Eveline’s Senior Year: A Look Around Town

I shared a photo of my grandmother Eveline Coates’ high school graduating class in Mystic, Iowa a few weeks ago. Along with the photo and her diploma, a couple of other mementos were saved. One is the program for the Junior-Senior Banquet in honor of the graduating Seniors. It was interesting to see how World War I seemed to be the overarching theme of the festivities. I decided to take a deeper look at what her life may have been like during the 1917-1918 school year. There was a lot going on, a war and the beginning of an influenza pandemic to name the two biggiesSee:

Vintage Postcard – Grosvenor Hotel, London (Sepia Saturday 611)

The prompt photo for Sepia Saturday nudged me to focus on the town of Mystic, Iowa – the places where Eveline spent time, the places that represented her world and her town. Alas, there were no hotels or buildings quite as grand as the one in the prompt photo. The population of Mystic in 1917-1918 was somewhere around 2,700. The population increased from 1,758 in 1900 to 2,663 in 1910. By 1920, the population had grown to 2,796. These were the boom years when coal production peaked in the city and county.

The building where Evelline spent most of her time away from home during her senior year was the new Mystic High School, which opened its doors in 1915. Eveline shared some thoughts about the new school in an autobiography she wrote when she was sixteen, perhaps in the fall of 1917:

Then came the fight for the new school house and a half term of school in the U. B. Church. This didn’t benefit any of us as we did as much talking and so forth, as ever.  But in the new building a perfect rule of tyranny began. For no talking is allowed after you enter the building until you leave again.  Of course we obey this rule in every respect, even keeping still during recitation.

Mystic High School. Mystic, Iowa. Scanned from Eveline’s collection.

Do I detect a note of sarcasm?

The photo below appears in History of Mystic, Iowa: 1887-1987. All those children sitting outside the United Brethren Church lead me to believe that this was taken during the time it was used as a temporary school. Surely all those children did not attend the church!

United Brethren Church, early 1900s. Scanned from History of Mystic, Iowa: 1887-1987

I don’t know if Eveline is in this photo. I think the older girl 4th from the left in the back row most resembles my grandmother. Or maybe the 6th girl from the left??? (Click to enlarge.)

I’m not sure what church Eveline attended, or how often she was present. She was baptized at the Church of Christ in 1916, where the funeral of her grandmother Celia Jenkins Harris was held. Other family funerals seem to have been at the Methodist Episcopal Church, and that is also where Eveline married in 1923. The photo below includes the Methodist church and the “old” high school, which was torn down and rebuilt.

M. E. Church and High School, Mystic, Iowa. Before 1915

The History of Mystic, Iowa: 1887-1987 states that there were five churches in town: Methodist, Christian, United Brethren, Catholic, and Second Baptist. No Church of Christ is listed to confirm Eveline’s baptism.

But Wikipedia has an explanation for that: “The churches are independent congregations and typically go by the name “Christian Church”, but often use the name “Church of Christ” as well.” I’ll assume that the Church of Christ in town was commonly referred to as the Christian Church.

Scanned from History of Mystic, Iowa: 1887-1987

The streets of Mystic were unpaved, subject to ruts, rain, and dust if not oiled. Main Street was paved with bricks sometime in 1918. Some residents had cars and were reported in the newspaper to have “motored” to one town or another to visit family or attend an event. Many likely still relied on horse powered transport as well as their own two feet. I found a few pictures from the 1920s-30s of people on horses in town and another of the mail being delivered in another part of the county by horse and buggy. There is an undated photo of Eveline’s parents, Joseph and Mary Coates, standing by a buggy. In 1917, they would have been 50 and 45, respectively. It is hard for me to tell their ages in this photo.

Joseph Coates and Mary Ann Harris Coates, undated

If you wanted to travel to Centerville, the county seat, you could hop on the Interurban.

Following are a few memories shared by a Mystic resident, with some photos interspersed:

In 1910 our Sunday afternoon entertainment was watching trains come and go from the Mystic Depot.

Later on, streets were oiled to Walnut City, making an initial improvement. In 1918, Main Street was bricked which remains to this day. The town burned twice. The first fire was in 1910 and burned the east end of town from Second Street to the west. In 1911, it burned from Second Street towards the east. Bradley’s Bank did not burn until the fire in 1912. The livery barn on Second Street stopped the fire because the posts were cut which toppled the metal roof thus smothering it.

Mystic, Iowa. 1909

Mystic had two opera houses. The first one was on the north side of the street over Scott and Minor’s Grocery Store. It burned down when Mystic burned the first time. The second Opera House was located where Strand Theatre stood. Karl Breeding operated the first “picture show.” Mystic also had a town band under the leadership of Lem Hicks. A community symphony orchestra was also formed, consisting mostly of French and Belgian musicians. At one time, Mystic had three hotels and many boarding houses. Every year Mystic had a Fourth of July celebration which included a Sham Battle, shooting blanks out of guns.

History of Mystic, Iowa: 1887-1997. pg. 37-39.

