The Storm Took Me – A Recollection of the 1915 Galveston Hurricane

My name is My name is Jane Angela Smith (née Dart) and I’m about to tell you my story. At least I lived a long life — many of the victims of that horrible storm had barely begun their lives that were lost to the terrible disaster of mother nature in Galveston, Texas in August of 1915.

Market Street, 1915 Galveston flood

But let us back up a little, and see what brought me here. I was born in Herrick Township, Pennsylvania in 1840 to parents Simeon Spencer Dart and Mary Elvira Dart (née Kent). Unlike many of my sisters (Sarah Candance, Orpha Elvira, & Addie Diana), I didn’t get married until later in life — in fact, I was 36 when married my husband, Eugene A. Smith in 1876.

After being a small town gal for so many years, Eugene and I traveled all around the Atlantic — from Florida to Kansas to Texas we went, dragging our two children, Roy Ford and Eugenia Louise around.

In 1915, I was living in San Leon, Texas, a former pirate-owned stronghold. About 15 years prior to that time, in August and September of 1900, the deadliest (of all time) of hurricanes hit Galveston and killed upward of 6,000 – 12,000 souls. After this horrific storm, the Galveston Sea Wall was built to try and prevent another such tragedy, and this time it helped, but 400 lives were lost to it.

Seawall Built in 1905

On the 5th of August 1915, the storm was formed in the Atlantic Ocean, quickly picking up speed and destruction as it grew to Category 4 storm by the time it hit Galveston, and my tiny town of San Leon, situated in Galveston Bay on the 16th of August.

It honestly happened so fast and so violent that my cause of death was officially labeled as “Storm Victim of the Storm of Aug. 16 1915” with no clues to the exact nature of my death.

I was seventy-four years old and left behind my by husband and two grown children when I died. This is my story, what’s yours?


You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory

Genealogy in the Works: The Genetic Genealogist

This week we are interviewing one of my favorite genealogists and genetic experts, Blaine Bettinger author of The Genetic Genealogist. I first came across Blaine’s work with his book The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy that my mother purchased me for Christmas this last year. On a quest to understand more bout what makes me, well, me, I delved into the science behind DNA and absolutely loved what I found. Read on to find out more about the man behind the genes.

Blaine Bettinger

How do genealogy and DNA intersect for you? 

Although I was a genealogist for many years before DNA arrived on the scene, it was DNA that really made me a genealogist.

In 2003, I was in grad school studying biochemistry and I somehow saw an ad for a DNA test. It combined science and genealogy, the two things I love the most. It was actually an autosomal DNA test, unusual at that time. The results came back, wildly inaccurate I now know, but that started my obsession with genetic genealogy. mtDNA and Y-DNA testing soon followed, then asking family members, and much more.

A few years later I found that there were no online resources available for genealogists who were taking these early DNA tests, so I started my blog, The Genetic Genealogist, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary. I didn’t know it at the time, but starting that blog would change the entire future direction of my life.

How did you get started in genealogy?

In middle school, my English teacher assigned a short family tree, just 3 or 4 generations. This was before the days of the internet, so I had to actually call up relatives to ask about our family tree (thank goodness for the “good old days”!). I called my grandmother to help, and she recited numerous generations entirely from memory! I attached the extra paper to include all those ancestors.

Hamilton Caldwell/Colwell - my most Irish-looking ancestor photo!
Hamilton Caldwell/Colwell

She’s the reason I’m a genealogist. My paternal grandfather died before I was born, and I had little knowledge of or interaction with the very few people that remained. My grandmother was a
gateway to that family and she gave me so much.

Needless to say, I was hooked on genealogy after just one phone call.

What is your current study or area of passion?

It’s probably no surprise that it’s DNA. I spend every spare moment of every day thinking about, writing about, or teaching others about DNA. Thankfully I don’t see any end in sight!

Blaine + his sons
Blaine + his sons

Tell us a little quick story about your family history! 

