After the Laytons got out of the implement business, my grandfather opened a men’s store on the square in downtown Greensburg, which he operated for several years. My mom is an extraordinary gift wrapper – she says it’s because of all the practice she got wrapping gifts in her father’s store.
My great grandfather Charles Layton operated the Greensburg Implement Company from 1942 until the mid-1950′s. This advertisement appeared in the Greensburg Daily News in December 1945. The text reads:
“Our hearts are full of gratefulness to all our friendly customers who have been so understanding during wartime limitations in service and merchandise. Thanks to you! A Merry Christmas to you! And we will try to do our best for you always!
Levi Lee McKinley and Ida (Sullivan) McKinley were my great great grandparents. L. L., a carpenter, was born 7 December 1871 in Marion County, Indiana to John F. and Lucy (Kelly) McKinley. Ida was born in 1873 in Boone County, Indiana to Daniel and Mary (Davis) Sullivan. L. L. and Ida married at Lebanon in Boone County on 21 December 1890.
Ida died on 16 October 1938 in Elizaville, Boone County. She was buried in Elizaville Cemetery. L. L. was killed in a car accident a few miles north of Indianapolis on 3 July 1951. He was also buried in Elizaville Cemetery.
L. L. & Ida had four children:
1893 – ?
I’m still working on tracking down Mabel Fern.
Glyda Ester (Easterly)
2 August 1896 – 9 July 1950
Glyda married Jerome Easterly in Marion, Grant County, Indiana on 12 September 1916. They lived in Massillon, Stark County, Ohio, where they had 5 children: Franklin Leroy, Jerome Stokes Jr., Mable Fern (Calvin Lint), Eunella (William Pannell), and Ida Jane (Walker). Glyda died on 9 July 1950 in Massillon. She was buried in Rose Hill Memorial Park.
26 October 1898 – 24 May 1951
Lowell worked at the Anaconda Wire & Cable Company in Marion, Indiana for 14 years. He died after several years of declining health. He was buried in Elizaville Cemetery.
Now that I’m refocused on the genealogy of my mother’s side of the family, I think it’s a good time to introduce Joseph & Lillian (Boicourt) Layton. Joseph & Lillian are my great great grandparents. Lillian is the reason I am a little bit French.
Lillian Boicourt was born 19 November 1862 in Sardinia, Decatur County, Indiana, a daughter of Vermillion & Sarah Elizabeth (Gentry) Boicourt. Joseph Hammond Layton was born 27 September 1859 in Indiana.
This tintype of Joseph, taken shortly before his death, is the only photo we have of him. We do not have any photos of Lillian, or any of the children other than Charles. If you are a descendent of this family with photos, please contact me!
Joseph & Lillian were married 29 March 1882 in Jennings County, Indiana. They had two daughters before they moved to Minneapolis, Ottawa County, Kansas in 1885, where they had five more children. Their sixth child was my great grandfather, Charles Layton.
Joseph and Lillian probably traveled to Kansas with Joseph’s brother, Hiram, and his wife Martha. Census records show that Hiram and Martha didn’t settle in Kansas for long – they continued on to Colorado. Joseph and Lillian, however, returned to Indiana in 1894. Just before Lillian gave birth to her tenth child, Joseph died of typhoid on 8 December 1900 in Westport, Indiana.
On 12 September 1905, Lillian married Colonel G. Lamar, also a widower. They had a daughter, Lulu Viola, in 1907. At some point, Colonel apparently left Lillian. She applied for publication of a non-residence notice, and on 8 July 1919, she was granted a divorce and custody of Lulu. She was ordered by the court not to remarry within two years. In 1920, Colonel showed up on the census in Kansas, living with his son, William M. Lamar.
Lillian died 6 January 1947. She was buried in Westport Cemetery.
Children of Joseph & Lillian:
29 May 1883 – 9 November 1900
Estella died in Westport, Indiana at age 17. She was buried in Westport Cemetery.
Lora Lilas (Stearns)
13 January 1885 – 28 July 1949
Lora married Frank Ernest Stearns 28 March 1907 at Vernon, Jennings County, Indiana. They lived in Jennings County and Jackson County (Seymour). Lora and Frank had six children: Glen, Mildred (McClellan), Leslie, Mary (Hodnett), Archie, and Robert. Lora was buried in Westport Cemetery.
26 January 1886 – 28 December 1896
Clarence was born shortly after the Laytons moved to Kansas. He died at age 10 after the move back to Indiana. His obituary in Greensburg’s New Era, 1 January 1896, read: “Clarence Layton, of Westport, aged about nine years died Saturday of brain trouble.” He was buried in the Baptist Church cemetery.
