Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Edward Geyer in the NEHGS newsletter

Featured in the NEHGS eNews Vol. 9, No. 24, Whole #324, May 30, 2007, Edited by Michael J. Leclerc and Valerie Beaudrault, is a question about Massachusetts State Prison Inmate Edward K. Geyer, born ca. 1827 in Maine. As far as I know, I'm not related to Edward Geyer (except perhaps sharing distant ancestors, somewhere back in Germany). My 2nd-great grandfather Frank Geyer did not arrive in America until 1876.

From the Online Genealogist

The 1860 United States Federal Census lists Edward K. Geyer, born about 1827- Maine, Residence 1860 – Charlestown, Middlesex, Massachusetts on page 6 as an Inmate of the State Prison. Do you know if any of the prison records are still available and, if so, how would I go about locating them?

The Massachusetts State Archives has the microfilm of the Charlestown State Prison for 1805–1930. These were microfilmed by the Family History Library in 1994. You can also borrow these from NEHGS, or your local FHL Library.

Indexes (items 1-7) 1805–1930 Entries of convicts (items 8-9) 1805-1824 Commitment register (item 10) 1818–1840 (FHL US/CAN Film # 1977970); Commitment registers 1840-1882 (FHL US/CAN Film # 1977971); Commitment registers 1882–1930 (FHL US/CAN Film # 1977972); Warden's memorandum of prisoners 1858–1902, and recommitment register 1805–1831 (FHL US/CAN Film # 1977973 Items 1-2).

The Massachusetts State Archives can be reached at:

Secretary of the Commonwealth
Massachusetts Archives
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Telephone: (617) 727-2816
Fax: (617) 288-8429

NEHGS does not own a copy of these microfilms. We do have a related item in our archives: a leather-bound volume with handwritten record of the medical treatment provided to inmates at the Massachusetts State Prison in Charlestown. End sheet has "Robert Clark Esqr Records commencing Jan 1816". Most entries just list the date, surname and treatment although a few provide more detail. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections Department, Call Number # Mss 538.

David Allen Lambert is the Society’s Online Genealogist. If you would like to ask him a question, contact him at or visit his blog at For more information about the Online Genealogist visit Please note that he will make every effort to reply to each message, but will respond on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Frank Geyer obituary, George Geyer interview

Received from Vernon Capps:

- Copied from newspaper clipping of his death notice March 30, 1938

FRANK GEYER; Born April 16, 1862 at Johannisberg (Johnsberg) Germany and died in Wellman, Keokuk County, Iowa, March 29, 1938. ( A Tuesday )

The only son of Vitis and Mary (Fruiend) Geyer, and a sister Elizabeth. At age of five years his mother died (1867) and his father remarried and five sons from this next marriage. Religion was Catholic and then Methodist.

Sailed to America, September 23, 1876 and landed in New York City, New York on October 6, 1876 where he stayed for six months working in a brush factory in the day time, and attending school at night.

Came to Kalona, Iowa with his Uncle Joseph Fruiend in Richmond, Iowa. Lived in and near Wellman, Iowa, except for five years near Pipe Stone, Minnesota ( Area- Five miles South of Pipe Stone; then six and one-half miles north) years 1899 to 1904.

Funeral Services was held at the Methodist Church in Wellman, Iowa. Conducted by Rev. Hann, Thursday afternoon at 2:00 O'clock, March 31, 1938. Interment at Bunker hill Cemetery, and later reburied in Wellman, Iowa in 1951.

- George Geyer told this story to Elloise and Vernon Capps while visiting them in South San Francisco, California. Oct, 1967.

Frank Geyer as a child carried wood for fires while living with is Uncle. He worked as a shoe repairman in New York. He learned the trade in Germany. He came to Richmond, Iowa with a Cousin Frankie Fruiend who stayed with the Deweys. Frankie had a sister who married Joe Dewey. He worked with a man on the Prairie there called Custard. He then came into Wellman area and stayed with the Bulls family. In the Bulls family were; Dave, Al, Dan, Grant and a sister named Sis. Frank Geyer was a catholic, but left that faith in Richmond, Iowa.