In the 1890’s, my 3rd-great-grandmother was elderly and mostly blind. While visiting her daughter and son-in-law, they had her dictate and sign a will. However, the document she signed was actually a deed turning over the entire family farm to the daughter. The trick was soon discovered when the daughter’s brother – who lived on the farm – saw the transaction in the newspaper. Following a short court action brought by the mother and the brother, the deed was overturned. I have some of the court records, and they are fascinating. They contain a transcript of testimony, almost allowing me to “hear” my ancestors’ words. For example, my 3rd-great-grandmother gave the following testimony in court:

“I remember the day I went from my home to New Haven to visit my daughter Betty Van Alstine. My husband had been buried the 30th day of August, which was on Sunday, and two weeks from that day I went to visit her. It was about the middle of September….After we got there, Betty said something about my making a will or disposing of my property. I was there two weeks. William and Betty thought I had ought to do it, or wanted me to do it—make a disposition of my property. They didn’t say much the first week; it was the second week that they importuned me. Betty had told me never to deed away a foot of land while I lived; she said that just a short time before I went there. She was out to my house, back and forth, while her father was sick—both before and after his death. She told me never to sign a note; if I did I would have it to pay. I said to her: “Betty, don’t worry. I shall never deed away a foot of land while I live. If my children can’t trust me, I can’t trust them.” That was the first conversation.”

Some years afterward, the daughter apparently wrote several heartbreaking letters to her mother, apologizing and begging her to forgive her. They never reconciled and the mother died a few short years later. Although those letters existed as recently as 30 years ago, they’ve since been lost. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to see them.

What advice would you give to genealogists?

If at all possible, go to a conference or an institute. The educational opportunities are unparalleled, and it is so affirming to see other people as crazy as you are! These are gatherings of hundreds of people that also yearn to explore the cemeteries they driveby, and have boxes of family heirlooms they’ve been meaning to catalog and preserve for years!

Why is genealogy important to you?

I can’t begin to list all the ways that genealogy is important to me.

Our lives on earth are so fleeting. Studying and recreating the lives of my ancestors gives us a perspective that others may not ever gain. I think we see life as relationships, as friends and families and acquaintances, and we realize that although we may leave a legacy behind, it is over all too quickly. All too soon, the two dates on either side of the hyphen are filled in.

Blaine Bettinger

I think that some people have a genetic drive to be the story collectors and storytellers. Genealogists preserve and share the past to help future generations. Maybe there’s even an evolutionary reason we have this drive. For most of human history we collected these stories mentally and shared them orally, and now we use paper and software.

And to me, one of the most important aspects of genealogy has nothing to do with dead people. It’s about the living, the many friends I’ve gained since immersing myself in genealogy. For whatever reason, most genealogists tend to be the friendliest and most fun-loving people I’ve ever met. I’ve found my people, as someone recently said to me, and I am loving every minute of it!

A big thank you to Blaine! You can find him at the wildly popular The Genetic Genealogist website here and on Facebook + Twitter. 

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory

My Husband Was Bootlegger – Kitty Messler’s Story

Hi, folks.

The names Kitty Mesler and do I have a story to tell you. I was born to my ma and pa around the turn of the century, in the year 1901. When I was a young gal of 15 my parents sold me to a man named Andrew Stacy in marriage for some horses and wood.

Kitty Mesler Willette
Kitty Mesler Willette

He was no good man, I tell you. I didn’t want to marry him and the man never provided for me. He abandoned me and even though he promised to take care of me, left me destitute So I sold those horses, took the money and ran away from him.

I was able to divorce him a few years later but it wasn’t easy, he tried to accuse me of all sorts of inappropriate and scandalous behaviors, but in the end, the judge listened to me and granted me a divorce on the 13th of October 1919.

Divorce for Kitty Stacy
Divorce for Kitty Stacy, defendant

But back to the tale at hand, Andrew wasn’t my bootlegger, Happy Willette was. Happy was actually born Alixis Willette in 1893 and we were married in November of 1925 proceeding his first time in prison — which was earlier that year in February at the Flathead County Jail in Kalispell, Montana.

Prohibition was a way for us to make a little money, and I knew what he was doing, in fact, I assisted at times with my pet hog. You see, we had this really neat trick to lead the coppers off our scent. The bottom of our truck bed was hollow, but I’d put that big old hog over that area and the men would be too afraid to move him — they never suspected me, but Happy wasn’t that lucky.

In addition to his arrest on the 13th of February in 1925, Happy was arrested and/or jailed at least five other times during the rest of our marriage. Not even a year after we were married, Happy was taken to the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana on the 24th of July 1926 on charges of possession of liquor, he was only to serve six months.

