return to Home Page
Brick Walls

DNA Project


Michael S. Cole, M.D.

Known Facts About
William John COLE
and his close relatives

Until 4 July 2000 we couldn't find any proof of William's existence on planet Earth before the 1930's.
With the assistance of a professional genealogist, his missing history was filled in with a great deal of new information, which was posted to this Web site as it became available.

    My great-grandfather, John Wenzl TUMA, was born in 1848 in Úsilov, Neugedein District, Plzen Region, Bohemia (now in western Czech Republic). Very soon after his father's death in 1871, he came to America. (He is very likely on the ship passenger list as Johan THUMA, age 24, male, occupation Tischler [a type of carpenter], nationality Neigedeind [then an area in Austria], last permanent residence Wien [Vienna, Austria], destination Michigan, ship Laura and Gertrude, arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, on 31 July 1871.)

    My great-grandmother, Katerina (called "Katie") SVOBODA was born on 7 November 1852 at Nem Kynice, M Budejovice Znojmo, Moravia, presently in the Czech Republic just north of the Austrian border. At 19 years of age, she came to America with her parents aboard the ship SS Berlin, arriving in Baltimore, Maryland, on 21 May 1872. Find out why the Czechs came to America. Learn about the ancestry of Katie (SVOBODA) TUMA.

    John and Katie were married at Omaha, Nebraska, on 18 May 1874. John, age 26, was the son of John THUMA and Anna SPERL. Katie, age 21, was the daughter of Anton SVOBODA and Kate ANDEL. (Douglas County, Nebraska, Marriage Book 5, p. 405.)

    John's brother, Joseph (Joe) T(H)UMA, who was born in April 1845, married at Fremont, Nebraska, on 14 September 1881 to 27-year-old Anna OFF from Germany. She was the daughter of Marx and Christiana (ROGEMOER) OFF. (Dodge County, Nebraska, Marriage Book 3, p. 426.)

    After renouncing his former allegiance to the Emperor of Austria, my great-grandpa John TUMA became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America on 8 April 1880 in Dodge County, Nebraska. (Dodge Co., NE, Naturalization Record--Second Papers, Volume 1, p. 124.)

    The earliest record we have found of my grandfather, William John COLE, is the census of 1880, where he was listed as four-year-old John THUMA. In 1880 his family was living in Colfax County, Nebraska.

U.S. Census, 22 June 1880
Maple Creek Precinct, Colfax Co., NE, page 201B, dwelling #16
THUMA, John   33 M   Farmer   Bohemia    Bavaria   Bohemia
   Katie      29 F   wife     Moravia    Moravia   Moravia
   Josephine   6 F   dau.     Nebraska   Bohemia   Moravia
   John        4 M   son      Nebraska   Bohemia   Moravia
   Emma        2 F   dau.     Nebraska   Bohemia   Moravia
   Joseph      1 M   son      Nebraska   Bohemia   Moravia
   Frank   2 wks M   son      Nebraska   Bohemia   Moravia

    In 1893 the TUMA family moved from Dodge County, Nebraska, to Valley County, Nebraska, where John purchased 219 acres in Elyria Township in the southwest quarter of Section 14 and Lots 3 and 4 of Section 23 in Township 20, Range 15, on 3 August 1893 for $4,500. (Valley Co., NE, Warranty Deed Book 15, p. 618.) This land was transferred to Katie on 28 March 1898, when they officially separated as a married couple. (Valley Co., NE, Warranty Deed Book 9, p. 205.) drawing

    William drew this horse and snake with pen and ink on parchment in the late 1890's. A full page view of this art work is available here.

    The City Directory of 1896-1897 for Fremont, Nebraska, listed:

TUMA W J, student   Normal School.

    W. J. TUMA and his sister Emma, both living at Elyria, Valley County, Nebraska, were among those listed in The Ord Journal, 10 Sep 1897, as actively teaching school in Valley County (though Emma is shown to be with the Garfield County school district). In The Ord Journal of 19 Nov 1897, the local Elyria news reported, "Will TUMA the Longwood teacher came home Friday evening on his wheel to visit with folks and friends, returning Sunday afternoon." (Longwood was in Custer County, about 20 miles west of Elyria in Valley County.)

