Sunday, August 28, 2022

Chow Time on the River--A Transcription

Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Thursday, May 22, 1930
Second Section, Front page and page 29

Transcription of the interview article with Jessie VanGilder on board the steamboat Carbon. My apologies for adding some additional history where I thought it appropriate.


Dixie Tighe viewed the Allegheny river and learned about steamboats yesterday during her trip on the Steamer Carbon of the Wheeling Steel Corporation.  Miss Tighe is shown in the above picture talking with Mrs. Jessie Van Gilder, stewardess of the boat.

Life on the Rolling Wave Is One Meal After Another

Roving Reporter Finds Stewardess on River Boat Likes It Despite All the Cooking; Describes Years on Steamboat.

     "Everybody knows about river men--why don't you go see about the river women?" suggested the anti-idle editor.

     So without pausing to take out maritime insurance or change to our yachting costume, we set out for the Carbon, a steamboat of the Wheeling Steel Corporation that does things about pushing coal barges on the Allegheny River.

     Boarding the steamboat at Aspinwall dam, the Carbon, her barges empty, easily and quietly headed for Harmarville for loading.  And while Captain J.S. Faddis got on with his steering, we went below to talk river life with the ladies.

Getting Fifth Meal

     Known as "Mrs. Van" to the men of the Carbon, Mrs. Jessie Van Gilder, stewardess of the steamboat, was busy in the kitchen getting ready for the last and the fifth meal of the day.  Rating seems to be the most frequently recurring duties on shipboard.

(First Meal--breakfast at 5:40 am, Second Meal--light snack at 8 or 9:00 am, Third Meal--lunch at 11:40 am, Fourth Meal--light snack at 3:00 pm, Fifth Meal--dinner)

     Coming out from the haunt of the ample stove, Mrs. Van Gilder sat down and told a thing or two about life on the Allegheny river.  This isn't Mrs. Van Gilder's maiden voyage by many a trip.  It is her seventeenth year on the water--and, she is planning many more.

     The usual impressions of ladies on shipboard are created by the moving pictures, the album from my-trip-abroad and story-books.  The general impression from these sources seems to be that a lovely lady is always to be found languidly posed in a steamer-chair, or the snapshot will reveal a young lady disguised as the most popular girl on board and the moving picture and the novel find every pretty girl who ever boarded a boat either in a state of incipient romance or shipwrecked and successfully washed ashore right into the arms of the nearest South Seas Valentino.

No Time for That

     However Mrs. Van Gilder has little time for languid poses and had never been washed ashore.  If you can find time for any such diverting activities, you might let her know.  Her program you can easily see has no hours  off for a romantic ship-wrecking or steamer-chair flirtations.

     "I always rise at four-thirty slow (That's steamboat for Eastern Standard).  Breakfast is at 5:40 and I can tell you the day is a busy one."

     Curious to know how anyone could have an appetite at twenty minutes of six slow or any other time, we inquired as to the Carbon's breakfast menu.  Yesterday morning the men tackled--bacon, mush, rice crispies, jelly, bread and butter and a few potatoes.  

Then Something Light

     "About eight or nine, the men come in for tea or coffee, bread and cheese or something light like that."  Light like that!  Please Mrs. Van Gilder, our diet!

     "Then there's dinner at 11:40.  Well today, for instance, we had roast beef, potatoes, carrots, creamed lima beans, cucumber salad, bread and butter, tea and coffee and vanilla pudding with vanilla sauce."

     The crew worked off the effects of this snack and came back for another bite at 3 o'clock.  This time it was something light like bread and butter and jelly and more pudding.

     There was supper, but respecting your digestion, we will pass by that for a few minutes.

(Respectfully, I want to add here, that my great grandmother VanGilder was quite a baker and I imagine that the bread served onboard was made by her and not a loaf of Pittsburgh's local bread, Town Talk.)

Likes Life on Boat

     Mrs. Van Gilder was widowed many years ago (twenty-seven years ago in 1904), and left with several children.  The youngest was seven months old.  (Mary Louise VanGilder born 1894, Anna Estelle VanGilder born 1896, Sarah Margaret VanGilder born 1898 [my grandmother] and Jessica Virginia VanGilder born 1903.)

