My Great Uncle Charlie and Aunt Louise

They lived in Lubec, Maine in the winter and on Indian Lake in nearby Whiting for the summer. My family had a camp at Indian Lake from the year I was born, so we visited each other often. I have many warm memories spending time with Uncle Charlie and Aunt Louise. Since my grandfather Frank Rier died before I was born, his brother Uncle Charlie was special and so was Aunt Louise. They were my other grandparents, as my maternal grandmother Harriet died before I was born too.

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The summer home of Charles and Louise Rier at Indian Lake, circa 1960s.

 

 

 

 

 

When Uncle Charlie and Aunt Louise got older, they stayed at our family home in Zephyrhills, FL for the winter. Every day, Uncle Charlie went to town with other men in the neighborhood, sat, chatted, and watched the morning go by. Chairs lined the sidewalk outside a restaurant, especially for these men. I can see Uncle Charlie sitting there now, smiling in the sun.

The Rier family home in Zephyhills (L) and Uncle Charlie posing for a photo with a man I do not recognize but he may be from Lubec and visiting FL (R).

My family stayed at the “little pink house” for a month each winter from the time I was five years old until my brothers went to college. Mom collected our homework for the month, so there was school time, and lots of fun time. When we arrived, Aunt Louise and Uncle Charlie stayed in a travel trailer in the back yard so we could all be together for that month.

On my 12th birthday, they came to visit at our home in Machias. Uncle Charlie carried a chest to the dining room table. Aunt Louise smiled and said, “This is the family silverware. I want you to have it and take care of it. Happy Birthday, Sherry.”

I picked up the lid of the old chest and looked inside. My eyes grew wide. There was a beautiful antique set of silverware for 12, complete with forks in four different sizes, carving knives, and serving spoons. I thought of objecting to this large gift but knew that Aunt Louise and Uncle Charlie had no children. I was the girl they chose to keep that silverware safe for the future. I was honored. “It’s beautiful! I will always treasure this gift,” I said as I hugged them.

I still treasure that silverware as I am filled with memories of Uncle Charlie and Aunt Louise, and my 12th birthday, when I bring it out for special occasions.

When I researched my grandfather Frank’s family history, I found that Uncle Charlie and Aunt Louise (Thaxter) married in October 9, 1908. She was 17 and worked at the (sardine) factory; he was 20 and a laborer. Charles Rier’s parents were Burpee Rier, a merchant in Lubec and Emma Batron, a housewife there. Louise’s parents were Charles Thaxter, a laborer in Lubec, and Mary Preston, housewife.

I also found that Uncle Charlie and Aunt Louise had a son on October 14, 1910, stillborn. How sad.

I had heard the name of Dad’s grandfather Rier, Burpee, when I was growing up. I thought it must have been a nickname, possibly dubbed on a baby with chronic colic. Evidently, it was his name legal name, at least as an adult, as shown by these records. Months ago, I had searched Maine vital records for more information on Burpee Rier. I could find no birth record, he was not listed in the 1910 Lubec census.

Yesterday, I searched again, but not in vital records of Maine. I found this site, which may or may not be accurate. It lists Burpee Rier’s parents as Ingraham and Mary Rier, both born in Nova Scotia. Dad always told me the first Rier to arrive in Lubec was Ingraham. He used to point at his tombstone in the Lubec cemetery as we rode by. Then there was the family story about the Rier brothers from Germany who fought in the Revolutionary War as Hessian soldiers and “jumped ship.” One brother went to Nova Scotia and one to Lubec. My theory was both brothers went to Canada after the war, along with other Loyalists, soldiers, and servants hired by the British. If this site is accurate, Ingraham came to Lubec long after the Revolutionary War.

Now I had a lead to search Nova Scotia records for the family of Ingraham Rier, that started with this story about Uncle Charlie and Aunt Louise. Very exciting!

And now, there is much more research to be done to track down the Rier ancestors. I am not yet a member of ancestry.com so it will take awhile. I’m also a novice at obtaining census and vital records in the US and certainly in Nova Scotia. Any advice and tips are greatly appreciated!

Related post:

My Paternal Grandfather Frank Rier and the Rier Brothers from Germany.

Dad’s Futuristic Car. 1935.

Lubec, Maine, the most easterly town in the US.

Dad liked to build (and fix) anything. When he was 20 years old, he and his best friend Bud McCaslin built a futuristic car in his father’s garage. Dad (R) and Bud (L) posed for a photo beside the car, the garage and Johnson Bay in the background.

How cool is that? Happy Father’s Day Dad!

