Grandma Kate Opens Up

I’m so excited about this post!  You know how it is sometimes with older relatives – you want to know their story and they’re just not willing to talk about things.  I must have caught Grandma Kate on a good day.  Finally, after all these years!  I knew she would be hesitant to talk about some things.  The end of her life was difficult.  It’s pretty drastic when you get caught by fire.  She does touch on that, but mostly she talks about her family history.  How convenient for me, since that is what I am most interested in.  It is a family history blog after all.

Her voice doesn’t sound like what I expected.  It may have changed through the years.  Or maybe I was errant in my expectations.  Either way, I enjoyed hearing her story.  I hope you do, too.

Milliron Reunion in 1885

Daniel C. Milliron and Catherine Cribbs were my 4x great grandparents.  They were married on Feb. 5, 1824, in Hemphill Township, Westmoreland County in Pennsylvania.  They were both born in Westmoreland County, yet after they were  married they settled in Mercer County which is 100 miles away.

They had nine children together.  In 1825 they had Alexander, in 1826 they had Anne Magdaleen (my 3x great grandmother), in 1829 they had John, in 1831 they had Elias, in 1834 they had Cyrus (died as infant), in 1836 they had David, in 1838 they had Luis (died as infant), in 1840 they had Catherine (died as infant), and in 1842 they had Susannah (died at age 9).  As you can see, only 4 sons and 1 daughter grew to adulthood.

Once they grew up and got married, they and their children started spreading across the country.  Those were the times they were living in.  When Anne Magdaleen married Morris Foster on August 30, 1843, the US consisted of only 26 states.  By the time of her death in 1873, 11 more were added.  The Milliron families were setting up homes in some of these new states.

Transcription of May 21, 1885, letter from Milliron brothers to their brother John. The letter was found in an old family Bible.

This led to lots of distance between those siblings.  I discovered this when I found a transcription of a letter from May 21, 1885.  Three of the brothers were having a reunion at the home of the oldest brother Alexander in Wabaunsee County, Kansas.  When they were growing up, he was called Sander.  As he got older, he was known as Mac.  After a few days together at the reunion, they adjusted to calling him his new name.

From what I can tell, Sander (or Mac as we now call him) had last seen Eli in 1857.  Can you imagine not seeing your sibling for 28 years?  The last time Eli had seen Dave was in 1865.   Their time apart was only 20 years.  Sander had last seen Dave in 1870.  They don’t mention how long it had been since the brothers had seen John.  The letter was written to him and it sounds like he may have stayed in Pennsylvania.

One of the things not mentioned was the death of Anne Magdaleen in 1873.  They do talk about being the only four left of their immediate family.  So it’s evident that they did not go to Anne’s funeral.  She lived in Pennsylvania, so the only one that would have possibly made it would have been John.  We don’t hear from him, though.  They do express sorrow that he is not with them and invite him to visit each of them.  I wonder if Cathrine Foster Phenice (daughter of Anne Magdeleen) was invited to this reunion.  She only lived a day or so away, yet she and husband Samuel had six young children to care for.

The three brothers spent a few days reminiscing about old times.  They mention some of their adventures as young men and say that they have tempered themselves as older men.  It’s a little bittersweet.  They mention reading over all the old letters they could find.  Boy, I wish I had some of those!  At least I have this one.  It gives me a bit of a glimpse into the lives of my great great great grandmother’s family.

Harry C. Phenice is my maternal grandmother’s father.


A Clearer View of Kate

My inspiration for the post this week came from a website that I use for exploring DNA matches.  The name of the website is and it came out with something new recently.  This new thing has nothing to do with DNA.  It really doesn’t even have anything to do with genealogy.  They came out with a photo editing feature.

And you can call me amazed!!!  I don’t normally use three exclamation points at a time, but this time it was appropriate.  I saw a little ad for the feature.  It showed a before and after for an old photo.  I didn’t believe it.  I was like, “There is no way possible for that to be true.  They took a clear photo and blurred it to make it a ‘before’ photo.  Then they used the original photo for the ‘after’ photo.”  I was not believing it.

But I thought I’d try it.  Why not?  I had tried their colorizing feature on some photos, but I didn’t really like the results.  But it was a free trial offer.  So I went on their website and tried it on a few photos.  It’s like magic!!  Even after seeing the results, I find it hard to believe.  It puts back details like strands of hair, eyelashes, and lip texture that look authentic.