     There came a time when Mrs. Van Gilder found it necessary to go to work and she first became a stewardess on a Government quarter boat.  Later she was with a Vesta boat and this is the second time she has served with Captain Faddis.

(Jessie was working before she became a stewardess.  She ran boarding houses in Morgantown and Sabraton, WV, and Woodlawn, PA.  And was the proprietress of a hotel in Morgantown in 1910  before her employment as a stewardess and ran a rooming house in Pittsburgh between stewardess jobs.)

     "Indeed I like this life.  Don't think I work every minute.  I always have a nice nap after luncheon and on days that we only make one trip, I am free early in the afternoon.  Sometimes I go to the movies--and well--I've gained a considerable weight on this boat and at nights I go for a walk."

     Mrs. Van Gilder makes her home aboard the Carbon winter and summer--and it is a very nice home.   Because it pushes coal barges, your impression might be that it's a sooty, grimy place.

No Soot Aboard Ship

     Well it was not!  The cabin was spotlessly white and the staterooms were as fresh and white as they could be.  Flowers were around the cabin, lilies of the valley and bits of orange, trailing honeysuckle.  The kitchen where Mrs. Van Gilder cooks for seven men looked as if it was ready to be photographed for the model kitchen advertisement.  

     On board with Mrs. Van Gilder is her youngest daughter Virginia Barber, whose husband, John Barbor, is a watchman on the Transport.  When Mrs. Barbor was only 10 years old she used to spend her summers on board ship with her mother--now she's married to a riverman--but someday we are going to live ashore, she says.  

(Jessica Virginia VanGilder born in 1903 would have been on board a ship with her mother in 1913 while the family was living in Woodlawn, PA.  Known as Ginger, she would have been out of school for the summer.)

    The Allegheny sparkling so happily in the sunlight can be another story, Mrs. Van Gilder says.

River Frozen Solid

     "I remember one time when we froze in the middle of the river for forty days.  And you never saw such a funny sight as a horse-drawn sleigh hauling coal and food out to the boat.  It was frozen so solid that we could walk across the river to the store ourselves when we wanted to."

    Another time Mrs. Van Gilder remembers that wasn't so quiet as a summer's afternoon canoeing on a mill pond was the time one icy winter when the wheel was worked in the ice so long and hard it broke.  And another time--

     "One night I heard the mate calling to us to get out in a hurry.  I asked him if we had time to dress and he said no.  I ran out on deck in just my nightgown and kimono.  One of the men asked me if I could climb up into the barge all right....I said, No--get a ladder."

     "That was before women women wore their skirts to their knees...and, I was ashamed to death to shinny up to the barge with a man standing around.  When he ran to get the ladder, I was up in that barge in no time."

(This story of Jessie needing to get off a boat is somewhat of a conundrum.  There is a newspaper article of a Vesta boat capsizing due to a violent windstorm on June 13, 1920 in the Monongahela River at Allenport.  The captain and three crew members were killed.  I wonder if Great Grandmother VanGilder was on that boat and the story is her recollection of it?) 

Plans To Be Stowaway

     In the pilot house Captain Faddis was tooting whistles and ringing bells preparatory to releasing the empty barges at Harmarville.  Looking out of the pilot house we saw the sloping shore that was bright with the new-born green of the trees and grass.  Camp sites were showing signs of life--and down near the water's edge trees had bowed their branches  until the river cooled the tipmost leaves.  

     The barges released, the Carbon with none of those salty, ear-splitting epithets often thought necessary in steamboating, backed out of the harbor and cut a foamy path until its bow nudged the loaded barges into action.

     Back down the Allegheny--and a little chat with Captain Faddis at the supper table where the meal was so delicious that we plan to be a stowaway on the Carbon the first chance we have.  

     In the engine room we found Mr. L.D. Cooper and besides a shiny and colorful engine room we discovered a saxophone and an orange upholstered chair and a gilt stool!

     Also--on board we found a perfectly grand expression for dining--it is, "messing with the crew."

     From an old map; however, it gives an idea of the river trip covered in the story.  According to google maps this would be a ten mile plus journey one way.  From the article, it reads to me, that the newspaper writer boarded the Carbon in Aspinwall in early afternoon and was on board ship for afternoon snack and dinner on the return trip.

