This lovely photo was gifted to me by a photo collector from Canada. I could not have asked for a neater handwriting on the back. It says:
“Mary J. Beiler, Waterman, Ill., 1907”.
The photo was taken in Aurora, Illinois.
It didn’t take me long to come across a very well-researched family tree of the Beilers on Ancestry (Click HERE). And to my surprise, Mary’s profile shows the same image of her! Now I am curious if the original photo I have is a double, or if it belonged to the administrator of the profile and has now embarked on a journey around the world on its own. I hope to find that out!
So who was Mary and what do we know about her?
Mary Julia Beiler was born on June 18th, 1890, in Waterman, Illinois. Her parents Johann Gottlob Bühler and Johanna née Höschele were German immigrants who had come to the United States in 1882.
Mary’s parents had gotten married in Leonberg in Württemberg, Germany, in 1876. This is an image of the fairy tale town (Source: Wikipedia)
John Beiler was born as Johann Gottlob Bühler on February 2nd, 1848. He americanised his name to John Beiler upon his arrival in the United States and so the children went by that surname as well.
In the 1900 census of Clinton, Illinois, Mary’s mother Johanna is a widow, living with her three youngest daughters Martha (aged 16), Mary (aged 9) and Ruth (aged 6) in 5 East B Street in Waterman in Clinton township, Ill. Mary’s father John had passed away in 1893 at the age of just 45 years.
Father John had been a shoe repairman in Germany and he continued his profession in the United States as well. John’s profile on Ancestry (Click HERE for quote) says this about him:
“Mr. Beiler was determined to bring his family to America so his sons would not have to fight in the Army of Bismarck who was unifying Germany. Mr. Beiler, his wife, and three children Fred Gottleib, Carl Herman, and Anna Catherine left Germany on April 4, 1882 and landed in New York twenty days later. The family went to Hinkley, Il, where Mrs. Beiler had a cousin. They then settled in Compton, Il where Mr. Beiler operated a shoe repair shop. They later moved to Aurora, IL and in 1884 to Waterman, IL.”
Mary had altogether 6 siblings (and two more who had died as newborns). She was the second youngest of the bunch. Click HERE to see the family tree of the Beilers, listing all Mary’s siblings.
Mary married Melvin James Foster on March 12th, 1914, in Kane, Illinois. Melvin was a widower, 16 years Mary’s senior. Melvin had two children – Hazel Foster and George Foster – from his previous marriage, and together they had a daughter, Vera May Foster, who was born on August 5th, 1918.
According to the 1940 Census, Melvin and Mary were living at 300 West 9th Street in Hutchinson, Reno, in Kansas. Vera May was 21 years old and was living with her parents at the time. This might have been their house in 1940.
In the 1920 and 1930 Census, neither Melvin nor Mary is listed to hold a job title. But Melvin was a home owner, and according to the same census lists, lived mortgage free. From his WWI registration card I could gather that in 1918 he worked at Helm Electrical Co. in electrical repairing. Melvin was said to have been of medium height and of stout build at the time, he had hazel brown eyes and dark hair. I don’t know if he served in the WWI or was just drafted for reserves. He would have been in his 40s then.
Mary was widowed in May 1946 when Melvin passed away at the age of 72. Mary herself passed away in January 1985 at almost 94 years of age!
Mary’s daughter Vera May worked as a sales woman at a department store in 1940. She married Edward William Baker and they had two children whose names I’ve not been able to find out yet. Vera May passed away in October 2003 at the age of 85.
Hopefully I will be able to make contact with Mary’s descendents and return this photo, after its trip around the world!