Photo that was edited using’s Photo Enhancer to clear up the image of my great great grandmother Kate Phenice and her daughter Emma from 1890.

My favorite one is this old photo of my maternal grandmother’s paternal grandmother. (I am the son of Betty Lou Bucklin Landry, who was the daughter of Myrtle Sylvia Phenice Bucklin, who was the daughter of Harry Clifton Phenice, who was the son of Cathrine Jane Foster Phenice.)  So Cathrine or Kate was my great great grandmother.  The photo was taken in 1890 in Hitchcock County, Nebraska.  I estimated this date because her 8th and youngest child Emma Orra is in the photo with her, and she was born June 20, 1889.

Look how much better their faces look!  It really brings the photos to life.  I’ve already spent way too long looking at this photo.  I just can’t get over the details that were recovered.  I thought I’d do the same with the information about Kate’s life.  The details of her life were a mystery for a long time, but last year I figured out who her parents were.  I’ve discovered a few more details in the meantime.

Cathrine Jane Foster was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 16, 1848.  We have had that information for quite a while.  Some of it was on her headstone and other parts were in a newspaper article about her death.  There were lots of other details, as well, but nothing was said about parents or siblings.

I now know that she was the daughter of Morris or Moore Foster and Anne Magdaleen Milliron.  When she was born, Morris and Anne had been married for 5 years.  They were married on Aug. 30, 1843.  It was most likely in Mercer County, because that’s where they both were born.  I don’t know much more about Morris’s family, but I do know that the Milliron family had been in Pennsylvania for about 100 years.

Morris and Anne had their first son in 1845 and his name was James.  Their second son was born in 1846 and they called him Emory.  Cathrine was their first daughter and the next to be born.  I’m not sure when she started going by the name Kate, but that seems to be what she was known by most of her life. 

The next source of information for Kate’s life was the 1850 Census.  There are six people living in the household in Cherrytree, Venango, Pennsylvania.  There are 29-year-old Moore Foster, 24-year-old Ann Magdelene Foster, 19-year-old Thomas Foster, 6-year-old James, 4-year-old Emory, and 2-year-old Catharine.  This is a Census, so the names are spelled according to the Census taker.  I’m not sure who Thomas is, but it is likely a family member, such as a brother or nephew of Moore.

The main thing that is different is where they are living.  I have Cherrytree as the birth place for James and Emory.  I’m thinking that Kate must have been born in Cherrytree as well, because in 1852 her younger sister Hannah is born in Cherrytree.  I doubt that the family was moving back and forth from Mercer.  They are about 110 miles apart.  So at some point Moore and Anne moved to Cherrytree and started having children.

Tragedy struck a few months after the birth of Hannah in 1852.  Moore Foster died at the age of 35.  I don’t know how he died, but I’m sure it was a traumatic event in the life of little 4-year-old Kate.  Anne moved her family back to Mercer County.  I suppose she did this to be closer to her Milliron family members.

About a year later Anne Magdaleen Milliron Foster married George Richael.  Over the next five years, Anne and George had three sons.  Their third son Elias was born in 1858 and he only lived for two days.  This was likely another point of sadness in 9-year-old Kate’s life.  Anne and George had two daughters following this.  Then in 1864 they had a son that they named George, Jr.  Sadly, George, Jr. died a couple of days after his first birthday.

So in 1865 the family consisted of her mother Anne and step-father George, as well as her brothers James and Emory and sister Hannah.  There were also two step-brothers and two step-sisters.  It’s hard to know if that was a happy situation or not.  There was no mention of other family members in the article about her death, and some of those step siblings were still alive.  I’m thinking it wasn’t the best situation, since it doesn’t seem like it was talked about.  Otherwise her family wouldn’t have been such a mystery.  Or maybe it was just the forgetfulness of family through the years.

Either way, 17-year-old Kate was not sticking around!  She must have met Samuel Phenice around this time.  He was 21 at this time and had fantastic tales to tell about his soldiering time in the Civil War and his eyewitness testimony for the Lincoln Assassination.  They were married Sept. 27, 1866, in Hendersonville, Pennsylvania.

And the rest, they say, is another post.

Edited version with just Kate in the photo.