    In The Ord Journal on 12 November 1897 appeared this letter:

No Corruption
    I propose to put a few facts before
the republicans of Elyria township.
My republican friends and believers
of corruption in the above named
township, I want you to bear in mind
that hereafter I do not propose to
have my name used in connection
with the republican party for any
office whatever as had been done in
the late election. If, however, I
should ever aspire to an office I will
desire to be put there by an honest
liberty loving party. If you have
not men enough in your ranks to be
placed upon the ballot, it is time for
you to go out of business. You
have done more injustice to me by
the use of my name on the ballots
for the above named office than the
battle of Waterloo had done to Na-
poleon. "To my dying day I will
oppose with all the powers and fac-
ulties God has given me, all such in-
struments of slavery on the one hand
and villany on the other."
            Yours truly,
                        W. J. TUMA

    Likely as a reaction to the above letter, and confusing father and son, someone published at the top of the second column on the front page of the Valley County Times, 19 November 1897, the following:

John Tuma, a man from "Elery,"
Has a very bad case of "hystery."
      He for constable run, got beaten
            like fun,
And politics now makes him weary.
    In the 3 December 1897 issue of The Ord Journal, the editor wrote, "John Tuma came into our office this week and called our attention to a little squib supposed to be written in verse which appeared in the Times on the 19, in which Mr. Tuma is made the butt of ridicule. Mr. Tuma said he had never damaged the Times nor run for office and could see no reason why his name should be used as it was. Mr. Tuma is a gentleman and minds his own business and it is somewhat of a connundrum why his name was thus used."

    William was engaged to be married in 1897 to Miss Annie SMEAL. She was born 23 May 1878, the daughter of Catholic parents, Jacob and Anna (CHICORSKA) SMEAL (originally CHMELL). Annie appeared as 2-year-old "Hannah" on the census of 3 June 1880 at Webster Precinct, Dodge Co., Nebraska. Annie was likely the "intimate friend" who traveled with William to Burwell, Garfield Co., Nebraska, on 7 August 1897. (The Ord Journal, 13 Aug 1897.) While in Ord, William received word from Fremont that his fianceé died on 3 December 1897. (The Ord Journal, 7 Jan 1898.) He went to St. Paul, Nebraska, on 3 October 1898 to erect a monument over her remains. (The Ord Semi-Weekly Journal, 8 Oct 1898.)

    On 6 May 1898 The Ord Semi-Weekly Journal reported in the Elyria community news column, "W. J. Tuma purchased Webster's unabridged dictionary, that is a very handsome addition to his library."

    We learn from The Ord Semi-Weekly Journal on 1 July 1898 that "W. J. Tuma purchased two lots in Ord of W. D. Coon."

    The Ord Journal of 28 January 1898 had reported that "W. J. Tuma came home [to Elyria] Saturday morning and went to Ord to have his eyes treated." Then, in The Ord Semi-Weekly Journal on 29 July 1898, we can read, "Will Tuma is in a bad condition his eyes are so weak that he is nearly unable to do his work."

    On 5 August 1898 The Ord Semi-Weekly Journal reported, "W. J. Tuma is selling a war book entitled 'America's war for humanity.' He is meeting with success." (This must be the book about Cuba's struggle for liberty and the Spanish-American War by John H. Ingalls, America's War for Humanity. New York: N. D. Thompson Publishing Company, 1898.)

    We can read in the "Around Elyria" section of the 8 October 1898 issue of The Ord Semi-Weekly Journal, "The peoples party held at Elyria Monday expressed great deal of patriotism ..." with W. J. TUMA listed among those "chosen delegates to the county convention." The same newspaper on 29 October 1898 reported, "The people had the pleasure of seeing some of our candidates for office Tuesday evening. Speeches were made by W. J. Tuma, Hon. C. A Munn and I. S. Fretz. The speaking was of the very best kind and the speakers were enthusiastically cheered."

    The Ord Semi-Weekly Journal of 7 December 1898 in the "Educational Column" reported that W. J. Tuma "began a winter term of school in Custer county Monday." The same newspaper recorded on 21 March 1899, "W. J. Tuma last Friday closed a very successful school at Longwood. Will says he will put in the spring and summer at home near Elyria."

    "William Tuma caught a runaway team hitched to a buggy with a lady in it last Sunday evening while on his way north to see about some threshing. William got badly hurt but stopped the horses just in time to prevent them from plunging down a terrible hill, which meant certain death to the occupant of the buggy." (The Ord Weekly Journal, 3 Aug 1899.)

