Russell Allen Rea
Was a civil engineer. After completing his B.S. in civil engineering at the University of Minnesota in the 1940s, he worked, briefly, for the Minnesota State Highway Dept. He next wound up in St. Louis, Missouri in a similar capacity, and this is where a friend and co-worker introduced him to Mary Alice Cannon. The two were married and moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1950. There, Russell worked, first, for Guy Treat at Treat Engineering Company, which has long since been defunct. In May 1956, he began working for Benham Engineering Company (today known as The Benham Group), from which he retired in 1986. In between, from October 1963 to March 1968, he worked for Glendening & Associates, another Oklahoma City engineering firm which has long since gone out of business. It was in March of 1968 that he returned to work at Benham Engineering Company, which, by then, had changed its named to Benham-Blair & Affiliates.
Among Russell's several interests was model railroading and photographing and cataloging actual deisel locomotives. This was a life-long interest of his, precipitated by his boyhood in Tracy, Minnesota, a town which grew up around a railroad. Russell also had an intense interest in history and had many books dealing with American history, in particular, WWII. During the war, his college days were interrupted by a breif period of service in the Army Air Corps, in which he was first trained as a bombardier, then changed to meteorology, just as the war was coming to a close.
Dad was a meticuluous record keeper, right up until his death. I recently found a small notebook he kept of some of his expenses, from the early 1950s. In this I found that my baby crib cost $28 in 1952. This is in a list of all the furniture I so well remember living with as a child. He had the cost of every piece, including sales tax. My high chair cost $12.75, and my stroller was $15.95 ($16.27 with tax). Being the engineer that he was, he even drew detail drawings of some of the parts of the appliances in the kitchen. I was surprised to see an entry that said, "sale of shotgun, Jan. 1, '54, $75.00." I had never known my father to possess a gun in his life.
Some other items of interest in Dad's notebook: his Oklahoma state income tax was a whopping $25 in 1954. His income, as a civil engineer in 1954, was $521.50 per month, or about $137.30 per week, which was pretty good in those days. It supported us in our new home, which Dad had built the same year, rather well. Of course, there were only three of us at that time. Two years later, my sister came along, and my brother the year after that.
Dad's car (described only as "automobile") in December 1957 had 20,667 miles on it and it cost $11.89 to lube the chassis, change the oil, check the transmission fluid, the differential, the air cleaner, and install a new oil filter. The same thing Jiffy Lube does now for about $30.
Dad kept detailed records of his daily expenses on the road when we took our longest vacation ever, in 1957. For example, the turnpike toll from Oklahoma City to Tulsa was $1.30. He stopped for gas in Miami, Oklahoma and that cost $5.21. Lunch was $5.40 for our family of five. His gas mileage wasn't bad, for the fifties: 18.2 mpg. He bought tabacco and cigars in St. Louis, Missouri for $1.20, and while he was at it, he bought souvenirs for Cynthia, Bruce and I that cost $5.60 total. Beer was $1.09 and our motel room that night cost $11.50. Our motel room in Bowling Green, Kentucky cost $13.62 for the night. We had lunch the next day at Mammoth Cave for $2.15.
Mary Alice Cannon
Was a secretary, as a young woman, and became a homemaker after marrying Russell Allen Rea in the late 1940s. Mary sang in the choir at United Covenant Presbyterian Church, located on Ridgeview Drive in the Village (in Oklahoma City). One of Mary's hobbies was oil painting.
Noel Bates Rea
Noel was a postal worker in Tracy, Minnesota. His father had been a prominent Tracy businessman and postmaster of Tracy. Noel was rockhound and spent many hours in his basement grinding and polishing stones, which he then used to make jewelry. He and Luella lived at 124 Emory Street, in Tracy, and owned a small cabin at Lake Shetek, known as Rea's Red Shed.