Finding Cathrine Foster’s Family

Cathrine Foster Phenice circa 1910

Have I done it?!  I think I have.  The pieces all seem to add up.  I am very excited about it, since members of the family have been trying to find evidence of Cathrine Foster Phenice’s family for at least the last 50 years.  DNA was helpful in this case, but so was time spent looking.  Let me see if I can explain it for those who are interested.

My mother’s name was Betty Lou Bucklin Landry.  Her mother was Myrtle Phenice Bucklin.  Grandma’s father was Harry Clifton Phenice.  His parents were Samuel Charles Phenice (witness to the Lincoln Assassination) and Cathrine Jane Foster (died as a result of terrible burns).  We knew some of the ancestry of Samuel, but not of Kate.  The one thing we knew for certain was that she was born in 1848 in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. 

I wanted to find out more, so I decided to use my newest tool for researching.  I did a search on for Phenice and Kansas.  I had already done a search for Phenice and Nebraska.  I found some interesting items, but nothing led me in the direction of Kate’s Foster family.  I had to be open to the chance that her last name was not originally Foster.  It’s possible she could have been married before or possibly adopted.  There was rumor that the Foster name came about because she had grown up in a foster family.  If that had been the case, the title of this post would be “Finding Cathrine’s Foster Family” and it isn’t.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My search for Phenice and Kansas came up with one particularly juicy morsel.  It reads, “Mr. W. E. Phenice, of Trenton, Nebraska, who has been at Perry, Okla., is visiting at Chalk Mound at present.  Mr. Phenice is a nephew of A. E. Millison.”  (The Eskridge Tribune Star and Eskridge Independent, August 30, 1894)

I know who W. E. Phenice is.  Samuel and Kate had an older son named William Emory (b. 1871) and they homesteaded in Trenton, Nebraska, from 1886 to 1889.  So that part fits just right.  But neither Samuel nor Kate had a sibling by the name of A. E. Millison, because that’s the only way he could be a nephew. 

I didn’t really think about it much and then went to look at one of the sites that I have my DNA matches.  And can you guess what I found?  I found a DNA match with the last name Millison.  It really stood out since I had just seen this newspaper article with the same surname identified as a relative.  So I had to check it out a little.  I looked to see who else in the family was a DNA match to this Millison person.  My mom and both of her siblings matched him at the same point on Chromosome 9.  None of their first cousins were a match, but one of their second cousins were.  And…drumroll, please…it was our cousin Mona Q. who also descends from Samuel and Kate Phenice.  And it wasn’t just any other random DNA matching segment, it was the same exact spot on Chromosome 9. 

So I sent off a note to that DNA match to ask what he knows about the Millison name.  I was also wondering how he might be connected to this A. E. Millison.  And if he did know who he was, was either he or his wife from somewhere around Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

After I sent the note, I looked him up on 23andMe, which is where he tested.  On his profile he showed that his great grandparents lived in Council Grove, Kansas, which is the same area as Chalk Mound.  So he looked like he was from the same family.  Then I found an obituary for a Uba Millison at  There was no information in that article, but the name is so unusual that I figured I could search for it on Find A Grave.  It worked!  I found Alexander E. Millison who died in Wabaunsee, Kansas, which is where William Emery Phenice lived in 1895.  But more importantly, I found out that A. E. Millison was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, the same place that Cathrine Foster was born.

Of course A. E. Millison was married to someone and she could have been born in Mercer County, too.  Kate and Samuel were both born there.  Amazingly enough, I heard back right away from my Millison DNA match.  That’s practically unheard of.  He was able to provide a few quick links for some family information.  I was able to determine that A. E. Millison was married to Phoebe Cummings who had been born  in Quebec.  So the common DNA came through A. E. Millison.  The name is also spelled Milliron and Milleson.  The family originated in Germany.

I did some research on the family and wasn’t able to find a connection to Kate right away.  A. E. did have a daughter named Orra, which is the middle name of Kate’s daughter Emma (Mona’s grandmother).  He also had sisters by the name of Catherine and Susannah, both of which are family names in the Phenice line.  But the Catherine that was his sister had a well-documented family that did not match our Cathrine.  Where was the connection?

1850 Census record from Venango, Pennsylvania. The first complete household shows Moore, Ann Magdelene, James, Emory, Catharine, and Thos Foster.

