ago, asking for my mailing address. He mentioned some pictures he wanted to drop in the mail. Marty, has been one of a handful of trusted Bloomfield collaborators. In his email, he hadn't specified which pictures he was sending and I figured I would wait and see. Honestly, I wasn't expecting a treasure! He has shared a bunch of amazing photos with me in the past, and since his note didn't mention any new discoveries, I was inclined to think this might be a photo of Marty and his family. Not that I wouldn't enjoy such a photo. I absolutely would, Marty! But let's just say that, I would not have posted a modern family portrait on the blog under Treasure Chest Thursday.

When I opened the package, I couldn't believe it. Tucked inside a couple of old cardboard photo frames were 28 original vintage photographs, 2 newspaper articles, 1 postcard and 1 slide. I had seen a few of the photos before. These were photos of the Bloomfield brothers which Marty had scanned for me in the past and which I shared on this blog a several months ago. But most of the photos were brand new to me! Why Marty decided to entrust me with all of the originals, I'm not sure, but boy am I grateful!

Just when I think there are no more family treasures. No more lost diaries, or old albums, something always shows up. Another Stored Treasure! Thanks Marty for this amazing gift and for making my day, my week, my month and probably my year! I'm going to study these amazing treasures carefully and promise to share them with all of you soon! In the meantime, here is a glimpse of today's treasure!

Treasure Chest in the form of a white envelope, with the treasure content I found inside.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Flood Hero in Wrecked Town

Last Friday, the first named storm hit the north east. The rain was not terrible, but it was bad enough for the city of Boston to request commuters take the train rather than drive to work. The expected flooding never materialized, but there was enough rain for me to cancel a planned trip to Newport to meet up with some friends. Cozy and dry at home, riding out the storm,  I thought about storms and floods which affected my ancestors. In my research so far, I have come across two major storms, one in Vermont, the second in Houston, which affected my family. Amongst the rubble and devastation, I've gathered valuable information about my relatives. Today, I want to share the heroic story of Barney Kenet and the Vermont 1927 flood. 

Who is Barney Kenet, you ask? Barney Kenet was Max Blumenfeld's brother-in-law and longtime business partner. Barney's sister Leah Kenet was Max's wife. Max, my great-grandfather's—William Bloomfield—second oldest brother, used the name Blumenfeld. (To this day, I have not reach a definitive conclusion why he was the only one of the seven Bloomfield brothers to use the Blumenfeld name. I do know, they had an uncle Harris Blumefeld who predated them in the United States). In order to refresh your memory of Max and Leah, and the Springfield flood, you might want to look back at two earlier posts: Which Ancestors to Research?  and Springfield Vermont, Home of the Simpsons and the Bloomfields).

Last summer, I was fortunate to meet one of Barney Kenet's daughters. I found her on, and she happened to also live in the Boston area. Barney's daughter was the first person I met who knew Max personally. She had many fond memories of uncle Max and aunt Leah and was excited to share them with me. I told her about the roots trip I took earlier that summer where I visited her hometown of Springfield, Vermont. She told me about the experience of growing up Jewish in rural Vermont.  I wanted to know how the Bloomfields fared during the devastating 1927 flood. I was curious to know if their grocery store was flooded. Born in 1926, she was too young to recall the events first hand, but to my delight, she pulled out an article from the Boston Globe about her father's harrowing tale. Barney's daughter explained that Barney, did much of the peddling in the partnership. He delivered supplies to farmers in the surrounding towns while Max manned the Springfield store. This division of labor, was at times, a source of dispute amongst the overall peaceful partnership. The Kenets were are large clan while Max and Leah were childless. Bertha Kenet, resented managing the home front alone for extended periods with eight small children, while Barney traveled. Imagine how they all worried about him, the day of the flood.

