Monday, February 7, 2011

Stories my parents told me.

    I was fortunate  in that I would go see my parents in Minnesota and would usually stay with them at least a week and we did a lot of visiting in that period of time.  I have been working with genealogy for the past 30 years and have found  out a lot more information on my own.

    I will start with my Mother’s family as I know very little about them.  Her father’s name before coming to America from Denmark was Mads Goldfelt.  We think he was Jewish.  He came from the part of Denmark which was next to Germany  and I suppose he was looking for a better life in the States.  My Mother’s mother came from Copenhagen and her name was Anna Thompson.  They  were married and came to the States in about 1865. 

    My grandfather changed his name to Chris Madison when he came to America.  He had been trained as a barrel maker and they came to Linn County Iowa.  He was one of the first employees at the Wilson-Sinclair packing house and was employed as a barrel maker.

Wilson-Sinclair was later changed to the Wilson Packing Co.  My Mother told me that everyone in Denmark was trained to do some kind of work.  Isn’t that amazing that people in Europe were trained for a job and we still do not  do that here in America.

English: Cooper's workshop, Open air museum Roscheider Hof, Konz, Germany
Deutsch: Holz- und Waldmuseum, Küferwerkstatt, Freilichtmuseum Roscheider Hof, Konz

    There were 6 children born in this marriage.  George, Carl ,Ernest, Tillie , a girl who died at 6 years of age and my mother Irene.  My grandfather worked at the packing house and he also did some fishing in the Mississippi River.  They lived in  Marion Iowa.  My grandfather was crippled as a result of an accident.  He was out cutting wood and his axe hit his leg somewhere.  It was a terrible wound and he started a fire and think he cut off his leg and he put the leg in the fire to keep from bleeding to death. 

    My grandmother died when she was 57 years old as a result of an operation to take out her gall bladder.  I did not know  my Uncle’s George and Carl as they moved to Washington state years before I was born.  I did know my Uncle Ernest.  He was a depot agent for the CNW Railroad at Fox Lake Minn and lived about 100 miles from us.  We went down one time and stayed about a week.  I was about 9 years old at that time.  Uncle Ernie raised his 3 children by himself as his wife had died a few years before. 

    Uncle Ernie never got upset about anything.  I could play with the typewriter in the office and helped him carry the mail up to the post office.  They had a turntable at Fox Lake and I could go out and play on it and think he let me fool around climbing on the baggage wagons.  Of course he knew there were not any trains coming while I was doing all that messing around.

    Uncle Ernie had a grape arbor and I remember the grapes were ripe and I think I got sick eating all those grapes.  He used to send my Mother clothing so that she could remake things for our family.   My Mother and Ernie were real close and my two older sister’s used to go see him.  I know my sister Daisy caught the train at Albert Lea and went out to Fox Lake at least one time.

    My Mother graduated from Marion High School in 1907 and she worked as a school teacher for 4 or 5 years.  She met my Father when she was teaching at rural School No 9 and was staying with my Great Uncle Jim Hagerman.  She taught my cousin Everett Cress when he was about in first grade.  Everett and Erma were visiting my folks in Sandstone Minn one time when I was there and they were talking about the old days.  Seems that dist No 9 had ran off several teachers.  My Mother had been teaching for a while when she came out there and the first day a 17 year old boy sassed her and she proceeded to grab him by the shoulders and sit him down in his seat and said “There will be no more of that.“  She didn’t have any trouble after that.

    Everett told another story about a teacher.  He said this woman was small and some child gave her fits and she took the broom and smacked him a few times.  She then got up in front of the class and said ”Now if anyone else wants to sass me, just come on up”  Everett said there was no more trouble in that school.

    Mother met my father while she was teaching at No 9 as I think my father was working for his Uncle Jim.  They were married in 1912 and my Mother didn’t know how to cook.  My folks laughed and told the story about how my Mother made biscuits and they were hard and my Dad couldn’t eat them.  He said ”Irene I think I better go down to Toddville and get my Mother to teach  you how to do some cooking.”  So his Mother came out and stayed a week and my Mother’s biscuits were the best.

    My folks also talked about how my Dad’s grandmother Angelina Hagerman came out and spent a week or so visiting with them after they were married.  She always waited about a month after any of her grandchildren were married and then she would come out a visit for a week.  I remember my father telling me about that when he was past 80 years old  and he said” Oh, how I would like to have those days back.”

