January 27, 2013

Who was "Aunt Blanche?"

I found the will among my mother's things. 
 In the summer of 1956, Blanche Hilgeneck left my parents $1000.00 in her will - a goodly sum for the times and especially for my mom and dad, who  had just purchased a farm and had four young children to raise.  I can remember my mother talking about Aunt Blanche and maybe I even met her in my childhood, but after I discovered her will in my mother's papers, I became even more curious about her relationship to us. 

I have seen a photograph of Aunt Blanche, but I couldn't find it, so I'm leaving a space for posting that when it is found.  Blanche turned out to be Blanche Newcomer Hilgeneck who lived in Elmore, Ohio in Ottawa County. So the conclusion had to be that she was somehow connected to the Michigan Newcomers, specifically Alice Newcomer Doty, my mother's grandmother.

According to the 1900 census, Blanch Newcomer was born in March 1880, so I went back to the 1880 census to find her there.  Blanch (as it was spelled in the census) was 2/12 or 2 months old and unnamed on that census, designated only as Baby daughter born in March.  Her parents were Simon Newcomer, 29 (born circa 1850), a farmer, and Ellen, 27, his wife.  She had two older siblings in 1880: Charles, 7, and Nettie (Jeanette), 4.

The family lived next to Emma Burket, 40, a widow, and her daugther, Stephanna, 15, in Ottawa County, Ohio.  Living with them was Anna Wilson, also a widow.  I would discover that Emma was Ellen Newcomer's sister and Anna Wilson was Ellen's mother  (not mother-in-law, as the census states.)
So Blanche's parents were Simon Newcomer and Ellen Wilson of Ottawa County, Ohio.

With no 1890 census, I had to skip to 1900 where I found Blanche's family still living in Harris Township, Ottawa County, Ohio.  By this time, however, Simon was deceased and Ellen, the widow, had three children at home with her: Charles (born 1873), 26, single and a farm laborer; Blanch (born 1880), 20, single and a servant (probably helping out in a neighbor's home); and Fred (born Dec. 1882), 17, single and attending school.  So when did Simon die?  I found a record of his gravestone which gives the dates 1850 - 1887, so he was quite young when he passed away.  Ellen reported on this census that she had given birth to six children, but only 4 were living.  It would seem then that Nettie or Jeanette was working somewhere as a live-in domestic perhaps or at least was living elsewhere at the time.  I learned later that she never married.

In 1901, Blanche Newcomer, 21, married Emmett Hilgeneck, the son of Harman and Minnie.  Emmett was 29 and it was his second marriage.  Blanche and Emmett lived most, if not all of their married lives, in Elmore, Ohio in Ottawa County.  They never had any children. 

His obituary from September 24, 1934:
A severe shock was felt in this vicinity Monday afternoon when it became known that Emmett A. Hilgeneck had died suddenly in his home on Augusta Street, following an illness since Friday of intestinal flu, with complications.  Last rites are being held this (Thursday) afternoon at 2 o'clock in the home, with Rev. K. W. Scheufler of Trinity Methodist church officiating and interment in Union cemetery.
Mr. Hilgeneck, aged 64 years and 6 months, was a lifelong resident of Elmore, having been born in the parental Hilgeneck home on Toledo street, occupied now for many years by Henry Hilgeneck and family.  For many years, Mr. Hilgeneck has engaged in the florist business here and had become well known in a business way throughout this section, many gorgeous floral tributes attesting the friendships he enjoyed.
He is survived by his wife, Blanche Newcomer Hilgeneck, and his only brother, Henry Hilgeneck.
Mr. Hilgeneck was born in Elmore and has always resided here. Before going into the floral business 20 years ago, he followed the trade of carpenter and painter, and with his father and brother, Henry, built many of the homes in Elmore and vicinity.  He was of a jovial, good natured disposition and he always dealt fair with all whom he had business transactions, and his sudden passing came as a shock to all."

Blanche continued to live out her life in Elmore, about fifty miles from my parents' home.  According to her siblings' death certificates and obituaries, some of them lived their last days with Blanche in her home where I'm sure she cared for them.  None of her siblings married. Charles, the oldest and a cement worker, died in 1940; Jeanette died in 1947, and Fred died in 1951.  Blanche lived until 1955.  Her obituary was no help in establishing the Newcomer relationship:

Ottawa County Exponent, September 2, 1955: 
Mrs. Blanche Hilgeneck died early Sunday morning at her home on Toledo St. in Elmore.  Mrs. Hilgeneck had suffered a stroke in June and had been in ill health since that time.  She was born at Elmore, Ohio, March 19, 1880, the widow of the late E. A. Hilgeneck.  Mr. and Mrs. Hilgeneck were the former owners of the Elmore Greenhouse.  Mrs. Hilgeneck was a member of St. Paul's Trinity M.E. Church, Elmore and the Ladies Aid Society, and also a member of the W. R.C.   Friends called at her late residence, 32 Toledo Street, where services were held Tuesday, August 30th at 2 p.m.  Rev. L.L. Young officiating, assisted by Rev. G. C. Diberts, former pastor of the M.E. Church."

My mother and father were named first in her will.  At the time, they had four children, which would have included a 6 month old baby and a set of twins just about to turn 4.  It would have been quite a feat for them to have visited her or to have attended the funeral.

So how was "Aunt Blanche" related?  I had to find out how Simon Newcomer, Blanche's father, fit into the family.  Born in 1880, Blanche fell in age between my grandmother, born in 1890, and my great-grandmother, born in 1858.  
I went back to the 1870 census, then, to try to find Simon at home with his parents.  There I found in Harris Township, Ottawa County:
Newcomer, Jacob, 58, laborer, born Maryland
Newcomer, Susan, 54, born Ohio
and their children: Simon, 19; Margaret, 21; and Lucinda, 12

I couldn't find him in the 1860 census, so I am still not sure if this Jacob is the same Jacob who is related to Alice Newcomer's grandfather.  More research is needed.

So, it's still a family mystery to be solved.  Maybe someone out there has an answer for me!


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