I saved his arrest record from that time period which you can see:

Montana, Prison Records, 1861-1968 for Alexia Willette

He was let out of prison in late January of 1927 and our Stanley was born six months later on the 20th of June 1927, followed by our daughter Stella in 1928. By April of 1930, Happy was back behind bars at Flathead County Jail.  Our son Lloyd was born on the 15th of December 1932 and little more than a month later Happy was issued a poor order for groceries totaling $4.31. About 10 months later, he as behind bars again at the county jail.

Five years after the mentioned stint in county, our last daughter Shirley was born in Billings, Montana around 1937. Happy was able to stay our of jail for 14 years until he was arrested for the last time at age 63.

Even though Happy went to jail so many times, he was a good man, a kind man, and I loved him very much. He died on the 10th of May 1965, I will miss that bootlegging man of mine.

Much Love,


P.S. That pet hog I told y’all about? He got me kicked out of church once.


You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory




My name is Eva H. Wilcox, I was sent to the Sanitorium

My Dearest Readers,

My name is Eva Wilcox. While I was born in New Brunswick, Canada in July of 1887. I’m not a full-blooded Canadian. My father (James Robert Wilcox) was born in Maine in 1848 and my dearest mother (Lucinda T. Plant) was born in New Brunswick in the year 1866. I was born in the small parish of Grand Manan with four other siblings (Phillip, Arnold, Victoria + Hatzell) to a Free Will Baptist family.

Even though I was married to my dear husband Raymond M. Huntley in Portland, Maine on the 13th of June 1907, it wasn’t until the birth of my second child, my daughter Myrtle, that I lived in the United States as an American again. Before I died, I had three other children, one other daughter named Phyllis and two sons, Milton and James –but we called him Jimmy.

Central Maine Sanatorium
Creator: W.H. Langley, Fairfield; Creation Date: circa 1914

Sometime around the birth of my second daughter, Phyllis, I contracted tuberculosis of the lungs. Even with this illness, I still bore two more children with my husband Raymond.

It seems around my 27th birthday that I contracted tuberculosis — I am still not sure or how this happened, but it began to affect my life and landed me at the local doctors who sent me to Central Maine Sanitorium, there was no cure for me.

I don’t know how long I spent at the sanitorium, but at the time the Central Maine Sanitorium in Fairfield, Maine was where they sent the sickest of all of us.  When I died, I was only 32 years old and left my four children in the care of my husband.

And that, my dearest readers is all I can tell you about myself at this time.

Yours truly,

Eva H. Huntley (née Wilcox)

P.S. I’ve included an artists rendition of what the Sanitorium would have looked like only about five years before I died there.

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory



Rescue a Missing Photo!

I’ve always wondered what happened to old and unclaimed photos — this past weekend I found out. As I was perusing through an adorable little vintage shop in Olympia, Wash., I saw some old photos for sale. Being the genealogist that I am, I couldn’t just walk away and I picked the one I felt had the most potential.

Vintage photo with a pair of vintage earrings.

I know little to nothing about this photo other than the inscription on the back, which reads:

To my always Evalene

from Alaskans

Helen and her “legal man”

Funter, Alaska

April 20, 1930

I often wonder if anyone misses the long passed in photos like these or if anyone is trying to find them. What do you do with old photos? If you know who this photo might be, please comment below so we can find it back home.

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory


Pennies on Graves: Never Forgotten

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance and I wanted to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our country. I couldn’t think of a proper way to do so until I ran across an old posting about pennies on gravestones.

It may seem like an odd idea, but leaving pennies on the gravestones of those who have served in our countries military is a tradition that dates back to Vietnam War.

Before I go and place them on the graves, I like to take the time to clean them and make them shine. It is a really simple and easy project and a way to reflect on those who have passed.

 Here are my pennies, some are shiny, some are not, and some even have a few spots on them. What was fun about this little project was looking at all the different years on the pennies. They ranged anywhere from the early 1960’s (I think I found one from 1961) to the current times.
You’ll need some white vinegar for this project, or I’ve read that you can use lemon juice, but I just didn’t have that available. You will need to make sure it is white vinegar and not any other kind because white vinegar is a diluted form of acetic acid which reacts with the oxidized copper that forms on the coin’s surface.

Pop your pennies in your glass, jar, bowl, or whatever you have laying around. I used these canning jars that I have sitting around and they work fabulously.