The burned out portions of Main Street were rebuilt mostly in brick. I visited Mystic with my aunt and uncle in September 2016. We were trying to cover a lot of area that day, including cemeteries, and you can see from the clouds that bad weather was approaching, so our time was limited. I only took the one photo of Main Street from the car. I wish I had taken more and that I had done a little research before I made the trip so I would have had a better idea of what to look for. Oh well. It appears that I was at the opposite end of the street from the old photo above.

Main Street, Mystic, Iowa September 2016

Not a full picture of the town that Eveline knew and loved, but a glimpse. I’ll keep working on it!

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday. Click the link to see and read how others have responded to the prompt.

Eveline’s Senior Year, Part 1

I shared this photo of my grandmother Eveline’s high school graduating class a few weeks ago. Along with the photo and her diploma, a couple of other mementos were saved. One is the program for the Junior-Senior Banquet in honor of the graduating Seniors. It was interesting to see how World War I seemed to be the overarching theme of the festivities. I’ve been thinking about it ever since and wondering how I might understand that year of her life more fully.

There was a lot going on during the fall of 1917 and the spring of 1918, a war and the beginning of an influenza pandemic to name the two biggies. Resources for my research seem rather limited, but I’ll just jump in and see where this takes me.

Eveline Coates was born 15 Feb 1901 in Mystic, Iowa, to Joseph Coates and Mary Ann Harris. Both of her parents were immigrants from England, who met and married in Mystic. Eveline had three older brothers and was the oldest girl in a family of nine siblings ranging in age from six to twenty-six.* Eveline was seventeen at the beginning of her senior year and turned eighteen before graduation.

I’m still trying to adjust to WordPress changes and the file of the 1915 plat map of Mystic is too large, but you can check it out here: City of Mystic. The Joseph Coates family is located at the very top of the map, on the right.

Jos. Coates, 30 acres.

Eveline’s older brothers Carl, John, and Joe were all employed in the mines, as was her father. She was the first of the children to complete high school, as the older boys left school at about age fourteen or upon the completion of 8th grade. Eveline’s father, Joseph, worked as a carpenter in the mines most of his life which, if I understand correctly, resulted in a higher income than those digging coal in the shafts. Perhaps the combination of thrift and a higher income resulted in the purchase of the family plot. In addition to a large garden, they had at least one cow as indicated by my great-grandmother’s fondness for this particular cow.**

Mary Ann Harris Coates with cow. Undated

Since I just started this on a whim yesterday and have no plan, I’ll stop here and think about what will come next!

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday, where we are all going on a whim without the benefit of a prompt photo this week to give us direction. We are a diehard group, so pay my fellow Sepians a visit and see how they have responded this week.

Edit and additional notes:
* A girl, Amelia, born before Eveline, died before Eveline’s birth.
** Apparently, this is a steer, not a cow. 🙂

Who were the immigrants? #1 Joseph Coates

So much of the news these days centers on immigration policy, which has me thinking a lot about my immigrant ancestors. I challenged myself to identify the immigrants in my family and my husband’s family and consider how some of the policy ideas being proposed might have affected them.

These are the questions I’m asking:
* Who were our ancestors who first immigrated to the United States?
* How many of them have I already identified?
* Did the family follow a pattern of family reunification (what is being described as chain migration) with one person or family arriving, getting settled, and sponsoring the next family member or family unit?
* Can I determine (or make a good guess) about why they left their native country?
* How might our ancestors have fared if a merit-based policy had been in place at the time?

The newly popular phrase “chain migration” gives a negative spin to the fact that families want to be together. And for most of our families, this is exactly what happened. Someone came to the United States and others in their family joined them.

But not always. Joseph Coates, Eveline Coates’ father and my great-grandfather, left Durham, England alone when he was about 21. He was born at Brancepeth colliery, a coal-mining settlement, and the men in his family were all coal miners. I assumed Joseph left England looking for a better life that did not involve working the mines – but I guess I was wrong, because he ended up in the coal mines in southeastern Iowa. Perhaps he was lured there by advertising promoting the booming mining activity in Iowa – but I don’t know. He was a “joiner” in the mines – a carpenter by trade, really – responsible for building the frame supports.

Joseph’s story is not a story of family migration. He came by himself and, as far as I know, he never saw his parents or his siblings again, although they corresponded.

This passenger list for the ship City of Berlin, which sailed from Liverpool to New York City, seems like a match for my Joseph Coates. (#33 on the list of passengers.)

Name – Joseph Coates                                                   Jos Coates
Date of arrival – per census records 1889                         Ship arrived May 1888.
Age – calculating from census – 21                                   20
Lived in – Willington, England.                                           Willington, England
Destination – unknown, ended up in SE Iowa                    Illinois (which borders Iowa)
Occupation (calling) – Joiner                                             Difficult to read – Joiner?

Since we don’t have details of exactly how a merit-based immigration system would work, I can only speculate that Joseph would not accrue many points.
Education: high school at most, possibly less
Age: preferred
Employment in a high demand occupation: doubtful
English language – yes
Country of origin – England could be a plus
Siblings or sons/daughters already in U.S. – no

Source Citation
Year: 1888; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 519; Line: 33; List Number: 577

Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.