Sunday, April 6, 2014

Robbing the cradle to start over - George and Minnie Comstock Swank

So far my blog has focused on the Comstock family, my maternal grandmother's maternal ancestry.  I have mentioned my great grandmother Minnie Comstock Swank and now is as good a time as any to talk about her and segue into the Swank family, (which is one of my biggest brick walls).

Minnie Alvina Augusta Comstock was born August 6th, 1897 at Grand Rapids, Kent Co MI, 4th of 5 children of G.D. and Augusta Comstock.  I'm not sure why but she got 2 middle names, the 1st part being the name of her mom's older sister.  Minnie married George Swank on August 6th, 1920, also at Grand Rapids.  As listed in my post about Minnie's sister Clara, George and his brother William married sisters but George robbed the cradle even more, he being born August 28th, 1870 at Paris Twp, Kent Co MI.

Minnie was George's 2nd wife, he having been married in 1899 to Margaret "Nellie" Kelley (1871-1916).  They had 2 children:  Mary Mona 1902-1980  (Max Patterson) and James Ronald (1900-1956).  According to my grandma's notes Nellie died "in the operating room".  Her notes list that when George remarried Mona and Ronald went to live with Nellie's sister.

My grandma stayed in touch with Ronald's children (who were her age) but Mona's family didn't seem to have any interest in the 2nd family (my grandmother and her siblings weren't even mentioned in Mona's obituary).  I did speak with a son and a daughter of Mona who were both really friendly with me.  Last I knew one of Mona's sons still lives on the old farmstead at 28th/Patterson in Kentwood.  I am in contact with a widow of one of Ronald's sons and she is such a sweet woman - truly a gem who reinforces why I love this hobby.

1900 & 1910 Paris Twp, Kent Co MI - George and Nellie with George as a farmer.  In 1910 his brother Adam and sister Elizabeth are neighbors.
1920 Paris Twp (Kent Co Farm Line Rd) - George widowed with 2 children, George farming
1930 Grand Rapids - 715 Worden St SE - George and Minnie (George shaved 20 years off his age) - George listed as a "laborer - odd jobs"
1940 Paris Twp (RR6 Breton Rd SE - probably 3559) - George and Minnie - George farming

  This picture has George 3rd from the right (holding who I assume is Mona) - I assume Nellie is holding his arm.  This photo came from my grandmother (yet another item I didn't get from her while she was alive) - nobody else is identified but my assumption is it's the Kelley family as nobody looks like George's parents.

James Ronald Swank
In spite of already being 50 years old with 2 grown children George remarried and started another family with Minnie:

William Peter Swank 1921-2004
Claire Augusta Swank 1923-2001 (my grandma)
Georgia Leviney Swank 1929-1933
George Charles Swank 1934-1994

Mary Mona Swank
I don't know much about my grandma's siblings.  She wrote that she didn't know her brother George like most siblings because she was so much older and because he had alcohol problems. He lived with Minnie until her passing and ended up taking his own life.  My grandma was never one to talk about someone's problems so she didn't discuss him.   She did write that when she and my grandpa would visit her parents George wouldn't be around so I don't think there was much in the way of contact there.

George Swank 80th birthday 05/30/1950

Back row left to right:
George Swank Jr, William Swank, Melvin and Kathy Swank
Middle row left to right:
George Sr and Minnie Swank, Marilyn and Bunny Swank
Bottom row left to right:
Donald Swank holding Connie, Ronald Swank holding Chris, Laverne and Claire Hugmeyer holding Craig Hugmeyer

My grandma wrote that her brother Bill was on the Ottawa Hills wrestling team and was "very good".  He extended the basement under their farm home at 3559 Breton Rd SE (Kentwood) and modernized the kitchen and bathroom plumbing.  Upon graduating he started the "Swank Dairy" but was so successful it was a 7 day a week job.  He was very religious and told his father "no more Sunday work".  He ended up in Oregon and I don't recall ever meeting him (as I don't remember meeting any of my grandma's siblings).

My grandma wrote that "Georgia was in the hospital a long time, died of a mastoid infection.  She is laid to rest in the plot next to Peter and Phoebe Swank" (George's parents at Oak Grove Cemetery).  My grandma used to say that her dad's hair went white "overnight" when Georgia died.  I guess she was sick for awhile and they felt guilty they didn't get her into the doctor in time.  Nobody knows if that would have saved her or not.  Her grave was overgrown when I was there a few years ago - the stone is worn completely smooth and has nothing to identify it anymore.   

George passed away May 13th, 1959 at their home in Paris Twp and Minnie passed away July 31st, 1981 at Grand Rapids.  They are both buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Grand Rapids.  I wish I had talked to my grandmother about her father.  The few that are left that remember George have fading memories and weren't in his life enough to have concrete memories.  Minnie's grandchildren remember her fondly.  This is what my grandma wrote about her parents (she refers to her mom as "grandma" as she was writing a niece at the time):

Minnie and Georgia Swank


Minnie Swank, Vern and Claire Hugmeyer w/grandchildren 1980

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