    William and his brother Joe owned and operated a threshing machine beginning in mid-July 1899. On 9 November 1899 The Ord Weekly Journal reported, "Wm. Tuma commenced [teaching] a term of school in district 49 Monday. He thinks that will be better than threshing grain."

    On 1 February 1900 The Ord Weekly Journal reported, "W. J. Tuma, who is teaching in District 49, turned loose on the people of that district and compelled obedience to the compulsory attendance law. His decided action has secured good attendance at school and is highly commended by the board. Mr. Tuma likes his school, but he says, 'I have only one drawback, the lack of books. I am the teacher and books also.' The writer hopes that the district will wake up and get more books. It is for their interest."

    On 17 April 1900 at York, Nebraska, William John TUMA (age 23 of Ord, Nebraska) married Miss Inez PARKHURST (age 19 of York, Nebraska). The marriage record indicates that William was born at Fremont, Nebraska, the son of John TUMA and Katie SVOBODA. Inez was born at Ravenna, Nebraska, the daughter of Frank PARKHURST and Eliza FISHER. William and Inez were married by Orien W. FIFER, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. View a copy of their marriage license. (York County, NE, Marriage Book E, page 686.)

    The York, Nebraska, newspaper indicated that William and Inez were married in the Methodist parsonage at 11 a.m. on 17 April 1900 and went to their home in Ord, Nebraska, the same day. It was reported on the front page of The Ord Weekly Journal on Thursday, 19 April 1900, that the newlyweds went immediately to Ord where the groom was well known. He had finished teaching school the previous week. (The same issue of Ord's newspaper reported that Mrs. John TUMA was injured on 12 April 1900 at nearby Elyria, Nebraska, when the cellar steps gave way.)

    William's marriage license contains the earliest record we have of his signature. Samples of the signatures of William TUMA, William COLEMAN, and William COLE are available for comparison. His unique "W" helps to confirm that the same man signed each name.

    The Ord Weekly Journal reported that W. J. TUMA and wife of Ord took the passenger train to Elyria, Nebraska, on Friday evening, 4 May 1900, and returned on Saturday morning. Perhaps this overnight trip was for the purpose of introducing Inez to William's mother, Katie, and brother, Joe, who were living at Elyria, 7 miles northwest of Ord. In the same issue of the newspaper was a brief report that Mrs. John TUMA was recovering from her accident. This suggests that the visit was (also) for the purpose of checking on Katie's recovery.

    The following family appeared on the 1900 census of Elyria Township in Valley County, Nebraska: Joe TUMA, born in March 1878 in Nebraska, a farmer who owned his farm; his father was born in Germany and his mother in Bohemia. Joe's mother, Kathie TUMA, born in November 1848 in Bohemia, divorced, mother of 6 children, 5 living in 1900; immigrated to the United States in 1869; both her parents were born in Bohemia. Anne SAVOLK, a widow, born in July 1872 in Nebraska, was working as a servant in their home; both her parents were born in Bohemia. (Joseph/Joe TUMA also appears on the census records of 1910 and 1920 in Valley Co., NE, with wife Anna and children. Joe died in 1921 and was buried at Cottonwood Cemetery at Burwell, Garfield Co., NE.)

    William's father, John TUMA, can be found on the 1900 census in Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, living at 1107 Marcy Street. The record shows that he was born in Germany in September 1848 and came to America in 1871. A cabinet maker, John was boarding with Tony SANK, a 28-year-old widower from Bohemia.

    On 5 June 1900 William and Inez were living on Central Avenue (now 15th Street) in Ord, Valley County, Nebraska. Recorded on page 170B of the 1900 census at dwelling number 85, we find William J. TUMA, white male, age 23, born in September 1876 in Nebraska. It was recorded that his father was born in Germany and his mother in Bohemia. The census listed William as a school teacher who had been unemployed 3 months. His wife on the census was Inez, white female, age 19, born in October 1880 in Nebraska. Her parents were both born in Indiana. Enumerated as married for less than 1 year, William and Inez were living in a rented house.

    The Ord Weekly Journal of 14 June 1900 reported that William J. TUMA was among those enrolled in the Teacher's Institute held at Ord.

