Week 34: #52 Ancestors – Chosen Family
By Eilene Lyon
I have not come across many adoptions in my family research. I’ve previously written about Ada Coffey, a relative on one branch of my family, who was adopted by my 2nd great-grandparents, Dick and Lucy Halse, from a different branch.
This story is from the Ransom family files. My 2nd great-uncle, Arthur Lemmon Ransom, relocated to Moscow, Idaho, from Independence, Kansas, while working for the railroad. He married late in life (for the time).
After managing the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. depot in Moscow for a number of years, Arthur decided to do a bit of gold mining and homesteading. He never did patent his homestead, though his sister did complete the requirement to get one nearby.
In the early 1900s, Arthur Ransom opened a pool hall/lunch counter on Main Street, called the “Pastime.” It served as the de facto job services center for the town. Open 24 hours a day, when the building finally sold, no one knew where to find a key for the door.
At the age of 38, in 1907, Arthur married Iva Lenora Brown in Colfax, Washington.1 (Note: many family members from Moscow got married in Colfax, so there must have been some financial or timing reason to go there.) Iva, age 33, was the daughter of Howard Brown and Thryza A. Collins. Her father died shortly after her birth, so the only father she ever knew was her step-father, Henry McGregor.
Apparently Arthur and Iva had no success with having children on their own. So, in September 1918, just as the Spanish flu pandemic took off, they adopted a newborn girl they named Ona Lenore Ransom.
The Moscow newspaper heralded the addition to the family with the following announcement:
“Adoption: Supt. Howland, of the Lewiston Home, left a tiny daughter at the home of A. L. Ransom this week. Mr. Ransom is setting up the treats over the new arrival.2
My research into this “Lewiston Home” has been frustrating. An organization in Lewiston known as the North Idaho Children’s Home, founded by Rev. Samuel B. Chase in 1909, handled most adoptions in the panhandle region at the time. The superintendent in 1918 was Rev. M. A. Covington. He was succeeded in 1931 by Kathryn C. Wolfe.3 No superintendent named Howland.
I tried finding a home for unwed mothers without success. In Boise, there was one called Booth Home for Unwed Mothers, also known as Booth Memorial Hospital. It may have had ties to a similarly named institution in Oakland, California, run by the Salvation Army. Was there a branch in Lewiston, Idaho, too?
Finally, I looked for anyone named Howland in Nez Perce County in the 1920 census. All I found was an unemployed widow and her daughter. There was a man named Victor Howland in Moscow and his job title was Superintendent – of a building construction company.4 Perhaps he was a board member of the Children’s Home?
Sadly, I have no photos of the little family together. I do not even have a picture of Iva. All we have of Ona are the two images from her childhood: the feature image and this one below. She certainly has the appearance of being a happy, loved child.
Around the time Arthur and Iva married, they built a beautiful Craftsman-style home on the corner of 6th and Adams. It still stands across from the county courthouse, now serving as attorneys’ offices. They graciously gave me a tour of it last summer. The interior is more spacious than it appears from the outside. I would say that Arthur’s business earned him a nice living.
My impression of Arthur is that he worked hard to get ahead in the railroad business, then decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. He seems to have been very responsible and level-headed. I’m glad he found a partner in life, and that together they created a family by choosing to adopt a baby girl.
- A L Ransom and Iva L Brown. Washington State Archives; Olympia, Washington; Washington Marriage Records, 1854-2013; Reference Number: eawhmr2693 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- News abstracts from the collection of the Latah County Historical Society. ↩
- National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the The Children’s Home Finding and Aid Society of North Idaho aka Hurlbut Mansion, pp. 11-12. ↩
- Victor Howland. Year: 1920; Census Place: Moscow, Latah, Idaho; Roll: T625_292; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 125 – via Ancestry.com. ↩