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Family Stories about the Olmsteads

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Webster City, Iowamap
Surnames/tags: Olmstead Black_Hawk Shiloh
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Here is the family history as I remember it and info I’ve found just poking around on the Internet:

Charles T. Olmstead was a veteran of the Blackhawk war. He was a private in Fortunatus Berry's Company stationed at Fort Gratiot. He is listed in the Wisconsin Historical Society's website. Wisconsin Muster Rolls of the Black Hawk War 1832. When the Civil War broke out, Charles T. joined a greybeard regiment (not THE Greybeard Regiment out of Iowa) that was not officially recognized by the government. The greybeards would just show up with the soldiers and would participate in battles. Sometimes their names show up in dead/wounded lists and sometimes not. Since there was no official info or uniform, identifying a dead body was nearly impossible.

Charles T took his son, Charles (later nicknamed Shiloh which I’ll use to avoid confusion), with him as a drummer boy.

Later, but not much later, Shiloh came to Webster City. He was suffering from shock and couldn’t deal with people very well. He built himself a shack by the river that ran next to Webster City. He stayed there fishing and trapping. He also took charity clothes and things to meet his needs.

Every spring the river flooded. Shiloh would refuse to leave his shack and eventually the men had to go out in a boat to rescue him. He would not leave without serious persuasion. During one of these flood times Shiloh ended up marrying a woman (I don't know her name) who owned a dress shop. Each Spring he would live with her until the water receded. In this fashion they had three children, the youngest of which was my grandfather, Robert.

Each year Shiloh would venture into town on Veteran’s Day with his ragged drum. The townspeople would refuse to let him in the parade because he was so shoddy. So he’d follow far behind the parade playing his drum. People tried to ignore him. Much later on, he was accepted as a town eccentric and was allowed in the parade. He lived in his shack until he passed away. The Kendall Young Library in Webster City has a lot of information about Shiloh, but not online.

Robert was taken out of school early to serve as a nursemaid to his grandfather (Charles T) who had gone blind. He resented it terribly. After the old man passed, Robert sickened and went to a doctor who told him that he had a blood disease and was going to die. In anger and resentment, Robert took his inheritance (the family had gone into the funeral parlor business) and went to Kansas City. There he intended to end his days in the brothels and bars.

Later, with his money running out, Robert went to another doctor who said there was nothing wrong with him and he wasn’t going to die. Robert moved to Omaha where he started working in construction. He was dating a woman who owned a boarding house. Later, when the woman’s daughter came to Omaha, he married the daughter, Bernice. By now he had started a construction company and was doing very well. He and Bernice had three daughters, the youngest of which was my mother. Around 1930-32 in the midst of the depression, Robert (known as The Hawk) lost his business and everything he owned. Time goes by, the girls grow up. Eldyne Olmstead Fuglei married Noel Robert Fuglei – have 6 children Carolyn Olmstead Smith married Edward Leo Smith – one child, Eddie. Mary C. Olmstead married Paul W. Spencer - three children. I am the youngest.

When I was young we attended Kountze Memorial Church in Omaha. They had a pegboard where 3x5 cards were posted bearing the names and addresses of 'shut-ins' - folks who couldn't get around easily by themselves and would appreciate a card or note on holidays. I saw a card with the name Nellie Olmstead and, knowing that my mother's maiden name was Olmstead, I took that card whenever it popped up and sent Christmas cards, Easter cards, etc.

A couple of years went by and Nellie passed away. Her family found my cards in a box in her closet, and contacted me to let me know the funeral arrangements. My folks were interested, so we attended the family gathering afterward, and met a whole side of the family they had no idea existed. My mom learned about Shiloh Olmstead and our interest began then.

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