Friday, April 4, 2014

How heirlooms almost vanished - G.D. Comstock the "wood turner"

Finally back to my 2nd great grandfather George Delmer Comstock.  He was born March 11th, 1864 at Grandville, Kent Co MI the 5th of 7 children of David Barkley and Barbara King Comstock.  He married Augusta Bertha Christy Muche of Prussia September 7th, 1888 at Grand Rapids, Kent Co MI.  They had 5 children, 4 living to adulthood and lived in Grand Rapids most of their lives.

What little I know about "Delmer" is from a handwritten family history I received a copy of that was written by my grandmother shortly before her death (again, I'm not sure why she didn't share any of this with me directly).  She writes "they were wonderful grandparents & my brother Bill and I were always welcome to stay with them.  We loved the comfortable beds with the warm quilts and grandma's delicious food was the best.  Our grandparents took a real special interest in our activities and listened to us.  It only takes a few words to describe their way of life, true Christians.  Grandpa wasn't the most ambitious but he loved to read.  He had worked as a wood turner in a G.R. Furniture Factory and my mother (Minnie) told many happy stories about their family life when she was a girl & lived on a small farm in Ada, Mich".

I'm not sure they ever lived in Ada based on the census records from 1900-1940 listing them living in Grand Rapids :

1900 living at 18 Lamont Ct, working as a "wood turner"
1910 living at 92? Woodlawn as a "turner" in a furniture factory
1920 living at 1145 Burton SE as a "wood turner" in a furniture factory (I question the house number)
1930 living at 1105 Burton SE as a "salesman at feed store"
1940 living at 1105 Burton SE, no occupation listed (age 76 so assume retired)

According to his obituary he worked at the "Fancy Furniture Factory" in Grand Rapids for 18 years prior to his retirement.  I find it interesting that he was a wood turner and in 1860 his father listed his occupation as a carpenter.
 After my grandfather passed away in 1997, my grandmother started clearing out her house "so nobody would have to mess with it" when she was gone.  I showed up one day and the Salvation Army was in her driveway and they were loading items up.  She saw me and asked if I would want this buffet and hutch that her grandpa Comstock had made.  I of course took them but found out after the fact that there was a 3rd piece to the set that managed to get away on the truck.  I had never seen these pieces before so I have no idea what the missing piece looks like.

The buffet has held a spot in our living room since 1997 being used as storage (for amongst other things Wii controllers) and as the setting for our Christmas village every year.  The hutch is in my basement awaiting our move to a big enough house that it can be utilized.

There was another piece that my grandma offered me - she told me it was a lamp stand but it looked like a coat rack missing the top hangers.  It was about as tall as me and beautifully turned wood with a hole in the middle (for a cord?).  I didn't see a use for that at the time and let it go.  I kick myself for that!  At least I was able to save these 2 pieces from being hauled off to the Salvation Army.

Delmer apparently had some musical talent as well - I found this article describing a song that he composed:
Grand Rapids Press October 12, 1907

 I found the song here (at one of my favorite Michigan genealogy websites):

Delmer passed away April 14th, 1950 at the age of 86 of a heart attack.  He is buried with his wife, daughter Clara (William Swank - more on her later) and son William at Grandville Cemetery (in a different section than his father). 

I don't know much more about Delmer - his obituary lists that he and his wife were members of Plymouth Congregational Church but his great grandchildren (my mom and her brothers) remember hearing that he was Jewish and that he wore a yarmulke.  I've found no proof of that but it's intriguing.
Left to right:  Augusta, Clara, Charles and G.D. Comstock - October 1949
 Believe it or not - he lived until 1950 and other than the store picture from my earlier post and these 2 photos I have no photos of him.  Perhaps other cousins will come out of the woodwork that will have more to share?

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