Revisiting Topeka

Three weeks ago, having left Philadelphia early to avoid Hurricane Sandy, we found ourselves driving through Indiana with a bit of time to spare. In my opinion, unscheduled, meandrous travels are times of serendipitous happenstance. This trip was no exception.

We got off the I-80/90 freeway at the Indiana-Ohio border and headed 30 miles southwest on country roads to Swan, Indiana. This is where our Amos and Holmes ancestors settled.

Swan, Indiana

Swan is a small cluster of houses on Old State Road 3, just off Highway 3 (it doesn’t even show up as a village on the map, but is listed as a township). If we let our imaginations run, we could wonder if the old building in the background was Charles Wesley Amos’s carpenter shop.

Just south of Swan, the Swan Cemetery is at the intersection of Old State Road 3 and E 300 S (creative street naming at its best). Here the Holmes and Cramer families are buried—if you remember, these are names from the Amos Boys’ Grandmother Beatrice’s side of the family.

Because it was cold and raining (thanks to Hurricane Sandy) and because there are over 900 interments in the Swan Cemetery, we were not about to get out and search for gravestones. Mark that down for next time, along with some advance research!

Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan, Noble Co. Indiana

Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

We did, however, find the Bethlehem Cemetery, a much smaller, quaint, country cemetery located a few miles west on Swan Road. And here is the Amos family!

Charles Wesley and Elizabeth Amelia (Jarrett) Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Charles Wesley Amos military marker, 5 IND Battalion, G.A.R. Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Charles and Elizabeth (Jarrett) are the Amos Boys great-grandparents. On the gravestone it reads 5 IND BAT. G.A.R. for Charles’ military service during the Civil War.

Andrew and Catharine Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Our son, Jonathan, needed to be in South Bend later that week. Not trusting the flights out of his town of Philadelphia, he hitched a ride with us. Jonathan’s middle name is Amos so spending 3-4 hours with his parents on a cold, rainy legacy tour was especially meaningful…right, Jonny? (Thanks again, Hurricane Sandy, he says.)

Andrew Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co., Indiana

Catharine Mottinger Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Andrew and Catharine (Mottinger) Amos were Charles Wesley’s parents. If you recall, Andrew was born in Hanover, Germany. At some point, he immigrated to America and settled in Ohio, where he married Catharine. Together, they raised their family in Swan.

From here, we loaded back into the car and headed westward. We drove past Corunna, a town my father Duane has often mentioned; and Kendallville, where Duane remembers, as children, he and Bruce went shopping every Friday with their Grandmother Beatrice.

Late in the afternoon, we arrived in Topeka.

Amish buggy in Topeka, Indiana

In some ways Topeka is the same town I remember as a child. It still has only one stop light. There still is a hardware store on the corner. And there still are Amish—in fact, there are lots of Amish!

Just as Duane described on the phone, if you turn west at the street light (Main and Lake St) and go one block to Babcock St., there on the corner is the building that was their grandfather Wm. Arthur Amos’s blacksmith shop. Interestingly, it still looks somewhat the same. It’s now the Eastside Harness and Tack Shop, and here is a blog with lots of photos of the shop.

I later called Eastside and left a phone message. The owner called back and also left a message. He said Arthur Amos was before his time, however his father remembered such a blacksmith shop. I’m still trying to connect with him.

209 S. Babcock, Topeka, Indiana

Does this house look familiar? It’s 209 S. Babcock St., in Topeka, and it’s where Arthur and his second wife Hazel lived. Many of us may remember coming here when we were young.

How’s this for fun…the house is currently for sale and it’s listed on this realtor’s page. You can see the interior rooms and imagine how they looked decades ago.

On the outskirts of Topeka is Eden Cemetery. Here, Wm. Arthur and his first wife Beatrice are buried. I’ve marked this cemetery for a return-trip-to-do list but in the meantime, you can check out their gravestone on this page.

So that was our trip. In spite of some nasty weather, it was still lots of fun and very special. Definitely one to do again on a nicer day!