I found another tree that had the Millison family documented on it.  I thought I would try a different approach.  I searched for the last name Foster to see if that was in the tree.  Sure enough it was.  And there it was – a Catherine Foster born in 1848.  I went to check out her page and saw that her mother was listed as Anne Magdeleen Milliron, born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  She was the sister to A. E. Millison.  There was a brother of Cathrine with the name of Emery, another name to tie it all together.

When I saw that her father’s name was listed as Morris Foster, I thought it looked familiar.  In the beginning of 2018 I had come across a Census record from Venango, Pennsylvania, in 1850.   There was a two-year-old daughter in the household named Catharine.  She had a brother named Emory, a mom named Ann Magdelene, and a father named Moore Foster.  I had saved this but was never able to find any other information on this household.

Maybe if I had been searching for Morris Foster I would have had better luck.   The other problem is that Morris Foster died in 1852.  Ann Magdelene soon married George Rihel and the first of their nine children together was born in 1854.  So little Kate Foster grew up in a household of Rihels after that point.  She was a Foster child, but in name only. 

Catherine Foster in the Rihel household in 1860

So the relationship to A. E. Millison stated in the article was slightly inaccurate.  Kate was his niece (not his sister) and William Emory Phenice was his grand nephew.  They must have had a close family connection for them to visit like they did.   Yet that article was instrumental in making a great connection.  I am going to have to pay close attention to those old newspaper blurbs about family visiting family because you never know what little morsel of information can lead to a great discovery.

And a great discovery it is.  For Kate’s father’s side, I only have his name so far.  But for Anne Magdeleen, she is the first of four generations found.  The family was in Pennsylvania for a long time.  Most of them were from Germany, and one of our ancestors was born on the voyage to the US.  Another was a Revolutionary War soldier who died in the Battle of the Wabash at the age of 36.

Now that I’ve updated my family tree with these new names, I’ve been able to identify many DNA matches who also have these names.  I had suspected that they were connections through Cathrine Foster and now I have enough information to make the connection. 

Now that I have walked my way through all of this information, I’m starting to believe it a bit more. 

Cathrine Jane Foster Phenice family tree

It Could Have Been Gomorrah

Reenacting a photo of my great great grandfather at Maple Creek Cemetery in Precept, Nebraska, in June 2018. See how windy it was.

I wasn’t sure I was going to do a post today, but I found a Wi-Fi spot to do a little work. I decided to post about my recent adventure since that’s the only photos that I have access to right now.

I mentioned the trip to Nebraska to visit the graves of my great great grandparents a few weeks ago, and decided to reenact one of the photos that I posted. That’s the photo of me standing next to the headstone in the cemetery.

Before we went to the cemetery, we stopped in the small town of Beaver City, Nebraska. At the library I found some information about my great great grandparents Samuel Charles Phenice and Cathrine Jane Foster. On two of their children’s marriage certificates, I saw that they went by the names Charles and Kate.

Charles and Kate lived in the small community called Precept, Nebraska. The early settlers picked the name by choosing a phrase from the Bible at random. It’s a good thing they didn’t pick Gomorrah! I also found a photo in a newspaper clipping that showed the church of Precept. It’s the church that Charles and Kate must’ve gone to. Their daughter was married there and Kate’s funeral was held there.

I’m glad I found that photo because it helped me to identify the church when I saw it on the way to Maple Creek (pronounced ‘Crick’ by the locals) Cemetery. The church was moved in 1927 from the cemetery area to the ‘town’ of Precept.

The church in Precept in 2018.

It seemed odd to me that they would make the effort to move the church less than 2 miles away to another secluded area. I suppose there must’ve been more people living in that vicinity. Nothing but fields and clouds for miles around. And an old abandoned church.

Which made the cemetery that much more surprising. It was immaculate! I’m glad to know that their graves are well taken care of. Maybe some of you want to check it out someday.

I had to get creative with this one. Her name is very hard to read when you look at it straight on. Now I know how she spells her name!

The Phenice plot. Kate was buried here in 1921 and Charles was buried in 1939.

Maple Creek Cemetery in Precept, Nebraska, is such a well-groomed cemetery. Very impressive.

Digging Up Bones

S. C. Phenice visiting his wife’s grave circa 1930.

I saw this photo for the first time just over a year ago.  I got it from my second cousin once removed (my mom’s second cousin) Mona Quillen.  It’s kind of a sad photo.