11 June 1888 – 28 May 1958
Wilbur married Goldie Anderson 20 February 1910 in Decatur County, Indiana. They moved to Muncie, Indiana, where Wilbur was employed as a Gear Cutter, and they later moved to Shelbyville, Indiana, where Wilbur was a farmer. They had five children: Lillian (Nail), Chester, Elma Louise (Brown), Vera (Clapp), and Phyllis (Wilson). After Goldie’s death in 1943, Wilbur married Ova Anderson, and they lived in New Castle. Wilbur died in Henry County after a cerebral hemorrhage. He was buried in Miller Cemetery, New Castle, Indiana.
Carrie Isabelle (Borgstede)
26 January 1890 – 27 May 1968
Carrie was born in Ottawa County, Kansas. She married John Lewis Borgstede (b. 9 January 1881, Ripley County) on 23 August 1907 in Decatur County, Indiana. They had three children: Gladys, Merlynn, and Janice (Low). They lived in North Dakota and Muncie (Delaware County) before they eventually returned to Westport, Decatur County, where John worked at an auto parts factory.
29 July 1891 – 7 July 1965
Charles was born in Kansas. He married Hazel McKinley 26 December 1911 in Boone County, Indiana. They had four boys: Max, Dow, Joe, and Don. I wrote about Charles and his family in a previous post.
6 September 1893 – 5 May 1959
Roy was born in Ottawa County, Kansas. He served in WWI and married Inez Loreen Huntington in 1923. They had two children: Ruth (Stephenson) & Lois (Hiday), and lived in Anderson where he worked for the Anderson Municipal Electric Plant. He was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Anderson.
Elma Marie (Tumulty)
28 October 1895 – 15 April 1972
Elma was born in Decatur County, Indiana. She married Edwin William Tumulty 10 August 1916 in Decatur County, Indiana. They moved to Anderson, Indiana, where they lived the rest of their lives. They had two daughters, Phyllis (Johnson) & Donna (Jennings). She was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Anderson.
10 September 1898 – 28 March 1958
Frank was born in Decatur County, Indiana. He married Mary Leota Beach in 1923. They had two children: Paul & Frank, and lived in Anderson. Frank was the proprietor of a service station for 21 years, then worked at Brown Electric Company. He was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Anderson.
6 January 1901 – 4 February 1965
Lillian gave birth to Earl 29 days after her Joseph’s death. He married Marietta M. Hessler in North Vernon, Jennings County, on 5 December 1936. They had four children: Betty (Gatewood), Norman Joseph, James Earl, and Helen Catharine (Graue). Earl was buried in Westport Cemetery.
To illustrate my point, allow me to introduce you to my Great Grandmother Hazel (McKinley) Layton, also known as: The Most Consistently Miserable-Looking Person Ever.
The lesson I have learned from Great Grandmother Layton (who passed away two years before I was born) is that you should occasionally smile in photographs, even if you aren’t particularly happy, if only because you don’t want future generations to look at you and wonder, “What the hell is wrong with her?”
But, wait! Weren’t people usually frowning back then? Well, yes, many of my family’s old photos feature unhappy-looking people. However, several photos prove that Hazel chose not to smile even when others seemed to be having a good time.
The closest she comes to a smile is in this photograph with her niece, Ida Jane Easterly, although I could be mistaken. It might just be a grimace – her shoes do look awfully uncomfortable.
I’m sure Great Grandmother Layton was a fine woman who just did not enjoy being photographed. But I can’t help it – I will always think of her as the family grump.
I recently completed my first generation of Layton family genealogy, documenting the lives of Charles and Hazel (McKinley) Layton and their children. Charles and Hazel were my great-grandparents, but they both passed away before my birth, so I never met them. Two of their children, Max and Don, died during my lifetime, but I do not remember them.
I am not including in this post the full page of single-spaced, ten-point footnotes that accompany the master copy! I am also not including any information about children of the Layton brothers, my mother and her cousins.
Charles Layton was born in Kansas on 29 July 1891. He married Hazel McKinley, daughter of Lee and Ida (Sullivan) McKinley, on 25 December 1911 in Lebanon, Boone County, Indiana. Charles worked for the International Harvester Company until 1942, when he took over operation of the Greensburg Implement Company with his sons. He died 7 July 1965. Hazel died 13 October 1980. They are buried together in South Park Cemetery, Greensburg, Indiana.
Charles & Hazel had five sons:
Max Edwin, Forest Dow, Wilmer Reid,
Donald Neill, and Joseph Dale.
