Eveline’s Senior Year – In Search of a Back Story

I shared a photo of my grandmother Eveline Coates’ high school graduating class in Mystic, Iowa a few weeks (now months!) 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 biggiesThe list of related posts is getting long, so I’ll link them at the bottom.

Three Faces In Search Of A Back Story : Edited Detail of Third Party Print (See 2013.09W.12) Sepia Saturday 634 Theme Image

Alan’s prompt photo and title provided the perfect words to describe this series: “Three Faces In Search Of A Back Story.” This series about my grandmother during her senior year of high school has been a search for the back story to the military-themed senior reception her class celebrated in May 1918. I dived in deeper than I initially planned or expected and I have certainly learned a lot. Not so much about Eveline and her family in particular, but the family in the context of their time and place. I think today is a good time for me to look back at what I have learned so far. I have read a lot and searched so many news items, that I think I need a mini refresher as I begin to close the series.

I expected to read about the influenza epidemic hitting Eveline’s home town. I didn’t find cases of influenza. Instead, the prominent infectious disease was smallpox. Eveline had it in November 1917.

Eveline’s older brothers, Carl and John, were required to register for the draft in June 1917. As a married man with a child expected any day, Carl was exempt from service. John awaited his draft number being called.

Eveline became an aunt for the first time when Carl’s daughter, Pauline, was born in late June 1917.

Eveline hosted her classmates for a party in July at the covered bridge.

I learned a little more about the town of Mystic. The population was about 2700, the streets were unpaved, and it was experiencing a boom due to the increased production of coal. A large percentage of the population were immigrants, as were Eveline’s parents. I located photos of several of the buildings in town and learned more about the Interurban, which ran between Mystic and the county seat, Centerville. And I learned about some of the entertainment and community gatherings of the time.

I had always wondered what mines Eveline’s family worked in, where the mines were located, and where their home was located. I was able to map their locations. Carl and John worked mine #12, which was pretty close to their home. Brother Joe worked at Twin Mines. I was not able to determine where her father worked, but I would guess the #12. I learned that the town ran on “mine time,” arising and eating and ending the day according to the mine whistles – the last one of the work day indicating if there would be work the following day. I could not find lists of union membership, but the miners had an active union, there were walkouts during this time, and I was surprised to learn that Mother Jones came to speak to the miners.

Some of the political issues of the time were enforcement of the “blue law” in the county, the national push for suffrage, and the temperance movement. Once the United States joined the war, things changed for everyone. The young men enlisted and the people of Mystic watched their “boys” leave for training and for France. Although I assume there was already a fairly strong commitment to civic life, once the nation joined the war, people were called upon to show their patriotism and support in new and numerous ways: through financial and volunteer support of the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A., Liberty Bonds, War Stamps … And some immigrant populations, especially German immigrants, came under suspicion as possible supporters of the enemy.

There remains another likely influence on Eveline’s life during her senior year that I have yet to write about – the politics of food.

I’ll close with a postcard I recently acquired of Walnut Creek in Mystic.

I have a couple of undated photos taken at Walnut Creek, several years later than Eveline’s senior year of high school, I think.

Eveline Coates Wading in Walnut Creek, Mystic, Iowa

The cursive handwriting is Eveline’s. The printed handwriting is my mother’s.

And this one of Alice Tingle. Alice is next to Eveline in the class photo at the top. Alice married Eveline”s brother Joe.

Alice Tingle Coates at Walnut Creek, Mystic, Iowa

Please visit other Sepia Saturday participants here: Sepia Saturday.

If you would like to read other posts about Eveline’s Senior Year, you can find them here:
Eveline’s Senior Year, Part 1
Eveline’s Senior Year: The Draft and a Carnival
Eveline’s Senior Year: A Look Around Town
Eveline’s Senior Year: Musical Notes
Eveline’s Senior Year: Smallpox
Eveline’s Senior Year: What are you Serving?
Eveline’s Senior Year: Root Beer on the 4th
Eveline’s Senior Year: Miners, Miner and Maps
Eveline’s Senior Year: The Weight of Mining
Eveline’s Senior Year: Gatherings and Gossip
Eveline’s Senior Year: Knit Your Bit

Eveline’s Senior Year: Family and Friends on Chairs – or Not

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:
Eveline’s Senior Year: Part 1
Eveline’s Senior Year: The Draft and a Carnival
Eveline’s Senior Year: A Look Around Town
Eveline’s Senior Year: Musical Notes

The prompt photo for Sepia Saturday this week features a heavily carved chair circa 1900.