      My  folks were married in 1912 and they farmed in the Marion Iowa area for about 5 years.  They then bought a farm about 5 miles north of Albert Lea Minn and farmed there for a few years.  Dorothy was born in Iowa and Daisy was born in Minnesota.  They moved their household equipment and their livestock from Marion to Albert Lea in a immigrant car.  That is you went down to the railroad and arranged to get a car to put all your stuff in it.    You loaded your stuff and then the railroad took you to your destination.  Remember there were not any trucks or roads to move you around in 1917.  Most of your traveling was by train and there were passenger trains everywhere.  My dad went ahead and got settled and then my Mother came later with Dorothy.

    When they moved to Albert Lea my Dad had to take cream to the creamery and there were a lot of Norwegian farmers in that area.  My Dad went home and told my Mother that they were making fun of him and he didn’t like it.  So the next time he went to the creamery he took my Mother and she could speak all the Scandinavian languages and she told the Norwegians  something and they didn’t bother my father again.

    My folks later moved to 3 miles west of Geneva Minn and I have told you some other stories about my life on the farm at Geneva.  We did have a nice orchard and a huge garden on the farm at Geneva.  It was just an 80 acre farm and that is about all one farmer could take care of using horses and no mechanical equipment to do the farming.

    Now I will tell you about my fathers family and it is a long story as his family had been in the states as early as 1630.  My great great grandmother was a Howe and her family goes back to the early families in New England.  She was related to the Hibberd’s and the Walden’s and the Gardiner’s and the Fuller’s.  My great grandmother Angelina Gray Hagerman claimed to be related to the early White family and also to Lady Jane Gray in England. 

    The Gray family showed up in Sharon Conn early on and then they went to Oswego New York and  then they bought land in Tioga County Pa about 1798.  I have a post card that my great grandmother wrote to my grandmother  Sarah Hagerman Cress that says she was born in Gray Valley Sullivan Twp Tioga County  Pa in 1825.  Now you need to remember that my Father knew his grandmother very well.  He was born in 1882 and my great grandmother died in 1914.  Now I will tell you about that families trip westward.

    Hosea Wilson Gray was in Iowa about 1838.  He was a young man and I assume he rode horseback from probably Bradford Pa to Linn County Iowa.  I have no idea who else came west with him.  My research shows that he went back to Pa and told the family about the good land to be had and so several of the Gray families got together and formed a wagon train to move west.  Included in the wagon train was  George White Gray and his family and Silas Gray his brother and his family.  Silas Gray had several sons that were probably in their late teens or early twenties.  George White Gray brought 4 children west with him.  They were Angelina Gray,, Parthenia White Gray, Calista Gray and William Wallace Gray.

    I have the obituary of William Wallace Gray in Sarah Hagerman Cress Sparks bible.  It tells of the trip west and the difficulties that they encountered.  I think they stayed in Ohio for a year and then came on to Linn county.  At that time they must have crossed the Mississippi river on some kind of a ferry.  Now here comes the interesting part.  Amariah Hagerman came west with the wagon train.  He was about 21 years old at that time.  He did not have a wagon and probably rode horseback all the way.  He was very important to the wagon train as he was a trained wheel wright.  That  is he knew how to fix the wheels on the wagons.

    Angelina Gray was a comely 15 years old at that time and Ameriah probably took a shine to her as they were married in 1845.  Ameriah came from near Williamsport Pa and his father James and grandfather  Aaron came into that area soon after the Revolutionary War.  There is a creek or small river in the Williamsport area named Hagerman’s Run.

    My father, Rob Hagerman and Mary Beggs made a trip by train to Williamsport Pa in 1907 and I have a picture of them in my possession at their great grandfathers grave at Newbury Jct Pa.  This is close to  Williamsport.  Dale and I tried to find the grave and we found the church and some older people said there used to be a grave yard near where the church was located but that the headstones had  been taken down  several years before.  That was about 25 years ago. 

    My Father used to get letters from one of his cousins Anna Hagerman  into the 30’s.  I have my fathers letters that were saved and some go back over 100 years.  Dale and I went into an antique shop in Williamsport and were asking around about the Hagerman’s and an elderly lady in the shop knew about Anna Hagerman.  She said she had been a school teacher.

