James Franklin Sannar

Adah and James Sannar

James Franklin Sannar was born on September 20th, 1883 to William Isaac and Eliza Ann (Carper) Sannar.  He was born in Fayette county, West Virginia.  Some records say Oak Hill and some say Mt. Hope.  These are both towns in Fayette county, in the heart of coal mining country, though his father was listed on the 1880 census as a farmer.

James, it seems, was known by Frank and was born the sixth of twelve children.  The family packed up and moved to Wallowa county, Oregon sometime in the late 1890’s, when Frank was between 12 and 15 years old.  I’ve always heard that they came by wagon and settled in the Promise area because some of their West Virginia neighbors had already settled there and wrote for the family to come.

In 1900, Frank was 16 years old when the census taker came around.  He had gone to school up to the 7th grade, could read and write, and was working as a farmer.  At age 26, in 1910, Frank was still living in the family home and working as a farm laborer.

On November 28th, 1912 Frank married Adah Gertrude Hescock, who was only 17 at the time.  Frank was 29.  The couple lived in Promise and welcomed their first child, Ida Ann, on June 30th, 1913.  That same summer, Frank’s younger brother Orval drowned in the Grande Ronde River while out fishing with friends.

Two years later, on October 3rd, 1915, Frank and Adah had a son, Walter Albert. Another son, Willard Woodrow, was born on February 11th, 1918.  Then came my own grandfather, Charles Alvin, on August 7th, 1920.

In the 1920 census, Frank own’s their home, which is listed as a “General Farm” and is working for himself as a farmer.  The land is mortgaged.  From the records, I believe that the Sannar family moved from their farm at Promise to somewhere closer to the town of Wallowa.

Tragedy strikes the family on November 6th, 1921 when little Willard dies of pneumonia.  He was only 3-1/2 years old.  I have always heard that the little guy fell in a creek and caught a cold that quickly turned into pneumonia.  He was buried the very next day in the Wallowa Cemetery.

Willard Woodrow Sannar Gravestone - Wallowa Oregon

(Gone But Not Forgotten, his headstone reads.  Willard Woodrow Sannar – Feb. 10, 1918 – Nov. 6, 1921)

On the 28th of January, 1925, Frank and Adah welcomed a baby girl, Julia Frances.  Two years later a baby boy was born on June 22nd, 1927.  He died at birth.  In 1928 Ruby Gertrude joined the family.

By the 1930 United States Federal Census, Frank was no longer farming, but working as a painter.

The last child, James “Jimmy” Orval was born the 29th of July, 1931.  It was a hard birth, one where the doctor had to use forceps.  Jimmy had brain damaged that was caused by his birth.  He would always live at home with his family.  Frank was 47 years old.

In the 1940 Federal Census, the family owned their home on Diamond Prairie Road in Wallowa, Oregon.  Frank was now working at the local sawmill as a foreman.  He made an income of $1,300 a year.

World War II began and in in 1942, Frank registered for the draft. At 58 years old, he would have been considered too old to serve.

About 1944, the family moved to Milton in Umatilla county.  The town is now called Milton-Freewater.  I’m not sure if Frank had retired by then or if he worked somewhere in Milton.

He passed away at the age of 67 on the 16th of December, 1950 and is buried in the cemetery in Milton-Freewater.  Years later, Jimmy and Adah were buried beside him.

Sannar, James Franklin and Adah Gertrude Headstone - Milton Oregon

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Sannar, James Franklin Obituary- from the La Grande Observer, December 27th, 1950