Old Chair In Reykjavik Museum, Cornell University Library Collection : Sepia Saturday 619 Prompt Image

How to make a chair fit with the theme of Eveline’s senior year? I looked for photos that might have been taken inside her home. I didn’t find any, but there are a few photos of people sitting on chairs. There are also photos of people outside her home. They were taken not long before or after, if not during, Eveline’s 1917-1918 school year and provide another glimpse into her life during that time.

I’ll start with a photo of Eveline holding her youngest sister, Nellie. Eveline and Nellie both had February birthdays – Eveline born in 1901; Nellie born in 1912. Nellie would have been about six during Eveline’s senior year. She looks a little younger here, I think. I wonder if the photograph was to commemorate their February birthdays?

Eveline and Nellie Coates, circa 1915-1917

Below is Eveline’s brother Leonard (“Lindy”). He was born in March of 1910, so he would have been about eight during Eveline’s senior year. He might be a little younger in this photo, but close enough. The dog is tied to the handle of the wagon where Lindy sits, holding a long stick.

Leonard “Lindy” Coates

Eveline’s older brother, John, had his photo taken in uniform while sitting in a carved chair. John registered for the draft during the summer of 1917. This photograph was likely taken not long after Eveline’s graduation in 1918.

John Coates, 1918

That’s the end of the photos of family members sitting circa 1917-18. So we will move outside. I have shared this photo of Eveline’s parent’s before. The backdrop of a painted house with white trim is consistent in other family photos. It must be the family home.

Joseph and Mary Harris Coates

Eveline’s sister Marjorie was born in 1906, which would make her about twelve in 1918. I’m going to call this close enough. Her hat looks the same as the one Lindy wore in the earlier photo.

Marjorie Coates

These are not all of Eveline’s siblings, just the ones I found photos of around this time in her life. It must have been a busy house with at least eight of the nine living siblings at home. As the oldest girl, it would fall to Eveline to help with the chores and the care of her younger siblings.

Eveline kept some photos of friends and neighbors.

Bernard and Mary Reinscop, neighbors
Marion and Eveline Morlan, neighbors
Maggie Train

As I looked through old newspapers, names of other Mystic residents appeared repeatedly – motoring to Centerville or attending a club meeting or a party. Eveline’s family very rarely made mention. They never seemed to go anywhere with anyone. Until …

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, IA, 21 Jul 1917

Eveline had a party! She hosted her class. At the covered bridge. In the middle of the week in July.

Finding this made me inexplicably happy.

Unfortunately, I have not seen any photo that records the events of the day or who was there. Although her graduating class was small, they would not all fit into one car. The names Fenton and Ford do not appear on a list of classmates, so the drivers of the cars must have been family friends who offered to drive those who did not live within walking distance. There is one photo of Eveline with some girlfriends.

Top to bottom: Unknown, Eveline Coates, Unknown, Alice Tingle, Unknown

I only know the identity of the two girls leaning left – Eveline and her friend and classmate Alice Tingle. I think you can tell which one is Eveline by her hair! All of the girls look like they could be incoming high school seniors and there is water, so it’s possible this photo goes with the newspaper reference to a party, but their long sleeved dresses make me wonder about it being July. Eveline and Alice attended normal school in the summer of 1918, so this photo could have been taken with friends there. In any case, they look like they are having fun – and at least one of them is sitting. On something.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday and my family history. Get comfortable in your chair and visit other Sepia Saturday bloggers here.

Sepia Saturday: An Uncle I Never Knew – Letters of Condolence

The month of January and a health emergency declared in the state of Washington because of a measles outbreak had me thinking about an uncle I never knew.

This is a continuing series about my uncle Wilbur Thomas Hoskins, who died at five years of age due to complications following measles. You can catch up here:
A Tow-headed Boy
Who was with the family?
Funeral Record
The Salvation Army Offers Assistance

As the extended family learned the news of Wilbur’s death, some sat down to write words of condolence to Tom and Eveline. Two of Tom’s three siblings were with Tom and Eveline in Rockford, Illinois, so most of the letters were from Eveline’s siblings.