Frank Geyer had a big farm, 200 acres and raised good gardens. Before they planted gardens or trees on their farm, they used to go to the Griffiths to get their fruits and vegetables. When George and John were little, they remember that their Mother would let the neighbors help themselves for free to the gardens and fruits that they raised and took care of.

Typewritten notes from Vernon Capps

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Geyer and McGimpsey photos

Some more photos just received from Vernon Capps:

Frank Geyer

Lucinda Ellen (Griffith) Geyer

Frank and Lucinda Geyer were my 2nd great grandparents. Frank was born Franciscus R. Geyer on Apr 16, 1862 in Johannesburg, Germany, and died of a stroke on March 29, 1938 in Wellman, Washington, Iowa. On Dec 22, 1888 he married Lucinda Ellen Griffith, who was born on Oct 16, 1869 in Wellman, Washington, Iowa, and died on Oct 2, 1951 in Washington, Washington, Iowa.

Henry James McGimpsey

Eliza (Hamilton) McGimpsey

Eliza (McLean) McGimpsey

Henry James McGimpsey was born on Oct 13, 1829 in Newtownards, County Down, Ireland, and died on Nov 14, 1907 in Thornburg, Keokuk, Iowa. On May 6, 1862 he married Eliza Hamilton, who was born on June 8, 1829 in Newtownards, County Down, Ireland, and died on Oct 28, 1866 in Rock Island, Rock Island, Illinois. They are my 3rd great-grandparents. On Jan 2, 1868, he married his second wife, Eliza McLean, who was born Mar 4, 1832 in Ireland and died on July 3, 1916 in Thornburg, Keokuk, Iowa.

William James McGimpsey

William James and Jane M. (Moore) McGimpsey, taken Dec 22, 1892

William James McGimpsey was the son of Henry and Eliza (Hamilton) McGimpsey. He was born Jan 13, 1863 in Rock Island, Rock Island, Illinois, and died Oct 20, 1920 in Prairie, Keokuk, Iowa, from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound (he was shooting rats at the time). On Dec 22, 1892, he married Jane M. Moore, who was born Dec 12, 1866 in Thornburg, Keokuk, Iowa, and died there of a stroke on Apr 6, 1938. They were my 2nd great-grandparents.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Carnival of Genealogy, 24th edition

I'm a little late in spreading the news, but the 24th Carnival of Genealogy is now posted over at Creative Gene:

The topic for this edition is Mothers! We have wonderful tributes and tales of the women who have for better or worse had a hand (or a gene ;-) in making us who we are today. They come in all shapes and sizes, races and religions, ages and eras. They live in our hearts and in our minds and now in our Carnival too. Let's hear it for moms!


The topic for the next edition of the COG will be: Who inherited the Creative Gene in your family? We're all aware of someone on the family tree who was/is "the creative one" or "the talented one"... the painter, musician, poet, wood carver, interior designer, writer, knitter, singer, calligrapher, or such. Tell us about their creative pursuits. Let's hear it for the creatives! Please submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Genealogy using our
carnival submission form. The deadline for submissions for the next edition will be June 1st. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Included in this edition were two articles I wrote, McGimpsey letter from 1854, my transcription of a letter from William and Marget McGimpsey in Ireland to their son Henry in America, and Happy Mother's Day, about my mom.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

My mother Unchalee Geyer was born in Thonburi, Thailand, just across the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok. Thonburi became a part of the city of Bangkok in 1972. My mother was the sixth of seven daughters born to Sae Lim Iew-Jua and Malee Kasaranukork. Her parents also adopted two sons. My mother identifies herself as Thai, but my grandparents are Thai Chinese, or Chinese immigrants to Thailand. As is common among the Thai Chinese, my grandparents adopted new Thai surnames, so my mother’s family’s surname was chosen by my grandfather to be Umarintarapirom, while Malee’s parents Sae Lau Hui-Kak and Sae Khow Pow-Khim chose the surname Kasaranukork for my grandmother’s family. My grandfather, the son of Sae Lim Chui-Pou and Sil-Houng, passed away when I was a child.