Frank Sannar Dies At Milton

Word has been received here of the death of Frank Sannar of Milton, who is a former resident of Wallowa county. James Franklin Sannar was born in Raleigh county, West Virginia, Sept. 20, 1883. His family came to Oregon while he and his brothers and sister were small. They lived north of Wallowa. He later homesteaded in the Promise area. On Nov. 28, 1912 he was united in marriage to Miss Ada Gertrude Hescock. Around 6 years ago, they moved to Milton. He was a member of the Christian Church. He is survived by his widow in Milton; three daughters, Mrs. Ida Scott of North Powder, Mrs. Francis Whitmore of Milton, and Mrs. Ruby Anderson of Walla Walla, Wash.; three sons, Albert and James of Milton, and Alvin of La Grande; a brother, Charles Sannar of Gridley, Calif.; three sisters, Mrs. Pearl Lively of Wallowa, Mrs. Lela Frank and Mrs. Letha Carper of La Grande; also 15 grandchildren,

(the rest of the obituary was cut off and unreadable. I’ll keep looking!)

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Like always, if you knew Frank, or even remember other folks talking about him, please share your memories!

(James Franklin Sannar is my great-grandfather.  He is the father of Charles Alvin Sannar, who is the father of my own dad, Thomas Alvin Sannar.)

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Leoma, Janice, and Judy Simmons Photo

Leoma, Janice, and Judy - May 1957 - Elgin Oregon - Ages 36, 13, and 12

Leoma Nesta (Dallas) Simmons and two of her daughters, Janice and Judy, sitting on the front lawn of their house in Elgin, Oregon.  Leoma was 36, Janice 13, and Judy 12.  Three beauties!

May 1957

Rolin Clay Simmons

Simmons, Rolin and dog

When I think of my Grandpa Simmons, I picture him coming home from work.  He’s wearing a white t-shirt and brown jeans, carrying his black metal lunchbox, his white hair shining in the sun and a twinkle in his blue eyes.  His name was Rolin Clay Simmons and I wish I had known him much longer than I did.

Rolin came into this world on the 20th of February in 1918.  He was born in Ontario, Oregon to Clay Taylor and Martha Alameda (Rowe) Simmons.  Rolin was the youngest of three children.  His two older siblings, Alta and Estel, were his half siblings.  Martha had been married to Thomas Sager previously in a marriage that ended in divorce.  After meeting and marrying Clay, Rolin was born.  I don’t remember there ever being any talk of “half brother and sister”, Alta and Estel were simply his sister and brother.

rolin-clay-simmons-age-7-july-4-1925-ontario-oregon

Here Rolin is 7 years old and eating ice cream on the 4th of July.  Look at those shoe’s!

The only thing that I know about his childhood years is that the family lived in the Ontario, Oregon area and his dad was a farmer.  By the 1930 census, the family had moved to Oroville, California and Rolin’s dad was doing bridge work.  Rolin was 12 that year.

Simmons - Clay, Martha, and Rolin

(Clay, Martha, and Rolin Simmons)

When Rolin was 21, he married Leoma Nesta Dallas in Reno, Nevada on December 23rd, 1939.  The couple made their home in Mineral, California where Rolin was working as a miner.

Simmons, Rolin and Leoma - California

Leoma and Rolin – I don’t have a year or a place on this picture, so if anyone else knows, please let me know!

Rolin and Leoma’s first daughter, Marvelene Jean, was born in Oroville, California on February 2nd, 1941.  A son, Philip Clay, followed the next year on June 14th, 1942, in Redding, California.

The family had moved to Redding and Rolin was working on the construction of Shasta Dam.  He worked in the rock quarry that was being used to build the dam.  Rolin was 24 years old.

The family was growing!  Next came a daughter, Janice Sharon on January 9th of 1944, (my mom!), then Judith Leoma on May 24th, 1945.  The youngest child born into the Simmons family was Randy Neal born on the 10th of July, 1946.

Around 1946, the Simmons family moved to the northeastern corner of Oregon, to Elgin.  There’s much that I don’t know about why they choose to move there and what Rolin did in their early years in this part of Oregon.

For a few years when my mom was a teenager, the family had moved to Wallowa and Grandpa and Grandma had a hardware store there.  I believe they only lived in Wallowa for about two years.