The first to write were Eveline’s brother, Carl Coates, and his wife, Nellie Metcalf Coates. Carl and Nellie wrote individual letters on opposite sides of one piece of stationery. Wilbur died early on the morning of January 18th. Apparently Carl and Nellie had just received a letter telling of Wilbur’s illness when they learned of his death. They sat down to write on January 19th, but instead of sending their letter to Rockford, they sent it to Joe and Alice Coates (Joe was Carl’s and Eveline’s brother), probably assuming that the family would return to their hometown of Mystic, Iowa for the funeral.


Burlington Iowa

Dear Brother & Sister

We are certainly grieved to get the sad news of Wilburs Death. And my heart goes out in Sympathy for both of you. as this is an awful shock for you both. We would like to be with you at this time to help comfort you in your hour of need. but as we cannot our Sympathy is with you and Love to you all

Brother Carl.

Dear Brother and Sister:-

My we were so shocked to get the news of poor little Wilbur’s death. We never knew he had been sick until about half and hour before when we rec’d a letter from your Mother.

I am not a very good letter writer when it comes to a case like this. I never know just how to express myself, but when you read this you will know I am sending you all the sympathy that one can possibly give.

With love to all,

Alice Tingle Coates wrote a letter on January 21st. Alice was the wife of Eveline’s brother Joe. She and Eveline were in the same high school graduating class and had been friends for many years. I think they also attended normal school together.

Joe Coates, Jr.











Alice Tingle Coates

Mystic, Ia
Jan 21-1930

Dear Eveline & Tommy –

So shocked & very, very sorry to hear of little Wilbur’s death & know that both of you are finding it very hard to bear up from the loss. It is doubly hard to give him up at such short notice. Words of sympathy cannot help you much I know at this time & I am a very poor hand at giving comfort but dear old chum, Eveline, please know that I certainly do sympathize with both of you in this terrible hour. It is a heavy cross indeed to shoulder.

It came as a great shock to Joe as he didn’t even know he was sick. So we both send our heartfelt sympathy to you & hope that time will help to heal this great hurt.

Alice and Joe

I am enclosing a letter from Carl & Nell that they sent to me to forward. Nellie is forwarding this dollar that came from Blanche. She thot you were bringing him back here & she sent it for flowers.

The Nellie who sent the dollar for flowers was Eveline’s sister, not to be confused with her sister-in-law.

Blanche Coates

The final letter is from Eveline’s sister Blanche Coates, who looks like she might be expecting one of her several children in this photo.

Jan. 23, 1930

Dear Eveline and Tommy

Our hearts sympathy is with you both.. If we had only know you were not taking the little fellow home we could have been there Monday, By driving as far as Elgin in the car then taking the bus. But we did not know and I’m very, very sorry. It’s hard to reconcile ourselves to his leaving. But we know we must carry on, with the one and only consoling tho’t, that he’s one of God’s little angels, he’ll never have the suffering an heartaches that we have.

If there’s any thing we can do to help you financially or otherwise, don’t be afraid to let us know. 

Miles has been out of work since Christmas, but we still have a few dollars and if you kids need them your more than welcome to part of them.

It’s been comforting to know  that Margie has been with you doing the little acts of kindness that I would have been glad to do, you have always been so good to me. An I know you realize how hard it is for me to get out with four little ones and the weather staying 26 below. 

Write when you can Honey. I know your poor heart is broken and I grieve with you & for you.


Blanche and her family were living in Wheeling, Il – outside of Chicago – at the time of Wilbur’s death. She realized too late that he was to be buried in Rockford, Il and not in their home town of Mystic, Iowa.

The final bits of ephemera that I will classify as correspondence are two postcards. They are not postmarked, so may have been included with letters that are no longer with the others, or perhaps given in person at another time.

On the back is the notation
Wilbur Hoskins

Vivian was Wilbur’s cousin, daughter of Tom’s sister Edna Hoskins and her husband, John Martin. Vivian and Wilbur were very close in age – she would also have been about five years old at the time of Wilbur’s death. I don’t recognize the handwriting. Maybe her mother, Edna wrote it and this was Vivian’s way to participate in expressing sadness at the loss of her cousin.

The last postcard has nothing written on the back except “Wilbur.” I have no idea why this particular postcard was chosen or who it was from. I don’t readily recognize my grandfather Tom’s handwriting like I do my grandmother’s, but this does remind me of his writing.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday. Please visit other participants who likely responded to the prompt with dancing and good times.

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.