It’s a photo of my great great grandfather Samuel Charles Phenice at Maple Creek Cemetery in Precept (Furnas County), Nebraska.  He is holding a grandchild or great grandchild as he visits his wife Catherine Jane Foster Phenice’s grave.

We all know the tragedy of Catherine’s death.  Her clothes caught fire in her home just before Christmas in 1920.  She was burned terribly and died as a result of her wounds on Jan. 7, 1921, at the age of 72.  She and Samuel had gotten married Sept. 27, 1866, in Hendersonville, Pennsylvania.  (They were both born in Mercer County in Pennsylvania.)  So at the time of her death, they had been married for 54 years.  Samuel went on to survive Catherine for another 19 years.

So I’m pretty sure this was just one of many of the visits that Samuel made to this graveyard.  That means this photo was taken sometime between 1921 and 1939.  In 1930 he was living with his youngest daughter Emma Quillen (Mona’s grandmother) and her family. (According to 1930 Census.)  Since he was living with that family and the photo came from that family, I’m thinking that the photo was taken around 1930 or so.  So it’s possible that the youngster in the photo was Emma’s youngest son Harry Lincoln Quillen, who was born in 1927.  Samuel died in 1939 and was buried with his beloved wife.

The reason I’m posting this photo is that I’m planning on visiting their grave site at the end of June.  “Digging up bones” is what my mom called these types of visits.  Mona and Michelle Quillen (my 3rd cousin through Samuel & Catherine) suggested the visit to the graveyard last year and I’ve decided to do it.  I’m not sure if they are going to make it or not.  I’m hoping my brother Rob (& his wife Robyn) will make it, too.

So anyone else who might want to meet us there, we’ll be at Catherine and Samuel’s grave shortly after lunch on Saturday, June 30, 2018.  We will not actually be digging, so no shovels are needed.


Mamma and Nook in 1890

‘Mamma + Nook’ was the inscription written on the border of this photo.  Do you recognize anyone?  Yes? No?

I was so excited when I first saw this photo.  Not only because of the cute little baby who was obviously called Nook.  (Or do I have that wrong?  The little baby could actually be ‘Mamma’ and the older one ‘Nook.’)  I was excited because I recognized my great great grandmother Cathrine Jane Foster Phenice immediately.

Even though the other photos of her that I had seen were from about 20 or 30 years later, she still had that Grandpa Munster look about her.  I shouldn’t say that.  I still feel a little guilty about turning her later years photo into a Grandpa Munster lookalike for Halloween this year. (Animating old photos has helped to change my view of her.)

Cathrine or Kate was the mother of Harry Clifton Phenice.  Harry was the father of Myrtle Sylvia Phenice Bucklin.  Myrtle was the mother of Betty Lou Bucklin Landry.  And everyone knows that Betty Lou was my dear sweet mama.  Kate was also the mother of the little girl in the photo.  Her name was Emma Orra Phenice and she was the grandmother of Mona Quillen, the person who graciously shared this photo with me.  It is part of the collection that I refer to as the Lincoln Collection.

I got this photo earlier this year and fell in love with it.  But I have to take my time in sharing the really good ones since there are a limited number of them.  Consider this a Christmas gift from me.  It’s kind of appropriate because the last time I featured Kate, there was a Christmas theme.  (She had her fire incident on Christmas Eve Eve, remember?)

1889 Homestead Testimony Page 1

Since Emma was born in 1889, I’m dating this photo as 1890.  And I happened to run across some other information earlier this year that gives some more glimpses into what was going on with the Phenice family in 1889.  I found a document titled “Homestead, Pre-Emption and Commutation Proof.”  It was for the land homesteaded by Samuel Phenice in McCook County, Nebraska.  He had filed a homestead entry No. 4887 on Nov. 9, 1885.  He moved onto the property on April 1, 1886 and commenced to “building a house worth $12.” (see page 2 of document)

1889 Homestead Testimony Page 2

He stated that his family consists of himself, his wife, and their six children.  This was true for June 8, 1889, which is when the document was written.  Kate had given birth to seven children, but they had lost an infant daughter named Mollie in 1881. So when little Emma was born on June 20, Samuel and Kate would have seven children.  Emma was their last child.

