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The Autobiography of Hugh Wetzel Lester, Part II, the Wetzels

"The following pages are the memoirs of Hugh Lester, Fort Lauderdale attorney, Harvard Law School graduate, and combat veteran of World War I. It includes his life, experiences, and observations from his boyhood in rural Minnesota until shortly after his seventieth birthday.

In 1977, the manuscript consisting of several hundred pages written in longhand was discovered in a bureau drawer where it had been stored for more than twenty years. His daughter, Mary L. Stanton, typed the manuscript verbatim. The family decided to have it printed with sufficient copies for the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The resulting work is the unedited and unabridged copy of the manuscript. It is hoped that this endeavor will greatly contribute to the preservation of the family record." Donald G. Lester, Cochran, Georgia, February 5, 1979.

The following is word-for-word of Chapter One, entitled, "The Begats." It will be of interest to those researching the surnames of Lester, Wetzel, Brown, and Fritts...NY-WI-MN. This page contains links to ancestry I have uncovered to supplement this autobiography written by my Grandfather Lester to enhance the family history. Pat Stanton Walker.

Chapter One, "The Begats," written about 1955.

First I will tell what little I know about the Lesters and the Wetzels.

I know nothing about the Lesters before they lived in Cayuga County, New York. The first of these would be my great-great grandfather, Christian Lester. I estimate that he might have been born about 1780. Whether or not he was the first Lester to arrive in Cayuga County, or whether he was born there, I do not know. How many children he had, I do not know. One of his children was James Lester, my great grandfather. I estimate that he would have been born just after the turn of the century, that is, the early 1800's. I have seen a picture of James Lester. He looked to be a stern, beefy, John-Bull type of Englishman. He married a woman of Dutch descent whose family name was Fritz. They had four children. The eldest, Dorliska, called "Aunt Dud" in my grandfather's family, married Lester Burlingame. They had no children.

A second child, Nora Jane Lester, married first Lant Powers. By him she had a daughter Etta, who was married and had a son. Nora Jane Powers also had a son who died without issue. Her second husband was a Mr. Goodrich. They had no children.

When I was 10 or 12 years old, I corresponded with Aunt Jane, as we called her. I have the impression of a gentlewoman of the finest type. She was already a widow for the second time. Mr. Goodrich was an educated man. Aunt Jane sent me several of his books, "The Columbian Orator," published in 1797, "Life of Lafayette," and a two volume set of higher mathematics. I never got to the point where I understood all of the mathematics, and I have had calculus. To my great regret, these books were all destroyed in a flooded basement in Cambridge, Mass., after the First World War.

The third child of James Lester was my grandfather, Dorwin Lester, born Oct. 9, 1833. He was married to Catherine Brown July 11, 1852, when he was less than 19 years old. He acquired such education as was afforded locally, but his main interest in life then and thereafter was horses, to care for them, to drive them, to trade them. He and his brother-in-law, Lester Burlingame, known as "Let," were great friends. They used to hunt and frolic together. On one occasion Let shot a gun so close to Grandfather's ears, the he was very deaf for the rest of his life. On another occasion the two were coming home in the evening from a turkey shoot where they had been unsuccessful. They passed a neighbor's house, where turkeys were roosting in the trees. One of them tore a strip from his handkerchief and tied it round the leg of a roosting turkey. Next day they went to the neighbor and said they were bringing a turkey home from the "shoot" the night before, and he got away at this place.

"Do you think you can pick him out?" asked the farmer.

They explained that their turkey had a rag round one leg. The farmer found the turkey, caught it, and presented it to them. Suddenly they felt ashamed of themselves and tried to avoid taking the turkey. In the end they had to take the turkey, or explain what they did not wish to explain.

Grandfather was said to be an expert swimmer for the time and place. My father and mother visited Moravia, the county seat of Cayuga County, about 1921. They told of some mill dam or mill race that Grandfather had built, and which was still in existence.