    According to the 28 June 1900 issue of The Ord Weekly Journal, William and Inez went on Thursday evening, 21 June 1900, to spend a few days with his family at Elyria, hoping that the "country life" would help Inez's sickness.

    The Ord Weekly Journal reported on 12 July 1900 that W. J. TUMA was working at Elyria and returned to Ord with his wife after she came up. One week later the newspaper reported that the William TUMAs had moved their home into the Harris building north of a lumbar yard in Ord.

    W. J. TUMA and wife next appeared in The Ord Weekly Journal on 16 August 1900, where we learn that they came down from Elyria on Saturday morning, 11 August, to pack up their household goods to be stored until they go to Washington state in the fall. In the meantime, Inez would be staying with her mother-in-law near Elyria while William was working with a threshing outfit.

    On 20 Sep 1900 The Ord Journal reported that William and wife "left Monday morning [17 September] for Chelan, Washington, at which place he has secured a school for the winter. Mr. TUMA has a brother-in-law [Joe Mishka] residing there and if he likes the country will probably remain a while." The Ord Journal of 23 August 1900 reported that his teaching job in Washington state would pay $45 per month.

    William and Inez's daughter, Elsie, was born on 2 January 1903 at Kearney in Buffalo County, Nebraska. By November 1904 they were living in Colorado Springs, still using the TUMA surname. Found among the probate papers of Katie TUMA was the following typed letter, presented to the court as evidence of the last letter which William wrote to his mother. (Probate docket file 233 in the office of the County Judge of Garfield County, Nebraska.)

516 East Columbia Street,
Colorado Springs, Colorado,
November 2, 19o4.

My dear Mother:-
            I will write you a short letter to let you know how we are getting along, and also send you a kodak picture of Inez and Elsie that I took about three weeks ago among the rocks. We had Elsie's pictures taken sometime ago. I think they will be pretty good and when they are finished I will send you one. Inez has been pretty sick for three weeks. Day before, and yesterday she was very bad, but she is much better this evening, she was able to get up and eat supper with us at the table. Inez said she would like to see you and have you see Elsie. Elsie is twenty two months old today, she talks a good deal now. Can't tell you yet when we will leave here, but we hope to get away some time in the next six months.
I hope you are all well and getting along very nicely.
Love to you and best wishes to all the rest, good bye. You can look for another letter in about two weeks, and the picture too.
From your son,

W. J. Tuma

    Listed in the 1902 City Directory of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was:

TUMA Wm J, carp, res 315 E Las Vegas   (Mrs. Inez)

    The City Directory of May 1903 in Colorado Springs listed:

TUMA William J   carp   res 1002 S. Weber   (Mrs. Inez)

    The Colorado Springs City Directory of 1904-1905 shows:

TUMA Wm J, Contractor and Builder, 444 N. Walnut, res same. (Mrs. Inez)

    The 1906-1907 Colorado Springs City Directory listed:

TUMA Wm J, contr, 323 Adelaide pl, res same. (Mrs. Inez)

    The City Directory of Colorado Springs for 1907-1908 has this listing:

TUMA Wm J, moved to Denver.

His name does not appear as TUMA or COLEMAN in any Denver City Directory between 1906 and 1910.

    By 1908 William and Inez moved to Geneva, Fillmore County, Nebraska. It is about 24 miles south of York, where they were married in 1900.

first COLEMAN ad     The earliest known example of the COLEMAN surname was found in this 2x2 ad from the Geneva Gazette on 6 February 1908. It appeared every Thursday in the newspaper until April.

    On 20 February 1908 in the Geneva Gazette was reported, "Mr. and Mrs. W. J. COLEMAN went to Hebron Saturday and spent Sunday with relatives." (These were relatives of Inez at Hebron in Thayer County, Nebraska, about 26 miles south of Geneva.)

    On 25 June 1908 in the Geneva Gazette was printed, "W. J. COLEMAN began work Saturday taking the interior fixtures out of the old Jollo theatre building. The seats are to be left intact and will be in good shape to rent to gatherings where it is desired to seat many people. We were thinking they would be fine for use when the Woodman picnic is held this year to place in the park about the band stand. The owners could make good interest on the investment to keep them for that purpose."