Max was born 24 July 1912 in Southport, Indiana. On 15 June 1941, he married Mary Maxine Nelson. He joined the US Navy during World War II. Max passed away 12 February 1986 in Centerville, Wayne County, Indiana. Maxine passed away 4 January 2009. They are buried together at South Park Cemetery.
According to Max’s son, the Veteran’s Adm. plaque that marks Max’s grave was made with the wrong date. He actually died on 12 February 1986.
Dow was born 16 February 1915 in Brewersville, Indiana. He married Dorothy Schortemeyer on 29 September 1935. They divorced in 1937. On 18 September 1940, Dow married Lucille Martin. On 10 October 1941, he underwent an appendectomy, and on 15 October 1941, he died of generalized peritonitis. He is buried at South Park Cemetery.
Wilmer was born 1 September 1916 in Indiana, and died in Indianapolis on 1 May 1918. He was buried in Indianapolis, but was later removed to South Park Cemetery in Greensburg.
Don was born 20 June 1919 in Westport, Indiana. On 15 October 1949, he married Sara Jane Springmier. Sara passed away 6 January 1980. Don passed away 1 April 1 1989. They are buried together at South Park Cemetery.
My grandfather, Joe, was born in Burney, Indiana on 29 May 1923. He married Sara Kathryn Buell on 10 December 1947 in Greensburg, Indiana. He worked with his father at the Greensburg Implement Company until the early 1950’s. He operated Layton’s Store for Men from 1960-1966. He worked at Stover Winstead Implements on the south side of Indianapolis in the 1970’s. Sara passed away 23 June 2003. Joe passed away 21 August 2007. They are buried together at South Park Cemetery.
In May 1942, Joe abruptly resigned his position. In a letter to his mother, he wrote that he could have stayed at his job “indefinitely,” making good money.
“Possibly that is the only way you ever get anywhere in this world… Whether it is or not I am not ready yet, to settle down to the grind,” he wrote.
Joe decided to return home to Indiana. He was clearly disappointed in himself, at how little he had accomplished. He also seemed to think everyone would judge him for returning to Greensburg. He had gone away in December a confident young man, and he returned just six months later. Joe usually wrote eloquently, but in this letter, he rambled, trying to get a grasp on his feelings:
“If I come home this time it does not mean that I will be there forever, or does it, what I mean is if I felt I wanted to, couldn’t I at some later date try something again. Probably it is a disappointment to you to have me come back, to think I was off to something and then have me quit. I hate to come back myself in the respect that it seems like a failure or something.”
Joe thought Chicago would provide him with the opportunities he needed to become a successful man in a business suit, but he found himself lonely and dissatisfied with the day-to-day drudgery of city life. He could see himself growing wealthy, but it felt empty to him. Something was missing.
“… People here don’t seem to live, to me, they seem more like a part of one big machine,” he wrote.
Despite the excitement all around him, Joe grew sullen during his time in the city. He saw what his life would be there, and he didn’t like it. Returning home was an attempt to hold on a bit longer to his youth. He wrote that, if he stayed at his job in Chicago, he would always feel he “had missed part of the fun or pleasures” he should have had when he was young.
Underlying in his emotional letter is his complete denial of the war, of how serious his life had so suddenly become. At that time, many Chicagoans would have been producing materials for the effort overseas. How strange that Joe would return home, ostensibly to enjoy being young, when so many boys his age had already been deployed. He went to Chicago to chase success and have a good time – why then did he have to set aside money for defense bonds? Why couldn’t he just go to the theater and flirt with the cute girl he met at the dry cleaners?
Joe would have been required to register for the draft in May 1942, right around the time he resigned. Perhaps the act of registering was the final straw for him, the last thing he did before he decided to go home. His homesickness was no doubt exacerbated by the fear that he would be called up to serve in the military. He may have felt that it was best to spend what time he had left enjoying himself with this friends and family, instead of laboring away, alone, up in Chicago. What use is all this money, he must have wondered, if I’m going to go off to war any day?
Back in Indiana, Joe readjusted to the life he left behind. About a year later, after being classified 1-A – available for military service – he made the trip to Fort Benjamin in Indianapolis for his physical exam. Shortly thereafter, he received notice that he had been rejected for service. I have still been unable to definitively answer the question of why he was rejected, but national and state archivists have indicated that he was probably disqualified for a medical condition such as flat feet or a heart murmur.
