Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Charles Romain Brubaker

Charles Romain Brubaker, was my great-grandfather. Also known as "C.R." and "Romey" he was the son of Malissa Mariah Joslin and William Brubaker. His date of birth is not known for certain. Several records (marriage application, his father's Civil War Pension application) give his date of birth as August 15, 1871, which would be just four months after his parents married. My grandmother's notes put his date of birth as August 15, 1872. Two obituary notices, one published in Pascagoula, Mississippi where he lived at the time of his death, and the other published in Columbia City give his date of birth as August 19, 1870. His gravemarker shows that he was born August 19, 1871.

From my grandmother's autobiography we learn a little about his early life:

My father was Charles Romain Brubaker, who was born in Troy Township in Whitley County, Indiana, August 15, 1872. His father always called him Charlie and his mother called him Romey. If he had a split personality I think this may have contributed to it. He loved the farm and as a very young boy, and into manhood, he worked hard on the beloved farm that his father had bought when he returned from the Civil War. However, his mother wanted him to become a doctor and sent him to Valparaiso to college.

I do not know how long he stayed there, but long enough that his classmate, Carl Sauder, told us that he was a very bright student and might have been an excellent physician. In time he tired of college and took off for Chicago. There he worked as a newspaper reporter. He then left for the Northern Michigan lumber camps; here he was in his glory. While we children were growing up he told us many stories of his life in the lumber camp of the Indians and the rough men. He loved it all.

In the fall of 1896 he returned to the home farm. He began courting Maude Catherine Wise, against the wishes of her family. So in February 1897, he and Maude eloped and were married by a Methodist minister in Larwill. Her parents refused to let him enter the house when they came for her clothes, but they soon relented. And though they never fully approved of him, the two families were friendly for many years.

[Note: There will be some duplication in the following presentation, but I felt that Maude and Romey each deserved their own separate posts.]

Romey and Maude set up housekeeping in Huntington, Indiana. It puzzled me for a while as to why they went to Huntington, but after I realized that he had uncles and cousins that lived there it made sense. While living in Huntington, the Spanish-American War broke out and, apparently after some prodding by his mother, Romey enlisted in Company K, 160th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.

From the "Record of Indiana Volunteers in the Spanish American War 1898-1899" published in 1900 by the state of Indiana:

The regiment arrived at Camp Mount April 26, 1898, under orders from the Governor, for the purpose of being mustered into the service of the United States, and, after a most rigid physical examination of both officers and men, the regiment was mustered into the volunteer service of the United States on May 12, 1898. Left Camp Mount May 16, and proceeded by rail to Camp Thomas, Chickamauga Park, Georgia, arriving there on May 18. Under orders to proceed to Porto Rico, the regiment left Camp Thomas on July 28 and arrived at Newport News, Virginia, on July 30, the orders for the regiment to proceed to Porto Rico having been countermanded the regiment left Newport News on August 21 and proceeded to Camp Hamilton, Lexington, Kentucky, where it arrived on August 23. Left Camp Hamilton November 9, and arrived at Columbus, Georgia, November 11, 1898. On January 15, 1899, the regiment was ordered to proceed, in three sections, to Matanuzas, Cuba, where they were united on January 27, and went into camp. The regiment remained in Cuba until March 27, when they were ordered to proceed to Savannah, Georgia, to prepare for muster-out. They arrived in Savannah March 29, and were mustered out and discharged April 25, 1899.

In Cuba. Between January 27 and March 27, 1899. Romey Brubaker is the second man from the right (leaning on the table).

My grandmother wrote about her father's experiences while in service, I too wish that she could have remembered more stories.

We children heard many exciting stories of his experiences in Cuba. I only wish that I could remember more of them, but this was my favorite. Papa was out "scouting" in the jungle. He heard a voice call "Hello". He crept on his knees closer and closer to the voice. Then to his everlasting embarrassment, he saw a parrot, one that had possibly been trained to speak and had escaped into the wild. The parrot was with several wild ones and seemed to be trying to teach them to speak English.

Later, he contracted Malaria Fever, so prevalent in the swampy country. He was taken to the hospital where Catholic Nuns were the nurses. He was very sick and they put him into a ward reserved for the dying, when he made a miraculous recovery. He always praised these wonderful women whom he credited for saving his life.
When Romey returned home after his year in service he joined his wife at the Goose Lake farm where she had been living with his parents. Over the next few years, they moved around quite a bit. Their first child, John Wise Brubaker was born February 16, 1901 and died a few days later. They then moved to Lorain, Ohio where Romey's aunt Rose Zinsmeister and his uncle Harry Wise also lived. My grandmother, Hazlette, was born there on January 16, 1902 but within six months they returned to Whitley County.

Two more children would be born to Romey and Maude: Choella Jane on April 14, 1903 and on February 22, 1905 William Hale. Grandma lost track of how many times the family moved. As she said "I'm not sure why but we would be at the farm for a while then move some place else." After the birth of little Billy, Maude was a semi-invalid. They moved to Columbia City where, according to my grandmother, Romey started a rug weaving factory.

I don’t remember the first house but Papa started a rug-weaving factory in a small building. He had a couple of looms and had Horty Bills work with him in making carpets. Some were made of rags, which had been sewed into long strips. They were woven with rug cord into long sections then sewn together to make the correct width and length. The other loom took ingrain carpeting (old) and made it into a fluffy kind of carpet. I wish I knew the process but whatever it was it became obsolete when oxminster carpeting became in vogue. It seemed to do well and we moved into a three-story brick house on North Line Street; it is still standing. He put his looms in the basement and did very well, I think. After a time Papa sold his looms and took a job of some kind and we moved to a little house on North Elm Street. Then we moved into Sanford Tinkham's home. There Papa baked our bread, did our laundry, etc. and helped Sanford at his sawmill. This was a house in the woods and the sawmill was in the center of the wood.

Now Papa had the wanderlust again, and as soon as Mama was able to care for herself he moved the family back to Grandma Brubaker's, he went to Traverse City, Michigan. He got a job and rented a house and soon we were on our way again. Our first home was on Peninsula Avenue, facing the Grand Traverse Bay.

I know that Papa worked at different things while we were there. He was very mechanically inclined and could do almost anything. Papa worked in an Oval Dish Factory. They made the little wooden dishes that were used to put lard, peanut butter, etc. in at the grocery stores. He received $1.00 per day and worked six days a week, twelve hours a day. In fact, we hardly ever saw him except on Sundays.

Papa left the Oval Dish factory after a time and worked for the City Transportation. They had purchased some kind of streetcars and Papa operated one of them. It was just a big automobile like affair with seats, something like the first school busses. Papa was a good mechanic and liked this job. He also worked at the Yacht Club repairing motors in the launches for a time; I think he was doing this when we left.

There were bad times there too. Papa and Jack Smith came home one night, late and intoxicated. Sometimes Papa became very abusive to Mama when he was drunk. And this was the very worst time of all. I ran across the street and told Mr. Giadop that my Papa was sick and to please go to him. I guess he really settled him down, Papa walked all night. When he came home there was a bad mark on his head where I had hit him with a stove poker, but he never knew that I had done it. It hadn't helped at all and it always hurt me to know that I'd injured my beloved Papa.

After we had been in Traverse City some time the folks bought a house at 838 State Street. This was a nice little house, about one block from the Bay, near the school. One night in mid-December 1910 a telegram came that changed all our lives. Uncle Hale, Papa's only brother, had died of pneumonia in New York City where he was attending Columbia University. This death was a terrible shock and grief to my parents as they both loved him so much. Papa and Mama were both terribly grieved... Papa never went back to Michigan. Several weeks later Mama went to Traverse City, settled affairs there and packed our household goods and had them shipped to Columbia City. Papa picked them up in a dray (horse and wagon) and we got settled back on the farm where we were determined to stay for several years.
In the spring of 1911, Romey's parents moved to Columbia City and left Romey to run the Goose Lake Farm. A young boy, Orville Day, was hired to help him, so my grandmother notes:

After Orville came, Papa began to raise tomatoes, cucumbers and cauliflower. He also tried onions. These crops he planned to take to Fort Wayne and sell at the Farmer's Market. He got a contract from Sears Company for the cauliflower. This one year he had a beautiful crop, about one acre. The plants were set out by hand, kid's hands, and it was hard work. We even tied up the plants so the cauliflower wouldn't sunburn. Sears reneged on the contract and all that hard work and money went down the drain.

This was what happened to much of Papa's farming. He stocked up on dairy cattle, and they got some kind of disease and had to be killed. About this time Papa got sick and was covered with boils and seemed to be out of his mind some of the time. The cattle probably had undulant fever and so Papa had that too. After feeling he was a complete failure, he rented the place to Uncle Harl and we moved to North Webster.
It was in 1917 that the family moved to North Webster. I'm not sure how long they stayed there, but it wasn't long before they were back in Columbia City. But all was not well. A notice in the Columbia City Post dated January 15, 1919 states that they were separated on September 15, 1917 and she filed for divorce which was granted on April 13, 1921. Amongst the causes for the separation and divorce were charges of non-support, intoxication, and squandering an inheritance. What it doesn't tell is that there are always two sides to every story, and we've never heard his.

I don't know if Romey waited until after the divorce or not, but he moved to Jackson County, Mississippi, living for a while in Moss Point and later in Pascagoula. According to the newspaper article about the divorce, Romey had enlisted in the Army during World War I. His gravemarker states that he served during both the Spanish-American War and WWI, the 1930 census says he was a veteran of the World War, and two out of three obituary notices also confirm his service, so I have no reason to doubt that it is true, I just haven't found any official document of his WWI service.

Why he went to Mississippi isn't known. I can only guess that perhaps he was stationed there during his time in service during WWI. Romey was married to Viola Fagan on April 1, 1923, he was 51, she was 33 years old and the mother of a six year old girl, Kathleen. The 1930 census gives his occupation as Laborer, Gardening. Based upon his previous work history, he could have been a general laborer, a handyman, a "jack-of-all-trades" who could perform nearly any kind of work that was needed.

Charles Romain Brubaker passed away on December 19, 1945 at the veteran's hospital in Biloxi, Mississippi at the age of 74. His wife, Viola, would live another 30 years, passing away on April 11, 1977.

Photo identified only as "Summer of 1925 - Aunt Bet and Jane." On the left is Aunt Bet (Henrietta Rebecca Dunfee). Jane Brubaker is peeking over the shoulder of the man. From other family pictures, I believe the man is Charles Romain Brubaker and the woman is probably his wife, Viola Fagan Brubaker.

During the last week of June 2003, my mother and I took a trip to Mississippi and Louisiana. We stopped in Moss Point and Pascagoula for a couple of days. We found the courthouse, the library, and the cemetery where Romey and Viola are buried. From Viola's obituary I got the correct married name of her daughter, Kathleen Langley. She would be 85 years old. I looked her up in the phone directory and made the call. The number had been disconnected.

Then I did something I had never done before. I contacted the funeral home that had made the arrangements for Viola. It was then that I learned that Kathleen had died just a few months before, on April 10th. The funeral home director put me in touch with her lawyer's office and we paid them a visit. We spoke with the attorney, I told him who I was and that I was looking for information on and pictures of Romey. He said there were pictures in the estate, which was due to be auctioned off in the next couple of weeks but he thought he could get copies made first. He didn't have time right then to go check and we had to leave the next day. I called him when I got home, several times, but each time the lawyer was unavailable and he never returned my calls.

Kathleen was the widow of Owen Langley and didn't have any children. If there were any pictures of Romey in her estate, they are now in the hands of strangers.

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