Tag Archives: Sleuthing

For Those Who Made The Sacrifice

I recently received a number of surprise emails with attachments from the sister who happily dives into piles of old photos and documents, sending me anything that she thinks might catch my fancy.  Louise had turned up a number of WWII era letters to and from Alvin D. Saucier (my father’s younger brother) after his enlistment; the kind of letters that say a lot without saying anything at all.  The folks at home trying to make out like things were normal, and the son in the service so obviously lonely for news of home and family.

I’ve had a wonderful time working through the letters; simple, everyday chatter of babies getting heat rash because the summer had been so very hot that year, the menfolk getting in quality fishing time, but who didn’t catch a lot because the summer had been so very hot that year, and recent overnight showers that cooled things down a bit and will do the garden good because the summer had been so very hot that year.

There was even news of Mrs. Sweeney returning home after an extended and mysterious absence, and that piece of news prompted me to ask myself a few questions:

  1. Who on earth was Mrs. Sweeney?
  2. I wonder where Mrs. Sweeney went for a number of weeks in June & July of 1943?
  3. I wonder if Mrs. Sweeney went to Chicago and took her cow along?  No. Wait. Back up. That was Mrs. O’Leary along about 1871.
V-Mail to Alvin D. Saucier from his mother, Ida Hoffmann Saucier

V-Mail to Alvin D. Saucier, from his mother, Ida (Hoffmann) Saucier, wife of James Garfield Saucier

(Note: You can click on any of these items for an embiggened view.)

The answer to my first question was buried in the pile of email in another letter to Al, this one from Bill Sweeney, dated 21 September 1945.  My best guess is that Bill was the son of the much-travelled Mrs. Sweeney, and in his letter, Bill made no mention of the weather.  His talk was all soldier-to-soldier, mostly concerned with daydreams of life after mustering out.  He did, however, mention that he was just back from “a typical sailors’ leave, one that he wasn’t much proud of, but had to admit it was fun”.  Okay.  A period can be put on that topic.  Moving along.

letter from Bill Sweeney to Alvin D. Saucier dated 21 September 1945

Bill Sweeney and Al Saucier - 1945

Bill Sweeney and Al Saucier – 1945

More letters, more news from home, and the very last attachment included assorted photographs that Al had saved – one photo in particular caught my eye, it was older than the WWII items – and then I realized what I was seeing…

Battlefield burial site of Charles Clide Saucier near Nancy, France

Battlefield burial site of Charles Clide Saucier

And For Those Who Made The Supreme Sacrifice

Charles Clide Saucier 1895-1918

Charles Clide Saucier 1895-1918

The photo was a burial registration photograph for Charles Clide Saucier, who on 27 September 1918, died of wounds received during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  This photo managed to reignite my search for great-Uncle Charlie’s final resting place, and allowed me to close another mystery – the date on great-Uncle Ben’s letter home during WWI.

Along the way, I’ve discovered a few more documents and newspaper clippings that not only shed a little light on Charlie’s time in the Army, but from his draft registration, we know a bit about his physical characteristics as well: tall, gray-eyed, with light colored hair.

WWI Draft Registration Card Charles Clide Saucier 5 June 1917

WWI Draft Registration Card Charles Clide Saucier 5 June 1917

Franklin County Tribune (Union, Missouri) Friday, 8 Nov 1918 page 4

Franklin County Tribune (Union, Missouri) Friday, 8 Nov 1918 page 4

From the clipping above, I think that it’s safe to infer that Ben’s letter home was one of the letters written on September 25, 1918.  In the letter, Ben wrote of being bivouacked outside of Nancy, describing his surroundings along with non-battle related experiences in a very general way.  The American Expeditionary Forces had liberated Nancy September 16, 1918, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive began ten days later on September 26, 1918.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Tuesday, 5 Nov 1918 (Main Editiion) page 4

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Tuesday, 5 Nov 1918 (Main Editiion) page 4

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Thursday, 14 Nov 1918 page 6

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Thursday, 14 Nov 1918 page 6. The Mrs. Thomas O’Donnell referenced in the clipping was Louise (Lulu Saucier) O’Donnell, one of Charles’ sisters.

Application for Military Headstone/Marker - Charles Clide Saucier

Application for Military Headstone/Marker – Charles Clide Saucier. The application was made by Mrs. Wm. Pace of Washington, Missouri aka Henrietta (Hattie Saucier) Pace, another of Charles’ sisters.

St. Anthony's Catholic Cemetery, Oak Grove (Stanton), Franklin County, Missouri.