Iew-Jua and Malee had a lingerie shop in Bangkok. On the first floor was the shop, living room and kitchen. The living room was open to the shop and the family would sit, watching television, tagging the clothing, and eating, if there were no customers to help. The second floor held the sewing machines and two bedrooms, one for the parents, the other for the kids, where they slept haphazardly on mattresses spread on the floor. The family was a successful upper-middle class family that valued education and sent several daughters, including my mother, to college.

Part of my Thai family in my grandmother's living room
Left to right on couches: Orachon's husband Eirak, my uncle Sung, my grandma Malee, my mom Unchalee, my aunt Orachon, my aunt Porntip, and my aunt Chitra
On floor: Orachon and Eirak's children (my cousins) Opp and Titiporn

After earning the equivalent of an Associate degree in Bookkeeping, my mother went to work on a U.S. Army base in Bangkok. It was here that she met my father, Harlan Geyer, Jr. My father was an auditor for the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, and my mother was assigned to help him with the investigation of the base’s finances.

They began dating, chaperoned by the entire family. My father would take my mother to the movies where she’d sit on one side of a row and he’d sit on the other, with her family taking all the seats in between. After six months of this, her family decided they should marry, which they did on June 10, 1974. She moved to California with my father, her family gave her a plane ticket as her going away present, just in case she didn’t like America, and she soon found herself pregnant with me.

My mom in 1974

Throughout my childhood, I thought I had nothing in common with my mother. We fought much of the time and I don’t think either of us understood where the other was coming from. As I get older, I realize my mother and I actually have quite a lot in common. We both fell in love with foreigners and moved to new countries for love. I know how hard my adjustment to Germany was, which is still a Western country, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to move away from a very large, close knit family in Thailand to the United States. I can imagine that it was a very difficult transition for her. Now that I am pregnant, I also know that I could not have handled pregnancy and the transition at the same time. It must have been a challenge for her.

My mom and my mother-in-law Hildegard Spang at our rehearsal dinner in Berlin

My mother has always supported my move to Germany (how could she not when she did the same thing, right?). I worry that I will end up having the same fights with my children that I had with my mother. When my 15 year old son comes home drunk, will I say things like, “Kids in America aren’t allowed to do that!” and will my son respond, “This isn’t America, mom! Duh!”? I imagine I will come to understand her more and more the longer I live, and especially now as I’m entering motherhood myself.

So, to a very special mom that I appreciate more and more with each passing day, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

The family at my brother Christian's Bahai wedding ceremony
Left to right: my brother Christopher, my mom, my sister-in-law Nosheen, my brother Christian, me, my dad's sister Cherie Geyer, and my cousin Opp

Friday, May 11, 2007

McGimpsey letter from 1854

It's amazing how mothers (and fathers) never change. Even after 153 years, mothers are still offering the same advice and asking the same questions of their far away children (Do you have enough to eat? Are you eating well? Who are your friends?).

William and Marget McGimpsey in 1860

Here is my transcription of a letter sent from William and Marget (Martin) McGimpsey of Loughriescouse, Ireland, to their son Henry James McGimpsey in America (my 3rd great grandfather) on April 2, 1854. I received photocopies of this letter from my aunt Cherie Geyer, who in turn received them from our cousin Vernon Capps, who I believe is in possession of the original. It is difficult to see any punctuation that may be in the original, I have only included punctuation if I thought I saw it. I also have left spelling and capitalization as it appears in the letter, therefore my transcription may be a little difficult to understand. If you have any corrections, questions or anything else you'd like to say, please leave a comment! I'd also like to thank all the people who offered transcription and Irish geography advice to me when I asked for help previously.

