Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Workday Wednesday - Carl Stohn, Jr., Chicago Producer and Director

While going through some pictures, I found this picture of my parents with Carl Stohn, Jr. (far right) a man who should be a Chicago legend. Sadly, he is not. This blog post is my feeble attempt to write something about this great man who I remember fondly. Carl Stohn, Jr. was born in Canada but moved to Chicago sometime before 1950. When my father first introduced me to Mr. Stone, I was a young girl, probably around 1968. For the next 10 years I would meet with and talk to Mr. Stohn. My father ran a business that provided seminars (and an annual conference) to electronic engineers. The seminars lasted a week and were arranged by my father four times a year. When my father moved his offices from Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago to the suburb of Oak Brook, he began hosting the seminars at Pheasant Run Inn located in St. Charles, Illinois. It was here my father met Carl Stohn, Jr. who produced and directed plays at the theater in Pheasant Run. The theater was a new concept - dinner theater. During his career in Chicago, he directed many of the great screen legends in popular plays of the day.
By 1950 he was already a well known producer and at that time also acted. During this time he produced plays for the only winter stock company outside of the New York area. When Carl Stohn joined forces with Tony DeSantis to produce and direct plays at Drury Lane Theater in Evergreen Park, the concept of dinner theater was new. Mr. Stohn was an innovator in the industry. When Pheasant Run opened their dinner theater they recruited Carl Stohn to produce and direct their plays. He had a reputation in the industry and was able to attract many big name stars to perform in his plays. Pheasant Run Dinner Theater was set up like a restaurant on multiple levels with a stage in the front. Patrons would enjoy a full course meal followed by good entertainment. He was well spoken, witty and a very sharp dresser. He was a class act. He also liked a bit of flash and always wore stunning jeweled cuff links and several diamond rings.
On August 21, 1980 Carl Stohn, Jr. was brutally assaulted, mugged and shot in the head. Several south side gang members were put on trial for his murder. It is ironic his death occurred around the same time as the decline in popularity of dinner theater. Although he seems to have been forgotten by most, I will always remember him.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mystery Monday - Genie Hooten/Davis Smith

I have begun working on my biological family tree. After over 2 months of visiting my brother and sister every week and I feel I know them better, it is time to put on my genealogy hat and begin asking questions. The Huffman family is fairly well documented as far as anyone born Huffman is concerned. There is an amazing website called Huffmans To The Barrens that includes many sourced documents and photos. Of course, I am looking for my own sources and verifying as I move up the tree, but my Huffmans (yes, I have more than 1 line) have been made easy for me. To make things even easier, Family Search has many records for Barren County, Kentucky available online. So last week, I was in Vermilion County visiting my new family and the time has come to begin asking questions. My grandmother was Mary Elizabeth Smith. It is her mother that is the big mystery and the subject of today's blog post. Her name was Genie (Hooten) Smith and she was adopted into a family by the name of Davis as a baby or young child. I doubt she was legally adopted since all family references to her include the name Hooten, not Davis.
Genie was born on October 15, 1887 somewhere in Texas. According to the 1900 census, she is living in Hiseville, Barren County, Kentucky as the adopted daughter of Benjamin K. Davis (aged 62) and his wife Martha. Genie is the youngest member of the household at the age of 11. Also living in the home are the other children of Benjamin and Martha:
  • William K. Davis, age 30
  • Charley B. Davis, age 25
  • Philip Walthall, age 25 (husband of Bessie)
  • Bessie M. Walthall, age 23 (daughter of Benjamin and Martha)
  • Myrtie M. Davis, age 19
According to this census Genie's mother was born in Texas also. The Davis family were all born in Kentucky except for Benjamin who was born in Illinois (although his parents were Kentucky born). So, how did Genie end up with this family? How did she come to arrive in Kentucky from Texas? Hiseville, Kentucky is 982 miles from the Texas border and back in the 1890's it would have been a journey that took weeks to arrive from Texas to Hiseville. As I examined this census record, I noticed others in the household that were not listed as family. A man named Hartfield Wood, age 26 was listed as "black" and a laborer. I assume he worked on the farm. Laura Wilson age 54 and Louisa A. Davis, age 82 are listed as boarders.
As I followed the Davis family forward in time through the census records, things get a bit more interesting. Philip and Bessie Walthall end up living in Texas so there may be some sort of family tie to Texas. I will have to pursue this.
So, the next logical step was to obtain a copy of Genie's death record. So during my recent visit with family, my brother and I went to the Vermilion County Courthouse in the hopes of finding Genie's death record. We filled out the form, paid the fee and read the record. It stated her father's name as James Hooten. Great, verification of her father's name! However, it listed her mother's name as unknown and her place of birth as unknown, Texas. Not much help there. Texas is a huge state and there were many men named James Hooten there, so, I now officially have my first brick wall of my biological family tree. I believe Genie had no idea who her mother was. I believe she was adopted because her mother died shortly after her birth. I am just guessing here but it makes sense that is why her father's name was known and her mother's name was not. If this is true, her marriage record may read the same way - mother unknown. Regardless, my next step is to find the marriage record of Genie Hooten or Genie Davis to Elon E. Smith in Kentucky. I also need to find out if any records of adoption exist for Genie and the family who raised her, Benjamin and Elizabeth Davis. As I said before, I doubt they adopted her because family photographs and her death record refer to her as Genie Hooten, not Genie Davis. In the meantime, I am keeping a watchful eye on anyone named Hooten in Texas. It is interesting to note that Genie's father's name was known but her mother's name was unknown. How did Genie know her father's name? Is it possible she knew him? I can relate to Genie, although our circumstances were very different, she was adopted, just like I was. I find this the perfect first brick wall of my biological family and am very excited to see what I can find on my 2nd great grandmother and her family.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Follow Friday - Google Cultural Institute