Grandfather did not give himself opportunity to make much impression upon Cayuga County. He had the pioneering urge and migrated to Wisconsin shortly after he was married. I have heard Grandfather say that, when he left, there were thirty-two voters in the county by the name of Lester and they all voted the Democratic ticket.

James Lester's fourth child was Morgan Wayne Lester, who was born about 1846. As his mother died when he was about two years old, he was reared by his two sisters, named above. He served through most of the Civil War, though he was only 15 years old when the war began. My Grandfather was too deaf to be accepted as a soldier. Wayne Lester, as he was always called, at one time served as General Grant's orderly. Uncle Wayne married a niece of Brigham Young. Her first name was Phoebe. I have heard of her family name as "Frye" and "Young." Brigham Young was not popular in her family. Uncle Wayne and Aunt Phoebe had five children: May, Dorwin, Roy, Zoa, and Floyd. May, now dead, was married twice. By her first husband, George Lee, she had the following children who survived, Blanche, Maud, and Clyde. Wayne died in infancy. By her second husband, George Cole, she had no children. Dorwin and Roy are both dead and neither had any children. Zoa married Dana Bennett and had the following children: Hazel, Evelyn, Clifford and Dorothy. Floyd, born about 1888, was married but soon separated from his wife for reasons which probably would prevent his taking her back. They were still separated when Father and Mother visited there in 1921, and they had no children.

Uncle Wayne and his family came to Minnesota twice, once in the late 80's and once in the early 90's. He lived there only a year or so on each occasion, then returned to Cayuga County. He died about 1921, and Aunt Phoebe died Oct. 13, 1934.

My grandfather, Dorwin Lester, first migrated to Waushara County, Wisconsin. He was not satisfied there. He was a farmer and the land was too sandy to suit him. My father, Erwin F. Lester, was born there August 16, 1856. Grandfather moved to Waubasha County, Minnesota, prior to 1863, because a second child, Doretta, born Sept. 16, 1859, died and was buried at Plainview in said county, and she died Sept. 19, 1863. Two other children were born in Waubasha County, Frank, born April 25, 1864, and Katie, born July 25, 1869. I think Grandfather liked Waubasha County well enough, but he was a renter there and land was cheaper farther west.

The Civil War must have started about the time that Grandfather migrated to Waubasha County, and he was probably living there when the Sioux War occurred in 1862. Waubasha County was too far east to be directly affected; but somewhat farther west, from the Iowa line northward beyond the Minnesota River, the Indians nearly depopulated the area, killing hundreds of settlers and driving 30,000 out of the State. People were killed at Jackson then called Springfield, the county seat of the county who which Grandfather later migrated.

About 1872 or '73 Grandfather moved to Enterprise Township of Jackson County, where he acquired 240 acres, buying the land from a family by name of Lilly, which was moving to the Territory of Washington. January 27, 1875, the fifth and last child was born, Mattie.

Grandfather was fond of entertaining, not only friends but strangers. Anybody and everybody was welcome to come and to stay for a meal or a month. Grandmother was a noted cook and she too enjoyed having people come. She was of the cooking school where everything was fried and which required strong stomachs to digest. Grandfather was very charitable, and never let his left hand know what his right had din on such occasions. If he knew of a settler was in need, he would drive up at night, leave a sack of provisions at the door, and drive away unannounced. In 1947 I visited the old home and while there called on an old man, Harry Clipperton. When I introduced myself, he said, "Oh, I know who your are. Many is the time that your grandfather brought flour and other provisions to us when we were starving."

Grandmother was religious, though she belonged to no church. Grandfather claimed to be a deist, though he would never discuss such matters. He was a life-long Democrat, except for the period when the Populists were strong in the middle west. He had voted for Stephen A. Douglas for president.

My father was married December 24,1882, of which more later.