St. Anthony’s Catholic Cemetery, Oak Grove (Stanton), Franklin County, Missouri.

I’d long assumed that Charlie’s headstone at Stanton, Missouri was a cenotaph, no remains, simply a marker for family members to take comfort in.  I’ve been through every database I could find, the final say coming from the American Battlefield Monuments Commission – there is no record of Charles Saucier being interred in any of the recognized cemeteries overseas.  Which brings me to the conclusion that Charlie was, after all, brought home.  The one unchecked item remaining on my to-do list is to apply to the Joint Mortuary Affairs Center for Charlie’s repatriation records.

Wish me luck that the records survived the fire of 1973 at the Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (records for Army personnel discharged November 1, 1912 through January 1, 1960 equaled an 80% loss).

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Sturgis Union School

Sturgis Union School

Here’s a brick wall that I’ve been taking a semi-masochistic pleasure in butting my head up against.  A single photo found among other family photographs that has no identification other than the imprint on the left: Sturgis Union School.  Is this a keepsake from a cherished friend?  Or is there (fingers crossed) a family member here?  So far, all research has ended in a null result.

Date?  1860-ish.  The original size of the photograph is not known to me, and the only other clue is the sepia toned albumen print on thin paper that has been mounted on card stock – it could be either a carte de visite, or a cabinet card – both were popular in the 1860’s.  I dislike being ambiguous, so for starters, let’s put this one in the late 1860’s.  I arrived at that date through the details and hints in their clothing, and by keeping in mind that these people were almost certainly school staff and would dress conservatively to set a good example for their students…

Nearly bandbox fresh:  Bodices of the 1860’s fastened down the front with buttons, and the buttons got progressively larger as the decade drew to a close.  Small white collars often fastened by a brooch were considered fashion forward.  Shoulders were long and sloping, with sleeve openings that circled the upper arm.  Bishop sleeves, jockey waists with belts, full skirts with a slightly flatter front, hints of braid and bodice trim, and quietly prominent jewelry, all suggest the early part of the decade had been left behind and trends were moving towards the more flamboyant styles of the 1870’s.

Coiffures: Crimps were worn in a girlish and playful style, but the conservative fashionistas often wore their hair center-parted and pulled back into a bun, with a hair net, then let the bun release to fall down the neck.

Birds of a different feather: Let’s not exclude the less showily dressed – and perhaps more telling members of the group.  These two men seem to be dressed in a transitional style; the jackets are baggy (sack jackets), with large flat lapels and low collars, a style very popular in the late 1850’s, but both men sport single-breasted vests, high shirt collars with narrow silk ties, and not the double breasted waistcoat and two-inch wide and knotted silk ties of the previous decade.  On the other hand, neither one wears the wide and squared-ended neckties worn low on the throat that were so popular in the 1870’s.  Their coats and vests are made from contrasting fabrics.  Ditto suits – where all components are made of the same material – were still a novelty in the 1860’s.

The latest from the tonsorial parlor: Hair is cut ear-length in the back, parted on the side, and combed smoothly back with neatly trimmed sideburns and whiskers – a huge departure from the longer, over-the-ear style with a high front wave and the smoothly shaven face of the 1850’s.

I’ve spent so much time being fascinated by the details found in the photograph – from the obvious (that carpet!), to the not-so obvious (is that a pelisse or a paletot?), that even if there is no family connection, I still have a piece of history that has given me a lot of enjoyment.  I adore the nearly matching plaid fabrics that two of the young women are wearing, and the older gent with the far-seeing eyes blows me away.

And the poses; one man’s hand placed on a woman’s shoulder, another woman has her hand on a chair back, the two women in the back row turned slightly inward, one posed in 3/4 profile, and the favorite; the young woman seated in front – yes, the one who is wearing the jacket – fingertips resting on her face, and lounging with an elbow braced on the central figure’s knee.  All of this seems to suggest the idea of a casual family group, but I don’t see any similarities in the faces, and that leaves me firmly in the camp that says this is a group of coworkers (note the bands worn on the ring fingers of the two women in plaid – they weren’t students).

But… there is one young woman, center row left, whose features bear a certain family resemblance, and teaching as a vocation keeps popping up in the Saucier family – could we be connected to one of the people in this photo, after all?