    On 29 August 1908 William's mother, Katie TUMA, purchased Lot 7 of Block 1 in the Harrison Addition (now on the northeast corner of G & 15th Streets) in Burwell, Garfield Co., Nebraska, from her son Joseph TUMA and wife Anna of Valley Co., Nebraska, for $800. (Garfield Co., NE, Deed Book 16, p. 481, filed on 12 September 1921.)

    On 10 September 1908 on the first page of the Geneva Gazette was printed, "While Mrs. W. J. COLEMAN was down town with their driving horse Monday morning [7 September 1908] she had a little experience which resulted in the damaging of their buggy to some extent. She had tied the horse near the Wight market and when she untied it to go home the delivery rig passed and scared it. Mrs. COLEMAN was not in the rig and could not stop the horse and it ran to the Thompson corner where it was in the habit of being tied by Mr. COLEMAN when he brings it down town. It ran into a wagon at that point and damaged the rig to some extent."

    "Mrs. W. J. COLEMAN went to Fairmont Monday [21 September 1908] to meet her cousin, Mrs. S. S. MILLS of Colorado Springs, Colo., who came to make them a visit." (Geneva Gazette, 24 Sep 1908) (Fairmont is in Fillmore County about 8 miles north of Geneva.)

    On the front page of the Geneva Gazette on 8 October 1908 appeared this story:

Heir to Large Estate
    The Gazette received a letter last
Saturday asking us to advertise that
William J. Coleman was wanted in
Pennsylvania as a fortune of $50,000
or $60,000 was awaiting him. He was
last located in Kansas City and they
thought he had gone to Nebraska. We
at once notified Mr. Coleman and he
got in communication with the par-
ties at once.
    Mr. Coleman's parents were killed
by a train when he was but a few
months old and he knew nothing
about the circumstances. He was
reared by others and the matter was
kept from him until recently. The
estate if secured by him will be
enough to place him on easy street,
and we are pleased to record his good

    "Mrs. William J. COLEMAN and cousin, Mrs. S. S. MILLS, went to Hebron, Saturday [7 November 1908] for a few days visit with relatives." (Geneva Gazette, 12 Nov 1908)

    William and Inez's daughter, Velma COLEMAN, was born on 11 December 1908 at Geneva in Fillmore County, Nebraska. (Geneva Gazette, p. 1, "Storklings," 17 Dec 1908)

    In 1909 Wm. J. COLEMAN purchased lot #1 in Pardee's 1st Addition in Geneva, Nebraska, for $300 from Lester S. DONISTHORPE and wife, though the warranty deed was apparently not recorded at the courthouse. (Geneva Gazette, 11 Nov 1909)

    From the census taken on 26 April 1910, we find that William and his family were living on Lafayette Street in Geneva, Fillmore County, Nebraska. William J. COLEMAN, age 33, reported that he was in his first marriage and had been married for 9 years. He stated that he was born in Nebraska, he was employed as a carpenter of houses, and he rented his current residence. His father's place of birth was given [falsely?] as Pennsylvania. His mother was recorded as born in Germany. Wife was listed as Inez COLEMAN, age 29, married once, married 9 years, having given birth to 2 children with 2 children still living. She was born in Nebraska; her parents in Indiana. The children, both born in Nebraska, were Elsie L., age 7, and Velma D., age 1 year, 4 months.

    John and Katie TUMA were found on the U.S. census taken on 16 April 1910. They were living in Rockport Precinct on Bluff Street, in Burwell, Garfield County, Nebraska (Enumeration Dist 118, Sheet 2A, #25). John TUMA, age 62, born in Bohemia (Austria), had been married for 37 years, came to the U.S. in 1871, naturalized, spoke English, retired farmer, owned property; his father was born in Bavaria (Germany) and mother was born in Bohemia (Austria). Wife Katherine, age 58, born in Moravia (Austria/Bohemian), married, had 6 children with 5 living, spoke English, came to the U.S. in 1872, no occupation listed; her father was born in Moravia (Austria) and mother was born in Moravia (Austria).

    On 23 July 1910 John and Katie TUMA purchased 160 acres in the southwest quarter of Section 29, Township 22, Range 15. (Garfield Co., Nebraska, Warranty Deed Book 11, p. 468, filed 14 September 1910.) John gave this land to Katie on 12 Sep 1910. (Garfield Co., NE, Warranty Deed Book 11, p. 470, filed 14 Sep 1910.)