After his military rejection, there is no indication in his records that Joe considered moving back to Chicago. Instead, he left his dreams of the big city behind him. His files contain letters from a few girls he dated as well as several letters from friends who were serving overseas. In October 1944, a V-Mail arrived from Leonard Welage, a 1942 Greensburg graduate who was in New Guinea “undergoing quite a few bombings.” In 1945, Joe received a V-Mail from a classmate, who wrote from Germany:
“…Am living in a German home right now. Had my second bath since I have been over here yesterday. In a bath tub too. Boy, it was like heaven. Layed in it and only my nose was out of water…. Have slept in everything from fox holes, to hay lofts to nice homes since I have been here. What a hell of a life!! We have running water in this home, but no electricity, using candles and home made lights…. The people who lived in this house were real Nazi’s. Pictures of Der Fuhrer and all. That kind of shit. Boy, Joe, I have no sympathy for these people at all. But they’ll learn I guess.”
With news of the Nazis coming in the mail, Joe’s easygoing adolescence was long gone. By 1946, a letter from his friend Josephine indicates that he had “settled down to one gal.” On December 10, 1947, he married Sara Kathryn Buell, and in November 1951, my mother was born.
Joe spent the rest of his life in Indiana. He passed away in 2007. He only spent six months in Chicago, but the fact that he held on to so many mementos from that time period leads me to believe that it was quite meaningful to him. I’m grateful that, by leaving behind these keepsakes, he allowed me a tiny glimpse into his life long before I knew him. They paint a vivid picture of growing abruptly into adulthood during a war that redefined our world.
I began my adventures in genealogy eager to trace my family tree all the way back to its European roots. So, in the early stages, I raced through generations, searching for evidence of where we began. But then something struck me: I suddenly knew more about distant long-lost relatives than I knew about my own grandparents.
Genealogy allows us to learn the stories of our ancestors, but it can also be a way to help us know those we have struggled to understand in our own lifetimes.
I knew my grandfather, Joe Layton, as a quiet, private man, always well dressed and immaculately groomed. He was emotionally distant, and usually wore a sad, serious expression. I grew up incredibly intimidated by him. On the few rare occasions when I saw him, we barely spoke, but sometimes we would write to each other, sharing bits and pieces of our lives. He also sent birthday and Christmas cards every year, and he always signed them, “Love, Grandma and Grandpa,” even though my grandmother had been in a coma since I was seven years old.
Sara (Buell) Layton was even more of a mystery than my grandfather. Unfortunately, she left almost nothing behind that might help her family understand her better. My grandfather, however, left a collection of letters, postcards, photographs, and memorabilia from the 1940’s that has helped me piece together a small part of his life that I knew nothing about before he passed away.
The story that unfolded led me to discover a common thread tying many generations and branches of my family tree together: failed attempts to leave home. There is certainly a history of this in many families, often fueled by the appeal of reinventing oneself somewhere new. Sometimes, though, the simplicity and familiarity of home can be difficult to leave behind – especially when the new life we build for ourselves doesn’t turn out to be as rosy as we’d hoped.
After graduating from high school, Joe worked with his father at a farm implement store in Greensburg, Indiana, but he quickly grew restless. On the morning of December 7, 1941 – just hours before news broke of the attack on Pearl Harbor – he set off for a new life in Chicago. Over the next few months, he wrote several letters home.
In the early letters, even though the United States was suddenly enmeshed in a world war, he remained optimistic and excited about his future. But, as the months wore on, the letters began to suggest a growing disillusionment with his new life. In one letter, he wrote, “What am I doing here?”; in another, “I miss you all a lot but think I would be better off here. not sure.”
Despite his uneasiness, he stuck it out, and in March, he received a promotion. He held onto a company newsletter announcing his new position to the rest of the staff, which read: “Boys be careful how you talk to Joe. He hails from Indiana where they call a spade a spade, where a man’s a man and the ladies like it.”
Clearly pleased with himself, he signed one of his letters, “J.D. Layton, Executive.”
By April, tales of his exciting job and trips to the theater were replaced with news of a citywide air raid test, and a story about a friend who received a phone call from her boyfriend stationed in San Diego. “I don’t think she has fully recovered as yet,” he wrote.
Signs of the war appear in his work files, as well. A letter from his employer, written “at the request of the United States Treasury Department,” advised him to set aside monthly contributions for the purchase of Defense Savings Bonds. In a company newsletter, the push continued, urging employees to do their “patriot’s duty.”
In May, he tried to ignore the war, enjoying his “luxurious” apartment and attending the horse races at Lincoln Fields. He tried to find happiness in his new life. But, he was surprised to find that it felt so lonely to him. After his quick rise to “Executive,” he signed an April letter, “J.D. Layton or to you – Joe.”
His homesickness is palpable.