The Saucier Family: One Last Word

The Saucier Family circa 1900

Top Row: Wayne, Gertie, Hattie, Lulu, Clara, Flo, JoJo, Jim

Middle Row: Stumie, Eugene Saucier, Louise Saucier, Ben

Front Row: Gene, Ethel, Mabel, Cack

It’s been over a year now since I posted a call for help on the photograph of the Saucier Family, and at last I feel that I can put a “period” to this topic.  My thanks go out to everyone who’s contributed gentle advice, corrections, family stories and anecdotes in the process of sorting out the facts.  Thanks specifically to generous cousins of the Cowan, Howell, Tappel, Fanconi, Saucier, Thomas, Cotrufo and Goodin variety, we have photos of each of the children later in life.  Some you’ve certainly seen before, but there are a few that may be a surprise.  There is one photo that I’ve cropped out of a group shot for lack of anything better, but over on the sidebar you’ll find a gallery where you can see the original photo prior to my snip-snip with digital scissors.

I’ve put the photos in the same order as they appear in the photo above, not in order of their ages.

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Regarding Stories of the Saucier Family by Louise T. Saucier

Louise T Saucier

Louise Theresa Saucier

I’ve been having the most wonderful ongoing conversation with Claire Saucier, who stepped forward a few weeks ago and generously shared information she received from her aunt, Louise Theresa Saucier (1916-2012).  Louise Saucier was not only the daughter of Anthony Wayne Saucier (1885-1926), but she was a family historian.  Louise faithfully recorded both the hard data and the family stories we’ve heard since we were children… plus a few more items to be treasured.

Anthony Wayne and Charley Saucier, Washington, Missouri 1923

Anthony Wayne and Charley Saucier

Claire has gathered and organized this information into a book titled: Stories of the Saucier Family by Louise T. Saucier.  How many times have I read it cover to cover, or referenced back to a particular photo or piece of information?  Couldn’t begin to say, but I will say that the book is a delight mainly because much of the focus is on the day to day life of Wayne and Theresa (Walz) Saucier; and their three children, Louise, Charley and Bill.

I’ve been given permission to include a few photos from Claire’s book.  The first is the photo at the top: Louise costumed for either a high school or college production (both of which are mentioned in the book).  The second photo is of Uncle Wayne and his son, Charley Saucier, taken at Washington, Missouri in 1923.  I’ve also added several photos to the new photo gallery located on the sidebar (as if you hadn’t noticed it already), two of which are photographs of Aunt Clara and a more recent photo of Louise.

As a result of this new info, I’m going to reopen the topic of the key for the Saucier Family photograph.  Those lucky enough to have corresponded with Louise will recognize the writing.

Saucier Family Photo Key by Louise T. Saucier: courtesy of Claire Saucier

Saucier Family Photo Key by Louise T. Saucier: courtesy of Claire Saucier

 

The Saucier Family

The Saucier Family

Another cousin and I were discussing the family photo only yesterday, and my conclusion was this: in my experience, a family portrait taken around the beginning of the 20th century was a very big deal.  Not only was every family member included, but also at times, horses and buggies, cats and dogs, prized furniture and sometimes even a quilt or two.  Louise’s key makes so much sense to me, not only because she was Uncle Wayne’s daughter (and in Claire’s words, a daddy’s girl), but also because she grew up in close association with her aunts and uncles.

No Wheels? Go By Horse, Of Course.

I’m sitting here at the computer, trying to decide if I should get up and go outside for a little rain dancing.  It’s either that or break out the garden hose and start watering.  We do have an 80% chance of rain this afternoon, and while the sky is overcast – in an on-again/off-again way – I’m thinking that maybe our local meteorologist declared the Happy Hour open just a little bit early today. His prediction doesn’t seem to be based on hard science.

Speaking of happy, my inbox has been a very happy place to be this week.  Cousins have been sharing some very cool family photos, and I’m finally getting around to posting some of them.  (I know what you’re thinking and it’s nothing that I haven’t said to myself… slacker.)

Louise Saucier O’Donnell

First up is a photo from a Thomas cousin.  The photo is labeled, “Bernard, Don, and myself in front of our house in East St. Louis”.  On the back of the photograph, “Aunt Lulu” is written.

Aunt Louise Bernard and Don

Bernard and Don Saucier were Aunt Lulu’s nephews, sons of a younger brother, Eugene Field Saucier.  Bernard was born 17 December, 1915 and Donald was born 23 September, 1917.  Best guess on a date for the photo would be the early 1920s, which would have made Aunt Lulu forty-something – some twenty years or so after the Saucier Family photo was taken.

The information I have on Louise “Lulu” Saucier, is a little hazy: born 25 November, 1880, died 19 March, 1956 in an automobile accident at Times Beach, Missouri.  Aunt Lulu married Thomas O’Donnell, had a large family, and was a long time resident of East St. Louis, Illinois.