    In the Primary Election of 19 April 1912, William J. COLEMAN was elected the Republican and Progressive Party candidate for the Nebraska State Representative of the 43rd District, comprising the counties of Clay, York, and Fillmore. (Nebraska Signal and Geneva Gazette, 25 Apr 1912.) In the General Election of 5 November 1912, he received 47% of the 3,515 votes cast and, therefore, lost to the Democratic challenger, Mr. James S. WESTON. (Nebraska Signal and Geneva Gazette, 14 Nov 1912.)

    William and Inez's first son, Marion Guy COLEMAN, was born on Thursday, 27 November 1913 at Geneva in Fillmore County, Nebraska. (Nebraska Signal, Geneva, NE, 4 Dec 1913, p. 1.)

    "Mrs. Inez COLEMAN returned yesterday from a visit to friends at Hebron. Mr. COLEMAN recently went to Texas where he has found plenty of carpenter work." (Nebraska Signal, Geneva, NE, 22 Jan 1914, p. 5.)

    "W. J. COLEMAN returned Monday [26 Jan 1914] from Crosbyton, [in Crosby County, east of Lubbock,] Tex., where he spent several weeks. Mr. COLEMAN likes the country around there but thinks there are just as good opportunities here." (Nebraska Signal, Geneva, NE, 29 Jan 1914, p. 5.)

    On the front page of the Geneva's Nebraska Signal on 29 Jan 1914 appeared this story:

Makes Money Raising Poultry
    Does it pay to raise poultry in town?
W. J. COLEMAN of Geneva says yes.
Mr. COLEMAN uses part of one lot of
ground to raise poultry and makes
money. He keeps accurate account of
his receipts and disbursements in his
poultry business and for 1913 he finds
his expenses were $78.10 and his re-
ceipts were $501.20. Mr. COLEMAN
raises nothing but the very best and
always brings home the ribbons when
he enters his birds in a poultry show.
    Mr. COLEMAN expects soon to move
to the Chauncey GOODRICH place
and will enter the poultry business on
a larger scale. He will set 700 eggs
in incubators. He recently received
word that he had won first premium
on a cockerel he exhibited at the Chi-
cago show.

    "W. J. COLEMAN went to Kearney [Nebraska] Tuesday [24 Feb 1914] to do carpenter work." (Nebraska Signal, Geneva, NE, 26 Feb 1914, p. 7.)

    Deed records of Bonneville County, Idaho, reveal that William J. COLEMAN bought and sold land quite a number of times between 13 February 1915 and 18 June 1920. He was generally buying lots in Crow's Addition of Idaho Falls in the early part of each year in time to begin building houses in May as the weather in southeastern Idaho permits. Mortgage records indicate that to purchase property he would obtain loans from the bank or individuals.

    William and Inez's son, George Eugene COLEMAN, was born on 22 February 1918 at Idaho Falls, Bonneville County, Idaho.

    On 12 September 1918 William John COLEMAN registered for the World War I civilian draft in Bonneville Co., Idaho. His registration card listed his home address as 271 9th St., Idaho Falls, Bon[neville Co.], Idaho. His age was recorded as 45, with date of birth as 9-18-1873. The card was marked white race, native-born U.S. citizen. His occupation was carpenter and employer's name was William J. COLEMAN. The address for his place of employment matches his home address. Inez COLEMAN, at the same address, was listed as his nearest relative. His signature then appears on the card. The "Registrar's Report" (which I assume is on the back of the card) describes William COLEMAN as tall, of medium build, with black eyes and black hair.

    On 16 January 1920, the census taker found the family of William and Inez living in a mortgaged house at 434 12th Street in Idaho Falls, Bonneville Co., Idaho. They were recorded as follows: William J. COLEMAN, age 42, a carpenter, born in Nebraska, father born in Pennsylvania, mother in Germany (and spoke German as her mother tongue). His wife was listed as Inez, age 39, born in Nebraska, parents born in Indiana. Their children were: Elsie L., age 17, born in Nebraska; Velma, age 11, born in Nebraska; Marvin [should read "Marion"], age 6, born in Nebraska; George E., age 23 months, born in Idaho.