View of a flooded Clinton Street, Springfield Vermont 1927.
 Max and Barney's store was located at 26 Clinton Street

Barney Kenet Flood Hero in Wrecked Town 

November 6, 1927

How Barney Kenet, Springfield merchants, saved the lives of scores of people in the little village of Cavendish, Vermont was graphically told in the Boston Globe of Monday morning by Louis M. Lyons, one of the Globe reporters, who, with scores of his fellows, worked his way into the stricken area from the Hub, when the first news of the disaster that had struck the Green Mountain State, came to the outside world.  
Mr. Kenet, well known around this section and a familiar sight as he peddled goods about the countryside, told a reporter representative his story Monday morning, after he returned from a harrowing a journey as it is every man’s experience to live through.  
The Globe story written on the spot where Mr. Kenet’s heroism saved scores of people, tells better than this overworked scribe, the scenes that followed the Springfield man’s entrance into the town. The story follows:  
By Louis M. Lyons 
Cavendish, Vt, Nov 6- The thriller of the flood is the story of Cavendish that lay a lovely hamlet on a hillside above the Black River, much of which lies now a mass of kindling wood at the bottom of a gulch.  
Disaster stuck it in the black of the night. A chasm 150 ft: deep and half a mile long marks the site of its principal residential street. Yet there is not a soul lost in the village. 
All were asleep in Cavendish. The rain pelted on roofs as it had for two days steadily. The roar of the river was a lullaby to the tight little village. Floods frightened them not for they had been forehanded and ran a penstock right down the village street last fall to care for any surplus water. It would keep their cellars dry.  
Peddler to the Rescue 
Long after Midnight a dry goods peddler from Springfield named Kenet, who makes the round of these Green Mountain villages with his wares, floundered through the mud in Cavendish and stalled his car as he had a hundred times in the hours that had delayed his return through the storm.  
He wrestled with the ruts, but his wheels sank deeper. He felt the bottom go out of the street. By good luck his car was jolted out of the hole, clear. But the bottom was dropping out of the road. He heard water rushing as though beneath his feet. But the river was far away. What tricks was his tired head playing on him. 
But it was real. He backed his car away from a great gaping hole and he remembered he read of earthquakes. The hole spread. He saw the street disappear, and the sidewalk. There stood a house beyond the sidewalk, a customer of his sometimes. 
Cries Rouse Tony 
The peddler got to the house of Tony Prokulevicz and told him of strange things, warned him to fly flee from his house. Tony felt safer inside and drier. The peddler, pleaded. His excitement won the argument. Tony and his wife were prevailed upon to flee into the storm in their nightclothes.  
They had barely cleared the threshold when the house slid into emptiness in the inky blackness of the night, they saw nothing where their house had been. They fled. Soon the church bell rand alarm and terror though Cavendish.
The peddler cried out as he had never cried his wares, to wake Tony’s neighbors. Did they think they had all night to escape? Did they suppose this was a slow thing like fire? Would they never believe their danger? 
After age-long moments they came streaming into the night, family after family. And pell-mell as they slipped into the dark without, their homes behind them slipped into nothingness beneath them.
“All Safe” 
There were no lights. The power line was broken. In the rain and the dark the neighbors gathered about the crater that had opened and where friends had lived.
Where was Fred Perkins? His house had gone. Here was Fred and his folks, too. All safe. 
“Ina Butler’s house isn’t there, either. Anybody seen Ina get out?” “Yes, Ina’s in our house.” 
“Where’s Harry Bemis? Yes, his house is gone too.” “Here’s Harry now”. 
“Anybody seen old Mrs. Bill Sperry and her sister? No. Aren’t they out? Their house is going to go next.” “Can anybody get round there? Look out there isn’t any bottom to it. Harry Bemis gone to get them out. My God, there goes Cornell’s house. They all right. Y’know Fred ain’t saved so much’s his front door key.”