 

On Father’s Day, Remembering My Dad James Eugene Rier — Voices of Ancestors

The Early Years: 1914 – 1942 Dad was born September 9th, 1914 in Lubec, Maine, the second child and first son of Frank and Elizabeth Keegan Rier. He had an elder sister Marion. As the years went by, Dad had four brothers: Francis (“Babe”), Julian (“Barney”), Paul, Raymond and three more sisters: Evelyn, Patrica and […]

via My Dad James Eugene Rier — Voices of Ancestors

Dad’s Graduation Class: Lubec High School Yearbook 1934

Dad is on page 32 at the bottom of the page. Eugene Rier. Nickname: “Dan.” Favorite saying: “Jumping gracious.” A.A. 1,2,3,4; Latin Club 2,3,4; Freshman Reception Committee 2; Senior Supper Committee 4; Vice President 2,3; Dramatic Club 1,2; Junior Exhibition 3; Athletic Play 3; Class Will 4.

“Here is the prize fighter of the class and that’s not all: He is the life of the class, as well as a certain dark haired Dixie Bell. How about it Dan? May lady luck be with you in the future. 

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Another graduation photo of Dad in 1934.

As far as my grandmother was concerned Dad’s name was Eugene James Rier. When his birth certificate was registered, the names were written backwards, James Eugene, corrected with an arrow. When Dad entered the military, he was told the arrow didn’t count. He became James Eugene, but was called Gene throughout his life.

Related post:

My Dad James Eugene Rier

 

Searching for Grammy Rier’s Parents and Siblings

My paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Keegan Rier was born in Trescott, Maine, September 15th, 1892. I never knew the names of her father and mother except to know that her maiden name was Keegan. Grammy told me that her mother died when she was about four years old and she had no memory of her. I could not imagine what it would be like to lose your mother as a little girl, wondered how her father had raised her. I never knew the name of all of Grammy’s siblings. She talked about two sisters, Mary who lived in Leominster, Massachusetts, and Theresa, who lived in Boston.

According to the 1910 census, one Keegan family lived in Trescott. James Keegan is the head of household, has four daughters and one son who live with him, but has no wife. Two daughters match the names of Grammy’s sisters, Theresa (spelled Tresa in the census) and Mary. The son is named James E which may be James Eugene, my father’s name.

Where is Grammy? She would have been 17 or 18 years of age at the time. Grammy told me that she had only completed school through the third grade as she criticized her own penmanship writing letters. Truthfully, her writing was meticulous but I sensed that Grammy was self conscious about her lack of education. My Uncle Barney said that Grammy went to work in the Lubec sardine industry as a young girl to help support the family. I searched the 1910 Lubec census and found Lizzie Keegan (her nickname) age 17. She is listed as a domestic servant in the household of Henry and Ella Godfrey at 18 Summer Street Lubec. There are two boarders and another domestic servant in this home. In 1910, Grammy was working for a family and lived in Lubec. She probably worked in the sardine industry too, work she enjoyed into her 80s.

I note that the eldest daughter of James Keegan, Winnefred, age 23, is listed in both the Trescott and Lubec census. Winnefred was a domestic servant in another Lubec household, the Trecartin family.

I don’t know why Grammy never talked about her brother and sisters, except Theresa and Mary. Perhaps they moved away and she was disconnected from them or they died before I was born and didn’t hear their stories.  My father is likely named for her one brother. Her sister Katherine is listed as the same age as Grammy but I doubt they were twins or I would have heard about it, perhaps they were only a year apart, and Grammy turned 18 in September of 1910 after the census.

I searched for the burial site of James Keegan and found his grave at the Chapel Hill Cemetery in Trescott. He was born in 1847 and died in 1927 at the age of 80. He is the son of James Keegan, my great great grandfather who first came to Trescott from Ireland.

From his gravestone, I learned the name of his wife, my great grandmother, Margaret Murray Keegan, date of death 1897. Their eldest daughter, Winnefred died in 1918 at the age of 31, was buried with her parents. It was the year of the great flu pandemic that killed millions of people worldwide.

Now I must document my Keegan ancestors using vital records. I found Grammy Rier’s birth certificate although she was not yet named. This verifies that she is indeed the 5th child of James and Maggie Keegan, born September 15th, 1892 in Trescott, Maine. James Keegan’s occupation was farmer. I’ll bet he had a fine Irish root cellar in his home.

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I found the death certificate for Maggie (Margaret) Keegan. She died May 21, 1896 at age 38. Cause of death: Pneumonia/Bronchitis. Place of birth: St John, New Brunswick. Gravestones and websites are not always correct.

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Grammy Rier lived with us in Machias at the home of my maternal great grandparents every winter when I was growing up. She taught me how to knit mittens when I was barely 10 years old. I can still smell her bread, hot from the oven. Her bedroom was at the end of the hall, close to mine. As I drifted off to sleep, Grammy whispered the rosary, kneeling beside her bed. “If you don’t finish the rosary and drift off to sleep, the angels will finish for you,” she told me.

Grammy died in April 21st of 1985 in Lubec at the home of her son Barney and his wife Rebecca, just months from her 94th birthday. I still miss her.

I celebrate her life.

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School Children in Lubec or Trescott Maine?

This photo was in Grammy Rier’s box of photos. I assume it is one of Lubec school children, perhaps early 1900s from the clothing, and there are Rier children in the photo. Can anyone identify the school, the time period, or any of the children?