    Back in Nebraska in 1920, my great-grandparents were apparently living in the same house as in 1910 since the adjacent families on the census match. The census taken on 29 January 1920 lists them in Burwell Precinct, Burwell, Garfield County, Nebraska (Enumerator's District 127, Sheet 13A, #49). John W. TUMA, age 72, married, born in Bavaria, father born in Germany, mother born in Bavaria, owns home free of mortgage, no occupation, naturalized American citizen. Katie, age 67, wife, married, born in Moravia, father born in Bohemia, mother born in Moravia, naturalized [probably through her father], no occupation listed. Also in the household was a servant, Anna ZAVONKA, age 48, widowed, born in Nebraska, father's birthplace unknown, mother born in Moravia. Living with them was their granddaughter, Josephine MISHKA, age 9, attended school, born in Washington (state), father born in Iowa, mother born in Nebraska.

    William and Inez's son, Richard Franklin COLEMAN, was born on 27 May 1921 at Denver, Denver County, Colorado.

    Katie TUMA left a will at Ord, Valley County, Nebraska, on 13 October 1924. She died at 72 years of age from uterine cancer on 6 February 1925 at Burwell, Garfield County, Nebraska. She was buried two days later in Block 10, Lot 4, Grave 4 at Cottonwood Cemetery at Burwell, Nebraska. She was listed as divorced on her death certificate. The informant who helped fill in the blanks on her death certificate was P. F. SVOBODA of Schuyler, Colfax County, Nebraska.

    Listed in the 1922 City Directory of Denver, Colorado, was:

COLEMAN Wm (Inez)   bldr   r  4957 Newton

    The City Directory of 1923 in Denver listed:

COLEMAN Wm (Inez)   bldr   r  4957 Newton

    William and Inez were not listed in the city directories of 1921 or 1924 at Denver.

    The 1924 City Directory of Los Angeles, California, contained this entry:

COLE Wm J   contr   8111 Bell Avenue

    The 1926 City Directory of Los Angeles, California, recorded:

COLE Wm J   carp   8135 Bell Avenue

    The 1927 City Directory of Los Angeles, California, contained 14 "William COLE" entries. In south-central L.A. is this listing:

COLE Wm J   bldg contr   h  5611 Denker Avenue

    Now, let's progress to the point in time where one grandparent meets another.

    My grandmother, Mellie HUNT, was born in 1894 in the community of Rock Springs, west of Harrison, Boone County, Arkansas. She began high school, but dropped out in the first term, because, in order to attend, it was necessary for her to live away from Rock Springs. In 1913 Mellie married Edd WILSON, who left her a 24-year-old widow in 1919 with 3 sons, plus one more on the way.

    Here I must introduce Nellie HAWKINS, my grandmother's first cousin and childhood best friend. In 1897 she, too, was born in Rock Springs. In 1928 Nellie married Boone FORNEY at Harrison, Arkansas. They moved to California. (Boone FORNEY appears in the Los Angeles City Directory of 1927, living with James S. FORNEY at 5914 Junction [Street] in southeast Los Angeles, California.)

    While I was growing up, I frequently heard the story from my grandmother that William COLE, while working as a contractor in California, purchased lumber from the business in Los Angeles where Boone FORNEY worked. Somehow this lumbar yard connection led to a 2-year correspondence between Mellie and William, who was also a widower (supposedly). (The only other thing they had in common, as far as I can tell, was their ability to express themselves on paper.)

    Boone & Nellie's daughter (born in 1935 at Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California) told me in a letter in 1990 that she understood that either William or Mellie placed a "personal ad" in a newspaper or magazine which the other one answered. Neither Boone nor Nellie were impressed with William COLE. Boone had remarked, "As soon as I laid my eyes on that man, I knew he had made up his story."

California map from Santa Monica to San Bernardino
California map from Santa Monica to San Bernardino

    My grandfather traveled to Arkansas where he married my grandmother on 5 December 1933. This is documented in Boone County, Arkansas, Marriage Book S, p. 197, where one can find that William J. COLE, age 47 (sic.), of Los Angeles, in San Bardinarino (sic.) County, California, married to Mrs. Mellie Lee WILSON, age 39, of Boone County, Arkansas. [Note: Los Angeles is in Los Angeles County, not San Bernardino County.]