For those of you who have never seen Google's Cultural Institute, it is a must see. It presents history from the 20th century in a unique and personal manner. It begins in 1905 with a section called Imperial Exposures which tells the story of Asian rulers in 1905 with stunning pictures. For me the most interesting sections are the sections regarding the Holocaust during World War II. The sections called 1941 They Were Children about the Jewish children of Paris that were deported and rescued is an amazing story which is illustrated with words, photos and documents. When viewing this site you may need to keep tissues handy. I have read many of the stories which are presented beautifully and read a new one each day. It is well worth a look. You can view the homepage for The Google Cultural Institute here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Funeral Card Friday - Catherine Napolitano And The Cappetta Funeral Home

This is one of two funeral cards I have for my grandmother whom I was named after. Catherina Maiuolo (Maiola) Napolitano died on 5 October 1958. Every Sunday we visited her grave and I still find it a bit strange to see my own name on her headstone. I don't remember her but she has lived in my heart from family stories. Still, it has always made me sad that I never really knew my Nonna. She is buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois and from her grave you can see the grave of her sister Mary Sapone and her brother Frank.
If you look on the back of the funeral card, you will see the name of The Cappetta Funeral Home. The Cappetta family has buried every generation of my family since they arrived here from Italy. My great grandmother Natalina Scrugli Maiuolo died on 11 September 1932 in Cicero, Illinois. A few blocks away from the family home at 1232 South 59th Avenue was the Cappetta Funeral Home. Anthony Cappetta was the funeral director at the time. His son, also named Anthony handled the funeral of my niece and my mother as well as so many other members of my family. His son Anthony has joined the family business and one day (hopefully a long time from now) will handle my funeral. Soon I will follow up with a series of blog posts about Cicero, Illinois and hopefully include a post on the Cappetta family.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Motivation Monday - Time to Reorganize

The past 2 months I have totally set aside my personal genealogical pursuits to become acquainted and comfortable with my new found family. I have seen my brother and sister every week since our first meeting and we talk on the phone in between visits. Until now we have just gotten to know each other. Now, I have decided, the time has come to learn more. The fact is I have missed 53 years of my brother's life and all of my sister's life. They grew up in a small southern influenced town and I grew up in and around Chicago. We had very different lives and influences. It will take so much time to catch up but I have formulated a plan for us to learn about what we have missed and hopefully make it fun.
Now with these additional family lines to pursue, I find the need to really organize myself and prioritize a list for each family line before I become totally unorganized and overwhelmed. My websites are all in great need of my attention as well. It has been quite some time since I have made any updates or added records and information. I have had extractions and several years of marriages for Montalto Uffugo, Italy to put online, but have not done so. In all honesty, I have been distracted by many things going on in my life. The time has come for me to get it together. With my new found Huffman family, I need to do what I do with my family - put my research online. I have decided to revamp my website Early American Ancestors to add my Huffman family lines. Most of this family's lines date back to the 1730's or much earlier in the United States so this site would seem an appropriate place for them. So as I prepare to write the story of the Huffman and Smith lines it has occurred to me I am at both a great advantage and disadvantage. The disadvantage is I did not grow up hearing the old family stories. I did not even know my grandparents, or my biological mother. I have no personal memories of any of them and never will. I have seen many pictures. Some of those pictures tell their own story. And that is part of my advantage. I am forced to look harder and think deeper with each picture and story I hear. This family has deep southern roots and my brother and sister both have memories in Kentucky and family that stayed there. I have taken nothing for granted and have fresh eyes. Little things no one normally would think much of have been huge for me. So now that I have gotten to know my brother and sister more, it is time to begin asking questions, gathering stories and of course, getting more pictures. First on my agenda for the Huffman and Smith families is to gather information from everyone I can and learn the stories that have been passed down, try to document these stories and if possible, prove them. Once that is done, I can begin putting them and their stories on my website for future generations and other family members. It is a huge task that will take a lot of time, but since I have learned from past mistakes, I am hoping to document this family well. I am hoping to split my website Early American Ancestors by northern regions and southern regions to accommodate my 2 family lines. Which reminds me of how incomplete that site is. I also need to work hard on adding town and surname information to my New England families there. This entire website needs to be worked on before I can add my biological families.