Add 1 teaspoon (you can add more, but this is what I used) of table salt to the water and mix your pennies, vinegar, and salt around. Leave sit for anywhere from 5-15 minutes. I left my pennies sitting for 5 minutes, but I think they could have been a shinier if I would have let them sit for longer. Take them out and wash off with cold water and pat dry.

After the pennies were dry, I went to Bayview Cemetery, one of the local cemeteries and left several dozen pennies on the graves of those who had served.
Bayview Cemetery
 What are your traditions for Memorial Day?

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory

Cemeteries of Whatcom County, Washington

After moving to Bellingham almost a 10-years ago, this little slice of the Pacific Northwest has become my home away from home. I now consider it my hometown, even though I was born in Utah. It has become my part of paradise and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. As a genealogist, one of the first places I went to when I arrived was the local cemetery closest to me. In fact, it was my first picture taken here.

Oct. 28, 2008 - Bayview Cemetery
Oct. 28, 2008 – Bayview Cemetery

Cemeteries are important to me. They provide information for my research and profession and are my ‘happy place’. What genealogist wouldn’t want to spend all day in a cemetery?

Bayview Cemetery

In Whatcom County, there are over 45 known (or former) cemeteries. I’ve been to several of them, but not nearly all. There are many that are now on privately owned land that I may never see, but below are all the cemeteries that have ever been on Whatcom County land.

  • Bayview Cemetery
  • Bethany Lutheran Cemetery
  • Beth Israel Cemetery
  • Blaine Cemetery
  • Blaine Masonic
  • Buchanan Cemetery (a.k.a. Woodlawn Cemetery)
  • Case Cemetery
  • Central Cemetery
  • Enterprise Cemetery
  • Glacier Cemetery
  • Goshen Cemetery (a.k.a. Sulkanon Cemetery)
  • Greenacres Memorial Park
  • Greenwood Cemetery
  • Haynie Cemetery
  • Hillsdale Cemetery
  • Hopewell Cemetery (a.k.a. Licking Cemetery)
  • Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery
  • Jobe Cemetery
  • Kendall Cemetery
  • King Mountain Cemetery
  • Lakeside Cemetery (a.k.a Clearbrook Cemetery, Pangborn Lake Cemetery, and Van Buren Cemetery)
  • Lummi Island Cemetery
  • Lummi Tribal Cemetery
  • Lynden Cemetery
  • Lynden Jim Cemetery
  • Maple Falls Cemetery
  • Mt. Calvary Cemetery
  • Mt. Hope Cemetery (a.k.a Deming Cemetery)
  • Monumenta Cemetery
  • Mountain View Cemetery
  • Nooksack Cemetery
  • Nooksack Indian Cemetery
  • Nooksack Tribal Cemeteries
  • Old Maple Falls Cemetery (a.k.a. Cannon Cemetery)
  • Perry Cemetery
  • Point Roberts Cemetery
  • Saxon Cemetery
  • Semiahmoo Indian Cemetery
  • ST. Anne’s Cemetery
  • St. Joseph’s Catholic (a.k.a Clipper Cemetery)
  • St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery (a.k.a. Columbia Valley or Deming Catholic)
  • Sumas Cemetery
  • Ten Mile Cemetery
  • Van Zandt Cemetery (a.ka. Grange Cemetery)
  • Welcome Cemetery (a.k.a Kulshan Cemetery)
  • Wickersham Cemetery
  • Woodlawn Cemetery (a.k.a. Paradise Cemetery)
  • Zion Lutheran

In future posts, I will be going more into more detail about the history of these cemeteries and information about them. Which ones would you like to see featured first?

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory


Momma Went Missing: Carrie S. Nickles

Not much is known about Carrie S. Nickles (née Burnap), except that she died in May of 1897 — her body wasn’t found until June of 1897. Details of Carrie S. Burnap’s early life are not known, but she was the wife of Benjamin J. Nickles and the mother of two sons, on an unknown and Benjamin Harrison Nickles (the husband of my first cousin 3x’s removed).

When Benjamin Jr. was only nine years old, his mother, Carrie went missing. This was in 1897, 23 years before women got the right to vote and much before good mental health practices were developed.

On May 27, 1897, Carrie went missing from her home in Centralia, Washington — a little town just south of the state capital, Olympia,.