One by one the homes on Cavendish’s main residential street were swallowed up in awful nothingness. 
Eight Homes Vanished
When morning came after the horror of the night, eight homes had vanished and a crater 250 feet across and deeper than any dared to peer into yawned beyond the doctor's house.
The home of Richard Minch slid away before their sight after daybreak. They heard it splinter against the Whitesville Bridge, a mile below.
After Tony’s home, the houses of Harry Bemis, Ina Butler, Fred Perkins, Mrs. Spafford, Mrs. Sperry and Minch, besides Earl Bates’s garage had dissolved in the flood.
Mrs. Cornelia Bemis’ house hung over the edge of the crater, that dropped as perpendicular as Bunker Hill from the back steps. Across the street James Fuller’s house straddled a crevasse.  
Cavendish, Vt., November 1927 from the Vermont Collection at Middlebury College
The district school that had stood back 76 feet from the street now stood dizzily avoe the straight wall of the chasm. Hugh Eliot’s house beside it was perched onthe edge of nothing. Dr. W R Kitson’s house is habitable. It is a lovely house, the finest house of the village. The doctor refused $6,000 for it only last spring. The lawn swing stands hospitably out front. The comfortable furniture is still in the rooms. But after the horror of that night, the things she saw by lantern light make that street too terrible for the doctor’s wife. She never will live there again, she says. The doctor is looking for a little place on the other side of town. 
Raise $8000 for the Homeless 
All the homeless ones were alive and whole with neighbors and a reverent village gave thanks for that, all divided the burden of providing for the stricken neighbors.
** a truck load of clothing came from the Salvation Army in Boston. The local members of the Red Cross put on their white caps and insignia and passed hats among the sightseers from the country round. They had raised $3000 this sum to be divided among those whose homes are gone.  
Besides the houses that are piled and indistinguishable pile of splinters on the river banks below Cavendish, dozens of other homes in the tiny village are untenable. Guards are stationed all about the wide hole to protect the inhabitants and visitors against the menace and the hole that the river gouged out of the hill town.  
The river bends around the village of Cavendish. The dike and penstock laid last fall provided for carrying the overflow through the center of the town, as a sewer pipe runs down a street. The penstock that tied into the river again on the lower side a mile away.
What the gods of wrath played with the hills and valleys of the Green Mountain State Thursday night, as Rip Van Winkle’s friends played .. their nine ... , the hill of Cavendish was chosen for a ten ...strike worthy of mythology and the hillside that was there in the dawn. 
............ Cavendish lies back off the side road, two miles from Proctorsville on the road to Ludlow from Springfield, Vermont. When the receding floods made it impossible to get through from White River Junction to Ludlow, the tragedy of Cavendish was the grimmest mark left by the flood in all that countryside. 
But at Cavendish, when you seek their story, they tell you of the fate of Ed Jurras, who had brought a load of apples to the cider mill from Springfield that Thursday afternoon. He started back late over the road that the rain had softened for two days. He never got back and swirling black waters tell no detail of the story of the man or the truck that he drove. 
So differently did the gods of wrath deal with the two who drove into Cavendish that stormy night, the peddler who is the hero of Cavendish and with the cider seller who left no trace. 
(**Note:  ... represent areas difficult to read on the xerox copy of the article I have). 
 While this historic flood brought much devastation to the region, as a genealogist, I am grateful for the insight it provided into my family's history. Next week, I hope to share another flood related story, this time in Houston. This second story is more serendipitous than dramatic. Both stories point out how important it is to research the natural disasters which most likely affected our forefathers and may teach us about them. Have you come across a natural disaster story in your research?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday's Faces from the Past: The Bogdanows