Page 1 of the letter

Laughries Caus[1]

Aprile 2th 1854

Dear Son we Recived your letter Dated the 8 of March on the 29th day of Aprile. Thenks be god for his tender Mercies to us and your Letter found us and all your friends and Wellwishers in good health. we have great cause to Bliis[2] the Name of him that is able to save to the very uttermost all that puts their trust in him for his kind Care in perserving us in the midst of danger for Many hundreds Since you left home has found a wattery grave for having an oppertunity of seeing the newspaper of so many Shiprecks we Never thought that we we would a heard fom you and when yang John Moor[3] Came with the letter to your Mother the house was filled with your friends to hear from your. you send your kind love to your grandfather he flitted to my house the Satterday after you left home where he is Now living and doing well. your Mother wants to know if you had plenty of Sea Store please let us know what you are employed at and who you spend the lords day

[1] Loughriescouse is a township in the parish of Newtownards, County Down, Ireland
[2] Bless
[3] Moor and Moore are the same surname in Ireland

Page 2 of the letter

I am happy to kow[4] that you found friends when you arrived in pitsburg put your trust in the Lord for who shall hurt you if you be the follower of that which good. My son Rember the Many advices i gave to you for he that waks[5] With wise Men Shall grow wiser Still but the Companions of fools Shall be Destroyed take care and keep good Company. this is the advice of your tender father which never Might have another oppertunity of addressing you. I would advise you to write to your friends in america and let them both know wher you are and if god wold think fit that you Might fall in with a place for us we wold Sell out and Come to america. you Want to
kow[6] what your brother James is about he is still living at home and working on the farm and wold be glad to see you your friend Thomas Mcgimpsey wishes you to Let his friends kow that his family is all in good health and he has purchased Henery fergisons farm of land. Serd Thompson is Married to Joseph Crake.

[4] know
[5] walks
[6] know

Page 3 of the letter

the old Marques of londonderry[7] is Dead And we have got Lord Castlerea[8] for our Land lord. And I took your your letter to old Mr. John Mcdonalds And he was glad that you had seen his son John and he is in good health at present. Markets is high at present and Meal is Sd 2=2 per Stone and flower Sd 26 per some and potatos .6 per hundred and every thing in perposion lint seed is Raising in prees[9] up till pound five for Rega Barrels your aint[10] McCracke and family is all will and is is doeing well. Let us know know if you agree With the diet of america and if you like it as well as your Mother Contry Robert Patten Sends his kind Love to you and says that he has a great Wont of you on the Satterdays nys to help him in the Shape John McClean Wife and family Sends his kind Love to you and hops to be with you yet

[7] Charles William Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (18 May 1778 – 6 March 1854)
[8] Frederick Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh from 1822-1854 when he became 4th Marquess of Londonderry
[9] Price
[10] Aunt

Page 4 of the letter

When you Rite Direct Letters to the Care Mr James Moor Mohill Street grween newtown was Cunty Down Irland for William McGimpsey of Laughries Caus farmer Rite soon as we will be waiting to hear from you. I aid no more at present but I ains as a family sals scribing our selvs till aft Death your father and Mother ----

William and Marget Mcgimpsey

Henry James McGimpsey in 1860

Friday, May 04, 2007

Places named Geyer

On our recent vacation, we happened, mostly by chance, upon two places related to the surname Geyer. First, on our way up to Berlin, we decided to stop in Bamburg for lunch and sightseeing.

Residenzschloss Geyerswörth

First, it was a pleasant surprise to find ourselves driving on a street called Geyerswörth (this translates as something like, "Geyer's Place") as we headed towards the old city center. Then, as we pulled into the parking deck next to the Tourist Information Center, we were greated by a large overhead sign reading "Parkhaus Geyerswörth."

The nearby Schloss Geyerswörth, or Townhall Castle Geyerswoerth, was the home of the well-known Geyer family of Nürnberg (Nuremberg), who settled in Bamberg in the 14th century. In 1580, the palace was taken over by the bishop of Bamberg and over the years, many alterations and renovations have been made, so there is not much left visible of the original home.

