Saturday, January 11, 2014

52 Ancestors: #2 Eva Jane Mapes & Sanford Clark

I am perhaps bending one of the rules of "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" by devoting a second week to my Grandma Eva Clark, but she IS my  inspiration. Also, I have an interview I recorded with her years ago, so am able to let her tell her story in her own words. I will take up Eva's story where I left her, a young teenage girl living in Sturgeon Bay. 

Eva met Sanford Clark when she worked for him and his first wife Edith, caring for their two little girls, Lucille and Helen. (Sanford and Edith were neighbors of Eva's Aunt Jane). Edith had serious health issues, complicated by the fact that she was pregnant. She spent the month of December 1912 in the hospital and had surgery in an attempt to save her life. During this time she gave premature birth to a little boy, whom they named Sanford. The baby died December 19, and Edith followed on January 5, 1913. After Edith's death, the girls were cared for by her relatives, and Eva went back to work for Mrs. Wally Lawrence.

Falling in Love, and Sailing Away

Eva & Sanford's Honey-Moon
In the next couple of years Eva matured into a young lady, and before long she and Sanford became reacquainted. Mrs. Lawrence tried to dissuade Eva from dating him, perhaps because of the 16 years' difference in their ages. She told Eva she and Mr. Lawrence would take her around to dances, and if she met a "nice young man", they would pay for her wedding. "She pulled one way, and he pulled the other...I guess he pulled harder."

Sanford was a steam engineer on the stone barge "Adriatic" during the Great Lakes sailing season, and on Thursday, August 3, 1916, Eva joined Sanford when the Adriatic left Sturgeon Bay. Later that day when they docked at the port in Manitowoc, they walked to the court house and got married. They were joined by Adriatic's captain (Sanford's cousin) and his wife, Albert and Ella Braunsdorf.

Eva & Sanford Clark with
Albert, Ella & Mabel Braunsdorf

Eva stayed on the Adriatic for the rest of that sailing season. "Funny I didn't fall off. They didn't have no railings and no hatch covers." When they would get into port, she and Ella would go up town for supplies. "It was fun. I had never gotten around like that before." One time it got so rough that Sanford carried the kerosene tank from the stove up onto the deck because the stove tipped over. She and Ella were in their doorways. "When we get back to Sturgeon Bay, we're getting off!" But we didn't." She stayed on until the boat laid up in November, after Thanksgiving. The next year she was expecting their first child, so he wouldn't let her go along anymore.

Marriage Certificate
(Note they  fudged their ages
and the fact that he was a widower)

Life on the Farm During the Depression

Eva and daughter Amelia

Eva and Sanford had seven children: Amelia, Clifford, Raymond, Frank (my Dad), Herbie, Gerry and Doris. In 1929, when my Dad was a toddler, they purchased land near Jacksonport, bought an old store building and had it moved to their farm for their house. "We moved out there in '29, and right into the Depression. We didn't have anything but a hoe to dig in the garden. We only had the one cow, and it was hard enough to find food to feed it. There was nothing there on a bare farm."
Sanford & Eva, Frank & Ray

Frank was 3 years old when Herbie was born. He was a beautiful, black-haired little boy who was my Dad's buddy. When he was 18 months old, he died of Scarlet Fever. Eva was already pregnant with Gerry, and could not afford the luxury of being able to mourn for long. Doris was her "change of life baby", coming along nine years after Gerry. She was Grandma's pride and joy, and the only one to be born in the hospital. The morning Doris was born, she sat on a chair with the pan of bread dough on another, and punched down the dough for 8 loaves of bread before leaving for the hospital.

Sanford & Eva with his daughters Lucille & Helen,
and Amelia & Clifford

Good Times & Hard Times

Raising a family during the Depression was not easy. "We had good times and hard times." Neighbors were very important. They were there to help each other, and "we had lots of parties at our little bit of a house." Neighbors from all around would come, everyone bringing what they had: "One brought cake, another brought sandwiches, and I always had pickles. The men would drain their cars in the winter because nobody had money to have their cars winterized. The kids would sit on the steps in the entry, singing, and we would play cards, cheating a little bit... The guys would pass around a hat, and maybe each one would have a quarter to put in for a keg of beer. The men would carry out the cook stove so they had room to dance. One of them played the accordion and they would dance. Mrs. Bill Brauer, I can see her now, would sit on the edge of the sink and swing her legs and say, "I never have as much fun as I do here. It's small and everybody's together." 

Amelia, Clifford, Frank & Raymond,
Sanford, Eva, Doris and Gerry
Sanford, Gerry, Eva, Amelia, Doris & Frank
In later life, when Grandpa was no longer able to get down onto his milking stool, they sold the farm and moved to the city of Sheboygan. They celebrated their 45th and 50th anniversaries with parties- food and dancing with friends and family.

Grandma was a simple cook, but could put together a tasty meal out of nothing. She loved her beer and cheese, and always had a pickle after dessert, "to cut the sweet".

Grandma loved to laugh. She enjoyed the adventure of travel, and had friends all over the country. She was in Florida when she got the heart-breaking news of the murder of her daughter Doris, and rushed back to Wisconsin. "That was the longest trip of my life. You never expect to bury your children!"

Grandma was a humble woman, and wise beyond her schooling. Her last home was a small two room apartment. She still didn't have much in the way of material things, but she felt she had more now than at any time in her life. Her treasures were family and the keepsakes in the top drawer of her bureau. 


  1. Great story! Really enjoyed reading this. :)

    1. Thank you. I enjoyed putting it together. Hope you enjoy the rest :)

  2. You are on your way! Great stories and photos, too.Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Jeannie. I'm so glad I heard about this challenge. It's a great incentive to get those stories told.

  3. Great story! And I love Door County. My husband and I were married there.

    1. Thanks Trish. I may be biased, but I love Door County, too. Are you by chance related to the Rohn's from Sturgeon Bay?

  4. Great job on your new blog!

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thanks Jana! I am enjoying reading everyone else's blogs. So many unique ways to tell their families' stories.