I’ve compared this photo of Aunt Lulu to the Saucier Family photo, and I do have a couple of likely looking suspects picked out, with a strong first choice.  That straight nose and determined jawline are very distinctive.  Anyone else care to make a guess?  Leave a comment, or drop me an email.

Eugene Field Saucier

The next two photos came courtesy of a Cardwell cousin, both are photos of Eugene Field Saucier.  Please note that in the first photo, there is equipment hanging on the saddle horn, so Uncle Gene wasn’t out for a leisurely ride in the country.

Uncle Gene Saucier on horseMy dad used to tell stories about his uncles, the Saucier Boys, and how crazy they were for the game of baseball.  I’m pleased to say that I can move the stories from the family legend column, to the fact column.  The next photo shows Uncle Gene, again on horseback, on his way to or from a baseball game, and in uniform.

unclegeneinbaseballuniformCan anyone identify that second man?  He has the deep-set eyes, and a certain look about him suggests, to me anyway, that he is family.  But who?

Francis Field Saucier

If baseball is mentioned at one of our family gatherings, the conversation will soon turn to Frank Saucier, Uncle Stumy’s (Alexander’s) youngest son… but I’ll save that cousin for a future post.

Frank Saucier[Edit.: The rain is pouring down!  Mea culpa for those earlier bad thoughts I directed towards our terrifically smart weatherman – he’s an absolute genius.]

A Promise Is A Promise Is A Promise

June has blown right by with little thought on my part for anything in the way of regular posts.  The only excuse I can provide for the chirping of electronic crickets at this end was the unusual weather we’ve been enjoying here in SW Oklahoma.  We have certainly seen the mercury rise, eleven days over 100° so far (37.7° Celsius for my metric using friends), but other than those few days, when all I wanted to do was to hunker down and ride out the heat, it really has been a balmy spring.  Now my definition of balmy may differ somewhat from yours, but trust me on this one, it’s been a season worth remembering.

Weeks ago I mentioned the existence of a key to the much celebrated Saucier Family photograph.  Both photo and key were generously contributed by Glen Cowan, but time has unfortunately gone into overdrive since I made that promise.  At last, today is the day for the unveiling.

Here’s the photo once again, this time accompanied by the key that was provided by Aunt Mabel’s daughter, Mary Virginia “Ginny” Cowan Wahl (b. 17 June, 1922 – d. 12 September, 2011).  Aunt Mabel is seated in the bottom row, third from the left.

saucier_familysaucier_family_photo_keyGo ahead and click on the image for a larger view – as you will see, there are question marks and omissions in the key.  One glaring error is the line, “Grandfather Saucier… died two years after picture”.  It is known that Eugene F. Saucier died in 1913, so the supposition that this photo was taken in 1911 is, I think, slightly off-base due to the ages of the identified children.

At the same time there are a few tasty tidbits included that give us a glimpse of the people we came from:  great grandfather Eugene F. played the violin, his father played the organ at the Old Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri.  Stumy lived for nearly 100 years – a jaw-dropping 98 years to be exact – and may have played the fiddle as well.  Charles was killed in World War I (in the first days of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive); and two of the Saucier boys, Stumy and Wayne, together with a third man by the name of Dan, bought the Old Mill Farm (aka the Twin Springs Farm) and paid it off in a year.  So here’s yet another mystery – who in the world was Dan?

I had hoped, by some incredible stroke of luck, that the mysteries of the Saucier Family photograph would be unraveled by now.  That hasn’t happened, but perhaps the key will kick-start someone’s memories, or simply spur somebody to step forward to help set the record straight.  Stranger things have happened, and the eternal optimist (yours truly) refuses to give up on this particular little pipe dream.

One of the side benefits of this discussion has been the surfacing of family photographs.  I’ll wrap up today’s post with a few of my favorites:

Nana on horseback sidesaddleHere is a photograph of my grandmother, Ida Louise Hoffmann Saucier (b. 23 June, 1888 – d. 14 September, 1963).  Ida married James Garfield Saucier on 16 February, 1909 at Union, Missouri.  James is located top row, far right in the Saucier Family photograph.  And yes, you have my permission to giggle or chortle over the hat that she’s wearing – I do, every single time I see it!

josephinesauciercowanJosephine Saucier who married Eugene Cowan, Sr.,  photographed at her home in Columbia, Missouri (which, by the way, is still standing at 406 Conley Avenue).  Aunt Jo was one of the eight daughters of Eugene F. and Louise A. Saucier.  Unfortunately, Jo does not appear in the Saucier Family photograph.