Schloss Geyerswörth (Geyerswoerth Palace)

Tourists are encouraged to climb the tower for the view of Bamberg, the keys are available from the Tourist Information Office. The courtyard is often host to concerts (Feierhof Geyerswörth blog - in German/auf Deutsch).

The entrance to the courtyard of Schloss Geyerswörth

Berg und Bingestadt Geyer

A few days later, on our way from Dresden to Karlovy Vary, I noticed a sign that we were entering the Erzgebirge, or Ore Mountains. I remembered from looking up the origin of the name Geyer on that one possibility was a town of Geyer in the Erzgebirge, so I quickly whipped out the map book and found that the town was almost directly on our route.

That's me at the city limits
(27 weeks pregnant with the next Geyer descendent)

Geyer is a small town of approximately 4,000 residents located about a half hour to the south of the city of Chemnitz in the German state of Saxony. The city is almost completely surrounded by the Geyersche Wald (Geyer Forest). The first mention of Geyer is in 1381, but there was mining going on in this area far earlier. It is from this mining that it has its status as a Bingestadt ("Binge" city). A "binge" (link in German) is a large area of sunken earth created by the collapse of a mine.

Postdistanzsäule (postal distance column)

The postal distance column located in the town square gives the postal delivery time between Geyer and various other cities in the year 1730. For example, the delivery time between Geyer and Leipzig was 24 hours ("St." stands for "Stunden", meaning "hours"). The columns were erected in many Saxon towns on the order of the Saxon Kurfürst (elector) August "Der Starke" (August "the Strong"). The obelisk carries the Saxon-Polish double coat of arms for Kurfürst Friedrich August I of Saxony, who was also King August II of Poland. The posts became obsolete starting in 1840 after a new standard of measurement was developed. Click here for a closer look at the Postdistanzsäule

The Wachturm (watchtower)

The square base of this 42 meter (138 feet) high former military post and watchtower, was built around 1395. The tower's octagonal upper section was added on between 1561 and 1564. It continued to be stocked and kept as a military post and watchtower until 1947. It is now the location of the local history museum. Next to the tower are markers listing the names of soldiers from Geyer who lost their lives in battle. There was no one named Geyer listed on these, and since the surname distribution maps I examined previously also did not show a large concentration of Geyers in this area of Germany, I can only conclude that if this is the origin of some Geyers, they moved out of the area a while back.

The view of Geyer from the base of the watch tower

The visit to Geyer was a bit sad. It is clearly one of the still very run-down towns of the former East Germany that suffers from high unemployment and a lack of money. But renovations have been made to the historic buildings and the town seems to be working hard to advertise the skiing and hiking in the area. For more photos, there is also a nice photo album of the city on it's website (in German/auf Deutsch).

Carnival of Genealogy

It's official...

My last post, Shaping the Future, has been included in the 23rd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. The topic was School Days, and there are twenty wonderful submissions for you to check out! The next deadline for submission is May 15th and, in honor of Mother's Day, the topic is Moms. Will you be the next to join the Carnival?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Shaping the Future

"Teaching is the only major occupation of man for which we have not yet developed tools that make an average person capable of competence and performance. In teaching we rely on the "naturals," the ones who somehow know how to teach.”

-- Peter F. Drucker

I've had many teachers in my life, primary, middle and high school teachers, instructors, lecturers and college professors, but perhaps the two teachers who have had the greatest impact on my life never taught me in a classroom. They were my grandparents, Harlan and Ila Geyer.

Harlan was born on July 22, 1920 in Lime Creek Township, Washington, Iowa, and was raised just north of Wellman. He was the oldest of twelve children born to Francis Grant and Grace (McGimpsey) Geyer. In 1920, his father was a tenant farmer, working rented land to support his quickly growing family. Life was stressful; they had problems making ends meet for a family that grew with the birth of a child every two years. As Harlan would later put it, "We didn't have much."