    I don't know when she came to this conclusion, but my grandmother told me that she believed William was older than he said he was (i.e., born in 1885). She thought he was probably the same age as her mother, who was born in 1876. (In reality, William was 57 years of age when he married in 1933, not 47 as the record indicates.)

    After their marriage, Mellie moved to Pomona or Claremont, California, to live with William. (See near middle of map above.) It was her understanding that he helped construct many houses in Pomona. Having left behind her 4 WILSON sons, ages 13 to 20, as well as all her other kinfolk and friends, in Arkansas, Mellie got so miserably homesick that she returned to her house in Rock Springs in April 1934.

    I have a copy of a receipt dated "April 3, 1934, to Mr. Wm. COLE for Room rent from Jan. 1, '34 to April 2, '34. Pd--$20.00. Bal. Due April 2, '34 - $12.50. [signed] Alice R. VAN HORNE." With nothing else on the receipt, the location of the rented room is unknown, though it was surely in California, and I think a clue to when Mellie left.

    Because he had work to complete, William stayed in California for 4 more months before joining her in Arkansas in August 1934. Mellie gave birth to a son in 1935 (nine months after William's return) and a daughter in 1937 at their home in the Rock Springs community, near Harrison, Arkansas. My grandmother told me that on a rare occasion William would incorrectly, accidently call this daughter "Velma."

    In November 1940, William COLE was elected Justice of the Peace of Jackson Township, Boone County, Arkansas. He remained in that office for 6 years.

    Suffering with severe arthritis, William was a patient in the Hospital for Crippled Adults in Memphis, Tennessee, for 9 weeks, including December 1940. (The hospital's records, which became the property of Campbell Clinic, were searched in 1981, but his name could not be found in the files. Also in 1981, my sister located in Memphis a woman who had been a patient in the hospital while William was there, but she could only vaguely remember him.)

    I have an undated certificate of award to William COLE for woodwork from the Boone County [Arkansas] Hobby Program.

    I have William COLE's World War 2 Selective Service registration card, issued in Boone County, Arkansas, on 27 April 1942. William was 5'10" tall and weighed 165 pounds. He had brown eyes, gray hair, and a light brown complexion. (Date of birth was not requested on the card.)

    We have many letters (most are carbon copies) and speeches dated in the 1940's and 1950's written by William. These pertain primarily to political issues, including unicameralism and organized labor. In many of these he commented about having served in the Nebraska State Legislature. There are several newspaper clippings of letters to the editor which William wrote to the Harrison [Arkansas] Daily Times. His speeches and other written works were very well prepared and usually quite convincing.

    On 4 September 1949, William COLE sent a letter of resignation as elder and trustee of Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Harrison, Arkansas.

    In 1950 William applied for an old age pension, but was unable at first to prove his age, saying the courthouse in Fremont, Nebraska, had burned. He apparently was given the pension based on a letter dated 9 May 1950, which has been reproduced here with other documents.

    On 28 Feb 1952 William COLE spoke in St. Louis, Missouri, to the Missouri Unicameral Association. Allegedly, he was invited because he was looked upon as an expert on unicameralism. Before speaking, a lengthy introduction of William was made by chairman David LARKIN and has been reproduced here. The 5 March 1952 issue of the Harrison [Arkansas] Daily Times reported, "Wm. COLE spent a couple of days in St. Louis last week. He was invited to meet with a committee who are working on a unicameral plan to submit to voters of Missouri this year."

    In 1956 William received a check from a local insurance company for $36.60. In a subsequent letter (of which I have a carbon copy) to the insurance company about the claim, he wrote that he felt they had overpaid him, and William promised to return the $2.31 overpayment the next time he was in town. (This would suggest that he was a man of integrity.)

    On 19 October 1959 William John COLE died near Harrison, Arkansas, in the house where he had lived with my Grandma Mellie for 25 years. My grandmother, as informant to the funeral home for his death certificate, did not know the names of William's parents. He is not listed in the Social Security Death Index.

    On Thursday, 22 October 1959, on page 10A of the Arkansas Gazette was published his obituary: "Harrison - William John COLE, 74, a retired farmer of Rock Springs, near here, at his home Monday."

If you would like to know more about my grandmother, please read this biography, "A Tribute to Grandma Mellie"

next page

link to next page

Intro | Facts | Claims | Documents | Photos | Brick Walls | Theories
E-mail Descendant

Pride in the Past - Faith in the Future