Elmer Vandegrift Cannon
Elmer was born at Hickory Plains, Arkansas, where his father owned a saw mill from 1903 to 1906. Elmer graduated from Moberly High School in Moberly, Missouri in 1924. He worked for Kroger Grocery Store in Moberly in 1925 and was promoted to manager of the store in Salisbury, Missouri. This store closed ten months later and Elmer returned to te main store in Moberly, where he worked as a clerk until September 1926. He then went to St. Louis to work for Stix Baer & Fuller in the Clothing department. He made weekend trips to Moberly and met an old school friend who told him there was a vacany in the Passenger Department of the Wabash Railroad in St. Louis. Upon his return to St. Louis, Elmer applied for the job and was accepted as aclerk on September 15, 1926. On August 1, 1928 he was promoted to Secretary to the General Baggage Agent in St. Louis. In this position, Elmer became familiar with mail and express handling and on in March of 1929, he was promoted to Supervisor of Mail, Baggage and Express Traffic for the Wabash System. When the Wabash merged with the Norfolk & Western Railway, October 1, 1964, Elmer's title was changed to Manager of Mail, Baggage and Express Traffic, Western Region. He was transferred to Roanoke, Virginia February 1, 1968. He retired December 31, 1970 after forty-four years of service. At this point, he and Irma moved back to St. Louis, where he lived out the remainder of his life. Elmer's hobbies included oil painting and photography, and. of course, he was a Cardinals fan. Elmer's funeral was on the occasion of my 38th birthday.
Elmer had been sent to the home of his paternal grandmother, with his sister Ethel, when he was two years old, following the death of his mother, Mary Charlestonia Rollins. He and Ethel were raised by Sarah Catherine Lewis until their father remarried, at which time they returned to live with him and their new stepmother. I recall my parents telling me that Elmer had grown up hating his stepmother.
Orvin James Rea
Was a prominent businessman in the small Southwestern Minnesota town of Tracy.
O. J.'s father, James A. Rea, born in 1827 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, moved to the Akron, Ohio area sometime around the late 1840s. Here he met Lucinda Barbour, and the two were married. In 1853, Lela, the first of their seven children, was born. It was during the 1850s that the Reas settled in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In 1855, their eldest son, Alfred, was born, followed, two years later, by a second daughter, Lulilia. By 1860, James had become a hotel keeper in Oshkosh, and another son, Merchant, had been born.
In 1870, the Reas moved to Sparta, Wisconsin, where they opened another hotel. Why this occurred is not known, and neither is their reason for relocating again, in 1877, to Marshall, in Lyon County, Minnesota. O.J. went to Sparta High School.
In June of 1880, the census tells us that James A. Rea had changed occupations after moving to Minnesota, and was now a miller. The Reas' second eldest son, Merchant, who went by "Merch", was an apprentice harness maker and 20 years old by now. O. J. was now a young man of 18 (though, again, the census reports his age as being a year younger than it should have been at this time), and was already an apprentice printer, working for the Monroe County Republican. When the Lyon County News was established in Marshall by Todd & Edes in the spring of 1879 he became the first printer on that paper, and a little later he went to Currie, then to the county seat of Murray county, and accepted a position on the Currie Pioneer. He removed to Marshall in the winter of 1881 and for the next three and one-half years worked for C. F. Case on the Marshall Messenger. He had charge of the Temperance Review job office at Minneapolis for a time, worked over a year for C. C. Whitney on the Marshall
News-Messenger, and spent one summer in Chicago, working in printing offices and as a substitute printer on the Times when Story was the editor.
In 1885, as a young man of 23, O. J. left home and moved to nearby Tracy, where he would become one of that town's leading citizens. Three years later, he married Clara Isabel Bates, the second of the two daughters of Allen Bates and Mary C. Wheelock. The Bates family had come from Dudley, Massachusetts in 1875, had returned to Massachusetts for a time, and moved back to Tracy again in 1880.
The marriage of O. J. Rea and Clara bates produced six children: Elgin, Nona (born in 1890), Doris (born in 1895), Lois, Noel (my grandfather; born in 1900), and Leon (born in 1905). Things were looking good for the Reas, and for the Bates's, as well. Clara's father opened a store and restaurant in downtown Tracy in 1887. Tragedy would strike, however, four years later, when the downtown fire of 1891 claimed every building within a one block area, including Allen Bates' store on Front Street. It was a total loss, but Allen rebuilt the store and sold it in 1904, retiring at 59.
The oldest newspaper in Tracy was the Tracy Republican-Trumpet, founded prior to 1880 by W. D. Kutchlin as the Tracy Gazette. The paper was later purchased by W. M. Todd, who then sold it, in 1894 to O. J. Rea and H. C. Buckingham, who changed the name to the Tracy Weekly Herald. O. J. was now 32, and had been a reporter and writer for several years. Having been elected as an alderman to the first ward of the newly incorporated City of Tracy, in 1893, O. J. Rea was fast becoming a successful businessman and a respected member of the community. Allen Bates had been elected as an alderman to the second ward at the same time. On August 3rd, 1897, O. J. Rea was elected President of the 1st Common Council of the City of Tracy.