Also on Flipside

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Mrs Van Stewardess on Steamboats

     Decades ago, while at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, my father was excited to tell me that he had seen a photograph of the steamboat La Belle.  His memory was that his Grandmother VanGilder had been a cook on the La Belle under the leadership of Captain Faddis.  That memory stuck in my mind.  

     The grandmother Dad was referring to was his maternal grandmother, Jessie Poole VanGilder.  My paternal great grandmother, Jessie, has been a favorite of mine.  I have done years of research, written numerous blogs, a timetoast timeline and took a day trip down the Monongahela River (known as The Mon) tracing her residences along the river.  

     I had never signed up for Ancestry's newspaper subscription.  Early in 2021, I pulled the trigger and added the additional payment to get more up to date newspapers.  Pittsburgh is covered, which was the primary reason I subscribed.  I have been rewarded over and over, not just in Pittsburgh, but with the many other city newspapers that are included.

     On September 28, 2001, I was searching the Pittsburgh papers for articles and obituaries on Jessie's daughters when I decided to pop her name in the search engine. Imagine the shock when an article appeared on the screen, front page, above the fold in The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Thursday, May 22, 1930--Chow Time on the River featuring Jessie as the stewardess on the steamer Carbon.  I have transcribed Chow Time on the River on Flipside.

The La Belle and The Carbon

     This article was the first documentation that Jessie was a cook on steamboats (also referred to as towboats).  Captain Faddis, who my Dad had mentioned, happened to be the navigator of this steamboat and in the article, Jessie mentions that it is the second time on the river with Captain John Sedgwick Faddis.   

     The article has provided me with insight into Jessie's years following the family's relocation from Morgantown, West Virginia to Woodlawn (Aliquippa), Beaver County, Pennsylvania about 1911.  She outlined her years cooking on boats beginning on what she refers to as a government quarter boat in 1913.  

     As I have blogged before on Flipside, Jessie was not a novice when it came to cooking.  Following the untimely death of her husband, George Ethelbert VanGilder, in 1904, she opened their home to West Virginia University students and ran a boarding house.  She had a boarding house in 1909 in Sabraton, a town outside of Morgantown and she is listed as the proprietress of a hotel in Morgantown on the 1910 West Virginia census (with 26 boarders, employees from a tin mill) and in Pittsburgh on the 1920 census she ran a rooming house housing her four daughters, two grand daughters and nine roomers.  

     There are numerous articles in the North Charleroi, Pennsylvania newspaper regarding Jessie visiting her married sister, Sarah Poole Pinyerd.  North Charleroi is at Lock 4 on the Monongahela River.  Jessie probably disembarked a steamboat to visit.  One mention is in 1918, Jessie was living in Allenport on the Mon.  She must have left the life on the river for a period of time to be running a boarding house in 1920.

      In 1921, she did have a residence in Rices Landing on the Mon.  As her daughters were employed or married, Jessie must have turned to cooking on the river full time as her permanent form of employment.  

Vesta Mine with barges and tow boats

     Great Grandmother mentions in the article that she was the stewardess on a Vesta towboat.  This employment is placed after the government quarter boat.  The Vesta Company was a subsidiary of he Jones & Laughlin Steel Company.  Barges loaded with coal from the Vesta mines traveled the Mon between Allenport and Fredericktown.  Was Jessie working for Vesta for a few years before 1920 as she was living in Allenport in 1918?

     Pinning down her actual living and working movements following the family's move from Morgantown has been difficult at best.  Relocating in Woodlawn, Pennsylvania (the company town of Jones & Laughlin Steel Company) circa 1911 creates a link to the company's coal mines.  It has been my understanding that Jessie ran a boarding house there for steel workers.  Her four daughters would have been ages 17, 15, 13 (my paternal grandmother) and 8.  

     Was the oldest daughter, Mary Louise "Bobs" VanGilder, age 19, in charge of her younger sisters in 1913, while Jessie was cooking on government quarter boats?  The 1930 article on Jessie as a stewardess notes that her youngest daughter would accompany her mother during the summer on a steamboat.  Perhaps Mom Jessie was not actually living on the towboats but coming back to Woodlawn daily?  weekly?