An article in the Morning Olympian in 1897 made mention of this incident:

Momma went Missing

The article is as follows:

Searching the Skookumchuck

Mrs. Nickles, of Centralia, Thought to Have Drowned Herself

Centralia, May 28 — Mrs. Nickles, wife of B.J. Nickles, mysteriously disappeared from her home yesterday evening. It is thought that sickness and trouble deranged her mind. she left without a wrap or head covering, after her husband and two sons had retired, and has not been heard of since.

Several theories as to her whereabouts have been set forth, the most general being that she had drowned herself in the Skookumchuck river, which flows near the Nickles resident. Giant powder and drag-hooks have been used, but as yet without avail. 

After reading this small amount of print dedicated to the life of Carrie Nickles it is a wonder what she is running from. We can assume that the remark from the article that relates to “sickness and trouble deranged her mind,” is remarking to some sort of mental illness or psychiatric condition that Carrie suffered from.

Pontiac State Hospital - Oakland, Michigan, Administrative Building (1939)
Pontiac State Hospital – Oakland, Michigan, Administrative Building (1939)

Mental illness affects 1 in 4 people across the globe, which if you think about it, is a staggering number (450 million). This can range from anxiety to depression to schizophrenia and any number of mental illnesses.


Nearly all of us have suffered from some moment in our lives where we have fought off a depression or faced anxiety about something — and I want to let you know, you aren’t alone.  My own mental illnesses aren’t something I talk about in public too much because they are still considered a taboo topic to converse about in many circles.

I am a bipolar, ADD/ADHD, anxiety-ridden person. I’m not saying this to brag or to show off, but to let you know that you aren’t alone. You don’t have to be alone.

If you are looking for resources be sure to check out NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a grassroots organization dedicated to helping those who suffer.

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory

International Joke Day: Tree Jokes

As a long time writer, journalist and record keeper, I often come across old entries and rough drafts of online posts or stories that I’ve written. This particular one holds significance to me as it includes a personal story from when my husband and I first started dating.
This prompt came from Mama’s Kat (now Mama’s Losin’ It) and was originally posted on a former online blog Radical Geekery. Drumroll, please!
1. Share a joke that always makes you laugh
 Q : What kind of math is a tree’s favourite?
A : TWIG-onometry
Funny Joke
There is actually a story behind this joke. When I was a freshman in college, I had just begun dating my husband. Back then, we were creative in where we liked to hang out and what we did because boys weren’t allowed in certain places of our dorm rooms.
There was a small park with a couple of trees that we tended to frequent. These particular trees were just at climbing height and we liked to climb up into them and sit in the branches and talk.
One summer evening we were sitting we sitting in the trees just chatting and he looked right at me and said, “What kind of math is a tree’s favourite?”  Inwardly, I groaned slightly but loved it because this is the type of jokes my father and brothers always told growing up. When he gave the answer of “twig-onometry” I laughed really loud because it tickled me that the man I was dating was like my family. I knew he would fit right in with my family at that moment.
Share your favorite joke below!

Passion Projects — An Update on Life Stories Transcription Services

I can hardly believe it, but after months of working my ass off, I’ve put together my first solid business — Life Stories Transcription Services. This idea came about after graduating with my bachelor’s degree from Western this last summer. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life and retail wasn’t cutting it anymore. Late night musings and a couple of glasses of wine lead me to my current business model.

Life Stories Transcription Services
Logo by Timber Cove Design

Owning a successful business was something I never thought I could do, as I’ve had many failed (albeit passionate) ideas, projects and businesses in the past few years (handcrafted soap, social media consulting, and a couple of other more risque items). It took several times of failing to find a passion and a way to earn money that had attracted the same values. And I finally did it with genealogy + transcription. =)

If Plan A didn't work, the alphabet has 25 more letters! Stay cool.

Early this morning, in the witching hours of 3 a.m. (my natural state), I was finishing up my first client’s transcription and realized how much I loved this work. I love personal histories. Stories of peoples lives are so fascinating to me.  Listening to the voices of men, women, and others talk about their life stories and experiences. How different will we sound to our children and grandchildren?

If you are wanting to preserve your family stories, be sure to hit me up. You can message me here on Facebook. I love working with people and accept alternative payments if we can work it out. =)



Wake Up. Kick Ass. Be Kind. Repeat.

Photo from Project Happiness

Succeeding at this, I’m feeling more empowered and ready to kick some major slacker ass in myself. What are some of your projects that you’ve finally seen to

What are some of your projects that you’ve finally seen to fruition? Share them in the comments below with a link to your small business or service. No MLM’s please and thank you!