Sunday, January 19, 2014

Number 50 - GG Uncle George W. Quackenbush

My next installment of "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" is GG Uncle George Willis Quackenbush. George was the elder brother of my great-grandfather, and he was quite the entrepreneur.  According to "Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Chenango County, N.Y." he was born February 24, 1876.   Much about the rest of the article is definitely fictitious, so I take that date with a grain of salt.  I think it is much more likely that he was born in 1878, but that would have made him pretty young for the biographical publication in 1898, so my guess is he fudged his age a bit and while he was at it, the rest of the article as well.

His upbringing was certainly tumultuous, at the age of six, his father was arrested for shooting his mother (a story for another week) and by the 1892 New York State Census, his parents no longer lived together.

At some point between 1892 and 1897, he left Cayuga County, New York and moved to Oxford, New York.  A distance of about 80 miles.  Why did he pick there?  There is no family connection that I am aware of in this part of the state.  Maybe he wanted it that way.  He is listed in "Oxford Historical Souvenir" of November 1897, as proprietor of the bakery and a member of the fire department.  The entire department is pictured, George is number 43, alphabetically:

George's younger sister, Grace is working at the bakery at this time as well.

George's bakery business is growing.  By 1908, it has become a bakery and a bookstore:
I believe the other two in the photo are my great-grandparents, Ella (Baird) and Alfred Quackenbush.

In 1909, scandal erupts around George.  A young female employee of the bakery attempts suicide by drinking carbolic acid!
This was taken from a half-page spread on the story in the Syracuse Herald, eighty miles away!  Newspaper accounts differ to the relationship between George and Julia, some say they were engaged, some say they were not.  I couldn't find any resolution to the story, although has an undocumented member tree that shows Julia married to a different person a year later.

Despite this setback, the bakery must be doing well, by the 1910 census, George is shown owning his own, unmortgaged home.  My great grandparents are not shown in Oxford in 1910, but they must have returned soon, there is another photo in front of the bakery and bookstore:
My grandmother's curly handwriting on the back says this is 1911 and she is three years old.  George is certainly dressed like a businessman in this photo.

At some point around this time, George takes up photography!  He takes many landscape and building photos in the Oxford area and has them made into postcards.  They are easily found on Ebay.  He also takes photos of the family!
This is my grandmother, date unknown, but George's mark is clearly visible in the bottom corner.  I do not know if all the photos I have were taken by George, or if his brother took up photography as well.  Many of them do not have George's mark like this.  An aside: my mother told me that when my great-grandfather died (1961), there were hundreds of glass plate negatives in his apartment, and a great deal of them were ladies "en deshabille" and my mother was instructed to break them and throw them away.  Argh!

George decided to expand his business holdings and either bought or opened a Nash dealership by 1918. (Amazing coincidence, since my husband's grandfather also owned a Nash dealership.)  Here is an ad from the Syracuse New York Daily Journal:
George's garage is listed in the right-hand column at the bottom.

Something happened between 1920 and 1925.  On the 1925 New York State Census, George has sold his home and moved into a rented place and has a new job, simply listed as "garage" with no mention of car dealer.  My great-grandparents have moved back to Cayuga county at that point.  In 1930 he is listed as a mechanic in "own garage", and in 1940 he is listed as proprietor of the garage.  

George died, unmarried, as far as I know.  He is listed as buried in the Weedsport (New York) Rural Cemetery.  This list says "his wife" is near him, but I can find no record of a wife.  His sister and brother are both buried there as well. 

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