May 2, 2011

Henrietta Witzgall Devoe, Another Alaska Visitor

I was going to move on to the Ordway family, but then…tonight...late...I found this.

in researching more the Witzgall siblings of my great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Witzgall Delph, I found another interesting story to be told.  GG Grandma Delph’s sister, Henrietta or Hattie (named after her mother, I’m sure) also ended up in Alaska for a time.
Henrietta was the fourth child of Rev. William Witzgall and his wife, Henrietta Smith.  Born in March of 1855, Hattie showed up dutifully in the 1860 census at 5 years old, in the 1870 census at 15 years old and in the 1880 census at 25, keeping house and still living with her parents. 

The lack of an 1890 federal census is again a loss when one tries to follow Hattie’s life.  But by the census of 1900, Hattie was married and living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

The 1900 census for the Alaskan Territory was a little different than the census used for the United States in that it asked for some additional information.  Elias W. Devore and Henrietta Devore came to Alaska in July 1899 from their home residence in Port Townsend Washington.  He was 61 years old and she was 45.  (From a later census, we can calculate that they were married in about 1893.)  His occupation at home was mason contractor, but his occupation in Alaska was hotel keeper.  This census also told me that they had two girls living with them who worked as waitresses, probably at the hotel: Anna Alajok, single and from Minerva, Minnesota, and Henrietta Pahikkala of Eureka, California.  Both girls originally came from Finland. 
Ketchikan was just incorporated as a city in 1900.  A rich quartz strike and news of gold, of course, brought people to the area.

Just tonight I found some of the back story that might help to explain this move to Alaska.  Elias Devoe was at one time a partner in a contracting firm in Port Townsend that did most of the masonry work in the area during its affluent times.  Since the local brick was soft, the brick was generally stuccoed.  Then the red stucco would be painted with ridges to represent mortar lines between the “bricks.”  This home, shown below, was built for Elias Devoe and was used to advertise his brick company.  Built in the Queen Anne style, it could show off the brick work to potential customers.  According to the history, Elias Devoe and his first wife Carrie came to Port Townsend in 1883.  They were a prominent couple in the town – he with his business in brick masonry and a spot on the city council.  However, times turned rough, and Carrie died in 1890 of gout. The next year, 1891, Elias went into foreclosure. 

So, with financial hard times, it seemed reasonable that Elias might take a job opportunity in Alaska.  We don’t know how long they were in Ketchikan, except that by the 1910 census, Hattie and Elias had moved back to Seattle, Washington and taken up residence at 421 Killbourne Street.  Listed as Deboe, Elias at 70 was a merchant, wife Henrietta M. at 55 was at home.  They had been married for 17 years and had no children.  With them lived William Witzall, brother to Henrietta, 49, single and a merchant; Earl L. Rule, nephew, 20, single, with no employment (brother to Dr. Frank Rule in the previous post); Henry J. McCleary, nephew, 24, and working as a switchman (no idea how he connects – born in Illinois), and Samuel Branowich, boarder, 40, married for 8 years, born in Bohemia and a motorman.     

Elias and Hattie Witzgall Devore home at 421 N 36th, Seattle, WA
Elias then died sometime before the 1920 census was taken, as Hattie was listed as widowed in that census.  Living at 421 Seary Avenue (perhaps Killbourne St had been renamed), Hattie was 64 and with her lived her brother, William, 59 and single, working as a grocery storekeeper and three men boarders, two in school and one working.

In 1930, still in Seattle, now at 421 North 36th Street (another street name change?), Hattie at 75 was without brother William, but she still had two boarders: Freddie Seffer, 27, a German immigrant who came to America in 1924, and worked as a meat cutter, and Edward Nuron, 65, a Swedish man, who worked as a welder on the street railway.

Hattie M. Witzgall Devoe died on October 26, 1942 at the age of 87, according to the Washington Death Index. 

Questions remain, of course!
How did Hattie meet Elias Devoe?  Did she come to Washington first and why?
Why did William, her brother, come to live with her?
William did not die until 1945.  Where did he go to live and why did he leave his sister?
What hotel did they run in Ketchikan and is it still standing?
Did Henrietta Witzgall know Caroline Delph, the missionary teacher, who was also in Alaska about this time?

If you can answer any of these questions or have a photo of Elias or Hattie, please contact me!

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