As I look at the Huffman family I realize some of the things I took for granted with my Napolitano and Dewey families. My parents loved to tell tales of the past and although some of those stories I was curious about and I actively researched, many other stories I took for granted and did nothing with them. Some stories you just cannot research, but I realize now that most of those stories I have not documented anywhere. It now occurs to me that it is long overdue that I write these stories as soon as possible to preserve them for future generations. Once I do that, I need to compile all my documents, photographs and GEDCOM files and send them to my cousins or their children on flash drives.

Lastly, I need to look at all my websites and update them. I have complete years of records I never extracted to put online to share for Cosenza Exchange. I also have records I extracted but never put the extractions online. With so much to do, I have decided to create a schedule for each website to help me stay on task with reasonable deadlines that it is manageable and not overwhelming. My goals will be to work on each website once a week. Because I have so much going on in my personal life now, I will try for now but begin in earnest January first. It will be an exciting new year for me!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Talented Tuesday - Mattia Preti of Taverna, Cosenza, Calabria

Mattia Preti was born in the Cosenza Province Comune of Taverna on 24 February 1613. Both Mattia and his brother Gregorio had a passion for art early in life and sometime before 1630 Mattia followed his brother Gregorio from his small town of Taverna for Roma to pursue his dreams. While in Roma, Mattia studied art and was greatly influenced by the art of the great master Caravaggio. Both Mattia and his brother Gregorio studied at Accademia di San Luca while in Roma. It was in Roma, Mattia's artist abilities began to blossom. Mattia sold his first painting here also. Between 1640 and 1646 Mattia made several trips to Florence after which he returned to Roma.
In 1656 Mattia left Florence for Naples where he stayed until 1659. He studied here under Luca Giordano (1634-1705). While in Naples, what was considered to be among Mattia's greatest masterpieces were painted. They were are series of frescos painted on the seven city gates depicting the plague. Painted throughout these frescos were images of the Blessed Mother and saints delivering people from the plague. Time has destroyed these frescos, however, some of Mattia's sketches have survived and can be seen today in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.
Mattia was often called "Il Cavalier Calabrese" (The Knight of Calabria) which was a reference to his place of birth. During his time in Naples, he was made a Knight of Grace in the Order of St. John. This order was headquartered in Malta so in 1659 Mattia left to visit there. He never left Malta. While in Malta in 1661 Mattia was commissioned to paint a new altarpiece for the chapel of the Aragonese Langue by Grand Master Martin de Redin. After that was completed more commissions followed. His work adorns the Cathedral of St. John. His work there would not complete until 1666. The result was stunning and these wonderful masterpieces can still be seen there today. If you cannot afford to travel to Malta to view his amazing work, you can view these stunning masterpieces at the official website of St. John's Co Cathedral.. Mattia Preti died in Malta on 3 January 1699 and is buried in the same chapel at St. John's that bears his greatest surviving art.
Most of Mattia Preti's art survives today in some of the world's greatest museums. The Lourve in Paris holds at least 15 works. The National Gallery in London hosts his painting The Marriage At Cana. Further works can be seen in art galleries and museums throughout the United States, Canada, Italy as well as Copenhagen, Romania, Madrid, France, St. Petersburg, Russia, Australia, and Vienna. His portrait of a Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, Martin de Redin done in 1660 can been seen in Chicago's Art Institute. It was Martin de Redin who commissioned Preti to paint the alter at The Cathedral of St. John in Malta. This beautiful art can still be viewed there. A list of museums that hold Preti masterpieces can be viewed at Art Encyclopedia with links to images of his art on the museum websites.
If you are interested in other artists born in Calabria, you can view a previous blog post about Giuseppe Naso of Tropea here.