Lastly, from another of Josephine’s grandchildren, a photograph said to be of a much younger Jo Saucier with an unidentified man.  The photo captures the final moments of a profitable day spent hunting – I spy pheasant, rabbit, possibly raccoon or maybe just a tangle of squirrels, in addition to some unidentified bits and pieces.

Josephine (JoJo) SaucierI’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – thank you, each and every one of you, who’ve made these wonderful photographs of our family available.

The Gibson Girl: An American Ideal 1890-1910

nanapa2Time for me to toss another family photograph in the mix, and the only people that I can positively identify are the couple on the left, my grandparents: James Garfield Saucier (b. 16 April 1887) and Ida Louise Hoffmann (b. 23 June 1888).  James and Ida were married 16 February 1909 in Union, Franklin County, Missouri  [Note: Anyone recognizing the three people on the right, please feel free to sing out.]

This photograph, coupled with the Saucier Family photograph in the May 1st post ought to provide enough clues to help date the latter.  To arrive at that destination, we’re going to take a stroll through the women’s department.  You men out there?  Just carry your lady love’s handbag proudly, and bear with me for a few minutes.

Ladies Fashion Circa 1900

A little bit of background: Charles Dana Gibson was an American artist who realized fame and fortune for a series of pen and ink illustrations satirizing the relationships between men and women.  The women in his artwork personified “a composite of thousands of American girls,” and he portrayed the women dressed in the current fashions.  For thirty years, Gibson’s work regularly appeared in Life, Harper’s Weekly, Scribner’s, and Collier’s, and the illustrations became so iconic that the style of the era was named for him – The Gibson Girl.

First Stop: The Beauty Salon  During the Gibson Girl period, a woman’s hair was her crowning glory, and putting your hair up was still considered a rite of passage – a young girl did not put her hair up until she was considered old enough to go out into society.  The typical Gibson Girl wore her hair piled high on her head in a loose pompadour style.

English: Pen and ink drawing of the Gibson Gir...Second Stop:  Lingerie  The S-shaped, or “kangaroo” corset was in vogue.  Nipped waists decidedly got a thumbs up.  Busks, bustles, and crinolines… nix.  The natural silhouette – and I use that term loosely – was finding favor, but in the 1900-1910 era, that look was still a few years off.

Image: Courtesy of Bridges on the Body - bridgesonthebody.com

Image: Courtesy of Jo at Bridges on the Body

We have the hairstyle, and we have the form to hang clothes on, so let’s slide on past the After Six department in our search for daytime fashions.

Final Stop: Ladies Dresses  Frills, flounces, and furbelows were fading into the background while the tailored look took a giant step forward.  An A-line skirt was the order of the day, worn with a shirtwaist that often sported a high-necked collar.

Love in a Garden, Gibson.jpg

In the Saucier Family photograph, I count six shirtwaists in the top row alone, all with high-necked collars – and please note, every woman is wearing her hair up in the Gibson Girl style.

collarsThe following illustration for Arrow Shirts: 1907, was a lucky find.  I stumbled across it while doing some homework on the Gibson Girl, and it stopped me in my tracks.  Take another gander at the photograph above – the young woman on the far right – she’s wearing a tall, stiff collar and a narrow necktie in the manner of menswear.  Then, as now, fashion houses often based their designs on what was seen on city streets, so it really doesn’t surprise me in the least to see this advertisement dated 1907, especially during a period of conservative fashion.

Arrow Collar 1907Let’s Put A Bow On It

saucier_familyI’m very comfortable with the suggested 1902-03 dating of the Saucier Family photo, but I’ve been toying with the idea that it may have been as early as 1901 – not any earlier than that – and here’s why:

jg3I’ve extracted James G. from both photographs.  If we assume that the photo on the left was taken about 1902-03, James would have been fifteen or sixteen years old at the time.  Looks about right – so far, so good.

I’ve also extracted two more “knowns” – Mabel (b. 18 March 1899) and Eugene Field (b. 21 August 1894).  In 1902-03, Aunt Mabel would have been three or four years old, and Uncle Gene would have been eight or nine (still in short pants!).  Taking a second look, Mabel might be as young as two, and Gene as young seven, but no younger than that – so I think 1901 is a viable possibility.  I would not, however, place the photograph any later than 1903.

Which brings me back to the reason I’ve started this conversation… who were those extra women in the Saucier Family photograph?  I’ve provided a little more information for you to chew on, but for now, the ball is back in your court.