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Family Histories & Gen Charts > Summary for Ethel Sarah Seymour

Compiled by Evelyn W. Henry - g/d of Fred Seymour

Individual Summary for Ethel Sarah SEYMOUR

8 May 2003





Page 1



Date(s) Place





7 Feb 1892 Tampico, Whiteside, IL

31 May 1987 Madison, Dane, WJ
Forest Hill Cemetery, Madison, D, WI



Sex:     F
Last Changed:

24 Mar 2003

AKA:    Sarah Ethel Seymour Whitmer



Ethel S. Whitmer



Pa rents






Relationship      Mother




Fred Harvey SEYMOUR

Biological          Emma Alice BOWMAN



                         ________ _________ _________                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Marriages                                                     -- ________ ________- - ________

Spouse                                                            Marriage Date/Place

Carroll D. WHITMER                                                                     3Sep 1910   Rock Island, Rock Island, IL





ETHEL SARAH SEYMOUR MOTHER                            Compiled by Evelyn Whitmer Henry June 2002


At birth, she was named SARAH ETHEL SEYMOUR to honor her grandmother, Sarah Bowman. Although she was very fond of her grandmother Mother never used that name, choosing throughout life to use Ethel as her first name. Born at home in Tampico, Illinois on 7 February 1892, Ethel was the second of the three daughters born to Fred and Emma (Bowman) Seymour. As such, she was affected by the status (or stigma) of being the middle child. Her sister, Daisy, was almost five years older, and Ethel looked up to her as they were growing up. Vera, the youngest, joined the family after another five years. The Seymour family was closely knit and, judging by remarks and stories passed down to my generation, there was a lot of love and respect for one another.


Fred Seymour, who was crippled while a young boy, triumphed over his handicap with good humor and by working hard. With a great deal of help from his family, he succeeded in several enterprises, the most notable being the operation of Tampico’s largest general store. Emma and the girls pitched in to help run the business, and as a result, the girls developed valuable and practical money management skills, as well as the ability to dialogue with people.


According to his daughters, “Pa” was strict with them, and required them to report for duty as soon as school was over. He kept a close eye on the bottom Une, and didn’t put up with any nonsense. Ma Seymour worked along side of her husband in the store, and wove rugs, made hairpieces and did custom sewing, as well. Pa sold pump organs and sewing machines on the side, and marketed the crops from his farm north of town. They set examples of thrift and common sense for their girls.


Ethel, who had a mischievous nature as a girl, loved to talk about her early life whenever anyone would listen. Many of the stories revolved around the grocery store and the family’s living quarters above the store. Tampico was a very small town, and because of the store, everyone knew the Seymours. There were other relatives living nearby, as well, who influenced the girls, and other merchants, teachers and clergymen.


Mother (Ethel) had two family Christmas anecdotes that she liked to recount each year. This is one that I have put into story form for a local genealogical society publication:

Individual Summary for Ethel Sarah SEYMOUR

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                                                      Notes (Continued)                                  ________-

In mid-December,1902, in the small town of Tampico, Illinois, most of the stores in the block-long business district had Yuletide displays in theirwindows, The decorations varied widely, from elegant to downright gaudy, according to the creative whims of the decorator, It was as if each merchant had tried to out-do his neighbor.


Fred Seymour’s daughters begged their Pa to let them decorate one of the windows in the Seymour General Store. Muttering something about wasting time and money on foolishness, Pa went along with the idea by rounding up some tinsel and tissue paper decorations, and he told Ma to get some cotton batting out of stock.


The decorating bee soon developed into a family affair, with everyone contributing to the fun, even four year old Vera. Daisy, age fifteen, and Ethel, age ten, were the most excited as they draped cotton around the top and bottom of the window. Ma helped them fix up a dress form to resemble Santa Claus. They used a milliner’s hat form for a head, and applied the traditional long white hair and beard. A pillow strategically placed gave Santa “a round lift le belly”. Pa’s trousers and an old pair of boots completed the basic costume. However, Santa needed a jacket. When Uncle John Paice dropped by to supervise, he got caught up in the spirit of the thing, and generously offered to loan Santa his own fur coat. The girls were ecstatic.


With a few more touches, the Christmas tableau was complete. That afternoon the store filled with customers, all marveling at the splendid display. Pa gave Ethel a box of matches and told her to light the kerosene lamp which hung at one side of the window. Ma, who had sat down to rest, started to say a word of caution, but too late!


AU at once a spark from the lighted match flew into the cotton, and instantly the display was in flames. Ethel jumped to the floor, the back of her dress ablaze, and threw herself into her mother’s ample lap. Ma quickly enveloped the frightened child in her large apron and smothered the flames. Meanwhile, Pa and some of his quick thinking customers put out the fire in the window.


After the smoke had cleared, there was time to assess the damage. Uncle John’s fur coat was badly scorched, and Pa would have to pay John for its repair. Since the fire had not spread beyond the confines of the window, little structural damage was done. However, to add to the misery of one frightened little girl in a badly burned dress, there was another sorry consequence. Ethel had leaped into her mother’s arms with such force that Ma sustained a broken nose, a fact which she tactfully concealed at the time.


The fire made the front page of the local weekly, THE TAMPICO TORNADO, on December 27th, and the hot news was spread in typical small town fashion from town to town. Ethel enjoyed sudden celebrity among her classmates, while Fred Seymour found the story a great conversation starter with his customers. In time, the story of the fire became part of the family folklore to be recalled every Christmas.


That same Christmas, another event invoiving Mother made news in THE TAMPICO TORNADO. It was a Christmas Eve custom for Fred Seymour to slip a silver dollar into the toe of the stocking of each of his daughters, along with the usual oranges, walnuts and candy gifts. It must have been very late that night when he got home, or he was tired and preoccupied because, on Christmas morning when Mother emptied her stocking, she yelled out in glee that Santa had left her a five dollar gold piece! Needless to say, her dad had a lot of expiaining to do.


