Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fearless Females - {Birthday Edition}: Lydia Herr Roehm Murphy - Born March 20th - Part 1

A special lady in our family was born on this day; the matriarch of our family, shall we say. So many people have always had such wonderful things to say about Lydia. She has been remembered fondly by many family members and friends alike, and boy, did she have friends! She was truly someone special, she gave of herself in so many ways and was very generous of her time and monetary donations to those in need.

Lydia Herr (she did not have a middle name), was born on an early Spring day on March 20th, 1896. She was a first generation American in her family, as both of her parents who were of German descent, came to America from Russia in their youth.

Her parents were said to have met at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, as seen below:

At the moment, there is no record of their marriage, however, they were married sometime between their meeting and Lydia's conception, probably sometime in mid-1895.

Jacob and Christina Herr had their first born in Ashely, North Dakota, just a few miles from where they'd end up making a permanent home in Wishek.

When Lydia was born, she was jaundice. Someone thought quick on their feet and put her inside their kitchen oven. Lydia survived!

Here is a picture of baby Lydia, the oldest known picture we have of her and her parents, from circa 1897:

Even though we are not 100% sure if putting Lydia inside the oven would have been the cause of this for her, but she had poor eyesight her whole life, and began wearing glasses at a very early age.

Lydia grew up on the family farm in Wishek with her siblings, helping out on many of the chores, such as milking the cows, feeding the chickens and many other household duties. She also made time for school, but only graduating from the 8th grade.

Here's a few photos to capture these moments:

Lydia (back middle), with Martha, Sophie and baby brother Arthur, circa 1904.

Lydia grew up in this home in Ashley, ND. When she was around 8 or so, she daringly climbed up the windmill all the way to the top. I have a feeling she got in trouble for doing so!

Lydia (on right) with a friend, Summer of 1914

Lydia with her cousin, Donald Herr, circa 1914

Lydia working outside, doing laundry and farm work, circa 1914-1915

Lydia only stood 4'11'' and had hazel eyes with light brown hair. 

Lydia was a photographer and developed her own photos in her own darkroom. One postcard I found verifies this info, as the sender of the card asked how Lydia's photography was going. And, one obvious piece of evidence is the amount of photographs she kept and took! The little Brownie camera must have inspired her! 

She was also a master seamstress, working not only on her own clothes, but also her siblings and later her children's and husbands. She would often ask her family what they'd like to have sewn, and she'd make it special for them. 

Lydia started working at her father's mercantile store in town, which was a large store that carried everything from clothing to eggs. It even had a soda fountain! Lydia worked in the dry goods section, often dealing with materials and sewing items. She worked mainly as the seamstress and became friends with many  people in town. She was friends with Lucy Roehm, who came from a family of Germans who were from Northern Germany and immigrated out of Berlin. 

Lucy had an older brother named George, who became acquainted with Lydia, most likely during this time. Lydia and George went to dances together and Lodge meetings. Somewhere along the way, they must have become smitten with one another, because on December 25th, 1914, they were married. There were rumors that some boys were after Lydia because she came from a wealthier family than others in town (mostly due to her father owning part of the Herr Mercantile Store). 

George was a tall, dark and handsome man, with blue eyes and dark brown hair, with a nice tan. His rugged good looks complimented Lydia's softer, lighter features.

Here are a few photos of them during their courtship and after their marriage.

George after a day's hunt, Wishek, ND, circa 1914.

George and Lydia on far left, with friends and family (they look like they are Roehms)

George taking a break while building, circa 1914.

George bailing hay, circa 1914 (I think Lydia took these photos of him because she was truly in love with him and wanted to have something to remember him by - if it were not for her, we may not have many younger photos of either one of them)

George and Lydia in center, with friends in woods, circa 1914

Lydia and George on their wedding day, December 25th, 1914. Lydia designed and made her own wedding gown. 

Shortly after their marriage, George worked hard and quickly to get a home built for them; one that would provide in creating a family and a place of rest. And, that family started quickly - George and Lydia had their first born daughter, Doris, in September of 1915.

 Lydia taking down the frozen laundry outside. She would often do this and then take it in and let it dry on a rope during the winter, circa Winter of 1914-1915. George wrote on the back of this photo, saying he took it and caught her by surprise. I thought that was kind of cute that he did that.

Lydia & Doris, about 1916

Martha Herr Werre, George Roehm and baby Doris Roehm, on a boat, circa Winter of 1915/1916.

Doris Roehm and Joyce Roehm, circa 1918 (I think Lydia was pregnant with her daughter Izetta, based on her stance and the shape of her dress)

George and Lydia would have a total of seven children: Doris, Joyce, Izetta, George Jr, Alwin, Annette and James, the last being born in 1942.

During the latter half of the 1910's, America was facing a World War. George was drafted, however, he was able to get out of the draft, due to being the sole supporter of his growing family. His brothers, though, all served. 

During the 1920's, the family prospered and continued to grow, however, at the end of 1929, George and Lydia, like all Americans, could not avoid the effects of the Great Depression. Even Lydia's inheritance from her father's death in 1926, could only last them so long. However, Lydia's philanthropic side used her money to help put George's sister, Lucy, through nursing school.

At the beginning of 1929, came the birth of their last daughter, Annette (my grandmother). Annette would be their last born child for 13 years, until James "Jimmy" Roehm was born in 1942.

During the Great Depression, the family scraped on by, but work seemed to finally have ran out for George by the time 1942 came around. He had been a superintendent on building the Wishek Civic Auditorium for the WPA, but that wasn't enough to get them through the end of the Depression, especially in a town that was not quite growing at the momentum that America's larger cities were growing. 

Like many did during the Depression and during the onset of World War II, the Roehms went west to California. Both of their sons were of age to be drafted. Alwin was drafted very much right out of  graduating High School in 1942. George Jr was 21 when he was drafted. Alwin went to California to work for a bit and possibly train. During this time, he sent money home to help prepare the family to come to California. Finally the time came. Lydia had most of their belongings put on a train and sent to California. They then drove to California and lived temporarily with their older daughter, Izetta, until their home was done being built in Richmond. Sometime in 1943, the family had a new home in a new neighborhood in Richmond, CA. 

Richmond was one of the main hubs of ship building during World War II. The Kaiser shipyards are where George took up helping build the many ships that they produced. "Rosie the Riveter" was a famous term for the women who also worked in these ship yards.

Here are a few photos of the family slightly prior and after their move to California:

George Jr, George Sr, Annette and Lydia, circa 1940. Not too many years away from leaving the only home they knew to the sunny shores of California for a new beginning.

Making it in California, Lydia and George's children have grown up and began families of their own - Alwin, Joyce and Doris with father George, circa 1944.

Ross Sr, unknown, George Roehm and his brother Richard Roehm, who was a chemist in Anaheim, CA.

Joyce Wolf, Doris Thvedt, Izetta Purviance with Cheryl Thvedt - George Sr is holding Ross Purviance, Jr.

California must have felt a million miles away for Lydia and George, but they adapted fairly easily to the beautiful, mild weather of the Bay Area, making a home in the San Francisco  -East Bay Area.

The second part of Lydia's life only gets better. Her life is too interesting to keep it all contained in one post - so I will resume the second half on the anniversary of her actual birthday, March 20th.

Source: Visit Lisa Alzo's great blog, which is the source for the Fearless Female blog prompt,