Elizabethe Margarethe Wilhelmine Bremser
Independent minded and stalwart
|Elizabeth and John Beasley in 1925. They had a son, Robert, who was born on February 9, 1914. He died four days later.|
|The Beasley twins, Jane and Ruth Beasley (b. May 31, 1917), probably on their first birthday. Ruth was always the weaker child, and she died on December 27, 1919, during the flu epidemic.|
|Jane and Betty Beasley, probably Christmas 1925, with their new dolls. Betty (b. July 3, 1920) had a heart valve defect and died less than two weeks after this picture was taken.|
|Jane and her new baby sister Annabeth. Annabeth was born on July 16, 1927.|
|During the Depression, the family was forced to move out of their home at 1501 Park Avenue, Kansas City, where Annabeth Beasley had been born. In 1939 her father Henry Beasley gave Lizzie her inheritance early: he paid off the mortgage on the house. Lizzie and Annabeth moved back home.|
|John Beasley in 1948, two years before his death in Chicago on April 1, 1950. He managed hotels the last few years of his life.|
|Lizzie Beasley in a senior home in Sandusky, Ohio during 1952, shortly before her death. The picture on the table next to her is of her daughter and husband with their new baby boy, Buddy, below.|
|Hal, Annabeth, and Buddy in late 1951.|
My maternal grandmother, Elizabethe (Lizzie) Margarethe Wilhelmine Bremser (2 Nov 1888-2 Jun 1952) was born in Hähnstatten, Germany. She arrived in the United States on Ellis Island at age 3 on May 12, 1892, with her parents, Henry and Phillipina Bremser, along with her sister Anna Karlena (Lena), age 2. The family settled in Norwalk, Ohio, where they knew other German immigrants. Her father gradually built up a masonry business and the family had five more children.
Lizzie apprenticed herself for no pay at age 12 or 13 to two women who owned a millinery (women's hat) shop in Norwalk. In 1902 at age 14, Lizzie quit school and left her family's home in Norwalk. With the assistance of the two women, she moved to Columbus, Ohio, where they got her a job in a milliner shop there and a place to stay in a Quaker boarding house.
Lizzie moves to Chicago
Lizzie discovered that the millinery trade was seasonal and the next Christmas she got a job as a saleswoman. She found she liked that work more. The next winter at age 17, when hat season ended, she went with a friend to Chicago. She got a temporary job during the Christmas season at Marshall Fields, the largest retailer and most exclusive department store in the city. She outsold all the other employees and was given a full-time job.
Seven years later she met Johnson Tucker Beasley, a stationary salesman calling on Marshall Fields. He was from Lexington, Illinois. They dated and decided very suddenly two months later to get married.
Marries John Beasley
Lizzie wrote her parents and two sisters, Anna and Minnie, on Wednesday, April 15, 1903: "I am going to be married Friday night at 8:30 and shall be at home to see you some time Sat.... Now don't say I am foolish as my husband to be and myself are in our right minds. His name is John Beasley... [We] became engaged last Sunday and [I] shall be Mrs. Beasley by next Sunday." The couple was married on April 18, 1913 in Chicago. Here's Lizzie's entire letter to her parents:
My Dear Father Mother and Sisters,
I have a letter to write to you all tonight that will be the biggest and I hope the happiest most pleasant surprise you have had in a good many years. I am going to be married Friday night at 8:30 and shall be at home to see you sometime Sat depends on trains and John is going to find out tomorrow and I shall let you know later. Now don’t say I am foolish as my husband to be and myself are in our right minds. His name is John Beasley. I have known him two months became engaged last Sunday and shall be Mrs. Beasley by next Sunday. This may all be very strange to you. But if I had known this man for 5 years I could not care more for him than I do this moment. He has just left. We made out a list of all our friends and shall send out our announcements Friday. No one but Hazel knows anything about it. We shall be married at the Baptist church here in Chicago and I quit my position Friday at noon. We have all arrangements made. I am getting the best man you shall ever want to know and I know you will all like him. He is very tall + dark + is 30 years old. He knows what he is doing and so do I. Just remember that I have for the past years always known what was best and right for me to do and a better, cleaner and good man I know I never shall want. I am nearly 24 years old. You all realize if I am ever to be married now is the time and I do love the man. I don’t know how you people will all take this but just remember I have always been God’s child and will do nothing wrong and but what I think is right. I am one of the many happy girls to night and I want you all to be happy with me. I have not shed one tear and mama dear just every time you think of your daughter getting married just smile and remember the last time I said I never would get married and what little use I had for the men. It is nearly 11 o'clock and I have lots of little things to do before the event and with lots of love I send you this knowing that you understand that I am doing what is right in the sight of all business, thoughts and God.