Mother also liked to tell how she was baptized in the Rock River and fainted afterwards. Must have been a moving experience! Another “moving” time was when she and Daisy were in a buggy pulled by a runaway horse, which according to the TORNADO, eventually spilled them out onto the road. Maybe such incidents sparked Mother’s fear of animals, especially horses. Her Pa kept their horse, “Rosebud” in a barn out back of the store. As a child, Mother was required to feed and water” Rosebud”, but she did it with great fear and trepidation. The only animal Mother ever expressed any love for was a lamb. She said she always wanted to have one for a pet, but that was never allowed.

Individual Summary for Ethel Sarah SEYMOUR

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______________-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Notes (Continued)

Somehow, as the Seymour sisters grew up in Tampico they managed to find time for fun, and I suspect Mother had her share. She and Daisy were members of a group of young women called the “Fun-See Club.” There were holiday parades, dances and other social events where the ladies had an opportunity to put on their turn-of-the century finery. Dresses were ankle length, usually one piece, although women and girls often wore lace trimmed, high-necked shirtwaists with dark colored full skirts. Hair was long, combed back and up over a form called a “rat.” These “rats” were usually made out of combings from the woman’s own hair. It was the style to wear jewelry woven from human hair cuttings. These were quite elaborate and beautiful. Cameos, too, were “in”. Another favored piece of feminine jewelry was a small gold watch hanging from a chain and pinned to the bodice. Hats were enormous, and would be adorned with fanciful flowers or birds.


Big sister Daisy was into “elocution” and play acting when she was in high school, and Mother, too, had a flair for the dramatic. Even in her old age, Mother could recite, in its entirety, a special poem she had presented at a class program. In telling about Daisy’s triumphs in local theatrical productions and competitions, Mother always seemed to come across as a bit envious, but by the time she had reached her teens, Mother’s interests lay elsewhere.


Decades later, a smile would still light up her face whenever she mentioned a young man who was her first love. Any serious interest in HIM vanished, however, when she met Carroll Whitmer, a classmate at Sterling High School. Ethel’s snappy brown eyes caught Carroll’s attention, and soon they were a courting twosome. Daisy, too, had found her future mate, Leo Nokes. When Daisy and Leo married early in 1910, perhaps envy overwhelmed Ethel once again, for later that same year she and Carroll decided to elope. On 3 September 1910 they buggied over to Rock Island, Illinois, and tied the knot. Mother was eighteen, but Dad was three months shy of that age. Their elopement made the newspapers of the area. Although filmed copies of THE TORNADO for 1910 are not available, this appeared in the STERLING EVENING GAZETTE on 8 September 1910 under Tampico news:

 Mr. & Mrs. Carroll Whitmer arrived here Monday morning from Rock Island, where they were quietly married last Saturday evening. The ceremony was performed at the Baptist parsonage by Rev. H. W. Reed, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rock Island at 8:00 p.m. The wedding was a surprise to all but the relatives as the young couple stole a march on their friends and only announced their marriage upon their return to Tampico. Mrs. Whitmer is the second daughter of Mr. & Mrs. F. H, Seymour, prominent in business circles in this place and is an accomplished young lady of pleasing manners, was active in social circles and has many friends who wish her a long and happy wedded life. Mr. Whitmer, the groom, is a well known resident of Sterling, where he has been for several years employed in Cunningham’s Variety Store, and is an industrious young man of steady habits. The happy couple have not as yet announced their plans for the future, but for a time will probably remain in Tampico and assist Mr. Seymour in the store.” (Apparently they had other plans; the following appeared 10 September in the GAZETTE:

“City In Brief - Carroll Whitmer and bride arrived here last evening from Davenport and will visit a few days. They will probably reside in Peoria.”


The young couple lived for more than ten years in nearby Peoria, Illinois, working and saving for their future. Like the rest of Americans, Mother and Dad were affected by the many economic changes that took place during and after World War I and into the “Great Depression.” They lived frugally, and by the time they had saved enough to buy a small house, they began to dream of adding to their family.


In 1918, they believed their hopes and prayers were to be answered at last. But sadly, Mother’s first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth, It must have been a devastating blow. All the more so because her younger sister, Vera, gave birth to little Eloise that year and Daisy already had Fred and Elsie. Mother and Dad were understandably envious. Partially to console themselves for the loss of their firstborn, they took in a foster baby, Geraldine, and cared for her more than a year. Mother often spoke fondly of little Geraldine, and pictures in the family album tell the story of how much they loved her. But Geraldine was not their own, and they were in for more heartbreak when her father reclaimed her.


Two year later, ten years after their marriage, on 16 June 1920, Denise Ethelyn Whitmer was born in Peoria. It was, without doubt, the happiest day in the lives of Mother and Dad, and they took their new roles very seriously. During the next few years the family made several moves to take advantage of job opportunities. By 1926 they were in Rockford, Illinois, where I was born. Several more changes of address followed in the next few years, each move presenting new challenges for Mother, as well as for Dad. In 1932, our family made the last move, to Madison, Wisconsin, which became the family’s final home.


Mother was a meticulous housekeeper, performing her household duties cheerfully, usually humming along as she worked about the house. She was a good cook and a chronic recipe clipper, who often tried out new dishes. But she most enjoyed baking the “goodies” that were family favorites. Red devil’s food cake, cinnamon apples and pumpkin pie come immediately to mind. She always baked hot cross buns at Easter time. And of course, there were her Christmas

specialties, chocolate- coated fondants and popcorn baIls. Continued on page 2

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