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Finding Culture Within the Family

Last week, we studied the Amos side of our family tree and once again we learned of our German roots. This week, let’s look at Beatrice Holmes, the grandmother from Topeka who took care of Duane and Bruce. We know so very little of her and her family. But perhaps, just by her English surname, we can imagine a bit of cultured decorum that counterbalances the stodgy stubbornness so often associated with our Kraut-iness (although, surely we have none of that).

So, let’s take a look at Beatrice and her family.

From our family records, we know Beatrice was born in 1880 in Swan, Indiana, to (Eugene) Milton and Mary Alice (Cramer) Holmes. Her father Milton drilled wells for a living and was originally from Ohio. We don’t know much more about his family.

Thanks to Ancestry.com however, we know quite a bit about Beatrice’s mother’s family. The Cramers were from Swan, Indiana—in fact they settled the town. That means we have another founding for which we can claim credit (so what if it’s only an unincorporated community within the township of Swan).

According to the 1860-1870 census records, Beatrice’s grandfather, Ephraim Cramer, ran a dry goods and grocery store there in town. According to this website on Indiana cemeteries, her great-grandfather, Conrad, was the community’s first settler. On that site, check out his list of children: six from his first wife, Magdalina, before she died at the young age of 32, and 12 from his second wife, Lydia. The Cramers were a town, just of themselves!

But wait a minute, Cramer—is that an English name? It could be, according to this Ancestry.com family fact page. Or, it could be Dutch, German or Irish, depending on its original spelling.

We have more surnames that pop up on Beatrice’s side of the family—names like Broughton, Rickard, Timmerman, Sitts and Haus. All these people, as far back to the mid-1700s, were born here in the United States. We’re like founding fathers within our country!

Interesting, huh? I wonder where we’ve immigrated from and when?

Creating New Memories

It’s been a week since our reunion and it kind of feels like post Christmas blues. We all had such a good time! It was so wonderful to see people we hadn’t seen in years and get to know those we hadn’t yet met.

Two things are for certain—those of you who couldn’t come, you really missed out. And those who did, want to do it again! So let’s start talking now and get some plans in the works!

And now for the recap!

Although the reunion actually started days and days before when Duane, Jan, Dave, Sam and Sarah set up the venue and Jerry, Elaine, Jerri Lynn, Jenny, Shelley and Cheryl prepared the food, we officially kicked off the day with our Legacy Tour Breakfast at Cinders Grill in Laingsburg.

Cinders served us a delicious breakfasts and patiently put up with our excitement (boisterous greetings and hugs without regard) and jovialties (loud and continuous laughter). The picture above shows us looking rather lethargic. I assure you we were not.

Thanks Cinders, you were the best! And thanks Laingsburg News for featuring us in your weekly news!

After breakfast we stepped outside and literally took over the town (remember Laingsburg is not that big). Jerry handed out the Legacy Files he meticulously compiled, complete with family tree information and maps. And Elaine stepped inside this store—how interesting, it turns out the store is owned by grandsons of Gladys’ husband Leo Klotz.

Not a good picture of the house but a great one of three lovely ladies! L-R: Jenny (Jerry’s daughter); Ruth (Duane’s granddaughter); and Cheryl (Duane’s daughter).


We walked by the empty lot where Peter Laing’s second tavern and inn once stood. We then checked out this house, located on 117 North Laing St, where Dr. Peter Laing and his wife Laura lived when their son Paisley was born. You can find a better picture of the house in the Legacy Files, and also on page 13 of the book Hill and Below.

From here, we all hopped in our cars and drove to the cemeteries.

Dr. Peter Laing and his second wife Laura Kemp (Paisley’s parents) are buried in the Laingsburg Cemetery, located just outside of town. 

Jerri Lynn (Jerry’s daughter) became the appointed “rubber” and is assisted here by Shelley (Bruce’s daughter).

We stopped at the farmhouse on Stoll Road where Paisley and Anastasia Laing once lived. The current owners were gracious enough to let peruse their lawn and take pictures. Here, we’re re-enacting this photo (gee, if anyone has a better shot, I’m sure some of us wouldn’t be the least opposed to replacing this photo).