But Harlan was a good student and in 1936, he decided to enter the Normal Training Program at Wellman High School. The Normal Training Program was passed into law by the Iowa State Legislature in 1911 and existed as part of the Wellman, Iowa education system between 1927 and 1945. The law included the following section:

"In order to develop an interest in rural life, at least one semester in Agriculture, Domestic Science and Manual Training is given a special place in the course. Two semesters in Pedagogy and one semester in Methods, together with emphasis on Observation and Practice Teaching is the specific professional feature of the Normal Training High School Course."

Deliberately or not, Harlan was following in the footsteps of his uncle Harold Geyer, a Class of 1927 graduate, who was one of Wellman's first Normal Training graduates.

Harlan Geyer, Sr. in 1938 (22 July 1920 - 24 March 2006)

It was strenuous, demanding work, with students sometimes coming to school before classes to study and staying late, often until suppertime, to complete the extra assignments the program required. The curriculum included specialized courses in Education Psychology, School Management, and Methods. Methods, a practical course designed to teach effective lesson development and instill good teaching principles, was especially detested, as can be seen in this parody, written and performed during a Normal Training Club meeting by Wellman Class of 1930 Normal Training graduates J. Paul Yoder and Walter Marner, with assistance from Stanley Eash and Clifford Monroe:

(Tune - "I've Been Working on the Railroad")

Verse 1:
Oh, I was born in Wellman town,
A-workin' on my Methods.
All day long I write the outline down
A-workin' on my Methods.

I've been workin' on my Methods
All the live long day.
I've been workin' on my Methods
To pass the time away.
Don't you hear the school bell ringin'?
Hurry to Room Five!
Get your books and start to workin'
We sure have to strive.

Verse 2:
I hope to teach a country school
If I survive my Methods.
But I will never be so cruel
As to make them work on Methods

Verse 3:
And when I die and go away
Still workin' on my Methods,
I wonder will St. Peter say,
"Do you have your Methods?"

Harlan's Normal Training Certificate

In May 1938, Harlan graduated Wellman High School and along with his diploma, received a Normal Training Certificate. He got a position teaching in a one-room schoolhouse Lookout No. 6, in English River, Washington, Iowa, where he taught for a year. He kept in touch with two of his students, exchanging Christmas cards every year. Here, Harlan describes a visit he made back to Iowa with his second wife, Mary:

We looked up where my old school was. Ila’s old school was more modern and it became a home for somebody because it had running water and electricity, but mine was just way out in the middle of nowhere, so it no longer existed. Well, we went back and seen these kids, the only two of my students that I ever really got contact with were my eighth grader and my kindergartner. The eighth grader, his mother was a widow when he was going to school and when I got in contact with him, the kindergartner, him and his wife were rentin’ my eighth grader’s farm. The eighth grader had built another house on his farm, so actually my kindergartner and my eighth grader still are back in where the school was at, on my eighth grader’s farm. And I hear from them regularly every year and we went to visit them, Mary and I did. So, it’s out in the middle between West Chester, Kalona and Wellman.

Page 1 of Harlan's Teachers Annual Report for Lookout No. 6, English River Township, Washington County, Iowa, May 1939

Between September 5, 1938 and May 5, 1939, Harlan taught eleven students, five boys and six girls. As seen on page 1 of his Teachers Annual Report, he earned $50 a month, putting the approximate average cost of tuition per student per month at $5, a fact that was recorded on the report. The girls' attendance was 97% for the year, while the boys' was 89%. Illa Belle Kauffman, age seven, was able to attend less than 24 weeks of school because of heart trouble, poor health and distance to the school.

Page 2 of Harlan's Teachers Annual Report for Lookout No. 6, English River Township, Washington County, Iowa, May 1939

The school was not in very good condition. As Harlan stated before, they had no electricity or running water. On page 2 of the report, he rates the condition of the girls' outhouse and the fuel house as poor and states that the most urgent needs of the school are better out-buildings, a new blackboard and a more sanitary drinking fountain.