4324 Lake Ave
Will let you know later about trains.
Three children die young
John and Elizabeth were married in the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Chicago, accompanied by Lizzie's best friend, Hazel Liggett, and John's brother, Guy. They had five children. Their marriage proved to be full of tragedy. Their first child, Robert Johnson, was born on Feb 9, 1914 but he lived only four days. John and Lizzie separated after the boy's death, but decided to get back together.
Three years later they were living in an apartment in Detroit when they had twins: Jane Elizabeth and Ruth Beasley. Ruth was always the weaker of the twins and died only 19 months later, during December, 1919 and the world-wide flu epidemic. The family was living in Lexington, Illinois, where a number of Beasleys and related Claggett family members also lived.
The family moved to Des Moines, Iowa, and Betty was born on July 3, 1920, only five months after Ruth died. Betty was a "blue baby," born with a heart valve defect. Doctors told John and Lizzie that Betty would not live long. But Betty beat the odds for a while and lived until she was five and a half years old, dying on December 27, 1925. Elizabeth was pregnant with their fifth child in December 1925 when Betty died. The family moved again, this time to Kansas City, Missouri, where they bought their first home. Annabeth was born there six months later, on July 16, 1926.
John was a traveling salesman. When the Depression hit, John's good job of at least nine years with the American Seating Company of Chicago ("Exclusive Manufacturers of Furnishings for Theatres, Churches, Schools and all Public Buildings") went from a salaried, expense-account position to commission-only. John drifted deeper into debt and was frequently absent. Lizzie struggled to manage the mortgage payments each month, embarrassed when the grocery bill went unpaid at times.
John's daughter Jane recalled years later that he was known as a "high expense man," which was family code for "alcoholic". Jane remembered talk of his womanizing and drinking "on the road." Both John's and Lizzie's fathers also drank excessively. The tensions occurred in whispers supposedly out of Jane's hearing. John drifted deep into debt. In 1930, John forced Lizzie to agree to a second mortage on the house. Foreclosure loomed ahead, a dreaded specter.
In 1930, John left Lizzie and his two daughters, Jane and Annabeth, and moved to Chicago. Lizzie finally could not keep up the mortgage, and decided to rent the house and live with family. They moved a number of times over the next nine years, living with her parents, then with her sister Minnie and husband Curt Klein, and with family friends.
Jane's grandfather Heinrich Bremser agreed to help put her through college. In 1935, Jane attended Drake University in Des Moines as a freshman, where she worked in exchange for room and board. She later transferred to Bowling Green State University which she graduated from in 1940. (From there she moved the University of Michigan and received her masters in 1945. She earned an Ed.D. in 1955 from Columbia University's Teachers College.).
In about 1939, Heinrich, heavily pressured by his wife Bina, agreed to give their daughter Lizzie an early inheritance: he paid off the mortgage on the house in Kansas City. Lizzie and Annabeth moved back to Kansas City and Annabeth graduated from Southeast High School in Kansas City in 1943. She met her husband Hal Phelps there and they married in 1947.
While living in Chicago, John managed hotels for the remainder of his life. He died in Chicago at age 67 on Saturday, April 1, 1950 of a heart attack. He was buried in the Lexington, Illinois cemetery.
Lizzie remained in Kansas City through at least 1947 and then moved to Sandusky, Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie, about 19 miles from Norwalk. She died in Sandusky on June 2, 1952 at age 64. Lizzie was buried in the family plot in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Norwalk with her children Robert and Betty. When Jane and later Annabeth died, they too were buried near their mother and siblings.