When I was growing up, Rolin was a contractor and they owned and operated Elgin Hardware, later known as Simmons Supply and Lumber.  I loved going in to the hardware store and helping grandma.  She would put us to work doing inventory, counting out the nails one by one.  It has only occurred to me as I’ve gotten older, that she was simply keeping young hands busy and out of her way.  Sneaky, Grandma, sneaky.

Simmons, Rolin House - Elgin Oregon

This is the house in Elgin where my Grandparents raised their family and the one that I have so many memories of myself.  Behind the house, there was a fire-pit with Grandpa’s great big fat hotdogs roasting away and long stone benches that were so cool to lay on on a hot summer day. So many cousins running around, so much love.

Leoma and Rolin Simmons

Que once again my grandfather coming home from work, his lunch box swinging in his hand and a twinkle in his eye.  His grandkids accost him, hoping for one of those special candies that he always has in his lunchbox.  He chases us a minute, affectionately tells all his “poopdecks” to simmer down, and goes inside to place a kiss on grandma’s cheek.

I remember him as a fairly quiet man with a dry sense of humor.  Gruff at times, but never really meaning it.  Grandpa was a collector of stamps, of coins, of books.  I loved going in his office and looking through his books full of the art of Charles Russell and Norman Rockwell.  The times when he would sit with me, his big magnifying glass in hand, and tell me about his stamps were some of my favorite times.

Those special candies that were always in his lunchbox were because Rolin was a diabetic and needed them for when his blood sugar would dip too low.  One of my earliest memories is getting up in the morning after having stayed the night with them, to find Grandma boiling Grandpa’s needle on the stove and then giving him his insulin shot.

Grandpa had a way about him, a special spark that made each one of us feel special. For me, he said he loved my biscuits and always asked that I make them for him.  Now, I know I wasn’t a spectacular cook, but Grandpa knew that I liked to do it, so he always made me feel like I was the best biscuit cook this side of the Mississippi, quietly, simply by asking me to bake them for him.  It was just his way.

Rolin passed away far too soon.  He had his health struggles;  carbon monoxide poisoning on a job in the 1970’s, a stroke about 1980, then he frostbit a toe and, being stubborn, didn’t go to the doctor until it was too late.  They were going to need to amputate, but before that could happen, Rolin suffered a heart attack while in the hospital and passed away.  It was the 17th of February 1982.  He was only 63 years old.  I still remember that evening like it was last week.  Forever missed.

Simmons, Rolin Clay Headstone - Elgin Oregon

Rolin is buried in the cemetery at Elgin, Oregon between his beloved wife, Leoma, and his daughter, Janice.   I remember standing at the graveside after my grandmother’s burial, when it was only the family left, and in a moment of lightness my uncle quipped, “Poor Daddy.  Now he’ll never get any rest.”

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Please please share your memories and I’ll add them in right here.

“The summer of 1980 I worked for my Grandpa Simmons. He was building a small shop just a few blocks from Grandma and Grandpas house. I was 15 at the time and had my drivers permit. Grandpa tried to teach me to drive his stick shift “Scout”. He had the patience of a saint. I killed it every time so we would walk the short distance to the job site.
One of my favorite Grandpa quotes is “You’ve got to get up early to get ahead of me.” ” – Stacey Sannar Roth

” He was a very caring and loving father. He worked very hard to support a family of seven. Sometimes we would not see him for one to two weeks at a time. He would be working out of town, doing construction. When he did return home, he would always have a surprise for us. One time it was a wild caught Badger, it was so mean. He wanted us to learn about it and then he took it back and let it loose. I was about 7 or 8 at the time.  He taught us so much. I truly miss him a lot.” –  Judy Simmons Hulse

“I remember Rolin as you aptly described him. He was a hard -working, soft-spoken man. He was very polite and helpful in his store.
I have fond memories of teenage years with Jan, Judy and Phil.
The greatest gift Rolin and Leoma gave me is a wonderful sister-in-law Judy, whom I dearly love. Such good memories!” ~ Elaine Hulse Durrer