Harlan gave instruction in American citizenship, physiology and hygiene with special reference to stimulants and narcotics, elements of vocal music, fifty minutes of physical education a week, the Constitution of the U.S. and of Iowa, and the history of Iowa. Volunteers managed to raise $7.41 for the school at the Christmas Program, with the money left in the charge of the School Treasurer. The report asks if the American flag was displayed regularly, it was until "lately", when the rope broke.

Page 3 of Harlan's Teachers Annual Report for Lookout No. 6, English River Township, Washington County, Iowa, May 1939

Page 3 of the report gives the students' names and marks. Enrolled in his class were: Glada L. Hollcraft, Harold Horak, Merle Venzke, Robert Scott, Darlene Venzke, Rosetta Vodicka, Harald Mass, Viola Kauffman, Edna Hoover, Leota Hoover, and Allan Stransky. All advanced to the next grade level.

Soon after he started teaching, he became friends with his future wife, Ila Bear. Harlan describes their first encounter:

Probably the first time I met her was at the teacher’s meeting. She was teaching in Washington County. There was Orville Hradek and Arvid Wagamon and I, and we were sitting behind these girls and we just wanted to tease them and I guess I stuck a pin in Ila, I don’t remember that much about it. It’s just one of the things to do when you’re a kid. I was only 18.

Ila Bear (11 June 1913 - 13 March 1992)

Ila Iola Bear was born on June 11, 1913 in Johns, Appanoose, Iowa, the daughter of Samuel Lewis and Bessie Belle (Ginkens) Bear. Her father, Samuel, was a farmer and an outstanding carpenter, who died in 1939 after his horses bolted, causing him to fall from the hay wagon, which resulted in two crushed neck vertebrae. Her mother Bessie was a school teacher before marriage.

As long as her younger brother John could remember, Ila wanted to be a school teacher as well. She graduated from Seymour High School in Wayne County, Iowa on May 12, 1932. Perhaps she wasn't the most studious girl there, in her junior year high school yearbook, her initials I.I.B. are jokingly said to stand for "Interested In Boys."

On September 9, 1935, Ila entered the Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls, Iowa, now the University of Northern Iowa. A brief history from their website:

The College of Education is the oldest department on campus; in fact, UNI began as a teacher preparation school in 1876. The university was renamed the Iowa State Teachers College in 1909, and the State College of Iowa in 1961. Not until that year did the college allow its students to graduate without completing the teacher preparation sequence.

Ila's Admission to Iowa State Teachers College,
November 22, 1935

Her brother, John Bear, remembers when he and their brother Claude Bear dropped Ila off for school:

Ila went to Cedar Falls Teacher, in order to be a teacher, you know. I remember Claude and I took her up there to get enrolled and she told us to drive by the women’s dorm and honk our horn and all the women come out and looked out the windows. Another thing I’ll tell you, from southern Iowa up to Cedar Falls have a different accent and they made fun of her cause she had kind of a southern accent. And she got even with them. You heard of hedge balls?

They call them Osage-oranges. They grow pretty big and they’re green and they’re rough outside and then what they have inside is kind of like a milky stuff that’s sticky. But you get them and put them in your basement and you won’t have any spiders. Spiders don’t like 'em. But that’s how she got even with some of them girls up there for teasin' her cause she had that accent. They thought you could eat 'em and everything. They’d kill you if you ate 'em. They’re poison. She took some of 'em up there to them. Some of 'em thought that they could bite 'em. She had to stop them.

Peace must have been declared at this point, as Ila's signature book from her time at ISTC is full of poems and sentiments of friendship from her fellow students. Incidentally, Osage-oranges, also known as hedge-apples, are apparently not strongly poisonous, causing only mild vomiting when eaten (link), and have not been clinically proven to deter pests (link).