The document states that Kate and the children moved onto the property (and into the $12 house he built) on about June 10, 1886, which was about ten weeks after he started work on the site.  According to page 3, the house was “part dug + part sod house, 22 by 24 feet with an ‘Ell’ 14 by 22 feet in size, has 4 doors and 5 windows worth $200.”

1889 Homestead Testimony Page 3

He goes on to list improvements on the land and their value.  They had a stable worth $20, a granary worth $20, a 155 ft. deep well worth $80, 65 acres of farmed land worth $130, and forest and fruit trees worth $50.  He puts a total value as $500.  He also had farm implements such as two plows, a cultivator, a mower (not a riding one, I’m sure!), a wagon, and a barrow.  All of which he had owned since before moving on to the property.

Aren’t you just loving all of these details?  I am.  It describes so much of what their life would have been like out in the prairie lands in Nebraska where his neighbor (& witness in other documents) lived 3/4 of a mile away.  The neighbor said he visited frequently.

1889 Homestead Testimony Page 4

When the neighbor visited, he probably noticed that there was a horse, five cows, a colt, three hogs, and a mess of chickens.  When he went into the house he would have seen the stove, the two tables, and the ten chairs.  He may or may not have seen the four beds and the bedding.  If he shared a meal with them he would have seen the dishes and cooking utensils.

He would definitely notice those six kids ranging from age three to twenty-one.  (Our H. C. was 15 at the time.)  It’s hard not to notice that many kids running around underfoot.  It also would have been hard not to notice that Kate was soon to be adding a seventh to the group.  Would he have commented on that?  Would that have been frowned upon?  There’s no way to know about that.  That wasn’t included in the document.

One of the other things I like about this document is that it was written by Samuel himself and signed as well.  And his answers to some of the questions are interesting as well – “No Sir” and “I think not.”  Little did they know that we would be looking back at that document and photo almost 130 years later to get a glimpse of their lives.

You may now return to the present.

Christmas Eve Eve 1920

It was getting cold that late December day.  The following day would be the coldest day of the month and would get down to -17 degrees.  That would be a really cold Christmas Eve.  So as they gathered around their trash burner/wood stove, thoughts of the upcoming first Christmas of the 1920s may have been crossing their minds.  Cathrine would be thinking about the many meals that this stove would be used to prepare.  There were many grandchildren who would hopefully enjoy the feast she intended to prepare.

Samuel Charles Phenice with wife Catherine circa 1920 Nebraska

Samuel Charles Phenice with his wife Cathrine Jane Foster Phenice and their two great grandsons Floyd and Elmer Racine (sons of Marie Taylor Racine, grandsons of Anna May Phenice Taylor – listed in Cathrine’s obituary). This was probably in Nebraska circa 1920.

Samuel as well was probably thinking of that feast to come.  Of course, he didn’t have to worry about that overmuch because it was probably his devoted wife of 54 years who would be doing that cooking.  He may have been recounting to his friend Louis the exciting times he had in years past, such as that long ago day at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC.  Whatever they were thinking, those thoughts were soon swept from their minds because of what happened next.

Cathrine probably opened the stove to put more wood on the fire as she had done thousands of times during her 72 years on earth.  No big deal, just a part of her ordinary life in her 1920s home in Precept, Nebraska.  But this was no ordinary day.  Either she stood too close to the fire or for some reason there was a particularly strong draft, but something definitely went wrong for her.  Before she knew it, her dress was on fire and evidently it was burning quickly.  When she realized the severity of the situation, she screamed and began to run in a panic.

I’m sure this was a horrific sight for her husband to behold.  Anybody knows how painful it can be to witness a loved one suffer.  So to see his beloved wife being consumed by fire must have been heart-wrenching.  “Who’s going to cook my Christmas feast now?” he wondered in alarm.  I’m sorry.  I was doing so well telling this serious and terrible story without breaking the tension, but then my evil humor took over.  I’m sure that thought was nowhere near his mind.  He sprang into action no matter the consequence to himself.

He got to his wife, caught her, and tried everything he could to extinguish the flames.  In the process he burned his hands terribly.  His friend Louis Adler witnessed what was happening, filled up a container with water, and did what he could to help put out the fire.  The fire had reached her hair, because he poured water over her head to stop the flames.  The fire was put out, but not before burning poor Cathrine so badly that her life ended as a result of it.