Frank Lester married Mary Page December 25, 1894. Their children were: Pearl, born 1895, Hazel, and Glen. Glen was born 1911 and died 1933. Hazel is married and has one son. Pearl Lester is unmarried. Frank Lester died November 20, 1915.

Katie Lester married Charles Greenwood. They had two children, Amy born about 1892 and Lloyd born about 1894. Katie Greenwood died about 1950. Amy married Guilford Greely. They had four children, Seldon who died in infancy, and the following who survived, Guilford, Harlow, and Grace. Lloyd Greenwood was never married.

Mattie Lester married John Ringkob. They had one son, Clayton Andy, born Feb. 14, 1895, and died Aug. 19 of the same year. Mattie died July 19, 1898.

After the death of my great grandmother, James Lester re-married and migrated to Wisconsin. I have been told that he had three sons by his second wife, that they were about the age of my own father. Unfortunately, I know nothing else about them.

James Lester was very clever in carving articles out of wood. I have seen some of his work, both useful articles and ornaments. For example, from a block two or three inches square and a foot or so long, he would hollow out the inside leaving one or two perfectly spherical balls of wood to roll back and forth for the length of the block.

I stated above that my grandfather, Dorwin Lester, married Catherine Brown, July 11, 1852. I do not know the given name of Grandmother's father. He lived in Herkimer County, New York. He was of German descent, whether of the same migration and source as the "Pennsylvania Germans," I do not know. He was a farmer. I do not know the maiden name of his wife. They had five children. Elizabeth Brown, born about 1823, married Adam Forbes and had nine children, as follows: Daniel, who had a daughter; Frank, who was married but had no children; Charles, who had one daughter; Catherine, whose further history I do not know; Mary Jane, who died as a child; Adam, known as "Ad," who had a daughter, and who in turn had two sons; a son, whose first name I do not know but whose nickname was Leather, died in infancy: Will married a woman whose surname was Rosenkranz and had a son and a daughter; a daughter, whose first name I do not know and who had a daughter.

Greatgrandfather and Greatgrandmother Brown's second child was Catherine, my grandmother. She was born Dec. 5, 1831, and died April 21, 1913.

Their third child was Margaret Brown. She married Burr Walker and had one daughter, Orcelia. She married a man whose last name was Heald. They had one daughter.

The fourth child of my Brown great grandparents was Philip. He married a woman whose family name was Rosencranz and had one child, Hattie. Hattie Brown married Bert Randall, but had no children.

The fifth child was Peter Brown. He had two sons. George Brown had a son and a daughter. The other son, Charles Brown, married a woman whose first name was Emma. They had a daughter Florence. She married Theron R. Brown, unrelated, and had twin daughters.

I have seen my great uncles, Philip and Peter Brown. About all of the above named Forbeses, Walkers and Browns settled in or near Herkimer and Cayuga Counties, New York. Uncle Phil and Uncle Pete came from New York to Jackson County, Minn., on a visit to Grandfather and Grandmother Lester round 1900. They appeared to be men in their sixties.

I verified a prank which I had heard that they perpetuated as boys. They did not like to talk about it, but they admitted it. Peddlers in the days when Uncles Phil and Pete were young, as well as when I was young, were numerous and a great nuisance. They were dean-beats, dirty and carried diseases. On the occasion in question Pete and Phil stole a number of dozen of the peddler's eggs and then sold them back to him. The peddler wanted a box or basket to pack the eggs in that he had just bought. They told him to jump over the fence by the corner of the barn and he would find what he needed. He did so and fell flat into a slimy hog wallow. The boys pretended to be very sorry. They took him to the horse trough and with a broom swabbed him off. At that point the peddler thought it time to be on his way. When father and mother visited Cayuga County in 1921 they met a number of the Forbeses and Walkers and their descendants. The Browns, as above shown, were not prolific.

The Autobiography of Hugh Wetzel Lester, Part II, the Wetzels

Return to The James Lester Family.

Return to Pat's Genealogy Page.

My thanks to JOD's Old Fashioned Collection at
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