    While in Williamsport we went to the library and did some research.  They have a wonderful genealogy section in the library at Williamsport.  At that time I didn’t know much about the Gray’s except what my Dad had told me.  So I found a history book in the library and it was the history of Tioga County which is the next county north of Williamsport.  Lo and Behold  the Gray’s were in the book.  Now my dad’s name was Lafayette Gray Cress and I have a picture of Lafayette Gray who my father was named after.  Well here Lafayette Gray shows up in that book along with some other Gray’s.  I copied that stuff off and then Dale and I decided to go to the county seat of Tioga Pa which is Wellsboro Pa.

    We went in the library and they had 40 pages of information about the Gray’s including the info about the Gray family burial ground.  We photocopied off that information and then head out in the country south of Mainesburg Pa trying to find the family plot.  We had a map  where it was located and stopped at a farm near by and asked about it and if it would be all right to go check it out.  The young man at the farm didn’t know about the burial ground but he knew where to take  us.  We walked across a field of tall grass and found it.

    Parthenia White Gray and James Gray were there as was Angelina Gray Hagerman’s mother Sarah Howe.  There was a flag at James  grave indicating that he was a Revolutionary War veteran.   We also read Sarah’s stone and it read Howe.  So my grandmother Sarah Hagerman Cress was named after her grandmother.  Sarah Howe died in 1834 before the family came west.

    My Father was named after Lafayette Gray and I think he was probably a favorite cousin of my great grandmother’s.  I do have a picture of him and his wife in my collection of things.

    The family came west about 1840 or 41 and I think George White Gray settled in the Marion area.  You could homestead at that point in time and the land probably didn’t cost anything except the filing fees.  Ameriah Hagerman and Angelina Gray were married in 1845 and they settled in Otter Tail Twp close to Toddville Iowa.  They had 10 children and raised 5 of them to maturity.  Angelina lost 3 little girls before my grandmother Sarah was born in 1850.

    The whole family lived close to each other after they were grown.  Jim Hagerman, Robert Hagerman, George Hagerman, Billy Beggs who was my Aunt Ellen’s husband and Jacob Cress who was my grandmother’s husband all lived close to each other.  My grandfather Jacob Cress died in 1895 when my father was 13 years old and his brother John was 15.  The boys had to do the farm work and my  Father talked about hoeing corn by hand.

    I will now tell you a few stories about life on that farm.  My grandmother was a very religious woman and they all walked down the railroad tracks to church on Wednesday night and then they walked to church twice on Sunday.  This was after my grandfather died and I suppose my grandmother was lonely and  farm work was hard.  I think her brothers helped with the farm work as they were living close to each other.

    My Aunt Mina, my dad’s sister told me about the children swimming in the Cedar river and my dad told me about catching catfish in the Cedar River.  My aunt Mina said all the kids were down at the river one time and the boys had gone in swimming and left all their clothes on the bank.  The girls came down and took their clothes and she said Uncle John just stayed in the water but my Dad came out naked and got his clothes.  Aunt Mina was probably about 80 at that time and we laughed and laughed about that.  Her granddaughter Ann told me just about a year ago that  Mina never talked about any of her sister’s and brother except my Dad.

    My Dad brought a deck of cards home once and his Mother took them and burned them in the cook stove.  When my Dad was past 80 he would say ”My Mother would turn over in her grave if she knew I was playing cards.”  He loved pinochle and 500 and think he used to play gin rummy at the tavern in Hope for money.  When Dale and I would go to Minnesota we wouldn’t be in the house 10 minutes before my Dad was getting the card table set up.

    My grandmother remarried in 1905 and the boys were grown so they were out on their own.  John married at 18 but my Father married when he was 30.  He left Toddville for a while and went to Duncan Ariz with someone who was going to farm in that area.  He said they left El Paso Texas on the train coming back to Iowa and it took all day for the train to go from El Paso to Ft Worth.  It’s about 550 miles.

