Saturday, February 22, 2014


My grandfather Kuhn died when I was just a toddler, and I have no memories of him. However, like his wife, my grandmother, he was a larger-than-life person.

Charles Edward KUHN was born 10 Jun 1876 in Reading, Berks, PA, the fifth child and 3rd son of Dr. Louis DeBarth KUHN & Amelia "Millie" Ann PETTYGROVE.  He had 10 siblings, however 5 died before 1900. (Those parents are another entire story all their own, which I must write more about, another time.) 

His older brother Joseph (named for his Kuhn grandfather) became a physician like his father, but tragically died in 1898 at their father's home. The second son Louis (named for his father) apparently died before he was 13 years old - another tragedy. Several other siblings died before they were 10 yrs of age. So, Charles ended up the eldest living son.  He became a Civil Engineer, apparently from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn NY - and I need to write them  to see if they have details of his education records. Research is never done, is it?

According to his wife's Memoirs, p.4:
"...Then Charles Kuhn came back into my life.  [roughly 1909]  I had met him while on a vacation with a schoolmate from St. Vincent on the Hudson. He phoned me. Said, "Hello, Daisy, can I come out to see you?" That was the beginning and the end."   Charles was about 6' tall, with thick blond hair, and blue eyes. He married Marguerite Josephine TERWILLIGER, on 11 June 1910, at Roselle, New Jersey,  where her parents lived; it is described as "a small wedding" in newspapers as well as in her Memoirs. She was 30, he was 34 years old, at the time.

Her Memoirs give details of his jobs while they were married. One of those was to build a dam at Little Hock Hocking on the Ohio River - unfortunately the President and Vice-President of the firm would contradict orders given by each other. Eventually the contract was nil and void.  However, Charles managed to find another position in Watertown NY, where their first child was born, Elizabeth, known as "Betty". Unfortunately she died before one year old from complications of severe milk allergy.  This was a problem for several of their children, and continues with several of the current generation of grandchildren.
Children limited details for children's privacy: 
 - Betty, b. 13 Feb 1911, d. Nov 1911
 - Barbara, b. 13 July 1912; married/divorced/married, 2 children
 - Dorothea "Dot", b. 6 Oct 1914; married/divorced, no children
 - John Anthony, b. 1 Sep 1916, m. 1946, d. 1966; 4 children
 - Louis James "Lou-Jim",  b. 13 Aug 1918, married/divorced/married; 2 children
 - *Mary Marguerite, [direct ancestor], b. 7 Oct 1922, married, 3 children

Charles then took a position with a big engineering firm in NY whose contract was with the BC Electric Company in Vancouver, to put in underground electric systems. World War 1 interrupted this work for a stretch, and he ended up being called down to Memphis TN; he had to register for the draft because of being a US citizen. Eventually he came home, and continued work, mainly centred on the North Shore of Vancouver (West Vancouver).  Later, his work took him to work at Port Alice, Woodfibre, and other places around southern BC and Vancouver Island.

One winter, unfortunately, he slipped off the porch of their home, experiencing a very bad fall, breaking his leg and hip. He was over three months in hospital. Unfortunately that meant it was the end of his work for BC Electric Company. That was the reality in those days, there was no such thing as a medical leave where your job would be kept open for you! As the Depression began around the same time, it was very difficult for the family. For some time, they survived on growing all their own food, his wife's piano/organ playing [usually for the Catholic parish] and other activities, and support from their local Catholic Parish, possibly also support from parents back East. Eventually, he found work for several years, on the planning of the Lions Gate Bridge (First Narrows).

After all the children were married, Charles and Marguerite "Daisy" moved down to Seattle where their older son, John (an engineer), was living and working for Boeing.  They took in boarders from the local army base, as part of how they managed the expenses. At one point, Daisy's mother came for a prolonged visit.

From her Memoirs again, p.24:
"On December 15, '45 Charlie and I were Christmas shopping. We stopped at a place where they served only dinners with candlelight. Excellent food!  We talked and laughed with friends at same table.  At four o'clock in the morning Charlie complained of pain in his chest. Before I could get in touch with the doctor he was gone."

Charles is buried in Calvary Cemetery, in northeast Seattle, Washington. There is no stone on the grave.  He was described by children in the family as being extremely intense and abusive (physically), with a raging temper.  And that his father was "even worse".  Brilliant man, very bright children.  But all seem to have experienced constant fault-finding and raging.  Ugly and soul-destroying emotional abuse.  Certainly that intense abusive rage showed up in my own mother's behaviour as well.  However, I was determined not to continue that abusive behaviour, and eventually took and then taught parenting courses, in order to keep in control of my parenting - not perfect, but definitely much better. The cycle is definitely broken by now - my 6 grandchildren are growing up relatively healthy and happy. Whew.

If you have any information or questions about my grandfather, you can contact me via calewis at telus dot net, or comments below.  Thanks for stopping by to read today.


Anonymous said...

Yes Celia , we both came through as better parents - Amazing how taking parenting courses and learning about one's self help to break that cycle of emotional abuse. Of course, we're not perfect, but certainly better parents than ours were. I know were were definitely loved, but there was the abuse! About Grandpop - When did he do work in South America/Mexico? Because I heard stories about him being there and coming back and calling Grandpete, "Pepita" which is why I, as the first grandchild, called her Grandpete.


Celia Lewis said...

It wasn't GrandPop who was in the Spanish-American War (1898-1899), Leita. It was GrandPete's father, James "Grove" TERWILLIGER. The Spanish word for "mother" - Madre - is also why his wife was called "Madee" (their way of spelling the nickname). I'm still looking for any record of his involvement - it would not have been for long (very short war), and records are somewhat sparse.


Family, friends, and others - I hope you enjoy these pages about our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy has become somewhat of an obsession, more than a hobby, and definitely a wonderful mystery to dig into and discover. Enjoy my writing, and contact me at celia.winky at gmail dot com if you have anything to add to the stories. ... Celia Lewis