Ila's Iowa State Teachers College Transcript

At ISTC, Ila took classes in composition & rhetoric, English literature, American literature, grammar, medieval and modern history, US history, civics, economics, algebra, plane geometry, agriculture, general science, physics, physiology, physiography, arithmetic, home economics, pedagogy, and psychology.

After two semesters of instruction, Ila was ready for a teaching position, completing her ISTC coursework during summer sessions. During the 1936-1937 school year, she was the teacher at Brushy No. 3 in Walnut Township, Wayne, Iowa. She spent two years, from Sept 1938 to May 1940, at Union Rural School in Lime Creek Township, Washington, Iowa, which, in 1940, was considered one of the best, most well-equipped rural schools in Washington County.

From September 1940 to May 1941, she was an elementary grades teacher at Huron School, Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa. She taught elementary school at Fort Byron, Illinois from 1941 to 1942, and from September 1942 until June 1946, she taught elementary grades in East Moline, Illinois. On October 20, 1943, she graduated from ISTC with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education.

She corresponded regularly with her old friend Harlan and after he returned from service in the Pacific, he proposed. They married on June 11, 1945 in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. Afterwards, she returned to East Moline, where she lived with her brother John, while the US Marine Corp sent Harlan to school in Missouri. According to both John and Harlan, she was the first school teacher in East Moline that was allowed to continue teaching after marriage. Up till that time, women were expected to retire to their homes to raise their families upon marriage.

Harlan and Ila Geyer

In 1947, they moved to California, where Harlan was stationed at Camp Pendleton. That year, Ila gave birth to my father, Harlan Geyer, Jr., known by family and friends as Jr., and she changed careers to become a stay-at-home mom. My aunt Cherie remembers:

Jr. had trouble learning when he was young. I can remember sitting on the little brown wooden chair while she tutored Jr. and Joey Tudor in reading (with the Dick and Jane books). Maybe he was 7 or 8, and I was 3 or 4. She's why I excelled in school. She's also the reason I developed my love for reading. They both loved to teach and all the time I was in school I was going to grow up and be a teacher like my parents. My mom taught me that a girl always had to have an education and a profession that she could fall back on if something ever happened to her husband. Teaching offered that.

I remember being taught to read by my grandmother even before going off to school. I'd sit on her lap, reading out of ancient, dog-eared Dick and Jane readers, I expect that they're the same ones she taught my father out of. She and my grandfather volunteered at my elementary school, Floris Elementary, throughout my years there, touching the lives of children of still another generation.

My grandmother died on March 13, 1992, after several long years of fighting cancer. She provided me with one last lesson; she was the first difficult loss of my life. Although it was a hard lesson that I didn't want to learn at the time, my grandfather taught me about acceptance and moving on, remarrying a wonderful, very loving and kind woman, Mary. After the passing of both Mary and his son, Harlan Jr., in 2001, my grandfather stepped up to fill the role of father for my siblings and I, even making the long 12 hour flight from Washington DC to Berlin, Germany in 2003, at the ripe old age of 83, to escort me down the aisle at my wedding. He passed away last year, on March 24, 2006.

Selected sources:

[1] "Normal Training Program" in Wellman, Iowa Centennial 1879-1979, Wellman Centennial Committee (Wellman, Iowa, 1979), 178-181.

[2] Interview with Harlan Geyer, Sr. (Reston, VA), by author, 26 November 2005. Mr. Geyer is now deceased.

[3] Washington County Rural Schools, IaGenWeb, Washington County, online <>. Previously published in hard copy: "Rural Schools of Washington County - 1983, Lime Creek Township," Washington County Genealogical Society Newsletter 19 (June 2002): 9-10, 6; originally published 1940-1941.

[4] Interview with John Bear (Aurora, MO), by author, 5 January 2006, in Reston, VA.

[5] E-mail messages from Cherie Geyer to author, 1-2 May 2007.

[6] "Papers of Harlan and Ila (Bear) Geyer," (1932-2006); owned by their daughter, Cherie Geyer; electronic copy in possession of author.

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