    Now I need to tell you about his other grandparents who also came to Iowa about 1840.  His grandmother Lydia Neighbor died in 1864 and her family had been in the States since 1738.  Her Mother Margaret Weise Neighbor came west out of Newcomerstown  Ohio in about 1840.  Margret had 8 children with her when she came to Iowa.  The Neighbors or Nachbar’s had settled in and around Dover New Jersey in 1738.  They came west in 1815 along with several other families and settled in what was later called Newcomerstown Ohio.   I know quite a lot about the Neighbors that I have found out on my own as not to many stories were passed down to my Father.  They did come by wagon train and I think they spent a year in Ohio and then came on west and settled in the same area that the Hagerman’s settled.  The Neighbors and the Oliphants were good friends and my Great grandfather John Cress and Lydia Neighbor and my Grandmother Sarah Hagerman Cress and Jacob Cress are all buried in the Oliphant Cemetery near Center Point Iowa.

    They were farmers and teachers and preachers and were in every kind of business close to Center Point Iowa.  My Dad said at one time that he was related to almost every one in Center Point Iowa.

    Lydia Neighbor and John Cress had 6 children and I have family information on all of them.  Lydia died in 1864 and suppose it was child birth fever.  I do know that her sister Mrs Thomas and her husband raised 5 nieces and nephews including my Great Aunt Mary Cress who later married a Mounce.  About 20 years ago  two of Mary’s daughters were still alive and living in Center Point and I visited with them a couple of times.  The oldest Maude Price could remember my grandfather Jake Cress as she was 97 years old at that time and had been about 10 years old when my grandfather  died.

    John Cress my father’s grandfather came west about 1841 or so with several brothers.  He had came out of the Richmond Virginia area and they were probably looking for land to homestead out west.  He and Lydia were married in 1845 and he lived until 1888.  My Dad said he was always afraid of him as I guess he had red hair and he was just a small child at that time.  They had changed their name from Grass to Cress and they were also of German stock and I have information on that family all the way back to Germany into the 1600’s.  It was a tradition in that family that the Fathers name would be John and that his oldest son would be Jacob and then Jacobs oldest son would be named John.

    Many of the daughters were named after their grandmother’s.  Sarah Hagerman was named after her grandmother Sarah Howe Gray.  My Aunt Angie was the first born child of Sarah and Jacob Cress and her given name was Angelina Lydia Cress.  She was named after both grandmothers.  You will find that a lot when checking through the old records.

    I remember one more story that my Dad told and that was when he was working for someone as a hired hand and his employer got into a squabble with a neighbor about a cow.  They had to go to court and spent a lot of money getting this settled.  My Dad always said to stay out of troubles with the neighbors and save your money for something else.

    My Father also told about the time he went to Cedar Rapids for something and decided that he would do a little drinking.  He went down and bough a bottle of Peach Brandy and got a little tight on it.  He said he got up the next morning and took a drink of water and he got tight again.  He said that cured him from drinking.  He never smoked or drank and lived to the ripe old age of 95.  This is a few of the stories that I remember.


  1. Hello,
    I am very interested in the Cress family line. My Great Grandmother was Marilda Cress (Reynolds) and the sister of Jacob E. Cress. Can you post additional Cress family history? or please contact me using email?

  2. The attached story, "Stories my parents told me", attributed to Lawrence

    Cress, cites Mads Goldfelt coming to America and changing his name to Chris Madison. My mother, Verna, and her brother, Ernest, lived next door to their grandfather in Fox Lake, Mn and say his name was John Madison. This is further verified by census records.

    The story also says that John Madison injured his leg with an ax. My uncle Ernest says he lost his leg fighting the Russians as part of a German Army. Germany trained him as a barrel maker because he was a wounded soldier. It is possible that the ax story was concocted to scare kids who might be tempted to play with axes.

    1. No the stories are by Deloris Cress. My brother Lawrence died in 1997..I have pictures that my Mother left me of all the Madison family and also of my grandmother Anna Thompson Madison when she was young. I remember Verna and Ernest and George very well. I ended up being a telegraph opr for the Santa Fe Railroad for 15 years..Please get back in contact with me My telephone is 580 765 6125 and my addy is Deloris Pickens 538 Virginia Ave Ponca City OK 74601 My email is

  3. The story is by Deloris Cress Pickens, my brother Lawrence Cress died in 1927. I looked up my Mother's marraige andit says her Father was John Madison. I don't know where I got the Chris Madison from. I do remember my cousins George, Ernest and Verna. I was about 10 years old the last time that I saw them. I have pictures of my Grandmother Madison and also a beautiful one of your grand mother Lorene and a lot of pictures of Madison cousins. Please get back in contact with me at I have lots of info and pictures and would love to talk to you..Deloris Cress Pickens