We found Paisley’s gravestone in the St. Patrick Cemetery, also his daughter Fannie Laing Hart’s (Maggie’s sister and the Amos Boys’ great-aunt). But we couldn’t find Anastasia’s gravestone.

Next stop: Gulick Road, to visit this well-kept farmstead where Perry and Fidelia Gulick once lived. Gladys was born in a house right next door, which is no longer there, and she also spent many years living here with her grandparents Perry and Fidelia.

It wouldn’t be at all alarming to learn that this shifty-looking crowd was hanging out in your driveway while you were gone, would it?

Jerry and Elaine planned in advance and notified cemetery sextons that we would be visiting—good thinking, because these country cemeteries could easily have been locked.

John and Fanny Capen (Fidelia’s parents) and Perry and Fidelia Gulick are all buried in the Foote Cemetery on Sherwood Road, in the rural Williamston area.

At the Summit Cemetery on Beeman Road, Williamston, we sang Kum Ba Yah to Gladys, in remembrance of our many nights singing around the campfire. We might have made it through without any tears except for the look on this guy’s face…

Our last stop on the Legacy Tour (by now many of us were wishing for a bathroom…) was the Rose Lawn Cemetery in Perry. Here, Margie (Maggie) Laing Adams is buried.

Jerry and Joel check out the family tree charts and tables of photos.


Back at Duane and Jan’s, the reunion started off with finger food and great conversation. Which led to more and more food. And more great conversation. And lawn games. And a slide show from the 60s. It couldn’t have gotten any groovier!

To top it off, we took more photos for more memories!

Duane’s family.

Bruce’s family (Shelley’s children and grandchildren were also here, but missed out on the pictures).

Jerry’s family.

Brothers Duane and Jerry with a cane handcrafted by Perry Gulick.

Our reunion hosts: Elaine and Jerry, Duane and Jan. Thanks SO MUCH for putting on this most special event!

Remembering Our Cemeteries and Knowing Us Amos’s

Margie (Maggie) Francis Laing Adams, Rose Lawn Cemetery, Perry MI


Here in Wisconsin, there’s a country cemetery up the road from our house that my husband’s family has maintained for more than 40 years. Every year on Memorial Day we gather with the ever-aging cemetery board members and discuss things like burning burdock along the fence line or increasing plot fees from $75 to $100. (I wrote about these exciting meetings here in my maternal grandmother’s blog.)

Anyway, planning for this year’s meeting has got me thinking about traveling to Michigan in three weeks for the Amos Reunion and the cemeteries we’re going to visit as part of our historical road trip. I’m getting so excited! In fact, we’ve now given the road trip an official name—the Gulick-Laing Legacy Tour, or, simply the Legacy Tour, since we don’t want to appear overly ostentatious.

Here’s what’s planned for the Legacy Tour

On Saturday, June 16, at 9 am., we’ll meet at Cinders Grill in Laingsburg. We’ll enjoy a dutch treat breakfast. We’ll go over route maps and handouts that Jerry is putting together. And best of all, we’ll raucously reconnect with those we haven’t seen in years!

After breakfast, we’ll all take off in our cars for the Legacy Tour. We’ll drive past homes where our ancestors lived. We’ll see sites where important buildings once stood. And we’ll visit cemeteries where our family members are buried. The tour may take 3-4 hours, depending on our speed. Join us whenever you wish, stay as long as you can stand us.

But the best comes after the Legacy Tour!

Duane and Jan’s house is where the real action will be! I hear they’ve even put in a horseshoe pit. The reunion starts at 2 pm. Come whenever you can, but for sure be there by 5-6 for the delicious dinner!

But wait, I’ve been thinking…

For some, it’s been decades since we’ve seen each other. Others of us haven’t even met. How will we know we’re Amos’s?

Joel came up with identifying clues. We need you to add to them!

You know you’re an Amos if…

  • You sing the special Happy Birthday song
  • You’re always late
  • You can never find your glasses
  • You can never find your glasses, and you look in the mirror and they’re on your head
  • Pickles are a required food for every gathering