     I do know that my grandmother met my grandfather in Woodlawn and the Hughes Family relocated there circa 1915.  

     There is a North Charleroi newspaper article I found mentioning that my grandmother was "visiting in Woodlawn in 1914.  Were Jessie's daughters living with her sister, Sarah Louise Pool Pinyerd for several years?  Various census and other records show that the Pool/Poole sisters did cycle around from sister's residences.  This was even true for my Grandmother Hughes.  Relations did live with them in Avalon from time to time.  This was probably a "learned" extended family support assistance from my Grams having lived with various aunts during her upbringing.  

     And by 1920, Jessie had gathered her adult daughters up and they were all living in the boarding house Jessie was managing in Pittsburgh?  This would have been several months before my grandmother married my grandfather.

     In 1921 Jessie was living in Rices Landing on the Mon.  How long she listed it as her residence is unknown.  

The La Belle in Pittsburgh

     My father's memory of his Grandmother VanGilder working on the LaBelle could be from the mid to late 1920's.  He recalled knowing when she was in town as he could smell the aroma of baking when he came home from school.  

The Carbon

     The newspaper article is dated 1930, so she was definitely working and living on The Carbon then.  She does not have a 1930 federal census report because she is living on the steamboat with her youngest married daughter, Jessica Virginia "Ginger" Barbour.

     Ginger, married second, David Bowling Rootes in 1931 and moved to Akron, Ohio.  Jessie's death certificate lists that she had lived with Ginger, in Akron for seventeen years.  She retired from life on the river two years after the article in 1932 at age sixty two.

     There are still gaps in the river years.  How long she was a stewardess on each steamboat is unknown.  How long the family lived in Woodlawn is unknown.  When the family gathered in Pittsburgh is unknown.  What is known is that Jessie spent seventeen years (with perhaps some gaps) on the river and probably in a full time capacity from 1921-1932.

     The search is always ongoing.

Other Blogs on Flipside


I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. All comments are welcome; however, if they are inappropriate, they will not be published.    PLEASE post your e-mail in the comment section if you would like to network about a particular surname or topic. I will capture it for my use only and not include it when I publish your comment.
© 2022, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser

Friday, August 26, 2022

Back to the Fifties: The Grandpa Snazzy House

     I was three or four when Grams and Pop Pop moved from Monaca to 168 Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, a borough in Allegheny County near Pittsburgh. There are not too many memories from that time frame. Following my fifth birthday in 1952, when we moved back to our Washington Drive house near Perrysville from Camp Carson, Colorado and Dad was serving in Korea, my memories do creep back.

     Spending time with my paternal grandparents was always a joy.  Whether it was simply an afternoon and evening for dinner or a weekend overnight, the time was always a welcoming, fun filled experience.

      Grams and Pop Pop's area in the apartment was huge.  I never realized that the house was an apartment.  Perhaps that is just the memory of a young elementary school kid.  I would love to wander through the space today.  

     Walking through the front door was a vestibule.  I remember there was a somewhat large oval framed picture on the wall.  Pop Pop once told me that the man in the picture was Grandpa Snazzy.   I now wonder if that strange looking man was actually a relation.  That picture seemed to loom over the vestibule watching the comings and goings of the family, hence, I always referred to 168 Lincoln Avenue as "the Grandpa Snazzy" house. 

The Hughes brothers as coal dealers in West Hartlepool, England.
I believe this photo was taken after John George Hughes had
immigrated to the states.  The two unidentified me are probably
Samuel Hughes and Thomas or William Hughes
     There was a door leading down to the basement where the coal was delivered and Pop Pop would shovel coal into the furnace.  Often I would accompany him into that dark, spooky area and help with the coal.  Little did I know then that Pop Pop would have been very familiar with coal and stoking a furnace.  His father, John George Hughes, along with his brothers, were coal dealers back in Hartlepool, England.    
Talk about craftsmanship. 
 Just look at that wood!

     There was a long winding dark wooden staircase leading up to the second floor where a bathroom, bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and large pantry were located.  In fact, there was also a dark wooden winding staircase leading up to the third floor, too.  You can imagine the fun Ken and I had running up and down all those stairs. 😁

     Once up the stairs there was a room to the right.  Great Grandma Hughes stayed there.  It always seemed dark and somewhat foreboding to me.  Beside that room to the right, at the hall, was the living room, next the dining room and then the kitchen.  I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with Grams.  There was a pantry attached, which provided me with many playful hours.  In those days, the women always hung out in the kitchen.  