At 46, in 1908, owning several buildings in downtown Tracy, as well as the city's only newspaper, O. J. bought an interest in the newly incorporated Houston Pen Company, the first company to manufacture fountain pens, and he became its Vice President. In 1910, the company was cited as one of the four industries to have most benefitted Tracy. The company's building would barely escape destruction, though, in the fire of July 6, 1911.
O. J.'s business interests continued to grow as he became President of the newly formed Tracy Savings & Loan in 1910. In 1911, in order to keep up with increasing demand for it's products, the Houston Pen Company was faced with the need to expand its facilities. Other cities offered to finance the expansion, but with the stipulation that the growing company would move its facilities to the city offering the financial aid. Although O. J. tried to compromise so the Houston Pen Company might remain in Tracy, it was eventually decided that the company would be moved to Sioux City, Iowa, and so Tracy lost one of its major enterprises in 1912.
By 1918, many young men from Tracy had lost their lives in muddy trenches on the battlefields of France. O. J., fearful of losing his son, Elgin, had made the young man President and publisher of the Tracy Weekly Herald in 1914, and O. J. himself became Postmaster of Tracy. Elgin was beginning to show signs of being as good a businessman as his father, when his life was cut tragically short on November 8th by the great influenza pandemic of 1918. The flu had circled the earth in only ten months, killing millions worldwide. O. J. was shattered by the loss and sold the Herald to J. T. Johnsrud. Johnsrud wasn't half the businessman that Elgin had been, though, and failed to make a profit from the paper. O. J. arranged for J. D. Gilpin, the publisher of the competing Tracy Headlight, to assume Johnsrud's debts, and so ownership of the Tracy Weekly Herald passed to J. D. Gilpin, who changed its name to the Tracy Headlight-Herald, which it is still called today.
As though the loss of Elgin hadn't been enough, O. J.'s son, Leon, the "baby" of the family, had taken off for Chicago, where he had fallen in with the wrong crowd and was living the life of a gangster, probably working for Irish-American gangster "Buggs" Moran. At 28, he was murdered by Al Capone's gang.
At 60, in 1922, O. J. Rea retired from his position as Postmaster and he and Clara moved to sunny Lakeland, Florida. Here, O. J. and Clara lived out the remainder of their lives, far from the harsh cold of the Minnesota winters. On Saturday, June 8, 1940, O. J. Rea died. He was buried in Tracy Cemetery, and on December 27, 1950, Clara joined him in death. The two lay side-by-side in Tracy Cemetery today, with their son Elgin at their feet.
Noel Bates Rea went on to become a postal service employee in Tracy. He married Luella Larson on August 17, 1920, after a surprise wedding announcement. The couple had three children: Loren, June, and my father, Russell Allen Rea.
Left home and went to Chicago, where he became a gangster and was murdered, at age 28,(according to my uncle Loren Rea) by Al Capone. Since this would have occurred while Capone was serving an 11 year sentence for tax evasion, during which he died of syphillis, it must have been one or more of Capone's gang who actually did the killing. I suspect that Leon may have been working for Capone's rival, George "Bugs" Moran, since Leon was of Scots-Irish descent, as was Moran and his Irish gang.
Was a newspaper publisher. Died in the great influenza pandemic of 1918.
Came to America with his parents. His mother died off the coast of New York,
during a 2 week quarantine, and was buried at sea.
Settled in Grundy County, Illinois with his father, but was placed in a foster
home later. Found on the 1880 census of John O. Larson, of Norway, as a boarder.
In 1905, moved to Lyon County, Minnesota, 2 miles north of Tracy. Retired in
Tracy in 1922 at 200 Craig Avenue, just five blocks away from the house (at 124 Emory St.)
where Noel Bates Rea and Luella Larson lived (and where my father, Russell Allen Rea, was born).
Johanna ("Josie") Christina Lee (Lier)
Went by the Americanized name "Josie" Lee.
James A. Rea
In 1857, he owned a livery stable on Kansas Street in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.Was a lieutenant in Company F, 46th Regiment, Wisconin Infantry from 5 Mar 1865 to 5 Apr 1865. He also owned the Empire House hotel at 107 Main Street in Oshkosh, from about 1868 to 1870, when the family moved to Sparta, Wisconsin and ran another hotel there. In 1877, the Reas moved to Marshall, Lyon County, Minnesota, where James opened a (flour?) mill. A William B. Rhea (Rea) was the cashier at the Empire House, but it is not known as to whether he was a son of James' or a brother.
Merchant C. Rea
Was an apprentice harness maker at the age of 20.