Friday's Faces from the Past: The Bogdanows

Abe and Mollie Bogdanow with the Children Morris and Gwen, their daughter in-law
Ethel and their grandchildren. May, 1951
Left to right, Top row: Morris, Abe, Mollie, Ethel, Gwen
Middle Row: Shelly, Jodie
Bottom row: Barbara, Larry and Bill
Meet Mollie and Abe Bogdanow, my great-grandparents. This is one of the few remaining photos of the two of them. There are even fewer photographs of Mollie than there are of Abe, since he outlived his wife for ten years. This family portrait, is quite special because it features them with all their descendants at that time, with the exception of their youngest grandson Michael born in 1950 and somehow missed this Kodak moment. Mollie died of a cerebral hemorrhage (according to her death certificate) about 8 months after this picture was taken.

It's seems Sid Smith, Gwen's husband was the photographer. I deduced this fact from a second photo of Mollie and Abe with the Smiths, taken the same day.  Everyone is dressed in the same outfit and they are posing in the exact same spot. This second photo has a fairly clearest image of Mollie's face.

Top: Abe, Gwen, Sid, and Mollie
Bottom: Shelly and Jodie
(Click to enlarge)
If I photo is worth a thousand words, I sure wish these photos could share a two thousand word story about Abe and Mollie whom I know so little about. For now, I'll have to settle with these two snapshots of some special family occasion in front of an undisclosed Bogdanow home.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, and do stop by to visit this Friday's Fabulous Finds by +Jana Last , who highlighted both my interview with Sarah Ashley from and part II of La Tienda, amongst some great genealogy finds!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

La Tienda Part II

Continuation from last week's post: La Tienda Part I

Crowding the back of the garage for over a year, the Tienda, stood unused and decaying. There was no  garage storage space and the office remained without a proper bookshelf. As much as my genealogy materials called out at me to be properly archived, I couldn't allow myself to spend thousands of dollars on a new bookcase. I felt stuck! Out of frustration, we decided to do the second best thing: unpack and put together the Mexican bookcase for use as garage storage. Not ideal, I admit, but better than letting the tienda continue to deteriorate the due to lack of maintenance and use.

A friend, who in turn hired three more friends and two large ladders, helped assemble the heavy shelves. The fixture looked completely out of place (sorry, I don't have a picture), housing balls, bicycle helmets and coolers, but at least we had somewhere to store our junk. It was not a pretty sight. The garage, overwhelmed by the sheer size of this bulky bookcase, remained only a tiny bit more functional and marginally less crowded.

Three weeks ago, everything came to a head, when I was leaving for the little league match. I needed a folding chair which was awkwardly placed on the bookshelf between a couple of elegant columns. In the process of squeezing myself between the car and the bookshelf, I knocked over three bikes. Though I hate to admit this in public, I just about lost it that day. My frustration with the garage just about boiled over and I could not believe that the garage would stay so tight and messy indefinitely.  I called my local version of Don Miguel, our trustworthy neighborhood handyman—Lincoln, and asked him to take a look at the garage and somehow find a place for a bike rack.

Lincoln, examined the situation closely. Since the bookcase took up eighty percent of the back wall of the garage, he suggested,  hanging the bikes from the ceiling.. This solution generated some problems and he questioned me about the bookcase which clearly looked out of place. When I relayed a briefer version this saga, explaining how there was no way to get the bookcase into its' intended destination, I noticed a sparkle in his eyes. He listen politely and then proclaimed: "I can do it. I can take it apart. I love this kind of delicate projects!"

"Really? Are you sure?" I asked in disbelief.

He took a few steps up and down the gigantic bookshelf, tapped the sides and examined the construction and then stated emphatically, that what I thought was impossible, could definitely be done. His plan involved pulleys to get the longer parts through one of the small third floor window, but he was confident quite confident it would succeed.

One of third floor office windows used
 to pull up the bookshelf. It is the smallest window
 in the house measuring about 2'x3.5'
I knew Lincoln was the man for the job! It took four days, one assistant and a lot of patience. He disassembled the old bookshelf into more than fifty smaller parts, three of which were eleven foot long. Lincoln even found a small bullet embedded into the ancient wood, which he extracted and handed over to me for safekeeping. Last week, after spending two unhappy years in the garage, the Mexican Tienda appeared like new—or more like—unharmed in my office!

