Friday, October 19, 2007

Aunt Leah and Tatting

Dave Tabler's post this morning at Appalachian History on Reviving the ancient art of tatting reminded me of my aunt Eva Leah Wiseman Shock (my Dad's sister). Beside Aunt Leah's chair at her home in Goshen, Indiana was a bag full of thread. As she sat there visiting with my parents she'd pull out some weird looking thing and start to work. We weren't allowed to touch anything at her house, especially that bag. And, at the time, we didn't even know what she was doing. Years later my mom would tell us about Aunt Leah and her tatting.

Aunt Leah was born on February 4, 1908 in Tippecanoe Township, Kosciusko County, Indiana and was the second child born to Elsie Shuder and Charles Wiseman. The day before Leah's 18th birthday her mother died in a fire that destroyed the small house the family was living in, and from what I've been told, devastated the family as well. There were seven other children in the household with Perry being the oldest at 19 years of age, and my Dad being the youngest, just a little over 2 years old.

In the 1930 Federal Census (Tippecanoe Township, Kosciusko County, Indiana, E.D. 43-20, sheet 6B) the five youngest children are enumerated in the household of their grandparents, Samuel and Amanda Wiseman. I haven't yet found Grandpa Charlie or Perry and Leah in the 1930 census yet so I don't know where they were living. It's possible that Grandpa Charlie was in jail. Newspaper clippings show that he was arrested numerous times between 1909 and well into the 1930's for fishing with a net, bootlegging, and other minor infractions of the law. It's no wonder that Aunt Leah ended up in a mental institution for a while. She would somehow eventually be rescued from that place by her future husband, Ervin Shock (we always called him Shocky). They were married on April 13, 1941 in Elkhart County and made their home at 321 ½ First Street in Goshen. First Street was the first street to the east of the Elkhart River, hence it's name. When we were older, the first place we'd head for when visiting Aunt Leah was the river and the park on the other side.

The photograph of Ervin and Eva Leah Shock, with her nephew Bill Conrad, was probably taken in 1941.

Mom says that Leah learned tatting from her grandmother, Amanda Minerva Alexander Wiseman. The skill was not passed down to the younger generation and there are not many examples of Aunt Leah's work left that I am aware of, except for several items that my cousin Caroline was given. Those are shown above. Aunt Leah passed away on January 9, 1967 at her home in Goshen and is buried next to her parents in the North Webster cemetery.


Jasia said...

Oh, such lovely items! Your aunt was obviously very talented at tatting. You're not too old to learn yourself, Becky ;-)

Dave Tabler said...

Hey, I'm glad my post inspired you to flesh out your own family history here on the topic! That's a tickle.

Dave Tabler

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

My grandmother tatted but she died before I was old enough to learn. Your aunt's pieces are beautiful.

Gina said...

Looks like she crocheted too. Lovely tatting and you're lucky to have some of it. If you ever want to learn yourself, we tat in Tippecanoe County, Lafayette - and there is a group in Ft. Wayne as well as Greenfield. Tatting is very much alive and well!
:-) Gina

Becky Wiseman said...

Thank you all for your comments. It is doubtful that I'll ever take up tatting as I have neither the patience nor the visual acuity that it demands! I will however, continue to admire it from afar.

Unknown said...

Your Aunt possessed a lovely skill! The tatted hanky edgings are lovely. It looks like your Aunt was a very skilled crocheter, too! The crocheted doily picturd is beautiful as well. :)