J. Chein Tin Litho Wind-up Roller Coaster

     I do not remember many toys to play with at Grams and Pop Pop's; however, I do remember this one.  Ken and I would wind it up and send the little roller coasters down the ramps.

     There must have been a bathroom, or a powder room on that floor.  To the left of Great Grandma Hughes' room was another flight of winding wooden stairs leading to the bedrooms.

     There were three bedrooms, Aunt Faith's, where I would sleep.  She must have been at Wooster College then.  Uncle John's room, always empty.  He was either at the University of Michigan or playing in a band and traveling.  His room had a single metal bed with a blue and white stripped mattress.  Isn't it amazing what memories are stored in one's mind. 😉

     Then there was Grams and Pop Pop's room.  I spent time in there with Grams.  She would let me sort through her jewelry and try it on.  She even gave me a ring with a huge green stone, telling me it was an emerald.  Grams would brush and style my hair and let me use her Jergens hand lotion.  To this day, I love the aroma of it.


     Family Thanksgiving was always celebrated at Grams and Pop Pop's.  Sometimes the family visited on a weekend afternoon or it was just me spending the weekend or a few days in the summer by myself.  

     The streetcar line ran directly in front of their house taking passengers into Bellevue, Avalon,  Ben Avon and probably further down the Ohio River and through the North Side and into the City of Pittsburgh.  Very convenient for Grams who never drove a car and Pop Pop who could take public transportation to work.  Grams and I took the streetcar into Bellevue to grocery shop and occasionally into Pittsburgh.

     Grams and Pop Pop moved from the Grandpa Snazzy apartment circa 1956-1957.  They stayed in the borough of Bellevue and I continued to visit.  Treasured times spent with them, and in particular Grams, nurtured a close relationship which carried on until their deaths.   

     BTW.  I do not remember that Grandpa Snazzy moved to the new apartment with Grams and Pop Pop. 

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. All comments are welcome; however, if they are inappropriate, they will not be published.    PLEASE post your e-mail in the comment section if you would like to network about a particular surname or topic. I will capture it for my use only and not include it when I publish your comment.
© 2022, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Tombstone Tuesday--George Ethelbert VanGilder and Jessie Poole VanGilder

George Ethelbert VanGilder

Jessica "Jessie" Poole VanGilder

      I can't believe I have never posted a Tombstone Tuesday for my paternal great grandparents.  In fact I have done very little blogging about my paternal great grandfather.  That needs to be corrected.

     George Ethelbert VanGilder, the son of John Oliphant VanGilder and Mary Louise Hill VanGilder, was born on January 27, 1861 in Monongalia County, (West) Virginia.  

     Oddly, there is no record of his death certificate in the online records.  His death, at home, is recorded the obituary.  George died at his home on May 24, 1904 at the age of forty-three years, three months and twenty-nine days after a long illness of kidney disease.  Even while sick at home, he won election in his party as the assessor of his district.  The funeral was held in the family home, 54 University Driveway and burial was held in Mt. Union Cemetery, Morgantown, Monongalia County, West Virginia.  His burial plot is surrounded by his VanGilder family.

     Jessica "Jessie" Poole VanGilder, the daughter of Sampson Frum Pool and Sarah Louise Harner Pool, was born on October 17, 1870 in Monongalia County, West Virginia.


The Akron Beacon Journal
November 14, 1949
page 14
BTW--the one great grandchild would be ME


     Jessie died at age seventy nine, on November 13, 1949, at the home of her daughter, Jessica Virginia VanGilder Rootes, in Akron, Ohio, where she had lived for seventeen years.  She was buried beside her husband in Mt. Union Cemetery.  Her parents and siblings are also buried at Mt. Union Cemetery, Morgantown, Monongalia County, West Virginia.

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. All comments are welcome; however, if they are inappropriate, they will not be published.    PLEASE post your e-mail in the comment section if you would like to network about a particular surname or topic. I will capture it for my use only and not include it when I publish your comment.
© 2022, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser