Posts Tagged ‘whitmore family’

Little Ernie Whitmore: The Story of a Very Short Life

February 23rd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

After my father passed on in June 2011, I was cleaning out his assisted living facility and that’s when I discovered two photo albums from the late 1800s, belonging to Addie Hoyt, my great, great Aunt. In that same old shoe box, I also found - laying loose in the box - a professionally done photograph of a young boy, about five years old. The back of the photo said the child’s name was Ernie Eugene Whitmore, 1888 - 1894.

Ernie was the eldest child of Anna Hoyt Whitmore and Wilbur W. Whitmore (my great-grandparents, and Addie’s sister and brother-in-law). Anna and Wilbur had three children, Ernie, Florence and Victor. Florence was my grandmother, and she was born in 1891. Her brother Victor was born in 1893.

Looking at these pictures of this little boy, I wondered, what happened to Ernie? He looks healthy and strong.

If you look closely at his folded hands, you’ll see the dirty fingernails of a young boy who loves to play outside and does not love to wash his hands! Ernie did not look like a frail little boy.

His small hands are clasped so tightly, it looks like he was struggling mightily to sit still on picture day! As a mother of three girls (one of whom was a real “wiggle worm”),  it’s easy for me to imagine that day at the photographer’s studio in 1893.

“Mrs. Whitmore, I can not get a good picture if that boy does not stop his squirming!”

I can imagine Grandmother Whitmore leaning toward Ernie, and - for the umpteenth time - admonishing her little boy to be still.

“Ernie, you must do as you’re told and sit still. If you’re a good boy, we’ll stop by the confectionery on the way home and I’ll let you pick out a treat.”

Ernie clutches his hands tightly together, desperately yearning to keep the inner wiggle worm still for just a few…more…seconds.

Finally, after a few shutter clicks and blinding flashes of light, young Ernie is released from this torturous stillness.

Ernie was not quite five years old when that photo was taken in June 1893. It was to be his last photo.

What happened to Ernie? How did his life end so quickly?

On February 22, 2012, I learned the rest of the story.

While reading my way through ten years of the Lake Mills Leader (the newspaper of Lake Mills Wisconsin), I found a little snippet in the corner of the page for December 1894. It said that Julia Hoyt (of Lake Mills) had rushed off to Denver to be with her daughter’s family (Anna Hoyt Whitmore and her husband, Wilbur).  Julia Hawley Hoyt was Ernie’s maternal grandmother.

The entire household had contracted Scarlet Fever, one of the most terrifying disease of that time.

Julia caught the express train from Chicago to Denver, rushing out to help her daughter’s young family. Julia left on November 31st, 1894 and arrived 26 hours later, on December 1st. That was to be the day that six-year-old Ernie died.

There’s no word that Julia ever returned to Lake Mills. Perhaps she did, but if she did, it was never recorded in the newspaper. Six months later, Julia Hoyt died in San Mateo, California (Alameda County). She was 51 years old.

UPDATED:  Julia Hoyt contracted Scarlet Fever during her stay in Denver, and died six months later in San Mateo.

Learning about Addie’s life in Lake Mills has been fascinating, and learning more about the rest of the Hoyt Family has been an unexpected bonus.

To read more about Julia Hoyt, click here.

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I find this photo of Ernie (taken June 1893) to be utterly captivating.

This photo of Ernie (June 1893) is enchanting.


Look at those hands!

Look at those dear little hands - and the lace on his cuffs and shirt!


And here

And he had a very sweet expression.


Addie thought so, too. She called him, Aunties Sweetheart.

Addie thought so, too. Written on the back of the photo is an inscription (written by Addie) where she called him, "Auntie's Sweetheart."


He was 10 monhts old

Ernie was 10 months old in this photo.



On December 6, 1894, the Lake Mills Leader reported that Julia Hoyt had left one week prior (November 31st) to be with Anna Hoyt Whitmore and her family, all of whom were afflicted with Scarlet Fever. The next day, Ernie would be gone.


And December 1st 1894, young Ernie died of Smallpox.

December 1st 1894, Ernie died of Scarlet Fever. It's difficult for me to think of a child - a six year old - being described as "a brave, beautiful example of Christian fortitude," while he lays dying.


Despite a whole lot of searching, I have not been able to find an obit for Julia Hawley Hoyt, my great-great grandmother.

Despite a whole lot of searching, I have not been able to find an obit for Julia Hawley Hoyt, my great-great grandmother. She died less than six months after little Ernie. She was 51 years old. This photo was taken in 1888.

To learn more about Addie Hoyt, click here.

To learn more about the kit homes of Lake Mills, click here.

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Rediscovering Innocence

October 11th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

On June 10, 2011, my 91-year-old father passed on. Almost to the day - one year prior - we’d moved him into an assisted living facility. This blog (below) was written soon after that event.

In June 2010, my 91-year-old father moved into assisted living. It’s been a flurry of activity, closing up his house, moving him to a new place, getting things settled, and dealing with the 101 details of his life. As his POA, the details seem to be endless.

Making all this ever more difficult is the fact that my father made many poor choices in life, such as walking out on my mother and me in 1974. I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, Forgiving our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves was one of the best books I ever read. I highly recommend it.

In 2001, after my father’s second wife died, my father reentered my life bit by bit. He was 82 years old.

Now he’s 91, and old and frail and needs a lot of help on a lot of fronts. Sometimes, despite my daily prayers and best efforts and dogged determination, there are days when I still feel angry with him.

When we were cleaning out his house, we found a baby book - his baby book - from 1919.  I’d expected to find a few loose photos stuck within its brittled pages. Instead, I found an incredibly detailed record of a little boy’s life from June  1919 to sometime in 1926.  The “baby book” was filled with vintage photos and detailed information and stories and even a locket of baby’s hair, safely ensconced in a tiny envelope with a delicate blue ribbon.

Looking at the handwritten notes, I saw my father in a new light. More than 90 years ago, he was someone’s beloved baby boy. This cute little baby, smiling back at me from the faded-pages of an antique book, warmed my heart and softened the wrath I’d felt.

I’ve heard it said that the kindest thing we can do for our heavenly Father is to be kind to his children. It occurs to me that - in addition to the divine command - perhaps the kindest thing I can do for my paternal grandparents is to be kind to their youngest son, their beloved little boy, Thomas.

Baby Boys in 1919

My father was a twin, born ten minutes after his brother "Junior." Here's their picture from Fall 1919. The caption (written by my grandmother) said, "In their buggy, Junior always reaches out to hold Thomas' little hand."


"Junior" and Thomas at the park. Apparently, Thomas doesn't like the fact that Junior (left) has a toy and Thomas does not. Thomas is so rattled, he's on the verge of falling over.


Thomas and Junior (front and rear) with their maternal grandparents, the Whitmores.

moew babies

Edward Atkinson Fuller Junior (left) and Thomas Hoyt Fuller (right)

more and more

A wicker basket built for two!

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Awesome necklace

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Junior (Ed) on left, Mom (Florence Whitmore Fuller) and Thomas.

Thomas with his horsie

Thomas with his horsie

My father in the early 1950s with two of his four children.

My father in the early 1950s with two of his four children.