The 1920 census records show my paternal Grandma, Louise Kathryn Juhrend McDearmid, living with her mother, Amelia,  and two brothers, August and Herman, in Highwood, Illinois. Amelia who was twice widowed, owned the house. August owned a jewelry story and Herman was a laborer. Amelia and daughter Louise took in laundry. 

The orphanage

But here’s the thing the census doesn’t say. Louise had two children, Arlene and James (my Dad), and her husband, Gardner Clark McDearmid, was in the State Hospital (for the destitute, insane, tuberculosis) on the Northwest side of Chicago. Where were the children? In Dorcas Home, an orphanage in nearby Deerfield. Arlene was 9 and James was 5. 

Here’s what I think happened based on various records and family lore. Gardner was a motorman for the Chicago Surface Lines – a streetcar conductor. Legend has it that he was injured in a motorcar accident. He was known to have many abdominal/bowel issues so apparently he did not recover. He is listed as an inmate/ ward worker at the hospital on the 1920 census and he died in 1921 at age 36. When he was injured, it seems that Louise could not manage on her own with 2 children so she put them in the orphanage and went home to live. 

Imagine the loss! Husband injured, convalescing in hospital then dying, 2 young children sent away to live, taking in laundry to make a living! 

A few years after Gardner died, Louise was able to bring the children home. Where the home was, I don’t know yet. I only know that the children were only in the orphanage for a few years. Louise married Henry Numsen probably when the children were middle graders. Hopefully I can find out more about him as he was the Grandfather I grew up with. 

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