The girl sitting in the front row in a dark colored dress, 4th from the left, looks a bit like my niece Nell when she was young. Aunt Marion perhaps?

Photo below circa 1927. Grammy Rier (Elizabeth Keegan Rier) is in the middle with her eldest children, Marion on the left, and Dad (James “Gene” Rier) on the right.  Aunt Marion would be about 14 years old here. Could the young school girl be Marion four years or so earlier? It’s a mystery as yet…

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My Dad James Eugene Rier

The Early Years: 1914 – 1942

Dad was born September 9th, 1914 in Lubec, Maine, the second child and first son of Frank and Elizabeth Keegan Rier. He had an elder sister Marion. As the years went by, Dad had four brothers: Francis (“Babe”), Julian (“Barney”), Paul, Raymond and three more sisters: Evelyn, Patrica and Carolee. In all, Grammy had 11 children. A little brother, Patrick, died before the age of five during a flu epidemic. One baby was born premature and survived only hours. Dad remembered burying the baby in a shoebox in a field beside the family home overlooking the sea.

Grammy Rier told me that she never intended to have children and was surprised when she was pregnant with Marion soon after her marriage to Frank. “The doctor told me to nurse the baby so I wouldn’t get pregnant right away. It didn’t work. Your father was born little more than a year later.” Grammy had her babies at home in her bed. Sometimes the doctor arrived. Sometimes Frank delivered the baby.

Grammy was a staunch Irish Catholic. I have no idea why she thought she wouldn’t have any children. I could not imagine life without all my uncles, aunts and nearly 40 cousins, most lived in Lubec.

When Dad was little, there was no pretense to dress boys and girls differently, or to cut boy’s hair short. As a toddler, Dad wore dresses and had long, flowing, black hair. “Mother said my hair was too thick and beautiful to cut,” Dad explained.

Dad (R) with his sister Marion (L). Isn’t that a necklace on Dad?

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L to R. Frank and Elizabeth Rier in front of the Rier garage in Lubec. Grammy is holding the newest baby boy (Paul) beside Marion and Dad who sported pants and a hair cut by now. Frank looks so much like my Uncle Raymond, the youngest son in the family, it is stunning.

Dad’s education was intermittently interrupted. When he was about eight years old, he became very ill with scarlet fever and spent a year at home recovering. Later, he was often kept home to help his father in his garage and care for his many younger brothers and sisters. As the eldest child, Dad had a lot of responsibility from early in his life. His father was an auto mechanic and talented artist painting and detailing cars. “He could run a line down the side of a car free handed. It was always perfect. I’ve never seen anyone paint like that ever again in my life,” Dad told me.

High School Years

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Dad graduated from Lubec High School when he was 19 years old. He had missed a lot of school growing up so he was older than most students. That didn’t stop him from attaining a perfect score in math (100%) he told me. Dad liked to build (and fix) anything. When he was 20 years old, he and his best friend Bud McCaslin built a futuristic car in his father’s garage. From Dad’s stories, he and Bud enjoyed playing pranks now and again. They hooked up a train whistle to a car, hung out by the railroad tracks, blew the loud whistle just as a car crossed the tracks, scaring the bejeepers out of the driver of said car.

Dad’s first serious girlfriend was Rose. Mom used to tease Dad about Rose. Evidently, Rose ditched Dad and he was bereft  until he met my mother, Louise Johnson, one day in downtown Machias. He said he knew then and there she would be his wife. But, that goal took some time. Mom’s mother Harriet at first objected to Dad. He was from Lubec and a family of little means, and not likely to succeed in life. Harriet went to visit the Rier family for the purpose of investigation and fell in love with the Riers herself. In the years ahead, Harriet would visit my grandmother to sit for a day, taste the bread hot from the oven, and enjoy the hubbub of all the children.

In 1939, Dad accompanied Mom and Harriet to the World’s Fair in NYC. Dad was their escort. Most of one family scrapbook is dedicated to the sights they saw and the memories they made there.

Dad took a photo of the two of them in front of a warped mirror…

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One of the highlights was the precision formation flying exhibitions. Dad was entranced. Then and there he decided to become a pilot. That dream would be fulfilled. In 1942, he joined the US Army Air Corp, went to boot camp in Texas, was assigned to Stewart Field in Newburgh, NY, and trained as a flight instructor. Mom was still living and working in Portland. They decided to marry.

 

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Related posts:

Dad’s Graduation Class: Lubec High School Yearbook 1934.

Dad’s Graduation from US Army Air Corp Advanced Flying School. 1942. 

Dad Received West Point Assignment as Flight Instructor. 1942.

Dad Greets Rosalind Russell at West Point. Circa 1943.

The Beginning of A Business in Machias Maine. Rier Buick. 1949.

One of Dad’s Projects in the late 50s and Early 60s.

My Dad, James “Gene” Rier and Phil Watts. Just Kidding Around. 1963.

After 23 Years in Business, Dad’s Car Dealership Burned to the Ground. 1971. 

My Dad, James “Gene” Rier: Maine’s Dean of Gas Engines. 1985.