My mission now is to bring the bookshelf to it's original glory. I spent the weekend, rehydrating the thirsty wood with oil and then stacking it with books and office supplies, some of which have been in boxes for as long as the Tienda spent in the garage. The garage is now empty and ready to receive proper garage storage shelves which Lincoln will build. Finally, the office has become a pleasant place to work! I bring you this post from my antique desk (a desk with its' own story). Every few minutes, I can not help but raise my eyes and glance with amazement at the miracle of having La Tienda here with me. The bookshelf is so large, that it now houses not only many of my books, but also most of the family photos albums and my genealogy files.  Best of all, it displays many photos of my ancestors as well as my descendants. For lack of display space, they were in storage for quite some time. These vintage photos have accompanied me along my genealogy journey and inspired my work and it is a wonderful feeling to be able to enjoy them again!

La Tienda, in the third floor office!
Lincoln had  the foresight to. when possible, use screws rather than nails, making disassembly easier in the unlikely possibility of needing to move the bookcase in the future. We are also adding a library ladder make the top shelves more accesible. I hope to replace the missing glass from the drawers which will bring back the transparent compartments to their intended use (see pictures below) and  I am on the lookout for matching drawer knobs. In leu of antique candy jars, I found some vintage looking ones and filled them with office supplies. They now sit in the jar niches.

Closeup of a drawer missing glass & knob.
(Click to enlarge)

One remaining glassed drawer
with original knob. (Click to enlarge).

Closeup of the knob

Vintage style candy jars in niche.
(Click to enlarge)

When we purchased this Tienda, I had yet to discover my passion for family history. I knew that my great-grandparents owned a grocery store, but I spent little time pondering what the store may have looked like in the early 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. I never made a connection between this old Mexican grocery store display and my ancestors grocery store. But, as I was writing this post and contemplated the Tienda, I recalled a photo I came across recently. This amazing snapshot, printed as a postcard, is one of the few surviving photos the Bloomfield Market. In this unlabeled photo, taken around 1920, I am able to identify my great-grandfather, William Bloomfield who is standing behind the counter. To my amazement, behind him is what looks like a very large set of shelves, neatly stacked with rows of boxes, bottles and canned goods. It's difficult to tell from the photo, but it's quite possible that the vertical dividers are columns, just like the Mexican Tienda. Far away from Puebla Mexico, this vintage family photo, provides a glimpse of what the Mexican tienda would have looked like in its heyday. I am not sure what became of the New Hampshire tienda, but Minnie provides a small clue in her Memoir, Stored Treasures:
"We bought a grocery store from a friend of Will's (William Bloomfield). It was some ten miles from where his mother's store was located. She had some fixtures that she loaned us. So without any money, or experience, we were in business." (Stored Treasures, 137)
William Bloomfield, at the Bloomfield Market
Laconia, NH c1920
(Click to enlarge)
It's very likely that the loan included the fixtures in this picture and my guess is that they were returned to Freida Toby when William and Minnie moved to Houston. I don't believe any furniture from that period remains in the family. Though I'm not a big believer in destiny, I feel as if the Mexican tienda which now proudly sits in my office,  had a purpose in fighting it's way back into my home.

As of now, my children do not have much of an appreciation for our eclectic taste in rustic furniture. Hopefully, one of our sons will one day want to inherit this beautiful tienda. Thanks to this blog post, the bookcase, will come with a story!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Featured Interview on

Sarah Sward Ashley
Genealogist and founder of
Genealogist Sarah Ashley, founder of Geneartistry has a unique twist on genealogist. She believes, genealogist should pull their files out of storage and display them to the world in a beautiful artistic way! A few months ago, she approached me about an interview. Sarah heard how my genealogy work inspired my husband to create an art installation called "Our Ancestors." Today, she published the  complete interview on her website/blog I was honored to be approached by Sarah and very much enjoyed working with her, especially her thoughtful questions. I invite you to read the interview and visit her blog!

To read more about the installation "Our Ancestors", visit a post I wrote last March titled Genealogy Art.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Inspirational Genealogy Quote of the Week: Unknown

Author unknown, source: 

How true it is! I don't know if the person who came up with this statement was thinking about genealogy, but it certainly applies! Have a great weekend everyone!