Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My Ancestor William Riley Caldwell

William Caldwell was born on the 31st of November, 1879 in Kerr County Texas. His mother was Nancy Ann Jarvis and his father was George Caldwell. William's father George had three brothers and three sisters born Pulaski Missouri. One of William's paternal uncles, James Patton Caldwell (1844 - 1906) had a son David Samuel Caldwell (1890 - 1957). David Samuel Caldwell became the major of Richland Missouri and founder of an oil company. 

William was my great great grandfather. I am lucky to have William's penetrating dark brown eyes and dark hair. My father and great grandmother also have some of Williams striking features.

He was born into a working class farming family.When he was born, Rutherford B Hayes (R) was president of The United States.  California ratified it's State constitution, Frank Woolworth opened the first Woolworth stores, and Thomas Edison used a carbonized thread to test the first practical light bulb. He was born into the Giled Age, a term coined by Mark Twain. Gilded means to cover something with a fine layer of gold leaf. Meaning, the surface of things were beautiful, but what rest underneath is still ugly. There seemed to be too much ugliness in this man's short life.

From the time William was one year old until he reached his tenth birthday in 1890, the population of Texas grew from 1,591,749 in 1880 to 2,235,527 in 1890. When William was twenty years old, in the year 1900, the population of Texas reached 3,048,710. People continued to migrate to Texas from other States, primarily the South. By the turn of the century, most Texans, including my great grandfather labored in rural areas -90.8 percent in 1880 and 82.9 percent in 1900. Farming was Williams way of life. 

About 1905, William fell in love with a beautiful woman Winnie Bilderbeck Shewmaker. In 1906 they
married, Winnie was twenty and William was twenty-seven. Winnie was the oldest of six children, daughter of William Bilderbeck, a Tennessee native, and Mary Ida Shewmaker, origninally from Kansas. Winnie was born in Grasyon County Texas, an area that appears to be close to Oklahoma.

In 1907, they had my great grandmother, Mary Viola Caldwell Bilderbeck. Two years later, in 1910, they had another child Aubrey Caldwell. The 1910 census shows William and Mary living together with one child, Mary Viola. They had been married four years, and William's brother was living with them. 

William was a tall, slender man with dark brown eyes and dark hair. In 1918, his wife of twelve years died. She was only 31 years old at the time of her death. It was said that she died from pneumonia, but now I know that is not true. 

William was a 39 year old widow with two small children to care for. My great grandmother was eleven years old, her brother was eight. William was unable to take care of his children. I do not think it was because their mother was dead, there are many single men in this world. After all, it was only two children - not six. William could not take care of them because he was sick too. 

Mary Viola and her brother Aubrey were sent to live with their maternal grandparents. They were found in the 1920 census living with their grandfather, William Martin Bilderbeck in Harmon County Oklahoma. 

transportation of the body to final resting place
October 12th, 1920, William Caldwell died in the Bexar County Sanitarium, a San Antonio tuberculosis colony. He had been living in and out of a San Antonio tuberculosis colony until his death. The medical doctor who signed his death certificate states that the diagnosis was clinical, and he attended to William from May 20th 1920 and last saw him alive on October 12th, 1920. The death occurred at 2 p.m. William received five months of medical care up until his death. The death certificate reads that he died from Pulmonary Tuberculosis. The duration of his illness was three years. The doctor's do not know when he contracted it. My guess is that he contracted it from Winnie. The likely cause of her death was also pulmonary tuberculosis. The body was removed to Hollis Oklahoma for burial. According to the death certificate, he was buried October 13th, 1920.

William lived to be 40 years old. 

William Riley's WWI Registration Card (above), was completed in San Antonio Texas when he was 38 years old. His listed occupation is None, meaning he was unemployed. The closest relative he listed was his ten year old daughter, Mary Viola Caldwell living in Hollis Oklahoma. I found it curious that he did not list his father, brother, or any other adult relatives. I was also disturbed by the idea that he had reasonably prosperous first cousin, owner of an oil company and politician  did not help him.

The card describes William as tall and slender, brown eyes and black hair. The document was notarized by Thomas McGee on September 12, 1918. William died exactly two year, to the day, that this card was filled out. 

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