She did not die immediately.  It was said that she suffered miserably.  It must have been a very somber Christmas that year for the Phenice family.  Their beloved matriarch suffered with blood poison as a result of the burning.  It sounded like she had severe burns over a large portion of her body.  She was quoted as saying shortly before she died, “I know you if I can’t see you,” which makes me wonder if she was blinded by the fire.  She ended up dying at 3:20 p.m. on January 7, 1921, at the age of 72 years, 3 months, and 22 days.  I like the way in some parts of the country, the age is given like that in obituaries or on headstones.

Even though she suffered for two weeks, the family reported that she was patient all the way.  When writing an obituary, I would think that most people try to make it reflect the person and be true to who they were.  The report of being patient was written two times in that one article.  I suppose they wanted that to be well understood.

Catherine Jane Foster Phenice

Cathrine Jane Foster Phenice circa 1910.

She sounds like a good woman who relied on her faith to see her through.  Generosity to those in need was also attributed to her.  I can believe it because of what she inspired in others.  Her husband risked his own life to attend to her terrible situation.  Then her children lovingly tended to her during her last weeks of suffering before tenderly laying her to rest.

I’ve been wanting to write about Cathrine Jane Foster Phenice for a while now.  Like the first picture above, she was kind of in the shadows.  Her husband was a witness to the assassination of President Lincoln, so he tended to get most of the attention.  It is such an historic event.  But his wife deserved to be the center of attention at least once.  I was planning on writing her life story, but got carried away with the events surrounding her final days.  I will probably write another story about her at a later date.  (See the great photo I found and the post I wrote about it here.)  Maybe I’ll find another photo to post of her as well.  That first photo was another one of the photos that I had taken of my grandmother’s photos back in the 80s and forgotten about until recently.

The portrait of her had been in my mom’s possession for as long as I can remember.  I hate to make fun of her, but she always reminded me of Grandpa from the Munsters.  My mom must have thought similarly, because she wrote, “Isn’t she a cutie?” on the back of the photo.  I may also do a Munsters version of this photo at one point.  All in good fun.  (Here is the result.)

I’m also posting the obituary from their local paper.  I worked for hours cleaning it up so it could be legible.  Most of the details from my story came from that.  I also looked at historical meteorological data and did a search for (vintage) trash burner (/stove).  It answered my question as to why they would have a trash burner inside.  After all these hours spent with these photos and articles, I have grown quite fond of my great great grandmother Cathrine Jane.

Phenice DNA at AncestryDNA

Aunt Loris Bucklin Woolley (my mom’s sister) agreed to submit a saliva sample to AncestryDNA a few months ago. I had myself and my parents tested at 23andMe previous to that, but I wanted to spread my net to the pool of testers. One of the first DNA matches that I noticed on her results was someone named Henry Oakley Spencer.

I had expected that match because I already knew that he had a good portion of matching DNA with my mom.  I had interacted with him on Ancestry after noticing that his family tree had matching names of Daniel Phenice and Susan Jackson.  Then he had taken a DNA test at AncestryDNA and uploaded his result to  He showed up as having more DNA in common with my mom than anybody else she matched DNA with.  It was actually more than would be expected for 3rd cousins. 

So the match to him was not a surprise.  The surprise that I did find was a DNA match with the Quillen name. My great grandfather Harry Clifton Phenice (grandson of Daniel and Susan) had a sister named Emma Orra that was married to a Quillen, so I assumed that’s how we were related. And sure enough, I was right.  This DNA match was the great granddaughter of Emma Phenice Quillen.  

1921- Catherine Jane Foster Phenice and Samuel Phenice with grandchildren

Circa 1920- Cathrine Jane Foster Phenice and Samuel Phenice with grandchildren (children of Emma Orra Phenice Quillen).  On Cathrine’s lap is Harold, in the middle is Erma, and on Samuel’s lap is Dean.

Actually two Phenice 3rd cousins (to my generation) have tested there and are matches to Aunt Loris. But the best part is that one of them responded to my note to her and ended up sending me a photo of Harry Clifton Phenice’s parents Samuel Charles and Cathrine Jane Foster Phenice with some of their grandchildren!! I love getting new old photos of my ancestors. It’s an exciting reward to the research that I do.

So if you enjoy this photo, you can thank my third cousin Michelle Quillen.