My little corner of the world

My great-grandmother, Rebecca Pearl Evans Wilhelm, had a first husband.

Ok, so that statement shouldn’t be too shocking, but it was something that never came up until I began to ask about family history in 1999. Then I found out a few facts about him. My father said: “Roland Holmes was Rebecca’s first husband. Together they ran a very successful ice cream and confectionary business in Pocatello, Id. He made a business trip to Portland. We think that he contracted typhoid fever from drinking the water on the train. Rebecca was in good financial condition. She sold the business shortly after his death.” Becky took a trip to Europe in 1911, and married my great grandfather in 1912 at age 30.

It seems so impersonal.

What was her life like before she married a second time and gave birth to her only child in 1913? She had to have been devastated to lose her first husband so young.

I wanted to know more about this man — after all — who else will remember him?

@}- -,- -‘- –

Recently I was able to pick up this investigation.

Since I can assume that Becky would have married either near her family in Utah or in Idaho where she ended up living with her future husband, I began my search at the Western States Marriage Index. There I found that Rowland W. Holmes married Rebecca P. Evans on 25 Sep 1905 in Pocatello, Bannock, Idaho.

Next I searched the 1910 Census because I now knew that he died between 1905 when he married Becky and 1912 when she remarried. I located Becky living as a lodger in Pocatello. She was already widowed.

A check of online resources about cemeteries led me to discover that the largest cemetery at the time in Pocatello was Mountain View. A list of names is available online. I posted on to see if someone might take a photo of Rolland’s stone for me. I was hoping for dates!

Mary Brown responded and took photos for me!

I now knew that he was born on 31 May 1880 and died 2 Nov 1909. Armed with a date, I searched the Pocatello death records while I was at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City this summer. Wouldn’t you know it? His parents were not listed. And even with a birth date — I could’t find him in 1900! Arrrgh! (I even checked out all the people with the last name Holmes, Holms, and Homes in the known family haunts.)

Onto next step: Obituaries?! (::Crossing fingers::)

Luckily, the Utah papers are coming online at the Utah Digital Newspaper Project. I know that Rebecca appeared in the Park City Record several times throughout the years in the society section. She was a former resident of the City and her sister W.A. Raddon was well known.

Paydirt! Obituary located! It confirms that Rolland did die of typhoid, and that the couple owned an ice cream and confectionary business.

Now comes the time to spend some money (Ok — forget about the cost of the trip to SLC!). For two bucks I ordered Rowland and Rebecca’s marriage certificate from the Bannock County Recorder. For five bucks I entered an online request and got a pdf copy of a funeral announcement published in the Pocatello Tribune from the Idaho State Historical Society.

When the marriage record arrives, I find that the witnesses to the marriage are R.A. Holmes and Elizabeth Holmes or Hughes (there are two spots where the witnesses are recorded and each time this woman is given a different last name). My first thought — Ahah! a family member (or two?).

The funeral notice reveals that an unnamed brother travelled from Indiana for the service.

It is now time to recheck for Rolland since I have a date of birth. And up pops a Rolland “H.” Holmes born on 31 May 1880 in Cass County, Michigan. Checking the batch for other Holmes children turns up a Raymond A. Holmes born in 1882 in the same place. The original records are even viewable now on the FamilySearch Pilot site. The parents of these two boys are named as Andrew B. and Chloe Holmes.

I can trace this family (minus Andrew) to 1900 when living in Dowagiac, Cass, Michigan. Rolland is named as “Rowley.” I can trace Raymond into Indiana from 1910 to 1930. I even find that Chloe S. Rider Homes is buried in the Allen (or Red Mill) Cemetery in Silver Creek Township.

So — birth date matches, an R.A. Holmes is present in this family, and he was living in Indiana about the same time that Rolland died. The only thing that doesn’t match is the middle initial of “H.” However, that can be explained away quite easily as a clerical error or even an early name change. Currently, I am waiting to hear back from the archives as to the date of the funeral annoucement to know whether they searched only the weekly edition of the paper. Maybe more information is available in an actual obituary published in the daily edition — interlibrary loan may be in order!

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